Vintages Release February 2005

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February 5: White Wines

652040 SAINT-ROMAIN 2002 $29.95 Burgundy, France AC (XD = extra dry) S.A. Verget: Lovely, juicy chardonnay with citrus and lemony aromas. Great with chicken, pasta or seafood. Score: 89/100.

597708 CHÂTEAU COUCHEROY BLANC 2003 $16.95 AC Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France (XD) André Lurton: Vintages catalogue: Perfect for crab legs, grilled prawns or shrimp stir-fries. Mostly sauvignon blanc (90%), but the sémillion makes its presence felt too. The aromas suggest gooseberry, mineral, guava, green apple, mineral and hints of oak. It is dry and fresh, but the ripe fruit nicely softens the acids. Medium-bodied, medium finish. Food match: crab legs, grilled prawn, shrimp stir-fry. My note: I like this a lot: some oak, smoke and tree fruit. Score: 86/100.

February 5: Red Wines

650630 BOURGOGNE 2002 $25.95 Burgundy, France AC, Pinot Noir (XD = extra dry) Patrice Rion: Vintages catalogue: Enroll yourself in Burgundy 101. Basic Bourgogne AC wines from brilliant producers such as Patrice Rion are an excellent introduction to Burgundian Pinot Noir. Recently, producers have to be granted permission to add the grape variety to the label for Bourgogne AC wines. This is important for quality producers such as Rion because Bourgogne AC wines can also be made with Gamay or the relatively unknown grapes César and Tressot. For wine consumers, it makes buying such wines much easier. My note: No fancy smancy label, just very good wine. Mouth-watering juicy cherries. Absolutely needs food with it: salmon, chicken, pasta, pate. Score: 89/100.

960740 CHÂTEAU FOURCAS HOSTEN 2000 $31.95 AC Listrac-Médoc, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur, Bordeaux, France (XD): VC: The charm of this property in the heart of Listrac is embodied in this value-priced Bordeaux which will reward 3-5 years in the cellar. Fourcas Hosten is one of the Médoc's Cru Bourgeois wines. The Cru Bourgeois designation is just one step below the classed growths. When the designation was updated in June 2003, 490 wineries submitted their applications, of which 247 were deemed worthy of inclusion. The Cru Bourgeois panel studies terroir, winemaking techniques, quality control and history in order to determine the list. There are three levels: Cru Bourgeois Exceptional (nine wineries were selected), Cru Bourgeois Supérieur (87 chateaux selected, including Fourcas Hosten) and Cru Bourgeois (the remaining 151). A value-priced Bordeaux ideal for 3-5 years in a cellar. Aromas suggest cassis, baker's chocolate, coffee and new oak. It is dry and supple with a firm backbone and good balance. Medium full-bodied with a very long finish. My note: Leather (dad's armchair), burnt oak, black fruit, tar and smoke. Score: 90/100.

606996 CHÂTEAU MALESCASSE 2000 $49.95 AC Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France (XD): Deep rich red, well structured, textbook Bordeaux. Old World balance and finesse. Drink 2005-2008. Score: 89/100.

643676 LES PAGODES DE COS 2001 $ 44.95 AC St-Estèphe, Bordeaux, France (XD): The terrific second wine of Cos d'Estournel -- made from younger vines than the grand vin. Wonderfully juicy and luscious with bright red plums and a good grip on the palate. Score: 91/100. Favorite Red Wine

713263 SÉGLA 2000 $51.95 AC Margaux, Bordeaux, France (XD): The second wine of Château Rauzan-Ségla from this spectacular vintage. Excellent balance, elegance and power. Dark Fruit, oak and smoke. Also comes in the handy half bottle size (915132, $26.95). Score: 90/100.

653725 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2001 $17.95 Les Piliers, Vin de Pays du Gard, Rhone, France (XD) Vignobles Michel Gassier: VC: Ripe, flavorful, cabernet sauvignon, ideal for anybody who wants New World styling with Old World charm. A solid growing season in 2001, followed by a warm, dry fall allowed the Michel Gassier winery to harvest the late-ripening Cabernet at the perfect moment. My note: Terrific ripe cab with a smooth texture and a (dry) chocolate finish. Score: 88/100.

641720 CHÂTEAU DE LA TUILERIE 2002 $20.95 Vieilles Vignes, AC Costières de Nîmes, Rhone, France (XD) Chantal Comte, Prop.-Récolt.: Delicious ripe red with sweet fruit and a warm chocolate finish (it's a dry wine). Full-bodied. Score: 87/100.

728014 CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2001 $41.95 AC Rhone, France (XD)
Domaine Bois de Boursan: A stunning wine of rich red fruit, incredible depth, spice and cedar notes. Beautiful balance. Perfect with roast, steak. Score: 92/100.

736371 DOMAINE DE LA CROZE 2003 $14.95 AC Côtes-du-Rhône, France 'Cuvée Réserve' (D) Croze-Granier, Prop.-Récolt: One foot in the New World, one foot in the Old. Lovely ripe fruit yet balanced and easy-drinking. Great with a range of dishes including chicken, red meat and tomato-sauce pasta. Score: 87/100.

608786 DOMAINE DES COCCINELLES 2002 $15.95 AC Côtes-du-Rhône, France Estate Bottled (D) Le Guillaumet: A simple, easy-drinking organic wine. Nice mouth-watering character to pair well with chicken or meat. Score: 85/100.

964775 DOMAINE DE L'ATTILON 2003 $11.95 Caladoc, Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhône, France (D) Le Comte de Roux, Prop.-Récolt.: Simple, tasty organic wine with a bit of a grip on the palate. Score: 84/100.

712174 MAS DES BRESSADES 2002 $18.95 Cabernet/Syrah, Vin de Pays du Gard, Rhone, France (D) Cyril Marès, Prop.-Récolt.: Excellent value for this vibrant wine. Bright red cherries, cedar notes. Slight grip on the palate. Full-bodied. Would be perfect with a juicy steak. Drink: 2005-2008. Score: 88/100.

986083 'CHÂTEAU DE GOURGAZAUD' RÉSERVE 2001 $17.95 AC Minervois La Livinière, Midi, France (XD) Château de Gourgazaud, S.A.S.: Dense, almost syrupy it's so huge and concentrated. Black cherries and plums. Score: 85/100.

651125 CHÂTEAU DE SÉRAME 2002 $18.95 AC Minervois, Midi, France (XD) S.A.S. Château de Sérame: VC: A ripe, fruit-forward wine based on Syrah and Grenache that would complement back-ribs or rich beef dishes. The Exéa family has owned this château since 1802, making the 2002 vintage the 200th anniversary for this property. The wine is a blend of 60% Syrah, 12% Carignan and 28% Grenache. If you love New World forward fruitiness, this one's for you. Aromas suggest plum compote, black cherry, new oak and spice tones. It is just off-dry, ripe and generous, yet there is structure there for short term ageing too (1-3 years). It is medium full-bodied with a long, flavorful finish. Food match: backribs, rich beef dishes. My note: Another sun-ripened whopper with liqueur-like density. Score: 86/100.

738237 MOURVÈDRE 2001 $11.95 Vin de Pays d'Oc, Midi, France (D) Les Jamelles: Absolutely delicious! Spicy with ripe red fruit. Full-bodied with good depth. Score: 87/100.

February 5: Dessert Wines

592287 VIDAL ICEWINE 2000 $38.95 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (S = sweet) 375 mL (half bottle) Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery: Gorgeous winter elixir with honeyed aromas and sweet memories of childhood winters. Score: 90/100.

655514 VIDAL ICEWINE 2002 $19.95 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (S) 200 mL Featherstone Estate Winery: VC: Featherstone's owners/winemakers David Johnson and Louise Engel have long held a passion for excellence in food and wine both in their careers and lives. So it was a natural progression for them to move into the world of winemaking. Many of their wines, including this deeply flavorful Icewine, have been winning both competition medals and critical raves. My note: One of Canada's best new producers. Perfect serving size for two people. Imagine a warm fire and this amber ambrosia in your glass. Score: 91/100. Favorite Dessert Wine

656355 GEWURZTRAMINER ICEWINE 2002 $29.95 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (S) 200 mL Palantine Hills Estate Winery: Another new Niagara winery! And another great icewine... love the difference gewurz makes to the wine: exotic aromas of lychee nuts and rose petals. Score: 89/100.

February 19: White Wines

200527 RIESLING SELECT LATE HARVEST 2001 $24.95 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (MS = medium sweet) 375 mL Konzelmann: VC: Konzelmann's 2001 Riesling Select Late Harvest has had golden years in 2003 and 2004. It won Gold Medals at both the 2003 Ottawa Wine and Food Show and the 2004 Toronto Wine & Cheese show. This deeply delicious wine continues to rack up the hardware for Konzelmann's trophy case. Enjoy it on its own or with a fruit-based dessert. My note: This one should be up with the dessert wines given its sweetness, which is just a little less than the icewines, but since it's released on Feb 19, I've noted it here. It would make a lovely after-dinner sipper or try it with a dish that has a touch of sweetness such as glazed ham. Score: 90/100.

590372 CHARDONNAY 2002 $17.95 Dark Horse Estate Vineyard, VQA Okanagan Valley (D) Inniskillin Okanagan Vineyards: Spicy vanilla notes, toasty warmth and ripe tree fruit. Lovely. Score: 87/100.

986778 CHARDONNAY 2002 $19.95 Select (D = dry) Hess Collection Winery, California: VC: Donald Hess, founder of the Hess Collection Winery is an avid art collector and the winery includes a museum showcasing selected pieces he has acquired over the last 30 years. The Hess Collection wines are equally artful. This ready-to-drink wine is made extra-lipsmacking by six months ageing on the lees. Serve with grilled herbed chicken, pan-seared scallop dishes or even lobster. My note: Creamy, buttery chard with lots of oak. One of the best wineries in California... there's a typewriter always on fire (in the art collection, not the administrative office). Score: 86/100.

994509 CHARDONNAY 2002 $16.95 Monterey County, California (D) Blackstone Winery: A solid producer. Nice all-purpose chard, with not too much oak or buttery roundness... just enough. Perfect with cream-sauces and lobster in butter. Drool. Score: 87/100.

741009 RICHARD HAMILTON CHARDONNAY 2003 $16.95 Almond Grove, McLaren Vale, South Australia (D) Hamilton Wine Group: Round buttery oaky chard. A screwcap -- yea! Score: 86/100.

976324 CHARDONNAY 2001 $29.95 Ebenezer, Barossa Valley, Australia (D) : VC: The grapes for this wine are grown in vineyards situated in the Barossa Mountain Ranges. The higher altitude creates rich, full-bodied Chardonnays. My note: I'm a sucker for both the white and red from this winery in this release. They're terrific wines -- my only complaint is the significant price jumps they've taken over the past 5 years. (It's like watching your favorite penny stock become fashionable. Ouch.) This chard has spicy pears and layers of supple texture. Perfect with chicken, cream-sauce pasta and grilled seafood. Score: 88/100.

595538 CHARDONNAY 2003 $19.95 Black Label, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand (D) Esk Valley Estate: Lovely chard. The cool climate of NZ gives chardonnay a wonderful mouth-watering juiciness to balance the rounder flavors and texture. Loads of ripe tree fruit. Score: 89/100.

651802 SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004 $14.95 Whitecliff, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand (XD) Sacred Hill Winery: VC: The first of the Kiwi 2004s are starting to hit our shores. This approachable white is named after the spectacular Whitecliff vineyards that overlook the Dartmoor River. My note: One of my favorite styles of wine because it's so refreshing it can be consumed on its own, or makes a terrific partner to a wide range of dishes (chicken, pasta, shellfish, seafood, salads). Consider buying a case of it as your house wine, a wine that you always have in stock for guests or dinner on the weeknights. Score: 88/100.

906487 VIOGNIER 2003 $19.95 WO Paarl, South Africa (D) Fairview Wines: If you love the exotic perfumed style of viognier, snap this up. I haven't tasted a better one for the money. Thrilling aromas of flowers and peaches. Perfect for Asian and Thai dishes. Score: 89/100.

650994 RIESLING KABINETT 2002 $19.95 QmP, Mosel-Saar-Ruer, Germany Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Est. Btld. (MD) J. Wegeler Erben: Gorgeous wine with honey and ripe pear aromas. Just a hint of sweetness makes it perfect for Thai, Asian, glazed ham and other slightly sweet or spicy dishes. Score: 90/100. Favorite White Wine

650515 RIESLING KABINETT 2002 $24.95 QmP, Pzalz, Germany Forster Jesuitengarten, Est. Btld. (MD) Weingut Bassermann-Jordan: Delicious, lip-smacking good. Citrus notes. Off-dry (slight sweetness). Food matches as above. Score: 89/100.

608497 MUSCAT OTTONEL 2003 $10.95 Balaton, Transdanubia (MD) St. Donatus Winery: VC: Only white wines are produced in Balaton, including this food-friendly aromatic Muscat. Appealing, brilliant deep straw in color. Fragrant with muscat, apple and pear. Fruity, sunny and charming. My note: What a pretty wine and excellent value. Score: 87/100. Best Value White Wine

February 19: Red Wines

251835 PINOT NOIR 2002 $15.95 VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (XD) Gray Monk Cellars: VC: From BC's most northerly commercial winery, Gray Monk, comes their 2004 Pinot Noir. Expect this fruity, crisp and fresh Pinot to be a fine companion for a grilled salmon or sole in tomatoes dish. My note: Lovely medium-bodied red with terrific bright red fruit. Cries out for food. Score: 87/100.

639625 FOCH 2002 $19.95 Old Vines, Limited Release, VQA British Columbia (XD) Quails' Gate Estate Winery: VC: Just as Henry of Pelham championed Baco Noir, Quails' Gate was among the first Canadian wineries to believe in Marechal Foch as a grape for creating serious, flavorful wines. Critical praise and consumer excitement have proven their passion right. Food match: goose liver pâté, roasted game, goat cheese ravioli or grilled steak with green peppercorn sauce. My note: Very rich and robust and different from most reds. Long finish. Score: 88/100.

975920 MERITAGE 2000 $35.95 Alexander Valley, California (D) Estancia Estates: VC: In 1988, a group of American vintners formed The Meritage Association. Meritage rhymes with 'heritage' (there is an erroneous tendency to make the last syllable rhyme with the French 'age') and is a neologism created by combining 'merit' and 'heritage'. The association was formed to promote wines created by blending Bordeaux varietals. My note: Deep rich fruit, lovely long finish with chocolate notes. Score: 89/100.

732503 ZINFANDEL 2001 $23.95 Old Vine, Amador County, Sierra Foothills, California (D) Ravenswood: Mouth-wateringly great! One of the best zin producers in the state. Juicy ripe red fruit and a nice zing along the sides of the mouth. Perfect for hamburgers, sausage, grilled meats. Score: 88/100.

595678 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002 $17.95 Lost Block, Victorian Alps, Australia (D) Tyrell's: VC: In 1993, Tyrell's mistakenly left an entire parcel of Semillon on the vine allowing it to ripen more than usual. When this 'mistake' was finally discovered, the soft, fruit-forward wine that resulted immediately found favor in the market and the "Lost Block" was born. Tyrell's decided to 'lose it' again with the addition of this fruit-laden, ready-to-drink Cabernet to their portfolio. My note: Full-bodied red that's such a better value than many general list reds. Score: 87/100.

226662 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2001 $29.95 Show Reserve, Coonawarra, Australia (XD) Rosemount Estate: VC: Because of the region's reputation for producing exceptional Cabernets, Rosemount acquired a Coonawarra vineyard on the famed 'terra rossa' in 1982 and planted it exclusively to Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes used in the Show Reserve are primarily from that vineyard, called Kirri Billi, with a small portion from neighboring properties. Identified in early barrel tests as being of exceptional quality, the wine selected for the Show Reserve is given extended maturation time before being released. The 2001 won Silver Medals at both the 2004 International Wine and Spirits Competition and the 2004 Japan Wine Challenge. My note: A consistently great wine. Score: 88/100.

138818 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2000 $19.95 Nagambie Lakes, Central Victoria, Australia (XD) Tahbilk: VC: The Nagambie area was pioneered by the founders of Tahbilk, who included a British poet by the name of Richard (R.H.) Horne. Horne was Australian correspondent for magazines edited by Charles Dickens, and still found time to create Tahlbik Vineyard Proprietary with his co-investors in 1860. My note: Dark ripe fruit with a minty finish. Score: 86/100.

484097 CABERNET SAUVIGNON/MERLOT/PETIT VERDOT 2001 $35.95 Traditional, Mclaren Vale, Australia (XD) Rosemont Estate: Big and juicy with dark red fruit. Score: 88/100.

640557 'RED BELLY BLACK' SHIRAZ 2002 $16.95 South Australia (D) Angove's: VC: The Red-Bellied Black snake is indigenous to Australia's bushland areas where, for over a century, the Angove family has crafted fine wines with distinctive qualities. This is Angrove's inaugural vintage of Red Belly Black Shiraz. Food match: The winemaker suggests kangaroo or a good steak – we're going with the steak. My note: A fantastic value! Excellent depth and richness for the money. Score: 89/100.

595454 SHIRAZ 2002 $23.95 Clare Valley, Australia (D) Kirrihill Wines: My kind of shiraz: nicely balanced with lots of ripe fruit. Generous. Score: 89/100.

510628 SHIRAZ 2001 $29.95 Basket Pressed, McLaren Vale, South Australia (D) Chateau Reynella: Seduction on the nose, fulfillment on the palate. What more could you ask? Oh I suppose, someone to drink it with. Rich red fruit and a velvety caress on the palate. Score: 90/100.

971705 SHIRAZ 2001 $38.95 Ebenezer', Barossa Valley, Australia (D) Barossa Valley Estate: VC: The village of Ebenezer was founded in the Barossa Valley in 1851 and the first vineyards in the area were planted then. The fruit for this wine was picked from up to 50-year-old vines. Food match: richly flavored cheeses, game and red meat dishes. My note: Delicious! Score: 88/100.

650895 SHIRAZ 2000 $25.95 Coonawarra, South Australia (D) The Ridge Wines/S. Kidman Wines: Rich, deep, luxurious full-bodied red. Lovely label to boot. Score: 89/100.

599852 SHIRAZ 2000 $43.95 Tintara Reserve, McLaren Vale, South Australia (XD) Thomas Hardy & Sons: Pricey but worth it. A stunning wine with dark, exotic aromas. Pure silk on the palate. Score: 92/100.

651422 CABERNET/MERLOT 2002 $14.95 Lauréat, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (XD) Zonnebloem: VC: Made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Malbec and Petit Verdot, Lauréat is the flagship in the Zonnebloem red wine range. The grapes for this blend were hand-harvested from vineyards in the Devon Valley, Stellenbosch Kloof and Helderberg areas. The wine was aged for twelve months in French, American and Hungarian oak. Food match: game dishes, red meat casseroles, roasts and robust cheeses. My note: Nice sipper that would make a good house wine. Score: 86/100.

641076 'CORNERSTONE' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2000 $24.95 WO Robertson, South Africa (XD) Graham Beck Wines: One of the country's best producers that we get here. I've never been disappointed in wines from this winery. This one is rich and smooth, with chocolate notes on the finish. Score: 89/100.

566851 GOATS DO ROAM IN VILLAGES RED 2003 $ 14.95 Paarl, South Africa (D) Fairview Wines: The cheeky folks at Fairview are in a law suit against the winemakers of Cote du Rhone, as you can imagine why. This is a simple sipper with ripe red fruit and peppery notes on the nose. Score: 85/100.

928283 SYRAH 2001 $11.95 Finca El Retiro, Mendoza (D) Tittarelli, V.O.S.A.: An incredible value. Full-bodied with ripe fruit. 14% alcohol. Needs food: steak, stews, meaty dishes. Score: 85/100.

433920 TRIO MERLOT 2003 $13.95 Rapel Valley, Chile (D) Vina Concha y Toro: VC: This winery started as a little French pocket in Chile, as Don Melchor de Concha y Toro married a Frenchwoman named Emiliana Subercaseaux who owned a vineyard planted with vines brought over from Bordeaux and managed by two of her countrymen. This wine won a Gold Medal in The 2003 Wine Guide of Chile. This Merlot is a blend of three grapes: 65% Merlot, 20% Carmènere and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Viña Concha y Toro finds the conditions for perfectly maturing the grapes for this wine in the Rapel Valley. My note: Amazing for the price! I wonder if there's a typo on the price? Generous wine that tastes twice as expensive. Full-bodied with dark red fruit. Score: 89/100. Best Value Red Wine

933333 MERLOT 2001 $14.95 Versato, IGT Veneto (D) Santa Margherita: Terrific value. Red fruit, smooth palate. I'm tired of adjectives. Score: 87/100.

642421 VALPOLICELLA 2002 $16.95 Falasco, DOC, Ripasso (D) Cantina Valpantena: VC: A fruit-forward, ripe and round Valpol with aromas of blueberry, raspberry, new oak and cedar. It is dry and soft and very approachable. Enjoy with stews, pastas or veal medallions with a red wine reduction sauce. My note: Lovely plump wine. Score: 88/100.

984997 VALPOLICELLA 2001 $16.95 Capitel dei Nicalò (D) Tedeschi: VC: Made from 30% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella, and 10% comprised of Molinara, Rossignola, Oseleta, Negrara and Dindarella. To protect his harvests from unfriendly weather, Renzo Tedeschi has chosen a 'Capitel', or small altar with a statue of a saint. In doing so, he draws from popular customs which honor saints by using them as proprietary symbols. Nicolò Tedeschi began making wine in 1824; the family-run business is in its fifth generation. My note: Supple, easy drinking. Score: 88/100.

341461 PESQUERA CRIANZA 2001 $27.95 DO Ribera del Duero, Spain (XD) Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez: Gorgeous deep red with aromas of olives and blueberries. Drink 2005-2010. Score: 91/100.

February 19: Rosé

692525 SHIRAZ SAIGNEE ROSE MARGAN FAMILY WINERY 2004 South Australia: Simple dry rosé that would be wonderful with salmon, cold cuts or pate. Score: 86/100. Favorite Rosé (!)