© 2008 by Randy Buckner
This month's focus is on Beaujolais and Champagne. These wines are extremely versatile on the holiday table, and they should not be overlooked.
There are 10 Cru Beaujolais appellations. You are probably familiar with three of the more notable regions, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie and Morgon, but don't ignore the other appellations. From north to south the Beaujolais crus are Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly. These wines are very food-friendly, and they offer terrific value.
This month's reviews provide you with several recommendations for the most festive of wines - Champagne! You won't have to make excuses this year when the guests are looking for the sparkling wine. Here's a quick reminder on the sweetness levels of sparkling wines:
Extra Brut (sometimes called Naturel, Brut Sauvage, Ultra Brut, Brut Integral, Brut Zero) - Sweetness level is limited to 0.6 percent residual sugar.
Brut - Sweetness level is limited to 1.5 percent. This is the most common Champagne, and it pairs well with food.
Extra dry - Sweetness level ranges from 1.2 to 2.0 percent. Contrary to the name, it is a little sweeter than Brut.
Sec - Sweetness levels range from 1.7 to 3.5 percent. This one is good for parties and Champagne breakfasts. Normally "sec" equates to "dry" but not in the case of Champagne for whatever reason.
Demi-Sec - This is a sweet wine ranging from 3.5 to 5.0 percent residual sugar.
Doux - A sweet, dessert-style Champagne with over 5 percent residual sugar.
Another 100 new and current releases are presented for your inspection. The dual rating system evaluates quality (the first number) and value (the second) on a 100-point scale. All wines are tasted from Riedel Vinum glasses after breathing for one hour. No wines scoring below 80 points are listed. All prices are the manufacturer's suggested retail price. Vendor prices are often less expensive. As always, enjoy a bottle with dinner tonight.
2007 George Duboeuf, Brouilly, Flower Label, Beaujolais, France, $14, 3,000 cases imported. Ruby red in color, with aromas and flavors of plums, berries and floral notes. Medium bodied, smooth and quite crisp; 84/85.
2007 George Duboeuf, Chateau des Capitans, Julienas, Beaujolais, France, $18, 4,000 cases imported. Black cherries with a dash of dried herbs present on the nose and then expand on the palate. Balanced and fruity, this is a nice match for the holiday table; 86/87.
2007 George Duboeuf, Morgon, Flower Label, Beaujolais, France, $18, 1,000 cases imported. This light-ruby wine is highlighted by tart red cherries and plums, in a soft, smooth package; 84/85.
2007 Louis Jadot, Beaujolais-Villages, France, $10. This wine is soft, tart, and straightforward, with nuances of cherries and currants, and just a hint of black pepper; 83/84.
2004 Louis Jadot, Chateau des Jacques, Beaujolais-Villages Blanc, France, $17. Light gold, with ripe aromas of quince and toffee. It is very soft on the palate, with muted fruit flavors; 83/83.
2005 Louis Jadot, Chateau des Lumières, Morgon, France, $18. This wine is very aromatic. Aromas and flavors speak of black plums and cherries, with a hint of wormwood. Very generous and elegant, with lovely balance; 89/90.
2005 Louis Jadot, Chateau des Lumières, Morgon Côte du Py, France, $34. Underscored by black cherries, plums and tobacco, this wine is well balanced, crisp and tannic. It will benefit from additional bottle time; 89/89.
2006 Louis Jadot, Chateau des Jacques, Moulin-à-Vent, France, $22. Cherries, currants and a hint of barnyard highlight the aromas and flavors. Impeccably balanced, the wine has a flavorful black cherry finish; 90/91.
2005 Louis Jadot, Clos de Rochegrès, Moulin-à-Vent, France, $34. Aromas speak of black cherries, barnyard and tobacco leaf. Elegant and crisp on the entry, with generous rounded tannins and flavors echoing the nose; 89/89.
2006 Potel-Aviron, Beaujolais Villages, France, $13. Cherries and berries abound on the nose and palate. Smooth and well balanced on the entry, this wine is playing outside of its league; 85/88.
2006 Potel-Aviron, Cote de Brouilly, France, $18. This wine is smooth, crisp and generous, with black cherries presenting on the nose and palate; 87/88.
2006 Potel-Aviron, Fleurie, France, $23. Aromas and flavors reveal black cherry, plum and tea leaf accents. Balanced and fruity, you'll also notice a streak of pepper to add interest; 89/90.
2006 Potel-Aviron, Julienas, France, $19. Mixed black fruits and a hint of earth unfold on the nose, while lovely black cherry fruit plays on the palate. Both generous and elegant; 89/90.
2006 Potel-Aviron, Morgon Cote du Py, France, $23. This wine has a very inviting nose of crushed berries and cherries, with a hint of tea and pepper. Full and flavorful on the entry, the tannins are obvious but well managed; 91/93.
2006 Potel-Aviron, Vieilles Vignes, Moulin-à-Vent, France, $23. Black cherries and boysenberries highlight the nose. Smooth and elegant on the entry, the wine shows generous black cherry fruit, backed by fine-grained tannins and a long finish; 90/92.
2006 M.J. Vincent, Domaine le Cotoyon, Julienas, France, $23. Deep garnet in color. Black cherries and berries unfold on the nose and then repeat on the palate. Tannins are firm but ripe; 89/90.
2006 M.J. Vincent, Charmes, Morgon, France, $23. The nose is a fine mix of kirsch, red cherries and earth. Lean, balanced and crisp, with modest tannins and cherry-berry flavors; 86/87.
2004 Chateau Brane-Cantenac, Margaux, France, $49. This is a nice food wine. Medium bodied, elegant and well balanced, you'll find aromas and flavors of blackberries, tobacco, French oak and spice; 88/88.
2004 Lassegue, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, France, $50. Aromas and flavors are underscored by black cherries, anise, dark chocolate and cedar. Well balanced, with a long finish; 87/87.
2004 Chateau Vignot, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, France, $35. The wine has very ripe fruit on the nose, backed by cedar and chocolate accents. Aromas repeat on the palate, augmented by spicy notes and chewy tannins; 85/85.
2007 Alice White, Cabernet Sauvignon, South Eastern Australia, $8. A simple, easy quaffer, with highlights of cherry, cedar and mint leaf; 82/83.
2006 Cru Vin Dogs, Cabernet-Merlot, California, $26. Cherry cola, plums and cedary notes are presented in a moderately tannic, straightforward package; 83/83.
2005 Cru Vin Dogs, Cabernet-Syrah, Napa Valley, California, $26, 1,073 cases. This wine is 75 percent Cabernet from Napa Valley and 25 percent Syrah from the Dry Creek Valley. Raspberries and blueberries dominate the nose. It's well balanced and fruity, with well-managed tannins; 86/86.
2005 Dry Creek Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, California, $23, 11,344 cases. Cherries, plums, berries and dill spice presents across the spectrum, riding on a backbone of crisp acids and firm tannins; 85/85.
2006 Fortant (Skalli), Cabernet Sauvignon, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France, $12. Tart, tannic, with modest fruit, I'd drink this one early on before the berry fruit fades; 83/83.
2006 Gordon Brothers, Red Wine, Silver Anniversary Blend, Columbia Valley, Washington, $45. Deep ruby in color, with aromas of black fruits, dark chocolate and cedar. Smooth and elegant on the entry, the flavors mirror the nose. Tannins are generous but fine-grained; 87/87.
2004 Kenwood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Artist Series, Sonoma County, California, $75, 2,146 cases. The 2004 vintage marks the 30th release of the Artist Series. Currants, Baker's chocolate, tea, vanilla and cedar intermingle on the nose and then expand on the palate. Tannins are well managed; 88/87.
2007 Layer Cake, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $30. Aromas and flavors display a mélange of characteristics - blackberry jam, tobacco, coffee, cedar and spice. Lush and fruity on the entry, the tannins quickly firm up; 86/86.
2005 Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $25, 15,308 cases. Elegant and fruity on the entry, with silky tannins, the wine displays black cherry and currant fruit, with cedary accents; 86/86.
2006 Louis Martini, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California, $17. This wine is very polished on the entry, with generous flavors echoing the aromas of cherries, berries, cedar and vanilla; 86/88.
2006 Oak Grove, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, $8, 12,000 cases. This soft, simple quaffer is highlighted by black cherries, cedar and vanilla; 81/81.
2005 Provenance, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, California, $40. Berries, chocolate, dill spice and vanilla underscore the nose. The generous fruit flavors carry the liberal use of oak at this point. Tannins are well managed; 88/88.
2005 Silverado, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, $45. Almost violet in color. Aromas and flavors reveal blackberries, plums, cedar and mint leaf. The wine is smooth and lush on the entry, but tannins quickly firm up, dictating bottle time; 88/88.
2006 Wolf Blass, Cabernet Sauvignon, Yellow Label, South Australia, $13, 38,500 cases imported. Plums, berries, cedar and mint define the aroma and flavor profile. Tannins are held in check. The plum finish is long and satisfying; 86/89.
NV Adriano Adami, Dei Casel Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, Extra Dry, Italy, $15.50. The fine mousse carries citrus, green apple and peach scents. This sparkler is very fresh and lively in the mouth, with bright fruit that lingers effortlessly; 87/90.
2003 Bollinger, Brut, Champagne, France, $125. A fine, vigorous mousse delivers a mélange of scents - toast, butterscotch, smoke, apples, peaches and vanilla. Full and complex in the mouth, the wine is both crisp and creamy. A touch of honey and warm spices round out the wine; 92/91.
2000 J, Brut, Russian River Valley, California, $50, 3,000 cases. The fine bead carries complex aromas of brioche, roasted nuts, green apples and citrus peel. Lush, complex, creamy and crisp - delightful; 89/89.
NV Le Colture, Cruner, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, Italy, $18. Crisp, lively and fruity, with peach, tropical fruit and melon rind highlights, followed by roasted nuts on the finish; 87/89.
NV Nicholas Feuillatte, Brut Champagne, Epernay, France, $46. A small, vigorous bead courses through this straw-gold wine, delivering pear, white peach and toasty notes. This Champagne is very crisp and elegant, with flavors of peaches, lemons and bread dough expanding on the palate; 90/90.
1998 Palmes d'Or, Brut Champagne, Epernay, France, $150. The packaging of this Champagne is stunning. Brass colored, with a very fine, vigorous bead, the wine has a very complex nose of toffee, lees, baked apples and honey. Crisp and lush, the wine reveals nicely aged flavors of bread dough, lemon curd and caramels; 91/89.
NV Pommery, Brut Royal, Champagne, France, $42. This Champagne has a fine bead and a lovely nose of brioche and lemon zest. It is light, crisp and refreshing, with classic Champagne flavors; 89/89.
2001 Schramsberg, J. Schram, North Coast, California, $100, 4,200 cases (6/750ml). This straw-gold sparkler has a medium-fine bead. Green apples, toast, honey, hazelnuts and lime zest carry from the nose to the palate. Crisp, complex, with a lengthy finish; 91/90.
NV Schramsberg, Mirabelle, Brut, North Coast, California, $22, 13,448 cases. Both of the Mirabelle wines are playing above their price class. Lemon curd, blood orange and toasted almond aromas are carried by a fine bead. Crisp and fruity, the flavors echo the nose; 87/89.
NV Schramsberg, Mirabelle, Brut Rosé, North Coast, California, $25, 1,568 cases. Sporting a brassy pink color and fine bead, this sparkler has aromas and flavors of cherries, strawberries, caramels, cranberries and toast; 88/89.
NV Yellowglen, Pink, Australia, $12. This value sparkler is pale salmon with a medium bead. Citrus and berries unfold on the nose, while flavors reveal peach and tangerine nuances; 85/90.
NV Yellowglen, Yellow, Australia, $12. Straw gold with a medium bead, the aromas reveal lemon and pineapple notes. In the mouth the wine is crisp, with toasty notes and fruit mirroring the nose. Good value; 85/90.
2007 Alice White, Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia, $7. Apples, nuts and butterscotch highlight this simple, crisp quaffer. Serve with a creamy pasta dish; 82/83.
2007 Bogle, Chardonnay, California, $10. Green apples, pears and American oak nuances present on the nose and palate; 83/84.
2005 Cru Vin Dogs, Chardonnay, Dry Creek Valley, California, $16, 562 cases. This light-gold wine is highlighted by citrus, pears and white flowers. It is straightforward, balanced and easy to drink; 85/86.
2006 Cru Vin Dogs, Chardonnay, Dry Creek Valley, California, $16. Straw gold in color, with toasty oak, pear and white peach aromas, which morph into simple lemon and almond flavors; 84/84.
2005 Fortant (Skalli), Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France, $12. Brassy gold, with quince, white peach and honeyed notes, the wine is soft, smooth and tastes more like a Savenniere than a Chardonnay. Kosher wine; 83/83.
2007 Kenwood, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $15, 80,000 cases. Spicy oak dominates the nose and palate, with green apples and pears striving for attention. There's a slightly bitter bite on the finish; 81/81.
2007 Oak Grove, Chardonnay, California, $8, 30,000 cases. Toasty oak and spice dominates the nose and palate, with underlying tropical fruits; 81/82.
2006 Rodney Strong, Chardonnay, Chalk Hill, California, $20. Butter, smoke and green apple aromas give way to a soft, creamy, oaky wine with flavors echoing the nose; 85/85.
2007 Rodney Strong, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, $15. Smoky oak dominates this wine, with butterscotch and spice nuances and a bitter bite; 81/81.
2007 St. Supery, Oak Free Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California, $21. Green apples and melons underscore the nose. While crisp and well balanced, the wine is a little shy on the fruit at this point of evolution. Pair with shellfish; 84/84.
2007 Three Rivers Winery, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 1,305 cases. Aromas of fresh peaches, melons and lemon meringue pie lead to flavors of same, with generous oak spice and bright acids entering the mix; 86/86.
2007 Valley of the Moon, Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California, $16, 10,000 cases. Butterscotch, oak, peach and vanilla aromas repeat on the palate. Well balanced, with a long finish; 86/87.
2007 Woodbridge, Chardonnay, Lightly Oaked, California, $8. This value wine is crisp, fruit forward and food friendly. Enjoy now for the white peach, melon and citrus nuances; 84/87.
2007 Alice White, Merlot, South Eastern Australia, $8. This wine is oaky on the palate, with simple black cherry, plum and currant highlights; 80/80.
2005 Dry Creek Vineyard, Merlot, Dry Creek Valley, California, $19, 4,385 cases. Black cherries, berries, cedar and vanilla unfold on the nose and continue onto the palate. The tannins are firm but rounded; 85/86.
2005 Fortant (Skalli), Merlot, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France, $12. Characterized by bright red berries, cedar and leather, the wine is medium bodied and fruity, with soft tannins. Kosher wine; 85/87.
2005 Grgich Hills, Merlot, Napa Valley, California, $42, 5,790 cases. Deep ruby in color, with accents of ripe plums, chocolate and French oak gracing the nose and palate. Generous and rich in the mouth, with firm fine-grained tannins; 88/88.
2006 Oak Grove, Merlot, California, $8, 12,000 cases. This bargain quaffer offers up cherry cola, plum and cedar notes; 83/85.
2006 Wolf Blass, Merlot, Yellow Label, South Australia, $13, 6,000 cases imported. Berry, mint, anise and American oak accents carry from nose to mouth. Medium bodied, fruity and food friendly; 86/89.
2007 Alice White, Red Lexia, South Eastern Australia, $7. This red blend has a watermelon hue, with an unusual nose hard to describe. It is soft and sweet, with simple berry flavors; 81/82.
NV Chateau Thomas, Slender Blush, Indiana, $11. This pale salmon wine delivers notes of cherries, strawberries and currants across the board. Sweet and crisp; 83/84.
NV Chateau Thomas, Slender Red, Indiana, $11. This ruby-red wine is straightforward and sweet, with cherry, plum and cedar nuances; 80/80.
NV Chateau Thomas, Slender White, Indiana, $11. Peachy, musky, floral accents carry from nose to palate. Sweet and crisp; 82/83.
2007 Clos du Bois, Rosé, Sonoma County, California, $12, 20,000 cases. Highlighted by strawberries and melons, this wine is dry, crisp and fruity. It will pair well with the holiday table foods; 87/89.
2007 Don Miguel Gascón, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, $12, 71,000 cases. A mélange of cherry, berry and plum fruits unfolds on the nose and palate, backed by soft tannins and bright acids. Drink over the next year or two for the juicy fruit; 85/88.
2007 Oak Grove, Viognier, California, $8, 2,000. The wine is muted on the nose and generic in the mouth; 80/80.
2005 Pietra Santa, Sangiovese, Cienega Valley, California, $18, 1,804 cases. Black cherries, anise and cedar unfold on the nose. The wine is tannic, with tart cherry/berry flavors; 84/85.
NV Sacred Stone, Masters Red Blend, Cask 4, California, $10, 18,088 cases. Highlighted by plums, black cherries and barrel spice, the wine is crisp and fruity, with a slightly bitter bite; 83/84. 2007 Three Rivers Winery, Grenache, Wahluke Slope, Washington, $29, 138 cases. Tart cherry and berry aromas are laced with a hint of earthiness. Crisp, lean and moderately tannic, this wine needs a hearty dish to really shine; 87/87.
2007 Valley of the Moon, Pinot Blanc, Sonoma County, California, $16, 8,900 cases. Soft, fruity and balanced, the wine displays pear, orange blossom and citrus nuances, with a hint of cotton candy; 86/86.
NV Warre's, Optima, 10 Year Old Tawny Port, Portugal, $26.50. Brown sugar, raisins, dried figs and hazelnuts underscore this middleweight Tawny. A little spirity; 88/88.
2006 Wolf Blass, Shiraz Cabernet, Yellow Label, South Australia, 20,000 cases imported. Aromas speak of red berries, mint, cedar and dill spice. The wine is very fruity and expressive in the mouth, with a long berry finish; 86/89.
2007 Alice White, Lexia, South Eastern Australia, $7. Very aromatic, with classic Muscat accents, the wine is soft and sweet, with simple Muscat flavors; 82/83.
2007 St. Supery, Moscato, California, $20. Stone fruit abounds on the nose, with underlying white floral notes. Sweet and balanced, this will make a nice after-dinner drink with a fruit tart, or desert unto itself; 87/87.
2007 Oak Grove, Pinot Grigio, California, $8, 4,000 cases. Aromas speak of lemons, peaches and pineapples, whereas the straightforward flavors deliver lemony nuances; 82/83.
2007 Primarius, Pinot Gris, Oregon, $15, 3,000 cases. Light on its feet, the peach and green apple aromas are mirrored on the palate. Nicely balanced; 85/86.
2007 Ponzi, Pinot Noir, Tavola, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $25, 5,104 cases. Aromas of black cherries, tea leaves and mushroom radiate from this light garnet wine. Flavors mirror the nose. Medium bodied, elegant and fruity - perfect for the holiday table; 89/90.
2006 Primarius, Pinot Noir, Oregon, $20, 4,500 cases. Here's a dandy wine for those looking for a delicate-styled Pinot Noir. Light and smooth, the wine is underscored by mixed berries, violets and dark tea accents; 88/90.
2007 Alice White, Riesling, South Eastern Australia, $7. Crisp, off-dry and simple, with refreshing lemon and melon notes; 82/83.
2007 Clos du Bois, Riesling, California, $12. Stone fruit and slate aromas lead to a crisp, off-dry Riesling very similar to a German Kabinett. Good value; 87/89.
2007 Bogle, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $10. Light, crisp and balanced, this value wine reveals lemongrass and tropical fruit aromas and flavors; 85/87.
2006 Cru Vin Dogs, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $14.50, 995 cases. Lemongrass and tropical fruit highlight the nose. Crisp, with modest fruit flavors, the wine finishes with a slightly bitter taste; 84/84.
2007 Lake Sonoma, Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, California, $15, 3,500 cases. Lemongrass aromas and flavors abound, with hints of tropical fruit. The finish is long, soft and fruity; 86/86.
2007 Oak Grove, Sauvignon Blanc, California, $8, 4,000 cases. Straightforward aromas and flavors of grapefruit zest are backed by crisp acids; 82/83.
2007 Provenance, Sauvignon Blanc, Rutherford, California, $20. This wine is crisp, clean and balanced, with a touch of creaminess. Citrus, pineapple and peach accents abound; 87/87.
2007 Rodney Strong, Sauvignon Blanc, Charlotte's Home, Sonoma County, California, $14. Crisp, lean and fruity, this wine is underscored by citrus, pear and melon accents; 86/86.
2007 Three Rivers Winery, Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Washington, $19, 714 cases. Aromas are reminiscent of lemon curd, tart apples and white flowers. The wine is crisp and fruit forward, with lemon and apple fruit lingering on the finish; 87/87.
2007 Whitehaven, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, $22, 75,000 cases imported. Jalapeno and lemon aromas radiate from this sparkling straw-gold wine. It is very crisp and fruity in the mouth, with flavors mirroring the nose; 88/88.
2007 Alice White, Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, $8. Here's a simple, fruity, easy quaffer, with black plum and smoky accents. Enjoy now; 82/83.
2005 Valley of the Moon, Syrah, Sonoma County, California, $16, 4,400 cases. Here's a simple but balanced Syrah, with highlights of berries, tobacco leaf and toasty oak; 83/84.
2006 Wolf Blass, Shiraz, Yellow Label, South Australia, $13, 37,000 cases imported. Blueberries, plums and smoked game carry from nose to palate. It's crisp, balanced and made for food. Good value; 86/89.
2006 Grgich Hills, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California, $35, 6093 cases. Mixed red berry and rhubarb aromas give way to generic red wine flavors. Tasty but not typical; 86/85.
2006 Rodney Strong, Zinfandel, Knotty Vines, Sonoma County, California, $20. Berry jam and floral notes carry across the board. Straightforward but tasty; 85/85.
2006 Valley of the Moon, Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California, $16, 10,000 cases. Mixed berries, vanilla spice and oak aromas give way to nice berry fruit flavors. Balanced, crisp and moderately tannic; 85/86.