daily wine picks

Less than $15

Mar. 23, 2000: GALLO OF SONOMA Chardonnay Russian River Valley 1998 (85 points, $12)

Ripe and lively, with pretty grapefruit, pear and fig flavors, if a touch coarse. Drink now through 2003. Well priced and amply available. 50,700 cases made. —James Laube

Mar. 13, 2000: JACOB'S CREEK Merlot South Eastern Australia 1998 (85 points, $9)

This Australian Merlot is light, fruity and appealing for its juicy plum and berry flavors that echo nicely on the bright finish. This bottling represents good value and availability in a popular category. Drink now. 85,000 cases imported. —Harvey Steiman

Mar. 08, 2000: BOGLE Sauvignon Blanc California 1998 (85 points, $7)

What a deal, from a habitual Best Buy producer. It's soft in texture, oozing with tropical fruit flavors -- mango, passion fruit and pineapple. Refreshing acidity keeps the balance. Drink now through 2002. 6,500 cases made. —James Laube

Mar. 06, 2000: BODEGAS ESMERALDA Chardonnay Mendoza Alamos Ridge 1998 (86 points, $10)

The best Argentinean Chardonnay in our current report, and quite affordable as well. It's broad-shouldered in frame, with waxy, toasty aromas and a soft, plush texture carrying the ripe apple and hazelnut flavors through the lengthy, stylish finish. Drink —Kim Marcus

Mar. 04, 2000: CONCHA Y TORO Merlot Rapel Valley Casillero del Diablo 1998 (86 points, $10)

A plush, well-sculpted Merlot from a reputable and value-conscious Chilean winery, this features fairly intense flavors of red plum and currant and well-integrated, dark spice notes that linger on the finish. Drink now through 2002. 12,000 cases imported. —Kim Marcus

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