Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Saturday July 21, 2007 Vintages Release

In the heat of the summertime Vintages has decided to release a slew of reds, whites and rosés (there’s even quite a few sparkling wines to choose from). Some great for the BBQ, others for simple get togethers – and some are pleasant anytime sippers. Just don’t be afraid to pull a George Thorogood on a hot summer’s day, open something special and “drink alone” (cause when I drink alone I prefer to be by myself). Cheers.

Italy (Sparkling) … Italy is the place for cheap and cheerful sparklers, be it dry or sweet. Here’s something you can pull out for special occasions or at anytime for that matter. This Santa Margherita Prosecco Di Valdibbiadene Brut ($17.95 - #687582) is a fine sipper for out in the sun, on the patio or as aperitif before dinner; or heck, even during: don’t worry about pulling it out for any occasion, just opening this bottle make it special. Fruity with appley-citrus qualities; well priced and very tasty.

California (White) … This release features two of my favourite Cali-wines in recent memory (one red and one white). Folie a Deux 2005 Menage a Trois White ($18.95 - #665166) is a fun little frolic into the world of white wines with and interesting edge. The “trois” are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc; they make a perfect hot weather combination and are wonderfully fresh and fruity in both nose and taste: the nose is inviting and the taste is a real winner. Apple, cantaloupe, ripe Bartlett pear, soft, supple and quite simply, lovely. Some apparent sweetness on the tongue – but this one is considered dry.

California (Red) … The matching red Folie a Deux 2005 Menage a Trois Red ($18.95 - #665158) is the red from this release that has really caught my fancy. A blend of Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and each grape shows its influence in the mix. Red raspberry, plum, raisins soaked in rum, a kick of pepper and some chocolate come together to make for a quaffable wine ready to drink around the BBQ, living room, television or anywhere else fun is happening. There are four other California reds that make the grade this release, thus making California the go to section this time out … Not all are necessarily values. Take the Cakebread Cellars 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($99.95 - #710426), for instance, this is typical Cali-wine to the endth degree. Red fruit, cinnamon, vanilla, blueberry, coffee, hints of cherry – toasty, tasty and pricey – a good tannin structure that will reward some mid-to-long term cellaring; if you can afford to pick up a bottle or two I would say do so. Chateau St. Jean 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon ($25.95 - #38034) brings the price-point back down to earth. This one is pure red fruit with its jammy fruit bomb characteristics along with a slight dusting of tannins, very enjoyable. Dropping down the price-ladder a little further, the Santa Barbara Winery 2004 Syrah ($20.95 - #630616) has great raspberry-plumminess with pepper, oak and some black fruit; in the mouth it’s nothing but fruit with just a splash of tannin … tasty. Finally, my Cali-value is from the folks who brought you Red Truck – one of my favourite blends on a consistent basis year-after-year. They have now launched a single varietal Cabernet Sauvignon ($16.95 - #36905) under the Red Truck brand. Some cedar mixes it up with sweet red cherry, plums and vanilla notes … another great wine you can drive home to mama.

Chile (White) … Once again Chile delivers value and style in the same package. Vina Requingua Puero Viejo 2005 Chardonnay Reserve ($12.95 - #34702) has tropical fruit notes all over it and finishes in the mouth with fresh citrus flavours. Oak aged but in such a subtle way that the fruit takes center stage, delicious.

Chile (Red) … Chile also offers up two value reds in the $14.95 range. Santa Carolina 2005 Barrica Selection Syrah ($14.95 - #34959) has black fruit and eucalyptus with black cherry sweetness – this one would do well around the bar-bie. While the Santa Ema 2004 Merlot Reserve ($14.95 - #642538) is a total knock off of an Australian fruit-bomb … red fruit, bubble gum-like sweetness, strawberry, raspberry, cherry (pick your red fruit and drop it into this review). This is a fine sipper all on its own; it’s everything I liked about Chilean Merlot from day one, when I first got into red wine. Have a friend with some reservations about red, this is your ace-in-the-hole to make them a believer, and where I believe they should start on their own road to liking red wines.

Australia (White) … Fly Brook 2005 Unwooded Chardonnay ($20.95 - #13169) is an atypical-Aussie Chard with all its usual overtly wood tones and rich buttery-vanilla tastes. Instead this chard is tropical fruits, pineapples and peaches … good sipper from start to its short finish.

Australia (Red) … The Craneford 2006 Allyson Parsons Cabernet Sauvignon ($22.95 - #34470) has the stuffing to lie down for a few years. Right now you’ll find plum, strawberry and cherry with some peppery tannins and spiciness on the nose, delicious. X & Y 2004 Shiraz ($17.95 - #41194) offers up good value in an Aussie Shiraz (and is the wine of the month for July), a nose of nutmeg and allspice with a red fruit and jammy quality in the mouth. Enjoyable right now.

New Zealand (White) … I once met Kim Crawford at a Vincor tasting – he seemed to be a very unassuming, down-to-earth kinda guy, not at all what you’d expect from the guy that brought the world “Pansy Rosé”. Now we get the N’SYNC like named “SP Boyszone” Pinot Gris ($29.95 - #36954), a small lot (or “small parcel” – that’s where the SP in the name comes from), single vineyard offering (vineyard name: Boyszone … not sure I want to know why). Sweet nose of kiwi and tree fruit with intense flavours that are almost sweet-like in nature. Very nice.

Austria (White) … What started out as a curiosity for me turned out to be a very good wine indeed. Stadt Krems 2006 Gruner Veltliner Sandgrube ($14.95 - #687913) is sealed with one of those newfangled glass stoppers you might have heard about. A glass-stopper, cool. After you get over being intrigued by the “stopper-thingy” you’ll find that in your glass you have a refreshingly fruity wine with some apples and pears mixed in with an interesting spiciness … quite tasty and an intriguing closure we don’t see much of around these parts … for those non-fans of the screwcap this may spark yet more debate.

France (White) … Alsace is the headquarters for refreshing summertime whites of France; the proof of this is in the glass. If you’re looking for Gewurztraminer the Cave de Turckheim 2004 Gewurztraminer Reserve ($19.95 - #10397) is just the thing. Typical Gewurzt aromas of rose petal from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tongue, made in a delicate finesseful manner. If Pinot Blanc is your thing then may I suggest the Pierre Sparr 2005 Pinot Blanc ($13.95 - #134635) – a well priced elegant sipper with minerally lemon notes on the nose and good mouthfeel along with citrus and honeydew melon on the tongue. This one’s almost too easy drinking.

France (Red) … You’ll find quite a few “vin rouges” in this edition of the Vintages catalogue, the best value seems to be from the Rhone – Chateau Mourgues du Gres Les Galate Rouge 2005 ($16.95 - #725606). With a great sweet cherry nose, red fruit palate and some lingering tannin – this ones good for the next 2 or 3 BBQ seasons … and with its Parker score of 89 this one should sell out quickly.

Washington (Red) … It’s not often we get to see Washington State wines here, so when we do get them into the LCBO it’s a good idea to check them out. Columbia Crest 2002 Grand Estates Shiraz ($19.95 - #674929) is another good wine from the state below B.C. Peppery and woodsy right from the starting block, then changing to fruity as it flows through the mouth with plums, cherries and cinnamon-vanilla – ending with a wonderful finish. Another Washington winner here.

Argentina (Red) … The land of beef and BBQ makes another fine candidate to drink around the grill. Dona Paula Estate 2005 Malbec ($16.95 - #661819) – Argentina’s signature grape - has perfectly pitched black fruit, cherry, cinnamon, cedar and a hint of mint; get out the tongs and flippers and get ready to grill.

Germany (White) … Although there are two Rieslings from the Mosel you should forego those and pick the one from the Pfalz: Darting 2005 Riesling Kabinett ($15.95 - #950212). Good sweetness on both the nose and palate – a peachy nose is aided along by an appley and mineral taste. A true summer sipper for this summer, next summer and even the next.

Italy (Red) … There are many Gladiator jokes, most of which I can’t repeat here (think hair and teeth and say the word slow), but Gladiator 2004 Primitivo Di Manduria ($15.95 - #23119) is anything but hair raising – in price or in the mouth. The description says Zin, but I disagree … although there is DNA linking between Italian Primitivo and California Zinfandel, this lacks the true nuances of Cali-Zin, namely the rum/raisin fruitiness. Instead you get good black fruit pluminess with a hint of nutmeg on the side. Drink this soldier now or lie him down till you need him.

Portugal (Red) … Good value this time round through Vintages is found in Portugal with this Ramos-Pinto Duas Quintas Tinto 2004 ($15.95 - #359893) – cedar, black cherry and vanilla are the keynotes to this wine, with plum and hints of prune and cherry on the smooth finish.

Spain (Red) … Vintages wine-of-the-month pick is quite lovely: Bodegas Lan Reserva 1999 ($19.95 - #42929). This 8-year-old wine has the stuffing to go the distance at your next BBQ or even for a BBQ a few years down the road. Black fruit and cedar on the nose with dried fruit and spice that accompanies the other two on the taste. Smooth and drinkable now.

Nothing says summer grillin’ like the Mediterranean; except maybe something Aussie … there’s lots of choice for the Q in this release, so enjoy.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Saturday July 7, 2007 Vintages Release

When I say Sauvignon Blanc what do you think about? To some Sauv Blanc means crisp, high acid, citrus-driven wines perfect for summertime sipping. To others the Blanc means the three G's: gooseberries, grass and grapefruit ... with a little cat’s pee on the side. While still others think exclusively New Zealand. And while the Zealanders seem to have perfected the way Sauvignon Blanc should taste in many people's minds, the noble blanc had found a home in many other countries long before the Kiwi's turned us all (back) onto it. This vintages release focuses on Sauvignon Blanc from around the world, including New Zealand; I’ll tell you about the best Sauvignon Blancs in this release along with 17 other wines that you should seriously consider putting your hands on. You'll also notice that white wines dominate this release - but what the heck summer’s here, what do you expect.

Savvy B. … France is the traditional home of the Sauv grape (you could probably have guessed that from the French name), which means they have been making it for decades, long before the Zealanders got their fingers on it. Five French Sauvs appear in this release, but none seem to have the staying power of the “Vintages Essential” Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Les Baronnes ($24.95 – #542548). Lovely taste that rivals anything from the Kiwis - or should that be the other way around – whatever: citrus, gooseberry, grass, grapefruit, green apple – all are in there and all follow right along from nose to taste. You know the Zees are doing Sauv Blanc justice, so any bottle you pick up is bound to be good (most anyway) - but nothing seems to rival bang-for-buck like the Mount Riley 2006 Sauvignon Blanc ($18.95 - #981670) ... or for consistency ... the ‘05 was good and this one's top of its class too. The nose is typical New Zealand right down to the cat’s pee; with flavours of citrus, grass and goose (as in berry) ... this one's all yum for the sum (as in summer and price). Moving right along to California, of all places, not one you usually equate with Sauvignon Blanc, but check out the Geyser Peak 2005 ($15.95 – #340208) ... it’s softer and lighter than the previous two mentioned - still with the heavy citrus but not as in-your-face; a good lengthy finish with orangey-melon-like notes. This one’s easy to recommend in part because of its reasonable price. Interested in something with a few years on it, DeLoach 2003 ($18.95 – #34769) is not the typical Sauv you’d expect because it has three to four years of bottle age on the others in this release: as a rule Sauv Blanc is best served young and fresh, this one has softened and the “melon, kiwi and apple” from the description have become almost over-ripe with age, but still an interesting pick up if you have a spare twenty bucks burning a hole in your pocket. Chile is considered by many to be the perfect place to grow grapes, and they pretty much try their hand at everything. This Carmen Reserve 2006 ($13.95 - #31096) is well-priced and well-balanced. Melon and grapefruit-citrusness are the most predominant aspects, it's easy drinking style and smooth mouthfeel make it seem almost sweet by comparison with the others - but have no fear, it is a dry wine. You just knew the Aussies were gonna pick up the Sauvignon-stick, the Katnook Estate 2006 ($22.95 - #737122) is pricey but fun, exciting and enticing. Check out the nose on this one, its peachy melony and sweet smelling, almost icewine like ... but there's no sweetness here on the palate as the tart citrus roars through the mouth and ends cantaloupe fresh … with plenty of staying power to boot. Many say that South Africa is the next hot spot for wine, and I for one believe it; especially after the Santé Festival’s focus on South Africa just this past May. I tasted some stellar stuff coming out of that country. For this Vintages release focusing on Sauvignon Blanc they have brought in Agulhas First Sighting 2006 ($15.95 - #18705) the nose and taste are reminiscent of New Zealand with plenty of grapefruit, citrus and orange blossom.

Brazil (Sparkling) ... Please do not adjust your eyes, that does say “Brazil”. It's Vintages first foray into the land of rainforests and it comes off as pretty good value and taste. George Aubert Moscatel Sparkling Wine ($14.95 - #036871) a low alcohol (7.2%) sweet sparkler. Fruity and light, this came as a complete surprise to me, as I wasn't expecting too much from this wine. It started off rather foamy in the glass and the mouth, but once it settled down there was lots of peachy-melony goodness in the glass. Serve this chilled on the patio this summer, by itself or with fresh fruit salad.

California (Red) ... Not much to choose from this release, but the Kunde 2002 Zinfandel ($19.95 - #965921) is a great choice for you Zin fans. Plumy, jammy, raspberry and cherries, a good seam of acidity and a sweet like finish of dark rum and cherry cola.

Argentina (White) ... Good value from Argentina comes in the form of this chardonnay – Las Moras 2005 Chardonnay Reserva 2005 ($11.95 - #032896) ... great for summer and seafood. Pineappley, honeydew melon, pear and a sprinkling of honey follow through on the palate ... mid-palate it turns buttery and that continues right through to the finish.

Chile (Red) ... Chile is one of my favorite places to buy wine from because there's always good value in the bottle. Santa Carolina 2004 Barrica Selection Carmenere ($14.95 - #640888) offers just that; good spicy appeal with sweet red fruit of cherry and raspberry.

Chile (White) … you white drinkers should check out the matching Chardonnay ($14.95 - #928580) with its citrus, melon, apples, pears and soft butter. Good for summer. Grab this one-two punch from Santa Carolina for your next BBQ and you’ll please everyone around the table.

Australia (White) ... Here's a bizarre combination of grapes making for another interesting wine in the organic product category. Robinvale Demeter 2005 Chardonnay/Chenin Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc ($18.95 - #032391), another of my twenty-bucks-burning-a-hole-in-your-pocket selections; interesting sweetness for a dry wine with apricot, apple, and some pineapple flavors and smells.

Australia (Red) … if you're looking for spicy black fruit peppered with some oak to go with your barbecued beef meal this wine should do the trick: Chapel Hill 2005 Shiraz/Grenache ($18.95 – 037168) ... but then what else do you expect from the Aussies.

New Zealand (Red) ... Two Pinot Noirs from New Zealand appear up in this release, both are typical pinots from that part of the world; but if you're willing to shell out the extra three clams I'd recommend the Torlesse Omihi Road 2004 Pinot Noir ($22.95 - #034371) over the other. Strawberry and earth are the typical characteristics, but throw in some stewed fruit and plums for a more interesting taste sensation.

South Africa (White) ... The Goats do Roam line of wines has done very well, and why not, they are well priced and tasty. This newest installment Goats do Roam 2006 White ($12.95 - #943167) is blended from a multitude of grapes, the blend differs with every year, but never fails to please. This year's version is once again easy drinking at an affordable price; features include a soft apple nose, honeysuckle, pear and a lingering pleasant finish. If you buy a case you’re set for the summer.

France (White) ... From Burgundy comes this Chateau Laboure-Roi Bourgogne 2005 Chardonnay ($18.95 - #041053) … a perfect breakfast wine (the description recommends "an omelet with diced bacon" as a pairing) - you have your melon and tree fruit smells and flavors, along with oaky vanilla notes and buttery finish. A great eye opener or palate cleanser for any time before 10:00am.

France (Red) … Here's a bargain from Bordeaux you can stick in the cellar and lose for a few years: Chateau L’Enclois Bonis 2003 ($22.95 - #035808), its mouthdryingly rich in tannins with lots of upfront oak. Give it some air and the red fruit shines through - give it some time to mellow and that fruit will show even better. The Rhone provides good value with the following two selections: Chateau de Nages Vielles Vignes Rouge 2004 ($18.95 - #040964) and Mas Des Bressades Cuvee Excellence 2005 ($16.95 - #708750). The Nages has good black fruit, cassis and well integrated oak, perfect BBQ material; while the Mas has more red fruit mixed in with the blackberries and cassis, there’s also some perceptible cedar taste blended in with the fruit flavors.

Italy (Sparkling) ... It has been said to me on numerous occasions that "once you've tasted one Moscato D’Asti you've tasted them all” ... while this might be true I still really enjoy these wines. The newest to hit Vintages is the Dante Rivetti Riveto 2005 Moscato D’Asti, a sweet sparkler that's fresh and fruity with light floral tones and even lighter alcohol (5%). This can be added to your morning O.J. to brighten it up, or sit quietly with a glass in the backyard on a hot summer’s afternoon.

Spain (Red) … Kick me in the Spaniards! Spain wins out again for best value reds in the release. You just can't go wrong picking up one of these three Reds: Beronia 2005 Tempranillo Elabotacion Especial ($17.95 - #723643) with its licorice and red fruit nose, blackberried-tannin and fruit compote flavors. Castano 2002 Pozuela Reserva ($16.95 - #035485) with tobacco, red and black fruit and nice cedar wood integration that runs throughout the nose and taste ... with licorice and coffee on the finish. Finally, the ever popular Raimat Abadia 2003 Crianza ($15.95 - #935460) ... I buy this one every year and am constantly awed by the price for experience year-after-year. This year stewed fruit, plum and cedar run the gamut with some really good smoky flavors clinging to the long smooth finish.

And for desert ... we end up with this little sweetie from Yalta that rivals port with deep delicious flavors of cherry cough drop and blackberries soaked in alcohol. It's yummy as a sipper, but too much will give you one heck of a headache, so pour accordingly as you serve this Massandra South Coast Kagor Red 2002 ($22.95 - #026559) in the waning hours of the evening.