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Published: Tuesday, 10/2/2001

Wine tastings abound this autumn

There's an old adage that a region's wines can be counted on to go particularly well with its cooking, because they have grown up together over the years, each finding just the right niche in the characteristic regional cuisine.

There's still wisdom in that rule of thumb, though global commerce as well as the readiness of many wine-grape varieties to thrive across national boundaries mean that it's no longer as pertinent as it once was.

What recently reminded me of the old adage was a Lebanese red wine from Chateau Kefraya, Les Breteches, on the wine list of a Lebanese restaurant. A good, well- made wine in the style of the southern Rhone, it went very nicely with a typical Mideast dinner. Though originally it may have been a French colonial import, Lebanese winemakers and chefs found it suited to their moderately spicy diet, and so made it their own.

On the other hand, sangiovese is an Italian wine, to be sure, but what comes from Napa's Atlas Peak Vineyards bids fair to put almost any Italian sangiovese in second place. Atlas Peak '99 ($16) is awesome.

There are attractive California-style chardonnays for less than the $25 asked for a bottle of Chateau Souverain Russian River Valley reserve, but it won't take more than a modest glass to convince you that many good things came together in this bottle, from the '99 long, cool growing season and the soft toasty oak flavors to the 15 months' aging. Despite total malolactic fermentation and 14.5 per cent alcohol, the wine is not over-buttery, or harsh, either.

Two weeks ago I devoted a paragraph to the background of an Argentine newcomer to our market. It's Navarro Correas, and besides the cab, chard, and syrah you might expect, there is a malbec, rapidly becoming an Argentine specialty. All are '99.

The sale price, $13, ended last week, so now any of the four will be $15. The malbec, made into strikingly unattractive wines just about everywhere else in the world, is muscular, complex, with suggestions of tobacco and licorice and a lingering, not unattractive finish. The chard and cab are varietally true to type, with ingratiating distinctive touches. The syrah seemed to me to be thin, and perhaps in want of longer bottle aging.

With cooler weather and aggressive wine merchants, the opportunities to learn by sampling are multiplied. On Sunday evening, The Andersons' Talmadge Road store's wine shop will host an&tab; extended tasting of several Ridge red wines, all among America's best. Tickets are $25 per person plus tax, numbers are limited, and reservations are a must and can be made by calling 473-3232.

Both The Andersons' Talmadge Road store and the Vineyard at Westgate are offering regular Thursday evening tastings. Information: Call The Andersons at the number above, the Vineyard at 535-7301.

Reservations are required for dinner and a tasting of Australian wines from McGuigan Estates at the Navy Bistro on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. The price is $38.50 per person plus tax and tip.

It isn't too early to jot down the date of the Mobile Meals Wine Gala, Nov. 3 at the Stranahan Great Hall.

Robert Kirtland is The Blade's wine critic.



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