Tuesday, April 01, 2014

April 2014 Wines - 22 tasted of 22

Milking the Market
Wine prices creep to higher levels(1) pushing the notion that many elitists believe money buys quality - and of a monopoly's belief that a captive public has the resources to bear it.

Personally I can't, don't and won't consider the notion and have started to browse LCBO shelves for reasonably priced 'labels', less than $20, having an authentic ring. What else can a consumer do in a market regulated only by the 'Food and Drug Act' and today's business ethics(2)?

Hopefully this month's selection will find a few 'fine' wines among the commercial mix illustrating that many wineries still produce quality while being conscious of value. 

Always an optimist, Ww

Ref 1.  I found Henry Jeffreys' comments on Penfold's pricing and tasting approach interesting - and, on a different subject, a historical view of 'booze' in his book Empire of Booze
Ref 2. To illustrate how extreme this ethic can range there is a quote attributed to the late Charles Keating in a letter to his bond sellers (Lincoln Savings & Loan) 'The weak, meek and ignorant are always good targets'. It would be naive to believe there isn't some of this in varying degrees in all Markets.

THE LINEUP: (Reds, Whites then Bubblies)

  • Handcraft Petite Sirah Artisan Collection 2011, 91-2  V,  Manteca, California, #361907 $17.95       
  • Aquinas Pinot Noir Napa Valley 2012, 90-2  -  G, Napa Valley, California, #277657 $17.95*
  • Tommasi Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2010, 89-1  --  V, Veneto, Italy, #910430  $22.95* (GS#132852  $33.20) 
  • Menguante Seleccion Garnacha 2007, 88a-1  --  V,  Aragon, Spain, #313833 $16.95 
  • Red Guitar Old Vine Tempranilla Garnacha 2010, 87-1  --  G, Navarro, Spain, #054007  $12.95
  • Beringer Founders' Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, 87-1  --  V, Napa, California, #534263 $15.95*  
  • Fifth Leg Old Dog New Tricks Shiraz 2011, 86  --  G, Margaret River, Australia, #281345  $15.95
  • Domaine Lambrusgues Esprit Sauvage Pic Saint-Loup 2011, 84 -> 86a  --  V,  Languedoc, France,  #354142 $17.95 
  • J.P. Chenet Limited Release Pinot Noir 2012, 78  --  G, Midi, France, #142406 $12.95    

Strictlytasting's Value chart
  • Elephant Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2009, 91-2  --  V,  Hawkes Bay, New Zealand,  #361238 $23.95
  • The Foreign Affair Ex-Pat Riesling 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 90-2  --  V, Vineland Station, Ontario, #372326 $16.95 
  • Firesteed Oregon Pinot Gris 2012, 88-1  --  G, Rickreall, Oregon, #323808 $17.80 
  • Hinterbrook Riesling 2012 VQA Niagara Lakeshore, 88-1  --  V, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, #270512 $17.95
  • Cave du Haut-Poitou Vallee Loire Sauvignon Blanc 2012,  87-1  --  V, Loire, France,  #357293 $16.95 
  • Cave Spring Sauvignon Blanc 2011 VQA Niagara Escarpment, 86  --  G, Jordan, Ontario, #529933 $15.95 
  • Tommasi Viticoltori le Volpare Soave 2011, 85  --  V,  Veneto, Italy, #n/a  $10.25* (GS#132852  $33.20) 
  • Moulin Camus Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2012, 84  --  V, Loire, France, #358630 $16.95
  • Rockway Small Lot (365 Cases) White Assemblage 2012 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 83  --  V,  St. Catharines, Ontario, #359315 $16.95 
  • Hess Select Chardonnay Monterey County 2012, 82  --  G, Salinas Valley, California, #270074  $15.95 
  • Patio 9 White Vidal Spritz VQA Ontario, NR  --   V, St. Catharines, Ontario, #341693 $12.95 

  • Domaine de Vaugondy Brut Vouvray, 86  --  V,  Loire, France, #154567 $15.95
  • Rotari Brut Trentodoc NV, 84 --  V,  Alto Adige/Trentino, Italy, #708495 $17.95 
 (V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other, r-v - Rating-Value, a - aerated, NR - Not Rated, GS - Gift Set)


ROCKWAY SMALL LOT (365 CASES) WHITE ASSEMBLAGE 2012 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  St. Catharines, Ontario, 13.0%  XD  20g/L,  #359315  $16.95*  (Tasted April 5, 2014) 

A Vintages release on November 9, 2013 produced by Rockway Glen Estate Winery Inc. The back label gives the blend as a blend of 75% Chardonnay, 15% Gewürztraminer and 10% Riesling.  My notes: 20g/L seems to be high for LCBO's XD sweetness level. A pale yellow leaves a thin film to slowly drain with no trace on the glass. Faint aromas of apple and mild yeast build modestly if allowed to breathe a few minutes - better to sip first and sniff later - keep chilled. Fresh acid and a smooth texture lift casual sipping while waiting for flavours to develop. A long finish builds with perceptible sugar adding a silky fullness. A meal partner for mild fish dishes and Thai, Chinese, Japanese including a touch of spice. A drink now.  *$14.97 at the winery.  83

RED GUITAR OLD VINE TEMPRANILLO GARNACHA 2010, Navarro, Spain, 13.6% D 7g/L,  #054007  $12.95  (Tasted April 6, 2014)

A General listing.  My notes: The colour is a charcoal stained ruby that leaves a heavy viscous film and a rounded rim that quickly runs fast legs then a circular column of slow tears. The nose needs time to build a sombre aroma of blackberry, an edge of raspberry and body of herbal blends. The first sip is full, soft with tannins and a matching acid that layers the palate followed by a woody finish - a sipper that reflects dark fruit strengthened by a long oak process. A red for a solitary sipper sitting warmed by a crackling fire or, better,  to pair with a spice rubbed steak grilled to a pink centre. Cellaring several years may combine fruit and process further - but I don't think so.  87

FIFTH LEG OLD DOG NEW TRICKS SHIRAZ 2011, Margaret River, Australia, 14.5% XD  6g/L, #281345  $15.95  (Tasted April 3, 2014)  

A General listing produced by the Devil'S Lair Wine Company. My notes:  The ruby colour is tinted a deep charcoal and the nose is a peppery plum with a black cherry softness. The level of viscosity leaves a smooth film running long fast legs followed by columns of tears then a rounded rim emptying to clear the glass. A stringent red cherry comes forward while taste and aroma carries a woody tartness and chalky dryness. Prominent tannins come with more sips making this a good match for a buffet of puff pastry sausage rolls, broiled pancetta or tomato bruschetta - anything Italian with a juicy tang. Match with grilled ribs or steaks. Cellaring several years could resolve some woodiness.  86

PATIO 9 WHITE 2011 VIDAL SPRITZ VQA Ontario. St. Catharines, Ontario, 9%  M  2g/L,  #341693  $12.95  (Tasted March 2, 2014) CS

Released by Vintages on June 22, 2013.  My notes:  Serve this in a tumbler and most guests could believe it's a new flavoured Perrier. The nose is not and a light spritz is unexpected being so fine but is a pleasing support for a delicate apple citrus flavour. The finish brings a mineral edge to a mellower apple and continues with a mild citrus brightness. Save for a summer patio then serve chilled - or, to economize, go with Sogrape's Gazela Vinho Verde, #141432 @ $8.95 (or a Mountain Dew over crushed ice and a good squeeze of lemon).  NR

DOMAINE LAMBRUSQUES ESPRIT SAUVAGE PIC SAINT-LOUP 2011, Languedoc, France,  13.5%  XD 5g/L, #354142 $17.95  (Tasted April 10, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on February 15, 2014 and a blend of Syrah 60% and Grenache 40%.  A Gold Medal winner at Concours de Grands Vins du Languedoc-Roussillon in 2012.  My notes: First a guess: Syrah for a light pepper and Grenache for a smooth velvet. Then the sip: the back of the throat picks up the Grenache with a mild garrique, unfortunately gets stronger - aeration is recommended, and the front notes a mild spice each continuing in a long finish. In between is dark plum and blackberry supported by polite acid and tannin. A swirl lays a thin film running long fast legs from a light rim. Interesting for those preferring a red that's a reserved medium-bodied old world style. Better with grilled steak or beef Wellington than sipping. A drink now. 86a

THE FOREIGN AFFAIR  EX-PAT RIESLING 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Vineland Station, Ontario, 10.3%  MD  xg/L,  #372326  $16.95  (Tasted April 15, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on March 1, 2014.  My notes: 20% of the grapes for this wine were dried for two months (appassimento) then fermented and aged in stainless steel (70%) and neutral oak barrels (30%). This has a mid gold colour with a touch of tawny and a lemon floral with an acid edge. Medium-sweet and a drying mineral aftertaste combined with a penetrating tang gives this a unique character and an interesting first sip. Pair with a Chinese buffet or spicy Thai. Short term cellaring should hold the fruit as well as integrate sugars and acid adding depth - for Niagara freshness drink now. 90

HESS SELECT CHARDONNAY MONTEREY COUNTY 2012, Salinas Valley, California, 13.5%  XD  5g/L, #270074  $15.95  (Tasted April 12, 2014)  CS

A General listing.  My notes:  A strong yellow colour with an aroma of pear, citrus and tangy edged caramel - perhaps 'salty'. The thin film leaves a jagged rim draining through a few slow tears. The first sip has a dry taste of cardboard refreshed by tart pear then returning to a long extra dry citrus pie dough finish. Sip to experience the winemaker's style then pair with mild fish: grilled cod, halibut or scallops on a mound of basmati flavoured with a lemon dill sauce. A dinner white for a large family get together. Let those that discriminate add their own to the table.  82

FIRESTEED OREGON PINOT GRIS 2012, Rickreall, Oregon,  13.7%  C  13g/L, #323808  $17.80  (Tasted April 1, 2014)  CS

A General listing.  My notes:  A natural blond crisp and clean. A swirl leaves a fragmenting rim that quickly sheds islands to recede as spots down the glass. A lightly floral nose combines with a mineral scent until the first sip reveals mild lime-tangerine on top of a lasting chalk finish. Served well chilled the texture is soft with a refreshing acid throughout. Pair with curried or marinara mussels, smoked salmon pizza or cod, halibut or tilapia. Should keep a year or two tho' not for long term cellaring.  88

BERINGER FOUNDERS' ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012, Napa, California, 13.9%  D  10g/L, #534263  $15.95*  (Tasted April 11, 2014) 

A General listing *priced $2.00 lower at $15.95 until March 30th.  My notes: A charcoal hued ruby with a moderately thin film that fragments quickly until the rim laces and breaks apart falling in shreds. The nose has a bramble dusting on ripe blackberry aromas, deliciously mellow, finishing with a dark chocolate sweetness - allow a few minutes for nose to build. Silky textured, acid balanced with fruit, a social crowd pleaser overall - there's an unctuous element I don't expect of a Cabernet. Pair with grilled meats - even try with Courvoisier and Pusser's Rum infused (1 oz. each) minced meat as well. A commercial red targeting the restaurant and party crowd and a drink now. 87 

MENGUANTE SELECCIÓN GARNACHA 2007, Aragon, Spain, 14.0%  XD  5g/L, #313833  $16.95  (Tasted April 13, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on March 16, 2013and rated 91 by Jay Miller (April 2010). My notes: 100% Garnacha. I'm always tempted to aerate a Spanish red as soon as the cork is popped... but not yet. A lot has happened since last tasting in April 2013. Now a charcoal hued ruby and an acid edged plum and warm raspberry reflecting a practised use of oak and ageing. A moderate film hangs forever until the rim finally drops a curtain of slow tears. Tart and smooth fruit quickly dries the palate and continues to build a long velvet finish. Now I'll aerate... still shows pleasing fruit, plums changing to red currant with the tannin persisting but with less stringent acid - aerating is recommended. Match with a meaty pizza or pasta dish, grilled steaks and saucy pork ribs. A red for those preferring a bold old world red. Slow to age but plan to consume within a few years.  88a

ROTARI  BRUT TRENTODOC NV,  Alto Adige/Trentino, Italy, 12.5% XD 10g/L,  #708495  $17.95  (Tasted April 17, 2014)  CS

Released by Vintages on February 1, 2014 and rated 89 by Monica Larner, Wine Enthusiast (August 2013). 100% Chardonnay.  My notes: Priced high at the LCBO and does sparkling wine really require 1.8lb of glass? A torrent of bubbles large and fine and lasting almost a minute before settling to several streams and a full spritz mouthfeel. The colour is a mid yellow, crisp and clean in the glass along with a light film and fast legs. An apple pie nose, less sweet and more the scent of hay that dissipates quickly. Served chilled it's refreshing with a nutty pear and Gala apple flavour. The finish is quite long with a light cream - an extra dry sipper to pair with a buffet mix: chilled oysters, hummus and salty crackers, prosciutto wrapped asparagus or pigs-in-a-blanket.  A drink now - try an oz. of Rémy Martin to give your bottle more noticeable appeal. 84

DOMAINE DE VAUGONDY BRUT VOUVRAY, Loire, France,  12.5%  D  13g/L,  #154567  $15.95  (Tasted April 13, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on March 15, 2014 and rated 90 by Beppi Crosariol The Globe and Mail (December 2011).  My notes:  100% Chenin Blanc.  A crescendo of medium and large bubbles settles quickly to several steady fine streams from the sides. The colour is a mid yellow, clean and crisp with a tart apple pie essence - without a sign of creamy sweetness but lemon pith tangy. The finish is long, extra dry and leaves a dull remnant pushing for another sip. Succeeding sips continue to build layers looking in vain for the freshness of fruit. Pairing with slices of smoked salmon pizza, grilled Artic char or crab cakes  could fill in the flavour vacuum.  Tasted in September 2010 with a recommendation to add some (2 oz. per btl) Cointreau or Grand Marnier applies as well. A drink now.  86

The gift set* was released by Vintages on October 26, 2013.

TOMMASI RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2010, 13.0%  XD  xg/L, #910430  $22.95  (Tasted April 7, 2014) 
My notes: This red is listed at  $22.95 - and has a deep cherry red colour with a moderate film that slowly builds a rounded rim running a column of tears and several slow legs. There's a herbal scent on top of cherry and raspberry aromas that airing for a few minutes or decanting brings forward. An OK sipper or companion with a variety of Italian pasta dishes - also pair with lamb chops, osso buco or grilled steaks. The ripasso treatment has strengthened the body and broadened the varietal flavours holding them for a long extra dry finish. Cellaring for a few years could extend value - not too long tho'. 89

TOMMASI VITICOLTORI LE VOLPARE SOAVE 2011, 12.0%  XD  xg/L,  #n/a  $10.25*  (Tasted April 7, 2014) 

My notes:
*The white becomes $10.25 when the red is deducted from the Gift Set. This has a crystal pale yellow colour with a slight yeast scent to a pithy citrus nose. Add to this a soft texture, a tang to slight cinnamon and apple flavours quickly followed by a pie dough, muted lemon-lime then an extra dry finish makes for an interesting sipper - a few sips could use a buffet of hummus, dry crackers, pigs in a blanket, etc.. The film is thin, firm and sets up a modest lace to a slowly falling rim. Keep a few on hand to match with seafood - cod or halibut filets would go well, also with sliced chicken breast or pheasant. A drink now. 85   

CAVE SPRING SAUVIGNON BLANC 2011 VQA Niagara Escarpment, Jordan, Ontario, 12.5%  XD  2g/L,  #529933  $15.95  (Tasted April 19, 2014) 

A General listing.  My notes: There's a touch of transitory tangerine and melon to the nose without sweetness and the film is thin leaving a lightly jagged rim that drains slowly and evenly.  A slight cream and a possible faint sweetness comes on the first sip... a restrained tang muted by a mineral softness all building to a long finish. A possible summer sipper with crushed ice - and a lemon squeeze?. Blind tasting with the Cave du Haut-Poitou (Loire) (#357293  $16.95) could result in a tie after many second thoughts. A drink now and a meal white with grilled trout, curried mussels or fresh oysters.  86

MOULIN CAMUS MUSCADET SÈVRE ET MAINE SUR LIE 2012, Loire, France, 12.0%  XD 2g/L, #358630  $16.95  (Tasted April 5, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on March 15, 2014 and a Gold Medal winner at the 2013 Concours des Ligers.  My notes:  A light yellow in the glass with a thin film that leaves a lacy rim to creep down the sides. A muted citrus and grass nose when left to develop in the glass then a slight floral is added. The first sip is bright and tangy to brighten a social setting while a pleasing roundness and mineral edge adds interest until a extra dry yeasty finish brings the next sip. Pair with cod or halibut, flattened and roasted Cornish hens or mussels marinara. A fish white and a drink now. 84

CAVE DU HAUT-POITOU VALLÉE LOIRE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012, Loire, France,  13.0%  XD  4g/L,  #357293  $16.95  (Tasted April 19, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on March 29, 2014.  My notes:  A crisp and clean pale yellow with a thin film that laces quickly draining the sides halfway. The nose has a refreshing fullness, a mild lime zest - the first sip confirms a soft lime flavour going into a chalk edged straw then turning to a dry mineral. A meal white rather than a sipper - have with a buffet of hard cheeses or with plates of cod, other seafood or sliced chicken breast. Interesting for a lack of gooseberry or other tropical fruit, refreshingly tangy all the same. A drink now. 87

HINTERBROOK RIESLING 2012 VQA Niagara Lakeshore,  Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario,  12.5%  D  13g/L, #270512  $17.95  (Tasted April 1, 2014)  CS

Released by Vintages on January 18, 2014.  My notes: A polished pale blond in the glass with a polite nip of a beeswax citrus nose. A nippier first sip shows a mid apple flavour, light-bodied and leaving a touch of chalk for a long dry (riesling) finish. The tang paired well with curried chicken pieces on saucy mound of Basmati rice. The mineral aspect to fruity freshness is interesting as a sipper although as the finish builds sipping should be complemented with buffet nibbles. Serve chilled.  88

AQUINAS PINOT NOIR NAPA VALLEY 2012 , Napa Valley, California, 13.5%  D  2.9g/L, #277657  $17.95*  (Tasted April 6, 2014)  CS

A General listing and a wine made by Don Sebastiani & Sons.  My notes: The 2010 vintage was tasted August 14, 2013 with a rating of 91. This has the same nose of chocolate, blueberry, earth and cinnamon and the same clean see-through ruby shows in the light. Tears form slowly eventually draining a thin viscous film and slight rim. Silk with a dry tannin and mild acid is distinct for this label. The finish is long carrying a chalky dryness, full fruit and warmth for interest.  Sip or match with a tuna steak, planked salmon or roasted pork ribs. Cellaring for several years could mature some youthfulness.  90 

HANDCRAFT PETITE SIRAH ARTISAN COLLECTION 2011,   Manteca, California,  14.5%  XD  13g/L, #361907   $17.95  (Tasted April 15, 2012)  CS

 Released by Vintages on April 12, 2014 and rated 88 by the Tasting Panel.  A Delicato Vineyards wine.  My notes: The back label notes the addition of 'a dash of Zinfandel' to 'add black pepper spice and jammy boysenberry notes'.  On opening a sniff of barnyard prompts me to go to a swirl which leaves a firm film and smooth rim that sheds several long legs. The deep ruby colour left on the glass has a scarlet edge. The first sip is silky smooth, medium-bodied, nicely balanced blackberry and acid staying awhile while a long, dry, warm finish knits all together. Thirty minutes later the nose has settled to a muted blackberry, dark chocolate and earthy mushroom - the BRETT is now at an 'interest level' and eventually disappears. Cellaring several years could pay off - a pleasing sipper now. Air an hour or aerate for a social crowd.  91 

J.P. CHENET LIMITED RELEASE PINOT NOIR 2012, Midi, France, 12.5%  D  9g/L, #142406  $12.95  (Tasted April 20, 2014)  CS

A General listing.  My notes: This vintage was last tasted on December 4, 2013 and rated 82. Has it fared any better under LCBO's care? This bottle carries a gold seal of Anavin of France 2013 for Best Value Selection. A red cherry colour is deepened with a charcoal hue and the nose has a dusty strawberry raspberry scent that slowly dissipates. A thin film slowly falls from a shallow rim draining into lacy islands then into fragile droplets. The first sip starts as bright cherry and quickly shifts to a dry-as-wood finish needing either a refresh, not recommended, or a nibble. Have with a tuna steak, meaty pizza, hamburgers or buffet samples. I used remainder of bottle in a pasta sauce for a veal, sausage and porcini ragu. 78

ELEPHANT HILL RESERVE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2009,  Hawkes Bay, New Zealand,  12.0%  XD  6g/L,  #361238  $23.95  (Tasted April 24, 2014)  CS

Released by Vintages on March 15, 2014 and rated 92 by Natalie MacLean  (March 1 2013).  My notes:  Crystal clear in the glass with green tinted light yellow and showing off a delicate scent of lemongrass. Served and kept chilled a penetrating acid and layer of chalk refreshes the palate. The long finish adds interest to sipping cleansing while anticipating a meal of grilled tilapia, mussels in a curried broth, plate of lobster pieces or pairing with tempura veggies and shrimp. A variation of kiwi sauvignon that would stir comment in a social setting - different in a good way. A medium-bodied drink now - perhaps a bit austere for some. 91