Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More March Whites (1): Canada Gewurz

FIELDING ESTATE GEWURZTRAMINER 2004, Beamsville, Canada, 12.5% D, Winery $13.45 (Retasted March 22, 2006)

The winery describes this as: "Rose petals and ripe melons on the nose - medium body...offers a long finish with lingering tropical fruits. 270 cases produced." Natalie says: "A lovely and evocative gewurz, with aromas of rose petals and lychee nuts.... Score: 90/100." My notes: Cellared and last tasted July 24, 2005 (see Archives) the 'faint wild rose' has changed to a light wild clover and citrus zest. Medium-bodied with a light lemon/lime melon flavour and a long delicate kiwi and citrus finish. An interesting, well balanced sipper less tart and with a lighter 'creaminess' that threw me last tasting. Should pair nicely with steamed mussels, toasted bruscetta, vegetable pizza, Asian foods or grilled white fishes. No reason not to cellar for a few years although drinking well now.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

More March Reds (8): Australia Shiraz,Chile Cab Sauv, Chile Merlot, Italy Valpol, Chile Blend, Canada Cab Sauv, Australia Pinot Noir, Chile Pinot Noir

DEEN DE BORTOLI VAT 8 SHIRAZ 2004, New South WAles, Australia, 13.5% D, #621649 $14.95 (Tasted March 28, 2006)

A General listed wine with no LCBO description. The label says: "This generously flavoured Shiraz displays concentrated ripe berry and black fruit characters with firm tannins softened and balanced by twelve months in oak." Their website says: "Aromas of black fruit mixed with spicy oak. Intense spicy fruit flavours with hints of cracked black pepper. Sweet fleshy fruits with subtle vanillin and savoury oak.This wine can be enjoyed immediately or cellared for up to 3 years." My notes: Different from DE BORTOLI 'dB' SHIRAZ 2004 (#595314@$12.95) tasted January 7, 2006 (see Archives) and an improved offering. A soft spicy nose with ripe berries and pepper with bright black fruit flavours carrying into a long, smooth lip-smacking finish with some spice left over. Pair with red meats with a savoury touch, medium to full-flavoured cheeses, meat and cheese pizzas, hamburgers, a variety of meaty dishes that make this a house staple in the cellar.

VINA CARMEN CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVE 2003, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.0% XD, #358309 $16.95 (Tasted March 26, 2006)

The LCBO says "Deep red/violet colour; aromas of plum, blackcherry fruit, leather, vanilla with hints of cedar, smoke & coffee; dry, med-full body, well balanced, with moderate tannins, ripe blackcurrant/blackberry & mint flavours; long sweet berry fruit finish. Lamb, roast duck and other rich poultry dishes." VH of rates it five stars saying "This is one of those wines about which wine snobs get upset when they see all those stars. After all, how good can it be at this price? Damn good. It is a stunningly, rich red that bursts forward with aromas of mint and cherries. It is full-bodied, creamy smooth and beautifully structured. Juicy cassis and black, spicy plum flavours abound and the ripe silky smooth tannins and zingy tang coalesce into a hummer of a wine. It finishes with dark chocolate, raspberries and a fair grip. Even so, you can enjoy it now and to 2012 with a slab of grilled medium-rare venison smothered in sautéed shitakes." The website describes it as "85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, 5% Merlot and richly concentrated and complex . A wine that combines impressive wild black cherries, black currant and cassis with some hints of mint, cedar, clove, tobacco and spices. Ripe and generous in the palate, sweet fruity flavours, fleshy and powerful, followed by dark bitter chocolate, cigar box and fine structured tannins. A superb length." My notes: A dark ruby, and peppery nose with plums, vanilla and smoke. Initial taste is of tannins, cherries and coffee with a strong and long, dry, cherry finish. Have with anything grilled and meaty red.... or softer meats such a lamb or game meats and full flavoured stews. A sipper if you like very dry - have with full-flavoured cheese, garlic and tomato bruscetta, pizza slices, etc. A great value now but better if cellared several years.

VINA CARMEN RESERVE MERLOT 2003, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14.0% XD, #620690 $16.95 (Tasted March 23, 2006)

The LCBO says "Deep ruby red colour; aromas of cherry, oak with earthy notes; dry, medium bodied, with ripe fruit flavours and notes of almond, coffee and plum. Serve with fried mushrooms or lamb." The label says: ".... a generous aroma of berries and prunes, spicy nuances and a beautiful Merlot character. .... Medium- to full-bodied, with great finesse, the wine has an intense richness and a long finish." The website says: "This vintage (2002, Rapel Valley fruit) combines the silky fruit (Merlot), with Carmenere (5%) in the mid palate and Cabernet Sauvignon’s (10%) powerful structure and tannins." My notes: A rich ruby with a warm prune and licorice nose. Medium- to full-bodied with ripe plum, cherry and coffee flavours, a light tannin, and a long, soft finish. A merlot that more carmenere and/or cabernet sauvignon could help, altho' this could be a personal preference, but otherwise a pleasant dry sipper. Pair with mild meats, mild cheeses or grilled mozzarella on focaccia. A drink-now.

LUIGI RIGHETTI VALPOLICELLA ‘CAMPOLIETI' 2003, Marano, Italy, 12.5% D, #695890 $16.95 (Tasted March 22, 2006)

A Vintages release on March 18, 2006 and described as " This offering from the always-reliable Luigi Righetti is mild-ruby in colour with complex scents of dried berry, floral, spice, paraffin, oak and sundried tomato. Light- to medium-bodied, it's crafted in a round, easy-drinking style with lots of flavour and good length. Very versatile, it can go with everything from salmon to roast beef. (VINTAGES panel, July 2005)." The 'smallwineries' website says "Campolieti means 'happy fields' ... The wine is a traditional (Valpolicella) blend of the corvina, rondinella and molinara grape varietals that have had a second fermentation on the pressings of the Amarone grapes ('ripasso')...." Natalie says: "A stunning wine with aromas of leather and chocolate. Nicely woven together. Terrific price. Drink with hearty meat dishes. Score: 90 (of 100) and the 'Best Value Red Wine'. " My notes: A red ruby with a dried berry and slight lavender nose, medium-bodied, with natural flavours of ripe cherry. I didn't get the influence of 'ripasso'... no figs or prunes.... but an appealing valpolicella. Besides sipping, goes with red but not too spicy pasta, prime rib or lamb and leek entrees. A drink-now but no harm in cellaring in the short term.

VINA CARMEN GRANDE VIDURE CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVE 2003, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #439166 $16.95 (Tasted March 19, 2006)

The LCBO says "Deep purple ruby colour with violet hue; intense nose of cassis, licorice, violets, smoky oak, green pepper and herbs with toasty notes; dry, full-bodied flavours as in nose, medium tannins and good length. Leg of lamb, roast or grilled beef, burgers, or a firm, hearty cheese." VH of rates it four and a half stars saying "This 60% Carmenère (Grande Vidure) blend has a lovely aromatic profile of toast and black licorice. It is full-bodied with rich ripe fruit flavours that include dark chocolate cherries and spicy raspberries. It has a silky feel and offers good complexity and balance. The dry finish has a touch of earthiness and would be a lovely match to Osso Bucco with truffle risotto. These reserve wines are hand-picked, receive a premium oak regimen plus additional winery-ageing before release." The website describes it as "Dark ruby red in colour. A rich and refined wine, with plenty of ripe fruits character and spices. Intense wild black cherry fruit aroma, followed by notes of laurel, clove, mint, pepper, dark chocolate and black olives. Well structured and concentrated with a lovely balance of jammy and dark ripe fruit along with peppery flavours and sweet oak. Fine grained, smooth and velvety tannins. A complex wine with a long finish." My notes: The website description is pretty well 'on' - a rich ruby colour with a soft black cherry and warm, slight cedar and spice nose. The swallow is full, velvety with ripe berry fruit and delicate tannins and pepper. The finish is long and full of ripe fruit, very pleasant. I'd imagine this could cellar for several years but is drinking well now. Have with any red meats, grilled or roasted, full-flavoured stews, even mushroom risotto or just sip. A great value.

ANGELS GATE ‘SINGLE VINEYARD' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 12.5% XD, #678417 $18.95 (Tasted March 18, 2006)

A Vintages release on March 4, 2006 and described as "Dark ruby in colour this is a very appealing wine with lots of ripe red fruit on the nose, notably plums, as well as sweet vanilla oak and violets. Medium full-bodied, very fresh tasting, more ripe fruit flavours and plenty of balancing acidity. The tannins are quite mild and it has a long minerally finish. Great stuff. (VINTAGES panel, Aug. 2005)." The label says "...has an intense nose of dark berries, spice, cassis, red peppers and oak. .... youthful tannins and a dark chocolate finish .. pair with favourite beef and lamb dishes." My notes: A lovely deep ruby, not opaque but clear, with a light nose of oak with a hint of vanilla and spicy blackberries. A medium-bodied red with flavours of clean berries, nothing distinct comes to mind, but light and fresh, well balanced acids and tannin. There is a pleasing brightness in the finish although little flavour is there to carry through. A red for a light meat dish - lamb, rib eye steak, prime rib...... expect it to be a passive partner in a meal. A drink-now.

LINDEMANS BIN 99 PINOT NOIR 2005, South Eastern Australia, 14.0% D, #458661 $11.95 (Tasted March 16, 2006)

The LCBO says "Garnet colour; berry/cherry fruit with earthy/mushroom notes; light- bodied with berry fruit and vanilla on the palate; delicate spicy notes in the finish. Serve with chicken; vegetarian dishes; duck; mushroom risotto." The label says " a soft, ripe, full flavoured wine that can be enjoyed with duck, lamb or veal dishes." My notes: A ruby colour with a rose hue and a light strawberry nose. A light-bodied Pinot, smooth and round with a faint flavour of cherries and a hint of strawberry. The finish is moderate, flavourful with some tannin on the palate. A pleasant pinot noir sipper, not full flavoured but low priced. Suitable for a variety of light entrees: pork, turkey, chicken - don't see lamb or beef though. A drink now.

CONO SUR PINOT NOIR 'VARIETAL RANGE' 2005, Rapel Valley, Chile, 14.0% XD, #341602 $9.95 (Tasted March 16, 2006)

The LCBO says "Ruby red colour; cherries, earth and berries with a touch of spice in both aroma and flavour; dry, medium-body with mild tannin and a soft fruity finish. Serve with spicy casserole, roast capon or ham." The website doesn't list the 'Varietal Range' just the Expressive Varietals (shown) - perhaps the 'Range' is a tier brand made for export. The website says of the 2004 EV: "Almost purplish red in colour, deep and young, our Pinot Noir has a wonderful nose of cherry, raspberry, leather and tobacco notes. Red, fresh fruit is predominant to the palate. Its elegance will strike the drinker: silky, full, structured and softly persistent." The Varietal Range 2005 label says "Taste the voluptiousness of this single varietal Pinot Noir in its rich fruit tones of cherry, plum and strawberry. etc. " My notes: The colour is a light ruby with a rose tinge. The nose is light medicinal with no apparent fruit type. Flavours are mineral with slight tannins and an uninteresting finish. Not a sipper and too light in body and flavour for pairing with foods. Best to skip the 'Range' tier from Cono Sur imho.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

March Reds (8): Spain Temp, Canada Shiraz, Australia Blend, USA Cab Sauv, S Africa Shiraz, Australia Blend, Canada Pinot Noir, Canada Merlot

TORRES 'CELESTE' TEMPRANILLO 2003, Ribadeo, Spain, 13.5% D, #672691 $19.95 (Tasted March 14, 2006)

A Vintages release February 18, 2006 and described as "This red is powerful and austere, with ironclad tannins, a thick texture and dark flavors of coffee, earth and mineral. Impressive, but hard to like now; give it time. Best after 2007. Score - 90 (Thomas Matthews,, Nov. 15, 2005)" The website says: "Intense blackberry colour. Spicy and intense nose, with liquorice and black pepper hints on a base of well ripened fruits (blackberry and cherry). On the palate, very fruity at first with ripened tannins, also persistent and full bodied." My notes: Thomas Matthews is right.... I didn't like it now. It's subdued with oaky aromas and flavours. The tannins line the palate, not objectionable but chewy. However decanting and waiting eliminated the oakiness and, although still subdued and tannic, it showed the blackberry flavour with licorice and pepper. What's there now? A deep, opaque purple hued ruby colour in a full-bodied accompaniment to grilled red or dark game meat or a full flavoured stew. The finish is long with lingering mature berries and black cherry. Better to cellar for at least two more years.

INNISKILLIN INTERNATIONAL SERIES SHIRAZ 2003 (nonVQA), Niagara, Canada, 13.3% XD, Craft Store $13.45 (Retasted March 13, 2006)

My notes: Last tasted Feb 9, 2006 with the comment 'an uninteresting sipper, etc. '. When this bottle was first opened the nose was dominated by oak, also the flavours. Left awhile (several hours, by chance not planning) it now has a soft plum nose and flavours of mature berries and plums with a peppery edge and a light tannin. The finish lingers with subdued fruit and pepper, fading slowly leaving an earthiness as before. Not a wine I'd take as a gift.. nor one to share with good friends.... but OK if encountered at a house warming or outdoor bbq. Perhaps cellaring a few years will take advantage of the tannin and acid and mellow the structure.

ROSEMOUNT DIAMOND GRENACHE SHIRAZ 2004, New South Wales, Australia, 14.0% D, #476838 $13.20 (Tasted March 10, 2006)

The LCBO says: "Rich purple/black colour; ripe, juicy black fruit, with raspberry compote and cracked pepper notes on the nose and palate; dry, full-bodied, soft and silky with a plush finish; fruit driven style. Serve with red meats; game; assertive cheeses; stews; bbq'd baby back ribs and most bbq sauce coated grilled meats." The label says: "..displays the bright berry flavours of grenache enriched by the exotic spiciness of shiraz." The website says: "This wine shows deep raspberry and cherry fruit flavours ..enhanced by exotic spice and pepper characters. This is an aromatic, flavoursome wine with a soft, rounded finish. The luscious soft fruit, low tannins and absence of oak enable this wine to be enjoyed chilled in hot weather." My notes: A rosy hue to a ruby red giving it a murky caste and a nose of berry jam and pepper. Medium-bodied, smooth, drying, fresh berries liberally sprinkled with pepper and a moderate finish. To me Grenache and Shiraz don't complement each other - save the grenache for a silky, flavourful rose. An uninteresting sipper, better paired with bbq'd red meats, spicy red sauces or save for a sangria. Not for cellaring.

R.H. PHILLIPS TOASTED HEAD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, North Coast, California, 13.5% XD, #969873 $17.95* (Tasted March 9, 2006)

A Vintages release February 4, 2006 and *regularly $19.95. Vintages says of the 2002 vintage "Silver-Medal winner at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition 2005. Lush and concentrated, with lots of black currant and berry fruit, accented by notes of menthol/cedar, woodspice and anise. It finishes with rounded, earthy, chocolate-tinged tannins. No additional aging necessary; it's ready to gulp down. Score - 90 (Bob Johnson,, June 15, 2005)." The 2003 label says: "..has an intense bouquet of cherry and blackberry, rich sweet (toasted) oak... and traces of chocolate, leather and roasted coffee." Their website says: "(of 2003) medium-bodied with a bouquet of herbs and ripe berries. ...complex characters of anise, sage and tobacco. ..ready to drink now but excellent aging potential." My notes: A faint bouquet of cherries and blackberry, and some chocolate - the rest I didn't get. Medium bodied and a deep ruby colour with flavours that are more pronounced. Rich cherry and blackberry with a delicate, almost satin, touch - nice warmth and spice edge on a long finish. Should be great with any red meat or game bird....was great with rotini with a meaty red sauce... or just sip. An 88 as a comparison with the 2002. Drink now - I don't think cellaring will do much.

MURATIE ESTATE SHIRAZ 2003, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 13.4% XD, #663278 $19.95 (Tasted March 5, 2006)

A Vintages release on March 4, 2006 and described as "This Shiraz has consistently won Gold Medals and high scores from John Platter over the last three vintages.... Seductively fragrant 03 has black cherry, prune & dark chocolate aromas, similar flavours. More berries, & more graceful & approachable than previous. Score - **** (out of 5)." The label says "one of the best examples of this varietal coming out of South Africa with hints of both the Old and New World. ..... lovely on release but will reach its full potential five to eight years after release." Rod Phillips says "This is a delicious Shiraz that delivers a complex range of aromas and flavours. There's an initial note of oak on the nose, but it comes through in the flavours as added complexity to the primary flavours of black cherry and plum. Throw in some pepper and spices, fine structure, sweet and firm tannins, and you have a delicious mouthful. Pair it with grilled or roasted lamb or game." My notes: A deep red ruby with a subtle oak and faint cherry nose warm to the senses. The initial swallow is very smooth, silky with light (sweet?) tannins and a taste of prunes and berries. A faint acid adds life to a long finish that is a velvet plum. Very nice sipper if you like 'smoooothe' - I didn't get very much 'pepper and spices'. Should go well with meaty or cheesy appetizers, roast red meats, turkey, rare tenderloin on focaccia or burgers. If cellaring is recommended then this is a subdued beginning to a great future - worth putting down for a few years.

CARDINHAM CABERNET/MERLOT 2003, Clare Valley, Australia, 13.8% XD, #694570 $18.95 (Tasted March 4, 2006)

A Vintages release of February 4, 2006 and described as "Expect vibrant currant fruit, eucalyptus and bell pepper notes in this fresh medium-bodied blend." The label says: The weather has .... "created one of the best Cabernet Merlot blends we have made. ... some gentle vanilla characters beneath the sweet cherry/chocolate and ripe plum aromas. Soft berry characters dominate the beautiful rich full palate .... with fine tannins and spicy oak. The flavours linger forever and ever." My notes: The Cardinham website doesn't list the 2003 vintage. The 2003 has a subtle nose as described except I didn't get the vanilla. A medium- to full-bodied deep, opaque, ruby red with a soft tannin, a light acid and flavours of black plum with a mild pepper spice. A long smooth plummy finish with a slight chalkiness or an 'unfiltered' texture. A good sipper, or with German sausage pieces, meat tray assortment, mild to medium flavoured cheeses, savoury stews, French onion or other full bodied soups or roasted red meats. Cellaring for several years should throw some sediment and evolve a 'cleaner', more complex structure.

LEGENDS ESTATES PINOT NOIR RESERVE 2003, Niagara, Canada, 12.4% D, #661876 $17.95 (Tasted March 3, 2006)

A Vintages release February 18, 2006 and described as "Ruby red with a tinge of amber, this complex Pinot proves quite convincingly that the difficult grape has viability in Ontario. It expresses powerful aromas of wet earth, cola, cherry, leather and smoke. Dry, medium full-bodied with cherry and mineral flavours, soft tannins and a medium finish. This is very good Pinot that would pair well with roast duck, veal chops or mushroom risotto. (Vintages panel, Dec. 2005)." The website describes the 2002 as, and this is similar: "A nicely balanced Pinot, with flavours of cherries, strawberries and smoked plums. An oaky undertone with caramel notes. Nice body that delights the palate. Good tannins that will help develop the wine over time. Have with steak, gourmet pastas and pizzas, rich pies and sauces." My notes: It's a see-through ruby with a delicate aroma medley... I'd say a pleasant earthy berry/cherry. A quiet, medium-body red with a light mixture of strawberry and cranberry with a satin texture - a soft bite on the swallow. A light, long finish - smoothe and slowly warming, building tannins each sip. Not an aggressive fruit forward New World Pinot... but a great sipper now - the website claims the style is burgundian - if true it's at a bargain price. Have with game meats, prime rib with Yorkshire pudding, turkey.... a flexible meal red. Should be able to cellar for a few more years.

LEGENDS ESTATES MERLOT 2003 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 12.5% XD, #675074 $15.95 (Tasted March 1, 2006)

A Vintages release of February 18, 2006 and described as "Dark cherry red, with aromas of smoke, raspberry and earth. The more serious-minded nose belies the ripe, sweet red fruit flavours and hints of vanilla on the palate. Medium full-bodied, with smooth tannins and good structure this would match nicely to a hearty beef stew or grilled lamb chops. (Vintages panel, Dec. 2005)." My notes: The bottle should be allowed to breathe twenty minutes or wine should wait in the glass for about five to eliminate an earthy oakiness. After breathing there is an aroma of red cherries and mild berries. A cherry red and a light- to medium-bodied wine with flavours predominately of bright cherries. A fresh, dry sipper well balanced with acid and light tannin, not tart and not sweet. The finish is moderate, fruity with the hint of vanilla. OK with ravioli in a tomato sauce and a pinch of crushed chilis, should be great with burgers, T-bone or grilled red meats including lamb. A drink-now but cellaring a year or two might pay off with a firmer structure.

March Whites (7): Canada Pinot Gris, Germany Riesling, USA Sauv Blanc, South Africa Chenin Blanc, Chile Chard, Canada Sauv Blanc, Italy Prosecco

FIELDING ESTATE PINOT GRIS 2004, Beamsville, Canada, 11.2% D, Winery $15.95* (Retasted March 21, 2006)

The winery describes this as: "an elegant pinkish hue - notes of red plums, candied fruits and tangerines.... fresh, well balanced. 180 cases produced (*$18.00 but sold out) " My notes: Much the same as when tasted August 5, 2005 (see Archives).... eight months cellaring hasn't harmed or improved the flavours or structure. More of a drink-now than for cellaring - best 8 to 12C. Does well as a sipper or paired with light seafood dishes and asian fare - grilled trout lost it tho'. The colour is still peach hued light blond, medium-bodied with a slight creaminess and flavours of tart apple and a light tangerine zest. Sweetness, as in 'candied fruits', isn't apparent. The finish carries well, crisp and creamy.

AUGUST KESSELER ‘R' RIESLING 2004, Germany, 11.5% MD, #674002 $16.95 (Tasted March 20, 2006)

A Vintages release on March 18, 2006 and described as "It has been some time since I tasted a German Riesling this good for the price. Apple blossom, lime and sweet clover rise from the glass, bringing to mind the Mosel. In the mouth, the exchange of slate and fruit acidity is positively shimmering. This sits delicately on the palate, yet saturates it with fruit, flowers, minerals in wet stone, and salt and quarry dust variations... The wine displays only a hint of sweetness ... Score - 90. (David Schildknecht,, Oct. 2005)." Natalie says "Refreshing and mouth-watering, with a lovely touch of sweetness that widens its range of food matches from seafood and medium-spiced dishes and Asian fare. Ripe aromas of pears and peaches. Score: 89/100." My notes: Aromas of wild flowers and honey come to mind... a clear almost white blond, medium-bodied with a touch of refreshing sweet pear and tart apple. An excellent off-dry, but not too much, sipper. Was flexible enough with crisp iceberg lettuce and caesar salad dressing and slices of cold chicken, a side dish of sweet pickles and red beets with the off-dryness working very well. A drink-now.

ROBERT MONDAVI FUME BLANC 2003, Napa, USA, 14.0% D, #221887 $23.95 (Tasted March 12, 2006)

A Vintages release October 15, 2005 and described as "A star is born. In 1966, Robert Mondavi originated his lightly-oaked Sauvignon Blanc and dubbed it Fumé Blanc. The aromas on display here include citrus, lemon grass, mineral and floral notes. It has a crisp, refreshing, fruity core and a soft, yet spicy finish that makes it a perfect partner for Mediterranean fare." The website describe their Fume Blanc as (the 2004) "A blend of 91% Sauvignon Blanc and 9% Semillon. Flavours are vibrant pineapple, tropical fruit and honeydew fruit character, with complex floral and mineral nuances. Beautiful balance of crisp acidity and creaminess from sur lie aging." My notes: A slight pineapple, lemon zest and spiciness in the nose from a faint blond, medium-bodied white wine. An acid brightness on the first taste with some citrus flavours, not well pronounced. The finish is well rounded. More of a european sauvignon blanc, no tropical fruit for it to be a sipper and the acid begins to clean the teeth without fingerfoods. Better paired with chicken, ham as a grilled steak or shaved cold on a garden salad, salmon steak, vegetarian pizza perhaps. Cellaring may mellow it and introduce some butterscotch but it's now three years old and none is showing. Personally, I'd skip the 2003.

EIKENDAL CHENIN BLANC 2004, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 14.0% D, #975128 $14.95 (Tasted March 5, 2006)

A Vintages release of March 4, 2006 and described as "Lightly oaked 04 promises peach & melon pleasure, green-fruit undertones; round, smoothly textured. Score - *** (out of 5). (Tim James, John Platter South African Wines 2005)." The label says "Delicious aroma assemblage of fresh melon, honeysuckle and hints of pineapple. Expansive mouth feel with butterscotch tones, saluting with a brisk citrus finish." The website says: "Eikendal Chenin Blanc is a soft elegant off-dry wine with an attractive fruitiness that reminds of peaches, apricots and litchi. It has a well-balanced acidity and the toasty flavours give the wine extra body and finish. Eikendal Chenin Blanc is best drunk young to enjoy its harmonious fresh, fruity flavours and clean finish." Rod Phillips says "This is a quite delicious Pinot Blanc, and quite different from the mainstream in its fruit intensity. Look for lovely flavours of ripe peach, apricot pit and under-ripe green melon, all cohabiting happily with a few warm spicy notes. Great stuff, and the style of wine you might think of for a really flavoursome, medium-spiced, Thai dish" and gives it four and a half stars (of 5). My notes: A golden blond with a touch of apple blossom and melon in a soft nose. Full-bodied with apple flavours, more like a granny smith with a slow, calculated acid bite and a grassy or herbal note. As a sipper the astringency can accumulate. Better with bite size lobster wraps or pair with bouillabaise, clam chowder, panfried white fish or sushi. A drink-now.

TABALI 'RESERVA ESPECIAL' CHARDONNAY 2004, Limari Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #663005 $18.95 (Tasted March 4, 2006)

A Vintages release March 4, 2006 and described as: "Gold-Medal winner at the 2005 International Wine Challenge. Passion fruit, mangosteen, jackfruit and pineapple aromas scent this glorious offering. The tightly woven palate is a seamless mouthful of mandarin oranges, sweet juicy pears, bananas and vanilla pods. Technicolour and widescreen. (, May 2005)." The label says "... vines are from original French rootstock. .... complex and intense with subtle mineral tones elegantly complemented with a touch of citrus and honey. ... well integrated toasty and toffee notes together with an appealing and refreshing finish." Rod Phillips says "The Limarí Valley is one of Chile's newer and most northern wine regions, and its white is Chardonnay. This example has gorgeous fruit complexity with classic peach flavours leading the way, and tropical fruit and soft citrus in supporting roles. It's fine-grained and disciplined, with excellent structure and balance, and delightful from front to back. Pair this with pork tenderloin or chicken breast in a light, cream-based sauce." and gives it four and a half stars (out of 5). Beppi says: " of the best-priced wines of the release, juicy and tangy, with ripe mango-pineapple fruit and a toasty, toffee-like finish." My notes: Melon and kiwi nose from a pale yellow, medium-bodied white, round with flavours of melon and pear. A slight cream(toffee?) and a slight acid with a long, light pear and mandarin finish. Better as a sipper where flavours can build... even a non-chard drinker wouldn't object - serve at 12 degrees C. So delicate it's left behind with anything moderately seasoned. Have with grilled white fish or shrimp/mushroom casseroles. A drink-now.

LEGENDS ESTATES SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 12.5% D, #675041 $16.95 (Tasted March 2, 2006)

A Vintages release of February 18, 2006 and described as "Brilliant golden straw in colour, this delightful Sauvignon Blanc features aromas of grapefruit, lemon zest and some of the typical grassy notes. Medium-bodied with lots of citrus flavours, it's crisp and refreshing with a good balance of acidity and a long finish. Enjoy it as an aperitif or serve it with raw oysters, steamed mussels or a simple spinach salad. (Vintages panel, Dec. 2005)." Their website says: "Medium-body, semi-dry, semi-aromatic with a nose of elderberry and grapefruit, peach, banana and a touch of citrus. A very soft wine with twelve grams of residual sugar that perfectly balance the acidity. Pair with asparagus, butter sauces, light creamy pastas, grilled chicken." My notes: A golden hue in the glass and a fragrant aroma of light gooseberry and grapefruit - not strong but apparent. The acids balance with the residual sugar for an overall 'dry' effect. Medium-bodied and flavours of citrus - didnt get the grassy notes, A finish that cleanses, tart without a pucker and long enough to delay the next sip. A good sipper by itself or with shellfish appetizers. Went nicely with grilled salmon - should do equally well with grilled whitefish, creamy pastas, sushi or asian foods. A drink-now.

VILLA SANDI PROSECCO NV, Veneto, Italy, 11.0% D, #249722 $13.15 (Tasted March 1, 2006)

The LCBO says: "Clear, pale lemon yellow colour; clean aromas with intense mineral and citrus notes; off-dry, light bodied, with citrus and herbs, with a vigorous mousse. Serve as an apperitif or with appetizers." The website says: "Crystal straw yellow with a fine and persistent perlage. Bouquet is intensely fruity with strong scents. Extra dry." My notes: A pale yellow for sure, and a birthday cake aroma - slight vanilla and soft lemon. Flows into the glass with a frothy rim and lots of fine bubbles. It flows on to the palate evenly with noticeable fullness balanced by citrus flavours, not tart but just right (for me) and finishes long and creamy. Villa Sandi knows how to put together a sparkler, this being one of several they produce - the bottle has that feeling of celebration. I'd try cellaring this for six months to a year then plan accordingly. A reasonable value for a sipper that goes with any occasion - especially after a drive home in summer rush hour.