Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More September Whites (3): Australia Chard, NZ Sauv Blanc, Canada Chard

ELDERTON ‘UNWOODED' CHARDONNAY 2006, Barossa, Australia, 13.5% D, #906453 $14.95 (Tasted September 29, 2006)

Vintages released this September 30, 2006 described as "A fantastic value, this stainless-steel-fermented and -aged Chardonnay is the Australian answer to Chablis. Extremely fresh and fruit-driven, expect generous aromas and flavours of citrus and tropical fruits. It is dry, medium-bodied with a crisp lingering finish. Enjoy with pan-seared scallops or lighter pasta dishes." Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars (of 5) saying "This is a ripper! The lifted nose of tropical fruit sets up this medium-textured white that over-delivers on the palate and price to quality ratio. You will be treated to a huge fruit attack of ripe peach, pineapple and nectarine. More of the same as the lively finish also delivers zesty citrus to keep it clean and refreshing. Rare to experience this much heft and texture without oak. Good balance, good structure and a good idea to stock up. (VH)" My notes: Citrus and kiwi fruit aromas waft from the swirling glass - doesn't take much for a rich nose to appear. A light blond with a very slight rose hue, flavours of honey, a faint ripe pineapple, a sharpness on the swallow then a smooth finish with a slight tangerine zest and a straw note. A different chardonnay that makes a fresh sipper. Have with any light seafood: scallops on a skewer, shrimp on the BarB, even cold chicken on greens. Went well with aged cheddar and oat crisps. Cellaring should work - I'd try two years. A bargain if you're looking for an unoaked chardonnay.

COTTESBROOK SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005, Marlborough, NZ, 12.5% XD, #657221 $16.95 (Tasted September 28, 2006)

Vintages released this August 20, 2006 saying "Established in 2002, Cottesbrook unites two family-owned estates, St Helena Wine Estate and Rossendale Wines, to produce Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region. The house style is a wine with aromas of gooseberry, redcurrant bushes and nettles. Expect a ripe, crisp, varietally correct wine that would match grilled asparagus or mushrooms stuffed with goat cheese. Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "And now for something completely different. Here is a Kiwi SB that has a touch of restraint and finesse. All the elements are there in spades, herbaceousness, gooseberry, passion fruit and citrus, but they are subdued in a charming and inviting manner. If you like aspects of typical Sauvignon Blanc, but find them overpowering (as many do) then I highly recommend this to you...etc. (VH)" Natalie MacLean gives it 89/100 describing it as "herbal, refreshing and zesty. Classic." My notes: Cottesbrook also produces the Governor's Bay label for the Canadian market. After airing and warming in the glass the gooseberry in the nose is light and merges with a slight mineral tone and citrus edge - the redcurrant bushes must be twenty feet away on a windless day. Flavours are very subdued: some gooseberry, some lime, some honey smoothness although all very light. The finish sparkles with bright acid and remnants of gooseberry. An interesting sipper if you like delicate. Was OK with tuna chow mein casserole and salad - but it's difficult to fit on a menu. Not enough substance to cellar more than a year - a drink now.

NK'MIP CELLARS CHARDONNAY 2004, Okanagan, Canada, 13.6% D, #687699 $17.95 (Tasted September 26, 2006)

A Vintages release on September 16, 2006 and described as "A Bronze-Medal winner at the 2006 New World International Wine Competition (California). Expect aromas of melon, honey, minerals and citrus fruit leading to a ripe round creamy palate with medium acidity keeping it in balance. Enjoy now with roasted pork or grilled salmon." My notes: I guess you can 'expect aromas of' but actually the nose is a light citrus. A light golden colour and airing as long as forty minutes helps slightly with flavours. A sharp citrus palate somewhat creamy but not 'buttery' with a sour melon/lemon finish. Not a pleasant sipper having some characteristics of overripe grapes - or perhaps being stored at a hot temperature. Should be OK when paired with grilled salmon or tuna, saucy seafood pasta, shrimp or scallop or mushroom risotto. If you got some try cellaring for two years.... or use for a white sangria.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

More September Reds(9): Australia Blend, Canada Pinot Noir, NZ Pinot Noir, Chile Shiraz, Chile Cab Sauv, S Africa Merlot, France Blend, Italy Blend(2)

WATER WHEEL ‘MEMSIE' SHIRAZ/ CABERNET SAUVIGNON/ MALBEC 2004, Victoria, Australia, 14.8% XD, #656637 $15.95 (Tasted September 29, 2006)

A Vintages release on September 30, 2006 described as "Smooth and generous, a lively style with juicy plum and blackberry aromas and flavors, lingering on the refined finish. ... Drink now through 2010. Score - 90. (Harvey Steiman, Dec. 15, 2005) " Winecurrent gives it five stars (of 5) saying "This red blend is an Aussie fruit bomb with structure and balance. The aromas include the usual suspects of black cherry and spiced plum then it steps into overdrive with ladles of ripe, sweet (14.8% alcohol), juicy, bramble berry fruit and cassis. This richly concentrated behemoth is held in balance with enough zesty tang and generous tannin structure to avoid jammy. Its finish is monumental adding cloves, tar and licorice tones. The price to quality balance weighs heavily in your favour. Pick up a cartful. (VH)" The Wine Advocate (10/31/2005) gives it 90/100 saying "...a blend of 71% Shiraz, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Malbec aged in a combination of new and used American oak. Its dense ruby/purple color is followed by pure, ripe, black raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry aromas interwoven with hints of wood as well as licorice. Medium to full-bodied, with great fruit and soft tannin, it can be enjoyed over the next 2-3 years." My notes: Let air for thirty minutes or decant. A deep ruby colour with aromas of smoky plum and a berry spice. Full-bodied with flavours of a black licorice, black cherry and blackberry blend leaving a smooth finish of plums, tar, a firm tartness and substantial fine tannins. It warms you as you sip - a hearty red for serious sippers. Have with a rare steak, spicy back ribs, a lean beefburger, bear, moose or deer meat - anything rich and full flavoured. Cellaring for four years would give a cleaner structure.

HENRY OF PELHAM PINOT NOIR 2004, Niagara, Canada, 13.0% XD, #013904 $16.95 (Tasted September 28, 2006)

A General listing and described as "Medium ruby red colour; aromas of raspberry, cherry and spice with light tobacco notes; dry, medium bodied, quite fruity with oak tones on finish. Serve slightly chilled with grilled tuna or salmon, roasted chicken, turkey or pork." The website says "Made from several vineyard sites: our own estate, another neighbouring site and a vineyard located on the shore of Lake Ontario. Fermented in stainless and aged in European oak (15% new). Will age three to six years from vintage." Gord Stimmell gives it 89/100 saying "Finding an elegant sub-$20 pinot noir can be frustrating, but this consistently solid Ontario producer fills the bill. The nose shows smoky beetroot, tar, strawberry and cedar, and the flavours have delicate beet, wild strawberry and cedar character — mellow and verging on silky in texture." My notes: The LCBO website (as of writing) lists the HofP Pinot Noir (nonReserve*) as a case of 12x62mL - it was shelved correctly. A medium ruby colour with faint aromas of spice and tobacco evenly balancing a light berry fruit. Flavours as well are balanced finely producing a light- to medium-bodied hint of raspberry and tobacco with a nondescript juice, perhaps the beetroot. The finish 'verges on silky' with a soft tannin and a spice note. A clean pinot but an uninteresting sipper, more of a food wine - with mushroom risotto, cold or open face chicken sandwiches - a hard wine to pair with meals.... I'd skip this vintage.

GOVERNORS BAY* PINOT NOIR 2003, South Island, New Zealand, 12.5%, #656405 $18.95 (Retasted September 24, 2006)

Vintages release August 20, 2005. My notes: Last tasted August, 2005 with the comment "Pours as a beautiful clear, light ruby with an aroma of Foch and cranberry - airing for awhile helps considerably. Light-bodied.... " Now a light strawberry and cherry nose with spice - no Foch. The colour is light strawberry as well, light-bodied with flavours of smooth strawberry and cherry with a soft nip. As a sipper, the finish is delicate, warm with a slight spice. Went well with pork tenderloin and parsnips and should be great with turkey, shrimp or lamb kebobs. Cellaring mellowed this pinot and it may be too light for some but could be an interesting substitute or a companion at the table for a pinot gris or chardonnay. Cellaring won't improve at this point but can be held another year in the cellar otherwise a drink-now. *Governors Bay is a label developed by Cottesbrook Wine Company Limited (principle wineries are St. Helena Wine Estate and Rossendale Wines of NZ) specifically for the Canadian market.

CASTILLO DE MOLINA SHIRAZ 'VALLE DE LONTUE' RESERVA 2004, Chile, 14.0% D, #237800 $13.05 (Tasted September 23, 2006)

A General listing described as "Dark red violet colour; intense smoky aromas, with cassis, blackberry, vanilla and oak; dry, full bodied, rich and mouthfilling with bold berry fruit flavours on the long finish. Serve with steaks, prime rib or lamb." Gord Stimmell gives it 90/100 saying "Top pick (of Chilean syrahs) .... is smoky mocha, violets and black cherry power." My notes: Let air a minimum forty minutes for a spicy nose with a warm cedar sm'oak'iness that overrides most fruit aromas. A rich ruby red, medium- to full-bodied, flavours of blackberries and cherries masked by a layer of smoke, tobacco box and tannin resulting in a spicy expression on the palate - nice body but too much process or not enough fruit. Not a sipper.... have with meaty appetizers or strong cheeses. Pair with grilled red meats or stews. Perhaps cellaring will produce some amenable integration but it's hard to see this going anywhere. The body is great but, for flavour and appeal, I'd give it an 82/100.

CASTILLO DE MOLINA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 'VALLE DE LONTUE' RESERVA 2004, Chile, 14.0% D, #339176 $13.00 (Tasted September 23, 2006)

A General listing described as "Full ruby red colour; aromas and flavours of cedar, blackberry, raspberry and cherry fruit with a hint of tobacco leaf, vanilla and dark chocolate; dry, full bodied, lush and well-balanced with ripe berry fruit centre, spice and a long, firm finish. Serve with grilled red meats; medium cheeses; burgers. Gord Stimmell gives this 89/100 saying "In the fab category... with rich blackberry and cedar depth..." My notes: A mid ruby colour and an oaky berry with a soft pepper nose. The first sip has a reasonable sharpness with blended soft plum and red cherry flavours with more tobacco leaf than fruit. The finish carries with it a somewhat chalky tannin, a pronounced pepper and distant soft plum. A wine that begs a full flavoured cheese, cheese draped spicy tomato bruschetta or rich Italian pastas, spicy ribs, Texas chili with crushed chilies. Everything there is okay but either there's insufficient fruit or too much process which cellaring may softened.... two years at least. Personally I'd skip.

DORNIER MERLOT 2003, Stellenbosch, S.Africa, 14.0% XD, #694224 $18.95 (Retasted September 21, 2006)

A Vintages release on July 8, 2006 and tasted same day. Winecurrent.com rated it four and one-half stars (of 5). The label says "Drink up to ten years." The website describes their process as "Our red wines are fermented in vineyard specific batches for between 14 and 21 days being punched down or pumped over twice a day, the wines then spent a further 18 months in first fill French Oak barrels before being carefully selected and blended." My notes: In July I commented "There's no... need to decant this unctious merlot etc. " It's still unctious with slightly less tannin although still lots to cellar, and flavours of blended blackcurrant and blackberries. A bright merlot - a wonderful balance of fresh fruit and barrel fermentation .... and (as of writing) there's still some at Ontario outlets .... gotta get some more (I did!).

MAS DES BRESSADES ‘CUVÉE EXCELLENCE' 2004, Nimes, France, 14.5% XD, #708750 $17.95 (Tasted September 19, 2006)

A Vintages release September 16, 2006 and described as “This is one of my favorite value-priced producers. (Robert Parker Jr., June 2004). A consistently delicious, fruit-forward balanced wonder from one of the southern Rhône's best still-to-be-properly-discovered regions and producers. Enjoy with a variety of grilled meats or rich meat pasta dishes. Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars (of 5) saying "Rod and I both loved the Syrah characteristics in this perennially popular and classically made wine. Plum and prune compote aromas drift off the nose while the distinctive flavours are dense, rich and port-like. Spicy plum, peppery mint and rich sweet black berry flavours abound in this medium to full-bodied red. The finish is feisty, fleshy and fruit forward. Drink now to 2010 after buying a cartful. (VH)" Natalie calls it the Best Value Red Wine and gives it 89/100 saying "Full and rich, with dark fruit aromas. Great price. Drink with big meat dishes. The website describes this as "Pleasant to drink right now or can be kept 5 - 10 years." My notes: A pretty ruby red with aromas of blackberries and cherries - air to develop nose. Medium-bodied, full of berries, tannins balanced by fruit acids and a finish of dry, light tannins and berries. A reasonable dry sipper pleasant enough but really an 'old world' meal wine. Was OK with grilled medium rare New York strip steak and green salad. Should be better paired with rack of lamb, prime rib with a smooth gravy over potatoes. Cellar beyond a few years to evolve a smooth sipper. The price is right for a drink-now.

MEZZACORONA TEROLDEGO ROTALIANO RISERVA 2001, Sicily, Italy, 13.0% XD, #732222 $14.95 (Tasted September 18, 2006)

A Vintages release September 16, 2006 and described as "An ageworthy addition to any wine cellar, this wine is supple and fruity with an excellent tannin core. Medium full-bodied with a long finish, it can be enjoyed now with hard cheeses or rare roast beef, or age 3-5 years. (VINTAGES panel, Feb. 2006)." Winecurrent gives it 4 and one half stars (of 5) saying "A step up from Mezzacorona's General List Feudo Syrah.... (Feudo Arancio Syrah 2002, #621730 $11.95 (Tasted November 4, 2005)) Rod and I loved the fruit forward attack then marvelled at its structure and balance. Gobs of black currant and cherry flavours run the entire length of the medium to full-bodied tasting experience. These are underpinned and counterbalanced with firm ripe tannins and a streak of zest right through to the lengthy finish. Enjoy with grilled meats now to 2012. Canny oenophiles will stock up. (VH)" My notes: A deep ruby with a magenta tinge and aromas of ripe plums and oak although barely perceptible. Full-bodied, well developed tannins, acid, and tars mingle with the ripe plums and possibly black currants - letting it air for twenty minutes helps the fruit. The finish has a rich velvet touch with faint plum tones. A mild full-bodied sipper. Have with red pasta dishes, beef or lamb stews with rich portabella sauces, and gorgonzola cheese. At peak - cellaring for a short time would be OK, not to improve but to take advantage of the price.

LUIGI RIGHETTI VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE RIPASSO 2003, Marano, Italy, 13.5% D, #575787 $17.95 (Tasted September 17, 2006)

A Vintages release on September 16, 2006 and described as "A supple, round, charming wine ideal for pot roasts or venison. You will find aromas of cherry, sweet spice, raspberry jam and leather in this dry, long finishing wine. (VINTAGES panel, Feb. 2006)." My notes: The Ripasso Valpolicella isn't listed on the winery's website. Hardly any nose to describe unless it's a light black cherry. Deep ruby colour with smoothness from the first sip to the last. Medium-bodied with flavours of faint plums and figs, dry tannins with some spice on the finish. A light pepper accumulates on the palate as well as a silky leather note. A drink-now and a pleasant dry red sipper although soft not aggressive. Have with red meat pastas and pizzas, sweet or hot, grilled pork ribs, lamb chops, prime rib, T-bones or New York cuts.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

September Reds (11): NZ Blend, Italy Barbera, Chile Blend, Chile Merlot(2), Australia Blend, Chile Cab Sauv(2), Canada Blend, France Blend, USA Syrah

STRATUM MERLOT/PINOT NOIR/ PINOTAGE 2003 (SHERWOOD ESTATES), Waipara, NZ, 13.0% XD, #685826 $15.95 (Tasted September 16, 2006)

A Vintages release September 16, 2006 and described as "An innovative blend..., the 2003 Trifecta [the U.S. label name] bears the “New Zealand” appellation as its fruit originates from both the North and South Islands. A good value, .... a nose reminiscent of dark berries immersed in milk chocolate. Medium-bodied, fresh, and flavorful, this is a lush, satin-textured wine with a short yet smile-inducing flavor profile composed of red and black cherries. Drink it over the next 2-3 years. 87/100 (Pierre Rovani, Oct. 2004)." Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "This is an interesting blend with the 60% Merlot sourced from Gisborne, .20% Pinot from Canterbury and 20% Pinotage from Marlborough...... Expect spicy black plum and ripe berry fruit in this medium-bodied tangy offering. It's not overpowering, but delivers a rounded, yet clean and refreshing red at a very reasonable price. Pour with grilled ribs smothered in a spicy sauce. (VH)" My notes: The Company’s mainstream wines are labelled 'Sherwood Estates' and this third label, 'Stratum', is sold at a lower price point. A light ruby with a rosy edge. The nose is an aromatic combination of strawberries, cherries and a pepper note. Light- to medium-bodied, strawberry and cherry fruit is carried on fine tannins with a touch of white pepper. The finish is long and fruity with a turn toward delicate spice. Should be great with mild cheeses, white or dark fowl cooked any way: straight or seasoned, casseroled or not, hot or cold... also with meat flavoured rizotto, ham steak, veal or pork loin chops, plank salmon. A drink-now 'pinot noir' impersonation, likely at peak, and an OK value.

FONTANAFREDDA BARBERA 2004, Piedmont, Italy, 12.5% D, #038174 $11.95 (Tasted September 14, 2006)

A General listing described as 'Deep, inky ruby colour; cherry fruit and leather notes on the nose; medium bodied with round fruit flavour, soft tannin and a warm, cherry finish." Gord Stimmell gives it 88/100 saying "Barbera, due to its natural acidity, is one of the greatest red grapes for matching with tomatoes. Aromas of smoked meat, blackberry and vanilla lead into flavours of black cherry, red currants and black plums, dished up in a mellow, rounded style. A nice acidity lingers on the finish." The Ontario distributor (Noble Estates) says "Deep ruby-red when young, tending to garnet on aging, it has an intense, characteristically flowery and fruity bouquet, with a full persistent taste which is nicely dry and velvety." My notes: A light ruby colour see-through at the rim. Aromas of cherries with an oak influenced pepper and cedar. Light-bodied, almost smooth until a sharp dryness, red cherry and light leather flavour takes over. A dry finish with a light red currant edge along with their tartness. An uninteresting sipper without appetizers or a tomato based entree - watch out for the sludge. Would be a quencher with cheesy pizzas with or without meat. Was OK with cheese ravioli and tomato sauce. An 88? I'd say an 85. A convenient drink-now but overpriced - can be compared with Citra (Citra Trebbiano D'Abruzzo @ $7.10).

CONCHA y TORO MARQUES DE CASA CONCHA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #337238 $18.95 (Tasted September 13, 2006)

A Vintages release on April 15, 2006 described as "New World Nobility. The 'Marques de Casa Concha' rides again with aromas of cassis, blueberry, vanilla, smoke and cedar. The ripe black fruits lead on the palate with a hint of pepper and a medium finish." The label says "grapes from our prime Puente Alto vineyards... barrel-aged in French oak for fourteen months. ... intense black cherry aroma and fig flavour evoking the Puente Alto terroir.... " My notes: When the 2003 ($17.95) was tasted in December 2005 it was 'a SUPER drinker'. The 2004 is a deep ruby colour and, after airing in the glass, has a faint nose of minty crushed blueberries with a touch of white pepper. On the palate there's full flavoured black cherries mixed with blueberries and figs, including a bit of tartness and fine tannins. The finish is long, earthy with remnants of ripe figs leaving a smoothness on the tongue and lips. A soft cab sipper with some tannin showing up after a few sips along with a lightish acid. Pairable with red meats, turkey, tomato and red pepper pastas, mushroom risotto, chunky beef stews. Likely could cellar a year but predominantly a drink-now. Not a real value imho.

VINA CARMEN CARMENERE CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVE 'VALLE DEL MAIPO' 2004, Chile, 13.5% D, #439166 $16.95 (Tasted September 10, 2006)

A General listing described as "Deep purple ruby colour with violet hue; intense nose of cassis, licorice, violets, smoky oak, green pepper and herbs with toasty notes; dry, full-bodied flavours as in nose, medium tannins and good length. Serve with leg of lamb, roast or grilled beef, burgers, or a firm, hearty cheese." The label says "After ageing 10 months in French and American oak barriques .... remained an additional six months in bottle before release. .... Medium-bodied with good balance, soft tannins and a beautiful finish. (Unfiltered)" The website says "Dark ruby red in colour. A rich and refined wine, with plenty of ripe fruits character and spices. Intense wild black cherry fruit aroma, followed by notes of laurel, clove, mint, pepper, dark chocolate and black olives. Well structured and concentrated with a lovely balance of jammy and dark ripe fruit along peppery flavours and sweet oak. Fine grained, smooth and velvety tannins. A complex wine with a long finish." My notes: This vintage names Carmenere as the grape blend directly rather than 'Grande Vidure' (tasted March 2006) as in the 2003. An intense purple-ruby colour with a nose of mint changing to pepper combined with black cherries and berries. Let air for thirty minutes to avoid a sharpness in the first swallow that masks flavours of blackberries, dark chocolate and a touch of tar which gradually introduce themselves to the palate. This is drinking full-bodied, dry with soft tarry notes that tend to mask the fruit flavour and finish but airing longer helps. Better paired with rich beef stews, grilled beef ribs, steaks of every description, slowcooked lamb shank and Texas chili. Could be rich and luscious with two years in the cellar.

VINA CARMEN RESERVE MERLOT 'VALLE DEL CASABLANCA' 2004, Chile, 14.0% XD, #620690 $16.95 (Tasted September 9, 2006)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby red colour; aromas of cherry, oak with earthy notes; dry, medium bodied, with ripe fruit flavours and notes of almond, coffee and plum. Serve with steak with fried mushrooms or lamb." The label says "....generous aromas of berries and prunes, spicy nuances and a beautiful Merlot character. ... Medium- to full-bodied.... intense richness and a long finish. (Unfiltered)" The website says "Full aromas of mint, spicy, cassis, black cherry, leafy chocolate flavours with saddle leather tobacco note. Bursting with ripe dark plums, blackberries, dried herbs and spices." My notes: A deep ruby red colour for sure, and I got the aroma of black cherries and mint with an earthy note - the 'oak' is a well managed component of the nose and more noticeable in the flavours and the finish. Medium-bodied, well balanced tannins and acids under smooth layers of ripe cherry, cassis, and milk chocolate flavours. A mint-iness or mild spice comes in the finish along with a drying black cherry. A pleasant merlot sipper - as with the 2003 (tasted March 2006) either fuller fruit or a touch of carmenere would make this stupendous. A drink-now and not for cellaring. Have with prime rib, pork back ribs, ham steaks or a cheesy French onion soup. It mellowed the red peppers on my Chicken Pico Sub with chipolte sauce.
VINA CARMEN MERLOT 'VALLE CENTRAL' 2005, Chile, 13.5% D, #248625 $10.90 (Tasted September 8, 2006)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby red colour; aromas of black cherry and raspberry with hints of spice; dry, medium bodied, with a rich fruity black cherry flavours; good finish. Serve with grilled meats; roasted chicken." The label says "...intense aromas of red fruits and spicy nuances. Oak ageing has softened the tannins... Light- to medium-bodied with concentrated varietal fruit flavours and a wonderful, soft, lingering finish." The website says "Bright blackberry colour, with intense aromas of caramel, cherries and ripe strawberries with a slight touch of spice and coffee notes. Soft tannins and lingering fruity finish." My notes: A slight oakiness in the nose dissipates within seconds revealing a light caramel and cherry medley. A strong ruby colour, medium-bodied with flavours of black cherries and more distant, raspberries, very soft tannins and a touch of acid. The finish is silky leaving some oiliness fading into ripe black cherry with a pepper edge. Perhaps not aggressive enough for cab sauv sippers but a very sociable sipper for most. Have with portabello burgers with the works, prime rib and Yorkshire pudding, roast turkey. Likely a risk cellaring for more than a year but a value in the short term.

JEANNERET GRENACHE/SHIRAZ 2004, Clare Valley, Australia, 15.0% XD, B&W Wines $22.46 (Tasted September 7, 2006)

Winecurrent gives it five stars (of 5) describing it as "Rich, concentrated and hedonistic, this is a near-religious wine experience! It was fashioned from single vineyard, unirrigated, gnarled, old Grenache bush vines and dry-grown Shiraz. A fabulously stunning drop offering verve, grip and mouth-watering flavours. The aromatics are rich black berry fruit, tar and licorice. Flavours include black currant, spice and black plum. It is medium-bodied, deftly balanced and finishes with oodles of fruit, tang, ripe tannin and warmth (15% alcohol). Drink now to 2010. (VH)" The Jeanneret website says "This is certainly the more traditional application for grenache, blended with shiraz to produce a medium-bodied red table wine. This style is loosely borrowed from the wines of the Rhone in France but marries well with some classically Australian dishes like kangaroo fillet." My notes: Vintages hasn't stocked Jeanneret since the 2002 Shiraz (#732891 released October, 2004 - tasted May 2005). The 2004 Grenache/Shiraz blend is a ruby colour with the tinge of rose. Aromas of slight pepper, tar and blackberry. Medium-bodied , a very smooth and full mouthfeel, an unctious, crisp bite (15%) with lots of blackberry and notes of plum and licorice - more of a flavourful European red. The finish is a long tasty berry, like a bumbleberry pie, with fine tannins. Great with grilled T-bone and seared scallop pieces.... or as a dry red sipper. Not as much fresh fruit as the 2002 Shiraz. Cellaring for two years is recommended although it's drinking well now.

VINA CARMEN CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVE ' VALLE DEL MAIPO' 2004, Chile, 13.5% D, #358309 $16.95 (Tasted September 5, 2006)

A General listing described as "Deep red/violet colour; aromas of plum, blackcherry fruit, leather, vanilla with hints of cedar, smoke & coffee; dry, med-full body, well balanced, with moderate tannins, ripe blackcurrant/blackberry & mint flavours; long sweet berry fruit finish. Serve with lamb, roast duck and other rich poultry dishes." The label says "Our finest cabernet sauvignon grapes produce this crisp, full-bodied wine, with an intense bouquet of red fruit, blackberries, cassis and a fume character. .... a powerful, full-flavoured wine.(Unfiltered)" The website says "Richly concentrated and complex . A wine that combines impressive wild black cherries, black currant and cassis with some hints of mint, cedar, clove, tobacco and spices. Ripe and generous in the palate, sweet fruity flavours, fleshy and powerful, followed by dark bitter chocolate, cigar box and fine structured tannins." My notes: Let air in the glass for twenty minutes. The 2003 was tasted March 2006. A deep ruby with a violet tinge, warm aromas of dark plum, white pepper, leather? I guess so, it's something mellowed by oak. Medium-bodied, silky with bright cherry and blackberry flavours. The finish is long with balanced tartness and noticeable fine tannins. Comes across as soft but bright, lean but round. Cellar two years. I find it a drink-now with prime rib, steaks, rack of lamb, full flavoured stews or a shank of lamb. An OK value.
HAWTHORNE MOUNTAIN VINEYARDS MERITAGE 1998, Okanagan, Canada, 13.0% XD, #440628* $17.90 (Retasted September 4, 2006)

My notes: No longer listed* by the LCBO. Cellared in February 2002 and last tasted in June 2005 with the comment "A full-bodied sipper that slows you down to savour its depth." The colour is a vibrant ruby and, after airing a few minutes in the glass, aromas are warm, a mix of blackberry, black cherry and a light mint or spicy note. A medium-bodied red with a smooth texture balanced with acids and fine tannins. The flavour is a blend of cherry, blackberry and slight tobacco finishing as plums and chalk and a tar note. A dry sipper with sufficient depth to warrant sipping slowly to catch the subtleties. Almost unctious as a dry sipper and an excellent companion to grilled red meats, Texas chili or hamburgers 'with the works'. My last bottle.

MATHIEROU CHATEAU LA CLOTTE-FONTANE 2000, Languedoc, France, 13.5% XD, CP144-2266 $15.92 (Retasted September 3, 2006)

Opimian comments: "This is the finest and possibly the fullest of the wines of the Midi that we have tasted. It comes from a tiny property of only eight acres where the vines are old, only Grenache and Syrah in equal proportion, yielding a small harvest. After picking, the grapes were chilled and macerated on the skins for 30 hours before commencing the long, cooled fermentation. Still very shut in, tannic, taut and sinewy, all the promise is complete with rich colour, and an aroma that adds a nuance of black olive to fruit. It will keep ten years in good conditions, but in less than half that time its flavour will be explosive. Cellar five years minimum." My notes: Ordered June 2002, cellared November 2002 and last tasted in February 2006. A mid ruby colour with aromas of white pepper and light berries. The flavour and texture come together to reward every sip. Medium- to light-bodied, round, some tannin and a well balanced nip with berries and pepper coming through. The finish is silky if not velvety, long and chalky making it an interesting sipper. Perfect for grilled or roasted meats: prime rib, lightly spiced ribs, stews or Texas chili (hold the crushed chillies). Cellaring a few more years shouldn't be a problem.

ROBERT MONDAVI WOODBRIDGE SYRAH 1999, Calif, USA, 13.5% XD, #594176 $13.95 (Retasted September 3, 2006)

My notes: Last tasted in June 2005 with the comment "Flavours are a soft plummy velvet with a metallic edge.... The finish lastsss.... " Cellared in February 2002 this is now a clear, bright cherry red with a light plum and red cherry nose. Flavours include a soft berry blend with ripe red cherry, delicate, clean and fruity, light-bodied edging toward medium. The long finish carries the cherry/berry blend on the palate with a touch of tannin. Bright without being tart. Likely just past it but still made an interesting dry sipper and would also be a meal wine with prime rib, breaded veal, or asian meats: pork, beef pieces with a plum sauce.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

September Whites (8): S. Africa Blend, Australia Chard, Italy Prosecco, Australia Riesling, Italy Blend, France Muscadet, NZ Sauv Blanc. Canada Chard

DORNIER 'DONATUS' WHITE 2004, Stellenbosch, S. Africa, 12.5% D, #597278 $17.95 (Tasted September 25, 2006)

A Vintages release on July 8, 2006 and described as "Good pale color. High-pitched nose combines lime, white grapefruit, white flowers, snap pea and spearmint, plus hints of eucalyptus and banana. Fat and silky but zingy, with pungent flavors of gooseberry, eucalyptus and minerals. .... 90/100 (Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar, March/April 2005)." The website says "Besides Chenin Blanc (60%) and Semillon (30%) there is a small component of Sauvignon Blanc (10%) in this wine to add to its complexity. The blending of these three varieties has not often been attempted in South Africa; however, we believe that these varieties in unison offer a well-balanced and attractive wine..." Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars (of 5) saying "A plush, flavourful blend .... from a very reliable producer. It delivers a layered profile of citrus, gooseberries and green apple with a slight honeyed note. The balancing acidity contributes a bracing texture and the finish is long. Pair this with seared scallops with a squeeze of fresh lemon. (RP)" My notes: A pale yellow with a hint of green and aromas of mint, lime and a whiff of eucalyptus. The first sip is round quickly followed by a crisp lime zest, a very light gooseberry, a clean crabapple tang leading to a long, slightly acerb finish. Needs a pretzel, a potato chip or two, herring or anchovy spread on dry toasts as appetizers to be an interesting flavourful sipper. Pair with smoked salmon, spicy mussels, chicken wrap, Thai or Asian dishes. Worth cellaring for a few years.

WOLF BLASS 'BILYARA RESERVE' CHARDONNAY 2005, South Australia, 13.5% D, #008128 $14.95 (Tasted September 22, 2006)

A General listing - without description. The label says ".. displays classic melon and peach aromas. These fruit characteristics carry through to the palate which has integrated oak flavours and a creamy soft texture." My notes: Comes in a 750mL plastic bottle, shorter and lighter than glass but looks the same, and with a convenient screwcap. 'Bilyara Reserve' is not described on the website. A light blond colour with aromas of a melon and grapefruit blend. Has a creamy, round texture, - rounder than I'd expect for a barrel process - and a tartness balanced with fresh melon and grapefruit flavours. The aftertaste carries through the fresh fruit as well as a distinct sweetness and soft bite. Have with seafood appetizers, cold or hot, or not-too-spicy seafood dishes, a creamy risotto or chicken breast pieces on mixed greens. A commercial drink-now.

SANTA MARGHERITA PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE BRUT, Veneto, Italy, 11.5% D, #687582 $17.95 (Tasted September 17, 2006)

A Vintages release on September 2, 2006 and described as ".... has some fruit definition and vitality going for it. Expect bright lemon-lime, grapefruit and floral aromas followed by a crisp, fruity and slightly spicy palate. The citrus fruit and acidity linger to make this an attractive aperitif or palate refresher. 87/100 (Jeff Davis, Wine Access, 'First In Line E-Report', May 27, 2006)." My notes: Lots of bubbles initially and slightly mousseux in the mouth at least initially, a light blond colour and medium-bodied. The nose is a pleasant lemon 'birthday cake' aroma with flavours of light lemon-lime, grapefruit seed, and a yeasty creaminess. Finishes smooth on the lips, nicely tart with a yeasty aftertaste lasting longer than the fresh fruit. An OK appetizer but better with melon slices, orange and grapefruit pieces with creme glacee. Perhaps a breakfast quencher with crepes or French toast. Cellaring a year may mellow out the yeast.... but then it may reduce the fruit.... a drink-now at any celibration or summer patio get-together.

PEWSEY VALE 'EDEN VALLEY' RIESLING 2004, Australia, 13.0% XD, #686600 $19.95 (Tasted September 16, 2006)

A Vintages release September 16, 2006 and described as "A pretty and delicate wine with a fusion of lemons, rose petals and bath salts on the nose and a pristine mineral lime palate. Tight acid and firm finish. (4 of 5). (Winestate, March/ April 2005)." Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars (of 5) saying "The planted vines are 35 years old, but all propagated from those brought to Australia by James Busby.... in 1839. An exuberant nose of floral notes and citrus forms the segue to this medium-bodied, cool climate dazzler. It provides a robust mouthful of fruit flavours with citrus and mango to the fore. This is dry, clean and well structured. Drink now to 2012 with light cheeses or smoked fish. (VH)" My notes: Pewsey bottles Gewurz, Pinot Gris and two Rieslings: 'Eden Valley' being the lower and 'Contours' the higher priced label (#686618 @ $24.95). A light blond, light- to medium-bodied with a distinct honey, ripe melon and faded wildclover nose. Flavours of succulent citrus including some peel pith or crushed seeds, lanolin and tartness. Has a long, oily, citrussy and pithy finish. Not an appealing sipper and was almost lost with Asian fare: noodles, beef and vegetable stir-fry, and chicken balls with soy sauce. It should pair better with a cheese tray or blander fish dishes, mussels in a light cream sauce. A few years cellaring may improve but not a value now.
FUGNANO VERNACCIA DI SAN GIMIGNANO 2005, Tuscany, Italy, 12.5% XD, #687202 $14.95 (Tasted September 6, 2006)

Released by Vintages on September 2, 2006 and described as "Besides its terrifically-refreshing white wines, San Gimignano's claim to fame is as the home of the first DOC. When the appellation system was created in 1966, Vernaccia di San Gimignano was the first DOC established. It is an amiable companion for simple pasta with pesto dishes. (VINTAGES panel, May 2006)." The website says "The white Vernaccia, soft and caressing like the silk gown of a young woman..." My notes: A light yellow colour and aromas of lemon/lime and wildrose. Light- to medium-bodied, crisp with a lemon tartness and a slight roundness. The finish is light but long and hedging toward a silky lemon aftertaste. 'Soft and caressing' isn't how I'd described this white - perhaps 'assertive and saucy'. Great with raw oysters, grilled scallop skewers, cheese melts or pair with grilled whitefish dishes, creamy seafood and mushroom pastas. A drink-now.... and an OK value as a 'seafood accompaniment'.

‘LE SOLEIL NANTAIS' MUSCADET SÈVRE ET MAINE 2005, Nantais, France, 12.0% XD, #525162 $12.95 (Tasted September 4, 2006)

Released by Vintages on September 2, 2006 and described as "‘Le Soleil Nantais', or the sun of Nantes, indeed. The Nantais portion of the Muscadet AC is the most westerly wine region in all of France. Nantais simultaneously receives the heat of the summer sun and the strong cooling breeze of the nearby Atlantic. This leads to a fresh, fruity and citrusy wine that is the perfect match for steamed mussels or clams. The Guilbaud Freres website says "High expression wine, its delicacy and tasting lightness as well as its roundness in mouth are intimately linked with superb structure. Its nose both floral and rich is a promising indication of the quality of the Soleil Nantais. Drink cool around 8 to 10°c." My notes: An almost clear, blond colour with aromas of wildflowers. Light-bodied, crisp flavours of lime and slate finishing with a grapefruit and lime pucker. As a sipper an oiliness accumulates on the lips along with a slight grassiness on the palate. Have with fresh oysters, any cold shellfish appetizer or pair with crabcakes, steamed mussels, panfried sole, pickerel or halibut. Cellaring for a year or two will likely mature the pucker. A bargain Muscadet S et M.

UNITY CHARDONNAY 2003, Canada, 13.5% D, #606608 $19.95 (Tasted September 2, 2006)

Released by Vintages on September 2, 2006 and described as "This terrific Chardonnay is crafted with grapes from both Ontario's Niagara Peninsula and British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. The nose is slightly toasty with aromas of tropical fruit, cinnamon, apple and pear. The clean palate has layers of fruit and well-integrated oak leading to a long, creamy finish. Enjoy with stuffed pork tenderloin. (VINTAGES panel, July 2006)." Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "Unity is a wine that falls between wine laws: a blend of Niagara and Okanagan grapes, it doesn't qualify for Ontario or British Columbia VQA status. It's a well made, medium-oaked Chardonnay that delivers quite intense flavours of tropical fruit and peach in a soft texture. It's ideal for roast pork and turkey. (RP)" Tony Aspler writes "Unity Chardonnay 2003... Chardonnay from BC and Ontario blended together. A terrific wine, rich, pineapple and citrus flavours, full-bodied with well integrated oak." My notes: A light blond colour and an oaked chard for sure with toasty, apple, pineapple and cinnamon aromas. Medium- to full-bodied tart roundness with lime, pear and apple flavours, in every way fuller than the 2001 tasted June 2005. Likely will increase in butter and even butterscotch, in their infancy now, as it ages.... cellaring for two years will give a return and is recommended. A fresh sipper, and good paired with chicken breast, turkey slices, butterflied pork chops or chicken souvlaki, rice and potatoes.

FAIRHALL DOWNS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005, Marlborough, NZ, 14.0% XD, #990580 $17.95 (Tasted September 2, 2006)

Released by Vintages on September 2, 2006 and described as "A whiff of refreshing sea air, mineral and white pepper hits the nose, leading to a surprisingly rich, full-bodied palate of lime, grapefruit and gooseberry. The long finish has hints of chalk and white pepper. 2 1/2 (of 4). (Linda Murphy)." Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "Zesty acidity and rich, pungent fruit making a winning combination in this bottle. Sniff and taste lemon-lime, white grapefruit and gooseberry, with a seam of minerality. Pair it with the classic matches, like freshly-shucked oysters or goat cheese. (RP)" The website says "The 2005 vintage has resulted in a wine that is exuberantly ripe and intensely aromatic on the nose; with a broad spectrum of characters including passionfruit, pineapple, lime, melon and bell pepper which are enhanced by a refreshing mineral acidity that is typical of the vineyard. A long term plan to develop fruit flavours in the vineyard was put in place in 2004. This strategy included identifying areas in the vineyard and ideal fruit loads for the vines. The benefits of this effort in the vineyard are evident in this wine." Natalie gives it an 89/100 and the Best Value White, "Grassy, herbal, lime and grapefruit aromas. Refreshing and zesty." My notes: An interesting description by Linda Murphy that captures the nose very well... not a straight gooseberry but edged with minerals and white pepper. Full-bodied flavours: crisp citrus, gooseberry, minerals and a smoothness that reminds me of 'over the lips and over the gums, watch out palate here it comes'. The finish is long, full, tart, with oil traces on the lips then fading to a strong lemon grass. The Small family agronomy paid off. Stock up.... it's a bargain and should cellar for several years... but I'd try one year at a time to see where it's going.