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Toasted Head Toasted Head 1997 Dunnigan Hills Malbec ($15.99)
Outside Argentina and France's Cahors region, Malbec is more often used as a bit player in the Bordeaux blend of grapes than as a standalone variety; even here, this hearty red from R.H. Phillips Vineyard (www.rhphillips.com) actually has 12 percent Cabernet Sauvignon mixed in. "Toasted Head," the winery's line of wines aged in trademark oak barrels, is made noteworthy, they say, because not only the oak barrel staves but their heads or ends are "toasted" or lightly charred to add flavor. Unlike many New World wines, though, Toasted Head isn't so oaky that the wood overwhelms the fruit. This wine is a very dark ruby in color, with spicy oak and plummy fruit aromas and flavors in balance. Bright fruit flavors and tart acidity team up to make a full-bodied wine that's warm and fresh. (July 22, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: Excellent with a hickory-smoked pork loin served in corn tortillas with mild green chiles.

Clock This wine was featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor, my free weekly E-mail bulletin of quick wine tips, advice and tasting notes. Click here to join the E-mail list!

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All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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