Monday, October 01, 2007

October Reds (19): Australia Blend(2), Shir, CS; Argentina Carm, CS, Malb(2); Canada Merl; Chile Carm, Shir, Syr; Italy Blend(5), Sang; S Africa Blend

BODEGAS CATENA ALAMOS MALBEC 2006, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5% D, #467951 $14.95 (Tasted October 25, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "Opulent aroma of ripe damson, vanilla. A crowd-pleasing wine with plenty of ripe fruit, quite long. Drink 2008-09. (3 out of 5," Natalie MacLean rates this 92/100 saying "A terrific value wine. Full-bodied, smooth and supple. Pair with: stew." and calls it the Best Value Red of the Release. The website says of the 2006 vintage "... a deep, opaque violet color with purple hues. The nose is intense and complex, with ripe black fruits, sweet spice and a touch of violets. The mouthfeel is sweet and supple, with black cherry and cassis flavors mingled with spicy black pepper and a touch of leather. The finish is long and persistent with soft, sweet tannins." My notes: Has a deep ruby colour with a violet hue... sits pretty in the glass. The nose smacks of oak barrels soaked through several fermentations combined with ripe cherries and a fine spice - letting air briefly lessens the barrel effect. A soft then very bright sipper with plums and wild cherries in a thin minty wrap, very appealing for its distinctiveness. A refreshing medium-bodied red finishing slightly tart and dry, as in an almost ripe plum, on the palate. Cellaring a few years will smooth some of the rough edges on this otherwise great value malbec. Serve with anything beefy with rich gravies or spicy rubs/sauces. Ww90

Colchagua Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #045161 $14.95 (Tasted October 23, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "A Gold-Medal winner at the 2007 Vinalies Internationales. The 2005 Carmenere Reserva's aromatics are slightly more flamboyant and it offers greater depth of flavor than the Secreto. The finish is exceptionally long for a wine in this price category. It is a fantastic value. 90/100 (Jay Miller, June 2007)" Natalie MacLean rates this 90/100 saying "Fantastic value here. Full-bodied with rich aromas of chocolate and dark red fruit. Long finish. Pair with: hearty meat dishes." RP of Winecurrent gives it 4 and one half (of 5) saying "Look for a lot of complexity in this very well-made Carmenère. Along with the rich, dark plum flavours, you'll find notes of coffee, chocolate, herbs and spices. They add up to a delicious mouthful of wine that has a full, smooth texture enhanced by a nice line of acidity... " My notes: A beautiful deep ruby with a slim violet edge, long legs and a faint nose of plums and smoky berries. A silky smooth sip with a soft berry centre and edges of tart red cherry, an enthralling sipper. The finish is fairly long, rich at first then fading to a tart red cherry and plum blend until the next sip. Should go well with any beef or red pasta, T-bone, ribs, or stews. Cellaring for several years should mellow minor rough edges but drinking well now. Serve to anyone looking for an assertive red. A super value. Ww90

Colchagua Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #034272 $11.95 (Tasted October 23, 2007)

A Vintages release on August 4, 2007 described as "The skins were cold soaked on the juice for about 24 hours. The resulting wine is pretty in pink with quite rich and intense aromas and flavours of morello cherry, wild strawberry and a hint of spring flowers. It is barely off-dry with a round, fruity finish. A great sipping wine, or enjoy with pan-fried freshwater fish." Rod Phillips on his webpage says "... dry, quite concentrated and less crisp than many, will be on the shelves only as long as stocks last." My notes: A raspberry soda colour with an initial watermelon and strawberry jam nose. Sweet on the tongue with a stinging mineral quality, medium-bodied and flavour of thin red cherry juice. The finish is warm, tart and dry leaving a herby, oily coating on the palate. I can forgive the sparse flavour but unless there are nibbles to offset the finish this is an unpleasant sipper. Tried to pair with a lamb shashlik and salad but didn't work. Not cellarable, not a drink now. I don't know what 'will be on the shelves only as long as stocks last' means but I do know it won't be on my shelves again. Ww70

Western Cape, South Africa, 15.0% D, #037341 $17.95 (Tasted October 21, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 29, 2007 described as "... Full-bodied with rich, red berry and smoke flavours, this smooth and warming red wine is delicious with or without food." Gord Stimmell, Sept 29, 2007, gives it 91/100 saying "... the best South African red to hit shelves in months. Aromas of coconut, rich black cherry and mint spill into the long black cherry, violets, cedar and minty cassis flavours. ... not a hint of weediness in this one." My notes: Not described on their website - may be a blend for export. A mid ruby colour with warm aromas of cherries, a slight spice and wood highlight. A straight forward blend, very smooth with a tart brilliance from the first sip with full flavours of cherries, distant berries and smoke. The long finish is full of fruit building with each sip, crisp and dry to the palate. Sips well with more fruit than anticipated - better when paired with bbq'd ribs or any red beef entree, stews, chilli, etc. Not for cellaring - likely at peak. Ww88

Uco Valley, Argentina, 14.5% XD, #591735 $14.95 (Tasted October 21, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "Here's a Cabernet Sauvignon that combines drinkability with power, all for under $15! It's rich and round with pure berry and cherry flavours and a long finish. There's a whole lot of quality per cubic millilitre here. Perfect with braised short ribs, gourmet pizza or pasta with a meat sauce." Natalie MacLean rates this 88/100 saying "A delicious, robust wine with lip-smacking aromas of black fruit. Pair with: braised short ribs, gourmet pizza, pasta with meat sauce." VH of Winecurrent gives it 3 and one half (of 5) saying "Smoky and oaky aromatics drift off the glass of this Cab that's in need of a couple of more years in your cellar. It opens with subdued, but enticing aromas of spice, mint and black ripe berry fruit. You'll notice grippy and grainy tannins on the palate that are complemented by black cherry and cassis flavours. These carry through to the medium-length finish. Drink 2010 to 2015 with steak, grilled rare to medium-rare." My notes: A deep ruby with a pleasing violet tinge at the edge, a warm earthy mixture of cherries and berries showing a nicely integrated oak influence, minty sharp with the first sip and warm blends of cherries, vanilla and berries. It is 'rich and round' although medium-bodied, with a long finish settling down to a firm cherry film with dry tannins. A delightful sipper, bold but polite. Pair with anything beefy: prime rib to bbq'd ribs, which I can say first hand companioned very well. Should be able to cellar this several years although drinking well now - may lose some brightness but gain some velvet complexities. At the price it's a real value. Ww90

Veneto, Italy, 13.0% D, #910430 $20.95 (Tasted October 19, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 01, 2007 described as "Tommasi's 'Ripasso' is the unique result of refermenting its Valpolicella Classico Superiore wines on the warm skins of dried grape skins from which their Amarone is pressed. This process imparts a heightened richness of character and intensity of flavour to the finished product. Expect rich plum fruit surrounded by sweet herbs and a hint of dark chocolate. This flavourful wine is an excellent match for braised ox tails, rich stews or pasta with meat sauce." My notes: A deep ruby with a slight violet hue and a soft herby aroma with red cherries in the background. A tart introduction to flavours of cherry and fine tannins finishing almost velvety with a mint and cherry, including the pits, brightness ending with dryness. A sipper with an even temperment, not aggressive, more process driven than fruit. Past cellaring. Pair with beef entrees or red pastas. Priced like an italian restaurante... on attitude. Ww82

Tuscany, Italy, 13.0% XD, #606541 $19.95 (Tasted October 17, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 29, 2007 described as "Light ruby in colour, this refreshing Chianti has a lovely strawberry-dominated nose, good structure and balance with red currant, strawberry and fresh cherry flavours. Silky smooth tannins make this red extremely quaffable. Try with a selection of Italian cured meats and nothing goes better alongside pasta in a red tomato sauce." The website says "Intense red fruit aromas, especially redcurrants and raspberries, are amplified by light hints of vanilla and coffee sensations. This full-bodied wine is pleasantly lingering with soft, sweet tannins. It should be drunk while still young for full expression of the fruit." My notes: A deep ruby with warm aromas of blackberry and plum modified by sombre tones of oak, earthy with a slight vanilla. Medium-bodied with red berry and mint flavours rimmed with a dry tannin and a mild spice. Finishes very dry with subdued earthy berry remnants. If you prefer aged reds dominated by the winemaker's process with some fruit along the way, then this is a sipper but priced high for this vintage. Otherwise, it's more suitably companioned to grilled beef entrees, red meat pastas, prime rib au jus, or a pepperoni, ham and bacon thin crust pizza. It's a little coarse now - ageing two to four years could lose some fruit but with the introduction of preferable complexities. Ww86

Clare Valley, Australia, 14.5% D, #943787 $17.95 (Tasted October 15, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "Adam Eggins, chief winemaker at Wakefield, was declared 2006 Australian Winemaker of the Year by Winestate magazine. This full-bodied Shiraz displays intense varietal aromas of plum, blackberry, licorice and violets. Oak influences create aromas of tobacco and chocolate which combine well with the primary fruit characters to create a complex flavour profile. Terrific with roast beef or steak." Natalie MacLean rates this 90/100 saying "A wine with round, well-developed flavors. Full-bodied with aromatic notes of plums and chocolate. Pair with: roast beef, steak." VH of Winecurrent gives it 4 (of 5) saying "There are plenty of fruit flavours here and they're balanced quite nicely with good acidity... Look for a lifted nose of black licorice and red field berry aromas that morph into a fruit forward attack on the palate of red cherry and ripe juicy black plum flavours. It shows good weight and texture, is beautifully balanced and sports a warm... finish." My notes: A deep ruby with a garnet cast with aromas of vanilla, red cherries and leather. Flavours are a smooth combination of cherries and black berries with drying tannins, an even tartness, a sprinkle of pepper and a natural sweetness in the background. Finishes dry, bright and full of vanilla and cherries, very appealing. Should be great paired with any beef, lamb or shepherds pie, liver and onions, or steak and kidney with the appropriate filo topping. Cellaring for a short while should be OK but likely not improve. An OK value as a drink-now or table red. Ww88

VALDIVIESO RESERVA SYRAH 2005, Central Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #045153 $17.95 (Tasted October 15, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "Decanter awarded the previous vintage of this wine its highest rating of 5 stars and we expect more critical acclaim for this newcomer. Aged for 12 months in French oak barrels, this rich, intense, full-bodied Syrah exhibits aromas and flavours of spicy, dark berry fruit and toasty oak. Delicious with flank steak prepared with garlic and ginger." Natalie MacLean rates this 90/100 saying "Amazing wine for the money. Full-bodied, smooth and rich. Buy a case for holiday entertaining." RP of Winecurrent gives it five stars (of 5) saying "This is an absolutely delicious Syrah that over-delivers on price in every respect. The fruit is plush, rich and concentrated, with black cherry and berries nicely accented with spice, black pepper and a hint of toasty oak. There's complexity and a great seam of acidity that lends a tangy texture and makes it a great partner to well-seasoned grilled red meats. Drink it now and over the next year or two." My notes: A deep ruby colour with a plush warm nose of plums, berries and toasted oak, an equal balance between process and fruit. Soft from the first 'til last sip, full-bodied, a blend of rich berries, fine drying tannin and subtle acid that coats the palate with warmth. Ripe fruit builds a lengthy finish with each sip. An elegant but bold sipper full of character. Warrants a full flavoured beef entree: pepper steak, grilled sirloin, bbq'd ribs... or portabello mushrooms and caramellized onions in a bordeaux sauce. Cellaring for several years should produce a complex syrah full of spicy innuendos. A bargain at the price. Ww90

GOUNDREY HOMESTEAD SHIRAZ 2003,West Australia, 13.5% D, #574079 $13.20 (Tasted October 14, 2007)

A General listing described as "Purple red ruby colour; aromas of spice, mint, cassis, cranberry and black currant, plummy fruit; dry, medium to full bodied, with berry fruit flavours and notes of peppercorn spice and woodsmoke. Serve with barbequed steak, spicy fare or gourmet pizza." My notes: My notes: A deep ruby with a sombre cast and sweet blend of cherries and purple plum on the nose. Well balanced tartness, fine tannins and fruit most of which is of black cherry edged in lime. A twist of licorice starts the finish and leads to remnants of black cherry skins with a slight earthy note. Less fruity as a sipper than apparent from the nose but still interesting. The dry component of the finish makes it better paired with nibbles or light beef dishes, prime rib, stews and red pastas. Likely would not improve significantly with cellaring - a table red. Ww82

NO. 99
WAYNE GRETZKY ESTATE MERLOT 2006 VQA, Jordan, Niagara, 13.0% D, #063966 $15.95 (Tasted October 11, 2007)

A General listing. The website describes this merlot as "A great example of Niagara Merlot, showcasing cool-climate fruit character on an elegant frame. Intense sweet cherry perfume on the nose, complemented by dark chocolate, clove, and wood spice. Palate flavours echo the cherry fruit, accompanied by black plum, currant, and herbal complexity. Overall, a powerful red wine with sufficient ripe tannin and brilliant fruit intensity to enjoy now or hold for 6-8 years." My notes: Not yet built the Gretsky Estate wines are made at the Creekside winery (same as Mike Weir's) by winemaker Rob Power. A distinct clear see thru' ruby colour with faint aromas of oak and soft cherries. Very clean first sip with almost a neutral flavour profile, a slight oak tone on a sweet cherry core, lightish medium-bodied. The finish is short, neutral with fine tannins and a light acid. An uninteresting sipper and equally without interest as a meal red. Pair with prime rib, pork cutlet, ham steak. Well made just nothing there to carry the occasion and, unfortunately, may be 'a great example of Niagara Merlot'. A drink-now and overpriced imho. Ww78

Maipu, Argentina, 13.4% D, #035170 $12.95 (Tasted October 08, 2007)

A General listing described as "Colour; purple, ruby. Aromas; complex, earthy, hints of mushroom, barnyard, red berry. Palate; Old world in style, light to medium-bodied with soft tannins and a good mouthfeel. Serve with Smoked meat sandwich, aged Cheddar." Wine Access (Oct/Nov 2007) rated this 90/100 and 2nd in their Top 50 $15 or Under and 9th $25 or Under Red or White. My notes: This is more of a violet colour with a ruby tint making a lovely intro to aromas of blackberry and cherry. A mellow softness with flavours of mint, mulberry, peach with fine tannins and mild tartness. The finish is quite long mostly of peach fuzz and bright mulberry. A well balanced sipper, full-bodied but not assertive. Cellaring for a few years should be OK... longer is questionable. A value go-anywhere fruit driven red - 'Old world'? don't think so!. 'Barnyard'? not this bottle. Pair with turkey with fixings, roast chicken, veal schnitzel and spaztle, mushroom and beef pastas, prime rib or beef Wellington. Ww90

South Australia, 14.5% D, #625343 $15.85 (Tasted October 08, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep red with violet colour; aromas of ripe currant, black cherry, plum and spice with toasty oak, tobacco notes; dry, full bodied, well balanced acidity, rounded palate with flavours of jammy berry, vanilla and chocolate. Serve with meat pizza or pasta and grilled beef dishes." Wine Access (Oct/Nov 2007) rated this 88/100 and Best Cab Sauv/Shiraz Blend of wines under $25. My notes: A ruby with a hint of violet and long legs on the glass makes this inviting. Aromas of warm figs and plums come with each sip and a soft well balanced plum and cherry blend, not overdone or complex, with fine tannin and slight spice makes this a pleasing sipper. The moderately long finish is smooth as chocolate with a slight sweetness and some tar as it fades. This went well with turkey with stuffing and loganberries, mashed carrot and turnip, fingerling potatoes - and it should be very flexible paired with many entrees: beef or lamb stews, prime rib, filet mignon or rib-eye. Serve this anywhere as a sipping wine with buffet or with the main course. Ww88

Marche, Italy, 12.5% D, #034017 $10.15 (Tasted October 07, 20

A General listing described as "Medium to dark garnet with aromas of plum puree, tomato skin and floral. Medium-bodied, smooth, the finish is balanced by fresh acidity. Serve with pasta with tomato and meat sauce." My notes: Not shown on their website this may be an entry level wine for the export market. Has long legs, a deep ruby colour and mild aroma of sweet black cherries and, perhaps, some time fermenting on skins. Silky sipping and medium-bodied, some licorice among the cherries and a slight bramble. A long finish with the cherries leading the way until the light licorice takes over subtly at first then predominantly. I liked this as a sipper, not as coarse as Farnese Farneto Valley (#621912). Should go well with flavourful to spicy pastas, pizzas, or bbq'd ribs and steaks. A drink-now and should be just right for the turkey dinner. Ww84

WAKEFIELD PROMISED LAND CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005, Clare Valley, Australia, 14.5% D, #598771 $15.85 (Tasted October 06, 2007)

A General listing described as "Dense ruby colour; complex ripe cherry, blackberry, blueberry, cassis, plum, smoke, leather and spicy cedar aromas; dry, full-bodied, with forward fruit, well balanced fruit flavours; well balanced, long finish. Serve with roast beef, lamb, ribs, stew." My notes: Ruby coloured with delicate aromas of plums, cherries and spice. Has a soft approach to the palate with a black cherry flavour tempered by fine tannins and light pepper. Medium-bodied with a shallow finish of flavour and texture - not a bold cab sauv. A sociable sipper but overpriced imho. Pair with light beef, chicken or pork shashlik or souvlaki, and pork cutlets with saffron rice... roast turkey as well. A drink-now. Ww80

FARNESE FARNETO VALLEY MONTEPULCIANO D'ABRUZZO 2005, Abruzzo, Italy, 13.0% D, #621912 $7.45 (Tasted October 06, 2007)

A General listing described as "Blackberry, cedar and mild spice aromas; ripe, mouthfilling black cherry/berry fruit. Serve with hearty stews, crown roast, spicy pasta.Pizza or BBQ fare." The WineLoversPage says "Black plums and pepper flirt with a distinct leafy, sappy green edge in the aroma; on the palate it's light and quite tart, simple black fruit with an acidic edge that brings it up to meet food. On the simple side, some might call it "coarse," but it's the kind of fun and food-friendly cheap Italian red... " My notes: Barely a nose and a granite toned ruby, thin flavours include cherries and a wisp of grape stems with soft tannin and a slight tart edge. The finish is somewhat delicate cherry well balanced and, although polite, lasts awhile. A quaffable sipper for a crowd intent on something other than wine. Should be OK with meat pizzas, red pastas, mild italian sausage, or a wild mushroom quiche. What can you say for $7 - it's OK in a pinch. Ww80

Abruzzo, Italy, 13.5% D, #612788 $12.45 (Tasted October 06, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby colour; earth, spice, cherry, olive and berry aromas; dry medium to full bodied, with ripe plum, spice and fruity flavours, firm tannin, good length. Serve with Canneloni, tapanade." The Sunday Times Wine Club says "There's a seemingly endless depth of flavour here - a perfect harmony of wild berry fruit and smoky oak (having spent some time ageing in wood). It's hard to resist such seductive flavours that have won Gold for six consecutive years." My notes: A deep almost opaque ruby with earthy aromas of warm clay and ripe black cherries. Full-bodied and well balanced acid, tannin and fruit on the first sip... finishing with an earthy plum highlighted by a spicy brightness. A reasonable sipper perhaps flattening in texture and flavours more quickly than anticipated from the first swallow but still lasting awhile. Pair with meat dishes, red pastas, stews, meat and cheesy pizzas. A drink-now - would make a value house red for everyday occasions. Ww85

NEPENTHE 'THE ROGUE' CABERNET/MERLOT/SHIRAZ 2003, Adelaide, Australia, 14.0% XD, #998542 $17.95 (Retasted October 03, 2007)

My notes: The 2004 was released in May this year and, as with most Oz wines, it's $2 more - not yet tasted. The 2003 vintage released on December 10, 2005 was rated 90 by Gord Stimmell saying "rich, smooth, minty chocolate notes, a crowd pleaser... " I noted at the time "the fruit flavours are evenly matched and well integrated with tannins and acid... " then in December 2006, "... bright cherries, discrete blackcurrant and subtle nutmeg... ". Still a deep ruby colour with warm but light tones of nutmeg, cherries and blackcurrant. Silky with a nip from the first sip then blackcurrant, mint, dark chocolate carrying through to a long finish of the same having the weighted flavourings cab sauv, merlot and shiraz as in the blend (59%, 22%, 19% resp.) with shiraz showing more in the finish with its pepper and spice. Not much of a change since cellaring perhaps more sombre still with a clean edge of tannin. Pair with any grilled beef - too strong for pork tenderloin but beef ribs, steaks, full flavoured stews, prime rib, even a herbed rack of lamb. My last bottle of this vintage. Ww90

Piedmont Italy, 13.0% D, #984997 $16.95 (Tasted October 01, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 29, 2007 described as "To intensify the flavour profile of this wine, the grapes are picked fully ripe then allowed to dry on mats for about one month prior to pressing. The resulting wine is smooth and silky with ripe berry fruit, light spice and earth aromas and flavours. A well-priced, classic Italian table wine that will benefit a hearty pasta or any tomato-based dish." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half stars saying"... What a bargain this is—you get an Amorone-like wine for one third the price. It's rich, rustic and robust. Look for aromas and flavours that are expressive, even a touch feral—spicy cherry, incense-infused plum, aromatic bitters, portobello mushroom—and absolutely scrumptious. The dry, lengthy finish puts icing on the cake with more ripe berry fruit flavours. Stock up." My notes: The colour of ripe black cherry skins and aromas of sweet cherries, blackberries and a touch of humidor. Full and bright with raspberry-cherry, mint, and light chocolate on the first sip and having a long finish evenly balanced between fruit, savoury tannins and slight tobacco. Very appealing as a sipper having a silky lining to almost a fresh fruit smoothness. Cellaring a few more years should be OK but drinking well now. Have with red pastas, meat pizzas, roasts, steaks, ribs or stew - has some zip but likely not enough for spicy foods. A good value for a very quaffable valpolicella. Ww90

VIÑA MAIPO CARMÉNÈRE RESERVA 2006, Rapel Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #663047 $13.95 (Tasted October 02, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 29, 2007 described as "... The Rapel Valley presents exceptional terroir for the grape with loam, clay and sandy soils. Expect a rich, medium full-bodied red with leather, black fruit, mint and earth notes. Enjoy this wine with rare steak or pasta in a meat sauce." Natalie MacLean gives it 88/100 calling it the Best Value Red Wine of the Release saying, "Fantastic value in this full-bodied wine. Delicious layers of luscious dark fruit on the nose... " VH of Winecurrent gives four and one half stars saying: "One of the better Carménères tasted recently, this earned its final half star on the excellent value it provides. There are alluring aromas present—chocolate, and black licorice—and the flavours are equally as appealing—rich black cherry and cassis to the fore. It's very plush on the palate, while the finish is gorgeous with its replay of full fruit flavours plus dry, earthy nuances... " Beppi Crosariol describes it as "... Full, rich and brimming with black-skinned fruits, it's low in acid for a carmenere and has an attractively earthy nuance running through it." My notes: A deep ruby with a violet tinge, long legs and earthy aromas of spicy cherry. Silky and round with flavours of slight bramble, black cherry, blueberry and mint. Finishes nippy bright with fresh berries, touch of wild mushroom and fine tannins. A welcomed sipper or better paired with pepperoni pizza, ribs, steaks, rack of lamb, homeburgers or italian sausage on a bun... just about anything. Likely could cellar five to eight years... I wouldn't expect too much change tho'. I'd try two at a time to see where it's going. A drink-now value for sure. Ww90

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