Liquid Assets

Four Great Red Wines

1999 McPherson Shiraz

Score: 87

Price: $9

McPherson's is a huge winery in Australia, producing over one million cases per year. While they produce a number of terrific value-priced wines, their Shiraz really stands out. I don't know whether I'm more impressed with the spicy (as in cinnamon and pepper) aromas or the jammy berry (as in blackberry or boysenberry) flavors. Get a takeout Hut's Buffalo Burger (no ketchup) and try it with this wine. No, I'm not kidding.

1998 Spicewood Vineyards Merlot

Score: 89

Price: $12

One of Texas' best Merlots. Chock-full of berry flavors and chocolate smells. Spicewood's Merlot is a true food wine, improving the food it accompanies, especially slow-cooked, braised meat recipes. By the way, this wine is still a little too young and needs some breathing. Open it about three hours before you want to drink it. Then pour it in the glasses about one hour before you plan to have dinner. Spicewood's Merlot also goes beautifully with semi-sweet dark chocolate.

1997 Navarro Correas Malbec

Score: 86

Price: $12

Malbec is a high-quality grape famous from its use in the wines of the Cahors region in France. Today, it is grown mostly in the Mendoza area of Argentina, fed by Andes snowmelt and high-country sunshine. The growing area is blessed with an almost complete lack of bugs, which means no pesticides sprayed on the grapes. Navarro Correas' version is tannic and bone-dry. Drunk by itself, the flavor can border on dusty. But match it up with a rich pasta dish like lasagna or pasta with Bolognese sauce and you'll love it.

1997 Huntington Cabernet Sauvignon

Score: 88

Price: $14

Huntington consistently provides some of the best wine bargains in California. Their Cabernet Sauvignon has a beautiful deep ruby color to complement its rich scent. Imagine smelling chocolate-covered raspberries and you'll have an idea. The flavor is rich, dry, and very concentrated. I tried it with a charcoal-broiled ribeye and it was just what the doctor ordered.

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