Sunday, July 01, 2007

July Whites(10): Argentina Chard; France Blend; Italy Muscat; USA PG; Australia Blend, Viog; NZ SB(2); S Africa Sauv Blanc, Blend

MOUNT RILEY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2006, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% XD, #981670 $18.95 (Tasted July 19, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 7, 2007 described as "The 2006 vintage is the best yet. The bouquet is invitingly fresh and lifted, with ripe fruit aromas. The palate is weighty and well-rounded, yet dry... , with crisp passionfruit/lime flavours, slightly minerally and harmonious, with excellent depth... 4(out of 5) (Michael Cooper, Buyer's Guide to New Zealand Wines 2007)." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "Look for the grass, nettles and gooseberry aromas that mark this as a Marlborough SB. The flavours are expressive-lime, pineapple and notes of guava, and it's medium textured and quite smooth and velvety. This has enough guts to pair with strong and salty foods like smoked salmon and capers or goat cheese over mesculan greens in a light vinaigrette. It also drinks extremely well on its own." Natalie MacLean rates it 90/100 noting "A fantastic wine for the money! Vibrant notes of guava, grapefruit, grass and lime." My notes: A faint straw colour very aromatic: gooseberries, nettles, grapefruit making this a delight to anticipate the flavours. Bright, unctious, nicely smooth - close to passionfruit with a few nippy seeds blended in and some dry straw. Good length to the finish. As a full flavoured drink-now SB it's a very good value. Cellaring for a few years should be rewarding... beyond two may have a downside as some of the fruit subsides. Pair with any seafood, a bouillabaisse, crab cakes served hot with a plum sauce, shrimp pieces on greens.

S Africa, 12.0% XD, #933424 $18.95 (Tasted July 18, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 7, 2007 described as "Reliable as always; usual mineral/steely features shot with equally distinctive [green or yellow plums]/gooseberry enticements. Well synchronised weighty fruit, energetic build to mouthwatering finish. Rated four and one half (of 5) (Angela Lloyd, John Platter South African Wines 2007). It will complement a stuffed pork tenderloin." Their website says "Clear, lively green apple hues. A tropical nose packed with guava, ripe and green fig, granadilla, litchi, gooseberry and a hint of green pepper - yet still maintaining a complex character of nettle and freshly cut grass. The mouth-filling ripe fruit is supported by crisp acid." My notes: Referred to in Beppi Crosariol's column (July 18th, G&M) as on Diana Krall's preferred wines list (under $20) I had to try it. An almost clear blond (the wine) with a greenish hue and aromas particular to sauvignon blanc: grass, honeysuckle, grapefruit, gooseberry and citrus. A crispness leads to flavours of citrus, gooseberries and nettles - a somewhat moderate, steely finish. A suitably social sipper, not overly succulent or rich as in a NZ SB. More appropriate with seafoods or lightly seasoned chicken and rice dishes. Not likely to improve with cellaring... meant for drinking now. OK but not a value at this price point.

San Juan, Argentina, 14.0% XD, #032896 $11.95 (Tasted July 15, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 07, 2007 described as "Organically grown, this full, buttery Chardonnay features aromas and flavours of honey, pineapple, and vanilla. It would match well with roast chicken or seafood... " The label recommends opening an hour before serving. The winemaker notes " intense fruity wine with apples and ripe pineapple aromas. Has a trace of honey, butter and vanilla gained from a short maturation period in French oak barrels." My notes: A Silver medal winner in the first Wines of Argentina Awards held in Mendoza and attended by Jancis Robinson whose website published the results (dated February 26, 2007). A light golden colour with a nose suggesting butter, caramel and a hint of pineapple, or is it lemon zest? Btw I neglected opening an hour before. The texture is nicely rounded with a tart edge and an unexpected lusciousness. Flavours are well integrated and pose a puzzle of citrus, light butterscotch, white grapefruit and faint toasty oak. Finishes long and bright almost tart with grapefruit edges lasting 'til the next sip. I enjoyed this as a sipper and expect it would be great with any seafood, chicken breast on herbed rice or pork tenderloin. And it should cellar well up to five years... a bargain for anyone looking for a very lightly oaked chard.

Australia, 12.5% D, #323063 $14.15 (Tasted July 14, 2007)

A General listing described as "Light yellow-green; bright citrus peel, grass, tropical fruit aromas; light-medium-bodied, fairly intense, grassy, citrus infused peach flavours. Serve with lemon chicken with stir-fried bok choy." No 2006 Vintage notes are available on the website however with a commercial wine vintage variances may not be significant. The 2003 blend is described as "... a classic blend of these two varietals. The Semillon provides vibrant tropical flavours of peach, passionfruit and melon. Sauvignon Blanc adds citrus and cut grass flavours to this blend. This wine is fresh, fruity and clean with a subtle hint of spice. It has a long lingering finish with varietal fruit flavours throughout." My notes: Some floating motes were apparent in a light blond colour and there was an unusual nose of musty lemon. The flavours are quite bland and follow the nose with a balanced but light acid. I did not discern any 'fairly intense, grassy, citrus infused peach' or other distinct varietal character. Personally I did not find it sippable and I would pair it with a highly flavoured seafood dish with a strong lemon or tangy sauce. A commercial white I intend to avoid.

Alsace, France, 12.5% XD, #030593 $19.95 (Tasted July 11, 2007)

A Vintages release on April 28, 2007 described as "It may come as a surprise that Chardonnay is planted in Alsace, albeit in limited quantities. It can only be used for one thing, as a component in the Alsatian sparkling wine Crémant d'Alsace. The other grapes allowed are Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Auxerrois and Riesling. The sparkling wines of Alsace tend to have a fine, pretty mousse, crisp, refreshing acidity and an attractive light to medium body. Enjoy this fizz at the start of a fine meal." Their website says "... the crowning glory of the lively and delicate sparkling Alsace wines, made using the traditional method. Pinot Blanc is the main grape variety but Riesling and Pinot Gris are used in the base wine. The attack, marked by a slight acidity, is then balanced on lovely floral notes... " My notes: A light golden colour with lots of varied sized bubbles trailing into a continuous fine stream. The nose is bright, full of apple, pear, and soft yeast and flavours follow the nose. There is a wonderful balance between acid, leaning to acid, and natural fruit sugar leaving a slight oil on the lips but a cleansed palate and a tart apple flavour. Would be perfect with chilled fresh oysters... or toasting the lucky couple, sharing a birth celebration or just sipping on the deck watching kids splash in a nearby pool - any excuse to sip. A higher alcohol level than the Muscat d'Asti so quaffing isn't recommended. A good value imho.

Piedmont, Italy, 5.0% MS, #030775 $17.95 (Tasted July 10, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 07, 2007 described as "Moscato d'Asti is without question one of the perfect 'Sunday Brunch' wines. It is pleasantly fizzy, low in alcohol, delightfully sweet without ever being cloying and matches an array of dishes from spicy Asian food to grilled salmon to fresh fruit desserts." Natalie MacLean gives it 88/100 saying "'Favourite Sparkling Wine' for the Release and "A lovely, refreshing and sweet wine with aromas of melons... " The website says "Its fragrance is fruity and wide. The flavour is lively and fresh thanks to its fine bubbles. It goes well with desserts and fruit, occasionally also suggested as an unique aperitif." My notes: A nose full of sweetness, candy apple, melons and peaches and a fine mousse to tickle and relax the senses. After a hot day of gardening Ontario clay a bottle doesn't last long... it's very easily quaffed, in a sauvignon blanc glass for me. Is a somewhat sweeter replacement for Petalo il Vino Dell'Amore Moscato Bottega (#588780) as a desert bubbly or an addition to a chilled bowl of melon balls. Sweet and luscious either way. There's no wire and knobby cork but a vee-shaped flat-topped wedgey to close this bubbly

FETZER 'VALLEY OAKS' PINOT GRIGIO 2005, Calif, USA, 13.0% D, #034041 $11.95 (Tasted July 10, 2007)

A General listing described as "Bright pale lemon in colour, the nose shows clean aromas of ripe melon of medium intensity. Medium-bodied, dry and slightly viscous, it possesses flavours of tropical fruit and a lingering citrusy finish. Serve with cured ham appetizers, tapas." The winemaker says "... Our PG is perhaps richer, perhaps fruitier than some styles, but you’ll recognize the high acidity and balanced crispness that make this wine a wonderful summer sipper... Fruit-forward in character, with flavors of citrus, ripe apple and a touch of vanilla, balanced with some minerality and a finish you can’t ignore. There are hints of fresh flowers in the nose, even earthy... " The Frugal Oenophile says "There's a rich cocktail of aromas here: spice, gooseberry, and grapefruit with nuances of apricot and vanilla. The palate is mouth-watering with a citrusy acidity and loads of peach flavour. Very good body and length, with a pleasantly tart close. This juicy fruit-bomb would be terrific at any chill level... " My notes: A pale blond colour with a bright, honeydew melon nose, a round tartness on the first sip and flavours of melon and pear with a lemon edge and ending in a smooth, slightly pear-lemon finish. A pleasant enough sipper without the spiciness or minerality I associate with PG and could finish flabby if not kept chilled. Should be great paired with light seafood dishes, lightly oiled, ie. not creamy pasta dishes. A commercial house white and a good value.

Western Cape, S Africa, 14.0% D, #943167 $12.95 (Tasted July 08, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 07, 2007 described as "Exceptionally drinkable and well-priced. Varying blend, usually chenin[28%], crouchen[20%], clairette[16%] base, with focus on tasty quaffability. [2006] gains from viognier's[17%] floral addition and semillon's[19%] weight. Score Three (of 5). (Christine Rudman, John Platter South African Wines 2007)." Natalie MacLean gives it 86/100 saying "A blend... that smells and tastes like pinot grigio. A refreshing, mouth-watering and non-oaky wine." VH of Winecurrent gives it four (of 5) saying This white blend opens with notes of floral and beeswax then delivers a gorgeously-textured and well-balanced mélange of flavours including lemon-lime, tropical fruit and yellow plum. It's medium- to full-bodied with a very long and spicy finish. There's complexity, balance and weight here... " Gord Stimmell gives it an 88/100 saying "... full of character. The aromas and flavour show glimpses of lime, bubblegum, melon, lemongrass and clover blossoms, with a nice crisp finish that craves food. Solid value." My notes: A skilful blend of diverse whites, light fragrances of honey and wild flowers, flavours of lemon, clover honey with some natural fruit sugars, and leaving a soft dry finish of oils, apple and pear. Close to a flavourful chenin blanc or a pinot grigio but really, it's doing its own thing. A social sipper - it wouldn't offend a teetotaler until the second glass or so. Was great with toasted tomato sandwiches and should be great with mussels, telapia, or light seafood chowders. A drink-now and a value for an off-dry house white.

South Australia, 13.5% XD, #624502 $15.95 (Tasted July 08, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 07, 2007 described as "... has consistently been regarded as a superstar – at its price point. Surprising really, because it is so subtle that it would be easy to miss. This is a delicately perfumed white that is pristine, fresh and youthful, has little overt fruit flavour, except for a hint of ripe apricot, but a marvelous viscous texture and gentle, fine acidity that enables the flavour to build at the finish. Score - Bloody Good. (Peter Forrestal, Quaff 2007)" VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "Wow! Sourced from older vines.., this is a stunning wine, especially at the price. Floral (honeysuckle) and peach on the nose, the palate is treated to a creamily-textured and medium- to full-bodied mouthful of dazzling fruit flavours-citrus and tropical fruit to the fore. The finish is lengthy and spicy (musk and mixed incense)..." The website says "... pale gold in colour with green hues. The aroma is intense white flowers -particularly honeysuckle - and hints of apricot nectar. The palate is rich and long, with citrus and tropical fruit flavours. This wine exhibits the typical Viognier texture - silky, rich and luscious with a lovely fresh finish." My notes: Blond with a green hue and aromas of kiwi melon and faint lemon. A clean, crisp tartness with crushed lemon seed merging with delicate tropical fruit, can't tell what, carried on a grassy seam. A medium-bodied sipper with a long refreshing but almost chalky dry, round, citrus finish. Should be great with most seafoods: scallops broiled or fried, halibut and fries, grilled shrimp skewers - maybe planked salmon but I can't see a delicate swordfish. Cellarable for several years... and a bargain meal white.

New Zealand, 13.5% D, #293043 $15.25 (Tasted July 01, 2007)

This is a General listing for which the description is unchanged from previous vintages: "Pale straw colour; gooseberry, herbs and a hint of tropical fruit on the nose; dry and medium-bodied with a crisp finish. Serve with smoked salmon, asparagus risotto or herbed chicken". My notes: The 2005 vintage was tasted January 2006 and summarized as 'Much the same as the 2004 [tasted June 2005] ... A delightful crisp sipper with tropical fruit aromas filling in grapefruit and gooseberry flavours...'. The colour of the 2006 vintage is almost clear with a greenish hue and has a full nose of gooseberry and nettles, refreshing with a flavour that is also refreshing, of gooseberries mostly, some lime and a round texture making it smooth on the palate. Finishes with a full tartness, crisp and clean which makes it great paired with garlic or buttery seafoods, roasted chicken or planked salmon. Other than the deposit the price hasn't changed that much which, with the full NZ flavour and consistency, continues to make it a value for an everyday SB. A drink-now.

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