Wine Picks May 27, 2006

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

New Zealand Red Wine

VC: New Zealand may be known for its legendary white wines, particularly Sauvignon Blanc, but today, its current hot commodity is its red wines. New Zealand's various climates create ideal conditions for many styles of red wine. Pinot Noir, by year's end, will be the second most-planted variety in the country. It loves the cool temperatures and low rainfall of the Martinborough region on the North Island where ripe plum flavors and superb concentration dominate. On the South Island, Marlborough's terroir helps to fashion vibrant, fruit-focused Pinots while very cool and dry Central Otago produces elegant, long-lived Pinot Noirs that rival the world's best. It is no coincidence that New Zealand is positioned at a southern latitude that is almost identical to Burgundy in the northern hemisphere (around 45 degrees).

DELTA VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2004 Marlborough, South Island VC: This is the first time in the North American market for this wine as all previous vintages were sold strictly by mail order within New Zealand. Bright ruby color leads to a pretty nose that suggests sour cherry, cedar, hints of beetroot and clove. It is dry and crisp with silky tannins surrounding ripe fruit. Medium-bodied with good aroma replays, this medium long finishing wine is an excellent match for a veal tenderloin. My note: A bright, carefree wine with vibrant, ripe red cherries. Not earthy, very New World in style. Delicious! Product number = 675231 (XD - extra dry) 750 mL $22.95 Score: 90/100

KIM CRAWFORD PINOT NOIR 2004 Marlborough, South Island VC: Light ruby color leads to aromas that suggest cranberry, strawberry, earth and mineral tones. Dry and crisp with a good fruit/mineral aroma replays in the mouth. This medium-bodied wine will definitely reward 1-3 years in a cellar. My note: Perfumed with juicy cherry notes. 626390 (XD) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 89/100.

SERESIN 'LEAH' PINOT NOIR 2004 Marlborough, South Island VC: Fermented with indigenous yeasts, matured for 15 months in French oak barriques and bottled without filtering. My note: Spicy and racy, with more of them cherries! Elegance and lots of length on the finish. 655167 (XD) 750 mL $39.95 Score: 91/100.

TE KAIRANGA PINOT NOIR 2004 Martinborough, North Island VC: Fans of this wine take note – future vintages will be known as Te Kairanga 'Rumholder' Pinot Noir. Produced without filtering. Light ruby color with Kiwi Pinot Noir aromas of strawberry, cherry, white pepper and leather. Dry with light tannins surrounding the silky fruit. Enjoy this ready-to-drink, medium-bodied, medium-finishing wine with grilled turkey breast or freshwater fish. My note: Lovely, juicy with notes of herbs and spices. 744946 (XD) 750 mL $22.95 Score: 89/100.

WILD EARTH PINOT NOIR 2004 Central Otago, South Island (Crown Range Wines): Loads with ripe red fruit, full-bodied and balanced. A towering wine. 675348 (XD) 750 mL $39.95 Score: 91/100.

CABLE BAY 'FIVE HILLS' MERLOT/MALBEC/ CABERNET 2004 Waiheke Island, North Island VC: Grown on the five hillside sites on Waiheke Island and matured in French oak barriques, the 2004 vintage is a blend of [64%] Merlot, [18%] Malbec, [11%] Cabernet Sauvignon and [7%] Cabernet Franc. My note: Dried herbals, dark plums and smoky notes. 695171 (XD) 750 mL $27.95 Score: 89.5/100.

New Zealand White Wines

VC: The cool maritime climate and long growing season here are ideal for producing exquisite white wines. Kiwi producers have earned wine-world recognition for their top whites including complex, fruit-laden Chardonnays and lively, aromatic Gewürztraminers, Pinot Grigios and Viogniers. The superstar white remains, of course, Sauvignon Blanc. The Kiwi version is known to wine lovers and critics alike as THE benchmark style for this variety. New Zealand 'Savvys' are unmistakable for their grassy and herbaceous characteristics as well as vibrant gooseberry, citrus zest and passion fruit aromas.

BABICH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island: Great value for this herbal, refreshing white that would be perfect with salads, seafood, shellfish, pork and chicken. Product number = 560144 (XD = extra dry) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 88/100.

DRYLANDS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island: Rev your lawnmowers! Grassy, herbal, grapefruit and passionfruit notes. Lip-smacking tart. 675405 (XD) 750 mL $18.95 Score: 90/100. Best Value White Wine

MOUNT NELSON SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island (Tenuta Campo di Sasso) VC: Lodovico Antinori, the founder of Tuscany's famous Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, has been producing wine under the Mount Nelson label since 1998, using grapes from the region's growers. Convinced of this region's quality, in 2004 he paid $1.8 million for 31 acres and there are plans to purchase more. Thus far, Antinori has dedicated himself exclusively to Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Big, very impressive nose recalling classic Kiwi Sauvignon aromas of gooseberry, grass and floral tones. Dry and equally intense on the palate, it is supported by a refreshing, zippy acidity. Chicken quesadillas or spiced prawns. My note: Guava and grapefruit galore. Love it! 694752 (XD) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 90/100. Favorite White Wine

SERESIN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island VC: Owner Michael Seresin is also known as a world-class cinematographer of such films as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. My note: The perfect wine to drink while watching Harry Potter movies with your kids or other peoples' kids. Not too grassy, with hints of melon, tropical fruit and winemaking wizardry. 735043 (XD) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 90/100.

TOHU SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island VC: Tohu is New Zealand's first winery owned and operated by the Maoris, the country's indigenous people. This wine won a Silver Medal at the 2005 Air New Zealand Wine Awards. My note: Fantastic quality for money. Gooseberries, passionfruit and grassy goodness. 723221 (XD) 750 mL $17.95 Score: 88/100.

California Red Wine

HANNA ZINFANDEL 2003 Proprietor Grown, Alexander Valley, Sonoma VC: Hanna Winery evolved from being largely dependant on outside growers to a 100% estate producer with over 100 hectares of prime Sonoma vineyards. Look for aromas and flavors of ripe berries, cocoa, dark earth and smoke in this rich and delicious Zin. My note: Hanna and all her sisters would love this delicious, purply, berry-loaded wine. Perfect for the barbecue. 685743 (XD) 750 mL $23.95 Score: 89/100.

TIN BARN VINEYARDS ZINFANDEL 2003 Dalraddy Vineyard, Napa Valley VC: Tin Barn Vineyards is a collaborative effort of Toronto-raised winemaker Michael Lancaster and his two partners, Gray Fowler (another Torontonian) and Carl Stewart. The 30-year-old Dalraddy Vineyard is located in the Chiles Valley District of Napa Valley. Expect an impressive Zin bursting with ripe cherries, spicy fresh white pepper and sweet vanilla oak notes. My note: Pricy but worth it. Juicy ripe berries and layers of flavor. The epitome of zinfandel in all its glory. Perfect for an upscale barbecue, such as when you're having the boss over or thinking about proposing. 682997 (XD) 750 mL $41.95 Score: 90/100.

Australian Red Wine

ELDERTON 'FRIENDS' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003 Vineyard Series, Barossa: Lovely minty, cool aromas with plummy depths below. The wine to drink as the embers burn low and the sun sets another perfect summer's day. 595389 (XD) 750 mL $17.95 Score: 89/100.

REDBANK 'THE FUGITIVE' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002 Victoria VC: Named for the plundering bushrangers who roamed North East Victoria in the 19th century. My note: Full-bodied with deep, rich notes of chocolate and plums. Round and ready when you are. 678227 (XD) 750 mL $20.95 Score: 89/100.

TYRRELL'S 'OLD WINERY' SHIRAZ 2004 'South Eastern' Australia VC: This consistently well-made, full-flavored Shiraz expresses red berry and plum-like fruit, backed by meaty, earthy undertones and light vanilla oak. A treat to enjoy with grilled steaks or roast beef with oven-roasted vegetables. My note: The ultimate party wine. Juicy and generous, it will appeal to many palates. It's a slap-on-the-back, how-are-you-doing wine. Full bodied with dark red fruit aromas. 457093 (XD) 750 mL $14.95 Score: 87/100. Best Value Red Wine

French Red Wine

CHÂTEAU D'AIGUILHE 2003 AC Côtes de Castillon VC: As is sometimes the case in Bordeaux, this wine was purchased from several different nègociants (merchants). Each parcel has a different product number; the foremost is listed above. In stores, ask for this wine by name. My note: Rich and deep with dark fruit, smoke and oak aromas. Drink 2007-2012. Pair with hearty meat dishes. 593418 (XD) 750 mL $47.95 Score: 90/100.

CHÂTEAU PESQUIÉ 'LES TERRASSES' 2003 AC Côtes du Ventoux Rhone Valley: Full-bodied and simple. A terrific value. Perfect for barbecue meats. 652313 (D) 750 mL $13.95 Score: 87/100.

French Rosé Wine

PERRIN RÉSERVE ROSÉ 2004 AC Côtes-du-Rhône VC: From the people behind Château de Beaucastel comes this popular rosé. Sourced from the Perrin Brothers' own southern Rhône vineyards, this versatile rosé is an excellent companion to cucumber sandwiches and other foods you'd serve at an afternoon garden party. My note: Lovely aromas of raspberries on a summer's day. Drink with salmon, pate, cold cuts and other picnic fare. Serve chilled. 719062 (XD) 750 mL $13.95 Score: 88/100.

Chilean Rosé Wine

CAB SAUVIGNON ROSE CURICO MIGUEL TORRES VC: Pale cherry color, aroma of plums & strawberries ripe fruit flavor with a hint of grapefruit. Serve chilled with baked ham. My note: Full-bodied with wonderful red berry aromas. Works as an aperitif too. 207035 750 mL bottle Sugar Content: 1 $11.95 Score: 89/100.

Italian Sparkling Wine

CA'BIANCA MOSCATO D'ASTI 2005 DOCG VC: An ideal wine for Sunday brunch, as it is slightly frizzante, a little bit sweet and low in alcohol (usually around 5.5% alc./vol.). It works beautifully with slightly spicy foods, cloved ham, grilled salmon or lighter desserts. My note: The kind of wine you drink and then ask yourself why you don't drink it more often. Possibly the world's most under-appreciated wine: lightly sparkling and summer fruit fresh. Perfect as an aperitif, after-dinner sipper or with fruit flans. 651935 (M = medium dry) 750 mL $14.95 Score: 90/100.

Italian Red Wine

CASTELLO DELLA PANERETTA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2003 DOCG VC: The brilliant ruby color leads to aromas of chocolate, spice, plum and cherry. It is dry and full-bodied with firm tannins that are nicely smoothed out on the long finish. Cellarable 2-5 years or enjoy it now with braised beef or grilled steaks. My note: Juicy, mouth-watering, full-bodied and balanced. Perfect for pasta in tomato sauce, lasagna and pizza. 695882 (XD) 750 mL $23.95 Score: 89.5/100.

ORNELLAIA 2002 DOC Bolgheri Tuscany: I try not to love wines this expensive, but what can you do? This wine has it all: layers of exotic black fruit, smoke, dried herbs, layers of caressing richness. It is a wine in which you can lose yourself. Drink 2007-2015. 722470 (XD) 750 mL $139.95 Score: 92/100. Favorite Red Wine

SELVOLE SANGIOVESE 2003 IGT Toscana VC: Deep ruby color with lively aromas of sour cherry, plum, anise and a slight floral note. Ripe, round and delicious, this is a perfect party wine. My note: Here's how you cross-subsidize buying Ornellaia... it's all about monthly averages, isn't it? This great, simple wine has mouth-watering acidity that cries out for food: feed it pasta and tomato sauce, pizza or lasagna. 682377 (D) 750 mL $13.95 Score: 86/100.

Portuguese Red Wine

CASA DE SANTAR TINTO 2003 DOC Dão, Estate Btld. VC: A wine for roast lamb or goat, it exhibits aromas that recall chocolate, wild berries and sweet herbs. It is dry, supple and medium-bodied with a good finish. My note: simple and delicious. Some tannins so let is breathe a few hours. Comes in either full size: 682666 (XD) 750 mL $13.95 or the handy, when-you-re-on-your-own half bottle: 682674 (XD) 375 mL $7.95 Score: 87/100.

Spanish Red Wine

BODEGAS LUZÓN 'ALTOS DE LUZÓN' 2003 DO Jumilla: Ripe red berries, full-bodied richness, mouth-watering acidity. Drink with meaty dishes. 685214 (D) 750 mL $22.95 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.