Friday, April 30, 2010

Chateau Haut-Bailly 1970 Cru Exceptionnel (France)

When you get a bottle from your birth year you start wondering what to do with it.  Of course, the purpose is to open it and try it, but the questions arise: with whom and when.  I acquired this bottle a couple of months ago and put it into my wine fridge awaiting the opportunity to open it.  I figure that since my fiancee and I were born in the same year it only made sense to open it with her - when do you get the opportunity to try a wine from your birth year, when your birth year was 40 years ago?  The answer, not often enough.  

I decided to do some checking on the Chateau after I had drunk the bottle, so as not to skew my opinion of it.  First off, Chateau Haut Bailly is a "Grand Cru Classe" wine from the Pessac-Leognan appellation (Graves), which means it was ranked in 1959 as one of the top vineyards with 16 other wineries, included on that list is Chateau Haut-Brion.  A search on the Bailly website under "memorable vintages" shows 1970 to be: "Powerful, plentiful, promising".  Now that that is out of the way I suppose I should tell you what happened with this bottle.  

My fiancee came to town for a family dinner (parents, brother, niece and maid of honour), this was also the first time we have been in the same place since we got word that we are to be home owners later this month.  So there is no better time to pop the cork on an old bottle then when there are friends and family around.  The cork was slightly moldy and broke in the middle - it took me some time to get it out without getting cork bits into the wine, but it finally slid out of the neck (there was no loud pop).  The smell was old, dried (some would say rotten) fruit and wet leaves, lots of wet, damp forest smells.  45 minutes later some fruit peaked out for its last hoorah, it then disappeared never to be heard (or in this case smelled) again.  At the peak it was licorice and dried cranberries, the acidity was still there (and fairly prominently) with each second sip.  It was a pretty good bottle of wine considering its age.  I looked up Parker's notes, just for some reference, he said the bottle was fully mature back in December of 1993, I would not deny that, but I did not have this bottle in 1993, I got it in 2010 - and you know what, to sip on history it was well worth the wait to get it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Malivoire 2008 Courtney Vineyard Gamay (Ontario)

Tonight, I uncorked a half finished bottle of Courtney Gamay that was slipped to me after a tasting yesterday.  I love the fruitiness of this wine, even a day later it is still loaded with cherries.  My full review of this wine will be published in my upcoming newsletter #133.  This wine is set for release on May 15, 2010 - I behoove you to get some, Gamay fan or not, you will like this wine.  To show you how serious I am I even used the word 'behoove'.  Now, I am going to go and finish my glass of Gamay before dinner ... Cheers.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Glass of This and a Glass of That (Bolivia / Argentina / Bordeaux)

Tonight I retried about 11 wines from my tasting yesterday, which were mostly reds - I wanted to see what effect 24 hours would have on some of them.  Most stayed the same, or did not improve significantly; but two of them had that "wow" factor about them that made be stand up and take notice.  Then there was the Bordeaux ...

The first of these wines was from Bodega El Transito (Argentina) and their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, the downside of this wine is that the winery uses a plastic cork closure for all their wines, so the oxidization has already begun, but this wine was one of the few that benefited from the extra air.  Sweet dried prunes/black fruit on the nose with a jammy-cassis-black raspberry flavour, there's even a hint of baker's cocoa on the finish which is laced with raspberry and vanilla.  In the mouth the wine feels full and robust leaving behind a pleasant finish, though there are port-like qualities developing.  This one would be quite ageable under cork or even screwcap, but because they have opted for plastic you have about a year or two before this one is fully oxidized and undrinkable - too bad - so enjoy now.

The next wine is from my favorite Bolivian winery (in truth I only know this one), La Concepcion, with this elegant 2007 Syrah - this mid-ranged alcohol (12.2%) wine is lovely with its smoked meat and bacon grease smells.  When first opened it had a leathery quality, but 24 hours later it has softened somewhat, replacing the leather with white pepper and smoked meat wrapped in a combination of white pepper laced red and black fruit - this wine could still stand to be laid down for an extended period of time - I will check it again tomorrow ... it is the only wine of the whole tasting that I will be doing this experiment again on.

Speaking of lying down, I acquired a bottle of 1989 Chateau Mayne-Vieil, and that is the wine I ended the evening with.  A 21-year old Bordeaux that showed it still had life.  At first the nose had rotting red fruit, sweet dried cranberries, wet leaves and a grassy/herbaceous sensation along with some mushroom and subtle earthiness.  The palate, when swallowed quickly was dried fruit and wet leaves, but if held in the mouth the wine desperately tried to show the red fruit that used to be so prevalent within, this sensation increased with each subsequent sip.  Where the wine really shone was on the finish where dark cocoa powder was persistent and lingering.  Not sure how long this wine has, so I'm gonna get back to it and enjoy it until it's ultimate demise in my glass.  This is the reason that Bordeaux still remains king of reds.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Lucky Country 2006 Shiraz (Australia)

To find out how my day progressed this Saturday check out my On the Road blog entry about my Wine Soaked Saturday …this bottle of wine was consumed somewhere in the middle of the day.  I started with a very disappointing bottle of Michel Torino’s 2006 Don David Malbec; this usually vibrant and fruity wine was off-putting and marginally corked – too bad because my friend that came over wanted to try a really good Malbec, and I had remembered this Don as one of those that over-achieved and over-delivered especially for this price.

Looking for something else to serve I found this Lucky Country 2006 Shiraz – same year but different grape variety and different country (the Malbec was Argentinean, the Shiraz Australian – both are the signature grapes from their respective countries).  This wine was under screwcap, so the chance of it being corked was remote.  The wine was just what I expected, lots of upfront, sweet, juicy fruit with strong hints of mint and a long finish – a truly delicious bottle of red, not exactly what most people would pull out on a relatively warm spring afternoon, but then I’m not most people.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Santa Carolina 2005 Barrica Selection Merlot (Chile)

I have been looking forward to this bottle for a couple of days, ever since I found it.  So tonight was the night.  The first sniff was quite a shy one, with very little in the way of aromas emanating from the glass.  It took some time but finally it gave something up, namely mint and spice.  The palate proved just as hard to read right from the get go, but after an hour it became apparent what I was dealing with.  There was some black fruit dying to come out on the palate, especially on the forefront, but it kept getting overshadowed by the spicy finish of this wine, and the fruit never fully came to fruition.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ravenswood 2003 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

After a delicious night in Bordeaux last night I was all ready to go back, but something happened on the way to the wine cellar ... I changed my mind.  I was picking through a box of wines I had been lying down for some extended aging and came across this 2003 Cab from Ravenswood in California (there was also a Zinfandel from the same producer - I'm looking forward to that in the coming weeks).  Immediately I thought it would be a good wine to have, and out from the box it came.  The nose was hard to get a gauge on at first, but with a little coaxing there was blackberry, white pepper and dark chocolate; over the coarse of an hour the aromas because more pronounced and sweet blackberry emerged along with the other smells grabbing the olfactories more firmly.  The palate also changed.  It started off with blackberry and cocoa flavours with a little spice, but as the wine opened  the fruit became juicy and red oriented with hints of chocolate, then on the mid palate the chocolate turned to cocoa and that took me through to the long finish.  Good choice to visit California tonight, tomorrow I have a feeling I'll be visiting Chile.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chateau de Courteillac 2005 Bordeaux (France)

The choice was between old world and new world wine, I chose this Bordeaux from the Entre-Deux-Mers region.  The back label claims that it is a mostly Merlot blend grown on a 10 hectare piece of property.  According to my records it's a bottle I bought a few years ago for a whopping 11 dollars and 15 cents.  At first the nose is a little shy, revealing little even after a fair bit of aerating; but slowly it started to show some blackberry fruit and subtle licorice notes ... more stirring and swirling brought out some dark cocoa smells that were worth the price of the bottle alone, like sniffing a mug of rich hot chocolate.  As for the flavours, lots of dark berries, which included blue and blackberries, hints of spice and a decent amount of mouth-drying tannins on the finish.  Now, what's for dinner?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Skillogalee Wines 2003 Basket Press Shiraz (Australia)

What started out as a disappointing evening turned out to be a delicious evening.  I had been working pretty much non-stop all day, about mid-afternoon I had decided what my bottle would be that evening, a bottle of Mont Pellier 2003 Syrah from California ... so I worked towards the time I would get to taste that bottle.  Six o'clock came around and it was time to shut down the computer and open my bottle.  Pop went the cork.  Sniff went the nose.  Ugh, went the brain - corked.  So much for looking forward to that bottle.  Time to pick something different.  I went for this Basket Pressed Shiraz from the Australian producer Skillogalee, not just a fun name to say but usually a reliable producer.  Same year as the Mont Pellier (2003).  This wine proved to have some elegance: mineral, spice, vanilla, plum on the nose with slightly dried black raspberry and blackberry on the nose to compliment the spice, vanilla, and herb on the palate.  The finish also had a pleasant cocoa taste ... I couldn't have the California Syrah but the Australian Shiraz filled in rather nicely.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Chakana 2009 Yaguarete Collection Bonarda (Argentina)

Bonarda is set to be the next big red from Argentina.  I have tried a few from the this South American country and each time I am impressed with the flavours and excellent value these wines offer - something I suspect won't be the norm for very long because the moment the wine buying public discovers Bonarda wines, the prices will slowly start to creep up.  This is a beauty of a Bonarda with rich black fruit, spice and pepper notes being the most dominant right from the get-go; there is also a decent level of acidity to help balance the wine and some spiced plum that keeps showing itself on the nose and in the mouth.  There seems to be a host of other very appealing smells and flavours to this wine that will have me sitting and snififng (and tasting) for a little while longer - like till the bottle is finished.  Might I suggest getting some Bonarda for yourself, fairly soon, and in quantity - so that you can beat the rush that will sooner or later be coming.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Yering Station 2005 Little Yering Cabernet Shiraz Merlot (Australia)

It's not often that a 5 year old Australian wine comes to a liquor store near you, but that's just what has happened around these parts.  Seems the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) has picked up this red blend for its general list, at a fairly reasonable $14.95.  Tonight I cracked the cap and gave it a go.  The nose is cassis, mocha and black raspberry, a touch of the 14.5% alcohol also comes through, but it's not enough to deter you from jumping right in and taking a swig.  The palate is juicy blackberry, nicely spiced with still some tannins bite on the back palate ... this is not a bad little wine for the price, should be a real pleasure to drink around the BBQ this summer.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Rocca della Macie 2005 Chianti Riserva (Italy)

Dinner chez mom and pop; and mom requested something Italian be brought along.  Dad prepared something really simple, very unlike him because he likes to cook and try out new things, especially with an audience.  So imagine my surprise when dad pulled off the stove a pot of Italian Herbed Hamburger Helper.  "I've never tried the stuff before and I've been seeing the commercial all week," he says in his own defense.  Before dinner mom and I popped the cork on this bottle.  It started off cedary with tannins and a minimal amount of black fruit on the nose and palate.  As it continued to sit in the glass it opened and became quite the exquisite bottle of wine, spice, cassis, and pencil shavings, making it still a fairly woody wine but the mid-palate started to fill out with lovely black fruit while the finish continued it's woody ways with a long cedary finish.  And amazingly it went with the Hamburger Helper - must have been the mix of the two Italian themed ingredients.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Asti Winery 2007 Cellar No. 8 Zinfandel (California)

After a day of judging I like to come home and relax with a wine that is as far from what I have been tasting as possible.  I spend most of my day judging the Ontario Wine Awards, I came home, went for a head clearing 45 minute walk, then down to the cellar to find something different.  Which is why I came up with this California Zinfandel - there is nothing like this made in Ontario.  The nose is the lure here, while pouring I could pick up the plum and vanilla aromas of this wine wafting through the air; there were also hints of raspberry, some chocolate and nice spice ... what the nose hinted at the palate delivered.  This is a basic Zinfandel loaded with the flavours you expect this red wine to have - good value for the price.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Nepenthe 2004 Tryst (Australia)

You don't often see Zinfandel from Australia, which is why I bought a half dozen bottles of this wine some years back - tonight I discovered that I still had a bottle (or maybe two) left.  In its prime this was quite the fruit beast with lots of pepper and spic notes; the 'Tryst' on the label refers to the three grape varieties that go into the wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Zinfandel - and each brought something to the table ... now there is something else going on here.  I cracked the cap and the wine made a "pop" sound - who says you lose the elegance of the cork sound with screw cap wines?  The inside of the cap looked like a paint can lid with lots of sediment on it.  The nose gave indication of spice with hints of dried black fruit and slightly woody nuances.  Aeration (decanting) helped the nose of the wine opening up the aromas and the familiar smell of Zinfandel hung out in the background. ... unfortunately that did not translate to the palate as the wood and spicy were the most dominant.  Not a bad wine but not the fun fruit monster I remember.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fess Parker 2004 Santa Barbara Syrah (California)

Fess Parker past away in the middle of March this year, that's a little nugget of information that has been at the back of my mind for awhile; the reason: I have a few bottles of Fess' wine in my collection and I have been meaning to pour myself a glass in his honour.  Though the truth of the matter is I have never needed a reason to open a bottle of wine, but it's nice to have one, even if it isn't under the most happy of circumstances.  Now, I never saw a movie Fess Parker was in (he portrayed Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone in Disney flicks of the 50's and 60's, which is why his label had a small coonskin cap on it), I probably wouldn't even recognize a picture of the man if I were to see it; but he made some decent wines that I have enjoyed over the years and that was reason enough for me to open a bottle.  This Syrah is an alcohol monster, coming in at 16.4% - which was quite apparent on both the nose and on the palate.  I was all over the place with this wine, first wondering about the high alcohol smells and tastes, then sinking into it to find the fruit, and then the dreadful decision when I decided to decant (word to the wise: don't do it with this wine).  The thing I remember most is the coffee bean-like finish which seemed almost chewy.  My decision to decant brought the alcohol so front and center that it was hard to drink, giving off the distinct smell and taste of acetone.  But undecanted I enjoyed sipping on this one.  There were chocolate liqueur flavours on the mid-palate with some dark-woodsy-berry notes.  The wine was still tasty under the right conditions ... though I wish they hadn't used a plastic cork, cause that brings into question the state of my other bottles of this wine - but tonight it hit the spot.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Terres d'Avignon 2007 Domaine de la Croisette (France)

I am deep in the throes of trying to buy my first house.  For those who have been there they will be able to relate to this next statement:  it really is an event in one's life that causes all kinds of maladies: ulcers, acid reflux, shooting pains in your extremities, headaches, nausea, irritable bowel, you get the picture, it's a roller coaster ride until you sign on the dotted line.  So during these times, at the end of the day, a glass of wine is almost a must.  Tonight I pulled out a bottle of this Cote Du Rhone blend of Grenache and Syrah.  The label is entirely in French, but from the gist of it I get the idea that I have an award winning wine (bronze) in my hand that has "grande complexity aromatique"; even my broken french can figure that one out.  Lots of lovely dark fruit here with hints of spice and a bit of woodiness.  Those aromas translated into flavours on the palate and the wine glided smoothly across the tongue, allowing me to forget the worries of the day, for a little while ... even better, this bottle cost me only $14 for that kind of relaxation and enjoyment - and seeing as I am going to be a home owner (keep your fingers crossed), with a mortgage to pay, that's the price of wine that I will be able to afford.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tulip Winery 2005 Just Cabernet Sauvignon (Israel)

It seems to be Israel week here at my house - maybe it's because I saw The Ten Commandments (with Heston) for the 9 millionth time on the weekend ... I think it's sad that I own the DVD (in three different anniversary editions) and have yet to watch my own copy(ies) and yet can find the time to watch it on TV.  But I digress, back to the wine.  Tonight I opened a bottle of Cabernet from a winery called Tulip.  It was a 5 year old number that still had a decent amount of spiciness and plenty of black fruit; the 14.1 % alcohol was starting to show through on the nose, but the palate kept it well at bay.  As for my watching of the Commandments, truth be known I didn't watch the whole movie, just about 20 minutes.

Yering Station 2008 Little Yering Chardonnay (Australia)

This wine is Chardonnay, there is no doubt about that; from the nose to the palate there is no mistaking its smells and flavours.  Oak and butter on the nose, a dash of citrus, oak, some pear and lots of buttery flavour.  This wine is engineered to please those who like Chardonnay, and has no surprises in the glass ... perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon when the last thing you really want to do is be forced to think about a wine.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cono Sur 2009 Riesling - Zephyr 2009 Sauvingon Blanc (Chile + New Zealand)

Saturday evening, and we're home from a day of house-hunting, yup I'm moving.  It has been a long day and our fingers are crossed for a successful end to all the looking, an offer has been made but due to the long weekend it is now a waiting game.  What better way to put the day behind and forget your impatience then by opening a few bottles of wine.  We cracked the seal on 5 and popped the corked on another 3, all whites and mostly Riesling.  I will not get into the details of all the wines but there are two I would like to single out.

The Cono Sur 2009 Riesling was quite nice with lots of citrus and apple notes all wrapped up with a very pleasant and long finish ... but the one I kept going back to was the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Zephyr Winery - this one kept getting better and better in the glass.  It was opened first and smelled very fruity with grapefruit being the most prominent aroma.  The palate was juicy and grapefruit cocktail-like with a nice seam of palate clearing/cleansing acidity.  We moved on to the other wines.  Then at the end I looked at my notes and thought I needed one more sniff and taste of the Savvy B.  Wow, what a different 15 minutes has made on this wine.  The smell was now intensely grassy, still with that grapefruit, but the grass was just so in-your-face, the taste has developed the grass but not as powerfully, it almost seems to be sweet.  Half an hour later saw the arrival of melon, though the wine never lost what had come previously.  So we have grapefruit, sweet grass and melon all rolled into this one delicious wine, very nice, this was the star of the evening.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Pinot Evil NV Pinot Noir (France)

Good Friday ... lunch time.  I have a 100ml bottle of Pinot Evil, a wine imported by a California winery from France (Vin de Pays de L'ile de Beaune).  Is it Pinot Noir?  In light of recent Gallo actions and legal battles against the French, only the growers know for sure.  This wine has a beautiful bright red colour, lots of cherry on the nose and lots of cherry on the palate - there's plenty of sweet red fruit throughout.  Light, easy and fruity with an alcohol level of only 12.5% so it's a perfect lunch time quaff; and the best part of it is, later on I will Pee No Evil and medically that's a good thing.