Wine Picks November 25, 2006

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

French Red Wine

CHÂTEAU COS D'ESTOURNEL 2003 AC St-Estèphe, Bordeaux 2e Cru VC: Cos d'Estournel is one the best wines of the 2003 vintage. We highly recommend cellaring this spectacular wine for 5-6 years. My note: A truly magnificent wine with aromas of chocolate and black fruit. A kiss of oak and a sturdy backbone. Drink 2008-2012. Is it worth it? Depends on your priorities and your budget. 587485 (XD) 750 mL $279.95 Score: 96/100. Favorite Red Wine

PILLOT POMMARD 'TAVANNES' 2004 AC VC: While seriously enjoyable now, it can also age for another 2-6 years where the youthful vigor gives over to subtle sophistication. My note: Full-bodied for pinot at 13.5% but still balanced and enjoyable. New World concentration of cherry fruit with Old World earthy undertones. 005553 (XD) 750 mL $46.95 Score: 90/100.

E. GUIGAL CROZES-HERMITAGE 2003 AC Rhone Valley: In my next life, I'd like to come back as the only child of Guigal... what an inheritance! This wine is fabulous with its perfectly calibrated fruit and structure. Full-bodied aromas of cedar and red berries. Bring it on! 704908 (XD) 750 mL $25.95 Score: 93/100.

PAUL JABOULET DOMAINE DE THALABERT CROZES-HERMITAGE 2003 AC Rhone Valley: Rich and layered with dark fruit and a good backbone. 720466 (XD) 750 mL $32.95 Score: 90/100.

CHÂTEAU BOUCASSÉ VIEILLES VIGNES 2000 AC Madiran, southwest France (Alain Brumont) VC: Madirans must contain 40-60% of the local grape Tannat. The rest of the blend can include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and the indigenous Pinenc (a.k.a. Fer). My note: Rewarding dark fruit and full-bodied warmth. 677294 (XD) 750 mL $37.95 Score: 92/100.

California Red Wine

OPUS ONE 2002 Napa Valley VC: Born of two winemaking legends, Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Opus One is one of the greatest wines of Napa Valley. The outstanding 2002 vintage is a 'must-have' with supple and pure layers of cassis, spices and earthy character. It will reward cellaring for more than a decade to come. My note: Staggeringly great taste (and price). Layers of complexity and dark fruit. 579060 (XD) 750 mL $269.95 Score: 95/100.

JOSEPH PHELPS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003 Napa Valley VC: It's drinking beautifully now and should continue through 2010. My note: Gorgeous wine with sublime balance. 189795 (XD) 750 mL $72.95 Score: 91/100.

BELLE GLOS PINOT NOIR 2005 Sonoma Coast VC: Belle Glos is the Wagner family's (of Caymus fame) dedicated Pinot Noir label, and the efforts of winemaker Joseph Wagner has been turning the heads of 'pinotphiles' everywhere. By carefully blending fruit sourced from the diverse microclimates of the Sonoma Coast, Caymus has created a terroir rich, velvety and deeply-flavored wine that will match beautifully with roasted chicken or duck. My note: Gorgeous pinot with smoky cherry notes. 925727 (D) 750 mL $34.95 Score: 91/100.

Californian Sparkling Wine

S. ANDERSON BLANC DE NOIRS 2000 Napa Valley, California (Cliff Lede Vineyards) VC: Canadian businessman Cliff Lede made his winemaking dreams come true by starting this Napa winery and purchasing sparkling-wine specialists S. Anderson Vineyards. Disgorged in December of 2005, this complex Blanc de Noirs is crafted from hand-picked Pinot Noir mainly from the cool Carneros district. It has a delicate mousse and exhibits aromas of cherry, marmalade, violets and hazelnuts. Generously flavored with a long finish. My note: Well-made bubbly with toasty goodness. Great price! 006056 (D) 750 mL $36.95 Score: 90/100.

Australian Red Wine

D'ARENBERG DEAD ARM SHIRAZ 2004 McLaren Vale, South Australia VC: Consistently rich and complex, this sought-after Shiraz has claimed its rightful place as one of Australia's iconic wines. My note: A concentrated and full-bodied wine with aromas of dark red fruit. Not as over-extracted as in the past; more balanced and food-friendly. 981183 (XD) 750 mL $54.95 Score: 90/100.

HARDYS 'EILEEN HARDY' SHIRAZ 2001 Australia VC: The flagship Shiraz, 'Eileen Hardy', was first made in 1973 to celebrate the family matriarch's 80th birthday. It continues to be Hardy's finest Shiraz. My note: Whispers greatness as it comes up to you in your glass, then explodes with dense, rich flavors in your mouth. Lots of finesse and a long finish. I'm thankful Eileen was born and inspired this wine. 461368 (XD) 750 mL $89.95 Score: 93/100.

CAPE MENTELLE SHIRAZ 2004 Margaret River, Western Australia: Gorgeous, especially for the price. Full-bodied dark fruit and spice. 452516 (XD) 750 mL $26.95 Score: 92/100.

ELDERTON SHIRAZ 2004 Barossa Valley, South Australia: Powerful, smoky, dark fruit with a hug of oak. 713024 (D) 750 mL $28.95 Score: 90/100.

South African Red Wine

MEERLUST 'RUBICON' 2001 WO Stellenbosch VC: The latest vintage of this legendary cuvée consists of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. It was named 'best in class' and won both a gold medal and the trophy for best blended red at the International Wine and Spirits Competition 2006 in London, England. My note: Fantastic wine from one of South Africa's best producers. Please leave some for me in the store. 983635 (XD) 750 mL $39.95 Score: 91/100.

Chilean Red Wine

CREMASCHI FURLOTTI FAMILY LIMITED EDITION CABERNET SAUVIGNON, SYRAH, CARMENÈRE 2003 Maule Valley VC: It's Europe meets New World in this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Syrah (20%) and Carmenère (20%). While Carmenère is believed to have been widely planted in Bordeaux's Médoc in the 18th century, it is rarely seen there today. Chile is it's new home and it has become that country's signature grape. This big, complex, full-bodied wine offers up gorgeous red fruit aromas with subtle hints of leather, earth and spice. Delicious with veal tenderloin. It won a Silver Medal at the prestigious Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 2006. My note: Spectacularly well priced! Lovely rich aromas and depth of flavor. Dive into the depth of black plums. 014183 (XD) 750 mL $17.95 Score: 90/100. Best Value Red Wine

MONTES ALPHA SYRAH 2004 Apalta Vineyard, Colchagua Valley: Great fruit character yet structured like Bordeaux. Full-bodied and delicious. 000612 (XD) 750 mL $22.95 Score: 90/100.

PÉREZ CRUZ CARMENERE RESERVA 2004 Estate Bottled, Limited Edition, Maipo Valley VC: This Carmenere won a Silver Medal at the prestigious Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 2006. It will draw you in with its lovely red berry aromas and notes of mocha and spice. A great complement to lamb or veal, or serve with Gruyère cheese. My note: Deliciously sweet ripe fruit, such as cherries and plums. 670539 (XD) 750 mL $24.95 Score: 90/100.

PÉREZ CRUZ COT RESERVA 2004 Estate Bottled, Limited Edition, Maipo Valley VC: A Silver-Medal Winner at the 2006 Decanter World Wine Awards, this Cot (a.k.a. Malbec) is produced by one of Chile's most exciting and respected newcomers, Viña Pérez Cruz. Match it to grilled steak or lamb. My note: Lovely but more austere than the syrah. 670547 (XD) 750 mL $24.95 Score: 90/100.

PÉREZ CRUZ SYRAH RESERVA 2004 Estate Bottled, Limited Edition, Maipo Valley: Stunning and concentrated; a full-throttle bottle. 589812 (XD) 750 mL $24.95 Score: 90/100.

German White Wine

BISCHÖFLICHEN WEINGÜTER RIESLING KABINETT 2004 QmP, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Eitelsbacher Marienholz, Estate Btld. VC: An ideal Riesling for sushi or spicy Thai and Chinese cuisine. The aromas suggest citrus, lemon drop, apple, apricot and floral tones. It is medium dry, with lively acidity to bring it perfectly into balance. Medium-bodied, it has a substantial finish. My note: Lovely and light like sunshine and laughing rainbows. Translation: pear and peach fruit with a nice underseam of mouth-watering acidity. Love it! 701557 (MD) 750 mL $18.95 Score: 89/100. Best Value White Wine

EUGEN WEHRHEIM SIEGERREBE AUSLESE 2003 QmP, Rheinhessen, Niersteiner Findling, Estate Btld. VC: Siegerrebe is a unique-to-Germany crossing of Gewurztraminer with a red table grape. It produces very rich, ripe wines. This Gold-Medal winning wine has very exotic aromas of muscat, peach, guava, mango, floral and curry spice. It is medium sweet, intense, outspoken, impactful and ready-to-drink. An excellent wine for fruit-stuffed pork roast with a sweet reduction sauce or even fruit-filled crêpes. My note: Sweet, rich and delicious. 010447 (MS) 750 mL $20.95 Score: 90/100. Favorite Wine

Canadian Red Wine

MISSION HILL 'OCULUS' 2003 VQA Okanagan Valley British Columbia VC: Mission Hill's flagship red is one of Canada's most sought-after wines. Produced in limited quantities, the 2003 vintage is comprised of 47% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot. Elegant and complex, this rich, concentrated and powerful wine will continue to develop over the next five years. My note: Canada's Chateau Margaux: elegant, structured, long-lived and long remembered. 9316 (XD) 750 mL $56.95 Score: 93/100.

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.

Comments? Suggestions? If you'd like to receive Natalie's free e-wine newsletter, sign up at It's free, there are no ads and your e-mail address will be kept confidential.

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