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This article shared 2128 times since Wed Nov 12, 2003
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The nice part about my day job—I work at Sam's Wines & Spirits—is getting to taste a whole bunch of wines. Here are some recommendations, from various countries, from what's recently passed by. They are available at Sam's, 1720 Marcey St., ( 312 ) 664-4394. I include some food and cheese matches, too.

Amirault St. Nicolas de Bourgueil 'Les Malgagnes' 2000 ( $16.50 )

When Yannick Amirault tasted the older wines made by his grandfather, he was amazed to find them still youthful and balanced. So he imitates his grandfather's practices. His Les Malganges, is a dark rendition of Cabernet Franc ( it is made from old vines ) , almost inky, quite bold of fruit, long in flavor and with ripe, mature tannins.

Eats: Crisp-skin Roast Duck, Braised Pork Loin with Thyme

Cheese: Chaumes, Bucheron

Domaine Sauvéte Touraine Privilége 1999 ( $11 )

It's not widely known that Malbec grows in the Loire Valley ( where it is called 'Cot' ) . Domaine Sauvéte ( so-VETTE ) blends Malbec with Cabernet Franc for its red Privilége, a wine much darker than many reds from the Loire, with aromas and tastes of black-red fruits such as black raspberries and Bing cherries.

Eats: Lamb Shanks, Grilled Steak

Cheese: Bellay, Camembert

Domaine Sauvéte Touraine Confidence 1999 ( $12 )

Domaine Sauvéte ( so-VETTE ) is in the Touraine section of the Loire Valley, at the very western end of the sector where Sauvignon is planted. The area can be extraordinarily warm at the end of the season, when the Sauvignon will exhibit late harvest characteristics. This wine hints at honey, slight sweetness and enormous length on the tongue.

Eats: Terrine of Foie Gras, Aperitif

Cheese: Petit Basque, Crottin

Fournier Pouilly-Fume Vieilles Vignes 2000 ( $17 )

Fournier's holdings extend through the varied soils of Menetou-Salon, Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre. The long fermentation for this wine takes place in stainless steel, with some aging on the lees. The color is green-gold, with an aroma suggesting ripe orange. The wine has, at once, full-throttle flavor, freshness and finesse.

Eats: Smoked Salmon, Fish Chowder

Cheese: Fresh Chévre, Tomme Basco

Cruchet Vouvray Sec 2002 ( $14 )

Cruchet employs handpicking only, with severe triage of the grapes ( from 40+ year old vines ) , slow pressing and long fermentation on natural yeasts only. This dry Vouvray is downright zippy with acidity, but also has full, round flavors of honey and pears, and aromas of beeswax and white flower petals.

Eats: Clam Chowder, Moules Mariniére

Cheese: Saint Marcellin, Pico

Red Rock Syrah Santa Barbara County 2000 ( $12 )

A product of Beckmen Vineyards and its Syrah vineyard on Purisima Mountain, this Syrah is a mini-Cote Rotie, with its opaque color, aromas and tastes of bacon fat, blackberry, blueberry and vanilla, and its abundant but puffy tannins. Although chock full of fruit and a mouthful, it's medium-bodied and eminently gulpable. And it is an amazing buy.

Eats: Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks, Baked Ratatouille with Cheese

Cheeses: Chimay, Black Diamond Cheddar

Cuvee Clemente Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs Brut 2000 ( $9 )

Sparkling wines from Burgundy are Charlie Browns—the kind of bubbly kicked around wine's playground for too many years. But Burgundian sparklers use Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, just like Champagne, and the same laborious method. This wine is all-Chardonnay and is fresh and crisp, with a hint of honey and citrus on its long and complex finish.

Eats: Aperitif, Hors d'Oeuvres

Cheeses: Tournevent Chévre, Neal's Farm Caerphilly

Jean Garaudet Beaune 1er Cru 'Belissand' 2001 ( $30 )

Jean Garaudet of Pommard has moved from making highly extracted, muscular Pinot Noir toward wines with silkier, more elegant tannins ( though no less color ) . He has great raw material: old vines and a rigorous selection from them. In style, Beaune Belissand is pleasant and fruity, of medium weight and designed for short term consumption.

Eats: Boeuf Bourgignon, Leg of Lamb

Cheeses: Epoisses, Boursault

Vincent and Francois Jouard Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru 2001 ( $40 )

Francois and Vincent Jouard are both enologists and their vines are in the main quite old, resulting in wines with power and richness. This Premier Cru is straightforward Chassagne: aromas of ripe fruits ( white peaches especially ) , touched with honey. It is delicious now, but will improve markedly over three to five years.

Eats: Chicken En Sauce, Escargots

Cheeses: Bucheron, Bleu de Gex

Olivia Chardonnay Padthaway South Australia 2001 ( $22 )

The name comes from Olivia Newton-John, part owner. The grapes for this wine come from the famed Terra Rosa soils of Padthaway. They were fermented in new French wood, then left for two months. The wine has an intense bouquet of nectarine and peaches, with lots of toasty tones, and is fat and plush.

Eats: Halibut with Fruit Salsa, Chicken with Dried Fruits

Cheeses: Humboldt Fog, Reserve Cheddar

Morambro Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Padthaway 1999 ( $20 )

Morambro Creek uses natural, near-organic vineyard practices and low yields. It ferments and punches down its Cabernet in open-top tanks to maximize color extraction. This wine is intensely flavored and pigmented, with aromas and flavors of blackberry, blueberry, mint and vanilla, and notes of chocolate and coffee. The tannins are firm but puffy.

Eats: Pan-Seared, Spice-Rubbed Steak, Buffalo Chili

Cheeses: Mount Tam, Langres

Madrigal Zinfandel Napa Valley 2000 ( $24 )

After more than 50 years of growing grapes, in 1995 the Madrigal family built its own winery. Its vineyards, all high-density plantings, are in the northern half of Napa Valley. You could pick out their Zins in a crowd—full-throttle black raspberry flavors; waves of exuberant, fresh fruit; hints of black pepper and allspice to finish it all.

Eats: Barbecued Pork Ribs, Beef Soft Tacos

Cheeses: Vermont Impastata Goat with Peppers, Queso Fresco

Destefanis Dolcetto d'Alba Piedmont 2000 ( $17 )

Marco Destefanis only uses vines that are twice his age. So, his Dolcettos have a concentration of exuberant flavors not often found in other Dolcettos. Think of American Zinfandel—dark berries, chocolate, jam-like ripeness—but with puffier, dustier tannins and snappier, zingier acidity. It's best within four years of age, so get to it.

Eats: Baked Ziti with Spinach, Chicken Cacciatora

Cheeses: Pecorino di Fossa, Parmigiano Reggiano

Fattoria Le Fonti Vito Arturo Sangiovese Toscano 1999 ( $32 )

Made of 100% Sangiovese Grosso grapes ( a favorite snack, when ripe, of the local boars ) , ripened by uniform and intense sun on vineyards all facing south. This concentrated red of unusual roundness sports scents and flavors of cinnamon, black cherry and blackberry. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Eats: Duck Breast with Fennel, Pappardelle Bolognese

Cheeses: Caciotta al Tartufo, Toma

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