From the Cellar...Not Another Cabernet: Four Red Gems

By Richard Silverston

Four winning reds from a recent cellar tasting with friends were not Cabs, but were mouthfilling, luscious wines, voluptuous yet soft enough to enjoy drinking now.

Chateau Montelena blended Zinfandel, Primitivo and Sangiovese to create St. Vincent '98, a wine that is soft, spicy, and very appealing to tasters. St. Vincent, the patron saint of winegrowers has a place of honor in the estate vineyard. Chateau Montelena offers four vintages (1996 - 1999) for $97.00 at montelena.com. $26 from Chateau Montelena for the 1998.

Altamura Sangiovese '98: an outstanding Napa producer plus a wonderful Italian varietal equal a wine that will satisfy your most critical wine friends. Luscious tannins, hint of vanilla, well balanced wine, warmth, structure. Great with Italian food, meats, a grilled fish or chicken. Hard to find, though we recently found two bottles at Mr. G's in Plano for $34.95. Call John Shirley, Wine Director, 972.867.2821 x5.

Turley Tofanelli Zinfandel '98: Berries and cherry flavors rise above the tannins in this 15.9% powerhouse. Revered Napa winemaker. We are lucky indeed to have a friend on the mailing list who is willing to share the bounty. $75-125, auction and restaurants. Hard to find and a prize.

Rochioli Russian River Pinot Noir '98: Its rich berry fruit harmonized exquisitely with food. $45 a bottle when released, now hard to find but if you're in Chicago try Randolph Wine Cellars. Don't hesitate to buy other wines made from Rochioli's grapes.

Food note: while these reds showed beautifully without food, we prefer to taste with food. In general, the wines married well with the Jamie Oliver inspired fig, mozzarella, prosciutto, and basil salad dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, honey and fresh ground black pepper. The lemon in the dressing was acidic but the honey balanced it so that it was surprisingly wine friendly, giving all wines tasted an equal chance. Bon appétit!

RPS 1/02/03