Saturday, October 31, 2009

3 Wines and Only One Worth Drinking

Halloween at my place was a pretty scary affair. First I sampled a number of wines from Eastern European countries - well actually just one (Georgia) ... some were not worth the glass bottle they were put in. After that experience I decided I needed to open something nice. I had a Cardinham 2003 Riesling from the Clare Valley in Australia ... right from the get go I had a feeling this was a wine I had held on to for too long; it was big on gas and short on fruit, very short on fruit ... in fact, it had no fruit on it whatsoever and had the nastiest of finish - so down the sink it went.

Next up tonight was a big Syrah from Cline in California - Cline 2003 Los Carneros Syrah, 15% alcohol. The nose had gone all pruney with little to redeem it, the taste was peppery with hints of cocoa, but the nose was something you just couldn't get past, and within a few sips it was all you could taste and smell ... not pleasant.

Finally, I went for something a little more recent, Tamar Ridge 2007 Pinot Noir. This wine just came out in Vintages (LCBO) and was a big hit when I tasted it previously, so I was happy to try it and this time drink it (instead of just tasting and spitting). This one is an Australian wine from Tasmania and proudly declares "Tasmania: True Cool Climate" on the label. The nose was sour cherry, with red ripe cherries poking through on occasion, which gave it a mysterious smell-ability, also present were nice red berry aromas and a touch of spice. The palate was even yummier, smooth and supple red and black fruits, subtle tannins and nice spice with hints of earthiness that brought the entire wine into balance on the tongue. The alcohol seemed big for a Pinot Noir (14%) when observed on the label, but it was unnoticeable on the palate, which made it all the better.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Glass Mountain 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

When I bought this wine in 2007 it was a lovely little wine with lots of red fruit on the nose and taste (according to my notes of January 3, 2007), it also cost me a whopping $14.95. Well two and a half years later red fruit has turned pruney with dried fruit and licorice notes being most prominent. On the palate the fresh red fruit has become licorice and dried black fruit oriented ... there was nothing fresh about this wine whatsoever. I also noted an oxidative quality in the wine and that the wine was sealed with a plastic cork. My problem is not with the plastic cork (though that is definitely a problem) it's that when you lie a wine down there is no indication as to the closure under the neck's capsule. It would be nice if winemakers would make mention somewhere on the label so that consumers would know the wine was not meant to lie down for any length of time, I have fallen into this plastic trap once too often for my liking.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Show 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

This wine is so "sweet" ... not sweet as in lots of sugar, but sweet as in "oh so delicious". As much as I liked the 2006 version the 2007 version is even better. The nose on this Show reels you in with sweet fruit smells of blackberry, plum, ripe cherries, a hint of raspberry (that comes more into the fore the longer it is onpened) and all wrapped in a robe of chocolate. All that pales in comparison to the flavours your mouth is about to receive. Everything above follows on the tongue, but it's delivered in such a smooth manner that the mouth screams for more with each sip. The flavours are lead by the juiciness of blackberry and black cherry and a touch of chocolate on the finish ... now here's the kicker, this wine is not available in Ontario so I pick my bottles up in the good old U.S. of A, where you can find it on sale for about ten-bucks - what a steal.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Alianca 2006 Particular (Portugal)

When people ask me about "up and coming" wine regions I usually mention two places: Spain and Portugal. These regions are not exactly the new kids on the block, but the wines they make are consistently good, and represent good value. Now most people would argue that Argentina is the next up'n'comer, but reality is that Argentina is the here and now, which means some other country has to step into that rising star role; that's why I predict Portugal is poised to jump into that spot. So it came as no surprise when I opened this bargain of a bottle ($13.95) as to how good it was. Sweet black fruit, licorice, ripe cherry and plum grip the nose and lured me in. The palate, with its ripe red fruit sweetness, black licorice and vanilla oak on the finish was very appealing. Very appealing, very fresh and very good, that's the formula for up 'n' comer status.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Liberty School 2003 Syrah (California)

For somebody who has all kinds of glassware I am surprised that I do not have a glass devoted to the Shiraz/Syrah grape, especially because there is so much of the stuff made; but i have always contended that what you really need on your glass rack is a good red glass and a good white glass and those should get you through on 99% of all occasions. Tonight, I popped the cork on a bottle of California Syrah, at first I pulled out my Pinot Noir glass, then I second guessed myself and pulled out the Bordeaux style glass, all the time in a quandary over which glass to use. If indeed it is a Syrah, then the Pinot glass would do, if it turns out it was a bigger fruitier version (Shiraz with a Syrah name) then the Bordeaux would do. So instead of agonizing over it I tried both (hey, I have a dishwasher). The Pinot glass enhanced the fruitiness of the wine, the Bordeaux glass brought out the spicy aspects ... wanting something that would bite me back this evening opted for the Bordeaux. The nose was rich in spice, licorice and a smoky-bacony quality ... palate-wise there was lots of red and black fruit, along with vanilla oak and white pepper with an almost sweet cranberry-chocolate finish ... very enjoyable. I think I made the right glass choice with this one.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tarapaca 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile)

On the Canadian Thanksgiving I decided to head down to Chile for a taste of a 5-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon. This bottle has been staring at me from my sideboard for a few weeks now, ever since I took it out of one of my 'aging boxes'. At first I had trouble removing the cork because of its length, but I finally got it out in one piece by digging the helix of the corkscrew in a little deeper. Once opened I offered the first little bit to Bacchus by pouring off the first half inch ... then into the glass it went. Smells were minty, blackberry, cassis and quite spicy. The flavours were similar with black fruit and mint, but this was not one of those juicy, jammy Chilean offerings, instead it offered up more spicy character, and over the 45 minutes that it was open (and there was wine in the bottle) the fruit dropped off leaving much spice behind.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

E. Guigal 2005 Cotes du Rhone (France)

Kick me in the socks and call me Larry ... for about 2 years now the folks at Vinexx (who are the agents that bring this wine into Ontario) have been telling me to watch out for this wine - "it delivers far beyond its price point," a gentleman by the name of Steve told me. Each time I went into the LCBO I looked for this wine and was disappointed to see the 2004 (in itself a good wine, but "no comparison to the '05", or so I was told) still o the shelves. Today I finally found a bottle, seems it is now making its way through the system. The nose is red fruited with lots of pepper and black raspberry. Made from a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedre this wine is all that is was touted as being, and more. The palate is powerful with lots of red fruit and peppery-spicy notes and lots of flavour ... a wine was worth the wait. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

J & J Eger Wine Company 2006 Sik-Hegy Dula (Hungary)

This is one of those wines that I really wanted to be able to poke holes in ... in a good natured kinda way of course. Think back to when you were in high school and your buddy finally got that date with the girl you secretly liked and you hoped beyond hope that he would fail miserably on his date; even though he was a buddy. That's kinda like what it was like for me and this wine. The winery is part owned by a fellow writer and friend John Szabo, and is a project he undertook in his native Hungary ... as much as you want to pat him on the back and say, "Good going John." There's still that part of you that says, "What does he know about making wine or running a winery?" After all, those who can't do, teach, right? Well it seems that the versatile John Szabo not only teaches but makes a pretty good wine. Made from the Central European Blaufrankisch grape (known as Lemberger in Germany, as well as a bunch of other names, depending on which country you are in; for example in Hungary it is known as Kekfrankos). I had this wine with friends during a gathering on Tuesday night - one of those in attendance had brought a bottle which was a curiosity for the rest of us (because we all know John); all of us had not had a chance to try John's wine and were excited to do so. The nose has raspberry, vanilla, a bit of graphite, and was quite pleasant. Now to be fair to this review I should come clean and say we tried it in a variety of different glassware, the wine showed best in a Schott Zwiesel Cru Classic Burgundy glass, which is the glass I used when taking these notes - after all the point of drinking wine is not to find the faults but to enjoy the wine ... Now back to your regularly scheduled review. The palate was quite exquisite, showing strawberry, raspberry fruit with a touch of cinnamon and cranberry on the mid-palate and a sour cherry-spice finish, which is also where the vanilla decided to show up. The best words to describe the wine are delicate and delicious. Good work John, you are to be congratulated on a job well done; as for the analogy of the girl, I have my own thanks very much, and I have no intention of ever starting a winery I'm happy to stick with the girl.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Marchesi de Frescobaldi 2000 Remole (Italy)

Another Italian wine takes center stage in my house tonight - as it did last night - and another oldie, but this time it comes from the Tuscany region.

This morning I found myself reorganizing my wine cellar and I came across this bottle, a blend of Sangiovese and "una piccola quantita di Cabernet", now my Italian is a little rusty (more lie non-existant), but I am going to assume that says a little bit of Cabernet. Once again we're not dealing with a fresh fruity wine here. First there's the colour, which had brownish brick tones. The smells were of dried fruit, forest floor, some prunes, and licorice - really not all that appealing if you think about it; but on the palate it proved to be much more inviting: dried leaves, sweetish dried fruits (like a handful of dried cran and other berries), licorice and a hint of dried spices from the oak ... quite lovely indeed, and a pleasure to drink, especially after a little decanting.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Luigi Righetti 2003 Valpolicella "Campolieti" (Italy)

Sometimes a wine just calls out to be drunk - which was the case with this wine. I was replacing a bulb in my wine cellar this morning. I put the bulb in and immediately there was light - amazing thing this electricity stuff. I threw the packaging away (and placed some of the components in the recycle bin) and turned to survey what it now looked like all lit up. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash of a red capsule and thought, "okay tonight it's you". I pulled the wine off the rack and placed it on the coveted drinking table for this evening; and now here we are. I have to admit that I was a little nervous about a Valpolicella of 6 years old, but you only live once. As it turns out, after I sipped and savoured this wine, I read the back label, and learned that it was not a straight Valpol, it was in fact a "ripasso" (second fermented on Amarone skins) - that explains the longevity and the and nice fruit still in this bottle. To say it had fruit is a bit of a misnomer, the wine smelled and tasted old, but far from too old. The nose had cranberry, sour cherry, forest floor and spiced-dried-plum ... the palate had dried fruit and leaves with a bit of spiciness left, but with a smooth glide through the mouth, and still with a hint of acidity to wash it away clean. Quite lovely ... now what to have with it is the question.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wolf Blass 2002 Red Label Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia)

Once upon a time Wolf Blass was a very colourful winery. What I mean by that is that they had a label colour for every colour in the rainbow. The benefit of that was that if you liked a wine all you had to do was remember the colour of the label. Then, a few years ago they decided that they had too many colours, so they made the decision to "simplify" the choices ... since then I haven't been able to figure out the Wolf Blass labeling scheme. It used to be that Yellow Label, which was the most popular wine at the LCBO, was a Cabernet Sauvignon; the Red Label, which I liked better, was this Shiraz-Cabernet blend - it was also a tad less expensive. Tonight, I decided to check out my lone bottle of the old red label wine that I had left in the cellar (I also have an '04 Yellow Label kicking about, which I will try someday soon). This blend still had quite a bit of spicyness to it, so I thought that using my hand held Vinturi aerator would help. It did. The wine smoothed out immensely, making it have an almost creamy smooth mouth feel, yet it still retained that nice element of spice and pepper in the flavour department. Smells of dried dark fruit, namely blackberry, with nice vanilla oak tones. The palate delivered a little more with blackberries, sometimes of the dried and sweet variety, with hints of spice and those vanilla oak notes. This one needed that little nudge of decanting to turn it from decent to delicious.