Saturday, January 20, 2007

More January Reds(8): Italy Chianti, Australia Cab Sauv(2), Australia Blend, Argentina Shiraz, France Blend, Italy Valpol, Argentina Blend

ST HALLETT CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004, Barossa, Australia, 14.5% XD, #015164 $19.95 (Tasted January 31, 2007)

A Vintages release on December 9, 2006 and described as "While the Barossa Valley area is often noted for its Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon vines have also thrived there for over a century. St Hallett's winemakers Stuart Blackwell and Matt Grant employ a combination of traditional techniques with the latest technologies to craft this quintessentially Barrosan Cab. Stuffed with cassis and berry fruit flavours with notes of mint and chocolate this medium full-bodied wine is ready to drink with hearty venison stew or old-fashioned pot roast." My notes: Worth every penny and more for the deep ruby, warm plummy nose and rich minty, black currant softened by a luscious berry edge flavour. Long legs on the glass and a texture that smacks the palate with subtle tartness, a fine tannin and smoothness suggesting a natural fruit sugar, but of course it's DRY. A super sipper - seems a shame to have anything with this unless it's a well, not meaning 'well-done' but to your liking, grilled T-bone or prime rib roasted crusty with herbs. To match this red's fullness the entree should be rich or full flavoured. Could be cellared for five or so years but is drinking nicely now. A real value and there appears to be tons around as of this tasting.

ROCCA DELLE MACÌE CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2003, Vendemmia, Italy, 13.5% XD, #930966 $23.95 (Tasted January 30, 2007)

The Vintages release date wasn't given - the description is "This wine offers a superb starting point to explore rarified corner of Chianti without having to stretch your budget or fight firm tannins. Rocca delle Macìe aims to create wines that are enjoyable now. Though there is a silky tannin grip here for balance, the aromas and flavours of plum, raspberry and violet dominate." The website says "... Sangiovese (90%), Cabernet (5%), Merlot (5%).... vinified according to traditional Chianti Classico methods. The wine ages in French oak barrels of 35hl capacity for two years and is then refined further in the bottle, for a minimum of three months. ... ruby red, becoming garnet with age. Flavours are intense and persistent... etc." My notes: A lightish mid-ruby colour with a slight rose edge. Let air twenty minutes or decant. The nose has some remnants of red berries, perhaps plum - 'violets' is stretching the imagination. The initial swallow has a spirited brightness complementing red cherry flavours and a dry tannin. The finish continues to be bright with the fruit fading quickly leaving a dry, although much softer, fine tannin feel. A classic Classico... european in style and flavour, light- to medium-bodied emphasizing the winemaker's use of blending and oak ageing rather than featuring luscious fruit. Have with a red pasta dish or with hamburgers, pizzas, cloved ham steak or rack of lamb. No benefit in cellaring - a commercial drink-now and not a value imho.

ELDERTON 'THE ASHMEAD FAMILY' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004, Barossa, Australia, 14.5% XD, #009175 $28.95 (Tasted January 29, 2007)

A Vintages release on December 09, 2006 described as "Ripe and appealing for its red berry and herb flavors and supple texture, which lets the juice flavors linger attractively against a swarm of refined tannins on the long finish. Best from 2008 through 2013. Rated 90/100. (Harvey Steiman, Aug. 31, 2006)." My notes: A breath of mint among the berry, cherry and tobacco humidor aromas from a deep violet ruby colour. A silky smooth texture with a well balanced fruit - black cherries, black berries - spice and soft tannins creating a flavour complexity. The finish is very long with fruit fading to a light tobacco edge with lingering soft tannins. An excellent cab sipper, medium-bodied and balanced fruit, or pair with hors d'ouvres: smoked oysters, italian meats, french onion soup, a spicy red bean chili, or with red meat entrees from rack of lamb, seared sirloin tip, a pot roast. A value? I think so, although not in the habit of buying $30 reds. Lots available as of this tasting.

KILIKANOON KILLERMAN'S RUN GRENACHE/SHIRAZ 2003, Australia, 15.0% D, #009225 $18.95 (Tasted January 28, 2007)

A Vintages release on December 9, 2006 described as "The bargains continue with the 2003 Grenache/Shiraz Killerman's Run (60% of the former and 40% of the latter), which was aged in old American and French hogsheads for two years prior to being bottled unfiltered. Its dense ruby/purple color is accompanied by plenty of sweet kirsch and blackberry fruit intermixed with damp earth and pepper. Fleshy, with excellent intensity and a long, heady finish, this superb Australian red is a fabulous bargain. Moreover, it should drink well for 4-5 years or longer. 91/100 Robert Parker Jr., Oct. 2005." My notes: Two 2002 vintage Kilikanoon Killerman's Run wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Shiraz, were tasted in April and this adds to their success. A deep ruby...a smoky plum and berry nose warms the senses for the spicy flavours to come. A bit of cherry, mint, blueberry and almond blended with a brightness that fades so slowly into a long warm finish. A fuller bodied, slightly spicier G/S than the 2004 Jeanneret tasted last September and a few dollars cheaper. A very pleasant sipper by itself or with a flavourful cheese tray, shaved meats or sausage pieces, a liver pate on soft pumpernickel crusts or with rare to medium grilled beef entrees. Should be able to cellar this for several years although it's drinking well now. A real value.

LA PUERTA SHIRAZ 2006, Famatina Valley, Argentina, 14.3% D, #614636 $9.05 (Tasted January 24, 2007)

A new General listing described on the label as "..enticing rich purple, deliciously soft and fruity. It is packed full of exquisite ripe plum and black cherry flavours... completed with a touch of spice." My notes: One of four La Puerta's, the one with the blue label. Has a fresh cherry nose with some light oaky sidelights. The colour is a clear mid ruby with, in the right light, a fine violet hue and flavours hit the palate with firm, drying tannins and a plum/cherry blend, a vanilla note and a lightish body. The finish is somewhat overridden by the tannin but it still has an underlying seam of red cherry and some toasty notes. Somewhat thinner than an Aussie (my preferred shriaz sipper) - but for the money a good value. Would be OK with red meats: steaks, grilled ribs, T-bones, lamb shishkebabs for example. It would be interesting to cellar for two years to see where the tannin takes this very economical red. At the price - why not?

PERRIN NATURE COTES-DU-RHONE 2004, Cotes du Rhone, France, 13.0% XD, #948059 $16.95 (Tasted January 23, 2007)

A Vintages release on January 20, 2007 described as "Our Quality Assurance laboratory has determined that this organic wine contains 9 mg/l of free sulphur. An elegant and approachable blend of Grenache and Syrah, with an environmental conscience. The Perrin brothers of Château de Beaucastel fame have been practicing organic methods for decades, and this is one of their finest examples. In fact, the 2003 vintage was named by The Independent in London as one of the top 10 organic wines. Expect similar excellence from this ‘04." RP of Winecurrent gives it four and a half (of 5) saying "This is a very well-priced Côtes-du-Rhône that shows what the region can do at a very affordable price. It has big texture, intense dark fruit (plum, cherry) flavours with accents of black pepper and spice, and a fine seam of sweet fruit at the centre. The tannins are pretty firm and this will show best in a couple of years. But if you must drink it soon, pair it with red meat grilled medium-rare." My notes: Also available in 375mL released as #10363@$9.95. A mid ruby colour with a pinkish rim and showing thin 'legs'. Nice light plum and cherry nose, a slight pepper edge, flavours of an even blend of red cherry, trace of vanilla, fine tannin and spice - the initial oakiness goes quickly. The finish carries a cherry stone flavour along with tannin and nip fading slowly without sparkle or interest. Have with prime rib, rack of lamb, ham steak or braised chicken pieces. Cellaring wouldn't help, more of a drink-now. A quiet Cotes du Rhone red - not a value to me.

TOMMASI VIGNETO RAFAEL VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2004, Piedmont, Italy, 12.5% XD, #023259 $17.95 (Tasted January 21, 2007)

A Vintages release on January 20, 2007 described as "... This spectacular Valpol is sourced from the Vigneto Rafael, just one of their personally managed vineyard sites. The 2004 exhibits the best of the wine style with its forward cherry fruit supported by a lively acid/fruit finish. Match it to your fish course or veal tenderloin." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and a half (of 5) saying "This is a gorgeous wine from a producer that has gained world-wide and much-deserved recognition for fine wines at good value. This gorgeous offering begins with aromas redolent of Bing cherry and black raspberry. The flavour profile has cherry to the fore, ably supported by oodles of tangy zest and a ripe tannin structure. This meaty red best served with lasagna or pasta in a rich tomato sauce." My notes: One of the 'Single Vineyard' wines from Tommasi, 'Rafael' blends corvina veronese (65%), rondinella (30%) and molinara (5%) which spend eighteen months in large Slovian oak barrels. Colour is a mid ruby with a slight brick hue. Decant or let air for thirty minutes for best tasting, then a full nose of prunes, cherries and caramel wafts from the glass. Flavours are pronounced, an even acid to balance the sweet cherry followed by a bright cherry and light tannin finish, long and warm. A refreshing sipper or have with shaved italian meats, smoked chorizo pieces, flavourful cheesy vegetarian pizza, lightly spiced tomato or mushroom sauced pastas. Not much more to gain from cellaring so I'd call it a drink-now.

FINCA FLICHMAN EXPRESIONES RESERVE SHIRAZ/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004, Mendoza, Argentina, 15.0% XD, #017111 $15.95 (Tasted January 20, 2007)

A Vintages release on January 20, 2007 described as ".... From 28-year-old vineyards in Tupungato, the wine spends eight months in a mix of French and American oak. The nose has a lovely blackcurrant pastille and juicy cherry ripeness, with little nuances of violet and blueberry pie. On the palate this shows lovely fruit: it is dry and savoury, with tannins immediately gripping the sides of the mouth, and a coffee and woodsmoke oak note adding to the dry, food-friendly appeal. But the fruit really comes through, with a concentration of black berries and some clove and pepper notes, with a very nicely balanced and long finish. Very impressive.... (Tom Cannavan, Aug. 2006)." VH of Winecurrent gives it five (of 5) saying "This blend - 60% Shiraz, 40% Cab., packs an incredible punch and has it all: complexity, richness and delicate balance. It opens with a perfumed nose of black ripe juicy berry fruit, currant and nuances of spice - cloves and nutmeg. Flavours of bramble berry, creosote and kirsch drench the palate. etc." And Natalie MacLean gives it 89/100. My notes: Now with Sogrape, maker of Ferreira and Offley ports and Mateus wines, Finca Flichman has introduced the 'Espresiones' label to showcase the terroir of old vines. This blend is a dense ruby with a violet hue and has a warm aroma of peppery black currant - let air for twenty minutes to add spicy fragrances of clove, perhaps almond, and tobacco. A full, smooth texture swirls black currant, mint and ripe black cherry flavours, intense at first becoming more focussed as a long, dark chocolate, cherry and tar finish. A full-bodied sipper for a relaxed fireside read - too serious for a casual social. Pair with flavourful cheeses, liver pate, rack of lamb, T-bone or other grilled beef entrees. Cellaring for a few years should mellow out the tannins a bit more making this a value big red.

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