Friday, December 30, 2005

Favourites of 2005


Favourites of 2005 are based on my overall impression of the wine with a meal, sipping, or both, ie. the here and now and not for any cellaring potential. The criteria and results are my own and do not represent an endorsement or rejection of any wine mentioned or not mentioned. If you go out and buy a case and like it, so much the better. On the other hand, if you don't enjoy it all I can say is, individual tastes are just that. The majority of vintners are dedicated artisans driven by their art. Some are driven by the bottom line. I can't know the difference - as well as any other factor - so it becomes irrelevant and any wine is treated equally. My budget restricts most of the wines to under $20 but often through the benevolence of friends and family I get a chance to go over this level. Excluded are wines purchased through the Opimian Wine Society of Canada, rosés, and sparkling wines. There's no signifance in the order of the lists and the dates shown are for Archived tastings where details can be found. 

Some wines are still available as of writing - outlets with stock can usually be found via the LCBO website . Since vintages can vary considerably verify the 'year' that's available - always try it before cellaring quantities of any vintage, especially a new one: wine names are sold, wineries change hands, tier brands are introduced and then there's the climate. I hope this helps narrow down the pursuit of a variety of value wines. On to 2006! 

Salut, Ww

Reds - of 111 Tastings:

  • Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 #337238 $17.95 V (Dec 6/Mar 16)
  • Nepenthe 'The Rogue' Cabernet/Merlot/Shiraz 2003, #998542 $17.95 V (Dec 13)
  • Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel 2004, #284653 $19.95 V (Nov 24)
  • St. Hallett 'GST' Grenache/Shiraz/Touriga 2004, #660910 $23.95 V (Oct 30)
  • Katnook 'Founder's Block' Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, #660332 $17.95 V (Oct 29)
  • Elderton 'Friends' Shiraz 2003, #660480 $19.95 V (Oct 17)
  • Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel 2001, #434605 $19.95 V (Sep 25)
  • Langmeil 'Three Gardens' Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvedre 2003, #664047 $21.95 V (Sep 20)
  • Grant Burge 'Cameron Vale' Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, #937276 $19.95 V (Sep 19)
  • Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2002, #390872 $30.05 G (Sep 5)
  • Blue Pyrenees Shiraz 2001, #935890 $19.95 V (Aug 25)
  • Sterling Vineyards Vintners Collection Merlot 2001/2002/2003 #622837 $15.45/$15.40/$15.40 G (Jul 5/Apr 21/Feb 7)
  • Pasqua Sagramoso Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2001/2002, #602342 $15.05/$17.05 G (May 19/Jun 3)
  • Jeanneret Shiraz 2002, #994962 $24.95 V (May 19)
  • Concho y Toro Trio Merlot 2003, #433920 $13.95 V (Mar 18)
  • Mandolin Pinot Noir 2001, #590596 $14.95 V (Mar 12)
  • Wolf Blass Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2001, #611509 $16.95 G (Mar 12)
  • Malivoire Pinot Noir Moira Vineyard 2000, Winery, $35.95 (Mar 10)
  • Vivaio Dei Barbi Morellino di Scansano 2000, #720177 $16.95 G (Mar 8)
  • Saltram Mamre Brook Shiraz 2000, #906677 $19.95 V (Jan 31)
  • Arrowfield Hunter Valley Shiraz 2001, #597583 $16.95 V (Jan 15)
  • Corto Zovo Camposolin 2001, #650713 $11.95 V (Jan 8)

Whites - of 102 Tastings:

  • Anselmi San Vincenzo Veneto IGT 2002/2003/2004, #948158 $15.95 V (Dec 30/Oct 1/Mar 6)
  • Chereau-Carré 'Le Fleuron' Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2003, #653493 $13.95 V (Nov 22)
  • Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2004 #975672 $19.95 V (Nov 13, May 2)
  • Sandhill Burrowing Owl Pinot Blanc 2002, #541185 $14.00 V (Nov 11)
  • De Bertoli Deen 2004 Vat 7 Chardonnay, #598896 $11.20 G (Oct 20)
  • Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé 2002, #732917 $34.95 V (Sep 18)
  • Konzelmann Estate Winery Chardonnay 2002, #200535 $10.60 G (Aug 30 )
  • Fielding Estate Chardonnay Musque 2004, Winery $13.45 (Aug 23)
  • Chateau des Charmes St. David's Bench Viognier 2003, #432948 $18.95 V (Aug 21)
  • Sauvion et Fils Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2002, #143016 $9.90 G (Aug 3)
  • Yalumba 'Y Series' Viognier 2004, #624502 $13.95 V (Jul 28)
  • Chateau des Charmes Aligoté 2003 (Estate Bottled), #284950 $11.95 G (Jul 13)
  • Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc 2004, #293043 $14.95 G (Jun 20)
  • Cave Spring Vineyard CSV Chardonnay 1999, #529941 $32.95 G (May 9)
  • Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2004/2002, #304469 $31.95/28.95 V (May 2, Apr 2)
  • Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2004, #275677 $12.45 G (Apr 19)
  • Kim Crawford 'Flowers' Sauvignon Blanc 2002, Winery $20.00 (Apr 2)
  • Medalla Real Santa Rita Chardonnay 2002, #303628 $16.95 V (Mar 14)
  • Weingut Machherndl E.R.A. Pinot Blanc & Neuburger 2002, #925222 $16.95 V (Feb 17)
  • Jacques et Lurton Les Fumées Blanches, #472555 $9.95 G (Jan 12)
  • Bodegas Esmeralda Argento Pinot Grigio 2004, #620492 $9.95 G (Jan 1)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

December Sparkles (5): Canada Blend, Italy Prosecco(3), Australia Chardonnay

SUMAC RIDGE 'STELLARS JAY' SPARKLING BRUT 2001 METHODE CLASSIQUE, Okanagan, Canada, 12.2% D, #264879 $19.95 (Tasted December 8, 2005)

The label says: "a blend of pinot blanc, pinot noir and chardonnay aged en tirage for a minimum of three years. ... hand riddled and hand disgorged... " A Vintages release December 10, 2005. My notes: A crystal light blond with a touch of peach hue, a fragrant pineapple peach and a mountain of bubbles fine enough for foam but not fine enough for froth. A bright medium-bodied apple and citrus flavour with a slight creaminess. A medium Granny Smith finish. A bit light with grilled telapia and salad with sliced olives and balsamic dressing but a good festive quencher between seafood appetizers.

BOTTEGA VINO DEI POETI PROSECCO, Veneto, Italy, 11.0% D, #897702 $12.60 (Tasted December 21, 2005)

The LCBO writes: "Pale straw colour, fine bubbles; fresh & fragrant with delicate apple, pear, citrus and hints of honeysuckle & white fruit on the nose; dry, with barely a hint of sweetness on palate & flavours of green apple and citrus; refreshing finish. Serve as an apéritif or try with spring rolls, shrimp, sushi, with melon and prosciutto, light fruit dishes or cheese and fruit." Gordon Stimmell describes this as "...transcends the ususal sweet prosecos, showing apple and floral aromas and a hint of toasty biscuits. The flavours are full of apple and zesty citrus, with a slightly sweet edge on the finish. Very refreshing." and rates it 88. A General listing reduced for a period from $13.60. My notes: The foil wrap has a priceless quote by Cicerone: "Either drink or leave". A light blond and foams rather than froths... ie. bubbles are medium size and viscosity is low. Fragrance of apple and pears, medium-bodied with corresponding flavours and a citrus edge. Finish is long of apple and citrus with a faint yeastiness. A reasonable celibratory sipper or have with oysters, chilled cocktail shrimp, asian foods or mild cheeses and pineapple wedges. Cellar for a few years or just drink now.

BANROCK STATION SPARKLING CHARDONNAY, South Eastern Australia, 12.0% D, #534974 $12.00 (Tasted December 22, 2005)

The LCBO says: "Medium straw colour, fine mousse ; dry, medium-bodied with apple/pear fruit; crisp with hints of butterscotch on the finish. Serve with brunch, seafood or spicy foods." The label says: "fresh peach and melon characters.. of chardonnay are a feature of this superb full flavoured sparkling wine. ... soft creamy texture and subtle yeast." A General listing. My notes: I enjoyed their sparkling shiraz so had to try their chardonnay. A golden blond with a faint 'unoaked chardonnay' or pear/apple nose and a rush of large bubbles creating a foam that quickly settles to a stream of finer bubbles. Medium-bodied with a dry crisp mousseux flavour of melon with a peach tone - the finish is a long cripsy creamy in the mouth. Another reasonable festive sipper - not full and fruity and not over tart, with a pleasing finish for sure. Refreshing with oysters, shrimp ring with tartar dip, Dim Sum, or mild cheeses. A drink now - perhaps a year cellaring would be interesting.

VAL D'OCA PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE BRUT V.S.Q.P.R.D. 2004, Veneto, Italy, 11.0% D, #340570 $14.15 (Tasted December 25, 2005)

The LCBO says: "Pale yellow colour; up front floral aromas with spicy, Muscat notes; fruity, spicy flavours with a tangy finish. Serve as an aperitif or with light seafood." A General listing. My notes: An abundance of bubbles foaming briefly then a steady medium-sized stream forming a frothy edge. A light blond with a yeast and melon nose. A round spritz on the tongue and a moderate citric tang in the throat with flavours of melon and a hint of orange. Finish is moderately long with a noticeable creaminess. OK as a festive sparkler, with seafood appetizers or serve with white fish dishes, sushi or Asian fare. A drink now sparkler.

MIONETTO SPA IL PROSECCO, Veneto, Italy, 10.5% D, #588053 $13.40 (Tasted December 27, 2005)

The LCBO describes as: "Medium straw colour with lively bubbles; medium-intensity citrus, pear and melon notes; dry, light-body, crisp, refreshing style. Serve with hors d'oeuvres, antipasta, or seafood." A General listing. My notes: The crown cap is different - suggests carbonation rather than secondary fermentation - and with a sugar code of 2 there is a sweet edge. The shoulder on the neck doesn't allow a standard champagne 'recorker' so drinkup, the bubbles disappear quickly. A very light blond with large bubbles and no chance of a froth. A grassy very light muscat nose and initial heavy spritz that also goes quickly. Light-bodied with flavours of honeydew melon with a lime twist and no creaminess. The finish is a long light citrus. A pleasant enough quaffer with or without shellfish appetizers and held its own with grilled telapia and rice. More of a tart spritz than a sparkler and, IMHO for what it offers, well overpriced.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

December Whites (2): Italy 'Soave', France Sauv Blanc,

ANSELMI 'SAN VINCENZO' VENETO IGT 2004, Veneto, Italy, 12.8% XD, #948158 $15.95 (Tasted December 30, 2005)

Vintages writes: "Super Fresh! This is a light, fresh wine that will capture your imagination as ripe citrus and tropical fruit dance across your palate. It's crisp with a backbone of acidity and a medium finish. A concentrated blend of Garganega, Chardonnay and a little Trebbiano. Enjoy with pasta with pesto or roast goose. " A Vintages release October 10, 2005. My notes: This is the latest vintage of Anselmi and it remains as full of zesty fruit flavours as the previous vintages. Full aromas of lemon and floral honey build anticipation for the freshly tart flavours of soft lemon, a touch of passionfruit and pineapple. A long, warm. silky finish has enough zest to refresh the taste buds. An interesting sipper and ideal paired with any seafood appetizer or entree. Full-bodied and flavourful, try with cold ham, sushi, and asian dishes. Cellaring for a year shouldn't lessen the freshness but may more fully integrate fruit with acids.

CHATEAU DAUZAN LA VERGNE BLANC 1998, 12.0% XD, Bergerac, France, CP138-1942 $19.17 (Tasted December 6, 2005)

Opimian writes: "Aged in oak, this Sauvignon Blanc has lost none of the spicy edge and ethusiastic vigour that typifies the grape but is now a richer, straw coloured wine with subtle perfume, growing powerfully in the glass featuring a punch of nutmeg, raspberry, nettle and warm oak. etc. " My notes: Laid down September 2001. A golden yellow perfumed with spice, faint pineapple, apricots and a touch of oak. A full-bodied dry white soft with an acid edge that carries lemon and apricot flavours across the palate. A long citrus finish with a touch of creaminess. If you like a dry european sauvignon blanc it's a sipper but it's great paired with grilled salmon with a rice vegetable mix and lettuce salad with a balsamic dressing. Will likely continue to strengthen in the bottle but is drinking well now.

December Reds (9): Chile Cab Sauv, France Bord, Chile Merlot, Spain Abadia, Australia CS/Merl/Shir, France Bergerac, Italy Shir/Nero, Spain Rioja(2)

MARQUES DE CASA CONCHA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #337238 $17.95 (Tasted December 6, 2005)

The label says: "Limited production, aged in French oak for fourteen months. With its intense black cherry aroma and fig flavour evoking the Puente Alto terroir, the wood adds generous hints of coffee and vanilla. ... medium-bodied and pleasant tannins." Vintages says: "2003 vintage: 91 points – Wine Spectator (30.9.05) The ‘Marques de Casa Concha' rides again with aromas of cassis, blueberry, vanilla, smoke and cedar. The ripe black fruits lead on the palate with a hint of pepper and a medium finish. Enjoy with beef tenderloin and root vegetables." Gord Stimmell writes: "With lavish blackberry, smoky black cherry and chocolate notes, it's a real power tripper red from Chile" and rates it 92. My notes: From the Vintages Essentials Collection. A deep garnet with a soft spicy ripe plum, vanilla hints and faint cedar nose. Flavours of vanilla, licorice and ripe black cherries - seems to develop further in the glass. Full- and soft in the mouth with soothing tannins and a touch of black pepper. The finish is long and smoothe. A great red dry sipper.... not intrusive for mild to medium cheeses, bruscetta or pizza squares. Should be great with lamb shanks, beef stews, prime rib or lightly spiced red pasta dishes. Still has a few more years cellaring but a SUPER drinker now.

CHATEAU GROSSOMBRE (BEATRICE LURTON) 2000, Bordeaux, France, 12.5% XD, #943712 $18.95 (Tasted December 6, 2005)

The label says: "... 67% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Merlot, is aged for a year in oak barrels. ... full-bodied ... with complex aromas of fruits, woodland scent, and spice. ... have with red or white meats., and cheeses." Vintages Wine of the Month (November) saying: "The red wines from Beatrice Lurton... offer 'one of Bordeaux’s greatest bargains' according to Tom Stevenson (Sotheby’s New Wine Encyclopedia). From the superb 2000 vintage, this supple, approachable Bordeaux blend offers impressive aromas of coffee, cedar, cassis and vanilla bean. Dry, robust and almost chewy, this wine is medium to full-bodied with a lingering fruit and silky tannin finish. While certainly enjoyable on its own, it really shines with food such as beef Wellington or lamb stew." My notes: A deep ruby with a light cherry and pepper nose. Medium- to light-bodied with light tannins, balanced acid and red cherries. The finish is also light with cherries, tannins and a light tang. An OK sipper with mild cheeses but better paired with grilled Ontario lamb chops and baked potato, perhaps a ham steak with melted cheese. At its peak now.... not enough interest for a sipper but OK with a meal. Nothing left to cellar - a drink-now.

CONCHA y TORO MARQUES DE CASA CONCHA MERLOT 2003, Rapel Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #939827 $18.95 (Tasted December 9, 2005)

Vintages says: "It is very expressive aromatically and quite deeply flavored, with rich, concentrated fruit notes reminiscent of plums and dark berries. With well-balanced oak edging and lovely undertones of cocoa and vanilla, this is both complex and symmetrical. It is also remarkably stable, remaining fresh and expressive for days after opening. (Michael Franz, The Washington Post, March 9, 2005)" Natalie says: "Aromas of chocolate and red berries make this rich, deep wine a lovely companion to full-flavored dishes. Will cellar in the short-term. Drink 2005-2008. Score: 89.5/100." A Vintages release November 26, 2005. My notes: A deep ruby red with an aroma of peppery raspberries and black cherries... flavours of ripe berries, vanilla with soft tannins and a nice edge. There's a background flavour of overripe fruit that spoils this as a sipper for me but it should be great paired with grilled steaks: T-bone or New York cuts or flavourful beef stews, even prime rib with horseradish and Yorkshire pudding. The finish is long and chalky.

RAIMAT ABADIA 2002, Costers del Segre, Spain, 13.3% D, #935460 $13.95 (Tasted December 11, 2005)

The label says: "... a blend of cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo that is aged 12 months in American oak... " Vintages writes: "The Spanish version of a Bordeaux blend with Cabernet Sauvignon taking the lead, followed by Merlot and finishing with Tempranillo. Engage your senses with aromas of raspberry, strawberry, earth and oak. It's a traditionally styled dry and fruity wine with a medium full body and a long lingering finish that will transport you to beautiful Barcelona." My notes: A Vintages Essentials wine. A clear light ruby with a light raspberry and red cherry nose. Light bodied with a slight raspberry and cherry flavour and a short light finish with pronounced tannins (how many times can I say 'light'?) - tempranillo predominates. A dry light sipper better paired with a grilled medium-rare strip steak marinated in beer, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. A drink-now red.

NEPENTHE 'THE ROGUE' CABERNET/MERLOT/SHIRAZ 2003, Adelaide, Australia, 14.0% XD, #998542 $17.95 (Tasted December 13, 2005)

Vintages says: "Winemaker Peter Leske designs 'The Rogue' year after year to express the best of the cool Adelaide Hills. With the blend changing every vintage, this scoundrel keeps you guessing. The '03 is 59% dark and serious Cabernet Sauvignon with 22% soft and fleshy Merlot and 19% spicy Shiraz. Enjoy with roasted lamb or game." Gord Stimmell says: "... Nepenthe (is) rich, smooth, minty chocolate notes, a crowd pleaser of the first order" and rates it 90. Vintages release December 10, 2005. My notes: Comes with a convenient screwtop. A see-through smoky rose edged ruby with soft aromas of plums and subtle nutmeg. I found it difficult to separate the varietals ..... the fruit flavours are evenly matched and well integrated with tannins and acid. It's full and smoothe with a long finish and a touch of oil on the lips. A wonderful dry sipper or have with anything red: meats, game, red pastas or pepperoni pizza though not highly spiced. Cellar for several years but it's hard not to indulge now.

CHATEAU PIQUE-SEGUE DAUZAN LA VERGNE 1998, Cote de Bergerac. France, 12.5% XD, CP138-1941 $19.17 (Tasted December 17, 2005)

The Opimian Cellar Plan describes as: ".... showing a bright, magenta trimmed colour, it is perfumed with vibrant oak, combining with cassis. In the mouth, waves of mellow fruit carry memories of plum, cherry and soft berry. .... develop over a few more years." My notes: Purchased from the Opimian and cellared December 2001, still showing a deep clear ruby and a clear aroma of plums, cherries and soft spice (cassis?). Medium-bodied and smoothe, the fruit is subdued being integrated with soft tannins and acid. The finish is long and shows a pleasing plum with some light oak remnants. Should be great with prime rib, T-bone or New York cut steaks, even dark fowl and lamb. Drinking well now but cellaring isnt likely to spoil this as a dry red sipper.

BOLLA SICILIA ROSSO 2003, Venezie, Italy, 13.1% XD, #621128 $10.95 (Tasted December 23 and 27, 2005)

Beppi recommends saying: ", avant-garde blend of shiraz and nero d'avola . .. medium full-bodied and very ripe and almost raisiny, it hints of plum and black cherry, with nuances of vanilla and chocolate on a velvety frame." A General release. My notes: Interesting nose if you're into musty socks.... uncharacteristic of either fresh shiraz or nero d'avola. Ruby red with perhaps a terracotta edge and medium-bodied with a flavour of ripe black plums, faint tannins and light spice. If you get past the nose - decanting didn't help - it's not a bad sipper although with a very ripe fig focus. Better paired with a tangy red pasta dish or pepperoni pizza. The finish is long and raisin-cherry (still with socks). Surprisingly it had improved by the fourth day. Cellaring won't likely improve this red but if you have a bottle or two a few years is worth a try rather than sip now.

VINCENTE GANDIA GRAN VEREMA 'OLD VINES' TEMPRANILLO RESERVA 2000, Rioja, Spain, 13.5% XD, #660548 $14.95 (Tasted December 23, 2005)

Beppi recommends and writes: "... a terrific buy, medium full-bodied and chunky, with nuances of chocolate, cedar, vanilla and minerals. Another fresh, flavourful, modern Spanish red." Vintages writes: "A rich, ripe and deeply delicious Tempranillo made for braised beef or lamb dishes. Aromas suggest strawberry jam, plum, spice and smoke. Dry, velvety and quite supple. Medium-bodied with a long finish. (Vintages panel, Feb. 2005)." A Vintages release December 10, 2005. My notes: A ruby red and a faint non-distinct aroma. Light- to medium-bodied red berry and red cherry with soft tannins and a hint of chocolate. The finish is long, smoothe with a slight tart cherry. A dry sipper but more of an entree wine where the entree is any braised red meat, a crock pot lamb stew or Texas style (more beef than beans) chili con carne. A drink-now dinner wine - save for uninvited guests.

BODEGAS MONTECILLO CRIANZA 2001 LA RIOJA , Rioja, Spain, 13.0% XD, #144493 $12.95($14.95*) (Tasted December 23, 2005)

The LCBO says: "Medium ruby red colour; raspberry, sweet cherry, violet, lavander and cassis fruit aromas with hints of vanilla and oak; dry, medium-full bodied, good acidity with ripe plum, cherry, cedar and leather notes on the palate; long, smooth finish. Have with rabbit stew, rack of lamb or paella." A General listing (*indicates regular price). My notes: A brilliant ruby with a soft cherry nose. Light- to medium-bodied with rounded flavours of raspberry and sweet cherries, some other floral mix evenly integrated adding interest to the basic fruit. The finish is moderate, smoothe leaving some tannin on the palate and oil on the lips. A sipper if you like a dry red - have with grilled steaks, prime rib, lightly seasoned red pastas, lamb stew -grilled pork is likely stretching it but likely. Should be able to cellar for a few years but basically a drink-now dry red.