Wine Picks May 13, 2006

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German White Wine

TONI JOST RIESLING KABINETT 2004 QmP, Bacharacher Hahn, Estate Btld. VC: From the little-known-in-our-market Mittelrhein region comes this superb Riesling. There is pronounced varietal character here with special emphasis on peach, apricot and floral notes (particularly lilac). It is off-dry with very good fruit notes surrounded by crisp acid tones. Light- to medium-bodied, this long-finishing wine would be an excellent match for Thai spicy noodle dishes, crab legs or scallops in a saffron cream sauce. My note: Lovely floral aromas; perfect for seafood, salads, shellfish and as an aperitif. 682336 (MD = medium dry) 750 mL $21.95 Score: 90/100

SELBACH-OSTER RIESLING AUSLESE 2003 QmP, Bernkasteler Badstube, Estate Btld. Mosel-Saar-Ruwer: Hedonistic aromas of ripe peaches and pears. Vibrant, mouth-watering acidity that's perfect for a wide range of dishes, from chicken and pork to Asian dishes and shellfish. 684365 (M) 750 mL $28.95 Score: 92/100 Favorite White Wine

LINGENFELDER 'BIRD LABEL' RIESLING 2004 QbA Pfalz, Estate Btld. Pfalz VC: This very popular Riesling, part of Rainer Lingenfelder's 'Vineyard Creatures' collection, is an excellent sipper. It will also complement lightly spiced Asian foods. My note: Terrific price for this versatile white. Aromas of white peaches. 568634 (D) 750 mL $13.95 Score: 87/100 Best Value White Wine

Washington Red Wine

COLUMBIA CREST 'TWO VINES' SHIRAZ 2002 Columbia Valley: A pleasant, balanced, medium- to full-bodied red with notes of plums and dark berries.
672428 (XD = extra dry) 750 mL $15.95 Score: 89/100

Mexican Red Wine

L.A. CETTO 'PRIVATE RESERVE' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002 Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California VC: Medium deep ruby color, this fruit forward Cabernet is decidedly New World in style. The nose displays attractive cassis, plum jam and cocoa aromas. It's dry, medium full-bodied with ripe fruit flavors, softening tannins and a medium-long finish. My note: Whacking big palate, rich, deep and full-bodied. Decant for two hours. 683995 (XD) 750 mL $21.95 Score: 89/100

South African Wine

MULDERBOSCH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 WO Stellenbosch: One of my long-time favorite white wines from South Africa. Crisp, refreshing, herbal and grassy. Drink with salads, seafood and goat cheese. 933424 (XD) 750 mL $18.95 Score: 89/100

RIEBEEK CELLARS 'RESERVE' CHARDONNAY 2004 WO Swartland VC: Winemaker Alecia Hamman worked stints in Bordeaux and Australia before returning to her Swartland roots at this co-op winery. Medium gold in color with aromas of toasty apple, pineapple and cinnamon. Dry, full-bodied with a good balance between fruit and oak elements as well as a fine acid core and medium finish. My note: An oaky, buttery, simple chard. Drink with corn dishes and lobster. 673921 (D) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 87/100

'BLACK GRANITE' SHIRAZ 2004 WO Coastal Region (Darling Cellars) VC: The grapes are sourced from West Coast vineyards situated on granite bedrock. At times, these stressed vines are 'starved' for water, with their roots systems stretched to their limits. This stress leads to higher quality fruit and a more complex wine. Look for aromas and flavors of coffee, spice and smoked meat as well as wild berries in this full-bodied Shiraz. My note: An amazing party wine. Terrific for the money. Loads of black fruit with some hello-there tannins. 674150 (XD) 750 mL $12.95 Score: 89/100 Best Value Red Wine

French Wine

LES JAMELLES VIOGNIER 2004 Vin de Pays d'Oc VC: Grown near the beautiful medieval town of Carcassonne in the region of Corbières, this delicious Viognier cannot be given that AC designation because the grape is not currently allowed under Corbières rules. Over the past decade, the Midi has proven to be extremely fertile ground for the growing of excellent Viogniers. Expect to find aromas of orange blossom, grapefruit, pear and citrus. Enjoy with a variety of seafood dishes. My note: A fragrant and classic white with aromas of lychee and rose petals. Drink with Asian dishes. 682757 (D) 750 mL $11.95 Score: 87/100

JOSEPH DROUHIN SAVIGNY-LÈS-BEAUNE 2003 AC Burgundy VC: Medium ruby-purple color. This Pinot Noir has a vibrant nose of cherry, beetroot, earth and tea leaf. It is dry, velvety, supple, ripe and very approachable. This flattering, medium-bodied wine would be a fine match for tuna steaks or pork tenderloin. My note: One of my favorite negociants in Burgundy: you can usually trust that wine from this merchant will be good. A happy wine with lovely ripe cherries and earthy notes. 986406 (XD) 750 mL $34.95 Score: 89.5/100 Favorite Red Wine

CHÂTEAU DU PRIEURÉ DES MOURGUES 2002 'Grande Reserve', St-Chinian
(Vignobles Roger) Midi VC: A blend of 70% Syrah, 20% Grenache and 10% Mourvèdre. The wines are matured, separately, in French barriques (20% new, 40% one year old and 40% two years old) for 13 months. Expect the wine to exhibit aromas of plum, blackberry and garrigue. It will be ample and round in the mouth and balanced by ripe tannins. Enjoy with a grilled, herbed steak. My note: Terrific! Huge wine with tannin and acidity that can be tamed by decanting for a few hours. lots of dark red fruit. 993642 (XD) 750 mL $17.95 Score: 88/100

'CUVÉE DES ARDOÍSES CHÂTEAU DES ERLES' 2003 AC Fitou (Lurton-Lahore Bergez): Cedar, pine needles and cherries. Simple and delicious. Drink with barbecue fare. 949222 (XD) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 87/100

CHÂTEAU DU TRIGNON GIGONDAS 2003 AC Rhone Valley: Very hot, alcoholic wine. Lots of ripe blueberries and black plums. Full-bodied, oh yes dear. Drink 2007-2011. Pair with hearty meaty dishes. 681817 (XD) 750 mL $26.95 Score: 89.5/100

CHÂTEAU CROZE DE PYS 'PRESTIGE' 2001 AC Cahors (Domaines Roche) VC: Deep violet color – appropriate for a Cahor Malbec (plus a touch of Merlot). The aromas suggest currant, anise, hickory smoke and spice tones. It is dry, with good fruit surrounded by firm, but ripe tannins. Medium-bodied with a long, fruit/tannin finish. Enjoyable now with rare cuts of meat, but will reward 3+ years in a cellar. My note: Brooding, moody dark wine. Very Heathcliffe. Dark aromas and flavors. Great price. Needs meat. Growl. 681668 (XD) 750 mL $14.95 Score: 88/100

Italian Red Wine

MONTE ZOVO 'CA'LINVERNO' 2001 IGT Rosso Veronese Veneto VC: For this wine, the producer adds a touch of Cabernet and Croatina to the local Corvina and Rondinella. Since the first two grapes are not allowed under the Veneto DOC system, the producer released the wine under the IGT (Indicazione geografica tipica) designation. The aromas suggest sweet cherry, raisin and toasty oak. On the palate it is dry, rich, ripe and round. Full-bodied with a long, lingering, fruit-driven finish. Enjoy it now until 2007 with barbecued back ribs. My note: Vibrant and full-bodied. Decant for a few hours. Bright red fruit aromas. Terrific for pasta, lasagna, sausage, pizza. 681692 (D) 750 mL $17.95 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.