Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Inside Story: LCBO Promo 2009

Fourteen wines are featured in the LCBO glossy, The INSIDE STORY, received with this morning‘s G&M. The current promotion started March 1st and runs through to March 31st and recognizes the individual winemakers of the wines being featured.
Also, ‘Meet the Maker’ cards picturing many of the winemakers, their wineries and more of their wines are posted in the Outlets, usually where the wines are.
I’ve listed the fourteen wines giving the vintage that was illustrated in the promo. Wines that have been tasted will be shown in bold with its rating and, since a rating doesn’t tell the whole story, a tasting note will be added. Ten of the wines were found in Rod Phillips’ The 500 Best Value Wines in the LCBO 2009 and his Star rating (out of 5) is shown for each of these. The 2007 vintage for the Niagara region is said to be the best in many years and I would expect wines from this vintage to rate higher than previous years. All are on the General shelves with four of the fourteen 'sale' priced (>). Hope this is useful in some way. Cheers, Ww
  • #040501 Woodbridge Sauvignon Blanc 2007, RP3½, $11.95
  • #026278 Folonari Valpolicella Classico 2007 (1500ml) $17.45>
  • #028530 Terra d’Aligi Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2005, RP4½, $12.00 (84)
  • #580183 Giovello Pinot Grigio 2007 $11.80> (89-2)
  • #066266 Inniskillin Chardonnay 2006 VQA, RP3, $9.45>
  • #283291 Henry of Pelham Reserve Riesling 2007 VQA, RP3½, $14.95 (88-1)
  • #052274 Mouton Cadet Réserve Medoc 2006, RP4, $16.95
  • #665406 Bouchard Aîné & Fils Pinot Noir 2006, RP4, $15.95>
  • #554378 Hillebrand Artist Series Gewurztraminer 2007 VQA, RP4, $10.95 (77)
  • #587907 Trius Merlot 2007 VQA, RP4, $14.95
  • #582825 Peller Estates Heritage Chardonnay 2007 VQA, $10.95
  • #665471 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz 2006, RP4, $17.45 (81)
  • #285544 Penfolds 'Koonunga Hill' Shiraz/Cabernet 2006, RP4, $16.45 (89-1)
  • #079327 Mezzomondo Sangiovese Merlot Daunia 2007, $9.85 (88-2)
(r-v - Rating-Value)


TERRA D'ALIGI MONTE D'ABRUZZO 2005, Abruzzo, Italy, 13.0% D, #028530 $11.85 (Tasted June 9, 2008) 

My notes: Terra D'Aligi, owned by the Spinelli family, produces this red which is 100% Montepulciano d'Abruzzo aged 12 months in Slavonia barrels. A black cherry skin colour with aromas of delicate blackberries, a soft bramble and a whiff of earth. There’s a brightness in the first sip followed by a well balanced combination of fine tannin, mild acidity and red berries leaving predominantly a dry red berry then a light woody ending. Very acceptable as a house red leaving most refreshed but waiting for hors d’oeuvres of sausage pieces, shaved meats or bruscetta. Quaff with red sauced pasta dishes or triple cheese pizzas. A drink-now. 84

GIOVELLO PINOT GRIGIO 2007, Veneto, Italy, 11.5% XD, #580183 $11.80 (Tasted March 9, 2009)

A General listing described as “Pale straw colour; mineral, spice, pineapple, pear, green apple aromas; light- to medium-bodied with crisp, mineral flavours; dry, zesty finish. Serve as an aperitif, or with raw oysters, veggie dishes. My notes: A floral and spice nose and a light golden colour in the glass makes this appealing to the initial senses. Then a nicely nippy flavour takes over with a pear, suspicion of pineapple and apple and leaves a long flavour blending with a bright mineral ending. An interesting extra dry sipper to pair with fresh oysters, chicken wings, chorizo sausage pieces in a tomato sauce or varied pasta dishes. Cellaring may mellow, accentuate the spicy side and integrate the whole - I’d try a year at a time. A bargain for a dry 'fish white'. 89

HENRY OF PELHAM RESERVE RIESLING 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada, 12.0% D, #283291 $14.95 (Tasted March 12, 2009)

A General listing described as “Mid-yellow/straw colour; melon, apple and grapefruit with a hint of spice; grapefruit, apple and spice on the palate; intense yet refreshing acidity followed by a clean finish. Serve with shellfish; smoked salmon; creamy pasta.” My notes: I found the 2006 vintage tasted in January 2008 ‘uninteresting’ with ’insufficient fruit, acid or body’ rating it Ww78. By comparison, the 2007 vintage has a light golden colour with distant stone fruit aromas. It’s light-bodied, dry, with grapefruit, melon or pear tainted flavour carried by a mildly rounded texture and finishing with a balanced fruit and touch of spice. I’d call this a somewhat shy riesling - no kerosene taint but an approachable white suitable for shellfish, halibut, sole, freshwater pickerel or just sipping on a warm day. A drink now to be served to anyone. 88

HILLEBRAND ARTIST SERIES GEWURZTRAMINER 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, 12.5% D, #554378 $10.95 (Tasted September 27, 2008)

My notes: Andres Wine Ltd. produces this brand which has a scent of grapefruit and faint stagnant pond, perhaps the ‘spice’ in the gewurz, not distressing, just noticeable. The first sip is round with a fresh nip and a blend of mild honeydew and spice. The flavours fade further as the finish becomes drier with a light steely edge through to the end. I could not enjoy this as a straight sipper. I’d put it in the category of a ’recipe’ wine with a seam of acid, spice and a ‘rounding agent’ adding a touch of fruit - perhaps I’m not familiar with the terroir. Have with a buffet of dips and spreads or with freshwater fish, grilled sole or haddock. A drink now. 77

JACOB'S CREEK RESERVE SHIRAZ 2006, South Australia, 14.0% D, #665471 $17.45 (Tasted March 11, 2009)

A General listing described as “Opaque dark red; aromas of cedar, anice, black fruit; black fruit flavours with a toasty medium-long finish. Serve with BBQ meats or vegetables. My notes: A Wyndham Estates brand. The 2004 vintage tasted in May 2008 was found to be ‘too tart and chalky dry to be sipper’ and ’Gets high marks for nose then falls off on what counts’ rated Ww79. The 2006 vintage is an opaque violet tinged ruby with a thin film and fast legs. Decant and let stand for twenty minutes minimum. There’s a mild sting in the nose as a fragrance of dark berries and light shellac meet the senses. Prominent chalky tannin, acid and anise remain in the long finish as the initial surge of blackberries, chocolate and liquorice - evenly portioned - provides some interest then shifts. My interest shifted as well with successive sips finding the combination of flavours and finish too assertive to be a sipper. This could be a good companion with a pepper steak, grilled back ribs or strongly seasoned stews. A ‘serve with discretion’ shiraz that’s not likely to mellow with cellaring. 81 

PENFOLDS 'KOONUNGA HILL' SHIRAZ/CABERNET 2006, South Australia, 13.5% D, #285544 $16.45 (Tasted March 12, 2009)
A General listing described as “Purple/red colour; cassis, eucalyptus, mint and herb aromas; dry, full bodied with smooth, rich, plummy flavours and a long, spicy finish. Serve with grilled lamb, pepper steak or roasted meats.” My notes: The 2004 vintage was tasted in July 2007 with the comment ‘… flavours of plums and black cherry but a lingering oak … and a balanced nip to a velvety texture.’ and ‘A commercial red that comes across as authentic varietal… a value.’ The 2006 vintage has a slate tinge to the deep ruby and there are slow tears to a light film on the bowl. Peppery blackberries make up a warm aroma and the first sip is very bright with leather and blackberry flavours ending with consistent bright fruit and spice. Leaves the palate dry but not masking the fruit making this a balanced sipper. Would be great with flavourful mushroom caps, bacon wrapped asparagus spears or a gorgonzola spread. Pair with grilled portabello mushrooms, roast beef or lamb dishes to complement the chef’s work. Cellaring for up to four years should mellow some youthful rawness. 88

MEZZOMONDO SANGIOVESE MERLOT DAUNIA 2007, Puglia, Italy, 13.5% D, #079327 $9.85 (Tasted March 9, 2009)

A General listing described as “Medium ruby red colour; candied berry aromas with red fruit notes; dry, with a burst of fruit flavour and notes of herb. Serve with vegetarian focaccia sandwiches or veal on a bun.” My notes: The nose has a pleasing fragrance of sweet cherries and new leather as soon as the cork is pulled. There’s a sharpness, steady and almost aggressive, masking flavours of wild red berries that have dried in the sun. The tartness and tannin then fruit carry through to a lingering light licorice - would have been harsh without the merlot. Suitably paired with seasoned ground beef and rice rolled in limp cabbage leaves and slowly simmered in a spicy tomato and onion sauce. Not a sipper - a drink now and priced so there’s no need to skimp on the pourings. 88

Sunday, March 01, 2009

March 2009 Wines: 25 Tasted of 25

These wines are bought on spec. throughout the month. When tasted the wine will appear in bold and resequenced by rating. Cheers, Ww
  • Sebastiaan ‘High Constantia’ 2003, 96-x -- O, S. Africa, Lot #3728 $na
  • Saltram of Barossa ‘Mamre Brook’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, 95-3 -- V, Barossa, Australia, #048579 $21.95
  • Water Wheel ‘Bendigo’ Shiraz 2006, 95-3 -- V, Victoria, Australia, #700815 $18.95
  • d'Arenberg ‘The Custodian’ Grenache 2006, 93-2 -- V, McLaren Vale, Australia, #713040 $21.95
  • Famiglia Bianchi Malbec 2006, 92-3 -- V, Mendoza, Argentina, #677559 $16.95 
  • Stella Bella Shiraz 2006, 92-2 -- V, Margaret River, Australia, #048553 $20.95
  • Clos de Los Siete 2007, 92-2 -- V, Mendoza, Argentina, #622571 $23.95
  • Graffigna Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, 90-2 -- V, San Juan, Argentina, #060202 $17.95
  • Casa Nueva Carmenère 2003, 88-2 -- O, Molina, Chile, CP152-2746 $13.08
  • Santa Julia Magna 2005, 88-1 -- V, Mendoza, Argentina, #093799 $14.95
  • Alamos Pinot Noir 2007, 88-1 -- V, Mendoza, Argentina, #507822 $13.95
  • Alamos Pinot Noir 2006, 88-1 -- V, Mendoza, Argentina, #507822 $14.25
  • Alamos Malbec 2007, 87-1 -- V, Mendoza, Argentina, #467951 $13.95
  • De Bortoli ’Windy Peak’ Pinot Noir 2008, 87 -- V, Victoria, Australia, #048587 $18.95
  • Alamos Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, 86-1 -- V, Mendoza, Argentina, #467944 $13.95
  • Palatine Hills Gewürztraminer VQA Niagara Lakeshore 2006, 86-1 -- G, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, #101493 $13.95
  • Wyndham Estate Bin 525 Shiraz Grenache 2008, 85 -- G, Dalwood, Australia, #096826 $16.45
  • Farnese Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2007, 81 -- G, Ortona, Italy, #621912 $7.55

  •  Soljans Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2007, 90-2 -- V, Marlborough, NZ, #091223 $17.95
  • Graffigna Centenario Pinot Grigio 2007, 89-2 -- V, San Juan, Argentina, #093732 $14.95
  • Reif Estate Gewurztraminer 2006 VQA Niagara River, 88-1 -- V, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, #127985 $14.95
  • Les Coteaux Tufiers Vouvray Demi-Sec 2006, 84 -- V, Loire, France, #057018 $15.95
  • Folie à Deux Ménage à Trois White 2007, 84 -- V, Napa, California, #665166 $19.95
  • Stella Bella Chardonnay 2007, 82 -- V, Margaret River, Australia, #102061 $21.95
  • Cavit Collection Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie 2007, 81 -- G, Venezie, Italy, #099218 $11.65
(G - General listing, V – Vintages, O - Other, r-v - Rating-Value)
REIF ESTATE GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2006 VQA Niagara River, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, 14.0% D, #127985 $14.95 (Tasted March 23, 2009)

A Vintages release on Marh 14, 2009 described as “Typical Gewürztraminer notes of
ginger spice and citrus are easy to identify amongst the exotic scents found as you raise glass to nose. The aroma also reveals a real soapy/lanolin note. In the mouth, this is full and round, with prominent canned pear and ginger spice notes and an almost-honeyed texture. It is a terrific match for Asian-influenced or roast poultry dishes. (3 of 5, Christopher Waters, Nov./Dec. 2007).” My notes: Won a bronze in the 2008 All Canadian Wine competition however tasting notes aren’t available on the winery website. Labelled as a Semi-dry Gewurz I wanted to compare styles and flavours with Palatine’s Niagara Lakeshore (#101493). Similar in colour but fainter in nose, this is a light straw with stone fruit and lemon tang aromas. There’s a noticeable tang in the first sip mellowed out somewhat by honey and flavours of apricot and melon tinged with ginger. A few sips tempers the taste buds for a long finish of sweet apricot accompanied by a persistent but light ginger - nice. Oysters, cantaloupe and melon pieces with frozen yogurt, Asian or Thai fare could pair nicely. The sweetness mellows out a bit as the acid builds making this a delectable quaffer for a hot day. 88

LES COTEAUX TUFIERS VOUVRAY DEMI-SEC 2006, Loire, France, 12.0% MD, #057018 $15.95 (Tasted March 24, 2009)

A Vintages release on January 31, 2009 described as “This is a delicious, gentle, medium-dry Chenin Blanc. Look for delightful honeyed aromas, a lush palate packed with apple and citrus fruit as well as nutty notes leading to a long, rich finish. A terrific value, this wine would be great now as an aperitif or served with spicy Asian dishes, but it will continue to develop over the next 5-10 years.” My notes: Based on the chenin blanc grape this is a off-dry white with a pale straw colour. This lacks a honey tone in the nose or any perceptible fragrance but a touch of both shows up in the first sip. Lightish bodied with a just-noticeable sweetness and flavours of pear and Granny Smith apple followed by a polite chalky finish. An amenable sipper or aperitif with light finger foods. Have with grilled fresh water fishes, crab cakes, telapia or sea bass. I doubt if there’s sufficient to develop past two years. 84
PALATINE HILLS GEWURZTRAMINER VQA Niagara Lakeshore 2006, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, 12.75% MD, #101493 $13.95 (Tasted March 22, 2009)

A General listing described on the back label as “… bursts with fragrances and flavours of grapefruit, melon, apricots and honey. … “ My notes: A golden colour and light honeyed citrus aromas, a dry but round texture followed by a sharpness mellowed by a suspicion of melon and peach stone. Natural sugars are nicely balanced by spice and acid making this a tasty off dry aperitif. The finish has a short spurt of flavour that subsides leaving a long spicy nip as a reminder. Served well chilled it’s a refreshing sipper, Alsatian style, and would be suitable with Asian fare or a mixed Bento box of tempura shrimp and vegetables. Cellar up to two years. 86
GRAFFIGNA GRAND RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005, San Juan, Argentina, 14.5% XD, #060202 $17.95 (Tasted March 4, 2009)
A Vintages release on December 6, 2008 described as “… This refined Cab offers aromas of ripe blackcurrant, with notes of toast and cocoa that carry through on the palate along with an intriguing herbal note. Enjoy this now with red meat dishes, or let it evolve for 2-3 years in the bottle.” My notes: A rich deep ruby and a fragrance of wild black berries from the glass. There’s long slow legs with light staining of the bowl and a first sip that’s silky smooth adding a steely veneer to flavours of bright blackberries. The finish is long, clean and dry continuing with berries and an increasing mineral note. Medium- to full-bodied having a lot of character to mull over as a sipper - likely preferable paired with ‘red meat dishes’. I don’t see this cellaring much longer - taste again after a year. 90
GRAFFIGNA CENTENARIO PINOT GRIGIO 2007, San Juan, Argentina, 13.5% XD, #093732 $14.95 (Tasted March 2, 2009)
A Vintages release on February 28, 2009 described as “Pale peach skin color. Subtle, clean aromas of melon and flowers. Supple and juicy, with surprising intensity to its sweet peach flavor. Nicely concentrated pinot grigio with a firm finish. (88/100, Stephen Tanzer, Jan./Feb. 2008)” My notes: A faint golden colour and a grapefruit and nettle tainted nose. There’s a sharp nip on the first sip and flavours of almost ripe melon and stone fruit. The finish ends on mostly a stone fruit note, even vegetable, with a mineral emphasis. Give ten minutes for the nose and flavours to develop then it’s an interesting sipper - not for everyone tho‘. Match with white fishes or shellfish, grilled or in a light pesto sauce. Somewhat round suggesting sweetness but none that I detected. 89
STELLA BELLA SHIRAZ 2006, Margaret River, Australia, 14.0% D, #048553 $20.95 (Tasted March 1, 2009)
A Vintages release on February 28, 2009 described as “Light and spicy bouquet and supple and lush on the palate, with well-defined varietal fruit flavours and an intense and crisp finish. Lovely complexity. A totally faultless wine. (4 of 5, Winestate, May/June 2008)” My notes: This is very appealing in the glass having a purple hue to a deep ruby, a thin film without staining and slow tears. The aroma is a mix of cherries, light blackberries and a touch of milk chocolate. Medium-bodied, silky, bright with a stemmy edge but loads of blackberries and finishing dry with ample spicy berry - a soft pepper eventually shows. It’s hard not to gulp - would go well with bacon bits and tomato bruschetta, stuffed mushroom caps, pizzas, hamburgers or rack of lamb. This may be at peak now and could remain so for several years. 92
SANTA JULIA MAGNA 2005, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0% XD, #093799 $14.95 (Tasted March 2, 2009)
A Vintages release on February 28, 2009 described as “… a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Malbec and 10% Syrah. ‘This is drop-dead gorgeous; run, don't walk, and pick up a case. Drink now, after a two-hour decant and on to 2014. Crushed dried berry and dusty mineral on the nose it explodes on the palate with rich concentrated and succulent flavours of raisined dark berry fruit, kirsch liqueur and dollops of thick creamy black raspberry jam. It's still underpinned by grainy tannin, but will soften with bottle age. It's medium to full bodied, fully textured and delicious on the well-balanced lengthy finish. (4½ of 5, Vic Harradine, Nov. 22, 2008)’” My notes: From Familia Zuccardi, producers of Fuzion Shiraz Malbec 2007, #083188 $7.45 (Ww80, November 2008). There’s a violet tinge to the rich ruby colour, quite appealing in a glass. The nose is a spicy red cherry and the flavour comes across as a cherry-berry compote with balanced acid and fine tannins. Medium-bodied finishing dry on the palate with crushed cherry stone and cedar . Should go well with prime rib, teriyaki pork chop, turkey wings or ham steak. I didn’t wait long enough for the explosion or the ‘dollops of thick creamy black raspberry jam‘… LOL. A basic 'ripasso-lite'. 88
CLOS DE LOS SIETE 2007, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.5% XD, #622571 $23.95 (Tasted March 3, 2009)
A Vintages release on January 17, 2009 described as “Deep coloured, this has lovely floral aromatics together with ripe but not jammy summer fruit aromas. There's a bit of spice, too. The palate is nicely poised with sweet but well defined dark fruits and good acidity. This isn't jammy or super-ripe, which is a good thing. But the alcohol is evident, and the tannins are a little drying and grippy in the mouth, and they clamp down the finish somewhat. It's a beautifully packaged wine that offers great value for money, and without those rather drying tannins it would get a higher rating. (90/100, Jamie Goode, Sept. 29, 2008)” My notes: A Michel Rolland wine and a label I tasted in April last year (Vintage 2005, Ww91) and in December 2006 (Vintage 2004, NR). A blend of Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah the colour is a deep violet ruby with aromas of spice, plum and black cherry. There’s a firm film and slow legs suggesting the full-bodied texture which shows on the first sip. Smooth with balanced tannins and spice mixing with blackberry and earthy oak in more of a European meal red. An OK sipper if you don’t mind youthful tannins but should be cellared a few years to allow it to peak - gets points for potential. 92
WYNDHAM ESTATE BIN 525 SHIRAZ GRENACHE 2008, Dalwood, Australia, 14.5% D, #096826 $16.45 (Tasted March 4, 2009)
A General listing described briefly as “Excellent with game meats or roast chicken in red wine sauce.” My notes: Blend details aren’t given on the Wyndham website however the nose is a spicy floral representing both grapes well. Kind of a plush ruby and the first sip has the soft texture of ripe berries brightened by a polite white pepper seam, silky smooth. The finish is long, fruity with balanced tannin and acid making this a sociable sipper - nothing complex or remotely controversial. A drink now, a commercial red appropriate for a mixed crowd. Quaff with nachos, pizzas, hamburgers or spaghetti and meatballs. 85
Vintages released the Gift Pack on October 25, 2008 with this description: “Argentina's reds are really gaining altitude among wine lovers right now. And this intensely flavourful, deeply coloured duo illustrates why. Both the deep violet Malbec - arguably the country's most distinctive red variety - and the garnet Cab originate from the Mendoza region, in the shadow of the majestic Andes.” My notes: I thought I’d try three 2007 vintage varietals from the Catena family vineyards by adding the Pinot Noir from the February 28, 2009 Release to this duo pack.
ALAMOS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5% D, #467944 $13.95 (Tasted March 7, 2009)
Vintages released the 2007 on January 31, 2009 with this note “… Bistro-styled and made for early and easy drinking, look for coffee and earthy tones on the nose then a solid core of tang and zest from cranberry and pie cherry flavours. There's generous texture, ripe tannin and a nicely balanced dry finish. This pairs extremely well with pasta in tomato sauce, try lasagna or spaghetti Bolognese. (3½ of 5, Vic Harradine, Aug. 16, 2008).” My notes: This has an inviting deep ruby colour and a nose that is fragrant with black fruit and well worn leather, just a touch of spice with mostly ripe fruit. A reasonable film and slow tears show then a nicely balanced fruit, tannin and acid flavour/texture combination that’s not aggressive at all making for easy quaffing. There’s a touch of barn in the flavour and also comes out in the finish that could detract - but there‘s also a ripple of pleasing fruit. Have with hamburgers, chili con carne, lamb chops or grilled portabello mushrooms. 86
ALAMOS MALBEC 2007, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5% D, #467951 $13.95 (Tasted March 6, 2009)

My notes: A Vintages release, the 2007 vintage appears to be only available in the duo gift pack. Quietly aromatic with scents of bramble, berries and dried mint, a combination that is both inviting and soft on the sniffer. Smooth and dry with fine tannins and a mild acid continuing with woody berries into a long dry finish. On the thin side of medium-bodied, very sip-able and acceptable as an economical house red. Have with bacon on a bun, prime rib, roast turkey, liver and onions or steak and kidney. A straight forward drink now. 87

ALAMOS PINOT NOIR 2007, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.5% D, #507822 $13.95 (Tasted March 13, 2009)

A Vintages release on February 28, 2009 with this note: “Argentina's Catena family harnessed two high-altitude vineyards in Mendoza, the core of Malbec country, for an effort that mixes honest bright cherry fruit with the moist, earthy nuance that's almost nonexistent in less-expensive Pinot. (Jon Bonné, San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 26, 2008).” My notes: The 2007 has a deep strawberry colour with a gentle aroma of beetroot and red currant. Not much of a film on the bowl but there are several slow tears in clusters on the glass. Air for twenty minutes then the flavours settle to a cherry, subtle mint, almost milk chocolate blend quite unique and still appealing. The finish has a fine tannin dryness and a soft acid carrying the flavours. Not outstanding but a good value. Held it’s own with cabbage rolls and roast carrots. Should cellar well for several years. 88

ALAMOS PINOT NOIR 2006, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.0% XD, #507822 $14.25 (Tasted March 13, 2009)

My notes: Last tasted in February 2008, the 2006 vintage Pinot from Catena was rated Ww88 with the comment: “… A delectable sipper... Have with a tray of chocolates, any light meat or meat look-a-like, it's a tad thin so not too spicy… A good value for a very fresh pn.” After a year cellaring …. the 2006 has the same colour, nose and body as the 2007 and definitely more legs show on a swirl. A touch more velvet smoothness on the first sip with the same balance of fruit, acid and tannins - only side by side tastings show this difference. A polite sipper with enough warmth in the finish to build anticipation for the next sip. Too close to warrant a rating difference and I'd cellar either vintage for at least two years. 88

SOLJANS ESTATE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2007, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% XD, #091223 $17.95 (Tasted March 14, 2009)

A Vintages release on March 14, 2009 described as “The easy-drinking 2007 vintage is a single-vineyard wine, medium-bodied, with fresh, ripe tropical-fruit flavours and a smooth finish. (3 of 5, Michael Cooper, 2008).” My notes: A pale blond colour with a crisp gooseberry aroma, refreshing just to sniff. The first sip is just as crisp and refreshing, full of fruit then trailing off on a mineral and herbal note. Dry on the tongue and cleansing on the palate this makes for a good seafood white or with fresh oysters. The smoothness should develop with two years in the cellar - not longer tho’. 90

WATER WHEEL ‘BENDIGO’ SHIRAZ 2006, Victoria, Australia, 15.5% XD, #700815 $18.95 (Tasted March 18, 2009)

A Vintages release on March 14, 2009 described as “The 2006 Water Wheel Shiraz has a delicious compote of dark berry flavours, licorice allsorts and sweet spice. An earth minerality and fine grained yet chalky tannins tame any excessive or extroverted behaviour.” (90/100, James Halliday, Nov. 2007).” My notes: A warm aroma of ripe blackberries wafts from the bowl and the opaque ruby backgrounds the first sip. Soft, spicy, dry and full of fruit, perhaps now with a few blackcurrants, completes the wonder of this elixir. You could get the impression I enjoyed sipping this Shiraz? The combination of full-bodied flavour and outstanding texture went well with a medium-rare beef tenderloin and would with any grilled meat entrée. This should cellar four or more years and provide a reasonably tasty red to draw from for special happenings. 95

FAMIGLIA BIANCHI MALBEC 2006, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.5% XD, #677559 $16.95 (Tasted March 18, 2009)

A Vintages release on March 14, 2009 described as “Focused and pure, with good concentration and balance to the red currant, raspberry and plum fruit, which is layered with hints of shaved vanilla and mocha on the finish. Drink now through 2009. (89/100, James Molesworth, June 30, 2008).” My notes: The 2002 and 2005 vintages of Famiglia Bianchi Cabernet Sauvignon drank well at two years and their decline, after four to six years in the cellar. The 2006 Malbec is of the same style showing definite oak tones while retaining freshness in the fruit and cellaring at least a few years should be OK. The colour is a purple ruby and a thin film sheds tears quickly. Odours of vanilla blended with cedar and dark berries come in advance of fresh berries, drying tannins and a crisp brightness. The ‘old world’ accent on top of a fruity Malbec may disenchant some - it’s interesting and airing mellows it significantly. The finish is dry, long and characteristically vanillin. Have with rack of lamb or an eggplant casserole. 92

CAVIT COLLECTION PINOT GRIGIO DELLE VENEZIE 2007, Venezie, Italy, 12.0% D, #099218 $11.65 (Tasted March 16, 2009)

A General listing described as “Pale straw; light lemon-apple aroma and flavour; light bodied with a clean finish. Serve as an aperitif.” My notes: A light blond with an almost discernible floral fragrance, extra dry and lightly stringent on the first sip leaving a short flavour of apple and stone fruit and ending on a lemon and mineral note. Not much of interest as a lone sipper. Light-bodied and better with oysters or with celery pieces and cream cheese, hummus on dry crackers or sliced chicken breast on greens. Was just OK with scallops in a lemon and vodka sauce and whole wheat linguine. Would lose presence with flavoured seafood dishes. 81

SEBASTIAAN ‘HIGH CONSTANTIA’ 2003, S. Africa, 13.8% D, Lot#3728 $na (Tasted March 20, 2009)

An Opimian wine described on the winery website as “Estate flagship, refined aromas, elegant, complex, soft and round, ripe red and black berries, good mouth feel. Very smooth, excellent potential for developing in the bottle ... Only the best barrels were selected to blend into this flagship wine. This wine is a child of the 2003 vintage which was one of my best vintages to date, superb fruit, good mid palette and mouth feel, this wine is sure to be a winner like all of the previous Sebastiaan’s…” My notes: A blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec all from a single vineyard. A deep ruby and a full whiff of candied plums as the cork is pulled followed by a sniff of ripe dark fruit in the bowl. Tears are slow to form and the first sip is both clean and soft in texture and rich in flavours. An elegant sipper changing with each sip, the complexity shifting into a long warm finish. An excellent balance of process and fruit resulting in a unique spectrum for sipping or dining. Have with rare grilled or roasted meats, game, liver and onions or a steak and kidney pie. Has long term cellaring potential but drinking well now. 96

FOLIE À DEUX MÉNAGE À TROIS WHITE 2007, Napa, California, 13.5% D, #665166 $19.95 (Tasted March 17, 2009)

Vintages released this on February 28, 2009 describing it as “Ménage à Trois demonstrates what happens when you put three attractive grapes in one exquisite bottle. Chardonnay makes the wine rich and firm, the Moscato is an exotic exhibitionist, and the Chenin Blanc soft and supportive. Together they make the perfect threesome.” My notes: US$12 and $20Cdn - sign of a monopoly or solving Ontario’s looming deficit? Blend percentages are not given on the website although seems fairly equal in our tasting. Let air briefly for soft aromas of stone fruit, pear and a slight spice. There is a perceptible roundness in the first sip followed by a light dryness and flavours of pear and faint stone fruit. A suspicion of sweetness coats the palate followed by a reminder of dry fruit that fades quickly. A sociable sipper likely to raise a murmur of approval but no applause. Good with fresh water fish, shrimp, scallops or mild vegetable dishes. A $15Cdn value that could cellar up to a year. 84

D'ARENBERG 'THE CUSTODIAN' GRENACHE 2006, McLaren Vale, Australia, 14.5% D, #713040 $21.95 (Tasted March 19, 2009)
Vintages released this on March 14, 2009 describing it as “E: Deep red. Very fresh aromas of raspberry, cherry and blackberry. Smooth and seamless, with deeply concentrated, nicely focused red fruit flavors, no apparent tannins and slow-mounting sweetness. I suspect that some Old World palates will find this a bit lacking in nuance but I really like its freshness and clarity of fruit. (90/100, Josh Raynolds, Sept./Oct. 2008)” My notes: I enjoyed several of the d’Arenberg reds that were part of the ‘Blending Game’ blogged last September and this label is new to me - I had to include it this month. A violet glint to the ruby colour and an earthy tinge to the herb and strawberry nose. Let air a short while for a silky texture and fresh fruit flavours that burst then trail off to lengthy bright fruit and fine tannins. An interesting sipper, already matured sufficiently for a drink now but could cellar several years softening to velvet and possibly adding mahogany nuances. Have with rack of lamb or grilled red meats, pepperoni pizza, beef stroganoff or shank of lamb. 93
CASA NUEVA CARMENÈRE 2003, Molina, Chile, 13.5% XD, CP152-2746 $13.08 (Retasted March 25, 2009)
My notes: Cellared March 2004 and tasted several times since this has a deep ruby colour still, no terra cotta as yet. Open an hour beforehand. The nose is of bright plums and black cherries and offers slow tears on the bowl with a few swirls. Full-bodied with a tangy seam and flavours of red cherries, liquorice and lasting tannins leaving a dry touch to the red cherry/anise blend. Opimian recommended this to be consumed the first year but this has shown some longevity now being silky and well blended, process with fruit. I enjoyed this as a sipper but compared with fruit forward Chilean reds this may come across as somewhat ‘musty‘. Would be good with grilled meats, bbq’d ribs or tomato pastas. 88

FARNESE MONTEPULCIANO DABRUZZO 2007, Ortona, Italy, 13.5% D, #621912 $7.55 (Tasted March 28, 2009)
A General listing described as “Blackberry, cedar and mild spice aromas; ripe, mouthfilling black cherry/berry fruit. Serve with hearty stews, crown roast, spicy pasta. Pizza or BBQ fare.” My notes: The 2005 vintage was tasted October, 2007 with a rating of Ww80 and the comment “What can you say for $7... “ Colour and nose hasn’t changed for 2007 - a ‘granite toned ruby’ and ‘barely a nose’. Smoother and more delicately flavoured, a cherry and dark berry with a well managed tartness and soft tannin. Medium-bodied, a noticeable film with long legs, the finish retains some silkiness, light fruit and a touch of tar. Suitable with cheesy pizzas or cannelloni, mild Italian sausage, light tomato pastas or risotto dishes. ’Farneto Valley’ has been dropped from the label. It’s OK for a limited budget and still want ’wine’. 81
STELLA BELLA CHARDONNAY 2007, Margaret River, Australia, 13.0% D, #102061 $21.95 (Tasted March 29, 2009)
A Vintages release on March 28, 2009 described as “Winner of a Gold Medal at the 2008 Margaret River Wine Show. Very developed nose, with rich, toasty oak aromas and pleasant citrus fruit flavours enhanced by the oak and the developing secondary characters. 3-5 [years]. (4 of 5, Winestate, Nov./Dec. 2008)” My notes: Having rated the Stella Bella Shiraz (#048553, Ww92) I wanted to try their Chardonnay. This has a slight stagnant pond aroma that dissipates with several minutes airing leaving a subtle aroma of stone fruit and melon. The colour is a light straw and the first sip is a soft melon/grapefruit blend with a slight tang and roundness. A tangy seam refreshes while the flavours decline slowly not having a chance to fully develop, almost as if this was from a rainy vintage or even past peak. Has a freshness that could go well with freshwater fishes or shell fish hors d’oeuvres. Best as a sipper, a hard to pair meal white and overall not a value. 82

DE BORTOLI ‘WINDY PEAK’ PINOT NOIR 2008, Victoria, Australia, 13.0% D, #048587 $18.95 (Tasted March 30, 2009)
A Vintages release on March 28, 2009 described as “It offers clean and clear varietal character with cherry and red berries, lemon rind, a touch of spice and even a hint of smoky undergrowthy Pinot mystery. Light to medium bodied and pleasantly ripe with pippy red fruits, a touch of tamarillo like bitterness and a lick of spice - it's dry and fresh and offers light grippy tannin and a good red fruited finish… Drink: 2008-2011. (89/100, Gary Walsh, Sept. 24, 2008)” My notes: The Deen Vat 10 Pinot Noir 2006 (#061622, $15.95) was tasted in February 2008 with a rating of Ww86. A different vintage and label, three dollars more and rated marginally higher the ‘Windy Peak’ has a deep cherry colour with a light strawberry rim that frames a sniffing zone of a just perceptible strawberry scent. Light-bodied, with no apparent sugar notes but with drying tannins that give the cherry and light berry flavour full presence. Finishes fresh with the delicate fruit lasting a short while as the warmth builds and carries on. A sipper that wouldn’t disappoint lovers of a gentle pinot - more new world than old. Could cellar for several years but not gain much. 87
SALTRAM OF BAROSSA ‘MAMRE BROOK’ CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005, Barossa, Australia, 15.0% XD, #048579 $21.95 (Tasted March 31, 2009)
A Vintages release on March 28, 2009 described as “A powerful, intense, full-bodied palate with blackcurrant and mulberry varietal character; stout tannins and oak underline the structure. Drink [until] 2020. ( 93/100, James Halliday, Oct. 2007).” My notes: I haven’t seen a Saltram in Vintages since their ‘Mamre Brook’ Shiraz 2000 (#906677, $19.95) in 2005. This has a lovely deep ruby plum shade with strong aromas of a rich cherry compote, suitably spicy yet sweet. The texture is smooth well seamed with a spicy nip and firm tannins followed by dense currants and a mahogany finish. A full-bodied, bold sipper having a bite and slight tar for the back of the palate to anchor a long finish. Saltram has the knack for having a difference and this is a welcome shift in the cabernet sauvignon spectrum. Close to peak altho’ could be cellared for several more years. Have with grilled beef, lamb shank or flavoured stews. 95