Tuesday, April 01, 2014

April 2014 Wines - 21 tasted of 21

Milking the Market
Wine prices creep to higher levels(1) pushing the notion that many elitists believe money buys quality - and of a monopoly's belief that a captive public has the resources to bear it.

Personally I can't, don't and won't consider the notion and have started to browse LCBO shelves for reasonably priced 'labels', less than $20, having an authentic ring. What else can a consumer do in a market regulated only by the 'Food and Drug Act' and today's business ethics(2)?

Hopefully this month's selection will find a few 'fine' wines among the commercial mix illustrating that many wineries still produce quality while being conscious of value. 

Always an optimist, Ww

Ref 1.  I found Henry Jeffreys' comments on Penfold's pricing and tasting approach interesting - and, on a different subject, a historical view of 'booze' in his book Empire of Booze
Ref 2. To illustrate how extreme this ethic can range there is a quote attributed to the late Charles Keating in a letter to his bond sellers (Lincoln Savings & Loan) 'The weak, meek and ignorant are always good targets'. It would be naive to believe there isn't some of this in varying degrees in all Markets.

THE LINEUP: (Reds, Whites then Bubblies)

  • Handcraft Petite Sirah Artisan Collection 2011, 91-2  V,  Manteca, California, #361907 $17.95       
  • Aquinas Pinot Noir Napa Valley 2012, 90-2  -  G, Napa Valley, California, #277657 $17.95*
  • Tommasi Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2010, 89-1  --  V, Veneto, Italy, #910430  $22.95* (GS#132852  $33.20) 
  • Menguante Seleccion Garnacha 2007, 88a-1  --  V,  Aragon, Spain, #313833 $16.95 
  • Red Guitar Old Vine Tempranilla Garnacha 2010, 87-1  --  G, Navarro, Spain, #054007  $12.95
  • Beringer Founders' Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, 87-1  --  V, Napa, California, #534263 $15.95*  
  • Fifth Leg Old Dog New Tricks Shiraz 2011, 86  --  G, Margaret River, Australia, #281345  $15.95
  • Domaine Lambrusgues Esprit Sauvage Pic Saint-Loup 2011, 84 -> 86a  --  V,  Languedoc, France,  #354142 $17.95 
  • J.P. Chenet Limited Release Pinot Noir 2012, 78  --  G, Midi, France, #142406 $12.95    

Strictlytasting's Value chart
  • The Foreign Affair Ex-Pat Riesling 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 90-2  --  V, Vineland Station, Ontario, #372326 $16.95 
  • Firesteed Oregon Pinot Gris 2012, 88-1  --  G, Rickreall, Oregon, #323808 $17.80 
  • Hinterbrook Riesling 2012 VQA Niagara Lakeshore, 88-1  --  V, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, #270512 $17.95
  • Cave du Haut-Poitou Vallee Loire Sauvignon Blanc 2012,  87-1  --  V, Loire, France,  #357293 $16.95 
  • Cave Spring Sauvignon Blanc 2011 VQA Niagara Escarpment, 86  --  G, Jordan, Ontario, #529933 $15.95 
  • Tommasi Viticoltori le Volpare Soave 2011, 85  --  V,  Veneto, Italy, #n/a  $10.25* (GS#132852  $33.20) 
  • Moulin Camus Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2012, 84  --  V, Loire, France, #358630 $16.95
  • Rockway Small Lot (365 Cases) White Assemblage 2012 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 83  --  V,  St. Catharines, Ontario, #359315 $16.95 
  • Hess Select Chardonnay Monterey County 2012, 82  --  G, Salinas Valley, California, #270074  $15.95 
  • Patio 9 White Vidal Spritz VQA Ontario, NR  --   V, St. Catharines, Ontario, #341693 $12.95 

  • Domaine de Vaugondy Brut Vouvray, 86  --  V,  Loire, France, #154567 $15.95
  • Rotari Brut Trentodoc NV, 84 --  V,  Alto Adige/Trentino, Italy, #708495 $17.95 
 (V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other, r-v - Rating-Value, a - aerated, NR - Not Rated, GS - Gift Set)


ROCKWAY SMALL LOT (365 CASES) WHITE ASSEMBLAGE 2012 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  St. Catharines, Ontario, 13.0%  XD  20g/L,  #359315  $16.95*  (Tasted April 5, 2014) 

A Vintages release on November 9, 2013 produced by Rockway Glen Estate Winery Inc. The back label gives the blend as a blend of 75% Chardonnay, 15% Gewürztraminer and 10% Riesling.  My notes: 20g/L seems to be high for LCBO's XD sweetness level. A pale yellow leaves a thin film to slowly drain with no trace on the glass. Faint aromas of apple and mild yeast build modestly if allowed to breathe a few minutes - better to sip first and sniff later - keep chilled. Fresh acid and a smooth texture lift casual sipping while waiting for flavours to develop. A long finish builds with perceptible sugar adding a silky fullness. A meal partner for mild fish dishes and Thai, Chinese, Japanese including a touch of spice. A drink now.  *$14.97 at the winery.  83

RED GUITAR OLD VINE TEMPRANILLO GARNACHA 2010, Navarro, Spain, 13.6% D 7g/L,  #054007  $12.95  (Tasted April 6, 2014)

A General listing.  My notes: The colour is a charcoal stained ruby that leaves a heavy viscous film and a rounded rim that quickly runs fast legs then a circular column of slow tears. The nose needs time to build a sombre aroma of blackberry, an edge of raspberry and body of herbal blends. The first sip is full, soft with tannins and a matching acid that layers the palate followed by a woody finish - a sipper that reflects dark fruit strengthened by a long oak process. A red for a solitary sipper sitting warmed by a crackling fire or, better,  to pair with a spice rubbed steak grilled to a pink centre. Cellaring several years may combine fruit and process further - but I don't think so.  87

FIFTH LEG OLD DOG NEW TRICKS SHIRAZ 2011, Margaret River, Australia, 14.5% XD  6g/L, #281345  $15.95  (Tasted April 3, 2014)  

A General listing produced by the Devil'S Lair Wine Company. My notes:  The ruby colour is tinted a deep charcoal and the nose is a peppery plum with a black cherry softness. The level of viscosity leaves a smooth film running long fast legs followed by columns of tears then a rounded rim emptying to clear the glass. A stringent red cherry comes forward while taste and aroma carries a woody tartness and chalky dryness. Prominent tannins come with more sips making this a good match for a buffet of puff pastry sausage rolls, broiled pancetta or tomato bruschetta - anything Italian with a juicy tang. Match with grilled ribs or steaks. Cellaring several years could resolve some woodiness.  86

PATIO 9 WHITE 2011 VIDAL SPRITZ VQA Ontario. St. Catharines, Ontario, 9%  M  2g/L,  #341693  $12.95  (Tasted March 2, 2014) CS

Released by Vintages on June 22, 2013.  My notes:  Serve this in a tumbler and most guests could believe it's a new flavoured Perrier. The nose is not and a light spritz is unexpected being so fine but is a pleasing support for a delicate apple citrus flavour. The finish brings a mineral edge to a mellower apple and continues with a mild citrus brightness. Save for a summer patio then serve chilled - or, to economize, go with Sogrape's Gazela Vinho Verde, #141432 @ $8.95 (or a Mountain Dew over crushed ice and a good squeeze of lemon).  NR

DOMAINE LAMBRUSQUES ESPRIT SAUVAGE PIC SAINT-LOUP 2011, Languedoc, France,  13.5%  XD 5g/L, #354142 $17.95  (Tasted April 10, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on February 15, 2014 and a blend of Syrah 60% and Grenache 40%.  A Gold Medal winner at Concours de Grands Vins du Languedoc-Roussillon in 2012.  My notes: First a guess: Syrah for a light pepper and Grenache for a smooth velvet. Then the sip: the back of the throat picks up the Grenache with a mild garrique, unfortunately gets stronger - aeration is recommended, and the front notes a mild spice each continuing in a long finish. In between is dark plum and blackberry supported by polite acid and tannin. A swirl lays a thin film running long fast legs from a light rim. Interesting for those preferring a red that's a reserved medium-bodied old world style. Better with grilled steak or beef Wellington than sipping. A drink now. 86a

THE FOREIGN AFFAIR  EX-PAT RIESLING 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Vineland Station, Ontario, 10.3%  MD  xg/L,  #372326  $16.95  (Tasted April 15, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on March 1, 2014.  My notes: 20% of the grapes for this wine were dried for two months (appassimento) then fermented and aged in stainless steel (70%) and neutral oak barrels (30%). This has a mid gold colour with a touch of tawny and a lemon floral with an acid edge. Medium-sweet and a drying mineral aftertaste combined with a penetrating tang gives this a unique character and an interesting first sip. Pair with a Chinese buffet or spicy Thai. Short term cellaring should hold the fruit as well as integrate sugars and acid adding depth - for Niagara freshness drink now. 90

HESS SELECT CHARDONNAY MONTEREY COUNTY 2012, Salinas Valley, California, 13.5%  XD  5g/L, #270074  $15.95  (Tasted April 12, 2014)  CS

A General listing.  My notes:  A strong yellow colour with an aroma of pear, citrus and tangy edged caramel - perhaps 'salty'. The thin film leaves a jagged rim draining through a few slow tears. The first sip has a dry taste of cardboard refreshed by tart pear then returning to a long extra dry citrus pie dough finish. Sip to experience the winemaker's style then pair with mild fish: grilled cod, halibut or scallops on a mound of basmati flavoured with a lemon dill sauce. A dinner white for a large family get together. Let those that discriminate add their own to the table.  82

FIRESTEED OREGON PINOT GRIS 2012, Rickreall, Oregon,  13.7%  C  13g/L, #323808  $17.80  (Tasted April 1, 2014)  CS

A General listing.  My notes:  A natural blond crisp and clean. A swirl leaves a fragmenting rim that quickly sheds islands to recede as spots down the glass. A lightly floral nose combines with a mineral scent until the first sip reveals mild lime-tangerine on top of a lasting chalk finish. Served well chilled the texture is soft with a refreshing acid throughout. Pair with curried or marinara mussels, smoked salmon pizza or cod, halibut or tilapia. Should keep a year or two tho' not for long term cellaring.  88

BERINGER FOUNDERS' ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012, Napa, California, 13.9%  D  10g/L, #534263  $15.95*  (Tasted April 11, 2014) 

A General listing *priced $2.00 lower at $15.95 until March 30th.  My notes: A charcoal hued ruby with a moderately thin film that fragments quickly until the rim laces and breaks apart falling in shreds. The nose has a bramble dusting on ripe blackberry aromas, deliciously mellow, finishing with a dark chocolate sweetness - allow a few minutes for nose to build. Silky textured, acid balanced with fruit, a social crowd pleaser overall - there's an unctuous element I don't expect of a Cabernet. Pair with grilled meats - even try with Courvoisier and Pusser's Rum infused (1 oz. each) minced meat as well. A commercial red targeting the restaurant and party crowd and a drink now. 87 

MENGUANTE SELECCIÓN GARNACHA 2007, Aragon, Spain, 14.0%  XD  5g/L, #313833  $16.95  (Tasted April 13, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on March 16, 2013and rated 91 by Jay Miller (April 2010). My notes: 100% Garnacha. I'm always tempted to aerate a Spanish red as soon as the cork is popped... but not yet. A lot has happened since last tasting in April 2013. Now a charcoal hued ruby and an acid edged plum and warm raspberry reflecting a practised use of oak and ageing. A moderate film hangs forever until the rim finally drops a curtain of slow tears. Tart and smooth fruit quickly dries the palate and continues to build a long velvet finish. Now I'll aerate... still shows pleasing fruit, plums changing to red currant with the tannin persisting but with less stringent acid - aerating is recommended. Match with a meaty pizza or pasta dish, grilled steaks and saucy pork ribs. A red for those preferring a bold old world red. Slow to age but plan to consume within a few years.  88a

ROTARI  BRUT TRENTODOC NV,  Alto Adige/Trentino, Italy, 12.5% XD 10g/L,  #708495  $17.95  (Tasted April 17, 2014)  CS

Released by Vintages on February 1, 2014 and rated 89 by Monica Larner, Wine Enthusiast (August 2013). 100% Chardonnay.  My notes: Priced high at the LCBO and does sparkling wine really require 1.8lb of glass? A torrent of bubbles large and fine and lasting almost a minute before settling to several streams and a full spritz mouthfeel. The colour is a mid yellow, crisp and clean in the glass along with a light film and fast legs. An apple pie nose, less sweet and more the scent of hay that dissipates quickly. Served chilled it's refreshing with a nutty pear and Gala apple fruit flavour. The finish is quite long with a light cream - an extra dry sipper to pair with a buffet mix: chilled oysters, hummus and salty crackers, prosciutto wrapped asparagus or pigs-in-a-blanket.  A drink now - try an oz. of Rémy Martin to give your bottle the 'right' balance. 84

DOMAINE DE VAUGONDY BRUT VOUVRAY, Loire, France,  12.5%  D  13g/L,  #154567  $15.95  (Tasted April 13, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on March 15, 2014 and rated 90 by Beppi Crosariol The Globe and Mail (December 2011).  My notes:  100% Chenin Blanc.  A crescendo of medium and large bubbles settles quickly to several steady fine streams from the sides. The colour is a mid yellow, clean and crisp with a tart apple pie essence - without a sign of creamy sweetness but lemon pith tangy. The finish is long, extra dry and leaves a dull remnant pushing for another sip. Succeeding sips continue to build layers looking in vain for the freshness of fruit. Pairing with slices of smoked salmon pizza, grilled Artic char or crab cakes  could fill in the flavour vacuum.  Tasted in September 2010 with a recommendation to add some (2 oz. per btl) Cointreau or Grand Marnier applies as well. A drink now.  86

The gift set* was released by Vintages on October 26, 2013.

TOMMASI RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2010, 13.0%  XD  xg/L, #910430  $22.95  (Tasted April 7, 2014) 
My notes: This red is listed at  $22.95 - and has a deep cherry red colour with a moderate film that slowly builds a rounded rim running a column of tears and several slow legs. There's a herbal scent on top of cherry and raspberry aromas that airing for a few minutes or decanting brings forward. An OK sipper or companion with a variety of Italian pasta dishes - also pair with lamb chops, osso buco or grilled steaks. The ripasso treatment has strengthened the body and broadened the varietal flavours holding them for a long extra dry finish. Cellaring for a few years could extend value - not too long tho'. 89

TOMMASI VITICOLTORI LE VOLPARE SOAVE 2011, 12.0%  XD  xg/L,  #n/a  $10.25*  (Tasted April 7, 2014) 

My notes:
*The white becomes $10.25 when the red is deducted from the Gift Set. This has a crystal pale yellow colour with a slight yeast scent to a pithy citrus nose. Add to this a soft texture, a tang to slight cinnamon and apple flavours quickly followed by a pie dough, muted lemon-lime then an extra dry finish makes for an interesting sipper - a few sips could use a buffet of hummus, dry crackers, pigs in a blanket, etc.. The film is thin, firm and sets up a modest lace to a slowly falling rim. Keep a few on hand to match with seafood - cod or halibut filets would go well, also with sliced chicken breast or pheasant. A drink now. 85   

CAVE SPRING SAUVIGNON BLANC 2011 VQA Niagara Escarpment, Jordan, Ontario, 12.5%  XD  2g/L,  #529933  $15.95  (Tasted April 19, 2014) 

A General listing.  My notes: There's a touch of transitory tangerine and melon to the nose without sweetness and the film is thin leaving a lightly jagged rim that drains slowly and evenly.  A slight cream and a possible faint sweetness comes on the first sip... a restrained tang muted by a mineral softness all building to a long finish. A possible summer sipper with crushed ice - and a lemon squeeze?. Blind tasting with the Cave du Haut-Poitou (Loire) (#357293  $16.95) could result in a tie after many second thoughts. A drink now and a meal white with grilled trout, curried mussels or fresh oysters.  86

MOULIN CAMUS MUSCADET SÈVRE ET MAINE SUR LIE 2012, Loire, France, 12.0%  XD 2g/L, #358630  $16.95  (Tasted April 5, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on March 15, 2014 and a Gold Medal winner at the 2013 Concours des Ligers.  My notes:  A light yellow in the glass with a thin film that leaves a lacy rim to creep down the sides. A muted citrus and grass nose when left to develop in the glass then a slight floral is added. The first sip is bright and tangy to brighten a social setting while a pleasing roundness and mineral edge adds interest until a extra dry yeasty finish brings the next sip. Pair with cod or halibut, flattened and roasted Cornish hens or mussels marinara. A fish white and a drink now. 84

CAVE DU HAUT-POITOU VALLÉE LOIRE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012, Loire, France,  13.0%  XD  4g/L,  #357293  $16.95  (Tasted April 19, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on March 29, 2014.  My notes:  A crisp and clean pale yellow with a thin film that laces quickly draining the sides halfway. The nose has a refreshing fullness, a mild lime zest - the first sip confirms a soft lime flavour going into a chalk edged straw then turning to a dry mineral. A meal white rather than a sipper - have with a buffet of hard cheeses or with plates of cod, other seafood or sliced chicken breast. Interesting for a lack of gooseberry or other tropical fruit, refreshingly tangy all the same. A drink now. 87

HINTERBROOK RIESLING 2012 VQA Niagara Lakeshore,  Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario,  12.5%  D  13g/L, #270512  $17.95  (Tasted April 1, 2014)  CS

Released by Vintages on January 18, 2014.  My notes: A polished pale blond in the glass with a polite nip of a beeswax citrus nose. A nippier first sip shows a mid apple flavour, light-bodied and leaving a touch of chalk for a long dry (riesling) finish. The tang paired well with curried chicken pieces on saucy mound of Basmati rice. The mineral aspect to fruity freshness is interesting as a sipper although as the finish builds sipping should be complemented with buffet nibbles. Serve chilled.  88

AQUINAS PINOT NOIR NAPA VALLEY 2012 , Napa Valley, California, 13.5%  D  2.9g/L, #277657  $17.95*  (Tasted April 6, 2014)  CS

A General listing and a wine made by Don Sebastiani & Sons.  My notes: The 2010 vintage was tasted August 14, 2013 with a rating of 91. This has the same nose of chocolate, blueberry, earth and cinnamon and the same clean see-through ruby shows in the light. Tears form slowly eventually draining a thin viscous film and slight rim. Silk with a dry tannin and mild acid is distinct for this label. The finish is long carrying a chalky dryness, full fruit and warmth for interest.  Sip or match with a tuna steak, planked salmon or roasted pork ribs. Cellaring for several years could mature some youthfulness.  90 

HANDCRAFT www.HandCraftWines.com PETITE SIRAH ARTISAN COLLECTION 2011,   Manteca, California,  14.5%  XD  13g/L, #361907   $17.95  (Tasted April 15, 2012)  CS

 Released by Vintages on April 12, 2014 and rated 88 by the Tasting Panel.  A Delicato Vineyards wine.  My notes: The back label notes the addition of 'a dash of Zinfandel' to 'add black pepper spice and jammy boysenberry notes'.  On opening a sniff of barnyard prompts me to go to a swirl which leaves a firm film and smooth rim that sheds several long legs. The deep ruby colour left on the glass has a scarlet edge. The first sip is silky smooth, medium-bodied, nicely balanced blackberry and acid staying awhile while a long, dry, warm finish knits all together. Thirty minutes later the nose has settled to a muted blackberry, dark chocolate and earthy mushroom - the BRETT is now at an 'interest level' and eventually disappears. Cellaring several years could pay off - a pleasing sipper now. Air an hour or aerate for a social crowd.  91 

J.P. CHENET LIMITED RELEASE PINOT NOIR 2012, Midi, France, 12.5%  D  9g/L, #142406  $12.95  (Tasted April 20, 2014)  CS

A General listing.  My notes: This vintage was last tasted on December 4, 2013 and rated 82. Has it fared any better under LCBO's care? This bottle carries a gold seal of Anavin of France 2013 for Best Value Selection. A red cherry colour is deepened with a charcoal hue and the nose has a dusty strawberry raspberry scent that slowly dissipates. A thin film slowly falls from a shallow rim draining into lacy islands then into fragile droplets. The first sip starts as bright cherry and quickly shifts to a dry-as-wood finish needing either a refresh, not recommended, or a nibble. Have with a tuna steak, meaty pizza, hamburgers or buffet samples. I used remainder of bottle in a pasta sauce for a veal, sausage and porcini ragu. 78    

Saturday, March 01, 2014

March 2014 Wines - 22 Tasted of 22

Signs of Spring 2014:
(Photos by PWMcM)

THE LINEUP: (Reds, Whites, Rosés then Bubblies)
  • Shiloh Shor Cabernet Sauvignon KP 2007,  95-2  --  V, Judean Hills, Israel, #282947 $32.95  
  • Kilikanoon Killerman's Run Shiraz Grenache 2011, 94-3 --  V, Penwortham, South Australia, #009225 $19.95 
  • Domaine des Fées Côtes du Rhône 2012, 93-3  --  V, Rhône, France, #272450 $15.95
  • The Foreign Affair 'The Conspiracy' 2012 VQA  Niagara Peninsula, 93-3  --  V, Vineland, Ontario, #149237  $19.95
  • Domaine de Grangeneuve Esprit de Grenache Côtes du Rhône Villages 2011, 90-1  --  V, Rhône, France, #364794 $20.95  
  • TintoNegro Uco Valley Reserve Malbec 2011, 88-1  --  V,  Mendoza, Argentina,  #364075 $15.95 
  • Caparzo Sangiovese Toscana 2011, 87-1  --  G, Montalcino, Italy, #361022 $12.95 
  • Paul Mas Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2012,  84  --  G, South France,  #293134 $11.95* 
  • Coyote's Run Five Mile Red 2012 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 83a  --  G, St. David's, Ontario, #283416  $16.95 
  • Gariottin Malbec Cahors 2010, 82  --  G, Cahors, France, #340927 $13.15
  • Rosso Piceno Cantina Sant'Isidoro Pinto Macerato Italy2011,  82 -- V,  Marche, Italy, #364885 $15.95

  • Kilikanoon Killerman's Run Riesling 2012, 91-2  --  V, Clare Valley, South Australia,  #365635 $17.95 
  • Daniel Lenko Gewurztraminer 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 90-1  --  V, Beamsville, Ontario, #356832 $20.25
  • Casa Do Valle Grande Escolha 2012, 89-2  --  V, Vinho Verde, Portugal, #276220 $15.95
  • Maison Adrien Vacher les Adrets Altesse 'Roussette de Savoie' 2012, 89-2  --  V,  Savoie, France,  #365163 $16.95
  • Zenato Lugana San Benedetto 2012, 87-1  --  V,  Veneto, Italy, #707158 $14.95  
  • Balestri Valda Soave Classico 2012, 87-1  --  V, Veneto, Italy,  #362939 $15.95 
  • Tiberio Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 2012, 84  --  V, Abruzzo, Italy,  #365478  $15.95 
  • J&F Lurton les Fumées Blanches Sauvignon Blanc 2012,  81 -- G, France, #472555  $11.95* 
  • Palatine Hills Neufeld Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2012 VQA Niagara Lakeshore,  80  --  V, NotL, Ontario, #352344 $14.25*
  • Montevina Pinot Grigio NV,  78  --  G, Napa, California, #237750 $14.95 

  • Rosés

  • Mionetto Prosecco DOC Treviso, 83 --  G, Veneto, Italy, #266023 $17.95
(V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other, r-v  - Rating-Value, a - aerated, NR - Not Rated)


SHILOH SHOR CABERNET SAUVIGNON KP 2007, Judean Hills, Israel, 14.5% XD xg/L, #282947  (Tasted March 17, 2014)  $32.95*

Release by Vintages on May 12, 2012.  SHOR is 'the premium series which includes single strain wines and blends – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet-Merlot, Shiraz-Merlo, Merlot and Barbara'. Vintages no longer lists this label.  My notes: *Bin End price reduced to mid $20's. Three WineAlign reviewers gave this wine 4.3 of 5.  CellarTracker notes two reviews averaging 86.5.  A very attractive deep ruby on pouring with a viscous film running smooth on the glass and draining from a full rim through long legs and columns of slow tears. Ripe black cherries with blue- and blackberry tones and an inviting rich dark chocolate essence marks the nose. Smooth on the sip and the swallow, soft tannins and mellow acids balance the fruit carrying the whole through a warm finish. A Valentines gift and the value of a bin end makes this new (to me) wine doubly satisfying. I'd say it's at peak and should continue for a dozen years. 95

GARIOTTIN MALBEC CAHORS 2010, Cahors, France, 13.5%  XD  3g/L,  #340927  $13.15  (Tasted March 1, 2014) 

A General listing.  My notes: Rated 3.1 of 5 by 6 reviewers at Vivino.com.  There's a charcoal tint to the rich ruby colour and there's an appealing spiciness to a blackberry, cherry, dusty nose.  An even film sticks to the glass slowly accumulating to eventually flow slow legs until clear.  Starting with silk then dusty fruit, chalk and a bright acid sits on the palate providing a long extra dry finish. An adequate sipper if a buffet table of hard cheeses, pigs in a blanket and stuffed mushrooms is nearby, or pair with beef stroganoff, osso bucco etc.  A drink now. 82

MIONETTO PROSECCO D.O.C. TREVISO,  Valdobbiadene, Italy,  11.0%  XD  16g/L, #266023  $17.95  (Tasted March 13, 2014) 

A General listing.  My notes: John Galea last March gave this an 89.  Pouring brings a burst of bubbles that quiesces quickly leaving a screen of tiny streams. The colour is a crisp pale yellow leaving a fine film and lacy edge when the glass is tilted. Starts with a soft creamy texture and a tart apple tang followed quickly by a dry, mineral finish. To be enjoyed with fresh oysters or grilled tilapia on a bed of greens. Quaffing increases sipping pleasure while low alcohol makes it possible. A drink now. I'd try adding a squeeze of fresh orange.  83

KILIKANOON KILLERMAN'S RUN SHIRAZ/GRENACHE 2011, Penwortham, South Australia, 14.5%  XD  5g/L,  #009225  $19.95  (Tasted March 9, 2014)  CS

Released by Vintages on February 15, 2014. Rated 93 by James Halliday's Australian Wine Companion and 91 by Harvey Steiman, (October 31, 2013).  My notes: A warm aroma of prunes, black cherries and dark chocolate - pleasing as a sniffer. The first sip has a penetrating acid balanced by rich tropical fruit - the dryness of crushed pomegranate seeds with the lush flavour of a blue- blackberry blend. The film is viscous immediately running long legs until a continuous rim of slow tears remains. The velvet density lasts with strong fruit remnants favouring this as a full-bodied social sipper. Pair with grilled beef done any way: red, pink, well or a rich stew. Cellaring for several more years increases this red as a value keeper. What more is there to like?  94

DANIEL LENKO GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Beamsville, Ontario, 13.0%  XD  13g/L, #356832  $20.25  (Tasted March 10, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on September 14, 2013. My notes:  The 2008 vintage tasted in August last year showed a 'local interpretation or terroir [that] may appeal as a sipper for its difference' - it was rated 86.  The nose of the 2009 is a spicy blend of floral, delicate grapefruit - with pear coming in late in the sniff. The film lays smoother than I'd expect from a Gewurz although the rim isn't rounded and gradually clears the glass without fragmenting. An appealing sweetness is more apparent as the finish builds texture with some warmth and a touch of chalk added to the fruit. Very appealing as a sipper and could pair nicely with most seafood or sushi. Cellar a few and see what happens - I think it'll cellar several years. 90

DOMAINE DE GRANGENEUVE ESPRIT DE GRENACHE CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES 2011, Rhône, France, 14.0%  XD 6g/L, #364794  $20.95  (Tasted March 23, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on February 15, 2014. Made from 80% hand picked old-vine Grenache and 20% Syrah.  My notes: A touch of pepper gives an appealing edge to herbal tainted black cherry blackberry aroma. The colour is a deep ruby with a hint of grey steel and a swirl gives a smooth film accumulating a bead at the rim that eventually flows a column of slow tears. The first sip is tangy reinforced with peppery black fruit blended to be mysterious right through a long, fuzz coated finish. Some dusty fruit midway may limit this as a sipper - an OK match with pork tenderloin slices but more of a grilled beef red.  The fruit could be short lived if cellared several years - close to peak now.  90

FRANCOIS LURTON LES FUMÉES BLANCHES SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012,  France, 12.0%  XD 4g/L, #472555   $11.95*  (Tasted March 2, 2014) 

A General listing reduced from $12.95 until Mar 2, 2014.  My notes: A touch of grass with the gooseberry for aromatics is a tangy introduction. A pale yellow and a thin film with a fragmented rim that falls quickly leaving only jagged islands on the glass. A soft cream takes some of the edge off the initial bite although a long finish of dry gooseberry followed by a steely mineral sustains it temporarily at a noticeable level. Not a sole sipper - needs a flavourful plate of Cuban Cod with capers and tomatoes, or like repast, for pairing. A drink now.  81

PAUL MAS ESTATE SINGLE VINEYARD SELECTION (Nicole vineyard) CABERNET SAUVIGNON MERLOT 2012, South France, 14.0% XD 2.6g/L, #293134  $11.95*  (Tasted March 6, 2014) 

Reduced from $13.95 until March 2, 2014.  My notes:  Grape varieties: 56% Cabernet Sauvignon and 44% Merlot. A deep ruby opaque to view with a quiet aroma having a herbal edge to berry increasingly revealed with airing. The film hangs heavy on the glass leaving a solid rim eventually running columns of long legs. Quite bright on the tongue with velvety tannins, muted blueberry and dark chocolate all continuing into a long drying finish. As a social sipper finger foods are a must - something fatty ie. sausage rolls, stuffed mushrooms, Italian bruschetta or a variety of tapas.  A drink now - shelve a few for drop-ins or a beefy supper.  84

COYOTE'S RUN FIVE MILE RED 2012 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  St. David's, Ontario, 13.0%  XD  6g/L,  #283416  $16.95  (Tasted March 2, 2014)  CS

A General listing.  My notes:  The tasting by Michael Pinkus is available on YouTube.  A blend of Pinot Noir 32%, Cabernet ? 30%, Merlot 27% and Syrah 11%.  This has a charcoal hued mid ruby colour with red currant, black cherry and light raspberry forming a biting aroma. Swirling leaves a smooth film and a rim that slowly builds until well rounded with several slow tears falling and leaving fragile lace. A gulp fills the mouth with a bright cherry stone carrying into an extra dry finish. Not a sipper unless you prefer a wine with the rawness of youth or have nibbles nearby - aerating mellows appreciably and is recommended. A match with burgers, pepperoni pizzas or an Italian Chorizo ragoux. Cellar a few years and watch for change.  83a

KILIKANOON KILLERMAN'S RUN RIESLING 2012,  Clare Valley, South Australia,  12.5%  XD  4g/L,  #365635  $17.95  (Tasted March 7, 2014)  CS

 Released by Vintages on February 15, 2014 and rated 91 by Harvey Steiman  (June 30, 2013).  My notes:  At first there's a touch of butterscotch in a faint citrus nose making this interesting at the start - but it dissipates. The film is thin leaving a ragged rim to slowly disintegrate on the glass. The sharpness of the first sip is persistent almost overcoming crisp sensations of lemon and tart apple that carry through a long finish ending with a chalk and mineral edge added at the extra-dry end.  Have with Mussels with Chervil, Parsley and Chives or Marinara or a Curry and Coconut sauce. Drinking brightly now or cellar for several years looking for a smoother texture. 91

MAISON ADRIEN VACHER LES ADRETS ALTESSE 'ROUSSETTE DE SAVOIE' 2012,  Savoie, France,  12.5%  D  4g/L,  #365163  $16.95  (Tasted March 4, 2014) 

 Released by Vintages on March 1, 2014.  "An interesting factoid: Altesse (Roussette) is believed to be a close relative of Hungary's Furmint grape, the principal component of Tokaji." My notes:  A new grape to me and one referred to by Jancis Robinson as 'Savoie's most exciting white grape'. Having a mid gold colour with a spicy pear and apple aroma, a moderate fullness and touch of vanilla on the first sip, appealing as a social sipper - different from the usual. A swirl leaves a thin film with a lacy rim draining into beads on the glass. The finish turns dry initially being woody then lingering remnants of fruit. That's when a buffet selection is preferred - some hard cheeses or herbal crackers and a soft brie. Paired well with one of my favourites Cuban Cod and would with grilled or steamed fishes and shellfish. Cellaring several years would deepen the colour and mellow a youthful edge. 89

DOMAINE DES FÉES CÔTES DU RHÔNE 2012, Rhône, France,  15.0%  XD  6g/L,  #272450   $15.95  (Tasted March 3, 2014)

 Released by Vintages on January 4, 2014.  My notes: Certified biologic.  A purple cast to deep ruby gives this a regal look. The film sticks well but is moderate leaving a firm rim that runs columns of slow tears - no fragmentation here. A few sips and I'm liking it's reserved texture, tannins building to fuzz and a flavour saying it has Mourvèdre as backbone with syrah for spice. (Big House says 50/50 Grenache & Syrah) The finish has a velvet texture with quiet blackberry and dark chocolate tones. Pleasing as a sipper and a good companion for Beef Wellington red in the middle. Cellaring should build more complexity making this a value now and for several years. The nose holds back with modesty then adds to the appeal. 93  

CASA DO VALLE GRANDE ESCOLHA 2012Vinho Verde, Portugal, 13.5% XD  2g/L,  #276220  $15.95  (Tasted March 5, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on March 1, 2014.  My notes:  The Alvarinho grape is Portugal's answer to Spain's Albarino and is used in quality Vinho Verde wine. A shining yellow colour shows off aromas of citrus, apricot and pie dough. A thin film forms a lacy rim slowly falling ragged to the meniscus. Somewhat sharp on the sip with an extra dry finish. As a sipper it leaves the throat tingling and prefers pairing with smelly cheese or a buffet of sardines, toasts and salsa - perhaps an anchovy flavoured pizza. There's some softness to balance the acids and sufficiently full-bodied to carry through a flavourful meal. A standby white for a Portuguese themed dinner and one that could cellar awhile. 89 

ROSSO PICENO CANTINA SANT'ISIDORO PINTO MACERATA ITALIA 2011,   Marche, Italy, 13.5%  XD  4g/L,  #364885  $15.95  (Tasted March 5, 2014) 

 Released by Vintages on March 1, 2014 and rated 4 of 5 by Vic Harradine  (April 25, 2013). My notes:  100% Sangiovese (6.61Euros or $9.20 online).  Has a deep ruby colour, charcoal hued, and a pungent aroma of soaking prunes and wood bark. The first sip layered tannins on everything it touched along with liquorice and a dense black cherry then  plunging into a long, drying, charred liquorice - no elegance here but a process infused heaviness. Airing a few hours or aerating subdued some of extremes. Pair with chorizo and pepperoni on pizza with a heavy cheese, bbq'd beef ribs with a spicy rub or use for a rich beef sauce. Cellar until it comes around. 82

THE FOREIGN AFFAIR THE CONSPIRACY 2012 VQA  Niagara Peninsula, Vineland, Ontario, 13.8%  XD  5g/L,  #149237  $19.95  (Tasted March 14, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on February 15, 2014 and rated 90 by Natalie MacLean  (November 6, 2013).  My notes: The 2012 is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and made using the ripasso method. 100% dried skins makes the colour is DENSE, a concentration of ruby that's opaque, clean and crisp. The film is unbroken to the rim, smoothly collecting volume until columns of tears slowly fall. The flavours burst on the palate: rich blueberry, blackberry and cranberry for a polite, tangy edge. Woody tannins build in the mouth carrying the flavours to a long sumptuous never-ending. A quiet sipper to go with a good book and warm fireplace - or with friends with good conversation. Pair with beef Wellington, a Beef & vegetable stew with a rich gravy or a rare T-bone with sausage stuffed baked potato. Cellaring should go well for several years but drinking now without sign of its youthfulness. Doesn't keep once opened. 93

CAPARZO SANGIOVESE TOSCANA 2011, Montalcino, Italy, 13.0%  D  12g/L,  #361022  $12.95  (Tasted March 19, 2014)  CS

A General listing.  My notes: Comes with the note 'SEASONAL LIMITED QUANTITIES'. Does it mean 'Buy a years supply' or what? Lots in stock! This has a ruby colour, a glistening see-through in the light and a nose of pungent fruit increasing intensity over a few sips. A lacy rim runs a few fast legs then fragments slowly creeping to the surface. Pleasing but with a hardness, carrying dark fruit, dry tannins and crushed berries - as a sipper and a quaffer - has a long extra dry finish. Pair with hamburgers, meaty pizzas and grilled steaks.  Shelve a few - could show a mellowing or ?? requiring sampling bimonthly 8-).  87

BALESTRI VALDA SOAVE CLASSICO 2012, Veneto, Italy,  12.5% XD  6g/L,  #362939  $15.95  (Tasted March 17, 2014)  CS

  Released by Vintages on January 18, 2014.  My notes:  Shows a touch of spritz on the glass and aromas of crisp apple, the zest of lemon and Bosc pear peel, fairly prominent for a Soave. The colour is a mid yellow and leaves a thin film that drains from a ragged rim, no legs or tears.  Flavours follow the nose adding a pleasing roundness, a long, dry, mineral finish keeping its refreshing tang, but not overly tart, to cleanse the palate. Chicken Parmigiana, a tuna pasta or panzerotti  style stuffed with ground veal and cheeses. Drink now or cellar a few years - med-bodied and flavourful for family dining.  87

TINTONEGRO UCO VALLEY RESERVE MALBEC 2011,  Mendoza, Argentina,  14.0%  XD  5g/L,  #364075   $15.95  (Tasted March 20, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on February 15, 2014 and rated 89 by Neal Martin (October 2012).  My notes: Coloured charcoal tinted ruby this is opaque in the glass. A lightly scented blackberry there's an appealing freshness but with some brambly roughness. The film is thin, smooth, immediately forming a ring and dropping fast legs before a column of tears. The first sip nips at the palate then layers a velvet coating including juicy berries in the back and fine tannins all over. The finish is long and dry. Pair with meaty pastas or sausage on a bun. Cellaring five years or so should deliver a softer version of the same making it worthwhile. 88

TIBERIO TREBBIANO D'ABRUZZO 2012, Abruzzo, Italy,  13.0%  D  4g/L,  #365478   $15.95  (Tasted March 19, 2014) 

  Released by Vintages on March 1, 2014 and rated 92 (right after bottling) by Ian D'Agata, International Wine Cellar (March/April 2013).  My notes: A mid yellow with a tawny tinge and a soft cream aroma slightly tart on first sniff. A thin film leaves a ragged rim left to fall without drama. A bright intro to a slight ginger and half apple half honeydew flavour clearing the way for a cleansing finish. Pair with chicken thighs or veal cutlet in a tomato sauce. Went well with chicken parmigiana and spaghettini with tomato and pancetta sauce. Keep chilled for an interesting quaffer - but a meal white. 84
ZENATO LUGANA SAN BENEDETTO 2012,  Veneto, Italy, 13.0%  XD  7g/L, #707158  $14.95  (Tasted March 11, 2014) 

Released by Vintages on February 1, 2014.  My notes:  The 2012 Lugana has an onion skin hue to a mid golden for viewing interest and an apple and pineapple touch to a mineral tainted nose that adds more. A swirl shows a thin film with a fine lace rim dropping a row of slow tears to clear the glass. Smooth on the lips followed by a tartness and modest fruit persists through a long refreshing finish. A sipper would eventually look for soft cheese on toast or a tuna pasta or a thin crust pizza covered liberally with smoked salmon and spinach lightly broiled. Several put aside with a few Zenato reds would prepare you for any occasion. 87

Past tastings of Zenato wines:

ZENATO  RIPASSA VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE 2009, #479766  $24.95 (Tasted Dec 17, 2012)
ZENATO  LUGANA SAN BENEDETTO 2011,  #707158   $13.95 (Tasted December 20, 2012) 

ZENATO ROSSO VENETO IGT 2008, #208579  $11.95 (Tasted December 7, 2010)
 ZENATO CORMI 2006, #108282  $17.95 (Tasted October 17, 2010)
ZENATO SOAVE CLASSICO 2008, #413146  $12.95 (Tasted July 5, 2010)
ZENATO VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE RIPASSA 2006, #479766 $24.95 (Tasted April 6, 2010)

MONTEVINA PINOT GRIGIO NV, Napa, California, 13.5%  D  10g/L,  #237750  $14.95  (Tasted March 25, 2014)  CS

A General listing.  My notes:  A different label than on their website and this bottle has no vintage year stated. Perhaps a label for export? Perhaps grapes from anywhere rather than somewhere? A bland yellow leaving a thin film topped by a fine jagged rim to drop slowly. The nose has the aroma of warmed then cooled plastic wrap with a mildly pungent chemical sharpness. The first sip has a smooth texture, a dry grapefruit kiwi flavour and an aftertaste showing a momentary roundness with a delicate chalk feel. Serve well chilled as a sipper with Artisano's grilled garlic breads... sipping quickly and often avoids an unusual finish. A drink now.  78

PALATINE HILLS NEUFELD VINEYARD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012 VQA Niagara Lakeshore, NotL, Ontario, 13.5%  M 23g/L, #352344  $14.25*  (Tasted March 28, 2014) 

 Released by Vintages on August 17, 2013 and marked down from $18.00*.   My notes:  A mid yellow leaving a smooth film that slowly recedes from a lacy rim.  There's an aroma of apple, melon and mild floral citrus and matching prominent flavours - perhaps of the Neufeld terroir or winemaker's choosing. Nicely acidic with a noticeable sweetness and a smooth texture leading into a short finish ending chalky and with a light touch of oil on the lips. Difficult to place this as a Sauvignon Blanc - pair with curried chicken or a tangy Thai dish. A drink now.  80