Wednesday, November 01, 2006

November Reds(10): Australia Cab Sauv, NZ PN, Australia Shiraz, Australia PN, Australia Blend(2), Canada PN, Spain Merlot, USA Merlot(2)

ST. HALLETT BAROSSA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 1999, Barossa, Australia, 14.0% XD, #744458* $14.90 (Retasted November 16, 2006)

Last tasted October, 2005 with the comment "No longer listed by the LCBO, was a General release. Cellared February 2002 ..." Today's notes: Now a Vintages listing as #015164 at $19.95 to be released December 2006. Still has a lot of tannin and a warm nose, an oaky, peppery, cassis and cherry that develops over time - worth the wait. Medium-bodied, flavours of bright cherry, blackberry, mint with a natural tartness, a layer of fine tannin and the finish lasts forever: smooth blackberry, vanilla and chocolate mint. Quite succulent as a dry red sipper and will pair with prime rib roast or T-bone steak, rack of lamb and leeks, beef bourgogne, or other full flavoured beef dishes. Could cellar a few more years but this is my last.

RA NUI PINOT NOIR 2005, Wairu Valley, NZ, 13.8% D, #007500 $26.95 (Tasted November 15, 2006)

An In Store Discovery of November 11, 2006 described as "This single-vineyard Pinot Noir displays enticing aromas of cherry fruit with strawberry and raspberry notes and a hint of mushroom. Vivacious and fruity, it's weighty with a seam of crisp acidity and a long peppery finish." The label says "grapes..were handpicked, then gently hand plunged in small fermenters, ... [then] aged in french oak... My notes: A deep ruby colour with a nose of a cherry/raspberry mix softened by french oak, just noticeable but very appealing. The texture is smooth, warm, medium-bodied with flavours of light cherry/berry and a light tar - I couldn't distinguish a strawberry texture nor flavour element. The finish carries with it the light tar along with light tannins, a slight pepper and mild acid. Although juicy and bright I expected more 'silkiness' at the price level. Pleasing enough as a sipper it would also pair well with lamb, turkey, pork, veal dishes, ham and cheese macaroni or perhaps grilled salmon. Cellaring for a few years could very well produce the missing 'silkiness' - still not a value.

BANROCK STATION SPARKLING SHIRAZ, South Eastern Australia, 14.0% D, #971507 $13.95 (Tasted November 14, 2006)

A Vintages release on November 11, 2006. RP of Winecurrent (Oct. 15 2005) gives it four (of 5) saying "Sparkling Shiraz, so cruelly denigrated by some wine-lovers who ought to know better, is an Australian heritage wine. It might look like a novelty seeking a niche, but it's been around for more than a hundred years. This well-priced version is chock full of dark berry and tree fruit, with spicy and peppery notes. The bubbles cut the fruit sweetness and it makes a fine sipping wine or a partner to blackberry pie or tart, as long as you hold back on the sugar." The website says "Deep crimson in colour, the Sparkling Shiraz phenomenon is sweeping Australia. A lifted bouquet of mulberry, plum, sweet coconut and spicy oak precedes a palate characterised by dark berry fruit flavours and a luscious, effervescent texture. Ideal for any celebration, this wine is voluptuous and tantalising when chilled." My notes: A dense ruby colour and a faint nose of ripe blackberries combined with a light yeastiness. Effervesces as it's poured filling the glass but subsides quickly leaving a slim rim of fine bubbles. The flavour is rich blackberry without a corresponding tartness or seediness - a very slight pepper. Full-bodied with a fine tannic edge to a ripe, smooth blackberry finish. Have as a alternative to a chard/pinot bubbly for those preferring a red.... or as a different party sipper. Pair with tomato bruschetta, red pepper and carrot soup with a spoon of goat cheese, a tray of nippy cheeses or a refresher of melon, cantelope or watermelon balls. Dry enough to avoid an 'offdry' label but there is some residual fruit sugar that accumulates on the palate. Not for everyone but I enjoyed it and consider it a good value.

KAESLER ‘STONEHORSE' GRENACHE/SHIRAZ/MOURVÈDRE 2004, Barossa, Australia, 15.5% XD, #006551 $19.95 (Tasted November 12, 2006)

A Vintages release on November 11, 2006 described as "Smooth and polished, with a lovely core of black cherry and currant fruit, dripping with dark chocolate and smoky spice notes as the finish goes on. Impressive for its balance and length. Drink now through 2014. 91/100, Harvey Steiman, Sept 30, 2006." The website says "A blend of Grenache (58%), Shiraz (34%) and Mourvedre (8%). Although this is a biggish wine by alcohol standards it is still savoury and medium weight by our standards. Grenache contributes soft aromatics and flavours, Shiraz some palate spine and a bit of spice, and the Mourvedre provides breadth and depth. A wine to enjoy now or age over the next 5 years." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "This GSM crowd-pleaser is round and ready to go or can easily cellar another 6 years. Expect a medium-bodied blend with ripe juicy berry and Bing cherry fruit balanced off with only an hint of acidity and ripe, acceptable tannins for structure. The finish adds dollops of stewed, jammy black berry fruit. Earned its final half star on the attractive price. Try with backstraps of lamb." My notes: A mid ruby colour with a peppery plum aroma. A smooth injection of tart cherry and blackberries to the palate that carries through to a long finish with a soft tannin, firm acid backbone and pepper plum aftertaste. Great as a dry red spicy sipper, even assumes a sweet tone, or paired with red meats done in a variety of savoury styles. Adds a flavour change rather than quietly complementing the entree. Should be able to cellar this several years - good tannins and an acid structure that will mellow out leaving the structure and texture of a great $20 full-bodied red. Reasonably priced.

‘ANDRETTI SELECTIONS' MERLOT 2004, Napa, USA, 13.8% XD, #011700 $18.95 (Tasted November 11, 2006)

A Vintages release on November 11, 2006 and described as "Here's a well-priced Merlot to get revved up about. Retired auto racing legend Mario Andretti changed career lanes when he opened his eponymous winery in California's Napa Valley a decade ago. His entry-level Merlot is driven by ripe blackberry and cherry fruit with notes of vanilla and coffee." VH of Winecurrent gives it five (of 5) saying "This rips from the pole position with spiced, sweet black fruit aromatics. It corners the first turn at warp speed with gargantuan rich and concentrated Bing cherry and cassis flavours that are wrapped in ripe tannins and excellent zest. The victory lap is earned with a lengthy and luxurious finish of bramble berry and mocha flavours. Certainly worth taking for a spin at this price. Will take the chequered flag now to 2012." My notes: A herbal nose similar to oregano and a deep ruby colour, medium-bodied, dry, a balance of fruit and acid leaning to the acid side. Flavours have more of a stalky base (prematurely pressed?). The finish is dry, a little tart but not puckering and with more bramble than berry fruitiness - still an interesting sipper. Pair with prime rib, rack of lamb or lamb stew, a ham steak or red sauced pizzas. I don't see cellaring as a way to improve this red... if you have a few try a year at a time. Not a value imho.

NEPENTHE 'CHARLESTON' PINOT NOIR 2003, Adelaide, Australia, 14.0% XD, #682054 $17.95 (Retasted November 8, 2006)

Released by Vintages April 29, 2006. My notes: Tasted last May and described as "....After airing briefly the nose is full of fresh strawberries and black cherries. Colour is a strawberry tinged see-through ruby. Has a round mouthfeel with flavours of smooth strawberry, cherry and at 16 to 18 degrees(C) it has a brightness with a light tannin. The finish is long, bright with a touch of cinnamon. etc. A bargain pinot." Tasted today there was no need for airing but would increase the fullness of black cherry aromas with some warm raspberries in the mix... a mid ruby colour still strawberry tinged. Lightly styled, a pleasing nip per sip, a smooth and mellow cherry/strawberry mix. The bright fruit finish ends with a note of cherry skins. This is a light, dry, fruity pinot pleasant enough by itself although better with a flavour change such as a cheese tray selection or a cold shrimp ring with a nippy seafood sauce. Pair with a hot ham steak with asparagus spears draped in a cheese sauce, roast chicken or turkey with garden vegetables and fries. Could be cellared for another year for an european style pinot but is drinking well now.

LEASINGHAM 'MAGNUS' SHIRAZ/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, Clare Valley, Australia, 14.0% XD, #995787 $14.75* (Tasted November 6, 2006)

A Vintages release on October 16, 2006 described as "A dense purple-ruby color with a nose of cedar, vanilla, blackberry. Full-bodied, firm structure, well made, lean mid palate, tannic finish. (4 of 5, Tony Aspler, March 31, 2006). The label claims that 'Magnus' honours one of the original founders, Magnus Badger, of the Stanely Wine Company, the forerunner to Leasingham. A sediment crust may form and shows this wine has benefited by minimum handling to preserve its natural flavour. Their website says "Deep ruby red in colour with brilliant clarity. The nose shows spicy black cherries, lifted plum and earthy tobacco leaf. Black berry fruit concentration with sweet plums on the palate has a hint of coffee mocha and cassis. Enjoy now or cellar for up to 5-10 years." My notes: *Priced on the shelf as $17.25 this wine cashed out at $14.75. Founded in 1893 Leasingham's is now a Hardy's company after a short time with H.J.Heinz. A lovely nose of rich humidor and ripe blackberries - didnt get vanilla. A deep ruby with a garnet tone and full-bodied, smooth with a nice acid edge along with soft tannins and flavours of ripe purple plums and dark chocolate. The finish is moderate, the fruit softened by a warm licorice tone. A soft red sipper with an initial edge on each sip that is pleasing. Pair with stews, beef bourgogne, or prime rib... full flavoured without being too spicy. Has some room for a year cellaring but more of a drink-now. A value at $14.75.

MALIVOIRE MOIRA VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2000, Beamsville, Canada, 13.5% XD, Winery $35.95 (Retasted November 6, 2006)

My notes: Cellared in December, 2001 and retasted in May, 2006 with the comment ".. has a light smoke, cherry and vanilla nose. Medium-bodied, well balanced acid and tannin with an interesting savoury 'cherry coke' flavour but without the sweetness - a european red. ... ". A deep ruby colour. The nose retains an oakiness that is quietened with twenty minutes airing or several vigorous swirls. Aromas are of black cherries, leather and a soft smoke - no strawberries here. Medium- to full-bodied, the first sip shows nicely balanced acid and fine tannins integrated with a ripe black cherry flavour. The finish is bright, moderately long with a mellow mix of fruit restrained by leather or earth tones. A soft sipper for a casual tray of mild cheese wedges, a vegetable hummous with crackers or crisp bread squares. Pair with rack of lamb and caramellized onions, pork tenderloin and roasted fingerling potatoes, veal scallopini with spatzle. There's enough tannins to continue cellaring but likely at peak now and could lose more of the fruit that's left.

TORRES MERLOT ATRIUM 2004, Penedes, Spain, 13.5% D, #621755 $16.00 (Tasted November 2, 2006)

A General listing described as "Medium ruby red; blackcurrant aromas; dry, medium bodied, with firm tannins, dried fruit flavours; long firm finish. Serve with beef and lamb dishes or aged cheese." The website describes this as "Attractive dark cherry colour. Generous and intense varietal aroma, with hints of mature fruits, including jams (plums and bilberries), overlaying truffle and bay leaf aromas. The palate is ample and generous, with excellent sweet tannins that open out to fruit-laden nuances reminiscent of the nose. As the wine reaches chambré temperatures it exudes rich hints of leather and vanillin that evolve towards a sensuous and persistent, long finish." Gord Stimmell gives this 89/100 saying "... This merlot shows aromas of mocha and black cherry with a hint of cassis and blackberry jam. On the palate, spicy vanilla, black cherry and cedar. The finish is full bore, not rich, but poised with its black cherry fruit lingering nicely." My notes: With a different label than on their website the Atrium merlot is a deep ruby colour with a black cherry and white pepper nose. Air for full aroma - twenty minutes. Medium-bodied and flavours of ripe red currants and yellow plums, a nicely balanced tartness and firm tannins. A dry red sipper having a long mild fruitcake finish. Pair with prime rib, T-bone, grilled backribs, or full flavoured beef stews or chili. Cellaring for a few years may introduce some silkiness but it's drinking well now.

DIAMOND RIDGE MERLOT 2002, Santa Maria, California, USA, 13.0% D, #994533 $15.95 (Tasted November 1, 2006)

A Vintages release October 28, 2006 described as "Diamond Ridge Merlot is produced [by Stonehedge Winery] from a single estate located in one of Sonoma County's finest sub-regions, Russian River Valley. They blend in 10% Petite Sirah to give a touch more weight to the wine. Meticulous care is taken to ensure low yields and optimal ripeness. The resulting wine promises to deliver aromas of raspberry, vanilla and hints of oak. An excellent match for roast beef with all the trimmings." VH of winecurrent gives it four of five stars saying "This value wine delivers the goods. It begins with black plum aromatics then washes the palate with juicy and ripe cherry flavours and a hint of oaky spice. Medium-bodied, it exhibits deft balance, grip, good acidity and lovely structure. The lengthy fruit-forward finish portends a match with stuffed pork tenderloin. The quality to price balance tipped in your favour. Stock up." Gord Stimmell of the Toronto Star rates it 90/100 saying "Best buy California red is Diamond Ridge 2002 Merlot with toasted coconut and black cherry richness from Sonoma." My notes: The Stonehedge Winery website has no mention of this Merlot, of Russian River Valley, Diamond Ridge nor is their name on the label. The nose is almost nonexistent... perhaps a soft oaky ripe plum. The colour is a mid ruby, medium-bodied, lightly flavoured plum and red cherry with low levels of acid and tannins - a musty presence. Comes across as a commercial red: nothing bad, nothing exceptional. A suitable sipper at a house warming... but not a special occasion. Have with party buffet foods: broccoli bread bowl, cheese pieces, shaved meats (a stretch), or a warmed groundbeef casserole - it was lost with hamburgers. Not for cellaring... not a bargain. I wouldn't put my name on it either!

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