Saturday, December 01, 2007

December Reds (14): Australia Blend(2), Shiraz(7); France Blend; USA Cab Sauv, Merlot, Zin(2)

CAYMUS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 'SPECIAL SELECTION' 2002, California, USA, 14.5% XD, #711663 $159.95 (Tasted December 25, 2007)

A Vintages release October 1, 2005 described as "Quarterly Review of Wines gave this HHHHH in their Summer 2005 issue. Rich yet sleek and concentrated, with tiers of ripe plum, wild berry and black cherry. Shows a touch of spice, sandalwood and nutmeg. The long, detailed aftertaste that keeps introducing new flavors. Best from 2006 through 2014." The Wine Spectator gives it 93/100 points and a Collectible designation: My notes: A subtle but refined aroma of plums, spices and exotic woods. The flavours followed the nose with delicate integration of fruits and spices... an elegant sipper, medium-bodied, smooth and velvety in the mouth developing nuances to continue the interest. The finish although not strong is distinctive lasting awhile entertaining the taste buds further. I'm not used to an opulent wine - this one being a special gift - so can't judge this one.... but certainly wouldn't disagree with a rating of 93/100.

South Australia, 15.0% XD, #685941 $14.95 (Tasted December 27, 2007)

A Vintages release on August 19, 2006 and described as "As this wine is unfined and unfiltered; we recommend you decant before serving. [Pillar Box] boasts luscious black currant fruit intermixed with smoke, herbs, and cedar. Richly fruity, opulent, and medium to full-bodied, it is one of the great wine bargains of the world. Consume it over the next 2-3 years. 90/100 (Robert Parker Jr., Oct. 2005)." VH of Winecurrent rates it four and one half (of 5) saying "This 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Shiraz, 11% Merlot red blend... Opaque and brooding, there are quiet aromas of gamey smoked meat and black plum that waft from the glass. The sweet... fruit... explodes in layers and washes over the palate right through the lengthy finish. A deftly handled oak regimen (hardly a trace in the taste) and delicately balancing acidity make this one of the 'must buys' of this release. Unfined and unfiltered, it will drink well through 2008." My notes: Produced by Henry's Drive in Padthaway, Australia. An opaque ruby with a violet tone and a full toasty oak nose with rich black cherry and plum seam. A velvety tannin flows on the first sip lining the mouth with a slight spice, mint and black cherry flavours. A long warm finish of evenly balanced process and fruit. A sipper for those preferring a heavier red, a round cabernet with the spice of shiraz and welcoming smoothness of merlot. Have with any red beef or lamb, grilled or broiled. Cellaring for up to four years quite possible. 90.

LES TERROIRS de J P CHENET MINERVOIS 2005, Languedoc, France, 13.0% D, #028597 $12.95 (Tasted December 23, 2007)

A General listing distributed by Les Grands Chais De France, one of the largest distributors in France. A blend of Shiraz and Grenache described on the label as 'In the Terroirs these varietals produce an intense, full fruity red wine'. My notes: A wider bell shaped bottle awkward for stacking flat but this wine isn't for cellaring anyway. The colour is a rich ruby and aromas of distant cherries, a slight spice and smoke form the nose - letting air twenty minutes improves first impressions. A bright cherry flavour, nicely balanced and fine tannins makes this a good sipper. Odd at first, perhaps the grenache, the finish leaves a red cherry taste, both dry and smooth with a slight pepper edge. Intense? No. Moderate? Yes. A clean, lightish medium-bodied wine for prime rib, steak tartare, grilled sausage pieces, liver and onions, even mussels and linguine in a marinara sauce. Very suitable for an open house, an open bar or a social with friends or family. A drink-now. 82

Lodi, USA, 14.5% D, #951889 $16.95 (Tasted December 14, 2007)

A Vintages release on December 8, 2007 described as "Ironstone creates a fruit-forward, crowd-pleasing, superb-value Zinfandel that is an excellent partner for foods such as pasta marinara, beef fajitas or sesame pork ribs." Natalie MacLean calls it the Best Value Red of the Release giving it 90/100 and saying "A juicy, fabulously delicious zin, with plush texture and full body. Bursting with brambleberry goodness. Pair with: pasta marinara, beef fajitas, sesame pork ribs." The website says "90% Zin and 10% Petit Syrah... from grapes hand selected from vineyards that are over 45 years old. These “old vine” vineyards produce grapes known for exceptionally concentrated fruit flavors and unprecedented depth... To enhance the rich flavor characteristics, the wine was aged in French oak for 6 months... has a smooth and unpretentious finish." My notes: A deep ruby colour with a pinkish edge and warm scents of black cherry and nutmeg. Medium-bodied, nicely rounded with even touches of peppermint, pepper, red cherry plus a hint of walnut. The finish is long leaving mostly red cherry, savoury, fine tannins ending with a sweet edge and faint nuttiness. This is an interesting sipper, a companion for chorizo sausage slices, mild cheeses, goat cheese on bagel crisps, or pepperoni pizza servings or have with anything beefy, lamby, of ribby. A good value for a drinknow - up to a year. Cellar up to two years - longer? Likely not. 86

South Eastern Australia, 14.0% D, #324574 $14.95 (Tasted December 13, 2007)

A General listing described as "Red garnet colour; aromas of plum with strawberry, raspberry and cedar; dry, soft tannin structure, cherry fruit flavours. Serve with steak with dry rub spices, medium flavoured cheese." The website says "A medium to full bodied wine blended from Cabernet Sauvignon (80%) and Merlot (20%)... displays ripe blackcurrant, cassis, cherry and spice characters. The elegant and sophisticated palate is enhanced by toasty oak. Blackcurrant and smoky, leafy flavours linger on the finish." My notes: A deep ruby with a garnet hue... sombre with long legs. The aroma is warm, full of berries, smoky oak and a slight mint, not strong but persistent. Full-bodied, a nip of fresh blackberries and currants, a soft licorice, chocolate mint and a lengthy finish that has the brightness of freshly squeezed berry juice. Tannins and acid are well balanced never neglecting the fruit - cellaring for a few years should do well. A good value and outstanding choice as a House red - should appeal to anyone. Have with anything meaty from lamb kebobs to pork ribs, from T-bones to chunky beef stew. 86

ARAMIS VINEYARDS SHIRAZ 2004, McLaren Vale, South Australia, 14.5% D, #041202 $20.95 (Tasted December 12, 2007)

A Vintages release December 8, 2007 described as "Deep violet color. Dense blackberry, creme de cassis, cherry preserves, pipe tobacco, vanilla and baking spices on the nose. This has greater elegance than the more expensive Governor, and the fruit speaks more clearly. Sweet dark berry and cherry flavors are lifted by fresh but gentle acids, and the soft tannins harmonize nicely with the fruit. Finishes with an impressively pure blackberry flavor and a tangy, refreshing note of cracked pepper. Sure, there's oak, but it's there as a sweetening element, allowing the bright fruit to shine. A great bargain in newfangled shiraz. 92/100 (Josh Raynolds, International Wine Cellar, July/Aug. 2006). VH of Winecurrent gives it four (of 5) saying "Quite a fruit bomb, there's a solid core of rich, ripe and concentrated dark berry flavours and a quite a whack of oaky, smoky aromas. Cassis, tar and bramble berry flavours abound with still firm tannins quite apparent. The finish is as full bore fruity as the mid palate with moderating zing and black licorice layered on for good measure. Good to drink now after a three hour aeration/decant—better 2010 to 2015." Natalie MacLean gives it 93/100 saying "Wine with terrific balance, complexity and finish. Gives the drinker aromas of tobacco, spice and plums." My notes: A deep ruby, very sombre in the glass, long legs with aromas of soft plum, black cherry, smoky oak and vanilla highlight - better if aired twenty minutes. The first sip slips smoothly over the taste buds leaving well integrated rich black cherry, ripe berries, cassis, fine tannins and light pepper. A full-bodied sipper with a long finish that is dry, warm, full of cherries, chocolate and tar. Have with T-bone, bbq'd ribs, pepper steak or full flavoured stews and chilis. Drinking well now if you prefer a serious, old world red. Could cellar for several years without missing a step. 92

KATNOOK 'FOUNDERS BLOCK' SPARKLING SHIRAZ 2004, South Australia, 13.0% D, #053330 $19.95 (Tasted December 09, 2007)

A Vintages release on December 8, 2007 described as "Bravo Katnook! Another sparkling red to choose from and a lovely drink it is too... It's full of spicy pepper and blueberry fruit with hints of yeasty vegemite like a barrel of red still going through its first ferment. Dry on the finish... (Fergus McGhie, Canberra Times, Oct. 25, 2006)." The website has this to say "This is the first Sparkling Shiraz produced in the Katnook Founder’s Block range. It is an inviting wine, equally at home at a barbecue, a celebration or the dining table, with generous palate structure, rich fruit and spicy length of flavours. A soft and fresh mouthfeel, mellow rich fruit, lively burst of fine bubbles and a lingering finish. Serve lightly chilled and enjoy now for its vivacious fruit. A perfect match for duck, turkey and pork dishes and a natural for a barbecue." My notes: The colour is a deep ruby and first pour produces lots of varying size bubbles subsiding quickly to a continuous fine froth at the rim. The nose is very light somewhat leasy but mostly light blackberry. The first sip is black cherry and blackberry excited by the full spritz of bubbles. There is a natural berry sweetness, a touch of pepper but mostly dry tannin in the finish. A wonderful difference for a sipper - but keep the SpotShot handy for spills. Would go well with meaty nibbles, eg. meatballs en crockpot, liver pate on toasts or with turkey pieces, portobello burgers. Similar to that released under their Riddoch label a few years back. A value - a full-bodied sparkling shiraz this good doesn't come along that often. 89

South Eastern Australia, 14.5% D, #189415 $16.15 (Tasted December 08, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep purple colour; spicy fruit bouquet of cassis, black cherry and smoky plum; smoky black fruit flavours with a long, full finish. Serve with pepper steak, lamb or game." My notes: The 2005 vintage, singly boxed on the General shelf (*the vintage is not shown on the box), is the same deep ruby with a soft smoky plum and black cherry nose of the 2004 that came in the Duo Pack (#049692) purchased December 6th. The first sip shows a velvet layering of black cherry, slight mint, milk chocolate, cedar tones and fine tannins - medium-bodied and wonderfully blended. A pepper edge shows itself in the black cherry finish leaving fruit, mint and spice on the palate for a loooong while. A sociable sipper that would please anyone. Have with mild cheeses, tacos and nippy salsa, a shrimp ring with seafood sauce or a beef, lamb or ham steak entree. You can tell I'd have this with anything. A drink-now red with several years cellaring possible. The season may bring a rush for this product since the remaining Duo Packs (#049692) are in/close to large centres. The 2005 is a super value imho. 91

South Australia, 14.5% D, #049692 $35.95 (2x750mL) (Tasted December 06, 2007)

A General release for the Season containing a bottle of WE BIN 555 Shiraz 2004 (#189415, $16.15) and one of WE Show Reserve Shiraz 2003 (not listed). Gord Stimmell says "Be wary of dolled up wine gift packs. In tasting more than 35 this season, one or two bottles in each set were below par... The Wyndham Estate Duo Gift Pack... is thrilling to the tastebuds. The lavishly styled Bin 555 2004 Shiraz has mellow black cherry, blueberry and cedar flavours, rating 90. Its Aussie mate... the Show Reserve 2003 Shiraz, is a blockbuster, with cassis, chocolate, mint and black cherry complexity, rating 91. The Show Reserve alone is worth the price of admission. Drink the Bin 555 now, and hold the Reserve for New Year’s festivities or stash it in the cellar for a future birthday bash... " My notes: I had to try both. The Show Reserve first: A deep ruby with long legs and aromas of black cherries, chocolate and smoky oak leaning more to the fruit. A luscious mouthful of black cherries, chocolate, mint, and white pepper line the tastebuds to make an excellent full-bodied sipper, elegant to say the least. Fumes of ripe fruit linger a long while along with the brightness of peppery spices. A wine to mull over rather than hurrying the next sip. At less than $20 this is a real value - and one you won't want to give away. Ww92
The Bin 555 is very similar in colour but less fruit in the nose evenly shared with a light smoky oak. A smooth first sip with prominent black cherries, fine tannins and slight mint and pepper. Finishes long with remnants of black cherry and mild spices. A lighter full-bodied shiraz and both would pair well with any red meat, pizzas, burgers, lamb or roast pork ribs. Cellaring of either for up to four years (box cover says up to 15 years) but drinking very well now - so why wait? 90

Langhorne Creek, Australia, 14.5% XD, #052993 $19.95 (Tasted December 04, 2007)

A Vintages release on November 24, 2007 described as "From a fabulous vintage in South Australia, Step Rd's 2005 Shiraz Langhorne Creek reveals a full-bodied opulence, wonderfully pure, rich, black fruit flavors, and amazing density, purity, and texture. It should be consumed over the next 4-5 years. Drink 2006-2011. 92/100 (Robert Parker Jr., Oct. 2006)." Natalie MacLean rates it 93/100 saying "Fantastic value for this full-bodied, lip-smacking red. Aromas of black plums and berries." My notes: A dense ruby with violet tones... and aromas just discernible of plum, blackberry and cedar. Long legs on the glass with fine tannins and a pepper edge to blackberry, cedar and soft mint - a lovely integration of flavours. The finish is light of the same flavours and leaving a dry mint layer on the palate. A soft sipper with a finish that grows with each sip. Would be a quiet companion to white or red meats: pork chops or tenderloin, prime rib, lamb or ham steaks. Have for guests at anytime or an open house of friends and family. A drink-now and up to four years cellaring. If you're looking for robust qualities this is not it.... more of an elegant sipper or meal companion. A soft, supple shiraz. 89

Barossa Valley, Australia, 14.5% XD, #054239 $19.95 (Tasted December 03, 2007)

A Vintages release on November 24, 2007 described as "The 2005 Shiraz Hales (includes 6% Mourvedre and 4% Grenache) reveals a deep ruby/purple color as well as uplifted aromatics of toasty oak, blackberries, blueberries, and acacia flowers. This dense, medium to full-bodied, beautifully put together Aussie red should drink well for 5-7 years. 91/100 (Robert Parker Jr., Oct. 2006)." The Winelovers Page says "... contains a splash of Grenache. The nose shows fresh red fruit and red and black currant also emerges on the palate which has good depth and a hint of sweetness. Quite different from the 2004, which was less sweet, more structured, containing a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon, and leather notes which I like but which would displease brett haters, including Rolf. Still 2005 is a nice wine in its different style and good [value]. Rated 15/20." Natalie MacLean rates it 90/100 saying "Robust and delicious with notes of black raspberries and currants." My notes: A deep ruby with aromas of blackcurrant, blackberry and plum warmed by toasty oak - dissipates quickly tho'. The flavour rides on a leathery seam full of black currants and minty pepper, fine tannins give a dry quality that adds to the full-bodied textures. The finish is full of black currants, a light pepper, mint, then a tar note. Quite a wonderful sipper for anyone preferring a new world shiraz (me!). Adding this to meal of beef tenderloin, prime rib, T-bone or bbq'd pork back ribs would top the sensory chart. A value to serve guests before and during a meal or to cellar up to four years. 91

FETZER VINEYARDS VALLEY OAKS MERLOT 2005, California, USA, 13.5% D, #314131 $15.25 (Tasted December 01, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby colour; red currant and dry ripe plum with a hint of cedar and chocolate in finish; light tannins, dry and medium-bodied. Serve with veal chops; pasta dishes." My notes: A deep ruby colour with smoky oak and berry aromas, more smoke than fruit. The initial sip has a touch of sweet berry fruit with a layer of mint, soft tannins and spice. An interesting lightish medium-bodied quaffer, versus sipper, with flavours of soft berry, raspberry I think but it's not discernible, and a chocolate highlight. The finish doesn't stay long and is of berries, some crushed stems and is dry. Also the flavours don't stand up with flavourful meals. Quaff with meaty, cheesy or veggie pizzas, Subway BMT, a BLT sandwich or with a tray of cheesy nachos, even an appetizer of grilled prawns. A commercial drink-now. Not cellarable, not a value. 77

California, USA, 13.5% D, #234617 $15.25 (Tasted December 01, 2007)

A General listing described as "Ruby red colour; aromas and flavours of ripe brambleberry with pepper, spice and vanilla notes; dry, well-balanced balanced with zesty acidity, lively fruit and spicy oak nuances; long finish. Forward flavour goes well with grilled meats; medium cheese." My notes: A ruby colour with aromas of cherries, vanilla and bramble equally balanced. A lightish medium-bodied red, a dry texture on the first swallow with flavours resembling cherries and bramble not well established and finishing blandly except for some fine tannins and mild pepper. Have with burgers or use in a sangria. A commercial sipper that I wouldn't get in for family or friends. A drink-now, cellar up to a year but I don't see anything to develop - not a value. 74

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