Thursday, March 31, 2005

2 Reds: Chile, Australia

CASA RIVAS MERLOT RESERVA 2002, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.0%, #590786 $15.95

Vintages release March 19, 2005. Tony Aspler gives it 4 & 1/2 stars and says: "Dense purple-black colour; intense blackcurrant and cedar nose; full-bodied, thick and rich on the palate, sweet blackcurrant and peppery black cherry flavours encased in controlling tannins. Good value." The distributor says: "100% Merlot grapes ... are selected and harvested by hand in the cool of the night. . They are quickly soft pressed and macerated at cold temperatures, fermented in stainless steel tanks then aged for eight months in French oak, one year in the bottle and left unfiltered. ... Well structured and elegant with integrated flavors of ripe red fruit and spice. Age seven to ten years." My notes: This wine must be decanted or let breathe an hour. For seasoned sippers, this is a full-bodied tannic red with a dense nose of black currants and cedar. Ageing for four years will soften and blend the tannins, fruit and acids to produce a good value robust red. Have in large goblets with roast beef, breast of duck, braised lamb shanks or long ribs.

PENMARA 5 FAMILIES SHIRAZ 2002, New South Wales, Australia, 13.0%, #565929 $13.15

A 'Beppi' recommendation March 26th of a General listed wine. LCBO says: "Medium ruby colour; aromas of bramble, berries, vanilla with a hint of tar; dry, medium to full bodied, with jammy fruit flavours and a lingering finish." The Penmara website says: "The colour is deep red with a purple rim. The nose appears complex, while revealing spicy, peppery, rich Shiraz overtones. The palate is full flavoured and accompanied by subtle oak and fine tannins. Harvested from our members' vineyards at optimal ripeness during March. The fruit was taken to our winery where it was crushed and destemmed. The "must" was transferred to stainless steel fermenters where it was inoculated with a cultured yeast to start fermentation. The wine was pumped over to assist with colour and tannin extraction. Portions of the wine were transferred to small barriques for maturation and Malolactic fermentation. Bottling was late in the vintage year. etc. " My notes: The nose is nondescript. Bramble, tar, and dull over-ripe fruit dominate the flavours of this atypical Australian and unpleasant shiraz. My guess is there was too much process or poor handling of the fruit. Don't try it, avoid it.

Monday, March 28, 2005

3 Reds: Australia, France

CAPE MENTELLE TRINDERS CABERNET/MERLOT 2000, Margaret River, Australia, 14.5%, #452508 $17.80*

LCBO says: "Eighteen batches of wine from nine different vineyards were used in the final blend here. Depending on vintage, the wine is usually made with equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon (55%) and Merlot(36%) plus a small amount of Cabernet Franc(8%) and Petit Verdot(1%). " My notes: Cellared October 2002, the label says cellaring can be up to ten years. Must decant to remove sediment. Opaque ruby colour with soft plum/blackcurrant/mint aromas. A blend of blackberry, black cherry with light acid with a long cherry finish. OK as a sipper if you like very dry. Better with red meats, grilled or roasted. Last Vintages release August 21, 2004 the 2002 vintage was priced at $21.95.

CHATEAU GLAUDET BORDEAUX 2000, Entre Deux Mers, France, 12.0%, Opimian $12.92
Opimian says: " Australian winemaker Mandy Jones (of Chateau Carsin) ... is rich, full-bodied, deep in flavour ... firm structure and black currant fruit for which she is famous. Cellar for two to three years." My notes: Cellared November, 2003 now has a rich opaque ruby colour with clean black currant and cedar nose. Medium- to full-bodied, smooth acid refreshes while the currant fruit glides through to a long warm light tannic finish. A sipper if you like dryyy. Great with a ham steak, rib-eye steak or prime rib.

WOLF BLASS CABERNET MERLOT 1999, South Australia, 13.0% SC1, #611483 $16.95

LCBO says: "Deep ruby; mint, cassis and chocolate aromas; big toasty fruit flavours, well balanced. Roast prime rib of beef. Cellar three to six years." My notes: Cellared from July 2002 now a see-through cherry red with a soft cherry nose. A medium-bodied wine with a tart intro and lively berry flavours. Decanting lessened the tartness and is recommended. Toasty, chocolate, and well balanced I didnt get. A tannic and sharp dry finish with a short warm feel. Did not cellar well from 2002 and was originally, but not now, a sipper. OK with strong cheeses, grilled red meats or spicy pasta - I think it's a twelve month wine. This is a General listing. Current vintage on the shelf, 2002, is $15.95.

Friday, March 25, 2005

3 Chardonnays: Chile, NZ, Australia

HARDYS STAMP OF AUSTRALIA CHARDONNAY SEMILLON 2003, South Australia, 13.0% SC2, #335638 $8.80

Hardys description: "Medium straw in colour, the Stamp Chardonnay Semillon displays lifted aromas of peach, melon and subtle lime. Full Chardonnay flavours of tropical fruit, melon and peach characterise the palate. A creamy mouthfeel, a fresh lime finish, and a subtle oak influence complete this medium bodied wine.... best consumed within 12 months." My notes: I'd say: a light straw colour, a light grassy chardonnay nose and lime/melon/nectarine flavour with a soft creamy texture. The pronounced acids are balanced by the residual sugars. As a sipper: nothing to offend with a warm finish - a low-price white for the nondiscerning? Serve with mild cheeses, creamy pastas, boiled or broiled lobster. A General listing.

CAIRNBRAE CLANSMAN CHARDONNAY 2001, Marlborough, NZ, 14.0% D, Winery (photo) $16.00?

Cellared in April 2003. The Label says: "The grapes for the Cairnbrae Clansman Chardonnay were from.... a Jacksons Road vineyard (next door to the Cloudy Bay Winery). Handpicked grapes were bunch pressed followed by barrel fermentation in American oak then ageing on lees for 10 months giving excellent weight and balance. The wine is full on the palate, with hints of vanilla from the American oak barriques and malolactic fermentation.... combine to give a creamy complexity to the natural ripe peach, citrus and passionfruit flavours. Cellar up to five years." My notes: Colour is gold with a nectarine hue. Nose is full mango/citrus/vanilla combination more complex than a traditional chard. Citrus acid fills the top and sides of the palate while a light buttery passionfruit peach blend rolls over the tongue. Unusual but interesting sipper and sufficiently full for grilled Asian chicken, mushrooms and rice.

LAURA HARTWIG COLCHAGUA VALLEY CHARDONNAY 2000, Rapel, Chile, 13.5% SC1, Opimian $17.33

Cellared August 2001. Opimian says: "Selected grapes were pressed and left on the lees for four months then in French oak barrels four months then in bottle for four months before release..... A beauty, this wine has all of the benefits of a "Mendoza" chardonnay clone offering high fruit complexity. etc. Restrained in the mouth but buttery, opulent and very long." My notes: Tasted 2003 and rated 91. 100% chardonnay should be cellared for at least two years. Now has a light golden colour with a soft grassy with light oak nose. Full-bodied buttery texture, lots of warmth with good acid and a long smooth finish. Pleasing sipper and good match with seafoods: telapia, grouper(sp?), broiled cod with leeks, creamed mushroom pasta, etc.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

3 Chardonnays: Australia, Canada

WYNDHAM ESTATE BIN 222 CHARDONNAY 2003, South Eastern Australia, 13.0%, #093401 $11.95

My notes: Lemon yellow colour; fragrant aromas of tropical fruit, pineapple, peach and vanilla oak; dry, medium-bodied with soft fruit flavours; citrus and spice on the finish." Pretty accurate description overall. A light lemon colour, crystal clear, a slight sweetness (1) and buttery roundness makes this a pleasant sipper. It should also fare well with grilled chicken, pork chops; seafood dishes. It did OK with a grilled turkey/ ham/ bacon/cheese/ lettuce/ tomato Sub with extra chipotle sauce. A General listing.

STREWN VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 1998, Beamsville, Ontario, 13.2%, Winery $18.95

My notes: Cellared May, 2001. The label says: "....fermentation in oak... yields toasty, smoky apple aromas. A smooth warm palate with good weight ... a long, full finish." Four years in the cellar have left a light-bodied liquid with some butter, an oaky without fruit nose, flavours lacking any fruit and an objectionable, before decanting, finish. Decanting helped to overcome some off-flavours but couldn't bring back the fruit. I can't remember the original tasting at the winery but it must have had a balanced fruit, the basis for buying. The cork pulled easily suggesting a loose fit which would cause premature ageing but the colour doesn't show oxidation. My conclusion: cellared too long....

LENTON BRAE 2000 MARGARET RIVER CHARDONNAY, Margaret River, Westerm Australia, 14.0%, #960930 $23.60

My notes: Cellared March, 2003. Repeatedly the best of any class at the Perth Wine Show. Light straw colour and a delicate tropical fruit nose, light- to medium-bodied with fresh melon-gooseberry flavours and a balanced acid. Spent some time on French oak but hard to detect except for a very light butter. An interesting sipper, could pass for a non-chard - pair with cheeses, a variety of seafoods, possibly salmon kebobs. Has lost some fruit and aromas from 2003. Marginally OK now but much better before - a drink-now to 12 months wine.

Friday, March 18, 2005

3 Reds: Australia, Chile

WYNNS COONAWARRA CABERNET/SHIRAZ/MERLOT 2001, South Australia, 13.0%, #511600 $18.95

The International Wine Cellar (Australia) says: "Deep red-ruby. Aromas of cassis, red currant and coconut. Sweet, juicy and nicely concentrated, with leanish but penetrating flavors of raspberry, currant and cherry skin. Finishes firmly tannic, ripe and classically dry. An excellent value." Vines (C Waters) gives it 4 1/2 stars (of 5) saying "showcases the high calibre of the 2001 vintage." My notes: An opaque ruby and a soft nose of licorice and berries - I didn't get the coconut. A firm tannic dryness, for sure, and long warm finish follows a full-bodied blackcurrant and ripe black cherry roundness. The 66% Cabernet Sauvignon predominates with some shiraz fruit (25%) and softening merlot (9%). Pair with bbq'd burgers, steaks, spicy meat pizzas, etc. Cellaring for two years (up to 8) should soften some of the tannins making an excellent full-bodied red (but it's still an excellent dry sipper now). A different 'Cab' for the cellar. Vintages release December 4, 2004.

CONCHO y TORO TRIO MERLOT 2003, Chile, 14.4%, #433920 $13.95

Don Melchor de Concha y Toro married a Frenchwoman named Emiliana Subercaseaux who owned a vineyard planted with vines brought over from Bordeaux. According to the label, this wine won a Gold Medal in the 2003 Wine Guide of Chile and is a blend of 65% Merlot, 20% Carmènere and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. My notes: In this case the smooth Merlot predominates but with red cherry brightness added by the Carmènere and a structure (tannins and length) from the Cab Sauv. Almost opaque ruby, full-bodied dry sipper, good with red meats even lamb or prime rib. Bbq'd burgers brought out some 'sweetness' not as evident in the sipping. A good value now and cellarable for half dozen years. A high potential 'merlot' for the cellar. Vintages release February 19, 2005 Vines (C Waters) gives it 4 stars.

CONCHO y TORO MARQUES DI CASA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002, Puente Alto, Chile, 13.5%, #337238 $17.95

Winemaker (Marcelo Papa, photo) comments: "Deep red. Intense cherry, chocolate, black tar and smoked notes. The oak still cloaks its aromas, but in time all the fruit should develop greater complexity. A smooth, almost silky texture masks the firm tannic structure beneath, which only comes to the fore when the long finish begins to unravel." Vines (C Waters) gives it 4 stars saying "textures are plush and pleasant etc... for less than $20 you are able to enjoy ...the same drinking pleasure .. of $60 plus." My notes: Beautiful deep ruby with soft intense bouquet preparing you for a rich full-bodied surge of smoky figs/cherries and a smooth finish. Won a Gold medal in the 2nd Wines of Chile Awards (Jan 2005). Perhaps 5 stars would have needed a shade more acid and tannins but it's made the grade for me. Cellaring for a couple of years for more complexity - if it needs more? Underpriced for a firm Cab Sauv. Have with red meats.... or rich hors d'oeuvres: smoked oysters, sausage rolls and spicy salsa, beef jerky?.... any excuse to sip. Vintages release November 6, 2004.

Monday, March 14, 2005

3 Chardonnays: Chile, Australia, NZ

MEDALLA REAL SANTA RITA CHARDONNAY 2002, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14.5%, #303628 $16.95

LCBO: "For their Medalla Real .... wines, Santa Rita locates the finest regions in the country that will best help them create their style of wine. In this case, they sourced fruit in the cooler Casablanca Valley because the conditions gave them a Chardonnay with more balance than they would find in other, warmer regions. On lthe label: "first-use French oak barrels.... on lees for five months" and from their website: "My notes: Attractive greenish-yellow coloured wine. Lively, brilliant, with good varietal intensity. Tropical fruits tones, with fine wood, vanilla and dry fruits deep taste. On the palate it is creamy, with elegant complexity.Ideal for long ageing. Can cellar up to six years." Mine was cellared from March, 2004. Medium-bodied, has kept a light traditional chardonnay nose and flavours basically as claimed. A pleasing sipper (if you like chard). A nice tang is present for pairing with white meat and a variety of seafoods. Vintages release March 20, 2004.

KIM CRAWFORD CHARDONNAY UNOAKED 2001, Marlborough, New Zealand, 12.5%, #991950 $19.95

Label says: "....oxidatively handled and cool fermented wiht selected yeast strains. Once dry, the wine underwent full malolactic fermentationn to add complexity and mouth feel. Pale straw in colour, the wine has the aroma of white stone peach complexed with hazelnuts...... Cellar for three to four years." LCBO(David Churchill): "Although unoaked, the extended lees contact with expired yeast cells, grape seeds, and skin and stem fragments has given this Chardonnay a suggestion of oak that adds a wonderful layer of complexity, etc. ... Medium-bodied with a medium long finish." My notes: Mine was cellared from December 2002. Pale colour for sure. Nose is a light peach fuzz. Light-bodied, some butter but hardly a chard. Too much process makes this a marginal sipper - lack of body and varietal flavours - with a short dry finish. OK with seafoods but, at the price, I'd skip altogether. A Vintages release.

WOLF BLASS CHARDONNAY 2003, Nuriootpa, Australia, 13.0%, #226860 $14.95

LCBO: "Bright yellow gold; tropical fruit and citrus with toasty, buttery oak aromas; full-bodied with intense flavours; smooth, warm spice and a long finish." My notes: Faint straw colour and nose - a soft, light cream impression with a smooth warm spice but hardly as intense as claimed. A General listing. Light-bodied to match with crabs legs, lobster or maybe grilled tuna.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

2 Pinot Noirs: California, Australia

MANDOLIN PINOT NOIR 2001, Morgan Hill, California, 13.5%, #590596 $14.95

The vintner describes his wine: "Made with fruit sourced from the Santa Lucia Highlands, where the cool windy microclimate encourages a long growing season leading to intense, fully developed flavours. The wine spends 12 months in oak (70% American and 30% French). It features bright cherry and raspberry fruit with hints of spice leather and cedar". My notes: 'Intense' is too intense but more than subtle. An initial mustiness passes quickly to leave a cherry/vanilla and peppermint nose. Medium-bodied, a full cherry colour, the flavour is red cherry with a pepper edge; a bright acid should carry through most meals. blackened fish, grilled butter/garlic shrimp, honeyed ribs..... or just sip. Vintages release March 5, 2005. Stemmell rates this an 88. I think so too.

WOLF BLASS YARRA VALLEY PINOT NOIR 2001, Victoria, Australia, 13.0%, #611509 $16.95

LCBO: "Deep ruby with garnet; plum, black cherry, red licorice, cinnamon and spice aromas; dry, with rhubarb and ripe berry fruit, soft tannin, toasty finish". My notes: A rich deep ruby for sure and a nose fuller and more complex than the Mandolin. Cellaring from October 2003 the flavours have developed a dry cherryberry softness on the palate. Has an acid highlight and a short dry cherry finish - a dry sipper. Wolf Blass says it can cellared up to three years and suggests meal matching of: bacon omelette; pasta with mushroom-tomato sauce; 'meaty' fish dishes. Gotta be a 90 now. A General listing.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

4 Reds: Italy, NZ, Canada, Australia

MACULAN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002, Veneto, Italy, 13.0%, #987701 $15.95

Gambero Rosso Italian Wines says: "... even with his entry level wines.... he (winemaker Fausto Maculan, photo) neither fines nor filters the final product, believing that this will preserve the flavour of the finished wine." My notes: A beautiful ruby red, soft smoky cherry/vanilla nose, medium-bodied with dry tannins and an off-acid or pepper flavour but very little supporting fruit. A long, dry woody finish. The wine faded with a bbq'd ribeye and salad - no robustness. Vintages release March 5, 2005. Stemmell rates a 90 - I dont think so.

TWIN ISLANDS WINERY PINOT NOIR 2003, Marlborough, New Zealand, 13.0%, #597682 $19.95

The vintner writes: "Bright ruby-red with a vibrant, aromatic raspberry and plum nose with hints of savoury characters adding complexity. Medium bodied with fine, soft tannins, sweet cherry fruit and a warm finish." My notes: I would describe as light-bodied with a see thru' ruby-red. Nose conveys a light French oak rather than fruit. The vintner uses a gravity process to avoid handling the tender Pinot grapes, also a screwtop. . Perhaps leaving on the lees and ageing in oak has added something lacking in the fruit. If you prefer a light red it deserves a taste but will need two to three years to develop any of the 'complexity' claimed. Vintages release March 5, 2005.

MALIVOIRE PINOT NOIR MOIRA VINEYARD 2000, Beamsville, Ontario, 13.5%, Winery $35.95

The Malivoire winery is pump-free located at the base of the Beamsville Bench in their gravity winemaking process. Malivoire describes their current vintage as: "Vibrant red cherry on the nose followed by flavours of raspberry preserves and smoke. Smooth tannins result in a silky mouthfeel with medium+ weight that carries 14% alcohol well.... Drinking well now for fuller fruitiness, but will increase in complexity and deepen to advantage in the next three to five years." My notes: I haven't tried the 2003 but the 2000 was similar when cellared November 2001, went through a 'dumb' period and in the last year has developed 'complexity'. Deep ruby in the glass, smoky with black cherry nose, smoothe cedar and vanilla softened by ripe cherry flavours. If I can stop sipping I'd try with prime rib, turkey with cranberries or salmon steaks. 2003 Vintage is still available at the winery ($26).

LINDEMANS BIN 99 PINOT NOIR 2004, South Eastern Australia, 13.5%, #458661 $11.95

The LCBO claims the 99 refers to Wayne Gretsky's sweater number. "Garnet colour; berry/cherry fruit with earthy/mushroom notes; light- bodied with berry fruit and vanilla on the palate; delicate spicy notes in the finish". My notes: A socializer .... beautiful ruby colour, light berry/cherry nose with a light spice and a hint of shellac - I didn't get the earthy mushroom notes. Not for cellaring. Have with finger food (not cheeses), duck, roast chicken; vegetarian dishes, mushroom risotto. This is a General listing.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Sangiovese: Italy

VIVAIO DEI BARBI MORELLINO DI SCANSANO 2000, Tuscany, Italy, 13.0%, #720177 $16.95

Tony Aspler gives this 4 1/2 stars (of 5) and says: "This Sangiovese wine comes from a less fashionable part of Tuscany but is bargain-priced compared with Chianti Classico. Dense ruby colour, warm, roasted red berry nose; medium-bodied, sweet cherry fruit with lively acidity and a firm tannic finish". My notes: I agree - very nice, almost yummy nice. A smooth medium-bodied dry red sipper, perhaps a little soft on fruit but good on most things that count and the price is right. With the tannin should have a couple years cellaring potential. Good with a Subway BMT with red peppers and Chipotle sauce. Wine of the Month March 2005.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

3 Soaves: Italy

ANSELMI SAN VINCENZO 2002 and 2003, Veneto, Italy, 12.8%, #948158 $14.95 and $15.95

My notes: David Lawraison rated the 2002 an 89. Light straw colour with almost imperceptible floral nose, this drinks full, for a white, with initial sweetness yielding to balanced refreshing acids. Apple, banana, and fresh pear combine for a very pleasant finish lasting well into the next sip. Vintages released the 2002 in October 23, 2004 and the 2003 March 5, 2005. The 2003 was rated 88 by James Suckling (Wine Spectator) - the difference is noticeable in all aspects. Still light straw but a slight chardonnay floral comes through. (Chardonnay is added by Anselmi so it is not a true 'Soave' which is a blend of garganega and trebbiano). Superclean on the palate with a slight tannin. More pear than apple and no banana. Medium-bodied with a shorter and flatter finish compared to the previous vintage. Both go well with chicken and pasta, grilled cod, green salad with light dressing and salmon pieces.

PIEROPAN SOAVE CLASSICO 2003, Soave, Italy, 12.0%, #946848 $19.95

Gambero Rosso Italian Wines writes "Soave owes a great deal to Pieropan. ... his wines were a reliable benchmark .... and are still absolutely impeccable." My notes: A light straw colour with no perceptible nose. Medium-bodied, a 'steely' smoothness but no predominant fruit flavour - perhaps a light apple without bright acid. No length but nothing unpleasant. If you're looking for fruit look elsewhere. Likely serve with raw oysters or cream pasta with mussels. Vintages release November 20, 2004.

BOLLA SOAVE CLASSICO 2000, Veneto, Italy, 12.0%, #017640 $9.95 (current price is $11.95)

My notes: Golden straw colour; light apricot nose; light- bodied with a flat impression of citrus flavours disappearing quickly on the palate. There are lower priced Soaves if an uninteresting but unobjectionable aperitif is needed, however, this may have been cellared too long (from December 2001). This is a General listing. Serve with finger foods or shellfish, or skip.