RODNEY STRONG MERLOT 2002, California, USA, 13.8% XD, #497933 $19.95 (Tasted October 20, 2006)
A Vintages release on October 14, 2006 and described as "... wonderful. Inky violet, with a concentrated nose of ripe strawberries and black currants. It boasts a deep, extracted medium body, a plush dark berry flavor profile, succulent, grippy acidity, delicate balance and a rich, persistent finish. In short, from wire-to-wire, a mouthful of delight from one of the North Coast's most consistent labels. ( www.nycwinereport.com/ ) 4 of 5." The website says "Plum and blueberry flavors predominate in this soft, rich, mouth filling merlot, and are enhanced by aging a full 27 months in primarily American oak, for a toasty, spicy vanilla character, and a lingering berry-cream finish..." VH of WineCurrent rates it four and one half (of 5) saying "Juicy black plum and spiced black currant aromas form the nose and follow through to the richly textured palate and luxurious, lengthy finish. There are perceptible, but acceptable, tannins and acidity (keeping it from jammy) and these, along with ripe succulent fruit flavours, provide impeccable balance, structure and complexity.... " My notes: A deep ruby with some purple in the hue. A nose resembling a spicy, aged fruit cake with some blackcurrants thrown in the mix. Medium- to full-bodied with flavours matching the nose and well balanced tannins and tartness. A long finish, mellow, warm, full of lip-smacking ripe blackberries or purple plums. A full flavoured merlot to savour slowly with sufficient body and texture to drink-now or over the next four years. Have with any grilled red meats, straight or stewed, sweet or spicy. A bargain.
TOMMASI VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE ‘RIPASSO' 2003, Italy, 13.0% XD, #910430 $19.95 (Tasted October 18, 2006)
A Vintages release on October 14, 2006 and described as "Tommasi ‘Ripasso' is the unique result of refermenting Valpolicella Classico Superiore wines on the warm, dried grape skins from which their Amarone has been pressed. This process imparts the richness of character and intensity of flavour to the finished product. Expect rich plum fruit surrounded by sweet herbs and a hint of dark chocolate. This flavourful wine is an excellent match for braised beef dishes, rich stews or pasta with meat sauce." The website says "... This process, used only in rare vintage years, imparts the richness of character and personality of a great wine to an already superior wine." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "A quiet nose of sweet black berry fruit opens up a glorious experience for lucky tasters. The fruit-forward nature of this wine unleashes a salvo of flavours including rich and concentrated cherry and bramble berry infused with fruit cake spice and dark chocolate. The memorable finish has gobs of black sweet fruit and black pepper with a hint of cigar box. At this price, flip open the trunk and toss in a case." My notes: The aroma of grapes being crushed although lighter and the colour of deep ruby with a purple note. Almost medium-bodied, smooth but bright with the full flavour of ripe red cherries and yellow plums tinted with a figgy spice not unlike a 'fruit cake'. The finish has some cedar against a background of refreshing fruit fading slowly. An interesting sipper with a soft nip and lots of fruit. Goes well with pizzas, tomato or mushroom sauced meat pastas, hearty vegetable beef soups and stews, varied lamb dishes. Likely at peak but could cellar a year or two.
‘VAMPIRE' PINOT NOIR 2003, Transylvania, Romania, 12.5% D, #582908 $10.95 (Tasted October 16-17, 2006)
A Vintages release on October 14, 2006 and described as "Count Dracula famously stated 'I never drink wine'. He would definitely change his tune if he got his fangs around this fruit-forward Pinot Noir. Serve with blood-red veal chops. This is the companion piece to the ‘Vampire' Pinot Grigio, also available this month." Tony Aspler (October, 2004) writes ".... you could go directly to Vampire Wine, which is now the top-grossing wine (or is that gross-out wine?) from Romania in the US." and ... "According to a public relations handout 'The vineyards literally are in beautiful Transylvania, not far from Romania's second largest city, Timosara, where today there is a pronounced Italian influence. .... and the Vampire Pinot Noir is the owner's, Michael Machat, favourite.' " My notes: A light red plastic 'cork' with 'Vampire' imprinted makes a unique statement although there's nothing to fear from the liquid inside. A light ruby with faint aromas of strawberries, perhaps red cherries and a touch of oak. A smooth, bright taste of strawberry fades quickly as a smooth, bright aftertaste of ripe strawberry... light-bodied in both texture and flavour. The name is the most interesting aspect of sipping imho. Other than price and naturalness this pinot noir has little going for it. Much improved the next day... smooth and ripe strawberries linger on the finish.
TERRELIADE 'NIRA' NERO D'AVOLA 2003, Sicily, Italy, 14.0% D, #688762 $15.95 (Tasted October 13, 2006)
A Vintages release on July 8, 2006 and described as "Deep violet colour with impressive aromas recalling dark chocolate, plum and blackberry. It is dry, ripe and round with a solid backbone for balance. This medium full-bodied wine is a great choice for barbecue fare.(Vintages panel, Dec. 2005)" Terreliade is one of the Group Companies of Santa Margherita . The Terrelíade range of vineyards resulted from a program of research and experimentation in which indigenous and international grape varieties were allowed to interrelate with a particularly high quality terroir: .... It is this innovative philosophy that lies behind the creation of distinctive and original wines such as Timpa Giadda and Nirà. My notes: A distinctive nose of fresh cranberries and lesser of raspberries, a mid ruby-purple plum colour and initial flavour of red currant, pomegranite and blackberries. The flavours surround the tongue like sucking berries from the bush: fresh, dry and moderately tart - a medium-bodied meal wine rather than a sipper. Have with spicy pizzas, hot Italian sausage, gorganzola, sliced and diced portabellos and anchovies spread on bruschetta - wonderful with a Cajun Beef Sub with jalepenos. Should cellar for several years mellowing more each year. A good Nero d'Avola value.
LINDEMAN'S RESERVE 'LIMESTONE COAST' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004, South Australia, 13.5% D, #621607 $15.95 (Tasted October 13, 2006)
A General listing without description. The label says "This vibrant crimson and purple wine is brimming with blackcurrant, violet, mint and vanilla oak flavours. ...." The website says "Made with passion and expert craftsmanship, this full-flavoured and elegant wine is beautifully balanced. It will compliment any meal or occasion. Blackcurrant and ripe dark berry flavours." My notes: A deep ruby with magenta tones and aromas of spicy blackberries softened by plums. The appearance is a full-bodied red, however, the flavour hedges toward being medium-bodied: crisp, a lighter blackcurrant with soft tannin and acid followed by a long finish of currant pulp almost silky in texture. A commercial sipper with a tasty zip, a zip-per. Should go well with most full flavoured red beef, stewed in a rich sauce or prime rib, horse radish with Yorkshires and vegetables, grilled steaks or ribs. Cellaring for several years is possible although drinking well now. A good value.
ZENI 'COSTALAGO' ROSSO VERONESE 2004, Veneto, Italy, 13.5% D, #681767 $15.95 (Tasted October 10, 2006)
A Vintages release on July 8, 2006 described as "Zeni uses a variation on the Ripasso method for this wine but cannot call it Ripasso because the blend here (Corvina (a Valpol grape), Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) is not allowed in Valpolicella. Nevertheless, this is a warm and generously scented wine that Veneto expert Nick Belfrage described as 'Bordeaux meets Valpolicella Ripasso and both benefit from each's characteristics.' " My notes: One of four 'Rosso Veronese' brand wines from Zeni. A beautiful deep ruby colour and, after airing for ten minutes, has a blend of soft aromas including cherries, plums and a touch of figs. The first sip is nicely bright with flavours of cherries and cranberries carried along on a stream of fine tannins. The moderate finish starts with silky fruit and finishes with a smooth earthiness. A good medium-bodied sipper - better paired with grilled, broiled or stewed red meats: lamb shank, T-bones, back ribs, long ribs, Texas chili, burgers with 'everything', or tomato sauced pizzas. Could cellar two years or more ... but drinking well now. Reasonably priced.
DOMAINE DE L'AMEILLAUD CAIRANNE 2004, Cote-de-Rhone, France, 14.0% XD, #660605 $14.95 (Tasted October 5, 2006)
A Vintages release on September 30, 2006 described as "....Count on loads of appealing fruit flavours with underlying spice and earth characteristics in this wonderfully textured and balanced wine. A crowd-pleaser at an outstanding price, bring it to your family's Thanksgiving Dinner. You will all be giving thanks for one more thing that day." Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars (of 5) saying "....This gem, from 40+ year old vines, is rich and concentrated, showing rich sweet black fruit (blackberry, currant) flavours with nuances of leather, loads of spice and deft balance. It also has good grip, giving it at least another 3 years ageing potential. This earned its final half star on price, stock up. (VH)" Natalie MacLean gives it an 88/100 saying "Light and simple with lovely red fruit." My notes: There are red cherry and currant aromas blended with spicy earth tones in this medium-bodied dry red. A deep ruby colour and flavours of tart red cherries with pronounced drying tannins and a finish like licking old leather, the inside. Not a sipper - save for prime rib, a grilled T-bone or roast dark turkey meat. Cellaring for a few more years may lower the tannins - but you have to like it to invest the time. An 'old world' red and not my preference for a meal. An 88/100 is generous.
DANZANTE 'DELLE MARCHE' SANGIOVESE 2004, Marche, Italy, 12.5% XD, #534206 $15.45 (Tasted October 3, 2006)
A Vintages release on August 5, 2006 described as "[Grapes are] from carefully selected vineyards within the Marche, expect this Sangiovese to display aromas of berry, cedar and plum.... pair this Sangiovese with gourmet sausage, hamburgers, grilled vegetables or even steaks. The website says "This is a wine of immediate appeal with enticing aromas and flavors. The wine is ruby red in color with luminous reflections. The intense bouquet releases flavors of ripe fruit such as cherry, plum and blackberry, accentuated by hints of spices. A medium-bodied wine with soft tannins, it is to be enjoyed while young and fresh. Its racy acidity pairs perfectly with a wide variety of foods, including pork, beef and duck as well as creamy pasta dishes." My notes: A deep ruby with a magenta edge, aromas of ripe cherry/berry with a touch of smoke and white pepper, smooth on the first swallow, a lightish medium-bodied red with a bright berry flavour and a touch more smoke. The finish is moderately long, dry fine tannins giving the palate a silky coating and a slight earthy aftertaste. Cellar a year or at least long enough to finish a dozen drink-nows. An OK dry red sipper..... better with pizzas, red sauced pastas, shaved proscuitto (lots) on iceberg lettuce, olives (lots), baby spinach leaves and radicchio with a light oil & vinegar dressing.
SPADINA UNA ROSA ‘SIGNATURE' NERO D'AVOLA 2002, Sicily, 13.5% D, #010330 $19.95 (Tasted October 1, 2006)
A Vintages release on September 30, 2006 and described as "This wine was number 97 on Wine Spectator's 2005 Top 100 Wines of the Year. Dark, full-bodied and chewy, with meaty blackberry and mineral character. Medium- to full-bodied, with good, solid tannins and a long finish. Well done. Best after 2005. Score - 90. (James Suckling, July 31, 2005)." My notes: A deep ruby colour with aromas of oaky plums, black pepper and a touch of cinnamon. Full and smooth with tart spice attacking the palate on the initial sip, a background of smoke with tannins and faint blackberry. This is mostly process with a little fruit in the background. Like chewing on a mild cigar, ie. not a sipper but an old world meal wine. Have with spicy pizza, tomato sauced meaty pasta dishes or hot Italian sausages on a bun. Beyond cellaring - I'd say it was best before 2006.
GRAHAM BECK BRUT ROSÉ 2004, Robertson, S. Africa, 11.5% D, #004085 $21.95 (Tasted October 1, 2006)
A Vintages release September 30, 2006 and described as "Made from hand-picked Pinot Noir (82%) and Chardonnay (18%) grapes, this sparkling rosé is somewhat unique as the two grape varieties are actually pressed together. Made in the traditional champagne method, this fresh and fruity fizz would make an excellent aperitif. Look for plenty of strawberry and raspberry fruit aromas and flavours, a complex creamy palate and long finish." The website describes the taste as “More noticeable Rosé in colour due to the vintage characteristics from the Pinot Noir with a creamy complexity from the Chardonnay. An explosion of raspberry fruit complexity on the palate with a long fine creamy mousse." Beppi says "Light medium-bodied, this blend of pinot noir and chardonnay shows bright berry-like fruit and a long, frothy mousse and zippy finish. It would make a smart aperitif or Thanksgiving toast." My notes: A rush of fine bubbles giving full foam that subsides quickly into a ring and steady stream of fine bubbles. A yeasty strawberry aroma and full strawberry pink colour. This is a medium- to full-bodied creamy bubbly with flavours of crushed strawberries and a grassy brightness from the chardonnay. The finish starts out with a fresh edge lasting forever if your sipping boosts it regularly, but eventually fading to a creamy mallow. A pleasing brut aperitif now and two years cellaring should provide an even mellower festive drink. Have with a cheese tray, fresh oysters, French toast with whipped butter and maple syrup, or bumbleberry coulis and creme fraiche on crepes.