Saturday, February 07, 2009

Red Wines 101, 2009: LCBO Promo

Educate your senses: Between the glossy folded in with my G&M this morning and the spiral booklet available at the LCBO Outlets there are forty-five reds in the current Red Wine 101 promotion. I decided to 'educate my senses', admittedly differently and very analytically than that intended, by looking at two aspects:

1. How many wines made it to Rod Phillips’ book titled 500 Best-Value Wines in the LCBO, 2009? and 2. Have I tasted any of these wines in the past?

1. Twenty-two of the 45 reds were included in Rod’s book. I have not listed them here not wanting to duplicate the author’s efforts but a breakdown of Rod’s ratings for the twenty-two is: None at 5 Star (94-100), eight 4 ½ Star (90-93), ten 4 Star (87-89), three 3 1/2 (85-86) and one 3 Star (82-84).

2. Of the 45 reds thirteen were previously tasted and archived in this blog and are listed below. Shown in parentheses is the date of my tasting, a rating when available and the vintage and price if either differs from that shown in the promos. My past notes are repeated below for convenience and because a rating doesn't tell the whole story. I thought the format and the information of both glossies was exceptional. Cheers, Ww

  • Wyndham Estate Shiraz Bin 555 2005, South Eastern Australia, #189415 $16.15 (Tasted December 08, 2007, Retasted June 18, 2008 -- 91-2)
  • MontGras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2007, Colchagua Valley, Chile, #619205 $11.95 (Tasted November 27, 2008 -- 90-2, $10.85)
  • Pascual Toso Malbec 2007, Maipu, Argentina, #035170 $12.95 (2005 Vintage Tasted October 08, 2007 -- 90-2)
  • Chapoutier Côtes Du Rhône Villages Rasteau 2006, Rhône, France, #321539 $17.15 (Tasted March 4, 2008 -- 88-1)
  • Stoneleigh 'Marlborough' Pinot Noir 2007, Marlborough, NZ, #054353 $19.95 (Retasted February 26, 2009 -- 86)
  • De Bertoli Deen Vat 10 Pinot Noir 2006, South Eastern Australia, #061622 $15.95 (Tasted February 12, 2008 - 86)
  • Campo Viejo Reserva Rioja 2003, Rioja, Spain, #137810 $18.45 (2002 Vintage Tasted May 15, 2008 - 86)
  • Montecillo Crianza La Rioja 2005, Rioja, Spain, #144493 $14.75 (Tasted April 19, 2009 -- 83)
  • Château Puyfromage 2006, Bordeaux, France, #033605 $16.80 (Tasted October 1, 2008 -- 81, $15.95)
  • Trius Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, #587956 $14.95 (Tasted September 30, 2008 -- 80, $12.95)
  • Cono Sur Pinot Noir 2007, Central Valley, Chile, #341602 $10.10 (Tasted September 04, 2007 -- Ww79, 2005 Vintage Tasted March 16, 2006 - Not rated, $9.95)
  • Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir 2006 VQA Ontario, Niagara, Canada, #013904 $17.95 (2004 Vintage Tasted September 28, 2006 -- Not rated, $16.95)
  • Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere 2007, Central Valley, Chile, #620666 $12.95 (2005 Vintage Tasted August 3, 2006 -- Not rated, $11.85)
 (r-v - Rating-Value)


MONTGRAS CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVA 2007, Colchagua Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #619205 $10.85 (Tasted November 27, 2008).

My notes: A deep violet tinged ruby with slight spicy currant and blackberry aromas and slow legs. An attractive mint with noticeable tannin trails off to a bright black currant flavour that’s smooth and full of spice. The finish is long ending with a tasty currant and blackberry making this a surprisingly bold sipper by itself. Better with finger foods from bacon stuffed mushroom caps to shaved proscuitto and strong cheeses or with pepperoni pizza, rack of lamb or grilled steaks. If you like medium-bodied with a bite this is a real value that may improve with a few years in the cellar. Serve with discretion. 90

PASCUAL TOSO MALBEC 2005, Maipu, Argentina, 13.4% D, #035170 $12.95 (Tasted October 08, 2007)

My notes: This is more of a violet colour with a ruby tint making a lovely intro to aromas of blackberry and cherry. A mellow softness with flavours of mint, mulberry, peach with fine tannins and mild tartness. The finish is quite long mostly of peach fuzz and bright mulberry. A well balanced sipper, full-bodied but not assertive. Cellaring for a few years should be OK... longer is questionable. A value go-anywhere fruit driven red - 'Old world'? don't think so!. 'Barnyard'? not this bottle. Pair with turkey with fixings, roast chicken, veal schnitzel and spaztle, mushroom and beef pastas, prime rib or beef Wellington. 90

CHAPOUTIER CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES RASTEAU 2006, Rhône, France, 14.0% D, #321539 $17.15 (Tasted March 4, 2008)

My notes: An opaque (unfiltered) violet ruby with aromas of black cherries and a slight floral strawberry. Air at least an hour before serving. There is a strong bite on the first sip with a long tart spiciness and firm tannin masking a dark fruit finish, full-bodied and bold. I found it rough and raw... too young for my sipping and recommend *cellaring four years. Pair with seared savoury steak, bbq'd ribs, likely roast game - not roast chicken. Surprising to me (Yes! I'm naive) the General listing doesn't indicate cellaring. 88

DE BORTOLI DEEN VAT 10 PINOT NOIR 2006, South Eastern Australia, 13.5% D, #061622 $15.95 (Tasted February 12, 2008)

My notes: Produced for the export market, this has a see-thru ruby colour with a strawberry tint and aromas of crushed strawberries and soft smoke that slowly fill the bowl. Light-bodied, bright first sip, minty, with flavours of new berries mostly straw- with some red cherry. The finish is long, dry leaving some bright fruit remnants to savour. A lightly flavoured quaffer for pre-dinner sipping with or without cheese twists or veggie flatbread nibbles. Pair with planked salmon, cold turkey pieces and lingonberry, grilled pineapple and ham slices. This could be cellared for a few years perhaps acquiring a silky texture and more prominent spice - perhaps wishful thinking. Suitable for family and friends at any time of the day. 86

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

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

TRIUS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, 13.0% D, #587956 $12.95 (Tasted September 30, 2008).

My notes: Discounted $2 from a regular price of $14.95, a Hillebrand label and an Andres Wines Ltd. Winery. This has a garnet cast deep ruby colour and, on swirling, a viscous film shows on the glass with aromas of faint oaky sweet cherry. Medium-bodied with a grainy texture and flavour a combination of cherries, red currants and minerals. The finish tapers off gradually and is well balanced acid, fine tannin with a layer of ‘dried fruit'. Have with pepperoni pizza, ribs or chili con carne. Even discounted it's not recommended. A drink now. 80

CONO SUR PINOT NOIR 2007, Central Valley, Chile, 14.0% D, #341602 $10.10 (Tasted September 04, 2007)

My notes: A light to mid ruby colour with aromas as on the label... pretty accurate but faint. Flavours are not immediately apparent but build into an inkling of crushed cherries and red berries, crisp on the palate. The finish is warm with just a touch of natural sweetness that softly recedes to a mineral edge. Have with roast chicken breast pieces on greens, planked salmon topped with crushed walnuts, a ham slice with honeyed yams or a wild mushroom and three cheese pizza. A drink-now and OK if you're looking for a dry lite. 79

CONO SUR PINOT NOIR 'VARIETAL RANGE' 2005, Rapel Valley, Chile, 14.0% XD, #341602 $9.95 (Tasted March 16, 2006)

My notes: The colour is a light ruby with a rose tinge. The nose is light medicinal with no apparent fruit type. Flavours are mineral with slight tannins and an uninteresting finish. Not a sipper and too light in body and flavour for pairing with foods. Best to skip the 'Range' tier from Cono Sur imho.

CONCHA y TORO CASILLERO DEL DIABLO CARMENÈRE 2005, Central Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #620666 $11.85 (Tasted August 3, 2006)

My notes: Very light aromas of plums and tobacco, and a deep ruby colour. Flavours are of plum, berry and vanilla with some nice acid and light tannin to balance. The finish develops with berries and tar sitting smoothly on the palate. Should complement both mild and flavourful cheeses, sausage pieces or beef kebobs - and, if you like dry reds, it's a sipper. A red for spicy pizzas, hamburgers, ribs, etc. I don't think cellaring will develop this wine further - more of an economical drink-now.

 HENRY OF PELHAM PINOT NOIR 2004, Niagara, Canada, 13.0% XD, #013904 $16.95 (Tasted September 28, 2006)

My notes: The LCBO website (as of writing) lists the HofP Pinot Noir (nonReserve*) as a case of 12x62mL - it was shelved correctly. A medium ruby colour with faint aromas of spice and tobacco evenly balancing a light berry fruit. Flavours as well are balanced finely producing a light- to medium-bodied hint of raspberry and tobacco with a nondescript juice, perhaps the beetroot. The finish 'verges on silky' with a soft tannin and a spice note. A clean pinot but an uninteresting sipper, more of a food wine - with mushroom risotto, cold or open face chicken sandwiches - a hard wine to pair with meals.... I'd skip this vintage.

'MARLBOROUGH' PINOT NOIR 2007, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% D, #054353 $19.95 (Retasted February 26, 2009)

My notes: Last tasted April 20, 2008 this bottle was purchased this week from the General shelves. About the same comments as last: ‘a dusty ruby with a strawberry hue’ and ‘aroma of dark plums and wild strawberries’ perhaps now with an earthier accent. There’s a touch of silk in the texture and delicate flavours of wild strawberry and stringent cranberry with light tannins and a complementing acid. Still young it may improve with cellaring, maybe two more years, although the fruit isn‘t as prominent so I‘d call it more of an extra dry drink now. The finish is long, smooth and bright with persistent flavours., a light tannin and acid, OK as a sole sipper - better with rack of lamb, sliced turkey with lingonberries, prime rib au jus, or a mild cheese tray. 86

MONTECILLO CRIANZA LA RIOJA 2001 , Rioja, Spain, 13.0% XD, #144493 $14.95 (Tasted April 19, 2009)

My notes: An Osborne label - the 2001 vintage was previously purchased for $14.95 in December 2005 This has a deep ruby and an aroma of stewed cherries tinged with light oak. - not much though. A swirl brings a thin film and slow tears. Then a sip shows some finesse combining soft berries with fine tannins, a mild spice and acid, all nicely balanced, light- to medium-bodied and smooth when aired thirty minutes. The finish is fairly short starting with meagre flavours and declining from there ending cleanly. An ambiguous dry sipper - take it or leave it. Would pair well with tomato side dishes and sliced beef or, better, pork tenderloin with a smooth gravy. Not for cellaring - a drink now. 83

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

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

WYNDHAM ESTATE SHIRAZ BIN 555 2005, South Eastern Australia, 14.5% D, #189415 $16.15 (Retasted June 18, 2008)

My notes: This is a General listing last tasted in December 2007 and rated Ww91. (The 2004 vintage was tasted at the same time with a Ww90 rating). This has a deep red plum hue with aromas of rich blackberry tinged with smoky cherry. Medium-bodied to full-, a velvety texture with a burst of blackberry then a mintiness that brightens the palate with layers of flavour. The finish is extended by a firm tartness until the flavours and brightness slowly fade making this an interesting sipper - a new world fruitiness and edge of spice. Sip or pair with beef bourguignon, a well seasoned rack of lamb, burger patties with grilled portabello mushrooms. Cellaring for several years is possible… tho’ not likely to improve over today’s tasting. 91

Sunday, February 01, 2009

February 2009 Wines: 27 Tasted of 27

These wines are bought on spec. throughout the month. When tasted the wine will appear in bold and resequenced by rating. Cheers, Ww

  • Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon 2006. (RP94-100), 94-3 -- V, Paso Robles, California, #738823 $17.95<
  • Sonsierra Rioja Reserva 2002, 94-3 -- V, Rioja Alta, Spain, #094920 $20.95
  • Terrazas de Los Andes Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, (RP90-93), 93-3 -- V, Mendoza, Argentina, #077776 $18.95
  • Telteca Anta Reserve Malbec 2004, 92-2  -- V, Mendoza, Argentina, #093690 $20.95
  • Chateau La Clotte-Fontaine Mathiérou 2001, 92-2 -- O, Languedoc, France, CP149-2543 $19.17
  • Chakana Andean Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, 91-2 -- V, Luján de Cuyo, Argentina, #663161 $13.95
  • Water Wheel Memsie 2007, (RP87-89), 90-2 -- V, Bendigo, Australia, #656637 $13.95
  • Terre Domini Valpolicella Ripasso La Vigilia 2006, 90-2  -- V, Veneto, Italy, #103606 $18.95
  • Bonterra ‘Mendocino County’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, (RP90-93), 90-2 -- V, Hopland, California, #342428 $19.95
  • Liberty School Syrah 2005, 88-1 -- V, Paso Robles, California, #942383 $17.95
  • Chateau La Clotte-Fontaine Cuvée Mathiérou 2000, 88-1 -- O, Languedoc, France, CP144-2266 $15.92
  • Francis Coppola ‘Diamond Collection’ Green Label Syrah-Shiraz 2006, 88  -- V, Geyserville, California, #090068 $24.95
  • Gutturnio Colli Piacentini La Stoppa 2006, 87 -- V, Emilia-Romagna, Italy, 102822 $19.95
  • Stoneleigh Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007, 86, G, Marlborough, NZ, #054353 $19.95
  • Castellblanch Brut Zero Cava Reserva NV, 84 -- V, Penèdes, Spain, #094813 $15.95
  • Bonterra ‘Mendocino County’ Merlot 2006, 84 -- V, Hopland, California, #984724 $19.95
  • Errazuriz Wild Ferment Pinot Noir 2007, 80 -- V, Casablanca Valley, Chile, #510396 $19.95
  • R.H. Phillips ‘Night Harvest’ Shiraz 2005, (RP87-89), 80 -- G, Woodbridge, California, #576272 $13.95

  • Wandering Piano by Gravitas Sauvignon Blanc 2006, 92-3 -- V, Marlborough, NZ, #091017 $15.95
  • Borgo Magredo Pinot Grigio 2007, 90-2 -- V, Fruili, Italy, #072389 $16.95
  • Bonterra ‘Mendocino County’ Chardonnay 2006 & 2007, (2006, RP90-93) 90-2 -- V, Hopland, California, #342436 $18.95
  • Graham Beck Sauvignon Blanc 2008, 88-1 -- V, Coastal Region, S. Africa, #948620 $13.95
  • R.H. Phillips Toasted Head Chardonnay 2007, (2006, RP87-89), 88-1 -- V, Woodbridge, California, #594341 $17.95
  • Gnarly Head Chardonnay 2006, (RP87-89), 83 -- G, Manteca, California, #068932 $16.95
  • Millton ‘Opou Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2006, 82 -- V, Gisborne, NZ, #092478 $23.95
  • D'Arenberg ‘The Hermit Crab’ Viognier Marsanne 2007, 76 -- V, McLaren Vale, Australia, #662775 $17.95
  • Alamos Viognier 2007, 75 -- V, Luján de Cuyo, Argentina, #507830 $13.95

(G - General listing, V – Vintages, O - Other, RP - 500 Best-Value Wines 2009, Price - <> down, r-v - Rating-Value)


CHAKANA ANDEAN WINES CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007, Luján de Cuyo, Argentina, 14.0% D, #663161 $13.95 (Tasted February 3, 2009)

A Vintages release on January 31, 2009 described as “… snappy example produced by a small family-owned winery in Mendoza. Sourced from 30-year-old vines, it's a lively Cab full of black cherry and dark fruit, with hints of spice, leather, tobacco, and toasty oak. Match it to grilled sirloin steaks marinated with only olive oil, salt and pepper.” My notes: The Chakana Malbec 2007 tasted last July was rated Ww91 and a ‘real value’ so I had to taste their cabernet sauvignon. This has a deep black cherry skin colour and aromas of spicy cherries combined with just a few blackberries. A firm tannin precedes a burst of blackberry cherry blend with a tart seam almost the level of wild berries. The finish is long and full of ripe berries ending with some bright liquorice. A smooth, full-bodied, bold sipper but not objectionably so it can be sipped by itself. Better with cocktail sausages or bacon stuffed mushroom caps or have with rack of lamb, prime rib, back ribs or grilled pepper steak. While a good value as a drink now this should cellar well two to four years making it a super value. 91
ERRAZURIZ WILD FERMENT PINOT NOIR 2007, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #510396 $19.95 (Tasted February 1, 2009)
A Vintages release on January 31, 2009 described as “… the name of this wine … refers to the wild airborne yeasts that are naturally present on grapes in the vineyard, and result in dramatic flavour complexity. This wine shows attractive cherry and strawberry fruit accented by floral and smoke notes, with a lengthy finish.” My notes: The 2005 vintage was released on May 12, 2007 with a local reviewer giving it 4 ½ or 90 - 94 on the 100 scale. Just tells you how much I differ saying “… not a sipper, not a value.” This vintage has a subtle aroma of warmed cherries and is a full ruby with a violet cast in a wide bowl. Added to that is a light-bodied satin texture with a flavour of crushed cherry stones, a dry balance of acid and fruit followed by a finish that has a short cherry flavour profile ending on a stewed tea or beetroot note. Hors d’oeuvres are needed with this red… or tuna fish with a mild Dijon sauce or plank salmon with teriyaki. Not my ‘cup of tea’ for sure. The ferment was too wild, i.e. little elegance, imho. Cellaring up to four years may help. 80

TELTECA ANTA RESERVE MALBEC 2004, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5% D, #093690 $20.95 (Tasted February 5, 2009)

A Vintages product . I selected this bottle from the product listing of B&W Wines, the distributor in Ontario. The winery claims “Due to our desert, temperatures range between night and day allows the bunches to ripe in a very delicate way, obtaining a profound varietal personality. Deep colours with violet tinges. The nose, soft and elegant ripe prunes and vanilla aromas can be appreciated. Red berry flavours and rounded tannins are present in the mouth. A long, persistent, honey-like and balanced wine. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate - 92/100.” My notes: This has a deep violet hue, a thin film on the bowl leading to a few slow tears. The aroma is subtle and has the fragrance of freshly crushed blackberries and a few spicy black currants. The first sip shows a bright and light berry-currant flavour with a smooth texture, medium-bodied and finishes dry with a naturally tartness. A nicely balanced fruit forward sipper and a reasonable companion to grilled beef or rack of lamb. It would be interesting to revisit after four years in the cellar… likely would do well. 92
GUTTURNIO COLLI PIACENTINI LA STOPPA 2006, Emilia-Romagna, Italy, XD 13.5%, #102822 $19.95 (Tasted February 3, 2009)

A Vintages product described as “Evidently a concentrated, ambitious blend of Barbera and Bonarda here, with curious wet hay, old wood, stewed fruit/prune, a touch of brett and intensely earthy notes. Dry, concentrated, fullish, high acid and moderate but very firm tannins. This is loaded with flavour but will likely appeal to fans of old style, funky Italian reds. This will shine more when served with flavourful rustic fare. John Szabo - 88/100.” My notes: I selected this bottle from the product listing of B&W Wines, its distributor in Ontario. This has a deep mahogany colour and needs twenty minutes in the glass for the ‘Brett’ in the nose to subside leaving a slight fragrance of prunes. The first sip is bright introducing a blend of cherries and figs then finishes with an image of sweetness - but it is medium-bodied and dry. Evenly bright on the palate and ends with a long and soft herb tone. A passable sipper altho’ European for sure and more of a meal red. Have with anything with a sweet tomato sauce and either cheese, beef, pork or lamb based. 87
MILLTON OPOU VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2006, Gisborne, NZ, 13.0% XD, #092478 $23.95 (Tasted February 3, 2009)

A Vintages release on January 31, 2009 described as “The sophisticated 2006 Opou Vineyard Chardonnay is one of New Zealand's finest: a very Burgundian nose with tangible minerality with honeyed-scents developing in the glass, a palate that reminded me of a Meursault from Dominique Lafon. (93/100 Neal Martin, April 2008). My notes: This has a deep golden colour with a whiff of warm butter and peach stones. The firm film on the glass develops long slow legs altho I'd call it light-bodied. There are scant fruit flavours but a pebbly mineral aspect predominates with a dry texture and nicely balanced acid. The finish seems to have a reminder of mandarin orange. I’d call this an unimpressive drink-now more appropriate as a seafood accompaniment but still quite delicate - more 'Gisborne' than 'Burgundian'. Have with crab cakes, garlic shrimp skewers, bacon wrapped scallops or mussels in a mild sauce. Not a value imho. 82

CHATEAU LA CLOTTE-FONTANE CUVÉE MATHIÉROU 2001, Languedoc, France, 13.5% XD, CP149-2543 $19.17 (Retasted February 4, 2009)

My notes: Last tasted in March last year and rated Ww91. Sixty percent Grenache and the remaining of syrah the website calls it ‘deep, fleshy, elegant, pleasant with back olives and liquorice notes.’ This was purchased from the Opimian Society and cellared in December 2004. The deep ruby violet has a garnet cast and the aroma needs a few minutes to develop in the bowl, then a subtle smoky cherry fragrance. Long slow legs form indicate a full round texture on the first sip with lots of interesting flavours: vanilla, bacon, currant, liquorice and cherry berry, a mixture needing your complete focus making this a provocative old world sipper. The finish is moderate given its complexity but ends on a satin liquorice note that lasts forever. Have with beef in a blanket (Wellington), prime rib, stew or lamb shank. Still cellaring well. 92

CHATEAU LA CLOTTE-FONTANE CUVÉE MATHIÉROU 2000, Languedoc, France, 13.5% XD, CP144-2266 $15.92 (Retasted February 6, 2009)

Previously… Ordered June 2002 and cellared November 2002 Opimian claimed “This is the finest and possibly the fullest of the wines of the Midi that we have tasted. Cellar five years minimum.” I last tasted this in September 2006 before Ww ratings were started and noted at that time “The flavour and texture come together to reward each sip.” My notes: There is a vivid violet hue to a colour deep as freshly crushed blackberries and an aroma that is subtle berries. Full-bodied with an acid seam that starts slowly and builds until flavour takes the focus to ripe blackberries, liquorice and oak resins - in equal portions. Interesting but too hearty as a sipper needing fatty finger foods or to accompany braised lamb, a grilled pepper steak or a rich stew. The old world character won’t change with continued cellaring - at peak now and could last several more years. 88

GNARLY HEAD CHARDONNAY 2006, Manteca, USA, 14.5% D, #068932 $16.95 (Tasted February 18, 2009)

A General listing from Delicato Vineyards and described as “The wine will compliment pork loin and chicken dishes as well as a variety of seafood (lobster, shrimps).” My notes: This has a light straw colour, a nose of lemon-lite touched by stagnant pond - the latter airs quickly - and a thin film with fast legs when swirled. There’s some mineral aspect to flavours of mostly ripe apples, peaches and honey dew melon - an offdry finish gives the mineral and tang more focus. An interesting sipper when allowed to warm slightly and for the texture to show some creaminess. Have with mild cheese and meats, sliced chicken breast on greens, lobster or crab and fresh water filets. A drink now. 83

R.H. PHILLIPS TOASTED HEAD CHARDONNAY 2007, Woodbridge, USA, 14.5% D, #594341 $17.95 (Tasted February 13, 2009)

A Vintages release on October 11, 2008 described as “The name Toasted Head refers to the barrels used to age this wine. Usually, only the barrel walls are charred but, in this case, the heads are toasted too. The resulting wine is filled with aromas of smoky apple-cinnamon, pear, vanilla and toasty oak. Full-bodied with a medium-long finish, it's a perfect companion to roast pork with apples, or a Wellington made with smoked salmon.” My notes: This has a soft gold colour in the glass, crystal clean. The nose is a buttery lemon drop slightly sweet and spicy. The first sip asserts itself on the buds as a bright, clean burst of buttery lemon drop then falling off to the seam of tang that’s underneath. With seasoned catfish filets and green beans the full flavour and tang countered nicely the marinade. This makes a lively sipper but with some roughness I would prefer to have with finger foods… chicken fingers or crab cakes. A drink now. 88

BONTERRA ‘MENDOCINO COUNTY’ CHARDONNAY 2006 & 2007, Hopland, California, 13.5% D, #342436 $18.95 (Tasted February 9/10, 2009)

A Vintages Essentials described as “Bonterra uses only organically grown grapes in all of their wines. The nose shows attractive aromas of banana, melon and peaches along with hints of caramel, vanilla and oak. It's dry, vibrant and packed with fruit and is a 'natural' selection for grilled red pepper or eggplant dishes.” My notes: A Fetzer wine. There was mixed vintages on the shelf so I thought I’d do a short ‘vertical. The 2006 has a soft gold colour and fresh aromas of banana, cream and delicate citrus. A firm film with lots of fast tears on the bowl and a first sip that is well rounded, full of lemon juices but with less bite than the real thing and just a touch of sweetness. This is a well balanced sipper with flavours and brightness that last a long time on the palate. Delectable for the money and should keep for a few years. Have with a variety of seafood dishes or perhaps a sliced ham steak. Perhaps not surprisingly for a commercial wine, the 2007 vintage has the same colour, nose, tears and undetectable (for me) difference in flavours and finish. 90 (for both)
R.H. PHILLIPS ‘NIGHT HARVEST’ SHIRAZ 2005, Woodbridge, California, 13.5% D, #576272 $13.95 (Tasted February 10, 2009)

A General listing described as “Medium ruby colour; aromas of smoked meats,black cherry and mocha; dry and medium-bodied but tasting almost sweet at first with dark berry fruit, soft texture with low tannins and balanced acidity; hints of smoke and a spicy cedar finish with light tannins on finish. Serve with grilled beef, lamb or glazed duck, gourmet burgers.” My notes: The colour is a deep dullish ruby with aromas that include a blackberry based jam and a bit of Brett - airing a short while helps. A good film leads to long fast tears and a smooth medium-bodied texture, bright with a very slight spice and a nice acid level. A berry cherry comes through in the finish with a persistent brightness at the end - but includes a taint of Brett (barnyard) and the jamminess. An Ok sipper for the price but not my recommendation. Have with hamburgers or pizzas. 80

LIBERTY SCHOOL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006, Paso Robles, California, 13.5% D, #738823 $17.95 (Tasted February 12, 2009)

A Vintages Essentials described as “This delicious Cabernet teaches the meaning of value. Its nose is intense with concentrated dark fruit, particularly cherry and plum, complemented by spicy and savoury notes. It's dry, dense and richly textured with great balance and ripe tannins. For continuing education, enjoy anytime over the next 2-3 years with braised or roasted beef dishes.” My notes: This has a purple tint to the ruby red and a nose of subtle oak and blackberries, just a tinge of sweet fruit. The texture is full and soft with a ripe fruit tartness and silky tannins. The finish is moderate ending with a possible currant edge. A delightful sipper, full of flavour, appropriately dry and building in warmth and interesting nuances. A drink now with a possible two to four years cellaring. Have with red meat dishes. 94

BONTERRA ‘MENDOCINO COUNTY’ CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006, Hopland, California, 14.0% D, #342428 $19.95 (Tasted February 12, 2009)

A Vintages Essentials described as “This Cabernet uses only organically grown grapes. The extra effort rewards with pure and polished aromas and flavours of cassis, cherry, roasted herbs, licorice and ripe blackberry all wrapped in silky tannins with a medium-long finish. Toast the cooler months by serving with rosemary-and-thyme-rubbed veal chops, or with a hearty lasagna of beef, zucchini and eggplant.” My notes: A ruby colour with a violet tone and a cherry liquorice nose, somewhat reserved even elegant. There’s a thick film with long tears on the bowl and the first sip has a smooth texture balanced with flavours of black cherries and gentle acid. The finish starts with a burst of flavours followed by a thin oak veneer and warmth from the alcohol. Half way to a European style and interesting by itself this would also pair well with prime rib or rack of lamb. A drink now. 90
D'ARENBERG THE HERMIT CRAB VIOGNIER/MARSANNE 2007, McLaren Vale, Australia, 13.5% D, #662775 $17.95 (Tasted February 18, 2009)

A Vintages release on February 14, 2009 described as “… a blend of 58% Viognier and 42% Marsanne. It received a dollop of oak for a rounder texture. The alluring aromatics offer floral notes, candle wax, and pit fruits. Smooth-textured and ripe, the wine also has excellent depth and length. Enjoy it over the next 1-2 years. (90/100, Jay Miller, Aug. 2008). My notes: This has what I often refer to as a stagnant pond nose, not objectionably so but not much Viognier nor Marsanne character to contribute floral or fruit aromas. Perhaps some would call it ‘nutty’ or ‘candle wax and pit fruits’. There is a very thin film leading to few to no tears and the first sip has a distant flavour of apple skins and mangos. The ’pond’ doesn’t carry thru’ to the finish and as a sipper it has good balance of dry acids and smooth texture - still a disappointing solo. Have with light fowl or fish. Was passable with salmon pot pie. Not for cellaring - a drink now and not a value. 76

ALAMOS VIOGNIER 2007, Luján de Cuyo, Argentina, 13.5% D, #507830 $13.95 (Tasted February 15, 2009)

A Vintages release on February 14, 2009 described as “This crisp and clean Viognier shows off the pretty aromatics of the variety with delicate citrus blossom, apricot, peach and floral notes. Medium-bodied with deliciously concentrated fruit flavours and a medium-long finish. Enjoy with Thai red-curry chicken or grilled shrimp.” My notes: This is the fifth varietal from Alamos in this blog - Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Chardonnay - previously all good values until this one. The colour is a light straw and nose is a melon and stagnant pond, marginally acceptable. Served chilled it’s nicely rounded with flavours of peach fuzz and melon peel finishing dry on a sour unripe melon tang with the pond persisting. Better with seafood pastas, spicy Thai or a cheese fondue than as a sipper. Not a value. 75

WATER WHEEL MEMSIE 2007, Bendigo, Australia, 14.5% XD, #656637 $13.95 (Tasted February 17, 2009)

A Vintages release on February 14, 2009 described as “This proprietary blend is consistently one of Australia's best quality values. The 2006 vintage scored 90 points… The newly released 2007 is comprised of 70% Shiraz, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec, and 6% Petit Verdot and again overachieves with loads of dark fruit flavours, peppery spice and refined tannins on a solidly built frame.” My notes: A ruby red in the glass and a soft aroma of blackberries and white pepper meets the nose. A swirl creates a slow film with bunches of tears and a sip stings the back of the throat with flavours of blackberries and an unknown herb along with mild black pepper. This has a long complex flavourful finish with a pronounced spicy spine. A different, the Malbec and Petit Verdot combination, and interesting red sipper, aggressive with a silky smoothness - not for everyone. Better with at least seasoned bruschetta or a meaty pizza, rack of lamb or pepper steak. Should be able to cellar this four+ years. 90

LIBERTY SCHOOL SYRAH 2005, Paso Robles, California, 13.5% D, #942383 $17.95 (Tasted February 13, 2009)

A Vintages release on January 10, 2009 described as “It's labelled 'California' but the fruit in this is from Paso Robles ... this is a well-made and well-priced Syrah with a core of sweet fruit, layered flavours, dry tannins, and a refreshing texture. It's a great partner for barbecued red meats. (4 of 5, Rod Phillips, June 4, 2008).” My notes: A nose that’s a combination of raspberries, slight earth and a soft spice. This needs to sit a short while for the flavours to settle into a blend of raspberries, leather, a touch of white pepper all carried by a silky texture and balanced tannin and acids. The finish is mostly bright and dry fruit then ending on a metallic note. An OK sipper, try a gulp at a time, but mainly a meal red. Have with prime rib or rack of lamb, seasoned stews or pepperoni pizza. This could cellar for up to four years methinks but is drinking well now. A medium-bodied European style Syrah with some fresh fruit. 88 
TERRE DOMINI VALPOLICELLA RIPASSO LA VIGILIA 2006, Veneto, Italy, 13.5% XD, #103606 $18.95 (Tasted February 15, 2009)
A Vintages release on January 10, 2009 described as “The impressive nose features raspberry, vanilla bean, underbrush, berry pie, cranberry and a hint of chocolate. Dry with very good aroma replays on the palate. It is quite well-proportioned and structured with very good balance and poise. Drink it tonight with spicy meat lasagna or beef stew. It will also reward cellaring up until 2011. (VINTAGES panel, Oct. 2008).” My notes: Made from Corvina and Rondinella grapes then passed over fresh Amarone grape skins. There is a deep purple hue to the ruby colour and an aroma of warm black cherries, almost indiscernible tho’. The texture is smooth with drying tannins and flavours of stewed plums and a seam of acidity. The acid carries through the finish as the plums fade but leave a compote coating on the palate. An old world style in which process is blended with flavours of rich fruit making this an interesting, bold sipper. Better to have with Italian spaghetti and meatballs, veal scallopini or cheese and meat lasagna. 90
FRANCIS COPPOLA ‘DIAMOND COLLECTION’ GREEN LABEL SYRAH-SHIRAZ 2006, Geyserville, California, 13.5% D, #090068 $24.95 (Tasted February 19, 2009)
A Vintages release on January 17, 2009 described as “This 'One from the Heart' of California stars the Syrah (aka Shiraz) grape, producing a multi-layered yet easy-drinking wine. Here you'll find a montage of flavours including blackcurrant, blackberry, licorice, pepper and cocoa. A blockbuster wine that will complement back ribs or meaty pastas.” My notes: A deep violet ruby in a wide bowl and smoky blackberry on the nose. The first sip has a pepper edge, a bright seam and blackberry flavours unfolding in that order. The finish is mostly blackberries, dry, smooth and spicy on the palate, and fairly lengthy making this a tasty sipper. Have with bacon wrapped anything, prime rib, grilled back ribs or savoury steaks. An uncomplicated drink now and cellaring for a few more years should be OK but not a long term collector. 88
BORGO MAGREDO PINOT GRIGIO 2007, Fruili, Italy, 12.0% XD, #072389 $16.95 (Tasted February 17, 2009)
A Vintages release on January 31, 2009 described as “Borgo Magredo is located in an area of Friuli known for its gravelly soil (referred to locally as 'magredi'). Its vineyards abut against the foot of the Carnic Alps, enjoying a microclimate that helps create a crisp, fresh, and vivacious wine filled with pear and citrus aromas and flavours. A delicious counterpoint to pasta with cream sauce.” My notes: Vinted by Genagricola. A light golden colour, no signs of peach and a bright nose of citrus and slight banana. A thin film recedes through small bunches of tears and the first sip wakes the buds quickly with flavours of citrus and pear on a firm seam of acid. The finish is long with the acid fading slowly leaving a residual lemon and a smooth texture. For me, not a sipper - have with shaved ham on thinly sliced sourdough bread, fresh oysters, mussels in a spicy sauce, arctic char or planked salmon, scallops in a creamy sauce. A lot of character in a drink now or keep up to two years. 90
SONSIERRA RIOJA RESERVA 2002, Rioja Alta, Spain, 13.5% D, #094920 $20.95 (Tasted February 20, 2009)
A Vintages release on December 6, 2008 described as “Great structure on the palate combining wonderfully with the oak are the highlights of this beautifully made Riojan wine. Mostly Tempranillo, this wine is ready-to-drink tonight with grilled game or lamb, but it was also continue to mature in a proper cellar for 4+ years.” My notes: This has a rich violet ruby colour and leaves a firm film with long legs on the bowl, appealing to look at. The nose is full of warm ripe plums and berries and the texture is velvet and drying, medium- to full-bodied. There is a bright mineral aspect to the berry flavours that give this added interest as a sipper. The finish carries the flavours leaving more of the mineral along with even tannins on the palate. An interesting sipper and definitely a distinctive rioja. Have with chicken or turkey wings, baby back ribs or a T-bone, rack of or lamb shank… any flavourful stew. Already seven years and likely at its peak. 94

GRAHAM BECK SAUVIGNON BLANC 2008, Coastal Region, S. Africa, 13.0% XD, #948620 $13.95 (Tasted February 23, 2009)
A Vintages release on February 14, 2009 described as “Cellar master Pieter Ferreira recently opined: 'These days we put so much more emphasis on viticulture. We're more vinemakers, than winemakers! You have to start with 100% top quality vines and continuously nurture your fruit in order to ultimately get something special into the bottle.' His Sauvignon Blanc has the elegance of a Sancerre coupled with the rich aromatics (asparagus, gooseberry, citrus and passion fruit) of the New Zealand style. Match it to grilled prawns.” My notes: A soft creaminess is present from first sip to a warm finish. Medium-bodied and tangy dry with melon, gooseberry and, I guess, asparagus, at least a subtle tinge of something vegetable in flavours and the nose. Shows as a light blond in the glass with a light film and long legs giving some interest as a sipper or with hors d’oeuvres. Have with shrimp, lobster, crab, white fish or a creamy cheese pasta. Likely could cellar a short time but drinking well now. A good value. 88 

WANDERING PIANO by GRAVITAS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2006, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% D, #091017 $15.95 (Tasted February 22, 2009)
A Vintages release on February 14, 2009 described as “… the 2006 vintage is a restrained, ripe and smooth wine with grapefruit and apple characters that linger well, good texture and a dry finish. (3 of 5, Michael Cooper, 2008)” My notes: Aromatic to say the least, full of gooseberries and slight nettles. Also there’s a light blond colour and a light film with fast tears on the glass. The first sip is like a bite into a almost ripe gooseberry, sharp and unctuous. The bite carries into a long finish slowing down any sipping - the fresh fruit balances nicely making this a very interesting sipper. A white for lovers of NZ style SB, by itself or while nibbling crab cakes or grilled shrimp. Have with telapia, lobster flesh on brown rice, halibut and chips or arctic char. Cellaring for a few years should be OK making this an excellent value. 92
TERRAZAS DE LOS ANDES RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5% D, #077776 $18.95 (Tasted February 23, 2009)
A Vintages release on February 14, 2009 described as “… Reserva line is made from hand-harvested grapes from top vineyard sites in the best areas of Mendoza (Tupungato, Vistalba, Perdriel and Cruz de Piedra). Only the very best fruit from these sites is used to create this superb wine. Made only in great vintages, it features aromas and flavours of cassis, vanilla bean, chocolate and new leather. Try this intense, beautifully balanced wine with grilled steak.” My notes: A dense and deep purple in the glass and an aroma of spicy black cherry mellowed by earthy oak tones. Has a brightness I don’t associate with a cabernet sauvignon, and intense blackberry highlights to a delicate black currant thread. Full-bodied, finishing long with fruit, well balanced tannins and acid and a touch of white pepper. I found it to be an interesting fruit forward sipper and excellent meal companion. Have with T-bone steak, back ribs or rack of lamb. 93 
CASTELLBLANCH BRUT ZERO CAVA RESERVA NV, Penèdes, Spain, 11.5% D, #094813 $15.95 (Tasted February 22, 2009)
A Vintages release on February 14, 2009 described as “This Spanish sparkler is a blend of indigenous grapes: 60% Parellada, 30% Macabeo and 10% Xarel-lo… The nose is lightly floral, with the accent on apple blossom. The palate is solid and crisp, with appropriate white-fruit flavors. Crisp on the finish, with a lively feel. A pleasurable sipper for sure. (89/100, Michael Schachner, Wine Enthusiast, Dec. 15, 2006).” My notes: Lots of large to tiny bubbles when poured that continue to stream while sipping. Not much of a nose: clean, bright, grapefruit-ish and extremely crisp on the first sip - a wakeup to the buds. Light flavours of desiccated stone fruit, a touch of almond and mango finishing mainly on the stone fruit and a mineral note. Have with oysters or stuffed mushrooms. For a social crowd I’d say it’s overly brut to be a toaster but a suitable apéritif. 84 
BONTERRA 'MENDOCINO COUNTY' MERLOT 2006, Hopland, California, 14.0% D, #984724 $19.95 (Tasted February 21, 2009)
A Vintages release on January 17, 2009 described as “… winemaker Bob Blue … has managed to make wines with organically grown grapes that display all the virtues of the technique without betraying the strengths of the grape variety. His Merlot is filled with aromas of raspberry, cherry and vanilla. It is round, ripe and well-structured. A natural choice for grilled organic steaks… “ My notes: A Fetzer wine having a deep ruby colour with slow tears showing on the bowl and a subtle brambly raspberry nose. There’s lots of tannin and almost-ripe berries in the first sip levelling off to mostly berry fruit with a mineral taint, medium-bodied. The finish is chalky dry of ripe bramble flavours and having a good length. Has some rawness as a sipper but OK - have with pizzas, prime rib or crockpot stews. 84 

STONELEIGH 'MARLBOROUGH' PINOT NOIR 2007, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% XD, #054353 $19.95 (Retasted February 26, 2009)
My notes: Last tasted April 20, 2008 this bottle was purchased this week from the General shelves. About the same comments as last: ‘a dusty ruby with a strawberry hue’ and ‘aroma of dark plums and wild strawberries’ perhaps now with an earthier accent. There’s a touch of silk in the texture and delicate flavours of wild strawberry and stringent cranberry with light tannins and a complementing acid. Still young it may improve with cellaring, maybe two more years, although the fruit isn‘t as prominent so I‘d call it more of an extra dry drink now. The finish is long, smooth and bright with persistent flavours., a light tannin and acid, OK as a sole sipper - better with rack of lamb, sliced turkey with lingonberries, prime rib au jus, or a mild cheese tray. 86