Sunday, February 10, 2008

Wine 101 cont'd...

About once a month an LCBO glossy is delivered with my daily Globe & Mail. They are well done and I believe their heart is the right place bringing readers tips on how to select a wine for the right meal or occasion and providing related recipes. And there's no 'buts' when I say that...

I've listed the wines from the latest issue - WINE 101: A Practical Guide to the World of Wine, received Feb 9th - with the Ontario Sale price and a US price where I could find one. Then I Googled for a rating (a rating in brackets is for a previous vintage). The vintage shown is from the bottle image in the glossy, however, stock on shelves at each Outlet can vary at times. I couldn't find them all... but most.
  1. Terrazze della Luna Trentino Pinot Grigio 2006, #065417, $15.70, 82/100 Ww
  2. Azzaro Syrah 2006, #064626, $12.85, 82/100 Ww
  3. Phillipe de Rothschild Viognier 2006, #619221, $10.90, 86/100 TL
  4. Dopff &Irion Crystal d'Alsace Sylvaner 2006, #035667, $11.85, 82/100 c.c, $10US
  5. Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc 2007, #340380, $9.60, $9US
  6. Ruffino Orvieto Classico 2006, #031062, $10.05, 85/100 TL
  7. Henry of Pelham Baco Noir VQA 2005, #270926, $13.65, 85/100 TL
  8. Argento Malbec 2007, #591693, $10.10, (85/100 AG 2006)
  9. Masi Serego Aligheri Rosso Veronese 2005, #447326, $14.35, 88/100 TL, 84/100 Ww
  10. Yvon Mau Merlot 2006, #336743, $8.45
  11. Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir 2006, #465435, $20.00, $9-$11US
  12. Yellow Tail Merlot 2006, #625350, $12.20, 84.2/100 c.c, 86/100 CT $6-$7US
  13. Errazuriz Estate Carmenere 2006, #016238, $11.85, 88/100 TL
  14. George DuBoeuf Beaujolais 2006, #212480, $12.15, 86/100 TL, $7US
  15. Castillo de Almansa Reserva 2003, #270363, $10.85, 87/100 TL,
  16. Chateau Timberlay 2005, #030072, #030072, $15.85, 80/100 Ww
  17. Francois Pelissie Croix du Mayne 2004, #028548, $15.75, 86/100 TL
  18. Cellier des Dauphins Carte Noire Cotes du Rhone 2005, #110197, $9.85, 83/100 Ww
  19. Montecillo Crianza la Rioja 2003, #144493, $13.65, 84/100 TL, $9US
  20. Calvet Reserve Merlot-Cab Sauv 2003, #044032, $12.35, 86/100 TL
  21. Peller Estate French Cross Pinot Grigio, #016394, $9.85 (1Litre), less than 80/100 TL
  22. Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio Trentino 2006, #302380, $11.85, (86/100 TL 2004), $8US
  23. 20 Bees Pinot Grigio 2006 VQA, #060707, $13.05
  24. Rosemount Diamond Blended Semillon Chardonnay 2006, #248971, $10.95
  25. Lindemans Bin 65 2006, #142117, $10.90, 85.3/100 c.c, 87/100 TL, (88/100 AG 2005), $8US
  26. LaTour Chardonnay 2006, #055533, $15.35, 86/100 TL
  27. Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, #251876, $15.85, (86/100 AG 2005)
  28. Feudo Arancio Syrah Sicilia 2005, #621730, $10.80, 89/100 c.c, (88/100 AG 2004), $10US
  29. Fontanafredda Barolo 2001, #020214, $29.85, (90/100 TL 2003)
  30. Naked Grape Shiraz NV, #665216, $10.25, 85/100 c.c, $10US
  31. XOXO Shiraz Cabernet NV, #016568, $9.95, 72/100 Ww
  32. Cave Spring Riesling 2006 VQA, #234583, $14.10, 85/100 TL, $12US
  33. Deinhard Bereich Bernkastel Green Label 2006, #008094, $10.05
  34. Strewn Two Vines Riesling Gewurztraminer 2006 VQA, #467662, $11.95, 80/100 Ww
  35. Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut NV, #088591, $12.35, 85/100 c.c, 87/100 AG, $11US
  36. Henkell Trocken Dry Sec NV, #122689, $12.55
  37. Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Rosé NV, #019661, $76.55
  38. Fetzer Valley Oaks White Zinfandel 2006, #517458, $9.90, 85/100 c.c, $5US
  39. Fetzer Valley Oaks Zinfandel 2006, #234617, $15.15, (86/100 TL 2003)
  40. Wild Horse Canyon Merlot 2005, #054411, $12.95, 85/100 TL, 85/100 AG
TL - Toronto Life, AG - Anthony Gismondi, Ww - (This Blog), c.c -, CT - CellarTracker

I hope you found some value in the information.

Cheers, Wino Will

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Niagara Sub-appellations

I seldom shop for groceries with my better half now. This has been in transition over the last two years as more information reaches the public about transfats, calories, carbs and sodium and their effect on obesity, diabetes, etc. The time to shop has tripled as labels are read and reread looking for meaning in food content. I'm extremely thankful someone does the reading. And now I'm becoming the same with wine labels... not for nutritional content but for grape sources and 'quality' levels. It started as a curiosity... to see if I could find value more consistently.... and has been and still is a steep learning curve.

VQA Ontario has the provincial responsibility for regulating the Ontario wine industry largely under VQA legislation and for what you and I see as a label on a wine bottle. In 2005, regional areas were defined for the Niagara Peninsula with the naming of ten sub-appellations. Two 'super' (my term, not VQA) sub-appellations group several of the ten together under their banner. Since 2005 wineries could choose to put a sub-appellation on a wine label to identify the varietal character attributable to a specific terroir, climate and land topography - and many have.
For me, it's important to relate an area to a wine's taste or character. I could, as some do, just match my mood or occasion to a wine. This would simplify things... especially if someone makes it his business to do the matching for me. Then terroir doesn't really matter, does it? Let the 'winemaker' do whatever with whatever to match the flavour and texture of his mix to a set of commercialized moods. But that's not for me... I want to know where the winemaker got the grapes. It would be great if each of us, well maybe just me, could stand with the winemaker as he puts his hand on a clump of grapes, picks a couple, chews and spits then declares, 'It's time!'.
The VQA website summarizes my standpoint well: "Wine has been associated with its point of origin for hundreds of years and is often referred to as an “expression of place”. ... The "terroir" — the combination of location, soil, topography and climate — is an important indicator of the character of a wine and in many cases, its quality." Yes... Location, location, location.
The terroirs of Niagara have now been well researched and defined. VQA Ontario publishes information in the form of a topographical map showing concisely the twelve sub-appellations. I've 'borrowed and edited' this map as shown. You can get the real thing on a visit to a Niagara winery, uncluttered by my markups. Among the vast amount of information their website also provides descriptons of the sub-appellations with notes on soil and climatic effects - in all, an interesting read. When I visit each area in the coming months either at an LCBO outlet or on wine country trips, I will be able to relate wineries and vineyards to sub-appellation boundaries and land formations. Although sub-appellations are not shown (yet?), a touring map is available for downloading from the Wines of Ontario website.
Now to the Appellation hierarchy, from generic level to specific:
  • The generic level is Ontario: 'VQA Ontario VQA' indicates that grapes (see Varieties for detail) from anywhere in Ontario can be used in the production of the wine. An example is Mike Weir Estate Pinot Gris 2006, #043364
  • The next level includes the Niagara Peninsula, Pelee Island, Lake Erie North Shore and the latest, Prince Edward County. For a wine labelled 'VQA Niagara Peninsula VQA', 85% of the grapes must originate in the area bounded by the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, just south of the escarpment and up to Winona (almost Hamilton). The remaining 15% can be from anywhere in Ontario.
  • 'Super' sub-appellations: For wines labelled with either 'VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake VQA' or 'VQA Niagara Escarpment VQA':
    • Niagara-on-the-Lake - 85% of the grapes must be from the area bounded by the Niagara River, Lake Ontario and east of the Welland Canal and down to the 405. The remaining 15% must be from the Niagara Peninsula. This area includes sub-appellations Niagara River(1), Niagara Lakeshore(2), Four Mile Creek(3), and St. David's Bench(4).
    • Niagara Escarpment - 85% of the grapes must be from within the three sub-appellations: Short Hills Bench(7), Twenty Mile Bench(8) and Beamsville Bench(9). The remaining 15% of the grapes must be from the Niagara Peninsula.
  • That accounts for seven sub-appellations. The remaining three are:
    • Creek Shores(5) - the area roughly bounded by Lake Ontario, Twelve Mile Creek, Twenty Mile Creek and Jordan Harbour and King St. (RR81).
    • Lincoln Lakeshore(6) - the area roughly bounded by Lake Ontario, Winona Road, Jordan Harbour, Twenty Mile Creek and King St (RR81).
    • Vinemount Ridge(10) - the largest sub-appellation, from south of the 'super' sub Niagara Escarpment (sub-appellations Short Hills Bench, Twenty Mile Bench and Beamsville Bench) and extending south from the top of the escarpment.
  • When any of the ten sub-appellations is named on the front label 100% of the grapes must come from that area.
Hope this has been useful,
Cheers, Ww

Friday, February 01, 2008

February Whites, 2008(2): Canada Pinot Blanc; Italy Pinot Grigio;

BORGO CONVENTI PINOT GRIGIO 2006, Fruili, Italy, 13.5% XD, #013276 $16.85 (Tasted February 6, 2008)

A Vintages release on February 2, 2008 described as "The mineral-rich marl (limestone and clay soil) of Collio is one of the prime reasons northern Italian Pinot Grigio has become so revered. The Ruffino family, believing in the grape and the region, purchased the Borgo Conventi estate in 2001. Ruffino immediately expanded the area under cultivation but has successfully been able to preserve this small estate's attention to detail. Match with steamed mussels with garlic and chorizo sausage." The website says "Colour: Straw yellow with light coppery hues. A fragrant bouquet, intense and complex with notes of wild flowers and ripe pear with a finish which is characterised by hints of bread crust. Delicate and fragrant, tasty and harmonious with a long lingering after taste." My notes: A Ruffino wine with a light straw hue, no copper, and floaters as tho' unfiltered. The aroma has essence of field flowers mixed with distant crabapple and the first sip brings with a sharpness to wake up the senses. Lightish medium-bodied, flavours of citrus, a touch of grass, a hint of unripe apple, a round texture then a lengthy finish stalky and tart. Should be good with spicy mussels, garlic shrimp, not likely oysters tho'. OK paired with a roasted arctic char filet and creamy pasta sidedish. As if from premature grapes crushed with stems and should sit for at least two years to settle the rough edges - then it may be a value. Not a sipper and not recommended. 81

KONZELMANN PINOT BLANC WEISBURGUNDER 2006 VQA, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, 12.0% D, #219279 $10.10 (Tasted February 1, 2008)

A General listing described as "Straw yellow colour; floral, fruity peach & melon nutty tone in aroma; medium body and fruit flavour fresh finish, good food wine. Serve chilled with pasta or vegetarian dishes." Toronto Life gives it an 84 saying "Flinty nose with peach, floral and lemon fruit. Mid-weight, fruity and drier than the off-dry label suggests. A bit coarse. Good length." My notes: Serve off-chill, 12C to 14C. The initial aroma is 'wet sock' which quickly dissipates with a short airing time then a slight pear and apple takes over. A crystal clear light lemon colour and firm flavours of granny smith apple blended with honeydew melon, medium-bodied with a crisp texture. There's a tartness that does a great job of hiding any sweetness except for the slight roundness it leads to a moderately long dry fruity finish. A pinot blanc that has a mind of its own making it an interesting sipper and would be great with shellfish or light meat appetizers and flavourful seafood dishes. It may have a few years cellaring potential and is a real value. 84

February Reds, 2008(13): Argentina Cab Sauv(2), PN; Australia Cab Sauv(2), PN; Canada Cab Sauv, PN; France Blend(2), Syrah; Italy Blend(2)

STRACCALI CHIANTI CLASSICO DOCG 2005, Tuscany, Italy, 13.0% D, #019695 $15.45 (Tasted February 6, 2008)

A General listing described as "Bright medium ruby red colour; aromas of dried herb, cherry, and earth; dry, medium bodied, with fine acidity, good cherry fruit and medium drying tannin structure. Serve with pan fried steak, gourmet pizza, pasta Bolognese." My notes: A Rocca Delle Macie wine, deep ruby with a garnet twist and smoky aromas of plum and ripe berries, albeit faint. A bright sipper with a spicy theme trying to mask the berries although they able to show through. Medium-bodied with fine tannins counterset by a mild acid, finishing light but long. This could be a quaffer with hamburgers, meaty pizzas, italian meatballs in a tomato and oregano sauce. If you prefer a firm chianti a few years cellaring could be worthwhile, still moderate compared to an Australian shiraz say - not robust. I'd have in for friends and family, for sure with something meaty and tomatoey. $10.10 in the US. 84

VALENTIN FAMIGLIA BIANCHI CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.5% XD, #677567 $13.95* (Tasted February 24, 2008)

A Vintages release on February 16, 2008 described as "Has a solid structure, with coffee, plum and currant flavours backed by bittersweet cocoa on the finish. 88/100 (James Molesworth, May 15, 2007). Gord Stimmell gives it 90/100 saying "A fragrant nose of vanilla, cola, black cherry and mocha signals a serious red at a very reasonable price. The flavours mingling morello cherries, plum and cedar are delicious, and the finish shows cocoa powder with a hint of vanilla bean." My notes: I don't recall the 2003 or 2004 as part of a Vintages release so this tweaked my curiosity especially at the *lower price. Blackcurrant, cedar and a whiff of vanilla highlight the nose with good legs on the glass and a dense violet ruby colour. Let air for twenty minutes to an hour. The first sip has firm tannins and berry tartness, full-bodied, and flavours that follow the nose: black currant and tamed oak chips. Finishes bright and drying on the palate with an earthy, spicy, dark berry that lasts for awhile. An OK sipper but with a different emphasis than the 2002, more smoke and less velvet. Pair with anything beefy. A good value with a youthfulness that a few years cellaring should iron out. 89-2

VALENTIN FAMIGLIA BIANCHI CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0% XD, #677567 $15.95 (Retasted February 23, 2008)

My notes: Originally purchased in September 2005... the last tasting was on September 3, 2007 with a rating of Ww92. The colour is still a deep ruby with a light smoky nose of berries and currants. Flavours are a blackberry and black currant blend, firm fine tannins, velvety textures and bold acids balanced with the fruit. A terrific sipper, both interesting and flavourful. The finish is quite drying with an earthy edge, long and positive. Likely plateau'ed or soon will. Have with anything beefy, grilled, roasted or bbq'd. Serve for friends or family anxious for a treat. 90-2

MASI SEREGO ALGHIERI POSSESSIONI ROSSO 2005 IGT, Veneto, Italy, 13.0% D, #447326 $14.35* (Tasted February 14, 2008)

A General listing described as "Rich ruby colour; intense aromas of dry berry fruit, earth and spice notes; dry and medium-bodied with well-balanced with round, dried fruit, raspberry and plum flavours, with spicy notes in the finish. Serve with strong cheeses, pizza, burgers, or meat in a rich sauce." *Regular price is $15.35. My notes: A deep ruby with violet tone colour and very faint aromas of plums and black cherries, warm to the nose, slight smoke and long legs. The first sip has a nip and brightness on the swallow. Flavours are mellow and of black cherries, raspberries and dark chocolate, bright, perhaps not fully developed, with a spicy edge. Medium-body, well balanced - not dominated by the winemaking process. The finish is long full, a fruit compote of berries and apricots. Drinking OK now but perhaps not to its potential - cellaring for up to four years should be good. Have with meaty red pastas, meaty pizzas or cheese filled panzeronis, a T-bone or bbq'd ribs - nothing too delicate. For friends and family at anytime. 84

SYRAH 'VIN DE PAYS D'OC' 2006, Languedoc, France, 13.0% D, #064626 $12.85 (Tasted February 11, 2008)

A General listing described in the Wine 101 glossy as "tastes like ripe black fruits, subtle spices." From 100% syrah, the website claims "... made from vines planted on diverse regions and Mediterranean zones producing exuberant wines dominated by fruit. This produces a richly flavoured, concentrated wine that is red garnet with purple lights with a nose of red fruits: raspberry, currants, red flowers and vanilla. Round in mouth, the taste is ample and supple, with long silky tannins." Gord Stimmell gives it 86/100 although saying "Aromas of mild mace, sage, and slightly smoky black cherry. The flavours are quite weak, with red plum and cherry in evidence, but the finish is a tad bitter, with herbal green tea and pomegranate pips notes. Still it is drinkable, but not very good value." (Note: On the Parker system wines rated 85 and above are more than 'drinkable' being 'very good to excellent'.) My notes: Winemaker Frederic Roger and Paris fashion designer Loris Azzaro partnered to produce the Passion Collection, 2 wines, and the Classic Collection of 6 wines. A clear deep ruby like the colour of ripe black berries, the aroma although having the warmth of sun drenched black fruits lacks a distinct scent. Medium-bodied, well balanced tang and firm tannin with a soft texture of black berries and a faint berry flavouring, with slight smoke. The finish is mostly dry chalk, crushed berry and a thin metallic edge. A passable social quaffer - should please a crowd - without the pepper of a shiraz. A commercial drink-now not for cellaring. Should be better with dark fowl, bacon wrapped mushrooms, portabello caps, hamburgers or pork back/side ribs. Not recommended. 80

DE BORTOLI DEEN VAT 10 PINOT NOIR 2006, South Eastern Australia, 13.5% D, #061622 $15.95 (Tasted February 12, 2008)

A General listing not described. Their tasting notes say: "Grapes from Victoria and New South Wales, has a medium red colour with purple hue and a complex cherry like Pinot fruit aroma with a palate showing good concentration with strong strawberry/spice flavours and hints of maceration." The back label says "... displays concentrated strawberry/spice flavours with some earth characters and soft, yet firm tannins. Enjoy with grilled tuna, salmon, pasta and lighter meat dishes." My notes: Produced for the export market, this has a see-thru ruby colour with a strawberry tint and aromas of crushed strawberries and soft smoke that slowly fill the bowl. Light-bodied, bright first sip, minty, with flavours of new berries mostly straw- with some red cherry. The finish is long, dry leaving some bright fruit remnants to savour. A lightly flavoured quaffer for pre-dinner sipping with or without cheese twists or veggie flatbread nibbles. Pair with planked salmon, cold turkey pieces and lingonberry, grilled pineapple and ham slices. This could be cellared for a few years perhaps acquiring a silky texture and more prominent spice - perhaps wishful thinking. Suitable for family and friends at any time of the day. 86

KATNOOK “FOUNDER'S BLOCK” COONAWARRA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005, Coonawara, Australia, 14.0% XD, #620070 $18.00 (Tasted February 11, 2008)

Toronto Life, gives it an 88/100 saying "A smaller regional winery, Katnook is making serious inroads. This bottling shows a medley of aromas, with cassis, black cherry, eucalyptus, chocolate and vanilla cream from well-integrated oak. Ripe and concentrated. Very good length. Now to 2010." My notes: #620070 is on the General shelves with essentially the same front and back labels as #660332, now delisted. This has a full aroma of berries with a dense blackberry colour, a sombre beauty in a glass - leaves a glass well stained. Is full-bodied, has a tang on the tongue and a suede feel of blackberries, black cherries and spice. Shows some fine tannin in the long finish with mostly blackberries and some currants on the palate. A super sipper if you prefer fruity over bold - this shows its South Australia terroir well. Also should cellar at least five years and show more complexity. Pair with anything meaty, as below - also great with garlic bagel chips and Rosenberg blue. 90-2

KATNOOK “FOUNDER'S BLOCK” COONAWARRA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002, Coonawara, Australia, 13.5% XD, #660332 $17.95 (Retasted February 11, 2008)

My notes: Last tasted April 9, 2007 and previously on the day of Vintages release (October 29, 2005). Noted then as "... A deep purple-red, dense with rich aromas of berries, vanilla, and light peppery spices. Flavour is full, smooth, with ripe berries, plums and dark chocolate. The finish is equally stunning; soft, round on the tongue and full of blackberries... " Everything the same full-bodied although the colour has a touch of adobe, the aroma adds a cedar tone, the flavours are biased to spicy berries. The dark chocolate, now with a bit of mint, is still there and the blackberries are full and rich flowing nicely into a long deep velvety finish. This is the last 2002 in the cellar so will rely on the new vintages to be as good. Have with anything meaty, beef or lamb: braised, grilled, bbq'd and full flavoured. 92-2

Rhone, France, 13.0% D, #259721 $16.75 (Tasted February 6, 2008)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby purple colour; complex aromas of mixed spice, plums, dark berry and pepper with floral notes; dry, medium to full-bodied, well balance with supple tannins, and flavours of white pepper, cassis,black cherry and mineral; good length on the finish. Serve with pepper steak, lamb, grilled portabello mushrooms or seared duck in a cherry reduction sauce." The website says "The 2003 Cotes du Rhone red may be the finest example of this cuvee yet produced. While the blend varies from year to year, it generally includes approximately 50% Syrah, 30-40% Grenache, and the rest Mourvedre... 88-90/100 Robert M. Parker Jr (12/04)." My notes: A deep sombre ruby colour with good legs and, after airing ten minutes, light aromas of floral, tobacco humidor and pepper as the overriding scents. The initial sip is smooth but quickly followed by a tangy pepper and red cherry finishing with an even mix of red cherry, mushroom, slight pepper and woodiness. A touch of mint makes the ending bright with some dryness. A meal red for T-bone, bbq'd pork ribs, rack of lamb, italian sausage in a red tangy pasta. Medium-bodied, old world character with a lot of process and for those preferring this style it may be priced right (and rated higher). A well made conventional red but not a value - cellaring hasn't helped it. 83

LA FIOLE DU PAPE CHATEAUNEUF DU PAPE NV, France, 13.%% D, #012286 $32.60 (Tasted February 4, 2008)

Described as "Garnet ruby red colour; dried berries, sour cherry, sweet fruit, minerals and herbs on the nose with black pepper, olive and clove notes; dry, full-bodied with spice, vanilla and ripe cassis and red berry fruit on the palate." La Fiole describes it as "... Rigorous selection and skillful blend of young and old wines in order to obtain a continuous quality. Garnet red color with brick-red nuances showing a good maturity. Complex nose: dry fruit, wood, truffle, venisson, spices… In the mouth, the wine surprises by its onctuousity at first and its powerful tannins on the end... will improve even more within the next 3-4 years..." The Wine Spectator gives it a 91/100 saying "Saturated ruby purple. Full-bodied. Full-acidity. Lots of fruit. Moderately tannic. Black fruit. Baked fruit, spices. Big aromas showing some pleasant oxidation lead into a silky, rich,... even polished mouthfeel... " My notes: A blend of grenache (80%), syrah (7%), mourvedre (7%) and cinsault (6%). A red plum shade with no brick showing but a pinkish edge and soft, spicy aromas of plums, red berries, a touch of tar and cedar. Very smooth, well balanced fine tannins and acid leaving a bright touch along with blueberries and plums on the palate. Medium-bodied, finishing long with blueberry, a slight cinnamon spice and persistent earthy textures. A natural sweetness doesn't make itself obvious but leaves a velvety roundness on the palate. Have with a mixed cheese tray, pepper pate on crackers, or sausage rolls. Pair with beef bourguignon, prime rib, pork cutlet, rack of lamb or cloved ham steak. Cellaring for several years should be OK. Not my style to be a value. 88

Tupungato, Argentina, 13.0% XD, #507822 $14.25 (Tasted February 3, 2008)

A Vintages release on February 2, 2008 described as "A delicate, floral Pinot Noir with soft cherries and strawberries on the nose. The palate is medium-bodied, fresh and bright with crisp red fruit, smooth, supple tannins and a savoury, spicy-chocolate edge from the French oak." The winemaker says "The 2006 Alamos Pinot Noir has a light ruby red color. The nose is intense and focused, with ripe cherry fruit flavors and delicate floral notes. The mouthfeel is medium weight with a soft, supple texture. The palate is packed with raspberry and plum flavors and light vanilla notes. The finish is clean and fresh with sweet tannins and lively acidity." Natalie MacLean gives it 87/100 noting "A turbo-charged pinot noir for those who like their reds to be macho. Pair with: baked ham, grilled tuna." RP of Winecurrent gives it 4 (of 5) saying "This is a medium-bodied Pinot that delivers solid flavours of dark cherry and red berries in the aromas and palate, with notes of herbs and some fairly subtle spiciness. It has good acidity, making it clean and refreshing, and smooth, gently-gripping tannins... " My notes: Serve in a wide bowl for a see-thru ruby and aromas of fresh crushed strawberries including some leaves, ie. some grassiness - enticing. Medium-bodied with flavours that come on a silky strand of tartness full of strawberry and red cherries. The finish persists with a round soft texture with fine tannin and fruit remnants. A delectable sipper... sip a bottle before supper. Have with a tray of chocolates, any light meat or meat look-a-like, it's a tad thin so not too spicy; ham, pork, turkey, prime rib, planked salmon, garlic shrimp. This should cellar up to four years and perhaps trade some spare fruit for depth and complexities increasing its rating. A good value for a very fresh pn. 88-1

STONECHURCH CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004 VQA, Niagara, Canada, 12.0% D, #065722 $16.40 (Tasted February 2, 2008)

A General listing not described by the LCBO... the back label claims "Stonechurch Vineyards is committed to producing lifestyle wine with quality and integrity in mind. Billy Munnelly says "... Sexy Italian-looking bottles and lipstick smeared labels often mean ‘beware’ but not this time... a fun-style as suggested by [the] packaging... The Cabernet is lively – Beaujolais inspired and laced with vanilla spicy sweetness. Another party sipper or wash-down for burgers or ribs... [and the] ripe, smooth character is more in keeping with something from a much warmer climate. Shades of Yellow Tail!... " My notes: This has a deep ruby hue and leaves light legs on the glass. The nose is soft, faint, sweet cherry-like and a touch of smoke. Very supple texture from the first sip with a good acid and tannin balance but the fruit I anticipated never developed. I'd call it 'hollow'. A light cherry fades quickly leaving a soft texture as a finish... not all that bad as a social sipper but it doesn't bring anything to the party... and it's difficult to imagine its 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, a good portion of Gamay I'd guess. Not a meal red nor is it a cellaring candidate. Not a value, imho. 76

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, 13.5% XD, #200584 $12.05 (Tasted
February 1, 2008)

A General listing described as "Ruby red colour; aromas of light berry, black cherry, red liquorice, a touch of spice/oak & earth; dry, med-bodied with good acidity, light earthy/mineral notes, ripe strawberry & raspberry fruit flavours; quite smooth with soft tannins & a fruity finish. Serve with grilled or poached salmon steaks; vegetable kebabs; pizza; pork; ham; poultry." My notes: The back label reads as if grapes came from 'one of Canada's premier wine growing regions'. The front add-on label is more to it... ' *Cellared in Canada from Imported and Local grapes.' A polished deep ruby with smoky raspberry and watermelon aromas, faint but there. Medium-bodied, a silky first sip with a dry taste of not fully ripened raspberries, stalky enough to make this a marginal sipper. The bit of fruit disappears quickly leaving a rough stalky flavour and dry mouthfeel. Priced low for a pinot noir and it may be OK with a grilled T-bone or burgers and fries but isn't recommended. I'd guess there's something blended with the pinot noir... perhaps (10%?) young cab franc. Not for cellaring and not a value. 78

Burgundy Whites(12): Australia; Canada(5); Chile; France(5)

BURGUNDY: In contrast to Bordeaux where each wine area joins the other in a contiguous land area, Burgundy (#5) is fragmented into separate regions with distinct terroirs and vineyard histories. From Paris the N6 Autoroute runs southwest as much as 300km where it comes to Chablis on the Serein river, the north end of the Burgundy region, and then continues on south. 100km farther southwest Burgundy picks up again following the Saône river stretching from Dijon another 100km southerly to Lyon and the Rhône river. At its widest point at Mâcon it's only about 30km across. Vineyards usually lay beside the river and at times may be just a few hundred yards wide.

Rather than individual Châteaux as in Bordeaux, but not exclusively, Burgundy wines are produced and distributed by négociants who collect barrel or cask lots from the growers. Négociants may also be growers. There are one hundred or so Appellations Controlées in Burgundy. Wine labels detail the region, the village and the ranking of the grapes based on where they came from and give their relationship to the varied terroirs. The best known terroirs from north to south are Chablis, Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune (Côte d'Or), Côte Châlonnaise and Mâconnais, and finally Beaujolais. Of the hundreds of vineyards there are less than forty eligible to be called 'Grand Cru', the highest rank. This is followed by designations of Premier Crus, and Appellation Communale. Bourgogne is used for wines made from grapes of lesser vineyards. Labels tell the story and one has to be familiar with the many villages and communities to determine good from not so good. Because of the limited number of Grand Crus quality wines can often be found at the Premier Cru level.

By regulation, the pinot noir grape makes up all of Burgundy's top red wines and red is three times the volume of whites. Most at the LCBO are well above the $30 level and many are above $100. Gamay is the grape of Beaujolais. Burgundy whites by regulation are based on 100% Chardonnay. The whites selected for this month's tastings are $11 to $15 and all except one are from General listings. Chardonnays from Australia, Chile and Canada thought to be similar in style are included this month as well... also three Aligotés, another Burgundy grape. As each are tasted it will appear in bold:
  • J. Moreau & Fils Bourgogne Aligoté 2006, Ww89 -- G, #032037 $15.05, Labeled from La Croix Saint-Joseph in Chablis.
  • Bouchard Pére & Fils Mâcon-Lugny Saint-Pierre 2006, Ww88 -- G, #051573 $14.70, Labeled Grands Vins de Bourgogne with vineyards in the communities around Mâcon.
  • Hardys Nottage Hill Chardonnay 2006, Ww88 -- G, #283457 $11.00, Winery in McLaren Vale and grapes from South Eastern Australia.
  • Cave Spring Cellars Chardonnay 2005 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ww87 -- G, #228551 $13.05, Grapes grown on slopes below the Niagara Escarpment near Lake Ontario.
  • Henry of Pelham Reserve Chardonnay 2006 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ww86 -- G, #252833 $14.80, Grapes from vineyards possibly including their own on Short Hills Bench.
  • Francois Labet Bourgogne Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes 2005, Ww84 -- V, #041319 $14.85, Vineyards located near the town of Vougeot overlooking Beaune in Côte d'Or.
  • Georges Duboeuf Mâcon-Villages Chardonnay 2006, Ww82 -- G, #110122 $14.15, Grapes are from the the vineyards in the communities around Mâcon.
  • Château des Charmes Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2006 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ww82 -- G, #081653 $13.85, Grapes from vineyards owned or controlled by the winery with wine production at the Chateau.
  • Santa Rita Estate Grown Chardonnay Reserva 2006, Ww82 -- G, #348359 $13.40, Grapes from the Casablanca Valley in Chile.
  • Château des Charmes Estate Bottled Aligoté 2006 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ww80 -- G, #294950 $13.35, Grapes from vineyards owned or controlled by the winery with wine production at the Chateau.
  • Château des Charmes White Label Chardonnay 2004 VQA, Ww74 -- G, #038828 $6.20, Grapes from vineyards in the Niagara peninsula.
  • Les Chapitres de Jaffelin Bourgogne Aligoté 2005 (NR) - G, #053868 $15.85, Vineyards near Beaune.

FRANÇOIS LABET BOURGOGNE CHARDONNAY VIEILLES VIGNES 2005, Burgundy, France, 13.0% D, #041319 $14.85 (Tasted February 10, 2008)

Vintages release on January 5, 2008 described as "Acclaim continues apace for the great 2005 Burgundies. Here's an old vines Chardonnay that shows off the vintage to superb effect. On the nose, it displays apple, pear, mineral and a hint of oak. The whole package is beautifully balanced and ready-to-drink. Try it with an herbed-chicken dish or steamed clams." Dan Kislenko says "The year is the key here; 2005 is considered one of the best in Burgundy in recent memory, and even everyday wines like this show it off. As consumers, we've tended to wander from the classical earthiness of white Burgundy, but it's back in this wine, with a whiff of violets, a toasty nut fell, and focused fruit that comes across as golden pears and apples." My notes: A light golden colour crystal clear and faint floral aromas, violets I think, marginally better offchill -12C. Light-bodied, a distinct mineral first sip and soft tang, flavours of filo pastry and pear with a finish that's long not expressive, a delicate pear and apple, clay ending. Sipping alone brings out the subtle flavours and nose, an elegant white or have with hors d'oeuvres: stuffed mushrooms, an olive paste on saltine, mild/soft cheeses or pair with white fish entrees in a light cream sauce. A 'safe' chardonnay not quite unoaked but almost. Ww84

OUCHARD PERE & FILS MACON-LUGNY SAINT-PIERRE 2006, Burgundy, France, 13.0% D, #051573 $14.70 (Tasted February 6, 2008)

A General listing described as "Medium straw colour; intense fruit, spice, apple & biscuit aromas; generous fruit flavours, with a good long finish. Serve lightly chilled with seabass, sole, or other fish." My notes: No information about this wine was available on the website. A faint aroma of citrus, wild floral and light honey and a light blond colour. The fullness suits the mix of lemon, firm apple, slight biscuit or ripe melon all riding a tart grassy thread. The finish is lengthy silky smooth with fruit and oils lasting 'til the end. If you like a oaked chardonnay it's a sipper... not too aggressively oaked so could be more appealing. Have with light fowl, pork chops in an onion and/or mushroom sauce, roast turkey breast, spicy mussels or garlic shrimp. Has a fullness and acid level that should cellar well improving each year up to four making this a good value. I'd have in for friends and family... but it's definitely a chard. Ww88

GEORGES DUBOEUF MACON-VILLAGES CHARDONNAY 2006, Burgundy, France, 13.0% D, #110122 $14.15 (Tasted February 3, 2008)

A General listing described as "Medium straw yellow colour; aromas of green apple, pear, hazelnut and melon; dry, light to medium bodied, well balanced with good fruit flavours on the palate, crisp finish. Serve with garlic shrimp or mussels, poached salmon." My notes: A light golden colour with aromas of clover honey and lemon. A light silk to a tart seam but with a side note of sweet apple and pear. Improves off chill, 14C - 16C. Lightish medium-bodied, finishes dry and bright with almost ripe granny smith, very long unless interrupted by nibbles. Have with quiche tarts, spinakopitas, a mild cheese tray. Was good with chicken pieces in pita with fried veggies. A drink now. I'd have in for friends and family with light seafood dishes: scallops in a cream pasta, grilled shrimp, crusted telapia and baked yam or herb rice. $11 in the US. Ww82HENRY OF PELHAM RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2006 VQA Niagara Peninsula, St. Catharines, Canada, 13.0% XD, #252833 $14.80 (Tasted February 8, 2008)A General listing described as "Bright yellow gold colour; creamy aromas with yellow apple, spicy/vanilla oak, slightly tropical with pineapple notes; dry, full-bodied, well balanced with rich, creamy textured, oaky citrus flavours; long finish. Serve with BBQ salmon; grilled veal; lobster; mushroom alfredo topped with roasted pine nuts." The back label gives the location of the winery as on the Short Hills Bench, however, the grapes used could be from other areas of the Niagara Peninsula including their own estate. Reserve is said to signify grapes are from 'older, lower yielding vineyards' to 'give a more concentrated and complex chardonnay'. Toronto Life gives it an 88/100 saying "This is consistently good, typical Ontario chardonnay year after year. Generous apple, peach and well-integrated wood spice. Medium weight, with balanced acidity and alcohol. Very good length. Now through 2009." My notes: A clear light golden colour and aromas of apple, warmed butter and a touch of vanilla. A tart first sip, medium-bodied with flavours of lemon cream, crabapple and slight oak. The finish is lengthy mostly of a pineapple edge ending on a warm straw note. Flavours build nicely and if your preference is a dry moderately oaked chard there's no reason not to sip - above 10C below 15C. It's better with a pepper pate and garlic bagel crisps, a mixed tray of edam, mild cheddars, provolone, emmental with melba toasts. Better still with a mixed seafood platter, a Valentine's steamed whole lobster with skimmed butter, or shrimp skewers. Cellaring for a few years should give it more complexity. Ww86CAVE SPRING CELLARS CHARDONNAY 2005 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Jordan, Canada, 13.0% D, #228551 $13.05 (Tasted February 13, 2008)A General listing described as "Straw colour; soft peach, pear fruit and vanilla aromas and flavours with spicy notes; dry, medium bodied, balanced acidity with soft vanilla and spice on the finish. Serve with pasta in light cream sauces; chicken; seafood." The website says "... predominately from vines grown in clay till soils along the benchlands of the Niagara Escarpment. These gently sloping terraces, overlooking Lake Ontario, are moderated year round by on-shore breezes. Vinified in stainless steel... captures the freshness and vitality of this classic variety... " My notes: A golden yellow colour with a tart grass, peach fuzz, apple and vanilla aroma - serve 8C to 12C. Nicely tart on the first sip with a round texture, more pronounced at 14C, and flavours of apple and stone peach blended - no sweetness apparent. The finish is light and long with a clean, bright fruit. This sips well, as refreshing as lemonade without the sugar. Better with seafood- or chicken based hors d'oeuvres or with mussels in a cream sauce, oysters Rockefeller, pork chops and apple sauce, firm fish entrees. Cellaring for two more years should take away a youthfulness and introduce some nuttiness although drinking well now. Ww87CHATEAU DES CHARMES ESTATE BOTTLED CHARDONNAY 2006 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, 13.0% XD, #081653 $13.85 (Tasted February 19, 2008)

A General listing described as "Bright yellow gold colour; smoky melon, apple fruit with earthy/mineral notes; medium-bodied with smoky, earthy flavours and balanced acidity. Serve with roasted chicken, pork with mushroom sauce." The website notes "... both barrel fermented and barrel aged in French oak... It has a creamy, buttery texture with melon and pear flavours. The wine is quite rich and can develop in the bottle for a few years... a perfect match for roast poultry, pork, or thick cream pastas." My notes: A soft fragrance of honeysuckle and apple and a light golden colour. Sipping has a very fresh impact on the palate with tart apple, 'extra brut' for sure. The finish has a prominent tart melon, long and crisp and ends somewhat steely. As this goes offchill, +12C, a slight roundness is introduced and is preferred. Not enough ripe fruit to be a solo sipper - have with stuffed mushroom caps, filo stuffed with feta and spinach, cold chicken pieces or Pair with seafood dishes, creamy pastas. A drink-now. Ww82

HATEAU DES CHARMES WHITE LABEL CHARDONNAY 2004 VQA, Canada, 13.0% XD, #038828 375mL $6.20 (Tasted February 1, 2008)

A General listing described as "Clear straw yellow in colour with aromas of Granny Smith apples and a kiss of vanilla. Round and full-bodied with flavours of butterscotch and tropical fruit. Serve with pasta with a rosé & fresh herbs sauce." Tony Aspler gives it four (of ?) saying " A mature Ontario Chardonnay at a great price. Straw colour; mature nose of apples minerals and a touch of oak. Medium-bodied, ripe, full-flavoured, peach-apple flavours backed by oak. Terrific value." My notes: A light straw colour with some 'swirls'. Let air for ten minutes for faint aromas of almonds and lemon. Flavours of soft lemon and tangerine peel with a dry, texture that's slightly rounded - no other nuances that I could discern. The finish has the same soft lemon background now with clay overtones and drying... a shallow sipper. This washed out with a three cheese macaroni and telapia entree so not recommended as a meal white. Not for cellaring. The size is convenient for lunches or supping solo - tho' for me, not a repeat purchase. Ww74

SANTA RITA ESTATE GROWN CHARDONNAY RESERVA 2006, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #348359 $13.40 (Tasted February 12, 2008)
A General listing described as "bright yellow colour; tropical fruit, pineapple and toasty oak aromas with earthy notes; dry, medium-bodied, rich tropical fruit flavours with vanilla notes on the a long finish. Serve with grilled or roast chicken, pork roast, rich seafood dishes." The winemaker notes "... comes from the Casablanca Valley... A fragrant aroma of luscious, tropical fruit and juicy grapefruit are beautifully rounded out by soft vanilla and hazelnut undertones. Wonderful fruit flavors are enhanced by a pleasant acidity and sweetness. An outstanding Chardonnay, elegant and beautifully balanced, concluding in a complex, lingering finish." and of the soil "... alluvial origin with a very fine sandy loam texture, high permeability and scarce humidity retention." My notes: Very light blond colour with a green tint and scent of grassy pear and apple. The flavours include apple, pear and distant honey with a nice tang and very slight roundness. The finish is long, tangy, dry with a delicate touch of apple and pear. An interesting sipper with many flavours going for it. Pair with a shrimp ring and sauce, fresh oysters or a variety of tapas. Entree alternatives are a whitefish entree, wild mushrooms simmered in a chicken broth with sprigs of parsley or thin crust veggie pizza slices. It held its own with roasted chicken thighs and yams. Not for cellaring, a drink-now. Ww82

HARDYS NOTTAGE HILL CHARDONNAY 2006, South Eastern Australia, 13.5% D, #283457 $11.00 (Tasted February 14, 2008)

A General listing described as "Lemon yellow colour; clean light apple & citrus; light oak in aroma & taste, balanced wine with clean finish. Serve slightly chilled with mussels." Their website says "Brilliant clarity and medium straw in colour, the Nottage Hill Chardonnay displays aromas of citrus blossom, melon and peach. Spicy and buttery characters are apparent with a slight oak influence. The palate exhibits citrus, melon and sweet spice flavours, integrated with soft oak. This is an elegant Chardonnay with a creamy mouthfeel and with a lingering finish." My notes: This has become one of my cellar staples. It has a pleasing honey, lemon, apple and firm straw aroma and a light lemon juice colour. Leaves long legs on the glass and has flavours of butter, lemon, crabapple, and ripe honeydew melon. A long finish with a citrus tartness cleansing the taste buds then leaving an zesty smoothness. A full-bodied sipper, with delicate oak touches and enough butter to hold up well with steamed lobster, spicy mussels, planked salmon, chicken/asparagus/rice casserole and grilled seafoods. A versatile chard, well balanced with natural varietal characteristics. It should even improve by cellaring up to two years. A bargain and always available. Ww88

J MOREAU & FILS BOURGOGNE ALIGOTE 2006, Burgundy, France, 12.0% D, #032037 $15.05 (Tasted February 9, 2008)

A General listing described as "Pale straw in colour with delicate aromas of ripe green apple and floral. It is light-bodied, the finish is balanced and slightly nutty. Serve with a seafood platter, as a wine spritzer." The website gives the varietal a writeup but not their Bourgogne Aligoté: " Aligoté is thought to be the oldest Burgundian grape variety. In the Middle Ages it was probably drunk with “harigot”, a mutton and bean stew and/or “alicot”, a poultry stew. Vinified alone or blended with Chardonnay, it can bear the Bourgogne Aligoté Appellation Controlée. Paired with blackcurrant liqueur, it makes a Kir, after Canon Kir, deputy mayor of Dijon, who made this aperitif fashionable after the Second World War." My notes: J. Moreau & Fils belongs to the family of vineyards of Boisset Vins & Spiriteux, an international distributor of French wines. A light golden with soft aromas of wildfloral and slight nuttiness that need a chance to develop, allow to go offchill slightly to 10C - 14C. Has a delectable light honey texture with a very slight natural sweetness well balanced by fruit acids, light pear and apple, medium-bodied. The finish is moderate with the sweet fruit showing on a tart seam, not quite a tooth cleaner. Refreshing by itself, have with seafood appetizers: cocktail shrimps with seafood sauce, oysters on the half shell, shaved proscuitto with black olives or soft cheeses. Better paired with seafood entrees or chicken with a cheesy pasta, turkey, thinly sliced ham. Cellaring should improve this although drinking well now - not aromatic but everything else makes up for it. Ww89

LES CHAPITRES DE JAFFELIN BOURGOGNE ALIGOTE 2005, Burgundy, France, 12.0% D, #053868 $15.85 (Tasted February 18, 2008)


A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; Subtle aromas of mineral,citrus, anjou pear and green apple; Dry, light bodied, with clean apple/lemon flavours, crisp acidity on finish. To serve add cassis for a Kir, shellfish, light seafood dishes, ceviche or pan fried trout." My notes: A light blond colour with aromas of grass and kiwi fruit... a strong acidic, mineral flavour overwhelms on the first sip then settles down into a firm pear apple blending. A long finish with mineral being prominent and a mix mango, pear and apple each sharing equally. An acquired taste -add some Perrier or an oz. of your favourite clear liqueur to settle the tartness - Cointreau works for me. A Kir, named after the mayor of Dijon during WW2 who started the practice, is a before dinner drink of Aligote with a small shot of cassis making it more palatable. It needs something for sure... A specialty wine and not rated (NR). Refer to Pontac at Yahoo for an interesting history of Kir.

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, 12.0% XD, #284950 $13.35 (Tasted February 2, 2008)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; green apple and citrus aromas with floral notes; dry, medium bodied, crisp and refreshing palate with green apple flavours and a pleasant mouthfeel. Serve with mild creamy cheeses, trout with lemon or shellfish." The website notes "Aligoté is a rare vitis vinifera variety native to the Burgundy region of France. Our Aligoté is a straw coloured, medium bodied, dry white wine. It has a bouquet of citrus fruit and green apple with a crisp, refreshing finish..." Jeff Davis, August, 2007, said "Château des Charmes has generally done well with the 'other' Burgundian white variety. This has a fresh and youthful nose of apple and pear with some smoky and floral overtones. Quite vibrant on the palate with racy acidity amid pure fruit tones. Well balanced with good length. Good value. Aligoté is best enjoyed with seafood, particularly shellfish or on its own as an excellent aperitif." My notes: A light golden colour with a nose of honeysuckle, lemondrop and melon. The flavours ride on a seam of acid and has a light smoothness, not quite butter, light-bodied with a faint toasty oak and reminiscent of 'freeze dried' apple flakes. Finishes short, is light and drying. This had difficulty keeping up with a shredded turkey, cheese and vegetable thin-crust pizza. Cellaring for a few years may not harm... just not improve. Not recommended. Ww80