JULIAN HITNER TORONTO WINE CONSULTANT

"For love of everything that is wine"

WINES OF THE WEEK FOR SATURDAY, MAY 24, 2008

Tasty California:

Not to state what has become obvious to so many wine enthusiasts, but California is a superlative region for making (and drinking) quality wine. From full-throttle Cabernet Sauvignon to crisp, flavourful sparklings, there are innumerable tasty gems to enjoy.

And yet, it is important to remember that the winegrowing regions of California are still, when compared to their counterparts in Europe, at a very young stage of development. For example, while Californians have made astounding strides in understanding climatic conditions, they have only just begun to comprehend (and take advantage of) the enormous differing qualities and subtleties of variations in soils.

All the same, with every progressive step the Californians make, their wines seem to be getting better and better, with important subregions (particularly in cooler climates) being established in acknowledgement of their ability to produce unique styles of wine.

This week, then, I am delighted to be able to recommend a few tasty bottles from this ever-changing winegrowing state.

RED WINES

(1) Tandem Winery
      -Sangiacomo Vineyard
      -Pinot Noir
      -
Sonoma Coast, California, USA
      -Vintage 2005
       (DRINK NOW OR HOLD)
      -PRICE: $60.00 (APPROX.)
       (will soon be available at
       L.C.B.O. outlets or through
       Kylix Wines [agency])
      -8.5/10



COMMENT: I tasted this Pinot Noir a few weeks ago at a Californian 'trade tasting' in downtown Toronto. It was, in fact, Tony Aspler who directed my attention to this particular wine, and I am glad he did. With notes of fragrant flowers, ripe cherries, vanilla, and licorice, one cannot help but to call this wine 'tasty.' Boasting elegant fruit on the palate along with a soft finish, this is a superb effort. The wine is being offered through Kylix Wines (a private agency), though the L.C.B.O. may get a few cases (but I don't know when)!

PAIRING SUGGESTION: Breaded chicken breast with a touch of mustard sauce --- enjoy!

(2) Duckhorn Wine Company
      -Merlot
      -Napa Valley, California

      -Vintage 2005
       (DRINK NOW OR HOLD)
      -L.C.B.O. PRICE: $62.95
       (still available)
      -L.C.B.O. # 992529
      -8.75/10



COMMENT: A sincerely inviting wine, the Duckhorn Merlot is one of the tastiest of its kind I have enjoyed in a long time. With soft berries, a touch of game, licorice, and 'fleshy' fruit, it is very much a wine crafted in the Californian mold. This being said, the '05 Merlot is not without elegance and balance, both of which are (in least in my opinion) two of the most important components a superior-quality wine is supposed to possess.

PAIRING SUGGESTION: Grilled rib eye steak --- enjoy!

WHITE WINES

(1) Chateau Montelena
      -Chardonnay

      -Napa Valley, California

      -Vintage 2006
       (Drink Now or Hold)
      -L.C.B.O. PRICE: $44.95
       (still available at many
       L.C.B.O. outlets)
      -L.C.B.O. # 701748
      -8.5/10



COMMENT: For several decades now, Chateau Montelena has been noted as one of the most consistent (and reasonably-priced) makers of Chardonnay in California. All things considered, the '06 appears to be no exception. Right now, the 'wood' is really showing on the wine; in other words, butter and vanilla appear to be its primary characteristics. And yet, there are all sorts of lovely fruit-like notes coming through, as well, from green apples and pears to more citric-tropical scents. In the end, then, one can rightfully consider this an appetizing, elegant wine. My compliments.

PAIRING SUGGESTION: Garlic shrimp with steamed rice --- enjoy!

(2) Frog's Leap Winery
      -Sauvignon Blanc
      -Rutherford/Napa
       Valley, California

      -Vintage 2006
       (Drink Now)
      -L.C.B.O. PRICE: $25.95
       (still available at several stores,
       though in small quantities)
      -L.C.B.O. # 966036
      -8.25/10



COMMENT: For all intents and purposes, Napa Valley is not exactly known for its Sauvignon Blanc. Granted, the grape is cultivated throughout California's most famous winegrowing area, but compared to other white grapes (especially Chardonnay), Sauvignon Blanc almost seems like an afterthought. Not so with this lovely little wine from Frog's Leap. Fruity, steely, and uniquely-flavoured, the '06 is well worth seeking out, offering balanced acidity and a delicate finish.

PAIRING SUGGESTION: Quebec-style pea soup --- enjoy!

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