Saturday, March 24, 2007

More March Whites(4): Australia Chard, NZ Pinot Gris, Chile Chard(2)

MCWILLIAM'S HANWOOD ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2004, New South Wales, Australia, 13.0% D, #557934 $13.15 (Tasted March 28, 2007)

A General listing described as "Medium straw; oaky, tropical fruit and coconut aromas; very fruity and soft with a long oaky finish. Serve with Digby herring, crab legs, grilled salmon-trout." Winemaker was Jim Brayne - this vintage is described as " [Half fermented in] French oak coupled with yeast lees autolysis... and six month maturation.... A smaller portion underwent malolactic fermentation... Crisp acid gives length and structure to the generous palate..." Gord Stimmell gives it 88/100 saying "The McWilliams chardonnay is [from] a family winery in southeast Australia that is now owned and distributed by wine giant Gallo... a solid performer... worth every penny. The style is perhaps a little old-fashioned, but most folks like that in their chards — a bit of restrained oak adds substance and tames those sour green elements. Aromas of butter, lemon oil, coconut and citrus lead into flavours of lemony pineapple and apple. The length lacks great power, but is loaded with finesse." My notes: A distinct golden hue with aromas of lemon zest, coconut and possibly melon. The flavours are indistinct but there is a firm acid lending a citrus and tart apple component along with a pleasing roundness or cream. I don't get flavours of coconut or pineapple and the finish ends with the pithiness of chewed lemon seeds. Having experienced Gallo supermarket wines I'd think this was the equivalent in an Aussie chard but with some finesse. A commercial sipper and should be OK with most seafoods. A drink-now if nothing else is available - not a value.

GROVE MILL PINOT GRIS 2005, Marlborough, NZ, 14.0% XD*, #001693 $19.95 (Retasted March 25, 2007)

Released by Vintages on October 14, 2006 with a rating of 5/5 by Michael Cooper, Buyers Guide to NZ Wines 2006. Also given four and one half (of 5) by VH of Winecurrent . My notes: I first tasted in October last year and, as a result, cellared a few. The nose is soft with honey, wildflowers, a faint lemon zest and a distant muskiness is just becoming noticeable. Medium- to full-bodied, a honey texture and flavour surrounds the senses with a natural sweet edge balanced with a blend of pear and melba apple. The finish is warm in the throat coating the palate with remnants of smooth honey and apple now counterbalanced by an apple tartness. As before: 'A wonderful off-dry sipper and would be great with a mixed fruit and cheese tray or pair with a bento box of tempura shrimp and yam slices and sushi, or with split pea soup with ham bits or a dim sum selection.' My better half prefers a *dry pg which this is not... but I could linger over several glasses before and during a dinner of grilled whitefish or skewers of spiced shrimp. Went nicely with thickly sliced broiled ham and pan-seared green beans and mushrooms. Cellaring well and should continue to do so for several years.

CARMEN CHARDONNAY 2005, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #235663 $10.15 (Tasted March 24, 2007)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; fresh pears on the nose with a hint of vanilla; medium-bodied, smooth and fruity; crisp citrus fruit in the finish. Serve with lobster; rich pasta dishes; lemon chicken." My notes: The label isn't referenced on the website and perhaps is a recipe designed for the 'international' market. A light golden colour crystal clear in the glass with a nose of passionfruit, delicate papaya and a hint of toasted almond. Medium-bodied, a slight creaminess and light flavours of melon pulp overriding a synthetic citrus tartness. Has a stone pit seam through an uninteresting acid and cream finish. Have with shaved meats, a brocoli dip, crockpot meatballs (ie, mild), an oyster tray or shrimp ring.... A commercial white that needs help as a drink-now. I wouldn't plan it as a meal white... also not cellarable and not recommended.

CONCHA y TORO FRONTERA CHARDONNAY 2006, Central Valley, Chile, 13.0%, D, #371716 $8.15 (Tasted March 24, 2007)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; fresh, clean citrus and melon aromas; dry, medium bodied palate with round, melon flavours and a well-balanced finish. Serve with lemon chicken." The website says "... Fruit forward and delicate with herb notes, tropical fruits and a hint of vanilla. Fresh, balanced and refreshing with a bit of sweetness. Long lasting. A quaffable white wine with distinctive varietal character. This wine is perfect with seafood, especially shellfish, as well as light fare such as pastas and poultry. Serve chilled." My notes: A Chilean screwtop! A light blond and crystal clean in the glass with a delicate aroma of clover honey. Crisp on the palate with flavours of straw, light honey and tart melon, medium-bodied and somewhat round. The straw and roundness carry the finish a short while. I didn't get the 'hint of vanilla' nor the 'tropical fruits'. A sipper looking for an hors d'oeuvre: bacon wrapped scallop pieces, fresh oysters, grilled bearded mussels, skewered chicken pieces, grilled halibut and chip dinner or creamy mushroom pastas. Could be taken for an unoaked chard or even a 'herbaceous' sauvignon blanc - a commercial drink-now and a value as a house white.

Friday, March 16, 2007

More March Reds(6): Italy Blend, France Bordeaux, Chile Cab Sauv, Chile Shiraz, Chile Merlot, Italy Merlot

RUFFINO FONTE AL SOLE TOSCANA 2003, Tuscany, Italy, 13.0% D, #018994 $13.15 (Tasted March 28, 2007)

A General listed wine described as "Medium ruby red; aromas of red & black cherries, subtle oak & ripe plum; medium-bodied, black cherry, currant & plum with light oak shavings. Serve with roast beef and veggies or leg of lamb or moussaka." Gord Stimmell gives it 89/100 saying "... tastes way beyond the pricetag... very seductive. Fonte al sole means “sourced from the sun,” which shows in the aromas of chocolate, earthy vanilla bean and black cherry. On the palate and in the mellow finish, plum, violets, and black cherry dominate. The 15 per cent merlot nicely softens the natural acidity of the 85 per cent sangiovese. My notes: A warm nose of cherry, light raspberry and just a hint of oak - sets an impression not to be fulfilled. A light ruby, medium-bodied, flavours of not fully ripened red cherries, crushed cherry pits and slight tar. The tar and cherry pits carry through to a finish of green stems and a tart dryness. Not a sipper - a red to pair with spicy tomato pasta or pepperoni pizza. Well past its best-before date, not cellarable, not a value.

CHATEAU GLAUDET BORDEAUX 2000, Bordeaux, France, 12.0% XD, CP148-2490 $12.92 (Retasted March 26, 2007)

My notes: Purchased in June, 2003 based on Opimian's description ".... by Australian winemaker Mandy Jones (of Chateau Carsin)... rich, full-bodied, deep in flavour... firm structure and black currant fruit for which she is famous. Cellar for two or three years." Last tasted March 28, 2005 with the comment: 'A sipper if you like dryyy.' Still has a backcurrant and raspberry nose that pours from the bottle along with the deep ruby coloured liquid... a scrumptious first impression! Very bright on the palate with a steely tang edging past the black fruit, a blend of ripe black berries and currants, and medium-bodied. Airing for twenty minutes or decanting mellows out the metallics nicely. The finish is long, dry, carrying with it a fresh, tart berry seam including some cherry pits. A meal wine for sure.... unless 'you like dryyy'. Have with prime rib, bbq'd ribs, steaks of all spices, or gamy meats. Has cellared well and will likely cellar for several years. Has turned out to be a reasonable value.
ERRAZURIZ MAX RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005, Aconcagua Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #335174 $18.20 (Tasted March 21, 2007)

A General listing described as "Dark ruby-red colour; earthy, black olive, cassis, candied fruit, mocha, vanilla and mint nose; dry, full-bodied, well structured, with complex ripe berry fruit flavours and a long finish. Serve with a grilled rare steak, rack of lamb or old cheddar." The winemaker summarizes this vintage as "Ruby red with violet highlights, .. initially sweet on the nose with ripe black and red fruit such as blackberries, cherries and plum, that intermesh with notes of cedar, tobacco, toasted coffee and cocoa powder. It is lively on the palate with a marked attack, becoming rich and sweet in the middle with good structure but without heaviness. It is a complex wine with an impressive fruit concentration... The wine has a sweet, medium to long finish." My notes: Mislabelled on the Vintages website as 'Don Maximiano', the name of the winery's main estate north of Santiago. The three Errazuriz 'Max Reserva' reds are part of this month's tastings, this being a blend of cab sauv (93%), cab franc (6%) and petit verdot (1%). Deep ruby with a violet tone and warm aromas of plums, blackberries and peat merging subtly in the glass. A complex set of flavours from blackberry and plum to mint, tar and portabello with a light nip and fine tannins - no obvious sweetness. The long finish is smooth with noticeable vanilla, tar and ripe brambleberry. A full-bodied sipper rich in dark fruit and oak influences. Have with herbed or mushroom pates, liver and onions, steaks, and rack of lamb. Cellaring for several years should reward with even more exotic spices. A value as a drink-now and for cellaring.

ERRAZURIZ MAX RESERVA SHIRAZ 2004, Aconcagua Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #614750 $18.15 (Tasted March 19, 2007)

A General listing described as "Dark purple in colour; aromas of spice, wood & cigar; full-bodied with flavours of black cherry & spice; tannic finish. Serve with roasted red meats or hard cheeses." The winemakers comments summarize this vintage as "... deep ruby colour... nose [of] red and black ripe fruit interwoven with floral notes like lavender.. along with the subtle spicy Shiraz characteristic notes. The combination of this bouquet with the vanilla and smoky notes rendered by the oak, make this a beautiful wine with great complexity. In the mouth it is elegant, with a firm and balanced structure. Chalky and ripe tannins round out in a juicy long finish. The long aftertaste brings out all the fruit expression of this exceptional Shiraz." My notes: This vintage is a blend of 85% shiraz and 15% cab sauv giving it a deep ruby colour and nose a warm blend of black cherry and black berry albeit faint. Flavours are subdued black fruit and light pepper velvety in texture and full-bodied. A very soft finish leaving a tar touch to a subdued fruit, too mellow to demonstrate a 'tannic finish' although ends with a touch of pepper and a vanilla note. Not aggressive and quite sippable balanced between fruit and process driven complexity. Have with lamb shank, savoury stews, mildly seasoned grilled steaks, or mushroom pastas. Cellar for two years at most. Nice but perhaps 2005 will be closer to the varietal - I'll wait and see.

CONCHA y TORO MARQUES DE CASA CONCHA MERLOT 2004, Rapel Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #939827 $19.95 (Tasted March 18, 2007)

A Vintages release on March 17, 2007 described as "... a potent brew of dark fruit, molasses, peppery spice and Chilean terroir. The plush palate is extremely ripe and forward, as it offers mounds of berries and chocolate. New World at every turn, and what’s wrong with that? 90/100 (Michael Schachner, Wine Enthusiast, Oct. 1 2006)". Their website says: "The grapes are manually harvested during April. The wine is aged for 15 months in new and used French oak barriques, then aged a further 2 months after bottling. The colour is dark and deep red. Bouquet as black as night: dark cherries, dark berries and a lasting smoky, yet rich, black tar. Taste complexity develops out of its firm, quiet, supple core.... On the palate, the wine is velvety and firm with ripe tannins imparting smoothness and balance." Natalie MacLean gives it 90/100 saying "Powerful wine with bold black fruit aromas and chocolate. Big on every count: fruit, alcohol and taste." RP of Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars (of 5) saying "Plush in texture and rich in fruit, this is a big Merlot that shouts its Chilean roots. It delivers real depth of flavour (dark spicy fruit) with layers of complexity, good structure, and nice harmony among the components. There's little point trying to pair this with anything less than a hunk of well-seasoned red meat, grilled medium-rare." My notes: An opaque violet ruby shade with smoky ripe plum, blackberry and soft spice aromas which start full and expand further in the glass. Smooth, blackberry, dark chocolate, slight fig, white pepper and fine tannins makes for slow and thoughtful sipping. The velvet finish is cause to linger over the lasting fruit. A super sipper not unlike the 2003 retasted earlier this month, but with less dryness or tartness. Have with any full flavoured grilled beef. If you like full-bodied 'mellow' buy by the case.... a value for the cellar or to drink now.

VILLA SANDI MERLOT 2004, Veneto, Italy, 12.5% D, #023390 $14.95 (Tasted March 16, 2007)

A Vintages release on March 17, 2007 described as "A distinctively fruity Merlot with aromas that suggest wild berries. It is also pleasantly floral with delicate rose and pepper undertones. This medium-bodied wine is an excellent choice for veal tenderloin." Their website says: "Distinctly fruity recalling wild blackberries. Pleasant flowery note with a delicate nuance of rose and pepper. Dry and zesty. Round and velvety tannins with a warm and pleasant bitter finish. Best with stewed veal with wild mushrooms..etc." My notes: Mid-way between an old and new world merlot with mid ruby colour and nose of light floral berry and white pepper. Light- to medium-bodied with a bright flavour of a mild mix of red cherry and blackberry balanced with fine tannin. The finish starts faintly but lasts awhile with red cherry pits and a dry afterglow. The texture is not deep enough to be velvety. An appropriately priced meal red to pair with tomato pastas, cheesy pizzas or veal scallopini dishes. A commercial drink-now not for cellaring.

Friday, March 02, 2007

March Whites(10): Chile Sauv Blanc, Chile Chard, Italy Verdicchio(2), France Chard, Spain Albarino(3), Italy Blend, Chile Chard

SANTA CAROLINA SAUVIGNON BLANC RESERVA 2006, Rapel Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #337535 $12.20 (Retasted March 20, 2007)

Tasted last December with the comment "..aromas of sweet gooseberries, light-bodied, and a nice tang to go with fruity gooseberries and some nettles. ... clean finish.. not sweet... more of a commercial white. Not a NZ sauvignon blanc for sure." Toronto Life rates it four stars (of 5) saying "Has changed to a New Zealand–inspired direction. A blast of tangerine, grapefruit and passion fruit with a sweaty note. Zesty, crisp, almost tart. Solid. Very good length. ($11.05)" My notes: Keeps increasing in price so it must be selling well. NZ styled but more synthetic than true. The nose has a pond-scum edge to the gooseberry aroma which carries over to the flavours and finish... not pleasant when noticed... the combination of flavour components suggest various citric fruit but nothing distinct. Medium-bodied, texture is round and smooth, acids are firm and drying to the palate. Should be OK with most seafood or a cheddar souffle, and should be OK with white fish dishes, lightly spiced shrimp and crabcakes. Washed out with breaded chicken breast and cold potato salad. Not for cellaring - an economical sipper for unexpected visitors.

CONCHA y TORO MARQUES DE CASA CONCHA CHARDONNAY 2005, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #342857 $19.95 (Tasted March 18, 2007)

A Vintages release on March 17, 2007 described as " 'The Marques de Casa Concha range is always outstanding, and while no reviews for the 2005 Chardonnay were available at press time, the last four vintages have scored 89-91 points from Wine Spectator. ..etc.' Expect juicy tropical fruit, apple, and floral aromas and flavours with a lively seam of acid providing balance and a lengthy finish." The website says: "The grapes are manually harvested in March. The wine is fermented in new and used, medium-toasted French burgundian sur lie for 11 months then aged for a further 4 months after bottling. Colour is light, golden yellow with bouquet of white peach, papaya, mango and hazelnut, with surprising elegance. Medium-bodied, creamy on the palate, a core of peach-papaya accented flavours supported by refined oak. A long finish." My notes: A floral citrus and creamy peach aroma, clean with no yeastiness. A light gold colour and flavours that include citrus and cream, and a long finish with a touch of butter to balance the peach stone and firm acid, no distinct butterscotch but luscious just the same. Was OK with an SOS Teriyaki Sub sandwich... would have been in its element with grilled white fish, shelled seafood or a creamy chicken pasta dish. Will develop more complexity with a few years cellaring but may also compromise the delicate fruit there now. A pleasant drink-now - not a value.

FAZI-BATTAGLIA VERDICCHIO DEI CASTELLI DI JESI 2005, Marche, Italy, 12.0% XD, #024422 $10.15 (Tasted March 13, 2007)

A General listing described as "Pale lemon yellow with green tint, green apple & mineral aroma & taste; slight spritz, light body clean, slightly tart grapefruit finish. Serve chilled as an aperitif or with fresh oysters." My notes: A classic bottle shape with scroll attached - 3 million bottled yearly. The website is under construction at this point (English not available). A pale blond colour with faint aroma of honey and green apple. A brisk tartness precedes flavours of eucalypsis and lime zest - not enough spritz to notice. A medium long finish of bright but tame lime zest, a slight oil and leaving a slight chalk on the palate. This wine went well as a before dinner picker upper, then with varied meals of chicken with tuscan vegetables, telapia stuffed with shrimp and lightly seasoned rice, and, although a stretch, fettucine with shrimp and tenderloin pieces done in a wild mushroom sauce. A drink-now that is welcome anytime a heftier or traditional wine isn't appropriate or just for a change from a pinot grigio or soave. Also a good patio sipper on a warm summer day. Not for cellaring.

CASA FOSCA 'SOTTO LE QUERCE' VERDICCHIO DI MATELICA 2005, Marche, Italy, 13.0% XD, #531723 $12.90 (Tasted March 12, 2007)

A Vintages release on August 5, 2006 described as " 'Sotto le Querce' translates as 'under the oaks', which refers to the location of the vineyard not to oak ageing (there is none). This fresh, ripe Verdicchio is allowed to age seven months in bottle before it is released onto the market. The wine may be enjoyed with grilled prawns, lobster tail or shrimp stir-fry." VH of Winecurrent rates it three and one half stars (of 5) saying "An interesting and lifted nose of quince jelly and apple compote drifts from the glass of this medium-bodied white. The flavour profile offers intense spice box, green apple and a mélange of tropical fruit. The medium length finish is dry and crisp. Would be nicely paired to tzatziky and German pumpernickel." My notes: A light blond colour with no discernible nose. The round texture and balance is the only worthwhile element of the taste - faint flavours are of overripe lime and unripe melon. The finish is dry, with slight oil and no fruit. This last bottle on the local Vintages shelf may have sat without suitable conditions for seven months. At this point: not a sipper, not cellarable, and would add no interest paired with a meal.

PAUL SAPIN CUVEE PRESTIGE BEAUJOLAIS BLANC 2001, Macon, France, 12.0% XD, CP141-2124 $16.33 (Tasted March 9, 2007)

Purchased March 15, 2002 from Opimian based on their description: "This has to be the best value white from anywhere in Burgundy today. The aroma and palate are clearly all Chardonnay with a superb intensity and balanced flavour. A stunning, fruit driven, non-oaked beauty with heaps of ripe fruit. Look for banana, guava and mango and a deliciously creamy length. Drink in year." My notes: Not impressive in the initial years and this last bottle was to see of longer cellaring was appropriate - it wasn't. A strong golden colour with no discernible nose, chardonnay or otherwise. The flavour is buttery with a faint caramel and banana note. The finish is smooth with a delicate acid with no carry over fruit. Have with soft cheeses or delicate grilled seafood or quiche.

AGRO DE BAZAN 'GRANBAZAN' ALBARINO 2004, Rias Baixas, Spain, 12.5% XD, #673152 $14.70 (Tasted March 8, 2007)

A Vintages release on April 1, 2006. The wine type is generally described: "Albariño is gradually emerging on our market as one of the most exciting Spanish white wines. It is one of those perfect spring/summer crisply refreshing wines to sip after a long day or to awaken the palate before a fine meal." The website says "The fine aroma and delicacy of the tears embraces the strength to create the Granbazan Verde, a perfect combination where the personality of the albariño grape is expressed with its classic strength. A medium straw colour, good intensity with a citric touch and an influence of aromas of tropical fruits: green apples, mango and lemon. Its balanced acidity makes it sparkly and very refreshing." My notes: A light golden colour with a delicate nose of crushed seedless grapes. The texture is full, smooth with bright acid and a slight citrus, green apple and melon flavour. The citrus and apple fade quickly leaving some oil on the lips, a muted melon aftertaste with a reasonable tartness. Should be a good but neutral sipper on a hot summer day - one ice cube - add a touch of Sprite or soda for a spritzer. Or have with light entrees, was OK with a breaded chicken breast, snow peas and greens. A drink-now - not for cellaring.

ESENCIA DIVINA ALBARINO 2005, Rias Baixas, Spain, 12.5% XD, #581900 $17.15 (Tasted March 6, 2007)

A Vintages release September 30, 2006 described as "Quite an aromatic nose of hawthorn, guava, peach and mineral. It is dry, fresh/zesty with vibrant fruit around. This solidly-structured wine has a good, persistent finish. This wine would be a fine match for a variety of shellfish, tapas dishes, sushi or even your Thanksgiving dinner. (Vintages panel, April 2006)" RP of Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "I wish the LCBO/Vintages would carry Albariño more consistently, because it's so often a delicious, refreshing wine that complements grilled seafood and fish. This one has attractive soft flavours of white peach and apricot pit, with hints of white pepper. It has good, refreshing acidity that's in great balance with the fruit. This is a very good buy." My notes: A bright golden yellow with a faint aroma of lemondrops, nothing much else is discernible. A bright but not sharp lemon with some 'apricot pit' blending together then following through and fading slowly into a smooth finish. Quite a nice social sipper with enough fruit, perhaps some residual sugar, and balanced acids to cleanse the palate if hors d'oevres - shaved meats, a shrimp ring, brocoli flowers and dip, a tasty pate, or tapas - are handy but somewhat flat as a meal wine. An appropriately priced drink-now rather than for cellaring.

ADEGAS D'ALTAMIRA SELECCION ALBARINO 2004, Rias Baixas, Spain, 12.5% XD, #015032 $18.15 (Tasted March 5, 2007)

A Vintages release January 20, 2007 with the comment: "Rias Baixas is quickly developing a reputation as Spain's best cool-climate winegrowing region. Grapes, such as Albariño, thrive in this environment. A plethora of aromas come to the fore here, including mango, passion fruit, lemon zest and floral tones. Dry and light-bodied, it is beautifully balanced between the fruit and the acid. The finish is quite substantial. Match it to ratatouille or grilled chicken with roasted vegetables. (Vintages panel, May 2006)" My notes: The website is a mystery and so is the nose... first some clover honey and lemon, then honeydew as the light yellow liquid warms slightly in the glass - but hardly a 'plethora'. Each sip is clean and bright with some tang developing on the sides of the mouth and flavours that are also light and well blended. A touch of oil on the lips and the lemon blend fades slowly on a long finish. Should be great with any seafood - the acid partnering well with grilled halibut filets, lobster with butter pots, crabcakes - a meal wine mainly although enjoyable if you like a white that comes close to 'crab apple' sharp... great with grilled arctic char. I'd cellar up to two years for some mellowing rather than drinking now.

ANSELMI SAN VINCENZO 2006, Veneto, Italy, 12.8% XD, #948158 $15.95 (Tasted March 3, 2007)

A Vintages Essentials released on October 14, 2006 and March 3, 2007 described as "Super Fresh! This is a light, fresh wine that will grab your attention as ripe citrus and tropical fruit dance across your palate. It's crisp with a backbone of acidity and a medium finish. A concentrated blend of Garganega, Chardonnay and a little Trebbiano, enjoy with pasta with pesto sauce, or cannelloni stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach." My notes: A honey, lemon and wildflower aroma pops from the cork and flows into the glass. A light yellow with flavours of bright lemon and lanolin - less round or supple, less fruity than previous vintages but full-bodied. The finish is tart and dry and the limited fruit fades quickly and leaving a buttery texture. Not as enticing a sipper as previous vintages and disappointing for an Anselmi - more of a seafood white but nevertheless its fairly unctious. Have with fresh oysters, shrimp skewers, lobster pieces, grilled white fish entrees or Thai and chinese foods. Not recommended as a drink-now.. cellar for at least a year before tasting then possibly another year.... has potential for cellaring.

SANTA ALICIA RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2005, Maipo Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #414474* $10.85 (Tasted March 2, 2007)

A General listing (*delisted) describe as "Pale yellow; tropical fruit, melon, green apple, citrus and toasted oak/vanilla aromas; dry, full bodied, with zingy acidity and fruity citrus flavours and buttery notes; a soft, long finish. Serve with boiled stone crab claws; veal cutlet; lobster and other rich seafood; poultry with a creamy mushroom sauce." The website says "[A] pale yellowish color, with golden tones, brilliant [with an] aroma [that is] complex, ripe fruits such as pineapple and bananas, with honey enhanced by the vanilla and toasted wood character. [The] flavour is concentrated, intense in flavors, full of tropical citric notes and minerals." Gord Stimmell gives it 88/100 saying "A perfect house white to complement an evening with friends. Aromas and flavours hint of pear, vanilla, lime and hazelnuts, with crushed pineapple on the finish. A slight sweetness lingers, with tropical tones. This is really mellow, with not too much oak, and lots of friendly fruit...." My notes: Quite a few cases still remain in Ontario but as of delisting they may be in the back - but read on.... A light yellow colour with a distinctive chardonnay fragrance, pleasingly light. However, the flavour contradicts the nose with an objectionable leesy-ness on top of faint melon, lime and straw notes, not pleasurable. Not a sipper... Decanting removed much of the leesy flavour and paired with Swiss Chalet and fries this chard was OK... but I can't recommend this vintage.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

March Reds (10): USA PNoir, France Merl, Australia CSauv, Australia PNoir, Argentina Blend, Chile Merl(2), Italy Blend, Australia Shir, Canada Blend

TRINCHERO FAMILY PINOT NOIR 2005, Napa Valley, USA, 14.0% D, #025155 $20.95 (Tasted March 16, 2007)

A Vintages release on March 17, 2007 described as "The fruit for this Pinot is sourced from the family's estate vineyard in the San Pablo Bay area. Similar to the nearby Carneros region, the vineyards benefit from the cooling breezes and fog coming in off of the Pacific Ocean. The wine is matured for nine months in French oak, with only 5% new. Fresh and lively, this crisp wine is bursting with tangy cherry and berry flavours. Enjoy with salmon steaks." Their website notes "... winemaker Joe Shirley incorporates extensive seed removal into the cap management process as well as oxidative rackings during the barrel aging period (nine months in mostly used French oak). This allows the tannins to polymerize more fully, creating larger, softer tannins out of smaller, more aggressive and angular ones. It also helps release the aromatic berry character inherent in the grapes... Expect ripe, open flavours on the palate with strawberries, sandalwood, cola and earth. The nose is focused and bright, the texture is soft and generous and the finish is long and complete." My notes: A mid ruby with a rich balance of strawberry, cherry and a light cola in the background, wonderful just to sniff. A velvety introduction on the palate with delicate cherry and strawberry flavours leading to a finish that is supple fruit, a medium length with a slight mineral note. Have with light cheeses, rolled italian meats, dark chocolate coated cherries, cold shrimp or shaved turkey, a grilled salmon filet, crab or lobster. I very much enjoyed sipping this pinot slightly chilled.

ERRAZURIZ MAX RESERVA MERLOT 2004, Aconcagua Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #016170 $18.15 (Tasted March 15, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby in colour; big jammy nose of blackcurrant and hint of oak; medium-body, dry with gripping acidity. Serve with pork tenderloin." Gordon Stimmell gives it a 90/100 saying "A lavish red for special weekend occasions with friends. Big blackberry, jam, cedar, sandalwood and plum aromas stir the senses. The flavours and finish come through full bore, too, with rich, smoky, black cherry, layers of vanilla and cedar, and hints of mocha and chocolate. A very plump, suffuse style." The website says ".... a deep and beautiful ruby red colour. The nose seduces with an intense and ample range of aromas. Ripe red fruits such as cherry and raspberry come forward and are joined by tobacco notes and sweet spicy hues of cinnamon and clove. The bouquet is complemented by warm aromas like vanilla and sweet caramel from the long barrel ageing. This is a mouth-filling wine with round tannins shaping a beautiful sweet structure.... " My notes: A violet hued ruby with aromas of black berry and slight almond, a medium-bodied lip smacking blend of cherry and black berries with an interesting brightness and dry chalkiness in a medium finish. An assertive merlot sipper, lots of fruit with a firm oak influence carried by lots of spice and tannins. Well worth the price as a sip-now or for cellaring up to five years. Paired with pork chops it added a complementary fruit compote - or have with moderately flavoured beef.

CHATEAU PERRIN MERLOT 1998 CUVEE BARRIQUES, Cotes de Castillon, France, 12.0% XD, CP143-2207 $15.58 (Retasted March 12, 2007)

My notes: Cellared in October 2002 having been purchased from Opimian based on their description "... showing refined and soft vanilla flavours, the oak has added tannic characters marrying sympathetically with the hearty fruit that wells up like a wave of succulent blackcurrant. .... made to last and mature." Last tasted in October, 2005, the colour is a mid ruby with delicate aromas of cherry, berry, and vanilla with some warmth pulling it together. A smooth cherry flavour with a brightness and fine tannin which reflects in the finish of soft brambleberry complete with a dry stalkiness. Will get lighter as it ages and the flavours should develop more herbal edges - but it's not close to 'wells up like a wave of succulent blackcurrant'. A meal red for prime rib, lamb or pork tenderloin with savoury gravy. A few more years will kill or cure it.

GRANT BURGE 'CAMERON VALE' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002, South Australia, 14.5% XD, #937276* $19.95 (Retasted March 7, 2007)

The website describes the 2002 as "Deep crimson in colour, with purple hues, and a complex nose of eucalypt, boiled aniseed lollies, mint dark chocolate and vanillin oak. The palate is a fleshy, juicy mixture of dark berry fruits, savoury soy characters, and full fruit tannins integrated with fine grained French oak, and excellent weight and persistence." My notes: A Vintages release in September, 2005 when it was last tasted with the comment "... Nose is a round plum and soft cedar, some spice and faint licorice. Flavours are delayed but burst on the tongue into a sharp edged blackberry, dark chocolate and plum blend with well integrated tannins - lots of fruit and well balanced. Finish is long and drying...". The LCBO *number is no longer listed although there are many other Grant Burge wines. The nose is unchanged with perhaps some berry added to the blend.. the flavours appear promptly with a balanced blend as before with the tannin and acid combining as a somewhat steely edge - tho' there's too much process in the blend imho. This leads to a long finish that is bright on the tongue adding earthy highlights to the fruit carried over. A supercharged aussie cab sauv that needs full flavoured beef or a simmered lamb shank with onions. Cellaring well.

YERING STATION PINOT NOIR 2004, Yarra Valley, Australia, 13.5% D, #020255 $18.95 (Tasted March 6, 2007)

A Vintages release February 17, 2007 described as "Good hue; firm, fresh bright plum and black cherry fruit; still to unfurl its wings; simply needs time. Drink to 2013. Rated 92/100 (James Halliday's Australian Wine Companion 2007)" The Wine Spectator (October, 2006) rates it 85/100 saying "Light and appealing for its pretty currant and dusky spice aromas and flavors. A pleasant drink, though the chalky texture on the finish isn't ideal. Drink now through 2009." My notes: Not too much from the Yering Station website but lots from the wine. A soft strawberry and cherry slowly develops in the glass. The colour is a mid ruby with a medium-bodied flavour of cherry, licorice, light pepper and black tea... appealing for its delicacy. The finish is a light strawberry, somewhat dry and short although builds with each sip into a earthy cherry. Have with light meats: lamb, pork, ham or turkey. Full flavoured grilled ribs was a stretch but still OK. I don't think long term cellaring is right for this Pinot - not enough tannin, acid or fruit... more of a drink-now or try two years cellaring to see where it's going.

FINCA FLICHMAN PAISAJE DE BARRANCAS 2002, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0% XD, #17129 $16.95 (Tasted March 4, 2007)

A Vintages release March 3, 2007 described as "From Flichman Barrancas vineyards, some 700 meters above sea-level comes Paisaje de Barrancas a 75/20/5 blend of syrah/merlot/cabernet sauvignon ... Look for a massive white pepper, licorice/garrigue nose with minty, black berry jam and mocha notes. The entry is fat ripe, rich and dry with good concentration and some tight tannin but balanced. Loads of black olive, black pepper, menthol, chocolate, black berry jam mixes with smoky, meaty flavours. A touch warm and rustic on the finish but has great fruit intensity. Needs 2-4 years of ageing in bottle to reach its potential. 91/100 (Anthony Gismondi/Stuart Tobe, Nov. 13, 2006)" RP of Winecurrent gives it five stars (of 5) saying "This is a super wine at a remarkable price. .... it delivers concentrated and focused flavours of black berries and plums with loads of complexity. Look for pepper and spices, mint and coffee, but you'll track even more as the wine evolves in your glass. It's one of those wines that's kaleidoscopic in its complexity. The tannins are still firm, so it's better held for a year or two... " My notes: A deep magenta ruby with aromas of tobacco, plum, ripe berry and a touch of pepper. The flavours track the nose adding a slight almond and with a fullness that envelops the taste buds. A firm tannin and acid add to the flavours without imposing any one sensation... carries through to a long sombre finish. Very smooth and elegant as a sipper. A good partner for full flavoured roasted ribs, steaks, stews, gorgonzola pastas. Cellaring for several years isn't out of the way with potential for much more. A real bargain short or long term. Buy by the case....

CONCHA y TORO MARQUES DE CASA CONCHA MERLOT 2003, Rapel Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #939827 $18.95 (Retasted March 3, 2007)

My notes: A Vintages release in November 2005 and last tasted in December the same year with the comment "... a background flavour of overripe fruit that spoils this as a sipper for me..." A deep ruby with a violet tinge and aromas of rich, dark berries, chocolate, a touch of pepper and an edge of vanilla. The flavours are smooth with a luscious berry fullness, acid balanced with natural tannins leaving a satin feel of rich berries and currants that envelope the taste buds and fill the throat. There's no 'overripe fruit' in this bottle.... a super sipper full of character and a complex fruit, spice and earthiness mixture that a few years cellaring can only improve. An excellent accompaniment to rare-to-well done beef, a full flavoured lamb shank, even game meats. Now a rare value for many occasions.

CORTE ZOVO 'SA SOLIN' RIPASSO 2003, Veneto, Italy, D 13.5%, #650713 $15.95 (Retasted March 2, 2007)

My notes: Released by Vintages on June 24, 2006 and to be re-released on March 3, 2007. I tasted the 2003 in June, 2006 and commented "The 'seam of tar and licorice' mellows with a few minutes airing adding much interest to plum and cherry flavours. Very smooth. Long finish, full, balanced - very nice sipper and great with anything meaty, grilled or roasted. etc. " The dozen bottles cellared are turning out to be a great bargain... a soft cherry-plum on the nose and a rich, but not full-bodied, bright sweet cherry flavour. The finish is long with the ripasso method giving it good body and mellowness. A polite accompaniment to a meaty meal and went very well with beef tenderloin - smooth, round with the tartness balancing the slight fat of a medium-rare serving. Has cellared well in the short term losing a touch of the 'tar and licorice' seam still leaving textures that make it interesting. A super sipper and better paired with any red meat: beef, lamb, or a red meat pasta, pizza or even roast turkey. Will continue to cellar for another year or two. A good value for sure.

BANROCK STATION SPARKLING SHIRAZ NV, South Australia, 14.0% D, #971507* $14.15 (Tasted March 1, 2007)

A Vintages release on November 11, 2006 (*delisted). RP of the Winecurrent (October 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." My notes: A Hardy Company winery - delisting is a real shame since the only alternative, and preferred, was Riddoch which hasn't been around for awhile. A very light blackberry nose with a medium fine froth that subsides quickly to a steady stream only to be seen at the rim as the colour is such a rich deep ruby. Flavours of red cherry, cranberry, blackberry and soft cedar leave a fruity finish with an acid to balance the fruit nicely and tannin to dry the palate. Sweetness is there but you have to wait for it to barely reveal itself through the dense berries. This would likely cellar well, say two years, but should be tasted regularly 8-) to see where it's going. Somewhat commercial but with a natural balance. A definite change from a blanc brut. Sip anytime or pair with shaved italian meats, herbed pate, stuffed mushroom caps or a platter of mixed cheeses. Good value.

CHATEAU DES CHARMES 'EQUULEUS' PAUL BOSC VINEYARD 2002, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, 13.5% XD, Winery $35.00 (Tasted March 1, 2007)

The website describes this as "a classically styled blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Merlot. Equuleus is only produced in exceptional vintages and is notable for its age worthiness and concentration. Aged for one year in French Tronçais and Allier oak barrels, Equuleus is rich and full bodied with flavours of cassis and dark chocolate. ... Ready to drink now, but will continue to develop in the bottle for 5-10 years. 1,002 cases produced... This wine is an excellent match for any red meat or pasta dish." David Lawrason (November, 2005) says "...It's dense and solid old world style red, a wine meant for long cellaring. Aromatically reserved for now but has complete, complex ripe plummy-berry fruit, even-handed oak, herbs, spices on the nose.... " My notes: A deep red plum colour with a violet tinge and a nose of ripe black cherry and plums, a light fig, soft and rich. Very smooth with a firm seam of acid and tannin accompanied by distinct blend of ripe black cherries and plums. The finish amply coats the palate still smooth with increasing dryness and a waning acid feel. A very pleasing sipper, quietly with some soft cheeses and a book rather than a busy social occasion or have with rare to well-done beef tenderloin, T-bones, full flavoured stews... anything with rich gravy and/or seasoned sauces. Cellaring five to ten years is possible and will further integrate and introduce more mystery. Good value.