Friday, March 25, 2011

The Question of Colour

How spontaneous is your colour sense?

Can your eye-brain respond so quickly that it suppresses any reaction to the rainbow's spectrum as a pebble ripples a pond...  or as light catches the whirr of a hummingbird’s wings?

My amazement at colour stimula is not something that I can suppress. How then can I suppress a reaction to the clarity, the hue, the surface tensions created by the movement in my hand as forces act on this one element of tasting wine?

Shouldn't this reaction be included when a wine is tasted? And shouldn't it be included in a wine's rating? 

Some would say not at all. Some would constrain it to a varietal or a regional colour wheel.

James Suckling (2, 3) uses a scale of 1 to 15 and with the experience of up to 150,000 tastings his reaction to a wine’s colour is instantaneous. I don’t question his 14 rather than a 13 or 13½ as others have.  It's his number - a piece of the story making up his bottom line wine rating.

My experience pales in comparison but with 1800 tastings over the last five years my reaction to colour, using a scale of 1 to 5, is relatively spontaneous as well.

The question's been asked: Should a one point change in colour shift a wine's bottom line from 90 to 89?  'Colour' is part of an iterative summation adjusted one way or the other at the discretion of the taster and, I would assume, a summation seldom driven by any single factor.  Perhaps the question is asked as an argument for what I call the 'Thumbsuck Rating System', ie. just give the wine a number: based on 3, 5, 10, 20 or 100. Or not give a rating at all, ie. the 'Trust me!' System.   I contend that any System having several factors that are defined and then enumerated is a more consistent evaluator across a number of wines, one to 150,000 - but 'Rating Systems' is a separate topic and each taster follows his/her own dictate.
The colour argument continues... but a nebbiolo should have such and such a hue, a sangiovese - liveliness, a Viognier - clarity, a chardonnay - a tinge of caramel… and the discussion continues on its own tangent. Rumour has it that our monopoly's VQA panel  turned down a local pinot grigio/gris for having a peach hue. Grape types do not have to be pedigreed... perhaps a mongrel in the mix may even keep the strain healthy.

My focus is how the colour in the glass prepares me for what I’m about to taste. Does the colour build anticipation?  Light/dark? violet/ruby? adobe rimmed?, green tinted?, reflective or serene?, festive or mood setting?  As each factor is assessed does the colour portray the wine favourably? Does it support my discoveries in the glass? And a simple number logs my reaction.

If, when you look at the glass before you and your response is, in so many words, ' colour doesn’t mean a thing!’ -  it’s none of my business.  However, my world isn’t black and white and neither is my wine. I won’t ignore a chance to gauge the reaction it promotes and include it as part of my tasting experience.

My opinion, Ww

  1. Evan Dawson's interesting 'The Money of Color' at Palate Press
  2. James Suckling looks at The Colour of Brunello
  3. A variation of the Wine Advocate scale -  James Suckling 100 point scale 

Friday, March 04, 2011

March 2011 Beamsville Trip: 11 Tasted of 11

Click on the Google links to follow the WineRoute along the Twenty Valley region of the Niagara Peninsula. The day was quiet, sunny and windswept and as the solitary taster I had private tutelage at each of three wineries.
Using the Methode Traditionelle the Angels Gate  Archangel series of bubblies were of interest… then on to Fielding Estates  to taste two 2010 releases, a 2007 and 2009.  (Google coordinates are approximate).
The third winery was Hidden Bench  where premium wines were chosen to show prominence of single vineyard terroirs: Felseck for riesling and chardonnay and Locust Lane for Pinot Noir. 

That’s as much as my budget allowed this trip.  

Cheers, Ww

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

  • Hidden Bench ‘Locust Lane Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2007 VQA Beamsville Bench, 92  --  W, Beamsville, Ontario, $65.00

  • Hidden Bench `Felseck Vineyard` Riesling 2007 VQA Beamsville Bench, 95-2 --  W, Beamsville, Ontario, $32.00
  • Hidden Bench `Felseck Vineyard` Riesling 2008 VQA Beamsville Bench, 93-2 --  W, Beamsville, Ontario, $32.00
  • Hidden Bench ‘Felseck Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2007 VQA Beamsville Bench, 93-2  --  W, Beamsville, Ontario, $38.00
  • Fielding Estates ‘Jack Rabbit Flats Vineyard’ Chardonnay Musqué 2010  VQA Lincoln Lakeshore,  90-2  --  W,  $16.95
  • Fielding Estates Viognier 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  89  --  W, Beamsville, Ontario, $30.95

  • Fielding Estates Rosé 2010  VQA Niagara Peninsula,  88-1  --  W, Beamsville, Ontario, $15.95

  • Angels Gate ‘Archangel’ Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  90-1  --  W, Beamsville, Ontario, $25.00
  • Angels Gate ‘Archangel’ Sauvignon Blanc 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  87  --  W, Beamsville, Ontario,  $19.95   
  • Angels Gate ‘Archangel’ Chardonnay Brut 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 82  --  G, Beamsville, Ontario, #227009  $19.95 

  • Fielding Estates 'Zuzek Vineyard' Select Late Harvest Gewurztraminer 2007 VQA Beamsville Bench,  84  --  W,  $23.95 (375mL)

(G - General Listing, V - Vintages, W - Winery, r-v - Rating-Value)

ANGELS GATE ‘ARCHANGEL’ CHARDONNAY BRUT 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Beamsville, Ontario, 11.5% XD, #227009  $19.95  (Tasted March 9, 2011)  CS
My notes: From 100% chardonnay grapes and produced using the traditional method of secondary fermentation in the bottle (~2 lbs.)  with a total of twelve months on lees before disgorgement. There’s not much of a nose, not even a slight yeast or leesy scent, for a chard brut. There’s lots of midsize bubbles that effervesce followed by a stream of fine bubbles then a firm spritz - not mousseux. The flavours also are restrained with a light grapefruit and apple, tart and dry on the palate leaving the dryness to coat the tongue. Lacking the flavour of the pinot this is more of an economical toasting bubbly - not a sipper. Have with fresh oysters or grilled fresh water fish or scallops. A drink now.  82

ANGELS GATE ‘ARCHANGEL’ SAUVIGNON BLANC 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Beamsville, Ontario, 11.5% XD, $19.95  (Tasted March 21, 2011)

My notes: This Archangel was not found on the Angels Gate website - no ‘Brut’ on the label but it’s chalk dry from the first sip. A slight yeasty scent to mostly a clean citrus nose. The colour is a yellow blond and foam bursts on pouring then settles into a stream of fine bubbles - not mousseux but lively. Flavours are a tart apple and pie crust from start to a finish that carries the spritz and apple for a long while. Cellaring a few years may be marginally rewarding although the bubbly will likely be available yearly in limited quantities at the winery. No gooseberries or passion fruit here but a refreshing bubbly for many occasions.  87

ANGELS GATE ‘ARCHANGEL’ PINOT NOIR ROSÉ BRUT 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Beamsville, Ontario, 11.5% XD, $25.00  (Tasted March 8, 2011)

 Bronze Medal - Intervin 2010

My notes: 100% Pinot Noir grapes from the Mountainview vineyard, hand picked and spent one hour in skin contact before pressing. The finished wine was fermented a second time in bottle and then aged on lees for twelve months before disgorging.  Only 200 cases bottled. A crisp salmon pink in the glass with a rush of effervescence and a continuous stream of fine bubbles and hidden spritz. There’s a slight strawberry nose, a CO2 edge and a thin film that leaves a lacy rim making this festive even before a sip. Drying on the palate, serve chilled to blend a pleasing acid with delicate strawberry and watermelon flavours. A moderate finish demands a followup sip. This would make a great Spring toaster for an early wedding or have with waffles and mixed fruits as a reward for making through the evening before.  90

HIDDEN BENCH ‘LOCUST LANE VINEYARD’ PINOT NOIR 2007 VQA Beamsville Bench, Beamsville, Ontario, 13.8% D,  $65.00  (Tasted March 30, 2011)

“The first vintage of two single vineyard bottlings of our primary varietal, Pinot Noir.” says the back label and  a  “… yield of only 1.3 tonnes/acre. …  aged 16 months in French oak and bottled without fining or filtration.”  My notes:  A dense not opaque ruby with a firm film cascading a rim of slow tears. A blackberry tang with evenly matched cherries gives a smooth, delicately spicy floral nose. Medium-bodied, nicely tart blackberry flavours with balanced tannins for an extra dry sipper finishing dry with a berry ending. A well-made elegant sipper and a good companion for prime rib, French onion soup or lightly spiced tapas. Cellaring for several years may introduce more silk at the expense of fruit. A thought: could this be a blend?  92
HIDDEN BENCH ‘FELSECK VINEYARDS’ RIESLING 2007 VQA Beamsville Bench,  Beamsville, Ontario, 10.8%  D,  $32.00  (Tasted March 26, 2011)

One of three single vineyard rieslings in 2007 (Roman’s Block, Rosomel and Felseck) and grapes  from “the very best single block lots... hand harvested and sorted.”  My notes: I chose successive vintages to reveal a possible difference of growing seasons, 2007 and 2008. The 2007 has a mid new gold appearance, crystal clear, and sheds a lacy film with a few tears spreading then fading slowly.  The nose is of lime, soft lavender and possibly flint adding up to tangy, lightly floral presence. Full-bodied and dry with an astringency that outperforms the fruit: mostly lime and grapefruit. The finish continues on a tangy note finally revealing subtle petrol.  Complex in character and changing during the tasting giving much interest as a sipper  and would be an excellent partner to a mixed seafood platter. I suggest cellaring several years although drinking well now.  95
HIDDEN BENCH ‘FELSECK VINEYARDS’ RIESLING 2008 VQA Beamsville Bench,  Beamsville, Ontario, 10.8%  D,   $32.00  (Tasted March 26, 2011)

Reduced from three to two single vineyard rieslings in the 2008 vintage the same care in hand harvesting, sorting, whole bunch pressing and fermentation”  My notes: Hidden Bench uses only native yeasts and sustainable vineyard management. If any the 2008 is a slightly deeper mid new gold than the 2007.  There’s the same firmness in the film and the resulting laciness but none or negligible tears. An almost BRETT aspect to the nose, delicate and appealing nonetheless, and with the same drying astringency in the first sip. Full-bodied with lime and pastry as flavours and leaving the palate refreshed. An excellent amuse-bouche between courses or partner to a mixed seafood platter as is the 2007.  Cellaring for several years possible, even recommended.  Drinking well now for sure.  93
HIDDEN BENCH ‘FELSECK VINEYARDS’ CHARDONNAY 2007 VQA Beamsville Bench, Beamsville, Ontario, 14.2% D,   $38.00  (Tasted March 14, 2011)

My notes: It’s the first year for this single vineyard barrel fermented Chardonnay. The vines are older than 15 years and cropped to 2 tonnes per acre. There’s a glistening gold with a suspicion of butterscotch in the colour and in the first sip. There’s a polite nose on pouring without distinguishable scent nor spice, perhaps needing time to develop. A swirl gives a firm film with a continuous rim of slow tears. The texture is a luscious light butter, very smooth, a drying touch lasting through a long delicate warming finish and soft blend of pineapple and sweet apple with some oak showing on the trailing edge. Have on any occasion or with naturally seasoned seafoods - particularly scallops, lobster or King crab. Cellaring for three years is likely conservative - a green bottle (at .8 kg) and a good natural cork length should slow change.  93


FIELDING ESTATES VIOGNIER 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Beamsville, Ontario, 13.5% D,  $30.95    (Tasted March 22, 2011)

Sourced from two low-yielding vineyards, the grapes were picked and sorted by hand, de-stemmed and gently pressed. After cold settling for five days, clear juice was racked and fermented slowly in stainless steel for twenty-five days. Aged post-fermentation in stainless steel without malo-lactic fermentation, kept on light lees for three months until final filtration and bottling. Natalie MacLean gave it 92 saying “Jumps out of the glass and pulls you head first!….”   My notes:  The nose is a garden of honeysuckle at full blossom, sweetly aromatic. The colour is a pale blond with a suspicion of green and a swirl is without a noticeable film. Light-bodied, there’s a herbaceous seam and a lime tang forming a framework for tart apple and lime flavours, dry on the lips, ending increasingly but lightly grassy at the end. Aromas carry into the flavour adding a floral element to sipping (like dining beside someone wearing cologne). Have with grilled cod or halibut with a squeeze of lemon and rice. A drink now.  89
FIELDING ESTATES ROSÉ  2010 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Beamsville, Ontario, 12.5% D, $15.95  (Tasted March 6, 2011)

A blend of 47% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot, 25% Pinot Noir and 3% Syrah. Each grape variety was pressed off their skins after 24 - 48 hours of cold-soaking, then the juice was cold settled for another three days. The juice was fermented at cool temperatures using selected yeasts in stainless steel, followed by aging for two months on its lees in stainless steel. Cold stabilized, sterile filtered. Bottled and release on March 1, 2011.  My notes:  There’s a salmon tinge to a fresh pink colour and a scent of a summer bouquet. The film leaves a lacy edge as it recedes quickly and the first sip is evenly balanced tartness and silky fruit. Serve well chilled and let go offchill for more smoothness and blended flavours of delicate strawberry and white cherries. Finishes dry with significant softness - a chiller is recommended. Very interesting as a summer sipper or have with pan fried fresh water fish filets. A coquetish drink now.  88
FIELDING ESTATES `JACK RABBIT FLATS VINEYARD` CHARDONNAY MUSQUÉ 2010 VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Beamsville, Ontario, 12.5% D,  $16.95   (Tasted March 6, 2011)

My notes: A crisp light blond colour and mild aromas of sweet muscat. A thin film with long legs and the first sip has a mellow taste of melon and delicate apricot, more chardonnay than musqué and extra dry except for a delectable softness to the tang. This makes a pleasing social sipper served chilled - or have with roast chicken, a cheesy macaroni dish or clams in a yellow curried sauce. Keeping a year or two likely isn’t expected but I think it’ll keep that long with some benefit. A good expression of the Lincoln Lakeshore terroir? --  it’s worth repeating.  90

FIELDING ESTATES `ZUZEK VINEYARD` SELECT LATE HARVEST GEWURZTRAMINER 2007 VQA Beamsville Bench, Beamsville, Ontario, 10.0%  MS,   $23.95  (375mL)    (Tasted March 23, 2011)

My notes:  A light gold in the glass with a thin film that recedes quickly. A delicate honey pear nose and the first sip sweetly coats the mouth carrying light flavours of Bosc pear, Pink Lady apple and just a touch of acid. The sweetness slowly fades giving more prominence to fruit and a mild tang. We opened this in the late afternoon as a refresher… and it was. Have with a plate of salty crackers when things are going especially well… which could be anytime!  Didn’t pair well with a tray of chocolates.    84

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

March 2011 Wines: 26 Tasted of 26

First Robin - the males come early
Black Creek near Acton
There’s a change in format starting with this blog entry. Up to now my approach was to reference mainly the wine descriptions listed by the LCBO. Whether current or not, whether I thought the reviewer/Panel was credible or not and whether there was any rating system used wasn’t considered. Although difficult at times I didn’t want to interject myself into ‘their’ comments.

Starting with this entry anonymous ratings and descriptions are no longer to be included. As well, only current reviews, ie. within two years of present day, will be referenced. Also, only ratings based on a 100 point system or those that provide a conversion to a 100 point system, eg.
Rod Phillips 5 Star system, will be quoted .

If there is a basis for selecting a wine I’ve included it in my notes.  In the March Lineup there are four wines, three below $10, from Beppi Crosariol’s Decanter of February 26th and three are related to Tweets from Robert Parker Jr. 

Cheers, Ww
 THE LINEUP - grouped by reds, whites, rosés, sparkles and other:
  • Cline ‘Los Carneros’ Syrah 2006, 95-3  --  V, Sonoma, California, #955435 $17.95
  • Wente ‘Southern Hills’ Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, 92-3  --  G,  California, USA, #301507 $16.95 
  • Tommasi Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2006, 92-2  --  V, Veneto, Italy, #356220  $49.95 
  • Perrin & Fils ‘Les Sinards’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2007,  91-1  --  V, Orange, France, #005975 (375 mL)  $19.95
  • St. Hallett Gamekeeper’s Shiraz/Grenache 2009, 88-1  --  V, Barossa, Australia, #024117  $14.95 
  • Ghost Pines ‘Winemaker’s Blend’ Merlot 2007,  88-1  --  V, Healdsburg, California, #135384 $19.95
  • J. Lohr `Los Osos` Merlot 2007,  88-1  --  V, Paso Robles, California, #027516 $19.95 
  • Ridgepoint Wines Cabernet Merlot 2006 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, 86-1  --  G, Vineland, Ontario, #101519 $13.95
  • J.P. Chenet Premier de Cuvée Merlot Cabernet 2009,  82  --  G,  Languedoc, France, #621995 $11.95 
  • Southbrook Vineyards `Triomphe`Syrah 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  81  --  V, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario,  #129809  $24.95 
  • Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz 2008,  81 (Cellar) --  V, Barossa Valley, Australia, #927533  $27.95
  • Château Ducla Bordeaux Supérieur 2008, 80  --  V, Bordeaux, France, #162461 $14.95             

  • Leth Vineyards ‘Steinagrund’ Gruner Veltliner 2009,  91-2  --  V,  Wagram, Austria, #207282  $16.95
  • Conundrum 2009, 91-2 --  V, Rutherford, California, #694653 $23.95
  • Wente ‘Morning Fog’ Chardonnay 2009, 89-2 --  G, Livermore Valley, California, #175430  $16.95  
  • Ironstone ‘Obsession’ Symphony 2009,  89-2  --  V,  Murphys, California, #355784 $14.95
  • Auntsfield ‘Long Cow’ Sauvignon Blanc 2009,  87  -  V,  Marlborough, NZ, #663286  $19.95
  • Fuzion Alta Torrontés Pinot Grigio 2010,  84  --  G, Mendoza, Chile, #168419  $8.95  
  • Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva Estate Grown 2010,  84  --  G, Casablanca, Chile, #275909 $8.95
  • Torbreck Roussanne/Marsanne/Viognier 2008,  84 --  V, Barossa Valley, Australia, #186478 $19.95
  • Vina Tarapaca Sauvignon Blanc 2010,  83  --  G, Isla de Maipo, Chile, #414185  $8.95* 
  • Kendall-Jackson Vinter’s Reserve ‘Summation’ 2009,  83  --  V, Santa Rosa, California, 13.5%  D, #210195 $19.95 
  • Ridgepoint Wines Monticello Bianco 2009 VQA Niagara Escarpment, 82  --  G, Vineland, Ontario, #218651  $13.95 
  • Danzante Pinot Grigio 2009,  76  --  G, Venezie, Italy,  #026906 $14.45    

  • Skuttlebutt Shiraz/Merlot Rosé 2008, 91-2  -- V, Margaret River, Australia, #169383 $16.95 

  • Nino Franco Brut Prosecco di Valdobbiadene 2009, 90-2  --  V, Veneto, Italy, #349662 $18.95   
 (G - General Listing, V - Vintages, r-v - Rating-Value)


NINO FRANCO BRUT PROSECCO DI VALDOBBIADENE 2009, Veneto, Italy, 11.0% XD, #349662  $18.95  (Tasted March 29, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on January 22, 2011.  My notes: Last tasted in May 2007 with the note “Quaffing of any bubbly should be a pleasing sensation rather than a tonsil tensing exercise…”.  In spite of being $2 more if the style continues I don’t expect much change. The cork shows the vintage year as 2009. Effervescent on opening and pouring then subsiding to a few slow streams of fine bubbles collecting at the rim. The colour is a pale blond with a green tint and aromas are of slight grapefruit and pastry, dry to the senses. Not 'tonsil tensing' but pleasingly tart on sip and swallow, mildly silky to the touch and finishing long and dry - all characteristics needed for a celibratory toaster or a companion to fresh oysters. I didn’t need an occasion to sip and hard not to quaff. Should keep from several years and perhaps gaining more silk.  90

TOMMASI AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2006, Veneto, Italy, 15.0% D, #356220   $49.95  (Tasted March 20, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on November 27, 2010.  My notes: A gift waiting for the right occasion and a small family gathering prompted the opening. There’s a bright whiff of prunes, faint almond and liquorice and an even set of long legs on the glass. A piercing taste of fermented plums and cherry preserves integrated well with fine tannins, drying to the palate and continuing through a long, hot,  flavourful finish. Paired with pastry wrapped beef tenderloin in a rich merlot / balsamic sauce this held its own, then some. Fruit and process are well balanced. Should cellar for many years but drinking well now.  92

WENTE ‘MORNING FOG’ CHARDONNAY 2009, Livermore Valley, California, 13.5% D, #175430  $16.95  (Tasted March 17, 2011)  CS
My notes:  The price is holding fairly steady since the 2005 vintage was tasted in June 2007 and apparently I’m favouring this Chardonnay over several vintages, the 2008 being super at 92 and much improved over the 2006 at 86 and the 2005 that wasn‘t recommended. Previously a blend of Chardonnay and small percentages of gewurztraminer and semillon this vintage is 100% chardonnay from two regions: 87 % Livermore Valley and 13% Arroyo Seco.  Half was fermented in oak then aged sur lie and half in stainless steel and aged several months on lees retaining the Livermore Valley terroir. This has a soft leesy scent slightly spicy with some floral, not much there though pleasing. A firm film with a swirl and the first sip has a moderate fullness, a hint of caramel, a delicate drying touch on the palate then tangy pear and apple flavours that start the finish declining slowly ’til a slight straw and fruit remain. The texture, tang and terroir make this an interesting quaffer. Elegant at the table for its shine and refreshing eloquence. Several years cellaring may bring more depth and silk.  89

TORBRECK WOODCUTTER'S SHIRAZ 2008, Barossa Valley, Australia, 14.5% XD, #927533  $27.95  (Tasted March 18, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on January 8, 2011. My notes: A Vintages release on January 8, 2011. This has a dense ruby colour with an acrid taint to a blackberry scent and shows a firm film ringed with fast tears. There’s an unusual accent of burnt berries, blue- and black-, with a sharpness on the back of the throat overriding an underlining of smooth, full-bodied fruit. The finish carries this brashness through a long finish that ends with a hot, dry, crushed berry seed finish. Not a sipper and when paired with a flavourful BMT Sub Sandwich it accentuated the red peppers uncomfortably - do not pair with spicy entrées. Perhaps if cellared five+ years some mellowing may occur.  81  (Cellar)
TORBRECK ROUSSANNE/MARSANNE/VIOGNIER 2008, Barossa Valley, Australia, 14.0% XD, #186478  $19.95  (Tasted March 10, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on November 27, 2010.  My notes:Torbreck’s Juvenile (red) was recommended in a Tweet by Robert Parker but wasn’t available at an Outlet. This prompted me to select the two Torbreck’s in this Lineup. A golden colour with a scent of the seashore, briny seaweed aromas. The film is firm with many long slow tears. Strong flavoured - more vegetative than fruit, full-bodied, smooth but with a sharpness on the tongue and following into a finish that is acidic and lasting. Not a sipper and likely a taste not shared by a majority - paired well with grilled tiger prawns, basmati rice and asparagus. Not for cellaring.  84

ST. HALLETT GAMEKEEPER’S SHIRAZ/GRENACHE 2009, Barossa, Australia, 13.5% XD, #024117   $14.95  (Tasted March 24, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on January 5, 2011 described on the back label as “…embraces the spectrum of spicy pepper, tannins and weight of Shiraz with generous, gamey, juicy raspberry flavours of Grenache. …. a splash of Touriga with its rose petal floral-like spice… non-oaked…”.  My notes: The nose is full of spice and prunes, a swirl gives a firm film with long fast legs and the colour is an opaque ruby with a purple hue. The first sip has an unusual red currant edge to pleasing black berry, smooth, full in the mouth with a sharpness to match most spicy entrees. I found it too aggressive as a sipper. Pair with grilled meats, savoury or spicy. This has enough for 4 to 5 years cellaring. Then it’s a question of the direction changes could take. The price is right to take a chance on a dozen.  A rustic drink now.  88 (Cellar)

LETH VINEYARDS ‘STEINAGRUND’ GRÜNER VELTLINER 2009,  Wagram, Austria, 13.0% D, #207282   $16.95  (Tasted March 24, 2011)  CS

My notes:  A Vintages release on February 19, 2011, mentioned in Beppi’s column of February 26, 2011 and rated 90 saying ‘a textbook gruner veltliner… a delicious sweet-sour balance.’ Initial impression: Beppi is right on!  Leth Vineyards has put together a well balanced ‘sweet and sour’  white that should please sippers and seafood diners. Leaves long legs on the glass, smooth enough yet with some clay, some honey, some citrus without a pronounced lemon or line. Serve before a contract bridge session and see aggressive bidding. Serve at a house blessing and welcome the compassionate participation. A warm finish with a smooth honey-citrus ending. Likely could be cellared for 2 - 3 years.  91

CALITERRA SAUVIGNON BLANC RESERVA ESTATE GROWN 2010, Casablanca, Chile, 13.0% D, #275909  $8.95  (Tasted March 11, 2011)  CS

My notes: Another from Beppi Crosariol’s column of February 26th and rated 87.  ‘A lemon kissed a grapefruit and accidentally fell into the bottle’ - novelty expressive. This has a super aroma of mild gooseberry ‘kissed’ by a tropical citrus blend, perhaps kiwi and passion fruit. On the other hand Beppi’s simile is perfect. There’s a lacy film and slow tears and the first taste has a tangy tropical citrus flavour finishing bright, dry, smooth with a warm ending of straw and nettles. An overkill, suggesting a fortified process, on flavour that may limit pairing, perhaps have with grilled tiger prawns or curried mussels. A mixed crowd may have mixed reaction - have a backup. A drink now.  84

VINA TARAPACA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2010, Isla de Maipo, Chile, 13.0% D,  #414185  $8.95*  (Tasted March 31, 2011)  CS

My notes: *Reduced a dollar until February 27th the 2009 vintage was one of Beppi Crosariol’s on February 26, 2011 rated 86. I didn’t noticed the vintage difference at the local outlet when I picked this up the same day. Beppi says it (2009) is a cross between a ‘sassy NZ and a tame Loire Valley’.  The 2010 has a blended passion fruit and gooseberry scent although not with the vigour of the actual fruit and quickly dissipating. A natural blond colour with a scattering of tiny bubbles clinging then releasing and a light film falling lacily. The first sip has an interesting brightness, a silkiness and the tang of tropical fruit - an oily seam gradually reveals itself. A grassy edge comes forward in a moderate finish ending on a chemical note. Not for cellaring - a commercial drink now.  83
FUZION ALTA TORRONTÉS PINOT GRIGIO 2010, Mendoza, Chile, 13.5% XD, #168419  $8.95  (Tasted March 15, 2011)  CS

My notes: Ratings for Fuzion Shiraz Malbecs, the 2007 and 2009 specifically, have been inconsistent in this blog running from a low of 80 to a high of 84. The US version tasted on a trip to Boston was jammy and sweet I rated 74. Perhaps the whites will fare better? Beppi Crosariol gave this blend an 87 for the spice of the Pinot Grigio and the roundness of the Torrontés. The nose has a spicy scent and shows some dryness. A thin film with fast tears at the rim and a light blond colour. Very dry on the palate with thin fruit mostly citrus, some warmth and a roundness overridden by tang. The tang and citrus flavours fade slowly into a mineral, chalky ending. A straightforward drink now that went well with grilled Pacific salmon.  84
KENDALL-JACKSON VINTNER'S RESERVE ‘SUMMATION’ 2009, Santa Rosa, California, 13.5%  D, #210195  $19.95  (Tasted March 5, 2011)  CS
A Vintages release on December 11, 2011 rated 89 and described by Joshua Greene  (October 2010) as “Soft and grapey, this yields flavors of peach and lime pith as it opens with air. Touches of flowers and spice make it a wine to chill for poached prawns.”  My notes: This was suggested in a Tweet by Robert Parker. Other than a ‘mélange of white grape varietals that originally hail from the Loire and Rhône regions’ of France there is no indication of the winemaker’s blend. My first impression: major components are chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and semillon with the chardonnay spending some time on oak, the remainder in stainless with time on lees. The first sip is full-bodied, creamy with prominent acid. Flavours of pear, green melon and straw come forward early leading to a long finish and ending soft on the lips. Too astringent to be a sipper. Paired with roast chicken pieces it would have benefited from a  touch more fruit. Rather than drink now cellaring up to four years may help.  83 

CLINE ‘LOS CARNEROS’ SYRAH 2006, Sonoma, California, 14.5% XD, #955435  $17.95  (Tasted March 14, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on March 5, 2011. The back label says “the finest Syrah offering. Handpicked from our 18-acre estate vineyard in Sonoma’s Carneros district, one of the last blocks to ripen. … deep plum and cherry notes with hints of vanilla and coffee…” My notes: In May 2008 the Cline Syrah 2006, #733758 $12.85, claimed to be ‘an excellent value’ wasn’t that impressive. Is this a different label or a different wine? Definitely a different wine. A thick film with long slow legs and the black velvet colour almost shouts out full-bodied. Velvet on the first sip… with spicy blackberry and black current flavours that slows the sipping pace. Fur coats the mouth in a short while and matches the rich depth of flavoured textures. I would expect this to cellar another five years - sample after three - the acid level is well balanced now. Match with anything beefy or gamey with a rich savoury sauce. A bold Shiraz with the elegance of a Syrah and an insult to the wine to have with pizza.  95
SKUTTLEBUTT SHIRAZ/MERLOT ROSÉ 2008, Margaret River, Australia, 13.5% D, #169383  $16.95  (Tasted March 28, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on June 26, 2010. My notes:  This is a deeply toned peachy pink or Atlantic salmon red. The nose has a clean apricot and watermelon scent and a swirl brings a firm film, a lacy edge and just a few slow legs. Full-bodied and silky smooth to be welcomed at any social setting with flavours of watermelon, apricot and the tang of pomegranate giving much interest as a sipper. The finish carries the flavours and textures then fades to a slightly spicy end - nice! Pair with a shrimp and scallop platter or with a marmalade coated pork tenderloin dish. Cellar for two years or serve chilled and drink now.   91

WENTE ‘SOUTHERN HILLS’ LIVERMORE VALLEY CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008, California, USA, 13.5% D, #301507  $16.95  (Tasted March 7, 2011)  CS

My notes: The 2006 vintage was tasted in November 2008 and rated 89. Airing was recommended.  There’s a definite purple hue to the dense ruby colour and aromas of black current and raspberry are modest. Slow tears flow on a tilted glass and firm tannins and restrained acid coat dusty black current flavours against a background of smooth spice. My guess is the ‘Southern Hills’ are clay loam soils to pass along flavours that hold indefinitely in a long finish. A full-bodied, dry, flavourful sipper with sugars well hidden. Have with prime rib or other roasted meats - I‘m trying it with Italian Sausage meat and Farfalle in a tomato/onion sauce - add your own basil and pecarino. Cellaring for several years may increase complexity. For now it’s an interesting sipper. 92 
GHOST PINES ‘WINEMAKER'S BLEND’ MERLOT 2007, Healdsburg, California, 14.0% D, #135384  $19.95  (Tasted March 4, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on February 19, 2011. The back label says “… Flavours of black cherry and ripe berries complement mocha and brown spice notes finishing with a generous, supple texture.”   My notes: A Louis M. Martini winery.  There’s a grey cast to a deep garnet colour and a flint scent to raspberry aromas. The nose adds floral with time in the glass. A moderate film with long fast legs gives an inkling of the silky touch of the first sip. Yes - with noticeable tannins and not so subtle tang. Pencil shavings and California raspberry flavours add appeal and lead into a long finish that dries the palate leaving mostly shavings.  A slight mint adds interest. Have with herbed meats including rosemary chicken or lamb shank. Not for the cellar - a drink now.  88

CHÂTEAU DUCLA BORDEAUX SUPÉRIEUR 2008, Bordeaux, France, 12.0% XD,  #162461   $14.95  (Tasted March 7, 2011)   CS

Released by Vintages on March 5, 2011 and recommended by WineoftheWeekend, May 3, 2011. My notes:  From the back label: An Yvon Mau et Fils winery and a blend of cabernet and merlot of grapes from the sunny south western slopes of the hills in Saint-Exupery. Many tears fall from a firm film indicating a medium-bodied red, smooth to sip. The nose has a light vanilla, earth, some berry with current and spice but very little. Smooth, drying tannins, wood remnants with a slight flavour of berries makes this overall an OK sipper but not that interesting by itself. More of a meat companion or red sauced pasta/pizza combination. Past it or not enough to warrant cellaring, a drink now.  80

CONUNDRUM 2009, Rutherford, California, 13.5% M, #694653  $23.95  (Tasted March 20, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on May 15, 2010. My notes: A blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, viognier and muscat put together by winemaker Jon Bolta. The 2006 was tasted in July 2008 and April 2010 with ratings in the low 90’s. Now priced $3 lower this has the same new gold colour with a firm film forming a lacy rim and accumulating small, slow tears. There’s a suspicion of passionfruit and subtle aromas of citrus and kiwi melon then a first sip that is full and smooth with flavours of melon and mild citrus maintaining an ambiguity of the blend. The finish is a combination of chalky mineral with remnants of tropical citrus - a sugar presence is left ‘til the end. A super sipper for almost any gathering or pair with seafood pastas. Drink now or cellar two years.  91

J.P. CHENET PREMIER DE CUVÉE MERLOT CABERNET 2009, Languedoc, France, 12.5%  D, #621995  $11.95  (Tasted March 9, 2011)  CS

My notes: A General listing - An aroma of warmed earth, plum sauce and liquorice and a colour of deep opaque ruby sets this up as an interesting sipper. The film is firm with a scalloped edge leading to long fast legs and the first sip parches from full tannins, has a sharp bite and woody berry flavours. A peak of equal fruit and liquorice in the finish which declines quickly to a bramble and dulling dryness long on the palate. T'is rough as a sipper but with some textural interest - a better match for tomato sauced pastas. A drink now.  82  

J. LOHR ‘LOS OSOS’ MERLOT 2007, Paso Robles, California, 13.5% D, #027516  $19.95  (Tasted March 16, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on March 5, 2011 rated 4 of 5 (87-89) and described by Rod Phillips  (Dec 3, 2009) as “ Mostly merlot, with a dash of malbec and another dash of petit verdot, this blend delivers ripe and intense fruit flavours. Look for complexity and structure in this well-priced red, and drink it with roasted or grilled red meats.  My notes: A spice tinged blackberry nose from a blackberry tinged dense ruby colour and a film that sticks to the glass before cascading in a lacy patchwork with some pearls clinging.  Smooth, a piercing fullness of blackberry flavours and smoky earth tones. A welcomed sipper after an early afternoon of travels or have with anything meaty and grilled, seared, pot roasted or just liver paté on toasts. A drink now and may cellar a few years.  88
SOUTHBROOK VINEYARDS ‘TRIOMPHE’ SYRAH 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario,  11.8%  XD, #129809   $24.95  (Tasted March 22, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on October 30, 2010.  This wine won a Silver Medal at the 2010 Ontario Wine Awards.  My notes: Letting this red breathe an hour before serving mellows out some tang although the nose retains a spicy side close to white pepper.  The aromatic side of the nose includes plum, crushed raspberry and a slight vanilla. The colour is a dull ruby and a swirl shows a firm film that slowly cascades shedding many long tears. The flavour is predominantly young berries with a high acid level that leaves behind the fruit and frames a berry bramble through to a long sharp finish. Not a sipper this could pair with spicy pizza or chorizo sausage in a tomato pasta dish. A distinct Niagara style.  81     

PERRIN & FILS LES SINARDS CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2007, Orange, France (Map it!)  , 14.5% XD, #005975 (375 mL)  $19.95  (Tasted March 25, 2011)  CS


A Vintages release on March 5, 2011 rated 92 and described by Robert Parker Jr. (Oct 2009) as “… Dense ruby, with licorice, sweet cherry, and lavender notes, this full-bodied, admirably concentrated wine can be drunk now or over the next 10-12 years.”  My notes: A half size bottle of Les Sinards, #926626 regularly priced at $38.95.  Let air for an hour for the smooth scent of spicy black currants without much room for other black fruit - but they’re there. There’s a purple hue to an opaque ruby and the film is firmly fixed letting short legs run and slowly evaporating.  Medium-bodied with tannin to dry the mouth and a subtle acid to breathe life into flavours of black currants and liquorice. If there’s sugar it’s subtle as part of a long parching finish. Possible as a sipper depending on the crowd - more likely a meal red with prime rib, T-bone or long ribs. Has cellared well ‘til now and likely another four years.  91
RIDGEPOINT WINES CABERNET MERLOT 2006 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Vineland, Ontario, 12.5% D, #101519  $13.95  (Tasted March 13, 2011)  CS

The back label says “crafted from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes … from atop the Niagara Escarpment… … intensely flavoured and aromatic.”  My notes: A swirl shows a firm film slowly cascading with many long legs. The colour is a see-through black cherry with an adobe tint at the edge. The nose has a black cherry, raspberry jam and wood smoke scent and the first sip is smooth but with a background sharpness that surprises the palate and leads the way to a cranberry/red cherry mix. Polite tannins balance out the finish that ends dry on the tongue. A light-bodied red sipper to partner with the Monticello Bianco as a social duo - or have with veal scallopini or a cheese & ground beef pizza- was particualry suited to grilled Frenched pork chop/dry coriander dry rub with sliced red pepper and asparagus  At peak is my guess.  86
RIDGEPOINT MONTICELLO BIANCO 2009 VQA Niagara Escarpment, Vineland, Ontario, 12.5%  D,  #218651  $13.95  (Tasted March 13, 2011)  CS
According to the back label, a blend of everything, ie. “Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Noir grapes… displays beautiful mineral, floral and tropical fruit aromas and flavours… ” .  My notes: A light straw colour with a faint melon aroma, a thin film leaving a lacy edge, a few reluctant tears and a first sip of melon apple flavours on a nicely balanced seam of acid. A bright tartness carries a moderate finish of crisp apple tinged with blueberry - keep chilled. This could be a pleasing social sipper for a summer day on the patio or quaff at any time with a shrimp ring and other light buffet fare. A drink now well blended for grape anonymity.   82
AUNTSFIELD ‘LONG COW’ SAUVIGNON BLANC 2009, Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% XD, #663286   $19.95  (Tasted March 21, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on March 19, 2011 with a 90 rating and described (October 2010) by Lisa Perroti-Brown, MW as “…gives intense lemon zest, grapefruit, wild asparagus and lemongrass aromas. Crisp, medium bodied with a good concentration of ripe fruit, it provides a long citrusy finish with some minerals.  My notes: This has a pleasing aroma of gooseberries and a swirl gives a thin film with a lacy edge shedding tiny tears. A pale blond colour and the first sip has a gooseberry flavour, tangy and drying to the palate, not much smoothness more light-bodied than medium-, and goes into a long, dry taste of grassy (herbaceous) fruit remnants. Definitely the NZ style of Sauvignon Blanc with a balanced fruit and grass. A social sipper if you’re heading for dry or a starter for a seafood entrée.  A drink now.  87   

DANZANTE PINOT GRIGIO 2009, Venezie, Italy, 12.0% D, #026906  $14.45  (Tasted March 21, 2011)  CS

By Luce. My notes: A bland golden blond colour, crisp and clean, with negligible nose and a film of lace with long legs. The first sip almost has a flavour of lemon with some apple in the background. For a social sipper it would be OK except overpriced. Cleanly made from young fruit. Have 50/50 with soda water as a light spritzer and to give it life. Nothing wrong just nothing going for it.   76 

IRONSTONE OBSESSION SYMPHONY 2009,  Murphys, California, 12.5%  D, #355784  $14.95  (Tasted March 24, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on March 19, 2011.   My notes:  The 2004 was tasted in April 2006 before ratings and was described as “More of a summer sipper (one ice cube) or accompanied by a shrimp ring…”  Eight dollars in the US, 40,000 cases made. The 2009 shows a slight spritz and a pale yellow gold colour and leaves a slowly receding lacy rim on the bowl. A delicate honey and lemon scent and a light lemon flavour introduces this white to the palate.  Delicate? At first but more flavourful than the 2004 and sufficiently round to build interest - quaffing saturates the palate with texture and flavours offering interest as a sipper. Medium-bodied and lightly tart will make this a favourite for a buffet social or pair with spicy Asian fare. A well balanced and appealing slightly off-dry blend.  A drink now.  89