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By The Glass


Wednesday, December 12, 2001

For giving, consider
both value and
outstanding vintage

This time of year, I'm asked to make two kinds of recommendations. The first is for wines that would be impressive as gifts and the second is for wines at value prices. The wines that follow, I think meet both criteria very well.

The most common holiday request is for great red wines under $20. Here are two:

Charles Family Reserve 2000 ( $16.99) is as sleek a red wine as you'll find, made by superstar winemaker Bryan Babcock. It is a blend in the style of Meritage wines such as Opus One and Insignia. This wine is very limited in production, only available for a short time.

Edmeades Zinfandel Mendocino 1997 ($14.99) captures the wildness of its appellation and combines the richness and intensity of the Zinfandel grape to make for a beautiful red wine unmatched at this price. The 1997 vintage is characterized as one of richness and intensity.

Many times wines under $10 do not offer much in flavor, complexity or integrity of style or varietal character. But consider these three wines and you and your guests will be quite pleased.

Bonny Doon Pacific Rim Riesling ($8.99) is a dry, light white wine that seems made just for our contemporary island foods. This is a terrific wine to start with and even serve with lighter fish courses. The label is unique -- with the likeness of a young woman who looks like my wife.

Laurel Glen Terra Rosa Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 ($9.99) may very well be the value wine of the year. This is a deeply flavored red wine with firm structure that melds into an elegant finish. Try finding a better Cabernet at this price!

Monterra Chardonnay 2000 ($8.99) is the Chardonnay steal of the season. You'll be hard pressed to find another white wine at this price that is this tasty with a bit of toasty oak seasoning and hints of cream overlying its well-centered themes of ripe gala apples. Buy this by the case.

And then there are those special wines that you give to the very special wine lover:

Beaulieu Vineyard "Georges de Latour" Private Reserve 1997 Cabernet Sau- vignon ($79.99) is the top of the line from this famous Napa Valley producer. Wine Spectator magazine rated this wine 95 points. This is one of the most impressive wines this winery has ever produced and one of the superstar wines of the heralded 1997 vintage. It is dense, rich and earthy, with complex currant, earth, cedar, black cherry, mineral and anise flavors and broad, plush tannins. The wine sells for $120 in California. Stunning!

Kendall-Jackson's Cabernet Sauvignon Napa "Great Estates" 1997 ($39.99) is a knockout! The 1997 vintage for California Cabernet Sauvignon was stellar. And a great example of how fine these wines are is right here. This is a ripe, sweet, juicy plum- and wild-berry-flavored red wine that becomes very elegant and sophisticated. This one won't last long!

Richard Field owns R. Field
Food and Wine Co.

This column is a weekly lesson in wine
pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.
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