Thursday, February 23, 2006

And more Feb Whites (4): Canada Chard(2), France Blend, Australia Blend

HENRY OF PELHAM NON-OAKED CHARDONNAY 2004, St. Catherines, Canada, 13.0% D, #291211 $11.95 (Tasted February 26, 2006)

BBB describes this as 'best house white of 2005'. The LCBO says: "Pale golden yellow colour; green apple, grapefruit and pears with hint of spice on the nose and palate;dry, medium-bodied with fresh, crisp acidity and citrus finish. Serve with fresh fish, oysters or chicken." The website says: "The wine was fermented completely in stainless steel with aging 'sur lie'... to bring complexity and depth of flavour. Bright and aromatic with flavours ranging from vibrant apple to citrusy grapefruit. True cool climate chardonnay character!" My notes: Very pale blond with perhaps some apple or grapefruit nose. Light -bodied, a tart sensation with a very light creamy and little distinct flavours. The finish is crisp and short, some pucker and an accumulated dryness. OK with pancakes covered with syrup, butter and back bacon. No interest as a sipper, a nondescript meal white, not cellarable.

MISSION HILL FAMILY ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2003 VQA, Okanagan, Canada, 13.5% XD, #545004 $18.95 (Tasted February 25, 2006)

A Vintages release October 15, 2005 and described as "Best of the West. Aromas of citrus, apple blossom and spices. A veritable fruit basket on the palate with zesty acidity and a medium finish. Mission Hill was named Best BC Winery in 2003 by Northwest Palate Magazine. Enjoy with roast turkey or pork tenderloin." The label says: "big and luscious with flavours of ripe pineapple and hints of guava, lime zest, toasted hazelnuts and vanilla. .... balanced with a vibrant, juicy palate weight, food-friendly acidity and a harmonious finish...." Gismondi says: "87 points. Peach, green apple, fruit salad, mineral, honey, floral aromas with a slightly smoky note. Dry, crisp, tight style with elegance. Vanilla, dry lees, mineral, lime rind, green apple skin flavours with a floral, peach pit note. Nice elegance but very French in style." My notes: A light blond with a light citrus blossom nose. Medium-bodied with bright, citrus flavours - the acidity should carry through most seafood or light chicken dishes, risotto or creamy mushroom pastas. Was OK with grilled salmon and caesar salad. The finish is moderate, has a touch of cream and a crisp zest. A drink-now. Cellaring a year may increase the body but also moderate the fruit - worth a try.

LANSON BLACK LABEL BRUT CHAMPAGNE (NV), Champagne, France, 12.5% D, #041889 $44.95 (Tasted February 25, 2006)

A Vintages release December 10, 2005 and described as: "This bubbly showcases superb quality at an agreeable price. It is quite lively with toast, honey and floral aromas. Full-bodied with ripe citrus fruit flavours and a long finish. Wine Spectator blessed it with 91 points and it has been popping off the shelves. Perfect for a celebration dinner; especially good with crab cakes. An amazing value. From Vintages Essentials Collection - always available." The label says: "..a pleasant, exuberant wine - can be enjoyed at any time: as an aperitif, with food, or at all celebrations. Serve 8C to 10C." My notes: A crystal clear golden blond with a clean yeasty, white chocolate aroma. Pours with lots of medium to large bubbles, no froth. Full-bodied with a light cream and no distinct citrus flavour, not tart. The label is right... I could have it anytime, as a sipper or with fresh seafood tidbits including crabcakes. Has a long finish, cleansing to the palate and warming after a few sips. An excellent celibratory bubbly but shouldn't there be some 'mousseyness' at this price level?

ROSEMOUNT ESTATE CHARDONNAY SEMILLON 2004, South Eastern Australia, 12.5% D, #248971 $12.20 (Tasted February 23, 2006)

The LCBO says: "Golden colour; tropical fruit and oak aroma; tropical fruit, and vanilla flavour with citrus & smoky oak finish. Serve with smoked chicken & pasta." The label says: "displays aromas of honey and peach enhanced by crisp citrus from the semillon, the palate of ripe tropical flavours supported by a creamy mouthfeel... crisp clean finish." My notes: A light blond with a wildflower and light honey nose, tropical citrus with soft acids is the main structure with a touch of creaminess on the palate. A finish that is moderately long, bright, a touch of grass. Went well with creamed squash soup and broiled foccacia covered with reggiano and crushed garlic brushed with olive oil. A drink-now white for sipping or for white meat dishes; chicken, pork or cheesy, mushroom and seafood pastas.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

More February Reds (6): Canada Blend(2), USA Cab Sauv, Spain Blend(2), France Midi,

REIF CABERNET MERLOT 2003 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 12.5% D, #565713 $13.95 (Tasted February 27, 2006)

The LCBO says: "Light garnet colour; dry and medium-bodied with aromas and flavours of red cherry, anice, leather, tobacco and mineral; dry, with crisp acidity; firm, gripping tannic core; medium long finish. Serve with game stews, roasted or grilled red meats." The label says: "A medium-bodied ruby red wine displaying rich aromas of dark berry fruit. The palate is layered with black currant, licorice and a hint of smoky oak. Enjoy now up to five years. Pair with roasted leg of lamb, filet mignon with wild mushrooms, egg-plant parmesan or heavy cheeses" The website describes only the 2004 vintage - no data on percentages of merlot or cabernet varietals. My notes: A light ruby colour and, if you really sniff hard, a smoke-tinged red cherry aroma - didn't get the anise, leather or tobacco. A smooth red cherry flavour thin on the palate, a slight tannin and acid although this slowly builds to be noticeable. Let breathe for twenty minutes.. A light-bodied quaffer with an acceptable cherry finish. Should be OK with roasted red meats, turkey or pork - nothing savoury or spicy. A drink-now.

COLIO HARROW ESTATES CABERNET/MERLOT VQA, Harrow, Canada, 13.0% XD, #432054 $10.95 (Tasted February 24, 2006)

Alas, the label is Colio Estates, not Harrow, and this vintage isn't and a VQA, not now - what else has changed? The LCBO description likely applies to the original release describing it as: "Ruby red colour; plum aroma; berry, cedar with a touch of pepper. Serve with steak and grilled mushrooms." The label says: "another fine example of the Colio Estates collection of premium quality wines... representative of our winemaker's (Carlo Negri) innate ability to create noteworthy wines of reliable consistency. Have with stronger cheeses, hearty broths, mushroom based entrees, beef or sip on its own." My notes: A light medium-bodied, ruby red with an aroma of a faint cherry/plum mix. Starts out as a smooth approach to the palate with a tart attack and some drying tannins, a light red cherry developing after a few sips. A short finish with a dry aftertaste. 'Premium quality', I don't think so.... 'noteworthy', nope! Not remarkable as a sipper... better paired with spicy pizzas or burgers. A 'drink-now' if there's nothing else.... or save for a house party.

LIBERTY SCHOOL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, Paso Robles, USA, 13.5% XD, #738823 $19.95 (Tasted February 23, 2006)

A Vintages release November 26, 2005 described as "A simply delicious Cabernet Sauvignon ... has concentrated dark fruit (cherry, plum, berries) with spicy and savoury notes, a rich, layered texture, and great balance. The tannins are firm and drying, but manageable now with rare meat. Liberty School can clearly teach a few other producers a thing or two. Score - 5 Stars (out of 5) (Rod Phillips,, July 9 2005)." Their website says: "aromas of blackberry and cherry, chocolate, cassis and hints of vanillin. ...deep berry flavours enhanced by soft, elegant tannins and a rich, full finish. ..a perfect complement to grilled, braised or roasted meats, Mediterranean fare and semi-aged cheese." My notes: A very faint nose of plum and cherry warmed by oak hints - needs time in the glass. A deep ruby, medium-bodied with a warm smooth flow on the palate and a soft acid and tannin with the swallow. Cherry, plum and berry flavours havent fully developed in this bottle. A tad of spice and mushroom follows into the moderate finish. An undergraduate cabernet compared to the claims imho but nevertheless a mellow balanced sipper and should pair nicely with grilled, baised or roasted meats, etc. A drink-now.
OSBORNE SOLAZ TEMPRANILLO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004, Rueda, Spain, 13.5% D, #610188 $9.70 (Tasted February 19, 2006)

The LCBO says: "Dark ruby colour; strawberry, fruit compote, tar, smoke and plum aromas; dry, medium bodied palate with medium body, plum and currant flavours and moderate tannin on the finish. Serve with tapas, barbecued spareribs, burgers or roast poulty." The label says: "a modern blend... a fruity wine with deep red colour, elegant aromas and roundness that comes from four months ageing in oak barrels. ... serve at 63F. " My notes: A faint soft nose of plums and cherries. A bright red currant and plum flavour against a healthy background of tannins. The finish is dry and short with some red currant lingerings. Overall, lighter than expected in a medium-bodied red, the tempranillo coming ahead of the cabernet sauvignon influence. Uninteresting as a sipper, more of a low cost red for grilled red meat dishes - was great with red sauce pasta with a few crushed chilis.. A drink-now rather than cellaring.

OSBORNE SOLAZ SHIRAZ TEMPRANILLO 2004, Rueda, Spain, 14.0% D, #620922 $10.00 (Tasted February 17, 2006)

The label says: "... blend results in an intense purple-coloured wine with red fruit aroma, a spicy, structured taste, and roundness that comes from four months of oak ageing. ...for grilled red meats and matured cheeses." BBB describes this as 'best alternative to Aussie Shiraz of 2005'. The LCBO says: "Medium red violet colour; aromas of cedar, oak/vanilla and ripe berry; dry, medium bodied, with flavours of cherry, blackberry, cedar and spice. Serve with roasted chicken sandwiches, Spanish jamon or serrano ham, or stew." My notes: Deep, purple hued ruby colour with soft but faint aromas of smoke and ripe berries - I didnt get the vanilla. The initial sip wakes up the taste buds with a full-bodied dash of pepper and gulp of tannin. These smooth out with successive sips into an earthy mix of cherry, berry and plum flavours with less of a fruit focus than an 'Aussie Shiraz'. The finish is long and dry with a light tar. Have with spicy or flavourful appetizers, grilled sirloin, T-bones, pizzas, hamburgers, buffalo wings, bbq'd ribs, stews, etc. More of a drink-now value than for cellaring.

CHATEAU LA CLOTTE-FONTANE MATHIEROU 2000, Languedoc, France, 13.5% XD, CP144-2266 $15.92 (Tasted February 16, 2006)

Opimian says: "This is the finest and possibly the fullest of the wines of the Midi that we have tasted. ..... vines are old, only Grenache and Syrah in equal proportions... It will keep ten years but in five its flavour will be explosive." My notes: Ordered in June 2002 and cellared November 2002. Now a soft cedar and ripe plum nose from a garnet red, medium- to full-bodied wine, silky textured balanced with white pepper, tannin and acid. The flavours develop in the glass and on the palate so sipping is slowed to appreciate the mellow tones of French oak, the slight tars, black olives and subdued ripe plums. The finish is long and soft: the grenache coming through with its fullness and syrah with its peppery spices. A meal wine so to be paired with roasted or grilled red meats, dark game meats or savoury stews. Not 'explosive' yet.... continued cellaring will show if the Opimian prediction is met.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

More February Whites (9): Canada SB, Italy Pinot Grig, Chile Chard, Portugal Ribat., NZ Sauv Blanc, NZ Blend, France Blend (2), Australia Chard

JACKSON-TRIGGS PROPRIETOR'S SELECTION SAUVIGNON BLANC NV, Niagara, Canada, 12.5% D, #399410 $8.95 (Tasted February 21, 2006) CS

The LCBO says: "Pale straw colour; dry, light bodied with fresh apple and grapefruit aromas and flavours; light acidity with a soft pleasant finish. Serve with seafood; shellfish; light chicken dishes." The label says: "our SB has a distinctive floral bouquet complemented by notes of citrus fruit and dill.... an elegant finish." My notes: A nonvintage pale blond with a faint floral nose. Light-bodied with a light but tart crabapple flavour with distinct dryness. The finish is moderate, warm, lightly citric and an accumulated mineral dryness. To me, not unpleasant but an uninteresting sipper. With broiled crusted telapia it's a little lost. Not a cellarable wine, not a sipper .... what else?

SANTI PINOT GRIGIO DELLE VENEZIE 2004, SORTESELE, Alto Adige, Italy, 12.5% D, #637603 $13.00 (Tasted February 20, 2006) CS

BBB describes this as 'best nice Pinot Grigio of 2005'. The LCBO says: "Pale straw colour; apple, pear and lemon aromas and flavours; dry palate with a creamy texture, light to medium bodied with a spicy finish. Serve with shellfish, creamy pasta dishes or as a patio sipper." The Wine Enthusiast rates it 87 saying “An intensely fragrant and perfumy wine with fresh flowers, honey and apple.... Sweet and endearing with prominent acidity.” My notes: A light blond in the glass with a soft floral nose and honey overtone. Light-bodied, a hint of lemon with a nice acid nip fronts a moderate finish of citrus and honey. Was great with grilled chicken breasts with a ginger baste and creamed celeriac potatoes. Well chilled it's a pleasant almost-citrus cooler with a soft spiciness.... off-chill it's fuller for pairing with seafood appetizers: raw oysters or grilled scallops, aged cheeses or shaved meats (maybe) and white fish dishes. Cellaring a year, if any is leftover from sipping, may round it out further.

YVON MAU COLOMBARD/CHARDONNAY 2004, Casgone, France, 11.5% D, #627265 $7.80* (Tasted February 19, 2006) CS

The LCBO says: "Pale straw; delicate citrus, grassy and apple aromas; dry, light bodied with crisp acidity, candied citrus, pear and apple flavours. Serve as an apperitif; scallops with lemongrass; grilled pork; fish or mussels." Won a Gold at the Ottawa Wine and Food Show 2005, for Other Dry White Wine $8.50 to $11.99. My notes: (*reduced from $8.55) A soft citrus melon nose and soft blond in colour. A taste of creamy melon with a nicely balanced acid and a moderate finish of citrus and melon but leaving a grassy dryness. A disappointing sipper since flavours become so muted. Adequate pairing with a meal is also difficult - more of an aperitif, if that. A low price but Perrier is more refreshing. Not cellarable.

LAURA HARTWIG COLCHAGUA VALLEY CHARDONNAY 2000, Rapel, Chile, 13.5% D, CP135-1796 $17.33 (Retasted February 19, 2006)

Opimian describes this as "A beauty, this wine has all of the benefits of a 'Mendoza' chardonnay clone...etc." and recommended cellaring six months to two years. Last tasted in March 2005 with the comment 'Tasted 2003 and rated a 91'. Cellaring from January 2001 has steadily improved this chardonnay. Now a golden yellow with an aromatic citrus, buttery caramel nose it is full-bodied and rolls across the palate with a citrus zestiness leaving a long silky finish. Was great with lamb and creamed leeks and should be so with creamy mushroom or seafood pastas, grilled white fishes or salmons - or just sip. Last of the lot so will only have memories now.

QUINTA DE S. JOAO BATISTA FERNAO-PIRES RIBATEJO 2003, Rio Maior, Portugal, 12.0% XD, SO39-2605 $15.58 (Tasted February 15, 2006)

The label says: "This huge wine.... already won a gold medal and three silvers. .... colour is straw touched golden and on the nose the full grape vinosity is balanced by a deep oatmeal nuance. Complex, full-bodied and finishing with a hearty bite of alcohol, a partner for food." Opimian says: "..same as label.. Cellar six months to two years." My notes: Cellared August 2004. Has a light golden colour with a faint citrus nose and flavours of California honeydew with a tart edge. Serve off-chill and letting breathe improves texture. By itself not a sipper and pair with spicy tomato or red pepper salsas, tapas, seasoned rice dishes where the astringency becomes a partner with the meal - was OK with broiled bearded mussels in a garlic and wine sauce tho'. Finish has a lasting citrus zest with a touch of oil and a pucker. Don't know where the 'hearty bite of alcohol' comes in and the medals may have been in the year of release? A different white for sure... will cellar another year.

CLOUDY BAY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004. Martlborough, NZ, 13.5%, XD, #304469* $31.95 (Retasted February 14, 2006) CS

My notes: Last tasted May 2005. *Not currently listed by Vintages - I suspect it'll be back. Still very pleasurable on three counts: as a sipper the nose is elegantly gooseberry and passionfruit with a sharp edge that sensitizes the nose, the flavours are well balanced gooseberry and passion fruit with a brightness that awakens the buds, the finish after the meal, in this case fresh lobster and roasted parisienne potatoes (it was Valentines after all), had a light creaminess and was as fresh as a citrus dessert. Once the price is paid then the pleasure is in the tasting. Still fresh after cellaring from April 2005 and likely will be after another year. We'll see. Good stuff!

CLOUDY BAY 'PELORUS' NV, Marlborough, NZ, 12.5% XD, #942417 $24.95 (Tasted February 14, 2006) CS

A Vintages release September 3, 2005 described as "Very attractive yeasty nose, followed by a lemony, nutty palate with breadth and creamy texture. It has freshness, too, and roundness, making it a good aperitif style. (Wine International, Dec. 2004)" The website says: "Chardonnay and pinot noir grapes are sourced from several grower and estate vineyards located within the Wairau Valley in Marlborough. The pale straw colour and aromas of ripe citrus fruits indicate the chardonnay origins of Pelorus nv. A bouquet of apple and lemon complements fresh bready notes derived from two years bottle ageing on lees. The deliciously crisp palate displays toasty, creamy complexity, enhanced by a lingering nutty finish." My notes: A light gold colour and a faint yeasty citrus nose. Lots of 'tiny bubbles' burst then edge the rim, not tart and not sweet - just comfortable for a sparkling aperitif. A touch of drying from a round, medium-bodied, crisp, nutty white although less fruit and creaminess than I remember from previous tastings, still with a firm spritz to tickle the palate. Just brut enough for fresh oysters or spicy NZ bearded mussels... and lots for white fish dishes but you can get this in others at a lower price. This wouldn't benefit from further cellaring - a drink-now.

GUINOT BRUT 'CUVEE RESERVE' BLANQUETTE DE LIMOUX NV, Midi, France, 12.0% D, #664656 $14.95 (Tasted February 13, 2006) CS

A Vintages release February 4, 2006 and described as ".. an excellent alternative to Champagne. It is price worthy and has quite a lot of the yeast/toast character from its prolonged lees contact. The result is frequently crisp and quite lively. A wonderful aperitif or with oysters." Beppi describes it as "affordable, elegant bubbly .... bone dry.... light, fresh and floral, with hints of apple, apricot and citrus." My notes: A blend of Mauzac, Chardonnay, and Chenin the mouthfeel is silky with some yeasty pear and apple on the nose and medium sized bubbles fill the glass. No frothy rim but flavours have a 'sur lie' fullness with mild pear and apple, brut dry - I didnt get the apricot. An appetizing sipper with firm spritz and a tartness that starts but ebbs quickly in the long 'oily' finish. Have with seafood finger foods, shaved italian meats and mild to nippy cheeses. Body may integrate further with cellaring but at the cost of the little fruit that's present. A drink-now bubbly that would satisfy a wide taste spectrum.

JINDALEE CHARDONNAY 2004, Victoria, Australia, 13.5% XD, #591800 $9.95 (Tasted February 12, 2006) CS

The LCBO says "Light yellow-gold colour; peach, citrus, creamy, cooked apple, tropical fruit and pineapple aromas overlaid by oak; dry, full bodied, creamy/velvety texture, with ripe apple, peach, spice, toast and vanilla flavours. Serve with grilled fish, seared tuna steaks with ginger sauce, roast capon, herb crusted chicken with creamy garlic mashed root vegetables." The website describes this as "The Murray Cod is Australia's largest freshwater fish. It plays an important role in the creation narratives of the Aboriginal Dreamtime. River culture mythology explains how the Great Cod formed the bends in the Murray and Darling Rivers by the sweeping action of its tail. Coming from our vineyards in the Murray Darling region near Mildura this medium bodied Chardonnay is full of fresh lively fruit. It has typical rich tropical fruit flavors that combine well with the soft French oak used to mature this wine. Vibrant straw gold. Fresh citrus characters, and peaches.... It shows rich Chardonnay flavors and a buttery French Oak finish." BBB recommends this and the Jindalee shiraz as the 'Best pair of animal labels' for 2005. My notes: One of four Jindalee wines, two of which are available in Ontario, they all have screwcaps for 2004. A light apple nose and a clear light blond, medium-bodied with a nice acid edge to a citrus apple flavour. The finish is moderate citrus lasting briefly leaving some oils. Good with chicken and lentils with currie. OK as a sipper although more fruit background would increase the appeal and likely the price. A drink-now and not recommended for cellaring.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

February Reds (8): France Bord, Canada Pinot Noir, Australia Shiraz, Canada Shiraz, Spain Rosé, France Cab Sauv, Australia Shiraz, Italy Sangiovese,

CHATEAU THEBOT 1998, Bordeaux, France, 12.5% XD, CP143-2208 $16.42 (Tasted February 14, 2006)

Opimian describes this as "...handpicking ensures only perfect bunches are used... on French oak for twelve months. ....juicy cherry and a plummy tang before wads of fruit pile to show supple flavours supported in the background by pillars of tannin. The toughness will soften with a little more time as it reaches its fragrant and velvet promise. Cellar at least two years." My notes: Purchased May 2002 and cellared in October same year. A clear ruby red colour with a nose of cherries and soft vanilla, flavours are bright cherry with a tannic edge and evolve in the glass. A cheerful sipper with no 'toughness' - even a little subdued with flavours developing further in the mouth. Good with mild to nippy cheeses and paired with grilled filet, lamb stew or dark fowl. After several years cellaring this is a drink-now.

MALIVOIRE MOIRA VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2000, Beamsville, Canada, 13.5% XD, Winery $35.95 (Retasted February 12, 2006)

My notes: Cellared December 2001 and last tasted November 2005 with the comment 'letting breathe twenty minutes.... revealing an interesting savoury vanilla and smoke nose'. Now an interesting cherry, leather and vanilla nose, a pleasing dry tannin with acid edge to flavours of light cherries, mint and rhubarb. The finish is dry and moderate. Pair with lighter game meats, duck, turkey, cold greens layered with strips of rare prime beef, a wedge of Balderson aged cheddar, etc. - was great with filet mignon. Cellaring further isnt needed but I will anyway.

JINDALEE SHIRAZ 2004. Victoria, Australia, 14.0% D, #591818 $9.95 (Tasted February 12, 2006)

The LCBO says "Medium deep ruby colour; rose, cherry and plum aromas; dark fruit flavours with good balance. Serve with baked pork loin, roasted duck." The website describes this as "The Murray River Turtle (far right) has featured in the hunting and gathering customs of Aboriginal river tribes for thousands of years. To this day, the turtles can be found sunning themselves on logs and diving underwater..... The Jindalee Shiraz shows pepper and spice on the nose and is full of rich fruit flavors on the palate. Flavors of plums and blackberries combine well with the vanillin American oak. It shows great balance and is an easy drinking Shiraz that is great with or without food. Crimson/red...." BBB recommends this and its companion Jindalee chardonnay (second left) as the 'Best pair of animal labels' of 2005. My notes: Two more labels are in the 2004 Jindalee collection all with a screwcap. A deep ruby with an earthy plum aroma. The flavour includes white pepper, some bright plum and cherry somewhat shallow in depth but a medium-bodied mouthfeel. The finish is smooth, well balanced tannin and acid with some plum and pepper leftover. There is nothing to complain about but we can rave about the price. Has enough acid for pizzas, red pastas, lamb roast or grilled steaks. A drink-now or cellarable for up to a year.

INNISKILLIN INTERNATIONAL SERIES SHIRAZ 2003, Niagara, Canada, 13.3% XD, Craft Store $13.45 (Tasted February 9, 2006)

The label says, The Shiraz is elegantly styled with aromas of ripe plum and chocolate. Flavours of wild berry, white pepper and licorice invigorate the palate, while spice lingers on the palate." My notes: The website doesn't list Inniskillin's International Series of wines. A deep ruby colour with a very faint warm plum nose, medium-bodied with thin flavours that include a sharp edge to a plum or cherry and a hint of chocolate. The finish is short with some drying tannin , light peppery spice and lastly a trace of licorice. An uninteresting, earthy sipper better paired with grilled red meats, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizzas, etc. but could be lost in a full-flavoured entree: eg. spiced ribs or savoury stew. Not a recommended drink-now and not a cellaring candidate imho.

FREIXENET BRUT DE NOIRS NV, Penedes, Spain, 11.5% D, #352369 $11.75 (Tasted February 8, 2006)

The LCBO says "Rose colour, fresh crisp lively sparkle; fruity aroma and flavour, dry wine. Serve chilled as an aperitif with finger foods." The website describes the bubbly as: "... Wine Spectator called this sparkling wine "An appealing quaff for a lazy afternoon." In addition to naming it a "Best Value", Wine & Spirits went on to say "There's plenty of ripe strawberry in this deeply colored rosé; still the wine leaves a dry impression in a smooth, mild finish." My notes: A deep rosé colour with a slight strawberry marshmallow nose. Pours with full effervescence subsiding quickly then providing an inverted shower of fine streams spilling at the surface. Delicate strawberry juice flavours with subtle acid, bright and a lighter 'freixenet' sharpness. The finish is long with a light creaminess. A great sipper for special occasions where a rosé adds a festive colour. Have without appetizers or with oysters, mild cheeses, white or dark chocolate dipped ladyfingers or fruit glacées. Should be able to keep a year or two without losing a thing.

YVON MAU CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004, Languedoc, France, 12.5% D, #349860 $8.60 (Tasted February 3, 2006)

The LCBO describes this as "dark ruby colour; leather and cassis aromas with earthy notes; medium bodied with sour cherries and plums on the palate; medium finish; light tannin. Serve with beef stew; roasted vegetables; roast chicken." The label says: "....deep ruby red with aromas of woodland fruits and spices. ... rich, balanced and supple..with all of the characteristics of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape." My notes: A ruby colour with a very light berry nose, light- to medium-bodied with light flavours of blackberry, earthy oak, pronounced tannins and an mild acid edge. The finish is slightly drying and moderately berryish. Not a bad sipper for the price, mild and some fruit. Better with grilled beef, french onion soup and broiled french stick slices covered with melted cheddar - can't see 'roast chicken'. A house red for a crowd. Not for cellaring.... buy to drink NOW.

WOLF BLASS EAGLEHAWK SHIRAZ 2004, South Eastern Australia, 13.5% D, #589564 $12.10 (Tasted February 3, 2006)

The LCBO says: "Almost opaque, purple/ruby colour; fruit forward aromas of black cherry, vanilla, caramel and raspberry with a minty note; dry, moderately full on the palate with a silky texture, balanced fruit to oak and chocolate & mint flavours; balancing tannins. Serve with grilled meat; roasted lamb; steak; bbq ribs." The website says: "The 2003 [2004 not shown] Eaglehawk Shiraz is a fruit driven style with a bouquet of lifted spice, plum and red berry fruit characters and subtle oak overtones. The palate is of medium body, showing soft complex fruit flavours with rich berry characters. Soft tannins help finish the wine with a dry lingering finish." My notes: A deep ruby colour with a black cherry, berry and light tar aroma. A silky mouthfeel, medium-bodied with bright black cherry and blackberry flavours, soft tannins and well balanced acids. The finish is a light cherry and chocolate with a soft touch of burnt oak. A reasonable dry sipper by itself or with meaty appetizers, cold or hot, or flavoured cheeses. Pair with prime rib, bbq'd ribs, red pastas, meat pizzas or a wide range of beef/lamb stews. Should be able to cellar for two to four years but really a drink-now red. A reasonable value.

VITAE SANGIOVESE 2003, Puglia, Italy, 13.0% D, #621029 $10.60 (Tasted February 1, 2006)

A General listing and described as "Deep ruby colour; aromas of plum fruit, spice, sweet oak, earth and anise; medium-bodied, with good plum/cherry fruit, integrated with sweet oak, anise, tar, earth notes; medium finish. Serve with veal parmigiano." Gord Stimmell gives an 88 describing as "has gobs of fruit.... ripe and ready to drink, appealing to party goers... a versatile red to match with a wide range of veal or pork dishes..... a solid red choice with mass appeal (e.g. weddings)." My notes: An attractive bottle shape for a light- to medium-bodied sangiovese, bright but thin ripe red cherry and spice flavours with a subtle sweet edge. The finish has a drying tannin mouthfeel phasing into a pleasing cherry. A drink-now red - great for Italian buffets: shaved meats, red pastas, or just to wash down pizza slices. Not for cellaring, the 2003 may be past peak.... would be interesting to have tasted at time of release or to compare with the latest vintage, 2004.

February Whites (10): Chile Chard, Spain Blend, France Gewurz, Australia Ries, Italy Prosecco, NZ SB(2), Australia ?, Australia SB, Australia Chard

VINA CARMEN CHARDONNAY 2004, Maipo, Chile, 13.5% XD, #235663 $9.95 (Tasted February 11, 2006)

The LCBO says "Pale straw colour; fresh pears on the nose with a hint of vanilla; medium-bodied, smooth and fruity; crisp citrus fruit in the finish. Serve with lobster; rich pasta dishes; lemon chicken." BBB recommends Carmen as the 'Best yummy white for ten bucks' of 2005. The website says: "This wine is a blend of grapes from four different valleys: Casablanca (15%), Maipo (60%), Rapel (10%) and Maule (15%). 100% of the grapes were handpicked and carefully selected before pressing." The label says: "....vibrant aromas of pineapple, peach and citrus. ... a small portion was oak fermented adding a hint of vanilla. .... light-bodied structure with pear, peach flavours that linger on the citrus finish." My notes: Sometimes reserved for restaurants, ie. not on the shelves so you have to ask for it. This is a pale gold with a greenish hue. Aromas of pear or peach and floral lime, flavours of citrus and almond, a full and smooth mouthfeel with some butter in the finish. A respectable 'house' white -sweetness isn't apparent, a good acid balance. Pair with any seafood, grilled or pastas, soups: ham and split pea, chicken noodle, etc. or mild cheese dishes. Price point also makes this great for occasions where there is a mixed crowd of white wine imbibers and a limited budget. A drink-now.. not for cellaring.

CODORNIU BRUT CLASICO NV, Penedes, Spain, 11.5% D, #503490 $10.95 (Tasted February 11, 2006)

The LCBO says "Pale straw colour, good sparkle; fresh apple aroma, round fruit flavour, crisp citrus finish. Serve chilled as an aperitif." My notes: A pale golden blond with lots of medium to large bubbles giving off faint aromas of yeasty apple blossom. Has a crisp apple flavour round in the mouth and with a firm spritz. The finish is light, moderate and smooth with a touch of oil. A pleasant drink-now, brut, bubbly value priced with an overall appeal for large crowds - not an extra brut and not a full-bodied Mumm's or Pelorus showing its price level. Have chilled with fresh oysters, a Belgian waffle and strawberries breakfast or just to toast the occasion.

CAVE VINICOLE A HUNAWIHR HAUT-RHIN GEWURZTRAMINER 2000, Alsace France, 13.5% XD, CP140-2072 (Retasted February 7, 2006)

My notes: Cellared in May 2002 and last tasted October, 2005 (see Archives) with the comment 'have at any excuse to sip a delicious white'. With grilled trout and romaine salad the body and flavours were a bit heavy but still enjoyable. Has a light lemon and wild honey nose and not as soft a texture still with a refreshing acid, tropical fruits and an offset herbal touch. As a sipper the nose and light tropical flavours are interesting. The finish is still tangy, filled with honey and long - but the better half didnt care for it with the trout. Pair with bbq'd scallops skewered with mushroom and vegetable pieces, salmon pinwheels stuffed with herbal treats, warmed wild mushroom tarts or shrimp basted in garlic, lemon juice and a few crushed chillie seeds. Still cellarable for a few more years.

CARDINHAM RIESLING 2003, Clare Valley, Australia, 12.5% XD, #694562 $15.95 (Tasted February 7, 2006)

Vintages released February 4, 2006 saying "This is a Silver-Medal winner from the prestigious International Wine and Spirits Competition 2004 in London. Aromatic and flowery lime blossom, spice and a hint of apple; a fresh and lively palate, and a long lingering finish. Screwcap. Drink [now until] 2013. Score - 93. (James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion 2005 Edition)". The label says "2003 was ideal year for the production of great Riesling. .. a fragrant nose of delicate perfume: citrus overtones with a lime juice background assisted by mineral characters and a fine thread of acid...cellar for years to come." My notes: A screwcap uncovers a light almost white blond and an enduring but soft petrol and lime zest nose, medium-bodied with flavours of spice then apple, crisp without pucker. The finish is long and clean, silky fading into the next sip. Great with seafood appetizers or shaved meats, anything slightly oily/fatty. Pair with mussels or grilled fishes. Should cellar very well increasing the nose and integrating the acids as part of an overall structure. Great value for a dry, not overly floral, riesling.

BORTOLOMIOL 'SELEZIONE BANDA ROSA' PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE DOC, Veneto, Italy 11.5% XD, #664649 $17.95 (Tasted February 6, 2006)

Vintages released February 4, 2006 saying, "A terrific wine for toasting your sweetheart on Valentine's Day, Prosecco is frequently creamy and elegant with good fruit aromas and flavours." My notes: A light blond with a steady stream of fine bubbles and somewhat mousseux. A light yeast and fresh pear aroma in front of flavours of creamy pear and apple. The finish is tart with a creaminess that imitates a sweet edge - still extra dry, fading slowly into a smooth texture on the palate. A pleasant social bubbly or celibratory drink - and the bottle looks elegant on the table. Have with oysters on the half shell, a cold ring of shrimp or herring, with honeydew and cantelope slices, milk chocolate pieces, or a square of keylime pie. I think cellaring for two years or so would integrate the flavours and texture but sipping now is hard to avoid.

SEIFRIED ESTATE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004, Nelson, NZ, 13.0% XD, #957670 $16.95 (Tasted February 6, 2006)

A Vintages release on September 3, 2005 and described as "Nelson-based Seifried Estate is possibly the best New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc producer not in Marlborough. They return with their much anticipated 2004 vintage featuring a newly designed label. Stylistically, the family-owned Seifried winery creates wines that are halfway between the legendary aggressive style and the more recent elegant interpretation. As a result, their Sauvignon is excellent as a sipper and an ideal partner with seafood, such as calamari, bivalves and even spicy shrimp dishes." The website says: "Fresh, lively and overflowing with flavour, the nose is intensely varietal and speaks straight from the vineyard. Clean fruit is overlaid with tropical passionfruit and pineapple on the palate. The citrusy acidity on the wines backbone gives a refreshing tang. A delicious Sauvignon Blanc with layers of fruit and minerality...." My notes: A handy screwcap and a light blond with a green tinge. The nose is a mixed pineapple/lime zest. Flavours of tangy citrus - no gooseberry, no passionfruit, but citrus with a bright finish long and slightly puckering. You gotta like crisp and dry as a sipper, better with appetizers not too spicy. Was OK with grilled chicken but the chipolte sauce tended to overpower the wine. Better with grilled seafood: prawns in a cream pasta, curried mussels, light ham with clove spikes, white fish to salmon. Not for cellaring, a drink-now with qualifications.

KIM CRAWFORD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004, Marlborough, NZ, 12.5% XD, #975672 $19.95 (Retasted February 5, 2006)

The website says: "The wine displays classic Sauvignon characters of gooseberry, passionfruit, figs and a touch of herbaceousness. The palate is full bodied with rich, ripe fruit balanced with crisp acidity. A stylish wine with good fruit intensity. Cellar up to five years." My notes: Rated 90 to 93 by various tasters. I originally tasted the 2004 vintage May 2005 (see archive) with the comment "Not 'explosive' but still a pleasant gooseberry aroma. A subtle herbaceousness which distinguishes it from Cloudy Bay SB. etc." Vintages released the 2004 vintage April 30, 2005 and was cellared the same month. Now the nose is of gooseberries and passionfruit with their spicy edge. Medium-bodied and a flavour that is crisp, less fruit than originally but still round and ripe. Cellaring well - it may keep another three years. The finish is lean and crisp with some silkiness. Great as a social sipper or with any seafood appetizer, was OK with Swiss Chalet chicken and fries but better paired wih grilled fishes: sole to salmon. The 2005 vintage was released by Vintages December 20, 2005. Kim Crawford SB has been consistent so should be equivalent or better.

YELLOWGLEN 'YELLOW', Australia, 11.2% D, #592980* $11.95 (Retasted February 4, 2006)

A Vintages release June 25, 2005 (*no longer listed). My notes: Yellowglen specializes in bubbly and I sure wish Vintages would import more of the Yellow (and Yellowglen's Pink and Red to try). Cellared June 26, 2005 and originally rated an 89 by Gord Stimmell - still a high number now. Hasn't changed that much from last tasting (July 13, 2005 - see Archive). Colour still apple blond and a fine yeasty nose. Streams of bubbles forming a firm moussy froth rim and tingle on the tongue. Light lemon, honeydew, a brut but with some residual sugar. A pleasing round finish. Have on any social occasion or other excuse to sip, sip. Still refreshingly spritzy after several minutes. Have liberally in the summer with strong/mild cheeses, smoked oysters, salty nibbles or between seafood courses. Has cellared well so will continue to cellar - a drink-now value.

LINDEMANS BIN 95 SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005, South Eastern Australia, 13.0% D, #181388 $10.60 (Tasted February 2, 2006)

The LCBO describes as "Pale straw colour; complex aroma of pear, gooseberry herbs & grass; flavour follows nose, crisp acidity balances fruit, good quality. Serve chilled with grilled salmon and other seafood." Gord Stimmell rates it 87 saying "... bright, clean and sassy, this.... shows gooseberry, lime peel and kiwi fruit aromas, with flavours of lemon and white grapefruit ... Finish is green-edged and zesty." My notes: Everything GS says - very refreshing and comes with a screwcap. The nose is pronounced and aromatic.... flavours include gooseberry and lime with a long, crisp, citric finish. Thinner than needed for savoury seafood dishes but a good sipper in between and with lighter or asian fare. Cellaring a year may bring about some complexity but more of a drink-now and a good value SB for social occasions.

WOLF BLASS EAGLEHAWK CHARDONNAY 2005, South Eastern Australia, 13.5% D, #606392 $12.10 (Tasted February 1, 2006)

The LCBO says: "Bright yellow colour; bosc pear, pineapple and light spice aromas; medium-to-full bodied with fresh, fruity flavours and a creamy finish. Serve with grilled chicken breast with peach chutney." The website says: "The colour is mid straw with vibrant youthful notes. The aroma displays classic Chardonnay with peach and fig characters and subtle oak integration. The palate is medium weight with rich fruit flavours and supporting oak nuances. The finish is refreshing, crisp and dry." My notes: Both 2004 and 5 vintages were on the shelf - I chose 2005. This strikes me as a chardonnay that wouldn't be rejected by even a non-chardonnay drinker. I would call it 'unoaked' rather than 'subtle oak'. A crystal clear light blond with a hint of green and a soft floral and spice nose. A light- to medium-bodied fresh pineapple, melon and lime medley that warms the palate and lasts moderately long ending with a lingering sweet note. A good social white sipper, ie. should appeal to most at a banquet or reception. Good with seafood or light cheese appetizers or pair with mild seafood dishes, dim sum, sushi or bento boxes. Not for cellaring.