Wine Picks January 20, 2007

By Natalie MacLean Print this page   Send this page to a friend

South African Red Wine

DELHEIM SHIRAZ 2003 WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch: When people ask me what's the next hot thing in terms of wine regions, I answer South Africa for shiraz and sauvignon blanc, and Argentina for malbec. I'm basing this on both quality and value for money. This one has big black fruit, a healthy dose of smoky oak and juicy goodness. 59080 (XD) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 89/100.

HILL & DALE CABERNET SAUVIGNON/SHIRAZ 2003 WO Stellenbosch VC: Stellenzicht Farm's Hill & Dale range comes by its name honestly as the vineyards' altitude varies from 100 to 400 meters above sea level. This full-throttled blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Shiraz offers terrific value with rich blackberry and cherry fruit flavor, vanilla, smoke and peppery notes. Enjoy with hearty winter stews or grilled steaks. My note: A simple, dark fruit, full-bodied wine that will warm you down to your ankles. 595702 (XD) 750 mL $12.95 Score: 87/100. Best Value Red Wine

CATHEDRAL CELLAR CABERNET SAUVIGNON WO Paarl (KWV International Pty. Ltd.) VC: This classy Cab from the Cape is loaded with aromas of cassis, cherry, violets, smoky oak and savory herbs. It's dry and well-crafted with juicy rich flavors and firm tannins. Enjoy it any time over the next 3 to 5 years with baked eggplant stuffed with ground beef and spices. My note: Part of the Vintages Essentials program at the LCBO, meaning it's in stores year-round until it's delisted. A longtime favorite of mine that's bursting with flavor. More Old World than Australian style if I were to compare it with others. Full-bodied and juicy. Drink with hearty meat dishes. 328567 (D) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 90/100.

South African White Wine

GRAHAM BECK SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 WO Coastal Region: A zesty, refreshing SB with herbal aromas. Perfect for vegetarian dishes and chicken. 948620 (XD) 750 mL $13.95 Score: 89/100. Best Value White Wine

WARWICK ESTATE PROFESSOR BLACK SAUVIGNON BLANC 2006 WO Stellenbosch VC: Warwick Estate is one of Stellenbosch's leading producers. State-of-the-art technology including satellite imagery and temperature sensors is used to locate the best sites for planting. For all this forward thinking, their wines possess an Old World elegance. This rich and fruity wine has an abundance of tropical fruit, guava, and gooseberry aromas and flavors with crisp balancing acidity and a long mouth-watering finish. My note: Herbal and grapefruit notes. Refreshing. 001669 (XD) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 88/100

South African Rosé

DELHEIM PINOTAGE ROSÉ 2006 WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch VC: This ever-popular Pinotage rosé from Delheim is packed with fresh strawberry and raspberry fruit characteristics. Lively and refreshing, this pretty wine is a perfect match for roasted red peppers and goat cheese sandwiches on focaccia. The perfect thing to shake the mid-winter blues. My note: Pleasant rosé with red fruit aromas. 721670 (D) 750 mL $12.95 Score: 88/100.

THE RUINS ROSÉ 2006, WO Elandia, Robertson (Bon Cap Organic) VC: Made with organic grapes. This 100% Pinotage is South Africa's first organic rosé. Fresh and pretty, this crisp dry wine features plenty of strawberry and raspberry fruit flavors. This wine contains 21 mg/L of free sulphur. My note: Lovely, like Tavel rosé. 011056 (D) 750 mL $13.95 Score: 89/100.

Argentinian Red Wine

FINCA FLICHMAN EXPRESIONES RESERVE SHIRAZ/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004 Mendoza: A terrific value with dark red fruit and a healthy dose of oak. Full-bodied, supple and ripe. 017111 (XD) 750 mL $15.95 Score: 89/100.

Californian Red Wine

SEBASTIANI PINOT NOIR 2005 Sonoma Coast VC: The Sonoma Coast is the largest and coolest portion of Sonoma county. The morning fog, cool ocean breezes and warm afternoons here create the perfect environment for Pinot Noir to properly ripen. Look for ripe cherry and floral aromas and flavors with hints of beetroot and chocolate in this balanced, structured effort. Match it with baked pasta dishes or ratatouille. My note: A beautiful pinot with ripe cherry and chocolate aromas. Less acidic than its New Zealand counterparts. Round and smooth. 014233 (D) 750 mL $24.95 Score: 90/100.

Australian Red Wine

GRANT BURGE FILSELL SHIRAZ 2004 Barossa, South Australia VC: Big, bold and beautiful, this wine won gold at the prestigious Great Australian Shiraz Challenge of 2006. My note: Big, buxom shiraz bursting with berry fruit. (Today's alliterative theme is B.) 987453 (XD) 750 mL $29.95 Score: 90/100.

New Zealand White Wine
BABICH BLACK LABEL SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island: Herbals aromas with the tang of citrus fruit. Bright and refreshing. 009142 (XD) 750 mL $17.95 Score: 89/100. Favorite White Wine

French Red Wine

CHÂTEAU DE LA RIVIÈRE 2001 AC Fronsac, Bordeaux VC: Very attractive color of deep ruby/violet. Intense aromas of cassis, black cherry, mocha and new oak. It is approachable now, but this ripe, lush, well-made Merlot/Cabernet blend will also benefit from 3-6 years in a cellar. My note: Very oaky but also has rich layers of black fruit. Full-bodied and brooding. 653139 (XD) 750 mL $30.95 Score: 90/100.

CHÂTEAU LA VIEILLE CURE 2003 AC Fronsac, Bordeaux: Old World elegance and balance, almost more left bank than right bank. Structured, with a long finish. Drink 2007-2020. 947127 (XD) 750 mL $41.95 Score: 91/100. Favorite Red Wine

SYLVAIN FESSY SAINT-AMOUR LES VALENTINES 2005 AC Beaujolais VC: With St. Valentine's Day approaching, this wine of love is a perfect choice. It is a plum-, blueberry- and cherry-scented wine with a medium body and a soft, gentle flavor profile. Best lightly chilled. A great wine for an intimate dinner for two. My note: Lovely, light red that would be an ideal transition wine for those who've been drinking whites only but would like to try reds. Drink with salmon, pate, chicken. 007575 (D) 750 mL $18.95 Score: 87/100.

PUJOL CÔTES DU ROUSSILLON 2001 AC Midi, élevé en fûts de chêne VC: This wine was certified organic by ECOCERT. This wine contains 16 mg/l of free sulphur. Deep ruby color leads to attractive aromas of cassis, black plum and pencil lead. It is dry and soft with an good sweet centre balanced by silky tannins. Medium full-bodied with a medium long finish. Will complement pot roast and roasted potatoes. My note: Balanced, medium-bodied, easy-drinking wine. 013516 (D) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 87/100.

DOMAINE CAPMARTIN MADIRAN CUVÉE DU COUVENT 2002 AC Southwest France, élevé en fûts de chêne neuf (Guy Capmartin) VC: This 100% Tannat has benefited from 12 months in new French barriques. The aromas of cassis, olive, black pepper, mint and new oak are quite entrancing. Dry with powerful and assertive tannins, this exceptional wine will reward 3-4+ years in a cellar. My note: New World fruit, full-bodied. A touch tannic. Decant for 1-2 hours. Drink 2007-2010. 10736 (XD) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 89/100.

Canadian Red Wine

Okanagan Estate, VQA Okanagan Valley: Loaded with rich aromas of dark fruit and chocolate. A touch tannic. Decant for 1-2 hours. 643460 (XD) 750 mL $20.95 Score: 87/100.

Nat Decants 100-Point Scale

95-100 Brilliant, Exceptional
90-94 Excellent, Superb
89.5 Hovering on the doorstep of excellence, better than very good
85-89 Very Good
80-84 Good (still worth buying and drinking)
79 and below Average to poor (I don't include these in the newsletter due to space constraints)

Favorite Wines: This isn't necessarily the wine with the highest score, as high scores go to the wines that best typify their region and style. Rather my favorite wines are just that: the ones that appeal to me most personally and to my own taste.

Best Value Wines: Not necessarily the cheapest wine, but the one that maximizes the price-quality ratio. (Although I don't always go by strict mathematical ratios on this either, but rather what seems to me to represent tremendous value.)

For more details on how I do my wine reviews and tips on how to find these wines click here. To find dishes to match these wines, click here.

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Copyright © 2007 by Natalie MacLean. All rights reserved. Please ask permission of the author before copying or using this material.