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.

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