Wine Picks September 30, 2006

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Bordeaux Red Wine

CHÂTEAU BRONDELLE 'CUVÉE DAMIEN' 2000 AC Graves (Vign. Belloc Rochet, Prop.): Dark fruit, full-bodied and robust. Pair with steak and lamb. Drink 2006-09. 902973 (XD) 750 mL $28.95 Score: 88/100.

CHÂTEAU FOURCAS HOSTEN 1999 AC Listrac-Médoc VC: A polished, supple wine that shows off the fine, traditional Listrac-Médoc style. The aromas suggest tobacco, mocha, dried currant, menthol and cedar. This complex wine is dry, complete and nicely balanced by resolved tannins. It is drinking very well now with a fine Angus beef steak, however it will also last for up to five more years. My note: Delicious. Old World-style with black fruit. Great price. Drink 2006-08. 002303 (XD) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 90/100.

CHÂTEAU FONTENIL 2003 AC Fronsac (Michel and Dany Rolland): Dense, ripe and rich, with Old World finesse. Drink 2008-2012. 591107 (XD) 750 mL $39.95 Score: 90/100.

CHÂTEAU DU COURLAT 'CUVÉE JEAN-BAPTISTE' 2003 AC Lussac-Saint-Émilion (P. Bourotte, Prop.) VC: Lussac-Saint-Émilion is a satellite AC of the larger Saint-Émilion. Another fine value-priced cellar dweller. This smoky, cherry-, blueberry-, coco-dominated wine needs 4-7 years in a cellar to really strut its stuff. Right now, it is dry, firmly tannic, but also beautifully structured for the cellar time. Medium full-bodied with a very long finish. My note: Purply and juicy in a New World style. Drink with barbecue, pork and chicken. 002238 (XD) 750 mL $26.95 Score: 88/100.

CHÂTEAU ST. GEORGES 2001 AC St-Georges-St-Émilion (Petrus Desbois) VC: A traditionally-style Merlot-based wine with aromas of cherry, blackberry, anise, humus and spice cabinet. It is dry and assertive with a very good structure and fine tannins. This wine will reward 5+ years in a cellar. My note: Rich and opulent like the price. Layers of black fruit. 960310 (XD) 750 mL $38.95 Score: 90/100. Favorite Red Wine

CHÂTEAU ROLAND LA GARDE 'PRESTIGE' 2000 AC Premières Côtes de Blaye VC: Château Roland La Garde really ratcheted up its winemaking with this 2000. Expect ripe cassis fruit surrounded by an excellent structure of firm, solid tannins and bright acid tones. This long-finishing wine will last 4-5 years in a cellar, or match it tonight to grilled lamb. My note: Succulent dark fruit. Full-bodied. 695429 (XD) 750 mL $23.95 Score: 90/100.

Southern French Red Wine

MAS JANEIL CÔTES DU ROUSSILLON-VILLAGES 2003 AC (Sarl Jacques & Francois Lurton) VC: It is indeed rare to find a wine of this quality at such a price. Grenache (60%), Carignan (30%) and Syrah (10%) contribute aromas of raspberry and redcurrants with notes of spice, pepper and chocolate. Great fruit concentration and well-integrated oak in this fresh, full-bodied wine. A fantastic value. My note: Cedary, peppery with ripe cherries. Perfect barbecue wine. 992800 (XD) 750 mL $15.95 Score: 88/100.

CAIRANNE 2004 AC Côtes-du-Rhône Villages (Domaine de l'Ameillaud) VC: Domaine de l'Ameillaud has been a family-owned vineyard for the past 200 years. Count on loads of appealing fruit flavors with underlying spice and earth characteristics in this wonderfully textured and balanced wine. A crowd-pleaser at an outstanding price, bring it to your family's Thanksgiving Dinner. You will all be giving thanks for one more thing that day. My note: Light and simple with lovely red fruit. 660605 (D) 750 mL $14.95 Score: 88/100.

DOMAINE DE LA CHARBONNIÈRE CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 'LES HAUTES BRUSQUIÈRES' 2003 AC Rhone, 'Cuvée Spéciale': Big bruiser of a wine with gorgeous cedar and cherry notes. Drink with brontosaurus burgers. 579581 (XD) 750 mL $54.95 Score: 90/100.

DOMAINE DU VIEUX TÉLÉGRAPHE CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2003 AC Rhone: The cult wine for this region. Black as night, smooth as silk, strong a rushing current of pleasure. Concentrated and dense. Drink 2007-2015. 951475 (XD) 750 mL $55.95 Score: 90/100.

French White Wine

ZIND HUMBRECHT GEWURZTRAMINER 2004 AC VC: The wines coming out of Zind Humbrecht are of the finest quality and a little bit of that genius is in this Gewurztraminer. Expect intense aromas of spices with rose scent accents in this dry yet refreshing and harmoniously balanced wine. Sublime as an aperitif to kick off your evening or with mildly spiced Asian food. My note: Classic floral and lychee aromas. Exotic with a lovely spice kick. 686220 (D) 750 mL $25.95 Score: 90/100.

New Zealand Sparkling Wine

CLOUDY BAY PELORUS BRUT 2001 Marlborough, South Island: Great value. Very dry and toasty. 338459 (D) 750 mL $32.95 Score: 89/100.

New Zealand White Wine

WITHER HILLS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005 Marlborough, South Island: I've recommended this one several times. Stunning herbal aromas, refreshing and mouth-watering. Perfect for salad, vegetarian, pork, chicken and seafood. 919514 (XD) 750 mL $19.95 Score: 90/100 Favorite White Wine

Californian White Wine

IRONSTONE VIOGNIER 2005 California VC: Nestled against the Sierra Foothills, Ironstone Vineyards has grown from humble beginnings to become California's largest winery/entertainment complex. With this fresh and friendly Viognier, expect aromas and flavors of peach, apricot and tropical fruit. Always a great value, pair it with grilled shrimp. My note: Lovely floral aromas. Medium-bodied. Drink with Asian and curry dishes. 946665 (D) 750 mL $15.95 Score: 88/100. Best Value White Wine

Californian Red Wine

ARTEZIN ZINFANDEL 2003 Napa/Amador/Mendocino Counties (Hess Group) VC: Artezin is a new label from Donald Hess that's devoted to Zinfandel. The grapes are 67% Mendocino, 21% Amador and 12% Napa County in origin. My note: Great berry character. Robust and fruity. Drink with meat dishes. 004887 (XD) 750 mL $21.95 Score: 90/100.

GREG NORMAN CALIFORNIA ESTATES PINOT NOIR 2004 Santa Barbara County VC: Attractive light to medium ruby color with aromas of black cherry, smoked meat, spice, coffee and a hint of tar. On the palate it is quite pleasing, round and ripe. An excellent choice for stuffed veal tenderloin or grilled salmon. My note: Smoky with ripe cherries. 687988 (D) 750 mL $24.95 Score: 89/100.

Chilean Red Wine

LA FORTUNA MERLOT 2005 Lontue Valley VC: This organic wine contains 24 mg/l of free sulphur. La Fortuna has a long history of winemaking and it continues to build on its traditions. In recent years they have been leading the charge in the organic movement in Chile. All the vineyards are certified organic by the Swiss Agency IMO. An excellent value, look for ripe fruit and some peppery spice in this medium full-bodied wine. My note: Stunning value. Blackcurrants and ripe black fruit. 687764 (XD) 750 mL $12.95 Score: 89/100. Best Value Red Wine

Australian Red Wine

LINDEMANS 'LIMESTONE RIDGE VINEYARD' SHIRAZ/CABERNET 2001 Coonawarra, South Australia: Terrific! Aromas of black plums, blackberries and smoke. Expansive and expensive, but what the heck, it's great. Drink with meat dishes. 353573 (XD) 750 mL $49.95 Score: 91/100.

YALUMBA 'THE SIGNATURE' CABERNET SAUVIGNON/SHIRAZ 2001 Barossa, South Australia VC: The 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz The Signature is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Shiraz. It was aged 20 months in French and American oak barrels. My note: Balanced and robust. An apotheosis of Australian wine. This producer makes great value-priced wines too. 528356 (XD) 750 mL $44.95 Score: 93/100.

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.