Sunday, November 25, 2007

More November Whites(3): Canada Riesling; Chile Sauv Blanc; France Blend;

KONZELMANN SPARKLING RIESLING NV VQA, Niagara, Canada, 12.5% D, #031401 $14.95 (Tasted November 30, 2007)

A Vintages release on May 12, 2007 described as "This refreshing fizz is perfect for a springtime brunch or as an aperitif. Winemaker Herbert Konzelmann uses the Charmat method, which involves secondary fermentation in pressurized tanks, to give this wine its sparkle. Made with 100% Riesling, it's bursting with citrus fruit flavours balanced by racy acidity. Try it with smoked salmon." My notes: Lots of bubbles of all sizes burst on first pour then subside to a steady stream leaving a ring at the rim. A light blond colour and aromas of apples and pears, nicely tart, refreshing for sure, with a light creaminess and flavours of crisp apple, minerals and a slight lemon zest continually refreshing each sip. The finish is light apple and citrus cleansing the palate. A must have with fresh oysters or a shrimp ring and tangy seafood sauce. Or have with chocolate covered strawberries or breakfast strawberries, heavy cream, bacon, syrup and waffles. A value sparkling - or a sparkling value. Have a few in for New Years or any other excuse to celibrate. Cellaring a few years should be OK. Ww89

Rapel Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #396994 $13.95 (Tasted November 28, 2007)

A Vintages on November 24, 2007 described as "... is soft on grassy [notes] with hints of lemony freshness on the nose, while the taste is mainly orange blossom, clean, light on acidity and is quite simply an easy [autumn] sipper. (Michael Pinkus, Aug. 9, 2007)." The website says "Attractive bright yellow with green stroke pale hints [with a] nose that is intense and elegant, with fresh tropical fruit such as licci and mango, green melon and peach. The palate has an aromatic structure and acidity interact to create an appealing palate combined with a light body typical from the variety. Serve chilled as an aperitif. Also the ideal companion for appetizers and sea food in general." Gord Stimmell, (Nov. 24, 2007) gives it 89/100 saying "A pert and poised white, laden with tropical notes. The aromas show crushed pineapple, guava and passion fruit. The flavours deliver Bosc pear, McIntosh apple and guava, while the finish is spicy and refreshing. A delicious winner." My notes: A light yellow colour with a nose of slight gooseberry, melon and wet straw - airing brought more straw. An almost artificial roundness with the flavours following the nose similar to the pulp of a honeydew melon skin. Finishes with a moderate acid and a mineral aftertaste. I found this to be an unpleasant sipper by itself... the body and acid held its own with grilled chicken thighs but the flavours did not contribute positively. Not a drink-now, not for cellaring and not a value. Perhaps a tainted bottle. Ww72

ARROGANT FROG RIBET WHITE (CHARDONNAY VIOGNIER) 2006, Languedoc, France, 13.5% D, #619718 $13.20 (Tasted November 25, 2007)

A General listing described as "Bright straw yellow colour; aromas and flavours of ripe tropical fruits, pineapple, banana, melon and pear; dry, medium bodied, well balanced. Serve with roast poultry, cassolette and cream sauced dishes." The website says "Bright gold yellow with straw yellow tints. Very elegant nose with a quintessence of tropical fruits, peach and white flowers aromas with a hint of vanilla and toasted bread. The palate is fresh and mellow with a long persistence finishing on fruity notes.... will age well for the next four years." VH of Winecurrent gives this three and one half (of 5) saying "... Look for a gorgeously-textured wine that uses a creamy texture as its delivery system for alluring aromas and ripe flavours of melon, pit fruit and honeycomb. This is quite delicious sipped on its own and has the weight, texture and flavours to pair beautifully with roast chicken." My notes: A new critter look for the south of France from Les Domaine Paul Mas. This Frog has a pale yellow colour with a light aroma of bananas, faint pear and wet straw increasing as the chill goes off. Medium-bodied, round on the palate with a light citrus, melon, and grapefruit mix, nicely balanced with a mild tartness. Finishing with a soft citrus flavour with a tart lining. Neither a chardonnay nor a viognier leaving my taste buds searching - still OK at an open bar. Have with sliced chicken breast, whitefishes, swordfish steaks, mussels in a cream sauce. A drink-now I wouldn't pass up a second glass. Ww84

Thursday, November 15, 2007

More November Reds(7): Argentina Merlot; Australia Shiraz(2); Chile Cab Sauv, Syrah; France Blend, Shiraz;

PASCUAL TOSO MERLOT 2004, Maipu, Argentina, 13.9% D, #035188 $12.95 (Tasted November 28, 2007)

A General listing described as "This soft and silky red displays seductive aromas of dark chocolate, plums, pipe tobacco and licorice. The palate delivers rich black fruit flavours enhanced by earthy and coffee notes. Serve with roast of lamb." My notes: Merlot doesn't appear on their website. Claimed to have won several medals at various wine shows often in the 'below $15 category'. The nose is light and berryish with minimal oak influence. The colour is a dense ruby and the first sip is medium-bodied, a mix of blackberry, mint, cedar shavings and somewhat stemmy and dry on the palate. The finish has some tar carrying the remnants of berries. A straightforward commercial merlot, OK but not interesting. Have with burgers, pizzas, sliced turkey breast, cold ham and greens. Compared with their Malbec (October 8th tasting) this is a disappointment. A drink-now... personally not a value at the price. Ww80

Chile, 14.0% D, #177451 $14.95 (Tasted November 27, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "The Torres family has revolutionized the production of fine wine in Chile. This Cab has plum, black currant and toasty oak aromas. Fruit dominates on the well- balanced palate with ripe tannins showing on the long finish. A perfect match for piping hot beef or lamb stew." The label says "Bottled without filtering. Excellent potential 5 to 7 years. Ruby colour with fiery reflections. Exquisite varietal aromas over rich hints of leather and liquorice. Silky tannins on the palate and an elegant finish." RP of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "... and the 2005 maintains the quality and value [of the 2004 vintage]. It's a big, fruit-forward, well-structured Cabernet with flavours of black fruit and berries and notes of black pepper and mint. There's a little warmth from the 14% alcohol, but it's well-balanced and an obvious choice for red meat and game." My notes: A deep, violet tinged ruby and aromas of soft oak, black cherries and ripe plums - airing in the glass allows the nose to develop. The first sip is smooth as velvet with just a slight nip, fine tannins and a steely flavour of purple plum and toasty oak. Finishes long with balanced flavours switching to more smoky plum, smooth on the lips leaving a minty touch to the palate. A mellow sipper, full-bodied and warm with well managed oak. Would pair well with anything moo or baa (beef and lamb gets so repetitious), well seasoned stews, seasoned bbq'd oink back ribs. A good value for anyone preferring old to new world although there's lots to admire from both sides. Cellar up to five years. Ww90

Geographe, Australia, 14.0% D, #686865 $19.95 (Tasted November 26, 2007)

This vintage of 'The Ripper' was released by Vintages on November 24, 2007 and described as "... Aged in 50% French and 50% American oak, this red exhibits classic Aussie Shiraz blackberry, plum and spice characters, but also an impressive elegance and structure owing to the region's cooler climate." The website describes their process "The 'Ripper' Shiraz is grown at Hope Estate's 28 hectare vineyard at Donnybrook in the Geographe region of Western Australia. The shiraz grapes are crushed... then transported by truck... to the Hunter Valley on the east coast where they are fermented and bottle. The must is chilled for this three day roadtrip and arrives with amazing colour and tannin extraction." VH of Winecurrent gives it four (of 5) saying "Opaque and inky in the glass... Look for teeth-staining, palate-drenching flavours of black currant, black raspberry and mulberry. There's plenty of moderating acidity and supple ripe tannins to keep it in balance while the finish is quite lengthy... it's drinking now to 2012... " My notes: 2003, 2004 (see Nov 16th notes) and now the 2005 vintage 'Ripper'. The blackberry and currant nose pours from the bottle but dissipates quickly in the glass leaving only the flavour to tell us much. Medium-bodied and thinner than previous vintages, smooth textured, the flavour shows full and fresh black currant with a slight mint and fine tannins and very little oak influence. A nicely balanced red for sipping, rewarding each sip with white pepper edged currant juices, naturally sweet and having the tartness of ripe fruit. This is a polite shiraz that lends flavours to any beef or lamb meal. Based on previous vintages cellaring will be short term, two years at most. The price of Aussie reds have been inflated, likely locally, to $20 and up... overpriced but what can you do if you can't find a Chilean or Argentinian to give equivalent fruit and spice. Get in for special company. Ww88

ARROGANT FROG RIBET RED (SHIRAZ) 2006, Languedoc, France, 13.5% D, #619296 $13.20 (Tasted November 25, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby purple colour; aromas of black currant and plum, with hints of oregano and vanilla; dry, medium bodied, quite fruit forward, with balanced structure; oak notes on finish. Serve with roasts, bbqs and most big bold meat dishes." The website says "At first spicy and balsamic the second nose develops blackcurrant, humidor and violet flower aromas finishing with toasted oak notes. Full bodied but mellow with velvety tannins. Ripe and floral flavours on the middle palate, liquorice and spicy flavours on the finish. ... will age for the next six years. " VH of Winecurrent gives it three and one half (of 5) saying "... Look for a smooth and silky drinking red that offers ripe juicy flavours of cherry, black berry and spice. It's drinking beautifully now—well balanced and offering a fruit forward finish." My notes: A new look for the south of France from Les Domaine Paul Mas. Anthony Gismondi's article gives credit to Robert Mondavi for encouraging three dedicated vintners, producers of value wines: Miguel Torres Jr. (Spain/Chile), Paul Mas and Pascal Jolivet (France). This shiraz has lots of appeal: a light but warm nose of currant, berries and slight smoke, a deep ruby colour with long legs, an attractive first sip with lots of tannin, berries, mild currant and pepper edge. Finishes with tasty fruit, light oak and pepper, silky smooth. A moderate wine that keeps giving with each sip. Should be great with pizzas, burgers, T-bones, prime rib, ie. anything beefy - a flavourful addition to the meal. Should cellar well for a few years - primarily a drink-now and a good price. Ww87

Pays d'Oc, France, 13.5% XD, #SO39-2636 $18.67 (Tasted November 18, 2007)

Opimian wrote of this vintage: "... vineyard regime almost to an organic level. showing a deep, glowing colour, full and concentrated with grape extract that opens into a delightful bouquet with vivid black currant and cassis aromas balanced by subtle nuances of oak. Spicy notes and firm levels of tannin promise a decent period of maturity.... " My notes: Originally purchase from the Opimian Wine Society in January 2004 and cellared 'til now. This has a lovely but delicate blackcurrant and soft smoke nose and a colour of deep ruby, perhaps a blend of merlot and cab franc. Flavours are a light blackcurrant, well balanced with fine tannins and acid, smooth, medium-bodied, finishing long on the palate with natural blackcurrant juice, a slight spice and silky and soft. This is a rewarding sipper giving a pleasurable mix of fruit and spice without challenging a variety of appetizers from light turkey snacks to mild sausage or stuffed mushroom caps. Pair with beef tenderloin, T-bones, prime rib, seared back ribs, etc. This has cellared well and should for another three to six years. Ww88

HOPE ESTATE ‘THE RIPPER’ SHIRAZ 2003, Geographe,Western Australia, 14.0% XD, #686865 $ 17.95 (Retasted November 16, 2007)

My notes: This was the Wine of the Month when released on August 19, 2006 described as "... 'ripper' is Oz speak for fantastic wine .... etc." and was last tasted the same month. The 2004 vintage was released by Vintages in March, 2007 ($2 more) and the 2005 is to be available on November 24th of this year. A deep ruby red still with a warm aroma of plum, ripe black cherries and cedar, faint but there. Long legs on the glass and the first sip has a nice nip, not as strong as it was in 2006. The flavours are subdued, some black currant, red cherries and some mint amongst a texture of silk and fine tannins. Scored 90/100 by the Wine Enthusiast, Feb. 1, 2006 and described as 'powerful but restrained' this is now not a bold sipper, nice all the same with a dry finish, fairly short, of black currant, cherries and soft remnants of pepper. Pair with savoury entrees: stews, T-bones, prime rib or beef tenderloin in flaky filo. Still is bright from ageing in American oak while the French oak has given it some smoothness and herbal nuances. Tannic and peppery when first tasted this is now a polite shiraz. Has enough pepper and tannins to cellar another few years but has lost quite a bit of the original fruit. Ww88

Rapel Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #046276 $15.95 (Tasted November 15, 2007)

A Vintages release on November 10, 2007 described as "Viña Casablanca was founded as a sister company to Viña Santa Carolina in 1992. The boutique-sized winery quickly built a solid reputation, particularly for its iconic Sauvignon Blanc from the Casablanca Valley. Now it's the reds that are turning heads. Sourced from the Rapel Valley, the El Bosque Syrah gained recognition by winning Gold at the prestigious Catad`Or Grand Hyatt Wine Awards 2006 in Chile." Gord Stimmell, Nov 10, 2007 gives it 90/100 saying "Best value of the Release, with tantalizing aromas and flavours of smoky cedar, violets, black cherry and plums... rich, big and fleshy, ...silky... "
My notes: A warm nose of faint plums and a ruby colour, deep not dense. Sharp and dry on the first sip with flavours of red cherries including the dry, crushed pits and light pepper which characterize most of the long dry finish. Not a sipper. A reserved european style syrah, perhaps from young vines, rather than a bold, fruity new world shiraz. This may be too early to have peaked and further cellaring may smooth and allow time for more textures and complexities to develop.... but I don't think so. I think, what it is now is what it will be for a few years then it's downhill. A commercial red to be paired with red meats, savoury rather than spicy. Have with hamburgers, pizzas, beef stews, T-bones, etc. Ww80

Thursday, November 01, 2007

November Whites(10): Australia Chard; Canada Chard, Ries(2); Chile Blend; France Pin Noir; Italy Prosecco, Soave; NZ Sauv Blanc; S Africa Chard;

VILLA MARIA PRIVATE BIN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007, Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% D, #426601 $16.95 (Tasted November 25, 2007)
A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; intense aromas of gooseberry, lime, grass and asparagus; dry, medium bodied, crisp acidity, and flavours of bell pepper, gooseberry citrus; clean, crisp finish. Serve with goat cheese dishes, vegetarian fare or herb roasted poultry." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "The '07 vintage is fabulous, and so is this wine. It delivers pungent aromas of passion fruit, nettles and hints of tropical fruit. The fruit-forward flavours are quite racy with gooseberry, pineapple and lemon-lime to the fore. The texture is fabulous, oily and medium-bodied, while the finish is full of vim and verve—loads of citrus and herbaceous flavours." My notes: A prominent gooseberry and nettles nose, delectable, fills the glass and a crystal clear, light straw colour. Silky smooth, round on the palate and an unctuous tartness from the first swallow. Flavours of grapefruit, ripe melon, gooseberries well balanced and lasting awhile with the fruit fading very slowly. Its freshness invigorates the taste buds. Have with any seafood from raw oysters, spicy mussels, whitefish to salmon, sushi, asian or thai. Served chilled, a super sipper as well as a meal white. Priced for serving frequently rather than saving for those special occasions. Should be able to cellar a year without losing anything. Ww91

Limari Valley, Chile, 12.5% SC6, #046292 500mL $13.95 (Tasted November 21, 2007)
A Vintages release on November 10, 2007 described as "This unique sweet wine is a blend of two explosively aromatic grapes, Muscat of Alexander and Viognier with about 60% of the grapes botrytis-affected. Botrytis is the benevolent 'noble rot' that extracts water from the grapes, leaving the concentrated sugars behind. The result is a complex and elegant nectar that exhibits a mix of honey, floral, and apricot characteristics along with notes of almonds and walnuts. Popular as an aperitif or dessert wine, it would go very well with apple pie and cheese." The website features only the 2007 vintage Late Harvest with grapes from the Rapel Valley and adds some Sauvignon Blanc in the blend. Serve chilled. My notes: The nose has a honey caramel blended with a light spice of wildflowers. The texture is well rounded and familiar to anyone having sipped a Niagara Late Harvest. Has a citric tartness, some orange zest, butterscotch and burnt toast evenly balanced to provide a very sippable flavour mix and finishes somewhat long ending on a sweet note of burnt caramel. Would be great paired with creme brulee, pumpkin cheesecake or poured over pear halves and lemon glace, even better with a mixed cheese tray including goat and Rosenberg blue. A good value. Ww84

Niagara, Canada, 11.5% D, #233635 $14.15 (Tasted November 20, 2007)
A General listing described as "Pale yellow colour; fresh grapefruit and pineapple on the nose with floral notes; dry, light to medium bodied, clean, citrus flavours with refreshing acidity and a crisp; a sense of sweetness on the finish. Serve with fish or seafood, pork tenderloin, smoked salmon, creamy dishes." The winery sources riesling grapes from Twenty Mile Bench (36%), Beamsville Bench (23%), Lincoln Lakeshore (24%) and Creek Shores (10%) and is described as "dry with citrus fruit (lime/grapefruit), rich texture and a steely seam of acidity." My notes: A light gold with a greenish tint and aromas of grassy green apple peel. A strong nip to the first sip, light-bodied with dry unripened grapefruit and light crab apple flavours. Not a sipper unless with fresh oysters or shaved meats. Somewhat lightly flavoured paired with bbq'd chicken breast and veggies... would be better with white fish or scampi and greens. Finishes very DRY overcoming any sweetness and with a tart crab apple edge. I would not repurchase as a social riesling. Perhaps as an aperitif on a hot summer day with a cube and slice of lemon or lime. Not a value. Ww80

Niagara, Canada, 12.0% D, #200501 $11.45 (Tasted November 20, 2007)
A General listing described as "Straw yellow colour; floral, peach, apricot and pear fruit aromas; dry, medium bodied with mineral and light petrol notes; refreshing acidity. Serve with turkey dinner, smoked salmon or shellfish; schnitzel, youthful creamy cheese or veal." My notes: A light blond colour with aromas of green apple, nectarine, slight lime and soft wildflowers. A nice nip on the first sip, medium-bodied, and a slight mineral edge to an apple peel flavour. Comes across as a dry sipper. Finishes with a suspicion of sweetness that, without nibbles, grows to a soft texture then fades to that interesting mineral edge, perhaps a touch of orange zest. Should be great with fresh oysters or a cooled shrimp ring and sauce or paired with seafood entrees: mussels in a garlic and herb sauce, telapia in an orange sauce, arctic char with herbed rice... or even sliced chicken breast and orzo. Could be a staple riesling for any occasion - the petrol isn't distinct which may be a plus for some imbibers. Ww88

Adelaide, Australia, 13.5% XD, #606186 $19.95 (Tasted November 12, 2007)

A Vintages release on November 10, 2007 described as "Slightly edgy aromas of lime and lemon rind with lightly reductive and funky undertones of pear and apple. Fine and chalky, it's vibrant and minerally, with suppleness and layers of texture wrapped in a slightly chalky grip. Focused and funky, with a core of vibrant citrusy fruit, it's restrained and stylish, ready for drinking now or cellaring. 94/100 (Jeremy Oliver, Feb. 19, 2005)." Harvey Steiman of The Wine Spectator (May 15, 2005) gives it 89/100 saying "Aims for delicacy and harmony instead of power, achieving a seductive balance of creamy pear and apple flavors with a deft touch of oak as the finish lingers. Drink now through 2007." Daryna Tobey of The Wine Enthusiast (August 01, 2005) gives it 88/100 with the comment "A buttoned up, classy wine offering peach and fresh corn aromas and flavors. Medium-weight, the palate also has floral hints. 3,000 cases produced." My notes: Quite a range among the quoted reviews in 2005. I often wonder why ratings either aren't more current or where and why the bottles Vintages releases have sat in the meantime. Better served offchill to allow the nose to set up and the flavours to come forward. A light golden colour with peach fuzz and apple fragrances, almost indiscernible. A delicate creaminess and very slight flavours of apple and pear with a faint stalkiness that's equally prominant. The finish has a stemmy streak that takes away from any delicate fruit that may have been... disappointing as a sipper. This didn't hold up well with thai noodles, salmon fillet and veggies. If this were a 94/100 in 2005 it has decayed quickly in the two years. Definitely not a value and not recommended... I should never go by old ratings... wine is a living thing! Ww72

Soave, Italy, 12.5% XD, #626952 $14.95 (Tasted November 11, 2007)
A Vintages release on November 10, 2007 described as "The Soave Borgoletto is... a lean, clearly defined wine with apple and pear fruit alongside the vegetal aromas on the nose and a balance of fresh acidity and tangy flavour on the palate. 2 (out of 3). (Gambero Rosso Italian Wines, 2007)." A UK website describes it as "... the grapes... sourced from several vineyards. Each lot of grapes are vinified separately and then tasted before the final blend is made. This means that the best possible wine is made every year! Super-fresh with a slight spritz, this is top-notch Soave." My notes: Certified as from organically grown grapes and suitable for Vegans and Vegetarians. The website says it's made from 100% Garganega grapes and is to be served at 10C. Cellar up to two years. A clover honey nose and the colour of buttercups but crystal clear, a smooth taste of lemon and light apple comes with a bright nip and finishes dry with a mineral edge, perhaps the 'slight spritz' showing its effect. This makes for a refreshing sipper that cleanses the palate in between nibbles... went well with roasted telapia fillets coated lightly with seasoned bread crumbs and likely would with fresh oysters, mussels in a spicy broth or between bites of bbq'd garlic scampi or honeyed chicken wings. I'd serve to friends or family without hestitation. Ww88

Alsace, France, 12.0% XD, #047258 $16.95 (Tasted November 09, 2007)
A Vintages release on September 29, 2007 described as "The name Blanc de Noirs... refers to the black-skinned grape with white pulp used to make this sparkling wine. In this case, it is made with 100% Pinot Noir. It is a white sparkling wine because the juice is separated before the skins can impart colour to the liquid. This wine would be a great beginning to a social event or will pair well with dark chocolate truffles." My notes: The nose is a light yeast with some dry straw or stalkiness. The colour is a light yellow and there's a burst of bubbles large and small filling the glass on the first pour then subsiding to a steady stream to the rim. Mousseux on each sip and flavours of tart apple and faint citrus leaving a freshening tang on the palate, extra dry with a long finish. Would be great as an aperitif with fresh oysters, shrimp ring with sauce, toasting endlessly or just to sip on a hot summer day. Have with dark chocolate or mascarpone cheesecake with red berry coulis. Anyone liking an economical champagne or a spanish bubbly, Segura Viudas or Freixenet style, will like this. Ww86
MIKE WEIR ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2006, Niagara, Canada, 13.0% D, #000026 $15.95 (Tasted November 07, 2007)
Released by Vintages on October 27, 2007 with a description similar to the 2005 vintage tasted in June. Beppi Crosariol, Nov 17, 2007, describes the 2006 as "Chablis-like... has a firm seam of acid supporting flavours of citrus and pineapple, with a slightly smoky-matchstick note, possibly from bottling... Very nice, lean-style effort." My notes: For the 2005 vintage I noted "A light blond colour and a nose that has the sweetness of pineapple along with the aromas of fresh crabapples. A pleasing buttery texture and mild citrus, apple and honey flavours finishing well balanced between tart and flavourful... I don't see it as 'robust'... " Still produced by Creekside Estates for the Mike Weir Estate the 2006 has a slightly stronger grassiness in the nose that follows through to the flavour tending to override the delicate fruit that may be there. In a side by side comparison there is less cream in the body making the 2006 less of a 'sipper' but still plenty to carry through a meal. The differences between the vintages are subtle. Both have a balanced tartness that pairs well with grilled seafoods or creamy seafood pastas. Cellaring for a few years is likely.... longer, iffy. Not the vintage to invest but for friends and family a definite maybe. Ww84

Italy, 11.5% D, #053215 $19.95 (Tasted November 04, 2007)

A General listing. The website says "A spumante wine produced from Prosecco grapes grown in the vineyards of Valdobbiandene where, agreed together with the local winemakers, a number of agronomic measures have been adopted which have reduced the yield per acre to favor a greater concentration of nose-taste... This spumante wine with its unique consistency, greater underlining structure and distinct complex bouquet is aimed at becoming the symbol of this winemaking territory and not of the vine... a high-quality product the number of bottles produced are limited. Serve at 6-8° C." My notes: The Belcanto line is produced by Bellussi of Italy. A light, crystal clear yellow with greenish tinge colour and aromas of a birthday cake with lemon-lime icing. The bubbles burst into the glass but subside quickly then continue to stream to form a full rim. The balance between natural fruit sugars and tart apple flavour makes sipping a pleasure the sugars being almost unnoticeable, just there to give a smooth creaminess. Apple and pear flavours continue into the long finish, bright on the palate and citrus edged throughout. This would make a wonderful companion on a warm summer patio visit. Share liberally with friends while chatting over snacks of italian meats and breads. Smear liver pate on crackers, salsa on cold shrimp, or rolled ham slices with pickles. My BH says the bottle is gaudy... I say it's italian rococo... its contents go quickly as we debate. Ww91

Coastal Region, S Africa, 14.5% D, #328559 $14.95 (Tasted November 01, 2007)
A Vintages release on October 27, 2007 described as "Fat, round and easygoing, with exotic flavors of sweet peach and tropical fruits; plenty of volume here. Essentially soft chardonnay with lots of smoky, nutty, vanillin oak from start to persistent finish. 87/100 (Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar, March 2007)." RP of Winecurrent gives it four (of 5) saying "This is a plush, generously-textured Chardonnay that has bold flavours to match. Look for rich peach and tropical fruit to the fore, with a nice stream of acidity for balance. It needs fairly dense food, so pair it with roast turkey or pork tenderloin, served with a sweet fruit condiment or stuffing." The website says " Ripe fruit and oak flavours integrating well with complex citrus, pear, peach and woody flavours that add depth and dimension. A creamy texture, which holds its fruitiness through to the finish. May be kept for 12 to 18 months." My notes: A light golden colour and a soft oaked nose with highlights of sugary butter. The flavours follow an oaked chardonnay theme with bright caramelized apple and faint lemon. The finish is dry, full, a touch sweet but with lots of butterscotch. A subtle sweetness along with the citric tartness gives this some appeal as a commercial sipper. With bbq'd roasted chicken and lingonberry sauce the flavours fell away when combined food then came back after the meal. Not for cellaring and, personally, although a good price point I wouldn't get it in for friends or family. Ww84

November Reds(10): Argentina Cab Sauv; Australia Shiraz(2), Merlot; Canada PN; Chile Petit Verd; France PN; Portugal Blend; Spain Blend; USA Cab Sauv;

QUINTA DAS SETENCOSTAS ALENQUER 2005, Alenquer, Portugal, 13.0% XD, #050930 $13.95 (Tasted November 14, 2007)
A Vintages release on November 10, 2007 described as "Made with indigenous grape varieties, this is a unique offering from Casas Santos Lima in Portugal. It displays delicious dark berry fruit aromas with distinct notes of cinnamon and chocolate which all echo beautifully on the palate. Excellent with vegetable and chicken paella." Natalie MacLean calls it the Best Value Red Wine of the Release rating it 90/100 saying "Fantastic value! So good it deserves another exclamation mark! Lovely notes of dark fruit and cocoa. Full-bodied and smooth. Pair with: chicken paella." My notes: A ruby red with a dull cast and an aroma too faint to discern - perhaps cherry and some plum. Medium-bodied with a balanced tannin and acid base for a light plum fruit. As a sipper there is a soft cherry highlight that builds then leaves as a smooth leather edge still with a soft tannin and well balanced acid... but overall I found it uninteresting. Pairing with a ham steak, pork chops or cold chicken could have merit. A soft quaffer that cellaring won't improve... not recommended. Ww80

Margaret River, Australia, 14.2% XD, #025270 $17.95 (Tasted November 13, 2007)

A Vintages release on November 10, 2007 described as "The Olsen family planted their first vines in 1986 when Margaret River was not even a blip on the radar of most wine lovers. Today, winemaker Jared Olsen crafts complex and interesting wines like this splendid Merlot to reflect the unique qualities of this now-celebrated viticultural area. The family mantra is 'excellence by choice' and it shows in the ripe plum, blackberry and dusty oak flavours of this full-bodied beauty." Gord Stimmell, Nov 10, 2007 gives it 90/100 saying "... shows a minty accented style, with aromas and flavours of black cherry, blueberry, cedar and chocolate. ... Simply delicious." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "Delivering what one would hope for from this premium cooler climate Aussie wine region, this is well balanced and sporting a touch of class. There are focused aromas and flavours of black plum and black currant. There are enough tannins to carry this for awhile and enough tanginess to provide good balance now and on to 2012... " My notes: A deep ruby and faint aromas of cherries, berries and warm earth. The first sip has a bright minty nippiness followed by a black cherry and raspberry flavour blend, fine tannins for a smooth texture and the start of a long, light finish of berries and cherries. A sociable sipper for any 'red' crowd... and suitable for red meats, roast turkey, pizzas or burgers. Cellaring for a few years would likely give more of the same so not worth the investment. A standard house red - at the price, not a value. Ww84

Penwortham, Australia, 15.0% XD, #005199 $17.95 (Tasted November 12, 2007)
A Vintages release on November xx, 2007 described as "The 2005 The Lackey ... emphasizes the ripe, classic, South Australian Shiraz grape aged in old oak and bottled with no fining or filtration. Deep, rich, full-bodied, and elegant, it reveals plenty of berry fruit, pepper, chocolate, and new saddle leather characteristics. Drink this spicy, earthy effort over the next 2-3 years. Score - 90. (Robert Parker Jr., Oct. 2006)." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "This is a full-bore and fully-flavoured red with crowd-pleaser written all over it. It provides a huge mouthful of rich and concentrated fruit flavours—spiced black plum compote, sweet mulberry and oodles of ripe black cherry. The finish is warm (15% alcohol) and lingering, adding on some notes of pepper and chocolate. There's nothing shy about this, so give it a go with a bold and hearty stew." Natalie MacLean calls it "A simple and delicious, full-bodied wine." and gives it 90/100. My notes: A deep violet ruby shade, opaque to the eye with peppery black currant aromas - airing not necessary. Rich black currant flavours hit the senses, full in the mouth and velvety smooth like streaming juice from a grape bunch through a filter of dark chocolate. A long finish has a peppery edge adding brightness and some sweet fruit leftovers. A wonderful new world sipper... The oak influences complement the fruit wonderfully, not altering its varietal naturalness but adding textures to increase sipping enjoyment. Do you get the idea I enjoyed this shiraz?? Buy a mittful... for a long Ontario winter. Ww92

Saturna Island, Canada, 10.6% D, #010991 $18.95 (Tasted November 11, 2007)

A Vintages release September 1, 2007 described as "Saturna, located off the coast of Vancouver Island in the Georgia Straits, has really stepped things up over the last couple of vintages. Its micro-climate has proven ideal for growing the ever-demanding Pinot Noir grape. This Burgundian-styled Pinot conjures up fresh, delicate fruit flavours and will make an ideal dinner companion for salmon or is lovely all on its own." Jurgen Gothe in his column Uncorked says "... The 2004 announces its subtle presence with a very light colour, and the flavours are fresh and lean. This is one of those wines that hit the palate immediately as good dinner companions for just about anything. The 2005 is perhaps just a shade darker (but still light) and shows a slight smoky edge to the fruit, which is principally cherries and a hint of something spicy. It's fresh and bracing, especially if you give it a touch of chill... I think the 2004 has the edge, if only by a grape skin... " My notes: This vintage is not listed on their website. This has a red cherry colour somewhat deeper still bright in the glass. The aroma is predominantly crushed strawberry with a few stems in the mix. It sips very smoothly with a light strawberry - cherry blend with a mild tartness to add interest. The natural fruit ebbs slowly pacing the balanced tartness. Personally I'd say this is a 'Saturna' style pinot - and the lightest I've tasted with the lowest alcohol level. At a social gathering this would be a good introductory sipper - serve slightly chilled... but not for entrenched red sippers... with some mild cheeses or a fruit tray with milk chocolate wafers or pair with a sushi tray, perhaps ricotta waffles smothered with maple syrup. Ww86

RODNEY STRONG CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, Sonoma, USA, 13.8% XD, #226944 $19.95 (Retasted November 09, 2007)

My notes: Originally purchased in December of 2006. RP of Winecurrent gave it a four and one half (of 5) saying 'has a lot of depth and finesse... hold it two or three years.. ' The 2003 growing season was described as 'classic' by the winery and this wine was awarded several top awards. In last April's tasting I noted "If anything this now has a lighter nose with much softer fruit, no longer being 'warm cedar and blackcurrant'... this should cellar for many years." After the additional seven months the nose is still aromatic full of rich herbal scents and berries blending with soft oak. The body is lighter with a crisp blackcurrant, a fuller mint with fine tannins and a mild tartness. The long finish is dry with an earthy appeal, some berries and a sweet woody touch. The youthful fruit freshness has gone and mature flavours and textures are setting in. A pleasant enough sipper and should be excellent paired with beef entrees, grilled or roasted, BBQ'd ribs or pepperoni pizza. I preferred it younger when it had some robustness but additional ageing should prove interesting. It'll either wake up or wane slowly to mediocrity. Ww88
BODEGAS FAUSTINO I TINTO GRAN RESERVA 1995, Rioja, Spain, 13.0% D, #976662 $32.95 (Tasted November 08, 2007)
The 1996 vintage was released by Vintages on September 1, 2007 with a description "Plum, dried cherry, dusty spice and leather notes mingle in this mature red, which is still quite fresh. A balanced wine, it will make a fine accompaniment to delicate dishes. Drink now. 87/100. (Thomas Matthews, Nov. 30, 2006)." My notes: The winery projects this wine can be aged six to fifteen years. Now in its twelfth year the colour is a red plum shade with a nose of warmed plums, cherries and a whiff of cardomon filling the glass. Exotic flavours of tea and prunes with a lime edge to give it brightness. A lightish medium-bodied red with fine tannins and a long finish of delicate cherries, plums, distant tobacco and leaving a distinct brightness but no tartness on the palate. Sipping slowly to savour the finesse of this red is a must. Pair with crockpot stews, veal, pork tenderloin, dark fowl or not too highly seasoned eastern dishes: chicken shashlik, lamb souvlaki. Ww89
JEAN GEILER CRÉMANT D'ALSACE PINOT NOIR BRUT NV, Alsace, France, 12.0% D, #047191 $19.95 (Tasted November 02, 2007)
A Vintages release on October 27, 2007 described as "Crémant d'Alsace is a sparkling wine made in the traditional method. Not well-known outside of Alsace (where it is served in lieu of Champagne), Crémant d'Alsace is a wonderful alternative bubbly for your next celebration." Beppi Crosariol, (October 27, 2007) has this as his wine of the week and says "... a fruit-forward flavour hinting at cherries and citrus." VH of Winecurrent gives it three and one half (of 5) saying "... the nose; it's redolent of baked apple pie including the spicy aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg. On the racy and light- to medium-bodied palate, it's all about green apple, mineral and citrus flavours that provide a clean and refreshing attack and a fairly-lengthy finish. You'll discover a hint of white peach there, as well." My notes: A bubbly from Cave Vinicole Ingersheim. A nose of light yeast, tart apple, apple blossoms and a soft pink colour with a touch of salmon. From large to tiny bubbles foam then slowly subside leaving a frothy rim and lots of fine streams. Nicely creamy yet with a sharp tang of crabapple and citrus makes this a great aperitif or a companion with fresh oysters, grilled scallops in filo or as a celebratory toaster, a thirst quencher on a hot day or a picker upper for breakfast waffles with strawberries. Has a long dry, tangy, somewhat creamy and flavourful finish. This could serve as an economical replacement for champagne anywhere. A few in the cellar would cover any surprise announcements - just pop one in the freezer for thirty minutes before serving. For those wanting a fruit tinged champagne alternative. Ww88

Rapel Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #007484 $14.95 (Tasted November 02, 2007)

A Vintages release on October 27, 2007. RP of Winecurrent gives this four and one half (of 5) saying "Petit Verdot... is too-seldom produced as a varietal wine. This one (which is 85% Petit Verdot, 9% Syrah and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon) delivers richly complex flavours of dark plum, cherry and blackberries, with notes of dried fruit, spice and smoke. It's medium bodied with a fairly full and plush texture, has good tannic structure, and it goes well with well-seasoned red meats". Gord Stimmell gives it 90/100 saying "A smoky, plummy aroma, mixed with violets and blueberry jam, signals a dense red. The flavours are rich, with kirsch, vanilla, cedar and blueberry leading into a finish of violets-accented, rich black plums. A serious red for the bucks." The website says "This wine features an intense red scarlet colour. Exuberant and complex, it offers a myriad of aromas such as blackberries, ripe apricots and violets. Sweet tones of vanilla, toffee and cocoa taken from ageing in small french oak barrels for 18 months, are perfectly integrated to the fruit. This outstanding Petit Verdot is concentrated, with great structure and very flavourful. Strongly expressive, persistent and with a great bottle ageing potential." My notes: Decant or air for an hour. A deep crimson colour with delicate aromas of cedar and warmed black cherries. Dry on the first sip with a soft red cherry and prune blend followed by a cranberry tone that continues into a long dry earthy cherry finish. An 'old world' red - not a social sipper. Lighter than a cab or syrah. Pair with rack of lamb or chops, pork in a rich gravy, or prime rib au jus. Cellaring for four to eight years could produce a smoother, more integrated red and at this price would be a big value. Ww88

JIM JIM [THE DOWN-UNDERDOG] SHIRAZ 2006, McLaren Vale, Australia, 14.5% D, #682005 $14.95 (Tasted November 01, 2007)
A Vintages release on October 27, 2007 described as "... a real-crowd pleaser at a fantastic price. Jim Jim Shiraz is a simple, luscious wine that fills your mouth with rich, dark berry fruit awash in silky tannins. (Kim Pierce, The Dallas Morning News, Oct. 4, 2006)" My notes: The colour is a smudged ruby with sweet cherries and moist woods coming to mind when sniffed. Medium-bodied with a sweet edge, not 'too' though, to a spicy cherry with fine tannins then finishing long and warm ending on a dry earthy note. An OK sipper but better with nibbles or with red meat dishes. Cellaring a few years should be OK and may take the rough edge off. But wait a few weeks and this will likely be priced down to clear - this would make it a value table wine, imho. Ww83
BODEGAS CATENA ZAPATA ALAMOS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5% XD, #467944 $13.95 (Tasted November 01, 2007)
A Vintages release on October 27, 2007 described as "A homegrown success story, Catena Zapata is one of Argentina's leading producers and its Alamos range consistently offers outstanding value. Expect blackberry flavours aplenty with notes of toasty oak and café mocha on a long, lingering finish. Enjoy with gourmet sausages or grilled steak." VH of Winecurrent gives it three and one half (of 5) saying "This good-value, second label red from Bodegas Catena Zapata offers a lot for its modest price tag. Smoke, oak and red berry scents form the aromatic profile while the flavours—red cherry and cranberry—are delivered on a medium-bodied frame. The tannins are ripe, but perceptible, and the finish is medium in length with a hint of gamey-ness. This pairs well with grilled meats or burgers, hot off the grill." My notes: Decant or let air for at least thirty minutes for aromas of smoky, spicy currant somewhat subdued yet there. A deep ruby with garnet and violet tones and bright flavours of currant and black cherries blended with a touch of tobacco, pepper and forest floor. The finish carries smoky flavours as the main blend fades. A sipper for lovers of old world reds... assertive and almost aggressive. More of a meal wine for meat entrees or red pastas. Cellaring is likely not in the cards for this vintage. A drink-now and priced right. Ww82

Opinion, Influence and Sucking up!

I'm sitting here without a responsibility to anyone except myself and my BH (Better Half) - not that she isn't capable of getting along without me - not that she would want want to... nor even want to push that day forward. I can sip contentedly, put some words together that describe the six components of a tasting (Base 50, Colour 5, Nose 15, Flavour&Finish 20, Potential 5, Typicity 5) and blog away. I don't have any peers looking over my shoulder nor a winemaker anxious to see my column knowing that it could make or break the 10,000 bottles of plonk sitting with a SKU on Ontario shelves. He could pay the rent on an additional vineyard or perhaps plant another acre or two or, better yet, pay for the river cruise through Bordeaux he's already booked. No one influences me. I certainly don't have any opportunity to suck up to the wine industry nor them to me. But I do have opinions.

The other day, one of many, I walked through the Ontario section of my favourite LCBO outlet (they're all my favourites actually). Asking where the Pillitteri wines were the shelf stocker pointed me to the one solitary bottle of Pilleterri Cab Franc. He ad lib'd, "The Niagara Wineries are starting to take the business seriously!" Not knowing quite what he meant I replied, "Perhaps they should find out what they're doing wrong first!" adding "Cellared in Canada products haven't filled me with any confidence that they are being serious!" "But" he said, "every country is doing it - shipping grapes and juices from other countries and blending, bottling and exporting." "France, Italy... " and left the comment hanging.

Considering grape harvests in various climates and countries it would be logical for an Italian winery to import surplus grapes from its Argentinian fields. You would and I would. But importing grapes from a wholesale market in, say, Hungary or Greece - not knowing the vineyards, the irrigation, pest control or storage conditions - would be the other extreme. Not that Hungary or Greece are negatives. Now I wouldn't do that... would you? And if I were presented with a bottle that ambiguously says 'Cellared in Canada' I would want to know the origin of the contents.

The CBC did a piece on the East Coast fish industry pursuing the basis of 'Product of Canada' packaging on supermarket shelves. The net was that the Product contained seafood from many countries but not from Canada let alone Lunenberg the prominently displayed location of the Company. Labeled Pacific Salmon and Product of Canada I would jump to the conclusion I was buying actual Pacific salmon from our west coast, wouldn't you? My wife and I have tried the particular products featured in the article with our promise 'never again'. We'll buy from 'Paul's Fish Market' where not only the purveyor is trusted his product is flown in at least weekly and known to be 'Product of Canada'.

Back to Ontario wines... The popular excuse for some Ontario wines is a common referral to them being a product of 'cold climate' grapes. This to me is similar to saying 'hot house tomatoes' or 'Californian strawberries' or 'Mexican cantaloupe'. One fact changes each phrase to an oxymoron, and it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the country. You have to pick the fruit before its ripe so it will survive the shipping conditions and the fruit often has to be 'conditioned' for traveling. Let's face it... when you've tasted Ontario tomatoes, strawberries, cantaloupe, etc. in season anything else is second class. When a vegetable or fruit is from 'offshore' - each supermarket tells me where it's from... or else I'm standing at the farmer's stall beside the fields where the produce has grown and been harvested. Simple... if the climate doesn't support the fruit don't grow it. And if where it's grown is so far away it has to be harvested prematurely or conditioned for travel for heavens sake don't build a business on it. And I think it's compounding the felony to jump over flaming hoops, eg. bury vines so they survive our winters, then charge a premium to cover the costs and describe the bottled product as being exemplary of a 'cold climate varietal this or that'.

The Wine industry in Canada seems to be different... a different culture, different legislation, different technology, different business... at least throughout Ontario it's being treated differently than a 'food'. I don't know why it's different. To me a business is a business and anything edible or quaffable is food. Given the increasing wine consumption some businesses are taking advantage of a lack of regulation. 'Corporate greed' is not limited to oil companies or to Corporations. It only takes a few interlopers to cast doubt and suspicion on the rest. Wine zealots... per John Szabo's article (Vines Nov/Dec 2007) espouse the benefits of using additives in wines, additives which have betrayed many a wine reviewer. The same zealots contrived to legitimatize the 'Cellared in Canada' label. What gets me is how so few can so influence a whole Canadian industry. How immature or unconscionable do business people have to be for such perversions?

'Taking the business seriously' needs to be pervasive. Anthony Gismondi (Wine Access June/July 2007) says 'checks and balances' should be put in place... and I say, if not by the industry, then the LCBO. If not these, by individual wine reviewers. Utopia would be if every facet worked together to 'take the business seriously'. My perception is that to be eligible as a wine reviewer all one has to do is author a wine blog, publish a compendium of wine labels with outdated reviews (wine is a living thing), or have a newspaper column and, oh yes, know how to drink free booze politely. Repeating myself, checks and balances need to include everyone. Even appearing to be compromised is to be compromised. To be serious about their craft critics need to establish a professional code that puts their behaviour above opinion, influence and sucking up.

Only my opinion... Ww