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Published: Tuesday, 2/28/2006

Gems on the wineshop shelves

Wines I sampled as I was writing recently about the Italian vineyards included a clutch of unfamiliar names, labels, and varietals. Several are fairly expensive, priced in a $25 to $40 range, but regardless of type, winery, or winemaker, they all had one thing in common: I liked them.

You may, too, so here's a rundown of some of my discoveries:

●The sangiovese from the Frank Family Vineyards in Napa Valley - founded by former Disney executive Rich Frank and Koerner Rombauer - was so much like the Tuscan original in flavor, aroma, color, texture, and body that it could be mistaken for it.

●La Francesca is an Italian import slipping slowly into the domestic American retail market. It is a gathering of select wines from all over Italy; I've seen one label, pinot grigio, of true-to-type wine from up in the Veneto, or northeast.

●Although California's central coast district is rapidly challenging the north - Napa, Sonoma - in quality, price, and production volume, the north still offers fine products. ZD Wines of Napa, for example, is consistently good.

●Chilean Rosa La Capitana is a light, single-variety wine that few among us have ever experienced.

●Archetype Vineyards is another entrant - and an impressive one - from the expanding slate sent to market by California's central coast wineries.

●An Australian winery that many consider the best in the world Down Under, McWilliam's, makes a warm, spicy shiraz, one of many from a broad inventory of wines.

●Both for my budget's sake and for my enjoyment of home-state loyalties, I've developed a palate that's happily responsive to Ohio wines (and some from Michigan and Ontario, too). That's another story that will come up in this column as spring warms up for day trips and picnics on the grass.

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