Tuesday, June 30, 2009

MontAsolo 2004 Screw Cap Cabernet Sauvignon (Italy)

After the disaster of the Zin at last night's rib cook off, I decided to yank the first thing that caught my eye off the rack and give it a go. Turns out it was this Screw Cap Cabernet Sauvignon from Italy. The label proudly proclaims that it is from the Veneto region and has a brief description of why screw cap vs. cork. Cherry and beets on the nose, smooth red fruit with hints of vanilla on the palate ... nothing special, but certainly more quaffable than the Zins I yanked off the cellar shelves last night; and sometimes quaffable is all you need. Like tonight.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Chilean and an American Zinfandel at a Rib Cook-off

It was rib night chez Mr. Dean Tudor. The debate has raged between me and Mr. Dean for a few months now about what tastes better, back ribs or side ribs. I fall off the bone on the "back" side, while Dean is a "side" man. So after a sit down tasting of over a dozen Ontario wines (see Dean's results here); Dean and I sat down for our rib taste off. My contribution was a couple of bottles of Zinfandel, a traditional wine to have with ribs.

First out of the gate was a Zin from Chile, TerraMater 2001 Zinfandel-Shiraz (85/15 blend), it had good plum and berry smells, but was soft and bland on the palate, sadly it got eaten up by the smoky bbq flavour of the ribs and sauce. Very disappointing.

Then came the one I was looking forward to, Rosemblum 2005 Zinfandel - San Francisco Bay appelation. I am usually a fan of Rosenblum Zins and the appelation series are usually very good. I was sad to see the wine under a plastic cork, I would think that wines of this quality would deserve a real cork, or at least a screwcap. On the nose there was nothing but acetone smells (nail polish remover) and the taste did not improve on what the nose was offering up. I found this wine even more disappointing than the Chilean offering.

My goal here was to offer up some "Porker Ratings" on these wines, based on their ability to pair with the ribs (expressing them in number of oinks); but alas between their faults and their lightness there were no marks to be given. I would like to thank Dean for not making me give back the ribs - I offered before we started eating, cause after I am not sure he would have taken them back even if I offered. Again, Dean was courteous enough to let me eat my ribs and not send me out to McD's for my supper.

As an aside, cause I don't usually put my Ontario wines on this blog, but the Alvento 2006 Sondra (Merlot/Cabernet Franc) saved the cook off, pairing nicely with the smokiness and bbq sauce flavour of the ribs. I'll have a review of this wine in an upcoming newsletter. Also working nicley, was a 2007 Reserve Baco Noir from Stoney Ridge - a little light in the alcohol loafers (11.7%) - but with enough umph to impress.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Nichol, Vineyard 2005 Syrah (British Columbia)

This wine was purchased during my trip to British Columbia last year. I was over at mom and pop's place for dinner, after my few weeks away in Michigan traveling their wine route. I figured since mom had been with me during its purchase it would be nice to go back to last summer for today's family BBQ. I popped the cork and poured the wine - a funny smell emanated from the glass, and not a pleasant smell either. It wasn't corked, it was just unpleasantly funny. My mom asked, "did we try this wine?" I know we had and we had enjoyed it. Was this a case of enjoying the wine in the place of origin but getting it home was a different story? I decided to let the wine sit and see what happened. About 30-minutes later the wine was a completely different beast altogether. The funky smell was gone replaced by such things as black cherries, pepper, sweet red fruit and black licorice whips; there was even a savoury meat quality to the smell, I described it as "sweet meat" like a well-seasoned pastrami or corned beef. The palate opened up a little quicker, say within 15 minutes, the funny taste dissipated and it was drinking well with white pepper with some spicy goodness along with sweet red and black fruit. Obviously this wine needs a little time to open up, and when it does ... yum.

Mission Hill Wines from 1981 (British Columbia)

You did not read the title wrong, yes it does say 1981, 28 years ago. Last night I decided to step back in time and open a couple of bottles that a fellow wine writer passed on to me from his collection. He just so happened to have a few bottles of a Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon made at Mission Hill Vineyards in the Okanagan. Interesting thing about these wines is, they are not made with BC fruit, they are actually made with foreign fruit - althought that is not indicated anywhere on the bottle's label. The Private Reserve Pinot Noir was made using grapes from Oregon, while the Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was from Washington grapes. So now that the real origin of the wine has been disclosed let me tell you how they smelled and tasted after all this time. If I was going to to give you the Reader's Digest version it would be something like this: "not bad at all". For those willing to go a little more indepth with me on this one, read on.

I opened the Pinot Noir first, it was obviously old with a brown colour and dried blackberries, cherries and some raisining on the nose; but in the mouth it was surprisingly alive with hints of spice and a raisin in the sun quality. The wine headed south fast, within about half an hour the wine had become more oxidized and older in both flavour and smell, but the initial surprise of this wine was how alive it was at first, and how it carried on for as long as it did.

The Cabernet Sauvignon was a bit more complex. The colour was almost the same as the Pinot, maybe a touch darker, but not by much. The nose had a hint of mint on it, which combined pleasantly with some tea leaf aromas. Over the course of the next hour the wine changed from tea to licorice to a mocha-coffee smell and finally to something more akin to dried leaves and foresty smells. While the nose was impressive for its age the palate was less forgiving. The wine started off well with dried black fruit and tea tastes, the mid-palate was of most interest with that taste you get from sweet dried fruit snacks: the taste had turned old much sooner than the nose, which is something I found surprising. This truly was an interesting piece of British Columbia wine history.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Black Star Farms 2008 Arcturos Dry Riesling (Michigan)

Last Michigan wine review for awhile. Tonight was a lonely wine night - my sweetie, who is a big Riesling fan, had to pass on a glass because of a sore throat ... now that would never stop a professional like me, but I can see how it could interfere with the enjoyment for others. Anyway, this was one of my favourite Rieslings while I was touring the wineries of Northern Michigan and it translated nicely when we brought it home: sometimes a wine tastes better at the winery than it does when you bring it home. The nose has a sweet delicious apple and peach smell while the palate is ripe with fresh lemons, green apple and peach it ends with great acidity in the green apple with a hint of peach on the finish. Didn't finish the bottle, so hopefully, if someone is feeling better tonight, she can have a glass.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery 2008 Pinot Blanc (Michigan)

Another of my Michigan finds. Pinot Blanc was not a grape I expected to find in any abundance in northern Michigan, in fact I'll admit I had no idea I would find any at all. What I actually found were 4 wineries making wine from this grape, and I bought bottles from three of them. This is all esate grown fruit at Brys, which is located on the Old Mission Peninsule, about two-thirds of the way up from Traverse City. Today I sat out with my fiancee (who came with me on the journey, but because of an ill-timed sore throat, missed out on a few of the wineries) in 94 degree (~32 Celsius) heat and we sipped on this bottle. This wine has a beautifully inviting nose with peach, pear and delicious apple all mingling together. On the palate it was very dry, with crisp pear, a touch of lemon, nice acidity and a lengthy aftertaste that reminded me a green apple with a splash of lemon. Tonight we decided on a Panko bread crumbed Talapia for dinner and saved the second half of the bottle for dinner ... and just as we thought, the wine went perfectly well with the light fish, and Erica (fiancee) even finished her second glass, which is a rarity for her. Can't wait to break into our our other Pinot Blancs from this area.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Chateau Grand Traverse 2008 Whole Cluster Riesling (Michigan)

Here is yet another wine I picked up on my 5-day excursion to the Michigan wine region near Traverse City. This one comes from a Peninsula called "Old Mission", which is a small strip of land that stretches into Lake Michigan (actually into Grand Traverse Bay - but that's just splitting hairs). The smell is rich with minerality (wet stone like), lemon with rind intact and green apple. The palate also has wonderfully clean notes from that minerality along with juicy mac apple, lemon rind, nectarine, peach pit (still with fleshy bits attached) and great bracing acidity. Finishing it off is a wonderful medium-long finish.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Peninsula Cellars 2006 Dry Riesling (Michigan)

Over the last week or so I have been traveling the highways and bi-ways of Northern Michigan. Did you know they had a thriving wine industry up there (or is that down there - depends on your point of view I guess), heck they have about 64 wineries in total throughout the state, and about half reside around Traverse City. I brought a case and a half of wine back home with me, which I am storing with my fiancee in her basement, and will gladly drink it with her when I visit. This was the first bottle we uncorked, a 2006 Peninsula Cellars Dry Riesling. Now a dry Riesling in 2006 was a tough find in Michigan - from what the folks at Peninsula Cellars were telling me. Their customers were still looking for Rieslings with perceptible residual sugar. But the weather (and growing season) favoured something a little drier that year, and by George they gave it to them. Now some 3 years later this wine is holding up quite nicely with a nose loaded with lemon, lime and a slight petrol note; the palate follows the same path, but adds a Granny Smith apple taste to the long finish, and a nice bit of acidity to keep everything nice and dry. In 2008, dry Rieslings are much more prevalent, and I'll be reviewing a few more in the coming days - but this wine shows what taking a chance can do. Michigan does make some very fine (dry) Rieslings indeed.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Blackstone Winery 2004 Merlot (California)

Blackstone wines to me have always looked cheap. I think it has something to do with the plain brown-stone look label and minimalist graphics. There is good news for Blackstone though, minimalist is back in style. The newest "redesign" to many labels seem to have clean lines and a minimum of colour - going back to black and white, line drawings and a splash of colour. For as long as I can remember Blackstone has kept the same basic premise to their label - so as the old saying goes, "everything old is new again" or is it "if you wait long enough everything comes back into fashion", they both seem to fit. There's more good news here, behind that boring exterior lies wines that deliver quality and taste. I would have to say that some of the new Blackstone wines I have tried have really do deliver in the flavour department (check out this report for my "Run out and Buy" wine). Now this wine harks back a few years, but it still delivers with lots of great black cherry and blackberry fruit along with chocolate notes that run all the way through it. Very tasty. Tannins were almost negligable so it's a good time to be drinking this wine.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Trace Wines 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

I am back from my Michigan wine tour and in the next few days the reviews of some of those wines are going to start to appear on this blog - the good news is that I brought back a case and a half worth of good wines from the "Great Lakes State". But tonight it was about getting back to basics, and what could be more basic than an eight dollar Cabernet from California. I think I was drawn to this one because of the hypnotic red circles on the front label - kinda reminded me of the Alfred Hitchcock movie 'Vertigo' the way they swirled around - it would be a great one for playing spin-the-bottle (do the kids still play that one?). So consider me hypnotized when I popped the cork on this, right up until I smelled it - it snapped me back to reality. Truthfully it smelled like any other value Cab from the "Find Yourself Here" state. There was lots of black cherry and red fruit on the nose. I must have nursed this wine over the next three hours ... and while at first the palate was a little harsh and gritty with tannins - it managed to smooth out nicely and deliver precisely was it did on the nose within about 45-minutes; lots of black cherry and berry notes. Sweet fruit up-front and smooth on the mid-palate right through to the slightly dusty finish. This wine was okay in my book, exactly what I expected - delivery no more and no less ... whatd'ya expect for 8 bucks.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Marques de Vitoria 2000 Crianza (Spain)

I don't know about your wine cellar but mine is organized a little differently than most. Most of the wine cellars I have seen are usually organized by country - mine is done by year. Tonight, it was suggested to me that I try something from Spain - that sounded good to me so I went searching for something Spanish to quench my wine Jones - but I can't just head over to the Spain section I have to comb through the years until I find what I am looking so; so I went towards some of my oldest stuff because I knew I kept some Old World wines there. I found this bottle just where I thought it would be - a 100% Tempranillo aged 12 months in new American oak - I read that off of the bottle, but there was no other information to be had. Now this bottle is 9 years old and I was hoping for some fruit and a little wood character - and that is precisely what I got. Nice dried black fruit, a little spice and silky smooth palate. Looks like I found the sweet spot for this bottle - glad it was suggested I go Spanish tonight and I'm glad my instincts took me to something old.