Sunday, August 30, 2009

Avalon Winery 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

This wine has a very distinctive capsule, which I have been eyeing for a number of weeks (oh, who's kidding anyone, it has been months now). It seems that everyday I can look across my office into the wine room and see the Avalon-star staring back at me. Finally, I walked right-up to it and yanked it off the shelf, grabbed the corkscrew and before I could talk myself out of it, plunged the helix into the cork and yanked ... now open I had to stop admiring the capsule and instead focus on the wine inside the bottle. Beautifully smooth with plumy, blackberry and vanilla notes. Plush in the mouth, and as the air got to it it just got lusher and plusher - very yummy. Talk about opening a wine at its peak.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bodega Catena Alamos 2007 Malbec (Argentina)

Saturday evening, and it was time for a family BBQ at my brother's house ... I brought a few wines along for the occasion (with a moniker like the Grape Guy it's kind of expected) and my GoVino glassware (plastic glassware that I reviewed in Newsletter #114). This turned out to be one of the nicer of the few I brought, it was released into Vintages (Ontario) this past Saturday. The nose is black and blue berries with a bit of bramble and some cinnamon and herbs ... the flavours are black raspberry, hints of spice, cinnamon with a touch of vanilla - and the piece-de-resistence ... very smooth - all for the low low Ontario price of $13.95.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Domaine Paul Mas 2004 Que Sera Sirah (France)

I'm into reading label these days (as you can tell from my last posting) - and from what I read this wine has no idea what it wants to be: Sirah, Syrah or Shiraz - all three terms appear on the label, two on the front, all three on the back. I will say it is a pretty front label, very stylized and eye catching, which, along with the cute name, is the reason I bought a bottle. Tonight it was its time to show what was in the bottle was as cute and impressive as what was on the label. I can report quite honestly that I was neither impressed not unimpressed (I was somewhere in the middle on this one), probably because I was confused on the style it was going for, so I wasn't sure what I was looking for in the glass. It was not jammy and fruit-bomby like Shiraz, nor did I get a peppery, bacon fat, smoked meat quality that you would pick up from Syrah - and don't get me started on what Sirah invoked. All in all I thought it a good wine, passable and easy to drink, I finished my glass and went back for another half, so it must have been good enough to drink ... just very confused.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Water Wheel Vineyards 2004 Memsie (Australia)

Back of the bottle say, "for immediate consumption" - I didn't read that till it was too late. But for a wine that was suppose to be consumed immediately this still had quite a bit of flavour. The nose was dried fruit, blackberries and a hint of chocolate liqueur (picked that up after an hour of being open) ... the taste was of dried blueberries with a nice spicy characteristic - though the alcohol heat was quite powerful, and noticeable, upon further examination of the bottle I saw it was indeed 14.8%. I also read that this wine was a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec - intereting combination indeed. Turned out it was not bad for a wine that was meant to consume quickly but still sat around for 4 years, till I got around to it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Michael & David Phillips 2006 "7 Deadly Zins" (California)

Every time I go down to the U.S. invariably someone will ask me to buy them a bottle of "7 Deadly". It is one of those wines that stands out in the mind of Zinfandel lovers, not just for it's unique name but for it's unique concept, and of course the poetry on the back label that encompasses all the sins within. But saying you're buying a bottle of wine for the poetry on the back label is like saying "I buy Penthouse for the articles" - that just doesn't fly, what you're buying this wine for is what's inside the bottle, not the packaging. And it is something of beauty. A nose of plum, chocolate-covered-cherries, vanilla and a hint of spice; it bites a little upon opening but once it settles and aerates that spiciness softens and smooths with lots of juicy red and black fruits with just a hint of vanilla for flavour ... so decadent it should be a sin, or a Zin as the case my be. The finish is all plum and spiced-vanilla. As for the number 7, it not only refers to the sins but for the 7 growers, of Old Vines Zinfandel grapes, that is used in the making of this wine.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thornhaven Estates 2007 Gewurztraminer (British Columbia)

It was the day after the Wine Writers trip to the County, I found myself in David Lawrason's backyard waiting for my train back to Toronto ... must have been 28 degrees out with just the slightest of breeze, I sat under the trellis listening to the leaves above rustling; it was a beautiful summer afternoon. Anyone who knows me knows that when I travel I take two things with me: wine and glassware (which is why I find it hard to pack light) - this wine was one of those packed wine, and because I had a good 5 hours to kill before my departure I popped this into David's fridge and waited for it to chill. When all had assembled, we had been waiting for others to join us for dinner, I pulled this wine out of the fridge and served it; what a treat. The fruit on the nose was pineapple, lychee and rosewater scented, the palate seemed to follow the nose while adding its own certain charm like spiced pineapple and extra juicy lychee fruit - it was just what you would have wanted to sip on a hot summer afternoon, good thing we finally had one. The capper to this wine was the long, spicy, rose petal finish - soft and easy. Thanks to David for allowing me to sip this in his backyard and helping me lighten my wine load for the ride home.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gemtree 2007 Uncit Shiraz - Mitolo 2007 Jester Shiraz (Australia)

Tonight it's a battle of Shiraz in my living room. These half-empty-bottles were offered to me as I was leaving the Australia tasting on August 18. Knowing that I wasn't going to get a chance to drink them for a few days, and because they were already open, I decided my best course of action was to put them in my very cold beer fridge to arrest their development. Finally that day came and here we are. I pulled them out of the fridge, allowed them to come to room temperature and began tasting. The Mitolo had generous blackberries and chocolate - much better then what I remember tasting at the Australia show; much more approachable, very rich and jammy - almost decadent. The Gemtree had also changed. The Uncut Shiraz is made from 40 year old vines spo you can taste the minerality right from the first glass. A few days later the minerality really comes thruough on the palate once again, but this time the wine is soft and supple - I also found pepper, spice and blackfruit galore, but it's the mineral quality that really shows on this wine. Both wines ended up to be very yummy, though I think I lean towards the Gemtree Uncut - I just love that minerality mixed with spice ... on the other hand I know my mom would dig the Mitolo's smooth chocolate across on the tongue ... and as they say, to each their own.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Therapy Vineyard 2007 Pink Freud (British Columbia)

Summer's here and the time is right for pink wine. This neat little rosé is a blend of the bleedings of a multitude of red grapes - that means it's free-run juice from these grapes before they have had time to colour when contacted with the skins (all grape juice is white after all - even from red grapes). This wine had a great salmon-strawberry juice colour, the nose was candied strawberry and had the same kind of flavours on the tongue with a long strawberry finish. I remember it being fresher the year it was bought (last year), but even a year on it still had nice fruit and quenched a thirst on this hot summer day.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Willow Vineyard NV Baci Rosé (Michigan)

Tonight we tried another one of our Michigan wines, a Pinot Noir Rosé, from a very pretty winery, Willow Vineyard. Unfortunately, the wine did not measure up to the winery, a classic case of the wine tasting better at the winery then it did when you get it home. Now I am not saying it was bad, it had a nice earthy-raspberry flavour on the palate but very little on the nose, and was quite dry on the palate - pretty classic for a rosé; but it lacked umph and punch that would have made it stand out.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bodega Don Cristobal 2007 1492 Red (Argentina)

Every time I see a bottle like this for this price, I think about where I live (in Ontario) and my ass gets sore. Let me explain. A few weeks ago I walked into Champane Wine Cellars in Michigan, and asked my buddy Dave about this email I received from the store, something about recession buster wine for as little as $1.99 ... I thought to myself, "a bottle of wine for a buck ninety-nine, it's gotta be the worst crap on the planet." So Dave walked me over to the section where cut-boxes of wine sat on wheeled steel racks, he admitted that some stuff was not the best, especially on the real low end, but they went to some of their suppliers and were able to get some considerably good deals, especially at the high end of these recession wines (they top out at $3.99). This one, he told me, delivered big 'oh' for little dough. And you know what, I agree. It's a 50% Merlot, 35% Bonarda, 15% Sangiovese blend, that delivers quite a pleasant punch. The nose was intriguing with floral, blueberry, blackberry, sweet vanilla and spice; while the palate offered the simplicity of blackberry and spice notes along with some tannin bite. I'd even be tempted to lie this one down for a few years just to see what happens - heck, it's only $3.99. So why does my ass hurt when I see wine like this at these prices? Because I did some checking on the LCBO website and saw the same company's 2008 Verdelho for $12.95, and I just know the red has gone through at some point around the same price point ... I think you can now make the connection as to why a certain part of my anatomy hurts. Cheers.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Left Foot Charley 2008 Pinot Blanc (Michigan)

Left Foot Charley is one of those wineries without property. They have working space, but they have no vines to call their own. They instead opt for long term contracts with growers, picking the sites they believe will grow the best grapes for the wines they want to make. The brains behind LFC is Brian Ulbrich, who seems to have gotten quite a reputation for making some pretty good whites up in the Traverse City area (Northern Michigan). I popped into his state-of-the-art urban winery, located in an old asylum (Northern Michigan Asylum) ... an interesting place for sure - especially for a whacky winemaker. Now safely at home (or at least in a home) I popped the cork on this one to enjoy it with a nice chicken dish. My fiancee and I dickered a little over the smell, she got fresh apple pie, I got sweet melon, we both picked up a little lemon. We also agreed that the taste was nothing like the smell: lots of fresh white fruits, a little pear, some melon, and maybe some apple (I admitted grudgingly) all with a citrus undertone and just a hint of sweetness with great balancing acidity and nice 12.5% alcohol level. I am surprised and excited to see Pinto Blanc doing so well in Michigan.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Scott Harvey 2005 Mountain Select Syrah (California)

Company came over for dinner tonight: pulled pork with all the fixin’, so I decided to open one of the bottles of Scott Harvey Syrah I had purchased the night before. Sometimes you get a bottle home after a tasting and it just doesn’t taste the same … this was the case with this wine – but in a good way. Using my Schott Zwiesel crystal glass, instead of a taster’s glass, the wine exploded with even more smells and flavours that I remembered. The red and black fruit were present, but I could also pick out specific fruits, like a lovely plum note, there were also cinnamons, vanilla and a lovely spiciness that went well beyond the white pepper noted in my earlier review from the night before. The bottle went quickly (and well with the pulled pork), so I am glad I was not the only one who enjoyed it, good wine, after all, is to be shared with friends and family.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Chateau Fontaine 2008 Woodland White (Michigan)

Not sure of the reasoning behind it, but Dan Matthies, winemaker and owner of Chateau Fontain, decided to name this impressive white "Woodland White" instead of after the grape he makes it from: Auxerrois. I think it is another case of the consumer being short changed on some learnin' or a chance for the winery to educate. It's like when wineries give other names to wines made from Gewurztraminer because they don't want to deal with the public pronouncing it wrong, or maybe they do it because the public pronounces it so wrong, so often that they try to make it easier on buyers. But I feel it negates the grape and is a disservice to the wine buying public. People want to learn a little when they are tasting wines especially when the visit a winery. They want new tastes and new experiences ... if not they would have just gone to their local liquor store and picked up any old thing. Which is why I think Dan should bring the name 'Auxerrois' to the front of the bottle ... maybe one day. But no mater what he does to the outside, it is going to be what's inside that reallly counts, and this white is superb, no matter what else you call it. The nose has quince, kiwi, bosc pear and lemon; the palate retains the pear and citrus, while adding orange and melon rind with an incredibly long finish. This was another fantastic find I discovered on my tour of the unsung northern Michigan wineries.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

One Riesling and 3 Red Blends (Germany, France, Spain, Australia)

A night with dear friends started with a Darting 2001 Riesling Kabinett (Durkhmeimer Michelsberg) from the Pfalz region of Germany. This beauty had a nose of dried apricots and pear, with just a touch of petrol and some concentrated apple juice aromas. The taste was similar to the nose with that concentrated apple juice, petrol and dried fruit sweetness ... a great way to begin the evening with bbq baked brie (went well without too).

Moving on to our second bottle of the night, a Sacha Lichine 2006 Coq Rouge from the Languedoc region of France. This blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvingon and Merlot was delightlfully peppery and spicy with lots of red and black fruits on both the nose and taste.

The wine of the evening was this Castano 2000 Hecula (Spain), a blend of 70% Mourvedre, 20 Tempranillo and 10% Merlot. It still shows lots of vibrancy in the glass, lots of spice, great colour that didn't hint at it's age, along with black fruit - some dried some fresh. The palate was still big and showed that it could still lie down for longer. Blackberry, spice, cinnamon and ... even more spiciness. Excellent wine - and these days it's cheap as chips (in Ontario anyway) at $13.95 a bottle - what a bargain for something that'll age 10+ years.

The final wine was a disappointment, some didn't care because by this point they were liquored up pretty good, but a professional must always be alert, especially when a new bottle appears. A 2003 D'Arenberg The Cadenzia (Grenach/Shiraz/Mourvedre) - this one was topped with a Zork (plastic pull off cork), which makes me realize why D'Arenberg moved to screwcap pretty quickly. The taste was blackberry and tannin grit with an underlying smell and taste of plastic. Nasty.