Wine Picks June 24, 2006

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

Portuguese Red Wine

ESPORÃO TINTO RESERVE 2003 DOC Alentejo (Finagra) VC: Esporão's winemaker David Baverstock believes that it is with the native Portuguese grapes that the country, in general, and his winery, in particular, will make an impression on the wine world. To that end, his extremely well-made Tinto Reserve uses Aragonés, Trincadeira and Touriga Nacional. He doesn't dismiss the international grapes entirely, as he uses a hint of Cabernet Sauvignon here too, but it is a 'flavoring' agent backing up his local stars. Expect a beautifully balanced, fruit rich wine with a long complex finish. Enjoy it with rich beef or lamb dishes. My note: Juicy with black fruit, a touch tannic, Old World style. 606590 (XD = extra dry) 750 mL $25.95 Score: 88/100.

HERDADE GRANDE TINTO 2003 Vinho Regional Alentejano (António Manuel Lança) VC: A blend of the local grapes Aragonés, Trincadeira and Alicante Bouche. A ripe, round and velvety wine with aromas that suggest strawberry, peony, mint and chocolate. Enjoy this flavorful wine with barbecued back ribs, gourmet sausage or grilled, herbed chicken. My note: Purply plum notes, juicy. Perfect for barbecue. 685073 (XD) 750 mL $14.95 Score: 87/100.

QUINTA DE CAMARATE TINTO 2003 Vinho Regional Terras do Sado (J.M. Da Fonseca) Most of the grapes for this wine come from the Setúbal Peninsula near Lisbon. The wine is a blend of Castelão Frances, Espadeiro and Cabernet Sauvignon. Offering good value, this well-made wine is an excellent choice for various lamb dishes. The aromas suggest berry, spice, pepper, oak and cocoa aromas. It is quite dry, well-balanced, medium-bodied and long finishing. My note: Robust cherry notes. A sturdy and delicious wine. A touch tannic. 357962 (XD) 750 mL $13.95 Score: 86/100.

SOGRAPE 'CALLABRIGA' DOURO TINTO 2003 DOC VC: Sogrape's 'Callabriga' Douro is produced from mostly Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) with the rest comprised of Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional. The wine is designed to demonstrate 'New World' winemaking styles using the grapes and vineyards that reflect the best of Portugal. Pretty violet color leads to rich fruit aromas such as blackberry, cherry and plum, plus hints of spice and nicely-integrated oak tones. This dry, medium full-bodied wine has fine fruit tones supported by firm, but ripe tannins. It is enjoyable now with flavorful meat, such as bison steaks, roast leg of lamb or game meats, but it will also reward up to three years in a cellar. My note: Black fruit, oaky and full-bodied. 682591 (XD) 750 mL $18.95 Score: 88/100.

Australian White Wine

ASHBROOK CHARDONNAY 2003 Margaret River, Western Australia VC: Bright lemon color with aromas of toast, ripe apple, lemon and tropical fruit. Dry, quite crisp and fruity. It is medium-bodied, with a very long finish. The oak is so beautifully integrated into the whole package, it is barely noticeable on the palate. Enjoy with crab legs, grilled prawns or steamed clams. My note: Big, blousy, oaky and buttery. Perfect for lobster in butter or corn dishes. 684076 (XD) 750 mL $21.95 Score: 88/100

Australian Red Wine

PARKER COONAWARRA ESTATE 'TERRA ROSSA' MERLOT 2001 Coonawarra, South Australia: Big honkin' wine with black fruit, and smoky notes. Drink with muscular men. 678581 (XD) 750 mL $33.95 Score: 90/100. Favorite Red Wine

German White Wine

J & H SELBACH RIESLING KABINETT 2003 QmP, Zeltinger Himmelreich VC: Grown on the Mosel's brilliant slatey soil, this Riesling Kabinett is generally considered a textbook example of the style. Expect a fragrant bouquet hinting at white peach and apple. This medium dry wine would complement grilled chicken, summer salads or barbecued vegetables. MY note: A touch of sweetness makes this wine a lovely sipper: fragrant yet able to stand up to medium-spiced dishes and grilled foods. 682864 (MD = medium dry) 750 mL $14.95 Score: 88/100.

ST. URBANS-HOF RIESLING 2005 QbA Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Estate Btld. VC: An always consistent Mosel Riesling from the former Vineland Estates owners. The aromas suggest flowers and lime zest. It is medium in sweetness, charming with a zippy acid for balance. This is an excellent summer sipping wine. My note: Soft, lovely and floral, with peach notes 995746 (M = medium) 750 mL $13.95 Score: 87/100.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

CLOUDY BAY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island: Cloudy Bay continues to set the standard for NZ SB. This one is a lovely quintessence of smoke, herbs and passion fruit. Drink it while you can. Carpe diem. 304469 (XD) 750 mL $29.95 Score: 90/100. Favorite White Wine

SILENI 'CELLAR SELECTION' SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island: Terrific value for this herbal, grassy goodness. Full of refreshment and vigor. 662882 (XD) 750 mL $14.95 Score: 89/100. Best Value White Wine

WEST BROOK SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island: Juicy citrus notes, with grapefruit in the lead. Lip-smacking good. 985994 (XD) 750 mL $17.95 Score: 89.5/100.

California Red Wine

RUTHERFORD HILL MERLOT 2002 Napa Valley: Give merlot a chance! This smooth vinous interpretation of smooth jazz deserves a second look. Ripe notes of plum and blackberries. Happiness before a campfire. 948935 (XD) 375 mL $15.95 Score: 89/100.

Argentina Red Wine

(Bodega Valentin Bianchi): 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 3% Malbec and 1% Syrah. Terrific value for this deep, rich wine redolent of berries and cedar. 677567 (XD) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 89.5/100. Best Value Red Wine

French Rosé

DOMAINE MABY 'LA FORCADIÈRE' TAVEL 2005 AC Rhone, France VC: Their rosés are always anticipated because of their depth of flavor and beautiful balance of fruit and acid. Just say 'Maby Baby' and enjoy it as an aperitif or with trout or bass fresh from the lake. My note: Completely dry and elegant with lovely aromas of raspberries. Drink slightly chilled under a shady tree. 701318 (XD) 750 mL $15.95 Score: 89/100.

Italian Red Wine

CORTE ZOVO 'SA SOLIN' RIPASSO 2003 DOC Valpolicella VC: It has structure to match with flavorful dishes, such as gourmet hamburgers or roast leg of lamb, but its upfront fruit-forward style also makes it a pleasant sipping wine. My note: Terrific value. Great balance and juicy red fruit flavors. 650713 (D) 750 mL $15.95 Score: 87/100.

Dessert Wines: Port

KROHN COLHEITA PORT 1994 Btld. 2006 (Wiese & Krohn) VC: Colheita Ports are from a single vintage and must age a minimum of seven years in wood; there is no maximum. Krohn matured this version 12 years in cask. Colheita ports should not require decanting. Opaque rust/ruby color. Quite youthful looking for having spent nine years in a barrel. Aromas suggest caramel, date, fig and nuts. It is sweet with a rich and generous centre. It is medium-bodied with a lingering finish. My note: Terrific value for this lovely after-dinner sipper. Rich layers of caramel and almonds. 915108 (S = sweet) 750 mL $35.95 Score: 90/100.

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.)

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