Vintages July 2004 Release

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Recommended Fortified and Sweet Wines: July 10

915108 COLHEITA PORT 1994 $29.95 (Wiese & Krohn), Portugal: Like a turbo tawny: all the caramel-almond richness and lots of depth and power. A gorgeous after-dinner drink. According to the Vintages catalogue: Colheita Ports must spend a minimum of seven years in oak (and frequently longer) prior to bottling. As a result, decanting is rarely required. My score: 94/100.

413732 VIDAL ICEWINE 2000 $39.95 VQA Niagara Peninsula 375 mL
(Château des Charmes): A densely-packed dessert wine with apricot, honey and pear notes. Gorgeous on its own or with a fruit flan or, ah, crème brulee. Score: 92/100.

Recommended White Wines: July 10

343475 CHARDONNAY 2001 $19.95 Sonoma County, California (Prod. & Btld. Geyser Peak): A lovely round buttery chard... more Marilyn than Marlene. Great with cream sauce dishes and lobster in butter. Score: 89/100.

355784 'OBSESSION' SYMPHONY 2003 $14.95 California (Prod. & Btld. Ironstone Vineyards): Wine you'll love or hate. Distinctly aromatic; redolent of floral and lychee nut aromas. Somewhat like gewürztraminer. Score: 88/100.

961516 SEMILLON 2002 $13.95, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia (Margan Family Winery): Tired of oaky chardonnay? Try this wonderfully different wine with refreshing lemon zest and lanolin aromas. Goes well with seafood, shellfish and salads. Score: 88/100.

918805 CHARDONNAY 2002 $19.95 Mendoza, Argentina (Bodega Catena Zapata): Delicious apple and pear notes. Balanced and not too heavy. Score: 89/100.

701276 PINOT BLANC 2002 $16.95 AC Alsace, Rosenberg (Aimé Stentz et fils): Vibrant, zesty wine with lemon/lime intensity. Great for seafood and cream-sauce dishes. Gold-Medal winner at the 2003 Grand Concours des Vins d'Alsace. Score: 86/100.

981662 RIESLING 2000 $21.95 AC Alsace, France 'Les Princes Abbés' (Domaines Schlumberger): Lovely soft wine with a beautiful acidity to match a range of dishes. Score: 89.5/100.

723007 DOMAINE DE FUSSIACUS 2001 $27.95 AC Pouilly-Fuissé, Vieilles Vignes, Burgundy, France (Jean-Paul Paquet): Spicy pear concentration and loads of minerality. Ideal with pork or chicken. Score: 90/100.

617415 SAINT-AUBIN 2002 $39.95, AC, 'La Fontenotte' (Domaine Marc Colin et Fils), Burgundy, France: Not tired of chardonnay? Well, maybe just the oaky kind? I adore this style: smart and spicy like Marlene Dietrich rather than a dumb blond. This one has a mineral intensity that's gorgeous. Score: 90/100. Favorite White Wine

626572 VIOGNIER 2003 $13.95 Vin de Pays d'Hauterive (Domaine la Bastide), Midi, France: Classic viognier with floral notes. Great price. Vintages catalogue: Vin de Pays d'Hauterive is located in the Aude département of Languedoc-Roussillon, an area that includes both Corbières and Fitou. Domaine la Bastide is located within Corbières AC. Even though these vines probably grow right beside their AC vines, Viognier is not a recognized grape under the AC rules and thus is classified as a Vin de Pays. My score: 85/100.

988253 GEWÜRZTRAMINER KABINETT 2002 $13.95 QmP, Edesheimer Schloss, Estate Bottled, Pfalz, Germany (Weingut Werner Anselmann): Great value for this off-dry floral sipper. Ideal with Thai food (not too spicy though). Silver-Medal winner at the 2003 Concours Mondial Bruxelles. Score: 89/100.

963207 RIESLING SPÄTLESE 2002 $19.95 QmP, Ungsteiner Herrenberg, Estate Bottled, Pfalz, Germany (Weingut Kurt Darting): Beautifully balanced and elegant wine. Touch sweet with ripe tree fruit aromas. Score: 90/100.

377770 CHARDONNAY 2002 $15.95 'Limited Release', VQA Okanagan Valley (Quails' Gate Estate Winery), British Columbia: It's great to see more B.C. wines on the shelves. This chard is beautifully balanced with green apple notes and crisp acidity. An ideal match with cream-sauce dishes, shellfish, creamy cheeses and pork. Vintages catalogue: The respected Washington State-based wine publication Wine Press Northwest named Quails' Gate 'BC Winery of the Year' in their Spring 2004 issue. My score: 89/100.

Recommended Red Wines: July 10

643460 MERITAGE 2001 $24.95 'Proprietors' Grand Reserve', 'Okanagan Estate', VQA Okanagan Valley (Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate), B.C.: A rich, deep red with a long, mocha finish. This wine won the gold medal for Best Meritage or Cabernet/Merlot blend at the 2003 Canadian Wine Awards. Score: 90/100.

692681 PINOT NOIR RESERVE 2002 $16.95 VQA Niagara Peninsula (Inniskillin): This is one of Niagara's best pinot noirs. (Pinot noir is and will continue to be Niagara's signature red.) Bright cherries and earthy aromas. Perfectly balanced. Score: 93/100.

738823 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2000 $23.95 Treana/Liberty School, California: A delicious, ripe, plummy, voluptuous wine. Great price for a wine of this quality. Score: 90/100.

603696 ZINFANDEL 2001 $29.95 OVOC (Old Vines, Old Clones), Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California (Prod. & Btld. Alderbrook): Love it! Dried herbs (are they ever wet?), brambleberries. Supple, round... perfect for many dishes, including meats, chicken and even tomato-based pasta sauce. Score: 93/100.

606731 SHIRAZ 2002 $19.95 Broke Fordwich, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia (Margan Family Winery): This is an amazing wine for the price. If you love shiraz, you'll adore this wine. It's full-bodied without being too heavy, bursting with ripe plums and a trace of mint and spice. Score: 95/100.

606780 'THE FUTURES' SHIRAZ 2001 $29.95 Barossa Valley, South Australia (Peter Lehmann): Big, bold and beautiful. (Sounds like a soap opera.) A buxom shiraz when you want maximum wallop. Ripe plums and light mint. Getting pricey though. Score: 94/100.

962324 SHIRAZ/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002 $15.95 'Firestick', Mount Compass, South Australia (Poole's Rock Wines): I still think this one is faaaabulous darling! This shiraz is ripe, plummy, full-bodied. Its playful spiciness goes well with boring conversation. (At least, you'll still be enjoying the wine.) Score: 91/100.

998534 PINOT NOIR 2002 $26.95 Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (The Crossings): Terrific value for this juicy, mouth-watering pinot. Not overdone but bursting with flavor. Dark cherries and spice. Perfect with salmon, soft cheeses and pork. Score: 92/100.

930560 PINOT NOIR 2001 $59.95 Martinborough, North Island, New Zealand (Ata Rangi Ltd.): If you want to splurge, try this one. New Zealand is becoming very well known for its pinot noir. This is one of the best examples yet: ripe cherries and lots of body but not dense and over-extracted. Maximum power without maximum weight: like a well-engineered backpack. It has a haunting, eternal finish. Score: 94/100.

627190 CHASSAGNE-MONTRACHET ROUGE 2001 $29.95 AC Burgundy, France (Joseph Drouhin): This pinot noir should be sipped on your knees! Vibrant, supple, bursting with flavor. Earthy, cherries, leather, cigar box. Score: 97/100. Favorite Red Wine

700187 CHÂTEAU DES JACQUES 2001 $29.95 AC Moulin-à-Vent Beaujolais, France (Louis Jadot): Vintages catalogue: The Moulin-à-Vent region is legendary in that its Gamay-based wines taste unlike most of the rest of Beaujolais. They are more deeply concentrated and some are known to last upwards of 50 years in bottle. This makes them perhaps atypically Beaujolais, but the lack of typicity is a huge part of their charm, and Jadot is considered one of the two best producers in the region. Food match: filet mignon. My score: 92/100.

949222 'CUVÉE DES ARDOISES' 2001 $15.95 Château des Erles, AC Fitou, France (Jacques & François Lurton): A lovely, supple, medium-bodied wine with aromas of ripe red fruit. Vintages catalogue: This is a blend of equal parts Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. The 2001 is the first vintage for this new venture from the Lurton brothers who saw the potential for the Fitou region in the 1990s and, in partnership with estate owner Marie José Lahore Bergez, set about resurrecting the property. My score: 87/100.

924696 DOMAINE BASSAC 2001 $14.95 Cabernet Sauvignon, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Thongue Midi, France (Delhon Frères, Vitic.): This wine is guaranteed organic under ECOCERT certification. A great value for this full-bodied simple sipper. Score: 87/100.

729962 CÔTES-DU-RHÔNE 2001 $16.95 AC, 'Saint-Esprit', France (Delas Frères): Cedar notes and bright red fruit, good balance and a slight grip. Also comes in the half bottle which is worth having on hand for nights when you're on your own or just want to share one glass with someone: 695668 $8.95. Score: 88/100.

921999 SALICE SALENTINO 2001 $13.95 DOC, Puglia, Italy (Cantine Due Palme): A terrific value for this medium- to full-bodied wine with aromas of herbs, dark cherries and figs. Winner of a Gran Medaglia d'Oro at the 2003 Vinitaly Competition, one of only five wines ever to win this award. Perfect with tomato-based pasta sauce. Score: 90/100.

335208 DOURO RESERVA RED 2000 $17.95 DOC Douro, Portugal (Vinhos Sogrape): Excellent price for this wine. Dense, full-bodied, dark and a slight grip. Age three years. Great with steak. Vintages catalogue: More and more producers in the Douro, home of legendary Port, have been embracing dry red wines. They discovered that the intense wines they use for making Ports are equally up to the task of producing impactful dry red wines. Each wine in the blend brings something different to the finished product: Touriga Nacional, tannin, colour and concentration; Touriga Franca, perfume and persistent fruitiness; Tinta Roriz (a.k.a., Tempranillo), colour, alcohol and tannin; and Tinta Barroca, sweet, gentle fruity aromas and flavors. Although Sogrape may have built its financial success upon Mateus Rosé, with wines such as this Douro Reserva, they have demonstrated how far they have come from those early days. My score: 89/100.

36483 'GRAN CORONAS' 2000 $17.95 Cabernet Sauvignon, DO Penedès
(Miguel Torres): Dark and brooding. Good value for this full-bodied wine. Score: 88/100.

617456 'MAS LA PLANA' 1998 $39.95 Cabernet Sauvignon, DO Penedès, Spain (Miguel Torres): There's something exotic about this wine that makes it stand out even from other great-tasting wines. It's brooding and mysterious, like The Name of the Rose. Black fruit, deep concentration. Score: 93/100.

Recommended Rose Wines: July 10

695452 WHITE ZINFANDEL/CHARDONNAY 2003 $15.95 'Premier Vineyard Selection' California (Prod. & Btld. Beringer): There is no shame in lovin' white zin: only a snob passes up pleasure like this. This is delightful! Strawberries and cherries all dancing in the wind. Serve all white zin and rose chilled. Score: 89/100.

603753 'DUE PALME' ROSÉ 2003 $9.95 IGT Salento Puglia, Italy (Cantine Due Palme): Terrific value. Soft quaffer with aromas of strawberries and summer. Score: 85/100.

Recommended Fortified and Sweet Wines: July 24

373928 STRAWBERRY/RHUBARB WINE $14.95 Prince Edward Island (Rossignol Estate Winery): Pure pie! A fresh as a country kitchen, as lovely as a gingham dress. Strawberry and rhubarb notes. Score: 88/100.

699785 MANZANILLA 'LA GUITA' Sherry $13.95 (Hijos de Rainera Pérez Marin), Spain: Vintages: Medium yellow straw colour with floral tones and aromas of orange peel, almond and green olive. Quite dry and delicate with a superb floral lift. Medium-bodied with a lingering, crisp, floral finish. Best enjoyed chilled. My score: 89/100.

208405 GRAHAM'S 'SIX GRAPES' PORT $17.95 Reserve, Unfiltered (W. & J. Graham & Co.), Portugal: A terrific value for this vintage-style port. Dense and purply and delicious. Great after-dinner drink. Score: 92/100.

Recommended White Wines: July 24

699256 CHARDONNAY 2002 $21.95 'Yahoo Creek', Otway Ranges, Victoria, Australia (Otway Estate): Deeeelicious! Spicy ripe pear, round, touch oaky, yum! Score: 89/100.

606830 SAUVIGNON BLANC 2003 $17.95 'Black Label' Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand (Esk Valley Estate): Great citrus zip and refreshment. Not too grassy. And cheers to the screwcap (and a lower risk of a cork-tainted wine)! Score: 89/100.

963165 SAUVIGNON BLANC 2003 $18.95 'Glazebrook', Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (Ngatarawa Wines Ltd.): Gorgeous herbal and floral notes. Score: 90/100.

994632 RIESLING KABINETT 2002 $12.95 QmP, Bernkasteler Kurfürstlay, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany (J. & H. Selbach): A good one to stock up on for summer entertaining. Zippy, refreshing, able to please a wide range of tastes. Score: 90/100. Best Value White Wine

998120 RIESLING KABINETT 2002 $21.95 QmP, Wehlener Sonnenuhr (Weingut Max Ferd. Richter): Stunning! Many of us talk dry, but actually enjoy off-dry (slightly sweet) wines: they're delicious. This one has ripe tree fruit and deep soul. Score: 92/100.

944181 GEWÜRZTRAMINER KABINETT 2001 $16.95 QmP, Dürkheimer Nonnengarten, Estate Bottled, Pfalz, Germany (Weingut Kurt Darting): Lychee nut, floral aromas. Off-dry. Lovely with Asian dishes. Score: 90/100.

927988 RIESLING 2002 $13.95 QbA (Weingut Sander): Organic wine. Great for the price. Mouth-watering but not aggressive acidity. Ripe tree fruit. Score: 89/100.

699900 MOSCATO D'ASTI 2003 $16.95 DOCG, 'Ceirole' Piedmont, Italy (Az. Agr. Villa Giada): Vintages catalogue: Villa Giada's Moscato d'Asti tends to be very expressive in its fruit flavors (particularly lemon, lime blossom, muscat grape, tangerine and peach). The frizzante character adds a liveliness to the wine that keeps the residual sweetness nicely in line. My score: 89/100. (Angela, this one is for you!)

Recommended Red Wines: July 24

943225 PINOT NOIR 2002 $23.95 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California (Prod. & Btld. Kenwood): Oaky, earthy, with ripe cherries. More fruit-forward than Oregon but not a fruit bomb. Medium- to full-bodied. Excellent with salmon, pate, chicken and cold meats. Also comes in the half bottle for $14.95. Score: 91/100.

717173 SYRAH 2001 $24.95 Monterey County, California (Prod. & Btld. Monterra Winery): Plummy roundness and full of flavor. Also comes in the half bottle for $12.95. Score: 92/100.

732115 CHÂTEAU RAMAGE LA BATISSE 2000 $ 34.95 AC Haut-Médoc, Cru Bourgeois, Bordeaux, France: This 2000 vintage keeps on giving and giving. This elegant, balanced wine will age 3-5 years. Leather, herbs and grandfather's cigar box. (Who knew he smoked out in the shed?) Score: 90/100.

627174 MERCUREY 2000 $26.95 AC, Burgundy, France (Hugues et Yves de Suremain, Prop.-Récolt.): Bursting with sunshine. Medium-bodied picnic wine. Score: 88/100.

951848 'SYRAH SIRRAH' 2002 $15.95 Domaine des Blagueurs, Vin de Pays d'Oc, Midi, France (Bonny Doon): White pepper, spice and soul. Medium body, which makes it excellent for many dishes, including pork and chicken. Score: 88/100.

443721 'RESERVE DU COUVENT' 2001 $11.95 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon (Chateau Ksara): This full-bodied, delicious wine tastes at least twice as expensive as it costs. Excellent to stock up on for summer entertaining. Vintages catalogue: The wines, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with touches of Syrah and Cabernet Franc, are matured for 12 months in French oak prior to the final blending. Score: 89/100. Best Value Red Wine

603761 'TRÊS BAGOS' 2001 $17.95 DOC Douro, Portugal (Lavradores de Feitoria Vinhos de Quinta): Excellence balance, medium-bodied, cassis and currants.