Thursday, March 06, 2008

Languedoc-Roussillon Wines: 11 Tasted of 11

LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON (3) is the largest vine growing area in the world as it stretches from Spain to approaching Nîmes, and is several times larger than even Australia's regions. Roussillon at the western edge has its basis in Spanish history and stretches about eighty kilometres from the Spanish border north and east along the Mediterranean to meet Aude the west boundary of Languedoc. Languedoc takes its name from the historical language, Oc, spoken in the area and runs another one hundred and forty kilometres east and is comprised of the regions of Aude, Hérault and Gard.

Common grape varieties such as Aramon and Alicante have been systematically replaced with nobler grapes. For red it's: Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. For white it's: Macabeu, Clairette, Roussanne, Marsanne, Ugni Blanc, Bourboulenc, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc. Sweet whites are made from Muscat Blanc, Muscat Romain or Grenache.

Growing conditions are extremely good and many new vignerons have established reputations for good but
economical wines. Appellations to look for on labels are: Banyuls, Corbières, Côteaux du Languedoc, Côtes du Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, Grand Roussillon, Fitou, Minervois, Saint Chinian, Pic St. Loup.

Wines selected from this region are listed below and each will appear bold when tasted. Letting any of the following dry reds breathe an hour allows the flavours and aroma to set up and is recommended. Cheers, Ww

(V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other)

  • Château la Clotte-Fontane Cuvée Mathierou 2001, 91-2 -- O, by the Vidourle river four kilometres from Sommières northeast of Montpellier.
  • Dom Brial Euphoric Muscat de Rivesaltes NV, 89 -- V, One of France's most popular VDNs, this one from Rivesaltes is made from Muscat Blanc and quaffed young.
  • Domaine Madeloc Banyuls Cirera 2005, 88 -- V, Banyuls produces France's finest Vins Doux Naturel or VDN made mostly from Grenache Noir often shrivelled to raisins on the vine.
  • Mas Amiel Notre Terre Côtes du Roussillon-Villages 2004, 88-1 -- V, Mas Amiel is the leading independent producer in Maury, a small region within the boundaries of the much larger Rivesaltes appellation and neighbouring Aude.
  • J&F Lurton Domaine des Salices Viognier 2006, 86-1 -- V, based on new vines planted near Carcassonne in western Languedoc.
  • Domaine Ferrer Ribière Tradition Côtes du Roussillon 2004, 85 -- V, located in the Pyrenean foothills in Roussillon
  • Château Saint Auriol Corbières 2003, 82 -- G, the Chateau is three miles from Lagrasse which is located west of Narbonne in the Aude region of Languedoc.
  • Les Terroirs de J P Chenet Minervois 2005, 82 -- G, grapes from north of Lézignan-Corbières at the foot of Montagne Noire. It is named after the village of Minerve.
  • Donnadieu Cuvée Mathieu et Marie St. Chinian 2005, 81 -- V, St. Chinian located in Hérault and northeast of Béziers covers 20 communes supporting over 500 winegrowers. Canada is the second largest importer of St. Chinian wines.
  • J&F Lurton Les Salices Pinot Noir 2005, 81 -- G, vineyards in Minervois region in the foothills of the Montagne Noire.
  • Domaine de Roquemale les Terrasses 2005, 79 -- V, from vineyards located near Villeveyrac just west of Montpellier in Côteaux de Languedoc.


OMAINE MADELOC BANYULS CIRERA 2005, Roussillon, France, 17.0% S, 500mL, #048041 $25.85 (Tasted March 12, 2008)

A Vintages release on February 2, 2008 described as "Many consider Banyuls to be France's answer to Port. Made in a sweet, fortified style, it is rich and robust with tons of dried fruit, spice, raisin and vanilla aromas and flavours. It is said to be one of the great matches for dark chocolate." My notes: A garnet ruby, lustrous with delicate aroma of stewed plums and black cherries. Flavours of sweet black cherries balanced with fine tannin and bright acid, nicely balanced. Finishes nippy and warm with dark fruit sweet on the tongue lasting forever. I'd guess a SC of 12. Served slightly cooler than room temperature (55-60F) with milk and dark chocolate wafers or with caramel drizzled mixed fruit, perhaps as a sipper with maple syrup on hot buttermilk pancakes with grilled sundried tomato sausage pieces. Like a chewy, fruitier, less aromatic Port (eg. Warre's Otima, #566174 $22.75) - a change as an after dinner drink. Cellar up to ten years. 88

DOM BRIAL EUPHORIC MUSCAT DE RIVESALTES NV, Roussillon, France, 15.5% S, 500mL, #040618 $21.80 (Tasted March 21, 2008)

A Vintages release on August 18, 2007 described as "This fortified Muscat from the Roussillon in the south of France does not see any oak and is bottled quickly (6-8 months after harvest) to preserve the aromatic qualities of the grape. It has flavours of fresh grapes, flowers and lemongrass, with a soft supple texture. This is the perfect wine to serve outdoors after a light summer meal with a selection of fresh fruit." My notes: A rich honey spicy floral with a touch of lemondrop and a mid golden clear colour. Served well chilled in a tulip glass the round textured, middling sweet liquid easily slips to the tonsils raising flavours of pear, apple and a touch of spice along the way. Not too tart so sipping comes easily - have as an after dinner sipper or with a nut tray and mixed cheeses. A moderate, fruity finish slightly sweet on the lips. Adds a sidelight poured over orange or mango gelato. An attractive bottle with stopper allows this to travel in mixed company, say with dry sherry or port - offer after a bridge social or on the deck in the summer - with crushed ice perhaps. 89

CORBIÈRES 2003, Roussillon, France, 13.0% XD, #036533 $16.85 (Tasted March 27, 2008)

A Vintages release on July 21, 2007 described as "This blend of Syrah, Grenache and a touch of Carignan displays all the aromatic virtues of Midi reds: garrigue (the unique smell of herbs such as rosemary, sage, lavender and lemon verbena that lingers in the Midi air), raspberry, blackberry and pepper. It is dry, flavourful with a nice cedar/fruit finish. Try it with grilled gourmet sausage." My notes: A deep sombre ruby with aromas of smoky, herb and red cherry, more smoke and herb than cherry. Perhaps a particular terroir as it's difficult to credit this to a common varietal blend and more than a 'touch of Carignan' (imho). Medium-bodied, nicely balanced acid, fine tannin and bright flavours of herbs and a red cherry blend. Finishes long with earth and herb tones leaving just a hint of bright fruit and white pepper. Letting air for an hour allowed some of the brightness to dissipate otherwise it starts cleaning the teeth if sipping. Better with hors d'oeuvres of anything on the fatty side: sausage pieces, bacon stuffed mushroom caps for instance. Even better paired with a beef entree, grilled or roasted, or with full flavoured stews. Personally I did not care for the blend - my BH did tho' - to each his own. 82

MAS AMIEL NOTRE TERRE COTES DU ROUSSILLON-VILLAGES 2004, Roussillon, France, 13.0% XD, #017418 $14.80 (Tasted March 23, 2008)

A Vintages release on March 17, 2007 described as "This blend of Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Syrah is aged for 12 months in oak, a small part of which is new. The resulting wine exhibits aromas of black cherry and cassis. It is a dry, full-flavoured, lush wine that will match many flavourful meat dishes." My notes: A poor cork was a poor start to the tasting of this bottle. After a few minutes gathering the cork floaters in the glass the nose settled from an oak prominence to a sweet plummy berry with a smoky vanilla-licorice tone. The colour is a violet tinged ruby, deep with long legs showing a medium-bodied warm blend of black cherry, licorice, and herbs. Wait ten minutes for some mint to show. As a sipper this is moody full of fruit and herb abstracts, interesting as a change from new world cab sauv or shiraz - not for everyone. Better with anything oily and either flavourful or spicy. The long finish balances herb and smoke with fruit initially with the fruit waning quickly. Likely at peak but with a few years cellaring still. A dry red to pair with grilled beef or racks of lamb, rich game or bbq'd rib racks. 88-1

CHATEAU LA CLOTTE-FONTANE CUVEE MATHIEROU 2001, Languedoc, France, 13.5% XD, CP149-2543 $19.17 (Retasted March 2, 2008)

My notes: Opimian called it right when they said "... has masses of forward fruit that combines the juicy appeal of New World reds with those of revered old vineyards. Richly flavoured and opulent, showing powerfully deep aromas with black fruit overlaid with spicy pepper and black olive, the silky subdued tannis are never far away, their subtlety adding to the lengthy structure of a thunderingly good bottle." although the 'New World' aspect has succumbed to ageing. Cellared December, 2003 and last tasted April, 2006. The website gives the blend as 60% grenache and 40% syrah calling it 'deep, fleshy, elegant, pleasant with black olives and liquorice notes." The colour is now an opaque ruby with a garnet cast... and the aroma is starting to shift to prunes with an earthy, smoky note evenly balanced so the effect is a rich dark raisin and plum compote. Full-bodied with velvet texture and the integrated flavours of dark berries and peppery spice ends in a long bacon and licorice finish. For those that prefer bold, sombre but interesting, oldworld sipper this is it. Have with prime rib, T-bone rare or rich stews. Still cellaring well and should for several more years. 91-2

DOMAINE FERRER RIBIÈRE TRADITION COTES DU ROUSSILLON 2004, Roussillon, France, 14.0% XD, #061143 $14.85 (Tasted March 29, 2008)

A Vintages release on January 05, 2008 described as "Winemakers/co-owners Denis Ferrer and Bruno Ribière craft wines that showcase the prominent grape varieties of the Côtes du Roussillon and the region's unique terroir. This deep coloured wine is an equal blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan that displays the classic fruit and spice aromas of the grapes as well as the vibrant garrigue smells (a combination of sage, rosemary, marjoram and lemon verbena) that permeate the air in the Languedoc-Roussillon. Enjoy with grilled gourmet sausage and roasted potatoes." Carries a Silver medal from the Concours des Grands Vins de France 2007. My notes: A fragrant nose of ripe dark berries with some earthy smoke - colour is a murky ruby with a blackberry tint. Nice brightness on the first sip and flavours of mint, thin blackberry, clay and forest floor. OK to sip without nibbles but most would enjoy it more with sausage pieces, rosenburg blue on rye crisps or bacon on a bun. As accompanying entrees try grilled steaks, prime rib, french onion or chorizo and bean soup. The finish lingers as a bright mineral coating carrying a silky berry. The process balances terroir and fruit for a unique combination making this an OK value. 85

DONNADIEU CUVÉE MATHIEU ET MARIE ST. CHINIAN 2005, Languedoc, France, 13.0% D, #043646 $15.85 (Tasted March 28, 2008)

A Vintages release on January 5, 2008 described as "Featuring mostly Syrah, with Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan in support, this is a classic Saint-Chinian wine with layers of dried roses, blackberry, pepper, caramel and a hint of menthol. An excellent choice for those who enjoy the mid-winter barbecue ritual - think steaks or even backribs." My notes: A garnet ruby deep and sombre with a full oaky plum aroma that subsides quickly. The flavours are delicate (light) nicely balanced with acid that's not that prominent and a soft tannin. Flavours are a mild red berry unintrusive making this a fairly innocuous social sipper. Finishes dry with a fine tannin and scant fruit. The syrah component is largely sidelined - didn't get the pepper nor pronounced spice - by the grenache and mourvedre, and the carignon makes a very subtle bright appearance. Perhaps I should call it a well balanced flavour. Serve at room temperature with pate or sour cream dip and broccoli flowers - an OK sipper. Paired with a light prime rib, chicken thighs or pork tenderloin or chops balances the lightish dry flavours well. A polite drink-now. 81

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

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

J&F LURTON DOMAINE DES SALICES VIOGNIER 2006, Languedoc, France, 13.0% D, #487272 $13.95 (Tasted March 16, 2008)

A Vintages release on March 15, 2008 described as "Over the past decade, Viognier has shown remarkable success in the vineyards of Languedoc-Roussillon... Once confined to vineyards in the northern Rhône, today Viognier is thriving not just in the Midi, but throughout other warm climate regions around the world. Savour this fruity, low acid, aromatic wonder with lightly spiced seafood dishes, turkey breast or grilled salmon." My notes: A honey floral nose and a faint straw colour, tasting nicely round on the palate with minimal sweetness and a grassy pear-lemon blend. Serve chilled, 8-12C. Medium-bodied, the finish is soft, bright with more distinct grassiness, some mineral notes and a light oil. A year or two at most cellaring - mainly a drink-now and a pleasant sipper. Have with grilled chicken breast or chicken or pork chow mein, whitefish dishes or a halibut steak. Not a dry Rhône, eg. Condrieu... more of a reasonably priced house white for the North American palate. 86-1

J&F LURTON LES SALICES PINOT NOIR 2005, Languedoc, France, 13.0% D, #028761 $11.85 (Tasted March 17, 2008)

A General listing described as "Dark ruby red colour with violet rim; aromas of cherry, beetroot and slate; dry, medium bodied, silky tannins, with good acidity. Serve with cedar planked salmon, turkey with savoury stuffing." My notes: Serve above 62F for the subtle aromas to open, a smoky strawberry-rhubarb if you sniff hard. The colour is a garnet ruby with a strawberry tint at the rim, and light legs. The flavours are of young grape clusters crushed with stems on, some light red cherry, a firm fine tannin and well balanced acid. The flavour fades on a short finish. OK as a light-bodied sipper passable with good conversation and some flavourful nibbles. Have with cold chicken, turkey breast, or sliced ham with caesar salad. Cellaring two years may smooth some of the youthfulness - the price makes it worth a try in limited numbers. 81

DOMAINE DE ROQUEMALE LES TERRASSES 2005, Languedoc, France, 12.5% XD, #042978 $16.85 (Tasted March 27, 2008)

A Vintages release on September 29, 2007 described as "Domaine de Roquemale demonstrates the Languedoc's ability to add their own twist to the typical Southern Rhône blend. They let Cinsault take the lead, adding an almost equal portion of Grenache and a touch of Syrah. This medium-bodied wine is fruit forward and charming... " The website describes this as "... a very fruity wine, elegant and fresh, which can be drunk slightly chilled during the Summer.Its liveliness will match perfectly an entire meal, from salads, “charcuteries”, grilled meat or fish." My notes: A sombre ruby with a shallow earthiness in a blend of red berries. A nice nip on the first sip and flavours of red cherry and a blackberry or two. The finish is bright, dry with some woody red cherry/berry remnants, not unpleasant but lacking an interesting texture or flavour appeal. Have with saltines and liver pate, or with hamburgers, or with salami slices on tomato pizzas. Could be cellared a few years altho' with nothing in the future. Find something else for the summer... not a value. 79

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

March Whites, 2008: 9 Tasted of 9

The following whites have been set aside for tasting this month. 'Taste along' if you want.... or wait for my biased view. Completed tastings are in bold. Cheers, Ww

 (V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other)

  • Malivoire Chardonnay VQA Beamsville Bench 2006, (89-1) - V, Niagara, Canada, #573147 $21.95
  • d'Arenberg 'The Dry Dam' McLaren Vale Riesling 2007, (89-1) - V, Australia, #942953 $16.95
  • Wynns Coonawarra Estate Riesling 2005, (87-1) - V, South Australia, #528216 $14.95
  • Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2006 VQA Okanagan Valley, (87) - V, BC, Canada, #057430 $21.95
  • Valdivieso Chardonnay 2006, (85) - V, Central Valley, Chile, #059691 $11.95
  • d'Arenberg 'The Hermit Crab' McLaren Vale Viognier Marsanne 2006, (82) - V, Australia, #662775 $16.95
  • Terraze Della Luna Trentino Pinot Grigio 2006, (82) - G, Trentino-Adige, Italy, #065417 $15.70
  • Santa Margherita Valdavige Pinot Grigio 2006, (82) - V, Trentino-Adige, Italy, #106450 $16.85
  • Bodegas Navarro Correas Extra Brut, (80) - G, Mendoza, Argentina, #066563 $15.95

EXTRA BRUT, Godoy Cruz, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.0% D, #066563 $15.95 (Tasted March 24, 2008)

A General listing not described on the LCBO website. The Navarro Correas website gives the blend as 60% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir (good trick if you can do it!)... "fruity aromas or pears, apples and citric notes on a bed of toasty almonds and biscuits." My notes: A nose of almond and pear, a mix of large and small bubbles settling to a spritz level and a light blond colour. A nicely shaped bottle and a flavour of apple and pear with a mineral edge, light-bodied, no cream, leaving a brut sharpness with flavours fading quickly. An OK sipper with oysters or shrimp ring. As a bubbly it's priced right and passable in a congenial crowd but not meant to impress. 80

WYNNS COONAWARRA ESTATE RIESLING 2005, South Australia, 12.5% XD, #528216 $14.95 (Tasted March 28, 2008)

A Vintages release on March 29, 2008 described as "A year ago I wrote 'simply needing time to flower and garner higher points' (then 89 points). Over the ensuing year it has done precisely that; while still very fresh and delicate, it has that unique Coonawarra apple blossom and flavour profile, with a long dry finish. Gold medal Sydney Wine Show '07. Drink [to] 2013. 94/100 (James Halliday, March 2007). The back label describes the soil in Coonawarra as "a thin layer of rich, red .. topsoil overlying porous limestone, provides ideal drainage... ' and 'February and March .. 2005 were the coolest ... in ten years. As a result ... a crisp mineral like texture and lifted citrus flavours." My notes: A distinct petrol aroma and a very light blond colour - flavours of light mineral or cold tea and citrus peel complex, the citrus being faint. Has a faint apple floral and grapefruit finish ending with a mineral aspect on the palate. A riesling sipper - not as tart as expected but very dry - better with fresh oysters or a shrimp ring. Paired with chicken breast and roasted mushrooms it stayed in the background so I'd limit this to grilled white fish filets or grilled scallops or steamed mussels. Good value, OK as a drink-now but cellaring for several years may improve. 87

Central Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #059691 $11.95 (Tasted March 19, 2008)

A Vintages release on March 15, 2008 described as "This mostly unoaked Chardonnay emphasizes pure fruit characteristics with ripe melon and apple flavours as well as notes of cinnamon. Plump, soft and juicy with medium acidity, this generous wine will complement pasta in oil with sautéed shrimp and fresh herbs." My notes: I rated their Reserva Syrah 2005 (#045153, $17.95) 90/100 (October 15, 2007) so thought this a good gamble and, for the price, it was. A clear faint blond with subtle aromas of floral butter... likely needs another year cellaring, not quite developed. Unoaked for sure so might appeal to ABC drinkers if they're not told. As expected no butterscotch but some lees creaminess. These anonymous writeups annoy me - no cinnamon that I could detect... but some melon and apple. Not overly plump, a lightish medium-bodied, juicy with a good acid level that goes well into the finish along with a fresh delicate fruitiness. A refreshing sipper if served chilled. Have with any seafood, sushi, lightly grilled halibut or cod, pea soup with ham pieces even. Cellar for two years but no more. A bargain for a summer quaffer. 85

Australia, 13.5% D, #662775 $16.95 (Tasted March 17, 2008)

A Vintages release on March 15, 2008 described as "Not only did Wine Spectator designate this wine as a 'Smart Buy', it ranked it number 84 on its list of the Top 100 wines of 2007!" and "Soft and charming. A beguiling mouthful of spicy pear and grapefruit flavors that linger with focus on the open-textured finish. Not as rich as pure Viognier, but better balanced. Drink now through 2010. 90/100 (Harvey Steiman, Nov. 30 2007)" Robert Parker gave it 88/100 saying "The 2006 The Hermit Crab is a blend of 70% Viognier and 30% Marsanne. ... delivers floral aromas along with honeysuckle, peach, and apricot. Smooth-textured, ripe, and balanced, this userfriendly wine can be enjoyed over the next 1-2 years." My notes: Airing ten minutes dissipates a wet sock tinge leaving a light almond and soft floral nose. A faint blond colour with flavours of pear and unripe pineapple somewhat refreshing the palate and leaving a long round dry finish. The marsanne has diluted the floral and fruit of a young viognier giving this white, except for its finish, less appeal as a solo sipper. Have with hummus and rye crisps or with a shrimp ring and sauce. Paired with grilled arctic char it held it's own but just. Not for cellaring, a drink-now. 82

D'ARENBERG 'THE DRY DAM' McLAREN VALE RIESLING 2007, Australia, 11.5% D, #942953 $16.95 (Tasted March 19, 2008)

A Vintages release on March 15, 2008 described as "... fresh, floral and citrusy wine is named for d'Arenberg's original Riesling vineyard that is located next to a dam with a history of drying up in particularly hot summers. The extra stress on the vines during these hot, dry years usually meant a very concentrated Riesling with lots of flavour and intensity. Enjoy this refreshing white with Thai food, sushi or crab cakes." My notes: A soft straw colour clear in the glass with fragrant honey and green apple including a spicy twinge for each sniff. Served well chilled there is the bright fruit of a green apple-pear combo, medium-bodied, with a smooth texture overall. Some fullness in the finish tapering off to an appealing fresh fruit ending. An interesting youthful sipper with the dryness and zest for fresh oysters or grilled seafood snacks. As well have with any seafood entree. Should be able to cellar up to two years then see where it wants to go. 89

VALDADIGE PINOT GRIGIO 2006, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy, 12.0% D, #106450 $16.85 (Tasted March 15, 2008)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "Santa Margherita was the first to make Pinot Grigio as a purely white wine by ensuring that no pigment from the grape's light pink skin coloured the juice. Pale straw colour with aromas of fresh green apple, and peach that replay on the crisp, dry palate. Our number one selling white wine makes an excellent aperitif, or serve it with antipasto or gnocchi." My notes: A light blond colour perhaps with a green tint and with a soft grassy floral nose. A sharp bite makes this a refreshing sipper better with nibbles of proscuitto and mild cheeses, with bruschetta or with fresh oysters. Medium-bodied with a tart almost oily texture finishing with an almost apple flavour. More appropriately a meal white, have with creamy pastas: mushroom or tomato sauces and clams or scallop pieces, ham or bacon omelette. A commercial drink-now. 82

CHARDONNAY VQA BEAMSVILLE BENCH 2006, Niagara, Canada, 12.5% D, #573147 $21.95 (Tasted March 13, 2008)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "This soft and creamy Chardonnay is sourced from Malivoire's Estate and Moira vineyards. Martin Malivoire and his team believe in working in harmony with nature and do not use chemical insecticides, herbicides or fertilizers in their vineyard practices. This wine possesses complex aromas of apple, pineapple, spice and toast. It's dry and well-balanced with luscious fruit flavours and mineral notes with a toasty finish. It matches beautifully with wild salmon or pork tenderloin in a Dijon mustard sauce." My notes: A delicate floral note on the nose from a light blond colour in the glass. I preferred to let the chill ease to 12C+. Flavours of tart apple, pear and a pleasant creaminess builds closer to the finish as an extra dry crispness starts from the first sip. (Could be the basis for an exceptional bubbly - methode traditionale). I found it too lightly flavoured with blueberry pancakes smeared with butter, covered in maple syrup and accompanied by sundried tomato sausage pieces. Should be better with grilled or pan-fried whitefish or creamy mussels - pork cutlet and apple sauce, likely... dijon? don't think so. This may develop into a creamier version with two years in the cellar... not longer imho. 89

RESERVE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2006 VQA OKANAGAN VALLEY, Canada, 12.0% XD, #057430 $21.95 (Tasted March 11, 2008)

A Vintages release on March 1, 2008 described as "Mission Hill Family Estate was recently named 2007 Winery of the Year at the Canadian Wine Awards after its wines earned a whopping 16 medals including a Silver for this tantalizing Sauvignon Blanc. Ripe, round and dry, this grassy, citrus infused Sauvignon Blanc is lively on the palate, filling the mouth with pink grapefruit and green apple notes. The mid palate is both rich and mouth watering, revealing a hint of praline and finishing with a zesty lime-mandarin burst (Mark Davidson, Oct. 8, 2007)" My notes: A light gold colour with full but delicate aromas of tropical fruits: gooseberry and melon. Served chilled, 8C, gives the sipper the opportunity for aromas and flavours to change as the glass warms. Medium-bodied, a nip on the first sip with firm fruit and a freshening tang finishing warm, fruity, dry and eventually grassy on the palate. Not quite a NZ but a good sipper. Have with seafood on toasted breads, bacon wrapped scallops, stuffed artichokes or pair with pan-fried whitefish, shrimp or breaded veal with creamy pasta side dish. Cellaring up to two years may give the cream more prominence. 87

Alto Adige/Trentino, Italy, 12.5% XD, #065417 $15.70 (Tasted March 01, 2008)

A General listing described in the WINES 101 pamphlet as "Tastes like green apples." My notes: The scent of granny smiths and a light golden colour with a greenish tint. Served chilled it's very dry on the first sip with slight lemondrop stalkiness. Finishes dry and tart with some roundness as the chill lessens and cleanses the palate. This needs some italian cheese for balance, shaved italian meats or perhaps snack pepper colbassa then quite enjoyable.. For meals, have with creamy seafood pastas, spicy mussels, grilled scallops or shrimp. By itself, not a sipper - a drink-now. 82

Sunday, March 02, 2008

March Reds, 2008: 8 Tasted of 8

The following reds have been set aside for tasting this month. 'Taste along' if you want.... or wait for my biased view. Completed tastings are in bold. Cheers, Ww 

  • Vina Tarapaca Gran Reserva Carmenere 2005, (92-3) - V, Chile, #057513 $15.95
  • Tommasi Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2005, (88-1) - V, Italy, #910430 $19.95
  • Zenato Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2005, (87-1) - V, Italy, #479766 $21.80
  • Vina La Rosa 'La Capitana' Barrel Reserve Merlot 2006, (86-1) - V, Chile, #058297 $12.95
  • Anakena Single Vineyard Carmenere 2005, (84) - V, Chile, #059519 $12.95
  • Gray Monk Pinot Noir VQA Okanagan Valley 2006, (83) - V, Canada, #060491 $17.95
  • Wine By Joe Really Good Pinot Noir 2006, (81) - V, USA, #060467 $22.95
  • Montes Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 70% Carmenere 30% 2006, (79) - V, Chile, #016071 $14.95
 (V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other)


CABERNET SAUVIGNON 70% CARMENÈRE 30% 2006, Colchagua Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #016071 $14.95 (Tasted March 16, 2008)

A Vintages release on March 15, 2008 described as "Montes was honoured by the Chilean Wineries Association as the inaugural recipient of their Winery of the Year Award in 2006 and it was also one of the International Winery of the Year winners selected by Wine & Spirits magazine in 2007. This blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Carmenère is sourced from the winery's 'La Finca' estate in the Apalta Valley, a sub-appellation of the Colchagua Valley. A fabulous value, this wine shows the best of both varieties with its blueberry, plum, blackberry and spice flavours. It's dry and mouthfilling with plush fruit flavour and a lengthy finish. Apalta Vineyard," My notes: For 'Winery of the Year' and a 'fabulous value' I expected more. A garnet ruby in colour with no perceptible nose and a flavour that almost matches: some oak and black cherry. Finishes warm with a fine tannin - tars as well as a light acid make an appearance. I did not get the Cab Sauv nor the Carmenere flavour contributions - maybe a 'For Export' label. An uninteresting sipper although no 'defects' of note. Have with any meaty or spicy entree or nibbles. Not enough there to cellar but you could try. 79

SINGLE VINEYARD CARMENÈRE 2005, Rapel Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #059519 $12.95 (Tasted March 16, 2008)

A Vintages release on March 15, 2008 described as "This wine earned Gold Medals at both the Vinalies Internationales Paris and the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles in 2007. It's dry, medium full-bodied with zesty, red-berry fruit, mint, earth and chocolate notes leading to a lingering finish. Smooth and ripe, enjoy it with grilled Italian sausages or pasta in tomato sauce." My notes: A rich blackberry colour and soft blackberry nose. Let air for thirty minutes for flavours to develop: blackberry toned with black cherries, fine tannin and slight tang - subdued in style. The finish starts with the flavour profile quite long and dry, some earth tones and tobacco along the way. A sociable sipper that would satisfy a house warming or pre-dinner conversation. Have with grilled chicken pieces marinated in soy and ginger or mushroom hors d'oeuvres. Medium-bodied and quite appropriate to pair with herby eggplant casserole, crock pot chili or porterhouse. Cellaring for up to four years could provide some interesting highlights. The price makes this an attractive house red and a reasonable investment but don't expect much. 84

REALLY GOOD PINOT NOIR 2006, Oregon, USA, 13.5% XD, #060467 $22.95 (Tasted March 13, 2008)

A Vintages release on March 1, 2008 described as "... Joe Dobbes, born in the Willamette Valley, has worked in the wine industry for over twenty years, training in Germany's Nahe region as well as Burgundy. He is a passionate advocate for Oregon wines and is obsessed with Pinot in all its hues: Gris, Blanc, and Noir. This is a stunning example... ". Toronto Life gives it 80/100 saying "It’s not “really good” at all—in fact, it’s just passable. This pinot noir is over-oaked, confected, hot and abrasive, with stemmy and synthetic character. Has some cherry-rhubarb fruit mindful of pinot and, yes, it has seen wood, but it is overpriced by about $10. Who is Joe and why is Vintages buying his wine?" My notes: A brilliant black cherry colour in a large bowl with delicate aroma of cherry skins. The first sip leaves a tang from the lips to the throat cleansing and leaving a light red cherry flavour. On the acidic side, bright carrying through the light flavouring now with a light oil on the lips. Interesting but not that appealing as a sipper - needs nibbles from pate to shaved italian meats or chicken wings. Should be OK with dark fowl, cloved ham slices, tuna steaks or cheddar melts. Fairly thin for cellaring so I wouldn't expect much return for a few years altho' if you have few to lay down it may help. It goes to show that calling a wine 'Really Good' - and marking it up in price - doesn't make it really good. 81

'LA CAPITANA' BARREL RESERVE MERLOT 2006, Cachapoal Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #058297 $12.95 (Tasted March 5, 2008)

A Vintages release on March 1, 2008 described as "This Merlot is blended with small amounts of Carmenère and Cab Sauv and is bursting with ripe red fruit, damson plum and dark chocolate aromas and flavours. It's dry, full-bodied and very smooth and has a medium finish. Always an exceptional value, serve this supple wine with roasted duck or veal chops." My notes: A floral aroma and a garnet ruby colour. The 10% carmenère noticeably spikes this merlot (85%) and the oak treatment adds a herby smoky edge. Airing for forty minutes softens enough for cautious sipping...should air two or more hours or cellar two years. A long bright finish of dark fruit and earthy spice. Better with hot sausage pieces, salami or knockwurst, or hot garlic breads. Pairing with slices of roast beef with flavourful gravy or bbq'd back ribs would be suitable. Fuller and much spicier than the 'nonReserve' 2004 Merlot tasted (#655209 delisted, $14.95) August, 2006 with the comment 'merlot with spirit'. Stock up only if cellaring. 86-1

GRAN RESERVA CARMENÈRE 2005, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #057513 $15.95 (Tasted March 3, 2008)

A Vintages release on March 1, 2008 described as "Viña Tarapacá's winemaker, Sergio Correa, has some interesting French connections. He was trained in the Médoc and was recently awarded a knighthood by the French Government's Order of Agricultural Merit. He is respected as a leader and motivator in the Chilean wine industry. This Carmenère offers notes of pepper, coffee, chocolate and vanilla. Warm up the coldest of March days with this well-balanced, spicy bottle of South American sizzle and sunshine." My notes: A purple hue to a deep ruby and aromas of currants, blackberries and warm smoke. Leaves long legs and a ruby hue on the glass, full-bodied with a peppery bite, a minty edge and flavours of blackberries, then a long finish ending on mint, dark fruit and dry tannins. A bold sipper with enough flavour nuances to keep interest with or without nibbles. Have with rack of lamb or T-bone, seared and grilled. Cellaring for four years or more should produce a bigger value. 92-3

Y MONK PINOT NOIR VQA OKANAGAN VALLEY 2006, BC, Canada, 11.7% D, #060491 $17.95 (Tasted March 2, 2008)

A Vintages release on March 1, 2008 described as "Gray Monk is B.C.'s most northerly commercial winery, but they source their Pinot Noir grapes from growers throughout the Okanagan Valley. This is a delicate, medium-bodied, dry wine with red berry and floral aromas... " The website says "Burgundy in colour, this wine has a fine aroma of blackberries and rose petals. There is a hint of raspberry in the flavour. Decanting this wine brings out the characteristic silky texture of Pinot Noir... " My notes: A deep red cherry colour with a nose of crushed red cherries and light spicy smoke. The first sip gives a nip before flavours of tart red cherries take over, light-bodied, finishing with a light flavouring and crushed cherry stones. A dry sipper with a rough edge. Perhaps cellaring would smooth the texture - two years minimum. Planked salmon, yes... something with natural oils or a marinade, spicy mussels or Buffalo wings. If not cellaring I'd take a pass on this vintage. (For the 2004 vintage, #251835 $17.95, see tasting August 27, 2006) 83

VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE RIPASSO 2005, Veneto, Italy 13.0% D, #910430 $19.95 (Tasted March 21, 2008)

A Vintages release on February 16, 2008 described as "... Expect rich plum fruit surrounded by sweet herbs and a hint of dark chocolate. This flavourful wine is an excellent match for braised ox tails, rich stews or pasta with meat sauce." My notes: This may have a tad violet in the hue otherwise a garnet ruby. The nose is light sweet cherry with a bit of raisin. As I have more Ripassos I get the impression the process sometimes makes up for a mediocre vintage or vineyard crop... but then why not if it's an improvement? Firm drying tannins and almond oak blends nicely with cherry and a few wild strawberries adding some tartness, very flavourful with a long cherry mint finish. An interesting sipper, medium-bodied and well balanced. Have with anything italian... as a before dinner dry red or with tomato pasta dishes: lasagna, raviola, pizza - the cheesier the better. A drink-now to be served anytime and with a few years cellaring left. 88-1

ZENATO VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE RIPASSA 2005, Veneto, Italy 13.5% D, #479766 $21.80 (Tasted March 20, 2008)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "This flavourful favourite consistently delivers with its aromas of blackberry, raisins, and rich chocolate. The palate is dry with plenty of fruit flavours, hints of licorice, ripe tannins and even more chocolate. This well-crafted, yummy red has a lengthy, dry finish and would be a great match for risotto al gorgonzola, roast beef or pecorino cheese." The website says "... 6 months’ bottle-ageing, the result is a rounded, velvet-textured wine with rich, complex aromas of berries and an impressively lengthy finish that seems to linger forever. My notes: A soft smoky cherry and a cherry rimmed colour to match. Medium-bodied, lacking in a full 'ripasso' result but has a nicely balanced nip with a light cherry flavour, light velvet and tannins that leave a dry layer to a moderate finish - some cinnamon tints. Didn't get 'blackberries', 'raisins' nor 'chocolate'. An interesting sipper to have with shaved meats or mushroom caps, roasted chicken wings or sausage. Perfect with a cheesy meat lasagna or a red pasta dish: meaty ravioli in a spicy sauce. Cellaring for two more years wouldn't be out of the way. Overpriced tho'. 87

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Rhone Reds: 10 Tasted of 10

RHONE: Area 4 on the map starts just below the city of Vienne and follows the Rhône river about 200 kilometres directly south to Avignon, roughly fifty kilometres from the Mediterranean coast. Long and narrow, the vineyards in the north Rhône are sculpted along the cooler hillsides up from the banks while in the south Rhône they spread out on rolling hills on both sides of the Rhône, where the climate is more moderate, then east along the Durance.

In contrast to Burgundy, Rhône reds can be blends of red and white grapes. Generally, one should expect a robust red, deep and sombre, from mainly syrah grapes and a dry full-bodied white of marsanne, roussanne or viognier, gold in colour, from the north versus a light- to medium-bodied fruity red or white from grenache bolstered by syrah and mourvedre in the south. Dependent on blends as well as terroir - the northern vineyards being on cooler granite soils and on limestone in the warmer south - the wines can be very different thoughout the Rhône. Overall most of the wine produced is red with the balance of both rosé and white. Viognier, a specialty of the north Rhône area of Condrieu is normally full, dry, floral and fruity.

Châteauneuf du Pape is located just east of the Rhône between Orange and Avignon and west of Provence. The reds from here are produced from as many as thirteen authorized and controlled grape
varieties: eight reds and five whites and successive vintages may be blended. They are medium-bodied and fruity making them popular sippers as well as meal wines and range from $30 to $100 when available (eg. Pere Anselme La Fiole du Pape NV, #012286, tasted Feb 4,2008 (Ww89)). Not too distant but west of the Rhône are Tavel and Lirac known mainly for their strong peach-pink coloured rosés. Further east is the Appellation of Ventoux and farther south are Costières de Nîmes and Côtes du Luberon, each producers of lower priced wines. As many as twenty other grape varieties can be used to produce wines of the southern Rhône.

Some nam
es, from north to south, to look for on labels are: côte rôtie - condrieu - château grillet - hermitage - crozes hermitage - cornas - côtes du rhône - côtes du rhône-villages - gigondas - châteauneuf du pape - côtes du ventoux - gigondas - coteaux du tricastin - vacqueyras - costières de nîmes. The 'sub' appellation Côtes du Rhône-Villages applies to a limited number (~95) of villages within the Côtes du Rhône appellation. The best can add the name of the village.

The following wines have been selected and as each is tasted it will appear in bold. Cheers, Ww

  • Cave de Tain Crozes Hermitage 2003, (90-2) - in the north Rhône, Crozes Hermitage covers an area surrounding the noted Hermitage up from the west bank of the Rhône.
  • Château d'Aqueria Tavel Rosé 2006, (88-1) - southwest of Châteauneuf du Pape.
  • Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône Villages Rasteau 2006, (88-1*) - Rasteau is a recent appellation located northeast of Orange nearer the Ouvèze river next door to Cairanne.
  • Caves des Papes Heritage Côtes-du-Rhône 2005, (87) - wines from approx 13 estates near Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas challenged to achieve consistent high quality are used for the 'Heritage' label.
  • Château LaMargue Cuvée Aegidiane 2003, (86) - from Costières de Nîmes, formerly part of Languedoc-Roussillon because of the character of its wines but now a Rhône appellation.
  • Domaine de la Croze Granier Lirac Cuvée Réserve 2005, (85) - slightly north of Tavel and west of Orange
  • Cellier Des Dauphin Cartes Noire Côtes du Rhône 2005, (83) - close to Orange.
  • Guigal Côtes du Rhône 2003, (83) - located in Ampuis near Condrieu on the west bank in the north Rhône.
  • La Romaine Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Vénus Laurée 2005, (82) - located in Vaucluse, on the east side of the Rhône and north of the city of Orange.
  • La Vieille Ferme Côtes du Ventoux 2006, (80) - southeast of Orange.


GUIGAL COTES DU RHONE 2003, Rhône, 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 Côtes du Rhône red may be the finest example of this cuvée 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, went well with a beef stew. 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. 83

CAVE DE TAIN CROZES HERMITAGE 2003, Rhône, France, 12.5% XD, #572230 $16.85 (Tasted March 1, 2008)

A Vintages release on January 19, 2008 described as "There's a really bright raspberry character on the nose here, with a definite hint of Brettanomyces, but giving a meaty edge that works quite well. The palate is dry and savoury, with a meaty, peppery quality and decisive acid structure with firm tannins. Very savoury and a reasonably good expression of northern Rhône Syrah. (Tom Cannavan, Nov. 2006)". The back label adds "produced exclusively from Syrah grapes grown on alluvial granite plains... A well balanced wine, rich and supple, with jammy red fruit flavours and overtones of liquorice and spice... ". The website describes it as "Intense garnet-red colour. Intense and delicate aromas of blackberry fruits, with vanilla and roasted notes. Rich on the palate. Powerful and well-balanced. Strong but smooth tannins with good length with final notes of fresh blackcurrant, cherry and oriental spices." My notes: A delicate aroma of berries and spice, a solid garnet ruby colour and a velvet layer of tart, medium- to full-bodied blend of raspberries and currants then finishing forever with dry, dark fruit, bright pepper and mushroom tones. Quite a nice sipper or as a quencher with stuffed mushroom caps or mild cheeses. Have with grilled meats or prime rib. A good value now and worth cellaring for many more years. 90-2

CAVES DES PAPES 'HERITAGE' COTES-DU-RHONE 2005, Rhône, France, 14.0% D, #535849 $14.85 (Tasted March 8, 2008)

A General listing described as "Medium ruby garnet colour; raspberry, tobacco leaf, plum and vanillin aromas and flavours. Light- to medium-bodied; soft and dry. Serve with stuffed peppers or eggplant; burgers; rack of lamb." My notes: Not 'Hermitage' nor 'Meritage' but 'Heritage'... this is 2/3 grenache and 1/3 syrah seasoned with cinsault and mourvedre. A deep ruby colour - serve in a broad bowl for full effect. Air for at least twenty minutes for a nose that is subdued, a warm plum and strawberry mix and smoky oak edged. The first sip shows a balanced blend of raspberry, strawberry and, I agree, tobacco leaf with a subtle brightness and fine tannin leaving a dry flavourful finish. An interesting medium-bodied european sipper. Have with nibbles of pate on soft breads, bacon wrapped (or not) sausage pieces, or an entree of prime rib, mashed, carrot/turnip and rich gravy. Cellaring for up to four years should mellow a slight roughness and build an elegant nose - the flavour will likely remain light - worth the gamble. For a General listing the price seems right. 87-1

CAVE LA ROMAINE COTES DU RHONE VILLAGES VÉNUS LAURÉE 2005, Rhône, France, 13.5% D, #028779 $12.85 (Tasted February 27, 2008)

A General listing described as "Medium ruby in colour with aromas of cocoa, licorice, cherry and spices. Medium-bodied, quite spicy with a good aroma replay. Serve with barbecued chicken, pizza or ribs." The back label says "Beautiful historic Vaison-la-Romaine has been a famous location for great wines since Roman times. The Vénus Laurée Syrah (30%) and Grenache (70%) vineyards are on the tops of the hills, with the best growing conditions, creating intense flavours. Our thoroughly modern cuvée offers an expressive nose, is bursting with flavours of red cherry and currant fruit, with harmonious tannins. ... Best at 16C." My notes: A gold medal winner at the Foire aux Vins d'Orange 2006. A clear deep ruby with no nose to sniff. Let air for twenty minutes minimum. The first sip is evenly balanced tannin, acid and having a soft texture with delicate red cherry flavours. The finish remains bright and lightly flavoured. Nothing 'intense' here... more like subtle. An OK sipper but somewhat uninteresting. Have with prime rib, veal dishes with elegant sauce, beef stroganoff or liver and onions. Should be able to cellar several years and at the price point could improve to be a good value. 82

CHAPOUTIER COTES DU RHONE VILLAGES RASTEAU 2006, Rhône, France, 14.0% D, #321539 $17.15 (Tasted March 4, 2008)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby/red colour; jammy, blackberry, floral and sweet spicy nose; dry, medium to full bodied, with plummy, dark fruit flavours and ripe fruit on the mid-palate; nice length on the finish. Serve with roast chicken, Mediterranean dishes or lamb kabobs." My notes: An opaque (unfiltered) violet ruby with aromas of black cherries and a slight floral strawberry. Air at least an hour before serving. There is a strong bite on the first sip with a long tart spiciness and firm tannin masking a dark fruit finish, full-bodied and bold. I found it rough and raw... too young for my sipping and recommend *cellaring four years. Pair with seared savoury steak, bbq'd ribs, likely roast game - not roast chicken. Surprising to me (Yes! I'm naive) the General listing doesn't indicate cellaring. 88-1*

DAUPHINS CARTE NOIRE COTES DU RHONE 2005, Rhône, France, 13.5% D, #110197 $9.85* (Tasted February 20, 2008)

A General listing (*sale priced regularly $10.85) described as "Light ruby colour; spice and berry fruit aromas; rich berry fruit on the palate and spicy wood notes in the finish. Serve with pork or veal dishes." My notes: A raspberry tinted ruby, a see thru in the glass with aromas of leather, ripe blackberry and raspberry tones. Has respectable legs, fine tannins and a dry texture with ripe berry flavours leading to a light fruity finish dry on the tongue, fairly long and a touch of spice. A well balanced, lightish medium-body sociable sipper - not demanding nor complex, just enjoy. Have with cocktail sausage, bacon wrapped scallops, French onion soup or with light meat dishes: a ham steak, pork chops or veal scallopini. An OK value for an open bar or house red. An instant quaffer not for cellaring.

COTES DU VENTOUX 2006, Rhône, France, 13.5% D, #263640 $11.55 (Tasted March 10, 2008)

A General listing described as "Medium violet/ruby colour; red cherry aromas with blackberry and floral notes; dry with perfumed raspberry character and a touch spice; medium finish with light tannins. Serve with medium cheese, grilled chicken or roast turkey." The back label says "... comes from noble vines grown high on the slops of Mont Ventoux. .. from an assemblage of varietals of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault... may find a natural sediment... " My notes: A Perrin et Fils wine and with a screwtop! The website gives the blend as Grenache (50%), Syrah (20%), Carignan (15%) and Cinsault (15%) A deep purplish ruby colour with aromas of strawberry blueberry blend fairly floral and flavours of blueberry-strawberry, a pleasant tang throughout finishing berryish, smooth with a fine tannin edge. An economical house red that would please most casual sippers. Have with luncheon spread or ham (no mustard) sandwiches, cocktail sausages or with light meat, fowl entrees and even tapas. Strikes me as a commercial slightly offdry drink-now red. 80

CHÂTEAU D'AQUERIA TAVEL ROSÉ 2006, Rhône, France, 13.5% XD, #319368 $19.80 (Tasted February 23, 2008)

A Vintages release on December 08, 2007 and described by Natalie MacLean as "Aromas of raspberry and maraschino cherry. Pair with: barbecued salmon, chicken caesar salad, pork roast. 90/100" The Majestic Wine website says "The region Tavel lies to the north east of Avignon on the right bank of the Rhône. Here, there are intense sunny summers yielding fruit of exceptional ripeness, concentration and intensity of flavour. A vibrant salmon-pink in colour, with a penetrating fruit fragrance offset by floral notes. Bone dry, full bodied and succulently fruity on the palate, its lush intensity and depth are balanced by an extraordinarily refreshing acidity carrying into a long, crisp finish with vibrant peppery nuances. A blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah." My notes: A cheerful red cherry colour in the glass with faint aromas of red cherry skins tainted by one bright raspberry. Let go offchill before serving, 10C - 14C. By itself it demands a nibble of mild cheese to balance the 'herbaceous' dryness. Pleasingly tart, nicely round without being plump, with light flavours of red cherries. The finish is long, dry, and a slight red cherry stone. Have with a flavourful fish or shellfish entree... or with warmed maple syrup on buttermilk pancakes and english bangers. Cellaring for up to two years should be OK. 88-1

DOMAINE DE LA CROZE GRANIER LIRAC CUVÉE RÉSERVE 2005, Rhône, France, 13.5% XD, #031518 $17.80 (Tasted February 27, 2008)

A Vintages release on July 07, 2007 described as "A blend of Syrah and Grenache, this Lirac wine is deeply coloured with a very intense nose of black currant, blackberry, pepper and spice. It is dry with layers of fruit surrounded by silky to firm tannins. Medium full-bodied with a long finish, this well-balanced wine
would match well with grilled duck breast and a side dish of butter-fried wild mushrooms." My notes: A deep ruby and an interesting nose of smoky black cherries, a few raspberries and slight white pepper. Medium-bodied, bright acid and fine tannins frame balanced flavours of fresh mint, berries and spice. The fresh mint carries into a long bright finish making this a distinct terroir. Sip for the difference then have hors d'oeuvres for contrast: mushroom caps and bacon chips, proscuitto wrapped anchovies, pepper pate - or have with chorizo sausage in a tomato pasta or dark fowl. Cellaring for several years should provide more integration of textures. 85

CHÂTEAU LAMARGUE CUVÉE AEGIDIANE 2003, Rhône, France, 14.0% D, #033993 $20.95 (Tasted March 7, 2008)

A Vintages release on September 29, 2007 described as "... This 80% Syrah, 20% Grenache blend is typical of the region's focus on Syrah for their AC wines. The 2003 Cuvée Aegidiane shows the black-fruit-and-pepper character of Syrah, while the Grenache (Noir) rounds out the texture. It is an excellent candidate for short- to mid-term cellaring, or try a bottle tonight with grilled lamb chops." My notes: A Gruppo Compari winery, Château Lamargue produces a range of ten wines divided in two price points: Costières de Nîmes and Vins de Pays d'Oc. Let air briefly to allow a warm nose of dark fruit and smoky oak to balance - a deep ruby with a garnet cast, has legs but minimum staining. A well balanced fruit and acid flavouring, medium-bodied with fine tannins leading to a long earthy finish. A subtle pepper edge to an interesting flavour (the year in durmast barrels?) blend builds between sips. Have with bacon or mushroom based hors d'oeuvres, riblettes or buffalo wings. Pair with a beefy or beefy-like entrees, not too spicy, lamb? absolutely!. This may have plateaued so, if cellaring, I'd try a year a time to see where it's going. 86