Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Black Hills Estate Winery 2008 Nota Bene (British Columbia)

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

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Torres 2008 Infinite (Spain)

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

Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat (USA)

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

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

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

Cline 2006 Sonoma County Syrah (California)

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

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Domaine St. George 2004 Sonoma County Barrel Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

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

Paul Anheuser 2008 Schlossbockelheimer Konigsfels Riesling Kabinett (Germany)

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

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Vina Calina 2001 Merlot (Chile)

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

Friday, December 17, 2010

Inniskillin East West Series Wines (Canada)

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

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

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Columbia Crest 2001 Grand Estates Syrah (Washington)

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

Darting 2006 Riesling Spatlese Ungsteiner Herrenberg (Germany)

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

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Woop Woop Wines 2006 The Black Chook (Australia)

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

Saturday, December 11, 2010

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

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

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Juan Gil 2006 Monastrell - White Label (Spain)

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

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Julian Chivite 2004 Gran Feudo Reserva (Spain)

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

JanKris 2004 Tres Ranchos Paso Robles Zinfandel (California)

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

Saturday, December 4, 2010

South Africa Wine Up the Ying Yang (South Africa)

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 3, 2010

StoneHedge 2008 Reserve Amador County Zinfandel (California)

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Marquis Philips 2008 Shiraz (Australia)

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