Monday, January 23, 2006

And more January Whites (7): Australia Chard, France Ries, Australia Chard/PN, Canada Chard Musq, France Pin Gris, Canada Pin Blan, Australia Pin Gris

YALUMBA 'Y SERIES' UNWOODED CHARDONNAY 2004, South Australia, 13.5% XD, #625103 $11.95 (Tasted January 31, 2006)

Part of Vintages release on August 20, 2005 with comments of: "Fresh and fruity, with a steely edge to the pear and lime flavors. Drink now. (Harvey Steiman,, May 15, 2005)" The label describes this as ".... lively yellow in colour has a rich aroma of melon, grapefruit and a trickle of honey. Fresh tropical fruit flavours of peach, pineapple and fig give this wine texture and palateweight. ..." The website says: "Yalumba Y Series Unwooded Chardonnay 2004 is pale yellow with green hues. The aroma is rich and intense showing melons, tropical fruit and peaches with a little lemon peel and a touch of honey. The palate has a vibrant texture and fruit flavours of peaches, some figs, nougat and passionfruit. Long even flavours finish with a refreshing citrus acidity that will drink well for 2-3 years." My notes: Comes with a screwcap. Let air briefly as the nose develops into a faint lime. A light blond with a slight green hue and medium-bodied with good brightness and a flavour that is a just perceptible melon, nougat and pear. An acceptable sipper with fresh chardonnay fruit and a warm finish. OK paired with nut crusted chicken breast and roasted leeks - should be good with lightly flavoured seafood. Not a cellaring wine.

MUEHLFORST HUNAWIHR RIESLING 1999, Alsace, France, 12.5% XD, CP135-1765 $16.50 (Retasted January 29, 2006)

My notes: An Opimian selection cellared May 2001 and last tasted June 2005 with the comment that Opimian's description was a 'bit over the top', (ie. 'fabulous example of the steely, crystal-cut flavours of the riesling grape... richness of the fruit is intertwined with aromas of ripe pineapple and orange.') but it is still steely with a nose of light petrol and orange. The colour is a light blond and body is medium and smooth with faint flavours of pineapple and lime. The finish is long and lip smacking succulent, excellent for casual sipping, with seafood appetizers or grilled scallops, shrimp, telapia or brook, rainbow or salmon trout - any lightly seasoned fish. Ageing has mellowed this white and won't improve it further at this point.

DE BORTOLI 'EMERI' CHARDONNAY/PINOT NOIR BRUT, Riverina, NSW, Australia, 11.5% D, #652909 $15.95 (Tasted January 28, 2006)

Vintages release on April 2, 2005 and described as "This classy sparkling wine is named for Emeri De Bortoli, the clan's matriarch. The Chardonnay here was fermented using the Charmat method and the Pinot was bottle fermented before being blended together. An excellent value." Kerry Skinner, Illawarra Mercury, 8 December 2004 writes: "It’s a real value-for-money with peach and stonefruit aromas on the nose which flow to the palate, its bread-like characters and delicate, crisp peach flavours. Drink it with antipasto." and from the website, "A vibrant straw yellow with a fine, consistent bead. A bouquet of stonefruit and peach is predominant on the nose with light yeasty characters adding subtle complexity. A palate that is of light peach flavours from the chardonnay combine with subtle “bready” characters producing a full flavoured yet elegant style of wine. Soft and full on the palate, 'Emeri' finishes crisp and flavoursome. Serve well chilled as a pre-dinner drink, with freshly shucked oysters or antipasto." My notes: A light blond with lots of large bubbles initially quickly ebbing as streams to ring the glass - not moussey. Nose is initially yeasty with some peach fuzz aromas and mild apple and peach flavours with a 'brut'ness to freshen the palate. For those that like a more tart bubbly, but not an 'extra brut', it's a bright sipper with an even finish. Good with fresh oysters, a shrimp ring or shaved italian meats with mild cheeses. With those qualifications it's a good value.

CAVE SPRING CHARDONNAY MUSQUE 2004, Jordan, Canada, 14.0% D, #246579 $14.95 (Tasted January 27, 2006)

A Vintages release October 15, 2005 and described as ".... lively aromas of spice and orange blossom, balanced with a gentle crispness and a warm finish. Serve it with pan-roasted grouper or baked ham and you'll see this wine is not just cloning around." Gord Stimmell says "....with peach and honeysuckle accents perfect for folks gathering in the kitchen." and rates it 90. The website says: "Full bodied with intensely aromatic spice and orange blossom character, a viscous mouth-feel and plenty of acidity for balance. .....its unique and powerful aromatics and flavours are best appreciated in the first 3 years. Serve with fish paella or bouillabaisse; pan-roasted grouper, halibut or sea bass; or grilled and marinated vegetables." My notes: Don't serve chilled - just cooled.... a distinct lemon colour with a faint nose of citrus and a floral-mineral taint. The flavours range from lemon to pineapple offset with a balanced tartness. Medium-bodied with a smooth (viscous) finish and a citrus peal overtone. Still dry but with some residual sugar.... a slight chardonnay heritage but not a muscat I could discern. Have with any traditional appetizers but better with seafood dishes. Cellaring may mellow and integrate but not improve fruit level. Not a big investment and a different addition to the cellar.

PFAFFENHEIM 'CUVEE RABELAIS' TOKAY PINOT GRIS 2004, Alsace, France, 13.5% D, #999342 $19.95 (Tasted January 26, 2006)

A Vintages release on January 7, 2006 and described as "Alsatian Pinot Gris is increasingly fashionable, and this example illustrates why. Its aromas suggest honeyed fruit, including peach and pear, plus a texture of smoke and mineral, this Pinot Gris is just off-dry, round and soft, full-bodied and quite rich. Enjoy with a variety of dishes from mildly spiced Asian food to traditional choucroute garni. (Vintages panel, June 2005)." My notes: A light straw, no peach hue, with honeyed citrus, pear and smoke aromas. Medium-bodied with flavours of citrus and mango with a long finish of tropical fruit and light honey, off-dry but lightly balanced with acid. A pleasant sipper and held its own with a lunch of romaine greens, caesar dressing and grilled marinated shrimp. Cellaring for up to a few years will further integrate the honey and fruit into a well rounded white for appetizers: mild cheeses, bacon-wrapped scallops, cocktail sausage on picks, grilled chicken wings or pair with middle eastern and asian dishes.

GRAY MONK PINOT BLANC 2004, BC, Canada, 13.1% XD, #321612 $15.95 (Tasted January 26, 2006)

Vintages released 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)". Beppi writes "Medium-bodied and completely unoaked, it's soft and silky, with a floral perfume and nuances of candied lemon and melon." The website describes this wine as, "Pale straw in colour, this wine has a fruity aroma suggesting pears, herbs and light spice. It is packed with fresh and sweet fruit flavours, including ripe pears, apples and melons. Supple and full in texture, the wine has a dry finish. Serve chilled with seafood, poultry or mild cheese." The label says: "...displays aromas of ripe tropical fruit, ...citrus and gooseberry flavours as well as hints of passionfruit and green melons. etc." My notes: A light straw blond with a nose as described by the label. A smooth texture on the palate with nicely balanced acid and citrus, passionfruit and melon flavours, a very pleasant sipper. The finish is moderate again with soft tropical fruit off-dry and not tart. Was great with grilled Atlantic salmon filets, refried potatos and peas. Could cellar well one or two years but an excellent drink-now value.

CUTTAWAY HILL ESTATE PINOT GRIS 2005, New South Wales, Australia, 14.0% D, #661983 $14.95 (Tasted January 23, 2006)

A Vintages release on January 21, 2006 and described: "Among its growing number of accolades, Cuttaway Hill Estate, was recently given an overall winery rating of 4 1/2 (out of 5) by James Halliday. The winery is nestled in the side of... Cuttaway Hill in the cool climate region of the Southern Highlands. 2005 is considered an excellent vintage in the region. Look for pear and fig aromas and a generous mouthfeel from this rich Pinot Gris." Gord Stimmell writes: "...fresh lime, ripe pear flavours" and rates it an 89. My notes: A screwcap and a rich blond with a peach hue. Aromas of honey, orange and a touch of wild clover, albeit faint. Flavours include ripe pear, crisp as with a lime edge and full in the mouth. Finish is moderate, again, with a cleansing lime edge. An interesting light slightly spicy sipper and was OK with grilled ham steak and scalloped potatoes. Likely better with seafoods: grilled telapia, swordfish, grouper, or bouillabaise. A very nice drink-now medium-bodied dry white.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

More January Reds (4): Australia Shiraz Viog, France Syrah, Portugal Syrah, Australia Shiraz

YALUMBA 'Y SERIES' SHIRAZ VIOGNIER 2004, South Australia, 14.0% XD, #624494 $13.95 (Tasted January 30, 2006)

The LCBO says: "Deep violet colour; blueberry, plum and currant aromas with a hint of anise; fresh, juicy palate with chocolate notes. Serve with grilled bison burgers, lamb or firm cheese." The website says: ".... bright and youthful. The nose is full of spices, licorice and plum fruits with subtle hints of Viognier emphasised by soft jam of fresh purple grape aromas. The palate is supple, chewy and delicious with sweet vinour fruits and loose-knit tannins. A spicy, savoury and silky wine with a lingering finish." My notes: The label calls this a 'White' - not likely with a deep ruby colour and a nose of ripe cherries, blueberries and some light tar. A medium-bodied sip carries bright flavours of ripe cherries and milk chocolate and just what the LCBO describes. The finish is soft textured with well balanced acids and tannins - long and pleasant. Have with any red meat dish from bbq'd sausage pieces to flavoured cheeses and prime rib to roasted leg of lamb. Cellarable two to three years as well as a drink-now value house red.

'LA SYRAH DE VILLERAMBERT JULIEN' 2003, Minervois, France, 13.5% D, #669549 $13.95 (Tasted January 25, 2006)

Vintages release on January 21, 2006 described as "Owner/winemaker Michel Julien is one of the Languedoc's great experimenters, ensuring the right soil and microclimate is used for growing each grape variety. This finely structured wine shows classic Syrah aromas and flavours of blackberry, pepper and plum. It also has a good tannin grip suggesting good short to mid-term ageing potential (2-5 years). Enjoy now with rare cuts of beef." My notes: The 2003 label is now white rather than red of the previous vintage, the first year produced. A deep ruby with a warm plum and slight pepper nose. Medium-bodied with bright flavours of black cherry well balanced with soft tannins. The finish is light with some lingering cherry. A good value as a house red - unimposing as a dry sipper, good with most appetizers: a cheese tray, shaved proscuitto, almost any italian meats. With a meal, pair with prime rib, rack of lamb, a clove spiked ham, bacon-on-a-bun. Likely would cellar well a few years but a pleasant drink-now.

JOAO PORTUGAL RAMOS SYRAH 2004, Alentejano, Portugal, 14.5% XD, #998682 $20.95 (Tasted January 24, 2006)

Vintages release on January 21, 2006 and described as "All you would expect from Syrah; blackberry, spice and pepper is here plus the added bonus of tar and blueberry... On the palate it is dry with a very good fruit structure surrounded by supple tannins. Medium full-bodied with a long finish. Enjoy with rib-sticking stews. (Vintages panel, July 2005)" Tony Aspler gives it four 1/2 stars and says: "Dense purple colour; a nose of vanilla, blackberries and oak; full-bodied, sweet blackberry fruit with a tarry note; firm structure and good acidity." My notes: The website doesn't describe the 2004 vintage as of writing - 2003 was a reportedlly a great vintage. The 2004 is a clear ruby medium-bodied red with aromas of blackberries and white pepper, flavours of red cherries with a nice touch of drying tannins and tar and a finish with a short fruit ending in a longer soft tar note. Was mild for grilled filets and kremeni mushrooms and should be good with stews, rack of lamb or prime rib. Likely too mild but OK for grilled seasoned T-bones or NY cut. A drink-now to a year then try..... cellaring longer may smooth out the tannins and leave more integrated fruit - or not. Not a value.

TYRRELL'S 'RUFUS STONE' SHIRAZ 2003, Australia, 14.5% D, #542100 $19.95 (Tasted January 21, 2006)

A Vintages release on January 21, 2006 and described as: "An attractive wine of length and freshness whose spicy perfume of plums and cassis reveals meaty, molasses-like undertones. Juicy, forward and vibrant, it's spicy and quite restrained core of intense blackberry, mulberry and plum-like flavour is framed by firm, drying tannin. Cellar 2008-2011. Score - 90 (Jeremy Oliver,, Oct. 8, 2005). Gord Stimmell describes it as: "showing smoky blackberry, dried cherry, graphite and vanilla with chocolate notes on the finish." and rates it a 90. The website says: "The 'Rufus Stone' has been selected as a banner name for Tyrrell's super premium wines from regions outside of the Hunter Valley. Tyrrell's Willunga vineyard .... features a block of 35 year old Shiraz vines that consistently produce outstanding fruit for the Rufus Stone range. A full flavoured Shiraz style that has been boosted with additional palate structure and length from a small addition of Malbec. Aromas of ripe black berries, spicy black pepper and a subtle sweet lift of vanillin oak. The palate is full bodied with a long finish that is reminiscent of pure cocoa chocolate with a savoury edge. This wine is excellent drinking now and will cellar for the medium term. Rich and full bodied, it will complement a wide array of equally robust and intense foods, such as roasts of lamb or beef, game dishes, casseroles and hard cheeses." My notes: A screwcap (this is the year of screwcaps it seems). Like putting your nose into a bowl full of ripe plums and blackberries with a black pepper edge. The colour is a rich deep ruby up to the rim and full-bodied flavours of berries, plums and savoury spice. The finish is long and mellow with overtones of smoke, ripe plums and leaves a slight tannic dryness - perhaps it's the Malbec showing through with a very slight cloying aftertaste. Should be great with any red meat: grilled, broiled, stewed or raw, or full flavoured appetizers: cheeses with pastrami, salami, -wursts. Drinking well now but cellaring for more than a year may not promote the 'good' things - it could go 'flat'.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

More January Whites(8): France Chenin Blanc, Canada Chard, Australia SB, Canada Blush, Canada Pinot Gris, USA Chard, NZ Sauv Blanc, France SB

DOMAINE DU VIKING SPARKLING VOUVRAY, Loire, France, 12.0% D, #650739 $19.95 (Retasted January 23, 2006)

Vintages released on January 21, 2006 saying "This 100% Chenin Blanc sparkling wine exhibits stellar aromas of honeyed mushroom, freshly baked bread and ripe melon. It is dry, quite robust and intense with a lively seam of acidity. Enjoy with mildly spiced seafood dishes. (Vintages panel, May 2005)." Beppi describes it as: "...a terrific, complex sparkling wine. Crisp, clean and nicely balanced, ...flavours of melon, pear and honey, lifted by bubbly mousse." My notes: Last tasted Dec 30, 2004 and now a dollar more - my comment at the time was 'like licking a birthday cake... full-bodied with white chocolate and light vanilla touches.' Now a faint pear, melon and yeast nose from a clear light yellow liquid. Bubbles burst into the glass and quickly disperse dwindling to fine streams leaving a continuous bubble ring - no froth. Flavour is a refreshing blend of faint pear and melon with a light but long, smooth finish of honeydew. Not brut but crisp - easy to quaff. Have with oysters, grilled scallops, stuffed mushroom caps, chilled tuna salad or slightly spicy mussels. A nonvintage sparkler for social lunches.

STONEY RIDGE CHARLOTTE'S CHARDONNAY 2004, Stoney Ridge, Canada, 11.0% D, #497230 $19.95 (Tasted January 22, 2006)

A Vintages release on January 21, 2006 and described as: "This unoaked Chardonnay shows remarkable varietal character. Very pale straw in colour, the nose offers apple cinnamon, peach, pear and honey aromas. There's a 'fruit basket' of flavours on the crisp medium full-bodied palate and the fruit just keeps on coming on the long lingering finish. (Vintages panel, Nov. 2005)." My notes: A screwcap and a pale straw colour with honey apple aromas. The initial impression is of sweetness followed by crisp pear and apple flavours. A smooth texture with a long peach-pear finish. Went nicely with ham steak and roast sweet potato but the sweetness was distracting. An OK off-dry sipper. A drink-now house white or pair with chicken or dim sum or other oriental dishes, perhaps sushi?

CHALK HILL WITS END 'THE PROCRASTINATOR' SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004, South Australia, 13.0% XD, #661975 $15.95 (Tasted January 21, 2006)

A Vintages release on January 21, 2006 and described as: "Don't delay trying this wine! Australia's Chalk Hill Wines uses the moniker Wits End in North America to avoid confusion with the Californian winery of the same name. Wits End is also the name of one of the family's vineyards in the McLaren Vale. These wines are crafted by Emmanuelle Requin-Bekkers, a French winemaker with experience across three continents. Expect tropical fruit flavours and aromas to take center stage in this fresh, crisp and delicious wine." Gord Stimmell says: ".. tangy tropical pineapple, banana and guava aromas and flavours of ripe tangerine, apple and crushed pineapple, a crisp clean white." rating it an 89. Natalie MacLean says: "I didn't want to put off reviewing this wine: it's great. Classic herbal aromas and zesty refreshment. Drink with seafood, vegetarian dishes and pasta. Score: 89/100. Best Value White Wine." My notes: A screwcap. A light blond with a soft tropical fruit nose. A smooth texture with an acid edge and flavours of lemon and slight melon with an aftertaste of light lime and almond - and then the tangerine/pineapple mix comes thru'. A full-bodied european-style white with a tangerine peal finish, so have with salsa, seafood appetizers or light pasta or seafood dishes - for me, not a sipper but still interesting. A drink-now.
COLIO ESTATE VINEYARDS 'CEV LILY' BLANC DE NOIRS 2002, Harrow, Canada, 12.0% XD, #618512 $17.95 (Tasted January 19, 2006)

Vintages released on September 17, 2005 describing it as: "Made from mostly Pinot Noir grapes with a small percentage of Riesling, this is the perfect sparkling wine to toast Colio Estate's 25th Anniversary. It won 'The Tasting Rooms Restaurant Wine Cuve Close Award' Gold Medal at the 2004 Ontario Wine Awards. The new release shows pristine, charming pale salmon pink colour, nicely caught in the clear glass bottle. Fairly delicate bubbly overall, with a soft, fragrant nose of icing sugar and raspberry/strawberry jam. Lightweight, fresh, and tender with good acidity, and a bit of sweetness on the finish. Good length. Don't over chill. (David Lawrason,, Feb. 2005)." The label says: " grapefruit colour and offers a bouquet of fresh honeydew melon and toasted almonds. The taste is dry and full of ripe cherry tones with a frothy, fine mousse and gentle finish." My notes: A blush rather than a white, it's mousseux with a never ending stream of fine bubbles from a crystal, pale salmon colour. A light strawberry nose - 'icing sugar' describes it well. Brightly dry with flavours of almonds and light strawberry with a slightly creamy, moderate finish that could be crisper, ie. it's 'delicate' or 'gentle'. A festive quaffer or summer cooler and a nice tang comes thru with Scoops and salsa.
CAVE SPRING PINOT GRIS 2004, Jordan, Canada, 13.0% XD, #621086 $16.95 (Tasted January 18, 2006)

Vintages released January 7, 2006 and describes it as: "Made without oak ageing, Cave Spring sources their Pinot Gris from limestone-rich vineyards in the Beamsville Bench. This crisp, apple-melon Gris is an excellent match for battered seafood, such as calamari or shrimp, or a pork roast. Would also reward cellaring for one to two years." The website says: "Quite full in body and rich in texture, with ripe apple-melon flavours and a bright seam of acidity typical of the Beamsville Bench. Best consumed within the first 2 to 3 years, though capable of ageing well beyond this. etc." My notes: A faint but pleasant apple-lime nose from a light gold colour with a faint peach hue. Medium-bodied with flavours of spicy melon with a crisp but smooth creaminess - sounds contradictory but it describes it. There's an initial tartness that you quickly get accustomed to .... a great addition to seashell appetizers, shrimp rings, mushroom tarts, or cold lobster pieces. Have with seafood entrees, creamy pastas, jambalaya or spicy mussels. Cellaring for one or two years could integrate the fruit and spice for a smooth sociable white in the cellar - but there's no harm sipping right now.

BERINGER 'PRIVATE RESERVE' CHARDONNAY 2000, Napa Valley, USA, 14.5% D, #393926 $38.95 (Tasted January 17, 2006)

A Vintages release on October 1, 2005 and described as "Regular retail price is $49.95. Superrich, opulent style, with plush fig, apricot, spice and honeysuckle flavors that pick up anise and smoky nuances. Finishes with a burst of ultrarich flavors that saturate the palate. Drink now through 2006. Highly Recommended." My notes: A light golden with a light citrus nose. A medium-bodied buttery feel with a very light but balanced citrus, apricot and yellow fig, some smoke and anise and a moderate finish that warms the palate then slowly ebbs. A reasonable, dry sipper without much fruit to compete with mild cheeses, a shrimp ring or cold chicken or tuna salad. Pair with seafoods light to grilled salmon. Likely beyond best before date now but cellaring two to four years won't lessen present drinkability and may improve butter. Well overpriced at the reduced level.
NAUTILUS ESTATE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% XD, #927525 $18.95 (Tasted January 17, 2006)

Vintages released the 2002 vintage March 6, 2004 saying "Sauvignon Blanc was the first wine released by Nautilus when they opened their doors and it continues to be their strongest offering. Intensely aromatic, a bit more restrained on the palate. Has a lovely balance of floral green berry, lime and grapefruit flavors, tangy with acidity on the finish. Drink now. Score - 90. (Harvey Steiman,, Nov. 15, 2002)" and hasn't updated for the current release. The label says: "... from premium grapes grown in specially selected sites in the Wairau and Awatere Valleys...." My notes: The 2004 vintage is a clear light straw with a faint off-straw nose with some grapefruit tones. Flavours include some grapefruit and lime and a light melon, all in a light medley. Uncharacteristic of popular Marlborough SBs: eg. Cloudy Bay, Kim Crawford, having no strong gooseberry presence. The creamy finish makes it a pleasant sipper but being light in flavour (but OK in acid) would be difficult to pair with anything but light seafood dishes. Not cellarable.
MONDEVILLE SAUVIGNON 2004, Languedoc, France, 12.5% XD, $10 range (Tasted January 14, 2006)

My notes: Paul Sapin wines, not offered by the LCBO but available through the Opimian Wine Society for many years, are sourced worldwide under various labels. The Louis Mondeville label features a wide range of generic French varietals. This vintage has a soft citrus and honey nose, just perceptible. A medium-bodied light blond colour with an underlaying grassy tartness predominating an undeveloped varietal fruit. Although well-balanced with a smooth texture the finish leaves a straw taste that lingers too long. Not a sipper unless with stuffed mushroom caps, richly cheesed bruscetta, grilled bacon wrapped scallops. Pair with grilled seafoods or pesto pastas. A drink-now but I'd skip it.

Monday, January 02, 2006

January Reds (8): Italy Valpol, Canada Meritage, Chile Merlot, Australia Shiraz(3), Chile Blend, South Africa Blend,

BOLLA 'LE POIANE' VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 1999, Veneto, Italy, 13.5% XD, #135293 $19.95 (Retasted January 18, 2006)

My notes: Cellared November 2004 and last tasted May , 2005 with the comment: "...just past peak ... softer than at time of purchase but still with a bite etc. ". Still a ruby red with a soft cherry nose. Flavour is a natural black cherry with a slight edge and a short, bright finish. No tannins left and the raisin overtone from 'skin' fermentation is gone. Well past peak but still a pleasant valpolicella sipper just lighter body and milder than originally tasted. Was good with potroast in hoisin, onion and garlic sauce and would also do well with rack of lamb, red pasta dishes, or pizza.

JACKSON-TRIGGS PROPRIETORS GRAND RESERVE MERITAGE 2001, Jordan, Canada, 13.1% XD, #594002 $23.95 (Retasted January 18, 2006)

My notes: Last tasted September 2005 part of my comment at that time "Will likely benefit from another year in the cellar" and it has in four months. A mellow ripe plum, berries, black pepper and cinnamon aroma from the bottle as it pours. Flavours of red currant and cherries with a light tartness and soft tannin making it pleasant as a sipper - doesn't really need decanting now but go ahead anyway to get the rush of aromas. Full-bodied with a medium mahogany finish. Even better with full flavoured appetizers: bruscetta, grilled sausage pieces, meatballs flavourful cheeses or with roast red meats and stews. Cellaring well and likely can carry a few more years.

SERGIO TRAVERSO MERLOT RESERVA 2000, Lontue Valley, Chile, 13.0% XD, CP146-2389 $18.00 (Tasted January 14, 2006)

Opimian writes: "Wonderfully spicy, with a real bite across the tongue, it has a warm attack and pungency in the nose, with red berry fruit by the bucketful; raspberry and nuances of jam, spinach and even nettle flood out of the glass. Delicious! Drink this year (2003)." My notes: A rich ruby colour and a nose of red berries and soft oak. Its tartness wipes the palate clean, warms the throat and overrides whatever subtle flavours may be there. Not pleasant as a sipper that appetizers may not soothe - too aggressive for me - but something is needed to restore the palate. Better paired with tangy pizza, seasoned steaks, bbq'd hamburgers or spicy ribs. Did not age well since Opimian's writeup and not recommended.

AMBERTON BAROSSA SHIRAZ 2001, Barossa, Australia, 13.5% XD, #567933* $18.95 (Retasted January 13, 2006)

My notes: Originally rated 93 by Gord Stimmell and tasted July 10, 2004 I found 'as a luscious sipper'. After the intervening months (*and no longer listed) it is still a deep ruby colour with, after breathing thirty minutes, a soft mahogany and plum nose. Medium- to full-bodied the taste ranges from soft black plum to licorice and tobacco full of warmth. The finish is liquid velvet with lasting subtle ripe black cherry, plum, soft tannins and some pepper. A unobtrusive sipper great with all cheeses, even chocolates. Pair with roast beef, prime rib, NY steaks, venison, rack of lamb, etc. The original fruit has been replaced by a mild earthiness that provides lots of interest. I'd say cellaring has changed it to another level... but it's a drink-now now.

DE BORTOLI 'dB' SHIRAZ 2004, SouthEastern, Australia, 13.5% XD, #595314 $12.95 (Tasted January 7, 2006)

Vintages says: "The 'dB' range of wines from De Bortoli achieve incredible quality at 'best buy' prices. Look for bright berry and black plum fruit flavours with notes of licorice and smoky oak. Enjoy over the next two years with fettuccine Bolognese with parmesan cheese or gourmet pizza." The de Bertoli website says: "Grown in selected vineyards in south eastern Australia, the fruit is picked at optimum maturity to exhibit a true expression of varietal fruit and regional character. With their generosity of flavour and fine texture these wines are great with food and guaranteed to make friends." Gord Stimmell rates it 88 saying "...exceptional value... with minty black cherry, cedar, pine needles and smoky blueberry, showing a nice sweet-edged finish." A Vintages release January 7, 2006. My notes: More smoky black plum and chocolate in the nose than berry - and flavours of blueberry, licorice and stewed plums than bright berry. The finish is unusual for its absence of fresh fruit and is largely process, ie. smooth French oak leaving a predominant mellow toastiness. Cellaring may do something but I don't think so. A tier brand tailored for the North American market perhaps, however, it missed the mark for me! Reserve for a meal of spicy meat sandwiches, eg. SubWay BMT with halepenas, or red sauced pastas - or just skip.

PENFOLDS 'THOMAS HYLAND' SHIRAZ 2003, South Australia, Australia, 14.0% XD, #611210 $19.95 (Tasted January 5, 2006)

Vintages writes: "From Vintages Essentials Collection and always available. Thomas Hyland helped shape Penfolds into Australia's most famous name in wine. The Shiraz that bears his name has robust aromas of ripe berries, raspberry, red currant, chocolate and spicy oak. Ripe plum and berry on the tongue mingle with silky tannins. Subtle oak and a long, ripe, fruity finish. Enjoy pairing it with venison or eggplant lasagna." Part of Vintages release October 29, 2005. The label says: "... exudes in rich spice and dark berry fruit... and finely interwoven oak. Matured in French oak for ten months... drink now or cellar medium term." Gord Stimmell says: ".. a big winner... dishes up plummy, peppery, black cherry potency - a big bang for the bucks." and rates it 90. My notes: A deep ruby and a smooth faint aroma of peppery plums and smooth berries. Flavours show a smooth french oak influence on black cherries and plums. A firm medium-bodied red suitably mellow - those preferring a robust red will call this bland - for social sipping with or without a variety of appetizers: foccacia, flavoured cheeses, meatballs in a savoury sauce or pair with grilled lamb, prime rib or red sauced pastas - not too much spice. A drink now red.

CONCHA Y TORO TRIO 2003, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.0% XD, #433912 $14.95 (Tasted January 3, 2006)

Vintages says: "Although the label indicates the wines are from Maipo Valley, Concha y Toro sources from three regions for this wine because each variety has its best expression in each region. Expect rich cassis fruit and body from the Cab Sauv, blackberry and peppery tones from the Shiraz and a lovely herbaceousness from the Cab Franc. Enjoy with a roast beef dinner. Tony Aspler gives it 4 1/2 stars". A Vintages release October 29, 2005. My notes: Has an artificial cork. A medium-bodied blend of cabernet sauvignon (70%), shiraz (15%) and cabernet franc (15%). A smooth light plum nose leading to a smooth, pepper edged plum and black cherry fruit with a long plummy finish. A house red that is light- and smooth enough for most guests but neither fruity nor full- enough for most red drinkers. Should be OK to pair with prime rib, red sauced and mushroom, cheese-stuffed ravioli. A drink-now red.

FAIRVIEW GOATS DO ROAM RED 2004, Paarl Valley, South Africa, 14.0% XD, #718940 $12.95 (Tasted January 2, 2006)

A Vintages release Oct 15, 2005. Vintages says: "... 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!" Gord Stimmell in his column writes "... with plums, black cherry, vanilla and smoky peppery flavours." and rates it 90. My notes: A convenient screwtop. The Fairview website hasn't been updated for some time so no 2004 winemakers or climate notes. A clear ruby with soft berry, cherry and plum aromas.... medium-bodied leaning toward light- , smooth on the palate with a good warm swallow of black cherry and plums. The finish is long and warm with a smidge of tannin and some spiciness - smoke and pepper I'd say describes it well. A drink-now house red at the right price.

January Whites (8): Portugal V.V., Canada ?, France Musc, Italy Soave, Chile Blend, Argentina Pin Grig, New Zealand Sauv Bl, France Fumee Bl

SOGRAPE GAZELA VINHO VERDE, Vinho Verde, Portugal, 9.0% D, #141432 $8.05 (Retasted January 12, 2006)

A General listing of which the LCBO says: "Pale yellow straw colour; light fruit aromas with citrus and mineral notes; dry, light bodied, with delicate fresh fruit flavours; tart and refreshing with a spritzy finish. Serve chilled as an aperitif, with shellfish or fried fish." The label says: "Gazela is a fresh, young and fruity light dry wine, well balanced by a fresh acidity and a lively fruity finish. etc. " My notes: Very similar to 'Zonte' in nose (no yeast tho') and flavour but with a slightly warmer finish. No bubbles of course and hardly detectable spritz except for the fringe at liquid level and a light zip. Not the fruity Gazela I remember tasting a year ago but still a refreshing sipper, with or without tapas or salsa. Serve as a summer quaffer on the patio adding a slice of lemon or lime - for sure, not a white wine alternative.

VINCOR ZONTE SOLA NERO, Ontario, Canada, 7.0% D, #621946 $7.95 (Tasted January 11, 2006)

A General listing. My notes: A crown cap that can be 'corked' using a champagne stopper (but isn't meant to be). Large bubbles that disappear quickly although the spritz remains to refresh. Light-bodied and clear with almost a yeasty nose rather than fruit. Flavours are just perceptible citrus and lightly tart. With a two sugar code the sweetness is well balanced, ie. not apparent. More of a drink now spritz sipper to go with mild cheeses or scoops and hummous than a white wine for a meal. Or have with pancakes and maple syrup or red pepper and tomato soup with toasted bacon sandwiches, but nothing heavy. Myself, I'd go for a Perrier or a vinho verde at the same price range.

SAUVION & FILS MUSCADET SUR LIE 2004, Loire, France, 12.0% XD, #143016 $9.15 (Retasted January 10, 2006)

The LCBO writes: "Light straw colour; light gooseberry, apple, lemon and mineral aromas; dry, with crisp acidity, clean citrusy fruit and snowpea flavours on palate with yeasty notes in finish. Serve chilled as an aperitif; with shellfish and seafood; perfect with oysters on the half-shell." A General listing. My notes: 100% Melon de Bourgogne grape, now lowered in price from $9.90 the nose of the 2004 vintage is light lemon drop and honey, a touch of grassiness. Colour is light yellow with a green tint with a slight lie residue. A lightish bodied sipper not tart but crisp, not creamy as could be expected being 'sur lie', can go off chill without losing sippabiity. Lemon drop and apple carries over into the flavours but not much else. The finish is refreshing and long - didnt get any 'yeasty notes'. The 2002 and 2003 vintages were tasted Aug 3, 2005 and had the 'lie' creaminess, still within the ballpark of this one. Have with any shellfish and seafood appetizer or meal - should be great! Cellaring for a year or even two could be interesting.

INAMA SOAVE CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2004, Veneto, Italy, 12.0% XD, #949768 $16.95 (Tasted January 8, 2006)

"Winemaker Stefano Inama is one of the Young Turks of northeastern Italy..... The grapes used for the Soave Classico are estate-owned, from 20 to 30-year-old vines.... Inama fermented and aged the 100 percent Garganega wine in stainless steel vats.... the 2003 vintage is light yellow .... and possesses an elegant nose of sweet field flowers such as chamomile, elder flower and iris." Vintages says: "Inama is one of the region's finest producers, creating dynamic, flavourful, impactful wines in a region that generally is not known for same. Enjoy with steamed mussels, grilled salmon, sushi or grilled chicken." A Vintages release January 7, 2006. My notes: A strong yellow hue with a slightly grassy nose, not the meadowland flowers of the 2003 vintage. A medium-to full-bodied well balanced white with faint flavours of lemon and honeydew. The finish is smooth and lasting with no distinct fruit. A drink now white.... no interest as a sipper better paired with shellfish: fresh oysters, spicy mussels, or grilled telapia. Soave (DOCG) has its niche and may not get much better than this.

CONCHA Y TORO 'TRIO' CHARDONNAY/PINOT GRIGIO/PINOT BLANC 2004, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #433938 $12.95 (Tasted January 8, 2006)

Vintages release October 29, 2005. Vintages says: "We have a trio of 'Trios' this month beginning with this..... Concha y Toro believes that the three varieties combined, in this wine, bring unique strengths to the blend. Here, Chardonnay brings the body and tropical fruitiness, Pinot Grigio a crisp acidity and Pinot Blanc freshness and balance." The CyT website describes it as "Intense aroma to fresh fruits: tangy, honey, chirimoya, lime, lemon citrus." My notes: A clear blond with a soft citrus nose and a granny smith edge. Flavours are well balanced each contributing: chardonnay(70%) with body, pinot grigio(15%) with spice and mineral notes, pinot blanc(15%) with apple. The finish is long and silky. Although good on its own better with shellfish appetizers or mild cheeses and fruit. Pair with grilled seafood or seafood pastas. A drink now and a puzzler for those expecting a single varietal house white.

ARGENTO PINOT GRIGIO 2005, BODEGAS ESMERALDA, Mendoza, Argentina, 12.5% XD, #620492 $10.15 (Retasted January 3, 2006)

The LCBO writes: "Pale straw colour; peach and tropical fruit aromas; extra dry palate with medium body and crisp flavours. Serve with creamy pasta dishes, grilled shrimp or as an aperitif." The label says: "...has a greenish yellow colour. A nose of delicate floral aromas of jasmine and tropical fruits. The mouthfeel is light and clean with ripe pineapple and flavours of peach intermingled with notes of sweet spice and finishes with bright, crisp acidity." A General listing. My notes: The 2004 vintage was tasted a year ago (Jan 1, 2005) with the comment, 'a pleasing aftertaste' and 'a great value' at $9.95. This vintage is a pale yellow with an imperceptible nose definitely not 'floral'. A light pepper edge to a slight wild apple - has some body. The finish is fresh and short. A drink now with not much to attract a second sip. Uninteresting with grilled trout and baked potato with sour cream/butter except it refreshed the palate.

STONELEIGH MARLBOROUGH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005, New Zealand, 13.5% D, #293043 $15.00 (Tasted January 2, 2006)

LCBO writes: "Pale straw colour; gooseberry, herbs and a hint of tropical fruit on the nose; dry and medium-bodied with a crisp finish. Serve with smoked salmon, asparagus risotto or herbed chicken." A General listing. My notes: Much the same as the 2004 vintage (Tasting notes: June 20, 2005) still with a screwtop. A light golden colour with a citrus and soft gooseberry nose. A delightful crisp sipper with tropical fruit aromas filling in grapefruit and gooseberry flavours. There is a pronounced tartness that refreshes between forkfuls of any shell fish or white fish entrees. A drink now white with a possibility of cellaring a year. Not a Cloudy Bay or Kim Crawford SB but several dollars less.

LES FUMÉES BLANCHES SAUVIGNON BLANC, JACQUES ET FRANCOIS LURTON, Languedoc, France, 12.0% D, #472555 $9.90 (Retasted January 03, 2006)

The LCBO says: "Pale straw colour; sweet melon, apple, mineral and grassy aromas; citrus, pear flavours, medium bodied with a soft finish. Serve with cold shrimp; pork tenderloin with pear and wild rice stuffing." The label says: "....captures all of the fresh, delicate floral aromas and crisp melon and spice flavours. Drink with lighter foods or simply as a delightful aperitif." A General listing. My notes: Now with a screwtop. and continues to be nonvintage. I last tasted Jan 12, 2005 with the comment, 'You won't find me spending more while this is available.' Well, some things don't repeat and, without being vintage, the change from excellent to ordinary is a guess. Definitely not NZ-style the nose is grassy with a slight spicy gooseberry. Flavours are citrus and Bosc pear with a crisp long creamy finish. A drink now white, even well chilled it's not a social sipper. Better paired with appetizers or with pan-fried/grilled white fishes, tapanades, grilled scallops basted with garlic and lemon or oysters Rockerfeller. If you like a crisp dry European SB it's still a value.