Vintages Release December 2004
By Natalie MacLean
December 4: Sparkling Wines
145169 LA GRANDE ANNÉE CHAMPAGNE 1997 $124.95 (XD = extra dry) Bollinger, France: Vintages catalogue (VC): Bollinger makes vintage-dated champagnes only in the best years, and only makes La Grande Année from a strict selection of the very best fruit. Rather unique to Champagne, this deluxe bubbly is barrel fermented. This 1997 has the potential to age substantially or can be enjoyed now with smoked salmon and caviar. My note: a sublime champagne with toasty richness and depth. Bring in 2005 with style. Score: 93/100.
384529 SPECIAL CUVÉE BRUT CHAMPAGNE $69.95 (XD) Bollinger, France: VC: Special Cuvée' was so named in 1911 when William Folks, the then partner of the illustrious London House of Mentzendorff, declared it would be an insult to simply call this great wine 'non vintage', suggesting instead it should be called 'Special Cuvée'. My note: Lots of creamy layers and more toasty fruit. This is what Dom Perignon was referring to when he said, "I'm drinking the stars!" Score: 90/100.
642470 BRUT CHAMPAGNE $57.95 Design Paris Bottle (XD) Duval-Leroy, France: VC: Duval-Leroy's stunning hand-painted bottle that depicts famous scenes throughout Paris (Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, Arc de Triomphe and the café scene) is as visually exceptional as the superb bubbly within. A perfect gift for Francophiles. My note: buy it for the bottle and enjoy it for the taste. A nicely balanced champagne that would pair well with shellfish or go down nicely on its own as an aperitif. Score: 89/100.
479758 ROEDERER ESTATE BRUT $36.95 Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California (D = dry) Roederer Estate: VC: In 1981, the legendary Champagne house Louis Roederer brought its homeland philosophy with them when they began their New World adventure: they own all the vineyards they use for their product and they add oak-aged reserve wines to each year's cuvée. Enjoy with rich seafood dishes. My note: This is actually a rose, even though that's not noted in the catalogue as such (just the picture). It's lovely: raspberry and strawberry notes tickle your nose. It's very festive visually and would be elegant with a raspberry floating on top as a garnish in your glass. The regular non-rose version is the sparkling wine I recommend most often as the best for the money and is in stores year-round (294181, $32.95). Score: 89/100.
192898 SONOMA BRUT $27.95 Sonoma County, California Méthode Champenoise (D) Gloria Ferrer: VC: History and family mean a great deal to winery founder, José Ferrer, for he built his winery to resemble buildings in Catalonia, Spain - from whence his family comes - and named the winery as a tribute to his wife. 'Sonoma' Brut was their first wine when they opened their doors in 1986. Ideal with asparagus in a white sauce and grilled quail or duck breast. My note: A good value for a pleasant sipper. Score: 87/100.
521773 CAVA CUVÉE RAVENTOS $16.95 Método Tradicional, Spain (XD)
Codorníu: Cava is the Spanish word for sparkling wine that's made the same way as is champagne. This one is a very basic but pleasant sipper with a dry finish. Score: 84/100.
December 4: Fortified and Dessert Wines
650366 ALLESVERLOREN PORT 1998 $17.95 WO Swartland, South Africa, Estate Wine (MS = medium sweet) Allesverloren: An incredible value for this gorgeous port-like dessert or after-dinner wine. Rich layers almonds and caramels... perfect for that crackling fire with an Irish Setter at your feet. Score: 90/100.
692491 COMMANDARIA ST. NICHOLAS $14.95 Cyprus (S = sweet) Etko: Forget sugar plums dancing in your head, put them in your glass. This delicious elixir of baked fruit has nutty goodness and warmth for more postcard scenes. Score: 88/100.
642173 MOSCATEL ORO $15.95 Dessert Wine, Spain (MS) 500 mL
Miguel Torres: VC: Made with the Muscat of Alexandria grape, Torres's Moscatel Oro is a voluptuously scented, concentrated dessert wine that would match fruit tarts, crème caramel, puddings, dried fruit, nuts. My note: Very exotic with layers of spice and orange peel. Plan now for those moments over the holidays when you sneak away to the den and have a nip. Score: 90/100.
917252 'NOBLE ONE' 2002 $27.95 Botrytis Semillon, New South Wales (S) 375 mL De Bortoli Wines, Australia: Richly concentrated nectar, with loads of ripe pear and peach aromas. Score: 91/100.
926444 CHÂTEAU ROUMIEU 2001 $21.95 AC Sauternes, France (S) 375 mL Catherine Craveia-Goyaud, Prop.: VC: The classic sweet wines of Sauternes are almost as traditional at Christmas time as gifts, decorations and turkey dinner. Château Roumieu's version is an intensely flavored sticky that is beautifully balanced by a crisp, refreshing acidity. My note: incredibly great price. Ideal for foie gras. Score: 91/100.
650440 'NIVOLE' MOSCATO D'ASTI 2003 $12.95 DOCG (M) 375 mL
Michele Chiarlo, Veneto, Italy: VC: Moscato d'Asti's aromatic intensity and moderate sweetness make it a perfect partner to a lot of the richer and spicier foods we enjoy around Christmas. It also is an excellent match for many desserts and makes a great after dinner libation. It is topped off by a delightful light effervescence and moderate alcohol (5.5% alc./vol. in this case). My note: a purdy little sipper. I can't imagine a better match for a fruit flan or crème brulee. Works well as an aperitif or after-dinner drink too, for those who don't want anything too heavy. Score: 87/100.
December 4: White Wines
678243 GEWURZTRAMINER 2003 $11.95 Proprietors' Reserve', Okanagan Estate, VQA Okanagan Valley (D = dry) Jackson-Triggs Okanagan, B.C.: If you love the style of gewürztraminer, with its classic lychee nuts, grapefruit and spice, you'll really enjoy this wine. A terrific value, too. Would pair well with Asian dishes and spicy chicken. Score: 86/100.
677062 CHARDONNAY 2002 $19.95 Gimblet Road, Hawkes Bay, North Island (XD) CJ Pask, New Zealand: Tart yet creamy... how is that? Far but near, light but dark... in short, a wine of contradictions. The ultimate boring chicken dish wine (helps you ignore the chicken). Score: 88/100.
677245 SAUVIGNON BLANC 2003 $15.95 Marlborough, South Island (XD) Grove Mill Wine Co., New Zealand: Terrific value. Herbal and zesty with mouth-watering refreshment. Ideal for shellfish, cream sauces and creamy cheeses. Score: 88/100. Best Value White Wine
975672 SAUVIGNON BLANC 2003 $19.95 Marlborough, South Island (XD)
Kim Crawford, New Zealand: I've recommended this particular wine vintage after vintage. It has wonderful depth of flavor, with herbal and grapefruit notes. Excellent too with shellfish, cream sauces and soft cheeses. I applaud the screwcap: easier to open and your wine won't be corked (ruined). Score: 90/100.
9879 CHARDONNAY 2002 $18.95 WO Paarl, South Africa (XD) Glen Carlou: Another great value. Balanced, round and smoky with ripe pears and melon. Score: 89/100.
722405 RIESLING AUSLESE 2002 $45.95 QmP, Nackenheimer Rothenberg, Estate Bottled (MS) Weingut Gunderloch, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany: Santa I've been good! This wine is proof that you don't need big alcohol for big taste. This one weighs in at just 7.5% alcohol, about half of what you'd get in many big wines these days, and yet this wine has exquisite flavor. Ripe pears and mineral depth with a finish as long as from here to the North Pole. Its code is medium sweet, but to me, there's just a touch of sweetness, enough to soften it and give it a luxurious mouthfeel. Score: 93 Favorite White Wine
December 4: Red Wines
643395 CABERNET FRANC 2002 $18.95 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (XD) Angels Gate Winery: A fine effort by winemaker Natalie Spytkowsky. Rich and layered with dark red fruit but not heavy. Medium-full bodied. Pair with steak or hamburger. A winery worth visiting if you go to Niagara. Score: 89/100.
597039 MERITAGE 2002 $24.95 Dark Horse Estate Vineyard, VQA Okanagan Valley, B.C. (XD) Inniskillin Okanagan Wines: Balanced and very pleasant all-round wine with dark berry fruit and mocha notes. Score: 87/100.
719211 ZINFANDEL 2002 $24.95 Ancient Vines, California (D) Cline Cellars: VC: The 2002 Ancient Vines Zinfandel draws primarily from a wide selection of our oldest, most historic and shyest-bearing Zinfandel blocks in Contra Costa County. The grapes were planted by Italian and Portuguese immigrants in the sandy, phylloxera-resistant soils of Oakley, California. These ancient, dry farmed vineyards - some over 100 years in age - consistently produce fruit of stunning concentration. Food match: spicy beef dishes. My note: aromas of vibrant ripe berries with good acidity for food. Medium- to full-bodied. Score: 90/100.
524926 SHIRAZ 2001 $19.95 Barossa Valley, South Australia (D) Yalumba: VC: The addition of 5% of the white grape Viognier adds a layer of aromatics to the wine. My note: A producer of delicious, good-value wines. This wine has smoky oak and ripe plums. Drink now until 2006. Score: 89/100.
718940 'GOATS DO ROAM' 2003 $11.95 WO Western Cape, South Africa (D) The Goats Do Roam Wine Co.: VC: Goats do Roam has proven to be much more than a cheeky take-off on the Rhône Valley's Côtes-du-Rhône wines. The 2003 is a perfect reception/holiday party wine. It is bright and fruity, enjoyable on its own or with a variety of foods served at this time of year. MY note: Not baaaaaad. Simple but serviceable, especially for large parties. Full-bodied with red fruit. Score: 83/100.
680181 CHÂTEAU BRILLETTE 2000 $44.95 Comte du Perier de Larsan, AC Moulis en Médoc, Cru Bourgeois, Bordeaux, France (XD): Rich, deep aromas of mocha, cassis and black currant. A touch tannic. Pair with steak and lamb. Drink 2005-2009. Score: 89.5/100.
680173 CHÂTEAU FOURCAS DUPRÉ 2000 $35.95 AC Listrac-Médoc, Bordeaux, France (XD): Sensational nose of smoke, oak, leather, mocha. Not a lot of fruit aromas. Medium- to full-bodied. Drink until 2005. Score: 89/100.
693994 CHINON LES MORINIÈRES 2003 $14.95 Loire, France AC (XD) Domaine Joseph Mellot: VC: This Cabernet Franc-based wine is a flattering, fruity wine that is perfect for current enjoyment. The aromas recall raspberry and spring flowers. It is dry and fresh with gentle tannins for balance. Medium-bodied with a medium finish. My note: Light- to medium-bodied spicy red with a bit of a grip on the palate. Pair with smoked salmon and spicy chicken. Score: 86/100.
718924 CHÂTEAU SAINT GERMAIN 2002 $16.95 Unfiltered, AC Coteaux du Languedoc, France (D) Didier Cabanes, Vign.: A certified organic winery. The wine is purply, grapey and plumy. A touch of tannin. Drink until 2006. Score: 86/100.
972281 'LES MEYSONNIERS' 2001 $23.95 AC Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone, France (XD) M. Chapoutier: Juicy, mouth-watering wine with bright cherries and cedar notes. Touch tannic. Medium- to full-bodied. Pair with tomato sauce dishes. Drink until 2006. Score: 88/100.
999946 VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2001 $15.95 DOC, Veneto, Italy, Ripasso (D) Remo Farina: VC: A bright, fruity/cedary wine with good weight and balance, making it ideal for something simple like pizza, onwards to more complexly flavored Italian dishes. It is dry with a medium body and a good, well-structured finish. My note: Needs food! Feed it tomato sauce dishes, pizza or ratatouille. Score: 85/100.
December 4: Rose
319368 TAVEL ROSÉ 2003 (XD) Rhone, France Château d'Aqueria: A pleasant dry rose with raspberry and strawberry notes. Goes well with pate, salmon and optimism. Score: 88/100.
December 18: White Wines
951095 CHARDONNAY 2002 $19.95 Santa Barbara County, California (D) Firestone Vineyard: Big, buttery chard with nice balancing acidity. Ripe pears and apple notes. Pair with pasta and simple dishes. Score: 87/100.
735241 RIESLING KABINETT 2002 $16.95 QmP, Rheingau, Germany Hattenheimer Schützenhaus, Estate Bottled (MD) Weingut Balthasar Ress: Exotic aromas of peaches, apricots and stones. Ultimate food wine that would pair with many dishes, including the toughies such as cream sauces, shellfish and dry meats. Score: 89/100.
December 18: Red Wines
746958 ZINFANDEL 2001 $31.95 Richard Sauret Vineyard, Paso Robles, California (D) Rosenblum Cellars: Very pleasant wine with plumy richness. Great for barbecue and grilled foods. Score: 88/100.
583146 'GSM' 2001 $34.95 Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre, McLaren Vale/Barossa Valley, South Australia (XD) Rosemount Estate: Full-bodied, almost syrupy concentration of jammy-ripe dark red fruit. Score: 88/100.
940239 SHIRAZ 2001 $17.95 Riddoch, Coonawarra, South Australia (XD) Katnook Estate: Easy-drinking simple wine with ripe red fruit and good acidity. Pair with tomato sauce pasta or pizza. Score: 86/100.
650333 SHIRAZ 2001 $15.95 WO Swartland, South Africa (D) Allesverloren Wine Estate: VC: This winery's name is perhaps the most unusual in winedom. 'Allesverloren' (Afrikaans for 'all is lost') was what the original owner cried out in despair when he returned to his estate late one night to find marauders had destroyed his home and his vineyards. My note: South Africa's great red grape, I believe, is shiraz, not pinotage (which almost always makes me think of burnt rubber). This wine is spicy, with ripe red plums. Full-bodied and delicious. Score: 86/100.
640938 'DON NICANOR' 2001 $16.95 Luján de Cayo, Mendoza, Argentina (XD) Bodegas Nieto Senetiner: VC: The wine is an equal blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot. The bright berry fruitiness is surrounded by a lively spiciness. The aromas also suggest plum. It is dry, medium-bodied and exhibits a medium long finish. Food match: peppered sirloin or grilled kidneys. My note: Full-bodied with mocha notes, touch tannic. Great Value. Score: 86/100. Best Value Red Wine
589812 SYRAH RESERVA 2002 $22.95 Limited Edition, Maipo Valley, Estate Bottled (XD) Viña Perez Cruz: VC: Deep ruby, almost as black as molasses. Aromas recall ripe blackberry, dark chocolate and delicate smoky oak tones. This dry and impressively tannic wine has layers and layers of fruit beneath just waiting to come to the surface. Full bodied with a very long finish, this wine will reward mid-term ageing (2-5 years). My note: An extraordinary wine that I hesitate to recommend because I'd like to buy some myself. Big but balanced. Smooth as silk on the palate with smoky ripe plums and deep mocha notes. Score: 91/100. Favorite Red Wine
957282 CHÂTEAU DE L'ENGARRAN 2001 $17.95 St. Georges d'Orques', AC Coteaux du Languedoc, France (D) S.C.E.A. Château de l'Engarran: VC: The château of Engarran is an 18th century building on the estate founded in 1632 by Henri d'Engarran. The top red wines here use a typical and traditional blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Cinsault. Food match: cassoulet, turkey dinner. My note: Bright red fruit aromas with good acidity for pasta and ratatouille. Medium- to full-bodied. Score: 86/100.
948059 'NATURE PERRIN' ROUGE 2001 $15.95 AC Côtes-du-Rhône, France (XD) Perrin et Fils: A certified organic winery. Simple red berry notes, a minty finish and a bit of a grip on the palate. Medium-bodied. Pair with roasts, beef and stew. Score: 86/100.
711317 CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL 2001 $84.95 AC Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France (XD) Vign. Pierre Perrin: A superb wine with amazing complexity, depth and gravitas. Juicy cherry fruit on top and deep plumy depth at the bottom. Full-bodied. Pair with roasts, steak and contract discussions. Also comes in the handy double magnum and half bottle sizes. Score: 92/100.
695882 CHIANTI CLASSICO 2000 $23.95 Tuscany, Italy DOCG (XD) Castello della Panaretta: Ripe red fruit. Almost cabernet-like in its concentration and depth. Nice oak, a touch tannic. Begs for pasta sauce. Score: 88/100.