Monday, December 29, 2008

Rosenblum Cellars 2005 Chateau La Paws (California)

I love a wine with a story to tell. This wine from the Zinfandel experts at Rosenblum has a little more than just Zinfandel in it, in fact it has Carignane, Syrah and Mourvedre as well. It is sub-labeled as “Cote du Bone Roan”, because of it’s Rhone blend of grapes, and the bone, well that comes from owner and winemaker’s Kent Rosenblum’s 40 year veterinary career. The label is dotted with paws walking across it and even the cork has paws on it. But this is no funny label wine without purpose, it is seriously good wine. The nose seems simplistic with black cherry, white pepper, plum and licorice root. The palate, on the other hand, shows lots of complexity as these grapes meet. The taste is similar to the nose until it opens, then you get blackberries, cassis and a slight earthiness on the finish. Speaking of the finish it’s long and that’s where the tannins show up (mid-way through) but then it smooths to a long cherry finish. Something that also makes this wine worthwhile is that some of the proceeds go to support animal charities, and drinking with a conscience is never a bad thing.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cline 2006 Big Break Zinfandel (California)

This wine is over $40 a bottle back home (Ontario), here in Michigan (where I find myself for two weeks) it costs $22 … I know because I checked it out in up - sadly I bought this one back home and decided to bring it along to enjoy. But enjoy was not in the cards this night, not because the wine was bad, but because it was the second bottle to be opened this night, and while I can sample up to 200 wines in a day (and have), swallowing lots of wine in a short period of time is a different story. Needless to say I did not enjoy this wine as much as I should, but I did appreciate and love the spices and plums on the nose that were accompanied by the spiced cherries. I also loved the pepper, plums, black and candied cherries on the palate. Delicious. The big 15% alcohol is something to watch out for though.

Seifried 2005 Riesling (New Zealand)

This is a Riesling I brought along with me for my 2-week stay in Michigan; not that I thought I could not get wine down here, but I packed it up with my Ontario wines to get a glimpse of how the rest of the world’s ‘05 Rieslings were doing in comparison (see Fielding and 13th Street). This is a screw-capper from New Zealand - nothing new here - that has been lying on its cap for the past two and a half years. Upon opening I noticed that a few tartaric crystals (wine diamonds) had formed in the cap liner, and the liner had sealed itself to the bottle (separating from the cap). This did not affect the flavour of the wine at all I just thought it was interesting to mention. The nose was very petrolly with an underpinning of tropical (pineapple) and fuzzy (peach) fruit. The palate showed more of those fruit characteristics, namely the pineapple and other tropical notes along with lime, other citrus and petrol on the finish.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Montoya Vineyards 2006 Pinot Noir (California)

In my discussion with my local wine merchant (whilst in Michigan that is) he told me of his favourite Pinot Noir. Now of course favourite is all relative because I gave him a hard limit of $15 - with the Canadian dollar being as much as 20% less than its American counterpart at this time, one does have to take that into consideration when making a purchase. Dave (the aforementioned wine merchant) quickly responded with this Montoya Pinot from Monterey county in California. Dollar for dollar my best value in Pinot, or so I am told. Tonight I pour it alongside a vadalia onion and red pepper chicken … a decent combination. The wine smells of fresh red berries: rasp-, straw-, cran-, along with some sour cherry and a slight earthy aroma. The taste follows suit with much of what the nose promises: cranberry, sour cherry, raspberry with some touches of vanilla and cinnamon on the finish. My non-red wine drinking sweetie manages to polish off her glass and requests some more.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Las Rocas de San Alejandro 2005 Vinas Viejas Garnacha (Spain)

After my visit with Dave I ended up with a number of interesting wines to try. One was this old vines Garnacha from Spain. No mention as to how old the “old vines” are, but then again there is no real worldwide definition or wine law that states what old vines means constitutes; you either take the word of the label or of the wine merchant who is selling it to you. I paid an extra 5 bucks for the pleasure of drinking this old vines wine over the regular vines … plus it was an extra year older. This truly was a delicious wine with blackberry, raspberry, chocolate and spice greeting me on the nose; black berry, cassis, cinnamon, spice and smooth dark chocolate on the palate. The tannins are there, but they are so well integrated into the wine that it takes several sips before they are noticed. I’d give this one 5-7 years of lie down time, but it’s a pleasure to drink now.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sutter Home 2005 Zinfandel (California)

As I poured this wine into my glass, before the party started on Christmas Eve, my darling girlfriend remarked, “I am surprised to see you drinking a Sutter Homes, wine.” I looked at her quizzically, “I mean, it just seems so … ordinary, compared to what you usually drink. Are you becoming pedestrian now that you can buy cheaper wine?” In truth it was pretty ordinary, in both flavour and smell. Zin fans would recognize it as a Zinfandel, if they stuck their nose in the glass - it had the usual plum and cherry flavours which were backed by the faintest hint of spice (if you really looked for it) - but otherwise, yes, it was very plain. But if you consider the crowd I was serving (not wine drinkers in the slightest) and also that it was $4.50 a bottle (2 for $9.00) then the ordinary becomes alright by me.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Robert Mondavi 2007 Private Selection Syrah (California)

I love coming down to the United States, if for nothing else to buy and try some of those wines you just never see in my part of the Great White North thanks to those tyrants at the LCBO. This Syrah is definitely one of those wines, and the best part is that it was on sale for only $8.49 at our local Meijer’s (grocery store); heck all Mondavi Private Selection wines were on for that price - even with the exchange rate being what it is that’s still a great deal. The nose was all raspberries and white pepper; the palate was big and juicy with red and black berry flavours and that white pepper from the noses continues on in the mouth. Yummy.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Geyser Peak 2002 Merlot (California)

For those who remember, a few nights ago I opened a 2004 Merlot from California with horrific results. Tonight I decided to go with another Cali-Merlot to see what happens. I can tell you right from the get go it was a better choice than the previous night's bottle. The nose was black fruited and very spicy with loads of black pepper. As the wine sat in the glass the pepperiness disappeared and gave way to a sweet blackberry note. The same can be said for the palate, which started off with a harsh-like bite of pepper but soon mellowed to a smooth, lush blackberry number, with hints of cassis and cinnamon. The finish was fairly quick, but then that just meant you had to go back to the trough more often - and with this wine that wasn't a bad thing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Beronia 2001 Tempranillo Crianza (Spain)

After the horrid Monterra incident I went further back into the cellar looking for something that would not only catch my eye but make things better. Out of the corner of my eye I saw it, with its red and gray capsule that stood out from all the other bottles. I grabbed it and brought it over to where the sad bottle of Monterra stood. "Here's hoping for better," I said as I plunged the corkscrew into the real-cork cork. Now that was more of what I was looking for: cinnamon, spice and blackberry greeted the nose while in the mouth it was loaded with beautiful spiced-plum flavours. The combination of acidity (that was still quite vibrant) and fruit (which still retained a fair amount of juiciness) had the ability to both quench a thirst and make the mouth water. That's more like it.

Monterra 2004 Merlot (California)

It was a night for something easy drinking, so I pulled this 2004 Merlot off the shelf without a second thought; but instead of the great plum and cherry that I was expecting I got a rancid, old prune, dried up wine that seems to have died before it's time. The colour was almost brown with barely a hint of red at all. Not sure whether to blame the producer or the plastic cork.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bogle Vineyards 2004 Phantom (California)

Tonight I was dying for something plumy, jammy and big. I had just written an article about the Italian tasting I attended and had Valpolicella Ripasso on the brain - so why didn't I chose a Ripasso - good question. Instead, I picked up this bottle of Bogle Phantom, a blend of Petite Sirah, Old Vines Zinfandel and Old Vines Mourvedre - I thought it would be plummier and jammier than it was, although it was definitely big (14.8%). On the nose there was some white pepper and black fruit with a little pencil lead in the background. The white pepper continued in the mouth along with some form of black fruit, but t was hard to define, the pepper was just too dominant. Did I like this wine? Sure I liked it, but it was not what I wanted this evening ... next time I'll just listen to my inner voice.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Torres 2004 Atrium Merlot (Spain)

Another wine from my box of fun, yet sometimes I have no idea why I decided to lay it down for a bit. I checked my records and it seems this was the only bottle of this Torres Merlot that I had, so what made me decide that a few years on its side was going to benefit it ... who cares, this wine turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. The nose had a peppery heat with blackberry, black cherry, cassis and as it remained open through the hour it developed a port-like plumminess. In the mouth it proved to be smooth as silk with pepper, black fruit, spice and bittersweet chocolate. Why did I decided to lie this one down? Call it intuition, and it paid off in spades.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Two Hands Wines 2006 The Lucky Country Shiraz (Australia)

Sometimes it's fun to quote yourself, so here I go. In my October 25, 2008 Vintages report I said, "Speaking of textbook, the Two Hands 2006 Lucky Country Shiraz ($17.95 - #0077883) is just what you’d expect from an Aussie Shiraz, minty/eucalyptus, chocolate, pepper, blackberry and a touch of black cherry." After opening a bottle last night I stand firmly behind that review - though I forgot to add in the 14.7% alcoholic punch this wine adds. Now, why on earth am I telling you about this now ... well it just so happens that the LCBO has lowered the price on over 40 Vintages products for the holidays and this Lucky Country Shiraz just happens to be one of them, dropping it three-whole-dollars to $14.95 - which turns this good wine, into a good bargain. Cheers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bogle Vineyards 2006 Petite Sirah (California)

So last night I decided to grab the first thing I cast my eyes upon as soon as I walked from my office to my wine cellar, and lo and behold the winner was this gem from Bogle. I had picked this bottle up during my last venture into the States; I know this cause it still had the $8.89 orange sticker on it (meaning it was on sale). The nose had a rich black fruit smell to it, with a touch of peppery-goodness and some floral notes. The palate was lovely, peppery, raspberry and chocolate. At first I could swear I tasted the alcohol (13.5%) which led me to believe the wine was slightly out of balance, but over the next 20-minutes that flavour discipated and was replaced by a butterscotch taste right at the very end. This wine proved to be smooth and plush in the mouth with very little in the way of harsh tannins (they were there but to a milder degree). Very enjoyable - didn't go with the cod I was having but I enjoyed both emmensely, separately.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Michael & David Phillips 2006 7 Deadly Zins (California)

This wine is developing a kind of cult like following - every time I head to the States somebody asks me to get them a bottle of this wine ... no wonder, in Ontario it sells for $24.95, while in Michigan I can get it for $12.99 or less - even with the exchange that's a good deal for this tasty Zin. A nose of blackberry, plum and chocolate, tastes of black cherry, vanilla, plum and chocolate with a hint of pepper ... this is one tasty wine year after year.

The Show 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

In the immortal words of Pink Floyd, "So you, thought you, might like to, drink a bottle of The Show?" Okay, so maybe that's not verbatim what they sang on "In the Flesh?" (from the album The Wall) but it would be if they tried this tasty little Cab from California. The merchant who sold it to me in Michigan (at Champane's Wine Cellar) told me it was made by Joel Gott (company or and company) and Joel seems to know his wines. Lots of blackberries, spice and chocolate; juicy and with just the slightest bit of tannin making this one go down nice and easy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shingleback Winery 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia)

This was one of those boxed wines that I have 32 of kicking about. Now before you think 'what kind of Tetra-Pak fetish does this guy have' let me say that it's not that kind of boxed wine. When I say "boxed wine" I am referring to wines that I have laid down for a few years - I fill up a box of 12 with some wines I want to watch age (twelve of them to be exact) and in a few years, at a designated time I open the box and pull out the bottles one at a time (over the course of a month or so) and try them; this was one of those boxed wines. I put this box away back in May of 2006, by then this wine was already 4 years past vintage date, add another two and a half years and now let's see what happens. The cork had a deep purple stain to it and has held it's seal beautifully because the wine had only crept up about a centimeter. The nose was very peppery with dried black fruit, and chocolate liqueur ... the taste was big on spice, blackberry, dark chocolate, cassis and dried fruit. The alcohol is pretty heady at 14.5%, tannins are silky and as it remained open the taste became slightly liqueur-like with some Port-like nuances. Still very nice, but not long for this world - I would say another couple of years.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ironstone Vineyards 2007 Old Vines Zinfandel (California)

As a Zinfandel fan I except something when I see "Old Vines" splashed across the label - not sure why, there is not definition of what is considered "old vines", just like there are few definitions in the new world as to what dictates "reserve". I found this wine to be just okay, not as delicious as I have had in past vintages of this same wine from the same producer; I'll chalk it up to it being a tad too young still: peppery and plumy were the main tastes and smells in this wine - but it lacked the intensity, the fruit forwardness and the chocolate-cherry-rum nuances. I would give it a few more years to mellow before I would open a bottle again - one of these days soon I will have to open the 2005 and see how that one's coming along.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Raimat 2002 Abadia Crianza (Spain)

Here's a wine that is designed to confuse you right from the get go ... on the back label you'll read the following: "These four grape varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo precisely combined make this wine unique and special ..." So special in fact that they don't need to mention the fourth grape - or maybe Cabernet and Sauvignon are two separate grapes. But I should stop picking on this label because the wine inside the bottle is what counts, and yes it was very good. Six years from vintage date has greatly helped this wine along. The nose seems to give off very little to help the palate, there's oak, cinnamon and dried cherries. On the other hand, in the mouth this wine explodes with rich flavours. The first to hit is a sweet cherry-vanilla liqueur sensation on the tongue, then cinnamon comes along on a wave of smoothness. the fruit is not fresh but instead tastes dried and candied with a sweetness on the palate like port ... but with a drier finish. Delicious indeed, maybe it's all due to the addition of that phantom grape.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Aresti 2004 Winemakers's Assemblage (Chile)

This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere, and with the Carmenere in there you should have guessed it was Chile, even without looking at the top line. Typically it was a bottle I bought on a whim because of ... you guessed it, the label. As everybody knows label sells, once ... it's what's in the bottle that will keep you coming back - if it's any good that is. And this was not a bad bottle at all. The nose was loaded with a variety of tasty offerings like black fruit, cinnamon, spice and a minty-cedary quality (not atypical for Chile). The palate was smooth, with a touch of rough tannins (I thought of very fine sandpaper when doing this discription, 200 grade or something like that) with black fruit, and wood/cedar notes. As the wine remained open and the air soften it juicy blackberries emerged before kicking into a dry finish.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wente 2007 Morning Fog Chardonnay (California)

A soy and ginger cod seemed the perfect match to a glass of Chardonnay and I decided to give a try to the 2007 vintage of my favourite California Chardonnay from 2006. Turned out to be not a bad idea at all. The nose was toasted oak, buttery, unripe peach and vanilla nuanced, while the palate brought back the butter along with coconut, crisp white peach, vanillas and banana chips. I found this version a little more oaky than the previous vintage but still one of the more pleasant 16 dollar Chardonnays from California (in Ontario, Canada anyway).

Addendum: In a conversation with Carolyn Wente the next day I learned that there was less oak used in this wine than last year - though she did state: "I find the Morning Fog needs about 6 months to settle down and integrate in the bottle ... this was just released in July [2008]." So by my calculations in February 2009 all that rich oakiness should be melded with the fruit ... I say it'll be worth trying again then.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

L'Ostal Cazes 2003 Circus Shiraz (France - Languedoc)

Tonight I picked something a little further back on the rack, a 2003. I keep my wine racks in a year order, instead of by country or in old world/new world order ... by doing that I know the year of the wine I pull but not the country or producer. This wine is called Circus and at first glance I thought it was an Australian Shiraz, wasn't I surprised, when I took a closer look at the bottle, to learn that it was in fact a French wine from the Languedoc region (Southern France). The nice part of Languedoc wines is that they can mimic both old world and new world wines depending on the producer. This one smells new world with lots of plump black berries and cassis on the nose with a touch of pepper and spice. On the palate you'd also think new world as the black fruit emerges and, along with the pepper, dominates the wine, but it's the acidity that differentiates this wine from the new world (read, Australia), there's lots of it here and makes it a perfect food wine for pasta and lime mustard chicken - which is just what I had.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Familia Zuccardi 2007 FuZion (Argentina)

I find myself talking about simplicity a lot these days, you know: this is simple, that's simple, make things simple - the world seems complicated enough, why do we have to make the simple things complicated. Of course I am referring to wine, but this can be applied elsewhere too. Tonight I simplified everything. After a day of trying many (and I do mean many) Italian wines I decided to twist the cap on something that has become all the rage here in Ontario, a wine that has managed to knock off Yellow Tail off its perch as the Number One wine sold here in Ontario (at the LCBO) - 2007 FuZion. A blend of 70% Shiraz and 30% Malbec that has taken the Ontario market and consumers by storm because of it's $7.45 price tag - I told a press agent, who represents the wine in the UK, that "it's Ontario's equivalent to two-buck Chuck", we just don't see that kind of price on a good wine. I'm not saying this wine will wow-the-crowd at a posh dinner - but if you want simple that's exactly what you'll get here. Rich, ripe and juicy black and blue berries with a touch of spice. If you expect a little you'll get a lot out of this wine ... the best part, besides the price, is it's simple nature: just drink and enjoy. Oh and good luck finding a bottle.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Loosen Brothers 2007 Dr. L Riesling (Germany)

Getting Chinese food always means pulling out a Riesling - and this has become one of my favourites over the years, and continues to be excellent value. The 2007 seems a touch sweeter than past vintages, but the citrus, talc, apple and floral nose seems inviting enough to take multiple sips. The palate remains crisp with a green apple finish. ... Now, time to eat.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Albert Bichot 2006 Beaujolais-Villages (France)

In typical French wine style this wine has no back label, but I have a story to tell about how it finally got to my table. Way back when I went to an Albert Bichot dinner and tasting (May 22, 2008), this wine turned out to be one of my favourites of the evening and so, Dean Tudor (fellow wine writer) and I decided to split a case. We were told that it was a private order wine and might take some time to land on our shores - we thought it was a good enough wine to wait, and at $15.95 a bottle, a steal for the quality therein. Well I finally got the wine on Friday (October 24, 2008) a little over five months to the day that I ordered it. In truth I couldn't remember what it tasted like, so I decided to open one tonight and see (and taste) whether it was worth the wait ... I am happy to report it was. Beautiful bright nose of ripe fresh cherries and a palate to match - yummy. I had it with meatloaf and salad, but as far as I'm concerned it would have gone with just about anything ... 5 months may seem a long time to wait, and it was, but when a wine is this delicious, it's well worth it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Canyon Oaks 2007 Zinfandel (California)

A few weeks ago, in preperation for getting yet another few bottles of ZInfandel, I opened a bottle of the 2006 Canyon Oaks Zin. I had just ordered a half case thinking it was going to be the 2007 version of this wine, but found out it was going to be the 2006 - so I thought I'd best try the '06 again to make sure I liked it enough to get another 6 bottles (I did). Well wasn't I surprised, when I picked up my bottles, to find out that it was indeed the 2007 vintage ... hence I just had to open a bottle "toot suite" (as the French would say). Rich plum was the hallmark of this wine, from the nose clean through to the palate ... plumy, rich, succulent even more so than the '06; there was also black cherry, cola and vanilla notes - very enjoyable, and also very gone - did I really finish the whole bottle?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Juniper Crossing 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot (Australia)

I have quite the backlog of Australian wine, back from when Australia was the value priced region - these days it is Chile or Argentina that has taken over that mantle. This Juniper Crossing cost me $15.95 when I bought it a few years ago and today is probably over twenty. The nose is blackberry, plum with a hint of prune, some licorice and a touch of cracked pepper. The palate has a cedary quality to it, not overpowering but definitely there. Some tannins come out to play along with a drying black berry and cassis note ... you can also find the hints of licorice. Pleasant and enjoyable, I'm glad I didn't wait much longer to enjoy this wine, but enjoy it I will.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Clos LaChance 2005 Ruby Throated Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

This is a straight forward, very likeable Cabernet Sauvignon (which get blend with little bits of other Bordeaux varietal). The nose is sweet smelling with black cherry and plum along with a hint of mint chocolate that makes you take continuous smells just to make sure you really are smelling what you smelt (not smelt as in the fish, just smelt as in smelled, but I like the word so I am keeping it in there). The taste is even more appealing, it's juicy with lots of red cherry, chocolate and cinnamon. It finishes off nicely, almost sweetly, in the mouth with a drying finish. I really enjoyed this bottle from beginning to end. By the way the Ruby Throat is not just in reference to the colour of the wine, it has to do with the humingbirds that flock to these vineyard in San Martin, California ... the wine is part of the Hummingbird Series and the Ruby Throated Hummingbird adorns the label.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fitz Riesling NV Extra Trocken Sekt (German)

This wine has a story - my story. I ordered this wine from Vinexx agency back in the spring; actually my fellow wine writer Dean Tudor and I ordered some, well to keep the story straight, Dean liked this wine so much that he ordered 3 cases of it and I said I would take 6 bottles off his hands. The price, a mere $13.95 - what a deal for this bottle of sparkling. But the wine had to be specially ordered from Germany and between the time it was ordered and the time it landed on our shores the Euro had shot up in value and the $13.95 price tag was now $17.95 ... still excellent value for a sparkling wine - but not three cases excellent; so Dean and I split a case.

Sekt is the most fun you can have with a legitimate wine word ... it sounds like "sex" with a "t" at the end, and if you say it to a good looking wine merchant, as I did in B.C. you have the chance to get slapped, unless you clarify, "I am looking for some sekt ... um, German sparkling wine?" You can see the dilemma. Anyway, this sekt truly is yummy; made from the Rielsing grape it has all the things you expect, a little apple, a little peach, nice fruitiness with a touch of citrus-toasty-yeasty goodness. And although it says "Extra Trocken", which means "extra dry", there was an apparent sweetnes that made this wine go down very nicely. Good thing it was only 11.5% alcohol, cause at the speed it went down I could have been in trouble the next morning.

Fabre Montmayou 2006 Gran Reserva Malbec (Argentina)

This wine has great deep blackish purple colour and the nose is rich in black fruit and herbs, I couldn't wait to tip the glass and try it. But the taste let me down, it was hollow and tinny on the finish ... with time, thankfully this dissipated enough to drink it, and it was better the next day after a stay overnight in the fridge and an appropriate period the next evening to allow it to warm a bit (leaving just a hint of a chill); but what the palate may not notice the memory never forgets - through the black fruit and pepper I still recalled the tin.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Thorn-Clarke 2005 Terra-Barossa (Australia)

This blend of Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc is wonderful ... I have been a big fan of Thorn-Clarke wines since I tried the Shotfire a couple of years ago at an Australian tasting event - since then I have tried to put my hands on his wines whenever I see them for a good price. This one was just released into Ontario's LCBO and from what I was told by staff there it just flew off the shelf (sold out Ontario-wide according to the Vintages rep I talked to on Sunday morning - though I think there are a few bottles left here and there if you look hard enough). It may seem like a simple wine but it is pure enjoyment with a nose that has plum, chocolate, black cherries and white pepper. The palate delivers relatively the same thing, though you may want to add licorice and cassis in the mouth. Very nice, and well worth the $15.95 I paid for it.

Robert Mondavi 2001 Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

With my family out of town on Thanksgiving, a buddy of mine invited me to his family's Thanksgiving dinner taking place at his parents' condo. Feeling the need for turkey, stuffing and all the fixins I accepted. Before going I combed through my wine rack for an appropriate bottle to bring ... and I found it. His mother and I used to exchange Christmas gifts: I would give her a mouth-blown glass ornament for her tree, she would give me a bottle of wine for my collection. Back in 2003 she gave me a bottle of Robert Mondavi 2001 Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, it seemed like the right time to share this bottle, especially considering it would be with the original giver.

The evening started with a Mondavi Woodbridge 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, with its juicy blackberries on both the nose and taste. We then moved on to the 2006 Lindemans Pinot Noir from Australia - a more than acceptable red, though it lacked much of what I would call Pinot Noir characteristics, save for the raspberry, which seemed to be the most prevalent smell and taste in the glass.

Finally, it was time to open the time capsule. Smells of dried fruit and herbs greeted the nose; about fifteen minutes later dried leaves/vegetation/damp forest floor was more than just a little apparent ... the tastes were also changing rapidly: sour cherry, dried fruit and a touch of tannin turned to distinctive dried cranberries and dried cherries with an evolving smoothness that told me it was fading fast. Given another year or two and this wine would have been on the decline, as it was, it was just cresting the hill and starting it slow decent, I'm glad we caught it when we did. Tonight I gave thanks for the wine and the company. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Silver Sage 2006 Pinot Noir - "The Passion" (British Columbia)

This wine is like no other Pinot Noir you'll ever try - it's the Pinot for no-Pinot drinkers. The nose is big cherry, sweet plum and cherry liqueur (no earthiness to speak of). The palate follows with a big fruit punch: raspberry, cherry, plum and a hint of chocolate almond liqueur (no earth - no mineral - no hint of terroir - all signatures of Pinot Noir). And although it has no typical Pinot Noir characteristics it's a lovely fun wine with lots of its own character - and one of the most popular wines at the winery when I visit this past summer (I should know for two reasons: I bought 2 bottles and they told me so). Would I let this wine age? No way. Would I drink this now? You bet, and I'd fully enjoy it for what it was ... and I did. Although it's odd for a Pinot, it is very nice as a wine - and sometimes that all you're looking for, typicity be damned.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Finca Antigua 2002 Tempranillo (Spain)

It pays to have a good cellar worth of wine, because it allows you to lose bottles and find finds years later. I must have bought this bottle back in 2005, because I had a note on the bottle: "10/2005 - H1", translated: laid down October 2005, Hold 1 year ... well it seems I lost track of this bottle for 3 years, instead of just the one, and boy am I glad I did. Reading the back label I see this 100% Tempranillo was aged 6 months in brand new American oak barrles. At first, the wine came off too warm, which made it all black fruit and tannic - quite harsh; but then I put it in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes and the wine really brightened up. Over the course of a few hours the wine exhibited smells of dried fruit, plums, figs, raisins, spiced-plum, red cherries, chocolate, spices, herbs, spiced-vanilla and white pepper - not necessarily in that order. While the flavours proved to be a little simpler, but still very inviting: dried fruit, sour cherry, herbs, chocolate and spiced-cedar-vanilla ... with a lengthy smooth finish. Good find 3 years later. Now I see I have a bottle of this producer's 2000 Crianza still sitting in my cellar - will that too be a find too? I guess we'll have to just find out.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Marc Kreydenweiss 2005 Barbabelle (France)

One of the biggest surprises of the spring (2008) was when I tried this bottle of wine from France. I rarely, if ever, buy a case of wine, but this incredible buy ($12.95) really surprised me. Now, some 6-months later, I'm still enjoying this bio-dynamic beauty (usually another reason my sensors ring - most bio-dynamic wines I have tried have been cringe inducing ... though over the last year I have tasted some pretty amazing bio-wines, along with the cringe-inducers). Leather and spice lead the way on the nose, with a black fruit and lightly cedar taste, there's also a slightly tannic note on the finish. This is one of those wines that's not available at or thru the LCBO, so check out to see if they can get anymore - or put it on your wish-list for next year's release.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Canyon Oaks 2006 Zinfandel (California)

With a plugged nose from a cold I picked up sometime in the past week (probably on my plane ride back from Italy) - I decided that tonight I needed something with umph!, somthing with enough power to cut through the blockage ... something I could smell. Hence, a 2006 California Zinfandel - a wine of some power and big aromatics. The term "aromatics" is usually reserved for white wines, but if you've ever smelled a young Zin you'll know what I'm talking about. Big plum and sweet cherry along with a rum and cherry-cola note, there's also vanilla and sweet blackberries - Zin just smells like Zin. As for the palate, well the plums, cherries, blackberries and cola bean comes through, along with sweet vanilla and a touch of that aforementioned rum. I love Zinfandel, it just has such a signature smell and taste, which comes through even when a cold should have you down and out; plus with the usually big alcohols in these wines, if you drink enough it'll knock you out for a good night's sleep - no need for NyQuil (this one's only 13.5%, so more consumption is the answer).

Saturday, October 4, 2008

La Frenz 2007 Chardonnay (British Columbia)

Those who know me, know my tastes are not Chardonnay-leaning - I joined the ABC movement (Anything But Chardonnay) a long time ago. Tired of the overly extracted, overly wood influenced, chewing on a stave appeal of Chardonnay. So for a Chard to impress me is truly a feat. I tried this wine during my BC excursion just this past summer (July - August) and just had to take one of these wines home (risking reprisal fro the government and the LCBO). The nose is just so inviting; even now, a couple of months later, and away from the beautiful scenery of the mountains and the lake I still can picture them as I sip this wine. Some folks say, and I tend to agree with them, that the place and time make the wine - and while that might have been true with many of the Okanagan wines I tried this one transformed an Ontario night into a day in the Okanagan. When I visited La Frenz for the first time it was rainy and grey and yet this tropical fruit layered beauty cracked through all that and made you believe it was just you and the wine ... I was there again with each sniff and each taste. Now I will admit I served this wine with an inappropriate meal - Panzerottis - it did not go with the rich tomoato sauce and melted cheese, and surely did not compliment the pepperoni; but in truth both were tasty (the wine and the panzerotti) and sepearately they were delicious. But that transportation factor took hold after the meal and took me back to the deck overlooking the vineyards of the Okanagan. This wine is simply super - enough said.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

LA Cetto 2005 Petite Sirah (Mexico)

Some nights you open a bottle of wine that you are so sure you want, and when you take that first sip you realize, "this is not what I was looking for at all". - such was the case with this Mexican Petite Sirah ... sure it had all the pre-requisites I thought it would and should have: nice red fruit, peppery and a touch spicy on the tongue, the tannins had subsided and the palate was smooth and enjoyable ... but not to me. I had a glass, put the cork back on the bottle and stored it away on my counter for a rainy day that I would hope to come in the next 2-3 days, but then again maybe it won't rain and the bottle will go to, shock of all shocks, to waste. Too bad, under better cirrcumstances I would have enjoyed this one but as is often the case mood dictates the enjoyment of the wine you chose and my mood just wasn't there for a Petite Sirah - too quick with the corkscrew and not with the brain.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gaia (Greece); LA Cetto (Mexico); Apollonio (Italy)

Family dinner tonight, and as usual I am the guy in charge of the wine. Brought a few bottles, you never know what is going to go over well and what will be shot down. Tonight everyone agreed the Gaia White (2007 Thalassitis) just wasn't up to snuff. (my notes: over-ripe apple, touch of butterscotch and spice, but the wine seemed cooked, heavy and over done). The LA Cetto 2005 Zinfandel fared much better delivering up a plethora of easy drinking enjoyable flavours, mostly it was plummy and rich. Finally, with the main course I pulled out the piece-de-resistence the 2001 Apollonio Valle Cupa, a 50/50 blend of Primitivo and Negroamaro - plums and cherries greet the nose with a touch of chocolate and wood spice, still has good tannins and smoky port-like nuances on the palate. Very enjoyable. Most of the white saw the sink, but both bottles of red were drunk dry.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tamaya 2005 Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah Reserve (Chile)

It's not often that a bottle of wine that I buy gets consumed just hours after purchase, but when I buy a number of bottles of the same wine I wanna make sure that my recollection of the wine is valid - especially if I tasted a few months prior. That's what happened with this Tamaya blend. I liked it for my Vintages Report (September 13, 2008) but wondered if I would still enjoy it - and especially for it's price ($12.95) - was I just blinded by such a good price on that day? So I bought a bunch on my own recommendation and I thought it best I try it to see if I know what the heck I was talking about. Well I am thrilled to report I was dead on. With smells of blackberries and blueberries, spices and plenty of other fun for your nasal receptors, this wine totally delivers ... on the palate as well; lots of dark fruit, some oak, spices, good finish with enough longevity to remind you it was there ... decanting helped smooth it out a little as the tannins were a little rough around the edges at this point in its lifespan, but I see this wine having 5-7 years of staying power (easily) and getting better with age. This is what Chilean wine is all about: good, cheap and tasty ... excuse me, inexpensive.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Gaia Wines 2007 Notios (Greece)

Most of the wines I open I have an idea of what they will (or should) taste and smell like, sometimes I am surprised (pleasantly) or disappointed (sadly) ... but tonight I pulled out a wine from my haul last night. You see last night I was at a fundraiser held by Tony Aspler for his charity of choice - Grapes for Humanity - I was a "heavy", as Tony called us; no I was not the bouncer, I was carrying boxes of wine out to people's cars. As a token of thank you Tony past those working for him a few bottles of mystery-wine and tonight I opened one of my bottles. It's from Greece, made by Gaia Wines and from the Agiorgitiko grape - sub-named "Peloponnisos Regional Wine" ... and you know what? For a bottle that I received in gratitude and gratis I have to say I am quite happy with it. Red fruit dominated with a touch of spice and herbs, beautiful colour and easy drinking - just a bit of tannins, very interesting; and as it opens up it develops red cherries and sweet vanilla. Not sure what I'm having for dinner yet but the wine it will go with is very nice. Thanks Tony.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

J. Lohr 2005 Bay Mist Riesling (California)

After a weekend of speaking and being on the road it was nice to sit back and relax ... I had brought a bottle along from home just for this moment - a J. Lohr 2005 Bay Mist Riesling, in the hopes that it was everything I remembered it to be when I tried it the first time. Thankfully this bottle did not disappoint. The nose was full of tropical, floral, lychee, and white peachy (had to go for the rhyme) - there was also a definite smell of parafin or petrol and on the tongue it was pure enjoyment, a touch sweet with just the right amount of acidity and all those smells mentioned above came across as flavours. When I think of Riesling I don't usually think California, but this one sure gives one pause, if only for a moment.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Concha y Toro 2000 Sunrise Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile)

The reason I am showing you the label of the bottle (at left) is not because this was such a super fantastic wine that you have to run out and buy yourself a bottle; it's because sometimes looks can be deceiving and price, a misnomer of quality. I bought this wine several years ago, the current vintage goes for about $10 at the LCBO and probably about $3 in the rest of the world, but I digress. Yesterday I mentioned that I have this "lost" bottle on my wine racks and was bound and determined to open it, with little hope of actually being able to drink it (note the vintage year). Again, I am not saying this was not the best bottle of wine I've ever had, but I was surprise at how well it had held up. Very little sign of bricking around the rim, smells were dark fruited while the taste was non-descript with black-fruit and a faint hint of tannins in there holding the whole thing up. What's more, over the course of the hour or so it took to consume the bottle, the tastes never faded or wained - it stayed pretty much the same. I was impressed, all hail the cheap-o wines.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Concha Y Toro 2001 Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile)

Sometimes I have no idea what goes through my head as I put a bottle I have never tried down to age ... on the other hand it is kind of fun to lose track of a few bottles just to see how they will age. I opened this bottle of 7 year old Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile with full confidence that it would either 1) over the hill or 2) on its way down the hill ... what could you expect from a $9.95 wine. Surprisingly a whole lot. I find I am having some good luck with my lay down the past few weeks (though I have little to no faith in the bottle of Concha Y Toro Sunrise Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 - I see I have still inhabiting my cellar - how's about we check that one our tomorrow?!?) But back to the Casillero del Diablo ... I was surprised at how well this wine has stood up. The fruit was still very much intact with lots of dark fruit, blueberry and dark chocolate, there was also a bit of oak flavouring especially on the finish. Jeepers creepers was that a nice wine - sad to say I only bought the one bottle.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Five Rivers 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

Tonight I picked a wine that I have been eyeing for quite some time. This Five Rivers has a very unique label (red woman figure floating in the starry night sky), every time I would make my way to the downstairs fridge this bottle would catch my eye ... tonight I finally decided to drink it. I bought this is April 2006 for a whopping $18.95 and have been sitting on it ever since. The nose was full of blackberry, vanilla, spice, dried cherry and a little bit of jamminess; while on the palate there was strawberry, blackberry, vanilla, cedar and cherry. Quite the nice bottle for a Saturday night ... not the one to watch Hamburger Hill with (all that blood and gore) I am just glad I didn't spill any on myself, would have thought I was bleeding. It was a great wine to get curious with, halfway through the movie I realize the surround speakers were not working on the stereo, so I fixed the probelm - the movie sounded much better - maybe it was a great wine afterall, although now I have to find another bottle to catch my eye.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Boschendal Estates 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon (South Africa)

A few nights later I open this Cabernet Sauvignon from the same vintner and same year as the Lanoy blend (August 26, 2008). This one showed its age more on both the nose and palate; it was still quite enjoyable and still had good fruit character, but the flavours were more dried fruit, with a dehydrated/phony strawberry taste, kinda like those cereals with the strawberries - or the way Frankenberry used to fake that strawberry goodness ... though it was still very enjoyable. I used a Spiegelau Cabernet glass for this one.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Boschendal Estates 2000 Lanoy (South Africa)

This was fantastic - it had none of what I call the South African stink (smell of Band-Aid or Road Tar which is present in many SA wines). A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (no mention of percentages on the bottle. Great black fruit, smooth and delicious - proves to me the South African wines need time to settle down and ditch the stink. I was very impressed. No idea how much I paid for this bottle but I am sure it was under $15 - and well worth it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chanson Pere et Fils 2006 Le Bourgogne (France - Burgundy)

Bought this one on sale (total impulse purchase - got an email from an agent that said the wine was on for $2.00 off - so rare to have a discount like that at the LCBO that I just had to try a bottle ... plus I was going to the liquor store anyway). This one did not blow me away, but nor was it something I would pour down the sink ... in fact it was very pleasant, nice cherry with a touch earthy on both the nose and palate ... all-in-all a very nice wine for the money ($17.95 on sale).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Santa Barbara Winery 2001 Syrah (California)

I pulled this one off the shelf and wondered when the heck did I buy this; obviously before I started keeping track of my wines because this one had no price or purchase date in my system. Decided to use the Spiegelau Cabernet glass for this one. Popped the cork and poured - beautiful nose of pepper and spice ... big flavours too. Drank this one happily, but the head started to wobble a glass in - that's when I looked more closely at the label. Sure it had big flavours and a beautful nose, but it was a monster in alcohol too, 15.3%. Still, I wouldn't have traded it for the world cause it was at its peak and delicious.