Friday, April 28, 2006

More April Whites (2): Canada Riesling, Canada Chard

DANIEL LENKO RESERVE RIESLING 2004, Beamsville, Canada, 11.5% XD, Winery $15.95 (Tasted April 27, 2006)

The website says, "Packed with lime, lemon, grapefruit and orange rind aromas, this wine also displays hints of spice, honey and flowers. The typical bracing acidity of Riesling is present, allowing for a good structure and clean, long finish." My notes: An off-dryness balances the crisp acidity nicely. Almost white with a blond tint and a just perceptible lemon/grapefruit and orange zest nose. The flavours include lemon, wild apple, and some minerals. The finish is long with a citrus peel or slight tangerine that puts a light oil on the lips. Doesn't quite clean your teeth as a sipper but is refreshing. Pair with dungeness crab salad, grilled scallop skewers, white fish dishes or a cold shrimp ring. Should be able to cellar this for a few years.

DANIEL LENKO UNOAKED CHARDONNAY 2004, Beamsville, Canada, 13.0% XD, Winery $19.95 (Tasted April 27, 2006)

The website says, "Gobs of pineapple, lime, lemon and peach aromas. The fresh, inviting nose leads to a massive, round texture with a mineral/flint base typical of unoaked chardonnay". My notes: Light blond with a faint lemon-and-ripe-peach nose. Medium-bodied, a soft creaminess and slight flavours of lemon and ripe peach against a balanced acid framework. The finish starts strong but fades quickly into a faint grassiness. Better matched with vegetable purees, hot or cold, perhaps gazpacho, raw oysters, lightly grilled white fishes. Cellaring should give more structure - if the first year confirms, go year by year.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

More April Reds (8): Canada Merlot, Spain Blend, Australia Blend, Italy Sangiov(2), Argentina Cab Sauv, France Blend, Australia Cab Sauv

DANIEL LENKO OLD VINES MERLOT 2003, Beamsville, Canada, 13.0% XD, Winery $24.95 (Tasted April 27, 2006)

The website says "Year after year the most consistent red wine we make. Aromas of blackberry and plum layer over cedar, tobacco and mint. Aged 14 months in French and American oak, a firm structure and solid concentration frame the round, creamy mid-palate. Vanilla, coconut and butterscotch lead to a long, supple finish." My notes: A mid ruby colour with a nose that is more earthy than fruity - airing in the glass a few minutes is recommended. A european style merlot, medium- to light-bodied with well balanced tannins and acid with a light red cherry flavour and light creaminess. Finish is moderate, dry, with some ripe, red cherries - didnt get the vanilla or butterscotch. Four to five years cellaring according to DL.

CAPELLANES JOVEN ROBLE RIBERA DEL DUERO 2004, Ribadeo, Spain, 13.5% D, #678177 $20.95 (Tasted April 27, 2006)

Released by Vintages February 18, 2006 saying: "Pago de Los Capellanes has embraced one of the newer Spanish ageing designations, ‘Joven Roble', for the creation of this wine. These fruit-forward wines are designed to be enjoyed within the first two to four years of vintage. Notes of toast and vanilla, but it's the bold berry and blackcurrant fruit that sings through. Add in a touch of spice, and you have a terrific, immediately enjoyable yet serious wine. Score - 91. (Simon Woods, Wine International, Sept. 2005)" The label says "[a blend of] 80% tempranillo, 10% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot". My notes: A deep purple hued ruby with a warm black cherry and soft licorice nose. Air to taste or decant. Full-bodied, tannins and acids are well balanced, and flavours are both mellow and bright with raspberry, blackberry, cherry and notes of tobacco and anise. The finish is long with initial fruit dwindling to a dry, light tobacco edge. A meal wine although devoted cab sippers may find this a dramatic but comfortable alternative. Have with full flavoured grilled meats, lamb shank and beefy stews. Cellaring up to five years then possibly extending after a taste.

LUCKY COUNTRY SHIRAZ CAB SAUV (TWO HANDS) 2004, South Australia, 15.0% XD, #642702 $15.95

A Vintages release April 15, 2006 described as "The country may be lucky but the winemaking here is pure talent. It's deep ruby in colour with aromas of smoke, blackberry, blueberry, sweet herbs and a hint of new leather. Dry, medium full-bodied with ripe fruit on the attack followed by a long lively peppery finish. The tannins balance the ripe fruit nicely. Enjoy with roast leg of lamb or stuffed pork roast. (VINTAGES panel, March 2006)." The label says "Wine Style: Full bodied, rich, big, succulent and long." My notes: A nose of overripe black cherries and berries with a smoky, ruby red colour. Both the cabernet and shiraz are equal flavours giving this a strong peppery, plum taste with drying tannins and sharp acids. Decant to avoid heavy sediment and would also help slightly with a bandaid edge that offsets the fruit. The finish is long, tannic and dry with the bandaid persisting - not a sipper except for the brave. Have with full-flavoured meats or cellar for a few years. With the tannins and acid it may turn out well.

RICASOLI BROLIO CHIANTI CLASSICO 2003 (and 2002), Tuscany, Italy, 13.5% D, #003962 $23.90 (Tasted April 23, 2006)

A General listing. The 2002 vintage was last tasted in September (see Archives) and revisited to compare with the 2003. The 2003 label says "wonderfully expressive bouquet of violets and spice, the palate is elegant and refined with a long velvety finish." The Ricasoli website says: "Bright ruby red in color with rich flavours of mature fruit. The taste is full solidly structured thanks to a good acidity and well balanced tannins. The long lasting sensation is absolutely voluptuous." My notes: Both are a dark see-through ruby colour with a soft ripe cherry and violet nose the 2002 having a sweet fruit note. Both are medium- to full-bodied with soft tannins on top of a warm plum, dark cherry flavour with a leather edge and a well balanced acid for a long, almost mellow, dry finish. The 2003 is slightly brighter with an earthiness not in 2002 and needs a few minutes to breathe. Have either with strong flavoured cheeses, grilled steaks, spareribs with savoury onion sauce, or stews. The 2002 is drinking well now... put the 2003 down for a few years for peak or just skip this vintage.

FAMIGLIA BIANCHI CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0% XD, #677567 $15.95 (Retasted April 21, 2006)

My notes: Tasted and cellared in September last year (see Archives) when James Molesworth gave it a rating of 91/100 and Natalie MacLean rated it 90/100 calling it "an extraordinary wine for the price". Vintages released it September 3, 2005 but doesn't list it as of today. The wine is a rich ruby and after airing twenty minutes has a soft, rich blackberry and licorice nose. The flavours are complex with ripe plum and pepper against a cushion of chocolate and truffels. The finish has velvety smooth tannins with some berry but mostly an earthy chocolate - any chalkiness has gone. Almost a sipper for me - it's considerably easier then in September - 'Big Cab' drinkers should find it interesting. But give me a grilled T-bone or saucy backribs for a real taste treat. Needs another two to four years before it'll be ready for mixed company. Still waiting for the 2003 vintage from Vintages.

CHATEAU LA CLOTTE-FONTANE MATHIEROU 2001, Languedoc, France, 13.5% XD, CP149-2543 $19.17 (Retasted April 20, 2006)

Opimian says: "...has masses of forward fruit that combines the juicy appeal of New World reds with those of revered old vineyards. Richly flavoured and opulent, showing powerfully deep aromas with black fruit overlaid with spicy pepper and black olive, the silky and subdued tannins are never far away, their subtlety adding to the lengthy structure of a thunderingly good bottle." Cellar six months to several years. My notes: Last tasted October, 2005 with the comments "..... with smooth aromas of plums, bacon and black olive and flavours of black cherries balanced with soft tannins and a light clean acid. The finish is long and subtle black fruits.etc. " Still a rich ruby with warm aromas of black berries with a peppery edge. A smooth tannic blackberry flavour with a dry, spicy finish - even the black olives. Better paired with prime rib, tomato canelloni stuffed with seasoned chicken breast, rack of lamb.... has enough spice for fuller flavoured grilled meats. Should be able to cellar for a few more years yet.

KILIKANOON 'KILLERMAN'S RUN' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002, South Australia, 14.5% XD, #675223 $18.95 (Tasted April 20, 2006)

A Vintages release April 15, 2006 and described as "Medium ruby. Wine-class cabernet aromas of ripe cherry, redcurrant, pepper, licorice and rose petal, with a subtle minty nuance. Fleshy, supple and concentrated, with sweet flavors of red and black berries, cherry candy and sweet tobacco. A mouthfilling, velvety wine that finishes on a tangy redcurrant note. Score - 88. (Josh Reynolds, International Wine Cellar, Sept./Oct. 2005)." The label says "... what you get when combining low yielding grapes with premium vineyard areas with traditional winemaking .... Intense berry fruit flavours, subtle French oak and firm tannins etc. " My notes: A pleasing pepper, cherry and blackberry aroma from a dense ruby red. Full-bodied, smooth, ripe blackberry and licorice flavours with well balanced tannin and acid. The finish is consistent... long, smooth with soft tannins and a touch of licorice - making a great dry, lip-smacking sipper. Super with any grilled red meat, lamb kebobs, roasted lamb shank, full-flavoured stews or chili con carne, etc. Drinking well now but could cellar for several years.

Monday, April 03, 2006

April Reds (9): Australia Shiraz, USA Zin, Italy Valpol, France Cab Franc, Spain Tempra, Australia Blend, Chile Merlot, Canada Pinot Noir, Spain Blend

KILIKANOON 'KILLERMAN'S RUN' SHIRAZ 2002, South Australia, 14.5% XD, #925453 $18.95 (Tasted April 18, 2006)

A Vintages release April 15, 2006 and described as ".... is produced from vineyards Kevin Mitchell sources primarily in the Clare Valley and Barossa. It is a dense, full-throttle, big, chewy, peppery, black fruit-dominated Shiraz offering sweet tannin, an attractive plushness, and an up-front style designed for consumption over the next 2-4 years. Score - 90. (Robert Parker Jr.,, Oct. 2004)." says: "... ready to drink now and will be a delicious partner for grilled lamb during the summer. It provides wads of sweet black fruit and black pepper, a plump texture that's smooth and mouth-filling, and ripe, easily-managed tannins. (RP)" and rates it four stars of five. Alan Kerr says: "This is pretty, dense, full of flavour and well balanced. I find a chewy creamy palate with layers of black fruit, pepper and star anise. Good value and ready to sip." Beppi says: "Thick and creamy, it shows black cherry, vanilla and hints of spice and tar, with a fresh kick of acid on the finish." My notes: Cedar and plum aromas from a dark ruby colour. Flavours are cedar, sharp blackberry, pepper, and cinnamon.The finish is of woody berries with a drying tannin. Went well with moroccan lamb and couscous and should with any red meat grilled with a barbarian spice. Cellaring for a few years will mellow the acid and integrate into a smoother structure. Fairly smooth now and a sipper if you're into DRY tannic wild berry. Even seemed smoother after a day or so!

GNARLY HEAD 'OLD VINE' ZINFANDEL 2004, Calif. USA, 14.5% XD, #678698 $17.95 (Tasted April 17, 2006)

A Vintages release (date unkown and not described). Natalie MacLean says: "I love this wine! Made from 80-year-old gnarly vines that are head pruned, it has wonderful aromas of brambleberry, blackberry, cherry, liquorice and smoke. It's supple and a great complement to a wide range of dishes including pork, chicken, steak and tomato-sauce pasta. Medium- to full-bodied. Score: 90/100 - tied for NM's Favourite Red Wine". The Gismondi website rates it 85/100 saying "Cedar bark, chocolate, prune, black cherry, prickly nose. Soft, round, slightly dry entry with warm cedar bark, peppery, mocha, resiny, licorice flavours. Simple commercial dry, red wine with a slightly tannic finish." My notes: A 'prickly' cedar nose with possibly a raw plum note. A dense ruby colour, full-bodied with a prune and cherry flavour and a strong tannic, acid bite. Improves slightly with decanting but nothing worthwhile imho. The finish is long, sharp and tannic craving a grilled steak or full-flavoured stew - not a sipper. Did not go with grilled pork chops, baked yam and green salad with light basalmic dressing.

BOLLA 'LE POIANE' VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2001, Veneto, Italy, 13.5% XD, #135293 $19.95 (Tasted April 15, 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. Deeper in colour, bolder in flavour and higher in alcohol than most Valpolicellas., this wine matches a wider range of cuisine including steak, lamb or rich pasta sauces." The website says: "Aged for up to two years in oak casks, Le Poiane is a dry, full-bodied, spicy wine, intensely ruby red in color, velvety rich, complex and exceptionally well-balanced. Serve with game, roast beef, beef stew, spaghetti with meatballs, agnolitti and barbecued chicken." My notes: The grapes used in Valpolicella are Corvina Veronese (40-70%), Rondinella (20-40%) and Molinara (5-20%). The vintner can also add up to 15% complementary varieties, which include Rossignola, Negrara, Trentina, Barbera and Sangiovese. 'Superiore' is produced with at least a year of aging, and must be 12% alcohol or more. The 2001 has a soft, plummy, fig nose and a ruby colour with a suspicion of brick on the edge, similar to the 1999 vintage. Medium-bodied with flavours of tar, plums, touch of raisins, a little black pepper and a pleasant sharp edge. The finish is very long and plummy with a tobacco note. Already aged five years another two years may be the limit. Pair with any red meats prepared in any full-flavoured style: stews, roasted ribs in a caramellized onion sauce, grilled steaks, grilled hot Italian sausage, etc. To me, a super valpolicella sipper.

CHINON 2001, DOMAINE CHARLES PAIN, 'CHEZELET', Panzoult, France, 12.0% XD, CP144-2246 $17.83 (Tasted April 13, 2006).

Opimian describes the 2000 vintage as "the Domaine produces three different cuvées, all of which we tasted before choosing the most generous from the 2000 vintage. The colour has a dense, closely packed maroon hue, followed by a wonderful aroma showing a vibrant, juicy structure with forward spice and herbal quality. Fleshy flavours with rich morello cherry add piquancy to the delightfully earthy souvenirs of the 'terroir'. A true Cabernet Franc." My notes: Opimian shipped the 2001 vintage instead, which was received November 2002 and cellared 'til now. Still has a deep ruby red colour with a delicate vanilla and soft black cherry nose. The flavours are mild, silky, ripe black cherry supported by a backbone of soft tannins and subdued acids. The finish is moderate, smooth and earthy. If sipping let air and note nose and flavour change - but really a red meat or game bird wine. Have with prime rib to full-flavoured stews, turkey breast or legs, pheasant, etc. Should be able to cellar another four years without harm.

RISCAL TEMPRANILLO 2004, Castilla y Leon, Spain, 14.0% XD, #620898 $11.45 (Tasted April 7, 2006)

The LCBO describes this as " Medium ruby red; aromas of red berry, sandlewood and oak; dry, sweet berry, with a slight tannic grip. Serve with grilled lamb loins or medium cheese." Tony Aspler says "....100% Tempranillo grapes. The wine is ruby-purple in colour with a bouquet of black cherry, minerals and sweet oak. It's full-bodied, earthy with concentrated fruit flavours on a solid oak base. Works well with red meat dishes." My notes: A clear ruby with aromas of cherry and oak. Medium-bodied, an earthy cherry flavour with a tannin and acid edge. The cherry finish is short lived leaving an earthy aftertaste. A meal red... have with pizzas, hamburgers, chili con carne - or just skip it.

HAMILTON'S EWELL VINEYARDS ‘STONEGARDEN' GRENACHE, SHIRAZ, MOUVÈDRE 2003, Barossa, Australia, 14.5% XD, #662973 $18.95 (Tasted April 7, 2006)

A Vintages release April 1, 2006 noting that "This vibrant and plush Grenache-based blend from the incomparable Barossa Valley offers terrific value. Expect ripe raspberry fruit, mint, spice and chocolate character along with notes of oak and vanilla on the long finish. Enjoy with Shepherd's pie or a beef rib roast." The newsletter rates it four and a half stars saying: "... usually abbreviated 'GSM'. On the other hand, the wine's as much a mouthful as the full name. This was a "wow!" wine for me, and I dickered between 4.5 and 5 stars. It delivers beautiful fruit with marvelous complexity and a really elegant texture that has hints of the best sort of rusticity - an edge that lifts the wine with another dimension. .... and make sure you snag some of this (RP)." Gord Stimmell rates this 90 saying "brims with smoke, wild blueberry and cedar charm from ...Oz." My notes: The original Hamilton's Ewell Vineyards was sold to Mildara Wines in 1979.... and the brand disappeared by 1988. Mark Hamilton, a grandson and a former Director of the original winery, re-established the brand... and gradually built the largest private holding of vineyards on the Barossa Valley floor. Colour is a smoky black cherry with nose to match, full of soft smoke, mint and black cherry. The flavours reflect the colour and nose: full-bodied with ripe plums and berries - rich and dense. Charm? More like 'Gutsy' to me. Decant or air twenty minutes minimum .... then it's a mellow sipper with a long, warm, smooth finish. Have with full flavoured stews or roasts. Can be cellared for several years yet.

VINA TARAPACA MERLOT 2004, Maipo, Chile, 13.5% D, #558668 $9.40 (Tasted April 5, 2006)

Tony Aspler describes this as "If you're looking for a tasty Merlot under $10... The wine is dense purple in colour with a smoky, blackcurrant and minerally nose; it's medium to full-bodied, dry and chunky in the mouth with a blackcurrant flavour and an earthy note. It finishes with soft tannins. You won't find a better Merlot at the price. Try it with shoulder of lamb or beef stew." The website says of their export merlot: "Intense varietal aroma, with notes of red fresh fruits, light spicy notes of black pepper and cinnamon, touches of caramel and tobacco. Medium body, well balanced, fresh, with a pleasant finish. Smooth flavorful. With sweet and ripe tannins." My notes: A General listing with a ruby red colour and an unusual jam, mineral and leather nose. Flavours include raspberry jam and milk chocolate mint. A medium-bodied meal wine, with balanced tannin and acid. Can't see it aging well. Have with hot dogs or burgers - not by itself. I'll save $10 and skip it.

MIKE WEIR ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2004 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 13.0% XD, #000075 $21.95 (Tasted April 4, 2006)

A Vintages release April 1, 2006 noting "An impressive debut, the aromas suggest cherry and cocoa powder. Dry and medium-bodied, it has a nice combo of fruit flavour and tannic structure with a medium-long finish. Although enjoyable now, it would benefit with 2-3 years in the cellar. (Vintages panel, Feb. 2006)." The newsletter says: "... even though this Pinot plays down the middle of the fairway right through the palate. From tee-off to finish, the complex fruit hits the sweet spot, and winemaker Craig McDonald has balanced it off well with the wood. Par it with grilled lamb (RP)." And Beppi says: "Like most good pinots [this] is medium-bodied and delicate. If you're new to the subtleties of wine or simply prefer the big, fat style of, say, a Greg Norman cabernet from Australia, this wine may not be for you. But it's expertly made, showing classic pinot flavours of red berries and beetroot and a hint of earth, carried on a silky frame with a subtle, slightly tannic backbone. Close your eyes and you can almost imagine you're drinking a decent red Burgundy (the benchmark for good pinot noir). It's an ideal red for fish or veal." Gord Stimmell rates it 90 and says "..impressive strawberry, cherry and exotic spice." My notes: Produced by Creekside Estate Winery under the Mike Weir Estates label, a bright ruby, medium-bodied to light- with aromas of berry, cardamon and light oak. Flavours of faint cherry, earth and light spice with noticeable tannins and a bright edge which carry through to a long finish. Not a sipper unless with a creamy brie or tasty edam, better paired with lightly flavoured meats: prime rib, ham steak, veal schnitzel or rack of lamb. Should integrate and mellow textures with a few years cellaring but unlikely worth it imho.

BODEGAS H.P. PASCUAS ‘VIÑA PEDROSA' 2003, Duero, Spain, 13.0% XD, #673517 $17.95 (Tasted April 3, 2006)

A Vintages release April 1, 2006 saying: "For value, it is hard to beat the 2003 Vina Pedrosa, an exuberant, deep ruby/purple-tinged wine displaying loads of cedar wood, creme de cassis, licorice, and spice box characteristics. Fleshy and opulent, with crisp, zesty acidity, this young vine cuvee is a terrific effort to drink over the next 5-6 years. Score - 90. (Robert Parker Jr.,, June 2005)." The newsletter rates four and 1/2 stars saying: "A really delicious and bargain-priced red with a generous texture, full dark fruit with accents of wood and spice, and excellent balance. Here's a rich red with texture that's made for food. The tannins are firm but manageable, and I would love a bottle of this with a rack of lamb, grilled medium-rare (RP)." My notes: Pours a rich ruby with a purple tinge and a nose of raspberry and anise. The flavour is a light raspberry and cherry with a distinct acerb edge, sharp for spicy or savoury meat dishes. An unusual wild berry and cedar finish with the sharpness easing off reasonably. Went well with grilled backribs sprinkled liberally with Barberian steak spices. A sharp sipper like eating wild berries. At peak now... cellaring may mellow still retaining the bright fruit - try two years and see.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

April Whites (14): Canada Pinot Gris(2), France Blend, Canada Chard(7), USA Symph, Canada Gewurz, Italy Pinot Grigio, Canada Blend

DANIEL LENKO OLD VINES CHARDONNAY (AMERICAN OAK) 1999, Beamsville, Canada, 13.0% XD, Winery $? (Tasted April 25, 2006)

The website says of the 2002 vintage ($19.95): "Toast, smoke and butterscotch flavours lead the way, with pineapple, peach and spice unfolding a deep and intense experience." My notes: The 1999 vintage was purchased from the winery on May 14, 2001 and cellared until now. The same golden hue as the 'French Oak' version but with aromas of mild ripe pineapple and wild flowers. Medium-bodied with flavours of apricot and apple with some creamy caramel, light lime and a balanced acid. A long finish carries light apricot, citrus and caramel evenly on the palate. Although the original fresh varietal flavours are gone the structure is more complex and very sippable. Have with any asian fare, cold salmon slices on greens, as an aperitif or with italian shaved meats. Cellaring has produced a unique and tasty chardonnay, for sure.

MALIVOIRE PINOT GRIS 2002 (and 2000), Beamsville, Canada, 12.0% XD, #591305 $18.00 (Retasted April 24, 2006)

My notes: The 2002 vintage was tasted January and June of last year. The 2002 is an appealing deep peach colour with very light aromas of peach fuzz with a touch of caramel. Purchased from the winery November 2003 because of its enormous fruit and creamy spice - the fruit has changed to a soft prune and caramel with no creamy spice. Finish is warm, short and somewhat bland. Should be OK with white fish dishes, but not chicken breast or pork tenderloin. Cellared too long. The 2000 was tasted last September with the comment "... Considerably different than the 2002 ... " Retasted April 27th, has the same deep peach hue, but now it has no fruit nor caramel, no creamy spice and this, the last bottle in the cellar, was discarded.

CHATEAU DE MONTGUERET CREMANT DE LOIRE BRUT NV, Loire, France, 12.5% D, #621896 $18.95 (Tasted April 24, 2006)

My notes: The label describes the blend as Chenin, Cabernet and Chardonnay. My notes: The LCBO stocks this on their bubbly shelf periodically. The colour is a light blond and aromas of vanilla and yeast (birthday cake to me), pleasant but light. Bubbles are slightly frothy at the rim with a continuous stream giving a tingle to the palate. Flavours include a citrus assortment with a finish that is clean, light and slightly creamy. This has a decent tang and went well will leftover cornish hens and salad - but there are fruitier and frothier for the money. Not for cellaring and not a value.

DANIEL LENKO OLD VINES CHARDONNAY (FRENCH OAK) 1999, Beamsville, Canada, 13.0% XD, Winery $24.95 (Tasted April 23, 2006)

The website says of the 2002 vintage - now $29.95: " Vanilla, toast, coconut and spice flavours balance beautifully with ripe pear and peach overtones. A rich, creamy texture engulfs the palate, showing the power and elegance of fruit from old vines." My notes: The 1999 was purchased from the winery on May 14, 2001 and cellared until now. A golden hue with faint aromas of wild clover and honey. Medium-bodied with delicate flavours of melon, some pear, some honey, some light acid - no cream in this one. The finish is soft on the palate and short. Perhaps past peak, was quickly lost with roast cornish hens with mapled squash and brussels.

'NCT' WINERY WARREN CLASSIC 'PIEKAN VINEYARD' CHARDONNAY 2004 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 14.2% XD, Winery $27.95 (Tasted April 15, 2006)

The College tasting sheet says "This wine is all about elegance and complexity. The nose is intense with vanilla, cantelope and caramellized pears. The palate is soft, dry and refined with pears, green apple and a long finish. Enjoy with lobster, game birds or veal." The label says: ".... barrel fermented/barrel aged in French oak... crafted by Jim Warren." My notes: The 2004 was purchased at the College on April 8th. A light blond white with a distinct wild clover nose. Medium- to full-bodied with flavours of light honey, melon, pear with a pronounced bite. Didn't show its high alcohol level. The finish is moderate with a lasting light butter and fresh varietal fruit. A dry sipper showing a subtle influence of fermentation in French oak. Cellaring at least two years should bring some caramel forward and form more of a silky structure. Went well with traditional halibut and chips.... and should with any seafood dish, especially lobster or scallops. Overpriced but the College warrants the support.

EASTDELL 'ESCARPMENT' BARREL FERMENTED CHARDONNAY 2003 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 13.0% XD, #651505 $18.95 (Tasted April 14, 2006)

The website says it won a Gold Medal at Cuvée 2005 (Niagara) and has a "A long mellow finish with very subtle oak." The label says: "... fermented in American, French and Hungarian oak. Notes of tropical fruit and vanilla are followed by a balanced finish." My notes: Purchased at the winery on April 8th. Colour is a light blond and the bouquet is a soft citrus and clover. Medium-bodied with lemon, some honey, some butter and, perhaps a trifle light, acid edge (comes across on the flabby side). A lemon and pear finish leaves a long, light cream impression on the palate. Should be great with Greek salad with lots of olives, a mushroom/red pepper and anchovy pizza, a green salad with salmon pieces - flexible enough for light seafood. Perhaps priced on the high side but a pleasant sipper and flexible meal white. Should be able to cellar a couple of years, likely no longer.

STONEY RIDGE 'FOUNDER'S SIGNATURE COLLECTION' CHARLOTTE'S CHARDONNAY 2004 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 11.0% D, #497230 $19.95 (Tasted April 13, 2006)

A Vintages release on January 21, 2006 and described as "This unoaked Chardonnay shows remarkable varietal character. Very pale straw in colour, the nose offers apple cinnamon, peach, pear and honey aromas. There's a 'fruit basket' of flavours on the crisp medium full-bodied palate and the fruit just keeps on coming on the long lingering finish. (Vintages panel, Nov. 2005)." The website 2004 vintage notes are brief, "A pale yellow with brilliant clarity, a moderate fruity intensity with a distinct bouquet and a pleasant first impression. This wine is soft from a sweetness perspective, balanced by a clean refreshing acidity level. Adequate alcohol. Finish medium to long. Serve with spicy foods: Thai, Szechwan, turkey and chicken, also soft to medium cheeses or shellfish." Also "In a unique return to his winemaking roots [Jim Warren left from Stoney Ridge in 1999], Jim Warren created a new Founder's Signature Collection for Stoney Ridge. Representing a creative partnership between [the current winemaker] Liubomir [Popovici] and Jim, this unique bottling reflects Jim's personal winemaking philosophy of producing the best wine possible from the best grapes grown." My notes: A convenient screwtop. An off-white with a soft wildflower bouquet. Medium- to light-bodied with flavours of melon, clover honey and a bright, well balanced acid. The finish is medium fading quickly as a dry, clean, clover honey. No butter or cream to support the delicate chardonnay fruit. Well made but not a 'Jim Warren' imho. Was just OK with a grilled salmon steak... no intrusive sweetness. Pair with mild cheeses, light fish dishes, or cold chicken slices on a green salad with a light dressing. A drink-now and not a value.

IRONSTONE 'OBSESSION' SYMPHONY 2004, Calif, USA, 12.0% MD, #355784 $14.95 (Tasted April 11, 2006)

A Vintages release April 1, 2006 and described as "The fruity and floral Symphony grape variety was created at the University of California-Davis by crossing Muscat of Alexandria with Grenache Gris. This popular version from Ironstone is refreshing and charming with a wonderfully aromatic nose and off-dry palate." The winecurrent newsletter gives it four stars and says: "... While this Ironstone product might not be an 'obsession', its release is always eagerly awaited. Similar in style to a Gewürztraminer, it offers rich, spicy aromas that replay in the flavours as spicy peach and apricot. With a crisp texture, it's a marvelous summer sipper, a shoulder-season aperitif, or a great partner to spicy Asian dishes. (RP)" Their website says: "....has youthful aromas that are markedly floral. Extremely drinkable, this lusciously brilliant and fanciful wine is full of fruit flavors, and finishes crisp and clean." My notes: A light straw with aromas of honeysuckle and apricot, light-bodied, off-dry but nicely balanced with natural acid and flavours close to pinot gris with less spice. The finish is moderate that is both warm and fruity. More of a summer sipper (one ice cube) or accompanied by a chilled shrimp ring or broiled reggiano and tomato bruschetta. Was a little light with grilled chicken breast with a ginger sauce and vinaigrette salad - likely OK with grilled white fish dishes or mushroom pastas. A drink-now.

KONZELMANN GEWÜRZTRAMINER RESERVE 2002 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 13.0% MD, #392357 $14.95 (Tasted April 10, 2006)

A Vintages release April 1, 2006 saying "Look for intense aromas of rose, lychee, honey, peach and cloves in this medium-bodied Gewürz from Niagara legend Herbert Konzelmann. An amazing value, it's just off-dry and would be a terrific match for butter chicken or spicy Thai cuisine." The winecurrent newsletter gives it four stars and says: "A well-made Gewürz that touches all the right bases. It has attractive aromas and off-dry flavours of spice, musk and peach-apricot, good medium weight, and a nice clean finish with a characteristic hint of bitterness. Pair it confidently with spicy Thai dishes. (RP)" My notes: A rich, crystal gold in colour and soft ripe apricot and honey aromas that build as the glass warms - perhaps slight oxidation. A full-bodied white with a strong creamy flavour of lychee nuts and spice - not a flavour for everyone. The fruit sugars are nicely balanced by bright acids leaving a long spicy finish. A drink-now. Have with Seshuan, spicy seafood or, marginally, with grilled ham steaks.

‘BORTOLUZZI' PINOT GRIGIO 2004 IGT, Veneto, Italy, 13.0% XD, #717330 $15.95 (Tasted April 9, 2006)

A Vintages release of April 4, 2006 and described as "Pretty apple, anise and apple blossom aromas dominate this fresh, balanced, structured wine. It has a personality all its own that is frequently missing from other northern Italian Pinot Grigios. Enjoy with freshwater fish or pasta in a cream sauce. (VINTAGES panel, Aug. 2005)." rates it four stars saying "A well-made Pinot Grigio at a very good price. It stands out from the mass of Italian Pinot Grigios. With quite elegant and delicate fruit flavours (in the apricot-peach zones) and good structure and balance, it's a great match for grilled white fish. (RP)" The website says "A crystalline straw yellow coloured wine with a scent of acacia flowers and exotic fruits. It is soft on the palate, persistent and full bodied. Serving temperature 12-14°C" My notes: Has a blond colour with a light lemon and lime nose. Medium-bodied, soft creaminess and mild acids support flavours of lemon and melon. The finish is long and warm citrus. Went well with grilled Atlantic salmon, rum soaked sweet potato and green salad. Should cellar well for a year but drinking well now - have with shaved ham, proscuitto, grilled chicken or seafood.

'NCT' RIESLINGTRAMINER 2004 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 11.0% D, Winery $12.95 (Tasted April 9, 2006)

College notes: "This wine shows intense aromas of peaches, oranges, rose petals and limestone. On the palate it has a pleasant sweetness and tones of candied apple and apricots." This is one of many wines crafted by Professor/Winemaker Jim Warren and students of the Winery and Viticulture Technician Program. My notes: First tasted as part of an evening dinner at the College in the fall of 2005, this bottle came from a Niagara wine trip this weekend. A light blond in colour and a fragrance of citrus and wild flowers. Medium-bodied, creamy with flavours of both varietals showing: a light spice and lime from the gewurz and a light pear from the riesling, a great combination for light seafood appetizers or main courses. The fruity sweetness and well balanced acid makes this a pleasing sipper with a citrus, almost orange, zest finish. Cellaring up to two years may integrate and smooth textures even more but try after a year so not to lose the fruit. A real value imho.

MIKE WEIR ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2004 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 13.0% D, #000026 $15.95 (Tasted April 3, 2006)

A Vintages release April 1, 2006 noting: "This ‘above par' Chard wonderfully integrates all the elements of fruit, acidity and oak. The nose has layered green apple, tropical fruit, citrus and cinnamon notes. Dry, medium-full bodied with a nice backbone of acidity, there is subtle oak spice on the long finish. It would make a delicious match for King Crab. (VINTAGES panel, Feb. 2006)" And the newsletter rates four stars describing: "The Product Code number that Mike Weir's wines wear make it look as if the LCBO has rolled the odometer back. The number after the dollar sign is more impressive, though, for a Chardonnay of this quality. It offers lovely fruit in the peach-apricot range, nuanced with sweet spicy notes and balanced with grapefruit crispness, and a smooth texture. It's a great partner to lobster or roast grain-fed chicken. (RP)." And Beppi says: "Medium-bodied and silky, this nicely balanced white offers up nuances of ripe melon, honey and hints of toasty oak and spice. It's attractively priced and should be a nice match for sea bass or roast chicken." My notes: A light blond, crystal clear, with a prominent nose of wild flowers and lime, an aromatic sniffer. Medium-bodied with flavours that are predominantly citrus, bright but not sharp, grapefruit and papaya - an unusually fresh and fruity chardonnay. A long citrus finish cleanses the palate. Perfect for lobster, crab, shrimp, scallops, then on to anything seafood in nature. Should be OK to cellar for a year but drinking well now.

TAWSE BEAMSVILLE BENCH RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2002 VQA, Beamsville, Canada, 14.1% XD, Winery $42.00 (Tasted April 2, 2006)

David Lawrason (Toronto Life, August 2005) rates it four and one-half stars saying "Chardonnay minimalists will find this opulent one overstated; hedonists will love it. Deborah Paskus's chardonnays have an oxidative, hot cashew and apple pie quality. This one is a sundae with finesse, fortitude and great length." Gord Stimmell rates it 91/100 "Here was that rich chard signature, butternut and hazelnut and lime peel, a blend of elegance and power." My notes: Purchased from the winery in July, 2005, now a golden yellow with full aromas of butterscotch, a touch of citrus and the smooth influence of French oak ageing. The flavours partnered well with grilled scallops wrapped in bacon - lots of warmth, nuttiness and the zest of limes in the long finish. Full-bodied, very smooth sipper - not a quaffer since time is needed to savour the flavours and butter texture. Better with a spicy bearded mussel appetizer or with light meat and seafood dishes. Will cellar several years but drinking well now.