Sunday, February 04, 2007

February Whites(10): Italy Prosecco, Australia Blend, Italy Pinot Grigio(2), Australia Riesling, Italy Blend(3), Spain Albarino, Argentina Chard

MONTRESOR CAPITEL ALTO SOAVE CLASSICO 2004, Veneto, Italy, 13.0% D, #531673 $12.85 (Tasted February 26, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 8, 2006 described as "A typically richly flavoured Soave with pronounced aromas of golden delicious apple, mirabelle plum, melon and floral notes. It is just off-dry, intense and ripe. Medium-bodied and medium finishing. Enjoy with seafood in a cream sauce. (Vintages panel, Dec. 2005)" The Montresor website says "Clear pale yellow in colour, with greenish reflections. Fresh and slightly fruity bouquet with delicate aromas of acacia and elder blossoms. Dry, with an almond and honey aftertaste." RP of Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "This rises like an island from the lake of bland whites bearing the Soave appellation. Look for quite intense and interesting flavours of tropical fruit and sweet apple, all accented with spice and white pepper. It's on the dry side of off-dry, and makes a good partner for lightly spiced Asian dishes." My notes: A blend of garganega (80%) and trebbiano di soave (20%). Went well with grilled breaded telapia and asparagus spears. The nose is of light wildflowers and, yes, golden delicious apples and flavours that reflect apple, pear, spice, sweet honey and tart melon... leaving a warm and unctious roundness on the palate. I consider myself lucky to find the last bottle at a nearby outlet although there's a half dozen cases spread throughout Ontario. Should be able to cellar this several years. An interesting fruit and nutty sipper with the light sweetness balancing the tartness that goes well with most seafood appetizers. A light yellow and a fuller bodied soave worth the price.

CITRA TREBBIANO D'ABRUZZO 2005, Abruzzo, Italy, 12.0% D, #522144 $7.15 (Tasted February 23, 2007)

A General listing described as "Pale straw; rather neutral aroma light body and flavour with short crisp finish. Serve chilled as an aperitif with finger foods." My notes: If 'neutral' means 'none' then the nose is neutral. Flavours are a light lemon with a tartness that makes it different than chilled water although the lemon accumulates on the palate. As well, the finish has some warmth with a lemony, grassy tartness and distinct dryness on the lips - quite lengthy. A light-bodied, dry white for mushroom pastas, chilled seafood appetizers or grilled white fish entrees. A drink-now. Is priced so you can quaff liberally and have enough change for a halibut (instead of cod) and chip dinner.

FOSS MARAI PROSECCO EXTRA DRY 'BLUE BOTTLE', Italy, 11.5% XD, #729392 $17.95 (Retasted February 23, 2007)

My notes: A Vintages release on May 13, 2006, tasted the same month and in October.... rated an 87 by Jeff Davis (First Line E-Report, Sept. 2005). As before, lots of fine and large bubbles continue without froth. A full nose of toasty dough, apples and pears. Tart apple gives a 'very dry' presentation but has some softness showing a slight residual sugar and an unctious followthrough. Its brightness remains until the finish kicks in. The finish is long, light apple with some warmth on the palate. Perhaps not as creamy, given the extra time in the cellar, with more co2 dominance but still an excellent companion with fresh oysters or any cold shrimp/lobster pieces, crab cakes, shaved meats or mild cheeses.

PLACIDO PINOT GRIGIO DELLE VENEZIE 2005, Venezie, Italy, 12.0% D, #588897 $12.15 (Tasted February 21, 2007)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; steely, citrus aromas with hints of tropical fruit; crisp palate with lemony flavours and a long finish. Serve with fresh water fish, pork fried rice or poultry dishes." The Banfi Vintners (US distributors) website says "... a delightfully refreshing 100% varietal wine produced exclusively with Pinot Grigio grapes grown in the famed Veneto region of Italy and vinified on the Count Placido estate in Tuscany. ..a superb aperitif and a delicious accompaniment to light appetizers, hors d'oeuvres, seafood and simple veal and poultry dishes." My notes: Named after the Placidi family the owners of the estate where some of the grapes are still grown. Has a convenient screwtop. If a substitute for still water is wanted at the table this Pinot Grigio could be served - well chilled or with ice. An off white with a slight lemon hue and aromas of distant wildflowers, not enough to pause over. Light-bodied, a mild tartness and faint flavours of spice and lemon. The finish starts with some body and tartness ending in a pleasant lemon if left unmolested by appetizers. An innocuous sipper to serve at a 'block social', light in alcohol and not imposing. Too light for grilled Atlantic salmon and most other entrees. I'll skip it in future - not a value.

PETER LEHMANN 'WEIGHBRIDGE' SEMILLION-CHARDONNAY 2004, Barossa, Australia, 12.0% D, #610717* $12.15 (Tasted February 21, 2007)

A General listing (*delisted) described as "Light yellow green colour; aromas of citrus, green peach with lanolin notes; dry medium bodied, with flavours of lemon/lime, honey and pear; good length on finish. Serve with lemon chicken, lobster salad or shrimp stirfry." My notes: 'Weighbridge' is of Lehmann's 'International Collection' but this blend is not one of the eight on their website. A lightish yellow with aromas including passionfruit and a slight kiwi melon. Apple, cucumber and distant lemon combine for an unusual flavour blend. The finish maintains a light tartness with a light oily, grassy texture and some latent sweetness. An unusual sipper likely not for most. Should be able to cellar this for a few years but I don't think it'll improve. A 'commercial' white for grilled chicken with fries, mussels lightly sauced, oysters Rockerfeller, or other seafood entrees - perhaps a pork cutlet with apple sauce. A reasonable price but then I wouldn't serve it to guests.

CAVIT PINOT GRIGIO DELLE VENEZIE 2005, Venezie, Italy, 12.0% D, #99218 $11.20 (Tasted February 18, 2007)

A General listing described as "Pale straw; light lemon-apple aroma and flavour; light bodied with a clean finish. Serve as an aperitif." Their website says "The principal source of grapes... is Trentino’s Adige River Valley.... The grapes are carefully selected and then vinified utilizing... Cold fermentation in.. thermo-conditioned tanks to preserve the natural 100% Pinot Grigio fruit and inimitable freshness of the wine.... Dry, light and crisp, and highly versatile... a wonderful apéritif and equally splendid with pasta in cream sauces, risottos, veal, chicken and fresh seafood dishes. My notes: A clover honey fragrance and a pale yellow colour, light in body, flavours of light lemon, apple, honey and straw finishing with some smoothness on the lips and lemon straw on the palate. Should be well chilled as an aperitif to retain brightness. The finish faded quickly and was somewhat low in acid with sliced roasted turkey and vegetables but the flavours went well. An economical house white to pair with chicken, seafood dishes, or sliced ham.

CARDINHAM RIESLING 2003, Clare Valley, Australia, 12.5% XD, #694562 $15.95 (Retasted February 12, 2007)

My notes: Vintages released this riesling on February 4, 2006 with the note: "James Halliday gives it 93/100 and the label claims 2003 was an ideal vintage year... etc. My comments at the time were 'lasting soft petrol and lime zest nose. Medium-bodied with flavours of spice then apple, crisp without pucker..etc.' Little has changed in the last year, has more of a lemon and soft petrol nose with flavours that are lighter, spicier and more crabapple than apple, still with ample petrol and a finish that is bright, extra dry, and cleansing still without pucker though. If you enjoy a tart, petrol fused white this is a sipper. For me, it's more of a oysters-on-half-shell sipper, a chilled shrimp ring or grilled white fish. Was great with grilled telapia and stirfry veggies. Cellaring another year or two should be OK.

ANSELMI SAN VINCENZO VENETO IGT 2005, Veneto, Italy, 12.8% XD, #948158 $15.95 (Retasted February 8, 2007)

The Wineanorak says of the 2002 vintage "Nice soft, herby white which is quite beguiling with its soft texture. There’s a good concentration of fruit here with a straw-like character. Satisfying stuff." and gives it 89/100. My notes: Last tasted June, 2006 with the comment re: the 2004 '... retains the zesty fruit flavours of the previous vintages. Full aromas of lemon and floral honey build anticipation for the freshly tart flavours of soft lemon, a touch of passionfruit and pineapple. etc.' and then about the 2005 'If anything the 2005 has a stronger floral and honey lemon drop nose, a brilliant blond colour and distinct flavours of passionfruit, grapefruit and distant banana. The long finish carries full flavoured fruit including the banana edge along with a smooth mouthfeel. A great patio sipper when served by itself well chilled. A full-bodied white that could hold its own with cold ham, cold turkey or chicken on greens, sushi, asian dishes, fresh oysters, etc....' The 2005 hasn't lost anything since last June.... great stuff. Anselmi changes a simple white, soave, into a fuller, fruitier white each vintage by blending Garganega, Chardonnay and a little Trebbiano. Consistently a real value.

LAXAS ALBARIÑO 2005, Rias Baixas, Spain, 12.5% D, #021477 $19.75 (Tasted February 7, 2007)

A Vintages release on February 3, 2007 described as "Beguiling, ripe aromas of pineapple and citrus leading to ripe, fruity flavors of pineapple, peaches and citrus balanced by refreshing acidity and mouthwatering minerality through a lush, dry finish. Highly recommended. (Dave DeSimone, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Aug. 9, 2006)." My notes: A golden yellow colour with a crisp pineapple and honey, without sweetness but with a slight wildclover in the background, nose. The flavours are as bright as the nose with citrus and a round, full texture. The finish is of citrus, leaving some oil on the lips, and a slight tartness that fades into a faint grassy ending. An interesting change from a soave or pinot gris... on the fruitier and fuller side but just as dry. A sipper or with fresh oysters, grilled shrimp skewers with caramellized onions, stuffed mushrooms or with seafood entrees - a crab and shrimp omelette. This should cellar well for a few years. Priced right.

LA PUERTA CHARDONNAY 2005, Famatina Valley, Argentina, 13.9% D, #614693 $9.05 (Tasted February 4, 2007)

A General listing without description. The label says "...exalts aromas of tropical fruits, shows a bright greenish yellow colour with apple, pear and pineapple fragrances." The Frugal Oenophile names it Wine of the Week December 25, 2006 saying "The nose here shows a slight resemblance to a ripe gewurz, with a rich honey, mango, apricot and apple peel mix. The palate is finely textured with peach and citrus flavours atop a solid acid spine. A delight but not all that Chardonnay like -- perhaps they've tossed in a bit of Torrentes. For the gewurz lover, this is one terrific bargain, and it shows enough chardonnay character to work on that front as well. Could be a good match for that left-over turkey or perhaps a bit of ham roast." My notes: The one in the yellow label. A light yellow colour with mango and melon aromas followed by strawlined lemon and melon flavours. Definitely a lightly oaked chard. A smooth texture, medium-bodied with a finish starting with lemon straw and fading slowly into a pleasing thin lemon film. A house table wine where events won't demand a 'wine review' - a white match for the La Puerta Shiraz reviewed in January. Have with chips and fish, grilled telapia, sliced ham cold or hot - nothing too flavourful although it has a tart seam, or just sip. Not for cellaring - more of an economical drink-now.

Friday, February 02, 2007

February Reds(10): Spain Blend, USA Zin, France Blend, Australia Shiraz, S Africa Blend, Chile Merlot, Argent Blend(2), Argent Syrah, S Africa Shiraz

OSBORNE SOLAZ SHIRAZ TEMPRANILLO 2005, Rueda, Spain, 13.5% D, #620922 $10.25 (Tasted February 19, 2007)

A General listing described as "Medium red violet colour; aromas of cedar, oak/vanilla and ripe berry; dry, medium bodied, with flavours of cherry, blackberry, cedar and spice. Serve with roasted chicken sandwiches, Spanish jamon or serrano ham, or stew." My notes: A medium ruby with a touch of violet, aromas of smoky oak and ripe berry - but needs time to develop in the bowl. A sharp tartness on the first sip... for sure, this is not a sipper... a slight cherry fruit among the fine tannin and an earthy 'sweetness'. Finishes with a light oakiness, a background of berry fruit and somewhat tarry and dry on the palate - almost unpleasant. Decanting helps marginally. This would overpower 'roasted chicken' and similarly flavourful but on the mild side entree. More appropriate with full flavoured stews, lamb shank, chili con carne, meaty pizzas, or pepper steak. Cellaring two to four years may soften into a low-priced red... but I'd skip any repeat purchase.

RAVENSWOOD 'VINTNERS BLEND' ZINFANDEL 2004, California, USA, 13.5% D, #359257 $20.10 (Tasted February 18, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 14, 2006 described as "Zin-tastic. Ravenswood's Zin is ready for any occasion with aromas of spice, raspberry, and mocha. Soft and round with lots of fruit and cocoa flavour, enjoy it with pork chops or roasted duck." My notes: The label claims that 'each year... Joel Peterson selects small lots of well-made Zinfandel to blend.. in a well structured Zinfandel with a charming, youthful fruit character'. A soft, natural black currant nose develops slowly in the swirling bowl and flavours of rasperry and black currants evenly balanced with fine tannin and crisp acid makes each sip rewarding. A deep ruby with a violet tone and medium-bodied. The finish has a steely clean texture, a light dryness and leaves a coating of natural berry and cocoa. Lighter than most zins and definitely not jammy makes this an easy sipper. Pair with roast turkey, rack of lamb, prime rib au jus, or lamb-ke-bobs on seasoned rice. Cellaring for several years could evolve a smoother zin although it's drinking well now. Price is OK but perhaps not a high value.

TRIVENTO 'FINCA' LA CHAMIZA CABERNET MERLOT 2006, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.0% D, #620476 $8.15 (Tasted February 16, 2007)

A General listing described as "Medium ruby colour; ripe cherry fruit with floral and dried herb notes; dry, medium-to-full-bodied with a long finish and moderate tannins. Serve with grilled hamburgers." My notes: Although identified as a Trivento wine it wasn't found on their website. A medium ruby with a violet tone, oak influenced aromas of 'ripe cherry with floral and dried herb notes', quite different from this blend than expected - OK after a few sniffs to acclimatize. Medium- to light-bodied with flavours of red cherry and finishing with a mild acid, slight tannin and leaving some bright cherry on the palate. A drink-now and a reasonable economical 'house red'. Have as a buffet sipper.... or with cold sliced ham, italian shaved meats, crockpot meatballs, mild chicken wings, tomato or mushroom pastas. Hamburgers? Ready-made maybe.... mine have too much zing for this red.

GUIGAL COTES DU RHONE 2003, Rhone, France, 13.0% D, #259721 $16.70 (Tasted February 11, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby purple colour; complex aromas of mixed spice, plums, dark berry and pepper with floral notes; dry, medium to full-bodied, well balance with supple tannins, and flavours of white pepper, cassis, black cherry and mineral; good length on the finish. Pepper steak, lamb, grilled portabello mushrooms or seared duck in a cherry reduction sauce." The website says "The 2003 Cotes du Rhone red may be the finest example of this cuvee yet produced. While the blend varies from year to year, it generally includes approximately 50% Syrah, 30-40% Grenache, and the rest Mourvedre. Tasting the deep ruby/purple-colored 2003 from several huge tanks revealed it is loaded with fruit and body. This supple, exotic effort should be a knock-out when released early next year. Rated 88-90 by Robert M. Parker Jr (12/04)." Natalie MacLean rates it 88/100 saying "Full-bodied with notes of spice, black cherry, and cedar. Balanced with a long and pleasant bitter finish. Not as fruit-forward as New World reds. Terrific acidity makes it a great partner to many dishes: steak, lamb, stew, hamburgers." My notes: A bright mid ruby colour with soft aromas, after airing twenty minutes, of smoke and berries. Medium-bodied with flavours of mixed bramble, cherry and mushroom - very supple texture. The finish carries through with berry, faint pepper and mushroom and a fine tannin, fairly long and consistent. An interesting sipper but not a bold red - better with rack of lamb, sliced cloved ham, mild pork tenderloin. You have to like the flavours for it to be a value as a sipper or with meals - I don't. Could be the grenache/mourvedre mix. Cellar up to five years?

SEAVIEW SPARKLING SHIRAZ NV, Australia, 13.5% SC3, #644054 $14.15 (Tasted February 11, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep purple violet with definite mousse; vibrant aromas and flavours of ripe plum mullberry, raspberry, leather and vanilla; full-bodied, silky smooth and rich on the palate with refreshing carbonation and acidity. Serve slightly chilled with roast lamb, sausages, or roast turkey." My notes: The Fosters website isn't too helpful in describing their winery affiliations nor their wines. The colour is a clear deep ruby and aromas resemble red berries and bread dough, somewhat sweet on the nose. A full fine foaminess with a lasting rim. Flavours are bright red berry with the sweetness balancing the tartness - if you're looking for brut this is not it. Finishes with a fresh berry coating and a light fruit sugar - some mineral notes as it fades. An entertaining refresher for mixed social occasions. Serve with crab cakes or seafood nibbles, light cheeses, cold meat appetizers and pates, or with chinese dishes. Compared with Banrock Station's SS (#971507) this is too sweet for my tastes. Could cellar for a few years and perhaps it would lose some of its unnatural fullness. A commercial drink-now reminding me of 'Baby Duck'.

HILL & DALE CABERNET SAUVIGNON/SHIRAZ 2003, Stellenbosch, S Africa, 14.5% XD, #595702 $13.15 (Tasted February 10, 2007)

A Vintages release on January 20, 2007 described as "Stellenzicht farm's Hill and Dale range comes by its name honestly as the vineyards' altitude varies from 100 to 400 meters above sea level. This full-throttle blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Shiraz offers terrific value with rich blackberry and cherry fruit flavour, vanilla, smoke and peppery notes. Enjoy with hearty winter stews or grilled steaks." Natalie MacLean gives it 87/100 and the Best Value Red with the comment "A simple, dark fruit, full-bodied wine that will warm you down to your ankles." VH of Winecurrent gives it three and a half (of 5) saying "Smoky, tarry aromatics and flavours dominate this medium-bodied blend. Cherry compote and spice box flavours also intermingle nicely with the plush texture and touch of zesty tang. An honest wine at a good price point...." My notes: The nose bounces from the bottle as the cork is drawn, a soft blackberry and a whiff of smoky tobacco. The colour is a deep garnet ruby and the blackberry flavours feature a rich cabernet body and a distinct peppery shiraz seam. Lots of tannin carry through to the finish which leaves a spicy berry coating on the palate. Mellow enough to be a rich sipper and firm enough to pair with full flavoured beef entrees. Cellaring up to five years could soften the pepper and introduce a hint of vanilla and iodine for an interesting and economical red. A value as a drink-now or better after cellaring, imho.

VIÑA LA ROSA ‘LA CAPITANA' MERLOT 2004, Cachapoal Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #655209 $14.95 (Retasted February 8, 2007)

My notes: Last tasted August 2006 with the comment "A very nice deep ruby, aromas of soft white pepper and ripe cherries, medium- to full-bodied with a smooth dry texture and a flavour blend of blackberry and black cherry. The finish is a smooth balance between tart and tannin with the fruit flavours slowly ebbing on the palate. A soft red sipper, not demonstrative, letting you decide to go for another bruschetta, sausage piece or even a mushroom tart. Should be a great partner to grilled red meats or a portabello burger. A drink-now that could be cellared for several years - try two years at a time...." Down to a few bottles now and still a super bargain. It's drinking well, perhaps not as fruity but nicely mellowed with tannin, tartness, and fruit balanced for complementing any beefy entree. A touch of cedar in the finish. A merlot with spirit. Unfortunately this Vina La Rosa varietal is no longer listed. Look for their Chardonnay which is also a bargain.

FINCA FLICHMAN EXPRESIONES RESERVE 2005, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.5% XD, #507707 $15.75 (Tasted February 5, 2007)

A Vintages release and Wine of the Month February 3, 2007 described as "Comprised of 60% Malbec and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine displays a bright medium purple colour. It has lovely aromas of raspberry, plum, spice and sweet oak on the nose that replay admirably on the palate. Dry, medium full-bodied, with ripe tannins providing structure, it can be enjoyed now with rare beef or lamb or cellared for the short-term. (VINTAGES panel, June 2006)" RP of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying ".... delivers rich concentrated dark fruit like plum and cherry and heaps of spice and cedar notes. Dry and almost full bodied, it has firm, sweet tannins, and pairs beautifully with grilled lamb. Natalie MacLean gives it 90/100 saying "Aromas of chocolate, cassis and blackcurrants. ... Full-bodied and delicious. ... A fantastic value." Beppi Crosariol recommends this red saying "It's as full, dense and spicy as it gets, with big cherry, leather and tar flavours and a firm finish. It's great for braised meats, such as lamb shank." My notes: A purple plum aroma and a ruby colour with a violet hue - pretty in the glass. Very smooth from the first sip with evenly balanced tannins, fruit - including a slight raspberry - firm acid and a light spice, no tars nor cedar. Predominately malbec which leads to an unctious mouthfeel as the finish takes the fruit mellow to the end. The blend with cabernet sauvignon produces an excellent sipper for a general wine crowd - along with the price. Serve with mild cheeses and flatbread pieces or milder beef entrees: prime roast, turkey, ham, rack of lamb, eg. to complement the medium-body smoothness. A drink-now or cellaring a bunch a year at a time to see where it's going would take advantage of the price. A good value.

FINCA EL RETIRO SYRAH 2004, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5% XD, #928283 $12.75 (Tasted February 4, 2007)

A Vintages release on February 3, 2007 described as "... another renowned producer in the Mendoza region. They consistently produce overachieving wines like this fruit-forward Syrah. Concentrated flavours of blueberry, plum and ripe cherry, abound plus some tannic grip and good overall balance. Enjoy with everything from burgers to steaks. It's an outstanding value to buy by the case!" The label says: "...grape variety thrives in the Tittarelli vineyards.... has a deep, vibrant colour that gives way to a spicy, brambley nose of great intensity. ... silky and rich, ..great depth and length. ..." My notes: Recommended by local Vintages staff..... a deep ruby with a magenta cast and aromas of black cherry, blueberry and black pepper. The black pepper underlies the cherry fruit in the flavour giving a brambley sharpness through every swallow and well into a dry leathery finish and ending somewhat metallic. For me, not a sipper. Have with spicy beef entrees.... was a little much with pork tenderloin. Reasonably priced but not to my liking... and I can't see cellaring relieving the harshness of this syrah that much. The bottle leftovers had improved by next day, however, I'd skip it.

LONG NECK SHIRAZ 2005, Western Cape, South Africa, 14.0% D, #665265 $10.05 (Tasted February 2, 2007)

A General listing described as "Medium deep ruby red; aromas of mint and red berry; dry, medium bodied, quite fruit forward in style, soft finish. Serve with roast pork or chicken with garlic and herb rub." The label says "Concentrated youthful colour followed by a rich, plummy and spicy nose. The palate soft and easy with lovely ripe berry flavours and a long finish...." My notes: One of nine Long Necks - the winery has a slogan 'Giraffes come in all shapes and sizes' as does their various wines - only two of which are on General shelves in Ontario. A faint aroma of candied cherries and plums and a deep ruby colour with a slight garnet cast. The flavours carry through the black cherry theme with a soft sweetness - without a firm tartness so seeming artificial on the palate. Has some spice but little tannin. Finishes with a fruity roundness fading to an oily texture. Not unpleasant as a sipper, more of an unusual shiraz. Could be an economical party red (someone else's party) ... or with bratwurst, Shopsy's red hots, ham or bologna sandwiches, etc. A drink-now.