Wine Picks January 7, 2006

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

Argentine Red Wine

CATENA MALBEC 2003 Mendoza Bodega Catena Zapata VC: This is always a stylish Malbec that is superbly crafted by Bodega Catena Zapata to be a rich, round and balanced wine with layered aromas of spice, black cherry, cassis, mocha and pepper. It's rich in black fruit flavors with a long smooth finish and would be well-suited to roast beef. Product number = 478727 (XD = extra dry) 750 mL $19.95. My note: Lovely example of malbec from one of the best and most consistent producers in the country. I believe Argentina is the next hot new region after the craze for Australian wines. You heard it here maybe not first, but third or fourth, maybe fifth? Score: 89.5/100.

FINCA FLICHMAN RESERVA MALBEC 2004 Mendoza VC: This inky-black, ready-to-drink Malbec offers great value. Very fruit forward, you can expect ripe and round flavors of plums, blackberries and rich chocolate. It would superbly complement a rack of lamb with rosemary. 746727 (XD) 750 mL $12.95. My note: A smooth wine that goes down a little too easily. (I mean that as a compliment.) Gorgeous aromas of mocha. Rich and full-bodied. Score: 90/100.

TAMARI RESERVA MALBEC 2004 Mendoza VC: Tamari is another producer that is making rich structured Malbec at an exceptional price. Expect a bouquet of violets and dark fruit with rich flavors of blackberry, blueberry and plums as well as some firm tannins. Enjoy this wine over the next two years with grilled steaks. 663179 (XD) 750 mL $11.95. My note: Very oaky (but sometimes you want the reassurance and solidity of wood). Simple and robust. Score: 86/100.

Chilean Red Wine

TERRAMATER ZINFANDEL/SHIRAZ 2003 Maipo Valley VC: The winemakers of TerraMater explore what 'Mother Earth' has to offer beyond the typical grape varieties one associates with Chile. Here they've taken California's signature Zinfandel with Australia's signature Shiraz and given it a Chilean twist. This red is big and chewy with jammy black fruit, smoky leather and spicy characteristics. Pair it with smoked ribs. 704882 (XD) 750 mL $11.95. My note: Exuberant berries that trumpet their presence in your mouth. Yahoo! Full-bodied. Score: 88/100.

CASA SILVA RESERVA CABERNET SAUVGNON 2003 Colchuagua Valley VC: Viña Casa Silva is a family-run winery where everyone is involved in the daily activities of the company. The Silva family has a long and proud tradition of winemaking in the Colchuagua Valley dating back to the 19th century. 619734 (XD) 750 mL $13.95. My note: Rich aromas of mocha, plums and hedonism. Score: 89.5/100.

CREMASCHI FURLOTTI CARMENERE RESERVE 2004 Maule Valley VC: The Cremaschi Furlotti family has been making wine in Chile's Maule Valley for 120 years. Today the winery owns 400 hectares of estate vineyards and produce quality wines of exceptional value like this reserve Carmenère. Look for aromas and flavors of mint, cassis, smoke and tobacco in this ripe, round, medium full-bodied version. 641019 (XD) 750 mL $12.95. My note: Deep and dark with aromas of chocolate. A touch tannic. Could keep til 2008. Score: 89.5/100.

VIÑA MAIPO CARMENERE RESERVA 2004 Maipo Valley VC: Chile has every reason to hang its hat on the once 'lost' Bordeaux varietal, Carmenère and Maipo Valley grows some of the best. This is a new addition to Viña Maipo's reserva range. Expect a rich medium full-bodied red with leather, black fruit, mint and earth notes. Enjoy this wine with rare steak or pasta with meat sauce. 663047 (XD) 750 mL $11.95. My note: This is an incredible wine for the money. Buy a case or two for large gatherings. Score: 90/100. Best Value Red Wine

TABALI RESERVA SHIRAZ 2003 Limari Valley VC: A Regional-Trophy winner at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2005. 662692 (XD) 750 mL $16.95. My note: Aromas of ripe raspberries, blackberries and spices. Delicious! My note: 89.5/100.

Chilean White Wine

MONTES 'ALPHA' CHARDONNAY 2004 Casablanca Valley VC: The Montes Alpha is the premium range that first made a name for Montes as a leading producer in Chile. 390203 (D = dry) 750 mL $22.95. My note: Big, oaky, buttery chard. Comforting like an angora sweater or an Irish Setter. Score: 89/100.

VIÑA CALINA CHARDONNAY RESERVA 2003 Casablanca Valley VC: A buttery, rich Chard with aromas of tropical fruit, apple, citrus and toasty oak. Dry, clean and very well-made. This full-bodied, medium long finishing wine would be a fine match with chicken breasts stuffed with herbs and goat cheese. 640912 (XD) 750 mL $15.95. My note: Oaky, buttery and simple but yummy. Score: 88/100.

Mexican Red Wine

L.A. CETTO PETITE SIRAH 2003 Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California VC: Hola amigos! Here's the latest vintage of the popular Petite Sirah produced on the Baja Peninsula. The cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean makes successful winemaking possible in the region. Baja California is believed to be the oldest wine region in North America. Look for a deeply colored, intensely flavored wine with elements of black fruit, spice and vanilla. Enjoy with fajitas! 983742 (XD) 750 mL $9.95. My note: One of the best wines you can buy for this price. A simple but delicious wine with dark red fruit and a peppery finish. Drink with a pepper steak. Score: 86/100.

Australian Red Wine

D'ARENBERG 'THE FERAL FOX' PINOT NOIR 2004 Adelaide Hills, South Australia VC: Though d'Arenberg is best known for championing the McLaren Vale region with a vast array of wines from their home base, they step out to the cool Adelaide Hills to make this delicate and savory Pinot Noir. Now in its third vintage, this silky mix of strawberry, prunes and dried herb flavors, with some spicy notes is a classic match for roast duck. 652891 (D = dry) 750 mL $26.95. My note: Robust, thoroughly New World pinot. We're talking big red fruit. Score: 89.5/100.

EVANS & TATE CABERNET/MERLOT 2002 Margaret River, Western Australia VC: The cool 2002 vintage in Margaret River produced more subtle Bordeaux-like reds rather than the stereotypical Aussie fruit-bombs. Expect aromas of tobacco, hummus, raspberry and blackcurrant with a hint of vanilla from this blend. Light-medium body in style, look for smooth tannins and a good seam of acidity. Enjoy with grilled lamb chops. 721548 (XD = extra dry) 750 mL $17.95. My note: I hear that the Margaret River is a gorgeous place to visit. This wine has lovely aromas of juicy red fruit. Medium-bodied and smooth as silk. Yahoo for the screwcap! Score: 89/100.

South African White Wine

JARDIN CHARDONNAY 2003 WO Stellenbosch (Jordan Winery) VC: In North America, Jordan's wines are marketed under the name Jardin to avoid confusion with the Californian winery of the same name. This wine won a Gold Medal at the 2004 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. 663336 (D) 750 mL $18.95. My note: Lovely balance here between the mouth-watering acidity and the fruit. Zesty and rich. Score: 88/100.

French White Wine

FAIVELEY MERCUREY LES MAUVARENNES 2002 AC VC: A Chardonnay from the Côte Chalonnais area of Burgundy that shows the strengths of Faiveley. Starting with a beautiful straw/gold color, the aromas kick in, particularly melon, ripe apple, popcorn, vanilla, butter and hazelnut. On the palate, it is dry, elegant, full-bodied and long finishing. Enjoy with crab legs, tilapia fillets or roast chicken. 987917 (XD) 750 mL $25.95. My note: creamy and luxurious. Let it roll to the back of your mouth. Exotic tree fruit aromas. Score: 89/100.

French Red Wine

CHÂTEAU LA GURGUE 2001 AC Margaux, Bordeaux: 677880 (XD) 750 mL $38.95. My note: An overlooked but marvelous vintage because 2000 got all the attention. Robust, dark fruit, leather and smoke. Elegant and balanced. Classic Margaux. Fantastic price. Score: 90/100. Favorite Red Wine

CHÂTEAU LOUDENNE 2000 AC Médoc, Cru Bourgeois (Domaine Lafragette, Prop.) VC: Château Loudenne is another exceptional value-priced Bordelaise producer whose fruit-forward, balanced libation would match beautiful with an afternoon luncheon. This winner from the excellent 2000 vintage would match well with roast lamb or prime rib. 131672 (XD) 750 mL $32.95. My note: An amazing wine for this price. Hedonistic aromas of leather, tar, mocha, spice and affluence. Score: 90/100.

DOUDET NAUDIN BOURGOGNE PINOT NOIR 'VICOMTE' 2003 AC Burgundy VC: The grapes for this wine come from vineyards around the town of Beaune. Beyond the lovely strawberry, cherry and earth tones often found in Pinot Noir, the clay/limestone soil imparts a minerality that adds a lively layer of complexity. Enjoy this with grilled veal, pork tenderloin or, as the producer suggests, a piece of good fortune. 673038 (D) 750 mL $21.95. My note: You don't get many burgundies at this price. Granted, this one is very New World and fruit-forward in style. Still, it's lovely and delicious with aromas of bright cherries. Score: 89/100.

PERRIN & FILS CAIRANNE 'PEYRE BLANCHE' 2001 AC Côtes-du-Rhône Villages VC: This blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre has a medium deep ruby color with a hint of garnet. An impressive array of aromas come out of the glass, including plum, raspberry, cedar, spring flowers and fig. It is dry with good cedary fruit surrounded by soft tannins and light acidity. Medium-bodied with a medium long finish. Enjoy with herb-encrusted roast beef or lamb. 650960 (XD) 750 mL $16.95. My note: One the best value producers in the Rhone. This wine has enticing aromas of deep red fruit and cedar. Score: 88/100.

German White Wine

STUDERT PRÜM RIESLING KABINETT 2004 QmP, Maximiner, Estate Btld. VC: Benchmark Mosel Riesling with aromas of peach, grapefruit, floral and mineral/slate tones. Medium dry with beautiful fruit replays ably balanced by crisp acid. Enjoy with pan-fried trout or sole, sushi or great conversation. 912741 (MD = medium dry) 750 mL $15.95. My note: Can't say enough about this producer and about German riesling in general. Celebrate with me! This zesty, zippy wine is fantastic with a variety of dishes, from medium spiced Asian dishes to pork, chicken and cream-sauce pasta. Score: 90/100. Favorite White Wine

GUNDERLOCH 'JEAN-BAPTISTE' RIESLING KABINETT 2003 QmP, Estate Btld. 480517 (MD) 750 mL $14.95. Redolent of apricots, ripe peaches and early spring. Another great one for the dishes mentioned above. Score: 88/100. Best Value White Wine

Italian Red Wine

FONTANAFREDDA 'EREMO' BARBERA/NEBBIOLO 2003 DOC Langhe VC: With this blend of 70% Barbera and 30% Nebbiolo, Fontanafredda aims to create a modern wine that - minus the usual firm tannins - exhibits the prune jam, licorice and chocolate nuances of the Nebbiolo with the crisp fruitiness of the Barbera. Enjoy with grilled lamb. 616284 (D) 750 mL $14.95. My note: Rich and full-bodied, like the ideal husband. Aromas of chocolate and a smooth texture, also very appealing in a man. Score: 88/100.

Portuguese Red Wine

CORTES DE CiMA VINHO TINTO 2002 Vinho Regional Alentejano VC: This combination of Portuguese and international varieties (including Tempranillo, Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira and Cabernet Sauvignon) celebrates the best of both world. The medium deep burgundy red color leads to an impressive aroma profile that recalls raspberry, pie crust, mint, cherry, blueberry and a hint of coffee. It is dry, very well-balanced with good ripe tannins and a hint of acid crispness. Medium full-bodied with a long, elegant finish. 677971 (XD) 750 mL $18.95. My note: Gorgeous aromas ripe red fruit. Full-bodied. Score: 90/100.

JOSÉ MARIA DA FONSECA 'PRIMUM' TINTO 2001 Touriga Nacional/Touriga Franca, Vinho Regional Terras do Sado VC: Another great Portuguese dry table wine made with the grapes normally associated with Port, namely Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca. 694026 (XD) 750 mL $13.95. My note: Juicy and robust. Dark red fruit. Drink til 2008, if you can wait that long. Score: 88/100.

Spanish Red Wine

BODEGAS CASTAÑO 'HÉCULA' 2003 DO Yecla VC: Food match: grilled lamb chops or braised beef. 718999 (XD) 750 mL $13.95. My note: Black fruit, oak and a body that doesn't stop. A heart of darkness wine to satisfy your darkest urges and desires. Score: 89/100.

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Copyright © 2005 by Natalie MacLean. All rights reserved. Please ask permission of the author before copying or using this material.