Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Report from: Brazil Tasting – September 14, 2007

If I asked you to name the top 5 largest wine producers in the Southern Hemisphere I’d bet you the farm you wouldn’t get all 5. You’d probably come up with Australia (no.2), maybe Chile (no.3) and South Africa (no.4). You might be surprised to find out the number one spot belongs to Argentina – if you think about Argentina at all and if you did you didn’t think it was number one. But I’d be really surprised if you guessed the number five slot. Well, from the title of this tasting I bet you’ve figured it out; but would you have guessed it had I not been attending a Brazilian wine tasting? I didn’t think so.

Currently Brazil has about 900 wineries and 87,000 hectares under vine – it truly is enough to boggle the mind … Brazil? The land of diminishing rain forests and expanding cattle herds; the land that exported the idea for the smoothest waxing job in the world makes wine … who’d a thunk it? But then again it seems every country in the world makes wine in one form or another; the real question is: do they make good wine? And if so, how do I put my hands on some?

The good news is Brazil does make some pretty good wines, and as with any country it’s hit and miss, but thankfully on this day it was more hit than miss. Price is always an issue as I see it anyway, and the real adventure is finding values wherever you look (under-priced wine that tastes like the overpriced stuff) … Brazil is no different. With the Canadian dollar currently trading at par with its U.S. counterpart, giving you the price in U.S. funds will give you an idea of what we would be paying for it here. The bad news is that there are precious few bottles of Brazilian wine on LCBO shelves (1 to be exact, according to a recent search at LCBO.ca under Brazil); but Brazil is looking to change all that. Having already entered into the U.K., German and U.S. markets it’s time to turn their attention north of the 49th parallel setting their sights on our shores. Here is what I found while tasting some of what Brazil has to offer.

Wines/Grapes of Choice …

Of the grape varieties that do the best in Brazil I would say Cabernet Sauvignon is king. Their hot climate is great for this later ripening grape. The lone Cab Franc I tasted was also very good – nothing like our Ontario versions, but then again we are comparing apples with oranges (re: climate). Also quite well received were other heat loving grapes like Malbec and Tannat; plus many of their blends, dominated by Cab Sauv, were exceptional, if a little pricey.

Formal Tasting ...

The day was broken into a sit down, formal tasting of seven wines and a walk around portion for tasting the rest. Among the outstanding wines at the formal tasting were:

Don Laurindo Gran Reserva 2002 – 80% Tannat and 20% Ancilota (Italian variety) – chocolate, mocha and red fruit on the nose, while smooth and flavourful in the mouth; but it’s a drink now wine and at $105 USD it’s a little pricey for a quaffer.

There was the Pisani & Panceri Gran Reserva 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, a pretty good bargain compared to the wine above at $18.50 USD – a little green on the nose with pepper, nutmeg and other spices – they all materialized in the mouth except, thankfully, for the greenness, which turned chocolaty – and that’s a good trade any day.

Also making my top three for the formal part of the program was Boscato’s Gran Reserva 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, with it’s coffee and black fruit nose and smooth black fruit, anise and mocha mouth … though the $80 USD price tag was not its best feature.

Moving out onto the floor – (the other wines) ...

Seven wineries and their principles made the trek to Canada and each had at least one wine that was impressive.

Casa Valduga had a 2004 Cabernet Franc that showed wonderful bramble and black fruit characteristics, made from 30 year old vine and aged 6 months in French oak ($13.99 USD); their Chardonnay ($14.99 USD) was the best white wine of the show – although, truth be told, there were very few whites on display.

Miolo Wine Group had a 50/50 blend of Cab Sauv and Merlot called Lote 43 2004 ($35.00 USD) – a great blend that had red fruit, chocolate and blackberry – with some tannin adding heft and backbone, but still smooth and delicious. Miolo’s other blend added Tannat to aforementioned mix (I different percentages of course) and was from the “stellar” 2005 Vintage (which was rated as the best in Brazil – ever) … the wine is called Gran Lovara 2005 (no price given) … rich supple and age-worthy. I have no doubt the wine will retail for $50+.

Vinhos Mioranza had the best Sparkling Moscatel of the show (lots of sparkling wine is made in Brazil, both sweet and dry). This Asti-like wine was deliciously fruity with pears and peaches on the nose and a sweet grapefruity-grapiness in the mouth ($17.99 USD), a real ladies wine, as plenty of them lined up for seconds and thirds.

Finally, a winery called Pizzato impressed me the most with reasonable prices ($14.99 - $24.99 USD) and quality wines throughout the line. The Fausto Cabernet Sauvignon ($10.99) with its good red fruit and tannins created a good mouthfeel with a touch of dryness on the tongue. Their Merlot Rosé ($10.99) with its cherries and strawberries on the nose and raspberries with some mild citrus sprinkle on the tongue – a hint of tartness grabbed the palate, but in a good way. Their Concentus 2004 ($24.99) a blend of Merlot, Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon, has red fruit, cherries, cinnamon, spices and herbs on the nose, and dark fruit, black cherries, with a touch of raisin and cedar and some drying tannins in the mouth.

You may be asking, “what about Merlot?” Well yes they have Merlot in Brazil and everybody makes a single varietal, but it’s lacking something that’s almost indescribable – flat, overly extracted, lacking in fruit character … it’s just something that doesn’t sit right. Though it is important to note that most of the blends that contained Merlot in their mix were good, well structured wines. Of the straight Merlots tried, Pizzato again proved they were the right winery for the job. They showed that Merlot can be made properly in this part of the world. Their fruit forward 2004 Merlot Reserva ($14.99 USD) was voted best Merlot in Brazil (feint praise according to my above standards) but this Merlot had great cocoa, blackberries and cassis to go along with its fruit forwardness.

Brazil makes wine … I’m serious – and for the most part it’s very good wine. Let’s hope we start seeing some of the more reasonably priced stuff here; and then we’ll be another in the line of countries converted to the Brazilian way of drinking and not just waxing.

Report from: Chilean Preview Tasting – September 12, 2007

As with my fetish for Franc, I make no bones about my love for Chilean wine; Chilean Merlot is where I first began my love affair with red wine and thus, as with all our first loves, Chilean wine holds a special place in my heart (and on my palate). So wouldn’t it just figure that I’d screw up my scheduling so that I am nowhere near Toronto for the Chilean Wine Fair (October 3, 2007) - details of which can be found below; but before you go off and check that out, let me tell you about the Preview Tasting held at the Boiler House Restaurant in Toronto’s distillery district. This preview had an unusual twist … each flight was served blind (we knew the grape variety but not the producer); with a total of 8 flights, some with as many as 9 wines and some with as few as three. There were most definitely some surprises, some “aha!” moments and some real revelations; so let’s take a brief look at some of the wines of Chile, flight by flight.

Flight ASauvignon Blanc and Various (9 wines)

New Zealand has pretty much defined everybody’s expectation of Sauv Blanc – so I think I found myself a little surprised by this flight as many of the wines lacked the typical grassy, grapefruit and gooseberry, instead replacing it with tropical and peach nuances in both aromas and flavours. The closest one to having that typical citrus zip and zing was from Vina Garces Silva 2006 Sauvignon Blanc ($21.95 – Whitehall Agency) with grassy, lemony and melony smells and lots of citrus in the mouth.

The “various” in this flight included a Gewurztraminer and a Viognier. The Viognier was delicious with peach, melon, tropical fruit and pineapple on the nose – tastes leaned on the tropical side, along with apricot and pineapple. For this kind of oral pleasure you’d expect to pay more than $14.95, but you won’t (unless it’s illegal), so look for Vina Anakena 2006 Single Vineyard Reserve this October in Vintages. Rounding off my favourites in this flight was the Vina Porta 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Reserva ($13.95 – Abcon International Wine Merchants), the nose was not very forthcoming, but the palate elicited some peach flavours and something else familiar, but just out of the realm of recognizable … if I had more time I probably could have figured it out, let’s say by the end of the bottle; and this wine is so tasty you’d get their by yourself no problem, with or without acknowledging the unknown flavour.

Flight BChardonnay (9 wines)

Unfortunately, I found the wines in this flight to be way too similar in taste to really determine a clear order after the top 2. My one was heads and tails above all the others and then I had a bubbling under candidate for 2nd place – let’s say the rest tied for 3rd. That’s not to say the wines were bad, they just lacked that jump-out-of-the-glass-ability to grab you. My top spot went to Vina Caliterra 2006 Chardonnay Reserva ($11.35 - #257147) vanilla and toffee nuances with some tropical fruit character on the nose. In the mouth the tropical and vanilla continued with a consistently pleasant mouthfeel and good lasting finish. Vina Cousino-Macul 2006 Chardonnay Antiguas Reservas ($15.10 - #730044) was the other wine that made an impression: floral, peach and tropical fruits when breathed in, followed by good peachy fruity flavours going down – the nose stood out more than the taste – but in the end it was very enjoyable.

Flight CCarmenere and Blends (6 wines)

Carmenere is to Chile what Malbec is to Argentina and Shiraz is to Australia – a signature grape. But while everyone is growing Shiraz these days and Malbec is popping up here and there; but not everyone is trying to grow Carmenere – it is the long lost Bordeaux grape that nobody seems destined to bring back into fashion – except the Chileans. They discovered it growing in and amongst their Merlot grapes and were harvesting the two together. The problem was that Carmenere ripens later than Merlot and when harvested together it ends up giving the Merlot green under-ripe flavours; but when done right and singly it can make a beautiful, lush and tasty wine. Two great examples at two different ends of the price spectrum were poured. Number 2 was Vina Perez Cruz 2005 Limited Edition Carmenere ($24.95 - #670539) – spicy herbs and red cherries on the nose; supple fruit, lush mouthfeel, tasty with lots of red fruit and some tannin bite. But for my money the Vina Tarapaca 2006 Carmenere Reserva is a real steal at $12.95 (no product number at time of review). Cinnamon and cherries on the nose; lush cherries and delicious red fruit in the mouth, light on tannin – smooth and rich on taste, coming to the LCBO any day now … or so I was told when I went to buy a couple of bottles 3 hours later. There was also a Vina Carmen 2005 Carmenere/Cabernet Reserve blend ($16.95 - #439166) – good red licorice with a touch of raisiny-pluminess and some spiced cherry in the mouth. I got high alcohol from this one, so I couldn’t imbibe much more than a glass, but enjoyed what I tasted.

Flight DPinot Noir (4 wines)

You would think a cool climate-loving grape like Pinot Noir would not like Chile because of all that heat – and for the most part you’d be right. Chilean Pinot is jammy and fruity, but lacking in the characteristics that makes Pinot, Pinot – earthiness. The Bio Bio Valley is one of the most southerly Chilean regions and thus one of the coolest … and coincidentally (blind) they made my choice for best Pinot: Vina Porta 2006 Pinot Noir Reserva ($13.95 – Abcom International Wine Merchants – cinnamon, spice and earthiness fill the nasal passages; strawberries, cinnamon, good tannin backbone along with good acidity and that telltale dirt in the mouth … quite yummy. The best Chilean Pinot value was not at this tasting, but if you want to pick up a Pinot with Bang For the Buck appeal check out the Cono Sur 2006 Pinot Noir ($10.10 - #341402).

Flight E Shiraz/Syrah (5 wines)

There are some great Shirazes coming out of Chile at some really affordable prices. The Shirazes poured did not fully express the fruit’s potential in the country or the nice price points you can usually find, but of those on display the clear-cut winner was Vina Errazuriz 2005 Max Reserva Shiraz ($18.15 - #614750). It came the closest to Shiraz-Nirvana with its complex nose and taste. Vanilla, chocolate, white pepper, some herbs and a hint of mint in the background greeted the sniffer; whilst rich tannins, peppery-spiciness and black fruit were most prominent in the mouth. There’s a good 5 years of aging that you could put on this bottle, so maybe, on second thought, the price is a decent in respect to its longevity.

Flight FMerlot (3 wines)

Having cut my teeth in the world of reds on Chilean Merlot I was thrilled when this flight was announced and then let down when only 3 wines were poured. Chile is known for their soft, supple Merlots. Of these three wines the least expensive turned out to be the best – a good value for bargain hunters. Vina Tarapaca (winner of the Carmenere flight) 2005 Vina Mar Reserva ($11.95 - #669119) – red and black fruit throughout, hint of tannin and good fruit flavours on the tongue.

Flight G & HCabernet Sauvignon (10 wines in total)

The Cabernet Sauvignon flight(s) were broken into two with no discernable reason given (such as reserve, non-reserve, price) … but there were some real winners within both flights. In “G” it was the Vina Haras de Pirque 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon – Haras Character ($19.95 - #640672); it’s milk chocolate, sweet fruit and menthol nose followed by spicy black fruit and chocolate tastes with good tannin structure and a drying mouthfeel. “H” provided another close to $20 winner with the Vina Santa Alicia 2004 Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon ($18.95 - #60244). This really was a taste treat, with sweet red fruit, cherries, red licorice, mint and milk chocolate on the nez – sweet red fruit with luscious mouthfeel as it passed the gums. Delicious. My value selection in the Cab Sauv department came from Vina MontGras in the form of their 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva ($12.20 - #619205) – black fruit and herbs on the nose, black cherries and menthol in the mouth … it has some tannins and is very very tasty – especially for a wine at that price. My local LCBO has it marked on the shelf-talker for $11.55 – which makes it an even better deal.

Long live good, tasty and inexpensive Chilean wine! See, and taste, for yourself on October 3rd from 7:00 to 9:30pm … visit www.winesofchile.ca for all the details and to get tickets.

Report from: Concha Y Toro Tasting – September 10, 2007

No winery says Chile to me like Concha Y Toro … their Casillero del Diablo has found a spot on my wine rack year after year, and I have been buying their “Trio” series of wines since its introduction into the Ontario market; in fact, after this tasting, I went home and pulled my 2002’s off the shelf to drink them (more on that later). So when Concha Y Toro invited a few of us for a sampling of the new line-up of Trio and Terrunyo wines I jumped at the opportunity.

The tasting was held at a marvelous little restaurant on Yonge Street, just north of Lawrence, called, appropriately enough, Trio – a little Italian joint that makes some awesome food. I’m also told their thin crust pizza is to die for, and if their Osso Bucco, flank steak, calamari and other delights sampled this afternoon were any indication I’ll be back to try that pizza.

But enough about the food, let’s talk about the wine here. Some years ago Casillero del Diablo (a reserve wine) was the top end wine in the Concha Y Toro line up – now it has been usurped by Trio (a reserve blend), Marques de Casa Concha (a single vineyard reserve) and Terrunyo (a single block from a single vineyard reserve). The 7 wines tasted this afternoon were all wonderful and it’s tough to single out just one as being the wine to buy. The good news/bad news about the Terrunyo Sauvignon Blanc is that it will not be available in this market (Ontario); while it truly is delicious with beautiful fruit and acidity and would retail for between $25-$30 and the LCBO doesn’t seem to want to carry a Savvy B. at that prince point. Therefore I won’t waste the space reviewing it, though I guess I already did (if you find a bottle elsewhere and love good Sauv. Blanc treat yourself to a bottle). The other Sauvignon Blanc I tried this afternoon was the Casillero del Diablo 2007 offering ($10.95 - #578641) – green apple and lime on the nose, grapefruit in the mouth with a peach-mango finish.

The rest of the tasting focused on the reds: Trio 2006 Merlot (a blend of 65% Merlot, 20% Carmenere and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 11 months in oak); Trio 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (70% Cab Sauv and 15% each of Shiraz and Cab Franc also aged 11 months in wood); and the 2005 Terrunyo line – Carmenere, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Both Trios are wonderful blends with the Merlot ($14.95 - #433920) showing signs of plums, cherries, chocolate and eucalyptus with a dollop of violets on the nose … in the mouth its lots of cherries, chocolate and black fruit … a side-by-side tasting of the 2004 and 2006 vintages showed that the wine has good aging potential – and would continue to improve over the next few years. The Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.75 - #433912) was a real delight with black cherries, plum, blackberries and menthol on the nose; cassis, black cherry, chocolate and dry tannins on the palate, but not so drying as to turn the mouth arid. This one too could also stand a few years of bottle aging. A few nights later I opened my own 2002 Trio Cabernet Sauvignon and was struck by how intense the chocolate and cherries had become, and how smooth and soft the mouthfeel was – stunning 5 years later. My disappointment came when I opened my bottle of 2002 Merlot which turned out to be corked with its telltale wet newspaper and damp basement smells … Concha Y Toro has rectified that problem by putting the Trio line under plastic “Noma” cork (best described to me as looking like “sponge wrapped in Mac-Tac”).

The Terrunyo line’ names comes from a bastardization of the Spanish word for Terroir … It is the best of the best of Concha wines “Ultra Premium Quality” – and the innovative packaging is just one example of why. Terrunyo wines are deemed to be the best fruit, from the best block from the best vineyard. The picture on the front label shows the vineyard with a little red arrow pointing out the particular block; on the back label a graph shows elevation of the block within the vineyard. Each wine retails for $29.95 and all are well worth it; they really are a sophisticated and complex wine showing off the specific nuances of each individual variety.

The 2005 Carmenere comes from Block 27 of the Peumo Vineyard in the Rapel Valley and spent 18 months in French oak. It’s cherry, violet and blackberry nose was only overshadowed by the incredibly smooth red fruit, blackberry, cassis, cherry and hint of mint flavours in the mouth.

The 2005 Syrah spent 14 months in French wood and contains a dollop of Cab Sauv for structure (about 10%). The wine smells of white pepper, black fruit, tobacco and mocha and those were once again overshadowed by the tastes: lush red fruit, herbs and cherries with a touch of pepper … it is a very limited production wine, but Ontario should see 60% of it (about 150 cases).

Finally, the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon was housed in French oak for 17 months and contains 5% Cabernet Franc. Black fruit, cassis and cocoa on the nose; with the same in the mouth along with some tannin bite.

These three wines (Terrunyo) should see Vintages shelves sometime between April and November 2008 – so keep your eyes on the catalogue – they’re well worth the investment especially the Carmenere and Syrah.

The Trio wines are available right now.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Report from: Shores of Erie International Wine Festival - September 8, 2007

It would be redundant of me to review the wines of the Lake Erie North Shore a month after going to their Vintages Festival … therefore this report focuses strictly on the event. The Shore of Erie International Wine Festival is one of the prettiest festivals you’ll ever attend, and one of the easiest to get around. Held at Fort Malden, which is on the Detroit River, the festival invites hundreds if not thousands of Americans and Canadians to enjoy the fruits of our culinary and vented labours; all held at a place that, at one point, was used to keep those “nasty” Americans out – ironic huh?

If you live east of London, Ontario you’ve probably never heard of the Shore of Erie Wine Festival, that’s because the marketing focus of the festival, and for many of the wineries of the area, is the 30+ million folks that live within a 100-mile radius, which includes most of Michigan, Windsor, Chatham, London and surrounding area. The festival is all about the food and wine of the Lake Erie North Shore, and unlike the Vintage Tasting, held in August, the SOE Wine Festival has as many restaurants as it does wineries, probably more; and the list of live bands playing the festival grows every year. At first it was all just local bands and acts, but this year Ron Sexsmith and the Cowboy Junkies graced the stage on opening night; while annual favourites like Thornetta Davis played the all-important Saturday night gig.

The focus of the festival does remain very much local; you’ll notice that very few businesses from outside that aforementioned 100 miles venture out, but it was nice to see a business from Niagara take part, selling their grape juice infused t-shirts … and it seems they did a banner business as every fifth person walking around had on one of their cutesy-logoed shirts (e.g. Desperate Housewines or Grapes Anatomy). Sarah Jensen, one of the proprietors said, “I’d never heard of this festival before, I didn’t even know it existed. We were a last minute addition and we’re so glad we came. It’s a great festival and I just love the location … it’s so pretty here.”

Because the festival is held on the Detroit River, ship traffic is inevitable. “The big ships really make this event unique, I’d say they pass by every hour or so and they just look so majestic. Here comes one now.” Harvey Hollingshead from Erie Shore Vineyard told me as we watched one of these big boats cruise on by. “It really added that extra something.”

“Pretty”, “ma
jestic” what other words were used to describe this festival? “Fun” … Arms Bumanlag, radio personality for AM800 CKLW and host on the big stage for the Saturday afternoon, told me about the “fun” Friday night activities (which unfortunately I missed due to a Genesis concert in Toronto). “It was almost rained out. We had high winds at the beginning and then at about nine the rain came, complete with thunder and lightning. Nobody left though, people gathered under the two big tents,” he said pointing them out, “full glasses in hand and watched the light show. Lightning struck a few places on the river, but instead of being scared they cheered and toasted each strike.”

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention 2 events in the seminar tent. On Sunday there was a Battle of the Chefs between St. Clair College and the Stratford Chef School … next year Shelly “Big Phil Collins Fan” Thrasher wants to expand the battle even further. The other event was held under that same tent at 12:15 on Saturday, where the Grape Guy himself lured 104+ people to hear his talk about “Why Visit a Winery” … you’ll have to get a review from somebody else because I’m too close to the guy to give a non-bias opinion; but I hear it was a “hell of a show”, and my big public kiss on the cheek from organizer Shelly Thrasher in front of all assembled sealed the deal. See you next year Shores of Erie … bigger and better.

Thanks also to the following wineries who provided wine for my talk:

Colchester Ridge Estate Winery
Colio Estate Wines
Erie Shore Vineyard
nardi Wines
Muscedere Vineyards
Pelee Island Winery
Sanson Estate Winery

Smith and Wilson Winery
Wagner Estate Winery

Report from: Australia Preview – September 5, 2007

The Aussies are coming. The Aussies are coming. In a few short weeks the folks from a land down under will be invading Toronto for the annual Australian Wine Tasting. Now in truth the Ozes landed a long time ago and they never left, invading the LCBO with bottle after bottle of fruit-driven, bomby wines that over delivered with pepper and red fruit flavours. Australia has literally changed the way we drink wine and re-introduced the world to Shiraz (syrah). Today each winery that will be attending the show later this month, was allowed to put one bottle on the table … a bottle that best represented their winery. In total there were about 60 wines to taste and they were broken down by region. So let’s take a quick travel around Australia and see what’s tasting terrific … so far.

Not surprising, there were few white wines to choose from – only about 5 of the 60 were white; the best of the best was a Riesling from the Clare Valley: O’Leary Walker Wines 2007 Riesling ($25.95 – private order B&W Wines) – the nose promised something sweet with peachy-melony goodness, but instead on the tongue you got citrus zing, crisp minerality and slate, with a dry acid-based finish; very food friendly and a refreshing sipper for hot days (I’m sure they have none of those Down Under).

The reds proved to be more of a challenge; because there were so many more they had to compete against each other for the number one position. There was no clear winner, but there were some excellent wines to choose from.

DeBortoli seems to be making a name for themselves and this newest addition to their line-up delivers in spades, but does lack a key varietal character. Deen Vat 10 2006 Pinot Noir ($14.95 – general list) was light and enjoyable with strawberry, raspberry flavours and a good raspberry finish. It lacked the earthiness most common in Pinot, so if you or your friends don’t dig the grime, you’ll like this one.

Of course it wouldn’t be an Aussie tasting without Shiraz, and there were lots on display, from all over Australia. From Hunter Valley comes the Hope Estate 2005 Shiraz ($17.95 - #741068); ripe plum and cherries on the nose, deep rich cherry flavour in the mouth … some tannin, but nothing to dry the mouth out too much. Around the same price range you can pick up the more complex Mount Langi Ghiran Billi Billi 2004 Shiraz ($18.00 - #726001). A nose of black fruit, vanilla, spice and strawberry, while in the mouth black fruit, light cedar and smooth easy-going fruitiness. I found myself being fond of the Skillogalee Basket Pressed 2004 Shiraz ($24.95 - #990902) with its blackberry, chocolate, mint and raspberry opening and a taste that followed through right up to its hit of spicy-nutmeg on the finish … a little pricey but awfully tasty.

Speaking of pricey, the Grant Burge 2005 Filsell Shiraz ($32.95 – private order Calibrium International) had spicy cola on the nose and cherry, cola and white pepper on the tongue. The alcohol was labeled at 15%, and you could feel it in the throat, although it did smooth out in the finish. This is tasty, but only a glass worth, after that it becomes too thick and alcohol laden to deal with … try chilling it up a bit if you decide to go back for seconds.

Wines worth having seconds and thirds of came from Wakefield Wines (2005 Cabernet Sauvignon $17.95 - #744235) – peppery spice with a chocolate mocha and vanilla-raspberry finish; Jacob’s Creek (2004 Reserve Shiraz $17.15 - #665471) with smoky red fruit, a tannin grip, chocolate-cinnamon-cedar follow through, and long fruit bomb finish; and from Peter Lehmann, who’s 2004 Clancy’s Red ($17.95 - #611467) is friendly, fruity and always enjoyable – best of all it won’t break the bank.

Tiers Wine Company’s perennial Vintages release: Clarence Hill Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95 - #43729 … 2004) is chocolate and cocoa heavy on the nose, very fruit forward with red fruit and milk chocolate in the mouth. Not for any long term aging but very enjoyable right now.

One of my favourite Australian wineries’ is Nepenthe; they always seem to impress the heck out of me with whatever they do. Their 2004 Rogue Shiraz Cabernet Merlot ($19.95 - #998542) is another pleasant offering with black fruit, spice and some peppery zing on the nose and a cherry-vanilla-cola taste … good yum factor.

Finally, the Ringbolt returns … this 2005 Cabernet ($19.95 - #606624) does well at Vintages and has been an annual hit since it was first released here. Some spice, blackfruit and chocolate greet the nose, with chocolate, blackberries, cassis and cedar in the mouth – goes down well and there is the potential to age this one a little: 2-5 years. This one should see shelves come October 2007.

My appetite is now whetted for the Really Big Show coming Thursday September 27 at the Design Exchange 6:30-9:00pm and I hope yours is too – for more info about the event check out http://www.wineaustralia.com/CANADA/Default.aspx?tabid=4360.