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franklin county times

Recommendations of the state's best wine offerings

By Staff
Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
July 28, 2004
This column has always been about two things. One, tasty well-made wines. Two, tasty but affordable.
I have little or no interest in boutique wines made in quantities of under 500 cases and carrying prices written in three figures. Small production wines will almost never make it out of California to Mississippi. If they do, very few people in this state can afford them. What would be the point in writing about wines you can't buy or if you can, carrying prices you can't afford?
For the past few days, I've been studying the state's wine list. Here are a few recommendations that combine quality, yet won't break your particular bank. Some you may have read about before. Some may be new to you.
Australian wines are one of today's biggest bargains. They are packed with flavor and yet are within reach. Any Australian wine with Greg Norman on the label is an outstanding wine for under $20.
The same can be said about the Rosemount wines. Their black label Shiraz makes my Top 5 list for its combination of quality and price. Their cabernet is also outstanding. I don't like their blends as well as their single grape wines and advise you, even though they cost less, to stay with the higher quality wines. If you really want a treat, try a bottle of Clarendon Hills Grenach for about $35. Critic Robert Parked rates it at 92-94 on the 100 point scale. A marvelous wine. But in truth, you can't miss with any wine from Australia.
Moving to California, I recommend any wine made by the Murphy-Goode winery, particularly its sauvignon blanc. Rabbit Ridge is an outstanding low-priced producer. Bogle wines are proof that tasty wines can be made and sold for under $10 and the same is true of J. Lohr. If you want an example of chardonnay at its best, buy the Landmark Overlook at about $23. Stay away from Robert Mondavi's Coastal wines. Overpriced and little flavor.
If you want a Mondavi wine, buy only their Napa bottling and up. Markham wines, while a bit pricier, are always top of the line. I've never had a bad St. Supery and their sauvignon blanc is as good as it gets for about $16. As for merlot, America's favorite wine, put their Pine Ridge at the top of your list. For a bit less, the Bogle, J. Lohr, Markham and St. Supery will do nicely among others.
If you are a pinot noir lover, Selby is very nice as is the Morgan.
Karly zinfandels come in three price ranges and every one is true value. Their Warrior Fires bottling is one of California's best. Ravenswood is also highly recommended and Seghesio, if you can find it, is a steal.
One other note. Kendall Jackson chardonnay is highly popular, but take my word for it, the wine is simply not comparable with others of the current vintage. Their new 2002s have received justifiably bad reviews and this is a great year for chardonnay.
I simply cannot recommend any French wine. Yes, they are tasty, some are superb, but you can get other wines that are comparable, or almost so, for much less money.
Most Italian wines have become too expensive also, but not the Monsanto Chianti Classico Reserve. It's another of my Top 5 wines. It will cost about $20, but you will be getting your money's worth. Lovely.
Wines from Oregon and Washington are good and getting better every year, but stick primarily to their chardonnay and pinot noir. I haven't found a cabernet sauvignon from that area yet that I really think is outstanding.
Ports from Portugal are stunningly wonderful, particularly their red ports as opposed to tawny ports. A glass of port and a piece of semi-sweet chocolate is a wonderful way to end a meal.
Don't be afraid to buy a bottle or two from Spain. They aren't quite at the level of the Australian wines as bargains, but they have some really lovely bottles you'll enjoy.
If you are a sparkling wine fan, we recommend Spain's Montsarra Cava Brut Non-Vintage for about $13. America's Roederer sparkling wine (about $26) is probably this country's best, but Pacific Echo for $2 or $3 less per bottle gives it a run for its money. If I simply had to have a French champagne, I'd probably select Deutz Brut Classic non-vintage. It's a very good buy for $20.
These are only a few of the wines on my current "to buy" list. Try a few and see what you think. After tomorrow night's all 2002 vintage chardonnay tasting, we'll probably be able to add several more. If you're interested in attending, call 482-0930 and inquire if space is available. It starts at 6:30 at Northwood Country Club, but the public is invited to attend. We'll taste seven wines from the 2002 vintage, considered to be one of the best in California history. The price is only $25.

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