Alan’s August 18, 2007 Vintages Release Tasting Notes

Alan Kerr and MumI was unavailable to taste the wines from the late July- early August release due to a trip to England. It rained for a total of nineteen of the nineteen days I was in the country, although one afternoon the sun popped out from behind the constant cloud cover for about an hour. Having to crank the heat every morning in the middle of July to take the chill out of the air did not seem to bother the local folk, but it was tough for me.

Nonetheless, the hand pulled cask ales in the country village pubs helped to ease my suffering. Tripping around Birmingham’s Balti Triangle devouring renditions of Bengali’s Jhalfrezis and Masalas from the Punjabi soon warmed my belly. Most of all, spending time with my family and friends made the trip entirely worth while.

So it’s back to business in the torrid heat of one of Ontario's driest summers. The August 18th Vintages release showcases wines from Chile (not tasted), and also from Reif here in Niagara.

33274 KING'S COURT CABERNET FRANC ICEWINE 2002, Niagara Peninsula $38.95
The featured notes of chocolate, cooked rhubarb and cigar leaf remind me of a Tawny Port. Chocolate, toffee and coffee are found on the palate, while the light fruit on the nose has all but departed. It is a pleasant wine, perhaps slightly past its best. Find this wine

542399 KONZELMANN RIESLING ICEWINE 2004, Niagara Peninsula $53.95
Konzelmann’s Riesling is one of the premier Icewine producers in the region. This bottle offers aromas of dried apple, fig, sweet pea and honey. The intensity of flavours on the palate is enhanced by a sublime layer of acidity that sends this wine into the realm of perfection. 
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Reif’s 125-acre vineyard is located on the Niagara Parkway, a picturesque route that carries a mass of tourists along the Niagara River between Queenston Heights and Niagara on the Lake. All the usual suspects are grown on the estate and even Zinfandel was grown for five years until it was destroyed in the brutal winter of 2002.

One might assume that given the fact the family has been making wine in Germany for more than twelve generations their preference might lean towards white varietals. Although the Gewurztraminer from this release is a gem, Reif’s winemaker, Roberto Di Domenico, crafts a red Meritage blend that is worth trying.

Reif has been growing grapes for thirty years and producing wine for twenty-five. Plans are in order to open a Wine Sensory Garden where flowers are to be grown that represent the colours and aromas of white and red wines.

127985 REIF ESTATE GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2005, Niagara Peninsula $14.95
Full blown and surprisingly powerful for less than fifteen bucks, the nose shows good varietal character opening with a blast of lychee, tangerine peel and lime leaf. The balance is spot on; the finish is dry and full of fruit flavours. This is perhaps the best QPR wine of the release. Find this wine

544791 REIF ESTATE VIDAL ICEWINE 2004, Niagara Peninsula $24.95
I sometimes prefer the taste of Vidal icewines to that of Riesling. This rendition is full blown, ripe,  powerful and packed with aromas of white tree fruit, mango lassi and honey. The rich flavours linger long on the palate. Find this wine

997569 REIF ESTATE MERITAGE 2004, Niagara River $26.95
This is Reif's first vintage designated under the new sub-region VQA Niagara River. A wine with an enticing nose of underbrush, blackberry, cedar and blackcurrant. It is tight on the palate, but there is plenty of fruit. It really opens nicely within minutes of being in the glass. A year or so of aging should soften the layer of tannin. Find this wine

935676 REIF ESTATE MERLOT 2004, Niagara River $23.95
I am not as struck with this as I am with the Meritage. The Merlot shows notes of coffee, cigar box, and underbrush along with some gentle red fruit. The acids please, the tannins are gentle, but I find the fruit drops off from the finish.  Find this wine

707224 CAKEBREAD CELLARS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2005, Napa Valley California $41.95
I expect a little more for $41.95 Sauvignon Blanc than I get from this bottle. It has a pleasing character of melon, red grapefruit, fig and lime zest, but it seems too mellow and lackluster especially given the price. Maybe all the crisp full blown New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc I have been drinking lately has neutralized my palate. It probably is a beautiful wine to some, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Find this wine

BONNY DOON LE POUSSEUR SYRAH 2004732511 BONNY DOON LE POUSSEUR SYRAH 2004, Central Coast California $22.95
Notes of earth, blueberry, fleshy red fruit and spice. The acidity is lively, the tannins are dusty - grill a few burgers and have some fun. Find this wine

660480 ELDERTON FRIENDS SHIRAZ 2005, South Australia $19.95
A full bodied Australian wine that shows those creamy, peppery and dark fruit notes typical of Shiraz without being over the top. I smell both white and black pepper, layers of blue berry and blackberry fruit with just a hint of chocolate mint. The acids keep the palate in tune. Find this wine

NEWTON VINEYARD CLARET 200437994 NEWTON VINEYARD CLARET 2004, Napa Valley California $30.95
I really like this, but others present comment it is a touch over the top on the oak. It is full of wet soil, blackcurrant, chocolate and cherry. The formula brings together a mix of 56% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and a dab of Petit Verdot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. I enjoy the creamy mouth feel, the fruit is forward, milk chocolate becomes apparent on the finish and the acids are in line. Find this wine

41244 SIX FOOT SIX SHIRAZ/VIOGNIER 2004, Geelong, Victoria $17.95
The bottle is bone dry, devoid of any wine! Must be good I figure. Smelling the empty vessel reveals plenty of black fruit and black olive aromas. People tell me it was tasty!!! I guess I will have to buy a bottle to confirm. Find this wine

37390 JOHN DALY THE LION'S SHIRAZ 2005, Western Cape, South Africa $16.95
Although this wine, the latest of the PGA tour boys to hit the shelves of the LCBO, is named after the powerhouse golfer John Daly, the comparison stops there. Unlike its namesake, it is a light styled wine that offers up some notes of sweet plum, dried herb and vegetal aromas. The palate is thin and uninteresting. Find this wine

009241 MÔRESON PINOTAGE 2005, Coastal Region, South Africa $18.95
A lovely blend of lavender, cocoa, dried Chinese mushroom, moss, coconut, sage, thyme and black fruit that starts in the glass and runs right through to the finish. Normally I am not a fan of Pinotage, but this will be in my shopping cart on Saturday. Find this wine

959551 JOSEPH DROUHIN ST. VÉRAN BLANC 2005, Burgundy $21.95
The only thing I do not like about this wine is the price. $21.95 might seem reasonable for a Chardonnay from Burgundy, but across the border it can be found for far less. However, the notes of earthy mineral, pear, milk toffee and subtle French oak might convince me to pick up a bottle or two. It is light to medium, but it is well crafted and true to its home. Find this wine

CHATEAU CANON DE BREM 1999, Canon-Fronsac46961 CHÂTEAU CANON DE BREM 1999, Canon-Fronsac $28.95

A mature nose of moss, earth, lead pencil, plum and pepper leads to a palate of light, but nicely structured fruit, a trace of dusty chocolate and lovely red fruit acids. Not a powerhouse by any means, just a good example of mature Bordeaux. Find this wine

I have fond memories of being at this winery a number of years ago, but few wines recently from Fontanafredda have impressed me. This one certainly does with its massive layer of rich ripe fruit accented by aromas of coffee, tar, nasturtium leaf, cola, cinnamon and a pleasing earthy note of sewer drain. The palate shows power and balance. It is quite lovely now; another year away will shed that layer of chalky dusty tannin and bingo, nice wine. Find this wine

These grapes grown in the “heart of the Mistral”, (referring to one of several winds in this region that benefit growers by tempering the torrid heat of the Mediterranean), have produced a wine I would term as a stunner. It is a long way off from being at its best, but the layers of blackberry fruit, toffee, dark toast, thyme, marjoram, and mineral are compact. Although I might be tempted to get stuck in, it needs 3-5 years of slumber to come around.
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A simple but clean Chianti with notes of red currant, rhubarb, sweet cherry and Szechwan peppercorn. Find this wine

674135 GUADO AL TASSO IL BRUCIATO 2005, Tuscany $26.95
Very New World in its style with aromas of black fruit coulis and toast. The palate is ripe and creamy, nice, but nothing special. Find this wine

One sniff of the melded aromas of stewed plum, fig, dark chocolate, marzipan and lavender tells me this is more intense than previous vintages of Brigaldara’s Amarone. The palate is ripe, full and luscious. The only negative note, and it is slight, is that the sixteen degrees of alcohol does show up on the finish. Find this wine

657452 QUINTA DE VENTOZELO TOURIGA NACIONAL TINTO 2003, Douro Valley, Portugal $19.95
Spearmint, plum and damson give way to a creamy layer of blackberry fruit. There are plenty of tannins that need time to resolve, but I think this might be quite tasty in time.
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