Originally created 04/03/02

Elegant, affordable wines sure to wow the Masters crowd



With friends and guests arriving in the Garden City for Masters Week, you want to have wines on hand that taste like a million dollars but will not break the bank.

Let's start with the practice round wines.

The white wine of choice is still Chardonnay, and the winner is Cartlidge and Brown ($11), filled with delicate apple and pear notes with just the right amount of creaminess and oak. This wine was a gold medal winner at the Hilton Head Winefest, and will hold up against many $50 wines.

For the reds, merlot is generally a well-balanced crowd pleaser with the ability to pair well with a variety of dishes. Echelon Merlot, California, ($11), is outstanding, packed with velvety dark fruit, lingering chocolate and a touch of oak. This wine is a winner all the time, and will please almost any finicky guest.

Now the practice rounds are over and Uncle Mike has the big boss from Columbus arriving Thursday for the tournament, which means you need a more elegant wine. Here are some favorite wineries that make wonderful choices and are relatively well known:

PINE RIDGE, CALIFORNIA

This is one of my all-time favorite wineries; its 2000 Chardonnay just received 91 points in a well-known wine publication, and costs only $22. Every wine produced is a winner, especially merlot and Cabernets. If you really want to impress the big boss, pick up a bottle of Andrus Reserve ($130), a big, fruit-packed luxury made in a traditional Bordeaux style. It is a true treasure and treat.

STAG'S LEAP WINE CELLARS, CALIFORNIA

One of the pioneers in California, this winery has produced sought-after wines for decades. The Chardonnay ($30) is well balanced and elegant, a perfect example of classic Chardonnay flavor.

The winery produces a variety of great reds, Napa Cabernet ($50), Fay Cabernet ($90), S.L.V. Cabernet ($140), and Cask 23 Cabernet ($200). These are world-class winners and will be noticed with appreciation.

KENDALL JACKSON GREAT ESTATE, CALIFORNIA

These are not the regular Vintners Reserve wines seen in the stores; these are really special, almost heaven, perfect-flavor favorites. We all know that Kendall Jackson produces high-quality wines consistently; well this is raising the bar six times. The Chardonnays ($30) are creamy soft, with just the right amount of fruit. Also available are some downright mouth-watering reds, most notably, pinot noir ($30), zinfandel ($35) and Cabernet ($50).

Tune in next week to see how the foreign competition weighs in.

Cheers!

Wine columnist Lain Bradford can be reached at lain@winetalk.org or write him in care of The Augusta Chronicle Newsroom, PO Box 1928 Augusta, GA 30903.