Friday, May 30, 2008

'Wine Access' Rated Wines: 14 Tasted of 14

For me, the faintness of the typeface used in Wine Access makes it a difficult read but nevertheless it's a good source of many wine critic opinions and informative articles so I continue to subscribe. The April/May issue included a Buyer's Guide for New Releases, pp.59-80, across Canada. Of the 139 wines listed, twenty-four were $20 or below. Fourteen were available locally, six being a different vintage than that rated by the Wine Access tasting panel. When completed tastings appear in bold. The 100 point system used by Wine Access puts anything below 80 in the 'flawed' category. This has the effect of pushing wines rated in the 70's using the Wine Advocate system into the 80's. Tasted wines are resequenced by rating and value. Cheers, Ww

  • Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2006, STh88 -- 88-1, V, Maipo Valley, Chile, #694208 $14.95
  • Peter Lehmann Barossa Shiraz 2005, AG87 --  86, G, Australia, #572875  $19.80
  • Perrin Reserve Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2006, ST87(2005) -- 85, V, Rhone, France, #363457 $14.95
  • Montecillo Reserva Rioja 2002, AG87(2001) -- 85, G, Rioja, Spain, #621003 $19.00
  • Cline Syrah 2006, STh88(2005) -- 83, V, Sonoma County, USA, #733758 $12.85
  • Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2003, AG87 -- 83, G, Rhone, France, #259721 $16.80
  • Ruffino II Ducale Toscana 2004, AG87 -- 81, G, Tuscany, Italy, #027797 $19.80
  • Montalto Nero d'Avola Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, AG87(2005) -- 80, G, Sicily, Italy, #621151 $9.70
  • Peter Lehmann Clancy's Red 2004, ST86 -- 80, G, Australia, #611467 $17.80*
  • Toscolo Chianti Classico 2004, AG87(2005) -- 78, V, Tuscany, Italy, #019521 $18.95

  • Cave Spring Chardonnay Musque 2006 VQA Beamsville Bench, DL89 -- 92-3, V, Niagara, Canada, #246579 $15.95
  • Babich Black Label Sauvignon Blanc 2007, AG-ST88(2005) -- 92-2, V, Marlborough, NZ, #009142 $19.95
  • Beringer Founder's Estate Chardonnay 2006, AG87 -- 89-1, G, Napa, USA, #534230 $17.30*
  • Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2007, AG88 -- 89-1, Marlborough, NZ, #426601 $16.30
Tasters: DL - David Lawrason, STh - Steve Thurlow, ST - Stuart Tobe, AG - Anthony Gismondi, JS - John Szabo
(G - General, V - Vintages, O - Other, r-v - Rating-Value)

TASTINGS:

PÉREZ CRUZ CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVA 2006, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #694208 $14.95 (Tasted June 3, 2008)

A Vintages release on January 5, 2008 described as "A favourite of Vintages customers, this ripe and rich Cabernet is an overachiever that offers exceptional value. Rich and ripe, it features complex aromas and flavours of cherry, pomegranate, toasty oak, chocolate and some spicy notes. It's smooth and well-balanced with a medium-long finish. Savour it with a pork roast." The Chilean Wine website says "Deep burgundy red with aromas of ripe red berries and spices highlighted by touches of dried fruit and vanilla. A very well-structured wine with mature tannins and a smooth finish. 91.7% Cabernet Sauvignon completed with Carmenère and Syrah." My notes: A deep ruby colour and fragrances of soft leather and ripe blackcurrants, a bold first sip of cedar, bright blackcurrants and tangy spice, full-bodied with a very firm nip. You have to like ‘bold’ for this to be a sipper… not for me. Have with well seasoned rare steak, a roast lamb rack, spicy chili con carne or most game meats. Cellaring for several years should integrate and develop complexities in textures and flavours. I’d say lay it down for five years then give it a taste. 88

PERRIN RÉSERVE COTES DU RHONE ROUGE 2006,
Rhone, France, 14.0% D, #363457 $14.95 (Tasted May 30, 2008)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "This wine will transport you to the South of France. Five generations of Perrin winemaking culminate here as you breathe in aromas of candied cherries, plum, spice, and earthy tones. There's volumes of juicy cherry flavours surrounded by good ripe tannins on the medium-bodied palate. Gourmets can savour it with gourmet pizza or hamburgers." My notes: A deep cherry ruby colour with average legs and aromas of cherry/berry, faint vanilla and soft oak. The flavours, mostly of sweet cherry with some licorice, have a well-balanced tartness, fine tannins and a just noticeable spicy edge. Finishes dry on the palate a bright earthy cherry. Personally I wouldn’t look forward to this as a sipper – it’s a prime rib, rack of lamb, or roasted back rib red. Likely could cellar four years or so but not much to gain. 85

CAVE SPRING CHARDONNAY MUSQUÉ 2006 VQA BEAMSVILLE BENCH,
Niagara, Canada, 13.0% D, #246579 $15.95 (Tasted May 20,2008)

A Vintages release on October 13, 2007 described as "This aromatic clone of the Chardonnay grape is a refreshing alternative to conventional Chardonnay. Gorgeous aromas of flowers, musk, grapes, spice and citrus burst from the glass. Medium-bodied, richly flavoured but balanced with a gentle crispness and a lengthy finish. Serve it with pan-roasted grouper or pork and mushroom stew." WA says "The best vintage yet of this unusual clone... " My notes: The fragrance is full of clover honey and wildflowers and a delicate blond colour. The initial sip brings an equal blend of dry straw, almost ripe melon, apple and very slight natural sugars to round the texture. Finishes dry on the palate, moderately long with apple peel and clay flavourings. A good sipper for an open house, a deck party or aperitif before lunch or dinner. Have with a tray of mild cheeses, salmon pieces on greens or crab cakes. Could this be an example of ‘Beamsville Bench’ terroir, deep soils and numerous nourishing streams? Cellaring a few years should be OK but drinking well now. 92

MONTECILLO RESERVA RIOJA 2002,
Rioja, Spain, 13.5% XD, #621003 $19.00 (Tasted May 19, 2008)

A General listing described as "Ruby-red, rustic appearance; cherry and cigar smoke aroma; medium intensity red cherry flavours; moderate tannins and balanced acidity, velvety texture. Serve with pasta with meat sauce, grilled lamb or beef, goat dishes." My notes: A deep violet ruby colour with rich aromas of smoky red cherry and delicate french oak ageing. Light legs and mixed flavours of red cherry, red currant and earthy oak balanced by mild acid and fine tannin. Quite quaffable, smooth, a thinnish medium-bodied needing a companion nibble. The body may be light but the flavour lasts with red cherry cleansing the palate. For mildly spicy entrees and would be great with pasta dishes, mushroom sauce on prime rib, a ham steak, paella or tapas. Past cellaring, ie. a drink-now. 85

 

GUIGAL COTES DU RHONE 2003, Rhône, France, 13.0% D, #259721 $16.75 (Tasted February 6, 2008)

A General listing described as "Deep ruby purple colour; complex aromas of mixed spice, plums, dark berry and pepper with floral notes; dry, medium to full-bodied, well balance with supple tannins, and flavours of white pepper, cassis,black cherry and mineral; good length on the finish. Serve with pepper steak, lamb, grilled portabello mushrooms or seared duck in a cherry reduction sauce." My notes: A deep sombre ruby colour with good legs and, after airing ten minutes, light aromas of floral, tobacco humidor and pepper as the overriding scents. The initial sip is smooth but quickly followed by a tangy pepper and red cherry finishing with an even mix of red cherry, mushroom, slight pepper and woodiness. A touch of mint makes the ending bright with some dryness. A meal red for T-bone, bbq'd pork ribs, rack of lamb, italian sausage in a red tangy pasta, went well with a beef stew. Medium-bodied, old world character with a lot of process and for those preferring this style it may be priced right (and rated higher). A well made conventional red but not a value - cellaring hasn't helped. 83

MONTALTO NERO D'AVOLA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006, Sicily, Italy, 14.0% XD, #621151 $9.70 (Tasted May 1, 2008)

A General listing described as "Deep red violet colour; dark fruit and spice aromas and flavours; dry, medium to full bodied, long, smooth finish. Serve with roast lamb or beef, meat pastas and grilled meats." My notes: A black cherry skin colour and a nose of smoky plum and red currants tapering quickly from pronounced to light. Either air for four hours or aerate before serving even then the first sip has very firm tannins chalking the palate. Medium-bodied, the flavour is of stemmy red currants finishing long and woody. An extra tart, extra dry sipper even after airing - I wouldn't serve it to guests. If a bottle is opened save for a spicy tomato pasta, pepperoni and red pepper pizza or chorizo sausage. Cellaring two to four years may soften the roughness. 80

BABICH BLACK LABEL SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007, Marlborough, New Zealand, 13.5% D, #009142 $19.95 (Tasted May 8, 2008)


A Vintages release on March 1, 2008 described as "This exuberant Sauvignon Blanc bursts with intense floral and passion fruit aromas that lead to flavours of gooseberry, pear and melon on the refreshing palate... etc." The website says "… The bouquet is a pleasing assault of musk and passionfruit that leads into an intense fruit salad of flavours in the mouth. The sweet fruit combines perfectly with the zesty yet rich and textured palate. Notes of melon and gooseberry join the mid palate and linger on the finish." My notes: The winemaker’s objective was to create a wine with enough weight, acid and fruit to complement a meal. This has lots of gooseberries but not so much to take over the buds. Full-bodied, with the fruit there’s a nutty butter and musk touch giving it an elegance setting it apart from other sauvignon blancs. The finish is long, creamy and slightly herbaceous. The website describes it well. Sip to start and then pair with any seafood appetizer or meal: my favourite is spicy bearded mussels with spongy breads. Cellaring up to three years should be OK but it's drinking well now. 92


PETER LEHMANN CLANCY'S RED 2004, Australia, 14.5% D, #611467 $17.80* (Tasted May 1, 2008)

A General listing (*sale price) described as "Deep ruby red colour; vanilla oak and earthy, blackberry, mint and plum aromas; dry, medium to full bodied, very fruity, with flavours of cassis, black cherry and vanilla; soft tannins, and a long oaky finish. Serve with BBQ delight, grilled sausages, pork chops, ribs, lamb or beef kabobs." My notes: A blend of 35% shiraz, 34% cabernet sauvignon, 26% merlot and 5% cabernet franc. A lot of woodiness in both nose and flavours until it warms and breathes a few hours. The colour is a deep ruby and, after airing, aromas of red currant and smoky cherry persist. Nicely balanced acids and fruit with enough natural sweetness for body and a smooth texture, flavours continue to be on the woody side with dried fig, currants and a jammy taste I haven't acquired - as if this bottle sat in the sun for a time. Not a sipper... have with anything beefy: hamburgers, bacon on a bun, spaghetti and meatballs. I don't see any cellaring potential. 80

BERINGER FOUNDERS ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2006, Napa, USA, 13.9% D, #534230 $17.30* (Tasted May 9, 2008)


A General listing (*sale price) described as "Bright gold colour; spicy, toasty vanilla and tropical notes on the nose; full-bodied on the palate with forward apple citrus fruit and vanilla notes; well-balanced with a long finish. Serve with roast pork loin, grilled salmon, roasted poultry, or cornish hen stuffed with wild rice." My notes: A light blond colour crystal clear in the glass with delicate aromas of fresh grapefruit and slight mown hay. Medium-bodied with flavours are bright citrus and toasty pear with a smoothness approaching cream then finishing with remnants of warm, bright fruit. A welcomed sipper serve chilled with hors d’oeuvres or with bruschetta. Flexible enough to be paired with planked salmon, cold chicken or a ham steak. Has room to cellar for several years or drink now. 89


VILLA MARIA PRIVATE BIN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007, Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% D, #426601 $16.30 (Tasted May 6, 2008)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; intense aromas of gooseberry, lime, grass and asparagus; dry, medium bodied, crisp acidity, and flavours of bell pepper, gooseberry citrus; clean, crisp finish. Serve with goat cheese dishes, fish, vegetarian fare or herb roasted poultry." My notes: definitely a NZ sauvignon blanc from the aromas of gooseberries with a promise of natural sweetness ahead. The flavours continue on the gooseberry theme, a tad creamier than most, and a touch of tangy lime then finishing long, a full mouthfeel ending somewhat, as a sipper, grassy. Have with crabcakes, a halibut or tuna steak, or sushi. A drink-now although cellaring for a year would take advantage of the reasonable price for this calibre of sb. 89


CLINE SYRAH 2006, Sonoma County, USA, 14.0% D, #733758 $12.85 (Tasted May 2, 2008)

A Vintages release on February 2, 2008 described as "Made with grapes sourced primarily from Cline's Sonoma County vineyards, this is an excellent value! This Syrah will have you singing its praises with its aromas of blackberry, cracked pepper, spice, and leather, with flavours of black cherry with a hint of oak and a medium long finish. A natural partner for grilled lamb or gourmet sausages." My notes: 100% syrah gives this a deep ruby with long legs and delicate aromas of young blackberries, anise and pepper. Medium-bodied and a beautiully balanced blend of blackberries, soft mint, fine tannins and spice that lead the way to a long finish of not quite ripe berries lightly sprinkled with black pepper, along with a mineral edge that loses some appeal. A meal red for accompanying rack of lamb, crock pot lamb shank or a beef bourguignon. Cellaring for two years should be OK but it's likely near peak now. What a difference a vintage makes! 83


RUFFINO IL DUCALE TOSCANA 2004, Tuscany, Italy, 12.5% XD, #027797 $19.80 (Tasted May 10, 2008)
.
A General listing described as "Medium ruby; aromas of black cherry, toasted wood and earth; medium-bodied, bone-dry with flavours of cedar and cherry ending with mouth-watering acidity. Serve with pasta with meat sauce, braised veal shank." My notes: Not to be confused with Ruffino Il Ducale Reserva at $25, #045195. Let the Toscana breathe for an hour. It has a deep cherry ruby colour with a fragrance that includes red currants, blueberries and a whiff of toasty cherry. For those liking extra tart and dry, ie. Italian style homebrew, this is it, flavours of red currants abound… and the finish rather than ‘mouth-watering’ leaves the palate parched by acidity and fine tannins. Not meant to be a sipper, this is for spicy foods: tomato pastas, three meat and red pepper pizzas, cheesy panzerotti. Buy in for a specific crowd and meal otherwise this isn't a value. 81

TOSCOLO CHIANTI CLASSICO 2004, Tuscany, Italy, 12.5% D, #019521 $18.95 (Tasted May 7, 2008)


A Vintages release on April 26, 2008 described as "Gorgeous aromas of crushed berry, toasty oak, chocolate and coffee. Full-bodied, with fine tannins and a long, rich finish. Great value. Best after 2006. Score - 90. (James Suckling, Oct 31, 2006)." My notes: This has a deep ruby colour and an aroma of plums and unripe berries. Medium-bodied and after sitting awhile the flavours are of bright red cherry complete with crushed stones and some earthy notes. The finish carries the brightness along with fine tannins and the persistent dullness of crushed cherry pits. Too tart and light on fruit to be a sipper expected for this price level chianti. Have with tomato sauced pasta dishes, vegetable soup with chorizo pieces, three meat cheesy pizzas. Past cellaring and definitely not a value. 78

PETER LEHMANN BAROSSA SHIRAZ 2005, Australia, 14.5% D, #572875 $19.80 (Tasted May 12, 2008)


A General listing described as "Very deep ruby colour; intense aromas of sweet plum, cassis, oak and leather; dry, robust with forward fruit flavours, moderate tannins and great length. Serve with grilled beef, pepper steak or game." My notes: Let breathe an hour… then a deep ruby with a dull violet cast and earthy aromas of jammy black cherries, licorice and faint leather. Full-bodied and flavours that follow the nose with ripe black cherries predominating, a distinct earthiness then a long velvet finish of sombre plums, a balanced mint and soft tannins. For sippers who like a serious red; for me, it’s strictly a meal red. Pair with roasted or grilled beef or lamb, spicy chili or crock pot stews. I’d recommend cellaring for a few years to integrate flavours and textures which seem separate now. More of an oldworld style so if new world is your thing there are better values. 86

Friday, May 16, 2008

New Zealand Wine Fair: 12 Tasted

The Design Exchange on Bay Street in Toronto was the location and the line-up stretched from the front door to the inner atrium of the Ernst & Young Tower. The start time of seven pm passed only a short while before ticket holders were allowed to proceed to the second floor convention hall. Tables ringed the room as ‘booths’ four feet wide in most cases accommodated wineries and the many bottles of their selected tasting wines. A .pdf file of wines and wineries is available from the Fair website. I decided to focus mainly on pinot noir as the varietal of choice for the evening – two reasons: NZ is touted as the next pinot hunting ground… and a good pinot is often above my limit of $20 so why not taste as many as possible. The evening at $55 per was well attended.

Rather than attempt tasting notes I abbreviated to tasting scores using Wine Advocate’s 100 point system. The Base starts at 50, Colour max’s at 5, the Nose rates up to 15 followed by Flavour & Finish at 20 max and Potential gets the remaining 10 for a perfect score of 100. Prices were as listed and may vary at the distributors or the LCBO.

In all, ten pinots (of 39 from 48 wineries represented), a pinot gris and a merlot were tasted:
    • Akarua Cadence Pinot Noir Central Otago 2006, $39.95 -- 50+4+12+17+7=90
    • Waitiri Creek Pinot Noir Central Otago 2006, $37.95 -- 50+4+12+16+7=89
    • Sacred Hill Basket Press Merlot Hawkes Bay 2006 , $20.95 -- 50+5+12+15+7=89
    • Wither Hills Pinot Noir Marlborough 2006, $44.95 -- 50+3+10+16+7=86
    • Kim Crawford Wines Pinot Noir Marlborough 2007, $19.95 -- 50+3+10+15+6=84
    • Alan Scott Pinot Noir Marlborough 2007, $24.95 -- 50+3+10+15+5=83
    • Ra Nui Pinot Noir Marlborough 2006, $26.95 -- 50+3+08+16+5=82
    • Seifried Estate Pinot Noir Nelson 2007, $25.00 -- 50+3+09+14+6=82
    • Konrad Pinot Noir Marlborough 2007, $29.50 -- 50+3+10+14+4=81
    • Mt Rosa Pinot Gris Central Otago 2006, $29.99 -- 50+4+10+14+3=81
    • Saint Clair Vicar’s Choice Pinot Noir Marlborough 2007, $19.95 -- 50+3+09+13+5=80
    • Tohu Pinot Noir Marlborough 2006, $35.00 -- 50+3+10+14+3=80

The majority of pinots were light on fruit, thin bodied with the winemaking process not adding too much in the way of complementary textures or flavours. In a sense they could be called 'well balanced'. Generally I’d call most of those tasted social sippers.
My opinion anyway, Ww

Friday, May 09, 2008

Winepointer #6 Rated Wines: 8 Tasted of 8

A number of wine critics offer regular Newsletters delivered by e.mail. Since these Newsletters often appeal to a wide readership they can contain more information about LCBO releases and new wines from Ontario wineries and distributors than one can handle. Sifting through for gems isn’t too difficult but you have to have a quest. My quest is highly rated picks under $20.


Ottawa historian, writer, journalist, educator and wine critic, Rod Phillips, has created Winepointer, a Newsletter of tasting notes for each Vintages Release as well as other wines coming to market. Rod’s autobiography can be viewed at his website along with an explanation of the five star rating system used and a handy conversion table to go to the 100 point system. You can also subscribe to receive Winepointer there. Of those I’ve reviewed Winepointer is an excellent example of a taster’s ability to effectively and concisely describe wines - and it's free. The No. 6 issue covers Vintages Release of May 10, 2008.

As a convenience Rod lists upfront his ‘best buys’, shown asterisked below, and all but one have been set aside for this blog entry... and I've added a Chilean pinot noir, a NZ chardonnay and an Italian sangiovese syrah blend. As each is tasted the wine will appear in bold
Cheers, Ww

  • *Tuatara Bay Pinot Noir 2006, RP90-93, 90-2, Marlborough, NZ, #057760 $18.95
  • *Brokenwood Pinot Noir 2006, RP90-93, 89-1, Victoria, Australia, #020560 $20.95
  • Paso Hondo Alta Seleccion Pinot Noir 2007, RP87-89, 89, Bío Bío Valley, Chile, #685925 $14.95
  • *Chilensis Reserva Syrah 2005, RP87-89, 89-2, Maule Valley, Chile, #590745 $11.95
  • *Pasion 4 Merlot 2006, RP87-89, 89-2, Uco Valley, Argentina, #059287 $11.95
  • *Del Fin del Mundo Reserva Malbec 2005, RP87-89, 87-1, Patagonia, Argentina, #681197 $12.95
  • Sasyr Sangiovese Syrah 2005, RP85-86, 87, Tuscany, Italy, #068510 $17.95
  • Goldwater Chardonnay 2006, RP90-93, 92-2, Marlborough, NZ, #991463 $19.95
    (r-v - Rating-Value)

    TASTINGS:


    SASYR SANGIOVESE/SYRAH 2005, Tuscany, Italy, 13.5% XD, #068510 $17.95 (Tasted May 30, 2008)

    Vintages says “Match this unique Tuscan blend with grilled bison burgers or lamb chops. Has very pretty plum, blackberry and floral aromas. Medium- to full-bodied, with fine tannins and a fresh, clean, silky finish. A tiny bit short. Best after 2008. Smart Buy. 88/100 (James Suckling, April 30, 2008).” My notes: A Rocca della Macie creation claiming on the label to be “Velvety smooth, supple and vibrant, it will introduce you to an array of flavours beyond your wildest dreams.” The colour is a deep purple ruby and aromas include berries blue- and rasp- and soft leather. Drying on the first sip with bright red cherry, cedar and finishing with berries and pomegranate including some seeds. This comes across as a light-bodied tannic sipper and with the red fruit blending it has interest. Have with red pasta dishes, pepperoni pizzas or veal parmigiana. Put down for up to four years to soften some of the tannins making it even more interesting and a value. 87

    PASIÓN 4 MERLOT 2006,
    Uco Valley, Argentina, xx.x% XD, #059287 $11.95 (Tasted May 27, 2008)

    Vintages says “This Merlot is made from hand-harvested grapes sourced from the lofty heights of the Uco Valley where the vineyards are planted at over 1000 metres above sea level. Ripe and round, this medium full-bodied wine shows attractive cassis, chocolate and smoky oak aromas and flavours. Serve with pasta in a spicy beef and tomato sauce or grilled lamb chops.” My notes: A deep violet ruby with warm aromas of earthy berries, flavours of ripe black cherries with a berry tartness are carried on velvet tannins. Finishes full, smooth with a soft spice, ripe berries then a bright cassis ending. This is a full-bodied soft merlot and a welcomed sipper for any occasion. Have with a rare T-bone, barbecued back ribs, lamb kebobs or shashlik. Cellaring for a few years should be OK but drinking well now and priced to have several in for company. 89

    TUATARA BAY PINOT NOIR 2006,
    Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% D, #057760 $18.95 (Tasted May 19, 2008)

    Vintages says “Saint Clair Estate Wines produces this high-calibre mid-range Pinot Noir that offers a terrific middle ground between New World exuberance and ripeness and Burgundian elegance. The result is a wine displaying terrific aromas of black cherry, strawberry and a hint of spice. Match this flavourful meeting of two worlds with filet mignon.” My notes: A smoky strawberry fragrance and a deep see-through ripe strawberry colour. A lightish medium-bodied, delightful flavour of strawberry with a faint red cherry leaning, clean acid refreshes while fine tannin smoothes the way. Has a moderate length finish smooth on the lips and ending with smoke and pepper strawberry. A super sipper now or cellar for two or more years for more subtlety. A fruit forward pinot noir to pair with salmon steaks, chicken wings, ham slices, or rare beef. A bargain if you prefer new world. 90

    BROKENWOOD PINOT NOIR 2006,
    Victoria, Australia, 14.0% XD, #020560 $20.95 (Tasted May 17, 2008)

    Vintages says “In the Australian Wine Companion 2008, author James Halliday again gave Brokenwood an overall rating of (5 out of 5) describing it as a "deservedly fashionable winery producing consistently excellent wine". This deep-coloured, bold Pinot boasts lifted floral, and fragrant cherry aromas. It's dry, medium-bodied and smooth with cherry fruit flavours and some savoury notes leading to a lingering finish. Enjoy it with roast duck or quail.” My notes: A rich nose of smoky cherry with a spice edge and a garnet ruby colour. Medium-bodied, yes, ‘bold’ having a definite tang to a cherry flavouring complete with crushed pits finishing very dry but smooth on the lips and ending with a steely mintiness. No strawberry here and not as fruit forward as expected, still more fruit than ‘old world’. Have with hors d’oeuvres: stuffed mushroom caps, bacon on crisps, bruschetta, or with prime rib, dark fowl or lamb. Cellaring for a few years should take care of some rawness. 89

    PASO HONDO ALTA SELECCION PINOT NOIR 2007,
    Bío Bío Valley, Chile, 14.0% XD, #685925 $14.95 (Tasted May 13, 2008)

    Vintages says “Aware of their impact upon the environment, Viñedos Córpora Canata's Paso Hondo winery is run completely by solar power. Grown in the cool, up-and-coming Bío Bío Valley, this Pinot Noir exhibits many of the pluses of the New World and European Wine techniques. There is, first, upfront fruit, then an exceptional structure provided by crisp acids and ripe tannins. It is cellarable for 2-3 years or a good companion tonight for roast beef.” My notes: A smoky ripe strawberry nose and deep strawberry colour with light legs, the flavours are delicate at first building with warmth and character to become velvety, sumptuous and balanced both tannin and acid, medium-bodied. Has a long smooth finish with ripe fruit, light mineral and soft earthiness. An interesting sipper congenial in both flavour and spirit, a drink-now, a super value and should cellar quite well earning more points. A burgundy without the expense. Serve with prime rib, ribs, grilled turkey, lamb. 89

    DEL FIN DEL MUNDO RESERVA MALBEC 2005, Patagonia, Argentina, 14.5% XD, #681197 $12.95 (Tasted May 18, 2008)

    Vintages says “This release gives you the opportunity to compare Malbec from three distinct regions of Argentina without breaking the budget. This little wonder is from the cool climate region of Patagonia in the south. Del Fin Del Mundo literally means the end of the world which is basically where this wine hails from. Compare this vibrant, ripe and intensely concentrated malbec with its cousins from the more central Mendoza region (#057943) and the Cafayate Valley in the far north (#064998). Judge for yourself what part the region plays in the final character of malbec.” My notes: A dense black cherry colour with soft aromas of rich cherries, blackberries and touch of cinnamon. A very smooth sipper with fine tannins and slight nip leading the way for blackberry and cranberry flavours. The finish is bright blackberry perhaps a tad unripe and ending a tad stemmy, not objectionably so with nibbles. A full-bodied sipper more suitable with finger foods or mixed grill. Have with mild italian sausage, meat and cheese pastas, portabello burgers or game meats. A drink-now house red. 87

    CHILENSIS RESERVA SYRAH 2005, Maule Valley, Chile, 14.0% XD, #590745 $11.95 (Tasted May 22, 2008)

    Vintages says “This impressive and bold Syrah is a steal! It's full-bodied with layers of cherry and plum fruit, forest floor and smoky oak notes all wrapped in medium tannins. A ripe and rustic red to pair with smoked wild boar sausages or gourmet burgers.” My notes: A deep purple ruby deserving a wide bowl glass and aromas of black cherry berry with a bright edge. The first sip is very bright and carries flavours of cedar, red cherry and a blackcurrant. The finish is long, satin smooth with fine tannins and a balanced spice to go with the black fruit – a tangy, earth floor ending. Serve this to friends or family knowing it’ll be enjoyed. I’d say it’s a bright syrah closer to a fruit forward Oz shiraz and a real value. Have with any beef, lamb, stews, hamburgers, chili or pizzas - or if there's a wild boar handy... This should do well cellared up to two years, then see where it’s going. 89

    GOLDWATER CHARDONNAY 2006, Marlborough, NZ, 14.0% D, #991463 $19.95 (Tasted May 13, 2008)

    Vintages says “This wine won a Gold Medal at the New Zealand International Wine Show 2007. Straw gold in colour, this smooth, creamy and very stylish chardonnay is immediately appealing with its soft, ripe, rounded flavours. Barrel-ferment aromas and spicy oak flavours with a mealy nutty backbone, juicy white peach and citrus fruit, hints of butterscotch and a lovely mouth coating texture. The style we like to drink. (Sue Courtney, Nov. 7, 2007).” My notes: A firm gooseberry aroma and a light golden colour. Served chilled layers of interesting flavours wash the palate: butter, honey and litchee nut, gooseberries, finishing as dry as straw with a grapefruit pith, a mineral edge and a definite luscious, nutty ending. It’s medium-bodied having a good balance of oak with the fruit being well managed. For this to be a sipper you have to like chardonnay. Have with chicken breast on greens, asparagus soup, bacon and cheese melts. Cellaring for several years is recommended but it’s an appealing drink-now. 92

    Sunday, May 04, 2008

    'Toronto Life' Rated Wines: 12 Tasted of 12

    All wine mags publish ratings for the wines their marketers, journalists and critics taste. I've often gone through lists in their 'Buyers Guide' section searching for any that happen to be at an LCBO outlet within reasonable driving distance. In many cases there are very few wines given my budget, ie. below $20. Of the ones that are available there's the begging question: Is this an easy way to find value wines?


    In one of my last blogs I selected wines 'on a whim'. The theme of this series of blog entries is the reverse... I've selected wines from a 'wine mag'. Just maybe I can find bargains matching my tastes this way... I wasn't too successful 'whimming' it.


    has a neat search option on their website and the first wines are from there. I played around entering varied sets of parameters and got some puzzling results. For instance there are 190 wines rated 85+ in the $10 - $15 range but only 50 of these are what are called 'Great Bargains'. I find that puzzling, don't you? My unsubstantiated suspicion is that the 100 point scale is compressed, that is, the 70 - 79 range is seldom used with the implication that some if not many mediocre wines are pushed into the 80's. I'll have to come back to this - or maybe not, I've tasted enough plonk for now.


    I used two sets of parameters as the basis for wines for this blog entry: /Reds and Whites/90+/$15 - $20/ and /Great Bargains/Reds and Whites/85+/$15 - $20/. The results are listed below except those I couldn't find were dropped. Of fourteen, ten were available 'though four are a later vintage. And I've added a lone red from the /$10 - $15/ range, Cline Syrah 2006, which Toronto Life rated 90 - it's also a later vintage, and one white, a budget-priced label (in Australia, not here!) *Skuttlebutt Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2006 #047621, from the same winery and replaces Stella Bella Semillon Sauvignon Blanc #48546 (no longer listed) which Toronto Life rated 92. When completed tastings appear in bold - and resequenced by rating and value top to bottom, reds then whites. Cheers, Ww 

    • Cesari Mara Vino di Ripasso 2005, TL89 $15.90 -- 89-2, G, Veronese, Italy, #506519 $15.75
    • Masi Serego Alighieri Possessioni Rosso 2005, TL88 $15.15 -- 88-1, G, Veneto, Italy, #447326 $15.35
    • Errazuriz Max Reserva Merlot 2006, TL90(2004) $18.15 -- 87-1, G, Aconcagua Valley, Chile, #016170 $14.35
    • Campo Viejo Reserva 2002, TL89(2001) $18.15 -- 86, G, Rioja, Spain, #137810 $18.00
    • Cline Syrah 2006, TL90(2005) $13.95 -- 83, V, Sonoma County, USA, #733758 $12.85
    • Peter Lehmann Clancy's Red 2004, TL90 $18.15 -- 80, G, Australia, #611467 $17.80*
    • Louis Jadot 'Combe aux Jacques' Beaujolais-Villages 2006, TL89 $16.95 -- 80, V, Burgundy, France, #365924 $15.70
    • Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz 2004, TL89 $17.15 -- 79, G, South Australia, #665471 $17.05
    • Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, TL89 $15.15 -- 70, G, Maipo Valley, Chile, #212993 $15.35 

    • Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2007, TL89(2006) $16.15 -- 89-2, G, Marlborough, NZ, #426601 $16.30 
    • Skuttlebutt Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2006, TL* -- 88-1, V, West Australia, #047621 $17.80
    •  Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc 2007, TL88(2006) $15.25 -- 82, G, Marlborough, NZ, #293043 $16.80
    (G - General, V - Vintage, O - Other, r-v - Rating-Value)

    TASTINGS:

    VILLA MARIA PRIVATE BIN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007, Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% D, #426601 $16.30 (Tasted May 6, 2008)

    A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; intense aromas of gooseberry, lime, grass and asparagus; dry, medium bodied, crisp acidity, and flavours of bell pepper, gooseberry citrus; clean, crisp finish. Serve with goat cheese dishes, fish, vegetarian fare or herb roasted poultry." My notes: definitely a NZ sauvignon blanc from the aromas of gooseberries with a promise of natural sweetness ahead. The flavours continue on the gooseberry theme, a tad creamier than most, and a touch of tangy lime then finishing long, a full mouthfeel ending somewhat, as a sipper, grassy. Have with crabcakes, a halibut or tuna steak, or sushi. A drink-now although cellaring for a year would take advantage of the reasonable price for this calibre of sb. 89

    STO
    NELEIGH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007, Marlborough, NZ 13.0% D, #292043 $16.80 (Tasted May 2, 2008)


    A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; gooseberry, herbs and a hint of tropical fruit on the nose; dry and medium-bodied with a crisp finish. Serve with smoked salmon, asparagus risotto or herbed chicken." My notes: An off clear colour on the blond side. The aromas start strong with nettles and gooseberries leveling to a delicate herbaceousness. Light-bodied with a taste of one or two gooseberries, a tuft of lemongrass, a lasting tartness and slight cream makes this appealing, an easy quaffer. The dry finish has a delicate grassiness but is fairly short. An OK sipper starting with an infusion of aromas and flavours that subside quickly. Have with crab cakes, scallops, grilled arctic char, or a mushroom pasta. A drink-now - I don't see this vintage as a value. 82

    'SKUTTLEBUTT' SAUVIGNON BLANC SEMILLON
    2006, West Australia, 12.5% D, #047621 $17.80 (Tasted April 27, 2008)


    A Vintages release on December 8, 2007 described as "Clever marketing informed by an impish wit, the financial backing of John Britton and the winemaking wizardry of Janice McDonald have seen Stella Bella flourish. Skuttlebutt is their budget-price label and this one offers excellent value: clearly focused, grassy, green pea flavours, vibrant zesty acidity and, for all that, some restraint, delicacy, even finesse. (Peter Forrestal, The Bulletin, April 20, 2007)." My notes: Toronto Life gives the LCBO price of $18.85 for Stella Bella Semillon Sauvignon Blanc (#048546) rating it a 92/100 and priced in Aussie dollars at $A21. The 'budget-price' Skuttlebutt Sauvignon Blanc Semillon (#047621) is $A16 which LCBO priced at $17.80. This has a pale straw colour with a nose of peas and nettles, some gooseberry essence. The texture is medium-bodied, a kiwi flavour with balanced tartness and a slight cream making this an easy sipper. Throw in a slice of lime and crushed ice for a summer cooler - or chill well and sip without ornaments. Have with shrimp skewers on greens with a sweet onion dressing or roast chicken slices on caesar salad. Not for cellaring. 88


    JACOB'S CREEK RESERVE SHIRAZ 2004, South Australia, 14.5% D, #665471 $17.05 (Tasted May 9, 2008)

    A General listing described as "Opaque dark red; aromas of cedar, a nice, black fruit; black fruit flavours with a toasty medium-long finish. Serve with BBQ meats or vegetables." My notes: A ruby with a violet glow and soft aromas of cherries wrapped in cedar chips, kind of a toasty vanilla edge. The first sip has a firm bite that extends evenly over the palate then leaves a dry blackcurrant mouthfeel. Medium-bodied, process driven shiraz with some natural pepper and a hot herby finish. Too tart and chalky dry to be a sipper, demands broiled mushrooms or grilled chicken livers. Have with pizza or tomato sauced pastas. Gets high marks for nose then falls off on what counts. Not worth cellaring nor is it a value purchase. I would not serve to guests. 79


    PETER LEHMANN CLANCY'S RED 2004, Australia, 14.5% D, #611467 $17.80* (Tasted May 1, 2008)

    A General listing (*sale price) described as "Deep ruby red colour; vanilla oak and earthy, blackberry, mint and plum aromas; dry, medium to full bodied, very fruity, with flavours of cassis, black cherry and vanilla; soft tannins, and a long oaky finish. Serve with BBQ delight, grilled sausages, pork chops, ribs, lamb or beef kabobs." My notes: A blend of 35% shiraz, 34% cabernet sauvignon, 26% merlot and 5% cabernet franc. A lot of woodiness in both nose and flavours until it warms and breathes a few hours. The colour is a deep ruby and, after airing, aromas of red currant and smoky cherry persist. Nicely balanced acids and fruit with enough natural sweetness for body and a smooth texture, flavours continue to be on the woody side with dried fig, currants and a jammy taste I haven't acquired - as if this bottle has sat in the sun for a time. Not a sipper... have with anything beefy: hamburgers, bacon on a bun, spaghetti and meatballs. I don't see any cellaring potential. 80

    MASI SEREGO ALIGHIERI POSSESSIONI ROSSO 2005, Veneto, Italy, 13.0% D, #447326 $15.35 (Tasted May 11, 2008)


    A General listing described as "Rich ruby colour; intense aromas of dry berry fruit, earth and spice notes; dry and medium-bodied with well-balanced with round, dried fruit, raspberry and plum flavours, with spicy notes in the finish. Serve with strong cheeses, pizza, burgers, or meat in a rich sauce." My notes: A blend of 70% corvina, 14% molinara (serego alighieri clone) and 16% sangiovese giving this a deep ruby colour with nice legs… a warm herby nose with some black cherries and the first sip has a nice nip and sweet fruit edge. The flavours are blended well dark tree fruit with smoky berries, medium-bodied. A tart touch carries the fruit into a long finish making this an interesting sipper. Would be great with mild to spicy tomato pasta dishes, veal parmigiana or lamb shank. This could possibly age another five years introducing even more interesting background textures. 89

    CESARI MARA VINO DI RIPASSO 2005, Veronese, Italy, 13.5% D, #506519 $15.75 (Tasted May 5, 2008)


    A General listing described as "Medium ruby colour; dried cherry fruit, sweet, spicy aromas and light wood notes; dry, medium to full bodied, with cherry flavours and a silky, velvety mouthfeel and a warm finish. Serve with veal parmigiana, rich pasta dishes, beef, lamb or firm cheese." My notes: A blend of about 70-75% corvina veronese, 20% rondinella and 5% molinara. For a smoother earthy aroma with less tobacco let air for twenty minutes... soft almost mellow on the tongue with mushroom and ripe plum aromas with flavours that follow. The finish is smooth with dark fruit lasting forever. A fullish medium-bodied purply ruby in colour with fine tannins and light acid to complement the flavours. A quaffable sipper for a crowd of wine newbies to cab drinkers, perhaps with a challenge for each. Have with prime rib and stuffed baked potato, rib-eye steak with broiled mushrooms. Should be able to cellar this without harm for several years altho' sipping well now. A value tomato pasta red. 89

    CAMPO VIEJO RESERVA RIOJA 2002, Rioja, Spain, 13.0% D, #137810 $18.00 (Tasted May 15, 2008)


    A General listing described as "Medium ruby/garnet colour; complex aromas and flavours of cherry, plums, leather, oak spice and vanilla; dry, medium-bodied with a silky mouth-feel and soft tannic finish. Serve with veal chops, paella or turkey." My notes: A mid ruby colour and delicate fragrances of smoky plum, red cherry and cinnamon. Its brightness combined with a smooth texture makes this an interesting sipper; flavours of minty cherry and a crisp edge gives it a long finish ending on a mineral note. A rioja, in this case, blending 75% tempranillo with 15% graciano and 10% mazuelo the white giving a bright red even more life as well as adding a spicy fragrance. Likely at peak now and if the occasion is a pasta night it would fit in well or serve with tapas, tomato bruschetta, or pizzas, veal parmigiana. 86

    COUSINO-MACUL ANTIGUAS RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #212993 $15.35 (Tasted May 7, 2008)


    A General listing described as "Deep ruby red colour; cassis fruit on the nose with mocha, black currant, vanilla, green pepper and leather tone; dry, full bodied, with ripe berry fruit flavours, ripe though firm tannins; medium long finish. Serve with grilled meats; rack of lamb; medium cheeses." My notes: 100% cabernet sauvignon although the grape has succumbed to process. First tasted when opened the earth and oak aromas needed a breath of fresh air before tasting. Air or decant and let breathe for a few hours. A moody ruby colour with a mix of pepper, currant and licorice aromas evenly balanced for a uniquely pungent fragrance. The first sip brings with it a fine tannic dryness, a bright acid edge and an earthy flavoured berry and currant compote… for me, not a pleasant brew. Must be served with strongly flavoured eats: sausage pieces with mustard or ketchup based dips, meatballs in a tomato sauce or with lamb shank in rich gravy. Cellar and forget… not a drink-now. Personally I would not serve this to guests and would avoid in future. 70

    ERRAZURIZ MAX RESERVA MERLOT 2006, Aconcagua Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #016170 $14.35 (Tasted April 27, 2008)


    A General listing described as "Deep ruby in colour; big jammy nose of black currant & hint of oak; medium-body, dry with gripping acidity. Serve with pork tenderloin." My notes: A blend of 89% merlot and 11% carmenère gives this a ruby base with a slight violet, nice legs but no staining on the glass. The first sip has a delicate nip and dry touch with bright blackberry and dark chocolate flavourings. Finishes with a slight fruit fading but nicely persistent leaving a roundness, soft berries and herbaceous touch. A red you could plan for any crowd, a sociable sipper and a value at the price. Also suitable for most meaty entrees as long as not too spicy: pea and ham, carrot and red pepper, broccoli and cheese soups or with light fowl or a honeyed ham steak. A drink-now. 87


    LOUIS JADOT 'COMBE AUX JACQUES' BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES 2006, Burgundy, France, 12.5% D, #365924 $15.70 (Tasted May 14, 2008)

    A Vintages release on March 15, 2008 described as "This supple Beaujolais entices with its bouquet of smoke, cherry and fresh plum. Medium-bodied, vivacious and fruity; it's perfect for the big feast. Serve with ham." My notes: The nose is mostly a light smoke with some berries and plum filling in. Bright berry is the first flavour impression with a firm mintiness carrying through to a long finish of crushed berry seeds lasting long and rooty. The colour is deep ruby but the body is light offering fine tannins and pronounced acidity making this a meal red. Have with prime rib roast, rare to well, with italian sausage or with a ham steak. A lightly oaked red with scant fruit makes this not that interesting, in fact, boring after a few sips. Nothing there to cellar. 80

    CLINE SYRAH 2006, Sonoma County, USA, 14.0% D, #733758 $12.85 (Tasted May 2, 2008)


    A Vintages release on February 2, 2008 described as "Made with grapes sourced primarily from Cline's Sonoma County vineyards, this is an excellent value! This Syrah will have you singing its praises with its aromas of blackberry, cracked pepper, spice, and leather, with flavours of black cherry with a hint of oak and a medium long finish. A natural partner for grilled lamb or gourmet sausages." My notes: 100% syrah gives this a deep ruby with long legs and delicate aromas of young blackberries, anise and pepper. Medium-bodied and a beautiully balanced blend of blackberries, soft mint, fine tannins and spice that lead the way to a long finish of not quite ripe berries lightly sprinkled with black pepper, along with a mineral edge that may lose some appeal. A meal red for accompanying rack of lamb, crock pot lamb shank or a beef bourguignon. Cellaring for two years should be OK but it's likely near peak now. What a difference a vintage makes! 83

    Saturday, May 03, 2008

    Others in May, 2008: 7 Tasted of 7

    Some things picked up on the way home... completed tastings are in bold. Cheers, Ww 

    • Finca Flichman Misterio Malbec 2007, 86-1 -- G, Mendoza, Argentina, #028803 $9.90
    • Tomero Malbec 2005, 84 -- V, Mendoza, Argentina, #057943 $12.75
    • Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec 2006, 84 -- VC, Mendoza, Argentina, #478727 $19.95

    •  Freie Weingartener Wachau Gruner Veltliner 2006, 90-2 -- V, Wachau, Austria, #061127 $18.45
    • Black Prince Chardonnay 2006 VQA, 76 -- V, Prince Edward County, Canada, #068882 $14.95
    • Folonari Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie 2006, 76 -- Veneto, Italy, #229542 $14.45

    • Montes Cherub Rose of Syrah 2007, 86 -- V, Colchagua Valley, Chile, #037887 $16.80


    (G - General, V - Vintages, VC - Essentials Collection, O - Other, r-v - Rating-Value)

    TASTINGS:

    TOMERO MALBEC 2005, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.3% XD, #057943 $12.75 (Tasted May 31, 2008)

    A Vintages release of May 10, 2008 described as “Bright red-ruby. Medicinal cherry complicated by flint, pepper and tar on the nose. Juicy, tightly wound and light on its feet despite hinting at liqueur-like warmth. This fresh, fruity wine finishes with suave, fine-grained tannins and a suggestion of leather. 88/100 (Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar, Jan./Feb. 2008)” My notes: A deep black cherry colour and fragrances including cranberry and ripe raspberry, somewhat peppery. Full-bodied with a sharp bite on the first sip and a ripe raspberry, cranberry follow-through, then a dry mineral finish lasting forever. Letting the bottle breathe for an hour helps. Not a sipper for me – offer to red aficionados wanting something different. Pair with spicy entrees: barbecued back ribs, a T-bone with Barbarian rub, lamb shank done in a rich herb sauce. Reasonably priced but try it before investing in a case – it has some rawness to work through which cellaring four+ years may cure. 84

    FO
    LONARI PINOT GRIGIO DELLE VENEZIE 2006, Veneto, Italy, 12.0% D, #229542 $14.45 (Retasted May 26, 2008)


    A General listing with a description that hasn’t changed since the 2005 vintage was tasted in 2006. That’s consistency! “Light lemon straw colour; dry and light bodied with citrus apple and light spicy floral notes. Serve with antipasto, light cream pastas, light seafood.” My notes: A very light straw colour, a light lemon and floral nose. Light bodied with flavours of faint citrus having a sugary sweet edge not entirely dry. The finish carries the sweet edge and a flat citrus both fading slowly. Results are consistent with the 2005 vintage: an uninteresting commercial white for any bland entree - not a sipper I'd give guests and not recommended. More appropriately priced in the US at $10. 76

    BODEGA CATENA ZAPATA MALBEC 2006,
    Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0% XD, #478727 $19.95 (Tasted May 22, 2008)


    Released by Vintages on May 10, 2008 described as “Catena has built their reputation on Malbec from Mendoza, so here's an excellent opportunity for you to get acquainted with this new addition to our Essentials Collection. This rich and polished, alluring wine features aromas of fig, mocha, new leather and sweet spice. Dry and flavourful, its fruit core is nicely supported by ripe tannins. The finish is long and lush. Enjoy it tonight the Argentinean way with rare barbecued steak sliced and dipped in kosher salt.” My notes: According to the label, a ‘High altitude malbec’ with all grapes from vineyards from 2800 - 5000 ft. above sea level on the Andes slopes. A deep, purple-ruby with thin legs and an equally thin nose of plums, cherries and licorice. The flavours are bright and cherry-like finishing dry, light and bright, moderately long with a delicate mint ending. Medium-bodied, average appeal as a sipper - flavours are a tad thin for a spicy meal. Have with tomato pizzas, mushroom pastas or tuna salad - was great with burgers. Cellaring for two years may introduce some complexities. Except for the price, it's suitable for an open house or an open bar but there are better malbec values. 84

    FINCA FLICHMA
    N MISTERIO MALBEC 2007, Argentina, 13.0% D, #028803 $9.90 (Tasted April 27, 2008)


    A General listing described as "Dark ruby in colour, the nose shows aromas of dark berry, toasted vanilla and oak spices. It is medium-bodied, fruity and toasty. Serve with grilled steak, smoked sausages." Toronto Life gave the 2006 vintage an 87/100 saying "... Charming, clean, soft, ripe bing cherry, vanilla, with typical Argentina dusty sage nose. Medium-full bodied, quite plush; soft tannin and some heat. Good length. Now to 2011." My notes: This was first tasted at a dinner of friends and a beautifully prepared Beef Wellington. A deep ruby with a violet tinge and nice legs, warm aromas of plum, herbs and ripe black cherry - both colour and nose add to the first sip which is soft with subdued ripe black cherry. There's a hint of licorice in a long finish with the fruit being mellow and quite subtle. 100% malbec and a sociable sipper for any crowd - like a merlot with an attitude - have in for a family get together, an open house, a special birthday finger food or buffet service or have with roast turkey with cranberry sauce, pork tenderloin with lingonberries or tangy chicken wings. Cellaring might be rewarding but I'd call it a drink-now. A real value. 86


    MONTES CHERUB ROSÉ OF SYRAH 2007, Colchagua Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #037887 $16.80 (Tasted May 4, 2008)

    A Vintages release on February 2, 2008 described as "Feeling playful on Valentine's? Then this playfully labelled bottle with its chubby, cartoon cherub is the perfect accessory. The label may be in good fun, but this is a serious rosé made exclusively with Syrah. Hot pink colour with a pretty strawberry-, rhubarb-, pomegranate-, sour cherry-scented nose. Dry and crisp with excellent fruit freshness and a lively, tangy/fruit finish. Enjoy with sushi, king crab legs or grilled ocean fish. (VINTAGES panel, Dec. 2007)." My notes: Serve well chilled and swirl briefly to aerate in the glass for delicate fruity aromas - a soft cherry bubble gum methinks. A light strawberry colour with short legs and a dry texture from the first sip, flavourings of faint strawberry cream lasting lightly on the palate and building nicely. A syrah having less spice or pepper but with an edge of same. For the romantic at heart... serve with strawberry cream pie, lime and orange sorbet, angel cake with lemon filling or just sip. Given a special circumstance it could add something festive. Having a creamy chardonnay on the table with the Cherub could pair nicely with Alaskan King Crab. 86

    FREIE WEINGÄRTENER WACHAU GRÜNER VELTLINER 2006, Wachau, Austria, 13.5% D, #061127 $18.45 (Tasted May 15, 2008)


    A Vintages release on February 16, 2008 described as "In 1983, as an affirmation of the Wachau district's commitment to quality, the newly formed Vinea Wachau association established three quality levels for its dry white wines. This wine was given the district's highest quality designation of 'Smaradg'. Dry and crisp, this medium-bodied white exhibits lovely floral aromas with intriguing notes of white pepper, snow peas and lemon. (extrapolated from Jancis Robinson, MW, The Oxford Companion to Wine, 2006)." My notes: A light blond with a golden tint and aromas of light clover honey and citrus. Served chilled then allowed to warm slightly in glass, the first sip is round, dry edged with delicate flavours of snap pea and lemon zest finishing long, dry, lemony with strands of straw. A different sipper with very interesting flavours although may not appeal to some. Have as an alternate white with thai, sushi, chinese… or with halibut, arctic char, planked salmon or sliced cold chicken on greens. 90

    BLACK PRINCE CHARDONNAY 2006 VQA ONTARIO, Prince Edward County, Canada, 12.5% D, #068882 $14.95 (Tasted May 18, 2008)


    A Vintages release on March 15, 2008. Founded in 2000, the Black Prince Winery first planted in 2002, on 10 acres of sandy loam ridge near Picton, Ontario, vines that included chardonnay, cabernet franc, chambourcin, baco noir, regent, marechal foch and vidal. This chardonnay won a bronze medal at 2007 Artevino and is the official white wine of the 07/08 Ontario Legislative Assembly. Their website describes it as “Clean with a vibrant aroma of ripe green apple and gentle overtones of orange blossom and a touch of honey. Soft and quite rich in the mouth, with some nice expansion in the middle palate - green fruit, kiwi and macadamia nut nuances lead to a long rich finish.” My notes: A noticeable viscous nature to the pouring, yellow blond in the glass, and aromas of floral and straw. Flavourings are a combination of litchee, apple and apricot finishing with green apple and litchee fading slowly into a cloying clay and glycerine. Perhaps a distinct terroir of Picton but the ‘VQA’ indicates grapes could come from anywhere in Ontario. I’d put this in the category of ‘confused commercial’. For me, don’t sip… have with spicy mussels, grilled whitefish or paella. 76

    Thursday, May 01, 2008

    'Wine Spectator' Rated Wines: 7 Tasted of 7

    The Wine Spectator website has a few things that are free one being a .pdf file for their Top 100 At A Glance list for 2007 - which is the basis of this blog entry. Of the one hundred wines, forty-two were less than $US25. Of these seven were less than $C25 and available 'locally' although three are a later vintage. Some wines are not imported to Canada, for instance, Yellow Tail Shiraz 'The Reserve' ($US11 rated 90) a product from the same vintner as the budget priced Yellow Tail ($C12.20) widely available here. Some of the 42 are priced higher in Ontario exceeding my limit. When completed tastings appear in bold. Cheers, Ww

    • Montus Chateau Bouscasse 2003, KM91 -- 90-2, V, South West France, #743385 $18.55
    • Fontanafredda Barbera Briccotondo 2006, JS90 -- 87-1, V, Piedmont, Italy, #072348 $15.95
    • Marchesi de Frescobaldi Chianti Nipozzano 2004, WS91 -- 84, G, Tuscany, Italy, #107276 $21.75
    • Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2005, HS90(2004) -- 82, V, Washington State, USA, #263418 $19.85

    • William Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux 2006, WS90(2004) -- 90-1, G, Burgundy, France, #276436 $21.80 
    • Babich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007, WS90(2006) -- 86, G, Marlborough, NZ, #620054 $17.30
    • D'Arenberg 'The Hermit Crab' Viognier/Marsanne 2006, HS90 -- 84, V, Australia, #662775 $16.95
    Wine Spectator Tasters: KM - Kim Marcus, HS - Harvey Steinman, JS - James Suckling, WS - not given
    (G - General, V - Vintages, O - Other, n/r - Not Rated, r-v - Rating-Value)


    TASTINGS:


    MONTUS CHÂTEAU BOUSCASSÉ 2003, South West France, 14.0% D, #743385 $18.55 (Tasted May 26, 2008)

    A Vintages release on February 16, 2008 described as "… Big, rich and powerful, with an intense core of dark plum and dark chocolate flavors that are joined up by plenty of espresso and mincemeat notes, followed by cocoa powder on the finish… 90/100 (Kim Marcus, Sept. 30, 2007)." Vintage and Vine says "The main red wine grape variety in the appellation is Tannat. It can produce aggressive hard and tannic wines but in skilled hands [of Alain Brumont] it reveals wines of amazing complexity and concentration of flavour with supple, round textures and fine tannins." My notes: The deep red plum colour along with an interesting blend of cherry, berry and dark chocolate aromas deserves a wide bowl. Lots of fine tannins and a polite nip meet the palate then soft flavours of berries and mild chocolate – air thirty minutes to allow full development. Finishes velvety without fruit but ‘cocoa powder’ dry on the tongue and, characteristic of the varietal, a tad flat. Very interesting except possibly for the sipper expecting a traditional red. Save as a ‘ringer’ in a blind tasting or offer with salted crackers and liver pate. I didn’t get ‘big, rich and powerful’ nor a ‘concentration of flavours’ – complex and more like ‘delicate’ worth the taste – maybe on the decline? Pair with prime rib or a veal dish. 90

    FONTANAFREDDA BARBERA BRICCOTONDO 2006,
    Piedmont, Italy, 13.0% D, #072348 $15.95 (Tasted May 23, 2008)


    A Vintages release on April 26, 2008 described as "Very plummy and grapey on the nose, with hints of chocolate. Full-bodied, soft and succulent, with lots of flavor and a long, long finish. Delicious. Drink now. 90/100. (James Suckling, Nov. 30, 2007)." My notes: One hundred percent barbera grape shows a brilliant ruby in the glass and aromas of ripe plum and berry. The flavour has a bright cherry berry lasting on the palate, lively and fruity. Medium-bodied, dry and an easy sipper, for a house warming or a reunion of family or friends on the patio. Serve with a tray of mild cheeses, cheese sticks or cheese filled panzone pizzas, a veal dish or something with a fruit-based sauce. Likely could cellar for a few years but I wouldn’t expect much change. 87

    MARCHESI de FRESCOBALDI CHIANTI NIPOZZANO 2004,
    Tuscany, Italy, 13.0% XD, #107276 $21.75 (Tasted May 23, 2008)

    A General listing described as "Red with garnet colour; black cherry/blackberry fruit with cedar, smoke and leather notes; extra dry, medium bodied, with balanced fruit flavours, notes of smoke and tar, good acidity with a touch of spice, licorice and leather; long finish. Serve with beef stews, roasted red meats, veal in tomato sauce, roasted root vegetables or grilled portobello mushrooms." My notes: A deep black cherry colour and fragrances of black cherry, cinnamon and faint humidor. The flavours ride on a nice nip and fine tannins: pomegranate, red cherry finishing with a tart red cherry and some faint tar. Good as a dry, medium-bodied sipper being quite quaffable with interesting textures and process influences, however, after a few sips an appetizer is needed to extend quaffability - or a sit-down meal of a rich vegetable beef soup, italian meats and/or meatballs with tomato pasta. At peak or on the down slope of cellaring. 84

    COLUM
    BIA CREST GRAND ESTATES MERLOT 2005, Washington State, USA, 13.5% D, #263418 $19.85 (Tasted May 3, 2008)


    A Vintages release on February 2, 2008 described as "Bursting with blueberry and currant fruit, this zips across the palate with a racy texture and refined tannins. Lingers enticingly with a hint of mocha on the finish. Drink now through 2009. (Harvey Steiman, May 31, 2007)." My notes: A blend or 94% merlot, 5% cabernet sauvignon and 1% cabernet. TV Ads sale price this merlot at $US8.99 regularly $US11.99. This has a spicy plum fragrance and a ruby red colour. A well crafted blend giving merlot a body lift and a touch of sweetness. A commercial medium-bodied drink-now with fine tannins and slight nip adding to flavours of red currant, a touch of mint through to a moderate dry red currant finish. Nothing extra ordinary as a sipper nor as a meal red. Have with beef shawarma, rice and fatoush salad or fully loaded burgers. Priced right in the US. Not for cellaring. 82

    D'ARENBERG 'THE HERMIT CRAB' VIOGNIER/MARSANNE 2006, Australia, 13.5% D, #662775 $16.95 (Retasted May 21, 2008)


    A Vintages release on March 15, 2008 described as "… Soft and charming. A beguiling mouthful of spicy pear and grapefruit flavors that linger with focus on the open-textured finish. … 90/100 (Harvey Steiman, Nov. 30 2007)." Robert Parker gave it 88/100 saying "The 2006 The Hermit Crab is a blend of 70% viognier and 30% marsanne. ... delivers floral aromas along with honeysuckle, peach, and apricot. Smooth-textured, ripe, and balanced, this userfriendly wine can be enjoyed over the next 1-2 years." My notes: A blend of 70% viognier and 30% marsanne I last tasted this on March 17, 2008 with an 82 rating. Still has a nose of mostly nettles and green peas, not unappealing at all just different than 'fruit'. The flavours are dry citrus, melon and white grapefruit…nicely balanced and quite a mouthful. The finish starts as citrus and changes to dry melon and peach peel, subtle and long. A drink-now. 84

    WILLIAM FEVRE CHABLIS CHAMPS ROYAUX 2004,
    Burgundy, France, 12.5% D, #276436 $21.80 (Tasted May 16, 2008)


    A General listing described as "Brilliant straw colour; intense aromas of apples and pears with mineral and citrus zest notes; medium-bodied, dry, with zesty citrus flavour with a crisp finish. Serve with fresh water fish, oysters or other seafood; wild mushroom risotto." The website says "Very refined bouquet, developing citrus, white-fleshed fruit and floral notes. Fresh and supple, the wine is marked by mineral notes that are typical of the appellation." My notes: A delicate fragrance of nettles, soft gooseberry and hint of citrus, a light golden colour with scant legs. The first sip is very interesting, steely edged with a tactful nip followed by a light citrus, straw, pear and faint gooseberry finishing round, with well balanced acids and a clay mineral feel. Could do for a sipper until the entrée: vinaigrette on greens with feta then a grilled whitefish with herbed risotto… or have with planked salmon, shrimp kebob, bacon wrapped scallops or a creamy mushroom pasta. Likely could be cellared several years but drinking very nicely now. 90

    BABICH MARLBOROUGH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007, Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% D, #620054 $17.30 (Tasted May 11, 2008)


    A General listing described as "Pale yellow; fresh herbal & grassy notes; crisp biting acidity with tart gooseberry flavour. Serve on its own or with grilled vegetables.." My notes: Much more flavourful and tangier, some would say ‘in your face’, than the Babich Black Label (#009142) with less cream but still creamy – a more traditional kiwi. The nose is an even blend of gooseberry and nettles leading to the first sip which has a raw straw, lychee nut flavouring with gooseberry as a partner. Has a firm passionfruit tang and a natural sweetness to fill in a fruity finish. Serve as a sipping alternative to a dry chardonnay for a sociable crowd or pair with anything fishy. The price doesn’t encourage buying ahead nor will cellaring likely improve it. 86