Wednesday, April 18, 2007

More April Reds(10): USA Cab Sauv; France Grenache; Chile Blend; Canada Foch, Blend; Australia Blend(2), Pinot Noir, Shiraz(2)

THOMSON WOOLPUNDA RED BLOCK SHIRAZ 2004, South Australia, 14.0% D, #627216 $10.25 (Tasted April 26, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby colour; spicy, pepper, licorice, ripe and lush, with generous aromas of black currant, coffee and toasted oak; dry, full-bodied, with plummy fruit and earth flavours; soft tannins in a rich style. Serve with grilled foods with some spice; chicken; steak." The website claims "... a rich and full-bodied wine displaying plum and blackberry fruit with subtle soft tannins and gentle acidity support the rich fruit. It has an intense colour and has obvious fresh berry fruit aromas with underlying tone of cinnamon spice. The palate is firm and tight ... pleasant drinking [and] will improve over the next 2-3 years with careful cellaring." My notes: A soft berry and cedar aroma with a clear, deep ruby colour. The flavours are well balanced: sweet berry, red cherry and mint or perhaps, cinnamon spice but not prominent. The finish is mild with some earth tones, drying tannin and a polite peppery edge. Medium-bodied and pleasant enough to be a house sipper for general get togethers, not a special occasion. Suitable with a cheese tray of edam to aged cheddars and would be a quaffer with mild meat entrees: pepperoni pizzas, burgers, BLTs - loses its zip with spicier foods. Cellaring is possible but likely isn't worthwhile. Not memorable and the price reflects this - not a value.

MILDARA BLASS BLACK OPAL CABERNET MERLOT 2005, Australia, 13.5% D, #351890 $15.15 (Tasted April 26, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby colour; dark fruit, ripe plum and cherry with toasty oak aromas; dry, medium bodied, with ripe fruit flavours and chocolate notes; soft round tannins in finish. Serve with grilled red meats; cheese dishes; roast beef." The winemaker describes this as "... a deep crimson to purple. The aromas display excellent regional and varietal characters of berry and spice. These scents follow through with rich cherry and plum flavors, a hint of chocolate and a subtle touch of oak. The flavors develop well and finish with a long finely textured mouth feel. The cabernet sauvignon (56%) provides depth and cellaring potential [and] the merlot (44%)... softens the palate... enjoyable to drink immediately." My notes: A mid ruby colour with a light nose of soft oak and red cherries. A brightness on the first sip with nondescript flavours finishing with mostly red cherry pits and leaving a clean mouthfeel and fine tannins. Not a lot to be recommended as a sipper - better as a meal red but very shallow. Not cellarable and not recommended. Skip this brand of varietal blend. Over priced.

RODNEY STRONG CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, Sonoma, USA, 13.8% XD, #226944* $19.95 (Retasted April 25, 2007)

My notes: A Vintages release on December 9, 2006 and last tasted on the 10th. RP of Winecurrent gave it a four and one half (of 5) saying 'has a lot of depth and finesse... hold it two or three years.. ' The website describes the 2003 growing season as 'a classic year for juicy, ripe fruit flavors thanks to an especially nice, warm growing season' and lists the points awarded:
- 90, Editor's Choice, Wine Enthusiast, December 2006
- 90, GOLD - Top 10 under $20, Chicago Value Wine Challenge, World Wine Championships 2006
- Critics GOLD - Critics Challenge International Wine Competition 2006
- 90, SILVER - California State Fair Wine Competition 2006
Still has a deep 'warm cedar and blackcurrant nose'... and, if anything, tangier, mintier flavours and a blackcurrant potpourri that goes on forever. A rewarding sipper and was great wtih rack of lamb with mashed turnip and carrot, roast potatoes and brocoli. The tannins are still well pronounced and with the firm, but palatable, acid this should cellar for many years. *No longer listed - hope this returns to the Vintages shelves some day soon - only a few bottles left now.

JACKSON-TRIGGS PROPRIETORS GRAND RESERVE MERITAGE 2001 VQA, Jordan, Canada, 13.1% XD, #594002 $23.95 (Retasted April 24, 2007)

My notes: Bought February 2004 and last tasted January 2006 with the comment 'Cellaring well and likely can carry a few more years.' This is tasting nicely but may have turned the corner - although it could last two more years (talk about Mr. Dithers!). Full-bodied, having a deep purple ruby colour and the same complex nose of a cedar humidor, purple plums, black cherries and a minty spice. The flavours flow smoothly with a firm acid edge and lots of ripe blackberries, currants, and faint vanilla extract. A long finish coats the mouth with fine tannins, a lively brightness and smooth currant remnants. A very dry, luscious red sipper containing elements of cab sauv (40%), merlot (40%) and cab franc (20%) along with sweet flavourings from French and American oak. Pair with anything meaty: sausage pieces to barbequed long ribs, T-bones to rack of lamb.. or mellowed fruit cake, chocolates... or just sip slowly. Super stuff!

DOMAINE PEIRIERE GRENACHE ROSE 2002, Pays d'Oc, France, 13.0% XD, CP149-2524 $11.67 (Retasted April 23, 2007)

My notes: Last tasted June , 2005 after cellaring December 2003 and based on Opimian's description "This is a stunner, fragrant with perfume of strawberry jam, light in flavour with just the right amount of fruit etc. A 'drink-now'." My comment at the time: 'Colour is bordering on peach and a nose is not now apparent. Light flavours of spice, orange and strawberry, nice light acid balance, light-bodied... Still an OK sipper with a warm moderate finish. Better with salty crackers and cream cheese dip, or pan-fried telapia.' I thought it was long gone and this bottle just retrieved from the cellar is well past its Due Date. No nose, a light texture with minimal flavours of watermelon, and a drying tannin with scarce tartness. Not a sipper and not really a meal wine at this point. Removing the chill marginally improved the texture and the finish. Can't blame anyone but myself on this one. It was a pleasant, but not a 'stunner', drink-now rose in 2003.

BROKENWOOD PINOT NOIR 2005, Beechworth, Australia, 14.0% XD, #020560 $21.95 (Tasted April 22, 2007)

A Vintages release on March 31, 2007 described as "In the Australian Wine Companion 2007, James Halliday gives Brokenwood an overall rating of five of 5 describing it as a 'deservedly fashionable winery producing consistently excellent wine'. This deep-coloured Pinot boasts lifted floral, and fragrant cherry aromas. It’s dry, medium-bodied and smooth with cherry fruit flavours and a lingering finish. Enjoy it with roast duck or quail." My notes: A deep strawberry colour with a violet cast; a faint nose of stewed strawberry, a satin texture that introduces flavours of fleeting strawberry to the palate shifting to a finish of crushed stems and now, more of a blueberry and cherry blend with a fine dryness and soft acid. Not an expected flavour for a Pinot Noir sipper and, I'd imagine, not preferred or enjoyable to most. Pairing with pork tenderloin turned out to be a disappointment, too nondescript. I can't see this cellaring well... making it a drink-now but I'd skip it all together to avoid any conundrum. May be meaningless but no local critic reported a tasting for this wine. Definitely not a value.

PEPPERJACK SHIRAZ 2004, Barossa, Australia, 14.0% XD, #020198 $22.95 (Tasted April 22, 2007)

A Vintages release on April 14, 2007 described as "Good colour; attractive medium-bodied wine; blackberry, plum and a touch of chocolate; good oak and tannins. Rated 93/100 by James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion 2007. Winemaker Nigel Dolan describes this as "... rich red in colour with soft purple hues. Aromas of blackberry and plum are supported by pepper and spice characters on the nose. The rich, round, soft palate shows concentrated berry fruit, complex oak and star anise notes. This wine is intricate and elegant with velvety tannins and great length of flavour." My notes: Released by Saltram Wine Estate, of the Foster's Group, although not included on the Saltram website as their brand. The colours are rich red with a purple hue and there are soft aromas of sweet oak, cherries, chocolate and a smidge of pepper that take time to develop in the glass. Full-bodied, a velvet roundness carrying flavours of rich black fruit, a touch of spice and fine tannins. The flavours carry through to the finish which is long with ripe berries. A dark red sipper... should appeal to anyone not looking for an initial aggressiveness but one that builds. Pair with any mild beef dish, mild cheese tray, pepper pate and garlic toasts, grilled ribs or flavourful stews. Was a polite accompaniment with grilled pork tenderloin. Drinking well now... cellaring for up to two years should be OK but taste regularly to ensure the fruit doesn't disappear.

VINA CARMEN CARMENERE CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVE 2004, Valle del Maipo, Chile, 13.5% D, #439166 $17.15 (Retasted April 19, 2007)

The winery describes the 2004 blend - 60% carmenere, 40% cabernet sauvignon - as "Dark ruby red in colour. A rich and refined wine, with plenty of ripe fruits character and spices. Intense wild black cherry fruit aroma, followed by notes of laurel, clove, mint, pepper, dark chocolate and black olives. Well structured, concentrated and a big length; lovely balanced of jammy and dark ripe fruit along peppery flavours and sweet oak. Fine grained,smooth and velvety tannins. A complex wine with a long finish." My notes: A General listing last tasted September, 2006. Has the same intense purple-ruby colour with a nose of mint changing to pepper combined with black cherries, brambleberry and blackberry. Now has an appealing sharpness on the first swallow followed by flavours of black cherries, dark plum, mint and a tannic touch. Previous tarry notes are subdued allowing red cherries with a few tart cranberries to dominate - finishes firm, dry and long. I didn't get 'jammy', 'clove', 'sweet oak', or 'velvety'. Cellaring for two years may be optimistic as the texture and flavours are thinning, much drier on the palate and without finesse. This bottle was purchased new and shelf storage rather than cellaring may be a factor. An OK sipper with a dry mouthfeel... pairing with broiled red meat or stews would be more appropriate... was great with Texas chili. There are alternatives in the price range so this vintage is not recommended as a new purchase.

MALIVOIRE OLD VINES FOCH 2002 (Canadian Oak), Beamsville, Ontario, 12.5%, #Winery $25.00 (Retasted April 18, 2007)

My notes: First tasted October 2005. The winemaker, Ann Sperling, was at Malivoire when a dozen were purchased from the winery and cellared November, 2003. The colour is still a deep ruby with almost a garnet edge and the nose retains aromas of subdued soft cedar, slight vanilla and a background of blackberries. Medium- to full-bodied with flavours of stewed black cherries, a touch of licorice and well integrated soft tannins and acid. A velvety sipper now with less of an acetic zip, soft and mellow and tame compared to an Oz cab or shiraz. The finish is long ladened with soft subdued black fruit. There's still a foch edge but you have too look for it. Have with mild meat dishes: prime rib, calves liver and onions, veal scallopini, or even chicken livers on rice. Cellaring has been worth the wait (but you gotta tolerate Foch).... will likely cellar a few more years.

DEAKIN ESTATE ROSE 2005, Victoria, Australia, 14.0% D, #613992 $11.25* (Tasted April 17, 2007)

A General listing described as "Candy apple red; nose of raspberry, cranberry & underlying almond; medium-bodied with lots of strawberry on the palate. Serve with grilled sausage or Nicoise salad." The winemaker, Phil Spillman, says "... juice was limited to only one half-day of skin contact and then it was drained, clarified and fermented as a white wine. Different batches of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were produced to allow for the best blend... A radiant light red; fragrant with fresh raspberries, blueberries and ripe watermelon. Soft and round, a mouth-full of strawberries and cream, and there is just a dusting of residual sweetness... Enjoy while young, over a year or two. [serve with] paella or risotto. My notes: On sale for $9* and to complete my tasting of Deakin wines available locally. Not a lot of raspberry but some 'underlying almond' that comes across as a slight pond scum, which airing tends to alleviate, mixed with a light red cherry. A brilliant reddish colour with flavours of cherry, tart cranberry and watermelon. Finishes with watermelon and cherry fading quickly with some sugar showing then ending with a dry mouthfeel, no roundness. To me, an unusual blend for sipping and difficult to pair with many entrees - was too mild for roasted Atlantic salmon filet. A possible 'party' drink (but not my party), not for cellaring, not recommended. PS. Still 'unusual' but quite sippable on the second day open.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

April Reds(12): S Africa Blend; Australia Cab Sauv(2), Merlot, Shiraz(4); Chile Carmen; France Syrah; USA Cab Sauv; Argentina Pin Noir

DEAKIN ESTATE SHIRAZ 2004, Victoria, Australia, 14.0% D, #560821 $12.15 (Tasted April 16, 2007)

A General listing described as "glums, cassis, sweet preserves, bell pepper and spice on the nose with a hint of licorice; dry, medium to full bodied, nicely balanced acidity, with lush, ripe cassis, wood spice, bell pepper and spice on the palate; warm, supple finish. Serve with rack of lamb; Spanish paella; spicy Italian sausage with grilled zucchini." The winemaker (Phil Spillman) says "Medium-deep red with nose of spicy fruitcake and raisin aromas are at the forefront and there are also plum, cinnamon and chocolate notes. A rich palate with dark berry fruits and fine tannins. Well balanced." My notes: Made from 100% Shiraz grapes the nose takes time to come and is a sweet plum with some white pepper and smoke. The colour is deep ruby with a violet tone and bright flavours of raspberry, cassis, mint all remaining as a well balanced blend and a dry, soft spicy finish. A natural shiraz with fermentation adding some complexities and complementary flavourings. Not as luscious and not a full berry flavour as pricier shirazes but for an entry level this offers a lot of value. Have with any red meat, mild, savoury or spicy. Cellaring a year may be a pleasant surprise but primarily a drink-now. Very nice!

R.L. BULLER & SON LIMITED RELEASE RUTHERGLEN SHIRAZ 2004, Victoria, Australia, 16.5% XD, #014506 $24.95 (Tasted April 15, 2007)

A Vintages release February 17, 2007 described as "This family winery has been in operation for more than 80 years in northeast Victoria. This Shiraz is packed with ripe blackberry and strawberry fruit flavours, as well as notes of licorice and a savoury edge. Dry with a medium full-body and supple tannins, enjoy it over the next three years with lamb or pork roast." Andrew Buller, winemaker, says "Deep crimson. Aromas of ripe plums and toasted oak. Rich and smooth mouthfeel with flavours of black cherry and hints of dark chocolate. Drying tannins overtake the fruit flavours briefly and fade to a finish redolent of the plummy aroma." My notes: A deep warm tone of spicy plums and soft oak aromas and a full deep ruby colour in the glass. Dry tannins, tasty black fruit and sharp edged black pepper fill the taste buds then finish with lengthy dry, white pepper and soft plums. This is a suitable companion to any beef entree. A sipper for those liking a medium- to full-bodied spicy red - the alcohol level can be factor altho' it's not apparent in a tasting. Should age for several years, two to four to start. A reasonable value and cellaring should bring out deep complexities returning a great red.

GOATS DO ROAM ROSE 2006, South Africa, 13.5% D, #655225 $13.15 (Tasted April 13, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 16, 2006 described as "All hail the new vintage! If you're looking for a fresh rosé, this newly-arrived 2006 is about as fresh as you can get! A blend of Shiraz, Pinotage, Cinsaut, Grenache, Gamay and Merlot grapes, ready yourself for a full-flavoured dry rosé bursting with summer berries, ripe red fruit, and spice." Comments from the Fairview Wines website "A deep vibrant pink with an aroma of ripe summer berries, and red fruits. Lovely character. The Palate is zesty ripe fruit, with a clean, crisp dry finish. The wine is super now. Enjoy over the next year or two." My notes: A deep rose colour with a candy cane nose, mostly red cherry and a bit of mint. A blended rather than fermented rose, likely for a North American market with a hardly noticeable sweetness. Flavours of red cherry, raspberry and light cranberry, a tinge of pepper and a long finish that's stays fresh and fruity fading to a clean pepper tinge. Held its own with Swiss Chalet chicken, should do well with a salmon steak spread with tartar sauce and broiled, Thai or Chinese. Not for long term cellaring but for reasonable sipping edging to finger foods that are slightly tangy or sweet/sour. A 'pop' wine and an OK value for a sociable sipper.

DEAKIN ESTATE MERLOT 2004, Victoria, Australia, 13.5% D, #577395 $12.15 (Tasted April 13, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby red; sweet vanilla, plum and black cherry aromas; dry, medium-full bodied, soft fruit driven style, lush finish. Serve with roast turkey or duck." The winemaker (Phil Spillman) says "Medium red, coffee and wet forest floor aromas with blackcurrant and cinnamon. These are wild and complex aromas and a precise description is elusive. Mature berry-fruit flavours with coffee and sweet pastry nuances." My notes: An entry level brand from the Wingara Wine Group and comparable with 'Yellow Tail' although Deakin specifies they use 100% merlot grapes. Slightly spicier with a black currant, blackberry tone and a mid ruby colour. Flavours develop nicely on the palate finishing smoothly with some depth and a subtle fruit sugar edge. A sociable sipper and suitable for a range of beef dishes: prime rib, flavoured stews, a ham steak or pork tenderloin - started showing some sweet fruit with a Steak and Cheese Sub with jalepenos. Not for cellaring, a value drink-now for an open house or family get together. I even enjoyed it as an evening sipper...

KATNOOK “FOUNDER'S BLOCK” COONAWARRA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004, Coonawara, Australia, 14.0% D, #620070 $18.15 (Tasted April 9, 2007)

The winemaker says of the 2004 "Dark plum with purple tinges. A nose of appealing.. dark berries and classic regional blackcurrant and mint notes. Seductive vanillin and chocolatey oak tones. The palate is a medium bodied wine with juicy fruit flavours of ripe dark berries. Hints of plum, ripe cherries and mint are harmoniously integrated with subtle sweet oak... and has an extended savoury finish with fine soft tannins." My notes: Now on the General shelves, the 2002 vintage was release by Vintages as #660332 in 2005 at the same price (before deposit). 'Founder's Block' is from the Wingara Wine Group, part of Freixenet, which also offers brands: Katnook Estates, Riddoch, Deakin and their newest, 'CrackerJack'. The winemaker's description of the 2004 vintage is close... I'd add there's some noticeable tannic dryness in the taste and finish - otherwise the dark berry and currant fruit, mint and full-bodied texture holds true. Not as unctious as the 2002 but a few years cellaring will iron out the tannins and it'll have close to the depth and smoothness of the 2002. Sip now or have with rare beef or full flavoured stews, burgers, pepperoni pizzas. Cellaring for five to eight years would be suitable. A value Cab Sauv.

KATNOOK “FOUNDER'S BLOCK” COONAWARRA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002, Coonawara, Australia, 13.5% XD, #660332 $17.95 (Retasted April 9, 2007)

My notes: Last tasted on the day of the Vintages release (October 29, 2005) and noted as "... A deep purple-red, dense with rich aromas of berries, vanilla, and light peppery spices. Flavour is full, smooth, with ripe berries, plums and dark chocolate. The finish is equally stunning; soft, round on the tongue and full of blackberries. Should pair with any braised ribs, grilled steaks, full-flavoured stews, etc. A value Cabernet Sauvignon, now or for cellaring." An aroma of ripe blackberries and plums softened with smooth oak tones is still prominent. The flavour is full, smooth, with ripe berries, a touch of black currant and deep dark chocolate brightened with a bit of mint and natural berry tartness. The finish carries long with a good balance of fine tannin and bright acid. This has cellared well and should continue for another four to six years. With Riddoch, seldom available, being another of our favourites, Wingara wines have been a dependable value.

CASA SILVA CARMENÈRE RESERVA 2005, Colchagua Valley, Chile, 14.0% XD, #024679 $14.95 (Tasted April 6, 2007)

A Vintages release on March 31, 2007 described as "... With every vintage [Casa Silva] seem to raise the bar. This ultra-ripe Carmenère is a blockbuster with loads of blackberry, prune, graphite, leather, and spice aromas. It is dry with rich fruit tones surrounded by intriguing herbal notes and fine tannins which add complexity and intrigue." Natalie MacLean gives it 89/100 and calls the 'Best Value Red Wine' saying "Stunning value/taste for the money. Full-bodied with dark plum and mint aromas. Lovely long finish. Pair with: meat dishes." RP of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "Carmenère is a late-ripener, and the search is on for the best sites in Chile. Casa Silva has obviously located one, as this Carmenère shows all the ripeness you want. It's fairly fat and plump, with intense flavours of dark fruit and berries with rich spiciness. This is really good value for a wine that will pair well with well-seasoned grilled red meat dishes." My notes: A deep ruby colour and distinct nose of white cherries and distant blueberries. The flavours are a cross between sour cherry and peppery blueberry - somewhat odd and certainly different. The finish is dry, long carrying the touch of flavours with a seam of light acid and graphite dryness. Cellaring for a few years should bring out a smoothness to complement the fruit increasing its depth but not complexity. An OK drink-now, not a sipper* unless you like dry and unusual. Pair with rack of lamb, pork chops with mushrooms simmered in basalmic, crockpot stews, and steak and kidney pies. *Letting air or decanting makes this a smoother sipper.... it's OK!

LURTON DOMAINE DES SALICES SYRAH 2004, Midi, France, 13.0% D, #926287 $14.95 (Tasted April 6, 2007)

A Vintages release March 31, 2007 described as "..., this Syrah is rich, ripe and very fruity. Aged for 11 months in oak barrels, the wine shows superb a balance between the oak and fruit. Enjoy this delicious quaffer with grilled steaks, hamburgers, pasta with meat sauce or gourmet sausages." My notes: Recommended by the vintages staff. A soft cedar and cherry nose: a deep ruby colour. Almost medium-bodied, flavours of bright red cherry with well balanced acid that wakes the taste buds and a firm tannin. The finish is clean, cherry and faint white pepper with some crush cherry pits leaving a dry mouthfeel. Not a sipper - a meal wine for anything light, beefy, wild mushroomy: prime rib to portabello burgers. A commercial drink-now, not for cellaring, ie. a 'table wine'.

GEYSER PEAK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, Sonoma, USA, 13.5% XD, #343467 $21.95 (Tasted April 6, 2007)

A Vintages release on March 31, 2007 described as "This pioneering winery situated on 220 acres of estate vineyards in Sonoma's Alexander Valley celebrated its 125th Anniversary in 2005. Expect this oaked, ready-to-drink, full-bodied Cab to be brimming with ripe cherry and sweet oak flavours with a generous mouthfeel... " RP of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "... concentrated dark, sweet fruit flavours that have plenty of complexity. The texture is generous, it's full bodied, and it goes well with burgers featuring meat or Portobello mushrooms, or with grilled red meats." My notes: Comes in half bottles, #675850 @ $12.95. The website doesn't list the 2003 vintage. An aged leather aroma with some plum and dark chocolate. A sultry ruby colour, medium-bodied, sweet cherry, mint, touch of blackberry with a long dry finish that carries an equal blend of blackberry and mint. A dry sipper for cab sauv drinkers, otherwise a very suitable companion with prime rib, T-bones, seared and roasted back ribs, beefy sideribs or all-beef burgers - could be a quaffer. It's a rewarding drink-now and has great potential if cellared at least two years to bring out even more complexity.

ALFREDO ROCA PINOT NOIR 2005, San Rafael, Argentina, 13.0% D, #032979 $13.95 (Tasted April 4, 2007)

A Vintages release on March 31, 2007 described as "... this is an unbelievable value. This dry, light-bodied Pinot has lovely cherry, cola and earth notes. It is a delicious every-day red to enjoy with chicken or fish dishes." The label says "100% Pinot Noir shows deep crimson colour, rich black cherry aroma with a hint of rose and a slight touch of oak. .. full-bodied... fresh with a ripe plum note." Natalie MacLean gives it 88/100 saying "Aromas of jammy-ripe fruit. Medium-bodied and easy-drinking. Terrific price! Pair with: chicken, salmon." RP of Winecurrent gives it four (of 5) saying "Serve this to me blind, and I wouldn't have thought it was a Pinot Noir... But forget the variety and you have a really attractive big red, with dense fruit flavours and notes of tar, smoke, and chocolate.... go for a hearty dish like coq au vin or boeuf bourguignon." My notes: Pinot Noir is a varietal listed only for the Alfredo Roca Reserva label and, since the tastings show some controversy, perhaps the grapes used are those not qualifying for the Reserva label? A deep ruby with a 'grenache' hue and equal parts aromatic raspberry, strawberry and smoke easily noticed once the cork is pulled. Let breathe for at least twenty minutes in the glass. Medium-bodied with long legs on the glass and a bright sumptious texture with mild tobacco and earth flavourings hiding the dark berry. The finish is a firm smoky berry with a dry texture and slight acid. Not a sipper, have with roast turkey, rack of lamb, or veal osso buco... but not chicken or fish. A 'process' driven Pinot.... I didn't care for it.

DEEN DE BORTOLI VAT 8 SHIRAZ 2004, New South Wales, Australia, 13.5% D, #621649 $15.20 (Retasted April 2, 2007)

A General listing and LCBO Staff pick this week. The label says "This generously flavoured Shiraz displays concentrated ripe berry and black fruit characters with firm tannins softened and balanced for twelve months in oak." My notes: Last tasted March 2006 with the comment '... a soft spicy nose with bright black fruit flavours carrying into a smooth lip-smacking finish with some spice left over... a house staple..'. A new label for the same vintage at about the same price and similar flavours but not as smooth and with more peppery spice in the flavour. The finish has a dry, distinct tar finish. A vivid ruby colour, full-bodied and gutsier overall from the previous tasting. An LCBO staff pick but not mine. This followon inventory doesn't match the earlier product in sippability - should be okay with pizzas or burgers. For my taste, not a value.

SCHOLZ VINTNERS 'THE WILLOWS' SHIRAZ 2002, Barossa, Australia, 14.5% XD, #015826 $32.95 (Tasted April 1, 2007)

A Vintages release on March 17, 2007 described as "The 2002 Shiraz (from 70-year-old vines) is a big, explosively rich effort offering an inky/ruby/purple color, loads of charcoal-infused cassis flavors, lush, concentrated opulence, abundant fruit, and surprisingly moderate alcohol for such a flavorful, rich Barossa Shiraz. It should drink well for a decade. 93/100 (Robert Parker Jr. , October 2005)" The label says "Peter and Michael Scholz selected premium fruit from best Shiraz blocks... using American oak .. to enhance ..spicy cinnamon hints. .... full of flavour... definitely not shy. .." My notes: Quickly sold out in my area but I was able to pick one up in Clarkson for tasting. An inky ruby with a purple hue and has a soft nose of black cherry and smoky rosewood, bright without bite. A wonderful lush texture on the first sip and loads of fully ripened black fruit with a polite edge so that it flows over and around the taste buds. Finishes smooth, dry with slight licorice, a touch of pepper. Very sippable with a forward richness yet not aggressive - there's a need to pause with each sip, easily quaffable but that would be a shame. Plan for a special meal: lamb shanks in a savoury sauce, a pepper steak, ribs simmered until the meat falls freely, rare beef tenderloin, beef bourguignon, a starter of french onion soup. Cellaring isn't needed unless you had a chance to stock up... then I envy you.

April Whites(12): Italy Muscat, Prosec; France Viog, P Grig; Canada Chard Musq, P Gris; NZ Sauv Bl(2); Australia Chard, Ries, P Grig, Sauv Bl

TIEFENBRUNNER PINOT GRIGIO 2004, Alto Adige, Italy, 13.0% D, #954024 $16.95 (Tasted April 18, 2007)

A Vintages release April 29, 2006 and included in their April 14, 2007 release described as "Tiefenbrunner is rightly considered one of the finest producers in the Alto Adige... The classic, for the region, 2004 vintage delivers the bright crisp fruitiness one expects from quality Northern Italian Pinot Grigio. Enjoy as a palate refresher before a meal or with simple fish or pasta dishes." The website says "Light yellow to sandy-coloured in appearance, with an unobtrusive bouquet, and hints of pear and candied fruit. The strong harmonious structure emphasizes its dry full bodied taste and round finish." RP of Winecurrent gave it four (of 5) saying "... delivers quite rich and concentrated flavours of white peach and apricot pit, with notes of warm spice. It has a texture of edgy crispness and finishes with a slight, clean bitter note. Sip it as an aperitif or pair it with spicy seafood... " My notes: 100% Pinot Grigio grapes gives it a light golden blond colour with a delicate aroma of clover honey and just discernible pear. Fully round on the palate with peach stone, a mild spice, a nudge of sweetness and an afterglow on the finish lengthening with each sip. Have with lobster pieces, grilled fish or sliced chicken breast, mild cheeses, or a grilled cheese sandwich. Should be able to cellar this for a few years. A bargain for a delicately flavoured pinot grigio.

DEAKIN ESTATE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2006, Victoria, Australia, 12.0% D, #560839 $11.15 (Tasted April 16, 2007)

A General listing described as "Pale straw yellow; grassy, citrus, grapefruit and gooseberry nose; dry, light bodieid, zesty on the palate with grapefruit nuances; clean finish. Serve with oysters; chevre; herbed chicken; salads." Winemaker Phil Spillman says "We watch our Sauvignon fruit like a hawk as it ripens because picking decisions make this wine. I love being right on the edge of herbaceous, just moving in to sub-tropical. It’s a brilliant, fresh and pungent place to be... A very pale straw with a fresh lime green tinge. Herbaceous with fresh rocket and coriander leaf and with lime and kiwifruit aromas. A palate that's delicious, savoury and fruity with lemongrass, lime, feijoa and kiwifruit. Light bodied and zingy." My notes: A soft aroma of honey, grapefruit and faint straw with a colour that's light blond and light-bodied with distinct flavours of gooseberry, soft lemon-lime and light cream. Finishes dry with a slowly waning lemon brightness. A social sipper for many occasions - not a strong NZ nor a dry european sauvignon blanc, just a pleasant inbetween. Was OK with left over bbq'd chicken pieces and would be better with grilled white fish entrees. Not for cellaring, a drink-now and a good value as a house SB.

TINHORN CREEK PINOT GRIS 2005 VQA, Okanagan Valley, BC, 13.7% D, #530683 $18.95 (Tasted April 14, 2007)

A Vintages release April 14, 2007 described as "This is one of the winery's major whites. The wine has a full, almost creamy, texture, reflecting the fact that 20% of the blend was fermented on neutral barrels and left on the lees for six months (the other 80% was fermented in stainless steel). There is a ton of fruit on the flavour – ripe apples, pears, mangos. The finish is dry. 88/100 (John Schreiner, April 21, 2006)." Beppi Crosariol (April 14, 2007) says "... a light to medium-bodied white that's delectable, ripe and round, with an almost-sweet, pear-like fruit core, soft, creamy texture and clean finish. The back label suggests shellfish and sushi, but it would also be a fine aperitif and could complement lots of fin fish and delicate meats, such as veal sweetbreads or chicken in cream sauce." My notes: A light clover honey colour and aroma, full and creamy texture with delicate flavours of bosc pears, ripe melon, and a moderate tartness - not spicy. The finish leaves a delicate cream and melon feel then fades quickly. Went OK with a cold sliced turkey on wheat Sub and is a pleasant sipper. Nothing exceptional however as either a sipper or meal white. If an 88 is mediocrity this is an 88. Not a value.

COL DE' SALICI PROSECCO SPUMANTE EXTRA DRY VSAQ, Veneto, Italy, 11.5% XD, #030882 $16.95 (Tasted April 14, 2007)

A Vintages release April 14, 2007 described as "Unlike the French designation of extra dry (slightly sweet), extra dry here means exactly that – arid dry! Lemony and tart apple flavors finish with sharp acidity and a dry, dry finish. Very sophisticated in its delivery, this is the ultimate beverage to pair with hamachi nigiri sushi. (Lyle Fujioka, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Sept. 18, 2002)" The website says "Wine produced from Prosecco grapes grown in vineyards on the Treviso hillsides. An extra dry aromatic spumante with a fine and lingering perlage and an intense and lively mousse." My notes: Extra dry but not as severe as Freixenet or a Cava Brut, a slight golden hue with a burst of large bubbles settling quickly to a casual stream - can't expect more than a soft mousseux here - +a nice 'tingle' tho'. The nose has no pronounced birthday cake aroma associated with Prosecco, rather it's just perceptible. The flavours are also delicate apple and faint grapefruit, delicate allowing the fine tartness to cleanse and quench the palate. The finish is a short apple with a smidge of cream. A thirst quencher for a hot summer day or with fresh oysters, crab and lobster pieces, asparagus salad, or sushi. Cellaring for two to four years would possibly add some smoother complexity but it's drinking well now. A bargain breakfast meeting bubbly - or as a start to any festivity.

DEAKIN ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2005, Victoria, Australia, 14.0% D, #588418 $11.15 (Tasted April 11, 2007)

A General listing described as "Yellow gold colour; gentle creamy/vanilla custard, citrus, banana and stewed apple aromas and flavours; some smokey notes; dry, medium bodied, well integrated toasty/nutty, pineapple fruit, spice with candied notes on the finish. Serve with Pork loin roast served with garlic mash, seafood dishes, chicken with apricot stuffing, or stuffed pork tenderloin." The winemaker (Phil Spillman) says "Pale straw yellow. Fresh peach, nectarine and pineapple aromas lift easily from the glass and there is a nice supporting cast of characters adding creaminess and spice. Rich and full flavoured with a fruit-salad palate, medium bodied and delicious, this wine fills the mouth with impressions of peach, banana, cream and pie crust." Both the Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast give it 85/100 (August, 2006). My notes: An entry level 'Wingara Group' wine, a light gold colour in the glass with an aroma, with a stretch and letting air for at least twenty minutes, of faint pineapple and 'vanilla custard'. Has a creamy smoothness with light flavours of citrus and butternut. The finish is firm with medium length carrying mostly the citrus tang and some nuttiness. Not objectionable as a sipper but there is an indistinct fruit/varietal flavour and finish that makes it average - but still a good price point. Have with light seafoods, mild cheeses or mild meats with stewed fruit sauces, ie. pork with apple sauce, turkey with cranberry. A drink-now, not for cellaring, and an 85 (if I were counting).

GRAVITAS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% XD, #020727 $20.95 (Tasted April 9, 2007)

A Vintages release March 17, 2007 described as "Flinty, fumé-style scents add interest to the aromas, which also include bright, citrusy elements. It's plump and custardy-leesy in the mouth, then turns tart and racy on the finish, ending with strong lime overtones. Rated 89/100 by Wine Enthusiast, May 1, 2006." The website says "One of the most concentrated Sauvignon Blancs from NZ with one of the longest “finishes” of any wine from this country – a set of tastes and aromas that continues evenly and with a long duration. Bouquet evolves over time from predominantly gooseberries to citrus/grapefruit. Our vineyards particular terroir also gives us a slight mineral note that is unusual for Marlborough. Suggestion of oak (but none used – this perception comes from keeping the wine on lees for several months)... our Sauvignon Blancs are dry ensuring that they match food." My notes: An aroma that's a cross between fresh peas and gooseberries with lighter fruit than a NZ style sauvignon blanc - the fruit doesn't demand attention. The flavour is a balance between acid, fruit and herbaceousness providing a good accompaniment for a meal. I didn't get a 'lees' creaminess. A long mineral finish ending 'tart and racy' for sure. Very suitable when paired with breaded and grilled telapia and has enough acid to cut across battered halibut with chips appropriately salted, vinegared or ketchup'd. Not likely to cellar well since any loss of fruit would bring out more of its 'flinty' side. A different SB - not a social sipper and I wouldn't invest in it.

PETALO IL VINO DELL'AMORE MOSCATO BOTTEGA, Veneto, Italy, 6.5% SC10 #588780 $12.90 (Retasted April 7, 2007)

A General listing and last tasted November, 2006. My notes: A full floral nose of soft yeast, apple juice, apple blossoms and a full effervescence buoyed by its sweetness level but subsiding quickly to a fine rim. The fruit acids are nicely balanced by the residual sugar giving an overall texture that is full and soft -delicate. Flavours of gala apples, a touch of pear, medium-bodied with a long finish of a succulent fruit. With low acid and alcohol it's an alluring quaffer... a light after dinner drink accompanied by chocolate fingers or to add interest over fresh fruit slices. An interesting change from a brut ... and economical.

LURTON DOMAINE DES SALICES VIOGNIER 2005, Midi, France, 13.0% D, #487272 $13.95 (Tasted April 7, 2007)

A Vintages release on March 31, 2007 described as "Over the past decade, Viognier has shown remarkable success in the vineyards of Languedoc-Roussillon (a.k.a., Midi). ... Enjoy this fruity, low acid, aromatic wonder with lightly spiced seafood dishes, turkey breast or grilled salmon." RP of Winecurrent gives it four (of 5) saying "This is a very attractive Viognier at an excellent price. It has a quite fat texture and solid fruit throughout: apricot, light peach and soft spices. It has good heft, so pour it with spicy chicken or pork dishes." My notes: A pale golden with aromas of lemon and faint honey... flavours include a soft lemon, faint pineapple or perhaps banana tinge and a smooth glycerine texture. Finishes long with a light citrus tang ending with oil on the lips and mostly crushed stems. Nothing exceptional and it's only a marginal fruit-neutral sipper if served well chilled. Pair with grilled seafoods, sliced chicken breast (cold or hot), an asparagus salad with light dressing. A drink-now, not cellarable, a commercial white and not a value.

FIELDING ESTATE CHARDONNAY MUSQUE 2006, Niagara, Canada, 12.7% D, #037879 $15.95 (Tasted April 3, 2007)

A Vintages release on March 31, 2007 described as "... bursting with youthful aromas of sweet apple, cinnamon, melon, peaches and cream as well as perfumed floral notes. Dry, medium bodied, it's fresh and youthful with the apple and melon flavours replaying nicely. Delicious and refreshing. (VINTAGES panel, Feb. 2007). Natalie MacLean gives it 89/100 saying "Lovely orange peel aromas with exotic floral notes. Pair with: shellfish, seafood, salads." RP of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "This is a vineyard-designated (Wismer Vineyards) beauty that's just delicious. It's packed with luscious fruit flavours like ultra-ripe peach, apricot, and melon, enhanced by sweet spices and rich floral aromas. The acidity reins in the pungency perfectly, making this an opulent but refreshing mouthful. It's perfect as an aperitif or to accompany spicy Thai dishes." My notes: The 2004 was tasted from the winery in August 2005 with the comment 'Good value for a summer patio sipper.' Now $2 more and an OK value for an off-dry (SC2) unoaked chard. A pale blond with muscat-like aromas now with a citrus zest edge, a fresh mouthfeel with flavours of grapefruit and sweet apple. Full and round with an acid seam giving it liveliness through a long finish. The sweetness shouldn't interfere with most seafood dishes. Better suited to sushi or Thai - maybe even chicken souvlaki on rice with tsatsiki sauce. A drink-now as a well chilled aperitif or through the summer months on the patio.

KIM CRAWFORD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2006, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% XD, #035386 $19.95 (Tasted April 2, 2007)

A Vintages release on March 31, 2007 described as "Concentrated and complex, with vivid passion fruit, grapefruit and tangy peach flavors. Vibrant minerality and tangy lime juice acidity keep thumping through the finish.. 92/100 (Daniel Sogg, Dec. 15, 2006)." Natalie MacLean gives it 90/100 and calls the 'Best Value White Wine' saying "I recommend this wine year after year: it has a real following. Vibrant, mouth-watering aromas of lime and grapefruit. Its herbal character makes it a refreshing summer wine. It's bottled with a screwcap, which is an extra bonus. Pair with: ham, salads, vegetarian dishes." Kim Crawford notes: "... cut grass and tropical fruits are dominant on the nose. .. flavours of passionfruit, gooseberry and subtle herbaceousness. The wine is mouthfilling with good texture and finishes well with cleansing acidity and great length... drink now and, with careful cellaring, will last up to five years." Took the Gold Medal at the Royal New Zealand Show for International Aromatic Wine Competition 2006. My notes: Very aromatic with oodles of passionfruit and soft nettles. Full-bodied with flavours that initially are rounded tropical fruit with a slight grapefruit and coconut twist. The finish is long with bright fruit slowly waning to a lower tartness than I remember for past vintages and a slight dryness on the lips. It's a wonderful fruity sipper... or have with any seafood: grilled or battered halibut and chips, bbq'd shrimp skewers, lobster pieces, crab cakes. Was great with a shrimp pasta. Cellaring for a year has been OK for previous vintages.... I wouldn't plan longer than two.

NINTH ISLAND PINOT GRIGIO 2006, Tasmania, Australia, 13.8% D, #683193 $20.95 (Tasted April 2, 2007)

A Vintages release March 31, 2007 described as "... Pinot Grigio thrives in the cool climate of northern Tasmania. This fresh and fruity wine is an excellent match for steamed mussels or lemon risotto. The aromas suggest pear, exotic fruits and musk. It is a dry, richly textured, food-friendly wine." RP of Winecurrent rates it four and one half (of 5) saying "Dry with excellent tangy fruit, including white peach, apricot pit, sweet pear and hints of tropical fruit. A brisk seam of acidity keeps everything in line and makes this perfect for lightly-spiced Thai dishes." My notes: I'm beginning to look for 'Ninth Island' wines... good consistency seems to be their thing. One of four brands from Kreglinger Wine Estates, the 2005 vintage was tasted last May with the comment 'Even at $20 a good value..' Now a dollar higher the 2006 is still a good value. An aromatic nose of passionfruit and pears, a clear light blond with a very slight peach tint. Medium-bodied with a satiny texture and flavours of bosc pear, snow apple and a hint of ginger. The finish is long, round with sweet pear ending on the tip of the tongue. Very sippable. Have with asian sweet and sour dishes - lots of rice, or fresh oysters, even mushroom risotto. Cellaring should be OK for a few years - try after two to see where it's going.

WOLF BLASS YELLOW LABEL RIESLING 2006, South Australia, 12.5% D, #505370 $15.15 (Tasted April 1, 2007)

A General listing described as "Medium yellow-green colour; peachy, lemon/lime aromas with light floral and stone fruit notes; dry, medium bodied; with crisp/zesty acidity, citrus fruit and light peach flavours. Serve with poached fish; white meats; creamy pastas; Asian cuisine; light shellfish." My notes: Not sure if this is the Rhine Riesling listed but it is a Rhine-type riesling regardless. A pale blond and with a traditional petrol nose, a light spice and aromas of honey and lemon blossom. Medium-bodied, with flavours that include a lemon-lime blend and a very slight sweet peach. The finish is bright, long and carrying the citrus and a hint of oil to the end. Was very suitable with grilled halibut and chips - a commercial drink-now likely blended for the North American market although the website doesn't show a Yellow Label Riesling for this region. Not for cellaring beyond six months and a reasonable value as a safe, sociable riesling.