A handful of outstanding wines

Occasionally I like to do short reviews on outstanding wines to help readers differentiate among the amazing number of wines hitting the shelves.

1. Mohua Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Marlborough, New Zealand. With crisp flavors ending in a lemony edge, this wine is perfect for seafood of all types. The citrus finish and clean acidity make it one of my favorites with lighter fare. Just yesterday I made a tuna melt with paprika and a dill slice, and this little hummer was just the thing. About $15.

2. Bandiera Rosé of Syrah 2009, North Coast, California. One of my favorite dry rosé wines. It has lovely palate weight, clean flavors and a very long finish. A varietal hit of Syrah continues throughout the flavor spectrum — nose, front palate and finish. I love the weight on the palate, which makes others in this price range look pale and insignificant in comparison. I serve this wine slightly chilled and it makes all the difference: Too cold and the flavor sensations become restricted and linear; slightly warmer and things explode on the palate. Serve with most seafood and a wide variety of protein and vegetarian selections. This is a nice bottle of wine for the money, under $15.

3. Cotes Du Rhone Saint Esprit 2008, Delas, France. Most Rhones form a wonderful wall of intense front palate feelings of fruit and dark red flavors. This Rhone starts out easy on the palate, then grips the mid-palate with superb weight and finishes with simply elegant, spicy flavors. I love the Rhone Valley, and this bigger, more powerful Rhone reminds me of what a not-too-expensive Rhone can do when made well. I tasted it against a few others, some quite a bit more expensive, and this guy came out on top. Serve southern red Rhone wines with a variety of cuisine. When I worked in the Rhone in the 1970s, game was the big hit with these wines as well as sausage and pork. Traditionally, these southern Rhones are more accessible than their harder brothers from the north and should be consumed five or so years after vintage date. $15.

4. Justin Paso Robles 2005 Syrah. I love Syrah. Over the years, I have had more fun with this grape than just about any varietal. The Justin Paso Robles 2005 Syrah is a stunning example. The area of Paso Robles is just about perfect for an American Syrah in that it give ripeness, vitality and complexity to the grape. This release, the lovely 2005, is packed with lush fruit, endless spice and deep weight on the palate. I love the gentle but persuasive use of oak in the nose and on the finish. I sat there enjoying the nose for a full minute before tasting the wine. The wine rolls gently around the mouth, leaving hints of dark plum and deep cherry and finishes with a hint of black pepper. The other nice thing about this wine is the terrific finish that lasts seemingly forever. Around $25.

5. Michael David Petite-Petit 2008, Lodi. Made of 85 percent petite sirah and 15 percent petit verdot. Folks often pick it up because of the whimsical label — a picture of a circus tent with two elephants sipping red wine. I have not tasted petite sirah and petit verdot (a native of Bordeaux) blended before, and this wine does it quite well. The fruit of the petit verdot marries quite well with the power of the sirah and the result is a very delicious red with wonderful density but tamed power and a finish that is quite alluring. There is appeal among winemakers to try blending non-traditional varietals, and sometimes they do not work well, but this wine from Lodi is really worth the effort to find. When I first smelled the wine, there was an intensity of blackberry and cherry which, after the wine sat opened for awhile, slipped gently into old plum cake and Asian spice. Quite something. You'll love the label. About $20.

Lorn Razzano is owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland. Reach him at razz49@aol.com.

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