Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mirassou 2007 Pinot Noir (California)

Some 8.99 wines are gold while others are lead ... tonight I seem to have spun pure gold in my mouth with this wine. I picked this one up in Michigan two weeks ago and lugged it across the border home with me. I had read about it in Wine Access magazine, it was a winner in their Value Wine Awards competition. Sadly we can't seem to get it here in Ontario, and if we could it would be way more than the $8.99 I paid for it. On Sunday I had an $8.99 wine that underwhelmed; tonight's totally over delivers. Now I realize that one is a Cab and this is a Pinot - but the Cab did not come thru with what I was expecting from a Cali-Cab, while this wine has totally come thru with more than what I expected. The nose is full of red fruit, and I figured I was in for one of those typically jammy California Pinots, the kind that delivers lots of fruit with little finesse; but it the mouth it surprised the heck out of me, delivering big fruit while showing a nice touch of earthiness, minerality and restraint of big jammy fruit. It finished dry and had my palate begging for another sip. Absolutely delicious - I see why this was a winner, it sure is a winner in my books; both for flavour and value.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lyeth Estate 2006 L de Lyeth Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

Here's one of those wines that I picked up in the States while I was in Michigan ... my good buddy Dave told me it was a passable wine for 8.99 and I would have to agree with him. Taking into account the exchange on the dollar - today this bottle is worth $11.14 to me and you know what? I would say that is the perfect amount. I wondered over to mom and dad's for some roast beast (that's beef for all those without a sense of imagination) and asked mom beforehand whether it was California or Chile she wished to visited in her glass ... needless to say she decided on the Cali-Cab. Mom called this wine "Nothing to write home about" ... but as I sit here now with the last vestige of this wine in the glass I would have to say that it has opened up nicely. Spicy black fruit with hints of cinnamon on the nose, the palate under delivers in the fruit department and over delivers with wood ... no spice no cinnamon - in the end it was a drinkable wine, but as mom said, "Nothing to write home about." I think I'll have to make amends next week with the Chilean; I don't think mom will mind.

Deinhard 2007 Green Label Riesling (Germany)

Sunday afternoon ... lazy and rainy ... seems like the perfect time to pull out a bottle of Riesling. So I reached for something I had just put into the fridge the other day while rearranging my wine cellar. I have to say this wine was not very complex, in any sense of the word; a basic easy drinking Riesling with a sugar code that hovered between 4 and 5. Lemon-lime, peach, apple with a sweet taste that was broken up by good acidity ... and all ending with a medium length finish. Lazy Sunday afternoon - this seemed like a good wine to while away an hour or so.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Les Vignobles Assemat 2007 Castel Oualou (Rhone - France)

Light in colour like a Beaujolais or Pinot Noir (from a hot year), a nose bursting with cherry fruit, raspberries, strawberries and a touch of white pepper (not to much). The palate screams juicy red fruits, more cherry, touch of strawberry, hint of cinnamon ... but there is mostly just miles and miles of juicy cherries here. This is not a complex wine by any stretch of the imagination. Its made with Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre grapes (according to the back label) - it lacks the dark colour I was expecting and the heavy pepperiness I was also waiting for; its truly the text book definition of a simple coiffer, and tonight that fits the bill perfectly. And since I bought it for $13.95 - I feel right at home opening this one up on a Thursday night and sipping it alone ... and just in case I finish the bottle - the 13% won't make a dent in my day tomorrow with a nasty hangover-headache. George Thorogood would be proud, "I drink alone, and when I drink alone I prefer to be by myself." Now my big choice for this evening: salmon or haddock? Think I'll take a few more sips and then decide. Cheers and bottoms up.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Artesa 2005 "elements" (California)

This wine is all about deductive reasoning. With no information on the back label about what grapes are in the bottles I decided to look it up on the website. There they spoke about Tempranillo and Syrah from Sonoma and Napa counties ... so one is lead to believe those are the grapes ... but then under winemaking notes they state, "This wine is a blend of the major grape varietals of three of the Old World’s most famous wine regions – Bordeaux, Rhone and Rioja." ... this leads me to believe there is at least some Cabernet Sauvignon in the bottle, or maybe some Merlot. Because, if Rhone is Syrah and Rioja is Tempranillo what else could Bordeaux be? Anyway, after popping the cork and tasting the wine the whole question became moot! Who cared about dissecting a wine when the wine is this tasty. The first thing that hit was the spiciness of the nose - big whopping spices ... followed by vanilla, cinnamon, sweet glazed cherries and some violet notes. On the palate I was struck on the first sip by an abundance of chocolate plums, juicy fruit, big spice and pepper followed soon after. A virtual banquet of yum in the mouth, and totally enjoyable. I bought this one in the US for $14.99, and even with the exchange it comes out under $20 ... and well worth it.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Goulart 2007 "Clasico" Malbec (Argentina)

My last night in the US saw me trying a wine from Argentina - not the usual course of events, because to find "foreign" wine in the United States of America is like pulling teeth. In many of the fine wine establishments you'll find lots and lots of California wine, but wines from Europe, Australia, South America, etc. are tricky - you have to be looking for them ... quite the change from here at home where you have to search out the domestic stuff, usually by donning a Sherlock's Holmes hat and carrying around a magnifying glass - even then if you're not careful you'll get an off-shore blend. Anyway, on Friday I was invited to a wine distributor's office to pick up a bottle of a Goulart wine ... these are the folks I raved about in my Bokke Tasting, On the Road article. The "Glam" was not available so I instead went for a simple "Clasico" Malbec and all I could think while I was drinking this one was how stunning and juicy it was. The story I heard about this winery had something to do with a father leaving his daughter a winery and when she did some investigating found out he had 90+ year old Malbec vines on the property. Since she did not have the heart to rip out history, she instead went on to produce some pretty outstanding wines with them. This particular Malbec is loaded with lots of pepper and black fruit on the nose ... but what really gets up there (your nose) is the spiciness. As it opens up it smooths right out with blackberries, cassis, chcolate, spice, plum, vanilla, black cherry and a pleasant herb and spice finish. I was sad to say goodbye to the land of cheaper booze - but this was a nice way to bid adieu.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Las Rocas 2006 Garnacha (Spain) & Four Vines 2006 Old Vines Cuvee Zinfandel (California)

This was a night of no smell ... not the wine, me. I'm still in Michigan and as of Saturday I have had little sense of smell or taste. The two wines I have done so far I have relied heavily on my sweetheart (with whom I am visiting) to let me know what I think I am smelling - with an elongated nose blowing I can get a slight sense of smell (for about twenty-to-thirty-seconds, max). Tonight was a toughie, we had invited another couple from Canada (they live in Windsor) over for a meet and greet. I decided the wine to serve with dinner was the Las Rocas 2006 Garnacha - a wine I had tasted previously during a Vintages release and enjoyed very much. I remember it having lots of dark fruit and cherries, chocolate and spices ... and here across the border I was able to pick up a few bottles from Dave at Champane's for a mere $8.99 - even with the exchange on the Canadian dollar being what it is that's still a bargain. Everyone around the table loved it, I enjoyed it because I knew what it tasted like, and was able to convince myself I could actually smell and taste it. About an hour into dinner (near the end of the main, when we were all sitting digesting and talking about things before dessert), the question of glassware came up; at the same time the topic of what is this "real Zinfandel" I keep talking about (our guests were convinced it was a pink product). Down into the cellar I went and brought up a bottle of Four Vines Zinfandel (another product of Dave's recommendation). I also produced a array of stemware: a Riesling- and Pinot Noir-style glass by Spiegelau and a Bordeaux by Schott Zwiesel. The game was on.

With no sense of smell, or much of taste for that matter, I told my guests that glassware was very important. I proceeded to pour the wine into the three glasses, placed the stemware in front of them and had them try for themselves. This was an interesting glass tasting in the sense that I had never done it before with Zinfandel. My sweetie looked at me dubiously as I attempted to sniff a glass (with barely the sound of intaking air), she smiled. I guessed at many of the smells I was getting, she confirmed with a head nod. Cherries, sweet red fruit, lots of vanilla and plum - she also told me it came through on the palate with a delightful, almost sweet, smoothness - I'm sure the 14.6% alcohol was also helpful with that. My guests were convinced about the glassware making a difference to the taste and smell of a wine - Hallelujah ... even with my limited senses I was able to persuade and teach the gospel of the glass.

As we bid adieu to our new found friends, waving them down the drive, my darling turned to me and said, "if you are like this tomorrow there is no way we should go over to Dave's for a wine tasting." I looked dejected. She finished her point, "No sense he should waste good wine on someone who can't enjoy it, let alone smell it. Now get to bed," she said kissing me on the cheek, "and keep your germs away from me, no sense in us both being ill." Up the stairs I trudged, knowing full well I would have to cancel a tasting ... bummer.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Oak Leaf Vineyards NV Merlot (California)

Sometimes a 2.97 bottle of wine is worth $2.97. Saw this one at Wal-Mart on an end cap, along with his brother and sisters, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc - all for the low low price of two-dollars and ninety-seven cents. What can I tell you about the wine inside the bottle ... well it's an easy sipping wine with very little complexity to it, grapy smells and grapy-alcohol taste; just what the doctor ordered for these recessionary times. Plonk? Yes. Cheap plonk? You bet. Glad I didn't pay more than I did for it - and the good news, I still have to open the Cabernet Sauvignon and give it a try.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bodegas Borsao 2007 Monte Oton (Spain)

My first day in Michigan saw me visiting Dave at Champane's Wine Cellar (fans of Drinking With Dave will be happy to know that part 2 is coming soon). I was there to grab a few bottles of a Las Rocas Granache that was just recently released through Vintages at the LCBO and sold for about $17 and sold for $8.99 here - even with the exchange being what it is this is a good deal for this bottle. I bumped into Dave and told him what I was there for; he said, "If you like that you'll also enjoy this one." He walked me over to another display with this colourful polka-dot bottle of Monte Oton, another 100% Granache that sold for a measily $5.99 - I had seen the bottle but thought the cheesy packaging and low price might Not make for a good wine in the bottle ... but after trying it tonight I think that not only is this not a cheesy wine but an absolute steal at that price. The nose is complex and loaded with great aromas: blackberries and blueberries, plums, sweet black licorice, pepper and cocoa powder. The taste is just as impressive: lots of pepper, spice and tannic black fruit, which leads me ot believe there's some ageability in this bottle, and at that price it's worth picking up a few and lugging back across the border.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ironstone 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

Tonight is not about complicated, it was all about finding something simple and enjoying it ... I looked at an Argentinean Malbec, a Chilean Carmenere, and an American Zinfandel - but none seemed to fit the bill, too much alcohol, the average of these three bottles was 14.5% ... not simple at all - too taxing for my stuffed up head (I feel a cold coming on). While putting one of these monsters away I noticed a lonely bottle with its skirt showing (the capsule had already been removed) ... which means I had already almost drank this one once before, but something else caught my eye - I know fickle me - so it was time to show this baby some love. I pulled on the neck and this Ironstone Cab was revealed to me. I checked the alcohol, 13.5%, seems as well as I'll do this evening. I popped the cork and I was off to the races. Blackberries and raspberries, a hint of plum and a little chocolate - nothing complex here. Sipping was also an easy task, plum, cherry, chocolate with whiffs and tastes of vanilla. I didn't want complicated and that's just what I got.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bodega San Gregorio 2005 Papa Luna (Spain)

From the Catalayud region of Spain comes this tasty little number in the fat bottle. Made from old vines Garnacha, Shiraz and Monastrell it's a delicious wine full of black fruit, plum and spice - I found that it smoothed right out once decanted, but it also lost much of its pleasant spiciness. So I think this one should have been left in the bottle because poured straight from the bottle it was a better wine ... oh well, you win(e) some you lose some. Still a very nice bottle of wine.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Baron Ricasoli 2006 Campo Ceni (Italy)

This wine was tasted in conjunction with 10 other wines. Every so often I get together with some buddies: one guy provides the food; another the activity (both are happily married so strippers are out of the question) this evening it was the 8th hour of 24; and I provide the wine. I grabbed a number of bottles on my way out of the house and the party was on. In truth the party was us standing around talking over pizza, while one guy put his kid to bed - a hot time in the big city for sure! One of my friend has no taste for wine what-so-ever, he's a rose drinker - though he is redeemed by his love for Port. The other is quite the wine drinker - we differed on our favourite this evening, though he did finally come around to my way of thinking because I noticed that this was the only empty bottle on the table this night. The wine is primarily Sangiovese (95%) with a touch of Merlot to give it some smoothness. Here we had a nice, lightly spiced, good herbed and nicely fruited wine. I enjoyed it, but I did not finish the whole bottle - which means somebody else liked it too.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Robert Mondavi 2006 Vinetta (California)

This wine was chosen as more of a tribute to Robert than it was for any other reason. I had just come from a Riedel glass tasting lead by Maximilian Riedel himself. He told us all a story about how his father had met Robert Mondavi in California and converted the California icon to his glassware. Max had called it a "beautiful" story - I did not think it beautiful, cute maybe; but considering it was this meeting that introduced Riedel's stemware to a larger North American audience (as Mr. Mondavi turned his tasting room into a Riedel only winery), and made them a household name on this side of the pond, then I guess it is a beautiful story, if you're a Riedel. Now, the reason for the tribute to Robert was because part of the tasting's bonus was to walk away with your set of glasses (4 in total) - so I thought it appropriate to pay tribute to the men who introduce North America to fine wine in the right crystal glass. The wine chosen was Vinetta, which is the very first true Bordeaux blend made at the house of Mondavi; which means they use all five grapes. Made up primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon (72%) with some Merlot and Petit Verdot (10% each) and a smattering of Malbec and Franc. The wine tasted wonderful in the glass with lots of blackberry and spice - it was smooth and very enjoyable ... not much more to say - the preamble kinda wore me out.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Casa Vinicola Botter Carlo 2006 Ogio (Italy)

Italian food called for an Italian wine - I'm not changing my tune on food and wine pairings just thought I would try it. The food was good and the wine was just what I expected. Ogio is made from the Primitivo grape, which is akin to California's Zinfandel. The nose was plum,. cherry and vanilla - the palate had a touch of tannins, but was for the most part smooth with vanilla, plum and sweet cherry. Simple wine for a simple lasagna meal. Pleasant and juicy, exactly what I expected from an $8.95 wine made form this grape.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ernest and Julio Gallo 2001 Sonoma County Merlot (California)

Holy Hanna ... this is not what I expected at all from this wine. These days you hear the Gallo name and you chuckle to yourself - you think of huge conglomerate, uni-wines (wines that taste the same), and non-vintage blah blends. I opened this one on a lark, wondering how it would taste, wondering if the only 5 months in oak and 6 years in my cellar had helped or hindered this wine ... I can say categorically that it helped. There wine had quite a bit of spiciness and some tannins in the glass and on my tongue, so I decided to pull out the Merlot decanter and open her up a bit. As I did so I fully admit I did not expect to see sediment, but that is precisely what I got, so I slowed up my pour to avoid putting too much back into the decanted wine. I inspected the bottle and saw lots of floaties stuck to the bottle and plenty more (of the fine gritty variety) were found in the decanter once the wine was all served. The nose was loaded with dried blackberries and black cherries with hints of forest floor and buckwheat honey (probably from the 14% alcohol). As for the taste, awesome ... the fruit seemed a little fresher than what the nose let on and there were even nuances of chocolate. I have to admit I was not expecting much from this wine, which meant what I got was a whole lot more ... kudos to the Gallo team of 2001.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Domaine Cazes 2005 Latour de France L'Excellence Triniac (France)

Back to some serious wine notes now. A busy weekend ended with dinner chez mom and dad. Roast beef is on the menu, so I decided to give a recently purchased French wine a go. This is a blend from the Rousillon region of France made up of "old vines" Black Grenache, Syrah and Carignane. The nose is perfect, as far as noses go. At first it was a little tight, the wine had made the journey with me from Niagara and was a bit on the chilled side thereby giving off nothing at first, but once it warmed and opened there was plenty of black cherry, blackberry and a touch of spice. The palate was even better, it followed the nose with lots of great cherry and spice, along with fine tannins that did not dry out the mouth, but instead added character and intensified the flavours on the tongue. In the end, it was smooth and luscious and went exceedingly well with the roast.