A Casella Wines product and an LCBO General listing described as "Dark ruby purple; blackberry, red liquorice, vanilla bean and plum aromas; dry, full-bodied, softly structured with flavours of plum, ripe berry and a sweet fruit centre; long spicy finish. Serve with BBQ fare and beef dishes." Their website says "Impressive spice, licorice and red berry aromas. This wine is perfectly balanced with silky tannins, accompanied by big, ripe fruit flavours." and "the #1 best selling red wine (750mL) in the US." My notes: Has an attractive deep ruby colour with a red cherry and wet espresso grounds nose. An off-dry with flavours of black cherry and blackberry jam... full in the mouth, a nice balance of tannin and acid but having an indistinct herbal note close to a shiraz pepper but without the zip. A medium finish ending with a film of earthy plum. Comes across as an alcoholic beverage manufactured for North American tastes but for my taste it has too many elements uncharacteristic of an uncluttered varietal. Pair with bbq'd ribs, a rubbed steak, portabello burgers or use as the base for a sangria. A popular red... but not for me.
ALBAMAR CARMENERE 2005, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 13.0% XD, #032763 $12.95 (Tasted July 27, 2007)
A Vintages release on July 21, 3007 described as "Once mistaken for Merlot, Carmenère is now causing a great deal of excitment in Chile. This version from William Cole displays the soft ripe red and dark berry fruit with undertones of fresh herbs typical of the grape. The low tannins make this a great red to pair with light meats, or try it with grilled chicken and pesto sauce." Natalie MacLean gives it 89/100 saying "A fantastic value wine! It is full-bodied with notes of chocolate and black fruit on the nose." VH of Winecurrent says "Smoky and oaky on the nose, this delivers fruit-forward flavors on a round and warm medium-weight frame. Look for loads of sour cherry, spicy cranberry and moderating zest right through to the dry medium-length finish. This would pair well with lasagna, pizza with a tomato sauce or spicy meat loaf." My notes: I couldn't find the winery website so can't say what the winemaker thinks of his/her creation. And how carmenere could be confused with merlot is beyond me. Allow the first pour to air for ten minutes or decant the bottle. Sniffing then gives a softer blend of cranberry and raspberry shifting to a spicy mix of redcurrant and blackberry - lots of it. A deep ruby colour with a dryness prolonged through the first sip but quickly letting the flavours show: red currant (mostly), blackberry and graphite. Finishes long with the dryness and red currant persisting. A sipper if you like unusual... more of a meal red for spicy tomato and rice dishes, italian red pepper pastas with hot or sweet sausage pieces (even chorizo), bbq'd side ribs lightly seasoned with Barberian's Steak rub. Should be able to cellar this for a few years but it's at peak now with its current flavours. Priced right.
SANTA CAROLINA BARRICA SELECTION SYRAH 2005, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #034959 $14.95 (Tasted July 26, 2007)
A Vintages release on July 21, 2007 described as "This robust Syrah won a Sillver Medal at the 2006 Indy International Wine Competition. With a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon for added complexity, it displays flavours of blackberry with hints of chocolate and spice, enhanced by vanilla notes. Full-bodied and long-finishing, this Syrah is rich and complex, elegant and well-balanced. For a truly South American experience, serve with a thick steak, grilled rare, sliced and dipped in high quality salt." Gord Stimmell on July 21 gives it 90/100 saying "A hit of cabernet sauvignon adds some backbone to this value-packed syrah, which shows aromas dominated by plum, vanilla, black cherry and cedar. The flavours also show lovely long mocha and chocolate stylings." Natalie MacLean rates it 90 as well calling it the Best Value Red Wine of the Release and saying "Rich, luscious and full-bodied... " My notes: Obviously this bodega exists but I haven't been able to find its website as yet. A Santiago location is shown on the bottle. This syrah has a deep crimson colour and earthy aromas of plums, blackberries and a hint of vanilla. A peppery tartness fills the initial sip with blackberries flowing alongside black cherries. Almost full-bodied and finishing with a nice balance of tannins, acids and pepper plus more than a trace of cherry to reward the palate - didn't get the mocha or chocolate. An OK sipper and should be great with anything barbequed and beefy. Not much to cellar but I'd try two years, priced OK and is in a presentable bottle.
NINTH ISLAND PINOT NOIR 2005, Tasmania, Australia, 13.0% D, #024976 $19.95 (Tasted July 25, 2007)
A Vintages release on July 21, 2007 described as "Located on the north shore of Tasmania, the Ninth Island estate benefits from the area’s long, cool growing season. This Pinot is light and fragrant, with wild strawberries, dark cherries and a hint of dried herbs, with a refreshingly lively finish. It is a perfect wine to pair with charcuterie, barbecued quail, grilled salmon or crab." The website says "Vibrant pinot noir ruby colour with a lifted aroma of dark cherries, red & black currants and strawberries, with a faint background of mocha chocolate with under tones of spice. The palate is concentrated and long, with the characteristic hallmark of good pinot noir: a sensual, velvety mouth-feel. Sweet fruit on the mid-palate and is balanced by satisfyingly integrated tannins and long finish." My notes: If your nose is well into the bowl close to the wine then it's a mix of cherries, black berries and forest floor altho' letting air for twenty minutes introduces strawberry in the mix. The colour is a rich ruby with a pinkish edge and light-bodied. Flavour buds hit the senses from the first sip... 'wild' strawberries or what I'd call 'immature fruit' along with a lime tang that carries with it red cherries and cedar flakes. A bright finish with the same flavour theme leaving a dryng zing to the palate. An interesting sipper but really it's a meal wine. Pair with planked salmon, cajun carp, turkey with loganberry sauce or a plum/apple stuffing. I'd have difficulty recommending or repurchasing this pinot noir.
X&Y SHIRAZ 2004, Margaret River, Australia, 15.0% D, #041194 $17.95 (Tasted July 24, 2007)A Vintages release on July 21, 2007. VH of Winecurrent gave it four and one half (of 5) describing it as "This punches well above its price and earned the final half star based on value. Plum and black pepper form the lifted aromas while the warm fleshy (almost creamy) texture and flavours offer spicy red berry fruit. The finish layers on rich and sweet (not jammy) Bing cherry and a dollop of moderating zest. This shows balance and class... get an armful of this." The website says "Nose: Bright red berry fruits with subtle earthy/savoury notes which adds further complexity. Careful oak handling has imparted some well balanced cedar characters. The palate is soft and fleshy with excellent overall balance. Fresh red berry fruits dominate with a firm but well balanced tannin structure... at peak now with a cellaring potential of six years." My notes: I think of 'value' as more of an incentive to purchase than an element of a wine's 'taste' but would have given it the same rating regardless. A blend of shiraz(92%), cabernet sauvignon(4%), merlot(2%) and other(2%) producing a deep ruby colour with an aroma having the edge of blackcurrants and the roundness of raspberries. An initial sharpness with an accompanying flavour of a blueberry/raspberry coulis ending with a touch of black pepper then finishing bright, luscious, and fruity on the palate makes this a very enjoyable sipper. It should be equally suitable with grilled beef, crockpot stews, homeburgers with caramelized onions or grilled portabellos, rack of lamb or roast duck. Has enough character to cellar for quite a few years. And if I could afford it I'd buy a case - no, make that two.
ROSEMOUNT DIAMOND SHIRAZ CABERNET 2006, S Eastern Australia, 14.0% D, #214270 $13.25 (Tasted July 22, 2007)
A General listing described as "Ruby red colour; raspberry and red currant aroma, with pepper and spice; sweet plum flavour; smooth finish. Serve with grilled meats, prime rib or pepper steak." My notes: This blend is not shown on their website. The colour is a deep ruby with a violet hue. Aromas are of sweet cherries, raspberries and pepper. The flavours blend cherries with raspberries then add an unrelated sweetness that carries through to the finish, a finish which is fairly long with a woody seam and remnants of sweet cherry and firm drying tannins. Almost an off-dry and for me, not enough varietal character to be interesting as a sipper. Pair with hamburgers, italian sausage pieces with a herb dip, lamb kebobs or save for a sangria. A commercial beverage.
DEL FIN DEL MUNDO RESERVA PINOT NOIR 2005, Patagonia, Argentina, 14.0% D, #684548 $14.95 (Tasted July 22, 2007)
A Vintages release on July 21, 2007 described as "This terrific introductory Pinot Noir is from ‘the end of the world’... Patagonia is the cool, rugged region at the southern tip of Argentina. The wines here are usually more subtle than those from Mendoza and other regions. The fragrant aromas, sweet cherry flavours, velvety tannins and good balance of acidity make this a terrific choice for grilled pork medallions or salmon steaks." My notes: A mid ruby colour with a strawberry hued edge and aromas of crushed strawberries, cherries, licorice and white pepper, very different and an aroma I had to sniff awhile to appreciate. Letting air levels off the aromas nicely but actually may not be preferred. The first sip brings a mixed texture of oils and slight acid introducing a equal part blend of strawberry, raspberry, and red cherries finishing with the warmth of the fruit and a light tannic dryness. Successive sips reinforce the fruit and spice lessening the initial impression of 'oils'. I found this to be a lip-smacking but different red sipper - my spouse did not. It should pair nicely with roast chicken, rack of lamb, pork tenderloin, planked atlantic or wild sockeye salmon. Cellaring two to five years could bring out exotic nuances - at the price it'd be worth a try.
JACKSON-TRIGGS PROPRIETORS' SELECTION SHIRAZ NV, Ontario, Canada, 13.0% D, #637728 (1500mL) $18.95 (Tasted July 21, 2007)
A Vincor International product and a LCBO General listing described as "Ruby red; Aromas of red berry fruit, with hints of leather and light smoky notes; Dry, medium-bodied, with soft berry fruit and moderate finish. Serve with light grilled meats." The website claims "Deep garnet in colour, our Shiraz imparts rich aromas of ripe raspberry and blackberry with hints of cracked pepper and a subtle touch of oak. Bold fruit flavours dominate this full bodied wine while firm tannins complete the finish." My notes: The sku numbers shown on the website incorrectly identify this label... and for some reason the 750mL size isn't listed at LCBO. Perhaps I've missed something but I can still taste what this 750mL bottle holds. The colour is a rich ruby possibly with a tuscan hue. Aromas are of slight cedar, a faint plum and black cherry mix - and flavours are red cherry carried along by a satin texture and leads to a silky finish of just-sweet red licorice sprinkled lightly with white pepper. A set-the-settings and turn-the-crank wine to me, ie. not much naturalness and not much heritage in the glass. It's just a beverage when it's nonvintage and nonVQA isn't it? Make mine Coke!
SANTA CAROLINA CABERNET SAUVIGNON MERLOT 2006, Central Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #245282 $9.15 (Tasted July 20, 2007)
A General listing described as "Garnet red colour; aromas of cassis and black raspberries; medium-bodied with ripe fruit flavour and light cedar spice on the finish. Serve with roasted or bbq meats; rack of lamb; pork loin." My notes: A rich ruby with a violet hue and aromas of sweet cherry bubble gum, not quite as sweet as the Pelee Island Cabernet tasted July 03. This has a smooth texture with a soft acid level but with the sweet cherry persisting over a bed of synthetic fruit flavours. I couldn't distinguish varieties. The finish is short leaving the sweet cherry behind and carrying the undiscernible fruit. My impression of commercial gimmickry prevents me from calling this a sipper and pairing with a meal would be limited to country fair fare: hot dogs, hamburgers and fries, burritos - where the main effort is getting past the food and hurrying to the games. A value? Guess.
RAIMAT ABADIA CRIANZA 2003, Costers del Segre, Spain, 13.0% XD, #935460 $15.95 (Tasted July 18, 2007)
A Vintages release on July 07, 2007 described as "A ruby-coloured blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo, the Abadia shows smoky spice notes of cedar, oak and tobacco on the nose, with flavours of plum, raspberry, coconut and hints of pepper. This is exceptionally smooth, elegant and long. Enjoyable now but will benefit from ageing (2-4 years)." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "This is a lovely wine regardless of cost, but exceptional at this low price. It opens with lifted aromas of smoke, toast and oak then delivers a huge mouthful of juicy flavour-red licorice, sweet black cherry and spiced black currant to the fore. It offers a replay of these on the lengthy finish. There's enough tannin for structure and good zing for balance... " My notes: A lightish ruby red with warm aromas of cherry, cranberry and toasty oak. Wonderful cherry vanilla flavours immediately fill the senses. Well balanced acids, tannins and white peppery spices avoid overpowering the fruits' freshness. A touch of licorice shows up in the long finish. A rewarding sipper and suitable for pairing with a mixed grill of sausage, chicken wings, mushroom caps or whatever else on the grill. On the light side of medium-bodied with a strong resemblance to a pinot noir but without any strawberry influence. Has aged well since 2003 and should for several more years... so at this price, I'll stock up.