Friday, May 20, 2011

Who's to Blame?

Sampler Sets
First, I have to clarify that I’m not a marketing or media guru although I did spend the latter part of my career as a Canada-wide Product Manager in an industry unrelated to wine. This blog was instigated by a recent article asking  'Who's to Blame?'  preceded by a personal and unsuccessful attempt to buy Niagara wine for which I 'blame the winery'.  Also it's based on two years participating with Twitter and following the dialogue of many winemakers, media agents, wine distributors and wine writers, in Canada, the USA and Internationally.

The question was 'Who's to blame that there's 'no' Ontario wines on restaurant wine lists?' 
(see referenced article for context).

My conclusion is that, simplistically, wineries are to blame! Who else controls their market potential and growth? We can’t blame the LCBO for everything although clearly their mandate constrains a struggling Ontario wine industry.  Likened to a master/slave relationship the LCBO sets product pricing, restrictions on serving, sampling and  delivering wines on premises or at events. Penalties for violations are severe - from withholding licenses to closing access to Outlet shelf space. Such power ensures silent compliance. The LCBO is a two-faced god: a monopoly that controls the importation and sale of wines and an oligopoly that keeps serfs from free access to the Ontario market - a very successful organization for centralizing access and sale of alcoholic beverages in Ontario - a tunnel visioned business management system not capitalizing on the
domestic and international sales potential of hundreds of Ontario wineries. 

Local social media are partly at fault. Although well intentioned most think inside-the-box. It’s wine! So offer versions of tasting events or lists of tasting notes to entice customers into ordering wines, by the dozen if you please. In fact, if the tasting event is held at a restaurant you increase customer attraction to the wines being offered - this in turn will grow the business - so they say. I enjoyed the 5 course meal with wine pairings I had recently. Presentation of the wines was more than informative and it was delightful meeting fellow guests over five interesting wines and sumptuous cuisine. However buying wine was never an intention. ‘Tastings’, no matter how they’re gussied up, are on the periphery of what could/should be done to expand wine sales.

So why do I think this?
The Niagara and BC wine industries are still in their infancy. Other Canadian wine regions are still unborn, trying their best to emerge and search for nourishment in order to sustain growth. Individuals have voiced aspirations about their products but none have actually gained traction in the marketplace. I have no investment in their business but still am frustrated watching craft wineries swimming against the tide of imports, nonVQAs and ICBs. I can just imagine the exasperation they must feel!

What has held the Niagara Region back?
Generally, and unfortunately the good are swept up with the bad in this commentary, many of the social media influence wineries to put their effort into promotions that have limited or no return. Events that are a hive of activity sucking energy to attract a nucleus of mutual admirers, hangers-on and if lucky a few wine buying tourists. These events have little to contribute in growing the market or making inroads into fertile territory. Ontario consumers are willing and able… they just don’t play these games.

Also there is no ‘Petrus‘, there’s no ‘Caymus‘, a ‘Cakebread’ or ’Opus 1’ in the collection of Ontario wines. The Movies, even Canadian ones, toast with Dom Pérignon or Krug. I hear someone saying ‘but our wines are just as good - give them a chance!’  There’s more than what’s in the bottle going for the prestige Brands. They are recognized as symbols of ‘having arrived’. Some Niagara wines are priced as though they are equivalent. I say you have to earn a ‘TAG Heuer’ reputation before you set the price.

My advice to the wineries:
Return to reality. Take control of what’s planned on your behalf. Set your own goals to build your Brand. Set a means to reach these goals and measure your progress. Then you’ll be in a position to question anyone banging at your door giving marketing advice.

Random Thoughts and Why nots:

Ship anywhere - quickly, cheaply
  • Why not offer a periodical of winery releases - by varietal, price and winery, or by sub-app (1). Add ‘bin ends’.  Include every winery wanting in on this free publication. Include a 'Shopping List', à la Vintages. Copy Vintages magazine format but trim the waste space, marketing hype and expensive gloss - on second thought. Do your own thing!
  • Distribute it to Ontario restaurants that have an e.mail address or website. Put stacks in every LCBO Outlet.
  • Offer add-on services to restaurants - eg. a mixed case comes with a ‘sommelier’ created wine pairing for their menu entrées. 
  • Package sets of 100mL (or so) taster bottles so restaurant owners/sommeliers can sample without costly travel.
  • Establish convenient pickup points for your wines. The LCBO provides this for Opimian members - why not for you!
Who's to blame?  Wineries of course!
Cheers, Ww

Comment: 1. Just received another LCBO glossy this morning (28May11). A compendium of drinks mixed with alcohols from around the world.  Why doesn't the LCBO put together similar adverts for all Ontario wines - not just those with a listing? Whether sold at an Outlet or at a Winery we pay the same per bottle?  

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Buying into a Buying Strategy: 10 Tasted of 10

This is my twist on selecting wines from  Vintages' May 14, 2011 Release.

Wine critics and journalists usually have a distinct advantage when reviewing Vintages Releases. Being invited by Vintages and/or Distributors they can 'kick the tires' so to speak - try wines before they are released to the public.  I followed several critics for years and their columns and tasting notes often encouraged my choices for Vintages purchases. I've now altered my selection sequence. First I scan their tasting notes then apply a Value to each using their rating
and my  'Value Chart'This narrows down purchases to those showing a value that is 'Worth it', 'Buy a few more' or 'Stock up'.  This puts a budget component in my LCBO choices.

When you’re not on the hook for the bottle price it’s easy to focus on expensive wines and critics often emphasize the high end. But most reviewers include a few 'economy' or first tier wines as they do local wines as a courtesy to the on-a-budget consumer and the home industry. But I do have a budget and my interest is not political nor do I have a universal audience to satisfy.  My sole interest is to target highly rated wines that also have value. Unless you’re well healed or buying for a special reason and not concerned about price, are you aiming for value?

I've look at one critic’s choices for this Release.  Tony Aspler's Picks are listed below including his rating for each wine.  I then added the bottle price and a Value indicator using my  'Value Chart'.  My question to you is:  If a 'Value' rating were included for each bottle would you be more inclined to alter your purchase in favour of the higher value wine - with the proviso that tasting notes indicate the wines meet your occasion?

In this group none of the wines had the highest Value rating ‘Stock up’, ie.  I did not find any of these wines priced such that I would purchase for a rainy day or for cellaring.  Four were 'Not a value' and I'd either look for a lower priced wine or one with a higher rating. Three were 'Worth it' but exceeded my budget.  Perhaps this has become my strategy for getting my best buy although in this lot all but two exceeded my budget of $25.  After reviewing the tasting notes I decided to go on my own.

  1. Cordero di Montezemolo Monfalletto Barolo 2006 (91)  $52-Not a value
  2. Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet/Shiraz 2007  (91)  $38-Worth it
  3. Chapel Hill Shiraz 2008  (91)  $25-Buy a few more
  4. Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz 2009 (91)  $27-Worth it
  5. Dr. Pauly - Bergweiler Riesling Spatlese 2008 (90)  $25-Worth it  
  6. Bonny Doon Beeswax Vineyard Le Cigare Blanc 2008 (90)  $30-Not a value
  7. Mer Soleil Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2008  (90)  $35-Not a value
  8. Freeman Pinot Noir 2007   (90)  $45-Not a value
  9. Mustiguillo Mestis 2008  (90)  $16-Buy a few more
  10. Malivoire Ladybug Rosé 2010  (89)  $16-Buy a few more
Back to Vintages Shopping List:  I now resort to fingering through the Releases selecting wines based on:

    • A prior tasting in 5 years of blog entries
    • A new label that looks serious about wine
    • A balance of reds, whites, rosés and sparklers
    • A balance of traditional varieties and blends as well as indigenous grapes and styles
The ones I've selected from the May 14th release are listed below. I'll find out if I've stuck my palate out too far!

For those not aware or may have missed the CBC The Current’s Tom Harrington  interviewing Terry Mulligan on his challenge of the Prohibition era law preventing transport of wines across Provincial borders you can tune in to his pod cast.  There’s also comment from Daniel Lenko on this subject and the impact to his business, a legal challenge based on the law’s violation of Canadian Constitution and the inadequacies of BC MP Ron Cannon’s members bill to change the law. A response from a Liquor Board representative is included.  It’s thirty minutes covering prominent issues and well worth a listen.   

Cheers, Ww

THE LINEUP - grouped by reds, whites, rosés, sparkles and other:

  • Cline Ancient Vines Mourvèdre 2009,  94-3 --  V, Contra Costa County, California, #066084 $18.95 
  • Vineland Pinot Meunier 2009 VQA Niagara Escarpment, 91-2 --  V, Vineland, Ontario, #225508 $17.95  
  • Luigi Righetti Campolieti Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2008,  87-Cellar  --  V,   Veneto, Italy, #695890 $16.95    
  • Pencarrow Pinot Noir 2009,  83  --  V, Martinborough, NZ, #692301 $21.95

  • E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Vin Blanc 2009,  92-3  --  V, Rhône, France, #290296 $15.95
  • Quails’ Gate Chardonnay 2008 BC VQA Okanagan Valley, 85  --  V, Kelowna, BC,  #377770 $19.95 
  • Sols & Sens Côtes du Rhône-Villages Laudun 2009,  82  --  V, Rhône, France, #223438   $13.95

  • Zenato Bardolino Chiaretto 2010,  89-2  --  V, Veneto, Italy, #045203 $11.95
  • Gassier Sables d’Azur Rosé 2010,  89-2  --  V,  Provence, France, #033621 $13.95

  • Masottina Extra Dry Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore NV,  91-2  --  V, Veneto, Italy, #216317 $19.95
(G - General Listing, V - Vintages, r-v - Rating-Value)


QUAILS' GATE CHARDONNAY 2008 BC VQA Okanagan Valley, Kelowna, BC, 14.0% D, #377770  $19.95  (Tasted May 19, 2011)  CS

A Vintages Release on May 14, 2011.  John Schreiner rated this 90 (May 18, 2010) describing it as follows: “There are notes of citrus on the nose and the palate. The hint of oak and of the lees fleshes out the wine which, nevertheless, finishes with a clean, focussed and refreshing crispness.”  My notes:  A light blond with a hint of green and a subtle aroma or citrus and stone fruit. The stone fruit carries through to the first sip including a citrus tang that refreshes the taste buds. Finishing dry with tang then slowly fading to a grassy citrus. Very clean and having a smooth intro to the palate makes this an interesting sipper or pairing with chicken or fish dishes. A drink now - not for cellaring, likely past due.  85


A Vintages Release on May 14, 2011.  My notes:  If Niagara could infuse as much fineness and abundance of bubbles in a $20 Pinot or Chardonnay Brut they’d become ‘world renown’. This has a Danish blond colour with streams of fine bubbles flowing endlessly from the sides of the glass. The film is thin with many fast tears and there’s a scarce aroma of grapefruit and vanilla. The spritz refreshes the palate flooding it with creamy flavours of grapefruit and melon, not heavy but delicate. The finish has a creamy touch to a grapefruit citrus. Quaff or sip well chilled this is very enjoyable. Serve unreservedly to guests of all inclinations - they will enjoy. Have with salty crackers or fresh oysters with lime slices. Have on the patio or toast to special occasion. This should keep for a few years - hopefully Vintages will continue to make it available but you never know.  91

SOLS & SENS CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES LAUDUN 2009, Rhône, France, 13.5% XD, #223438   $13.95  (Tasted May 26, 2011)  CS

  A Vintages Release on May 14, 2011. A blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Viognier and 10% Roussanne.  Awarded a Gold Medal at the International Wine Challenge 2010.  My notes:  This has a soft butter gold colour and has a fairly thin film not showing tears but a lacy rim. Hardly any nose unless given time to go off chill then shows a mild lemon and hint of floral. The first sip is bright with light lemon, touch of cooked apple. The finish is extra dry with a mineral edge. Not enough fruit for a sipper but interesting nevertheless from start to finish. Have with seafood or bacon wrapped scallops as a refresher at a buffet table. I’d expect no improvement if cellared. So much for International Gold Medals.  82

PENCARROW PINOT NOIR 2009, Martinborough, NZ, 14.5% XD, #692301  $21.95  (Tasted May 20, 2011)  CS

A Vintages Release on May 14, 2011.  A Palliser Estate wine awarded a Gold Medal at the 2010 Air New Zealand Wine Awards. Rated 88 (Sept/Oct 2010) and described by Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar, as ‘… Red and black fruit aromas are complicated by mint and flowers. In a very ripe and rather beefy style, notable more for its impression of strong extract than for complexity of flavor. Finishes with dusty tannins.”   My notes:  A granite glint sets this as a wine with a reserved attraction. The film is firm with many long slow legs and the penetrating tang rouses an initial interest. The distracting warmth of the first sip convinces me to let it sit for awhile - thirty minutes which didn‘t help. Raspberry and strawberry aromas blend with oak, medium-bodied, dry with no sweetness, attractively smooth. The finish repeats the penetrating character putting fruit and texture out of balance, attractive perhaps for scotch drinkers but too hot as a sipper for me. Have with well seasoned bbq’d ribs or steaks. Cellaring is not likely to mellow the roughness. 83
GASSIER SABLES D'AZUR ROSÉ 2010,  Provence, France, 12.5% XD, #033621  $13.95  (Tasted May 14, 2011)  CS

A Vintages Release on May 14, 2011.  My notes:   A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault delivered in an attractive package shaped as coquettish as the salmon pink colour and aromatic scent of talc. Bone dry at first sip and silky smooth, tart with fresh berry and mineral flavours querying do I like it? or do I not? Medium-bodied with a fullness that flows the flavour mix to every corner of the palate. My decision is that there’s much to enjoy. Sips went well with appetizers of grilled coconut shrimp and fresh strawberries. Cellaring a year could smooth out some rawness to add to the rating.   89

VINELAND PINOT MEUNIER 2009 VQA Niagara Escarpment, Vineland, Ontario, 13.0% XD, #225508  $17.95  (Tasted May 23, 2011)  CS

A Vintages Release on May 14, 2011. Pinot Meunier is rarely made as a stand-alone varietal.  My notes:  My first Meunier. I found it similar to Pinot Noir - mid ruby colour, nose a blend of strawberry and raspberry but muted so both are separately indistinguishable. Smooth film with long legs and the first sip is smooth, well balanced acid and tannins giving a dryness that coats the mouth. The dryness continues into the long finish ending dry and woody. Has interest as a medium-bodied, polite sipper but would pair nicely with most entrées: salmon, tuna steak, rabbit, veal or pork. Stood up well with an orange-ginger beef stew on a salad of bean sprouts and baby spinach. Cellaring for several years is a possibility and may bring out more depth.  91
LUIGI RIGHETTI CAMPOLIETI RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2008,  Veneto, Italy,  13.5% XD, #695890  $16.95  (Tasted May 24, 2011)  CS

A Vintages Release on May 14, 2011.  My notes:  The 2003 was tasted on March 22, 2006 as a 'drink now'.  Five vintages later the 2008 has a classic label and pours a mid ruby in the glass. The aroma has tones of dark chocolate, liquorice and black cherries nicely balanced with a spiciness that suits. A fairly firm film shedding long slow legs and the first sip stings on all fronts then leaves a metallic sharpness in its tracks. Tooth cleaning with flavours of red cherries and a strong warmth if you’re sipping. Better paired with a tomato pasta with chorizo sausage pieces. Not a drink now but one for the cellar - five to eight years is my guess. Unless you prefer 'paesano' or home style I'd skip it.  87 Cellar  

CLINE ANCIENT VINES MOURVÈDRE 2009, Contra Costa County, California, 15.0% XD, #066084   $18.95  (Tasted May 16, 2011)  CS

A Vintages Release on May 14, 2011.  My notes: My imagery of an 'ancient vines' mourvédre: visual, texture and flavour profile, is of a sedate men’s club complete with smoking jacket and Havana cigar. The Cline 2009 has a dense overripe black cherry colour and an aroma full of spice, forest floor, blackberry and black cherry - air a short while. Predicting velvety smoothness and depth the film sticks then runs slow long legs on the glass.  The first sip confirms all: full-bodied, deeply textured, concentrated fruit and tannins, a polite bite combined with smoky oak. Starting with intensity the finish fades slowly retaining all elements until ending dry with a touch of mild tobacco.  Well balanced, suitable for a fireside read or pair with prime rib, beef tenderloin, venison, ie. anything meaty. Cellaring for several years may mellow some minor roughness.  94 

E. GUIGAL CÔTES DU RHÔNE VIN BLANC 2009,   Rhône, France, 13.5% XD, #290296  $15.95  (Tasted May 16, 2011)  CS

A Vintages Release on May 14, 2011.  Rated 89 by Robert Parker Jr.  (Oct. 2010) and described as “… usually 50% Viognier and the rest a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Clairette and Bourboulenc aged in tank, is just lovely. Fresh honeyed notes with some tropical fruits and other assorted citrus all jump from the glass of this medium-bodied, crisp, fresh wine, which over-delivers in personality, flavour and complexity.”  My notes:A light golden blond showing a firm film that gradually accumulates slow tears. The nose needs time to develop as the glass goes off chill then it’s a subdued grapefruit pith with a tinge of citrus. Flavours are smooth expanding as the palate warms - starting with a bright grassy kiwi melon turning to a tart citrus then a penetrating almost-ripe grapefruit/melon. The finish is interesting for the touch of oil on the lips the fruit having faded to a subtle grassy melon and tang.  This would pair nicely with most seafoods either appetizers or entrées. Ideal with lobster tails or Alaskan King crab pieces and was fantastic with grilled Pacific salmon.  Cellaring for several years would likely do well.  92

ZENATO BARDOLINO CHIARETTO 2010, Veneto, Italy, 12.0% D, #045203  $11.95  (Tasted May 30, 2011)  CS

A Vintages Release on May 14, 2011.  My notes: The 2007 vintage was tasted June 28, 2008 with a rating of 89. Made from Corvina and Rondinella grapes left on skins only a few hours to extract a peachy pink colour. It met all of the criteria of a ‘social sipper’. Now a loonie cheaper the 2010 has the same colour, perhaps a tad deeper to a salmon. A floral, peach and red currant aroma meets the nose with a strawberry smoothness and blend of berries and watermelon for flavours. Finishes refreshing and dry. Enjoyable as a patio sipper with the roundness leaving an appropriate intro to buffet sandwiches followed by petits fours - or just sip.  This could cellar well for a few years. 89 

Monday, May 02, 2011

May 2011 Whites+: 15 Tasted of 15

City Lights
Tornado Nest
Wild Marsh

We attended a showing of acryllics and oils at the The Heliconian Club on Hazelton Avenue in Yorkville - dramatic impressions and expressions by an energetic bubbling spirit called Indrani de Silva. Above are my favourites of the show. Visit Indrani's website or send an e.mail to for future showings or more information on her canvasses.

As for May's wines, hopefully separating Whites, Rosés and Sparkles from the May Reds shortens a search for a particular wine.

Cheers, Ww

THE MAY WHITES+ LINEUP - grouped by whites, rosés, sparkles and other:
  • Jules Taylor Sauvignon Blanc 2009,  93-3  --  V, Marlborough, NZ,  #224428 $18.95
  • Gehringer Brothers ‘Dry Rock Vineyards’ Unoaked Chardonnay 2009 VQA Okanagan Valley, 91-2  --  V, Oliver, BC,  #219642 $18.95
  • Domdechant Werner’Shes Weingut Riesling Kabinett 2008,  88-1  --  V, Rheingau, Germany, #722413 $18.95  
  • Weingut Familie Rauen Riesling Kabinett Trocken 2009,  87-1  --  V, Mosel, Germany, #211086  $14.95
  • Tahbilk Marsanne 2009,  86  --  V, Central Victoria, Australia, #117945 $16.95
  • Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc 2009,  81  --  V, Sonoma County, California, #354993  $19.95 
  • Wolf Blass Red Label Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2010,  80  --  G, South Eastern Australia,  #323063 $13.00 

  • Château de Fonscolombe Cuvée Spéciale Rosé 2010, 91-3  --  V, Provence, France, #180851 $13.95
  • Planeta Rosé 2010,  89-1  --  V, Sicily, Italy, #111856 $16.95 
  • Tawse ‘Sketches of Niagara’ Rosé 2010 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  87-1  -- V, Vineland, Ontario, #172643 $14.95
  • Montes Cherub Rosé Syrah 2010,  80  --  V, Colchagua Valley, Chile, #037887  $14.95
  • Montes Cherub Rosé Syrah 2009,  65  --  V, Colchagua Valley, Chile, #037887  $14.95 

  • Cave Spring Blanc de Blancs NV VQA Niagara Escarpment, 90-1  --  G, Jordan, Ontario, #213983  $29.95 
  • Emeri de Bortoli Pink Moscato NV,  80  --  G, South Eastern Australia, #222190 $14.95  
  • Emeri de Bortoli Pinot Grigio NV, 80  --  G, South Eastern Australia, #222224 $14.95 
 (G - General Listing, V - Vintages, r-v - Rating-Value, O - Other) 


EMERI DE BORTOLI PINK MOSCATO NV, South Eastern Australia, 8.0% S, #222190  $14.95  (Tasted May 1, 2011)  CS

A General listing.  My notes: The 2009 dB Traminer Riesling tasted last month (#207381, $12.95) and 2008 dB Select Rosé (#120238, $8.95) last year weren't up to wines of  2004 and 2006 vintages.  Perhaps this winery has gone through a change.  There’s a mild burst bubbles on opening and on pouring of this ‘bubbly’ that quickly subsides into a sparse rim of tiny bubbles. A coquettish salmon pink and a delicate floral and sweet muffin nose has some appeal. There’s a sticky film with long slow legs showing on the glass. The first sip has a surge of CO2 tartness to balance the not so subtle sweetness and is smooth with flavours of bland crushed strawberries and vanilla icing. A light spritz and mild acid quickly tail off leading to a flat finish. Serve well chilled as a polite sipper for a baby shower or an opener for a summer patio mixer. A commercial drink now.  80

EMERI DE BORTOLI PINOT GRIGIO NV,  South Eastern Australia, 10.5% M, #222224  $14.95  (Tasted May 8, 2011)  CS

A General listing.  My notes:  A pale golden colour with a burst of medium to large bubbles on pouring that subside quickly. A just perceptible aroma of ripe grapefruit complete with a pithy zest giving some brightness. The film is thin and recedes quickly. The flavour is a mild white grapefruit with a tart acid masking any sweetness. The smooth texture and freshness of the first sip makes this an OK sipper or bright white to have with raw oysters, coconut shrimp or crab cakes - but hold the spicy seafood sauce. Also could be a drink now for a family social or summer quaffer. I missed a distinct varietal - basically a straight forward spritzy beverage.  80

MONTES CHERUB ROSÉ SYRAH 2009, Colchagua Valley, Chile, 13.5% XD, #037887   $14.95   (Tasted May 4, 2011)  CS

A Vintages Release but uncertain of the date.  My notes: The 2009 was still on the shelf at the local LCBO and I absentmindedly picked it up. The 2007 (84) and 2008 (90-2) Montes Cherub Rose were tasted in December 2008 and July 2009 respectively. The 2009 vintage has the deep red cherry colour of the 2008 altho’ the nose has an incongruous barnyard aspect. The acid bite pairs nicely with faint wild strawberry, not fresh as in the 2008 and with the barnyard accent. The flavour carries into the finish becoming more predominant then ending with a bland mouthfeel. Overall I’d avoid this as a sipper - I suspect the reason why it’s still on the shelf. Airing doesn’t help and it’s the first time I’ve returned a flawed bottle. 65 

MONTES CHERUB ROSÉ SYRAH 2010, Colchagua Valley, Chile, 13.5% XD, #037887   $14.95   (Tasted May 4, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on April 30, 2011.  My notes:  Tony Aspler  gave the 2010 88 points (January 10, 2011). A light red cherry colour with a faint wild strawberry perfumed nose, a minor attraction. The film is firm altho‘ thin with scalloped edges trailing long tears. A burst of dry strawberrries when quaffed. The finish has a residual strawberry/cherry highlight that ends with a light straw and very dry. A meal wine to combine with fried octopus, breaded crab cakes or scallops. A simple sipper - not for cellaring. Disappointing compared with 2007, 2008 vintages.  80

PLANETA ROSÉ 2010, Sicily, Italy, 12.0% XD, #111856   $16.95   (Tasted May 12, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on April 30, 2011.   My notes: Made from 100% Syrah grapes. A rich salmon colour with an aromatic peach/red currant nose, slightly spicy. The film is firm with long legs and the first sip has a penetrating tang and flavours of red currant and stone fruit both heading toward a long finish that ends somewhat sharp, grassy and very dry. An interesting sipper for its flavour profile and fullness. Paired well with roasted chicken pieces both white and dark and should with light meats, a ham steak or pork chops. I’d be tempted to cellar this up to four years - texture may deepen further with less fruit but rounder.  89 

TAWSE 'SKETCHES OF NIAGARA' ROSÉ 2010 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Vineland, Ontario, 12.0% XD, #172643  $14.95   (Tasted May 2, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on April 30, 2011.  My notes: Recommended by  Michael Pinkus  (January 12, 2011) - a blend of Gamay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  A delightful vivid pink leaving a thin film that quickly recedes from a lacy rim. The nose has a clean aroma of white cherries and the first sip is fuller than anticipated with white cherries lined with acid, not too tart but nicely balanced for sipping, succulent especially if quaffed and having a long smooth, very dry finish. Medium-bodied with flavours that build making this a pleasing sipper. Also should carry itself well with grilled Atlantic salmon steak, sechuan tid bits, sushi or a Bento box. A well blended drink now.   87

CHÂTEAU DE FONSCOLOMBE    CUVÉE SPÉCIALE ROSÉ 2010, Provence, France, 12.9% XD, #180851  $13.95  (Tasted May 24, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on April 16, 2011.  My notes:  A Cabernet with Syrah blend from pebbles with a clay subsoil. It’s a sign of Spring when rosés from Provence are available. A light salmon colour with aromas of yellow tea roses, spicy edged. The film is firm falling lacily with moderate tears and the first sip has a mellow peach stone and apricot flavour, slightly sweet with an appealing acid to balance the fruit. The finish is smooth, medium-bodied, full of soft stone fruit flavour touched by tannins and ending dry. This should cellar several years gaining depth of texture and retaining fruit. Have as an appetizer or with white fish entrées, a fruit salad, pound cake with strawberries and cream or aged cheddar cheese.   91  

DOMDECHANT WERNER'SCHES WEINGUT RIESLING KABINETT 2008, Rheingau, Germany, 8.0% M, #722413  $18.95  (Tasted May 12, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on April 30, 2011.    David Schildknecht  (February, 2010) gave it 88 points saying "exudes a sherbet-like amalgam of pineapple, cherry and lime wreathed in mint and honeysuckle etc. "  My notes:  The low alcohol reduces the bite of this Rheingau and M shows up in the honey silk edge of the first sip. There’s a polite elegance when combined with a subtle honeysuckle and lemon nose. Some may say ‘too polite’ although there’s a substantial burst of acid for succulent sipping. The finish starts full then fades more quickly than I prefer but could add an alternative to a drink table for a mixed crowd on the patio. Serve well chilled and keep an ice bucket handy. Pair with a Mandarin Gardens take-out selection: Sweet & Sour Chicken, Pork Chow Mein or Shrimp Fried Rice, etc. Past cellaring.  88

CAVE SPRING BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT NV VQA Niagara Escarpment, Jordan, Ontario, 12.0% D, #213983   $29.95  (Tasted May 23, 2011)  CS

A General listing. Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes grown “in the limestone-clay soils …. Along the bench lands of the Niagara Escarpment. Vinified in the Traditional Method, fermented and aged ’sur lie’ in bottle for a minimum of 30 months…”  My notes: A burst of fine bubbles on pouring subsiding to a continuous stream accumulating at the rim - not quite mousseux. The first sip comes with a spritz fullness and a slight yeast, an acid tang and stone fruit - more stone than fruit. Dry on the palate, leaves a mineral flavour on the palate that’s refreshed with each sip. The finish is accented with a chalk dry texture. Have as a toast for that special occasion or with fresh oysters. We imbibed as an amuse-bouche before a orange-ginger beef stew. Cellar several years or drink now. 90   

WEINGUT FAMILIE RAUEN RIESLING KABINETT TROCKEN 2009, Mosel, Germany, 11.5% D, #211086   $14.95  (Tasted May 22, 2010)  CS

Released by Vintages on April 30, 2011.  My notes: A crisp blond colour with aromas of melon with a light citrus brightness. The film is firm shedding a few fast legs  and leaving a fine rim of lace. Served well chilled the fresh lemon and melon blend of the first sip is retained through to a tangy finish and ending with dry lemon tartness. Any sweetness is well balanced and masked by a consistent acid. Pair with seafood, fried octopus rings or chicken wings and chips or serve as a sipper for a patio crowd. This should cellar well for a few years.  87  

JULES TAYLOR SAUVIGNON BLANC 2009, Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% XD, #224428  $18.95  (Tasted May 9, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on April 16, 2011 saying “A protégé of Kim Crawford, Jules Taylor focuses strictly upon Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. This wine won a Gold Medal at the 2010 Pacific Rim Wine Competition.”  My notes: It’s refreshing and typically Kiwi for a winemaker to invite feedback ( This has a grapefruit juice colour, a light film with lacy edge and an aroma of juicy gooseberries. Refreshingly tingly on first sip and halfway to silky but with a dry mouthfeel. The finish continues from delightful fruit, gradually fading to a chalk dry ending altho’ still with tasty fruit and fullness. Except for the chalk this is a Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc (before 2008) - not as silky as the original Cloudy Bay - it’s this winemaker’s style and true to the grape - and did I mention luscious?  As a sipper I enjoyed its grapey freshness - perhaps needs some time in the bottle to pull everything together but drinking well now. Have with bearded mussels.  93

FERRARI-CARANO FUMÉ BLANC 2009, Sonoma County, California, 13.9% D, #354993  $19.95  (Tasted May 6, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on February 19, 2011 and rated 88 by Ken Hoggins   (June 11, 2010) saying “… opens with a mild passion fruit bouquet with a touch of lime. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied and balanced… flavour [is] mineral infused mild lime with a touch of green pear. The finish is dry and quite refreshing… “  My notes: A blond colour with a thin film that slides into long tears. The nose is grassy lacking distinct fruit. The first sip is tart on the tongue delivering an unsweetened blend of pear, stone fruit and lemon zest. A lightish medium-bodied dry-as-chalk sipper that‘s more interesting as a meal white - with coconut shrimp, crab cakes, with bacon wrapped scallops or with white fish entrees. The finish is appealing with body, warmth and softness when quaffed. I don’t see this improving if cellared. 81

GEHRINGER BROTHERS ‘DRY ROCK VINEYARDS’ UNOAKED CHARDONNAY 2009 VQA Okanagan Valley, Oliver, BC, 12.9% XD, #219642  $18.95  (Tasted May 25, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on January 8, 2011 and a Winner of Gold Medals at the 2010 All Canadian Wine Championships, and at the 2010 Northwest Wine Summit in Oregon.  My notes: : First impressions are of a fresh butter stick colour, a firm film and long legs showing lacy at the rim and a grapefruit peach aroma touched with butter. Nicely tart, medium-bodied with a silky texture, a persistent acid with melon and peach stone flavours - finishes dry with slight chalk. Serve chilled and sip for the interesting changes or have with roast chicken, pork chops with applesauce or a vegetarian pizza. Cellaring several years should add to silk and retain fruit and brightness.  91

TAHBILK MARSANNE 2009, Central Victoria, Australia, 13.5% XD, #117945  $16.95  (Tasted May 5, 2011)   CS

Release by Vintages on April 30, 2011. Rated 90 by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW  (June 2010) saying “…has intense aromas of honeyed white peach, ripe pears and orange blossom. Very clean and pure, this wine has a good intensity of stome fruit flavours and a long finish….” My notes: Recommended in a Tweet received from Christopher Waters (@waters_wine), editor of Vines Magazine. A lemon colour and a stab of lemon on the nose with a soft kiwi melon edge if allowed to develop. The film is firm falling to a lacy rim collecting long tears as it recedes. The first sip is medium-bodied with a good nip on the tongue and interesting combination of crab apple and peach stone. An acid seam continues through a long finish ending on a chalk dry lemon note. Starts as a fresh sipper building into a cleansing bitterness needing an appetizer or main course. Pair with bacon wrapped scallops, chicken wings or roast chicken or seafood and tomato pasta. A drink now… not for cellaring.  86

WOLF BLASS SEMILLON/SAUVIGNON BLANC 2010, South Eastern Australia,  13.0% D, #323063  $13.00 (Tasted May 16, 2011)  CS

My notes:  A pale gold, crystal clear in the glass with a bright aroma of evenly blended gooseberry and white grapefruit with a slight floral aspect. The firm film easily recedes leaving a lacy rim. The first sip has flavours resembling grapefruit and lemon with some gooseberries and having a refreshing acid level. The freshness quickly leaves, then the ‘fruit’ finishing with a slight soapy dryness. A social beverage to have with appetizers or to pair with chicken or seafood pasta. Not for cellaring - a drink now.  80

Sunday, May 01, 2011

May 2011 Reds: 10 Tasted of 10

circa 1953...
The photos are from a bygone era and taken in the east end, Don mills and Eglinton, of what is now the Greater Toronto Area, fondly called The Big Smoke. There's something about steam locomotives that is 'warm and fuzzy'. Perhaps that's why even today I don't mind the commotion of the nearby CNCP mainline except for the small  yard engines that toot far too often. a crossing.
My dad worked in the CNR Wheelhouse turning wheels on a flatbed lathe positioning each rim using an overhead chain hoist. After turning, the rims were heatshrunk back onto the wheels, pairs of wheels then returned to axles waiting to go on cars and back on the tracks. They'd be back after travelling cross country receiving flat spots during their journey.
...faraway sounds
To pay my tuition I worked summers in the Roundhouse wiping down Engines hot off the road with a black oil and kerosene mixture. Mine was a heads-down get-through-it day while my dad worked from midnight 'til eight anxious to pay a mortgage and feed a young family.

I can't ever remember being hungry or unhappy.

Cheers, Ww 

( Whites, Rosés and Sparkles  have been separated from the May Reds hopefully to shorten the search for a particular wine.)

  • Passion Reserve Malbec 2008,  91-2  --  V, Mendoza, Argentina, #191775 $14.95 
  • Errazuriz ‘Single Vineyard’ Syrah 2008,  91-2  --  V,  Aconcagua Valley, Chile, #211938 $19.95
  • Tahbilk Shiraz 2006,  90-2  --  V, Central Victoria, Australia, #214742 $19.95
  • Tandem ‘Peloton’ Red Wine 2007,  90-1 Cellar  --  V, Geyserville, California, #686261 $19.95
  • Peter Lehmann ‘Weighbridge’ Shiraz 2008,  85  --  G, Tanunda, South Australia, #219170 $14.95
  • Montaribaldi la Consolina Barbera d’Asti, 2008,  85  --  V, Piedmont, Italy, #182212 $15.95 
  • Kleine Zalze ‘Cellar Selection’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2009,  85  --  V, Stellenbosch, S. Africa, #205799 $16.95 
  • Domaine de la Ville Rouge ‘Inspiration’ Crozes-Hermitage 2007,  85 --  V, Rhône, France, #194837  $21.95
  • Lone Kauri Reserve Pinot Noir 2009,  83  --  V, Marlborough, NZ, #214858 $16.95 
  • Argento Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2008,  80  --  G, Mendoza, Argentina, #164764 $12.95
 (G - General Listing, V - Vintages, r-v - Rating-Value)  


DOMAINE DE LA VILLE ROUGE ‘INSPIRATION’ CROZES-HERMITAGE 2007, Rhône, France, 12.5% XD, #194837   $21.95  (Tasted May 10, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on April 16, 2011.  My notes: The Chateau itself has been producing wine only a short time now going into their third year. The colour is a garnet tinged ruby, somewhat muddy. A swirl gives a thin film with a lacy edge and tiny tears while a sniff senses a smoky raspberry/blackberry aroma. Medium-bodied, silky smooth with obvious bramble and a hint of mint to keep the berries bright altho‘ firm tannins dry the mouth. A sipper if dry tannins with berries in the background is preferred. Better to have with prime rib, pepperoni pizza or rare venison - a flexible red for grilled meats. At or just past peak in my view likely having more fruit a few years ago.  85

LONE KAURI RESERVE PINOT NOIR 2009, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% XD, #214858  $16.95  (Tasted May 9, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on April 16, 2011. A Cooper’S Creek Vineyard Ltd. wine .  The back label states “… aromas of black cherries and strawberries with hints of oak… soft tannins and ripe fruit… medium-bodied, dry”.  My notes:   A ripe black cherry colour with smoky black cherry and crushed strawberry aroma. The film is moderate leaving a lacy edge and slow tears as it recedes. The first sip has a blend of jammy cherry, rhubarb and tobacco with the finish ending with mostly dry bramble and red cherry. Medium-bodied, silky and lightly tart gives some sipper appeal - let air for twenty minutes to bring fruit forward balancing with herbal edge. Interesting with seasoned loin pork chops or pair with grilled chicken, a ham steak or salmon. Cellar up to four years or drink now - not likely to change. 83

ERRÁZURIZ ‘SINGLE VINEYARD’ SYRAH 2008,  Aconcagua Valley, Chile, 14.5% XD, #211938  $19.95  (Tasted May 15, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on April 2, 2011.  From the back label, ‘Hand selected grapes carefully vinified and oak-aged for 12 months’. and from  Jay Miller  (December, 2010) ‘in 38% French oak… exhibits an enticing nose of underbrush, earth notes, mineral, smoked meat, blueberry and black cherry - rated 88”.   My notes: There’s a purple hue to the ruby colour and the nose is distinctly peppery with concentrated blackberry mixed with earthy aromas. Full-bodied, smooth with a firm tannin to dry the palate and well balanced acid refreshing each swallow. Pair with savoury or spicy foods - went very well with seared pork ribs simmered in an onion and mushroom sauce. The finish is long ending with the drying tannin and mild berries. Cellaring for several years could integrate flavour and texture for a deeper, complex character.  91

PASSION RESERVE MALBEC 2008, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.5% XD, #191775  $14.95  (Tasted May 2, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on April 16, 2011.  My notes: The back label states the use of sustainable practices producing this wine. Hopefully this also means a ‘natural wine’. Further it states, “expect luscious, intense fruit aromas that hint of ripe plums, cherries and berries with a massive mouth feel that is soft and silky with a long finish.”  Ooops! Got some cork floating at the rim - the film is firm with slow forming tears. The colour is deep with a granite hue to the ruby and the nose, when allowed to develop, has a blend of spicy prunes and black cherries. Pleasingly smoothe and surprisingly tannic as minty edged blackberry flavours become predominant. The dryness carries into the long fruit and slight liquorice finish. An interesting sipper - not too fruity - not too boring. Have with T-bone steak or prime rib, perhaps a tuna steak. Went well with roasted short ribs , sweet potoato and shallots. Cellaring for a few years is likely.  91

KLEINE ZALZE ‘CELLAR SELECTION’ CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009, Stellenbosch, S. Africa, 15.0% XD, #205799  $16.95  (Tasted May 22, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on March 19, 2011.  A partner to their Chardonnay (#096495, $15.95).  There’s a garnet hue to the deep ruby colour and the film is quite firm but quickly shedding slow tears. The nose has a soft moss scent to aromas of spicy black currants and berries and the first sip starts with a sharp sting, a mint seam and seedy blackberry flavours. The seeds continue to the finish and without appetizers ends dry as chalk. More appropriate with seasoned red meats: pepper steak or hamburger - an in your face sipper. Cellaring for a few years may soften some of the sharpness.  85

PETER LEHMANN WEIGHBRIDGE SHIRAZ 2008, Tanunda, South Australia, 14.5% D, #219170   $14.95  (Tasted May 22, 2011)  CS

A General listing and recommended by the WineoftheWeekend website.  My notes: WineoftheWeekend didn’t respond when I asked who provides tasting notes for the wines they recommend - a distributor is my guess. This has an aromatic blackberry nose complete with white pepper. The film is firm with many slow tears and the colour is a rich ruby - a true shiraz character so far. Full-bodied, a good nip with a burning spread across the tongue and bright flavours of red cherries and blackberry. The finish quickly changes to red currant, dry, woody and spicy. Pairing with a seasoned steak or bbq’d ribs is preferred as there’s a prominent heat accentuating the spice making this quite raw as a sipper. A drink now rather than cellaring. 85

MONTARIBALDI LA CONSOLINA BARBERA D'ASTI 2008, Piedmont, Italy, 13.0% D, #182212  $15.95  (Tasted May 26, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on December 11, 2010.  My notes: Decant or let air for an hour after opening to allow bottling aromas to settle. The nose then has a black cherry liqueur scent with a leather accent. A dense ruby colour and a swirl leaves a viscous film with lots of slow tears. Full-bodied, sharp with strong tannins and earthy and warm flavours of cherries, red and black. The finish is long carrying the flavours as tannins coat the palate and drying minerals take over. An interesting sipper for its rough acid and tannins. More of a meal red with grilled red meats. Cellaring for several years will likely mellow some sharpness - enough to improve is probable and not worth the wait.   85

TANDEM ‘PELOTON’ RED WINE 2007, Geyserville, California,  14.5% D, #686261  $19.95  (Tasted May 27, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on August 7, 2010.  My notes: Pete Kight, proprietor of Healdsburg’s Quivira Vineyards & Winery, recently acquired Tandem winery in partnership with the owner/winemaker Greg La Follette. The film of the 2007 takes a few seconds to release long, slow tears. The colour is a granite cast ruby and there’s no staining on the glass. The nose is mainly of spicy black currants with a leather accent.  Lots of bright acid, warmth, black- and red currant flavours in the first sip - tannins are immediately apparent and carry through to a long warm dry finish. Full-bodied and oaked this is a serious sipper - I’d say rough - better paired with grilled red meats. Cellaring for several more years would mellow acids and integrate tannins yet leave enough fruit to retain interest. A drink now if you don’t mind ‘rough‘.  90 Cellar
ARGENTO CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVA 2008, 13.5% D, #164764  $12.95  (Tasted May 4, 2011)  CS

A General listing.  My notes:  A russet hue to a deep ruby and a firm film that sheds long slow tears meets the eye. The nose sniffs a faint spicy plum, a tad woody. The first sip confirms a woody edge to blackberry flavours with well developed tannins and a dry acid. Air for forty minutes or so to give flavour and aroma more time to open. The finish is mostly of wood with a slight liquorice and smooth texture. Not a sipper unless you like a medium-bodied old world style red. Lacking the black currant of a distinct cabernet sauvignon. Have with red meats, Polish, Italian sausage or grilled hamburger on a bun.  Not enough there to benefit from cellaring.  80

TAHBILK SHIRAZ 2006, Central Victoria, Australia, 14.0% XD, #214742  $19.95  (Tasted May 6, 2011)  CS

Release by Vintages on April 30, 2011. Rated 92 by  Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW (June 2010) saying “…a deep garnet color, …a little funky/gamey to begin, with a core of ripe blackberries, earth and cinnamon stick. Medium to full-bodied with a medium to high level of fine tannins and medium to high acid, it is superbly balanced by concentrated fruit and gives a long spicy finish…”.  My notes: A garnet hued ruby and a film that’s firm and forms long legs as the rim breaks into lace. The nose is white pepper and blackberries accented with a herbal touch. Silky from the outset, medium-bodied where full- was anticipated, also a layer of berries, tannin and acid completed by a subtle cinnamon brightness to start a long finish ending balanced and very dry. Pair with bbq’d beef: ribs, steaks or T-bone complete with well seasoned Barbarian rub and glistening with juicy heat. Cellaring may bring a surprise and I’d chance it year by year.  90