Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mission Hill 2006 SLC Syrah (British Columbia)

Man how time flies ... just under a year ago I found myself at the beautiful Mission Hill Winery in Kelowna, BC ... it's been almost a year since I toured the Okanagan, sampled the wines that BC had to offer and realized that they have some pretty spectacular views out there, that don't include major highways in the background. It was for my mother's 70th birthday and we tasted our way through 72 wineries in 12 days. So every so often I like to open a bottle of BC wine to remember the trip. What I opened tonight is the latest release from one of the icon wineries out in western Canada, Mission Hill. SLC stands for Select Lot Collection - and it derives that name from the special selection the grapes go through, from hand harvesting and sorting of 100% estate fruit, to special barrel selection and ageing for 17-and-a-half-months in small barrels; but all that means nothing if the wine is not worth drinking. I'm happy to report that it is well worth the investment of both money and the time to drink it. The nose is rich with aromas that suck you right in: black fruit, chocolate, pepper, spices, and vanilla caramel. The palate is also very appealing, but could use some time to sit in your cellar and become more in tune with the nose ... nice herbs, pepper, black fruit and berries along with hints of toastiness. Delicious to drink with meat, pasta or on its own, a four star wine now that should gain another half star by 2011.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Heartland Wines 2007 Stickleback (Australia)

When I was in Italy, back in the fall of 2008, I learned quite a few things, one of which was that I did not like most of the wines made from the Dolcetto grape. So here I am with an Australian blend that features Dolcetto as one of its components ... the others are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache - all grapes I like. So can one grape ruin a blend? In this case, no. First off there is only about 10% Dolcetto in here, not enough to really make or break the wine, but enough to add structure, some flavours and aromas to the whole. Once in the glass you'll find the wine offers good flavours, good smells and good value (by Ontario standards anyway - $15). The nose is slighlty perfume along with pepper, red berries and some cinnamon-cocoa - very inviting. The palate is spiced up along with pepper, black fruit and chocolate. The finish is spicy and quite intense. The 14.5% alcohol isn't noticeable on the nose or the palate, but you'll feel wobbly after a few glasses, if you're not careful (and depending on the size of your glass).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Perez Cruz 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva (Chile)

This is the kind of wine that the Chilean's do best ... ripe with fruit and chocolate. It's just such a pleasure to drink and while-away the hours with. In truth it is a wine only the Chilean's can make and the reason why they have become so popular - it's not just the price. The nose smells of chocolate covered blueberries, lots of dark fruit and sweet herbs. The palate follows suit with a great concentration of black fruits, chocolate and plenty of sweet red fruit when aerated in the mouth. It's sweet yet dry, succulent and juicy, this wine has so much going for it it will be enjoyed by everyone - even those who swear they hate red. I have little else to say about this wine except go get some and enjoy.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Monte Zovo 2006 Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore (Italy)

I think I've been waiting 6-weeks for this one to come out ... and man was it worth the wait. I tried this at a Vintages pre-tasting and gave it five stars because it was just such an all around tasty and sweet smelling wine. But sometimes wines get a better rating because of the wines that surround it in a tasting environment. Think about it, you taste 10 wines in a row that don't impress, then you get one that's pretty good by comparison, it's going to be rated higher than the others and looks pretty darn good to boot. So when I popped the cork tonight that's the kind of thoughts that are running through my head, "did I over rank this one?" The answer is a big fat "NO". Fact is this wine is even better than I remembered it. The nose was full of great smells: chocolate, plum, cherries and other juicy red fruits. The palate was just as appealing and inviting: lovely fruit, dark chocolate, plumminess, dark fruit and vanilla. There was also a little bit of wood tannin on the palate that should smooth out over time - and as the wine opened I found a little coffee on the finish as well. At twenty-bucks here in Ontario it's a good bargain with some good potential for the future.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Oak Leaf Vineyards NV Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

"I drink alone ... and when I drink alone I prefer to be by myself." Oh, the immortal words of George Thorogood, they ring in my ears every time I open up something for myself. Tonight it was the brother to the Merlot I tried back on March 16 ... the Cabernet Sauvignon. This non-vintage blend out of California, that I have only seen on the shelves of Wal-Mart and for the incredibly "Two-Buck-Chuckish" price of $2.97 ... I guess the price rollback has yet to hit this wine. Now I have to tell you I was expecting very little and got exactly what I expected. The nose was sweet raspberry with some vanilla and plum. The taste followed right alongside the smells, was very smooth and sweet-ish. Not that it had to try too hard to be better than the Merlot, but it was, I found it rather pleasant in a sweet sorta was. Don't expect complex ... instead expect boozy-grape juice with Splenda and you'll get exactly was you expect.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wakefield 2004 Shiraz (Australia)

Family dinner. Beef roast, potatoes, salad, veggies and bread. What to bring, what to bring? This Shiraz might do nicely. Looks impressive with 4 silver medal wins in 2005 - which were splashed across the top of the bottle. The nose was dried fruit and pepper, heavy on the pepper. There was lots of floating sediment in the glass - maybe I should have decanted, I thought to myself, but I know that nobody at the table would be offended by it so I let it go without a second thought ... besides it seems pretty good upon first, second and third smell. Alas, the taste was a let down. Sure the dried fruit was there and so was the pepper, but there was something about the finish that left a bad taste in the mouth. I kept sipping on it to analyze further: the entry was good and so was the mid-palate, but the finish was bitter and there was nothing pleasant in the aftertaste either. Too bad, I had high hopes for this medal winner ... maybe it was built for drink-now enjoyment, not the long haul (not the 5 years is much of a long haul).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ravenwood 2005 Old Vines Zinfandel (California)

I am just finishing a 3 day stint in Windsor where I was drinking (or better yet, tasting) all Canadian wine - so you don't think I am just some kind of alcoholic, I was judging at the All Canadian Wine Championships. During these days I taste a plethora of Canadian wine from coast-to-coast and from all makes and varieties, from sweet fruit wine, dry table wines, icewines you name it - if it is made in Canada, and some winemaker had the wherewithal to send in a few bottles, we tried it. So I have been a little lax in my what I'm drinking today wine blogging. Quite simply, the evenings are spent drinking and trying other wines that are too multitudinal to mention (I think I am going to try and patent that word "multitudinal"). Anyway, I am now in Warren (Michigan) and sitting outside on a patio with the wind is whipping me in the face. It's warm yet cool, if that makes any sense. I am sipping on this very nice and quite complex Zin out of Amador County - where I am told they make some of the best Zins in California - and I am in no place to argue because this one is quite nice. The smell is rich with vanilla, plum, cinnamon, chocolate, pepper along with whiffs of alcohol that also hit the olfactories every two or three sniffs (so I am not surprised to learn it is 15%). But the flavour does not speak of alcohol, which can be scary if you decided to drink a little too much; instead the taste is robust with black fruit and pepper along with plums and vanilla. It's quite smooth going in and through the mouth, with a nice fruit/tannin mix. Quite a change from all those Canadian wines - though there were a couple of Zins from B.C. that were quite lovely; maybe the desert of the Okanagan has found a new grape to grow. Come to think of it I have a couple of BC Zins - maybe that'll be next on my tasting list once I get home.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bodegas Luzon 2006 Jumilla Red (Spain)

My two Spanish wines consumed here in the US of A have been my favourites. A few nights ago I had an Atteca that was quite simply beautiful; tonight its another Spanish wine, but this time I dropped down the price scale to a nine-dollar bottle. Actually this was my second try with this wine - the first bottle turned out to be corked, so I returned it for an fresher bottle ... and fresher it was, though at first I wasn't sure. There was a burnt rubber smell that initially came out of this wine - but that blew off in about half an hour and left me with more pleasant red berries, black currants and licorice aromas; I also kept picking up a faint hint of mint with every third sniff, so I'll just make note of it here. On the palate blackberries, pepper and lots of spice were the main attractions to this wine - the larger the sip the more peppery, while little 'zips' (baby sips) brought out the fruit. Quite a pleasant wine for under ten bucks.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Marietta Cellars 2007 Zinfandel - Sonoma County (California)

Tonight I combined two of my favourite things: baby back ribs and Zinfandel, to me it's like the Reese peanut butter cups motto "two great tastes that taste get together". The ribs were very good but the wine left a little something to be desired. I am usually a fan of Marietta's stuff - I love their easy drinking Lot series, which have no vintage year just the number of times they have created the blend (ie: Lot 43 or Lot 44). The colour was inky reddish-black, a good sign for this Zin. Smells were primarily plum, chocolate and cherry driven; but the taste did not share in the fruit bonanza of the nose. First thing to hit the tongue was heat, alcohol heat (15.2%), next was a very woodsy and peppery mid-palate, still with lots of heat. The finish was gritty and short with a hollowness right in the middle of the tongue, no matter how many sips you took and how you sloshed it in your mouth, that part could not absorb flavour. Too bad, I was looking forward to this one for the past few days and I feel a little let down. Oh, well ... tomorrow it looks like its going to be something Spanish.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Marcus James 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Argentina)

Still in the States and I'm still enjoying relatively cheap booze. Tonight I decided to eat in and tried that new grilled KFC chicken - quite impressive really - and I paired it, incongruously I might add, with a Mendoza Cab. Speaking of cheap this was only 4-dollars at my letdown place (South Shore Market., who claimed to have a huge selection of wine). All said and done I did not overpay for this wine, in fact it was quite the deal in comparison to my Washington fiasco the previous night. Although the wine was fairly one dimensional (what do I expect for four clams) it still had a pleasing aspect to, especially for those who like charred meat (read: beef) with their wine. Spicy, peppery with a dash of black raspberry for the fruit component. The palate follows the nose almost to a tee, though there is the additon of blackberries to brighten up this rather bitey wine. I see this as a bargain for all those attending or throwing a BBQ, and no need for big bucks to entertain.

Up-date: Even open 3 hours this wine shows a heck of a lot of spicy-peppery notes.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Columbia Crest 2006 Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon (Washington)

Being in the good old US of A means that I can find wines from other states pretty readily (I mean stuff other than California). I've seen wines from Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin as well as the usual suspects from California and stuff I never knew existed. I have a whole town worth of wine to explore. I have spent a some time shooting the proverbial shit with Dave at Pull More Corks and I have killed time wondering through the aisles of Walmart looking over their limited selection of my favourite grape juice. Of course all is done in the search for a good bottle of vino at an affordable price. Tonight's wine was an $8 deal from Washington I picked up at the Walmart. Now in the past I have enjoyed Columbia Crest wines but this one seemed overly woody to me. Right from the get go there was lots of smoky-woodsy notes; they almost seemed to overpower the plums and black berries. Even with time to open in the glass the only other smell I was able to distinguish was black licorice. On the palate I found the wine a little more pleasant, but far from terrific. The smoky was still there but instead of being all wood there was also coffee and bittersweet chocolate - but theses are all flavours that are derived from barrel ... there was also quite a bit of tannins here. I found that no matter how much stirring and swirling I did this wine was just too tannic to be enjoyable on its own or with a light supper. Give it time, give it a decanter or give it away, I feel the over-wooding can not compensate for lack of fruit in the mouth - I expected more from Washington and Columbia Crest.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Atteca Old Vines 2007 (Spain)

I find myself in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the hub of wine activity here in the USA ... alright so I'm kidding, but that still doesn't change the fact that I am in Lake Geneva (for those who don't know, Lake Geneva is about an hour or so outside of Chicago). While touring the area, which includes the towns of Fontana and Williams Bay, I came upon a store called South Shores Country Store, which claimed on the map I am using, to have a "Huge Selection of Wine" ... those who know me know this is a sure fire way to get me to search out and stop at this place in my travels. "Huge" turned out to be about 15-20 wines whose prices were mostly in the $40 and up range - I guess by "huge" they meant price-wise. Later in the day I was talking to a local named Debbie, who told me of a little place back in Lake Geneva called "Pop More Corks", she told me they sell a lot of "cheap wine but have a good selection". Now that's more my speed. I must clarify that by "cheap" Debbie did not mean bad wines, she just meant inexpensive because there was nothing "cheap" about Dave's place (he's the owner). He has a huge selection of wines, over 350 labels, of which 75% are under $20. Here I am in small town USA (Lake Geneva for those with a short memory) at this incredible little hole-in-the-wall wine shop with a proprietor who speaks 'wine' as well as anyone I know (well maybe not anyone, but he sure does love his fermented grape juice). He pours 8 wines a day at his front counter and prides himself on either personal knowledge about or a relationship with each and every winery represented on his shelves (mostly "small lot, small production operations", though some big names are represented).

Now that you have the preamble I will tell you that this is where I bought this bottle of Atteca Old Vines Granacha 2007 (along with another wine to be named later). The vines are close to a hundred years old, or so claims the back label, and the wine is an absolute Spanish beauty. Full-on black fruit and spice on the nose with hints of vanilla, cinnamon and black cherry; the smells suck you in, demanding you taste. On the palate it's super spicy with lots of lush, juicy blackberries and cinnamon, touches of minerality and a boat load of big, drying tannins ... throughout the night this wine opened beautifully, softening the tannins and bringing out more of that lush berry and black fruit along with a geat bittersweet chocolate note on the finish. As an aside, I spoke with my sweetie earlier today, who is not with me on this journey, she thinks I'm slightly off my rocker because I came prepared with my own Reidel 'O' glasses (they travel well) ... I'm thrilled to have them along if for nothing else to enjoy this wonderful wine. As for that wine store (Pop More Corks) - in the immortal words of Governor Arnold, "I'll be back".