Wines Picks March 4, 2006

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South African Red Wine

CATHEDRAL CELLAR CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2001 WO Paarl (KWV) Product code: 328567 (D = dry) $16.95: A solid wine from a consistently good producer. Aromas of cassis and oak. Full-bodied and round. Score: 88/100.

DIEMERSFONTEIN PINOTAGE 2005 WO Wellington VC: Food match: salmon, roast venison, beef, lamb, winter casseroles. 995241 (XD = extra dry) 750 mL $22.95: My note: Without a doubt, the best pinotage I've ever tasted. This rich, full-bodied wine has gorgeous aromas of oak, cherries, plums and chocolate (though it is a completely dry wine). I often encounter pinotages that aren't to my taste as they have a whiff of burnt rubber, but this is nothing like that. Score: 92/100.

KANONKOP 'KADETTE' 2001 WO Paarl (KWV) VC: An interesting blend of 60% Pinotage, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 10% Ruby Cabernet (a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carigna), and 5% Cabernet Franc. 922237 (XD) 750 mL $15.95. My note: A great value wine with juicy red and oak aromas. Score: 89/100.

NEWTON JOHNSON SYRAH MOURVÈDRE 2004 (XD) VC: This Rhône-style blend has complex layers of black pepper, plums, smoke and leather. Decant for an hour before serving. 675439 750 mL $24.95. My note: One of the best red blends I've tasted from South Africa to date. This has layer after layer of ripe red fruit. Full-bodied and luscious. Score: 92/100.

South African White Wines

LA MOTTE CHARDONNAY 2004 WO Coastal Region 663377 (XD = extra dry) 750 mL $16.95. My note: Lovely round chard with aromas of oak and butter (but not too rich). Pair with lobster, corn dishes, pork and pasta in cream sauce. Score: 89/100.

MEERLUST CHARDONNAY 2003 WO Stellenbosch 663419 (D) 750 mL $32.95. The wine aged in French oak for 12 months. Not too heavy but rich and full-bodied. Aromas of green apples, oak, butter. Lovely mouth-watering acidity for dishes such as pork and chicken. Score: 90/100.

American Red Wine

CLAY STATION OLD VINE ZINFANDEL 2004 Lodi (Delicato Family Vineyards) VC: Food match: spicy BBQ beef ribs or pork stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella cheese. 678680 (XD) 750 mL $19.95. My note: Yum! This wine needs food with its vibrant and mouth-watering acidity. Aromas of chocolate and plums. Full-bodied. Great value. Score: 89/100.

MORGAN SYRAH 2002 Monterey 673764 (XD) 750 mL $29.95: I am a huge fan of this winery, and especially love their pinot noir. This syrah, a full-bodied and concentrated red, is lovely. This producer follows organic farming principles. Score: 90/100. Favorite Red Wine

L'AVENTURE ZINFANDEL 2002 Paso Robles U.S.A. - California VC: The wines of Stéphan Asseo are some of the most sought-after from Paso Robles. Expect bright fruit aromas of blackberries, cassis as well as dark chocolate notes. Rich and powerful with plenty of tannin and acid providing structure. 678797 (XD) 750 mL $36.95. My note: Juicy aromas of brambleberry and chocolate. Full-bodied and gorgeous. Limited supply because it's an in-store discovery. Score: 91/100.

Chilean Red Wine

SANTA ALICIA GRAN RESERVA MERLOT 2002 Maipo Valley VC: Santa Alicia deems just 5% of their pressed juice worthy of their top tier Gran Reserva line. The grapes for this Merlot come from the winery's oldest vines (50+ years), which means lower yields and higher concentration of flavor. Deep purple/black in color, it shows layered aromas of sweet ripe berry fruit, black licorice, currants, green pepper and eucalyptus. Full-bodied with a long finish, the sweet berry fruit flavors peek through the firm tannic grip. 663088 (XD) 750 mL $19.95. My note: Aromas of dark red fruit and chocolate. Decant for an hour or two before drinking. Although this is pricey for Chile, which makes its best wines in the $9 to $12 range, this is a good value wine. Score: 89/100.

SANTA RITA SHIRAZ RESERVA 2002 Estate Grown, Maipo Valley 663070 (XD) 750 mL $13.95. My note: A good basic red with aromas of cassis and blackcurrant. A touch tannic. Decant for an hour or so. Great price. Score: 86/100. Best Value Red Wine

Australian White

GOUNDREY 'RESERVE SELECTION" CHARDONNAY 2003 Western Australia VC: Goundrey Winery celebrated another win at the prestigious 2005 Chardonnay-du-Monde competition held in Burgundy with a Gold Medal for this Reserve Chardonnay. 606889 (D) 750 mL $19.95. My note: Gorgeous, rich chard with ripe and enticing aromas of apples and pears and brioche. Some oak. Score: 91/100. Favorite White White

PREECE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Victoria (Mitchelton Wines) VC: Pale straw in color, there's good varietal character. Aromas are grassy, with guava fruit and mineral tones. Crisp and clean, with a long dry finish. Food match: seared scallops, fresh seafood. 661850 (XD) 750 mL $17.95. My note: Simple and refreshing with herbal and grapefruit aromas. Score: 88/100.

Australian Red Wine

PIANO GULLY PINOT NOIR 2003 Pemberton, Western Australia VC: Piano Gully is named for the unfortunate instrument imported from England by Charles Young, a pioneer in the cool-climate Pemberton region. After a journey by sea, rail, and horse and cart, the piano fell off the cart within sight of its final destination and was destroyed. Striking garnet in color, with aromas of cherries and plums and some meaty notes (bacon). Dry, medium-bodied, nicely balanced and fresh tasting with a medium-long finish. 661884 (D) 750 mL $23.95. My note: Lively, medium-bodied red with bright cherries and spice. Pair with salmon, pate, chicken. Score: 89/100.

THE GATE SHIRAZ 2002 South Australia, Davey Family Wines VC: A dense full-bodied Shiraz. Enjoy with robust dishes such as rare prime rib or game. 694687 750 mL bottle $33.95. My note: Big and beautiful, balanced with juicy red fruit. Score: 91/100.

French White Wine

MARTIN STEIMER GEWURZTRAMINER 2004 AC Alsace VC: Shiny mid-yellow gold. This is a well-typed example of the varietal. Aromas of lychee, peach, and rosewater. This is oily and round in texture, medium to full-bodied and just off dry in sweetness. 709790 (D) 750 mL $16.95. My note: Lovely and soft with classic aromas of lychee nuts and rose petals. Drink with lightly-spiced dishes. Score: 89.5/100.

French Red Wine

CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2003 Rhone Valley AC (Fermière des Vignobles Pierre Perrin) 968750 (XD) 375 mL $42.95 or 711317 (XD) 750 mL $79.95. A palate-whacker of a wine, it's full-bodied but not overblown. Alluring aromas of spice, cedar and black cherries. Drink 2008-2020. Score: 93/100.

DOMAINE DU GRAPILLON D'OR GIGONDAS 2003 Rhone Valley AC (Bernard Chauvet, Prop-Récolt.) This wine was honored as a 'Coup de Cœur' by Le Guide Hachette des Vins 2006. 981787 (D) 750 mL $26.95. Richly extracted, full-bodied, alcoholic (14.5%), deep and dark red fruit. Score: 89/100.

German White Wine

MOSELLAND 'INSIGNUM' RIESLING KABINETT 2002 QmP, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Estate Btld. VC: Color of pale straw. Notes of mineral, floral, lime blossom and kerosene. This is crisp and tasty, with a light and lively line of acidity hand in hand with a delicate sweetness. Great as an aperitif, with trout or Thai food. 670737 (MD = medium dry) 750 mL $15.95. My note: Floral and soft. Perfect as an aperitif or with seafood, shellfish or salad. Score: 89/100. Best Value White Wine

Italian Red Wine

LORENZO BEGALI AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2000 Veneto DOC 681361 (D) 750 mL $54.95. Huge and foreboding... a stalker of a wine whose memory follows you long after you swallow. Dark red fruit. Decant for 2-3 hours at least, or better yet, let it age. Drink 2008-2015. Score: 91/100.

QUINTARELLI 'ROSSO CA'DEL MERLO' 1997 IGT: This is a single vineyard Valpolicella, though the winemaker uses the broader IGT designation. 958595 (D) 750 mL $69.95. Quintessential Italian wine to drink while reading Under the Tuscan Sun (or thinking fondly back to Marco on his Vespa during that long summer...) Lovely aromas of sun-baked cherries, mouth-watering acidity that makes it perfect for pasta in tomato sauce. Full-bodied like Marco. Score: 91/100.

Canadian Red Wine

SUMAC RIDGE MERLOT 2002 Black Sage Vineyard, VQA Okanagan Valley B.C. VC: This deep and muscular Merlot comes from the Black Sage vineyard and emphasizes the quality of the fruit that grows on this very desirable property. The vineyard has really come into its own, and this latest Merlot offers great value! Expect loads of berry, licorice and black pepper flavors. Enjoy with grilled steaks or pork tenderloin. Food match: red meats and grilled foods. 593053 (XD) 750 mL $17.95. My note: Lovely, rich and full-bodied merlot with big, dark red fruit. Smooth. Score: 89.5/100.

TINHORN CREEK MERLOT 2002 Estate Bottled, VQA Okanagan Valley B.C. 530725 (XD) 750 mL $19.95. Smooth like easy-listening jazz. Medium- to full-bodied with aromas of plums and smoke. Score: 89/100.

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)

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