Recommended Champagnes and Sparkling Wines July 2004

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265678 Mumm Cuvee Napa Brut, California $26.40: Ripe pears and a zesty texture. Dry. Score: 87/100.

094946 Chandon Brut, California $27.10: Green apples and pears, full-bodied. Score: 87/100.

918276 Carneros Cuvee Gloria Ferrer, California $45: Full-bodied, ripe dark pears and melons. Dry. Score: 89/100.

340570 Prosecco de Valdobbidene $14.40: Even though it's brut, this Italian bubbly tastes a touch off dry, which makes it lovely and soft with pineapple notes. Score: 86/100.

415372 Martini Demi Sec, Italy $11.10: A pretty sipper with a long finish. The off dry (slightly sweet) softens the zippy palate. Citrus notes. Score: 88/100. Best Value Sparkling Wine

308064 Mumms Champagne Carte Classique (white label), Riems, France $48.10: Extra dry. Rich full-bodied with citrus notes and a long finish. Score: 88/100.

959643 Henriot Souverain Brut, France $49.90: Juicy, mouth-watering yet crisp and yeasty. Score: 89/100.

721035 Bonnaire Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, France $42.95: Blanc de blancs means it's made from only the white grapes (chardonnay). Creamy, full-bodied, rich. Score: 90/100.

722520 Lanson Gold Label, France $59.95: Dark ripe tree fruit, full-bodied, complex and layered. Score: 93/100.

52449 Charles Heidsieck Brut Champagne 1995, France $64.95: Full-bodied and powerful yet supple, creamy and rich. A finish that will take you to Champagne and back. Dry. Score: 94/100. Favorite Champagne


Recommended Red Wines July 2004

386433 BANROCK STATION WHITE SHIRAZ 2003, Australia, The Hardy Wine Company $9.95: The wine formerly known as white zinfandel (rose for those who can't form the words white zinfandel without snickering). This pretty sipper is redolent of strawberries and summer days. Off-dry. Perfect with pate and cold chicken. Serve it chilled while sitting on a tartan or other similarly-patterned blankets. Score: 84/100.

343434 BARCELO PENASCAL-CASTILLA Y LEON 2000, Spain $9.05: Our old friend Penascal seems to be there for us vintage after vintage. A dutiful performer, it's a simple, easy-drinking wine with red plums and black cherries. Score: 85/100.

313734 MOMMESSIN BEAUJOLAIS 2002 AOC, France $10.60: A lovely simple light-bodied sipper that's bursting with ripe raspberry fruit. Perfect with cold meats. And what a bonus, you get 4 Air Miles reward points which could fly you and a friend to your doorstep. Score: 86/100.

458521 PELEE ISLAND PINOT NOIR RESERVE 2002 V.Q.A., Ontario $14.10: A lovely medium-bodied wine with strawberries and raspberries. Score: 86/100.

341602 CONO SUR PINOT NOIR 2003, Chile $10.10: Some people will cringe at the name, but not the price. A simple, purply, grapey, juicy wine that's much like Yellow Tail from Australia. Big sweet plums. Score: 86/100.

598912 THE LITTLE PENGUIN MERLOT 2003, Penfolds Wines, Australia $11.95: Another wine for the Yellow Tail club. Chocolately, plumy, grapey. Ripe and unchallenging like an old sitcom at the end of a long day. Sometimes that's just what you want. Score: 86/100.

554360 BELLINGHAM SHIRAZ 2002, South Africa $12.80: Lots of smoky oak with black plums. Full-bodied. Score: 86/100.

007203 EGERVIN EGRI BIKAVER 2001, Hungary $7.00: Another wine for which you'll need to step yourself past the name, which translates as cow's blood. (Don't worry, it's all wine.) A medium-bodied, spicy wine with peppery notes that would be ideal with a pepper steak and gamey meats. Score: 87/100.

22384 CHATEAU DE GOURGAZAUD 2003 Languedoc, France $11.90: Great value. Cedar notes and dark red fruit. Good grip on the palate. Score: 87/100.

958629 CUVÉE MATHILDE 2001 Château de Gourgazaud, Minervois, France
$12.95: Full-bodied and spicy. Apparently, the grapes were grown on ancient decalcified terraces. (Saying this would sound very impressive at a dinner party.) Score 87/100.

321539 CHAPOUTIER COTES DU RHONE VILLAGES 2002, France $16.65: Lovely bright red fruit and cedar notes. Classic Rhone style. Score: 88/100.

463695 HOGUE CABERNET MERLOT 2001, Washington $13.10: A terrific value for this full-bodied, rich red wine. A slight grip on the palate. Aromas of ripe dark red berries. Could age for 2-3 years. Cabernet sauvignon 51%, merlot 45% and cabernet franc 4%. Excellent with red meats, especially a sizzling little pepper steak on the barbie. Score: 88/100.

447326 MASI SEREGO ALGHIERI ROSSO 2001, Italy $14.95: Dante anyone? Yep, they are descendents. So I guess I'd have to call this a profound wine, with many layers (or at least, circle). This lovely medium-bodied wine has juicy acidity that makes it perfect for tomato-sauce pastas. Also some mocha notes for richness and a long finish that goes to you-know-where and back. Score: 89/100

412296 TURNING LEAF CABERNET SAUVIGNON E&J Gallo 2002, California $12.10: How I wish that fast-food restaurants would at least offer a wine like this instead of stuff that's not fit for cooking. This is surprisingly good. Forget your notions of Turning Leaf (and Gallo) being only for the jug crowd, this wine is lovely. It is rich and smooth, with mocha notes and a long finish. A tenor sax wine. Score: 88/100. Best Value Red Wine

285544 PENFOLDS KOONUNGA HILL SHIRAZ/CABERNET 2002, South Australia $15.55: Ripe red fruit, full-bodied but not overdone. Great with steak. Would someone please get me a pepper steak? Score: 88/100.

145110 CHATEAU DE TERREFORT SUPERIEUR 2001, France $15.55: Richness, depth and soul. Dark fruit, long pleasantly bitter finish. A wine for grown-ups. Great price. Score: 89/100.

99044 CHATEAU BONNET 2000, France $16.40: Full-bodied yet elegant with that Old World finesse. The 2000 vintage was excellent so even for the less-august chateaux produced very solid wines. Great with grilled meats, pork and discussions about your next trip to Paris. Score: 90/100.

532812 YARDEN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 200 Israel GOLAN HEIGHTS WINERY $30.15: One of the country's best producers. This gorgeous, richly-flavored kosher wine has layers deeply concentrated dark red fruit. Attended the very best of finishing schools: aged in French oak for 18 months. Drink now or age 3-5 years. Score: 90/100.

543876 JACKSON-TRIGGS OKANAGAN MERLOT VQA 2002, B.C. $12.95: Wow! This is a gorgeous wine, and a great ambassador for B.C. It tastes at least twice as expensive as it costs. Rich, deep, full-bodied, yet balanced and layered. Dark, ripe plums and cassis. Score: 90/100. Favorite Red Wine