Tuesday, June 26, 2007

More June Whites(4): NZ SB; Chile SB; Australia Chard(2)

HARDYS NOTTAGE HILL CHARDONNAY 2006, South Australia, 13.5% D, #283457 $11.00 (Tasted June 28, 2007)
A General listing described as "Lemon yellow colour; clean light apple & citrus; light oak in aroma & taste, balanced wine with clean finish. Serve slightly chilled with mussels." Their website says "Brilliant clarity and medium straw in colour, the Nottage Hill Chardonnay displays aromas of citrus blossom, melon and peach. Spicy and buttery characters are apparent with a slight oak influence. The palate exhibits citrus, melon and sweet spice flavours, integrated with soft oak. This is an elegant Chardonnay with a creamy mouthfeel and with a lingering finish." My notes: A pleasing honey, lemon, apple and slight straw aroma and a light lemon juice colour. Leaves long legs on the glass and has flavours of butter, lemon, crabapple, and ripe honeydew melon. Finishes with a citrus tartness cleansing the taste buds and leaving an almond smoothness. A reasonable sipper, with delicate oak touches and enough body to hold up well with spicy mussels, planked salmon, chicken/asparagus/rice casserole, roasted chicken and grilled seafoods. More of a drink-now, commercial but well balanced with natural varietal characteristics. I think it would cellar up to two years. A bargain. Try it, you'll like it! (unless you're ABC).

Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% XD, #735043 $19.75 (Tasted June 28, 2007)

A Vintages release on June 23, 2007 described as "Pale in colour and a little herbaceous and oily on the nose with a subtle presence of that distinctive Marlborough 'sweat'. After thirty minutes chilling tropical fruit aromas emerged too. A ripe, juicy, bright and flavoursome style with a capsicum oily character and a piercing, herbal, citrussy richness. There's 5% Semillon, approximately 10% French oak. Indigenous yeasts as well as cultured yeasts were used for fermentation. (Sue Courtney, Feb. 23, 2007)." Beppi Crosariol (June 30, 2007) describes it as "... has a seductively oily texture and plenty of tropical fruit to counterbalance the crisp, herbal summer's-here character of classic kiwi sauvignon blanc." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "... a sharp, pungent herbaceous nose - gooseberry, nettles and bell pepper. The flavours are lemon zest and white grapefruit while the lovely texture and medium weight carries through to the dry, cleansing, medium-length, almost laser-like finish... " My notes: A polite nose of gooseberries and nettles in equal portions. The colour is a light blond with a green cast. A wonderful cream to the sharp texture and nicely balanced flavours of gooseberries, a herbaceousness (grass) and a mineral crispness. A long finish, a definite oil on the lips, silky and a slight pithiness. A very interesting sipper and an excellent companion to grilled prawns, spicy mussels, planked salmon. Was OK with a baked rice casserole of seared chicken breast and asparagus pieces. Seems natural to me, ie. hasn't gone commercial. Cellaring for two years should be possible... longer?

Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #275677 $11.40 (Tasted June 27, 2007)
A General listing described as "Straw yellow colour; Intense herbal, grassy, cooked asparagus and gooseberry aromas; Dry, medium bodied with gooseberry/citrus and mint flavours; pronounced acidity on finish. Serve with seafood; goat's cheese; vegetarian dishes; herbed dishes." The website notes "... Its enticing aroma, bursting with luscious grapefruit, fragrant citrus blooms and juicy apricots is delicately balanced with citric flowers undertones. On the palate, its fresh, dry and crispy flavors are smooth and finely balanced ending in a rich, persistent finish." My notes: The LCBO writeup hasn't changed in three vintages: from 2004 (June 2005, $12.45) to 2005 (June 2006, $12.55) and now 2006. And the label is slightly different but with essentially the same wine under the cover. For this vintage all of the grapes are from the Casablanca Valley. The colour is a pale straw with a green hue and fragrance is of gooseberries and nettles, lets you know it's sauvignon blanc. A good balance of fruit and acids but without much roundness, medium-bodied with a long steely finish mainly of tart grapefruit and peach stone. As a sipper it tends to go flabby as the chill goes... keep on ice or don't let it sit too long. Meant to be a drink-now and, although it could keep a few years, I don't think cellaring will be beneficial. Pair with mild seafood dishes. Adding crushed ice and a lemon wedge would make it a more interesting patio sipper.

McLaren Vale, Australia, 13.5% XD, #031500 $19.95 (Tasted June 26, 2007)

A Vintages release on June 23, 2007 described as "An aromatic, almost flowery, bouquet; lovely nectarine, grapefruit and melon flavours; similar balance and length; oak merely a vehicle. Drink to 2009. 93/100 (James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion, 2007)." (Yet Wine Spectator rated it 88/100 and Winestate three stars (of five)). Natalie MacLean rated it 92/100 and her Favourite White (of the Release) saying "A lovely wine that's not too oaky - mostly craftmanship. Displays aromas of green apples." VH of Winecurrent gives it four (of 5) saying "Expect a lifted nose of spice, vanilla and peach aromas then a beautifully layered and well-balanced Chardonnay with good texture and medium weight. The flavours are tropical fruit with notes of spice and citrus. The lengthy finish is clean, refreshing and layers on some interesting spice and vanilla flavours... " My notes: A nose of apple, straw and lemon peel. Flavours include lemon peel, tart green apple, a slight mango and is more than bright having a definite zing. Finishes with a nice tartness on the tongue, a smooth creaminess and more lemon peel including the white pithe or perhaps it's a touch of nectarine. A different chardonnay for the table - and you'd have to like chardonnays to sip this without hors d'oeuvres... have with scallops, crab cakes, chicken souvlaki on a bed of rice or roast chicken - I'd be curious enough to try it with an asian banquet. Rather than drinking now I'd cellar for several years to smoothen and bring out some butterscotch or at least more butter . Then it would be a value.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More June Reds(7): Canada Blend; France Blend; Australia Blend, Shiraz(3); Italy Blend

CAVE SPRING SELECT LATE HARVEST CABERNET 2005, Niagara, Canada, 12.0% MS, #630244 $21.95 375mL (Retasted June 29, 2007)

My notes: Last December 2006 Gord Stimmell rated it 90/100... "a knockout red dessert wine..." and I cellared a half dozen for special occasions. The website said the semi-frozen grapes were collected in the late fall and pressing yielded a 'sweet, rose-tinged wine with luscious berry fruit and delicate acidity.' It's only been a short while but I believe it to be showing an ability to cellar well - up to five years (winery says 'best first three years). A brilliant peachy rosé and aromas of luscious strawberry, honey, and red pepper jelly show well in the glass. I use a sauvignon blanc glass for the larger bowl of colour and concentration of aromas. It is super smooth, more than off-dry but not 'icewine' sweet and quaffing is quite permissible. The finish starts fruity then mellows into a tart and spicy afterglow. Rather than a before dinner drink I enjoy it when dinner is over, the dessert is finished and coffee is well past. A couple of ounces and one ice cube crushed in a cocktail glass is great as well. The berry coolness combined with slight honey blends nicely with recollections of a well prepared dinner and good conversation. A blend of cab sauv and cab franc so something different and a value to be enjoyed.

Rhone, France, 14.0% D, #535849 $15.15 (Tasted June 29, 2007)
A General listing described as "Medium ruby garnet colour; raspberry, tobacco leaf, plum and vanillin aromas and flavours. Light- to medium-bodied; soft and dry. Serve with stuffed peppers or eggplant; burgers; rack of lamb." The label says "Made from grenache and syrah, ... deep purple color, ... full and generous bouquet and its distinctive flavor .. lasts on the palate." My notes: A black cherry with a hint of pink in the colour and a cherry aroma with added white pepper. If it weren't for the distinct sharp pepper that greets the palate this red would be quite bland although it does have some faint cherry and dry mushroom flavours. There's a touch of mint in the finish along with dry forest floor tones. Not meant to be a sipper it's definitely a meal wine. Pair with prime rib, steak and kidney pie or a meat stew - but not too savoury. Nothing to cellar and not a value.

South East Australia, 13.5% D, #494336 $14.15 (Tasted June 27, 2007)

A General listing described as "Bright, pale-yellow* colour; light nose with fresh, grapey notes; smooth, medium-bodied, with limited varietal character. Serve with grilled red meat; natchos; fajitas." My notes: This blend is not described on the Wolf Blass website... perhaps the blend was customized for the LCBO? or is to use up some grapes. A rich ruby (* LCBO colour is obviously incorrect but the 'limited varietal character' is dead on) with a slight pinkish edge, leaves long legs on the glass and has a full aroma of cherry bubble gum, berries and a slight black pepper. Medium-bodied, a pepper seam and flavours of cherry and blackberry with an underlying sweetness and leaving an oily touch to a long dry cherry stone finish. To me, the texture and finish are on the edge of being unpleasant, a past ripe jamminess, as a sipper... definitely needs finger food: bacon and feta on garlic toast, chicken wings hot or sweet, pepperoni pizza slice, chorizo sausage tomato pasta - anything that masks the somewhat cloying edge in the flavour and finish. A reminder of the wide spectrum of Wolf Blass wines - something for everyone and sometimes not for me. Not a value.

South Australia, 13.5% D, #375964 $13.00 (Tasted June 24, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep purple colour; ripe blackberry & spice bouquet; full flavour and a soft finish. Serve with grilled meats and vegetables; game." The website has a generic tasting note for each of its 'Nottage Hill' label wines. For the Shiraz it's "... is deep plum in colour and exhibits spicy blueberry, plum and black pepper aromas. These characteristics are carried through on the palate where the wine is rich and generous displaying plum, chocolate and pepper with soft tannins well balanced and with persistent length." My notes: Colour is a rich ruby and the nose has aromas of black cherry and a light white pepper. The texture is medium-bodied, smooth with a tart lining for a slight blackcurrant but mostly blackberry flavour. The finish has warmth laced with berry juices, a natural tartness and background of fruit sweetness. A pleasing sipper, somewhat commercial but nevertheless smooth and unassumingly rich. Have by itself or with grilled beef entrees. Went great with rack of lamb and baked potato smothered in butter and sour cream. I don't think it'll improve with cellaring... more of a drink-now It's drinking well and, for a take home red or a guest's offering to a late meal, it's a value.

Victoria, Australia, 14.0% XD, #482299 $15.15 (Tasted June 21, 2007)
A General listing described as "Opaque ruby colour; intense cassis, raspberry, chocolate and spicy vanilla aromas; dry, full bodied, with dark berries, black pepper, spice and coffee flavours on the palate. Serve with barbequed lamb, spicy sausage or ribs." The label claims "This vibrant purple and crimson wine is brimming with plum, raspberry, black pepper and vanilla oak flavours." The website's note for 2005 wasn't available - for the 2004, "Aromas of plum and blackberry fruit are matched with intense varietal black pepper notes and subtle vanillin oak tones. A medium bodied wine showing sweet black fruits, spicy peppery flavours and an underlying chocolate, mocha, oak complexity." My notes: A Southcorp winery. The colour is a deep ruby with a violet hue. Aromas are rich 'plum and blackberry' with a pepper edge. I missed the 'subtle vanilla oak tones' however there was an initial mustiness that aired out quickly. Smooth, medium-bodied with mild pepper and ridges of blackberry jam to fill the flavour senses. The finish is also muted with pepper and berries, with some dryness and that slight musty edge - perhaps the 'chocolate, mocha, oak complexity'. A well balanced shiraz giving the impression of overripe grapes or those that may have been in the Oz sun too long. A flat flavoured sipper but should be OK paired with grilled red meats, bbq'd pork ribs, homeburgers or spicy pepperoni pizza slices. Not for cellaring, a commercial drink-now.
Murray River, Australia, 14.0% D, #627216 $10.25 (Retasted June 19, 2007)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby colour; spicy, pepper, licorice, ripe and lush, with generous aromas of black currant, coffee and toasted oak; dry, full-bodied, with plummy fruit and earth flavours; soft tannins in a rich style. Serve with grilled foods with some spice; chicken; steak." The website refers to this as their exported Red Block Shiraz. The 2005 vintage is described as (the description doesn't change year to year) "Bright crimson in colour, this Shiraz has an aroma that shows lifted plum and summer berry fruits with a hint of oak and black spices. Medium bodied in style on the palate with intense blackberry and prune flavours backed by hints of mocha and game. A good length of finish with fine-grained tannins. Whilst this wine is pleasant drinking at present, it will improve over the next 2-3 years with careful cellaring. This wine is great with hearty red meat dishes." My notes: Tasted April 26 this year I thought I'd try it again without referring to my previous notes. Initially, an interesting allspice character dominates eventual aromas of plums and pepper. Has a mid ruby colour, clear and bright in the glass with moderately long legs. Fine tannins dry the palate readying it for light flavours of red cherries mixed with a few blackberries. The finish is mostly of slightly tart red cherries without a detectable sweetness. Seems to me to be a varietal looking for an identity - nevertheless, would be passable with most 'family restaurant' beef dishes - doesn't have sufficient character to add to a special meal. A commercial drink-now and a low cost addition to a block party drink table.
FATTORIA LA LOGGIA TERRA DEI CAVALIERI CHIANTI CLASSICO 1997, Italy, 12.5% XD, #738146* $14.90 (Retasted June 19, 2007)

My notes: Originally purchased on Beppi Crosariol's recommendation February 2002 and tasted subsequently in 2005 and 2006 with mediocre findings. The Fattoria La Loggia label is *no longer listed by the LCBO. Perhaps their 'Tours and Lodging' business has outperformed their chiantis - or they're kept locally. This last bottle has retained its mid ruby colour, clear and bright. Aromas of just perceptible cherries with a bit of oak remaining. Light-bodied and still a red cherry flavour, bright with light tannins - any ripe plums and tars have disappeared. A short, light cherry, dry finish makes it a dry sipper but more of a light meal red: ham, cold turkey or chicken, shaved italian meats or a tray of mild cheese. Not a lot of substance to carry it through anything spicy or savoury. In November 2006 I recommended 'quaff liberally or use as a marinade' which still applies to any bottles remaining in the cellar.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

June Whites(10): Argentina Chard; Italy Pin Grigio; Australia Sauv Blanc, Chard; USA Chard; Canada Pin Grigio, Blend, SB, Chard(2)

CATENA ALAMOS CHARDONNAY 2006, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5% D, #925743 $13.95 (Tasted June 25, 2007)

A Vintages release on June 23, 2007 described as "... This wine has layers of crisp green apple and pear fruit aromas and flavours interwoven with some toasty notes imparted by the light oak ageing... " Natalie MacLean rated it 89/100 and the Best Value White (of the Release) saying "An excellent and round, full-bodied chard." The winemaker (José Galante) says of his chardonnay "... nose is fresh and focused, with ripe tropical and citrus fruits layered with floral notes and a touch of vanilla. The mouthfeel is clean, with pineapple and mango fruits with a touch of lemon and sweet spice. The finish is bright and crisp with refreshing acidity and balance." VH of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "This was built for fun in the sun, summertime sipping... Smoke and oak aromas form the segue to this medium to full-bodied Chard. You'll revel in the sweet pit fruit (peach and yellow plum) and pear flavours that play out through the lovely balanced, dry and zesty finish. You'll discover citrus and spice notes, and a lovely texture... " My notes:A very light yellow with a greenish hue and faint aromas of pear and apple. A fresh light style with some cream but mostly sweet fruit. Medium-bodied.... with delicate flavours of apple and pear with a citrus tartness. Some roundness in the finish carrying the fruit forward nicely on the palate. Can be a sipper although very delicate but the roundess again carries it nicely. Have with shrimp on skewers or grilled mushroom caps and bacon strips... or pair with a meal of crusted telapia filets, or any light seafood. Not for cellaring... a drink-now and a reasonable sociable summer white at the price.

2005 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 13.0% XD, #049593 $18.95 (Tasted June 24, 2007)
A Vintages release on June 23, 2007 described as "Medium straw/yellow colour with an array of aromas including toast, apple, pear, vanilla, pear compote and a hint of honey and spice. Dry with a good core of acid surrounding the buttery fruit. Medium-full-bodied with a fairly long, assertive finish. Calls out for planked salmon." The website's tasting notes say "This complex chardonnay was the result of our best from the vintage as chosen through an extensive barrel selection process. ... The result is a complex nose with mellow barrel aromas of vanilla, clove, and buttery, bready notes accompanied with lifted aromas of pear, citrus and mineral characters. The palate has flavours of lemony citrus, and tropical fruits washing over a creamy oak base. Drink now or age... up to 2012." My notes: Present producers of Mike Weir wines I thought a tasting of Creekside's chardonnay would be worthwhile. This has a light straw colour and needs a minimum of twenty minutes for a firm straw aroma to dissipate... then it may have a ''toast, apple, pear, vanilla, pear compote and etc.'' nose - far more than my senses can assimilate. All I could discern was a light apple, lemon, possible lime with a herbaceous edge. There is a flavour medley following the nose along with a nice citrus tartness, some butter and some peach stone. A wine that is quite drinkable off chill and one that I had a difficult time pairing with a meal but 'plank salmon' is likely as well as a wild mushroom pasta. Four years ageing could bring out more butter even caramel but my money will go with the Mike Weir Chardonnay (#000026 @ $15.95) for a drink-now.

Niagara, Canada, 12.0% XD, #050351 $13.95 (Tasted June 23, 2007)

A Vintages release on June 23, 2007 described as "Pale straw colour with a light, pleasing nose of melon, peach and limeade. It is dry, crisp, clean and fresh with a lively citrus/zesty finish. A terrific wine for summer salads or as an aperitif." The website's tasting notes say "A blend of Pinot Grigio grapes selected from five vineyards in Ontario. [Has an] intense bouquet of lemon peel, pear/apple tree fruit and honeysuckle perfume. On the palate, refreshing green apple acidity is beautifully balanced by an enticingly plump texture typical of the grape variety. Softer flavours of melon, peach and honey are also present... Drinking well now and over 2008." My notes: Producers of Mike Weir wines (until his winery is ready) I thought a tasting of Creekside wines would also be worthwhile this month. A soft gold in the glass with aromas of lemon, apple and a slight honey. A light mineral edge to mostly lemon and some grapefruit flavour - or there could be a crushed grapefruit seed or two in the mix - and having a moderately round texture. An appetizer for the summer patio with or without grilled scallops or sweet sausage pieces - something flavourful but on the light side. Pairing with a white seafood plate, a lightly grilled chicken breast or a chicken and/or seafood pasta. Resembles an Italian Pinot Grigio but with a slight fruit sweetness giving the finish a smoothness still with a well balanced tartness. A value quaffable and cellarable so there's some on hand for next summer.

Venezia, Italy, 12.5% D, #037648 $15.95 (Tasted June 18, 2007

A Vintages release on June 9, 2007 described as "... a perfect embodiment of the creative tension between traditional and modern techniques. Alberto and Silvano [Zenato] have taken the Pinot Grigio, an old variety in Northern Italy, and, using a variety of current ideas, pushed the intensity and body of these wines to levels not achieved in the region in the past..." Natalie MacLean gives it 89/100 calling it "Refreshing and mouth-watering with aromas of pear fruit"... and "Best Value White Wine". VH of Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "... Zenato hits the mark with this well-balanced offering. Expect subdued aromas of apple and honeyed pear then a gusher of flavours that include pear, peach and zesty citrus. The citrus provides lovely balance and the finish, fruity with good tanginess... ". My notes: A light blond colour with aromas of 'honeyed pear' and wildflowers, light but there. Well balanced tartness with an apple and citrus flavoured sweet tartness and a finish that leaves a light oil on the lips and a dry pucker. Came across as a 'commercial' white... still a reasonable sipper... better with fresh oysters or a cold shrimp ring. Was OK with grilled telapia and lettuce salad. Try it off chill for a lower tartness, higher sweet pear and smooth oil - yum! A drink-now.

Margaret River, Australia, 13.0% XD, #024695 $14.95 (Tasted June 17, 2007)

A Vintages release on June 9, 2007 described as "A delightfully tangy and regional wine whose delicate, slightly musky, herbal and grassy aromas of cassis and gooseberries are lifted by a floral scent. Elegant and unctuous, smooth and even, its long and vibrant palate of juicy flavour finishes fresh and tight, with very soft acids and gentle phenolics. 93/100 (Jeremy Oliver, July 2006)" The Amberley website is still underconstruction. The back has the following: "... displays subtle herbaceous and tropical fruit characters with an elegant floral background. Its cleansing acidity provides a clean, refreshing finish... " My notes: A light golden colour with a nose of mostly nettles with a whiff of gooseberry. A tart introduction to flavours of creamy something - I'll say it's the generic 'tropical fruit'... (even the preceding descriptors don't name a fruit). Consequently, I wouldn't classify it as a sipper... more of a meal white, the creamy body and nondescript acid forms a finish suitable with spicy to creamy seafood dishes, mushroom pastas, or bouillabaise. Not for cellaring... a drink-now before it fades into all stems and cream. Must have gone downhill quickly since July 2006 - unless your preference is for 'phenolics'. Without a firm varietal character and not a value.

Niagara, Canada, 12.5% MD, #001578 $16.95 (Tasted June 16, 2007)
A Vintages release on June 09, 2007 described as "A terrific new vintage for this wine that is a blend of Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay. It has a nose of grapefruit, Granny Smith apple, a touch of lychee and a good acid core. It is slightly off-dry with a good weight, texture and fine finish... (David Churchill, March 2007)." RP of Winecurrent gave it four and one half (of 5) saying "Flat Rock created an instant winner with the first vintage of "Twisted," and its following will only grow with the 2006 version. It's a lovely blend... that's lively, zesty, and slightly spicy, and brimming with flavours of fresh fruit like white grapefruit, apple and some tropical fruit... " My notes: A light blond colour with an aromatic mix of apple, melon and tangy lime. The flavours follow the nose - sour apple and tangy lime predominantly, and teeth cleaning acidity and a balanced fresh apple sweetness. Finishes full, sweet and tart, by itself bright on the palate. Paired with Swiss Chalet chicken it was a match for the oils and roasted chicken flavours. Should do equally well with spicy mussels, a flavourful New Orleans chowder, or triple cheese and chicken fondue. A unique white blend perhaps using fruit from young vines or full bunches. Certainly this production or vintage, not yet detailed on the Flat Rock Cellars website, is more assertive than last (2005 tasted June, 2006), not mild by any means: fruity rather than floral, less spicy gewurztraminer and more ascerbic riesling with chardonnay added for body. Not a fence sitter - you like it or you don't.

Victoria, Australia, 13.5% XD, #025353 $23.95 (Tasted June 11, 2007)

A Vintages release on June 09, 007 described as "Very elegant, fine ripe apple, spice and stone fruit aromas and flavours; ultra-subtle oak and malolactic inputs; an exercise in restraint. 95/100 (James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion 2007)." Natalie MacLean gives it 93/100 saying "Lovely and creamy with notes of soft oak, green apple and ripe pear." and "Favourite White Wine". My notes: The website describes it as "a fruit driven, early drinking style; fruit sourced from younger vineyards cropped at under three-tonnes per acre." and the entry level chard from Stonier. I found the aroma to be a very light stone fruit and unripe apple. A light golden colour and a slight buttery texture with brightness and flavours of tart apple and crushed peach stone finishing tart and dry. An excellent sipper with enough fruit sweetness to take the edge off its tartness and delicate enough to companion an appetizer of mild cheeses, a fruit tray, or fresh oysters. Pairing with grilled telapia and asparagus salad was appropriate and likely also with a chicken paella. It is for 'early drinking' rather than cellaring and a little too thin on 'butter' to be a good value.

Livermore Valley, USA, 13.5% D, #175430 $16.15 (Tasted June 09, 2007)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; apple and pear aromas with mineral and oaky notes; round fruit flavours with a citrusy finish. Serve with pasta in a cream sauce or with finger foods." My notes: There's no description for this label on the Wente website although the Livermore Valley Morning Fog Chardonnay shows a blend including gewurztraminer (2%) and semillon (1%). A pale blond colour with just perceptible aromas of honey, lemon and pear. Light-bodied with a touch of cream and a firm tartness, flavours of lemon and apple. The finish is of dry, light lemon and some unripe pear. Easily forgettable as a sipper and better paired with light seafood dishes, creamy pastas or a mild cheese tray. Not cellarable and for an oaked chardonnay I had expected more caramel. Comes across as an entry level brand tailored for a market or perhaps just a non-optimal vintage. Not recommended at the price.

MIKE WEIR ESTATE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2006, Niagara, Canada, 11.8% XD, #686972 $15.15 (Tasted June 08, 2007)

A Vintages release on April 14, 2007 described as "This home grown Savvy, a new addition to the Mike Weir stable of wines, has concentrated aromas of grapefruit, lemon peel and gooseberry with clean grassy notes. It?s crisp and refreshing with hints of tropical fruit flavours and a racy seam of zesty acidity. Enjoy as an aperitif or pair it with fresh trout pan fried in lemon butter." The website notes "... abundant with tropical fruit character and a crisp palate. The palate showcases juicy with peach, lemon, and gooseberry flavours with a hint of toast. Creamy and medium bodied start on the palate balanced by a refreshingly crisp finish." My notes: Produced by the Creekside Estate Winery in the interim before the Weir Estate winery is opened - this is a light blond with a polite nose of gooseberries and honey. Medium-bodied, nicely tart on the tongue and full of fresh grapefruit, lemons and gooseberries, not as full and flavourful as some NZ 'Savvys' which tend to verge on artificial. The more moderate flavour is an asset as a sipper or when pairing with lighter seafoods. Has a light grass in the finish but mostly a lemon and cream. Definitely a social sipper or an aperitif with fresh oysters, wrapped scallops, shrimp skewers or italian shaved meats. Went nicely with grilled halibut and fries. Likely could cellar a few years but drinking well now. Unusually NZ-like for a Niagara sauvignon blanc and a good value.

Niagara, Canada, 13.0% D, #000026 $15.95 (Tasted June 05, 2007)

A Vintages release on April 28, 2007 described as "This wine won Best of Show in the Dry White Wine category at the 2006 Cellars of the World International Wine Competition. The winemaking team from Creekside Estates work in partnership with the golf legend to craft this harmonious Chardonnay with its layers of pineapple, green apple, and toasty vanilla notes. Enjoy it with pan-fried freshwater fish or grilled salmon steaks." The website notes "Pleasant, robust Chardonnay. Aromatic bouquet of pear, pineapple, apple blossom and hints of sweet mango delicately balanced with subtle French oak spice, vanilla and nutty characters. A beautiful cool-climate Chardonnay on the palate; bright flavours of apple and apricot lifted by creamy oak flavours of butterscotch, light toast and vanilla. Cellar two to six years."
My notes: Of 3600 cases the remaining bottles are only available at a few Vintages. A light blond colour and the nose 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. You could easily sip on the patio then pair with a 'pan-fried freshwater fish' meal but for more flavoured seafoods I'd switch to a fuller chard - I don't see it as 'robust'. Went very well with grilled telapia, greens and asparagus spears. It would be interesting to see where this is in six years. I think it would do well to cellar two years and is a very appealing lightly oaked chard with the net proceeds of wine sales going to the Mike Weir Foundation for advancing the physical, emotional and educational welfare of children.

Friday, June 01, 2007

June Reds(10): Chile Shiraz(2), Blend; S Africa Merlot; France Merlot; Spain Blend; Argentina Cab Sauv, Merlot; S Africa Shiraz; Italy Blend

SEPPELT CHALAMBAR SHIRAZ 2004, Victoria, Australia, 13.0% XD, #029488 $25.95 (Tasted June 18, 2007)

A Vintages release on June 9, 2007 described as "A powerful, deeply fruited shiraz of weight, density, length and structure. Its deeply aromatic and peppery scents of black fruits, violets, dried herbs, dark chocolate, cedar/vanilla oak, musk and mint precede a substantial palate of poise and restrained power. There's massive depth of fruit sweetness, a deep core of dark, spicy flavour and a long, fine-grained and savoury finish. Framed by silky-fine but astringent and drying tannins, it exudes strength and style. 96/100 (Jeremy Oliver, April 14, 2006)." The website says "The nose shows aromas of mulberry and dark fruits with complexing savoury spice. A medium bodied wine, with an elegant palate that shows intense regional mulberry and blueberry fruit flavours. As the wine develops, lovely spice and pepper notes show, leading to a finish supported by long, fine-grained tannins." My notes: 'Chalambar' is one of Seppelt's 'Regional' wines. The colour is an opaque deep ruby with a definite violet hue. Smoky plum and spice aromas fill the glass nibbling the nostrils with each sniff. Definitely full-bodied, a minty pepper sting on the first sip with rich berry, dark chocolate, and oak edged flavourings on each that follow. Spice, brightness and some sweet fruit layered on fine tannins make up a long velvet finish. An excellent sipping shiraz if you're into 'big and bold', otherwise an excellent red for grilled or roasted beef of any variety. Cellaring should bring out some mellowing tones and more exotic sidelights - say, four to six years.

DORNIER MERLOT 2003, Stellenbosch, S.Africa, 14.0% XD, #694224 $18.95 (Retasted June 15, 2007)

My notes: Tasted July 8, 2006 the day of its Vintages release and after RP of Winecurrent had rated it four and one half (of 5) I also found it 'unctious... a bright merlot - a wonderful balance of fresh fruit and barrel fermentation.' My Better Half wouldn't drink it. I tasted again in September, 2006 without change. So today I opened another not mentioning the label. Without missing a step the BH said 'I can't drink this'. Whatever it has my BH woudn't thank you for this merlot. Aromas are now on the cranberry side of sweet berries modified by smoky oak and mint. The colour is a mid ruby and could be viewed as unfiltered at a lower light but it's clear. Flavours are muted, no longer 'luscious' as in my last tasting, with more of a red currant than red cherry and more spice comes through, the same fruit tartness and fine tannin ('slightly dusty') in the mix. Finishes dry and soft with a distinct mintiness at the tail end. Nearing the end of cellaring or perhaps as some oenologists might say 'it's going into a dumb period', a drink-now and for me a sipper but better paired with grilled meats, rack of lamb, homeburgers, beef and barley soups, stews or pizzas.

Bordeaux, France, 13.0% XD, SO38-2293 $21.95 (Retasted June 14, 2007)

My notes: Ordered in December 2002 and cellared August the following year, then tasted in June and November 2005 leading to the last bottle tasted today. Still has an attractive but faint nose of fresh berries and sweet fruit, and a red cherry colour. Surprisingly, for a drink-now, this has kept much of its original fruity freshness. As a sipper the berries are ripe without being full giving some latitude to accompanying appetizers, seafood or cold cuts. The flavours go well with grilled salmon steaks, crab cakes, lobster pieces, cold sliced chicken on salad, asparagus salad: anything having a touch of oil and is on the delicate side. The finish slowly ebbs to a smooth dry warm berry. Not the robust rose it once was so no longer appropriate with roasted chicken or richer pasta dishes and cellaring is well past due.

PO DE BORJA ARAGONIA CRIANZA 2001, Fuendejaron, Spain, 13.5% XD, CP151-2664 (Opimian) $13.42 (Retasted June 13, 2007)

My notes: Purchased in February 2004 and first tasted May, 2005 with the comment '... has developed a wonderful plummy nose and a very smooth velvet texture... ' Then in September 2005 '... Flavour is rich, full fruit integrated with soft tannins and a mild spice.... A beautiful sipper... ' This is a winning blend of mostly garnacha and tempranilla although Opimian added syrah and cabernet sauvignon as well in their description. The nose is of ripe blackberries and plums with a smoky edge and slight pepper and a rich deep ruby colour with the same long legs on the glass. A velvety texture full of ripe berries, sweet fruit, natural tartness and very fine tannins leaving a long, warm, savoury finish. The approach and finish on this makes it a rewarding sipper, one to ponder thoughts in a social setting - with or without a cheese tray close at hand - or view the meandering progress of a PGA tournament on TV. Or it's a versatile companion to beef bourguignon, a rich braised lamb shank, duck or mild prime rib. An 'old world' red that I enjoy... where the winemaker has achieved a balance of selected fruit and crafted process.

Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5% XD, #723288 $13.95 (Tasted June 10, 2007)

A Vintages release June 9. 2007 described as "Throw a thick, juicy steak on the barbecue and serve up this fruit-packed Cab packed with loads of blackberry and cassis as well as sweet notes of chocolate and vanilla. It's a solid wine to enjoy throughout the summer." RP of Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "This is a quite big and dense Cabernet with full-on fruit and plenty of complexity. Expect dark fruit and blackberry flavours with nice hints of white chocolate and vanilla. The texture is plump and mouth-filling and, at this price, it's a natural for barbecues on the deck and at the cottage."Gord Stimmell (June 13) gives it 89/100 saying "... The nose shows blackberry with hints of cola and cedar. On the palate, lush chocolate, blackberry and refined oak stylings dish up sex appeal. The finish is slightly sweet-toned." My notes: Rutini Wines produces the Trumpeter in an 'old world' style, lots of oak influence giving unfruity aromas to what should complement natural fruit. A very deep scarlet ruby colour with cigar humidor odors that waft from the glass. Full-bodied, firm tannins, a curt tartness among flavours of ripe plum and black cherry - there's some remnants of sweet fruit giving it a round mouthfeel. Finishes with licorice, dark chocolate and tars lingering on the palate much longer than the fruit. Big and dense, yes, but not with flavours that encourage my sipping. Should be great for a highly seasoned steak or back ribs, long ribs, a triple cheese and pepperoni pizza, a homemade hamburger, ie. not Macs, with mustard plastered bacon, roquefort and onion toppings - but I'd sip with the bites rather than after. A reasonable price just not a palatable red imho - perhaps letting air for a day would help?.

JOFFRÉ E HIJAS GRAND MERLOT 2003, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.9% XD, #025098 $15.95 (Tasted June 08, 2007)

A Vintages release on April 28, 2007 described as "A similar vinification for this Merlot as Joffré e Hijas Malbec, but a very different wine on the nose, with ripe, bloody, quite jammy plum fruit that is bold and creamy, backed by a toasty oak support. On the palate there's a broad, generous, mouthfilling fruit presence with lots of damson and black cherry ripeness. It is fairly jammy, with plenty of sweetness, and a suave, dark, chocolate and coffee bean depth. Acidity is good, and although the fruit doesn't quite push through to the finish, this is a fine merlot. Very good indeed. (Tom Cannavan, Aug. 2006)." VH of Winecurrent gives it four stars (of 5) saying "A crowd-pleaser that offers up coffee and cherry aromas then a gigantic mouthful of jammy, sweet bramble berry and cherry compote flavours right through to the lengthy, sweet finish. This is a warm and friendly wine that will be widely-accepted at your backyard barbie with the neighbourhood crowd. Pour alongside burgers or steak." My notes: A deep ruby colour initially with a strong odor reminiscent of iodine blanking out any fruit. Decant or air for an hour for an unusual vanilla and leather aroma changing eventually to musty socks. The flavour has a tannic oakiness that equals the fruitcake medley which is more predominant in the finish as black cherries, prunes and equal levels of dry tannin and unsweetened dark chocolate. Could be described as 'bold and creamy' if your taste goes to an 'old world' style overcome by process. Pair with rich roasted meats, wild game, Texas chili or charred burgers. If you have to pay penance, go for it. I haven't been that bad yet.

, S Africa, 13.5% D, #022269 $13.15 (Tasted June 06, 2007)

A General listing not described on the LCBO website. The Durbanville Hills website says "Aromas of white pepper, violets and plum with a veil of smoky oak. A soft-textured but mouth-filling wine with spicy and smoky oak flavours that linger on the aftertaste.100% Shiraz." My notes: Complete with a screwcap and a Peel-to-remember-me label. A deep ruby, medium-bodied and a mixture of cherries and cranberries in the soft woody nose. Allow to air a short while or decant for the little fruit to come forward. Black cherries with a few crushed cherry stones or perhaps stems are in the taste along with a balance of acids and tannin. The finish retains mostly stalkiness along with some mild cherry-cranberry remnants and mild tannin. A table red marginal for tomato pastas, burgers, steaks, grilled back ribs or a rack of lamb, etc. Except for the dominance of the crushed pits/stems it would be a reasonably priced dry sipper although, overall for me, it's not cellarable and not a drink-now.

Veneto, Italy, 13.5% D, #029850 $18.95 (Tasted June 03, 2007)

A Vintages release on May 26, 2007 described as "This wine is made using the popular Ripasso method, where grape skins used for the production of Amarone are added back into the Valpolicella, starting a refermentation that increases the weight and body of the wine. This complex wine has forceful raspberry, cherry and toasty oak aromas. It is soft and round with a hint of tannin for balance. A highly pleasant wine that will match grilled barbecue fare or richer pasta sauces." Natalie MacLean rates it 90/100 and says "A vibrant, full-bodied wine with notes of chocolate and cherries. Pair with: barbeque and tomato pasta sauces." The website notes " ...made from a mixture of Corvina and Corvinone (70%), Rondinella (20%) Croatina, Oseleta (10%) grapes form the Monti Garbi vineyards that surround the cellar... Ruby red in color, it has red fruit and cherry aromas well blended with the oak flavor in a harmonic balance. It is soft and engulfing on the palate, with fruity nuances and proportioned tannins. A complex, long lasting wine which offers an intriguing match between taste and aroma, and highly pleasant with a spicy aftertaste... " My notes: A mid ruby colour and a warm cherry nose that dissipates quickly in the glass, then nothing. A smooth texture, fine tannins and a light bite before flavours of delicate (euphemism for almost nothing) red cherry with persistent smoky oak start showing. The ripasso process improved this from being a light-bodied table wine. A sipper that won't offend but likely provoking the expression 'Isn't it pleasant!' then onto a different subject. Pair with pizza, mushroom pasta, pork cutlet, or an asparagus salad. Not a value - as always, just my opinion!

RESERVE SYRAH 2004, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.4% XD, #590737 $19.95 (Tasted June 02, 2007)

A Vintages release on May 12, 2007 described as "Plush and inviting, with black cherry, mocha, vanilla, bittersweet cocoa and tar notes that glide through the finish. Drink now through 2007. 88/100 (James Molesworth, 2006)" RP of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying "A terrific, rich Syrah that delivers concentrated and complex fruit with a plush but edgy texture. Look for flavours of dark/black cherry, with accents of spice, smoke and tar. This is a great partner for rich red meat and game." Natalie MacLean rates it 89/100 saying "Richly layered, full-bodied goodness. Aromas of black fruit, plush and round. Pair with: hearty meat dishes." The website describes the taste as "Dark and pruny, chestnut and chocolate aromas that opens to violets, jammy cherry fruit, raspberries and strawberries framed by mocha, mineral and spicy aromas. Lovely flavour of marron glace that fill the palate with sweetness. Live acidity and nice tannins." My notes: I was impressed with the Vina Carmen Syrah/Cab Sauv blend so had to try this previous Carmen release. This has ten percent cabernet sauvignon in the mix and shows an inky ruby. After airing thirty minutes, the aromas are a dense mild plum and cherry with a light smoke and white pepper. A very smooth full-bodied sipper with firm tannins letting it slip onto the palate. Flavours of ripe black cherries... lots of warmth and the softness of stewed prunes, milk chocolate with a smidge of tar in the long finish. As a sipper, the 'plush' of being unfiltered may not appeal to some but loved by others. A red to go with a variety of rich meat dishes, stews, steak and kidney, calves liver with onions. Cellaring a few years could bring other spices forward. A value but not for everyone - I enjoyed the difference in a shiraz.

Maipo Valley, Chile, 13.5% XD, #983106 $19.95 (Tasted June 01, 2007)

A Vintages release on May 26, 2007 described as "The grapes for this 50/50 blend were hand picked and sorted to ensure only the best quality fruit was used. Fermented in stainless steel and then aged for 10 months in both French and American oak barrels, this big, rich wine is packed with black fruit, spice, leather, floral and meaty characteristics. Ripe and concentrated with ample tannins, it’s built for steaks grilled rare or roasted game." RP of Winecurrent gives it four and one half (of 5) saying " ...totally delicious. It's packed with flavour from dark fruit (cherry, blackberries) with quite luscious herbal and spicy notes. It's full bodied with a rich, tangy texture, and simply begs for grilled red meat." My notes: A lovely mid ruby with a violet hue and the nose is a combination of black cherries, blackcurrants and a whiff of pepper true to the blend. Starts with a bright intro to the palate, medium- bodied, and flavours of blackcurrants and cherries. Dry tannins coat the mouth producing a soft texture. Fruit acids leave a clean edge for a long silky finish. Luscious as a sipper - very palatable - with some smoky oak tones. Airing for thirty minutes improves it even more. A good companion with anything beefy: rack of lamb, T-bone, ribs, an Angus burger with the works, grilled portabellos etc. Drinking well now but cellaring a few years should benefit as well. A good value from what is turning out to be, in my books, a reliable producer.