Thursday, August 24, 2006

More August Reds(9): Canada Sang, Argentina Blend, Italy Blend, Argentina Merlot, Canada Pin Noir, Chile Merlot, Australia Blend(2), USA PetSir

INNISKILLIN INTERNATIONAL SERIES SANGIOVESE 2005 (nonVQA), Canada, 12.5% D, Boutique $Gift (Tasted August 30, 2006)

The label says "sourced from the world's great wine regions, represent Inniskillin's commitment to quality and excellence. Delicate violet in colour our sangiovese displays strawberry and plum aromas. On the palate, blueberry, vanilla and toasted cinnamon notes lead to supple tannins and an extended finish." My notes: Vincor owns several wineries in Ontario, BC, the US, Australia and New Zealand: Inniskillin, Jackson-Triggs, Ancient Creek, Sawmill Creek, Sumac Ridge, Hawthorne Mountain, Unity Wines, Hogue Cellars, R.H.Phillips, Goundry, Amberley Estate, Kim Crawford, and now Vincor is part of the Constellation Group. Sangiovese is not a listed grape at The Wine Rack, where International Series wines are sold, or the Inniskillin websites. For nonVQA wines up to ninety percent of the juice may be imported. The colour is rich ruby red with a slight magenta twist. Light aromas of black cherry and black pepper precede well balanced, medium-bodied flavours of oak and dark plum. The finish finishes quickly leaving a slight oil on the lips, some light tannins and perhaps some black cherry notes. A commercial red.... as a 'non-offending' sipper or as a 'non-offending' grilled red meat red. Not for cellaring.

MASI TUPUNGATO PASSO DOBLE ROSSO 2004, Argentina, 13.5% D, #620880 $14.95* (Retasted August 29, 2006)

The LCBO says: "Medium deep red cherry colour; aromas of dried herb and fruit, with black cherry and spice notes; dry, medium to full bodied, rich, with sweet dried fruit flavours, good balanced acidity and supporting tannins, long finnish. Serve with rich meat dishes, including stews, caseroles and grilled steak. *now $15.00" Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "...Rich black currant and red berry aromas and flavours run wild through this medium-bodied gem. The finish is lengthy and redolent of raisined berries. (VH)" My notes: A blend of Argentina Malbec and Veneto Corvina grapes that are slightly dried. The 2003, last tasted May 2006, had a 'higher black cherry accent' and this vintage, tasted in September 2005, was described as 'Medium- to full-bodied with full flavours of dark plum and dried black cherries along with chalky tannins. Cellaring for a year or even two would hopefully meld the tannins and flavours softening some of the earthy notes.' Cellaring has mellowed the nose and any earthy notes are now subdued... no bite, no pepper, just an invitation to sip. The flavours of dark plum and dried black cherries are fully blended with fine tannins and well balanced acids. A tame red sipper or can be paired with not-too-spicy red meat grilled, stewed or sliced, ie. Italian sausage on pizza. Cellaring for another year wouldn't be out of the way but it's drinking well now.

MASI TOAR 2001, Veneto, Italy, 13.0% D, #342444 $21.95 (Tasted August 29, 2006)

A General release with the description "Medium deep ruby red colour; aromas and flavours of cedar, red cherries, currant, plum and exotic spice with light smoke tones; dry, medium to full bodied, well balanced acidity and tannin; great length on finish. Try with grilled veal chops, risotto or lamb shank." Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars (of 5) saying "Two indigenous grapes, Corvina (75%) and the rare and ancient Oseleta (25%) were blended to produce this rich and concentrated red. Licorice, tar and leather blow from the lifted nose while the flavour profile includes bramble berry and sour cherry that is layered and complex. The finish is memorable with tar, cherry and black licorice notes." My notes: A deep ruby colour with a mild berry and soft spice nose. Very smooth, full-bodied, well blended flavours of black cherry, blackberry, plum and a faint tar edge. A long soft berry finish leaving a pleasant roundness on the palate - more supple than Masi Tupungato (#620880) with a sharper, although still moderate, edge. A soft dry sipper and pair-able with veal, pork chops, lamb shank, ham steak, mushroom risotto.... it's a sociable red meal wine. At peak now.... not cellarable to advantage imho.

San Rafael, Argentina, 13.0% XD, #CP146-2393 $13.58 (Tasted August 29, 2006)

Opimian writes "The increasing use of free-run quality juice has created a new style with a growing following. Cold fermented, filtered prior to a short resting period in steel tanks, it shows pure fruit flavours and hints of the spice that gives it Merlot appeal...." My notes: Ordered in March and cellared in September of 2003. A vibrant pink with distinct aromas of strawberries and berries and a touch of spice. Light- to medium-bodied, well balanced tartness with a fresh strawberry and cherry roundness. The finish fades quickly but leaves a warm palate. It's easy to gulp this rose.... a satisfying sipper on a hot summer day, possibly with an ice cube or two. Was great with blueberry pancakes, maple syrup and back bacon slices but may be lost with a regular meal; ie. roast chicken or cold ham slices. Has cellared well but is uninteresting after a few glasses.

PILLAR BOX RED CABERNET/SHIRAZ/MERLOT 2004, South Australia, 15.0% XD, #685941 $14.95 (Tasted August 28, 2006)

A Vintages release August 19, 2006 and described as "... decant before serving. … boasts luscious black currant fruit intermixed with smoke, herbs, and cedar. Richly fruity, opulent, and medium to full-bodied, it is one of the great wine bargains of the world. Consume it over the next 2-3 years. Score - 90. (Robert Parker Jr.,, Oct. 2005). Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars (of 5) saying "This 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Shiraz, 11% Merlot red blend from the cooler Padthaway wine region was fashioned by renowned Barossa wine maker, Chris Ringland. Opaque and brooding, there are quiet aromas of gamey smoked meat and black plum that waft from the glass. The sweet (15% alcohol) fruit (spicy plum, black currant and juicy red berry) explodes in layers and washes over the palate right through the lengthy finish. .... one of the 'must buys' of this release. Unfined and unfiltered, it will drink well through 2008. (VH)" My notes: So I didn't decant.... the colour is a deep ruby with magenta edge and aromas of 'luscious black currant ... with smoke, herbs, and cedar.' Full-bodied with a pepper bite that masks the flavours, not as strong as the Wakefield Cabernet/Shiraz (#625343), but airing for sixty minutes is a must. After which the same aromas are lighter, flavours are of a plum and black cherry blend with fine tannins and a light peppery spice. A cherry and plum edge with a silky background forms a long finish. The wine was clear to the last drop when decanting. Should be able to cellar this for several years. A slow sipper, and a bargain, for dry red advocates that like an alcohol high. Otherwise have with any grilled meats: turkey to wild game.

GRAY MONK PINOT NOIR 2004, Okanagan, Canada, 12.1% D, #251835 $17.95 (Tasted August 27, 2006)

A Vintages release August 19, 2006 and described as "Gray Monk is B.C.'s most northerly commercial winery, but they source their Pinot Noir grapes from growers throughout the Okanagan Valley. This is a delicate, medium-bodied, dry wine with red berry and floral aromas. Go west completely and serve lightly chilled with planked Pacific salmon." The label says "...fresh, fruity, light style red ...emphasizing raspberry flavours... a light hint of oak." Winecurrent gives it three and one half stars (of 5) saying "...light-medium bodied with attractive aromas and flavours of strawberry and sweet plum. Well balanced and lightly tannic, it's perfect for grilled salmon with a maple glaze. (RP)" Natalie rates it 88/100 saying "This pinot has pleasing notes of tart cherries, beetroot and red berries." My notes: A bright cherry red with berry aromas; straw-, rasp- and blue- , evenly blended with just a perceptible oaky softness. The flavours, delivered on a silky thread, are a blend of the same berries with a smidge of their natural tartness. The finish is natural as well, long but ending in warm smoothness rather than a distinct flavour. I enjoyed this medium-bodied pinot sipper. It has a moderate body and flavour and is consistently pleasant sip to sip. Was great with roasted rack of lamb and mint jelly. A planked salmon? YES!. A bargain and cellarable for a few years.

VIÑA LA ROSA ‘LA CAPITANA' MERLOT 2004, Cachapoal Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #655209 $14.95 (Tasted August 26, 2006)

A Vintages release August 19, 2006 and described as "Full and chunky, with deep color and plenty of heft. Smells as if it might have some Carmenère in the blend, and it does (10%). There's an herbal quality to the wine, but that doesn't overshadow the plum and black cherry flavors nor the light oak touches. Good for Chilean Merlot. 86/100. (Wine Enthusiast, March 1, 2006)." The label says "... classic Merlot ..sweet plums, blackberries, black cherries and chocolate." Natalie gives it 89/100 saying "Looks three times as expensive as its price, and tastes twice as good. Aromas of chocolate and ripe red fruit." Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars (of 5) saying "...this medium to full-bodied stunner is right on the mark. Opening with a perfume that hints of mint and plum, it washes over the palate with layers of deep, rich, grainy dark chocolate and rich, ripe Bing cherry flavours. The lengthy finish is scrumptious with a gorgeous replay of fruit coupled with beautifully balancing acidity. The final half star was gained through the exceptional value it offers - stock up. (VH)" My notes: A very nice deep ruby, aromas of soft white pepper and ripe cherries, medium- to full-bodied with a smooth dry texture and a flavour blend of blackberry and black cherry. The finish is a smooth balance between tart and tannin with the fruit flavours slowly ebbing on the palate. A soft red sipper, not demonstrative, letting you decide to go for another bruschetta, sausage piece or even a mushroom tart. Should be a great partner to grilled red meats or a portabello burger. A drink-now that could be cellared for several years - try two at a time. 'Stock up.' I did!

PEDRONCELLI PETITE SIRAH 2002, Sonoma, USA, 13.7% XD, #686691 $16.95 (Tasted August 25, 2006)

A Vintages release August 19, 2006 with the comments "John Pedroncelli Jr. ... is one of a growing number of Californian winemakers that are gaining a cult following for their Petite Sirah. Expect a deep, dense wine with rich ‘bumbleberry' fruit flavours and hints of briar, black pepper and earth. It's the wine equivalent of meeting a 300-pound biker named ‘Tiny'." The label says "...only handpicked grapes. .... aromas and flavours of spicy black pepper, ripe blackberry and black cherry...full-bodied and firm tannins. " Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars (of 5) saying "Pedroncelli is famous for its Zinfandel, but this lovely Petite Sirah adds to its reputation. It's full of concentrated ripe fruit flavours with spicy, peppery accents. Perfectly pitched and with impressive complexity, it's stylish and yet grounded. Pair it up with any well-seasoned red meat dish or with Portobello mushrooms. (RP)" The website says "Opaque purple. Crushed raspberries and bramble spice aromas. Rich and juicy with boysenberry, cassis and chocolate flavors. Very deep and complex, this wine should be opened and decanted if enjoyed before 2008. Expect this wine to take on complexities for the next 8-12 years. This wine will age well into 2018 and beyond—it has the structure to evolve nicely." My notes: Has 7% zinfandel adding a magenta tint to the dense ruby colour. Decanted then allowed to settle down for thirty minutes the original oakiness dissipates leaving a subtle peppery fragrance of distant blackberries and violets. The flavour is delicate, full of berries, more bumble than rasp, and lightly dusted with fine tannins. Finishes with a light acid and a little chalk on the palate. A medium-bodied dry sipper more suitably paired with prime rib and yorkshire puddings, hold the horseradish. Cellaring for a few years should make it an elegant value.

WAKEFIELD 'PROMISED LAND' SHIRAZ CABERNET 2003, New South Wales, Australia, 14.5% D, #625343 $13.55 (Tasted August 24/25, 2006)

A General listing described as "Deep red with violet colour; aromas of ripe currant, black cherry, plum and spice with toasty oak, tobacco notes; dry, full bodied, well balanced acidity, rounded palate with flavours of jammy berry, vanilla and chocolate. Serve with meat pizza or pasta and grilled beef dishes." Gord Stimmell (August 23rd) rates it 90/100 saying "features big black olive, black cherry, chocolate and minty cherrywood character, a real dance of flavours.... tremendous value." The website describes the 2003 as "The Shiraz brings to the blend characters of chocolate, licorice, spice and black pepper. Whilst the Cabernet Sauvignon brings mint, cedar, tobacco leaf, clove and black cherry characters to the blend....etc. .... The Shiraz fills out the mid palate with a round, soft texture and the Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the finish of the wine with fine long tannins..." My notes: A ruby colour and, when first opened, had predominant aromas of black pepper and mint - no fruit, chocolate or licorice I could discern. The flavours attacked the mouth and left a strong pepper, acid and tannic presence. There was an unripe red currant sharpness with spice and a strong tartness finishing in an unpleasant dry aftertaste. Not a sipper and not a pleasing meal red. But... I tasted the next day and found a very interesting red - much of the pepper had subsided, the flavours were a well integrated blend of black cherries, licorice, and soft spices and the finish was long, soft tannins with chocolate and spice overtones. The clue is to decant or let the bottle air for an undetermined period. For interest, try it.... ?

More August Whites (3): Italy Soave, Argentina Pinot Grigio, Australia Blend

FOLONARI SOAVE 2005, Veneto, Italy, 12.0% D, #176461 $10.05 (Tasted August 30, 2006)
A General release and described as "Pale straw colour; light citrus aromas; crisp citrus and mild almond flavours; crisp, dry finish. Serve as an aperitif or with finger foods and shellfish." My notes: 80% Garganega, 20% Trebbiano... a light yellow with green tinge colour with a pronounced aroma of wild flowers and gooseberries. Light- to medium-bodied, flavours of honey dew melon, a citrus tartness and a straw dryness. The finish starts with a melon fullness ebbing quickly to a fading citrus edge. A commercial white for economical get-togethers: buffets, open houses, or neighbourhood block parties. Pleasant enough as a casual sipper if chilled well. Was 'so-so' with grilled chicken in a tomato and red pepper sauce, green beans and baked potato. The price is right..... not for cellaring.

ARGENTO PINOT GRIGIO 2005, Mendoza, Argentina, 12.5% XD, #620492 $10.00 (Tasted August 24, 2006)

A General release described as "Pale straw colour; peach and tropical fruit aromas; extra dry palate with medium body and crisp flavours. Creamy pasta dishes, grilled shrimp or as an aperitif." The label claims "nose offers delicate, floral aromas of jasmine and tropical fruits. .... light and clean with ripe pineapple and peach flavours.... notes of sweet spice..." The Wineanorak says of the Catena Zapata wines"...There are four different levels. Things don’t really start to get exciting until you get to the Catena-labelled wines: the Malambo and Argento wines are so-so..." says "... it's bang-on the money!" My notes: Letting the glass warm in the hand arouses a very light wild floral nose. A light yellow in colour and a light creamy touch introduces flavours of soft honey, apricot and pineapple. The finish is quite long, bright rather than tart, and fades to a light kiwi or melon. An economical sociable white sipper.... should be OK with white seafood dishes or 'shrimp on the barbie'. A value for impromptu open houses and better than 'so-so' for a dinner. A drink now.

YELLOWGLEN 'YELLOW' NV, Victoria, Australia, 11.0% D, #592980 $12.95 (Tasted August 24, 2006)

A Vintages release on August 19, 2006 and described as "Yellowglen is all about bubbles, bubbles and more bubbles. The non-vintage 'Yellow' was first launched in 1996 with much success. More than just a fun fizz, this zesty and fruity sparkler is quite refined and appropriate for momentous occasions as well as casual fêtes." My notes: Last year's Vintages release (June 25, 2005 @ $11.95) was tasted June 2006 with the comment '..A relaxing bubbly with enough tartness to surprise the palate and enough yeastiness to be smooth. A value at the price..'. The same light blond colour with a yeasty bright apple nose, flavours start out as sweet apple but quickly have a pleasing tart edge that makes it green apple. Not as creamy as the last tasting but the fine bubbles did form a thin ring - not mousseux. It's 'brut' enough for fresh oysters and mild cheeses....and it would be great with a range of hors d'oeuvres from Italian shaved meats to edam cheese and garden vegetable dips. Smoked oysters and strong cheeses would be stretching it. A drink now.

Friday, August 04, 2006

August Whites (9): Germany Riesling, NZ Sauv Blanc, Australia Blend, Canada Chard, Australia Semillon(2), Spain Blend, Chile Chard(2)

SCHLOSS SCHÖNBORN RIESLING KABINETT 2002, Pfaffenberg, Germany, 9.0% MD, #928184 $17.95 (Tasted August 22, 2006)

A Vintages release on August 19, 2006 and described as "The Schönborn family has been making wine since 1349, so it's little wonder that they possess some of the top vineyard sites in the Rheingau. Look for bright apple fruit and petrol notes in this light and lively Riesling from the Pfaffenberg vineyard." Natalie says "This lovely riesling has aromas of ripe pears and peaches. 'Best Value White Wine' 90/100" Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars (of 5) saying "Slate, mineral and floral aromas blow off this medium to full-bodied 'off dry' white. The flavours wash over the palate in waves, first green apple and pear, then sweet nectarine and peach followed by a wonderful citrus tang. The finish is lengthy and luxurious. Drink now with all manner of spicy Asian cuisine or cellar for ten years, waiting for those intriguing petrol aromas to develop, then savour on its own as an aperitif. (VH)" My notes: A light yellow colour and a nose of ripe pear and light petrol. A rounded flavour of green apple and mellow honey with a tang on the tongue that flows brightly down the throat. Finishes with a sweet touch, drying and unctious without petrol but with a long appealing fresh apple pucker. A great off-dry for social sipping and was suitable with toasted tomato sandwiches and crabcakes. Should also go well with anything that's shellfish, cold more than hot. Cellaring for several years will bring out more petrol, tame the sweetness and mellow out the body making it a worthwhile wait.

KIM CRAWFORD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% XD, #975672 $19.95 (Retasted August 21, 2006)

Rereleased by Vintages on August 19, 2006 originally being released in December, 2005 and described as "Tangy in style, with plenty of fresh green apple character adding depth to the grapefruit and guava flavors, lingering nicely. Drink now. 90/100 (Harvey Steiman,, Nov. 30, 2005)." Of this release Natalie says "...consistently excellent. Lots of herbal, grapefruit and green apple aromas. 'Favourite White Wine', 90/100". My notes: Natalie is right....Kim Crawford's SB has been consistent so far. We'll have to wait and see how the brand changes as a Vincor Company. The colour is light blond with aromas of wild clover and gooseberries. A direct tang with a soft fullness carrying natural, lightly blended flavours of clover honey, green apple and gooseberry. Light-bodied, lighter than I remember, that pairs well with grilled white seafood dishes. Not enough body for full flavoured entrees. Was OK with grilled crab cakes and tangy dill sauce and then with bbq'd red snapper filets with greens. The finish is moderate with a firm citric tartness. This bottle (vintage?) was past cellaring.. so a drink-now. Imho, 90 is high and it's not a value.

D'ARENBERG 'THE STUMP JUMP' RIESLING, SAUVIGNON BLANC, MARSANNE 2005, McLaren Valley, Australia, 13.5% D, #922203 $13.95 (Tasted August 20, 2006)

A Vintages release on August 19, 2006 and described as "This fresh and lively blend always boasts a bouquet that 'jumps' out of the glass. Look for floral, citrus, gooseberry and mineral notes. The 2005 vintage is comprised of 63% Riesling, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Marsanne and 7% Roussanne thrown in for kicks. It's perfect for sipping on a hot summer day or enjoy with lighter dishes." Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars (of 5) saying ".... this is just a beautiful white blend at a great price. It's crisp and refreshing with gorgeous fruit (apricot pit-white peach zones) with minerality and spiciness to boot.... (RP)" My notes: A herbaceous spice does 'jump' out on the nose along with a faint lemon and wild clover - didn't get the gooseberry. Flavours of lemon grass and kiwi play with the palate leaving a tart drying finish with an oily lip feel. Was refreshing with toasted tomato sandwiches and spicy tomato and red pepper soup. Should be OK with anything not too hot nor too creamy .... oysters, mussels, sushi, Thai, Chinese, tapas, seared scallops and linguini. Cellaring for a year should be OK but not longer - a drink-now.

DANIEL LENKO OLD VINES CHARDONNAY 1999 (AMERICAN OAK), Beamsville, Ontario, 13.0% D, #Winery $19.95 (Retasted August 14, 2006)

My notes: Last tasted May, 2005.... with comments "....cellared May, 2001. Nose is a soft toast... pleasing cream texture with lemon/melon flavours. .... cellared too long etc." The nose is soft toasty melon with some brightness and the flavours are now a blend of rich butterscotch, peach and mango that politely caresses the palate. The finish is long and smoothe, full in the mouth. A sipper that empties the bottle too quickly as well as going perfectly with crab cakes with a mustard and dill sauce, steamed lobster, and greek salad. At peak now - this bottle, that was lost, is my last. Would be an excellent match with any seafood dish, turkey or chicken casseroles or creamy mushroomed soups.

MARGAN FAMILY SEMILLON 2003, New South Wales, Australia, 12.0% D, #961516 $15.95 (Tasted August 13, 2006)

A Vintages release on July 8, 2006 and described as "Pale yellow. Dusty, mineral-inflected aromas of peach pit, apricot skin and dogwood blossom. Medium-bodied, round and plump, with dusty, stony flavors of grapefruit pith, lemon zest and quinine. Finishes dry and stony, with an intriguing waxy, floral quality. A classic rendition of this unique, disappearing style. Score - 89 (Josh Raynolds, Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, July/Aug 2005)." Notes from the website say "2003 was a classic vintage... Green gold in colour with sweet perfumed fruit on the nose. The citrus and grassy characters combine to provide a wine of extraordinary character. The palate is mouth filling with ripe fruit characters up front, a full middle palate and a crisp clean acid finish. The fruit characters on the palate will further intensify and complex as the wine matures. The wine is drinking superbly now, however will reward mid-term cellaring... " David Lawrason gives it four stars saying "don’t miss... complex, powerful and well-balanced with fresh fig, lime and mineral flavours perfect for an outdoor evening of cold salads, or perhaps with a grilled tuna steak." My notes: Screwcapped, a light blond with crisp, unoaked aromas of grapefruit zest with a touch of clover honey. The texture has a crispness similar to soave but fuller flavours of grapefruit/lemon including some crushed seeds leaving a distinct oiliness to the long, full finish that slowly fades to a mineral note. Has the freshness of youth, but lacks the structure of the current 2001, and should be well worth the wait of a few years cellaring. A dry, crisp sipper now or with grilled scallops, crab cakes and dill sauce, battered white fish and chips, any flavourful seafood but not spicy.

MARGAN FAMILY HUNTER VALLEY SEMILLON 2001, New South Wales, Australia, 13.5% XD, #961516 $13.95 (Retasted August 12, 2006)

My notes: Vintages release the 2001 on July 10, 2005 which I last tasted in November, 2005 with the comment ...."Clean flavours of lemon and tangerine.... etc. " It now has a wonderfully strong aroma of lemon and tangerine zests without bite but fresh and unctious. The lemon and tangerine flavours persist with a full, silky texture and clean acid. The finish is long, somewhat tart with a mineral note to provide interest. The bottle was great with barbequed chicken legs and thighs and a crisp green salad. Cellaring well - 2002 was a bust but I'll try to find a 2003 (Vintages July 8, 2006 @$15.95) to compare. There was no writeup on the website for the 2001 or 2 vintages.

CONO SUR CHARDONNAY RESERVE 2005, Casablanca Valley, 13.5% XD, #590802 $13.95 (Tasted August 7, 2006)

A Vintages release on July 22, 2006 and described as "To craft Cono Sur's Reserve line, grapes are sourced from specific vineyards sites. In this case, they acquired the Chardonnay from three vineyards within the Casablanca Valley. The Valley is known for its impressively cool vineyard sites that allow the grapes to mature slowly and gracefully. Enjoy this rich yet structured wine with full-flavoured seafood dishes." Winecurrent gives it four stars saying "A very well-priced Chardonnay from one of Chile's cooler regions, not far from the Pacific Ocean. You get rich aromas and flavours that are a mélange of tropical fruit, good structure, and lovely weight and balance. Really, they've done it right, all the way through. Drink this now and over the next two-three years, and pair it with rich seafood or creamy chicken dishes. (RP)." The website says of the 2005 vintage "Proudly born in Casablanca, a valley that earned its first accolades through chardonnay, this exponent showcases the bright, crisp yellow green colour that is a variety classic. It's elegant and expressive nose combines refreshing citrus notes of lemon and lime with a more tropical side made of pineapple, mango and honey. In mouth there is also a smoothing creaminess. Fulfilling, balanced, tasty and persistent." My notes: Yellow and green tinges to a crisp clear white and aromas of lemon, lime and a suspicion of gooseberry. The flavours reflect the nose adding a nicely tart backbone but with a chalky thread. The finish is moderately short quickly fading to a limey pineapple note with a glycerin smoothness I find objectionable. An adequate sipper and would accompany cheddar cheese twists, salty pretzels, smooth herb dips, or with shellfish entrees, grilled shrimp skewers or baked spicy mussels. Personally I found the structure 'manufactured' rather than natural.

ALTA ALELLA 'PRIVAT' RESERVA CAVA BRUT NATURE, Penedes Spain, 12.0% XD, #002642 $15.45 (Tasted August 4, 2006)

A Vintages release on August 5, 2006 and described as "Our Quality Assurance laboratory has determined that this organic wine contains 6 mg/L of free sulphur. Although not vintage-dated, this Spanish bubbly indicates on the back label the date it was disgorged (22/03/2006). They aim to get the fizz on the market as soon as possible because their style of sparkling wine is best enjoyed young." My notes: A blend of Macabeu, Xarel·lo, Parellada, and Chardonnay results in standard light bubbly for summer enjoyment... lots of bubbles but no froth or mousseux-ness. Initial aromas of a light yeast and granny smith. Flavours are refreshing apple and pear but very faint with a 'sur lies' texture... the finish is moderate, soft with a dry tang for slow sipping but better with appetizers: cantelope or watermelon cubes, a light green salad with cold chicken slices, or scampi skewers with shrimp sauce. A dry, but not puckering, drink-now. There are more interesting 'bruts' at this price..... imho.

VIÑA LA ROSA ‘LA CAPITANA' CHARDONNAY 2004, Cachapoal Valley Chile, 13.5% D, #685834 $13.95 (Tasted August 4, 2006)

Release by Vintages on August 5, 2006 and described as "Since 1824, Viña La Rosa has been recognized as one of Chile's leading producers of high quality wine. La Capitana (The Woman Captain) is the name given to a remarkable palm tree on the La Palmería estate that stands 30 metres tall. Like its namesake, this wine is a stand out with its tropical fruit on the nose, generous palate of ripe fruit, and long and refreshing finish. Contemporary and stylish, it is a wine for a special summer occasion." The label says "This has magnificent tropical aromas and crisp flavours of minerals, vanilla and grapefruit.... well balanced and a long elegant finish... " Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) describing it as "And yet another reason to look to Chile for top shelf wine at bargain basement prices. Cachapoal Valley, with its warmer climate, is better known for full-bodied reds, pity! Sweet and spicy baked apple pie aromatics form the beguiling nose on this medium-bodied beauty. Huge tropical fruit flavours attack the palate while there is enough tang and structure to give it good balance. The finish is plump and lengthy. Pick up a case then enjoy with all manner of grilled chicken, veal and fish. (VH)" My notes: The tropical aromas come to me as a fragrant citrus and gooseberry combination with just a highlight of crushed stems - very appealing. It has a 'generous palate of ripe fruit' consisting of a full-bodied softness with a balanced tartness. The finish is long and fresh. A chardonnay for many occasions throughout the year: a seafood buffet, mild cheese dips and saltines, oysters on half shell, scallops, salmon or chicken in a creamy pasta, and on and on. Should cellar several years but drinking well now. A bargain for sure....imho.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

August Reds (10): Australia Shiraz(5), Australia Blend(3), Chile Carmenere, Australia Cab Sauv

MARGAN FAMILY HUNTER VALLEY SHIRAZ 2003, New South Wales, Australia, 14.5% D, #606731 $15.00 (Tasted August 23, 2006)

A Vintages release (unknown) with no description. The Margan website says "...picked at full ripeness from forty year old vines growing on the red basalt volcanic clay of our Timbervines Vineyard.... The drought vintage (2003) coupled with our use of 25% of the juice for our saignee has increased the concentration of this wine.... fermented under cool conditions using cultured aromatic yeast. After fermentation the wine was placed in older oak hogsheads for a period of eight months to allow it to soften and mature without gaining overt oak characters. The wine was bottled in January 2004. Purple in colour and of full bodied density this wine displays a subtle combination of spicy pepper and tar like characters which are typical of Hunter Shiraz. It is well structured and shows great palate length. The wine has soft tannins to allow for early enjoyment. However, it should continue to develop more complex flavours over the next three years with bottle age. The wine should cellar until at least 2020." My notes: A deep rich magenta colour with a soft nose of ripe blackberries - a prelude to a flavourful blend of berries, full and rather spicy with a pleasant tannin balance. The finish is long and bright filling the palate with fresh fruit. A great spicy sipper for those looking for a dry red - seems to get spicier in the glass or perhaps it's an alcohol bite. Would pair well with rich lamb stew, lamb shank, Swiss Chalet chicken and ribs. Cellarable for several years.

RED KNOT SHIRAZ 2004, McLaren Vale, Australia, 14.0% D, #619395 $17.95 (Tasted August 20, 2006)

A General listing and with a new closure Gord Stimmell referred to as 'Zork' (August 16th), a spiral tab leading to a soft rubber stopper used to reseal after opening. GS rated the wine an 89/100 describing it as "... spicy aromas of black cherry, black pepper and a hint of mace, with soft mellow black cherry and cedary blueberry flavours. A very lush and plush red." The website says "A rich magenta colour. Fragrant ripe strawberries and blueberry aromas enhanced by subtle spice notes and vanilla. An explosive strawberry mid-palate is framed with silky fine-grained American oak.... 96% Shiraz, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. " My notes: One of six Knots: two Whites, three Reds and a Pink but the only one currently at the LCBO. A neat cork.... a deep, black cherry colour with a black pepper and black cherry nose. Full-bodied, smooth with flavours that match the nose but with some soft tars. The finish is long, smooth, smoky with a ripe blueberry edge and fine tannins. A somewhat sombre spicy sipper.... let air thirty minutes at least. Better paired with grilled pork or beef tenderloin, grilled pork or beef back ribs, prime rib, New York cut or whatever. Cellar two years minimum rather than drinking now.

YELLOWGLEN 'PINK' NV, Australia, 11.0% D, #683813 $13.95 (Tasted August 19, 2006)

A Vintages release August 19, 2006 and described as ".... A traditional blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, 'Pink' gets its soft rosy colour from the skins of the Pinot Noir grapes. Look for aromas of strawberries and citrus fruit in this delightful and refreshing bubbly...." My notes: A light pink colour with yeast aromas - a slight strawberry nose may have been there after a few sips - small bubbles quickly disappear without a ring or mousseux. Sweet strawberry and tart melon fruit flavours lightly blend as a seam of cream builds on the palate. The finish is long, smooth with a tartness that subsides leaving remnants of sweetness. A drink-now sipper.... would likely be lost with anything but the mildest foods: asian dishes, or a quencher with pineapple spears, cantelope and melon balls, morning maple syrup pancakes or French toast. Something about it left me wondering if the YellowGlen 'craft' has been converted to a Beringer Blass and Fosters 'process' ?

MARGAN FAMILY HUNTER VALLEY SHIRAZ SAIGNÉE ROSÉ 2006, New South Wales, Australia, 14.0% D, #675447 $15.95 (Tasted August 16, 2006)

A Vintages release on July 22, 2006 and described as "A stylish rosé with character to spare. Its fresh, lively palate of berries will charm. A wine made purely for enjoyment. Drink it young and serve chilled with salads or pasta." The Margan website says "Light red in colour with a full soft nose. The characters of the wine are a combination of spicy pepper from the region and lifted strawberry aromatics from the primary fruit characters. The palate is soft and full with crisp clean acid. It is a dry style of rosé which is not a reflection of the presence of red grape tannins, rather the lack of residual sugar. The wine has been made to drink as a young wine and should be consumed nicely chilled. An ideal accompaniment to salads, pasta or barbeques." My notes: A rich deep strawberry colour with a nose to match but the flavours smack of cherries and a cantelope note. There's a well balanced tartness, dryness and smoothness. The finish is somewhat short but builds with more sips and just the right level of tartness. There's some cherry pit to take away any impression of being a 'fruit wine'. A pleasing sipper and should be great with turkey with cranberries, chicken wraps - pork souvlaki and rice may be stretching it. A drink-now but cellaring for a year wouldn't be out of the way. This blows away 'Tavel rosés' that make it to Ontario (at the price).

HOPE ESTATE ‘THE RIPPER’ SHIRAZ 2003, Geographe,Western Australia, 14.0% XD, #686865 $ 17.95 (Tasted August 11, 2006)

Wine of the Month released August 19, 2006 and described as "... 'ripper' is Oz speak for fantastic wine .... Michael Hope’s estate in Western Australia is known for producing balanced and sophisticated wines. Fragrant on the nose, with cool cherry and menthol undertones. On the palate, it’s powerful but restrained, with fresh herb hints and crisp, red raspberry and cherry fruit and the barest hint of cranberry at the core. Wood is very well integrated; texture is suede-smooth. Score – 90. (Wine Enthusiast, Feb. 1, 2006). The label says "A rich deep plum in colour with inky consistency, ... a cooler climate shiraz with intense plum and both white and black pepper aromas. The palate imparts a rich mocha black currant intensity with a long balanced spicy finish." My notes: Information from the website describes the 'Ripper' shiraz as made from grapes that are grown on a vineyard at Donnybrook in Western Australia where they are collected and crushed. The juice is chilled, transported three days to the Hope Estate winery in the Hunter Valley where it is fermented (30% American oak), aged (50% French and 50% American oak) then bottled. A tile tinged ruby with light aromas of spicy red cherries. The flavours are full of tannic dryness, peppery spice, red cherries and red currants with a crisp finish that lasts well into the next sip. Tannins build on the palate. If you really like dry it's a sipper - a caution: it loses its freshness in the glass. Better with roast prime rib, rib eye, or any grilling steak, and hamburgers, chili or meaty pizzas. For me, I would have preferred more black fruit... cellaring for two to five years is recommended.

NEPENTHE 'THE ROGUE' CABERNET/MERLOT/SHIRAZ 2003, Adelaide, Australia, 14.0% XD, #998542 $17.95 (Retasted August 8, 2006)

My notes: A Vintages release on December 10, 2005 and last tasted then with the comment ".... the fruit flavours are evenly matched and well integrated with tannins and acid. It's full and smoothe with a long finish and a touch of oil on the lips. A wonderful dry sipper or have with anything red: meats, game, red pastas or pepperoni pizza though not highly spiced.....". The flavours are still full, soft, minty blackberry following the aromas. Still a touch of tannin and some nicely balanced acids nip the palate on the swallow.... great stuff. There's some still available in Ontario but, unfortunately no outlet near me.

HEATHFIELD RIDGE WONAMBI SHIRAZ 2003, Norwood Australia, 14.5% D, #599100 $11.60 (Tasted August 7, 2006)

A General listing described as "Medium ruby colour; earthy, plum mint and blackberry aromas; good fruit flavours with soft tannin and a hint of mint on the finish. Have with BBQ ribs , rabbit stew." David Lawrason (July 31st) rates this 4 stars saying " ... I lined up a dozen inexpensive Australian shiraz ... [This is] the best value by far... loaded with maturing, complex currant, cedar, menthol and leathery character, and surprising length of finish at under $12.00." My notes: The Tidswells became the sole proprietors of Heathfield Ridge wines in 2005 and have renamed the business, Tidswell Wines. Neither website shows the 2003 vintage shiraz. Plums and minty black cherry on the nose and a beautiful deep ruby colour. Full-flavoured blackberry, cherry, a twist of cranberry, smooth with lots of fine tannins. Not a social sipper but red sippers may like the sharp jab of tartness. It survived well with cheese ravioli with hot Italian sausage, tomato sauce, and crushed chilis. The long finish is a blend of strong black cherry, including crushed pits, and dark plum with a touch of iodine. Cellaring for two to four years should improve this red and make it a real bargain.

TALTARNI ‘THREE MONKS' CABERNET/MERLOT 2003, Victoria Australia, 14.0% XD, #684183 $19.95 (Tasted August 6, 2006)

Released by Vintages on August 5, 2006 and described as "The breath of fresh air at Taltarni, and its willingness to look beyond its large estate vineyards to other premium regions of Victoria, has paid off. Strong red-purple, the wine abounds with ripe, but not jammy, blackcurrant, cassis and mulberry fruit, the medium-bodied palate rounded off by soft tannins and positive oak. Drink now-2013. 94/100 (James Halliday,, Nov. 19, 2005)." The label says "... an outstanding vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot showing classic characters and ripe powerful flavours." My notes: A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot gives some mint among the berry and spicy black cherry aromas and is a tuscan edged deep ruby colour. A sharp introduction to dried cherry flavours and a finish that is full-bodied but fairly soft and full of chalky tannin. Is a comfortable dry sipper and was great with grilled pork tenderloin and baked potato. Should also be great with lightly seasoned red meats, ribs or rack of lamb, leg of ham, bbq'd chicken, etc. Seems overpriced unless cellaring for several years turns out well.

CONCHA y TORO CASILLERO DEL DIABLO CARMENERE 2005, Central Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #620666 $11.85 (Tasted August 3, 2006)

The label says "70% is aged in American oak barrels and 30% in stainless steel tanks ... up to 8 months. Dark and deep red with aromas of dark plums, blackcurrant, and chocolate with with hints of coffee and toasted American oak. Soft and well structured mouthfilling texture." Winecurrent gives it four and one-half stars (of 5) saying "Someone at the LCBO had a devilishly keen sense of irony in assigning this (666) number. Cigar box and spiced black cherry on the nose, it really revs up with rich, concentrated currant and bramble berry flavours, forming a spicy gusher on the palate. Beautifully textured and sporting a lengthy finish, it is one the best fruit forward red wine bargains on the General List. .... (VH)." My notes: Very light aromas of plums and tobacco, and a deep ruby colour. Flavours are of plum, berry and vanilla with some nice acid and light tannin to balance. The finish develops with berries and tar sitting smoothly on the palate. Should complement both mild and flavourful cheeses, sausage pieces or beef kebobs - and, if you like dry reds, it's a sipper. A red for spicy pizzas, hamburgers, ribs, etc. I don't think cellaring will develop this wine further - more of an economical drink-now.

BEELGARA ESTATE ‘THE GUN SHEARER' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, Coonawarra, Australia, 14.0% XD, #684167 $17.95 (Tasted August 3, 2006)

A Vintages release on August 5, 2006 and described as "Beelgara Estate honors legends of the Australian bush with this wine range. 'The Gun Shearer' is the best of the best. This superior wine is sourced from the finest Coonawarra fruit, this Cab's long, rich, mouth-filling fruitiness is balanced by its soft oak. A great complement to game dishes." Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "This is a well-priced Coonawarra Cab that delivers rich, dense, dark fruit and berry flavours. It's soft textured and well structured and has ripe, drying tannins. Pair it with richly-flavoured red meat dishes. (RP)." My notes: The website has no tasting notes for their 2003 vintage cab sauvignon. The aroma is rich, smooth black plum with a figgy note and matches the deep colour in the glass and the flavours that follow. Has a very soft, full- bodied introduction to the palate with a distinct sharpness giving it a balanced texture. Finishes long with some licorice, soft tannins and smooth blue- and blackberries. An appealing sipper but promises more as an accompaniment to savoury grilled meats: bbq'd back ribs, braised lamb shank, rich cube steak stews, prime rib. I had expected it to be jammy - 2003 was a hot year - but it's not. Cellarable for many years although drinking well now - try every two years.