Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Taste of History

Mt Cook April '03
It occurred to me that, generally speaking, each wine region of the world has a whole set of winemaking practises, tools and wine styles that have evolved and are being passed on generation after generation. Some regions have legislated blends, specific grape growing areas, down to even the closure to be used. 

Throughout Europe there’s a long history of vine grooming, of maintaining the soil and vineyard orientation to capitalize on seasonal changes along with an accumulation of inherited rituals for grape selection, pressing and fermentation that ultimately lead to one thing… the ‘taste’ of their wines. Although still responding to world markets Europe has essentially stabilized. Their wines are known around the world by their taste. They have history.

As vine growers and winemakers migrated around the world, continent after continent and country after country, regional histories of plantings and wine production had their beginning. Each of these regions can now look back and examine their history that has some commonality but also is unique to their place and time. The taste of their wines reflect this. They have history.

Local wines, up to the 70’s, unfortunately were noted for their inferiority on the world stage. Thankfully a lot has transpired since then. But what are the factors that contributed so positively to improvements in the industry that produced the prize winners of the late 90’s.  Was it the foresight of pioneer grape growers that uprooted domestic vines planting varietals that matured in that period? Was it the sons and daughters followed by grandchildren venturing into this new crop learning their craft by hands-on, by University training or by apprenticing themselves to established wineries acquiring the know-how as winemakers on home ‘estates’?  Has it been the amateur brewer applying winekit formulas on a commercial scale? Has it been the airlifted winemakers from other regions of the world … and by the success that each of these transplant-ees have been in applying their craft to local climates and soils? Perhaps another influential element has been local entrepreneurial spirit willing to dabble in new, borrowed or bought wineries bringing with their investment new methods and equipment? Has the higher production capacities, blending of offshore wines or excess local grapes as marketed by Corporate consolidations added their effect?  What has constituted our history and ultimately the character of today’s wines? 

Taste the choice of oak: barrels, barriques or chips …the choice of clones, vine or yeast …viticulture options, conventional to biodynamic? ...variations based on localized old-world or new-world processes, and variations based on European ‘standards‘ or to address perceived market niches?  Perhaps too often do you not sense more than a nuance of something neither fruit nor terroir, something unnatural or chemical? Will these variations authenticate local wine styles?

I believe the answer is ‘Yes' …and it’s continuing to evolve under the detrimental effect of our monopolistic marketing system.  

Only in Fairy Tales!

My view is based on the breadth of characteristics I’ve tasted in local wines - more noticeable at lower price points. Rather than converging, this latitude appears to be expanding each year as more players, from opportunists to idealists, enter the fray. 
The taste of our history is in our local wines.

Eventually the idealists fade - ego and optimism lose to capability. The dedicated premium wines competing with premium imports, given inflated import prices and a loyal following, will succeed. The middle tier will continue to keep their heads above with seasonal tourism and LCBO promos. A portion, the beverage wines, of the lower tier will expand offerings competing favourably with overseas labels as the LCBO increases import prices. Local wineries will find the flavour preference of the Ontario consumers and compete with our and foreign conglomerates - both will be successful. 
And Yes, everyone is 'doing their best'.

The LCBO is part of the industry and must be included in its history. Its impact is greater than any other influence. Under a profit (tax) motivated system the opportunistic investor has a distinct advantage selling beverages that are entertaining in appearance and with a flavour profile suited to an Ontario consumer accustomed to inferior imports. A free marketing system would put the industry on a competitive base, one which would return higher revenues with lower prices and along the way produce a higher standard and broader diversity of wines - but this is nowhere in sight. And so this is where we are today. Aisle after aisle of manufactured wines and a small section of ’fine’ wines at high prices both competing with inflated imports with no way to break the cycle.

The taste of our history unfolds predictably.    

My view anyway .... Ww 

PS. On a related issue... For an outline of the onerous process wine sources must tolerate to gain a LCBO listing Michael Pinkus describes the experience in his OntarioWineReview Newsletter - 169.

There's always room for one more...

Un morceau de l'histoire: Moet & Chandon

In case you missed it and are interested, this tasting of a 100 yearold Moet & Chandon 1911 Champagne was taped by Konrad Ejbich in Toronto's Distillery District on October 21, 2011.

Thanks to Konrad (@WineZone) for preserving this piece of Champagne history.

You may also be amused by the comments in response to Beppi's column in the Globe & Mail, same subject, on October 26th.

Cheers, Ww

Saturday, October 01, 2011

October 2011 Wines: 31 Tasted of 31

This is partly a follow-up of the last LCBO glossy I received titled ' Local TASTES BETTER '. After searching for wines from the glossy that were previously blogged here I've chosen alternatives:
  • Two chardonnays: one from Flat Rock Cellars (Twenty Mile Bench) and one from Château des Charmes (St. David's Bench)
  • Two Divas (white & red) from Legend Estates (Lincoln Lakeshore) - part of the proceeds goes to the Women’s Place in Southern Niagara
  • A Riesling (Vinemount Ridge) from a virtual winery operated by Charles Baker and released under his name. The riesling is produced from grapes of a specific vineyard and the facilities at Stratus winery. Above my usual budget but thoroughly enjoyed with dinner at the Stone Road Grill in July.
  • A Red, White and Rosé (Niagara-on-the-Lake) from Southbrook Vineyards an Ontario leader in Organic and Biodynamic viticulture.
  • A red and two rieslings from an admitted megalomaniac, John Howard. I haven't found any ‘organic’ let alone ‘biodynamic’ interest on his website. The wines listed have bare descriptions.
I've picked some of October's Lineup for comparison, ie. grape to grape and $ to $.

... and Canada's Thanksgiving occurs this month as well as that all important day, my natal day.  I'll have to pick something special for both happenings.

Cheers, Ww

THE LINEUP - grouped by reds, whites, rosés, sparkles and other:
  • Diva Malbec-Merlot 2007 VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, 92-3  --  G, Beamsville, Ontario, #179135  $13.95* 
  • Cline ‘Ancient Vines’ Carignane 2009,  92-2  --  V, Sonoma, California, #032177  $19.95 
  • Hickinbotham Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2009,  91-2  --  V, South Australia, #159632 $15.95
  • Louis Bernard Gigondas 2008, 89-1 --  V,  Rhône, France, #222596 $19.95 
  • J.P. Chenet Premier de Cuvée Merlot Cabernet 2009,  88-2  --  G,  Landiras, France,  #621995  $11.95 
  • Stoney Ridge Estate Winery ‘Warren Classic’ Pinot Noir 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  88-2  --  G, Vineland, Ontario, #156125 $14.95
  • J.P. Chenet ‘Limited Release' Pinot Noir  2010, 86-1  --  G,  Landiras, France, #142406   $11.95
  • Errazuriz Estate Pinot Noir 2009,  86-1  --  G, Casablanca Valley, Chile, #226696 $13.95 
  • Château de LaFaurie-Monbadon Grand Vin de Bordeaux 2006, 86  --  G, Gironde, France, #140012 $15.00 
  • Rose Hill ‘Private Edition’ Cabernet Merlot 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  79  --  G, Markham, Ontario, #146779 $13.05  
  • Megalomaniac Homegrown ‘Cellar 4379’ 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  78  --  G, Vineland, Ontario, #260364 $16.95
  • Southbrook Organic Connect Red 2008 VQA Niagara on the Lake, 76  --  G,  NOTL, Ontario, #249565  $14.95

  • Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Stratus Riesling 2008 VQA Vinemount Ridge,  93-2  --  V, NOTL, Ontario, #126433 $35.20
  • Cave Spring 'Dolomite' Riesling 2007 VQA Niagara Escarpment, 92-3 -- O, Jordan, Ontario, #Winery  $17.15
  • Concha Y Toro ‘Trio’ Chardonnay Pinot Grigio Pinot Blanc Reserva 2009,  90-2  --  V, Casablanca Valley, Chile, #433938 $12.95
  • Graham Beck ‘The Game Reserve’ Sauvignon Blanc 2009, 89-2  --  V, Franschhoek, S. Africa, #205856  $14.95
  • Spice Route Sauvignon Blanc 2010,  89-2  --  V,  Darling, South Africa, #235895  $14.95  
  • St. Supéry Sauvignon Blanc 2009,  89-1  --  V,  Napa Valley, California, #339663  $18.95 
  • Giesen 'The Brothers' Sauvignon Blanc2009, 89-1  --  V, Marlborough, NZ,  #247213  $19.95
  • Château des Charmes 'St. David's Bench Vineyard' Chardonnay 2007 VQA St. David's Bench, 88-1  --  V, NOTL, Ontario, #430991  $16.50  
  • Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay 2008 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, 85  --  V, Jordan, Ontario, #681247 $16.95  
  • Megalomaniac Homegrown ‘Cellar 4379' Riesling 2010 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 84  --  G, Vineland, Ontario, #183061  $12.95
  • Diva Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc 2009 VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, 84  --  G, Beamsville, Ontario, #179143 $14.95
  • Megalomaniac ‘Edra’s Vineyard’ Narcissist Riesling 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  81  --  V, Vineland, Ontario,  #067587 $17.95 
  • Southbrook Organic Connect White Vidal 2010 VQA Niagara on the Lake, 75  --  G,  NOTL, Ontario,  #249078  $14.95

  • Domaine Lafage Parfum de Vignes Rosé 2010,  90-2  --  V, Roussillon, France, #167528 $13.95
  • Château la Tour de l’Évêque Rosé 2010,  88-1  --  V, Provence, France, #319392  $18.95
  • Southbrook Organic Connect Rosé 2010 VQA Niagara on the Lake, 86  --  V,  NOTL, Ontario, #168492   $18.95 

  • Tenuta S. Anna Extra Dry Prosecco NV,  90-2  --  V, Veneto, Italy,  #169128 $15.95
  • Cave Spring Blanc de Blanc Brut NV VQA Niagara Escarpment,  85  --  G, Jordan, Ontario, #213983 $29.95
  • Vineland Estate Winery Reserve Brut 2008 VQA Ontario,  84  --  V, Vineland, Ontario, #039495 $19.95 
(G - General Listing, V - Vintages, r-v - Rating-Value)


DIVA MALBEC-MERLOT 2007 VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Beamsville, Ontario, 13.0% D, #179135   $13.95*  (Tasted October 17, 2011)  CS

A General listing and the red twin to the Sémillon-SB listed below. A  Legends Estate product with *part of the proceeds going to Women's Place of South Niagara.  My notes: This has a deep mahogany colour with intense aroma of blended vanilla and black cherry, warm and worth lingering over. A film sticks then fragments from a lacy rim, columns run into island clusters. The first sip is full-bodied, evenly balanced tannins, acid and flavours - a pleasing sipper especially when combined with the nose. The finish lasts forever finally ending with a taste of black cherry and a layer of dryness.  Perhaps cellaring would soften a slight raw edge altho’ it’s drinking well now - why wait? Have with rack of lamb, beef bourguignon or prime rib roast.  92

DIVA SEMILLON-SAUVIGNON BLANC 2009 VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Beamsville, Ontario, 12.5% D, #179143  $14.95  (Tasted October 4, 2011)  CS

A General listing and part of the 'Local TASTES BETTER' promotion. A  Legends Estate  product with *part of the proceeds going to Women's Place of South Niagara.  My notes: Crystal clean in the glass with a soft lime blond colour. A thin film fragments quickly from the rim shedding tiny slow tears and the nose is of freshly crushed gooseberries quickly dissipating. Light-bodied and a taste of lime and fresh gooseberry with its dry tang refreshes the taste buds and leaves everything clean for the next sip - no sweetness to my buds. Have with fresh seafood appetizers/entrées or baked brie on crisps. Not for cellaring - a social drink now and doesn't last overnight when opened. 84

CHARLES BAKER PICONE VINEYARD STRATUS RIESLING 2008 VQA Vinemount Ridge, NOTL, Ontario, 10.5% D, #126433 $35.20  (Tasted October 25, 2011)  CS
Released by Vintages on April 30, 2011. My notes: Charles Baker uses the Picone vineyard and the Stratus facilities to produce this Riesling.  A pale golden blond, crystal clear in the glass with a delectable aroma of tropical fruit - a refined petrol as well?.  The film sticks firmly until the lacy edge recedes evenly - a few slow tears. Serve well chilled for changes as it warms, the nose being consistent. The first sip is crisp and dry, full, lemon and lime, with a long dry finish and some chalk at the end. A super complement with jumbo Tiger shrimp (16-20) with Angel’s Hair in a spicy orange tomato Vodka sauce. Also great paired with antipasto. The suspicion of petrol could develop with cellaring, five years perhaps. 93


FLAT ROCK CELLARS CHARDONNAY 2008 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Jordan, Ontario, 11.9% XD, #681247  $16.95  (Tasted October 10, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release date was not given. My notes:  There’s a hint of green in a polished golden wheat colour and there’s a grassiness to fresh lemon aroma, both subtle to the nose. A swirl lays a thin film that fragments into lacy islands as it falls, no legs or tears. The first sip has a smooth texture and a hollow flavour mostly of lemon, some lime that’s retained over a brief finish ending with a lime softness. The subdued fruit makes this more of a meal white than a sipper - have with a  Boston lettuce salad with blueberries and raspberries, a drizzle of white balsamic vinegar and oil or pair with fried tilapia and melted cheddar over asparagus spears. Not for the cellar - a mild drink now. 85 

CONCHA Y TORO 'TRIO' CHARDONNAY PINOT GRIGIO PINOT BLANC RESERVA 2009,  Casablanca Valley, Chile, 13.5% XD, #433938  $12.95  (Tasted October 8, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on September 3, 2011. Rated 88 by Tom Cannavan (2010) . My notes: The 2004 vintage, same price, was tasted in January 2006 with good results (before ratings) and noted ‘better with food‘. The blend is unchanged as 70% Chardonnay, 15% PG and 15% PB. The colour is golden and polished so it glistens in the glass. The nose has aromas of lime, lemongrass and light honey. A swirl leaves a thick film that quickly forms long legs changing to slow tears. The first sip combines a soft tang, delicate honey textured citrus, a drying texture and a finish that carries all to a long and clean conclusion.  Served chilled the nose, flavours and finish remain consistent until off chill. A great blend for casual sipping, with hors d‘oeuvres or for a meal of light pork, turkey, chicken or creamy seafood pastas. Will keep a few years but basically a drink now.  90
TENUTA S. ANNA EXTRA DRY PROSECCO NV, Veneto, Italy, 11.5% XD, #169128  $15.95  (Tasted October 19, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on July 23, 2011. My notes:  Everything comes together with this bubbly when it’s well chilled: bursts of bubbles, a keen carbonated nip, a smooth texture, a flavour of lemon/lime icing thinly wrapped in a subtle sweetness and the scent of baked apples.  The colour is a pale blond tinted green and tiny bubbles take over from bursts to provide a lively spritz throughout sipping. A crowd pleaser for any occasion, with tentacle-d appetizers or an alternative to a still white with seafood. Cellar a year but at this price keep several on hand for when the festivities start.  90

GIESEN 'THE BROTHERS' SAUVIGNON BLANC 2009, Marlborough, NZ,  13.0% XD, #247213   $19.95  (Tasted October 17, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on September 3, 2011. Rated 90 by Lisa Perrotti-Brown, MW, (Oct 2010)  My notes: A pale golden blond colour and aromas that say ‘I’m kiwi!’ - crushed gooseberries with a softness that denies the hidden tang that comes out in the first sip. Nose declines quickly. Tangy, subtle gooseberries rather than pronounced, extra dry on the tongue and lasting a fair time ’til a tangy end. This went very well with Tilapia filets with basalmic sauce and sugar snap peas quenching the thirst while exchanging flavours. Should last a few years in the cellar but a drink now. 89

CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES 'ST. DAVID'S BENCH VINEYARD' CHARDONNAY 2007 VQA St. David's Bench, NOTL, Ontario, 14.0% D, #430991   $16.50  (Tasted October 12, 2011)  CS

The Vintages release date is not available. My notes: This has a light golden blond colour, clean and crisp. There’s a soft, delicate scent of quince needing just a few minutes to develop in a chilled glass. Sipping off chill lets both the nose and flavours develop - quaffing accentuates a honey - quince combination. A few sips asserts the tartness that pairs well with grilled East Coast salmon crusted with lightly flavoured Panko crumbs. Well balanced, a sweetness is just detectable and there's a mineral aspect with some residual fruit on the finish. Didn't get the warmth of 14%.  I’d be tempted to cellar a few more years to see where it goes. An interesting drink-now when given patience to reveal itself.  88

SOUTHBROOK ORGANIC CONNECT RED 2008 VQA Niagara on the Lake, NOTL, Ontario, 12.6% D, #249565   $14.95  (Tasted October 10, 2011)  CS

A General listing. My notes: An aroma of stewed raisins and bitter chocolate as well as the dark hued ruby colour suggests a red of an earlier Niagara. The first sip is on the light side of medium-body having an acerbic bite and harsh flavours of unripe red cherries and leaving a tannic, sour cherry aftertaste. The flavours did not pair well with an entrée of veal and beef meatloaf with a  mushroom and cherry tomato side - a near tooth cleaner by itself. The combination of tart and a brine taint is unappealing. Not for cellaring. The remainder of the bottle was discarded. 76  

SOUTHBROOK ORGANIC CONNECT WHITE VIDAL 2010 VQA Niagara on the Lake, NOTL, Ontario,  9.6% MS, #249078   $14.95  (Tasted October 13, 2011) CS

A General listing. My notes:  A pale blond colour with little aroma for a nose, perhaps an orange scent in the background. There’s a thin film with an uneven rim that recedes quickly returning to the bowl and for a first sip, a soft texture with a shallow orange taste with a slight acid that becomes the remaining aspect of a short finish. A conservative thirst quencher softer than a flavoured Perrier and without the spritz. Have on a hot summer afternoon by itself or with a few lemon slices or bowl of fruit.  75

SOUTHBROOK ORGANIC CONNECT ROSÉ 2010 VQA Niagara on the Lake, NOTL, Ontario, 12.2% D, #168492  $18.95  (Tasted October 18, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on May 28, 2011.  My notes: A red cherry colour with tinge of peach and a film that cascades for a short while before shedding slow tears. The nose is a peach apple combination that slowly develops in the glass, includes even a fuzz (a noticeable softness). The flavour on the tongue is watermelon, sweet cherries and red currants with some dryness balancing a smooth texture. A medium-bodied sipper to have at an afternoon gathering on the patio or sitting at a south facing window table at your favourite bistro on an early afternoon. A Niagara style party beverage and a drink now. 86

J.P. CHENET  'LIMITED RELEASE' PINOT NOIR  2010, Landiras, France, 12.5% D, #142406   $11.95  (Tasted October 6, 2011)  CS

A General listing. My notes: The 2008 vintage was tasted in September 2010 and rated 84. By comparison this is a notch up on nose, texture and flavour. There’s a smooth unbroken film shedding slow legs from a solid rim. The colour is a deep ruby and nose is faint with deep aromas of a light cherry blackberry. Smooth, nicely balanced texture, acid and fruit showing a hollow middle then ending very dry on the lips. The fruit is a moderate cherry berry. An acceptable sipper as a open bar option.  Serve with bacon and proscuitto wrapped asparagus or a meatlovers pizza. A drink now altho’ could cellar a year or possibly two.  86

J. P. CHENET PREMIER DE CUVÉE MERLOT CABERNET 2009,  Landiras, France, 13.5% D, #621995  $11.95  (Tasted October 5, 2011)  CS

A General listing. My notes:Previously labelled ‘Founders Reserve’ the 2007 vintage was tasted with a rating of 89 in December 2008. Perhaps a tad thinner than previously but with the same whiff of berry in the nose and a granite hued ruby colour. The film slowly fragments into islands with some slow tears showing. A silky texture with a currant tinted berry flavour that makes for a pleasant just offdry sipper. A warm fruit residual stays for a time before ending softly with some tannin on the palate. Won’t blow anyone’s socks off but is an economical drink now - a workhorse with hamburgers, pizzas, etc. etc. and may cellar for a year or two.  88

ST. SUPÉRY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2009, Napa Valley, California, 13.7% XD, #339663  $18.95  (Tasted October 5, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on July 23, 2011.  My notes: The back label claims 'sustainably farmed'.  The website . There’s a whiff of gooseberry and honeydew in the nose and a colour that has a remnant of golden blond. A thin film holds a lacy rim until gradually separating into ragged islands. A soft texture to the first sip highlighted by an acerbic tang and flavours of lime, honeydew and gooseberry that together make an interesting sipper - a similar style to NZ but with emphasis on lime and melon with gooseberry coming in third. Pairing with seafood entrées would be suitable or just sipping with good company. Cellar up to four years. 89
CHÂTEAU LA TOUR DE L'ÉVÊQUE ROSÉ 2010, Pierrefeu-du-Var, France, 13.5% XD, #319392  $18.95  (Tasted October 23, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on June 25, 2011.  A blend of eight grapes the main being Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault, the remainder being Rolle, Semillon, Ugni-Blanc, Cab Sauv and Mourvedre. The Chateau's website says 'our vineyards adhere to the rules of Organic agriculture'.  My notes: The 2009 vintage was tasted in August 2010 and rated 86.  This has a bright peach-rose colour and a subtle scent of cherry pie. A generous well chilled sip has the acerbic abruptness of red currants. The finish is extra dry on the lips with a chalky currant aftertaste and there’s a pleasing fullness when quaffed. Have with lightly battered fish & chips or grilled tilapia/snapper and mashed potatoes running with melted butter - a fish wine. A drink now.  88

DOMAINE LAFAGE  PARFUM DE VIGNES ROSÉ 2010, Perpignan, France, 13.0% XD, #167528  $13.95  (Tasted October 2, 2011)  CS

A Vintages release on June 25, 2011. A traditional blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir and Carignan.  My notes: Winner of a silver medal at a Paris 2011 competition. Other than ‘minimal intervention’ there is little information on their website to indicate ’natural’ or ’organic’  viticulture.  The colour is rose petal soft and a hue the sunny side of a peach. In fact, softness is everywhere: flavour, nose and texture leaving the palate wrapped in velour. The finish contradicts the full berry watermelon flavours that slowly mellow out taking on a hint of liquorice at the end. An interesting sipper from first to last. A summer party favourite with a cheese tray, baked brie or tasty brioche. Cellaring for several years should be OK - not sure where it would improve tho’.  90 

CHÂTEAU DE LAFAURIE-MONBADON GRAND VIN DE BORDEAUX 2006, Gironde, France, 13.0% XD, #140012  $15.00  (Tasted October 24, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on October 1, 2011.  My notes:  A Baron de Montfort wine.  A moody ruby, ie. a dense ruby with a garnet cast.  The nose is earthy black currant and berry, spicy on the outside. The film suggests a silky texture which when you get past the sharpness it is.  The first sip has flavours of blackberry, distinct liquorice ending with a smack of tannins all raising attention to the wine versus the meal, in this case, roast lamb with leeks and mashed sweet potato and carrots - an interesting switch. Likely on the decline I’d say cellaring is past due, a sipper if you prefer extra dry oldworld, more of a meal red. 86

ROSE HILL 'PRIVATE EDITION' CABERNET MERLOT 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Markham, Ontario, 13.0% D, #146779  $13.05  (Tasted October 3, 2011)  CS

A General listing and, according to the LCBO, made by Cellaria Winery Inc. of Markham Ontario. My notes:  The Rose Hill website does not name the vineyards as the source of their grapes - nice photos though.  This red is a garnet hued ruby with a silky film that gradually falls into lacy patterns. The nose given time to develop is a just perceptible woody berry. The first sip cleanses the palate leaving it stinging followed by a subtle flavour of berry and currant then a short unchanging finish. A thin medium-bodied, well balanced sipper with a simple character and an absence of freshness. Decant or let air for an hour. A passable accompaniment to lightly grilled meats - perhaps a proscuitto and mozzarella thin crust pizza or Italian meatball spaghetti dish. A classic label. Not for cellaring.  79

ERRAZURIZ ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2009, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #226696 $13.95  (Tasted October 12, 2011)  CS


A General listing. My notes:  A see through ruby with a swirl giving long columns of fast legs from a solid rim. Almost negligible aromas perhaps a slight nutmeg and faint strawberry.  A lightish medium-bodied, silky on the first sip, a delicate flavour of cherry and strawberry either just distinguishable and a finish that’s displays delicate tannin on the tongue with a whisper of tang. The texture carries the day with this pinot - it sets up balanced acid and flavours making this an interesting sipper. A plate of grilled liver and onions, rabbit with fettuccine in a white wine sauce or roasted chicken pieces and steamed veggies could be a complement. Not for cellaring - drinking well now.  86

STONEY RIDGE ESTATE WINERY 'WARREN CLASSIC' PINOT NOIR 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Vineland, Ontario, 12.8%  D, #156125 $14.95  (Tasted October 20, 2011)  CS

A General listing. My notes: The 2006 vintage ($12.00) tasted in May 2010 and rated 87 was also labelled ‘25th Anniversary release’. Decant or air for a few hours. The colour is a deep garnet cast see-through ruby and the light nose has elements of cut tobacco, mushroom, and berry/straw and black. The film runs a lacy rim gradually shifting to long slow columns. Mellow flavours of crushed berries/straw and black, with fine tannins and dry acid taking prominence as the fruit fades lending some earthy anise to an interesting finish. A sipper for most and a grilled red meat red for more. Ham steak, roast pork, tuna, meat lovers pizza are all candidates until you find your favourite combination. There’s a raw edge that could benefit from a few years cellaring but quite drinkable now. 88

CLINE 'ANCIENT VINES' CARIGNANE 2009, Sonoma, California, 14.5% D, #032177   $19.95  (Tasted October 8, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on September 3, 2011. My notes: This has a dense black ruby colour with a subtle aroma of smoky cranberry. The film sticks to the glass with a solid rim and quickly runs slow legs. Silky smooth, full with a bright tang and a warmth that spreads over the palate eventually leaving the mouth dry and awake - cranberry changing to cherry cordial then round and woody at the end. An all-round red: have alone, with bacon or Manchurian sirloin strips or T-bone or Prime rib. Cellaring for several years is likely integrating some of the heat and tang but drinking well now.  92

VINELAND ESTATE WINERY RESERVE BRUT 2008 VQA Ontario, Vineland, Ontario 11.0% D, #039495  $19.95  (Tasted October 16, 2011)  CS

No release date given. My notes:  Charmat Method. This has a light blond colour and effervesces on the first pour, lots of bubbles all sizes. Streams of tiny bubbles last only a short while and quiesces to a filling spritz. No nose and dry with just a suspicion of sugar on the first sip with grapefruit and apple flavours, well blended and subtle. Have as an aperitif or between spoonfuls of bouillabaisse filled with little creatures. A thirst quencher during speeches or between bridge hands - anytime you’re thirsting.  A drink now. 84

HICKINBOTHAM SHIRAZ/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009, South Australia, 14.5% XD, #159632  $15.95  (Tasted October 26, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on October 1, 2011. Rated 91 (December 2010) by Lisa Perrotti-Brown, MW  My notes: The 2008 vintage was tasted in November 2010 and rated 90 with a note to cellar 5 - 10 years or decant overnight. A sip was acerbic and the finish long and hot.  I suggest airing the 2009 a short time, an hour,  or decant to allow aromas and flavours to settle. There’s a earthy scent of plum, black currant and raspberry on the nose. The film sticks immediately shedding columns of fast legs from a solid rim. The dense royal ruby colour has some brightness at the rim and the first sip is smooth as silk with warmth, flavours of red currant, raspberry and wood shavings - enticing. The sip ends with pronounced tannins, dry, retaining some red currant. A full-bodied sipper now with an interesting future if cellared several to five years. Have with rack of lamb, prime rib or grilled Italian sweet or hot sausage. 91

MEGALOMANIAC HOMEGROWN 'CELLAR 4379' 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Vineland, Ontario, 13.0% D, #260364  $16.95  (Tasted October 13, 2011)   CS 

A General release and a wine from John Howard Cellars of Distinction My notes:  Decant and air for an hour. There’s a hint of crushed raspberries in the nose - a swirl leaves a thin film that quickly fragments into lacy islands - the colour is a deep see-through ruby. Steely edged woody berry flavours dominate the first sip and quickly leave the palate starting with a smooth, almost oily, then changing to a long, dry mouthfeel followed by a flat finish. A metallic profile persists throughout the tasting making this, for me, not a natural sipper. Should be OK with braised Italian sweet or hot sausage or have with sliced chorizo sausage with pasta in a spicy tomato sauce. Not for cellaring. 78

MEGALOMANIAC HOMEGROWN 'CELLAR 4379' RIESLING 2010 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Vineland, Ontario, 10.5% MS, #183061  $12.95  (Tasted October 4, 2011)  CS

A General release and a wine from John Howard Cellars of Distinction.  My notes:  A light blond colour and a thin film that quickly laces the glass. The nose suggests a purity of process essentially leaving flavour and texture to speak for terroir. More than a suspicion of sweetness in the first sip along with some lime, a light chalk and an acid that peaks pleasantly before subsiding to a moderately long, mild, lime finish, light-bodied. An interesting before dinner white, if you like sweet, with meagre varietal highlights or to offer as a social sipper with oysters or party cheese tray. A limited meal white and more of a drink now. 84

MEGALOMANIAC 'EDRA'S VINEYARD'  NARCISSIST RIESLING 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Vineland, Ontario, 11.0% MS, #067587  $17.95  (Tasted October 26, 2011)  CS

Release by Vintages without a date and is a wine from John Howard Cellars of Distinction. My notes: Very little on the website to describe the wines - almost an affront, ‘You should ask?’  A very clean blond with a green tint and a just perceptible nose of delicate floral - dissipates quickly. The tangy first sip has grapefruit and lime flavours lightly rounded with some chalk dryness. The finish is short ending with chalk and moderate citrus. The flavours build on the palate. A quaffer for a social gatherings, goes down nicely with buffet fare. Pair with whitefish lightly grilled or seared scallops/shrimp. Long on appeal - short on character. 81

CAVE SPRING  BLANC DE BLANC BRUT NV VQA Niagara Escarpment, Jordan, Ontario, 12.0% D, #213983  $29.95  (Tasted October 15, 2011)  CS

A General listing and a sparkler using the Traditional Method.  My note:  A light blond colour with a burst of varied sized bubbles that subside quickly to many fine streams lasting briefly. The spritz remains strong with dry and tart flavours of grassy citrus and yeast. There’s a delicate softness balancing the mineral dryness in each sip lending itself to complement fresh oysters or buffet favours. Paired with a Swiss Chalet chicken dinner cut the sauces nicely. The cutting tang and mineral note continued through a moderate finish.  A drink now.  85

SPICE ROUTE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2010, Darling, South Africa, 13.5% XD, #235895   $14.95  (Tasted October 18, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on September 17, 2011 and a Charles Back and The Spice Route Team wine.  My notes:  A pale golden blond with a hint of green and a film that sticks then sheds long tears from a increasingly lacy rim. The nose has a grassy edge to moderate aromas of crushed gooseberries. Serve chilled and let warm slightly for best sipping. The first sip is clean, lemon and grapefruit with some gooseberry still prominent but tempered a tad and ends with a chalk dry finish. An interesting sipper - kept me sipping to refresh the tart fruitiness. Should be great with any seafood dishes or roasted chicken or turkey. Cellaring is indefinite - may not improve but would keep for a few years. 89

LOUIS BERNARD GIGONDAS 2008, Rhône, France, 13.5% D, #222596 $19.95  (Tasted October 24, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on June 25, 2011.  My notes:Decant or wait an hour before serving to let the nose change from herbal to earthy dark fruit with a slight mint aroma. A see-through garnet ruby, medium-bodied with a film that sticks then falls from a lacy rim. The first sip stings the throat as flavours of red cherry syrup spreads pleasantly then leaves a soft tannin for a dry, tangy ending returning to herbal. The full profile makes this an interesting sipper and should complement any grilled meat entrée. Not likely to develop further if cellared but I’d try five years, uncorking in two to see where it’s going.  89   

GRAHAM BECK ‘THE GAME RESERVE’ SAUVIGNON BLANC 2009, Franschhoek, S. Africa,  13.0% XD, #205856   $14.95  (Retasted October 29, 2011)  CS

Released by Vintages on March 19, 2011 and tasted in April this year. My notes:  Much the same as the last tasting: a light blond with a thin film showing fast tears. The texture has a soft grassy feel and moderate flavours of gooseberries and lemongrass. Beautiful length full of freshness and fruit ending extra dry with a light chalk. The nose has lost a tad with a shift to mineral and lime. A full flavoured sipper - better with seafood from mussels to fried tentacle’d critters to seared scallops/tiger shrimp. Cellar a shorter time than suggested earlier - two years. Overall down a point to 89. 
CAVE SPRING ‘DOLOMITE’ RIESLING 2007 VQA Niagara Escarpment, Jordan, Ontario, 11.0% D, #Winery  $17.15  (Retasted October 31, 2011)

My notes: We enjoyed this with bbq'd chicken last evening. Having finished the Graham Beck Sauvignon Blanc the Riesling was an abrupt flavour change but very refreshing. Tasted in July this year everything was more intense: 'the luscious lime and melon edged with a chalky mineral' and 'honey lime scent'. A beautifully enticing riesling well balanced, full of terroir and varietal.  Went well with Snapper with Angel's Hair and Citrus Cream Sauce . 92