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Auction attracts those with 'A Passion for Wine'

Dave DeSimone
| Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2005

Not so many years ago, wine events benefiting charitable causes were a rarity in Pittsburgh, but today, a number of excellent, well-planned and enjoyable wine events are available. Several events feature wine auctions, but none in my experience can match the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's "A Passion for Wine" auction for consistency of quality, quantity and variety, year in and year out.

In the interests of full disclosure, I readily acknowledge being a committee member for the foundation's "A Passion For Wine" since its inception seven years ago. In that time, the wine auction has consistently attracted generous support from wine collectors around the country and celebrities such actors Michael Keaton, John Travolta, Tom Cruise and Susan Sarandon and sports legends Michael Jordan, Mario Lemieux and Andy Russell. Local collectors, however, continue to provide the majority of donations, and the quality and breadth of this year's lots is again breathtaking.

For example, the bordeaux lots include Médoc First Growth stars such as the 1989 and 1999 Château Latour, 1983 Château Mouton Rothschild, and 1998 and 2001 Château Marguax. Other outstanding Médoc wines include the 1998 Château Ducru Beaucailloux, 1978 Château Léoville Les Cas, 1983 and 1999 Château Palmer, and 1994 and 1999 Château Pichon Longueville.

The Right Bank bordeaux reds are led by the superb 1988 Château Petrus, the 1998 Angélus, and several bottles each of 1998 and 1999 Château Figeac. Bottles of the ethereal dessert wines from Château Y'quem crown the bordeaux lots.

Red and white burgundies are represented well with outstanding vintages -- 1990, 1999 and 2002, for example -- from excellent producers, such as Denis Batchelet and Michel Lafarge and leading negociants, including Bouchard Père et Fils, Louis Latour and Joseph Drouhin.

Italy's fine wines are also well represented with a number of excellent barolos and barberescos from Piedmont in the northwest, amarones from the northeast, and chiantis and Brunello di Montalcinos from Tuscany. The so-called "Super Tuscans" -- wines made from a blend of traditional chianti grapes and new world grapes such as cabernet -- are particularly well represented in the auction with bottles of Solaia, Sassicaia, Ornellaia, and Tignanello all from the highly acclaimed 1997 vintage in Tuscany.

Great California reds are present in great numbers in the auction, but the highlights include a three year vertical -- 1993, 1994 and 1995 -- of the outstanding Château Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; 2001 Opus One; 1996 Dominus; several vintages of the highly regarded Château St. Jean Cinq Cepages; several vintages of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. cabernet; Pahlmeyer merlot; Robert Mondavi Reserve cabernets; Silver Oak Estate cabernets; Duckhorn cabernet; several Joesph Phelps Insignias; and 1997 Beringer Private Reserve Howell Mountain Merlot. Highly sought California pinot noirs include Gary Farrell Russian River, Kistler, and Williams Selyem.

Vintage champagnes from excellent years such as 1990 are well represented, and vintage ports from the outstanding 1990 and 2000 harvests also will be auctioned. Other "exotic" wines include Ontario Ice Wine from the highly respected Inniskillin Winery.

"A Passion For Wine" is a must for wine novices and collectors alike. It will take place Nov. 5 at the PPG Wintergarden, Downtown. Individual tickets are $150 and will include five food stations with delicacies prepared by Yves Carreau of Asiago restaurant and matched with wines from Hogue cellars in Washington State. Details: 412-321-4422 or e-mail csproull@cff.org .

Best Buy

2004 Monkey Bay Chardonnay, New Zealand (7795, $10.99): Earlier this year winemaker Alistair McIntosh's Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc rolled out to overwhelming consumer response to become the best selling New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in America. The potent mix of superb, quintessential New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc style, excellent pricing and a wonderfully inventive marketing plan and brand image hit a real sweet spot in the American marketplace. McIntosh has followed with this wine made from Chardonnay grown on east coast vineyards on both the north and south islands in New Zealand. Unlike many oaky Chardonnays from Australia and some California producers, this wine emphasizes pure fruit aromas and flavors of citrus, apple and pear matched with vibrant acidity and refreshing mineral notes. It is well-balanced with a touch of creamy richness through a dry finish. Try this very distinctive and eye-opening Chard with either pasta with a cream sauce or grilled fish. Highly Recommended.

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