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november 2004: seeing red (wine, that is!)

wine recommendations from amy reiley

by Amy Reiley

Red is the color of Christmas and it is also the color of most of the world’s finest wines. This holiday season, dress yourself in red with any or all of these saucy numbers.

Patz and Hall
2002 Pinot Noir, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino, CA
Liquid velvet. This is one of those rare, boutique bottlings that hits the right balance between grape growing and winemaking. Too often premium wines suffer from over-coddling by the winemaker, but sometimes, as in the case of this romantic, cherry red Pinot, the wine sings with complexity and interest. $$$$

Fairview
2002 Shiraz The Beacon, Paarl, South Africa
This inky black wine is almost thick with body and flavor. Though a touch overripe in its fruit flavors, its cooked berry taste is balanced by a biting, brambly finish. $$$

Duckhorn
1999 Estate Cabernet, Patzimaro Vineyard, St. Helena, CA
One of the most interesting interpretations of Napa Valley Cabernet offers a constantly evolving array of flavors. Cumin, currants, brambles and leather are are just a small sampling of this Cab’s many moods. $$$$

red wineCosentino
2002 Petite Sirah, Lodi, CA
From its striking ruby color to its floral and herbal aromas, this wine shows what an interesting wine the Petite Syrah grape can produce. $$$

Principe Corsini
2000 Chianti Classico Don Tommaso, Tuscany, Italy
While pretty is not normally the first word that pops to mind when describing Chianti, pretty is what this wine most certainly is. Well structured with herbal and earthy nuances, it’s a wine that is pleasurable on its own or with a meal. $$

Ceja
2000 Vino de Casa Red, Napa Valley, CA
Gorgeous plum color, complex aromas, fine balance — what more could you ask from a Napa wine? You could ask for something affordable and thanks to the Ceja family, that wish is a reality. This new red blend from Napa’s leading Hispanic winery represents gourmet drinking on even the most paltry budget. $$

Gary Farrell
2002 Zinfandel, Sonoma County, CA
Some say it’s a sin to recommend Zin among the great reds, but when a winery gets it right, this bad boy varietal can be so good. Gary Farrell’s rendition leans toward the grape’s luscious side, with a complex and mouth-filling array of berry and cherry flavors dancing across the tongue. $$$

Elderton
2001 CSM, Barossa Valley, Australia
A wonderful wine by any measure, the CSM (Cab, Shiraz, Merlot) is a leader of the pack among Aussie reds. Rich and full-flavored, its generous berry flavors are nicely balanced by tart acidity and just a little, indefinable, earthy something to round it all out. $$$

Les Tourelles de Longueville
2001 Red Bordeaux, France
The “downscale” lable of the acclaimed Pichon Baron Chateau, Les Tourelles, although a much more affordable drink, flashes with the brilliance of its Bordeaux origins. Bright fruit flavors mingle in perfect harmony with the taste of the Medoc soil. $$$

Joseph Phelps Vineyards
2001 Le Mistral, Monterrey County
An homage to the exceptional wines of France’s Rhone Valley, Le Mistral is a stirring blend featuring Syrah and Grenache. It is a mouth-filling wine packed with berry and herb flavors rounded out by its bold, tannic structure. $$

$ under 15USD
$$ 15-25USD
$$$ 25-50USD
$$$$ over 50USD

September 2004: Stickies (dazzling dessert wines)

wine recommendations from amy reiley

woman on wine with amy reiley

When considering wines to purchase and enjoy, sweet things are all too often ignored. And for those who consider themselves aficionados of “stickies,” it’s usually France’s Sauternes region that initially tickles their fancy. But Sauternes are rare and expensive prizes. For those of us with a more practical nature, there’s a world of sweet gems just waiting to be explored. Exotic, enticing and unforgettable, once you’ve experienced the dazzling variety of dessert wines produced around the globe there’s no turning back.
BERINGER
2000 Nightingale, California
A bright, clean, fresh, floral wine, Nightingale make for a lovely, lady-like drink. Although it is not the most complex and carefully crafted of liquid desserts, it is definitely among Napa Valley’s better buys. $$$

BONNY DOON
NV Framboise, California
Sweet and saucy, this is one of the wine world’s most fun drinks. The winery promotes it as a foolproof tool in the art of seduction. Valentine red in color its raspberry flavors practically leap from the glass to coat love-starved lips. Unless your guests are allergic to raspberries, you’re very likely to score when you serve this wine. $$

stickiesCHAMBERS
NV Muscat, Australia
One of Australia’s most beloved “stickies,” this rich, ruby Muscat sends an endless parade of decadent aromas and flavors across the palate, including rose petals, cherries and black tea. $

DELAFORCE
Curious & Ancient 20 Year Old Tawny Port, Portugal
Among the world’s oldest Tawny brands, the Curious & Ancient formula for success stretches all the way back to the 1930’s. Rose petals, honey, vanilla and cream – its aromas and flavors are as beautiful as a voluptuous young woman. $$$

FAR NIENTE
2000 Dolce, California
The benchmark of American dessert wines, Dolce’s market savvy packaging and Napa Valley address probably contribute to its reputation. But make no mistake, the wine’s fine crafting is undeniable. And whether or not its reputation is inflated, Dolce is without a doubt a seductively rich, special occasion elixir. $$$$

FONSECA
2000 Vintage Port, Portugal
Mother Nature clearly smiled on Fonseca in 2000. A brawny, complex and vibrant drink, its flavors run the gamut from lemons and honey to dates to chili. Still young and wild, its underlying gamey quality hints at the mellow, nuance-rich wine that is sure to emerge after a few years in the bottle. $$$$

JACKSON-TRIGGS
2001 Vidal Niagara Peninsula Icewine Proprietor’s Reserve, Canada
Icewine is elixer with which the Canadian wine industry truly shines and Jackson-Triggs’ rendition is hands down among the finest. Weighty on the palate, its apple and honey flavors coat the tongue with the wine’s mischief-inspiring sweet nectar. $$$$

KARLSMUHLE
2002 Lorenzhofer Riesling Eiswein, Germany
As Karlsmuhle’s stunning efforts demonstrate, Germany reigns supreme in the world of sweet white wines. Thick and sweet as passionfruit syrup, its vibrant tropical flavors speak of a land where palm trees sway in the salty breeze. Limes, coconut, ginger and plumeria flowers are only a few of this gorgeous Ice Wine’s captivating flavors. $$$$

NAVARRO
2001 White Riesling, California
A beautiful wine, straw gold in color, Navarro’s White Riesling is like peaches and cream. Coating the palate with a sinfully slippery syrup, its juicy stone fruit flavors linger long. $$

PETER LEHMAN
2000 Barossa Botrytis Semillon, South Australia
This is a wine for adventurous palates. Although it lacks the rich creaminess of most finely crafted dessert wines, it makes up for polish with an exciting array of spicy and citrus flavors. $$

$ under 15USD
$$ 15-25USD
$$$ 25-50USD
$$$$ over 50USD

August 2004: Baja Wine

wine recommendations from amy reiley

woman on wine with amy reiley

south of the border

While the region may not be ready to take on the best of Bordeaux, the wines of Mexico’s Baja region are coming into their own. An influx of European vintners looking for affordable vineyard property has sparked the recent growth of an area in which grapes have been cultivated for centuries.

CALIXA
2001 Cabernet Sauvignon
A wine with a sturdy, tannic structure, this Cab the sort you can drink now if you like that “chewy” quality or hold it until it mellows a bit. As with many Baja wines, it suffers a bit from a slightly herbaceous, under ripe characteristic.

EL GRAN
1999 Divino (sweet white)
A glowing apricot color hints at the thick, honeyed flavors to come. A finishing, herbaceous note gives this sweet nectar contrast and interest.

FLOR DE GUADALUPE
2002 Blanc de Blanc (white blend)
This wine’s starring quality it’s mouthfeel – a pleasing, oily weight on the tongue. Somewhat quirky in style, it begins with citrus aromas and finishes with bitter herb.

Baja wineFLOR DE GUADALUPE
2001 Zinfandel
This wine offers some very nice elements, although they never quite come together as a cohesive whole. The aromas of vanilla and raspberry continue to evolve in the mouth to include cherry and caramel flavors and a herbal, tannic finish.

MONTE XANIC
2002 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc
One of the most delightful wines of the Guadalupe Valley, this Bordeaux-style blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc offers a tart zing of acidity and a pleasing hint of tropical fruit flavors.

MONTE XANIC
2001 Syrah
An unusual rendition of Syrah, neither like the Aussie style or the more earthy French, it seems to embrace elements of both styles. Tart berry flavors intermingle with an earthiness difficult to describe.

SANTO TOMAS
2001 Tempranillo Cabernet
Cherry and chocolate are this fun tempranillo blend’s dominant aromas and flavors. With pleasant flavors and nice weight, its one flaw would be it an underlying green, under ripe flavor.

SANTO TOMAS
2002 Tempranillo
A gorgeous plum color announces this wine’s intense flavors, including blueberry and plum and an earthy, brambly note.

The Big O–why you’re going to love Riedel O glasses

Riedel O glassesIn February of 2004, the first family of stemware, Riedel crystal, cut out the middleman between glass and lips. That is, they released a stunning new line of glassware sans stems. According to the manufacturer, the name “O” refers to the glasses’ rounded shape, but we have a few interpretations of our own.

Beyond the innuendos invoked by sexy glass shape, the “O” glasses combine quality craftsmanship with a stunning think-outside-the-box design. The bowl of the glasses replicate those of Riedel’s Vinum series with six shapes, each appropriate for different wine styles including Cab/Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir/Nebbiolo.

We should make one thing clear: these glasses are impossible for cocktail soirees. Without a graceful stem to balance, the drinker is forced to clutch the glass by the bowl a shameful diservice to wine within.

But for dinner parties these tumblers are as fine as a twenty-something starlet dressed in vintage Chanel. Treading a comfortable line between trend-setting and classic, the “O” glasses afford never before seen practicality. Sturdy but sensuous these low to the table numbers are nearly spillproof. And just think how much easier it will be to make eyes with the Cassanova across the table without having to play dodge the stemware.

March 2004: Vineyard Glam Wine with Francis Ford Coppola

wine recommendations from amy reiley

by amy reiley

While most of the world knows Francis Ford Coppola as the man who brought us The Godfather, those in the wine biz consider him a godfather of the American wine industry. Bringing his appreciation for art and undying perfectionism to the world of wine, Coppola has built one of the finest wine empires in California’s revered Napa Valley. His Rubicon is considered one of the finest, (and most expensive) American red wines. But his imposing Niebaum Coppola Estate Winery also produces finely crafted wines for every budget.

2001 BLANCANEAUX
A thirst-quenching, crisp, complex wine, Blancaneaux is a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. The name, literally translated from French means “white water,” but the wine, with its citrus and cut hay flavors and hints of apple and oak is no ordinary “water.” $$$

2002 BIANCO
A fun, flirty blend, Bianco blends Pinot Grigio with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Refreshing with great acidity, it finishes clean with a hint of pleasantly bitter grapefruit. $

2001 CABERNET FRANC
Single varietal Cabernet Francs are on the rise on the American wine scene and this is undoubtedly a fine example as to why. Highly extracted with a gorgeous, plum color, this finely crafted Cab Franc is ripe with tart cherry, currant and blackberry flavors. $$$

wine with francis ford coppola2000 CASK CABERNET SAUVIGNON
A luscious, terroir-driven Cab, the Cask is a beautiful expression of Rutherford soil. A top Napa Valley Cab, the wine exudes lusty blackberry and bramble aromas and flavors. $$$$

2001 DIAMOND SERIES BLACK LABEL CLARET
A pretty blend of Cab, Merlot, Cab Franc and Malbec, Coppola’s Claret is packed with aromas and flavors of exotic spice. Well-priced at under $20, it is an alluring and complex, value-driven wine. $$

2001 DIAMOND SERIES GOLD LABEL CHARDONNAY
A fruity, juicy tropical Chard, the Gold Label offers California lushness without an overabundance of oak. Fairly priced at about $15, its definitely a crowd pleasure among Chardonnay fans. $$

2001 DIAMOND SERIES GREEN LABEL SYRAH
Made with fruit from California’s Paso Robles and Monterrey regions, this is a wine as intensely colored as pen ink. Offering the varietal characteristics of American Syrah, it is a fine example of the grape’s plum and current flavors with the added impact of a long, peppery finish. $$

2001 EDIZIONE PENNINO ZINFANDEL
A tribute to Coppola’s maternal grandfather, the Edizione Pennino Zin is a sweet, spicy luscious expression of Napa Valley fruit. Its aromas and flavors capture the best of baking spices intermingled with cherries, berries and just a hint of vanilla custard. $$$

2002 ROSSO
A blend of Zin, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, Rosso is a crowd-pleasing, rustic blend. A meaty, flavorful wine with cherry and blackberry flavors, it’s an easy-drinking wine – and one that just cries for penne. $

SOPHIA BLANC DE BLANC
Created as a gift to his daughter Sophia, this Blanc de Blanc has become a gift to all lovers of American sparkling wine. Made from Monterrey County, fruit, this limited-production fizz offers floral aromas and clean, light, citrus flavors. $$

$ under 15USD
$$ 15-25USD
$$$ 25-50USD
$$$$ over 50USD