Monday, February 01, 2016

February 2016 wines - 9 Tasted of 14

Cheers, Ww

LINEUP:  Reds, Whites and Bubblies:

  • Penthouse Pinot Noir 2013, 88a-1  --  V, Adelaide Hills, South Australia, #432864  $16.95
  • Woodwork Pinot Noir 2013 (Batch #7), 87-1  --  G, Sonoma, California, #428839  $13.95*
  • Muga Reserva Rioja 2011, 86  --  V, Haro, Spain, #177345  $23.95
  • Crios Limited Edition Red Blend 2013,  85a  --  V,  Mendoza, Argentina, #366146  $14.95  
  • Hahn Pinot Noir Monterey Count 2014, 83a --  G, Soledad, California, #226555  $18.95   
  • I Vasari Old Vines Barba Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2011,  r-v  --  V, Abruzzi, Italy, #289991  $19.95
  • Marchesi de' Frescobaldi Tenuta de Castiglioni 2012,  r-v  --  V, Tuscany, Italy, #145920  $18.95*   

  • Cave de Ribeauvillé Collection Pinot Gris 2014, 87  --  V, Alsace, France, #390633  $19.95
  • The Crusher Viognier Wilson Vineyard 2013, 84  --  V,  Clarksburg, Napa, California, #361964  $16.95
  • Mike Weir Chardonnay VQA Niagara Peninsula 2014,  81  --  G,  Beamsville, Ontario, #000026  $13.95* 
  • Willm Réserve Riesling 2014,  r-v  --  V, Alsace, France, #011452  $15.95
  • Joie Farm - A Noble Blend 2014 VQA, r-v --  O, Naramata, BC, #882027 (BC SKU)   $20.99 

  • Zuccardi Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Especial 2008, 92-2  --  V,  Tupungato, Argentina, #435438  $19.95
  • Bottega Petalo il Vino Dell'Amore Moscato NV,  r-v  --  G, Montebelluna, Italy, #588780 $12.95
(V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other, r-v  - Rating-Value, a - aerated, c - cellar, NR - Not Recommended)


I VASARI OLD VINES BARBA MONTEPULCIANO D'ABRUZZO 2011, Abruzzi, Italy, 13.0% D 8g/L, #289991  $19.95  (Tasted tbd)

Released by Vintages on November 14, 2015.  Rated 92 by Ian D'Agata  (April 2015).  My notes:

CRIOS LIMITED EDITION RED BLEND 2013, Mendoza, Argentina, 14.5%  D  7g/L, #366146  $14.95  (Tasted February 11, 2016)

Released by Vintages on October 31, 2015. Rated 88 by Steve Thurlow  (May 8, 2015).  My notes: A deep ruby purple tinted at the rim and leaving a firm film from the first swirl then dropping viscous tears. The nose is light black cherry mellowed by a mossy body and brightened by a mild tartness. The first sip is velvety and almost stings as it layers the palate with dry tannin. Finishes with a hint of sweetness and is long and brambly. This should cellar well balancing acid with more dominant fruit I suggest waiting another few years. Aerate for a drink now, decant or uncap then wait a day. Pair with savoury meats. 85a

CAVE DE RIBEAUVILLÉ COLLECTION PINOT GRIS 2014, Alsace, France, 13.0%  D  12g/L, #390633  $19.95  (Tasted February 10, 2016) 

Released by Vintages on October 17, 2015. My notes:  Opened at 8oC there's a perceptible numbing of aroma and flavour. Delaying until 12oC begins a release of both for a more pleasurable quaff, a gradual increase first in floral then a 'perceived sweetness'. A clear pale yellow sparkles in the glass and a swirl shows a fragmenting rim draining a few fast tears. From the first sip a fine chalk edge lends a mineral aspect to a long, tart lemon finish. A light-body and smooth texture is a match with grilled seafood: tilapia, cod, halibut on wilted greens and rice - went well with Rainbow Trout. A 'PG with a difference' and a drink now. 87

MARCHESI DE' FRESCOBALDI TENUTA DI CASTIGLIONI 2012, Tuscany, Italy, 13.0% XD  9g/L, #145920   $18.95* (Tasted tbd)

A Vintages release on April 1, 2015 *reduced from $21.95 until January 3, 2016.  My notes:

BOTTEGA PETALO IL VINO DELL'AMORE MOSCATO NV,  Montebelluna, Italy, 6.5%, S, 76g/L,  #588780 $12.95  (Tasted tbd) 

A General listing.  My notes: 

WILLM RÉSERVE RIESLING 2014, Alsace, France, 12.0%  XD  8g/L,  #011452  $15.95  (Tasted tbd)

Released by Vintages on April 1, 2015. My notes:

MUGA RESERVA RIOJA 2011, Haro, Spain, 14.0% XD 8g/L, #177345  $23.95  (Tasted February 9, 2016)

Released by Vintages on April 1, 2015.  A blend of 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha (Grenache), 10% Graciano and Mazuela (Carignan).  Rated 91+ by Luis Gutierrez, April 2015).  My notes:  A deep ruby with a tight, dried cork... The aroma fills the senses with a soft spicy plum, both warm and woody. Perhaps a blend testing as well as comforting through a rough sip and long sniff. A swirl lays a sticky residue on the glass holding back delayed tears. The first sip shows bright cranberry against a fat plum and the dryness of fine tannin lasts long on the palate. Aerating has some effect - decant for a slight softening. Pair with rubbed ribs, T-bone or tenderloin. On the down side of cellaring. 86

THE CRUSHER VIOGNIER WILSON VINEYARD 2013, Clarksburg, Napa, California, 13.5%  XD 5g/L, #361964  $16.95  (Tasted February 6, 2016)

Released by Vintages on August 22, 2015.  My notes:  A gentler Viognier with quiet aromas and a polite nip. The film sticks leaving a swelling rim that crinkles and slowly laces as it drops. The colour is a clear light golden and there's soft butter on the lips and a pleasing roundness in the swallow that builds for a long finish ending dry and tart. Serve chilled and watch for textures and flavours to co-mingle for a sociable sipper - or pair with lightly seasoned seafood. 84

MIKE WEIR CHARDONNAY VQA Niagara Peninsula 2014, Beamsville, Ontario, 12.5%  D  11g/L,  #000026  $13.95*  (Tasted February 11, 2016)

A General listing *reduced from $14.95 until November 29, 2015.   My notes:  An insipid yellow with a suspicion of hay on a  sweet nose. A veil of tears falls as a curtain leaving a few whole streams on the glass. Served at 10oC this is sweet, near luscious, and tart with faint fruit fronting a long finish. Ends with a collection of characters rather than an integrated profile. Have with Thai, Japanese or Mandarin Gardens Chinese, ie. sweet or savory Asian. Did not go well with a grilled ham steak with pineapple slice. A drink now for a modern crowd. 81

JOIE FARM  - A NOBLE BLEND 2014 VQA, Naramata, BC, 12.8%  M  xx/L, #882027 (BC SKU) $20.99  (Tasted tbd)

Received from my son in BC. My notes: A blend of Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Auxerrois and Schoenberger.   

PENTHOUSE PINOT NOIR 2013, Adelaide Hills, South Australia, 13.5%  XD  8g/L,  #432864  $16.95  (Tasted February 1, 2016)

Released by Vintages on January 9, 2016. Rated 89 by Michael Godel (November 8, 2015).  My notes: A see-through crushed cherry with aromas of blueberries scented with tangy red currants. An unpleasant side of the nose dissipates quickly - air 30 minutes. The film is thin, lacy at the top and quickly dropping with tears starting third way down. Smooth and dry from first sip, a lightish medium-body dry as a bone for a long flat cherry/plum finish following the initial sip. Have with a buffet spread rather than sip solo. Or with tuna and capers, lochs and cream cheese on a bagel or salmon burgers. May survive short term on the shelf. 88a

ZUCCARDI BLANC DE BLANCS CUVÉE ESPECIAL 2008,  Tupungato, Argentina, 12.5%  XD  8g/L, #435438  $19.95  (Tasted February 5, 2016)

A Vintages release on Januray 9, 2016.  My notes:  100% chardonnay that sustains a profusion of bubbles bursting on pouring prompting caution in a social crowd. A woody citrus combined with a penetrating tang pauses initial sniffs. A sip receives a full flavoured Meyer lemon combined with ample body that warrants closer attention - don't spoil with nibbles (perhaps a 5 year Cheddar?). A long finish allows time to relish this bubbly. Overall a flexible socialiser that's refreshing as an aperitif, a celebratory toaster or summer-on-the-patio sipper. Planning a crowd? Buy extra while it's available. Bottle weight is 2 lbs. 92

WOODWORK PINOT NOIR  2013 (Batch #7), Sonoma, California, 13.5%  D  11g/L, #428839  $13.95*  (Tasted February 6, 2016)

A General listing.  My notes:  *Reduced from $16.95. A see-through cherry/raspberry blend that swirls a thin weeping film. A sniff senses berry fruit delicately edged with a scent of sliced mushrooms. The texture is soft and silky with a light-bodied blending of berry fruit and dryness. A suspicion of sweet comes forward as the finish fades. OK with a Quiznos Classic Italian on herbed bun. Short term cellaring, ie. 2 years, may retain current balance - serve lightly chilled (12oC).  87

HAHN  PINOT NOIR MONTEREY COUNTY 2014, Soledad, California, 14.5%  D  10g/L,  #226555  $18.95  (Tasted February 8, 2016)

A General listing.  My notes:  Air 20 minutes or aerate. This has a royal ruby glow and aromas of earthy cherries and slight peppermint. A swirl lays a thin film that spreads evenly up to an unbroken rim. The first sip includes a fine velvet layer and a touch of sweetness leading into a long cherry finish including a viscous residual on the palate and a warmth that broadens the appeal. Went well with fennel coated pork loin chops. A cloying aspect builds in the finish - not noticeable with a meal - slows sipping. A drink now.  83a  

96-100 Extraordinary
90 - 95 Outstanding
86 - 89 Interesting to Excellent
80 - 85 Drinkable to Enjoyable
70 - 79 Uninteresting to Simple
60 - 69 Unpleasant
50 - 59 Unacceptable

Friday, January 01, 2016

January 2016 Wines - 14 Tasted of 14

...and May the Nasties Stay Away from Your Door in 2016!

LINEUP:  Reds, Whites and Bubblies:

  • Tyrrell's Rufus Stone Shiraz 2012, 93-3  --  V, Victoria, Australia, #091488  $22.95
  • Meandro do Vale Meao 2012, 92-2  --  V, Douro, Portugal, #244731   $24.95 
  • Montes Alpha Syrah 2012, 89-1  --  V, Colchagua Valley, Chile, #000612  $19.95
  • Irony Merlot Napa Valley 2012,  87  --  V, California, USA, #183186  $17.95*
  • Year of the Monkey Pinot Noir 2014, 85  --  G, Baden, Germany, #425108  $14.95
  • Cline Family Cellars Lodi Zinfandel 2013, 81a  --  G, Sonoma, California, #489278  $16.55 
  • Clos du Bois Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, 80a  --  V, Geyserville, California, #308304  $15.95 

  • Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2013 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 89-1  --  V, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, #172338 $22.95
  • Woodwork Central Coast Chardonnay 2013, 87-1  --  G, Sonoma, California, #428805 $16.95    
  • Cannonball Chardonnay 2013, 87  --  V, Sonoma County, California, #311563  $22.95
  • Te Whare RA Sauvignon Blanc 2014, 87  --   Renwick, Marlborough, #411603 $24.95
  • Henschke Tilly's Vineyard 2013, 84 -- V, Adelaide Hills, Australia, #061705  $26.95 
  • Daniel Lenko Chardonngay Unoaked Chardonnay 2012 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 82  --  Disc., Beamsville, Ontario, #260398  $12.10*

  • Cave de Beblenheim Brut Rosé Crémant d'Alsace NV,  87  --  V, Beblenheim, France, #168948  $18.95 
(V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other, r-v  - Rating-Value, a - aerated, c - cellar, NR - Not Recommended) 


IRONY MERLOT NAPA VALLEY 2012, California, USA, 14.5%  D  4g/L,  #183186  $17.95*  (Tasted January 4, 2016)

A Vintages release on April 1, 2015 and *reduce from $ 19.95 until Jan 3, 2016.  My notes: A Delicato Vineyards wine. The colour is a regal ruby or a cross between a ripe raspberry and blackberry. A thin film sits hanging from a wrinkle rim with a tilt flowing long slow tears. A touch of bright lacquer and crushed blackberry sets a smooth background for an extra dry layer of tannin. A faint lacquer on aged blackberry skins continues through a long finish appealing to those that have acquired the taste. Lamb, rib-eye and anything meaty red and savoury. Past fresh fruit and going into a tangy herbal stage. A drink now past cellaring. 87

DANIEL LENKO CHARDONNGAY UNOAKED CHARDONNAY 2012 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Beamsville, Ontario, 13.0% XD  5g/L, #260398  $12.10*  (Tasted January 4, 2016)

Product discontinued at a reduced price*.  My notes: A mid yellow clear as crystal on pouring. A thin film forms a fragile rim bursting with fast legs that quickly separates into nodules on the glass.  The nose is faint: some crabapple and some mango - tho' not much to relish. A metallic dryness takes over aroma and taste going into a long finish. A meal white for Swiss Chalet chicken was OK with pan-fried Trout on green beans with an anchovy butter sauce. An exploratory drink-now not for cellaring.  82

YEAR OF THE MONKEY PINOT NOIR 2014, Baden, Germany, 12.0% M  x/L, #425108  $14.95  (Tasted January 2, 2016)

A General listing.  My notes: An aspect of burnt match to a jammy berry meets the nose as well as a see-through mid red colour introduces this Pinot. The film is thin and runs a quickly fragmenting rim. Aerating pushes a pleasing cherry fruit forward. The first sip is sweet with crushed berry, tart, smooth, less jammy and sticky on the palate. Aerated, the taste is a bit cleaner. Finishes long and dry. Paired nicely with a savoury side of grilled pork ribs. My sipping preference is less jammy. A drink now. 85

TE WHARE RA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2014, Renwick, Marlborough, 13.0% XD  2g.L, #411603 $24.95  (Tasted January 22, 2016)

Released by Vintages on May 2, 2015.  My notes:  The colour is a light golden and there's a pleasing sweet pepper on the nose. A modest film sits under a full rim slowly falling without tears. A dry first sip carries with it a delicate vegetable flavour - not the traditional gooseberry. Body is medium carrying a refreshing uniqueness for a long extra dry finish. Sip if you prefer or combine with grilled scallops/shrimps in a garlic sauce. Paired nicely with Romance Sushi from Sushi Park on Dundas. A drink now. 87

HENSCHKE TILLY'S VINEYARD 2013, Adelaide Hills, Australia, 12.5%  D  7g/L, #061705  $26.95  (Tasted January 21, 2016)

Released by Vintages on May 16, 2015.  My notes: A blend of  34% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon, 17% Chardonnay, 14% Riesling, 11% Pinot Gris and 4% Gewurztraminer. A light gold that lays a thin film with a swirl or tilt ending with a lacy pattern. Poured at 11oC the aroma has a dry grassiness with a silk texture and prominent bitterness. Starts smooth quickly changing to chalk masking any fruit. Ends on the chalk note and a succulent medley of citric juices. A possible sipper at 14oC with hard cheeses/salty crackers - was a satisfactory match with grilled Rainbow Trout and would with most seafoods. Nothing to gain by cellaring. 84

MONTES ALPHA SYRAH 2012, Colchagua Valley, Chile, 14.5%  XD  14g/L,  #000612  $19.95  (Tasted January 13, 2016)

Released by Vintages on October 31, 2015. Rated 92 by Kim Marcus of Wine Spectator, March 31, 2015.  Sustainable dry farmed.  My notes:  The colour is a dense ruby up to the meniscus. The aroma is interesting being a soft plum cherry blend with a smoky tang for brightness. A swirl glides smoothly while a tilt lays a viscous film with a rounded rim dropping seamlessly. Bright on the palate, flavours of moody black cherry, dry with a penetrating warmth lasting through a long finish. Without nibbles the dryness wears out its welcome - aerating does little to soften a moderate bite and is not needed. A drink now and past cellaring. Pair with beef entrées, sausage patties or savoury bourguignon/Osso Buco. We served with Starsky's marinated pork souvlakis and stir fried mixed sweet mini peppers - not quite a match. 89

CLOS DU BOIS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013, Geyserville, California, 13.5%  XD 4g/L, #308304  $15.95  (Tasted January 7, 2015)

A General listing and product of  a Constellation Brands winery.  My notes: First, a strong nose with a black currant and raspberry fragrance along with a concentrated bitterness. A swirl lays a firm film cascading long fast tears that stick to the glass. A cleansing brightness and heavy tannin with herbal tones start then slowly fade. Difficult to describe as 'fruity' - perhaps 'woody'. A must to aerate for a tolerable sipper although the dryness still needs nibbles. Match with savoury beef ribs or Texas warm/hot chili. A drink now for stalwart socializers. (much improved after several hours open). 80a

TYRRELL'S RUFUS STONE SHIRAZ 2012, Victoria, Australia, 14.0% XD 7g/L, #091488  $22.95  (Tasted January 9, 2016)

Released by Vintages on May 16, 2015. My notes: The colour is an dense crushed blackberry. The second swirl adds to the initial film that gripped the glass. A tilt leaves a solid rim flowing a curtain of a slow tears. A delicate aroma of plums edged with a pleasing tang precedes the first sip - juicy with a smooth texture and a full-body - also a full flavour of blackberry, some blueberry, a suspicion of black pepper, bright with drying tannins. Demands attention as a sipper. Lesser so if paired with seasoned steaks, short ribs or filet mignon grilled rare. At peak with a few more years cellaring possible. 93

SOUTHBROOK TRIOMPHE CHARDONNAY 2013 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, 13.1%  D  8g/L, #172338 $22.95  (Tasted January 15, 2016)

Released by Vintages on August 22, 2015. An organic wine.  Rated 91 by Sara d'Amato, (December 4, 2014). My notes:   A mid yellow with an interesting soft lemon aroma on first sniff. Nose fades at 12oC however body and texture builds. A swirl leaves a thin film topped by a crinkled rim that drops a few slow tears. A creamy fullness and the start of a refreshing sharpness makes this an interesting sipper. A perceptible sweetness flushes character - also look for a temporary warmth and a mineral edge. Sip or pair with roast chicken, Guinea hens or turkey burgers. Will cellar well. Went well with a Tuscan Pesto Pizza from PizzaNova. 89

CANNONBALL CHARDONNAY 2013, Sonoma County, California, 13.7% XD  6g/L, #311563  $22.95  (Tasted January 14, 2016)

Released by Vintages on November 28, 2015. My notes:  A light lemon yellow on pouring laying a light film showing a krinkly rim and a few fast tears from a swirl as well as a tilt. A delicate lemon aroma tainted with a suspicion of vanilla, perhaps a waft from a mobile ice cream vendor. Successive sips build the character of chardonnay: slight butter on the palate, a dry edge and a lingering aroma and flavour for a 'Lush and expressive' finish. A conservative drink now with potential for additional rounding from a few years in the cellar, however, more of a social sip now. 87

MEANDRO DO VALE MEÃO 2012, Douro, Portugal, 14.0% XD 5g/L, #244731   $24.95  (Tasted January 7, 2016)

Released by Vintages on May 16, 2015.  A blend of 38% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca, 20% Tinta Toriz and 12% others.   My notes:  A lovely nose makes a great first impression: a hint of blackberry, highlights of cranberry with the roundness of blueberry and matches closely the deep colour.  A delicate fragrance fades earlier than anticipated (without any evidence of being foot trodden). There's a polite tang for interest, and sufficient flavour for a long smooth finish. Sip slowly then quaff to renew intensity. Match with slow cooked calves liver and portobello/creminis. Drink now or short term cellar. Stock up!  92

CAVE DE BEBLENHEIM BRUT ROSÉ CRÉMANT D'ALSACE NV, Beblenheim, France,  12.5%  C  15g/L, #168948  $18.95  (Tasted January 1, 2016)

Released by Vintages on December 12, 2015.  Rated 4 out of 5 by Susan Desjardins, (March 11, 2013)  My notes:A notable nose as it hasn't one. Poured as a coquettish salmon colour with a frothy head rising to overflow half the flute. Foam with a tart spritz and continuous bubbles to tickle the palate and medium-bodied to satisfy socializing on a sunny deck with a tray of soft cheeses and salty crackers. Have with bangers, waffles and maple syrup --- or just sip, better yet quaff.  A drink now. 87

WOODWORK CENTRAL COAST CHARDONNAY 2013, Sonoma, California  (Batch #12),  13.5%  D  8g/L,  #428805 $16.95  (Tasted January 26, 2016)

A General listing. My notes: A cream and vanilla aroma from first pour at 10c followed by soft apple. There's a thin but firm film showing a full rim that quickly sheds dropping evenly around the glass. The colour is a mid yellow and the texture has a pleasing cream, a moderate tang and a dryness that not quite masks a background sugar - nicely balanced - and a long finish. Serve to those preferring a chard with character including a touch of caramel. Roast chicken, mild Italian sausage with buttery egg noodles could be a match. Short term cellaring - up to five years - could deepen profile. 87

CLINE FAMILY CELLARS LODI ZINFANDEL 2013, Sonoma, California, 14.0% D  9g/L, #489278  $16.55  (Tasted January 24, 2016)

A General listing. My notes: I've tasted this vintage a few times - rated a 93 on December 23, 2014 and 83 on May 6, 2015. Why the variation? There are so many factors I wouldn't hazard a guess. The price we know  has increased $2. A see-through colour of crushed black cherries leaves a thin film and a crinkly rim on the glass. The nose has a penetrating nip similar to freshly brushed varnish but with aromas of crushed ripe cranberries. The first sip stings the palate before changing to a woody cranberry that lingers for an extra dry finish. Aerating or decanting thirty minutes lessens the sting bringing forward a brighter fruit and is recommended. Conflicting when served with roasted pork tenderloin in a herb sauce - I'd pair with spice rubbed steak or back ribs in a savoury sauce. Without aerating its a medium-bodied, harsh sipper with a touch of sweet. A drink now without finesse. 81

96-100 Extraordinary
90 - 95 Outstanding
86 - 89 Interesting to Excellent
80 - 85 Drinkable to Enjoyable
70 - 79 Uninteresting to Simple
60 - 69 Unpleasant
50 - 59 Unacceptable

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

December 2015 Wines - 14 Tasted of 14

Holiday 2015
Have you picked up your copy of the Holiday 2015 issue of LCBO's Food & Drink? A hundred pages more than a 'normal' seasonal publication. That's just over two hundred and fifty pages crowded with suggestions for cosmetics, women's fashions, travel, liquor-ware, enumerable glamorous dining-ware. (If there's a captive audience why not exploit them? - similar to Cable TV) Of course these are in addition to a wide range, prices that is, of wines and liquors some in glistening packages.

If I were to pick one example reflecting the theme of this edition it would follow the description of the family get together on pg. 256: 

  • The question begins, "What's in your home fridge that we might find surprising?"  has a 'surprising' answer,  "... For a wild game family dinner ... I had a beaver and a giant moose heart in my fridge."  And I can't explain my reaction to "...the gents move outdoors to smoke cigars, drink Scotch and barbecue some Tomahawk steaks or venison loin...etc."  I can only picture dialogue such as this as from a Victorian Romance or a Renaissance Royal celebration.
My conclusion:  I'm shopping in the wrong store. But then since it`s the only store I have to take a different approach. Not able to settle with the saying 'bad wine is better than no wine' I`ll be tempering future purchases on fewer wines but more selective and hopefully, more rewarding. 

Now 'back to the slots'.


Wishing you and yours every good thing this Holiday Season!
THE LINEUP:  (reds, whites then bubblies)

  • Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin Lodi 2013, 88-1  --   V, Manteca, California, #678698  $17.95
  • Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, 86  --   G, Manteca, California, #068924  $14.95
  • Cupcake Vineyards Red Velvet 2013, 84 --  G, Livermore, California, #260851  $12.95*   
  • Gnarly Head Pinot Noir 2013, 84  --  G, Manteca, California, #358911  $14.95
  • Sterling Vintner's Collection Pinot Noir 2014, 83  --  G, Sonoma, California, #226571  $15.95 
  • Gérard Bertrand Fitou Grenache/Carignan 2011, 81  -- V,  Narbonne, France, #403683  $16.95

  • ZOLO Torrontés 2014,  91-2  --  V,  Mendoza, Argentina, #183913  $14.95
  • Casas del Bosque Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2014, 89-2  --  V, Casablanca Valley, Chile,  #974717  $13.95
  • Rosewood Sussreserve Riesling 2014 VQA Niagara Escarpment, 84  --  V, Beamsville, Ontario, #258806  $12.25     
  • Pillitteri Estates Winery Protagonist 2012 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 84  --  V,  Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario,  #294025  $13.25
  • House of Mandela Sauvignon Blanc 2014, 83 --  G, Paarl, South Africa,  #407882 $12.85   
  • Calamus Estate Riesling 2013 VQA Vinemount Ridge, 83  --  V,  Jordan, Ontario, #158642  $13.75

  • Santa Alicia Tierra Sur Sparkling 2013, 89-1  --  V, Bio Bio Valley, Chile, #404103 $17.95  
  • Foss Marai Extra Dry Prosecco NV, 85  --  V, Veneto, Italy, #729392  $17.95*
(V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other, r-v  - Rating-Value, a - aerated, c - cellar, NR - Not Recommended) 


ZOLO TORRONTÉS 2014, Mendoza, Argentina, 13.8%  D 7g/L, #183913  $14.95  (Tasted December 13, 2015)

Released by Vintages on October 17, 2015.  My notes: Other grapes from ZOLO recorded in this blog were the Bonarda (88-1) in March this year and the Malbec (88a-1) and Chardonnay (89-1) in December 2013  . The colour is a yellow gold and clear as crystal. Catch the delicate pear and apple fragrance on opening - fades then recovers with a second pour. A moderate film separates into a few fast tears from a ragged rim. A smooth first sip with natural fruit and tangy edge stays for a long sumptuous finish - perfect for a buffet. The dry ending suits as a complement with white fish filets seared and seasoned with a slight heat or a shellfish assortment in a creamy herbal sauce. A drink now or short term on the shelf. Buy in for guests over the holidays. 91

GÉRARD BERTRAND FITOU GRENACHE/CARIGNAN 2011, Narbonne, France, 14.0%  XD  9g/L,  #403683  $16.95  (Tasted December 29, 2015)

Released by Vintages on November 14, 2015.  Rated 91 by Lauren Buzzeo, Wine Enthusiast (August 2014).  My notes: A muddy ruby colour and a delicate floral accented cranberry/blackberry fragrance. A swirl leaves a firm film laying a contiguous rim that quickly drops long slow legs. The first flavour impression is of a soft texture, a mix of herbal/berry with a chalky mouthfeel not that appealing to sip. A brightness comes forward through a long woody finish. Adequate when paired with grilled or roasted lamb, beef or venison - not pork. Not to be served as a sipper to close friends - past cellaring.  81

ROSEWOOD SÜSSRESERVE RIESLING 2014 VQA Niagara Escarpment, Beamsville, Ontario, 9.9%  M 34g/L, #258806  $12.25  (Tasted January 3, 2016) 

Released by Vintages on August 8, 2015.  My notes: Served chilled to 10oC there's a touch of sweet, a touch of tart and a touch of chalk to begin a pleasing first sip. The colour is a fragile blond. A metallic whiff, initially with little discernible fruit then building to a cool honeydew melon while a swirl spreads a quickly fragmenting film. A quaff leads to a long unctuous finish. We paired with local fish and chips where it refreshed the battered halibut while not being distracted by the chips. A social sipper with or without a mixed cheese tray or with a shrimp ring and seafood sauce. 84

CUPCAKE VINEYARDS RED VELVET 2013, Livermore, California, 13.5% M  18g/L,  #260851  $12.95*  (Tasted December 15, 2015)

A General listing reduced from $14.95 until November 29, 2015.  My notes:  An opaque ruby laying a medium film that separates quickly into a lacy curtain. A mix of black-, blue- and raspberries then red currants complete with tang. The first sip has several components: a weighty smoothness, a penetrating warmth, glycerine on the lips and dark chocolate almost masked by a full berry blend. A long finish. This could be a pleasing sipper for a crowd and paired with seared and grilled lamb chops, a T-bone with The Keg rub or a savoury set oven baked ribs. I suspect the prominent sweetness may separate out the conventional, dry wine drinkers. A commercial red. 84

GNARLY HEAD PINOT NOIR 2013, Manteca, California, 13.5%  D  8g/L, #358911  $14.95  (Tasted December 3, 2015)

A General listing.  My notes:  Clear with  a see-through ruby colour in the glass. The film is light leaving a lacy rim quickly forming scattered droplets - a tilt leaves a sheet of running tears. A light aroma of raspberries and strawberries entices further sipping to find a satisfying balance of woody spice, fruit and dry tannins. Medium-bodied with wood and spice remnants being the main components going into a long finish. Serve with mild fish or fowl: arctic char, chicken cordon bleu or a light buffet spread.  Likely on the down side of cellaring. An adequate social sipper waiting for a fuller alternative for the meal. 84
STERLING VINTNER'S COLLECTION PINOT NOIR  2014, Sonoma, California, 13.5%  D  9g/L, #226571  $15.95  (Tasted December 8, 2015)

A General listing.  My notes:   The see through ruby has a charcoal cast and a swirl leaves a sticky film separating at the rim and falling as a lacy cascade. A sniff senses flat cocoa, cherry and faint oregano for an unusual sipper along with a penetrating acid and drying tannin. Not a solo sipper - try with Seasonal sweets: cherry slices, chocolate squares or mince tarts - not shortbreads. A metallic edge masks thin fruit for the start of a short finish. No change with aerating. For a meal try with beer can chicken, saucy verging on hot chicken wings or flattened Cornish hens.  83

GNARLY HEAD OLD VINE ZIN LODI 2013, Manteca, California, 14.5%  D  10g/L,  #678698  $17.95  (Tasted December 12, 2015) 

A Vintages release on August 8, 2015.  My notes:  A moderate film that quickly sheds a dozen tears from a disintegrating rim. The nose has a polite tang to a subdued rasp/blackberry aroma and the colour has a regal ruby hue. Aerating retains the base aroma while softening the tang to give more prominence to a younger fruit. However the change would be unnoticeable in a social setting - decant a short time before serving. An appealing fruit level with tang and tannin is carried through a long finish. A refreshing flavourful sipper as well as a match with savoury beef or lamb main course. Has short term cellaring potential but essentially a commercial drink now.  88

GNARLY HEAD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013, Manteca, California, 14.5%  D  9g/L,  #068924  $14.95  (Tasted December 5, 2015) 

A General listing.  My notes:   A muddy deep ruby with a film that sticks then separates as a patterned lacework. A tilt shows a swelling rim that recedes slowly. A nutty fragrance adds to a slight plum and smoke giving some depth to a sniff. Well balanced with clean acids, tannins and cherry blackberry closing a sip then carrying into a long dry finish. Aerating offers no change. Medium-bodied at peak with no more to offer with cellaring - drink now or serve with rare beef medium to well seasoned. A value if discounted $1 - $2. 86

FOSS MARAÏ EXTRA DRY PROSECCO NV, Veneto, Italy, 11.5% D  15g/L, #729392  $17.95* (Tasted December 21, 2015)

Released by Vintages on April 1, 2015.  Reduced from $19.95 until November 29th.  My notes: Tasted several times - Jan 1, 2012, Aug 2008, Feb 2007, May 2006 -  and enjoyed each time. January 2012 rating was 86 and August 2008 an 88 with aromas of apple pie and butterscotch, spritzy with a long ‘unctuous’ finish.  The artificial cork comes easily then a slight pfizz releases the initial pressure. Bubbles subside quickly with only miniscule streams left to climb to the top. There's an aroma of fresh fruit subtle enough to escape notice. Soft and bright, a touch of sweetness and round with a touch of dry texture. The long finish ends with a slight tang and offers pleasurable sipping. Have as a summer cooler with or without nibbles or start a seafood appetizer continued with shellfish, cod, halibut or haddock. We had with haddock simmered in a shallot/tomato/lemon peel/thyme/pepper corns olive oil fry for extra flavour. At the reduced price keep a few on hand for unexpected guests - otherwise wait for another sale.  B50 C4 N12 F&F15 P0 T4 85

SANTA ALICIA TIERRA SUR BRUT SPARKLING 2013, Bio Bio Valley, Chile, 12.0%  XD  7g/L,  #404103 $17.95  (Tasted December 12, 2015)

Released by Vintages on June 13, 2015. A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  My notes:  Has the colour of a the flesh of a Bartlett pear and the delicate fragrance of distant honeysuckle/apple. The cork fractured on the first twist so I resorted to a cork puller to withdraw the remaining stub. Not quite like Old Faithful of Yellowstone Park but close demonstrating an internal pressure possibly warranting the two lb. bottle, the heaviest encountered in this blog. A biting spritz continued subsiding slowly as the glass was drained. Pleasantly drying with minor fruit and a fine chalkiness continuing into a long refreshing finish. The fragility of the cork, if remaining bottles are consistent, would make a wedding planner hesitate selecting this as an option, however there's sufficient originality in taste, texture and freshness for this to be a social choice. 89

HOUSE OF MANDELA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2014, Paarl, South Africa, 13.0%  XD  2g/L,  #407882 $12.85  (Tasted December 28, 2015)

A General listing.  My notes: Approaches a mid gold, clear and bright. The film is thin leaving a wrinkled rim to quickly recede as a field of ragged nodules. Poured at 11oC the first impression is of sharp bite and lemon tainted with tropical fruit. Silky if the tartness is ignored, and the drying crispness. Fuller and more palatable at (15oC). The nose is of tropical fruit just detectable and carries into a long extra dry finish. A sipper if you prefer tart. More of a seafood white - or with a buffet of grilled cheese/chicken/artichoke breads, pigs in a blanket or bacon wrapped salmon with capers and dill sauce. Cellaring is a question - I'd say not. 83

CALAMUS ESTATE RIESLING 2013 VQA Vinemount Ridge, Jordan, Ontario, 11.6%  M 13g/L,  #158642  $13.75  (Tasted December 8, 2015)

A Vintages release on May 2, 2015. Priced $16.95 on the winery's website.  My notes: A crystal clear light yellow with an aroma of fresh green eating grapes including a whiff of sweetness. Served at 10oC first comes a refreshing acid combined with a just noticeable sugar for a balanced fruity sipper. A chalk/mineral layer stays on the lips as delicate flavours fade over a short finish. We paired with bacon wrapped Atlantic salmon with an Asian vegetable stir fry both lightly drizzled with honey - not a match. An Ontario style Riesling and a social sipper with a buffet selection. 83

CASAS DEL BOSQUE RESERVA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2014, Casablanca Valley, Chile,  13.5%  XD  6g/L,  #974717  $13.95  (Tasted December 31, 2015)

A Vintages release on November 28, 2015.  Scored 3.5 out of 5 by Julie Stock  (June 22, 2015).  My notes: A delicate yellow, clear and shining with an aroma of tangerine tart to the nose with a clean metallic edge. A swirl leaves a thin film and ragged rim that recedes shedding just a few slow tears. The first sip has a pleasing roundness, warming and very dry to start a long finish before fading. Let breathe twenty minutes to establish a delicate lemon/sour apple flavour - not a Kiwi SB but still sharp. Went well with grilled pork with a soya/honey sauce. This may cellar a few years - try one then go from there. 89  

PILLITTERI ESTATES WINERY PROTAGONIST 2012 VQA Niagara Peninsula,  Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, 12.0%  M  16g/L,  #294025  $13.25  (Tasted December 15, 2015)

A Vintages release on January 10, 2015.  My notes:Chilled to 10oC this has a lime tang combined with a sugary sweetness and rounded body suitable for summer sipping. The colour is a scrubbed light lemon, crystal clear and leaving a thin film with a jagged edge. A light chalk edges flavours of lime/lemon and pear and is sustained part way into the finish. A delicate aroma matches the flavour and fades from that luscious first sip. This terroir,  perhaps the winemaker's blending of several vineyards is a social pleaser with a Viognier balance. Pair with a fruit salad of grapefruit, pear, cocktail cherries. avocado slices, feta and a lime squeeze.  A drink now.  84

Monday, November 02, 2015

Looking for Value - 2015

Whale watch cancelled

Kaikoura NZ, Seal Watch Apr '03
During the period January through October I've purchased 109 wines in the $16.00 and under price range. Of the 109 wines there were fifty-one wines rated 85+ with thirty of those rated 88+ including ten 90+The rest ranged from 82 to 87 with forty-six having some objectionable character (rated 83 and below). Fourteen were below 80 and could not be recommended - some were discarded.

Forty-one wines above $16.00 ($18.00 to $26.00) were also purchased and in retrospect formed a reference point for all of the wines. Of the 41 twenty-six were rated good to outstanding (88 to 92) - none were exceptional (above 93) nor were any below 82. A conclusion I've drawn is that picking wines randomly below $16 exposes the customer to buying less favorable wines (plonk) over 50% half of the time. It would appear that purchases $20 and above are less prone.

There's one born every minute!
In the short term I have focused my personal purchases on 26 wines priced below $16 and rated 88+ . These are listed below with a link to the Ontario inventory and store location. Prices may vary as well as availability... and vintage may change with new stock.

Hope this helps in some way...

My opinion, Ww


  1. Root: 1 Carmenère Colchagua Valley 2012,  92-3  --  G, Donihue, Chile, #350546  $12.80  (new vintage)
  2. Casa LaPostolle Gran Seleccion Carmènere 2012,  92-3  --  G, Rapel Valley, Chile, #168740   $14.90  (# not found)
  3. Charles & Charles Red Blend 2013, 92-3  -- G, Washington State, USA, #363838 $15.95
  4. Tempus Two 'Limestone Coast' Cabernet Merlot 2011, 91-3  --  G, Pokolbin, New South Wales, #308197  $8.75  n/a (# not found)
  5. Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, 91-3  --  G,  Modesto, California,  #392647  $14.95 now $16.95
  6. Casa Castillo Monastrell 2012, 91- 2  --  G, Jumilla, Spain, #165621  $14.95
  7. Oatley Tic Tok Pocketwatch Central Ranges Cabernet Sauvignon 2011,  90-2  --  G, New South Wales, Australia, #187179   $12.85* n/a
  8. Root:1 Carmenère Colchagua Valley 2013,  89-2  --  G,  Donihue, Chile, #350546,  $12.95
  9. Casas del Bosque Reserva Carmenère 2013,  89-2  --  V, Rapel Valley, Chile, #205872  $14.95
  10. ZOLO Classic Bonarda 2013,  88-1  --  V,  Mendoza, Argentina, #398271   $13.95     
  11. Velletri Terrae de Volsci Riserva DOP 2009,  88-1  --  G,  Lazio, Italy, #175141  $14.85
  12. CRIOS Dominio del Plata Limited Edition Red Blend 2013,  88-1  --  V,  Mendoza, Argentina, #366146  $14.95
  13. Leone de Castris Maiana Salice Salentino 2013,  88-1  --  G, Puglia, Italy, #717959  $14.95
  14. Valle Andino Reserva Especial Syrah 2012, 88a-1  --  V, Colchagua Valley, Chile, #272682  $12.75
  15. CRIOS Dominio del Plata Malbec 2013, 88a-1 --  V, Mendoza, Argentina, #162529 $14.95
  16. Zuccardi Santa Julia Magna 2012, 88-1  --  V, Mendoza, Argentina, #093799 $13.45


  1. Colomé Torrontés 2013, 91-3  --  V,  Valle Calchaqui, Argentina, #357913  $13.95 (not found)
  2. CRIOS de Susana Balboa Torrontés 2013,  91-3  --  V,  Mendoza, Argentina, #001834  $13.95
  3. Pietro Marini Torrontés 2013, 90-2  --  V, Calchaqui Valley, Argentina, #408443  $12.95
  4. L'Arjolle Sauvignon Blanc-Viognier 2013,  89-2  -- G, Côtes de Thongue, France, #348904  $12.70
  5. Casas del Bosque Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2014,  89-2  --  V,  Casablanca Valley, Chile, #974717  $13.95
  6. Humberto Canale Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013,  89-2  --  V, Patagonia, Argentina, #384321  $14.95
  7. Toasted Head Chardonnay, Barrel Aged 2013,  89-2  -- V, Acampo, California, #594341  $15.95  (now $18.95)
  8. Pilliteri Canadian Gothic Chardonnay VQA Niagara Peninsula 2012,  88-2  --  G, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, #395624  $12.95 
  9. UMA Coleccion Torrontés 2013, 88a-2  --  G, Mendoza, Argentina, #276626 $6.45   n/a
  10. Domaine de Pellehaut 'Harmonie de Cascogne' Blanc 2013, 88-2  --  G,  Sichel, France, #319665   $9.95 n/a
not available - when last checked