Monday, May 19, 2008

Saturday May 24, 2008 - Vintages Release

I’ve got 2 features and 29 wines to recommend in this release, so let’s get right down to it. This time out the 2 releases are focused on New Zealand and, for those itching for summer, the first wave of rosés are here, so it’s time to dust off that summer money you’ve been saving and head on down to stock up on wine for the season; because between the rosés and Zealanders there’s plenty of summer sippers to celebrate.

Ontario reviews can be found by clicking the link, which will redirect you to my website,

New Zealand …

Kicking it off is what you probably know New Zealand for, Sauvignon Blanc, best of the bunch (bang-for-buck-wise) just might be the Sileni Estate Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2007 ($15.95 - #0662882) – bright and clean with good grapefruit, not overpoweringly so, not too acidic, but with great jump in the mouth. But New Zealand is not only about Sauvignon Blanc, their goal now is to get you seeing them as the whole wine package: reds and whites. In the aromatic white category you’ll find the Lawson’s Dry Hills 2006 Gewurztraminer ($18.95 - #0060129), the nose is light on rose petal and very clean and tasty in the mouth, only a touch of typical Gewurzt oiliness exists, and there’s just a splash of citrus on the finish – very refreshing. Pinot Gris is another grape New Zealand can do, Sileni Cellar Selection Pinot Gris 2007 ($14.95 - #0032292) with its nice apple nose, which follows on the palate, then a citrus explosion finishes it off … cool. And finally, for the whites, Chardonnay – in the form of Sacred Hill Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2006 ($20.95 - #0060095), sure it’s a playing-it-safe Chardonnay – vanilla, tropical fruit, nothing experimental here, but if you’re looking to expand your countries making dependable Chardonnay, you can’t go wrong with bringing this one to the table.

The Kiwis big red is Pinot Noir and there are two in the release of note: Pisa Range Estates Black Poplar Block Pinot Noir 2005 ($44.95 - #0062398), which has almost a sweet taste, though you’ll find it smooth and easy, with strawberry and black cherry dominating with a touch of an earthy sensation. There’s also the Waitiri Creek 2006 Pinot Noir ($37.95 - #0683342) with its pleasant red fruit (cherry dominated) and nice tannins that blend together nicely in the mouth. Other New Zealand reds of note are the Villa Maria Private Bin Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($17.95 - #0060038) at first it seemed simple and easy, but the spicy nose, black fruit and vanilla drew me in deeper and then there was the hint of tannin at the back – quite nice. Finally, something you don’t see here often, from New Zealand anyway, a Syrah – Goldridge Estate Premium Reserve Syrah 2005 ($19.95 - #0060053) sweet herbs, a touch of spice and black pepper tickle the nose, all followed on the palate with fine tannins and pleasant finish. Delice!

Rosés …

I’ll start here with the crossover wine: Kim Crawford 2007 Pansy Rosé ($16.95 - #0650325) from New Zealand – it has that sweet smell of success about it; a red berry burst of raspberries and cherries, big 14% alcohol, but so easy going down a summer’s afternoon drunk waiting to happen. Established fans will snap it up quick, so if you want to become a fan get to the LCBO early. Looking for more of an oddball Rosé to put on the table, Cline’s Pink Truck Rosé 2007 ($12.95 - #0059865) from California made from Zinfandel, Grenache and Mourvedre – a luscious cherry juice nose with raspberry and sweet cherry on the palate … there is a touch of sweetness here, but its perfect for hot summer days because it’s smooth and easy going down. Finally, here’s a Rosé that thinks it’s a red wine, sure strawberries dominate the smell and flavour, but this one’s got a touch of tannin left in it too. I’d chill this one right down, to control those tannins, and then sip and enjoy: Vina Honda Monastrell Rosé 2007 ($13.95 - #0071431).

White Wine …

Ontario … Cave Spring Gewurztraminer 2006 ($19.95 - # 0302059)

Argentina … I liked this wine for its’ ballsy taste: butterscotch, vanilla and toasty oak – heavy with flavour and alcohol (14%) – but it’s also got a great smell to it too: Catena 2006 Chardonnay ($19.95 - #0918805).

Australia … Get away from the oak and enjoy the value priced Jim Jim Unoaked Chardonnay ($13.95 - #0058537) with its full-on tropical, apple and lemon flavour, a real playful white for summer.

South Africa … Lammershoek Barrique Chenin Blanc 2007 ($18.95 - #0058206) has a very appley nose with tropical-bruised fruit in the mouth, trust me, it’s delightful and has a pleasing finish.

France – Alsace … skip the Riesling this time out and reach for the Domaine Saint-Remy Gewurztraminer Reserve 2006 ($18.95 - #0061150) too good to pass up. Tropical, yet spicy, light and enjoyable, tastes older than its 2006 designation, but a great long pleasant finish.

France – Rhone … This Chardonnay is an enjoyable pleasant affair; with apple and tropical fruit, pears and other tree fruit thrown in for good measure – it’s got an ounce or two of sassiness especially on the finish: George DuBoeuf Pouilly-Fuisse Clos Reyssie 2006 ($27.95 - #0656793).

Italy – Veneto … Fresh, fruity and refreshing is the best way to describe the Pra Soave Classico 2006 ($19.95 - #0074534).

Red Wines …

USA – California … One of my favourite Syrah’s in the past few years is coming back (different vintage of course) Rosenblum Vintner’s Cuvee Syrah 2005 ($18.95 - #0686535) peppery, black fruit and herbs with good tannins structure and a little bite on the tongue.

Argentina … A perfect wine for consuming now and throughout BBQ-season will be this juicy, blackberry laced Finca El Retiro 2004 Malbec ($12.95 - #0993824) at that price buy a case; there are plenty of BBQs to come.

Australia … Believe it or not my only Aussie recommendation in this release (red) is this Lengs and Cooter The Victor Shiraz 2005 ($21.95 - #00604434); black fruit driven, chocolaty, spicy and very tasty – get out the General Lee, Cooter’s coming to town.

France – Midi … At $17.95 this wine is a bargain: Chateau de Flaugergues Cuvee Sommeliere 2006 (#0065896) – smooth, red fruit nose with black fruit flavours … yum.

France – Rhone … Plummy, black fruit, supple tannins and another candidate in the smooth category for this release, the Domaine de Font-Sane Gigondas Tradition 2005 ($24.95 - #0735779) is all that and a bag of chips – so to speak. The official wine of Jamaica, Ortas Tradition Rasteau 2006 ($15.95 - #0998716) of course I’m kidding about that, but not about the value and deliciousness of this wine. Smooth, fruit driven with just the right amount of tannins … what a great value.

Italy – Tuscany … a classy label adorns this very classy wine which has bold tannins, black fruit and a chunky earthy taste – you’ll need to lie this one down for a bit before fully enjoying: Antonori Badia A Passignano Chianti Classico Riserva 2003 ($39.95 - #0384552).

Italy – Veneto … Ask any Amarone fan and they’ll tell you, “It’s always expensive, but it’s always worth it.” And that’s so true when it comes to the luscious Le Ragose Amarone della Valpolicella 2003 ($61.95 - #0700872). Those who don’t want to fork over the big bucks can go for Amarone’s little brother, Ripasso: Monte Zovo Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2004 ($18.95 - #0023523) – plummy, black cherry, touch of earthy tannins on the finish … very nice Ripasso, and another 5 years of holding will do just fine.

Portugal … I’m a big fan of this Quinta do Encontro Preto Branco 2004 ($19.95 - #0067025) mixing some white grapes with red to produce big and powerful wines with a feminine side. Both red and black fruit can be found, good acidity, beefy tannins, but then there’s the florally note on both the nose and taste … lots of good fruit flavours, long finish – excellent. A little simpler is the plummy rich fruit in the Sogrape Reserva Douro Vinho Tinto 2002 ($18.95 - #0335208), another wine with a wonderful finish.

What’s For Dessert?

Ontario … Ice House Northern Ice S.L.H. Vidal 2006 ($19.95 / 375ml - #0067348)

Take a Chance on me …

Not sure what I was expecting with this wine, but probably because it was in the middle of the tasting I didn’t expect to find a sweetie amidst all those dry wines, but suddenly there it was; Domaine Cady Coteaux du Laytor Saint-Aubin 2003 ($25.95 - #0065961) a medium sweet wine that comes across all fruity and apple-y with a thickness I wasn’t expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised. With this one appetizers or dessert will probably be what you serve, and all on it’s own it has a really lasting gorgeous finish.

Grape Guy’s Top 3 for May 24, 2008 release…

Ortas Tradition Rasteau 2006 – France – ($15.95)
Quinta Do Encontro Preto Branco 2004 – Protugal – ($19.95)
Finca El Retiro Malbec 2004 – Argentina – (12.95)

Happy Shopping.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Saturday May 10, 2008 - Vintages Release

I can usually find some good values in any Vintages release, but this time out there seems to be a real chock-a-block of them, mostly from Argentina, with some fantastic 12 and 13 dollar wines, and from Germany, there are some Rieslings that over deliver for their under $20 price tag. Now I know it’s all relative, we cheer the 12 dollar wines as real values while our neighbours to the south pay 6 or 7 dollars for the same wine – trust me I feel your pain because I too go to the states and salivate over their prices, and of course curse the LCBO under by breath; but unfortunately that falls on deaf ears, so let’s move on.

Today’s release parallels my favourite kind of movie, a double feature: Pinots and German wines. Pinots refer to the whole Pinot family: Blanc, Gris, Noir, etc. and Germans can only mean great Rieslings (well, they make other things too, but those Rieslings rock!) – so without further ado, let’s check out the 9 Pinots and 3 Germans, along with the other reds, whites and dessert wines that’ll rock your world.

Ontario reviews can be found by clicking the link, which will redirect you to my website,


Blanc … British Columbia is making a good name for themselves with Pinot Blanc and here’s a good example why: Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery Birch Canoe Pinot Blanc 2006 ($17.95 - #0070706), light and fruity with citrus and peach tones – nice finish, soft acidity … very pleasant.

Gris … This Pinot Gris from New Zealand is listed as an extra dry (XD) but you could have fooled me (and everybody else in the room). Omaka Springs 2007 Pinot Gris ($19.65 - #0063647) has sweetness in the mouth – melon and peach with some soft citrus nuances – tasty, but there is some sweetness there, no doubt. Another Gris of note is the Andre Blanck et ses fils Pinot Gris Clos Schwendi ($18.95 - #0686311) from Alsace. Sweet pear on the nose with peachy tastes in the mouth, nothing overpowering – a sweet, easy finish makes this one fun for the patio.

Noir … No offense to Burgundy fans, but we already know they make good Pinot Noir, heck the name Burgundy is synonymous with it; so I’ll forego reviewing any Burgundian Pinot and give the other countries a chance with this grape. Oregon is making a name for themselves in the Pinot Noir department, and the Adelsheim 2006 Pinot Noir ($37.95 - #0683821) is a good example of why – soft supple and a wonderful supply of red fruit … buy it and try it, you’ll then know why Oregon is getting the rep it is. Chilean Pinot Noir? Really? You’re thinking too hot for this cool climate-loving grape. But wait, the Bio Bio Valley is turning out to be a perfect place for Noir – sure it’s a little jammier in the red fruit department, but with good tannin structure and a bit of earthiness this Paso Hondo Alta Seleccion Pinot Noir 2007 ($14.95 - #0685925) is a good value and tasty wine. Moving back to an even cooler clime, New Zealand, the Spy Valley 2006 Pinot Noir ($24.95 - #0734681) from Marlborough, is rich cherry, in both taste and colour – if you don’t dig your Pinot dirty you’ll dig this one. Domaine Bonnard Sancerre Rouge 2004 ($22.95 - #0065995) hails from the Loire – a place better known for its Sauvignon Blanc, but this Pinot is red fruited all the way through – and quite delicious. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting much from an Italian Pinot, but this one surprised the heck out of me: San Pietro 2006 Pinot Noir ($15.95 - #0066381) with its strawberry-cherry nose and its earthy-sour cherry in the mouth all wrapped up in tart tannins … nice! Finally, another country not noted for Pinot Noir, Spain, has produced something mighty different in this category – Miguel Torres Mas Borras Pinot Noir 2006 ($25.95 - #0673483) – big and firm with lots of red and black fruit along with earthiness and tannins to spare. I’d give this one a few years to settle down before popping the cork.

Ontario ... Malivoire 2005 Pinot Noir ($32.00 - #0996777)

Germany ...
Riesling fans take note, there are 4 German Rieslings I recommend in this release, three here and one in the “Take A Chance” section at the bottom of this report; and the beauty of it all is, they are all under $20. My personal favourite of the release is the Darting Riesling Kabinett 2006 ($15.95 - #0950212), excellent price point, but be careful, there is quite a bit of sweetness here – especially for a Kabinett wine. Peach, apple, talc – good balancing acidity and a tasty long sweet finish – yum. Then there’s the Kruger-Rumpf Riesling Kabinett 2006 ($19.95 – 0692368) with a talc-peach nose and a simple palate of peaches and apples carried by great acidity that balances its sweetness on the tongue – this might seem simple but it is quite elegant. Finally, there’s the Eugen Wehrheim Riesling Kabinett 2006 ($16.95 - #0071019), this one’s also very nice and even seems to have a little fizz on the tongue, not as elegant as the Kruger or as sweet as the Darting, but its rough finish holds a certain appeal.

Sparkling …

Ontario ... Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Brut ($29.95 - #0616441)

White Wines ...

Ontario ... Chateau des Charmes 2006 St. David’s Bench Gewurztraminer ($19.95 – 0453472)

New Zealand … the Kiwi’s have made a name from themselves primarily for their Sauvignon Blancs, but lately you see them branching out into other grape varieties and doing a really good job with those too. Take this Goldwater 2006 Chardonnay ($19.95 – 0991463) for instance – nice pear, apple, and lemon zest on the nose, a matching juicy palate that also has butterscotch, vanilla and tart lemon backing up those fruits.

France – Burgundy … this one’s typical but tasty, the Jean Chartron Rully Montmorin 2006 ($26.95 - #0068981) has butteryness with fruit hiding in the back behind a vanilla curtain. Very wizard of Oz.

France – Loire … the name of this wine just says it all: Domaine du Pre Baron Touraine L’elegante 2006 ($19.95 - #0061382) – hope you caught the elegant part – this one’s really pleasant. A soft citrus nose and a great grapefruit palate with a long, dare I say, elegant finish.

Red Wines ...

Argentina … Don David, a distant cousin of Don Vito Corleone, moved to Argentina to get away from “the family business” to concentrate on wine. This big, rich, juicy, black fruited, cocoa laden Reserve Malbec 2006 ($12.95 - #0064998) is one of the best values of the release … and it finishes off dusty and delicious. A personal favourite is the Finca Flichman Expresiones Reserve Shiraz / Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($15.95 - #0017111) – black berries and chocolate on the nose, peppery-jammy fruit in the mouth, with soft supple tannins. Another two great values that emerge from Argentina are the Pasion 4 Merlot 2006 ($11.95 - #0059287) and the Tomero Malbec 2005 ($12.75 - #0057943) – both big on black fruit and chocolate. The Pasion has the advantage of big, bold robust tannins that’ll have it resting comfortably on your wine rack for 5+ years; while the Tomero is more for drink now pleasure.

Australia … I once heard the comment, “someone at D’arenberg must be sleeping with someone from the LCBO”, when I questioned why, they answered, “because they get a listing every month.” So here is your monthly D’arenberg wine: The Galvo Garage 2004 ($26.95 - #0907584) big on booze (14.5%) and big on minty-eucalyptus on both the nose and palate, with a bit of blueberry-black fruit as back up … very appealing. The Mount Langhi Ghiran Billi Billi Shiraz 2004 ($15.95 - #0719575) has a new look label. The floral, pepper and reddish fruit goes from the nose to the taste, and at $15.95 it’s also a good value to serve up around the BBQ this summer.

France – Rhone … I quite enjoyed the Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Crau 2005 ($67.95 - #0951475), a well-balanced, black fruit powerhouse, which has black pepper and tannin rich; not cheap, but a wine you’ll be enjoying for many years to come.

France – Midi … For a good French value wine with dark plumy fruit and lighter in the mouth (mainly for drink now enjoyment) but also with a nice firm finish, you couldn’t beat the Chateau Planeres Cuvee Prestige 2005 ($14.95 - #0070748).

Spain … a fairly big sticker on the bottle proclaims, “The First Cabernet Sauvignon from Spain since 1969” – interesting. Very tannic, you can smell them as you pour the wine into the glass, it’s also very peppery and robust: Jean Leon Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2002 ($27.95 - #0401596).

Rosé ...

You’ll find 4 rosés on the shelf this release. The only one I derived any pleasure from was the Tammasi Chiaretto 2007 ($12.95 - #0685057), this one has raspberry and strawberry smells and flavours all over it … and it’s dry, so don’t go expecting any kind of sweetness here.

What’s for Dessert? ...

Two dessert wines of note from around the world, one from France, the other from Portugal. The port you’ll recognize in both smell and taste, Delaforce His Emminence’s Choice 10-Year-Old Tawny Port ($29.95 - #0112060) – black cherries and plum pudding mingle with almonds and chocolate on the finish, along with a hint of tannin and good acidity. Then there’s the Chamarre Tradition Jurancon 2003 from France ($14.95 – 0065839 – 375ml), pretty floral and appley nose with a wonderful touch of honey amongst the apples on the palate, and just the right amount of sweetness so that this one’s fully enjoyable on it’s own.

Ontario … Cave Spring 2004 Riesling Icewine ($59.95 - #0074641)

Take A Chance on Me …

Not that I think you’ll need any prodding, but there’s a wonderfully aged German Riesling on the list today: Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt Riesling Kabinett 1998 ($19.95 - #0940809) – this is probably what some of those other Rieslings are going to turn into given the proper amount of time, but for the same price, why wait. The petrol notes are developing nicely, but not overpowering, creamy mouthfeel, full of peaches and apples with a touch of petrol on the tongue. And the acidity seems to be holding the sweetness in check … wow! Mind-blowingly good – a good reminder why Germans continue to reign over this grape.

Grape Guy’s Top 3 for May 10, 2008 release …

Darting Riesling Kabinett 2006 – Germany ($15.95)
Finca Flichman Expressiones Reserve Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – Argentina ($15.95)
Pasion 4 Merlot 2006 – Argentina ($11.95)

Bonus 2 –
The Don David Malbec ($12.95) and Tomero Malbec ($12.75) get into the top five for value alone – both from Argentina.

Happy Shopping.