Sunday, May 20, 2007

More May Whites(6): Italy Pinot Grigio; NZ Pinot Gris, Sauv Blanc; France Blend; Canada Chard(2)

MACULAN PINOT GRIGIO 2006, Breganze, Italy, 12.0% XD, #734921 $14.95 (Tasted May 29, 2007)

A Vintages release on May 26, 2007 described as "... Maculan... wines are appreciated for their elegance and finesse. Enjoy this Pinot Grigio with flavourful fish dishes or pasta with a simple sauce and a few slivers of black truffle or a drizzle of truffle oil." My notes: Not much description from Vintages and none on the website makes me think this brand is made for the North American market or for other reasons not marketable to indigenous imbibers. A light lemon colour with a green tinge - serving well chilled slows an aroma of lemon, lime and wild flowers although you have to sniff hard to detect it, but it needs chilling. The first swallow is welcomed with a stiff nip on the taste buds - the flavour and finish is of lemon, sour apple and crushed stems - not unpleasant if you have a cheese selection nearby... or are having a seafood appetizer or entree. Pair with chicken paella, pork souvlaki, chorizo sausage pieces and wild mushroom pasta. Not for cellaring, not a sipper and a bargain only if you are looking for a very dry, steely textured - like my next door neighbour made each Fall - white. For elegance and finesse I'd go with the Sileni . Not a value.

Hawkes Bay, NZ, 12.5% XD, #032393 $15.95 (Tasted May 27, 2007)

A Vintages release on May 26, 2007 described as "The 2006 is mostly handled in tanks, but 7% of the blend was barrel-fermented. It’s a ripe-tasting wine, off dry with a slightly oily texture and pear and spice flavours showing very good depth. Three and one half (of 5), (Michael Cooper, Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines 2007)." The website says "The Cellar Selection has a classic peach stonefruit characters, with concentrated fruit on the palate and a soft finish. It is a mouthfilling wine, just off-dry, and well suited to seafood, white meats and Asian food styles. Drink it young or cellar up to three years. The 2006 vintage won the Bronze Medal - Royal Easter Wine Show, 2007 (NZ)." Beppi Crosariol's column (May 26) says "Yet another grape not commonly associated with New Zealand is pinot gris... [this] doesn't disappoint, especially not at the price. It's light to medium-bodied, with a silky texture and hints of pear, peach and flowers." My notes: The Cellar Selection is the entry or 'everyday drinking' level of four Sileni wine brands. Has a pleasing spicy aroma with a delicate grapefruit edge. A very light straw colour, light-bodied, a citric tartness balanced with flavours of crisp grapefruit, stone fruit and a sparse creaminess giving some depth and masking any natural sweetness. The finish has a light grapefruit tang fading quickly but leaving that spice and some warmth. It was excellent with pieces of rotisserie chicken and roasted yam cubes - and should be great with any seafood or Asian fare. Keep lots on hand as a drink-now for summer days on the patio. Cellaring a year should be OK but it's a great sipper now. It's almost an Italian style Pinot Grigio and a very good value.

Marlborbough, NZ, 14.0% XD, #032326 $22.95 (Tasted May 26, 2007)

A Vintages release on May 26 described as "Sparkling wine made from Sauvignon Blanc is very rare. Now in its second vintage, Mount Riley’s unique Savée is made using the traditional method. It’s bottle fermented, but only for a few months before disgorgement. The result is a bubbly with a racy, aromatic Sauvignon character expertly balanced by a hint of bready/toastiness. A great fizz for seafood dishes." The website notes "Pale lemon, straw with a fine bead. Powerful and fresh with aromas of gooseberry and capsicum with underlying heraceousness. Has a fresh and lively palate with a fine mousse. Full flavoured and finely balanced with zesty acidity. Good length and a crisp clean finish. Have within 18 months of vintage." Beppi Crosariol's column (May 26) lists it as a NZ pick saying "Grapefruit is the predominant flavour... a refreshing bubbly, with a creamy texture, delicate mousse and hints of pear, toasty bread and flowers." My notes: A light golden straw colour, lots of large bubbles settling to a regular burst and a firm, fine spritz throughout. A gooseberry and nettles nose, a gooseberry tang with tart white grapefruit, a clean, dry, crisp body, with a steely edge. The gooseberry sets up a luscious finish, long with the faint scent of wildflowers. 'Creamy' or 'toasty bread' it's not. Should be great with fresh oysters on the half shell, or with seafood appetizers, eg. butter brushed halibut skewers or scallops generously wrapped in side bacon. A different varietal bubbly and if you like NZ sauvignon blanc you'd love this as a shift from the regular champagne. A real value given these provisos.

TAWSE 'ROBYN'S BLOCK' CHARDONNAY 2003 VQA, Vineland, Canada, 14.1% D, #Winery $48.00 (Retasted May 25, 2007)

My notes: Last tasted June, 2006. Now is a deep golden colour and a toasty butterscotch nose, balanced with lemon, melon and pineapple. Full-bodied, a pleasing tart edge, very smooth and flavours of a light lemondrop, mango, butter and caramel. The finish is moderately long leaving the silky taste of butter on the tongue. This can be served off-chill although has more sparkle if kept icy. Expensive for an old style chardonnay but doesn't have the burnt straw taste of overoaking. My preference is for a lightier and fruitier approach although once in awhile 'old' is elegant which this is. Sip as a chilled aperitif - perhaps one ice cube? - it's full enough. Pair with spicy mussels, seafood paella, or bouillibaise - a special chard for the right occasion. It's difficult to imagine this improving with additional cellaring - caramel may go treackly, silkiness may migrate to oil, and the remaining fruit may be lost. Not all at once... and which comes first is a guess. Sipping well now and it's my last bottle.

Champagne, France, 12.3% D, #308064 $53.15 (Tasted May 20, 2007)

A General listing described as "Medium straw colour; buttery, candied lemon nose; rich citrus flavours with a clean, fruity finish. Serve as an aperitif or with smoked salmon; creamy soups." Sparkling Direct (Online distributor) describes the Classique as "Deep golden yellow, with amber tints... dense, lively bubbles form a generous foam. A rich fruity flavour develops, with sweet aromas of peach, pear and exotic fruit, combined with discreet hints of honey and vanilla. Remains smooth and well-rounded throughout, with the harmonious presence of a fresh acidity. A fruity blend of mature reserve wines in generous dosages gives this Demi-Sec champagne all its variety and character." My notes: A blend of pinot meunier (50%), pinot noir (35%) and chardonnay (15%). A toasted peach colour with aromas of toast, peach and green apple from a burst of large bubbles settling into a steady fine stream. Full in the mouth with a flavour blend of peach and pear, tart and creamy and strained through a fine mousse leaving the mouth with the smooth texture of a fizzy fuzzy peach building with each taste. A welcomed sipper if you like an almost dry bubbly. A drink-now... not likely to change much with cellaring and a value only if you are convinced 'champagne' is the way to celebrate. Have with fresh oysters.

Niagara, Canada, 13.5% D, #623454 $21.15 (Tasted May 20, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 28, 2006 described as "[the] Delaine vineyard produces some of the finest fruit in Niagara. Located on the Niagara Parkway, this 41-hectare site grows limited production, low yield Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Semillion. This Chardonnay underwent 100% barrel fermentation and partial acid-softening malolactic fermentation followed by 8 months of barrel aging in new and 1-year-old French oak barriques. The producer recommends enjoying this wine with cedar-planked salmon, steamed mussels with saffron or pork tenderloin." The winemaker, Tom Seaver, says "Brilliant gold in colour, this elegant wine displays rich tropical aromas of ripe grapefruit, fresh green apples and citrus underscored with nuances of toasted oak. Full flavours of pineapple, grapefruit and lemon delicately fold into a creamy, biscuity finish." My notes: The Vintages writeup describes the vineyard and process but nothing about the wine. A light blond colour with a very faint nose of sweet pea floral. The flavours take time to develop - a delicate grapefruit and wet straw with a slippery citrus and mineral finish. Has a moderate tang as a sipper but nothing varietally interesting to anticipate with each sip. Pair with grilled salmon or telapia. However, I would refuse this at a restaurant - not a partner for an 'eat-out' meal. Perhaps this bottle went stale on Vintages' shelf. It's well past cellaring and not a value.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Reds(14): NZ Pinot Noir; S Africa Blend; USA Blend; France Blend; Chile Blend, Merl(2), Pin Noir, Syrah, Cab Sauv(2); Australia Merlot, Blend(2)

KIM CRAWFORD PINOT NOIR 2006, Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% XD, #626390 $19.95 (Tasted May 28, 2007)

Wine of the Month and part of Vintages release on May 26, 2007 described as "Complex set of aromas, including sour cherry, coffee, underbrush, raspberry and mushroom. Dry with the fruit perfectly surrounded by moderate tannins. This medium-bodied, long-finishing wine will reward 2-5 years in a good cellar, or, serve it tonight with roast beef or even smoky barbecue fare. (VINTAGES panel, April 2007)." RP of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "This is an excellent price and the wine is a very good candidate for short-term cellaring. Right now you get quite intense flavours of sweet cherry, spice and pepper with some earthy notes, with quite firm tannins. Give it a bit of time or drink it now with grilled red meat." The website describes it as "Medium depth of colour with purple and crimson notes. An aromatic wine with black cherries and red currants on the nose, complexed with integrated oak and a smoky bacon character. Has a palate a nice combination of dark cherries and red fruit abound. This is underscored with a hint of oak and firm tannins. Persists well. Cellar up to five years... " My notes: A light to mid ruby colour and, after airing for ten minutes, a nose of cherry, berry and black pepper in equal portions. Silky, balanced with a berry tartness on the first sip, light-bodied, and flavours of blackberry and a very slight tar. The tar edge carries through to a long smooth finish of primarily a smoky cherry. A companion for meat dishes... not too spicy though. Perhaps the oak treatment hasn't shown as yet... better to cellar for a few years to let it develop rather than drink now. Part way to a european style where fruit is giving way to process, altho' it may just be the fruit is light. Not my type of Pinot.

Western Region, South Africa, 14.5% XD, #566851 $15.95 (Tasted May 26, 2007)

A Vintages release on May 26, 2007 described as "The name may be light-hearted, but the wine is a serious blend of Shiraz, Pinotage, Mourvedre and a touch of Viognier. Copying here the best of both the northern and southern Rhône, Goats do Roam In Villages, is a fruit-forward wine with a beautiful spine of tannin and crisp acidity. Try this with a grilled leg of lamb or braised beef dishes. It will also reward 2-4 years in a cellar." RP of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "...big, bold, and brash. It's rich and all dark fruit flavours with accents of spice, pepper, smoke and tar. The tannins are firm, there's a nice seam of acidity, and it's terrific with grilled lamb." My notes: An interesting nose of soft plums and cherries and a mid ruby colour. Starts with a firm tartness and tannin leading to a red cherry flavour. Medium- to light-bodied, finishing with the drying texture of fine tannins and some red cherry flavour, fairly long fading to crushed cherry pits. Have with burgers, meat- mushroom- pepperoni- and tomato pizza or italian sweet sausage on a bun. A common red... like a french table wine and a drink-now. I don't see anything to cellar. The alcohol is 'big', I don't see the 'bold' but perhaps it's 'brash' for posing as a Rhône red. Not a value.

California, USA, 13.0% D, #100693 $21.95 (Retasted May 26, 2007)

My notes: Last tasted December 2006 after a Vintages release on December 09, 2006. A delicate hue of peachy pink and described by Vintages as a 'real crowd pleaser.' RP of Winecurrent gave it four stars and I commented '... a yeasty apple. Fine bubbles that initially fills and subsides in the glass then fills each sip. A tart edge to granny smith apple lasting evenly on the palate with some leaning to tartness rather than fruit. A pleasant fruity moussey sipper, cleansing to the palate and could be paired with fresh oysters, shaved meats or full flavoured cheeses. A reliable bubbly for diverse occasions. A good value.' Why repeat myself? It hasn't changed much in six months although 'granny smith' has a creamy watermelon appeal to it. A blend of 79% Pinot Noir, 14% Pinot Meunier and 7% Chardonnay - and, unless colour is important (turn the lights low) why pay more for a 'champagne'?

Australia, 13.0% D, #598912 $12.15 (Tasted May 22, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep red violet; aromas of cocoa, leather and cherry; dry, medium bodied, with soft cherry fruit centre, velvety tannins and vanilla notes on the moderate finish. Grilled burgers, barbequed ribs or picnic fare." Wine Spectator, Sept 2006, rates the 2005 vintage 85/100 saying "Light and fresh, refreshing mouthful of plum and blueberry flavors, lingering well. Drink now." The company describes it as "Bright red color. Fleshy ripe strawberries and juicy blueberries entice the palate into a meandering river of black fruits and spice. The palate is soft and stylish with wonderfully ripe sweet fruit, leading to a full-flavored sweet persistent finish. Will complement hard cheeses, BBQ tritip(?) and Asian cuisine." My notes: There's no indication of the percentage of grapes contained in this 'merlot' produced for the North American market by Foster's, a Southcorp Wines company. It's a deep red ruby and similar to sipping an off-chill, soft, lightly flavoured grape juice, merlot-like in texture. There's no nose to speak of. Faint flavours include some plums, some cherries and some artificial sweetener added to the blend. A sociable sipper if you like a manufactured wine. Pairing with any meat dish may even spoil it (our bottle went down the drain). Not cellarable and not a value.

Central Valley, Chile, 13.5% XD, #030817 $13.95 (Tasted May 21, 2007)

A Vintages release on May 12, 2007 described as "William Cole is an ex-pat American who made his fortune as a software developer before establishing his winery in Chile’s Casablanca Valley. An excellent value, this approachable wine’s ripe cherry and plum fruit flavours mingle with savoury pepper and herb notes. It’s great with gourmet burgers or sausages." Natalie MacLean rates it 89/100 giving it a tie as Best Value Red of the Release and says: "Terrific taste and quality for the money! A perfect party wine. Notes of black cherries and plums. Ripe, round and full-bodied." My notes: There's no description of the wines on the winery's website but I'd say this is a 60-40 blend. A deep ruby colour with aromas of black cherries, red cherries and a dusting of fine pepper. The flavours introduce themselves with a strong bite of tart red cherries followed by the smooth texture of black cherries, perhaps some plums. The oak isn't that noticeable but the finish is tannic dry with mostly crushed red cherry stones, not unattractive just premature for sipping. Have with rare beef: Black Angus patties, prime rib, T-bones, short and long ribs or barbecued pork ribs sprinkled liberally with Barberian's Steakhouse Steak Seasoning. Cellar for two years minimum, too early to fully savour its value now.

Central Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #619440 $9.70 (Tasted May 18, 2007)

A General listing described as "Dark medium ruby/purple red; aromas of black plum, bell pepper, earth, licorice and sweet cherry; dry, medium to full bodied, with mocha, ripe blackcherry, raspberry fruit flavours, fine tannins and good length. Serve with braised flank steak, tacos or on its own as a backyard wine." The website says "Spice and black cherry greet the nose, hinting at the ensuing sweet and round structure that is about to invade the palate. This is a medium bodied wine with a beautiful purple colour that resounds of softness, ripe fruits and a silky nature..." My notes: The colour is as advertised, a rich ruby plum suggesting a succulent varietal. The nose is soft, berry rich with some vanilla nuances. Fine tannins give a velvety texture with medium-bodied flavours of ripened black cherries and a natural spice finishing long and silky. This is a super sipper now - and it's a polite meal red, lots of chocolate, some coffee, some brightness as if more than a red cherry or two was in the flavour blend... and enough oak influence to companion prime rib, italian sweet sausage, rack of lamb or an all beef pattie or two. Cellaring for a few years should produce a bargain merlot. Buy by the case.

JEANNERET GRENACHE/SHIRAZ 2004, Clare Valley, Australia, 15.0% XD, B&W Wines $22.46 (Retasted May 13, 2007)

My notes: Winecurrent gave this five (of 5) and a 'drink now to 2010' recommendation when tasted last September. My comments at the time were: "... aromas of slight pepper, tar and blackberry. ... a very smooth and full mouthfeel, an unctious, crisp bite (15%) with lots of blackberry... more of an European red, etc. " Still has a nose of pepper, tar and blackberry although the fruit has waned in the short eight months, it's still prominent but more integrated with the spices. Medium-bodied, a very smooth texture with pronounced tannins, still has the unctious fullness of berries but again the fruit is more integrated with the spice tones. Blackberry remnants carry through to the long lip smacking finish and a hint of currant touches the palate. This should continue to cellar well.

Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #558668 $9.65 (Tasted May 13, 2007)

A General listing not described on the LCBO website. Notes from the Tarapaca website state "Ruby red with violet notes. Intense varietal aroma, with notes of red fresh fruits, light spicy notes of black pepper and cinnamon, touches of caramel and tobacco. Medium body, well balanced, fresh, with a pleasant finish. Smooth flavourful. With sweet and ripe tannins." My notes: According to the website this is 100% Merlot... the colour is as advertised, ruby red with violet tones. The aroma is soft black cherries, a few berries and a dusty tone (pepper and cinnamon?). The nose is full somewhat sweet.... the flavour reflects the price - a weak varietal - a cherry-berry blend with a stalky edge giving it a strong dryness detracting from it being a sipper. Should be okay with hamburgers, pizza slices, lamb chop, ham steak or grilled chicken. Not for cellaring, a drink-now in a pinch and not recommended.

Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #510396 $17.95 (Tasted May 13, 2007)

A Vintages release on May 12, 2007 described as "... the colour and concentration of this wine is more pronounced. This wine displays intense aromas and flavours of raspberry, strawberry, loam and toast. The ripe fruit is well-balanced by the oak and smooth tannins." The winemaker says "... notable for its deep, cherry-red color, which is remarkably intense for this variety... The complex aromas include fresh raspberry and strawberry, touches of rose hip and wet earth, and notes of toasted wood that are very well integrated with the fruit, which contributes an agreeable sweetness. The red berry flavors on the palate offer impressive fruit intensity, while the ripe, smooth tannins speak of a fine structure that balances well with the wine’s acidity, giving it a full, fresh character. Cellar from 2007 to 2010... ". "Natalie rates it 87/100 saying "Notes of ripe cherries. Simple and lip-smacking good. pair with salmon, chicken." RP of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "... a gorgeous example of New World Pinot, with concentrated flavours of ripe, dark cherries and herbal/spicy notes. It has a tangy texture, is medium bodied, and goes well with a grilled rack of lamb." My notes: Air for an hour to average out the extremes.... a mid 'drab' ruby colour and a just perceptible nose of raspberries and black cherries. Medium-bodied, the initial spice is a light white pepper with strong tannins, a slight strawberry, cherry and mountainberry flavour blend. Fruit is equal partners with spice moderated by the effect of french oak and finishing blandly except for some drying tannins. Cellaring for two years should build more character. A rack of lamb is a good pairing for this pinot - not a sipper, not a value.

Maipo Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #249599 $9.70 (Tasted May 09, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby red; cassis, black cherry, cedar and touch of spice and plum on the nose; dry, medium-full bodied, with ripe tannins, cassis, berry and oak flavours, soft finish. Serve with lamb souvlaki; BBQ meats; hearty beef stews." Notes on the Tarapaca website state "Deep ruby-red. Fine wood aromas. Intense, complex, with aromas of fruit like currant, cherry and cassis. Mint and tobacco notes, and of spices as black pepper and vanilla. Full bodied, balanced, great structure and large and complex aftertaste. Ripe and strong tannins. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon." My notes: Has a sweet cherry 'bubble gum' nose and a mid ruby colour. Medium-bodied, flavours carry a red cherry and strawberry theme with highlights of an unusual spice - minty but with a cloying edge - perhaps the 'Mint and tobacco notes' - then hedging to a fairly long sweet cherry, mint and straw finish. Difficult to fit this into a cabernet sauvignon varietal - it's as if it has a grenache content or perhaps is 'manufactured'. For me, not a sipper... and pairing a wine having an unappealing aroma and flavour with any meal combination is difficult. If you end up with a bottle try it with bbq'd ribs or a well seasoned T-bone... but not a spicy entree. The price is right, just not the wine.

Central Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #619668 $9.55 (Tasted May 09, 2007)

A General listing not described on the LCBO website. The blend stated on the back label is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Shiraz. The Calama website notes "A mix of black fruits, dried plum and coffee... provide pleasantly expressive aromas to the nose. In your mouth, you will find the wine to be crisp, juicy and lively with a pronounced, yet round tannin structure, and a long lingering taste on your palate. This is a perfect wine to drink while nibbling on cheese as you prepare a steak dinner. You will enjoy this wine immensely whether having a glass while enjoying the company of friends or sitting at the table showing off your latest cooking creation." My notes: Calama Wines was founded in 2000 by Lisa Denham, a marketer by trade and an expat Alaskan, and her partner, Chilean Pablo Morales. This has a very striking deep ruby stained with violet colour, warm and inviting. After airing for an hour, the aromas are quite delicate - a strong sniffer is needed for the dark fruit, mostly berries, riding on a vein of smoky oak. Full-bodied, smooth as velvet with pepper spice, rich dark fruit and a touch of mild coffee. Leaves some smoothness on the lips with a persistent spice, fine tannins and bright tang in a moderate to long, perhaps shallow finish. Imitates reds with twice the fruit and twice the price making this a good value. Better paired with grilled, broiled or stewed meat dishes or 'while nibbling...'. Will likely cellar well in the short term, one to two years.

Bordeaux, France, 12.5% XD, CP143-2210 $20.67 (Retasted May 6, 2007)

Opimian wrote: "This one is superb etc.... age at least five years." My notes: Purchase in October 2002 based on Opimian's description of 'superb, dark and thickly concentrated... rich and fragrant plum-style bouquet' and 'berry-like flavours'. It has cellared the five years and has gone from 'perhaps past prime, without the fresh fruit... ' (Nov 2005) to 'flavours of bright plum and black cherry... an unassuming red... mediocre and won't improve with further cellaring... ' (Dec 2006) to now, a murky mid-roan colour and, after airing an hour, has a soft plum and cherry nose. Initial flavours are of red and black cherry with some spice leading to a moderate finish of pepper, cherries with drying tannins on the edge. Medium- to light-bodied - a possible match with rack of lamb (unfortunately, it didn't!), ham steak, mild sausages or beef Wellington. For me, a terrible dry sipper with not much going for it and, if it ever had a life, this can't improve with further cellaring. A disappointment.

Peumo, Chile, 14.5% D, #019042 $19.95 (Tasted May 02, 2007)

A Vintages release on April 28, 2007 without description. The Wine Spectator, 3 July 2006, rates it 91/100 saying "Ripe and pure, with lovely violet, blackberry and plum aromas and flavors that glide along sweet, embedded tannins. Has a healthy layer of flashy toast too, but more than enough fruit for balance. Concha y Toro makes it seem too easy. Drink now through 2008." Decanter, June 2006, gives it 5 or 5, saying “Nice spicy oak aromas that don’t dominate the rich black fruit. Lovely ripe dark fruits with a hint of chocolate and coffee. Very well made, nice oak balance. Up to 2 years.” My notes: For those wanting a full-bodied red this is another from Concha y Toro... altho' Syrah is not a Marques varietal described on their website as of today. Has a rich ruby colour with a violet hue and a warm, almost port nose, full of plums, blackberries and humidor tones. A sipper with flavours of ripe blackberries, a dry texture and finishing with black pepper, smoke and rich fruit coating the palate. A hospitable sipper as well as a companion with rich stews, roasted prime rib, grilled steak and ribs however, the flavours may want to share equally with the entree. Drinking well now. OK to cellar for several years - I'd try two initially.

Adelaide Hills, Australia, 13.5% XD, #029496
$15.95 (Tasted May 01, 2007)

A Vintages release on April 28, 2007 without description. Harvey Steinman of the Wine Spectator, Sept 2006 gives it 90/100 saying "This has pizzazz. Polished and round, with wild berry, cherry, currant and a tang of refreshing acidity as it all lingers on the finish. Tannins are well-formed, and it comes together beautifully. A blend of cabernet sauvignon (70%), tempranillo(17%) and zinfandel(10%). Drink now through 2012... ” My notes: Newly available in Ontario and one of three 'Tryst' blends - White, Red, and Sparkling - released by Nepenthe. An interesting nose of black cherry, blackberry and slight smoke and a deep ruby colour. The flavours are a medley of cherry, blackberry, looks full- but tastes medium-bodied with a bright cranberry edge. A long finish of restrained blackberries, a few crushed seeds for interest and a drying note, and a lingering sweet fruit. Definitely a dry sipper... better paired with red meats roasted, grilled, or crockpotted. A reasonably priced drink-now... It'd be optimistic to cellar a full five years... I'd go a year at a time to see where it heads.

May Whites(14): NZ SB: Chile SB; France Pin Blan; Italy Chard, Pin Grig, Prosec, Muscat; Canada Chard, PB, Ries; Australia Ries, Semill, SB, Blend

CAVE SPRING CHARDONNAY MUSQUÉ 2005 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 13.5% D, #246579 $16.15 (Tasted May 19, 2007)

A Vintages release on May 12, 2007 described as "... This aromatic clone of the Chardonnay grape is a refreshing alternative to conventional Chardonnay. Gorgeous aromas of flowers, musk, grapes, spice and citrus aromas burst from the glass. Medium-bodied, richly flavoured but balanced with a gentle crispness and a lengthy finish... " Toronto Life gives it three and one half stars saying "Generous tropical fruit, grapefruit, licorice and a hint of white pepper. Mid-weight, rich, warm with a touch of exotic spice. Very good length. Asian recipes." The website describes this as "Full bodied with intensely aromatic spice and orange blossom character, a viscous mouth-feel and plenty of acidity for balance." My notes: The 2004 was tasted January 2006. Gord Stimmell in his column had given it 90/100. My comment was "Don't serve chilled - just cooled... flavours range from lemon to pineapple offset with a balanced tartness.... citrus peal overtone... " The 2005 has a golden colour and a wild floral nose that fades quickly. Has a sharp citrus peal flavour going to a firm grassiness, some creaminess, and medium-bodied. There's no residual sweetness - anticipated from the Musque strain - nor more than a hint of Musque itself in the nose and flavour. Nothing but lemon pith ends up in the long finish making this a non-sipper. Have chilled with seafood appetizers, steamed spicy mussels or with sliced chicken on toasted panini. A dollar more this vintage and not as enjoyable. Will go downhill from here so cellaring isn't recommended. OK but not a value.

Trentino, Italy, 12.5% D, #016451 $11.15 (Tasted May 16, 2007)

A General listing not described on the LCBO website. The website describes it as "Traditional vinification of white wine at controlled temperatures of around 18-20°C; straw-yellow in color, pleasant fragrance, fruity, fine, distinctive, dry flavor, harmonic, lightly aromatic." My notes: This chard doesn't have much going for it: a light blond colour, a light wildflower fragrance, light flavours of lime, lemon, straw in equal amounts and a slight roundness with no discernible sweetness but a good dose of tart - quite 'commercial'. The finish is short and bright of mostly citrus and straw. Not meant to be a sipper... and I wouldn't plan it for a social occasion. That leaves having one brought by a guest or trying the 'house white' at a 'family' restaurant and unknowingly receiving this. Not so bad to be flushed and should be OK with a light pasta... just not cellarable, not a value, not recommended.

Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% XD, #734095 $19.95 (Tasted May 15, 2007)

A Vintages release on May 12, 2007 described as "A completely satisfying wine, mouthfilling and flavour packed. Intense bouquet and rich, ripe flavours of currants and gooseberries, fresh and tangy (Cuisine Magazine (New Zealand), Dec. 2006)" Natalie MacLean calls it the 'Favourite White' of the Release rating it 90/100 and noting "Terrific and refreshing herbal aromas with some citrus notes. Not too grassy. Pair with: seafood, salads, vegetarian dishes." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "This is full-bore, no holds barred, Sauvignon Blanc. The pungent nose bristles with cut grass, asparagus and nettles. The flavours explode on the palate - citrus, peach and gooseberry - while the finish layers on more of the same in its tangy and zesty attack... ". My notes: A light straw colour and if you like gooseberries, while they're still plump, firm and tart, this is full both in aroma and in flavour. Tantalizingly tart, amply round, a long finish of tangy melon, nettles and some oils. Sip the aroma away then savour the flavours with any seafood hors d'oeuvre or entree, nothing creamy. This needs some garlic and oils for the acids to fully work on behalf of the palate. Cellaring for two years should be OK.... check every month just to make sure ;-).

Hunter Valley, Australia, 11.0% D, #961516 $17.95 (Tasted May 12, 2007)

A Vintages release on May 12, 2007 described as "Light gold. Fresh and explosively floral on the nose, with aromas of fresh melon, peach, dried pear, apricot and floral honey. At once lush and focused, with vivid flavors of ripe peach, watermelon and papaya. Dry, firm and structured, with a lightness of touch that stands in contrast to the wine's richness of flavor. Sappy and almost salty on the long finish, which is energetic and pungently mineral. 90/100 (Josh Raynolds, Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, July/Aug. 2006)". VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "... racy, fresh and zippy (Sauvignon Blanc-like) with lovely peach and nectarine flavours entwined. The effect is a clean summer sipper with flavour and texture. As it ages, it will lose some of the acidity developing into a more substantial and fleshy white... ". My notes: Hasn't achieved the breadth of aromas and flavours of the 2001 (@$13.95) yet the price continues to rise. Has a light gold colour and a fresh aroma of wild flowers, apricot, banana and squeezed lemon. The texture is crisp with some silky threads carrying bright flavours of lemon and green apple - the tangerine aroma and zest of 2001 is missing and I didn't get 'peach' or 'nectarine'. Finishes with a cleansing tartness, a slight oil on the lips, some straw, and builds with successive sips. A sipper only if you like 'tart'. Better with seafood dishes or hors d'oeuvres of crab pieces, oysters, bacon wrapped scallop skewers. This was likely fruitier in 2006 rating the 90/100, and cellaring for a year or two may mellow the acids and reveal more of the natural fruit flavours. Short term I don't believe it's a value and long term is questionable.

Trentino, Italy, 12.5% D, #302380 $13.15 (Tasted May 13, 2007)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; crisp mineral and floral nose with a touch of fennel and almond; light, clean and crisp with green apple flavours and almond in the finish. Serve as an aperitif or with seafood or pasta in cream sauce." The website describes it as a 'Traditional white wine vinification at controlled temperatures of around 18-20°C; modern taste, straw-yellow in color, pleasant bouquet, delicate, fruity, dry in flavor, elegant, and well balanced." My notes: A pale straw colour with faint aromas of honey, lemon and wild flowers. Light-bodied with a tartness balanced with ample fruit: apple then lemon and melon, a slightly smooth texture and an almond note. A quiet finish of citrus, apple and almond, sweetness isn't apparent and just a slight tartness. By itself, not aggressive: well chilled, it's an aperitif. Sharing flavours with mild cheeses, light pastas, or seafood dishes it would be a quiet complement easily quaffed. Not for cellaring - a white you could take anywhere.

Veneto, Italy, 11.0% D, #349662 $16.95 (Retasted May 10, 2007)

My notes: Last tasted in December, 2006 after its release by Vintages on the 9th. If as Vintages stated "Nino Franco is the consummate craftsman of Italy's most beloved sparkling wine... " then many other Italian sparkling winemakers are being undermined or at least neglected. Tony Aspler of Radio 680 notoriety gives this brut four (of 5), Mar. 28, 2005 and Winecurrent gives it three (of 5) (or 83-86/100) so from a rating perspective I'm more in line with Winecurrent although I lean to the 83 end. What can I expect for the price? and it depends on the accompaniments. There is an abundance of bubbles, large and miniscule with fine effervescence lasting throughout. Some pear in the nose would be an improvement... along with 'birthday cake' and green apple which mitigate any pear that may exist. Green apple flavours with sharp acidity surround the fruit and the finish is quite steely, tart with a dry straw edge. Quaffing of any bubbly should be a pleasing sensation rather than a tonsil tensing exercise... This is much better paired with flavours of a favourite hors d'oeuvre: fresh oysters, crabmeat pieces, bacon wrapped scallops, etc. Obviously still not recommended.

Maipo Valley, Chile, 12.5% D. #414185 $9.20 (Tasted May 08, 2007)

A General listing described as "Light yellow straw colour; aromas and flavours of gooseberry, herbs and green apples; dry, light- to medium-bodied with softer acidity; with a soft finish. Serve with seafood; shellfish, chicken, white meat with herb stuffings." Notes from the Tarapaca website are "Shining yellow with greenish hues. Intense citric, white flowers and pineapple aromas. Well balanced, fresh, fruity, pleasant and light sweety finish. Easy drinking wine." My notes: A light nose of gooseberry and apple. Flavours of gooseberries and a well developed creamy texture smoothing the tart edge then finishing quickly with some citrus, some oiliness and some straw on the palate. A commercial drink-now, quite quaffable and was OK with grilled chicken breast, yams and mashed potatoes - a one dimensional white to go with the price. There shouldn't be any objection to a few soaking in a tub of ice at a house warming or summer block party.

Alsace, France, 12.5% D, #021550 $17.95 (Tasted May 6, 2007)

A Vintages release on February 17, 2007 described as "René Dopff, for whom this wine is named, originated Dopff & Irion's dry, crisp house style. This 2003 Pinot Blanc is a fine, flavourful example of that vision. The aromas here suggest pear and apple. Dry with a good balance and heft to the lengthy finish. Enjoy this white with stuffed pork tenderloin." My notes: The Dopff & Irion website lacks descriptions of their wines or of vintage years and it appears to be a traditional family that's gone commercial (imho). The nose, though almost nonexistent, is a honeyed lemon-pineapple. A straw yellow colour with straw, apple and fresh citrus on the first sip with remnants of dry lemon and straw, some may say mineral, in the finish. Light-bodied, a soft creaminess and a just detectable sweetness masked by a light tartness. It's little wonder this is still on the Vintages shelf.... although an OK but commercial drink-now, it's not cellarable and not a value. Personally, I think it was past its best-before date when it was released by Vintages. If you already have a bottle pair with something sweet and sour or delicately flavoured: asian chicken, a bento box of tempura yams, brocoli flowers and shrimp, coconut shrimp, etc.

BC Canada, 12.0% D, #300301 $17.15 (Tasted May 06, 2007)

Listed as 'Grand Reserve' on the LCBO website and described as "Pale golden straw colour; green peach, melon and herbal aromas; lively lemon and apple fruit on the palate with a clean, crisp finish. Serve as an aperitif or with fresh water fish; tapas." The website says "Crisp and refreshing with lively ruby grapefruit and pineapple flavours that combine for a fresh clean finish. To highlight these vibrant fruit flavours, we chose not to age in oak." My notes: 'Five Vineyards' is the entry level brand and 'Reserve' is one up. There is no mention of 'Grand Reserve' on the Mission Hill website. This has a lemon and apple fragrance with equal parts fruit blossom florals. The colour is a light yellow and the initial sip wakes up the taste buds. A slight roundness with mostly lemon and white peach flavours finishing with some crushed seeds with equal pith, clean tartness and a hint of fruit sugar. This is a pleasant sipper although the finish may benefit from an appetizer or two: a cocktail sausage, a shrimp ring selection, or cheesy bruschetta. It was great with grilled chicken breast kebobs, salad and lightly broiled foccacia. A full flavoured pinot blanc and primarily a drink-now - but it would be interesting to see where it goes after twelve months cellaring. Do the acids start to smooth out? Does the floral remain with the fruit? I think they all could. A good value.

FONTANAFREDDA 'MONCUCCO' MOSCATO D'ASTI 2005, Piedmont, Italy, 5.5% M, #673277 $19.95 (Tasted May 04, 2007)

A Vintages release on April 28, 2007 and described as "Light and lively, this gently sweet frizzante wine is filled with perfumed aromas and tropical fruit flavours. Enjoy it chilled (or on ice as the Italians do) as an aperitif or dessert wine. The website says "... lovely straw-yellow colouring with golden highlights, but above-all in the explosion of aromas that are strongly reminiscent of the smell of the muscat grapes... hints of ripe pear, white peach, honey, locust tree, linden and orange blossom, sage and lemon. Thickness shows mainly on the palate, with a mouth-filling sensation that nicely balances the sharp freshness and remaining pétillant prickle of the fermentation. Highly persistent, it clearly conjures up the light and warmth of just-picked bunches of ripe muscat grapes. Very enjoyable on its own, it is also a perfect match for many types of dessert, including elaborate sweets." My notes: A crisp lemon birthday cake icing nose and a light straw colour with spritzy texture. A full pear, apple flavour like munching cool muscato grapes where sweetness is perfectly balanced with a tart tingle. An off-dry with a finish fading slowly waiting for the next sip. A refreshing sipper for the summertime. by itself or as an introduction to a tray of chocolate wafers. Splash some over orange and peach slices with a lime sorbet. For this type of quaffer, a good value.

NCT WINERY RIESLING 2005 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 11.3% MD, #040683 $14.95 (Tasted May 03, 2007)

A Vintages release on April 28, 2007 described as "Pale straw, lime tint. Nose is minerally, spicy, mint leaf, lime with a taste that is off-dry, lime, peach flavours – unusual for Riesling but intriguing; good length. Drinkability: now to 2009. (Tony Aspler, Oct. 2006)" The website says "Riesling (85%) with a touch of pinot gris and muscat. Harmonious, off dry, with a delicate nose of citrus, almond and subtle ginger. The flavour is full with lots of fruit and a subtle flinty minerality. Lots of lingering flavour with a lovely lemondrop finish. " My notes: A soft yellow with an almost imperceptible 'lime tint'. Aromas of apple and lime, as in the flavours. Light-bodied with fresh acidity, a natural apple sweetness and a finish buoyed by a light green apple tartness. I didn't get petrol nor floral in the nose although there is an overall delicate naturalness in the nose, body and flavour - as I find in most NCT wines. A less aggressive, off-dry riesling drink-now. Not for cellaring. My recommendation is to save a few for a hot summer day with a slice of lime or lemon and an ice cube.

ANGOVE'S VINEYARD SELECT RIESLING 2005, Clare Valley, Australia, 13.0% XD, #597054 $18.95 (Tasted May 03, 2007)

A Vintages release on March 3, 2007 described as "Well made Riesling from Australia's Clare Valley is one of the world's most versatile, food-friendly wines, and this is certainly a well made rendition. Based on vivid fruit with green apple and lime notes, it is dry but very expressive in aroma and flavor. Zesty acidity lifts and freshens the fruit and greatly prolongs the finish, making this a great warm weather sipper but also a promising partner for a very wide range of foods. 88/100 (Michael Franz, April 26 2006)" The website describes this vintage as "2005 looks set to rival the great wines of the recent 2002 vintage" - and the wine "... pale yellow with green hues, and the aroma displays lime and lemon characters combined with floral undertones. On the palate the crisp acidity for which Clare is renowned shines and frames the clean, vibrant fruit flavours to their best. This wine will age gracefully over coming years. Enjoy with grilled octopus, antipasto or tapas." My notes: A nose of strong petrol, air for twenty minutes for a milder whiff, with mixed citrus florals and a touch of spice. Flavours of green apple and limon leading to a lip smacking finish. Tart without being a tooth-cleaner, higher in alcohol than a German riesling and leaves warmth, dryness and astringency on the palate. I preferred it with nibbles than by itself... better still with salmon pieces in risotto. Cellaring for a year or two should smoothe out its ascerbic nature and integrate flavours, textures and aromas - seems disconnected right now.

Victoria, Australia, 12.5% D, #635714 $13.00 (Tasted May 02, 2007)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; passionfruit, gooseberry, citrus, asparagus and herbal notes on the nose; dry, medium bodied on palate with soft fruit, creamy mouthfeel and melon notes, a medium finish; an easy drinking wine. Serve with vegetarian dishes, green bean salad, herbed dishes, or chicken pasta in a cream sauce." The winery says "2005 was excellent for Sauvignon Blanc in Victoria. Long cool ripening led to highly aromatic fruit, with great depth of flavour... [The] 2005 has a lifted nose of tropical fruits, spice and gooseberry. It has a layered rich palate of gooseberry, citrus and passionfruit. The weight of fruit on the mid palate is balanced by crisp zingy acid, which gives freshness. It has lovely length and finishes with spice and tropical fruits." My notes: Has an 'off' aroma something like sewage along with an equal scent of gooseberries. The colour is light blond and flavours of lemon lime, a soft roundness and leaving a distinct dryness on the palate. Finishes with a light lime lemon. Flavours and acids are not firm enough for most entrees... was marginal with pancakes, bacon and blueberries - should be OK with a mild seafood risotto. A drink-now ... not for cellaring and, even at the price, not a value.

South Australia, 13.2% D, #020610 $13.15 1000mL (Tasted May 01, 2007)

A General listing not described on the LCBO nor winery websites. David Lawrason's Wine of the Week (Toronto Life, March 19, 2007) rates it three (of 5) or 83-85/100 saying "What I expect from a Tetra Pak—a lively, fresh and simple white wine to take on a summer picnic or fishing expedition. The high acid verdelho grape is key to its vitality. Shows clean, almost floral lemony, kiwi and pineapple fruit in a light, crisp yet slightly sweet texture. Finishes thin but it is appealing. I have tasted this twice; impressed both times." My notes: Nothing for this blend on the Heath website and 'lizard flat' appears to be the entry level brand - likely even amounts of chard and verdelho. A mid straw colour bright in the glass and a nose that reflects fresh lemon and pineapple. A very bright edge sets up the palate for deep battered fish and chips, grilled chicken or pork souvlaki, even bacon on a bun. Flavours of lemon-lime, green apple and a finish of lemon and peach stones with a round mouthfeel. Could be a waker-upper as a patio sipper served well chilled or 50 50 mix with soda. An almost dry drink-now - the packaging makes for interesting conversation while skinning your fingers on the tiny plastic cap removing it the first time. An economical summer refresher.