Friday, December 30, 2005

Favourites of 2005


Favourites of 2005 are based on my overall impression of the wine with a meal, sipping, or both, ie. the here and now and not for any cellaring potential. The criteria and results are my own and do not represent an endorsement or rejection of any wine mentioned or not mentioned. If you go out and buy a case and like it, so much the better. On the other hand, if you don't enjoy it all I can say is, individual tastes are just that. The majority of vintners are dedicated artisans driven by their art. Some are driven by the bottom line. I can't know the difference - as well as any other factor - so it becomes irrelevant and any wine is treated equally. My budget restricts most of the wines to under $20 but often through the benevolence of friends and family I get a chance to go over this level. Excluded are wines purchased through the Opimian Wine Society of Canada, rosés, and sparkling wines. There's no signifance in the order of the lists and the dates shown are for Archived tastings where details can be found. 

Some wines are still available as of writing - outlets with stock can usually be found via the LCBO website . Since vintages can vary considerably verify the 'year' that's available - always try it before cellaring quantities of any vintage, especially a new one: wine names are sold, wineries change hands, tier brands are introduced and then there's the climate. I hope this helps narrow down the pursuit of a variety of value wines. On to 2006! 

Salut, Ww

Reds - of 111 Tastings:

  • Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 #337238 $17.95 V (Dec 6/Mar 16)
  • Nepenthe 'The Rogue' Cabernet/Merlot/Shiraz 2003, #998542 $17.95 V (Dec 13)
  • Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel 2004, #284653 $19.95 V (Nov 24)
  • St. Hallett 'GST' Grenache/Shiraz/Touriga 2004, #660910 $23.95 V (Oct 30)
  • Katnook 'Founder's Block' Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, #660332 $17.95 V (Oct 29)
  • Elderton 'Friends' Shiraz 2003, #660480 $19.95 V (Oct 17)
  • Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel 2001, #434605 $19.95 V (Sep 25)
  • Langmeil 'Three Gardens' Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvedre 2003, #664047 $21.95 V (Sep 20)
  • Grant Burge 'Cameron Vale' Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, #937276 $19.95 V (Sep 19)
  • Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2002, #390872 $30.05 G (Sep 5)
  • Blue Pyrenees Shiraz 2001, #935890 $19.95 V (Aug 25)
  • Sterling Vineyards Vintners Collection Merlot 2001/2002/2003 #622837 $15.45/$15.40/$15.40 G (Jul 5/Apr 21/Feb 7)
  • Pasqua Sagramoso Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2001/2002, #602342 $15.05/$17.05 G (May 19/Jun 3)
  • Jeanneret Shiraz 2002, #994962 $24.95 V (May 19)
  • Concho y Toro Trio Merlot 2003, #433920 $13.95 V (Mar 18)
  • Mandolin Pinot Noir 2001, #590596 $14.95 V (Mar 12)
  • Wolf Blass Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2001, #611509 $16.95 G (Mar 12)
  • Malivoire Pinot Noir Moira Vineyard 2000, Winery, $35.95 (Mar 10)
  • Vivaio Dei Barbi Morellino di Scansano 2000, #720177 $16.95 G (Mar 8)
  • Saltram Mamre Brook Shiraz 2000, #906677 $19.95 V (Jan 31)
  • Arrowfield Hunter Valley Shiraz 2001, #597583 $16.95 V (Jan 15)
  • Corto Zovo Camposolin 2001, #650713 $11.95 V (Jan 8)

Whites - of 102 Tastings:

  • Anselmi San Vincenzo Veneto IGT 2002/2003/2004, #948158 $15.95 V (Dec 30/Oct 1/Mar 6)
  • Chereau-Carré 'Le Fleuron' Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2003, #653493 $13.95 V (Nov 22)
  • Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2004 #975672 $19.95 V (Nov 13, May 2)
  • Sandhill Burrowing Owl Pinot Blanc 2002, #541185 $14.00 V (Nov 11)
  • De Bertoli Deen 2004 Vat 7 Chardonnay, #598896 $11.20 G (Oct 20)
  • Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé 2002, #732917 $34.95 V (Sep 18)
  • Konzelmann Estate Winery Chardonnay 2002, #200535 $10.60 G (Aug 30 )
  • Fielding Estate Chardonnay Musque 2004, Winery $13.45 (Aug 23)
  • Chateau des Charmes St. David's Bench Viognier 2003, #432948 $18.95 V (Aug 21)
  • Sauvion et Fils Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2002, #143016 $9.90 G (Aug 3)
  • Yalumba 'Y Series' Viognier 2004, #624502 $13.95 V (Jul 28)
  • Chateau des Charmes Aligoté 2003 (Estate Bottled), #284950 $11.95 G (Jul 13)
  • Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc 2004, #293043 $14.95 G (Jun 20)
  • Cave Spring Vineyard CSV Chardonnay 1999, #529941 $32.95 G (May 9)
  • Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2004/2002, #304469 $31.95/28.95 V (May 2, Apr 2)
  • Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2004, #275677 $12.45 G (Apr 19)
  • Kim Crawford 'Flowers' Sauvignon Blanc 2002, Winery $20.00 (Apr 2)
  • Medalla Real Santa Rita Chardonnay 2002, #303628 $16.95 V (Mar 14)
  • Weingut Machherndl E.R.A. Pinot Blanc & Neuburger 2002, #925222 $16.95 V (Feb 17)
  • Jacques et Lurton Les Fumées Blanches, #472555 $9.95 G (Jan 12)
  • Bodegas Esmeralda Argento Pinot Grigio 2004, #620492 $9.95 G (Jan 1)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

December Sparkles (5): Canada Blend, Italy Prosecco(3), Australia Chardonnay

SUMAC RIDGE 'STELLARS JAY' SPARKLING BRUT 2001 METHODE CLASSIQUE, Okanagan, Canada, 12.2% D, #264879 $19.95 (Tasted December 8, 2005)

The label says: "a blend of pinot blanc, pinot noir and chardonnay aged en tirage for a minimum of three years. ... hand riddled and hand disgorged... " A Vintages release December 10, 2005. My notes: A crystal light blond with a touch of peach hue, a fragrant pineapple peach and a mountain of bubbles fine enough for foam but not fine enough for froth. A bright medium-bodied apple and citrus flavour with a slight creaminess. A medium Granny Smith finish. A bit light with grilled telapia and salad with sliced olives and balsamic dressing but a good festive quencher between seafood appetizers.

BOTTEGA VINO DEI POETI PROSECCO, Veneto, Italy, 11.0% D, #897702 $12.60 (Tasted December 21, 2005)

The LCBO writes: "Pale straw colour, fine bubbles; fresh & fragrant with delicate apple, pear, citrus and hints of honeysuckle & white fruit on the nose; dry, with barely a hint of sweetness on palate & flavours of green apple and citrus; refreshing finish. Serve as an apéritif or try with spring rolls, shrimp, sushi, with melon and prosciutto, light fruit dishes or cheese and fruit." Gordon Stimmell describes this as "...transcends the ususal sweet prosecos, showing apple and floral aromas and a hint of toasty biscuits. The flavours are full of apple and zesty citrus, with a slightly sweet edge on the finish. Very refreshing." and rates it 88. A General listing reduced for a period from $13.60. My notes: The foil wrap has a priceless quote by Cicerone: "Either drink or leave". A light blond and foams rather than froths... ie. bubbles are medium size and viscosity is low. Fragrance of apple and pears, medium-bodied with corresponding flavours and a citrus edge. Finish is long of apple and citrus with a faint yeastiness. A reasonable celibratory sipper or have with oysters, chilled cocktail shrimp, asian foods or mild cheeses and pineapple wedges. Cellar for a few years or just drink now.

BANROCK STATION SPARKLING CHARDONNAY, South Eastern Australia, 12.0% D, #534974 $12.00 (Tasted December 22, 2005)

The LCBO says: "Medium straw colour, fine mousse ; dry, medium-bodied with apple/pear fruit; crisp with hints of butterscotch on the finish. Serve with brunch, seafood or spicy foods." The label says: "fresh peach and melon characters.. of chardonnay are a feature of this superb full flavoured sparkling wine. ... soft creamy texture and subtle yeast." A General listing. My notes: I enjoyed their sparkling shiraz so had to try their chardonnay. A golden blond with a faint 'unoaked chardonnay' or pear/apple nose and a rush of large bubbles creating a foam that quickly settles to a stream of finer bubbles. Medium-bodied with a dry crisp mousseux flavour of melon with a peach tone - the finish is a long cripsy creamy in the mouth. Another reasonable festive sipper - not full and fruity and not over tart, with a pleasing finish for sure. Refreshing with oysters, shrimp ring with tartar dip, Dim Sum, or mild cheeses. A drink now - perhaps a year cellaring would be interesting.

VAL D'OCA PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE BRUT V.S.Q.P.R.D. 2004, Veneto, Italy, 11.0% D, #340570 $14.15 (Tasted December 25, 2005)

The LCBO says: "Pale yellow colour; up front floral aromas with spicy, Muscat notes; fruity, spicy flavours with a tangy finish. Serve as an aperitif or with light seafood." A General listing. My notes: An abundance of bubbles foaming briefly then a steady medium-sized stream forming a frothy edge. A light blond with a yeast and melon nose. A round spritz on the tongue and a moderate citric tang in the throat with flavours of melon and a hint of orange. Finish is moderately long with a noticeable creaminess. OK as a festive sparkler, with seafood appetizers or serve with white fish dishes, sushi or Asian fare. A drink now sparkler.

MIONETTO SPA IL PROSECCO, Veneto, Italy, 10.5% D, #588053 $13.40 (Tasted December 27, 2005)

The LCBO describes as: "Medium straw colour with lively bubbles; medium-intensity citrus, pear and melon notes; dry, light-body, crisp, refreshing style. Serve with hors d'oeuvres, antipasta, or seafood." A General listing. My notes: The crown cap is different - suggests carbonation rather than secondary fermentation - and with a sugar code of 2 there is a sweet edge. The shoulder on the neck doesn't allow a standard champagne 'recorker' so drinkup, the bubbles disappear quickly. A very light blond with large bubbles and no chance of a froth. A grassy very light muscat nose and initial heavy spritz that also goes quickly. Light-bodied with flavours of honeydew melon with a lime twist and no creaminess. The finish is a long light citrus. A pleasant enough quaffer with or without shellfish appetizers and held its own with grilled telapia and rice. More of a tart spritz than a sparkler and, IMHO for what it offers, well overpriced.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

December Whites (2): Italy 'Soave', France Sauv Blanc,

ANSELMI 'SAN VINCENZO' VENETO IGT 2004, Veneto, Italy, 12.8% XD, #948158 $15.95 (Tasted December 30, 2005)

Vintages writes: "Super Fresh! This is a light, fresh wine that will capture your imagination as ripe citrus and tropical fruit dance across your palate. It's crisp with a backbone of acidity and a medium finish. A concentrated blend of Garganega, Chardonnay and a little Trebbiano. Enjoy with pasta with pesto or roast goose. " A Vintages release October 10, 2005. My notes: This is the latest vintage of Anselmi and it remains as full of zesty fruit flavours as the previous vintages. Full aromas of lemon and floral honey build anticipation for the freshly tart flavours of soft lemon, a touch of passionfruit and pineapple. A long, warm. silky finish has enough zest to refresh the taste buds. An interesting sipper and ideal paired with any seafood appetizer or entree. Full-bodied and flavourful, try with cold ham, sushi, and asian dishes. Cellaring for a year shouldn't lessen the freshness but may more fully integrate fruit with acids.

CHATEAU DAUZAN LA VERGNE BLANC 1998, 12.0% XD, Bergerac, France, CP138-1942 $19.17 (Tasted December 6, 2005)

Opimian writes: "Aged in oak, this Sauvignon Blanc has lost none of the spicy edge and ethusiastic vigour that typifies the grape but is now a richer, straw coloured wine with subtle perfume, growing powerfully in the glass featuring a punch of nutmeg, raspberry, nettle and warm oak. etc. " My notes: Laid down September 2001. A golden yellow perfumed with spice, faint pineapple, apricots and a touch of oak. A full-bodied dry white soft with an acid edge that carries lemon and apricot flavours across the palate. A long citrus finish with a touch of creaminess. If you like a dry european sauvignon blanc it's a sipper but it's great paired with grilled salmon with a rice vegetable mix and lettuce salad with a balsamic dressing. Will likely continue to strengthen in the bottle but is drinking well now.

December Reds (9): Chile Cab Sauv, France Bord, Chile Merlot, Spain Abadia, Australia CS/Merl/Shir, France Bergerac, Italy Shir/Nero, Spain Rioja(2)

MARQUES DE CASA CONCHA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #337238 $17.95 (Tasted December 6, 2005)

The label says: "Limited production, aged in French oak for fourteen months. With its intense black cherry aroma and fig flavour evoking the Puente Alto terroir, the wood adds generous hints of coffee and vanilla. ... medium-bodied and pleasant tannins." Vintages says: "2003 vintage: 91 points – Wine Spectator (30.9.05) The ‘Marques de Casa Concha' rides again with aromas of cassis, blueberry, vanilla, smoke and cedar. The ripe black fruits lead on the palate with a hint of pepper and a medium finish. Enjoy with beef tenderloin and root vegetables." Gord Stimmell writes: "With lavish blackberry, smoky black cherry and chocolate notes, it's a real power tripper red from Chile" and rates it 92. My notes: From the Vintages Essentials Collection. A deep garnet with a soft spicy ripe plum, vanilla hints and faint cedar nose. Flavours of vanilla, licorice and ripe black cherries - seems to develop further in the glass. Full- and soft in the mouth with soothing tannins and a touch of black pepper. The finish is long and smoothe. A great red dry sipper.... not intrusive for mild to medium cheeses, bruscetta or pizza squares. Should be great with lamb shanks, beef stews, prime rib or lightly spiced red pasta dishes. Still has a few more years cellaring but a SUPER drinker now.

CHATEAU GROSSOMBRE (BEATRICE LURTON) 2000, Bordeaux, France, 12.5% XD, #943712 $18.95 (Tasted December 6, 2005)

The label says: "... 67% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Merlot, is aged for a year in oak barrels. ... full-bodied ... with complex aromas of fruits, woodland scent, and spice. ... have with red or white meats., and cheeses." Vintages Wine of the Month (November) saying: "The red wines from Beatrice Lurton... offer 'one of Bordeaux’s greatest bargains' according to Tom Stevenson (Sotheby’s New Wine Encyclopedia). From the superb 2000 vintage, this supple, approachable Bordeaux blend offers impressive aromas of coffee, cedar, cassis and vanilla bean. Dry, robust and almost chewy, this wine is medium to full-bodied with a lingering fruit and silky tannin finish. While certainly enjoyable on its own, it really shines with food such as beef Wellington or lamb stew." My notes: A deep ruby with a light cherry and pepper nose. Medium- to light-bodied with light tannins, balanced acid and red cherries. The finish is also light with cherries, tannins and a light tang. An OK sipper with mild cheeses but better paired with grilled Ontario lamb chops and baked potato, perhaps a ham steak with melted cheese. At its peak now.... not enough interest for a sipper but OK with a meal. Nothing left to cellar - a drink-now.

CONCHA y TORO MARQUES DE CASA CONCHA MERLOT 2003, Rapel Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #939827 $18.95 (Tasted December 9, 2005)

Vintages says: "It is very expressive aromatically and quite deeply flavored, with rich, concentrated fruit notes reminiscent of plums and dark berries. With well-balanced oak edging and lovely undertones of cocoa and vanilla, this is both complex and symmetrical. It is also remarkably stable, remaining fresh and expressive for days after opening. (Michael Franz, The Washington Post, March 9, 2005)" Natalie says: "Aromas of chocolate and red berries make this rich, deep wine a lovely companion to full-flavored dishes. Will cellar in the short-term. Drink 2005-2008. Score: 89.5/100." A Vintages release November 26, 2005. My notes: A deep ruby red with an aroma of peppery raspberries and black cherries... flavours of ripe berries, vanilla with soft tannins and a nice edge. There's a background flavour of overripe fruit that spoils this as a sipper for me but it should be great paired with grilled steaks: T-bone or New York cuts or flavourful beef stews, even prime rib with horseradish and Yorkshire pudding. The finish is long and chalky.

RAIMAT ABADIA 2002, Costers del Segre, Spain, 13.3% D, #935460 $13.95 (Tasted December 11, 2005)

The label says: "... a blend of cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo that is aged 12 months in American oak... " Vintages writes: "The Spanish version of a Bordeaux blend with Cabernet Sauvignon taking the lead, followed by Merlot and finishing with Tempranillo. Engage your senses with aromas of raspberry, strawberry, earth and oak. It's a traditionally styled dry and fruity wine with a medium full body and a long lingering finish that will transport you to beautiful Barcelona." My notes: A Vintages Essentials wine. A clear light ruby with a light raspberry and red cherry nose. Light bodied with a slight raspberry and cherry flavour and a short light finish with pronounced tannins (how many times can I say 'light'?) - tempranillo predominates. A dry light sipper better paired with a grilled medium-rare strip steak marinated in beer, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. A drink-now red.

NEPENTHE 'THE ROGUE' CABERNET/MERLOT/SHIRAZ 2003, Adelaide, Australia, 14.0% XD, #998542 $17.95 (Tasted December 13, 2005)

Vintages says: "Winemaker Peter Leske designs 'The Rogue' year after year to express the best of the cool Adelaide Hills. With the blend changing every vintage, this scoundrel keeps you guessing. The '03 is 59% dark and serious Cabernet Sauvignon with 22% soft and fleshy Merlot and 19% spicy Shiraz. Enjoy with roasted lamb or game." Gord Stimmell says: "... Nepenthe (is) rich, smooth, minty chocolate notes, a crowd pleaser of the first order" and rates it 90. Vintages release December 10, 2005. My notes: Comes with a convenient screwtop. A see-through smoky rose edged ruby with soft aromas of plums and subtle nutmeg. I found it difficult to separate the varietals ..... the fruit flavours are evenly matched and well integrated with tannins and acid. It's full and smoothe with a long finish and a touch of oil on the lips. A wonderful dry sipper or have with anything red: meats, game, red pastas or pepperoni pizza though not highly spiced. Cellar for several years but it's hard not to indulge now.

CHATEAU PIQUE-SEGUE DAUZAN LA VERGNE 1998, Cote de Bergerac. France, 12.5% XD, CP138-1941 $19.17 (Tasted December 17, 2005)

The Opimian Cellar Plan describes as: ".... showing a bright, magenta trimmed colour, it is perfumed with vibrant oak, combining with cassis. In the mouth, waves of mellow fruit carry memories of plum, cherry and soft berry. .... develop over a few more years." My notes: Purchased from the Opimian and cellared December 2001, still showing a deep clear ruby and a clear aroma of plums, cherries and soft spice (cassis?). Medium-bodied and smoothe, the fruit is subdued being integrated with soft tannins and acid. The finish is long and shows a pleasing plum with some light oak remnants. Should be great with prime rib, T-bone or New York cut steaks, even dark fowl and lamb. Drinking well now but cellaring isnt likely to spoil this as a dry red sipper.

BOLLA SICILIA ROSSO 2003, Venezie, Italy, 13.1% XD, #621128 $10.95 (Tasted December 23 and 27, 2005)

Beppi recommends saying: ", avant-garde blend of shiraz and nero d'avola . .. medium full-bodied and very ripe and almost raisiny, it hints of plum and black cherry, with nuances of vanilla and chocolate on a velvety frame." A General release. My notes: Interesting nose if you're into musty socks.... uncharacteristic of either fresh shiraz or nero d'avola. Ruby red with perhaps a terracotta edge and medium-bodied with a flavour of ripe black plums, faint tannins and light spice. If you get past the nose - decanting didn't help - it's not a bad sipper although with a very ripe fig focus. Better paired with a tangy red pasta dish or pepperoni pizza. The finish is long and raisin-cherry (still with socks). Surprisingly it had improved by the fourth day. Cellaring won't likely improve this red but if you have a bottle or two a few years is worth a try rather than sip now.

VINCENTE GANDIA GRAN VEREMA 'OLD VINES' TEMPRANILLO RESERVA 2000, Rioja, Spain, 13.5% XD, #660548 $14.95 (Tasted December 23, 2005)

Beppi recommends and writes: "... a terrific buy, medium full-bodied and chunky, with nuances of chocolate, cedar, vanilla and minerals. Another fresh, flavourful, modern Spanish red." Vintages writes: "A rich, ripe and deeply delicious Tempranillo made for braised beef or lamb dishes. Aromas suggest strawberry jam, plum, spice and smoke. Dry, velvety and quite supple. Medium-bodied with a long finish. (Vintages panel, Feb. 2005)." A Vintages release December 10, 2005. My notes: A ruby red and a faint non-distinct aroma. Light- to medium-bodied red berry and red cherry with soft tannins and a hint of chocolate. The finish is long, smoothe with a slight tart cherry. A dry sipper but more of an entree wine where the entree is any braised red meat, a crock pot lamb stew or Texas style (more beef than beans) chili con carne. A drink-now dinner wine - save for uninvited guests.

BODEGAS MONTECILLO CRIANZA 2001 LA RIOJA , Rioja, Spain, 13.0% XD, #144493 $12.95($14.95*) (Tasted December 23, 2005)

The LCBO says: "Medium ruby red colour; raspberry, sweet cherry, violet, lavander and cassis fruit aromas with hints of vanilla and oak; dry, medium-full bodied, good acidity with ripe plum, cherry, cedar and leather notes on the palate; long, smooth finish. Have with rabbit stew, rack of lamb or paella." A General listing (*indicates regular price). My notes: A brilliant ruby with a soft cherry nose. Light- to medium-bodied with rounded flavours of raspberry and sweet cherries, some other floral mix evenly integrated adding interest to the basic fruit. The finish is moderate, smoothe leaving some tannin on the palate and oil on the lips. A sipper if you like a dry red - have with grilled steaks, prime rib, lightly seasoned red pastas, lamb stew -grilled pork is likely stretching it but likely. Should be able to cellar for a few years but basically a drink-now dry red.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

More November Reds (2): France Bordeaux, USA Zinfandel

CHATEAU PLAISANCE PREMIERE COTES DE BORDEAUX 1999, Bordeaux, France, 12.5% XD, CP143-2210 $20.67 (Tasted November 22, 2005)

Opimian writes: "This one is superb, dark and thickly concentrated with a rich and fragrant plum-style bouquet with touches of warm cedary-oak that surround the sweet ripe fruit with berry-like flavours. .... age at least five years." My notes: Cellared October 2002. Red ruby light in intensity with a cedar fragrance overriding any remaining plums. Perhaps past prime, without the fresh fruit or fullness expected but some faint black/blueberry. Finish is well balanced and subtle plum/berry. A dry uninteresting sipper better paired with slices of prime rib au jus, or pork chops with apple sauce. Will cellar but don't expect much more. Not a value (IMHO).

ROSENBLUM CELLARS ZINFANDEL 2004, Napa Valley, USA, 15.7% D, #284653 $19.95 (Tasted November 24, 2005)

Vintages writes: "Rosenblum is THE Zinfandel specialist serving up aromas of blackberry, raspberry, and mocha. Ripe berry fruit flavours, balanced by cedar tones. Very nice berry spice finish. We prescribe it with roasted duck, venison, or spareribs." Gordon Stimmell comments: "If you like chunky, dense reds, go for [it]. With its blueberry, black olive and chocolate layers, weighing in at 15.7 per cent alcolhol, ... perfect for spicy spareribs." The label says: "This wine exhibits hints of raspberry and strawberry." One of Vintages' Essentials Collection wines. My notes: A deep ruby with a soft strawberry/raspberry nose. The taste is bright strawberry/blackberry with a soft tannin and cedar background and a finish that is long and warm. Medium- to full-bodied but not as unctious as some vintages and softer than most cabernet sauvignons as a sipper, similar to a merlot but with the zinfandel flavour difference. Goes well with mild cheeses, meatballs in a sweet and sour sauce, chicken wings or with prime rib, lamb, or dark meat fowl. Drinks well now and could cellar for a few years.

Monday, November 21, 2005

November Rosé (1): France Bordeaux,

CHATEAU DE SOURS GRAND VIN DE BORDEAUX ROSÉ 2002, Bordeaux, France, 13.0% XD, SO38-2293 $21.95 (Retasted November 21, 2005)

Opimian describes this as: "... from prime quality free run juice from premium merlot grapes. Ripeness.. is combined wtih masses of juicy acidity. A 'drink-now'. " My notes: Cellared August 2003 and last tasted June, 2005. I noted at that time " a light ruby colour very clean and crisp in the glass .. a soft black cherry nose, smooth and dry on the palate with a long light cherry finish. Past peak but still a pleasant sipper." It hasn't changed much but the nose seems more like a good perfume, filling the nostrils and with staying power. With closed eyes it's a full-bodied well balanced white, no longer filled with juicy fruit. A velvet touch on the palate infused with light cherry and berry flavours and a long warm finish. An interesting sipper and excellent paired with pancakes covered with maple syrup, butter and slices of smoked bacon and grilled sweet sausage. Should go with any seafood dishes, grilled or pastas, or grilled/roasted white fowl.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

More November Whites (4): Canada Chard, Italy Soave, France Muscadet, Canada Gewurz-Riesling

BLACK PRINCE FIRST CRUSH CHARDONNAY 2003, Prince Edward County, Canada, 14.0% D, SO39-2642 $16.00 (Retasted November 15, 2005)

Opimian says: "A blend of PE County and Californian grapes.... tropical flavours predominate altho' citrus toffee nuances are apparent to the diligent taster. No oak ... no malolactic fermentation. ... so no oak nor butter.... but clean. Medium-bodied, one to two years cellaring." My notes: Cellared September 2004 and tasted May 2005 with the comment 'Light-bodied with tart natural citrus flavours. .... save for a summer sangria.' Still a light lemon colour with an aromatic lemon nose. Flavour is of tart citrus with a longer finish than in May, warm on the palate with lingering melon and lemon. Paired well with grilled salmon, also with a lemon chicken and rice casserole. Cellaring for another year could mellow some more of the acidity to improve sippability.

FOLONARI SOAVE 2004, Calmasino, Italy, 11.5% D, #176461 $9.45 (Tasted November 17, 2005)

The LCBO writes: "Pale straw colour, light citrus aromas, crisp citrus and mild almond flavours, crisp dry finish. Serve with finger foods, shellfish." A General listing. My notes: A blond hue with soft aromas of wildflowers and citrus. Light-bodied with sharp, clean citrus flavours and, with a long and sharp lemon/lime finish, it's not meant as a sipper (for me) but pairs OK with white fish dishes, creamy shellfish pastas or hard cheeses. A drink-now white.

CHEREAU-CARRE 'LE FLEURON' MUSCADET DE SEVRE ET MAINE SUR LIE 2003, Loire, France, 12.0% XD, #653493 $13.95 (Tasted November 22, 2005)

Vintages writes: "Think you know what Muscadet tastes like? Crisp, clean and refreshing, right? True, in most years, but with the hot 2003 vintage you'll also get riper, bigger fruit flavours." A Vintages release May 14, 2005. My notes: The Robert Parker Jr. guide (November 1, 2005) rates the Loire valley 2003 vintage year as 92 so I had to try a 2003 Muscadet sur lie. A golden yellow with fragrant wildflowers, citrus and honey aromas.... full flavour of apricot and melon, slight creaminess balanced by acidity and has a long round finish. An eloquent dry sipper by itself or with raw oysters, cold shrimp and dip or paired with any seafood dish, even roasted chicken breast or cold ham slices - went well with grilled turbot topped lightly with a roasted red pepper and garlic sauce. Finishes with a slight grassy crispness now, not unpleasant, and should cellar well up to five years - but will try after two. A great value.

PILLITTERI ESTATES GEWURZTRAMINER-RIESLING 2003, Niagara, Canada, 12.0% D (SC2), #349126 $10.05 (Tasted November 29, 2005)

The label says: "An elegant and light bodied wine with 70% gewurztraminer which contributes lovely spice and lychee nut characters blended with 30% riesling which provide structure with citrus tones. Perfect with every meal especially those that are spicy and oily as the subtle sweetness and crisp acid cleanse the palate." A General listing and non VQA (a shortfall in Niagara was backfilled with Italian (Fruili) fruit). My notes: Has a clear light straw hue and a spicy nose with a petrol twist . The acid tries to counter balance the sugar but a sweet fullness overwhelmed my palate. An oily grassiness 'finishes' the finish - this airs out slowly. If you like 'sweet' this is a sweet white sipper better paired with flavoured cheeses or shellfish with a tangy dip - needs a strongly flavoured seafood, roasted chicken, Thai or Sechuan dish to complement the flavours. Awarded a Bronze by the International Wine & Spirits Competition (UK) and a Silver at the 2005 Toronto Wine and Cheese Show by the Sommelier Guild of Canada.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

November Reds (6): Italy Syrah, Italy 'Chianti', Chile Cab Sauv, Canada Pinot Noir, Australia Cab Merlot, USA Syrah

FEUDO ARANCIO SYRAH 2002 SICILIA, Sicily, Italy, 13.5% D, #621730 $11.95 (Tasted November 4, 2005)

Gordon Stemmell rates this 88 saying: "Sicily keeps raising the bar on quality. This newcomer to the shelves is a keeper, with lingonberry, blackberry, ripe plum and red licorice aromas and fairly full-bodied flavours of blackberry and black summer plums. Spicy cedar and black cherry fruit linger on the finish in this shiraz-style syrah. Food suggestion is mushroom risotto." The label pairs this Syrah with "vegetable and seasoned risotto, broiled and grilled red meats, smoked and herb cheeses." The Vinography website said in December , 2004: "This is it. I've discovered by far the best wine for under ten bucks (Aus) I've ever had. You think Yellowtail Syrah is a good value? In a street fight, this scrappy Sicilian is going to send Australia packing. Fortunately for us they're probably going to stay far under the radar of most consumers. ... Feudo Arancio is a new winery project started in 2001 by Gruppo Mezzacorona, one of Italy’s largest and most powerful wine producers. etc." Beppi says: "Medium full-bodied, silky and ripe, it shows nuances of blackberry, cherry and vanilla, ending in a dry, peppery, licorice-like finish. A bonafide bargain, it's ideal for sipping on its own." My notes: Clear ruby colour with a soft aroma of ripe plums and lingonberries. The flavour is fruit-forward of blueberries and lingonberries with light tannin and a bright edge. The finish is long with lingering lingon's. A medium-bodied dry sipper but better with burgers, braised ribs or pepperoni and tomato sauce pizzas. A drink-now but could cellar for a couple of years.

ALTESINO 'ROSSO DI ALTESINO' 2002, Tuscany, Italy, 13.0% XD, #658369 $18.95 (Tasted November 12, 2005)

Vintages writes: "This blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon exhibit a nose that recalls blackberry, cocoa, juniper and vanilla. It is dry with the fruit currently waiting patiently under the tannin. Give this one 3-5 years in a cellar and you will be amply rewarded (Vintages panel, Feb. 2005)." Tony Asper gives it 3 1/2 stars (out of 5) saying: "A blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. Purple colour; earthy, dried cherry nose; medium-bodied, firm structure, lovely balance of fruit, oak and acidity with a finish of cocoa. Drinking well now." Beppi Crosariol's pick-of-the-week writing "... This red from Italy's Tuscany region combines the bright-cherry and earthy nuances of the classic local sangiovese grape with the power and density of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. It hails from the southern Montalcino zone and is what collectors would playfully call a "baby supertuscan" because it's made in a fruity, modern style and breaks with the 100-per-cent-sangiovese formula of the traditional Tuscan wine of the area, etc. .... this wine should have the stuffing to improve with five to seven years in the cellar. Medium full-bodied, it's brimming with blackberry and plum flavours and hints of cocoa and mushrooms. etc. " A Vintages release November 12, 2005. My notes: Ruby with a purple hue and a nose of red cherries and spice. Light- to medium-bodied with a sour cherry predominance over a light plum and nice tannin - a Chianti with a plum twist A sipper for some but not for me - perhaps it's the merlot addition to sangiovese. Long and smooth with a cherry finish. Should go well with hamburgers, red italian sausage pasta, prime rib or rack of lamb. Cellaring should help integrate and provide some complexity. OK as a drink-now but try it first before cellaring a bunch.

PÉREZ CRUZ CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVA 2004, Maipo Valley, Spain, 14.5% XD, #694208 $13.95 (Tasted November 12, 2005)

The winery website says of their 2003 vintage: Produced and bottled in own state, Fundo Liguai, Huelquen, Paine, Maipo Valley. Fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged in barrels for 12 months, and 4 months in bottle. Deep burgundy red, with aromas of ripe red berries and spices, highlighted by touches of dried fruit and vanilla. A very well structured wine with mature tannins and a smooth finish. Natalie MacLean notes for the 2003 vintage that: "for a couple bucks more than Yellow Tail, you can get even more ripeness and mouth-watering flavor. Very plummy and purply. Score: 85/100" A Vintages release. My notes: A clear deep ruby with a soft blackberry and black plum nose. The flavours of plums, berries and licorice are nicely balanced with tannins and a touch of acid. Smooth on the palate with a long plum and interesting spice finish. A dry sipper, no harshness and with a light tannin, the alcohol warmth builds in the mouth along with cedar and fruit. Appropriate with a tray of tasty cheeses or nutty crackers with a cheese dip. Should go with almost any meat dish, non-vegetarian pizza, red pastas, or lamb shanks and beef stews. A value house red. Cellaring for two to five years should integrate further and introduce additional fullness although this is a drink-now medium-bodied Cab Sauvignon.

MALIVOIRE MOIRA VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2000, Beamsville, Canada, 13.5% XD, Winery $35.95 (Retasted November 15, 2005)

My notes: Cellared in December 2001 and last tasted March 2005. Letting breathe for twenty minutes lessened the initial 'closed closet' aroma revealing an interesting savoury vanilla and smoke nose. Has an artificial cork. A clear ruby medium- to light-bodied dry red with well balanced red cherry and raspberry fruit, tannin and acid - less fruitiness than when purchased, now more of a wine than an alcoholic fruit drink. A pleasant and different sipper for dry red sipping. Pair with lighter game meats, duck, turkey, cold greens layered with strips of rare prime beef, a wedge of Balderson aged cheddar, etc. Cellaring further isnt needed but I will anyway.

WOLF BLASS SOUTH AUSTRALIA CABERNET MERLOT 1999, Nuriootpa, Australia, 13.0% XD, #611483 $16.95 (Retasted November 15, 2005)

My notes: Cellared July 17, 2002 and last tasted June, 2005. After twenty minutes breathing the initial sharpness in the nose settles down and a fragrant toasted red cherry and vanilla predominate. Still a dark crimson this is a medium-bodied dry red, with a clean sharp edge and flavours building toward the red cherry. Since the last tasting it has rounded nicely and a soft fruit finish with a slight berry twist lingers moderately - drinking well now. The label says: "will develop over three to five years" and it has (with my preference being six) integrating nose, body and flavours more each year. Cellaring another year or two should be OK. Pair with roasts, game meats, stews or triple decker burgers.

HARVEST NAPA VALLEY SYRAH 1998, California, USA, 14.1% XD, SO39-2646 $22.17 (Tasted November 7, 2005)

Opimian writes: ".. unfiltered... a lovely colour and a bouquet of soft.. vanilla with hints of coffee, leather and mint. .... acidity underpins the well structured fruit with highlighted berries and a slightly tarry finish. Medium-bodied. Cellar one to two years." My notes: Cellared April, 2004. A Syrah with 11% Cabernet Sauvignon having a deep ruby colour with a slight purple tinge. The nose is full of vanilla beans, coffee and savoury berries in equal proportions. The flavour is nondescript cherry-berry and the finish is a nondescript cherry-berry and light oak -perhaps going through a 'dumb' period. OK with grilled New York steaks covered with white cap mushrooms. An uninteresting sipper with a sharp edge. Will cellar for a few more years.

Friday, November 04, 2005

November Whites (6): New Zealand Chard & Sauv Blanc, Australia Semillon, South Africa Chard, Canada Pinot Blanc, South Africa Chen Blanc

KIM CRAWFORD UNOAKED CHARDONNAY 2001, Marlborough, New Zealand 12.5% XD, #991950 $18.95 (Retasted November 5, 2005)

A Vintages release. The website describe the 2001 vintage as: "Pale straw with touches of green and gold. Perfumed Chardonnay, reminiscent of white peaches. Grapefruit and hazelnut aromas are underscored by the butterscotch of malolactic. A very full palate, characterised by great fruit intensity, with peach, mango and pineapple balanced with malolactic sweetness. This is a powerful wine, with integrated flavours and great balance that persists well. An unusual style of wine with great intensity of flavour and no taste of oak. This invigorating wine will cellar well, improving for the next four years or so." My notes: A convenient screwtop. Cellared December, 2002 and last tasted March, 2005 when it had more peach fuzz aroma and 'lees' presence. Still a light straw colour but with a distinct tropical fruit aroma, some lemon/lime and nutty softness. Integrated flavours of pineapple, grapefruit with balanced acidity and light caramel. Finish is moderate, light and smooth. Went well with grilled salmon and greens. Drinking well now but may improve still.

KIM CRAWFORD MARLBOROUGH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004, Marlborough, New Zealand 12.5% XD, # $19.95 (Retasted November 13, 2005)

Vintages says: "Explosively aromatic, brimming with spice, herb and peppery character, surprisingly docile in the mouth, with lovely pear, apple, melon and mineral flavors that linger enticingly. Impeccably balanced. Drink now. Score: 91. (Harvey Steiman,, Oct. 15, 2004)" My notes: Last tasted May 2005. still a very aromatic nose... mostly of wild flowers and gooseberries. Taste is full of mild gooseberries, tropical fruit and honey with some tannin overtones that leave a drying aftertaste. Should be cellared for a year to introduce more smoothness but pleasant as a sipper now with or without shellfish appetizers and great with any seafoods, roast pork or even ham. My notes: Last tasted May 2005. still a very aromatic nose... mostly of wild flowers and gooseberries. Taste is full of mild gooseberries, tropical fruit and light honey with some tannin overtones that leave a drying aftertaste. Could be cellared for a year or two to introduce more smoothness but pleasant as a sipper now with or without shellfish appetizers and great with any seafoods, roast pork or even ham.

MARGAN HUNTER VALLEY SEMILLON 2001, New South Wales, Australia, 13.5% XD, #961516 $13.95 (Tasted November 7, 2005)

Vintages says of the 2002 vintage (@$11.95, released July 10, 2004.): "Margan's Hunter Valley Semillon has a little more impact and strength than the regional norm. It has lemon and lanolin aromas of more intensity than most and a smooth, slightly smoky flavour that should build complexity with a year or two. (Huon Hooke & Ralph Kyte Powell, The Sydney Morning Herald Good Living Uncorked Wine Guide, Winter 2003)." My notes re 2001: Cellared July 2003, the 2001 was a Gold medal winner and continues to improve. (At its release the 2002 was tasted and was a disappointment.) The 2001 is now a deep golden straw with rich aromas of tangerine, lemon and butterscotch - no lanolin to me. Clean flavours of lemon and tangerine - no smoke - with a crisp follow through of light lemon lingering as the palate warms to the alcohol. Went nicely with grilled pickerel and carrots the first night and the next with whole chicken turned on a spit with roasted potato. Should be able to cellar for another year or two.

STONE GABLES CHARDONNAY 2003 (DISTELL), South Africa, 13.5% XD, CP150-2566 (Opimian) $16.50 (Retasted November 7, 2005)

Opimian said about this wine: "...Full and rich, yet impressions are so elegant. etc. " The back label says: "Imagine picking a ripe juicy grape straight from the vine and biting it..... this is pure fruit, etc." My notes: Cellared April, 2004 and last tasted May 16, 2005. A good value conclusion at that time, it's still a light lemon with a perfume of lemon and lime. Crisp citrus flavours with more lemon than lime, perhaps starfruit, but not as much creaminess as last tasting. Cleansing to the palate with a pleasant citrus and mango aftertaste. No harm in cellaring another year but goes well now with seafood dishes or tasty appetizers, eg. wild mushroom tarts - a slight grassiness came through with rotisseried chicken. A light-bodied unoaked chardonnay.

SANDHILL BURROWING OWL PINOT BLANC 2002. BC, Canada, 12.5% #541185 $14.00 (Retasted Movember 11, 2005)

The label says: "...partly barrel fermented in American oak and stirred on its lees during ageing, giving it a smooth texture, etc. " My notes: Released by Vintages in February 2004, cellared and last tasted at that time when 'it has a delicate granny smith nose. Gala apple without the sweetness.. and a thin honey roundness. etc.'. Still has the nose and, if anything, a more pronouncd honey note and Gala apple flavours. A long soft tangerine peel finish making it a delightful sipper with or without nibbles of mild cheeses or foccacia layered with tomato, basil and asiago. Went well with telapia covered with tartar and grilled. Will likely cellar another year or two.

JOOSTENBERG CHENIN BLANC 2004, Elsenburg, South Africa, 13.5% D, #660589 $12.95 (Tasted November 13, 2005)

Vintages writes: "This Chenin is honest, flavourful wine with guava and passionfruit flavours reined in by a crisp green apple acidity that should keep it fresh and lively for several years to come. Great value. Drink 2005-2012. Score - 90 (Simon Woods, Wine International, Oct. 2005)." A Vintages release November 12, 2005. My notes: A light blond colour with a lemon and melon nose. Medium- to light-bodied with apple and citrus flavours with refreshing tartness and a smidge of honey on the lips. The finish is green apple with lasting melon. A reasonable if slightly tart sipper but better with a vegetable or cheese tray. Went well with grilled telapia and would be great with most seafood dishes or cheesy macaroni casseroles. Should round out further if cellared for two or more years.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

More October Whites (1): Australia Viognier

ZILZIE VIOGNIER 2004, Victoria, Australia, 13.9% D, #660936 $15.95 (Tasted October 30, 2005)

Vintages writes: "A Gold-Medal winner at the 2005 International Wine Competition in London, England It's quite restrained on the nose, although the palate shows good varietal character – musk and dried apricot fruitiness with a pleasant viscous texture as well as some delicious juiciness. I loved the previous vintage, too: it's good to see that Zilzie are capable of consistency with this new grape variety. Rating: Bloody Good. (Peter Forrestal,, July 29, 2005." The label says: ".... shows intense peach and apricot flavours enhanced with French oak barrel ferment characters. A rich palate.... lingering spicy finish." Tony Aspler says: "This wine is a steal at the price. Straw coloured; rich, spicy peach nose; full-bodied, ripe peach, toffee and toast flavours. * and rates it four stars. A Vintages release October 29, 2005. My notes: A convenient screwtop. A pale yellow with a just perceptible nose of wild flowers and lemon. Flavours of juicy lemon and orange full in the mouth (viscous?) with some acid without tartness - needs to be chilled. The finish is long and citrusy, becomes warmer over time. Good with reheated turkey and brussels. 'OK' as a sipper. A drink-now white.

Friday, October 28, 2005

More October Reds (4): France Merlot, Australia Cab Sauv (2), Australia Gren/Shir/Touriga

CHATEAU PERRIN MERLOT 1998 CUVEE BARRIQUES, Cotes de Castillon, France, 12.0% XD, CP143-2207 $15.58 (Tasted October 28, 2005)

Opimian writes: "... this gem. .... hand picked only fully ripened bunches from the steepest slopes above Dordogne. Fermentation was long and slow, in refrigerated stainless steel tanks before maturation in new American oak casks on the fine lees. .... showing refined and soft vanilla flavours, the oak has added tannic characters marrying sympathetically with the hearty fruit that wells up like a wave of succulent blackcurrant. .... made to last and mature. Lay down two or several years." My notes: Ordered in May and cellared October of 2002. A soft magenta? hue and a soft nose of blackcurrant, black cherries and mint. Medium-bodied with flavours of black cherries, blue berries and a short, drying finish - just enough acid to avoid being flabby. Pair with mild meat dishes, lamb or turkey. Drink now.

ST. HALLETT BAROSSA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 1999, Barossa, Australia, 14.0% XD, #744458* $14.90 (Tasted October 28, 2005)

My notes: *No longer listed by the LCBO, was a General release. Cellared February 2002 and has a colour of dense ruby with a slight brick edge. Velvet rich nose with some cedar but full plum/prunes and a bit of peppery spice, medium-bodied well integrated with slight tannin and acid and a full flavour of blackberry, black olive and mint. The finish is long and smooth. Although quite dry can be a sipper, likely better with full flavoured meat dishes, stews, pepperoni pizza or red sauced pastas. Could cellar a few more years.

ST HALLETT ‘GST' GRENACHE/SHIRAZ/TOURIGA 2004, Barossa, Australia, 15.0% XD, #660910 $23.95 (Tasted October 30, 2005)

Vintages says: "Here's a GST you won't mind paying for, this extremely tasty wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 45% Shiraz and 5% Touriga Nacional. The inclusion of the classic Portugese Port variety Touriga Nacional enhances the unique flavour profile. Expect ripe and juicy berry fruits to mingle with rich flavours of raisin, dried figs, spice and meat in this distinctive, medium-bodied blend." The St Hallett website says: "...St Hallett GST is a blend of old vine Barossa Valley grenache, shiraz and the lesser known Portuguese variety touriga nacional, varieties historically used in the production of fine ports and fortifieds by St Hallett and other Barossa winemakers. This medium-bodied wine encompasses luscious juicy fruit and game flavours of a typical Grenache Shiraz blend; whilst the exciting new element of Touriga enhances the wine with distinctive, yet subtle, lifted floral and spice characters. Savoury complexity and softness on the palate is the result of storage on secondary lees and maturation in 2–3 year old French oak for eight months." A Vintages release October 29, 2005. My notes: A rich, dark ruby with aromas of a fruit cupboard, unctious and integrated berry/cherry/plum with an edge of savoury figs. A medium-to full-bodied flavour of ripe plums, figs and cherries balanced with soft tannins and a light spicy edge like a cross between a ripasso and a port. A great sit-by-the-fire-and-sip wine. The finish carries well into the next sip or forkful - pair with zippy cheeses, full flavoured stews, game meats, lamb shank, or grilled T-bones. Ready now but should be able to cellar this for several years.. five to eight is my guess.

KATNOOK “FOUNDER'S BLOCK” CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002, Coonawara, Australia, 13.5% XD, #660332 $17.95 (Tasted October 29, 2005)

Vintages says: "Master winemaker Wayne Stehbens creates the ‘Founders Block' range of wines in a ready-to-drink, mellow style that is fruit-forward and bursting with Coonawarra character. You can expect aromas of red berry fruit and a touch of mint in the medium-bodied, supple Cabernet. With its generous fruit flavours and long finish, you will discover for yourself what makes Coonawarra so special." A Vintages release October 29, 2005. The label says: "fragrant with regional aromas of red berries, violets and mint with some whole mocha and vanilla oak. .. drink now or cellar for five to eight years for further depth and complexity." My notes: Has a convenient screw top. A deep purple-red, dense with rich aromas of berries, vanilla, and light peppery spices. Flavour is full, smooth, with ripe berries, plums and dark chocolate. The finish is equally stunning; soft, round on the tongue and full of blackberries. A pleasing sipper or pair with any braised ribs, grilled steaks, full-flavoured stews, etc. A value Cabernet Sauvignon, now or for cellaring.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

October Sparkles (2): Australia Shiraz

BANROCK STATION SPARKLING SHIRAZ, South Eastern Australia, 14.0% D, #971507 $13.95 (Tasted October 16, 2005)

Vintages released this October 15, 2005 saying: "Banrock Station Sparkling Shiraz proves that fizzy shiraz is not just a novelty. Serve it ice cold: the blast of blackberry fruit knocks your socks off. Boatloads of flavour, and it's refreshing. Clearly, the Aussies are onto something. (Panel, 2005 Vancouver Magazine International Wine Competition,, Jan./Feb. 2005)" The label says: "Rich in colour with an intense bouquet of ripe berry aromas. ... and a spectrum of fruit flavours and character, combined with a soft texture and clean finish. Aperitif or serve with poultry and with grilled meats." My notes: Opening the bottle carries the aromas of the winery during fermentation, fruity... almost see the fruit flies. Colour is ruby red and the nose is of plums and black cherries. Flavours the same but with a noticeable accent of red lees and initial sweetness. Fine mousseux bubbles last through a deep froth with a long and strong berry finish. A summer sipper (with crushed ice perhaps?) or as a change with turkey, ham, pork or lamb roast. A drink-now bubbly.

SEAVIEW SHIRAZ SPARKLING, Victoria, Australia, 13.5% D, #644054 $12.95 (Tasted October 18, 2005)

The LCBO says: "Deep purple violet with definite mousse; vibrant aromas and flavours of ripe plum mullberry, raspberry, leather and vanilla; full-bodied, silky smooth and rich on the palate with refreshing carbonation and acidity. Serve slightly chilled with roast lamb, sausages, or roast turkey." A General release. My notes: A good froth of medium sized bubbles, a ruby colour and fragrant berry nose. Not as full, fragrant or fruity as the Banrock Sparkling Shiraz but as light as the Seaview white bubbly. Flavours of light berry fruit, fizzy on the palate with some tartness. Supposed to be a '3' sugar code but doesn't carry through to that level. Moderate finish with a pleasant tart berry that lingers. Have with grilled chicken or turkey, Italian sausage perhaps or just sip on a summer day. A drink-now sparkle.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

October Reds (7): Australia Merlot, Italy Chianti, Canada Foch, Spain Blend, Australia Shiraz, Spain Tempranillo, France Languedoc

WYNDHAM ESTATE BIN 999 MERLOT 2003, South Australia, 13.0% D, #336347 $16.00 (Tasted October 11, 2005)

The LCBO says: "Garnet colour; blackberry, cherry and plum aromas with light oak; ripe fruit flavours, soft tannin, oaky finish. Have with veal tenderloin, poultry. A General release. " The label says: "A medium-bodied wine with the distinct plum and cherry characters of classic Merlot. Balanced with mouth-filling softness...etc. " My notes: A commercial red with a see-through ruby colour and very light plum/cherry nose. Light- to medium-bodied with flavours of mild red cherry with pronounced sharpness and warmth in the throat. Finish starts but doesn't develop, is short and uninteresting. Not a sipper. Have with lightly flavoured cheeses, mild bruschetta and cheese/vegetarian pizza or with prime rib, ie. lightly flavoured beef.

FATTORIA LA LOGGIA TERRA DEI CAVALIERI CHIANTI CLASSICO 1997, Italy, 12.5% XD, #738146* $14.90 (Tasted October 12, 2005)

*LCBO number is no longer listed. Recommended by Beppi Crosariol and cellared February 2002. The website says: "Intense aroma of ripe grapes; the wine is balanced on the palate; it has an outstanding structure and it is extremely pleasant and harmonious. Blend of 85% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon." My notes: A see-through ruby colour with a soft aroma of plums and cherries. A light- to medium-bodied chianti with red cherries and ripe plums well integrated with noticeable acid and tannins. Tannins and tar show up moderately on the light but lengthy finish. A pleasant perhaps tart, dry sipper. Have with hors d'oeuvres: a mixed cheese, olive and proscuitto plate, or with pasta and red sauces, italian meatballs/sausage, ham or duck.

MALIVOIRE OLD VINES FOCH 2002 (Canadian Oak), Beamsville, Ontario, 12.5%, #Winery $25.00 (Tasted October 13, 2005)

My notes: Purchased from the winery and cellared November, 2003. A deep see-through ruby with a soft cedar, vanilla and blackberry nose. Medium-bodied, not too 'fochy' with flavours of black cherry, plums and licorice well integrated with soft tannins and acid. A smooth dry sipper with some acetic zip. The length is fruity, warm and long. Pair with any red meat prepared in any way but not too savoury.

BODEGAS PIQUERAS CASTILLO DE ALMANSA 'SELECCION' 2000, Spain, 13.5% D, #586719 $19.95 (Tasted October 15, 2005)

Vintages released this May 28, 2005 saying "located between La Mancha and Valencia, the Almansa DO is a red and rosé production zone. Bodegas Piqueras is considered one of the region's finest producers. Our panel found this wine to be rich, smooth and fruity." My notes: A blend of monastrell, tempranillo, sirah and garnacha tintorera. Aged twelve months in american and french oak. A rich ruby with plum and cherry nose, some spice on the side. Medium-bodied with flavours of cherries and berries with enough bite to pair with peppercorn steak, savoury tapas, and pepperoni pizza. Pleasant enough as a dry sipper a bit tart without appetizers though. Finish is long with a red cherry lightness, some soft tannins and a mineral edge. May be at peak now... could get harsh if kept longer?

ELDERTON 'FRIENDS' SHIRAZ 2003, Vineyard Series, Barossa, Australia, 14.5% XD, #660480 $19.95 (Tasted October 17, 2005)

Vintages released this October 15, 2005 saying: "While most Elderton wines are 'estate grown', for this intensely flavoured Shiraz fruit was sourced from a number of small growers across the Barossa. We are grateful that the folks at Elderton have such good 'friends'. This is a big, rich Shiraz, that has wonderful black fruit aromas and flavours. Crushed black and blueberries, plum and hints of chocolate mingle together all the way to the finish. With friends' like this, you won't have any enemies." The label says that some Matao was added for structure and it was aged in American oak for eight months. My notes: A deep berry aroma from a rich ruby colour. The berries follow through to the taste with a nice acid edge, very little tannins and some sweetness initially. "big, soft, rich and juicy" claimed by Elderton is right on.... a new world fruitiness that may detract from some entrees. Finish is dry and full of berry but passes quickly. An interesting social sipper and added a different aspect to pork roast slices (leftovers) with mashed potatoes and squash. Likely a drink-now red, perhaps cellar a year at most.

FELIX SOLIS LOS MOLINAS GRAN RESERVA 1997, Valdepenas, Spain, 13.0% XD, #620971 #13.95 (Tasted October 20, 2005)

Gord Stimmell says: "Amazing freshness, considering this is a 1997. Minty black cherry, mahogany and cedar, leather and black plum aromas get the senses going. Flavours are dominated by minty black cherry, laced with chocolate notes and vanilla bean nuances. A silky texture and spicy finish lift this wonderfully. Have with beef or game stews. Rated 90. " The label says: "Exacting Tempranillo grape selection, expert vinification and long ageing produce this deeply complex but easy to enjoy Gran Reserva. Ripe red fruits accompanied by silky tannins and a long, spicy finish etc. " This is a General listing. My notes: Has a smooth nose like inhaling a mint dish through a cedar straw but with many more side aromas. Strong tannins coat the palate along with fresh cherries and plums dissolving into a long, spicy finish. Medium-bodied although initial impression is much fuller. Have with any red meat dish, red pasta dishes, hamburgers, roasted backribs or with strongly flavoured cheeses. It's likely close to the end of cellaring - drink now.

CHATEAU LA CLOTTE-FONTANE, CUVEE MATHIEROU, 2001, Languedoc, France, 13.5% XD, CP149-2543 $19.17 (Tasted October 25, 2005)

Opimian says: "This "reserve cuvee" has masses of forward fruit that combines the juicy appeal of New World reds with those of revered old vineyards. Richly flavoured and opulent, showing powerfully deep aromas with black fruit overlaid with spicy pepper and black olive, the silky subdued tannis are never far away, their subtlety adding to the lengthy structure of a thunderingly good bottle. " My notes: Cellared December, 2003. A medium-bodied see-through ruby colour with smooth aromas of plums, bacon and black olive and flavours of black cherries balanced with soft tannins and a light clean acid. The finish is long and subtle black fruits. Likely will cellar well a few more years but good now for prime rib, Chateaubriand, lamb or even turkey. As a dry sipper have with mild cheeses or tapas.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

October Whites(7): Australia Ries, USA Pinot Gris, Canada Pinot Gris, France Gewurz, South Africa Chenin B/Chard, Australia Chard Sem, Australia Chard

WOLF BLASS 'GOLD LABEL' RIESLING 2004, South Australia, 11.0% XD, #606269 $19.95 (Tasted October 4, 2005)

This is a Vintages release October 1, 2005. Vintages says: "Wolf Blass has had huge success with their expertly made 'Gold Label' series. Unique to this range is its regional designation. The grapes come specifically from the Eden and Clare Valleys. Eschewing cork for the more wine-friendly screwcap, the full line-up has been met with both critical acclaim and consumer excitement. Although he did not write a review for this 2004 Riesling, Australian wine expert, Jeremy Oliver (, 2005), scored it a 93." My notes: Comes with a screwcap. A slight green tint to a blond hue and a wild flower and cold tea nose. The flavours have a citrus astringency, orange peel and slight tea stalkiness. A long finish of light petrol and citrus perhaps ending a bit flat. Sipping needs an appetizer: smoked oysters, salt mackerel, or cheese. Pair with any seafood. Cellaring for a year or two would add smoothness, complexity and improve integration.

HOGUE PINOT GRIS 2004, Columbia Valley, USA, 13.0% D, #624486 $12.95 (Tasted October 5, 2005)

Philips-Hogue is part of Canada's Vincor International who acquired it for $95 million in 2000. Philips produces about 750,000 cases per year and Hogue Cellars of Washington State makes about 450,000 cases. The Hogue Pinot Gris was the Best of Show (White Wine) and Gold Medal - 2004 San Diego National Wine Competition. The label says: "....snappy melon and stone-fruit flavours with hints of nuts, spice and honey. Enjoy with poultry, seafood and after a sunny day sailing." Gordon Stemmell says: "...a fresh affordable white... (Washington state wines) tend to echo 'great apple orchard' bright-flavoured fruit profile." This is a General release. My notes: Has a screwcap. The economy level of three Hogue Cellars brands: Hogue, Genesis, and Hogue Reserve. This pinot grigio is a light blond with a fresh lemon drop nose. Flavours of honey coated lemon, some pineapple and a layer of lime. The finish is moderate with a nice acid edge like a mild Courtland apple but falls away quickly. Didn't carry itself well with grilled salmon - the sweetness came through - nor with grilled Shopsy's dogs - better with sole stuffed with spinach and rice.

MALIVOIRE PINOT GRIS 2002, Niagara, Canada, 12.0%, #581305, $18.00 (Tasted October 7, 2005)

My notes: Vintages release July 26, 2003 and purchased from the winery. Cellared since November, 2003 and tasted January 2005 with the following note: "Has an artificial cork. The colour is a vibrant straw with a peach hue. Dry, round and lively, pear, citrus and honey on the palate. Should be great between seafood courses of spicy mussels, roasted scallops, etc. Full-bodied with a short but pleasant finish. None left in Ontario but look for the next release..... for sure. May be stalky at first but becomes more 'complex' with ageing." Tasted today this bottle has gone downhill. Still a pleasant golden with peach hue the nose is straw with a strong off-odor, very unpleasant. Flavour is well balanced without fruit or compensating appeal and, at least initially, has a strong 'rotting rubbish' taste perhaps a hangover from the nose. Decanting helps considerably.

HUNAWIHR VIN d'ALSACE GEWURTZTRAMINER RESERVE 2000, Alsace, France, 13.5% D, CP140-2072 $19.17 (Tasted October 9, 2005)

Opimian says: "The most successful clone, the 'Roter Traminer', reaches its zenith in Alsace where its extravagant bouquet leads to a richly flavoured compote of tropical fruits, with mango and lychee charging alongside peach and mandarin. Etc. It will gain great elegance as it matures. " . My notes: A golden blond cellared February, 2002. A benchmark gewurz. Subtle lemon and wild honey nose fills the glass. An elegant, soft texture with well balanced acid to refresh, tropical fruits to interest the taste buds, and an offset herbal touch - everything claimed. The long finish warms and soothes. Have at any excuse to sip a delicious white - scallops skewered with green pepper, onion pieces and bbq'd, sole stuffed with herbal treats, warmed wild mushroom tarts or shrimp basted in garlic, lemon, a few crushed chillie seeds and grilled.

ROBERT'S ROCK CHENIN BLANC-CHARDONNAY 2003, South Africa, 13.5% D, #501304 $7.45 (Tasted October 12, 2005)

The RR website says (2004 vintage): "The wine has a lively, greenish tint. An enticing nose with guava scents giving way to tropical aromas and a subtle vanilla finish, which leaves a lingering, complex mouthfeel." This is a General release. The LCBO says: "Pale lemon; dry and light-bodied with mineral, grass and gooseberry aromas and flavours; crisp and fresh on the finish, with a good balance of citrus and herbaceousness; hint of vanilla. Serve with aperitif; light seafood; patio fare." My notes: Cellared October 2003, recommended by Gord Stimmell. A crystal clear light yellow with a hint of green. Nose is a light pineapple and green grass blend. Flavour is pleasantly sharp with a hint of lemon and the finish is a long and smooth citrus. Went OK with grilled halibut, green beans and greens. Should go with bacon bits and cheese nibble, white seafood or scallops - nothing highly flavoured. A good value house white with the right entree.

ROSEMOUNT ESTATE CHARDONNAY/SEMILLON 2004, South Eastern Australia, 12.5% D, #248971 $11.95 (Tasted October 16, 2005)

This is a General release. The LCBO says: "Golden colour; tropical fruit and oak aroma; tropical fruit and vanilla flavour with citrus & smoky oak finish. Serve with smoked chicken & pasta." My notes: A blond tinge otherwise a clear colour with a nose of subdued lemon and distant wild flowers. The flavour is of honey and citrus with a slight smoothness, nicely balanced acids. Finish is moderately long with tropical fruit flavours tapering slowly. A pleasant sipper or with mild cheeses, asian cuisines, seafood, poultry or pork roast and mashed yams. A drink-now white.

DE BORTOLI DEEN 2004 VAT 7 CHARDONNAY, New South Wales, Australia, 14.0% D, #598896 $14.95* (Tasted October 20, 2005)

This is a General release (*reduced to $11.20 at a local outlet). Gord Stimmell says: "New, but a delicious sleeper on our shelves. Aromas include vanilla layers and spiced apple, with hints of floral acacia and melon. The flavours yield apple, butternut, coconut, lemon zest in a toasty oak style. The finish shows lime and coconut and lingering peachy character.. Have with king crab in butter. Rates as 88." The label says: "... typical ripe peach melon aromas and a rich full-bodied palate. " My notes: One of eight in the Deen Vat series from De Bartoli Winery, the Chardonnay colour is a faint blond with a hint of green. The nose is light, toasty with a lemon/pineapple focus and bright without being tart. Flavours, expanding as chill goes off the glass, of granny smith, honey, lemon and touch of butter. and the finish is long leaving a warm reminder of the flavours. Was great but at its match with grilled salmon steak - should be great with scallops, shrimp, white fish entrees or mild cheeses. Will develop more butter if cellared for a few years. Even at full price this is good value IMHO.