Thursday, December 31, 2009

Kaiken, Moet and Southbrook on New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve 2009 ... It was a night of family and movies, and wines, some worked, some did not. My first attempt to get the evening rolling was with a few wines that were in my fridge, a Chardonnay, a mixed fruit wine, a couple of Meads (I withhold the names to protect the innocent), nothing seemed to spark this rather tough crowd and all found their was down the drain quickly. It was not till I got serious with my selections that everyone started to enjoy. Kicking things off I decided to go big or go home with a Kaiken 2005 Ultra Malbec from Argentina, this was a blockbuster with 14.5% alcohol and blackberries, spice and bramble ... went down smooth and easy with the first half of the film Public Enemies (Johnny Depp as John Dillinger); we also sampled assorted cheeses, sushi, crackers and other appetizers.

Next up, we ordered a simple pizza with extra cheese, pepperoni and half onions / half green pepper - to pair out came a bottle of Southbrook 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, which gave a little maturity to the evening. The film now over and eyes drooping all around we sipped on the remnance of the Southbrook wine while watching Elvis Costello interview Tony Bennett for to TV show Spectacle (I got the DVDs over Christmas).

Finally, it was all hands on deck and eyes wide open as we searched for a countdown to the New Year with a bottle of Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial Champagne ... the cork popped with not a drop lost of the precious nectar (it pays to be a professional at times like this). The nose was of fresh apple bread, the palate had a touch of sweetness, while the bubbles in the glass were persistent all the way till one in the morning, when we all decided enough was enough and sleep was of the essence. I took a few last sips and still found the wine to have the sweet lemon and pear finish that it had when it was first opened, with hints of mac apple through the mid-palate ... wonderfully quaffable for New Year's Eve; and a nice assortment of wines throughout.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Brazin Cellars 2007 (B)Old Vines Zinfandel (California)

Brazin is an apt term for this Zin, it was bold (as the name insinuates) and spicy, not the usual piece of fruity jam you get from Zin. It paired well with the Soyaki marinaded pork chops, but then I think this would have found a way to pair with light fish, it's just that Brazin. This wine had a spiced-plum aroma with nutmeg and vanilla-peppered raspberries, switching it up between the three with each subsequent swirl and sniff. The palate also had some interesting and ever-changing notes to it, though one constant was the load of spice and pepper; fruit-wise it was deep dark plum mixed with vanilla and sweet-cinnamon, there was even a little bite on the tongue. In the end I could boil this one down to two words: smooth and peppery. And also quite good.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Charles Shaw 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

Well I finally made it. Yup, I found my way to a Trader Joe's, home of Two-Buck-Chuck. I would have to say that Joe's has a pretty good wine section for a small store (at least the one I was in was small) yet the sign on the wall proclaimed over 60 wines under $10, or was that 90, heck I was so excited to be in the joint I can barely remember. Anyway, I picked up a bottle of this and a bottle of that while I was there, and you know I just had to grab a bottle of Chucky. They had two reds (Cab and Syrah) and two whites (Sauv Blanc and Chardonnay) and so I went with the wine that has defined California, Cabernet Sauvignon. We had it on Cheap Chicken night (Sunday), while relaxing and watching the Lethal Weapon series (all 4 movies in one day). Actually the chicken wasn't cheap, but it was tasty (from a place called the Chicken Shack), Erica picked the chicken place and I picked the wine. I think on this night Erica won, the chicken was much better than the wine, with or without the food. The smell was very grapey, Welch's style grapey; the flavours were very much the same, almost sweet. The wine was nothing great, it was drinkable with dinner, but then again so would have been a glass of grape juice. But what can I really expect from a $3 wine (here in Michigan it costs three bucks, $2.99). In truth, I have tried Chuck's wine before, but this is the first bottle I have ever purchased myself, I find the wine to be hit and miss - it's kinda like those Bits n Bites commercials, next bottle whole new ball game.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Chateau Fontaine Cherry Wine (Michigan)

As promised, tonight is was Chinese food and a fruit wine, cherry from near Traverse City (Michigan's home of the cherry). While I was out and about traveling he highways and bi-ways of Michigan wine country I tried a lot of Cherry Wine, that's because cherries are a big thing in Northern Michigan. It seemed that every winery made a cherry wine, some from their own grown cherries and others from ones they purchase in the area. Those that were not good were either a sweet syrupy mess or just never followed through (from start to finish) with enough cherry flavour. Then I came across this one from Chateau Fontaine, I remember that owner and winemaker Dan told we why his was different, and I remember thinking to myself, "sure it's different". But it turned out that it was different enough for us to buy a bottle, and in truth it was the only cherry wine we bought, so we must have been impressed. Tonight with the holidays upon us and me looking for something interesting and special to pour, this seemed like the most likely candidate. Now there is no sense is me telling you what the wine smelled like, (it smelled like cherries: black and sour cherries), it's in the mouth that this wine really hooked us. It was very cherry through the palate, and although it says "semi-sweet" on the label the finish is dry and even has a little bit of a tannic backbone. This wine tasted exactly like biting into a fresh cherry; which is what I remember liking about this paticular cherry wine, it is very true to the fruit, right down to the finish, which is like sucking on the pit after most of the cherry has been chewed up and swallowed ... this wine offered the true cherry experience without the chewing.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bogle 2008 Riesling (California)

This night started with us watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory while sipping on a glass of this Bogle 2008 Riesling from California and waiting for the rest of my sweetie's family to show. The Riesling had a petrol and apple aroma - I was surprised to find so much petrol in a wine so young, it was pleasant for now but I don't see it staning up well to any kind of ageing. Taste was big on apple with lemon zest and a sprinkling of gasoline. Quite smooth, with very little acidity to get in the way and cause any kind of tart sensation, but there was a nice long finish. Once the family arrived I switched to red wine, and since I am the only wine drinker in the bunch I had to pick something I knew; and so amongst the Blue Moons, Bud Light Limes, Boone's Farm beverages and unlaced Egg Nog I drank a bottle of The Show 2006 (a wine I am a fan of). Tomorrow it's just Erica and I for dinner, we are having our traditional festive Chinese food dinner while watching Julie & Julia (that's the plan anyway), instead of the usual Riesling I have selected a local cherry wine for the occasion (thugh I have a Riesling on standby) - more on this experiment tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Renwood Winery 2005 Zinfandel Old Vines (California)

I have heard it said, from Zinfandel fans, that Amador County (in California) makes some of the best and most distinctive Zinfandels in the state. Tonight I tried this one with one of my favourite things to eat when drinking Zinfandel: number one on that list would be ribs, but coming in a close second is BBQ-sauce laced pulled pork. The pairing was quite nice, but before I even pulled an ounce of pork I tried the wine (after all, it was going into the sauce). The nose was full of spiced-plum, quite simple actually, but it was on the palate that the wine proved to be much more complex. Sure there was spiced-plum, but there was also vanilla-raspberries, and a minerality that proved quite refreshing. The finish kept its foot on the spicy aspect of the wine along with a nice bite from the acidity. Not the usual jammy, red berries and cola you find in a Zin, this one kicked it up a notch.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Chateau Grand Traverse 2008 Whole Cluster Riesling (Michigan)

This is my second, and last, bottle of this wine that I bought this summer while touring the northern part of Michigan State and its wineries (The review of first bottle can be found here). It has been almost exactly 6 months since I tried this wine at home and I would have to say it is even nicer now then it was back in June, juicier, more refined and perfectly integrated. The nose starts off lemony then it develops nice pear and peach pit aromas. Looking over my previous review I see a notation about minerality, and while it is there it has become more subtle and the sweet smell of pear has really taken over. The palate is lovely and well rounded; while the previous bottle may have been a little angular this one has really come into its own and has settled down nicely. There's lots of Bosc pear, a nice mineral seam throughout and great acidity; there's kind of a dichtomy here, where the sweetness is fighting with the tartness for supremacy over your mouth and together they make something lively, crisp and juicy. The medium length finish makes sure you don't soon forget the battle, and also look forward to them fighting it out again on the next sip.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dante 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (California)

Found a bottle of this while looking for fresh pasta sheets in Michigan; it was quite the harrowing journey actually ... I decided to make a replica of a dish I had a few weeks ago: Scallop Ravioli, and so I needed some fresh uncooked pasta sheets that I could fashion into circles and create round raviolis from. I thought it would be a simple task, afterall, I find myself in America, and you can find anything here - except, as it turns out, fresh uncooked pasta sheets. I went to 2 big grocery stores one day and 4 the next, each sent me somewhere else, till finally, at the Westborn Market the guy told me, "I know what you are looking for we buy them in bulk, but we don't sell them." I told him about my troubles and he kindly sold me half a dozen. But while at the market, and while to went in search of the sheets, I walked into the Westborn wine market and looked around, finding this bottle of Cab for under $10. I bought the pasta and the bottle, and now two days later I am trying the wine with a lasagna (Friday's Pinot Grigio was paired with the scallops). The wine was exactly as expected, juicy red fruit flavours with a little cinnamon, plum and dark chocolate. The alcohol was fairly robust at 14.5%, but hardly noticeable on either the nose or palate, and the finish was smooth and yummy. With a little time in glass the nose developd some very nice spiced blackberry notes while the palate remained true to the red fruit.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Estancia 2008 Pinot Grigio (California)

I have to tell you, it is nice to be in a country that takes its wine culture and wineries seriously. I am in Michigan for the holidays visiting my fiancee and her family (more the former than the latter of course). Each time I wonder into a wine store, supermarket, or froo-froo market (upscale fancy fruit market) I am confronted by a wine section, and inevitably I have to walk through it to check it out. Rows upon rows of US-based wines, mostly California, but I've seen New York, Michigan, Oregon and Washington wines as well - foreign wines are relegated to back shelves and hidden corners - domestic wines are pominantly displayed ... since I have been here (for about a week now) I have bought about 10 bottles of wine, only one has been from outside the US borders (Chile). Being from Canada (Ontario) this is unheard of because the LCBO puts the foreign wines in dominant locales while shunting the Ontario/Canadian wine into some out of the way corner. Of course this is all just pre-amble to what I had tonight, a Pinot Grigio from California. Now I am going to start by saying this wine is misidentified as a Grigio. To me, Grigio is a style, not just a name, wineries use it becuase it has become popular and easy to identify. Grigio is crisp and citrus in nature, while Gris is white fruit juicy ... This wine was very white fruit juicy giving up smells of apples and pears; the palate was also full of white fruit juiciness: mac apples, bosc pears all with a slightly tart-sweet finish, think a lemonade sweetness with a hint of tartness. Very nice wine, but to me not a Grigio.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Robet Modavi 2005 Private Selection Johannisberg Riesling (California)

It's fun to look through other people's wine collections to see what they have been amassing over the years. My fiancee is by no means a wine connoisseur or fan, "I have a glass with you but that's about it" she tells me, and sometimes she doesn't even finish the glass, usually a sign to me that she doesn't like it. Over the years I have come to know what she does like, big juicy California Cabs, Zinfandesl go over well, and fruity whites, namely Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, and especially Riesling. Tonight I wandered down to the basement in search of something interesting. Instead of looking at the reds, which I have mainly bought and store here (except for the 2003 Chianti - no idea where that came from) I veered my eyes over to the whites to see what she has ... lo and behold I found this bottle of Mondavi 2005 Johannisberg. The colour was golden yellow and glinted welcomingly in the glass. The smells were of peach, apple and honeydew melon mix that had a sprinkling of petrol. The taste was quite different honeyied tangerine and poached pear all with that hint of petrol ... quite lovely actually, and I know Erica liked it, she finished her glass.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

St. Francis Winery 2004 Red (California)

God how I hate the plastic cork. I know you have probably heard me say it a million times and I'll say it a million more until we eradicate this blight on the wine world. Go screwcap, pick better grade cork, go for agglomerates if you must, but please ditch the plastic cork. Tonight I opened a bottle of St. Francis Red (2004), a blend of Merlot, Cabernets Sauv and Franc along with some Zinfandel. Now usually I can blame myself a little for the degradation of the wine, I hold onto it and have no idea there is a plastic cork underneath the capsule (neck sheath). But this one I bought just a few months ago, so it's not like I held this for too long. Now, at first the nose had wonderful red fruit aromas, most prominent was a spiced-strawberry, that lured you into the glass very invitingly. The taste seemed funny at first swig (and second) so I dumped out the first glass and tried again. There is was again, it's a touch plastic-y and a bit oxidized with a slightly bitter/plastic finish. Mid palate there is red fruit, pepper and some spiciness, but not enough to make you forget the beginning or the end of this wine. And yes, there was a black plastic cork sealing the bottle.

Monday, December 14, 2009

L. Mawby - M. Lawrence "Wet" (Michigan)

I suspect that all wines could be described as 'wet', so the label of thisreally gives nothing away. While touring around Michigan this summer I discovered a great little winery called L. Mawby that just makes sparkling wine ... this is the place for all you bubbly fans who live in Michigan and the surrounding area. There they make wines in both the Cuvee Close method (big tank) and the traditional style (second fermentation happens in the bottle), and all done with a great deal of fun (Bob Marley plays in the background). Tonight we toasted a safe trip back to my fiancee's home state (Michigan) by opening this bottle of fizz. Made from Pinot Gris grapes this wine is fruity and a real pleasure to drink. Smells include toasted/baked apple and baked lemon curd; the taste delivers much the same with toasted bread, baked apple and, if you let it sit in the glass long enough, some poached pear; I can't fail to mention the toasty long finish. Delicious.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mission Hill 2006 Quatrain (British Columbia)

This is one of the Mission Hill big gun wines ... and I'm not just talking price, the bottle can be used as a door stop once the bottle is empty. These kind of bottles are usually the sign of a new world icon wine, and I would say this wine has an icon-like quality to it. The blend is dominated by Syrah (41%) with Merlot (32%) taking the second spot, the Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon make up the rest with 14 and 13 percent respectively. The word that most came to mind while drinking this wine was "peppery" - both the palate and the nose seemed to be loaded with it. Aromas of white pepper, black pepper and blackberries greeted the nose and stuck around for the liftime of the wine in glass. The palate also show signs of pepper but it proved more complex then the nose suggested: spice, plum, big black fruit flavours, and a smooth pepperiness. I also tried using a decanter with part of the wine and discovered the flavours of anise emerged on the tongue. The wine was easily summed up with these 4 words: Peppery mid, plum finish ... very enjoyable and approachable right now.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Korta 2007 Syrah (Chile)

I just finished giving a talk called "Gadgets, Gizmos and Games" to the Ontario Wine Society and returned to the house of the folks putting me up for the night. I always like to bring something along to share, and usually something that goes against the grain of what I have been sampling at an event; nothing can be as opposite from Ontario wine as Chilean. This Korta Syrah I have reviewed in the past, and liked it so much that I decided to share it with my friends at the Cozy Couch (where I was staying). This wine can be summed up quite simply as "juicy" - the fruit is blackberry, while the backers are vanilla and spice. The palate is smooth and lush and the nose is very inviting. A great wine to end the evening with.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gianni Gagliardo 2004 Le Serre Barolo (Italy)

Let me clarify something before everybody stars getting up my nose (again) ... yes, yesterday was my birthday and no I did not crack open an Ontario wine to celebrate. The fact is I cracked open 22 Ontario wines to celebrate, many of which will find their way into various blogs, newsletters and sites in the OntarioWineReview universe. But upon finishing that tasting I wanted to having something very special to celebrate my most recent milestone (another year). In so doing I opened a bottle of wine that I brought back from my trip to Italy, which occurred a little over a year ago. Now someone was aghast that I would open a bottle of Barolo so young, but I looked it up on the internet and learned that this particular wine was aged a mere 6 months in oak and if memory serves, 2004 was an okay (but not great) year in Piedmont. But even if I did not have that knowledge at my disposal, or access to the internet, I think my mind was made up: off the shelf came the bottle, out came my corkscrew and pop went the Cork (quite the pull considering the cork was a good 2 inches in length). The nose was quite inviting, I enjoyed sniffing at smoked, dried red fruit (like currants, cranberries and sour cherries) along with a slightly herbaceous/herbal aroma. The palate was smooth and spicy with good tannin structure and a long wood-driven finish that contained lots of spicy-herbal character and some hints of dried red fruits. After about an hour (or so) in the glass things got even better, as the wine smoothed out even more, slip-sliding down the throat oh so smoothly yet keeping the spicy herbaceous characters and tinges of dried fruits that I was delighting in. Happy birthday to me indeed, and a big thank you to all of you who wished me a good one in the process - especially on Facebook and in person. Cheers.

Monday, December 7, 2009

J. Lohr 2003 Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

Tonight's wine required something simple. I am heading out in about an hour or so to take in the Monday Night Football game with one of my best buddy's but he seems to enjoy rosés more than he likes any other wine (read: he only likes pink wines, not that there's anything wrong with that). His wife on the other hand likes white. When visiting friends some show up "cap in hand" I will be showing up with "booze in hand" (I suspect that might be why I am able to keep my friends), in hand will be one white and one pink. As for me I prefer a red and tonight I yanked this J. Lohr Cab off the shelf to enjoy a glass before heading out in the cold night (I will be walking). The wine proved to be very good: smooth, sweet and spicy with a woody dried fruit aftertaste. Smooth through the mouth, sweet on the mid-palate and spicy on the finish - the aftertaste is pretty self-explanatory.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Zonin 2000 Montepulciano D'Abruzzo (Italy)

So, after sipping on one of the more unique Ontario wines for most of the afternoon (the review of which will appear in my newsletter this coming Thursday as a "Something Special" selection), I decide it was time for something red. I went way back into my cellar (which is organized by year) and pulled out this Montepulciano D'Abruzzo. The nose smelled of leather and dried figs, while the palate also showed much leather (but the smooth and supple kind) and dried raspberry notes. I really enjoyed this wine and appreciated it for its age and how well it was drinking. My mother, who partook in this bottle with me this evening, was not a fan; she could not get past the leatheryness of the nose or the palate. She asked me if I would have enjoyed the wine if it were younger and still had these characteristic; I admitted to her that no I would not have enjoyed this wine if I knew it were younger because I would be expecting a heck of a lot more fruit. But because this wine is almost 10 years old it really is quite lovely for its age. Its all relative my friend, all relative.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Corte Zovo 2003 Sa' Solin Ripasso Valpolicella (Italy)

Valpolicella Ripasso is one of my favourite styles of wine ... for those of you who do not know what a Ripasso is I'll make this explanation as brief, but as informative, as I can: it is a wine that sits in between the fruitiness of Valpolicella and the heft of an Amarone, that's because a winery will take the skins from the Amarone wine (after the wine has been made) and "re-pass" it with some Valpolicella, causing a refermentation, pushing the alcohol up by a percentage and the flavour profile to be a little more robust. If you still don't get it all I can say is: that's what Wikipedia is for - or better yet, rush out to your nearest liquor store and request a good bottle, it usually runs about 20 bucks. Here's a bottle I bought for $15.95 back in 2007. The reason I picked it out was not anything too complicated, I saw the bright yellow capsule and decided that was the wine to have. The smells emanating from the glass are those of dried fruit and dark chocolate; in the mouth there's prunes, plums, more dried fruit, a hint of anise and yes, some bittersweet chocolate. I also found the acidity to be quite high. This wine has aged quite nicely and was great for sipping on.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cline Cellars 2004 Red Truck / Quinta do Infantado Ruby Port

Cline Cellars 2004 Red Truck ...
I started the night with a nice aged red and ended the night with a red that could age. Simple dinners almost always scream for interesting wines, and go with the most interesting of stuff. Tonight I pulled the cork (a real cork) on a bottle of Cline Cellars 2004 Red Truck, a blend of Syrah, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Mourvedre from California. When I lay this sucker down it was just a test to see what would happen to this juicy red fruited wine; and I would have to say my experiment paid off. The wine had become all smoky and spicy with black fruit, plum and anise notes on the sniffer. The palate also showed a bit of complexity, though the fruit took awhile to express itself, and even then it was faint. The flavours were mostly spice, pepper, pencil shavings and a peek-a-boo of red fruit; there were also still quite a bit of tannins here - but probably mostly from the wood. I thought it had aged to a very nice drinking level, but I wouldn't leave it much longer if you have any; looking at my cellar I have one left and that will be drunk soon. As for the dinner I mentioned: Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich with all the deli fixin's - bbq chips and cole slaw.

Quinta do Infantado Ruby Port ...
Later in the evening I decided a little dark chocolate was called for (85% Ecuadorian dark) and what goes better with that then a nice Port. I have been a fan of this Ruby since it entered the market in March of 2008, so much so I ended up buying 7 bottles of it (it sold out fairly quickly but it has never come back, too bad for you, not so bad for me - I still have quite a few bottles). This is a beauty of a Ruby Port with spiced-cherry, plum and chocolate notes of its own (but it paired with the 85% cacao). There is also quite a bite from the tannins and acidity, but considering you don't drink a bottle of Port in one sitting this will smooth over the next week and become luscious and silky through the mouth. Looking forward to experimenting with it over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Seven Daughters NV Winemaker's Blend (California)

Seven Daughters is a plain Jane, a simple Sheila type of wine ... the 7 Daughters in the bottle are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Syrah, Carignane, and Sangiovese - and with all those personalities you'd think that the wine would be overflowing with a personalities of its own, but in this case too many contributors spoil the broth. This is not to say it is a bad wine, it just lacks something to make it truly unique. The colour is light, slightly darker than classic Pinot Noir colour (would be my comparison). Smells are sweet candied red fruit with the merest hint of pepper. The taste follows the nose: candied red fruit with just a hint of spice or pepper (I think it's kind of a toss-up here). The wine is easy going, easy drinking and easy on every one of you five senses ... I wonder how easy the daughters were that made it? Or if any father it his right mind would want his daughters to be this easy? I recommend the wine but don't expect a lot of return on your investment.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Vina Ventisquero 2007 Root:1 Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile)

Tonight, I opened another bottle I picked up in the States. This wine intrigued me because it is called Root:1 and its claim is that the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that make up this wine are from ungrafted rootstock (which means they are original European vines). The front label goes on to explain why these vines are so unique and why Chile is such a unique place. I'll let you go out and find a bottle to get the whole story, but suffice it to say I was interested in trying the wine. The nose has some beautiful black fruit on it, cassis and currants with juicy blackberries taking a lead role. The palate is juicy and smooth with lovely black fruit and hints of pepper and spice. I'd have to say that the nuances of the original European rootstock alludes me, for the simple fact that I have never tried wines made from ungrafted grapes until now, so I have no idea what I would be looking for in a pre-phylloxera wine. I do know this is one juicy and delicious wine, and well worth the ten bucks I paid for it.