Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lost Bottles? - postscripted January 24, 2010

Lost bottles… I’m talking about the ones that show up during a search of Outlet inventory ( when you're looking for that elusive bottle rated in the nineties and priced under $20. The one you've decided to cellar. The one you've phoned several Outlets inquiring about and waited for some kind soul to confirm whether the ‘orphan’ actually lives there only to hear the answer, ‘Sorry, We’re not able to find that bottle. It appears to be lost.’

Occasionally I’ve heard the unmistakable sound of glass breaking on a trip to an Outlet. A shopping cart or basket has knocked a display or shelf. Red faced, the customer sees all eyes focussed on a moment of carelessness, the time when a bottle becomes ’lost’. I guess orphans can happen when a bottle is used for tasting by the Staff to nominate a ‘Staff Choice’ - or perhaps a carrier has a mishap loading cartons from dock to backroom storage or an unnoticed bottle remains on the truck. Bottles could go missing if used at a culinary class. I would assume each of these incidents is coded somehow and deducted from inventory. I’m not talking about the ones still on the books waiting for LCBO staff to discount and put in a Sale Bin. And there are likely other legitimate reasons for a bottle to go AWOL.

Being naturally curious and not having much to do now that my season’s shopping is complete, presents are in Stockings or under the Tree, just waiting for the flurry on the 25th undoing hours of meticulous paper cutting, taping and labelling, I did a count of single bottles in Vintages last Release, December 5th. As of December 24th the total number of singles in all Outlets was 1,059. This includes 49 spirits and fortified wines, 286 whites and 724 reds.

Maybe it's that bottle waiting for you or I to call to have put aside. On the other hand with more than 20 Releases a year, when all of the legitimate ‘missings’ are accounted for, are the ‘orphans’ eventually written off as MIAs and what is the cost? It would be interesting to know the statistics on 'lost bottles'…
Cheers,  Ww

PS. As a followup I did a recount of single bottles of the December 5th Release in LCBO inventory as of January 24, 2010. The total number of singles was 952 including 55 spirits and fortifieds, 266 whites and 631 reds.  Ww

Friday, December 04, 2009

25 Top LCBO Picks, Promo 2009

The following lists the eleven wines in LCBO’s 25 Top Picks For The Holidays (the season‘s best products) Promo. Of the 11, 7 were within my budget and of these I found Tasting Notes for 6, although not necessarily the same vintage, by using the Search app at the Sidebar:
  • Folonari Chianti 2007, #140020, $13.95
  • Fuzion Alta Malbec 2008, #135475, $9.95
  • E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2005, #259721, $17.75
  • Ganton & Larsen Chard, #092926, $14.95
  • Stoneleigh Sauv Blanc 2008, #293043, $14.95
  • Pascual Toso Merlot 2007, #035188, $11.95
  • Cookoothama Chard 2007, #619403, $13.95
  • Cantina Di Negrar Amarone 2006, #044784, $34.95
  • Cuvee Catharine Rose Brut, #004051, $29.95
  • Pol Roger Champagne, #051953, $58.80
  • Dom Perignon Champagne 2000, #280461, $219.95
I haven’t had the Folonari Chianti before so I`ll try that - tasting notes will be included in the December 2009 Wines blog. The following lists my almost25 Top Picks: reds, whites and bubblies from previous tastings as recommendations for the holidays. All but the bubblies are from the General shelves and all were available at time of posting, but check the vintages. If you try any and like them, THANKS for having faith. If you don’t like the ones you try, IT’S CHRISTMAS - BE KIND. Cheers, Ww

Ww Recommendations for the Holidays

  1. Familia Zuccardi Fuzion Alta Reserve Malbec 2008, Mendoza, Argentina, #135475 $9.95
  2. Familia Zuccardi Fuzion Organic Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina, #127456 $12.95
  3. Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2007, Tupungato, Argentina, #620880 $13.95
  4. Malivoire Red 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Ontario, #141523 $14.95
  5. Masi Campofiorin ‘Rosso del Veronese’ 2006, Veneto, Italy, #155051 $17.45
  6. Konzelmann Pinot Noir Spaetburgunder 2006 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, #200584 $12.70
  7. No. 99 Wayne Gretzky Estates Merlot 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Vineland, Canada, #063966 $15.95
  8. Cave Spring Gamay 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Jordan, Canada, #228569 $12.95
  9. Osborne Dominio de Malpica Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Castilla, Spain, #032011 $12.95 
  1. Malivoire White 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Beamsville, Ontario, #141531 $14.95
  2. Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Marlborough, NZ, #426601 $14.95
  3. Brancott Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007, Marlborough, NZ, #129528 $14.95
  4. Ridgepoint Wines Medium Dry Riesling 2008 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Vineland, Ontario, #088864 $15.00
  5. MontGras Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2007, San Antonio Valley, Chile, #058362 $9.95
  6. Konzelmann Pinot Blanc Weissburgunder 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, #219279 $10.95
  7. Malivoire Chardonnay 2007 VQA Niagara Escarpment, Beamsville, Ontario, #573147 $19.95
  8. Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery ‘Census Count’ Chardonnay 2006 VQA, Okanagan Valley, Canada, #092296 $14.95
  9. Beringer Founders Estate Pinot Grigio 2006, California, USA, #045641 $17.95
  10. Palatine Hills Gewürztraminer VQA Niagara Lakeshore 2006, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, #101493 $13.95  
And bubblies (all but one are Vintages releases):
  1. Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine NV , California, USA, #100693 $23.95
  2. Tenuta S. Anna Cuvée Rosé Brut NV , Veneto, Italy, #126300 $15.95
  3. Codorniu Pinot Noir Rosé Brut Cava NV, Penedès, Spain, #665372 $16.95
  4. Castillo Perelada Reserva Brut Cava NV, Penedès, Spain, #114488 $15.25
  5. Château des Charmes Estate Bottled Sparkling Wine NV VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, G, Beamsville, Ontario, #145409 $22.95

Thursday, December 03, 2009

December 2009 Wines: 20 Tasted of 20

Snow on Saltspring '93
Most picked by chance… and some recommendations..

A guest recently offered me a gift I couldn’t refuse, Jancis Robinson’s Guide to Wine Grapes. I’m not one to dig into family histories of any wineries local or foreign but a reference guide to over 800 grape varieties, their individual characteristics that show in the final product and I’m all set for several evening readings. Everyone has their buttons and mine got pressed.
Cheers, Ww
  • Irony Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, 94-3 -- V, Napa Valley, USA, #025106 $19.95
  • Domaine Grand Veneur ‘Les Champauvins’ Côtes Du Rhône-Villages 2007, 92-2 -- V, Rhône, France, #076331 $19.95
  • George Wyndham Founder’s Reserve Shiraz 2005, 92-2 -- V, South Australia, #107904 $22.95*
  • Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenère 2007, 90-2 -- V, Rapel Valley, Chile, #034942 $19.95 (g) 
  • Cave Spring Select Late Harvest Cabernet 2005 VQA Beamsville Bench, 90-1 -- V, Niagara, Canada, #630244 $21.95 375mL
  • Stoneleigh Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007, 88-1 -- G, Marlborough, NZ, #054353 $19.95
  • Konzelmann Shiraz Barrel Aged 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 87-1 -- G, NOTL, Ontario, #144857 $12.95
  • Folonari Chianti DOCG 2007, 87-1 -- G, Tuscany, Italy, #140020 $13.95
  • Errazuriz ‘Wild Ferment’ Pinot Noir 2008, 85 -- V, Casablanca Valley, Chile, #510396 $18.95
  • George Wyndham Founder’s Reserve Shiraz Tempranillo 2007, 85 -- V, Barossa, Australia, #132811* $17.00*
  • Graffigna Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, 82 -- V, San Juan, Argentina, #060202 $17.95
  • Da Luca Primitivo Merlot ‘Tarantino IGT’ 2006, 81 -- G, Puglia, Italy, #588970 $10.35
  • Gray Monk Pinot Noir 2007 VQA Okanagan Valley, 80 -- V, Okanagan, BC, #060491 $17.95
  • Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery Shiraz 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 75 -- G, Beamsville, Ontario, #070052 $14.95

  • Hugo Grüner Veltliner 2008, 91-3 -- V, Niederosterreich, Austria, #641506 $13.95
  • Wolf Blass ‘Gold Label’ Sparkling Pinot Noir/ Chardonnay 2005, 88-1 -- V, South Australia, #606285 $19.95
  • Belcanto di Bellussi Extra Dry Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOC NV, 86 -- V, Valdobbiadene, Italy, #053215 $17.95
  • Santa Margherita Brut Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOC NV, 84 -- V, Valdobbiadiene, Italy, #687582 $17.95
  • Pillitteri Gewurztraminer Riesling ‘Fusion’ 2008 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, 84 -- G, NOTL, Ontario, #034912 $12.95
  • Konzelmann Riesling 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 84 -- G, NOTL, Ontario, #200501 $11.95
(G - General listing, V – Vintages, * - see Tasting Notes, O - Other, g - gift, r-v - Rating-Value)


STONELEIGH MARLBOROUGH PINOT NOIR 2007, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% D, #054353 $19.95 (Retasted December 5, 2009) CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as “Pale ruby colour; aromas of cherries, tobacco, and violets; dry, medium-bodied, soft tannins, flavours of strawberry, mineral, and oak spice. Perfect match with grilled salmon steaks.” My notes: This vintage was first tasted in April 2008 and then in February this year. The nose is a warm blend of cherry and strawberry fruit and floral with earthier aromas deep in the bowl. A dusty ruby colour and a light film receding slowly with tears forming evenly around the rim. Silky, tangy, drying, spicy all could describe the first sip. Medium-bodied with flavours that follow the nose finishing long and softly minty. Delicate fruit with a breadth of character makes this an interesting sipper. Have cooled slightly with a salmon steak or planked, seasoned crab cakes and béchamel sauce or lobster pieces. A pleasing drink now.  88

IRONY CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2005, Napa Valley, USA, 14.5% D, #025106 $19.95 (Tasted December 4, 2009) CS

A Vintages release on November 21, 2009 described anonymously (undated) as “We are not being ironic when we tell you that this may be Napa Valley's best bargain. Winner of a Silver Medal at the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, this delightful Cabernet is designed for everyday enjoyment. Look for blackberry and red berry fruits as well as hints of floral and mint characteristics in this charming, well-balanced red. Serve it alongside homemade beef stew or rare roast beef.” My notes: A rich ruby colour with a swirl causing a thin film receding evenly adding a few fast tears. Nicely tart, silky smooth, mouth drying fine tannins and fruit balanced with luscious blackberries, some currants going into a long warm finish. This the quintessential beef red: ribs, steaks, tenderloin, flavourful stews, etc. The spicy black currant aroma adds more interest for an exceptional sipper. Cellaring four years or more should be OK.  94

PENINSULA RIDGE ESTATES (Map It!) WINERY SHIRAZ 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Beamsville, Ontario, 12.5% D, #070052 $14.95 (Tasted December 15, 2009) CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as “Deep ruby red. Classic aromas of spice, white pepper, plum and raisin. Full bodied and elegant, showing plum puree, spice and blackberry flavours. A long and savoury finish. Serve with game meats, stews.” My notes: This has a bright cherry glow and the aroma has a faint jammy raspberry/strawberry scent after decanting - an open bottle had less ‘bubble gum’ effect next day. I could not discern a characteristic shiraz spice and the flavour is a mild sour cherry/strawberry finishing subdued with faint tannin and tartness added. Light in texture and body and having little of interest as a red sipper and difficult to determine a food match - perhaps buttered popcorn. Not for cellaring. 75

FOLONARI CHIANTI DOCG 2007, Tuscany, Italy, 12.5% D, #140020 $13.95 (Tasted December 10, 2009) CS

A General listing described in the 25 Top LCBO Picks for the Holidays Promo as “… the Folonari’s family’s quintessential Chianti is full-bodied and meant for food…. Italian food!” My notes: A regal ruby and nose that has the warmth of sun drenched berries tinged with earth. An even film with long slow legs, the first sip is silky with a respectable acid and fine tannins. Cherries and cherry stone flavours stretch through a moderate finish ending on a mineral note. A dry, medium-bodied, tangy sipper and, more appropriately, with a meal of tomato sauces, Italian meats and pastas. A drink now and for cellaring a year. 87

ERRAZURIZ WILD FERMENT PINOT NOIR 2008, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 14.0% XD, #510396 $18.95 (Tasted December 21, 2009) CS

A Vintages release on December 5, 2009 described anonymously (undated) as “Wild ferment refers to the wild airborne yeasts that are naturally present on grapes in the vineyard which, according to some, create a more dramatic flavour profile during fermentation than the more conventional cultivated yeasts available. This wine shows brightly attractive cherry and raspberry fruit accented by floral and smoke notes, leading to a crisp, lengthy finish.” My notes:This has an earthy scent of floral and soft fruit, blossoms and berries, and a reasonable film with fast tears. There’s a blueberry hue giving the ruby colour a darker tint and flavours of red berry balanced with a firm tang and slight touch of fine tannins. The finish is extra dry, somewhat woody making this an interesting sipper as well as a milder taste with prime rib or sweet Italian sausage slices and tomato pasta - also have with planked salmon or a ham steak. Cellaring is short term.  85

HUGO GRÜNER VELTLINER 2008, Niederosterreich, Austria, 12.0% XD, #641506 $13.95 (Tasted December 7, 2009) CS

A Vintages release on December 5, 2009 described anonymously (undated) as “ … has become the white wine of choice amongst the smart set in Ontario. Grüner is known for producing quite aromatic and fruity wine with a vibrant, crisp acidity and spicy undertone. Huber's 'Hugo' was launched with the 2003 vintage... Enjoy with spiced seafood or chicken paprika.” My notes: Fruit blossom floral nose and crisp and clean in the glass makes this attractive for starters. Round but dry on the palate and delicate apple, melon flavours sets this apart from other grape varieties. Plus dry without being overly acidic for a fairly long finish ending with an interesting green grapefruit edge, simple yet different. Went well with sushi and sashimi maki with tamari, grilled halibut and tiger shrimp. An unusual sipper now or cellar for a few years.  91

WOLF BLASS ‘GOLD LABEL’ SPARKLING PINOT NOIR/CHARDONNAY 2005, South Australia, 12.0% D, #606285 $19.95 (Tasted December 7, 2009) CS

A Vintages release on December 5, 2009 described by Daenna Van Mulligan  (July 2009) as “This delicious sparkler is made from Pinot Noir with 30% Chardonnay. It is a rich and moussey bubbly that expresses leesy aromas with plenty of honey and crushed floral, red berries and nectarine with talc and straw undertones. The palate has a kiss of berry sweetness, a creamy edge with a bright citric core. Crisp and fresh!” My notes: A Foster'S Wine Estates Americas product. A light golden colour, a burst of large bubbles at first quickly subsiding into fewer fast streams. I didn’t get ‘moussey’ and there's no rim of froth. The carbonation sharpness fills a flute glass giving way to a lemon tang and slight yeast aromas. The first gulp is full with an accompanying lemon flavouring and just a touch of stone fruit. A prominent spritz and fuller lemon acid leads to a crisp, fresh finish. Have with fresh oysters or cut with orange juice for a morning starter. If you like fresh citric tartness this is it. 88

GRAY MONK PINOT NOIR 2007 VQA Okanagan Valley, Okanagan, BC, 12.5% D, #060491 $17.95 (Tasted December 7, 2009) CS

A Vintages release on December 5, 2009 described anonymously (undated) as “Gray Monk produces a delicate, fresh, fruity and remarkably ripe Pinot Noir year after year. Its fruit is perfectly complemented by crisp acidity which imparts a refreshing, clean quality to the wine and makes it very well designed for food. Match it to a stuffed roast chicken or grilled salmon steaks.” My notes: The colour of ripe strawberries and a soft, floral scent of strawberries warming up as the nose hits the bowl, just perceptible. There’s a few slow tears from a thin film and the silky touch of faint bramble and red cherries left to be carried by drying tannins and tangy thread. Not much there to be interesting and the subtleties could be lost with a meal. Serve slightly chilled - did not pair well with mild stuffed pork tenderloin and green beans - perhaps better with Arctic Char or Lake Trout. A lightish medium-bodied drink now. 80

DOMAINE GRAND VENEUR ‘LES CHAMPAUVINS’ CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2007, Rhône, France, 15.0% XD, #076331 $19.95 (Tasted December 16, 2009) CS

A Vintages release on December 5, 2009 rated 91/100 and described by Robert Parker Jr. (June 2009) as “Impressive, with slightly more complexity, muscle, and depth, is the 2007 Côtes du Rhône-Villages Champauvins. A more spice-driven, fuller-bodied, earthier effort, it is a rich, well-balanced, full-throttle Côtes du Rhône that demonstrates the heights of quality that were attainable in 2007.” My notes: A purple tint to a ruby red, deep but not opaque, and floral aromas mixed with cherries and plums - an alluring sipper. An even film with slow tears, medium-bodied, silky with earthy flavours that mystify followed by a balanced finish that declines dryly on the earthy side. Lots of interest as a European drink now and would complement a prime rib roast or pork tenderloin. Two to five year cellaring should be OK.  92

CAVE SPRING (Map It!) SELECT LATE HARVEST CABERNET 2005 VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada, 12.0% MS, #630244 $21.95 375mL (Tasted December 23, 2009)

My notes: Released by Vintages on December 9th, 2006, tasted then and retasted in June 2007. The Winery had suggested for best tasting drink in the first 3 years. In 2006 it was a “peachy red see-through with a lightly honeyed strawberry nose….”. Now the colour is a clear sunburned peach and the nose has a honeyed, crushed strawberry scent with a touch of spice. The film is firm gradually receding without noticeable tearing. The flavour is a blend of cranberry and sweet strawberry with an appealing acid tang that continues for a moderately long finish. Sweet but not overly, have as a starter with finger foods or as an after dinner treat. Likely at peak and may decline slowly with longer cellaring. 90
SANTA CAROLINA RESERVA DE FAMILIA CARMENÈRE 2007, Rapel Valley, Chile, 14.5% D, #034942 $19.95 (Tasted December 17, 2009)

A Vintages release on November 21, 2009 rated 91/100 and described by Michael Schachner (Wine Enthusiast, May 2009) as “… [2007 is] vastly improved from what the winery has done for the past two decades. This wine -- along with the… Cabernet Sauvignon -- show immense color and fruit, but also balance, structure and a friendliness that can't be mass produced. This wine is loaded with cassis, cherry, cola, mint, toast and bacon. And for [its price] you'd be hard-pressed to find a better, more complete red from anywhere in the world… ” My notes: A deep ruby with warm aromas of blackberry, mahogany and white pepper. Along with strong tannins there‘s a good nip and an oak core leading to long spicy flavours on top of ripe fruit - a sipper for those preferring ‘bold and bright‘. This needs a pepper steak, a Texas chili (all meat and chilli peppers) or a cheesy pepperoni, bacon, jalapenos and garlic pizza. Cellaring for several years should tame the tannins and produce a gem. 90   Postscript: The empty bottle has twice the weight of most: 2.2lbs or a full Kilo.

KONZELMANN (Map It!) SHIRAZ BARREL AGED 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, NOTL, Ontario, 13.0% D, #144857 $12.95 (Tasted December 21, 2009) CS

A General listing described by their website as “Aged 10 months in small French Oak casks this wine has hints of plum and raspberries and background flavours of marjoram, cracked black pepper and a hint of anise on the nose.” My notes: The colour of a black cherry skin and subdued aromas of chocolate and blueberry deep in the bowl with a swirl bringing a thin film and fast tears. The first sip has an even blend of blueberries, leather, a light citrus tang and a touch of pepper. The finish is drying, evenly balanced carrying mild flavours well. A social sipper or have with dark fowl or baked potatoes stuffed with chives and ground beef.  87

KONZELMANN (Map It!) RIESLING 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, NOTL, Ontario, 12.0% D, #200501 $11.95 (Tasted December 11, 2009) CS

A General listing described by their website as “A wonderful, fresh, lime fruit taste with a hint of Clementine richness immediately hitting the palate. This Niagara Riesling is an excellent, crisp drinking wine with good round acidity making it a wine well suited to a wide range of foods.” My notes: This has a pale gold colour and delicate scent of lanolin and lime, a thin film with no tears then a light-bodied whisper of lime and lemon flavours. The finish is long, dry and builds following the nose ending with some clay and mineral tone. An interesting terroir making this riesling interesting for a short while. Better to have with fried or grilled fishes, a creamy mushroom pasta dish, a tray of mild cheeses or bowl of asparagus and cilantro soup. 84

PILLITTERI (Map It!) GEWURZTRAMINER RIESLING ‘Fusion’ 2008 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, NOTL, Ontario, 12.0% MD, #349126 $12.95 (Tasted December 11, 2009) CS

A General listing described on their website as “A blend comprising of 54% Gewurztraminer and 45% Reisling, with a dosage of 1% Riesling Icewine. Rich in pot-pourri and cantaloupe with hints of wet stone and slight flint. The splash of Icewine rounds out a zesty acidity brilliantly. Will pair exceptionally well with Thai or curry dishes, fish and pork. My notes: The music CD shown is a collection of songs by Dominic Mancuso. This blend of whites has a soft blond colour and a scent of pineapple and green apple. A moderate sweetness offsets flavours of stone fruit with a tart seam and a bitter edge flows through to the finish. Not a sipper but would have much to offer with flavourful Thai, a mixed bento box or a Chinese dim sum - was great with fish and chips.  84

DA LUCA PRIMITIVO MERLOT ‘TARANTINO IGT’ 2006, Puglia, Italy, 14.0% D, #588970 $10.35 (Tasted December 28, 2009) CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as “Red garnet colour; aromas of toast, chocolate, sweet plum, dried fruit, coffee bean and black cherry; dry, medium to full bodied, with rich fruity mid-palate, mild/silky tannins, good acidity; medium to long finish. Serve with gourmet pizza, grilled meats or rich pastas.” My notes: A deep violet ruby with tears forming quickly from a firm film. Let this air for thirty minutes for a nose that is light and a combination of phenolic tones and dried berries. A first sip is smooth, bright, a light cherry jam and burnt toast flavouring. Medium-bodied, the finish dries the palate while remnants of fruit shift to leather then a light charring. Texture is interesting but something - I’d call it 'lightly charred liquorice' - in the finish puts me off. Have with pasta dishes or slow cooked lamb shanks.  81

GEORGE WYNDHAM SHIRAZ 2005 & SHIRAZ/ TEMPRANILLO 2007 GIFT PACK, Adelaide, Australia, #132811 $39.95 CS

The Gift Pack was released by Vintages on October 24, 2009 and puts a classic Shiraz together with a Spanish influenced blend of Shiraz/Tempranillo. My notes: Wyndham seems to put together an excellent Gift box. The last tasted was December 6, 2007: the Show Reserve 2003 (Ww92) and Bin 555 2004 (#189415, Ww90) a duo for $35.95 (#049692). By the Medals won this appears to be another.

GEORGE WYNDHAM FOUNDER'S RESERVE SHIRAZ 2005, South Australia, 14.5% D, #107904 $22.95* (Tasted December 13, 2009) CS

Released separately by Vintages on August 15, 2009 described as “Big, rich and creamy with a minty fragrance, toasted French and American oak and brooding chocolate, [nougat], pepper and tar.” My notes: Among the seven Gold Medals on the front label are the 2008 National Wine Show of Australia, the 2009 Monde Selection International Wine Contest in Brussels and the New Zealand International Wine Show, 2008. Decant or aerate for best tasting. The rich ruby of ripe black cherries with a slowly receding film and a few slow tears precedes a peppery edge to muted aromas of cherries and touch of floral. Full-bodied and touches the tongue brightly followed by drying tannins, a seam of mint, blackberry and black olive. The depth of flavours calls for continued sips to isolate those going into the long, warm finish. Have with rack of lamb, a beef Wellington or T-bone. For new-world, drink now: for old-world, cellar up to five years - either way a super libation. 92

GEORGE WYNDHAM FOUNDER'S RESERVE SHIRAZ TEMPRANILLO 2007, Barossa, Australia, 13.5% D, #n/a $17.00* (Tasted December 13, 2009) CS

Sourced from Adelaide Hills and Barossa Valley fruit… is a rich, full-bodied wine showing intense berry fruit flavours and a hint of pepper. A blend of 70% Shiraz and 30% Tempranillo from select parcels of wine showing concentrated berry characters with balanced structure and complexity… has already picked up a gold medal at this year’s Sydney International Wine Challenge. My notes: Currently available only in the Gift Pack and, given the price of the Shiraz (#107904), would be $17.00 if sold separately. Aeration not needed here. This has a deep raspberry colour, not the bright red of summer fruit, and aromas of a blue- and rasp-berry blend. The film is thinner with a few tears. Medium-bodied, a subdued spiciness and a harder first sip with a long, intense fruit follow through, finishing tangy, drying with a tinge of liquorice. A social sipper and a light hearted expression of the blend. Have with pork tenderloin, turkey or veal parmigiana. A drink now - I‘d try a year at a time if cellaring.  85

BELCANTO DI BELLUSSI EXTRA DRY PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE DOC NV, Valdobbiadene, Italy, 11.5% XD, #053215 $17.95 (Tasted December 26, 2009) CS

A Vintages release on October 10, 2009 described by Virginia Philip (July 2007) as “With next year's releases, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene will be elevated from DOC to the higher DOCG designation. As a result, the zone will be more tightly demarcated, the yields will be slightly reduced and the rules will prevent any other region from using Prosecco in their name. Clean and crisp, floral and apple notes, very good quality, medium+ balance and persistence. Nicely balanced wine. My notes: This bubbly has moved to Vintages from General since last tasted on November 4th 2007 (Ww91) noting ‘a balance between natural fruit sugars and tart apple flavour makes sipping a pleasure’. Now $2 less - there’s a profusion of large bubbles on pouring with a yeasty, light lime scented and mineral edged nose that carries through to the first sip. The spritz is firm and there’s a clean lime and crushed tangerine seed flavour. The finish is extra dry with crushed seeds carrying to the long end. OK but not that interesting as a sipper. Have with fresh oysters, Italian prosciutto or a creamy cheese tray. Not as sweet, not as creamy and without the apple or pear as in earlier tastings.  86

SANTA MARGHERITA BRUT PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE DOC NV, Valdobbiadiene, Italy, 11.5% XD, #687582 $17.95 (Tasted December 20, 2009) CS

Released by Vintages on December 5, 2009 rated 88/100 and described by Monica Larner (June 2006) as “Here's a Prosecco with a surprisingly rich, toasted quality that translates into roasted almond, walnut and yellow fruit flavors. The toasted notes add unexpected complexity to a dry, crisp apéritif wine. My notes: It’s been awhile (2006) since I’ve tasted this Prosecco. Jeff Davis (Wine Access, May 27th 2006) had rated it 87/100. I noted ‘a pleasant lemon birthday cake aroma with flavours of light lemon-lime, grapefruit seed, and a yeasty creaminess’. For this release there’s the familiar burst of various sized bubbles on pouring, mostly large, then a few continuous streams leading to the rim. A delicate scent of lemon cake icing at the top with a carbonated note deeper in the glass. Light flavours of vanilla, tangy lime-lemon and tangerine are followed by a flat pithy layer. Refreshing with a lasting cream and except for the pithy note this would be an acceptable sipper. Better with appetizers: crab cakes, fresh oysters or stuffed mushrooms. A commercial drink now that may not appeal to everyone. 84

GRAFFIGNA GRAND RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006, San Juan, Argentina, 14.5% D, #060202  $17.95  (Tasted December 23, 2009)  CS

Released by Vintages on December 5, 2009 described by the Vintages panel (June 2009) as “There's more to Argentina than Malbec as this refined Cabernet proves. Opaque, almost black in colour, it displays aromas of violets, cassis, blueberry with hints of earth and coffee. It's dry, full bodied with the aromas replaying on the palate as well as a note of blackberries. This shows excellent varietal character and can be best appreciated any time over the next 2-3 years alongside braised beef short ribs or roast leg of lamb with garlic and rosemary.“ My notes: I rated the 2005 Ww90 on March 4th of this year. This has the colour of black cherry skins with a pink rim and a soft nose of plums and earth. Fine tannins dry the palate while a bright cherry-berry provides flavour. The finish is long, 14.5% warmth, dry as chalk and a cinnamon note. The rough edges make for a select audience, not for all. Varietal character? yes, altho' I guess vines were young or clusters were mixed ripe and unripe. Not a sipper, have with ribs or tomato pastas or pizzas. Cellaring up to four years could smooth textures but at the expense of existing limited fruit.  82