Vintages Release October 2004
By Natalie MacLean
October 9: Recommended White Wines
544981 CHARDONNAY 2001 $32.95 Laguna Ranch Vineyard, 'Single Vineyard Selection', Russian River Valley, Sonoma County ("D" means dry, no sweetness from here on in) E.&J. Gallo, California: Lovely, luscious chard with buttery roundness and that elusive spicy pear. Perfect with lobster in butter, chicken (not spicy) or creamy pasta dishes. Score: 90/100.
961649 CHARDONNAY RESERVE 2000 $18.95 Limestone Coast, South Australia (D) Heathfield Ridge Wines: The Vintages Catalogue (VC hereafter) gives a great description: To retain the fresh acidity, this wine was sourced from the cooler regions of the Limestone Coast and night harvested. The wine receives extended ageing in French oak and though the oak tones are present they do not overwhelm the fruit. My note: nice balance, consistently good producer. Score: 87.5/100.
985994 SAUVIGNON BLANC 2003 $18.95 Marlborough, South Island (XD means extra dry) West Brook Winery, New Zealand: Rev up the lawn mowers! This has classic herbal aromas and refreshing acidity. Just perfect for seafood, shellfish, salads and cream sauce dishes. Score: 88/100. Best Value White Wine
626614 CHARDONNAY RESERVE 2001 $14.95 'Domaine Saint Hilaire', Vin de Pays d'Oc (XD) Anne & Jonathan James, Vign.-Elev., Midi, France: Sex in the City chardonnay: blousy, buttery, fun and frivolous. You must love oak though. Score: 86/100.
642165 RIESLING SPÄTLESE 2001 $31.95 QmP, Graacher Domprobst, Estate Bottled (M means medium as in slightly off dry with a touch of sweetness... don't be afraid, it's lovely with just this amount) Weingut Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany: A mouthful to say and a mouthful to drink. Gorgeous mineral depth, ripe tree fruit and great acidity for food such as cream dishes, seafood et al. Score: 92/100. Favorite White Wine
718239 BUDAI IRSAI OLIVÉR 2002 $9.95 Budha Region (XD) Nyakas Pince, Hungary: VC: Strongly reminiscent of Muscat, Irsai Olivér is an Eastern European cross between Pozsony and Pearl of Csaba. Originally developed in the 1930s as a table grape, its bright, aromatic nature showed early on that it worked well for the creation of fruit-forward fresh wines that match well with lightly spiced white meats. A floral, grapey and lime rind infused wine that is dry, crisp and lively on the palate. It is light to medium-bodied with a persistent, aromatic finish. My notes: simple but so nice for the price. Score: 83/100.
October 9: Recommended Red Wines
954008 MERLOT RESERVE 2001 $17.95 (D) Viña Carmen, Chile: Great value. Rich red from a dependable producer. Medium- to full-bodied. Score: 87/100.
395855 CABERNET/MERLOT 2000 $24.95 Unfiltered, VQA Niagara Peninsula (XD) Henry of Pelham, Niagara, Ontario: Balanced, classic cab blend with lovely cassis and red fruit. Touch of oak, nice acidity. Medium to full-bodied. Great with games and roast beef. Score: 89/100.
948992 'CMS' 2002 $19.95 Cabernet/Merlot/Syrah, Columbia Valley (XD) Hedges Cellars, Washington: A dark brooding Heathcliff of a wine. Smoking, smoldering and sexy with mocha notes and dark fruit. Goes well with Catherine. Score: 89.5/100.
991646 'COCKFIGHTER'S GHOST' PINOT NOIR 2001 $22.95 Western Australia (XD) Pooles Rock Wines: Berry simple, round and juicy. A basket of late-harvest strawberries. Medium-bodied. Score: 87.5/100.
945840 'JENNIFER' SHIRAZ 1999 $43.95 Padthaway/Coonawarra, South Australia (XD) Heathfield Ridge Wines: Amazing depth and fruit (black plums and blackberries). Would pair well with many a great dish, including Brad Pitt. Score: 92/100.
678284 'OLD VINE' SHIRAZ 2002 $19.95 McLaren Vale/ Frankland River/Margaret River, Australia (XD) Normans Wines: Big everything: fruit, alcohol, oak, etc but still balanced. Dark berries, plums and spice. Good value. Score: 88/100
583161 'SHOW RESERVE' SHIRAZ 2001 $29.95 McLaren Vale/Langhorne Creek, South Australia (D) Rosemount Estate: Phenomenal wine... a real show-stopper... the show must go on... show me the money and I'll show you the wine! Big but classy. Score: 92/100. Favorite Red Wine
597351 SHIRAZ/VIOGNIER 2001 $20.95 Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia (D) Yering Station: Warm ripe plums and spice. The touch (3%) of the white grape viognier lifts the flavors of the dark fruit (something like a cut-crystal magnifies the beauty of a glistening plum). Touch tannic (a bit of a grip in the mouth). Score: 88.5/100.
606236 'THE STUMP JUMP' RED 2002 $13.95 Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre, McLaren Vale, South Australia (D) d'Arenberg: An incredible value for this delicious bucket of ripe black fruit. Alcoholic jam for the bigger-is-better crowd. Score: 84/100. Best Value Red Wine
677286 SHIRAZ/VIOGNIER 2002 $20.95 'Brampton', WO Western Cape, South Africa (XD) Rustenberg Wines: More lovely lifted fruit with a little help from our viognier friend. Blackberries and sunshine. Score: 89/100.
966473 CHÂTEAU DE CRUZEAU 2000 $24.95 AC Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France (XD) André Lurton, Prop.-Récolt.: Heart of Darkness wine: black fruit, smoky oak and dark depths. Old World finesse. Age 3 years or decant for 2-3 hours while impatiently tapping your fingers. A wine for carnivores. Score: 89.89/100.
963918 CHÂTEAU SMITH HAUT LAFITTE 2001 $89.95 AC Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France, Cru classé (XD) D. Cathiard, Prop.: Holy moly, what a wine! Dense, concentrated, structured and layered. Age 3-5 years or more. Score: 92/100.
727966 BOURGOGNE 2002 $19.95 AC, 'Cuvée Saint-Vincent', Pinot Noir (XD) Vincent Girardin: This vintage was terrific for Burgundy so the wines are of exceptional quality for their price. This pinot noir has bright happy cherries, earthy goodness and lovely acidity for many dishes, including tomato and cream sauces. Score: 89.5/100.
715045 CÔTE DE NUITS-VILLAGES 2001 $31.95 AC, Burgundy, Le Vaucrain (XD) Domaine Daniel Rion & Fils: More classic cherries and earth. Silky. Will age for 2-3 years. Score: 90/100.
640789 CÔTE DE BROUILLY 2001 $18.95 AC, Burgundy (D) Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes: A basket of strawberries, raspberries and cherries. Medium-bodied and vibrant. Great with pate, salmon, pasta and chicken (not spicy). Score: 88/100.
316620 CHÂTEAU DU GRAND CAUMONT 2000 $19.95 'Impatience', AC Corbières, Midi, France (D) Famille Rigal, Prop.: Easy-drinking and laid-back, with a surprisingly long finish for a wine so-named. Score: 87/100.
992800 'MAS JANEIL' 2001 $15.95 AC Côtes de Roussillon-Villages, Midi, France (D) Jacques & François Lurton: Blend: 60% Grenache and 40% Carignan. Red fruit with cedar notes, almost Rhone-like. Warm finish. Yum. (Yes, that is a technical tasting term... it tends to come up more frequently near the end of a tasting.) Score: 88/100.
984120 'CAPPELLACCIO' AGLIANICO RISERVA 1999 $17.95 DOC, Campania, Italy, Castel del Monte (XD) Az. Vinic. Rivera: Mouth-watering with red fruit and a smooth medium body. Great with roasts, other meats and pasta. Score: 88/100
998179 MORELLINO DI SCANSANO 2002 $ 26.95 DOC, Tuscany, Italy (XD) Az. Agr. Lohsa: Delicious red. Slightly tannic (grip). Age 203 years. Score: 88/100.
699686 'CASTILLO PERELADA' TINTO CRIANZA 2001 $14.95 DO, Spain, Empordà-Costa Brava (XD) Castillo Perelada: Grapes: Garnacha and tempranillo. Deliciously different. Juicy red plums and pepper. Spent 12 months in oak. Fantastic value. Score: 86/100.
October 23: Recommended White Wines
641779 CHARDONNAY 2003 $13.95 'Long Row', Estate Bottled, South Australia (D) Angove's: Nice, simple one-note chard. Butter and lemon notes. Score: 84/100
931006 CHARDONNAY 2003 $26.95 WO Walker Bay, South Africa (XD) Hamilton Russell Vineyards Estate: VC: Walker Bay is one of the coolest wine growing regions in South Africa. As such, it has proven an ideal location for growing grapes that make wines of elegance and finesse, such as this Chardonnay. The weather in the 2003 vintage was a lot better balanced than most years, allowing growers the luxury of giving the fruit long hang-time to reach optimum ripeness. My note: Yes, I'll take 4 please! A lovely buttery chard with down-home density. Score: 88.5/100.
608505 TOKAJI FURMINT 2003 $9.95 Szentkereszt Dülo (D) Puklus Pincészet, Hungary: Very simple but expressive lemon zest. Good for gulping between laughs. Score: 83/100.
October 23: Recommended Red Wines
271056 ZINFANDEL 2000 $25.95 Dry Creek Valley, California (D) Chateau Souverain: Brambleberries and plums. Medium- to full-bodied. Score: 88.5/100.
734020 'IL FIASCO' SANGIOVESE 2002 $23.95 California (XD) Ca' del Solo/Bonny Doon: Buy it for the name alone, and then when you open it, you'll be pleasantly surprised. Damn good wine. Rich and deep without being obvious, overblown or obtuse. Great for many dishes: meats, chicken and pasta. Score: 90/100.
933044 PINOT NOIR 2000 $29.95 Central Coast, California (D) Calera Wines: One of the state's best pinot producers. Great price for this vibrant wine with ripe cherries bobbing on the branch in a light breeze. Let's go! Score: 90/100.
700617 MERLOT/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002 $19.95 'Black Label', Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand (XD) Esk Valley Estate: VC: Esk Valley sources the grapes from two vineyards in the Hawkes Bay area. One, in the up-and-coming Gimlett Road sub-region, gives the wine the base and structure, while the remainder from the Dartmoor area gives the wine elegance, fruit and earth tones. The final blend shows both the structure and the fruit one finds from these two techniques. My note: Round, ripe and ready to go. Score: 89/100.
918235 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2001 $22.95 WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (XD) Muratie Estate: Bordeaux-like with finesse and balance. Oaky in a good way. A touch tannic. Age 2-3 years. Score: 88/100.
999516 PINOT NOIR 2002 $34.95 WO Walker Bay, South Africa (XD) Hamilton Russell Vineyards Estate: Now that I've recommended two wines in the same release from the same winery, it deserves to go in my category called Damn Good Producer. This medium-bodied red is stuffed with blackberries, oak and spice. Bring it on! Score: 89/100.
951079 CARMENÈRE RESERVE 2002 $16.95 Maule Valley, Chile (XD)
Calina: VC: A fruity, medium-bodied wine for rich meat pasta dishes. The aromas suggest blackberry jam, vanilla and a lively dustiness. Dry and fruity, but also balanced by a cedary/tannin edge. Finishes long. My note: Excellent value. Score: 88/100.
954529 CHÂTEAU LEOVILLE-POYFERRÉ 2001 $79.95 AC Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France, 2e Cru (XD): Big tannic bruiser that needs to be left alone for at least 3-5 years. Black plums and oak. Gorgeous. Score: 90/100.
692756 MERCUREY 2002 $31.95 AC, Burgundy, 'La Perrière' (D) Domaine Roux Père & Fils: Another one to make you weak in the knees from the 2002 vintage. Bright cherries, raspberries and earth. Slight grip and a pleasantly bitter finish. Medium-bodied. Score: 89/100.
650416 'CUVÉE BARON' 1999 $16.95 AC Madiran, Southwest France, (XD) Domaine du Crampilh: Hold for 2-4 years to tame the tannins. Rich, deep, dark. Great with meat. Score: 88/100.
712315 CANNONAU DI SARDEGNA 2002 $14.95 DOC, Campania, Italy, 'Le Bombarde' (XD) Cantina Soc. Santa Maria La Palma: Simple, easy-drinking wine with red fruit. Score: 85/100.
694026 'PRIMUM' RED 2001 $12.95 Vinho Regional Terras do Sado (D) José Maria da Fonseca Portugal: Fantastic value! Slight grip. Juicy red fruit, nice balance, red berries. Stock up for holiday entertaining. Great with grilled meat. Score: 88/100.
998682 SYRAH 2002 $19.95 Vinho Regional Alentejano (D) João Portugal Ramos: VC: João Portugal Ramos is an ardent defender of the indigenous grapes of Portugal, but also experiments with international varieties. He likes all his wines, whether from local grapes or, as in this example, Syrah, to be fruit-forward and crowd pleasing. The wines are given six months in new French oak to bring balance to the fruit. My score: 88/100. (Age 2-3 years)