Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Nouveaus - Thursday November 20, 2008

Yes boys and girls, it is that time of year again - the time when the French celebrate the season and bring us the first fermented juice of the crop. This year the LCBO is bringing in 5 Beaujolais Nouveaus and 3 other nouveau-style wines, two from Italy and one from the Languedoc region of France. I was at the LCBO 2 hours ago (Tuesday November 18, 2008 - 2:00pm) tasting these wines and the first thing I will say about them is that they were warm, very warm, like sitting on the heater type warm ... Beaujolais is meant to be served chilled - forget what you heard about red wines being servered at room temperature, when it comes to Beaujolais serve them chilled. Okay, so I got that off my chest, now on to the reviews - the following is my top 3 selection from this year's crop ... I was looking for value as well and drinkability.

Albert Bichot 2008 Beaujolais Nouveau ($13.45 - #112409) - of the 5 Beaujolais this was most certainly the best and most drinkable. The nose and taste are very similar, containing an element of candied cherries and red licorice as well as some good acidity. Pricier than some, less pricier than others, but if you're looking for that fresh sweet fruit this one's got it.

Negrar Novello del Veneto 2008 ($9.95 - #899955) - from the Veneto region of Italy where they make Valpolicella, so are we to assume that this is made from the Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella grapes? This one is smooth with good cherry/raspberry flavours and there is a hint of red licorice on this one too ... good candied fruit. Good price.

Jean Jean 2008 Syrah Primeur ($9.95 - #899948) - the first thing you'll notice is the electric neon pink colour of this wine, the bubblegum nuances from my first taste of this wine a week ago have subsided, but there is still plenty of raspberry and cherry on the nose and a pleasant sweetness on the mid-palate. The finish is most definitely raspberry.

Drink these wines now and over the next few months.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Saturday November 22, 2008 - Vintages Release

The holidays must be around the corner, because the LCBO is parading out their “Premium Products” – those products that you’ll want to buy for folks as gifts … folks you really, really like because with premium products come premium prices … below is a list of those that I liked and seem worth the money.

From there we’ll move on to my recommendations from the rest of the world. As usual full Ontario reviews are linked back to my website (www.ontariowinereview.com), they appear first – then the rest of the world is alphabetized.

Premium Products …
I’ll start with a collection of Taylor Fladgate 2005 Vintage Ports ($82.95 - #0088195) – these two 375ml bottles come from different estates (Vargellas and Feita) and are incredibly juicy and completely different … Vargellas is very smooth and fruit driven, while Feita is more spice driven. If you like Port these are worth your money to try and buy. It’s nice to see a homegrown product amongst the premiums, Cave Spring 2006 CSV Riesling ($29.95 - #0566026). Looking for a fine Burgundian Chardonnay? This is it: Bouchard Pere & Fils 2006 Meaursault Les Clous ($52.95 - #0661322), great fruit, great wood, nice vanilla and it’s got some heft and power for longevity.

Now It’s time to look at the premium reds, and there are quite a bit more of these, so stay with me. From California, home of many cult-wineries, comes Duckhorn 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($78.95 - #0024190), big blackberry, cassis and licorice – right now it’s pretty tannic but the potential for juiciness in later life is there. Argentina is making some great wines and this Catena Alta 2005 Malbec ($60.95 - #0982355) is loaded with violets and blackberry on the nose, lots of herbs and ripe tannins in the mouth. Also from Argentina comes this Masi (yes the Italian Masi) Tunpungato Corbec Covina/Malbec Appassimento 2006 ($29.95 - #0079095), this wine is so tasty it should be illegal. Blackberries and plums, cherries and licorice, allspice, cinnamon, cedar with firm tannins and an ageing potential of 5-plus years. Australia is no stranger to premium wines, the Hazyblur 2005 Shiraz ($77.95 - # 0076141) has enough alcohol to make your night a hazy blur, but it’s also loaded with spices, plum, cherry, blueberry and chocolate while it ends with a nice spicy finish.

France is where you expect these high-priced premiums to come from, and Burgundy especially. Domaine de la Vougeraie 2005 Gevrey-Chambertin La Justice ($61.95 - #0088740) is an old world wine in a new world style. Soft fruit, raspberry, cherry, cranberry with silkier than expected tannins. Domaine de la Vougeraie 2005 Gevrey-Chambertin Les Evovelles ($63.95 - #0088732) has violets on the nose, and a sour cherry-cranberry cocktail in the mouth there’s also a silky smooth roundness to it. And Domaine Taupenot-Merme 2005 Gevrey-Chambertin ($66.95 – #0087023) has a nice cherry and cedar nose with big tannins – there’s also a complexity here that is quite inviting: spice, herbs sour cherry and woody tannins. All three of these wines are holders and keepers. Sticking with the old world we go into Italy for another four wines: Cordero di Montezemolo 2004 Barolo Manfalleletto ($51.95 - #0707364) with good fruit and mouthfeel – nice spices and herbs with plenty of acidity. Isole E Olena 2004 Cepparello ($78.95 - #025650) a wonderful Sangiovese with sweet fruit of cherry and blueberry, chocolate covered cherries in liqueur and a nice balance of alcohol-tannins and acidity. Brigaldara 2005 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico ($50.95 - #0716050) big plum, chocolate and cherry notes, big 16% alcohol that doesn’t overpower and an ageing potential that makes it seem it would last forever. Masi 2005 Serego Aligheri Valpolicella Dell’Anniversario 650 ($31.95 - #0661306) has sweet cherry and blackfruit with a bittersweet chocolate finish. Finishing off the old world premiums with two from Spain, the Alion 2004 ($80.95 - #0707166) with some dried cherry and cranberry along with a touch of chocolate. Finally, Descendientes de J. Palacios Petalos 2006 ($25.95 - #0675207), an economical premium, nice fruit and floral notes, good flavours of both red and black fruit along with a spicy finish that zaps the tongue.

That wraps up my look at the wine spotlight for this release, if you have any money left, here we go with the rest of the world:

Ontario … Red …
Mike Weir 2006 Pinot Noir ($22.20 - #0000075)
Stratus 2005 Red ($44.00 - #0085092)
Wildass 2005 Red ($19.00 - #0086363)

Ontario … White …
Flat Rock Cellars 2007 Nadja Vineyard Riesling ($19.95 - #0578625)
Stratus 2005 White ($44.00 - #0660704)
Wildass 2005 White ($19.00 - #0085100)

Australia … Red …
Virgana Wines 2004 Shiraz ($29.95 - #0072991) – pepper and spice, juicy black fruits with interesting and appealing flavours. Good balance.

Chile … White …
Montes Alpha 2006 Chardonnay ($21.95 - #0390203) – vanilla, butterscotch, apple, white tree fruit with a nice Bosc pear in light syrup finish.

France … Red …
(Bordeaux) – Many of the Bordeaux reds were not even close to being ready. Great potential for the future though, especially the 2005’s (they were all 2005).

(Beaujolais) – Dame de Briante Brouilly 2006 ($19.95 - #0087429) – sweet cherry and raspberry, a bit of tannin keeps this one dry in the mouth and a little staying power, 2-3 years.

(Rhone) – Patrick Lesec Selections Chateauneuf-du-Pape Pierres Dorees 2005 ($46.95 - #0079749) – this is a tasty wine with lots going for it: blackberry, black cherry, licorice, all-spice and a touch earthy on the finish.
(Rhone) – Vignerons D’Estezargues la Granacha Signargues 2006 ($21.95 - #0082560) – great value with sweet fruit, most notable plum along with cedar and chocolate notes.

France … White …
(Alsace) – Louis Sipp 2005 Pinot Gris ($19.95 - #0731471) – nice pear, pineapple, peach and tropical nuances – sweetish in the mouth with a creamy texture.
(Alsace) – Rene Mure 2006 Gewurztraminer ($16.95 - #0061218) – pretty rose petal nose, oily and flowery in the mouth, very tasty with a medium length finish, there’s also a touch of peach.

Germany … White …
Lingenfelder 2007 Riesling Kabinett ($18.95 - #0087593) – lovely palate with a touch of sweetness, your typical appealing German Riesling nose.

Italy … Red …
(Tuscany) – Campomaggio 2004 Chianti Classico ($21.95 - #0085027) – cherry and raspberry, a little dirty strawberry and cedar … on the palate you can pick up some dried fruit too.
(Tuscany) – La Colombina 2003 Brunello di Montalcino ($61.95 - #0085506) – dried cranberry and cherry, cedar and cinnamon, good tannin structure, nice acidity.
(Tuscany) – La Vite Lucente 2005 ($39.95 - #0747030) – licorice, cedar and blackberry … tannins are big and thick.
(Veneto) – Torre del Falasco 2006 Valpolicella Ripasso ($18.95 - #064242) – ripe cherries with chocolate, plum and firm yet approachable tannins.

Italy … Sparkling …
Foss Marai Prosecco Extra Dry 2007 ($21.95 - #0729392) – dry and crisp with a sweet apple beginning and Granny Smith finish – comes in a pretty blue bottle.

Italy … White …
(Veneto) – Anselmi Capitel Croce 2005 ($25.95 - #0966655) – I had no idea the Italians were such big Bad Bad Leroy Brown fans, but seriously, this wine is all tropical fruit with a hint of pear – rich, thick and full in the mouth.

Spain … Red …
Juan Gil 2006 Monastrell ($16.95 - #0013656) – one of my favourite Spanish producers comes out with this bargain. Cherry, plum, chocolate, along with rum and cola notes – there almost seems to be a Zin-like flavour to this wine and there’s also a raspberry finish.
Montecastro Llanahermosa 2005 ($43.95 - #0015016) – big black jammy fruit with a hint of floral on the nose.

USA … Red …
(California) – Van Ruiten 2006 Old Vines Zinfandel ($18.95 - #0058685) – typical but tasty Zin, vanilla, cherry, sweet fruit, plum, rum and lots of yum. This is a Zin lovers Zin.

USA … White …
(California) – Simi 2006 Chardonnay ($23.95 - #0673806) – more fruit than expected on the nose, more wood than expect on the palate … a little catch-22 of a wine here: do you like ti for the fruit or do you like it for the wood?

Ports and Sherries …
Fonseca 2003 Late Bottled Vintage Port ($22.95 - #0087551) – smooth cherries, licorice and spice, bittersweet chocolate, plum, black and red fruits, ripe tannins that will smooth when opened for a week or more … this is the complete Late-Bottled package at a decent price for what you get.

Take a Chance on Me …
You have got to try this if you like cherries: Cherry Marnier Liqueur ($47.95 - #0047894). Loaded with cherry and chocolate taste with hints of orange and maple syrup. Not exactly cheap, but something that should win you lots of friends over the holidays.

Grape Guy Top 3 … what I’ll be lining up for on November 22, 2008:
Masi Tunpungato Corbec Covina/Malbec Appassimento 2006 ($29.95 - #0079095) - Argentina
Van Ruiten 2006 Old Vines Zinfandel ($18.95 - #0058685) – USA, California
Juan Gil 2006 Monastrell ($16.95 - #0013656) – Spain

Happy Shopping.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vintages Essential Collection - Fall 2008

Once a year wine writers get a chance to wander into the LCBO tasting lab and check out the latest available wines that are part of the Essentials Collection. “Essentials” are wines/spirits/etc. that are available all year round through Vintages; the LCBO deems these wines as "fundamental, indispensable - something you can count on." Wines like Toasted Head Chardonnay, Rodney Strong Pinot Noir, Taylor Fladgate 20-year-old Tawny and Henry of Pelham Riesling Icewine. Here's a list of some of the best wines available from the program.

To me the essentials aren't just a always there, they represent good everyday value that you can rely on, let’s call it “bang-for-the-buck” – all my wines in my ‘ best value’ categories offer just that.

Best Values – Sweet …

Starting with the sweet category, I’d bypass most of the ones in the catalogue and jump right to the poor man's Icewine: Cave Spring 2006 Indian Summer Riesling ($24.95 – 415901 - 375 ml) all the flavors and smells of Icewine with half the sugar and, more importantly, half the price.

Best Value – Whites …

There are four whites in the best value category, starting with the Henry of Pelham 2007 Sauvignon Blanc ($14.95 – 430546); it offers up refreshment in an easy drinking style for under $15.00 and it’s from right here in Ontario. California's Toasted Head Chardonnay ($17.95 – 594341) is what you'd expect from a Chardonnay from the oak loving state: butter, vanilla and caramel - if this is what you like in your Chard that is just what you get. Then there are two bargains from New Zealand Cooper's Creek 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($17.95 - 957407), this has everything you'd want in a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: grassy, grapefruit and gooseberry along with that citrusy /big acid finish; it's about a buck lower than the other New Zealand Savvy B’s on offer, and I would say the best of the lot. Also from the Kiwi's is the Oyster Bay 2007 Chardonnay ($18.95 – 326728); Oyster Bay made a name from themselves with their Sauvignon Blancs, but I think it's their Chardonnay that rises above the fray these days – full in the mouth, very tropical with melon, peach and hint of spice and vanilla ...very appealing with a restrained use of wood.

Best Value – Reds ...

Hands down, this category is ruled by the Cline 2007 Syrah ($13.95 – 733758), though it was an even better deal a few months ago when it was a buck cheaper. Cherry, herbs, pepper and blackberries on the nose and taste ... totally enjoyable and well under $15.00 - this one will never embarrass you if you show up to a party with it under your arm. Other good values include the Duque De Viseu Red 2004 ($13.95 – 546309) from Spain; it’s plumy, cherry, and cocoa with nice wood nuances. Tannins are firm, so don't be afraid to lie this one down for a few years ... or chill it if serving it now. There are also two from Chile that offer up good bang-for-a-buck-more: the Miguel Torres Santa Digna 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($14.95 – 177451) with cherry, mint and juicy blackberries … nice tannins that go well with a juicy steak; and Perez Cruz 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($14.95 – 694208) adds more alcohol (14.5%), some herds and a smokiness to the Digna profile above. For lovers of California reds the Bonterra 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95 - #342428) has really raised it’s quality level over the years – I was never a big fan of this organic wine, but this year is has great black fruit like cassis, blackberries and black cherries and is incredibly juicy in the mouth. Finally, those looking for robust, rich reds will like the Tedeschi Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2004 ($44.95 – 433417), sweet cherries, plum, chocolate and lots and lots of spice ... for an Amarone this is a good price - trust me.

Other Recommendable Essentials …

Taylor Fladgate 10-year-old Tawny Port ($34.95 – 121749) - Portugal
Taylor Fladgate 20-year-old Tawny Port ($68.95 – 149047) - Portugal
Graham's 10-year-old Tawny Port ($27.95 - 206508) - Portugal
Henry of Pelham 2006 Riesling Icewine ($54.95 – 430561 – 375ml) - Ontario
Inniskillin 2006 Vidal Icewine ($64.95 – 551085 – 375ml) - Ontario
Kittling Ridge 2005 Vidal Icewine ($43.95 – 563247 – 375ml) - Ontario
Stratus 2007 Icewine Red ($39.95 – 56689 – 200ml) - Ontario

Cave Spring 2006 Estate Riesling ($18.25 – 286377) - Ontario
Mission Hill 2006 Chardonnay Reserve ($21.95 – 545004) - British Columbia
Henri Bourgeois 2007 Sancerre Les Baronnes ($24.95 – 542548) - France
Conundrum 2007 ($26.95 – 694653) - California

Red :
Flat Rock 2007 Pinot Noir ($19.95 – 1545) - Ontario
Rosenblum 2006 Zinfandel ($17.95 – 284653) - California
D’Arenberg D’Arry Original ($19.95 – 942904) - Australia
Kilikanoon “Killerman’s Run” Shiraz ($19.95 – 925453) - Australia
Chanson Pere & Fils 2006 Le Bourgogne Pinot Noir ($19.95 – 50575) - France
Perrin & Fils Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Sinards ($38.95 – 926626) - France
Rocca Della Macie 2006 Chianti Classico ($18.95 – 741769) – Italy
Zenato 2006 Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa ($24.95 – 479766) – Italy
Esporao 2005 Reserve Red ($24.95 – 606590) - Spain
Torres Gran Coronas 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva ($18.95 – 386483) - Spain

Sparkling / Champagne:
Dom Perignon 2000 ($219.95 – 280461) - France
Veuve Clicquot Champagne Vintage 2002 ($92.95 – 508614) - France