Saturday, February 14, 2015

February 2015 wines - 11 Tasted of 11

Wine and Art


Absentminded on a-nothing-to-do day a question came into mind. Can Wine be compared to Art? Are there genres/styles/levels of wine produced that are equivalent to techniques/media/methods of Art? Could one find an equivalent to the Group of Seven, the European Masters or Modernists and Impressionists, not of Art but of Wine? ... and are there winemakers with the dedication, the perseverance for perfection, an interpretation of grapes relative to each variety and blending, to attain a sense of a wine's place in a venue or on a menu? Of winemakers is there a range from a literary master capturing history and landscapes to a cartoonist colourfully imaging opinions as well as the spray can vandal scarring downtown architecture? Can such parallels be drawn across the spectrum of craft and commercial winemaking?

Certainly a range from famous to infamous reflects the wine industry today. The message is if there's money to be made there's a producer ready to bottle it. Rich to poor, connoisseur to novice, there's a budget and attitude to buy anything put on the shelf. At the lower price point often it's 'Drink up! There's more plonk where that came from!'

How does one avoid encouraging the unscrupulous wine merchant? You say wine critics are the answer! Here's where it gets tricky. There's also a full range of critics. From those providing prose for the endless bottles of put together crap and the ones being silent on what only they know is unworthy of positive comment. There's those walking a fine line unwilling to offend a generous owner.  With one exception I haven't read a wine critique that says plonk with clarity when they find a bad label.

The worth of both art and wine is established by talk - have a tasting, a seminar, a wine blog or record chatty trips to wineries and vineyards. Talk it up among colleagues, among consumers, collectors and investors. 'Talk' energizes the market but not the products within it. Critics don't have a role enforcing integrity (other than their own). Buying from a gallery or buying a case it's the buyer's call. No one else can identify the garbage - buyers have no voice. 

The Lagoon Plate XIX
Getting back to Wine vs Art... recently (close to a month now) I viewed a Charlie Rose TV show featuring a discussion of Matisse paper cutouts that amazed, no, startled me as a scholarly critic concluded values for these works of art. Evaluations were expressed in ethereal terms then on to dollars. Flowing lines, colour and shadings, suggestions of form sounding as a sonnet. An elixir of prose converging toward uniform persuasion of worth.

How many professional wine critics follow a similar eloquent approach. How we interpret words into value can be a leap. There's no intermediary - no, lets put it another way, there's so many expounding the qualities of wine that you and I can be easily distracted from our own judgment. 

'Invest' is part of both investigate and investment. For Wine, it's time to put more of ourselves into the conversation.

My opinion, Ww

THE LINEUP: (reds, whites)
  • Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, 92-2  --  V, Puente Alto, Chile, #337238 $21.95 
  • Cono Sur Bicicleta Shiraz 2013, 86-1  --  G, Colchagua Valley, Chile, #064295  $10.00
  • Wynn's Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, 86  --  V,  Coonawarra, Australia, #084996 $24.95*
  • Nederburg Winemaker's Reserve Shiraz 2013, 85-1  --  G, Western Cape, South Africa, #527457 $9.95   
  • Vina Real Plata Crianza 2010, 82  --  V, Rioja, Spain, #657411 $18.95
  • P|K|N|T Reserve Carmenère 2013, 81c  --  G, Rapel Valley, Chile, #191858  $9.95
  • Undurraga Estate Grown Pinot Noir 2013, 81a  --  G, Maipo Valley, Chile, #358945  $10.00 
  • Trapiche Reserve Syrah 2013, 79-NR  --  G, Mendoza, Argentina, #222281 $10.95*  

  • Errazuriz Estate Series Chardonnay 2013,  84  --  G, Casablanca Valley, Chile, #318741 $10.95*
  • Lindemans Bin 85 Pinot Grigio 2014, 78  --  G, Victoria, Australia,  #668947  $10.95 
  • Hardys Stamp Series Riesling Gewurztraminer 2013, NR  --  G, South Eastern Australia, #448548 $9.90  
(V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other, r-v  - Rating-Value, a - aerated, c - cellar, NR - Not Recommended) 


VIÑA REAL PLATA CRIANZA 2010, Rioja, Spain, 13.5%  D  5g/L, #657411 $18.95  (Tasted February 19, 2015)

Released by Vintages on January 10, 2015. Rated 91 by Luis Gutierrez (December 2013).  My notes:  A soft berry nose, not much penetration and not that much fruit. A swirl coats the glass with a light film, a ragged rim and tears that quickly develop and fall. A sip gives a silk texture and light-body coating the palate with a fine tannin and a mild acid. A dull red currant, a flat blackberry and smoke forms a polite flavour profile - not much to please nor to object as the flavour drops and the finish dries the palate. Past peak and not a value.  Drink now. 82

NEDERBURG WINEMAKER'S RESERVE SHIRAZ 2013,  Western Cape, South Africa, 14.5% D 8g/L, #527457 $9.95*  (Tasted February 26, 2015)

A General listing *reduced from $11.95.  My notes: The tasting notes are not available of the winery website - perhaps a special bottling for the LCBO? WineAlign gave it 2.5 stars. The colour is a charcoal hued ruby. The nose has a peppery edge to a dark chocolate and blackberry fruit, subtle except for the spice. The first sip has a pleasing bite flowing with fine tannin, a silky texture and medium-bodied density. A viscous film sticks then quickly flows a ring of fast legs. Finishing is half way to bold with a long smoky ending. Pair with grilled steaks, long ribs, pot roast or just sip. At this price social sipping would be appropriate or offer with a buffet of bacon wrapped asparagus, pigs in a blanket, etc. Should keep awhile properly cellared. 85

ERRAZURIZ ESTATE SERIES CHARDONNAY 2013, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 13.5%  XD  4g/L,  #318741 $10.95*  (Tasted February 19, 2015)

A General listing reduced from $12.95*.  My notes:  The 2008 vintage was tasted in 2009, rated 81 with the comment 'a white looking for a grape'. This in contrast to an interesting 2007 vintage rated 94. Both were regularly priced $10.95. The crisp and clear mid yellow of the 2013 shines from the glass. Although subdued the nose has both fruit and a mild spice: mostly orange zest and vanilla tinged mango. The coolness on serving (10oC) retains the flavourings briefly then finishes dry, light-bodied with a touch of chalk and light tang. The body opens as the chill wanes (14oC) showing a pleasing texture. The film is moderate leaving a ragged rim and a few fast legs. Serve chilled with crab cakes, steamed lobster in a light tomato sauce or grilled scallops. A drink now.  84

UNDURRAGA ESTATE GROWN PINOT NOIR 2013, Maipo Valley, Chile, 13.5%  XD 6g/L,  #358945  $10.00  (Tasted February 23, 2015)

A General listing. My notes:  Beppi Crosariol rated this vintage of Chilean Pinot Noir 87. Ratings for other vintages are shown at WineEnthusiast however the Maipo Pinot Noir is not shown on the Undurraga website. An objectionable touch of BRETT shows in the first sniff along with bright red cherry flavours. The colour is a see-through ruby giving a light-bodied appearance borne out by a thin film fragmenting at the rim then quickly receding. A possible sipper after aerating but more of a meal red. Pair with grilled salmon steak or chicken pieces. A drink now. 81a

P|K|N|T RESERVE CARMENERE 2013, Rapel Valley, Chile,  13.5% D  5g/L, #191858  $9.95*  (Tasted February 22, 2015)

A General listing reduced from $10.95*.  My notes: Selected from an Outlet's on-sale bin. WineAlign rated this red a 2.  A 90/10 blend of carmenère and cabernet sauvignon from the Bronco Wine Company  of California. The colour is a charming, deep purple ruby that leaves a firm film with full rim shedding long fast legs. The first sip has a surprising sting, followed by drying tannins and a woody, lightly flavoured berry rough on the palate and lasting through a fading finish. A rough sipper needing buffet pastries or pairing with Texas chili, hamburgers with mustard and relish or a spicy crock pot stew. Not a drink now - I`d skip this vintage or try cellaring two to five years if already purchased. Our bottle was discarded. 81

TRAPICHE RESERVE SYRAH 2013, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0%  D 9g/L,  #222281 $10.95*  (Tasted February 27, 2015)

A General listing reduced from $11.95*. My notes: The 2011 vintage was tasted in March 2013, rated 84 saying "a pleasing mix of textures, a satin feel and drying tannins..." .  Rated 3.5 by WineAlign the 2013 is much the same as previous vintages however there's a sharpness along with strong tannins that eliminate it as a 'sipper' for most. The film is less firm with a rim that fragments while leaving fast legs. Thin, sharp and  woody on the palate replaces the 'satin feel' but retaining miniscule plum and red cherry for a long dry finish. Pair with duck, a savoury stew, rubbed ribs or a  T-bone. Not for cellaring. 79-NR

HARDYS STAMP SERIES RIESLING GEWURZTRAMINER 2013, South Eastern Australia, 11.5%  M  24g/L,  #448548 $9.90  (Tasted February 17, 2015)

A General listing produced by a Constellation Wines company.  My notes: The 2012 and 2007 vintages tasted previously were rated in the 70's and, this one being a gift, was an 'opportunity' to sample without the expense of a purchase. The colour is a crisp light yellow with a soft floral aroma and a touch of spice. A swirl sheds a thin layer and ragged rim that  slowly recedes. The first sip has a noticeable sweetness, a mild spice and flavour I found incompatible. The sweetness persists along with a dry edge and becoming cloying with continued sips. Serve with buffet nibbles (our guest blended with Diet Sprite) or serve with an M&M shrimp ring or seared scallops - with a plain/white wine sauce. A drink now and not recommended.  NR 

LINDEMANS BIN 85 PINOT GRIGIO 2014, Victoria, Australia,  12.5%  D  7g/L, #668947  $10.95  (Tasted February 25, 2015)

A General listing and a Southcorp Wines company.  My notes:  A mid to pale yellow, bright and shiny.  A shallow grapefruit nose with a light tang and subtle floral scent. Leaves a fragmented rim with fast tears. The first sip reveals a smooth lemon drop melting in the mouth followed by a balanced acid, a hollow aftertaste and a smoothness on the lips. A social sipper at an open bar enticing guests to look for an alternate. Pair with delicate seafood: breaded tilapia, cod or haddock. Serve off-chill for more flavour. A commercial drink now. 78

CONCHA Y TORO MARQUES DE CASA CONCHA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013, Puente Alto, Chile,  14.5%  XD 7g/L,  #337238 $21.95  (Tasted February 22, 2015)

Released by Vintages on December 1, 2014. The Book lists the 2012 vintage with a rating of 5. My notes: A viscous film on the glass with a veil of slow tears adds depth to the deep ruby colour. A sniff reveals a bitter edge to a penetrating tang with red currant starting a blanket of dense tannins and smoky black cherry. Full-bodied, smooth textured but initially throat grabbing makes this an interesting sipper. The intensity would complement savoury entrées: grilled, bbq'd or slow roasted - no subtlety here - a good partner. Cellar five years or more to soften some of the 'grip' or drink now. Packaged in a non eco-friendly 1.5lb bottle.  92

CONO SUR  BICICLETA SHIRAZ 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile, 13.0% D 8g/L,  #064295  $10.00  (Tasted February 24, 2015)

A General listing. My notes:  A deep ruby colour with the slightest whiff of warm smoky edged berries. The film is lightly viscous leaving a fragmented rim falling as a ring of tears. There's a pleasing brightness in the first sip with an increasing presence of fine tannins, young berry fruit, a tad jammy, shifting to a dry finish and subtle sweetness. Light in body and texture this is a polite sipper and would pair with grilled pork and beef. A commercial drink now. 86

WYNNS COONAWARRA ESTATE BLACK LABEL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012,  Coonawarra, Australia, 13.5%  XD 5g/L,  #084996 $24.95*  (Tasted March 2, 2015)

Released by Vintages on December 1, 2014 and reduced from $27.95. 
My notes:  A purchase by my spouse along with another red above. A purple hued ruby, with a moderate film that hangs slow legs from a fragmented rim turning lacy. The nose exuded warm plum and spice aromas then settled to a soft spicy cherry. Softness continues from the first sip with an even fruit discreetly offering a long dry finish. A pleasing but overly dry sipper without a complementing tray of soft cheeses and Italian sliced meats. Have with lamb chops, souvlakis or slow cooked pot roast. Drink now - fades quickly. It may have a second life - but don't think so.  86 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The 500 Best-Value Wines in the LCBO 2015, Part 2 - 22 Tasted of 22

This is a followup to The 500 Best-Value Wines 2015 7th Edition by  Rod Phillips. In this entry I intend to purchase some 'new' wines from the 500+ wines listed in the Book.  The selections will be shown in THE LINEUP below with my TASTINGS to follow. Pick up the Book for the complete wine list indexed by source (Country, Province or State) and the author's tasting notes. This may be an opportunity to change your current plonk to something new and still stay within your budget.

Some statistics:

I've used the LCBO Website to find the status of new and discontinued wines. The Cornwall and Trafalgar outlet had 16 of the selected wines at the time of this entry. 
  • Excluding Rosés, Sparkling and Sweet there are 445 'Best-Value' reds and whites. Ten (2 whites, 8 reds) were not available as of this entry (according to the LCBO website). Among the 445 there are 91 (31 whites and 60 reds) marked as 'new'.  Earlier vintages of twenty-four (8 whites and 16 reds) of the 91 were tasted previously in this blog.  
  •  Of the 445 there are 168 Best-Value whites rated 5, 4½ or 4 (100 to 87) from 18 sources (Country, Province or State).
  •  Of the 168 Best-Value whites there are twelve 5s (94-100), fifty-seven 4½s  (90-93) and ninety-nine 4s (87-89). 
  • The leading sources for 'Best-Value' whites are Ontario (38), France (30), California (21), Italy (16), Australia (14), New Zealand (13) and Chile (10). Of 31 'new' whites there are no 5s.
  • Of the 445 there are 277 reds rated 5, 4½ or 4 Stars (100 to 87) from 16 sources (Country, Province or State).
  • Of the 277 there are thirty 5s (94-100), ninety-three 4½s  (90-93) and one hundred and fifty-four 4s (87-89).
  • The leading sources for reds are Italy (55), California (42), France (39), Chile (25), Ontario (23) and Spain (14). Of 60 'new' reds there are five 5s.
  • Of the 277 reds the book lists 60 that are 'new' with most of these from Italy (12), France and Ontario (each with 11) and California (8). Tastings of earlier vintages of fifteen of the 60 'new' wines had been entered in this blog prior to this year. 

I hope this contributes to an understanding of LCBO's sourcing and retailing of wines in Ontario.

PS. Jan 31 '15: Perhaps premature but at this point I'm inclined to sample each General Listed wine that is 'discontinued' as a possible source of excellent values.

Cheers, Ww  

THE LINEUP:  Reds and Whites

  • Root: 1 Carmenère Colchagua Valley 2012,  92-3  --  G, Donihue, Chile, #350546  $12.80 
  • Casa LaPostolle Gran Seleccion Carmenère 2012, 92-3  --  G, Rapel Valley, Chile, #168740   $14.90
  • Charles & Charles Red Blend 2013, 92-3  -- G, Washington State, USA, #363838 $15.95 
  • Tempus Two 'Limestone Coast' Cabernet Merlot 2011, 91-3  --  G, Pokolbin, New South Wales, #308197  $8.75
  • Oatley Tic Tok Pocketwatch Central Ranges Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, 90-2  --  G, New South Wales, Australia, #187179   $12.85* 
  • 35° South Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Organic 2013, 87-1  --  G, Molina, Chile, #218859  $12.95
  • Bodega Volcanes de Chile Summit Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah 2013, 84-1  --  G,  Rapel Valley, Chile,  #350553  $10.95
  • La Mascota Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, 83  --  G,  Mendoza, Argentina, #292110  $13.95  
  • Michel Lynch Merlot Gran Vin de Bordeaux 2011, 83  --  G, Bordeaux, France, #361550  $17.05
  • Fowles Wine 'Are You Game?' Shiraz 2012, 82  --  G, Victoria, Australia, #327320  $17.05
  • Villa Ponciago Grand Vins Beaujolais-Villages 2012, 80  --  G, Fleurie, France, #325134  $14.95

  • L'Arjolle Sauvignon Blanc-Viognier 2013, 89-2  -- G, Côtes de Thongue, France, #348904  $12.20 
  • UMA Coleccion Torrontés 2013, 88a-2  --  G, Mendoza, Argentina, #276626 $6.45  
  • Domaine de Pellehaut 'Harmonie de Cascogne' Blanc 2013, 88-2  --  G,  Sichel, France, #319665  $9.95 
  • Kate Radburnd Sun Kissed Pinot Gris 2013, 87-1  --  G, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, #359000  $15.95
  • Willy Gisselbrecht Riesling Selection 2012, 85-1  -- G, Alsace, France, #315309  $9.95 
  • Douglas Green Sauvignon Blanc 2014, 84  --  G, Wellington, S. Africa, #367821 $10.80
  • Guy Saget Sancerre 2013, 82  --  G, Loire, France, #319657  $21.95*
  • Sterling 'Vintner's Collection' Central Coast Chardonnay 2013, 81  --  G, Sonoma, California, #669242  $15.95
  • Fowles Wine 'Are You Game?' Chardonnay 2013, 80  --  G, Victoria, Australia, #359984  $15.95 
  • McWilliam's 'Hanwood Estate' Moscato NV,  n-r  --  G,  South Eastern Australia, #212696  $14.40 
  • Oatley Tic Tok Pocketwatch Central Ranges Chardonnay 2013, NR  --  G, NSW, Australia, #187104  $14.95     

  r-v - rating and value, n-r - not rated, NR - Not Recommended


MCWILLIAM'S HANWOOD ESTATE MOSCATO NV*,  South Eastern Australia, 7.5%  S  116g/L,  #212696  $14.40*  (Tasted February 8, 2015)

A General listing. *The Book shows the vintage as 2012, a price of $13.95 and a rating of 4.  My notes:  A mid yellow, crisp and clear and with a scattering of spritz on the glass a well as a jagged film receding quickly. A sniff reveals a delicate floral and honey scent accompanying a tart honey coated apple enveloping the palate. The sweetness lasts through a long finish balanced by refreshing acid. Have before or after a meal or snack, nothing hot or spicy just to enjoy. The low alcohol encourages quaffing that intensifies the fruit, body and texture as a nicely packaged appetizer or dessert wine. Perhaps an economical alternative to ice wine or Late Harvest?

FOWLES WINE 'ARE YOU GAME?' CHARDONNAY 2013, Victoria, Australia, 13.5%  XD  2g/L, #359984  $15.95  (Tasted February 3, 2015)

A General listing. *The Book shows the 2012 vintage and a rating of 4½. Also, the website shows a different label? My notes: The film recedes moderately from a ragged rim ending without a trace. The colour is a light yellow with an aroma of chilled lemon pith. A first sip shows a drier lemon pith, a penetrating tartness and then a just perceptible vanilla flavouring fading into a long dry finish. A lasting intensity permeates the palate although without appeal. Paired with Roasted Flattened Chicken and Herbs (drop the chili flakes) was refreshing but without complementing. Likely better with whitefish: grilled haddock, cod or tilapia and vegetables. A commercial white and a drink now. 80
OATLEY TIC TOK POCKETWATCH CENTRAL RANGES CHARDONNAY 2013*,  NSW, Australia, 12.5%  D  8g/L,  #187104  $14.95  (Tasted January 27, 2015)

A General listing produced by Robert Oatley Vineyards Pty Ltd.  The Book shows the 2012 vintage and a rating of 4½.  My notes: *The vintage in the Book is 2012.  The 2009 vintage at the same price was tasted on June 15, 2012 with a rating of 82.  The 2013 vintage, on the shelf at the LCBO, is almost void of colour and aroma. The flavour is mild apple fading on the palate as it continues through a long fresh finish. The aftertaste has a mineral accent with  a touch of acid but lacking varietal  character. If you have a bottle serve with seafood, grilled chicken breast or other flavoured entrée. Not recommended (NR)

STERLING 'VINTNER'S COLLECTION' CENTRAL COAST CHARDONNAY 2013, Sonoma, California, 13.5%  D  6g/L, #669242  $15.95  (Tasted January 20, 2015)

A General listing. The Book shows the 2012 vintage and a rating of 4.  My notes:  The 2010 vintage with a price of $14.95 was tasted on May 1, 2012 and rated 82. A faint scent of burnt straw and lemon comes first while a swirl leaves a thin film swelling at the rim then quickly receding from a hilly edge. Chilled to 12oC a sip is dry with a subtle acid and lemon/honey dew flavour accentuated by more sips. Texture is smooth with a slight sweetness. A social sipper for an afternoon bridge party with light nibbles. Went well with spinach and feta stuffed Atlantic salmon . A pale straw colour matches the body and flavour. A commercial drink now. 81

WILLY GISSELBRECHT RIESLING SELECTION 2012, Alsace, France, 12.0%  XD  6g/L, #315309  $9.95  (Tasted January 31, 2015)

A General listing.  The Book shows the 2011 vintage and a rating of 4. The LCBO shows this as Discontinued.   My notes: A mid yellow colour, clean and crisp. A scent of dry lemon tainted with orange on the first sip, very dry and medium-bodied. A long fresh finish finely textured with a metallic edge lasting awhile. The film is thin fragmenting from a frail rim. No petrol but leaving a touch of glycerine on the lips detectable when sipping. Save for a quiet patio gathering with selections from a charcuterie of sliced rounds and soft cheeses... or with raw oysters, freshly grilled seafood, a bento box or curried vegetable dish. A drink now. 85

L'ARJOLLE SAUVIGNON BLANC-VIOGNIER 2013, Côtes de Thongue, France, 12.0%  D  10g/L, #348904  $12.20  (Tasted January 27, 2015)

A General listing. The Book shows the 2012 vintage and a rating of 4½.  My notes: A crisp, clean mid yellow with a fleeting aroma of apricot brightened by lemon. The film hangs from a jagged rim accumulating then dropping as a seamless layer. Serving chilled (10oC) mellows an acid bite while showing a dry texture and light apple flavour. A sweet edge combines for a long luscious finish with a light lanolin touch - end with a buffet selection. An aperitif leading into fresh oysters and an ice bucket white paired with delicate seafood entrées. A white to pause over for its differences. 89

KATE RADBURND SUN KISSED PINOT GRIS 2013, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, 13.0%  XD  3g/L, #359000  $15.95  (Tasted January 23, 2015)

A General listing. The Book shows the 2012 vintage and a rating of 4½. Produced by the C.J.Pask Winery Ltd.  My notes:  There's a touch of auburn in this crystal clear mid yellow and the nose isn't except for a subtle acid. A light viscosity holds against the glass breaking free from a crinkly rim. Smooth, chalky, bright, a blend of Bosc pear and Myers lemon offers a different, flavourful, version of pinot gris. A few sips brings out a faint sweetness and a long querky finish. Have with seafood, finny or shell. Personally I would prefer with some fruit: pineapple, strawberries or mixed, if served as a sipper. A drink now.  87

DOUGLAS GREEN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2014, Wellington, S. Africa, 12.5% D  4g/L, #367821 $10.80¸ (Tasted January 20, 2015)

A General listing and rated 4 by Rod Phillips. WineAlign  rates this wine as 2½.  My notes:  A green tint to a subtle yellow for colour along with fine bubbles on the glass. A minor sweetness to a lemon/green apple nose. Then comes a refreshing tartness with a taste of melon and green apple and filling the palate with a flavour vapour and a long finish. Set up a tasting table with varied sauvignon blancs for an interesting comparison - definitely a different flavour profile from that of a Kiwi. Pair with Asian sweet & sour, sushi or serve as a refreshing summer patio sipper - combined with pineapple, strawberry or melon pieces. A drink now. 84

GUY SAGET SANCERRE 2013, Loire, France, 12.5%  XD  4g/L, #319657  $21.95*  (Tasted February 9, 2015)

A General listing. The Book lists as 2012 vintage and rated 4½  by Rod Phillips. My notes: The Canadian agent, Churchill Cellars, described this product on their webpage . The colour is a crystal clear mid yellow and the aroma is green pea with the scent and tartness of gooseberry added. The film is smooth and moderate leaving a rounded rim that slowly recedes. Chalk and straw continue into a long finish building with each sip.  Have with a tray of soft cheeses or seafood entrees. We're pairing it with a shrimp casserole by Derf. The finish is long extra dry needing a suitable accompaniment - ie. a meal white.  82

DOMAINE DE PELLEHAUT 'HARMONIE DE CASCOGNE' BLANC 2013, Sichel, France, 11.5%  D  8g/L,  #319665   *$9.95  (Tasted January 26, 2015)

A General listing and rated 4 by Rod Phillips. The LCBO indicates this wine has been discontinued. Original price *$12.95 - suggested purchase price is 5-7€.  My notes:  A staple white and a blend of Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Gros Manseng, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, and folle blanche" balanced each vintage. The colour is a crystal clear mid yellow and has a fresh aroma of vines before blossoming. A swirl gave a thin film receding quickly from a crinkly rim. A crisp bite leaves the palate dry with light herbal notes, not identifiable to me but appealing. A meal white to pair with fresh seafood grilled in a lemon butter sauce and rice side, or bento box of tempura pieces. I'm serving with pecan crusted baked haddock and puréed parsnip/cauliflower side. The winery website says of the 2014 vintage "to be drunk young, within 24 months of the harvest" which should apply to each vintage. 88 

UMA COLECCIÓN TORRONTÉS 2013, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.0%  D  8g/L, #276626 $6.45  (Tasted January 29, 2015) 

A General listing and rated 4 by Rod Phillips.  My notes: The only Argentinan white marked 'new' - 'Discontinued' according to the LCBO.  A clean, crisp mid yellow colour with a indistinct herbal and almost negligible floral nose slowly released on pouring - air on ice or, my preference, is aerating. The film is moderate receding cleanly from a rippled rim. The first sip (12-14oC) bursts with indistinct, subtly sweet, intense flavours and leaves the palate dry and grassy. A complex character, medium-bodied and with a taste that's, once acquired, interesting as a sipper. Pair with grilled seafood, fin or shell. Buy a dozen in for a social event.  88a

35° SOUTH CABERNET SAUVIGNON MERLOT ORGANIC 2013, Molina, Chile, 14.0% D 6g/L, #218859  $12.95  (Tasted January 19, 2015)

A General listing and rated 4 by Rod Phillips. WineAlign  rates it 2.5. Made by Vina San Pedro.  My notes: A deep charcoal tinted ruby that leaves a smooth film with a slight rim flowing a group of slow legs. There's a pleasing tartness to a woody fruit aroma giving this appeal as a sipper. A hint of sweet adds to the wood, tobacco and berry jam blend starting the first sip and continuing through a lonnnggg finish ending warm with a tannin lining. Perfect with a seven hour lamb leg roasted with navy beans.  A meal red or at least sipper with buffet nibbles to soften the ending. 87

FOWLES WINE 'ARE YOU GAME?' SHIRAZ 2012, Victoria, Australia, 13.7%  XD 4g/L, #327320  $17.05  (Tasted January 20, 2015)

A General listing and rated 5 by Rod Phillips.  My notes: A sniff, a sip and I aerated. Very sharp and full of white pepper ready to attack your buds. Aerating takes away the initial intense bite leaving a tasty blend of immature berries. Ruby deepened by smoky soot and leaving a viscous film to slowly build a rounded rim dropping a veil of tears. The first sip separates bright fruit from forest floor with drying tannins lasting through a long bitter finish. Quaff for intensity or slurp for part red currant with touch of chokecherry. Not a sipper so much as a red to match Texas chile or spice rubbed back ribs. Possibly cellar for five years to help mellow intensity. Overpowered a seven hour leg of lamb. Save for a beefy sauce. 82

CHARLES & CHARLES RED BLEND 2013, Washington State, USA,  13.9%  D  8g/L,  #363838 $15.95  (Tasted January 25, 2015)

A General listing.  The Book shows the 2012 vintage and a rating of 4.  My notes: A blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon and 32% Syrah. A blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon and 32% Syrah. The colour is deep purplish ruby. A faint black cherry is prominent on the first sniff. A scent of  blueberry comes next, some white pepper for brightness and soft blackberry in between, a balance that makes for a pleasing sipper. Also there's an appealing velvet touch, dry tannins and a warmth to carry the total through a long finish. Can be paired with a broad spectrum of flavourful meat entrees. My choice would be Beef Wellington or a Roast with Yorkshire Pudding with lots of gravy. Cellar several years staying at present peak or even improve with soft chocolate tones. With an empty bottle at 1.5 lbs so much for the eco system.  92

OATLEY TIC TOK POCKETWATCH CABERNET SAUVIGNON CENTRAL RANGES 2011, New South Wales, Australia, 14.0%  D  8g/L, #187179   $12.85*  (Tasted January 28, 2015)

A General listing and rated 5 by Rod Phillips. *Price reduced from $16.00. The LCBO shows this wine as Discontinued.  My notes:  A deep purple colour with a smooth film that leaves a rounded rim quickly showing a ring of tears. Full-bodied, tart with a blueberry blackberry flavour dense and bright touching the palate and continuing as a long, sweet berry finish. Moderate not major warmth. Moderate tannins that balance savoury grapes. Sip solo or with pigs-in-a-blanket, ie. buffet fare. Serve with steaks, lamb kebobs or beefburgers - very flexible. Should keep for several years gaining a point or two.  90

ROOT: 1 CARMENERE COLCHAGUA VALLEY 2012, Donihue, Chile, 13.5%  D  7g/L, #350546  $12.80  (Tasted January 17, 2015)

A General listing and rated 4 by Rod Phillips. Produced by Vina Ventisquero Ltda. My notes: The roots of the vines planted were unaffected by disease of the early years in Chile. The colour is a purple tinted ruby, opaque to view. A swirl leaves a medium film with a ragged rim flowing wide slow legs. A sniff reveals a background of ripened blackberries but polite, shows a tartness to the nose and palate as well as subtle smoky liquorice. Full with a centre part muted where freshness could be although there's a breadth to the taste with an acid high and a smoky low. A different sipper that would complement savoury steaks, barbecued ribs and hamburgers. If preferred, cellaring for several years could level peaks. I found it a super drink-now consequently an excellent value. 92
VILLA PONCIAGO GRAND VINS BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES 2012, Fleurie, France, 12.0% XD  4g/L,  #325134  $14.95  (Tasted January 22, 2015)

A General listing and rated 4 by Rod Phillips.  My notes:  A clear deep ruby colour leaving a thin film to drain slowly from a lace edge. A dusty light cherry scent almost negligible and the first sip has a fine tannin balanced by a moderate acid followed by a thin cherry. The finish is short on body ending with  a layer of dry dust and faint fruit. Past peak (if there was one). Have with grilled chicken or Cornish hen.  80

CASA LAPOSTOLLE GRAN SELECCION CARMENERE 2012, Rapel Valley, Chile, 13.5%  D  7g/L,  #168740   $14.90  (Tasted January 23, 2015)

A General listing and rated 5 by Rod Phillips. The LCBO shows this as Discontinued.  My notes:  The 2008 vintage was tasted on November 22, 2010 with an 89 rating - price $15.95. The 2012 vintage is a deep purple almost black with a viscous layer flowing a ring of slow tears. The nose has a softness matching its full blackberry and plum scent beautifully balanced with black pepper that develops from the first sip until a bit brash. If you lean toward a dense full-bodied red, quaff. If you prefer a meal red with tannins and acid to complement a rare beef roast or T-bone, sip more moderately. The finish has a full dryness undisturbed by latent bright fruit. Cellaring five years should quell the beast. 92

MICHEL LYNCH MERLOT GRAN  VIN DE BORDEAUX 2011, Bordeaux, France,  13.0%  XD  4g/L, #361550  $17.05  (Tasted January 29, 2015)

A General listing and rated 41/2 by Rod Phillips.  My notes:  There's a bitter side to a lightly flavoured first sip that encouraged aerating - but not yet. There's a purple tint to the dense ruby and the thin film runs tears quickly from a smooth rim. Fine tannins, very dry and a light red cherry flavour starts a moderate finish. On the rough side of Merlot, minimum finesse, perhaps past peak. Aeration removes some of the bite but bramble shows. Overall aeration is not recommended. Have with meat lovers pizza - was good with lamb burgers.  83

BODEGA VOLCANES DE CHILE SUMMIT RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON SYRAH  2013, Rapel Valley, Chile,  14.0% D  xG/L,  #350553  $10.95  (Tasted February 2, 2015)

A General listing and rated 4 by Rod Phillips. My notes:  A rocking motion leaves a viscous film with an ebbing ring of tears. A swirl coats the glass then slowly forms a rim draining through long legs. The colour is  charcoal ruby. A sniff notes a subtle scent of black cherries tainted by vanilla and a delicate tang. Not much fruit in the first sip although a fine tannin, a light acid and dark fruit combination is an OK introduction. Finishing dry with a woody flat blackberry and lasting long in the mouth could make this an adequate sipper but I'd say more of a grilled or broiled red meat dinner wine.  A drink-now.  84

TEMPUS TWO 'LIMESTONE COAST' CABERNET MERLOT 2011 , Pokolbin, New South Wales, 13.5% D  7g/L, #308197  $8.75*  (Tasted February 1, 2015) 

A General listing and rated 4 by Rod Phillips. Discontinued by the LCBO.  My notes: The same vintage of this wine (priced $16.95) was tasted in May 2014 and rated 90. There's a deep ruby red with a cardinal glint waiting to be sipped. The film lays still while accumulating at a rounded rim then drop a few slow tears - a tilt rains a ring of slow legs. A woody soft oak aroma on a ripe cherry base is inviting as a late night solo sipper. Luscious, velvety with fine tannins describe a first impression then adds ripe raspberry cherry to flavour a smoky smooth finish. Serve with lamb chops, lamb souvlaki or savoury seven hour leg of lamb. Ageing has mellowed earlier acids and balanced now's tannins with soft fruit for lip licking appeal.  91   

LA MASCOTA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012,  Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0%  D  7g/L, #292110  $13.95  (Tasted February 4, 2015) 

A General listing and rated 4 by Rod Phillips. WineAlign rates this vintage 2.5.  My notes:  An opaque to view ruby with  film that sticks forever before receding leaving a lacy rim and set in concrete tears. The first sip is silky, viscous on the lips and drying tannins throughout the mouth. A flavour of flat blackberries and a light acid, full-bodied, penetrating going into a long unexciting finish. Leave judging for several sips so fullness can express itself - not as warm as expected, a quiet smoky sipper to have with a grilled assortment, a buffet of soft cheeses and fatty appies, or serve with beef ribs and T-bones. Too late to cellar.  PS. And an eco-unfriendly 1.5lb bottle. 83

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The 500 Best-Value Wines in the LCBO 2015

The 3rd and 4th editions of  Rod Phillips’ book The 500 Best-Value Wines in the LCBO were reviewed earlier in this blog and I found the new content in this recent release worth the purchase. On my way through I gained an alternate perspective of LCBO practises as well as a grading of many new products most of which are already on LCBO shelves. From an earlier review: "The writing style remains relaxed and concise. There's no flamboyancy in either the early chapters, written for someone new to wine, or in the tasting notes for each of the wines... ".   

The section 'How I Describe The Wines' details the author's approach that avoids reference to specific fruits, spices and florals arguing 'very few people can distinguish these flavours in wine'.  This is one aspect to which I don't subscribe. A large portion of my tasting dictionary is based on the local fruit, spices and florals experienced growing up in Ontario, travelling across the provinces and to wineries in other countries. Tasting notes in the Book use words such as 'well textured', 'dense', 'full-bodied', 'smooth', 'tannic', 'well structured', etc., I call these the 'mechanics' of a wine. They are the structure and framework on which the scents and flavours are borne. In my opinion one supports the other and wine is not completely described without a balance of both. 

My wife recently asked about a new wine* brought home to try. "There's something about this wine that lasts - not fruity but smooth and full in the mouth - it's different" she said. I sipped from my glass with the followup "I'd say it's similar to the subtle sweetness and smoky density of the Australian liquorice we sometimes have". Her response surprised me - "now that you say it I can see it, feel it, smell it!"   (*Argentinan Vina Alicia Paso de Piedra Malbec 2010.)

In this example I knew my audience. If I had said the same thing in a public tasting group I likely would have heard a few snickers. If I had stayed with 'smooth, full-bodied and well textured' it likely would have brought puzzled looks from my wife still trying to understand the missing elements in the wine just tasted. Tasting is using each of our senses and then using our ability to describe enough aspects to reach understanding - communicating.

Communication styles vary and can be different if attempting to find common ground among a wide audience. Perhaps this author's view, an international wine judge and award winning journalist, has found common ground. North American tastes and aromas could be completely out of context in eastern countries. Words such as 'well textured', 'dense', 'full-bodied', 'smooth', 'tannic', 'well structured', etc., the  'mechanics' of a wine, may be more easily assimilated than scents and flavours based on 'Mac apples, Bosc pears, Damson plums' or could that be 'Mango. Papaya, Kiwi and Quava'. Words communicate. If it works, as it does for hundreds of critics, then their notes have been effective. A professional critic knows his audience and modifies his language for best clarity.

I'd also amplify another observation brought forward in the Book. That's an increase in prices suggesting 'a dollar or more' for wines on the General shelves. Since I purchase, mostly below $20, labels released by Vintages, I also find increases but more frequently in the 20 - 30% range. Well known wines that are $18.95 at the winery become $26 in Vintages. Customers with the means accept these uplifts as reasonable levies to help a cash strapped Provincial government. Prices go up to solve a current shortfall but seldom come down when the urgency has gone. Those without income flexibility often find quality no longer available at their price point. Avoiding plunk, or 'crap' as one journalist summarized, is becoming difficult.

Another difference is the Book's claim that one vintage is as good as another. I find each vintage has its own story. At the lower price point there's an opportunity for varieties to be blended and for lower grades of grapes to constitute much of the wines at this level. Each vintage can be highly dependent on varying quality in wide areas of a wine region. Individual wineries can negotiate with their buyers for 'new' entry level labels based on annual availability of marginal crops. Be sure to check the vintage before you purchase.

Consistent referral to the Book will help break the habit of buying the same ole stuff while, hopefully, not bringing home plonk. Whether wine consumers want to break from current tastes and habits is an open question. Once a Leaf always a Leaf! to use a local sports sentiment.

My use of the Book is to explore 'new' wines, of which there are 60 reds and 31 whites, in particular those blends or grapes hoping to broaden my tasting experience.  The plan is to taste selections in the next few weeks in Part 2 of The 500 Best-Value Wines in the LCBO 2015. 

As always, just my opinion,

Ratings Summary:
96-100 Extraordinary
90 - 95 Outstanding
86 - 89 Interesting to Excellent
80 - 85 Drinkable to Enjoyable
70 - 79 Uninteresting to Simple
60 - 69 Unpleasant
50 - 59 Unacceptable

5  Stars        It’s hard to imagine better quality (94-100 points).
4 ½  Stars     Excellent quality (90-93 points). 
4 Stars         Very good quality (87-89 points).
3 ½ Stars    Good quality (85-86 points).
3 Stars    Well-made wine but without distinction (82-84 points).

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday 2014-15 wines - 16 Tasted of 16

Mare of the Mist

THE LINEUP: (Reds, Whites, Bubblies)

  • Vina Alicia Paso de Piedra Malbec 2010, 92-2  --  V,  Mendoza, Argentina, #301457   $19.95 
  • 13th Street Merlot 2012 VQA Creek Shores, 91-2  --  V, St. Catherines, Ontario, #270504  $17.95     
  • Cline Family Cellars Zinfandel 2013, 90-2  --  G,  Lodi, California, #489278  $14.95
  • Mount Riley Pinot Noir 2012, 88c  -- V,  Marlborough, NZ, #060137  $23.95
  • Frei Brothers Reserve Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2012, 87  --  V, Healdsburg, California, #281758  $24.95  
  • Ventisquero Queulat Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2012,  85  --  V, Casablanca Valley, Chile, #389213  $15.95 
  • Beronia Tempranillo Reserva Rioja 2009, 83  --  G, Rioja, Spain, #243055  $13.00  
  • Gnarly Head Pinot Noir 2012, 83  --  G, Manteca, California, #358911  $14.95
  • Prunotto Mompertone 2011, 82a  --  V, Alba, Italy, #388587  $18.95 
  • The Show Cabernet Sauvignon 2012,  81a  --  G, Napa, California, #383885  $17.95
  • Rodney Strong Estate Pinot Noir Sonoma County 2012, 80  --  V, Healdsburg, California, #954834  $22.45*     
  • Dandelion Vineyards 'Twilight of the Adelaide Hills' Chardonnay 2012, 89-1  --  V, MacLean Vale, Australia, #368274   $19.95
  • Cave de Ribeauville Collection Pinot Gris 2013, 85  --  V, Alsace, France, #390633  $19.95 
  • Camp Romain Laudun Cotes du Rhone-Villages Blanc 2013,  83  --  V, Rhône, France, #380725  $15.25 
  • Ventisquero Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013, 78  --  V, Casablanca Valley, Chile,  #211904  $13.95

  • Bird in Hand Sparkling Pinot Noir 2011, 92-2  --  V, Adelaide Hills, Australia, #327429  $19.95  
       (V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other, r-v  - Rating-Value, a - aerated, c - cellar, NR - Not Recommended)


GNARLY HEAD PINOT NOIR 2012, Manteca, California, 13.5%  D  9g/L, #358911  $14.95  (Tasted December 27, 2014)

A General listing made by Delicato Vineyards. My notes: A charcoal stained ruby that lays a thin, smooth film with a rounded rim dropping a curtain of slow tears. A sharply edged smoky floral wakens the nose without disclosing the fruit until the first sip then a cherry/red currant mix carrying through to a long, dry finish with a touch of bramble, light-bodied and bright on the tongue. Serve with pizzas, beef ribs, Metro's barbecue chicken or provide at an open bar to have with a burger on the run. A drink now. Quaffing gives a fuller flavour.  83

THE SHOW CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012, Napa, California, 13.9%  D  9g/L, #383885  $17.95  (Tasted December 29, 2014)

A General listing made by the Trinchero Family Estates (TFE).  My notes:  A deep raspberry colour with a stick-to-the-glass viscosity running a rim of slow tears. There's a warm berry aroma with a hint of nutmeg, white pepper and fruit replaced by bramble going into a long dry finish - like licking chalk having a flat liquorice taint. Full of character that changes from start to end. As a sipper, a red with unexpected 'terroir'. More of a meal red to have with steak, beefburgers, souvlakis or Osso Bucco. A drink now with short shelf expectancy and, after a second tasting, better aerated to be tolerated. The empty bottle weighs 1.5lbs. For a statement re their commitment to the environment see TFE Green.  81a

CLINE FAMILY CELLARS ZINFANDEL 2013,  Lodi , California, 14.0% D 9g/L, #489278  $14.95  (Tasted December 23, 2014)

A General listing and produced by Cline Cellars My notes: The colour is a charcoal hued ruby and there's a scent of ripe raspberries dipped in molten chocolate introducing the nose. An empty glass reeks (in a good way) of wood smoke. A thin film quickly shreds at the rim leaving a fragmenting veil. The first sip has a silky texture then a steely edge finishing dry with a miniscule barnyard. A hint of sweetness, unrelated to the fruit, remains on the tongue. Entertaining as a sipper and would have a good presence with grilled steak, beefy ribs or dark duck meat. Will cellar well making this flexible as a social temptress or an amiable dining partner.  90

DANDELION VINEYARDS 'TWILIGHT OF THE ADELAIDE HILLS' CHARDONNAY 2012, MacLean Vale, Australia, 13.0%  D  4g/L, #368274   $19.95  (Tasted December 24, 2014)

Released by Vintages on May 10, 2014. Rated 91 by Harvey Steimann  (August 31, 2013).  My notes: An aroma of a soggy newsprint that airs quickly subsiding to a grapefruit touched cool apple pie. The film is moderate, firm enough to form a hesitant rim receding as a lacy edge - a few fast tears. The colour is a green hued pale yellow. A mineral intro, medium-bodied, mildly luscious and nicely tangy ready to match with whitefish, seared scallops, lobster/crab pieces and mussels in a garlic wine sauce. The finish layers a light cream with the mineral. Chard lovers may do a double take but with a few sips continue conversation - some may adopt this as a pinot gris. Cellar a dozen for its uniqueness - will keep several years.  89

CAVE DE RIBEAUVILLE COLLECTION PINOT GRIS 2013, Alsace, France, 13.5% D xg/L, #390633  $19.95  (Tasted January 8, 2015)

Released by Vintages on November 22, 2014.  My notes:
A polished mid yellow with a tart lemon custard scent. A swirl leaves a fragmented rim quickly receding to a lacing pattern on the glass. Served at 10oC a sip is drying and tangy with flavours following the nose all to a long ascerbic finish - held its own with tilapia grilled in a butter sauce with an asparagus side. A sipper for those accustomed to biting into a lemon while chewing on chalk.  85

VIÑA ALICIA PASO DE PIEDRA MALBEC 2010, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.5%  XD 4g/L, #301457  $19.95  (Tasted January 9, 2015)

Released by Vintages on October 11, 2014. Rated 90 by Jay Miller  (December 2011).  My notes: The viscosity shows in the firm film and slow legs on the glass. The nose starts with a subdued spice and plum/cherry scent that intensifies in the bowl. A spike of acid spreads with a drying layer on the palate. There's a touch of sweetness with penetrating liquorice to accent the dark fruit and sustain everything through a long extra dry finish. Interesting as a sipper and a good complement to anything savoury. At peak with excellent cellaring potential. 92

VENTISQUERO RESERVA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2013, Casablanca Valley, Chile,  12.5%  XD 4g/L, #211904  $13.95  (Tasted January 4, 2015)

Released by Vintages on August 2, 2014.  My notes:  Equal portions of gooseberry and tart apple with some spice for a nose. The colour is a mid yellow with a green tint and there's just enough body for a thin film to form then collapse quickly without a trace. The first sip has an unexpected flat mineral flavour with citrus being a secondary impression and the finish is a lasting chalk with a moderate tang. Add an ounce of lime or cherry flavouring for sipping or serve well chilled paired with seafood. Perhaps a wine produced from a below average vintage or from excess harvest.  78

13TH STREET MERLOT 2012 VQA Creek Shores, St. Catherines, Ontario, 14.0%  XD 6g/L, #270504  $17.95  (Tasted January 12, 2015)

Released by Vintages on January 4, 2014. Six hundred cases were produced.  My notes: This was last tasted on May 5, 2014 and rated 90a. Not much has changed with 10 months at the LCBO. The aroma is pleasing with a cherry and raspberry aroma - soft dark chocolate, liquorice and tea leaf accents broaden the nose. An opaque deep charcoal hued ruby colour spreads a viscous film slow drop until a dozen tears break from the rim. Fine tannins dry the palate laying a path for ripe plums and bright red currants. The finish is long, extra dry, full-bodied, halfway between dark fruit and mild chalk. Pair with a beefy T-bone or bbq'd ribs or lamb stew. Very nice. 91

VENTISQUERO QUEULAT GRAN RESERVA PINOT NOIR  2012, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 13.5% XD 7g/L, #389213  $15.95  (Tasted January 11, 2015)

Released by Vintages on October 25, 2014.   My notes:  A see-through charcoal stained ruby sets the stage. The film is thin leaving a frilly edge rim to recede slowly - less frill and a fuller rim with slow legs if glass is tilted. A pleasant pungency in the first sniff, some plum and smoky cherry for fruit and silk, tannins, balanced acid add to the first sip. An initial faint barnyard scent dissipates quickly for pleasant sipping - more smoke than fruit. Aerating has a mellowing effect - try before serving. Have with Maple smoked salmon, chorizo pieces and butter basmati rice or chicken cacciatore. 85

CAMP ROMAIN LAUDUN CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES BLANC 2013, Rhône, France, 13.0%  XD  4g/L, #380725  $15.25  (Tasted December 31, 2014)

Released by Vintages on August 2, 2014.  My notes:  Served at 16oC a golden with a touch of tarnish and a faint chilled butter for a nose. A swirl lays a light film with a slight rim quickly fragmenting then releasing a few fast legs. A swish brings a combination of pie crust and tangy grapefruit pith. A smooth texture shows some cream then quickly changes to a dry mineral with some tang remaining. A meal white with seafood or roasted fowl - went well with a shredded chicken stir fry with a spinach rice side touched by soy. Serve no higher than 18oC. 83

BERONIA TEMPRANILLO RESERVA RIOJA 2009, Rioja, Spain, 14.0% XD 2g/L, #243055  $13.00   (Tasted January 4, 2015)

A General listing. My notes: A blend of Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo grapes. A charcoal tinted deep ruby with a subtle, warm nose of blackberry, bright red currant and mild smoke. A light film leaves a ragged edge to recede slowly. A balanced silk, an early light sting then an wood shaving dryness on the lips and palate takes over and into a fading finish. Quaffing fills the mouth with bright cherry easy to please but the finish comes quickly begging a smooth gravy over potatoes and a forkful of rare steak or spicy sausage. A meal red past its peak. Drink now. 83
RODNEY STRONG ESTATE PINOT NOIR  SONOMA COUNTY 2012, Healdsburg, California, 14.5% XD 5g/L, #954834  $22.45*  (Tasted January 6, 2015)

Vintages release date was unavailable.  Regularly priced $24.95 reduced until January 4, 2015.  My notes: Being a featured red at the local LCBO I thought I'd use as gifts for the season. The $2 discount was an incentive. Not a lot of nose to sniff on this red cherry. Clear enough to see through even in dim light. A pleasant silk, nip and tannins for the first sip combined with a shallow cherry flavour and long dry finish. The discounted price is high given the substance of this Pinot. Pairing is difficult as most entrées would over power rather than complement. Not a drink now nor a candidate for cellaring. 80

FREI BROTHERS RESERVE ZINFANDEL DRY CREEK VALLEY 2012, Healdsburg, California, 14.8% D 8g/L, #281758  $24.95  (Tasted January 15, 2015 )

Released by Vintages on November 8, 2014.  Rated 89 by Robert Parker Jr. (December 2013).  My notes: An E. & J. Gallo wine. A blend of 96% Zinfandel and 4% Petite Sirah. An E. & J. Gallo wine. A blend of 96% Zinfandel and 4% Petite Sirah.  A charcoal tinted ruby opaque to view. The aroma has a tart touch to the nostrils and a scent of black cherries warmed awhile in the sun. Silky smooth, drying tannins and a pleasing tartness assembles for a long smoky finish. A viscous film runs long legs instantly and smoothly on the glass bowl. Pair with leg of lamb, rare steaks and savoury stews or just sip with buffet appetizers: eg. stuffed mushroom caps, bacon wrapped asparagus. The blend components add a hint of sweet - perhaps the oak contribution. Likely at peak. Would be a value at $18 - 20US .  87

MOUNT RILEY PINOT NOIR 2012,  Marlborough, NZ, 13.5%  XD  5g/L, #060137  $23.95  (Tasted January 5, 2015)

Released by Vintages on July 5, 2014. Rated 3.5 of 5 by Michael Cooper, 2014.  My notes:  A see-through ruby, alluring in firelight. Rolls a thin film that leaves a heavily fragmented rim becoming islands transitioning to beads.  A delicate red cherry aroma with just enough lemon to accent a coming flavour. Sip slowly for a dry, tart, light-bodied red with a silkiness that continues to a moderate bright finish. Thirst quenching as a sipper and complementary when paired with pork, chicken and seafood. Could add an interesting depth to spicy Thai or sweet and sour Chinese. Cellaring a few years may accentuate the silk and bring forward flavours from the background - worth a try (except for the price). Rational price $14-$16.  88c  

PRUNOTTO MOMPERTONE  2011, Alba, Italy, 14.0% XD  7g/L, #388587  $18.95  (Tasted January 1, 2015)

Released by Vintages on October 11, 2014. Rated 90 by Antonio Galloni  (October 2013).  My notes:  A blend of 60% Barbera grapes and 40% Syrah grapes produces a deep ruby colour; a firm film with a rounded rim that flows quick legs; a prickly plum, blackberry and smoke aroma with an awakening sting in the first sip; a dry layering of the mouth with tooth cleaner acid and a thin finish needing mellowing by the savoury juices of most roast beef or liver entrees. A spirited wine with possibly a short shelf life. Aeration reduced the sting to an amenable level so is a 'must' - otherwise not recommended. Portion of bottle was discarded.  82a

BIRD IN HAND SPARKLING PINOT NOIR 2011, Adelaide Hills, Australia, 12.0%  D  18g/L,  #327429  $19.95  (Retasted December 31, 2014)  

New year glitter comments, animated newyear gif scraps, happy new year wishes Released  by Vintages on August 17, 2013.  My notes: Last tasted on September 6, 2013 and rated 91. The current vintage at the winery is 2014, however not available at the LCBO. Served at 10oC this has a light salmon colour bursting with small bubbles shifting to a variety then an invisible spritz until disturbed by a thermometer causing continuous streams. A delicate tangerine/strawberry with miniscule sugar covered by the tartness of CO2 bubbles. The spritely spritz lasts forever.  There's a touch of cream for toasting  or to have with fresh oysters, breakfast sausage drizzled with maple syrup and your choice, waffles/pancakes. My idea of a New Year's Eve toaster  or summer refresher - if only Vintages would stock regularly. Empty bottle weight was close to 2 lbs.  92