Vintages Release November 26, 2005

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MOËT & CHANDON ROSÉ 1999 AC VC: With simple lamb dishes, or suckling pig, tomatoes, or aubergines garnished with thyme and olives. Product number: 461160 (D = dry) 750 mL $84.95 My note: Vibrant raspberries that tickle the nose. If you haven't tried sparkling rose yet, start with this one. Score: 90/100.

POL ROGER CHAMPAGNE DE CHARDONNAY 1998 AC, 'Extra Cuvée de Réserve' VC: Vintage after vintage, Pol Roger proves that champagnes can mature gracefully. This superior example from 1998 is an ideal candidate for 3-10 years in your cellar. Bring it out to celebrate an important event in your life: the birth of a child, purchasing a new home, getting a promotion, winning the lottery. 96685 (D) 750 mL $76.95 My note: Love it! Bursting with zesty green apple aromas and a backdrop of toasty goodness. Winston Churchill was a fan of this bubbly. (Didn't he say something like, "We shall drink in the fields, and on the hills and everywhere else, and we'll never stop drinking it"?) Score: 91/100.

Californian White Wine

ST. FRANCIS CHARDONNAY 2003 Sonoma County VC: If you like rich and buttery California Chardonnay then you'll love this offering from St. Francis which sources ripe fruit from the Sonoma County appellations of Dry Creek, Sonoma, Alexander, and Russian River Valley. 100% malolactic fermentation gives it creamy butterscotch notes that work in harmony with the fruity melon flavors of the wine, and a balancing acidity holds it all together. Enjoy with chicken in a rich cream and herb sauce. 317131 (D = dry) 750 mL $22.95 Lovely buttery chard with a kiss of toasty oak. I've been a fan of this winery for a while and I think they produce outstanding wines for the money. Score: 89.5/100.

Argentine Red Wine

NORTON CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVE 2003 Mendoza VC: The fruit sourced for this medium full-bodied Cabernet comes from select vines that are 30 to 50 years old in the Mendoza region. Big and juicy, it's a terrific value, offering rich, ripe cherry and currants flavors with toasty notes from the 12 months of ageing in French oak. 663120 (XD = extra dry) 750 mL $17.95 MY note: I believe that Argetina is the Next Big Thing in wine, in particular their reds such as cab sauv and malbec. This one is a terrific value and bursting with ripe red fruit and mocha notes. It's medium- to full-bodied. Pair it with meat dishes. Score: 89/100.

Chilean Red Wine

(Viña Concha y Toro) 939827 (D) 750 mL $18.95 Aromas of chocolate and red berries make this rich, deep wine a lovely companion to full-flavored dishes. Will cellar in the short-term. Drink 2005-2008. Score: 89.5/100.

Australian Red Wine

PETER LEHMANN 'MENTOR' 2000 Barossa Valley, South Australia VC: The latest vintage of this iconic blend is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Malbec and 4 % Merlot. Each year the winemakers select the best parcels of Cabernet Sauvignon to create this wine in honor of Lehmann himself. It will develop nicely with some mid-term cellaring but can be enjoyed now with rare cuts of beef or game dishes. 724336 (XD) 750 mL $39.95 MY note: A whacking big shiraz for those who like to whip their palates into submission. Black kick-ass fruit. Drink it sitting (or lying) down. Score: 90/100.

ELDERTON SHIRAZ 2003 Barossa Valley, South Australia VC: The fruit is sourced exclusively from the Elderton Vineyard in the Barossa Valley which includes some century-old vines. Elderton is known for producing top-drawer Shiraz at a fair price. Expect ripe and intense plum and blackberry fruit as well as hints of cocoa and vanilla in this new vintage. Enjoy with grilled steak or roasted lamb anytime over the next five years. 713024 (XD) 750 mL $29.95 My note: Big honkin' shiraz that still maintains an inner balance, like a body builder who does yoga. Score: 90/100.

New Zealand Wine

ESK VALLEY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004 Hawkes Bay, North Island: According to winemaker Gordon Russell, this wine is "the best for many years', it's a ripe, tropical fruit-flavored wine with very good depth, fresh, balanced acidity, a touch of complexity and substantial body." 606830 (XD) 750 mL $16.95 My note: Classic herbal and refreshing zestiness. The ultimate wine for goat cheese, pasta in cream sauce and chicken, especially boring chicken that needs help. Score: 88/100.

PENCARROW SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004 Martinborough, North Island VC: The second label of Palliser Estate, Pencarrow has received rave reviews in its own right vintage after vintage. North Island Sauvignon, grown in the somewhat warmer Martinborough area, is generally more fruit-forward, round and silkier than the racier South Island cousins. Enjoy with grilled prawns. 738997 (XD) 750 mL $18.95 MY note: Another classic, herbal SB. Score: 89/100.

WAIPARA SPRINGS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004 Waipara, North Canterbury, South Island 662890 (XD) 750 mL $17.95 As per the other two SB I've recommended, but this one has an added dimension... I think it's ripe pears or something that makes it richer in addition to being herbal. Score: 90/100. Best Value White Wine

OYSTER BAY MERLOT 2004 Hawkes Bay, North Island VC: Oyster Bay has combined the bright berry/cherry fruit for which Merlot is known with a fine tannin structure that makes it an ideal companion for a variety of meat and pasta dishes. 692343 (XD) 750 mL $18.95 My note: Lovely, rich, dare I say unctuous? New Zealand excels at pinot noir (and of course SB), but I think their merlots are lovely too: elegant and balanced. Score: 89.5/100.

South African Red Wine

GRAHAM BECK 'THE JOSHUA' 2002 'Barrel Selection', WO Coastal Region 661751 (XD) 750 mL $29.95 One of my favorite South African producers: consistently delicious wines. This one has tar (the tasty kind), cassis and full-bodied warmth. Drink with full-bore carnivore fare. Score: 89/100.

'PORCUPINE RIDGE' SYRAH 2004 WO Coastal Region (Boekenhoutskloof) 595280 (XD) 750 mL $13.95 An amazing value! Dark layers of black plums, currants and mocha. A touch tannic. Drink 2005-2009. Score: 89/100. Best Value Red Wine

WATERFORD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2001 WO Stellenbosch VC: While Waterford is one of the younger wineries in Stellenbosch, winemaker and co-owner Kevin Arnold has built a solid reputation over the past twenty years with tenures at Delheim and Rust en Vrede. 663435 (XD) 750 mL $29.95 My note: Balanced and elegant (and for me, much as I effervesce over big wines, it's those that have these characteristics that get up into the 90s). A bit pricy but so interesting and different from run-of-the-mill cabs. This one is full-bodied. Meat dishes, you know. Score: 90/100.

French Red Wine

CHÂTEAU ROQUETAILLADE LA GRANGE 2001 AC Graves VC: Bordeaux does not have to be expensive to be good. Chateau Roquetaillade la Grange makes wonderful white and red Graves. Made from a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, serve this fruity, medium-bodied red with veal stew or pork tenderloin. 193102 (XD) 750 mL $20.95 My note: Nothing touches my soul like Old World finesse. For me that means (mostly) Bordeaux and Burgundy. Here's a fantastic value from the overlooked 2001 vintage because the 2000s stole the spotlight. Smoke, leather and thoughtful conversation. Makes me want to take up smoking a pipe, almost. Score: 89/100.

CHÂTEAU CANTEMERLE 2001 AC Haut-Médoc, 5e Cru VC: A superb selection for the collector on your list, this elegant Médoc cru classé will reward ageing of a decade or more. 677872 (XD) 750 mL $43.95 My note: Some wines bypass your brain and speak to your soul, sorting out your destiny. This one is rich and dark with leather and back fruit yet elegant. The stuff of addiction. Drink 2007-2012. Score: 91/100. Favorite Red Wine

DOMAINE DE CHAMP DE COUR MOULIN-À-VENT 2003 AC Beaujolais (Mommessin) VC: A mainstay in our Beaujolais portfolio for many years, Domaine Champ de Cour comes forth with another fine vintage. Classic bouquet of plum, raspberry, table grape and floral tones repeat themselves nicely on the fruit-forward palate. Medium-bodied with a flavorful, finish. This quaffable wine is an excellent choice for ham, chili or Cantonese food. 430876 (D) 750 mL $19.95 My note: Not every wine has to be the liquid equivalent of calculus. Sometimes you just want a diverting crossword puzzle of a wine. This happy, carefree wine has lively aromas of raspberries and strawberries to darken a winter night. This isn't nouveau by the way. Drink with salmon or a light fish. Score: 89/100.

MOULIN DE GASSAC 'ELISE' 2003 Vin de Pays de l'Hérault, Vieilles Vignes
(Les Vignerons de Villeveyrac) VC: Aimé Guibert spread his wings from the famed Mas de Daumas Gassac estate to produce quality wine in the rest of Languedoc. One of the stars in the film 'Mondovino', Guibert is firmly in favor of family-run wineries and artisans, and against globalization. With Moulin de Gassac, he has teamed up with six families to produce easy drinking, affordable wines such as this Syrah/Merlot blend. Serve with beef stew or roast garlicky lamb with rosemary. 662577 (D) 750 mL $14.95 My note: A terrific value, and I especially like the fact that it's made by the cranky winemaker in Mondovino, a film you must see if you haven't yet. Aromas of juicy red cherries and a wild brambly character. Wine with soul. Score: 89.5/100.

PAUL JABOULET AÎNÉ GIGONDAS 'PIERRE AIGUILLE' 2000 AC Rhone 989665 (XD) 750 mL $32.95 Classic Rhone profile with spicy cherries, cedar and pine needles. Full-bodied and rich yet oh-so-balanced. Score: 90/100.

AC VC: A flattering, supple Pinot Noir from the great 2002 vintage with aromas of griottes, beet root and clove spice. Dry, quite flavorful. A terrific Beaune. May be aged 2-5 years or enjoy now with tenderloin. 661298 (D) 750 mL $31.95 My note: Yes Burgundy is expensive. So get over it and stop winging because it ain't going to change. And nothing gives the body wrapping experience of Old World pinot. This one has exotic spicy cherries and a long finish. Medium-bodied and balanced. Lovely! Score: 90/100.

German White Wine

BISCHÖFLICHE WEINGÜTER RIESLING KABINETT 2002 QmP, Kanzemer Altenberg, Estate Btld. VC: A well-typed Mosel Riesling with aromas recalling apple, floral and citrus tones. Medium dry with a very refreshing acid crispness, suggesting good aging potential (3-5+ years) or enjoy it now as a palate cleanser before a meal. Medium long, fruit/acid finish. 657189 (MD = medium dry) 750 mL $17.95 My note: Thank goodness for indecipherable label that keeps these fantastic German whites reasonably priced for unilingual Anglophones. This is a gorgeous white with crisp stone fruit and minerality that goes on and on. Drink it with just about anything but especially cream sauce, pork, chicken and vegetarian dishes. Score: 91/100. Favorite White Wine

Italian Red Wine

ZENATO VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE 'RIPASSA' 2003 DOC Veneto VC: A flavorful favorite that is now entering into the vintage from the hot summer of 2003. Throughout Europe, the heat of '03 created near perfect ripeness throughout many wine regions that often struggle. Zenato's Valpol Ripasso is one such wine that benefited hugely from this heat. Expect rich, ripe plum and berry flavors and aromas. An excellent choice for many of the robust dishes around the holiday table. 479766 (D) 750 mL $23.95 My note: Lovely ripe red fruit and rich aromas of chocolate. Score: 89.5/100.

Canadian Wine

CILENTO CHARDONNAY RESERVE 2003 VQA Niagara Peninsula VC: Rich and full-bodied, this is a full throttle Chardonnay that demands a rich meal like roast turkey with gravy, chicken cordon bleu or even roast beef. 593913 (D) 750 mL $24.95 My note: A gorgeous, buttery and rich chard to blanket your palate. Score: 89.5/100.

CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2003 St. Davids Bench, VQA Niagara Peninsula: 453472 (D) 750 mL $19.95 A classic and elegant gewurz that is the ideal accompaniment to Asian and curried dishes. Aromas of lychee nuts, rose petals and mystical thinking. Score: 89/100.

JACKSON-TRIGGS 'PROPRIETORS' GRAND RESERVE' MERLOT 2002 VQA Niagara Peninsula 563197 (XD) 750 mL $23.95 The wines from this estate, particularly at their top end, are consistently well-made. This one is rich, dark and brooding: it shows what Niagara is capable of in terms of robust reds. Aromas of black plums and mocha. Pair with hearty meat dishes such as steak and stew. Score: 90/100.


TAYLOR, FLADGATE 20 YEAR OLD TAWNY PORT VC: The Rolls-Royce of Port Houses. This ready-to-serve, classic Tawny's trademark rich apricot and dried fruit flavors and lengthy, nutty, honeyed finish make it a perfect match with crème brûlée or hazelnut torte. 149047 (S = sweet) 750 mL $67.95 My note: Stock up for the holidays, but make sure you have enough on hand for any occasion. This is an old standby, a liquid security blanket. I find that a glass of tawny is a lovely option when I don't feel like opening a bottle (or even a half bottle of wine). It keeps longer because of it's higher sweetness and alcohol, both preservative. So a nip a night is an excellent way to spread a bottle out over a couple of weeks or a month. This one has gorgeous aromas of caramel and almond. Perfect on its own but if you insist on dessert then biscotti, crème brulee or a fruit flan. Score: 90/100.

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Copyright © 2005 by Natalie MacLean. All rights reserved. Please ask permission of the author before copying or using this material.