Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Black Hills Estate Winery 2008 Nota Bene (British Columbia)

What I`m drinking tonight has turned into `What I am Drinking this afternoon` - I decided to clean out the review buckets in my cellar and was tasting a number of Ontario reds for future reviews when I came across a cute little box from Black Hills Winery in British Columbia.  Inside I found two tubes, not bottles, literally test tubes of 2008 Nota Bene - the 10th Anniversary edition of this wine (a blend of the three big Bordeaux reds: Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon and Merlot).  Now, these test tubes were cute as a button and a great way to get wine to reviewers for tasting without having to waste a whole bottle ... only problem was getting into these tubes.  Although they were sealed with a screw cap the first one I tried would not loosen it just twisted and twisted and twisted ... I finally ended up putting two holes through the cap and shaking the wine out of the tube.  Glad I did, I`m sure this help aerate it a bit too (a lucky result of a bad beginning).  The nose was sweet with blackberries that just wouldn`t give up.  The palate had a lot more going for it: black cherry, cassis, cinnamon, vanilla and lots more - this was one sippable wine with complex flavours that came out with each additional sip, I would have loved to have spent more time with this wine, say a whole bottle`s worth, alas I have but one tube left and no time to fiddle with it, maybe later.  As for the wine I did have, delicious (4+ stars) ... a real winner.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Torres 2008 Infinite (Spain)

Found this wine while wondering around a Sam's Club in Utica, Michigan on Christmas Eve day.  I was going to bring it to the party that night but I had a beer recommended to me that I decided to give a go to instead.  This bottle made it back to Canada with me on Christmas Day and was opened that night with the most traditional of all holiday meals, Chinese food.  A blend of 85% Tempranillo with a 25% dash of Cabernet, the nose had lovely red and black fruit, a slight perfumed note and rich vanilla-spice.  The palate showed some real promise of laying it down for 5+ years, but with the flavours the way they were I could see why that would be a problem (you'd want to open it now); nice full flavour of black- and rasp- berry along with some really good silky tannin structure ... delicious cold (right out of the car trunk) and as it warmed up, even better.  The "Infitnite" on the label must be describing the finish, because it went on and on and on.  This was an amazing bottle, especially when you consider I paid 6 bucks for it.

Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat (USA)

It's Christmas Eve and I am spending it in Michigan with my wife and her family, I have no idea what small town I find myself in, although I drove here I just took direction, hope my passenger doesn't get too drunk for the ride home - I guess that's why we brought along the GPS.  The good news is that not too much was consumed this evening so getting home was no problem, but I was not going to risk my bottle of Torres wine on sub-par glass (just in case).  Instead I took my wife's niece's suggestion on an interesting beer to try.  So while those who sipped on the suds chose from the case of Coors Light, I sipped on this Cherry Wheat beer from Sam Adams.  I have to admit I am not a Sam Adams Boston Lager fan, or any of the few others I have tried from this brewery, but this really intrigued me.  While some who gave it a sip thought it tasted like cough syrup I thought it a little more delicate and easy than something as harsh as cough medicine.  If you have tried a wheat beer before you know that it's light and refreshing, add to that a hint of (Michigan) cherries, which show up on the finish, and you have a delicious beer to bring in the festive season ... I had a couple at the party and a few in the hotel room, I thought them very tasty and recommend it highly for those who like a touch of cherry-sweet refreshment.  I guess I should thank Erica's niece Danielle for the recommendation, she doesn't like wine but she's okay in my book for her beer of choice.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Coyote's Run 2009 Five Mile White (Ontario) and Something for Dessert (Portugal)

I reviewed this wine in the middle of November in the form of an audio Weekly Wine Note ( ... Tonight it was used for both cooking and drinking ... the onions found a new level of sweetness when the wine was used to saute them, then it found another life in the glass, next to the onions and a homemade burger patty.  Doesn't sound like a classic combination, but it was very good.  To finish off the evening I poured myself a sniff of a Ruby port I have had open on the "sideboard" for the last few months ... Feist Ruby was still lovely with bright red cherries and hints of spice.  Don't let people rush a well-made bottle of port ... these "drink now" styles can last a few months resting comfortably "on the bar".

Cline 2006 Sonoma County Syrah (California)

I think I buy a bottle of this every year, maybe 2, one to drink immediately and the other to lie down in the cellar.  First, it is a good bargain here in Ontario, a California Syrah of this quality for a mere 12.95, I know it used to be a buck cheaper but with inflation and the the difference in the dollar ... okay, so it must be inflation.  Anyway, I think this is one of the great bargains of our time.  This one is now 4 years from vintage date and still shows amazingly well.  The fruit is most definitely still there on the nose, mostly blackberry and black pepper; on the palate there's a nice spicy flavour with wild raspberries and a sprinkling of pepper.  Still a very nice wine, especially when you consider the price.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Domaine St. George 2004 Sonoma County Barrel Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Now I don't consider myself a very religious man, but if the good Lord don't want you to drink he can sure be very persuasive.  This afternoon's lunch was going to be a little bbq from the other day, paired with some coleslaw and a bottle of something a little more robust to pair it all with ... but that was not to be.  I spooned the slaw onto my plate, heated up the buns and then warmed up the pork ... everything tasted delicious, except for the wine.  I thought I'd pour myself a glass and enjoy lunch in front of the football game of the day (seems I had a choice of 4) ... but this was just a god-awful wine.  It's only 6 years from vintage date but the wine was bitter and sour and no amount of aeration could make this any better, it continued to be a nasty wine until half an hour later when I sadly disposed of it.  As I said, the good Lord giveth (the bottle of wine) and the good Lord taketh away (a nasty, undrinkable beverage) ... that's why I decided on a bottle of Port Credit brewery's Amber Ale as an alternative, and it did the job quite nicely ... maybe I'll try opening something else for dinner.

Paul Anheuser 2008 Schlossbockelheimer Konigsfels Riesling Kabinett (Germany)

I'm not going to dwell on the length of the name on this wine, nor will I be speaking a long time here about the flavours and smells of this wine.  What I want to say is that it is hard to argue about the German's choice of grape variety they hung their hat on, when they can do it so well.  This was a well made, very tasty, very minerally Riesling, that hit all the high points of what the grape offers with none of the low points.  And with only 8% alcohol you could drink this all day and all night with little in the way of side-effects.  And now with the use of screwcaps these wines are even more fresh and fantastic.  Great with Chinese food too - which is what I had for dinner.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Vina Calina 2001 Merlot (Chile)

This is the Kendall Jackson property in Chile ... or at least it was in 2001 ... a quick check of the website shows no mention of the American wine pioneer.  But here I am am with a bottle of 2001 Merlot and plain as day the name Kendall-Jackson appears at the bottom of the front label.  Here's another older bottle in my collection with a plastic cork (arggh!), but instead of simply a plastic capsule the bottle is also sealed with a wax top ... maybe, just maybe, this saved this wine from complete spoilage (as I have found most plastic sealed wines do with age).  When first opened the nose was more burnt then anything: burnt plum and toffee smells leap from the glass ... as time passed there were smells of dried sweet fruit like blackberry and blueberry, all with that hint of burnt-ness to them.  The palate was intriguing with slightly peppered dried black fruit, a tad sweet on the tongue, with the definite tastes of smoked black raspberry.  This wine was port like through the mouth and Sherry-like on the finish ... lots going on, some good, some bad, but enough good to drink and enjoy.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Inniskillin East West Series Wines (Canada)

Back in 2002 Vincor released a couple of wines called "Unity", a brilliant plan of blending wines from both wine coasts of Canada (British Columbia and Ontario), but that was the only year that they did it, and since then many have been asking themselves whatever happened to that initiative. Well the name Unity has been co-opted by Jackson Triggs for their new Cellared in Canada wines (but I refuse to get into that issue here); what I want to do is praise Inniskillin (still part of Vincor) for picking up the mantle of this great idea and once again trying to bring the 'coasts' together with their East/West Series of wines.  I had opportunity to try them tonight and have to say they are delicious wines.  Now, in these days of terroir and single vineyard driven wines, this is not what the purists want to see, because we are talking about combining two very different locales together to make one seemingly homeless wine.  But in actuality Inniskillin has created a true Canadian wine, one that deserves the word "Canada" on the label (not like that Cellared in Canada crap - okay that's my political rant for the moment).  

As for the wines I tried there was the 2009 Riesling-Gewurztraminer and the 2008 Merlot-Cabernet.  The Riesling-Gewurzt is broken down thusly: the Riesling is from Ontario and Gewurztraminer from British Columbia.  A fresh, crisp, quaffable wine with pear, peach, a touch of apricot and some floral-soapiness from the Gewurzt that provides a nice lift and spiciness to the presentation in the mouth along with some cleansing acidity ... lovely.  I rated it four stars out of five.

Next, was the 2008 Merlot-Cabernet: Merlot from Ontario, and the Cabernets (Franc and Sauvignon) from the West Coast.  This makes for another fine example in the glass.  The nose is smoky with notes of cassis and black raspberry while the palate had some pronounced raspberry with nice spice and some blackberry ... this is a very good wine and rated 4 stars+ out of 5.
All in all I thought these wines whose time has come again, thankfully, I just hope Inniskillin is smart enough to keep them around.  Kudos.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

6 Bottles, Mixed Results (Germany / New York / Spain / France)

Friends came over for a dinner of Pulled Pork with all the fixins (coleslaw, buns, potatoes, etc.) ... minus Zinfandel, which would have made an awesome pairing.  Instead I picked out a big Spanish red called Cellar Acustic 2008 Acustic, a blend of Grenache and Samso (Carignan) that was full of fruit and spice ... which made for a perfect pairing.  But before we got onto that we started with a bottle of German Sekt (be careful how you ask for this kind of wine, you could get slapped) ... a Riesling Sekt by Fitz was a great starter because it was fresh and fruity with great Riesling qualities to it, and bubbles; what could be wrong with that?  Next up, a bottle of Freedom Run 2007 Pinot Noir from New York ... this was a hit and miss bottle for me, the nose was inviting while the palate left something to be desired.  This was the bottle brought over by friends and they said they thought it good but better from barrel, which is where they tasted it for the very first time.  Light on fruit but passable.  The Acustic was a hit and then we moved onto a former favourite of mine: Sauvion 2008 Les Bosquets Vouvray ... this one has a plastic cork, which shows a total lack of respect for the consumer from the winery, if you make a fantastic wine like this and then seal it in plastic you might as well be serving it in a paper Dixie cup.  This wine could have aged and been great but now I have to drink my bottles quickly and hear comments like, "this has a funny after-taste of cheese and a lack of acidity."  Amazing what 6 months can do to a wine sealed under plastic, this used to be a fresh, fruity wine with balanced acidity and a hint of sweetness, now look at it, a shadow of its former self.  For dessert a bottle of PX Sherry from Alvear (1927 solera) - to die for is all I can say about this one.  Finally, sitting in the living room the masses cried out for one more, and I obliged them with the always popular 2005 Bodegas Castano Hecula, good fruit, pepper, spice and still going strong 5 years from vintage date.  Perfect end to a delightful evening.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Columbia Crest 2001 Grand Estates Syrah (Washington)

Oh, this was so close to being a good wine that I must have spent a good hour trying to make it so, but alas, the cork finally got the better of it.  That's right, this wine was ever so slightly corked.  It started with a whiff of the wine in glass, something was just a little off, but when swirled it came out, but it was not too intense.  I gave it the benefit of the doubt, sniffing other glasses, thinking maybe I had a contamination issue in a glass or two (nope).  Then I sipped on the wine and you could just make out the fruit, but when I put some air through it, voila, there was that cork smell again.  Drat.  Ever so slightly corked on the nose, while the palate showed a dumbness of fruit ... but it was so slight.  Where it really showed the taint was on the finish, the aftertaste had that corkiness in spades (wet newspaper, damn moldy basement).  I did manage to drink a glass of it (cork taint can't hurt you, just the wine).  By not swirling or aerating the wine in the glass or in the mouth, and by doing so you could just make out what the wine was suppose to be, the finish took those impressions away but this would have been a great wine and one just hitting its stride, had a bad cork not taken charge ... I am hugely disappointed.

Darting 2006 Riesling Spatlese Ungsteiner Herrenberg (Germany)

A little spicy Mexican.  A little Riesling.  This seemed like a nice combination on this cold winter evening ... and by bringing Mexico here there was no risk of getting shot, drinking bad water or having our hotel explode (though a little methane in never out of the question).  Add in a little sweetness and you have the cooling sensation of Riesling paired with a nice spicy dish.  Not a bad combination indeed.  This Riesling proved to be good before, during and especially after dinner - and with that wind howling outside it added a bit a warmth to the room and to our insides.  The nose sang with sweet honeyed peach, a touch of floral, some kiwi and a hint of petrol.  The palate was simple but delicious, offering us a taste of honey dipped apples with a long cheek-sucking finish.  Good acidity kept this from being cloyingly sweet; so as Goldilocks would say, "it's just right."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Woop Woop Wines 2006 The Black Chook (Australia)

I am constantly trying out wines on my wife, she is primarily a white wine drinker and I would classify myself as a red drinker - though I enjoy the occasion white also.  The interesting part of that statement is this:  each time I promise her "something special" she automatically thinks white while I'm thinking a red she might like.  Tonight she whipped up a very nice recipe-book-dinner (something she found in a book and wanted to try it out) - I provided the wine, "something interesting".  Her mind immediately went white, mine knew it was red.  Anyway here's the outcome: the Black Chook is a Shiraz-Viognier blend that is still very tasty.  The nose is red and black fruited with pepper, cassis and vanilla-blueberries lingering in the background.  The palate is also still very nice with black pepper, a touch woody at the beginning, vanilla and plum with hints of mint-cocoa on the mid-palate to the finish ... as it opens further the wood slowly disappears and develops more red berries and a long anise finish.  I thought it was very good, my wife did not think it looked white enough for her liking.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Leopard Frog 2004 Tantra then an Old Credit Amber Ale (South Africa / Ontario)

When I tried this wine many moons ago I was enthralled with it, a delicious blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot from South Africa ... it was during the Sante event in Toronto and South Africa was the "host country".  Winemaker David Powell was in and he was incredibly engaging, and without modesty, as he told us why he named the wine Tantra (something to do with making love to his wife).  The wine was quoted to us as being worth $60, many thought he said "sixteen" - which was a steal - but that myth was quashed when they handed us the notes from the day and saw that it was indeed a 60 dollar bottle of wine (the LCBO decided to sell it for $23 - don't ask, as I didn't, I just bought a few quickly).  Of course this is all preamble to me opening this wine on this particular Saturday with MY wife ... my modesty will prevail here.  On the menu was some pretty simple chicken with a couple of side dishes, one of which were French Fries.  I looked forward to popping the cork on this wine so I did so right as dinner was served.  The nose was fantastic, black fruit with a little pepper and a really nice herb component; I couldn't wait to take a sip.  Peppery notes were at the fore of the tongue, but then something strange occurred, that usual tarry-earthy sensation that you get in young South African wines was here in spades, there was no hint of it on the nose but the palate was loaded with it ... it tasted dirty.  Still very tannic but also very dirty ... I could not mask my disappointment, I gave it an hour, sampling it every 10 minutes and it never got better, it fact it continued in its dirty ways ... I do not remember this wine having this characteristic those many moons ago, and checking my notes from the past I see it did not; what happened?  Anyway, we moved onto something else,instead of a wine we quaffed some Old Credit Amber Ale ... now that was good.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Juan Gil 2006 Monastrell - White Label (Spain)

I am a fan of Juan Gil, I make no bones about it, and I can tell you a story to prove it.  I always thought of myself as a Juan Gill fan because each time I saw the name on a bottle of wine I knew I was going to enjoy what was in it.  But sometimes you second guess yourself ... is it all subliminal, I see the name therefore I like the wine even before you try it.  But here is my story that showed me otherwise:  One day while shopping in the USA I came across a Spanish wine for 7.99 called Wrongo Dongo (silly name to be sure), but I tried it anyway and I ended up liking it enough to buy two bottles.  When I got it back to the hotel I looked at the back to see who the producer was, wouldn't you know it, it was made by Juan Gil ... So I guess I like their wines with or without pre-determined label knowledge.  Tonight I opened a Juan, a 2006 Monastrell from the Jumilla region, peppered raspberries on the nose led to spiced red fruit on the palate, still with nice tannin bite and good acidity ... it also paired well with chicken and pasta ... I guess I am just Juan Gil-ty guy when it comes to liking Juan Gil wines..

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Julian Chivite 2004 Gran Feudo Reserva (Spain)

For those of you who are part of the Facebook generation you know it is my birthday today - I find myself in Toronto because I have some work and a couple of tastings to attend.  So while in Toronto I find myself at mom and dad's place for a couple of evenings.  Mom "found" a bottle of Gran Feudo Reserva in the basement amongst her wines, and she was amazed to still have a 2004 in her collection thus she decided that this is the wine we should celebrate my birthday with: a blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from the Navarra region of Spain.  Upon opening the wine was very black earth aromaed with hints of spice.  As it opened fruit began to waft up into the nose, smells of black raspberry, cassis and lots of pepper (achoo!).  The palate was smooth with very little in the way of tannins but there was plenty of pepper, a bit of earth and ... the wine was gone long better the fruit showed up on the palate.  Very pleasant and really enjoyable, super smooth and easy drinking, but you have to like pepper.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

JanKris 2004 Tres Ranchos Paso Robles Zinfandel (California)

Imagine putting salmon on the plate and serving a Zinfandel ... well that is precisely what I did tonight - Italian salmon with an aged Zin ... and truth is it was lovely.  Now I am not going to blow smoke up your rear end (no matter how much you like it) and tell you it was the greatest pairing on earth, but it sure wasn't as bad as one might assume.  As for the wine, this was one of those Zins I specially ordered from the winery direct and had shipped to another state where I picked it up and brought it home - it is a shame we can't just order direct from the winery here in Canada, heck we can't even do it cross-country, forget ordering from south of the border to our door.  Anyway, the nose is ripe with plums, raspberry and vanilla, the palate duplicated the aromas with a spicy medium length finish and as the wine opened the spice finish disappeared and turned more raspberry and vanilla ... delicious.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

South Africa Wine Up the Ying Yang (South Africa)

Tonight, I attended the South Africa Wine Society's (SAWS) annual holiday dinner, food was decent, the people I met were fun and entertaining, but not as entertaining as their keynote speaker (who happened to be me) ... As a wine writer I was very interested in the wines being poured.  As I admitted in my address, on the whole I am not a huge fan of South African wine, I have liked quite a few, but many others have left me very cold with a bitter taste in my mouth.  So tonight I wanted to see what the SAWS drinks: do they bring in and sample only the best?  Turns out it was a very Graham Beck-centric evening, but their cellar was raided for some real gems.  

We opened with a selection of Graham Beck LCBO general list wines that will soon be de-listed ... what a crime because the 2009 Chardonay/Viognier blend is absolutely delightful - now granted, not for a cold fall evening, but a real pleasure for hot days in summer, I hope this one comes back.  Next we toasted the evening with a Graham Beck Non-Vintage Brut, the nose was loaded with toasted almond biscotti while the palate had the lightly sweet flavour of almond biscotti, all it was missing was the crunch.  Next up, the dinner wines both from 2002: Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir and Graham Beck The Joshua.  The Pinot was downright nasty:  too old, no fruit, lousy smell - I took a sip just to see if nose and palate did not match-up, but they did ... "waiter, more water".  The Joshua was a totally different story. A Shiraz/Viognier blend that was sublime:  white pepper and cassis on the nose was followed by pepper, cassis, a hint of tar and some burnt toffee notes that replayed in the mouth as it lingered there ... yum (best wine of the evening - if I wasn't speaking I could see myself getting loopy on this one).  

Finally, a Graham Beck 1999 Blanc de Blancs; first bottle was corked and even after I pointed it out to the table many continued to drink it and love it, forewarned is forearmed, but some people just don't understand - of course glassware would have made a difference but I hold out little hope that a banquet hall with invest in good glasses.  A fresh glass was poured for me and it really was a beautiful wine, smells of Dulce de Leche on toast with a palate that proved to be quite nutty with hazelnuts and some baked apple.  Lovely.  

Thanks to the South Africa Wine Society for having me tonight, I had a great time, I hope they did too.  To see pictures of the evening might I suggest heading over to my friend Andy McCraw's website, he's the official photographer of the SAWS, though I think he has doctered the pictures of me to make me look bigger.

Friday, December 3, 2010

StoneHedge 2008 Reserve Amador County Zinfandel (California)

I know that my wife likes white wine, but every so often I try to entice her with a red.  I think I had her with this one, a Zinfandel from Amador County in California.  The nose was smoked plum and spiced-vanilla-cola - she did say that it smelled nice (point for me).  The tannins had some bite but they were not mouth drying or overpowering, they seemed to be just right as the palate proved to be juicy with flavour, there was spiced cherry, some plum, cinnamon and vanilla with a delicious spiced plum linger on the finish - she said she liked the taste (another point, that makes two).  But to win my wife over I need 3 points: the smell, the taste, and the finished glass (if she asks for more that's where I get into bonus points).  As it turns out she left about half the glass of wine unfinished, she drank some but she was not so wowed as to drink it all, "I prefer to chew my calories not drink them" she often says; it's a difference in fundamental philosophy I guess.  But tonight I Meatloafed the evening, because as Mr. loaf once sang, "Two out of three ain't bad" and I'll gladly chalk it up to a victory.  As for the wine, I had two glasses and enjoyed each and every sip.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Marquis Philips 2008 Shiraz (Australia)

Talk about a wine that just oozes sweetness, this Marquis Philips hits all the right notes. This is a really fruity piece of work that works well on its own.  The nose is full of black and blue berries, pepper and dark cocoa while the palate is blackberry juicy with a slight hint of pepper ... what makes it sweet is the 16% alcohol - so it is easy to say that after 2 glasses all was right in the world.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Delaroche 2003 Pinot Noir - Bolla 2008 Valpolicella (France / Italy)

Tonight I was making a Panko encrusted Mahi-Mahi with saffron mustard glaze ... seems that I have been watching too much Food Network of late ... anyway, I thought I needed a light red wine for the occasion, Pinot Noir seemed the right way to go.  So off to the cellar I went and found an Anne Delaroche 2003 Pinot Noir from Corsica ("L'ile de Beaute"), popped the cork and poured the wine.  Not sure what is going on with me of late but I am finding all the corked wines in my collection at the same time.  The level of corkiness on the nose was subtle at first, and the wine itself was bland on the palate; I opened something else (see below) and revisited the wine an hour later - as I have long discovered a corked wine will get worse when exposed to air and this one was absolutely nasty, with a capital 'N' by the time the hour was up (ed. note: By the next morning it was downright foul).  So it was on to something else, a light, fruity and enjoyable Bolla 2008 Valpolicella - this one had the goods.  The nose was raspberry, cherry and cranberry cocktail, while the palate delivered a raspberry-cranberry kick with good acidity and a lovely lingering finish.  From bad to way better in two corks or less ... usually if I find three bad bottles in one night I defer to beer, thankfully it didn't get to that tonight because the pairing proved to be delicious.

Friday, November 26, 2010

American Thanksgiving Comes to Canada (Ontario / California)

I have an American wife who works in the USA, therefore she had Thursday off for the American Thanksgiving holiday - she dressed it up with all the fixin' and invited a few friends over for our first Thanksgiving north of the border:  turkey, sweet potato casserole, green bean salad, mash potatoes, pumpkin pie and brownies ... afterward we all sat on the couch (sofa, chesterfield, whatever it is called these days) bloated and full and watched, of all things, Toy Story 3 - with a 4 year old in the room football doesn't always keep their attention.  Anyway, wine did play a part in the day, as you would suspect.  

Started everybody off with Palatine Hills new vintage of Juliette sparkling wine - crisp and delicious ... then cracked the cap on a bottle of Hillebrand 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, this just might be the best Sauv Blanc made in Ontario from the 2009 vintage, the price point was excellent ($14.05) and the wine is developing so well, peach has been added to the flavour profile of grapefruit, grass and lemon, still with great acidity.  Finally, I popped the cork on a bottle of La Crema 2006 Sonoma County Pinot Noir ( it was afterall American Thanksgiving, had to throw their wineries a bone somewhere) - it went well with the turkey, though the fruitiness of the wine is starting to fade.  Also had the opportunity to retry some of the Cattail Riesling Clonal series wines and a sneak peak at the new reserve red from Nyarai Cellars.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Can't teach Old Wines New Tricks (France x2)

I do some teaching for the Toronto District School Board on the subject of wine and last night, for the last class, some of my students brought in some old wines to try.  One was a bottle of 1999 Croft Late Bottled Vintage Port, that had been left open for 3 years - this one I did not touch, though the smell was no longer Port but of Sherry.

One of my more adventurous students, we'll call him "G" for the sake of passing out monikers and to protect the innocent for what I am about to say, had brought in some old stuff before, with poor results.  Again G brought in a bottle that was from his father's basement (I think that is what he said), a 1978 Michel Couvreur Cote du Rhone Chateau de Fonsalette Rouge ... a red blend from the South of France.  He had two bottles of this elixir with him and both were very pale in colour.  The first bottle had no cork, it had fallen into the bottle.  The wine was brownish red in colour and smelled and tasted like Sherry with a Fino finish ... the second bottle did not fair any better, although it still had its cork in the neck ... in fact, I believe it was worse.

The jewel in this impromptu tasting crown was a bottle of Moet & Chandon 1983 Dom Perignon ... somethng we were all looking forward to trying.  It was brought in by "M", who has two other bottles, one from 1990 and another from 1996.  There was no pop as the cork was removed, barely even a whisper from the cork as it was wiggled out of the bottle and when poured there was little in the way of bubbles in the glass - but there were a few.  The smells were burnt: burnt toast, burnt caramel, burnt almonds.  The taste was not much better, burnt to a crisp nuts and caramel and an absolutely foul aftertaste.  This had clearly gone from a toasty aromas and flavours in its youth to completely burnt in its old age.  When I asked M about the wine there was an admission that the wine was not stored under optimal conditions: in a cabinet on the main floor of her house maybe near some sunlight and no air conditioning back in 86,87 or 88 when it was received as a gift and locked away into its hidey-hole cubby.  Oh well, nothing ventured nothing gained.  I am told M might break open the other two bottles for Christmas and New Year's respectively - if she is reading, might I suggest having a couple of back up bottles on hand, just in case - I suspect you'll need them.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Liberty School 2005 Syrah (California)

A long day staring at other people's wines makes you want to have a glass of your own.  I spent the day in a couple of wine cellars doing inventory and by the time I got home I felt like something to drink ... but I was also feeling finicky about what - I did not want something I have had before, I wanted something new and intriguing - so I found a bottle of Liberty School 2005 Syrah that seemed worth trying.  The nose was very dark with licorice, cassis and cinnamon notes - as the wine opened in the glass it developed some chocolate and raspberry notes as well.  On the palate black pepper, creme de cassis, more licorice and a tad toasty ... pleasant enough ... though I have to admit, I was in one of those moods that even a great wine would not have been deemed as so-so.  It happens.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wallace, again and a Ventozelo Reserva Port (Australia / Portugal)

After a date with the Vineyard Vixens on Saturday afternoon in Ottawa (I hosted a Schott Zwiesel glassware tasting for them), it was time to relax in the hotel before dinner.  I opened a bottle of Ben Glaetzer's 2008 Wallace, which I have previously mentioned on this blog - great wine with gobs of fruit and plenty of sweetening alcohol, not for the faint of heart.  Later took a cold stroll to dinner to a place called the Grand, which served Italian cuisine, quite well might I add.  The party I was with enjoyed the wood-oven fired thin-crust pizzas while I wrapped my palate around a piece of very passable lasagna (made fresh by "mamma" twice a week).  They had a beer on tap I had never heard of called a "Kronnenberg Blanc" (from France) - I have had Kronnenberg before but never the Blanc- which was a light summer type white beer (almost see through) with citrusy flavours.  Finally, back to the hotel for a  nightcap and the hockey game, Leafs / Habs is always entertaining, especially when my Habs win 2-0.  Not sure how many folks sit and watch a hockey game with a glass of Port, but it isn't a bad combination.  Opened a bottle of Quinta de Ventozelo Porto Reserva, this was a little disappointing as it lacked the viscosity expected from Port, it was light and thin in the mouth, though the nose had everything a Port drinker looks for: cherries, chocolate, plum, touch of spice - but the palate did not deliver ... too bad, at least the Habs won (first time they have shut the Leafs out in Montreal still 1977).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Alain Jaume 2007 Rasteau "Les Valats" (France)

Picking out a wine I am interested in is fairly easy (it just has to say "wine" on the label); picking one out the whole family will enjoy is another story.  So tonight I threw caution to the wind as I headed over to mom and dad's for dinner with some cousins also invited ... if family was coming I had to go with the hard stuff (at 14.5% alcohol that's pretty hard).  South a France (Rhone) is always a good selection, and just in case people had questions it's good to go with a blend of grapes one can explain (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) instead of some oddball blend that'll take up most of the dinner to discuss their origin (you don't want to bore folks, even if they seem interested when they ask).  As luck would have it the wine was all mine (mom had a glass too) because everybody opted out of wine and headed straight for the water ... too bad this one was really very good.  At first the wine was closed and had little in the way of smell or taste, but some 30 minutes in this wine opened up delivering spiced red fruit on the nose.  The palate was even better, still spiced with a shaker full of tannins but also with dark fruit: blackberry and cassis, licorice and pencil shavings.  Very tasty ... the nose continued to open and by the time the last mouthful was taken that red fruit popped out ofthe glass and into the nose.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lapostolle Merlot 2003 ... Senetiner Malbec 2001 (Chile / Argentina)

Is it old, corked or just woody?  That is the question I am faced with this evening as I have opened a bottle of Casa Lapostolle Reserve Merlot 2003 ...  I swirl and snort and there is some fruit here but there is also a big alcohol masking everything, especially the taste. I check the bottle and see a 14.5 staring back at me.  But the flavours are dull and dumb, not dried, which is what it would be if it were old.  Sure there is lots of wood notes coming through but they are overshadowed by the alcohol on the palate, almost wood alcoholish.  So I am left with the conclusion that this wine is indeed corked (slightly, but will get worse with time in glass), and as I sip on it and swirl it around in the mouth it becomes more and more prominent, especially on the finish.  So, one down and time to move on.

I have now moved from a corked wine to a wine with a crummy cork ... this one not only breaks in half but it crumble all over the place, I have to push the last few centimeters of cork into the bottle - so now I actually have cork in the wine.  The first glass goes down the drain, to many bits in it.  Next glass is fairly clean so now let's see how this Nieto Senetiner 2001 Malbec Reserva tastes.  The smell is cherries coated in alcohol so I check the by volume rate and see it is only 13%, not astronomical.  Palate is a little thin and the cherries are most definitely sweet and dried ... this one is almost too thin to deal with, but I think I will give it some time and see what develops.  Now some 20 minutes later and the smell is cherry-sherry, lots of maturity on the nose but the palate is smooth and those cherries, although not fresh, are still playing across the tongue.  Bits of cork add a little grit to the palate but it is quite drinkable - as long as your like your wines with a little age on them.  Finish lingers around pleasantly.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ben Glaetzer 2008 Wallace (Australia)

Sometimes, after a bad day, the best thing to have is a glass of wine - I am not saying to drown your sorrows in booze, it's just nice to sit down and mellow out with a friend, like Wallace here.  Wallace is from Australia, he has the typical Aussie accent (big fruit) and charm (high alcohol); he's friendly, gregarious and full of life.  He's a friend you like to come home too because he is like the 'sweet and sour' dichotomy:  fun and serious (can someone be fun and serious at the same time -m Wallace seems to have ti down pat).  Of course I am referring to this big wine from the Glaetzer Wine Company, a blend of old vines Shiraz and Grenache.  The nose is rich and robust with a mix of red and black fruit, plum, raspberry-chocolate and pepper. If the smells on the nose don't lure you all the way in then the palate certainly will: the flavours start out with an enticing raspberry aroma and just get better from there, chocolate, plum, black cherry, sweet cassis with a hint of pepper and finally, there's that nice long finish.  Hedonistic, decadent and downright delicious - what a way to end the day ... with this new found friend.  The good news he'll be around for awhile, he's not going anywhere fast, you could came back and visit him at least for the next 7 years.

The Winery of Good Hope 2009 Pinot Noir (South Africa)

Got home from hosting an Israeli wine tasting for the Canadian Friends of Israel Elwyn - had a great time and tried some good Israeli wine (though very expensive stuff) ... at this hour I needed something to take the adrenaline edge off before climbing into bed.  Looking around I see I have a bottle of this Pinot Noir from South Africa just waiting for me to crack the cap.  I think that is what I love most about screwcap wines, the ease of opening them when you are tired and not in the mood for fiddling with the corkscrew.  This is not like any Pinot Noir I have ever tasted.  There's raspberry and cherry notes on the nose with hints of graphite; palate is fruit forward with an alcohol backbone and a lively bite of acid and spice.  This wine hit the spot and was easy sipping ... very new world in style.  And with a finish of drunken raspberries.  I think the South African wine society wants me to host a dinner, I've never been a true fan of South African wines but with a wine like this I could find myself turning in that direction - if they could just get some consistency I could get behind them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hardys 2008 Bankside Shiraz (Australia)

New label.  New look, Same wine?  I have to be honest, it has been so long since I had a Hardys Bankside that I can't answer that last statement.  The label certainly has changed (white and grey with a drawing of the winery) and the look of the bottle is different (taller, more stately and with a screwcap), but the wine inside seems a little more focused and more interesting than what I last remember from my bankside experience.  Mocha and black cherry rise to the fore on the smell, with some vanilla/chocolate notes backing it up; you could spend some time here getting lost in the aromas.  The palate is juicy with a lovely mix of black and red fruit, slick tannins and an appealing coffee finish.  This one's a real winner and great for a late night sip after a long day ... and the 14.5% means you'll be sleeping like a baby in no time - nightie-night..

Monday, November 8, 2010

Feist Ruby Porto (Portugal)

Straight forward Ruby Port hits the spot ... with a cinnamon raisin bread pudding on the table a Port seemed like the way to go as the drink to pair with it.  Big on cherry and a touch of chocolate, this was a beautiful rich Port with delicious flavours; the way a Ruby should be.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Riddled by Jackson Triggs 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (Ontario / British Columbia)

Tonight I kicked off our soiree with a bottle of 2007 Flat Rock Riddled sparkling - I've reviewed this recently on my podacst so I'll link you over there for my thoughts.  Dinner was rib steaks on the BBQ (yes I still risk life and limb to bbq in the colder weather) and I dug deep into a box of older wines for a bottle of Jackson-Triggs 2004 Proprietors' Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from their Okanagan Estate in British Columbia.  Not sure what the weather was like out there that year, but they sure made a nice bottle from it, and it has aged very well.  The wine was all dark fruit with a hint of spice while the tannins were silky smooth; this bottle was ready to drink, and gulp it down we did.  What a great find to be found.  My notation on the bottle said "hold for 2 years", I think I held it for 4 and I was right to do so, I think it might even have another couple of years ahead of it left.  If I have another bottle in my collection I might just try that experiment.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rosemount 2006 Show Reserve GSM (Australia)

Some wines are just dumb-luck that you find them on sale, especially here in Ontario where a sale means only a buck or two off.  A few weeks ago I found a few bottles of this $35 beauty at a west-end LCBO location that was going through some renovations.  They were trying to clear some space and had a selection of Vintages products on for 30% off (an unheard of amount for an LCBO store), so you do the math.  Having tried the wine earlier in the year I knew this to be a bargain-and-a-half, so I pounced on 3 of the last 4 remaining bottles (my mother, who was with me at the time, pounced on the fourth).  Tonight, sitting in my parents kitchen, waiting for the salmon to cook, we opened this bottle for a gathering around the kitchen table, knowing full well this is not a salmon wine by any stretch of the imagination.  On the other hand, this is one salmon-chanted wine.  A blend of Grenache (47%), Shiraz (47%) and Mourvedre (6%), specially selected for the bottling, exhibits aromas of cassis, chocolate/coffee, white pepper and black raspberry.  The palate is rich and enticing with flavours that introduce themselves as mocha/chocolate wrapped dark fruit with a dash of pepper and spices for seasoning ... nothing about this wine overwhelmed the senses, it was just right ... and the bottle was empty before the salmon was served, funny how things always work out..

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Marchesi de Frescobaldi 2008 Tenuta di Castiglioni (Italy)

Yesterday was the 15th annual Italian wine tasting event here in Toronto, and the Italians were here in full force with 100 producers tasting about 6-7 wines each.  The key is to find wines that are exciting and good value, while stillbeing available, and I think I found one.  This Frescobaldi wine is a blend of the international grape varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and the Italian stalwart Sangiovese.  I was so impressed with this one that I ran out last night and bought a bottle - tonight I opened it to see if it was just the thrill of being around so many Italian wines or was it really that good?  The answer: it really was that good.  This wine could still use some time in the bottle to come around and smooth out a bit because right now it shows lots of deep black fruit aromas but little else.  The palate shows more with blackberry, cassis, black raspberry, cinnamon, pepper, beautiful spices, vanilla and wood notes - this is a powerful and delicious wine that calls for a hunk of meat now or at least 5 years in the cellar to smooth.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Toso Sparkling Malbec and a Closson Chase Chardonnay (Argentina / Ontario)

Halloween day ... we got the house ready for guests (kids coming to the door), which meant we had to dump candy in a bowl, we also thought about watching something scary and what to drink with it.  Turns out we watched an episode of the Next Iron Chef, scary if you consider all the knives that are flying about ... and there was plenty of blood and guts as they cut into the fresh fish.  While watching I opened a bottle of Toso Sparkling Malbec from Argentina.  Not a usual bubbly, but I had put it in the fridge a few days previously and thought it a good time to sample it.  The nose was quite lovely with raspberry and cherry notes; these translated to the palate but the cherry turned strawberry across the mid-palate. The only drawback to this wine was the bitter finish ... maybe it would have paired better with something other than the soup and sandwich we scarfed down.  But on its own it is good until the last drop, could this be a bubbly for steak?  Feel free to try it and let me know.

In the evening we headed over to some friends' house - after the trick-or-treaters had had their way with our candy bowl, for pizza and wings.  I brought along a bottle of Closson Chase 2009 Sans Chene Chardonnay ... one attendee remarked, after seeing Deborah Paskus' name on the back of the bottle "this is so unlike Deborah, I can actually taste fruit, she usually masks it all in wood."  "Sans Chene" means unoaked so it stands to reason this wine would be fresh and fruity, but with ... well heck, why repeat the review I just published, check it out here.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fielding Estate Winery 2009 Lot 17 Riesling (Ontario)

Today we did some grocery shopping and some gardening - it was a quiet around the house weekend.  We ended up at Tony's Fish Market in St. Catharines where we bought some salmon and some mussels ... the mussels had to be eaten quickly (fresh mussels are always better than ones that sit out for too long) so I made them late in the afternoon as a pre-dinner snack.  The recipe called for some white wine, so I yanked out this bottle of Fielding wine, a delicous Riesling from the 2009 vintage.  I used a cup in the recipe and then poured two glasses to enjoy with it ... on it's own it was a delicious wine which I have previously reviewed ... but I can't recommend it in with the mussels, it brought about a sweetness in the seafood that, while tasty at first, became too sweet the more mussels eaten.  I would recommend a dried wine for the recipe, but for sipping along with them, this would have been just fine.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Concha Y Toro 2007 Winelmaker's Lot 148 Carmenere (Chile)

I know there are some of you out there that wish that Carmenere had stayed lost ... I am not one of them.  With each passing year I try more and more wines made from this grape and on a percentage basis they get better year after year.  Now granted, this wine isn't exactly a young pup just pulled out of the vineyard, but I believe the folks at Concha "got" this grape earlier than some.  This is a single vineyard offering from the Las Pataguas Vineyard.  The nose mirrors the flavours, but the palate offers up more juiciness than the nose can display.  Blackberry, white pepper, black raspberry-chocolate, a touch of bramble and really sweet juicy fruit courses through the mouth sip after appealing sip.  This wine was satisfying and enjoyable.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chateau Hauchat 2008 Fronsac (France)

Word on the street is that this is a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc - not a Cabernet Sauvignon grape in sight.  This is what I call a "mom wine" - mom does not like a lot of tannins, she likes the fruit and spice but is not huge fan of the dryingness of tannins; and this wine has what mom is looking for.  The nose is black fruit oriented, there are some herbs and and a smoothness to the wine that is (believe it or not) sniffable.  The palate is smooth and seductive - the fruit isn't in your face, in fact it is wrapped in a lightly wooded glove, but that wood is not overbearing and makes this wine smooth and easy to drink.  Not sure this is a bottle I would hold for any length of time, but it sure does go down easy now.

Moreson 2004 Pinotage (South Africa)

I am not a Pinotage drinker, usually, and for the most part, I shun the stuff as much as possible ... there are a few I have enjoyed, but mostly they are ... (to be delicate) not very enjoyable.  That said I have learned a few things about the grape that have made it more palatable over the years.  Pinotage is a nasty little cuss when young, but time in bottle gives it a certain amount of drinkability. A few months ago a Pinotage came into the market that was quite drinkable and I thought maybe the grape had finally turned a corner ... but it would seem that the producer had turned the corner, not the grape, as the next half dozen I wrapped my lips around had the same nastiness about it.  Now enough about generalities and let's get to this particular one I had with homemade bison burgers.

The initial pour and sniff had me wondering if this was the same old same old, and that my theory about time had failed me ... thankfully, I can still cling to the 'time in bottle' philosophy.  The smell emanating from the glass was a real stink - think of a day old fart lingering about in a closed room ... not very inviting. But the palate was altogether different, the 6 years had made quite a difference: black fruit and spice dominated the first sip.  The second introduced a bit of a tarry quality and the third showed up with some chocolate notes.  Sip four brought it all together: spicy black fruit, a slight hint of tar and a dark chocolate note bringing it all together.  It was a real pleasure to drink this wine - I just had to avoid inhaling while my nose was in the glass.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Inniskillin Okanagan 2006 Zinfandel (British Columbia)

Tonight it's a Zinfandel from of all places Canada.  It's part of Inniskillin's 'Discovery Series', where they try grapes that are not typical for the region and make small batches of wine ... this Zin saw a production of 400 cases.  Spicy, peppery with hints of dark plum and licorice, there's even a pleasant assortment of raspberries (mainly on the nose), which made the aromas very appealing and while the palate showed good stuffing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rosedale Wines 2007 Cat Amongst the Pigeons Shiraz (Australia)

Subtitled 'Nine Lives' this Shiraz tells a story on the back label that I find, at times, hard to follow: "When Rosedale Wines became one of the largest independent producers in the Barosa Valley, they set the 'Cat amongst the Pigeons.'" ... Maybe the 15% alcohol in this 100% Barossa Valley Shiraz is getting to me, but I am not sure I follow.  What I do know is that this wine is pretty typically Aussie, in a good way, from first sniff to the last sip.  Big full on black fruit greets the nose - it smells soft, sweet and chocolaty, like it should just glide on down.  The palate delivers on what the nose recounts, but adds a few surprises along the way ... the black fruit is there in spades, there is a hint of dark cocoa powder, plus (and this is the surprise) a real spicy hit of pepper ... there's also some heat on the palate, and really warms the insides.  It's raining tonight, but this wine needs a cold winter's night to really do what it does best: help take the chill off.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Finca Flichman 2002 Paisage de Barrancas (Argentina)

I am slowly making my way through a box of “lie down” wines that I should have gotten to earlier in the year, but that’s what happens when your year gets really, really busy.  So I reached into the box and the first wine I grabbed was this 2002 red blend from Argentina: Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon (in that order); aged 12 months in French and American wood, and another 6 months in bottle.  I would have to say I was very impressed with this wine, licorice and dried blackberries wrapped in dark cocoa with a touch of wood tannins on the medium length finish.  Nice wine that has aged quite well.  Not sure it was a good match for the pasta dish I served myself, but I bet it would have paired wonderfully with a big bruiser of a steak … if I have any left I will do that next time.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Santa Carolina 2008 Reserva de Familia Camenere (Chile)

This is a tasty little beverage with lots of fruit flavour.  The nose is plum, blackberry, cassis and vanilla, while the palate is smooth as silk, delivering plums, dark fruit and a touch of spice.  I know some folks bad mouth Carmenere, but this one is downright delectable and could change a lot of minds on the subject of this grape.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Azienda Agricola Monte Del Fra 2008 Bardolino (Italy)

The Campbell's Soup kid couldn't have put it any better when he said, "mmm mmm good", because this is exactly what this wine is.  Tonight, I found myself chez mere et pere for dinner, and mom pulled out this bottle of Bardolino - a quick look up shows the blend of grapes is very similar to Valpolicella with the Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella as the base.  This is one smooth wine, lots of raspberry and plum notes with a real pleasant juiciness in the mouth - absolutely delicious.  And those who say not to pair red with fish, think again, it wasn't a bad match at all to the Korean Salmon my father whipped up.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wolf Blass 2008 Yellow Label Shiraz (Australia)

I'm not sure what is going on in the world of Blass but I am not sure I am liking it all that much.  Tonight I taught a class on the wines of Australia, pouring a straight Shiraz (Lucky Country), a Shiraz-Viognier (Yalumba) and a Cab/Merlot/Shiraz blend (Yering) ... this got me hankering for one of the icons of Aussie wine, Wolf Blass - its Yellow Label was once the epitome of Australian wine.  When I arrived home I cracked the cap and found myself drinking a nondescript Shiraz ... Wolf Blass used to have character but this could have been any one of a hundred Shirazes that I have tried over the years.  Don't get me wrong, it was tasty, easy to drink and had lots of fruit - but I think I have come to expect more when I open a bottle of Blass - this just did not deliver.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rosewood Estates 2009 Semillon (Ontario)

Tonight I tried a wine that I sampled at the Savour Stratford event a couple of weekends ago.  It was a Semillon from Rosewood Estates in Niagara.  Now for those that don`t know Semillon is a famous French grape, used in the making of Sauternes, and has also found a home in Australia, but not much is grown in Ontario.  In the past, Rosewood has usually put the grape into a white blend, but the last two years have seen a straight dry white made from this grape.  Last year I slipped the 2008 Rosewood version a 4-and-a-half-star rating and was excited to try the newest incarnation of this wine when it was offered to me at the Stratford event.  The vines are a mere 6-years-old (babies in the vine-world), but are showing some real maturity in the glass.  This wine was a horse of a different colour when compared to last year`s version, but it proved to be equally as good.  The nose was tropical with pineapple, peach and green apple skin aromas.  Palate was liking biting into the aforementioned green apple but with peach and grapefruit pith backing it up; there even seemed to be a faint hint of something minerally here.   The finish was long and citrusy with really good acidity for backbone.  At $18.00 this really is a steal.  I won`t hazard a guess as to ageing potential because this wine is tasty right now, and so thoroughly enjoyable.  If you want to lie it down be my guest, but keeping it down might be the tough part - you`ll want to break into another bottle as soon as the first one is finished.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Masi 2007 Campofiorin (Italy)

Second night in a row that I have opted for Italian and the second night in a row I have gone with a Ripasso wine in my glass.  The Amarone Tasting from Monday reminded me what I really like (and can afford) from Italy, Ripasso, and I wanted to see what Masi's newest addition to the Campofiorin line was like.  Masi, the originators of the Ripasso style/method, call their wine Campofiorin with an explanation on the back of the method used to make the wine.  It is also interesting to note that this is the first time ever that Masi has declared a 5-star vintage two years in a row.  They declared 2006 as a five star and the proof is above the vintage year on the front label (you can clearly see the 5 star designation) ... the 2007 bares the same marking, and I am told that the folks at Masi went through a struggle to declare 07 because they don't want to seem like they are declaring all vintages as "the best" ... but considering they have declared only 7 since 1942, this is a rare occurance in and of itself ... now 2007 is the 8th such declaration. 

So I have talked your ear off about the declaration of vintages, the proof is not just above the year but should be in the glass.  I have had sips from this wine in the past 3 months but I have yet to pop the top on a bottle and try it over the course of an evening.  Nose is beautiful with plums and chocolate and slight floral notes.  The palate is also alluring with its good backbone of acidity holding up cherries, raspberries and a touch of spice ... the finish brings me back to the chocolate that lingers on the nose.  Lovely and only gonna get better over the next 10 years.  I actually believe this to be a better wine than the 2006 ... heresy you say, you be the judge, I'll stick to my declaration, that is until I try the 06 again. Cheers.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Zonin 2006 Ripasso Valpolicella (Italy)

Got home from the Amore di Amarone tasting and had a craving for an Italian wine - but something not as heavy and robust as an Amarone, so I took the next step down on the evolutionary ladder of this famous wine, a Ripasso.  For those who don't know, a Ripasso is a re-fermenting of the Valpolicella wine as it is re-passed over the skins of the grapes used to make Amarone ... it gives the wine a little more body and a bit more alcohol, plus you get the advantage of some Amarone flavours without the Amarone price.  This Zonin was a darling of a wine that I found a few years back and this bottle seemed ripe and ready for the tasting (again).  The wine was mellow and smooth with lots of plum, cherry and chocolate notes and really nice acidity ... it paired well with the burger that I had for dinner this evening.  On a personal note, I am a huge fan of this style of wine, though lately I have been disappointed with the Ripassos coming through the Ontario liquor stores.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Les Celliers de Beauregard 2007 Promenade des Princes

I once went to a French wine tasting that focused on the South of France, which includes the Rhone Valley. Alongside all the powerful Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines was this producer from a place called Plan de Dieu (Plan of God) - he said it was just outside CdP, was little known and made wines just as good as its famed neighbour.  I remember trying the wine and being really impressed, especially because the wine was ... for lack of a better term: cheap-as-chips and really good ... I mean really, really good.  So I have always kept my eyes open for wines from this region to see if that producer was a fluke or more the norm of his area.  This is my third foray into Plan de Dieu wines and I can say that so far it's no fluke; their wines are really really good, at a fraction the price of its more famous Rhone neighbour.  The nose is a lovely cherry with a hint of chocolate and red licorice.  The palate is cherries and plum with good acidity, smooth silky tannins and a seasoning of herbs on the finish.  As the wine picked up more air in the glass flavours and smells reminded me of Port ... without the sweetness - lots of fruit and beautiufl flavour.  The only drawback is the plastic cork closure, hence no ageing for this one - it could take it, but the closure is detrimental ... good news is that it's drinking great right now so I think it'll be my house wine for a few get togethers over the next few weeks - wanna come over?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nichol Vineyard 2006 Capriccio (British Columbia)

It's been awhile since I've been able to sit down and just have a glass of wine.  I have been busy every night this week, as the On the Road blog will verify.  Between teaching wine courses and various tasting I have been at or hosted, I have not had time to sit down with a glass and enjoy a meal ... tonight I did - or at least had the glass of wine.  Spent the day in Prince Edward County at Taste!, another great year for this event and the wines from the County are getting and better.  When I arrived back at where I'm staying (chez pere et mere) dad had roasted a duck and mom had me go downstairs to pick out a bottle.  I chose this 2006 Capriccio from the Naramata Bench of British Columbia ... a little research showed it is a Pinot Noir-Gamay Noir blend (which I have to admit I guessed correctly - there was no back label on the bottle to give me that hint). A little long in the tooth the nose had a light earthy and herby smell with a slight bit of sour cherry.  The palate was easy on the tongue, hadrdly any tannins to speak of, and the acidity was fairly flat as well, though it was pleasant.  Touches of white pepper and light spice graced the tongue but the fruit was almost non-existent.  Glad we had this bottle today because in another year or two their would have been no saving grace to this wine.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cline 2008 Ancient Vines Zinfandel (California)

Tonight's dinner was the reason I got a BBQ ... beef ribs ... and I knew the perfect accompaniment for them, Zinfandel.  The big question was, which one?  I tried this Cline a few months back when it came thru the LCBO (in Ontario) and was thrilled by it (bought at least three bottles, if not more), and tonight seemed the perfect occasion to yank out the first bottle and pop the cork ... and was I right.  The nose was loaded with sweet fruit and other aromas: plum, black cherry, vanilla and spice.  On the palate this wine wrapped itself around the tongue and held on for dear life combining the aromas beautifully: spiced dark plum and vanilla-black cherry were the flavours that most stood out ... this was quite simply a lovely Zin and paired great with those beef ribs.  It was so easy to sip on before, during and after dinner.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Montes 2005 Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere (Chile)

Tonight I opened something with a little age - granted I had a few older bottles on the list of things to open, some as old as 2002, but decided with tonight's hoisin-glazed chicken this might be a better choice ... and was I right.  The sweet sauce paired nicely with the sweet fruit flavours in this wine.  The nose was blackberry and mint - pretty typical for Cabs from Chile, but this one also has the benefit of 30% Carmenere added to the mix, and that gives this a little bit more play on the palate.  The grapes come from the famed Apalta vineyard - a name that should be familiar to lovers of Chilean wine.  Now back to the wine, on the palate it was even better than the smells on the nose:  mint, sweet black fruit, nice tannin texture in the mouth, there's even a pleasant nip of chocolate across the tongue.  The finish lingers with blackberry and chocolate ... lovely and delicious - so was the chicken.

Marc Kreydenweiss 2005 Barbabelle (France)

Tonight I opened an old favourite with a bit of a surprise, and not a pleasant one.  This Kreydenweiss I bought about 2 years ago and was enthralled with it, a wine from the "Vallee du Rhone - Costieres de Nimes" - this is a traditional and typical Rhone blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault all farmed biodynamically ... but that is just the back story.  This was a lovely wine two years back and I was hoping for the same now ... but there was disappointment to be had here.  The initial sniff was spice, currants and a funky plastic note - with more swirling the plastic effect started to come through stronger (my wife called it out-house and refused to drink anymore beyond her first few sips, "It tastes better than it smells, but I can't get past the nose", she said setting the glass aside for the evening).  I was not willing to give up on it so soon.  The flavour was better than the smell with spicy black currant and black pepper.  It also did not pair well with the Chinese food that appear at the door 20 minutes after we opened this bottle (it didn't just appear magically, we did order it).  After dinner I returned to the wine.  At this point the wine has been opened a little over an hour, and something miraculous happened - it was much better.  The nose had turned more red fruit oriented with spice and pepper still lingering about; the plastic had disappeared.  The palate had changed a bit too, it had smoothed out, there was still spice, black fruit and pepper there with a pleasant edge on the dry tannin-dominated finish.  Well happy day - this turned out to be a better wine then it looked like it was going to be. Problem is, that even after my proclamation about how good the wine had become my wife was still not interested - I guess you never do get a second chance to make a first impression.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Nik. Weis Selection 2008 "U" Urban Riesling (Germany)

When you give my wife a choice between white and red, 9 times out of 10 she will go for the white.  Doesn't matter what's for dinner, white is her wine of choice.  So when I asked her if she wanted a drink this evening she answered "yes" and, of course she requested "white".  It is then my responsibility to find something she is going to enjoy.  A few nights ago we opened a Chardonnay that she was not too thrilled with (I enjoyed it with the salmon we made); tonight I opted to open something I knew she would enjoy (and I would too) - this German Riesling - a new addition to the general list at the LCBO here in Ontario.  The nose is full of inviting fruit aromas like mac apple and a touch of lemon rind, there's also a little petrol peaking around the fruit.  The flavours are also very enjoyable with green apple leading the charge, some petrol to coat the palate and really good acidity to cleanse that same palate.  The finish is lovely, long and lingering.  This is a pleasure to sit and sip upon.  Sometimes my wife doesn't finish her glass of hooch; that's how I know she wasn't a fan - this one she finished, and even asked for seconds, so it must be good.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Geyser Peak Winery 2002 Sandy Lane Vineyard Zinfandel (California)

Mexican night her at home ... to be more specific, taco night - but we got lazy and stuffing the tacos took too much work, so we mooshed it all up in a bowl and called it "taco salad".  The wine had been picked earlier in the day, a 2002 Zinfandel from California's Contra Costa County, part of the Geyser Peak Block Selection series and one I have had much enjoyment out of in the past - but how would it be after 8 years?  Lovely, is the easy answer.  The nose smelled of spiced-raspberries, lots of plum and gave off hints of vanilla.  The taste was even more exciting and welcoming:  spiced vanilla plums, cocoa, rich dark fruit all shaken with spice and near the end of the bottle (opened about an hour) I picked up vanilla enriched strawberry jam ... altogether it was lovely and delicious smooth in the mouth with the barest hint of tannins to get in the way.  As for the finish: red berry and spiced vanilla plums ... mmm, mmm good.  Did it go with the tacos/taco salad?  Sure.  Did it go even better on its own after the meal?  You bet.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lailey 2008 Old Vines Chardonnay (Ontario)

Tonight I fell into the salmon / Chardonnay trap ... last year, at an Ontario wine tasting, the key note speaker, Thomas Bacheldar (at the time winemaker for Le Clos Jordanne), said, when referring to Ontario Cahardonnays:  "they make me think, 'where's the salmon?'"  Well tonight I decided to take him up on his suggestion.  So here I am with a piece of terriyaki salmon and a glass of Lailey's 08 Old Vines Chardonnay.  The wine is rich with buttery and butterscotch notes, along with vanilla and spice - there's fruit in here too, but it still hasn't surfaced because the wine still needs a few years to fully integrate.  But still Thomas was right, it sure did go well with the salmon.  Cheers.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hedges 2003 Red Mountain (Washington)

Hedges Red Mountain is a red blend made up of the three major Bordeaux varieties and a titch of Syrah (1%), the grapes are taken from three different vineyards `Bel Villa`, `RMV`and `Hedges`.  A friend brought this over because it was a bottle he was dying to try and needed the steak and the company to do it with ... it proved to be a nice mature Bordeaux in flavour:  there was fruit, spice as well as dried berries and slightly woody aromas.  I know for certain it went well with the steak and potatoes.  I thought the bottle looked familiar so I searched my notes and found that I drank the same bottle a little over a year ago - I wish I had noticed beforehand cause I would have whipped out the decanter ... but this time I don`t think it really needed it, but it wouldn`t have hurt.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Graham Beck 2003 Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon (South Africa)

A hunt through the wine cellar tonight unearthed this South African blend.  Now, usually, for me anyway, most South African red wines have a funky road tar note to them ... the good news, this smell and taste disappears with age - hence this wine had turned into a beauty.  At first I'm not sure if it was going to be, it had a certain age stink and the plastic cork had me worried; but leaving this wine alone (half an hour), while I cooked dinner (lasagna and salad), and something miraculous occurred, this wine got better, much better.  The nose was spicy black fruit, with a hint of cocoa and some nice herbs; the palate had the taste of lightly aged fruit with a pleasant spice that makes it fun and easy to drink with smooth tannins and a touch of white pepper.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Finca El Retiro 2007 Tempranillo (Argentina)

It's not often that you find a Tempranillo outside of Southern Europe, where it flourishes in Spain and kicks around Portugal under assumed names ... so to get a version out of Argentina is somewhat unique and somewhat exciting for a wine lover - if for nothing else, just to see what Argentina can do with a grape like this.  From my experience tonight I would say they do quite well.  This wine is loaded with spicy goodness throughout, along with black licorice aromas and black currant flavours.  As it opens it smooths and becomes a wine perfectly paired with roast beef, potatoes and even salad - though I wouldn't go with strictly a salad, this wine needs a meat accompaniment., and when it gets it, it shines.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Reichgraf von Kesselstatt 2008 RK Riesling (Germany)

First wine as a married man is a Riesling I bought for my wife - because I know how much she loves Germanic Rieslings (actually most Rieslings of a drier nature she is fond of).  The peach, mineral and green apple of the nose led to a mac apple and mineral palate that is truly delectable.  Not too sweet and not to dry - just right for sipping.   Goes well with Chinese food, on its own and with the movie The Book of Eli ... which we are watching right now.  Cheers.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Two Ontario Beauties (Ontario)

Hinterland's 2007 Rose Sparkling and Hillebrand's 2005 Trius Red were poured today to welcome my soon to be bride to her permanent new home - both wines were amazing.  Hinterland might just be making Ontario's best sparkling wines and the 2005 Trius Red is still drinking amazingly well, especially when served with steak.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Churchview Estate 2004 Premium Range Cabernet-Merlot (Australia)

Tonight I opened box 14 of my age-and-store wines.  Now, I am a bit behind on my tasting and drinking of these wines, on the box was written, "Open June 2009", good thing the wines inside were meant to have a little age on them ... this one is 6 years from vintage date.  Out of 12 bottles I pulled this Australian Cab-Merlot out as something interesting and worth tasting tonight ... was it the right choice for BBQ chicken?  I guess we're about to find out.  The nose still had some oomph and so did the palate.  Aromas of black raspberry, dark chocolate and spiced vanilla - the palate was even more interesting and intense with vanilla, cassis, white pepper and spiced chocolate.  As for the chicken, it seemed to be a pretty good match.  A good choice and still quite a good wine.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Two by Pierre Laplace (France)

Pierre Laplace disappoints and then impresses, all in one day.  I opened a bottle of Laplace's Chateau D'Aydie 2001 Ode D'Aydie and I was suspect of the wine right from the get go.  This is a blend of 80% Tannat, 10% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Madiran region - the wine smelled off right from the pop of the cork (although there was a good seal and no seepage up the side.  Smell was non-descript but once it was in the mouth there was no mistaking that taste - cork ... oh yuck ... too bad, this wine had such potential and I love a good Tannat.  

I looked through my cellar and found an even older bottle of Laplace, this time a 2000 Aramis, a blend of Tannat and Cabernets (no percentages were given) from the Cotes de Gascogne.  There was certainly nothing fresh about this wine, but there wasn't anything corky about it either.  Plenty of sediment and a light brick in colour.  The nose was forest floor and old fruit, dried and sweet with a bit of spice to keep it all together.  The palate followed on the heals of the nose with spice and a bit of wood; there was also fruit in here, but it was fruit that had been dried on cedar planks and seasoned with pepper ... this one's quite good if you keep in mind its age.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Step Rd. Winery 2007 First Step Merlot (Australia)

This is gonna be short and sweet:  this was an easy drinking simple and fruity Merlot - it didn't last the evening because it was so smooth and easy to drink, it was there and then it was gone, but I remember it was a pleasure.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sister's Run 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia)

Wine on the road tastes better than the same wine at home.  It's a funny little particularity that we wine travellers find out the hard way.  That great tasting white is spectacular under the Tuscan sun, but in the heat and humidity of Ontario lacks luster.  I know I was playing with fire when I brought back a bottle of Sister's Run Cab from my whirlwind Alberta weekend.  Thankfully, everything turned out fine - the fruit, the finesse and even the chocolate notes all came through loud and clear - a delicious bottle of easy to drinking Cabernet from Down Under by way of the Prairies ... and it paired well with the steak that was dinner.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Three Aussies: a Pinot, a Shiraz and a Cabernet (Australia)

For those who  think Australian wine is dying, don't tell that to Albertans - from what I see there, Aussie wine is alive and well.  After the Oilmen's Glassware tasting I retreated back to my room at the Jasper Park Lodge with my cohorts from Schott Zwiesel and Tannin Fine Wines for a tasting of three amazing products - again not available in Ontario.  I am not going to get into the evils of monopoly versus free enterprise systems here - I'll save that for another time.

First wine tried was from a producer with a rather funny name: Ten Minutes by Tractor and their 2007 10x Pinot Noir (their entry level product).  This is a wild ferment, let-the-fruit-and-the-land-do-the-talking kinda Pinot from a South Australian region just across from Melbourne.  The nose mirrored the palate with plummy, red cherry and wild raspberry aromas and flavours - smooth and fresh with a good tannin to acid ratio.  I rarely give scores on this blog but since these are new and currently available wines, we'll make an exception: **** (out of 5 stars).

My next two wines were also from Australia, both from the Sister Run winery: the Sister's Run 2008 Shiraz is made from fruit sourced from 110 year old vines, it's all concrete fermented with no oak influence (well, maybe just a little - I am told - two months worth of oak chips for seasoning).  The grapes are sourced from the God's Hill Vineyard in the Barossa Valley.  A ballsy brute with 14.5% alcohol - a nose full of cardamom, white pepper, violets and white chocolate lead to a palate showing off raspberry, white pepper, plum, spice and the aforementioned white chocolate - a pretty wine loaded with flavour - not typical Aussie Shiraz, but very good. (****)

But the real bang for the buck was the Sister's Run 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon that blew me off my chair.  Fruit sourced from the Gomersol Vineyard in the Barossa Valley and with a minimum age of 85 years; again no oak except for maybe the minimalism of oak chips for a couple of months (same concrete fermenting regiment as the Shiraz above).  This wine proved to be creamy smooth in the mouth with red cherry, raspberry and milk chocolate, which caressed the tongue with boatloads of flavour sip after sip.  My palate, and the palates of my colleagues were very much taken by this wine in our glass.  (****1/2)

After our in-room tasting it was time for dinner - and the call of the wild was upon us, and only a big hunk of meat would satisfy - must be the meat-friendly wines we were tasting.  We wondered over to the Moose's Nook in the Jasper Park Lodge main chalet where our threesome feasted on scallops and boar belly appetizers and three proteins: lamb, bison and beef - all Alberta raised ... exquisite.