Thursday, December 31, 2009

Kaiken, Moet and Southbrook on New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve 2009 ... It was a night of family and movies, and wines, some worked, some did not. My first attempt to get the evening rolling was with a few wines that were in my fridge, a Chardonnay, a mixed fruit wine, a couple of Meads (I withhold the names to protect the innocent), nothing seemed to spark this rather tough crowd and all found their was down the drain quickly. It was not till I got serious with my selections that everyone started to enjoy. Kicking things off I decided to go big or go home with a Kaiken 2005 Ultra Malbec from Argentina, this was a blockbuster with 14.5% alcohol and blackberries, spice and bramble ... went down smooth and easy with the first half of the film Public Enemies (Johnny Depp as John Dillinger); we also sampled assorted cheeses, sushi, crackers and other appetizers.

Next up, we ordered a simple pizza with extra cheese, pepperoni and half onions / half green pepper - to pair out came a bottle of Southbrook 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, which gave a little maturity to the evening. The film now over and eyes drooping all around we sipped on the remnance of the Southbrook wine while watching Elvis Costello interview Tony Bennett for to TV show Spectacle (I got the DVDs over Christmas).

Finally, it was all hands on deck and eyes wide open as we searched for a countdown to the New Year with a bottle of Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial Champagne ... the cork popped with not a drop lost of the precious nectar (it pays to be a professional at times like this). The nose was of fresh apple bread, the palate had a touch of sweetness, while the bubbles in the glass were persistent all the way till one in the morning, when we all decided enough was enough and sleep was of the essence. I took a few last sips and still found the wine to have the sweet lemon and pear finish that it had when it was first opened, with hints of mac apple through the mid-palate ... wonderfully quaffable for New Year's Eve; and a nice assortment of wines throughout.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Brazin Cellars 2007 (B)Old Vines Zinfandel (California)

Brazin is an apt term for this Zin, it was bold (as the name insinuates) and spicy, not the usual piece of fruity jam you get from Zin. It paired well with the Soyaki marinaded pork chops, but then I think this would have found a way to pair with light fish, it's just that Brazin. This wine had a spiced-plum aroma with nutmeg and vanilla-peppered raspberries, switching it up between the three with each subsequent swirl and sniff. The palate also had some interesting and ever-changing notes to it, though one constant was the load of spice and pepper; fruit-wise it was deep dark plum mixed with vanilla and sweet-cinnamon, there was even a little bite on the tongue. In the end I could boil this one down to two words: smooth and peppery. And also quite good.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Charles Shaw 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

Well I finally made it. Yup, I found my way to a Trader Joe's, home of Two-Buck-Chuck. I would have to say that Joe's has a pretty good wine section for a small store (at least the one I was in was small) yet the sign on the wall proclaimed over 60 wines under $10, or was that 90, heck I was so excited to be in the joint I can barely remember. Anyway, I picked up a bottle of this and a bottle of that while I was there, and you know I just had to grab a bottle of Chucky. They had two reds (Cab and Syrah) and two whites (Sauv Blanc and Chardonnay) and so I went with the wine that has defined California, Cabernet Sauvignon. We had it on Cheap Chicken night (Sunday), while relaxing and watching the Lethal Weapon series (all 4 movies in one day). Actually the chicken wasn't cheap, but it was tasty (from a place called the Chicken Shack), Erica picked the chicken place and I picked the wine. I think on this night Erica won, the chicken was much better than the wine, with or without the food. The smell was very grapey, Welch's style grapey; the flavours were very much the same, almost sweet. The wine was nothing great, it was drinkable with dinner, but then again so would have been a glass of grape juice. But what can I really expect from a $3 wine (here in Michigan it costs three bucks, $2.99). In truth, I have tried Chuck's wine before, but this is the first bottle I have ever purchased myself, I find the wine to be hit and miss - it's kinda like those Bits n Bites commercials, next bottle whole new ball game.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Chateau Fontaine Cherry Wine (Michigan)

As promised, tonight is was Chinese food and a fruit wine, cherry from near Traverse City (Michigan's home of the cherry). While I was out and about traveling he highways and bi-ways of Michigan wine country I tried a lot of Cherry Wine, that's because cherries are a big thing in Northern Michigan. It seemed that every winery made a cherry wine, some from their own grown cherries and others from ones they purchase in the area. Those that were not good were either a sweet syrupy mess or just never followed through (from start to finish) with enough cherry flavour. Then I came across this one from Chateau Fontaine, I remember that owner and winemaker Dan told we why his was different, and I remember thinking to myself, "sure it's different". But it turned out that it was different enough for us to buy a bottle, and in truth it was the only cherry wine we bought, so we must have been impressed. Tonight with the holidays upon us and me looking for something interesting and special to pour, this seemed like the most likely candidate. Now there is no sense is me telling you what the wine smelled like, (it smelled like cherries: black and sour cherries), it's in the mouth that this wine really hooked us. It was very cherry through the palate, and although it says "semi-sweet" on the label the finish is dry and even has a little bit of a tannic backbone. This wine tasted exactly like biting into a fresh cherry; which is what I remember liking about this paticular cherry wine, it is very true to the fruit, right down to the finish, which is like sucking on the pit after most of the cherry has been chewed up and swallowed ... this wine offered the true cherry experience without the chewing.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bogle 2008 Riesling (California)

This night started with us watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory while sipping on a glass of this Bogle 2008 Riesling from California and waiting for the rest of my sweetie's family to show. The Riesling had a petrol and apple aroma - I was surprised to find so much petrol in a wine so young, it was pleasant for now but I don't see it staning up well to any kind of ageing. Taste was big on apple with lemon zest and a sprinkling of gasoline. Quite smooth, with very little acidity to get in the way and cause any kind of tart sensation, but there was a nice long finish. Once the family arrived I switched to red wine, and since I am the only wine drinker in the bunch I had to pick something I knew; and so amongst the Blue Moons, Bud Light Limes, Boone's Farm beverages and unlaced Egg Nog I drank a bottle of The Show 2006 (a wine I am a fan of). Tomorrow it's just Erica and I for dinner, we are having our traditional festive Chinese food dinner while watching Julie & Julia (that's the plan anyway), instead of the usual Riesling I have selected a local cherry wine for the occasion (thugh I have a Riesling on standby) - more on this experiment tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Renwood Winery 2005 Zinfandel Old Vines (California)

I have heard it said, from Zinfandel fans, that Amador County (in California) makes some of the best and most distinctive Zinfandels in the state. Tonight I tried this one with one of my favourite things to eat when drinking Zinfandel: number one on that list would be ribs, but coming in a close second is BBQ-sauce laced pulled pork. The pairing was quite nice, but before I even pulled an ounce of pork I tried the wine (after all, it was going into the sauce). The nose was full of spiced-plum, quite simple actually, but it was on the palate that the wine proved to be much more complex. Sure there was spiced-plum, but there was also vanilla-raspberries, and a minerality that proved quite refreshing. The finish kept its foot on the spicy aspect of the wine along with a nice bite from the acidity. Not the usual jammy, red berries and cola you find in a Zin, this one kicked it up a notch.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Chateau Grand Traverse 2008 Whole Cluster Riesling (Michigan)

This is my second, and last, bottle of this wine that I bought this summer while touring the northern part of Michigan State and its wineries (The review of first bottle can be found here). It has been almost exactly 6 months since I tried this wine at home and I would have to say it is even nicer now then it was back in June, juicier, more refined and perfectly integrated. The nose starts off lemony then it develops nice pear and peach pit aromas. Looking over my previous review I see a notation about minerality, and while it is there it has become more subtle and the sweet smell of pear has really taken over. The palate is lovely and well rounded; while the previous bottle may have been a little angular this one has really come into its own and has settled down nicely. There's lots of Bosc pear, a nice mineral seam throughout and great acidity; there's kind of a dichtomy here, where the sweetness is fighting with the tartness for supremacy over your mouth and together they make something lively, crisp and juicy. The medium length finish makes sure you don't soon forget the battle, and also look forward to them fighting it out again on the next sip.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dante 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (California)

Found a bottle of this while looking for fresh pasta sheets in Michigan; it was quite the harrowing journey actually ... I decided to make a replica of a dish I had a few weeks ago: Scallop Ravioli, and so I needed some fresh uncooked pasta sheets that I could fashion into circles and create round raviolis from. I thought it would be a simple task, afterall, I find myself in America, and you can find anything here - except, as it turns out, fresh uncooked pasta sheets. I went to 2 big grocery stores one day and 4 the next, each sent me somewhere else, till finally, at the Westborn Market the guy told me, "I know what you are looking for we buy them in bulk, but we don't sell them." I told him about my troubles and he kindly sold me half a dozen. But while at the market, and while to went in search of the sheets, I walked into the Westborn wine market and looked around, finding this bottle of Cab for under $10. I bought the pasta and the bottle, and now two days later I am trying the wine with a lasagna (Friday's Pinot Grigio was paired with the scallops). The wine was exactly as expected, juicy red fruit flavours with a little cinnamon, plum and dark chocolate. The alcohol was fairly robust at 14.5%, but hardly noticeable on either the nose or palate, and the finish was smooth and yummy. With a little time in glass the nose developd some very nice spiced blackberry notes while the palate remained true to the red fruit.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Estancia 2008 Pinot Grigio (California)

I have to tell you, it is nice to be in a country that takes its wine culture and wineries seriously. I am in Michigan for the holidays visiting my fiancee and her family (more the former than the latter of course). Each time I wonder into a wine store, supermarket, or froo-froo market (upscale fancy fruit market) I am confronted by a wine section, and inevitably I have to walk through it to check it out. Rows upon rows of US-based wines, mostly California, but I've seen New York, Michigan, Oregon and Washington wines as well - foreign wines are relegated to back shelves and hidden corners - domestic wines are pominantly displayed ... since I have been here (for about a week now) I have bought about 10 bottles of wine, only one has been from outside the US borders (Chile). Being from Canada (Ontario) this is unheard of because the LCBO puts the foreign wines in dominant locales while shunting the Ontario/Canadian wine into some out of the way corner. Of course this is all just pre-amble to what I had tonight, a Pinot Grigio from California. Now I am going to start by saying this wine is misidentified as a Grigio. To me, Grigio is a style, not just a name, wineries use it becuase it has become popular and easy to identify. Grigio is crisp and citrus in nature, while Gris is white fruit juicy ... This wine was very white fruit juicy giving up smells of apples and pears; the palate was also full of white fruit juiciness: mac apples, bosc pears all with a slightly tart-sweet finish, think a lemonade sweetness with a hint of tartness. Very nice wine, but to me not a Grigio.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Robet Modavi 2005 Private Selection Johannisberg Riesling (California)

It's fun to look through other people's wine collections to see what they have been amassing over the years. My fiancee is by no means a wine connoisseur or fan, "I have a glass with you but that's about it" she tells me, and sometimes she doesn't even finish the glass, usually a sign to me that she doesn't like it. Over the years I have come to know what she does like, big juicy California Cabs, Zinfandesl go over well, and fruity whites, namely Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, and especially Riesling. Tonight I wandered down to the basement in search of something interesting. Instead of looking at the reds, which I have mainly bought and store here (except for the 2003 Chianti - no idea where that came from) I veered my eyes over to the whites to see what she has ... lo and behold I found this bottle of Mondavi 2005 Johannisberg. The colour was golden yellow and glinted welcomingly in the glass. The smells were of peach, apple and honeydew melon mix that had a sprinkling of petrol. The taste was quite different honeyied tangerine and poached pear all with that hint of petrol ... quite lovely actually, and I know Erica liked it, she finished her glass.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

St. Francis Winery 2004 Red (California)

God how I hate the plastic cork. I know you have probably heard me say it a million times and I'll say it a million more until we eradicate this blight on the wine world. Go screwcap, pick better grade cork, go for agglomerates if you must, but please ditch the plastic cork. Tonight I opened a bottle of St. Francis Red (2004), a blend of Merlot, Cabernets Sauv and Franc along with some Zinfandel. Now usually I can blame myself a little for the degradation of the wine, I hold onto it and have no idea there is a plastic cork underneath the capsule (neck sheath). But this one I bought just a few months ago, so it's not like I held this for too long. Now, at first the nose had wonderful red fruit aromas, most prominent was a spiced-strawberry, that lured you into the glass very invitingly. The taste seemed funny at first swig (and second) so I dumped out the first glass and tried again. There is was again, it's a touch plastic-y and a bit oxidized with a slightly bitter/plastic finish. Mid palate there is red fruit, pepper and some spiciness, but not enough to make you forget the beginning or the end of this wine. And yes, there was a black plastic cork sealing the bottle.

Monday, December 14, 2009

L. Mawby - M. Lawrence "Wet" (Michigan)

I suspect that all wines could be described as 'wet', so the label of thisreally gives nothing away. While touring around Michigan this summer I discovered a great little winery called L. Mawby that just makes sparkling wine ... this is the place for all you bubbly fans who live in Michigan and the surrounding area. There they make wines in both the Cuvee Close method (big tank) and the traditional style (second fermentation happens in the bottle), and all done with a great deal of fun (Bob Marley plays in the background). Tonight we toasted a safe trip back to my fiancee's home state (Michigan) by opening this bottle of fizz. Made from Pinot Gris grapes this wine is fruity and a real pleasure to drink. Smells include toasted/baked apple and baked lemon curd; the taste delivers much the same with toasted bread, baked apple and, if you let it sit in the glass long enough, some poached pear; I can't fail to mention the toasty long finish. Delicious.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mission Hill 2006 Quatrain (British Columbia)

This is one of the Mission Hill big gun wines ... and I'm not just talking price, the bottle can be used as a door stop once the bottle is empty. These kind of bottles are usually the sign of a new world icon wine, and I would say this wine has an icon-like quality to it. The blend is dominated by Syrah (41%) with Merlot (32%) taking the second spot, the Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon make up the rest with 14 and 13 percent respectively. The word that most came to mind while drinking this wine was "peppery" - both the palate and the nose seemed to be loaded with it. Aromas of white pepper, black pepper and blackberries greeted the nose and stuck around for the liftime of the wine in glass. The palate also show signs of pepper but it proved more complex then the nose suggested: spice, plum, big black fruit flavours, and a smooth pepperiness. I also tried using a decanter with part of the wine and discovered the flavours of anise emerged on the tongue. The wine was easily summed up with these 4 words: Peppery mid, plum finish ... very enjoyable and approachable right now.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Korta 2007 Syrah (Chile)

I just finished giving a talk called "Gadgets, Gizmos and Games" to the Ontario Wine Society and returned to the house of the folks putting me up for the night. I always like to bring something along to share, and usually something that goes against the grain of what I have been sampling at an event; nothing can be as opposite from Ontario wine as Chilean. This Korta Syrah I have reviewed in the past, and liked it so much that I decided to share it with my friends at the Cozy Couch (where I was staying). This wine can be summed up quite simply as "juicy" - the fruit is blackberry, while the backers are vanilla and spice. The palate is smooth and lush and the nose is very inviting. A great wine to end the evening with.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gianni Gagliardo 2004 Le Serre Barolo (Italy)

Let me clarify something before everybody stars getting up my nose (again) ... yes, yesterday was my birthday and no I did not crack open an Ontario wine to celebrate. The fact is I cracked open 22 Ontario wines to celebrate, many of which will find their way into various blogs, newsletters and sites in the OntarioWineReview universe. But upon finishing that tasting I wanted to having something very special to celebrate my most recent milestone (another year). In so doing I opened a bottle of wine that I brought back from my trip to Italy, which occurred a little over a year ago. Now someone was aghast that I would open a bottle of Barolo so young, but I looked it up on the internet and learned that this particular wine was aged a mere 6 months in oak and if memory serves, 2004 was an okay (but not great) year in Piedmont. But even if I did not have that knowledge at my disposal, or access to the internet, I think my mind was made up: off the shelf came the bottle, out came my corkscrew and pop went the Cork (quite the pull considering the cork was a good 2 inches in length). The nose was quite inviting, I enjoyed sniffing at smoked, dried red fruit (like currants, cranberries and sour cherries) along with a slightly herbaceous/herbal aroma. The palate was smooth and spicy with good tannin structure and a long wood-driven finish that contained lots of spicy-herbal character and some hints of dried red fruits. After about an hour (or so) in the glass things got even better, as the wine smoothed out even more, slip-sliding down the throat oh so smoothly yet keeping the spicy herbaceous characters and tinges of dried fruits that I was delighting in. Happy birthday to me indeed, and a big thank you to all of you who wished me a good one in the process - especially on Facebook and in person. Cheers.

Monday, December 7, 2009

J. Lohr 2003 Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

Tonight's wine required something simple. I am heading out in about an hour or so to take in the Monday Night Football game with one of my best buddy's but he seems to enjoy rosés more than he likes any other wine (read: he only likes pink wines, not that there's anything wrong with that). His wife on the other hand likes white. When visiting friends some show up "cap in hand" I will be showing up with "booze in hand" (I suspect that might be why I am able to keep my friends), in hand will be one white and one pink. As for me I prefer a red and tonight I yanked this J. Lohr Cab off the shelf to enjoy a glass before heading out in the cold night (I will be walking). The wine proved to be very good: smooth, sweet and spicy with a woody dried fruit aftertaste. Smooth through the mouth, sweet on the mid-palate and spicy on the finish - the aftertaste is pretty self-explanatory.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Zonin 2000 Montepulciano D'Abruzzo (Italy)

So, after sipping on one of the more unique Ontario wines for most of the afternoon (the review of which will appear in my newsletter this coming Thursday as a "Something Special" selection), I decide it was time for something red. I went way back into my cellar (which is organized by year) and pulled out this Montepulciano D'Abruzzo. The nose smelled of leather and dried figs, while the palate also showed much leather (but the smooth and supple kind) and dried raspberry notes. I really enjoyed this wine and appreciated it for its age and how well it was drinking. My mother, who partook in this bottle with me this evening, was not a fan; she could not get past the leatheryness of the nose or the palate. She asked me if I would have enjoyed the wine if it were younger and still had these characteristic; I admitted to her that no I would not have enjoyed this wine if I knew it were younger because I would be expecting a heck of a lot more fruit. But because this wine is almost 10 years old it really is quite lovely for its age. Its all relative my friend, all relative.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Corte Zovo 2003 Sa' Solin Ripasso Valpolicella (Italy)

Valpolicella Ripasso is one of my favourite styles of wine ... for those of you who do not know what a Ripasso is I'll make this explanation as brief, but as informative, as I can: it is a wine that sits in between the fruitiness of Valpolicella and the heft of an Amarone, that's because a winery will take the skins from the Amarone wine (after the wine has been made) and "re-pass" it with some Valpolicella, causing a refermentation, pushing the alcohol up by a percentage and the flavour profile to be a little more robust. If you still don't get it all I can say is: that's what Wikipedia is for - or better yet, rush out to your nearest liquor store and request a good bottle, it usually runs about 20 bucks. Here's a bottle I bought for $15.95 back in 2007. The reason I picked it out was not anything too complicated, I saw the bright yellow capsule and decided that was the wine to have. The smells emanating from the glass are those of dried fruit and dark chocolate; in the mouth there's prunes, plums, more dried fruit, a hint of anise and yes, some bittersweet chocolate. I also found the acidity to be quite high. This wine has aged quite nicely and was great for sipping on.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cline Cellars 2004 Red Truck / Quinta do Infantado Ruby Port

Cline Cellars 2004 Red Truck ...
I started the night with a nice aged red and ended the night with a red that could age. Simple dinners almost always scream for interesting wines, and go with the most interesting of stuff. Tonight I pulled the cork (a real cork) on a bottle of Cline Cellars 2004 Red Truck, a blend of Syrah, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Mourvedre from California. When I lay this sucker down it was just a test to see what would happen to this juicy red fruited wine; and I would have to say my experiment paid off. The wine had become all smoky and spicy with black fruit, plum and anise notes on the sniffer. The palate also showed a bit of complexity, though the fruit took awhile to express itself, and even then it was faint. The flavours were mostly spice, pepper, pencil shavings and a peek-a-boo of red fruit; there were also still quite a bit of tannins here - but probably mostly from the wood. I thought it had aged to a very nice drinking level, but I wouldn't leave it much longer if you have any; looking at my cellar I have one left and that will be drunk soon. As for the dinner I mentioned: Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich with all the deli fixin's - bbq chips and cole slaw.

Quinta do Infantado Ruby Port ...
Later in the evening I decided a little dark chocolate was called for (85% Ecuadorian dark) and what goes better with that then a nice Port. I have been a fan of this Ruby since it entered the market in March of 2008, so much so I ended up buying 7 bottles of it (it sold out fairly quickly but it has never come back, too bad for you, not so bad for me - I still have quite a few bottles). This is a beauty of a Ruby Port with spiced-cherry, plum and chocolate notes of its own (but it paired with the 85% cacao). There is also quite a bite from the tannins and acidity, but considering you don't drink a bottle of Port in one sitting this will smooth over the next week and become luscious and silky through the mouth. Looking forward to experimenting with it over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Seven Daughters NV Winemaker's Blend (California)

Seven Daughters is a plain Jane, a simple Sheila type of wine ... the 7 Daughters in the bottle are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Syrah, Carignane, and Sangiovese - and with all those personalities you'd think that the wine would be overflowing with a personalities of its own, but in this case too many contributors spoil the broth. This is not to say it is a bad wine, it just lacks something to make it truly unique. The colour is light, slightly darker than classic Pinot Noir colour (would be my comparison). Smells are sweet candied red fruit with the merest hint of pepper. The taste follows the nose: candied red fruit with just a hint of spice or pepper (I think it's kind of a toss-up here). The wine is easy going, easy drinking and easy on every one of you five senses ... I wonder how easy the daughters were that made it? Or if any father it his right mind would want his daughters to be this easy? I recommend the wine but don't expect a lot of return on your investment.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Vina Ventisquero 2007 Root:1 Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile)

Tonight, I opened another bottle I picked up in the States. This wine intrigued me because it is called Root:1 and its claim is that the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that make up this wine are from ungrafted rootstock (which means they are original European vines). The front label goes on to explain why these vines are so unique and why Chile is such a unique place. I'll let you go out and find a bottle to get the whole story, but suffice it to say I was interested in trying the wine. The nose has some beautiful black fruit on it, cassis and currants with juicy blackberries taking a lead role. The palate is juicy and smooth with lovely black fruit and hints of pepper and spice. I'd have to say that the nuances of the original European rootstock alludes me, for the simple fact that I have never tried wines made from ungrafted grapes until now, so I have no idea what I would be looking for in a pre-phylloxera wine. I do know this is one juicy and delicious wine, and well worth the ten bucks I paid for it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Marietta Cellars Old Vines Red Lot 50 (California)

Speaking of wines I like to try and buy, this Marietta Cellars Old Vines Red is always something I look forward to seeing on the shelves of my favourite American retailer (Champane Wine Cellars in Michigan), the price is always agreeable ($9.99) and I have yet to be disappointed by this blend. They claim, on the back label, that it is "primarily old vines Zinfandel" and it has that Zin characteristic of rich ripe plum that I adore. Marietta chooses not to vintage date this wine, opting instead to "Lot" number it, this is the 50th edition of this wine and it should have a little more glitz on the label to celebrate. Instead it has the same old same old writing and you have to search for the lot number, but there is something a little bit new, a bold font statement at the bottom of the label about how Marietta continues to be proudly be family owned and operated since 1978. As for what's in the bottle, this is a ten dollar bottle of wine that over delivers, the smells are spiced plum and chocolate while the palate doles out such favourites as white pepper, plum and Christmas cake spices. Lip-smackingly good. I'm thinking of picking up a few more next time I am south of border.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Newton 2006 Chardonnay (California)

I'm a fan of the Newton Claret (red blend) and have tried various incarnations of the Newton Chardonnay, over the years, and have found myself, in general, being a fan of that too (which is a surprise because of my usual nature is to dislike Chardonnay). I picked this one while down in the States in the hope that this was one of the year's that I liked the Chardaonnay; alas this was not one of those yeasr ... it definitely was not my favourite of the Newton Chards that I have tried, it had many of the characteristics people find offensive in Chardonnay these days (but used to love): to much oak treatment; I found it difficult to find fruit on either the nose or palate on this wine. The nose showed hints of apple, but they were obscured by vanilla, caramel and almond. The palate showed a little more promise in the fruit department, with hints of lemon and baked apple, but still there was much more hazelnut, caramel and spice then there was fruit flavour. The saving grace here was a nice seam of acidity which had me taking sip after sip looking for redeeming qualities, but finding very little.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Vinhos Sogrape 2003 Callabriga (Portugal)

Damn near a tragedy in the wine department tonight. I pulled a bottle of 2003 Chateau de Montgueret "Le Petit Saint Louis" out of the cellar this evening ... no particular reason it was just the first bottle that caught my eye. Popping the cork I could already smell something and not sure I was liking what I was smelling. I poured the wine into a glass and gave a whiff, a faint hint of cork, while the taste was muted and almost mildewy-like ... yup a corked bottle. Usually when I have a night like this I end up pulling about 2 or 3 other bottles out of the cellar that have other faults (too old, too sharp, too something), but not tonight. I next yanked this Callabriga out of the cellar, a blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca from Portugal; funny coincidence, it was a bottle I had been wondering about 2 days ago but had not gone in search of it because of other wines I was planning on trying. So it turned out to be my lucky night ... out with the French and in with the Portuguese. This was a beautiful wine with lots of aromas and flavours: plum (the most dominant) with vanilla, cherry, blackberry and some chocolate notes. The wine was smooth and easy with very ripe juicy fruit and a little fine sediment on the bottom of the bottle and in my glass ... here's one I wish I had 3 more of; though if I had I probably would not be typing out this review tonight.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Venedos Errazuriz Ovalle 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile)

This is one of those bottles that I was scared of. I was not worried about the age of the wine or that it looked funny in the bottle, nope - I share a case of this wine with a friend and she had just informed me that the last two remaining bottles she had were both bad: oxidized due to the plastic cork closure. So I peeled the capsule off with a little trepidation. To my shock under the capsule was a natural cork, I have never been so happy to see a cork in my life. I almost jumped off the table I was sitting on and did a little jig - lucky for the people around me I didn't. As for the wine, it was kind of one dimensional with a minty-raspberry nose and a palate that followed suit, hints of black fruit did begin to emerge with a little aeration but the mintyness seemed almost overwhelming at times.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Michel Torino Estate 2006 Don David Malbec Reserve (Argentina)

Malbec is the grape on everybody's lips these days, especially when you are referring to Argentinean wine. I was speaking with an Argentine sommelier the other day and she said that nobody is interested in any other grape coming out of Argentina, "it's Malbec every time all the time." That's too bad because Argentine wine fans should be on the lookout for Cabernet Sauvignons and Bonardas coming out of that country. Tonight I didn't try either, Malbec was on my mind too ... I was doing bbq chicken with a smoky sauce and thought a Malbec would go well ... oh heck, who's kidding who, I had picked the wine out long before I had even thought about dinner and I am lucky that the two went decently together; for me it's all about the wine. This one had a nose of blackberry, vanilla, pepper and cinnamon - not surprising since the wine saw 12 months of new oak, and because of that I was surprised not to see more oak influence on the wine. The palate has lots of big black fruit with loads of spice and pepper Decanted there's sweet black fruit on the nose with juicy black fruit on the palate and plenty of fruit and oak tannins. I'm glad I have a few more bottles of this wine left cause I see myself enjoying this one again in 2-3 years.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tatachilla 2003 Keystone Shiraz-Viognier (Australia)

Decided on this wine after a day in Niagara ... usually on days where I go to or try wines from a specific region that night I like to have a glass from a region that's not even a hint close to the one I have been dealing with all afternoon. This Shiraz-Viognier from Australia seemed the perfect foible to all the Niagara based wines with their food friendly nature and high acidity. I was looking for big fruit, low acidty and maybe a hint of chocolate; what I ended up getting was a heck of lot more than I bargained for. The nose on this one is just a touch on the floral side (and I mean titch) with big pepper notes. On the palate big was the opportune word: big spice, big pepper, big wine (15%) ... fruit did start to emerge about an hour later, but it was too late to make a difference, the spices had already worked their magic.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Kaikan 2006 Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon (Argentina)

Many years ago I tried, what I believe, was one of the best Malbecs I had tried from Argentina, it was the Chilean winery Montes' Argentinean project called Kaiken and the wine was called Ultra - and it truly was (ultra). Since then I have watched as Kaiken has become it's own name and brand and has now also come into the Ontario market as a Vintages Essential product, meaning it is available all the time, the Ultra is still a once in a while item but the Reserva is readily available, and quite tasty. So imagine my surprise (happily) when I saw that the Ultra was coming back, but this time instead of the Malbec we were going to meet his brother, Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon (being released this weekend at Vintages - Nov. 21, 2009). I have acquired a bottle early so that I can drink it before most people even line up tomorrow morning. The wine is rich and fruity on the nose with plenty of blackberry and black cherry to go around. The palate likes to focus on the spiciness of this wine instead of the intense fruit the nose seems to hone in on, all the while we deal with some pretty firm, yet flexible tannins on the tongue. I still think the Ultra line is one of the best to come out of Argentina and I'm glad to see another varietal being used ... this is one big wine (14.5%) that needs a big glass or some decanting (or if you have it, some time). I'm also a big fan of the dark chocolate finish. Drink up.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ironstone Vineyards 2005 Old Vines Zinfandel (California)

Dear Lord ... when will wineries learn that plastic corks are not the best seal for a bottle of wine. When will they realize that they are taking perfectly good wine and ruining it, especially for those of us who have a wine cellar and time to age their creation. Tonight I pulled a bottle of old vines Zin out of the cellar in the hopes of enjoying it was some salmon (not a perfect pairing but what the heck). I had a heck of a time getting the capsule off the neck of the bottle because the underside was coated with a brownish tar, better known as leaked out wine. The culprit I could see, once I had removed the welded on plastic, was that the wine had leaked up the cork, coated the seal and seeped down the sides. I then saw that the offending cork was of the plastic variety and I shook my head sadly. The smell of long ago dried wine rose up from the neck and the capsule. I struggled to open the bottle (another drawback to plastic) and finally was able to dislodge the cork. The smell coming out of the glass was grapey, raisiny and sweet caramel; plum later emerged, but all sickeningly sweet. The palate was the proof of this spoiled pudding, oxidized sweet fruit slightly sherried and a touch of spicy on the finish, which has now (30 minutes later) disappeared and been replaced with the Sherry quality of sweet plums. I had about a half glass before it became to sickeningly sweet to stomach. So please Lord, let the wineries know that plastic cork just ain't cool.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Torbreck 2004 Old Vines Granache-Shiraz-Mourvedre (Australia)

Night 2 of my Gewurztraminer Challenge and I pulled out another special bottle for the "staff". Torbreck is one of my favourite Aussie producers (others that come to mind off-hand include Gemtree and Thorn-Clarke, but that's not what we're here to talk about right now). This was a bottle of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre, otherwise known as GSM. The wine was under screwcap so I was not worried about corked or oxidized wine, but what poured out of the bottle was lighter in colour than I remember; of course that's what 5 years (from vintage date) will do to a red wine. The nose was fabulous, with plenty of red fruit and berry smells that grabbed the nose and lured you into the glass. Unfortunately, the palate did not deliver on all those wonderful red berries, it fell just a tad short, instead there were dried raspberries with licorice notes through the mouth and the finish was loaded with minerality and dried herbs ... hmm, interesting. The palate was very smooth and it did open a little the longer it sat in the glass, but it never did develop the fruit that the nose alluded it would have.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Robert Mondavi 2005 Private Selection Vinetta (California)

What other "boss" is going to let you drink on the job ... I would, but that's probably why I'm not in management. On the nights of my Grape Challenges, I usually bring in a pre-wine for my "staff" to enjoy. I usually pick something I know they haven't tried like a wine purchased in the U.S. (and not available here) or something that is only available through private order. Tonight, on the first night of my Gewurztraminer Challenge, I opted for this Robert Mondavi meritage (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc), the first meritage made at the house of Mondavi (hard to believe), and currently only available stateside. Someone pointed out that the nose was much sweeter than the taste, and sure enough they were right. The nose was sweet fruited with black raspberry, cherry and black currants. But the nose deceived when it came to the taste, which was not only dry, but had flavours not hinted at through the nose: black raspberry and cherry for sure, but there was a prominent hit of smoky licorice that carried right through to the end.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Vina Cobos 2007 Felino Cabernet Sauvignon (Argentina)

Today was one of those LONG days ... it began at the same time every other day for me begins (6 AM), I did much the same with my morning that I always do ( I posted some stuff to my blog, including a dinner at Bb33 and a Portuguese wine tasting); then it was off to teach class in the afternoon, and then to a glassware tasting in north Toronto, and finally a slow ride home, all the while wondering what to have for dinner. On my way home I decide to stop at the LCBO and pick up a few bottles of this beauty of a Cab from Argentina, which is made in conjunction with California winemaker Paul Hobbs. Now if this were a Cali-Cab by Mr. Hobbs it would fetch probably triple what it does; but because it is from Argentina it is still good value at under $20. The nose is rich and ripe with big black fruit notes along with chocolate, vanilla and spice. The palate shows the same kind of flair for flavour - big black fruit, loads of spice with chocolate and vanilla around to smooth things out. In fact, on the palate, the big hit on the tongue was spice, followed by the fruit and then the bit players already mentioned come around to smooth things over. This wine should improve even further over the next five years, so I will revisit it at some point I am sure (I bought 3 bottles). For now it is extremely enjoyable, but a word to the wise, watch out, that 14.7% alcohol, it can really sneak up on you ... so now it is time to bid you all a good night, I'm ready for bed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bodegas Castano 2007 La Casona Old Vines Monastrall (Spain)

If there is any justice in the world of wine you're now looking at a review of the new FuZion, right here, right now. Sure it's a buck-fifty more than a bottle of FZ (based on the $7.45 price tag here in Ontario) but you're definitely getting more than a buck-fifty worth of wine here - much more; and of course when I am talking "new Fuzion" I mean popularity-wise. La Casona comes from Bodegas Castano, the winery that makes the lovely Hecula, which is already a good value wine at $14.95; but here the house of the old-vines-wines brings us a value we can all wrap our palates around, and, most importantly, can easily afford. The nose is black currant, blackberries with plenty of spice - as the wine aerates (opens up) a strong raspberry component begins to emerge. That raspberry continues on the palate along with black fruit, spice and a nice peppery-ness. There's also plenty of acidity that'll help it accompany plenty of different kinds of meat (try it with your favourite), as well as a simple sipper on its own. I have my case, hope you grab yours, before everyone learns just how good this Spanish value is.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lammershoek 2008 Straw Wine (South Africa)

Tonight was kind of a special evening, I wandered out to the Wine Establishment on the Esplanade to meet up with Eleanor Cosman (Bokke Wines, who specialize in South African wines) and Carla Kretzel (of Lammershoek, a winery from South Africa) to try "something special". When I got there there was a small (375ml) unassuming looking bottle on the counter and four glasses. It was a Straw Wine made from 85% Chenin Blanc and 15% Harslevelu (the grape of Tokaji, Hungary's sweet dessert wine), but this is something special and unique. Instead of the traditional drying on mats Lammershoek winemakers harvest the grapes at regular time then hang the grapes like laundry from a trellis system. The usual way to dry these grapes was on mats, but the problem with that method was rot, with no air movement the grapes didn't dry properly; the new way, air circulates, drying the grapes thoroughly and evenly, till they're the size of raisins and the sugars become more concentrated. Then the grapes are pressed (giving approximately one drop's worth per raisiny grape) and then wild-yeast-barrel-fermented for about 6 months in old barrels, that impart little to no flavour to the wine. Turns out this is a very limited production wine (~2000 375ml bottles) because the trellising system can only accommodate 10 tons of grapes and their are only 2 hectares of "Harsh" grapes available - plus both grapes come from vines that are 40+ years old, thus yields are naturally low. So with all this background information the real test is taste and smell.

The wine, when swirled coated the glass. Aromas of all things honeyed emanated, like apricots, pears, peaches and lychee; there was also brown sugar and caramel notes wafting up from the glass - for a guy with a sweet tooth like mine this boded well. In the mouth, the wine was thick yet smooth with very honeyed flavours, tasting almost like watered down honey, along with raisin and sweet tropical candied fruit notes and just a hint of spice. The wine thoroughly coated the mouth (as it did the glass) and left a long, lingering, persistent finish behind - so much so that minutes later I was licking my cheeks and still tasting the delicious residue. Everybody (5 people) were saying how it was too sweet to drink more than a splash in the glass - I took seconds and almost thirds, why not, not only was it tasty it only had 10% alcohol. Yum ... I would have had thirds, but that's just seemed gluttoness from such a small bottle.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

3 Wines and Only One Worth Drinking

Halloween at my place was a pretty scary affair. First I sampled a number of wines from Eastern European countries - well actually just one (Georgia) ... some were not worth the glass bottle they were put in. After that experience I decided I needed to open something nice. I had a Cardinham 2003 Riesling from the Clare Valley in Australia ... right from the get go I had a feeling this was a wine I had held on to for too long; it was big on gas and short on fruit, very short on fruit ... in fact, it had no fruit on it whatsoever and had the nastiest of finish - so down the sink it went.

Next up tonight was a big Syrah from Cline in California - Cline 2003 Los Carneros Syrah, 15% alcohol. The nose had gone all pruney with little to redeem it, the taste was peppery with hints of cocoa, but the nose was something you just couldn't get past, and within a few sips it was all you could taste and smell ... not pleasant.

Finally, I went for something a little more recent, Tamar Ridge 2007 Pinot Noir. This wine just came out in Vintages (LCBO) and was a big hit when I tasted it previously, so I was happy to try it and this time drink it (instead of just tasting and spitting). This one is an Australian wine from Tasmania and proudly declares "Tasmania: True Cool Climate" on the label. The nose was sour cherry, with red ripe cherries poking through on occasion, which gave it a mysterious smell-ability, also present were nice red berry aromas and a touch of spice. The palate was even yummier, smooth and supple red and black fruits, subtle tannins and nice spice with hints of earthiness that brought the entire wine into balance on the tongue. The alcohol seemed big for a Pinot Noir (14%) when observed on the label, but it was unnoticeable on the palate, which made it all the better.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Glass Mountain 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

When I bought this wine in 2007 it was a lovely little wine with lots of red fruit on the nose and taste (according to my notes of January 3, 2007), it also cost me a whopping $14.95. Well two and a half years later red fruit has turned pruney with dried fruit and licorice notes being most prominent. On the palate the fresh red fruit has become licorice and dried black fruit oriented ... there was nothing fresh about this wine whatsoever. I also noted an oxidative quality in the wine and that the wine was sealed with a plastic cork. My problem is not with the plastic cork (though that is definitely a problem) it's that when you lie a wine down there is no indication as to the closure under the neck's capsule. It would be nice if winemakers would make mention somewhere on the label so that consumers would know the wine was not meant to lie down for any length of time, I have fallen into this plastic trap once too often for my liking.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Show 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

This wine is so "sweet" ... not sweet as in lots of sugar, but sweet as in "oh so delicious". As much as I liked the 2006 version the 2007 version is even better. The nose on this Show reels you in with sweet fruit smells of blackberry, plum, ripe cherries, a hint of raspberry (that comes more into the fore the longer it is onpened) and all wrapped in a robe of chocolate. All that pales in comparison to the flavours your mouth is about to receive. Everything above follows on the tongue, but it's delivered in such a smooth manner that the mouth screams for more with each sip. The flavours are lead by the juiciness of blackberry and black cherry and a touch of chocolate on the finish ... now here's the kicker, this wine is not available in Ontario so I pick my bottles up in the good old U.S. of A, where you can find it on sale for about ten-bucks - what a steal.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Alianca 2006 Particular (Portugal)

When people ask me about "up and coming" wine regions I usually mention two places: Spain and Portugal. These regions are not exactly the new kids on the block, but the wines they make are consistently good, and represent good value. Now most people would argue that Argentina is the next up'n'comer, but reality is that Argentina is the here and now, which means some other country has to step into that rising star role; that's why I predict Portugal is poised to jump into that spot. So it came as no surprise when I opened this bargain of a bottle ($13.95) as to how good it was. Sweet black fruit, licorice, ripe cherry and plum grip the nose and lured me in. The palate, with its ripe red fruit sweetness, black licorice and vanilla oak on the finish was very appealing. Very appealing, very fresh and very good, that's the formula for up 'n' comer status.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Liberty School 2003 Syrah (California)

For somebody who has all kinds of glassware I am surprised that I do not have a glass devoted to the Shiraz/Syrah grape, especially because there is so much of the stuff made; but i have always contended that what you really need on your glass rack is a good red glass and a good white glass and those should get you through on 99% of all occasions. Tonight, I popped the cork on a bottle of California Syrah, at first I pulled out my Pinot Noir glass, then I second guessed myself and pulled out the Bordeaux style glass, all the time in a quandary over which glass to use. If indeed it is a Syrah, then the Pinot glass would do, if it turns out it was a bigger fruitier version (Shiraz with a Syrah name) then the Bordeaux would do. So instead of agonizing over it I tried both (hey, I have a dishwasher). The Pinot glass enhanced the fruitiness of the wine, the Bordeaux glass brought out the spicy aspects ... wanting something that would bite me back this evening opted for the Bordeaux. The nose was rich in spice, licorice and a smoky-bacony quality ... palate-wise there was lots of red and black fruit, along with vanilla oak and white pepper with an almost sweet cranberry-chocolate finish ... very enjoyable. I think I made the right glass choice with this one.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tarapaca 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile)

On the Canadian Thanksgiving I decided to head down to Chile for a taste of a 5-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon. This bottle has been staring at me from my sideboard for a few weeks now, ever since I took it out of one of my 'aging boxes'. At first I had trouble removing the cork because of its length, but I finally got it out in one piece by digging the helix of the corkscrew in a little deeper. Once opened I offered the first little bit to Bacchus by pouring off the first half inch ... then into the glass it went. Smells were minty, blackberry, cassis and quite spicy. The flavours were similar with black fruit and mint, but this was not one of those juicy, jammy Chilean offerings, instead it offered up more spicy character, and over the 45 minutes that it was open (and there was wine in the bottle) the fruit dropped off leaving much spice behind.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

E. Guigal 2005 Cotes du Rhone (France)

Kick me in the socks and call me Larry ... for about 2 years now the folks at Vinexx (who are the agents that bring this wine into Ontario) have been telling me to watch out for this wine - "it delivers far beyond its price point," a gentleman by the name of Steve told me. Each time I went into the LCBO I looked for this wine and was disappointed to see the 2004 (in itself a good wine, but "no comparison to the '05", or so I was told) still o the shelves. Today I finally found a bottle, seems it is now making its way through the system. The nose is red fruited with lots of pepper and black raspberry. Made from a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedre this wine is all that is was touted as being, and more. The palate is powerful with lots of red fruit and peppery-spicy notes and lots of flavour ... a wine was worth the wait. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

J & J Eger Wine Company 2006 Sik-Hegy Dula (Hungary)

This is one of those wines that I really wanted to be able to poke holes in ... in a good natured kinda way of course. Think back to when you were in high school and your buddy finally got that date with the girl you secretly liked and you hoped beyond hope that he would fail miserably on his date; even though he was a buddy. That's kinda like what it was like for me and this wine. The winery is part owned by a fellow writer and friend John Szabo, and is a project he undertook in his native Hungary ... as much as you want to pat him on the back and say, "Good going John." There's still that part of you that says, "What does he know about making wine or running a winery?" After all, those who can't do, teach, right? Well it seems that the versatile John Szabo not only teaches but makes a pretty good wine. Made from the Central European Blaufrankisch grape (known as Lemberger in Germany, as well as a bunch of other names, depending on which country you are in; for example in Hungary it is known as Kekfrankos). I had this wine with friends during a gathering on Tuesday night - one of those in attendance had brought a bottle which was a curiosity for the rest of us (because we all know John); all of us had not had a chance to try John's wine and were excited to do so. The nose has raspberry, vanilla, a bit of graphite, and was quite pleasant. Now to be fair to this review I should come clean and say we tried it in a variety of different glassware, the wine showed best in a Schott Zwiesel Cru Classic Burgundy glass, which is the glass I used when taking these notes - after all the point of drinking wine is not to find the faults but to enjoy the wine ... Now back to your regularly scheduled review. The palate was quite exquisite, showing strawberry, raspberry fruit with a touch of cinnamon and cranberry on the mid-palate and a sour cherry-spice finish, which is also where the vanilla decided to show up. The best words to describe the wine are delicate and delicious. Good work John, you are to be congratulated on a job well done; as for the analogy of the girl, I have my own thanks very much, and I have no intention of ever starting a winery I'm happy to stick with the girl.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Marchesi de Frescobaldi 2000 Remole (Italy)

Another Italian wine takes center stage in my house tonight - as it did last night - and another oldie, but this time it comes from the Tuscany region.

This morning I found myself reorganizing my wine cellar and I came across this bottle, a blend of Sangiovese and "una piccola quantita di Cabernet", now my Italian is a little rusty (more lie non-existant), but I am going to assume that says a little bit of Cabernet. Once again we're not dealing with a fresh fruity wine here. First there's the colour, which had brownish brick tones. The smells were of dried fruit, forest floor, some prunes, and licorice - really not all that appealing if you think about it; but on the palate it proved to be much more inviting: dried leaves, sweetish dried fruits (like a handful of dried cran and other berries), licorice and a hint of dried spices from the oak ... quite lovely indeed, and a pleasure to drink, especially after a little decanting.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Luigi Righetti 2003 Valpolicella "Campolieti" (Italy)

Sometimes a wine just calls out to be drunk - which was the case with this wine. I was replacing a bulb in my wine cellar this morning. I put the bulb in and immediately there was light - amazing thing this electricity stuff. I threw the packaging away (and placed some of the components in the recycle bin) and turned to survey what it now looked like all lit up. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash of a red capsule and thought, "okay tonight it's you". I pulled the wine off the rack and placed it on the coveted drinking table for this evening; and now here we are. I have to admit that I was a little nervous about a Valpolicella of 6 years old, but you only live once. As it turns out, after I sipped and savoured this wine, I read the back label, and learned that it was not a straight Valpol, it was in fact a "ripasso" (second fermented on Amarone skins) - that explains the longevity and the and nice fruit still in this bottle. To say it had fruit is a bit of a misnomer, the wine smelled and tasted old, but far from too old. The nose had cranberry, sour cherry, forest floor and spiced-dried-plum ... the palate had dried fruit and leaves with a bit of spiciness left, but with a smooth glide through the mouth, and still with a hint of acidity to wash it away clean. Quite lovely ... now what to have with it is the question.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wolf Blass 2002 Red Label Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia)

Once upon a time Wolf Blass was a very colourful winery. What I mean by that is that they had a label colour for every colour in the rainbow. The benefit of that was that if you liked a wine all you had to do was remember the colour of the label. Then, a few years ago they decided that they had too many colours, so they made the decision to "simplify" the choices ... since then I haven't been able to figure out the Wolf Blass labeling scheme. It used to be that Yellow Label, which was the most popular wine at the LCBO, was a Cabernet Sauvignon; the Red Label, which I liked better, was this Shiraz-Cabernet blend - it was also a tad less expensive. Tonight, I decided to check out my lone bottle of the old red label wine that I had left in the cellar (I also have an '04 Yellow Label kicking about, which I will try someday soon). This blend still had quite a bit of spicyness to it, so I thought that using my hand held Vinturi aerator would help. It did. The wine smoothed out immensely, making it have an almost creamy smooth mouth feel, yet it still retained that nice element of spice and pepper in the flavour department. Smells of dried dark fruit, namely blackberry, with nice vanilla oak tones. The palate delivered a little more with blackberries, sometimes of the dried and sweet variety, with hints of spice and those vanilla oak notes. This one needed that little nudge of decanting to turn it from decent to delicious.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gonzalez Byass Solera 1847 (Spain)

I apologize in advance to you Sherry purist out there, but I like my Sherry on the sweet side, which is why I like Cream Sherries, Pedro Ximinez based Sherries and ones like this Gonzalez Byass 1847. The story behind this sherry is that the original Solera was started in 1847. For those who understand the way that sherry is made I'll wait while you 1) read that again and 2) whistle your amazement. Anyway, the theory is that somewhere in this beverage is some sherry from 1847 ... by now we're talking a very minuscule amount, but it theoretically should be in there. It makes interesting talk around the table, but by the time you are ready to drink this I would suggest you find a nice cozy couch and curl up with a glass. The nose is candied orange peel, roasted almonds and burnt caramel; the palate is just as intriguing with honey roasted almonds, a nuts and raisins trail mix of sorts, all soaked in a caramel-booze base, and of course there's a great long finish ... this is one to sip and savour.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mission Hill 2006 Compendium (British Columbia)

The first thing you'll notice about this bottle of wine is in fact the bottle - this is not environmentally friendly packaging (it's heavy), but then top tier wines from most wineries aren't because cool is not a plastic bottle. The nice thing about a heavy bottle is there a thousand and one uses for it after the wine is long gone: a doorstop, paperweight, a bud vase or weapon ... just to name a few - but I can guarantee you're going to like what's in the bottle before you get to that point. "Compendium" is the what the folks at Mission Hil have termed "a super second" to its flagship Oculuse. It's a new Bordeaux-styled blend which has Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (the only thing missing is Malbec). The propaganda that accompanies the bottle compares it to Oculus by saying: "[Compendium] is crafted in a different style and may be enjoyed immeditaely, while Oculus benefits from time in the cellar." So after all that preamble I am sure you are wondering what the wine in the bottle tastes like. I can tell you that this is an ever changing bottle of wine. It starts with a hit of blackberry and spice on the nose, then turns into spiced plum about 15 to 20 minutes in if you give it some time to sit around and aerate. While I cooked dinner I placed the glass a few feet away from me (within arms length at all times) and I could smell it quite plainly when I was as far as 2-3 feet away, so I would say the nose is very powerful, and the colour is also beautiful. But I guess I have kept you in suspense long enough - the palate is just as advertised, hefty enough that you could lie it down for a few years, but gentle enough that you could easily drink it now, and by decanting you help it along even further. There's hints of pepper, blackberry, spiced plum, vanillin and a gentle smoothness across the tongue. I have been informed that this is a new release for Mission Hill, and since that is the case I suppose I should give it some kind of mark just in case you are looking to get yourself a bottle - I'd say 4 1/2 stars (Excellent).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Torres 2007 San Valentin (Spain)

This is a bottle of 100% Grenacha from Spain with a cutesy little cupid (complete with arrow) hanging from the neck. But while the bottle is cutesy, what's inside is far from it. The nose is vanilla, sweet blackberry and red licorice. At first the palate seemed a little bitter and too acidic, but give it 45 minutes to come out of its doldrums and you have one heck of a flavour profile here. Sweet vanilla oak and blackberry, a nice fruit to tannin ratio with a lingering dry finish complete with stoney mineral, black fruit and smoke.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Juan Gil 2006 Monastrell (Spain)

Just the other day I was extolling the virtues of Juan Gil, well tonight I decided to once again give one of his wines a go around. This is the Monastrell aged four months in American and French oak and has "de cepas viejas" written on the bottom of the label. Again its another stunning and drinkable wine from this producer. The nose was incredibly inviting with plum, spice, blackberry, black cherry and chocolate notes long with hints of vanilla. The high alcohol (14.5%) heat was the first thing to grab the nose, but this settled in about 15 minutes after opening, leaving behind black fruit, spice cocoa and a little bit of a warming sensation on the way down ... perfect wine for a cold winter night; unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your outlook) we're in the midst of an Indian Summer in this part of Ontario, so I have to instead take solace in the fact that the wine went great with the burger I consumed for dinner.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Juan Gill 2007 Gos (Spain)

Juan Gil is one of my favourite wineries from Spain, they never fail to impress. The wines I have tried from this bodega, in the region of Jumila, have been all 100% Monastrell (red) and each one delicious in their own right. This is a simple wine, but simple does not mean bland or boring, it has great flavours and smells that I have come to expect from this winery. The nose was black fruited with herbs, vanilla and a subtle minerality. On the palate there was the black fruit and herbs, some sweet vanilla nuances and a steady seam of acidity that makes this wine refreshing as well as tasty.

Wirra Wirra 2002 Scrubby Rise (Australia)

After sipping on a little rosé (13%) I needed something with a higher octane to go with dinner; this 14.5% Aussie bruiser should do the trick, a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. The wine offered-up a very spicy nose with pepper, plum and cassis. there was also an odd smell that appeared too, banana skin - not the fresh ripe kind, the browned up version of the peel, not unpleasant and very interesting. The flavour did not offer such oddity, instead it was pepper, plum, spice and lots of big black fruit; cocoa and hints of cinnamon were also present. A lovely wine 7 years from vintage date and one that really hit the spot. It was interesting to also note how this wine was sealed, with a screwcap, but the inner lining was very spongy, puffy even, like a small pillow, spongier than usual for those who check out these kind of things - I have heard it said that the thickness of the inner lining can be changed to suit the winemaking need, depending on the seal you are looking for and the transfer of air you wish into the bottle. When I took off the screwcap the lining was actually stuck to the top, so I'd say the seal was pretty tight on this one ... an interesting wine all around.

Ogier 2008 Cote du Ventoux Rosé (France)

Yesterday I went to a tasting at the LCBO; me and some of my fellow wine writers sampled approximately two dozen wines. When it was all over I wondered into the store and bought two bottles of this rosé from the Rhone Valley ($11.95). Made from a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault this wine has a beautiful salmon colour. The nose is cherry and raspberry, while the palate is fresh cherry with a dry raspberry finish - or so said my notes from the afternoon tasting. This evening before dinner I decided to crack a bottle (well, actually I pulled the cork - cracking is what you do with a screwcap wine), poured myself a glass and sipped on it for a bit. While doing so I made a few notes: "cherry and raspberry on the nose, cherry palate, raspberry and dry on the finish". Seems pretty consistent if you ask me. I love a wine that tastes the same at home as it does in a tasting room.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard 1999 Bobcat Blend (California)

Now this was a real surprise. At one point I owned 3 bottles of this wine,. The first one I drank in April of 2006, the next in August of 2007 - the note on the last bottle said hold another year ... seems I'm a little late, as two years have now gone by. Upon opening the wine was a little shy in the glass, giving up forest floor notes and not much else; but with a little coaxing, the right glass and some aeration fruit began to emerge, not fresh fruit, dried fruit - but, twas fruit. Figs, dried blueberry and cranberry rounded out the forest floor notes on the nose. The mouth is where this wine really shows its age, but also shows it's complexity: dried leaves, dried fruit, barrel notes of cinnamon and spice with touches of dried herbs. There's a nice seam of acidity here that seems to hold the wine up nicely in the mouth and very little tannin, but still there is some tannin ... this wine was a real surprise, ten years old and still holding up well. Lovely, in an that old wine kinda way.

Domaine La Martine 2003 Cotes du Rhone-Villages "Roaix" (France)

I'm really struggling with this wine, I mean really struggling. I have been looking forward to this wine all day - I caught a glimpse of its label this morning and immediately pulled it out of the cellar for this evening's sip. But I am now in a quandary. The back label is all in French (that is not my quandary) and I have read that this wine is a blend of Syrah and Grenache, and I so want this wine to be okay; but I am getting a hint of corkiness, even so slight, and I am hoping beyond hope that maybe it's just me smelling something I don't want to smell ... but alas, 10 minutes in, a little aeration and a few sips later - this bottle is most definitely, without a doubt, corked ... damn - I really wanted that one. I guess it's back to the drawing board.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Botalcura 2004 El Delirio Reserve Syrah/Malbec (Chile)

I picked this bottle out bright and early this morning. I was walking by my wine racks and a silver capsule caught my eye, it was there and then that I decided this bottle was it. So about 12 hours later I sunk the corkscrew into the bottle and unleashed the 2-inch cork (almost broke the sucker). At first the nose was earthy and brambly with sweet black fruit hiding below the under-brush, there was also hints of wet moss (which thankfully soon blew off) along with floral and vanilla aromas. Flavours were slightly harsh at first, but I did a little decanting with a thing called a Vinturi, which seemed to have a smoothing effect and helped the nose to come out from behind the trees and leaves ... juicy blackberry, cassis, white pepper and nice spice on the palate made this wine thoroughly enjoyable and lots of fun; by the final sip I had forgotten all about it's rough beginnings.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Montezovo 2006 Ripasso Valpolicella (Italy)

I've had this wine in the past and enjoyed it very much, and after last night's fiasco with not one, not two, but three bottles of wine, I decided to screw trial and error and move right to something I know would bring my palate some pleasure. This Ripasso is wonderful, with lots of fruit, spice, cherry and chocolate notes and nice mouth enhancing acidity ... I'm not going to type too long here, because I just want to go and enjoy my wine ... unlike last night. Talk to you tomorrow night.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Old World Nightmare Evening

I felt like a bottle of something Italian, so I rummaged around in the cellar and found a bottle of 2001 Velletri (by Cantine di Campoverde - grapes? I have no idea) - popped the cork and was hit by a rush of, as mom would say, "no good smell". The wine had turned to vinegar long ago, I still tasted it to confirm, and yes, it was off.

Next, I rummaged deeper into the cellar and found a bottle of 2000 Chateau Saint Cyrgues from the Costieres de Nimes (France), this was a nondescript wine that got worse the longer it was opened. It was harsh on the palate with little in the way of flavour or smell - I didn't waste more than 5 minutes on it before realizing I had another dud on my hands. Sometimes waiting isn't the best thing.

Finally, I stopped my digging and went over to a rack of favourites that I know rarely, if ever, disappoint. I chose a Bodegas Castano 2005 Hecula, usually a show stopper, but this time it seemed dumb. It had muted black licorice, black fruit and spice on the nose; black and blue fruit with a lingering graphite note on the finish, along with some odd fruity notes - everything just seemed not right with this bottle. Looking at my past notes of this wine , which are less than 6 months old, I think I got a bum bottle here. Guess it just wasn't my night - sometimes you have to accept that and move on. Life really is too short to drink bad wine.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pikes 2001 Clare Valley Cabernet-Merlot (Australia)

The 5 year old Yellow Tail fiasco behind me I moved on to something else. This time I dove deeper into my wine cellar and found this 8 year old Cabernet Merlot in the cheesiest bottle I've ever seen. The label had very little on it (besides the producer and grape varieties) and the bottle shape was so standard I think they sell them 10-cents a dozen at the local U-Brew. But if ever there was a bottle of wine that proved packaging isn't always a good indication about what's in the bottle, it's this one. The nose was complex with cinnamon, clove, dried blackberry and herbal notes. The palate offered up lots of flavour including white pepper, cinnamon, herbs and some tannins. It also threw a ton of sediment into my final glass, but boy was I ever impressed with this one.

Casella "Yellow Tail" 2004 Shiraz-Cabernet (Australia)

I bought this bottle many moons ago in New York State ... it was around the time Yellow Tail Shiraz was big in Ontario, I had not seen any of their other wines except for the Shiraz so I decided I must try it ... I picked this one because it had a snazzy purple label. Not sure what possessed me not to drink it right away, but I got home, stuck it on my wine rack and forgot about it. Tonight, as I was searching for something to have I spied the funky purple and thought, "oh boy, that's probably very interesting about now." Curiosity got me to open this bottle tonight, it was definitely the bottle to open and try. Unwrapping the capsule exposed a plastic cork, usually a sure sign of a drink now wine - and I was way past that. The nose was quite pruney and unpleasant, so I expected the worst on the taste - the things I'll taste just to learn my lesson. The palate was not as awful as you might think, it sure wasn't the fresh and fruity wine you expect from the Yellow Tail brand, but it wasn't all vinegary either. I found smooth, sweet dried fruit, almost port-like, but without the richness and lush flavours of port. Not completely horrible, but certainly not great ... experiment over, time to open something else.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Falset-Marca 2006 Etim Seleccion (Spain)

Here's a wine with enough edge to make it interesting now but even more interesting in a few years. A Spanish blend of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah that just found its way into the Vintages section of the LCBO (in Ontario). The nose is plum, spice and black fruited, while the palate is plummy and spicy with a definite lean toward pepper. There's some bite back to this wine with tannins in and amongst all that peppery-spicinesss ... I say give it some time and you should see great results; or if you just can't wait, make sure to have a decanter handy.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lustau Deluxe Cream Capataz Andres Sherry NV (Spain)

Just finished tasting one of my "lost" bottles of Ontario wine (Pelee Island 2003 Vinedressers Cabernet Sauvignon) and thought I'd like to add a little European flair to my evening, but it's a little late to open another bottle. In fact I would like something sweet; but instead of reaching for my usual bottle of Port I decided on a little something different - I opted for a tipple of Sherry. This is a "blend of Oloroso and Pedro Ximinez" which means they added a little sweet to the dry. Sweet wins out, naturally, but it's a pleasant sweetness, not the over the top sickeningly syrupy kind. The nose deals out some of the greatest aromas: candied orange peel, buttered pecans, honey roasted almonds and chocolate liqueur. On the palate you've got your sweet candied almonds and pecans, along with alcohol soaked orange peel and/or infused marmalade. It went great with some bittersweet 70-85% dark chocolate, even better with almonds.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Avalon Winery 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

This wine has a very distinctive capsule, which I have been eyeing for a number of weeks (oh, who's kidding anyone, it has been months now). It seems that everyday I can look across my office into the wine room and see the Avalon-star staring back at me. Finally, I walked right-up to it and yanked it off the shelf, grabbed the corkscrew and before I could talk myself out of it, plunged the helix into the cork and yanked ... now open I had to stop admiring the capsule and instead focus on the wine inside the bottle. Beautifully smooth with plumy, blackberry and vanilla notes. Plush in the mouth, and as the air got to it it just got lusher and plusher - very yummy. Talk about opening a wine at its peak.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bodega Catena Alamos 2007 Malbec (Argentina)

Saturday evening, and it was time for a family BBQ at my brother's house ... I brought a few wines along for the occasion (with a moniker like the Grape Guy it's kind of expected) and my GoVino glassware (plastic glassware that I reviewed in Newsletter #114). This turned out to be one of the nicer of the few I brought, it was released into Vintages (Ontario) this past Saturday. The nose is black and blue berries with a bit of bramble and some cinnamon and herbs ... the flavours are black raspberry, hints of spice, cinnamon with a touch of vanilla - and the piece-de-resistence ... very smooth - all for the low low Ontario price of $13.95.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Domaine Paul Mas 2004 Que Sera Sirah (France)

I'm into reading label these days (as you can tell from my last posting) - and from what I read this wine has no idea what it wants to be: Sirah, Syrah or Shiraz - all three terms appear on the label, two on the front, all three on the back. I will say it is a pretty front label, very stylized and eye catching, which, along with the cute name, is the reason I bought a bottle. Tonight it was its time to show what was in the bottle was as cute and impressive as what was on the label. I can report quite honestly that I was neither impressed not unimpressed (I was somewhere in the middle on this one), probably because I was confused on the style it was going for, so I wasn't sure what I was looking for in the glass. It was not jammy and fruit-bomby like Shiraz, nor did I get a peppery, bacon fat, smoked meat quality that you would pick up from Syrah - and don't get me started on what Sirah invoked. All in all I thought it a good wine, passable and easy to drink, I finished my glass and went back for another half, so it must have been good enough to drink ... just very confused.