Sunday, May 04, 2008

'Toronto Life' Rated Wines: 12 Tasted of 12

All wine mags publish ratings for the wines their marketers, journalists and critics taste. I've often gone through lists in their 'Buyers Guide' section searching for any that happen to be at an LCBO outlet within reasonable driving distance. In many cases there are very few wines given my budget, ie. below $20. Of the ones that are available there's the begging question: Is this an easy way to find value wines?

In one of my last blogs I selected wines 'on a whim'. The theme of this series of blog entries is the reverse... I've selected wines from a 'wine mag'. Just maybe I can find bargains matching my tastes this way... I wasn't too successful 'whimming' it.

has a neat search option on their website and the first wines are from there. I played around entering varied sets of parameters and got some puzzling results. For instance there are 190 wines rated 85+ in the $10 - $15 range but only 50 of these are what are called 'Great Bargains'. I find that puzzling, don't you? My unsubstantiated suspicion is that the 100 point scale is compressed, that is, the 70 - 79 range is seldom used with the implication that some if not many mediocre wines are pushed into the 80's. I'll have to come back to this - or maybe not, I've tasted enough plonk for now.

I used two sets of parameters as the basis for wines for this blog entry: /Reds and Whites/90+/$15 - $20/ and /Great Bargains/Reds and Whites/85+/$15 - $20/. The results are listed below except those I couldn't find were dropped. Of fourteen, ten were available 'though four are a later vintage. And I've added a lone red from the /$10 - $15/ range, Cline Syrah 2006, which Toronto Life rated 90 - it's also a later vintage, and one white, a budget-priced label (in Australia, not here!) *Skuttlebutt Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2006 #047621, from the same winery and replaces Stella Bella Semillon Sauvignon Blanc #48546 (no longer listed) which Toronto Life rated 92. When completed tastings appear in bold - and resequenced by rating and value top to bottom, reds then whites. Cheers, Ww 

  • Cesari Mara Vino di Ripasso 2005, TL89 $15.90 -- 89-2, G, Veronese, Italy, #506519 $15.75
  • Masi Serego Alighieri Possessioni Rosso 2005, TL88 $15.15 -- 88-1, G, Veneto, Italy, #447326 $15.35
  • Errazuriz Max Reserva Merlot 2006, TL90(2004) $18.15 -- 87-1, G, Aconcagua Valley, Chile, #016170 $14.35
  • Campo Viejo Reserva 2002, TL89(2001) $18.15 -- 86, G, Rioja, Spain, #137810 $18.00
  • Cline Syrah 2006, TL90(2005) $13.95 -- 83, V, Sonoma County, USA, #733758 $12.85
  • Peter Lehmann Clancy's Red 2004, TL90 $18.15 -- 80, G, Australia, #611467 $17.80*
  • Louis Jadot 'Combe aux Jacques' Beaujolais-Villages 2006, TL89 $16.95 -- 80, V, Burgundy, France, #365924 $15.70
  • Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz 2004, TL89 $17.15 -- 79, G, South Australia, #665471 $17.05
  • Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, TL89 $15.15 -- 70, G, Maipo Valley, Chile, #212993 $15.35 

  • Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2007, TL89(2006) $16.15 -- 89-2, G, Marlborough, NZ, #426601 $16.30 
  • Skuttlebutt Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2006, TL* -- 88-1, V, West Australia, #047621 $17.80
  •  Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc 2007, TL88(2006) $15.25 -- 82, G, Marlborough, NZ, #293043 $16.80
(G - General, V - Vintage, O - Other, r-v - Rating-Value)


VILLA MARIA PRIVATE BIN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007, Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% D, #426601 $16.30 (Tasted May 6, 2008)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; intense aromas of gooseberry, lime, grass and asparagus; dry, medium bodied, crisp acidity, and flavours of bell pepper, gooseberry citrus; clean, crisp finish. Serve with goat cheese dishes, fish, vegetarian fare or herb roasted poultry." My notes: definitely a NZ sauvignon blanc from the aromas of gooseberries with a promise of natural sweetness ahead. The flavours continue on the gooseberry theme, a tad creamier than most, and a touch of tangy lime then finishing long, a full mouthfeel ending somewhat, as a sipper, grassy. Have with crabcakes, a halibut or tuna steak, or sushi. A drink-now although cellaring for a year would take advantage of the reasonable price for this calibre of sb. 89

NELEIGH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007, Marlborough, NZ 13.0% D, #292043 $16.80 (Tasted May 2, 2008)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; gooseberry, herbs and a hint of tropical fruit on the nose; dry and medium-bodied with a crisp finish. Serve with smoked salmon, asparagus risotto or herbed chicken." My notes: An off clear colour on the blond side. The aromas start strong with nettles and gooseberries leveling to a delicate herbaceousness. Light-bodied with a taste of one or two gooseberries, a tuft of lemongrass, a lasting tartness and slight cream makes this appealing, an easy quaffer. The dry finish has a delicate grassiness but is fairly short. An OK sipper starting with an infusion of aromas and flavours that subside quickly. Have with crab cakes, scallops, grilled arctic char, or a mushroom pasta. A drink-now - I don't see this vintage as a value. 82

2006, West Australia, 12.5% D, #047621 $17.80 (Tasted April 27, 2008)

A Vintages release on December 8, 2007 described as "Clever marketing informed by an impish wit, the financial backing of John Britton and the winemaking wizardry of Janice McDonald have seen Stella Bella flourish. Skuttlebutt is their budget-price label and this one offers excellent value: clearly focused, grassy, green pea flavours, vibrant zesty acidity and, for all that, some restraint, delicacy, even finesse. (Peter Forrestal, The Bulletin, April 20, 2007)." My notes: Toronto Life gives the LCBO price of $18.85 for Stella Bella Semillon Sauvignon Blanc (#048546) rating it a 92/100 and priced in Aussie dollars at $A21. The 'budget-price' Skuttlebutt Sauvignon Blanc Semillon (#047621) is $A16 which LCBO priced at $17.80. This has a pale straw colour with a nose of peas and nettles, some gooseberry essence. The texture is medium-bodied, a kiwi flavour with balanced tartness and a slight cream making this an easy sipper. Throw in a slice of lime and crushed ice for a summer cooler - or chill well and sip without ornaments. Have with shrimp skewers on greens with a sweet onion dressing or roast chicken slices on caesar salad. Not for cellaring. 88

JACOB'S CREEK RESERVE SHIRAZ 2004, South Australia, 14.5% D, #665471 $17.05 (Tasted May 9, 2008)

A General listing described as "Opaque dark red; aromas of cedar, a nice, black fruit; black fruit flavours with a toasty medium-long finish. Serve with BBQ meats or vegetables." My notes: A ruby with a violet glow and soft aromas of cherries wrapped in cedar chips, kind of a toasty vanilla edge. The first sip has a firm bite that extends evenly over the palate then leaves a dry blackcurrant mouthfeel. Medium-bodied, process driven shiraz with some natural pepper and a hot herby finish. Too tart and chalky dry to be a sipper, demands broiled mushrooms or grilled chicken livers. Have with pizza or tomato sauced pastas. Gets high marks for nose then falls off on what counts. Not worth cellaring nor is it a value purchase. I would not serve to guests. 79

PETER LEHMANN CLANCY'S RED 2004, Australia, 14.5% D, #611467 $17.80* (Tasted May 1, 2008)

A General listing (*sale price) described as "Deep ruby red colour; vanilla oak and earthy, blackberry, mint and plum aromas; dry, medium to full bodied, very fruity, with flavours of cassis, black cherry and vanilla; soft tannins, and a long oaky finish. Serve with BBQ delight, grilled sausages, pork chops, ribs, lamb or beef kabobs." My notes: A blend of 35% shiraz, 34% cabernet sauvignon, 26% merlot and 5% cabernet franc. A lot of woodiness in both nose and flavours until it warms and breathes a few hours. The colour is a deep ruby and, after airing, aromas of red currant and smoky cherry persist. Nicely balanced acids and fruit with enough natural sweetness for body and a smooth texture, flavours continue to be on the woody side with dried fig, currants and a jammy taste I haven't acquired - as if this bottle has sat in the sun for a time. Not a sipper... have with anything beefy: hamburgers, bacon on a bun, spaghetti and meatballs. I don't see any cellaring potential. 80

MASI SEREGO ALIGHIERI POSSESSIONI ROSSO 2005, Veneto, Italy, 13.0% D, #447326 $15.35 (Tasted May 11, 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." My notes: A blend of 70% corvina, 14% molinara (serego alighieri clone) and 16% sangiovese giving this a deep ruby colour with nice legs… a warm herby nose with some black cherries and the first sip has a nice nip and sweet fruit edge. The flavours are blended well dark tree fruit with smoky berries, medium-bodied. A tart touch carries the fruit into a long finish making this an interesting sipper. Would be great with mild to spicy tomato pasta dishes, veal parmigiana or lamb shank. This could possibly age another five years introducing even more interesting background textures. 89

CESARI MARA VINO DI RIPASSO 2005, Veronese, Italy, 13.5% D, #506519 $15.75 (Tasted May 5, 2008)

A General listing described as "Medium ruby colour; dried cherry fruit, sweet, spicy aromas and light wood notes; dry, medium to full bodied, with cherry flavours and a silky, velvety mouthfeel and a warm finish. Serve with veal parmigiana, rich pasta dishes, beef, lamb or firm cheese." My notes: A blend of about 70-75% corvina veronese, 20% rondinella and 5% molinara. For a smoother earthy aroma with less tobacco let air for twenty minutes... soft almost mellow on the tongue with mushroom and ripe plum aromas with flavours that follow. The finish is smooth with dark fruit lasting forever. A fullish medium-bodied purply ruby in colour with fine tannins and light acid to complement the flavours. A quaffable sipper for a crowd of wine newbies to cab drinkers, perhaps with a challenge for each. Have with prime rib and stuffed baked potato, rib-eye steak with broiled mushrooms. Should be able to cellar this without harm for several years altho' sipping well now. A value tomato pasta red. 89

CAMPO VIEJO RESERVA RIOJA 2002, Rioja, Spain, 13.0% D, #137810 $18.00 (Tasted May 15, 2008)

A General listing described as "Medium ruby/garnet colour; complex aromas and flavours of cherry, plums, leather, oak spice and vanilla; dry, medium-bodied with a silky mouth-feel and soft tannic finish. Serve with veal chops, paella or turkey." My notes: A mid ruby colour and delicate fragrances of smoky plum, red cherry and cinnamon. Its brightness combined with a smooth texture makes this an interesting sipper; flavours of minty cherry and a crisp edge gives it a long finish ending on a mineral note. A rioja, in this case, blending 75% tempranillo with 15% graciano and 10% mazuelo the white giving a bright red even more life as well as adding a spicy fragrance. Likely at peak now and if the occasion is a pasta night it would fit in well or serve with tapas, tomato bruschetta, or pizzas, veal parmigiana. 86

COUSINO-MACUL ANTIGUAS RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #212993 $15.35 (Tasted May 7, 2008)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby red colour; cassis fruit on the nose with mocha, black currant, vanilla, green pepper and leather tone; dry, full bodied, with ripe berry fruit flavours, ripe though firm tannins; medium long finish. Serve with grilled meats; rack of lamb; medium cheeses." My notes: 100% cabernet sauvignon although the grape has succumbed to process. First tasted when opened the earth and oak aromas needed a breath of fresh air before tasting. Air or decant and let breathe for a few hours. A moody ruby colour with a mix of pepper, currant and licorice aromas evenly balanced for a uniquely pungent fragrance. The first sip brings with it a fine tannic dryness, a bright acid edge and an earthy flavoured berry and currant compote… for me, not a pleasant brew. Must be served with strongly flavoured eats: sausage pieces with mustard or ketchup based dips, meatballs in a tomato sauce or with lamb shank in rich gravy. Cellar and forget… not a drink-now. Personally I would not serve this to guests and would avoid in future. 70

ERRAZURIZ MAX RESERVA MERLOT 2006, Aconcagua Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #016170 $14.35 (Tasted April 27, 2008)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby in colour; big jammy nose of black currant & hint of oak; medium-body, dry with gripping acidity. Serve with pork tenderloin." My notes: A blend of 89% merlot and 11% carmenère gives this a ruby base with a slight violet, nice legs but no staining on the glass. The first sip has a delicate nip and dry touch with bright blackberry and dark chocolate flavourings. Finishes with a slight fruit fading but nicely persistent leaving a roundness, soft berries and herbaceous touch. A red you could plan for any crowd, a sociable sipper and a value at the price. Also suitable for most meaty entrees as long as not too spicy: pea and ham, carrot and red pepper, broccoli and cheese soups or with light fowl or a honeyed ham steak. A drink-now. 87

LOUIS JADOT 'COMBE AUX JACQUES' BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES 2006, Burgundy, France, 12.5% D, #365924 $15.70 (Tasted May 14, 2008)

A Vintages release on March 15, 2008 described as "This supple Beaujolais entices with its bouquet of smoke, cherry and fresh plum. Medium-bodied, vivacious and fruity; it's perfect for the big feast. Serve with ham." My notes: The nose is mostly a light smoke with some berries and plum filling in. Bright berry is the first flavour impression with a firm mintiness carrying through to a long finish of crushed berry seeds lasting long and rooty. The colour is deep ruby but the body is light offering fine tannins and pronounced acidity making this a meal red. Have with prime rib roast, rare to well, with italian sausage or with a ham steak. A lightly oaked red with scant fruit makes this not that interesting, in fact, boring after a few sips. Nothing there to cellar. 80

CLINE SYRAH 2006, Sonoma County, USA, 14.0% D, #733758 $12.85 (Tasted May 2, 2008)

A Vintages release on February 2, 2008 described as "Made with grapes sourced primarily from Cline's Sonoma County vineyards, this is an excellent value! This Syrah will have you singing its praises with its aromas of blackberry, cracked pepper, spice, and leather, with flavours of black cherry with a hint of oak and a medium long finish. A natural partner for grilled lamb or gourmet sausages." My notes: 100% syrah gives this a deep ruby with long legs and delicate aromas of young blackberries, anise and pepper. Medium-bodied and a beautiully balanced blend of blackberries, soft mint, fine tannins and spice that lead the way to a long finish of not quite ripe berries lightly sprinkled with black pepper, along with a mineral edge that may lose some appeal. A meal red for accompanying rack of lamb, crock pot lamb shank or a beef bourguignon. Cellaring for two years should be OK but it's likely near peak now. What a difference a vintage makes! 83

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