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2003 Marquis-Philips "Holly's Blend," Verdelho, McLaren Vale, Australia

Whenever the tasting group I'm a member of does a blind tasting, the person who hosts always throws in a ringer -- some wine that's doing it own thing. Often it's an incredibly cheap wine of the varietal that we're tasting, or sometimes it's another varietal entirely (we tend to focus on a single varietal per tasting).

This wine showed up as the ringer in a recent Sauvignon Blanc tasting and while several of us suspected that it was not a Sauvignon Blanc, its incredible floral aromas made it both an interesting comparison to the Sav Blancs we were tasting, and also made it one of my favorite wines of the evening.

Verdelho is a varietal with origins in Portugal, and historically has been used primarily in the production of Madiera. It has gained a small foothold in Australia in both the McLaren Vale and the Hunter's Valley. The grape is very flexible and malleable, yielding very different quality wines depending on when it is harvested -- early it produces spicy, herbal wines, later, more fruit driven aromatic wines, such as this one.

Marquis-Philips is a joint venture between Sparky and Sarah Marquis, the winemakers at Fox Creek, and U.S. importer Dan Philips. Together they are forging a style of wine that makes use of Australian fruit but is crafted with an American style (more oak driven, bolder, etc.). This is embodied by the strange creature on their label, half kangaroo, half bald eagle. With this formula, they've managed to create something that is quite unique and pleasing.

Tasting Notes:
The color of pale straw, this wine has a nose of white cherries, golden delicious apples, roses, and sweet orange blossom. On the tongue it has a very sikly mouthfeel with strong fruit flavors of white peaches and orange blossom honey, despite having what seems to be very low residual sugar. Like some of the best really dry Alsatian Gewurztraminers I've had, the flavors are not locked in a sweetness at all, but dance around the palate and linger on the finish.

Food Pairing:
The comparison I've made with Gewertz means that I would highly recommend this wine with Asian foods of all sorts as well as some spicier South American fare. I'd love to try it with a classic Pad Thai.

Overall Score: 9

How Much?: $14

This wine is available in San Francisco at Amphora Wine Merchant on Hayes St. and at various internet wine shops.

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