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.