Vintages Release September 17, 2005

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Californian Red Wine

925727 BELLE GLOS PINOT NOIR 2002 $38.95 Sonoma Coast (D = dry) VC: Chuck Wagner's (of Caymus fame) launched his Belle Glos label in 2002 (with the 2001 vintage) to much acclaim. Belle Glos is dedicated solely to the production of Pinot Noir. Grapes are sourced from three Sonoma Coast vineyards to make this edition. Light to medium ruby garnet with fine Pinot aromas, including sour cherry, blueberry, dried herbs, earth and a touch of strawberry. This dry wine is very well-structured with crisp acids and fine grained tannins surrounded by good fruit notes. Medium-bodied with a medium long finish, it is very enjoyable now with stuffed veal tenderloin or roast beef, but it will also reward short to mid-term cellaring (2-4 years). My note: A stunning New World-style pinot. Concentration without heaviness. Score: 92/100. Favorite Red Wine

346262 SHAFER MERLOT 2003 $59.95 Napa Valley (XD = extra dry): Love this producer but I can't afford to drink his wines regularly. This wine, though pricey, is worth the money. Rich aromas of cassis and plums. Full-bodied. Drink while signing your new contract for whatever. Score: 91/100.

Australian Red Wine

713040 D'ARENBERG 'THE CUSTODIAN' GRENACHE 2002 $20.95 McLaren Vale, South Australia (XD): Great value: maximum palate whacking potential for the buck. For those who love big Aussie wines, this one is a winner. Big black fruit. Pow! Score: 90/100.

907584 D'ARENBERG 'THE GALVO GARAGE' CABERNET SAUVIGNON/MERLOT/PETIT VERDOT/CABERNET FRANC 2002 $26.95 McLaren Vale/Southern Fleurieu, South Australia (XD): Lovely wine with depth and richness. Dark red fruit. Perfect for sitting by the fire and listening to NPR, BBC, ABC or CBC (when they're not on strike). Score: 91/100.

937276 GRANT BURGE 'CAMERON VALE' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002 $19.95 Barossa Valley, South Australia (XD) VC: This deeply delicious wine is made from fruit sourced from vines that are over 30 years old. While the grapes' pedigree runs deep, the winemaker's history runs deeper. Grant is the fifth generation winemaker in the Burge family and the most successful to date. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the family's winemaking history. The maturity and experience of the winemaker and his vines shows well in this complex, full bodied Cab. Look for layered aromas of eucalyptus, black licorice, dark chocolate and vanilla oak and juicy, dark fruit flavors integrated with toasty oak notes and silky tannins on the palate. Enjoy with roast beef with all the trimmings or a leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic. My note: Excellent value. Menthol coolness with ripe red fruit. Delicious for food on the barby (cue). Score: 91/100.

657593 LINDEMANS 'BIN 9603' SHIRAZ 1998 $23.95 Hunter Valley, South Australia (D) VC: Classic Hunter Valley restraint is the hallmark here. Medium deep ruby/garnet color with aromas of blackberry, pepper, figs and smoked meat. Dry, delicate and fruity with an assertive tannin backbone. This long finishing wine will reward the patient. Give it 3+ years more in a cellar. Food match: duck, game, hamburger, and cheese. My note: I'm a HUGE fan of Hunter Valley wines: they generally seem to have the perfect balance of fruit and structure. Score: 90/100.

French Red Wine

650580 'CUVÉE PRESTIGE' DU CHÂTEAU CANTELOUP 2000 $19.95 AC Premières Côtes de Bordeaux (XD) (Vign. Latorse) VC: An excellent example of value-priced 2000 Bordeaux. The medium-deep ruby color leads to an impressive nose suggestive of raspberry, dark chocolate and vanilla. This dry wine shows exceptional balance between the fruit, acid and tannins. Medium full-bodied with a very long, fruit/tannin focused finish. Enjoyable now, but will definitely benefit from 3-5 years in a cellar. My note: A medium-bodied bordeaux with a classic nose. Does have all the "stuffing" of the big wines but delivers on value for those who want finesse at a reasonable price. Score: 87/100.

971564 DOMAINE MATHIEU CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2001 $36.95 Rhone Valley AC (D): Aromas of cherries and cedar. Classic Rhone style wine. Terrific for when you're tired of big cabernet and shiraz yet still want something deeply flavorful. Also comes in the handy half bottle 375 ml bottle for nights when you must tend to your own needs (655175, $18.95) Score: 89/100.

German White Wine

657197 WEINGUT CARL LOEWEN RIESLING KABINETT 2003 $16.95 QmP, Leiwener Klostergarten, Estate Btld. (MD = medium dry): Love it! Refreshing and mouth-watering aromas of floral notes, minerals and ripe tree fruit such as pears. Pair with many dishes from seafood to chicken and pasta. Score: 89/100. Favorite White Wine

Greek White Wine

653733 TSANTALIS CHROMITSA MOUNT ATHOS VINEYARD 2003 $16.95 Vin de Pays (D) VC: In 1971, Evangelos Tsantalis sought cover from a storm by knocking at a monastery at Chromitsa. Noticing an untended vineyard on the property, he offered to help maintain it if he could make wine. The monks agreed and this wine was born. Apple, oak and vanilla aromas rise from the glass. This is full, ripe, fat, oily, made in an international style. Made with Assyrtiko, Athiri and Chardonnay, the blending of the crisp Assyrtiko and Athiri with the fruity and round Chard proved an inspired decision. Each grape complements the other creating a flavorful and balanced libation. My note: Generous, round, buttery chard with oaky notes but not too heavy. Score: 87/100.

Italian Red Wine

482604 TASCA D'ALMERITA 'REGALEALI' NERO D'AVOLA 2003 $15.95 IGT Sicilia (D) VC: Nero d'Avola, probably the finest red grape in Sicily, has shown itself to be a terrific candidate for barrel maturation. As this 'Regaleali' demonstrates, the exposure to oak (in this case mostly Slovenian oak, plus a touch of French) adds a flavor dimension to the wine's upfront fruit profile. Enjoy with grilled steaks or rich red meat pasta sauce. My note: Pleasant merlot-like smoothness. Medium-bodied and immanently drinkable. Score: 88/100.

651562 LUIGI RIGHETTI 'CAPITEL DE'ROARI' 2000 $30.95 DOC, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (D) VC: This is Righetti's reserve Amarone. 'Capitel de Roari' is a local expression meaning 'many oaks', referring to the various vineyards where grapes are grown for this reserve Amarone. The hillside plots are rich in clay and receive plenty of sun, which contributes to higher sugar content and flavor. Classic Amarone aromas of plum, cherry and savory scents dominate this wine. Made in a pleasing, slightly lighter style, this wine is an excellent value and would be a good match with beef or lamb dishes. My note: Good "attach": wakes up the palate. Robust red fruit. Need food like Laverne needs Shirley. Also comes sin the ever-handy half bottle 375 ml size (652099; $15.95). Score: 90/100.

Moldova Red Wine

590166 ACOREX 'TERRA VERDE' MERLOT 2003 $9.95 Cahul Region (D) VC: The vineyards where Acorex sources these grapes is undergoing conversion to full organic farming. Although not officially designated organic, the vineyards will have been chemical pesticide and herbicide free for more than one vintage now. Enjoy this Merlot with roast beef with all the trimmings. My note: A simple and robust red that's perfect for hamburgers. Score: 86/100. Best Value Red Wine

Portuguese Red Wine

912667 CASA SANTOS LIMA 'PALHA-CANAS' VINHO TINTO 2003 $13.95 Vinho Regional Estremadura (D) (Quinta da Boavista) VC: Bringing together some of the best indigenous grapes of Portugal, this wine contains Castelao (a.k.a., Periquita), Camarate and three of the rich red grapes we normally associate with Port: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. All this flavor needs food to match, and the producer suggests beef stew, roast pheasant with wild mushrooms, duck with cherries or aged, strong-flavored cheeses. My note: Another simple and robust red. A touch tannic. Drink 2006-2008. Score: 87/100.

Canadian Wine

277228 CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES RIESLING 2003 $15.95 Estate Bottled VQA Niagara Peninsula (D = dry) VC: This inaugural vintage has already walked away with a Gold Medal at the 2005 Ontario Wine Awards. My note: Excellent value. Mouth-watering ripe pears. Great match for seafood and chicken. Score: 90/100. Best Value White Wine

422808 VINELAND ESTATES CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002 $18.95 VQA Niagara Peninsula (XD): Ripe and round. Full-bodied cabernet with good acidity for meat dishes and stews. Score: 88/100.

594002 JACKSON-TRIGGS 'PROPRIETORS' GRAND RESERVE' MERITAGE 2002 $19.95 VQA Niagara Peninsula (XD): Robust aromas of cassis, black plums and coffee. Strong all-round red that needs aging. Drink 2006-2009. Score: 89.5/100.

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