Monday, January 01, 2007

January Whites(10): Canada P Gris, Australia Blend, Canada Chard, S Africa Viog, Canada Cider, Chile Chard, Canada Ries, USA Chard, USA SB, NZ Blend

SANDHILL PINOT GRIS 2003 (KING FAMILY VINEYARD), Penticton, BC, 13.5% D, #626002 $15.95 (Retasted January 24, 2007)

My notes: A Vintages release in June 2005 and last tasted in July of the same year with the note ".... The winemaker (Howard Soon) says that changes in King Family vineyard management in 2004 'gave more depth of aromas and flavour, balanced acidity, increased body and greater length'...." I suggested waiting for the 2004 vintage. Vintages never released the 2004 and BC wines seem to be scarcer than ever. The 2003 still has a pale yellow colour. The nose has a slight honey, a slight wildflower with some citrus remaining. Smooth and round on the palate with the citrus holding true... a long finish, bright, round and citrusy. With flavours and texture that would interest sippers, or have with seafood, crab cakes, or cocktail sausages it would be better still with white seafood dishes - was great with grilled breaded telapia fillets. Cellaring has changed this from a young fruity white to a smoother food complement.

CLOVER HILL SPARKLING WINE 2001, Tasmania, Australia, 13.0% D, #588236 $34.95 (Tasted January 24, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 2, 2006 described as "Ranked 'Best in Class' for its category at the prestigious 2005 International Wine & Spirits Competition in London. Fine pale lemon with good stream of bubbles. Lemon scented with dry cracker autolysis, showing chardonnay dominant fruit, balanced elegant and appealing with crisp lemony acidity on the finish. (Judging panel, 2005 International Wine & Spirits Competition)." The Taltarni website claims this has "an attractive Champagne hue of pale straw. A persistent fine, vibrant bead and gentle foaming mousse. The nose has a wonderful layer of complexity that see both fruit and yeast age characters enhancing each other. Hints of almond biscuit and toasty coconut characters derived from the aged reserve wine..... A very elegant, yet rich made complete by the length and breadth of flavours. The flavours of the citrus integrate beautifully with the bread dough from the wines time on tirage...." My notes: A blend of chardonnay(60%), pinot noir(34%) and pinot meunier (6%). A light blond colour, a soft mousse with a small number of fine bubble streams that follow. However, the mousse fills each sip and the senses with a creamy lemon/lime, dry on the palate and a light doughiness blending together as somewhat full-bodied. A great sipper... excellent with anything from French toast to fresh oysters or shrimp kebobs - wouldn't interfere with delicate crab cakes or scallops. Could cellar many years and still retain its freshness and mousseyness. Compared with 'Champagnes' this is at least equivalent value.

EASTDELL BARRELL FERMENTED CHARDONNAY 2003, Beamsville, Canada, 13.0% D, #651505 $18.95 (Retasted January 18, 2007)

My notes: Last tasted in June, 2006. Still a light golden with aromas of pineapple, lemon and slight floral and spice. A nice fullness and on the acidic side, some lemon and slight spice. The finish is strong, very tart, moderately long, and still predominately lemon leaving a sensation of dry succulence. If you like tart then it's a sipper - but not me. Better with a light cheese tray, Asian dishes, a Bento box or with grilled seafood: shrimps, scallops, or white fish dishes. Didn't survive roasted breaded chicken breasts. It could cellar several years but check regulary to see what the acid is doing (it seems to be increasing) - nothing special to expect so I'd drink now.

GRAHAM BECK VIOGNIER 2004, Robertson, S Africa, 14.5% D, #004119 $19.95 (Tasted January 17, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 30, 2006 and described as "This is a deftly crafted Viognier that blends wines from both Beck's Robertson and Franschhoek cellars. The wines were made using the same methods including 50% barrel fermentation and 50% stainless steel. The final blend was matured for four months in second-use French oak barrels before bottling. Expect a full-bodied, silky textured wine with apple and citrus fruit flavours perfectly in balance with the oak characteristics. Enjoy with crab puffs, pan-seared scallops or even a roast turkey dinner." My notes: A light straw colour, aromas of lemon, straw and apple introduce flavours of honeyed lemon and melon albeit with a grassy edge (distributors call it 'herbaceousness'). The fruit fades in a smooth finish leaving the grassiness and a distinct oil film on the lips. Not for solo sipping but excellent with braised shrimp, bacon wrapped scallops, crab cakes, flavoured cheeses or paired with creamy mushroom pasta dishes as well as a variety of white fish dishes. I'd call it 'commercial'... a full-bodied drink-now.

CIDRERIE DU MINOT SPARKLING CIDER, Hemmingford, Quebec, 5.0% MS, #612655 $14.95* (Tasted January 15, 2007)

A General listing described as "Clear straw colour and sparkling; aromas and flavours of fresh apple; off dry on the palate, with refreshing acidity on the finish. Serve with pork chops and apple sauce, or with glazed ham." My notes: *Price reduced to $10.95. A handsome bottle in keeping with a Methode Traditionelle bubbly albeit apple based rather than grape. Has a sweetness code of 4 but you wouldn't know it from the fine mousseux at the rim and the light spritz carrying through the sip. A light blond and a nose of cooking apples, crisp and unsweet - no usual yeasty aromas. The flavours are a bright, light-bodied apple with a refreshing but light tartness. The finish is short and somewhat bland, except for the spritz, compared with a grape based beverage. A universal social sipper... light in alcohol so can be quaffed liberally making it ideal for a summer patio refreshment. Something different and OK at the reduced price.

PUNTA NOGAL CHARDONNAY RESERVA 2005, Valle Casablanca, Chile, 13.5% D, #000760 $13.95 (Tasted January 10, 2007)

A Vintages release on January 6, 2007 described as "Punta Nogal uses carefully selected grapes from their estate vineyards in the cool Casablanca Valley to craft this deliciously concentrated Chardonnay. Half of the juice was fermented and aged in stainless steel, the other half in medium-toast French oak. The resulting wine has exceptional balance between the tropical fruit and toasty oak characteristics. Pair it with penne alla vodka or baked salmon in a cream sauce." The label states "...bright greenish-yellow in colour, with a complex, seductive nose that suggests banana, mocha and vanilla." My notes: A light golden colour with aromas of honey, grass and a delicate wild clover. A buttery, tart, taste of nutty lemon with the citric tang carrying through the long finish. A meal white although given a few years it may soften to a flavourful balanced sipper. Have with a variety of seafood or creamy vegetable pastas, lobster bisque, crab cakes, or a tray of fruit and mild cheeses. A good value lightly oaked chard although quite ascerbic as a drink-now.

THIRTY BENCH 'BEAMSVILLE BENCH' RIESLING 2005, Niagara, Canada, 11.4% D, #024133 $17.95 (Tasted January 8 2007)

A Vintages release on January 6, 2007 described as "Under the new ownership by Andres and the winemaking of Natalie Reynolds Thirty Bench shows off the character of its old vine riesling. Huge nose of petrol, apricot, honey and a squirt of lemon. Medium-full bodied, great grip and balance, with a mineral finish. Very focused. Reminiscent of top German estate riesling, or riesling from the Wachau region of Austria. Excellent length. Best now to 2012, maybe longer. Score - 91. (David Lawrason, Wine Access, Nov. 2006)." VH of Winecurrentt gives it four of 5 saying "This sports one of the new VQA sub-appellations. The lifted nose bursts forth with gorgeous aromas of mineral, floral and distinctive petrol notes. It is medium-bodied, extremely well balanced and provides a full flavour profile of zesty lemon, white peach and Anjou pear. The finish is tangy and medium in length. An extremely well-made Riesling from one of Ontario's revered producers." My notes: Lots of petrol aroma in this young riesling. Pale blond, as close to petrol as I'd like to try and having a cleansing lemon twist with each sip. The finish is dry, nutty retaining the citric tartness and ends with an apricot stone seam. Was OK with breaded chicken breasts grilled and served with fresh vegetables and roast potatoes. Should be equal with grilled telapia or salmon steaks. Seems to have several things going on at the same time - suggesting more than the grape was part of the process. I'd call it 'lopsided'. A few years cellaring may sort out. Less floral and fruity than a German Riesling but a reasonable replication at the right price.

LA CREMA CHARDONNAY 2005, Sonoma Coast, USA, 13.5% D, #962886 $26.95 (Tasted January 7, 2006)

A Vintages release on December 09, 2006 described as "La Crema emulates the great domaines of Burgundy by dedicating themselves solely to the production of great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay like this one. With aromas of citrus fruit, pear, figs and toffee, this rich and soft white shows deft balance and has a long, lingering finish. Enjoy with pasta in a cream sauce or seafood risotto." The winemaker, Melissa Stackhouse, says "Fresh aromas of citrus, butterscotch and lemon peel open to appealing hints of jasmine and nutmeg. On the palate, rich buttercream, pear and citrus meld to create a plush, rounded middle, with toast and caramel adding richness and texture to the long, lingering finish." My notes: A faint aroma of citrus, pear and banana, a very light blond colour and flavours of light butterscotch, apple, and lemon with the emphasis on butter.... a texture that's hard not to like when sipping. The finish is fairly short but sufficiently memorable to look forward to the next sip. Pair with anything seafood, cold fresh oysters, a shrimp ring with sauce, or grilled lightly basted wtih garlic butter or natural. Should be able to cellar this up to four years. Available in half bottles as #728352 at $15.95. A higher price than a value but still a very nice mild chard.

ROBERT MONDAVI 'NAPA VALLEY' FUME BLANC 2004, Calif, USA, 14.5% XD, #221887 $24.96 (Tasted January 04, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 28, 2006 described as "Robert Mondavi originated this style of lightly oaked Sauvignon Blanc and dubbed it Fumé Blanc. The aromas include apple, sweet grass, mineral and light toast notes. It has a crisp, refreshing, fruity core and a soft, yet spicy finish, that makes it a perfect partner for grilled snapper or baked pasta." My notes: A frosted bottle gives a light but pleasing nose of pineapple and lime followed by flavours of light gooseberry-melon with a drying texture and a very long, fully rounded, fruity finish. Serve as a sipper or with seafood or mild cheese appetizers, or save for a dinner of shrimp kebobs, chicken thighs marinated in a sweet sauce (Presidents Choice), salmon or arctic char filets or a seafood pot pie with a bowl of chowder. Cellaring for a few years seems reasonable - longer may be stretching it. Couldn't find it on their website. A super white for a variety of occasions.

CLOUDY BAY PELORUS BRUT 2001, Marlborough, NZ, 12.5% D, #338459 $32.95 (Tasted January 01, 2006)

A Vintages release on September 30, 2006 and described as "Adds quite a lot of nuttiness and toast with a straw and hessian dry quality and a core of fruit. Very mouthfilling and rolling mousse, with lots of fruit. There's a citrus quality, but also a sense of mealy, nutty Cox's Pippin [apple] ripeness and good acidity. 89/100 (Tom Cannavan, May 2006). " Natalie MacLean gives it 89/100 saying "Great value. Very dry and toasty." My notes: A yeasty apple and firm citrus nose with volumes of large bubbles effervescing then fading to a fine rim. A sharpness and full spritz from the first sip, and light apple with pronounced acidity - didn't get 'nutty'. The finish is Granny Smith apple, smooth, cleansing and fairly long eventually ending somewhat flat. Should be paired with fresh oysters, grilled shrimp, roasted halibut or other unbattered seafood - wild fowl is also a possibility, and a sampling of mild cheeses. Not as round and fruity as I recall earlier vintages and XD rather than D. Not an exceptional bubbly for the price.

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