Friday, August 15, 2008

August 16th, 2008 Picks: 11 Tasted of 11

I don’t think I’ve tried this before: I asked the staff at a Vintages outlet to pick five wines from their August 16th Release. My only condition was that each wine had to be below $20. There were several outlets to choose from in Burlington and, as customer friendly as LCBO people are, the first manager I approached agreed. The wines marked VS are the Vintages picks – I’ve added a sixth, the riesling, because ‘it was enjoyable’, a new Argentinan grape, Torrontés, and a Chilean sauvignon blanc recommended by Gord Stimmell of The Star. Another three wines are from the ‘Best-buys’ list in Winepointer #13 along with Rod Phillips’ ratings where available. As before, when tasted the wine will appear in bold. Cheers, Ww

  • Ventisquero 'Queulat' Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, RP90-93, 92 -- V, Maipo Valley, Chile, #061937 $16.95
  • VS, Santa Carolina Barrica Selection Petit Verdot 2006, RP90-93, 92 -- V, Rapel Valley , Chile, #007484 $14.95
  • Vinecol Torrontés 2007, RP90-93, 92 -- V, Mendoza, Argentina, #032748 $13.95
  • Jekel Vineyards 'Gravelstone' Chardonnay 2006, RP90-93, 91 -- V, Monterey, USA, #421016 $15.95
  • VS, Schloss Schönborn Riesling 1994, 90 -- V, Rhinegau, Gemany, #107557 $14.95
  • VS, Domaine LaMargue Viognier 2007, RP87-89, 89 -- V, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France, #525428 $17.95
  • VS, Botromagno Gravina 2006, 87 -- V, Puglia, Italy, #082040 $14.95
  • VS, Finca Sobreno Crianza 2004, 87 -- V, Toro, Spain, #040360 $18.95
  • VS, Fontanafredda Barbera D’Alba Raimonda 2005, RP87-89, 86 -- V, Piedmont, Italy, #023135 $16.95
  • Terra Noble Vineyard Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2007, GS88, 81 -- V, Maule Valley, Chile, #062026 $11.95
  • Tabalí Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2007, RP87-89, 80 -- V, Limari Valley, Chile, #662999 $12.95
    (V – Vintages, VS – Vintages pick, GS - Gord Stimmell, RP – Rod Phillips)

TERRA NOBLE VINEYARD SELECTION SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007, Maule Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #062026 $11.95 (Tasted August 29, 2008)

Vintages described this as “This delicious Sauvignon Blanc shows lovely citrus and floral characteristics as well as the telltale grassiness Savvy is known for. Very refreshing, this is a warm-weather quaffer to have on hand all summer long.” My notes: A firm whiff of nettles gives this ‘savvy’ its character and the strong flavouring of nettles confirms its uniqueness - no gooseberries or passion fruit here. As a sipper you either like it or dislike. The acid and textures went well with battered halibut and salted chips doused in malt vinegar and ketchup. Medium-bodied, the tartness and nettles carried right through the finish - an acquired terroir that I won‘t be acquiring. 81

SANTA CAROLINA BARRICA SELECTION PETIT VERDOT 2006, Rapel Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #007484 $14.95 (Tasted August 18, 2008)

Vintages described this as “Rarely used as a stand-alone variety, Petit Verdot adds to a growing list of established Bordeaux grapes finding good expression in Chile. This 2006 vintage offers ripe blackberry and plum aromas and flavours, with attractive spice notes and well-structured tannins. A great match for pepper-crusted steak.” My notes: A deep ruby and aromas of chocolate, rasp- and blackberries. A mix of textures: soft, bright, drying tannins - and flavours including vanilla, tar, earthy wood along with dark fruit and leaving a warm compote on the palate. A serious sipper, full-bodied and bold that would go well with a T-bone, rack of lamb or chili con carne all somewhat spicy or well seasoned. If you prefer ‘bold’ this is drinking well now but could cellar for several years mellowing the rough edges and developing more subtlety. 92

DOMAINE LAMARGUE VIOGNIER 2007, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France, 14.0% D, #525428 $17.95 (Tasted August 20, 2008)

Vintages described this as “Classic Viognier aromas of honeysuckle, lavender, apricot and gentle blossom notes are on display here. It is dry, round and fat (true to the variety). Enjoy with pasta in a cream sauce, or ceviche of scallops with yogurt topping.” My notes:A light meadow floral and honey fragrance and a light golden colour in the glass. There’s some tangy spice on the first sip then a finish with a citrus, melon and mineral aftertaste. Nicely rounded to balance the tartness making this an ideal grilled red snapper accompaniment. A young wine as yet with some sharpness that should mellow out leaving a creamy smooth texture to a full-bodied meal white. Cellaring two to four years is likely. 89

FONTANAFREDDA BARBERA D'ALBA RAIMONDA 2005, Piedmont, Italy, 13.5% XD, #023135 $16.95 (Tasted August 22, 2008)

Vintages described this as “Enjoy this single-vineyard Barbera with grilled sausages, meats or a truffle risotto. Displays interesting aromas of plum, lemon and hints of tea. Full-bodied, with silky tannins and a long aftertaste of lemon, cappuccino and milk chocolate. The finish is delicious. Drink now. 88/100. (James Suckling, Web Only 2007).” My notes: Let breathe to give time to develop its full character. A brilliant ruby colour with a violet tint and a smoky black cherry aroma, nothing to write home about but pleasant enough. The first sip is drying before a cherry and smoke flavouring takes over, smooth, a slight bite and medium-bodied. A European dry red with fruit nicely balanced with process, not my preferred red for sipping but would be great with red pastas, Italian sausage, chili con carne or beef stroganoff. Cellaring won’t do anything so I’d say it’s a drink now. 86

FINCA SOBREÑO CRIANZA 2004, Toro, Spain, 14.5% XD, #040360 $18.95 (Tasted August 21, 2008)

Vintages described this as “The 2004 Crianza has considerably more to offer. It is a saturated purple in color, with lots of smoke, lead pencil, and cedar on the nose. On the palate, it is full-flavored, layered, and long. It will benefit from 1-3 years of cellaring and drink well for a decade. It is an outstanding value. 90+/100. (Jay Miller, Feb. 2007).” My notes: A black cherry skin colour and soft aromas of ripe black cherries warmed by the sun. A firm tannin coats the tongue while a slight acid bites then flavours of tobacco and ripe cherries carry through to a long dry finish with a modest tar edge. A medium-bodied old world sipper better paired with a spicy tomato rice dish or beef stew. Perhaps cellaring two more years will soften the tannins for a smoother value. 87

BOTROMAGNO GRAVINA 2006, Puglia, Italy, 12.0% D, #082040 $14.95 (Tasted August 22, 2008)

Vintages described this as “The white wines in the Gravina DOC in Puglia must be between 35 and 60% Greco and 40 to 65% Malvasia. This fragrant, flowery, freshly fruity version from Botromagno is 60% Greco and 40% Malvasia. The producer recommends this wine as a fine match for raw oysters.” My notes: A light golden colour clear and bright in the glass with aromas of floral citrus and straw. There’s a bright nip and a dry, moderately rounded texture to the first sip and flavours of citrus and tart quince. The finish is dry and full of citrus zest, mostly lemon, with a smooth clay touch. This would be a great appetizer with fresh oysters, grilled scallops or shrimps on a bed of lemon soaked risotto. Likely it would pair well with roast chicken, King crab meat or lobster pieces. A good value for a house white as an alternative to pinot grigio. 87

TABALI RESERVA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007, Limarí Valley, Chile, 13.5% XD, #662999 $12.95 (Tasted August 17, 2008)

Vintages described this as “Chile's cool-climate Limarí Valley is achieving wondrous results with Sauvignon Blanc. This elegant and refreshing example is loaded with grapefruit, lime and grassy flavours as well as a touch of minerality. Fresh and crisp, it makes a terrific summer sipper or try it with barbecued prawns.” My notes: On pouring the fragrance is a strong gooseberry with an even portion of nettles as one would expect from a young sauvignon blanc. The colour is a light golden and there’s a slight viscous film showing on the glass leading to a texture that would be a light cream except for the firm astringency – a palate cleaner with a long, acidic straw finish. Not enjoyable as a sipper and must be paired with a meal: pan fried pickerel or perch, a seafood risotto with a pesto and garlic sauce, or cheese and crab quesadillas. Cellaring is a puzzle as a lower fruitiness would leave the acid making this undrinkable so, even at the price I wouldn't chance it - and I wouldn't serve to guests. Skip this vintage. 80

VENTISQUERO QUEULAT GRAN RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #061937 $16.95 (Tasted August 20, 2008)

Vintages described this as “The June 2008 issue of Wine & Spirits named Ventisquero as one of the top value brands of the year! This attractive Cab shows why with its intriguing notes of toast, earth, cassis and ripe cherry. It's dry, well-structured and elegant with impressive depth and a lingering finish.” My notes: A beautiful rich ruby colour in a broad bowled glass and full aromas of warm wet teak and ripe black currants. There’s quite a tangy brightness with a velvet blackberry and cassis flavouring giving this a unique approach to the palate – an entertaining sipper. The flavours last forever until some subtle oak influences bring up the finish. Very likely a long term cellarer making this an excellent value as changes in flavour and textures give this even more interest. Have with anything beefy and savoury. 92

JEKEL VINEYARDS GRAVELSTONE CHARDONNAY 2006, Monterey, USA, 13.5% D, #421016 $15.95 (Tasted August 21, 2008)

Vintages described this as “This medium-bodied, medium-finishing Chardonnay is an excellent choice for crab cakes with a spicy aioli dipping sauce. Look for pretty aromas of melon, citrus, cinnamon, ripe apple and a touch of oak. Dry and quite fruity, it offers a harmonious balance of fruit, acid and gentle oak.” My notes: A light golden blond with aromas of light oak, butter and citrus in that order of prominence and with a buttery mouth feel. There are flavours of a combination of lime and lemon zest followed by a dry, honeyed-edged grass. This finishes fairly light on the palate but warm and dry. A sipper if you like a buttery chardonnay and, true to its name, there is a mineral edge to the aroma, flavour and finish. Serve this chilled and let warm slightly - a group of wine drinkers would find this an interesting chardonnay to sip by itself or with hors d’oeuvres . I’d serve it to family or friends on any occasion except to ABCs. Have with chicken, pork, planked salmon or spicy mussels. Should be able to cellar this up to four years. 91

SCHLOSS SCHÖNBORN RIESLING 1994, Rhinegau, Germany, 10.0% MD, #107557 $14.95 (Tasted August 23, 2008)

Vintages described this as “As with many older Rieslings, this QbA from Schönborn is drier than it would have been in its youth. It is still a terrific value with dried lemon, peach and lanolin aromas and flavours. The acids are still quite fresh, yet perfectly in balance with the fruit. A remarkable value for a maturing Riesling. It will still reward more time in a cellar (2-4 years), but is an excellent companion tonight with grilled salmon. ” My notes: As the Vintages staff said ‘quite enjoyable!’. A light blond colour, clear and crisp in a tulip glass and having an apricot and petrol fragrance, both subtle. The flavours ride on an astringent seam accompanied by a natural fruit sugar like the coating on some doughnuts, sweet but not too when balanced by the acid. Medium-bodied with a long finish of ‘sweet and sour’, a light lemon and honey. Have as an aperitif by itself or with fruit or cheeses. Pair with Chinese, Thai or sushi fare. Drinking well now and should cellar for many more years. 90

VINECOL TORRONTÉS 2007, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.3% D, #032748 $13.95 (Tasted August 18, 2008)

Vintages described this as “Made from organic grapes. Torrontés has become for white wine in Argentina what Malbec is for reds, a signature grape. Here the grape produces aromatic, floral, and fruity wines that are a touch reminiscent of Viognier or Muscat. Match this one with spicy Asian cuisine. Our Quality Assurance laboratory has determined that this wine contains 21 mg/L of free sulphur. ” My notes: A pleasant fragrance of wild flowers and honey fading into sweet grass. A light golden colour having a soft texture with flavours of citrus, melon and mild minerals. Leaves a softness on the lips with a bright reminder of citrus and a clay finish. A sociable summer sipper for a mixed crowd – no one would refuse a refill and may lead to a guessing game for a ‘varietal’. Serve well chilled with a fruit tray, with brie, gruyere and edam, or a shrimp ring. Pair with roasted chicken or turkey breast and lingonberry, pork chop with apple sauce or a seasoned seafood dish. A drink now. 92

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