Vintages Release January 2005

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January 8: Dessert Wines

726828 CRUSTED PORT $29.95 Btld. 1999 (S = sweet) W & J Graham & Co: Vintages catalogue: Crusted Port occupies a unique niche in the fortified wine world. It is designed to appeal to Vintage Port drinkers, though it is not vintage-dated since it is a blend of two or more years. However, like Vintage Port, it is bottled quite young, so the wine continues to develop in bottle for several years. Its name comes from the 'crust' or deposit it throws while ageing; thus it must be decanted. My note: Rich and intense. Perfect for after dinner on its own, or with crème brulee or nuts. Score: 89/100.

January 8: White Wines

396986 CHARDONNAY RESERVA 2003 $14.95 Casablanca Valley, Chile (D = dry) Casa Lapostolle. Nicely balanced chard with juicy fruit. Round not fat. Great with pork or chicken. Score: 85/100.

975219 NATIVA CHARDONNAY 2003 $17.95 Maipo Valley, Chile (D = dry) Viña Carmen: Lovely chard with aromas of ripe peaches. Vintages catalogue: One of two organic wines from Viña Carmen this month, our Quality Assurance laboratory has determined that this wine contains 15 ppm of free sulfur. The 'Nativa' wines were the first organic wines commercially produced in Chile. Since then, more producers have embraced the techniques, including Cono Sur, and soon Errazuriz and Concha y Toro will be releasing organic products. Score: 88/100.

583153 CHARDONNAY 2002 $25.95 Orange Vineyard, Orange, New South Wales, Australia (XD = extra dry) Rosemount Estate: Gorgeous chard with round, ripe peaches and pears and aromas of crème brulee. Toasty not too oaky. Score: 90/100.

966820 SAUVIGNON BLANC 2003 $19.95 Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (XD) Forrest Estates: Zesty, classic NZ SB. Not too grassy, just refreshing. Yahoo for a screwcap! Would complement a wide range of dishes from seafood to chicken to cream sauce dishes. Score: 89/100.

597484 RIESLING SPÄTLESE 1998 $22.95 QmP, Bacharacher Wolfshöhle, Estate Bottled (M = medium dry) Weingut Mades, Mittelrhein, Germany: VC: No other region in Germany makes such a wide selection of racy Rieslings as the Mittelrhein but products on offer outside this tiny district are rare as hen's teeth. The small Mades winery (only 2.5 ha) is a perfect microcosm of the region. The yields are low (48 hl/ha) and the grapes grow on south-facing, extremely steep, slatey slopes. The finished wines show a beautiful balance between lush fruit and crisp acids. They also tend to be very long-lived. Food match: steamed pickerel, stir-fried chicken with plum sauce. My note and score: A touch of sweetness is beautifully balanced by mouth-watering acidity. This is a divine wine. Score: 92/100. Favorite White Wine

727032 RIESLING 2003 $21.95 QbA, Scharzhof (MD) Egon Müller Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany: What riesling should be! Concentrated and aromatic flavor of ripe tree fruit. Mineral density. Perfect for shellfish, seafood and chicken. Score: 89/100.

568634 RIESLING 2002 $ 13.95 Bird Label, QbA (MD) Weingut Lingenfelder Pfalz, Germany: A wine that comes back year after year into the stores because it's so popular. A lip-smacking delicious white that would be wonderful with Asian and spicy dishes. Score: 89/100. Best Value White Wine

January 8: Red Wines

975359 NATIVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2001 $18.95 Maipo Valley, Chile (D = dry) Viña Carmen: Vintages catalogue: Winemaker Matìas Lecaros was one of our special guests at the Young Winemakers event in Toronto in November 2003. Organic wines, such as this one, are becoming increasingly popular in the market place as more and more people embrace healthy lifestyles. Our Quality Assurance laboratory has determined that this wine contains 10 ppm of free sulfur. My note: Very full-bodied, almost liqueur-like in its jammy red fruit. Score: 84/100.

590331 ESCUDO ROJO 2002 $18.95 Maipo Valley, Chile (XD) Baron Philippe de Rothschild: A wine made by the owners of Château Mouton Rothschild and Opus One and Almaviva. (Read: good breeding.) A rich wine that's been aged 12 months in French oak. Blend: 60% cabernet sauvignon, 10% cabernet franc, 25% carmenère and 5% merlot. Intense, dense and dark. Drink 2005-2009. Score: 88/100.

398800 CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVA 2002 $15.95 Estate Bottled, Rapel Valley, Chile (D) Casa Lapostolle: Extremely full-bodied, hot and jammy. Score: 86/100.

590745 SYRAH RESERVA 2003 $11.95 San Rafael Valley, Chile (XD) Chilensis: You like Yellow Tail shiraz? You'll love this. Simple but delicious. Great price. Score:85/100.

606640 CHÂTEAU LA COURONNE 2000 $36.95 AC Saint Émilion, Bordeaux, France Grand Cru (XD = extra dry) Mähler-Besse: Stately Old World wine. Oaky but balanced. Classic aromas of leather, spice and black currants. Brooding. Drink 2008-2012. Score: 89/100.

597567 CHÉNAS 2002 $16.95 AC, Côte Remont, Beaujolais, Burgundy (D) Pierre Ferraud & Fils: The opposite of brooding. In fact, this charming, carefree wine is the next best thing to Prozac. Light- to medium-bodied with lovely aromas of cherries and strawberries. Drink with salmon or pate. Score: 86/100.

692749 BOURGOGNE ROUGE 2001 $25.95 AC, Burgundy, France Vieilles Vignes, Maison Dieu (XD) Maison Nicholas Potel: Medium-bodied with a lively, mouth-watering character. Bright cherries. Score: 88/100.

651117 SANTENAY 1ER CRU 2001 $52.95 AC, Les Gravières Burgundy, France (XD) Domaine de la Pousse d'Or/Patrick Landanger: There's always one wine I hesitate to recommend because I'd like some for myself. Then, bravely, I set aside such selfish desires and continue down the path of the higher good of readers everywhere. Gag! I'll race you to the store for this one. Lovely, silky red with exotic perfume of wet violets and cherries and unfulfilled desire. Score: 91/100. Favorite Red Wine

919472 'LE MOULIN DE LA DAME' 2001 $16.95 AC Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, Côte Bleue, France (XD) Mas de la Dame/Anne Poniatowski, Caroline Missofee, Jean-Luc Colombo: VC: The 17th century country home that still sits on this property was the subject of a painting by Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh. Food match: braised beef, garlic and herb lamb, vegetable terrine. My note: Nicely balanced wine. Medium- to full-bodied with dark red fruit. Score: 86/100.

708750 'CUVÉE EXCELLENCE' 2002 $18.95 Mas des Bressades, AC Costières de Nîmes, Rhone, France (XD) Cyril Marès, Prop. Made from the syrah grape, which is another name for shiraz. This style is more Old World, bursting with red plums and cedar notes. Some grip on the palate. Drink 2005-2008. Score: 87/100.

949503 'LES TRAVERSES' 2002 $13.95 AC Côtes du Ventoux (D) Paul Jaboulet Aîné: VC: When a producer of the stature of Jaboulet makes a value-priced wine like this, wine lovers rejoice. Enjoy this with confidence during the mid-week pasta or beef stir-fry dinner. My note: Bright red fruit, cedary notes. Juicy, mouth-watering wine. Score: 85/100.

998716 'TRADITION' RASTEAU 2003 $15.95 AC Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, France (XD) Cave de Rasteau. Oaky, big and dark with black fruit. Comes in the handy half bottle size for $9.95 for nights when you're on your own. Score: 86/100.

981399 MONTEPULCIANO D'ABRUZZO 2001 $11.95 DOC Abruzzi, Italy (D) Az. Agr. Terra d'Aligi: Terrific value! A good grip on the palate. Dark red fruit. Full-bodied and oaky. Score: 85/100.

650713 'CAMPO SOLIN' 2001 $11.95 DOC Valpolicella, Ripasso Veneto, Italy (D) Corte Zovo: VC: When our panel tried this wine it was floored by the concentration and richness of flavor especially at such an unbelievably low price. A superb wine for winter dinner parties; match with winter stews, rich pasta dishes, grilled lamb or, if you are feeling really Italian, Timballo, (check out the recipe at Deep ruby color with aromas reminiscent of black cherry, plum jam/compote and hint of earth and tar notes. Dry or slightly off-dry, plush, warm, round and generous mouth feel. Full-bodied with a medium long finish. Delicious. My note: An amazing wine for the price! Rich, dark and concentrated. Score: 85/100. Best Value Red Wine

460 ABADIA 2000 $ 14.95 DO Costers del Segre Spain (XD) Raimat: Good all-round red. Medium- to full-bodied with a slight grip o the palate. Dark red fruit. Score: 87/100.

940965 'BERONIA' GRAN RESERVA 1995 $32.95 DOC Rioja (D) Bodegas Beronia: VC: This wine is made from classic Rioja grapes Graciano and Mazuelo. Graciano, one of the great grapes of the wine world, is virtually unknown due to its low yields and susceptibility to powdery mildew. Thus, any wine that features it in the blend (it represents 87% here) is well worth rooting out. The wine was aged for 30 months in American oak plus several years in bottle prior to release. Food match: lamb chops with mint sauce, grilled angus beef steaks. My note: Mouth-watering red that smells very Ralph Lauren: old saddles, spice and the stable where Sven the hulky farm hand awaits. Score: 89/100.

968164 MARQUÉS DE VARGAS' RESERVA 2000 $33.95 Hacienda Pradolagar, DOC Rioja, Spain (XD) Bod. y Vined. del Marqués de Vargas: Hot and spicy with ripe red fruit and blackberries. Drink 2005-2008. Score: 88/100.

January 22: Fortified Dessert Wines

430 LBV PORT 1999 $25.95 Unfiltered, Late Bottled Finish, Btld. 2003 (S = sweet) José Maria da Fonseca & Van Zeller, Portugal: VC: This Port is a joint venture between J.M. da Fonseca, known primarily for table wine (see José de Sousa, 396689) and sweet wines from Setúbal (see 'Alambre' Moscatel, 357996), and Christiano van Zeller, the former driving force behind the exceptional Quinta do Noval Ports. Because this product is neither filtered nor fined, there will be sediment. Stand the bottle upright for a few hours before opening then carefully transfer the contents into a decanter. Unlike conventional LBVs, this version can actually improve in bottle for 3+ years. My note: Great price for a rich, hot, concentrated port. Try with roasted nuts. Score: 88/100.

January 22: White Wines

596577 CHARDONNAY 2000 $15.95 Barrel Aged, Steve Kocsis Mountain Road Vineyard, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (XD) Mountain Road Wine Company: Vines Buyers' Guide to Canadian Wine 2003: Another newbie on the Niagara wine scene, former grape grower Steve Kocsis has switched titles to wine producer. His first vintage is modeled after a Burgundian-styled Chardonnay that places more emphasis on the fruit than on the oak. Opens with notes of pineapple, pears with a hint of flinty mineral. On the palate, there's enough acidity to balance the oak. Nice flavors of pineapple and green apple with soft layers of toasted oak. My note: Who knew? yet another upstart from Niagara, and one that's making very nice wines right out of the gate. Aromas of spicy apples and pears. Lovely balance. Score: 89/100.

366542 CHARDONNAY 2001 $19.95 Grand Estates, Columbia Valley, Washington (D) Columbia Crest Winery: A rich, creamy chard with buttery goodness. Ripe apples and pears... overflowing with generosity. Score: 88/100.

480517 'JEAN-BAPTISTE' RIESLING KABINETT 2002 $15.95 QmP, Estate Bottled Rheinhessen, Germany (MD) Weingut Gunderloch: One of my favorite German producers. This is a solid wine. Off-dry (touch of sweetness to soften), lime fruit. Very refreshing. A complement to many dishes, such as seafood, creamy pasta, chicken. Score: 87/100.

January 22: Red Wines

650879 MERITAGE 2001 $24.95 Black Sage Vineyard, VQA Okanagan Valley, B.C. (XD) Sumac Ridge Estate Winery: VC: This Silver Medal award winner at the 2004 All Canadian Wine Awards in Windsor, Ontario, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Black Sage Vineyard, a desert area located in the southern part of the Okanagan, is quickly developing a reputation for producing some of the finest wines from the Bordeaux grapes in Canada. Food match: grilled lamb, beef stir-fry. My note: A rich red of great balance. Ripe red fruit. Medium- to full-bodied. A consistently good producer from this region. Score: 87/100.

585760 PINOT NOIR 2002 $18.95 Limited Release', VQA Okanagan Valley (XD) Quails' Gate Estate Winery: VC: This wine won Gold Medals at both the Spring and Fall 2004 Okanagan Wine Festivals in Penticton, BC. According to the winery, Quails' Gate's 'Limited Release' line represents a confluence of "quality, value and an authentic snapshot of premium vinifera varietals influenced by terroir, viticultural innovation and winemaking expertise." Food match: Asian barbeque salmon, marinated game or lamb with a cherry compote. MY note: Lovely light- to medium-bodied red with some spiciness. Score: 85/100.

652958 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 1999 $14.95 El Dorado, Estate Bottled (D) Jodar Vineyards & Winery: VC: Jodar Vineyards and Winery was created in 1985 by lighting the fuse of a stick of dynamite. Actually, it was a lot of dynamite, because they had to blast a granite hillside in order to create their vineyards. Their first vintage was the stellar 1990 which was created outdoors because the winery building was not finished in time. The producers recommend matching this wine with Portabello and Polenta Gratin. For the recipe go to My note: A simple, full-bodied rich red. Score: 86/100.

932160 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 1999 $49.95 Enterprise, Clare Valley, South Australia (XD) Knappstein: This is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Malbec. A big well-crafted shiraz with aromas of mint and cassis. Forget the fruit bombs, go for this. Drink 2005-2010. Score: 90/100.

641266 MERLOT 2002 $18.95 Margaret River, Western Australia (XD) Olsen Wine: Rich, warm and smooth. Ripe red fruit. Yum. Score: 87/100.

595314 SHIRAZ 2002 $12.95 dB, Riverina, New South Wales, Australia (XD) De Bortoli: An incredible value. Oaky, spicy with bright red fruit. As full-bodied as Ruseel Crowe. Score: 88/100.

597773 BEAUNE 1ER CRU 2002 $43.95 AC, Les Bressandes (XD) Pierre Ponnelle, Négoc.: VC: The great 2002s are now starting to hit our shores. This example has a nose that is reminiscent of classic Pinot Noir aromas such as cherry, beetroot, and earth tones. This dry, warm and supple version is quite fruit-forward and will reward early enjoyment. However, there is definitely enough structure to support short-term cellaring (1-3 years). My note: Oaky and robust PN with earthy aromas, dark cherries. Drink 2006-2009. Score: 89/100.

734251 CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2001 $49.95 AC, 'Domaine de la Charbonnière', Cuvée Mourre des Perdrix Rhone, France (XD) Maret Michel: Gorgeous, deeply flavored wine with a finish that reaches down your throat and warms your liver. Jammy berries and cherries and black plums. Score: 92/100.

735407 CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2001 $58.95 AC Rhone, France (XD) Château la Nerthe: Forget honkin' shiraz, go for the uber wine: Rhone syrah. It's where it all started baby. Balance, complexity, élan, aplomb, verve... haven't I forgotten anything? Rich warmth. I'm helpless in the face of such concentration. Score: 93/100.

973453 VACQUEYRAS 2001 $19.95 AC, Les Christins Rhone, France (D) Domaines Perrin: A consistently good producer of excellent value wine. This one is so rich it's almost liqueur-like in its aromas of cassis and currants. Full-bodied. Score: 88/100.

707364 BAROLO MONFALLETTO 1999 $64.95 DOCG Piedmont, Italy (XD) Cordero di Montezemolo: The first barolo I've liked in a long time. Mostly, I find them too heavy, too tarry. This one is so beautifully balanced with bright red fruit. A very big mouthful indeed. Drink 2007-2010. Score: 88/100.

977413 'RIPA DELLE MANDORLE' 2001 $26.95 IGT Toscana Tuscany, Italy (XD) Tenuta di Vicchiomaggio/John Matta: VC: Made with Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, this blackberry fruit and tobacco scented wine is an excellent companion for braised meat dishes, lamb chops or rich pasta sauces. My note: Nicely balanced wine, mouth-watering. Red fruit. Medium- to full-bodied. Score: 87/100.

722470 ORNELLAIA 2001 $159.95 DOC Bolgheri Rosso Superiore Tuscany, Italy (XD) Tenuta dell'Ornellaia: VC: One of the true greats from the era when this wine was known as one of the 'Super Tuscans', Producers such as Ornellaia pushed the envelope in Tuscany so creatively that a new DOC was established to accommodate it. My note: As overpriced as a Lamborghini, but where are you going to find that styling? So, if that extra bit is worth the $100 premium, go for it. You won't be disappointed. Score: 94/100.

972208 LAMEZIA RISERVA 1998 $17.95 DOC Southern Italy (XD) Cantine Lento: VC: Lento's Lamezia Riserva is an excellent example of the blender's art at work at a regional level. The grapes used here are quite uncommon: Nerello Mascalese, a dark, spicy, perfumed red grape; Nerello Cappuccio, a good blending grape for filling out the middle; Gaglioppo, to add a tannic grip; and Greco Nero, an excellent grape which gives crispness to the wine. Food match: eggplant parmigiana (a local Calabrian specialty), spicy Italian sausage. Score: 86/100.

900274 'SEDÀRA' 2002 $14.95 IGT Sicily, Italy (D) Tenuta di Donnafugata: Oaky, simple with juicy red fruit. Medium- to full-bodied. Score: 83/100.

396689 JOSÉ DE SOUSA 2000 $13.95 Vinho Regional Alentejano Portugal (XD) José Maria da Fonseca: Easy-drinking, uncomplicated red with a slight grip on the palate. Red berries. Score: 85/100.