Thursday, April 28, 2011

Vintages April 30 release - First Families of Australian Wines combined with Southern Italy

The big feature in this release focuses on The First Families of Australian wines. My Pick of the release. 2008 Jim Barry 'The Lodge Hill' Shiraz - $23.95 Always very good, olive tapenade, meat, nori, black cherries, good mouth feel. Nice with anything grilled or on its own.
Any of the following wines will be very good too:
2008 Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon - $29.95 :  Big cab from Western Australia. Expect  subtlety smokiness and tobacco notes -  more old world in style than your typical Oz cabs.
2006 Tahbilk Nagambie Lakes Shiraz - $19.95 : A four point swing between scores in the WS and RP, but worst case, its a really good wine at the price. Best case? A screaming bargain!
2008 Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon - $17.95 – Quality for the price.
2008 Jim Barry 'The Cover Drive' Cabernet Sauvignon - $23.95 : Always really good. Past bottles have needed some time to settle in before being opened. Not long mind you but a few months in a dark quiet place rounded them out nicely.
2008 Tyrrell's Heathcote Rufus Stone Shiraz - $19.95 : Annually a well priced ready to drink and easy drinking big wine.
2008 Yalumba Patchwork  Shiraz - $21.95 : Halliday gives it 93, take it as a 90.
2008 Firriato Etna Rosso - $16.95 : A Sicilian red that is not Nero D’Avola. Well priced and something a little different from the volcanic soils of Mount Etna.
2008 Terredora Aglianico - $14.95 : Aglianico can be terrific – big, juicy,  mouth filling licorice-y scents and flavours.
2006 Leone de Castris Riserva Salice Salentino - $16.95 : 50th Anniversary of this should be super.
 The rest
ROCCA DI CASTAGNOLI POGGIO A’FRATI CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2006 – A terrific vintage, right in its drinking window $29.95
2008 Clos de los Siete - $21.95 : Always well scored, this rerelease of a Bordeaux blend from Argentina is easing toward the end of its first decade. As the vines and fruit mature the wine becomes less of a fruit bomb and more of sophisticated potable to accompany more than just grilled meats. Perhaps a bit more tannic than earlier vintages, it’ll be interesting to compare this one to the Norton Privada in the Mid May release. The Privada merited a recent special note by the way.
Rustenberg John X Merriman 2007 $27.95. – Great producer and a great region. If you liked the Chocolate Block, this’ll be more of the same. Perhaps more Bordeaux in style
1995 Don Jacopo Gran Reserva – Yes, 1995! And Yes, $27.95.
2006 Casa Gualda Plus Ultra - $13.95 : A Big powerful wine for such a little price.

Heads up for the May 14th release! It has some terrific wines.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Norton Privada 2007 - A heads up tasting note

Norton Privada 2007 – This wine is in the May 14th Vintages release. This truly is a tale of two wines. The 2007 Norton Privada received 91 points from the Wine Spectator. BP has had 4 bottles of this wine in the last 6 months and it has received 92, 72 (and 84) and 80 and 78 points from me. Two versions were procured from the BCLDB, and two from the SAQ. The first bottle was what drove me to buy a quartet from the SAQ. It was spectacular.

Eyes closed, this first bottle could have been mistaken for a $60 Napa Meritage. It displayed amazing fruit, tannins, currants, blackberry, cherry, licorice, a bit of smoke, all playing in concert together on both the nose and palate. A wonderful wine – popped and poured - the first glass had it in my Top 50 wines of the year last year. I thoroughly enjoyed the bottle last November. There’s my 92 pointer.

Now on to the SAQ version purchased during our New Year’s visit to the outlaws. No nose to speak of, tight, mouth dryingly astringent, with a chemical taste to it. What fruit there was lay concealed beneath a layer of harsh tannins. Both bottles were served with the same meal, a rib roast of pork, but the difference between them was startling especially after the buildup I had given it! My wife, who generally loves whatever I bring to the table, bluntly said, “This isn’t doing it for me” and stopped at one unfinished glass. Unheard of in our household. I did the same. But I also thought I had to give this bad boy a second chance, mostly because I brought 4 bottles home from Quebec based on the BC bottle! I corked it and put it in the fridge. 20 hours later it was released from its frigid purgatory and uncorked again to warm on the counter. A bottle of 2005 Chateauneuf du Pape was opened and decanted beside it to provide the Privada with an idea of what was expected of garnet coloured fluids in my house. How was it day two? Better after 21 hours and even better by the 23 hour mark. The fruit was beginning to make an appearance, the tannins softening and that chemical taste fading. But I think it might have needed another 24 hours and even then it would never really shine in the way the first BC bottle had right out of the gate. There’s the 72 and 84 pointer.

Recently I was back to BC and tried another bottle while there and upon returning home, I also opened another of my SAQ stash. This time around, the BC bottle seemed to be suffering from the same affliction that cursed the first of the SAQ bottles. Fruit was absent, dry, dry tannins, a chemical aftertaste, all in all a real disappointment. Opening the second SAQ bottle at home, I found it slightly better than the first after resting in the cellar for a few more weeks but still nowhere near that benchmark first bottle. There’s my 80 (SAQ) and 78 (BCLDB) pointers.

So, what’s the scoop? Has the wine just entered a developmental dumb phase? Were the bottles from two different lots that were not equal fruit wise? Was it just not as well made or was there another serious flaw in the wine or the process? Regardless, it’s spoiling Norton’s reputation. Will my last two bottles come out of this funk? Time will tell. This wine is in the May 14 release so I’ll be opening one a few days before that release to see what state it’s in. If the Privada in the LCBO release is like the first BC version and you live outside of the GTA, you should have special ordered in April because it’ll fly off the shelves and be gone. On the other hand, if we get something like the second BC bottle or any of the Quebec ones, it will be panned or ignored by anyone who tastes it. The LCBO will sell out of it but only due to the 91 point label I’m sure it’ll be wearing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April 16th Vintages Release - New Zealand and not much else

New Zealand is in the Spotlight this week and this release seems to have a couple of things going for it. One, it appears to be a far superior release to last year’s New Zealand release and two, it also appears to be far superior to the recent Vintages Burgundian disaster.  There are plenty of Pinot Noirs for you Pinotphiles to compare to the supposedly renowned Burgundies that were foisted on Vintages consumers in that debacle. Also there appear to be lots of sauvignon blancs to load up on for planked salmon or ‘shrimp on the Bar-B’ season.
In on the mix is a feature called ‘Easter Best’ food and wine matches but I’d rather pull something from the cellar than follow most of the LCBO picks. 
New Zealand
I find it most interesting that none of the reviews highlight the traditional green, grassy notes for any of these wines but I expect to find some anyway:
Eradus Sauvignon Blanc - $17.95 – well priced.
Giesen Sauvignon Blanc - $14.95 – A bargain
Jules Taylor Sauvignon Blanc $18.95 – A Kim Crawford protégé, so expect high quality and style.
Momo Sauvignon Blanc -  $18.95 – Always terrific.
Seresin Sauvignon Blanc -  $21.95 – Another great producer
Fielding Estate Unoaked Chardonnay 2008 – Fruit driven,with mineral tones. Cool climate Chardonnay ready to drink $15.95
Luigi Bosca Reserve Cabernet sauvignon- Black fruits and a real mouthful at $17.95
Urraca Malbec 2008 – A new one for me and for the LCBO – good review though.$19.95
Grove Street Cabernet - at $15.00 this is worth a shot - not for holding but for immediate consumption.
Hogue Reserve Merlot 2006 – Ready to drink – mocha notes over black fruit.$19.95.
Thorn Clarke Shotfire Quartage – A 4 grape Bordeaux blend from a very reliable producer, might be a bit overpriced and should have hit $19.95 not $21.95, but  you won’t care after a glass or two.
Cave De Rasteau La Domeliere Rasteau Cotes du Rhone Villages 2009 – Phew, that’s a mouthful. No wonder the French wine industry is suffering. You go into a store and try to ask where this wine is, halfway thru the name you give up and just say, “Oh Never mind, where’s the Hogue”? But don’t give up, it’s worth the effort especially at $15.!!
Apollonio Valle Cupa  2004 – A seven year old wine from a terrific producer – black fruit, licorice, some herbal notes too. Lots going on here. $17.95
Falesco Vitiano 2008 – right in its drinking window, but as the review says, watch for bottle variation – and that always scares me! $15.95

The Big Buck Buys
Whitehall Lane 2006 – Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa profile aromatically and flavour wise - $47.95
Chateau Gigognan Vigne du Regent Chateauneuf Du Pape- 2007 – from the ’07 vintage, should be excellent at $39.95
Tenuta Friggiali Brunello di Montalcino – 2004 – 3 glasses from Gambero Rosso and a great review but at $46.95 it's not cheap.
Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 -  $69.95 - good score from James Laube.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April 2nd Release - Pinots from Burgundy and a nod to South Africa

I love a release like this one every now and then. Being a Pinotphobe there are very few wines in it that appeal to my taste buds which by extension means that my wallet stays heavier. However I did have to smile while reading through the Burgundy feature. Did you know that the colour Burgundy was named after the red wines of this region? Who’da thunk it!!?!  
There were a few in the release that looked OK to me, here they are:
Susana Balbo Signature Malbec 2008 - $19.95 – Nice, big, needs something grilled in the short term.
Arboleda Chardonnay 2008 - $15.95 – Well priced bargain white.
Of the Aussies, there are a bunch at $24.95. I’d go for the Saltram Mamre Brook Cab Sauv 2008 or if you like licorice, try the Pirramimma Petit Verdot 2006. Penfolds entry will score well but is too pricey.
My pick as the best South African wine isn’t even included in the South Africa feature – it’s the Winery of Good Hope Black Rock Red 2007 at $18.95
From the Southern Rhone, another ’07 Gigondas Domaine de la Mavette at $23.95 should be very nice.
Among the Italian offerings there are a couple of three glass winners.
The Barba Vignafranco Montepulciano D’Abruzzo2006 - continues a run of 3 glass winners at around $17.95, not too shabby.
The Umani Ronci San Lorenzo Rosso Conero 2007 gets 90 points from Galloni at $15.95
The Cappellaccio Aglianico Reserva2005 is a big wine in need of big food and some decanting time but at $18.95 should be good. Fennel, black fruit, espresso notes later on.
And, if you are looking for something nice to set aside for Greek Easter, try a bottle of the Pavlidis Thema 2007 at $19.95.
On the Big Buck front, search out the Schiavenza Broglio Barolo at $41.95 Three glasses but it's a 'lay down and wait'  wine, the Mastrojanni Brunello at $45.95 or the Chateau Montelena Cabernet at $54.95