Monday, October 01, 2007

October Whites(16): Australia Ries; Canada Blend(6), Chard(2), PGris; Chile Chard(2); Germany Sylv; Italy PGrig; Portugal Alvarh; NZ Muscat

CROWN BENCH ESTATES AMBROSIA, Beamsville Bench, Canada, 14.5% S, #Winery $39.95 375mL (Tasted October 27, 2007)

The website describes this as "A chocolate infused Icewine, balancing chocolate and fruit into an unparalleled sinful dessert. A Crown Bench innovation available only at our winery. Double Gold Selection Mondaile des Vins 2004. International Gold Medal. (Reviewed and recommended by Toronto Life Magazine; International Silver Medal, American Wine Society Silver)." My notes: Wouldn't it be great if all wineries were so ethical to tell us what's been added to their wine? John Szabo's article, Vines Nov/Dec 2007, alludes that some vintners are even proud of the deceitful practice of openly stating which flavourings and enhancers can be used to foist their poorer ferments but withholding this information from consumers. Perhaps Niagara wineries will take a lead in cleaning up and out these charlatans. I'm apprehensive of the day when 'Energy Wines' hit the LCBO shelves, fortified with caffeine and vitamins xyz for 'the ultimate wine experience'. Labelling would allow consumers to discriminate as we are now able to do for other food products. Anthony Gismondi, Wine Access June/July 2007, comments '... the prospect of cheating has never been more worthwhile. We need checks and balances...". I'll drink to that!! Enough of soapboxing... Ambrosia's colour is an intense copper salmon pink with an aroma that smacks of fresh Belgium milk chocolate with a slight spice edge, delectable. Sweet, yes, but the chocolate and tartness balance nicely so the palate's emphasis is on integrated flavours. Similarly a smooth round finish lasts long enough allowing the flavours to fade slowly. Went well combined with pumpkin pie and a dollop of whipped cream - not together but in sequence each with their flavour contribution. Crown Bench has a number of flavoured ice wines available only from the Winery. It's worth a visit. Too unique to be rated.

Moncao, Portugal, 12.5% XD, #059048 $15.95 (Tasted October 24, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "... The Alvarinho grape is considered the best grape with which to make Vinho Verde... Serve as a pre-prandial palate refresher or with simply prepared white fish or chicken dishes." Natalie MacLean rates this 87/100 saying "Enticing aromas of grapefruit and citrus... " and the Best Value White of the Release. VH of Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "This may not be the absolute perfect time of year to be releasing this... but it's so good. The nose is quite lifted, offering grape-like, spicy and rosewater aromas. The mouth feel is gorgeous, almost creamy, while the flavours are all about citrus, pear and tanginess. It's nicely balanced, very good value... " Michael Vaughan of the National Post says "... Perhaps the most interesting [white of the Release] comes from the venerable Portuguese house of Aveleda... This 100% Alvarinho has an elegant fruit focus without a trace of oak... the dry, gently juicy, melon and ripe lemon flavours would be a winner with seafood. My notes: A light golden colour with a delicate honeyed floral nose and flavours of pear and apple with enough tang and sweetness to balance each other. Medium-bodied finishing with a soft smoothness yet crisp and a very slight oil on the lips. A very pleasant sipper or aperitif. Have with fresh oysters, crab cakes, shrimp ring with tartar sauce even. Will match any seafood entree from grilled halibut to planked salmon. Cellar up to a year but I'd drink now for its freshness. Serve at any time to any crowd... super value for a clean, crisp white. Ww90

SOLJANS FUSION SPARKLING MUSCAT NV, Auckland, New Zealand, 7.5% M, #032797 $18.75 (Tasted October 20, 2007)

A Vintages release on July 7, 2007 described as "Fizz Fusion. The perfect refresher on a hot summer day, this light and fresh, gently sweet sparkling wine is bursting with grapey Muscat, apple and floral aromas... Enjoy with fresh strawberries." The website says "Made from Muscat grapes grown in Gisborne This wine is fragrantly perfumed and lively, with a delicate alcohol, a refreshing sugar/acid balance and plenty of floral concentrated sweet flavours.... An ideal match for fresh fruit salad." Michael Cooper of the New Zealand Sunday Star Times says " ...modelled on the seductively scented, low alcohol, smooth Asti Spumantes of Italy. Offering the rich, sweet flavours of ripe Muscat grapes, grown in Gisborne, it's a delightfully perfumed wine, great for summer sipping." My notes: Winner of many Silver medals in NZ competitions. Has a light blond colour and a burst of large bubbles pours into a flute glass quickly subsiding to a cascade of bubbles - no frothy rim. Medium-bodied, pear with very slight birthday cake aromas blend nicely with a mild tartness and soft, full, sweet flavouring. A long spritzy finish of sugary pear. I'd save this to accompany a mixed fruit dessert: strawberries, raspberries, pineapple and honey dew - with a scoop of ice cream, sorbet or whipped cream (the real stuff)... nothing too citrussy. A higher tartness to balanced the sugars would have been my preference - comes across as a little shallow. Very quaffable and I wouldn't refuse this on a warm summer day. Ww86

Niagara, Canada, 10.6% MD, #467662 $11.95 (Tasted October 19, 2007)

A General listing described as "Medium gold colour; forward floral aromatics with some peachy/mineral notes; crisp finish. Serve with smoked salmon; sushi; poached salmon; aperitif." My notes: A crisply clear light golden colour with a leesy and slight lemon nose, some floral when offchill. A nicely balanced combination of citrus, peach stone and apple with a delicate and long green apple finish, a light oil on the lips remains between sips. More riesling than gewurz but neither offering substantial aroma or flavour. The tartness tries to carry it as a sipper but comes across as uninteresting without stronger varietal components. Pair with Asian or light seafoods not too spicy nor strongly flavoured. A drink-now. Ww80

Niagara, Canada, 12.0% MD, #349126 $12.95 (Tasted October 18, 2007)

A General listing described as "Wine, Still Table Wine, White Still Table Wine." and that's all. The website notes (2004 Vintage) "This blend, pioneered in Canada by Pillitteri, always proves to exhibit lovely complexity due to the complimenting varietal characters of the two grapes blended together... The palate is fresh with the sweetness nicely balancing the wine. The aromatics transcend into the wine’s palate with intricate mandarin oranges, mango and white peach notes accompanied by lychee, floral and spice tones. The wine has great weight yet is light providing for an extensive finish that is enchanting. It is an excellent match with any spicy, oily or full-flavoured foods, especially Oriental and Thai cuisine. It is particularly wonderful on its own as well." My notes: A solid varietal bouquet with honeyed spice and floral notes. The colour is a very pale blond and the dry first sip leads to a lightish medium-bodied medley of apple and mandarin orange with lychee overtones. The sweetness is well balanced with a green fruit freshness that carries well into the finish - dry on the tip of the tongue with a slight honeyed fruit overall. Would be great with fresh oysters or with a range of seafood dishes: crabclaws to scallop skewers on basmati rice, lemon battered halibut to mussels in a spicy sauce. A touch dry as a sipper but I enjoyed it. Cellaring a year should let you know where its going. A bargain blend. Ww89

South Eastern Australia, 11.5% MD, #448548 $10.00 (Tasted October 17, 2007)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; rose petal and lychee with a touch of spice in aroma & flavour; sweetness balanced by lime citrus finish. Serve chilled with spicy Asian dishes." The website says "The Stamp of Australia Riesling Gewurztraminer is pale straw in colour and displays fresh zesty citrus, spice and floral aromas. On the palate sweet tropical and citrus fruit flavours are backed with spice and zesty acid finish. This wine has been crafted to enjoy as a young wine." My notes: A straw, slight pineapple and distant apple blossom aromas from a distinct blond colour wine. Very round from the first sip with a honeyed green apple, pear flavour. The finish lingers with a sweet/sour apple. An appealing sipper for it's off dry nature or to have with light cheeses, apple and pear wedges. Can be served with asian/japanese fare or as an after dinner refresher. Has a touch of gewurz spice and some riesling dry mineral and green apple but the sugar balance seems inflated, dare I say, artificially so. Would make a great a summer quaffer - have with a touch of soda, cubes, a slice of lemon or lime and a maraschino. Ww82

Niagara, Canada, 12.0% MD, #572156 $10.85 (Tasted October 16, 2007)

A General listed wine. The website says of the 2005 vintage "Cellared in Canada from imported & domestic wines. Canadian Wine Awards, Gold Medal 2005. Our Gewurztraminer Riesling has become our signature wine at Birchwood! This fruit driven wine has a delightful hue of pale yellow with wonderful aromas of apple, honey and lychee fruit on the nose. The medium body is soft, yet balanced with a fine acidity on the finish. A lovely companion to Asian cuisine. Great with curry dishes, pork, and herb-crusted chicken." My notes: Don't know which is correct, either the 2006 uses 100% Canadian grapes as the labelling claims (VQA) or it could be 'Cellared in Canada' (some imported grapes) as the 2005. Its a clear blond colour with a lavender nose, unusual without a sense of fruit. There's a slight sweetness on the first sip and it's moderately full in the mouth with delicate flavours of persistent lavender (lychee) and apple balanced with a touch of tartness. Finishes slightly sweet with a citrus edge making this an OK social sipper. Pair with asian foods, sushi or bento box of tempura shrimp and veggies or a dim sum assortment. It's OK for a different white - I didn't associate it with either riesling or gewurz tho' - more of a commercial beverage and not for me. Ww77

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, 13.0% D, #Winery $18.20 (Tasted October 15, 2007)

The label describes this wine as "Racy nose with spice and mineral components. Luscious white peach and grapefruit flavours, with a full-bodied mouthfeel and fresh acidity. ... made from the first crop from our young vines... " My notes: An aroma so faint it defies description although has an appealing sharpness and mineral aspect. The colour is a light golden and flavours at first sip are of bright lime peal, peach and butter with a subtle sweetness. The finish is light, long, crisp, nicely rounded and mostly a combination of grapefruit and green apple. An OK aperitif - an OK sipper - and good with breaded telapia filets with roast potatos and greens. A drink-now and not a value. Ww82.

'NCT' TRAMINER-RIESLING 2006 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 12.0% D, #Winery $12.95 (Tasted October 14, 2007)

The 2004 vintage was tasted in April, 2006. For the 2006 the College notes "Straw in colour. On the nose citrus, lemon and lime. On the palette well balanced with a nice acidity lots of citrus and lemon on the finish. Pairs well with Asian and Thai food." My notes: The 2006 vintage sports a colourful dynamic label depicting College events. A very light blond colour and when off chill has a subtle fragrance of wildflowers and clover honey - there but sniff hard or it can be missed. The first sip has a round mouthfeel and shows delicate flavours of lemon and ripe honeydew melon, light-bodied and balanced. Some roundness in the short finish and consistently flavourful. A quaffable white for any occasion - offer to anyone without concern. Pairing with food is somewhat difficult because of the delicate textures and flavours - but the tartness endures sufficiently for whitefish entrees and light pasta side dishes. A drink-now. Priced appropriately and, as the funds go to the College, a worthwhile purchase. Ww84

Australia, 13.0% XD, #597054 $12.85 (Tasted October 14, 2007)

A Vintages release on March 3, 2007 described as "Well made Riesling from Australia's Clare Valley is one of the world's most versatile, food-friendly wines, and this is certainly a well made rendition. Based on vivid fruit with green apple and lime notes, it is dry but very expressive in aroma and flavor. Zesty acidity lifts and freshens the fruit and greatly prolongs the finish, making this a great warm weather sipper but also a promising partner for a very wide range of foods. (88/100, Michael Franz, 2006)" My notes: A clear pale blond with a whiff of petrol among aromas of green apple, peach stone and faint wildflower. A bright approach to the palate with a smooth honey edge to mostly citrus and light spice. The finish is moderate leaving spice and mineral with a crisp mouthfeel. An aperitif for fresh oysters, crab cakes or lobster pieces. Pair with whitefish entrees to creamy seafood casseroles or a mediterranean pizza (artichokes, sun-dried tomatos, olives). A bargain now and cellaring for several years should be rewarding. Ww89

Limari Valley, Chile, 14.0% XD, #030940 $15.95 (Tasted October 12, 2007)

A Vintages release on May 12, 2007 described as "This vibrant Chardonnay is a terrific value. Complex and elegant, it is bursting with citrus and tropical fruit flavours balanced by racy acidity. It's full-bodied and round with a lengthy finish. Enjoy with seafood or grilled chicken breasts." Tony Aspler gives it four stars saying "Straw colour with a spicy pineapple nose; sweet spicy fruit, full-bodied with well integrated toasty oak supported by a lively acidic spine." My notes: A light fragrance of honey, lemon and apples and a light blond colour. Full from the first sip with flavours of apple, lemon, kiwi and some natural sweetness. Finishes with a touch of honey on the lips cleansed by a crisp citrus, both dry and refreshing, unctious. A good aperitif by itself or with fresh oysters or a plate of italian meats and bread squares. It was great paired with Swiss Chalet chicken, greens and baked potato and would be with any seafood dish or creamy mushroom pasta. Drinking well now but could cellar several years to advantage. A value chardonnay gently oaked for a balanced combination of fruit and process. Ww89

NO. 99
WAYNE GRETZKY ESTATE UNOAKED CHARDONNAY 2006 VQA, Jordan Niagara, 12.5% D, #063826 $13.95 (Tasted October 11, 2007)

A General listing. The website describes this as "The flagship white wine of the Gretzky portfolio is vinified in an unoaked style that allows classic cool-climate Niagara Chardonnay character to come to the forefront. On the nose, the wine shows tree fruit aromas of white peach and pear, fresh melon, and floral notes of apple blossom. In the mouth, flavours of stone fruit, pear, and dried apricot, with mineral undertones carried on a soft, rounded texture. Lingering citrus acidity extends the finish. Overall, the wine is fresh, focused, and zesty; refreshing as an aperitif, but with ample extract and structure to pair well with full-flavoured foods. Drinking well upon release, will improve and gain complexity for 3-4 years." Gord Stimmell gives it an 89 saying "This latest celebrity wine debuts on shelves this week, If you can't find it, more is coming. The nose is nutty, with roast apple and lime. The flavours lead into long spicy apple and lime peel. This is quite light for a chardonnay. The nutty notes will go well with stuffing made with pecans, and will buffer buttery mashed potatoes." 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 pale blond colour with a faint peach stone, pear and apple nose. The flavours have a slight sweet softness with mostly a tart apple and lime tone, light-bodied and a well balanced acid level. The finish is crisp but leans toward stone fruit and overripe apple - to me, not appealing as a sipper. Has a shallow presence that makes it difficult to pair with entrees... whitefish or scallops in a creamy pasta dish are possibilities - was lost with bbq'd chicken breast and greens. I don't see this improving with cellaring - more of a drink-now and not recommended. Ww76.

Beamsville Bench, Niagara, 13.5% MD, #Winery $26.15 (Tasted October 09, 2007)

Beppi Crosariol (G&M, Aug 11) says of this "... impressive and worth the money. Full-bodied and rich with flavours of butterscotch and pineapple, ... pronounced toastiness and a rich crème brûlée quality. Give the wine a moment on your palate and you begin to appreciate the balancing richness of its fruit and the freshness coming from its formidable acidity. Unlike a lot of flabbier, well-oaked chardonnays, this one can tango with food. It actually goes better with food than on its own." My notes: Each of winemaker Steve Kocsis' wines are uniquely different, this was made from grapes grown at his Mountain Road vineyards and received barrel fermentation and was purchased for its rich flavourings along with a smooth buttery texture. A full lemon butterscotch aroma with a touch of almond and a mid golden colour to match. Has a dry, tart edge with lemon butter, toast, pineapple and some granny smith apple flavourings. Gently oaked while retaining the fullness of the grape in a long finish. A straw toned sipper better paired with seafoods from a mild swordfish to planked salmon. Except for its uniqueness not a bargain as a drink-now, rather it's priced at market. Cellaring for several years may develop more textures and innuendos improving its value. Ww92

Fruili, Italy, 13.0% XD, #710012 $14.95 (Tasted October 02, 2007)

A Vintages release September 29, 2007 described as "Friuli, in the northwest of Italy near the Slovenian border, is home to many of the country's best white wines. Cool breezes and well-drained slopes ensure that the grapes ripen slowly, retaining their freshness and acidity while developing bright fruit flavours. This Pinot Grigio exemplifies the local style, with fruity notes of melon, peach, and lemon with floral touches, a dash of minerality and racy acidity acting as counterpoint." The website describes it as "Bouquet is very pleasant with a good array of varietal aromas such as pear Williams, banana, apricot and Acacia flowers. Taste is reminiscent of pear syrup and quince peel. Good acid balance good body and long finish. Mature wines have a bouquet of toasted almonds and straw." My notes: A light blond colour with subtle wildflower and honey aromas - offchill increases the nose slightly. A sip has a light fullness and flavours of dried apricots and green apples then finishes clean, dry, bright and apple-y. Have with hors d'oeuvres: stuffed mushroom caps, cold shrimp or oysters, shaved italian meats, mild cheese, artichoke hearts and olives or pair with light seafoods and creamy pastas. A meal white... not likely to cellar well replacing scarce fruit with straw and adding no complexity. An OK drink-now value that can be served anywhere. Ww84

Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #730044 $14.95 (Tasted October 02, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 29, 2007 described as "Many Chilean wineries have difficulty with Chardonnay due to problems integrating oak and fruit components. Cousiño-Macul seems to have mastered the production of value-priced Chardonnay. The outstanding 2006 Chardonnay Antiguas Reservas has no such problem. Featuring toasty pear, apple, and tropical fruit aromas and flavors, it has excellent depth and concentration, superior balance, and a lengthy, pure finish. It is a great value in well-made Chardonnay competing with wines twice the price. Kudos to Cousiño-Macul for this significant upgrade to their portfolio. 90/100. (Jay Miller, June 2007)." VH of Winecurrent gives it four stars saying "This is a lovely wine at an attractive price. Toast, vanilla and green apple aromas drift off the nose while the expressive flavours—spice, peach and nectarine—are balanced off nicely with citrussy undertones. It's medium bodied with a plush mouth feel that's very appealing, and has a refreshing clean finish... " My notes: A mid blond colour with clean full aromas of light pineapple, apple and straw. Full-bodied on the palate and flavours that have a nippy edge to a blend of pineapple, pear and apple. The lengthy finish has a buttery aftertaste added to the mix. A moderately oaked chard to pair with chicken, mushroom pastas, creamy salads with shredded ham or pork. Althoug very sippable, I found this to have a raw edge that cellaring a few years years should mellow, integrating flavours and textures for a value packed meal white or sipper. Ww90

Wurzburg, Germany, 12.5% D, #944504 $19.95 (Tasted October 01, 2007)

A Vintages release on September 29, 2007 described as "The Franken region wines are unique for two reasons. First, their principal grape is Silvaner; and second, they use an unusual bottle known as the bocksbeutel (similar in shape to the Mateus Rosé vessel). In Franken, Silvaner achieves its finest expression. The aromas are full of floral, pear, apple and mineral notes. Medium to full-bodied, its racy acidity gives it tremendous verve. Pair with freshwater fish." My notes: A light gold with almost a spritz forming on the glass bowl, light aromas of pear, apple, straw with a metallic hint. Silky with pear and apple flavours laying on a neat mineral thread finishing very clean, crisp then building in fullness. A delicately fruity, dry sipper... pair with a tray of cheeses, red, green grapes and apple pieces or rainbow trout, arctic char, grilled halibut with frites, smoked salmon with capers on greens, egg souffles. Should be able to cellar this several years. Ww88

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