Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More Whites(4): New Zealand Sauv Blanc, Canada Gewurz, Canada Pinot Gris, Italy 'Soave'

VILLA MARIA PRIVATE BIN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004, Marlborough, New Zealand, 12.7% D, #426601 $15.10 (Tasted September 20, 2005)

The LCBO says: "Pale straw colour; intense aromas of gooseberry, lime, grass and asparagus; dry, medium bodied, crisp acidity, and flavours of bell pepper, gooseberry and citrus; clean, crisp finish. Suggested pairings: goat cheese dishes, vegetarian fare or herb roasted poultry. " The Villa Maria website notes: "The 2004 Marlborough vintage saw a fabulous growing season up until verasion when Marlborough experienced its heaviest February rainfalls on record. This rainfall coincided with a week long cold snap that proved challenging to both the vineyards and winemakers. Overall the vintage was very sound producing some very intensely aromatic Sauvignon Blanc parcels. Fruit was sourced from a range of vineyards in the Wairau and Awatere Valleys. Each vineyard was harvested at optimum ripeness and processed separately to provide the greatest blending options. The fruit was pressed in a pneumatic airbag press, cold settled and racked for fermentation. Cool fermentation techniques were employed to savour flavour and aromatics. After the fermentation had completed the wines were racked to blend, gently fined, filtered and immediately bottled. Distinctively Marlborough, bursting with passionfruit, ripe gooseberry and hints of herbaceous nuances. A well balanced and a freshly invigorating palate with a crisp and zesty finish (June 2004)." This is a General listing. My notes: Comes with a screwcap. A pale blond with appealing aromas of gooseberries, citrus and a touch of cut grass. A fresh lime sharpness on the palate and a long finish with a light creaminess. Carried itself well with grilled salmon steaks and likely would with any grilled seafood or cold chicken breast strips on greens. A drink-now white although website says it will cellar until 2007.

MALIVOIRE MOIRA VINEYARD GEWURZTRAMINER 2000, Beamsville, Canada, 14.5% D, #542522 $24.95 (Tasted September 23, 2005)

A Vintages release. The 2004 vintage was released September 17, 2005 with the following comments: "A standard bearer for both quality and environmental responsibility, Malivoire does not use chemical insecticides, herbicides or fertilizers in any of its vineyards, and the 'Estate Vineyard' is currently deemed 'in transition' in the organic certification process. This classic beauty would be the perfect match for spicy curry dishes. In the late 90's, Malivoire produced some of Ontario's most intense Gewurz from old vines located on their Moira vineyard. That was before severe winter cold did away with them. The 04, made from maturing vines, is a return to that style. Loads of rose water, honey, lychee and peach. The mouthfeel is viscous and rich, with a long spicy/creamy finish. Drink over the next 3 years. Score - 90 (Evan Saviolidis, www.winesavvy.ca, July 2005 )" My notes (2000 vintage): Purchased at the winery November 2001 - comes with an artificial cork. A golden blond colour with a nose of fresh mown hay, apricots and burnt oak. Flavours have grown toward the hay rather than the fruit although with some pleasing creamy caramel highlights. There appears to be some spritz as fine bubbles form on the glass. The finish is a short burnt apricot. Not a sipper. Went well with fish and chips; and should go well with curried mussels, lightly grilled tuna steak with anise, peppercorn and tomato side dish. Perhaps another year in the cellar will reveal something.

MALIVOIRE PINOT GRIS 2000, Beamsville, Canada, 13.2% SC2, #591305 $17.95 (Tasted September 26, 2005)

This is a Vintages release. My notes: Has an artificial cork. Purchased from the winery on January 2001. Considerably different than the 2002 vintage tasted in January and June, 2005. A remarkable golden amber with a soft stewed peach/pear nose. There's a caramel flavour and some spice, both barely discernible with well-balanced acid giving sipping a pleasant brightness. Finish is warm and short but not memorable. Should be OK with white fish dishes, chicken breast or pork tenderloin although added little to grilled telapia and salad.

ANSELMI SAN VINCENZO VENETO IGT 2003, Veneto, Italy, 12.7% D, #948158 $15.95 (Tasted October 1, 2005)

A Vintages release March 5, 2005. Mark Tarbell rates the 2003 vintage as: "There are great whites produced there (Veneto, Italy), and this is one of the best I've tasted recently. The aroma has a little honeydew melon and a touch of greenness. The flavor is where it's at, bursting with bright, fresh, ripe summer fruit while finishing quite soft and delicious. Rating 90 points, June 8, 2005" My notes: Last tasted March, 2005 this bottle purchased today is a light wild floral and lemon drop nose with a soft blond colour. Flavours are full of grapefruit, light passionfruit and distant banana with their appropriate tang - very pleasant. Little to no chardonnay flavour. A medium length the finish has a light oil and soft lemon with passionfruit having some staying power. Should be great with any seafood.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

More Reds(9): Italy Chianti (2), Australia Cav Sauv, Australia Shir/Gren/Mourv, Canada Meritage(2), Canada Merlot, USA Zinfandel, Spain Crianza

RICASOLI BROLIO CHIANTI CLASSICO 2002, Tuscany, Italy, 13.5% D, #003962 $23.85 (Tasted September 15, 2005)

The LCBO says: "Deep ruby/garnet; floral, blackcherry, spice and earth/truffle nose with hints of coffee and plum; extra-dry, medium to full-bodied with medium tannins and flavours of ripe cherry, leather, plum, spice, anise and coffee; fairly long complex finish. Serve with rich meat pastas; hearty stews; roasted meats; grilled lamb chops." The Paterna website says: "Hints of violets and ripe blackberries On the palate, the wine displays a pleasant harmony, balanced tannins and good length. " A General listing. My notes: A Beppi recommendation February, 2004 purchased and cellared June, 2004. Now a dark see-through ruby colour with a soft ripe cherry and oak (French) nose. Tannins are very evident on top of a medium-bodied warm plum, dark cherry flavour with a vanilla and leather edge. Acid level is well balanced with fruit for a long, almost smooth, drying finish. If you like dry it's a sipper but better with any strong-flavoured cheeses and good with lightly spiced back ribs, savoury stews or meaty pastas. Likely can cellar for a few more years.

ANTINORI 'PÈPPOLI' CHIANTI CLASSICO 2002, Tuscany, Italy, 13.0% XD, #606541 $19.95 (Tasted September 18, 2005)

Vintages says: "The Pèppoli estate is 100 ha in size and is located 5 km northeast of Tignanello. The vineyards are located in a small valley which holds heat well, and where the soil is stony and rich in minerals, ideal for growing Sangiovese. Wine was first made here in the Middle Ages by Vallombrosian monks. Owned today by the Antinori clan, Pèppoli, a previous Vintages Wine of the Month, is a modern Chianti, stressing fruit above all." Tony Aspler comments "A very elegant Chianti at a bargain price. Dense purple colour; spicy plum and tobacco leaf nose; medium-bodied. Richly extracted flavours of black licorice, plum and violets; well balanced, firmly structured with great length." and rates 5 stars. The Antinori website says: "Rich in aromas of mature fruit (Sangiovese) and hints of vanilla. On the palate, the wine is well-balanced, with a good structure and a good length with a fruity ending. Pèppoli is made with a view to being enjoyed fairly young, when all its fruity nuances are at their maximum." A Vintages release September 17, 2005. My notes: In nose and flavour emphasis is on blending, ageing and process than on fruit. Colour is a deep garnet and the nose is cigar box with warm stewed plums. Flavours are a smooth blend of tobacco, prunes with a spicy edge and possibly a black cherry note, a long finish also smooth on the lips. A full-bodied red sipper better paired with spicy tomato sauce pastas, Italian meatballs or sausage, gorganzola or asiago crumbs on broiled bruschetta and portabello mushrooms. A drink-now wine.

GRANT BURGE 'CAMERON VALE' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002, South Australia, 14.5% XD, #937276 $19.95 (Tasted September 19, 2005)

Vintages says: "This deeply delicious wine is made from fruit sourced from vines that are over 30 years old. While the grapes' pedigree runs deep, the winemaker's history runs deeper. Grant is the fifth generation winemaker in the Burge family and the most successful to date. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the family's winemaking history. The maturity and experience of the winemaker and his vines shows well in this complex, full bodied Cab. Look for layered aromas of eucalyptus, black licorice, dark chocolate and vanilla oak and juicy, dark fruit flavours integrated with toasty oak notes and silky tannins on the palate. Enjoy with roast beef with all the trimmings or a leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic." Natalie MacClean describes it as: "Excellent value. Menthol coolness with ripe red fruit. Delicious for food on the barby (cue). Score: 91/100." The Grant Burge website highlights 'mint, violets, chocolate and cherry oak' in this red noting that "Petit Verdot (5%) was added for complexity.. and.. twenty-two percent was left on skins for thirty days. Fermentation was completed in 33% French oak, and the rest in one and two year old French hogshead for twenty months. Deep crimson with purple hues, nose of eucalypt, boiled aniseed lollies, mint dark chocolate and vanillin oak. The palate is a fleshy, juicy mixture of dark berry fruits, savoury soy characters, and full fruit tannins integrated with fine grained French oak, and excellent weight and persistence." A Vintages release September 17, 2005. My notes: Colour is a deep but not opaque ruby. Nose is a round plum and soft cedar, some spice and faint licorice. Flavours are delayed but burst on the tongue into a sharp edged blackberry, dark chocolate and plum blend with well integrated tannins - lots of fruit and well balanced. Finish is long and drying. A dry Cab Sauv sipper and better paired with prime beef, beef Wellington or rich stews. Went well with bbq'd lamb chops coated with a fig and balsamic sauce. Should cellar well for several years.

LANGMEIL 'THREE GARDENS' SHIRAZ/GRENACHE/MOURVÈDRE 2003, Barossa, Australia, 14.5% XD, #644047 $21.95 (Tasted September 20, 2005)

Vintages says: "An excellent southern Rhône-style blend, with medium-full body, soft tannins, a pleasing degree of density, and subtle spice and meaty characters. It's quite fleshy and supple in the mouth and drinks well already. Score - 93 (Australian Gourmet Traveller Wine, June/July 2005)." The label says: "The blend of Shiraz (47%), Grenache (45%) and Mourvedre (8%) shows good balance and integrated structure. It has full, ripe fruit supported by firm but fine tannins. Flavours of cherries, blackberries with a hint of cloves and cinnamon.... (cellar) up to five years." A Vintages release September 17, 2005. My notes: A complex nose that develops in the glass: cedar, soft oak, mint, black cherries and blackberries from a deep black cherry skin colour. It seems the mourvedre provides a soft, chalky base for the grenache and shiraz -complex, integrated and well balanced. Should be wonderful with game meats, prime rib, beef Wellington, ... or just sipping. Drink now or for several years to come.

JACKSON-TRIGGS PROPRIETORS GRAND RESERVE MERITAGE 2001, Jordan, Canada, 13.1% XD, #594002 $23.95 (Tasted September 21, 2005)

This is a Vintages wine. The 2001 label says (and the J-T website describes the 2002 in the same terms): "... a unique blend of Cab Sauv (40%) Merlot (40%) and Cab Franc(20%). ... aged in premium new French and American oak barrels for eighteen months ... has a nose dominated by aromas of ripe blackberries, plums and vanilla underscored with layers of chocolate and spicy black pepper. ... concentrated fruit flavours of berries, chocolate and coffee .... with firm leather tannins providing an elegant prolonged finish. Ideal with beef tenderloin in a peppercorn sauce, grilled rack of lamb, stuffed pork or hardy aged cheeses. " My notes: The 2001 vintage was purchased from the winery February, 2004 Medium- to light-bodied with a clear ruby colour and a warm plum, cinnamon and pepper nose. Red cherry and red currant flavours are well integrated including the sharpness of fresh currant juices or a slight chokecherry-ness. Fine tannins are still apparent on a medium finish. A sipper if you like crisp - but decanting may help here. Pair with spicy pastas, seasoned steaks.... went nicely with a mellow fruit cake (Laura Secord's) and somewhat with chips and salsa. Will likely benefit from another year in the cellar.

JACKSON-TRIGGS PROPRIETORS GRAND RESERVE MERITAGE 2002, Jordan, Canada, 13.1% XD, #594002 $19.95 (Tasted September 22, 2005)

Part of Vintages release September 17, 2005 and describes it as a "Merlot-dominant blend that includes Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, this is plush, concentrated and elegant. There's an aroma of ripe raspberries even as you pour the wine into the glass, and sniffing it uncovers plum and coffee. Score - **** 1/2 (out of 5) (Rod Phillips, www.winecurrent.com, Dec. 2004)". Natalie describes the 2002 vintage as "Robust aromas of cassis, black plums and coffee. Strong all-round red that needs aging. Drink 2006-2009. Score: 89.5/100." My notes: A touch of garnet in the clear ruby and, after breathing a bit, a richer same nose as the 2001 and less pepper. Medium-bodied with flavours of black cherry plum, red currant, and an anise edge without the chokecherry this vintage - tannins and acid are nicely balanced. Finish is moderate to long vanishing into a soft woody touch. Should be cellared a year for sipping - OK now with meat pizzas, grilled steaks, bbq'd sausage spicy or sweet, rack of lamb or savoury stews.

JACKSON-TRIGGS PROPRIETORS GRAND RESERVE MERLOT 2001, Jordan, Canada, 13.5% XD, #563197 $21.95 (Tasted September 24, 2005)

This is a Vintages wine. The label says: "... underwent extended maceration to extract a deep garnet red colour and concentrated fruit flavours. Aged in premium new French and American oak barrels for eighteen months ... for a goergeous bouquet of ripe backberries, vanilla and sweet plum aromas layered with notes of mint and spicy oak. Bold flavours of cherries and blackberry supported by mellow tannins etc. ... ideal with rack of lamb, beef Wellington.... and aged cheeses." My notes: Purchased from the winery February, 2004. A beautiful ruby colour with a nose initially reminiscent of an 'Elastoplast' bandage. Decanting or letting air for ten minutes softened the medicinal to a faint violet - and light plum (if you closed your eyes). Medium-bodied with flavours of light blackberries mixed with soft tannin and well balanced acids. Finish is short, warm and dry. Should be OK with lightly flavoured meats: turkey breast, ham steak and roasted potatoes, prime rib and Yorkshire pudding.

RANCHO ZABACO ZINFANDEL 2001, SONOMA HERITAGE WINES, Sonoma, USA, 13.3% XD, #434605^ $19.95 (Tasted September 25, 2005)

The label says: "balances juicy ripe blackberry with boysenberry fruit flavours with an underlying hint of pepper. ... pairs with dishes ranging from simple grilled meats and roast chicken or turkey with sage or more exotically spiced Mediterranean dishes." This is a Vintages release. My notes: Purchased March, 2004 (recommended by Beppi). No longer listed under the LCBO number above this has a warm, light blackberry nose to match the rich ruby colour (fruit has lessened since purchase). Blackberry flavours have softened integrating with fine tannins and well balanced acid to produce a pleasing smooth dry sipper. The finish is warm and long coating the mouth with a smooth blackberry aftertaste. Cellaring further likely couldn't improve this excellent Zin. Food pairing as described on the label is likely.... went well with bbq'd pork tenderloin with Patagonia sauce.

CAMPO DE BORJA ARAGONIA CRIANZA 2001, Fuendejaron, Spain, 13.5% XD, CP151-2664 (Opimian) $13.42 (Tasted September 27, 2005)

Opimian says: "This is a blend of Garnacha, Tempranilla, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, impressive fruit including figs and opulent prunes with a beautiful fragrant, sweet fruit and musky, suave oak bouquet. The palate is rich with fruit and a gentle touch of spice and herbs that gradually give way to swelling tannins to provide the wine with a quiet, but assertive structure and sinstance. etc." The label lists the blend as 60% Grenache and 40% Tempranilla. My notes: Purchased from the Opimian Wine Society and cellared February, 2004. Has improved since last tasted May, 2005. The Opimian description is closer than I could come.... a soft cedar, raspberry and dark plum nose from a rich clear, ruby colour with long legs. Flavour is a rich, full fruit integrated with soft tannins and a mild spice. Finish is very long with lots of ripe berry fruit and smooth complex texture. A beautiful sipper and paired with any meat, game meats, duck, red pastas or pizza should enhance the meal.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

5 Whites: Australia Semillon, Australia Sauv Blanc, Chile Sauv Blanc, New Zeal Sauv Blanc, France Burgundy

GRANT BURGE ‘ZERK' SEMILLON 2004, Barossa, Australia, 12.0% XD, #987768 $16.95 (Tasted September 3, 2005)

Vintages says: "Ripe Barossa style with powerful orange/citrus characters on the slightly developed nose. Attractive, flavoursome palate – fresh and clean with nice wood treatment. One for the cellar. Score - **** 1/2 (out of 5). (Winestate, March/April 2005) " The website says: "The grapes for this wine come from the Zerk Vineyard, owned by fourth generation Barossan, Robert Zerk and his wife Janine. As the vines are over 70 years old, they produce fruit with great depth, flavour and complexity, and 2004 produced ideal weather and ripening conditions for an above average Semillon vintage. A vibrant, pale straw colour, with aromas of tropical fruit salad, and hints of guava, freshly cut hay and subtle toast from the French oak. The palate is soft and clean with a crisp freshness, smoky toast flavours and a creamy mouthfeel and long, smooth finish from the wine’s time on lees. Overall the wine is complex, balanced and full flavoured, and is ready to drink now, or will mature for up to ten years. It is ideal with full-flavoured fish, lighter meats and mild spicy Asian dishes." The label adds: "Skin contact, oak fermentation and four months oak maturation ... make the wine full of flavour and complexity." Vintages release September 3, 2005. My notes: Comes with a screwcap. Colour is light lemon with a nose of light lemon drop and slight hay - didn't get the toast. Medium-bodied with light creaminess through a citrus crispness. The finish is also strong citrus with a very light orange note. A little bit astringent for sipping without hors d'oeuvres; mild cheeses, cocktail weiners, etc. however cellaring for two years should mellow this. Pairing with seafood; grilled scallop skewers, spicy mussels, perhaps salmon or a Thai stirfry with lightly grilled chicken would be suitable.

WOLF BLASS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2003, South Australia, 11.5% D, #611475 $14.95 (Tasted September 5, 2005)

The LCBO says: "Medium straw colour; aromas of pear, melon and hay aromas; dry, light to medium bodied, well balanced, with fresh cut grass, lime and herb flavours. Serve with Jambalaya, steamed asparagus, grilled veggies or herbed fish dishes." The label adds nothing and oddly the WB website doesn't list a WB South Australia Sauvignon Blanc. My notes: The nose is a light pineapple and lemon-lime and colour is a soft lemon. Flavour is crisp evenly balanced with tropical fruit and lip smacking tartness. Finish is long and evenly divided between soft fruit and acid making this a reasonable sipper. Paired with grilled chicken thigh pieces seasoned with teriyaki it held its own. Should be good with a variety of seafoods, Thai or Chinese foods, and pork or ham. Not a Cloudy Bay but a reasonably priced 'house white'.

CONCHO Y TORO CASILLERO DEL DIABLO SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004, Central Valley, Chile, 13.0% XD, #578641 $10.95 (Tasted September 13, 2005)

The LCBO says: "Pale straw colour; aromas of citrus, melon and with grassy notes; dry, medium bodied, clean and crisp with lime and light tropical fruit flavours; zesty acidity on the finish. Serve with grilled trout, antipasti or vegetarian appetizers. " This is a General listing. The Casillero del Diablo website describes the 2004 vintage, composed of "grapes from Maule (44%), Maipo (25%), Casablanca (25%), and Curico(6%) valleys... fermented 100% in stainless steel and aged for 3 to 6 months sur lie. The colour is straw with green hues, nose is fresh and citric with hints of gooseberries and tropical fruit and the taste is gentle, round and mouth filling with crisp acidity." My notes: Colour is a very light straw and a pleasant nose of light gooseberry-lemon. A light grapefruit and citrus flavour with a crisp edge that almost overpowers the light 'sur lie' cream. A distinct grassiness on a short finish. An OK sipper better with soft cheeses, salt mackerel on crackers or with a nippy salsa dip. Have with white fish grilled or battered, grilled scallop skewers, perhaps chicken slices on greens. Seems like a drink-now wine.

OYSTER BAY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004, Marlborough, New Zealand, 12.5% D, #316570 $16.95 (Tasted September 14, 2005)

James Halliday of The Weekend Australian (July 24, 2004) says: "The 2004 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc is a harbinger of much more to come from this region and may cause nervousness among Australian sauvignon winemakers who charge rather more for their wines. It has fragrant crystal-clear passionfruit and lemon blossom aromas, delicate but intense fruit flavours and excellent overall balance. It's not a wine to ponder on but to gulp down with say gourmet fish and chips or anything else marine. Rated 90. " A Vintages release. My notes: A staple Vintages white for some time Oyster Bay SB has been consistently better value vintage to vintage. A bright golden blond in the glass and in the taste with the full crispness and flavour of passionfruit. The passionfruit nose and light creaminess prolongs sipping pleasure. The balanced flavours and long crisp finish pairs nicely with any grilled seafood, Thai food or Chinese stirfries with sticky rice. A drink-now white and although not quite the fullness of a Cloudy Bay is half the price.

LOUIS JADOT POUILLY-FUISSE 2002, Beaune, France, 13.0% XD, #732917 $34.95 (Tasted September 18, 2005)

A Vintages release October 9, 2004. Vintages says: "While some Pouilly-Fuissés age very well, the majority are designed to be enjoyed in the first 3-4 years. As with Chablis, the accent is on fruit; oak is not or only circumspectly employed. Jadot's Pouilly-Fuissé proved popular on last release." My notes: A golden blond colour and fully aromatic nose of soft lemon and wild flowers. Flavours of bright citrus, pear and pineapple with a light creaminess and well balanced for dry sipping or with grilled chicken breast, seafoods or not-too-spicy rice dishes. A long finish of pear and granny smith apple. Has cellared well but likely will not improve further.

Friday, September 02, 2005

7 Reds: Australia Cab Sauv Shiraz, Argentina Cab Sauv, France Corbieres, Australia Shiraz, Argentina Malbec-Corvina, 2 Chile Merlots

RIDDOCH KATNOOK ESTATE CABERNET SHIRAZ 2001, South Australia, 13.0% XD, #590489 $15.95 (Tasted September 2, 2005)

Vintages says: "Aromas of black olive and eucalyptus and taut plum and black cherry flavors. Its chalky, claylike mouthfeel is Coonawarra, all the way. I'm glad this wine is as affordable as it is. It will help value seekers appreciate regional differences among Australian wines. (Wine Enthusiast, Dec. 31, 2004)." The website says: "62% Cab Sauv, 32% Shiraz. Colour is intense plum with hints of garnet and purple tinges. A complex array of ripe fruit aromas combined with sweet and spicy oak highlights. Hints of stewed plum, sweet spices and cedar with faint charred oak and coffee bean characters. Earthy plums with light cedar and char with lingering subtle tannins complement the oak/fruit balance. A match for most medium to full flavoured dishes....etc. Cellar to 2011. " A Vintages release August 20, 2005. My notes: Full-bodied, deep garnet colour and a warm cedar nose with an earthy note - airing brings out a berry hint. Flavours of plums and black cherry with silky tannins, a spicy edge with no pucker. A dry red sipper Cab Sauv in character but with a soft plum edge, more claylike than chalky to me. Should pair nicely with bbq'd ribs, steaks, even prime rib or full flavoured stews. Two to three years cellaring will smoothe and integrate for a more complex sipper but this is fully quaffable now.

FAMIGLIA BIANCHI CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0% XD, #677567 $15.95 (Tasted September 3, 2005)

Vintages says: "The lush cassis and raspberry fruit is surrounded by cocoa, spice and toast notes. The fruit really pumps through the finish, offset by a mineral note that adds further dimension. Elegant and well put together. Drink now through 2008. Score - 91. (James Molesworth, www.winespectator.com, Sept. 2004) " The Southern Wines website on 6/2/05 said: "Last year's version (2002) was a Wine Spectator Top 100, we debated that fact but regardless of what we thought it still was an excellent bottle of wine." Natalie says: "An extraordinary wine for the price. Lots of ripe, deep red berry fruit. Full-bodied. Score: 90/100." Vintages release (2002) September 3, 2005. My notes: This wine needs to air for twenty minutes minimum. An opaque ruby colour with a soft licorice and plum nose. The flavour is a complex construct of fruit, spice and chalky tannins, without pucker. An European red with emphasis on texture and spice rather than a discernible fruit. Too big to sip (for me). Pair with seared red meats, bbq'd ribs, T-bones (all dusted with steak seasoning), or full flavoured stews. Finish is long, smooth and chalky. Cellaring for a few more years would mellow the tannins further. The Southern Wines website describes the 2003 vintage as "The 2003 vintage was a heroic one for Argentina and this bottle of Cabernet is a real knockout. It’s blessed with tremendous fruit purity, blackberry and cassis fruit and ripe tannins with a plump, fleshy mouth feel ... etc." Given a choice the 2003 is it.... but the 2002 is good value NOW.

CHATEAU LES OLLIEUX 2000 CORBIERES, Languedoc, France, 13.5% D, #936880 $17.95 (Tasted September 4, 2005)

Vintages says: "Aged for six months in French oak, this wine is a blend of 31% Grenache, 33% Syrah, 31% Carignan and 5% Mourvèdre. An intense bouquet of herbs, plum jam, Brio and menthol dominate this well-made Midi wine. It is dry, ripe, round, generous, full-bodied and long finishing. Enjoy it with lamb shank or braised beef. (Vintages panel, Oct. 2004)." The label says: "Hand-picked grapes through a carbonic maceration before crushing.. to retain a fruity character. Serve with red meats or game at a slightly cool temperature." Beppi says: "...it shows plum, licorice and chocolate, good ripeness and spice." Vintages release September 3 2005. My notes: A see-through ruby colour with a mint and berry nose. A medium-bodied, dry, spicy plum that can be felt at the back of the throat. A finish of light tobacco and plum dries the palate. A very dry sipper by itself but goes well with flavoured cheeses. Pair with lamb roasts, red pastas, ham or beef stew.

WOLF BLASS GREY LABEL SHIRAZ 2002, South Australia, 15.0%, #390872 $30.05 (Tasted September 5, 2005)

Listed as 'Brown Label Shiraz' the LCBO says: "Deep ruby red colour; huge sweet, spicy, smoky, blackberry, chocolate/coffee aromas; dry, rich, jammy/minty, blackcherry compote fruit flavours, soft balanced ripe fruit tannins; long finish. Serve with: pepper steak; rosemary roasted lamb; BBQ meats; tandoori chicken." The label says: ".... full of peppery, spicy fruit and chocolate characters...... the palate is balanced, rich and full-bodied, finishing with fine wood tannins. ... will continue to improve over the next six to ten years." This is a General listing. My notes: A deep warm blackberry nose from a deep opaque ruby liquid. This wine's fullness leaves firm legs on the glass and a warm blackberry sensation when it hits the palate. A flavourful berry sipper with sufficient spice to be refreshing... and have I mentioned it's warm? Should pair nicely with anything meaty, chili con carne, roasted duck, ham.... I guess I'd never pass up any excuse to sip this.

MASI TUPUNGATO PASSO DOBLE ROSSO 2004, Argentina, 13.5% D, #620880 $14.95 (Tasted September 9, 2005)

The LCBO says: "Medium deep red cherry colour; aromas of dried herb and fruit, with black cherry and spice notes; dry, medium to full bodied, rich, with sweet dried fruit flavours, good balanced acidity and supporting tannins, long finnish. Serve with rich meat dishes, including stews, caseroles and grilled steak." My notes: Same colour, opaque ruby, and similar nose, warm plum but less black cherry with more licorice and tobacco hints, as the 2003 vintage (tasted June 22, 2005) Masi's experiment of blending the Argentina Malbec with Veneto's Corvina grape slightly dried continues in this vintage. Medium- to full-bodied with full flavours of dark plum and dried black cherries along with chalky tannins. Cellaring for a year or even two would hopefully meld the tannins and flavours softening some of the earthy notes. The finish now is long, earthy and plummy. Sipping begs a full flavoured cheese or hearty stew, a seasoned steak or red pasta with italian sausage or meatballs. This is a General listing. Given a choice the 2003 vintage is preferred for its higher black cherry accent.

SANTA RITA "120" MERLOT 2004, Rapel, Chile, 13.5% D, #286179 $9.95 (Tasted September 12, 2005)

The LCBO says: "Deep ruby colour; cherry and cassis aromas; dry palate, plummy flavours with moderate tannin on the finish. Serve with veal, light beef dishes, or chicken. " This is a General listing. The Santa Rita winemaker, Cecilia Torres, describes the 2003 (2004 description not available) vintage as: "A violet red wine with some ruby hues, aromas dominated by red fruits, vanilla and fine herbs. On the palate it has a balanced medium body which expresses its sweetness, rounded tannins and fruity flavour." My notes: A clear dark ruby with warm blackberry and black cherry aromas, some smoke and herbs too. Flavour is full with a sharpness that's somewhat aggressive in an otherwise long and smooth finish. Too bright for sipping unless with gorgonzola or highly flavoured cheeses. Should be cellarable for several years, try two at least, for a full-bodied red value. Great with hamburgers with onion and tomato slices, mustard and relish or bbq'd ribs, steaks, etc.

CONCHA Y TORO CASILLERO DEL DIABLO MERLOT 2004, Central Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #427088 $11.45 (Tasted September 14, 2005)

The LCBO says: "Deep ruby colour; forward, fruity, blackberry and black cherry nose; richly fruity and warm on the palate; finishes with concentration and power. Serve with rich stew; steak; spicy pasta. " This is a General listing. The Casillero del Diablo website describes the 2004 as: "70% aged in small American oak barrels and 30% in stainless steel tanks during 6 to 8 months. Color is dark and deep red. Nose is dark plums, smoke, herbs, and even a note of graphite. Taste hints of chocolate and spices and a touch of toasted American oak. Mouthfilling texture, smooth but well structured." My notes: This 'Cellar of the Devil' Merlot is a deep see-through ruby colour with a soft herbal cherry nose. A black cherry and steely flavour attacks the palate with an acid and tannic edge and lingers as a medium-bodied dry finish. As a sipper its sharpness drowns out any fruit. Save for a savoury stew, seasoned steak or a spicy meaty pasta. A drink-now dinner red.