Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kim Crawford Selection: 6 Tasted of 6

Changing Pastures
The following is a selection of wines from the Kim Crawford Winery, a craft winery visited in 2003. The co-founder,  Kim Crawford, sold to Vincor before leaving in 2008. The winery now belongs to Constellation Corporation. 

Cheers, Ww

THE LINEUP - grouped by reds then whites:
  • Kim Crawford SP ‘Rise-and-Shine Creek’ Pinot Noir 2007,  89  --  V, Central Otago, NZ, #035337 $29.95
  • Kim Crawford Pinot Noir 2008, 80  --  V, Marlborough, NZ, #626390  $19.95

  • Kim Crawford Dry Riesling 2007,  89-1  --  V,  Marlborough, NZ, #626408 $19.95 
  • Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2010, 84  --  V, Marlborough, NZ, #035386  $18.95
  • Kim Crawford Pinot Gris 2009, 81  --  V, Marlborough, NZ, #680983  $19.95 
  • Kim Crawford SP ‘Moteo Vineyard’ Viognier 2008, 80 --  V, Hawke’s Bay, NZ, #191759 $25.95
(G - General Listing, V - Vintages, r-v - Rating-Value)

KIM CRAWFORD DRY RIESLING 2007, Marlborough, NZ, 12.5% XD, #626408 $19.95  (Tasted February 28, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on October 2, 2010 rated 90 by Natalie MacLean and described (August 29, 2009) as “Bone-dry Riesling that's simply delicious! …  Aromas of white peach, lime, lemongrass and sunny days running through a field of white flowers. Medium-bodied and zesty.”  My notes: A straw blond colour and a nose of Granny Smith apple, lemon and I’m imagining petrol in there somewhere. A thin film recedes slowly leaving a lacy rim. The first taste confirms a light approach, a dryness and lemon/lime flavours blended with a suspicion of pear. The finish is moderate ending dry and tangy. There’s a subtle roundness that starts with the first sip and runs through the finish. Texture combined with delicate fruitiness gives interest as a sipper. Have with mild seafoods. Cellaring for a few more years should be interesting - I believe it could develop over two.  89
KIM CRAWFORD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2010, Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% XD, #035386  $18.95  (Tasted February 18, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on May 15, 2010 described anonymously (undated) as “Vintage after vintage, the world-renowned Kim Crawford displays his winemaking prowess with Sauvignon Blanc. The 2007 and 2008 vintages each received 91 points from Wine Spectator! This lively wine exhibits aromas such as gooseberry, passion fruit, grass, nettle, mineral, and citrus. Tantalizing with steamed mussels or warm chicken salad.”  My notes: What is not said is that Kim Crawford founder and master winemaker left the winery in 2008 and, coincidentally, the string of Gold medals on the label ends in 2008. This is the fifth vintage tasted the first at the winery in early 2003. The 2010 is blond with a suspicion of green, tiny bubbles on the side of the glass and an aroma of delicate ripe gooseberry. Leaves a thin film with fast tears and the first sip has a herbaceous aspect to light flavours of citrus, nettles and gooseberry - without the silkiness of the 2009 tasted February 2010 (94). Quickly loses the initial timbre ending extra dry with citrus and chalk. Light-bodied needing repeated quaffs to retain peak interest as a sipper. Think bearded mussels to stay in context or scallops seared in butter on noodles.  A drink now and not likely to cellar long.  84
KIM CRAWFORD PINOT NOIR 2008, Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% D, #626390  $19.95  (Tasted February 18, 2011) CS


.A Vintages release on May 15, 2010 described anonymously (undated) as “Whatever Kim Crawford touches seems to turn to gold, so it is not surprising that he crafts exceptional Pinot Noir from his Marlborough vineyards. Featuring classic aromas of black cherry, raspberry and a touch of beetroot, this Pinot is forwardly fruity with a nice core of acid and a hint of tannin to bring balance… ”  My notes: Starting in June 2006 this is the fourth vintage tasted with mediocre results: 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008.  Lacking nose, flavour and body the colour however is an attractive, brilliant see-through red cherry colour.  A swirl leaves a thin film with fast tears on the bowl and the nose is a just perceptible smoky black cherry with raspberry overtones. Smooth, lightly flavoured raspberry, moderate tannins and a light acid peak then wane quickly leaving a cherry skin sweetness on the palate. Perhaps from young vines - a party sipper that's difficult to meal match. Easily quaffed this may be a beverage for a social setting.  80

KIM CRAWFORD SP ‘MOTEO VINEYARD’ VIOGNIER 2008, Hawke’s Bay, NZ, 14.0% XD, #191759  $25.95  (Tasted February 18, 2011)  CS
A Vintages release on January 8, 2011 described by the Panel (Jan. 2010) as “... This Viognier sports a fresh floral nose, with notes of ripe apricot, melon and citrus. The palate is velvety-textured and finely balanced, leading to a nice long finish.”  My notes: SP stands for Small Parcel.  A just perceptible hint of wild floral and a golden blond colour starts the sniff & sight test. A thin film with a few tears flow down leaving a lacy rim. Medium-bodied, a citrus tartness, smooth with flavours of mandarin orange zest and unripe melon. The finish, more zest and acid than fruit, picks up an acid seam to carry awkward flavours to a mineral end. An atypical Viognier having less floral and meagre fruit but a nice fullness - an acquired taste for a sipper (that my BH enjoyed). Have with seafood or braised chicken breast dishes. Not for cellaring. 80

KIM CRAWFORD PINOT GRIS 2009, Marlborough, NZ, 14.0% D, #680983  $19.95  (Tasted February 25, 2011)  CS
A Vintages release on July 10, 2010 described by the Panel (May 2010) as “Apricot, floral, melon, grapefruit and tropical fruit aromas dominate this just-off-dry Alsatian-style Pinot Gris. Fresh acidity brings a touch of dryness to this pretty wine… “  My notes: Tasted this along with Joseph Cattin Alsace Pinot Gris 2008 ( #196956 $18.95). The Kim Crawford has a clean mid golden colour with aromas of sweet apricot and a whiff of raisins. Tart acids offer brightness and a sweetness adds roundness to the first sip. A lemon pith flavour combines with a straw dryness that gradually predominates a long finish. For a short while this has interest as a sipper - better to match with seared scallops, roast chicken or battered halibut and chips. Cellaring is not likely to improve this Alsatian taste-alike.  81
KIM CRAWFORD SP ‘RISE-AND-SHINE CREEK’ PINOT NOIR 2007, Central Otago, NZ, 14.0% XD, #035337  $29.95  (Tasted February 20, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on December 11, 2010 rated 89 and described (April 30, 2010)  by Harvey Steimann as “Light in texture, with crisp juicy acidity to balance the refreshing raspberry and blackberry flavors, a floral note hovering over it all. Lingers well… “ My notes:  A dense black cherry skin colour with a combined aroma of crushed raspberry and blackberry, spicy, warm and inviting, delicate. A thin film with many long, fast, stained legs - pronounced tannins and an enticing bite - smooth, full of dark berry flavours that continue into a long, warm, dry finish. Medium-bodied with a brooding character wanting to express depth but it’s not quite there. An interesting sipper not for the party crowd. Went well with grilled swordfish and mushroom caps. Cellaring for a short period, two to three years, is possible.  89

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

When Numbness Sets In

The eloquence of nature...
Before starting Strictly Tasting (January 2005) I had been following several wine writers.  Around the same time I also subscribed to wine magazines and regularly visited websites of those in the trade and of amateurs. I had a library of everything from popular encyclopaedic volumes to Billy’s Best Bottles. I didn’t know it but at the time I was trying to determine how to find wines that appealed to my senses, quickly eliminating others and, since I was on a budget, automatically selecting ‘good, better, best value’. I hadn’t realized at this early stage that ranking wines let alone evaluating them would be uncharted, often controversial, territory… and I hadn’t realized the industry built around reviewing wines was essentially unregulated.

A few years into the blog I started a systematic review of sources having eliminated some that simply didn’t ’ring my chimes’.  I followed these with blog entries listing the wines tasted with ratings. These entries can be found through the links below. I also realized I was running into a problem for my own reviews - I was unregulated. I needed a tasting methodology accompanied almost immediately by a rating system and eventually a way of determining ’value’.

I started by summarizing my monthly tastings and then listed the wines both semi-annually and annually. The wines above an 85 rating and within budget would be my ‘value’ wines. I was able to spot candidates early from the monthly tastings and from my notes I could deduce wines for cellaring, house reds and whites, wines for special dinners and gifts for friends based on their preferences. The rating ‘number’ quickly narrowed down the candidate wines and if I acted quickly they were still available at an Outlet.

Initially for each Vintages Release I read LCBO notes marking several wines in their Shopping Lists for biweekly purchases. However, after a few Releases I sensed it was equivalent to asking a butcher if his steaks were tender. Consequently, I began to rely on three other sources, reviewers with palates closest to my own:
Rod Phillips , at the time with Winecurrent and later with his newsletter Winepointer, Gord Stimmell of The Star and Beppi Crosariol of the G&M. Was it a 100% match? No.  Why only local sources? These critics reviewed Vintages Releases regularly. Outsiders didn’t. 

Several months went by. There was only a so-so co-relation between my tasting notes and the sources.  I was now doubting the usefulness of narratives. Soon the only triggers I needed to prompt interest in a wine was a Label, a Rating and a Price. With these I have anchors to hang my ADD on. Reinforcing this transition was a viewing of the video of 
Gary Vaynerchuk and James Suckling  brown bag tasting 5 wines (February 6, 2011). Although very entertaining the content of value to me were the Labels (none available locally), the fact that James Suckling gave each wine a 90+ rating, and the Prices.  It’s confirmed… I am now numb to any form of narrative.

No one is so eloquent to capture the wonder of nature, not the crystallized lacework of  winter and not a simple glass of wine. Just give me the numbers. Those stimulate my inquisitive nature without reading another word.

Cheers, Ww

Early sources:

(1) Magazines
Toronto Life   May 2008
Wine Access   May 2008
Wine Spectator  May 2008

(2) Websites
Winepointer #6  May 2008
Winepointer #7  June 2008 
Inside Winealign  October 2009

(3) Newspaper columns
The Star (Gord Stimmell)   June 2008
Globe & Mail (Beppi Crosariol)   July 2008

(4) LCBO Promos
Red Wines 101   Feb 2009
The Inside Story   March 2009
Viva Vino   April 2009
Spring at last!   April 2009
Holiday   Nov 2009
goLOCAL   Nov 2009

(5) Books in the category ‘Best Wines’   
The 500 Best Value Wines 2010   January 2010
The 500 Best Value Wines 2011   November 2010
Wine Trials 2011   December 2010
Wine Trials 2010   July 2010

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

February 2011 Wines: 24 Tasted of 24

Red Skies over Erin
Some of the wines below are carry-overs from January - just never got to them and didn’t want to rush. Also there's a few Chards to compare, a Callabriga Douro was thought highly at a family dinner however, the Alentejo was the only one available at an Outlet.

Three wines are from Beppi Crosariol’s  Decanter of January 29th, a column in the Globe & Mail I’ve started following again after several years abstinence. 

A few articles ago Beppi declared his intention to use a 100 point Scoring System . This is detailed in the article Wine Scoring Explained (October 1, 2010). The System, similar to the Wine Advocate Rating System, is based on several parameters to comprise a total score: Colour, Aroma, Complexity, Balance, Typicity, Finish, Cellar Potential and Flaws. Beppi’s significant knowledge of grape profiles, process influences, regional traditions and terroirs and the ability to isolate and sum these criteria across all alcoholic beverages including wines is a real plus. 

But why do I need a score?  See When Numbness Sets In  for my rationale.

Conclusions so far: A few of the selections are of wines described by 'anonymous' and 'undated'. Notes such as these should be ignored, as proven below.  A second rating not to be trusted is one older than a year. Then there are the ones on a 3 point scale...  or a five point. Unless the rating system is defined these reviewers like to sit on the fence of undefined ambiguity. More ambiguous are those not offering a rating. Their notes say 'Trust me! My palate will guide you to a wine you will enjoy!'. LOL 

And my last (I'm kidding!) bit of advice... be suspicious of a wine 'reduced for sale'. No one is doing  consumers a favour. I'm not sure what is wrong with our monopolistic system that allows bad acquisitions to be passed on under the guise of  'bargains'.   My suggestion is for LCBO management to be required to drink only wines offered in their promotions when dining with friends or associates.... or, tho' perhaps too severe, the purchasing agent should be fired and the inventory dumped.

Cheers, Ww

THE LINEUP - grouped by reds, whites, sparkles and other:
  • L.A.Cetto Petite Sirah 2008, 92-3  --  V, Baja California,  Mexico, #983742 $11.95 
  • Sartori l’Appassito Rosso 2008 (B87), 91-3  --  V, Veneto, Italy,  #193607 $12.95
  • Trapiche Broquel Bonarda 2007, 91-2  --  V,  Mendoza, Argentina, #055558 $15.95
  • Château le Pey Cru Bourgeois 2008 (B89), 90-2  --  V, Medoc, France, #200071 $17.95
  • Albert Bichot Bourgogne ‘Vieilles Vignes’ Pinot Noir 2008, 89-2  --  G, Burgundy, France, #166959 $13.45* 
  • Chateau Pey la Tour Grand Vin de Bordeaux 2007, 88-1  --  V, Bordeaux, France, #925859 $19.95  
  • Saint-Roch Vieilles Vignes Côtes de Roussillon 2009,  86-1  --  V, Roussillon, France, #195107  $14.95
  • Château ‘La Clape’ Camplazens la Garrique 2007 (B87),  85  --  V, Languedoc, France, #195008 $16.95  
  • Callabriga 2007,  85  --  V, Alentejo, Portugal, #167643  $16.95
  • Le Cinciole Chianti Classico 2007,  85  --  V,  Tuscany, Italy, #207795 $19.95 
  • Abbona La Pieve Barolo 2005, 84  --  V,  Piedmont, Italy, #213132 $26.95 
  • Pierre André Bourgogne ‘Vieilles Vignes’ Pinot Noir Réserve 2008, 79  --  G, Burgundy, France, #168427 $16.05 
  • Kleine Zalze Barrel Fermented Vineyard Selection Chardonnay 2009, 90-2  --  V, Stellenbosch, South Africa,  #096495 $15.95 
  • Domaine Eugénie Carrion Chablis 2009, 90-2  --  V, Burgundy, France,  #183590 $19.95 
  • Peninsula Ridge Inox Chardonnay 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  89-2  --  G, Beamsville, Ontario, #594200 $13.95
  • Wolf Blass Yellow Label Sauvignon Blanc 2009,  88-1  --  G,  South Australia, #611475 $15.00  
  • Ghost Pines Winemaker’s Blend Chardonnay 2007,  87  --  V,  Napa County, California, #136408 $19.95 
  • Rustenberg Brampton Sauvignon Blanc 2009, 86  --  V, Stellenbosch, South Africa, #203901 $13.95 
  • Yalumba ‘The Y series’ Viognier 2008, 85  --  V, South Australia, #624502 $14.95 
  • Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2009, 84  --  V, Casablanca Valley, Chile, #602649 $13.95 
  • Joseph Cattin Alsace Pinot Gris 2008,  82  --  V,  Alsace, France, 13.0%  D, #196956 $18.95  
  • Pilliteri Unoaked Chardonnay 2007 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, 80  --  G, NOTL, Ontario, #064790 $9.95 
  • D'Arenburg ‘The Stump Jump’ Lightly Wooded Chardonnay 2009, 70  --  G, McLaren Vale, Australia, #173302  $11.95*  
  • Jansz Tasmania Premium NV Rosé, 88  --  V, Tasmania, Australia, #037499 $24.75  
(G - General Listing, V - Vintages, r-v - Rating-Value, B - Beppi)

SAINT-ROCH VIEILLES VIGNES CÔTES DE ROUSSILLON 2009, Roussillon, France, 13.5% D, #195107  $14.95  (Tasted February 1, 2011)  CS
A Vintages release on January 22, 2011 described by their Panel (April 2010) as “A blend of Syrah and Grenache that really shines. Fresh berry, cassis, cherry and red plum are at the forefront, accented by herbal notes, with the whole arrangement replaying steadily on the palate. A blend that's smooth and creamy, with a dry finish… “   My notes:  A royal ruby colour with peppery red currant and berry aromas. The film is thin and leaves fast legs, a lacy edge and a first sip yields fresh berry accents, distinct acid and mint followed by a lasting chalk dry finish of mandarin zest. A well put together red, on the light side of medium-bodied and ready to pair with light beef, veal, pork or dark turkey entrees. Cellaring a year or two may smooth some last minute rawness but a straightforward sipper now.  86

DOMAINE EUGÉNIE CARRION CHABLIS 2009, Burgundy, France, 12.5% XD, #183590  $19.95  (Tasted February 10, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on January 22, 2011 described by their Panel (March 2010) as “This is classic Chablis, with lots of citrus fruit and green apple notes on the nose. Dry and round, with good weight and a lovely texture, it shows wonderful citrus character and that quintessential minerality on the palate. The finish is long and exquisite… “   My notes: A mid gold colour and a film that sticks then slowly recedes, no tears. The nose has an aroma of tangy apple with some mineral notes. A consistent cleansing acid, smooth, full-bodied, light fruit, light citrus and apple. A warm finish carrying the blended flavours through a long finish. Start chilled in the glass and note changes as it warms - has a balanced combination of textures and flavours. A fish white: lobster, crab, scallops with creamy pastas. Cellaring likely for a few years perhaps more.  90

D'ARENBERG THE STUMP JUMP LIGHTLY WOODED CHARDONNAY 2009, McLaren Vale, Australia, 13.0% D, #173302   $11.95*  (Tasted February 6, 2011)  CS
Without a LCBO description and the back label simply states about the process “…gently crushed and basket pressed followed by temperature controlled fermentation prior to bottling. Etc". My notes: A General listing and reduced $2 until January 30th.  The aroma on opening is of strongly scented, unripe, crushed gooseberries (for a chard?) and slowly fades to a tolerable level. A swirl brings a film that sticks to the glass and develops a circle of slowly dropping tears. A tangy first sip has flavours of unripe gooseberries with a finish that quickly changes to an extra dry, tart, mineral level - no fresh fruit here. Not recommended as a sipper and would be difficult to match with appetizers or entrées. Was discarded.  70

WOLF BLASS YELLOW LABEL SAUVIGNON BLANC 2009,  South Australia, 11.5% D, #611475  $15.00  (Tasted February 4, 2011)  CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as “Medium straw colour; aromas of pear, melon and hay aromas; dry, light to medium bodied, well balanced, with fresh cut grass, lime and herb flavours.”  My notes:  A light blond with a scalloped film and slow tears gives the impression of ‘creamy’. A delicate gooseberry with a nettle side aroma coming together now as a polite sipper. More gooseberries, some lime tartness and a dry mouthfeel masking minor cream then finishing quickly until reinforced with a second sip - delectable going down, refreshingly dry. A drink now - I don’t see this having longevity in the cellar. Have with seafood or chicken in a creamy sauce.  88 
CALLABRIGA 2007,  Alentejo, Portugal, 14.5% D, #167643   $16.95   (Tasted February 4, 2011)  CS
A Vintages release on September 18, 2010 described anonymously (undated) as “Sogrape's Callabriga is produced from mostly Aragónez (Tempranillo) with the rest comprised of Alfrocheiro and Alicante Bouschet. The wine is designed to demonstrate a modern winemaking style using the grapes and vineyards that reflect the best of Portugal. Look for aromas of blackberry, cherry and plum, plus hints of spice and nicely integrated oak tones…”  My notes: Alentejo instead of the one tasted with friends - Douro - but with the same SPC and price. A must to decant or air forty minutes for soft raspberry jam aromas and a waterfall of tears. A velvet texture with fine tannins and flavours of plums, a mixed berry jam and ’lead pencil’, evenly balanced for an old world full-bodied red. Some spice shows during a long finish. Beef Wellington, rich Texas chili or slow simmered lamb shank could be a match. Cellaring for several years may deepen velvety dark fruit character but likely at peak now.  85

PENINSULA RIDGE INOX CHARDONNAY 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  Beamsville, Ontario, 13.0% D, #594200  $13.95  (Tasted February 3, 2011)  CS
A General listing described anonymously (undated) as “Pale to medium yellow straw colour; delicate apple, ripe asian pear and lemon aromas and flavours with hints of butterscotch; extra-dry, with well balanced acid structure, refreshing, citrus flavours… “  My notes:  This vintage was last tasted a year ago and rated 91. Priced a dollar less noting flavours of ‘lemon-lime and some buttery melon’ and not likely to cellar beyond a year. Now with a more delicate nose retaining aromas of ‘banana, grapefruit and nippy citrus’ taking time to develop. Lacework decorates the bowl falling slowly with a few long tears. Has the colour of bright new gold and a flavour of mild melon, dry, a light lemon-lime tang finishing silky soft without sweetness. Elegant from the first sip and showing a suspicion of butterscotch at the end. A stellar fish white that has crested.  89
PILLITERI UNOAKED CHARDONNAY 2007 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, NOTL, Ontario, 12.5% D, #064790  $9.95  (Tasted February 1, 2011)  CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as “Pale straw colour with aromas of pineapple and pear. Fresh citrus fruit on the palate, medium-bodied with crisp acidity on the finish.”   My notes:  The colour is a pale straw. The nose has a whiff of mineral barely detectable. A swirl gives a thin film with fast tears. Nothing exciting so far. The tang starts with the first sip and carries through a long dry finish. Delicate flavour of pear and citrus show while sipping but fade when paired with chicken pieces in a tomato sauce accompanied by cauliflower and green beans leaving the acid and slight cream to support the meal. A generic wine that could appeal as a complementary house white. May be past best before date. 80
CHÂTEAU LE PEY CRU BOURGEOIS 2008, Medoc, France, 13.0% XD, #200071  $17.95  (Tasted February 2, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on January 8, 2011 described by the Panel (May 2010) as “The nose here is very intense, bursting with aromas of plum, black cherry, cassis, pencil lead and red licorice. The palate is dry and medium bodied, with soft, well-integrated tannins… “  My notes: A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and a Gold Medal winner at the 2010 Concours Général Agricole in Paris. A definite purple hue and seemingly opaque in density but crystal clear when held to the light. An aroma of blackberry, currant and, for spice, pepper evenly blended. The film immediately flows many tears and the first sip is medium-bodied, has a smooth texture with the dryness of moderate tannins. The finish starts and ends with herby black fruit on the palate and is pleasingly bright and dry. Cellar for up to four years or serve now as an intro to beef tenderloin, on the rare side, a T-bone or broiled pork back ribs.   90

CHÂTEAU ‘LA CLAPE’ CAMPLAZENS LA GARRIGUE 2007, Languedoc, France, 12.5% D, #195008  $16.95  (Tasted February 3, 2011)  CS
A Vintages release on January 22, 2011 described by the Panel (April 2010) as “This wine, from the excellent 2007 vintage… Alluring notes of liquorice and tobacco in the nose reveal further aromas and flavours of rich red fruit, white pepper, beetroot, creamy chocolate and vanilla. A silky, medium-bodied red with a beautifully spiced finish and terrific length… “  My notes: A Trophy winner at the International Wine Challenge 2009. Blackberries with a earthy edge including a slight pungency for a nose. The colour is rich ruby clear in the glass sticking well to the sides until slow tears are formed at the rim. A medium-bodied red with a piercing acidity shielding red currant and earthy flavourings. Fades slowly with a denture cleansing brightness. Somewhat throat catching as a sipper… better with finger food, well seasoned hamburgers or bbq’d back ribs.  85

SARTORI L'APPASSITO ROSSO 2008, Veneto, Italy,  14.0% D, #193607  $12.95  (Tasted February 13, 2011)  CS
A Vintages release on January 22, 2011 described anonymously (undated) as “This is a rich and invigorating wine with intense aromas of dried fruit and spice. Its unusual blend of Corvina Veronese, Molinara, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot prevents this wine from being called a Ripasso, but it is made in the same manner. The palate is dry and tremendously well structured with integrated tannins that work wonderfully well with the vibrant fruit…”  My notes:  A crisp red cherry red with a film that disintegrates slowly. Warm plum and red cherry tones suggest a mild sweetness but for a full surge of tartness carried along on a silky seam - the start of the long dry finish. Vibrant sour cherry and mild berry combine with slight tar leaving a light silk on the lips. The smoothness opposing a tart acid makes for an interesting sipper and a perfect match for braised  rack of lamb. Cellaring is not likely to improve but could stay at peak a few years.  91

L.A.CETTO PETITE SIRAH 2008,  Baja California,  Mexico, 14.5% XD, #983742  $11.95  (Tasted February 9, 2011)  CS
A Vintages release on February 5, 2011 described anonymously (undated) as “… Petite Sirah does very well as a stand-alone variety in Mexico; L.A. Cetto, in particular, has been extremely successful with the variety. Dense purple in colour, it offers black pepper and tea notes leading to an impressive, well-rounded finish.”  My notes: The first wine from Mexico that I’ve tried and it‘s an impressive value.  The colour is dense ruby with a purple glow and accompanies an aroma and warmth of old wood and freshly crushed berries in equal portions. There’s a smoothness and oak accented flavour of cherries and red currants including bright acid and mild tannin. The finish is lengthy carrying the fruit for a shortwhile then tannins come forward to a very dry ending. Impressive as a full-bodied sipper and would be great paired with anything beefy. Cellaring for several years could bring more depth and velvet.  92
TRAPICHE BROQUEL BONARDA 2007,  Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0% XD, #055558  $15.95  (Tasted February 8, 2011)  CS
A Vintages release on February 5, 2011 rated 90 (May 7, 2009) and described by Natalie MacLean as “… A juicy-ripe red with rich black fruit, licorice, blueberry, coconut, dark spices and vanilla smoke. The vines for this wine were 20 years old, and the wine was aged in oak barrels for 12 months. Good firm tannins. Decant for 1-2 hours.“  My notes:  Almost a two year old tasting note but then it‘s a full-bodied full flavoured red.   No need to decant now. A swirl brings a thick film with slow legs to the glass and a sniff gives up a spicy bright zinfandel-like fruit to the nasal nodes. A royal ruby colour with flavours of berries and red currants leaving warmth and well established tannins behind. Slightly tooth cleaning unless biting on a party sausage or bacon and brie stuffed mushrooms. Have with a T-bone or tray of blue sliders. Cellar up to four years or drink now.  91
LE CINCIOLE CHIANTI CLASSICO 2007,  Tuscany, Italy, 13.5% D, #207795  $19.95  (Tasted February 15, 2011)  CS
A Vintages release on February 5, 2011 rated 91 (Oct. 2010) and described by James Suckling as “A layered and pretty wine, with berry and cherry character and hints of new wood. Full-bodied, yet reserved and balanced. Best from 2011 through 2016.”  My notes: Pours as a light-bodied red yet is a mid ruby in the glass. A thin film with fast tears is light in viscosity and the first sip confirms a lightish medium-bodied Chianti. The nose has a delicate woodiness and there’s a flavour of cherry and leather, silky edged leaving a light oil on the lips. A tannic dryness coats the mouth, some warmth and remnants of mostly wood and delicate cherry give an interesting finish. Not that exciting as a sipper altho’ quaffing intensifies the character if so inclined or pair with an Italian main course, meaty and cheesy. Likely at peak tho’ cellaring for a few more years should be OK.  85

JOSEPH CATTIN ALSACE PINOT GRIS 2008,  Alsace, France, 13.0%  MD, #196956  $18.95   (Tasted February 25, 2011)  CS
A Vintages release on February 5, 2011 described by the Panel (May 2010) as “… This Pinot Gris is an award winner, and deservedly so, with its beautifully balanced elements of peach, apple, poached pear, baking spice and pumpkin. Tangy, crisp and flavourful, with great intensity and length.”  My notes: A winner of a Gold Medal at the Grand Concours des Vins d’Alsace 2009 - an old tasting note for a delicate white. A mid golden colour, possible a touch of peach, with some noticeable sweetness and having a fully rounded mouthfeel. Has an almost imperceptible nose - could have been floral at one time - now a pie dough essence - and a peach pie flavour, including the crust, finishing with a tinge of tangy melon. Well made but has minor sipper appeal as flavours remain undefined through to the finish.  Have with a shrimp or mild mushroom omelette.  82

GHOST PINES WINEMAKER’S BLEND CHARDONNAY 2007,  Napa County, California, 14.5%  D, #136408  D, #136408  $19.95  (Tasted February 8, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on February 5, 2011 rated 88 (Dec. 2008) and described by Robert Parker Jr.  as “The 2007 Chardonnay exhibits plenty of pineapple, nectarine, pear, and peach characteristics in its fresh, lively, medium to full-bodied, crisp personality. The oak is kept well in the background ... The Ghost Pines offerings merit serious attention from bargain hunting consumers."  My notes: A blend of chardonnays from Sonoma County (25%), Napa county (35%) and Monterey County (40%). A slight nose of floral citrus and hazelnut needing time to develop after pouring and shows a cascading thin film on the glass. Some lemon, some orange and some pear in the first sip with a mild tang and dry texture. The roundness adds prominence to moderate flavours balancing everything for a long smooth, warm finish. An interesting social sipper with enough body and flavours to match a shrimp and lemon seasoned spaghettini dish. Not likely to cellar longer than a year.  87

ABBONA LA PIEVE BAROLO 2005,  Piedmont, Italy, 14.0%  XD, #213132  $26.95  (Tasted February 5, 2011)  CS
A Vintages release on February 5, 2011 described anonymously (undated) as “The great Nebbiolo-based wines of Barolo rarely come at this fine a price, so this is the perfect opportunity to sample this Piedmontese classic. The 2005 vintage is just starting to hit the market, so this also offers an opportune sneak-peek at the character of the vintage. Look for aromas of plum, truffles, raspberry and cedar in this wine. The tannins should be firm, but there will be plenty of fruit here to to bring balance.”  My notes:  A delicious oaked cherry jam aroma, an adobe tinged red plum colour and a firm film with slow tears sets an impression of aged elegance. The first sip is tannin drenched parching the palate and lightly flavoured with a cherry taste fading to bramble in a moderate finish. A drying texture rather than the expected silk and on the light side as a match for rare tenderloins wrapped in pastry prepared for friends. A contrast from full-bodied fruit driven New World reds or smooth Rhone blends and, unless a preferred style, disappointing overall. Past cellaring.   84

YALUMBA ’THE Y SERIES’ VIOGNIER 2008,  South Australia, 14.5% D, #624502  $14.95   (Tasted February 7, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on February 5, 2011 rated 88 (July 2009) and described by Harvey Steiman as “Bright and tangy, with floral and green berry flavors that linger on the citrusy finish.”  My notes: The 2004 and 2006 vintages were previously tasted with good recollections. The 2008 has retained the greenish cast to a mid golden colour. A strong imagination senses lemon and pineapple in the nose and the first sip has consistent flavours of lemon-lime and melon complete with the associated tartness and creamy texture. The citrus-melon combination continues for a long finish before ending adding a smooth roundness and a light pithiness. Medium-bodied with no sweet sense and dry rather than extra dry. Drinking well now.  85

JANSZ TASMANIA PREMIUM NV ROSÉ, Tasmania, Australia, 12.5% D, #037499  $24.75  (Tasted February 14, 2011)  CS
the Aftermath

A Vintages release on February 5, 2011 rated 90 (June 2010) and described by Lisa Perrotti-Brown, MW  as “… a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay receiving 2.5 - 3 years on its lees. With a very pale salmon color, it reveals aromas of rose petals, strawberries and crumbled biscuits plus subtle notes of peaches and honeysuckle. A nice backbone of high acidity is balanced by 9 g/l of dosage and some autolytic richness lending pleasantly toasty/creamy flavours.  My notes:  A slight yeastiness is all this aroma holds, more was expected. A full burst of bubbles and a continuous stream very fine to tease the palate against a background of brilliant salmon colour. Bubbles explode with a gulp and flavours of light citrus, cream and berry entertain the first sip then fades quickly to a carbonated finish. A delightful sipper and would be great with fresh oysters or crab cakes. Enjoyable as an introduction to a King Crab Valentine feast. A light-bodied bubbly that will last a few years without harm.  88

KLEINE ZALZE BARREL FERMENTED VINEYARD SELECTION CHARDONNAY 2009, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 14.0% D, #096495  $15.95  (Tasted February 12, 2011)  CS
A Vintages release on February 5, 2011 described anonymously (undated) as “This dry, creamy-textured Chardonnay is a born extrovert, showing off lovely citrus and tree fruit aromas and flavours that blend nicely with the oak elements… “ My notes:  A chardonnay that flows smoothly into a glass with mid bright gold colours and a buttery film. An elegant bouquet of spiced citrus with a whiff of almond honey followed by a banana and citrus flavour with well balanced tang then finishing dry on the tongue. As a sipper, full-bodied, has a citrus tang and ends extra dry with a somewhat compensating warmth - scrumptious. Cellaring a few years should be OK - not longer to retain freshness. Have with anything fishy or creamy cheese pastas.  90

VERAMONTE SAUVIGNON BLANC RESERVA 2009, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 13.5%  D, #602649   $13.95  (Tasted February 14, 2011)  CS
A vintages release on November 13, 2010 rated 88 and described by Josh Reynolds  (Mar/Apr 2010) as “Pale yellow. High-pitched, spicy aromas of lime zest, grapefruit and talc, with a suave floral overtone. Juicy, sharply focused citrus and mineral flavors expand and gain depth in the middle palate, picking up a juicy pear quality. The talc note returns on the finish, which is refreshingly nervy and dry.”  My notes: The 2008 chardonnay (#494443) was tasted in November last year rated 88 - a good start. The sauvignon blanc is a light blond with a green tinge, delicate with a thin film that cascades down the glass. The nose has a nutty nettles aroma gooseberries in the distant background. Nicely tart and slightly smooth with a smart citrus finish fading slowly to a dry pithy ending. An acceptable sipper and a fair pairing with crab legs for a Valentines supper. A drink now. 84
ALBERT BICHOT BOURGOGNE ‘VIEILLES VIGNES’ PINOT NOIR 2008, Burgundy, France, 12.5% D, #166959  $13.45*  (Tasted February 11, 2011)  CS
A General listing described anonymously (undated) as “Albert Bichot Bourgogne Pinot Noir is bursting with aromas and flavours of raspberries with hints of spice… “  My notes:  The label has ‘Vieilles Vignes’ which was previously a Vintages release on January 9, 2010 under #043331 @ $16.95, still listed but not available. The Vintages Panel note (Aug 2009) for #043331 matches this bottle closely. Now for #166959: The receding film leaves a brocaded rim, slow legs and a grey toned pinkish rim deepening into the bowl to a charcoal ruby red colour. Medium-bodied, silky smooth with a polite acid and ribbons of earthy strawberry and red cherry flavours threading the palate. Flavours fade slowly ending with dry tannins and mineral biased fruit. A European pinot to pair with cedar planked salmon or rotisseried rosemary chicken or slowly sip. Cellar up to four years. 89

PIERRE ANDRÉ BOURGOGNE ‘VIEILLES VIGNES’ PINOT NOIR RÉSERVE 2008, Burgundy, France, 12.5% D, #168427  $16.05  (Tasted February 17, 2011) CS

A General listing described anonymously (undated) as “Bright ruby red colour, ripe cherry and rasberry aromas; dry, light body; cherry and cranberry flavours with balanced acidity and clean finish. … “  My notes: A mid raspberry colour in the glass, a thin film with fast tears and aromas of earthy berries contradicts the character of ‘vieilles vignes’ and ‘reserve’ in my mind. Light-bodied, smooth, well balanced but light on acid and tannin and finishing with a thin cranberry flavouring. Would not impress as a social sipper in a mixed crowd - might pass paired with a ham steak, veal scallopini or a broccoli and cheese casserole. A drink now. 79

CHÂTEAU PEY LA TOUR GRAND VIN DE BORDEAUX 2007, Bordeaux, France, 13.0%  XD, #925859  $19.95  (Tasted February 23, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on May 15, 2010 described as “Modern-styled, but definitely rooted in Bordeaux, this rich and elegant red features cassis, ripe black cherry, cedar and vanilla flavours, leading to a chewy and medium finish that suggests plenty of succulent sweet cassis… ”  My notes: Comes with a Gold Medal from the Concours Mondial Bruxelles 2009. This vintage has 95% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Petit Verdot compared with the 2005 (rated 89 in January 2008) that had 89%, 8% and 3% of the respective varieties and was priced $3 more. Almost black black cherry in colour and a well blended scent of earthy woods and just perceptible berry. The film is well established running long legs with no staining and the first sip confirms a European process as a full oak treatment masks most fruit that comes forward in a long cassis and blackberry finish. Medium-bodied with well balanced tannin and acid the mouth is left dry, bright and woody. Have with savoury lamb shank or beef stew. This may develop an interesting complexity with four or more years in the cellar but drinking acceptably now. 88 

RUSTENBERG BRAMPTON SAUVIGNON BLANC 2009, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 13.5% XD, #203901  $13.95  (Tasted February 23, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on February 19, 2011 rated 3 ½ (of 5) by Winnie Bowman  (2010) and described as “Fresh, intense tropical fruit, [the] 2009 [is] round and balanced, [with] a clean line of minerality & firm acidity. Intense, zesty finish.”  My notes: A light blond colour and aromas of muted gooseberries and nettles. The first sip shows a shallow roundness with tropical flavours that provide an interesting initial platform suitable for savoury dishes and light Japanese but not spicy Thai - was enjoyable with Grilled salmon filets. The finish brings out a faint lime zest and a mineral chalkiness - not extra dry. A few years cellaring may be ‘fruitful’ developing breadth of textures while retaining subtle flavours.  86