Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wine Country Ontario

What this Promo asks of you is to ‘share the classic “cool climate” traits of complexity, elegance and, best of all, super food-friendliness’ of Ontario wines. That’s Shari Mogk-Edwards’, head buyer for LCBO Wines, Beers & Spirits, proposal in the goLOCAL glossy delivered to my door this morning, the 5th in this year’s series of goLOCAL promotions.

Marketing is a strange craft where normal language is put aside for extravagant, often challenging, statements. “Try our product. It removes hair growth you’ll have some day!!!”  Everyone expects chutzpah in today’s sales media. It’s not a 'CBC documentary' …. more like 'FOX North'.
Checking out the goLOCAL website I suggest skipping over the introductory paragraphs and Dalton’s scripted video. The remaining sections of the Promo are well packaged as well as fully packed with something for everyone. It seems the LCBO has discovered a treasure in their own backyard but consumers need the right incentives to reach the full potential. Listening to many convincing offshore and local enthusiasts of Ontario wines our Liquor Control monopoly could very well be investing more in the home market.  

Is their message getting out?  For instance from the goLOCAL website you can :
  • Find the schedule for VQA wine tastings at LCBO outlets across Ontario?
  • Discover when Virtual Tastings are planned - one is scheduled for Wednesday Sept 29th. (The wines for tasting are asterisked below.)
  • See a list of the Restaurants in Ontario that 'feature' Ontario VQA wines? Although I recommend you check out their wine list to confirm their commitment to goLOCAL before reserving. (The website is shown for each restaurant)
Check out the goLOCAL blog for daily winery visits and interviews, and follow the dialogue on Twitter (#LCBOgolocal).  
You too may be motivated to taste an Ontario VQA wine…
The wines represented in this month‘s Promo are:
  • Inniskillin Oak Aged Chardonnay 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula, #317768 $14.95
  • *Rosehall Run Chardonnay Sur Lie 2009 VQA Ontario, #111914 $14.95
  • *No, 99 Wayne Gretsky Estates Riesling 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, #144865 $14.95
  • *Cave Spring Rosé 2009 VQ Niagara Escarpment, #295006 $13.95
  • *Henry of Pelham Family Estate Baco Noir 2008,  #270926 $13.95
  • OPEN Riesling-Gewurztraminer 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula, #134965 $11.95
  • Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series Cabernet-Shiraz 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, #074062 $13.95
I’ll have my own selection of VQA wines as part of an October lineup. Check it out here on Friday.
Cheers, Ww

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September 2010 Wines: 23 Tasted of 23

This is the lineup for this month.  You may notice several 2009 vintage reds from the south of France. Suppose to be a good year - if so, the price is right. Find a bottle and taste along with me - then let me know what you think.  Also you may notice a new parameter added to Ww Ratings. V1/2/3 represents Value level and is defined in the Side Panel.  Cheers, Ww

Comments: the Southwest France reds -- with prices close to or below the $10 level on the most part it's difficult not to value these very presentable wines. No flash, no bling or otherwise 'attitude' - just a reasonable return for your purchase. The 2007 Chakana Malbec has been an excellent value - developing depth while retaining balance as a sipper and meal red. How can countries without weather favourable to reds ever compete at $13.95?  ... and tasty Niagara grapes are now at Longos market.  Ww
  • Chakana ‘Andean Wines’ Malbec 2007, 92-3  --  V, Mendoza, Argentina, #003509  $13.95 
  • Collin-Bourisset les Terres Bleues Côte de Brouilly 2009, 91-2  --  V, Burgundy, France, #590521  $15.95
  • Domaine de la Madone le Perréon Beaujolais-Villages 2009,  89-2  --  V, Burgundy, France, #981175  $13.95
  • J.P. Chenet Vin de Pays d’Oc Cabernet Syrah 2009, 88-2  --  G, Languedoc, France, #090472 $9.95
  • Fielding Estate ‘Red Conception’ 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  88*-1  --  V, Beamsville, Ontario, #189183 $18.95
  • Philippe de Rothschild Pinot Noir 2009, 87-1  --  G, Languedoc, France, #628289 $11.95
  • Yvon Mau Merlot 2009, 85-1  --  G, Languedoc, France, #336743 $8.95  
  • Montresor Amarone Della Valpolicella 2006,  85   --  G, Verona, Italy, #240416  $28.40
  • J.P. Chenet Limited Release Pinot Noir 2008,  84  --  G, Languedoc, France, #142406 $11.95 
  • Pisse-Dru ‘Noémie Vernaux’ Beaujolais 2008,  83  --  G, Beaune, France, #002881 $11.50
  • Pasqua ‘Villa Borghetti’ Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2007,  83  --  G, Verona, Italy, #602342 $17.05 
  • Philippe de Rothschild Merlot 2009, 82  --  G, Languedoc, France, #407544  $10.95 
  • Cave la Romaine Côtes de Rhône Villages Grenache-Syrah 2009, 81  --  G, Rhône, France, #028779 $12.00
  • Farnese Casale Vecchio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2009,  80 Cellar  --  G,  Abruzzo, Italy, #612788 $9.85   

  • William Fèvre Sauvignon Saint-Bris 2008,  90-2  --  V, Burgundy, France, #626523  $16.95
  • Concilio Pinot Grigio 2009,  89-2  --  G, Trentino, Italy, #637595 $12.40  
  • Peninsula Ridge Viognier 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 88-1  --  O, Beamsville, Ontario,  #662601 $12.95
  • Homegrown ‘Vineyard 4379’ Riesling 2006 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  87-1 --  G, Vineland, Ontario, #183061 $13.00  
  • Pascual Toso Chardonnay 2010, 83  --  G, Mendoza, Argentina, #162636 $12.00* 

  • Zenato Bardolino Chiaretto 2007, 88-2 -- V, Veneto, Italy, #045203 $12.95

  • Domaine de Vaugondy Brut Vouvray NV,  90-2  --  V, Loire, France, #154567  $15.95
  • Katnook ‘Founder’s Block’ Sparkling Shiraz Coonawarra 2004,  87  --  V, South Australia, #053330 $19.95 
  • Val d'Oca Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut 2009, 83  --  G, Veneto, Italy, #340570 $14.10
(G - General Listing, V - Vintages, V1,2,3 - Value levels)


VAL D'OCA  PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE SUPERIORE BRUT 2009, Veneto, Italy (Map It!), 11.0% D, #340570 $14.10  (Tasted September 5, 2010)  CS
A General listing described anonymously (undated) as “Pale yellow colour; up front floral aromas with spicy, Muscat notes; fruity, spicy flavours with a tangy finish. Serve as an aperitif or with light seafood.”  My notes: The last vintage tasted was a 2004 in Dec 2005. The 2009 has a same faint blond colour with lots of bubbles on pouring and a sharp carbon dioxide tinged birthday cake aroma. There’s a creamy texture along with a refreshingly dry tartness - great with oysters, fresh or Rockefeller, or wrapped scallops. The prominence of green fruit flavour and a mineral finish makes this a less interesting brut so sipping or toasting is out for me. Should be great with a plate of beer-battered fish and chips or gravy soaked poutine. A drink now. 83

WILLIAM FÈVRE (View It!) SAUVIGNON SAINT-BRIS 2008, Burgundy, France (Map It!), 12.0% XD, #626523  $16.95  (Tasted September 21, 2010)  CS

Released by Vintages on Deptember 4, 2010 with a general description by David Schildknecht (Wine Spectator) "... the best growers farming this appellation [St Bris] ... render among the most fascinating and delicious Sauvignons on the planet."  My notes: A crystal light golden with a green tint and aromas verging on faint gooseberry - let air a few minutes for an added herbal scent. Swirling leaves a firm film to recede slowly. A suspicion of sweetness on a firm acid seam and a silky roundness broaden the platform for delicate gooseberry fruit. Finishes long and tangy carrying the fruit to a dry end and making this is an interesting sipper - perhaps not for a gathering where 'Pop' may be the norm. Better with fresh oysters, a mixed seafood platter, steamed lobster with lemon rice - disappointing with grilled arctic char tho‘. Cellaring a few years should mellow some of the tang and develop more depth but drinking well now.  90

DOMAINE DE VAUGONDY (View It!) BRUT VOUVRAY NV, Loire, France (Map It!), 12.0% XD, #154567  $15.95  (Tasted September 18, 2010)  CS
A Vintages release on September 4, 2010 rated 90 and described by Wine & Spirits (April 2009) as "This is classic and assertive chenin blanc, with notes of wool, hay, citrus oils and baked pear. Its intense personality requires you to be a devotee of the variety, but if you are, this is so deliciously satisfying, it's not to be missed."  My notes:  100% Chenin Blanc gives this bubbly a clean and clear light golden colour and an aroma of fresh straw and citrus with flavours of apple and citrus, any sweetness there may have been is restrained by firm acids. Large bubbles and quickly subsiding mousse give some excitement on opening and leaves streams to tickle the palate. Have as a toasting sparkler, with fresh oysters or with a buffet table of stuffed mushrooms, bruschetta, proscuitto wrapped asparagus, mild cheeses or a meal of beer battered fish and chips. (To cut the XD add a few drops of Cointreau or Grand Marnier.) Keeping for several years may give more cream but it is smooth as a full-bodied drink now.  90

COLLIN-BOURISSET LES TERRES BLEUES CÔTE DE BROUILLY 2009, Burgundy, France (Map It!), 13.0% D, #590521  $15.95  (Tasted September 10, 2010) CS

A Vintages release on July 10, 2010 described by the Vintages panel (May 2010) as "This wine hails from the Côte de Brouilly, home to many of Beaujolais' highest-altitude Cru vineyard sites. Deep, bright purple in the glass, with tightly packed aromas of blueberry preserves, boysenberry pie, tilled earth, lilac and lavender. Dry, round, and wonderfully concentrated with layers of fruit and smooth, ripe tannins. Vibrant acidity brings fine balance. A fledgling wine just beginning to give a glimpse of its full potential, this has the stuff to provide enjoyment over 3-5 years… "  My notes:A blueberry-raspberry and faint floral scent along with a purple tinted garnet ruby and a swirl leaves a firm film with lots of slow tears. There’s a light tannin dryness in the first sip, medium-bodied with acid supporting a smooth texture and, almost as second thought, soft boysenberry flavours. An elegant, delicate sipper lacking prominence for many grilled entrees but otherwise a very flexible red - fowl, pork, tuna, creamy salmon pastas, gnudis. Still young and cellaring for several years is likely but I’d try a year at a time. If I had room I’d buy a case.  91

DOMAINE DE LA MADONE LE PERRÉON BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES 2009, Le Perréon, France (Map It!), 13.0% D, #981175  $13.95  (Tasted September 8, 2010)  CS

A Vintages release on August 7, 2010 described anonymously (undated) as "Always a great value, this Gamay shows deep colour, with rich black cherry, juicy strawberry and earthy characteristics leading to a long, crisp finish. It's simply perfect when served, slightly chilled, alongside planked salmon or barbecued chicken breast."  My notes: On pouring this has a definite blue hue to a dense ruby… a thin film receding without tears to speak of… and an aroma of strawberries and beets, light on the beets, all making this interesting for starters. The first sip displays a brightness to waken the buds and rich flavours reflecting the nose followed by a light tannin that accumulates and an acid level that carries through to a long dry end. ‘Demoiselle’ comes to mind… young and fresh of spirit. This may keep for a few years retaining its lightness while adding some elegance. Have with roast chicken with crackle skin, or gnudis with porcini mushrooms.  89

CHAKANA MALBEC 2007, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0% D, #003509 $13.95 (Tasted September 26, 2010)  CS

My notes: The 2008 vintage was tasted in June 2009 noting ‘The flavour as well has a distinct chemical taint with a sharp acid seam, as though the fruit hadn’t developed fully on the vine’ - I felt it a vintage to avoid. The 2007, tasted at the same time, had shown a noticeable tartness but was still rated 90/100, down slightly from its purchase in July 2008. Cellaring for four more years was suggested. This is now tasting full of black fruit without being distinct with a nose also muted although filling the nostrils with earthy vapours. Not surprisingly the film leaves long slow legs and the first sip includes some dark chocolate and a spicy nip quickly subsiding to a tang on the roof of the mouth. Enjoyable as a full-bodied sipper and equally suitable for flavourful stews, seasoned T-bones or rack of lamb. Cellaring a few more years could bring other changes as acids decline a shade and adding depth to an already substantial character. 92

KATNOOK 'FOUNDERS BLOCK' SPARKLING SHIRAZ 2004, South Australia (Map It!), 13.0% D, #053330  $19.95 (Tasted September 25, 2010) CS

My notes: Seldom available from Vintages and one of only a few sparkling reds - another being Wyndham’s Sparkling Shiraz, #065391 (when avail) - it’s worth a purchase for the novelty if not the fresh fruit and festive brightness. Cellared since Vintages’ release in December 2007 there should be some differences to look for. Last tasted in October 2008 with the note ‘LSL - Lip smacking luscious’. No change to the deep ruby nor the amount and size of bubbles. There’s a slight froth and the nose lacks blackberry fruit being mostly the mineral tang of carbon dioxide with possibly some red cherries. The first sip is muted blackberry, minerally bright without any of the original leasiness, dry as a bone and leaving the palate as refreshed and satisfied as a brut could. Quaff as a summer refresher or have with salmon burgers, seasoned turkey wings, liver and onions or meatballs en crockpot. Ever changing since 2007 this has gone it’s full cycle and should be enjoyed now before it declines. 87

HOMEGROWN 'VINEYARD 4379' RIESLING 2006 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Vineland, Ontario, 10.5% S, #183061 $13.00  (Tasted September 9, 2010)  CS
A VQA from 'John Howard Cellars of Distinction' a 'megalomaniac' wine described as "clear, pale straw colour; floral and peach aromas with a touch of lemon; dry, medium body; peach, apple and a hint of honey in flavour with balanced acidity for a clean finish."   My notes: The route to the winery meanders from Niagara's scenic Wine Route (View It!) - latitude 43, longitude 79 (approx.)  A 2006 - will it have some petrol by now? Crystal clear straw with a green tint gives this an intriguing start. An evenly receding film and a scent of apricot and lemon building as the chill goes off adds interest. The first sip is tangy balanced with a touch of sweetness rounding flavours of apple and light lime. There’s some petrol in the distance - more noticeable in the long dry finish. A perfect companion for friends or paired with grilled fish or creamy mushroom sauce. Simple now but cellaring for a few more years could give this more depth. 87 
FIELDING ESTATE ‘RED CONCEPTION’ 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Beamsville, Ontario (Map It!), 13.0% XD, #189183  $18.95  (*Tasted September 8, 2010) CS


A Vintages release  on August 21, 2010 given 4 of 5 (87-89/100) by Rod Phillips (June 22, 2010) and described as "This blend is about half merlot, with roughly equal contributions from syrah, pinot noir, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon. They add up to a nicely paced red that shows solid flavours from start to finish, decent complexity, and a texture that's refreshing and balanced. It's versatile for food, and goes as well with chicken and pork as with tomato-based pasta. It's ready to drink now and over the next two or three years."   My notes: I quite enjoyed White Conception in May 2009 - tasted the Red thinking it needed more time in the bottle. Has it been long enough? This now has a well established film with long legs suggesting a smooth texture. The ruby colour has a slight granite hue and the aroma is a combination of strawberry and beetroot. A sting on the lips then a smoothness, a cleansing wash of the bicuspids then a burst of tangy strawberry are first impressions. The finish remains bright leaving a tangy seam to the end. Should be OK with bbq’d ribs, rack of lamb or T-bone but too sharp to sip. The acids will likely remain but might try cellaring up to four years. Needs munchies.  80   *PS. Sept 10, 2010: After the second day left open very interesting nose and flavours evolved with a much lower acid level - a well balanced fruit and nut medley. A unique sipper. Add 8 points for 88. 

PENINSULA RIDGE VIOGNIER 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Beamsville, Ontario, 13.0% D,  #662601  $12.95  (Tasted September 7, 2010) CS
My notes:  Last tasted in June after a visit to ‘Graze the Bench'. A golden blond colour with a citrus scent edged with Niagara floral. The film is firm with slow tears and a smoothness to the first sip comes before flavours of grapefruit and apple kick in. The finish is long with fading flavours then ending dryly. From chilled to off- this is a delightful sipper. Also paired nicely with rotisserie chicken pieces and should with most grilled seafood or creamy pastas. Cellar for a year or two, not longer, and I'd expect some interesting changes.  88

FARNESE ‘CASALE VECCHIO’ MONTEPULCIANO D'ABRUZZO 2009,  Abruzzo, Italy, 13.5% D, #612788  $9.85  (Tasted September 23, 2010)  CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as "Deep ruby colour; earth, spice, cherry, olive and berry aromas; dry medium to full bodied, with ripe plum, spice and fruity flavours, firm tannin, good length. Serve with canneloni, tapanade."   My notes: I tried the 2008 in February this year with a rating of 88 - will the 2009 be any different? Now 10 cents less than previously!  The colour is a dense ruby. A thick film takes awhile to start dropping slow tears. The nose is of spicy overripe cherries and has a touch of Brett. Needs to air for thirty minutes - perhaps better next day? A silk lining with a penetrating tartness fills the mouth along with muddied black cherries, stewed prunes and firm tannins then quickly subsiding to a soft woody finish. A meal red for a never ending pasta table. Could cellar up to four years and improve marginally.  80  (Cellar)

PASQUA 'VILLA BORGHETTI' VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE RIPASSO 2007,  Verona, Italy, 13.5% D, #602342  $17.05  (Tasted September 22, 2010)  CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as "Bright medium-deep ruby red; aromas of sweet dried fruits, oregano, ripe black cherry, damson plum and date; dry, med-full bodied, rich and ripe, balanced acidity, smooth velvety texture, with flavours of fig, cherry fruit, plum and chocolate notes."   My notes: I tasted the 2002 in June of 2005, before ratings, and found it aromatic, balanced with a ‘velvet mouthfeel’. The 2006 Metodo Appassimento (#097568, $18.95) was thought to be ‘past peak although still a pleasing sipper’ at 85 and the 2007 ‘Villa Borghetti’ Metodo Passimento (#141952, $13.10) was rated 88, both were tasted this July. There is a prune hue to the ruby edge and aromas of red cherries and dried prunes of this 2009 Ripasso. Tears form quickly and fall slowly from a firm film. Nippy, full-bodied, lasting warmth with a flavour of red cherries and stewed prunes. Firm tannins and acid carry through to a long, dry finish. There’s enough acid to counter meatballs and spaghetti squash in a seasoned tomato sauce - should do OK with meaty pizzas. A meal red not for cellaring.  83

MONTRESOR AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA 2006, Verona, Italy, 15.0% D, #240416  $28.40  (Tasted September 21, 2010)  CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as "Dark ruby-red colour; spice, floral, dried fruit ( fig and date), cherry, chocolate and leather aromas and flavours; dry, full bodied, with balanced acidity, ripe tannins and good length. Serve with hard cheese, pasta in meat-sauce or grilled lamb chops."   My notes: Tasted the Montresor Soave Classico (#531673n/a, $12.85) in February 2007 and thought it ‘worth the price’. I was prompted recently to look at the Amarone style compared with Ripasso and (Ap)passimento. This has a dense walnut edged ruby colour with an aroma of fresh cherries and vanilla that opens if left to develop. A swirl leaves a firm film developing fast legs and accentuating the fullness of the first sip. Velvet edged with a tang and a moderate flavour of black cherry and dark chocolate. The finish shows solid tannins, a seam of mild acid and flat flavour remnants - becomes duller if left in the open bottle. With the fullness and high alcohol I expected more depth or intensity - where did it go? Sipping is an acquired taste, or have with a meaty pasta or lamb shank. Cellaring for another year could be OK but longer, go yearly. 85  
PISSE-DRU 'NOÉMIE VERNAUX' BEAUJOLAIS 2008, Beaune, France, 12.0% D, #002881  $11.50*  (Tasted September 14, 2010)  CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as "Young purple/red colour; fresh berry aroma; berry & plum flavours; light-body; balanced & dry. Serve with grilled salmon, tuna, poultry, salads."   My notes: Reduced a loonie until Sep 12th. A beauty of a deep ruby, crystalline in the glass. Let air or decant thirty minutes minimum. The nose has a damp forest floor scent with a touch of blackberry and fronts a first sip, tangy and dry, of muted berries. The finish starts out bright, dry on the lips and carries woody berries before ending slightly brambly. Medium-bodied with just enough of interest as a sipper for an inquisitive crowd of wine drinkers anticipating the next label. A meal red to be paired with roast chicken, salmon or cold ham sliced thin with salad. Not for cellaring. 83

CONCILIO PINOT GRIGIO 2009, Trentino, Italy, 13.5% D, #637595  $12.40  (Tasted September 15, 2010)  CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as "Pale straw yellow; zesty aromas of citrus, spice, and apple; dry, light to medium bodied, with quince and grapefruit flavours; balanced acidity with clean finish."  My notes: The 2008 was tasted in February this year with good results. Will the 2009 vintage be value packed as well? A pale golden in the glass and slightly off chill the nose is a faint golden apple - didn’t get floral or mineral this time. The scalloped edges give up some tears very slowly but mainly recedes evenly. Very smooth textured, tart and dry, strong melon and citrus on the back of the tongue, a suspicion of apple then finishes with a pucker and a firm touch of minerals. An interesting sipper and should pair seamlessly with seafood dishes. Cellar a short while - two years at most?  89
PASCUAL TOSO CHARDONNAY 2010, Mendoza, Argentina (Map It!), 14.0% D, #162636  $12.00*  (Tasted September 12, 2010)  CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as "Fresh concentrated aromas of pears, honey and vanilla. This Chardonnay is rich in the mouth and complemented by spicy oak flavours. Pairs well with seafood, poultry in delicate sauces, or with risotto."  My notes: The 2005 Malbec taste in October 2007 was rated highly as a ‘a value go-anywhere fruit driven red’. The Pascual Toso Sauvignon Blanc  for 2008, tasted January 2009, had a ‘chemical overtone’ which demoted it to a low rating (68). Now this year’s Chardonnay… how good a year has it been? The 2010 has a clear gold colour with a firm film that slowly recedes along a scalloped edge. A dull melon and floral scent on opening a chilled bottle.  The first sip has a soft gooseberry and apricot flavour, a buttery touch of honey then a dry flavour remnant, falling quickly and ending somewhat flat. Interesting as a sipper but I didn‘t find it appealing (My BH enjoyed it). A low acid limits pairing to milder fowl or fish dishes. Not for cellaring - a drink now.  83
J.P. CHENET VIN DE PAYS D'OC CABERNET SYRAH 2009, Languedoc, France, 13.0% D, #090472  $9.95  (Tasted September 12, 2010)  CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as "clear, deep ruby red; cherry and cassis with vanilla, spice and pepper aromas; dry, medium bodied; ripe fruit and spice flavours, fresh acidity and a medium finish."  My notes:  Tasted the 2007 vintage in December 2008 and rated it 82.  The 2009 vintage has a deep ruby colour with a faint purple tint and aromas of plum and raspberry. A swirl brings out an evenly receding film leaving a lacy pattern with the occasional fast tears. Spice, blackberry and vanilla blend for an interesting sipping flavour. Medium-bodied and well balanced tannin and acid leaves a soft texture on the lips. A bargain and delightful red for a social get together - wouldn’t offend anyone - finishes with a touch of sweet fruit. Uncomplicated and fairly mild but should be suitable with roast turkey, prime rib or quaffing with chicken wings. A drink now value.  88

J.P. CHENET LIMITED RELEASE PINOT NOIR 2008, Languedoc, France, 12.5% D, #142406  $11.95  (Tasted September 20, 2010)  CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as “Clear ruby with hints of purple; raspberry and cherry aromas with a touch of spice; medium body, dry; red berry flavour with medium finish.”  My notes: First comes a clear deep ruby and an evenly receding film with a few fast tears. A sniff senses floral cherry and the first sip is lightish medium-bodied, pleasingly tart, firm tannins with the flavour of delicate black cherry charred slightly changing to a muted raspberry and ending with a dry touch. Finish is earthy with a light bramble rather than prominent fruit… spice wasn’t apparent to me. Have with roast turkey, grilled pork chops or quaff with a beef pie. A drink now rather than cellaring.   84
CAVE LA ROMAINE CÔTES DE RHÔNE VILLAGES VÉNUS LAURÉE  GRENACHE-SYRAH 2009, Rhône, France (Map It!), 13.5% D,  #028779  $12.00  (Tasted September 12, 2010)  CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as "Garnet red colour; plum, cherry and spice aromas with a hint of leather; dry, medium body; good fruit flavour and well balanced."  My notes:  Tasted the Gold Medal winner 2005 in February 2008 with passable results (82). This 2009 was a Silver Medal winner having a deep purpled tinted ruby colour and herbal scented raspberry aromas give this a difference with some interest. The thin film sheds lots of slow tears and a first sip meets a layer of tannin to coat the tongue and a mild acid for balance. The flavours are mild: some blackberry, some bramble, some liquorice. The flavours build gradually giving prominence to each and the finish fades slowly leaving a tannin dryness and a mineral edged black fruit. It paired nicely with baked ham with raisin sauce and may with veal chop or pork tenderloin with a fruit glaze but not outstanding. Not cellarable - not a sipper.  81 

PHILIPPE DE ROTHSCHILD MERLOT 2009, Languedoc, France, 14.0% D, #407544  $10.95  (Tasted September 16, 2010)  CS
A General listing described anonymously (undated) as "Ruby red colour; ripe cherry and red berry aroma; cherry, plum and a touch of vanilla in flavour; soft touch of tannin on finish."  My notes:  A deep ruby with a sweet berry, black cherry, spicy edged nose. A firm film with long fast legs and a first sip carrying the spice with drying tannin fronting flavours of soft berries and a liquorice follow through. The finish is dry and full of crushed berry seeds lending a prominent tannin. A light-bodied dry sipper with enough fruit to add minor interest. Not for cellaring - an  uncomplicated drink now. A sociable sipper suitable with ham and cheese pizza or cold ham. 82
PHILIPPE DE ROTHSCHILD PINOT NOIR 2009, Languedoc, France, 13.0% D, #628289  $11.95  (Tasted September 15, 2010)  CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as "Medium red violet; aromas and flavours of dried red berries, sour cherry, cranberry and spice, with a hint of vanilla; dry, medium bodied, soft yet balanced palate; good length."  My notes: In August 2007 the Chilean 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.95) was thought ’well worth a dozen or so’.  I wasn’t as enthusiastic for the Languedoc 2007 Sauvignon Blanc ($10.95) in December 2008 rating it 80. The 2009 Pinot Noir is the colour of fresh black cherries and has a noticeable scent of ripe strawberries and tart red cherries. The first sip has an appealing fresh strawberry and red currant flavour quickly followed by a crisper red currant finish. A light-bodied red, not intense but well balanced and not overly oaked. A quaffer with sliced cold ham, a salmon or chicken salad, a mixed buffet. Its lighter style with the flavour blend gives this sipper lip-smacking appeal. A drink now.  87
YVON MAU MERLOT 2009, Languedoc, France, 12.5% D, #336743  $8.95  (Tasted September 18, 2010)  CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as "Medium ruby colour; straightforward red cherry, fresh berry and violet aromas; dry, light to medium bodied, with grapey and juicy fruit flavours; crisp, clean, fruit driven style."  My notes: The last time I tasted YM wines was in February 2006. Both were the 2004 vintage: a Cabernet Sauvignon, ’not a bad sipper for the price’,  and a Colombard Chardonnay, ‘a disappointing sipper… flavours so muted’.  I haven’t been back since.  In the meantime the price hasn’t changed much. The 2009 Merlot is a dense ruby with a garnet cast and a swirl gives a firm film that recedes then eventually tosses a few slow tears. The aromas are suitably soft - some cherries and berries, some violet floral - all contributing to a delicate nose. The mouthfeel is this side of silky then flavours of blackberry with a tint of mint quickly shifting to a light but bright crushed seed finish. A medium-bodied sipper making an attractive first impression with noticeable black berry fruit, modest acid and tannin. Have with broiled meats, crockport stews with beefy sauces or French onion soup. A drink now suitable for any social setting.  85
ZENATO BARDOLINO CHIARETTO 2007, Veneto, Italy, 12.5% D, #045203 $12.95 (Tasted September 24, 2010)  CS

My notes: Last tasted in March this year and rated 88/100. Still with a whiff of red cherries and the same brilliant salmon pink, less pink - more salmon. A fragrance of young apricots spicy with some sweet floral meets the nose and the first sip has a distinct dry nip, light-bodied with flavours of seemingly sweet apple and red cherries that carry through a long finish. A dry social sipper with a silky approach or a match with grilled chicken and herbed risotto or telapia with crunchy asparagus on rice. I don’t see this cellaring much longer but could be surprised - mute, since it’s my last bottle.  88 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pinning down Value - Part 2 of 3

The ‘magical transform‘ is more elusive than I could have imagined before starting this project. Price and Rating are tied together somehow to give us a net worth or value but what this relationship is, or can be, very subjective until it's pinned down. Certainly tastes are individual and impressions of elements of a tasting that lead to a value for that tasting are an individual call. But if it’s your rating, or one from a reviewer you track, and the price is known the value you determine for a wine could be unequivocal. Idealistic you say? Let me try to convince you it‘s realistic.  

(click here for Pinning Down Value - Part 3 of 3

I should say upfront this isn’t an attempt at a universal ‘one fits all’ approach for qualifying Value. What constitutes Value for a wine could vary for each person reading this blog.  But perhaps the format will resonate and more consideration will be given to understanding Value. I’ll be using the result in my tastings so I can say this or that wine is an exceptional value, or not, and I’ll have another basis for future purchases. 

If this approach matches someone else’s need so much the better. Time to repeat - nothing replaces Tasting Notes - they put in perspective the complete wine reviewed. 

The chart in Pinning down Value Part 1 was a simplistic interpretation of a Price, Rating and Value relationship to get started. Keeping the objective of ‘simple’ and applying further consideration (mulling it over) I came up with the second chart shown here.

In the new Chart (click to enlarge), the upper Price boundary is $80CAD and the lower limit is $5. The expectancy is that for an appropriate Value range, higher priced wines will have the highest Ratings and the lowest priced wines should be allowed the lowest Ratings but with accessibility to high Ratings whether it‘s realizeable or not. Even outside a Value range a high priced wine should still be very enjoyable - this is Value not a Rating. To have Value a low priced wine will always have some enjoyable qualities, ie. not below 83/100.

Those with wealth didn’t get it by spending unwisely and usually don’t accept anything but a reasonable return for major expenditures. In the case of wines, whether its an investment in futures or for immediate consumption, mediocrity is not part of a premium wine purchase. They look for Value. An exception to this could be the purchase of a particular wine for reasons other than or in addition to consumption. In this case it would be a mistake to attribute higher Values to what was earlier referred to as ‘conspicuous consumption(1)’ so the chart is truncated at $80.

I have chosen three Value ranges, shown in colour and initially referred to, left to right, as Good/Better/Best.

This chart also plots six wines from $70 to $10 (click to enlarge). Examples top to bottom are:

$70     95/100     Better
$60     90/100     Good
$40     88/100     Good
$30     92/100     Better
$15     92/100     Better
$10     87/100     Good

Now the most difficult part - what to call the three zones. They could be ‘Got my money’s worth’ for Green, ‘Pretty smart purchase’ for Purple and ‘Running back for more’ for Red….  or, more conventionally I‘ve called them, respectively: V1, V2, V3.

  • When someone says ’This wine is great…. You should buy a ton!’  Ask the price and a rating and check its Value relative to other available wines.
  • If you’ve been consistently buying labels from one winery, check them out compared with other wineries/labels. Are you getting good value? 
  • When someone asks for a wine recommendation you can offer a Value comparison - along with your conclusions from a tasting. 

I hope you found this interesting if not useful.  Cheers, Ww

(1) Further on price/value relationship see AAWE WORKING PAPER No. 16

PS. Values for wines in this blog started August 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pinning down Value - Part 1 of 3

I’ve been thinking about how to evaluate wines. To do it in such a way that is quick, simple and unequivocal...  that allows a comparison of wines of different prices and ratings and represents their value for us, the consumer - a Value index for each wine if you will.

(click here for Pinning Down Value - Part 3 of 3
Not the thumb suck addition of 2-3 points to a 100 point rating or a ½ point to a scale 1 to 5. Not that these aren’t meaningful to the reviewer - they’re just not meaningful to me.  I’m not one to accept a comment like ’Buy a case’, ‘A Great investment’, ‘Points added for value’.  For me any such comment although well intentioned shouldn’t be taken seriously. Without backup the comments are 'colour', added verbage to stress a point. I’m not the wine writer so can’t interpret his impressions of ‘value‘.  Follow Twitter for awhile and if you made a purchase on every recommendation you’d quickly be broke. Wouldn’t it be better - for those interested in comparative values - for you or I, knowing the Price of a wine and its Rating, to calculate the wine’s value for ourselves? Intuitively we do it. A consistent determination of Value just makes it easier to share. 

So what’s this 'magical transform'.  Still 'under construction’ the chart illustrates some initial thoughts.  (Chart updated in Part 2)

Extremes often bracket a problem so I took the lower limit of wine prices as anything below $10 and an upper limit of $10,000.

I found the lower limit to be workable but I couldn’t fathom what to do with the higher boundary. It seemed un-interpretable with any price. I believe the book
Wine Trials 2010 solved this. It introduces the notion of ’conspicuous consumption’.  In other words, some wines are purchased not so much for their value as for the status they carry as a result of their purchase. Examples of Brand names are Rolex, Fendi, TAG Heuer, Guerlain, Dom Perignon, Château d’Yquem, etc. It would be futile to attempt to assign an intrinsic value to higher priced wines.  

Their price needs rationalizing for what’s in the bottle - not a social status, a label, geography or vintage. 
Bringing it down to earth I’ve set the chart’s upper limit to what I thought to be an acceptable level, stripping out the `conspicuous consumption` part of a price. For example, a 375mL bottle of Château d’Yquem 2001 from Vintages (#503862) costing $475.95, for ‘Value’ purposes would be based on a price of $100 (any habitual consumer of this wine is free to disagree - but bear with me!).

Another consideration is that a price for me may not be a reasonable price for you and vice versa. The answer is straight forward - stay out of any area of the chart that’s uncomfortable.

A separate point that‘s not a point:  I arbitrarily set a $50 limit when buying an untried wine. I just have a harder time parting with money when the colour changes from purple to orange or for amounts needing more loonies than fit in a milk jug. It’s a nervousness I acquired having to raise a family on a limited income. However, if after tasting, the wine turns out to be one I rate highly I can see myself rationalizing a purchase if not of a case, bottle multiples. A Value Index will help me overcome my sensitivity by quantizing a strong motivational argument (tongue firmly in cheek).

If every reviewer or wine writer for whom you’ve developed some trust or affinity could be convinced to use the Wine Advocate Rating system* you could easily calculate a Value for every one of his reviews.

Some chart reading:

  • Any wine costing $100 or more better be good to start with or it’s a negative Value. Face up, you're buying it for a different reason.
  • A $10 wine , or below, rated 100 points (yes, unlikely) would have the highest Value. This sets the upper boundary. 
  • For simplicity there’s an assumption of a linear relationship between price and value.
Observations based on the assumptions (and using chart in Part 2):
  • A $20 wine can be rated as low as 84 before being a negative value.
  • A $40 wine can be rated as low a 86 before being a negative value.
  • A $60 wine can be rated as low as 88 before being a negative value.
  • An $80 wine can be rated as low as 90 before being a negative value.
  • Any wine rated below 80 is flawed and is not considered a value at any price.
Enough navel gazing…. I'll do some more 'mulling'.

Cheers, Ww

* This is a Rating System not the man that is espoused to have created it.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

September 2, 2010 #Cabernet, The Event: 4 Tasted of 4

It was a modest get together, my wife and I.  We don’t lay out a spread or have entertainment - just pour the wines and tell each other what we like or dislike. The wines are under wraps compliments of my son with his present to me one Christmas. So there is some semblance of anonymity - or brown bag blindness.
The view from our breakfast nook where the event took place is of the city of Toronto - in the hazy distance.
There was no controversy with this tasting. We agreed: 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th.
My BH had the audacity to ask… 'but what is the result of this worldwide tasting?'  My response is ‘it's like going to a dance… you goof around, have some thoughtful ‘give and take’ - in this case on the appeal of each wine. The wine server gets a small profit along with the restaurant then everyone goes home happy. There is no 'winning' wine... everyone is a winner. Can you expect more?!

After that the wine freak - Me - takes it to the next level and does a separate tasting… as illustrated below... as well as washes the glasses ... and I'm on West coast time as I blog. LOL
Hope you had a good time on #Cabernet day whether it’s at a sponsoring restaurant, a winery, a home with like-minded friends or with someone that puts up with you watching the hazy view as light fades. 

Cheers, Ww

  • Beringer ‘Napa Valley Vineyards’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (DL91),  92-1  --  V, Napa, California, #091058  $39.95 
  • Alkoomi ‘Frankland River’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (JS90)(DL88),  91-2 --  V,  Western Australia, #904227 $19.95
  • The Foreign Affair ‘Abbraccio’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula (JS91),  85  --  V, Vineland, Ontario, #127324  $37.95 
  • Dona Paula Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2008,  85  --  V, Mendoza, Argentina, #095281 $17.95 
(G - General Listing, V - Vintages, V1,2,3 - Value levels, DL - David Lawrason, JS - John Szabo)


THE FOREIGN AFFAIR (View It!) CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Vineland, Ontario, 14.5% D, #127324  $37.95  (Tasted September 2, 2010)  CS

A Vintages release on September 26, 2009 rated 89 and described (undated) by David Lawrason as "This combines the ripeness of the 2007 vintage with extra colour, richness and fruit from 10 per cent dried grapes (amarone style) to create an unusually plump and creamy Niagara cabernet. The blueberry-blackcurrant fruit makes it more Chilean. Oak is nicely integrated. It's medium-full bodied, smooth and pillow soft, until moderate cabernet tannin kicks in. Excellent length."  My notes: An hour breathing allows the nose to lose some mustiness and shift to a mild blackcurrant aroma and give a spicy edge more prominence. A swirl leaves a firm film on the glass and long tears and the first sip feels a tang before flavours of dark fruit. A warm finish fades slowly ending with a tart layer of flat berries - dry with well established tannins. A full-bodied sipper but for the price I expected more excitement. Applying an appassimento process builds fullness without adding the freshness of the vineyard. Pair with grilled meats or rack of lamb - cellaring not likely to develop further.  85

ALKOOMI (View It!) 'FRANKLAND RIVER' CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007, Western Australia, (Map It!) 14.0% XD, #904227  $19.95   (Tasted September 2, 2010) CS


A Vintages release on March 6, 2010 described anonymously (undated) as "Alkoomi's proprietors, Merv and Judy Lange, planted their first vines over 30 years ago...  With this premium Cabernet, look for blackberry and blueberry aromas along with some smoked meat and underlying earth and herbal notes. This long-finishing wine is an ideal partner for grilled porterhouse steaks."  My notes: This has a polite blackcurrant and berry aroma complete with a soft tang. Sipping finds a very smooth approach, a mineral tinge to fruit and soft tannins all  encouraging quaffing rather than sipping. The mineral builds in the long dry finish with fruit staying delicate but well balanced - nice.  A lighter social sipper - not adventurous but very enjoyable. Have with grilled pork or a ham steak. Not for cellaring.  91

DOÑA PAULA ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008, Mendoza, Argentina, (Map It!) 14.5% D, #095281  $17.95   (Tasted September 2, 2010)  CS


A Vintages release on August 21, 2010 rated 88 and described by James Molesworth (Feb 28, 2010) as "Toasty, with fleshy cocoa, plum and fig flavors that pump through the muscular finish. The toasty edge holds sway throughout, though. Drink now."  My notes: A faint nose of berries with some spice gives a lighter first impression. The film is well established with fast tears and the first sip although thinner has a compensating brightness with dry tannin that maintains interest. Not a complex red and not a sipper. The finish adds a mineral touch over the fruit then goes to a chalk dry end. Have with grilled red meats, French onion soup or beef bourguignon. Not for cellaring - a drink-now.  85
BERINGER  ‘NAPA VALLEY VINEYARDS’ CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006,  Napa, California, (Map It!) 14.5% D, #091058  $39.95   (Tasted September 2, 2010)  CS

Released by Vintages on August 21, 2010 and described by their panel (July 2010) as “This is textbook Napa Cab. Big and robust, with aromas of cassis, black cherry, raspberry pie, graphite, tar, and tobacco. Dry, full bodied and delectably ripe and concentrated, with soft yet sturdy tannins providing structure. Fresh acidity lifts the fruit into the spectrum of red cherry and currants, leading to a long, pure fruit finish with just a touch of smoke. Savour over the next 5+ years with a porterhouse steak.”  My notes: A Foster’S Wines Estates Americas label. Not an eco friendly bottle weighing in at .6 kg. The colour is an opaque ruby, deep in the glass connoting elegance. The nose has mystery going for it - hidden is blackcurrant under soft tobacco and a hint of raspberry, some nice spice and a rim of tang. Flavours duplicate the nose, very smooth with a suspicion of sweetness and tannins that yield quickly to a long finish of a complex flavour blend. Interesting and I'd guess at peak. Not for cellaring.  92

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

September 2, 2010 #Cabernet : 4 Tasted of 4

Host Rick Bakas describes the Taste and Tweet event as “A… gathering of wine lovers on the first Thursday of every month” and for September 2 has chosen Cabernet Sauvignon as the focus wine. For 24 hours people in every time zone will celebrate one of the world’s most planted grapes through the media of Twitter using the hash tag #CabernetDay. The photo of this year's St Supery (View It!) vines is from a @stsupery tweet - looking pretty good, eh? 
Unfortunately, many Californian wines, or any State for that matter, remain unavailable in Ontario so the three below can’t be called ‘representative’.
Needing a long ripening period the growing season in Ontario is often too short for this vine to be a success. On the other hand the southern Okanagan Valley (Map It!) is better suited. The region around Oliver south to Osoyoos, a few kilometres north of the US border, is ideal for this noble grape, being arid most of the year with Osoyoos Lake moderating the climate and providing a source of irrigation during dry periods.  As with California, very few Okanagan Cabernet Sauvignons reach Ontario.
Hope you can join a Taste and Tweet crew near you.
Cheers, Ww 

  • Rutherford Ranch ‘Napa Valley’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (JS86)(DL88),  89-1  --  V, Napa, California,  #073817  $19.95 
  • Mission Hill Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 VQA Okanagan Valley, 86  (Cellar)  --  V, Oliver/Osoyoos, BC, #553321  $22.95  
  • Domaine Bassac Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (DL87), 86-1 --  G, Côtes de Thongue, France, #164152 $13.00 
  • De Loach Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (DL83),  80  --  G,  Santa Rosa, California, #089250  $14.95   
(G - General Listing, V - Vintages, O - Other, v-r - Value levels, DL - David Lawrason, JS - John Szabo)

MISSION HILL RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 VQA Okanagan Valley, BC (Map It!), 13.5%  XD, #553321  $22.95  (Tasted August 31, 2010)  CS
A Vintages release on May 15, 2010 not rated but described anonymously (undated) as “The Okanagan Valley's favourable climate nurtures some outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon like this beauty from Mission Hill. It displays concentrated aromas of ripe blackberry and cassis mingling with notes of cedar, mocha, mint and smoke. This focused, medium-full-bodied wine shows excellent balance, and has a long, firm and spicy finish. Enjoy now with roast beef au jus, or cellar for up to 3 years.”  My notes:A purple hued ruby giving this a distinct appeal. A light spicy blackcurrant aroma and a well established film leading to long tears. The first sip is medium-bodied, full of tannins and a fresh but light blackcurrant flavours with a finish that coats the mouth with chalky dryness. Another two to four years will settle the tannins and a recommendation for cellaring rather than drink-now. (Much better as a sipper the next day, +2) Otherwise pairing with grilled red meats is appropriate.  86  (Cellar)
RUTHERFORD RANCH ‘NAPA VALLEY’ CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007, Napa, California (Map It!), 13.5% D, #073817  $19.95  (Tasted August 29, 2010)  CS
A Vintages release on July 10, 2010 rated 88 and described by Steve Heimoff of The Wine Spectator (Dec. 15, 2009) as “Elevated in its tannic structure, and the way the oak plays with the ripe fruit. The flavours of blackberries, black currants and sweet smoky cedar lead to a rich, spicy finish. Very nice Napa Cabernet at this price.”  My notes: A dense ruby colour, soft aromas of spicy black currants, a hint of damp mahogany and a viscous film with long slow legs that comes with a swirl all make this an attractive glass full. The first sip confirms the black currants now softened by blackberries, edged with liquorice, full in the mouth, tart and silky smooth. Warmer than expected along with a touch of sweet adding to the buildup of flavours and polite tannins for a long finish. A bold sipper or complement with anything grilled and beefy. Cellaring for another three to five years should be OK.  89 
DE LOACH VINEYARDS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007, Santa Rosa, California (Map It!),13.5% D, #089250  $14.95  (Tasted August 30, 2010)  CS
On the General shelves this red is described anonymously (undated) as “Deep ruby colour; cassis, berry and vanilla aromas with a touch of spice; dry medium to full body; black currant and spice flavours with moderate tannin. Serve with grilled steak.”  My notes:  A see-thru garnet hued ruby with negligible aromas on pouring, perhaps liquorice, plum and some pepper. There’s a thin film with fast tears and, on first sip, a smooth texture with thin flavours of cranberry and blackberry changing to a slight bramble and spicy berry remaining fresh on the palate a long while. Have with anything grilled and beefy, quaff with pizza or sip with hot chicken wings. A social drink-now - not for cellaring.  80
DOMAINE BASSAC CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008, Côtes de Thongue, France (Map It!), 13.0%  D, #164152  $13.00  (Tasted August 28, 2010)  CS
A General listing described anonymously (undated) as "clear, deep ruby red; cassis and plums with oak spice notes, dry, full body; ripe flavours of plums and cherries with notes of cocoa and spice; fine tannins, drink now or hold 1 - 2 years. Serve with beef tenderloin."  My notes: According to the back label: ‘The Domaine in the south of France is run by the Delhon brothers who cultivate the entire vineyard organically drawing out the best from each grape variety.’ Also mentioned by Konrad Ejbich, @winezone, in a tweet as “an LCBO newbie. Really coats the tongue.”  The film is firm and leads to long slow tears. The colour is opaque ruby and the nose is an interesting mix of plums and currants, delicate but there for sure. A smooth texture, full-bodied with flavours of currants, somewhat woody with an even balance of tannins and acid and a long finish carrying the earthy fruit to a dry end. An interesting sipper and it did coat the tongue. Quaff with pizzas, cheesy tomato pastas or with a beef stir-fry.  A flexible meal red, not for cellaring, a drink now.  86