Sunday, October 26, 2008

Calamus Estate Wines: 6 Tasted of 6

The route to Calamus Estate Winery, especially with brilliant October colours, meanders attractively on the slope of the Niagara escarpment. We went south from Vineland on Victoria Avenue just past Featherstone Estate Winery then left on Sixth Avenue through Ball’s Falls and a slow right onto Glenn Road, a short connecting road from 6th Avenue to 19th Street. A matter of convenience in assigning boundary lines locates Calamus as the only winery in the most southerly sub appellation of Vinemount Ridge, however ~21 of 42 acres on the Ball’s Falls property is cultivated for vines in the terroir of Twenty Mile Bench. The second Calamus vineyard, Bartlett Creek, with ~11 of 14 acres planted with vines, is at the western end of the Beamsville Bench. So far the labels carry the less specific but more prevalent VQA designation of 'Niagara Peninsula'.

From their website: “The varietal breakdown is: 8 acres of Chardonnay, 7 acres of Riesling, 3.5 acres Pinot Gris, 3.5 acres Gewürztraminer, and .5 acre Vidal in whites, with 5 acres Cabernet Franc, 3 acres Cabernet Sauvignon and 1.5 acres Merlot in red grapes and a small amount of Pinot Noir.”
Calamus has a capacity of 8500 cases.

The Ball’s Falls site is quite a work in progress. Extensions to the original dairy barn still show new timbers while inside the tasting room fourteen inch ceiling joists show the marks of their previous owners, telephone repairmen. Well restored the tasting room comfortably serves samples of the 2006 and 2007 vintages. Outside, a portable bottling operation was quickly producing cases of their rosé and meritage wines to be available the next day.

The Calamus wine list shows those available for our tasting. We brought away the X’d whites so we could spend some leisure with them along side a home cooked meal or two.

It was ‘worth the drive to Vineland’ to sample their hospitality and to experience a Winery in the making. If planning a visit to the Niagara Peninsula and to Calamus the Twenty Valley website is an excellent place to start.
When tasted each wine will appear in bold below.
Cheers, Ww


CALAMUS GEWURZTRAMINER 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 12.6% D, #Winery, $13.20 (Tasted October 28, 2008)

Winery notes: Unique aroma of lychee nut, apricot & peach. Flavours of floral rose petal & spice with a lovely long finish. Try with fresh fruit, smoked salmon or Asian cuisine. (RP90-93, Winepointer #17). My notes: A tinge of gold in the glass and a light fragrance of honey and wild floral. If served chilled let go slightly off chill for a smooth texture and flavouring of spice, apricot and crushed stone fruit, medium-bodied The finish is long with a buttery edge and lasting spice and stone fruit flavours. An interesting sipper for an afternoon on a sunny patio with a tray of cheeses and fruit. Pair with grilled whitefish, Chinese fare, or even proscuitto wrapped asparagus. A drink now. Ww89

CALAMUS PINOT GRIS 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 12.2% D, #Winery, $15.20 (Tasted November 2, 2008)

Winery notes: All Canadian Wine Championships 2008 Silver Medal. All about balance. Rich fruit & crisp acidity. Refreshing attack to clean finish. Delicious for sipping & dining… Rod Phillips (RP87-89, Winepointer #6). My notes: Shows as a crystal clear, pale gold tinged a delicate peach in a tulip glass - very appealing. Just off chill the fragrance is also delicate, I’d say a peach fuzz or stone fruit tone followed by flavours of fresh apricot. I’d swear there’s some sweetness, but it’s only a suspicion, in the long finish. A lightly tart sipper by itself or with bacon wrapped scallops, crab or lobster, fresh oysters or pair with grilled telapia done in a tomato and pepper sauce. An elegant white for the dinner table. Ww90

CALAMUS WHITE 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 12.3% D, #Winery, $12.20 (Tasted November 2, 2008)

Winery notes: Lovely versatile blend of Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris. Great balance of fruit & acidity with a long full finish. Sip on its own or serve with light savoury dishes. (RP87-89, Winepointer #17). My notes: A pale blond colour with almost imperceptible aromas, I’d say a fruit blossom and spice combination. The texture is nicely rounded with flavours that hint at green apple without a full tartness but balanced with a mild sweetness. The fullness in the finish fades slowly leaving a dry apple seed pithiness until the next sip. For me and as a sole sipper this has an unusual flavour blend - didn’t pair with either apple or bosc pear slices or cheeses from edam, aged cheddar to bella blu… might go well with mussels in a curry sauce or a chorizo and mushroom pie. A drink now. Ww85

CALAMUS RIESLING 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 12.0% D, #Winery, $16.20 (Tasted October 30, 2008)
Winery notes: Luscious fruity, just off dry speaks to the quality of the 2007 vintage. The flavours ripe & elegant mesh with crisp acidity. Rod Phillips, (RP87-89, Winepointer #6). My notes: A very slight lanolin and lemon bouquet and pale golden colour - must be off chill for best sniffing. ‘Mesh with crisp acidity’ is right on, the hint of sweetness being well masked by a bright accent to delicate nutty flavours. Not a demonstrative riesling making this for anyone looking for a refreshing sipper. Nicely rounded and leaves a clean reminder on the palate. Have with seafood appetizers or with mild cheeses. Pair with sole, pickerel or lobster pieces. Cellaring a short time, two years, may bring out some highlights not yet developed. Ww87

CALAMUS VIDAL 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 12.3% D, #Winery, $11.20 (Tasted October 29, 2008)

Winery notes: Tropical fruit nose and delicate floral notes. Slightly sweet finish. My notes: A pale golden blond colour and having the faintly sweet fragrance of lemon blossoms. The first sip shows a smooth texture and polite nip followed by flavours of sweet grapefruit with a slight stone fruit tone, medium-bodied. The long finish reveals a touch of sweetness with soft flavours that fade slowly. A sociable sipper - as an aperitif or with fresh oysters or a dim sum luncheon. Pair with freshwater fish, Asian fare or oysters Rockefeller. A straight forward drink now and a value for an off-dry house white. Ww85

CALAMUS VIDAL ICE WINE 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 11.6% D, #Winery , 200ml $20.20 (Tasted November 3, 2008)

Winery notes: Wonderful… honey, apricot and apple pie texture….. It’s delicious. Lynn Ogryzlo, Niagara Express, Nov. ‘07. My notes: An elixir the colour of a fine brandy and aromas of honeyed bosc pear. I prefer to use a wide necked amarula glass so my nose can almost touch the surface. A high viscosity gives a smooth texture and slight acid a sharp edge to an otherwise concentrated pure fruit juice. Finishes moderately long leaving a brightness behind. Have with a fruit tray or pour over mango gelato for a treat. Cellaring for four to eight years will likely add caramel tones. I’d say the sugar code is between 6 and 8. Save for an occasion and crowd that is looking for a special addition to a fruity dessert. Ww94

(RP - Rod Phillips)

Monday, October 13, 2008

October 2008 Wines: 12 Tasted of 12

These are some wines picked up on the way home or while shopping, found in the cellar or brought to the house by generous guests. The ones marked V11 are from Vintages release of October 11th. There's a few 'pumpkins' in the lot. As before, when tasted the wine will appear in bold. Cheers, Ww 

THE LINEUP: Listed by Reds, Whites, Rosés, Sparkling then Other
  • Thorn-Clarke Terra Barossa 2005, RP90-93, 93-3 -- V11, Barossa, Australia, #684357 $15.95
  • Fontanafredda Barbera Briccotondo 2007, RP90-93, 92-3 -- V11, Piedmont, Italy, #072348 $15.95
  • Rodney Strong Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, 91-2 -- V, California, USA, #226944 $19.95*
  • Wolf Blass Yellow Label Merlot 2006, 68 -- G, South Australia, #538637 $17.95
  • Cousiño-Macul Antiguas Reservas Chardonnay 2007, RP90-93, 93-3 -- V11, Maipo Valley, Chile, #730044 $14.95
  • Cave Spring Chardonnay Musqué 2007 VQA Beamsville Bench, 91-2 -- O, Niagara, Canada, #Winery $15.28
  • The Black Chook Shiraz/Viognier 2007, 90-2 -- V11, South Australia, #066738 $17.95
  • Flat Rock Cellars Nadja`s Vineyard Riesling 2007 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, 84 -- O, Niagara, Canada, #Winery $20.25
  • Flat Rock Cellars Twisted 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 84 -- O, Niagara, Canada, #Winery $17.25
  • Bürgerspital Würzburg Silvaner Kabinett Trocken 2007, 76 -- V11, Pfaffenberg, Germany, #944504 $21.95

  •  Katnook ‘Founders Block’ Sparkling Shiraz 2004, 89-1 -- V, South Australia, #053330 $19.95
  • Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Sparkling Shiraz NV, RP87-89, 87 -- V11, South Eastern Australia, #065391 $18.95
(G - General listing, V – Vintages, O - Other, RP - Rod Phillips, r-v - Rating-Value)


RODNEY STRONG SONOMA COUNTY CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2003, California, USA, 13.8% XD, #226944 $19.95* (Retasted October 13, 2008)

My notes: Originally from Vintages December 9th, 2006 release, re-released in June 2007 and last tasted April 11th this year. It has maintained a Ww rating in the high 80’s since purchase. *Listed now at $22.95... but none on Ontario shelves. This has a deep ruby with a faint violet tint and soft aromas of black current and blackberries. There’s a definite dryness on the first sip and a combination of blackberries and bramble with a fine tannin and moderate spice base. The dryness follows a long bright finish as the fruit slowly tapers off. The roundness and herbal edge builds nicely with each sip and the original tanginess has levelled off making this an interesting, bold but not aggressive, sipper. Should be great with grilled ribs, pepper steak, rack of lamb or chili con carne. This has extra years cellaring potential, I’d say up to four. 91

WOLF BLASS YELLOW LABEL MERLOT 2006, South Australia, 13.5% D, #538637 $17.95 (Tasted October 17, 2008)

A General listing described as “Deep ruby colour; smoky, red plum, spring cherry and blackberry aromas; dry, medium bodied, very fruit driven, with cherry/berry fruit flavours, soft tannins, oaky finish. Serve with veal or lamb.” My notes: A moderate ruby liquid that leaves a thin viscous film on the glass and gives off odours of musty cherries. The first sip attacks sharply asserting an acid seam that overlays a light flavour of the same musty cherries. The finish carries the flavour with the acid tapering off slowly to a chemical ending. An appalling simulation of a merlot. Either new vines or the indiscriminate crushing or collection of fruit went into this red. Have with spicy foods. Not for cellaring nor is it a drink now imho. 68

WYNDHAM ESTATE BIN 555 SPARKLING SHIRAZ NV, South Eastern Australia, 13.5% D, #065391 $18.95 (Tasted October 16, 2008)

Released by Vintages on October 11, 2008 described as “… Expect a dark red mousse, with aromas of spicy black pepper, black cherry and floral notes. It has a full body with a round and creamy texture, sweet black-fruit flavours balanced by medium acidity. A unique wine to pair with your traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner.” My notes: A dense ruby colour with a continuous stream of fine then larger bubbles. The nose is somewhat subdued with a yeasty edge followed by a hint of blackberries. A definite spritz on the tongue and light flavours of blackberries and a touch of pepper. A sociable sipper for any crowd and somewhat of a novelty. Finishes dry with a lasting veneer of scrumptious blackberries. The Katnook ‘Founders Black’ 2004 Sparkling Shiraz (#053330, $19.95) available last December was very similar although with a sweeter fruit edge and more tartness. An unusual sparkler worth stocking a few for special occasions. The Wyndham would go well with roast turkey, meatballs en crockpot or with grilled ham and pineapple rings. A drink now. 87

KATNOOK 'FOUNDERS BLOCK' SPARKLING SHIRAZ 2004, South Australia, 13.0% D, #053330 $19.95 (Retasted October 21, 2008)

A Vintages release on December 8, 2007. The Katnook website had this to say "This is the first Sparkling Shiraz produced in the Katnook Founder’s Block range. It is an inviting wine, equally at home at a barbecue, a celebration or the dining table, with generous palate structure, rich fruit and spicy length of flavours. A soft and fresh mouthfeel, mellow rich fruit, lively burst of fine bubbles and a lingering finish. Serve lightly chilled and enjoy now for its vivacious fruit. A perfect match for duck, turkey and pork dishes and a natural for a barbecue." My notes: Now ten months older the colour remains the same deep ruby and the first pour produces lots of varying size bubbles subsiding quickly to a continuous fine froth at the rim. The nose is lighter losing most of its blackberry fruit and leasiness. Sipping wakens the blackberry flavours and layers the palate with a smooth, dry, spritzy coating of blackberries. The natural berry sweetness is there along with a light touch of pepper, fine tannin - all to a lesser degree -lasting to a smooth mineral finish. Pair with meaty nibbles, eg. meatballs en crockpot, liver pate on toasts or with turkey pieces or portobello burgers. It’s somewhat fuller and slightly tarter than the Wyndham Sparkling Shiraz (#065391, $18.95). LSL - Lip smacking luscious. 89

THORN-CLARKE TERRA BAROSSA 2005, Barossa, Australia, 14.0% D, #684357 $15.95 (Tasted October 25, 2008)

Released by Vintages on October 11, 2008 described as “Supple, round and distinctive for its violet-tinged currant and dusky spice flavors, lingering effectively against refined tannins. Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Drink now through 2013. Smart Buy. (90/100, Harvey Steiman, Aug. 31, 2007) .” My notes: A deep violet tinged ruby with slow to form legs on the bowl and aromas of strawberries and raspberries lightly smoked. An appealing smoothness combined with a soft nip makes this an interesting sipper - perhaps too much fruit if a Rhone red is preferred. Full-bodied, black currants mix with raspberries and a light tar shows nearing the end of the taste. Bright on the palate and would pair well with seasoned ribs, a rare T-bone or sirloin well seared or even a bacon-on-a-bun. Cellaring for several years should be OK and may evolve a texture smoother than it already is. An excellent value. 93

THE BLACK CHOOK SHIRAZ/VIOGNIER 2007, South Australia, 15.0% XD, #066738 $17.95 (Tasted October 22, 2008)

Released by Vintages on October 11, 2008 described as “Bright ruby. Highly perfumed nose offers an energetic bouquet of peppery dark berries, fresh violet and smoked meat. On the palate, this displays a real northern Rhone-like personality, with an array of dark berry and candied floral flavours. Picks up vanilla and cola on the seductively sweet and very persistent finish. Leaves tangy minerality behind, along with a lively note of cracked pepper. (90/100, Josh Raynolds, International Wine Cellar, July/Aug. 2008).” My notes: A beautiful deep violet ruby colour and long legs that stream down the bowl. Use a large bowl for this red… to spread the blackberry aromas and enhance the cracked pepper. Full-bodied 95% shiraz, full of citrus at the fore with black fruit coming up behind. Having an expectation of shiraz, and although at just 5%, there is a forceful representation of Viognier in the nose, the flavour and finish balancing black fruit toward bright acid, displacing smoothness with crispness, bursting with flavour then tapering to a mineral finish. An innovative use of grapes at hand - see what you think - that should have a few years ageing with excellent potential. Have with hot Italian sausage and spicy tomato pastas. 90

COUSIÑO-MACUL ANTIGUAS RESERVAS CHARDONNAY 2007, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #730044 $14.95 (Tasted October 20, 2008)

Released by Vintages on October 11, 2008 described as “Cousiño-Macul's first Antiguas Reservas Chardonnay was made in 1969. This trademarked designation is reserved for the finest Chardonnay from a vintage. Only a small portion of this wine was aged for 7 months in small French oak barrels and a smaller percentage underwent acid-softening malolactic fermentation both of which contributed additional layers of complexity to the wine. Medium-bodied with flavours of apple, lemon drop, grapefruit, anise and hazelnut, this white is simply wonderful with crab cakes, prawns or baked salmon.” My notes: A delicate golden colour with, after a minute or two airing, a light aroma of wild honey conveying some spice and some sweetness. A pleasing roundness and nut-infused flavours of melon, apple and a citrus zest. A very interesting sipper with flavours that build one on another then change to a long, smooth, dry, nutty, tangy finish. Should be able to cellar this for several years adding to its already considerable depth of textures and flavours. Have with roast chicken - perfect for fresh oysters, cold lobster pieces or crabcakes. A super value. 93

BÜRGERSPITAL WÜRZBURG SILVANER KABINETT TROCKEN 2007, Pfaffenberg, Germany, 11.5% D, #944504 $21.95 (Tasted October 18, 2008)

Released by Vintages on October 11, 2008 described, without a change from the previous vintage, as “ … The aromas are full of floral, pear, apple and mineral notes. This medium- to full-bodied wine's racy acidity gives it tremendous verve. Pair with freshwater fish..” My notes: The 2006 vintage tasted in October last year was rated Ww88. Now priced two dollars higher will it be two dollars better? A light gold with a delicate aroma of clover honey, changing to being somewhat grassy. The first sip is light-bodied letting the flavours slip by then shifting gradually to slight bosc pear and white grapefruit with a mild tang and finishing dry, crushed stalks being the most prominent accent. Uninspiring as a sipper and with Presidents Choice Seafood Trio it was as equal a washout. Doesn’t have the raciness it takes to pair with more flavoured seafoods. Not for cellaring and not a value. 76

FONTANAFREDDA BARBERA BRICCOTONDO 2007, Piedmont, Italy, 13.0% XD, #072348 $15.95 (Tasted October 18, 2008)

Released by Vintages on October 11, 2008 described as “This Barbera may be the best value to come out of Piedmont. The 2006 was on the Wine Spectator's Top 100 in 2007. We feel this 2007 might be even better with more flesh and depth of flavour. It's medium full-bodied with a plush texture leading to a lengthy finish. Enjoy it with pasta in tomato sauce, veal chops, roasted chicken or pork.” My notes: A purplish carmen shade with slow forming tears and an aroma of cherries, sweet rhubarb and a light smoky oak. A fresh flavour of ripe cherries with enough sweetness to mellow the crispness, medium-bodied, finishing dry with a lasting flavour of fruit. An interesting sipper for it’s bright fruit and suede texture. Would go great with spaghetti and meatballs, cheese and beef cannelloni, or veal parmigiana. A good drink now or up to four years cellaring. 92

CAVE SPRING CHARDONNAY MUSQUÉ 2007 VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada, 13.0% D, #Winery $15.95 (Tasted October 23, 2008)

My notes: The 2006 (Vintages release on October 13, 2007, #246579, $15.95) was tasted in May this year and rated Ww92. Wine Access claimed it as “The best vintage yet of this unusual clone”. The 2007 was purchased from the winery on a weekend visit. The 2007 is a light golden colour in the glass and the fragrance is lighter but of the same wild flowers and honey, more aromatic as the chill comes off. A touch of straw and a citrus sharpness on the first sip with lemon butter, melon and stone fruit flavourings on the first swallow then finishing dry with silky textures and bright lemon grass. An interesting sipper and one to have for a buffet crowd. Pair with fresh water fish: pickerel, lake trout, or with chicken breast in a creamy mushroom pasta. Should be OK to cellar for two years, maybe longer. 91

FLAT ROCK CELLARS NADJA'S VINEYARD RIESLING 2007 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada, 10.5% XD, #Winery $20.25 (Tasted October 26, 2008)

My notes: Purchased from the winery on a weekend visit. The 2006 vintage was tasted in August last year before Ww ratings - Gord Stimmell had rated it 90/100 at the time. Similarly the 2007 was purchased from the winery, same price. The colour is a crisp pale gold and aromas are mostly of delicate lanolin tinged stone fruit. The first sip is dry with flavours of peach and grapefruit somewhat flat in texture although there is a soft lime nip that adds interest. The finish carries the stone fruit accent and a moderate tartness ending on a clay note. A sipper suitable for a social crowd as a starter with appetizers. Have with crab cakes, shrimp with seafood sauce or asparagus spears and a cheese dip. Could go with freshwater fish either pickerel or lake trout but may not have sufficient bite to hold its own with fuller flavoured finny options. Cellar up to two years. 84

FLAT ROCK CELLARS TWISTED 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 12.5% MD, #Winery $16.95 (Tasted October 25, 2008)

My notes: The 2006 was a Vintages release (#001578, $16.95) in June 2007 and tasted the same month. Rod Phillips gave the 2006 a 90-93 rating at the time. This vintage, 2007, was purchased from the winery during a recent weekend visit. A light blond colour with an aromatic mix of apple, melon and tangy lime that comes as the glass goes off chill. There is a soft nip and flavours of fresh tart apple with more subdued acid than the 2006 - no teeth cleaning acidity this vintage. The sweetness is balanced so as not to be predominant. The finish has evenly spread flavours and mild acid. An OK social sipper - pairing could be limited given the lower acid level - grilled sole, telapia or crab - likely not butter dipped lobster nor spicy mussels. A drink now. 84

Friday, October 10, 2008

Birthday Picks, 2008: 6 Tasted of 6

My birthday regularly coincides with the Thanksgiving weekend which means I get an extra celebration with the family. But on the exact day of the year, today, my BH generously bestows on me several choices from Vintages. My kids would say, “I‘m a lucky pup!” . When tasted the wine will appear in bold. Cheers, Ww (V – Vintages)
  • Claymore Dark Side of the Moon Shiraz 2005, 94 -- V, Clare Valley, Australia, #072652 $29.95
  • Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Les Baronnes 2007, 92 -- V, Chavignol, France, #542548 $24.95
  • Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2007, 88 -- V, Marlborough, NZ, #304469 $33.95
  • Raw Cabernet Merlot 2005, 86 -- V, Margaret River, Australia, #075507 $18.95
  • Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2007, 84 -- V, Marlborough, NZ, #919514 $19.95
  • Rodney Strong Knotty Vines Zinfandel 2006, 81 -- V, Sonoma County, USA, #363358 $22.95

CLAYMORE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON SHIRAZ 2005, Clare Valley, Australia, 15.0% D, #072652 $29.95 (Tasted October 20, 2008)

A Vintages release on September 27, 2008 described as “The 2005 Shiraz 'Dark Side of the Moon' is deep crimson-colored with aromas of toasty oak, smoke, tar, blueberry, and blackberry. Ripe and full-flavored, it has enough structure to evolve for 3-5 years. Drink this lengthy wine through 2015. (90/100, Jay Miller, Oct. 2007)” My notes: A deep violet hued ruby and aromas of smoky blueberry, blackberry and white pepper. Beautiful long legs and an initial citrus tang giving the velvet textured blackberry and lime flavourings a definite lift. The finish quickly changes from tangy fruit to tangy mint developing a fine furriness and lasting forever. Different is too mild, unique for sure, perhaps even exotic to a degree - I obviously enjoyed this 100% shiraz. Cellarable for several years but drinking well now. 94

RAW CABERNET/MERLOT 2005, Margaret River, Australia, 13.5% XD, #075507 $18.95 (Tasted October 15, 2008)

A Vintages release on August 30, 2008 described as “RAW is Kingston Estate's acronym for Regional Australian Wine. In this case, the region being explored is Margaret River, known for its tremendous success with classic Bordeaux varietals. This blend is comprised of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Merlot and features ripe berry, plum, herbaceous and smoky oak characteristics. Dry and full-bodied, it has impressive depth while maintaining elegance. Serve it with rosemary lamb chops with grilled roast potatoes.” My notes: A deep ruby with a garnet cast and spicy aromas of ripe cherries and black berries. A light film with tears slow to develop on the bowl, a bright first sip with a metallic layer carrying cherry-berry flavours then staying bright through a long dry finish. An unusually crisp sipper that should compete well with savoury or spicy entrees: T-bone or rib eye steaks or seasoned rack of lamb. Cellaring potential depends on the fruit being sustained along side prominent acids and moderate tannins - don't think so. 86

WITHER HILLS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% XD, #919514 $19.95 (Tasted October 15, 2008)

A Vintages release on August 02, 2008 described as “The 2007 is excellent, especially for a wine now produced in huge 'commercial' volumes. Fresh and vibrant, it has strong gooseberry/lime flavours, crisp, dry, and finely balanced. (4 of 5, Michael Cooper, Buyer's Guide to New Zealand Wines, 2008)” My notes: A light fragrance of gooseberries and, but not enough to complain about, stagnant pond. A light blond colour, full in the mouth and sharp on the tongue with a good level of fruit: gooseberries and grapefruit. The finish is long and bright suitable for creamy pastas - was OK with bbq’d garlic shrimp and lemon linguine but I found it a touch acidic for general sipping. Drinking well now and could cellar for a few years although not likely to improve. There’s tough competition in this price range for NZ savvies and I prefer other 'commercial' whites. 84

HENRI BOURGEOIS SANCERRE LES BARONNES 2007, Chavignol, France, 12.5% XD, #542548 $24.95 (Tasted October 14, 2008)

A Vintages release on October 11, 2008 described as “One of the top domaines in the Loire, Henri Bourgeois has been perfecting Sauvignon Blanc for ten generations. Fresh thyme and sage, kiwi, green apple, gooseberry and grapefruit aromas are quite evident. Suggesting the New Zealand style yet with European refinement, it is dry, fruit driven and well structured with an excellent finish. Enjoy with goat cheese and crackers, cucumber salad or ceviche.” My notes: A grassy gooseberry and almond nose a delicate balance of herbs and fruit. The colour is a delicate gold and a swirl shows a film of tears on the bowl. A nice nip, a soft texture and loads of green apple and grapefruit wake up the buds. A European sauvignon blanc with more herbaceousness and gooseberries that are more moderate in flavour but full in body. Have with white fowl, planked salmon or creamy shrimp and/or lobster pastas. The finish is long with bright flavours making this a super sipper. 92

RODNEY STRONG KNOTTY VINES ZINFANDEL 2006, Sonoma County, USA, 14.8% XD, #363358 $22.95 (Tasted October 13, 2008)

A Vintages release on September 13, 2008 described as “To make this wine, Rodney Strong partially sources the Zinfandel grapes from a small plot of 104-year-old Russian River vines, and completes the blend with fruit grown in the Dry Creek and Anderson Valleys; the former provides bright berry fruit in the final cuvée, while the latter adds ripe peppery jamminess. This blockbuster red will be delicious alongside beef with mole (Mexican chocolate sauce).” My notes: A see-through ruby colour and a berry fragrance with a mineral accent - not very expressive of fruit. The first sip is medium-bodied also of berries and a light mineral and an indistinct fruit flavour, just there with a silky texture. Some carryover to the finish then tapering to more of the same earthy minerals. A mediocre sipper with some rawness, young and thinner than expected for a ‘knotty vines zin’. The Wine Specs claim 17% from Russian River which I would have thought would add more density. A ‘blockbuster? I don’t think so. Have with prime rib, turkey or light game birds. Not a value. 81

CLOUDY BAY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007, Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% XD, #304469 $33.95 (Tasted December 27, 2008)

A Vintages release on June 21, 2008 described as “Zingy and vibrant with a ton of crisp, fresh, grassy flavours and razor sharp acidity balancing the ripe, sweet tropical fruit with melon, capsicum and hints of pineapple playing around in the background. It slips down nicely and the finish is pungent and long. A somewhat 'retro' style’ for Cloudy Bay - but that's a good thing because lots more people liked it this year. (Sue Courtney, Jan. 23, 2008)” My notes: A nose that’s 50-50 nettles and gooseberries and a smooth texture to the first taste followed by strong acid balanced with a natural passionfruit tang, gooseberry fruit flavours and herbaceous straw makes this an interesting sipper. Long tears drain on the glass showing a fullish medium-bodied white excellent for seafood, not too spicy, with oiled pastas, not too creamy, and with grilled chicken breasts or dark meat. A finish that's grassy rather than fruity and shorter than remembered of past vintages - nice but forget the 'retro' and bring back the previous style for me. Cellaring won’t bring out more textures nor subtleties. 88