Tuesday, November 22, 2005

More November Reds (2): France Bordeaux, USA Zinfandel

CHATEAU PLAISANCE PREMIERE COTES DE BORDEAUX 1999, Bordeaux, France, 12.5% XD, CP143-2210 $20.67 (Tasted November 22, 2005)

Opimian writes: "This one is superb, dark and thickly concentrated with a rich and fragrant plum-style bouquet with touches of warm cedary-oak that surround the sweet ripe fruit with berry-like flavours. .... age at least five years." My notes: Cellared October 2002. Red ruby light in intensity with a cedar fragrance overriding any remaining plums. Perhaps past prime, without the fresh fruit or fullness expected but some faint black/blueberry. Finish is well balanced and subtle plum/berry. A dry uninteresting sipper better paired with slices of prime rib au jus, or pork chops with apple sauce. Will cellar but don't expect much more. Not a value (IMHO).

ROSENBLUM CELLARS ZINFANDEL 2004, Napa Valley, USA, 15.7% D, #284653 $19.95 (Tasted November 24, 2005)

Vintages writes: "Rosenblum is THE Zinfandel specialist serving up aromas of blackberry, raspberry, and mocha. Ripe berry fruit flavours, balanced by cedar tones. Very nice berry spice finish. We prescribe it with roasted duck, venison, or spareribs." Gordon Stimmell comments: "If you like chunky, dense reds, go for [it]. With its blueberry, black olive and chocolate layers, weighing in at 15.7 per cent alcolhol, ... perfect for spicy spareribs." The label says: "This wine exhibits hints of raspberry and strawberry." One of Vintages' Essentials Collection wines. My notes: A deep ruby with a soft strawberry/raspberry nose. The taste is bright strawberry/blackberry with a soft tannin and cedar background and a finish that is long and warm. Medium- to full-bodied but not as unctious as some vintages and softer than most cabernet sauvignons as a sipper, similar to a merlot but with the zinfandel flavour difference. Goes well with mild cheeses, meatballs in a sweet and sour sauce, chicken wings or with prime rib, lamb, or dark meat fowl. Drinks well now and could cellar for a few years.

Monday, November 21, 2005

November Rosé (1): France Bordeaux,

CHATEAU DE SOURS GRAND VIN DE BORDEAUX ROSÉ 2002, Bordeaux, France, 13.0% XD, SO38-2293 $21.95 (Retasted November 21, 2005)

Opimian describes this as: "... from prime quality free run juice from premium merlot grapes. Ripeness.. is combined wtih masses of juicy acidity. A 'drink-now'. " My notes: Cellared August 2003 and last tasted June, 2005. I noted at that time " a light ruby colour very clean and crisp in the glass .. a soft black cherry nose, smooth and dry on the palate with a long light cherry finish. Past peak but still a pleasant sipper." It hasn't changed much but the nose seems more like a good perfume, filling the nostrils and with staying power. With closed eyes it's a full-bodied well balanced white, no longer filled with juicy fruit. A velvet touch on the palate infused with light cherry and berry flavours and a long warm finish. An interesting sipper and excellent paired with pancakes covered with maple syrup, butter and slices of smoked bacon and grilled sweet sausage. Should go with any seafood dishes, grilled or pastas, or grilled/roasted white fowl.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

More November Whites (4): Canada Chard, Italy Soave, France Muscadet, Canada Gewurz-Riesling

BLACK PRINCE FIRST CRUSH CHARDONNAY 2003, Prince Edward County, Canada, 14.0% D, SO39-2642 $16.00 (Retasted November 15, 2005)

Opimian says: "A blend of PE County and Californian grapes.... tropical flavours predominate altho' citrus toffee nuances are apparent to the diligent taster. No oak ... no malolactic fermentation. ... so no oak nor butter.... but clean. Medium-bodied, one to two years cellaring." My notes: Cellared September 2004 and tasted May 2005 with the comment 'Light-bodied with tart natural citrus flavours. .... save for a summer sangria.' Still a light lemon colour with an aromatic lemon nose. Flavour is of tart citrus with a longer finish than in May, warm on the palate with lingering melon and lemon. Paired well with grilled salmon, also with a lemon chicken and rice casserole. Cellaring for another year could mellow some more of the acidity to improve sippability.

FOLONARI SOAVE 2004, Calmasino, Italy, 11.5% D, #176461 $9.45 (Tasted November 17, 2005)

The LCBO writes: "Pale straw colour, light citrus aromas, crisp citrus and mild almond flavours, crisp dry finish. Serve with finger foods, shellfish." A General listing. My notes: A blond hue with soft aromas of wildflowers and citrus. Light-bodied with sharp, clean citrus flavours and, with a long and sharp lemon/lime finish, it's not meant as a sipper (for me) but pairs OK with white fish dishes, creamy shellfish pastas or hard cheeses. A drink-now white.

CHEREAU-CARRE 'LE FLEURON' MUSCADET DE SEVRE ET MAINE SUR LIE 2003, Loire, France, 12.0% XD, #653493 $13.95 (Tasted November 22, 2005)

Vintages writes: "Think you know what Muscadet tastes like? Crisp, clean and refreshing, right? True, in most years, but with the hot 2003 vintage you'll also get riper, bigger fruit flavours." A Vintages release May 14, 2005. My notes: The Robert Parker Jr. guide (November 1, 2005) rates the Loire valley 2003 vintage year as 92 so I had to try a 2003 Muscadet sur lie. A golden yellow with fragrant wildflowers, citrus and honey aromas.... full flavour of apricot and melon, slight creaminess balanced by acidity and has a long round finish. An eloquent dry sipper by itself or with raw oysters, cold shrimp and dip or paired with any seafood dish, even roasted chicken breast or cold ham slices - went well with grilled turbot topped lightly with a roasted red pepper and garlic sauce. Finishes with a slight grassy crispness now, not unpleasant, and should cellar well up to five years - but will try after two. A great value.

PILLITTERI ESTATES GEWURZTRAMINER-RIESLING 2003, Niagara, Canada, 12.0% D (SC2), #349126 $10.05 (Tasted November 29, 2005)

The label says: "An elegant and light bodied wine with 70% gewurztraminer which contributes lovely spice and lychee nut characters blended with 30% riesling which provide structure with citrus tones. Perfect with every meal especially those that are spicy and oily as the subtle sweetness and crisp acid cleanse the palate." A General listing and non VQA (a shortfall in Niagara was backfilled with Italian (Fruili) fruit). My notes: Has a clear light straw hue and a spicy nose with a petrol twist . The acid tries to counter balance the sugar but a sweet fullness overwhelmed my palate. An oily grassiness 'finishes' the finish - this airs out slowly. If you like 'sweet' this is a sweet white sipper better paired with flavoured cheeses or shellfish with a tangy dip - needs a strongly flavoured seafood, roasted chicken, Thai or Sechuan dish to complement the flavours. Awarded a Bronze by the International Wine & Spirits Competition (UK) and a Silver at the 2005 Toronto Wine and Cheese Show by the Sommelier Guild of Canada.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

November Reds (6): Italy Syrah, Italy 'Chianti', Chile Cab Sauv, Canada Pinot Noir, Australia Cab Merlot, USA Syrah

FEUDO ARANCIO SYRAH 2002 SICILIA, Sicily, Italy, 13.5% D, #621730 $11.95 (Tasted November 4, 2005)

Gordon Stemmell rates this 88 saying: "Sicily keeps raising the bar on quality. This newcomer to the shelves is a keeper, with lingonberry, blackberry, ripe plum and red licorice aromas and fairly full-bodied flavours of blackberry and black summer plums. Spicy cedar and black cherry fruit linger on the finish in this shiraz-style syrah. Food suggestion is mushroom risotto." The label pairs this Syrah with "vegetable and seasoned risotto, broiled and grilled red meats, smoked and herb cheeses." The Vinography website said in December , 2004: "This is it. I've discovered by far the best wine for under ten bucks (Aus) I've ever had. You think Yellowtail Syrah is a good value? In a street fight, this scrappy Sicilian is going to send Australia packing. Fortunately for us they're probably going to stay far under the radar of most consumers. ... Feudo Arancio is a new winery project started in 2001 by Gruppo Mezzacorona, one of Italy’s largest and most powerful wine producers. etc." Beppi says: "Medium full-bodied, silky and ripe, it shows nuances of blackberry, cherry and vanilla, ending in a dry, peppery, licorice-like finish. A bonafide bargain, it's ideal for sipping on its own." My notes: Clear ruby colour with a soft aroma of ripe plums and lingonberries. The flavour is fruit-forward of blueberries and lingonberries with light tannin and a bright edge. The finish is long with lingering lingon's. A medium-bodied dry sipper but better with burgers, braised ribs or pepperoni and tomato sauce pizzas. A drink-now but could cellar for a couple of years.

ALTESINO 'ROSSO DI ALTESINO' 2002, Tuscany, Italy, 13.0% XD, #658369 $18.95 (Tasted November 12, 2005)

Vintages writes: "This blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon exhibit a nose that recalls blackberry, cocoa, juniper and vanilla. It is dry with the fruit currently waiting patiently under the tannin. Give this one 3-5 years in a cellar and you will be amply rewarded (Vintages panel, Feb. 2005)." Tony Asper gives it 3 1/2 stars (out of 5) saying: "A blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. Purple colour; earthy, dried cherry nose; medium-bodied, firm structure, lovely balance of fruit, oak and acidity with a finish of cocoa. Drinking well now." Beppi Crosariol's pick-of-the-week writing "... This red from Italy's Tuscany region combines the bright-cherry and earthy nuances of the classic local sangiovese grape with the power and density of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. It hails from the southern Montalcino zone and is what collectors would playfully call a "baby supertuscan" because it's made in a fruity, modern style and breaks with the 100-per-cent-sangiovese formula of the traditional Tuscan wine of the area, etc. .... this wine should have the stuffing to improve with five to seven years in the cellar. Medium full-bodied, it's brimming with blackberry and plum flavours and hints of cocoa and mushrooms. etc. " A Vintages release November 12, 2005. My notes: Ruby with a purple hue and a nose of red cherries and spice. Light- to medium-bodied with a sour cherry predominance over a light plum and nice tannin - a Chianti with a plum twist A sipper for some but not for me - perhaps it's the merlot addition to sangiovese. Long and smooth with a cherry finish. Should go well with hamburgers, red italian sausage pasta, prime rib or rack of lamb. Cellaring should help integrate and provide some complexity. OK as a drink-now but try it first before cellaring a bunch.

PÉREZ CRUZ CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVA 2004, Maipo Valley, Spain, 14.5% XD, #694208 $13.95 (Tasted November 12, 2005)

The winery website says of their 2003 vintage: Produced and bottled in own state, Fundo Liguai, Huelquen, Paine, Maipo Valley. Fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged in barrels for 12 months, and 4 months in bottle. Deep burgundy red, with aromas of ripe red berries and spices, highlighted by touches of dried fruit and vanilla. A very well structured wine with mature tannins and a smooth finish. Natalie MacLean notes for the 2003 vintage that: "for a couple bucks more than Yellow Tail, you can get even more ripeness and mouth-watering flavor. Very plummy and purply. Score: 85/100" A Vintages release. My notes: A clear deep ruby with a soft blackberry and black plum nose. The flavours of plums, berries and licorice are nicely balanced with tannins and a touch of acid. Smooth on the palate with a long plum and interesting spice finish. A dry sipper, no harshness and with a light tannin, the alcohol warmth builds in the mouth along with cedar and fruit. Appropriate with a tray of tasty cheeses or nutty crackers with a cheese dip. Should go with almost any meat dish, non-vegetarian pizza, red pastas, or lamb shanks and beef stews. A value house red. Cellaring for two to five years should integrate further and introduce additional fullness although this is a drink-now medium-bodied Cab Sauvignon.

MALIVOIRE MOIRA VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2000, Beamsville, Canada, 13.5% XD, Winery $35.95 (Retasted November 15, 2005)

My notes: Cellared in December 2001 and last tasted March 2005. Letting breathe for twenty minutes lessened the initial 'closed closet' aroma revealing an interesting savoury vanilla and smoke nose. Has an artificial cork. A clear ruby medium- to light-bodied dry red with well balanced red cherry and raspberry fruit, tannin and acid - less fruitiness than when purchased, now more of a wine than an alcoholic fruit drink. A pleasant and different sipper for dry red sipping. Pair with lighter game meats, duck, turkey, cold greens layered with strips of rare prime beef, a wedge of Balderson aged cheddar, etc. Cellaring further isnt needed but I will anyway.

WOLF BLASS SOUTH AUSTRALIA CABERNET MERLOT 1999, Nuriootpa, Australia, 13.0% XD, #611483 $16.95 (Retasted November 15, 2005)

My notes: Cellared July 17, 2002 and last tasted June, 2005. After twenty minutes breathing the initial sharpness in the nose settles down and a fragrant toasted red cherry and vanilla predominate. Still a dark crimson this is a medium-bodied dry red, with a clean sharp edge and flavours building toward the red cherry. Since the last tasting it has rounded nicely and a soft fruit finish with a slight berry twist lingers moderately - drinking well now. The label says: "will develop over three to five years" and it has (with my preference being six) integrating nose, body and flavours more each year. Cellaring another year or two should be OK. Pair with roasts, game meats, stews or triple decker burgers.

HARVEST NAPA VALLEY SYRAH 1998, California, USA, 14.1% XD, SO39-2646 $22.17 (Tasted November 7, 2005)

Opimian writes: ".. unfiltered... a lovely colour and a bouquet of soft.. vanilla with hints of coffee, leather and mint. .... acidity underpins the well structured fruit with highlighted berries and a slightly tarry finish. Medium-bodied. Cellar one to two years." My notes: Cellared April, 2004. A Syrah with 11% Cabernet Sauvignon having a deep ruby colour with a slight purple tinge. The nose is full of vanilla beans, coffee and savoury berries in equal proportions. The flavour is nondescript cherry-berry and the finish is a nondescript cherry-berry and light oak -perhaps going through a 'dumb' period. OK with grilled New York steaks covered with white cap mushrooms. An uninteresting sipper with a sharp edge. Will cellar for a few more years.

Friday, November 04, 2005

November Whites (6): New Zealand Chard & Sauv Blanc, Australia Semillon, South Africa Chard, Canada Pinot Blanc, South Africa Chen Blanc

KIM CRAWFORD UNOAKED CHARDONNAY 2001, Marlborough, New Zealand 12.5% XD, #991950 $18.95 (Retasted November 5, 2005)

A Vintages release. The website describe the 2001 vintage as: "Pale straw with touches of green and gold. Perfumed Chardonnay, reminiscent of white peaches. Grapefruit and hazelnut aromas are underscored by the butterscotch of malolactic. A very full palate, characterised by great fruit intensity, with peach, mango and pineapple balanced with malolactic sweetness. This is a powerful wine, with integrated flavours and great balance that persists well. An unusual style of wine with great intensity of flavour and no taste of oak. This invigorating wine will cellar well, improving for the next four years or so." My notes: A convenient screwtop. Cellared December, 2002 and last tasted March, 2005 when it had more peach fuzz aroma and 'lees' presence. Still a light straw colour but with a distinct tropical fruit aroma, some lemon/lime and nutty softness. Integrated flavours of pineapple, grapefruit with balanced acidity and light caramel. Finish is moderate, light and smooth. Went well with grilled salmon and greens. Drinking well now but may improve still.

KIM CRAWFORD MARLBOROUGH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004, Marlborough, New Zealand 12.5% XD, # $19.95 (Retasted November 13, 2005)

Vintages 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. (Harvey Steiman, www.winespectator.com, Oct. 15, 2004)" My notes: Last tasted May 2005. still a very aromatic nose... mostly of wild flowers and gooseberries. Taste is full of mild gooseberries, tropical fruit and honey with some tannin overtones that leave a drying aftertaste. Should be cellared for a year to introduce more smoothness but pleasant as a sipper now with or without shellfish appetizers and great with any seafoods, roast pork or even ham. My notes: Last tasted May 2005. still a very aromatic nose... mostly of wild flowers and gooseberries. Taste is full of mild gooseberries, tropical fruit and light honey with some tannin overtones that leave a drying aftertaste. Could be cellared for a year or two to introduce more smoothness but pleasant as a sipper now with or without shellfish appetizers and great with any seafoods, roast pork or even ham.

MARGAN HUNTER VALLEY SEMILLON 2001, New South Wales, Australia, 13.5% XD, #961516 $13.95 (Tasted November 7, 2005)

Vintages says of the 2002 vintage (@$11.95, released July 10, 2004.): "Margan's Hunter Valley Semillon has a little more impact and strength than the regional norm. It has lemon and lanolin aromas of more intensity than most and a smooth, slightly smoky flavour that should build complexity with a year or two. (Huon Hooke & Ralph Kyte Powell, The Sydney Morning Herald Good Living Uncorked Wine Guide, Winter 2003)." My notes re 2001: Cellared July 2003, the 2001 was a Gold medal winner and continues to improve. (At its release the 2002 was tasted and was a disappointment.) The 2001 is now a deep golden straw with rich aromas of tangerine, lemon and butterscotch - no lanolin to me. Clean flavours of lemon and tangerine - no smoke - with a crisp follow through of light lemon lingering as the palate warms to the alcohol. Went nicely with grilled pickerel and carrots the first night and the next with whole chicken turned on a spit with roasted potato. Should be able to cellar for another year or two.

STONE GABLES CHARDONNAY 2003 (DISTELL), South Africa, 13.5% XD, CP150-2566 (Opimian) $16.50 (Retasted November 7, 2005)

Opimian said about this wine: "...Full and rich, yet impressions are so elegant. etc. " The back label says: "Imagine picking a ripe juicy grape straight from the vine and biting it..... this is pure fruit, etc." My notes: Cellared April, 2004 and last tasted May 16, 2005. A good value conclusion at that time, it's still a light lemon with a perfume of lemon and lime. Crisp citrus flavours with more lemon than lime, perhaps starfruit, but not as much creaminess as last tasting. Cleansing to the palate with a pleasant citrus and mango aftertaste. No harm in cellaring another year but goes well now with seafood dishes or tasty appetizers, eg. wild mushroom tarts - a slight grassiness came through with rotisseried chicken. A light-bodied unoaked chardonnay.

SANDHILL BURROWING OWL PINOT BLANC 2002. BC, Canada, 12.5% #541185 $14.00 (Retasted Movember 11, 2005)

The label says: "...partly barrel fermented in American oak and stirred on its lees during ageing, giving it a smooth texture, etc. " My notes: Released by Vintages in February 2004, cellared and last tasted at that time when 'it has a delicate granny smith nose. Gala apple without the sweetness.. and a thin honey roundness. etc.'. Still has the nose and, if anything, a more pronouncd honey note and Gala apple flavours. A long soft tangerine peel finish making it a delightful sipper with or without nibbles of mild cheeses or foccacia layered with tomato, basil and asiago. Went well with telapia covered with tartar and grilled. Will likely cellar another year or two.

JOOSTENBERG CHENIN BLANC 2004, Elsenburg, South Africa, 13.5% D, #660589 $12.95 (Tasted November 13, 2005)

Vintages writes: "This Chenin is honest, flavourful wine with guava and passionfruit flavours reined in by a crisp green apple acidity that should keep it fresh and lively for several years to come. Great value. Drink 2005-2012. Score - 90 (Simon Woods, Wine International, Oct. 2005)." A Vintages release November 12, 2005. My notes: A light blond colour with a lemon and melon nose. Medium- to light-bodied with apple and citrus flavours with refreshing tartness and a smidge of honey on the lips. The finish is green apple with lasting melon. A reasonable if slightly tart sipper but better with a vegetable or cheese tray. Went well with grilled telapia and would be great with most seafood dishes or cheesy macaroni casseroles. Should round out further if cellared for two or more years.