Wednesday, December 20, 2006

More December Whites(4): Chile Chard, Chile Sauv Blanc, Italy Prosecco, Australia Chard

SANTA CAROLINA SAUVIGNON BLANC RESERVA 2006, Rapel Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #337535 $11.95 (Tasted December 22, 2006)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; fresh, green apple aromas with a hint of lime zest; dry, medium bodied with a lemony palate. Serve with linguine with mussels, grilled trout or grilled vegetables." Billy M says "It's now been three months since the 06 Santa Carolina Reserve Sauvignon Blanc hit the shelves and I'm still blown away by every bottle I have. The exuberance, the delicious bright flavours and the feeling of fun. A must for parties." My notes: A very light blond colour with aromas of sweet gooseberries, light-bodied, and a nice tang to go with fruity gooseberries and some nettles. The finish is clean with a lasting taste of fruit, not sweet at this point. A sociable sipper by itself or with mild cheeses, crabcakes or grilled scampi. Has some aspects of a natural product but more of a commercial white. Not a NZ Sauvignon Blanc for sure. Was great with breaded telapia and would be with flavourful grilled salmon or arctic char. A drink-now.

SANTA CAROLINA CHARDONNAY RESERVA 2004, Casa Blanca Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #304022 $11.95 (Tasted December 22, 2006)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; light toasty notes with peach and apple fruit; medium-bodied with toasty, tropical fruit flavours. Serve with grilled chicken, fish, veggies; creamy pasta." My notes: The winery website was not available. A light golden colour with a light aroma of lemon drops and clover honey, medium-bodied with a smooth texture and a light lemon drop flavour. The finish comes across as artificial fruit rather than natural combined with a glycerine mouthfeel, resembling an unoaked chardonnay and leaving a mineral oil edge. A commercial sipper but not unpleasant. Have with a mild cheese assortment, with salted chips or with shaved italian meats. Also pair with grilled white fish dishes, shrimp skewers or bacon wrapped scallop pieces. A drink-now - not for me tho'.

IL PROSECCO MIONETTO SPA, Marches, Italy, 10.5% D, #588053 $13.00 (Tasted December 21, 2006)

A General listing described as "Medium straw colour with lively bubbles; medium-intensity citrus, pear and melon notes; dry, light-body, crisp, refreshing style. Serve withe hors d'oeuvres, antipasta, seafood." My notes: Comes with a crown cap - open several for a small gathering, it'll go fast!. A birthday cake aroma with bubbles that dissipate quickly but leave a spritz behind. A bright taste of light lemon/lime and slight granny smith, just noticeably off dry, with a finish that refreshes the palate, pleasantly flavourful. Serve well chilled as a substitute for water at the table, or with appetizers beforehand, nothing too salty or flavourful, minced tomato and herbs on bruschetta, shaved meats, sliced ham or crabmeat on a green salad, or in the summer as a patio chiller. A drink-now.

LAURA HARTWIG COLCHAGUA VALLEY CHARDONNAY 2000, Rapel, Chile, 13.5% D, CP135-1796 $17.33 (Retasted December 20, 2006)

My notes: An Opimian wine last tasted February this year. A 'Mendoza' chardonnay clone with cellaring recommended for six months to two years. This bottle was cellared in January 2001. Still a golden yellow, brilliant and leaving pronounced 'legs' on the glass. Aromas of toasted crumpets with a citrus edge. Smooth, bright acid on the tongue, full-bodied with a slight pineapple and butterscotch tone. The finish is dry with some butter, latent caramel and not as silky. Was great with bacon wrapped grilled scallops, and should be equally great paired with grilled full flavoured seafood. Cellaring another year would likely fade the delicate fruit increasing the effect of the acid present and perhaps even introduce some grassiness.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

More December Reds(10): Australia Shir(2), Chile Carm, France Blend, Australia Blend, Canada Blend, USA PN, S Africa Blend, Greece Agior, USA Blend

BLUE PYRENEES SHIRAZ 2001, Victoria, Australia, 14.5%, #935890 $19.95 (Retasted December 28, 2006)

My notes: Vintages released it August 20, 2005 saying it was winner of the "Gold Medal from the 2003 International Wine and Spirits Competition in London, England. Intensely minty, meaty and menthol-like aromas of cassis, plums and sweet vanilla oak ... etc." Natalie MacLean rated it 89.5/100 and Gord Stimmell a 90/100. Last tasted August 2005 with the comment "..Flavours fill the mouth with tart prunes and blackcurrant, a luscious fullness.... etc." Serve at room temp to develop fully in the glass... then it has a sweet aroma of plums and blackberries, a touch of oak and the minty edge is still there. A bright black and blueberry flavour with an interesting smack of tannin, medium-bodied, and a finish less flavourful and unctious than last tasting but still smooth berry with a minty nip and drying tannin. A good sipper or with flavourful appetizers. Pairs well with chili con carne or grilled red meats. Further cellaring isn't recommended.

WOLF BLASS PLATINUM LABEL SHIRAZ 2001, Barossa, Australia, 14.0%, #968123 $99.95 (Tasted December 25, 2006)

Vintages release December 18, 2004 described as "The 2001 is ... so lascivously-but-appropriately oaked, so gored by five-spice complexity, so liqueurous and yet so controlled, so blessed by muscular tannins that spread out on the finish (if a little chunkily now, but which will no doubt sort themselves out in time) and so concentrated in both its fruit and in its charm. This is a great wine, even at the price, with a pronounced drinkability - even at the start of its life. Drink: now through 2020. Score - 96. (Winefront Monthly, May 2004)" The website says, "from 50 yearold vines ... minimally irrigated and very low yielding. Fermented on skins fourteen days then to oak for twenty-two months. ... fragrant aromas of lavender and dark plum. Flavours of plums, spice, dark chocolate and is rich, intense and long." My notes: Letting breathe awhile there is a subtle nose of soft spices, ripened plums, figs and raisins. The flavours although subdued are of ripe fruit evenly married to soft tannins and develop further as the finish lingers reminding me of a fruit cake injected with a rich cognac then left to mellow. Cellaring should integrate oak and fruit further but it's a smooth, medium-bodied sipper now. Pair with red meats or roasted Christmas turkey. A value? The price is out of my league to even guess but for a short term (2 to 5 years) cellar investment I wouldn't put my money here.

CASA NUEVA CARMENERE 2003, Molina, Chile, 13.5% XD, CP152-2746 $13.08 (Retasted December 23, 2006)

My notes: An Opimian release in March 2004 and cellared October of the same year. Last tasted in May 2005 with the comment ' everything Opimian says'. It's a deep ruby with a slight purple hue, aromas are delicate plum and berries softened by oak and faint cinnamon. Medium- to full-bodied with rich flavours of currants and blackberries, chocolate, cinnamon, smooth on the palate but with a spicy nip. The finish envelops the palate with rich velvety fruit on a gentle seam of licorice. A sipper for cabernet stalwarts but better paired with full flavoured meat dishes: T-bones, back ribs, or prime rib with rich gravy. Although Opimian recommends to 'drink in same year' there are enough tannins for a few more years cellaring. This has turned out to be a super value.

MAISON BOUACHON LA TIARE DU PAPE, CHATEAU NEUF DU PAPE 2000, Cotes du Rhone, France, 14.0% XD, CP140-2082 $30.00 (Tasted December 21, 2006)

An Opimian release described as "Full bodied and deeply coloured with lots of fruit opening into an interesting mouthfeel with a gorgeous, ultra berryish character. Rich black cherry combines with impressions of dark chocolate and cedar scented oak.....A wine meant to be 'laid down'." My notes: Cellared in August 2002. A mid ruby with a warm cherry and plum nose, medium-bodied, flavours of delicate cherry, berries and a faint tar edge - some fine tannin still apparent. The finish is dry with a tar, mineral edge and a brightness persisting over faint fruit flavours. Was OK with grilled beef tenderloin and wild rice though on the light side. Did better with a light tomato sauced cheese raviola with salad. Should be OK with light meat dishes. I don't see it improving with further cellaring rather it's a drink-now and not a value.

NEPENTHE 'THE ROGUE' CABERNET/MERLOT/SHIRAZ 2003, Adelaide, Australia, 14.0% XD, #998542* $17.95 (Retasted December 20, 2006)

My notes: Gord Stimmell rated this 90/100 when release by Vintages on December 10, 2005 (*no longer listed). The '03 is 59% dark and serious Cabernet Sauvignon with 22% soft and fleshy Merlot and 19% spicy Shiraz. It's a deep ruby colour with a purple hue and has a nose of slight pepper, soft vanilla, plum and cherries. Full-bodied with flavours that follow the nose but more intensely: bright cherries, discrete blackcurrant and subtle nutmeg coming up from behind. The finish is long with cherry and currants covering the palate nicely along with a polite nip. An interesting sipper by itself or with varied appetizers: shaved meats, full flavoured cheeses, cocktail sausage, dark chocolate, etc. Pair with grilled beef: steaks, backribs or with full flavoured stews and chili con carne. Cellaring a year hasn't changed it too much and a few more years should do no harm.

NEPENTHE CHARLESTON PINOT NOIR 2003, Adelaide, Australia, 14.0% XD, #682054* $17.95 (Retasted December 18, 2006)

My notes: A Vintages release on April 29, 2006 (*no longer listed) and was last tasted May, 2006. Still has a fragrant aroma of cherry skins and crushed strawberries if allowed a few minutes in the glass - no jamminess. The colour is a rich strawberry tending to a lightish ruby, clear and bright. Flavour is a smooth strawberry and cherry blend with a minty edge, a fine tannin and bright acid. The finish is long, bright with a touch of cinnamint almost as before. A delightful sipper by itself or with a nut tray or mild cheeses. Was OK with cold pork and salad but would preferrably go with a grilled hamsteak, asparagus tips, mashed potatoes draped with cheese or a roast game bird dish. Cellaring still seems possible but likely is at peak. A good value in a light-bodied pinot noir.

CAVE SPRING SELECT LATE HARVEST CABERNET 2005, Niagara, Canada, 12.0% MS, #630244 $21.95 375mL (Tasted December 18, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 9, 2006 and described as "Made with late harvested Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from the Beamsville Bench, this orange-pink coloured wine exhibits aromas of honey, apricots, red pepper jelly, blueberry and strawberry jam. It's medium sweet with a good core of acid. The aromas replay nicely on the palate along with an additional hint of clove and the fruity finish lasts and lasts. (VINTAGES panel, Nov. 2006)." Gord Stimmell rates it 90/100 saying "A knockout red dessert wine.... lush strawberry jam, cherry and honeyed apricots." The website says "... berries were left to raisin on the vine during autumn, with a further concentratin of sugars and acids occurring when they were partially frozen by the first frosts of late fall. Selectively hand-harvested and pressed in a semi-frozen state, they deliver a sweet, rosé-tinged wine with luscious berry fruit and a delicate acidity." My notes: A peachy red see-through with a lightly honeyed strawberry nose. The texture has the smoothness of natural sugar, I'd guess a SC of 6 to 8, with delicate flavours of strawberry, blueberry and I agree with the 'red pepper jelly' descriptor. Not so jammy that I'd use the term and the finish carries acid with sugar evenly and long with the cab flavour lasting to the end. Have as an aperitif setting up the palate for roast beef, rack of lamb or grilled shrimp or lobster where your favourite red takes over. Should be able to cellar this up to three years... to blend flavours and sugar. I'm not an icewine fan so this suits my taste buds when I'm looking for an afterdinner treat or poured over slightly frozen melon/cantelope balls or with anything chocolate.

RODNEY STRONG 'ESTATE VINEYARDS' PINOT NOIR 2005. Sonoma County, USA, 14.3% D, #954834 $24.95 (Tasted December 17, 2006)

A Vintages release on October 28, 2006 described as "This silky smooth wine shows why the Russian River Valley is one of the 'go to' regions for quality Pinot Noir in California. Seductive aromas of cherry, plum, cinnamon, and oak spice replay on the medium full-bodied palate. Dry and well-balanced, it's soft and smooth with a peppery finish. If you're not a Pinot lover, you're about to become one." Natalie MacLean rates it 89/100 saying "Great value from this consistently good producer. Medium-bodied and silky with ripe red fruit." My notes: Let breathe for at least ten minutes or decant to let a 'geranium' aroma subside - then it takes on a subtle strawberry, cherry and faint pepper nose. A bright ruby with a pinkish edge, medium-bodied, a silky texture and bright flavours of equal parts blueberry, strawberry and cherry. The finish is smooth fading slowly and leaving a mineral edge. This needs an appetizer rather than a solo sipper. Pair with light meats: turkey, chicken, veal, lamb, or with flavourful fishes: salmon, tuna, swordfish. Not a value and not recommended.

FAIRVIEW GOATS DO ROAM RED 2005, Western Cape, S Africa, 14.0% D, #718940 $12.95 (Tasted December 15, 2006)

A Vintages release on October 14, 2006 described as "... A friendly, straightforward and fun wine that delivers berry fruit and plum aromas with some pepper and earth in the background. A great party wine!" My notes: Spicy plum aromas and a ruby colour with a garnet tone. The initial sip is medium-bodied holding some cherry flavours and having a light tannin and acid with a round texture. The finish has an oily seam with cherry/berry notes - somewhat artificial rather than natural fruit and, to me, not pleasant (maybe the pinotage in the blend?). A commercial drink-now. Pair with lighter meats: pork, chicken, lamb, veal, ham, all broiled, grilled, in casseroles or sliced cold. Not intended to be cellared. There are alternative reds for the price and it's not on my list for Santa.

DOMAINE CHANDON BLANC DES NOIRS SPARKLING WINE, California, USA, 13.0% D, #100693 $21.95 (Tasted December 14, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 09, 2006 described as "This easy-to-drink fruity fizz is a blend of 79% Pinot Noir, 14% Pinot Meunier and 7% Chardonnay. Frothy and mouth-filling, this rich Blanc de Noirs is very lively, youthful and sure to liven up any celebration. This is a real crowd pleaser." RP of Winecurrent rates it four stars (of 5) saying "Made from the three Champagne varieties, and made in the Méthode Traditionnelle, this has impressive complexity and texture. Pear and apple dominate the flavours, and there's an intriguing hint of almond that intensifies in the finish. Pair this with pan-fried trout with slivered almonds." My notes: A festive pink colour with full fragrance of yeasty apple. Fine bubbles that initially fills and subsides in the glass then fills each sip. A tart edge to granny smith apple lasting evenly on the palate with some leaning to tartness rather than fruit. A pleasant fruity moussey sipper, cleansing to the palate and could be paired with fresh oysters, shaved meats or full flavoured cheeses. A reliable bubbly for diverse occasions. A good value.

KOURTAKIS NEMEA KOUROS 2003, Peloponnese, Greece, 12.5% D, #144576 $9.95 (Tasted December 14, 2006)

A General listing (sometimes reserved for restaurants) described as "Purple/ruby red colour, blueberry, cherry, spice, and vanilla aromas, soft fruit flavour, balanced touch of soft tannin in the finish. Serve at cellar temperature with grilled lamb chops. Tom Cannavan selected this as his wine of the week August 4, 2005 saying "nose is attractively spicy, with plenty of strong, forthright black fruit aromas, a little taint of sandalwood and a cherry-skin darkness. .... rustic, roughening grip of tannin that makes it food friendly, and bags of peppery, spicy, no-nonsense blackberry fruit. Acidity is quite low, and the finish tails off a little..." My notes: A light cherry red colour with a spicy cherry nose. The texture is soft with taste that offers a cherry pit character to the overall first impression. The finish as well is soft with some acid, a light tannin and a nondescript cherry stone flavour. Overall, a 'Family Restaurant House Red' - perhaps pair with lamb or chicken shishkebob on rice if nothing else is available - or skip altogether. Not cellarable and not recommended.

Friday, December 01, 2006

December Whites(10): S Africa Chard, USA Viog, Italy Pin Grig, Italy Pros, Germany Blend, Canada Chard(2), USA Chard, Australia Chard, Canada Pin Bl

GRAHAM BECK BLANC DE BLANCS PREMIER CUVEE BRUT 2001, South Africa, 12.5% XD, #907568 $20.95 (Tasted December 15, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 9, 2006 described as "Long reputed to be amongst the Cape's finest fizzes, this 100% Chardonnay has a creamy mousse, fine acid core for balance and classic biscuit, apple pie and citrus tones. John Platter's South African Wines generally rates this bubbly 4 of 5." RP of Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying ".... this sparkling delivers good complexity in aromas and flavours. Dominated by apples and brioche, with well-integrated citrus (red grapefruit) acidity, this is well-enough balanced to make a pre-dinner aperitif or to serve with an appetizer like freshly-shucked oysters or grilled shrimp with a squeeze of lemon." My notes: We had Swiss Chalet at the time this was opened. Its 'brut'ness was appropriate and pouring the fine bubbles added an extra treat for a takeout supper. Light blond in colour with aromas of yeast and green apple. Flavours of crisp green apple leading to a clean, moderate, yeasty finish. Have as a refreshing aperitif but better with chilled or grilled, but not creamy, shellfish - fresh oysters for sure. A reasonably priced substitute for champagne.

RENWOOD SELECT SERIES VIOGNIER 2004, California, USA, 13.5% D, #018762 $19.95 (Tasted December 13, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 9, 2006 described as "A Gold-Medal winner at the 2006 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, this Rhône-style blend (89% Viognier, 10% Semillon, 1% Marsanne) offers up delicious aromas of tangerine, honeysuckle, pear and white peach. A rich and creamy textured white that will pair beautifully with "Spicy Scallops with Capellini." The website says "... displays aromas of tangerine, honeysuckle, pear, and white peach. On the palate the wine is rich, with a creamy texture of ripe pears, lemon citrus, peaches and apricots. A luscious finish, displaying layers of honeysuckle, citrus and a hint of vanilla, balances the wine...." Gord Stimmell rates it 89/100 saying "...aromatic white, ... hints of clover blossoms, jasmine, honeysuckle and rose petals with dry peachy flavours." My notes: A light blond colour and an interesting mixture of blossoms and fruit: honeysuckle, lemon and pear. The flavour starts with an orange zest highlight then followups with lemon and mandarin orange fruit beautifully balanced with natural acid. The finish begins with a light oil leading to clean citrus and ending dryly. An excellent sipper. Pair with seafood dishes: mussels, scallops shrimp, or grilled chicken, Thai or Asian. An excellent white to keep on hand and should cellar for up to two years.

SANDHILL 'BURROWING OWL VINEYARD' CHARDONNAY 2004, Okanagan Valley, Canada, 14.0% D, #541193 $17.95 (Tasted December 11, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 9, 2006 and described as "Hazelnut, spicy lees nose mixed with butter, vanilla, green apple skin and floral notes. Ripe, round, dry palate with buttery, spicy lees, baked apple and honey flavours and touch of citrus and nutty biscuit on the finish. Well made. A leaner, slightly more sophisticated style from Sandhill that we welcome. 88/100, Anthony Gismondi, July 8, 2005" My notes: A light fragrance of green apple and spicy lees and not much else discernible. The flavours are a light nippy apple and lemon with soft oak and a buttery texture. The finish is long with an edge of sweetness that balances the citrus and green apple leaving a tart dryness. This is a very delicate oaked chardonnay, definitely not flat, having flavours that make an interesting sipper, dry and crisp. Pairing with seafood (was wonderful with breaded arctic char filets), with chicken or pork wraps, tapas, or Thai would make the most of the flavours. A good value if 'delicate' fits the occasion.

CANTINA TRAMIN PINOT GRIGIO 2005, Alto Adige, Italy, 13.0% XD, #627059 $14.95 (Tasted December 10, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 09, 2006 described as "Delicate aromas of pears, honeysuckle, and lemons emerge from the 2005 Pinot Grigio. Light-bodied, with refreshing acidity, good fruit, and a clean, fresh finish, it will provide immense pleasure over the next 12 months. Score - 88. (Robert Parker Jr., June 2006). " VH of Winecurrent gives it three and 1/2 (of 5) saying "A subdued nose of floral and citrus notes opens up this light to medium-bodied white. This is dry on the palate, displaying well proportioned flavours of honeycomb and key lime zest. It provides a tangy taste treat that would marry well to grilled tuna under a drizzle of freshly-squeezed lemon." My notes: The aromas are delicate wild clover and honey and need a few minutes to develop as the chill goes. Flavours of bright citrus, a soft honey edge with the impression of sweetness. The finish carries the flavours well as they take time to fade until the next sip. A friendly sipper, easy to quaff with conversation. Pairs well with spicy mussels with a light or creamy sauce, or with grilled chicken breast pieces on lemon rice, or with mild meat dishes: ham, pork, veal with light sauces or with Asian dishes. Cellaring up to two years should increase mellowness but it's drinking well now. An excellent value.

NINO FRANCO PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE BRUT NV, Veneto, Italy, 11.0% D, #349662 $16.95 (Tasted December 09, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 9, 2006 described as "Nino Franco is the consummate craftsman of Italy's most beloved sparkling wine. Very pale straw. Nose of mineral, pear, fresh apple. Taste is dry, light body, refreshing acidity, mineral, lime, green apple. Tony Aspler gives it four (of 5), Mar. 28, 2005." VH of Winecurrent gives it three (of 5) saying "Apple and citrus aromas and flavours flow through this light-bodied sparkler. The flavours are tight and tangy while the finish has oodles of cleansing citrus flavours that portend a gorgeous match to all manner of fish and sea food appetizers. Good, of course, to quaff on its own." My notes: Large bubbles effervesce in the glass subsiding quickly to a sparse stream. Aromas of yeast and green apple - no pear, green apple flavours with sharp acidity surrounding the fruit and finishing steely, tart with a straw edge. The aftertaste has an unpleasant mineral quality which is less apparent with hors d'hoevres: shaved meats on dry crisps, fresh oysters, crabmeat wraps, mussels in a garlic sauce or turkey slices over lightly sauced risotto. A commercial bubbly - a quaffer with meals and not a sipper. Not recommended

HENKELL TROCKEN FINE SEKT, Baden, Germany, 11.0% D, #122689 $11.95* (Tasted December 06, 2006)

A General listing described as "Pale yellow colour; light apple & melon with a hint of yeast; soft, off-dry fruit flavour with a crisp finish. Serve as an aperitif or with spicy foods." The website says "This dry, fully matured sparkling wine owes its elegant character to a unique Cuvée of excellent wines originating from such classic grape varieties as French Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Blanc de Noir from French Pinot Noir and Chenin from Saumur. Henkell Trocken sparkles with vivacious and long lasting effervescence. Thanks to the play of greenish reflections, the delicate light amber colour gains lively, expressive nuancing. The taste is fresh, tingling, with a lingering finish, while a subtle fragrance suggestive of tropical fruit develops in the bouquet. The finely blended, harmonious composition makes Henkell Trocken a well-balanced, consummate taste experience.." My notes: *Reduced from $12.95 until yearend. The LCBO description is accurate. The website gives the grape blend then waxes poetic. Bubbles are large and effervesce quickly then dissipate leaving some fine bubbles in the finish. Colour is a light blond, aroma is a yeasty green apple, flavours are a fresh apple with a natural sweetness finishing with yeastiness mixed with pear and apple, enough tartness to avoid being flat. A sociable sipper as an aperitif. Reasonably priced for a sizeable crowd. Nothing special is conveyed by this bubbly although the package is 'princely'. A commercial drink-now.

CAVE SPRING VINEYARD 'CSV' CHARDONNAY 1999, Niagara, Canada, 14.5% XD, #529941 $32.94 (Tasted December 05, 2006)

Vintages released the 2003 vintage ($30.00) from CSV on November 11, 2006 describing it as having "a heavy layer of oak, spice, hazelnut and caramel combined with honey and green apple flavours. ... creamy with citrus, apple and toasty ... crisp acid. Rated 88/100 by Evan Saviolidis." The website notes "Produced from CSV’s oldest, lowest-yielding vines, this wine gives full expression to the terroir of our site (Niagara's Beamsville Bench)." My notes: The 1999 vintage was purchased from the winery in June 2003 and cellared 'til now. The nose is a combination of a light citrus and pecan, the flavours blend delicate apple and toasty oak, medium-bodied, low in acid with some butter but not butterscotch. A butternut finish fairly long but leaving a smoothness on the palate, not drying nor is it tart. Was OK as a sipper and paired well with scallops and fettucini in a creamy mushroom sauce. Cellaring hasn't done much for this chard. Not a value.

J.LOHR ESTATES RIVERSTONE CHARDONNAY 2004, California, USA, 13.5% D, #258899 $19.00 (Tasted December 04, 2006)

A General release described as "Deep yellow colour; ripe apple, pear, melon & vanilla aromas; dry, medium to full-bodied; creamy texture & peachy, oaky notes on the palate; well-balanced with a long finish. Serve with grilled or roasted poultry dishes; pork with apple sauce." The label says "..has aromas of grapefruit and nectarine, and layers of rich, complex flavours. etc." My notes: A light lemon colour with delicate aromas of a pineapple and lemon blend. A light oil on the lips with an aggressive tart undeveloped citrus flavour and a finish that flattens into green straw on the palate. A reasonable nose but the 'clean your teeth' sharpness and straw finish makes this an unpleasant sipper. Pair with creamy mushroom pastas or soups, roasted chicken, vegetables and fries, seafood entrees. Cellaring isn't recommended. A 'commercial' white and not a value imo.

COOKOOTHAMA 'DARLINGTON POINT' CHARDONNAY 2005, New South Wales, Australia, 14.0% D, #619403 $14.00 (Tasted December 02, 2006)

A General listing described as "Pale straw yellow colour; aromas of citrus and vanilla; dry, medium bodied, crisp with apple, citrus flavours. Serve with grilled or roast poultry." The label says "...Rich and generous aromas of peach and melon. On the palate these flavours are complimented well by integrated french oak and citrus notes resulting in a well balanced and elegant wine. Cellar up to three years." My notes: A General listing produced by Nugan Estates (website being developed). Colour is a golden blond with aromas after airing ten minutes, of lemon drop softned by french oak, light-bodied with a buttery texture and flavours of mainly toasted apple, nippy and fresh. The finish is mainly a faint oak and faint lemon with a cleansing tartness. Too young to be a sipper and too early to pair with meals - but if you have to, should go well with grilled seafood, light fowl or Asian fare. Should be cellared to establish its full character and flavourings... has a potential that two years cellaring could reveal. At the price it's worth the investment imo.

GRAY MONK PINOT BLANC 2004, BC, Canada, 13.1% XD, #321612* $15.95 (Retasted December 01, 2006)

My notes: Last tasted January 2006. Vintages released the 2004 vintage on January 21, 2006 saying: "The 2004 is bursting with tropical fruit, textured gooseberry and melon notes on the palate and good acidity underneath. Perfect with barbecued salmon. (Tim Pawsey, North Shore News, August 29, 2005)". *The number is no longer listed. The nose bursts as soon as the cork is popped: gooseberry comes first then apple, pear and a sidelight of honey. The flavours share a solid bite with tastes of pear, apple and a touch of herbaceousness that wasn't evident before. Finishes dry and bright with green melon on the tongue and moderately succulent. A tasty sipper by itself or with mild cheeses and fruit selection. Pair with grilled telapia or scallops and asparagus tips. Drinking well now and won't improve with further cellaring, may actually develop straw tones.

December Reds (10): USA Cab Sauv, Argentina Blend, France Blend, USA Pinot Noir, Italy Blend(2), Australia Shiraz(2), Spain Blend, Canada Gamay

BOLLA 'LE POIANE' VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2001, Veneto, Italy, 13.5% XD, #135293 $19.95 (Retasted December 13, 2006)

My notes: Last tasted April, 2006. A Vintages release on April 15, 2006 and described as "Unlike standard Valpolicella, Bolla's 'Le Poiane' goes through the secondary fermentation of ripassato. The juice is pumped onto the skins of grapes left over from their Amarone wine production and allowed to macerate for 20 days. The wine is then aged for one to two years in small oak barrels prior to bottling..." Now a pleasant cherry nose with less oak and tar presence. A light ruby, tending to being light-bodied now.... flavours of bright cherry with even tannins and acid. The finish is long, flavourful, and silky... a pleasing sipper. Have with any red meat, or pepperoni pizza or red sauced meaty pasta dishes. Still is a 'super valpolicella sipper'.

RODNEY STRONG CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, Sonoma, USA, 13.8% XD, #226944 $19.95 (Tasted December 10, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 9, 2006. RP of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) describing as " of the winemaking pioneers in Sonoma, the late great Rodney Strong would be proud of this stylish Cabernet. Sourced from hillside vineyards in the warmer Alexander Valley region, this wine has a lot of depth and finesse. You could drink this now in a pinch, but why, when you can hold it two or three years and get more out of it when the tannins are more integrated? Big and dry, with generous dark fruit and spice, it's a great match for a steak, grilled to medium-rare perfection." My notes: A pleasing warm cedar and blackcurrant nose with tangy flavours hitting the taste buds with blackcurrant softened by a few berries and firm tannin. The finish holds on to the currants, tannin and tang for a lasting impression. An unctious medium-bodied sipper for those liking fruit flavours with a touch of mint... and great with roasted rosemary'd lamb rack with brussels and baked potato. Cellaring a dozen for two to three years is a good move although it's great, but premature, to sip now.
CLOS DE LOS SIETE 2004, Argentina, 15.3% XD, #622571 $24.95 (Tasted December 08, 2006)

A Vintages release on August 19, 2006 described as "Good full ruby-red. Laid-back nose features black cherry, minerals, licorice and dark chocolate. Suave, silky and light on its feet, with claret-like black fruit, spice and menthol flavors. Very fine-grained in the middle palate and on the aftertaste. Finishes with ripe, pliant tannins and lingering black cherry and spice notes. 89/100 (Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar, Nov/Dec 2005)." For an opposite view see Tom Cannavan's writeup. VH of Winecurrent gives it four and 1/2 (of 5) saying "Michel Rolland, of ‘Mondovino’ fame, or infamy.... had a hand in this. It all begins with a subdued perfume of cherry, tar and licorice then bursts on the palate with a layered fruit-forward attack of black cherry and currant that has been infused with cigar box and garrigue. The finish is lengthy, displaying a good dollop of tang and supple tannin..... now to 2012." Victoria Moore picks it to go with a rare venison dish. "a very solid wine with a burly tannic frame densely hung with dark fruit... a blend of malbec, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah that's so velvety you melt into it." My notes: A deep garnet with a violet hue, aromas of rich blackberry and cherry, tobacco humidor, and licorice blend; rich flavours of black cherries and spice, a soft tartness with very fine tannins, delicate tar and a velvet finish that lasts forever - the oak surrounds the textures without being overbearing. A full-bodied mellow sipper ready for full flavoured meat dishes. Should be able to cellar this several years. A good value if you like huge reds.

CHATEAU PLAISANCE PREMIERE COTES DE BORDEAUX 1999, Bordeaux, France, 12.5% XD, CP143-2210 $20.67 (Retasted December 06, 2006)

My notes: Last tasted in November 2005. Opimian wrote, "This one is superb, dark and thickly concentrated with a rich and fragrant plum-style bouquet with touches of warm cedary-oak that surround the sweet ripe fruit with berry-like flavours. .... age at least five years." Mine was cellared in October 2002. When last tasted this Bordeaux was a light ruby and had a a cedar fragrance overriding any plum fragrance... without the fresh fruit or fullness expected... will cellar but don't expect much more..." Now a murky ruby showing its unfiltered heritage, aromas of a light plum with soft oak. Flavours of bright plum and black cherry, a light fine tannin with balanced acids. The finish is a pleasing ripe cherry tone ending on an earthy edge. An interesting light-bodied sipper with soft pepper, was too light for chili con carne with a vinaigrette salad. An unassuming red for lightly flavoured meat entrees: prime rib and vegetables, pork with cooked cabbage, lamb cuts. Mediocre and won't improve with further cellaring - still, much improved over last tasting.

AMITY VINEYARDS PINOT NOIR 2004, Williamette Valley, Oregon, 13.0% D, #124594 $27.90 (Tasted December 04, 2006)

A General release described as "Pale ruby/garnet; light cranberry, stawberry aromas and flavour with a hint of cinamon and an earthy note in the finish; dry and light- to medium-bodied with good acidity, soft tannins, moderate length. Serve with grilled salmon or tuna; game birds; mushroom dishes." The website says "A complex nose with aromas of black cherry, blueberry & raspberry, mixed with notes of earth & spice, leads into a smooth soft wine." The label says "A pleasant nose of red and black cherry leads into a smooth, silky wine....11 months in neutral french oak... no new oak. etc." My notes: After raving about the 2002 vintage paired with a veal dish I was surprised to find Amity on LCBO's General list and available locally. The 2004 is a medium ruby colour with aromas of strawberry cotton candy although spicier. Light-boded, a grassy strawberry flavour with a drying tannin and slight oily texture. The 2002 was 'hedonistic', medium-boded, silky, full of fresh fruit and complex flavours. By comparison, the 2004 is ordinary although an interesting sipper. It was too light for a grilled centre cut steak. Pair with a ham steak, stuffed pork chop, or a chicken breast poached in a mushroom sauce. Cellaring for several years could produce a silky pinot although light-bodied with minimum fruit.... not a value.

MARCHESI FRESCOBALDI 'NIPOZZANO' CHIANTI RISERVA 2003, Tuscany, Italy, 13.5% D, #107276 $18.10 (Tasted December 04, 2006)

A General listing described as "Red with garnet colour; black cherry and blackberry fruit with cedar, smoke and leather notes; extra dry, medium bodied, with balanced fruit flavours, notes of smoke and tar, good acidity with a touch of spice, licorice and leather; long finish. Serve with beef stews, roasted red meats, veal in tomato sauce, roasted root vegetables or grilled portobello mushrooms." My notes: Reduced from $20.10 until yearend there were few bottles on shelves this week. A blend of sangiovese (80%) and several other italian grapes with everything as described above although the fruit is increasingly in the background in each case: nose then flavour and finish. A smooth texture with fine tannins, leather and licorice on the tongue. The finish is initially bright changing quickly to leather. An uninteresting sipper ... pair with full flavoured red meat dishes or portobello burgers. Won't improve with cellaring - not a value.

Clare Valley, Australia, 14.5% XD, #732891* $15.95 (Retasted December 02, 2006)

My notes: Last tasted May, 2006. A Vintages release in October, 2004 and cellared the same month, *no longer listed - originally rated 92/100. Medium-bodied, palate puckering with fruit flavours that have waned a tad but remain prominent balanced with black currant, plum and blackberry - has a bit of pepper with ample fine tannin. A warm ruby colour with a warm cedar and black currant nose - not as strong but still natural and pleasing. A long finish, dry and a bright dark ripe berry blend - very sippable. Pair with any red meat... went well with burgers and salad. Cellarable for a few more years yet although the fruit is becoming more integrated and complex. Jeanneret is distributed in Ontario by B&W Wines.

COOKOOTHAMA 'DARLINGTON POINT' SHIRAZ 2005, New South Wales, Australia, 14.0% D, #619460 $14.00 (Tasted December 02, 2006)

The label says "Aromas of ripe berry are supported by rich toasty oak. Intense spicy berry fruit flavours carry through to the mid-palate and are complimented by well integrated oak and supple tannins laying the foundation for a long and rewarding finish. Three to five years cellaring. My notes: A General listing produced by Nugan Estates whose website is 'under development'. The nose is a combination of varied red berries and soft oak needing a few minutes to develop in the glass. Nicely full in the mouth with well balanced acids, tannin, berries and spice, a tad jammy .... and a finish that closely follows the flavours moderately long and smooth. A sipper with enough tangy spice and tannin to be interesting. Paired with ground beef in a tomato sauce over cheese ravioli it held its own. A house party red, ie. won't offend but not special. If cellaring as suggested by Nugan try a year at a time - it may lead nowhere.

CASTILLO de FUENDEJALON CRIANZA 1996, CAMPO de BORJA, Fuendejalon, Spain, 12.5% XD, CP136-1811 $12.17 (Tasted December 01, 2006)

My notes: Opimian says "....grapes of thirty year old vines of grenache (75%) and tempranillo(25%). Cellar six months to two years." This was cellared July 2001 and last tasted in May, 2005. It's a mid ruby colour with a slight pink edge, aromas of soft cherry - berry and a faint cedar humidor edge. Light-bodied with a bright red cherry and red currant flavour blend. The finish is long with fine tannin, a steely brightness, red currants and some cherry stone. A dry sipper better paired with trays of tapas or lightly flavoured meaty entrees - went well with mushroom and cheese ravioli in a red pepper and tomato sauce including sparingly sprinkled crushed chillies. Likely past peak but still an OK meal red.

MOUNTAIN ROAD WINE COMPANY GAMAY SEMI-DRY ROSE 2004, Beamsville, Canada, 13.3% SC4, Winery $11.95 (Tasted December 01, 2006)

My notes: Purchased from the winery in October on a tasting trip to the Niagara area. A clear rosy peach hue with aromas of strawberry, red currants and a light spice that build as the glass warms. As with most, if not all, Mountain Road wines, this is full of flavours, in this case strawberry and cherry, soft and delectable - the sweetness complementing the flavours. The finish also has the smoothness of a strawberry/cherry coulis retaining its natural fruit sweetness. A perfect summer cooler to have with friends on the patio. Serve with a tray of mild cheeses and fruit wedges: cantelope, watermelon, seedless green and red grapes... or pour tall in a glass with a few crushed cubes as a summer refresher - or pour over a ball of limone creme glacee. Will cellar a year or two, longer if you prefer 'european' style,