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May 2005

May 6, 2005

Ridge — 2001 Santa Cruz Mountains Home Ranch

This red blend is the first bottling of Ridge’s estate-grown “Home Ranch,” a term referring to the very first vineyard that winemaking families planted before acquiring other vineyards. For Ridge, this is Monte Bello, a small area tucked away in the Santa Cruz Mountains. From this vineyard comes a very complex wine: a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from 35-year-old vines, balanced with a younger Merlot for a rich, sensuous wine. This blend, with its deep ruby hues, releases aromas of blackberry and ripe red fruits. Oak, currant and spices fill your mouth with hints of eucalyptus and vanilla. The robust beverage will be enjoyed with a peppered steak.

Rating: 15/20
Price: $60

Other Red Blends we've tasted
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May 13, 2005

Mount Riley — 2002 Seventeen Valley Pinot Noir

Let’s head to the Marlborough region of New Zealand for this week’s pick. We have selected the premium label of Mount Riley. Although the producer with 260 acres, three winemakers and an overall annual production of 65,000 cases is of good size, the Seventeen Valley line only offers 2,000 cases at most of any bottling. Truly only a few cases of this Pinot Noir will find their way to the United States. These winemakers went out of their way to ferment a small batch of the juice with traditional hand-plunging techniques, and the wood treatment is gentle enough to let the terroir express itself. “This is a perfect match with grilled salmon,” expresses owner John Buchanan.

“Bill Hennesy, our Chief Winemaker, and his team are proud of this release,” says John’s daughter Amy, Mount Riley’s export manager. “We are making some great inroads in Asia with this line.”

Looking in the glass, you see a deep ruby juice with flavors of ripe blackberry, stewed plums, mocha and spice. This is a complex wine with supple tannins, but its greatest asset is its impeccable balance.

Going to New Zealand? See our travel guide.

Rating: 14/20
Price: $40

Other Pinot Noirs we've tasted
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May 20, 2005

Civello — 2003 Pinot Gris

Even though they are often ignored, we have long considered Oregon whites a great value. The folks at Row Eleven Wine Company from the Rogue Valley in southwest Oregon offer an inaugural release with crisp apple and melon flavors.

Low in alcohol (12.95%), it has good body and fills the mouth with intense flavors all the way to its lasting finish. “Our Pinot Gris is fresh, sexy and a better dancer than Chardonnay,” proclaims Civello Winery owner Brad Miller. It’s a terroir wine fermented in steel, and its lack of malolactic fermentation guarantees freshness and crispness. Although not inexpensive, this wine is still a great value and makes an excellent complement to your next summer barbecue.

Going to Oregon? See our travel guide.

Rating: 13.5/20
Price: $16

Other Pinot Gris we've tasted
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May 27, 2005

Altaïr Vineyards & Winery — 2002 Altaïr

Laurent Dassault of Saint-Emilion’s Grand Cru Classé Château Dassault banded with Guillermo Luksic of Viña San Pedro (Chile’s second largest winery) to create Altaïr Vineyards & Winery, the label of this week’s pick. Basically, these guys mean business and also have the savvy to make good wine. The proof is in the bottle.

Because many wine connoisseurs had not heard or come across the inaugural release of this Chilean joint venture, we were suspect of this new offering. But after picking up the bottle, inspecting the immaculate cork, then looking, swirling, sniffing and tasting, our reaction was nothing short of “wow.”

Look out Colgin and Screaming Eagle. With grapes grown in the Cachpoal and Maipo valleys of Chile, this vino oozes the terroir: Cabernet Sauvignon (86 percent), Carmenere (7 percent) and Merlot (7 percent). Inasmuch as this is a robust, deep-color food wine, we recommend sipping it. Layers of scent and flavors escape on take off: black current, coffee, tobacco and cedar. A velvety feel seduces your mouth with ripe red fruit character leading you to a slightly rustic herbaceous landing. ¡Muy bueno!

Pair it with rich meats like lamb, grilled steak or salmon, or with strong cheese like cheddar or Asiago. Although this wine is nice to drink now, we’d love to revisit this one every 10 years.

Rating: 17.5/20
Price: $55

Other Cabernet Sauvignons we've tasted
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