Vintages Release January 21, 2006

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French White Wine

LAURENT MIQUEL VIOGNIER 'NORD SUD' 2004 Vin de Pays d'Oc VC: Hands down, the Midi is the best place to find quality/value priced Vigoniers, and this is no exception. The aromas recall floral tones, honeysuckle and a summer meadow. Enjoy this round, full, velvety, mouth-filling wine with herbed chicken, pasta in a cream sauce or crab cakes. 673236 (D = dry) $16.95. My note: Classic yet modern viognier. Perfect for Asian dishes. Score: 89/100.

French Red Wine

L'OSTAL CAZES 'CIRCUS' SHIRAZ 2003 Vin de Pays d'Oc VC: Hailing from the Midi, this versatile wine has thrilled wine lovers with its unique combination of European style and New World charm. You'll be enchanted by its blackberry, cocoa and pepper aromas and flavors. Beautiful and fruit forward, this wine displays amazing balance. It's sure to be a show-stopper. Product number: 673202 (D = dry) $14.95. My note: Very simple, peppery wine that would be ideal with steak. Score: 86/100.

MAS DES AVEYLANS' SYRAH 'PRESTIGE' 2003 Vin de Pays du Gard (Château des Aveylans): 673244 (XD = extra dry) $23.95: A dark robust red with fat black plums. A touch tannic, so decant for 2-3 hours or (try to) wait a year or two before drinking. Score: 90/100.

DOMAINE DES SÉNÉCHAUX CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2003 AC Rhone Valley: 677922 (XD) $31.95: Gorgeous Rhone, with those exotic aromas of a forest carpeted with pine needles and bright dancing cherries. Full-bodied. Drink with manly meat dishes. Score: 90/100. Favorite Red Wine

Australian White Wine

ANGOVE'S 'LONG ROW' CHARDONNAY 2004 Estate Bottled, South Australia VC: The grapes for this full-bodied and fruity Chardonnay are sourced from three distinct regions, each adding texture and complexity to the flavor profile. Seventy-five percent of the grapes come from the Nanya vineyard in the Riverland region of South Australia, famous for its 'long rows' while the other 25% are sourced from the cooler Eden Valley and Padthaway regions. The producer recommends pairing it with antipasto, lamb chops or a seasoned roast chicken. 641779 (D = dry) $13.95. My note: Buttery and round but not too oaky. Great for when you don't want to do calculus or analyze your wine. Yea for a screwcap. Score: 87/100.

WITS END 'THE PROCRASTINATOR' SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004 Adelaide Hills, South Australia (Chalk Hill Wines) VC: Australia's Chalk Hill Wines uses the moniker Wits End in North America to avoid confusion with the Californian winery of the same name. Wits End is also the name of one of the family's vineyards in the McLaren Vale. These wines are crafted by Emmanuelle Requin-Bekkers, a French winemaker with experience across three continents. Expect tropical fruit flavors and aromas to take center stage in this fresh, crisp and delicious wine. 661975 (XD) $15.95. My note: I didn't want to put off reviewing this wine: it's great. Classic herbal aromas and zesty refreshment. Drink with seafood, vegetarian dishes and pasta. Score: 89/100. Best Value White Wine

Australian Red Wine

ROCKBARE SHIRAZ 2003 McLaren Vale, South Australia: 661991 (XD) $16.95: A delicious, juicy red with mouth-watering aromas of ripe red fruit. Yahoo for a screwcap! No special appliances required. Score: 89/100.

PARINGA SHIRAZ 2003 'Individual Vineyard', South Australia: 914366 (XD) $14.95: Great value for this simple, full-bodied red. Decant for an hour or two, then drink tonight. Score: 87/100.

HARDYS BANKSIDE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003 South Australia VC: Hardy's Bankside range is named for Thomas Hardy's cellars that he built on the banks of the Torrens river in the 19th century. Tragically, the cellar burned down in 1905. Fruit for this Cab is sourced from various vineyards throughout South Australia based on flavor intensity and expression of varietal character. Expect a medium-full bodied wine with aromas of cassis, spice, eucalyptus with hints of mocha and vanilla. Enjoy with smoky spareribs. 995829 (XD) $16.95. My note: Heart-of-Darkness wine, with probing aromas of black fruit. Score: 90/100.

MILBURN PARK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003 South Eastern Australia VC: This crisp, lively, easy-drinking Cabernet is a great choice for your gourmet pizza night. 431999 (XD) $12.95. My note: Simplicity itself. A medium-bodied wine with a touch of tannin. Don't think just drink. A good party wine. Score: 86/100.

South African Red Wine

GRAHAM BECK SHIRAZ/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003 WO Western Cape, South Africa VC: A blend of 57% Shiraz and 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, each wine was fermented separately, allowed to go through acid-softening malolactic fermentation and then aged in barrel for 12 months before final blending and bottling. Both grape varieties show well here with blackberry and pepper from the Shiraz coming to the fore then the blackcurrant and cedar tones from the Cabernet. Enjoy with braised beef or lamb dishes. 661835 (D) $12.95. MY note: Love this producer: consistent, delicious, good value. Try his higher-end stuff too. Score: 86/100.

California Red Wine

RIDGE 'HOME RANCH' 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Petit Verdot, Santa Cruz Mountains VC: This is the second release of a 'Home Ranch' named in honor of the nineteenth-century Monte Bello vineyard that has been Ridge's 'home' since 1959. The 2002 is comprised of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 48% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot aged for nearly 2 years in American oak. It has a forward nose of violets with blackberry, blueberry, dark cherries and cocoa. There's great tannic structure on the palate and good depth of fruit and cedar flavors. Enjoyable now with some decanting or drink anytime over the next 10-12 years. 595512 (XD) $84.95. My note: Happiness in a bottle, especially if you can afford it. This wine has everything: rich aromas of dark red fruit, layers of complexity and a body that won't stop. Score: 93/100.

RIDGE 'LYTTON SPRINGS' CALIFORNIA 2003 Zinfandel/Petite Sirah/Carignane, Dry Creek Valley: 982413 (XD) $44.95: Delicious, balanced and not overly-extracted (meaning not too much alcohol, color and flavor). Score: 90/100.

SEBASTIANI ZINFANDEL 2003 Sonoma County VC: Sebastiani's winemaker Mark R. Lyon describes 2003 as "a nail-biting, late growing season". A cold and rainy spring led to a mild summer, but in September the temperatures really soared, ripening the grapes quickly. The late heat created a lush and fruity Zin. Enjoy it with tomato-based pasta dishes or gourmet hamburgers. 672667 (XD) $19.95. My note: A lovely wine with aromas of mocha, dark red fruit and hedonism. Score: 89/100.

German White Wine

LINGENFELDER 'HARE LABEL' GEWURZTRAMINER 2004 QbA, Estate Btld. VC: Rainer Lingenfelder continues to expand his 'Vineyard Creatures' line of wines with this 'Hare Label' Gewurztraminer. All the wines in this line are designed to illustrate not just the grape variety, but the region in which they are grown. Enjoy this wine with spicy Thai cuisine or sushi. 670778 (D) $14.95. My note: Simple, but delicious white that will dance with so many dishes, from seafood and pasta to chicken and vegetarian fare. Medium-bodied with ripe pears. Score: 87/100.

SCHLOSS SCHÖNBORN RIESLING KABINETT 1996 QmP, Johannisberger Klaus, Estate Btld. VC: This 1996 illustrates mature Riesling at its finest. The aromas of an aged Riesling are all here, including peach, apricot and petrol. Medium dry, complex with beautiful fruit replays on the palate balanced nicely by a still fine seam of acidity. This long finishing wine is an excellent choice for herbed poultry, spicy Indian food or stuffed veal tenderloin. 710418 (MD = medium dry) $15.95. My note: German wines rule when it comes to food-friendly whites. This one is full-bodied and lip-smacking good. Score: 88/100. Favorite White Wine

Italian Red Wine
MAZZEI 'POGGIO ALLA BADIOLA' 2003 IGT Toscana (Castello di Fonterutoli) Food match: Penne with tomato sauce. 662197 (XD) $14.95. My note: Great value for this robust red. Dark red fruit and a pleasant bitter chocolate finish. Score: 88/100. Best Value Red Wine

Swiss Red Wine

PROVINS VALAIS 'GLOIRE DU RHÔNE' DÔLE DU VALAIS 2004 AOC VC: This blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir has a delightful strawberry, beetroot and earthy nose. It is dry, round and ripe. A well-made, easy-drinking wine that would complement roast chicken or grilled tuna. 933960 (D) $18.95. My note: Peppery with ripe cherries. Medium-bodied, smooth and happy. Score: 87/100.

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Copyright © 2006 by Natalie MacLean. All rights reserved. Please ask permission of the author before copying or using this material.