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.

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