Monday, January 14, 2008

Bordeaux Reds, 2008 (12): Canada(5); Chile Blend; France(6)

BORDEAUX: Positioned near the west coast of France, the Bordeaux region (2) stretches from the mouth of the Gironde at the Atlantic to the southeast along both banks of the Garonne river which runs to the south and along the Dordogne river running easterly. The towns of Sauternes in the south and St. Foy-la-Grande in the east include roughly 100 square kilometres of a somewhat triangular land area with the city of Bordeaux in the centre straddling the Garonne.

The coastal forests protect the inland slopes in the winter with the river waters cooling them in summer
months. Seldom is there a frost severe enough to threaten the vines. About half of the wines produced are red.
The varieties of soil and climate along these tributaries of the Gironde contribute much to the character of Bordeaux wines... and for reds, the blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and often Malbec is at the discretion of the winemakers that produce thousands of labels with Chateau or Domaine names.

Bordeaux wines for tasting this month are:
  • De Luze Chateau Bel Air 2004 (81) - grapes from the south bank of the Garonne before it meets the Gironde and closer to the city of Margaux
  • Chateau Pey la Tour 2005 (89-1) - close to the city of Bordeaux a bit north of the Garonne river
  • Chateau de Bel-Air Lalande de Pomerol 2004 (88) - located northeast of the city of Bordeaux across the Dordogne river
  • Chateau Timberlay 2005 (80) - located in Saint-Andre-de-Cubzac 2005 - north of the Dordogne and west of St Emilion
  • Chateau Plaisance Premiere Cotes de Bordeaux 1999 (91-2) - near the city of Bordeaux
  • Chateau Suau Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux 2003 (84) - the vineyards are further southeast of the city of Bordeaux in the town of Capian
Many wineries in Canada emulate the Bordeaux style by blending the same varietals. The ones below are to be tasted this month to see if any traits comparable or unique can be singled out between the two geographic regions. They are from wineries in the Niagara Peninsula and roughly in the same price bracket.
  • Hillebrand Estate Trius Red 2005 VQA (86) - the winery is located in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake
  • Chateau des Charmes Estate Bottled Cabernet/Merlot 2004 VQA (84) - grapes are from estate vineyards located in the area of St. David's near Niagara-on-the-Lake
  • Willow Heights Tresette Reserve 2005 VQA (84) - grapes from the Lincoln Lakeshore properties, in Vineland
  • NCT Winery Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2004 VQA (86) - the Vineyards aren't detailed other than near Niagara-on-the-Lake
  • Jackson-Triggs Proprietors' Grand Reserve Meritage 2001 VQA (90-1) - with vineyards near Niagara-on-the-Lake
And a similar blend from Chile:
  • Vina Chocolan Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere/Merlot 2004 (83) - grapes selected from vineyards in the Maipo Valley

CHATEAU PLAISANCE PREMIERE COTES DE BORDEAUX 1999, Bordeaux, France, 12.5% XD, CP143-2210 $20.67 (Tasted January 23, 2008)

The website says "This wine has a robe with a dark garnet color, a vanilla and very ripe red fruit nose and a very fruity and powerful mouth. High ageing potential between 10 and 15 years. Perfect to drink with red meats, game and dishes with elaborate sauce and cheeses..." Robert Parker gave the 1999 vintage 84 - 86/100. It's unfiltered. My notes: Cellared in October 2002 this was described as a 'terrible dry sipper with nothing much going for it' in previous tastings, the last being December 2006. Now a warm cedar, plums and cherries fill the senses with aromas and slight tang. The colour is deep ruby with a garnet twist and legs run long on the glass... a terrific introduction to a wine. Smooth with a slight nip and minty brightness and flavours hard to separate: cherry vanilla tones but delicate with textures being the highlight. This is a delightful sipper with enough fine tannins to leave a dry finish of faint fruit. Have with anything meaty: turkey to prime rib, meatballs in a tomato pasta to a grilled ham steak. Medium-bodied with a polite presence and nothing to prove in further cellaring. 91-2

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, 13.1% XD, #594002 $23.95* (Tasted January 22, 2008)

A Vintages release described as "Deep ruby colour with aromas of smoke, leather, blackberry, blueberry and a touch of bell pepper. It's dry, medium full-bodied with cassis, spice and vanilla flavours balanced by lively acidity and medium tannins. It?s well structured with a medium-long finish. (Vintages panel, Oct. 2006). The back label lists the blend as 40% cab sauv, 40% merlot and 20% cab franc which can vary each vintage. My notes: *The current vintage available (2004) is priced at $24.95. Purchased from the winery in February 2004 and last tasted April 2007 with the comment 'Super stuff!'. This has a great dense ruby colour with long legs and aromas of plums, blackberry fruit and a whiff of vanilla. Lightish medium-bodied, a soft nip, fine tannins and taste resembling a flavourful berry coulis with a cedar and spice tinge, all well integrated. The finish is long carrying the flavours until the delicate dry end. Not demonstrative as a sipper but having a clean flavourful brightness. Pair with red meats not too highly flavoured... perhaps including a ham steak with cloves and a sweet sauce. This could be past cellaring and even starting to decline. 90-1

CT WINERY CABERNET SAUVIGNON/ MERLOT 2004 VQA, Niagara on the Lake, Canada, 13.3% XD, #040741 $18.80 (Tasted January 22, 2008)

A Vintages release on April 28, 2007 described as "The nose displays ripe blackberry, black pepper, red currant aromas with a hint of cinnamon. It's dry, medium full-bodied, mouthfilling with silky tannins and a seam of acidity providing very good balance. Great length. (VINTAGES panel, March 2006)." My notes: A Niagara College wine produced under the tutelage of Jim Warren. The source vineyards are unkown and the blend isn't available from the label or website - I'd say a 50-45 blend maybe with some viognier thrown in. A black cherry skin colour, rich and dense, somewhat sombre tint with moderate legs when swirled. A delicate aroma of black cherries, black currant, a faint raspberry or two and soft humidor background. Light-bodied, bright from the first sip with only a slight nip and red cherry and 'hint of cinnamon' flavours. The finish is long, light on the palate ending with red cherry and slight mint, not drying and building to 'delectable' if unsullied by nibbles. A sociable sipper, not aggressive or bold. My glass showed sediment so decanting may be in order. Pair with prime rib, pork, pheasant or partridge, capon or a tomato pasta. Cellaring up to four years should be good for it. 86

Niagara, Canada, 13.0% XD, #222372 $19.95 (Tasted January 21, 2008)

A Vintages release October 13, 2007 described as "Paul Bosc Sr. and family have been at the vanguard of quality wine production in Ontario for nearly thirty years. This Bordeaux-style blend has received consistent critical raves. Medium full-bodied with aromas of black cherries, plums, pepper and smoke, this wine is deep, dark and complex. An exceptional wine to match with lamb chops or beef tenderloin." Their winemaker says "Cabernet-Merlot, is a classically styled blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc that has been aged for one year in French oak barrels. The resulting wine is complex with flavours of dark chocolate, raspberry and cassis... Ready to drink now, but will continue to develop in the bottle for 5-10 years." My notes: There's no indication of the varietal percentages on the label or website - I'd say 40% cab sauv, 40% cab franc and 20% merlot. The colour is of ripe black cherries, a very appealing dense ruby, and a delicate aroma of smoky black cherries, rich and warm. An initial brightness and fine tannins on the palate from the first sip - no nip. Medium-bodied, with flavours of red cherries and slight tars leading to a fairly short finish ending bright and dry. The 'one year in French oak' isn't apparent to me... more of an American oak influence. A red to accompany red meats: grilled, roasted or baked, spiced but not too highly. This comes across as a young wine or perhaps from young vines which a few years cellaring may develop into a $20 red. 84

CHÂTEAU SUAU PREMIERES COTES DE BORDEAUX 2003, Capian, France, 12.5% XD, #943555 $19.80 (Tasted January 20, 2008)

A Vintages release on January 19, 2008 described as "Château Suau was built in the 15th century as a hunting lodge for the Duke d'Épernon. Today the only thing that is 'hunted' on this property are their well-respected wines. This is made with equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Try it with roast beef au jus." My notes: A colourful bowl full of purple tinged ruby and a soft aroma of plum and cherry, smoky and vanilla tinged. A medium-bodied fullness fills the palate with dry berries, slight tobacco and a herbal edge. The herbs fade away as a dry finish. This is an elegant red with flavours and texture building with each sip - a meal red and OK to sip if served ahead of prime rib with veggies, gravy and yorkshire pudding. Would also work with a cheese tray, lamb or pork chops, or dark fowl. A drink-now although could cellar without harm for a few years. Unless you prefer a restrained european style, albeit a beautiful colour, I find this priced a few dollars high for a value. 84

VIÑA CHOCALÁN RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON/CARMENÈRE/MERLOT 2004, Maipo Valley, Chile, 13.5% XD, #048272 $13.85 (Tasted January 19, 2008)

A Vintages release on January 19, 2008 described as "Chocalán... means yellow blossom and was the ancient aboriginal name for the area where this winery is located in the Maipo Valley. Chilean businessman Guillermo Toro launched his first vintage from this new family winery in 2003. Also known as the Blend Reserve, the 2004 vintage is comprised of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Carmenère, 16% Merlot, with small amounts of Cabernet Franc (6%), and Malbec (3%) filling out the balance. Fruit-forward, with a firm structure, this full-bodied wine is an excellent value." My notes: Except for the substitute of carmenere this could be a Chilean style Bordeaux. A deep purple ruby with warm aromas of black cherry and plum mellowed with a hint of coffee. Flavours carry a cherry, raspberry and minty chocolate along, full-bodied and dry. Has a velvet finish with slight mint, a touch of tobacco and bright raspberry. The carmenere or perhaps the Maipo terroir makes this unusual, easily distinguishable from a Bordeaux - too bright and bold. Have with well seasoned steak, a T-bone with onions or portabello mushrooms. I would cellar for a few years rather than drinking now although it's liable to flatten out - as if the malbec content is understated. Interesting but, for me, not a sipper - a good value for a meal red. 83

WILLOW HEIGHTS TRESETTE (MERITAGE) RESERVE 2005 VQA, Vineland, Canada, 13.0% D, #049973 $19.80 (Tasted January 17, 2008)

A Vintages release on September 15, 2007 described as "The term meritage refers to the use of Bordeaux varietals. Willow Heights' Tresette is dominated by cabernet sauvignon (66%) with cabernet franc (24%) and merlot (10%). It has classic aromas of dark fruits, with accents of licorice and cedar. The palate is round with soft tannins and a long silky finish. This is a great cheese wine." My notes: Contrary to Vintages the label claims 58% merlot, 25% cabernet sauv and 17% cabernet franc - so who knows? The discrepancy doesn't stop tasting though. This has a black cherry colour somewhat opaque in the glass, with long legs - more merlot in nature than cab sauv. Letting air twenty minutes the aroma has a predominant French oak influence with some new leather, a few black currants and berries. A fine tannic dryness hits the palate before flavours of earthy forest floor, faint cedar and berries. Medium-bodied with a soft texture finishing dry in the mouth, fading slowly leaving the earthiness to linger. A meal red rather than a sipper, although when the taste is acquired it's OK. Have with prime rib or saucy stews, a rack of lamb or turkey legs with sage dressing. Cellaring up to four years should smooth to silky and develop more character. 84

LUZE CHATEAU BEL AIR 2004, Bordeaux, France, 12.0% D, #665430 $11.05 (Tasted January 10, 2008)

A General listing described as "Light-medium ruby colour; medium intensity blackberry, cherry, oak spice and tobacco aromas; medium body, flavours of red cherry, plum, tobacco and oak spice with a medium length finish. Serve with gourmet pizza with smoked chicken." Gord Stimmell gives it an 88/100 saying "Classic blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot, this is definitely the best value red Bordeaux under $12 on shelves. Aromas of earth, blackberry, black cherry, tobacco and a hint of violets. Flavours are sweet-edged blackberry and cedar with a morello cherry finish. Nice fruit dimensions with hints of complexity." My notes: A ripe black cherry red colour with faint aromas of cherry berry, a slight pepper and a herbal note. The flavours are light red cherry with a refreshing brightness, an even fine tannin and herbal edge. The finish is short starting with cherry but quickly ending as a dry layer of cherry pits. This is what would be expected from a low priced house wine - some initial interest without developing further but no flaws. Have with party sausages, pastrami cubes, chicken wings, stuffed mushrooms or with turkey, lamb or pork entrees. Not cellarable. For stocking an open bar but not recommended for friends or family. 81

CHÂTEAU PEY LA TOUR RESERVE DU CHATEAU 2005, Bordeaux, France, 14.0% D, #925859 $22.95 (Tasted January 14,2008)

A Vintages release on Ovtober 13, 2007 described as "Elegant and rich, the Château Pey La Tour has raspberry and blackcurrant flavours with hints of mint and earth leading to a chewy, medium finish. Primed for prime rib, it will continue to reward with two to five years of cellaring time." Toronto Life gives it an 89/100 saying "Great vintage unveils its charms. Very deep colour. Classy and cool nose of perfectly ripened blackberry-currant, flecked with dried herbs, tobacco and vanilla. The wine is medium weight, stylish, elegant. Ripe, dry tannin. Very good length. Best 2009 through 2012." The back label gives the blend as: 89% merlot, 8% cabernet sauv and 3% petit verdot. My notes: A deep ruby with a welcoming soft aroma of plums, black cherries and slight vanilla. The flavours have a twist of mint, very soft tannins and a mix of bright red cherries, a touch of blackberries and tobacco. A long finish of sweet edged fruit fades slowly. A pleasant sipper, definitely not bold but delicate. Have with prime rib, a lightly seasoned aged rare steak, or a flavourful stew. Could cellar four years but drinking well now. 89-1

CHÂTEAU DE BEL-AIR LALANDE DE POMEROL 2004, Bordeaux, France, 13.0% XD, #061754 $20.80 (Tasted January 10, 2008)

A Vintages release on January 5, 2008 described as "Here's an eminently affordable Pomerol neighbour. Château de Bel-Air owner, Stephen Adams, wisely hired the legendary Michel Rolland as consultant winemaker for this property. This well-crafted wine has dark berry flavours and a tightly knit structure that suggests excellent ageing potential (3 to 5+ years). If you wish to enjoy it tonight, decant it for two hours and then match it to a rare roast beef dinner with Yorkshire pudding." The label describes this as a merlot (75%), cab franc (15%), cab sauv (5%) and malbec (5%) blend. My notes: A ripe black cherry colour with faint aromas of subdued blackberries, some cherries and a light smoky oak. Air for thirty minutes and serve in a broad bowled glass for richness of colour and development of aromas. Medium-bodied, the flavours are silky textured with some cedar, some berries, fine tannins and a balanced tartness. Has a long finish that is silky, a faint fruit with lingering earthy mushrooms. A non-intrusive sipper, there and continually pleasing. Have with prime rib hold the horseradish, rack of lamb with mint sauce, richly sauced beef bourgignon. Cellaring up to four more years is possible. Much lighter than the Chilean reds Michel Rolland has produced but if you like a lightish red this could be quite a value especially after cellaring. I would have in for most of my friends. 88

CHATEAU TIMBERLAY 2005, Bordeaux, France, 13.0% D, #030072 $15.85 (Tasted January 13, 2008)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby/garnet red colour; complex bouquet of prunes, bell peppers, cedar and smoky notes; rich flavours follow nose, balanced long finish and firm tannins. Serve with rack of lamb or beef wellington." The back label says it is a blend of merlot (80%), cabernet sauvignon (10%) and cabernet france (10%). ... very soft and fruity character (blackberry and black currant) with attractive woody and spicy overtones." My notes: One of the seven Chateaux of Domaines Robert Giraud . This has a faint aroma of blueberries and smoky wood chips. The colour is a deep ruby somewhat sombre in the glass. Light-bodied, a good balance of tart, tannin and light berry fruit, no currant that I could sense and certainly not 'rich'. The finish is moderate, bright with some smoky berry overtones. A lightly flavoured sipper, OK but not that interesting. It did not become involved with a seared sirloin steak and mushrooms, more laid back. Should be marginal with a prime rib or roasted chicken breast. Not for cellaring - a drink-now and not a value. 80

HILLEBRAND ESTATE TRIUS RED 2005 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 13.5% XD, #303800 $19.95 (Tasted January 16, 2008)

A General listing and a Vintages Essential described as "Hillebrand selects their best Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes to create their famed Bordeaux-style blend. It displays complex aromas of cedar, black currant, bell pepper and tobacco leading to juicy black fruits flavours and a medium finish... " The website says "We had a dream to create a wine that would set a new benchmark for winemaking in Niagara-on-the-Lake. And in 1989 at Hillebrand Winery, Trius was born. We selected the best Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes and perfected the art of the blend in a wine simply called 'Trius Red'. Just two vintages later, Trius Red won the trophy for the best red wine in the world at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London, UK... " The tasting notes from the website say "Round and full-bodied with aromas reminiscent of black currants and red berries. A clean spiciness combined with a long finish results in an elegant and harmonious red wine. Rated 4/5, Tony Aspler." and "Rated 89/100 - One of the best Trius' ever! Evan Saviolidis". My notes: A blend of 47% cabernet sauvignon, 44% cabernet franc and 9% merlot. Air for twenty minutes or decant to allow a young fresh aroma of berries, a slight vanilla and smoky oak to develop. This has a brilliant ruby colour that deserves a broad bowled glass. It's light-bodied with fine tannins, a crisp red cherry flavour and a slight herby edge with a faint tar. The finish starts with a fresh minty berry and fades slowly leaving a tangy cherry residual and smoothness on the lips. Needs a few years to mellow, a chance to integrate flavours and develop more herbal nuances, perhaps another four in the cellar. 86

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