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.

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