Wine Picks November 11, 2006

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Chilean Red Wine

PEREZ CRUZ CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVA 2005 Maipo Valley, Chile VC: A big wine for big occasions. It's got rich fruit flavors of black currants and cherry with notes of toasty oak and chocolate. This wine deserves rare roast beef or roast leg of lamb. My note: Fantastic value! Big, bold and brazen with aromas of dark red fruit. Drink with hearty meat dishes. Comes in the regular size (750 ml): 694208, $14.95 or the magnum: 9589 (XD) 1500 mL $29.95 Score: 90/100. Best Value Red Wine

CASA LAPOSTOLLE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004 Estate Btld., Rapel Valley VC: Casa Lapostolle is owned by the Marnier-Lapostolle family of Grand Marnier fame. Here, they apply the same uncompromising approach to quality that they lavish upon their liqueurs. As a result, they craft some of Chile's most sought-after wines. This bold Cabernet consistently offers ripe cherry and cassis flavors on a sturdy frame of tannins. Enjoy now with roast beef au jus or char-broiled steaks. My note: Fantastic value! A little tannic so decant of 1-2 hours. 398800 (XD) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 88/100.

French Red Wine

DOMAINE MATHIEU CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2003 AC, France-Rhône VC: If you're curious about this intensely aromatic, luscious red-fruit-flavored wine, then we suggest starting with the half-bottle. We're quite sure that you'll instantly become a fan. My note: A juicy, medium-bodied wine with rich aromas of cedar and cherries. Smooth. Drink with stew and steak. Half bottle: 655175 (D) 375 mL $17.95 and full bottle (750 mL): 971564 for $31.95. Score: 91/100. Favorite Red Wine

CHÂTEAU DE PIERREUX BROUILLY 2005 AC (Mommessin) VC: This Gamay exhibits much more depth and complexity than most. The aromas suggest strawberry, cherry pit, blackberry and earth tones. It is dry and supple with good structure to the finish. This wine would complement a grilled salmon or veal tenderloin. My note: Ah, here's what I mean by a wonderful beaujolais that's not a nouveau! Try it. Light, happy and carefree. Hardly a tannin to speak of. Makes a wonderful transition wine for those moving from whites to reds. 005496 (D) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 90/100.

CHÂTEAU DE HAUTE-SERRE 2002 AC Cahors (Georges Vigouroux, Prop.-Récolt.) VC: Château de Haute-Serre is located in one of the prime locations in Cahors, an area called 'Mountain of Cahors'. The wine, a blend of 80% Malbec, 10% Merlot and 10% Tannat, has aromas of red fruits, perfume and vanilla. It is dry and round, but with a very good tannin core for balance. Match this wine to a rare steak, or age it 2-4 years in a cellar. My note: Rustic, tannic and brooding. Full-bodied and delicious. Drink with hearty meat dishes. 693952 (XD) 750 mL $22.95 Score: 89/100.

California Red Wine

CLINE LOS CARNEROS SYRAH 2003 California: A rich, full-bodied wine with deep aromas of blackberries and plums. Sugar Content: D 955435 $19.95 Score: 89/100.

Australian Red Wine

TWO HANDS 'GNARLY DUDES' SHIRAZ 2004 Barossa Valley, South Australia VC: This finely crafted Shiraz is from Two Hands 'Picture Series'. The 'gnarly dudes' in question are the rather fierce and twisted looking old vines from which the wine's fruit is sourced. Winemaker Matt Wenk has a well-deserved reputation for creating a tightly focused Shiraz that emphasizes the fruit while perfectly integrating the oak and tannins. This dude is ready to be enjoyed anytime over the next five years. My note: Big and bold, with black fruit aromas. 660043 (XD) 750 mL $27.95 Score: 90/100.

New Zealand White Wine

KIM CRAWFORD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island: Here's a wine that many people, including me, wait for each year. It's got delicious and mouth-watering flavors of gooseberry and citrus. Perfect for salad, seafood and vegetarian dishes. 975672 (XD) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 90/100. Favorite White Wine

German White Wine

P.J. VALCKENBERG RIESLING KABINETT 2004 QmP, Wormser Liebfrauenstift-Kirchenstuck, Estate Btld. VC: This lovely, fresh Riesling displays aromas of orange peel, ripe peach and a note of pine resin. Light- to medium-bodied, it has good depth of flavors and a seam of balancing acidity providing verve. Completes with a long, lingering finish. My note: Elegant with pleasing aromas of spring and flowers. 010462 (M) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 89/100. Best Value White Wine

Italian Red Wine

LUCE DELLA VITE 2003 IGT Toscana: Generally I resist reviewing such expensive wines because there are so many wines these days I'd rate just as high at half or a quarter the price. But many wine lovers collect wines such as this and want to know how this particular vintage did. Others just want to splurge. This wine is powerful with concentrated aromas of dark black fruit and spice. Drink 2006-2012. 685263 (XD) 750 mL $99.95 Also available in 375 mL. Score: 91/100.

TOMMASI AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2001 DOC VC: Only the best and most mature Corvina, Rondinella and Molinari grapes are selected for this Amarone. After drying on small open racks through the autumn and early winter, the grapes are pressed and fermented before spending 36 months merging in large Slovenian oak casks. Try this robust wine with equally robust meat dishes or mature cheeses. My note: Classic amarone but not overly extracted. Power yet beautifully balanced. with aromas of dried herbs and cherries. 356220 (XD) 750 mL $49.95 Also available in 375 mL. 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.)

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

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