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Curl up by the fire with a glass of full-bodied flavor.

Byline: Simply Wine by Roger Rutan For The Register-Guard

IF YOU HAVE a fireplace, I just bet that you have used it in the last few weeks. With these dark, short and cold days, we need to brighten up our lives in any way we can.

But we have many weeks of winter still ahead of us, so I want to help cheer them up by telling you about some great value-priced red wines that you can enjoy as you cuddle up in front of the flames. Full-bodied red wines are the "comfort beverage" of winter because they warm you all over.

A buyer's market

Whether it be red or white, there is a glut of wine on the market in America. This is a result of increased domestic production and a huge slug of imports.

Smaller wineries, such as most in Oregon, cannot deeply discount their wines just to sell them. They can't afford the loss. But the big conglomerates can and will.

Looking at January price lists, I see several wines that are discounted as much as 50 percent. Many are on sale for 10 percent or more off recent prices.

Retailers will select the wines that they will feature, so if you shop multiple wine stores, you will see a wide variation of what is on sale. No one store can feature everything, especially when you are talking about good-value reds. The prices shown for the wines I tasted and am recommending are average retail prices. If a retailer is featuring that wine, your price could be lower.

Many of these wines are frequently on sale throughout the year. These same wines, at the regular price, are overpriced, in my opinion. These wines are noted with "buy on sale."

Tasting time

A gentlemen asked me the other day if I tasted all the wines I write about. Yes! I will never review a wine I have not personally tasted. I am often joined in the tasting process by friends or family, and their input is helpful. This time it was the Lynch and Fergusson clan, plus my bride. Yes, I like the wines I report on, but what I like is not important. What I hope you will do is read my description of the wine to determine if it fits what you like.

2000 Smoking Loon Syrah, California: I find this label to have consistently good values. This full-bodied and full-flavored syrah has fig and chocolate flavors, good balance and is very easy to drink. $8.

1999 J. Vidal-Fleury Cotes-du-Rhone: This French syrah is drier and lighter, with a nice amount tannin. The rich flavor is accented with a touch of spiciness. $13.

2000 Pepperwood Grove Syrah, California: Another label that delivers value. This one took some time to open up, but the reward was a big, fruity wine with nice fig and fruit flavors. $7. (Buy on sale.)

2000 Snoqualmie Syrah, Columbia Valley: Typical of wines from this Washington state region, it is lighter and drier that its California counterparts. A rich feel in your mouth rounds out the experience. $10.

2000 Te Deum Laudamus, Salice Salentino: Italy is the home of so many great-value red wines. This is one of them. The wine from southern Italy has blackberry flavors and good balance. It is a tasty and easy-to-drink wine that has just the right amount of dryness. $10.

2000 Bogle Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel: Bogle makes great-value wines, regardless of the grape variety. Old vines give this wine a special depth of character, with lots of flavors layered in. $12.

2000 Rancho Zabaco Dancing Bull Zinfandel: They have at least three zins, and I find this one to be the best value. Full and rich flavors fill your mouth, and the great fruit makes it so tasty. $9. (Buy on sale.)

2000 Amano Primitivo, Puglia: Raspberry fruit and dark berries give this wine a zinfandel-like quality. $11.

1999 Pepperwood Grove Zinfandel, California: While a little lighter, the zinfandel character is definitely there. Give it a few minutes to breathe. $7. (Buy on sale.)

2000 Viu Manent Malbec: This is a simple wine that delivers some nice flavors, good balance and a very nice finish. $9.

2000 Apoyo Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma: I enjoyed my first taste from this winery. It's very fruit forward and food friendly. $11.

2000 Fusee Cabernet Sauvignon, California: This lighter cabernet is crisp, but not tart, with nice blackberry fruit. $6.

2001 Beaulieu Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon: Beaulieu Vineyards has many cabernets, this one being their basic version. But it has great flavor and full body. $10. (Buy on sale.)

2001 Beringer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon: The lesser quality cabernet from a vineyard that makes many, this wine has true varietal character and excellent flavor. $10. (Buy on sale.)

2001 Santa Rita Carmenere, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon: These red wines from Chile are some of my favorite value-priced reds. $7. (Buy on sale.)

2001 Calina Reserve Merlot: Here's another Chilean wine with deep, rich color, flavor and intensity. $7.50. (Buy on sale.)

1998 Buena Vista Cabernet Sauvignon, Carneros: The deep, dark red color comes from age and its roots in the Carneros region. A medium-bodied wine with complex, delicate, Bordeaux-like flavors. Drink it now while it's at its prime. $15.

1999 Concha y Toro Xplorador Cabernet Sauvignon: A co-worker reminded me to include a Concha wine in my tasting, and I'm glad I did. From their basic jug wines to their premium labels, Concha y Toro wines are great values. This one is fruity, a touch spicy, and has great balance and a long, pleasant finish. $7.

2000 Smoking Loon Cabernet Sauvignon, California: This one's fruity and very tasty with fig and cherry flavors. Another excellent value from this winery. $8.

2000 Echelon Merlot, Central Coast: Echelon are class wines at a fair price. This is a more complex merlot with the traditional softness that people so enjoy. $12.

2001 Santa Carolina Reserva Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon: These are nice wines that are true to the flavor and character of the grapes. $7. (Buy on sale.)

2000 Apoyo Merlot, Sonoma: Let this one breathe for a few minutes, allowing it to fill out into a smooth-tasting wine with bright flavors. $11.

2000 Smoking Loon Merlot, California: Once again, let it breathe in your glass. The berry fruit has a nice touch of spiciness and, like many merlots, is very easy to drink and enjoy. $8.

2000 Fusee Merlot, California: Like its cabernet counterpart, this wine is lighter, fresh and has just the right amount of acidity. $6.

2001 Tarapaca Merlot and Cabernet: These Chilean wines are great buys with true varietal character and rich flavors. $6. (Buy on sale.)

2002 Stone Haven Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon: Although a touch lighter in color and body, they still deliver full flavor and great value. $6. (Buy on sale.)

2001 Mariposa Tapiz Merlot and Malbec: These wines from Argentina are a good buy, each with true varietal character and style. $7. (Buy on sale.) Light up a fire in the fireplace. You have some wine tasting and relaxing to do! Write Roger Rutan at: Simply Wine, The Register-Guard, P.O. Box 10188, Eugene, OR 97440; or send e-mail to rgfeatures@guardnet.com.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Jan 22, 2003
Words:1207
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