Thursday, August 02, 2007

August Whites (17): Argentina Chard(2), PG, SB; Australia Chard(2); Canada Blend, Chard(2), Gew, Ries(2), Vid; Chile Chard, SB; France Blend; NZ Chard

FLAT ROCK CELLARS NADJA'S VINEYARD RIESLING 2006 VQA, Niagara, Jordan, 10.5% XD, #Winery $20.15 (Tasted August 28, 2007)

Purchased after a selection of all good whites at this modern, gravity flow winery. FR's tasting notes describes this as " in mineral and citrus notes. Crisp and delightfully different." Gord Stimmell rated it a 90 in his column September 19 saying "A phenomenal single vineyard riesling. Lovely peach aromas, with lime, apple and floral complexity. etc.... Absolutely delicious, and amazing for under $20." My notes: A light golden with a greenish hue with aromas of floral spice including a noticeable sharpness. Very clean like biting into a lime slice but with faint flavours of stone peach and grapefruit. The tartness continues through a moderate finish. This could be used as a dry aperitif setting up the buds for fresh oysters or cleaning the palate over nibbles of strong cheeses, Pair with fresh seafood dishes with lots of butter and garlic for the tartness to chew on. Cellaring is a question mark to me... might try two years then decide... likely would mellow with a light petrol appearing if cellared four to eight years. A good choice for selected imbibers.

Beamsville Bench, Niagara, 14.0% MD, #Winery $15.15 (Tasted August 27, 2007)

My notes: Each of winemaker Steve Kocsis' wines are uniquely different, this made from grapes grown at his Hillside Drive vineyards. The colour is a very light blond with a green tinge. The aroma is slightly of apricots but mostly straw with flavours of citrus, somewhat sharp not unlike unripened grape clusters. Finishes with a waning citrus - neither lime or lemon but light orange through the tartness - and leaving a very dry feel on the palate. If there's any natural sugar it's not apparent. Paired with warmed up rotisseried chicken pieces this had little complementary to offer, the dry citrus added no texture nor interest between chicken nibbles. The grapes in this vintage needed some oak help to add texture and flavour. If you are looking for a citric sharpness with crushed stems as the main flavour then go for it otherwise it's not recommended.CASA LAPOSTOLLE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2006, Rapel Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #396994 $13.95 (Tasted August 26, 2007)
A Vintages release on August 18, 2007 described as "Casa Lapostolle has established itself as one of the most dependable Chilean producers of quality wines at value prices. Their Rapel Valley Sauvignon Blanc has an attractive nose of sweet citrus and melon, with hints of fresh herbs. The palate is medium-bodied with a refreshing vein of acidity and light clean finish. This is a great all-purpose summer white that can match a variety of lighter dishes. It would also serve as an excellent palate refresher before a meal." Gord Stimmell (G&M, Aug 18) gives this 89/100 saying "...this brims with tropical pineapple, lime and sorrel aromas, with flavours showing crisp apple and pineapple purity... " My notes: A reasonably priced SB with an abundant gooseberry, lime and straw nose and flavours to match. With 10% semillon this is bright on the tongue and slightly rounded with a drying straw finish. A pleasing sipper but with an aftertaste that is somewhat artificial - or perhaps it's the semillon in the mix. There's enough zip to pair with a rotisseried chicken doused with Montreal rub. A drink-now and OK for nondiscerning guests.
LANSON BLACK LABEL BRUT CHAMPAGNE NV, Champagne, France, 12.5% D, #041889 $44.95 (Retasted August 20, 2007)

Tasted in February, 2006. Vintages described this as a bubbly that "showcases superb quality at an agreeable price. etc." Wine Spectator had blessed it with 91 points and the label says: "..a pleasant, exuberant wine - can be enjoyed at any time: as an aperitif, with food, or at all celebrations..." Toronto Life gives the 2006 96/100 saying "Solid, serious traditional champagne, with intense lime, toasted nuts, lemon and dried fruit. Medium-full bodied, firm and dry, with a great beam of acidity." I tasted at the time with the comment "A crystal clear golden blond with a clean yeasty, white chocolate aroma... I could have it anytime, as a sipper or with fresh seafood tidbits including crabcakes. Has a long finish, cleansing to the palate and warming after a few sips... but shouldn't there be some 'mousseyness' at this price level?" My notes: I certainly don't understand the mystique of 'Champagne'. I'm continually looking for some component I never find, ie. fresh fruit. This is a blend of chardonnay (35%), pinot noir (50%), pinot meunier (15%) and is now very dry, sharp, no distinct citrus but citrussy, in fact no distinct fruit but a delightful creaminess. (How could a grape produce such crisp cleansing yet no fruit flavours?) Lots of fine bubbles rinse the palate to go with fresh oysters or other handy appetizer. Perfect for a gala gathering: an opera first night, an IPO, a yacht launching... but not for sipping with friends on the patio imho. I would not get it in for the friends I know - wrong crowd.

FLAT ROCK CELLARS UNPLUGGED CHARDONNAY 2006 VQA, Twenty Mile Bench, Jordan, 13.5% D, #Winery $17.15 (Tasted August 20, 2007)

Purchased by my BH after a selection of all good whites at this modern gravity flow winery. Flat Rock's tasting notes describes this as 'totally unoaked... crisp, perfect for pairing with a light lunch, etc." My notes: A very light pineapple pear nose with a very sharp attack on the senses on the first swallow, almost as tart as biting into a lemon. Should be listed as extra dry! The flavours need a second or third sip to acclimatize the taste buds. Mostly green apple with some steel edged roundness, light-bodied finishing clean and crisp faint apple. Have with fresh oysters, garlic shrimp, a bento box with tempura vegetable pieces. This is for a backyard patio in the hot summer with varied hors d'oeuvres, cold italian meats, hot sausage pieces. Reminds me of a Greek white without the varnish. Not my cup of tea... so they say.

Niagara, Canada, 12.0% MD, #200527 $13.95 (Tasted August 19, 2007)

A Vintages release on August 18, 2007 described as "Konzelmann's late harvest Riesling shows the diversity of the grape. Without the intense sweetness of a dessert wine, it is light enough to serve on its own as an aperitif or with grilled meat in a fruit sauce, but has enough residual sugar to pair well with lighter desserts or a selection of fine cheeses." The website says "This full-bodied sweet Riesling is well balanced with great acidity, fresh with fruity flavours and aromas of peach, apricot and pear. The wine has a great soft finish with good length. A great match with a wide variety of desserts and old cheeses, also excellent on its own as a sipping wine." RP of Winecurrent gives it three and one half (of 5) saying "If you think of Late Harvest wines as quite intensely sweet and quite viscous, think again. This Late Harvest Riesling has the flavours you associate with the sweeter wines (apricot, peach, tropical, mango) but here they’re presented in a much less intense style... light-medium bodied with good acidity..." My notes: Has a sugar code of three but with sufficient tartness to approach being succulent. Colour is a vibrant golden and aromas include weak cold tea, lemon peel and white grapefruit. A full texture with green apple, grapefruit and apricot flavourings finishing dry on the lips with a light sweetness lingering and layering the tongue making this an interesting sipper. The tart, subtle fruit would suit as an aperitif or with fresh oysters. Pair with grilled perch or trout fillets, with mixed vegetable and scallop or shrimp on skewers, grilled meat as long as it was in a fruit sauce as suggested. Not everyone will come back for seconds although this would make a good conversation starter.

FLAT ROCK CELLARS GEWURZTRAMINER 2006 VQA, Twenty Mile Bench, Jordan, 12.0% D, #Winery $19.15 (Tasted August 15, 2007)

Purchased after tasting a selection of delectable whites at this modern, gravity flow winery. Flat Rock's tasting notes describes this as their "first vintage of gewurz" having "a lovely nose, with just the right balance of sweetness. Lightly spicy and fruity... " My notes: The nose is an aromatic floral with apple and pear sidelights. A light blond colour, served well chilled there were flavours of clover honey, tangy apple and sugar pear with the floral carrying through to the palate. As the chill goes the offdry fruit takes over the flavour centre. The finish has more tang than spice leaving a slight dryness on the palate with remnants of sweet pear. A pleasant sipper by itself or with light seafood nibbles: cocktail shrimp, fresh or even smoked oysters. Pair with white fish entrees with a creamy wild mushroom and rice sidedish or leave 'til the end of a meal with a tray of fresh fruit slices and seedless grapes - if a prosecco isn't at hand. A very fresh drink-now, a happy-hour drink for guests that may look for a touch of sweetness to set up their appetite.

13.5% D, #668954 $12.95 1000mL Tetra Pak (Tasted August 12, 2007)

A General listing and a Hardy Wine Company product described as "Golden yellow colour; pear and papaya fruit aromas; flavours with light spicy notes. Clean and well-balanced. Serve chilled with seafood pasta or grilled swordfish." The modest carton claims "Environmentally friendly packaging offering you freshness and convenience" and piles of info on how Banrock is helping stock Lake Ontario with salmon. Ah yes, the wine, "Ripe tropical fruit and creamy melon flavours are complemented by a crisp fresh finish." My notes: Equivalent to $9.75 750mL but the label is not shown on their website. A light blond colour with faint aromas of fresh grapefruit and papaya - increases slightly as the chill goes. Light-bodied, delicate flavours of apricot, pear with a tang to balance the sweetness so it doesn't intrude. The finish is short with light papaya or some melon roundness on the lips, tapering into heavy oiliness. Chilled, this was an unappealing sipper. Marginally better when off chill, however, the oil put me off plus there is no freshness. Should be tolerable when paired with white fish entrees, shellfish or vegetable soups. Not for cellaring. Would I buy if guests were expected? Absolutely Not... and don't think I'd eat salmon from Lake Ontario at any time.

ARGENTO PINOT GRIGIO 2006, Argentina, 13.0% D, #620492 $10.20 (Tasted August 11, 2007)

A General listing produced by Bodegas Esmeralda and described as "Pale straw colour; peach and tropical fruit aromas; extra dry palate with medium body and crisp flavours. Serve with creamy pasta dishes, grilled shrimp or as an aperitif." Anthony Rose a reviewer for The Independent says "Italy's Pinot Grigio is often maligned as the emperor with no designer label, but this Argentinian version appeals because it combines ripe apple and pear-like fruitiness with PG's characteristic refreshing tang. You’d almost believe it was Italian." The website tasting note is "Argento Pinot Grigio is sourced from the high altitude vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina. Warm sunny days and cool mountain nights offer an ideal microclimate for Pinot Grigio grapes. The Argento Pinot Grigio has a greenish yellow colour. The nose offers delicate, floral aromas of jasmine and tropical fruits. The mouth feel is light and clean with ripe pineapple and peach flavours intermingled with notes of sweet spice and finishes with bright, crisp acidity." My notes: A light golden colour with a slight aroma of faded wildflowers. The flavours come off quite flat except for the balanced acid adding a dryness to the first sip. The finish falls short and uninteresting, no flavour hangover nor attempt at fullness as in an Italian PG. Disappointing as a sipper, disappointing except for the tartness as a companion with a spicy beef kafta wrap. Ripe pineapple and peach... LOL. I've put Bodegas Esmeralda in my 'don't buy' column.

Niagara, Canada, 12.8% D, #049635 $12.15 1000mL Tetra Pak (Tasted August 09, 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 were 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. A light blond colour with hardly a nose... a delicate apple and quince perhaps. Light- to medium-bodied with flavours of dry courtland apple, a pleasing roundness and a firm tartness. The finish builds and carries a dry almost crabapple note reminding me of a light cider. Pair with lightly grilled white fish, pork chops or roast ham slices. Not distinctly herby, spicy or varietal to be interesting as a 'come back again' sipper. I'd guess a vidal and stalky chenin blanc blend. Equivalent to $9.15 for 750mL makes it a reasonable everyday white... pick up a couple of cartons for a picnic, this and the Growers Red. Nothing 'great'... just 'unpretentious' in every way.

FUNKY LLAMA CHARDONNAY 2006, Argentina, 12.5% D, #614677 $10.15 (Tasted August 08, 2007)

A General listing described as "Pale straw in colour; aromas of pear, oak, vanilla, apple & cinnamon; medium-body with oak spice, pear, vanilla, apple; medium finish of oak, apple & pear. Serve with pizza." Produced by The Tastings Import Company of Chicago. My notes: I could not find a winery associated with this brand... perhaps a bottling company in Mendoza collecting grapes from around? The beverage is real though: a light blond with aromas noticeably offdry with a slight pear - no oak, vanilla, apple & cinnamon that I could discern. The flavours were white grapefruit, a mild acid and an orange edge. The finish was short with a subtle tartness balanced by natural sweetness. This is a sipper or could be a refresher after a light first or second course rather than a meal wine. With a bowl of steamed mussels and chorizo pieces it was OK with the mussels but not up to the sausage. When served chilled it's an 'anytime drink' with some varietal traits.

DEL FIN DEL MUNDO CHARDONNAY RESERVA 2005, Patagonia, Argentina, 13.5% D, #694588 $12.95 (Tasted August 07, 2007)

A Vintages release on August 04, 2007 described as "Among its many international accolades, this wine won a Silver Medal at the first ever Wines of Argentina awards in February 2007. The groundbreaking Bodegas Del Fin Del Mundo (end of the world) is one of the pioneer wineries in the remote region of Patagonia. In 1999, they planted some of the first vineyards in the Neuquén district. This juicy Chardonnay is loaded with tropical fruit flavours as well as notes of vanilla and toast. A very good value." Gord Stimmell of the G&M says "Fab value from Patagonia in Argentina, with scents of buttery lime and lemon. The flavours show buttery oak stylings, with lime, creamed corn and vanilla, and a hint of fresh tropical pineapple on the finish." and gives it 87/100. VH of Winecurrent rates it four and one half (of 5) saying "... exceptional value, earning its final half star rating on price. The wine is a delicious mouthful of tropical fruit flavours-melon and pineapple-along with peach and nectarine. It has zesty citrus flavours on the finish (adding balance) and a satin texture on its medium-bodied frame... " My notes: This has a light fragrance of clover honey and wild flowers and a light golden colour. Has a tart and grassy mouthfeel with a steely edge to flavours of straw, melon and lemon. The finish is tart and dry with melon and lemon remaining for a short while. Not a sipper.... pair with white fish or mushroom pasta dishes although it did not complement a grilled telapia with creamed cauliflower and broccoli meal well. Must have gone downhill quickly since the silver medal. Not cellarable and I don't recommend over others at this price point. PS. I left this overnight in the fridge and decided to finish the bottle with some greek olives, hummus and crackers. The result is much more positive. Aroma etc. is the same. But the finish with the salt of the crackers and the herby oiliness of the olives made the difference. This is an excellent hors d'oeuvre sipper. The mouthfeel is now buttery losing any 'grassy or steely edge' working with the olive flavours combining everything into a gourmet delight. Pair with seasoned seafood or planked salmon - something flavourful rather than delicate, with some oils and spice. This is a super bargain and highly recommended.

South Australia, 13.5% D, #627802 $11.15 (Tasted August 06, 2007)

A General listing produced by Casella Wines and described as "Deep yellow; Aromas of butterscotch, vanilla and baked apple fruit; Dry, medium to full bodied, with tropical notes, apple, pear fruit flavours; Medium length on crisp finish. Serve with fish dishes; seafood; poultry." The website says "Citrus and honeydew flavours are further complexed by gentle French oak aging. The palate is soft yet fresh with balanced acidity and a soft creamy finish." My notes: A pale golden colour with a mix of wet grass and gooseberry aromas, very faint almost undiscernible. The flavours as well bear some resemblance to an unoaked or slightly oaked chardonnay but with a seam best described as mild swamp water. I could not finish a second sampling. The body and acid balance resemble an average white yet the finish is very shallow with an attempt at butter or creaminess that doesn't quite make it. Not a sipper... and could not contribute its part in a meal. This is a product type that I am starting to refer to as an 'entry level beverage'. I would not recommend nor would I repurchase this product. Down the drain it goes. My opinion!
NCT WINERY LATE HARVEST VIDAL 2002, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, 10.0% ~SC8 375ml, #Winery $21.95 (Retasted August 06, 2007)

My notes: Last tasted in June, 2006 A firm golden colour with aromas of sultana raisins and a light clover honey. The flavours carried along on a sweet velvety stream are a blend of ripe apricot and pear, full in the mouth. Finishes long and strong with the smoothness of sweet fruit and a slowly developing tart seam - unctious. A delectable drink for the end of a good seafood and rice casserole dinner... went well after a round of lemon sorbet drissled with raspberry coulis. Sip by itself or with a mild cheese and fruit tray. Cellared well and there's no reason a few years would be out of the way. Ten years ageing could very well see this with the colour of amber, an aromatic raisin aroma and a dense perfumed flavoured elixir - a super future.

PULENTA ESTATE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2006, Alto Agrelo, Argentina, 12.5% XD, #037119 $14.95 (Tasted August 05, 2007) 

A Vintages release on August 04, 2007 described as "Brothers Hugo and Eduardo Pulenta launched their winery in 2002 on the strength of their family's history, experience and talent. They represent the family's third generation to be involved with winemaking in Argentina. This expressive Sauvignon Blanc offers intense aromas of grapefruit, lemon, asparagus and sweet herbs. The ripe fruit flavours are balanced by zesty acidity. Enjoy with steamed mussels, oysters on the half shell or sushi." VH of Winecurrent gives it four (of 5) saying "... pungent aromas are quite expressive-grassy, green nettles and passion fruit. Expect white grapefruit, lemon-lime and ripe pit fruit flavours on the palate while the finish is quite zesty with more citrussy notes... comes into its own when paired with food, etc." The website tasting notes are "... offers a brilliant greenish-yellow colour... Citric fruit can be perceived, especially grapefruit with a final herbaceous rue and asparagus note, typical of the variety. Once in the mouth, its balance of sweetness and acidity enhances its fruity personality. This is a fresh and young wine, pairs perfectly with seafood and other sea fruits." My notes: A light blond colour and an aromatic blend of gooseberries and nettles. Has a mix of mild grapefruit and melon flavours with an additional taint. Asparagus? could be! perhaps water chestnuts. Unmistakedly sauvignon blanc but has that 'other' attitude that may not be appealing - I'd hedge toward 'not a sipper' if there's a family gathering... but certainly OK with seafood dishes, as above. Has a bright finish waning slowly. No cellaring potential and overall for a sauvignon blanc even in this price range I'll give it a pass.

Marlborough, NZ, 14.0% D, #032318 $22.95 (Tasted August 04, 2007)

A Vintages release on August 04, 2007 described as "Fermented in a 65/35% combination of stainless steel and both French and American oak, ... is loaded with butterscotch, ripe apple and pear aromas and flavours. Round and smooth with a citrus - butterscotch - slightly honeyed finish, this Chard would match well with chicken in a wild mushroom sauce." Gord Stimmell comments in his G&M column "A full-bore chardonnay, with toasty butter, almonds, pear skin and golden apple aromas. the flavours show mellow crushed pineapple, lime, and hazelnut, while a hint of tangy grapefruit enlivens the mouth-filling finish." and gives it 90/100. The website says of this vintage "Mid yellow /gold with a bouquet of rich tropical fruit and melon characters are over laid by warm vanilla and butterscotch with a light hint of nutiness. The palate is an inviting passionfruit / pineapple character and a warm, lush mouthfeel and refreshing, balanced acidity with a long clean finish... will continue to drink well up to 2010. Match with cheese, light meats or creamy seafood dishes." My notes: A light golden yellow with delightful aromas of citrus, papaya, and sweet apricot... full-bodied, almost dry, creamy with flavours of melon and passionfruit (without seeds). The finish is long, smooth with fruit filling the palate waiting for the next sip. Very enjoyable, even off chill, as a sipper: nippy while smooth, fruit balanced with nettles and grass. Sip then nibble hors d'oeuvres: not both at the same time to enjoy the difference. Pair with bacon wrapped scallops, chicken pieces in a creamy pasta, steamed asparagus and grilled atlantic salmon filet. Cellaring two to five years should turn the cream to butterscotch and fruit into exotic flavour blends.

sablanca Valley, Chile, 13.5% XD, #041434 $14.95 (Tasted August 02, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 21, 2007 described as "Medium lemon in colour, this refreshing Chardonnay features aromas of banana, lemon and melon with a touch of oak. It’s dry, medium-bodied, clean and delicate in style with ripe tropical fruit flavours and a subtle touch of oak on the crisp medium long finish. Perfect to match with freshly caught fish or tuna steaks." The label states this is a product of Vina Ventisquero Ltda yet 'Ramirana' is not shown on their website - perhaps a new brand for the export market? The label describes the wine as 'a golden yellow with green tones, intense aromas of papaya and citrus fruit. ... softness and balanced acidity make it ideal to accompany shellfish, fish with mild sauces and white meat.' My notes: A light lemon colour with just a hint of green and with full aromas of grapefruit touched by pineapple. A buttery texture, the sweetness of the fruit gives it an off dry sense and flavours are of citrus and white peach. The combination of flavour and nose makes it a reasonable sipper and the finish is long and almost unctious on the palate. Pairing with delicately grilled fish would do well and, if the shrimp or lobster with accompanying side dish isn't too garlic'd or spicy, it would pair equally as well. A chardonnay that could pass as unoaked except for the buttery softness. A drink-now up to a year. Try it! You'll like it!

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