Vintages Release April-May 2005
By Natalie MacLean
April 30 Release
New Zealand White Wines
304469 CLOUDY BAY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004 $31.95 Marlborough, South Island (XD = extra dry): This is the wine that put NZ on the wine map. It's still modestly priced but I'd recommend some of the other sauvignon blancs in this release just as highly, even though some of them are $10 to $15 less. However, if you must have this kiwi badge, you won't be disappointed. It's a lovely, balanced wine, bursting with refreshing herbal and citrus aromas. The bonus is the screwcap so you don't have to worry about corked wine. Drink with salads, seafood, shellfish, poultry, plain and cream-sauce pasta. Score: 90/100.
651752 ALANA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004 $20.95 Marlborough, South Island (XD): A lovely sauvignon blanc that isn't too aggressive on the herbal character. Delicious and mouth-watering. Sauvignon blanc, along with rielsing, is among the most food-friendly of wines and I'm going to recommend the same dishes for many of them. Some though, such as this one, also drink well as an aperitif. Drink with salads, seafood, shellfish, poultry, plain and cream-sauce pasta. Score: 89/100.
735043 SERESIN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004 $19.95 Marlborough, South Island (XD): Vintages catalogue (VC): Seresin say they use the imprint of a hand as their logo because, the hand is a symbol of strength, gateway to the heart, tiller of the soil, the mark of the artisan. My note: One of my favorite SBs that I recommend year after year and look for on restaurant wine lists. This one is overflowing with flavors and complexity. It would drink well with the foods noted above but also more aggressively-flavored dishes such as medium-spice Mexican dishes. Score: 92/100.
309591 SHINGLE PEAK SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004 $16.95 Marlborough, South Island (XD) Matua Valley Wines: Ripe tropical and tree fruit with a zippy herbal character. An amazing price. Screwcap is a nice bonus. Drink with salads, seafood, shellfish, poultry, plain and cream-sauce pasta. Score: 90/100.
651869 GUNN ESTATE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004 $15.95 Hawkes Bay, North Island (XD): Bring on the gooseberries and lawn mowers! A big attack that will hit you like a cool pool on a summer day. Screwcap is a nice bonus. Drink with salads, seafood, shellfish, poultry, plain and cream-sauce pasta. Score: 90/100.
316570 OYSTER BAY SAUVIGNON BLANC $17.95 Marlborough, South Island (XD): VC: This perennial classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has aromas of gooseberry, grass, citrus and passion fruit. Intense lively fruit on the palate, crisp acidity with a lingering, slightly minerally finish. My note: Another one of my long-time favorites, this wine is part of the Vintages Essentials section of the LCBO, meaning it's in stores well beyond the month of the release. Score: 90/100.
957407 COOPERS CREEK SAUVIGNON BLANC $17.95 Marlborough, South Island (XD): Love it! Herbal, grassy with stonefruit and citrus notes. Breaks through with rays of sunshine on a cloudy day. Screwcap is a bonus. Part of the Vintages Essentials collection. Score: 89/100.
975672 KIM CRAWFORD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2004 $19.95 Marlborough, South Island: Another favorite; it's like old home week. This one has the distinct aroma of talent: ripe green apples, passionfruit and pears. Zippy and refreshing. Score: 93/100. Favorite White Wine
New Zealand Red Wines
586081 SILENI 'THE TRIANGLE' MERLOT 2002 $17.95 Estate Selection, Hawkes Bay, North Island (XD): VC: The Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ) logo on the back label refers to an initiative Sileni and other wineries embraced beginning in 1997. According to Sileni's website (www.sileni.co.nz), SWNZ provides the framework for companies to continually work towards improving aspects of their performance in terms of environmental, social and economic sustainability in both the vineyard and winery. My note: An excellent value for this smooth, plummy medium-bodied wine with aromas of chocolate. A touch tannic. Pair with red meats and stews. Drink 2005-2008. Score: 87/100.
680975 KIM CRAWFORD 'TANE' 2000 $35.95 Hawkes Bay, North Island (XD): Warm and rich depth, with dark berry and chocolate aromas. Drink with red meats and stews. Score: 90/100.
South African White Wines
714212 NEWTON JOHNSON SAUVIGNON BLANC 2003 $13.95 Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Hermanus (XD): Excellent value! Aromas of citrus (lemon and lime) and a refreshing acidity. Sauvignon blanc is and will be South Africa's leading white wine. Score: 86/100. Best Value White Wine
655373 FAIRVIEW 'AKKERBOS' CHARDONNAY 2002 $26.95 WO Coastal Region (XD): VC: Rather than a corporate slogan, Fairview's labels all finish with the simple toast, "To Life!" This creamy, beautifully wooded Chardonnay has a rich fruit and mineral finish. Food match: pan-seared scallops with asparagus. MY note: Lovely spicy pear chardonnay. Looooong finish. Where's my lobster in the butter sauce? Score: 90/100.
South African Red Wines
652651 BACKSBERG 'PUMPHOUSE' SHIRAZ 2002 $18.95 WO Paarl: Even though South Africa is traditionally known for pinotage (a grape I never got to love yet), they're making blockbuster good shiraz now, often at better prices than the Australians. This one is balanced and spicy with plummy warmth. Score: 88/100.
655357 FAIRVIEW 'JAKKALSFONTEIN' SHIRAZ 2002 $28.95 WO Swartland (XD): Dense, almost black fruit. If you like to whip your palate into submission, try this full-bodied monster. Score: 89/100.
626358 FAIRVIEW SHIRAZ 2001 $15.95 WO Paarl (XD): Terrific value. Dark fruit with a satisfying bite on the finish. Pepper and black plum notes. Score: 87/100.
Chilean White Wine
592998 CASILLERO DEL DIABLO VIOGNIER 2004 $13.95 Casablanca Valley (D) Vina Concha Y Toro: VC: Casillero del Diablo means "cellar of the devil". A rich, dry white with juicy peach aromas, this devilishly good wine will match well with Thai food. My note: Classic viognier aromas of citrus, lychee nuts and flowers. Fantastic price. Score: 88/100.
Australian White Wine
927541 TORBRECK WOODCUTTER'S SEMILLON 2003 $21.95 Barossa Valley, South Australia (D): A fascinating wine with exotic lanolin, honey and citrus notes. A gorgeous mouth-filling texture. Drink with chicken and pasta. Score: 90/100.
Australian Red Wines
942904 D'ARENBERG D'ARRY'S ORIGINAL $19.95 McLaren Vale, South Australia (D): VC: This grenache/shiraz blend has aromas and flavors of blackberry, black cherry, cinnamon, roses and menthol with coffee and caramel in the background. The wine lands softly on the palate, and finishes long and smooth. Delicious with beef. My note: Heavily-extracted wine (loads of flavor, color and alcohol). Full-bodied with delicious black plum, mint and chocolate aromas. Part of the Vintages Essentials collection. Score: 90/100.
595371 GEOFF MERRILL SHIRAZ/GRENACHE/MÔURVEDRE 2001 $18.95 South Australia (XD): VC: The mega-mustachioed Geoff Merrill has been making great wines for over thirty years for some big names including Chateau Reynella and Hardy's. His namesake winery is a 'big name' in its own right having won more than a thousand awards since launching in 1980. Geoff's SGM blend is a complex, well-balanced wine with red berry flavors and peppery characteristics that are sure to delight. MY note: A balanced and delicious full-bodied red. The screwcap is a great bonus. Score: 88/100.
926816 KILLIKANOON ORACLE SHIRAZ 2002 $39.95 Clare Valley, South Australia: Juicy, dense and brooding. Drink this when world domination is your goal. Blackberries, cassis and bad-ass attitude. Better value for the dollar than many cult shirazes. Drink 2005-2010. Score: 92/100.
925453 KILIKANOON 'KILLERMANS RUN' SHIRAZ 2002 $ 18.95 South Australia (XD): Another bruiser that kicks sand in the face of 90-pound weaklings. Humongous would be the technical term, I think. Big black fruit. Drink with members of your local motorcycle gang. Score: 90/100.
677138 MEEREA PARK SHIRAZ VIOGNIER 2002 $19.95 Hunter Valley, New South Wales (XD): VC: Meerea Park was the first Hunter Valley winery to release a wine made with Viognier. The varietal is proving to be well suited to the region. With this particular wine, Meera Park pays tribute to the northern Rhône's Côte Rotie appellation where a little white Viognier is traditionally blended into Shiraz for added fragrance. MY note: I love the exotic lift the viognier gives to the red fruit in this wine. Polished, full-bodied, with dark fruit. Score: 90/100.
912782 PENMARA RESERVE SHIRAZ 2002 $18.95 Australia (XD): Lovely berry fruit and great balance. Full-bodied. They also make a wonderful lower-priced wine available on the general list. (I'll be recommending that one in mid-May.) Score: 90/100.
321927 WOLF BLASS CABERNET SAUVIGNON $24.95 Premium Selection, South Australia (D): VC: Wolf Blass has taken the world by storm by consistently producing high quality wines like this full-bodied Cab with aromas of blackcurrant, eucalyptus, and dark chocolate. Dry and fruity, it has a medium long finish. My note: Staggeringly great wine for an unbelievably great price. Rich with layers of plummy warmth and Aussie sunshine. Wolf Blass is making some of the best high-end Australian wines available to us here. Part of the Vintages Essentials collection. Score: 93/100.
348540 WOLF BLASS SHIRAZ $24.95 Premium Selection, South Australia (XD): VC: From one of the most recognized names in the world of wine today comes a Shiraz with pizzazz! Lovely aromas of mint, blackberry, cassis, vanilla and black pepper lead to rich concentrated fruit flavors, exotic spice nuances, and a long toasty fruity finish. A perfect pairing for smoked meats. My note: Masterfully-made wine. Best bang for your big wine bucks. Full-bodied with blackberries, black plums and black currants. Part of the Vintages Essentials collection. Score: 91/100.
Canadian White Wine
657353 VINELAND ESTATES ST. URBAN RIESLING 2002 $14.95 VQA Niagara Peninsula (D): VC: Vineland Estates is one of the most beautiful wineries on the Niagara landscape and a must-see when touring wine country. They excel in producing a range of versatile Rieslings. This bone-dry version is sourced from the old vines of the St. Urban vineyard and was until now available only at the winery. Food match: seafood salad, baked trout, grilled Atlantic salmon. My note: One of Canada's best riesling producers, if not the best. The substantial mouth-watering acidity in this wine requires food. The ultimate palate-cleanser and food partner. Score: 89/100.
Canadian Red Wine
553313 MISSION HILL RESERVE MERLOT 2001 $19.95 VQA Okanagan Valley, B.C. (XD): Beautiful wine with rich chocolate and plums aromas. Score: 90/100.
Californian White Wine
958975 MER SOLEIL CHARDONNAY 2002 $49.95 Barrel Fermented, Central Coast (D): VC: Mer Soleil specializes in rich and intense Chardonnays that year after year receive raves from critics and consumers alike. Although reviews for the 2002 vintage were not yet available at press time, Chuck Wagner and his son Charlie Wagner II (of Caymus fame) described the vintage as picture perfect. MY note: I first discovered this wine at Disney's California Grill and have remembered it ever since. It's the ultimate in buttery yet spicy, exotic chardonnays. (And may I say that there is nothing, repeat nothing, wrong with loving chardonnay.) Perfect for cream-sauce pasta, lobster in butter and any corn-based dish. Score: 91/100.
Californian Red Wines
983577 KENWOOD ZINFANDEL 2002 $25.95 Sonoma County (XD): VC: Food match: grilled steak, pork roast, grilled herbed chicken, gourmet sausage. My note: A spicy red with lots of brambleberry and cherry goodness. Medium- to full-bodied. Score: 91/100.
909812 LEAPING HORSE MERLOT 2002 $12.95 Lodi (XD): VC: Medium purple hue with fresh berry, and cherry aromas and flavors. A pleasant, easy drinking wine ideal for lighter fare or warm spring sunset sipping. My note: An inoffensive, easy-drinking simple wine that's perfect for large parties. And may I also say there's nothing wrong with loving merlot, despite whatever Miles from the movie Sideways may think. Score: 83/100.
French Red Wines
652404 DUFOULEUR BOURGOGNE HAUTES CÔTES-DE-NUITS ROUGE 2002 $21.95 AC Burgundy (D) Domaine Guy Dufouleur, Prop.-Récolt: Terrific value for Burgundian pinot noir. The 2002 vintage was a stellar one in the region. Lovely earthy and sour cherry aromas. Drink with salmon, pate, chicken and pasta. Score: 88/100.
51870 CHÂTEAU DE SÉRAME 2002 $ 14.95 AC Corbières (D): VC: The Midi is becoming the insider's choice for great wines at fantastic prices. Chateau de Sérame is an exciting new venture of the Bordeaux house Dourthe. They have discovered exceptional new world charm in this old world region. A big, juicy, fruity approachable wine with a deep violet color and aromas that are reminiscent of blackberry, plum, cherry and a hint of oak. It is like a little piece of the Mediterranean in the glass. Medium full-bodied with a lingering, sun-warmed fruit finish. Food match: barbecued backribs, tapenade and toast, grilled herbed chicken. My note: Plummy, juicy and simple. A touch tannic. Great value. Score: 85/100. Best Value Red Wine
718924 CHÂTEAU SAINT GERMAIN 2002 $16.95 Unfiltered, AC Coteaux du Languedoc (D) Didier Cabanes, Vign: VC: Although certified organic by ECOCERT since 2002, Cabanes does not label his wines as such. He feels the wine should be judged on its own merits. Our Quality Assurance laboratory has determined that this wine contains 6 mg/L of free sulfur. Food match: Midi cuisine such as shoulder of lamb with white beans or olive tapenade. My note: Aromas of plums and blackberries. A touch tannic. Drink 2006-2009. Score: 87/100.
German Red Wine
460410 KÖNIGSCHAFFHAUSEN PINOT NOIR TROCKEN 2002 $16.95 QbA Baden (D) Königschaffhauser Steingrüble: VC: Without co-ops such as this many hobby farmers with less than of one acre of vines would have no buyers for their grapes. Food match: grilled salmon. My note: I am positively snaky over this one! Thank goodness it's got an unpronounceable name and I have a chance of buying some (or a case). A plush, sink-into-it wine of cherries and spice. More New World fruity style than Old World earthy style. Score: 90/100. Favorite Red Wine
May 14 Release
956656 'NOVAL LB' PORT $22.95 Finest Reserve, Late Bottled (S = sweet) Quinta do Noval: Terrific value. Gorgeous layers of dark red fruit, spice and smoke. The perfect after-dinner drink. Score: 90/100.
French White Wine
590174 JOSEPH DROUHIN SAINT-ROMAIN BLANC 2002 $27.95 AC Burgundy (XD): VC: Perched atop a cliff overlooking the Côte de Beaune region, Saint-Romain has a reputation for being one of the most beautiful villages in Burgundy. Their wines are pretty impressive too; their chardonnays are considered some of the best white wine values in the region. My note: One of the best producers of great value wines in Burgundy. This full-bodied white has delicious aromas of spicy pear and green apples. Great balance. Drink with chicken, pasta and vegetarian dishes. Score: 90/100.
French Red Wines
972463 CHÂTEAU PUY-CASTÉRA 2000 $23.95 AC Haut-Médoc, Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux (XD): Affordable Bordeaux from the fantastic 2000 vintage. This one is redolent of blackberries, smoke and cassis. Drink with hearty meat dishes, lamb and stews. Score: 88/100.
711374 LES ENCLOS DU DOMAINE DE MONTPEZAT 2001 $18.95 Vin de Pays d'Oc (D) Château de Montpezat/Christophe Blanc, Vign: VC: As with many Midi producers, Christophe Blanc is very satisfied with the wines he makes under his AC designation (Coteaux du Languedoc). With the Vins de Pays wines, such as this Les Enclos, he is able to experiment with grape varieties not allowed under the AC rules. This blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is ripe, rich, flattering and supple – ideal for late spring barbecues. My note: Attractive bitter chocolate aromas and plum. A touch tannic. Drink 2006-2010. Score: 89/100.
680801 PERRIN TAVEL ROSÉ 2004 $19.95 AC Rhone Valley (XD): VC: Tavel produces some of the richest, yet driest rosés on the market. They work beautifully as a sipper and are quite adaptable to a variety of foods. Food match: spring salads, smoked turkey breast, veal cutlets. My note: A dry, spicy rosé of medium body. Score: 86/100.
German White Wines
735241 BALTHASAR RESS RIESLING KABINETT 2003 $16.95 QmP, Hattenheimer Schützenhaus, Estate Btld. (MD = medium dry): VC: Balthasar Ress, one of the Rheingau's finest producers, has some of the best vineyards in the Rheingau. Their Hattenheimer Schutzenhaus vineyard grows Riesling that is extremely expressive of all the grape's best qualities. Ress has also begun a unique initiative that allows you to lease one grape vine in their nearby Hattenheimer Engelmannsberg vineyard for three, five, ten or twenty-five years. Not only does it allow you to visit your vine anytime you like, but you are also entitled to one bottle each year for the period you hold the lease. Leases range from 60 to 205 Euros. My note: Balanced and soft yet mouth-filling and stunningly flavored. Leaves you wanting more, a lot more. Drink with just about anything on this planet or Mars: pasta, chicken, white meats, game, Asian. Score: 93/100.
919449 GESCHWISTER SIMON RIESLING KABINETT 2003 $13.95 QmP, Ayler Kupp, Estate Btld. (M): VC: The perfect Riesling for your favorite fiery Asian dishes. It has a ripe, almost sweet mouthfeel that is ideal for cleansing the palate after enjoying the hot stuff. My note: Perfect party wine that will appeal to a broad spectrum of palates and go with a wide variety of nibbles, even barbecue. Score: 89/100.
Italian Red Wine
591974 DI MAJO NORANTE SANGIOVESE 2003 $ 14.95 IGT Fruili Terra Degli Osci (D): VC: A perfect party wine, this easy-drinking quaffer has lovely sweet berry, plum and smoke tones. It is dry with a pleasing, soft, gentle centre. Food match: hamburgers, pizza, pasta. My note: Pleasant sour cherries and good mouth-watering acidity. It needs food, especially spicy and tomato-based dishes. Score: 87/100.
Portuguese Red Wines
527473 ALIANÇA PARTICULAR 2000 $15.95 DOC Dão (D): Black pepper and plums. Full-bodied. Pair with a perfect pepper steak. (Repeat that five times, drink a glass of wine and try again.) Score: 88/100.
586735 QUINTA DA GARRIDA TOURIGA NACIONAL 2001 $23.95 DOC Dão (D): VC: Caves Aliança: VC: Touriga Nacional, the most revered grape in Port production, is finding a new life throughout Portugal as a richly flavorful dry red wine. Our panel found this quite velvety on the palate with the fruits ably balanced by a nice seam of tannin. Food match: calf's liver with onions, stuffed pork roast. My note: Notes of dark chocolate. Smooth and medium- to full-bodied. Pair with steak. Drink: 2005-2008. Score: 89/100.