Monday, September 01, 2008

August 30th, 2008 Picks: 12 Tasted of 12

Vintages staff picked six of these wines, marked VS, for tasting and all listed are from the August 30th Release. I added five wines from Spain and Portugal, both countries featured in this Release, and a GSM pick from Beppi‘s column on September 6th. The Gnarlier Zin was well over my $20 range but tasting higher priced wines often keeps others in perspective (that’s my excuse anyway!). Ratings from Winepointer #14 are included where available. When tasted the wine will appear in bold
Cheers, Ww 
  • Pikes ‘The Assemblage’ Shiraz/Mourvedre/Grenache 2006, RP87-89, 92-2 -- V, Clare Valley, Australia, #014332 $18.95
  • Monasterio De Las Viñas Gran Reserva 2001, RP90-93, 92-2 -- V, Cariñena, Spain, #082024 $21.95
  • Juan Gil Tinto 2006, RP90-93, 91-2 -- V, Jumilla, Spain, #001677 $21.95
  • VS, Bodegas Estancia Piedra Azul 2005, 91-2 -- V, Toro, Spain, #082214 $15.95
  • VS, Bodegas Santa Ana La Mascota Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, RP87-89, 89-2 -- V, Mendoza, Argentina, #066720 $15.95
  • VS, Gnarlier Head Old Vine Zin 2005, RP90-93, 88 -- V, Dry Creek Valley, USA, #067785 $27.95

  • Loureiro Vinho Verde 2007, 91-3 -- V, Lima, Portugal, #681775 $13.95
  • VS, Konrad Sauvignon Blanc 2006, RP90-93, 90-2 -- V, Marlborough, NZ, #616243 $17.95
  • VS, Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery ’Larch Tree Hill’ Riesling 2007 VQA Okanagan Valley, 88-1 -- V, BC, Canada, #070698 $16.95
  • VS, Daniel Lenko Reserve Riesling 2006 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 88-1 -- V, Niagara, Canada, #075655 $19.95
  • Muga Barrel Fermented White 2007, 88-1 -- V, Rioja, Spain, #958736 $15.95
  • Brunheda Vinho Tinto 2003, RP90-93, 87 -- V, Douro, Portugal, #077222 $19.95
(V – Vintages, VS – Vintages pick, RP – Rod Phillips, r-v - Rating-Value) 


PIKES 'THE ASSEMBLAGE' SHIRAZ/ MOURVEDRE/GRENACHE 2006, Clare Valley, Australia, 14.5% XD, #014332 $18.95 (Tasted September 7, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “This SMG blend is dominated by lively smoky blackberry aromas and flavours with notes of chocolate, white pepper and earth. Medium-bodied, fresh and well-balanced, it would pair well with a roast leg of lamb with mint sauce.” My notes: A deep and sombre ruby colour and an aroma of a smoky black cherries and a few raspberries meets the nostrils. Medium-bodied, a slight natural sweetness or smoothness and flavour of dark berries and faint currants, a well balanced tannin and acid, all making this a very pleasant sipper. The finish is forever, dry, full of smoky berries and currants. A good meal companion reviving the palate with each sip. Have with anything from prime rib, roast ribs to a lamb shank or a full flavoured ham and pea soup. Cellaring up to four years should be OK. 92 

JUAN GIL TINTO 2006, Jumilla, Spain, 14.5% D, #001677 $21.95 (Tasted September 2, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “Made with 100% Monastrell (a.k.a. Mourvèdre), this wine exhibits aromas and flavours of blackcurrant, root beer and espresso. It is rich, ripe and very concentrated. Robert Parker Jr. awarded the 2002, 2003 and 2004 vintages scores of 90 or above. Parker's Spanish expert, Jay Miller, gave the 2005 a score of 90+. The 2006 vintage has not yet been reviewed, but expect more of the same. Cellar this 3-5 years or enjoy it tonight with rare roast beef or lamb.” My notes: A deep purple ruby colour with smoky black cherry and pepper aromas and a tangible nip to the first sip. I let this air for twenty minutes to allow some of the ‘smoke’ to clear. Flavours are a bright cherry with a distinct woody edge and dry to the bone. The finish is long, dry on the tongue and has a balance between process and fruit to satisfy if you’re looking for a full-bodied European red. Have with prime rib, a grilled T-bone or ribs. Cellaring a few more years could soften the tannins although it's drinking well now. 91

KONRAD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2006, Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% XD, #616243 $17.95 (Tasted August 30, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “A rather ripe style, with only modest leafiness, pushed into the background by hints of honey, stone fruit, gooseberry and red currant. It's plump and substantial without being heavy, with a lingering finish. Drink now. (90/100, Joe Czerwinski, Wine Enthusiast, March 1, 2008)” My notes: Let air a short while, twenty minutes, but keep chilled. Has a pale gold colour with faint aromas of nettles and pineapple. Smooth in texture with butter, sharp lemon, slight round gooseberry providing a long finish of herbaceous lemon. A sociable sipper and good partner for crab cakes or proscuitto wrapped grilled shrimp. Konrad is half way to a European sauvignon blanc, mellower, somewhat more assertive - as full but not as fruity as a Cloudy Bay ($20 less) or a Kim Crawford ($2 less). Keep a year - more than a year could lead to a straw dominant savvy. Have with broiled or steamed lobster, lightly seasoned whitefish or planked salmon - was great with rotisserie chicken. 90

BODEGAS SANTA ANA LA MASCOTA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0% XD, #066720 $15.95 (Tasted September 7, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “This wine won Gold and the trophy for best Cabernet Sauvignon at the first ever Argentina Wine Awards in 2007. Dense and youthful, this is a full, structured Cabernet that oozes fruit character, and has a rounded, complex, earthy palate. Very food friendly. Drink up to 2009. (4 out of 5,, Jan. 2008) My notes: A deep ruby colour with warm tones of plums and tart dark berries, the first sip brings firm tannins and nip with the dark berries taking over from the soft plums in the nose. Tannins provide a dry finish, no sweetness but some coffee and liquorice with luscious berries. A polite sipper, smooth and making its presence felt with a sharp nip, not peppery. Barbecued back ribs or chicken stuffed manicotti in a cheese, tomato and spinach sauce would pair well - anything savoury. A good value to be on hand for the next two to three years - longer would likely see this start downhill. 89

GNARLIER HEAD OLD VINE ZIN 2005, Dry Creek Valley, Sommer's Vineyard USA, 14.5% D, #067785 $27.95 (Tasted September 10, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “Dry Creek Valley is Mecca for Zinfandel aficionados. Opaque in the glass, aromas of blueberry, boysenberry and spiced black plum rip from this fully textured, full-bodied and complex Zin. Flavours of Bing cherry, spice box and sweet briary berry are deftly juxtaposed with a good spine of zest and well integrated oak. Great fruit and equally great winemaking coalesced to make this stunning wine. It was difficult to spit. (5 out of 5, Vic Harradine, May 24, 2008)” My notes: A straight ruby colour and a fragrance that includes raspberries, black cherries and a slight woodiness. Well balanced raspberry and cherry with soft tartness and tannins, savoury on the palate, not overwhelming with fresh fruit. This is an unusually mild zinfandel perhaps the ‘merlot’ of zinfandels, having a finish of velvet textures and mysterious berries. Sip liberally with good conversation or have with a tray of bacon bits on rye crisps or with proscuitto on cheesey bruscetta. Pair with prime rib, veal cutlet or pork chop. Cellaring won’t improve so drink now. It's nice but personally I’d spend my $30 elsewhere. 88

GANTON & LARSEN PROSPECT WINERY ‘LARCH TREE HILL’ RIESLING 2007 VQA Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada, 12.5% D, #070698 $16.95 (Tasted September 7, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “Launched with the 2006 vintage, this winery is a new venture for iconic BC producer Mission Hill. Ganton and Larsen are the two growers who supplied Mission Hill with its grapes in the winery's early years. These well-respected properties are now the source for terrific wines like this citrus- and peach-packed Riesling. Soft and juicy with delicate mineral notes, it's the perfect wine to sip and savour during the waning weeks of summer.” My notes: Serve chilled for a faded blond colour and the faint scent of sweet grass and pine nuts leading to a dry first sip. Delicate flavours of stone fruit with a very slight tartness disguises any sugar level. What your palate sees is a light-bodied luscious white. Flavours evolve to a peach stone and cold tea then to a light clay ending with a delicate mineral finish. A sociable sipper suitable with party sandwiches of tuna or salmon spread, pimento cream cheese on crackers, celery with cheddar or with whitefish tidbits. A young wine with some room to develop, four years could introduce more character - drinking well now. 88

DANIEL LENKO RESERVE RIESLING 2006 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 11.5% D, #075655 $19.95 (Tasted September 7, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “ ... a very tasty offering that has ageing potential up the yin-yang. Lemon and peach greet the nose, while peach, apricot and citrus dance playfully on the tongue ... sharp acid makes this one a little puckering in the mouth, but also gives it great ageing potential. So, lie it on its side for awhile to give it time to settle down a little. Very tasty and a good finish makes this a fine offering and with the summer coming you'll want a few of these kicking around. (Michael Pinkus, March 24, 2008)” My notes: A just-perceptible scent of pear and whiff of lanolin - but you have to wait for it - and a pale blond colour. The aromas lead into a crisp, light-bodied taste of citrus, apple and a tinge of clementine evenly blended with a touch of dry tartness. A moderate finish with the flavours carrying the tartness for a luscious ending. Quite a nice sipper for a hot summer patio gathering - keep chilled. Have as an aperitif with fresh oysters or crab cakes or pair with freshwater filets: perch, pickerel or trout. Sushi or Asian fare could complement well. Drinking well now but if cellaring check yearly. 88

BODEGAS ESTANCIA PIEDRA AZUL 2005, Toro, Spain, 14.5% D, #082214 $15.95 (Tasted August 29, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “The 2005 Azul is an outstanding value, one of the best in my Spanish tastings. Made from 100% Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) and aged in stainless steel, this dark ruby-coloured wine offers a peppery, spicy, fruity nose, lots of crunchy red fruit flavours, and ripe tannins leading to a surprisingly long, pure finish. Drink this easygoing effort over the next 1-3 years. (90/100, Jay Miller, Feb. 2007)” My notes: A violet hue to a rich ruby colour and subtle aromas of ripe raspberries, chocolate and soft earth. The softness of aromas follows to the texture of the first sip before a sharp nip and full flavour of earthy berries gives way to a peppery spice. The finish is bright, dry and ending with a mineral edge. An interesting sipper by itself or with bacon stuffed mushrooms, beef tenderloin, grilled steaks or rich stews. This is drinking well now and could age for several years - may not improve flavours but will likely expand the role of spices. A super value. 91

MUGA BARREL FERMENTED WHITE 2007, Rioja, Spain, 13.0% XD, #958736 $15.95 (Tasted September 3, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “A blend of 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia, this wine is given a slow fermentation in new French oak barrels, plus a further three months resting on its lees. The resulting wine is rich, impeccably balanced and concentrated. Cellar it 2-3 years or enjoy it tonight with planked salmon.” My notes: The nose has some butter in a blend of lemon, coconut and pineapple. A soft blond colour, a crisp, dry white with not a touch of sweetness in the mix. The finish has the dry pithiness of crushed lemon seeds. A medium-bodied meal white - have with filets of telapia, cod, fresh water pickerel or perch or with an assortment of tapas - was great with roast chicken. Cellaring up to two years should be OK not to change the flavour so much as integrating texture, acid and fruit for a smoother 'fish' white. For me, the unusual flavour is not for sipping. 88

LOUREIRO VINHO VERDE 2007, Lima, Portugal, 11.0% XD, #681775 $13.95 (Tasted September 2, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “Loureiro is arguably the best grape for the production of Vinho Verde. It is aromatic and flavourful, making it a very attractive choice for this style of wine. Vinho Verdes should always be enjoyed young and this 2007 is an ideal summer sipper. It will also match mildly spiced Asian cuisine.” My notes: A light golden colour and a lovely scent of honey and wild flowers without any sweetness in this dry sipper. Serve chilled it tastes of an apple and pear blend, medium-bodied with some beeswax left in the medium long finish. An interesting sipper for an afternoon bridge group, the summer patio crowd or as an aperitif , not too warm, going well with scallops, a shrimp plate or sweet and sour dishes. Should be able to cellar this up to a year but primarily a drink now. 91

BRUNHEDA VINHO TINTO 2003, Douro, Portugal, 13.0% D, #077222 $19.95 (Tasted September 2, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “Bottled for just nine months at the time tasted, the 2003 Quinta Brunheda "Vinhas Velhas" [Old Vines] is coming around well, showing appropriate structure and excellent depth. It is full in the mouth on first presentation, softens, and then finishes with a considerable tannic hit. The mid-palate is rather elegantly constructed, and the texture has a nice feel of velvet. The flavour persists on the finish. The winemaker thinks this can start drinking well in a year, but I'd rather wait until 2008 or 2009. Drink 2008-2015. (89/100, Mark Squires, Feb. 2007)” My notes: A rich deep ruby with a violet tinge and fragrance of smoke and raisins. The first sip dries the palate adds some brightness, some red cherry flavouring and firm tannins. The long finish carries the dryness along with layers of light fruit and faint oak. A lightish full-bodied red balanced toward process but with some persistent fruit. Not my favoured sipper. Cellaring for a year wouldn’t help/hurt - not longer - primarily a drink now. Have with tomato pastas, full flavoured and spicy or quaff with tapas. 87

MONASTERIO DE LAS VIÑAS GRAN RESERVA 2001, Cariñena, Spain, 13.0% D, #082024 $21.95 (Tasted September 3, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “A blend of Garnacha (Grenache), Tempranillo, Cariñena and Cabernet Sauvignon, this fine Gran Reserva is just approaching its prime drinking window. Featuring dried plum, raspberry, leather and vanilla aromas and flavours, this wine is clearly being released now to take advantage of its near-perfect maturity. Enjoy it with braised beef dishes, or it will still reward 2-5 years in a cellar.”
My notes: A deep plum colour and a fragrance of rich prunes in a spicy sauce. Full-bodied, firm tannins, prominent acidity and flavours of chocolate, bottled prunes, some black currants, tar and a finish that is long, velvety and tangy. The balance of acid, tannin and fruit is nicely done though favouring old- than new-world. Slow sipping by itself or with Italian sausage pieces, stuffed mushroom caps or have with steak kebobs, braised pork ribs, back ribs or Texas chili. Cellaring for up to five years should add more exotic flavours and textures. A good value for an assertive red. 92

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