Sunday, September 28, 2008

September 27, 2008 Picks: 2 Tasted of 2

Selected from the September 27th Vintages Release based on ‘best buys‘ of Rod Phillips‘ Winepointer #16. There will only be a few from this Release as more focus has been directed to LCBO’s goLOCAL promotion in a separate blog entry and a visit to Calamus Winery is overdue. So much wine and sooo little time! When tasted the wine will appear in bold.

Cheers, Ww 
  • Moillard Mâcon-Azé 2006, RP90-93, GS90, 91-2 -- V, Nuits-St.-Georges, France, #084632 $16.95
  • Château Bourdicotte Grand Vin de Bordeaux 2004, RP90-93, 75 -- V, Bordeaux, France, #087296 $16.95
(GS - Gord Stimmell, RP - Rod Phillips, V – Vintages, r-v - Rating-Value)


MOILLARD MÂCON-AZÉ 2006, Nuits-St.-Georges, France, 13.0% D, #084632 $16.95 (Tasted October 4, 2008)

Released on September 27 and described by Vintages as “A producer is allowed to add the name of one of the 26 villages encompassed within the Mâcon-Village appellation, in this case "Azé", to the word "Mâcon" when the grapes comes solely from this specific commune. Serve this fresh and luscious white with white meat risotto or poultry with cream sauce.” My notes: From Cote d’Or. Has a straw and grapefruit nose and a light golden blond colour. Fine tears on the glass showing a lightish medium-body and the first sip says it’s extremely crisp. Very dry on the buds and buttery, citrus flavours then finishing long and slightly chalky. An excellent European white for seafood dishes or with a ground turkey stir-fry over basmati rice. This should cellar well for several years. 91

CHÂTEAU BOURDICOTTE GRAND VIN DE BORDEAUX 2004, Bordeaux, France, 12.5% XD, #087296 $16.95 (Tasted October 7, 2008)

A Vintages release of September 27th and described as “A Gold Medal winner at the 2006 Concours de Bordeaux - Vins d'Aquitaine. This award-winning Bordeaux is made with 100% Merlot and displays a nice fruity nose, rich and supple palate, and a long, silky finish. Lovely with lamb or sweetbreads with truffles.” My notes: The cork pulled apart on this bottle and the colour shows a slight terracotta tint. Airing for an hour relieves much of a musty oak and smoke then it has a light aroma of a beetroot and cranberry blend. Light-bodied, developing a drying layer on the palate along with a rough flavour of dried grape skins. The finish is dry with more muted skins, perhaps indicating this red has laid too long before being palmed off to the LCBO, then ending with a smidgeon of brightness. There’s no fresh fruit left to balance the oak treatment and ageing, a ho-hum red. Not a sipper and no cellaring potential left. Have with veal, pork roast or grilled chicken breast. 75

Monday, September 22, 2008

LCBO goLOCAL 2008: 8 Tasted of 8

The theme of this entry is LCBO’s Discover the World promo ’goLOCAL’ ('gL') received with my Globe & Mail last Saturday. The article features twenty-seven (14 whites, 1 icewine) Ontario VQA wines and refers to 2007 being ‘one of Ontario’s best vintages ever‘. More than half of the labels illustrated, ie. eighteen, show the 2006 vintage so there may be mixed stock on the shelves or it could be just scheduling of the publication. I’ve stuck to the 2007 vintage for those listed below.

Viewing the podcasts on the LCBO website can be interesting for various reasons: Cave Springs, Ontario Wine Regions, and Dalton McGuinty are the first to show there. According to the Premier $8 from the purchase of every litre, or $6 per bottle, of Ontario wine goes into ‘our’ pockets. I must be rich by now - just haven’t found the right pocket!

Another fact I found interesting was that the majority of wines being pushed are well below $20! Since starting this blog I’ve found that Niagara whites have improved considerably and I’ll be interested to see how those from this promotion rate. As before, when tasted the wine will appear in bold
Cheers, Ww 
  • Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir 2007 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, 88-1 -- V, Ontario, Canada, #001545 $19.95

  • Peninsula Ridge Estates Inox Chardonnay 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 89-2  -- G, Ontario, Canada, #594200 $12.95
  • Konzelmann Estate Winery Pinot Blanc 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 89-2 -- G, Ontario, Canada, #219279 $10.95
  • Cave Spring Riesling 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 87-1 -- G, Ontario, Canada, #234583 $14.05
  • Eastdell Estates Pinot Grigio 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 87-1 -- G, Ontario, Canada, #065367 $12.95
  • Angels Gate Sussreserve Riesling 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 86 -- G, Ontario, Canada, #620104 $14.15
  • Trius Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 80 -- G, Ontario, Canada, #587956 $12.95*
  • Hillebrand Artist Series Gewurztraminer 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 77 -- G, Ontario, Canada, #554378 $10.95
(G - General listing, gL - goLOCAL, V – Vintages, r-v - Rating-Value)

ANGELS GATE SUSSRESERVE RIESLING 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, 11.0% M, #620104 $14.15 (Tasted June 6, 2008)

'gL' writes “… This Riesling with its sweet edge and medley of flavours reminiscent of lemon-lime sherbet, is lovely on its own and a fine match for blue-veined cheeses or aged cheddars.“ A General listing to be “served as an aperitif, with light seafood dishes, or pan fried trout.” My notes: A clear light blond colour with lemon floral and honey, overall a light nose. The first sip brings lemonade flavours and a finish of bright lemonade including some crushed seeds giving the ending a slight pithy spiciness. Serve well chilled then let go offchill for subtle changes to flavour, more tree fruit, and a smooth finish. If you’re looking for petrol there’s none. Some fruit sweetness perhaps a SC of 2 is balanced nicely with a mild acid. Have with nibbles: a tray of cheeses, black olives and cocktail shrimp or minced ham and relish. Pair with grilled fresh water fish. It would be great sociable sipper for patio guests or as a before or after dinner refresher. 86
PENINSULA RIDGE ESTATES INOX CHARDONNAY 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, 13.0% D, #594200 $12.95 (Tasted September 29, 2008)

'gL' writes “This Chablis-inspired Chardonnay…. Smooth, lightly fruity and slightly nutty, it’s a wine to enjoy with lightly seasoned fish, poultry or pasta salads.“ The LCBO adds “Pale to medium yellow straw colour; delicate apple, ripe asian pear and lemon aromas and flavours with hints of butterscotch; extra-dry, with well balanced acid structure, refreshing, citrus flavours. Serve with light appetizers, pasta primavera, grilled or pan fried fish, or roast capon.” My notes: Has a brilliant clarity in the glass with a faint fragrance of apple, lemon-lime and wild rose, almost indiscernible. The legs flow quickly leaving slight tears and the first sip is smooth with flavours of stone fruit and minerals - yes, extra dry. There’s a smoothness on the palate in a finish that holds on to the stone fruit. An elegant sipper not exposing a strong fruit leaning - better with fresh oysters or a cheese tray and soda crackers. Pair with any seafood with or without a light cream sauce. Cellaring for several years should be interesting - I’d say up to four. 89
KONZELMANN ESTATE WINERY PINOT BLANC WEISBURGUNDER 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, 12.5% D, #219279 $10.95 (Tasted September 24, 2008)

'gL' writes `… This off-dry and gently fruity Pinot Blanc is tailor-made for shellfish, oysters and white-fleshed fish.` Straw yellow colour; floral, fruity peach & melon nutty tone in aroma; medium body and fruit flavour fresh finish, good food wine. Serve chilled with pasta or vegetarian dishes.` My notes: The 2006 vintage was tasted in February this year with a comment re 'wet sock' aroma and rated Ww84. This is a crisp blond in colour with possibly a green tint. There’s no ‘wet sock’ in this vintage just fruit, a touch of melon, apple and citrus, mild and fresh. A pleasing roundness with more fruit followed by a moderate tang finishing fairly long ending on a mineral note. Dry to the palate and if you’re looking for a widely suitable refresher or a white to go with a creamy smoke salmon pasta this is it - also with freshwater fish, scallops or shrimp with or without the pasta. This should keep a year then I’d go year by year after sampling. A bargain. 89
EASTDELL ESTATES PINOT GRIGIO 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, 12.0% D, #065367 $12.95 (Tasted September 23, 2008)
'gL' writes “… fresh white is just the match for its casual regional cuisine.“ The LCBO says “This is the perfect luncheon wine, as an aperitif or with seafood and salads.” My notes: A pleasing golden blond colour with light aromas of wild flowers and straw. There is a subtle spice lifted by a mild tang and flavours of lychee and lemon. The finish is dry without tartness nor natural sweetness ending with a mineral touch. An interesting sipper by itself or with light hors d’oeuvres anything from crab cakes to asparagus wrapped proscuitto. Italian in style and more of a meal white with fresh fish or mussels. Was great with bbq'd chicken breasts. A drink now. 87
TRIUS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, 13.0% D, #587956 $12.95* (Tasted September 30, 2008)
'gL' writes “… This red with its subtle oak and herbal black fruit tastes, is a fine match for grilled rosemary-scented lamb or wild boar with berry sauce.“ The LCBO is more descriptive still “Medium garnet colour; developing aromas of cherry, cassis, vanilla and red berry, with undertones of green pepper and cedar; dry, with dark red fruit, dried fruit flavours and some spicy oaky complexity; fine tannins welll integrated; lingering finish.” My notes: Discounted $2 from a regular price of $14.95, a Hillebrand label and an Andres Wines Ltd. Winery. This has a garnet cast deep ruby colour and, on swirling, a viscous film shows on the glass with aromas of faint oaky sweet cherry. Medium-bodied with a grainy texture and flavour a combination of cherries, red currants and minerals. The finish tapers off gradually and is well balanced acid, fine tannin with a layer of ‘dried fruit'. Have with pepperoni pizza, ribs or chili con carne. Even discounted it's not recommended. A drink now. 80
HILLEBRAND ARTIST SERIES GEWURZTRAMINER 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, 12.5% D, #554378 $10.95 (Tasted September 27, 2008)
'gL' writes “… offers very pleasant, sweet gentle notes of roses, lychee and spice. It would marry well with Indian curry or pad Thai.” My notes: Andres Wine Ltd. produces this brand which has a scent of grapefruit and faint stagnant pond, perhaps the ‘spice’ in the gewurz, not distressing, just noticeable. The first sip is round with a fresh nip and a blend of mild honeydew and spice. The flavours fade further as the finish becomes drier with a light steely edge through to the end. I could not enjoy this as a straight sipper. I’d put it in the category of a ’recipe’ wine with a seam of acid, spice and a ‘rounding agent’ adding a touch of fruit - perhaps I’m not familiar with the terroir. Have with a buffet spread of dips and spreads or with freshwater fish, grilled sole or haddock. A drink now. 77
CAVE SPRING RIESLING 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, 11.0% D, #234583 $14.05 (Tasted September 30, 2008)
'gL' says “… you can taste the minerals, along with citrus-lemon-lime and white grapefruit.“ and the LCBO adds “Straw colour; apricot nose with floral, citrus, mineral notes; off-dry, forward citrus/peach flavours with refreshing acidity and a medium-long finish. Serve with roast turkey and a savoury stuffing, smoked turkey, seafood or light fish dishes.” My notes: Clear as a bell and a pale blond colour with aromas of green apple and a whiff of lanolin. Light-bodied with a light green apple tartness that refreshes and is carried along to a moderate finish - better off chilled - has an interesting flavour burst as a quaffer for a social group or bridge party. I’d say it’s ‘dry’ rather than ‘off-dry‘. A delicate riesling with limited meal pairing: fresh water perch, pickerel, bass or brook trout. A drink now. 87
FLAT ROCK CELLARS PINOT NOIR 2007 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario, Canada, 12.5% D, #001545 $19.95 (Tasted September 24, 2008)
Vintages released this on May 10, 2008. 'gL' describes it as “This delicate example shows tangy light cranberry and beetroot aromas and flavours. …” My notes: A deep ruby red and there’s some smoke in with the cherry and cranberry aromas. Nice long legs and a noticeable nip with the cranberry and cherry cocktail. There‘s an earthy note to the bright finish that otherwise would be all tart fruit. An OK sipper if you prefer a burgundy tho‘ not as smooth. Myself, I’d say it’s more of a good meat red - with ground beef patties, lamb chops, liver pate or grilled portabella mushrooms or maybe something tangier such as chorizo sausage pieces in a creamy vegetable soup. It's young yet - I’d let it cellar for several years hoping for some silkiness - it’s hiding in there somewhere. 88

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Blending Game, Part 2: Tastings

This is the second part of a two part blog entry. All of the wines tasted here are itemized in the preceding blog, The Blending Game, Reds: dated September 13th, 2008. Cheers, Ww


D'ARENBERG ‘THE TWENTYEIGHT ROAD’ MOURVÈDRE 2005, Australia, 14.5% D, #677617 $29.95 (Tasted October 4, 2008)

Released by Vintages on March 1, 2008 and described as “International Wine Cellar awarded this wine 91 points, loving its 'explosively perfumed scents of red and dark cherry accompanied by mocha, licorice, black cardamom and lavender ... A superb example of New World mourvèdre.' (July/August 2007).” My notes: A deep crimson with fresh aromas of herbs, cherries and a hint of vanilla, legs running quickly down the broad bowl. Vanilla flavouring as well giving a different dimension and brightness to the red cherries. A super sipper, assertive almost bold in character causing a pause to smack the lips and savour the long herbal licorice finish. Pairing with anything beefy would work or with lamb stews, crock pot meals or slow cooked ribs with savoury sauces. Cellaring up to ten years could be interesting but trying a couple of years at a time would be my approach.  96

D'ARENBERG ‘THE FOOTBOLT’ SHIRAZ 2005, McLaren Vale, Australia, 14.5% XD, #984021 $21.95 (Tasted September 14, 2008)

Released by Vintages on April 12, 2008 and described as “The 2005 The Footbolt Shiraz was aged for 12-18 months in a mix of new and used French and American oak. Purple-colored, it exhibits an aromatic array of fresh herbs, plum, cranberry, and black cherry. Medium-to full-bodied, on the palate spicy blueberry and licorice notes emerge. The wine has very good depth and concentration, ripe tannin, and a medium-long finish. It will evolve for 2-3 years and drink well through 2015. (89/100, Jay Miller, Oct. 2007)” My notes: Previously called ‘The Old Vines’ this has a deep garnet ruby colour with a hue of purple but solemn. The nose is of black cherries with a sniff of pepper. Medium-bodied, the legs run quickly and flavours of woody cranberries and black cherries brighten up the palate then finish quite long with a slight metallic ring. A polite sipper still a reminder for the taste buds to wake up. Have with roast ham, anything beefy and possibly French onion soup. Cellaring for up to four years should be OK.  88
 D'ARENBERG ‘d'ARRY'S ORIGINAL’ SHIRAZ/GRENACHE 2005, McLaren Vale, Australia, 14.5% D, #942904 $19.95 (Tasted September 24, 2008)

A Vintages release on July 5, 2008 described as “Equal parts Shiraz and Grenache, this bold blend displays aromas and flavours of blackberry, black cherry, and licorice with background notes of coffee and caramel. This mouth-filling wine lands softly on the palate, and finishes long and smooth. Delicious with beef stir-fry or grilled lamb burgers. My notes: This has a garnet hued black cherry-skin colour and a peppery cherry and plum fragrance. Slow moving tears on the glass bowl indicative of a medium-bodied and velvety texture with a distinct sharpness and a spicy edge of black berries, tar and mint. An assertive sipper with enough bite to keep the taste buds alert for a long warm finish of berries and tar. Should be great with prime rib or a lamb shank with Yorkshire pudding, savoury gravy and mixed vegetables.  92

D'ARENBERG ‘THE LAUGHING MAGPIE’ SHIRAZ/VIOGNIER 2006, McLaren Vale, Australia, 14.5% XD, #936971 $27.95 (Tasted September 14, 2008)

A Vintages release on April 12, 2008 described as “The 2006 The Laughing Magpie is composed of 94% Shiraz and 6% Viognier. Deep crimson/violet in color, it offers up notes of cherry, ginger, black tea, tar, and blueberry. Medium to full-bodied, layered flavors of cherry, blueberry, and dark chocolate make an appearance accompanied by ripe tannin and excellent concentration leading to a long, refined finish. It will benefit from 3-4 years of cellaring and drink well through 2020. (92/100, Jay Miller, Oct. 2007)” My notes: The winery’s spec sheet says 2006 was “regarded as one of the greatest vintages ever” for both shiraz and Viognier with this blend winning two gold medals in 2006/7 and gives a 90/10% split for the grapes. This has an opaque ruby with a purple hue and spicy aromas of prunes and cherries. This leaves long legs on the glass, is full-bodied, rich in velvety flavours and has a tangy pepper touch. The finish is long and plush. A very nice sipper for early afternoon or late night guests or pair with rack of lamb, bbq’d back ribs or richly flavoured stews. Cellaring for many years shouldn’t be a concern but it’s drinking well now so why wait. An excellent investment.  94

GUARDIAN PEAK ‘THE KALAHARI LION’ SMG 2005, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 14.% D, #083972 $22.95 (Tasted September 22, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “After a slight dip in 04, 05 back on form: shiraz-led (63%) blend with 29% mourvèdre, peppery grenache builds character. Already smooth, but plenty to give. French/American oak, all new. (4 out of 5, Angela Lloyd, John Platter South African Wines, 2008).” My notes: Produced by Engelbrecht Els Vineyards. Shows a deep ruby colour and a fragrance of black cherries, blackberries and white pepper. Fine tears form on the large bowl when swirled, flavours of black cherries and red currants provide interest until the finish gives more of the red currants having a brightness overshadowing a slight pepper in the long finish. An interesting sipper both flavourful and tangy, medium-bodied with light tannins and approaching silk. Should be great with strong pates, prime rib (hold the horse radish), veal or lamb. Still has some youthfulness to develop if cellared a few years. 90

ANAKENA SINGLE VINEYARD VIOGNIER 2007, Rapel Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #045138 $13.95 (Tasted September 15, 2008)

A Vintages release on July 5, 2008 described as “This crisp, well-balanced Viognier has intense citrus and apricot aromas with subtle hints of tropical fruit. A lovely aperitif or delicious complement to seared duck breast.” My notes: I last tasted this just two months ago and thought it would be an excellent partner with d’Arenberg’s Shiraz. The aroma is of grassy papaya and field flowers on a hot summer day. The texture is moderately full with flavours of tangy grapefruit, lemon and a light melon finishing dry with a strong hint of tart gooseberries. A pleasant sipper with or without bacon wrapped scallops, shrimp from the bbq or stuffed mushroom caps. Super stuff for chinese or thai dishes.  90

JEANNERET ‘GRACE & FAVOUR’ GRENACHE/SHIRAZ 2005, Clare Valley, Australia, 15.5% XD, #B&W Wines $23.70 (Tasted September 29, 2008)

My notes: The large component of Grenache gives a light glow to the ruby in a wide bowl. The nose has a herbal edge, I’d say thyme with some white pepper, to mostly a blackberry aroma. A thin layer of tears with no staining shows a lightish medium-bodied, crisp red. Thyme tinged berries make up the bright flavours of the first sip. The finish is long, soft and an interesting mix of herbs and fruit, dry with a slight mineral note make this an interesting sipper, distinct in style, light and balanced. Have alone or with hors d’oeuvres of stuffed mushroom caps or pate on breads or crisps. Pair with roast turkey, bacon burgers, medallions of beef in a rich gravy. Cellaring for a few more years should develop some silkiness.  91

KILIKANOON THE LACKEY SHIRAZ 2005, Penwortham, Australia, 15.0% XD, #005199 $17.95 (Tasted October 3, 2008)

A Vintages release in November, 2007 described as "The 2005 The Lackey ... emphasizes the ripe, classic, South Australian Shiraz grape aged in old oak and bottled with no fining or filtration. Deep, rich, full-bodied, and elegant, it reveals plenty of berry fruit, pepper, chocolate, and new saddle leather characteristics. Drink this spicy, earthy effort over the next 2-3 years. (90/100, Robert Parker Jr., Oct. 2006)." My notes: I last tasted this vintage in November 2007 and rated it Ww92 - it was also rated highly by two local wine writers. This has a solemn ruby colour leaving a thin film and slow tears on the glass. The nose has a pepper edge with herb and black currant fragrances. The first sip has a strong nip and subdued black currant flavours with a firm mint follow through. The finish consists of the mint and black currant and persists ending slightly brambly. An aggressive sipper that needs some tidbits to lessen the nip - still interesting. Better paired with chili con carne or bbq’d back ribs. Cellaring further may shift the balance to its sharp side - a drink now for those preferring an assertive red.   88

CHÂTEAU DE TREVIAC CORBIÈRES 2006, Languedoc, France, 14.0% D, #670505 $14.95 (Tasted September 28, 2008)

A Vintages release on April 12, 2008 described as “An excellent choice for roast leg of lamb with an herb rub. This blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache has classic Midi aromas of blackberry, pepper and particularly garrigue, that unique-to-Midi scent of thyme, rosemary, basil, sage and lemon verbena. There's a very good balance here of fruit, acids and tannins.” My notes: Grenache has put a rosy edge to the ruby in the bowl and shiraz has put the pepper in the nose that folds with the black fruit fragrances giving a lift to the first sip. Firm tannins add a chalky touch covering the inside of the mouth and delaying flavours of black berries with a cranberry highlight. The finish shows a good balance of terroir and process - I guess that’s the ’unique-to-Midi scent’. Lamb shank or rack would go nicely or a veal roast with rosemary scented wine gravy. Cellaring for up to four years could prove worthwhile.  89

ROSENVALE ESTATE GRENACHE 2005, Barossa Valley, Australia, 15.5% D, #059881 $21.95 (Tasted October 3, 2008)

A Vintages release on April 26, 2008 described as “Perfect for a spring barbecue, this soft and juicy Grenache is packed with raspberry, strawberry and cherry flavours with a note of peppery spice. Dry, ripe and round, it would match well with gourmet burgers and sausages.” My notes: The colour is a deep ruby leaving long legs slowly accumulating on the bowl. The aromas are warm and full of chocolate, stewed plums and blackberries - and the legs keep forming. Round, full-bodied, slight pepper, steely bright and dark fruit flavours burst simultaneously in the mouth. The finish is velvety without the pepper but lots of juicy soft blackberries. A sipper that rewards with each warm sip - almost a shame to contaminate with food. Pair with filet mignon, prime rib or rack of lamb or choose a comfortable read and just sip. Cellaring for several years would be interesting but drinking well now.  96

NINQUÉN ANTU SYRAH 2006, Colchagua Valley, Chile, 15.0% XD, #675371 $15.95 (Tasted October 5, 2008)

A Vintages release on July 21, 2008 described as “Viña Ninquén is amongst a number of Chilean producers that are now realizing the potential of planting at higher elevations. Ninquén's mountain vineyards have produced a Syrah that is rich with layers of plush blackberry, plum and black cherry fruit flavours and aromas along with notes of mocha, earth and smoke. Enjoy with smoky barbecue ribs or grilled lamb chops.” My notes: I must have liked this as a result of tasting in June this year since I now have a mitt full in the cellar. This has a solid deep ruby colour and very faint aromas of blackberries tainted by a smoky oak and a slight pepper both not excessive. The first sip is bright and silky with pronounced fine tannins followed by the tart taste of wild blackberries with just a few currants. The finish has a balance of ripe off-the-bush black berries, a light earth tone, drying tannins and a smidge of white pepper. An excellent sipper by itself or pair with rack of lamb, dark fowl, game or anything bbq’d. Cellaring for up to four years perhaps longer would prove rewarding.  94

WYNDHAM ESTATE BIN 444 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005, South Eastern Australia, 14.0% D, #110486 $15.45 (Tasted September 19, 2008)

The LCBO describes this as “Deep garnet colour; dry and medium-bodied with aromas and flavours of cocoa, cassis and eucalyptus; medium tannins. Long finish. Serve with roast duck; lamb.” My notes: A smoky black currant light in aroma and with oak and dark chocolate balancing the fruit flavour. Dry tannins and firmer oak (and flavour)differentiate this from the merlot (#336347) but with the same slow legs and body, on the lightish side of medium- and a faint violet hue. The finish has a mild black currant touch with some cigar box or earthiness and a moderate white pepper. A polite sipper - not assertive. Serve to a crowd with canapés or as a house red with hamburgers or red pasta dishes. Not for cellaring.  82

WYNDHAM ESTATE BIN 888 CABERNET/MERLOT 2004, South Eastern Australia, 14.0% D, #324574 $15.45 (Tasted September 19, 2008)

The LCBO describes this as “Red garnet colour; aromas of plum with strawberry, raspberry and cedar; dry, soft tannin structure, cherry fruit flavours. Serve with steak with dry rub spices, medium flavoured cheese.” My notes: Winner of two Silver Medals in 2007. Other than ‘a classic blend’ neither the bottle nor the website details the percentages of each grape. The colour is a ruby with a garnet cast and aromas, after a brief airing, are a blend of plum, black cherry and a touch of spice. The first sip is very tangy masking red cranberry and sharp berry flavours. Not a sipper or perhaps it’s past due. The finish has a metallic touch and dry tannins offsetting a delicate red cherry fruit. Not my idea of a ’Medal winner’. Air or decant to soften acids then have with spicy back ribs or chili con carne - or avoid.  79

WYNDHAM ESTATE BIN 999 MERLOT 2005, South Eastern Australia, 14.5% D, #336347 $15.45 (Tasted September 19, 2008)

The LCBO describes this 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 label shows this to be a Gold Medal and four Silver Medals winner over 2006 and 2007. A deep ruby with slow legs and aromas of crushed stems and dark berries with a soft spicy edge. The first sip is bright full of blackberries ending with mostly mint then a slight herb shows up. A reasonable sipper coming across the palate as a lightish medium-bodied - suitable with stuffed mushroom caps or assorted pates or pair with roast chicken or meaty pizza. Could use a few more years cellaring for a mellower texture - but flavours likely will not improve from here.  84

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Blending Game - Part 1: 6 Reds Blended and Tasted

I’m not sure what to call this approach to Wine Tasting… if you’ve heard of it before let me know. Frankly I avoid tastings where there’s a lot of swirling, sniffing, slurping, and spitting. It’s not these activities per se that bother me. They’re to be expected as part of formal wine tasting protocol, however, they usually come with someone pontificating about the exotic aromas, those luxuriant textures or the complex layering. The bottom line is: Do You Like it? Yes/No - then let’s get on with sipping. Finding an alternative way to enjoy the wine experience in a socially entertaining way is challenging. One attempt is the theme of this entry:

The majority of wines are blends of various grapes: Bordeaux with Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cab Franc and/or Malbec, the popular GSM - Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre - in any combination thereof, Shiraz/Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon, Niagara’s Riesling/Gewurztraminer, etc., etc. Any combination, either traditional or innovative, attracts a market based on one thing: do enough consumers buy it?

With that said… this is an experiment in tasting by blending - reds are first up. After purchasing a few single variety wines as well as some blended wines (locally) I’ll mix the single varieties and rate the results. I’ll then compare our ‘custom blend’ to the ‘off-the-shelf’ blended wine. I won’t be attempting Bordeaux combinations and a Chateauneuf du Pape would simply be impossible.

For each Blend I will try to source wines from the same country, vintner, region, vintage and price point. I know I’ll have to compromise on some combinations because of price and availability. When tasted the wines will appear in bold. ...May not make sense (purists will turn over...) - hopefully it’ll be fun.  

Cheers, Ww 


It was fun! I often had four or five wines on the go which proved tempting given my appetite for wines. But I claim this built self control. (HA!) There were some unanticipated conclusions:
  • Individual varietals for each blend focussed my attention on their unique characteristics. When it came to tasting the blends I was more aware of how each contributed to the whole.
  • Even with a low percentage the sharing of textures and flavours by each varietal had a significant influence.
  • I now can infer that a 15% content, as in the VQA regulation, of out-of-vineyard or out-of-subappellation grapes can either benefit or severally compromise a VQA product. A winemaker must use a lot of discretion when blending even low levels of available grapes. In the end good grapes make good wine and the resultant blends are good.
  • Not surprisingly, making up volume by combining grapes indiscriminately, even the same variety, is more likely to lower the quality of an otherwise good blending approach.
  • Blending can match wines for specific occasions or foods and certainly has proven its worth to the palate. 
Blend 1: 63% Shiraz, 29% Mourvèdre, 8% Grenache, 93
This blend had a lot going for it with two of the tastings highly rated. I had finished the d’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz and fell back to the Kilikanoon altho’ both were rated 88. This blend is crimson so deep it has become opaque to sight. The viscosity is not quite as dense as the grenache and mourvèdre by themselves and the aroma is more subdued but for the addition of a slight pepper. The flavours lack a clear varietal distinction although overall is extremely appealing - leans to a full-bodied Rhone. Velvety smooth, fine tannins, soft tartness and a mellowing oak treatment produce a sipper for an evening. Pairing with prime rib or bacon wrapped filet mignon would be suitable… anything considered a special grilled or roasted dinner.
  • Guardian Peak ‘The Kalahari Lion’ SMG 2005, 90-1 -- V, Stellenbosch, South Africa, #083972 $22.95
  • Kilikanoon ‘The Lackey’ Shiraz 2005, 88-1 -- Penwortham, Australia, 15.0% XD, #005199 $17.95
  • d’Arenberg ‘The TwentyEight Road’ Mourvèdre 2005, 96-3 -- V, McLaren Vale, Australia, #677617 $29.95
  • Rosenvale Estate Grenache 2005, 96-3 -- V, Barossa Valley, Australia, #059881 $21.95
Blend 2: 50% Shiraz, 50% Grenache, 92
Very deep ruby with warm aromas of ripe black berries sprinkled lightly with white pepper. Velvety smooth with layers of fine tannins, lip smacking black fruit and a smidge of sweetness and tang. Full-bodied and bursting with luscious fruit starts a long finish making this a pleasurable sipper. Have by itself or with sirloin/ onion/ sweet pepper kebobs or a grilled pepper steak.
  • d'Arenberg ‘d’Arry’s Original’ Shiraz Grenache 2005, 92-2 -- V, McLaren Vale, Australia, #942904 $19.95
  • Kilikanoon ‘The Lackey’ Shiraz 2005, 88-1 -- Penwortham, Australia, 15.0% XD, #005199 $17.95
  • Rosenvale Estate Grenache 2005, 96-3 -- V, Barossa Valley, Australia, #059881 $21.95
Blend 3: 80% Syrah, 20% Grenache, Ww94
This has a soft berry nose with some tangy smoke but politely so. The colour is deep purple leaning toward a mauve tint and having respectable legs. Bright and luscious with a long berry, almost rasp-, follow through then leaving the buds with a clean fresh fruit taste, not as drying as with the Syrah, and a slight mint. A sociable sipper that could become a quaffer except for the alcohol levels (15.0 & 15.5%). Have with nibbles: a tray of strong cheese or pepperoni anchovy pizza slices or pair with anything that is a grilled or roasted beef entrée. A super blend from individually super varietals.
  • Chateau de Treviac Corbières 2006, 89-2 -- V, Languedoc, France, #670505 $14.95
  • Ninquén Antu Syrah 2006, 94-3 -- V, Colchagua Valley, Chile, #675371 $15.95
  • Rosenvale Estate Grenache 2005, 96-3 -- V, Barossa Valley, Australia, #059881 $21.95
Blend 4: 75% Grenache, 25% Shiraz, 92
A deep ruby with a garnet cast and aromas of subdued blackberries and bramble. The first sip is silky with some cranberry in mostly a black berry blending. Full-bodied with some tang along with an earthy combination of brambles and black fruit. Finishes long, full in the mouth with the black fruit leading the way now with a woody ending. An interesting sipper for any crowd, also have with beans and bacon, a veal steak or grilled Italian hot or sweet sausage.
  • Jeanneret ‘Grace & Favour’ Grenache Shiraz 2005, 91-2 -- O, Clare Valley, Australia, #B&W Wines $23.70
  • Rosenvale Estate Grenache 2005, 96-3 -- V, Barossa Valley, Australia, #059881 $21.95
  • Kilikanoon ‘The Lackey’ Shiraz 2005, 88-1 -- Penwortham, Australia, 15.0% XD, #005199 $17.95
Blend 5: 90% Shiraz, 10% Viognier, 88
The colour is unchanged from the ‘Footbolt’ but the aroma now has less pepper, just enough to show a spicy edge. Slow legs on the glass with a distinct dryness to a bright flavour of cherries and faint blackberry. Silky more than velvety in texture and finishing dry with a firm tannin, luscious and full of red currants. A bright sipper good with tapas or a cheese, garlic, and tomato bruscetta companion. More Viognier (20%) increased the dryness and lessened the dark fruit in both flavours and the texture of the finish. The excellent 2006 vintage shows in the higher rating for ‘Magpie’.
  • d'Arenberg ‘The Laughing Magpie’ Shiraz Viognier 2006, 94-2 -- V, McLaren Vale, Australia, #936971 $27.95
  • d'Arenberg ‘The Footbolt’ Shiraz 2005, 88 -- V, McLaren Vale, Australia, #984021 $21.95
  • Anakena Single Vineyard Viognier 2007, 90-2 -- V, Rapel Valley, Chile, #045138 $13.95
Blend 6: ?% Cabernet Sauvignon, ?% Merlot (I'll go with 50/50) 85
As you’d expect the colour hasn’t shifted from the deep ruby perhaps leaning toward the violet hue. The aroma has lost most of its ‘stemminess’ from the merlot and gained some soft oak, minimal spice. Smoother, brighter, soft tannins giving some drying of the palate and a mmminty dark fruit with currants making up a larger portion with berries - a nice balance. The finish carries some bright fruit and mint adding a touch of white pepper making this a more interesting sipper. Have with assorted hors d’oeuvres or with roast duck, lamb shank or rich stews. Not outstanding but OK for a moderate wine drinking crowd. A drink now.
  • Wyndham Estate Bin 888 Cabernet Merlot 2004, 79 -- G, South Eastern Australia, #324574 $15.45
  • Wyndham Estate Bin 444 Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, 82 -- G, South Eastern Australia, #110486 $15.45
  • Wyndham Estate Bin 999 Merlot 2005, 84 -- G, South Eastern Australia, #336347 $15.45
(G - General listing, V – Vintages, O - Other)

TASTINGS: (see September 14, 2008 blog)

Friday, September 12, 2008

September 13, 2008 Picks: 7 Tasted of 7

Vintages staff picked six of these wines, marked VS, for tasting, all are from the September 13th Release. Ratings from Winepointer #15 are included where available. As before, when tasted the wine will appear in bold. 
Cheers, Ww 

  • VS, Apollonio Valle Cupa Salento Rosso 2001, 94-3 -- V, Puglia, Italy, #084046 $20.95
  • VS, Guardian Peak ‘The Kalahari Lion’ SMG 2005, 90-1 -- V, Stellenbosch, South Africa, #083972 $22.95
  • VS, Santa Carolina Barrica Selection Merlot 2006, RP87-89, 87-1 -- V, Rapel Valley, Chile, #027276 $14.95
  • VS, Jackson-Triggs Delaine Vineyard Chardonnay 2006 VQA Niagara Peninsula, RP87-89, 90-2 -- V, Niagara, Canada, #623454 $19.95
  • VS, Thirty Bench Riesling 2007 VQA Beamsville Bench, 88-1 -- V, Niagara Peninsula, Canada, #024133 $18.20
  • Mike Weir Estate Pinot Grigio 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, RP87-89, 85 -- V, Niagara, Canada, #043364 $15.15
  • VS, Zenato Delle Venezie Pinot Grigio 2007, RP85-86, 81 -- V, Veneto, Italy, #037648 $16.95
(V – Vintages, VS – Vintages pick, RP – Rod Phillips, r-v - Rating-Value)

MIKE WEIR ESTATE PINOT GRIGIO 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 12.5% D, #043364 $15.15 (Tasted September 19, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “Weir follows up the success of his 2006 P.G. with this impressive 2007. Dry and racy, it features juicy citrus, peach and apricot flavours along with floral and a slight spiciness. Richly flavoured with a medium body, it's great as an aperitif or serve with pasta in a cream sauce.” My notes: A light golden colour with a suspicion of peach, the fragrance is of faint straw, peach stone and green apple - stronger suspicions. On the dry side and light-bodied with a mild tang and flavours of butterscotch and apple then fading to a mineral finish. Throughout there is an unusual (for PG) buttery mouth feel with an overriding tang. A sipper if you add some nibbles, a few mild chicken wings, Asian sweet and sour or a bento box of tempura shrimp and vegetables. A drink now. 85
GUARDIAN PEAK ‘THE KALAHARI LION’ SMG 2005, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 14.% D, #083972 $22.95 (Tasted September 22, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “After a slight dip in 04, 05 back on form: shiraz-led (63%) blend with 29% mourvèdre, peppery grenache builds character. Already smooth, but plenty to give. French/American oak, all new. (4 out of 5, Angela Lloyd, John Platter South African Wines, 2008).” My notes: Produced by Engelbrecht Els Vineyards. Shows a deep ruby colour and a fragrance of black cherries, blackberries and white pepper. Fine tears form on the large bowl when swirled, flavours of black cherries and red currants provide interest until the finish gives more of the red currants having a brightness overshadowing a slight pepper in the long finish. An interesting sipper both flavourful and tangy, medium-bodied with light tannins and approaching silk. Should be great with strong pates, prime rib (hold the horse radish), veal or lamb. Still has some youthfulness to develop if cellared a few years. 90
APOLLONIO VALLE CUPA SALENTO ROSSO 2001, Puglia, Italy, 14.5% XD, #84046 $20.95 (Tasted October 1, 2008)

Vintages describes this as “Rich and opulent but with a rugged personality, you can taste the heat of southern Italy. A 50/50 blend of Negroamaro and Primitivo, it is crammed with dark, brambly fruits and earthy character. The palate is truly mouthfilling with a slightly gamey edge, and the toasty oak brings a touch of vanilla. Up to 5 years. (4 out of 5, Decanter, Nov. 2007).” My notes: This has a deep ruby with a garnet cast and a viscous film that forms then recedes slowly on the glass. The nose is unique: smoky, earthy, of ripe black fruit with a slight vanilla and just perceptible. The texture is soft and full with flavours that are a medley of earth and that same ripe black fruit, perhaps figs and plums. The finish consists mainly of a softness then a warmth then a fine tannin that lingers. A sipper that evolves in the glass, an elegant old world red that is ‘experienced‘ rather than ‘tasted‘. Pair with osso buco or braised lamb shank and risotto alla Milanese. Perhaps has a few more years to cellar. 94
SANTA CAROLINA BARRICA SELECTION MERLOT 2006, Rapel Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #027276 $14.95 (Tasted September 17, 2008)

Described by Vintages as “This is a well-made 100% Merlot that you can drink now or hold another four or five years. It's well-balanced, with intense and layered flavours that mesh with a medium-plus body, smooth texture, and moderate tannic dryness. Drink it with rich pasta dishes or with red meats. (4 out of 5, Rod Phillips, June 19, 2008).” My notes: A dusty aroma of ripe black cherries with a colour to match. Plum and cherry flavours are delivered smoothly then, on reaching the back of the throat, come alive along with woody tannins. Flavours linger awhile on the palate ending on an earthy note, dry as clay. Pair with grilled meats not too spicy, prime rib or veal cutlet seared and drenched in a merlot influenced sauce. Should be OK to cellar for a few years - I’d try one year at a time. 87

THIRTY BENCH RIESLING 2007 VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada, 11.0% D, #024133 $18.20 (Tasted September 16, 2008)

Described by Vintages as “Winemaker Natalie Reynolds stressed the importance of picking Riesling early in the warm, dry 2007 growing season. It was a case of picking on acidity as much as looking for flavour ripeness. That logic led to Thirty Bench's best yet $18 Riesling, the core production bottling that includes parcels from the Beamsville estate's three distinct vineyard blocks. The ripe, floral fruit stands out in this mildly tropical and minerally white, which is fresh, balanced and downright delicious. (4 out of 5, Christopher Waters, June 20, 2008).” My notes: A light fragrance of citrus and stone fruit and a crisp blond colour. The flavour is very bright, a denture cleaner, with a smooth texture and some green apple in with the lemon. Finishes long and dry with the tartness ebbing so the fruit flavours remain for awhile then fade to crushed lemon seeds. Have with fresh oysters, spicy mussels, smoked or planked salmon , battered fish and chips, chicken breast on greens. Cellaring for two years is suggested as a means of taming the acids - try a year at a time. 88

ZENATO DELLE VENEZIE PINOT GRIGIO 2007, Veneto, Italy, 12.5% XD, #037648 $16.95 (Tasted tbd)

Previously released on June 21, 2008 now a dollar less and described by Vintages as “Citrus and floral on the nose, expect a supremely crisp, refreshing and racy white wine that also offers some very ripe fruit flavours. You'll find sweet ripe fruit - peach, nectarine and guava - along with a zingy splash of lemon-lime tang. Light to medium bodied and well-balanced, this pairs beautifully with steamed mussels or clams. (3½ out of 5, Vic Harradine, June 21, 2008).” My notes: I didn’t think much of this in July rating it Ww80 but wanted to give it a second look based on VS picks and VH’s rating (between ‘Wines worth trying’ and ‘Wines of Excellence‘ - 5 being ‘Nirvana‘). This has a perfumed aroma of orange blossoms and field flowers and a light blond colour in a tulip glass. The first sip is a reversal of the nose and of the smooth roundness being a bright, dry combination of clay, crushed lemon seeds and distant tree fruit: peach or apricot. The finish is a prolonged minerally, pithy reminder. I would not offer this as a sipping wine it being more of a Mediterranean fish white. Have with seafood dishes where the oils and fleshy textures would complement its distinct flavours. It’s not for me. 81

JACKSON-TRIGGS ‘DELAINE VINEYARD’ CHARDONNAY 2006 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 13.1% D, #623454 $19.95 (Tasted September 16, 2008)

Described by Vintages as “Quite charismatic, this expresses finesse and elegance on its firm and focused medium-bodied frame. It's well structured and medium textured with Granny Smith apple and white grapefruit flavours on the palate. The finish is well balanced with nuances of well integrated French oak along with a lovely clean and refreshing hit of racy citrus and honeydew melon. Pour alongside Chicken Kiev. (4½ out of 5, Vic Harradine, June 7, 2008).” My notes: A light golden colour with aromas of straw, lemon, lime and a taste of tart apple, almond and a smidgeon of melon. The flavours taper off to a herbaceous tang and very smooth cream. The cream is nicely balanced with the tartness and fruit and persists to the end. Great with grilled turbot and vegetable rice. Cellaring for two years should give creamier textures but it’s drinking well now. 90

Monday, September 01, 2008

September 2008 Wines: 7 Tasted of 7

Some wines picked up on the way home, while out shopping or brought to the house by generous guests. As before, when tasted the wine will appear in bold
Cheers, Ww 
  • Beronia Tempranillo “Elaboración Especial’ 2006, 86 -- V, Rioja, Spain, #723643 $18.95
  • Wolf Blass Red Label Cabernet Merlot 2006, 82 -- G, South Australia, #611483 $14.95
  • Hardys Nottage Hill Shiraz PET 2006, 81 -- G, Australia, #086405 250ml, $5.45
  • Chateau Puyfromage Cotes de Francs 2006, 81 -- G, Bordeaux, France, #033605 $15.95
  • L'Avenir Chenin Blanc 2007, 88-1 -- V, Stellenbosch, South Africa, #072645 $19.95
  • Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio Trentino Riserva 2006, 84 -- G, Trentino, Italy, #032714 $15.95
  • Wolf Blass Yellow Label Sauvignon Blanc 2007, 79 -- G, South Australia, #611475 $16.00
(G - General listing, V – Vintages, r-v - Rating-Value)


CHÂTEAU PUYFROMAGE 2006, Bordeaux, France, 12.0% D,#033605 $15.95 (Tasted October 1, 2008)

A General listing described as “Ruby red colour; raspberry, cassis fruit with, plum, lightly oaked character and spice; dry and medium-bodied, well balance with ripe fruit on the medium finish. Serve with roast beef, grilled steak, strong cheese or lamb chops.” My notes: I had to try this Bordeaux after reading Margaret Swaine's account of having it with duck: “Puyfromage happens to be one of the most popular Bordeaux wines in Ontario, selling over 6,000 cases last year. Others besides me therefore obviously agree with his (frugal brother’s) taste.” The LCBO likely sells as many cases of French Cross... so what?! This Bordeaux has a dull ruby glow in a broad bowl and a faint aroma of red cherries if you sniff hard. A film and slight tears form and the flavour is of bramble berries and fine tannin, bright on the palate. The finish is quite drying and smooth with a persisting light oak. A lightish medium-bodied meal red with good texture. Have with nibbles or a pork roast, turkey breast or a crockpot stew. A drink now to four years. 81

WOLF BLASS YELLOW LABEL SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007, South Australia, 12.0% D, #611475 $16.00 (Tasted September 1, 2008)

My notes: The 2003 had a “lip-smacking tartness” that had appeal. The 2005 vintage was considered “… not a value.” Both were priced at $14.95. Now at $16 could the 2007 vintage be much different? The Wolf Blass website hasn’t changed either not being too informative about their wines although this sauvignon blanc is now listed and is described as for the US market. The 2007 vintage has an aroma of melon and sweet apples and a light golden colour. The flavour is light apple, melon with citrus giving it a mild tang that balances a tinge of sweetness, then finishes somewhat oily on the lips. Is passable with seafood or roast fowl. A commercial house white without a distinct varietal character makes this a church social sipper and a drink now. Perhaps the next production run will be different. 79

WOLF BLASS RED LABEL CABERNET MERLOT 2006, South Australia, 13.5% D, #611483 $14.95 (Tasted September 4, 2008)

The LCBO describes this as “Deep ruby; mint, cassis and chocolate aromas; big toasty fruit flavours, well balanced. Serve with roast prime rib of beef.” My notes: The 1999 vintage was retasted last month and rated Ww89. A change in label colour - an indication of brand tiering - and a $2 lower price made me curious to see if the wine had changed much. (Searching on the SKU# will find previous notes). This has a bright ruby colour with light legs and aromas of smoky red cherries and candy floss. A lightish medium-body and some sweetness on the first sip with flavours of red cherries tinged with a light pepper. The finish carries the cherries and spice a short while to a dry sweet edge. My biased opinion is this has less ’trueness’ or typicity than the 1999 but is a well balanced drink-now for a casual crowd. Have with sausage pieces, hamburgers or pepperoni pizzas. 82

MEZZACORONA PINOT GRIGIO TRENTINO RISERVA 2006, Trentino, Italy, 13.0% D, #032714 $15.95 (Tasted September 4, 2008) 

The LCBO describes this as “Clear pale straw green colour; with aromas of mineral, lemon, lime and green apple. Light-bodied, dry, it ends with crisp citrus tones. Serve with light chicken dishes, pasta with cream sauces and salads.” My notes: This is a pinot grigio with some character - not as thin-, not as tart as traditional pgs. It has a light golden colour showing in a tulip glass, the fragrance is citrus and faint clover honey, just barely sweet in the taste. A soft nip on the palate in both flavour and finish with citrus predominating along with some pear and dry throughout. An interesting sipper or aperitif with sweet and sour riblets, teriyaki chicken wings, crab cakes or mushroom & seafood pastas. Not tart enough for planked salmon or roast chicken but close. A drink-now. 84
L'AVENIR CHENIN BLANC 2007, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 13.5% XD, #072645 $19.95 (Tasted September 9, 2008)

In Vintages release of August 2, 2008 and described as “Michel Laroche, one of Chablis' leading producers, jumped at the opportunity to invest in South Africa and purchased this estate in 2005... The 2007 is bursting with intense aromas of apples, pears, a mixed bouquet of flowers and citrus notes. It's rich and fresh with a supple texture and refreshing acidity to balance the deliciously intense fruit flavours. Enjoy with salmon steaks, grilled prawns or fresh goat cheese.” My notes: Gord Stimmell recommended a chenin blanc from South Africa in his column May 24th (Lammershoek, #058206, June 4 Tasting, Ww92). I found a few on the shelf in Hamilton along with this label of the same vintage so had to try it. The colour is a light blond and there are subtle aromas of sweet lemon grass and faint melon developing more fully as the glass goes off chill. Allowed to warm slightly the texture has a nice cream and the flavour is of stone fruit and bright apple. An interesting and different sipper to have for an impromptu crowd, more of a drink-now than for cellaring. Have as an aperitif or with a buffet luncheon of mild meats or spreads on party sandwiches or with crab cakes and cocktail shrimps. As a meal white have with lobster or crab pieces, cold or hot, on greens or with basmati rice. 88 

HARDYS NOTTAGE HILL SHIRAZ PET 2006, Australia, 13.5% D, #086405 250ml, $5.45 (Tasted September 11, 2008)

The LCBO describes this as “Deep purple colour; ripe blackberry & spice bouquet; full flavour and a soft finish. Serve with grilled meats and vegetables; game.” My notes: A beverage produced by a Constellation Wines company in an imaginative PET package. Light weight including a convenient wine glass closure I had to see if the wine is the same as last tasted (#375964, June 24, 2007). The nose has a sweet plum/cherry aroma quickly adding the odour of the ‘glass‘ but airing for a few minutes solves this distraction. The colour has retained its deep ruby with a purple hue. Flavours are of red cherries and one or two blackberries having a white pepper edge then finishing with crushed cherry pits, pepper and a tinge of sweetness. Medium-bodied but with less body than previously tasted from the standard bottle. A drink now to have with a hamburger, a red pasta dish or a slice of pizza - I‘d go with a standard bottle for a meal tho‘. A handy refundable package for summer picnics. 81

BERONIA TEMPRANILLO ELABORACIÓN ESPECIAL 2006, Rioja, Spain, 14.0% D, #723643 $18.95 (Tasted September 17, 2008)

Vintages released on July 5, 2008 describing it as “Elaboración especial (special production) refers to the barrel fermentation this wine undergoes over several months in new American oak. This ripe 100% Tempranillo boasts intense plum and liquorice notes, with smoky mocha and cigar box imparted by the unique production style. Try it with grilled or smoked meats.” My notes: Recommended to me as an interesting sipper this shows a cherry skin colour in large bowl with aromas of smoky oak balanced with cherry fruit. On the light side of medium-bodied and mild flavours that smack of bright cherries rounding on the palate as the flavours change to a dry cherry raspberry mix. I expected the American oak influence to be more distinct - didn’t get ‘liquorice’ or ‘cigar box’. This should be great with pastas, pizzas, bruscetta, or paired with lightly spiced ribs, rack of lamb or filet mignon. Cellaring could lighten and add silk to its texture, I’d guess about four years. 86

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