Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chemin de Thirty Bench (Oregon / Ontario)

Last night on the island (near North Bay) saw us consuming quite a few bottles of wine - that's good because there were nine of us so two bottles just wouldn't do.  Though there were two that made the biggest impression and they were the 2006 Chemin de Terre from A to Z Wine Works in Oregon - this is just a fun red made from 7 different grape varieties, pure fruit enjoyment here.  The other was from Ontario, this was the "serious" after dinner red that most of us enjoyed, full of black fruit and lovely flavour - the winner of the evening: Thirty Bench 2007 Red; what a beauty.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Aussie to Start – Italians to End (Australia / Italy)

After the Scotch on the Rock tasting it was time to head back to familiar territory, so I opened a bottle of Thorn-Clarke 2008 Terra Barossa Estate Grown Shiraz … at first it seemed a little tame next to all those Scotches, but it finally came into its own and the chocolate, plum and pepper came thru.

Dinner was started off with a nice salad and garlic bread course, it was Italian night on the island, and for this I had two special Italian wines for the occasion. Umani Ronchi 2007 Jorio Montepulciano D’Abruzzo started things off in an elegant way. This wine has some rustic notes to it but there is also plenty of good fruit, pepper, herbs and spice – it was the best wine of the night hands down, lots of complexity and enjoyability and had I had another bottle with me we would have opened that. Instead I opened a bottle of Vinicola Torrevento 2006 Torre del Falco Nero di Troia, this wine had lots of plum and vanilla notes with rich, ripe fruit. The plumminess really took over here and it felt like a Zinfandel in the mouth with all that big fruit; not surprising it comes from the home of the Primitivo grape (Zinfandel’s kissing cousin) in Italy, Puglia.

Where the Jorio showed old world charm with balance, the Falco show a new world style with big fruit. I liked them both for what they were but the Jorio just stood out as the complete package.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Many Italians, Two Aussies, and A Tired German (Italy / Australia / Germany)

The annual Pine Island tasting centered around Italian wine this year.  I have cousins that own an island on Lake Nippissing and every year I come up to host a tasting.  Our first, held three years ago, was Ontario, followed by California last year and now it was time to go a little old world with Italian wines.  A record number of attendees (18) showed up for this years food and wine extravaganza, to taste 9 wines and my cousin Rhonda’s fabulous cooking (which includes Jim’s BBQing) and a host of desserts brought by those in attendance.  The two wines most enjoyed by those assembled were the Farnese 2008 Negroamaro and the Zonin 2007 Valpolicella Ripasso.  The Negroamaro is suppose to be “black and bitter” according to its name, but this one has all kinds of ripe and luscious fruit, a big hit for this crowd.  I also poured two Ripassos, the original Masi 2007 Campofiorin and the Zonin 2007 Ripasso – the Masi shows it rustic, yet elegant, side that will see it age for a decade or more; the Zonin is more new world in style with its delicious chocolate, blackberry, plum and vanilla, the acidity is toned down so that its drink-now factor is double that of the Masi, but with toned down age-ability, this one should drink comfortably over the next 5 years.

With the tasting over antipasto and dinner was then served.  I found a couple of Aussie wine fans in the crowd and opened for them a bottle of Mitolo 2008 Jester Cabernet Sauvignon, a jammy, black fruit number with lots of alcohol (14.5%) – a quintessential Aussie Cab.  I also crack the cap on a Nepenthe 2004 Tryst, a blend of “Cabernet / Tempranillo / Zinfandel”, this wine was still nicely fruited and smooth, especially taking into account that it was 6 years old; the last bottle of this I had was tired, but this was robust and vibrant, lively even.

An annual attendee, Roger, who last year brought a vintage port, decided to raid his cellar for a 1971 Langenbach & Co. Wormser Liefrauenshift Kirchenstuck Riesling Auslese Eiswein (I took this right from the bottle).  Imagine if you will honeyed-rotten-fruit, you could see where this wine once was but it wasn’t there anymore.  Interesting to experience, not very pleasurable to drink – past its prime, so to speak.

Next year the vote is for New Zealand and Australia … lamb and shrimp will be schedule to hit the hot side of the bar-be and who knows who’s wine will make an appearance; but you’d better believe that someone will bring something of interest, a wine will win the hearts of the crowd and the food will be excellent.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Boone’s, Cave Spring “G” and Lailey Rosé (Caliornia / Ontario)

Day 2 on the island and for lunch I cracked a couple of bottles of Boone’s orange-pineapple, who’s kidding anyone, these are sweet coolers and are very tasty for mid-afternoon sipping … these one’s taste like orange crush with booze in them.

Pre-Dinner: I popped the cork on a bottle of Estate Gewurztraminer from Cave Spring Cellars (Jordan, Ontario).  This was one of my favourite ’08 Gewurzts and still holds up well today with its fresh as a rose nose and spicy-lychee palate.  Great aperitif.

Dinner was pistachio encrusted cedar plank salmon, originally thought about opening a Riesling, but instead went for the 2009 Rosé from Lailey Vineyard (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario); the strong raspberry nose followed through on the palate with some sour cherry.  The colour was darker than most of the electric pink rosés I’ve seen lately and the acidity powered through the fish cleansing the palate for the next bite … I would have to say a good pairing and all agreed it was a good choice with the fish.

Tomorrow I am hosting an Italian wine tasting with an Italian themed dinner to follow, nine wines will be poured before dinner with another 6 (or more) being poured at dinner – should be a lot of fun.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Twist, A Treat and a BBQ Treasure (B.C. / California / Argentina)

Three wines once we arrived for the first day of our island getaway …

The Twist: an Oliver Twist Winery 2007 Pinot Gris from British Columbia.  The high alcohol (14.5%) shone through, and then there was the pear-peach mix of fruit with more than a hint of sweetness.  A tasty wine for the mid-afternoon … the high alcohol got peoples tongues’ a wagging.

The Treat: a wine that I have had a few times before, McManus 2008 Syrah.  Talk about high alcohol, another 14.5% doozy – but this is a real slut of a wine with all its black fruit and sprinkling of white pepper … but it’s the high-octane fruit that really makes this one a palate pleaser that’s so easy going down.

The Treasure: another wine that I have had before, this one was to pair with the inch-and-a-half thick steaks that were being grilled on the bar-be, Trapiche 2007 Fincas Las Palmas Cabernet Sauvignon: what a stunner with grilled meat.  Potent black fruit, pepper, and spice along with plum on the back palate and a long lingering finish; this one is really steak worthy so the pairing was excellent.

Tomorrow’s another day and I look forward to seeing what I have in my bag of tricks to pair with Pistachio Encrusted Salmon.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

William Cole Vineyards Albamar 2004 Merlot (Chile)

It's the wine that made Chile famous that I'm pouring for myself tonight.  No, it's not some brand, like Yellow Tail, or a producer, like Wolf Blass, it's a grape variety: Merlot.  When I first tasted Chilean wine I was drinking Merlot (and trying to impress a girl); these days the Chileans make anything and everything (and they do it well), but tonight is was a simple Merlot (not money) that made the night go-round.  The nose was slightly minted with dark, peppered, dried fruit.  The palate was not as exciting as the nose, the mint was gone and left behind was peppered dark fruit and some cedary notes.  Now granted it's 6 years old, so I can't expect ripe, rich, vibrant fresh fruit - so knowing the age of the wine I am satisfied with the flavours and smells I am getting. Cheers.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ironstone 2002 Merlot vs Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

Is it the grape or is it the cork?  That is the question I posed to myself this evening.  Well in truth I had no idea I was posing that question until I came upon a pretty nasty bottle of Ironstone Vineyards 2002 Merlot.  I found it in the wine rack and opened it.  Capsule off the first thing I see is the plastic cork ... after removal and taste it was all pruney and nasty to drink - five minutes later it was totally undrinkable.  Right beside the Merlot on the rack was a bottle of 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, again under plastic cork, I popped that one also.  There was some fruit here, not all-together fresh but not unpleasant either, rich sweet plum, cherry/raspberry jam with a hint of oxidative sweetness - though this one was at least drinkable.  So, is it the grape or the cork,?  Which one ruined the Merlot (its age or the closure) and did the Cab have the stuffing to combat the bad closure?  This is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, surrounded by an enigma ... or something like that.  Let the debate begin, meanwhile I am going to sip at this wine before it completely goes to pot.  Cheers.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2003 Le Cigare Volant (California)

Where do you start with an icon wine like this one.  Le Cigare is a red blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault which follows the blends of Chateauneuf-du-Pape (in France) ... the back label tells the story about flying saucers and the ordinance passed in 1954 against their landing in the vineyards of CdP.  Doon was started by Randall Grahm and he is one interesting character in the wine world - look him up to review his exploits. But this wine is not about flying saucers or Grahm's exploits it's about what you find in the glass, and you find a lot.  Dark fruit, lots of pepper and spice, good grippy tannins and gratification of sippability ... especially perfect with tonight's steak dinner ... in the words of the Campbell's Soup kids, "Mmm, Mmm Good."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Gladiator 2004 Primitivo di Manduria (Italy)

Primitivo is Italian Zinfandel ... honest.  Primitivo is a kissing cousin of the American red grape/wine called Zinfandel - it has many of the same characteristics including a great plummy nose and vanilla-plum taste.  This Gladiator was that wine a few moons ago, today it is different - not better, not worse, just different.  Right from the bottle the nose is wonderfully plummy, but the flavour was muted, giving nothing up and not very inviting.  So I took it upon myself to aerate the wine with my Vinturi (I am beginning to find the holes on the sides a bit of a hassle - especially when used in conjunction with the stand); the nose suddenly became dull and boring but the mouth liven up a bit, and the important thing here was taste - so I aerated a full glass.  Wood and cedar notes with spice and dried plum (though not yet prune) with a hint of vanilla ... drinkable definitely; Zinfandel-like, not really.  I was hoping for more, got less but was able to drink it without wanting to toss it down the sink.  This wine is/was better young.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Newton 2004 Napa Valley Claret (California)

I promised Carolyn that I would be having this in my glass - I then immediately when to the wine rack and pulled it out and popped the cork ... I did not want to lie to myself or Carolyn.  I remember this wine perfectly, I tried it at the annual California wine show here in Toronto a few years back and I thought the wine was delicious. A five grape blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc - it misses being a Meritage (or Bordeaux blend) wine because of the addition of the Syrah (which is not one of the recognized Bordeaux grape varieties) - so instead this is a proprietary blend (for those interested Malbec is the fifth grape of Bordeaux).  After the show it took me a few months, but I finally found a few bottles in the US, where I paid $18.69 for this bottle (the white price tag is staring at me at I type this).  I have seen current vintages of the same wine selling for close to 30 or more, I have not bought any bottles since (too rich for my blood).  Nose has plum and black cherry, some spice and dried berries; sniff hard enough and you can pick up a twinge of the alcohol that makes your nose hairs jingle-jangle.  Palate rocks the mouth with big flavours:  plum, red and black cherries, spices, peppery notes and there's a huge bite from the acidity squaring off with the 15.5% alcohol ... 15.5% alcohol, hmm, I best be careful not to finish the bottle myself - maybe I should invite some folks over to share ... ah, heck, I'm already half a glass in, I'll let you know if I am nursing a headache tomorrow.  Cheers.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wolf Blass 2004 Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia)

Tonight I grabbed the first thing that caught my eye - actually it was the neck of the bottle that caught my eye, in truth it was an unremarkable capsule, but for some reason it caught my eye.  When I pulled out the bottle I was surprised to see the familiar Wolf Blass label staring back at me.  At first the wine was a little grapy in flavour, quaffable, but more Welsh's than Wolf ... but then it developed a nice white pepper note and a somewhere between dried and fresh fruit taste ... not at it's peak, but definitely not in the trough either ... it was just right for tonight.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Marietta Old Vine Red Lot Number 50 (California)

This is a great value wine that delivers each and every time I buy it.  It is Mareitta's "field blend" which is comprised mostly of Zinfandel - the red kind not the god-awful pink crap you are thinking of.  This wine has no vintage date, instead it is done by lot numbers, and here Marietta has hit the half century mark with this one. The taste is plum with lots of red fruit, it is easy to drink and totally enjoyable with whatever you have on you plate: for example tonight I had an Asian salad with a BBQ chicken sandwich, and I can't complain about the pairing, but then I enjoy non-traditional food pairing with wine. Bottoms up.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Coyote's Run 2007 Cabernets (Ontario)

After a long day of painting you want to drink something familiar rather than venture out and try something that will tax the palate - I remember liking this Coyote Cabernet when I tried it back in September of '08 - and I still like it now.  It was pleasant and enjoyable with the right amount of fruit and tannins to stand up to cold chicken pizza on the back deck with a good book and the sun fading in the distance.  Now, if it could just keep the bugs away it would be perfect.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mirassou 2007 Pinot Noir (California)

I have had this wine a few times and I am still thrilled to open a bottle with all its red fruit and enjoyability – not sure if there is any left in the marketplace or if they have moved on to a new vintage, but the 2007 is juicy and fun to drink – it does not tax the nose or the palate and makes for an easy sipping wine on a lazy Sunday evening after a hard day of household choirs.  The red fruit has gone a little darker, but not all the way to the side. The plastic cork is going to ensure the short lifespan of this wine so be sure to drink up over the next 2 years.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Wine Nightmares (Italy, California x2, Spain)

Talk about a nightmare for a wine lover - here I am packing up to move and I decide it's time for a glass.  I am working on my 2002 wines (I organize my cellar by year, not by producer) and decided to lighten the load by pulling out a bottle (Masi 2002 Modello delle Venezie) which has turned to prune juice - I blame myself for waiting so long to consume it, but also some of that blame rests on the plastic cork.  Then I grab out another (Firestone 2002 Merlot), this one is corked beyond all recognition, it never stood a chance.  And I try yet another (Vendage 2002 Shiraz) - this wine also had a plastic cork.  There was no sign of any fruit, just lot of oxidization and a dry-Port like taste - I'm don't want to drink dry Port.  Interestingly the bottle was coated with red sediment on the inside, this might have been a good one had the seal been better.  Finally, a Castano 2002 Monastrell - something drinkable:  it's smooth with cocoa, peppery nuances and wood notes, there's even hints of spice from another life.  I thought of giving a piece of dark chocolate a try with it and it sure did liven the wine up, bringing out the cocoa aspect (no surprise) and the pepperiness.  Good work Spain, sticking with cork, the rest of you, what were you thinking?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

NK'Mip Cellars 2002 Merlot (British Columbia)

Having yet decided what to have for dinner I turn my attention to the wine I wanted to drink - a much more important decision.  This Merlot is produced in British Columbia, Canada, by the Inkameep Indian Band - North America's first aboriginal owned and operated winery.  The nose is smokey, slightly leathery, with hints of dried dark fruit.  The palate is dried blackberries and spice with just a touch of cedar.  The finish has nice length in the secondary fruit and oak tones, meaning you can taste the age of the wine, but it's not over the hill; in fact it's still quite lovely and sippable.  This wine is on the downward swing of its life span but still very enjoyable - think I'll try a little pasta, that might work here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Blackstone Winery 2002 Merlot (California)

Another one of those last minute wine decisions.  Dinner was pan fried halibut, so the conventional wisdom should have steered me towards white, but instead I went with an older (8 years) California Merlot - what was I thinking?  Whatever it was, it was a good call.  The tannins on this wine had soften to a point where this was a smooth drinking wine - still enough plum along with black and blue berries to make it simple yet enjoyable, there was even a hint of licorice root to bring it all together.  Funny thing about this wine is that at the time that I bought it I wrote "now" on the back of the bottle, meaning that I should have drunk it much sooner than I did; but I found it to be a heck of a lot more fascinating wine 8 years on then I would have back in the early part of the 2000's when I bought it.  Just goes to show you, losing a bottle can be interesting and worthwhile.  Of course I'm drinking wine for purely educational purposes, honest.

Cantina San Pancrazio 2008 Brachetto (Italy)

It's about 100 degrees in the shade - well where I am in Toronto it is.  It's one of those blisteringly hot days of summer, with humidity up to here (you know the level where I am referring to - put your flattened hand above your head) ... and on a day like today nothing goes better then something simple and refreshing.  Found a bottle of Brachetto in the fridge, popped the cork and found some big glasses to pour the wine into.  This is not a complicated wine, the smell of grapes, some black raspberry (if you look for it) and ginger ale, with a little bit of fizz - this is the perfect wine to sip or even chug-a-lug at a time like this and at only 6% alcohol either way works.  I know I'll open something later for dinner, but this makes for a great afternoon break.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

L.A. Cetto 2004 Petite Sirah (Mexico)

L.A. Cetto wines are always fun to bring to a BBQ and the reason is simple:  people inevitably pick up the bottle (after they have tried it) and they take a second and sometimes a third look at the bottle, "I didn't know Mexico made wine".  They do and it's usually pretty good, especially the ones from Cetto.  I have tried their Zinfandel from them along with Nebbiolo and this Petite Sirah; and I find they offer great value.  This one is 6 years old and still delivered a lot of pleasure and enjoyment: the nose smelled of black fruit and white pepper while the palate was plummy and peppery, quite a tasty treat for BBQ season.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Cattail Creek 2008 Gamay Noir (Ontario)

I reviewed this wine not too long ago, so I can’t legitimately look at it as one of my taste it again wines, therefore I will just tell you what I did with my day before going into my thoughts about the wine.  Highlight of the day was the great lunch I had at About Thyme Bistro, pulled pork sandwich and an ice tea, broke up the tedious day of painting nicely.  As for this Gamay, it is one of those wines with a funny smell – no bad just funny – but the taste more than makes up for it, and it’s so juicy and quaffable with flavours of fresh cherry juice, had I been thinking I would have put it in the fridge an hour ago, to give it a little chill so that the red fruit would pop and crackle, kinda like the fireworks going on outside, must be some kids lighting off the one’s they didn’t get to last night.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Christian Moueix 2000 Merlot (France)

It’s amazing what you find when you clean up a little.  I am moving from one house to another, which means I have to take apart my existing wine cellar and move it to another location – this is probably the hardest part of the move, and yet the most exciting.  That’s because it has to be done bottle-by-bottle and I get to touch and look at wines I have lost track of over the years and re-acquaint myself with them; like this Christian Moueix 2000 Merlot.  I was surprised to see it as part of my inventory, and today I moved three racks worth of stuff to the new house (that’s about 135 bottles) so I decided to celebrate with this decade old Merlot.  Smells were of forest floor, dried red berries, a touch of green veggie and some spiced vanilla oak.  The palate was much better, I can’t say it was lively and fruity, but I can say that the dried fruit mixed well with the foresty floor and spiced oak – thankfully the green veggie was only on the nose.  Now I know you are going to tell me it’s Canada Day and I should have opened a bottle of my Home Country’s wine; but I feel I did my part, I visited no less than 5 wineries today and here’s what I discovered: I was thoroughly impressed with Wes Lowrey and his Five Rows Vineyard offerings, Pondview has a wonderful array of well priced wines (and some stellar stuff in barrel).  The Sauvignon Blanc from Strewn was as tasty as I remember it.  Chateau des Charmes 2007 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay remains a favourite and Lailey, well their barrel burning BBQ isn’t till Saturday, so I’ll tell you about it then.