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.

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