Sunday, January 31, 2010

La Concepcion 2006 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon (Bolivia)

After spending my whole day tasting Chardonnay I came home wanting just to relax and put my feet up. But a call got my attention: "I'm dropping over a few wines for you to sample and evaluate," I am told. I quickly learn that some of these wines are already opened (popped the previous night) and should be looked at immediately. Turns out I'm sipping, sampling and spitting another 14 wines before I get to relax (mostly from Chile and Argentina). In my final leg of this additional wine tasting journey I come across this Bolivian beauty. Now I don't know how many times I've had the opportunity to try a Bolivian wine (none comes to mind), so I was rightly intrigued by it; though I don't think it's a wine that'll set the world on fire by any stretch of the imagination. What started out as a mere curiosity to me turned into something quite lovely to sip on after a long day. The alcohol was a respectable 12.2%, not overwhelming by any stretch; the nose smelled of red raspberries and cherries, with the palate full of muted red fruits , vanilla and a dash of spice. There were also a bit of tannins that were felt mainly on the finish. I must keep in mind, before rhapsodizing about how nice this wine was, that this wine was open 24 hours prior to me trying it, so it might have been a pretty powerful, tannin laden wine in its youth and the air would have calmed it down over the time it was opened, which means this wine would have needed to be decanted to enjoy its full effect ... but right now, 24 hours from opening, it was quite pleasant.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Get-Together with a Whole Lotta Wine (Ontario, Austria, California, Australia, and France)

Getting together with friends is always a lot of fun, especially when it's those you've shared a lot with and haven't seen one another in awhile. It had been a good six months since we had a little get together so we had plenty to catch up on and plenty to share - especially wine.

We kicked the evening off with a bottle of Chateau des Charmes Estate Bottled Brut sparkling wine, because all good bashes begin with bubbly.

Next up, an Austrian oddity, Sauvignon Blanc: Tement Berghausen 2006 Zieregg. This wine took a good ten minutes to fully open. At first it lacked the freshness of fruit you expect from a Sauvignon Blanc, especially on the nose; the palate had hints of vanilla and a high sulfur content that detracted from both the nose and taste. Ten minutes later the wine came alive with grassy-vanilla and grapefruit notes, there was also a citrus-tangerine tang on the finish. Quite nice afterall, though we were ready to write it off, thankfully some of us are more persistent and passionate about Sauv Blanc that others.

The cap was then twisted on a bottle of Bonny Doon's Ca'Del Solo 2008 Albarino from California. This one was more Sauvignon Blanc-esque than the Austria Sauvignon Blanc; lots of grapefruit and citrus accosted the nose. The Sauv Blanc character continued through to the mid-palate, though it had less than expected acidity. Flavours are citrus, vanilla and spice.

We moved on to the late last of the night, an Australian McPherson 2007 Basilisk Marsanne Vignier, which was underwhelming to us all: under-ripe fruit like peach and pear along with high tone petrol notes; the palate was bland, flavours were bosc pear, petrol and wet stone, but very boring with a lack of balancing acidity ... time did not improve this wine; the bringer kept going back to it hoping his bottle would improve ... it never did.

We plowed through the whites in record time (more tasting them then drinking full glasses) because we were all looking ahead ot the very special bottle: Bouchard Pere et Fils 1990 Vigne de L'enfant Jesus (Pinot Noir from Burgundy) ... according to Mr. Robert Parker this wine was 2 years past its drinking date, yet it still tasted fine to all of us. The nose showed earthy, bacony, black cherry, leather and cigar ash notes, while the palate had dried fruit (cherries and cranberries mostly) with a woody character which still held some smooth tannins within. Parker wasn't far off, I think the bottle is on the decline, had we waited another year or two it wouldn't have been very enjoyable - as it was it was quite good, and it's always fun to taste a piece of history, 20 year history at that.

Two more bottles were popped, both from Ontario: a Lailey Vineyard 2002 Canadian Oak Pinot Noir and a Thirty-Bench Winemakers 2006 Small Lot Cabernet Franc - you can read abotu those on my two other blogs (click to be linked over). We left about half of each bottle behind for out hostess, except for the Bouchard Pinot and the Thirty-Bench Franc ... those we polished off pretty quickly.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Coyote's Run 2008 Black Paw Chardonnay (Ontario)

I sometimes get asked about the gaps in this blog (What I'm Drinking Tonight): are you really not having anything? To that I must say no. There are very few nights that I don't at least open something but if it's an Ontario wine it sees my newsletter or one of my other blogs (Lost & Found, Taste it Again). But why not let you in on the wine I had tonight, it's an Ontario wine I review back in December of 2009 ... a Black Paw Vineyard Chardonnay from Coyote's Run in Niagara-on-the-Lake - and it was delicious. My review still stands. Cheers.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cellars Can Blau 2007 Can Blau (Spain)

The plan, when I left the house this morning, was to open a Meritage this evening. But one thing led to another and here I am with a red blend of another kind. Instead of being the typical Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc with Merlot - I'm eyeing up a bottle of 40% Mazuelo, 40% Shiraz and 20% Garnacha ... and thank goodness I am. The nose is rich and fruity with layer upon layer of blackberry, black cherry and black raspberry, there's also a very appealing hint of vanilla, spice and cinnamon. The palate is just as delicious: big black fruit, peppery and juicy with a little bit of tannin bite on the tongue. The 14% alcohol is imperceptible while the balance and taste of this wine is delectable. Stunningly good.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cono not-so Sur and a Prickly Porcupine (Chile / South Africa)

Yet again I find myself in the midst of a two-fer night, that means I had to open two wines to find one that was actually good. I started the evening by opening a (once) delicious Pinot Noir from Chile. The only problem was that it was 4 years old, and it should never have seen it's four year birthday. This once delicious fruit filled Pinot (2006 Cono Sur) has become stinky (and not in a good Pinot way), stinky to the the point where the palate is loaded with stink berries with a very unpleasant aftertaste ... not even aeration or time in glass seemed to fix this one ... ugh.

So it was time to try a completely different wine. I opened a bottle of Porcupine Ridge 2004 Syrah from South Africa. Now, many South African reds have what I call "the South African stink" in them - the good news about that smell (road tar like) is that over time it does blow off. Lucky for me this Syrah had but a touch of it, and the other aromas and flavours over-shadowed what might have been quite a stinky wine. The nose was full of licorice, earthy and smoked meat spice. Given about 20 minutes in glass there was an interesting smell of floral / blossom notes that materialized. On the palate it was peppery and smoky yet smooth enough to glide along the palate; the finish ended up being a pleasant pickled meat spice ... quite nice and very tasty.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ironstone Moan - Barrica much Sleeka (California & Chile)

Another two-fer night and sadly one of the wines was just not up to snuff. I started with the Ironstone 2003 Cabernet Franc; I knew there was a problem the moment I pop the plastic cork. As I poured the aromas coming up from the glass were familiar and yet I did not want to believe it was what I was smelling. In the glass I swirled and sniffed. Then swirled and sniffed again. Medicinal smells filled with an abundance of alcohol, I looked at the label, only 13.5% - not enough that one should notice. The longer it sat the less it smelled like wine and the more I was reminded of Vodka and then it hit me ... rubbing alcohol. Being a trooper I did taste it and it was no better.

Looking for another bottle to open I found this Santa Carolina 2004 Barrica Selection 2004 Petit Verdot. It's rare to see a Verdot alone, which is probably why I bought it. I checked the label on this one and spotted a whopping 14.5% alcohol, but this was not apparent on the nose of this 6 year old wine, instead I was greeted by pepper, spice and hints of cocoa. As the wine gained more exposure to the air blackberries and cassis emerged to mix in with the pepper and spice; alas the cocoa disappeared but it still remained a very tasty wine.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hess Select 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

Tonight was a disappointing evening. Invited to my parents for dinner (roast beef) I selected this wine to come along with me. Unfortunately, my father, who is a good cook, ended up with an inferior piece of meat that was tough and grisly and no matter what he would have done with it I believe if would have ended up the same way. Good thing for me the wine was a good choice. This 9 year old Cab had a big black nose loaded with smoky cassis, there was also a bit of a woody sensation on the tongue, which gave this wine some tannins ... though smooth and easy to drink. Given another year and this wine would have been over the hill, but as it stands today it tasted pretty good.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Navarro Correas 2003 GR Cab Sauv & Veranda 2005 Cab/Carm (Argentina, Chile)

Two bottle of wine caught my eye this morning, one from on top of the shelf and one from the bottom. From on high was a bottle of Navarro Correas 2003 Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina, the low down bottle was a Chilean blend of Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon. I decided that two bottles were too much for one man to handle, so I acquired mom's help to taste these two.

I brought them to mom's place and she was immediately intrigued. We started with the bottle of Argentine wine ... the cork popped with a resounding pop and the smells from the glass were very inviting. Most notable were the spice characteristics on the nose, otherwise the Argentinean wine could be considered mute. The palate told a different story; it was spicy with chocolate notes and a lovely smoothness; a very quaffable Saturday night wine. But it seemed the longer we sat with this wine in the glass the more woody the aftertaste become, until it reached the point were wood was all that it was - not surprising really, it saw 18 months of small French barriques before bottling. The good news is that the first half hour was very pleasant.

Moving on to the next wine, the Veranda 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon / Carmenere; the nose was filled with minty goodness along with blackberry, cassis, sweet raisins, blueberries and nuances of chocolate. The palate also offered up plenty of flavour, some that I can't completely identify, but the majority came in the formed of red fruit, choclate, mint and plum. This was for sure the sipper of the evening.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mission Hill Pinot Blanc, Fielding Gris, Bichot Gamay, Applewood's Crazy (B.C., Ontario, France)

Today was my first (unofficial) day as vice-president of the Wine Writers Circle of Canada (it becomes official on February 5, 2010) ... we met to have an informal discussion of the annual activities of the Circle with our administrator. Unfortunately we were missing out president (John Szabo) who was out of town (hence the "unofficial" meeting). Most meeting last an hour or so and it's all business, but today, being that it was "unofficial" we had a few bottles of wine during our discussion.

We started with a 2007 Mission Hill Pinot Blanc ... what a treat on a cold winter's afternoon - I think it would have been better on a hot summer's day, but since summer is a few month away it was nice to dream of warmer weather with sips of this summertime treat. The nose was lemon, lime and sweat pear, while the palate was apples, pears and floral tinged; light and fruity with a refreshing finish of limeade.

Next up, someone pulled out a bottle of Fielding's 2008 Pinot Gris ... I have reviewed this is the past and that review still holds true today, delicious.

Next, a bottle of Albert Bichot 2006 Domaine Monthoux Beaujolais-Villages ... another treat. 4 years from vintage date and this wine still has beautiful cherries on the nose and palate with a titch of spice to really make it complete.

Finally, we tired a couple of bottle of Applewood Farm and Winery's Crazy 8 Raspberry Cider, this is a real treat and real beauty for raspberry fans. It's cider that is fermented to 8.8 percent alcohol and is just the most lovely and refreshing beverage one could imagine made from raspberries - Matt Passafiume, owner and booze-maker at Applewood (in Stouffville, Ontario) gets better and better at making this every year; think cider made with raspberry with a light spritz and refreshing raspberry flavour.

The "meeting" ended with little accomplished though a good number of wines were consumed and I can't wait to begin my duties, whatever they may be. I look forward to working with the executive over the next 2 years: Dean Tudor and John Szabo; and hopefully we'll drink a few more interesting bottles during our meets.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Vina Cobos 2009 Felino Chardonnay (Argentina)

Vina Cobos is the Argentinean baby of California winemaker and consultant Paul Hobbs ... the wines he makes in California are well out of my price range, but the wines he makes in Argentina are right in my wheelhouse, and tasty too. This weekend the LCBO (in Ontario) is releasing 3 wines from Vina Cobos' Felino line, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Malbec and this Chardonnay. The nose is typical of Chardonnay with vanilla, apple and sweet butterscotch, very appealing. The palate is at first woody and spicy, then as the palate gets used to it the tongue begins to look for other things like vanilla, almond, hints of apple and a smoky note on the finish. A very nice sipping wine that had a whopping 14.7% alcohol kick; there isn't any wonder I felt a little light headed by my third glass - and the big pull from my first glass probably didn't help either. Cheers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mitolo Cab and Vascos Reserve (Australia & Chile)

Tonight a buddy of mine came over for a bite to eat and some wine tasting - I find it amazing how easy it is to get people over to your house the moment you mention a wine tasting. Afterward, I decided to treat him to a couple of interesting bottles I know he has never tried before; it's always fun to see how others will react to wines you like.

I started him off with the Mitolo 2008 Jester Cabernet Sauvignon. He didn't much care for this one, "too jammy" he said. On the other hand, I loved sipping on this big chocolate, raspberry and blackberry jam blockbuster. It might be a big, full-on fruit bomb, but it's delicious; I guess my buddy was looking for something more "refined and sophisticated".

To that end I thought I would impress him when I pulled out a bottle of Los Vascos 2006 Grande Reserva (Los Vascos is the Chilean property of Baron de Rothschild - Lafite); when I told him as much he shrugged, "means nothing to me," he said, "you're the oenophile." At this point I began hunting for a bottle of Yellow Tail, but alas I could not find one. So resigned myself to opening the bottle of Vascos. This wine was more to his liking: there was a big olfactory hit of mint along with black fruit and a nice seam of acidity on the palate.

I must admit I enjoyed both wines equally - they offered exactly what I wanted from them: uncomplicated palate enjoyment; afterall, it's as much about the company you keep as the wine you drink. For those interested we ate pizza and watched an episode of Family Guy; I just wanted to prove that it wasn't a sophisticated evening.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mulderbosch Faithful Hound - The Story of Two Dogs (South Africa)

Many years ago I bought a bottle of Mulderbosch Faithful Hound (2002), I think it was the story behind the bottle that tugged my heart-strings. Faithful Hound is about a dog who's master abandoned him outside a cottage on the Mulderbosch farm; the dog waited for the return of his master for 3 years outside that cottage door to no avail, and unfortunately passed away "unrewarded for his loyalty". Truly a sad story. Thing is, so was opening this bottle of wine. My 2002 Faithful Hound, for all intense and purposes, looked like it was in good shape, until you started removing the tin capsule. Under the capsule was a dried up coating of old wine where it had leaked out. I could smell sherried wine as I peeled it off. The corkscrew sunk in way too easily, the cork was incredibly soft and spongy ... and at first I thought the bottle was oxidized, but nope, within a few minutes there was the unmistakable smell of basement, this wine was corked, and badly so. Now 20 minutes later I can still taste the nastiness. It just so happens that I have a 2003 version of this same wine, let's pop the cork and see how that is.

I am going to do this as a play-by-play as I am exploring this new bottle. Capsule comes off easily, no mess underneath, still made of tin (in case you were wondering). Cork seems intact and has some give. I bought this bottle in May of 2006 and I have a notation on the back to "Hold till 2009" (I seem to have accomplished that mission). Cork offers some resistance to the corkscrew. The cork is removed, black on one end with no seepage up the sides. Good colour. Smells are of coffee, mocha and spice. Peering at the back label the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon (54%), Merlot (34%), Shiraz (6%), Malbec and Cabernet Franc (3% each). Palate is a touch earthy and brambly with coffee and spice notes, fruit and dark chocolate notes are starting to emerge the longer it remains open; this one is definitely much better than the 2002. Probably could have sat it in the rack a few more years to smooth out, but I suspect a decanter and a large glass will accomplish the same thing faster. I'm off to have a evening drink and ponder dinner choices. Cheers.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mission Hill 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (British Columbia)

So they say that red wine doesn't go with fish, in fact they can even tell us why - well I say bollocks, I don't care - I am having sole and I am having this red wine and I am going to enjoy them both. Maybe not together mind you, but I will be having them both this evening. As usual I start with the wine, nothing beats a good glass of wine before dinner (during and after is good too, but before is a must). I opened, poured and immediately was struck by the fruitiness of this wine. When I put my nose in the glass the aromas were so powerful by all rights they should have snapped my head back, but because they were so good I wanted to keep my nose in the glass as long as possible - that my friends is a catch-22 I can live with. Smells of sweet cherries, red licorice, white pepper, chocolate covered cherries, blackberry jam and dark plums ... I could go on but I would like to get to drinking this wine tonight. Across the tongue the wine is smooth and elegant with nice tannins that bring the dark fruits in line with the red fruits and intermingle with dark chocolate silkiness, all wrapped up with a dollop of vanilla cream on top. As the kids say (or used to say), "sweet" - not sweet as in sugary, sweet as in "so nice". Now if you'll excuse me I have a glass of wine to drink, maybe two or three.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sileni 2002 The Triangle Merlot (New Zealand)

The drinking of this wine was inspired by my sister calling from Australia tonight. Now, before all you geographites call and/or email me to tell me that Australia is not New Zealand allow me to confirm to you that yes I know that; but after sipping and sampling over 100 wines today at a Vintages tasting I felt like going a little lighter on my palate than going with something in the heavier Aussie line, so New Zealand got the call. This Merlot had great aromas, which proved even better after pouring the wine from bottle into my Riedel "Merlot decanter". But there was also an overwhelming "heat" smell, as if the alcohol was too high. Turns out, upon checking the back label, the alcohol was a whopping 14%; mixed in with that alcohol heat was cassis, blackberry, spices, herbs and a slight woodsiness. Flavours were also quite appealing; starting with spice, moving to blackberry and cassis, then ending with some woody characteristics. There was also heat on the palate, but this did not detract from the wine's taste ... all said and done this wine was delicious, smooth and drank very nicely. The back of the bottle was right, it did cellar for 8-10 year, very well in fact.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chateau Barrail Chevrol 2004 Grand Vin de Bordeaux (France)

It's another Dave selection tonight (see last night's installment to find out what I am talking about) ... this time it's the petite Bordeaux he recommended, with a price tag of 8.99. Once again Dave proved he knows his wines, he'd better he sells them for a living. At first this wine was nothing to write home about, but thankfully it opened quickly in the glass (no more than 15 minutes) to reveal lots of good fruit flavours and smells. Cassis and other black fruit with a hint of spice on the nose. The palate was rich in black fruit and a hint of herbs with a titch of some woodsy note. This one is ready to drink now, and at that price you could drink it every night.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

R Wines 2008 Permutations Pinot Noir (Australia)

If you've haven't caught any of my Drinking with Dave posts you're missing out on some really good wines. Dave is my 'wine guy' when I am in Michigan, he's the guy to talk to when you visit Champane Wine Cellars in Warren, Michigan. My last visit with Dave was on December 28th, 2009. After the usual pleasantries were exchanged I asked him the question I always do, "What's got you excited right now?" In other words, what's good that doesn't cost an arm an a leg? He pointed me in the direction of a French "petite Bordeaux", a Spanish Tempranillo and this Australia Pinot Noir. As we talked about the wines Dave claimed he was not able to identify this one as a Pinot (he tasted it blind). I'll admit to wondering what Dave was smoking when I first put the wine to my nose, positive I could smell the tell-tale signs (earth) of Pinot Noir; but then I allowed the wine to open up a bit and that earthiness disappeared leaving behind a big, sweet raspberry and black cherry note, ripe with red fruit and just a hint of sweet vanillin. The palate was also big lots of lush, plush red fruit with little to get in the way of its tasty enjoyment. If oak was used it was hard to tell, the wine really filled the mouth with fresh red fruit flavour. This was a great sipping wine that went down smooth and easy. What an absoulte gem. I know I can always could on Dave to point me in the right direction. Now if we could just that dinner we keep taling about planned.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Casa Girelli 2001 Canaletto Winemaker's Collection Primitivo (Italy)

Tonight it was a simple dinner of salmon and salad, so I reached for a simple wine ... oh, who am I kidding? I picked the wine out this morning without a care in the world about what dinner was going to be - it's all about the wine ladies and gentlemen. So with that said I am not going to blow anymore smoke up your behind and just tell you about this 9 year old bottle of wine I pulled out of the cellar. For those who don't know, Primitivo is the Italian equivalent of Zinfandel, or as the labe on this bottle says: "the forefather". The smells, at first, were hard to distinguish, so I decided to give the wine a little run through my Vinturi decanter, this opened the wine enough to allow some smells through. Dark plum, hints of vanilla and some other indistinguishable red berry fruits on the nose; the palate showed spiced dried plum (fig) and a hint of sweet spice and tasty vanilla. I have to say that the longer this wine sits in the glass the better it gets - I still have a half glass in front of me so I am going to go enjoy it, cheers.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Perrin & Fils 2002 Rasteau "L'Andeol" (France)

Accidents make the heart grow fonder, or is that palpitate and the mind wander. Which ever it is that was my afternoon today, so I started on a glass of wine a little earlier than usual. Most days I will have my glass of wine sometime after 5pm but after receiving a call that Erica (my fiancee) had been in a car accident I spent most of my early afternoon worrying. Round about 3 she called to say all was well in the world, except maybe the car will need a few patches here and there. So needless to say once I got that call my next thought was, "I need a drink". The first bottle to grab my flustered eye was this Perrin and Fils Rasteau from the Cote du Rhone, a blend of Grenache and Syrah (80/20). The cork gave me a bit of trouble, as if to say, "it's only 3 in the afternoon", but determination wins out over a piece of cork any day. Nose is peppery, leathery and spicy with hints of black raspberry and cedar; Taste is also peppery and leathery but without the raspberry to back it up, instead there is a note of burnt licorice here, that may sound unappealing but it quite nice when backed by the spice. I think the wine needs a little chill and a little air, after trying both I can tell you there is a hint of red fruit that does come out in the chill.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Rosenblum Cellars 2004 Syrah (California)

Lots of booze and lots of flavours, that's something this Rosenblum Syrah had in spades. We're only two days into the new year and the wine is flowing pretty freely around my place ... what else is there really to do on a snowy holiday weekend. Yesterday it was that Dam Dry Riesling from Australia, while today it was a Dolomite Riesling from Cave Spring Cellars in Ontario and this Syrah from California. You can read about the others by clicking on their links, as for this one, I was quite happy sipping on this one over dinner. Lots of blackberries and black raspberries filled both the nose and palate; the palate also had quite a bit of black pepper and spice with a touch of tannin grit. Left unfiltered this wine had lots of sediment floating about, which I am thinking helped it to age very well, even under a plastic cork (thankfully it had none of that plasticy taste you find in some wines aged under plastic). With time in the glass the nose opened to show more anise and cinnamon along with a beautiful scent of black fruit and spice; pepper continued to be one of the prominent flavours in the mouth and through the mid-palate. I could have sipped on this one all night and if it wasn't for the 15.3% alcohol and the four people I shared it with it could have been a very tough morning.

Friday, January 1, 2010

D'Arenberg 2002 The Dry Dam Riesling (Australia)

I've had this wine in my collection for some time and I was looking for the right time to drink it. So when New Year's day came around and it was lounge about the house day I thought there was no better time to put this Riesling in the fridge (for a couple of hours), pop the cork and drink it to toast the changing of a decade. This wine had other ideas. It wanted to teach me a lesson: no matter how well you store a wine there can still be something that goes wrong. In this case this wine did not want to release its cork. I tried two corkscrews and an ah-so and still the cork would not come out, in one piece. I finally had to push the crumbly cork bits into the bottle and filter out the cork pieces. The joke quickly became, "it may be a Dry Dam Riesling, but this Riesling has a Dam Dry cork." Now that I am past the annoyance of getting into the bottle I can tell you that the trouble was pseudo worth it. The colour was golden yellow, while the nose and palate followed suit with petrol and tangerine. The palate also offered up tongue dryness and some bitter notes ... as the wine warmed it lost a lot of the fruit and became mostly petrol and way too bitter to consume. Good for the first half hour, after that it sat.