Wine: unfiltered taste: fine

June 20, 1993|By Michael Dresser

These wines, tasted within the last month, are representative of the quality of the unfiltered wines on the market. They are listed in order of preference, but even the lowest on the list is an excellent wine for its price.

Red wines

* 1990 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($33). This wine's first impression is all mint, then it socks you with enormous, concentrated black-currant fruit. It's impressive now, even though it's a mere shadow of what it will be when its herbal quality merges into the beguiling fruit flavors. This excellent vintage has produced one of the best Mondavi reserve wines ever. A must for the cellars of California cabernet enthusiasts.

* 1989 Chante Cigale Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($16). This extraordinary wine combines deep, intense flavors of blackberries, raspberries, chocolate, grilled meat and herbs with voluptuous, all-embracing texture. You can drink it now or keep it for two decades with equally exhilarating results.

* 1990 Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir, Napa Valley ($15). This effusively fruity wine doesn't replicate a classic Burgundy, but // it's an impressive mouthful of California wine. It has more exuberance than elegance, but its intense, earthy fruitiness will win over all but the most hard-shelled purist. Wallow in it now or over the next three years.

* 1991 Rosenblum Cellars Pinot Noir, Ellis Ranch. Russian River Valley ($14). Pure joy, with its intense, pointed flavors of black cherry and raspberry. This isn't a complex pinot noir, but it's an exuberant wine with great intensity of flavor. Drink it now or over the next three years. Don't try to make it an intellectual experience; it's a hedonistic delight.

* 1990 Trentadue Zinfandel, Alexander Valley ($11). At 15.1 percent alcohol, this ultra-ripe wine is a little hot in the finish. Otherwise, it's an enormously enjoyable bundle of blackberry, pepper and blueberry flavor. Delicate taste buds might cringe, but this wine makes a powerful statement.

* 1991 Basignani Marisa, Maryland Red Table Wine ($6). If you have somehow gotten the impression that unfiltered wine has to be expensive, try this fruity, uncomplicated blend of red French-American hybrid grapes. In most hands, red hybrids produce awful wines, but Bertero Basignani has tamed their coarse side and produced a wine reminiscent of a top-notch Beaujolais Villages. This was the least of the unfiltered wines tasted for this article, and it's a wonderful value.

White wines

* 1989 Kalin Cellars Chardonnay, Cuvee W, Livermore Valley ($29). Winemaker Terry Leighton doesn't label his wines as unfiltered, but his name is synonymous with natural, flavorful wines. While most 1989 California chardonnays are fading, this one is at its peak, with intense flavors of baked apples, lemon, yeast and toast.

* 1991 Basignani Chardonnay, Maryland ($15). This is one of the best chardonnays ever made in Maryland, with toasty, yeasty flavors, ample but not overblown fruit, and better acidity than most of its California counterparts. It's also a good value.

* 1991 Patz & Hall Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($27). There's nothing unusual about this wine's flavors. Like many California chardonnays, it gives you a taste of light vanilla, toast and yeast, without conspicuous fruitiness. What stands apart is the pure intensity of its flavors. The result is amazingly similar to a top-flight white Burgundy.

* 1992 Caymus Sauvignon Blanc, Barrel Fermented, Napa Valley ($11). Intense, fresh flavors of fig and melon blend with a sweet vanilla nuance to create this imposingly flavorful white wine that is a perfect accompaniment to grilled fish.

* 1990 Newton Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($28). This enormous )) chardonnay is packed with gutsy, ripe flavors. The alcohol is a little intense, but the flavors more than make up for that minor flaw.

* 1991 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($32). This stylish wine has the structure and flavor of a top white Burgundy, but it'll need six to 12 months to open up. It's no blockbuster, but it's a wine that will repay extended cellaring.

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