Saturday, May 02, 2015

Numbers or Stars?

Rock Bridge, Michilmackinac '64

It's been awhile since I've commented on rating systems. What twigged me this time was a wine blog with the oft asked question of the 100 point rating system, "What's the difference between an '88' and an '89'? "  I say, "Ask a stupid question and you'll get a stupid answer". 1!  "What's the difference between 1 Star and 2 Stars?" 1 Star!  An answer doesn't negate either as a Rating System!

Numbers I grasp quickly  - Stars I don't. I grew up with numbers: grades on exams, miles on a map and weight on a bottle or jar. Now 750ml I understand very well. Stars came with my Birthday card and on top of a tree baring gifts. A glittering star is at the end of Snow White's (or is it Cinderella's) wand that with a 'poof' frogs are changed to Princes. So the choice between Stars or Numbers could be personal preference - perhaps even marketing inspired if the bottle jackets at the LCBO attest to anything.

Usually when the question is asked the poser doesn't explain the possibilities for the "1". He's satisfied he's stumped his audience. Any taster that uses the Wine Advocate Rating System, among others (*Ref 1), aka Robert Parker Jr.'s 100 point system, knows enough to reply "That's a stupid question!" or, if polite, move to a different table.

Using WARS the '1' could refer to any one of a wine's Colour (5), Nose (15), its Finish & Flavour (20) or cellaring (10) Potential. The numbers in brackets being the maximum value for that component. Add these to a Base of 50 for a total of 100. An example of two wines apparently the same could be B50 C5 N15 F&F18 P0 = 88  and B50 C5 N10 F&F18 P5 = 88, the first having insignificant cellaring potential and the second having a less appealing nose. What distinguishes these two wines using Stars? Abbreviated to a single quantity neither helps a buyer decide. TaDa!! Words, eg. Tasting Notes, a Vintages or LCBO description, a voice from the internet...  fill the gap. 

Bottom line: To question any Rating System without an understanding of its components is equivalent to a panzerotti without the filling!  You need the stuffing to be satisfied!  WARS has more of what I need. 

My opinion, Ww

Ref: 1
Wine Advocate Rating System 

Wine Wheel 1 
Wine Wheel 2 
Essential Wine Tasting Guide  
Wine Spider
The TS Wine Rating System

Friday, May 01, 2015

May 2015 Wines - 16 Tasted of 16

One marvellous trip...... 

Mt. Cook, A Study in Blue, 2003



  • Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, 90-2  --  V, Columbia Valley, Washington, #210047   $16.95*
  • Zuccardi Santa Julia Magna 2012, 88-1  --  V, Mendoza, Argentina, #093799 $13.45*
  • C. J. Pask Gimblett Road Cabernet/Merlot/Malbec 2010, 85  --  V,  Hawkes Bay, New Zealand,  #279869  $19.95
  • Wolf Blass Langhorne Creek Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013,  84  --  G, McLaren Vale, Australia, #251876  $13.95* 
  • Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013, 83  -- V, Central Valley, Chile, #323881  $14.90  
  • Cline Family Cellars Zinfandel 2013, 83  --  G, Lodi California, #489278  $15.95
  • Wente Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2012,  83  --  G, Livermore Valley, California, #301507  $17.95
  • Ring-Bolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, 83  --  V,  Margaret River, Australia, #606624  $19.95  
  • Castello di Ama Riservva Chianti Classico 2009, 82a  --  V,  Tuscany, Italy, #403824 (375 mL)  $16.95                     
On the Road North, 2003

  • Toasted Head Chardonnay, Barrel Aged 2013, 89-1  -- V, Acampo, California, #594341  $15.95*
  • Forrest The Doctors' Sauvignon Blanc 2013, 87  --  V, Renwick, New Zealand,  #317842  $19.95
  • Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2012 VQA Okanagan Valley,  86  --  V, Okanagan Valley, BC,  #545004  $19.95*
  • Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc 2013, 84  --  G, Marlborough, New Zealand, #308288  $15.80*
  • Miguel Torres Santa Digna Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2014,  82  --  G, Central Valley, Chile, #177444  $14.95 
Central Otago, NZ '03
  • Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Cap Classique 2012, 90-1  --  Stellenbosch, South Africa, #342758  $22.95
  •  La Jara Brut Prosecco Organic NV,  86  --  V, Veneto, Italy, #402438  $15.95
(V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other, r-v  - Rating-Value, a - aerated, c - cellar, NR - Not Recommended)


FORREST THE DOCTORS' SAUVIGNON BLANC 2013, Renwick, New Zealand, 9.5% D 10g/L,  #317842  $19.95  (Tasted May 11, 2015)

Released by Vintages on April 4, 2015 and rated 91 of 100 by Natalie MacLean August 2014.  My notes: Beppi Crosariol gives this 91 in his G&M column of April 11th. Thin on the surface of the glass breaking quickly and leaving a brief lacy pattern. A light natural blond with a whiff of mineral and tangy grapefruit with lime nuances. The first sip gives notice of a corresponding flavour and clean texture. A flat mineral finish fades quickly with only a flat reminder. Paired well with freshwater shrimp done on the barbie with a squirt of lemon, my preference over lobster. A drink now - extra dry as a sipper. A $16C value. 87

C J PASK GIMBLETT ROAD CABERNET/MERLOT/MALBEC 2010,  Hawkes Bay, New Zealand,  13.5% XD  6g/L, #279869  $19.95  (Tasted tbdMay 4, 2015)

Released by Vintages on February 21, 2015 and rated 4.5 of 5 by Rod Phillips  May 10, 2014.  My notes: The Winemaker is Kate Radburnd who produced the Sun Kissed Pinot Gris 2013 tasted (87-1) in January this year. The colour is a somewhat quiet ruby see through  - needs candle light for effect. A swirl leaves a thin film running long legs as it clears the glass. The scent is a subdued plum with a mild tang for unexciting sniffing. The first sip has a well balanced tang, a moderate fullness and extra dry tannin and a swallow builds the dryness in the throat fading the fruit for long quiet finish. Have with lamb chops, souvlakis or slo-cooked shoulder. Blending doesn't show well in this vintage - perhaps past peak. A drink now. 85

WHITEHAVEN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2013 , Marlborough, New Zealand, 13.0%  XD  2.8g/L, #308288  $15.80*  (Tasted May 11, 2015)

A General listing. Price reduced from $18.80 until Apr 26, 2015.  My notes: Labelled 'For Canada Only'.  A pale golden blond with a light film forming a fine jagged rim that recedes quickly. Allow to warm gradually to reveal a soft, moderately grassy gooseberry fragrance. Thin fruit is overwhelmed by a sour note that catches the palate on the first sip then declines slowly through a long extra dry finish. Serve with grilled/planked salmon/arctic char or mussels in a garlic sauce. From what I remember of early NZ savvies, light on fruit and more on clay - a drink now.  84

LA JARA BRUT PROSECCO ORGANIC NV, Veneto, Italy, 11.0%  D  10g/L, #402438  $15.95  (Tasted May 9, 2015)

Release by Vintages on April 4, 2015. Rated 90 by Decanter  (August 2, 2013). Made from the Glera grape using the Charmat Method.  My notes: Not recognized as Organic by the LCBO (for Canada). Awarded a Gold by Mundus Vini, The Great International Organic Wine Award, Germany 2014.  To be served at 6 to 8oC.  A pale yellow with a burst of bubbles that quiesces to a steady stream. There's a slight apricot apple scent added to the softness of a clean tang edging the first sip. Bright and  lively on the palate to carry through a moderate finish. A light body detracts if not for a smooth as silk texture. Share with a plate of fresh oysters, a tray of soft cheeses or a seafood main course. An economical toast or a summer refresher for a crowd - not to impress but to please. In a 1.625lb bottle.    86

MISSION HILL RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2012 VQA Okanagan Valley,  Okanagan Valley, BC, 14.0%  XD  3g/L,  #545004  $19.95*  (Tasted May 27, 2015)

Released by Vintages on December 1, 2014. *Reduced from $21.95 until April 26, 2015.  My notes:  A brilliant golden laying a thin but firm lacy edged film quickly falling to the meniscus. A scent of apple pineapple barely raises a presence but leaves a strong melon, light pineapple/pear flavour blend with the first tangy sip. A suspicion of crème caramel, both flavour and texture, adds interest to a long extra dry finish. Unless comparing chardonnays this is not my kind of sipper. Pair with saucy cod or halibut, a tomato and chorizo pasta or slices of Pizza Nova Polo (feta/spinach/chicken) pizza. A drink now. 86

RING-BOLT CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012,  Margaret River, Australia, 14.0% D 4g/L, #606624  $19.95  (Tasted May 31, 2015) 

Released by Vintages on December 1, 2014.  My notes:A deep ruby with a subtle grey when swirled leaves a firm film forming a rounded rim slowly releasing tears then legs creeping down. The first sip has a chalky dryness that coats the palate grabbing the buds with a pungent tang. There's an extra dryness to a long brambly berry. 'Going down beautifully' isn't an expression I'd use... 'laying a biting bitterness' perhaps. Not a sipper but a bold red needing a flavourful and full sauce covering a thick, seared sirloin, a saucy Beef Wellington or lamb stew. Not to improve with cellaring.  Airing a day improves significantly. 83

CASTELLO DI AMA RISERVA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2009,  Tuscany, Italy, 13.5% XD  5g/L, #403824 (375 mL)  $16.95  (Tasted May 11, 2015)

Released by Vintages on March 21, 2015 and rated 92 by Monica Larner 2 years ago August 2013. Anticipated to reach maturity 2014.  My notes: A blend of 80% Sangiovese, 20% each Merlot and Malvasia Nera. A charcoal tinted dense ruby leaving a thin film with grains of fine cork remnants following filtering. Aerate or decant then let stand forty minutes. The nose is delicate being mostly flat red and black cherry and dry earth if allowed to accumulate in the bowl. The first sip is polite with a light tannin, cherry flavour and mild cranberry going into a fading finish. I didn't get the 'autumn leaves, wet earth or wild mushroom' of Monica Larner's Note.  A medium bodied red, difficult to pair with a meal and an unattractive sipper.  82a 
I feel taken in with this Chianti.   1st. the empty 375mL bottle weighs an un-ecological 1 lb.   2nd. Vintages has referenced an old Tasting Note with a 92 rating.   

TOASTED HEAD CHARDONNAY, BARREL AGED 2013, Acampo, California, 14.0%  D  7g/L, #594341  $15.95*  (Tasted May 19, 2015)

Released by Vintages on December 1, 2014.  Price reduced from $17.95 until April 26, 2015.  My notes: A product of the R.H. Phillips Vineyard & Winery. First impression was of a California Chard of the past - not my thing. This has a colour of bright gold and a subtle aroma of burnt butter and apple becoming more prominent off chill. A swirl leaves a finely jagged rim with lazy tears. Serve at 12-14oC for a tangy taste of apricot and pecans, finishing dry with palette pleasing flavours and a smooth smoky butter reminder. Was great with Ricardo's Shrimp & Tomato and Bocconcini Salad  accompanied by grilled salmon and sweet potato fries. Has cellar potential - another 4 years or so. 89

COLUMBIA CREST H3 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012, Columbia Valley, Washington, 14.0% D 9g/L,  #210047   $16.95*  (Tasted May 2, 2015)

Released by Vintages on December 1, 2014. Reduced from $19.95 until April 29, 2015.  My notes: A Ste. Michelle Wine Estates of Washington, U.S. product.  K&L Wine Merchant's website has several complimentary tasting notes including Wine Spectator's 91 and a price of $10.99 US. Dark and royal, a purple hued ruby in the bowl with a swirl dropping full legs from a rounded rim forecasting a silky smooth first sip. This is well balanced, has a tangy tannin and bright cherry flavour with a subtle tar edge. The finish carries along a satin dryness and tang providing interest as a social sipper. Not as warm as expected. Serve with savoury stews, charcoal barbecued ribs or leg of lamb. Has some cellaring potential although there's plenty to enjoy now. 90

WENTE SOUTHERN HILLS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012, Livermore Valley, California, 13.5%  D  6g/L, #301507  $17.95  (Tasted May 29, 2015)

A General listing.  My notes:  Several vintages of this wine were previously tasted: the 2006* tasted in November 2008, priced at $17.25 and rated 89, the 2008 was tasted in March 2011, priced at $16.95 and rated 92, the 2009 tasted in September 2011, priced at $16.95 and rated 88. This 2012 is a dark ruby and leaves a viscous film running long slow legs and having a noticeable tangy plum aroma. Some cherry brightness taints the first sip that is smooth, velvety and long lasting with a dry, fuzzy finish. A subtle tannin and light tang for an adequate social sipper. Pair with grilled steaks, liver and onions or bbq'd back ribs. A drink now from a crowd pleasing recipe - not up to previous vintages. Empty weighs an eco-unfriendly 1.5 lbs. 83

CLINE FAMILY CELLARS ZINFANDEL 2013, Lodi California, 14.0%  D  9g/L, #489278  $15.95  (Tasted May 6, 2015)

A General listing.  My notes:  A charcoal tinted deep ruby leaving a moderate film to quickly accumulate and fall as a single curtain. A slight whiff of raspberry jam in the nose, having a noticeable sweetness overwhelming a tangy edge. Viscous mouthfeel, silky smoothness and warming penetration adds interest for a social crowd. Too cloying as a sipper for my taste - serve with well rubbed T-bone, sirloin, roast duck or a pre-barbecue sipper. For the 'pop' market. 83

MIGUEL TORRES SANTA DIGNA RESERVA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2014, Central Valley, Chile, 13%  XD  4g/L, #177444  $14.95  (Tasted May 2, 2015)

Released by Vintages on January 24, 2015.  My notes: A pale yellow, a thin film quickly receding and a zesty vegetable aroma difficult to parse so as not to infer distinct scents. The flavours also are not easily identifiable by fruit or herb but leans to a vegetable blend resembling sauvignon blanc.  The finish is long, bright and from the first sip extra dry and tangy. Not a sipper. Did not go well with English style fish and chips - try with a charcuterie, mixed sliced meats and cheeses or pair with Indian entrées also mussels in a curry sauce.  82

ZUCCARDI SANTA JULIA MAGNA 2012, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.0%  XD  6g/L, #093799 $13.45*  (Tasted May 1, 2015)

Released by Vintages on December 6, 2014. *Price reduced from $14.95 until April 26, 2015. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Malbec (40%) and Syrah (10%) rated 91 by Wine & Spirits Magazine (June 2014).  My notes:  A soft, deep, ruby colour that leaves a firm film and solid rim before draining uniformly or, tilted, with long fast legs. The first sip is politely tangy with wood dominating plum and black cherry fruit entering a long, extra dry finish moderately full in the mouth. The aroma has something unique, fruity not floral. Comes across flat as a sipper - better served with roast leg of lamb, souvlakis or slow cooked ribs in a savoury sauce. This may cellar a few years - at peak now. 88

MIGUEL TORRES SANTA DIGNA CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVA 2013, Central Valley, Chile, 14.0%  D  7g/L, #323881  $14.90  (Tasted May 27, 2015)

A General listing.  My notes: A deep charcoal tinted ruby showing a firm smooth film seamlessly receding until slow tears fringe the rim.  A tart note fills the nostrils and the first sip stings the buds with a penetrating burst of woody plum and black cherry. The mouth acclimatizes for a long warm dull cherry finish. Decant then pause for thirty minutes or aerate for a smoother approach - a rude & crude red. This may cellar for several years but lose fruit to emphasize a brambly character.  83

WOLF BLASS LANGHORN CREEK YELLOW LABEL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013, McLaren Vale, Australia, 13.5%  XD  xg/L, #251876  $13.95*  (Tasted May 15, 2015)

A General listing reduced from $16.95 until May 24, 2015.  My notes:   A charcoal tinted dark ruby and an earthy tang to a plum and black cherry scent. A tilt and a swirl shows a moderate film topped by a swollen rim eventually shedding slow tears. Moderate tannin edges a penetrating sharpness that builds with each sip then is  sustained going into a warm, extra dry finish. An economical sipper better with steaks or hamburger grilled outdoors - a family affair. A drink now. 84
SIMONSIG KAAPSE VONKEL BRUT CAP CLASSIQUE 2012, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 12.5%  D  9g/L, #342758  $22.95  (Tasted May 16, 2015)

Release by Vintages on May 16, 2015. Rated 90 by Natalie MacLean (December 2014).  My notes:  Pours through a burst of bubbles, all sizes with the lasting ones fine and the basis for a strong spritz. The colour has a golden lustre with a suspicion of peach and a mild mineral scent. There's unsweetened peach blended with a tangy brine in the background coming forward in the finish. Pair with aged cheddar, bacon wrapped asparagus or oysters with a piquant sauce. Medium-bodied and smooth textured makes this appealing as a sipper. Three years aged now with a few more to go - I'd try five. The empty bottle is an eco-unfriendly ~2 lbs. 90