December Release Recommendations
By Natalie MacLean
Highly Recommended Fortified & Sweet Wines
721050 Issidoros Arvanitis Ouzo Plomari, Greece $19.95: If you like black licorice flavour with an alcoholic flame shooting out the back (of your palate, that is), this is lovely.
94649 Grand Marnier Cuvee du Cent-Cinquantenaire 1827-1977, France $199.90: Released for Grand Marnier's 150th anniversary, this grand liqueur uses 20-year-old cognacs that are redolent with mellow orange peel. Very strong on the alcohol. Rated 5 out of 5 by Kindred Spirits magazine.
726877 Kopke & Ca Colheita Port 1984, Portugal $36.70: A single vintage tawny port of magnificent aromas: almond, hazelnut, figs and smoke. Get'em while they last, especially for the holidays.
557298 Thirty Bench Riesling Ice Wine 2000, Niagara $22.95 for 100 ml: Gorgeous elixir in a small bottle for a big price. By far, I prefer riesling ice wines with their balancing acidity to the sweetness than the vidals.
954701 Grant Burge Late Harvest Muscat 2002, Australia $13.75: Lovely, lightly sweet wine for sipping on its own or with a fruit dessert.
Highly Recommended White Wines
962258 Robert Mondavi Chardonnay 2000, Carneros, California $39.95: Big, bold, beautiful chard with citrus, pear and hazelnut.
725176 Salmon Run Chardonnay 2000, Finger Lakes, NY $16.95: Ripe melon and pear notes, juicy.
946319 Jackson Estate Chardonnay 2000, New Zealand $20.55: Crisp, lightly-oaked chard, perfectly balanced and food friendly.
991737 Goldwater Sauvignon Blanc Dog Point 2002, New Zealand $19.95: Rev your lawn mowers! Herbal, crisp, wonderful.
746305 Domaine Boyar Barrique Chardonnay 2001, Bulgaria $9.95: Marvelous value: drinks well, nice aromas, not overly complex, but is so well-balanced that it'll appeal to just about any white wine drinker. Best Value White Wine
119222 Cave du Haut-Poitou Sauvignon 2001, France $9.95: A simple, drinkable wine with light herbal essence and good acidity.
707117 Weingut & Strub Riesling Spatlese 1999, Germany $18.50: Love those German rieslings! Nothing like them for food or even on their own -- great acidity, pear and tree fruit, yum! My Top Pick White Wine
Highly Recommended Red Wines
291120 Henry of Pelham Merlot 1999, Niagara $24.95: Smooth, easy-drinking, not heavy or wimpy, just right with lush plums.
708222 Silver Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2000, California $17.95: Terrific value, and the delicious taste of liquid chocolate (I don't mean that literally though, it's not sweet, just full of cocoa aromas and finish.)
722272 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, Sonoma $20.95: Black currant, toasty oak, robust, good value.
960468 Wolf Blass Black Label 1998, Australia $84.95: You've had the yellow, now try the black. Totally awesome wine (yes, I too, wish it weren't this price, but it's a first-class wine.) Bursting with mouth-watering ripe fruit, powerful without clobbering.
583138 Rosemount Mountain Blue Shiraz/Cab 1999, Australia $59: Minty dark chocolate, beautiful, though I like their $32 wine in this release just as much.
484097 Rosemount Traditional Cab/Merlot/ Petit Verdot 1999, Australia $32.95: Spicy and earthy with ripe dark berries, lovely.
940239 Katnook Estate Riddoch Shiraz 2000, Australia $17.95: Held steady at this price for several years (good on mate!)... delicious, full-flavoured shiraz.
738567 Grant Burge Barossa Vines Shiraz 2000, Australia $16.75: Another good value, full-flavoured shiraz, dark berries and supple tannins.
328567 Cathedral Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 1997, South Africa $ 15.95: You'll be surprised at just how good South African wines can be: Dark, rich fruit and some chocolate notes.
942458 Magnotta Bolero Cab/Carmenere/Merlot 1999, Chile $19.95: Terrific wine that's co-produced between Chilean and Canadian wineries. Cassis and toasty oak.
712224 Domaine Jacques Prieur/Antonin Rodet Beaune 1er Cru 1998, Burgundy $49.85: If you like your pinot noir dirty rough and dirty in the Old World style, run for this one.
989921 Henri de Villamont Fixin 1er Cru 1999, Burgundy $33.70: More elegant than the one above, but not as robust. Classic earthy and cherry aromas like above.
951707 Mommesin Domaine de la Conseillere 2001, Beaujolais $16.65: This isn't the nouveau stuff, but it's still light, fruity and would be heart-stopping with a salmon steak.
744896 Broche, Prop Recolt Domaine Vieux Manoir de Maransan Chusclan 2000, Rhone $12.40: Terrific value with blackberry and cedary notes.
943506 Creta Olypias Miramelo 1999, Greece $9.90: Another fantastic value from Greece. Very rustic Old World style, but so interesting -- dried berries, cranberry and leather.
986513 Marchesi di Barolo Barbaresco Riserva 1997, Italy $46.80: Drink this if you've never had a barbaresco, or even if you have -- it's about as good as a wine gets from this grape, and it's magnificent! Supple, ripe fruit and a long finish. Don't just drink shiraz and cabs -- that's like wearing black ALL the time for goodness sake!) My Top Pick Red Wine
936591 Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocce Brunate 1997, Italy $84.90: Heavy hitter barolo guy -- serious smoke, tar (good for your heart when they come as aromas in wine), mocha and black fruit. Scored 90 with Stephen Tanzer.
981019 Batasiolo Langhe 2000, Italy $10.80: Extraordinary value, mouth-watering violets, blueberries and black pepper. Best Value Red Wine
365536 Marchese de Frescobaldi Montesodi Chianti Rufina 1999, Italy $49.95: Magnificent chianti -- sour cherry, full-bodied blackberry and currants, mildly furry on the tannins (will age five years). The Wine Spectator gave it 92.
462812 Masi Vaio Armaron Amarone 1996, Italy $64.65: Massive wine with raisin, blackberry and blockbuster body. Should age well into 2396.
955120 Chateau Reine Didon Cabernet/Shiraz 2000, Tunisia $10.50: Another terrific value, with chocolate notes and dark fruit.