Sunday, November 29, 2009

Marietta Cellars Old Vines Red Lot 50 (California)

Speaking of wines I like to try and buy, this Marietta Cellars Old Vines Red is always something I look forward to seeing on the shelves of my favourite American retailer (Champane Wine Cellars in Michigan), the price is always agreeable ($9.99) and I have yet to be disappointed by this blend. They claim, on the back label, that it is "primarily old vines Zinfandel" and it has that Zin characteristic of rich ripe plum that I adore. Marietta chooses not to vintage date this wine, opting instead to "Lot" number it, this is the 50th edition of this wine and it should have a little more glitz on the label to celebrate. Instead it has the same old same old writing and you have to search for the lot number, but there is something a little bit new, a bold font statement at the bottom of the label about how Marietta continues to be proudly be family owned and operated since 1978. As for what's in the bottle, this is a ten dollar bottle of wine that over delivers, the smells are spiced plum and chocolate while the palate doles out such favourites as white pepper, plum and Christmas cake spices. Lip-smackingly good. I'm thinking of picking up a few more next time I am south of border.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Newton 2006 Chardonnay (California)

I'm a fan of the Newton Claret (red blend) and have tried various incarnations of the Newton Chardonnay, over the years, and have found myself, in general, being a fan of that too (which is a surprise because of my usual nature is to dislike Chardonnay). I picked this one while down in the States in the hope that this was one of the year's that I liked the Chardaonnay; alas this was not one of those yeasr ... it definitely was not my favourite of the Newton Chards that I have tried, it had many of the characteristics people find offensive in Chardonnay these days (but used to love): to much oak treatment; I found it difficult to find fruit on either the nose or palate on this wine. The nose showed hints of apple, but they were obscured by vanilla, caramel and almond. The palate showed a little more promise in the fruit department, with hints of lemon and baked apple, but still there was much more hazelnut, caramel and spice then there was fruit flavour. The saving grace here was a nice seam of acidity which had me taking sip after sip looking for redeeming qualities, but finding very little.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Vinhos Sogrape 2003 Callabriga (Portugal)

Damn near a tragedy in the wine department tonight. I pulled a bottle of 2003 Chateau de Montgueret "Le Petit Saint Louis" out of the cellar this evening ... no particular reason it was just the first bottle that caught my eye. Popping the cork I could already smell something and not sure I was liking what I was smelling. I poured the wine into a glass and gave a whiff, a faint hint of cork, while the taste was muted and almost mildewy-like ... yup a corked bottle. Usually when I have a night like this I end up pulling about 2 or 3 other bottles out of the cellar that have other faults (too old, too sharp, too something), but not tonight. I next yanked this Callabriga out of the cellar, a blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca from Portugal; funny coincidence, it was a bottle I had been wondering about 2 days ago but had not gone in search of it because of other wines I was planning on trying. So it turned out to be my lucky night ... out with the French and in with the Portuguese. This was a beautiful wine with lots of aromas and flavours: plum (the most dominant) with vanilla, cherry, blackberry and some chocolate notes. The wine was smooth and easy with very ripe juicy fruit and a little fine sediment on the bottom of the bottle and in my glass ... here's one I wish I had 3 more of; though if I had I probably would not be typing out this review tonight.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Venedos Errazuriz Ovalle 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile)

This is one of those bottles that I was scared of. I was not worried about the age of the wine or that it looked funny in the bottle, nope - I share a case of this wine with a friend and she had just informed me that the last two remaining bottles she had were both bad: oxidized due to the plastic cork closure. So I peeled the capsule off with a little trepidation. To my shock under the capsule was a natural cork, I have never been so happy to see a cork in my life. I almost jumped off the table I was sitting on and did a little jig - lucky for the people around me I didn't. As for the wine, it was kind of one dimensional with a minty-raspberry nose and a palate that followed suit, hints of black fruit did begin to emerge with a little aeration but the mintyness seemed almost overwhelming at times.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Michel Torino Estate 2006 Don David Malbec Reserve (Argentina)

Malbec is the grape on everybody's lips these days, especially when you are referring to Argentinean wine. I was speaking with an Argentine sommelier the other day and she said that nobody is interested in any other grape coming out of Argentina, "it's Malbec every time all the time." That's too bad because Argentine wine fans should be on the lookout for Cabernet Sauvignons and Bonardas coming out of that country. Tonight I didn't try either, Malbec was on my mind too ... I was doing bbq chicken with a smoky sauce and thought a Malbec would go well ... oh heck, who's kidding who, I had picked the wine out long before I had even thought about dinner and I am lucky that the two went decently together; for me it's all about the wine. This one had a nose of blackberry, vanilla, pepper and cinnamon - not surprising since the wine saw 12 months of new oak, and because of that I was surprised not to see more oak influence on the wine. The palate has lots of big black fruit with loads of spice and pepper Decanted there's sweet black fruit on the nose with juicy black fruit on the palate and plenty of fruit and oak tannins. I'm glad I have a few more bottles of this wine left cause I see myself enjoying this one again in 2-3 years.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tatachilla 2003 Keystone Shiraz-Viognier (Australia)

Decided on this wine after a day in Niagara ... usually on days where I go to or try wines from a specific region that night I like to have a glass from a region that's not even a hint close to the one I have been dealing with all afternoon. This Shiraz-Viognier from Australia seemed the perfect foible to all the Niagara based wines with their food friendly nature and high acidity. I was looking for big fruit, low acidty and maybe a hint of chocolate; what I ended up getting was a heck of lot more than I bargained for. The nose on this one is just a touch on the floral side (and I mean titch) with big pepper notes. On the palate big was the opportune word: big spice, big pepper, big wine (15%) ... fruit did start to emerge about an hour later, but it was too late to make a difference, the spices had already worked their magic.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Kaikan 2006 Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon (Argentina)

Many years ago I tried, what I believe, was one of the best Malbecs I had tried from Argentina, it was the Chilean winery Montes' Argentinean project called Kaiken and the wine was called Ultra - and it truly was (ultra). Since then I have watched as Kaiken has become it's own name and brand and has now also come into the Ontario market as a Vintages Essential product, meaning it is available all the time, the Ultra is still a once in a while item but the Reserva is readily available, and quite tasty. So imagine my surprise (happily) when I saw that the Ultra was coming back, but this time instead of the Malbec we were going to meet his brother, Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon (being released this weekend at Vintages - Nov. 21, 2009). I have acquired a bottle early so that I can drink it before most people even line up tomorrow morning. The wine is rich and fruity on the nose with plenty of blackberry and black cherry to go around. The palate likes to focus on the spiciness of this wine instead of the intense fruit the nose seems to hone in on, all the while we deal with some pretty firm, yet flexible tannins on the tongue. I still think the Ultra line is one of the best to come out of Argentina and I'm glad to see another varietal being used ... this is one big wine (14.5%) that needs a big glass or some decanting (or if you have it, some time). I'm also a big fan of the dark chocolate finish. Drink up.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ironstone Vineyards 2005 Old Vines Zinfandel (California)

Dear Lord ... when will wineries learn that plastic corks are not the best seal for a bottle of wine. When will they realize that they are taking perfectly good wine and ruining it, especially for those of us who have a wine cellar and time to age their creation. Tonight I pulled a bottle of old vines Zin out of the cellar in the hopes of enjoying it was some salmon (not a perfect pairing but what the heck). I had a heck of a time getting the capsule off the neck of the bottle because the underside was coated with a brownish tar, better known as leaked out wine. The culprit I could see, once I had removed the welded on plastic, was that the wine had leaked up the cork, coated the seal and seeped down the sides. I then saw that the offending cork was of the plastic variety and I shook my head sadly. The smell of long ago dried wine rose up from the neck and the capsule. I struggled to open the bottle (another drawback to plastic) and finally was able to dislodge the cork. The smell coming out of the glass was grapey, raisiny and sweet caramel; plum later emerged, but all sickeningly sweet. The palate was the proof of this spoiled pudding, oxidized sweet fruit slightly sherried and a touch of spicy on the finish, which has now (30 minutes later) disappeared and been replaced with the Sherry quality of sweet plums. I had about a half glass before it became to sickeningly sweet to stomach. So please Lord, let the wineries know that plastic cork just ain't cool.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Torbreck 2004 Old Vines Granache-Shiraz-Mourvedre (Australia)

Night 2 of my Gewurztraminer Challenge and I pulled out another special bottle for the "staff". Torbreck is one of my favourite Aussie producers (others that come to mind off-hand include Gemtree and Thorn-Clarke, but that's not what we're here to talk about right now). This was a bottle of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre, otherwise known as GSM. The wine was under screwcap so I was not worried about corked or oxidized wine, but what poured out of the bottle was lighter in colour than I remember; of course that's what 5 years (from vintage date) will do to a red wine. The nose was fabulous, with plenty of red fruit and berry smells that grabbed the nose and lured you into the glass. Unfortunately, the palate did not deliver on all those wonderful red berries, it fell just a tad short, instead there were dried raspberries with licorice notes through the mouth and the finish was loaded with minerality and dried herbs ... hmm, interesting. The palate was very smooth and it did open a little the longer it sat in the glass, but it never did develop the fruit that the nose alluded it would have.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Robert Mondavi 2005 Private Selection Vinetta (California)

What other "boss" is going to let you drink on the job ... I would, but that's probably why I'm not in management. On the nights of my Grape Challenges, I usually bring in a pre-wine for my "staff" to enjoy. I usually pick something I know they haven't tried like a wine purchased in the U.S. (and not available here) or something that is only available through private order. Tonight, on the first night of my Gewurztraminer Challenge, I opted for this Robert Mondavi meritage (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc), the first meritage made at the house of Mondavi (hard to believe), and currently only available stateside. Someone pointed out that the nose was much sweeter than the taste, and sure enough they were right. The nose was sweet fruited with black raspberry, cherry and black currants. But the nose deceived when it came to the taste, which was not only dry, but had flavours not hinted at through the nose: black raspberry and cherry for sure, but there was a prominent hit of smoky licorice that carried right through to the end.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Vina Cobos 2007 Felino Cabernet Sauvignon (Argentina)

Today was one of those LONG days ... it began at the same time every other day for me begins (6 AM), I did much the same with my morning that I always do ( I posted some stuff to my blog, including a dinner at Bb33 and a Portuguese wine tasting); then it was off to teach class in the afternoon, and then to a glassware tasting in north Toronto, and finally a slow ride home, all the while wondering what to have for dinner. On my way home I decide to stop at the LCBO and pick up a few bottles of this beauty of a Cab from Argentina, which is made in conjunction with California winemaker Paul Hobbs. Now if this were a Cali-Cab by Mr. Hobbs it would fetch probably triple what it does; but because it is from Argentina it is still good value at under $20. The nose is rich and ripe with big black fruit notes along with chocolate, vanilla and spice. The palate shows the same kind of flair for flavour - big black fruit, loads of spice with chocolate and vanilla around to smooth things out. In fact, on the palate, the big hit on the tongue was spice, followed by the fruit and then the bit players already mentioned come around to smooth things over. This wine should improve even further over the next five years, so I will revisit it at some point I am sure (I bought 3 bottles). For now it is extremely enjoyable, but a word to the wise, watch out, that 14.7% alcohol, it can really sneak up on you ... so now it is time to bid you all a good night, I'm ready for bed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bodegas Castano 2007 La Casona Old Vines Monastrall (Spain)

If there is any justice in the world of wine you're now looking at a review of the new FuZion, right here, right now. Sure it's a buck-fifty more than a bottle of FZ (based on the $7.45 price tag here in Ontario) but you're definitely getting more than a buck-fifty worth of wine here - much more; and of course when I am talking "new Fuzion" I mean popularity-wise. La Casona comes from Bodegas Castano, the winery that makes the lovely Hecula, which is already a good value wine at $14.95; but here the house of the old-vines-wines brings us a value we can all wrap our palates around, and, most importantly, can easily afford. The nose is black currant, blackberries with plenty of spice - as the wine aerates (opens up) a strong raspberry component begins to emerge. That raspberry continues on the palate along with black fruit, spice and a nice peppery-ness. There's also plenty of acidity that'll help it accompany plenty of different kinds of meat (try it with your favourite), as well as a simple sipper on its own. I have my case, hope you grab yours, before everyone learns just how good this Spanish value is.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lammershoek 2008 Straw Wine (South Africa)

Tonight was kind of a special evening, I wandered out to the Wine Establishment on the Esplanade to meet up with Eleanor Cosman (Bokke Wines, who specialize in South African wines) and Carla Kretzel (of Lammershoek, a winery from South Africa) to try "something special". When I got there there was a small (375ml) unassuming looking bottle on the counter and four glasses. It was a Straw Wine made from 85% Chenin Blanc and 15% Harslevelu (the grape of Tokaji, Hungary's sweet dessert wine), but this is something special and unique. Instead of the traditional drying on mats Lammershoek winemakers harvest the grapes at regular time then hang the grapes like laundry from a trellis system. The usual way to dry these grapes was on mats, but the problem with that method was rot, with no air movement the grapes didn't dry properly; the new way, air circulates, drying the grapes thoroughly and evenly, till they're the size of raisins and the sugars become more concentrated. Then the grapes are pressed (giving approximately one drop's worth per raisiny grape) and then wild-yeast-barrel-fermented for about 6 months in old barrels, that impart little to no flavour to the wine. Turns out this is a very limited production wine (~2000 375ml bottles) because the trellising system can only accommodate 10 tons of grapes and their are only 2 hectares of "Harsh" grapes available - plus both grapes come from vines that are 40+ years old, thus yields are naturally low. So with all this background information the real test is taste and smell.

The wine, when swirled coated the glass. Aromas of all things honeyed emanated, like apricots, pears, peaches and lychee; there was also brown sugar and caramel notes wafting up from the glass - for a guy with a sweet tooth like mine this boded well. In the mouth, the wine was thick yet smooth with very honeyed flavours, tasting almost like watered down honey, along with raisin and sweet tropical candied fruit notes and just a hint of spice. The wine thoroughly coated the mouth (as it did the glass) and left a long, lingering, persistent finish behind - so much so that minutes later I was licking my cheeks and still tasting the delicious residue. Everybody (5 people) were saying how it was too sweet to drink more than a splash in the glass - I took seconds and almost thirds, why not, not only was it tasty it only had 10% alcohol. Yum ... I would have had thirds, but that's just seemed gluttoness from such a small bottle.