Friday, August 01, 2008

August 2008 Wines: 15 Tasted of 15

The theme for August are wines chosen from a winery that has had ratings in the mid eighties and higher for wines previously tasted (and two ripassos because the labels looked interesting). The thought is if a winery makes a few above average wines they may do well with other varietals or styles. The vintage and the winemaker may vary, and even the location of the vineyards but hopefully the philosophy and quality control will be the same for all their wines. As before, the tasted wines appear in bold. We’ll see what happens… Cheers, Ww

THE LINEUP - grouped by reds, whites, sparkles and other:
  • Quintus Valpolicella Ripasso 2006, 92-2 -- V, Veneto, Italy, #081455 $17.95
  • Alfredo Roca Pinot Noir 2006, 90-2 -- V, San Rafael, Argentina, #032979 $13.95
  • Wyndham Estate Bin 999 Merlot 2006, 90-2 -- G, South Eastern Australia, #336347 $15.45
  • Wolf Blass Cabernet Merlot 1999, 89-1 -- G, South Australia, #611483 $16.95
  • Corte Giara Ripasso Valpolicella 2006, 88-1 -- V, Veneto, Italy, #083964 $19.95
  • Sileni Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2007, 60 -- V, Hawkes Bay, NZ, #694901 $16.95

  • Wente ‘Morning Fog’ Chardonnay 2006, 86 -- G, Livermore Valley, USA, #175430 $16.05
  • Wyndham Estate Bin 222 Chardonnay 2006, 80 -- G, South Eastern Australia, #093401 $11.45*
  • Creekside Estate Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2006 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 78 -- V, Niagara, Canada, #053371 $18.95
  • Barefoot Cellars Pinot Grigio NV, 70 -- G, Napa, USA, #053983 $9.95 

  • Codorniu Brut Cava Pinot Noir Rosé NV, 89-1 -- V, Penedes, Spain, #665372 $16.95
  • Foss Marai Prosecco Extra Dry ‘Blue Bottle’ NV, 88-1 -- V, Italy, #729392 $17.95
  • Codorniu Reserva Raventos Cava Brut NV, 88-1 -- V, Penedes, Spain, #521773 $14.95
  • Navarro Correas Extra Brut NV, 85 -- G, Mendoza, Argentina, #066563 $14.95
  • Valdivieso Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine Brut NV, 80 -- V, Curicó Valley, Chile, #075085 $14.95
(G - General Listing, V - Vintages,  O - Other, r-v - Rating - Value,)

QUINTUS VALPOLICELLA RIPASSO 2006, Veneto, Italy, 13.5% D, #081455 $17.95 (Tasted August 26, 2008)

A Vintages release on August 16, 2008 described as “Ripasso means the addition of grape skins used to make Amarone to the already fermented Valpolicella wine, thereby causing a second fermentation. As a result, the aroma and flavour profiles deepen. In this version, the aromas are reminiscent of chocolate-covered raisin, leather, vanilla and red table grapes. This dry wine is actually quite fruity and round in the mouth.” My notes:This has a rich ruby colour and a chocolate covered cherry nose not overly evident but appealing and leaves long legs on the glass. A smooth first sip with fine tannins and a flavour of black cherries, raspberries and a tobacco edge leaving a silky fullness on the lips and palate, scrumptious being the overall effect. A well managed ripasso imho having depth as a sipper not wanting that next hors d’oeuvre. Pair with prime roast beef, a cheesy ground beef lasagne, pot roast or crock pot stew – not a lot of spice but well seasoned. Cellaring for four to six years could add even more velvet tones and flavour layers. At the price it’d be worth the try. 92

CORTE GIARA RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA 2006, Veneto, Italy, 13.5% D, #083964 $19.95 (Tasted August 26, 2008)

A Vintages release on July 19, 2008 described as “A real knockout, this ready-to-drink Ripasso is intensely flavoured with layers of berries, tobacco and smoke. Dry and medium-bodied, it's a food-friendly red that's delicious with spicy Italian sausages hot off the grill. Outperforming many in its class, this attractively priced Ripasso has Allegrini's signature stamp of quality. An extremely popular wine style - and for good reason.” My notes: A deep ruby colour and needs to breathe a few minutes to develop smoky oak tones, possibly with some plum and blackberry aromas. It’s bright on the palate suggesting red cherries, dry, smooth, medium-bodied and has fine tannins and a long finish, also dry, keeping the red cherry brightness. An OK sipper for an outdoor bbq but primarily a pasta red – have with tomato and meat dishes: Italian sausage, portabella mushrooms, seared veal chops in a spicy tomato sauce. A drink now but could keep a few years possibly increasing its silky texture. 88
FOSS MARAI PROSECCO EXTRA DRY 'BLUE BOTTLE', Italy, 11.5% XD, #729392 $17.95 (Retasted August 24, 2008)

My notes: A clear blond with a rush of bubbles all sizes then settling slowly to steady streams in a fluted glass. The aroma is of cold apple pie with a butterscotch drizzle. Full of cream and apple/pear flavours sprizty on the palate and a smooth finish that is long and creamy. This still does not come across as ‘Extra Dry’ and barely makes ‘Brut’. Not for oysters but would pair nicely with Belgian waffles with whipped cream and mixed summer berries. Originally cellared in May 2006 and likely mellowed since, a quaffer rather than a sipper. Serve well chilled to summer patio guests, with a cold lobster salad or after dinner and coffee as a quencher. Has kept well over two years and should continue for another two, methinks not longer. 88

WOLF BLASS CABERNET MERLOT 1999, South Australia, 13.0% #611483 $16.95 (Retasted August 27, 2008)
My notes: Cellared in July, 2002 with three to six years cellaring suggested on the label. First tasted in February 2005 and last tasted in September 2007 when it was rated Ww80 with the comment ‘past peak’. The colour is still a deep ruby with a garnet cast. The nose is now a smoky cherry and herbal not unlike oregano, soft and subtle. There is a light taste of sweet black currant balanced by a natural tartness and having a suede texture. Medium-bodied, this finishes long and surprisingly tasty, fine tannins, some berries, a few currants and herbal edge. Now a pleasing integration of fruit and spice with a soft texture, it appears to have turned around in the last year showing some staying power. Have with prime rib, T-bone or stews... or just sip. This was my last bottle so I won’t be able to see if it continues to change. 89
CODORNÍU BRUT CAVA PINOT NOIR ROSÉ, Penedes, Spain, 12.0% XD, #665372 $16.95 (Retasted August 17, 2008)

Released by Vintages on June 21, 2008 described as “Appealing Summer rosé Cava, with warm red berry flavors laced with mineral and earth notes. Shows some grip on the finish. Ready to drink now. (, April/May 2008)” My notes: Last tasted in December last year with a rating of Ww85 – now with more cream. The colour is a soft crushed strawberry and the aroma is a combination of strawberries and leesy cherries. Continuous bubbles of all sizes leave a ring at the rim and a firm spritz with each sip. The texture is softened with a light cream against flavours of mostly strawberries, dry, with a steely edge that becomes more pronounced at room temp – keep chilled. This is a refreshing before speech drink – during and after as well. Good with fresh oysters or grilled scallops, tapas, bruschetta, and proscuito wrapped shrimp. An economical bubbly in an attractive clear bell shaped bottle gives this appeal for most festive occasions. 89

Napa, USA, 13.0% D, #053983 $9.95 (Tasted September 22, 2007)

A General listing described as “Pale straw with aromas of pineapple, citrus and floral. Dry, light to medium-bodied with notes of pineapple and hints of citrus ending with a very crisp finish. Serve with salads, soft cheeses, tuna sandwiches, anchovy pizza.” My notes: An E&J Gallo entry level beverage last tasted in September 2007 noting ‘a faint blond colour with faint aromas of wildflowers with a slight honey edge’ and rated Ww78. The label still carries the Gold Medal seal from the 2006 Indy International and the 'NV' says grapes can come from anywhere at anytime. The first sip brings a spicy sweetness of fruit balanced evenly with acid and ending with nondescript flavouring I’d say mostly artificial or neglible citrus. The previous ‘roundness’ is no longer present in the recipe for this production run. A quaffable beverage and OK with nibbles to provide interest but for a regular wine drinker this is somewhere between unpleasant and just tolerable. 70

South Eastern Australia, 13.0% D, #093401 $11.45* (Tasted August 10, 2008)

A General listing described as “Lemon yellow colour; fragrant aromas of tropical fruit, pineapple, peach and vanilla oak; dry, medium-bodied with soft fruit flavours; citrus and spice on the finish. Serve with grilled chicken, pork chops; shrimp dishes. My notes: *Previously priced $11.95 now regularly $12.45. No change in the LCBO writeup and still a light blond colour with aromas of faint pineapple, straw and honey - consistent so far. The flavours are delivered with a slight nip and fall between lemon and tropical fruit, not as strongly flavoured nor as creamy as last tasted (December 2007). A lightish medium-body finishing dry on the lips with some acid, some indiscernible fruit remaining and a pithy edge. A commercial house white for an open bar or bridge, euchre or canasta social. Have with salty nibbles, fowl or fish, roasted or grilled. A drink now and always available. This time I didn’t get ‘a light oil’ or ‘refreshing citrus’, in that respect 2006 is less interesting and similar to the 2004. 80

ALFREDO ROCA PINOT NOIR 2006, San Rafael, Argentina, 12.8% D, #032979 $13.95 (Tasted August 10, 2008)

A Vintages release on July 19, 2008 described as “As the southernmost region of Mendoza, San Rafael offers the cool climate ideal for growing Pinot Noir. This deep crimson-coloured wine displays attractive black cherry and floral aromas, with vanilla notes imparted by its 8-month maturation in oak. Delicate and long-finishing, this will complement grilled pork tenderloin or grilled salmon.” My notes: The 2005 vintage was tasted in April, 2007 with the comment “A ‘process driven’ Pinot… I didn’t care for it.” Rod Phillips (of Winecurrent at the time) had said of the 2005 “Serve this to me blind and I wouldn’t have thought it was a pinot noir” and rated it four out of five (90-93). To me the 2006 is an attractive italian ripasso having a similar bouquet of infused amarone grape skins – rich, full of cherries, earthy. The colour is a deep ruby and shows slow legs on the glass. The first sip has tobacco, chocolate, black cherries, some dark berries and nary a strawberry in sight. The flavours are carried to a long soft finish which ends well balanced with fine tannins and tart fruit. A medium-bodied sipper and a respectable house red for the price. A flexible meal red for anything grilled and savoury including tomato pizzas and pastas - not salmon. 'Process driven' yes, but this time with fruit. This should cellar well up to four years making it a real value. 90

WENTE ‘MORNING FOG’ CHARDONNAY 2006, Livermore Valley, USA, 13.5% D, #175430 $16.05 (Tasted August 11, 2008)

A General listing described as “Pale straw colour; apple and pear aromas with mineral and oaky notes; round fruit flavours with a citrusy finish. Serve with pasta in a cream sauce or with finger foods.” My notes: The LCBO description hasn’t changed since this was previously tasted (June 07, 2007) as vintage 2005 and before ‘Morning Fog’ was attached to the label. The colour is a pale straw and aromas are scarcely perceptible in this vintage, I’d say a leesy butter and minimal mandarin as it comes off chill. Served at 14C the first sip has a creamy texture and a flavour of nutty citrus and apple, not that tart well balanced with not that fruity. This is an easy sipper to go with conversation or with melon balls and pineapple cubes – serve to anyone not ABC. Mostly chardonnay (97%) blended with gewurztraminer (2%) for interest and semillon (1%) for roundness this is equally enjoyable at just above room temperature. The finish is smooth, bright and warm. French barrel oaking didn’t carry through to the flavour. Pair with pork tenderloin, veal parmigiana, turkey breast or chicken. It could benefit from cellaring two years which may develop more caramel. 86

WYNDHAM ESTATE BIN 999 MERLOT 2006, South Eastern Australia, 14.5% D, #336347 $15.45 (Tasted August 7, 2008)

A General listing described as “Garnet colour; blackberry, cherry and plum aromas with light oak; ripe fruit flavours, soft tannin, oaky finish. Serve with veal tenderloin, poultry.” My notes: The Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Shiraz 2004 and Show Reserve Shiraz 2003 were packaged as a duo before Christmas 2007 and were rated Ww90 and Ww92 respectively. The Bin 555 Shiraz 2005 was rated Ww91 in June this year and Bin 888 Cabernet Merlot 2003, Ww86. I last tasted the Merlot, vintage 2003, in October of 2005 with a lack of enthusiasm saying ‘Finish starts but doesn’t develop, is short and uninteresting.’ In contrast this 2006 Merlot (100%) is full of tangy berries and currants almost aggressive. The nose is berry and currant that carries these flavours along with an assertive edge. The finish is bright on the tongue and held its own with a tomato and ground beef lasagna. It’s a bright sipper and would pair well with well seasoned grilled beef or rack of lamb. Veal and poultry may be too mild for this spunky merlot. Well worth the price – so far other Wyndhams have cellared well and altho’ drinking well this may need a few years to soften some youthfulness. 90

NAVARRO CORREAS EXTRA BRUT NV, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.0% D, #066563 $14.95 (Tasted August 8 , 2008.

A General release. My notes: Previously tasted in March this year and rated 80 and now priced $1 less. The Valdivieso Malbec previously tasted was stunning (93) for the price and their Chardonnay was rated 83. Tiny bubbles rush to the rim settling to a steady stream and forming a ring. A blend of half chardonnay and half pinot noir the colour is a light blond with just a touch of peach. The nose is mostly pie dough but with an apple skin twist, faint and fairly indicative of flavours to come – which come slowly building to show apple, melon and oatmeal finishing as creamy tart apple with a soft mineral edge. Not inspiring oohs and aahs and better if taken in large sips - even better with fresh oysters or crab cakes and could be OK with a cheese tray on a hot summer day. Personally it's not the style of bubbly I'd choose for special guests or occasion but try it - it might work for you. 85

Curicó Valley, Chile, 12.5% D, #075085 $14.95 (Tasted August 6, 2008)

Released by Vintages August 2, 2008 described as “With more than a century of experience, Valdivieso is Chile's oldest sparkling wine producer. Made with 100% Chardonnay sourced from estate vineyards in the Curicó Valley, this Blanc de Blancs is crafted using the traditional method with its secondary fermentation done in the bottle. Exhibiting lively citrus and green apple flavours, this elegant bubbly is an excellent value that would pair well with sushi, summer salads, or crab cakes.” My notes: The Valdivieso chardonnay tasted in March this year was rated 85 and their rose 85 so thought this worth a try. A burst of all sized bubbles settling to a constant stream and forming a light ring at the rim. A mild apple with pear and yeast sidelights form the nose although you need a strong sniffer. Serve well chilled for flavours of mild ripe green apple finishing doughy smooth with some grass on the palate. Have as an aperitif with fresh oysters, a variety of tapas, mild cheesy bruscetta or pair with grilled seafood dishes. The flavours are more pronounced the larger the sip in this bubbly but the finish doesn’t avoid being on the doughy side and disappointing – must have with hors d’oeuvres. It’s not going anywhere if cellared so a drink now. 80

Niagara, Canada, 12.5% D, #053371 $18.95 (Tasted August 4, 2008)

Released by Vintages March 29, 2008 described as “This is a dynamic example. Very generous, spicy, smoky nose with lavender, nutmeg, pineapple and lime nuances. Medium-full bodied, creamy and exotic, with great acidity drying nicely on the finish with some green tea, wood tannin, sap and loads of spice. Excellent length. (90/100, David Lawrason, Nov. 20, 2007)” My notes: Creekside’s Mike Weir labeled wines were rated from 80 to 88 and the Creekside Laura’s Blend White tasted June this year was rated 88. The colour of this Reserve Sauvignon Blanc is a light golden, crisp with reasonable legs on the glass indicative of its round mouthfeel. The aroma is gooseberry and grass with emphasis on fruit. The taste has a freshness of fruit but leans away from gooseberries to flavours of dull apple with a nutty note and finishing long with more of the same. A chameleon of a sauvignon blanc and for me a sniffer but not a sipper. I think it’s past its ‘best before date’. Should be OK with grilled freshwater fish or a buffet of seafood nibbles – lost it with grilled arctic char. 78

SILENI CELLAR SELECTION PINOT NOIR 2007, Hawkes Bay, NZ, 13.5% D, #694901 $16.95 (Tasted August 1, 2008)

A Vintages release on August 2, 2008 described as “The 2007 vintage works well as a drink-young style. On the market within six months of the harvest, it's basically a Beaujolais-style red, made with 'minimal' oak handling. Full-bodied, ripe and supple, with plenty of plummy, spicy, slightly earthy flavour, it should be at its best during 2008. (3 out of 5, Michael Cooper, Buyer's Guide to New Zealand Wines, 2008)”. My notes: I was reasonably impressed with Sileni wines tasted previously, their ratings being in the high 80’s (Rose 88, Pinot Gris 89, Sauv Blanc 90) but I’m not sure how this ever made it to a Vintages release. After decanting for several hours I still found it unacceptable. It’s packaged attractively and is a pleasing ruby colour in a wide bowl - but that’s where the attraction ends. The aroma is an equal cross between mild strawberry, mild raspberry with a sharp astringency. The first sip is smooth on the tonsils building expectations then a chokecherry takes over. The finish has a sting etching the palate with a chokecherry sharpness. Not a sipper and difficult to imagine a food combination that would work. PS. Was acceptably tamer two days left in the carafe. 60

CODORNÍU RESERVA RAVENTÓS CAVA BRUT NV, Penedes, Spain, 11.5% XD, #521773 $14.95 (Tasted August 2, 2008)

Released by Vintages August 2, 2008 described as “Such good value! Complex, refreshing and nicely streamlined, it's a lighter styled, well aged bubbly with more apple-pear fruit than usual in cava due to 50% chardonnay in the blend. Pleasant sweetish brioche, apple pie on the nose with a touch of celery-like greenness as well. Light to medium bodied, zesty with a touch of sweetness then a drier mineral finish. Very good length. (89/100, David Lawrason, March/April 2007)” My notes: Available on December 1, 2007 along with their Pinot Noir Rosé (85) as a gift pack at $29.95. Their Non Plus Ultra at $20.95 was rated 91. Raventos is a blend of 50% chard, 25% macabeo and 25% xarel-lo. This release still has light golden colour, ‘lots of large bubbles subsiding to a steady stream and no froth. The nose is a crisp crabapple against a leasy background’. Fine bubbles can be felt intermingled with flavours of tart apple, lime and pie dough smoothly textured, almost creamy, hanging on to a long finish - not purse-your-lips tart as in last December’s release. A bubbly to be served to any festive crowd on a budget or as an afternoon appetizer with fresh oysters. Serve very chilled for the longest capture of bubbles and fruit. The bell shaped bottle should cellar for years. 88

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