|WINE & SPIRITS WITH PANACHE
Of the many wines that became available in 2005 now crowding
retail-shop shelves and restaurant lists, here are four offering
top quality and excellent value.
Geoff Kalish, M.D.
2004 Grgich Hills Fumé Blanc
Better known for its critically acclaimed Chardonnay and Cabernet
Sauvignon, Napa Valley vintner Grgich Hills Cellars also produces
outstanding Fumé Blanc. Made from 100%-estate-grown
Sauvignon Blanc grapes, the wine was partially barrel-fermented,
with a portion (40%) aged for five months in three-year-old
French oak. The finished product has a fragrant bouquet and
a complex taste of mango, grapefruit and exotic herbs, with
a crisp, refreshing finish. The wine pairs perfectly with
shellfish and mild cheeses, and is ready to drink now and
over the next two to three years.
2004 Morgan Twelve Clones Pinot Noir
Obsessed with producing reds to rival French Burgundy, a number
of California vintners have turned to a selection of Pinot
Noir clones planted in cool climates. This wine – made
from 12 clones of grapes grown in Monterey's wind-cooled
Santa Lucia Highlands (just west of the Salinas Valley) –
aesthetically mimics brands from France's Côte
de Beaune. It has a brick-red color, a bouquet of ripe cherries
and spice, and a concentrated taste of fruit and herbs. The
wine marries well with a wide range of fare – including
chicken, lamb and salmon. Enjoy it now and over the next five
to six years.
2004 Verget “Cuvée de la
Butte” Chablis ($28)
In a world awash in overripe, overoaked California and Australian
Chardonnay and overpriced, acidic, flavorless French White
Burgundy, this wine is a revelation. Vinified from ripe Chardonnay
grapes grown on a steep slope just southwest of the village
of Chablis, the fermented juice is allowed to sit for a prolonged
period on the lees (sediment at the bottom of the fermentation
tank), to enhance flavor and complexity. It has a golden color,
a bouquet of thyme, nuts and pears, and a dry, rich taste
of citrus and vanilla with a memorable finish. Drink it now
and over the next six to eight years with oysters, fish and
2003 Valentin Bianchi Particular Malbec
While only a minor part of some Bordeaux blends, Malbec has
emerged over the past century as the most important varietal
for Argentinean reds. The Bianchi Particular contains 100%-hand-harvested
Malbec from the Dona Elsa Estate in Mendoza. Following fermentation,
the wine was aged in new oak barrels (80% French, 20% American)
for 14 months. It exhibits a deep purple color, a bouquet
of rich ripe fruit and spice, and an intense taste of raspberries,
plums and vanilla, with a long, smooth finish. Try it now
and over the next four to five years with grilled beef, lamb
or hearty pasta dishes.
Kalish, M.D., has been writing about wine, food and travel
for more than 25 years, and has lectured in the U.S. and internationally
about matching wine with food.
prices listed are suggested retail.