By Zoltan Szabo

Sommelier Zoltan Szabo

2007 Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port Taylor Fladgate  Portugal
Here’s a single “quinta” (vineyard) AND vintage Port. So multi-dimensional right now, with black currant, raspberry and eucalyptus aromas on its bouquet, boasting power, an incredible Port, ageless. Anthem to terroir. You don’t need food here, just cuddle up with someone whom you love on a cold winter evening, drink this and whisper in each others’ ears. You won’t regret that you’ve spent the money.

2005 Quinta da Vegia “Reserva” Dao Portugal
This is most probably one of the finest Portuguese red that I’ve tasted this year, got superb balance and finesse. Blend of Touriga Nacional and Aragonês boasting curranty and herbal flavours and a healthy bite of tannins; great lenght; you can age it too 5 to 8 years.

2004 Barolo “Bricco Rocche” Ceretto Piedmont Italy

So huggable, just really fine. And approachable. Cranberry, pomegranate, floral, exotic spice notes on its nose. Full and softer-style, incredibly elegant.

2005 Papaioannou “Old Vines” Agiorgitiko Ancient Nemea Greece
A beauty in its old world glory, vineyard tainted by the blood of The Lion of Nemea, bare-handedly killed by Hercules. This red reminds me of an old-school Tuscan with its dried cherry and spicy aromas. Medium plus bodied and dry with a pleasant savoury note on its finish.

2003 Domaine Louis Latour Chateau Corton Grancey Grand Cru Burgundy, France
Not your typical Burgundy, fatter, fleshy, velvet-like, drinking now, so tempting.

2008 Birichino Malvasia Bianca Monterey California USA
Formerly labeled as Bonny Doon. Ripe, sporting tropical fruit aromas, almost candied pineapple, jelly bean. Medium bodied and really tasty with enough acidity keepin’ it fresh, and the finish is surprisingly long. A great choice for by-the-glass pour in restaurants. Must try with lemon-ricotta gnocchi.

2006 Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon “Don Melchor” Maipo Valley Chile
This is a massive red, lots of dark fruit and herbal, boldo tree leaf and mint aromas and flavours mixed with smokey, minerally under-tones.  “Big gun” in the making, let it sleep for a while.

2005 Chateau Clos Puy Arnaud Côtes de Castillon Bordeaux France
Deep-coloured, thick, rich, concentrated, so potent. An excellent, reasonably priced red from a Bordeaux satellite-appelation. Buy by the dozen. Trust me, you’ll like it.

2006 Louis Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos Burgundy France
A classic, with apples, lemon, mineral, fresh-baked bread, toasted hazelnut aromas and flavours. Vivaceous over the palate,the finish so long. You won’t mind its price tag – $70.

2006 Brewer – Clifton Pinot Noir “Cargasacchi Vineyard” Santa Rita Hills California
Bright aroma accents of red berries, almost stewed raspberries, spicy – floral. Full and very rich, but balanced on the palate with 15% alcohol not even showing. An extreme style, bold Pinot, not for everyone’s taste and budget…cost ya just over $100.

2005 Neyers Merlot “Neyers Ranch – Conn Valley” Napa Valley California
Made from organically grown grapes planted over 45 acres in 1984. Black fruit, plums, herbal, spicy, chocolate, orange flavoured tobacco aromas. Full and ample with smooth tannins and a great lenght. The texture is what strikes me here.

2007 Ken Wright Pinot Noir “Abbott Claim Vineyard” Carlton Oregon
The 2007 vintage was extremely difficult in this area, considering the amount of rain throughout the summer and harvest. Aside the harsh vintage character this wine is very Burgundian to me with spicy blueberry, red licorice, floral, red peppercorn, earth and musky aroma notes. Silky textured Pinot here with a fresh and spicy finish. Only 400 cases made.

2008 13th Street “13° Below Zero” Riesling Creek Shores Niagara Peninsula
Late harvest Riesling made from grapes picked n the 9th of January at 30 Brix. Lovely aromas of Bartlett pear, acacia honey, white blossoms and fresh fennel. Rich on the palate a mini-Icewine, boasting superb acidity, lots of sour white summer fruit flavours and with mineral notes over the finish. Very good value too and I love it!

2007 Livio Felluga “Illivio” Colli Orientali dei Friuli Italy
Blend of 85% Pinot Bianco, 12% Chardonnay and 3% Picolit. Partial malolactic fermentation took place in new and neutral French oak barrels with further10 months of aging as well. Powerful yet elegant. Intense aromas of topical fruit – tangerine, smokey – oaky notes and gun flint. Full with plush texture and explosive, ripe and sweet fruit flavours and an incredibly long-lingering finish.

2006 Chateau d’Angles “Terroir de la Clape” Coteaux du Languedoc France
Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Roussane & Marsanne. There are apples, citrus fruit, pine needle, fennel, mineral and unpasteurized cheese, wet wool aromas. Medium to full bodied, broad flavours here, and a spicy, mineral finish.

2006 Rabenkropf Blaufrankisch Wohlmuth South Styria Austria
Grapes grown in limestone and slate, sourced from single vineyard. Aged for 26 months in new Frenck oak barrels. This is an impressive Blaufrankisch with plenty of fleshy cherry fruit, spicy and polished oak aroma and flavour notes. Natural and wood tannins yet to integrate. The finish comes with plush, extracted fruit and herbal accents. Lots of personality here. I am tempted to say that this is the best Blaufrankisch I have tasted in 2009.

2007 Terre Borboniche Nephele  Calabria Italy
Calabria used to be a Greek colony know as Magnia Grecia in the past, hence the proprietary name here. Nephele was a cloud nymph who figured prominently in the story of Phrixus and Helle. This is a really interesting red made of Merlot, Magliocco and Nerello. The wine was vinified in stainless steel and aged for 10 months in new French oak. Raspberry, herbal, exotic spice, soft-cured leather, fig, toasty oak, even salty seaweed-sea shell  (Ionian Sea influence?) and iron-rich earth aromas. Full with ripasso-character,  integrated tannins and a long, warm, sweet fruit and spicy-white truffle nuance over the finish.  Worth each penny of the $30, you can meditate with it, or try with wild boar sausage risotto.

2007 Le Clos Jordanne Chardonnay “Claystone Terrace” Niagara Peninsula Ontario Canada
The most mineral, and masculine of them all, if you can call a Chardonnay “masculine”. Less ripe. Sporting citrus and under-ripe tropical fruit aromas.  It is pretty full over the palate, with intensely concentrated fruit, nectarine flavours, and a really long, spicy – minerally finish. Will age well too. My kind of Chard.

2006 Osoyoos Larose “Le Grand Vin” Okanagan Valley British Columbia Canada
I remember tasting the first vintage of this wine at the Hilton downtown Toronto  5 – 6 years ago, and enjoying it even back then, although it was lined-up against some serious Bordeaux reds; shy and young and not all there yet, it still managed to stand its ground. And then, the next vintages delivered, culminating in the 2005, for me, anyway. But, here’s the 2006: Deep purple – ruby colour. At first it smells like black currants, plums, fresh rosemary and sage, nutmeg, earth and barn, and saddle, and garrigue. and dried, butter-sautéed shiitake. Then, once I decant, lots of black cherry, more spice and dry hummus nuances emerge. Medium plus bodied, fresh alright,  and dry, with pretty intense blue fruit – savoury flavours, and a long, warm finish, dusted by soft gritty – furry tannins. Nosing it again, after two hours, well, I smell violets, and more… . If I taste it blind, I am in St- Emilion or Pomerol with it for sure. Made perfect sense eating a lush, and sweet, and rare bison burger with it last night, and watching Gene Hackman in “The French Connection”.  Great performance, by both, the wine and actor.

2005 Newton-Forrest Estate “Cornerstone” Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay New Zealand
Cab Sauv-driven Bordeaux-blend, made from grapes grown in gravelly soils, and cropped down to 1 ton/acre.  It opens with a very appealing bouquet of blueberries, mint, orange-chocolate-flavoured tobacco, autumn forest floor and spicy red peppercorn. This is certainly a lighter-style Bordeaux-blend, an elegant wine, with neat and interesting  dried shiitake-herb nuances on its finish. Note of interest:  chief-winemaker John Forrest is also a PhD in neuro-biology and this estate is a venture between him and Robert Newton.

2007 Rosehall Run Pinot Noir “Rosehall Vineyard” Prince Edward County Canada
This is a lovely, single vineyard Pinot by winemaker Dan Sullivan, testament to how great PEC’s terroir is for growing this fragile grape. The nose here sports aromas of bright red berries, rose petals and well-managed sweet oak notes. Light and delicate over the palate with silk-like texture and juicy acids. Long finish. Pommard-like.

2002 Guy Charlemagne Mesnillesieme Grand Cru “Blanc de Blancs” Champagne, France
Grower’s Champagne at its best. Tropical fruit, orange blossoms, brioche and almond aromas. Full and intense on the palate with exotic fruit, fresh mint and mineral flavours, vivid and persistent mousse and a very long orange marmalade, honey, toasty finish. Very expressive yet possessing a suave elegance. Will age so well too.

2007 Stratus Cabernet FrancNiagara Peninsula Ontario Canada
The bouquet shows aromas of plums, lavender and elegant oak-vanilla. Full bodied with cohesive tannins. The finish is with coffee – orange toffee nuances. Already approachable and pretty harmonious, a very chic red, yet to reach its full potential by 2012.