Friday, April 29, 2005

4 Whites: France, Chile

PIERRE SPARR GEWURZTRAMINER CARTE D'OR 2003, Alsace, France, 13.5% SC1, #373373 $16.05

LCBO note: "Medium gold in colour; very aromatic, perfumed nose with lychee, rose petal and light passion fruit character; dryish, medium bodied; sweet fruit centre, balanced with a long, warm finish. Serve with smoked salmon, Asian cuisine or pungent washed-rind cheese." Beppi's note: " .... very good value in a textbook, straightforward gewurz. A bouquet of rose petals follows through on the palate, ... pear, lychee, citrus peel and spice." My notes: No 'Carte D'Or' on the bottle nor rose in the nose. This is the entry level of Sparr wines called 'Selection'. Their website says it can be cellared two to four years - which should integrate the fruit and herbs more smoothly but not likely to improve overall. Pale straw, spicy citrus nose - for sure no floral bouquet (I'll have to get to know lychees!), some pear and light tarragon smoothness with a long bright finish continuing oily-smooth on the lips. For me, there are more interesting sippers. Pair with anything oriental, white fish, poultry and mild cheeses - not likely smoked salmon. This is a General listing.

PIERRE SPARR ALSACE ONE 2003, Alsace, France, 12.5% SC1, # 649830, $ 14.95

Website says: "This ... highlights the fruit of the grape varietal, combined with a more bodied style, due to riper grapes. During harvest these handpicked grapes come mostly from 20 to 35 year old vines, with a controlled yield, which guarantees outstanding ripeness and healthy grapes. Wines made from these grapes show outstanding quality of multi-dimensional flavors, well bodied with more weight, and a better aging potential: 3 to 6 years.floral, citrus and peach notes grace this gentle well balanced white, whose subtlety belies an underlying persistence, ending in a long, languid finish." Gord Stimmell rates it 89 saying " this white is an exotic blend of pinot blanc, pinot gris, muscat, riesling and gewurztraminer. avoids being overly floral, with lots of minerality, lime, citrus and a hint of lychee nut richness. The finish, while traditionally dry, has an engaging sweetness. Serve with Asian-fusion." My notes: One of eight 'Reserve' wines from Sparr, a collection of grapes that could hardly convey the ' highlights of grape varietal' unless a Pinot Blanc with a light spice, ie. a smoothe nothing. A pale straw colour, no nose, no distinct acid, no distinctive fruit but a distinctive label. Finish does have an 'engaging sweetness'. Quaff on a hot day on ice with a lime slice.

CAVE VINICOLE de HUNAWIHR GEWURZTRAMINER RESERVE 2000, Alsace, France, 13.5% SC1, Opimian $19.17

Opimian says: ".... the extravagant bouquet leads to a richly flavoured compote of tropical fruits, with mango and lychee charging alongside peach and mandarin. .... It will gain great elegance as it matures. Cellar six months to two years." My notes: Cellared May 2002 and tasted once since but this latest is showing full maturity. A pale straw and a similar but fruitier and less spicy nose than the Pierre Sparr Gewirz -this is where the similarity ends. A pear fullness with bright acid fills the mouth. A light oiliness to the finish but mainly a light pear and mango on the tongue. A pleasant full-bodied sipper with cheeses, pates, bruschetta. Very good with bbq'd chicken thighs and sweet potato.... could be paired with roasted chicken, salmon (iffy), garlic shrimp or mussels but never! pancakes and maple syrup, ie. sweet things.

SANTA RITA 'FLORESTA' SAUVIGNON BLANC 2002, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 13.0% D, #680959 $22.95

Vintages notes: "Lovely Rita. Floresta is the top-drawer range from Santa Rita. Wine Spectator rated this wine 89 points describing it as 'bright and crisp, with assertive lemon and grapefruit flavours'. Perfect match for a seafood salad or oysters." My notes: Contains 5% Semillon. Flavour is equal portions of passionfruit and grapefruit. Colour is a light straw and nose not as floral as the Reserva 2004 (#275677 $12.45) but pleasing with a lemon focus. Fuller in the mouth with more of a lemon zest impression and a long dry crisp finish. This is a tart sipper which should pair well with any seafood or poultry meal. Hard to justify the extra $10.50 or better still opt for the new vintage (2004) Kim Crawford SB instead (Vintages release April 30, 2005) This wine doesn't appear on the Santa Rita website - perhaps old inventory (or not updated website)? Likely excellent in 2003 but a lot of the expected fruit is gone. Vintages release April 2, 2005.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

4 Reds: California, Italy, Chile, Spain

STERLING VINEYARDS VINTNERS COLLECTION MERLOT 2002, Napa, California, 13.5%, #622837 $15.40 (Followup of the 2001 vintage)

The Sterling website says: "2002 was a cool and consistent early growing season in Monterey, ending in a warm and sunny September; perfect conditions to lengthen "hang-time" on the vines and develop grapes with intense fruit flavors and aromas. The 2002 Merlot is a clear ruby color with aromas of ripe blackberry, jammy red fruit, vanilla, nutmeg, dark chocolate, and toasty oak. On the palate are flavors of rich black fruits; ripe black cherries, blackberries and a lingering finish of fine grain tannins." My notes: There is a nice warmth of berry/cherry in the nose along with a pretty ruby colour in the glass. Supple fruit and roundness as in the 2001 - very sippable and excellent value with a long soft chocolate finish. Went nicely with tortilla wraps and ground beef, tomato, lettuce, grilled onions and green peppers, sour cream and salsa. There's sufficient tannin and acid to cellar for a couple of years but I'd plan initially for 12 months.

MANZONE DOLCETTO D'ALBA 'LA SERRA' 2003, Piedmont, Italy, 13.0%, #715680 $18.95 (Followup of the 2001 vintage)

Gord Stemmell rates at 90 describiing the 'La Serra' as "bright spicy licorice, cedar and black cherry fruit, a sturdy red..." Vintages says: "Purple/ruby colour with wonderful berry fruit aromas, plus fine cherry tones. It is dry, fresh, lively and edgy with a remarkably long finish. Have with wild mushroom risotto, stuffed veal tenderloin." Vintages release April 2, 2005. My note: An uninteresting nose with no herbs or fruit. Colour is as advertised but falls flat in flavour. Long tannic finish - perhaps will open in a year cellaring - but I'd pass - there's too many value reds to have this in the cellar.

SANTA RITA MERLOT RESERVA 2003, Maipo Valley, Chile, 13.5%, #375790 $12.95

LCBO comments: "Viña Santa Rita founder Don Domingo Fernández promoted the introduction of the French vine stocks to the region in the 1880s. Today, acclaimed winemaker Andrés Ilabaca displays the same commitment to quality and innovation with his Merlot Reserva." Vintages release April 16, 2005. Winemaker's comments: "Deep ruby red colour. Its aroma is a complex bouquet combining ripe black fruits, plum undertones and spice notes. On the palate is a strong wine with good concentration, with very ripe tannins that are almost sweet and well balanced. This wine has a persistant and pleasant finish. Cellar four to five years." My notes: Something between an old and a new world wine. Sniffable and sippable, soft as a merlot can be without giving up too much tannin and acid - ie. as advertised, 'well-balanced'. Pretty in the glass as well. Cellar but taste after two years to see how well it's doing - should be complex enough by then. Pairs well with most meats: beef, duck, lamb as long as not too spicy. Excellent value.

MARQUES DE RISCAL RIOJA RESERVA 2000, Rioja, Spain, 13.0%, #032656 $22.95

LCBO note: "Garnet red with brick edges; cedar, plum, anise, chocolate, sandalwood and earth on the nose with matching flavours; dry, medium-full-bodied with light tannins, and rounded fruit flavours; a long solid finish. Grilled red meats; prime rib roast; stews; pork roast; lamb chops." Grapes: Tempranillo: 90%, Graciano and Mazuelo: 10%. This is a General listing. The winery website says: "..... The reserva wines spend approximately two years in American oak barrels, forming a wine which adheres to the principles of a classic Rioja. Complex aroma of spices with a predominance of liquorice, while the oak remains discreet. Intense colour etc. ... subdued tannin and acid.... meanwhile soft on the finish,etc" My notes: A kinder Rioja. The nose is warm with light sandalwood and spices, the flavour is dry, full of figs and soft plum. A long finish and persistent tannin. Improves if opened thirty minutes ahead or decanted. Pairs nicely with grilled or roasted beef and stews for sure.... lamb and prime rib likely, roast pork is questionable.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

3 Whites: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Rueda

SANTA RITA SAUVIGNON BLANC RESERVA 2004, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 13.5% XD, #275677 $12.45

My notes: Straw colour with full gooseberry nose, lingers pleasantly in the glass. Medium-bodied, smooth with flavours of gooseberry/grapefruit, herbs and mint with a bright level of acidity for food pairing. A long clean finish leaving the palate with some dryness, mostly citrus and honey. A good value sipper with cheeses, then follow through with any seafood entree, sliced cold crab, lobster or chicken on herbed greens. Cellarable up to two years. Not a Cloudy Bay but very congenial for almost a third the price. This is a General listing.

DR. PAULY-BERGWEILER RIESLING 2003, Mosel-Saar Ruwer, Germany, 10.0% SC2, #596601 $14.95

Vintages tasting note: "A lively, elegant, off-dry Riesling with classic mineral, honey and peach aromas. It is light-bodied, making it an excellent aperitif wine or one to be enjoyed with lightly spiced seafood dishes." Ontario distributor's note: "Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler uses declassified quality Mosel Riesling to produce an affordable and very charming wine. ... a screwcap for freshness, this 2003 Riesling can be your “go-to wine” for garden parties, luncheons ...and picnics. Light cheese and fruit would be a nice, simple match." Natalie McLean rates an 89 saying “One of the best food wines available, marries well with chicken, pasta and meats.” My notes: Overall a disappointment.... too soft (low alcolhol), too sweet and not sufficiently lively (low acid) for a meal - unless chinese or thai foods. More apt as an aperitif but still an uninteresting thirst quencher - quaff well chilled on the summer deck with light finger foods, pineapple, tangerine slices and good company. Some soft fruit with a light honey/melon length. Vintages release April 2, 2005.

MARQUES DE RISCAL RUEDA 2003, Rueda, Spain, 13.5% XD, #036822 $10.15 (revisited)

LCBO note: "Pale straw colour; delicate citrus, mineral, herb/pea pod and floral aromas with stony/mineral notes; dry, with balanced acidity, light peach, nectarine and melon fruit flavours with a clean finish. " 85% Verdejo, 15% Viura grapes. My notes: A nose like heads down into a cold new pillow. Lots of stony mineral, herb and pea pod aromas, lots of mineral and herb on the back of the tongue and quinine velvet, some tangerine zest, some light melon, full-bodied and dry. The citrus fragrance leads to a long mineral finish making this wine a non-sipper for me - but letting the wine breathe did help. A previous tasting of the 2003 Rueda (Nov, 2004, $9.90) was more fruity consequently had a more pleasing finish. OK with warmed roast pork and seasoned rice.... try with seafood paella, sea bass, lemon chicken or grilled fish. This is a General listing.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

2 Reds: Italy, Australia

PENFOLD'S BIN 2 SHIRAZ MOURVEDRE 2003, South Eastern Australia, 14.5%, #468629 $19.95Tony Aspler says: "A steal at the price. Dense purple colour; chocolate, evident oak and crushed black fruits; sweet, full-bodied flavour, spicy and rich with great length. Great value." and gives it 5 stars. Vintages says: "... This juicy and rich wine is a dark, deep, plum red color in the glass. The nose is a combination of sweet aromas - ripe plum fruits, blackcurrants and liquorice. Some freshly-tanned leather, a touch of cinnamon and clove spices. On the palate, there are baked fruit cake flavors, with some ripe blackcurrant tones. Savory, meaty flavors combine with crisp natural acidity and defined tannins.... (A blend) to create a medium-bodied, soft-finishing "Australian Burgundy." Southcorp Wines owns Penfold's, Lindemans, Rosemount Estate, Wynns, Seppelt, Coldstream Hills and Devil’s Lair." My notes: Cellaring for a year might be stretching it. The mourvedre (20%) adds sobriety to the shiraz (80%) fruit. For the price this is a full-bodied serious red with enough spicy tannins and alcohol to share taste space with roast beef, grilled steak, bbq'd ribs, etc. Close to a 'Burgundy' with the shiraz flavour still apparent. If sipping decant to soften the initial acids. Vintages release April 2, 2004.

CASTELLO DI FONTERUTOLI SERRATA BELGUARDO MAREMMA 2002, Tuscany, Italy, 13.5%, #594887 $19.95

Vintages says: "From one of Tuscany's best producers and his newest winery (see photo), comes a new, exciting blend of Sangiovese (60%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) and Merlot (10%) from the red-hot Maremma region (south Tuscany)." The WineSpectator (J Suckling) says: "Wonderful aromas of violets, fresh rosemary and berries. Full-bodied, with fine tannins and a pretty finish. Best after 2005. Score - 90." Vintages release April 2, 2005 (a Wine of the Month). My notes: Any nose it has needs time to develop in the glass - at first being earthy before the light herbs and floral. Colour is deep crimson, opaque except at the rim. Flavours as well need time to breathe or after decanting. Finish is short, dry, flat - definitely not fruity. I dont think this will improve with cellaring - altho' there's lots of tannins more fruit would be needed to avoid over-acidity. The 'new winery' referred to may need a few years 'cellaring' to let the vines mature. A disappointing sipper and too pricey. If you're stuck with a bottle, serve with roast beef, baked red pasta dishes or spicy pizza.

Friday, April 01, 2005

4 Sauvignon Blancs: NZ, France

KIM CRAWFORD 'FLOWERS' SAUVIGNON BLANC 2002, Marlborough, New Zealand, 13.0% XD, Winery ~$20.00

Named for Brandon Flowerday a young worker who died in a vineyard accident, 'Flowers' is Kim Crawford's (of Hawke's Bay) premium Sauvignon Blanc from grapes handpicked from selected Marlborough vineyards during the best vintages. Website says: "... classic characteristics of gooseberry, passionfruit, figs (white) and a touch of herbaceousness.... Pale straw with touches of green. Cellar to five years." My notes: Cellared in May 2003.... comes with a screwcap. The nose is full gooseberry aromas as described. Colour the same lightness.... and the flavours fuller and creamier by a smidge than a good year Cloudy Bay - with a well balanced freshness. Sipping is a treat. Have with anything light and breezy from sliced chicken on greens; mussels, oysters, shrimps or scallops grilled or in pasta. Perhaps there will be enough bottled for import some day.

CLOUDY BAY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2002, Marlborough, New Zealand, 13.5% XD, 304469 $28.95

The Vintages release June 26, 2004 is the 2003 vintage priced at $31.95. A big increase for a screw-cap and a bit more 'herb'. LCBO says: "In the Classic Cloudy Bay style, it is full-bodied and fresh, with good vigour and excellent depth of clearly herbaceous, melon and lime flavours." The CB website says: "Pale straw green in colour and mouth-wateringly fragrant, the 2003 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is redolent of .... ripe passionfruit, yellow plums, juicy limes and freshly picked basil. The palate is pure and refreshing with all the hallmarks of a small but perfectly formed crop ... flavours that echo aromas, with piercing concentration, impeccably balanced acidity .... and a long crisp finish." My notes: The 2002 was cellared March 2003 and is every bit as described. An excellent full-flavoured sipper with aromas that enhance the pleasure. Serve with any seafood, cold shrimp or chicken salad, or assorted tropical fruit side-dishes.

FORREST ESTATES SAUVIGNON BLANC 2001 and 2002, Marlborough, New Zealand, 13.0% XD, #966820 $19.95

My notes: The 2001 vintage was from the winery and cellared May, 2003, the 2002 vintage from the LCBO in November same year. The 2003 vintage was released by Vintages January 8, 2005 for which the winemaker says: "Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc at its very best – pungent on the nose the flavours spring from the glass. Tropical fruits – paw paw, mango and passionfruit; berryfruit – blackcurrant, gooseberry; aromatic herbs rosemary, thyme and sage that engulf a room the instant the screwcap is removed....etc. I judge this wine as good as any we’ve made in 14 years, its just a pity there is so little." Beyond poetic license.... both 2001 and 2002: 'pungent etc.', no way; 'tropical fruits etc.' are minimal; 'crisp lingering finish', yes, the 2002 being more 'dry grassy' in nose and flavour. Medium-bodied, crisp with a soft lemon/lime finish. An unremarkable sipper.... the 2002 was barely OK with slices of cold ham and hard-boiled egg on greens.

HENRI BOURGEOIS SANCERRE LES BARONNES 2003, Loire, France, 12.5% XD, #542548 $23.95

Vintages says: "Sancerre is known for its racy, remarkably dry Sauvignon Blanc wines. [This is] one of Sancerre's best.... (D Lawrason, Dec. 1999)". " a pale straw colour with aromas of smoky pink grapefruit, melon, mineral, gooseberry and light lemon rind. Dry, crisp/herbal/citrus fruit tones with a light to medium body and structured, medium finish." The website says: " .... only the very ripest grapes are hand-picked and carefully transported to the cellar where they are gently pressed to release their aromas. The must is cold-racked to naturally clarify, and fermentation takes place in thermoregulated stainless steel tanks at 15 to 18°c. The wine is then allowed to slowly mature on ... its lees." My notes: An oakless apple grapefruit nose and the 'sur lie' treatment gives a light creamy texture to the crisp (XD) grapefruit, goosebery, lemon, melon - I guess I'm agreeing with the Vintages tasting notes. Should be great with crab cakes, selections from a shrimp ring, telapia musings, etc. As expected for an 'old world SB' this is not really a sipper without a suitable appetizer.