Friday, January 01, 2010

The 500 Best-Value Wines 2010: 11 Tasted of 11

This is part of a review of Rod Phillips  The 500 Best Value Wines in the LCBO, 3rd edition, available in ‘good book stores everywhere’. 

Excluding Rosés, Bubblies and Sweet wines, seventy-eight (fifty reds and twenty eight whites) get the author’s top ratings of 4½ and 5 Stars. The twelve (eleven reds and one white) at the 5 star level are listed below. Two were above my ceiling of $25 so were dropped.

Changes adding up to eleven to taste:
  • Liberty Syrah 2007 replaces the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. Earlier tasting notes for the Cab Sauv are included.
  • Katnook’s 2004 Merlot is added
  • Errazuriz Shiraz 2007 is dropped.
  • A later vintage is on the shelf for Peninsula Ridge ‘Inox’ Chardonnay, Pérez Cruz Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, the Terra d‘Aligi and Farnese 'Casale Vecchio' Montepulciano d‘Abruzzo.
With one exception the ratings of 4½ and 5 stars are equivalent to Wine Advocate range of 90 to 100. The exception is that a ½ Star, the equivalent of 2 to 3 points, can be added to represent a wine’s value. The Wine Advocate system leaves it up to the purchaser to determine value so only includes intrinsic parameters of colour, nose, flavour, finish and potential to be rated. This could mean that a low-priced wine rated 4½, if considered a good value by the author, may be rated as low as 87 using the Wine Advocate 100 point system. Such a wine although ‘very good quality’ may not be ‘outstanding’ except for your budget. When tasted wines appear in bold.

Cheers, Ww
  • Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, 94-3 -- V, Paso Robles, California, USA, #738823 $18.95* (pg136)
  • Liberty School Syrah 2007, 94-3 -- V, Paso Robles, California, USA, #942383 $18.95
  • Terra d’Aligi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2007, 93-3 -- G, Abruzzo, Italy, #028530 $11.95 (pg182)
  • Muga Reserva Rioja 2005, 90-1 -- V, Rioja, Spain, #177345 $24.95 (pg215)
  • Farnese ‘Casale Vecchio’ Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008, 88-2 -- G, Abruzzo, Italy, #612788 $9.95* (pg172)
  • Katnook Estate ‘Founder’s Block’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, 88-1 -- G, Coonawara, Australia, #620070 $17.95 (pg112)
  • Perrin Réserve Côtes du Rhône 2007, 84 -- V, Rhône, France, #363457 $14.95 (pg162)
  • Pérez Cruz Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, 80 -- V, Maipo Valley, Chile, #694208 $14.95 (pg147)
  • Katnook Estate ‘Founder’s Block’ Merlot 2004, 76 -- G, Coonawara, Australia, #141267 $16.95
  • Bellingham Shiraz/Viognier 2006 , 75 -- G, Coastal Region, S. Africa, #554360 $13.95 (pg207)

  •  Peninsula Ridge ‘Inox’ Chardonnay 2008, 91-2 -- G, Niagara, Ontario, #594200 $12.95 (pg89)
  • Errazuriz ‘Max Reserva’ Shiraz 2007, G, #614750 $17.95 (pg146)
  • Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, V, #352583 $39.95 (pg131)
  • Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, V, #255513 $35.95 (pg137)
(V - Vintages, G - General list, pg - Page of Rod Phillips tasting notes)


LIBERTY SCHOOL ( Map It! ) CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006, Paso Robles, California, USA, 13.5% XD, #738823 $16.95* (Tasted February 12, 2009) CS

My notes: *The LCBO is trying to find a price level that breaks the bank... now $18.95. 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 possibly two to four years cellaring. Have with red meat dishes.  94
LIBERTY SCHOOL ( Map It! ) SYRAH 2007, Paso Robles, California, 13.5% D, #942383 $18.95 (Tasted January 5, 2010) CS

A Vintages release on January 9, 2010 however this was on the shelf early.  My notes: The 2005 vintage was tasted in February 2009 with a rating of Ww88 and summed up as “a medium-bodied European style Syrah with some fresh fruit.” The deepness of the ruby colour of the 2007 gives an impression of velvety and rich which shows in the first sip. Full-bodied, the flavour is an interesting mix of blackberry and red currant with fine tannins and white pepper to spice things up a reasonable notch. The nose is soft taking time to settle - leave sniffing for five minutes then it’s of crushed blackberries and cherry blossom. Flavours and fine tannins carry through a long bright finish ending with a touch of sweet liquorice. An interesting sipper that should cellar well. Have with any grilled red meat.  94

PENINSULA RIDGE ESTATES ( Map It! ) ‘INOX’ CHARDONNAY 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, 13.0% D, #594200 $12.95 (Tasted January 5, 2010) CS

My notes: A General listing. The 2007 vintage was tasted on September 29, 2008 with a Ww89 rating and the comment “An elegant sipper not exposing a strong fruit leaning.” The 2008 is a buttery gold with a nose of banana, grapefruit and nippy citrus. A swirl shows a firm film that recedes ever so slowly - negligible legs. The first sip is smooth with a lemon-lime and some buttery melon flavouring and a long dry finish - no detectable sweetness. An interesting sipper - I would say unusual. Better to have with bacon wrapped scallops or grilled telapia, crab legs dipped in butter or fishcakes. I don’t think this will cellar beyond a year.  91

KATNOOK ( Map It! ) FOUNDER'S BLOCK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006, Coonawara, Australia, 13.5% D, #620070 $17.95 (Tasted January 14, 2010) CS

My notes: A General listing last tasted November 15, 2008 and rated Ww88 with the recommendation to “cellar up to five years.” Air for an hour or aerate before serving and this will have an alluring aroma something between currant and floral. A deep black cherry colour, grey cast and flavours of blackberry and faint cedar well layered with fine tannins leaving a dryness to the palate that lasts to a light berry bramble. Well balanced, medium-bodied, dry, good as a sipper part way to old world. Have with grilled rib-eye or T-bone. Not much to gain by cellaring and perhaps close to a decline. 88 

KATNOOK ( Map It! ) FOUNDER'S BLOCK MERLOT 2004, Coonawara, Australia, 13.5% D, #141267 $16.95 (Tasted January 8, 2010) CS

A Vintages release on November 7, 2009 rated 88/100 and described by James Halliday (March 2007) as “A fine wine to enjoy with meat lasagna. Fresh, with some savoury/minty overtones to small berry fruits; fine tannins. Drink [until] 2012.” My notes: From the Wingara Wine Group. Cellaring 4-6 years was suggested for this wine and now has a ruby cast with an adobe edge suggesting this could be in to a 2nd year of decline. The nose is of red currants on burnt toast, a tad sharp but not unpleasant. On the first sip the fruit is no longer fresh being more of a unsweetened jam compote on the brambly side, medium-bodied, smooth with drying tannins and prominent acid ending warm and dry with cherry pit and leather tones. Not a sipper for a social crowd but could be passable with a T-bone or grilled ribs. If marked up to $48 in a restaurant I’d send it back.  76

PERRIN ( Map It! ) RÉSERVE CÔTES DU RHÔNE ROUGE 2007, Rhône, France, 13.0% D, #363457 $14.95 (Tasted January 31, 2010) CS

My notes: A Vintages release and last tasted on November 26, 2008 with a Ww91 rating and the comment ‘If you like European style this is a value.” A strawberry glow with a pinkish rim and faint aromas of cherry berry jam starts this in the right direction for a sipper. A swirl gives a thin film with a full ring of slow tears. Smooth, a lightish medium-body and fine tannins with flavours of cherries, a forest floor touch and long finish slightly minty on the tongue. Polite even interesting as a sipper but was too light in flavour and spice with prime rib, maybe better with a ham steak. Now, similar to the 2006 vintage. Not for cellaring.  84

PÉREZ CRUZ ( Map It! ) CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVA 2007, Maipo Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #694208 $14.95 (Tasted February 11, 2010) CS

My notes: The second Vintages Release on October 10, 2009 of this vintage the previous being in May, 2009. The 2006 I rated 94 in November 2008, quite a turnaround from the same vintage tasted a year earlier (an 88). The 2007 in the May 2009 Release was rated 80. Spending time in the bottle seems to help this blend of cabernet sauvignon, and bits of merlot, carmenère and/or syrah depending on the year. The 2008 has a light nose of black cherry, a taint of floral and of humidor. The colour is a deep ruby purple hued and the first sip comes across as a rough, tart bramble and sour cherry. Fine tannins coat the palate drying the roof and continuing into a long tart, woody finish. It mellows somewhat with another sip but it never achieves a 'sipper' - rather it’s a grilled steak or rib red, very bright with sufficient acids to cut any fats. Cellaring several years may not mellow out firm acids and there’s not enough fruit to carry it - a ‘consume now’. 80

BELLINGHAM SHIRAZ/VIOGNIER 2006, Coastal Region, South Africa, 14.5% D, #554360 $13.95 (Tasted January 26, 2010) CS

My notes: A General listing. Tasted the 2005 vintage (Ww87) in 11/2008 advising “With only 2% Viognier for softening, the shiraz … may have significant roughness. … Cellar at least two years for best value.” Let breathe for thirty minutes minimum for an unusual, lightly fragrant cherry blossom and pepper nose, ruby coloured with lots of tears on the first swirl. The first sip is thin, drying the palate adding flavours of sour cherry, lemon and brambly blueberry - not a sipper. The finish confirms this carrying the odd flavours to a slightly mineral, chalk dry ending. Have with grilled steaks, spaghetti and meatballs/chorizo sausage pieces. Would likely cellar for a few years to remove high tannins but not improve overall.  75 

MUGA ( Map It! ) RESERVA RIOJA 2005, Rioja, Spain, 13.0% D, #177345 $24.95 (Tasted February 5, 2010) CS

A Vintages release on November 21, 2009 rated 90/100 and described by Jay Miller  (June 2009) as “The purple-colored 2005 Muga Reserva, a blend of 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, and the balance Mazuelo and Graciano ... delivers an alluring nose of cedar, tobacco, earth notes, mineral, and black cherry. This is followed by an elegant wine with good depth and enough ripe tannin to evolve for several years. Nicely balanced and long in the finish, it will be at its best from 2012 to 2020 if not longer.” My notes: An unusual flavouring of tobacco and stewed plum that evolves eventually to a delicate earthy humidor. Pairing with osso bucco or a slow simmered lamb shank would be ideal. Dry, fine tannins and an oak influence says this may not be for a mixed crowd - save for the Rioja guests who would appreciate the price. The colour is a ruby with a Garnacha hue, pinkish at the rim and there is a slight aroma of cherry blossoms and forest floor - but let air for 30 minutes or aerate. Rather than drink now cellar for two years. 90

TERRA D'ALIGI MONTEPULCIANO D'ABRUZZO ( Map It! ) 2007, Abruzzo, Italy, 13.0% D, #028530 $11.95 (Tasted February 2, 2010) CS

General listing described anonymously (undated) as “Dark garnet in colour, it shows intense aromas of stewed black cherry, violet and sour cherry. Medium to full-bodied, fruit-forward, somewhat earthy and ripe, it ends with sour cherry and leather tones. Serve with veal stew, grilled red meat.” My notes: A General listing and a vintage later than the Book. 100% Montepulciano and aged 12 months in Slavonia barrels. There’s a purple tint to deep black cherry skin red and warm aromas of spicy cherries and an earthy fragrance. A thin film with fast legs then a sip of hazel nut edged cherries. A good tannic bite with leather and liquorice, not strong but enough to add interest as fruit flavours evolve on the palate. A long flavourful, dry finish. Sip with Lindt milk chocolate balls or pair with tomato pastas, veal parmigiana or grilled lamb chops in a red wine gravy. This should cellar a few years well. 93

FARNESE ( Map It! ) ‘CASALE VECCHIO’ MONTEPULCIANO 2008, Abruzzo, Italy, 13.5% D, #612788 $9.95 (Tasted February 16, 2010) CS

My notes: A General listing and a toonie less than the 2007 and 2006. In October 2007 the 2006 vintage was rated Ww85 noting “A reasonable sipper perhaps flattening in texture and flavours more quickly than anticipated…”  The 2008 has a royal ruby glow, deep and attractive in the glass. The nose is muted blackberry, some earth and spice, politely nippy on the senses. The film is firm with slow tears and the first sip is smooth, with a minty berry riding on fine tannins and spice. An interesting sipper if not a tad earthy at the end leaving a tinge of woody bramble as well that would disappear with spaghetti and meatballs or marinated sirloin chunks fired over hot coals. Cellar for up to a year - primarily a drink now.  88

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