Saturday, September 01, 2007

September Reds (14): Argentina Cab Sauv, Malbec(3); Australia Blend(3); Canada Shiraz; Chile Cab Sauv, Pinot Noir(3); Spain Monast; USA Zin

WOLF BLASS CABERNET MERLOT 1999, South Australia, 13.0% #611483 $16.95 (Retasted September 28, 2007)

My notes: Recommended by Beppi in April 2002 and cellared July, 2002 with three to six years cellaring suggested on the label as being possible. Still has a true ruby colour. The nose has softened to a faint cherry and oak - original sharpness is long gone. A fine tannin and soft brightness with soft cherry flavours ride on a well balanced medium-bodied sipper. The finish is long and warm but not very flavourful although not objectionable - a quaffable red. Doesn't add interest to a meal - should be OK with lightly flavoured roast beef or lamb entrees. Past peak... Ww80.

RANCHO ZABACO ZINFANDEL SONOMA HERITAGE VINES 2001, Sonoma, USA, 13.3% XD, #434605* $19.95 (Retasted September 27, 2007)

My notes: Purchased March 2004 and last tasted in November 2006. Has a wonderfully warm velvety blackberry nose, full of soft earthy tones and smoke. A deep ruby colour sombre in the glass with light legs. Like sipping velvet with depth of flavours blended from black berry, soft vanilla and dark chocolate. Full on the palate, very fine tannins balanced with soft acids makes this a very pleasing sipper. But some has to be shared with food: beef stews, tenderloin, filet mignon, something elegant to go with the wine. Last bottle... and *no longer available. Should be able to cellar another five years but drinking at peak now. Ww92

SANTA JULIA MALBEC RESERVA 2005, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0% D, #665026 $13.95 (Tasted September 24, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 15, 2007 And a Familia Zuccardi wine described as "Santa Julia's Malbec Reserva was a Silver Medal winner at the 2006 Japan Wine Challenge. Aged for 10 months in French oak, this rich, full-flavoured wine offers intense aromas of plum and coffee with accents of spice and smoke. An excellent match for beef Bourguignon on a cool autumn's eve." My notes: Soft in every respect except flavour where it shines. Has a lovely deep ruby colour clear and crisp in its density. The nose is reserved with hints of blackberries and plum and parallel flavours that flow smoothly onto the palate with a hint of tartness and fine tannins. Not an aggressive cab sauv nor full and fruity as a merlot but mellow as a malbec, soft allowing sipping to be the focus. Pair with lightly flavoured entrees: a ham slice, pork tenderloin, beef stews. Likely has a few years storage in it but drinking well now. A good value for almost any occasion. Ww90

CREEKSIDE ESTATES SHIRAZ 2006 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 12.0% D, #053548 $15.95 (Tasted September 23, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 15, 2007 described as "The wine has a dark ruby core, nearly opaque, and a deep purple rim. The nose offers complex aromas of purple and black fruit, pepper, smoked meat and subtle wood. The palate is lively with excellent acidity, good depth of flavour and silky tannins. This is an incredible value, cool-climate Shiraz, fashioned more along the lines of the Northern Rhône than Australia." Gord Stimmell rated it 90 in his column September 18 saying "An inky hued red, with huge smoky aromas, laden with black cherry, cedar and vanilla notes. The flavours show wood smoke, blackberry, cedar and ripe black plum. An expressive big red. Amazing value at under $16." My notes: A mid ruby colour lacking some clarity from a slight fermentation leaving fine bubbles at rim - needed decanting and aeration. An initial yeasty nose until decanting - after, OK no discernible fruit but fine pepper and faint smoke. The first sip is smooth with a bright edge, fine tannic feel and followon flavours of red cherries wrapped in thin cedar, lightish medium-bodied. Finishes dry on the tongue with unripe red cherry and fine pepper. Not a sipper and an uninteresting meal red. Was OK with rack of lamb and should be with broiled pork chops, red meat pastas. I would not serve this to friends nor would I repurchase. Ww80

Yecla, Spain, 14.5% XD, #718999 $15.95 (Tasted September 20, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 15, 2007 described as "The 2004 Hecula is a single vineyard selection of 100% Monastrell, 50% tank aged and 50% aged in French oak. It is slightly less ebullient but more serious than its younger sibling. Exhibiting aromas of toasty black fruits with milk chocolate in the background, this is a super-rich effort with terrific depth and concentration for its humble price. It is a remarkable value for drinking over the next few years. 91/100 (Jay Miller, Feb. 2007) ." My notes: A violet ruby colour. Another name for mourvedre, monastrell traits fill the nose as cherry-cranberry, a bright spice note but not peppery and lots of old oak influences. Nicely rounded on the first sip with a tart edge and having a warm swallow full of blackberries. The finish falls away slowly leaving some earthy bramble and slight tobacco. A drink-now and more of a meal red. Have with roasted meats, cheesy pizzas, tomato mushroom pastas, anything flavourful. An OK value to serve with italian, south west europe fare or mideast dishes. Ww89

Colchagua Valley, Chile, 14.0% XD, #032078 $17.95 (Tasted September 16, 2007)

Produced by Domaines Barons de Rothschild and a Vintages release on September 15, 2007 described as "A balanced specimen, from front to back and top to bottom. The nose deals smooth fruit touched up by chocolate and a whiff of mint, while the mouth is spicy and herbal but also saturated with dark berry notes and touches of the forest. Stout in terms of feel, with cheek-to-cheek depth. 90/100. (Michael Schachner, Nov.2006) ." My notes: Good legs to show a deep ruby colour in the glass and a warm aroma of plums conditioned by soft humidor and a slightly spicy note. A classic tannic edge to flavours of vanilla, black cherry and plum filling the mouth with a light pepper and bright cherry then finishing long, dry, earthy (too much imho) and warm. I found this to be a smooth, medium-bodied, european styled sipper with some chocolate developing each sip but is really a meal wine. Pair with anything beefy and flavourful. Cellaring may not improve this further but it should 'keep' for several years. There is a minty side to the finish that could be interpreted as 'medicinal' so I'd limit to seasoned cab sauv drinkers, ie. not for everyone. Ww87

South Australia, 14.0% D, #618447 $9.95 (Tasted September 12, 2007)

A General listing described as "Medium ruby colour; blackberry and vanilla on the nose with a hint of mint; medium-bodied with juicy, jammy fruit and light wood; long peppery finish. Serve with BBQ ribs. Gord Stimmell gives this 88 of 100 saying "Billed as the only remaining Aussie red under $10, this is solid value. Aromas show spicy blackberry, mulberry, plum and a hint of vanilla from oak aging. The flavours are sturdy, with black cherry, cedar and spicy blackberry dominating. The finish is spicy. A really gulpable red." The label says "... a clean cabernet fruit aroma with a gentle rounded shiraz palate. ... oak has given the wine a soft, rich finish." My notes: This blend is not described on their website - perhaps for the export market. The colour is a red plum shade of ruby and aromas of soft oaky blackberry, roasted walnuts and mild pepper. Flavours follow closely to the nose with licorice and mint components added making this a medium-bodied, snappy meal red. A long spicy, medicinal finish. Not for sipping - have with meat pizzas, red bean and ground beef chili, full flavoured stews. Personally I'd not serve to friends and wouldn't repurchase. Ww82

Central Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #341602 $10.10 (Tasted September 04, 2007)

A General listing described as "Ruby red colour; cherries, earth and berries with a touch of spice in both aroma and flavour; dry, medium-body with mild tannin and a soft fruity finish. Serve with spicy casserole, roast capon or ham." The label states this to be a "single varietal... in its rich fruit notes of cherry, plum and strawberry, enhanced by subtle smoky hints... " My notes: A light to mid ruby colour with aromas as on the label... pretty accurate but faint. Flavours are not immediately apparent but build into an inkling of crushed cherries and red berries, crisp on the palate. The finish is warm with just a touch of natural sweetness that softly recedes to a mineral edge. Have with roast chicken breast pieces on greens, planked salmon topped with crushed walnuts, a ham slice with honeyed yams or a wild mushroom and three cheese pizza. A drink-now and OK if you're looking for a dry lite. Ww79

Colchagua Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #689992 $15.95 (Tasted September 04, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 1, 2007 described as "... Awarded a Score of 89 by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate... It is a big, beautifully balanced wine bursting with cherry and strawberry fruit as well as ripe tannins and a long finish. Enjoy now with grilled lamb or tuck it away for a few years (Jay Miller, June 2007)". RP of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "Cono Sur is Chile’s biggest producer of Pinot Noir, and this is one of their premium lines. What you get is a delicious and classy New World Pinot, full of plush dark cherry flavour with notes of smoke and oak. Thanks to a good seam of acidity, it has a refreshing texture that makes it an excellent partner for a rack of lamb." The website says of their pinot, "Fresh, elegant and aromatically intense, this wine is everything a good pinot noir should be, and more... bright ruby red colour... Fruit notes of cherry, strawberry, black plum and raspberry combine with slightly dark chocolate, floral and earthy tones. In mouth it proves silky, full, structured and softly persistent." My notes: I'm wondering if someone switched bottles on me???! A ruby red colour and a soft nose lacking prominent fruit. Balanced on the tart side with drying tannins and a light-bodied chokecherry flavour then finishing with chokecherry fading to a warm, light cherry pit. Not 'big', not 'bursting', not 'plush with dark cherry', not 'silky, full', etc. but almost as light as the General listed #341602. A meal red for grilled or roasted lamb or pork. Personally at this price point I'd go elsewhere. Ww86

Barossa, Australia, 13.5% XD, #034249 $16.95 (Tasted September 04, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 7, 2007 described as "Fine Australian Rosés are dry with a fairly complex aroma and flavour structure, including cherry, raspberry, mineral, citrus and earth tones. They can be enjoyed as a summer sipper, but also complement a variety of dishes from grilled chicken to grilled vegetables to even gourmet sausages." My notes: Neither the winery's website nor the distributor (Lion Nathan Wine Group ) mentions this rose. The colour is a vivid red cherry and aromas of cherry stone and faint crushed strawberry. A light tannin and well balanced tartness makes this a dry cherry-berry flavoured, light-bodied sipper finishing somewhat warm on the palate with the initial fruit slowly fading. I didn't get 'earth' tones but there is a cherry stone carry-over that leads one to another refreshing sip. Went well with a chicken, rice, asparagus and mushroom casserole and should pair well with mild snitzel dishes - not the sausages I grill though. I'd guess it's a pinot noir, possibly grenache, viognier or verdelho blend mainly from 'entry level' grapes. Serve well chilled as a 'summer sipper' - not for cellaring. Ww84

Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0% XD, #677567 $15.95 (Retasted September 03, 2007)

My notes: Purchased from a Vintages release in September 2005 and lasted tasted in April 2006. James Molesworth and Natalie MacLean rated this 91 and 90/100 respectively, Natalie saying "an extraordinary wine for the price." My comment last April was ' 'Big Cab' drinkers should find this interesting... Needs another two or three years... '. An opaque ruby colour with a nose that's a smoky blend of blackberry and black cherry with possibly some vanilla on the edge. Full-bodied, velvety and bright on each swallow with rich well developed plum and blackberry flavours flooding the palate. An exceptionally long finish full of warmth, black fruit, a lick of licorice, smooth fine tannins and coordinated tang. At or close to peak but should be able to cellar a few more years. The 2003 vintage was claimed to be better but alas never showed at Vintages so, unless you have some cellared, this is no longer available. And... I almost forgot (too busy sipping)... great with any grilled or roasted beef, flavourfully gravy'd or spice encrusted, eg. pepper steak. I'll save for Cab friends that appreciate expressive and bold. Ww92

Mendoza, Argentina, 14.5% D, #050849 $18.95 (Tasted September 02, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 1, 2007 described as "Decanter Award Winner. Toasty black fruits. Very oaky but starting to integrate, lots of rich black fruit, concentrated, very good finish. Warm. [Cellar it] 1-7 years. 5 (of 5). (Beverley Blanning, Decanter, May 2007)" Produced by Montes S.A. of Chile and described as "... Outstanding and concentrated fruit, with beautiful aromas of red berries, black cherry and hints of tobaccos. A full-bodied wine. Round and velvety in mid-palate, with soft tannins. An added touch of vanilla and toast, followed by a long and smooth finish. Very, very elegant." Gord Stimmell rates it 90/100 saying "A big red with loads of power, yet wonderfully balanced fruit and oak stylings. Aromas of black cherry, pencil shavings and vanilla spill into flavours distinguished by cassis or black currants, blackberry and vanilla. Long on the finish." My notes: A deep mahogany with warm aromas of ripe plum and blackberry. Full-bodied, bright, blackberry with soft oak tones (not 'very') and a mild tobacco tartness makes this a pleasing sipper. Finishes long with a slight steely edge, a soft tar, fine tannins and smooth berry remnants. Pair this with grilled or roasted red meats - it cooled a hot pepperoni stick nicely. A take anywhere red - has a tad more character versus Lurton Reserva Malbec (#903153 @ $14.95). Worth the extra $4? I'll have to leave that to the spender. Ww90

Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14.0% XD, #037937 $14.95 (Tasted September 01, 2007)

A Vintages release on August 18 described as "The Montes Limited Selection from Casablanca Valley has typical Pinot aromas of raspberry, cherry, earth tones and fresh cut flowers wrapped in gentle oak tones. The cool Casablanca Valley climate is one of the factors that allows Montes to create a wine with soft tannins while preserving the lively acidity that makes Pinot Noir a fabulous food wine. This is the perfect match for dark-skinned fish such as salmon or tuna." My notes: Needs to air for twenty minutes for a fresh aroma of strawberry and lime. The initial sip is nicely rounded with a blended flavour of orange flesh, red currants, and light lime. The combination of flavours alters on the palate to a delectable tangy strawberry and red currant. Has a long almost sweet finish leaving a pleasant oily film on the lips, a slight tang and dryness. This is a very interesting sipper and quite acceptable by itself. Have with lightish finger foods - salty wheat or bran crackers and hummus, kipper pieces, canned salmon on toasted wheat or with heftier seafoods: swordfish, tuna, salmon. A take anywhere pinot - more for you if others don't take to it! A drink-now and a good value. Ww90

Uco Valley, Argentina, 13.5% D, #903153 $14.95 (Tasted September 01, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 01, 2007 described as "Many years ago, the Lurton Brothers of Bordeaux realized the potential for winemaking in Argentina. Their investment and intuition have paid off handsomely in wines such as this Malbec Reserva. The aromas suggest plum, licorice, chocolate and cedar. Dry with good fruit replays, this full-bodied, balanced wine is an excellent partner for roast beef with root vegetables." RP of Winecurrent gives it four (of 5) saying "This is great value for a delicious Malbec. Look for rich, intense flavours of dark plum and berries, with notes of spice, coffee and chocolate. It’s dry, softly tannic and well balanced, and it’s a versatile red for many barbecued red meat dishes." My notes: A deep mahogany colour with aromas of smoky vanilla and distant sweet figs. The first sip starts with velvet adding flavours of blended blackberries, cherries and mocha with a balanced brightness and fine tannins - fresh ripe fruit without being jammy. A long warm velvet lined finish carrying vivid smoky cherry chocolate memories. A versatile red you could take anywhere, have as a rewarding sip or pair with mushrom tarts, broiled brie and raspberry coulis, crockpotted meatballs or chicken thighs in a tomato oregano sauce... swordfish or planked atlantic salmon (yes, I'm weird). Would likely cellar two years but is drinking very well now. A super value... buy a packful for those long winter socials. Ww93

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