Saturday, May 21, 2005

3 Reds: Spain Crianza, Australia Shiraz

CASTILLO de FUENDEJALON CRIANZA 1996, CAMPO de BORJA, Fuendejalon, Spain, 12.5%, CP136-1811 (Opimian) $12.17

Opimian says: "....grapes of thirty year old vines of grenacha (75%) and tempranillo (25%). Long skin maceration in tanks then matured in cask and a year in bottle. ... fruit notes mingle with oak tannins for a rich experience. Cellar 6 months to 2 years." My notes: Cellared July, 2001 and enjoyed many times since. This is one of my last bottles. Still a rich ruby red and with a light nose if allowed to breathe ten minutes - oaky if pushed. Light- to medium-bodied, Is a well balanced blend of red cherries and spice, slight cigar on the palate. A light tannin still apparent in a long dry pleasant finish. A light dry sipper. Great with anything rice/tomato-based, minced beef, tapas. Good value.

LONG FLAT SHIRAZ 2000 (2003), New South Wales, Australia, 13.5%, #536763 $11.75 ($11.95)

Of the 2003 vintage LCBO says: "Ruby red colour; aromas of jammy berry fruit, pepper and spice aromas and flavours; dry, medium body, with good flavour intensity, sweet fruit centre, soft tannins and a warm finish; soft style Shiraz. Serve with lamb chops; grilled steak; chicken souvlaki." and names the winery as Tyrrell's. This is a General listing. My notes: Originally recommended by Beppi the 2000 vintage was cellared January, 2002. The 2003 on Ontario shelves identifies the winery on the label as 'The Long Flat Wine Company'. (In May, 2003 Tyrrell's sold the Long Flat brand to an Australian winery, Cheviot Bridge.) A crystal clear ruby colour, the 2000 has a slight brick tinge whereas the 2003 doesn't - likely the cellaring. Both have an initial light cherry/raspberry nose that vanishes quickly -no blackcurrant. The 2000 is well integrated, light-bodied, smoothe in the mouth with very little oakyness - some cherry fruit leading to a short warm finish. The 2003 is quite sharp without cherry or other discernible fruit. Each is a dry red sipper better paired with grilled/roasted meats or stews.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

3 Reds: Canada Foch, Australia Shiraz, Italy Valpolicella

MALIVOIRE OLD VINES FOCH 1999, Beamsville, Ontario, 13.5%, #551036 $18.95

Vintages released the 2002 vintage ($15.95) July 10, 2004 saying: "Over the years, many people have doubted the potential of hybrid grapes such as Baco Noir and Maréchal Foch. What they did not expect was talented winemakers such as Ann Sperling of Malivoire taking hold of the winery's 'Old Vines' Foch and making a deeply flavourful and complex wine that many now describe as one of the province's signature red grapes." The winery describes the 2003 ($22.00) as: "Deep cherry colour, with rich plum fruit, spicy vanilla and aromas of game on the nose. Medium-full bodied and silky on the palate, with pepper, cassis and lively acidity. Finishes long with easy tannins.....structured for ageing to 2008... Flavours match best with ... stews (beef or lentil), roasted or barbecued lamb or beef, duck.. Also.. earthy Portobellos and other flavourful mushrooms." My notes re. the 1999: purchased from the winery and cellared July, 2001. The Foch has cellared well going from a fruit-forward medium-bodied red to a well balanced blend of licorice, ripe plums, vanilla, soft tannins and acid. A violet tinged dense scarlet with a predominant gamey nose. A velvety sipper - decanting then letting breathe for a day lessened its gamey-ness leaving a soft 'foch' nose. Meal pairing as suggested is appropriate.

JEANNERET SHIRAZ 2002, Claire Valley, Australia, 14.5%, #732891 $24.95

Vintages says: "The grapes for this wine are grown using organic farming methods though no official organic wine certification system is in place yet in Australia. This Shiraz is made in a fruit-forward, crowd-pleasing style." The label says: "2002 was a stunning year... and this wine is an excellent example of the vintage. etc. " The website says: "Our Shiraz is a soft and elegant medium to full-bodied wine showing rich berry fruit and smoky oak complexity. The must is fermented in small open fermenters and hand plunged and pumped over to extract colour and flavour from the skins. Once pressed off skins the wine spends 16 to 18 months maturing in French and American oak before final blending and bottling." My notes: Cellared October, 2004. Now that the 2001 has vanished from the cellar we find 2002 is even better. Lots of blackcurrant and spice in the nose and flavour. A dense ruby running light legs on the glass. A medium-bodied balance of fruit and oak, tannin and acid. A long and tasty warm finish.... yum! Vintages release October 23, 2004.

PASQUA SAGRAMOSO VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE 2001, Verona, Italy, 13.5%, #602342 $15.05

The website says: "Ruby-red, with granite hues, this wine offers intense aromas of wild cherries, underbush and hints of toasting. A rich, full-bodied wine, round and warm on the palate. Grapes: Corvina (60%), Rondinella (20%), Corvinone (10%), Negrara (10%)" LCBO notes (2002, now $17.05): "Bright medium-deep ruby red; aromas of sweet dried fruits, oregano, ripe black cherry, damson plum and date; dry, med-full bodied, rich and ripe, balanced acidity, smooth velvety texture, with flavours of fig, cherry fruit, plum and chocolate notes." My notes: Cellared November, 2004. A rich ruby colour and a soft nose, the 'Ripasso' style increases soft pepper/plum fragrance and enhances the fruit blend: black cherry, plums, and spice. Medium-bodied, well balanced tannins and acid touches the roof of the mouth and lips. The finish is fairly long, warm and without aggressiveness - very pleasant. Great with roast beef, prime rib, red pasta dishes, pizza - great with burgers. A General listing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

3 Chardonnays: Canada, South Africa

DANIEL LENKO OLD VINES CHARDONNAY 1999 (2002) French Oak, Beamsville, Ont., 13.0% D, #Winery $24.95 ($29.95)

The Lenko website says about his 2002 vintage: "Vanilla, toast, coconut and spice flavours balance beautifully with ripe pear and peach overtones. A rich, creamy texture engulfs the palate, showing the power and elegance of fruit from old vines " My notes: Vintage 1999 was purchased from the winery and cellared May, 2001. Pours as a crystal clear golden liquid. The nose has a light vanilla fragrance followed by very pleasing creamy texture and toasty vanilla, coconut and lemon/melon flavours (could be the 'peach'). The finish is long and smoothe. This last bottle of the six was cellared long enough for 'complexity' altho' with some loss of fruit - focus is now influenced by the French oak which introduces the smoothness without the crispness added by the American oak of the previous version. The creamy texture and silky finish makes this a very interesting sipper. Pairs nicely with any fish, grilled shrimp and greens - maybe not with grilled or roasted, ie. stronger flavoured, fowl, but worth a try.

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

Opimian says: "... Full and rich, yet the impressions are so elegant. The bouquet has a huge character sufficient to turn the palate in a gushing torrent. Diamond clean cuts of apple, fresh malic acidity carry rich touches of mango, kiwi and pineapple.... etc. " Back label says: "Imagine picking a ripe juicy grape, straight from the vine and biting it. ... this is pure fruit, none of that chunky woody taste." My notes: Cellared April, 2004. A clear light lemon colour and a clean crisp citrus nose. Still has a rich blend of tropical fruit - cellaring has helped blend flavours and increased the creamy texture. There is an initial tart touch to a long pleasing smoothe finish. A good sipper for chardonnay drinkers - no oakiness. Pair with any seafood or rice dishes. Good value, imho.

BLACK PRINCE FIRST CRUSH CHARDONNAY 2003, Prince Edward County, Canada, 14.0% D, SO39-2642 $16.00

Opimian says: "a blend of local and californian fruit ... tropical flavours predominate although citrus toffee nuances are apparent to the diligent taster. Unoaked nor malolactic fermentation so no butter nor cream.. a clean style. Cellar 6 months to two years." My notes: Cellared September, 2004. A light lemon colour seems thin, ie. shallow miscus and the nose almost undiscernible. Light-bodied with tart natural citrus flavours. The finish is short and clean - not my preference as a sipper. Accompanied grilled salmon and asparagus with greens adding the toffee and a hint of sweeetness. Pair with any seafood, scallops, shrimp, etc. or perhaps save for a summer sangria.

Monday, May 16, 2005

2 Reds: Spain, Italy

ARAGONIA CAMPO de BORJA TINTO CRIANZA 2001, Aragon, Spain, 13.5%, CP151-2664 (Opimian) $13.42

Opimian says: "A blend of grenache, tempranillo, syrah and cabernet sauvignon, impressive fruit including figs and opulent prunes..... musky, suave oak bouquet. The palate is rich with fruit and a gentle touch of spice and herbs..... Deliciously approachable, etc. Cellar 6 months to 2 years. " The label says a blend of 60% garnacha and 40% tempranillo. My notes: cellared April, 2004 and has developed a wonderful plummy nose and very smoothe velvet texture with soft tannin and acid. The colour is a clear ruby and the finish fills the mouth, short but sipping keeps it coming. A good sipper and pairs well with roast beef and yorkshire pudding. A great value.

BOLLA 'LE POIANE' VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 1999, Veneto, Italy, 13.5%, #135293 $19.95

Vintages says: "Unlike standard Valpolicella, Bolla's 'Le Poiane' goes through the secondary fermentation of ripassato. The juice is pumped onto skins of grapes left over from their Amarone wine production and allowed to macerate for 20 days. It is also aged for one to two years in small oak barrels prior to bottling. The resulting wine is higher in alcohol, deeper in colour and bolder in flavour than most Valpolicellas." Vintages release August 7, 2004. Natalie rated this a 90 (August 2004) saying: "Delicious. Balanced, medium-bodied. Slips by the palate, leaves a ghostly memory.". My notes: Cellared November, 2004 - now just past peak. Faint plum nose and ruby red. Softer than at time of purchase but still with a bite, lower tannins, and less 'skins' influence so less raisins. An OK medium-bodied perhaps a bit thin european-styled dry sipper. OK with hot or sweet italian sausage, pizza, bbq'd ribs, the spicier the better.

Friday, May 13, 2005

3 Reds: Carmenere, Cabernet, Barbera

CASA NUEVA CARMENERE 2003, Molina, Chile, 13.5%, CP152-2746 (Opimian) $13.08

Opimian says: "Carmenere could be the 'flagship' grape of Chile. Deeply coloured, it has a delightful fragrance of cinnamon, spice, anise and a compote of black plums. a mixture of flavours... into a lingering finish with some soft, husky tannins and good use of oak. Drink in same year." My notes: Cellared March, 2004, is everything Opimian says as far as my taste can tell and hasn't suffered from cellaring a year. It is a violet red with a light aroma of fresh blueberries, cherries, raspberries and cinnamon, not quite the blackcurrant shiraz is but fruitier than a cabernet sauvignon. This is a bright, light- to medium-bodied balance of flavour, tannins and acid. The finish is long and complex. A good sipper and pairs well with tangy salsa, spanish paella, italian sausage, red meats or pasta dishes. Carmenere is a worthwhile varietal for the cellar.

LIKÁN CARMÉNÈRE/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, Maule Valley, Chile, 13.5% Organic, #713909 $12.95

Vintages says: "'Likán' is the name of a Mayan ritual where priestesses recovered their powers to connect with the spirit world. A very important sacred element in the ritual was soil, so Concha y Toro has named their organic wine in honour of this ancient ceremony. Our Quality Assurance laboratory has determined that this organic wine contains 20 mg/L of free sulphur. Vintages release March 19, 2005." My notes: The CyT website doesn't have any information about this wine. The bottle has an interesting label reflecting its namesake. The colour is a rich deep ruby much like a full-bodied merlot. The nose is a warm mixture of cinnamon, plums, and black cherries which carries through to the flavours with a silky smooth texture and a bite mixed with firm tannin. The finish is long, ripe plums and leather. As a sipper it's a firm full-bodied red - have with chips and salsa, mature cheeses, or smoked oysters. Pairs with anything red: beef, venison, duck, panserotti pizza, tomato-based pastas or rice dishes.

CA'BIANCA BARBERA D'ASTI DOC 2002, Piedmont, Italy, 13.5%, #588905 $12.95

The label says: "Has a good ageing potential and will accompany red meat, venison, mature cheese." Gord Stimmell (May 11, 2005) rates this an 89 and describes it as: "A real treasure of a red, with richly appointed flavours. Aromas of plum, cedar, black cherry with a black peppery spice lift. Flavours of vanilla, full ripe drenchingly rich plum and exotic spice, with a very smooth, silky finish and nicely integrated tannins. Food suggestion. Veal in a red wine sauce." My notes: As far as my nose could tell, Stimmell's description is accurate but allow to breathe, a glass for ten minutes, the bottle for more. I wouldn't call it a treasure, just an OK value and an 86. Smoothe but not 'silky' as the Likán above, is lighter with a shorter finish, ie. the fruit dies quickly leaving a somewhat flat taste - allowing to breathe helps, so having with finger food is a must or pair with lamb, roast beef, grilled veals or stews. This is a 'drink now' wine and is a General LCBO listing.

Monday, May 09, 2005

3 Chardonnays: NZ, Canada

KIM CRAWFORD UNOAKED CHARDONNAY 2004 (and 2001), Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% (12.5%) D, #991950 $19.95 ($18.95)

Vintages says: "Whether oaked or unoaked, Kim Crawford's fine hand with Chardonnay is always apparent. This is an enjoyable drink-young style. The 2004 vintage shows a strong malolactic (acid-softening) influence, with pronounced butterscotch characters and a peachy, fractionally off-dry finish. (Michael Cooper, Buyer's Guide to New Zealand Wine 2005)." My notes: Both vintages are crystal clear with a straw tinge and a soft nose, the 2001, cellared in December 2002, creamier and showing an appealing touch of grassiness. Both have a flavour of delicate peach with a light cream touch - 'butterscotch' is in the feel not the flavour. A reasonable acid balance and not as 'extra dry' as a burgundy white, has a smoothe long finish. Not intended to be cellared beyond a year altho' the screwcap allows this to be extended somewhat depending on the cellar conditions and the 2001, I'd say, improved. 2004 was in Vintages release April 30, 2005. Sip when a fruity or full-flavoured wine isnt your thing. Have either with white fish (e.g. telapia), egg souffle or cold chicken and greens.

DANIEL LENKO OLD VINES CHARDONNAY 1999 (American Oak), Beamsville, Ont., 13.0% D, #Winery $19.95

Lenko website notes (for his 2001 vintage): "Toast, smoke and butterscotch flavours lead the way, with pineapple, peach and spice unfolding a deep and intense experience." My notes: Purchased from the winery and cellared May, 2001. A crystal clear light straw liquid. Nose is now a soft toast with lemon notes. A pleasing cream texture with lemon/melon falvours and a long smoothe finish. This last bottle of the original six was cellared a year too long losing most of its fruit putting a focus on a toasty American oak flavour. An OK sipper but with sufficient crispness for white fish, grilled shrimp and vegetable kebobs or Swiss Chalet chicken with fries.

CAVE SPRING VINEYARD CSV CHARDONNAY 1999, Jordan, Ont., 14.5% XD, #529941 $32.95

LCBO notes: "The current vintage (yr?) was released September 4, 2004. The CSV single vineyard line is Cave Spring's top range. The grapes come from their oldest vineyard with vines that are between 23 and 27 years of age. The winery suggests enjoying this wine with quail, pheasant or guinea hen with mushrooms, pork tenderloin with grain mustard, roast chicken or grilled veal chops." My notes: Purchased at the winery and cellared June, 2003 is still full flavoured but at the price wouldn't chance another year. Current Vintages stock will be a more recent vintage and a few dollars lower. A light pineapple and mandarin nose fills the glass, a clear light straw colour and creamy smoothe approach for a nicely balanced pineapple/melon style - some oak but not much. Has a long, pleasant melon finish, coats the lips. An excellent sipper for those enjoying chardonnay. Pair with any fowl or seafood, eg. Mother's Day dinner of lobster, vegetable kebobs and wild rice.

Monday, May 02, 2005

2 Sauvignon Blancs: NZ

KIM CRAWFORD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004 (and 2001), Marlborough, NZ, 12.5% XD, #975672 $19.95 ($19.95)

Harvey Steiman (Wine Spectator) 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." Natalie says: "This one has the distinct aroma of talent: ripe green apples, passionfruit and pears. Zippy and refreshing. Score: 93/100." The Kim Crawfprd website says: "Pale straw with touches of green. Classic Sauvignon characters of gooseberry, passionfruit and a touch of African sweetgrass. Unfolds with flavours of passionfruit, gooseberry and subtle herbaceousness. The wine is mouthfilling with good texture and finishes well with crisp acidity and great length. A great aperitif. Ideally suited to asparagus, oysters and summer salads. A wine to drink now and, with careful cellaring, will last up to five years." My notes: Although the Kim Crawford winery is located in Hawkes Bay (on the east coast of the North Island) grapes are selected from Marlborough which is in the north of the South Island, NZ, the same region as Cloudy Bay. Based on the 2001 vintage which lost most of its fruit in a year and became grassy the second year, a claim of five years cellaring seems much....I'd limit it to no more than a year. Not 'explosive' but still a pleasant gooseberry aroma. There is a 'subtle herbaceousness' which distinguishes it from the Cloudy Bay. Some mineral and less roundness in the mouth and lack of depth in the finish that is the $12 difference. A very pleasant sipper which will go with any seafood. Vintages release April 30, 2005. The 2004 has a screwcap.

CLOUDY BAY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004 (and 2002), Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% XD, #304469 $31.95 ($28.95)

Vintages says of the 2004: "The legend returns. This is the wine that put New Zealand on the map. It remains the country's most sought after wine. Score 5 stars (out of 5)." The Cloudy Bay website says: "The fruit was machine harvested during the cooler night and early morning temperatures and transported directly to the winery. The grapes were de-stemmed and transferred straight to tank presses. Free run and lightly pressed juice was cold settled for 48 hours then racked and inoculated with a neutral yeast strain. The fermentations were carried out in stainless steel tanks; after fermentation the wine remained in contact with yeast lees for about two months, prior to blending in July and subsequent bottling in September." My notes: The 2002 was laid down March, 2003 and has lost seventy percent of the original gooseberry or 'blue spruce' nose. The colour is a shade deeper than the 2004 being a light straw and ageing has introduced a roundness that fills the mouth with each pleasant sip. Finish is a very long and a smoothe gooseberry/melon. Yummy! The 2004 vintage has a screwcap so it would be interesting to see what happens in two years.... but I recommend no more than one year to retain the very appealing aromatic gooseberry nose. More spicy crispness on the tongue than the 2002 but not quite as much mellow roundness, otherwise very similar. Both are pleasant sippers or will go with any seafood, bruschetti, cream pastas (may be stretching it but try it and let me know!), oysters, spicy mussels, salmon pieces on greens, etc. Vintages release April 30, 2005.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

3 Reds: Australia, Chile

KILIKANOON ‘KILLERMANS RUN' SHIRAZ 2002, South Australia, 14.5%, #925453 $18.95

Robert Parker Jr. says: "It is a dense, full-throttle, big, chewy, peppery, black fruit-dominated Shiraz offering sweet tannin, an attractive plushness, and an up-front style designed for consumption over the next 2-4 years. Score - 90. Natalie says: "Another bruiser that kicks sand in the face of 90-pound weaklings. Humongous would be the technical term, I think. Big black fruit. Drink with members of your local motorcycle gang. Score: 90/100." Winestar says: "the 2002 ...blows socks off. Kevin Mitchell (winemaker) has found another gear with the 2002 which is not surprising given the superlative wines that have already emerged from the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Clare.... The 2002 is a deep purple colour, the nose giving off aromas of spicy fruit and aniseed. The palate is a symphony of luscious fruit flavours of dark berries as well as cherry, chocolate and a hint of licorice, etc. My notes: This is an unfiltered wine but doesn't show any roughness. Not being 90-pounds but still a weakling I was not intimidated. There is big black fruit and pepper in the nose and a balanced flavour of berries and cedar. Enough fruit and tannins for cellaring two years - should have a mellow future. Pair with any beef, venison or other wild thing, duck even. Casual sipping is pleasant but the aftertaste has a cloying aspect so have with food or nibbles -the alcohol content may be a surprise. Vintages release April 30, 2005. Go for it!

PENMARA RESERVE SHIRAZ 2002, Barossa, Australia, 13.5%, #912782 $18.95

LCBO says: "Rich, concentrated shiraz with a ripe, vibrant, briary fruit bouquet … Elegant strawberry fruit palate perfectly in balance. Should age very well. Score 5 stars (out of 5). (Winestate, Special Edition 2004, Vol. 27 Issue 7)." Beppi states: "full, smooth and luscious, with notes of plum, chocolate, coffee and spice." The Penmara website says: "The wine is bright purple in colour, with the nose showing fresh aromas of ripe berry fruits, with a touch of spicy pepper and the sweet lift of oak. The palate has ripe fleshy fruit flavours, which are enriched by hints of chocolate and liquorice. ... and great complexity with the structure to last for another 3-5 years." My notes: Still features the 5 Families name as #565929@$13.15 (reviewed Mar 31, 05) adding "One Vision" to its label. Colour is a deep ruby with ripe black cherry/plum with cedar and some pepper. Medium-bodied bright loganberry flavour with some licorice in the follow through. Shorter on fruit than typical Aussie shiraz's A short cherry finish. An OK dry sipper but should be paired with any beef, red pasta or burgers. Laying down initially for two years should smoothe and improve blending of the light tannins.

SANTA RITA 'FLORESTA' CABERNET SAUVIGNON MERLOT 2000, Maipo Valley, Chile, 13.5%, #680942 $25.95

Vintages notes: "From the premium range developed by winemaker Andrés Ilabaca comes this sensational Cabernet blend. Decanter magazine rated it 4 stars (out of 5) gushing with praise: '. Marvellous, huge silky flavour. Huge and splendid.' " Vintages release April 2, 2005. My notes: A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 70% and Merlot 30% so the Cab is softened by soft merlot fruit - in theory anyway! In this case the fruit has disappeared leaving a leather/licorice nose with a dry tannic cabernet flavour and a long herbal, cigar box finish. The nose is soft enough not giving away the somewhat flat but well-balanced tannin and acid. Decanting and letting breathe 30 minutes improved the nose but, still, not a pleasant quaffer. Likely aged too long. Roast beef, beef stews, or spicy pastas would be suitable companions. Not 'sensational', not 'huge and splendid', not a value, not recommended.