Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kendall-Jackson 2000 Collage Zinfandel-Shiraz (California)

It was dig deep night tonight ... that means I looked deep into my cellar for a bottle of something interesting that had some age on it - and I found this. Not sure where I got it, probably acquired during a trip to the states years ago and being intrigued by the grape combination I picked up a bottle. The only other time I have seen this grape combination spelled out on the label like that was from Fetzer years ago, these days blends like this have funky eye catching names like Menage a Trois or Californication, but in 2000 they were not couching the fact that they were blending Zinfandel with anything. A 76% Zin and 24% Shiraz, sounds nice on a label, the only question remained, could this be any good after more than half a decade. I am happy to report that yes, it was quite tasty, though at first I found it a little odd. The nose was pleasant with black plums and a spicy element ... as it opened in the glass the smells turned dried fruit and herbal. In the palate it seemed to have a funky element to it - I attributed it to the plastic cork, so I gave the first taste to the God of the lake (it went down the sink). Spices, black fruit, vanilla with a dried fruit aftertaste that at first was not at all pleasant, but it seemed to smooth and mellow with time (or I just got used to it), the beginning and mid-palate more than made up for the funky finish - which actually became quite delicious with each passing sip.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cline 2004 Red Truck (California)

What happens when you take a basic drink now wine and sit on it for a few years? Well, this. First, the Red Truck is a blend of four grapes: Syrah, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Mourvedre. It still has plenty of plum, chocolate and licorice on the nose while the palate shows more complexity. It starts off spicy moves into a dried sweet plums sensation on the mid-palate and ends with bittersweet chocolate on the finish. There isn't much more to say about this one - it was enjoyable and fun and I am glad I sat on it for a few years as it seems to have mellow and aged rather gracefully.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Quails' Gate 2005 Merlot (British Columbia)

The nice part about visiting a wine region and bringing back a bottle or two (or a few cases) is that you get to re-experience the place at a later date. That's just what I did tonight. Visiting with mom (with whom I made the trek out to BC with) we found ourselves talking about the trip and decided to open something we brought home. Since her last sentence, before we made our momentous decision to open a bottle, contained a memory of Quails' Gate and the view from the restaurant, we decided that she had just chosen the bottle. And what a beauty, vanilla, cinnamon and licorice are at the forefront of the nose; while on the palate was cedar, cinnamon, blackberry, cassis, spice and a mellow smoothness that was just ... heck it took us back to the deck of Quails' Gate, with somebody's dog lying in the sun, the vineyards spread before us and the sun beating down. It might be minus whatever outside tonight but for this hour we were back in the Okanagan with our whole trip ahead of us.

Wits End 2004 The Procrastinator (Australia)

Here's a wine that reminds me of an ex - always at her wits end, yet always the procrastinator. I, myself, have been procrastinating about opening this wine, wondering when it would be a good time to do so - tonight was the night ... and I would have to say, none too soon. It's not that this wine was bad, in fact it was quite good - but I do not think it was going to get any better, and if wine lives on a curve (shaped like a hill) this one would be just cresting the top and heading the other way ... just. The nose was pepper, cherry, spice and licorice - very pleasant and worth the constant sniff, sniff. The palate was different; where this wine used to be all fruit it has now gone into secondary characteristics like pepper, cedar, herbs and a dash of cassis (if you looked hard enough). Very smooth without much in the way of tannins. Yup, I showed my procrastination side here by waiting ... still enjoyed the glass, but would have enjoyed it more about a year ago. For those interested, The Procrastinator is a blend of Shiraz (75%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (25%).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bodegas Perez Pascuas 2003 Vina Pedrosa (Spain)

Not a night to open a bottle - my second wine this evening had a funky smell, not corked like the last bottle, just an old/odd smell - earthiness or forest floor like, wet leaves, tree bark ... odd and indescribable. The palate was a little better, showing some oakiness and cedar, pine and wet leaves (if wet leaves have a taste - I'm sure they do, but I have never tried them, so I am just assuming), there is also a little bit of a spicy herbaceous quality. This one is drinkable, unlike my Rock & Vines (opened the same night) - but not at all what I was hoping for this evening. Think it's time to just get a beer and forget the whole wine thing for tonight - it just doesn't seem to be my night.

Rock & Vine 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

In any other part of the world this is called a Meritage (or Bordeaux blend), it uses all 5 of the grapes needed to make up said designation: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. But this is California, they live by a completely different set of rules there - although that does not excuse them for a corked wine. Yes corked, that wet newspaper, moldy basement smell wasn't 'in your face' at first, in fact it was hiding behind the door, but then it sprang right out, and after 5 minutes of smelling and thinking to myself, "I am almost sure this is corked", it turned out to be so. Dang, and I was really looking forward to this wine.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red - Lot Number Forty-Three

The first time I tried Marietta's concoction red (Zinfandel / Petite Sirah / Carignane) I was sold on this wine. It's a non-vintage blend of grapes from California and year after year it impresses and satisfies. Of course, we don't see it here in Ontario, unless it's at the California wine show, so I have to travel to the US to grab my allotment of bottles and it sells for a paltry ten-bucks or less - what a sweet deal for such a sweet wine. Not saying the wine is sweet, but it does have some sweet flavours to it. First the nose is loaded with lots of yum: plums, chocolate, cherry, cola, vanilla, sweet blackberries and the merest hint of some spices. On the palate its an echo of the nose with loads of vanilla, chocolate, black cherry, sweet oak and plenty more. Sip after sip you are sucked in to the enjoyability of this wine. If you are expecting something elegant and refined, look elsewhere - but for the sheer fun and enjoyment of drinking wine you can't beat it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Louis Jadot 2007 Beaujolais-Villages (France)

Beaujolais has gotten itself a bad name over the years because of the nouveaus that come out in November; but a well made Beaujolais is tasty and wonderful under the right circumstances. Tonight I was looking for something easy to drink and not to taxing on the palate, so I opened this Beaujolais-Villages and it delivered in spades. Big cherry and spice on the nose and a continuation of the same on the palate. This is the wine for non-red-wine drinkers, and those looking for a simple red - either party should enjoy this wine immensely.

Dirty Laundry 2007 Madam's Vines Gewurtraminer (British Columbia)

Today I had lunch with a dear friend of mine who had a "proposition" for me - no not that kind of proposition, the kind of proposition where someone invites you over for lunch and asks you a favour (something to do with writing). Anyway, I, always fearful that I will be forced to drink Chardonnay at lunch time, decided that I should provide the wine. Unbeknownst to me Gewurztraminer was my hostess' favourite wine, and it just so happens that when I was out in British Columbia this was my favourite winery for Gewurzt (they make three kinds). For those who don't like Gewurztraminer, it's best you turn away now, but for those who love this rosy, lychee, tropical concotion, made even more enjoyable by a winery that knows what they are doing, pay close attention. The nose was all that you want from the "G" wine and more: rosy, orange peel, lychee with tropical nuances - text book to perfection, something you could sit and sniff and never take a sip - and yet still be completely satisfied. But sip we did, because sip we must. The palate had that little bit of oilyness that Gewurzt is famous for and it followed the nose to perfection with such delicacy of flavour ... sigh ... I rapture on a little but this was such a delicious wine - perfect for a snowy afternoon as we laughed at the flakes coming down. Some wines defy description, though I tried my best with this one I hope, didn't I Sadie?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Umani Ronchi 2000 Serrano Rosso Conero (Italy)

Pasta ... what goes better with pasta that an Italian wine, and that's just what I went into the wine cellar for this evening. I also thought that maybe I should pull something out with a little age on it, see if lying it down had been beneficial ... boy was it ever. This wine is a Montepulciano with "a small percentage of Sangiovese", it also said it matches well with pasta - what other excuse did I need to pull this off the rack. The nose was dried leaves and berries with something herbal thrown in for good measure. The palate contain a little spice, dried fruit, a little smokiness, and that herbal note from the nose repeated in the mouth. Smooth as silk and lovely ... good choice for a sipper, now let's see if it works with the pasta.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Cristobal 1492 2003 Oak Reserve Merlot (Argentina)

Something I pulled off my rack. I have to admit I was looking for a Chilean Merlot on this night and at the last minute jumped on the first South American Merlot I could find. I am happy and dismayed all at the same time by this choice. I was dismayed because this wine had nothing but blackberry and alcohol on the nose and cassis (black currant) and alcohol on the palate, not at all the fruitiness I was hoping for. Of course I have to look at the positive side, and here it is: I was happy to get this bottle off my rack and out of my cellar so that it would stop ageing - this was a drink now wine that should never have waited and given a few more months would have been worthless ... you live and you learn. In the end, this wine was wet, alcoholic and passable, but as far from spectacular as you can get without being over the hill.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Santa Duc 2006 'Les Vieilles Vignes' (France)

This Cote du Rhone is a blend of old vines varietals (Vieilles Vigne), no mention as to what they are but you can assume that Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache are probably in here. In Ontario it sells for a paltry $15, which is a relative cheap (read: well priced) wine for a Vintages release. When first opened the wine was exciting; a nose of smoked cherries and spiced vanilla, the palate showed plums, spiced cherries and vanilla. Within half-an-hour this wine became boring and bland with little of its former spicy-glory. No plums, no cinnamon, no cherries; it's all blackberries - that's it, that's all, not even the 14% alcohol can save it. I recommend drinking this one quickly after opening, but if you're looking for something with staying power and complexity, look elsewhere.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Castillo de Monseran 2007 Grenacha (Spain)

I had read about this wine while perusing the Wine Access International Value Wine Awards* - it took one of the top spots for Spanish wines, and had one of the best price to value ratios; it retails for under $9 in Ontario, and in my mind that's a must try. I bought three bottles, one to drink now and two to age a little longer. Tonight, I opened a bottle and within 10-minutes decided that what I thought might be corked was indeed corked, good thing I had a second bottle; which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the first bottle was definitely corked. With the bad bottle out of the way I was able to concentrate on this wine and get a good smell and taste of it. Fairly simple really, with black cherry and spice on both the nose and palate, very quaffable and at a great price ... if you get a good bottle - remember, corked wine smells like wet basement or cardboard - if you are at all skeptical move on to another wine and take the offender back.

*the award winner was the 2006 vintage.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sherwood Estate Wines 2003 Stratum (New Zealand)

I have a database system to keep track of my wines called Cellar! - maybe it's not the best system I have ever seen (and I have seen plenty over the years), but it does the job effectively, is affordable and is easy to maintain ... enough about that though. Sometimes while I am adding in new bottles, or removing ones I have drank, I come across a wine I had no idea I had ... this was one of those bottles. The reason it stood out to me was not the label, the winemaker, or the vintage - it was the grape blend, one so odd and strange I figured I must have written it down wrong - so I searched out this bottle on my wine racks to see if I had indeed erred. Nope the strange combination of grapes was indeed as I had written it for they were clearly marked on the bottles front label: Merlot /Pinot Noir /Pinotage - something told me I just had to try this bottle before any other. So I set aside the bottle I had put out for tonight and popped the cork on this oddity. At first the smells were vanilla and cinnamon with a fuzzy fruit, raspberry, and a rather interesting spice quality. As it opens the fruit drops out of the nose and leaves the spices, vanillas and cinnamons behind. On the palate, first impressions were of just a wet wine, non-descript, and somewhat odd in flavour ... as it opened earthy tones came out along with some raspberry vinegrette notes which all ended with a cranberry finish. Turns out, with all that oddity in the description it was a nice easy drinking wine for the evening ... but odd was definitely the word I would use, odd indeed. For those interested as to what kind of glass I drank it from - I chose a Pinot Noir glass.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Paoletti Winery 1999 Merlot (California)

Not often are you going to find a Merlot of this quality and this age on the shelf for twelve-bucks, but find it I did. This was the last bottle of wine I was to enjoy in Michigan, and one of the ones I had been looking forward to most, with a bit of trepidation, apprehension and excitement. Thankfully my excitable parts were not disappointed. The nose was loaded with fruit: blueberry and blackberry, along with other great smells: smoked meat, licorice and spice. The flavours in the glass also didn’t disappoint and proved to be even more complex then expected. At first they seemed simplistic with cassis and blackberry, then a smoky character emerged. A little later in the sipping of this wine the entry turned chocolaty before going spicy and smoky then ending with that spiced smoked meat found on the nose on the finish. Very nice - went well with the last supper of broasted chicken and bbq’ed ribs

Igor Larionov Selection 2003 Slap Shot Shiraz (Australia)

January 2, 2009 - A few months ago I found myself at the King Eddy hotel in Toronto for the launch of hockey legend Igor Larionov’s first Icewine and a tasting of some of his other wines. Today, I found myself at Champane’s talking with Dave and this Igor wine caught my eye, there was also the 2005 Hattrick on the shelf (for $44.95), but this one distinctly caught my eye for two reasons: the year and the price. This Australian Shiraz that bears Igor’s name was being cleared for $5.99 a bottle (a far cry from the $30-40 starting price for these wines). “I found them in a warehouse and bought them all,” Dave informed me, “in my opinion it was Igor’s best vintage to date.” Upon further investigation (reading the small print on the label) I learned that this wine was fashioned by Kilikanoon, a well-known and quality Australian producer. Intrigued by the wine I bought a few bottles and opened one immediately upon my arrival at my Michigan home base. The first thing I noticed was the sediment in the neck and on the inside of the screwcap; this wine must have been made unfiltered because of the amount of both. I also observed that the wine was incredibly cloudy in the glass. Smells were spicy and blackberry with flavours of pepper and black raspberry. Dave had given me the suggestion of opening it and letting it sit for a day to get the optimum flavours and aromas out of it - I guess we’ll just have to try that, see what happens tomorrow and if the cloudiness dissipates.

January 3, 2008 - Wine has substantially cleared, the nose is still peppery, blackberries and cassis; the palate is quite spicy and black peppery, raspberries and blackberries make up the flavour profile and there’s still a little tannin holding it all together. There’s also a big 15% alcohol pulse to this wine, which packs a real wallop. When first released, this wine would have been quite expensive, at 5.99 it’s quite a steal; this would be good for a $10-15 bottle, and can sit for another 3-5 years with ease; I have to admit I was quite impressed … quite.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Fess Parker Winery Frontier Red Lot No. 81 - Anniversary Edition (California)

For my first wine of 2009 (first wine that was not a bubbly) I choose "The Great American Value" (as is written on the label - in a few places). This one comes from the Fess Parker winery (yes the actor) and is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Mouvedre, Cinsault and Carignane (also as taken from the back label). I was first introduced to Fess Parker wines through a Syrah a friend of mine fell in love with, he deemed it "panty remover" because of it's 15+ percentage of alcohol; and if he liked that one for that reason he'd love this 15.5er with all its spicy goodness. The nose is so lush with cinnamon and vanilla, black raspberries, plums and huge spice. The palate is also rich with spices along with black fruit, plum and loads of cinnamon / nutmeg / allspice. As for great value, I would agree with that, at $8.09 it sure beats the Fuzion that was big back home at $7.49 - and if you buy 6 you get 10% off ... great house wine.