Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Saturday September 29, 2007 Vintages Release

This Vintages release focuses on the Rhone and South of France, where the rules aren’t as strict and the wines are lots more fun … and good wine is very affordable. You don’t have to deal with the high priced Bordeauxs or the finicky nature of Burgundian grapes (which also amount to high prices). In this part of France we deal with the freethinkers and experimentalists, who jones to try and do something exciting and new. And that preamble leads us right into this release, with 5 reds and 1 white fitting the bill.

Rhone & South of France (White) … Talk about a mish-mash of grapes you’ve probably never heard of … but accorindg to sources these are the white grapes of the Rhone (not all of them, just the top 6): Viognier, Rousanne, Marsanne, Clairette, Bourboulene and Grenache Blanc. All blended together to give you something fruity and enjoyable. Melon and peach dominate with some fresh lemon-like acidity on the finish. With only the two wines to choose from in this category it’s a no-brainer, skip the $58 wine and pick up a few of the Guigal Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2005 ($16.95 - #290296).

Rhone & South of France (Red) … From Provence comes this Cuvee Carolle Cote de Provence Rouge 2004 ($16.95 - #43174) … sure it says organic, but it would seem that some French producers have wrapped their heads around what makes for a good organic wine and not just organic for organic-sake (or jumping on the bandwagon to make a little extra money). A nice cherry, woodsy and smoky nose is followed by rich red fruit in the mouth. Don’t like organic you say … this one’s very interesting, and worth the purchase. The Rhone itself brings us a few very nice cork-poppers, starting with Chateau du Trignon Sablet Cotes-du-Rhone-Villages 2004 ($20.95 - #33878) a blend of Grenache (70%) with a splash of Syrah and Mourvedre (15% each) … the nose seems a little closed at the moment giving me little to nothing to smell, but in the mouth it’s very fruity with tons of rich, ripe red fruit. This is one tasty sucker for something I couldn’t even get a whiff of. Here’s another tasty number that’s primarily Syrah and Mourvedre (heck, I don’t recommend it if it don’t taste good – what would be the point?) – Chateau Le Devoy Martine Lirac Rouge 2004 ($17.95 - #33803) – floral and dark fruit dominate the nose with an Asian inspired taste: blackberries soaked in soy sauce – interesting and yet yummy at the same time. Another fruity mouth-filler is the Domaine Grosset Cairanne Cote du Rhone-Villages 2004 ($17.95 - #33852) … I’ll start by describing their great old time movie poster-style label, the name rushes in from the background as if to say “It Came from Grosset”. Next comes the taste: cherry and raspberry all the way through – pleasant, enjoyable (and chillable if you wish). It came from Grosset alright, and thank goodness. Finally, I’ve always gotta put at east one higher priced feature wine into each report; this time it’ll only cost ya $35.95 for the Domaine Duclaux Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2004 (#722264) but for your money you’re getting intense strawberry and red fruit on the nose – lush red licorice, anise and a smoothness you won’t soon forget. Pricey, but I wouldn’t turn down a glass … if you’re buying I’ll be you’re drinking buddy.

California (White) … From the country that made wine famous to the state that made wine infamous. I’ll kick it off in California with a 2005 Chardonnay by Kali Hart ($19.95 - #46417). Pineapple, vanilla and oak hit the nose then amalgamate in the mouth with a smooth tasty finish.

California (Red) … A few weeks ago I opened a bottle of 2005 Ancient Vines Zinfandel from Cline that was superb; now here comes his brother: Ancient Vines 2005 Carignane ($18.00 - #32177) – another superb offering from Cline. Deep rich black fruit on the nose with some cedar and a titch of red fruits playing backgammon at a corner table. The sweet mouth on this one tastes of plums, red licorice and rum; to me it tasted almost Zin-like … and crazy-enjoyable.

Chile (White) … Chile again brings value to the table in the form of this $15.95 2006 Antiguas Reservas Chardonnay from Cousino-Macul (#730044). My notes say “yummy” in bold letters, with vanilla, oak and lemon on the nose; melon, banana, vanilla and a soft touch of oaky on the tongue … this one gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside … was it the wine or was it the price for such a delectable wine? You decide.

Chile (Red) … This wine took many turns both in my nose and on the palate, but in the end it was very pleasing. First the nose of pine nuts and red fruit. Then tasty red fruit in the mouth and a finish that’s black fruit and nutmeg. A few interesting checanes but this Torode Piedra 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.95 - #39262) is good value and receives high marks from me.

Australia (White) … Yalumba is a name you’ll see on the general list and they make some well priced decent wines. But this 2006 Viognier ($22.95 - #954644) deserves its place in Vintages. Hints of honeydew on the nose, lively and lemony in the mouth with a bit of a bite from the acidity and a crisp clean finish that lasts; in addition this is quite a powerhouse in the alcohol department at 14.5% - so be careful when drinking. A little pricey, but Viognier seems to go that way.

Australia (Red) … Two Aussies caught my eye this time out. Elderton 2005 Friends Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95 - #595389) – a perennial favourite. Luscious cherries and chocolate are the best words I can use to describe it … and it’s definitely a sharin’ wine, very enjoyable with friends around to help you polish off a bottle. It wouldn’t be Australia if we didn’t talk Shiraz, and the Two Hands 2006 Angels Share Shiraz ($30 - #9480) is truly stunning. Lots of plum, raspberry and spice with a sweet nose and palate. My notes say “smooth, delicious and lush” – another high alcohol wine (15.2%) that you should be careful with … this’ll go down easy and the next morning you’ll wake up uneasy.

Italy (White) … Rarely, does it seem, that I am recommending an Italian white wine, but this Fazio 2006 Catarratto ($13.95 - #51680) is very enjoyable with lemon, peach, melon and a touch of honey on the nose; soft lemon and smooth acidity on the palate. This wine is a Sicily exclusive, so sit back relax and let your mind and tongue take you to southern Italy.

Argentina (Red) … The best word that I can use these days for Argentinean wines is “Value” … add an extra two words and they would be “for money”. $12.95 for a red that drinks like a wine twice that price: Jean Bousquet 2005 Malbec (#36988) has dark chocolate, anise and deep red fruit on the nose; black raspberry, plum and a tannin bite in the mouth – very nice indeed. And you can throw some age onto it too … what a value.

New Zealand (Red) … Here’s a tasty treat from New Zealand that’s not too much money: Sileni Estates 2004 The Triangle Merlot ($18.95 - #586081) soft and easy now, but could stand to be held for a few more years. The notes I have say “red fruit – long finish – excellent” – that about sums it up.

France (Red) … We’ll end this report where we began, back in France … we’ll stop into Burgundy for a check in on the Louis Jadot Santenay Clos de Malte 2005 ($37.95 - #47811) … pricey, but what good Burgundy isn’t? The nose is cherry and red fruit dominated, while the palate has black cherry, cinnamon, cedar and good tannin heft. Of the two Burgundies in this release this one is definitely better, and is well worth the $5 price difference.

Interesting … One more for good measure. From Portugal comes this J.P. Vinhos Moscatel De Setubal 2001 ($11.95 - #996181) – the price is right to take a chance on. It’s fortified Moscatel de Satubal (17% alcohol), a cousin of Port and Madeira. The nose intrigued me with pine needles, honey coated grapes and some orange peel … the taste was also funky, with dominant orange and apricot notes, a tasty oxidized finish that lasted and lasted. This really is tasty, but not something I could drink too much of – it is definitely a limited quantity sipper. Got twelve bucks? Wanna try something interesting. Plunk it down and give it a go.

Happy Shopping.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Saturday September 15, 2007 Vintages Release

In this release Vintages is rolling out close to 20 Ontario wines in their annual Ontario feature. Being that some of the reviews of these can be found on my website ( or in the magazine itself (3 to be exact) I’ll let you look them up. I am also a proponent of visiting the wineries themselves to experience and purchase the wines of Ontario first hand – the LCBO to me has always been about the stuff I can’t buy and try in my own backyard. You can check out my reviews of the following wines (that are not already in the magazine) that I whole-heartedly recommend: Chateau des Charmes 2005 Estate Riesling ($16.95 - #277228); Flat Rock Cellars 2006 Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling ($19.95 - #578625). And so with that bit of preamble let’s focus our attention outside the realm of Ontario and onto 23 other wines from other parts of the world.

France (Sparkling) … It’s always good to begin with a little bubbly – this one’s from Alsace, so it’s not Champagne, it’s sparkling wine. It has a toasted-apple nose with slightly peachy and lemony flavours and it is: Jean Geiler Blanc de Blanc Brut Prestige ($21.95 - #957746).

France (White) … Staying in Alsace we find Zind-Humbrecht 2005 Gewurztraminer Wintzenzeim ($35.95 - #918078); the notes in the catalogue says “nuanced aromas” but there is nothing nuanced about this. Monster spiciness and floral (read: rose petal) aromas – the finish is lengthy and what’s on the nose follows through in the mouth. My notes say, “gotta like your Gewurzt spicy and rosy” – and you’d better believe it.

France (Red) … We’ll stay in France for one more wine, but this time we’ll head to the Midi region (Minervois to be exact). A blend of 85/15 Syrah/Grenache, this wine is an excellent value at $14.95: Abbotts Turrilite 2005 (#43042) … red fruit dominated in an easy drinking style. Some vanilla is present and all in all it’s very tasty with a good finish. This one’s chillable (if you like your reds that way) – go ahead try it.

California (White) … Paul Dolan Vineyards 2006 Sauvignon Blanc ($19.95 - #46334) – is not at all what you’d expect from Sauv. Blanc. First, it’s soft on the nose with grapefruit and lemon, and there’s nothing in your face about it, just a nice easy sipping wine.

Australia (White) … From a wine with little Sauvignon Blanc characteristics to one with lots, but it’s not a Sauv. Blanc, its Annie’s Lane 2006 Chardonnay ($17.95 - #59105). Fresh and vibrant with a savvy b. like nose of hay, grass and grapefruit … the flavours follow with more grassiness and citrus, and a nice long melon finish.

Australia (Red) … Prepare to be tantalized by Elderton 2005 Tantalus - Shiraz (59%) / Cabernet (28%) / Malbec (8%) / Merlot (5%) – ($16.95 - #721589) … a cherry, raspberry and strawberry nose is followed by a touch of tannins in the mouth and some easy drinking tastiness. Also drinking well is the Richard Hamilton 2005 Hut Block Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95 - #567917) … black fruit and spice driven nose with a slight tarry quality – the palate shows eucalyptus, cassis and other black fruit … and the good news, the tarry disappears after a little while in the glass or open to the air.

New Zealand (White) … Talk about fruity; the Gunn Estate 2006 Unoaked Chardonnay ($17.95 - #694885) is all that and a bag of chips. Melon, pineapple and tree fruit are all get up into the nose … there’s a little butteryness on top of all that fruit in the mouth … tasty.

New Zealand (Red) … The fruitiness from New Zealand continues with this Sileni Cellar Selection 2006 Pinot Noir ($16.95 - #694901) and it’s a good price for a wine that’s come halfway around the world to be on your table. Cherry, cranberry and strawberry aromas and flavours, with a hint of earthy tannins in the mouth.

Germany (White) … (sing along with me now) – “Summer-thyme and the Riesling is easy”; there’s the Lingerfelder 2003 Riesling Spatlese ($21.95 - #928192) a wine right up any German Riesling fans alley. Honeysuckle, apricot and pear greet the nose and all follow through in the mouth with just a touch of petrol … nice balanced sweetness … delicious. The best value in this release just might be the Lingenfelder 2005 Riesling Bird Label ($14.95 - #568634). 2005 was a good year for Riesling in Germany, and this one’s no exception: apple, peach and petrol with good minerality and some ageability. Good finish leads me to believe you should buy a couple, at least, especially at that price. You can sit on this one for another 5-plus years – while still keeping some aside to drink now.

Argentina (Red) … Spicy, peppery with a touch of eucalyptus and mint … good tannin structure, black fruit and cinnamon flavours and some ageablity to boot … all part of my description for this interesting combination of this 2005 Shiraz and Malbec from Dona Paula Estates ($16.95 - #998492) – also note the reasonable price, if you’re considering a multiple purchase – and you should.

Chile (Red) … Two good values also come out of Chile this release: Los Vascos 2004 Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($17.95 - #32078) with its chocolate, mint and sweet fruit nose followed up by a wonderful taste with more mintyness and a restrained fruit to wood ratio. The other wine you should consider is Vina Tabali 2005 Carmenere Reserva ($14.95 - #44008); a little more down to earth with black currant, black fruit and smoky notes on the schnoze; the mouth produces lush, beautiful dark fruit that’s juicy and nicely balanced with the tannins and a slightly earthy finish. This is another Chilean bargain.

Italy (Red) … Something a little pricier that will hold for a long, long time: Il Borro Rosso 2004 ($53.95 - #661769) – smooth and lovely now, dark fruit inspired with good tannins to hold it in check for the long haul … if you like deep, dark and tasty then this is your wine.

Portugal (Red) … Here’s a re-issue for Vintages, Sogrape 2003 Callabriga Tinto ($18.95 - #682591) – a nose of chocolate, black fruit and raisins, which follows through in the mouth with lightly stewed flavours – it’s tasty and drinks well now – but could see a few more beneficial years in the cellar.

Spain (Red) …We’ll finish off our look at dry wines in Spain (as usual) I have two tasty deals for you. Bodegas Castano 2004 Hecula ($15.95 - #748999) – this one usually flies off the shelf due to its value for taste. There’s some red fruit and chocolate on the nose with good berry flavours on the tongue that follow through toasty and tasty. Long lasting tannins, which somehow manage to be smooth in the mouth and not overpoweringly woody. A steal at $15.95. Finally, there’s the Prado Rey Roble 2005 ($16.95 - #674465) with its lusciously scented nose of cherry, raspberry, pepper, chocolate and vanilla … the mouth is equally luscious with lots of cherries and some nutmeg … the powerful 14.5% alcohol also sets this one apart from the competition, but never hints at it in the taste.

What’s for DessertAustralia delivers a sweet Moscato from Trentham Estate called La Famiglia ($15.95 - #43938) at only 7.5% it’s light on alcohol but fun with a fruity citrus nose and taste. Enjoy while out on the patio with friends and loved ones. Craving a bit more sweetness, check out Hungary for the Puklus Wine Cellars 2002 Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos ($34.95 - #47209) … if you like sweet, but lack the funds for icewine, Tokaji can take over admirably – and in 500ml bottles you get a little more bang for the buck. Apricots, pears, rusty over-ripe fruit, candied and honey-like. Delicious, delectable – a dessert all on its own. Port fans will be glad to see the return of Fonseca Bin 27 Reserve Port ($16.95 - #156877) – dark chocolate, cherry, plumy and raisiny in the background, good tannins are still present and get smoother as you leave it open over the course of a few weeks; try taking a nip very few days. Stock up for those cold winter months ahead – nothing’s better for sitting in front of the fireplace with a good book.

Funky fruit wine comes to Vintages by way of Scotland, with Hutchisons Spiced Ginger Wine ($13.95 - #505636) more of a curiosity, unless you’re a huge ginger fan. The spicy gingerbread house nose is followed by a zapping of the tongue and a stinging in the throat … interesting and unique – but watch out, its got chilies in it.

Houston, we have a winner … Last but certainly not least is the wine I’ll be lining up for come September 15th … or should I say, the Sherry I’ll be fighting you all for. Well worth the $15.95 asking price is the Gonzalez Byass Oloroso Dulce Solera 1847 (#972109) – named that way because GB claims the sherry was started in 1847, so if nothing else you’re drinking a little drop of history here; but put that notion aside as I tell you what history tastes like. The perfect blend of creamy and sweet: orange, caramel, dates, figs, toffee all come through in the mouth along with some almonds and hazelnuts. A deep brown sugar colour, like thick rusty water – not sure whether I want to sell this to you or put you off … that way there’s more for me. My notes have glowing words of recommendation like “stunning, amazing and wonderful” and that all comes from a non-Sherry drinker. This is a must purchase – another for sitting around the fireplace this winter. See you in line.