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.