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.

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