Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Trip Down Under

Originally posted at

Australia is known for really great red wines – in particular, Shiraz – but yesterday, in Toronto, I found a great white wine, a couple of surprising non Shiraz red wines and a great dessert wine that I just had to share with all of you who read my blog.

Matt – one part of Plunkett Fowles – came all the way from Australia with a variety of their products to show us what the Strathbogie Ranges has to offer. The Strathbogie Ranges area of Australia is about one hundred and thirty kilometers north of Melbourne and is considered to be one of the “kindest” cool climate regions in South East Australia. Just an interesting fact about the Strathbogie Ranges to consider:

“In the coolness of spring the vines produce only small berries. The months that follow consistently offer low rainfall, cloudless skies and intense summer sun, giving rise to fruit that is dense in colour and flavour. Being inland, the Strathbogie are rarely plagued by autumn humidity so there is less pressure to harvest to beat the spread of plant diseases, helping to ensure we harvest under optimum conditions.”

From the sounds of it, the Strathbogie Ranges are a winemakers dream and, based on their wines, they definitely have a lot to offer. All of the wines from Plunkett Fowles were lovely but the one white wine that truly impressed me was their 2008 Wild Ferment Chardonnay. This particular wine is produced under their Ladies who Shoot their Lunch line and the way they describe this wine is unlike how most wineries describe their wines. Rather than describing the flavours and aromas, they choose to describe their wine in the way you would feel like a lady who has just spent the morning shooting her lunch. What strikes me the most about this wine are the complex flavours in the palate. Instead of using cultured yeast, as most wineries do, they have chosen to use the wild yeasts found in the vineyard to ferment this wine. It can be a tricky process but once a winemaker has mastered how to do this effectively, wild fermented wines can produce some amazing results. When tasting this wine, it struck me how similar the 2008 Wild Ferment Chardonnay was to a Barrel Fermented Chardonnay that was made in a barrel that was 2-3 years into use. As barrels are used year after year, the flavours they impart to a wine lessen and with this particular Wild Ferment Chardonnay there was just a kiss of oak which would equate to a 2-3 year old barrel. The palate was loud and powerful with flavours of citrus and mineral and a long, lingering, lemony finish.

Just as Plunkett Fowles has a very interesting Wild Ferment Chardonnay from their Ladies who Shoot their Lunch line, they also have a 2006 Stone Dwellers Shiraz which was quite enjoyable. Looking at the technical information on this wine you find that it is actually a blend of 98.5% Shiraz with 1.5% Viognier which is something that Australian wines have taken to doing regularly because it brings a nice floral aspect to a normally rich and silky palate. This wine is definitely everything I love about Australian Shiraz – jammy, fruity and a good spicy backbone that lingers on almost indefinitely.

Our next two wines – both reds – find us at Downing Estate Winery in Heathcote, Victoria. They exclusively produce red wines and, at this tasting, they brought along their Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2004 vintage. The Shiraz is chock full of berry flavour, vanilla, chocolate and plums. It is jammy and rich and spicy and everything a really great Shiraz should be. The Cabernet Sauvignon, although great now, will definitely benefit from additional aging – like, say, 8-12 years. It is already showing black currant, vanilla and bread aromas with excellent structure, tannins, more black currant as well as a few herbal hints. Just imagine how great this wine will be in a few years time.

We continue with more reds – this time from a winery called Black Jack Wines. As their website clearly states, “Blackjack is Red!!!” and all they do is red wines…and extremely well at that. The 2004 Cabernet Merlot has aromas of cassis, tea and the occasional hint of mint which carry on to the palate that is complex and firm with strong tannins and the ability to age this for several more years if you so desire. On the other hand, the 2005 Shiraz is very fruit forward with aromas of plums and other black fruit with a hint of chocolate weaving through it. The palate is tight and firm, shows an excellent balance of fruit and tannin, the right about of chocolate and the ability to age for anywhere from five through to ten years from now.

Now, of course, what would a tasting be without a dessert wine to finish it off? Well, Pfeiffer Rutherglen Wines did not disappoint. Made from 100% Brown Rutherglen Muscat grapes, is done in a late harvest style and has flavours of raisins and floral. It was highly suggested that I try this wine with some of the blue cheese and pecans and that was a great combination but if you are not a fan of blue cheese, why not try it out with some aged cheddar. I have often found that sweeter wines pair wonderfully with four or five year old cheddar.

Now, if you are interested in getting your hands on any of these wines, this is where it gets slightly interesting. Normally, in Ontario at least, most international wines are bought through the LCBO in either the regular stores or the Vintages program. In this case, none of these wines are in the LCBO at all but the gentlemen who were standing behind these booths said that if my readers are interested in getting their hands on some of these wines, they can contact them at the winery directly for importer information. Below you will find contact information for each of the wineries mentioned above.

Plunkett Fowles Wines

Downing Estate Vineyard

Blackjack Wines

Pfeiffer Wines Rutherglen

Friday, October 16, 2009

It’s Harvest Time…

Originally posted at

I love this time of the year – spending time with family and friends, the smell of Roast Turkey wafting from the kitchen, helping friends harvest their local vineyards, and the knowledge that in about a year, those grapes you helped harvest are going to be a delicious bottle of wine.

This year, I was helping my friends at Lacey Estates Vineyard & Winery harvest their Chardonnay. Each year it is different – my first year was Pinot Noir, last year was Baco Noir, this year it was a white grape. Just before we started picking early on a Saturday morning in October, I decided I should update my Facebook status to “Picking Chardonnay at Lacey Estates today”. Within an hour of posting that, I was receiving comments on my status like “And great Chard it will be!!” and “Excellent, always nice to open a bottle of wine that you know you had a hand in making.” Honestly, I could not agree more with these two statements. I have already tried Lacey Estates inaugural vintage of Chardonnay and, not being a major Chardonnay fan, I can unequivocally say that it is one of the best Ontario Chardonnay’s I have had in a very long time. As for the second comment, this is what I said, “Most definitely. I was thinking yesterday what a sense of pride winemakers must have when they finally have a chance to try the final product.” In fact, during the whole picking process – which is back breaking work – someone said to me that when it is in the bottle it all feels worth it.”’

With all of the hard work going on in the vineyards at this time of the year, it is very easy to think with longing towards the end of the day and the wonderful meal set to take place at the end of the day. You know, in a way, this is one advantage that – I think – Canadians have over Americans. All of the wine producing regions in North America are in full harvest mode but, for us lucky Canadians, this is also the time of year that we have Thanksgiving while the Americans have to wait a month and a half for their Thanksgiving feast. Canadian Thanksgiving weekend invariably falls half way through harvest time in Ontario so there is almost always a harvest party to enjoy if you are not joining a family celebration for the weekend but, in my family, we always have this wonderful, delicious moist Roast Turkey with all the fixings.

Now, I am sure a lot of you have heard the old adage when it comes to wine pairing – “White Meat, White Wine; Red Meat, Red Wine.” This is the one time of the year that I like to show people that you can completely break those rules and go bold with a Red wine with your Turkey or Ham. A number of years ago, a friend came to me to ask me for a recommendation on an Ontario wine for Thanksgiving dinner so I decided to give him my ultimate change of mind recommendation – Willow Springs Baco Cab Franc. Now, unfortunately, the winery does not make this as a blend every year but they do make each of these wines individually so buy a bottle of each, and blend it in a decanter together. This year, another wine friend of mine (and his) asked him what his wine choice was for a turkey. It turns out he still does the Baco Cab Franc blending…it must be a favourite with his family. So, with this in mind, let me share with you some of my favourite wines to pair with your next Turkey dinner.

Rosehall Run Vineyards 2006 Rosehall Vineyard Pinot Noir
$29.75 per bottle
I speak from experience when I say this one pairs extremely well with Roast Turkey because we had this with our Turkey dinner on Sunday. Black cherry and mocha aromatics give way to a fruity, smoky palate. It has an almost barely there structure to the palate but with the slight tannins and grip to the finish, this wine will be ready to drink anywhere between 2009 and 2012.

33 Vines 2007 Cabernet Franc
$24 per bottle
Quite simply – a really great wine! I love the colour in the glass – it is an inky purple almost black colour. The aromas scream blackberry, jam, violets and currants with a slight hint of herbal at the end. Before you even take your first sip of this wine, it is screaming to be paired with chocolate…and who are we to deny a wine that?

The palate has a hint of spice at the tip of the tongue but only if you are trying it without any chocolate. It is mostly jammy but with a good base of currants and black fruit to bring complexity to the flavours. The great thing about this wine is that not only does it pair extremely well with Roast Turkey, it also is a wine that begs for chocolate so you could easily keep going with this wine through dessert.

Lacey Estate Vineyards & Winery 2007 Baco Noir
$20 per bottle
Baco Noir is one of those great Ontario wines that is over the top fruit in both the aromas and the palate. It is that fruity nature that makes it a perfect match with Roast Turkey and, especially, cranberry relish. Lacey Estate’s Baco Noir is currently sold out but it is definitely one that, year after year, will pair beautifully with Turkey or Ham plus all the fixings.

Cattail Creek Estate Winery 2007 Cabernet Franc
$18.00 per bottle
Cabernet Franc tends to have the fruitiest character of the Cabernet grapes – cherry, plum, black fruit all abound in typical Cabernet Francs and this wine has all three. In this particular version, they also mix and mingle with cigar, tobacco, vanilla and that oh so wonderful chocolate flavour to make this a truly complex wine. Out of all the red wines out there, this one would probably be the heartiest that I would pair with Turkey or Ham but if you do not want a hearty Chardonnay, this is an excellent choice for you.

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery 2005 Baco Noir Reserve
$24.95 per bottle
In the last two years you keep hearing how the 2007 vintage was absolutely outstanding for Ontario wines. Well, two years prior to that – the 2005 vintage – Ontario made a name for itself with red wines specifically. The intensely hot summer was great for the red grapes allowing them to have concentrated fruit flavours and aromas. Consequently, you have a wine here that is super fruity, has great structure to it (i.e. does not taste “wimpy”) and more than holds up to any kind of heavy meal like roasts tend to be.

Chateau des Charmes 2007 St David’s Bench Gamay Droit
$16.95 per bottle
Gamay Noir is the lightest tasting of red wines available in North America and the Gamay Droit clone is unique to Chateau des Charmes winery. Gamay is typically a very fruit forward wine, not at all heavy, and pairs well with a wide variety of food dishes. The major flavours and aromas are cherry and berry fruit but there are the added components of spices, pepper and tannins making this a very interesting wine.

Stoney Ridge Estate Winery 2006 Reserve Cabernet Franc
$17.95 per bottle
Like the other Cabernet Franc mentioned above, this wine has some major fruit components. A combination of cherry, cedar and bell pepper aromas with flavours of red berry fruit, vanilla and oak, this wine definitely has all the necessary components to pair well with either turkey or ham. This wine has the ability to age for another 4-5 years if you so desire.

Remember, if you have already had your Thanksgiving dinner, try some of these wines out the next time you have a big family dinner. You will be amazed at how well red wines go with white meat. Cheers,

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chile Travels North

Originally posted at

Once a year, just before Thanksgiving - Canadian, that is - the Wines of Chile tasting makes its way to The Distillery District in Toronto. You can always be guaranteed that some good value wines will be found because Chilean wine is almost ridiculously priced lower than most wines available on the market today. Although it is easy to find wines that are so-so, disjointed or, in some cases, overpriced for what is in the glass, I certainly found a large number of white wines yesterday that were amazing and fit into the great value category. Now, last year, after looking back at my blog entry from the 2008 tasting, I saw that I only found two really outstanding wines but this year, there are seven plus three that, at the very least, earn an Honourable Mention. Check out my reviews below as well as ordering information.

Vina Botalcura 2009 El Delirio Reserve Sauvignon Blanc
$13.95 per bottle
Available through H.H.D. Imports Inc.
Aromas of stone fruit, pears, herbal and floral with flavours of gooseberry and citrus – mostly lemon. There is great balance and a lively mouthfeel to this wine that makes it thoroughly enjoyable. At $13.95 a bottle, this is definitely one of those wines that would pair well with a number of seafood or fish dishes, although I would avoid anything that has a cream sauce with this wine. Definitely one of many good value wines tasted this afternoon.

Vina Carta Vieja 2007 G7 Gran Reserva Chardonnay
$17.95 per bottle
Available through Small Winemakers Collection
The aromas on this wine are really, really subtle but you can detect slight creamy, buttery aromas and slight stone fruit. The flavours are a continuation of the creamy, buttery aromas but with a distinct thread of minerality weaving its way through. A slight hint of peach, apple and pear on the finish makes this a truly lovely wine. Would be great with Roast Chicken or Turkey or any cream sauce pasta.

Vina Concha y Toro 2008 Trio Reserva White
$12.95 per bottle
Available through Select Wine Merchants
Please note that at the moment, this wine is currently not available anywhere. Select Wine Merchants advised that it is slated to be a part of the Vintages March release so you will have to wait but I can guarantee you that if you enjoy white blended wines, this is definitely one you have to try.
This wine is a blending of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Blanc although, in previous vintages, instead of Pinot Blanc, Riesling has been used. The aromas on this wine are huge and plentiful like – I believe – any white blend wine should be. Lots of citrus aromas – mostly mandarin oranges and lime but there is a healthy mix of fig and grapefruit to add complexity. The palate has great balance to it and along with the aromas mentioned above there is a good threading of minerality through the flavours. There is an almost lively structure to the palate and a great finish making this wine a definite must try and must buy!

Vina Concha y Toro 2007 Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay
$17.95 per bottle
Currently in Vintages, CSPC #342857
The LCBO is currently showing 50 bottles available throughout Ontario of this wine. If you are interested in purchasing this wine, do so quickly!
This wine was barrel fermented on its lees in 1/3 new French Oak and 2/3 second and third fill French Oak barrels making this a rather big, over the top Chardonnay. Aromas of pear, fig and hazelnut meld seamlessly onto the palate where they are super concentrated, have great balance and a silky smooth texture. It has a vibrant mouthfeel and a long, lingering finish. Super Yummy and although it is a little higher priced than what I would call a value wine, it is definitely worth every penny they are charging for it.

Vina San Pedro Tarapaca 2009 Castillo de Molina Sauvignon Blanc
$14.99 per bottle
Available through Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits
This is every aroma and flavour of Sauvignon Blanc known to man wrapped up into one wine. Mineral, citrus, green onion, gunpowder and even a touch of sea salt are the aromas that greet you when you swirl this wine in your glass. The flavours are more of the mineral and fruity character you find in the aromas but along with the green onion there is a rather distinctive hint of thyme and then a very tart finish. Just like tannins will give you a pucker feeling in your mouth with a red wine, this particular white wine gives you the pucker feeling from the distinctive lemon finish.

Vina Santa Rita 2009 120 Series Sauvignon Blanc
$10.45 per bottle
Currently in LCBO General List, CSPC #23606
This is not my first time trying this wine. Back in July I attended a label redesign release party for Santa Rita wines and the 120 Series was a major part of that party. The aromas and flavours of this wine are mostly grapefruit and lemon but with slight hints of tropical fruit and herbs. What the bottle does not tell you is that the winemaker added in 2% Semillon to add some complexity to the wine which is where those tropical fruit aromas come from. In addition to the typical Sauvignon Blanc flavours of citrus, lemongrass and gooseberry, the 2% Semillon adds pineapple, mango and papaya to the flavour. Although the term “fruit bomb” tends to be associated exclusively with fruity RED wines, this white wine could easily qualify for that term.

Vina Santa Rita 2007 Medalla Real Chardonnay
$18.95 per bottle
Currently in Vintages, CSPC #303628
In most cases, Chardonnay goes through the crusher/destemmer when it comes in from the fields. In the case of this particular Chardonnay, 75% of the grapes went through this process but the remaining 25% went through whole cluster pressing instead of ever spending time in the crusher. This whole cluster pressing might account for the interesting olive green colour in the glass, since Chardonnay, and especially oaked Chardonnay, tends to have more of a goldenrod yellow colour. The aromas are a very interesting combination of both fresh and dried fruits as well as mineral. The palate has distinctive flavours of tropical fruit, slight creaminess and a backbone of peaches and nectarines.

Vina Valdivieso 2007 Single Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay Wild Fermented
$22.60 per bottle
Available through Carriage Trade Wines & Spirits
I have never been a major fan of Chardonnay and the other Chardonnay on the table from this winery was definitely not one that caught my attention in the way that this Single Vineyard Wild Fermented Chardonnay did. In general, a lot of wineries shy away from using wild yeast to ferment any of their wines. If you do not understand the complexities of wild yeasts it can be an extremely tricky and sometimes disastrous result to what could be a really great wine. Now, that is not to say you should never try it and if a winemaker knows the process and tricks to working with wild yeast then as a consumer you will have the opportunity to try a very interesting wine.

The aromatics on this wine are, simply put, powerful! Grapefruit, citrus marmalade, vanilla and a major mineral component are the major aromas in play here and they continue on to the flavours where there is major fruit concentration and balance. The mineral component from the aromas is definitely the backbone of the flavours in this wine and then there is this delightful and pleasant spicy kick in the finish.

Vina Caliterra 2009 Reserva Sauvignon Blanc
$8.95 per bottle
Currently in LCBO General Listing, CSPC #275909
Sauvignon Blanc with a tropical fruit aroma – guava, grapefruit and tangerine abound in this glass. These aromas transfer on to the palate where there is a mingling with mineral and then a crisp, lemony finish. The lemon is not overpowering though – it is just a perfect kick of refreshing crispness right at the back of this wine.

Vina Caliterra 2008 Reserva Chardonnay
$8.95 per bottle
Currently in LCBO General Listing, CSPC #257147
I did something yesterday afternoon after I left this trade tasting that I have never done in all the fifteen years I have been a member of the food and beverage industry. I went and bought not one, but three, bottles of this wine which I had just tasted less than two hours previously. It is not a conscious decision on my part – it is just something I have never done. This wine impressed me enough that, without first checking to see which LCBO stores in my area might be carrying it, I just went to the closest LCBO to the train station.

The aromas are tropical fruit Рmostly pineapple Рwith the distinctive creaminess that tells you that this wine spent just the perfect amount of time in oak barrels. The flavours on this wine can only be described as WOW!!! Just about every type of tropical fruit you can imagine Рpineapple, mango, papaya, even a bit of banana and many more I could list Рwith just the right about of cream and cr̬me fraiche. This wine sells for $8.95 a bottle but they could easily make a killing in the stores even pricing it at $20 a bottle.

Now, there were three wines that deserve honourable mentions. The first one is actually more of a situation than an actual wine. When we arrive at tastings like this, aside from getting our tasting glass we are given a booklet where we can make our tasting notes in. They list all of the wineries, with their contact information and – for international wines – their importer’s information and all of the wines that are available at their tables that day. When it is a large tasting it is always smart to take a moment to glance through the booklet and see if there is anything really unique or really outstanding that has to be tried. At yesterday’s tasting the one wine that caught a lot of people’s interest is a Gewurztraminer. Vina Nativa is based out of Santiago, Chile which has a large German population and, combined with the fact that their winemaker was educated in Europe, they have planted one of the most well known German varietals out there. I would not call this an outstanding wine and, at this point, it is not available for purchase in Ontario but I think they deserve a mention for making an effort at trying a cool climate varietal in a decidedly hot climate winemaking region. Hopefully, at some point in the future, this wine will come into its own and be an exciting new varietal for this region.

Now, the other two wines that deserve honourable mentions from the tasting are the two red wines that I had a chance to try after trying hundreds of white wines. Please read the tasting notes below:

Vina Santa Alicia 2008 Reserva Malbec
$11.95 per bottle
Available through Eurovintage International Inc.
Chilean Malbec is very, very different from Argentinean Malbec which is definitely the more known of the two in terms of Malbec producing regions. If you are looking for a red wine that is out of the ordinary, this is definitely a wine you should stop and look at. Aromas of bell peppers, prunes, herbal and even a hint of cocoa, the flavours are similar but also add cinnamon and floral to balance it out. The mouthfeel on this wine is full and plush – it’s almost as big as a Napa Cab – while the tannins are well structured, rounded and complex.
They are showing this wine as not yet available in Ontario but if you contact Eurovintage, they may be able to give you a better time frame on when you will be able to get your hands on this wine.

Vina Santa Alicia 2006 Gran Reserva Carmenere
$18.95 per bottle
Available through Eurovintage International Inc.
Carmenere is a grape varietal that is almost unique to Chile. It used to be in Europe hundreds of years ago but disease knocked the entire crop away and now can only be found in Chilean vineyards. Although it can be commonly confused with some of the heartier red grape varietals, it does have some unique qualities not found in others. The aromas are mostly spice, coffee and raspberry while the mouthfeel is big, round and supple. This particular Carmenere could easily be confused with an Aussie Shiraz given the aroma and flavour profiles but, at this price, it is clearly Chilean. One thing you can always say about Chilean wineries – they know what they are good at and they do not mess with it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sonoma in the City

Originally posted at

Toronto has the opportunity twice a year to try California wines…one in April which encompasses all of California’s wine regions and once in September when the focus lies squarely on Sonoma wines. The tendency is there to always think of Chardonnay when it comes to California wine and, in terms of Sonoma, Pinot Noir seems to be the natural choice for red wine. Although I did find a couple of outstanding Chardonnay’s at this tasting what impressed me more were the non-typical white and red varietals that I tasted this afternoon. Incidentally, although there were a few Pinot Noir’s that I did enjoy none of them stood up to the Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and red blends strategically placed around The Arcadian Court that day.

Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery 2006 Estate Sauvignon Blanc
$29.95 per bottle
Available through Halpern Enterprises
A very powerful Sauvignon Blanc! A myriad of aromas and flavours include honeysuckle, tropical fruit, pear, stone fruit, spice and lemon. Each sniff and each sip of this wine brings something new to the forefront in this ever changing wine without being too overpowering. You could enjoy this wine on its own quite easily but this would also nicely compliment a variety of Asian inspired dishes.

Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery 2006 North Slope Pinot Gris
$40 per bottle
Available through Halpern Enterprises
In terms of grape varietals, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay could not be any further apart on the similarity scale than you can imagine. However, with the North Slope Pinot Gris from Chalk Hill Estate, nothing could be further from the truth. The aromas encompass the full range of stone fruit, nuts and citrus while the flavours are this intense combination of spice, nectarine and cream. This smells and tastes exactly like a typical California Chardonnay…well, a typical Chardonnay in the style most California wineries are now making. The long, lingering finish combines all of the flavours and aromas previously tasted – vanilla, cream, citrus, tropical fruit and spice – which just seems to stay on forever. This is definitely one of the most intriguing Pinot Gris’ I have tasted in quite a while and would pair well with a wide variety of foods.

Pedroncelli Winery 2008 Dry Creek Valley East Side Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
$12.00 USD per bottle
Available through Grape Expectations
(416) 894-5055
If you are looking for an easy drinking, every day kind of Sauvignon Blanc, then this wine is definitely one for that category. Sauvignon Blanc typically displays aromas of citrus fruit, mineral and gooseberry with similar flavours, a crisp, clean mouthfeel, perfect acidity and a medium long finish. This wine has all of that and more – aromas of grapefruit, honey and mineral and flavours of melon, citrus and tropical fruit. The balanced acidity and crisp clean mouthfeel are definitely there and, like most Sauvignon Blanc’s, pair with a wide variety of dishes. Personally, just about any kind of fish or seafood would be perfect.

Now, I did mention that there were a couple of Chardonnay’s that were outstanding this day so I am going to now give them their moment in the spotlight before moving on to the various red wines of the day. The first Chardonnay comes from Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards and Winery where our first Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris came from. The second Chardonnay comes from the Russian River Valley in the middle section of Sonoma from Davis Bynum Winery. Check it out…

Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery 2006 Estate Chardonnay
$25.00 USD per bottle
Available from Halpern Enterprises
I love the KISS rule – keep it sweet and simple – and Chalk Hill Estate has done exactly that with this Chardonnay. The aromas are barely there but the flavours more than come out to the forefront. Pear, a slight hint of floral, cream and minerality are all key players in the palate with a bit of spice in the finish. Definitely an enjoyable, every day kind of Chardonnay. Try it out – on its own or with a chicken dish – and let us know what you think.

Davis Bynum Winery 2007 Russian River Valley Chardonnay
$25.00 USD per bottle
Available from Mark Anthony Brands
This wine epitomizes everything I love about Chardonnay. Aromatics of roasted and tropical fruit, and a slight hint of smoke; flavours of more tropical fruit, a hint of citrus and a luscious mouthfeel that seems to linger forever. This is definitely one of those “yummy” wines that is begging to be enjoyed with roast chicken at a table of family and friends.

So, now we move on to some absolutely stellar reds. Zinfandels from Pezzi-King Vineyards, Sbragia Family Vineyards and Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery, Petite Sirah and a red blend from Foppiano Vineyards. Read on to find out what I found awaiting me at the various tables that day…

Foppiano Vineyards 2005 Petite Sirah
$28.20 per bottle
Available from Halpern Enterprises
One thing I really love about Petite Sirah’s is their intense, deep, rich purple colour and exotic dark berry aroma. This Petite Sirah does not disappoint by any means. Those aromas continue on to the flavours where they are met with black and blue berry fruit, vanilla, spice and even a slight hint of cocoa. The tannins are still fairly firm but not overwhelmingly so – it would be interesting to see what this wine is like in 2-3 years time.

Foppiano Vineyards Lot 96 Proprietary Blend
$17.25 per bottle
Available from Halpern Enterprises
Not everyone appreciates a nicely blended wine but I tend to think they are unique, enjoyable and sometimes surprising. Foppiano Vineyards Lot 96 – named for the family’s original roots in the area which date back to 1896 – is just such a wine; a blending of seven different grapes, some of which that aren’t even grown in Ontario, and all of which have a percentage of less than 30% in the final product. Here are the specific details on this wine – 28% Sangiovese, 19% Petite Sirah, 17% Zinfandel, 14% Carignane, 10% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc.

Now, what is this wine actually like? Well, to put it simply, it’s a powerhouse at an amazing price. The aromas – berry fruit, red currants, cherry, cedar, vanilla and toast – make this one of the most complex aromatic experiences I have had in a very long time. The palate is slightly jammy but has a great kick of spice and then cherries on the lingering finish. The price on this wine with the jam packed set of flavours and aromas make this wine an incredible value…almost a steal.

Pezzi-King Vineyards 2005 Sonoma County Zinfandel
$18.00 USD per bottle
Available through The Case for Wine
I love Zinfandel’s for their rich, opaque, dark purple colour and this one does not disappoint. The aromatics are really subtle on this wine but the flavours definitely pack a punch. Berry fruit and honey with a jammy mouthfeel, this wine has a lingering, spicy finish, great balance and smooth tannins. It would be very interesting to see what this wine is like in 3-4 years.

Pezzi-King Vineyards 2006 Old Vines Zinfandel
$22.00 USD per bottle
Available through The Case for Wine
Although this wine is a year younger than Pezzi-King’s Sonoma County Zinfandel (previous review), this wine is a hundred times better than it. The aromatics are much more forward than the 2005 – concentrated raspberry and spice – and the flavours can only be described as powerhouse flavours. This wine is BIG and HOT – almost over the top – and the finish seems to go on forever. Even though this wine is amazing now, it would be interesting to see what this is like in a year or so.

Sbragia Family Vineyards 2006 Gino’s Zinfandel
$28.00 USD per bottle
Available through Foster’s Wine Estates Canada
Gino Sbragia was the patriarch of this winemaking family. Having now passed away, his son Ed is now running the business with his family – Adam, Kevin, Jane, Kathy and Gina. Gino’s Vineyard was Gino’s home vineyard which is now taken care of by Ed and Adam and is planted exclusively to Zinfandel with vines that date back 25 years. This is everything you come to expect from California Zinfandel – spice, berry and cherry in both the aromas and the flavours. If I wanted a Zinfandel for every day drinking, this would be it.

So, this brings to a conclusion this blog. If you are interested in getting any of these, the contact information for all of the importers is listed with each wine. Happy drinking…and for those of you in Canada, Happy Thanksgiving next weekend. Maybe one of these wines will make it to your dinner table with your Turkey.