Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Blind Tasting: 5 Tasted of 5

Part 1: The Tasting
The Setup
The bottles were setup in their hideaway cloth in the morning storing them in the fridge for tasting later, after 4pm - our Happy Hour, the same day.

All wines had a refreshing tartness that would brighten a shellfish meal and most grilled or roasted seafood.  The terroir of the Bel Echo was distinctly different having more chalk/wet pebble and less of a  gooseberry focus. All were considered good to great sippers.

Ranking 1 to 5

Taster A:
#1 - E (Cloudy Bay), #2 - S (Fallen Angel), #3 - W (Fairhall Down), #4 - I (Brancott), #5 - N* (Bel Echo)

Taster B:
#1 - S (Fallen Angel), #2 - N*  (Bel Echo), #3 - E (Cloudy Bay), #4 - W (Fairhall Down), #5 - I (Brancott)

The Reveal:

W - Fairhall Down, I - Brancott, N - Bel Echo, E - Cloudy Bay, S - Fallen Angel 

The Reveal

Part 2. Completed after Part 1


  • Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2012,  93-2  --  V, Marlborough, NZ, #304469  $29.95
  • Brancott Estate Letter Series 'B' Sauvignon Blanc 2011,  91-2  --  G, Marlborough, NZ, #278689  $19.95
  • Fallen Angel Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011,  91-1  --  V, Waiheke Island, NZ, #041301  $26.95
  • Fairhall Downs Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2012, 88-1  --  V,  Marlborough, NZ, #990580  $18.95
  • Bel Echo by Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2011,  86  --  V, Marlborough, NZ,  #309609  $19.95
    (V - Vintages, r-v  - Rating-Value, a - aerated, NR - Not Rated)

FAIRHALL DOWNS SINGLE VINEYARD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0%  XD  .9g/L, #990580  $18.95  (Tasted March 25, 2013) CS

Released by Vintages on March 2, 2013.  My notes: White with a just perceptible straw tint and a just perceptible lime zest nose. The rim slides down the glass without fragmenting and the first sip surprises the palate with a chalky texture to slight lemon lime flavours. A swallow brings more citrus very refreshing without being flavourful and a chalk dry ending. A party sipper to go with a buffet of nibbles or to have with a shellfish meal. A drink now. 88

CLOUDY BAY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012, Marlborough, NZ, 13.5%  XD  5g/L, #304469  $29.95  (
March 25, 2013CS

Released by Vintages on April 18, 2012.  My notes:  Almost white with a tint of blond. A deep sniff brings a spicy gooseberry scent to the nose. A lightly laced rim fragments quickly through tears into droplets on the glass.  There's a softness to the texture in the first sip along with a delicate, young gooseberry sensation on the swallow. A delight to sip and was great with grilled cod with mashed Yukon Gold and sweet potato. The flavour accent to the finish gives this extra mileage as a sipper. A drink now to 3 years. 93

FALLEN ANGEL SAUVIGNON BLANC 2011 MARLBOROUGH, Waiheke Island, NZ, 13.5%  XD  4g/L, #041301  $26.95  (Tasted March 25, 2013CS
Released by Vintages on February 16, 2013.  My notes: A 'heaven sent wine for the angels among us...' according to the label.  The Stonyridge wine list describes the complete Fallen Angel labels.  Almost white with a tint of green and a nose that has a floral aspect to citrus or young gooseberry. The rim sheds long fast tears until only small nodules remain. The first sip is fruity and dry, the dryness growing as it covers the palate. An interesting sipper full of delicate freshly crushed young gooseberries with a texture having a slight fullness and a finish that stays awhile before ending as a drying layer. A drink now - have with shellfish, fish or roast fowl. 90

BEL ECHO BY CLOS HENRI SAUVIGNON BLANC 2011, Marlborough, NZ, 13.5%  XD  2g/L, #309609  $19.95  (Tasted
March 25, 2013CS

Released by Vintages on February 16, 2013.  My notes: 80% of the grapes blended were grown in  80% Broadbridge Clay and 20% in Greywacke riverbed soils.  Almost white with a faint green tint and there's a mineral edge to a light melon and stone fruit scent. A swirl leaves a lightly laced rim to recede slowly. A tart apple and melon with a focus on mineral refreshes and gives a uniqueness as a sipper - extra dry through the finish. Serve with assorted canapés for sipper to choose a pairing or have with grilled white fish on risotto. A drink now to 2 years. 86

BRANCOTT ESTATE LETTER SERIES 'B' SAUVIGNON BLANC 2011 ,  Marlborough, NZ, 13.0%  XD  5g/L, #278689  $19.95  (Tasted March 25, 2013CS
A General listing and a Pernod Ricard Pacific Pty Ltd product.
  My notes:  Breathing a few minutes lets the fresh scent of delicate gooseberry & pear develop. The film is thin and leaves a fragmenting rim to shed fast tears then form lacy islands. The texture is smooth with a chalk layer and refreshing tartness. The chalk grows still with a delicate berry and spice for a nicely developing finish. A drink now. Sip, sip or have with shellfish, anything from bearded mussels in a curry sauce to crab pieces. A drink now to 2 years. 91


Saturday, March 23, 2013

The LCBO Power Trip

From a bygone era:  Massive, full of cracks and dragging bottom
For me searching for different wines is both relaxing and rewarding especially when I find value in or out of Ontario Outlets. However, I find the restraint the LCBO exerts on the distribution of wines and the comparative throttling of product labels does a disservice not only to consumers but to both Ontario and Federal economies. The only reason I can think of is the LCBO is on a Power Trip!  They've lost sight of growing the market meaningfully - seeing every initiative for change as a challenge, defending the moat while the castle crumbles from within. In 2007/2008 Liquor revenues in BC (a mix of private and government stores) and Alberta (all private stores) outpaced Ontario on a per capita basis.(ref 3)

Imagine if the Ontario wine trade were unshackled how much faster wines could be delivered to Ontarians. Instead of a fraction of world wines trickling into the market over a time scale only a snail can appreciate hundreds of world connected agents would be plying their trade to consumers, that's us, anxious to pursue our life style unencumbered by self-appointed wine merchants, LCBO employees not being paid to obtain the best for the least but to maintain margins, track consumer purchases and take away revenue generating avenues customary of other retail products: the spread of associated activities... from tastings to auctions, from competitions to advertising, the election of exemplary wines and wineries by region and style... the list goes on...  each could be the byproduct of a free retail market. Instead of a limited number of outlets growing larger in adulterated plonk Ontario would have legions of specialized stores encouraging and serving a growing demand for quality wines- proprietors knowing their customers have alternatives. 

If I can draw a parallel to the Cellular business in which 4 or 5 companies divvy up a limited frequency spectrum capitalising on an ability to communicate over long distances, the CRTC governs the assignment of bandwidth that leads to the parcelling of services and fees from cell- phone to Cable/Satellite TV. Once a simple service - as little as an antenna in the attic - is now a rigidly structured contract controlled by a select few - the perfect storm for monopolistic manipulators stifling technology to the financial benefit of the all powerful Internet Service Providers.

And so goes the Liquor Control Board of Ontario...  unrestricted power via government allotment. Born out of provincial powers at a time when alcohol's place in a prewar, post depression society was thought to be needing restrictions. In modern day the same format now fosters and protects unnecessary roles of so many rising stars... marketers all, the LCBO Wine 'Consultants'. Not to say 'they' aren't nice folk... they're just not needed. When any other Company grows obese it pares away the middle. On the other hand the LCBO fills in with make-work projects.

You can tell how frustrated I have become having to patronize Outlets grown stale in concept and product. I'm tired of sampling mediocrity hoping to find that one bottle that comes close to the outdated notes credited to wine critics or the 'Vintages Panel'. Continuing the release of ISDs (In Store Discoveries) 15 more are to be released on April 13th averaging in the $50 range. I'm told they are to be located on the General shelves. Is this a dream child of an LCBO 'Consultant'. Why do we need another classification?  and what's the reason to merge them with the Generals?

I'm of a previous generation when what a retailer says and does is conveyed in words without exaggeration or hidden motive.
The LCBO shuns their responsibility opting to reinforce every niche in their armour and breach in their fortress - now a generation of entrepreneurs willing to ignore Federal law and challenge consumer advocates. We don't have a cadre of bureaucrats determining levels of imports for other products - why do we have a whole bureaucracy for wine?

My opinion, Ww  

  1. Interprovincial direct sale and delivery of wine for personal consumption
  2. FreeMyGrapes  
  3. OntarioWineReview: Burning Down the House 

Friday, March 01, 2013

March 2013 Wines: 21 Tasted of 21

I purchased two books in January . My comments for John Szabo's 'Pairing Food & Wines for Dummies' follow:

There may have been a better title. I suggest 'Everything You Want to Know about Wine Styles, Wine Character, How to find a Restaurant, What to Look For in a Wine List, a Sommelier (and How to Become one), and Hundreds of Meal Names for a Food Obsessed World Traveller'. In other words there's a lot of 'meat to go with the potatoes' in this book much of which could be useful for the avid wine-a-holic preparing for a World Best Sommelier Competition.

I got b-logged down when I reached Chapter III, Sorting out the World of Wine and Chapter IV, Uncovering the Best Wine Bets with World Cuisine, 200 pages of tables and decision paths for matching world foods with wine types. Breaking, or perhaps adding to, the tedium of charts are tutorials on various wine styles, explanations for labelling, how bubbles are generated, country backgrounds and origins for wine styles and dialogue much of which is complementary, I'd say superfluous, to Pairing.

The Pairing information in these Chapters could be conveniently packaged in an App to be offered with the purchase of the book - even indexed to the book although there is already a plethora of Apps, both free and low-priced, available on the Internet. For instance, a Google search for 'pairing food and wine' immediately found the following:

  etc., etc. (listing of an App doesn't infer a recommendation)

...and there may be copyright limitations preventing an App. 

Illustrated Guide to the Canine World
Leaded Glass of Frank Lloyd Wright

Unless it's a 'Jeffery Archer' thriller my preference for a book, in particular a Wine Guide, is under 200 pages and fits in a jacket pocket. I have bought my share of coffee table  gargantuan encyclopaedias - those with
the impressive covers and embossed author/collaborator names - the ones cataloging 400 Dog Breeds, Frank Lloyd Wright Light Screens and a World History of grapes - their cultivation and character, natural diseases, regions and extent of plantings and major/minor producers. Everything but Pairing!

On the Positive side John Szabo's book is full of good reference 
The World Atlas 6th Ed.
material for those with ambitions to be a sommelier's counterpoint, the informed host/convenor of a night out or simply a partner showing his independence. Be advised though, too much of a display of new found knowledge makes for a wine-bore. 

For some, eating out is an adventure - let it remain so. The dining places I frequent even on special occasions seldom have a bona fide sommelier. It's likely the restaurateur's brother-in-law that composed the wine list and may be the one that is now recommending the House Wine ($95per) even before we order. In southern Ontario and without accreditation the term sommelier is extremely flexible. A resident 'sommelier' is seldom identified on the menu - it may not be his/her shift - often the service is part of of that provided by your server.  All good reason to have browsed beforehand Sections relevant to your dining habits. I'm hoping for the day I'll look up from a non-laminated menu to be greeted by a Sommelier of John's calibre (MS). That's when I'll put away my sidewalk skepticism and hang on every word.
My comments, Ww 

THE LINEUP - grouped by reds, whites and bubblies:

  • Predator Old Vine Zinfandel 'Lodi Appellation'  2011, 91-2  --  V, St. Helena, California, #219485  $18.95
  • Liberty School Central Coast Syrah 2010, 90-2  --  V, Paso Robles, USA, #942383 $18.95 
  • Selvanova Vigna Antica Aglianico 2009, 89-2  --  V, Campania, Italy, #313494  $15.95 
  • Bodegas Castano Hecula 2009, 88a-2  --  G, Yecla, Spain, #300673  $11.80
  • Cave de Rasteau la Domelière Rasteau 2010, 88-1  --  V, Rhone Valley, France, #222927 $15.95
  • Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva 2007,  87a  -- G,  Rioja, Spain,  #137810  $17.95 
  • Jardin 'The Prospector' Syrah 2008, 87a Cellar  --  V,  Stellenbosch, S. Africa, #296673 $19.95  
  • Trapiche Reserve Syrah 2011, 84  --  G, Mendoza, Argentina, #222281  $10.95 
  • Zonin Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2010, 84  --  G,Veneto, Italy, #170142   $14.60
  • Bodegas La Casona de Castano Old Vines Monastrell 2011,  81  --  G, Yecla, Spain, #143743  $8.95   
  • Castillo de Monseran Garnacha 2011, 80 Cellar  --  G,  Cariñena, Spain, #073395  $9.95

  • Ghost Pines Chardonnay 'Winemaker's Blend' 2010, 89-1  --  G, Healdsburg, California,  #308122 $19.95 
  • Southbrook Vineyards Triomphe Chardonnay 2011 VQA NOTL, 89-1  --  V, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, #172338 $21.95 
  • Salomon-Undhof Wieden & Berg 'Tradition' Gruner Veltliner 2011,  87  --  V, Austria, #670513  $19.95 
  • Sol de Andes Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2009, 86 --  V,  Casablanca Valley, Chile,  #254326 $17.95  
  • MAN Vintners Chardonnay 2011, 84  --  V,  Coastal Region, S. Africa, #295329 $13.95  
  • Pondview Dragonfly Pinot Grigio 2011 VQA Four Mile Creek, 84  --  G, NOTL, Ontario,  #260372   $16.95 
  • Vineland Estates Winery Elevation 'St. Urban Vineyard' Riesling 2011 VQA Niagara Escarpment, 84  --  V, Vineland, Ontario,  #038117 $19.95
  • Clay Station Unoaked Viognier 2011, 83  --  V, Lodi, California, #025411 $16.95 
  • SIMI Sonoma County Chardonnay 2010, 82  --  V, Geyserville, California, #673806 $20.95

  • Casali Borgo del Boiardo Reggiano Lambrusco Rosato Secco 2011,  86-1  --  V,  Emilia-Romagna, Italy, #314526 $14.95 

(V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other, r-v  - Rating-Value, a - aerated, NR - Not Rated)


PREDATOR OLD VINE ZINFANDEL  'LODI APPELLATION' 2011, St. Helena, California, 14.5%  D  14g/L, #219485   $18.95  (Tasted March 11, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on January 5, 2013.  Winner of a silver medal at the 2012 New York World Wine Competition.  My notes:  A Rutherford Wine Company product.  A deep burgundy colour with a faint aroma of prunes and crushed blue-, raspberries. There's a tangy edge to the nose that creeps into the first sip and well into the long fruity finish. Not overly zinny but having a polite freshness of fruit. Full-bodied, extra dry at the start while adding a smooth sweetness at the end. The film sticks to the glass then runs long legs accumulating substance as they fall.  Sip or savour w/grilled sausage, steak or lamb this is now one of my favourite Zins. Likely will cellar many years building elegance.  91

MAN VINTNERS CHARDONNAY 2011,  Coastal Region, S. Africa, 13.0%  D  7g/L, #295329  $13.95  (Tasted March 11, 2013)  CS
Released by Vintages on February 2, 2013.   My notes: Tasting notes for the 2011 vintage were not posted on their website at time of tasting.  This has a mid yellow colour and mixed aromas or citrus and faint stone fruit lightly touched with brine. The rim is lacy and flows long legs. Some more stone fruit in the first sip, a warm aftertaste with some sweetness, some butterscotch and tangy citrus carried softly to a long finish. Flavours and texture develop as a social sipper slightly off chill. Pair with grilled salmon or roast /bbq'd chicken - was OK with mildly sauced bbq'd pork ribs but perfect with Basic Chicken Fajitas. A drink now.  84

SIMI SONOMA COUNTY CHARDONNAY  2010, Geyserville, California, 13.5%  XD  5g/L, #673806  $20.95  (Tasted March 16, 2013)   CS

Released by Vintages on February 2, 2013.  Rated 90 by Tony AsplerMy notes:  From a  Constellation Brands company. A mid golden colour and a swirl shows a thin film fragmenting through slow tears from a lacy rim. When off chill the aroma has the scent of green vegetables with a fresh lime edge. The first sip has both tang and silk framing the taste of kiwi melon from the start to a dry, mineral finish. True blue Chard drinkers may enjoy with a tray of mixed hard cheeses, flavoured hummus tubs with salted crackers, pairing with roast chicken parts or flattened cornish hens and sides. A commercial white made for drinking off the shelf.  82   

JARDIN THE PROSPECTOR SYRAH 2008, Stellenbosch, S. Africa, 14.5%  D  4g/L, #296673  $19.95  (Tasted March 15, 2013)  CS
Released by Vintages on January 19, 2013.  Rated 90 by Neal Martin (August 2011).  My notes:A deep ruby with a granite tone and a mild scent of blackberries, distant pepper and nutmeg. A swirl leaves a lacy edge that runs legs then accumulates slow tears. The first sip stings then subsides to a warm, sticky, dry texture and dark plum, black cherry and liquorice for flavours. This needs a steak or several grilled beef back ribs and as a sipper let sit for thirty minutes. Cellaring several years may mellow the  penetrating acid whereas aerating helps move things along for an open bottle. A sticky smoothness, some would say soapy, and warm plum flavour continues for a long finish. An acquired taste, one that I don't personally prefer. I'd cellar five years hoping something good will happen. 86a Cellar

SOL DE ANDES RESERVA ESPECIAL CHARDONNAY 2009,  Casablanca Valley, Chile, 13.5% XD  xg/L,  #254326  $17.95  (Tasted March 13, 2013)  CS
Released by Vintages on February 16, 2013. Rated 90 by Beppi Crosariol  (December 2, 2011).  My notes: This is a mid golden colour with a bouquet of pond and lemons, pleasing as a meal white or for a chard lover. The film is firm leaving a smooth rim that runs lots of slow tears. The first sip is full-bodied, silky, with prominent tang edged with sweetness and carrying a spicy vegetal flavour to the end. Served chilled the character grows as it goes off chill. We paired with chicken fajitas with the 'works' (salsa, sour cream, guacamole, sliced peppers and red onion).  A drink now. 86

PONDVIEW  DRAGONFLY PINOT GRIGIO 2011 VQA Four Mile Creek, NOTL, Ontario, 13.5%  XD  2g/L,  #260372   $16.95  (Tasted March 3, 2013)  CS
A General listing.  My notes:  At one time a bright onion skin colour was rejected by the LCBO as a 'fault'. Tiny bubbles accumulate on the glass and a just perceptible aroma of peach fuzz is noted. The film runs quickly separating into smooth islands. A taste of tangy peach stone combined with grapefruit pith - let go off chill - and a layer of chalk that becomes predominant until the next sip. Interesting for the first time - not a sipper the second time unless on a hot summer day.   Have with grilled rainbow trout or breaded tiger shrimp, also a sushi assortment. A drink now.  84

GHOST PINES CHARDONNAY  'WINEMAKER'S BLEND' 2010, Healdsburg, California, 13.1%  D  4.6g/L,  #308122   $19.95  (Tasted March 6, 2013)  CS
A General listing and labelled as a E&J Gallo as well as Louis M. Martini winery. Rated 88 by Tony AsplerMy notes:There's an old-gold cast to the deep golden colour and the film fragments as the rim recedes. A muted aroma of apple takes time to develop and the first sip has a honey texture with a touch of sweet and a mild tang. A flavour of butterscotch rounds out melba apple and delicate melon. Quaffing off-chill fills the palate with pleasing sensory complexities, full flavoured on the swallow with a long balanced finish. Serve as a social sipper or as a flexible meal partner: chicken, Quesadillas or fruit salad with 30/40 shrimp. Cellar up to 3 years. 89

CLAY STATION UNOAKED VIOGNIER  2011, Lodi, California, 13.5%  D  5g/L, #025411  $16.95  (Tasted March 5, 2013)  CS
Released by Vintages on February 16, 2013. A Delicato Vineyards product.  My notes:   A mid straw colour leaving a film receding moderately from a ragged rim. There's a very slight floral to mineral and lime aromas and the first sip is more concentrated of the same. A fine silk, a refreshing tang and mild chalk continue through the finish ending with tang and chalk. Serve to a buffet crowd  - we had with chicken breast stuffed with Creminis, a white wine sauce and side of leeks, carrots and diced Yukon Gold potatoes.  Drinking well now and may store for a year. 83

SALOMON-UNDHOF WIEDEN & BERG 'TRADITION' GRÜNER VELTLINER 2011, Austria, 12.5%  XD 2g/L, #670513   $19.95  (Tasted March 15, 2013)  CS
Released by Vintages on February 16, 2013 and rated 92 by Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast, (July 2012).  My notes: Crisp and clear pale blond with a possible green tint to accompany a scent of lime zest and faint wild honey. A swirl leaves a thin film and quickly fragmenting rim shedding a few long legs. The first sip has a chalky edge, a polite tang, a moderate roundness and modest flavours of lemon lime and peach stone which last 'forever' on the tongue. An interesting sipper, better with a buffet of assorted seafood nibblers. Pair with lobster bisque or crab pieces on risotto. A drink now.  87

CAMPO VIEJO RIOJA RESERVA 2007,  Rioja, Spain,  13.5%  XD  6g/L,  #137810  $17.95  (Tasted March 25, 2013)  CS

A General listing.  My notes:  A blend of Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuela grapes.  Has a fruity aroma, on the plum cherry side and shows some inviting warmth. The ruby colour has some charcoal for a more classic character and a swirl shows a thin film that fragments quickly leaving lacy islands. Silky texture and a penetrating acid followed by a moderate heat fills the mouth carrying fruit flavours and finally a touch of oil - extra dry and old world for sure - aerate for a smoother ride.  Have with grilled souvlaki, rack of lamb or Moroccan sliced shank, something broad and savoury. Going on 6 years this has outrun its potential.  A drink now to 2 years. 87a

BODEGAS CASTANO HECULA 2009, Yecla, Spain,  14.0%  D  9g/L,  #300673  $11.80  (Tasted March 5, 2013 )  CS

A General listing. A string of 90+ point ratings from The Wine Advocate in 2000, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  and 2009 - if you believe in old ratings.  My notes:  The colour is a deep ruby opaque to view.  The nose has a ripe prune and black cherry scent pleasing to sniff. Smooth on the palate, full-bodied with a sharpness that catches attention quickly and drying tannin carrying prune aftertaste into a long finish - a sipper for those that prefer some roughness. Aerating mellows some of the sharpness. Pair with grilled steaks, roast lamb or spicy pastas/pizzas. At peak now. 88a
BODEGAS LA CASONA DE CASTANO OLD VINES MONASTRELL 2011, Yecla, Spain, 14.0%  D  6g/L,  #143743  $8.95  (Tasted March 19, 2013)  CS

A General listing.  My notes:  A deep raspberry colour with a film that sticks before draining through slow tears from a lacy rim. There's a sting to the first sniff and the scent of warm raspberries. A raw woodiness is the first impression with red currant coming forward. There could be a touch of sweet although this is dominated by tannin, acid and dusty berries. Not a lone sipper. Have with a buffet of appetizers: stuffed mushrooms, bruschetta, pepperoni & anchovy pizza, etc. or pair with Texas style chili con carne and stews. Cellaring may mellow - difficult to imagine this losing much acid or tannin and there's scant fruit, the 'old vines' perhaps, to develop - aerating reduces fruit presence.  81

CASTILLO DE MONSERAN GARNACHA 2011,  Cariñena, Spain, 12.5%  D  6g/L, #073395   $9.95  (Tasted March 17, 2013) CS

A General listing.  My notes: Deep purple with a smoky blackberry tinged with strawberry aroma and flavours of sour cherry, unripe blueberry and mild tobacco. A thin film separates quickly into lacy islands. The first sip stings before laying a crusty layer of tannin on the palate and finally ending that way. Allow to mellow a tad by decanting then  airing an hour or two - aeration had no effect. Not a sipper but could be paired with a Mediterranean marinated flank steak or roasted lamb shank stew. Possibly cellar five years for mellowing or use for cooking. I'll skip this vintage.  81 Cellar

TRAPICHE RESERVE SYRAH 2011, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0%  XD  5g/L, #222281  $10.95*  (Tasted March 18, 2013)  CS

A General listing and reduced from $ 11.95 until February 3, 2013.  My notes:  Freshly pressed fruit, evenly oaked with a slight brush of pepper accompanies the darkest ruby colour. A swirl leaves a solid film and continuous rim that runs long slow legs as it recedes. The first sip is a pleasing mix of textures, a satin feel and drying tannins, the fruit is now woody with balanced acids and a finish that retains a mild plum, full-bodied and extra dry. An interesting but not unusual, mild syrah - not for cellaring, a easily quaffed social sipper - did I say dry? - and prelude to a savoury stew, rubbed steak or duck meal. Aeration reduces acid marginally.  84

ZONIN RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE 2010, Veneto, Italy, 14.0%  D  10g/L,  #170142   $14.60*  (Tasted March 2, 2013)  CS

A General listing reduced in price from $16.60 until February 3, 2013.  My notes:  A deep ruby colour with a solid rim shedding slow tears from continuous rim. A conservative nose of ripe cherries delicately spiced and a balanced tang and fresh berries with a mild tannin leaving a drying layer on the palate. The finish is of dried cherry skins.  This is a possible light-ish, medium-bodied buffet table sipper or have with any Italian dish other than seafoods. Not for cellaring - a possible House Red.  84

SELVANOVA VIGNA ANTICA AGLIANICO 2009, Campania, Italy, 14.0%  D  5g/L, #313494   $15.95  (Tasted March 12, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on March 2, 2013 and rated 16 out of 20 by Jancis Robinson  (July 20, 2011).  My notes:  A dense ruby colour with a nose of dried cranberries, dark chocolate and mixed Italian herbs. The film runs tears slow to form from an unbroken rim and the first sip penetrates while the full-bodied flavour of muddy sour cherries slows sipping to a crawl - as a sipper, not for everyone. The finish starts tart and evolves into an earthy mulch, almost a 'chewer', that saturates the palate. Pair with osso buco or a full flavoured stew needing a wrap of savoury for balance. Too late for any freshness but cellaring several years may mellow roughness.  Aerating not recommended. 89

LIBERTY SCHOOL CENTRAL COAST SYRAH 2010, Paso Robles, USA, 13.5%  XD 5g/L, #942383  $18.95  (Tasted March 21, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on March 2, 2013.  My notes: I could not find this label on the Hope Family website. White pepper plus fruity black currant and cherry scent wafts by on pulling the cork. A swirl brings a thin film, a lacy rim then lacy islands. The first sip is smooth, has a polite acid and tannins, prominent flavours of black currant and a long finish slowing the  sipping. Have with a snack of fried beef strips or bacon on a bun or pairing with Montreal Smoked meat on slices of rye - rosemary'd lamb chops as well. Cellaring a few years could hit a smoother peak but primarily a drink now.  90

CASALI BORGO DEL BOIARDO  REGGIANO LAMBRUSCO ROSATO SECCO 2011, Emilia-Romagna, Italy,  11.5%  D  10g/L,  #314526  $14.95  (Tasted March 19, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on March 2, 2013.  My notes:  A blend of 50% Lambrusco Salamino, 35% Lambrusco Marani, 15% Lambrusco Sorbara and made in the Vino Frizzante style - a crackling wine. A bright strawberry colour and a burst of bubbles on pouring settling quickly to many fine streams. Retains a modest mousse at the rim and the delicate berry aroma reflects a berry flavour, dry and light-bodied with a mineral leaning. A bubbly with a party profile: slight sugar with berries and a candy floss attitude. Save for a hot summer day on the patio. A drink now.  86

SOUTHBROOK VINEYARDS TRIOMPHE CHARDONNAY 2011 VQA NOTL, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, 13.4%  XD  6g/L, #172338  $21.95  (Tasted March 9, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on March 2, 2013. An organic & Demeter certified vineyard.  My notes:  A mid yellow in colour with a film that drains evenly from a delicate lace rim. The nose has a lemon rind freshness blended with a melted butter and wild floral scent. Serve off chill. A dryness starts from the first sip of grassy stone fruit flavours and lasts thru' a long mineral edged finish. A quaff has a rounded texture to balance the acid. A white to go with grilled Tiger shrimp pieces on mounded arborio or sticky rice with a Chinese sauce or a plate of sweet & sour chicken. Cellar for several years to expand character but drinking fresh now for those in a hurry. 89

CAVE DE RASTEAU LA DOMELIÈRE RASTEAU 2010,  Rhone Valley, France, 14.3% XD 5g/L,  #222927  $15.95  (Tasted March 14, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on March 2, 2013. Rated 90 by both James Molesworth  (February 29, 2012) and Anthony Gismondi (2012).  My notes: Made from old vines of 70% grenache, 20% syrah and 10% mourvèdre.  Let air 20 minutes for an interesting aroma of plums and chocolate. The colour is a charcoal tinted burgundy and a swirl leaves a thin film with a lacy rim of slow tears.  A satin texture with fine tannins and mild tang frame flavours of plum and milk chocolate appealing to sip. A long finish carries all to a dry, smooth ending while flavours and texture evolve pleasingly on the palate. Have with roasted pork, lamb or beef drowned in a fine sauce. A drink now or keep a year or two. Effects of aerating are minor.  88

VINELAND ESTATES WINERY ELEVATION 'ST. URBAN VINEYARD' RIESLING 2011 VQA Niagara Escarpment, Vineland, Ontario,  9.5%  M  26g/L,  #038117  $19.95  (Tasted March 19, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on September 15, 2012.  My notes: Last tasted September 2012.  A white-blond colour and a delicate aroma of green apple. A lacy rim slides down slowly leaving fragmented islands on the glass. Crab apple and lime with a balancing sugar roundness sets a flavour that slowly fades to a lime note accented by dry chalk and wet pebble stone. A young riesling. Went well with chicken pot pie without the pie, ie. a casserole of pearl onions, diced carrot, sweet potato and creamed chicken baked then grilled with grated parmesan on top.  84