Wine Picks September 16, 2006

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Australian Red Wine

PENLEY ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVE 2002 Coonawarra, South Australia: Full-bodied goodness and depth, with aromas of black fruit, spice and smoke. Drink with hearty meat dishes. Dependably great producer. 701821 (XD) 750 mL $52.95 Score: 92/100. Favorite Red Wine

French Red Wine

CHÂTEAU FOURNAS BERNADOTTE 1998 AC Haut-Médoc, Cru Bourgeois VC: The 1998 vintage, made by the winemaking team at Château Pichon Comtesse de Lalande certainly lives up to their reputation. My note: Terrific concentration and it's ready to drink now through 2008. Rich, dark fruit with that Old World finesse, balance and elegance. 584516 (XD) 750 mL $20.95 Score: 90/100.

DOMAINE DE LA CONSEILLÈRE JULIÉNAS 2005 AC (Domaine Mommessin) VC: The Beaujolais Village, Juliènas, is named for Julius Caesar who mentions stopping here in his "Commentaries on the Gallic War". The Domaine de la Conseillère vineyard is located at the northern tip of Beaujolais right up against Burgundy's Macon appellation. Look for powerful floral and fruity aromas in this well-structured and balanced wine. Enjoy with red meats or Emmenthal cheese. My note: Beaujolais gets an unfair rap as being only cheap and cheerful. But the wines that aren't in the nouveau category deserve your respect. This light-bodied one has lovely raspberry aromas. Excellent for those seeking transitional wines between whites and more full-bodied reds. Drink with salmon, pate and cold meats. 951707 (D) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 88/100.

PATRICE RION BOURGOGNE PINOT NOIR 2004 VC: Light purple/ruby color. Aromas of sour cherry, blueberry and a hint of earth whirl about on an expressive nose. This well-structured, light- to medium-bodied Burgundy can be enjoyed young or will reward cellaring for up to two years. A perfect match for cassoulet. My note: Like a New World pinot: vibrant cherries and ripe red fruits. Delicious. 650630 (D) 750 mL $22.95 Score: 89.5/100.

A consistently delicious, fruit-forward balanced wonder from one of the southern Rhône's best still-to-be-properly-discovered regions and producers. Enjoy with a variety of grilled meats or rich meat pasta dishes. My note: Full and rich, with dark fruit aromas. Great price. Drink with big meat dishes. 708750 (XD) 750 mL $17.95 Score: 89/100. Best Value Red Wine

German White Wine

MAXIMIN GRÜNHÄUSER HERRENBERG RIESLING KABINETT 2002 QmP (Dr. C. von Schubert): Good mouth-awakening attack: gets the juices running and needs food like cream-sauce chicken or pasta, fish, and vegetarian dishes. 005843 (D) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 88/100.

REICHSGRAF VON KESSELSTATT RIESLING KABINETT 2002 QmP, Kaseler Nies'chen VC: This steep, south-facing Kaseler Nies'chen vineyard is Kesselstatt's best site on the Ruwer. My note: Stunning, off-dry (touch of lovely sweetness) wine. Zippy and spectacular. Drink with fish, chicken, pasta, turkey and anything that needs some perking up. 940809 (MD = medium dry) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 90/100. Favorite White Wine

LINGENFELDER 'BIRD LABEL' RIESLING 2004 QmP, Estate Btld.: My old friend with the bird label. A riesling that's dependably delicious year after year. How does he do it? Ours is not to question, but to drink and enjoy. Gorgeous ripe pear aromas. Drink with Asian dishes. 568634 (MD) 750 mL $13.95 Score: 89/100. Best Value White Wine

Israeli Red Wine

SASLOVE 'AVIV' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004 Upper Galilee VC: Barry Saslove is the owner here. Saslove is part of the new wave of exciting boutique wineries that are beginning to thrive in Israel. Deep violet, almost black in color. Very New World in style with lots of blackberry jam and spice notes. It is a slightly off-dry, plush, plump, hedonistic fruit bomb. Full-bodied and medium-long finishing, enjoy it with rich stews, lasagna or game meats. My note: Layers and layers of voluptuous ripe dark fruit and chocolate. 652826 (D) 750 mL $23.95 Score: 89/100.

Italian Red Wine

DI MAJO NORANTE CONTADO AGLIANICO 2003 DOC Aglianico del Molise VC: Deep ruby color leads to an attractive nose of chocolate, blueberry and oak spice. Very international in style, it is dry, soft, ripe and dense with a very fruity core. Enjoy with cloved ham or seared tuna. My note: Juicy dark red fruit. Ready for something different? Full-bodied. Drink with pasta dishes. 967208 (XD) 750 mL $17.95 Score: 89/100.

CESARI 'IL BOSCO' AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA 2000 DOC VC: This is a single vineyard Amarone made in the traditional manner where the whole grapes (80% Corvina and 20% Rondinella in this case) are left to dry for four months. The resulting wine is rich with aromas of cherry, spice, cocoa and almond. Expect it to be quite full-bodied, velvety and warm. This is a flavorful red that works well with braised meats. My note: This is beyond full-bodied: yet it's gorgeously concentrated and balanced. Ultra rich with layers and layers of dark fruit. Very alcoholic. Drink with hearty meat dishes and burly men. 641795 (D) 750 mL $55.95 Score: 91/100.

Canadian Wine

VQA Niagara Peninsula VC: This wine counts a Bronze medal at the 2005 Canadian Wine Awards and a 'Special Mention' at Vin Italy 2006 among its growing list of accolades. My note: Lovely and luscious chard with oaky, buttery notes. Full-bodied. Drink with corn dishes and lobster. 593996 (D) 750 mL $18.95 Score: 89/100.

STREWN 'TERROIR' CHARDONNAY 2004 VQA Niagara Peninsula VC: 'Terroir' is Strewn's super-premium range of wines. This Niagara- on-the-Lake winery is famous for its focus on the marriage of wine and food with an on-site cooking school and gourmet restaurant. This full-bodied, complex and toasty Chardonnay would be a great complement to veal tenderloin or pork loin chops. My note: Round, voluptuous, oaky and buttery. Full-bodied. 012773 (D) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 89/100.

WILLOW HEIGHTS MERLOT 2004 VQA Niagara Peninsula VC: Pretty aromas such as black cherry, Indian spice, mint, leather and new oak. It is dry, ripe and round, fresh and clean. This very well-made Merlot is ready to drink. Enjoy with grilled gourmet sausages. My note: Rich and layered with aromas of chocolate and plums. 586016 (XD) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 89/100.

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.