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.