Tuesday, June 05, 2007

June Whites(10): Argentina Chard; Italy Pin Grigio; Australia Sauv Blanc, Chard; USA Chard; Canada Pin Grigio, Blend, SB, Chard(2)

CATENA ALAMOS CHARDONNAY 2006, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5% D, #925743 $13.95 (Tasted June 25, 2007)

A Vintages release on June 23, 2007 described as "... This wine has layers of crisp green apple and pear fruit aromas and flavours interwoven with some toasty notes imparted by the light oak ageing... " Natalie MacLean rated it 89/100 and the Best Value White (of the Release) saying "An excellent and round, full-bodied chard." The winemaker (José Galante) says of his chardonnay "... nose is fresh and focused, with ripe tropical and citrus fruits layered with floral notes and a touch of vanilla. The mouthfeel is clean, with pineapple and mango fruits with a touch of lemon and sweet spice. The finish is bright and crisp with refreshing acidity and balance." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "This was built for fun in the sun, summertime sipping... Smoke and oak aromas form the segue to this medium to full-bodied Chard. You'll revel in the sweet pit fruit (peach and yellow plum) and pear flavours that play out through the lovely balanced, dry and zesty finish. You'll discover citrus and spice notes, and a lovely texture... " My notes:A very light yellow with a greenish hue and faint aromas of pear and apple. A fresh light style with some cream but mostly sweet fruit. Medium-bodied.... with delicate flavours of apple and pear with a citrus tartness. Some roundness in the finish carrying the fruit forward nicely on the palate. Can be a sipper although very delicate but the roundess again carries it nicely. Have with shrimp on skewers or grilled mushroom caps and bacon strips... or pair with a meal of crusted telapia filets, or any light seafood. Not for cellaring... a drink-now and a reasonable sociable summer white at the price.

2005 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 13.0% XD, #049593 $18.95 (Tasted June 24, 2007)
A Vintages release on June 23, 2007 described as "Medium straw/yellow colour with an array of aromas including toast, apple, pear, vanilla, pear compote and a hint of honey and spice. Dry with a good core of acid surrounding the buttery fruit. Medium-full-bodied with a fairly long, assertive finish. Calls out for planked salmon." The website's tasting notes say "This complex chardonnay was the result of our best from the vintage as chosen through an extensive barrel selection process. ... The result is a complex nose with mellow barrel aromas of vanilla, clove, and buttery, bready notes accompanied with lifted aromas of pear, citrus and mineral characters. The palate has flavours of lemony citrus, and tropical fruits washing over a creamy oak base. Drink now or age... up to 2012." My notes: Present producers of Mike Weir wines I thought a tasting of Creekside's chardonnay would be worthwhile. This has a light straw colour and needs a minimum of twenty minutes for a firm straw aroma to dissipate... then it may have a ''toast, apple, pear, vanilla, pear compote and etc.'' nose - far more than my senses can assimilate. All I could discern was a light apple, lemon, possible lime with a herbaceous edge. There is a flavour medley following the nose along with a nice citrus tartness, some butter and some peach stone. A wine that is quite drinkable off chill and one that I had a difficult time pairing with a meal but 'plank salmon' is likely as well as a wild mushroom pasta. Four years ageing could bring out more butter even caramel but my money will go with the Mike Weir Chardonnay (#000026 @ $15.95) for a drink-now.

Niagara, Canada, 12.0% XD, #050351 $13.95 (Tasted June 23, 2007)

A Vintages release on June 23, 2007 described as "Pale straw colour with a light, pleasing nose of melon, peach and limeade. It is dry, crisp, clean and fresh with a lively citrus/zesty finish. A terrific wine for summer salads or as an aperitif." The website's tasting notes say "A blend of Pinot Grigio grapes selected from five vineyards in Ontario. [Has an] intense bouquet of lemon peel, pear/apple tree fruit and honeysuckle perfume. On the palate, refreshing green apple acidity is beautifully balanced by an enticingly plump texture typical of the grape variety. Softer flavours of melon, peach and honey are also present... Drinking well now and over 2008." My notes: Producers of Mike Weir wines (until his winery is ready) I thought a tasting of Creekside wines would also be worthwhile this month. A soft gold in the glass with aromas of lemon, apple and a slight honey. A light mineral edge to mostly lemon and some grapefruit flavour - or there could be a crushed grapefruit seed or two in the mix - and having a moderately round texture. An appetizer for the summer patio with or without grilled scallops or sweet sausage pieces - something flavourful but on the light side. Pairing with a white seafood plate, a lightly grilled chicken breast or a chicken and/or seafood pasta. Resembles an Italian Pinot Grigio but with a slight fruit sweetness giving the finish a smoothness still with a well balanced tartness. A value quaffable and cellarable so there's some on hand for next summer.

Venezia, Italy, 12.5% D, #037648 $15.95 (Tasted June 18, 2007

A Vintages release on June 9, 2007 described as "... a perfect embodiment of the creative tension between traditional and modern techniques. Alberto and Silvano [Zenato] have taken the Pinot Grigio, an old variety in Northern Italy, and, using a variety of current ideas, pushed the intensity and body of these wines to levels not achieved in the region in the past..." Natalie MacLean gives it 89/100 calling it "Refreshing and mouth-watering with aromas of pear fruit"... and "Best Value White Wine". VH of Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "... Zenato hits the mark with this well-balanced offering. Expect subdued aromas of apple and honeyed pear then a gusher of flavours that include pear, peach and zesty citrus. The citrus provides lovely balance and the finish, fruity with good tanginess... ". My notes: A light blond colour with aromas of 'honeyed pear' and wildflowers, light but there. Well balanced tartness with an apple and citrus flavoured sweet tartness and a finish that leaves a light oil on the lips and a dry pucker. Came across as a 'commercial' white... still a reasonable sipper... better with fresh oysters or a cold shrimp ring. Was OK with grilled telapia and lettuce salad. Try it off chill for a lower tartness, higher sweet pear and smooth oil - yum! A drink-now.

Margaret River, Australia, 13.0% XD, #024695 $14.95 (Tasted June 17, 2007)

A Vintages release on June 9, 2007 described as "A delightfully tangy and regional wine whose delicate, slightly musky, herbal and grassy aromas of cassis and gooseberries are lifted by a floral scent. Elegant and unctuous, smooth and even, its long and vibrant palate of juicy flavour finishes fresh and tight, with very soft acids and gentle phenolics. 93/100 (Jeremy Oliver, July 2006)" The Amberley website is still underconstruction. The back has the following: "... displays subtle herbaceous and tropical fruit characters with an elegant floral background. Its cleansing acidity provides a clean, refreshing finish... " My notes: A light golden colour with a nose of mostly nettles with a whiff of gooseberry. A tart introduction to flavours of creamy something - I'll say it's the generic 'tropical fruit'... (even the preceding descriptors don't name a fruit). Consequently, I wouldn't classify it as a sipper... more of a meal white, the creamy body and nondescript acid forms a finish suitable with spicy to creamy seafood dishes, mushroom pastas, or bouillabaise. Not for cellaring... a drink-now before it fades into all stems and cream. Must have gone downhill quickly since July 2006 - unless your preference is for 'phenolics'. Without a firm varietal character and not a value.

Niagara, Canada, 12.5% MD, #001578 $16.95 (Tasted June 16, 2007)
A Vintages release on June 09, 2007 described as "A terrific new vintage for this wine that is a blend of Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay. It has a nose of grapefruit, Granny Smith apple, a touch of lychee and a good acid core. It is slightly off-dry with a good weight, texture and fine finish... (David Churchill, March 2007)." RP of Winecurrent gave it four and one half (of 5) saying "Flat Rock created an instant winner with the first vintage of "Twisted," and its following will only grow with the 2006 version. It's a lovely blend... that's lively, zesty, and slightly spicy, and brimming with flavours of fresh fruit like white grapefruit, apple and some tropical fruit... " My notes: A light blond colour with an aromatic mix of apple, melon and tangy lime. The flavours follow the nose - sour apple and tangy lime predominantly, and teeth cleaning acidity and a balanced fresh apple sweetness. Finishes full, sweet and tart, by itself bright on the palate. Paired with Swiss Chalet chicken it was a match for the oils and roasted chicken flavours. Should do equally well with spicy mussels, a flavourful New Orleans chowder, or triple cheese and chicken fondue. A unique white blend perhaps using fruit from young vines or full bunches. Certainly this production or vintage, not yet detailed on the Flat Rock Cellars website, is more assertive than last (2005 tasted June, 2006), not mild by any means: fruity rather than floral, less spicy gewurztraminer and more ascerbic riesling with chardonnay added for body. Not a fence sitter - you like it or you don't.

Victoria, Australia, 13.5% XD, #025353 $23.95 (Tasted June 11, 2007)

A Vintages release on June 09, 007 described as "Very elegant, fine ripe apple, spice and stone fruit aromas and flavours; ultra-subtle oak and malolactic inputs; an exercise in restraint. 95/100 (James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion 2007)." Natalie MacLean gives it 93/100 saying "Lovely and creamy with notes of soft oak, green apple and ripe pear." and "Favourite White Wine". My notes: The website describes it as "a fruit driven, early drinking style; fruit sourced from younger vineyards cropped at under three-tonnes per acre." and the entry level chard from Stonier. I found the aroma to be a very light stone fruit and unripe apple. A light golden colour and a slight buttery texture with brightness and flavours of tart apple and crushed peach stone finishing tart and dry. An excellent sipper with enough fruit sweetness to take the edge off its tartness and delicate enough to companion an appetizer of mild cheeses, a fruit tray, or fresh oysters. Pairing with grilled telapia and asparagus salad was appropriate and likely also with a chicken paella. It is for 'early drinking' rather than cellaring and a little too thin on 'butter' to be a good value.

Livermore Valley, USA, 13.5% D, #175430 $16.15 (Tasted June 09, 2007)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; apple and pear aromas with mineral and oaky notes; round fruit flavours with a citrusy finish. Serve with pasta in a cream sauce or with finger foods." My notes: There's no description for this label on the Wente website although the Livermore Valley Morning Fog Chardonnay shows a blend including gewurztraminer (2%) and semillon (1%). A pale blond colour with just perceptible aromas of honey, lemon and pear. Light-bodied with a touch of cream and a firm tartness, flavours of lemon and apple. The finish is of dry, light lemon and some unripe pear. Easily forgettable as a sipper and better paired with light seafood dishes, creamy pastas or a mild cheese tray. Not cellarable and for an oaked chardonnay I had expected more caramel. Comes across as an entry level brand tailored for a market or perhaps just a non-optimal vintage. Not recommended at the price.

MIKE WEIR ESTATE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2006, Niagara, Canada, 11.8% XD, #686972 $15.15 (Tasted June 08, 2007)

A Vintages release on April 14, 2007 described as "This home grown Savvy, a new addition to the Mike Weir stable of wines, has concentrated aromas of grapefruit, lemon peel and gooseberry with clean grassy notes. It?s crisp and refreshing with hints of tropical fruit flavours and a racy seam of zesty acidity. Enjoy as an aperitif or pair it with fresh trout pan fried in lemon butter." The website notes "... abundant with tropical fruit character and a crisp palate. The palate showcases juicy with peach, lemon, and gooseberry flavours with a hint of toast. Creamy and medium bodied start on the palate balanced by a refreshingly crisp finish." My notes: Produced by the Creekside Estate Winery in the interim before the Weir Estate winery is opened - this is a light blond with a polite nose of gooseberries and honey. Medium-bodied, nicely tart on the tongue and full of fresh grapefruit, lemons and gooseberries, not as full and flavourful as some NZ 'Savvys' which tend to verge on artificial. The more moderate flavour is an asset as a sipper or when pairing with lighter seafoods. Has a light grass in the finish but mostly a lemon and cream. Definitely a social sipper or an aperitif with fresh oysters, wrapped scallops, shrimp skewers or italian shaved meats. Went nicely with grilled halibut and fries. Likely could cellar a few years but drinking well now. Unusually NZ-like for a Niagara sauvignon blanc and a good value.

Niagara, Canada, 13.0% D, #000026 $15.95 (Tasted June 05, 2007)

A Vintages release on April 28, 2007 described as "This wine won Best of Show in the Dry White Wine category at the 2006 Cellars of the World International Wine Competition. The winemaking team from Creekside Estates work in partnership with the golf legend to craft this harmonious Chardonnay with its layers of pineapple, green apple, and toasty vanilla notes. Enjoy it with pan-fried freshwater fish or grilled salmon steaks." The website notes "Pleasant, robust Chardonnay. Aromatic bouquet of pear, pineapple, apple blossom and hints of sweet mango delicately balanced with subtle French oak spice, vanilla and nutty characters. A beautiful cool-climate Chardonnay on the palate; bright flavours of apple and apricot lifted by creamy oak flavours of butterscotch, light toast and vanilla. Cellar two to six years."
My notes: Of 3600 cases the remaining bottles are only available at a few Vintages. A light blond colour and the nose has the sweetness of pineapple along with the aromas of fresh crabapples. A pleasing buttery texture and mild citrus, apple and honey flavours finishing well balanced between tart and flavourful. You could easily sip on the patio then pair with a 'pan-fried freshwater fish' meal but for more flavoured seafoods I'd switch to a fuller chard - I don't see it as 'robust'. Went very well with grilled telapia, greens and asparagus spears. It would be interesting to see where this is in six years. I think it would do well to cellar two years and is a very appealing lightly oaked chard with the net proceeds of wine sales going to the Mike Weir Foundation for advancing the physical, emotional and educational welfare of children.

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