Wine Picks March 3, 2007

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Italian Red Wine

MONTE ZOVO VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE RIPASSO 2003 DOC VC: Ripasso is derived from the Latin word, refundere, which means to pour again or, in Italian, re-pass. Monte Zovo's Ripasso exhibits all the fine hallmarks of the wine style: rich plum and almond aromas, intensified flavors and a long, full-flavored finish. Enjoy with rich beef or lamb dishes. My note: Full-bodied, straight-forward and satisfying, intense red fruit flavors. Drink with tomato sauce dishes and lasagna. 023523 (XD) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 88/100

FARINA AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2003 DOC VC: Today, most Amarone producers rely on three grapes, Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella. Six grapes are allowed, and rare is the producer who uses them all. Farina is one such producer. The other three grapes are Molinara, Negara and Dindarella. By using all six, Farina makes Amarone in its classic composition. My note: Extremely powerful and extracted (big alcohol and black fruit flavors). Drink with hearty meat dishes. 995910 (XD) 750 mL $38.95 Score: 90/100.

MICHELE CASTELLANI SERGIO ROSSO 2000 IGT Rosso Veronese: This wine is made almost like amarone, except the drying time is two months or half of the time for amarone. Absolutely delicious, full-bodied red with exuberant red fruit aromas. Full-bodied but not heavy. 019463 (XD) 750 mL $21.95 Score: 90/100.

TENUTA SAN GUIDO SASSICAIA 2003 DOC Bolgheri-Sassicaia: There is no denying Sassicaia: it is a spectacular wine. Opulent aromas of cherry, spice, smoke, plums and fruit I can't name. Layers and layers of gorgeous texture and complexity. A finish without end. The question is: are you willing to pay this much to get what may not be a proportionate bump up in quality from a cheaper wine? That's your call. But if you're buying, I'll have a glass of this please. 480533 (XD) 750 mL $159.00 Score: 92/100. Favorite Red Wine

Californian Red Wine

FIVE RIVERS PINOT NOIR 2005 Central Coast VC: This Pinot from Five Rivers is a consistent overachiever offering terrific value vintage after vintage. This wine offers straight-forward sweet cherry fruit with cola notes and hints of spice. Dry and medium-bodied, it's a great introduction to the variety that's bound to create more life-long Pinotphiles. My note: Simple and juicy with ripe cherry aromas. Delicious! 684514 (XD) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 89/100.

JEKEL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003 Central Coast VC: Packed with classic blackberry and ripe cherry flavors with notes of spice, herbs and toasty oak, this attractive Cab represents an incredible value. It won a Gold Medal at the 2006 Los Angeles County Fair Wine Competition. Enjoy it over the next 2-3 years with grilled New York steaks. My note: Satisfyingly ripe cherry and raspberry aromas. Full-bodied. 967893 (XD) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 89/100.

Argentine Red Wine

FINCA FLICHMAN PAISAJE DE BARRANCAS 2002 Mendoza: A blend with 75% syrah and merlot/cabernet sauvignon. Complex, layered and rich, with Bordeaux influences and balance. 017129 (XD) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 90/100.

Australian White Wine

HUNGERFORD HILL CHARDONNAY 2005 Tumbarumba, New South Wales VC: This elegant, Burgundian-style Chardonnay took the trophies for Wine of the Year and Best Young Dry White at the New South Wales Wine Awards 2006. Tumbarumba, in addition to being fun to say, is a cool climate region located in the Snowy Mountains, part of the Australian Alps, with vineyards at elevations between 300-800 meters. Complex and full flavored, this wine features pear and nectarine fruit flavors integrated with nutty oak notes. My note: A delicious, buttery, oaky chard. 015479 (D) 750 mL $22.95 Score: 90/100.

Australian Red Wine

HOPE ESTATE "THE RIPPER!" SHIRAZ 2004 Western Australia: A honkin' big shiraz with rich aromas with plums, spice and chocolate. Full-bodied. Pair with hearty meat dishes. 686865 (XD) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 89/100.

New Zealand White Wine

HIGHFIELD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island: I've been waiting for several years for this wine to come into local stores. It's one of the best NZ SBs I've tasted. Ripe aromas of passionfruit and citrus. Herbals notes make it refreshing and a great complement to salads, shellfish, and vegetarian dishes. Great price. 012674 (XD) 750 mL $23.95 Score: 93/100. Favorite White Wine

WAIRAU RIVER SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island: Grassy and grapefruit notes. Zesty and plucky. 014340 (XD) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 90/100.

New Zealand Red Wine

MARGRAIN HOME BLOCK PINOT NOIR 2004 Martinborough, North Island: A complex, layered pinot with aromas of plums and spice. Balanced and elegant. Long finish. 020503 (D) 750 mL $38.95 Score: 91/100.

TORLESSE PINOT NOIR 2004 Canterbury, South Island: Juicy, jammy pinot with upfront ripe red fruit. 699330 (D) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 88/100.

South African White Wine

CLOS MALVERNE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2006 WO Stellenbosch VC: The Pritchard family credit much of their winery's success over the past decade to winemaker/viticulturalist I.P. Smit, who joined the team in 1997. His work in the vineyards and dedication to quality have allowed Clos Malverne's wines to reach a whole new level. This award-winning Sauvignon is zesty and refreshing with intense gooseberry, lime and grapefruit aromas and flavors. Enjoy as an aperitif or serve with grilled shrimp. My note: Lovely, mouth-watering acidity makes this a great complement to many dishes, from vegetables to seafood. 024166 (XD) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 88/100. Best Value White Wine

ALLIMANT-LAUGNER MUSCAT 2005 AC Alsace (Hubert Laugner) VC: Winemaker Hubert Laugner's patience has paid off with this aromatically-intense Muscat. Match it to spicy Asian seafood dishes. My note: An aromatic wine with wonderful notes of orange peel and spice. 021279 (MD) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 88/100.

DOPFF & IRION GEWURZTRAMINER LA CUV√ČE RENE DOPFF 2004 AC Alsace VC: This is a premium Gewurz with loads of personality, the aromas suggest peach, lychee nut, nutmeg and grapefruit. It is dry and rich with a full body and a lingering finish. An excellent choice for grilled salmon steaks. My note: Round-textured and perfumed with white flowers. 021352 (D) 750 mL $25.95 Score: 89/100.

French Red Wine

CHATEAU CANTELYS 2003 AC Pessac-Laognan, Bordeaux (D. Cathiard, Prop.): Gorgeous full-bodied red with aromas of black fruit, smoke and oak. Old World balance, finesse and a long finish. More Bach than Beethoven. 019786 (XD) 750 mL $36.95 Score: 91/100.

CHATEAU DU PRIEURA DES MOURGUES 2003 AC Saint-Chinian, Midi (Vignobles Roger) VC: One of Saint-Chinian's strongest producers, Chateau du Prieura des Mourgues takes Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre and barrel ages them separately for 12 months. The final blend accentuates the fruit of the Syrah with the pretty cedar tones of the Grenache, the backbone of the Mourvedre, plus the vanilla from the oak to create this finely made, food-friendly wine. Match it to grilled leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary. My note: Full-bodied, juicy with aromas of dark red fruit. Drink with barbecued meats. 985598 (XD) 750 mL $15.95 Score: 89/100.

MAS JANEIL CATES DU ROUSSILLON-VILLAGES 2004 AC (Jacques & Francois Lurton) VC: The Bordeaux-based Lurton brothers have been venturing into the Midi for some years now, producing exciting, quality-priced wines such as this. Grenache (60%), Carignan (30%) and Syrah (10%) contribute aromas of raspberry and red currants with notes of spice, pepper and chocolate. There is great fruit concentration and well-integrated oak in this fresh wine. A fantastic value. Match it to grilled steaks or portobello mushrooms. My note: Medium-bodied with a smooth, pleasant texture. Drink with pizza or hamburgers. 992800 (XD) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 88/100.

PIERRE AMADIEU GIGONDAS ROMANE MACHOTTE 2004 AC Rhone Valley: Loaded with black cherries, spice and cedar notes. Full-bodied and assertive. 017400 (XD) 750 mL $23.95 Score: 90/100.

German Red Wine

KANIGSCHAFFHAUSEN PINOT NOIR 2004 QbA Baden, Kanigschaffhauser Steingruble VC: Yes, Germany does make red wine, and rather good ones at that. This delicious Pinot is from one of Germany's most prestigious co-operatives. It's dry, medium-bodied with ripe cherry and strawberry flavors, spice and velvety tannins. Enjoy it with duck or veal chops. Excellent value. My note: Since those who can't pronounce the name of this wine aren't going to ask for it in the store, we can buy it at a steal. This is a fantastic wine for the money. It has lovely ripe aromas of ripe cherries and a medium-bodied texture that slips down easily. New World styling. It could pair with so many dishes; it's one of those switch-hitter wines I love. 460410 (D) 750 mL $17.95 Score: 90/100.

Portuguese Red Wine

QUINTA DA ALORNA CASTELAO VINHO TINTO 2002 DOC Ribatejo VC: Castelao, a.k.a. Periquita, is a very versatile wine that may be enjoyed in its youth for its bright fruitiness. Older vintages deliver more elegant, dried fruit qualities. This example falls gracefully into the latter category. Enjoy with grilled lamb. My note: An Old World, oaky red with bright acidity. 021287 (XD) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 87/100.

Spanish Red Wine

FINCA ANTIGUA CRIANZA 2003 DO La Mancha VC: Spain's La Mancha region is gaining a reputation for its good value reds. Here is a delicious blend of Tempranillo (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (20%), Merlot (20%) and Syrah (10%). This medium-bodied Crianza displays intense berry fruit aromas and well-integrated vanilla oak notes. A great match with sausages and shish kebabs. My note: Great value wine! Full-bodied, with dark red fruit. 981613 (D) 750 mL $14.95 Score: 88/100. Best Value Red Wine

Canadian White Wine

LE CLOS JORDANNE LE GRAND CLOS CHARDONNAY 2004 VQA Niagara Peninsula: A stunning white, with Burgundian overtones and elegance. Deep rich pear fruit and a mineral heart. Drink with chicken, pasta and lobster. 034561 (D) 750 mL $55 Score91/100.

Canadian Red Wine

LE CLOS JORDANNE LE GRAND CLOS PINOT NOIR 2004 VQA Niagara Peninsula: I've found Canada's Domaine de la Romanee-Conti! Actually, that's not fair to either DRC or Le Clos Jordanne, as each stands on its own merits and beautifully expresses the place where it's from. Gorgeous aromas of cherries, spice, and smoky oak. A finish that haunts you the next day. Pair with salmon, chicken, and roast beef. Drink 2007-2020. 034553 (D) 750 mL $60 Score: 94/100.

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.)

For more details on how I do my wine reviews and tips on how to find these wines click here. To find dishes to match these wines, click here.

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Copyright © 2007 by Natalie MacLean. All rights reserved. Please ask permission of the author before copying or using this material.