We are now into August, a sign that the summer is moving all too fast. This would be OK for many of us if July had been more summer-like but the cool weather we have experienced so far makes the rapid passing of the weeks even more distressing.
The feature this week provides a bit of a tonic for the crummy weather: there are many fine wines from California, once again showing that this region is the poster child for effective promotion by a region.
The most recent data presented by the LCBO to the trade in May shows that the USA, driven by California, showed the highest year-over-year growth of all regions in the General List at 12% in 2013.
In Vintages, California is the 800-pound gorilla among the major New World Wines categories (source: LCBO Trade Day 2014):
This week’s release is another solid offering of high quality wines and yet the prices are edging up across the board. This makes the value seeker nervous but yet there were a number of values buried among the more expensive bottles. Here are my findings.
Ontario, Niagara – VQA Beamsville Bench Hidden Bench Estate Riesling 2013
Over the past few vintages the Estate Riesling has adopted a less austere, dry character, largely to appear more attractive to wine lovers still not familiar with the pleasure of razor-sharp, high-acid Riesling. This said, the 2013 is a bright, well-balanced treasure that appeal to Riesling afficionados of all persuasions. It has assertive lime and green apple aromas. The palate is dry with crisp acid, stony minerals, medium body and plenty of intense flavours of green apple, lemon and lime. The finish is long and clean with lingering lime flavours. This wine can be enjoyed now but I think you should cellar a few bottles for the next 5-7 years – this will allow the flavours to evolve and show the wine at its best.
Dry, white wine – $23.95 per bottle
Australia, South Australia, Barossa Valley – Loan Wines Special Reserve Semillon 2005
Semillon is the main grape used to make Sauternes and is blended with Sauvignon Blanc to make the still whites of Bordeaux. It can be highly acidic and is often matured in oak to gain complexity and help make the wines easier to consume young. This is an unoaked Semillon made by a very small producer which has developed a well-deserved reputation for its wines. This is a complex wine with aromas of tea, honey and roasted nut meat. The palate is ripe and fullish with melon, honey, roasted nut and spice. This is a classic aged Semillon and should be tried if you have never enjoyed the delights of well-made wines from this grape. The finish is very long. Great value!
Extra dry, red wine – $16.95 per bottle
Australia, Western Australia, Margaret River – Evans & Tate Metricup Road Cabernet Merlot 2011
The Evans & Tate winery is located on Metricup Road in the community of Walybrup, a few kilometres from the coast in the mild, Mediterranean climate zone of Margaret River – at the bottom southwest corner of the continent. Why is this geography important? Simply because it makes an ideal zone for cultivation of ripe, non-green-flavoured Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. This maker has a spotty commercial history over the past 40 years but its wines have always been known for their quality, despite the ebb and flow of its commercial fortunes. This wine is assertive and balanced with bright fruit, precise acid, firm tannins and a long, clean finish. Cassis, mint, spice and modest oak make for a complex and correct Cab/Merlot blend. Serve with grilled strip loin.
Extra dry, red wine – $22.95 per bottle
Chile, Maipo Valley– Santa Alicia Gran Reserva de Los Andes Carmenére 2011
Not my favourite black grape, Carmenère is a difficult grape to harness. It generally has low acid and often displays green pepper flavours which can dominate if the fruit is less than fully ripe. The challenge thus is to ripen the grapes to the point they lose their green-ness but not to the point of ripeness where they lose their acidity. This wine is a correct, well-made Carmenère which will be a good-value introduction to the variety which has been confused by many in Chile to be Merlot (in fact, Carmenère is genetically related to Cabernet Franc). The Santa Alicia Carmenère features perfumed ripe cherry aromas and flavours, some subdued green pepper and smoky, chocolate notes. The finish is very long. This is a good wine to try, especially if you like the flavour profile of Cabernet Franc.
Dry, red wine – $15.95 per bottle
California, Napa Valley – Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2012
This is a perennial wine for Vintages California features going back over at least 10 years. It is fitting as Robert Mondavi was one of the pioneers of what has become the modern California wine industry and he is the person who aged some Sauvignon Blanc in oak to help overcome consumer resistance to the then un-appealing qualities of California Sauvignon Blanc. The rest is history and this style has become mainstream. This is a fine wine with complexity and character: tropical fruits, flinty minerals, a leesy mid palate with a waxy, warm mouth feel. Serve with a green salad starter.
Extra dry, white wine – $23.95 per bottle (California feature wine)
Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2014.