Monday, October 30, 2006

More October Whites(1):USA Chard,

CALERA CHARDONNAY 2002, Central Coast, California, 13.5% D, #713313 $19.95 (Tasted October 30, 2006)

A Vintages release October 28, 2006 described as "An excellent value in California Chardonnay, Calera's 2002 Central Coast Chardonnay offers a light green/gold color as well as attractive aromas of honeysuckle and white flowers, medium body, little oak, and a pleasant finish. It is ideal for drinking over the next 1-3 years. Score - 87. (Robert Parker Jr., August 2005) ." VH of winecurrent gives it four and one half stars (of 5) saying "You will love this, from the floral and toasty nose to the lengthy and luxurious finish it is a classy effort. The creamy, medium-weight texture is amazing. There is gorgeous apple pie spice, oodles of tropical fruit and all held together by a lovely citrus tang. The gorgeous finish offers ripe peach and a bit of citrus to keep it dry and clean. At an attractive price point for a wine delivering such a delicious mouthful of flavour." My notes: The label lists five vineyards in three counties as the source of grapes for this vintage. Honeysuckle and wild flowers describes the nose well... and a light gold/green the colour. Medium-bodied, a nice tartness with some butter, flavours of melon, lime and honey without the sweetness. A tart citrus and melon finish carries through until all flavours vanish leaving some warmth... no dryness. A cooperative sipper, ie. would go well on its own or with finger sandwiches: tuna or salmon spread, sandwich spread, ham with lettuce and party gerkhins. Was great with grilled arctic char and greens. Cellaring for a year would be OK but I'd check it after that (why not?)... drinking well now.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

More October Reds(4): Australia Grenache, Australia Blend, Australia Shiraz, Italy Nero d'Avola

YALUMBA ‘BUSH VINE' GRENACHE 2004, Barossa, South Australia, 14.5% XD, #531228 $19.95 (Tasted October 28, 2006)

A Vintages release October 28, 2006 described as "Polished, generous and powerful, a racy mouthful of blackberry, licorice, plum and pepper flavors that zoom through the finish. Tannins are almost an afterthought. Designed to deepen with cellaring. Drink now through 2014. (91/100, Harvey Steiman, Sept. 30, 2006) " The label states "...grapes grown on 70 year old bush vines, some of the oldest in the world.... intense varietal character on the nose - ripe plums, cloves and spices interwoven with gamey, earthy characters...." VH of winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "....opens with a perfumed nose of sweet black berry fruit and spice box. Concentrated flavours wash over the palate in waves with black licorice, tar and Bing cherry to the fore. The lengthy finish offers more of the same with ripe tannins and a dollop of acidity thrown in, keeping this full-bodied beauty interesting and in balance. Drink now to 2012 and pick up a few to do it." My notes: A deep ruby, rose tinged colour with a full nose of a blackberry, bramble spice and soft raspberry mix - a very slight geranium airs out quickly. Medium-bodied, smooth on the palate with flavours of light berries with bright cherry nuances, some fine tannin and faint licorice in the background - an easy quaffer. Finishes with a roundness and a very light berry and slight licorice aftertaste. The high alcohol level wasn't apparent. Should go well with any lightly flavoured red meat: veal, ham, prime rib, vegetarian pastas. Even added a pleasing mellowness with a blackened Cajun Beef Subway with chipolte dressing and red peppers. Cellaring for several years is possible but it's drinking well now. A good value.

MOUNTADAM 'THE RED' CABERNET SAUVIGNON MERLOT 1999, Eden Valley, Australia, 14.5% XD, #931105* $41.95 (Tasted October 25, 2006)

A Vintages release and rated an 89 but *no longer listed. The label says "The vineyards are located ... on a rocky ridge that separates the Barossa and Eden Valleys. .... has a complex nose and palate. Ripe plum, rich berry and mint characters interplay with oak flavours underpinned by fine yet persistent tannins. Cellar for many years. My notes: Mountadam is a boutique winery whose website couldn't be found. The single bottle was purchased in October 2004 and cellared 'til now. Has a deep ruby colour with a warm nose of berries, mint and soft earth. A medium-bodied red with a soft approach but soon with a somewhat assertive tang full of berries. Fine tannins finish with lasting mint and berries. An interesting sipper with shaved meats, pork ribs or seasoned meatballs. Have with full flavoured cheeses, spicy party sausage or pair with full flavoured meat entrees. Cellaring for a few more years would be OK.

ROSEMOUNT DIAMOND SHIRAZ 2004, South Eastern Australia, 14.0% D, #302249 $15.95 (Tasted October 24, 2006)

A General listing described as "Opaque purple colour; blueberry, blackberry aroma with toasty oak nuances; dry, full-bodied with rich, fleshy fruit character. Serve with pepper steak; game dishes." The label claims "Diamond label ... displays intense, spicy fruit with a richly textured finish. ..." My notes: The Rosemount Estate name was used in 1864 by the original owner, Carl Brecht, and then purchased by Bob Oatley in 1968 who was a grape supplier until a grape glut in 1974. Rosemount released their first wines in 1975 using their own grapes and in 2001 they partnered with Robert Mondavi. A deep ruby with a soft nondescript nose and a sharp metallic first impression on the palate. Not much fruit, perhaps unripened purple plums, but a medium-bodied red with well balanced tannins and acids. Have with prime rib or grilled T-bones, beef ribs or stews. An uninteresting sipper and needs a red meat entree to make it a passable meal wine. Not for cellaring. A commercial shiraz.

VULCANIA 'LUSIO' NERO D'AVOLA 2003, Sicily, Italy, 13.5% D, #581918 $17.95 (Tasted October 21, 2006)

A Vintages release on September 16, 2006 and descibed as "Cherry, spice, black licorice and a touch of tar dominate this rich, ripe, plush, medium full-bodied and long finishing wine. This wine is an excellent partner for late summer barbecues. (Vintages panel, Jan. 2006)" The Hobbs website gives this description "The Curatolo family has been growing grapes and making wine in Sicily since 1875... Today the fourth generation of Curatolos continues the winemaking tradition of their forefathers. They farm over 350 hectares and now employ famous Tuscan winemaker Alberto Antonini as a consultant. This wine comes from two vineyards – one located in southwestern Sicily near Marsala, the other in the central part of island near Agrigento. The former cool region gives a vibrancy and an aromatic dimension to the wine, while the latter, a hotter, drier zone provides the colour, weight and structure". My notes: A full ruby colour with a nose of blackberries and bright spice, light- to medium-bodied with a nip on the tongue carrying through to the back of the throat and flavours of bright red currants. The finish has a light tar leaving a background of this to compliment the fruit and adds a firm tannin. A dry red sipper better paired with meaty pasta dishes - was great with a meaty lasagna. Could pair as well with prime rib or lamb. A drink-now rather than for cellaring.

Monday, October 02, 2006

October Whites(13): USA Blend, NZ Pinot Gris, Chile Chard, Italy Prosec, Italy Fiano, Can Blend, Can Pinot Gris, NZ Sauv Blanc(3), Italy Pinot Grig(3)

DOG POINT VINEYARD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% XD, #677450 $19.95 (Tasted October 28, 2006)

A Vintages release October 28, 2006 described as "Bright, juicy and almost lacy in texture, letting the lime, apple and pineapple flavors shine through against a refreshing zing of acidity. Appealing for its subtlety and harmony. Drink now. (91/100, Harvey Steiman, Aug. 31, 2006)." VH of winecurrent gives it five stars (of 5) saying " Wow! I invite you to try this crème de la crème of Kiwi SB. The herbaceous, lifted nose is a lovely segue to this tangy, medium to full-bodied offering. Gooseberry, lime and peach burst upon the palate whilst the texture is plush and silky smooth. The laser-like finish adds white grapefruit and is zesty clean. Wisely under screw cap to keep it fresh, try on its own, for the experience, then with a chèvre salad. Very well-priced." My notes: A faint yellow colour with a greenish tinge. Cooking apple, lime and straw dominate the nose anticipating flavours to come - improves with airing. Medium-bodied, unoaked, has a nicely balanced acid and roundness that surround disappointing tropical citrus flavours. Too little fresh fruit and little to no gooseberry for a Kiwi SB consequently the herbaceousness, ie. grassiness, dominates. The finish drops any fresh fruit leaving a somewhat dry crabapple edge. If you like a French SB you may like this but I found it unpleasant. Not a sipper - would be OK with seafood dishes. Not cellarable nor is it a value.

HEDGES CELLARS ‘CMS WHITE' CHARDONNAY/MARSANNE/ SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004, Washington, USA, 13.5% D, #008680 $16.95 (Tasted October 18, 2006)

A Vintages release on October 14, 2006 and described as "Smooth, polished and juicy with spicy nectarine, melon and grapefruit aromas and flavors, persisting appealingly on the long finish. ... Drink now through 2008. 89/100 (Harvey Steiman, July 31, 2006)." The website says "... fresh and vibrant .. that effortlessly balances body and depth from the Chardonnay, spicy aromatics from the Marsanne, and structured mineral flavors from the Sauvignon Blanc. ... perfect as a summer aperitif or as an accompaniment to a variety of seafood and shellfish." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "A unique blend for white wine lovers. The lifted nose offers vanilla and tropical fruit. There is an explosion of ripe sweet flavours on the palate that include spiced pear, apple and ripe peach. The lengthy and luxurious, fruit-driven finish shows deft balance with apple compote juxtaposed to cleansing zestiness. Well made, well priced, stock up." My notes: A soft blond colour and a soft nose of orange blossom and pear. Smooth texture, medium-bodied, nicely sharp on the tongue with flavours blending orange zest with fuji apple. The finish is quite long and lined with succulent citrus. A crisp style with the three varietals well balanced. There's enough there to cellar up to two years. A crisp sipper with enough fruit for interest - was great with grilled chicken breast, baked potato and greens with bonconcini.

GROVE MILL PINOT GRIS 2005, Marlborough, NZ, 14.0% XD*, #001693 $19.95 (Tasted October 16, 2006)

A Vintages release on October 14, 2006 and described as "Grove Mill is a key pioneer of Pinot Gris in Marlborough ... The 2005 vintage, partly French oak-fermented, is outstanding. Light straw, it is a distinctly Alsace-like wine, mouthfilling (14% alcohol), with peachy, citrusy, slightly spicy and honeyed flavours, beautifully ripe, rich and rounded. 5/5. (Michael Cooper, Buyer's Guide to New Zealand Wines 2006)." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "An idiosyncratic Pinot Gris .... Beguiling aromatics of nutmeg, honey and floral notes drift off the glass of this creamy, medium to full-bodied gem. The flavour profile is of honeyed and sweet tropical fruit with a sweet and tangy lengthy finish. This has beautiful balance. Spicy Asian cuisine would be a perfect match. Superb!" The website says "...concentrated and complex with beautiful balance and structure. A beautiful nose with soft musky aromas, Turkish delight with hints of candied ginger, white flesh of nectarine, fresh blossom and the merest hint of lime. ....succulent, medium style full of subtle complexities. Hints of Amaretto.... " My notes: A light golden colour with a honey and lemon aroma but faint. Carries a sweet seam with flavours of spiced honey... and it is "beautifully ripe, rich and rounded". The finish continues as a long, sweet (*not the XD as the Vintages listing shows - SC~1), honey coated citrus predominance. A wonderful off-dry sipper and would be great with a mixed fruit and cheese tray or pair with a bento box of tempura shrimp and yam slices and sushi, or with split pea soup with ham bits or a dim sum selection. Cellaring a dozen would keep some on hand whenever the mood strikes for an Alsatian pinot gris.

CARMEN ‘NATIVA' CHARDONNAY 2005, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #975219 $17.95 (Tasted October 15, 2006)

A Vintages release on October 14, 2006 and described as "The grapes are sourced from estate vineyards in Alto Jahuel... . Expect ripe peaches, melon and tropical fruit aromas and flavours with integrated acidity and toasty oak notes on the palate leading to a long creamy finish." The winemaker says "Pale gold. Lovely Chardonnay with aromas of ripe peaches, melon, pineapple and mango. Tastes nice integrated acidity, sweet apple and melon, white pepper and tropical creamy finish." My notes: A crisp gold colour with aromas of lemon oil and papaya - airing for twenty minutes increases the fruit in the nose slightly. Medium-bodied, smooth on the palate with an oaky presence and some dryness on a moderate warm finish. Some ripe peach, some pineapple and mango, all blended evenly. There's no butterscotch as yet. Imho, it's too early to drink and should be allowed to develop as a buttery sipper and a strong accompaniment with flavourful seafood to chicken dishes if cellared a few years.

FOSS MARAI PROSECCO EXTRA DRY 'BLUE BOTTLE', Veneto, Italy, 11.5% XD, #729392 $17.95 (Retasted October 14, 2006)

Last released by Vintages in May and re-released on October 14, 2006. Described as "A well made Prosecco with fruit depth and lively acidity that would work nicely as an aperitif. Fresh and enticing nose of lemon, grapefruit and a touch of spice. Sufficient fruit concentration for the money. Crisp, clean and dry with good balance and length. Score - 87. (Jeff Davis, Wine Access, 'First In Line E-Report', May 13, 2006)." The website says " presented with a variety of aromas, with a distinctive harmonious mingle of acacia and apple. The taste continues with a sensation of bitter fruit, where the acidity and residual sugar are splendidly harmonised, leaving a velvety sensation to the palate, stimulated by the co2, never too pungente, but stimulating to the right point." My notes: About the same as last reviewed.... not a lot of bubbles when first poured but they are fine and refreshing as one sips. Creamy, fruity apple on the nose and the taste with a light spice - not 'too pungente'. A finish that refreshes not competing with flavours of hors d'oeuvres, mild puree soups, light seafood pasta dishes or mild cheese or mushroom risotto. An 87 but considering the price it's worth keeping on hand as a crowd pleaser. Should be able cellar for several years.

TOMMASI 'VIGNETO LE ROSSE' PINOT GRIGIO 2005, Veneto, Italy, 12.0% XD, #910497 $14.95 (Tasted October 12, 2006)

A Vintages release on September 16, 2006 described as "Tommasi is one of Veneto's finest producers. Even with simple wines, such as this Pinot Grigio, they manage to create impactful, flavourful wines that are excellent for sipping or with dishes such as pan-seared sea scallops." My notes: A nose of citrus and white clover, a golden blond colour and flavours of citrus, pear and a roundness balanced with an acid seam that pulls everything together. The flavour and acid play nicely on the palate as the finish slowly softens. A pleasant pinot grigio sipper, not as spicy as some... better with hors d'oeuvres, anything from shaved Italian meats to a varied cheese tray and saltines. Or pair with linguine with black olives, shrimp aioli and grilled red pepper slices or similar pasta dish. Cellaring for several years may mellow some of the acid increasing its nuttiness. Good value.

INYCON FIANO 2004, Sicily, Italy, 12.8% XD, #670810 $11.95 (Tasted October 12, 2006)

A Vintages release on January 21, 2006 described as "A native of Campania, Fiano is a recent addition to the vineyards of Sicily. This strongly flavoured wine can mature into a rich and honeyed wine with spicy and nutty tones. Youthful ones, such as this, display mineral, citrus, plum and peach tones. Enjoy this round and intense wine with linguine and steamed clams." My notes: Produced in Sicily by the Settesoli Cooperative, approx. 2300 vineyard owners representing 6500 hectares of vineyards from which many grape varietals are available for Inycon branded wines, two from the LCBO are Fiano and Nero d'Avola. The Fiano is a rich golden colour with a floral and lemon nose. Medium-bodied, full flavoured, honey soaked lemon and yellow plum with a long finish of citrus and eucalypsus. A fresh sipper without pronounced nut or spice now but these will develop with two years cellaring and, for a special white, is recommended (try now and see what you think). Pair with steamed shellfish, pizza with fresh garlic, sun dried tomato and anchovie topping or grilled breaded telapia with asparagus spears.

SANTA MARGHERITA PINOT GRIGIO 2005, Alto Adige, Italy, 12.0% D, #106450 $16.95 (Tasted October 9, 2006)

In Vintages Essentials Collection and described as "Santa Margherita was the first to make Pinot Grigio as a purely white wine by ensuring that no pigment from the grape skins colours the juice. Pale straw colour with aromas of fresh green apple, and peach that replay on the crisp, dry palate. Our number one selling white wine makes an excellent aperitif, or serve it with antipasto or gnocchi." The website says "This dry white wine is pale straw-yellow in color. The clean, intense aroma and dry flavour with pleasant golden apple aftertaste make Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio a wine of great character and versatility." My notes: A pale straw colour with floral and green apple aromas - didn't get the peach. Light-bodied, a nip and flavours of green apple that carry through to a moderate grassy finish. If a sipper, a 'cleans your teeth' one - better paired with shellfish appetizers or seafood entrees. Was OK with leftover Thanksgiving turkey and vegetables although comes across as flabby when some interest is needed. A drink-now but not a value.

'OYSTER BAY' SAUVIGNON BLANC 2006, NZ, 13.0% XD, #316570, $17.95 (Tasted October 9, 2006)

In Vintages Essentials Collection and described as "...This perennial classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has aromas of gooseberry, grass, passion fruit and melon. Intense lively fruit on the palate, crisp acidity with a lingering, slightly minerally finish. Try with shellfish like steamed clams, pan-fried scallops, mussels and, oh yeah, oysters." My notes: A light blond with aromas of gooseberries and light lime, light-bodied and flavours of lighter gooseberries, lime, and grass well balanced with a natural tartness. The finish is long, dry and grassy. A passable commercial sipper and OK with a variety of seafood appetizers or entrees. Of the many kiwi SBs to choose from this is drier and has less fruit than most - for those that prefer a subdued Sauvignon Blanc. A drink-now.

COLIO ESTATES CEV 'LILY' SPARKLING WINE VQA (NV), Ontario, Canada, 12.2% D, #509083 $14.95 (Tasted October 6, 2006)

A Vintages release on September 16, 2006 and described as "Aromas of apple, spice, lemon zest and orange peel dominate this wine. It is dry, crisp and fresh with a light body and medium, lemony finish. This is a very attractive, palate-refreshing bubbly for before a meal. (Vintages panel, Aug. 2006)" The CEV website says "Subtle yeast & fruit. Dry with lively citrus fruit and toasted nut flavours wrapped in a generous mousse. A great match with oysters, crab salad and spicy entrees." My notes: A good head of fine bubbles form a thick rim long after the first pour. The nose is a yeasty crabapple, more yeast and crab than apple. Very tart on the palate with apple, citrus and a mineral, almost metallic like a carbonated overdose. A smooth finish never leaving remnants of tart crabapple far behind, and a very slight herbaceousness. Comes across as extra brut yet the website gives the sugar code as 1. Without sufficient natural fruit to be a festive sipper - pair as suggested .... or with a lobster tail or Alaskan King crab entree. A drink-now.

MALIVOIRE PINOT GRIS 2002, Beamsville, Canada, 12.0% XD, #591305 $18.00 (Retasted October 4, 2006)

Tasted last on April 24th this year with the comment "...Purchased from the winery in 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..." My notes: A rich golden hue with a peach edge, aromas of ripe apricot and toasty caramel, medium-bodied, flavours of burnt peach and a long grassy finish. Improved compared with the April 24th tasting although still not an enjoyable sipper. If I were rating I'd say an 82. If you happen to have a bottle pair with a cajun bouillabaisse, curried mussels or teriyaki chicken kebobs on a bed of basmati rice.

WITHER HILLS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005, Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% XD, #919514 $19.95 (Tasted October 3, 2006)

A Vintages release on September 30, 2006 described as "In it's infancy, the 2005 vintage is beautifully scented, fleshy and zingy, with intense gooseberry, melon and green-capsicum flavours and a finely balanced, dry finish. Four and one half (of 5). (Michael Cooper, Buyer's Guide to New Zealand Wines 2006)" Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "A quiet herbaceous (grass and nettles) nose opens this light to medium-bodied Kiwi. You will discover gooseberry and slate on the palate along with some zingy lemon-lime zest. This is dry, clean and refreshing suggesting a pairing with any manner of chèvre or pasta in a generous (pine nut, parsley, parmesan) pesto sauce. (VH)" Natalie MacLean gives it 90/100 saying "I've recommended this one several times. Stunning herbal aromas, refreshing and mouth-watering. Perfect for salad, vegetarian, pork, chicken and seafood. Favorite White Wine." My notes: A light blond with a greenish tinge and 'beautifully scented' for sure but a scent that wanes quickly until the next pour. A glycerine smoothness on the lips and full flavours of grapefruit, gooseberries and lime zest finishing moderately long , unctious with sweet fruit fading to a somewhat grassy smoothness. Was great with chicken breast stuffed with cheese and spinach and should be with shellfish or straight fish dishes, lightly spiced mussels and wok'd greens. Cellaring for a year should be OK but not longer without checking. Priced right given the number of good NZ SBs available.

DANZANTE 'DELLE VENEZIE' PINOT GRIGIO 2005, Veneto, Italy, 12.0% XD, #689794 $15.45 (Tasted October 2, 2006)

A Vintages release on August 5, 2006 and described as "The grape variety is key to the Danzante line of wines. The producer goes to whatever region can supply the absolute best grapes for the style of wine they wish to produce. This Pinot Grigio is made with grapes from Veneto. Expect apple and mineral tones and hints of citrus. Enjoy as an aperitif or with simple fish dishes." The website says "Danzante Pinot Grigio is a dry, white wine with golden reflections. The bouquet is intense with enticing fragrances of fresh citrus fruit and flowers. On the palate, its silky, well-balanced body is enhanced with hints of pineapple, grapefruit and spices that carry through to a crisp, dry finish. Enjoy it by itself as an apperitivo or with fish, seafood or poultry." My notes: A distinct golden hue with aromas of just perceptible wildflowers and citrus notes, medium-bodied, a dry crispness and light Granny Smith flavour. A pleasant roundness to a smooth texture with a long silky finish that carries a light citrus tang. A good sipper although better with a selection of mild cheeses, a herb and garlic dip with dry toasts, then on to mild seafood entrees or a mushroom based risotto. Should cellar up to two years although a good drink-now value.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

October Reds(10): USA Merlot, Romania Pinot Noir, Australia Cab Sauv, Italy Blend(2), France Blend, Italy Sangio, Italy Nero d'Avo(2), S. Africa Blend

RODNEY STRONG MERLOT 2002, California, USA, 13.8% XD, #497933 $19.95 (Tasted October 20, 2006)

A Vintages release on October 14, 2006 and described as "... wonderful. Inky violet, with a concentrated nose of ripe strawberries and black currants. It boasts a deep, extracted medium body, a plush dark berry flavor profile, succulent, grippy acidity, delicate balance and a rich, persistent finish. In short, from wire-to-wire, a mouthful of delight from one of the North Coast's most consistent labels. ( ) 4 of 5." The website says "Plum and blueberry flavors predominate in this soft, rich, mouth filling merlot, and are enhanced by aging a full 27 months in primarily American oak, for a toasty, spicy vanilla character, and a lingering berry-cream finish..." VH of WineCurrent rates it four and one half (of 5) saying "Juicy black plum and spiced black currant aromas form the nose and follow through to the richly textured palate and luxurious, lengthy finish. There are perceptible, but acceptable, tannins and acidity (keeping it from jammy) and these, along with ripe succulent fruit flavours, provide impeccable balance, structure and complexity.... " My notes: A deep ruby with some purple in the hue. A nose resembling a spicy, aged fruit cake with some blackcurrants thrown in the mix. Medium- to full-bodied with flavours matching the nose and well balanced tannins and tartness. A long finish, mellow, warm, full of lip-smacking ripe blackberries or purple plums. A full flavoured merlot to savour slowly with sufficient body and texture to drink-now or over the next four years. Have with any grilled red meats, straight or stewed, sweet or spicy. A bargain.

TOMMASI VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE ‘RIPASSO' 2003, Italy, 13.0% XD, #910430 $19.95 (Tasted October 18, 2006)

A Vintages release on October 14, 2006 and described as "Tommasi ‘Ripasso' is the unique result of refermenting Valpolicella Classico Superiore wines on the warm, dried grape skins from which their Amarone has been pressed. This process imparts the richness of character and intensity of flavour to the finished product. Expect rich plum fruit surrounded by sweet herbs and a hint of dark chocolate. This flavourful wine is an excellent match for braised beef dishes, rich stews or pasta with meat sauce." The website says "... This process, used only in rare vintage years, imparts the richness of character and personality of a great wine to an already superior wine." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "A quiet nose of sweet black berry fruit opens up a glorious experience for lucky tasters. The fruit-forward nature of this wine unleashes a salvo of flavours including rich and concentrated cherry and bramble berry infused with fruit cake spice and dark chocolate. The memorable finish has gobs of black sweet fruit and black pepper with a hint of cigar box. At this price, flip open the trunk and toss in a case." My notes: The aroma of grapes being crushed although lighter and the colour of deep ruby with a purple note. Almost medium-bodied, smooth but bright with the full flavour of ripe red cherries and yellow plums tinted with a figgy spice not unlike a 'fruit cake'. The finish has some cedar against a background of refreshing fruit fading slowly. An interesting sipper with a soft nip and lots of fruit. Goes well with pizzas, tomato or mushroom sauced meat pastas, hearty vegetable beef soups and stews, varied lamb dishes. Likely at peak but could cellar a year or two.

‘VAMPIRE' PINOT NOIR 2003, Transylvania, Romania, 12.5% D, #582908 $10.95 (Tasted October 16-17, 2006)

A Vintages release on October 14, 2006 and described as "Count Dracula famously stated 'I never drink wine'. He would definitely change his tune if he got his fangs around this fruit-forward Pinot Noir. Serve with blood-red veal chops. This is the companion piece to the ‘Vampire' Pinot Grigio, also available this month." Tony Aspler (October, 2004) writes ".... you could go directly to Vampire Wine, which is now the top-grossing wine (or is that gross-out wine?) from Romania in the US." and ... "According to a public relations handout 'The vineyards literally are in beautiful Transylvania, not far from Romania's second largest city, Timosara, where today there is a pronounced Italian influence. .... and the Vampire Pinot Noir is the owner's, Michael Machat, favourite.' " My notes: A light red plastic 'cork' with 'Vampire' imprinted makes a unique statement although there's nothing to fear from the liquid inside. A light ruby with faint aromas of strawberries, perhaps red cherries and a touch of oak. A smooth, bright taste of strawberry fades quickly as a smooth, bright aftertaste of ripe strawberry... light-bodied in both texture and flavour. The name is the most interesting aspect of sipping imho. Other than price and naturalness this pinot noir has little going for it. Much improved the next day... smooth and ripe strawberries linger on the finish.

TERRELIADE 'NIRA' NERO D'AVOLA 2003, Sicily, Italy, 14.0% D, #688762 $15.95 (Tasted October 13, 2006)

A Vintages release on July 8, 2006 and described as "Deep violet colour with impressive aromas recalling dark chocolate, plum and blackberry. It is dry, ripe and round with a solid backbone for balance. This medium full-bodied wine is a great choice for barbecue fare.(Vintages panel, Dec. 2005)" Terreliade is one of the Group Companies of Santa Margherita . The Terrelíade range of vineyards resulted from a program of research and experimentation in which indigenous and international grape varieties were allowed to interrelate with a particularly high quality terroir: .... It is this innovative philosophy that lies behind the creation of distinctive and original wines such as Timpa Giadda and Nirà. My notes: A distinctive nose of fresh cranberries and lesser of raspberries, a mid ruby-purple plum colour and initial flavour of red currant, pomegranite and blackberries. The flavours surround the tongue like sucking berries from the bush: fresh, dry and moderately tart - a medium-bodied meal wine rather than a sipper. Have with spicy pizzas, hot Italian sausage, gorganzola, sliced and diced portabellos and anchovies spread on bruschetta - wonderful with a Cajun Beef Sub with jalepenos. Should cellar for several years mellowing more each year. A good Nero d'Avola value.

LINDEMAN'S RESERVE 'LIMESTONE COAST' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004, South Australia, 13.5% D, #621607 $15.95 (Tasted October 13, 2006)

A General listing without description. The label says "This vibrant crimson and purple wine is brimming with blackcurrant, violet, mint and vanilla oak flavours. ...." The website says "Made with passion and expert craftsmanship, this full-flavoured and elegant wine is beautifully balanced. It will compliment any meal or occasion. Blackcurrant and ripe dark berry flavours." My notes: A deep ruby with magenta tones and aromas of spicy blackberries softened by plums. The appearance is a full-bodied red, however, the flavour hedges toward being medium-bodied: crisp, a lighter blackcurrant with soft tannin and acid followed by a long finish of currant pulp almost silky in texture. A commercial sipper with a tasty zip, a zip-per. Should go well with most full flavoured red beef, stewed in a rich sauce or prime rib, horse radish with Yorkshires and vegetables, grilled steaks or ribs. Cellaring for several years is possible although drinking well now. A good value.

ZENI 'COSTALAGO' ROSSO VERONESE 2004, Veneto, Italy, 13.5% D, #681767 $15.95 (Tasted October 10, 2006)

A Vintages release on July 8, 2006 described as "Zeni uses a variation on the Ripasso method for this wine but cannot call it Ripasso because the blend here (Corvina (a Valpol grape), Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) is not allowed in Valpolicella. Nevertheless, this is a warm and generously scented wine that Veneto expert Nick Belfrage described as 'Bordeaux meets Valpolicella Ripasso and both benefit from each's characteristics.' " My notes: One of four 'Rosso Veronese' brand wines from Zeni. A beautiful deep ruby colour and, after airing for ten minutes, has a blend of soft aromas including cherries, plums and a touch of figs. The first sip is nicely bright with flavours of cherries and cranberries carried along on a stream of fine tannins. The moderate finish starts with silky fruit and finishes with a smooth earthiness. A good medium-bodied sipper - better paired with grilled, broiled or stewed red meats: lamb shank, T-bones, back ribs, long ribs, Texas chili, burgers with 'everything', or tomato sauced pizzas. Could cellar two years or more ... but drinking well now. Reasonably priced.

DOMAINE DE L'AMEILLAUD CAIRANNE 2004, Cote-de-Rhone, France, 14.0% XD, #660605 $14.95 (Tasted October 5, 2006)

A Vintages release on September 30, 2006 described as "....Count on loads of appealing fruit flavours with underlying spice and earth characteristics in this wonderfully textured and balanced wine. A crowd-pleaser at an outstanding price, bring it to your family's Thanksgiving Dinner. You will all be giving thanks for one more thing that day." Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars (of 5) saying "....This gem, from 40+ year old vines, is rich and concentrated, showing rich sweet black fruit (blackberry, currant) flavours with nuances of leather, loads of spice and deft balance. It also has good grip, giving it at least another 3 years ageing potential. This earned its final half star on price, stock up. (VH)" Natalie MacLean gives it an 88/100 saying "Light and simple with lovely red fruit." My notes: There are red cherry and currant aromas blended with spicy earth tones in this medium-bodied dry red. A deep ruby colour and flavours of tart red cherries with pronounced drying tannins and a finish like licking old leather, the inside. Not a sipper - save for prime rib, a grilled T-bone or roast dark turkey meat. Cellaring for a few more years may lower the tannins - but you have to like it to invest the time. An 'old world' red and not my preference for a meal. An 88/100 is generous.

DANZANTE 'DELLE MARCHE' SANGIOVESE 2004, Marche, Italy, 12.5% XD, #534206 $15.45 (Tasted October 3, 2006)

A Vintages release on August 5, 2006 described as "[Grapes are] from carefully selected vineyards within the Marche, expect this Sangiovese to display aromas of berry, cedar and plum.... pair this Sangiovese with gourmet sausage, hamburgers, grilled vegetables or even steaks. The website says "This is a wine of immediate appeal with enticing aromas and flavors. The wine is ruby red in color with luminous reflections. The intense bouquet releases flavors of ripe fruit such as cherry, plum and blackberry, accentuated by hints of spices. A medium-bodied wine with soft tannins, it is to be enjoyed while young and fresh. Its racy acidity pairs perfectly with a wide variety of foods, including pork, beef and duck as well as creamy pasta dishes." My notes: A deep ruby with a magenta edge, aromas of ripe cherry/berry with a touch of smoke and white pepper, smooth on the first swallow, a lightish medium-bodied red with a bright berry flavour and a touch more smoke. The finish is moderately long, dry fine tannins giving the palate a silky coating and a slight earthy aftertaste. Cellar a year or at least long enough to finish a dozen drink-nows. An OK dry red sipper..... better with pizzas, red sauced pastas, shaved proscuitto (lots) on iceberg lettuce, olives (lots), baby spinach leaves and radicchio with a light oil & vinegar dressing.

SPADINA UNA ROSA ‘SIGNATURE' NERO D'AVOLA 2002, Sicily, 13.5% D, #010330 $19.95 (Tasted October 1, 2006)

A Vintages release on September 30, 2006 and described as "This wine was number 97 on Wine Spectator's 2005 Top 100 Wines of the Year. Dark, full-bodied and chewy, with meaty blackberry and mineral character. Medium- to full-bodied, with good, solid tannins and a long finish. Well done. Best after 2005. Score - 90. (James Suckling, July 31, 2005)." My notes: A deep ruby colour with aromas of oaky plums, black pepper and a touch of cinnamon. Full and smooth with tart spice attacking the palate on the initial sip, a background of smoke with tannins and faint blackberry. This is mostly process with a little fruit in the background. Like chewing on a mild cigar, ie. not a sipper but an old world meal wine. Have with spicy pizza, tomato sauced meaty pasta dishes or hot Italian sausages on a bun. Beyond cellaring - I'd say it was best before 2006.

GRAHAM BECK BRUT ROSÉ 2004, Robertson, S. Africa, 11.5% D, #004085 $21.95 (Tasted October 1, 2006)

A Vintages release September 30, 2006 and described as "Made from hand-picked Pinot Noir (82%) and Chardonnay (18%) grapes, this sparkling rosé is somewhat unique as the two grape varieties are actually pressed together. Made in the traditional champagne method, this fresh and fruity fizz would make an excellent aperitif. Look for plenty of strawberry and raspberry fruit aromas and flavours, a complex creamy palate and long finish." The website describes the taste as “More noticeable Rosé in colour due to the vintage characteristics from the Pinot Noir with a creamy complexity from the Chardonnay. An explosion of raspberry fruit complexity on the palate with a long fine creamy mousse." Beppi says "Light medium-bodied, this blend of pinot noir and chardonnay shows bright berry-like fruit and a long, frothy mousse and zippy finish. It would make a smart aperitif or Thanksgiving toast." My notes: A rush of fine bubbles giving full foam that subsides quickly into a ring and steady stream of fine bubbles. A yeasty strawberry aroma and full strawberry pink colour. This is a medium- to full-bodied creamy bubbly with flavours of crushed strawberries and a grassy brightness from the chardonnay. The finish starts out with a fresh edge lasting forever if your sipping boosts it regularly, but eventually fading to a creamy mallow. A pleasing brut aperitif now and two years cellaring should provide an even mellower festive drink. Have with a cheese tray, fresh oysters, French toast with whipped butter and maple syrup, or bumbleberry coulis and creme fraiche on crepes.