Monday, December 01, 2008

December 2008 Wines: 12 Tasted of 12

These are wines picked up on the way home or while shopping, found in the cellar or brought to the house by generous guests. As before, when tasted the wine will appear in bold.
Cheers, Ww

  • Ortas Rasteau Tradition Côtes du Rhône Village 2007, 92-2 -- V, Rhone, France, #998716 $16.95
  • Corte Zovo Sa Solin Ripasso 2004, 90-2 -- V, Veneto, Italy, #650713 $16.95
  • J.P. Chenet Founder’s Reserve Merlot Cabernet 2007, 89-2 -- G, Languedoc, France, #621995 $11.95
  • J.P. Chenet Minervois Shiraz Grenache 2005, 86-1 -- G, Languedoc, France, #028597 $7.95
  • Finca Flichman Misterio Malbec 2007, 86-1 -- G, Argentina, #028803 $9.90
  • Montes Cherub Rosé of Syrah 2007, 84 -- V, Colchagua Valley, Chile, #037887 $16.80
  • Château Pey La Tour Bordeaux 2006, 83 -- G, Gironde, France, #264986 $14.95
  • J.P. Chenet Classic Cabernet Syrah 2007, 82 -- G, Languedoc, France, #090472 $9.95
  • Rosemount Diamond Label Merlot 2006, 76 -- G, South Eastern Australia, #542431 $17.00 
  • Pelee Island Shiraz Cabernet 2007, 76 -- G, Ontario, Canada, #637199 $9.95 
  • Philippe De Rothschild Sauvignon Blanc 2007, 80 -- G, Languedoc, France, #407536 $10.95
  •  Croft Original Fine Pale Cream Sherry NV, NR -- G, Jerez, Spain, #073452 $15.25

(G - General listing, V – Vintages, NR - Not rated, O - Other, r-v - Rating-Value)
PELEE ISLAND SHIRAZ CABERNET 2007, Ontario, Canada, 12.5% D, #637199 $9.95 (Tasted December 28, 2008)  CS
A General listing described as “Deep ruby; spicy herbal nose with cherry, vanilla and cassis; Dry, medium bodied with soft tannins. Serve with pasta primavera; Picnic fare.” My notes: Grapes or juices may come from anywhere for this non VQA blend. The colour is a mid ruby and leaves a film and slow tears on the bowl. The nose has elements of blackberry and a nondescript spice. The first sip is on the sharp side of bright refreshing and leaving the palate warm with a cherry-berry edge and drying tannins. I didn’t get pepper as the spice and the fruit wasn’t developed but young with a raw edge. A thinnish medium-bodied and for the price an OK bar drink or companion for burgers or a BLT on toast - ‘picnic fare‘. A drink now. 76
ROSEMOUNT DIAMOND MERLOT 2006, Australia, 13.5% D, #542431 $17.00 (Tasted December 1, 2008) CS
A General listing described as “Medium to deep ruby red colour; plum, sweet oak, black cherry and cocoa aromas with plum and berry fruit flavours; dry and medium to full-bodied with medium tannins; long finish. Serve with roasted or grilled red meats; lamb; strong cheeses.” My notes: Several of the Rosemount beverages have been tasted since this blog started in 2005 with the last, a 2006 shiraz/cabernet blend, in July 2007. Whites have tended to be more drinkable imho than reds. This 2006 Merlot is a deep ruby colour with a garnet hue and has aromas of sweet berry compote and leaves a thin viscous film on the glass. Medium-bodied, a modest taste of bramble and berries with a long finish starting with bright berry and ending with a dry mineral layering on the palate. Not a sipper although hors d’oeuvres would cover most of an unappealing finish. Did not complement a meat and cheese lasagna very well. A commercial drink now. 76
FINCA FLICHMAN MISTERIO MALBEC 2007, Argentina, 13.5% D, #028803 $9.90 (Retasted December 3, 2008)  CS
A General listing described as "Dark ruby in colour, the nose shows aromas of dark berry, toasted vanilla and oak spices. It is medium-bodied, fruity and toasty. Serve with grilled steak, smoked sausages." My notes: I rated this 86 in April this year calling it a ‘merlot with attitude‘. This is the same vintage but now reads 13.5% alcohol on the label, significant only in the sense could this be a new production of the same vintage or just a new label? Still has a deep ruby with a purple tinge and fast uniform legs after a swirl. The aromas include slightly jammy berries with a natural sweetness and an oaky edge. Well balanced fruit with acid and tannins gives a silky dry texture, medium-bodied, and a long finish of brambly berries and liquorice, an adequate sipper and good value for a social or family gathering especially with beef flavoured finger foods. Have with rack of lamb, T-bone or hamburgers and fries. A drink now. 86
ORTAS RASTEAU TRADITION CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGE 2007, Rhone, France, 14.5% D, #998716 $16.95 (Tasted December 5, 2008)  CS
A Vintages release on December 6, 2008 described as “This is juicy, showing lots of raspberry and currant fruit, with sweet spice and a nice graphite-filled finish. Drink now through 2009.(88/100, James Molesworth, Oct. 15, 2008).” My notes: The 2006 vintage was tasted last June with a rating of 90 calling it a ‘polite red’ meaning it had delicate aromas, subtle flavours - a definite value. Now a dollar higher, the colour of the 2007 is a rich violet ruby, elegantly striking in a wide bowl. The aromas are a delicate ripe plum, berry and warm leather providing an enticing intro to flavours of ripe cherries, black currant, berries with nicely balanced acids and tannins. Finishes long, silky and bright with a liquorice ending. An excellent value, this vintage. Pair with prime rib, grilled chipolte sirloin, marinated ribs or rack of lamb. This could cellar for a few years and develop even more interest. 92
CHÂTEAU PEY LA TOUR BORDEAUX 2006, Gironde, France, 13.0% D, #264986 $14.95 (Tasted December 9, 2008)  CS
A General listing described as “Deep ruby colour; cedar, earth, red liquorice, cassis, fresh cherry aromas with mushroom notes; dry, medium- to light bodied with cherry-tinged and plum fruit flavours. Serve with grilled steak; cheeses; rack of lamb.” My notes: This has a yellow label versus the white label of Château Pey La Tour Réserve du Château, #925859 at $22.95. The Bordeaux has a vivid, deep ruby colour with light mushroom and slight cherry aroma. A red cherry flavouring, a seam of drying tannins and bright acid though not tart then finishing chalky dry with a slight graphite edge. An OK sipper although medium-bodied it comes across somewhat thin on the palate and just a touch of flavour. Have with prime rib, osso bucco, grilled sausage or chicken breast. Drink now, not enough there to cellar. 83
J.P. CHENET CLASSIC CABERNET SYRAH 2007, Languedoc, France, 13.0% D, #090472 $9.95 (Tasted December 10, 2008)  CS
A General listing produced by Les Grands Chais De France. My notes: A mid ruby colour and leaves a thin film on the bowl. A delicate floral aroma not distinctly fruity unless a cherry note. Silky and medium-bodied, soft tannins and a bright acid - seems more like a Grenache blend than syrah - a cherry flavouring and a moderate finish that is smooth, lightly flavoured and a touch of spice. A welcomed social sipper ready for mild cheese nibbles or melted mozzarella on toasts. Have with prime rib or grilled liver and onions, mildly spiced turkey wings or bacon on a bun- was good with cheese and spinach cannelloni in a tomato sauce.. A drink now and a value house red for a crowd. 82
J.P. CHENET FOUNDERS RESERVE MERLOT CABERNET 2007, Languedoc, France, 14.0% D, #621995 $11.95 (Tasted December 11, 2008)  CS
A General listing produced by Les Grands Chais De France and described as “Medium dark red ruby colour; aromas of black berry and spice; dry, medium bodied, with rich fruit centre and good structure. Serve with burgers and grilled meats.” My notes: A deep crimson colour and mostly soft aromas of blueberry but with a touch of ‘forest floor’, somewhat earthy. A firm film with slow tears forms on the glass. The first sip is velvet smooth, full-bodied with flavours of blackberries muted by blueberries. The finish is long and bright balancing fine tannins and acid. Quite delectable as a sipper with enough body and fruit to be enjoyed with or without hors d’oeuvres. Have with prime rib, rack of lamb or a meaty stew - was OK with cheese and spinach cannelloni in a tomato sauce. Priced for an economical dinner or have for a friends and family get together. This should cellar well up to two years, perhaps longer. 89
J.P. CHENET MINERVOIS SHIRAZ GRENACHE 2005, Languedoc, France, 13.0% D, #028597 $7.95 (Retasted December 13, 2008)  CS
A General listing and produced by Les Grands Chais De France. My notes: Last tasted in December 2007 with a rating of 82. *The current vintage is $7.95 but not available locally. The 2005 vintage was $12.95 when purchased. The bottles used for Chenet wines so far do not fit standard wine racks… but add elegance to the table. This is a deep ruby with a violet twist and aromas of distant cherries, almost undetectable though. A light flavour of cherries and a mineral aspect, the Grenache, that carries to the finish which is silky and bright with fine tannins and mild spice added to the mineral edge. An interesting medium-bodied social sipper by itself or with grilled tidbits. Have with anything meaty: prime rib, steak tartare, sausages, liver and onions or shrimp and chorizo in a marinara sauce. This lasted a year in the cellar and could go another two years. Repricing may be a tiering thing with ‘Minervois’ becoming an entry level blend. 86
CROFT ORIGINAL FINE PALE CREAM SHERRY, Jerez, Spain, 17.5% MS, #073452 $15.25 (Tasted December 18, 2008) CS
A Vintages release on February 16, 2008 and described as “This smooth and luxurious cream sherry is actually a sweetened fino. It should be served chilled in a wine glass. It makes for a memorable alternative to traditional dessert wines and matches beautifully with lemon tart, light holiday puddings and fresh fruit salads.” My notes: Produced by Gonzalez Byass & Co. This has the aroma of fino, shellac-like, but not to the extent it’s predominant. The flavour has a tinge of shellac but a slight sweetness balances it, a raisin accent and slight spice nicely. A different sherry for the cabinet except it should be served chilled. Have as a sipper with guests, with a tangy dessert or well after a meal. Not for cellaring - a special and not rated. 
PHILIPPE DE ROTHSCHILD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007, Languedoc, France, 12.5% XD, #407536 $10.95 (Tasted December 14, 2008)   CS
A General listing described as “Straw colour; grassy, citrus, herbaceous nose; medium body and crisp acidity, clean finish. Serve with light lunches, grilled seafood & light cheeses.” My notes: A light straw color with a firm gooseberry fragrance. Dry from the first sip having no sign of sweetness and leaving the palate with a light tangy fruit. The finish is fruity, moderately long and has a green apple tartness then ends with a chemical edge. Medium-bodied and a good companion to assorted finger foods, e.g. shrimp, mild cheese, proscuitto on buttered crackers. Should pair nicely with seafood pastas or wraps. A commercial drink now. 80
CORTE ZOVO 'SA SOLIN' RIPASSO 2004, Veneto, Italy, D 13.5%, #650713 $16.95 (Retasted December 18, 2008)  CS
Released by Vintages on August 18th last year following the 2003 vintage released a year earlier. Described as a “fabulous ripasso with enough structure to match flavourful dishes” and “fruit-forward style as a sipping wine”. My notes: A popular red as all local outlets are out of the current vintage released in October this year - and discounted to $14.95* for the Season. This is a deep ruby with a garnet cast and has subdued aromas of fresh cherries and vanilla, then dry and bright fruit ending in a dry wood and raisin finish. A delectable medium-bodied sipper having a silky touch along with ripe fruit and spice that’s appealing. Would be great with prime rib or a T-bone steak, ribs, meaty pastas or lasagne. Cellaring for a year has been good for this red and could go another few years. 90
MONTES CHERUB ROSÉ OF SYRAH 2007, Colchagua Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #037887 $16.80 (Retasted December 17, 2008)  CS
A Vintages release on February 2, 2008 for Valentine`s. It was described to have “… a pretty strawberry-, rhubarb-, pomegranate-, sour cherry-scented nose. Dry and crisp with excellent fruit freshness and a lively, tangy/fruit finish… “. My notes: Last tasted in May 2008 I felt it was more suitable as a sipper or with a not too sweet dessert or “with Alaska King Crab - but keep a creamy chardonnay handy…” This has a nicely rounded mouthfeel with a light acid and tinge of natural sweetness. The colour is a bright cherry red, resplendent in a tulip glass and a fragrance softer than last tasted almost ‘not there’… but the fresh berries are there with a light spice in the flavour. Served cold it’s a great sipper or quaffed with slightly sweet cookies or fruit tray - would be a good cooler on a hot summer afternoon. Doesn't have the body as a meal rosé but it's a clean, crisp fine wine. 84

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An anomaly in Rating Systems

Another epiphany?
I was rereading my blog on Ratings Systems of October 21, 2007 wondering why my ratings sometimes have such a large variance from those of some professional reviewers. I thought it worth documenting for posterity an anomaly between The Wine Advocate Rating System (WARS) and most others.

Often seen beside a wine description and related to a wine's maturity is a symbol for ‘cellaring’ - a bottle straight up, at forty-five degrees or laid on its side. This symbol is not used in WARS. Instead within the 100 point system a value of 10 is assigned for a wine‘s ‘Potential’. A fantastic wine not having any cellaring potential would be limited to a maximum of 90.
Therein lies the rub!

This extra 10 allows any review not adhering to WARS to increase a wine rating by this amount. An ’80+’ becomes eligible for a ’90+’ depending on the individual reviewer‘s discretion. In WARS speak, what could be a 'barely above average' wine becomes ‘an outstanding wine of exceptional complexity’ - or a fantastic ‘drink now’ that only lasts a few months in the bottle could be rated Five Stars.

I use a modified ‘Potential’ of 5 mollifying somewhat the discrepancy between other reviews and the Ww ratings shown in this blog. Then to allow for what could be commercial fortification (some say 'fabrication') of wines I've added 5 back in for Typicity or trueness to the grape. The net is there's still a leeway of 10 at the bottom line.

If you worry about these things it‘s a conundrum since there's no solution in an undisciplined business. However, the anomaly is definitely something that should be considered if you rely on undeclared rating systems and intend to invest in wines to cellar.

Cheers, Ww
Note: A blog detailing their WARS ratings is WoineToime

'Tis the Season!

Without fail wine prices reflect Marketing’s anticipation of a shopper's generosity as the holiday season shifts from bright Fall colours to the reds and greens of Christmas. Whatever your belief good humour seems to infect every visit to the Outlets.

The Entre-Deux Mers sulk to the background while the Burgundies, Bordeaux and Barolas take front stage and the Zebras, Yellow Tails and Fins come out in tempting multi-packs. Aisles are brimming with cello’d boxes glittering in golds and silvers urging you buy twice as much for brothers, uncles and the Postman - box in dozens for house and office parties. The LCBO this time of year puts on a spread that coaxes every last nickel from strained budgets. Other retailers offer 20 to 50% discounts but the puritanical history of the alcohol business only concedes with shiny packaging. On second thought, perhaps not the ‘puritanical history’ but a restrained commodity and monopolistic opportunism.

It’ll be a New Year in January. Let’s worry about the budget then!

Cheers, Ww

PS. I just reviewed the Vintages Holiday Sale list of wines to see how the prices fared for bottles previously available and tasted on this blog - only a few so my conclusions aren't conclusive 8-). My conclusions: Some wines are listed higher than originally released. For instance Corte Zovo Sa' Solin 2003 was priced at $15.95 in July when tasted and now the 2004 is listed at $17.95 reduced to $14.95, Maculan Pinot Grigio 2007 was $13.95 now is listed as $15.95 reduced to $12.95 and Mount Riley Sparkling SB is listed as $25.95 reduced to $21.95 whereas the 2006 was $22.95. Could any other product or retail store get away with this type of advertising? And some wines I just wouldn't purchase based on previous ratings here. Cheers, Ww

Monday, November 17, 2008

'The 500 Best-Value Wines, 2009' - Reds: 6 Tasted of 6

This is Part 4 of a review of Rod Phillips recent book The 500 Best Value Wines in the LCBO, 2009.
Another six wines, this time reds, rated 4 ½ stars (90-93). There were almost twice as many reds (forty-two) as whites at this rating level in the book so I’ve left quite a few for futures. I didn't have any trouble finding the reds locally and, although reds tend to be pricier overall, these were well within my range, ~$25. When tasted wines appear in bold. Cheers, Ww

(* - Different vintage, Price - up<, down>)

  • Peter Lehmann Barossa Shiraz Grenache 2007, Ww92 -- G, Barossa, Australia, #610725 $13.95
  • MontGras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2007, Ww90 -- G, Colchagua Valley, Chile, #619205 $10.85>
  • Red Knot Shiraz 2006, Ww90 -- G, McLaren Vale, Australia, #619395 $19.70
  • Wente Vineyards ‘Southern Hills’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2006*, Ww89 -- G, Livermore Valley, California, #301507 $17.25
  • Bellingham Shiraz Viognier 2005, Ww87 -- G, Coastal Region, South Africa, #554360 $13.85
  • Napa Valley Vineyards Reserve Merlot 2005*, Ww76 -- G, Napa, California, #029983 $17.95

PETER LEHMANN BAROSSA SHIRAZ/GRENACHE 2007, Barossa, Australia, 14.0% D, #610725 $13.95 (Tasted November 28, 2008)
A General listing describe as “Medum ruby to deep ruby red colour; aromas of ripe berries, cherry and vanilla; full-bodied with ripe cherry flavours on the finish. Serve with pulled pork sandwiches.” My notes: A rich ruby colour with slow tears and a light strawberry mixed with sweet black cherry makes up the nose. The flavours show off the blending of both varietals, a smooth strawberry and a slightly peppery berry. An interesting sipper, silky and a well balanced tannin and polite acid. The finish is long with the silkiness and the same flavour blend altho’ the spice has softened and there’s more strawberry at the end. Drinking well now and should cellar well, up to four years but try two at a time. Have with prime rib, chateaubriand, liver and onions. A real value for a sociable medium-bodied red. Ww92
RED KNOT SHIRAZ 2006, McLaren Vale, South Australia, 14.0% D, #619395 $19.70 (Tasted November 19, 2008)
A General listing described as “Dark ruby in colour; spicy oak notes & dark berry aromas; spicy berry flavours with soft lingering tannins. Serve with tomato pasta meals or pepper steak.” My notes: The 2004 was tasted back in August 2006 and cellaring for two years was suggested. The 2006 retains the handy resealing cork and has a deep ruby colour with tears that form quickly on the bowl. Now a blend of 97% shiraz and 3% Grenache dropping the cab sauv content. Airing for a half hour allows this to show more of a delicate black cherry nose. Medium-bodied and soft, with red cherry, drying tannins and a smidgeon of white pepper all leading to a moderate but bright finish. This is ready to drink now - cellaring for two years would be OK but I don’t think it’ll improve from here. Two dollars higher than the 2004 without a change in product - hope the grape pickers are benefiting. Pair with pork, a ham steak, or back ribs. Ww90.

NAPA VALLEY VINEYARDS MERLOT 2005*, Napa, California, 13.5% D, #029983 $17.95 (Tasted November 20, 2008)

A General listing described as “Medium ruby with brick nuances; aromas of ripe berries, vanilla and hints of herbs; full-bodied, ripe, the finish is medium in length, slightly smoky with well-integrated tannins. Serve with beef stew, Californian style pizza.” My notes: An E.J.Gallo wine and two vintages later than the book. The jug wine of California in the late 60’s doesn’t bring back fond memories. This is a sombre ruby colour and aromas are smoke and black cherry. The first sip has a sweet beetroot highlight that surprised me, not characteristically merlot. Long slow tears and a silky texture, dry fine tannins, a beetroot and sweet, jammy cherry berry aftertaste that did not do things for me. I would not serve this to guests but use in a crockpot stew or sauce for a lamb shank. Skip this vintage. Some memories keep coming back. Ww76

WENTE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006*, Livermore Valley, California, 13.5% D, #301507 $17.25 (Tasted November 18, 2008)
A General listing described as “Medium ruby purple colour; dry and medium-bodied with ripe blackberry fruit and hints of anise and chocolate; medium tannins; long finish. Serve with pepper steak; grilled beef; lamb.” My notes: The local LCBO had a year later vintage from that in the book. There is a thin black cherry colour somewhat garnet cast and a film of slow tears that forms on the bowl. This is medium-bodied silky from the first sip and flavours of berry and beetroot. Airing for twenty minutes is recommended to allow the nose and flavours to settle then a brightness shows and lasts for a long delicate finish, dry with fine tannins and light acid. The website does not add blending nor vintage notes for their wines, this may have some Petit Verdot? Pair with prime rib or lamb - not pepper steak imho. An interesting drink now. Ww89
MONTGRAS CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVA 2007, Colchagua Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #619205 $10.85> (Tasted November 27, 2008)
A General listing described as “Deep red violet; aromas of cherry fruit, smoky plums and cassis; dry, medium to full bodied with ripe black cherry, spice and chocolate; long finish. Serve with BBQ beef ribs and grilled steak.” My notes: A deep violet tinged ruby with slight spicy currant and blackberry aromas and slow legs. An attractive mint with noticeable tannin trails off to a bright black currant flavour that’s smooth and full of spice. The finish is long ending with a tasty currant and blackberry making this a surprisingly bold sipper by itself. Better with finger foods from bacon stuffed mushroom caps to shaved proscuitto and strong cheeses or with pepperoni pizza, rack of lamb or grilled steaks. If you like medium-bodied with a bite this is a real value that may improve with a few years in the cellar. Serve with discretion. Ww90

BELLINGHAM SHIRAZ VIOGNIER 2005, Coastal Region, South Africa, 14.5% D, #554360 $13.85 (Tasted November 24, 2008)
A General listing described as “Medium ruby colour; ripe plum, cherry fruit, leather and chocolate aromas; dry, medium-bodied with soft tannin and hints of smoke and spice; good length. Serve with grilled or roasted red meats; medium cheeses.” My notes: Blended ‘avec un soupçon de’ Viognier according to the front label. A deep ruby with a garnet cast and the nose has a slight floral fragrance added to woody plum and cherry fruit. A firm film sets up long tears on a large bowl. The first sip has a spicy pepper tang with bright red currant flavours with a firm seam of tannins and balanced acid. The fruit in the finish doesn’t last long before a somewhat metallic edge sets in making this an interesting but very dry sipper. With only 2 % Viognier for softening, the shiraz in the blend may have had a significant roughness - which may settle with cellaring. Have with steaks, ribs, chili con carne or pepperoni pizza. Cellar for at least two years for best value. As a drink now it's priced right but lower the rating a few notches. Ww87

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wine Snobs and a'that!

Wine Snobs and a’that!

Beppi Crosariol’s column of October 22nd was titled ‘The new wine snob - it might even be you’. That struck a chord!

But then my second reaction was:
What makes a snob? How do you know if you’ve become one?

Anyone with a smattering of knowledge and in a position to spew information and experiences on any particular subject and then provided with a captive audience could be a snob. An unsolicited dissertation on BMW models, the Byzantine Empire, Hollywood celebrities, etc. could be arenas for snobbery. As well, snobbery needn’t be based on wealth or the ability to afford a compulsion although it becomes more difficult to avoid if one has intimate knowledge of how a Ferrari corners on Hwy 115 curves…. or whether Carnival balconies are wider than Royal Caribbean. Even these needn’t be snobbery if the audience has the opportunity to participate. I contend the term ‘snob’ is perfectly suited to any elective pasttime - but most others use the term ‘bore’, as in ‘Gawd, he‘s a bore!’.

In the extreme, when fact becomes fiction, when claims are overstated, when verbal obscurities befuddle and mislead he/she becomes an opportunistic fraud and has reached ‘grand snobbery’, the ‘I can fool you because I know more than you’ stage.

I also contend that it takes two for snobbery to take place: the snob and the snobbee. When someone doesn’t contribute to the conversation or at least attempt to segue to other subjects they become the snob’s accomplice. As a prospective snobbee, if you find your eyes glazing over and/or your hackles start to rise it’s past time to recognize you’re being snobbed and act.

Appreciating wine depends on an ability to describe the senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and, in an obscure way, hearing. If the eloquence of a master chef mystifies then the oenologist’s surely must as he uses similes and metaphors reflecting thousands of swirls and slurps, localizing and refining each sense and accurately relating tasting conclusions. Now that these are shaped in his cranium he does his best to convey these senses without slipping into snobbery.

Added to the senses, if the oenologist has visited chateaus on the Gironde, for instance, how can he describe the seasons, the vineyards, the ancestral heritage of their owner without conveying some level of ‘Haven’t I done more interesting things than you?’ It’s a tough job needing practice and humility. Perhaps that’s what’s missing? Humility… letting others share in your conclusions…. knowing when to stop… social engagement.

OK, now what makes a snob?

You can be sure you’re a snob when:
  • There’s no shared participation or give-and-take
  • Your one-sided conversation continues ad nauseum
  • A specialized and often intimidating language is used
Is snobbery limited to wine? Absolutely not!
Am I a wine snob? Naw… not me!
Cheers, Ww

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

'The 500 Best Value Wines, 2009' - Whites: 6 Tasted of 6

This is Part 3 of a review of Rod Phillips recent book The 500 Best Value Wines in the LCBO, 2009.

This time around I’ve looked at wines rated 4 ½ stars (90-93) - there are twenty-four whites and forty-two reds to choose from. Almost all were available locally and most were priced within my budget. I’ve put aside six whites that piqued my interest. Why not pick up the book, select your own wines and ‘taste’ along. When tasted wines appear in bold.
Cheers, Ww

(* - Different vintage, Price - up<, down>)

  • Errazuriz Estate Chardonnay 2007, Ww94 -- G, Casablanca Valley, Chile, #318741 $11.80
  • Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay 2006, Ww92 -- G, California, USA, #379180 $17.95
  • Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio Trentino Riserva 2006, Ww90 -- G, Trentino, Italy, #032714 $15.95
  • Mission Hill Chardonnay Reserve 2006* VQA Okanagan Valley, Ww89 -- V, BC, Canada, #545004 $19.95>
  • Beringer Founders’ Estate Pinot Grigio 2006, Ww88 -- G, California, USA, #045641 $18.05
  • Cookoothama Chardonnay 2006, Ww81 -- G, Darlington Point, Australia, # 619403 $13.95

COOKOOTHAMA CHARDONNAY 2006, Darlington Point, Australia, 14.0% D, # 619403 $13.95 (Tasted November 18, 2008)
A General listing described as “Pale straw yellow colour; aromas of citrus and vanilla; dry, medium bodied, crisp with apple, citrus flavours. Serve with grilled or roast poultry.” My notes: A pale straw colour, firm aromas of lemon and a viscous film that slowly forms tears on the glass. This has a roundness combined with a bright nip from the first sip, intense flavours lasting a short while before fading warmly into an apple lemon flavour. I’d call this lopsided as if the process is compensating for fruit. A social sipper for a crowd rather than a white to mull over. Have with crab cakes or cold pasta salad and shredded ham. A drink now - not for cellaring. Ww81

MISSION HILL CHARDONNAY RESERVE 2006 VQA Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada, 13.5% XD, #545004 $19.95 (Tasted November 15, 2008)

A Vintages release on October 11, 2008 described as “From one of BC's most beautiful wineries, comes this elegant, flavourful wine. Winemaker John Simes, working with the blessings of visionary owner Anthony von Mandl, has created a wine loaded with peach, tropical fruit (pineapple and banana), floral, butterscotch and toasty oak aromas. It's medium full-bodied with a creamy texture leading to a long finish. An inspired match for pan-seared chicken breast with rosemary and garlic.” My notes: A year later vintage and a dollar less than the book. This has a light lemon butter nose and a faint gold colour spreading a thin film on the bowl. Thinner than the Errazuriz chard perhaps as full as the Mondavi in this group, less fruit as well and with a grassy edge. Conservatively flavoured as a sipper having a silky texture and dry finish that carries a apple lemon tartness well. Have with lobster pieces, crab cakes or roast chicken breast sliced on greens. A drink now - cellaring is not likely to improve noticeably. Ww89

BERINGER FOUNDERS’ ESTATE PINOT GRIGIO 2006, California, USA, 12.5% D, #045641 $18.05 (Tasted November 22, 2008)

A General listing described simply as “Enjoy on its own or with salads or grilled chicken.” My notes: A pale blond colour with aromas of honeysuckle and a bit of spice. Citrus flavours softened by slight banana still with a crispness needed for creamy pastas and grilled seafood. Interesting by itself or as an aperitif with bacon wrapped scallops or cocktail sausage. Medium-bodied finishing long, dry with an enduring sharpness. I had this with a sushi combo including smoked salmon, shrimp and seaweed wraps all with sticky rice and it went very well altho‘ less contrasting than the Mezzacorona Trentino PG. Not for cellaring - a drink now. Ww88 

ROBERT MONDAVI PRIVATE SELECTION CHARDONNAY 2006, California, USA, 13.5% D, #379180 $17.95 (Tasted November 13, 2008)

A General listing described as “Deep yellow colour; Aromas of anise, citrus, cooked apple and tropical fruit; Dry, full bodied, with nice balance of tropical fruit and oak; crisp acidity on the long spicy finish. Serve with grilled seafood, lobster, poultry and soft cheese.” My notes: A pale golden colour with a soft aroma of lemon butter. The thin film recedes quickly on the glass and the first sip is sharp ending full of tart apple or citrus, dry and long. I’d say it’s extra dry with very little if any sugar showing and somewhat creamy once you get past the tartness. Almost unoaked and medium-bodied. A sipper if you also prefer ‘lemon twists’. Have with hors d’oeuvres: saucy chicken wings, cocktail sausage or a ham dip with cheesy crackers. Pair with oysters Rockefeller, a grilled ham steak or sliced turkey breast. Cellar up to four years. Ww92

ERRAZURIZ ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2007, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 13.5% XD, #318741 $11.80 (Tasted November 14, 2008)

A General listing described as “Bright yellow colour; rich pineapple and banana with vanilla aromas; full-bodied, creamy and lush with pineapple fruif, baked applet and buttery, vanilla/nut flavours. Serve with lobster, grilled chicken, duck a l'orange, herb crusted pork chops.” My notes: A pale blond colour with aromas of banana and slight honey - leaves a firm film on the bowl. Full-bodied with a balanced sweetness (it’s not extra dry to me) and acid mostly of a lemon pith flavour - perhaps that’s the ‘baked’ aspect? Slightly off chill is the way to go as a sipper for fuller development of flavours and bouquet - scrumptious. Unless you’re ABC this has everything you’d expect of a chardonnay sipper, each sip brings interest. Have with seafood or white fowl. Cellaring for a couple of years should be OK making this a super value. Ww94

MEZZACORONA PINOT GRIGIO TRENTINO RISERVA 2006, Trentino, Italy, 13.0% D, #032714 $15.95 (Tasted November 21, 2008)

A General listing described as “Clear pale straw green colour; with aromas of mineral, lemon, lime and green apple. Light-bodied, dry, it ends with crisp citrus tones. Serve with light chicken dishes, pasta with cream sauces and salads.” My notes: A pale golden colour with a light aroma of spicy wildflowers. The first sip is both smooth and dry, the tartness is of fresh lemon juice but mellowed by apple and finishes with a touch of sweet straw. A sipper if you don’t mind a tad tart - great as a warm summer day aperitif or with fresh oysters or crab cakes. Pair with seafoods of all sorts as the entrée or with a creamy pasta, a bouillabaisse or smoked salmon and capers on greens. Cellaring for up to two years should not harm this refreshing white. Ww90

Saturday, November 01, 2008

'The 500 Best Value Wines, 2009': 11 Tasted of 11

This is Part 2 of a review of Rod Phillips recent book The 500 Best Value Wines in the LCBO, 2009.

To select wines for purchase locally I’ve opted to focus on the 5 star (94-100) rated wines of which there are eighteen in the book. Of the eighteen, eleven are within my budget of ~$25, one white and ten reds - six are a different vintage. The eleven are listed below and will appear in bold when tasted.

Another sixty-six wines are rated 4 ½ stars (90-93) and could be the basis for future values.

Cheers, Ww 

LISTING:   (* - Different vintage, Price - up<, down>)

  • Errazuriz ‘Max Reserva’ Shiraz 2006, 95-3 -- G, Aconcagua Valley, Chile, #614750 $17.75
  • Pérez Cruz Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, 94-3 -- G, Maipo Valley, Chile, #694208 $14.95
  • Antonin Rodet Côtes du Rhône 2007*, 94-3 -- G, Rhône, France, #008979 $12.95
  • Angus the Bull Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, 93-3 -- G, Australia, #602615 $18.95
  • Marqués de Riscal Reserva Rioja 2004*, 93-2 -- G, Rioja, Spain, #032656 $23.95>
  • Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, 92-3 -- V, California, USA, #738823 $16.95
  • Cousiño-Macul ‘Doña Isidora’ Riesling 2006*, 92-3 -- G, Maipo Valley, Chile, #057182 $10.95>
  • Cousiño-Macul ‘Antiguas Reservas’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, 91-2 -- G, Maipo Valley, Chile, #212993 $15.45
  • Perrin Réserve Côtes du Rhône 2007*, 91-2 -- G, Rhone, France, #363457 $14.95
  • Cline Syrah 2007*, 90-2 -- V, Sonoma Valley, USA, #733758 $13.95<
  • Katnook Estate ‘Founder’s Block’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2006*, 88-1 -- G, Coonawara, Australia, #620070 $17.95

ANGUS THE BULL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006, South Australia, 14.5% D,#602615 $18.95 (Tasted November 3, 2008)

A General listing described as “Medium to deep red violet colour; black currant, spice, oak and herbal aromas; dry, medium bodied, ripe, bold fruit driven style; well balanced acid and tannins, good length on finish. Serve with black angus steak or other grilled meats.” My notes: Winemaker Hamish MacGowan had an objective of blending a cabernet sauvignon specifically for prime beef the sole wine from his Aberdeen Wine Company. The grapes for the 2006 vintage are from King Valley 34%, Strathbogie Ranges 15%, Padthaway 13%, Barossa Valley 11%, Goulburn Valley 11%, McLaren Vale 11% and 5 % other. This red is perfumed by crushed blackberries brightened with mint and softened with a light vanilla. The first sip is full-bodied, soft in texture but bright in berry flavours. The finish is long giving a silky mouthfeel lined with fine tannins and complementing acids. I’d say Hamish met his target - excellent with prime rib and other beef entrées. This may have a short cellaring potential - worth trying for up to four years tasting every second year. 93

KATNOOK FOUNDER'S BLOCK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006*, Victoria, Australia, 13.5% D, #620070 $17.95 (Tasted November 15, 2008)

A General listing described as “Semi-opaque dark plum colour; aroma of baking spices, mocha and stewed plums; medium-full bodied with ripe core of dark berries. Serve with grilled lamb chops with a red wine reduction.” My notes: A Wingara Group wine and a year later in vintage than the book. The 2005 vintage was tasted in January resulting in a Ww90 rating. This vintage has a rich ruby colour with smoky berry and currant aromas needing to be coaxed from the glass. The first sip is drying on the lips and throughout the mouth. There’s a brambly aspect to the berry that seems to say ’crushed with stems’ but there is also a smooth fullness to make slow sipping worthwhile - 2005 is still the preferred vintage. Rather than drinking now cellar up to five years - or skip this vintage. Lamb, savoury stews, sticky back ribs would be ideal mates. 88

CLINE SYRAH 2007*, California, USA, 13.5% D, #733758 $13.95 (Tasted November 13, 2008)

A Vintages release on October 11, 2008 described as “Made with grapes sourced primarily from Cline's Sonoma County vineyards, this well-priced, fleshy and full-bodied Syrah will have you singing its praises! Look for aromas and flavours of blackberry, cracked pepper, plum and leather with a hint of oak, and a medium-long, peppery finish. A natural partner for pepper steak or gourmet hamburgers.” My notes: I tasted the 2006 in May this year with a Ww83 rating. Now a dollar more the 2007 isn’t much different although is more delectable. It’s still a deep scarlet colour and has a thick film with long tears. The nose is a collection of fresh plums and blackberries with some anise on the side. The brightness starts deep on the roof of the mouth and spreads in both directions then flavourings of dry red currants take over. The finish is bright full of red currants somewhat brambly and fades fairly quickly. This is a fresh sipper coming across as ‘thin‘ - I didn’t get ’pepper’ but just short of acidic and ‘fleshy’ isn‘t a word I’d use. Have with chorizo sausage with slices of buttered Panini or with a pepperoni pizza. An OK drink now and would keep for a few years. 90

LIBERTY SCHOOL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006, California, USA, 13.5% XD, #738823 $16.95 (Tasted November 7, 2008)

A Vintages release on October 11, 2008 described as “This delicious Cabernet teaches the meaning of value. Its nose is intense with concentrated dark fruit, particularly cherry and plum, complemented by spicy and savoury notes. It's dry, dense and richly textured with great balance and ripe tannins. For continuing education, enjoy anytime over the next 2-3 years with braised or roasted beef dishes.” My notes: A clear ruby with fast tears and delicate berry aromas. Soft yet crisp, delicate dark fruit without a clear flavouring along with a refreshing mint. The finish is defined by fine tannins and a modest acidity. A light style of cabernet sauvignon - a sipper to offer anyone not looking for ‘bold‘ but would go for ‘elegance‘. Has the potential to develop over a few years cellaring. Have with bacon wrapped shrimp or scallops, turkey wings in a light sauce or proscuitto on Italian breads. 92

COUSINO-MACUL ‘DONA ISIDORA’ RIESLING 2006*, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #057182 $10.95 (Tasted November 11, 2008)
A General listing described as “Delicious as an aperitif, with salads, seafood, white meat and spicy foods.” My notes: A year earlier vintage than in the book and a dollar less. I suggest airing for awhile for the nose to lose some grassiness and push forward a lanolin touch and tinge of lavender - quite aromatic. A crisp, pale golden colour with a round texture but almost pucker dry and a grassy overtone to flavours of crushed grapefruit seeds. Not appealing to me as a sole sipper but likely would go well with fresh oysters. Went nicely with roast chicken and veggies - definitely a seafood white having enough astringency to handle light oils or spice. I’d lay this down for two years rather than serving now - I gave it marks for cellaring potential. A value as a dry riesling. 92

COUSINO-MACUL ‘ANTIGUAS’ RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #212993 $15.45 (Tasted tbd)

A General listing described as “Deep ruby red colour; cassis fruit on the nose with mocha, black currant, vanilla, green pepper and leather tone; dry, full bodied, with ripe berry fruit flavours, ripe though firm tannins; medium long finish. Serve with grilled meats; rack of lamb; medium cheeses.” My notes: The 2005 vintage was tasted last May with disappointing results (Ww70) as the process attempted to overpower jammy fruit. For the 2006 vintage the colour is a deep ruby and aromas are a combination of oak and dark plums. Airing for a few minutes is still preferred although the oak doesn’t jump out of the glass and combines nicely with fragrance of dark fruit. The texture is medium-bodied, bright and extra dry from the first sip. Red cherries with a breath of mint and light tar on every sip that follows - refreshing - followed by a finish that is bright without being tart with fine tannins filling in between layers of fruit. A great tapas red… or have with stuffed mushrooms, lamb or flavourful paellas. Cellaring may not be in the cards for this given the performance of the last vintage. 91

ERRAZURIZ MAX RESERVA SHIRAZ 2006, Aconcagua, Chile, 14.5% D, #614750 $17.75 (Tasted November 3, 2008)
A General listing described as “Dark purple in colour; aromas of spice, wood & cigar; full-bodied with flavours of black cherry & spice; tannic finish. Serve with roasted red meats or hard cheeses.” My notes: The last time I tasted the Errazuriz Shiraz was vintage 2004 in March last year. This vintage has a dense purple colour and aromas of smoked tinged raspberries, very appealing. The film on the glass is solid with slow legs and the first sip is a dense raspberry and blackcurrant flavouring with strong mint and pepper. The pepper becomes more pronounced but not objectionably so as now the blackcurrant carries into a licorice edged ending. A fruity sipper, full-bodied, silky smooth, warm and tasty, no need to hurry as the finish is so long. Have with grilled lamb, T-bone, bbq’d ribs or savoury stews. Cellaring for up to six years is likely. This vintage would make an excellent cellar staple. 95

PÉREZ CRUZ CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVA 2006, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #694208 $14.95 (Tasted November 14, 2008)
A Vintages release on October 11, 2008 described as “A favourite of Vintages customers, this Cabernet is an overachiever that offers exceptional value. Rich and ripe, it features complex aromas and flavours of cherry, pomegranate, toasty oak, chocolate, herbs and spices. It's smooth and well-balanced with a medium-long finish. Savour it with gourmet sausages or roast pork.” My notes: The colour of a black cherry skin with deep smoky cherry aromas and slow legs. Very smooth and spicy from the first sip lasting for a good while fading into a sumptuous layer of fine tannins and ripe cherry/berry flavours - a bit (8%) of carmenere and syrah in the blend. An excellent combination of fruit and spice full-bodied and silky smooth. A delectable sipper giving with each sip. Should go very well with grilled meat: T-bone, seared veal, rosemary'd rack of lamb. Drinking well now but could cellar another few years if you want to buy ahead. Very different from the bottle tasted ten months ago and rated 88. 94

PERRIN RÉSERVE CÔTES DU RHÔNE 2007*, Rhône, France, 13.0% D, #363457 $14.95 (Tasted November 26, 2008)
A Vintages release on October 11, 2008 described as “... you breathe in aromas of red plum preserve, ripe strawberry, floral, spice, chicory, and earthy tones. There's loads of juicy cherry and raspberry flavours surrounded by supple tannins on the medium-bodied palate. Enjoy this food-friendly and charming red with casual dishes (pizza or hamburgers) or more sophisticated fare (grilled gourmet sausages, game stew, steak).” My notes: Two vintages later than in the book. The 2006 vintage was previously tasted in May of this year with a Ww85 rating. This red has been consistently priced at $14.95 each vintage but now shows at $13.95. The colour is a deep purple shade with delicate aromas of ripe plum and raspberries. Reasonable flavours of anise and berries with a modest nip and velvety softness from the first sip. Medium-bodied and dry on the palate the process equalling the fruit so neither predominates - light tannins, a fine spice and a long earthy finish. This would be a polite accompaniment with prime rib au jus or with French onion soup and bacon wrapped filet mignon. Cellaring for two years could bring out some more layers but it’s drinking well now. If you like European style this is a value at the lower price. 91

ANTONIN RODET CÔTES DU RHÔNE 2007*, Rhône, France, 13.6% D, #008979 $12.95 (Tasted November 12, 2008)
A General listing described as “Rich ruby colour; attractive spice, anise and cherry fruit on the nose; well-balanced with hints of cherries, nuts and pepper on the palate. Serve with spare ribs; sausages; duck.” My notes: *A year later than in the book. A black cherry colour in the bowl with a thin film followed by slow tears and a fragrance of smoke tinged cherry skins, soft and subtle. Its smoothness carries flavours of cherries brightened by a slight spice everything lasting through a long, delicate finish. This is more of an elegant sipper for a reception or buffet luncheon with flavours that build with each sip - scrumptious. Have with finger sandwiches or save for a prime rib entrée, mild sausages, game bird or beef bourguignon. Drink now or cellar for up to four years. 94
MARQUES DE RISCAL RESERVA RIOJA 2004*, Rioja, Spain, 14.0% D, #032656 $23.95 (Tasted November 18, 2008)
A General listing described as “Garnet red with brick edges; cedar, plum, anise, chocolate, sandalwood and earth on the nose with matching flavours; dry, medium-full-bodied with light tannins, and rounded fruit flavours; a long solid finish. Serve with grilled red meats; prime rib roast; stews; pork roast; lamb chops.” My notes: The last vintage tasted was 2000 in April 2005, well before Ww ratings, so I was interested in trying again. The nose is light but full of aroma: woody, fig and sweet cherry. The flavour shows off warm fig and vanilla, spicy without being peppery and is full-bodied - then a lengthy finish that’s dry with fine tannins, mild acids and anise. Ninety percent tempranillo with ten percent graciano and mazuelo provides a lush fruit base while oak ageing subdues the fruit for a softer approach. Similar but not quite the ’kinder’ Rioja of 2000, this is a bolder red to be paired with prime rib, grilled back ribs, T-bone, rack of lamb or spicy quesadillas. A drink now - some cellaring left, up to four years. 93

'The 500 Best Value Wines, 2009': Part 1

The 500 Best Value Wines in the LCBO, 2009 by Rod Phillips

Why would I highlight a publication on wines? I’ve already said of those I’ve reviewed the majority of wines they include either aren’t available, priced out of my budget or don’t match my taste buds.

But these conclusions are more of ‘Why I wouldn’t highlight a wine book?‘. So let me focus on why this book is different.

I’m of the opinion that some journalists use their profession as a tax haven to do the things they want as part of their lifestyle. Skiing at St. Moritz, lunching in Monte Carlo or barging on the Rhine. Live it up, write articles complete with photos and quotes from the locals for a few Travel or Food & Wine magazines. I don't have a problem with this - they serve a need. But then some go too far! They dare to write critiques on wine as if drinking wine makes them authorities. ‘Wine snobs’ is more likely!

Rod Phillips is not of that ilk. For some years now I have read columns and newsletters containing his wine reviews. He’s a genuine journalist cum teacher cum author cum wine historian and critic. Part of his monthly regimen is tasting Vintages and LCBO releases, often over a hundred wines. Another part is judging wines from distributors and at wineries. And his focus is our market, Ontario. So I’ve bought into his credentials as a wine authority. Now I’m curious if his recent book The 500 Best Value Wines in the LCBO, 2009 - one based on ’bang for my buck’ - is an exception to my dismal history with wine publications.

For this blog I’ve followed two methods to select wines. First, I’ve thumbed my way letting my pencil fall randomly on labels limiting selection to a nice round number, 80. I searched the LCBO website for the availability of each of these in Ontario and answered the two questions: How many are available? All but one… and How many were within my budget (under $30)? All but two. Conclusions: Availability based on a random sampling is pretty good and Prices weren't extreme. Second, I select wines for tasting. There were 17 at his highest rating level of 5 stars (this doesn‘t mean the rest are plonk). As you’d expect the 5’s are at a higher price point so just eleven were within my budget. Now if only they will satisfy my buds! Part 2 of this blog lists the wines and my tasting notes.

My intention is not to validate the ratings in the book. My palate is by no means a standard - but it‘s mine and I‘m stuck with it. The intention is to find a source for recommendations that put more value in my wine choices.

My suggestion to anyone reading this blog is to purchase the book and see if it will help you find wines matching your tastes. It’s just the price of a bottle of wine.

Cheers, Ww

November 2008 Wines: 15 Tasted of 15

These are wines picked up on the way home or while shopping, found in the cellar or brought to the house by generous guests. The ones marked V25 are from Vintages release of October 25th. As before, when tasted the wine will appear in bold. Cheers, Ww
(G - General listing, V – Vintages, O - Other, RP - Rod Phillips, NR - Not Rated)

  • d'Arenberg ‘The Galvo Garage’ 2006, Ww96 -- V, McLaren Vale, Australia, #907584 $27.95
  • Zonin Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2006, Ww94 -- V25, Veneto, Italy, #084798 $19.95
  • Tezza Ma Roat Valpolicella Ripasso 2005, Ww89 -- V25, Veneto, Italy, #084053 $17.95
  • Errazuriz Estate Carmenère 2007, RP90-93, Ww88 -- G, Aconcagua, Chile, #016238 $13.80
  • Santi Sortelese Delle Venezie Pinot Grigio 2007, Ww85 -- G, Trentino, Italy, #637603 $12.95
  • Leyda Classic Reserve Carmenère 2006, Ww85 -- V, Rapel Valley, Chile, #066845 $13.95
  • Yalumba ‘The Y Series’ Shiraz Viognier 2007, Ww84 -- G, South Australia, #624494 $15.95
  • Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay 2007, Ww84 -- V25, Marlborough, NZ, #991950 $19.95
  • Mountain Road Wine Company Botrytis Affected Riesling 2005 VQA Beamsville Bench, Ww82 -- O, Niagara,Canada, #Winery, 375 ml $9.95*
  • Familia Zuccardi Fuzion Shiraz Malbec 2007, Ww80 -- G, Mendoza, Argentina, #083188 $7.45
  • Santa Ema Reserve Merlot 2005, Ww79 -- V11, Maipo Valley, Chile, #642538 $14.95
  • Malivoire Old Vines Foch 2005 VQA Ontario, Ww78 -- O, Beamsville, Canada, #551036 $25.00
  • Kim Crawford Pinot Noir 2007, Ww77 -- V25, Marlborough, NZ, #626390 $19.95
  • Mike Weir Estate Pinot Grigio 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ww75 -- Niagara, Canada, #043364 $15.15
  • JeanJean Syrah Primeur 2008, WwNR -- G, Languedoc, France, #899948 $9.95

D'ARENBERG ‘THE GALVO GARAGE’ 2006, McLaren Vale, Australia, 14.5% D, #907584 $27.95 (Tasted tbd)

A Vintages release on November 22, 2008 described as “This blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 18% Petit Verdot and 6% Cabernet Franc won a Gold Medal at the Korea Wine Challenge 2008... Full of dusty, cedary, tarry flavour. Sweet, soft heart. Firm dry tannins… Drink 2011-2017, (92/100, Campbell Mattinson, March 17, 2008)” My notes: A Bordeaux inspired blend giving a purple tint to the deep ruby colour and a nose of black cherry, black berry touched by vanilla and cedar scents after letting air briefly in a wide bowl. Nicely balanced tannins and acid gives a slight nip and dry texture to flavours of a ripe blackberry currant mix with a long cedar wrapped finish - scrumptious. An excellent before dinner, after dinner, through dinner sipper by itself or would accompany prime rib, steaks, beef bourguignon, lamb shashlik or any richly sauced entrées. Cellaring several years should be OK - a tad young now but drinking very well. Ww96

MALIVOIRE OLD VINES FOCH 2005, Ontario, Canada, 12.5% D, #551036 $25.00 (Tasted October 31, 2008)
From the Malivoire website: “This is a vintage for those who love this wine for its assertive characteristics… dark and brooding in the glass, the wine displays dried currant, tobacco, leather, whetstone and vanilla on the nose. Smoke and mineral flavours in your mouth open to an intense, mouth-filling display of plum preserve, sultana raisin and hazelnut. The finish will intrigue you; is that chili pepper, bacon or a little of both?… ” My notes: *No longer listed by Vintages. The nose is milder than previous vintages, a hazelnut fragrance with some smoke and vanilla overtones, ripasso like. The colour is an opaque carmen with a light film leading to quick legs on the bowl. Full-bodied and, although a smooth sipper, the brightness wakens the taste buds while flavours of hazelnut, mild tobacco and black cherries add interest. Less foch-ness and a milder nip makes this more appealing than previous vintages at the same stage until the finish. Partner with prime rib or a ground beef casserole. Cellaring should lessen the tang and increase the velvet - say, up to eight years - but, to me, not a popular flavour profile and far too acerbic for casual imbibing. Ww78

SANTA EMA RESERVE MERLOT 2005, Maipo Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #642538 $14.95 (Tasted October 28, 2008)
Released by Vintages on October 11, 2008 described as “Lush oaky nose, plums and mint. Rich, full bodied, opulent with ripe tannins and acidity, long, peppery finish. Drink up to 2012. (” My notes: A lovely deep ruby with a violet twist and aromas that take a good sniff to grasp, vanilla and black berries. The first sip has a combination of black berries, black currants and firm oak all edged with a fine tannin and moderate acid. However, the fruit is overwhelmed by smoky oak making this a bold earthy sipper - ripe Chilean fruit adulterated by an old world process. Have with pepper steak, pepperoni pizza or a spicy ground round casserole. Cellaring for up to four years may improve but I don’t think so. Ww79

LEYDA CLASSIC RESERVE CARMENÈRE 2006, Rapel Valley, Chile, 13.5% XD, #066845 $13.95 (Tasted November 1, 2008)
A Vintages release on August 02, 2008 described as “... from specific vineyards in higher elevation areas of Rapel Valley. For the grapes, higher elevation means the intense heat of the day is balanced by cool temperatures at night, allowing the fruit to ripen slowly and achieve balance. Featuring aromas of plum, cedar, vanilla and smoke, this Carmenère is an excellent choice for grilled steak or even liver and onions.” My notes: The colour is clear ruby with a hint of violet and a thin film with fast legs. Fragrances are of cherries tinged with bramble or crushed stems and a bit of barnyard (not in a bad sense). Clean and bright on the first sip and fairly light-bodied full of red cherries and a slight mint finishing light on the palate with fine tannins and a crisp acidity. An OK sipper that improves with each sip and better with stuffed mushroom caps or paté on crisps. Pair with lightly seasoned entrées: lamb shank, beef Wellington, crockpot stews. A drink now and a good value for a house red. Ww85
MOUNTAIN ROAD WINE COMPANY BOTRYTIS AFFECTED RIESLING 2005 VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada, 11.0% MS, #Winery, 375ml $9.95* (Tasted November 5, 2008)

My notes: Regularly priced $19.95 so how could anyone go wrong? A light blond in colour and delicate fragrance of clover honey - needs a tulip bowl to focus its nose. There’s a light honey sweetness to a delicate apricot flavour, I‘d say a sweetness of 2 - 4, which continues into the finish as flavours slowly fade and a tartness takes over. An OK sipper without too much of interest going on. Paired with mandarin orange and/or pineapple wedges it may provide a balance of sweet and tart or have with Thai or a box of tempura shrimp and veggies. Cellaring for several years could introduce some caramel - at the reduced price it’s worth a try. Ww82


KIM CRAWFORD UNOAKED CHARDONNAY 2007, Marlborough, NZ, 12.5% D, #991950 $19.95 (Tasted Ocotber 26, 2008)

A Vintages release on October 25, 2008 described as “This pure, no-nonsense Chard is remarkably versatile and food-friendly. Give it a try with anything from roast chicken, to quiche, to rich seafood dishes. The 2007 Marlborough Unoaked Chardonnay has a lovely floral nose with hints of mango and guava, the palate simple and straightforward, clean and focused with a touch of honeysuckle towards the finish. (88/100, Neal Martin, April 2008). My notes: Green apples and stagnant pond meet the nose followed by flavours of tart green apple and mango with a crisp mouthfeel. Medium-bodied, finishing with a stone fruit dryness. It seemed to me the varietal was lost somewhere in the process, however, an OK sipper. Should go well with mild seafood dishes. A drink now although could be cellared a short time but not likely to improve. Generally, I’ve been disappointed in the direction Kim Crawford wines have headed since selling to a conglomerate. Perhaps it’s a vintage thing and will turn around. Ww84

KIM CRAWFORD PINOT NOIR 2007, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% D, #626390 $19.95 (Tasted October 25, 2008)

A Vintages release on October 25, 2008 described as “Since 1996, Kim Crawford has consistently made fresh and clean wines that can equally be enjoyed on their own or with a variety of food. Pinot Noir is the second most cultivated variety in Marlborough. This medium-bodied and lively red offers aromas and flavours of red cherry, currant and hints of oak. Enjoy with pork chops or roasted chicken.” My notes: A deep ruby colour with aromas that elude my sniffer, perhaps smoky dried raspberries. Medium-bodied, velvety smooth and a flavour consisting of licorice tainted black berries and a long finish of woody stems, nicely balanced acid and tannins. A somewhat unenticing sipper with good texture but lacking natural fruit or herbs. Did not go with rack of lamb and I can’t recommend any other entrée. For me, not a drink now, not for cellaring and not a value. Ww77
TEZZA MA ROAT VALPOLICELLA RIPASSO 2005, Veneto, Italy, 13.0% D, #084053 $17.95 (Tasted October 30, 2008)
A Vintages release on October 25, 2008 described as “Ma Roat, which means Red Moon in the local dialect, is one of Veneto's best kept secrets. Bloggers and wine critics were, well, over the moon, about the 2004 vintage, kiddingly accusing Tezza of 'holding back the good stuff' from the public until now. This ripe and round wine is made to be matched with a fresh wild mushroom ravioli or gnocchi and mushrooms in a butter sauce.” My notes: A deep garnet ruby with smoky black cherry aromas and a film on the bowl that’s slow to drain. Medium- to full-bodied and silky smooth, fine tannins with a bright flavour of red cherries. The long finish retains the fruit and adds dryness. Ripasso makes this a different sipper - it should go well with Rosenberg Bella Blu and herby pita chips… with shaved Italian meats or grilled panini sandwiches. Pair with any tomato pasta dish or portabella burgers. Ww89

ZONIN VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE RIPASSO 2006, Veneto, Italy, 13.0% D, #084798 $19.95 (Tasted November 4, 2008)
A Vintages release on October 25, 2008 described as “Deep ruby red colour with a wide array of aromas, including cherry, plum, fig, chocolate and spice. Dry with a sweet, ripe fruit centre. Soft and round and deeply delicious. A good match for a rich, braised meat dish or meat-based pastas. (Vintages panel, March 2008).“ My notes: A deep purple, thick film with slow tears and a fragrance of sultana raisins and light smoke. Full-bodied with a touch of natural sweetness, very smooth from the first sip and finishing with fine tannins and a bright lining. A balanced combination of fruit and ripasso overtones makes this an excellent sipper for a social crowd, with appetizers or paired with veal parmigiana, a meat lasagna or traditional steaks and roasts. OK to cellar for several years but drinking very well now. Ww94

ERRAZURIZ ESTATE CARMENÈRE 2007, Aconcagua, Chile, 14.0% D, #016238 $13.80 (Tasted November 7, 2008).

A General listing described as “Deep ruby coloured with aromas of ripe blackberry and smoke. Full-bodied and round with smoky flavours of spicy blackberry. Serve with roast beef.” My notes: The colour of black cherry skins and a modest aroma of ripe blackberries. Best to let air twenty minutes. A nip on the first taste with a flavour of almost ripe cherries then leaving a slight metallic tinge on a long finish of bramble berries. Perhaps young vines or less pruning gives this a greener aspect to flavours and finish representing its price versus their Max Reserva label. An OK, on the light side of medium-bodied, sipper if accompanied with appetizers. Pair with grilled back ribs or pepperoni pizzas. A drink now. Ww88
FAMILIA ZUCCARDI FUZION SHIRAZ MALBEC 2007, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5% D, #083188 $7.45 (Tasted November 6, 2008)
A General listing described as “Delicious with pasta, steak and casseroles.” My notes: A violet tinged ruby and plum aromas that are slow to show. Slow tears on the bowl and a first sip that is clean with slight acid and fine tannins. Flavours show a faint plum with a cedar wrap, a thinnish medium-bodied sipper, finishing soft and dry. Nothing objectionable just 'nothing' making this an uninteresting sipper and I can’t imagine it adding a pairing element for a meal. Price makes this a possible cash bar red - at $5 a glass this is a real opportunity. Have in for uninvited guests or take to a drop-in where no one takes wine seriously. Ww80

YALUMBA ‘THE Y SERIES’ SHIRAZ VIOGNIER 2007, South Australia, 13.5% D, #624494 $15.95 (Tasted November 24, 2008)

A General listing described as “Deep violet colour; blueberry, plum and currant aromas with a hint of anise; fresh, juicy palate with chocolate notes. Serve with grilled bison burgers, lamb or firm cheese.” My notes: There is a violet tinge to the deep ruby colour and a fragrance of smoky blueberry. A thin film with slow tears forms on the bowl. Quite bright on the first sip and a long dry brambly finish with almost a lemon edge to an otherwise silky texture. I’d guess at least 8% Viognier - the website doesn’t give the blend - gives the shiraz a fresh body taking away some berry, pepper and usual fullness. ’Good’ but not ’great’ as a sipper. Should be ’great’ with sausage on a bun, hamburger patties or grilled back ribs. A drink now. Ww84
JEANJEAN SYRAH PRIMEUR 2008, Languedoc, France, 12.5% D, #899948 $9.95 (Tasted November 23, 2008)
A General release not described other than a Nouveau wine by Maison Jean Jean. My notes: A pinkish ruby, light-bodied and light hearted. A nouveau syrah with a perfumed aroma, roses and cream not sweet on the nose nor the palate, nicely balanced and full of cherries. Treat as a rosé altho' OK at room temp - for cold chicken breast sliced on greens, tuna or egg salad sandwiches or hors d’oeuvres of cocktail sausage or shaved ham on crisps. It provided a nice contrast with microwaved sushi (I microwave everything except salad) and should be great with (not szechuan) Asian fare. A special wine priced right and not to be rated but enjoyed. A drink now. WwNR
MIKE WEIR ESTATE PINOT GRIGIO 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 12.5% D, #043364 $15.15 (Tasted November 28, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “Weir follows up the success of his 2006 P.G. with this impressive 2007. Dry and racy, it features juicy citrus, peach and apricot flavours along with floral and a slight spiciness. Richly flavoured with a medium body, it's great as an aperitif or serve with pasta in a cream sauce.” My notes: I tasted this vintage just two months ago and rated it Ww85. I opened a bottle fresh from the LCBO last night to have with roast breaded chicken breast, baked potato and green beans. The aromas were a pleasing blend of straw, apricot and green apple, faint but there. The colour still has a suspicion of peach but the flavours have changed. I missed the light ‘butterscotch and apple’. All that remains is the ‘mild tang’ and a mineral aspect carrying over to the short clay finish. Overall it was a bland white lacking appeal as a sipper and as a meal white did not carry well with the entrée. Perhaps an off bottle… or a later production run. Ww75

SANTI SORTESELE PINOT GRIGIO DOC TRENTINO 2007, Trentino, Italy, 13.0% D, #637603 $12.95 (Tasted November 28, 2008)

A General listing described as “Pale straw colour; apple, pear and lemon aromas and flavours; dry palate with a creamy texture, light to medium bodied with a spicy finish. Serve with shellfish, creamy pasta dishes or as a patio sipper.” My notes: The 2006 and 2004 vintages were previously tasted in April 2008 and February 2006 respectively with consistently good results. This is a pale straw colour with floral aromas and a tinge of honey… didn’t get the pear this time altho‘ there is a tart pear and soft cream in the first sip. These carry over in the finish which is quite long including the delicate cream. Dry, light-bodied but with a modest tang and citrus flavours making this an interesting sipper. It carried itself well with roasted dark chicken quarters and lima beans. Would make an OK sociable sipper with a shrimp ring or shaved ham with breads and would be a good companion to seafood and/or creamy pasta dishes. Not for cellaring, a drink now and a value. Ww85

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Calamus Estate Wines: 6 Tasted of 6

The route to Calamus Estate Winery, especially with brilliant October colours, meanders attractively on the slope of the Niagara escarpment. We went south from Vineland on Victoria Avenue just past Featherstone Estate Winery then left on Sixth Avenue through Ball’s Falls and a slow right onto Glenn Road, a short connecting road from 6th Avenue to 19th Street. A matter of convenience in assigning boundary lines locates Calamus as the only winery in the most southerly sub appellation of Vinemount Ridge, however ~21 of 42 acres on the Ball’s Falls property is cultivated for vines in the terroir of Twenty Mile Bench. The second Calamus vineyard, Bartlett Creek, with ~11 of 14 acres planted with vines, is at the western end of the Beamsville Bench. So far the labels carry the less specific but more prevalent VQA designation of 'Niagara Peninsula'.

From their website: “The varietal breakdown is: 8 acres of Chardonnay, 7 acres of Riesling, 3.5 acres Pinot Gris, 3.5 acres Gewürztraminer, and .5 acre Vidal in whites, with 5 acres Cabernet Franc, 3 acres Cabernet Sauvignon and 1.5 acres Merlot in red grapes and a small amount of Pinot Noir.”
Calamus has a capacity of 8500 cases.

The Ball’s Falls site is quite a work in progress. Extensions to the original dairy barn still show new timbers while inside the tasting room fourteen inch ceiling joists show the marks of their previous owners, telephone repairmen. Well restored the tasting room comfortably serves samples of the 2006 and 2007 vintages. Outside, a portable bottling operation was quickly producing cases of their rosé and meritage wines to be available the next day.

The Calamus wine list shows those available for our tasting. We brought away the X’d whites so we could spend some leisure with them along side a home cooked meal or two.

It was ‘worth the drive to Vineland’ to sample their hospitality and to experience a Winery in the making. If planning a visit to the Niagara Peninsula and to Calamus the Twenty Valley website is an excellent place to start.
When tasted each wine will appear in bold below.
Cheers, Ww


CALAMUS GEWURZTRAMINER 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 12.6% D, #Winery, $13.20 (Tasted October 28, 2008)

Winery notes: Unique aroma of lychee nut, apricot & peach. Flavours of floral rose petal & spice with a lovely long finish. Try with fresh fruit, smoked salmon or Asian cuisine. (RP90-93, Winepointer #17). My notes: A tinge of gold in the glass and a light fragrance of honey and wild floral. If served chilled let go slightly off chill for a smooth texture and flavouring of spice, apricot and crushed stone fruit, medium-bodied The finish is long with a buttery edge and lasting spice and stone fruit flavours. An interesting sipper for an afternoon on a sunny patio with a tray of cheeses and fruit. Pair with grilled whitefish, Chinese fare, or even proscuitto wrapped asparagus. A drink now. Ww89

CALAMUS PINOT GRIS 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 12.2% D, #Winery, $15.20 (Tasted November 2, 2008)

Winery notes: All Canadian Wine Championships 2008 Silver Medal. All about balance. Rich fruit & crisp acidity. Refreshing attack to clean finish. Delicious for sipping & dining… Rod Phillips (RP87-89, Winepointer #6). My notes: Shows as a crystal clear, pale gold tinged a delicate peach in a tulip glass - very appealing. Just off chill the fragrance is also delicate, I’d say a peach fuzz or stone fruit tone followed by flavours of fresh apricot. I’d swear there’s some sweetness, but it’s only a suspicion, in the long finish. A lightly tart sipper by itself or with bacon wrapped scallops, crab or lobster, fresh oysters or pair with grilled telapia done in a tomato and pepper sauce. An elegant white for the dinner table. Ww90

CALAMUS WHITE 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 12.3% D, #Winery, $12.20 (Tasted November 2, 2008)

Winery notes: Lovely versatile blend of Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris. Great balance of fruit & acidity with a long full finish. Sip on its own or serve with light savoury dishes. (RP87-89, Winepointer #17). My notes: A pale blond colour with almost imperceptible aromas, I’d say a fruit blossom and spice combination. The texture is nicely rounded with flavours that hint at green apple without a full tartness but balanced with a mild sweetness. The fullness in the finish fades slowly leaving a dry apple seed pithiness until the next sip. For me and as a sole sipper this has an unusual flavour blend - didn’t pair with either apple or bosc pear slices or cheeses from edam, aged cheddar to bella blu… might go well with mussels in a curry sauce or a chorizo and mushroom pie. A drink now. Ww85

CALAMUS RIESLING 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 12.0% D, #Winery, $16.20 (Tasted October 30, 2008)
Winery notes: Luscious fruity, just off dry speaks to the quality of the 2007 vintage. The flavours ripe & elegant mesh with crisp acidity. Rod Phillips, (RP87-89, Winepointer #6). My notes: A very slight lanolin and lemon bouquet and pale golden colour - must be off chill for best sniffing. ‘Mesh with crisp acidity’ is right on, the hint of sweetness being well masked by a bright accent to delicate nutty flavours. Not a demonstrative riesling making this for anyone looking for a refreshing sipper. Nicely rounded and leaves a clean reminder on the palate. Have with seafood appetizers or with mild cheeses. Pair with sole, pickerel or lobster pieces. Cellaring a short time, two years, may bring out some highlights not yet developed. Ww87

CALAMUS VIDAL 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 12.3% D, #Winery, $11.20 (Tasted October 29, 2008)

Winery notes: Tropical fruit nose and delicate floral notes. Slightly sweet finish. My notes: A pale golden blond colour and having the faintly sweet fragrance of lemon blossoms. The first sip shows a smooth texture and polite nip followed by flavours of sweet grapefruit with a slight stone fruit tone, medium-bodied. The long finish reveals a touch of sweetness with soft flavours that fade slowly. A sociable sipper - as an aperitif or with fresh oysters or a dim sum luncheon. Pair with freshwater fish, Asian fare or oysters Rockefeller. A straight forward drink now and a value for an off-dry house white. Ww85

CALAMUS VIDAL ICE WINE 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 11.6% D, #Winery , 200ml $20.20 (Tasted November 3, 2008)

Winery notes: Wonderful… honey, apricot and apple pie texture….. It’s delicious. Lynn Ogryzlo, Niagara Express, Nov. ‘07. My notes: An elixir the colour of a fine brandy and aromas of honeyed bosc pear. I prefer to use a wide necked amarula glass so my nose can almost touch the surface. A high viscosity gives a smooth texture and slight acid a sharp edge to an otherwise concentrated pure fruit juice. Finishes moderately long leaving a brightness behind. Have with a fruit tray or pour over mango gelato for a treat. Cellaring for four to eight years will likely add caramel tones. I’d say the sugar code is between 6 and 8. Save for an occasion and crowd that is looking for a special addition to a fruity dessert. Ww94

(RP - Rod Phillips)