daily wine picks

$15 to $30

Jul. 20, 2005: WHITEHALL LANE Merlot Napa Valley 2002 (90 points, $26)

An impressive Merlot, with a dark, rich, concentrated core of flavors dominated by earthy currant, blackberry, cedar, anise and pencil lead notes. Tight and focused, this wine has excellent balance and a complex finish. Drink now through 2010. 10,480 case —James Laube

Jul. 19, 2005: BUEHLER Chardonnay Russian River Valley Reserve 2002 (91 points, $20)

Plump, ripe and fleshy, with a complex range of pure Chardonnay flavors built around apple, pear, spice and a hint of mint that offers a shade of anise. Keeps its focus and finishes with a lingering aftertaste. Drink now. 300 cases made. —James Laube

Jul. 18, 2005: FOX GORDON Shiraz Barossa Valley Eight Uncles 2003 (90 points, $24)

Plush and lively, with a peppermint note singing descant over the smoothly articulated blueberry, plum and spice flavors. Finishes with a welcome black pepper note. Drink now through 2015. 900 cases made. —Harvey Steiman

Jul. 16, 2005: MÄHLER-BESSE Jumilla Excelencia 2003 (90 points, $24)

Powerful, balanced and focused. Shows flavors of black fruit, smoke, game and mineral, while the structure is polished and firm. Subtle, but brings you back for another sip. Drink now through 2010. 300 cases made. —Thomas Matthews

Jul. 15, 2005: CATHERINE & PIERRE BRÉTON Chinon Beaumont 2003 (90 points, $17)

Ripe, almost jammy, with blackberry and raspberry fruit that is uncommon for Chinon, followed by tobacco, toast and cocoa notes on the muscular, juicy, fruit-filled finish. Drink now through 2006. —James Molesworth

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