Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve: German Riesling & Ontario Bubbles (Germany / Canada)

It was double Riesling night chez moi on New Year's eve ... first we started with a bottle of CH Berres 2007 Riesling Kabinett (Urziger Wurzgarten) and paired it with ordered in Chinese food.  Now before I get to the wine I want to take this moment to remind myself that ordering Chinese on New Year's eve is not a novel idea - no matter what you convince yourself of, in fact I think everybody and his dog had the same idea.  Our usual place took an hour-and-a-half to deliver, the food was almost stone cold and the usual fabulous quality almost seemed pedestrian (the soup even tasted like dishwater) ... so note to self, pick it up next year.  As for the Riesling, it was a delicious accompaniment and also by itself.  It started off with a hint of petrol on the first whiff, but soon that dissipated and we were left with lemon, dried apricot and lime cordial on the nose.  The palate started the same way but righted itself within 15 minutes: sweet citrus notes found their way to the back palate, baby powder nuances along with pear and lemon across the tongue - it had a dry start with a touch of sweetness on the finish ... lovely.

The second Riesling of the night happened to be of the sparkling variety as we opened a Maleta 2005 Old Vines Brut (Ontario) at the stroke of midnight.  This wine has aged very well with baked apple and lemon pith notes on the nose, while on the palate toasted brioche with a slight buttery taste across the tongue gave way to a long lemon and lime pith finish.  Happy New Year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Cline 2010 Cool Climate Pinot Noir (California)

According to my American wine connection this is the first time Cline has made a Pinot Noir.  Cline is known for making excellent single vineyard Zinfandel, and here in Ontario they have a good value priced Syrah that continues to impressed year in and year out ... but I had never seen a Pinot under their label and my connection further sparked my interest by telling me it is one of his favourites of the year (value-wise) ... now that's pretty big praise.  I was also told that for years Cline has been growing these grapes and selling them off to La Crema, who are known for making some pretty awe-inspiring Pinots themselves, so if they liked the grapes this must be something special.  The nose had lots of smoky strawberry notes along with sour cherry and spice.  The palate doled out more of that smoky quality along with sour cherry, spice and some earthy notes.  The finish was the most intriguing part of all as it laid down a delicious layer of smoked black cherry on the tongue.  I would say this is a pretty good first effort from the folks at Cline.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Concha y Toro 2005 Casillero del Diablo Merlot (Chile)

Last night was pizza night and so I was looking for something Italian in the cellar when my hand found its way to the neck of this bottle ... and so I for-went (???) the Italian and decided to open this Chilean instead ... and what a wonderful surprise it was too.  I know that Concha y Toro make excellent wines, but to find it here in the $12 range and to have it last beautifully for 6 years, and it could have gone longer, trust me, proves to me the winery is all about quality in the bottle ... The nose was blueberry, chocolate and cassis - lots of chocolate and cassis, which was followed on the palate with a smooth suppleness that carried along with it cassis and spice with a hint of woodsiness ... paired very well with the pepperoni pizza we devoured.  Don't be afraid to lie some of these bargain wines down - you never know which ones will surprise you.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Forchini Vineyards 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel, Proprietor's Reserve (California)

While in Michigan this holiday season I visited my friend Dave at Champane Wine Cellars ... I was buying a bottle for my sister-in-law and needed some advise on something easy and fruity, as I am trying to find a way to convert her from the sweet reds to the drier versions ... then the inevitable question, I needed something for me.  Dave knows my penchant for Zinfandel so he brought me over to the section and started showing me a few bottles that he has tried and admired over the past few months.  One of which was this Forchini Old Vines.  The nose was mainly spiced-plum though I did pick up a hint of volatile acidity; but the palate was perfect with lots of vanilla along with the spiced plum which showed up on the mid-palate and a lovely chocolate note on the finish which lead to something peppery ... very nice.  Yes Dave sure did pick a winner here.  On another note, while talking wine, as we usually do, Dave was intrigued by Pinot Noirs from Ontario, skeptically so, so I promised him a little tour through the world of Ontario Pinot the next time we meet ... I just know that's going to go well as I have already begun a list of my favs.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Belle Glos 2009 Meiomi Pinot Noir (California)

I find that when I do a lot of work or research on a grape I suddenly have a craving to have a glass or two of the wine made from it ... so upon my arrival home tonight I opened this bottle of the recently released (in Ontario anyway) Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot.  Meiomi is a blended vineyard Pinot, as oppose to the single vineyard Pinots that Glos makes ... plus it's under screwcap, which is quite different than the stylized waxing put on the higher end Belle Glos wines.  I found this wine to be really tasty and just what I was looking for, even though when describing it to my wife she thought I was nuts for liking it - I guess you just have to like reds and in particular be intrigued by Pinot Noirs many facets.  The nose was of a smoky tobacco that really lured you in; the palate kept the smokiness and added black cherry with just a hint of the cranberry that was found on the nose - so far so good, right?  But here is where the oddness came in, the finish retained the smokiness but with more of a cigarette ashtray finish; or for those who have smoked before, it was like the lingering sensation of a few cigarettes on the tongue.  Now I was never a hardcore smoker, I have had the occasional cigar and flirted with disaster many years ago (I have my brother to thank for the habit not catching on) ... but I remembered the sensation.  This is really an interesting wine, and yes, very tasty - even down to that ashtray finish.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cline 2005 Gnarly Head Old Vines Zinfandel (USA)

In a post I did about Friday's wine (Bogle Phantom), I made mention that all Zin is good unless it is spoiled.  In a related matter, I got an email the other day from a winery owner who was not happy with one of my posts in which I blamed pastic cork for the demise of his wine.  Which bring us back to the Gnarly Head I held in my hands, struggled to open, and poured into my this past Sunday.  At first the wine just seemed a little pruny - and with the plumminess of Zinfandel (usually) you can some how make the leap that an older Zin will become pruny (no?).  But 20 minutes into the glass and this wine was shot, long-gone-to-the-Yukon, an absolute disaster ... and I blame, you guessed it, the cork, which was indeed plastic, stylized, but plastic.  I suspect you have heard me talk about the bane of my existence being these plastic corks which act like sieves for air.  They spoil wine that is usually wonderful in no time flat.  And if you are unlucky enough to have stored away a plastic capped wine for any length of time you have a 80/20 chance that wine is not worth cleaning your toilet ... such was the case with this wine.  In both smell and taste it was rancid and not worth drinking.  My wife was actually shocked that I was pouring a glass of wine down the sink, and even more shocked that is was a Zin, saying, "I thought you said there were redeeming qualities in all wine" ... not one like this sweetheart, not one like this.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Bogle 2004 Phantom (USA)

I make no bones about it, I really like Zinfandel wines, and although I write a lot about Ontario, I know that my beloved home province will not be making Zinfandel any time soon (unless this global warming really takes off).  I also find myself with a passion for Primitivo, but that's a story for another time.  Tonight's wine was a Bogle Phantom, a wine made from Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Mourvedre, two  latter of the three grapes from "old vines".  I occasionally hear a debate about Zin, whether it should be drunk young and fresh or put a little age to it and see the complexity come out - the argument there is that Zin has no complexity when its young so why would it get it when it's old?  But enough with the naysayers, unless it's absoultely spoiled, Zin is great at any stage.  Granted this isn't pure Zin but it sure has enough inside to give it real character.  The nose is black cherry, raspberry, spiced blueberry with a whiff of cinnamon.  The palate is a little tamer but still quite good doling out spiced cherry, raspberry and plum notes.  It was an altogether very pleasant wine, not sure how much longer I would leave it in the cellar, but tasty it was.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mitchelton 2003 Blackwood Park Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia)

There are times that I pull a bottle of wine out of the cellar for no more important a reason than I wanted to ... there are other times I look a little deeper into the cellar and think I have to start drinking some of this older stuff ... this was one of those times (on both accounts).  This Mitchelton Cab was stunning from beginning to end, it was one of those bottles that after the first sip I was wishing I had more bottles and after an hour I was wondering if I should have let it sit longer. But all that means nothing now as it is the only bottle I have and it is now open and gone, but what an enjoyable wine it was.  The nose was full of black cherry and chocolate with a hint of rich vanilla cream.  The palate was even better with fruit flavours of blackberry and black cherry, then dark chocolate and vanilla took on some of the chores of delivering flavour ... as the evening progressed the wine continued to be loaded with rich dark fruit on the tongue and the finish was cocoa ladened with lots of length.  This was a delicious wine, so glad I got the chance to experience it - and while I wish I had bought more, I am glad I drank it during the sweet spot.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Holiday Get Together wines and beer (Ontario / Australia)

The evening started with a growler of beer and ended with a debate over an Ontario Meritage, the middle consisted of two wildly different Tasmanian Pinots.  Sounds like a party, and it was.  

The wife and I decided to invite some friends over to make up for cancelling on the US Thanksgiving get together we were originally planning (I had to go out of town that weekend).  Our drinking started early because of the miracle bird - a turkey that was calculated to need 7 hours to cook somehow only needed 3 to be completely done ... it is our first Christmas miracle.  My wife and I sat on the couch in the living room and knew we needed something to drink ... that's when we pulled out the growler (1.9L) of Niagara College Teaching Brewery Glutton free beer ... yes we wanted a beer but nothing heavy - we had guests coming after all, and this one hit the spot.  

People started to arrive some 3 hours later - the beer was gone but we had plenty more, including a NCTB Oatmeal Stout that proved to be popular with us and a few guests.  For dinner I twisted the cap on a bottle of Josef Chromy 2009 Pinot Noir "Pepik" - which was delightfully Pinot-esque with that sour cherry, cranberry and slight earthy tinge, this was a very good Pinot Noir from a country not known for making great pinot (Australia) but from a region I have grown to really enjoy Pinots from (Tasmania).  I wanted to have a bit of a contrasting Pinot in bottle number two, so I twisted another cap on a bottle of Tamar Ridge 2007 Pinot Noir 'Kayena Vineyard'; another Tasmanian offering but this time from the 2007 vintage, which must have been way hotter because the alcohol was a whopping 14% where as the first was only 12.  This one showed more of a cooked fruit flavour, more robust with more plummy and black fruit qualities - more along the lines of what you expect a delicate grape like Pinot to become in a hot region like Australia ... but there was still some finesse shown in the making of it so it wasn't jammy ... it past muster.

After dinner a debate began over a bottle of Ravine 2010 Meritage - someone mentioned that had seen my review and wondered what wine I had tasted, as they had tried the same wine and was nothing like what I had described.  I quickly ran downstairs and grabbed a bottle and poured some glasses - I was vindicated, but my guest insists that the wine we tried tonight and the one they had tried previously, while labelled the exact same, were not the same wines ... curious.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Between the Lines 2009 Merlot (Ontario)

I'm on an Ontario kick this week as I pulled out this bottle of Between the Lines 2009 Merlot tonight - looking at my site I thought I had reviewed this wine already, but it seems I have not posted said review; could be because there was not much of this wine left at the winery (the only place you can get it), and as I was drinking I thought "why should there be any of this wine left, it's bloody delicious" (obviously my inner-Brit comes out when I drink).  Not only is this iwne delicious but a real value at only $13.00.  Smooth and fruity it's exactly what people think of when they think of Merlot.  Most Ontario Merlot needs some time but this one is ripe and ready now.  Here's a pre-holiday suggestion .. call up Between the Lines and see if they have any of this wine left, if they do get some, it's a real people pleasing, party starter kind of wine.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Columbia Crest 2007 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon (Washington)

I would have to say that the Washington wines I have tasted of late have been pretty awesome stuff.  I was really blown away by a tasting of this wine a few months back and now that I got a chance to put this wine into a nice big glass and consume more then a few mouthfuls (without having to spit them), I am even more impressed.  The nose was full of ripe inviting fruit like blackberry and black cherry, but there were also lovely aromas of vanilla, spice and mocha.  The palate didn't disappoint in any way, starting with chocolate and cassis, then moving on to blueberry and black cherry, before allowing pepper and spice to take center stage.  The wine did have some fairly aggressive tannins that seemed to soften with more swirling in the glass, but they kept popping up even after an hour.  This wine shows some great potential for further aging over the next 5+ years, but it sure is drinking well right now.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ravine Vineyard 2010 Chardonnay - Estate (Ontario)

Finally got my hands on a bottle of this wine to take home and it is just as good in the glass here in my living room as it was sipping it at the winery with Peter Gamble.  Paired with salmon this wine truly does satisfy - I always remember something that Thomas Bachelder said when talking about Chardonnay:  "where's the salmon?" and I think he is completely right, it was a delicious match.  As for the wine, best I just send you over to my original review from a few weeks ago:  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mission Hill 2005 Reserve Shiraz (British Columbia)

I don't know why, but the idea of having something from BC just stuck in my head and I couldn't shake it.  I must have been looking through a magazine or something, and Mission Hill just kept coming up - even though I have other BC wines to chose from.  One that's really got me Jonesing to finally open it is a 2005 Twisted Tree Merlot - but I guess I am saving that for another day.  Tonight it was a beef pot roast and Shiraz that had my attention on the wine and food front. The wine proved to be quite good over the short term with a nose of black currant, cedary and cinnamon notes along with some spice and pepper (hard to tell them apart at this point in the evolution of the wine).  On the palate the cinnamon came through along with blackberry, cassis, white pepper and cedary notes ... and as the night wore on the cedary notes became more prevalent to the point of being more like dry pencil shavings ... but then there was also some pleasant smoked meat spices that complimented those woody flavours, when I took the last sip of the night the wood was over-shadowing even the spices.  Held up nicely but not sure it has too much longer to be called "fresh".

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

McKinley Springs 2007 Bombing Range Red (Washington)

This is a really interesting blend from Washington state that came out just this past weekend at the LCBO (Ontario):  Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah with dollops of Mourvedre, Malbec and Petit Verdot.  I think the last three add the complexity to the wine while the first two give it that typicity we all know and love - thus making it an interesting blend.  The nose starts off with plum and clove, then after about an hour turns into sweet spiced-raspberry (nice evolution) ... flavour-wise you get pepper, spice, cedar, cassis, black cherry and clove all woven into a pleasant drink-it-slow package as it changes on the palate from sip to sip, adding more and more enjoyment to your evening.  The funny thing about this wine is the label - a cartoon drawing of a pilot holding a glass of wine and beside it a three panel cartoon showing a wine bottle being dropped like a bomb - here in Ontario the brain-trust at the liquor board decided it would be a good idea to cover up the glass of wine the pilot is holding in the name of social responsibility; obviously they don't want us to get the notion that drinking and flying (and dropping wine bottles from on high) is acceptable.  Really?  I needed that reminder?  Thank goodness they stepped on on this one.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Montgras 2005 Quatro (Chile)

After my fiasco with the Spanish wine (a rarity in my experience with Spanish wines) I moved on to another Spanish speaking country, Chile, and a bottle of Montgras Quatro, a blend of four grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere and Malbec.  This proved to be a nicer drinking red than its Spanish counterparrt.  The nose was minty with blackberry and vanilla aromas encircling it.  The palate delivered on the promise of the nose's minty notes, but turned the blackberry into cassis and sweet raspberry on the mid-palate and turned that pretty vanilla note into cedar.  The fruit still dominates here but its time to be drinking this wine and not sitting on it and with two more bottles in my cellar its time to locate and drink (which is a different initiative then if the wine were bad, then it would be search and destroy).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bodegas Campina 2007 Sabor Real Vinas Centenarias Tempranillo (Spain)

Not too sure about this one.  The first bottle was corked and uninviting (as corked wines usually are) - I took a sip to make sure and wish that I hadn't.  Then I opened a second bottle and it was not much better than the first.  I really liked the nose on this one, really very pretty with lots of plum and vanilla notes, but the palate does not co-operate with the signals the nose is sending, it's too something: too woody, too dry, too unappealing, too much of a foul finish.  There was really not much to be excited about here.  I let it sit in the glass for about an hour with the occasional swirl and re-sniff - the wine had a great nose - but the palate just continue to be all wood all the time.  Maybe the first bottle tainted my palate, but the nose and palate just didn't mesh here and that was its biggest problem.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

JanKris 2004 Paso Robles Tres Ranchos Zinfandel (California)

Something special on a Friday night ... not wanting to go downstairs to the wine cellar I stayed upstairs and wondering into the dining room to see what kind of "last minute bottles" I had lying about.  I found this 7 year old JanKris Zin that I remember being a big fan of and have probably written about more than a few bottles on this very blog (I had 6 at one point).  For those that think ZIn is a drink-now kinda wine, think again, this one is even better than I remembered it. Lots of vanilla, plum, and cherry with white pepper and spice were all over the nose and moved to the palate.  As the night wore on there was some cherry liqueur on the palate mixed in with vanilla and plums ... lovely and very smooth without being sweet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

LA Cetto 2005 Petite Sirah (Mexico)

Mexico is known more for its Cerveza (por favor) then their wine, but they do make some wines and some good ones at that.  This is pretty much the only Mexican wine we see in Ontario and its been a staple for the last few years (if not more).  And the price is pretty reasonable ... once under $10, now just over.  I thought I'd age one to see if the value continues, and I am glad to report that yes for under $10 you can get a wine to sit in the cellar for a few years without having it turn to vinegar.  This one still had lots of fruit with blackberry, cassis, and plum with some spice holding it together ... the aromas came off as sweet so it was nice to have the spice there.  On the palate there was lots of that good fruit coming through and loads of black pepper and spice.  Perfect pairing on taco night - which is just what we did.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Stalking Horse 2008 Mclaren Vale Shiraz

After an evening of talking about Ontario wines, specifically the ones from the Lake Erie North Shore region,at the Sarnia Fusion festival for local wines and foods, I retired to my room for a little R & R.  It's now 10:30 at night and I am cracking the cap on a bottle of Stalking Horse Shiraz, forget abut the cutesy label at the moment (heck the wine is worth buying just for that), but as we all know it's what's in that bottle that counts, and this wine has a real wow factor.  Brimming with chocolatey, plummy, raspberry goodness this wine delivers all kinds of silkiness across the tongue, and while the nose is incredibly alluring it also has the ability to deliver flavours that are off the chart in their richness.  But it's not jammy and sticky as you might think, there's some finesse behind this bruiser and it finishes with a spiced-raspberry note and lingers with chocolate - a real party of flavour in the mouth.  Being released in Vintages (Ontario) Saturday November 12 - and worth every penny of the 17.95 price tag.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Duckhorn 2008 Decoy (California)

Seems like its been forever since I wrote about a wine I drank for the shear pleasure of it all and not something I was examining to see if it stood the test of time or had it as part of a winemaker`s dinner - it`s the busy season and every night there seems to be another tasting happening.  Anyway, it`s Halloween and it seems only right to have a wine in a disguise ... or at least name after one.  This Duckhorn Decoy is heavy on the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with mere hints of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot backing it up.  A pretty sprawling wine with lots going on right from the get go, my notes say `ballsy beginning`and it sure was.  I finally had to decant this wine to bring out the dark fruit, spice and vanilla delicacy within, but all with a nice firm tannic backbone ... very flavourful, dark and ... well, just a good Halloween wine.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sogevinus 2008 Veedha Douro Red (Portugal)

So far I have talked many people into buying this wine by just word of mouth alone, so now it is time to tell it to the rest of the world - I drank a bottle myself to much fanfare in my mouth.  I first tried this wine a week or so ago at the wines of Douro tasting, a tasting that encompassed mostly Ports but with a few interesting table wines along the way.  I tried this one and loved it, especially when I heard the price was a mere $12.95 - which I soon found out was on the high end of the Portugal wine pricing on the LCBO's General List ... but I found it to be more than worth it.  The nose is blackberry and raspberry with some vanilla, plum and black cherry notes also to be found throughout the evening.  The nose doesn't lie, as the palate is also filled with all that nice fruit flavour; it's fresh and smooth with just enough tannins to keep things interesting, there's also a lovely bit of spice on the tongue to be found on the finish.  Within an hour in the glass this wine was smooth and easy drinking pulling out dark fruits, namely plum and black cherry, with hints of cocoa that make it even more enjoyable in the second hour than the first (which was tasty to begin with). Sure it ticks the high end of Portuguese wines, but I still find this to be one of the best values on the Portugal wine shelves at this moment.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Marchesi de Frescobaldi 2009 Terre Mare dell Ammiraglia (Italy)

This wine hit the Ontario market the Saturday before (Oct. 15) and I was one of those that just had to get my hands on a few bottles ... a Bordeaux blend with a twist of Syrah added.  So we have Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah in a bottle of Italian wine ... and it is delicious.  The nose is cherries sprinkled with cinnamon and vanilla, very pretty.  The flavours are smooth and lush with lots of red and black fruit and a touch of spice and best of all it gets better with some time in the glass.  My only disappointment with this wine came when I opened it and found a plastic cork underneath the capsule, that means attempting to age this wine is out of the question ... so drink up within the next 1-3 years.  This one's not for collectors, it's for drinkers.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Double Dose of Syrah / Shiraz (California / Ontario)

It was a sad day for older Shiraz / Syrah tonight ... I kicked off with a bottle that had been brought over and left unconsumed a few night ago: Karly 1995 Amador County Syrah ... from the pictures on their website it looks like Karly wines, even today, is run out of someone's kitchen, or at least the tasting room is.  It also seems that Karly is known primarily as a Zinfandel producer; so what am I doing with a Syrah from them?  Oh well, I did not buy it but I am willing to try it.  It was an impossible bottle to get into as the cork just crumbled into a million pieces all over the sink and the floor, I'll clean it up later.  I ended up creating a hole in the cork and siphoned off the first quarter of the bottle trying to get a clean look to the glass (no cork pieces).  Once that was done it was time to taste the wine ... the smell was atrocious and the taste was no better ... all oak and dried something, possibly a cross between leaves and bark with a very bitter finish, the wine was not corked but the finish had the feel of licking cardboard to it, and a similar taste (probably from being filtered through the cork to the glass), but something tells me even if I could have gotten that cork out clean this wine was long dead.

Bottle two proved to be a little better but not by much ... the good news, I guess, is it was still alive and drinkable:  Pelee Island 2005 Vinedressers Shiraz ... 2005 was a good year for reds in Ontario and the southern most point, Pelee Island, got a real nice flavour out of these grapes, as per my notes of September 2009.  But now some 4 years later the wine seems to be falling apart.  The nose has gone all cedary and black pepperish, while the palate has spice, black pepper and a real cedary flavour, and all tertiary flavours without a spec of fruit.  Granted the wine seemed to smooth out a bit over the course of an hour, dropping some of the harsh tannins, but it remained all woody and black pepper in flavour.  While it was drinkable it worked better with the food than on its own.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dominus 1990 Proprietor's Red (California)

Looking back at my blog posts it turns out that this is the oldest bottle of American wine I have ever reviewed for the "What I'm Drinking Tonight" blog.  A friend called us up and said she was coming over for dinner with two bottles of wine under her arms.  Both bottles were American, one from 1990 and the other '95 but the one we opened on this night was the 1990 Dominus.  She let me know about the Dominus beforehand and I looked it up to see what people were saying.  In 1997 Parker said it would drink well up to 2017 while the folks on CellarTracker seemed a bit confused, saying things like "fishy" and "Any longer in the bottle this may not have been as good", yet still giving it low to mid 90's ... I had a different take.  The nose and taste followed similar lines: plenty of dried leaves and oak dominant, with tannins providing most of the flavour.  I wouldn't exactly call the wine dead, but it sure has crested the hill of aging and is on its way down ... Nice to see that a well-known label can still add a few mercy points to a score.  I, on the other hand, am totally in agreement with this Cellar Tracker user who said in December 2009: "Losing it's fruit. I think this is on a downward spiral." ... and I'm trying it almost two years later.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tin Roof Chardonnay and 2002 Dunn Howell Mountain (California)

What an interesting day for wine (and food) ... I trundled down to Kitchener to meet with the folks heading up the new regional wine and food shows that should be hitting that market in late-November and April (just from my few meetings I can safely say these are going to be excellent shows).  We ended up at a delightful new restaurant called Marisol Restaurante for lunch.  Marisol has only been open for about three weeks, but is already generating some buzz in Kitchener, and I can see why ... or more like taste why.  Their menu for lunch is a handful of dishes (6 in all) with three "First"s (appetizer stuff) and three "Second"s (mains) along with 3 available sides.  You can also order some stuff off the dinner menu if whatever is being served for lunch does not appeal.  We started our meal off of the dinner menu with a plate of mussels, then moved onto the lunch menu where I ordered a fabulous Roasted Garlic Soup with crumbled blue cheese that was out of this world (especially if you don't want to have to talk to anybody the rest of the day) and for my main a Pan Roasted Wild Halibut on a fennel and radish salad.  The halibut was prepared simply but deliciously and with each forkful combined more with the flavours in the salad added even more flavour to the fish.  But you probably aren't too worried about my culinary review (though if you are in Kitchener ... I`m just saying); I know you are interested in what wine I had.  For lunch I had a 2008 Tin Roof Chardonnay that seemed multi-purpose through the meal.  Touch buttery but with enough fruit to carry the wine through the mussels and soup, though a tad jarring with just the halibut, you needed the rest of the dish to liven it up.

That evening I was teaching a wine class and the generosity of students continues to amaze me.  Some sit and take it all in (which is what they are suppose to do I guess) but others jump in with both feet.  Since we were doing California on this particular evening one student stopped by the LCBO and purchased his favourite California Cab (producer, not vintage) a 2002 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - Howell Mountain.  What makes this more impressive is that the bottle was over a hundred bucks and he was willing to share it with the entire class.  I had brought in a $11 Cab and thus we did a blind experiment to see if a wine worth 10 times as much was identifiable as such.  Interesting to note that we went down gender lines, the woman enjoyed the lighter $11 wine while the men preferred the more expensive bottle.  The class misjudged the price, as the majority thought the younger Cab the more expensive bottle - but I wonder how many have experience with aged and over $100 bottles.  As for the wine it had some forest floor notes, spice, blackberry, menthol and herbal tobacco on the nose (showing its age) ... but the palate was more forgiving of its longevity showcasing more fruit and other flavours:  blackberry, spiced-oak, sweet floral, and a Dr. Pepper character that I rather enjoyed (though the class laughed at that little descriptor).  The finish was a pleasant vanilla-cherry-tobacco.  A big thanks to OM for this bottle.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Carrick Gravel Run Cider (Ontario)

Sausage and Cider, what could go better together?  Yes I hear you purist saying that beer is also a perfect accompaniment but we had Cider on hand so that is what we went with.  Smoked garlic sausages from the Best Little Pork Shoppe (Shakespeare, Ontario), served with a side of Sauerkraut (from the same shoppe) and a little Kraft Dinner with extra cheese on the side, to round out the meal.  I had recently acquired some wines from a little winery in Midway, Ontario and I felt the best way to get a taste of their Cider was with a meal.  This Gravel Run Cider is their lightest offering of the Cider varieties (they make two), it's off-dry and slightly carbonated.  Light and crisp with a touch of sweetness this one is very gulpable and with a finish that had some length.  Maybe a little too light to accompany the dinner we had, but on its own it was a delight.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bernardus Chardonnay and Musar Jeune (California / Lebanon)

Bit of a double whammy tonight in the wine department.  A friend showed up with dinner and dessert under their arm, they also had a bottle of 2000 Baco Noir Reserve from Henry of Pelham.  Now back in June, the Wine Writers' Circle did a tasting of nine Henry Reserve Bacos, one of my least favourites was the 2000 ... but we cracked it and tried it anyway.  My opinion did not change, and our friend asked for something else ... "do you have anything?"  Now I am never at a loss for wine in the house so I grabbed a bottle of Chardonnay out of the fridge that I picked up on my tour of Monterey, California:  Bernardus 2009 Sierra Mar Vineyard.  Now, if memory serves correctly these vines are in their first year of producing viable fruit, and the guy who let me taste it in the tasting room said they were expecting great things from this vineyard in the future.  While I think it has great things going for it now.  The nose is buttery caramel and honeyed-hazelnuts along with peach pit and candied almonds.  The palate isn't as candied as the nose giving off both fruit and sweet sensations on the tongue: vanilla-butter, apple, peach with a slightly nutty-spicy finish ... my friend remarked that it tasted older than one would expect from a 2009 wine.  I have to wonder what sitting in the belly of a plane did to the wine, but it was still a delight to drink. 

Dinner was awhile in the oven, who knew that a lasagna would take 2 hours to cook (okay so it was frozen, but still), so when we finally sat down we had to open another bottle, and this time it was a Chateau Musar 2008 Musar Jeune from Lebanon.  This is a blend of Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, from the old old world.  Musar (at least the bottles I have had) never have that fresh fruit flavour so it is an acquired taste.  The nose is dried leaves along with herbs and spice; palate-wise there was cran-cherry and spice with a touch of herbal notes. I enjoyed it very much and seemed to match with the noodles, cheese and meat very well.  Then again it was also good on its own.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Kaiken 2005 Ultra Malbec (Argentina)

Back in 2007 I called this "an absolutely stupendous bottle of wine" in a private review.  I also would have recommended it to my Vintages readers (September 1, 2007) ... now some 6 years from vintage date I am not as enthralled with this wine, though it is still quite enjoyable.  In its youth the wine was vibrant with flavour both big and subtle (from my review: "Woody, oaky, coffee, licorice and black fruit are all in the nose; while black fruit, black licorice and [with] a mouth-drying tannin backbone") - but as it is aging it is showing its heavy handed 14.5% alcohol and the wood is overly compensating for the loss of fruit.  This was the first version of the Ultra to appear on the shelves here in Ontario, and being a big fan of the regular Kaiken I jumped all over this one ... the cork gave me a load of trouble breaking halfway through opening, and then broke into three more pieces before I was finally able to get it out.  With the cork extracted I had to pour some out to get the grit from the cork out of the wine.  But then it was time to taste and smell (not necessarily in the order).  The smell was spicy as hell, but also gave up quite of bit of alcohol burn that more than tickled the nose hairs; there was also an element of dark fruit and dried leaves to be found.  Flavours started out dark fruited and very woodsy, the woodsy calmed down with time in glass (say 45 minutes) but what took over was the alcohol heat, on some sips it almost burned going down ... I'm not in the habit of shaking a bottle of wine like I am a bottle of V8 juice to mix in all the flavours, but maybe that is what this bottle needed to integrate the alcohol ... just a thought.  Overall it was still a good wine, but not the stupendous bottle I remember from back in September 2007.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Josef Chromy 2009 Pepik - Pinot Noir (Australia)

Turns out I have a small collection of Josef Chromy wines, all Pinot Noirs and all Tasmanian, from Australia, what the folks down under proclaim as "true cool climate".  Of the three I have this is the one with the least amount of alcohol (12.5%) while the others have 13 and 14.5.  Pepik is a nickname for Josef in Czech - or so the back of the bottle says ... it also called this wine an "approachable, easy-drinking" wine, and I am apt to agree.  The fruit is forward in this wine with lots of cherry and hints of cranberry on the nose, along with sweet spices and some vanilla.  The palate shows the acidity of this wine first and foremost, then displays really good red fruit flavours, some spice which then leads to a cranberry, raspberry, strawberry finish.  Lovely mouth-feel and good taste, one of the reasons I like the Chromy wines, and why I have quite the collection going on.  Might I suggest you pick up a bottle from the store nearest you and see if you don't agree.  And for you white drinkers, his Chardonnays are pretty good too.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Seifried Estate 2005 Nelson Riesling (New Zealand)

I find myself at the Festival Inn in Stratford enjoying the evening with my wife after we returned from the events that took place on the Saturday afternoon at Savour Stratford (a report will follow in the next few days on the On the Road blog).  I brought along a little something special to while away the evening ... at least I am hoping it is special.  Not sure why I have been holding onto this wine like it was gold, I guess I am impressed to have some white other than Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand in my possession.  A curious wine because it started out a little too funky but then seemed to reclaim itself ... let me explain.  The nose started off too petrolly and almost hard to drink, but the palate didn't have that problem, there was little to no petrol there.  So I decided to let it sit and see what happened (our fridge might have also been a little too cold).  Yes petrol was hanging out in the background but there were also smells of apricot and lemon peel.  The taste also proved to be rather interesting with citrus notes in the form of lemon pith, over-ripe pear and some apricot.  As the wine warmed and opened up; after another hour there were hints of green apple and some minerality thru the mouth that disappeared into an apricot-lemon pith finish.  I think this wine has held up rather nicely.

Cline 2005 Ancient Vines Zinfandel (California)

Even sittin' at home on a Friday evening I found myself in a California State of Mind, so I opened up an old bottle of this favourite from Cline.  They say the vines they use are between 80-100 years old, that's pretty ancient indeed.  Now at first I was not sure about this wine, things did not smell good and the taste was suspect.  The nose was plummy to a degree but also had quite a bit of pruney and foresty floor nuances.  The taste also rode the line with vanilla, oak, creme de cacao but with a long slightly pruned-oaked finish.  But with more time in the glass and some more aeration to the wine it began to sprout.  In the end I got chocolate with dried plum, but not yet prune notes and some spice started to show up to give the wine a nice kick.  Yup, a decanter and an hour would have helped this wine, but I could not wait to get to the good stuff - patience is a virtue and sometimes I have none of it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Trinchero 2009 Zinfatuation (California)

As the label suggests this is another in a string of Zinfandels I have been drinking here in California over the past week.  This one is an exclusive to Cost Plus World Market, where I had purchased a few bottles in San Francisco.  It's rich and plummy with hints of vanilla and black cherry on the nose.  The palate is plummy with some spice and loads of vanilla - an easy sipper for an afternoon staring out at Monterey Bay trying to pick out sea otters in the bay and on the rocks.  Thinking back to the past week, my favourite Zin on the trip was the first one I tried, but this one is quite lovely and another steal for 8.99 or something ridiculous like that ... like seriously how can you go wrong with a wine that inexpensive, worse case scenario you dump it in the stew.  Well I guess it's cheers from California, tomorrow it's back to the Great White North where I will be screwed at the cash register for even the simplest bottle of wine at our liquor monopoly (good bye free enterprise, hello rubber glove).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Chock Rock Vineyard 2006 Syrah - Chalone (California)

A beauty of a Syrah that I tried while touring around the Carmel Valley area of Monterey, and happened across this winery tasting room, the project of Dan Karlsen, winemaker for Talbott Vineyards.  I was impressed by this reasonably priced ($18.00) Syrah that had so much actual Syrah character; probably because the grapes come from the cool Chalone appellation of Monterey.  I liked it in the tasting room and I'm loving it even more now that I have it in a larger, more appropriate glass.  Smells are of dark fruit and smoked meat while the palate has some lovely peppery notes, raspberry fruit and plenty of spice, Dan has also managed to trap some good acidity here so it's not a heavy jammy Syrah and it'll pair well with meat and cheese, I have no meat in the room but I am munching on some cheese as a pairing and it is just heavenly, especially with those cheeses that have a bit of a bite to them.

Friday, September 16, 2011

White Blend - Murietta, Chardonnay - Lockwood and Syrah - Qupe (California)

Dinner at Shake's Old Fisherman's Grotto on Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey was wonderful and the entire Jazz-FM party seemed to congregate at the place, all 26 of us, give or take one or two.  Jazz-FM is the group I find myself with to attend the Monterey Jazz Festival, and our first night in Monterey finds us here a day earlier than the festival begins to take in the sights.  Which is why tonight we find ourselves at the above mentioned restaurant.

I find myself at a table with two other couples and they look to me for some interesting wine choices for dinner.  Each couple is responsible for a bottle, and with 25% off anything local it makes the wine selection a little easier.  We start off with a poached pear and Gorgonzola salad and pair it with a Murietta's Well 2010 The Whip, a blended white from 6 different grapes including Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Semillon, Pinot Blanc, Orange Muscat and Muscat Canelli.  The nose is very aromatic with lemon, floral and sweet grass while the palate has a slightly sweet-grassy flavour along with lemon, floral, apple and hints of limeade on the finish, there is also a touch of pear and some great orange creamsicle notes that make it creamy and delicious.

Moving to the main I have, as well as 4 of my table-mates, a sesame encrusted walu ... which I just learned is also known as the ex-lax fish because of its laxative effects it has on humans (according to a January 2010 CNN report) and has been banned in such places as Japan and Italy (good to know now).  I can say it was very tasty especially with its coating of sesame ... we paired that with a Lockwood 2009 Chardonnay that had lovely smells of pineapple, apple and hints of vanilla on the nose followed by nectarine, peach, and pear fruit in the mouth along with a subtle spiced-vanilla finish.

Ending the evening with a little creme brulee topped with fresh strawberries and a Qupe 2009 Syrah that was loaded with black raspberry and white pepper on both the nose and palate, there were also some decent tannins on the finish to keep it from being jammy.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Peachy Canyon Winery 2008 Incredible Red - Zinfandel (California)

View from room in Monterey
I never miss a chance to buy a bargain Zinfandel, especially from a company I have heard about.  I tried some Peachy Canyon wine many months ago back in Toronto at the California Wine Fair and was impressed with their brand and style of Zinfandel, so when I saw a bottle in a Trader Joe's in San Francisco I figure I just had to grab a bottle and give it a(nother) go.  This is their "Incredible Red", not my evaluation just what they call it, and it is a rather tasty little Zinfandel, especially when you consider it cost a mere $8.99.  It has the plum, vanilla and cherry fruit that we Zin fans look for in our wines and it follows pretty closely in the mouth with a velvety smoothness across the tongue ... it really all comes down to that lovely cherry finish that lingers long time, like a lonely sailor at a whore house.  Well enough with the silly similes, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my wine and looking out at Monterey Bay.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hahn Winery 2009 Meritage (California)

After a day of touring around Fisherman's Wharf and taking the Cable Car here in San Francisco we are now relaxing in the hotel room with some nuts, cheese and (but of course) wine.  This is a straight up Meritage with all five of the Bordeaux grape varieties present (Cab Sauv and Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot) heavy on the Sauv (45%) and Merlot (29%).  This is a pretty powerful wine, and I'm not just talking the alcohol (14.5%), the nose is plum, black cherry, with a heavy reliance on spice and some black licorice nuances.  The palate real zings with its spicy character doling out a lot of pepper and spiced plum, though I have a feeling giving this wine a few more years, say 5, would be quite beneficial to its smoothness, the tannins are a bit raw - if I were allowed more than two bottles back into the country I would definitely be bringing back a bottle of the Hahn and of the OZV from last night.  A delicious wine, again, and for such a cheap price (sorry, inexpensive) this one was purchased for around twelve bucks, twelve bucks?!? ... unbelievable.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Oak Ridge Winery 2008 OZV (California)

First evening in San Francisco sees me asking the concierge in the hotel if there is a good wine shop near by (what else?); I am pointed in the direction of a nearby Cost Plus, so I make the 5 block walk in search of a good bottle of California wine ... what I find is an interesting store that sells everything from soup to nuts, including ... you guessed it, wine.  This bottle is on sale for a mere $9.99 at the front door, so I put it in the shopping cart and continue on my way.  The guy manning the wine section is very helpful, telling me that the OZV (stands for Old Zin Vines) that I have chosen is oneof the better values on Zin that they have presently.  The wine is made from vines that are between 50-100 years old and boy does that make all the difference in the world.  This is one sexy Zin with dark plum, chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, cherry-cola, nutmeg and allspice all piling on board to make this one of the most interesting Zins I have tried in a while.  As it sits in the glass the spiciness get a little better and starts to develop clove notes.  The palate follows in pretty much lock-step with the nose (this is nort a bad thing) and the palate seems to have one of those forever finishes that goes on for days... this is a spectacuar Zin..

Friday, September 9, 2011

Wakefield 2004 Merlot (Australia)

This is one juicy and delicious Merlot with sweet fruit that brings to mind blueberry and blackberry with an almost creamy sensation through the front to mid-palate, but then the finish has lots of black pepper and bite that brings this wine to a very satisfying conclusion.  6 years old but you still have a few years before all that fruit goes bye-bye.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Stone Cellars by Beringer 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

I'll be honest with you here - as I always try to be - I had no faith in this wine what-so-ever, none at all.  This is a cheapo bottle of California Cabernet Sauvignon from 2000, sure it has the name Beringer on it, but other than that I had no hope for a good drink and even had a younger bottle of Australian hooch on stand-by.  The nose had a teenage smell to it (meaning the wine was not old but it wasn't young either) still with a fair bit of fruit amongst a forest floor nuance.  But the palate really popped, smooth and supple dark berries like blackberry and black cherry seemed to come out with a over-ripe raspberry sensation along with some vanilla and a finish that had a flavoured toothpick quality.  Fantastic wine?  No, but very friendly and very consumable ... I have to hand it to Beringer, even the bottom end stuff stands up.  Cheers.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gandia 2002 Hoya de Cadenas Reserva (Spain)

Tempranillo with a hint of Grenache aged 12 months in barrel then it sat in my cellar for what seemed like forever, until tonight.  I plucked it from a box of wines to be tried "later", and later has come now.  The question about a wine like this is how old is too old?  There is no fresh fruit in the glass what-so-ever and there is almost a faint hint of Sherry (does that make it okay because it`s from Spain?) ... but there is also something alluring about the wine on the palate.  It grabs hold of the tongue with spice and a hint of wood, and yet seems almost sweet through the mid-palate.  8 out of 10 people would tell me to dump it down the sink and reach for something younger, but I kinda dig the funky old wines - they have character, they`re not the same old juicy jammy wines we have come to know and love - and that`s what makes them so interesting to sit and sip on ... this one might kick the bucket in an hour (so I`m gonna get right to it) but until then I will sip on it and enjoy the funky flavours of old age.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bubbles, Two Reds, and Aussie Port (Australia)

It seems we had an Australian evening chez moi, mate.  My buddy from the night before decided to stay over, sleeping-in from the party hard style of wine drinking we did the night before, and we moved into holiday Monday the same way we ended holiday Sunday, with wine.  

Kicked off the day by tasting through some 30+ wines I had sitting around for review.  One of those wines was a Yellow Tail wine called Bubbles, which is coming back into the Ontario market with a new kind of closure. In truth this is not a wine that is going to take the world by storm like some of the previous Yellow Tail offering, and it is not going to change the drinking habits of Champagne lovers - but what is will do is make bubbly more accessible and more pleasurable for a lot of people not looking for the breadiness found in Champagne and replacing it with fresh, crisp and lively fruit along with enough sweetness to make it a wine that's easy going down and easy to party with every single night - because bubbly is not just for special occasions.

After a bite to eat to clear up all that wine from the palate, we threw in a movie (District 9) and opened a bottle of Peter Lehmann 2008 Layers, a peppery black fruit number with lovely cassis and spice notes throughout ... the tail end of the bottle paired well enough with the burgers we BBQed before the rains came.  Dinner's entertainment was the movie Taken with Liam Neeson (if you haven't seen this revenge flick it is well worth it) and mid-way through a Thorn-Clark 2005 Terra-Barossa Cuvee was opened.  The cuvee was a blend of Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Cab Sauv and Cab Franc and mixed together to make a sweet and succulent fruity blend that concocts licorice, coffee, mocha, and vanilla cream into all that fruit.

After dinner, IronMan (one and two) were the movies served alongside a Dutschke "Old Codger" Fine Old Tawny Port from South Australia, a nutty, cherry and caramel sweetie that had just enough spice to make it interesting ... It was a day where two guys, without their wives, watched guy movies and drank guy wines, all we needed was the cigars (but my wife would kill me if we smoked 'em in the house).

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Two Whites - One Red (Ontario / Australia)

Pretty simple day really.  Buddy came over after the Burlington Rib Fest and we sat around and drank my booze ... frees up space for more, is the way I look at it; free booze is the way he looks at it.

Started with the Reif 2007 Kerner, which proved to be quite delicious after some time in glass.  My buddy, like myself, is not a huge Chardonnay fan, claiming his favourite was way back in 1992 and was made by JL Groux when he was still with Hillebrand.  I pulled out one of my recent favourites, a Coyote's Run 2008 Black Paw Chardonnay, needed some time to open up but once it did it had all I was looking for, my buddy drank it but claims nothing compares to his '92 - stuck in the past obviously.  Finally we opened a bottle of D'arenberg 2008 D'arry's Original (Shiraz Grenache blend) that had lots of spicy black pepper and dark fruit ... this one needed no time in glass to open up, it was ready upon pouring.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Two WInes - Two Different Results (Ontario / Washington)

Due to an interesting scheduling conflict (and that's all I'm going to say about that) my wife and I celebrated our anniversary two days early ... and of course wine was a big part of that celebration.  We started with an afternoon toast with lunch (homemade fish tacos grilled up on our new panini grill), our toast to one year could only be with one wine, the one we got engaged with: Chateau des Charmes 2005 Rosé Brut ... a wine that so far is getting better with age.

Wine two was a major disappointment and, typically, was one I had so been looking forward to trying, a bottle of 2005 Eroica from the combined efforts of Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Loosen, grown in Washington State.  I have tried this wine at trade tastings in the past and have been blown away by its freshness and delightful flavour; but this was one nasty bottle of wine that lacked everything I loved about the previous ones I have tried.  The nose seemed to be alright doling out petrol, stewed pineapple and some hints of apricot ... in the mouth the wine had a buttery (?) sensation with hints of mineral notes.  There was some apple and pineapple flavours with a semi-sweet finish that hinted at apricot and lemon pith.  We had ordered Chinese from our favourite place in St. Catharines (Magnolia), and while the food was good (as usual) the wine disappointed ... next time maybe we'll just go with a second bottle of bubbly.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pondview 2009 Bella Terra Cabernet Franc (Ontario)

Way too early for a taste it again review but I did want to see how this wine stood up in a proper Bordeaux-style glass.  Pulled the cork and noticed the wine has seeped it's way up, and the neck smelled oxidized, so I had a brief moment of worry ... but because it was still a young wine it overcame this problem and my review of the wine still stands:

Best way to check to see if you have a leaky bottle , not just of this wine but any wine under a cork seal, is to twist the plastic capsule and see if it turns easily, if it is hard to turn, or does not turn at all you might have a problem, and the older the bottle the more the problem will be ... this is not a fool-prrof method but has worked for me 95% of the time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

BBQ Night Zin and Dessert Time Late Harvest (California / Ontario)

A full house for a BBQ on the back deck: burgers, dogs, salads, chips, the only thing missing were the baked beans and potato salad - but hey, you can't have everything.  I pulled out a 7 year old Zinfandel from Ravenswood (Ravenswood 2004 Vintners Blend Zinfandel) and was blown away by the dark fruit: plum, black cherry and hints of vanilla along with an element of spice that still existed in this wine - it still tasted young and fresh ... plus there was a bit of chocolate on the finish.

Speaking of chocolate the peanut butter chocolate fudge cake that my wife made was a huge hit and I paired it with a 2008 Pillitteri Select Late Harvest Gewurztraminer (a bit of a curious oddity wine) which was spicy and floral with nice balancing acidity ... another hit.  A tasty dinner was had by all ... I'm sure the drinks played a key part in everyone's enjoyment.

Wines from the Weekend and Beyond (Ontario)

For those of you who think I have not been drinking over the weekend, or even over the last few days, shame on you, I've just been posting reviews on a variety of other blogs like:

Taste it Again ...

Lost & Found ...

So there.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Palivou Vineyards 2000 Agiorgitiko (St. George) - (Greece)

I don't showcase a lot of Greek wine because I don't have a lot of Greek wine in the cellar, but after tonight's bottle I have to ask myself why?  I just finished putting together a blog entry for Ottawa Life, that will appear in September, about a tasting of Greek wines I did back in May.  I was then looking through the earlier part of my wine cellar (organized by year) and found this 2000 Agiorgitiko and thought it would be appropriate to open that up for dinner.  Funny thing is I used to drink quite a bit of Greek wine, one of my early favourite reds was a light bodied easy drinker from the Aegean Islands.  

I have learned over my time of drinking and writing about wine that I am not always going to get those fresh fruit flavours just because I open a fresh bottle of wine.  Wine ages, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but when you open a ten year old bottle you're definitely gonna get something interesting.  Which brings me to this bottle:  It's old, but it's definitely still quite drinkable with dried fruit mixed with cedary-oak notes (more wooden than fruity) with hints of acid and spice.  It seemed to go pretty well with the goat cheese stuffed chicken breast I made.  I'm surprised at how well it stood the test of time ... about 20 minutes into the drinking I noticed a bit of that foresty floor aroma and taste, but not in a rotten way, more in a character nuanced way ... I must admit I was shocked, amazed and surprised that the wine was still as alive as it was.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Don Sebastiani 2007 SKN Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

SKN - what in the world could that mean? Could be Skin minus the I but no, it actually is an acronym for Screw Kappa Napa.  With its eye catching orange label this wine grabs your attention, not surprising the producer is listed as Three Loose Screws ... but forget about the packaging and marketing for a minute, because label will get you to buy a wine a grand total of once, what`s in the bottle will have you coming back time and time again.  This is a relatively easy recommend because most people recognize the Napa brand as being wine of quality (but still crap does come from the region), this is a pretty basic Napa Cab but a tasty one at that.  The nose is full of chocolate, blackberry, black cherry and plum while the palate is dark fruited with pepper and spiced-plum gives length to the finish with just a hint of mocha on the linger ... seemed to go well with the Venison Honey Garlic sausages I paired it with.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hollick Wines 2004 Red Ridge Cab / Shiraz / Merlot (Australia)

I think I am starting to doubt my sanity ... I know I have seen the bottle, I even drank from a glass poured directly from it, but for some reason I can't find any information about this wine.  Tonight we had dinner at a grillhouse called Wildfire in St. Catharines, dinner was excellent with steaks the size of your head and ribs that were delicious and saucy.  Ordered a bottled off the Bin End menu, when it arrived I tasted it and it was getting older but still with lots of spice and tannins to match with our main courses.  I turned the bottle around and saw the name of the producer as Hollick and knew it was Australian (so said the label on the front) - but as far as anyone ever tasting or seeing this wine on Yahoo, Google or CellarTracker, no dice.  I can tell you the nose had good spice character and the palate had a decent amount of dark fruit, though it was fading in favour of the ramped up spice with hints of pepper while the finish turned out to be a pleasant linger of spiced plum. All in all a decent wine for the evening meal.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Two Reds and a White on Meatloaf Night (Ontario / Argentina)

It's not often I have a three bottle night, but it is not everyday you get to celebrate a birthday and an anniversary.  My parents came to visit on Friday afternoon (it had been my mom's birthday and their anniversary in the past week).  We were making them dinner, but because of their early arrival there was time to catch up before dinner was served.  What better way then out on the deck in the beautiful sunshine and nice weather.  Mom was talking about a wine she had had earlier in the week with a friend that she thought was quite nice; turns out it was a 2008 Gamay from Malivoire.  I said, "If you liked that one then you're going to love this one," and I grabbed a bottle of Malivoire's 2009 Small Lot Gamay, this one is a stunner and one of the best Gamays I have tasted out of Niagara so far.  My wife is a white drinker, so when she returned and joined us on the deck it only seemed fair that she get a great wine too, which lead me to pull out a Cave Spring Cellars 2009 Dolomite Riesling.  Finally, with dinner a special meatloaf with my first attempt at an Israeli couscous salad (turned out pretty good), for this I pulled out a bottle of Finca El Retiro 2004 Tempranillo Reserva Especial (from Argentina) - this was a spicy number that still had some good dark fruit to balance off the spiciness.  Smooth and enjoyable, especially with the meatloaf.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two Ontario Whites - Semillon and Riesling (Ontario)

Friends came over tonight, and because it was hot outside and later in the evening, white wines took center stage ... two wines I have previously reviewed and have enjoyed - now I am enjoying them again.  How about I just link 'em up here and you can read them at your leisure:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

EOS 2004 Paso Robles Zinfandel (California)

Last time I was in Michigan to visit my wife's family I took a few minutes to check out this liquor store everyone said I should ... alright so it was more like an hour, I don't spend "a few minutes" in liquor stores.  So while the family visited I shopped for booze and found a number of interesting bottles, mostly Zinfandel - a real American staple and their gift to the vinous world (if you can get past the pink stuff) - and I feel When In Rome ... (you know the rest).  Anyway, I got this a few weeks ago and yes it was already 7 years old when I picked it up (as I look at the EOS website I see they are selling the 2008 version) ... but boy am I glad to have put my hands on this one, it is drinking exceptionally well right now.  The nose is plum, blackberry and vanilla while the palate was smooth going in then grabbed the tongue with a hint of pepper and a decent amount of acidity on the finish.  Through the mouth there was dark plum, spiced cherry and vanilla and the finish ended slightly sweet (probably due to the 14.5% alcohol) with a delicious spiced-plum.  I paired it was a balsamic glazed chicken and it was one of the best pairings I have had in a long time as the wine melded with the slight char on the chicken ... I thought I had gone too bold with my wine tonight but now I am glad I don't listen to myself or the "experts" who say Zin can't go with chicken.  Goes to show that on paper pairing isn't perfect, you have to experiment to gain knowledge.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Perrin & Fils 2008 Rasteau L'Andeol - Part 3 (France)

Alright ... so here we are on the fourth night of this bottle being open and the Wine Shield is in the bottle (installed correctly?) - theory is that the Shield should protect the bottle from oxidation for longer than if the bottle was left unprotected.  Truth is the wine has port like flavours and smells, which is a sign of oxidation.  So did it protect the wine better?  I'd have to say that my findings are really inconclusive on the matter ... one bottle does not a test make.  I'm going to have to give it another go in the next couple of weeks, but this time I will have to open two bottles of wine so that I have a control bottle and one under the wine Shield, to see if it makes a difference; and I think I know just the bottles to do it with  For now I wouldn't rush out and get Wine Shield unless you want to experiment with it as I am going to do.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Perrin & Fils 2008 Rasteau L'Andeol - Part 2 (France)

So yesterday, if you remember, I inserted a Wine Shield into my partly consumed bottle of Perrin & Fils 2008 Rasteau L'Andeol ... the shield is suppose to protect the wine from the air and let it last longer after opening ... so the second glass should be just as good as the first, in theory.  Truth is I thought the second glass was even better than the first with big raspberry notes on both the nose and taste, just a hint of that pepperiness on the palate from yesterday, but it was there.  Now, would this have happened anyway had I not used the wine shield, I think it might have - the more I think about this experiment the more I realize I have to sacrifice two bottles to see if this will work, obviously 2 of the same wine ... Let's see if I am wiling to do that for the sake of "science".  For now I will continue with my bottle of Rasteau and skip Sunday's glass to see what happens with Monday's by then the wine has been open four days and by then I am usually ready to dump it down the sink - though I have to admit a bottle rarely, if ever, gets past the first night in this house, it's a shear sign of will-power that I have allow a bottle this delicious to last this long.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Perrin & Fils 2008 Rasteau L'Andeol - Part 1 (France)

So tonight I did my first trial with a product called Wine Shield which is a product designed to prolong the life of your wine after it has been opened.  It's a bit of a complicated process to get the Shield into the bottle and I am still not quite too sure I did it right - guess I won't know till I finish the bottle - but from my reading it is a plastic food grade blanket that sits on top of the wine protecting it for the air so that each glass tastes as good as the first, or at least the wine won't spoil as quickly.  Tonight I gave it a try with this Rasteau from the Cotes du Rhone region of France, and a good one at that: Perrin & Fils.  I read somewhere that their name on a bottle is as close to a guarantee of quality that you are going to get - and I have to admit that I am rarely disappointed in their wines.  This wine is a blend of Granache and Syrah, with the majority being the Grenache (usually about 80%) ... upon opening it had a lovely nose of plum, dark cherry and spice; the palate showed lots of spice with dark berries and black pepper bite.  Dinner choice was marinated steak and it went quite well together.  I then installed my Wine Shield (hopefully correctly) and now we wait until tomorrow to see what happens.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Newton 2004 Napa Valley Claret (California)

"Claret" is what the English would call wines from Bordeaux ... but this is not a Claret in the traditional sense of the word, claret, as a Bordeaux, would contain a blend of 5 specified grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and/or Malbec; but this version of California Claret forgoes the Malbec in favour of Syrah (8%).  The result is a wine that is smooth yet with a peppery bite ... dark fruit leads the charge on the tongue, doling out blackberries especially, but spiced/peppered plums are also found on the palate.  A delicious wine with meat stew, which is what I had for dinner tonight at my parents house - though I did not ask what kind of meat, maybe I did not want to know - afterall these were the folks that served me tongue at a young age.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Zinsational 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel (California)

I love visiting the U.S.  Sure I now have family there and we get together for a drink (or 12 - you get a chance ask my wife about Friday night), but the real draw is the wine stores on every corner and the variety you find on the shelves (and the family of course).  But while my wife is catching up with her sister-in-law or friends I find time to slip out and check out a local liquor establishment (even if its just the Wal-Mart around the corner).  This time I ended up at a Parkway Liquor Store (?), at least that might have been what it was called ... they had floor to ceiling liquor, beer, coolers and, from what people told me before I went, they had recently renovated to expand their wine selection.  Needless to say I just had to check it out, and while there bought a few bottles (mainly Zinfandel).  One I specifically bought for dinner that night, which was going to be some BBQ from a place in New Balitimore, MI called Bad Brad's BBQ (place was excellent, the brisket was amazing and so were the St. Louis style ribs) ... anyway I got this bottle of Zinsational for just such an occasion and shared it with my father-in-law (I had no idea he was a wine drinker) ... the wine was full of plum and spice with black cherry and vanilla notes and went very well with the BBQed fare ... granted we drank the wine out of juice glasses, but it was the kind of wine (and dinner) that suited juice glasses perfectly.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cline 2005 Red Truck Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

If you read the little red truck's license plate on the front label you'll see that it says Cline, but otherwise you would have no idea this wine is from one of the top Zinfandel producers in the US - just thought I'd mention that as an aside.  But don't worry about that for a minute and think about this easy drinking juicy red (when it was first released) what has now happened to it at 6 years from vintage date?  Well I can tell you that it is really at its peak - especially if you like a layered juicy Cab.  The nose is black cherry, cassis along with some vanilla and cinnamon.  The taste is even better and continues to evolve over a two hour period.  It starts out as a smooth red, almost creamy, with plum, black cherry, vanilla with a hint of pepper on the finish, which mixes with subtle tannins ... 2 hours later it's the finish you'll most remember: plum- chocolate and some alcohol soaked cherries, a few more sips and I was thinking back to black forest cake ... now that's a wine that keeps on giving: great for dinner and then great for dessert.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Double Shot of Road 13 Wines (British Columbia)

As a freak occurrence I ended up with a number of bottles of Road 13 wine (formerly Golden Mile Cellars) and tonight, with friends in attendance on this holiday Monday I opened a couple of those bottles.  The first to be opened was on the deck and turned out to be the beauty of the batch: 2010 Old Vines Chenin Blanc.  This was just the cat's ass (if you'll excuse the language) with aromas that filled the air the moment I poured it (even outside you could smell the tropical fruit plain as day coming from the glass), this wine had what I like to call "sniff-all-day-edness" to it.  The palate was just as inviting loading on those sweet tropical fruit flavours of pineapple and hint of mango, yet also with some restarined mineral notes and citrus flair, especially on the finish where grapefruit and lemon pith intermingled to keep that sweet fruit at bay and bring out all the lovely enjoyment of the wine.  It was on this high that we then opened the 2010 Rosé, a primarily Gamay Noir based pink wine to go with the pork dish for dinner ... alas, it could not stand the scrutiny of the crowd won over by the Chenin's charms, nice but nothing spectacular; maybe we should have started with the rosé.

L. Mawby M. Lawrence "Wet" (Michigan)

It's Friday night, time to celebrate the weekend so I went deep into the cellar to find something unusual but tasty.  Here's a bottle of bubbly I picked up in Michigan a couple of years back at a sparkling wine house called L. Mawby, a place that now boasts 15 sparklers with names like "US", "Consort", "Jadore", "Detroit" and "Sex" ... this one is just plain "Wet".  Wet is a blend of Pinot Gris and Pinot Meunier done in the Cuvee Clos method ... flavours are of sweet almond biscotti and over ripe apple.  This wine was probably a little fresher a few years back but it was interesting to taste it with a little age ... and in truth it was delicious and as advertised: Wet.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

An Afternoon of Ontario Riesling (Ontario)

After a morning of gardening (or should I say weed ripping, frustration and sweat) we decided to spend our afternoon tasting the products of a few wineries in the area as I was looking to complete an article on Gamay Noir I had been working on and needed a few more tasting notes to add.  My wife is a Riesling fanatic and thus a stop at Featherstone for a taste of their Black Sheep 2010 and to Cave Spring for a glass of 2009 Dolomite were a must (both also produce Gamay, so it was two birds with one stone) ... with 7 Rieslings on the menu my wife was prompted to call Cave Spring "Riesling heaven".  It was then time to head home, and once there, we decided to keep up the Riesling high as two more bottles of the grape's output were opened.  A sumptuous 2010 Norman Hardie offering and we also dug back in time and pulled out a bottle of 2006 Dolomite from Cave Spring.  Each wine we tried seemed to get better than the last ... summer afternoons, and evenings, were made for Riesling.  

Friday, July 29, 2011

Malivoire 2009 M2 Small Lot Gamay (Ontario)

Way to soon for a Taste it Again review, but not too soon to pull out another bottle and give it a try.  I am working on an article for Tidings about Gamay Noir and it reminded me of this beauty from Malivoire - a barrel selection of interesting Gamay from the 2009 vintage - which was a stellar vintage for Pinot Noir in Ontario so why wouldn't the Gamay Noir grape benefit!?! They, the folks at Malivoire, have now repeated this barrel selection process for the 2010 vintage, but there's just something about this inaugural bottling that has something special.  Is it the super delicious flavour of black cherry with enough spice to hold it all together? Or is it the fact that you can cool or even chill this wine to make it all at once better and to watch it blossom as it warms up to that perfect temperature in the glass?  I paired it with a garlic pork chop dish and had a great time sipping it before, during and afterward (who's kidding anyone, it is such a gulpable wine that the before was even more enjoyable) ... this is one wine not soon forgotten and just in case you were wondering here is my original review: