Wine Picks September 2, 2006

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

Sparkling Wine

SCHRAMSBERG BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT BRUT 2001 California: Bursting with ripe pear fruit and toasty goodness. Drink as an aperitif or with fish dishes and oysters. 748236 750 mL bottle Sugar Content: D Score: 90/100. Favorite Bubbly

Italian Red Wine

CASTELLO DI BOSSI CHIANTI CLASSICO 2003 DOCG (C. Berardenga): Loaded with black berries and plums. Intriguing combination of mature fruit and spicy notes. Very full-bodied. Decant for 1-2 hours first. 994608 (XD) 750 mL $25.95 Score: 88/100.

POLIZIANO VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO ‘ASINONE' 2001 DOCG: Gorgeous, jam-packed with personality and full-bodied flavors of dark ripe fruit. Drink 2007-2012. 952473 (XD) 750 mL $39.95 Score: 91/100.

California Red Wine

FRANCIS COPPOLA ‘DIAMOND COLLECTION' CLARET CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004 ‘Black Label' (Rubicon Estates) VC: This winery is owned by Francis Ford Coppola (Niebaum was the founder of the original winery on the site, Inglenook). It is currently undergoing a name change to celebrate the completion of its 25-year restoration and is now known as Rubicon Estates. Look for dark berry flavors with hints of herbs and pepper in this full-bodied Cabernet-based wine. My note: A balanced wine, full-bodied and elegant. You’re paying in part for the celebrity name but the wine is worthy. 521021 (XD) 750 mL $28.95 Score: 89.5/100.

MORGAN ‘TWELVE CLONES' PINOT NOIR 2004 Santa Lucia Highlands: To quote Molly Bloom, “Yes, yes, yes!” A gorgeous pinot with black cherries and spice. Perfectly calibrated for sensual pleasure. 642249 (D) 750 mL $32.95 Score: 92/100. Favorite Red Wine

Chilean Red Wine

ARAUCANO RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004 Valle Central (Jacques & François Lurton) VC : A fine Chilean Cabernet from the Lurton brothers, look for aromas of cherry, berry and mint. Expect it to have nice aroma replays with a peppery finish. Enjoy with grilled steak or pasta with meat sauce. My note: An extraordinary wine for the price: it doesn’t get much tastier than this for the money. Full-bodied with juicy red fruit. Drink now, drink often. 687681 (XD) 750 mL $11.95 Score: 89/100. Best Value Red Wine Tied

Australia White Wine

YALUMBA VIOGNIER 2004 Eden Valley, South Australia: Lovely aromas of rose petals, lychee nuts and citrus fruit. Perfect for Asian dishes and light curries, or jazz up boring chicken or pasta. 954644 (D) 750 mL $21.95 Score: 88/100

Australian Red Wine

ALKOOMI ‘BLACKBUTT' 2002 Frankland River, Western Australia: A blend of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cabernet Franc, 22% Malbec, and 8% Merlot. You gotta love a vintner daring enough to name his wine “blackbutt” and pity the marketing team who has live with it. Fortunately, this is a great wine with huge, rippingly ripe black and red fruit. Full-bodied. Drink with hearty meat dishes or when you need a good kick in the pants. 963876 (XD) 750 mL $45.95 Score: 90/100.

PENFOLDS ‘BIN 28' KALIMNA SHIRAZ 2002 South Australia: A solidly made and balanced wine. Full-bodied and delicious, though a little pricey. 422782 (XD) 750 mL $29.95 Score: 89/100

WAKEFIELD SHIRAZ 2004 Clare Valley, South Australia: A Silver-Medal winner (and ‘Best in Class') at the prestigious International Wine and Spirit Competition in 2005. Fantastic shiraz for the barby and other casual social opportunities. Black fruit and full-bodied. 943787 (XD) 750 mL $14.95 Score: 89/100. Best Value Red Wine Tied

New Zealand White Wine

FAIRHALL DOWNS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island: Grassy, herbal, lime and grapefruit aromas. Refreshing and zesty. Drink with seafood, salad, and plain old chicken. 990580 (XD) 750 mL $17.95 Score: 89/100. Best Value White

French Red Wine

CHÂTEAU TOUR HAUT-CAUSSAN 2003 AC Médoc, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur
(Philippe Courrian, Vitic.) Bordeaux: Deep, dark aromas of blackberries and currants, smoke and oak. Full-bodied and tannic. Class Old World signature. Great value. Decant for 2 hours. 579284 (XD) 750 mL $25.95 Score: 89/100.

DOMAINE DU CLOS VERDY CHIROUBLES 2004 AC (Georges Boulon, Prop.) VC: Georges Boulon is the mayor of the town of Chiroubles. He produces this single vineyard Gamay in a fruity and ripe style. Enjoy it as sipping wine or with grilled fish or roasted chicken breast. My note: Happily, sprightly Beaujolais. Carefree, medium-bodied wine slips down easily with aromas of dancing cherries. Drink with salmon, pâté, cold meats and sunny days. 453241 (D) 750 mL $16.95 Score: 87/100.

NICOLAS POTEL GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN 2003 AC Burgundy VC: Nicolas Potel takes a different approach than most négociants. He buys grapes, not juice, from the same seven growers. These growers have old vines and Potel purchases everything they produce thus ensuring quality. Old vine grapes in very hot years, like 2003, end up being much better balanced and ‘complete' than those made with younger vine wines. Serve this wine tonight with a fine veal roast, or let it mature for 3-7 years in a cellar. My note: Smooth, medium-bodied, silky pinot. It will break your heart but gently. Drink with salmon. 004911 (XD) 750 mL $42.95 Score: 90/100.

CHÂTEAU MAUCOIL CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2004 AC Rhone VC: A Châteauneuf that would work nicely with a cloved ham or braised ribs. The aromas suggest sweetened berries, strawberry jam, green tea and leather. It is dry, supple, sweet-centered and flattering. The gutsy mid-palate suggests it is drinking beautifully now. My note: More and more, I’m loving wines from the Rhone with their cedary, cherried splendor. Full-bodied. 681726 (XD) 750 mL $29.95 Score : 90/100.

(Famille Chancel, Prop.-Récolt.) : Big, dark fruit with a bruiser of an attitude. 938282 (D) 750 mL $24.95 Score: 89.5/100.

German White Wine

MADES RIESLING SPÄTLESE 2003 QmP, Bacharacher Wolfshöhle, Estate Btld. VC: It is generally held that no other region in Germany makes such a wide selection of racy Rieslings as the Mittelrhein. However, products on offer outside this tiny district are rare as hen's teeth. At the small Mades winery (only 2.5 ha) the yields are low (48 hl/ha) and the grapes grow on extremely steep, south-facing hillsides made of slate. The finished wines show a beautiful balance between lush fruit and crisp acids. They also tend to be very long-lived. Enjoy it tonight with spicy Asian food or age it 5+ years. My note: As usual, my favorite whites are either German Rieslings or New Zealand sauvignon blancs. Abandon your hang-ups about German wine: pleasure waits for you on the other side of your assumptions. 597484 (M) 750 mL $21.95 Score: 90/100. Favorite White Wine

British Columbia Red Wine

NK'MIP CELLARS MERLOT 2003 VQA Okanagan Valley VC: Nk'Mip Cellars (pronounced “in-ka-meep” and meaning “the place where the creek joins the lake”) is North America's first Aboriginal-owned and -operated winery. Garnering more awards and critical acclaim each year, this is a winery to watch. This intense Merlot is aged in both American and French oak for 18 months before bottling. Look for plum fruit, cassis, fresh tobacco and herbal notes leading to a concentrated, toasty finish. My note: Lovely, round and warm with alluring aromas of dark fruit and chocolate. 626416 (XD) 750 mL $17.95 Score: 90/100.

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.