Saturday, February 28, 2009

Winesmith Cellars Non-Vintage Cheap-Skate Miser Meritage (California)

Ask me how this wine was and I'll tell you one thing about it ... the company was great. My wine-merchant from Michigan (Dave) recommended this wine to me, saying that a regular customer comes in, buys it by the case and serves it at posh dinner parties to huge accolades. Now, I did not have a posh dinner party, in fact we were invited over to some friends house during Cuvee weekend, for an informal dinner - so informal in fact that we watched the 3-year-old eat Kraft Dinner and ketchup before the adults took to the table an hour later (how I miss bath-time). But I'll tell you right now - that wine really hit the spot. We started with bubbles, had a few drops of award winning Chardonnay, then a glass of Cave Spring 2002 CSV Riesling with salad (both were awesome, but alas I took no notes on either) and ended with this simple yet tasty wine from our neighbours to the south. During a formal tasting I am not sure how well this wine would show (a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot), but combining the company, the laughter and dear friends this wine really hit the sweet spot ... if only someone could explain the Pillow Fight League to me once again, or the French Kissing of a central vacuum hose, maybe the night will make sense; on second thought, best leave those as faint memories and resume where we left off next time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Zonin 2006 Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore (Italy)

Somedays just seem longer than others, I know that's impossible because everyday is 24 hours long - but if you have ever experience the day that never ends, then you know what I am talking about. This was one of those days. I found myself in two cold cellars inventorying wine, a great job in the middle of summer, bone chilling in the midst of winter. So I got home, mind numb and not wanting to make a decision. So I asked Amber (my cat) what he would want: interesting or Italian? He looked at me with that head tilt that only cats can give - he then blinked twice. Italian it is! Way back when, I bought 6 bottle of this wine, wine because of the good price and I just love a good Ripasso (it ranks right up there with a tasty Zindfandel on my hit parade). The nose is plumy, cherry and black fruited, there's also a mocha/chocolate note that is just so inviting. On the palate it follows the nose and adds a hint of spice and lovely smooth tannins. it also went well with the tomato-basil Mediterrean chicken breast sandwich (who really feels like cooking after this kind of day) ... if the LCBO has any left I would suggest buying a few bottles, heck I might see about getting a few more myself ... but then maybe I'll wait for the buzz to wear off.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Domaine Magellan 2003 Vieilles Vignes (France)

Back in June of 2006 I did two things (well I probably did more than just two, but here's two I have a record of): I bought two bottles of this wine, opened one and laid down the other. My original tasting notes were pretty basic, "Big, bold and spicy - lots of black fruit ... deep colour rich flavour." Well, the 2-plus years have not diminished the colour (much), nor the spiciness or the black fruit - what I am/was concerned with was the plastic cork I found in the neck of the bottle - I just hate these nasty things; Whenever I see one of these my first reaction is, "oh sh*t". Luckily I detect no funny plastic-cork smell, though I think my brain might throw in a little plastic-taste just to tick me off - the wine still shows lots of spicy, black fruit and good tannins - though those seem to be mellowing out a little. I ended up decanting because the wine that first came out of the bottle was not what I was hoping for in the least ... it was too something: too tannic, too spicy, to black, too plasticy ... by putitng some air through it I was able to improve it emmensely. I still have an '05 Magellan in my collection - I'm looking forward to trying that in a few years - I just hope they went to a different closure. This Magellan is a 50/50 blend of Syrah and Grenache.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Mission Hill 2001 Reserve Merlot (British Columbia)

With the scare I got when I opened my Mission Hill Shiraz I decided maybe it was time to open up the Merlot from the same year ... had I waited too long with this one too? For years I have been hearing that Merlot is the Okanagan's grape - my recent visit this past summer showed me that Merlot does indeed have quite a nice future in the Valley. I popped the cork, poured a glass and stuck my nose in. What I smelled snapped my head back - big spice and pepper notes grabbed me by the olfactory hairs and gave my head a shake; there we're also hints of cedar, cinnamon and wild blackberries. And that is precisely what I found on the palate - maybe a tad more spice and a hint more cedar than anything else, but this sure wasn't waning by any stretch of the imagination - this was no shrinking violet of a wine when it came to either the nose or palate, it still packed quite a drying wallop in the mouth. I decanted it and managed to smooth it out a bit, but it was still a big wine ... and very enjoyable. My only complaint would be the lack of fruit - maybe as it sits open a bit that will come around ... right now it's all spice, cedar and the barest hint of cassis.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chateau de Gaudou 2005 Cahors (France)

Have you noticed that most wines from Cahors say "tradition" or "prestige" on the label? What, you have no idea what I am talking about? What's Cahors? Well for starters it a region in France, it's the traditional home of Malbec (before the Argentineans took it over), their wines are usually a steal at under twenty-bucks and they are ageable for a good 10-years. Whenever I can put my hands on a Cahors wine I do. This wine is a blend of Malbec (80%), Merlot (15%) and Tannat (5%) - is was rich and full of flavour and tannins - kinda wish I had opted for a steak instead of lasagna to pair it with. The nose was very spicy, had blackberries and a peppry-cocoa note. The taste had a lot going for it, spicy, peppery, blackberries and cassis, big tannins and a drying cocoa powder finish. Loved this wine ... figure I'm gonna love it more in 5 years ... currently selling at the LCBO (in Ontario) for $14.95 - and trust me, as far as the LCBO goes that's a steal.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mission Hill 2001 Reserve Shiraz (British Columbia)

This is one of those bottles that has been sitting in my cellar for what seems like forever. Today I finally spied it out of the corner of my eye and yanked it out of it's slot, "tonight it's you and me baby!" So now I am sitting with the wine in front of me - it still has a lovely colour, with only a touch of brown on the outside rim. When first opened it smelled of nothing and tasted the same ... bland, boring, no fruit, a little pepper, but that's about it. It tasted more like a coloured water than anything else. I swirled and aerated the wine in my mouth ... something began to emerge, the wine had been closed up in bottle for so long it forgot how to be wine in the glass. Now some 30 minutes from opening there is something to write about, not much, but something. There's a cedary-peppery-ness to this wine when you smell it; the palate is also very peppery with hints of fruit from a by-gone time. It's old and tired but not ready to give up the ghost quite yet. Not the best Mission Hill wine I have tasted, certainly not the worst wine I've ever had - it's drinkable still but I'm glad I pulled it out tonight; another 6 months, maybe a year, and this would have been destined for salad dressing.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cline 2005 Cashmere (California)

On Friday I was asked to try a new line of glasses by Schott Zwiesel called "Cru Classic" - they are one of those glassware lines that makes a glass for every style of wine - I was sold on Schott's stemware back in April 2008 (Newsletter #80); this is that glassware that people refer to as 'unbreakable' though they are actually break-resistent, I know tomayto-tomahto. I decided to use the big Cru glass with this wine, a blend of Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache. The nose was juicy and spicy all at the same time: red fruits and black pepper. In the mouth it was lovely and smooth, white pepper, a nip of cocoa and a touch of blackberry - it glided across the tongue and all I could think with each passing sip was ... "yum". I then tried the same wine in a couple of other glasses and truth be told, I was impressed with the new Schott Zwiesel - I have a Pinot glass and a white wine glass to experiment with in the near future - expect those reviews to come along with other wines I try ... so far I'm liking the look, feel and the taste coming from this new glass. Cheers.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

FontanaFredda 2006 Moncucco - Moscato D'Asti (Italy)

Sunday afternoon, temperatures about 5 degrees (second day at 5 or above here inToronto) - the January thaw is upon us - about a month late mind you, but finally here none-the-less. Now I'm not saying we're ready to jump right into spring - no matter what the groundhog says, because I know that March has a way about it, like a girlfriend with a bad temper it usually dumps a good one on us without much warning - so we're not out of the woods yet. But with this "warm" spell it seems the perfect time to crack something in the afternoon. After wrestling with the cork and finally prying it out of its bottled home there was much rejoicing and light enjoyment from this wine. Moscato is not a very serious wine - it tastes like ginger ale and smells like grapy-pears - and it seems that all of them taste about the same; but still, it's a pleasant, enjoyable afternoon bevvy with only 5.5% alcohol so you won't do yourself in for somthing heavier come dinnertime dinner.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Wirra Wirra 2006 Woodhenge Shiraz (Australia)

Those who drink Yellow Tail, Little Penguin and many other "critter" wines know about the smoothness of blackberry in their Shiraz and that's about all - they believe that this is the one-trick pony style of this grape. Those in the know, and who drink "serious" Shiraz, know Shiraz to be a tri-trick pony: pepper-spice-blackberry ... that's basic Shiraz 101. A well made Shiraz has these three components (minimum), while a lackluster one is uni-dimensional. So with all this dizzying talk about uni-tricks and tri-dimensions you're probably wondering where I am going with it; glad you asked. This Wirra Wirra Woodhenge is the best of both worlds, with a little something extra thrown in: depth. We start with a heavily spiced nose (and palate): it's like sticking you nose into a pepper mill, picking up a kernel and taking a bite - yoozah! Let it sit, or decant, for at least an hour and things settle down a bit. The blackberries emerge in full force, the pepper turns soft and white, and the spicyness settles into subtle nuances. On the palate those three fight each other for dominance of your mouth, before closing out with a smooth finish. Plenty of time for those who want to lie one down - but for those more adventurous, you can take the pepper-plunge now.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Kingston 2005 RAW Cabernet Merlot, Margaret River (Australia)

There's a word in the English language that precedes a phrase like, "as a baby's bottom" or "as silk", I can easily say that this wine is that word. Of course, it would be fun to say, "RAW as a baby's bottom", but you might get into a fair bit of trouble with that remark, though not so much with "RAW as silk". Anyway enough idle chatter, you've probably figured out by now that the word to which I refer is "smooth". This "RAW" wine (Regional Wine of Australia) comes from the Margaret River region, is a blend of 87% Cabernet and 13% Merlot, and is really very good. A peppered-red fruit nose leads to the same on the palate with a delicious yum-factor. Originally sold in Vintages (in Ontario) for $18.95 - but is now on sale for a mere $15.95, which turns this from a decent $20 bottle to an excellent value at $16 ... what a difference 3 bucks makes.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Baron Philippe de Rothschild 2002 Escudo Rojo (Chile)

I think it was the Rothschild name on the front label that caused me to buy this wine a few years back. I figured I could never afford to buy the French-daddy of this wine but I certainly could afford the offspring. Now some 6 years from vintage date, this wine still shows well, probably more complex then when first introduced. The nose has everything: pepper, spice, dried black fruit, mocha, soft leather, burnt caramel and mint (amongst other things). The palate has less, but still very enjoyable with its blackberries, pepper, smoky, cocoa powder and cassis. This proved to be a very enjoyable wines.