Sunday, April 19, 2009

Saturday May 23, 2009 - Vintages Release

Another double-header from the LCBO’s Vintages department – but this time they get a little lazy and focus on their “Essentials” list … these are wines that are in Vintages all the time. For a complete rundown of what’s good in the “Essentials” department check out my review of the wines from November. Unfortunately, not all the good ones are in this focus – something tells me these are the ones that need an extra push. The other focus is New Zealand Reds – there are 9 in this release … and I think only 2 are worth getting.

As usual, Ontario reviews can be found linked to my website ( - the rest can be found right here – starting with the focus: New Zealand Reds … for the Essentials, check out my previous report from the fall list of what to get.

I have gone to a stars rating system which appears at the end of each review; here’s how those stars break down:
5 = Outstanding … 4.5 = Excellent … 4 = Very Good … 3.5 = Good … 3 = Average
I’m always looking for good values and I’m not afraid to give or take away a half mark for it – I’ll let you know when I’ve done so.

New Zealand Reds …
There are only two in this category that are truly worth getting, and they are:
Carrick 2006 Pinot Noir ($39.95 - #0919837) – a little pricey but it had all the things I was looking for in Pinot. The nose delivers a big hit of cherry bowl: black, red and sour … the palate was nice and juicy, yet with good structure and drying tannins along with the promise of that cherry fruit from the nose, which definitely comes out in the mouth. The finish is sour and black cherry (****). The other is not something you often see from New Zealand, Syrah: Elephant Hill 2008 Syrah ($23.95 - #0121673) – an interesting wine that brings smoke, white pepper and raspberry to the glass – nice and delicate (*** ½).

Ontario …
Sparkling … Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Brut ($29.95 - #0616441)
White … Megalomaniac 2007 Narcissist Riesling ($17.95 - #0067587)

Argentina – Red …
Alta Vista 2006 Grande Reserve Terroir Selection Malbec ($24.95 - #0686626) – this is a stunning wine. Blackberry and other supple black fruit, sweet cherry, vanilla, some spice, licorice whips, lots of elegance and finesse. A delicious wine that has some longevity for your cellar. (*****)

Australia – Red …
Hewitson Miss Harry 2006 ($19.95 - #0107870) – a blend of 3 grapes that’s spicy and peppery with lightly extracted red fruits – more delicate than expected. (****)
Two Hands 2007 Angels Share Shiraz ($27.95 - #0009480) – a real fruit bomb big and jammy, slightly spicy and delicious with chocolate, black fruit and white pepper, big 15.5% alcohol with little sign of heat … goes down too easy, so watch out. (**** ½)
Two Hands 2007 Gnarly Dudes Shiraz ($27.95 - #0660043) – another fruit bomb, but this time with a little less alcohol (14.8%). Smoother and simpler than above: chocolate, big black fruit, raspberry puree and good tannins. (****)

Australia – White …
Evans & Tate 2006 Chardonnay ($19.95 - #0677765) – smells of melon and lemon, the taste of citrus, lemon/lime, is very crisp with hardly noticeable oaking – there does seem to be some alcohol heat here though. (****)

Canada – White …
(British Columbia)
Quail’s Gate 2006 Chardonnay ($19.95 - #0377770) – a nose of butter, peach and vanilla-caramel; the taste is pretty with a little floral and a bit of perfumyness, there’s also butter, almond and good fruit flavours – overall a very pleasant experience. (****½)

Canada – Fruit Wine …
Clos Saint-Denis 2007 Bourg Saint-Denis Cider ($15.95 - #0089490) – baked mac apple with a hint of cinnamon – quite nice, if not simple. This is good, but there are better eing made in Quebec, we’ll call this a primer. (***½)

Chile - Red …
William Cole 2005 Columbine Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($15.95 - #0093856) – the nose is full of coffee grounds, chocolate and mint notes; the palate is earthy with plenty of dark fruit. (****)

Chile – White …
Concha Y Toro 2007 Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay ($17.95 - #0342857) – lovely fruit nose; in the mouth it’s juicy yet crisp with citrus, vanilla and good acidity on the tongue. (****)

France – Red …
Chateau Destieux 2005 ($69.00 - #0503011) – not your usual elegance from Bordeaux here: minty, tarry and blackberry on the nose with a touch of cedar; juicy palate that’s got tons of holdability. (**** ½)
Chateau Rauzan-Gassies 2005 ($73.00 - #0505693) – big blackberries and powerful tannins, very drying tannins, another Bordelais cellar dweller that’s atypical. (****)
Clos Les Lunelles 2005 ($69.00 - #0501718) – chocolate and blackberry, big wood tannins, black cherry, pencil lead, one to hold-hold-hold, and be ready for dark as pitch colour. (**** ½)
Domaine Grand Veneur Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2006 ($47.95 - #0989061) – minty / eucalyptus on the nose; juicy in the mouth with beautiful sweet blackberries, great finish; very new world in style but shows French elegance. (**** ½)

France – Rosé …
Perrin Reserve Rosé 2008 ($15.95 - #0719062) – serious rosé for serious rosé fans. Nice red berry nose with dry a strawberry bubblegum mouth – don’t let that description fool you into thinking sweet it’s a dry wine with heavy duty acidity and a raspberry finish. (****)

France – White …
Chateau Nairac 2005 ($49.00 - #0500777) – sweet vanilla chai tea on the nose; the palate develops a touch of spice, peach, lanolin and baked apples and pears – tasty and great to smell. (****)

Italy - Red …
Monte Zovo 2006 Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso ($19.95 - #0023523) – here’s a beauty of a Ripasso, juicy blackberries, black cherry, plum, chocolate, nice tannins and fairly big alcohol (14.5%); priced for a multi-buy, and ageable for at least 5-years. (*****)

Italy – White …
(Alto Adige)
Cantina Tramin Gewurztraminer 2007 ($19.95 - #0117028) – a fun fruity Gewurzt from Italy that offers summertime up in the glass. The nose is light and spicy, the palate is rosy and spicy, the finish has a great spicy cinnamon quality. You see a pattern here? (**** ½)
Duca di Castelmonte Tripudium Bianco 2007 ($18.95 - #0117531) – lemony, citrus and crisp; touch of melon in the mouth and a lime-citrus finish. (*** ½)

New Zealand – White …
Spy Valley 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($14.95 - #0686675) – big tropical fruit nose with gooseberry, grapefruit on the tongue – this is a four star wine but with the excellent price it offers great affordable value for those who like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – so I’ll slip it a half mark for that. (**** ½)

South Africa – Red …
Linton Park 2004 Shiraz ($15.95 - #0910844) – nice fruit without the typical South African smell, in fact it’s full of fruit with a little pepper and oak. Good price for this wine. (*** ½)

Spain – Red …
Baron de Ley Reserva 2004 ($21.95 - #0958868) – nice spice and herbs, blackberry and pencil lead and there’s even some pleasant leather notes. (****)

United States – Red …
Clos Lachance Estate 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($44.95 - #0104703) – I’m not knocking this wine in any way, it has juicy fruit, blackberries and cherries, great easy drinking style, but it is fairly standard fare; so I feel I have to ding it half a star for the price. (*** ½)
Cuvaison 2006 Pinot Noir ($42.95 - #0714519) – this is what Cali-Pinot is all about, right down to the price; juicy sweet cherries, strawberries and raspberries, nice acidity that cleanses the palate. (****)
Liberty School 2005 Syrah ($17.95 - #0942383) – now this is a good value Syrah from the US of A, nice smooth, rich fruited wine with a touch of white pepper, and juicy black fruit, just a light tap of tannins on the tongue. (****)
Ridgeline 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($39.95 - #0054072) - lots of red berries (strawberry / raspberry), just a lovely taste treat. Juicy and elegant Cab with some spice, cinnamon, vanilla and herbs. (**** ½)
Next 2006 Pinot Noir ($29.95 - #0070599) – the nose is violets and cherry; palate has a nice mineral note with sour cherry, a bit woodsy and earthy with a strawberry finish. (**** ½)

Grape Guy Top 3 … what I’ll be lining up for on May 23, 2009:
Monte Zovo 2006 Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso ($19.95 - #0023523) – Italy
Alta Vista 2006 Grande Reserve Terroir Selection Malbec ($24.95 - #0686626) - Argentina
Spy Valley 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($14.95 - #0686675) – New Zealand

Happy Shopping.

Saturday May 2, 2009 - Vintages Release

This time out, it’s the annual California parade at Vintages, which means plenty of whites and reds that we all seem to love – we buy enough of them so making that general statement isn’t out of line. There is also a Tuscan (Italy) release, all of them reds, and many of them very good.

Ontario reviews can be found on my website ( - the rest can be found right here – starting with the focuses: California and Tuscany; then the rest of the world appears in alphabetical order.

You’ll notice I have gone to a stars rating system at the end of each review; here’s how those stars break down:
5 = Outstanding … 4.5 = Excellent … 4 = Very Good … 3.5 = Good … 3 = Average
I’m always looking for good values and I’m not afraid to give or take away a half mark for it – I’ll let you know when I’ve done so.

California …
There are 6 California whites as part of this release, and all of them Chardonnay, unfortunately none of them are very impressive. If you like California Chardonnay then you can’t go wrong with any of them, but I did not feel any stood out amongst the crowd. So let’s move on to the reds, there’s gotta be something good there, right? In fact there are 4 wines worth your hard earned dollars. I’ll start with one of my perennial favourites the Artezin 2006 Zinfandel ($26.95 - #0004887), there’s a lot of typicity here for Zin fans, this edition of this wine is better than the 05 and rival the 04 – good acidity, plums, lots of black fruit, vanilla, cherries and cola – quite concentrated and full (****½). Another Zinfandel of note is the Kiara 2006 Private Reserve Zinfandel ($22.95 - #0094250) this one is far from typical, but still very nice, plums, vanilla, cola, hints of blackberry with some minerality along with a spicy finish – this wine shows a lot of finesse (****). Next up, the Paul Hobbs 2005 CrossBarn Cabernet Sauvignon ($69.95 - #0118695), big peppery, blackberry smells with silky tannins on the tongue and good acidity, a tad pricey but very nice (****). Finally, there’s Sanctuary’s 2004 Usibelli Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($34.95 - #0095372) – nice fruit, laced with herbs and spice, lots of blackberry and good tannins (****). There is one more Californian wine, that’s not part of the official release, but I thought I would put it here anyway because I think it’s the best of the bunch: Eberle Winery 2005 Steinbeck Vineyard Syrah ($28.95 - #0106146), beautiful nose, great palate – somewhere between the peppery-bacony meat smell of Syrah and the jammy fruity Shiraz … nice balancing act between the two styles (****½).

Tuscany …
Tuscany is always an exciting region to buy wine from, their use of both indigenous and international grapes, sometimes together, always makes for interesting wines with character and loads of flavour. There are five here that I would like to bring your attention to. Starting with the Barone Ricasoli Rocca Guicciarda Chianti Classico Riserva 2005 ($24.95 - #0943613) with all its sweet red fruit on the palate, nice vanilla oak, that is initially on the nose, follows through in the mouth with a very good finish (****). Fassati Pasiteo Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2005 ($24.95 - #0642009) has got nice herbs and black fruit on the nose, nice acidity and a good balance of fruit and herbs on the palate (****). Fattoria di Magliano Heba Morellino de Scansano 2006 ($27.95 - #0123596) has a rich blend of red and black cherries, spices, cinnamon and good mix of tannins and acidity (****). So far I have told you about the 4-star wines but the next two are the real stars of the Tuscany feature … both are pricey, but offer up fantastic wines for the price. Leonardo Da Vinci Brunello di Montalcino 2004 ($59.95 - #0097592), a very pretty nose with good fruit in the mouth and licorice and leather go along for the ride – great aging potential (****½). Another pricey yet very nice wine is the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Montesodi Chianti Rufina Riserva 2005 ($59.95 - #0365536), deep red colour, smells of blackberry, bitter sweet chocolate and cherry, firm drying tannins and toasted flavours on the tongue … this one needs lots of time and its going to be fantastic, it’s already wonderful now (****½).

Ontario – Whites …
Southbrook 2006 Triomphe Chardonnay ($21.95 - #0117572) – (***½)

Argentina – White …
Henry Lagarde 2007 Chardonnay Reserve ($17.95 - #0098087) – sweet fruit, caramel, lemon, apple, creamy smooth with a nice touch of acidity on the finish. (****)

Australia – Red …
Jim Jim (The Down-Underdog) 2007 Shiraz ($14.95 - #0682005) – looking for a value Shiraz from Oz to drink through the summer, then this is your wine, priced to buy by the case. Nothing extraordinary or earth shattering here, it’s exactly what you’d expect from Shiraz, pepper, red fruit and berries – a very nice wine at a very nice price, half a mark extra for value here. (****)
The Colonial Estate 2006 Envoy Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre ($29.95 - #0047563) – nice fruit: spice, blackberry, raspberry and even a touch of mineral in the mouth. (****)

Chile - Red …
Cono Sur 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere ($13.95 - #0056853) – here’s a great bargain red for your collection or even your evening BBQ. Minty goodness is the main smell, followed in the mouth by black fruit, cherry, a bit of bramble, good tannins and great mouthfeel, yum – no meark for value, but it deserves one. (****1/2)

France – Red …
Domaine du Penjois Julienas 2006 ($18.95 - #0112532) – think not Nouveau my friends, think red fruit: strawberry and raspberry richness, think subtle tannins, think great finish, a delicious wine at an equally delicious price. (*****)
Domaine Debray Bourgogne Hautes Cotes-de-Beaune ($21.95 - #0112219) – this one shows restrained fruit, sour cherry, cranberry, real elegance for not too much dough – look hard enough and you’ll also find some earthy-mineral notes. (****)
Perrin & Fils La Gille Gigondas 2006 ($29.95 - #0906073) – cedary, cinnamon, and herbs fill the nose; the palate is blackberry, vanilla, cedar and very smooth. (****)

France – Rosé …
Chateau Val Joanis Tradition 2008 Syrah Rosé ($15.95 - #0707281) – a light orange colour, touch of sweet fruit in the mouth though it is dry. A vanilla-caramel-strawberry concoction without being a sickeningly sweet, that this ends dry is the real surprise. (****)
Domaine Corne-Loup Rosé Tavel 2008 ($16.95 - #0071209) – this is a seriously dry rosé, served blind it could be mistaken for a white; but with the sense of sight you’ll pick up sour cherry, cranberry and big citrus acidity. (****½)

France – Sparkling …
Dehu Pere & Fils Grande Reserve Brut Champagne ($59.95 - #0095109) – crisp lemony nose and a touch yeasty, apple and pear are the main fruits; very flavourful. (****½)

France – White …
Chateau Roquetaillade La Grange 2007 ($14.95 - #0240374) – nice mineral note, grassy, floral with a nice bit of grapefruit – quite appealing. (****)
Domaine Bernard Defaix Cote de Lechet Reserve Chablis 1er Cru 2006 ($36.95 - #0017541) – here’s a very tasty wine with lemon, apple and mineral; good fruit and full mouth feel. (****1/2)
Domaine des Aubuisieres Cuvee de Silex Vouvray 2008 ($17.95 - #0057042) – bosc pear and sweet lemon drop on the nose; there’s a nice apple note with a touch of mineral on the smooth palate. (****)

Italy - Red …
Neirano Bonimu Nebbiolo Langhe 2006 ($18.95 - #0101329) – not sure about the Nebbiolo grape? This is the grape of Barolo – those long aging, pricey wines … Here’s a perfect chance to try a juicy, friendly version loaded with the Neb’s signature herbs and spice, without paying Barolo prices. (****)
Marchesi Fumanelli Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2004 ($59.95 - #0105155) – this has a big Port-like nose of cherries and chocolate, great colour and a lovely bit of herbs on the finish. (****½)
Zenato Cormi Merlot/Corvina 2006 ($19.95 - #0108282) – there’s ‘umph’ in this wine. Corvina is usually found in the Valpoicella blend, this is your opportunity to see how it plays with others; nice red and black fruit with a touch of leather and spice, supple and slightly tannic but fully enjoyable. (****)

Italy – Sparkling …
Santero Brachetto D’Acqui ($18.95 - #0119495) – this is a sweet red fizz that’s loaded with roses and strawberry … a perfect wine for Valentine’s Day – too bad we’re heading into May, guess we’ll have to settle for the patio this summer. (****)

New Zealand – Rosé …
Sileni Cellar Selection 2008 Cabernet Rosé ($16.95 - #0599951) – has a cherry-tobacco note with some raspberry and strawberry mixed in, elegant and lovely with a nice cherry finish. (****½)

New Zealand – White …
Te Awa Left Field 2007 Chardonnay ($16.95 - #0095976) – fresh fruit, lively lemon, crisp granny Smith, nice lemon finish – lovely and well worth the price. (****½)

Spain – Red …
Manga Del Brujo 2006 ($17.95 - #0015073) – this is a spectacular wine, so much going on for so little dough. Plum, black and red fruit, juicy, luscious, excellent mouth feel, nice spice, there’s even some bittersweet chocolate and cherry on the finish. (*****)

Spain – Rosé …
Vina Aljibes 2008 Syrah Rosé ($13.95 - #0122333) – a sweet candy floss and bubble gum rosé, the electric pink colour is a lot of fun and there’s lots of berries in the mix; this wine should find a place on your patio table this summer. (***½)

Grape Guy Top 3 … what I’ll be lining up for on May 2, 2009:
Manga Del Brujo 2006 ($17.95 - #0015073) - Spain
Domaine du Penjois Julienas 2006 ($18.95 - #0112532) - France
Cono Sur 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere ($13.95 - #0056853) – Chile

Happy Shopping.