Wednesday, December 20, 2006

More December Whites(4): Chile Chard, Chile Sauv Blanc, Italy Prosecco, Australia Chard

SANTA CAROLINA SAUVIGNON BLANC RESERVA 2006, Rapel Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #337535 $11.95 (Tasted December 22, 2006)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; fresh, green apple aromas with a hint of lime zest; dry, medium bodied with a lemony palate. Serve with linguine with mussels, grilled trout or grilled vegetables." Billy M says "It's now been three months since the 06 Santa Carolina Reserve Sauvignon Blanc hit the shelves and I'm still blown away by every bottle I have. The exuberance, the delicious bright flavours and the feeling of fun. A must for parties." My notes: A very light blond colour with aromas of sweet gooseberries, light-bodied, and a nice tang to go with fruity gooseberries and some nettles. The finish is clean with a lasting taste of fruit, not sweet at this point. A sociable sipper by itself or with mild cheeses, crabcakes or grilled scampi. Has some aspects of a natural product but more of a commercial white. Not a NZ Sauvignon Blanc for sure. Was great with breaded telapia and would be with flavourful grilled salmon or arctic char. A drink-now.

SANTA CAROLINA CHARDONNAY RESERVA 2004, Casa Blanca Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #304022 $11.95 (Tasted December 22, 2006)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; light toasty notes with peach and apple fruit; medium-bodied with toasty, tropical fruit flavours. Serve with grilled chicken, fish, veggies; creamy pasta." My notes: The winery website was not available. A light golden colour with a light aroma of lemon drops and clover honey, medium-bodied with a smooth texture and a light lemon drop flavour. The finish comes across as artificial fruit rather than natural combined with a glycerine mouthfeel, resembling an unoaked chardonnay and leaving a mineral oil edge. A commercial sipper but not unpleasant. Have with a mild cheese assortment, with salted chips or with shaved italian meats. Also pair with grilled white fish dishes, shrimp skewers or bacon wrapped scallop pieces. A drink-now - not for me tho'.

IL PROSECCO MIONETTO SPA, Marches, Italy, 10.5% D, #588053 $13.00 (Tasted December 21, 2006)

A General listing described as "Medium straw colour with lively bubbles; medium-intensity citrus, pear and melon notes; dry, light-body, crisp, refreshing style. Serve withe hors d'oeuvres, antipasta, seafood." My notes: Comes with a crown cap - open several for a small gathering, it'll go fast!. A birthday cake aroma with bubbles that dissipate quickly but leave a spritz behind. A bright taste of light lemon/lime and slight granny smith, just noticeably off dry, with a finish that refreshes the palate, pleasantly flavourful. Serve well chilled as a substitute for water at the table, or with appetizers beforehand, nothing too salty or flavourful, minced tomato and herbs on bruschetta, shaved meats, sliced ham or crabmeat on a green salad, or in the summer as a patio chiller. A drink-now.

LAURA HARTWIG COLCHAGUA VALLEY CHARDONNAY 2000, Rapel, Chile, 13.5% D, CP135-1796 $17.33 (Retasted December 20, 2006)

My notes: An Opimian wine last tasted February this year. A 'Mendoza' chardonnay clone with cellaring recommended for six months to two years. This bottle was cellared in January 2001. Still a golden yellow, brilliant and leaving pronounced 'legs' on the glass. Aromas of toasted crumpets with a citrus edge. Smooth, bright acid on the tongue, full-bodied with a slight pineapple and butterscotch tone. The finish is dry with some butter, latent caramel and not as silky. Was great with bacon wrapped grilled scallops, and should be equally great paired with grilled full flavoured seafood. Cellaring another year would likely fade the delicate fruit increasing the effect of the acid present and perhaps even introduce some grassiness.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

More December Reds(10): Australia Shir(2), Chile Carm, France Blend, Australia Blend, Canada Blend, USA PN, S Africa Blend, Greece Agior, USA Blend

BLUE PYRENEES SHIRAZ 2001, Victoria, Australia, 14.5%, #935890 $19.95 (Retasted December 28, 2006)

My notes: Vintages released it August 20, 2005 saying it was winner of the "Gold Medal from the 2003 International Wine and Spirits Competition in London, England. Intensely minty, meaty and menthol-like aromas of cassis, plums and sweet vanilla oak ... etc." Natalie MacLean rated it 89.5/100 and Gord Stimmell a 90/100. Last tasted August 2005 with the comment "..Flavours fill the mouth with tart prunes and blackcurrant, a luscious fullness.... etc." Serve at room temp to develop fully in the glass... then it has a sweet aroma of plums and blackberries, a touch of oak and the minty edge is still there. A bright black and blueberry flavour with an interesting smack of tannin, medium-bodied, and a finish less flavourful and unctious than last tasting but still smooth berry with a minty nip and drying tannin. A good sipper or with flavourful appetizers. Pairs well with chili con carne or grilled red meats. Further cellaring isn't recommended.

WOLF BLASS PLATINUM LABEL SHIRAZ 2001, Barossa, Australia, 14.0%, #968123 $99.95 (Tasted December 25, 2006)

Vintages release December 18, 2004 described as "The 2001 is ... so lascivously-but-appropriately oaked, so gored by five-spice complexity, so liqueurous and yet so controlled, so blessed by muscular tannins that spread out on the finish (if a little chunkily now, but which will no doubt sort themselves out in time) and so concentrated in both its fruit and in its charm. This is a great wine, even at the price, with a pronounced drinkability - even at the start of its life. Drink: now through 2020. Score - 96. (Winefront Monthly, May 2004)" The website says, "from 50 yearold vines ... minimally irrigated and very low yielding. Fermented on skins fourteen days then to oak for twenty-two months. ... fragrant aromas of lavender and dark plum. Flavours of plums, spice, dark chocolate and is rich, intense and long." My notes: Letting breathe awhile there is a subtle nose of soft spices, ripened plums, figs and raisins. The flavours although subdued are of ripe fruit evenly married to soft tannins and develop further as the finish lingers reminding me of a fruit cake injected with a rich cognac then left to mellow. Cellaring should integrate oak and fruit further but it's a smooth, medium-bodied sipper now. Pair with red meats or roasted Christmas turkey. A value? The price is out of my league to even guess but for a short term (2 to 5 years) cellar investment I wouldn't put my money here.

CASA NUEVA CARMENERE 2003, Molina, Chile, 13.5% XD, CP152-2746 $13.08 (Retasted December 23, 2006)

My notes: An Opimian release in March 2004 and cellared October of the same year. Last tasted in May 2005 with the comment ' everything Opimian says'. It's a deep ruby with a slight purple hue, aromas are delicate plum and berries softened by oak and faint cinnamon. Medium- to full-bodied with rich flavours of currants and blackberries, chocolate, cinnamon, smooth on the palate but with a spicy nip. The finish envelops the palate with rich velvety fruit on a gentle seam of licorice. A sipper for cabernet stalwarts but better paired with full flavoured meat dishes: T-bones, back ribs, or prime rib with rich gravy. Although Opimian recommends to 'drink in same year' there are enough tannins for a few more years cellaring. This has turned out to be a super value.

MAISON BOUACHON LA TIARE DU PAPE, CHATEAU NEUF DU PAPE 2000, Cotes du Rhone, France, 14.0% XD, CP140-2082 $30.00 (Tasted December 21, 2006)

An Opimian release described as "Full bodied and deeply coloured with lots of fruit opening into an interesting mouthfeel with a gorgeous, ultra berryish character. Rich black cherry combines with impressions of dark chocolate and cedar scented oak.....A wine meant to be 'laid down'." My notes: Cellared in August 2002. A mid ruby with a warm cherry and plum nose, medium-bodied, flavours of delicate cherry, berries and a faint tar edge - some fine tannin still apparent. The finish is dry with a tar, mineral edge and a brightness persisting over faint fruit flavours. Was OK with grilled beef tenderloin and wild rice though on the light side. Did better with a light tomato sauced cheese raviola with salad. Should be OK with light meat dishes. I don't see it improving with further cellaring rather it's a drink-now and not a value.

NEPENTHE 'THE ROGUE' CABERNET/MERLOT/SHIRAZ 2003, Adelaide, Australia, 14.0% XD, #998542* $17.95 (Retasted December 20, 2006)

My notes: Gord Stimmell rated this 90/100 when release by Vintages on December 10, 2005 (*no longer listed). The '03 is 59% dark and serious Cabernet Sauvignon with 22% soft and fleshy Merlot and 19% spicy Shiraz. It's a deep ruby colour with a purple hue and has a nose of slight pepper, soft vanilla, plum and cherries. Full-bodied with flavours that follow the nose but more intensely: bright cherries, discrete blackcurrant and subtle nutmeg coming up from behind. The finish is long with cherry and currants covering the palate nicely along with a polite nip. An interesting sipper by itself or with varied appetizers: shaved meats, full flavoured cheeses, cocktail sausage, dark chocolate, etc. Pair with grilled beef: steaks, backribs or with full flavoured stews and chili con carne. Cellaring a year hasn't changed it too much and a few more years should do no harm.

NEPENTHE CHARLESTON PINOT NOIR 2003, Adelaide, Australia, 14.0% XD, #682054* $17.95 (Retasted December 18, 2006)

My notes: A Vintages release on April 29, 2006 (*no longer listed) and was last tasted May, 2006. Still has a fragrant aroma of cherry skins and crushed strawberries if allowed a few minutes in the glass - no jamminess. The colour is a rich strawberry tending to a lightish ruby, clear and bright. Flavour is a smooth strawberry and cherry blend with a minty edge, a fine tannin and bright acid. The finish is long, bright with a touch of cinnamint almost as before. A delightful sipper by itself or with a nut tray or mild cheeses. Was OK with cold pork and salad but would preferrably go with a grilled hamsteak, asparagus tips, mashed potatoes draped with cheese or a roast game bird dish. Cellaring still seems possible but likely is at peak. A good value in a light-bodied pinot noir.

CAVE SPRING SELECT LATE HARVEST CABERNET 2005, Niagara, Canada, 12.0% MS, #630244 $21.95 375mL (Tasted December 18, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 9, 2006 and described as "Made with late harvested Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from the Beamsville Bench, this orange-pink coloured wine exhibits aromas of honey, apricots, red pepper jelly, blueberry and strawberry jam. It's medium sweet with a good core of acid. The aromas replay nicely on the palate along with an additional hint of clove and the fruity finish lasts and lasts. (VINTAGES panel, Nov. 2006)." Gord Stimmell rates it 90/100 saying "A knockout red dessert wine.... lush strawberry jam, cherry and honeyed apricots." The website says "... berries were left to raisin on the vine during autumn, with a further concentratin of sugars and acids occurring when they were partially frozen by the first frosts of late fall. Selectively hand-harvested and pressed in a semi-frozen state, they deliver a sweet, rosé-tinged wine with luscious berry fruit and a delicate acidity." My notes: A peachy red see-through with a lightly honeyed strawberry nose. The texture has the smoothness of natural sugar, I'd guess a SC of 6 to 8, with delicate flavours of strawberry, blueberry and I agree with the 'red pepper jelly' descriptor. Not so jammy that I'd use the term and the finish carries acid with sugar evenly and long with the cab flavour lasting to the end. Have as an aperitif setting up the palate for roast beef, rack of lamb or grilled shrimp or lobster where your favourite red takes over. Should be able to cellar this up to three years... to blend flavours and sugar. I'm not an icewine fan so this suits my taste buds when I'm looking for an afterdinner treat or poured over slightly frozen melon/cantelope balls or with anything chocolate.

RODNEY STRONG 'ESTATE VINEYARDS' PINOT NOIR 2005. Sonoma County, USA, 14.3% D, #954834 $24.95 (Tasted December 17, 2006)

A Vintages release on October 28, 2006 described as "This silky smooth wine shows why the Russian River Valley is one of the 'go to' regions for quality Pinot Noir in California. Seductive aromas of cherry, plum, cinnamon, and oak spice replay on the medium full-bodied palate. Dry and well-balanced, it's soft and smooth with a peppery finish. If you're not a Pinot lover, you're about to become one." Natalie MacLean rates it 89/100 saying "Great value from this consistently good producer. Medium-bodied and silky with ripe red fruit." My notes: Let breathe for at least ten minutes or decant to let a 'geranium' aroma subside - then it takes on a subtle strawberry, cherry and faint pepper nose. A bright ruby with a pinkish edge, medium-bodied, a silky texture and bright flavours of equal parts blueberry, strawberry and cherry. The finish is smooth fading slowly and leaving a mineral edge. This needs an appetizer rather than a solo sipper. Pair with light meats: turkey, chicken, veal, lamb, or with flavourful fishes: salmon, tuna, swordfish. Not a value and not recommended.

FAIRVIEW GOATS DO ROAM RED 2005, Western Cape, S Africa, 14.0% D, #718940 $12.95 (Tasted December 15, 2006)

A Vintages release on October 14, 2006 described as "... A friendly, straightforward and fun wine that delivers berry fruit and plum aromas with some pepper and earth in the background. A great party wine!" My notes: Spicy plum aromas and a ruby colour with a garnet tone. The initial sip is medium-bodied holding some cherry flavours and having a light tannin and acid with a round texture. The finish has an oily seam with cherry/berry notes - somewhat artificial rather than natural fruit and, to me, not pleasant (maybe the pinotage in the blend?). A commercial drink-now. Pair with lighter meats: pork, chicken, lamb, veal, ham, all broiled, grilled, in casseroles or sliced cold. Not intended to be cellared. There are alternative reds for the price and it's not on my list for Santa.

DOMAINE CHANDON BLANC DES NOIRS SPARKLING WINE, California, USA, 13.0% D, #100693 $21.95 (Tasted December 14, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 09, 2006 described as "This easy-to-drink fruity fizz is a blend of 79% Pinot Noir, 14% Pinot Meunier and 7% Chardonnay. Frothy and mouth-filling, this rich Blanc de Noirs is very lively, youthful and sure to liven up any celebration. This is a real crowd pleaser." RP of Winecurrent rates it four stars (of 5) saying "Made from the three Champagne varieties, and made in the Méthode Traditionnelle, this has impressive complexity and texture. Pear and apple dominate the flavours, and there's an intriguing hint of almond that intensifies in the finish. Pair this with pan-fried trout with slivered almonds." My notes: A festive pink colour with full fragrance of yeasty apple. Fine bubbles that initially fills and subsides in the glass then fills each sip. A tart edge to granny smith apple lasting evenly on the palate with some leaning to tartness rather than fruit. A pleasant fruity moussey sipper, cleansing to the palate and could be paired with fresh oysters, shaved meats or full flavoured cheeses. A reliable bubbly for diverse occasions. A good value.

KOURTAKIS NEMEA KOUROS 2003, Peloponnese, Greece, 12.5% D, #144576 $9.95 (Tasted December 14, 2006)

A General listing (sometimes reserved for restaurants) described as "Purple/ruby red colour, blueberry, cherry, spice, and vanilla aromas, soft fruit flavour, balanced touch of soft tannin in the finish. Serve at cellar temperature with grilled lamb chops. Tom Cannavan selected this as his wine of the week August 4, 2005 saying "nose is attractively spicy, with plenty of strong, forthright black fruit aromas, a little taint of sandalwood and a cherry-skin darkness. .... rustic, roughening grip of tannin that makes it food friendly, and bags of peppery, spicy, no-nonsense blackberry fruit. Acidity is quite low, and the finish tails off a little..." My notes: A light cherry red colour with a spicy cherry nose. The texture is soft with taste that offers a cherry pit character to the overall first impression. The finish as well is soft with some acid, a light tannin and a nondescript cherry stone flavour. Overall, a 'Family Restaurant House Red' - perhaps pair with lamb or chicken shishkebob on rice if nothing else is available - or skip altogether. Not cellarable and not recommended.

Friday, December 01, 2006

December Whites(10): S Africa Chard, USA Viog, Italy Pin Grig, Italy Pros, Germany Blend, Canada Chard(2), USA Chard, Australia Chard, Canada Pin Bl

GRAHAM BECK BLANC DE BLANCS PREMIER CUVEE BRUT 2001, South Africa, 12.5% XD, #907568 $20.95 (Tasted December 15, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 9, 2006 described as "Long reputed to be amongst the Cape's finest fizzes, this 100% Chardonnay has a creamy mousse, fine acid core for balance and classic biscuit, apple pie and citrus tones. John Platter's South African Wines generally rates this bubbly 4 of 5." RP of Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying ".... this sparkling delivers good complexity in aromas and flavours. Dominated by apples and brioche, with well-integrated citrus (red grapefruit) acidity, this is well-enough balanced to make a pre-dinner aperitif or to serve with an appetizer like freshly-shucked oysters or grilled shrimp with a squeeze of lemon." My notes: We had Swiss Chalet at the time this was opened. Its 'brut'ness was appropriate and pouring the fine bubbles added an extra treat for a takeout supper. Light blond in colour with aromas of yeast and green apple. Flavours of crisp green apple leading to a clean, moderate, yeasty finish. Have as a refreshing aperitif but better with chilled or grilled, but not creamy, shellfish - fresh oysters for sure. A reasonably priced substitute for champagne.

RENWOOD SELECT SERIES VIOGNIER 2004, California, USA, 13.5% D, #018762 $19.95 (Tasted December 13, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 9, 2006 described as "A Gold-Medal winner at the 2006 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, this Rhône-style blend (89% Viognier, 10% Semillon, 1% Marsanne) offers up delicious aromas of tangerine, honeysuckle, pear and white peach. A rich and creamy textured white that will pair beautifully with "Spicy Scallops with Capellini." The website says "... displays aromas of tangerine, honeysuckle, pear, and white peach. On the palate the wine is rich, with a creamy texture of ripe pears, lemon citrus, peaches and apricots. A luscious finish, displaying layers of honeysuckle, citrus and a hint of vanilla, balances the wine...." Gord Stimmell rates it 89/100 saying "...aromatic white, ... hints of clover blossoms, jasmine, honeysuckle and rose petals with dry peachy flavours." My notes: A light blond colour and an interesting mixture of blossoms and fruit: honeysuckle, lemon and pear. The flavour starts with an orange zest highlight then followups with lemon and mandarin orange fruit beautifully balanced with natural acid. The finish begins with a light oil leading to clean citrus and ending dryly. An excellent sipper. Pair with seafood dishes: mussels, scallops shrimp, or grilled chicken, Thai or Asian. An excellent white to keep on hand and should cellar for up to two years.

SANDHILL 'BURROWING OWL VINEYARD' CHARDONNAY 2004, Okanagan Valley, Canada, 14.0% D, #541193 $17.95 (Tasted December 11, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 9, 2006 and described as "Hazelnut, spicy lees nose mixed with butter, vanilla, green apple skin and floral notes. Ripe, round, dry palate with buttery, spicy lees, baked apple and honey flavours and touch of citrus and nutty biscuit on the finish. Well made. A leaner, slightly more sophisticated style from Sandhill that we welcome. 88/100, Anthony Gismondi, July 8, 2005" My notes: A light fragrance of green apple and spicy lees and not much else discernible. The flavours are a light nippy apple and lemon with soft oak and a buttery texture. The finish is long with an edge of sweetness that balances the citrus and green apple leaving a tart dryness. This is a very delicate oaked chardonnay, definitely not flat, having flavours that make an interesting sipper, dry and crisp. Pairing with seafood (was wonderful with breaded arctic char filets), with chicken or pork wraps, tapas, or Thai would make the most of the flavours. A good value if 'delicate' fits the occasion.

CANTINA TRAMIN PINOT GRIGIO 2005, Alto Adige, Italy, 13.0% XD, #627059 $14.95 (Tasted December 10, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 09, 2006 described as "Delicate aromas of pears, honeysuckle, and lemons emerge from the 2005 Pinot Grigio. Light-bodied, with refreshing acidity, good fruit, and a clean, fresh finish, it will provide immense pleasure over the next 12 months. Score - 88. (Robert Parker Jr., June 2006). " VH of Winecurrent gives it three and 1/2 (of 5) saying "A subdued nose of floral and citrus notes opens up this light to medium-bodied white. This is dry on the palate, displaying well proportioned flavours of honeycomb and key lime zest. It provides a tangy taste treat that would marry well to grilled tuna under a drizzle of freshly-squeezed lemon." My notes: The aromas are delicate wild clover and honey and need a few minutes to develop as the chill goes. Flavours of bright citrus, a soft honey edge with the impression of sweetness. The finish carries the flavours well as they take time to fade until the next sip. A friendly sipper, easy to quaff with conversation. Pairs well with spicy mussels with a light or creamy sauce, or with grilled chicken breast pieces on lemon rice, or with mild meat dishes: ham, pork, veal with light sauces or with Asian dishes. Cellaring up to two years should increase mellowness but it's drinking well now. An excellent value.

NINO FRANCO PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE BRUT NV, Veneto, Italy, 11.0% D, #349662 $16.95 (Tasted December 09, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 9, 2006 described as "Nino Franco is the consummate craftsman of Italy's most beloved sparkling wine. Very pale straw. Nose of mineral, pear, fresh apple. Taste is dry, light body, refreshing acidity, mineral, lime, green apple. Tony Aspler gives it four (of 5), Mar. 28, 2005." VH of Winecurrent gives it three (of 5) saying "Apple and citrus aromas and flavours flow through this light-bodied sparkler. The flavours are tight and tangy while the finish has oodles of cleansing citrus flavours that portend a gorgeous match to all manner of fish and sea food appetizers. Good, of course, to quaff on its own." My notes: Large bubbles effervesce in the glass subsiding quickly to a sparse stream. Aromas of yeast and green apple - no pear, green apple flavours with sharp acidity surrounding the fruit and finishing steely, tart with a straw edge. The aftertaste has an unpleasant mineral quality which is less apparent with hors d'hoevres: shaved meats on dry crisps, fresh oysters, crabmeat wraps, mussels in a garlic sauce or turkey slices over lightly sauced risotto. A commercial bubbly - a quaffer with meals and not a sipper. Not recommended

HENKELL TROCKEN FINE SEKT, Baden, Germany, 11.0% D, #122689 $11.95* (Tasted December 06, 2006)

A General listing described as "Pale yellow colour; light apple & melon with a hint of yeast; soft, off-dry fruit flavour with a crisp finish. Serve as an aperitif or with spicy foods." The website says "This dry, fully matured sparkling wine owes its elegant character to a unique Cuvée of excellent wines originating from such classic grape varieties as French Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Blanc de Noir from French Pinot Noir and Chenin from Saumur. Henkell Trocken sparkles with vivacious and long lasting effervescence. Thanks to the play of greenish reflections, the delicate light amber colour gains lively, expressive nuancing. The taste is fresh, tingling, with a lingering finish, while a subtle fragrance suggestive of tropical fruit develops in the bouquet. The finely blended, harmonious composition makes Henkell Trocken a well-balanced, consummate taste experience.." My notes: *Reduced from $12.95 until yearend. The LCBO description is accurate. The website gives the grape blend then waxes poetic. Bubbles are large and effervesce quickly then dissipate leaving some fine bubbles in the finish. Colour is a light blond, aroma is a yeasty green apple, flavours are a fresh apple with a natural sweetness finishing with yeastiness mixed with pear and apple, enough tartness to avoid being flat. A sociable sipper as an aperitif. Reasonably priced for a sizeable crowd. Nothing special is conveyed by this bubbly although the package is 'princely'. A commercial drink-now.

CAVE SPRING VINEYARD 'CSV' CHARDONNAY 1999, Niagara, Canada, 14.5% XD, #529941 $32.94 (Tasted December 05, 2006)

Vintages released the 2003 vintage ($30.00) from CSV on November 11, 2006 describing it as having "a heavy layer of oak, spice, hazelnut and caramel combined with honey and green apple flavours. ... creamy with citrus, apple and toasty ... crisp acid. Rated 88/100 by Evan Saviolidis." The website notes "Produced from CSV’s oldest, lowest-yielding vines, this wine gives full expression to the terroir of our site (Niagara's Beamsville Bench)." My notes: The 1999 vintage was purchased from the winery in June 2003 and cellared 'til now. The nose is a combination of a light citrus and pecan, the flavours blend delicate apple and toasty oak, medium-bodied, low in acid with some butter but not butterscotch. A butternut finish fairly long but leaving a smoothness on the palate, not drying nor is it tart. Was OK as a sipper and paired well with scallops and fettucini in a creamy mushroom sauce. Cellaring hasn't done much for this chard. Not a value.

J.LOHR ESTATES RIVERSTONE CHARDONNAY 2004, California, USA, 13.5% D, #258899 $19.00 (Tasted December 04, 2006)

A General release described as "Deep yellow colour; ripe apple, pear, melon & vanilla aromas; dry, medium to full-bodied; creamy texture & peachy, oaky notes on the palate; well-balanced with a long finish. Serve with grilled or roasted poultry dishes; pork with apple sauce." The label says "..has aromas of grapefruit and nectarine, and layers of rich, complex flavours. etc." My notes: A light lemon colour with delicate aromas of a pineapple and lemon blend. A light oil on the lips with an aggressive tart undeveloped citrus flavour and a finish that flattens into green straw on the palate. A reasonable nose but the 'clean your teeth' sharpness and straw finish makes this an unpleasant sipper. Pair with creamy mushroom pastas or soups, roasted chicken, vegetables and fries, seafood entrees. Cellaring isn't recommended. A 'commercial' white and not a value imo.

COOKOOTHAMA 'DARLINGTON POINT' CHARDONNAY 2005, New South Wales, Australia, 14.0% D, #619403 $14.00 (Tasted December 02, 2006)

A General listing described as "Pale straw yellow colour; aromas of citrus and vanilla; dry, medium bodied, crisp with apple, citrus flavours. Serve with grilled or roast poultry." The label says "...Rich and generous aromas of peach and melon. On the palate these flavours are complimented well by integrated french oak and citrus notes resulting in a well balanced and elegant wine. Cellar up to three years." My notes: A General listing produced by Nugan Estates (website being developed). Colour is a golden blond with aromas after airing ten minutes, of lemon drop softned by french oak, light-bodied with a buttery texture and flavours of mainly toasted apple, nippy and fresh. The finish is mainly a faint oak and faint lemon with a cleansing tartness. Too young to be a sipper and too early to pair with meals - but if you have to, should go well with grilled seafood, light fowl or Asian fare. Should be cellared to establish its full character and flavourings... has a potential that two years cellaring could reveal. At the price it's worth the investment imo.

GRAY MONK PINOT BLANC 2004, BC, Canada, 13.1% XD, #321612* $15.95 (Retasted December 01, 2006)

My notes: Last tasted January 2006. Vintages released the 2004 vintage on January 21, 2006 saying: "The 2004 is bursting with tropical fruit, textured gooseberry and melon notes on the palate and good acidity underneath. Perfect with barbecued salmon. (Tim Pawsey, North Shore News, August 29, 2005)". *The number is no longer listed. The nose bursts as soon as the cork is popped: gooseberry comes first then apple, pear and a sidelight of honey. The flavours share a solid bite with tastes of pear, apple and a touch of herbaceousness that wasn't evident before. Finishes dry and bright with green melon on the tongue and moderately succulent. A tasty sipper by itself or with mild cheeses and fruit selection. Pair with grilled telapia or scallops and asparagus tips. Drinking well now and won't improve with further cellaring, may actually develop straw tones.

December Reds (10): USA Cab Sauv, Argentina Blend, France Blend, USA Pinot Noir, Italy Blend(2), Australia Shiraz(2), Spain Blend, Canada Gamay

BOLLA 'LE POIANE' VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2001, Veneto, Italy, 13.5% XD, #135293 $19.95 (Retasted December 13, 2006)

My notes: Last tasted April, 2006. A Vintages release on April 15, 2006 and described as "Unlike standard Valpolicella, Bolla's 'Le Poiane' goes through the secondary fermentation of ripassato. The juice is pumped onto the skins of grapes left over from their Amarone wine production and allowed to macerate for 20 days. The wine is then aged for one to two years in small oak barrels prior to bottling..." Now a pleasant cherry nose with less oak and tar presence. A light ruby, tending to being light-bodied now.... flavours of bright cherry with even tannins and acid. The finish is long, flavourful, and silky... a pleasing sipper. Have with any red meat, or pepperoni pizza or red sauced meaty pasta dishes. Still is a 'super valpolicella sipper'.

RODNEY STRONG CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, Sonoma, USA, 13.8% XD, #226944 $19.95 (Tasted December 10, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 9, 2006. RP of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) describing as " of the winemaking pioneers in Sonoma, the late great Rodney Strong would be proud of this stylish Cabernet. Sourced from hillside vineyards in the warmer Alexander Valley region, this wine has a lot of depth and finesse. You could drink this now in a pinch, but why, when you can hold it two or three years and get more out of it when the tannins are more integrated? Big and dry, with generous dark fruit and spice, it's a great match for a steak, grilled to medium-rare perfection." My notes: A pleasing warm cedar and blackcurrant nose with tangy flavours hitting the taste buds with blackcurrant softened by a few berries and firm tannin. The finish holds on to the currants, tannin and tang for a lasting impression. An unctious medium-bodied sipper for those liking fruit flavours with a touch of mint... and great with roasted rosemary'd lamb rack with brussels and baked potato. Cellaring a dozen for two to three years is a good move although it's great, but premature, to sip now.
CLOS DE LOS SIETE 2004, Argentina, 15.3% XD, #622571 $24.95 (Tasted December 08, 2006)

A Vintages release on August 19, 2006 described as "Good full ruby-red. Laid-back nose features black cherry, minerals, licorice and dark chocolate. Suave, silky and light on its feet, with claret-like black fruit, spice and menthol flavors. Very fine-grained in the middle palate and on the aftertaste. Finishes with ripe, pliant tannins and lingering black cherry and spice notes. 89/100 (Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar, Nov/Dec 2005)." For an opposite view see Tom Cannavan's writeup. VH of Winecurrent gives it four and 1/2 (of 5) saying "Michel Rolland, of ‘Mondovino’ fame, or infamy.... had a hand in this. It all begins with a subdued perfume of cherry, tar and licorice then bursts on the palate with a layered fruit-forward attack of black cherry and currant that has been infused with cigar box and garrigue. The finish is lengthy, displaying a good dollop of tang and supple tannin..... now to 2012." Victoria Moore picks it to go with a rare venison dish. "a very solid wine with a burly tannic frame densely hung with dark fruit... a blend of malbec, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah that's so velvety you melt into it." My notes: A deep garnet with a violet hue, aromas of rich blackberry and cherry, tobacco humidor, and licorice blend; rich flavours of black cherries and spice, a soft tartness with very fine tannins, delicate tar and a velvet finish that lasts forever - the oak surrounds the textures without being overbearing. A full-bodied mellow sipper ready for full flavoured meat dishes. Should be able to cellar this several years. A good value if you like huge reds.

CHATEAU PLAISANCE PREMIERE COTES DE BORDEAUX 1999, Bordeaux, France, 12.5% XD, CP143-2210 $20.67 (Retasted December 06, 2006)

My notes: Last tasted in November 2005. Opimian wrote, "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." Mine was cellared in October 2002. When last tasted this Bordeaux was a light ruby and had a a cedar fragrance overriding any plum fragrance... without the fresh fruit or fullness expected... will cellar but don't expect much more..." Now a murky ruby showing its unfiltered heritage, aromas of a light plum with soft oak. Flavours of bright plum and black cherry, a light fine tannin with balanced acids. The finish is a pleasing ripe cherry tone ending on an earthy edge. An interesting light-bodied sipper with soft pepper, was too light for chili con carne with a vinaigrette salad. An unassuming red for lightly flavoured meat entrees: prime rib and vegetables, pork with cooked cabbage, lamb cuts. Mediocre and won't improve with further cellaring - still, much improved over last tasting.

AMITY VINEYARDS PINOT NOIR 2004, Williamette Valley, Oregon, 13.0% D, #124594 $27.90 (Tasted December 04, 2006)

A General release described as "Pale ruby/garnet; light cranberry, stawberry aromas and flavour with a hint of cinamon and an earthy note in the finish; dry and light- to medium-bodied with good acidity, soft tannins, moderate length. Serve with grilled salmon or tuna; game birds; mushroom dishes." The website says "A complex nose with aromas of black cherry, blueberry & raspberry, mixed with notes of earth & spice, leads into a smooth soft wine." The label says "A pleasant nose of red and black cherry leads into a smooth, silky wine....11 months in neutral french oak... no new oak. etc." My notes: After raving about the 2002 vintage paired with a veal dish I was surprised to find Amity on LCBO's General list and available locally. The 2004 is a medium ruby colour with aromas of strawberry cotton candy although spicier. Light-boded, a grassy strawberry flavour with a drying tannin and slight oily texture. The 2002 was 'hedonistic', medium-boded, silky, full of fresh fruit and complex flavours. By comparison, the 2004 is ordinary although an interesting sipper. It was too light for a grilled centre cut steak. Pair with a ham steak, stuffed pork chop, or a chicken breast poached in a mushroom sauce. Cellaring for several years could produce a silky pinot although light-bodied with minimum fruit.... not a value.

MARCHESI FRESCOBALDI 'NIPOZZANO' CHIANTI RISERVA 2003, Tuscany, Italy, 13.5% D, #107276 $18.10 (Tasted December 04, 2006)

A General listing described as "Red with garnet colour; black cherry and blackberry fruit with cedar, smoke and leather notes; extra dry, medium bodied, with balanced fruit flavours, notes of smoke and tar, good acidity with a touch of spice, licorice and leather; long finish. Serve with beef stews, roasted red meats, veal in tomato sauce, roasted root vegetables or grilled portobello mushrooms." My notes: Reduced from $20.10 until yearend there were few bottles on shelves this week. A blend of sangiovese (80%) and several other italian grapes with everything as described above although the fruit is increasingly in the background in each case: nose then flavour and finish. A smooth texture with fine tannins, leather and licorice on the tongue. The finish is initially bright changing quickly to leather. An uninteresting sipper ... pair with full flavoured red meat dishes or portobello burgers. Won't improve with cellaring - not a value.

Clare Valley, Australia, 14.5% XD, #732891* $15.95 (Retasted December 02, 2006)

My notes: Last tasted May, 2006. A Vintages release in October, 2004 and cellared the same month, *no longer listed - originally rated 92/100. Medium-bodied, palate puckering with fruit flavours that have waned a tad but remain prominent balanced with black currant, plum and blackberry - has a bit of pepper with ample fine tannin. A warm ruby colour with a warm cedar and black currant nose - not as strong but still natural and pleasing. A long finish, dry and a bright dark ripe berry blend - very sippable. Pair with any red meat... went well with burgers and salad. Cellarable for a few more years yet although the fruit is becoming more integrated and complex. Jeanneret is distributed in Ontario by B&W Wines.

COOKOOTHAMA 'DARLINGTON POINT' SHIRAZ 2005, New South Wales, Australia, 14.0% D, #619460 $14.00 (Tasted December 02, 2006)

The label says "Aromas of ripe berry are supported by rich toasty oak. Intense spicy berry fruit flavours carry through to the mid-palate and are complimented by well integrated oak and supple tannins laying the foundation for a long and rewarding finish. Three to five years cellaring. My notes: A General listing produced by Nugan Estates whose website is 'under development'. The nose is a combination of varied red berries and soft oak needing a few minutes to develop in the glass. Nicely full in the mouth with well balanced acids, tannin, berries and spice, a tad jammy .... and a finish that closely follows the flavours moderately long and smooth. A sipper with enough tangy spice and tannin to be interesting. Paired with ground beef in a tomato sauce over cheese ravioli it held its own. A house party red, ie. won't offend but not special. If cellaring as suggested by Nugan try a year at a time - it may lead nowhere.

CASTILLO de FUENDEJALON CRIANZA 1996, CAMPO de BORJA, Fuendejalon, Spain, 12.5% XD, CP136-1811 $12.17 (Tasted December 01, 2006)

My notes: Opimian says "....grapes of thirty year old vines of grenache (75%) and tempranillo(25%). Cellar six months to two years." This was cellared July 2001 and last tasted in May, 2005. It's a mid ruby colour with a slight pink edge, aromas of soft cherry - berry and a faint cedar humidor edge. Light-bodied with a bright red cherry and red currant flavour blend. The finish is long with fine tannin, a steely brightness, red currants and some cherry stone. A dry sipper better paired with trays of tapas or lightly flavoured meaty entrees - went well with mushroom and cheese ravioli in a red pepper and tomato sauce including sparingly sprinkled crushed chillies. Likely past peak but still an OK meal red.

MOUNTAIN ROAD WINE COMPANY GAMAY SEMI-DRY ROSE 2004, Beamsville, Canada, 13.3% SC4, Winery $11.95 (Tasted December 01, 2006)

My notes: Purchased from the winery in October on a tasting trip to the Niagara area. A clear rosy peach hue with aromas of strawberry, red currants and a light spice that build as the glass warms. As with most, if not all, Mountain Road wines, this is full of flavours, in this case strawberry and cherry, soft and delectable - the sweetness complementing the flavours. The finish also has the smoothness of a strawberry/cherry coulis retaining its natural fruit sweetness. A perfect summer cooler to have with friends on the patio. Serve with a tray of mild cheeses and fruit wedges: cantelope, watermelon, seedless green and red grapes... or pour tall in a glass with a few crushed cubes as a summer refresher - or pour over a ball of limone creme glacee. Will cellar a year or two, longer if you prefer 'european' style,

Friday, November 24, 2006

More November Whites(3): Australia Chard, Italy Muscato, NZ SB

RICHARD HAMILTON 'ALMOND GROVE' CHARDONNAY 2004, McLaren Vale, Australia, 13.5% D, #741009 $16.95 (Tasted November 25, 2006)

Released by Vintages November 25, 2006 and described as "Complex wine; excellent melon and stone fruit with classy barrel ferment inputs: medium bodied; impeccable balance and length, squeaky acidity. James Halliday gives it a 94/100 (Australian Wine Companion 2006)". VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars (of 5) saying "The subdued nose is beguiling, offering stone fruit and vanilla aromas. This medium-bodied, well-balanced Chard has oodles of citrus and green apple flavours. It's clean and refreshing, but still manages a lovely texture. It finishes with a laser-like tang adding additional fruit flavours of white peach and apple. Very well-priced for a wine of this calibre. My notes: A distinct yellow in the glass with aromas of citrus, melon and faint orange. A touch of butter in the midst of a lemon tang softened slightly by an orange and melon medley. No butterscotch nor caramel but has a roundness that coats the palate. The long, lemon zest finish is very refreshing. Needs some time to integrate flavours with the body and hopefully develop some toffee. If you like freshness it's an OK sipper now; if not, cellar at least two years. Pair with full flavoured seafood dishes, salmon pieces or, perhaps, cold chicken breast on greens or Thai.

PETALO IL DELL'AMORE MOSCATO BOTTEGA, Veneto, Italy, 6.5% SC9 #588780 (Retasted November 24, 2006)

A General listing and last tasted June 2005. My notes: A full floral nose, a soft yeast, apple juice and orange blossoms carried along by a fine effervescence settling to a rim of fine bubbles. The effervescence lasts as long as the finish. The sweetness balances with the fruit acids to become full and succulent, the SC seems to be more like a four. Flavours of apples, light honey, and pear, smooth and full-bodied with a long finish of a succulent semi-sweet fruit blend. The sweetness builds and with low alcohol it's an alluring quaffer... or an after dinner drink with chocolate mints, white chocolate almond bark, etc. Pour over fresh fruit slices to liven up a dessert. Cellaring hasn't hurt this appetizing bubbler.

RA NUI SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005, Wairu Valley, NZ, 13.8% XD, #658542 $19.95 (Tasted November 15, 2006)

An In Store Discovery of November 11, 2006 described as "NZ wine expert Sue Courtney (Dec. 2005) adored its 'smoky aromas with gooseberry and apple fruit…' and '…the wine becomes quite vibrant as it lingers – for ages- with a touch of pineapple and lots of summer herbs'." The label says "grapes..hand picked, whole bunch pressed and slowly fermented dry to produce this full-bodied and highly aromatic wine." My notes: Let air a short while (ten minutes) for a light gooseberry and apple to develop - if rushed the nose is disappointing. A very light blond almost white colour, and flavours of gooseberry, melon, unsettling nettles with a moderate fullness. The finish is long with a balance of tropical fruit and those nettles now more prominent. Have with mild cheeses, smoked salmon on toasts with a dab of dilled cream cheese or a few capers, vegetable dip with herbed toasts or seafood dishes - was OK with grilled chicken breast. There's as much not to like as there is to like - so, at the price, there's better kiwi SB values and cellaring won't help. I'd skip it!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

More November Reds(9): Italy Dolcetto, Chile Blend, Chile Cab Sauv, USA Zin, Italy Blend(2), Chile Carmenere, USA Syrah(2)

MANZONE DOLCETTO D'ALBA 'LA SERRA' 2001, Piedmont, Italy, 13.0% XD, #715680* (Retasted November 28, 2006)

My notes: Purchased from Vintages Release on July 26, 2003 and summarized as "James Suckling (WineSpectator) gives it a 90/100 saying 'Fantastic, intense complex nose, .... fresh and fruity with velvety tannins and a chocolate tinged finish. Drink now'." Beppi Crosariol described it as "quite tannic and firm... showing cherry flavour and a hint of dried herbs." My tasting in January 2005 found it 'medium-bodied, light tannin and acid balanced with cherry flavours with a herb edge...good with burgers..'. No longer listed* by the LCBO although two other Manzone wines are. A mid ruby colour and aromas of black cherry, distant berry and an almond note. Has a brightness that initially masks light cherry flavours and then finishes with a herby, light metallic edge - tannin and acid are well balanced. The herby nuances are interesting but not as a sipper ... have with nachos, bruscetta, grilled lamb kebobs or pair with burgers, meaty/full flavoured cheesy pizzas, flavourful chile con carne, pork chops, or stews. Further cellaring won't improve this red.

FATTORIA LA LOGGIA TERRA DEI CAVALIERI CHIANTI CLASSICO 1997, Italy, 12.5% XD, #738146* $14.90 (Retasted November 27, 2006)
My notes: Last tasted October, 2005. *The LCBO number is still not listed. This was originally recommended by Beppi Crosariol and cellared February 2002. The website still lists the 1997 as the only 'Chianti Classico' - a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon - and appears to emphasize tours and lodgings. A see-through ruby with possibly a pinkish or salmon edge, aromas of plums, cherries and soft vanilla spice. Light- to medium-bodied, a bright cherry with red currant alongside. The finish is long with bright brambleberry or a cherry/currant blend and fading to a cherry pit and mineral taste on the palate. It has a pleasing soft nose but it's more metallic than I prefer in a sipper. Pair with a mixed cheese and shaved italian meat tray, vegetable pizza or mushroom pasta, a ham steak (without pineapple) or pork chop or tenderloin pieces in a creamy sauce. Quaff liberally or use as a marinade.

CLINE ‘LOS CARNEROS' SYRAH 2003, California, USA, 15.0% D, #955435 $19.95 (Tasted November 26, 2006)

Released November 11, 2006 by Vintages and described as "Very high in ripeness for a cool area Syrah, this one nonetheless captures the bright blackberry fruit that its provenance suggests and combines that fruit with smoky and white pepper nuances of the variety. It is full on the palate and balanced by both ample acids and by a firming streak of youthfully grippy tannins that add muscle in support of the wine's sweet fruit. Attractive now with a broiled steak or hearty stew, this one will round out and soften with time in bottle. " Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine, Nov. 2005 gave it 89/100. VH of Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "Wild black berry and cedar aromas form the racy nose in this lovely red. You will discover a solid core of black plum fruit along with generous helpings of zesty tang and grippy tannins. Lots going on here and in the tangy finish. Good to go now to 2011 alongside grilled rare to medium-rare lamb tenderloin." My notes: An almost opaque ruby with aromas of red berries and a light pepper. Smooth texture comes with flavours of red berries, a slight almond and cherry skins. A moderate finish still smooth with firm white pepper and a slight cherry skin residual. A pleasant sipper... pair with lamb, veal, ham steak, pork tenderloin (was great!), turkey with sage dressing, meaty pesto and cheesy pizzas. Should be able to cellar this for several years.

CREMASCHI FURLOTTI FAMILY LIMITED EDITION CAB SAUVIGNON /SYRAH /CARMENÈRE 2003, Maule Valley, Chile, 13.5% XD, #014183 $17.95 (Tasted November 26, 2006)

Released November 25, 2006 by Vintages and described as "It's Europe meets New World in this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Syrah (20%) and Carmenère (20%). .... This big, complex, full-bodied wine offers up gorgeous red fruit aromas with subtle hints of leather, earth and spice. Delicious with veal tenderloin. It won a Silver Medal at the prestigious Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 2006." Natalie MacLean calls it the Best Value Red Wine of the Release giving it 90/100 saying "Spectacularly well priced! Lovely rich aromas and depth of flavor. Dive into the depth of black plums." My notes: A deep ruby with a purple hue, faint aroma of ripe plums with a warm earthy tone and a light pepper spice. Full flavoured, nicely balanced acid for a bright accent to a soft plum and light tannin. The finish goes on forever leaving earthy textures on the palate. Pair with stews, rack of lamb, crockpot chile, steaks, ribs - almost anything full flavoured. Veal? maybe. A sipper for cab sauv sippers. Cellaring for several years is recommended although a great meal wine now.

CONCHA y TORO MARQUES DE CASA CONCHA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #337238 $17.95 (Retasted November 22, 2006)

My notes: Last tasted December of 2005 noting that Wine Spectator gave it a 91 and Gord Stimmell a 92 adding "lavish blackberry, smoky black cherry and chocolate notes, it's a real power tripper red from Chile" A deep black cherry colour with a soft spicy ripe cherry, a slight blackberry nose and a touch of smoke - a tad too much for my liking. Flavours of licorice, dark chocolate and ripe black cherries develop and do a changing balancing act in the glass. Full- and soft in the mouth with soothing tannins and a touch of black pepper. The finish is long, smooooth with dark chocolate, fine tannin and a light tar edge. A satisfying soft cab sauv sipper.... a velvety partner with mild to medium cheeses, tomato, cheese and oregano bruscetta or meaty pizza squares. Should be great with lamb shanks, beef stews, prime rib or lightly spiced red pasta dishes. Seems to have mellowed more with the additional cellaring with the vanilla no longer perceptible. A super soft drinker now and likely at peak.

RANCHO ZABACO ZINFANDEL 2001, SONOMA HERITAGE VINES, Sonoma, USA, 13.3% XD, #434605* $19.95 (Retasted November 21, 2006)

My notes: Purchased March, 2004 and last tasted in July this year with the comment "An E&J Gallo winery and is one of four labels under 'Rancho Zabaco Wines: Zinfandel'. Sonoma Heritage Vines, is *no longer available in Ontario being replaced by the General listing Rancho Zabaco 'Dancing Bull' Zinfandel." The 2001 SHV Zin has a warm, full blackberry nose with a slight spice and matching its rich ruby colour. Medium-bodied, dense blackberry flavours well integrated and round in the mouth with fine tannins and acid - a very pleasing dry zin. The finish is warm and long coating the mouth with bright and full blackberry, a light tannin and a satin texture. Open just to sniff and sip or pair with a short rib stew with a rich gravy and mash potatoes, bbq'd back ribs or any roasted or grilled beef. It would be great to see this back in Vintages although it may have gone 'commercial' by now.

TEDESCHI VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE ‘CAPITEL DEI NICALO' 2003, Veneto, Italy, 13.0% XD, #984997 $16.95 (Tasted November 19, 2006)
Released by Vintages on November 11, 2006 with a recommendation to cellar and described as "The appassimento process, where the ripe grapes are allowed to dry for one month, results in wines that are more flavourful and have a higher alcohol content than standard Valpolicella. Enjoy with duck, goose or braised lamb dishes. My notes: A blend of 30% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella and 10% of Molinara, Rossignola, Oseleta, Negrara, Dindarella, and Sangiovese. The juice is aged in large (5000 litres) Slovania oak barrels for a year and a half before release. A mid ruby with a rosy tinge, a nose of crushed red cherries, spicy with an earthy edge. Its sharpness attacks the lips and palate leaving little room for fruit flavours - like sucking an unripe pomegranite... with a slight pomegranite grip fading to a seedy end. Not a sipper ... and limited pairing potential.... perhaps a spicy pizza or meaty pasta with tabasco or red peppers. It's difficult to imagine that so much acid could be squeezed from a blend of Italian grapes. Marginally better if decanted and vigorously aerated. This bottle will be used as a baste for duck or goose or as a marinade for beef or lamb or ditched. Terrible stuff imho.

SEGÚ CARMENERE RESERVE 2003, Maule Valley, Chile, 14.0% XD, #663013 $14.95 (Tasted November 19, 2006)

Released by Vintages on November 11, 2006 as a drink-now and described as "The Segú family has been making quality wines in Chile for more than 80 years. Here you will find aromas of smoke, chocolate and ripe red fruits in this savoury and supple Carmenere. A fantastic value!" The website notes "Delicious, well balanced and highly concentrated, tones of vanilla reappear with mature red fruit, earthiness, spices, and a pleasant finish with touches of chocolate. Complex offering toast, earthiness, chocolate and vanilla at the same time, intertwined with exquisite mature red fruit and mild bouquet of spices, intense, elegant, and generous." My notes: A blend of 85 % Carmenere and 15 % Cabernet Sauvignon and aged in new American oak for five months. The colour is a dark ruby with a violet touch and the nose is a combination of black currants, berries, ripe cherries, almond and wood smoke. Medium-bodied, bright flavours of red currants and some red plums: finishes with dry fruit, a light tannin and a nip on the tongue. The nose makes this an interesting dry sipper... but it's more of a meal wine: tasty tapas, tomato sauced meaty pizzas, grilled beef entrees, and possibly full flavoured paellas. Cellaring for several years would improve complexity smoothing some of the rough edges - I'd start with at least two years and see where it's going.

HARVEST NAPA VALLEY SYRAH 1998, California, USA, 14.1% XD, SO39-2646 $22.17 (Retasted November 17, 2006)

My notes: Opimian described this as .. '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..... Cellar one to two years.' Last tasted in November 2005 with the comment: 'Cellared April, 2004... perhaps going through a dumb period.... still an uninteresting sipper with a sharp edge...' Now has a full pepper nose with interesting highlights of leather and mint. Still deep ruby with a purple tinge and medium-bodied with bright flavours of dry red cherry-berry. Finishes with a minty tartness and fine tannins - no tar, a touch more mellow than a year ago and will likely soften some more. Has opened up over the year and now is an OK sipper. Will likely peak in another year. Pairs well with any grilled beef: steaks, ribs, full flavoured stews, even meaty pizzas.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

November Reds(10): Australia Cab Sauv, NZ PN, Australia Shiraz, Australia PN, Australia Blend(2), Canada PN, Spain Merlot, USA Merlot(2)

ST. HALLETT BAROSSA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 1999, Barossa, Australia, 14.0% XD, #744458* $14.90 (Retasted November 16, 2006)

Last tasted October, 2005 with the comment "No longer listed by the LCBO, was a General release. Cellared February 2002 ..." Today's notes: Now a Vintages listing as #015164 at $19.95 to be released December 2006. Still has a lot of tannin and a warm nose, an oaky, peppery, cassis and cherry that develops over time - worth the wait. Medium-bodied, flavours of bright cherry, blackberry, mint with a natural tartness, a layer of fine tannin and the finish lasts forever: smooth blackberry, vanilla and chocolate mint. Quite succulent as a dry red sipper and will pair with prime rib roast or T-bone steak, rack of lamb and leeks, beef bourgogne, or other full flavoured beef dishes. Could cellar a few more years but this is my last.

RA NUI PINOT NOIR 2005, Wairu Valley, NZ, 13.8% D, #007500 $26.95 (Tasted November 15, 2006)

An In Store Discovery of November 11, 2006 described as "This single-vineyard Pinot Noir displays enticing aromas of cherry fruit with strawberry and raspberry notes and a hint of mushroom. Vivacious and fruity, it's weighty with a seam of crisp acidity and a long peppery finish." The label says "grapes..were handpicked, then gently hand plunged in small fermenters, ... [then] aged in french oak... My notes: A deep ruby colour with a nose of a cherry/raspberry mix softened by french oak, just noticeable but very appealing. The texture is smooth, warm, medium-bodied with flavours of light cherry/berry and a light tar - I couldn't distinguish a strawberry texture nor flavour element. The finish carries with it the light tar along with light tannins, a slight pepper and mild acid. Although juicy and bright I expected more 'silkiness' at the price level. Pleasing enough as a sipper it would also pair well with lamb, turkey, pork, veal dishes, ham and cheese macaroni or perhaps grilled salmon. Cellaring for a few years could very well produce the missing 'silkiness' - still not a value.

BANROCK STATION SPARKLING SHIRAZ, South Eastern Australia, 14.0% D, #971507 $13.95 (Tasted November 14, 2006)

A Vintages release on November 11, 2006. RP of Winecurrent (Oct. 15 2005) gives it four (of 5) saying "Sparkling Shiraz, so cruelly denigrated by some wine-lovers who ought to know better, is an Australian heritage wine. It might look like a novelty seeking a niche, but it's been around for more than a hundred years. This well-priced version is chock full of dark berry and tree fruit, with spicy and peppery notes. The bubbles cut the fruit sweetness and it makes a fine sipping wine or a partner to blackberry pie or tart, as long as you hold back on the sugar." The website says "Deep crimson in colour, the Sparkling Shiraz phenomenon is sweeping Australia. A lifted bouquet of mulberry, plum, sweet coconut and spicy oak precedes a palate characterised by dark berry fruit flavours and a luscious, effervescent texture. Ideal for any celebration, this wine is voluptuous and tantalising when chilled." My notes: A dense ruby colour and a faint nose of ripe blackberries combined with a light yeastiness. Effervesces as it's poured filling the glass but subsides quickly leaving a slim rim of fine bubbles. The flavour is rich blackberry without a corresponding tartness or seediness - a very slight pepper. Full-bodied with a fine tannic edge to a ripe, smooth blackberry finish. Have as a alternative to a chard/pinot bubbly for those preferring a red.... or as a different party sipper. Pair with tomato bruschetta, red pepper and carrot soup with a spoon of goat cheese, a tray of nippy cheeses or a refresher of melon, cantelope or watermelon balls. Dry enough to avoid an 'offdry' label but there is some residual fruit sugar that accumulates on the palate. Not for everyone but I enjoyed it and consider it a good value.

KAESLER ‘STONEHORSE' GRENACHE/SHIRAZ/MOURVÈDRE 2004, Barossa, Australia, 15.5% XD, #006551 $19.95 (Tasted November 12, 2006)

A Vintages release on November 11, 2006 described as "Smooth and polished, with a lovely core of black cherry and currant fruit, dripping with dark chocolate and smoky spice notes as the finish goes on. Impressive for its balance and length. Drink now through 2014. 91/100, Harvey Steiman, Sept 30, 2006." The website says "A blend of Grenache (58%), Shiraz (34%) and Mourvedre (8%). Although this is a biggish wine by alcohol standards it is still savoury and medium weight by our standards. Grenache contributes soft aromatics and flavours, Shiraz some palate spine and a bit of spice, and the Mourvedre provides breadth and depth. A wine to enjoy now or age over the next 5 years." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "This GSM crowd-pleaser is round and ready to go or can easily cellar another 6 years. Expect a medium-bodied blend with ripe juicy berry and Bing cherry fruit balanced off with only an hint of acidity and ripe, acceptable tannins for structure. The finish adds dollops of stewed, jammy black berry fruit. Earned its final half star on the attractive price. Try with backstraps of lamb." My notes: A mid ruby colour with a peppery plum aroma. A smooth injection of tart cherry and blackberries to the palate that carries through to a long finish with a soft tannin, firm acid backbone and pepper plum aftertaste. Great as a dry red spicy sipper, even assumes a sweet tone, or paired with red meats done in a variety of savoury styles. Adds a flavour change rather than quietly complementing the entree. Should be able to cellar this several years - good tannins and an acid structure that will mellow out leaving the structure and texture of a great $20 full-bodied red. Reasonably priced.

‘ANDRETTI SELECTIONS' MERLOT 2004, Napa, USA, 13.8% XD, #011700 $18.95 (Tasted November 11, 2006)

A Vintages release on November 11, 2006 and described as "Here's a well-priced Merlot to get revved up about. Retired auto racing legend Mario Andretti changed career lanes when he opened his eponymous winery in California's Napa Valley a decade ago. His entry-level Merlot is driven by ripe blackberry and cherry fruit with notes of vanilla and coffee." VH of Winecurrent gives it five (of 5) saying "This rips from the pole position with spiced, sweet black fruit aromatics. It corners the first turn at warp speed with gargantuan rich and concentrated Bing cherry and cassis flavours that are wrapped in ripe tannins and excellent zest. The victory lap is earned with a lengthy and luxurious finish of bramble berry and mocha flavours. Certainly worth taking for a spin at this price. Will take the chequered flag now to 2012." My notes: A herbal nose similar to oregano and a deep ruby colour, medium-bodied, dry, a balance of fruit and acid leaning to the acid side. Flavours have more of a stalky base (prematurely pressed?). The finish is dry, a little tart but not puckering and with more bramble than berry fruitiness - still an interesting sipper. Pair with prime rib, rack of lamb or lamb stew, a ham steak or red sauced pizzas. I don't see cellaring as a way to improve this red... if you have a few try a year at a time. Not a value imho.

NEPENTHE 'CHARLESTON' PINOT NOIR 2003, Adelaide, Australia, 14.0% XD, #682054 $17.95 (Retasted November 8, 2006)

Released by Vintages April 29, 2006. My notes: Tasted last May and described as "....After airing briefly the nose is full of fresh strawberries and black cherries. Colour is a strawberry tinged see-through ruby. Has a round mouthfeel with flavours of smooth strawberry, cherry and at 16 to 18 degrees(C) it has a brightness with a light tannin. The finish is long, bright with a touch of cinnamon. etc. A bargain pinot." Tasted today there was no need for airing but would increase the fullness of black cherry aromas with some warm raspberries in the mix... a mid ruby colour still strawberry tinged. Lightly styled, a pleasing nip per sip, a smooth and mellow cherry/strawberry mix. The bright fruit finish ends with a note of cherry skins. This is a light, dry, fruity pinot pleasant enough by itself although better with a flavour change such as a cheese tray selection or a cold shrimp ring with a nippy seafood sauce. Pair with a hot ham steak with asparagus spears draped in a cheese sauce, roast chicken or turkey with garden vegetables and fries. Could be cellared for another year for an european style pinot but is drinking well now.

LEASINGHAM 'MAGNUS' SHIRAZ/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, Clare Valley, Australia, 14.0% XD, #995787 $14.75* (Tasted November 6, 2006)

A Vintages release on October 16, 2006 described as "A dense purple-ruby color with a nose of cedar, vanilla, blackberry. Full-bodied, firm structure, well made, lean mid palate, tannic finish. (4 of 5, Tony Aspler, March 31, 2006). The label claims that 'Magnus' honours one of the original founders, Magnus Badger, of the Stanely Wine Company, the forerunner to Leasingham. A sediment crust may form and shows this wine has benefited by minimum handling to preserve its natural flavour. Their website says "Deep ruby red in colour with brilliant clarity. The nose shows spicy black cherries, lifted plum and earthy tobacco leaf. Black berry fruit concentration with sweet plums on the palate has a hint of coffee mocha and cassis. Enjoy now or cellar for up to 5-10 years." My notes: *Priced on the shelf as $17.25 this wine cashed out at $14.75. Founded in 1893 Leasingham's is now a Hardy's company after a short time with H.J.Heinz. A lovely nose of rich humidor and ripe blackberries - didnt get vanilla. A deep ruby with a garnet tone and full-bodied, smooth with a nice acid edge along with soft tannins and flavours of ripe purple plums and dark chocolate. The finish is moderate, the fruit softened by a warm licorice tone. A soft red sipper with an initial edge on each sip that is pleasing. Pair with stews, beef bourgogne, or prime rib... full flavoured without being too spicy. Has some room for a year cellaring but more of a drink-now. A value at $14.75.

MALIVOIRE MOIRA VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2000, Beamsville, Canada, 13.5% XD, Winery $35.95 (Retasted November 6, 2006)

My notes: Cellared in December, 2001 and retasted in May, 2006 with the comment ".. has a light smoke, cherry and vanilla nose. Medium-bodied, well balanced acid and tannin with an interesting savoury 'cherry coke' flavour but without the sweetness - a european red. ... ". A deep ruby colour. The nose retains an oakiness that is quietened with twenty minutes airing or several vigorous swirls. Aromas are of black cherries, leather and a soft smoke - no strawberries here. Medium- to full-bodied, the first sip shows nicely balanced acid and fine tannins integrated with a ripe black cherry flavour. The finish is bright, moderately long with a mellow mix of fruit restrained by leather or earth tones. A soft sipper for a casual tray of mild cheese wedges, a vegetable hummous with crackers or crisp bread squares. Pair with rack of lamb and caramellized onions, pork tenderloin and roasted fingerling potatoes, veal scallopini with spatzle. There's enough tannins to continue cellaring but likely at peak now and could lose more of the fruit that's left.

TORRES MERLOT ATRIUM 2004, Penedes, Spain, 13.5% D, #621755 $16.00 (Tasted November 2, 2006)

A General listing described as "Medium ruby red; blackcurrant aromas; dry, medium bodied, with firm tannins, dried fruit flavours; long firm finish. Serve with beef and lamb dishes or aged cheese." The website describes this as "Attractive dark cherry colour. Generous and intense varietal aroma, with hints of mature fruits, including jams (plums and bilberries), overlaying truffle and bay leaf aromas. The palate is ample and generous, with excellent sweet tannins that open out to fruit-laden nuances reminiscent of the nose. As the wine reaches chambré temperatures it exudes rich hints of leather and vanillin that evolve towards a sensuous and persistent, long finish." Gord Stimmell gives this 89/100 saying "... This merlot shows aromas of mocha and black cherry with a hint of cassis and blackberry jam. On the palate, spicy vanilla, black cherry and cedar. The finish is full bore, not rich, but poised with its black cherry fruit lingering nicely." My notes: With a different label than on their website the Atrium merlot is a deep ruby colour with a black cherry and white pepper nose. Air for full aroma - twenty minutes. Medium-bodied and flavours of ripe red currants and yellow plums, a nicely balanced tartness and firm tannins. A dry red sipper having a long mild fruitcake finish. Pair with prime rib, T-bone, grilled backribs, or full flavoured beef stews or chili. Cellaring for a few years may introduce some silkiness but it's drinking well now.

DIAMOND RIDGE MERLOT 2002, Santa Maria, California, USA, 13.0% D, #994533 $15.95 (Tasted November 1, 2006)

A Vintages release October 28, 2006 described as "Diamond Ridge Merlot is produced [by Stonehedge Winery] from a single estate located in one of Sonoma County's finest sub-regions, Russian River Valley. They blend in 10% Petite Sirah to give a touch more weight to the wine. Meticulous care is taken to ensure low yields and optimal ripeness. The resulting wine promises to deliver aromas of raspberry, vanilla and hints of oak. An excellent match for roast beef with all the trimmings." VH of winecurrent gives it four of five stars saying "This value wine delivers the goods. It begins with black plum aromatics then washes the palate with juicy and ripe cherry flavours and a hint of oaky spice. Medium-bodied, it exhibits deft balance, grip, good acidity and lovely structure. The lengthy fruit-forward finish portends a match with stuffed pork tenderloin. The quality to price balance tipped in your favour. Stock up." Gord Stimmell of the Toronto Star rates it 90/100 saying "Best buy California red is Diamond Ridge 2002 Merlot with toasted coconut and black cherry richness from Sonoma." My notes: The Stonehedge Winery website has no mention of this Merlot, of Russian River Valley, Diamond Ridge nor is their name on the label. The nose is almost nonexistent... perhaps a soft oaky ripe plum. The colour is a mid ruby, medium-bodied, lightly flavoured plum and red cherry with low levels of acid and tannins - a musty presence. Comes across as a commercial red: nothing bad, nothing exceptional. A suitable sipper at a house warming... but not a special occasion. Have with party buffet foods: broccoli bread bowl, cheese pieces, shaved meats (a stretch), or a warmed groundbeef casserole - it was lost with hamburgers. Not for cellaring... not a bargain. I wouldn't put my name on it either!