Friday, August 03, 2007

August Reds (14): Argentina Cab Sauv, Malbec; Australia Blend; Canada Blend; Chile Carm, CSauv(3), Merl, Syrah; Italy Blend(2); S Africa Shir; USA Zin

BARON PHILLIPPE DE ROTHSCHILD RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #032151 $14.95 (Tasted August 26, 2007)

A Vintages release on August 18, 2007 described as "The most recent project of the Rothschild family in Chile is a line of regionally designated wines. In each region they chose the variety best suited to the growing conditions of the area. Maipo Valley is famous for Cabernet Sauvignon, and this well-delineated wine has flavours of black fruit, with hints of cedar and fine-grained tannins. This classic Bordeaux-styled Cabernet could be cellared for 2-3 years or enjoy it tonight with roasted red meats." Gord Stimmell (G&M, Aug 18) gives this 89/100 saying "shows lots of heft for the price, with aromas and flavours both showing solid blackberry, cedar and vanilla.... plummy lingering finish." My notes: An opaque carmen with a violet hue and aromas of blackberry and smoky vanilla. The flavours are fully developed but balanced having an overall 'black fruit' result. A silky sipper, full-bodied, not quite 'chewable' and with a soft blackberry finish that continues for a long warm while. This has subtle brightness and tannins to accompany the fruit and its fullness makes it great for anything flavourful and beefy. If you don't mind a subdued fruit cellaring four years could add more lustre even to what it has now. A mellow cab to share with close friends and well worth a dozen or so.

IN SITU WINEMAKER'S SELECTION CARMENÈRE 2004, Aconcagua Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #037952 $13.95 (Tasted August 25, 2007)

A Vintages release on August 18, 2007 and produced by Viña San Esteban. "This wine won a Gold Medal at the prestigious Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. The wine has an intense ruby red colour and the nose is concentrated showing red fruits, light spice and hints of earth. The palate has the soft, voluptuous texture typical of fully ripened Carmenère... " RP of Winecurrent gives it four (of 5) saying "There’s an interesting floral note to the ripe berries and dark fruit in the aromatics of this wine. It gives way to full-flavoured, ripe dark fruit and berries on the palate, all wrapped in a soft, smooth texture. Medium-full bodied and dry, this one’s ready to go as soon as you lift the well-seasoned steak from the grill." My notes: A cherry red with aromas of tangy redcurrant and cherry and flavours of much the same with a firm tannin added. On the lightish side of medium-body with a drying mouthfeel starting the finish and having a redcurrant follow through. An interesting dry sipper different than traditional varietals, very bright with a sour cherry ending. A meal red rather than a sipper. Have with grilled beef or a pepperoni, tomato and garlic pizza as I did. Can't see this cellaring more than a year so a drink-now. At the right price although I wouldn't get it in for company.

Geelong, Australia, 14.5% D, #041244 $17.95 (Tasted August 25, 2007)

 A Vintages release on August 18, 2007 described as "Named for William Buckley, a giant at 'six foot six', who escaped a prison ship just as it laid anchor at Geelong, Australia in 1803... His stature is matched in the ripe, masculine, vibrancy of this big, bold Shiraz. Try it with expansively flavoured meat dishes." RP of Winecurrent gives it four (of 5) saying "This is a big... and bold Shiraz in the Australian style. It’s not quite Shiraz on steroids, because the touch of Viognier adds a lighter note to the aromas and texture... you’ll enjoy the bold weight and rich dark berry and fruit flavours here, especially if you match it with well-seasoned lamb." My notes: A blend of 97% shiraz and 3% viognier... a deep ruby colour with a lighter rose edge and aromas of cherry, blackberry, light floral and black pepper. Medium-bodied, a tangy edge to the intro with flavours including mint, blackberry, redcurrant and a lemon touch. A noticeably different shiraz having a much lighter pepper or spice presence. With just 3% viognier I'd guess the shiraz grapes to be less full than expected with the viognier adding aroma and body highlights. Moderate oaking makes this a less robust sipper. A long smooth finish with the berries and a light citrus in the foreground. This became very smooth when paired with a steak and cheese sub with jalepenos and chipolte sauce. Should be equally complementary with any flavourful meat dish. A wine you could take anywhere.

Central Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #687681 $13.95 (Tasted August 23, 2007)

A Vintages release on August 18, 2007 described as "... this wine won a Gold Medal at the 4th Annual Wines of Chile Awards in 2007. Look for aromas of cherry, berry and mint, with nice replays of flavours on the palate and a peppery finish. Enjoy with grilled steak or pasta with meat sauce." Gord Stimmell (G&M, Aug 18) gives this 90/100 saying "... Rich aromas of blackberry, cedar, mocha, chocolate and vanilla. Best red of the Release." My notes: A deep ruby garnet hued colour with aromas of smoky blackberry, pepper and mint - didn't get the 'cedar, mocha, chocolate and vanilla'. The approach is bright, clean and dry tannin with firm flavours of red cherries and slight cedar. The dryness carries well into a long finish of woody red cherries. A meal red... have with grilled or roasted beef, rare or well done - a prime rib or rack of lamb would enjoy its company. Likely will cellar a year but not longer... the body is lightish medium without any substantial fruit presence - an european cab sauv. A value red for short term cellaring - buy by the case.

Veneto, Italy, D 13.5%, #650713 $16.95 (Tasted August 20, 2007)

A Vintages release on August 18, 2007 described as "This fabulous Ripasso has been a major hit in Ontario since its first release two years ago. It has the structure to match with flavourful dishes, such as gourmet hamburgers or roast leg of lamb, but its upfront fruit-forward style also makes it a pleasant sipping wine." RP of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "If you haven’t tried an Italian red recently, this will show you the way back. It has lovely sweet fruit (cherry, berries) with moderate complexity that’s forward but complex. It’s very well balanced, medium bodied, and lightly tannic, and it goes nicely with anything from pizza to burgers, from veal to lamb." My notes: Very much like the 2003 when released, a bright ruby colour, soft cherry nose with luscious cherry and berry flavours mixed with a light anise likely from the ripasso rendition. Very pleasing as a dry, medium-bodied sipper finishing long and with enough brightness to pair with grilled steak or a hefty three meat pizza. The 2003 cellared a year+ before losing fruit - I think this will do the same. A dollar more but still worth a dozen or so imho. Go for it!

Veneto, Italy, D 13.5%, #650713 $15.95 (Retasted August 14, 2007)

My notes: Vintages released this on June 24, 2006 and my first tasting was the same month. VH of Winecurrent had given it five (of 5) and Natalie MacLean, 87/100. I agreed with the comments made at the time by Winecurrent and purchased a slew. The overall smoothness added to the cherry and plum flavours by a seam of licorice was compelling. I retasted March 2, 2007 concluding the short time cellared had improved the body and mellowness without any loss of bright cherry flavour. Now six months later the fruit is very much subdued: a light smoky herby aroma with flavours void of cherry but still having a spicy allure and silky texture. A pleasing sipper. Have with salt herring or smoked salmon on a bagel, sliced ham or seared pork chop. Cellaring longer isn't fruitful... have a family open house to use what's racked.

Calif. USA, 14.5% XD, #678698 $17.95 (Retasted August 13, 2007)

My notes: A Vintages release with the date unkown and without a description at the time. I last tasted in April, 2006 with the comment "A 'prickly' cedar nose with possibly a raw plum note. A dense ruby colour, full-bodied with a prune and cherry flavour and a strong tannic, acid bite. Improves slightly with decanting but nothing worthwhile imho. The finish is long, sharp and tannic craving a grilled steak or full-flavoured stew - not a sipper etc." Natalie MacLean (Good Values Mar 30/2006) gave it 90/100 tied as her Favourite Red. On the other hand Gismondi's website ranked it 85/100. Tasted today this zinfandel has a warm nose of plums and black cherries with some smoky oak all in the background. The first swish cleanses the palate thoroughly leaving flavours of black cherries and equal parts gnarly-ness or a dry stemmy edge. Finishes long, round but still bright and as much smoke as fruit on the palate. A tart sipper... more of a dinner red... with something spicy and rare. Did not go with ham sliced thick off the bone and bbq'd - too robust and steely edged. This has mellowed quite a bit in a year... I'd say it has met the 85/100 at this point.

Western Cape, South Africa, 14.5% D, #027805 $13.10 1000mL Tetra Pak (Tasted August 11, 2007)

A General listing produced by United Nations of Wine and described as "Deep red in colour; aromas of spice, plum & berries; flavours of berry & vanilla. Serve with beef dishes." Gismondi rates it 84/100 saying "The Frisky red doesn't really overcome that meaty earthy SA nose that permeates most red wine from the Cape. The entry mixes blueberries leather and smoky, cigar flavoured fruit that finishes soft and spicy. Simple, red wine at an affordable price." A brilliant package labelled as 'Premium' and described as . 'Swirling hues of deep dark ruby red whisper of things to come. Wild berries and savoury spices arouse immediate interest. Loads of berries, spices and herbs with hints of vanilla and malted dark chocolate... " My notes: Equivalent to $9.90 for 750mL so not a bad price if it was as advertised on the label - but it isn't. A ruby red with a distinct violet hue and aromas of peppery plums, earthy and warm to the nose. Smooth on the tongue from the first sip, medium-bodied, black plums, blueberries and chocolate with a pepper edge. Some tars and 'bandaid' with less fruit on the long smoky finish but not objectionable... less noticeable with food. A passable sipper for some - my BH didn't get passed the first sip tho'. Pair with anything flavourful and/or spicy: steak, rack of lamb, homeburger with the works, three meat pizza. Not bad for a $10 wine... seemed natural enough to me. No, I wouldn't get it in for guests.

Argentina, 13.0% D, #589523 $10.20 (Tasted August 08, 2007)

A General Listing described as "Medium violet/ruby colour; currants, cherries, oak and spice and lavendar on the nose; dry, medium-full-bodied with a ripe fruit centre, supple tannins and good length on the finish. Serve with grilled steak, roast beef or pork or roasted vegetables." and produced by Bodegas Esmeraldas. The website tasting notes are "... a dark ruby red colour with a concentrated nose of fresh cherries and a touch of eucalyptus. The ripe plum and red currant flavours are meshed with shades of spice and cedar from oak ageing and transforms into a long, lingering finish characterized by ripe, sweet tannins." My notes: No significant nose - in the least I couldn't discern 'oak', 'spice' or 'lavender', the others, perhaps if I close my eyes and make a wish. A light- to medium-bodied wine, very soft from the first sip with remnants of blackberries or black cherries, balanced acid and faint fine tannin. The finish is moderately long if left undisturbed. This red is light on everything you'd look for in a cabernet sauvignon but what's there seems natural. Too meek when paired with blackened sirloin and garlic potatoes. More of a social sipper.

Argentina, 12.7% D, #518431 $9.00 (Tasted August 08, 2007)

A General listing described as "Medium deep ruby red/garnet; Aromas and flavours of ripe black berry, currant, plum, violet, cherry and herb; Dry, medium bodied, with soft tannins; medium long finish, warm spicy notes; easy drinking style. Serve with grilled steak; slow cooked meat stews; mushroom influenced dishes." and produced by Canandaigua Winery Fecovita a unit of Constellation Brands. My notes: A deep ruby colour, medium-bodied with no detectable or perhaps a neutral nose. A sateen texture, well balanced acids and soft plum flavour. Paired with a white bean soup it was hardly noticeable - more of a soft flavour change after early courses. The finish added a faint fig that waned quickly. A social sipper. Have at family get togethers where the fare could be hot dogs or cold sliced ham.

20 BEES GROWER'S RED 2005, Niagara, Canada, 12.1% D, #053975 $12.15 1000mL Tetra Pak (Tasted August 07, 2007)

My notes: Made by Niagara Vintners Inc., a Company founded by 'nineteen growers and one chief winemaker' for the purpose of making 'great tasting, unpretentious wines at an unpretentious price'. The label goes on to say, '100% Homegrown Grapes' so no imported juices used, however, this General listed product was located in the 'Cellared in Canada' section. Also the website claims 'All our wines are VQA' but doesn't have tasting notes for their tetra pak products nor does the carton have the VQA accreditation. The colour is a lightish ruby with an aroma of fresh red cherries. Well balanced acid and fruit, soft tannins (if any), light-bodied, smooth from the first sip and a moderate finish that's bright with light red cherries remaining on the palate. The equivalent of $9.15 for 750mL, this could be a very profitable house red. Definitely not demonstrative - a social sipper for family get togethers or anytime one feels like unscrewing the cap. I'd guess something like tempranillo and a touch of malbec in the blend - could use some cab sauv. 'Great' No. 'Unpretentious' Yes. Should be OK with light dishes: ham steak, hot or cold sliced turkey, salmon or chicken pieces on greens. Strictly a drink-now.

Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #041715 $18.95 (Tasted August 05, 2007)

A Vintages release on August 04, 2007 described by their Panel as "Layers of plum, chocolate, spice and blackberry aromas waft out of the glass. Dry and flavourful with fine mid-palate tannins and a pretty sweet spiciness on the finish. This medium full-bodied, long-finishing wine is a good choice for roast beef with root vegetables and roast potatoes." Natalie MacLean rated it 88/100 noting "A rich, full-bodied and chocolatey wine." My notes: Is a ruby red with no shadings and, after airing twenty minutes, has an aroma of red cherries, blackberries and white pepper. Medium-bodied with flavours that basically follow the nose: blackberries but with dark chocolate sprinkled with slight but persistent pepper. Velvety smooth on the first sip continuing to a long finish ending with smoky chocolate and black olives. A very acceptable sipper as a dry european style red. More appropriately companion'd with a grilled or roasted meat entree where the natural fruit sweetness could be highlighted. Not sure where or when this will appear on their website... as with the Ramirana Reserva Cab Sauv (#041467) I could not find this label listed. It would be interesting to see where this goes after four years cellaring. An OK drink-now for the price and could evolve into something special.

VIÑA LA ROSA ‘LA CAPITANA' MERLOT 2004, Cachapoal Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #655209* $14.95 (Retasted August 05, 2007)

Purchased August 2006 and last tasted February, 2007. My notes: A blend of Merlot(85%), Carmenère(10%) and Cabernet Sauvignon. Warm aromas of cedar humidor and blackberries pleasingly nip the nose, with a deep garnet ruby colour. A flavourful blackberry and unsweetened chocolate on the tongue with supporting tars and very fine tannins to make this a robust sipper. The smooth finish is full of warmth, some lingering tars and dry fruit. Pairing with grilled or roasted meats, lamb or beef, would be a perfect dinner duo. Cellaring for the year has integrated textures and developed earthy flavours at the expense of fruity freshness. There is sufficient left for an additional year. A 'merlot with spirit' now approaching 'aggressive'. Was a bargain but *no longer listed.
Colchagua, Chile, 14.0% D, #041467 $14.95 (Tasted August 03, 2007)

A Vintages release on August 4, 2007 described as "A great wine for grilled steak due to its rich fruit aromas and flavours of blueberry, cassis and oak spice. This fruity wine is also quite elegant, with good balance and structure. It is ready to drink, but will also reward 1-3 years in a cellar." VH of Winecurrent gives it four (of 5) saying "This highlights Chile's expertise and further potential in producing fairly-priced, full-flavoured Cab from this cooler-climate region. Look for subtle aromas of red berry fruit and mint then a lovely sensation as sweet cassis... minty chocolate and earthy flavours wash over your palate. Not overdone, this is well balanced and well structured with ripe, fine-grained tannins and the perfect amount of zest for interest and a dry clean finish... very good value." My notes: A distinct violet hue to the ruby red with aromas of plum, blackberry and soft leather - then velvet textures carry flavours of red cherries and blackberries along with a dry mineral aspect of crushed granite. The finish is moderate ending on a delectable note of warm berries. No need to air as a sipper... and would be a great companion to things beefy: grilled, roasted, stewed, or crockpotted - with lots of mushrooms, gravy, mashed carrot and turnip. A year or two cellaring will give some improvement but this is drinking well now. Light on boldness for serious cab sauv drinkers but otherwise it will have a large following. I agree, 'very good value'.

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