Monday, March 31, 2008

Saturday April 12, 2008 - Vintages Release

I’m writing this report on March 9, 2008 – the day after Toronto got dumped on with a foot of snow, or more, so there is nobody who needs a taste of the south like those of us who have been spending our February and March in the Great White North – no name seems more appropriate on a day like today. This LCBO release is all about Southern wine (Wines from a Southern Clime) so on this day of –3 degree weather – and snow banks that are a minimum 6 feet high, let’s go south for a little get away. In this report you’ll find 7 featured wines, 12 reds, 6 whites and my Take a Chance on Me wine selection. To see the Ontario wines of note click on the links and you will be directed to my website ( for a full review. And now without further ado, Southern spotlight here we come.

Southern Exposure …

We’ll start the look at the south by staying in North America, California to be exact, Santa Barbara Winery 2006 Chardonnay ($17.95 - #989152) – this is a good price for a really decent Cali-Chard – the fruit flavours are upfront with ripe apples and pears. Turning our attention from our own continent to another, South Africa, Fairview 2006 Viognier ($19.95 - #906487) a grape variety that is starting to gain traction worldwide; prices always seem a little high for these wines, but once they become more widely accepted hopefully you’ll see them come down. For now you’ll have to pay 20 bucks for a nose of tropical fruit, floral, apricot and pear and a beautiful palate of wildflowers and citrus with an almost sweet finish. This one’s pretty exceptional and well worth it’s price tag. Speaking of exceptional, the Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz ($25.95 - #927533) is back – this 2006 version is spicy, peppery and juicy – a great wine as always, and one you can lie down for a few years. From the Rhone (South of France) comes the Chateau du Trignon Gigondas 2004 ($27.95 - #681817) – it’s smooth and lush with an intense sweet herb nose and the thrill of berries in the mouth. Zin-fans should turn their eyes towards Italy in this release, as the closest thing to a Zin-like wine is the A-Mano 2006 Primitivo ($15.95 - #972588) - the sweet cherry pie nose follows in the mouth; while there’s also some cola nuances making this one very pleasant indeed. Finally, in my look at the south, are two sweeties from Spain and Portugal; these are cold weather wines made in some very hot places – go figure. First, there’s the Quinta de Ventozelo 1998 LBV Port ($21.95 - #660159) – red cherries, mint, blackberries and chocolate with a hint of tannins that makes this a warming (21% alcohol) treat going down. Then there’s the Argueso Pedro Ximenez Sherry ($17.95 - #69559) – my sweet tooth of younger days seems to find its way back when it comes to a PX Sherry. Creamy, nutty and caramelly … very tasty; and here’s a tip – if you open it and put it in the fridge it’ll thicken over a few days and makes a delicious topping for ice cream, pie or any other dessert you want to liven up … also good, in small doses, in French Onion Soup.

White Wines …

Ontario …
Megalomaniac 2007 Narcissist Riesling ($17.95 - #675587)
Mike Weir 2006 Sauvignon Blanc ($15.95 - #686972)

South Africa … not one, not two, but three South African whites were wonderful and tasty values this release. The first appeared above from Fairview, the next two appear below. Let’s start with the Stellenzicht 2004 Golden Triangle Chardonnay ($19.95 - #58008) – a nose mixed with citrus, tropical fruit and vanilla, the flavours are reminiscent of buttery, caramelized apples. Best value of the release might also prove the trickiest to find: KWV 2006 Cathedral Cellar Sauvignon Blanc ($9.95 - #662718) – a mixed shipment has left the LCBO with both the 2006 and 2007 vintages of this wine, but search out the ’06 with its great crisp Savvy B. nose and extra long finish – it’s the gooseberry, grapefruit and grassy you’re searching for … the ’07 just doesn’t stack up.

France – Burgundy … yaba-daba-doo, this Chardonnay is for you – especially if you like ‘em unoaked - pineapple and peach on the nose with plenty of follow-up fruitiness in the mouth … delicious. Oh, and if you are wondering which one I’m referring to: Blason de Bourgogne Saint-Veran Chardonnay 2006 ($18.95 - #16725).

Germany … if you love Riesling as much as my sweetie, then I’m going to suggest you beg, borrow or steal (maybe all three) twenty-bucks and get your hands on this Darting 2006 Riesling Spatlese ($19.95 – #963207) … this is pure Riesling heaven. The nose is apples, apricot, honey and pears (plus a whole lot more), while the palate is a touch sweet with great balancing acidity. The taste follows the nose – sweet and stunning, with an extra, extra, extra long mouthfilling finish. All at 9% alcohol … wow!

Italy … People who read my column regularly know I am a fan of Moscato – this one (Bava Cocconato Moscto d’Asti 2007 - $15.95 - #712547) follows the same citrusy, sweet, grapeyness blueprint that others have followed, but it’s always a pleasant thrill on the tongue (and summer is coming – it’s a refresher you’ll want hanging around). My second Italian white is the Elio Filippino Langhe Arneis 2006 ($18.95 - #60848), made from the Arneis grape. I would have sworn this was an unoaked Chardonnay with its fresh apple-pear nose, and then came the real zing on the tongue with tart Granny Smith apple and a lemon squeeze. Ouch and yum all at the same time.

Red Wines …

Ontario …
Megalomaniac 2006 Bravado Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.95 - #67595)
Megalomaniac 2006 Vainglorious Cabernet/Merlot ($24.95 - #67637)

Argentina … traditionally wines go with food, and most notably the foods that a country is noted for. In the case of Argentina that means beef, and the Viniterra 2005 Syrah ($13.95 - #57927) with its blackberry, vanilla and herbs, is a perfect BBQ candidate – with beef of course.

Chile … I draw your attention briefly to the Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2005 ($99.95 - #723676) … is it worth the money? That’s for you to decide, but if you believe the hype it most certainly is – let me just say this is one hell of a delicious, beautiful and complex wine – one of the best I have tried from Chile. Now back to your regularly scheduled report. Back to reality pricing, Los Vascos 2006 Grande Reserve ($15.95 - #32078) is a beauty in its own right. Owned by Chateau Lafite Rothschild (France), you have to believe these folks know something about wine: rich red fruit are on both the palate and nose, there is also vanilla, mint and spicy characteristics – there’s also plenty of potential for the future here … you’re never gonna get a Lafite at that price, so get off the couch and use your feet to get you some.

Australia … I’d be remiss in my duties as a wine-writer if I didn’t present at least one Aussie option each release – lucky for you I’ve got two. The first is the Penmara 2004 Reserve Shiraz ($17.95 - #912782) with its chocolate, juicy blackberries, vanilla, herbs and cola – this one’s a tasty little sucker at a very decent price point. Then there’s the Syan 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($26.95 - #62430) with its big alcohol (14.7%) eucalyptus and juicy black fruits … lovely and immensely enjoyable.

New Zealand … Coopers Creek releases two at Vintages this week, but only one’s worth buying … the Coopers Creek 2006 Merlot ($17.95 - #672451) is smoky-blackberries … there’s also some tannin dryness and good holdability (for 5 years or so), which’ll make it better than it already is.

France – Midi … you would expect a wine made from Syrah and Mourvedre to deliver a tannic punch, especially at this young age: Chateau de Gourgazaud Cuvee Mathilde 2006 ($13.95 - #958629), but instead there is plenty of red fruit in this bottle and it’s ready to go now … put a little chill on it for added enjoyment.

Italy – Piedmont … there are some great Italian values I’ll point out to you in this report, I wouldn’t classify this $43.95 a value – but I do think it is very good: Marchesi di Barolo Barbaresco 2004 (#60855). Earthy with stewed black fruit on the nose, while the mouth really has all the fun here: plums, red and black fruits, delicious and smooth.

Italy – Puglia … I told you about the delicious A-Mano Primitivo (Zin) above; if you want to add to your Zinful ways also check out the Giordano Primitivo di Manduria 2005 ($17.95 - #51797) it truly proved to be smooth and luscious in the mouth with lots of Zin-like qualities.

Italy – Tuscany … Not a huge fan of Chianti I am, but this one came from nowhere to surprise me with its cinnamon, black fruit nose – it followed that up with an initial smoothness in the mouth, then around mid-palate it developed a shot of tannins with a tasty yet drying cedary-oaky and black fruit character. For more flavours check out San Jacopo da Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico 2006 ($17.95 - #710194)

Italy – Veneto … you can always guarantee that if there is a good Valpolicella Ripasso in a release I’ll definitely let you know about it. Well, the Luigi Righetti Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2005 ($18.95 - #575787) fits the bill nicely with its spicy, plumy and cherry nose (and flavours) with herbs to back it up – I love Ripasso and this gives me yet another reason to do so. On the other hand, it’s rarer to find an Amarone deal, but this one seems to be: Remo Farina Amarone della Valpolicella 2003 ($19.95 - #33365 – 375ml) – all the things you love Amarone for in a half bottle … if you think about it, that’s $40 for a full bottle – and for Amarone that’s a good deal … though not as cellarable as a 750ml.

Portugal … big fruit, lots of alcohol (14.5%) from Portugal; good nose, plumy jammy red fruit, spices and herbs – real pizzazz for the mouth: Encostas de Estremoz Touriga Nacional 2004 ($19.95 - #684936).

Take a Chance on Me …

Here’s an interesting spin on a Bordeaux-blend: Casa Silva Quinta Generacion 2004 ($19.95 - #59451) from Chile – Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot are the classic varieties, while Syrah and Carmenere put the new world, and in particular, a Chilean spin on things. Smooth and tasty … an interesting woodsy, forest floor nuance on the nose with sweet fruit in the mouth. This one you should really enjoy.

Happy Shopping.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Saturday March 29, 2008 - Vintages Release

This week’s release at Vintages focuses on Organic and Artisinal wines. For those who dig organic wine this should be an interesting release. Lately there are more and more organics to choose from – myself, I have never been a big fan, but the “Return to Terroir” event, held in Toronto February 9 … started me looking at eco-friendly wines in a different and better light. I have to admit, that it was because of the great wine being featured at RTT that this release left me a little cold, organically speaking, only 4 sparked my interest here. The Artisans fared just a little better, getting me interested in 6 of their wines. To see the Ontario wines of note click on the links and you will be directed to my website ( for a full review.

Organic …

I’ll start with something sweet, Fonseca Terra Prima Reserve Port ($24.95 - #67132), I enjoyed this one at the Port Tasting back in the fall with its cherry, mint and hint of chocolate … heavy on the cherry. No white organic wines turned my crank so we’ll slip right into the reds. From Argentina comes this cat on stilts (see the label) – Budini 2005 Malbec ($12.95 - #58396) – I thought it a good starter Malbec, for those not too familiar with the grape because of the following 3 reasons: the black fruit, the spices and the price. Chile also produces an organic in this release, the Emiliana Coyam 2005 ($24.95 - #63891) – a blend of Syrah, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon which packs a whopping 14.5% alcohol; dusty black fruit and chocolate lead the way, with herbs, spice, cinnamon and vanilla taking up the back-up role. Finally, in the organic wine category, we move over to France, where you’ll find Perrin Cotes du Rhone Nature 2005 ($16.95 - #948059) … I didn’t want to like it, with its cutesy butterfly label but this one turned out to be downright tasty.

Ontario contributes the tasty Frog Pond Farm 2002 Cabernet/Merlot ($15.95 - #660571 – 500ml) to this category.

Artisan …

Here I’ll kick it off sweet again, with probably the most amazing Ruby Port I have ever tasted especially for the price. Here’s another of the one’s I tried at the Port & Douro Tasting, and the one I told you to look out for – it’s here at last: Quinta do Infantado Ruby Port ($15.95 - #979898) – lots of chocolate, cherry, plum, blackberries and other fine port flavours and smells – and what a price … we’ll be wrestling in the aisle over the last bottle of this beauty – get there early. If you’re looking for something white and refreshing in this category look no further than the Jean-Max Roger Sancerre Cuvee les Caillottes 2006 ($23.95 - #65573). This Sauvignon Blanc has a sweet pear nose before it moves into citrus with bracing acidity in the mouth … pleasant as well as refreshing. For Artisinal reds I’ll start in California with the Madrigal Vineyards 2003 Petite Sirah ($19.95 - #71803) it’s lyrical, poetic and complex … a sweet nose of herbs and cherry-cola (so much so I would have sworn it was Zinfandel) followed by a palate loaded with black cherry, blackberries, sweet herbs and enough tannins to dry the tongue and throat – I’d say 5+ years easy for this beauty. Staying in the U.S. of A, but out of California, here’s a shocker from, of all places, Virginia – Kluge Estate Vineyards 2004 Albemarle Simply Red ($23.95 - #61044) … a Bordeaux-style blend with Sauv, Franc and Merlot that is quite simply tasty. Red fruit and bramble hit the nose, while red fruit, cranberry and a touch of earthiness hit the palate. You can’t expect to get out of the Artisan-wine category without visiting France and the Vincent + Marie Christine Perrin Volnay 1er Cru les Mitans 2005 ($49.95 - #66621) fits the bill, a pinot that brings it’s A-game: silky tannins along with cranberry, sour cherry and a touch of earthy – very nice. Last, but not least, we’ll pop over to Italy for a Quintarelli Primofiore 2004 ($56.95 - #20867) – a very complex wine with lots of fruit, herbs and vanilla.

White Wine …

Surprisingly, I found quite a bit of good, attractively priced white wine in this release (must be that spring and summer are finally in the air); and best of all, I am sure that more are on the way.

Ontario …
Creekside Estate 2006 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve ($18.95 - #53371)
Malivoire Wine Company 2006 Pinot Gris ($19.00 - #591305)

New Zealand … from the Marlborough region the Matua Valley Shingle Peak 2007 Sauvignon Blanc ($17.95 - #309591) is quite refreshing if not typical for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – grapefruit, gooseberry, cut grass and tons of citrus zip and zing on the tongue. Looking for something a little different? Then pick up the Spy Valley 2006 Gewurztraminer ($18.95 - #32870) – the smells are floral, talc, and rose petal along with a peach-petrol blend … the whole kit and kaboodle follows through in the mouth – but watch out, that musk can get over-powering if you let it, so grab something to eat to go along with it – this isn’t your average every day sipping wine.

France – Alsace … From one extreme (so musky it’ll knock you over from across the room – see above in New Zealand) to the other (soft, supple, inviting and sip-worthy) – this Pierre Sparr 2005 Gewurztraminer Reserve ($18.95 - #747600) is just what the doctor ordered for a spring/summer sipper – it also adds some pleasant spiciness to be palate.

France – Burgundy … pleasant is also the way I’d describe this L. Tramier & Fils Macon-Villages 2006 ($17.95 - #69112) – very good fruitiness with hints of vanilla – I would have thought it light bodied, but the 13.5% alcohol tells a different story.

South Africa … the Klein Zalze 2006 Chenin Blanc Barrel Fermented ($13.95 - #57471) has a very peachy nose that follows right on through into the mouth, and there’s also some heat from the 15% alcohol – I could see how some might consider this one a little soft and flabby, but I quite enjoyed it. For a more recognizable wine offering there’s the Morgenhuf Estate 2007 Sauvignon Blanc ($12.95 - #18507) – gooseberry and grassy with a touch of smokiness, clean and very refreshing in the mouth, this one finishes with a grapefruit bite.

Spain … I don’t usually talk about Spanish whites, but this one deserves a little notoriety, with its light lemon flavours and subtle nose which leads me to believe that this Marques de Caceres 2006 Barrel Fermented White ($15.95 – #67041) is perfect for summertime sipping – so bring on the sun and the heat.

Red Wines …

Ontario …
Black Prince Winery 2006 Reserve Cabernet Franc ($15.95 - #68874)

Chile … So, do I talk about the origins of Chilean Carmenere or do I talk about the wine? Heck let me focus your attention on the Concha Y Toro Winemaker’s Lot 152 Carmenere 2005 ($18.95 - #30957) this is what Carmenere should be, a spice-driven nose – black fruit, chocolate, berries, cinnamon and vanilla in the mouth – oh, so, good. I’ll stop blabbing and just say, buy a bottle and let the wine do the talking for itself. Looking for something more recognizable? You can go for the Tabali 2005 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.95 - #58446) with black fruit, mint and eucalyptus … this one’s bbq-ready … I keep saying it but with the weather we are having more positive reinforcement is need, bring on the nice weather.

Australia … the land down under is always good for a dozen wines every release (9 this time) and this time I pick out this one: Heartland 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($18.95 - #58099) … chocolate, black fruit and cola with a nice cherry-vanilla finish, a bit jammy, but pleasant.

South Africa … I remember a time when Pinotage was a scary grape variety to make wine out of, many a wine was considered “rustic” and that was putting it nicely. Lammershoek 2005 Pinotage ($18.95 - #954594) is as far removed from those original Pinotage wines as you can get. The nose is spicy with black fruit, bramble and a touch of floral; while the flavours are explosive in the mouth: black currant, blackberry, spicy and tannin, there is a little bit of the typical South Africa flavours on the finish, but it’s so “way back there” that it’s practically standing in the corner un-noticed. My second selection from South Africa is Robertson Winery Prospect Hill 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($18.95 - #687814). Robertson is a cooperative winery with ~43 members, each year at harvest time they all bring in their grapes and one batch is selected to be the “single vineyard” offering, the rest go into the everyday wine. I’ve seen Prospect Hill on previous versions of this wine so they must be doing something right. This one’s full on blackberry and black cherry all the way from nose to palate, and it’s drinking beautifully right now.

France – Midi … Here’s another Cahors wine that will stand the test of time (say 10 years), Cahors is usually big, bold and black fruited – as this one is, but the addition of 20% Merlot softens it a bit, while the barrel ageing has left behind vanilla oaky notes – but there’s still that tell-tale real spiciness and tannins galore, Chateau Croze de Pys Prestige 2005 ($16.95 - #681668)..

France – Rhone … Domaine des Senechaux Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2005 ($35.95 - #677922) has a nose that’s absolutely luscious with red fruit and cinnamon; in the mouth the red fruit explodes with a touch of spice, my notes say “beauty baby” and it is.

Italy – Tuscany … sweet black fruit, lots of tannins, lots of spice and a lower alcohol level (13%) than both the mouth and nose projects. This one’s my big, bold and brawny selection of the release: Micheletti Guardione 2003 ($37.95 - #39693).

Spain … Two Spanish compositions close out my look at the red wines of this release. This one from Priorat, Buil & Gine Gine Gine 2005 ($20.95 - #67843) is a tasty little sucker brimming with full on red and black fruit with some spicy characteristics thrown in for good measure. The second, Muruve Crianza 2003 ($15.95 - #67546) is quite simply a value, value, value – nose of sweet plums and other black fruits … the fruit is all over the tongue, mostly of the dark variety, lots of tannin heft and there’s even a fizzy feeling here – I would recommend holding this one three years before its really enjoyable.

What’s for Dessert? …

Ontario …
Henry of Pelham 2006 Cabernet Franc Icewine ($39.95 – 672402 – 200ml)

Madeira fans should find happiness this release from Cossart Gordon 5-year-old Medium Rich Bual Madeira ($23.95 - #69583) … sweet, supple and delicious. Maple-soaked apricots on the nose, the taste is reminiscent of dried apricots and pears soaked in icewine (or something equally as sweet) with a touch of sweet spice on the finish.

Take a Chance on Me …

My Abba wine this release comes from Bulgaria, yes, I said Bulgaria – not a country I’d normally recommend, but when something comes along that’s decent I’d rather tell you about it than sweep it under the rug and hope that it goes away. Damianitza No Man’s Land Gold 2005 ($13.95 - #672949) – this one’s big on red, fruit that is - raspberry, strawberry and cherry with a touch of some dirty, earthy nuances … a wine for those interested in, but not huge fans of, red wine. Give it a try, it’s quite surprising.

Reminder: Port lovers … check out the Infantado Ruby Port – you won’t be disappointed.

Happy Shopping.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Saturday March 15, 2008 - Vintages Release

It would seem that the LCBO has abandoned the double feature per magazine to focus on one (I’m sure this is temporary), though it is probably best in our short attention span world. This week’s releases focus is on “recipes” and “wine” – but there does seem to be quite a lot of Rieslings in this release (9), more so than usual anyway – so I’ll also run down your best choices in Rieslings. To see the Ontario wines of note click on the links of those specific wines – you will be directed to my website ( for a full review.

Recipes and Wine …

Now I’m the wrong guy to talk to about food matches with wine, my philosophy is: pick a wine, open it, then decide what’s for dinner … this way of “pairing” lead me into a chicken calzone and a shiraz last night, and has brought me into some even crazier matches – but you live and learn. As long as you like the wine and you like the dinner you prepared, somehow they’ll match.

Starting things off, there’s a 21-year old Tawny from Australian producer DeBortoli ($43.95 - #58040); I like the classic stuff from the old country (Portugal), but this one was quite enjoyable: smoky, nutty, toffee-like, with sweet cherry, a little coffee and some really wild flavours.

On the white side of Recipes & Wine we have J. Lohr, who brings us their 2005 Mist White Riesling ($14.95 - #57299), this one’s delicious – a touch of sweetness, well-priced, a peachiness through and through … thoroughly enjoyable. There’s a Chardonnay from Santa Rita – the Medalla Real 2006 ($18.95 - #303628), peach and tropical fruit on the nose, which follows along on the tongue with a medium length finish. D’Arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier/Marsanne 2006 ($16.95 - #662775) has some very interesting flavours to it: there’s something spicy and something herbaceous on the nose, while on the palate it’s reminiscent of butterscotch and vanilla. Coopers Creek 2006 Unoaked Chardonnay ($16.95 - #56382) is a Chardonnay that smells like a Sauvignon Blanc … it could have fooled me anyway … with lots of apple, citrus softness in the mouth – quite enjoyable. From German producer Darting comes their 2005 Gewurztraminer Kabinett ($16.95 - #944181), a real beauty; while spicy, floral notes get up the nose, on the tongue there’s a sweet beginning and an ending full of floral elegance – and there’s a long finish that’s sehr (German word for “very”) delicious … at 9.5% alcohol, you could drink it like Lionel Richie, All Night Long. Pinot Grigio is a great food wine, that’s why the Albino Armani 2006 Pinot Grigio ($16.95 - #63032) is a great choice for light suppers. A strong apple nose makes it seem simplistic, but it’s complicated in the mouth with soft fruit flavours, some of them even seem a tad over-ripe.

Now we move to the reds in this Recipes & Wine release … here there are only 2. The first is from California, 2005 7 Deadly Zins ($24.95 - #59311) – tasty, plumy, cherry, chocolate, very lustful, if you like Zinfandel, if you drink enough of this puppy you might end up taking part in all 7 of those hinted at sins. Second on my list is the Shingleback 2004 Shiraz ($22.95 - #57844) lots of peppery spice intermingled with blackberries and raspberries on the nose, the taste is ripe and juicy with all those blackberries.

Riesling …

Not an official focus, but with 9 on the sched it should be. I already mentioned the J. Lohr above and there’s an Angels Gate ’06 that can be found on my website, but there are two more I would like to bring to your attention to. From New Zealand, of all places, ($17.95 - #58636) … peachy and ‘sweet’ – some tropical fruit holds this one together along with a bit of apricot; the finish is floral, tropical and talc; I didn’t see this one coming and was thrilled by it. There really is no surprise here as I mention the one from Germany: forget all your pre-conceived notions about animal labels on the outside and concentrate your attention on what’s inside this bottle, the 2007 Sherwood Estate RieslingLingenfelder 2005 Riesling Bird Label ($14.95 - #568634) is a peachy, peary, appley goody from the Pfalz region … soft, refreshing, delicious and well priced.

Sparkling Wine …

Of the four bubblies being released I think your best bet is on the Santa Margherita Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Brut ($17.95 - #687582), great apple and citrus on the nose with Mac in the mouth (the apple variety, not the tartaned-toffee).

White Wine …

Ontario …
Chateau des Charmes 2006 Chardonnay Musque ($16.95 - #640516)
The Grange of Prince Edward County Trumpour’s Mill 2006 Victoria Block Barrel Fermented Chardonnay ($24.95 - #72538)

Chile … If you dig on pink grapefruit cocktail you’ll really like the ($11.95 - #59394) – it has a lingering citrus finish and is ready for summer sipping, so stock up now, waiting for the good weather may make this one obsolete. Also from the land of value (Chile) is the Equus 2007 Sauvignon BlancValdivieso 2006 Chardonnay ($11.95 - #59691) a nose of melons and tree fruit followed on the palate by more tree fruit and hints of cloves, cinnamon and something spicy.

Australia … Greg Norman Estates gets a birdie score for this one; 2005 Chardonnay ($19.95 - #552083), it’s a touch flinty, but also adds peach and apple to the mix … I thought the Ashbrook ’05 was comparable, but for the price Norman’s stacks up better.

Red Wine …

USA – California … Lohr scores again, this time with the J. Lohr Los Osos Merlot 2005 ($18.95 - #27516), this one is soft, fruity and very enjoyable … chocolate notes come through along with black cherry – there’s good tannins in here for some short term holdability.

Chile … You really can’t go wrong with a bottle at this level of quality for this price, I’m talking about the Montes Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere 2006 ($14.95 - #16071), I tried this at the Gourmet Food and Wine Show in November, I liked it then, I like it even more now. It’s a 70% Cab with 30% Carm blend and it sure is a crowd pleaser: juicy black fruit dominated, soft, supple tannins, elegant on the palate, some herbs and mint also come through – this is the kind of wine Chile is known for – great value for a great wine.

Australia … Kosher wine usually means expensive or bland … this one is neither: Beckett’s Flat Cabernet/Shiraz 2004 ($20.95 - #58693), it has all the pre-requisites of the Cab/Shiraz blend: dark fruit, spicy, peppery and quite delicious. Thanks to Beckett’s Flat for making a kosher wine that doesn’t taste like I made it myself.

South Africa … The Onyx Shiraz 2005 ($21.95 - #704486) from Darling Cellars is very impressive – dark fruit, a touch of pepper, good mouthfeel, sweet and succulent … this is the kind of wine all of South Africa should aspire to make (and all without that you-know-what*).

France – Midi … Chateau L’Hospitalet La Reserve Rouge 2005 ($18.95 - #682492), a typical southern France blend of 40% Syrah, Grenache (30%) and Mourvedre (30%) with anise, dark fruits, spices and tons of pepper. Looking for a soft, juicy, red fruit forward Merlot, and don’t wanna pay more than $13? Jacques & Francois Lurton have just the ticket: Domaine de Berlande Merlot 2006 ($12.95 - #27979) … tastes are ripe plums and juicy cherries – there are also some tannins under the cork, but it’s very drinkable right now, feel free to hold it for 5 years or so.

Greece … Haven’t found too many Greek wines to be enamored with of late, but this Lycos Kratistos Nemea 2003 ($15.95 - #61473) is very interesting and tasty. A drink now wine that is seemingly sweet in the mouth – cooked fruit and compote-like, but still very enjoyable.

Italy – Tuscany … Michele Satta Piastraia 2002 ($39.95 – #709980) has a beautiful nose with conflicting flavours and smells – prunes, plums, cherry, anise; sweet and sour all at the same time. I once had a wine called Crossfire that claimed to create different feelings in the mouth, thus causing your tastebuds to crossfire; this is also that kind of wine. Lots of fun.

Portugal … Here’s another piece of fun, Esporao Reserve Reserve 2005 ($25.95 - #606590) – blended from two indigenous Portuguese grapes and Cabernet Sauvignon this wine is a party in the mouth when it comes to flavours. Sweet cherries, dark chocolate, lots of tannin – the flavours are very reminiscent of port … try it, you’ll like it.

Dessert …

Ontario … The Ice House Northern Ice 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine ($36.95 - #67330)

Take a Chance on me … Usually my TAC-wine is something of the strange dessert variety, but this time my TAC-wine is a straight red table wine that comes from Italy. Not often (like hardly ever) do you see a Malbec from this part of the world, but the Santa Margherita Malbech 2005 ($17.95 - #60962) is a worthy addition and well-worth trying. Dark fruit dominated with dark chocolate and some brambly flavours – I thought it very tasty and well worth taking a chance on.

Happy Shopping.

*If you don’t, check past reviews under South Africa.