Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Saturday June 21, 2008 - Vintages Release

In an effort to streamline the bulging Vintages reports I am attempting a new leaner format. It just seems to be the right time to try this because there are 35 wines to recommend this time round with some really good reds, whites and rosés to choose from; there are even quite a few Canadian wines of note, in honour of the Canada Day focus. The other focus for this release is Wine Rivers of Europe, the pictures in the mag are beautiful, and so are some of the wines. I also find my first real proof of gouging by the liquor monopoly … more on that when we get to Cahors. As usual, Ontario reviews can be found in their entirety on my website (www.ontariowinereview.com). I would also be interested in your feedback as to which format of the report you prefer, please feel free to leave them below.

Wine Rivers …

Starting off with a Manoel D. Pocas Junior Coheita Port 1991 ($32.95 - #0581140), cherries and almonds with a slight bite on the finish from those still remaining tannins. Next we move to Germany, where the Mosel River flows, helping to make the Zilliken 2002 Riesling Kabinett ($19.95 - #0071241) the peachy, petrolly, apple, apricot beauty that it is today, there’s also a touch of citrus on the lasting finish. Into Spain we go to get the Martin Codax Albarino 2007 ($17.95 - #0984906) with its sweet nose that leads to some refreshing lemon, apple and pear on the palate.

France is our next port of call, with this red from Bordeaux: Chateau D’Agassac 2005 ($54.95 - #0075721), stunning with its big chocolate, red fruit along with blackberries and cassis - holdability to spare here. Staying in France, where we get screwed in Cahors (pardon my French) … this bottle of Chateau Haut-Montplaisir Tradition Cahors 2005 ($16.95 - #0673590) came out last year at $13.95, and now with our stronger dollar we’re paying three bucks more, go figure – but don’t punish this wine for the LCBO’s greed, it’s still a nice wine for the price with its big black fruit, leather, spice, black cherry and tobacco … but come on, three bucks? How long will we allow the LCBO to get away with this kind of price gouging?

Portugal and the Douro region bring Quinta Dos Aciprestes 2004 ($18.95 - #0703561) to the table: smooth chocolate and plum with a nice tannin grip on the finish. Spain adds two reds, both from the Rioja region (Spain’s most famous red wine area). Bodegas Lan 2001 Reserva ($20.95 - #0042929), cherry and vanilla on the taste, with plenty of tannins to keep this one in the cellar a few years. There’s also Ontanon Crianza 2005 ($14.95 - #0976910) spicy and herby with some tannin bite-back, an excellent price for such a tasty, cellarable wine.

Turning to rosé in this hot weather ahead is usually something most of us do and there are two of interest as part of this release. From the Loire (France) there’s the Domaine Les Grandes Vignes Cabernet D’Anjou 2007 ($13.95 - #00710076) slightly sweetish like a bowl of red berries, but with a touch of tart fruit on the finish - yummy in the mouth. Last pink is the Zenato Bardolino Chiaretto 2007 ($12.95 - #0045203) – good price for this strawberry, raspberry blend with a nice easy finish … cool and refreshing on a hot summer’s day – and dig that cherry-raspberry finish.

Canada Day …

Oh Canada, our home and native land, – makers of fine wines and beers – no beers this release folks, but there are some very nice wines. I’ll start with the ones from B.C., Quebec and Prince Edward Island, then link you up to my Ontario picks.

Prince Edward Island … Wine from PEI? Seriously? Yup, the land of Green Gables brings us Rossignol Estate Iced Liberty Blossom 2006 ($22.95 - #0069476 – 375ml) a fairly low acidity apple icewine with good sweetness that makes this one very shippable, though in very small amounts.

Quebec … Looking for more acidity in your apple wine? La Face Cachee de la Pomme Neige Ice Cider ($29.95 - #0039305 – 375ml) from Quebec has fresh Mac-Apple taste along with hints of Granny Smith’s tart acidity.

British Columbia … Some great Merlots are coming out of B.C. and the Mission Hill 2004 Select Lot Collection Merlot ($39.95 - #0068353) fits the bill. A special Merlot made from ultra-premium grapes, it has a lovely nose, but very tight in the mouth, still needs time to develop, but it’s gonna be a beauty in about 3-5 years, then you’ll be able to keep it for another 5 maybe more.

Ontario …
Cave Spring 2005 Brut ($29.95 - #0049981)
Chateau Des Charmes 2006 Chardonnay Musque ($16.95 - #640516)
Henry of Pelham 2007 Off-Dry Reserve Riesling ($15.95 - #0557165)
Jackson-Triggs 2006 Delaine Vineyard Riesling ($19.95 - #0017509)
Hillebrand 2005 Collectors’ Choice Cabernet/Merlot ($16.75 - #0297275)
Malivoire 2006 Gamay ($17.00 - #0591313)

White Wine …

USA – California …
Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay 2006 ($41.95 – 0066159) – lots of oak. Clean, smooth vanilla-butterscotch notes with plenty of fruit.
Thomas Fogarty 2006 Gewurztraminer ($21.95 - #0066878) – beautiful Gewurzt-smell with a rosy taste and a touch of spice; racy and refreshing.
White Truck White 2007 ($15.95 - #0075606) – cheap and cheerful party white, melony sweet – has the same appeal as the red (truck).

Argentina …
Vinitera Terra Viognier 2006 ($12.95 - #0057919) – great alternative to Chardonnay, lots of tropical fruit with peach, apple, mango and apricot. Tasty.

New Zealand …
Waimea 2007 Sauvignon Blanc ($17.95 - #0714295) – great citrus appeal, vibrant, crisp, beautiful long finish.

Italy …
Masi Colbaraca Soave Classico 2007 ($16.95 - #0724161) – clean, crisp lemon zest, and Mac apple. Lingering lemony finish with crab and Granny Smith apples in the middle.

Red Wines …

USA – California …
Camelot Merlot 2003 ($14.95 - #0658070) – smooth, uncomplicated, red fruit and chocolate, juicy, very people pleasing and well priced.
Red Truck 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($16.95 - #0036905) – big and jammy, easy sipper for around the bbq this summer.

Chile …
Cono Sur 2007 Vision Merlot ($15.95 - #0928291) – minty-blackfruit, smooth and enjoyable with silky tannins.

Australia …
Chain of Ponds 2004 Amadeus Cabernet Sauvignon ($27.95 - #0746046) – lots of fruit with hints of spice and chocolate, lovely and lush on the tongue.
Jim Barry 2005 The Lodge Hill Shiraz ($24.95 - #0998476) – chocolate, herbs, spice and red fruit galore.
Torbreck 2005 Old Vines Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre ($22.95 - #0010223) – too good to be true, rich and delicious, bold with sweet red fruit, plenty of herbs and a kiss of chocolate.
Torlesse 2004 Pinot Noir ($20.95 - #0699330) – sour cherry, raspberry, strawberry and cinnamon. Nice balance of acids and tannins, excellent mouthfeel.

France – Midi …
Chateau Mirausse Le Grand Penchant 2006 ($18.95 - #0061267) – dark in both colour and fruit, big wine for the price.

Italy – Veneto …
Zenato Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2004 ($52.95 - #0413179) – rich, jammy, plummy, sweet fruit. Best value Amarone of release.
Zenato Valpolicella Superiore 2006 ($17.95 - #0995704) – wonderfully fruity in the mouth, tasty sipper that’ll hold 3-5 years easy.

Portugal …
Quinta Dos Quatro Ventos 2005 ($19.95 - #0902742) – black and red fruit, nice plumminess, smooth mouthfeel and a tasty finish.

Grape Guys Top 3 …
Viniterra Terra Viognier 2006 (Argentina) - $12.95
Domaine Les Grandes Vignes Cabernet D’Anjou 2007 (France) - $13.95
Torbreck Old Vines Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre 2005 (Australia) - $22.95

Happy Shopping.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Saturday June 7, 2008 - Vintages Release

It looks like another double bill at the Vintages release, this time we are looking at Father’s Day gifts and Champagne. Dad seems to need expensive wine to make him happy (according to the LCBO), and Champagne is pricey by its very nature, so get ready to open your wallet and shell out a few bucks for gifts; but have no fear, your friendly neighbourhood Grape Guy has found some good values for you to keep for yourself.

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

Champagne …

Let’s call my recommendations in this category a 4 + 1, four Champagnes and one sparkler from Alsace (also in France). From Champagne there’s the Ayala Champagne Demi-Sec Rich Majeur ($53.95 - #0075960) a bit of sweetness from the apple and pear arrives on the palate, with a yeasty nose and a good bubble that dances playfully on the tongue. But then they all have playful bubbles – it’s Champagne. There’s the Chapuy Champagne Brut Carte Noir Tradition ($37.95 - #0068304), light and frothy, yeasty and appley with a touch of cinnamon flavour in the mouth. Cattier Chigny-Les- Rosés Champagne Brut Premier Cru ($19.95 - #0919456 - - 375ml) – floral, tree fruit, subtle fizz and very refreshing. Pink bubbles are always a lot of fun and the Beaumont Des Crayeres Champagne Brut Grand Rosé ($48.95 - #0926998) is tart and sweet at the same time, with a strawberry-raspberry mix of flavours, very tasty.

Now, it’s not Champagne, but it is bubbles, it’s from France, it’s reasonably priced and it is very tasty too: Pierre Sparr Dynastie Cremant D’Alsace Brut 2004 ($19.95 - #0952796) – maybe a tad on the sweet side with its sweet Mac apples – but yum-my … a perfect party pleaser and/or starter.

Father’s Day Gifts …

We’ll start with something to sweeten dad’s disposition, Smith Woodhouse Madelena Vintage Port 1996 ($47.95 – 0520106) – your dad deserves a 12 year old Port … though it still needs plenty of time it has plenty of what makes Port so delicious.

How ‘bout a nice Argentinean Cab for dad? Gran Lurton 2005 Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon ($20.95 - #0980334) – big minty nose with some eucalyptus in the mouth and big juicy black fruit. Does dad prefer Aussie? There’s the Craneford 2005 Basket Pressed Quartet ($26.95 - #0059964) a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, as well as 8% Shiraz. Big chocolate, eucalyptus on the nose, yummy in the tummy (or in the mouth at least) with a good tannin and acid mix, it’s a real good wine. Maybe dad’s tastes are more old school when it comes to wine. That can only mean one country, France: Chateau La Vieille Cure 2005 ($46.95 - #0947127) – a Bordeaux that’s big, black and ballsy … nowhere near ready yet – this one’s for those young dads that have plenty of time to wait for it to mature … maybe your dad needs time to do the same - they can age together.

Whites …

Ontario –
Chateau des Charmes 2006 Estate Riesling ($16.95 - #0277228)
Fielding Estate 2005 Fireside Series Chardonnay ($20.95 - #0069609)
Flat Rock Cellars 2007 Twisted ($16.95 - #0001578)

USA – California … It’s not so much the lemony, buttery, vanilla flavours, nor the mild acidity, it’s the lengthy butterscotch/caramel finish that makes this Liberty School 2005 Chardonnay ($18.95 - #0960120) so appealing.

Chile … Sauvignon Blanc is a hot grape these days; everybody seems to be making it. The Chileans have a way of mimicking everyone and yet manage to make wines their own. The Anakena Ona Sauvignon Blanc 2006 ($16.95 - #0059501) has a zesty minerality with some grassy-grapefruit notes and a huge long finish … what you’re expecting from a New Zealand Savvy B.

New Zealand … The country you’d expect to have a great Savvy in the release actually brings out something different: a 2007 Viognier from Coopers Creek ($19.95 - #0061416), a great summer wine if I’ve ever tasted one. Fruity, peachy, lemony with a certain bit of spiciness on the tongue and a medium length finish.

Portugal … Vinho Verde actually means, “green wine”, the name comes from the tinge of green these whites have (and I’m not just talking bottle colour). Aveleda Follies Vinho Verde Alvarinho 2006 ($15.95 - #0059048) is very palate pleasing wine - starting with a ripe fruity nose leading to melon, tropical fruit, apple and Bosc pear in the mouth, there’s also a touch of citrus acid on the finish.

Reds …

USA – California … I liked this wine before I knew the price. I liked the big rich blackfruit, spices, herbs, vanilla and good tannin bite … I thought it was the best American wine in the release – though $49.95 is a bit out of my ballpark: Whitehall Lane 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (#0606509).

Mexico … L.A. Cetto seems to be the only Mexican winery we get here in Ontario. I’ve enjoyed their Petite Sirah for years, both for its taste and price. The new 2005 Zinfandel ($10.95 - #0405605) is also highly enjoyable in both categories. Jammy, red fruit – a real fruit driven red for drink now enjoyment. Great for that backyard bbq with a mess of sticky, finger-lickin’ ribs – and priced to take a case home.

Argentina … Good fruit, easy drinking, strawberry, red fruit, a little bit of tannins, sweet mid-palate all for $12.95 – it’s not surprising to see this kind of value from Argentina. Finca El Retiro 2004 Bonarda (#0640896) is a rather strange grape variety, but when it’s this good who cares what they make it from. Also from Argentina comes this herbaly, minty, silky, blackberry dominated Malbec: Luigi Bosca Single Vineyard 2004 Malbec ($17.95 - #0074922).

Chile … Three Chilean wines for under $20 make the grade this time round. Two from Cono Sur: the black and jammy with a touch of chocolaty goodness, 2007 Vision Carmenere ($15.95 - #0059360); and the sour cherry, raspberry, strawberry and leathery finishing 2007 Vision Pinot Noir ($15.95 - #0689992). The regular Cono Sur Pinot Noir goes for about $10 – the Vision is worth the 5 extra bucks. For a few dollars more you’ll enjoy the Vina La Rosa Don Reca 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95 - #0063792) – juicy blackberries, ripe tannins and time to spare for ageing.

Australia … Here’s a value from Ozland – St. Hallett Shiraz/Grenache 2006 ($14.95 - #0024117) – smooth, easy drinking, a touch spicy – the palate screams plumminess – very nice.

France – Midi … The Clos des Fees Walden Cotes du Roussillon Villages 2006 ($16.95 - #0070334) has a woodsy, earthy, off-putting nose – but the palate more than makes up for it.

Greece … Not many Greek wines come through, and when they do the next question is, are they good? The Tsantali Estate Nemea Reserve 2003 ($14.95 - #0013524) is smooth with black and red fruit, silky tannins with value to spare.

Spain … Tomas Cuisine Vilosell 2005 ($20.95 - #0066928) is a blend of five different grapes that include Syrah, Grenacha and Tempranillo – fruit forward with plummy, strawberry and black raspberry – all with an excellent finish.

Rosé …

Ontario –
Flat Rock Cellars 2007 Pinot Noir Rosé ($14.95 - #0039974)
Henry of Pelham 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé ($14.95 - #0685610)
Malivoire 2007 Ladybug Rosé ($16.00 - #0559088)
Strewn 2007 Cabernet Rosé ($12.95 - #0467753)

What’s for Dessert?

Pillitteri i Baci Vidal Icewine ($28.95 - #0071779 – 375ml)

Port / Sherry … one of each this time out: Gonzalez Byass Nutty Solera Oloroso ($11.95 - #0035204) great value with marmalade toasted almonds, raisins, spices and other toasted nuts on the nose and palate. Quinta Santa-Eufemia Fine Ruby Port ($14.95 - #0070201), nice cherry, sweet and beautiful … a little tannin makes this one have a touch of bite.

Take a Chance on Me … Talk about countries rarely seen at the LCBO – Slovenia brings us Jeruzalem Ormoz Pinot Gris 2006 ($13.95 - #0073247). Some sweet pineapple core with a touch of peach and good acidity. Well priced and something you might want to whip out on a hot summer day.

Grape Guy’s Top 3 …
Pierre Sparr Dynastie Cremant D’Alsace Brut 2004 (France) - $19.95
L.A. Cetto 2005 Zinfandel (Mexico) - $10.95
Finca El Retiro 2004 Bonarda (Argentina) - $12.95

Happy Shopping.