Friday, November 24, 2006

More November Whites(3): Australia Chard, Italy Muscato, NZ SB

RICHARD HAMILTON 'ALMOND GROVE' CHARDONNAY 2004, McLaren Vale, Australia, 13.5% D, #741009 $16.95 (Tasted November 25, 2006)

Released by Vintages November 25, 2006 and described as "Complex wine; excellent melon and stone fruit with classy barrel ferment inputs: medium bodied; impeccable balance and length, squeaky acidity. James Halliday gives it a 94/100 (Australian Wine Companion 2006)". VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars (of 5) saying "The subdued nose is beguiling, offering stone fruit and vanilla aromas. This medium-bodied, well-balanced Chard has oodles of citrus and green apple flavours. It's clean and refreshing, but still manages a lovely texture. It finishes with a laser-like tang adding additional fruit flavours of white peach and apple. Very well-priced for a wine of this calibre. My notes: A distinct yellow in the glass with aromas of citrus, melon and faint orange. A touch of butter in the midst of a lemon tang softened slightly by an orange and melon medley. No butterscotch nor caramel but has a roundness that coats the palate. The long, lemon zest finish is very refreshing. Needs some time to integrate flavours with the body and hopefully develop some toffee. If you like freshness it's an OK sipper now; if not, cellar at least two years. Pair with full flavoured seafood dishes, salmon pieces or, perhaps, cold chicken breast on greens or Thai.

PETALO IL DELL'AMORE MOSCATO BOTTEGA, Veneto, Italy, 6.5% SC9 #588780 (Retasted November 24, 2006)

A General listing and last tasted June 2005. My notes: A full floral nose, a soft yeast, apple juice and orange blossoms carried along by a fine effervescence settling to a rim of fine bubbles. The effervescence lasts as long as the finish. The sweetness balances with the fruit acids to become full and succulent, the SC seems to be more like a four. Flavours of apples, light honey, and pear, smooth and full-bodied with a long finish of a succulent semi-sweet fruit blend. The sweetness builds and with low alcohol it's an alluring quaffer... or an after dinner drink with chocolate mints, white chocolate almond bark, etc. Pour over fresh fruit slices to liven up a dessert. Cellaring hasn't hurt this appetizing bubbler.

RA NUI SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005, Wairu Valley, NZ, 13.8% XD, #658542 $19.95 (Tasted November 15, 2006)

An In Store Discovery of November 11, 2006 described as "NZ wine expert Sue Courtney (Dec. 2005) adored its 'smoky aromas with gooseberry and apple fruit…' and '…the wine becomes quite vibrant as it lingers – for ages- with a touch of pineapple and lots of summer herbs'." The label says "grapes..hand picked, whole bunch pressed and slowly fermented dry to produce this full-bodied and highly aromatic wine." My notes: Let air a short while (ten minutes) for a light gooseberry and apple to develop - if rushed the nose is disappointing. A very light blond almost white colour, and flavours of gooseberry, melon, unsettling nettles with a moderate fullness. The finish is long with a balance of tropical fruit and those nettles now more prominent. Have with mild cheeses, smoked salmon on toasts with a dab of dilled cream cheese or a few capers, vegetable dip with herbed toasts or seafood dishes - was OK with grilled chicken breast. There's as much not to like as there is to like - so, at the price, there's better kiwi SB values and cellaring won't help. I'd skip it!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

More November Reds(9): Italy Dolcetto, Chile Blend, Chile Cab Sauv, USA Zin, Italy Blend(2), Chile Carmenere, USA Syrah(2)

MANZONE DOLCETTO D'ALBA 'LA SERRA' 2001, Piedmont, Italy, 13.0% XD, #715680* (Retasted November 28, 2006)

My notes: Purchased from Vintages Release on July 26, 2003 and summarized as "James Suckling (WineSpectator) gives it a 90/100 saying 'Fantastic, intense complex nose, .... fresh and fruity with velvety tannins and a chocolate tinged finish. Drink now'." Beppi Crosariol described it as "quite tannic and firm... showing cherry flavour and a hint of dried herbs." My tasting in January 2005 found it 'medium-bodied, light tannin and acid balanced with cherry flavours with a herb edge...good with burgers..'. No longer listed* by the LCBO although two other Manzone wines are. A mid ruby colour and aromas of black cherry, distant berry and an almond note. Has a brightness that initially masks light cherry flavours and then finishes with a herby, light metallic edge - tannin and acid are well balanced. The herby nuances are interesting but not as a sipper ... have with nachos, bruscetta, grilled lamb kebobs or pair with burgers, meaty/full flavoured cheesy pizzas, flavourful chile con carne, pork chops, or stews. Further cellaring won't improve this red.

FATTORIA LA LOGGIA TERRA DEI CAVALIERI CHIANTI CLASSICO 1997, Italy, 12.5% XD, #738146* $14.90 (Retasted November 27, 2006)
My notes: Last tasted October, 2005. *The LCBO number is still not listed. This was originally recommended by Beppi Crosariol and cellared February 2002. The website still lists the 1997 as the only 'Chianti Classico' - a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon - and appears to emphasize tours and lodgings. A see-through ruby with possibly a pinkish or salmon edge, aromas of plums, cherries and soft vanilla spice. Light- to medium-bodied, a bright cherry with red currant alongside. The finish is long with bright brambleberry or a cherry/currant blend and fading to a cherry pit and mineral taste on the palate. It has a pleasing soft nose but it's more metallic than I prefer in a sipper. Pair with a mixed cheese and shaved italian meat tray, vegetable pizza or mushroom pasta, a ham steak (without pineapple) or pork chop or tenderloin pieces in a creamy sauce. Quaff liberally or use as a marinade.

CLINE ‘LOS CARNEROS' SYRAH 2003, California, USA, 15.0% D, #955435 $19.95 (Tasted November 26, 2006)

Released November 11, 2006 by Vintages and described as "Very high in ripeness for a cool area Syrah, this one nonetheless captures the bright blackberry fruit that its provenance suggests and combines that fruit with smoky and white pepper nuances of the variety. It is full on the palate and balanced by both ample acids and by a firming streak of youthfully grippy tannins that add muscle in support of the wine's sweet fruit. Attractive now with a broiled steak or hearty stew, this one will round out and soften with time in bottle. " Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine, Nov. 2005 gave it 89/100. VH of Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "Wild black berry and cedar aromas form the racy nose in this lovely red. You will discover a solid core of black plum fruit along with generous helpings of zesty tang and grippy tannins. Lots going on here and in the tangy finish. Good to go now to 2011 alongside grilled rare to medium-rare lamb tenderloin." My notes: An almost opaque ruby with aromas of red berries and a light pepper. Smooth texture comes with flavours of red berries, a slight almond and cherry skins. A moderate finish still smooth with firm white pepper and a slight cherry skin residual. A pleasant sipper... pair with lamb, veal, ham steak, pork tenderloin (was great!), turkey with sage dressing, meaty pesto and cheesy pizzas. Should be able to cellar this for several years.

CREMASCHI FURLOTTI FAMILY LIMITED EDITION CAB SAUVIGNON /SYRAH /CARMENÈRE 2003, Maule Valley, Chile, 13.5% XD, #014183 $17.95 (Tasted November 26, 2006)

Released November 25, 2006 by Vintages and described as "It's Europe meets New World in this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Syrah (20%) and Carmenère (20%). .... This big, complex, full-bodied wine offers up gorgeous red fruit aromas with subtle hints of leather, earth and spice. Delicious with veal tenderloin. It won a Silver Medal at the prestigious Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 2006." Natalie MacLean calls it the Best Value Red Wine of the Release giving it 90/100 saying "Spectacularly well priced! Lovely rich aromas and depth of flavor. Dive into the depth of black plums." My notes: A deep ruby with a purple hue, faint aroma of ripe plums with a warm earthy tone and a light pepper spice. Full flavoured, nicely balanced acid for a bright accent to a soft plum and light tannin. The finish goes on forever leaving earthy textures on the palate. Pair with stews, rack of lamb, crockpot chile, steaks, ribs - almost anything full flavoured. Veal? maybe. A sipper for cab sauv sippers. Cellaring for several years is recommended although a great meal wine now.

CONCHA y TORO MARQUES DE CASA CONCHA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #337238 $17.95 (Retasted November 22, 2006)

My notes: Last tasted December of 2005 noting that Wine Spectator gave it a 91 and Gord Stimmell a 92 adding "lavish blackberry, smoky black cherry and chocolate notes, it's a real power tripper red from Chile" A deep black cherry colour with a soft spicy ripe cherry, a slight blackberry nose and a touch of smoke - a tad too much for my liking. Flavours of licorice, dark chocolate and ripe black cherries develop and do a changing balancing act in the glass. Full- and soft in the mouth with soothing tannins and a touch of black pepper. The finish is long, smooooth with dark chocolate, fine tannin and a light tar edge. A satisfying soft cab sauv sipper.... a velvety partner with mild to medium cheeses, tomato, cheese and oregano bruscetta or meaty pizza squares. Should be great with lamb shanks, beef stews, prime rib or lightly spiced red pasta dishes. Seems to have mellowed more with the additional cellaring with the vanilla no longer perceptible. A super soft drinker now and likely at peak.

RANCHO ZABACO ZINFANDEL 2001, SONOMA HERITAGE VINES, Sonoma, USA, 13.3% XD, #434605* $19.95 (Retasted November 21, 2006)

My notes: Purchased March, 2004 and last tasted in July this year with the comment "An E&J Gallo winery and is one of four labels under 'Rancho Zabaco Wines: Zinfandel'. Sonoma Heritage Vines, is *no longer available in Ontario being replaced by the General listing Rancho Zabaco 'Dancing Bull' Zinfandel." The 2001 SHV Zin has a warm, full blackberry nose with a slight spice and matching its rich ruby colour. Medium-bodied, dense blackberry flavours well integrated and round in the mouth with fine tannins and acid - a very pleasing dry zin. The finish is warm and long coating the mouth with bright and full blackberry, a light tannin and a satin texture. Open just to sniff and sip or pair with a short rib stew with a rich gravy and mash potatoes, bbq'd back ribs or any roasted or grilled beef. It would be great to see this back in Vintages although it may have gone 'commercial' by now.

TEDESCHI VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE ‘CAPITEL DEI NICALO' 2003, Veneto, Italy, 13.0% XD, #984997 $16.95 (Tasted November 19, 2006)
Released by Vintages on November 11, 2006 with a recommendation to cellar and described as "The appassimento process, where the ripe grapes are allowed to dry for one month, results in wines that are more flavourful and have a higher alcohol content than standard Valpolicella. Enjoy with duck, goose or braised lamb dishes. My notes: A blend of 30% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella and 10% of Molinara, Rossignola, Oseleta, Negrara, Dindarella, and Sangiovese. The juice is aged in large (5000 litres) Slovania oak barrels for a year and a half before release. A mid ruby with a rosy tinge, a nose of crushed red cherries, spicy with an earthy edge. Its sharpness attacks the lips and palate leaving little room for fruit flavours - like sucking an unripe pomegranite... with a slight pomegranite grip fading to a seedy end. Not a sipper ... and limited pairing potential.... perhaps a spicy pizza or meaty pasta with tabasco or red peppers. It's difficult to imagine that so much acid could be squeezed from a blend of Italian grapes. Marginally better if decanted and vigorously aerated. This bottle will be used as a baste for duck or goose or as a marinade for beef or lamb or ditched. Terrible stuff imho.

SEGÚ CARMENERE RESERVE 2003, Maule Valley, Chile, 14.0% XD, #663013 $14.95 (Tasted November 19, 2006)

Released by Vintages on November 11, 2006 as a drink-now and described as "The Segú family has been making quality wines in Chile for more than 80 years. Here you will find aromas of smoke, chocolate and ripe red fruits in this savoury and supple Carmenere. A fantastic value!" The website notes "Delicious, well balanced and highly concentrated, tones of vanilla reappear with mature red fruit, earthiness, spices, and a pleasant finish with touches of chocolate. Complex offering toast, earthiness, chocolate and vanilla at the same time, intertwined with exquisite mature red fruit and mild bouquet of spices, intense, elegant, and generous." My notes: A blend of 85 % Carmenere and 15 % Cabernet Sauvignon and aged in new American oak for five months. The colour is a dark ruby with a violet touch and the nose is a combination of black currants, berries, ripe cherries, almond and wood smoke. Medium-bodied, bright flavours of red currants and some red plums: finishes with dry fruit, a light tannin and a nip on the tongue. The nose makes this an interesting dry sipper... but it's more of a meal wine: tasty tapas, tomato sauced meaty pizzas, grilled beef entrees, and possibly full flavoured paellas. Cellaring for several years would improve complexity smoothing some of the rough edges - I'd start with at least two years and see where it's going.

HARVEST NAPA VALLEY SYRAH 1998, California, USA, 14.1% XD, SO39-2646 $22.17 (Retasted November 17, 2006)

My notes: Opimian described this as .. 'unfiltered... a lovely colour and a bouquet of soft.. vanilla with hints of coffee, leather and mint. .... acidity underpins the well structured fruit with highlighted berries and a slightly tarry finish..... Cellar one to two years.' Last tasted in November 2005 with the comment: 'Cellared April, 2004... perhaps going through a dumb period.... still an uninteresting sipper with a sharp edge...' Now has a full pepper nose with interesting highlights of leather and mint. Still deep ruby with a purple tinge and medium-bodied with bright flavours of dry red cherry-berry. Finishes with a minty tartness and fine tannins - no tar, a touch more mellow than a year ago and will likely soften some more. Has opened up over the year and now is an OK sipper. Will likely peak in another year. Pairs well with any grilled beef: steaks, ribs, full flavoured stews, even meaty pizzas.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

November Reds(10): Australia Cab Sauv, NZ PN, Australia Shiraz, Australia PN, Australia Blend(2), Canada PN, Spain Merlot, USA Merlot(2)

ST. HALLETT BAROSSA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 1999, Barossa, Australia, 14.0% XD, #744458* $14.90 (Retasted November 16, 2006)

Last tasted October, 2005 with the comment "No longer listed by the LCBO, was a General release. Cellared February 2002 ..." Today's notes: Now a Vintages listing as #015164 at $19.95 to be released December 2006. Still has a lot of tannin and a warm nose, an oaky, peppery, cassis and cherry that develops over time - worth the wait. Medium-bodied, flavours of bright cherry, blackberry, mint with a natural tartness, a layer of fine tannin and the finish lasts forever: smooth blackberry, vanilla and chocolate mint. Quite succulent as a dry red sipper and will pair with prime rib roast or T-bone steak, rack of lamb and leeks, beef bourgogne, or other full flavoured beef dishes. Could cellar a few more years but this is my last.

RA NUI PINOT NOIR 2005, Wairu Valley, NZ, 13.8% D, #007500 $26.95 (Tasted November 15, 2006)

An In Store Discovery of November 11, 2006 described as "This single-vineyard Pinot Noir displays enticing aromas of cherry fruit with strawberry and raspberry notes and a hint of mushroom. Vivacious and fruity, it's weighty with a seam of crisp acidity and a long peppery finish." The label says "grapes..were handpicked, then gently hand plunged in small fermenters, ... [then] aged in french oak... My notes: A deep ruby colour with a nose of a cherry/raspberry mix softened by french oak, just noticeable but very appealing. The texture is smooth, warm, medium-bodied with flavours of light cherry/berry and a light tar - I couldn't distinguish a strawberry texture nor flavour element. The finish carries with it the light tar along with light tannins, a slight pepper and mild acid. Although juicy and bright I expected more 'silkiness' at the price level. Pleasing enough as a sipper it would also pair well with lamb, turkey, pork, veal dishes, ham and cheese macaroni or perhaps grilled salmon. Cellaring for a few years could very well produce the missing 'silkiness' - still not a value.

BANROCK STATION SPARKLING SHIRAZ, South Eastern Australia, 14.0% D, #971507 $13.95 (Tasted November 14, 2006)

A Vintages release on November 11, 2006. RP of Winecurrent (Oct. 15 2005) gives it four (of 5) saying "Sparkling Shiraz, so cruelly denigrated by some wine-lovers who ought to know better, is an Australian heritage wine. It might look like a novelty seeking a niche, but it's been around for more than a hundred years. This well-priced version is chock full of dark berry and tree fruit, with spicy and peppery notes. The bubbles cut the fruit sweetness and it makes a fine sipping wine or a partner to blackberry pie or tart, as long as you hold back on the sugar." The website says "Deep crimson in colour, the Sparkling Shiraz phenomenon is sweeping Australia. A lifted bouquet of mulberry, plum, sweet coconut and spicy oak precedes a palate characterised by dark berry fruit flavours and a luscious, effervescent texture. Ideal for any celebration, this wine is voluptuous and tantalising when chilled." My notes: A dense ruby colour and a faint nose of ripe blackberries combined with a light yeastiness. Effervesces as it's poured filling the glass but subsides quickly leaving a slim rim of fine bubbles. The flavour is rich blackberry without a corresponding tartness or seediness - a very slight pepper. Full-bodied with a fine tannic edge to a ripe, smooth blackberry finish. Have as a alternative to a chard/pinot bubbly for those preferring a red.... or as a different party sipper. Pair with tomato bruschetta, red pepper and carrot soup with a spoon of goat cheese, a tray of nippy cheeses or a refresher of melon, cantelope or watermelon balls. Dry enough to avoid an 'offdry' label but there is some residual fruit sugar that accumulates on the palate. Not for everyone but I enjoyed it and consider it a good value.

KAESLER ‘STONEHORSE' GRENACHE/SHIRAZ/MOURVÈDRE 2004, Barossa, Australia, 15.5% XD, #006551 $19.95 (Tasted November 12, 2006)

A Vintages release on November 11, 2006 described as "Smooth and polished, with a lovely core of black cherry and currant fruit, dripping with dark chocolate and smoky spice notes as the finish goes on. Impressive for its balance and length. Drink now through 2014. 91/100, Harvey Steiman, Sept 30, 2006." The website says "A blend of Grenache (58%), Shiraz (34%) and Mourvedre (8%). Although this is a biggish wine by alcohol standards it is still savoury and medium weight by our standards. Grenache contributes soft aromatics and flavours, Shiraz some palate spine and a bit of spice, and the Mourvedre provides breadth and depth. A wine to enjoy now or age over the next 5 years." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "This GSM crowd-pleaser is round and ready to go or can easily cellar another 6 years. Expect a medium-bodied blend with ripe juicy berry and Bing cherry fruit balanced off with only an hint of acidity and ripe, acceptable tannins for structure. The finish adds dollops of stewed, jammy black berry fruit. Earned its final half star on the attractive price. Try with backstraps of lamb." My notes: A mid ruby colour with a peppery plum aroma. A smooth injection of tart cherry and blackberries to the palate that carries through to a long finish with a soft tannin, firm acid backbone and pepper plum aftertaste. Great as a dry red spicy sipper, even assumes a sweet tone, or paired with red meats done in a variety of savoury styles. Adds a flavour change rather than quietly complementing the entree. Should be able to cellar this several years - good tannins and an acid structure that will mellow out leaving the structure and texture of a great $20 full-bodied red. Reasonably priced.

‘ANDRETTI SELECTIONS' MERLOT 2004, Napa, USA, 13.8% XD, #011700 $18.95 (Tasted November 11, 2006)

A Vintages release on November 11, 2006 and described as "Here's a well-priced Merlot to get revved up about. Retired auto racing legend Mario Andretti changed career lanes when he opened his eponymous winery in California's Napa Valley a decade ago. His entry-level Merlot is driven by ripe blackberry and cherry fruit with notes of vanilla and coffee." VH of Winecurrent gives it five (of 5) saying "This rips from the pole position with spiced, sweet black fruit aromatics. It corners the first turn at warp speed with gargantuan rich and concentrated Bing cherry and cassis flavours that are wrapped in ripe tannins and excellent zest. The victory lap is earned with a lengthy and luxurious finish of bramble berry and mocha flavours. Certainly worth taking for a spin at this price. Will take the chequered flag now to 2012." My notes: A herbal nose similar to oregano and a deep ruby colour, medium-bodied, dry, a balance of fruit and acid leaning to the acid side. Flavours have more of a stalky base (prematurely pressed?). The finish is dry, a little tart but not puckering and with more bramble than berry fruitiness - still an interesting sipper. Pair with prime rib, rack of lamb or lamb stew, a ham steak or red sauced pizzas. I don't see cellaring as a way to improve this red... if you have a few try a year at a time. Not a value imho.

NEPENTHE 'CHARLESTON' PINOT NOIR 2003, Adelaide, Australia, 14.0% XD, #682054 $17.95 (Retasted November 8, 2006)

Released by Vintages April 29, 2006. My notes: Tasted last May and described as "....After airing briefly the nose is full of fresh strawberries and black cherries. Colour is a strawberry tinged see-through ruby. Has a round mouthfeel with flavours of smooth strawberry, cherry and at 16 to 18 degrees(C) it has a brightness with a light tannin. The finish is long, bright with a touch of cinnamon. etc. A bargain pinot." Tasted today there was no need for airing but would increase the fullness of black cherry aromas with some warm raspberries in the mix... a mid ruby colour still strawberry tinged. Lightly styled, a pleasing nip per sip, a smooth and mellow cherry/strawberry mix. The bright fruit finish ends with a note of cherry skins. This is a light, dry, fruity pinot pleasant enough by itself although better with a flavour change such as a cheese tray selection or a cold shrimp ring with a nippy seafood sauce. Pair with a hot ham steak with asparagus spears draped in a cheese sauce, roast chicken or turkey with garden vegetables and fries. Could be cellared for another year for an european style pinot but is drinking well now.

LEASINGHAM 'MAGNUS' SHIRAZ/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, Clare Valley, Australia, 14.0% XD, #995787 $14.75* (Tasted November 6, 2006)

A Vintages release on October 16, 2006 described as "A dense purple-ruby color with a nose of cedar, vanilla, blackberry. Full-bodied, firm structure, well made, lean mid palate, tannic finish. (4 of 5, Tony Aspler, March 31, 2006). The label claims that 'Magnus' honours one of the original founders, Magnus Badger, of the Stanely Wine Company, the forerunner to Leasingham. A sediment crust may form and shows this wine has benefited by minimum handling to preserve its natural flavour. Their website says "Deep ruby red in colour with brilliant clarity. The nose shows spicy black cherries, lifted plum and earthy tobacco leaf. Black berry fruit concentration with sweet plums on the palate has a hint of coffee mocha and cassis. Enjoy now or cellar for up to 5-10 years." My notes: *Priced on the shelf as $17.25 this wine cashed out at $14.75. Founded in 1893 Leasingham's is now a Hardy's company after a short time with H.J.Heinz. A lovely nose of rich humidor and ripe blackberries - didnt get vanilla. A deep ruby with a garnet tone and full-bodied, smooth with a nice acid edge along with soft tannins and flavours of ripe purple plums and dark chocolate. The finish is moderate, the fruit softened by a warm licorice tone. A soft red sipper with an initial edge on each sip that is pleasing. Pair with stews, beef bourgogne, or prime rib... full flavoured without being too spicy. Has some room for a year cellaring but more of a drink-now. A value at $14.75.

MALIVOIRE MOIRA VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2000, Beamsville, Canada, 13.5% XD, Winery $35.95 (Retasted November 6, 2006)

My notes: Cellared in December, 2001 and retasted in May, 2006 with the comment ".. has a light smoke, cherry and vanilla nose. Medium-bodied, well balanced acid and tannin with an interesting savoury 'cherry coke' flavour but without the sweetness - a european red. ... ". A deep ruby colour. The nose retains an oakiness that is quietened with twenty minutes airing or several vigorous swirls. Aromas are of black cherries, leather and a soft smoke - no strawberries here. Medium- to full-bodied, the first sip shows nicely balanced acid and fine tannins integrated with a ripe black cherry flavour. The finish is bright, moderately long with a mellow mix of fruit restrained by leather or earth tones. A soft sipper for a casual tray of mild cheese wedges, a vegetable hummous with crackers or crisp bread squares. Pair with rack of lamb and caramellized onions, pork tenderloin and roasted fingerling potatoes, veal scallopini with spatzle. There's enough tannins to continue cellaring but likely at peak now and could lose more of the fruit that's left.

TORRES MERLOT ATRIUM 2004, Penedes, Spain, 13.5% D, #621755 $16.00 (Tasted November 2, 2006)

A General listing described as "Medium ruby red; blackcurrant aromas; dry, medium bodied, with firm tannins, dried fruit flavours; long firm finish. Serve with beef and lamb dishes or aged cheese." The website describes this as "Attractive dark cherry colour. Generous and intense varietal aroma, with hints of mature fruits, including jams (plums and bilberries), overlaying truffle and bay leaf aromas. The palate is ample and generous, with excellent sweet tannins that open out to fruit-laden nuances reminiscent of the nose. As the wine reaches chambré temperatures it exudes rich hints of leather and vanillin that evolve towards a sensuous and persistent, long finish." Gord Stimmell gives this 89/100 saying "... This merlot shows aromas of mocha and black cherry with a hint of cassis and blackberry jam. On the palate, spicy vanilla, black cherry and cedar. The finish is full bore, not rich, but poised with its black cherry fruit lingering nicely." My notes: With a different label than on their website the Atrium merlot is a deep ruby colour with a black cherry and white pepper nose. Air for full aroma - twenty minutes. Medium-bodied and flavours of ripe red currants and yellow plums, a nicely balanced tartness and firm tannins. A dry red sipper having a long mild fruitcake finish. Pair with prime rib, T-bone, grilled backribs, or full flavoured beef stews or chili. Cellaring for a few years may introduce some silkiness but it's drinking well now.

DIAMOND RIDGE MERLOT 2002, Santa Maria, California, USA, 13.0% D, #994533 $15.95 (Tasted November 1, 2006)

A Vintages release October 28, 2006 described as "Diamond Ridge Merlot is produced [by Stonehedge Winery] from a single estate located in one of Sonoma County's finest sub-regions, Russian River Valley. They blend in 10% Petite Sirah to give a touch more weight to the wine. Meticulous care is taken to ensure low yields and optimal ripeness. The resulting wine promises to deliver aromas of raspberry, vanilla and hints of oak. An excellent match for roast beef with all the trimmings." VH of winecurrent gives it four of five stars saying "This value wine delivers the goods. It begins with black plum aromatics then washes the palate with juicy and ripe cherry flavours and a hint of oaky spice. Medium-bodied, it exhibits deft balance, grip, good acidity and lovely structure. The lengthy fruit-forward finish portends a match with stuffed pork tenderloin. The quality to price balance tipped in your favour. Stock up." Gord Stimmell of the Toronto Star rates it 90/100 saying "Best buy California red is Diamond Ridge 2002 Merlot with toasted coconut and black cherry richness from Sonoma." My notes: The Stonehedge Winery website has no mention of this Merlot, of Russian River Valley, Diamond Ridge nor is their name on the label. The nose is almost nonexistent... perhaps a soft oaky ripe plum. The colour is a mid ruby, medium-bodied, lightly flavoured plum and red cherry with low levels of acid and tannins - a musty presence. Comes across as a commercial red: nothing bad, nothing exceptional. A suitable sipper at a house warming... but not a special occasion. Have with party buffet foods: broccoli bread bowl, cheese pieces, shaved meats (a stretch), or a warmed groundbeef casserole - it was lost with hamburgers. Not for cellaring... not a bargain. I wouldn't put my name on it either!

November Whites(10): Italy Pinot Grigio, Portugal Ribatejo, Canada Blend, France SB, Australia Riesling, Australia Chard, German Riesling(4)

FOLONARI PINOT GRIGIO 2005, Veneto, Italy, 12.0% D, #229542 $13.95 (Tasted November 13, 2006)

A general listing described as "Light lemon straw colour; dry and light bodied with citrus apple and light spicy floral notes. Serve with antipasto, light cream pastas, light seafood." My notes: A very light straw colour, a light straw and lemon nose, flavours of very light citrus with a finish that is dry, light straw or non descript flat citrus. An uninteresting commercial white for any entree and not a sipper. Not recommended.

QUINTA DE S. JOAO BATISTA FERNAO-PIRES RIBATEJO 2003, Rio Maior, Portugal, 12.0% XD, SO39-2605 $15.58 (Retasted November 12, 2006)

Last tasted in February with the comment "Cellared August 2004. .... a faint citrus nose and flavours of California honeydew with a tart edge. ... Serve off-chill and letting breathe improves texture." Opimian recommended cellaring for six months to two years. My notes: A golden blond with light lemon drop aromas. A lightish medium-bodied with a crisp edge on each sip and an almost flavourless lemon - gone is the melon. Serving off chill still improves nose and texture. The finish carries a citric tartness and a pleasant oiliness is left on the lips. Not a sipper - have with fresh oysters, shaved italian meats, a variety of tapas. Pair with seafood dishes: blackened, grilled, breaded and fried or roasted, grilled chicken or salmon steak. Cellaring a while longer may help (but I don't think so)... we'll see!

FURST LÖWENSTEIN RIESLING KABINETT 2005, Rheingau, Germany, 11.5% M, #505461 $17.95 (Tasted November 11, 2006)

A Vintages release on November 11, 2006 and described as "....This elegant Riesling is another fine example of the excellence achieved with the 2005 vintage in Germany. The aromas speak of lilacs, honey, citrus and mineral notes. Light-bodied and delicate, it's just off-dry with a fine acid balance and a persistent finish. (VINTAGES panel, April 2006)." The website says "...excellent with meals. Riesling wines enhance every occasion, whether it’s a social get-together, philosophizing with friends or a romantic evening for two. Fürst Löwenstein Riesling wines are from the finest sites of Hallgarten. All have a pronounced fruit character, yet each has a distinctive profile. A wide range of styles is available, from harmonious “Gutsweine” (house wines), to light and racy Kabinett or full-bodied Spätlese wines...." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "Tantalizing pit fruit aromatics waft from the lifted nose. Riesling lovers will revel in the lemon zest and white peach flavours. The structured wine is delivered with enough residual sugar and spine of acidity to create that glorious yin and yang, sweet and sour effect that makes this a perfect match to spicy Asian food. Good to go now and well into 2015. Try this with butter chicken and steamed Basmati rice." My notes: A light blond colour with a white wildflower nose and honey... an off-dry roundness but clean with an even tartness and flavours of lemon an offdry apple juice. Has a succulence in the finish that cleanses the palate. Was great with lightly battered halibut with chips liberally sprinkled with malt vinegar and ketchup. Should be OK to cellar for several years to smooth out some of the ascerb finish, not that it's objectionable.

STREWN TWO VINES 2005 (nVQA), Niagara, Canada, 11.5% D, #Winery ~$12.00 (Tasted November 11, 2006)

The label says a blend of riesling and gewurztraminer, no proportions, with "beautiful, lifted aromas of floral, tropical fruit, and citrus. A slight sweetness leads to a refreshing finish with lingering fruit flavours. Serve alone or pair with vegetarian and Asian dishes." My notes: A light blond colour with full aromas of fuji apples. Since it's non VQA grapes or juice will likely have been imported. Flavours of slightly sweet apple with a light fruit tartness and, although the flavours are fresh and fruity, leave the finish somewhat flat needing several sips (gulps) to build a level of tartness that adds interest. A sociable sipper, ie. wouldn't offend a general get together as an aperitif but it's not a meal wine. Not for cellaring... a drink-now.

CHATEAU DAUZAN LA VERGNE BLANC 1998, 12.0% XD, Bergerac France, CP138-1942 $19.17 (Retasted November 10, 2006)

Last tasted December 6, 2005 with the comment "... A golden yellow perfumed with spice, faint pineapple, apricots and a touch of oak. A full-bodied dry white soft with an acid edge that carries lemon and apricot flavours across the palate. A long citrus finish with a touch of creaminess. If you like a dry european sauvignon blanc it's a sipper but it's great paired with grilled salmon with a rice vegetable mix and lettuce salad with balsamic dressing. Will likely continue to strengthen in the bottle but is drinking well now." That was then and now is now... it's a full golden colour with a warm lemon pineapple nose, full and distinct. Most fruit has evaporated leaving a base of oak, a slight citrus flavour and a balanced acid - no apricot nor pineapple. The finish leaves some citrus on the palate. Not a sipper. An awkward wine to pair... perhaps with asian foods.... if not beyond peak it's beyond interest.

LEITZ RHEINGAU RIESLING KABINETT 2004, Rheingau, Germany, 9.0% M, #662189 $15.45 (Tasted November 7, 2006)

A Vintages release on July 8, 2006 described as "A lively, zesty, moderately sweet Riesling that is an excellent summer sipper. Floral, hawthorn and nectarine aromas dominate. Light-bodied, this wine has an abundance of flavour on its long finish.(Vintages panel, Nov. 2005)". My notes: A faint aroma of dried apricots and white floral comes as the glass warms. A flavour of lightly honeyed citrus, balanced acid and some roundness - not much to object to nor to enjoy. The finish is short with a light citrus note. A sociable sipper by itself or have with mild cheeses, shrimp and dip, vegetable hummous and flat bread, lightly flavoured cream cheeses or pair with grilled/steamed white fish with boiled potatoes or rice. A drink-now - not a value.

LEASINGHAM 'MAGNUS' RIESLING 2004, Clare Valley, Australia, 13.0% D, #675306 $15.95 (Tasted November 5, 2006)

Released by Vintages on May 16, 2006 with a description by Victoria Moore, wine critic for U.K.'s The Guardian (February 25, 2006) who praised the 04 Magnus Riesling as 'succulent but with a steely dryness.' The Wine Spectator (April 30, 2005) rated it 89/100" The label claims that 'Magnus' honours one of the original founders, Magnus Badger, of the Stanely Wine Company, the forerunner to Leasingham. Their website describes this vintage as "Fine and zesty, the palate displays ripe lemon and citrus spice with fleshy fruit sweetness. This crisp wine has a fresh and lively finish and can be cellared for up to 10 years." My notes: Leasingham Wines was acquired by the Hardy's company in 1988 after a short while with H.J.Heinz. A light straw colour and aromas of a lemon/lime mix. A clean, crisp texture with flavours of tart citrus now including some grapefruit with the lemon/lime. A firm astringency cleanses the palate with each sip for a long dry finish. Have with fresh oysters with a drop of tabasco or a dab of seafood sauce. Pair with seafood dishes grilled or with rich sauces, pasta dishes with a mushroom medley, or a lightly peppered butternut squash soup. A young and 'green' sipper today but will improve considerably with two to four years cellaring.

MOSELLAND DIVINUM RIESLING SPATLESE 2004, Moselle, Germany, 8.5% S, #619676 $11.95 (Tasted November 3, 2006)

A General listing without description. The website describes this as "Nose of candied pears and apples, intense exotic fruit on the palate." Gord Stimmell gives this 89/100 saying "Spatlese has a lush, natural sweetness from late-harvested grapes. Aromas of candied lime and pear are enticing. The flavours follow through with ripe pear and candied apple, with enough acidity to balance the sweet notes. The aftertaste unveils slightly sugared grapefruit and lingering white flowers. Quite stunning at the price. " My notes: Crystal clear light blond and initial aromas of eucalyptus and lime followed by pear, lime and faint wildflowers. Like sucking a candied lime slice, sweetly puckering and leaving a smoothness on the lips - perhaps the start of petrol. Has a long finish with the sweet tartness carrying through nicely. Have as an aperitif or with fresh oysters with ginger shavings, chilled shrimp, brie and pumpernickel crisps. Well worth cellaring for a few years, then perhaps four or more. It should develop as a much smoother and rounder riesling with many nuances. Reasonably priced and an interesting change for a off-dry quaffer. Super stuff!

BLACK OPAL CHARDONNAY 2005, South Australia, 13.5% D, #309450 $13.95 (Tasted November 2, 2006)

A General listing described as "Lemon yellow colour; dry and medium-bodied with aromas and flavours of ripe tropical fruit; fresh crisp finish. Serve with fuller flavoured chicken dishes; grilled fish; medium cheese." The website describes this as "... bright straw in color. Aromas of peach, melon and citrus develop into a crisp and delicious finish. .... Some portions of fruit were fermented with French and American oak to develop complexity." Gord Stimmell gives this 88/100 saying "The 2004 had lavish buttery lime, creamed corn, toasty apple and a tinge of tangerine. A sassy white indeed — rating 89/100. The 2005 shifts gears. It’s less rich, with vanilla-accented pear and apple flavours. The finish is greener, with lime and green apple skin that craves food. ... the 2005 hitting shelves is still a little young and green. It should broaden its flavours in a few months in bottle, but drink up within two years." My notes: Black Opal is a Foster's winery acquired with Beringer in 2000 and integrated with Mildara Blass. 'Lemon yellow' for sure although on the lighter side, wildflower and honey nose fading to a faint citrus. A nice tartness on the first sip with a roundness leveling off to an almost sweet lemon/grapefruit flavour - no butter nor butterscotch, no peach. The finish of lemon and grapefruit is crisp and fairly short. A light- to medium-bodied sociable commercial white - nothing spectacular but then the price is low. Pair with grilled salmon filets. Not for cellaring... a drink-now.

KRUGER-RUMPF RIESLING KABINETT 2004, Nahe, Germany, 9.5% M, #721928 $17.95 (Tasted November 1, 2006)

A Vintages release October 28, 2006 described as "Attractive floral, mineral, pear, orange rind nose with green apple aromas. Very fresh. Crisp, ripe, round, succulent and fruity on the palate with honey, orange, nectarine, pear, floral flavours with a mineral, green apple finish. Fine elegance and fresh. Drink now or over the next five to seven years. (90/100, Anthony Gismondi, Jan./Feb. 2006) . My notes: A light blond with a just perceptible green hue, a light spicy floral aroma softening as the chill goes. Light- to medium-bodied, a slightly sweet edge to an apple, honey and grapefruit flavour mix. I didn't get 'orange or apricot'. Is great as a sipper filling the flavour senses with sweet honey snow apple flavours and finishing dry on the palate. Should also be great with fresh oysters or a mild cheese tray. Pair with vichysoisse, seafood pad thai or lobster ravioli in a creamy sauce and goat cheese. At the alcohol level this can be quaffed liberally - open two at a time. Cellaring up to four years should bring out some interesting side aromas as well as introduce more smoothness.