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Unexpected pleasures in wine

  Here are some wines you don't see every day. But they can be delightful, so I want to tell you about them. These aren't supermarket wines, for the most part. You'll have to visit your local wine shop -- which is a nice idea anyway on a hot and steamy Saturday in the doggiest days of summer.


   I've been a wine judge a time or two at the Indiana State Fair, where they make you pay your dues by judging a couple of flights of amateur wines made in kitchens and garages before you get to the good stuff.

   Petit sirah can be a hard, rough-tannin, high-acid wine if made improperly, and some of those amateur ones felt as if they were going to take the enamel off my teeth. Professional California winemakers, on the other hand, have learned the technique to it, turn ing out smooth, intense, opulent, liqueur-like wines that are wonderful with big beef, wild game, hard cheeses or even dark chocolate.

   • 2006 Concannon Vineyard Petite Sirah, Central Coast: hint of oak in the aroma; flavors of blackberries and cinnamon; very smooth and full-bodied; $15. (highly

   • 2006 Captain Joe's Petite Sirah by Concannon, Livermore Valley: black cherries
and bittersweet chocolate; rich, concentrated and smooth; $30. (Recommended.)

   • 2007 Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection Petite Sirah, California aromas and flavors of black raspberries and vanilla; powerful and smooth; $20. (Recommended.)


   "Summation'' is the apt name Kendall Jackson gave to its multi-grape white blend. It appears to be the summation of every white grape they ever grew from every California wine region from which theyever got grapes.

   Summation is 31 percent sauvignon blanc, 18 percent chardonnay, 13 percent semillon, 11 percent viognier, 9 percent pinot blanc, 8 percent roussanne, 4 percent marsanne, 3 percent grenache blanc, 1 percent gewürztraminer and 1 percent chenin blanc. It comes from eight California wine regions, from Mendocino to Santa Barbara.

   • 2008 Summation Vintner's Reserve, California: a dry wine with a tiny hint of sweetness; aromas and flavors of grapefruit, peaches and golden apples; $17. (Recommended.)


   This exotic wine from the northern reaches of Hungary is aged in caves dug in the 1300s for protection from invading Turks. It was the wine of emperors, turned medio-
cre after World War II by decades of overproduction under Soviet domination, then brought back brilliantly by outside investors and experts after the fall of communism. It's a sweet dessert wine for fruit tarts and such. And, because of its concentrated, glycerine- filled mouth feel, it's also the counterintuitive but perfect match for foie gras.

   • 2005 Royal Tokaji Red Label, 5 Puttonyos, Hungary: thick and rich, with intense flavors of honey, orange peel cinnamon; crisp with balancing acid; very sweet; $41 per two-thirds (500 milliliter) bottle. (Highly recommended.)



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