Wednesday, January 25, 2012

5 Bottles on the Night Before Italy (Ontario / Italy / Washington)

Tonight a buddy came over to wish me well the night before I head off to Italy for an Amarone tasting and winery tour in Verona.  Fives bottles were opened, none of them finished.  Dinner was a mini-bucket (8 pieces) of Kentucky Fried Chicken ... not the best food to be pairing with wine, but what the heck we had to eat something, especially something that reminds us of our misspent youth, and, as my buddy said, "what would be a better than this for your last meal on North American soil" (I still have lunch tomorrow but still he makes a good point).  The wines we tried reached as far back as 2001 to as current as a 2009 ... here's how they all fared:

Bottle 1 - Cantina Tollo 2004 Colle Secco Montepulciano D'Abruzzo ... this turned out to be a quaffing wine, dark fruit oriented with a raisiny-pruny quality that intensified the longer it was opened.

Bottle 2 - Tawse 2006 Echos Bistro Red ... a little more on this on my Taste it Again blog, but this one has turned very much into a spiced wood concoction.

Bottle 3 - Charles and Charles 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon / Syrah ... I have reviewed this one in the past few weeks and my review still stands.

Bottle 4 - Southbrook 2001 Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon ... another wine to appear on another blog (should be on the Lost & Found but ...) - no doubt about it, no matter how you slice it, this one was buggy, as in lady bugged.

Bottle 5 - Southbrook 2002 Cabernet / Merlot ... might be the best wine of the night, especially considering its age.  Check the Taste it Again blog for my notes, but I this one reminds me of shish-kabob on the BBQ.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Young Concha Cabernet + Old Wakefield Shiraz (Chile / Australia)

Tonight it was a late dinner (for us), with friends we have been trying together with since before the holidays.  I screwed up the pulled pork earlier in the day so we fell back on an old standby, meatloaf, with all the trimmings that should have surrounded the pork: baked beans and cole slaw (we scrapped the buns).  As it turns out everything was a hit, including the wine.  Started with a robust Concha y Toro 2009 Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Cabernet Sauvignon ... a full on raspberry assault of the senses, all that lovely juicy fresh fruit, tasty and ultimately sippable.  I then took my buddy down to see the cellar, and while there put my hands on a 2003 Wakefield Clare Valley Shiraz.  I have just recently become a fan of the award winning Wakefield Cabernet (the wine that put them on the map of Aussie wines ... little did I know I had bought a bottle of their wine many moons ago.  Wine cellars can be a funny thing as in you luckily lose things and then find them not knowing you even had them ... love it.  This older bottle of Shiraz had old smells and tastes but it was holding very nicely with earthy blackberry along with white pepper, herbs and graphite notes.  Lots of muddy sediment at the bottom of the last glass and the inside of the bottle looks like it had been painted maroon.  Glad to have opened this wine tonight as our friends found this wine more intriguing than the first - older wines just have more character (but they have their place, just like the young ones do) ... maybe I have sparked them to start their own cellar ... or just come over here more often - time will tell.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Loredona 2009 Monterey Pinot Noir (California)

Tonight on the menu: pork chops - on the wine list, a Loredona Pinot Noir recently acquired from the LCBO and set for release on Saturday ... having recently visited the Monterey area just this past September I was thrilled ot see one of their wines on the shelves here in Ontario and even more thrilled to see this bargain priced pinot wasn't just some crap they threw into a bottle and labeled as Pinot Noir.  In fact, for a wine well under $20 this was a beauty of a Pinot Noir.  A nose of sweet cranberry, black cherry and strawberry; and the palate was even better.  Lovely sour cherry, good acidity, a lovely juiciness and nice spice.  A well-balanced wine with good fruit, nice acidity and all that California juiciness of fruit you'd expect ... almost finished the whole bottle myself.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Santa Carolina 2008 Dry Farmed Carignan (Chile)

Found myself at home having dinner with mom and dad this evening, raided mom little wine cellar and came up with this interesting little gem - that it truth I probably should have left down there for another couple of years.  The tannins were pretty robust but once you made your way through that there was plenty of minty dark fruit to keep the palate happy - though the finish was quite dusty because of those tannins.  If you happen to have a bottle of two of this hanging around your place might I suggest waiting to pop the cork.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

LA Cetto 2001 Private Reserve Nebbiolo (Mexico)

So tonight we decided to make taco salad for dinner and in my infinite wisdom I thought a Mexican wine would be nice ... but what is the national grape of Mexico?  I've had Petite Sirah and Zinfandel from this same producer (LA Cetto) but what do the Mexicans consider as "their grape" - cerveza?  What wine goes with tacos?  All very difficult questions to answer.  So when I saw I had a bottle of Nebbiolo, an Italian grape variety that`s used to make Barolo, I thought I just have to give this a whirl.  Having been to the region of Piedmont (where Nebbiolo is most prevalent) I can tell you that the Italians believe there is no place else on earth that does Nebbiolo like they do ... and no where else on earth does this grape grow as well as it does right there in its "native" home.  I have seen bottles of Nebbiolo from some odd places, nowhere odder than Ontario, but Nebbiolo from Mexico struck me as odd too - probably why I bought it in the first place.  As for the wine in bottle, I would have to say it was pretty good.  The nose had layers of dried blackberry, currants, cinnamon spice, spiced dried cherries and a hint of cedaryness ... these aromas didn't come out all at once, they seemed to pop up throughout the evening as the wine opened.  The first thing noticed on the palate was the spiciness and acidity, that soon turned into black currants, spice, sour cherry and later hints of raspberry-balsamic and spice.  All very interesting and quite a lot of fun on the tongue.  Coating the glass was also a fine dusting of sediment and within an hour of opening tannins and woodsiness started to take over, making the wine seem drier than it previously had.  I would have to say I was impressed with the wine ... it might not be their national grape, but it sure is one I wouldn't  stop making wine from; though I have never seen a bottle of it since my original purchase many moons ago.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mildara Wines 2000 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia)

When most people talk about Australian wine they think of the juicy, jammy, fruity numbers that many of us have tried over the years ... only the die-hards know that some of these Aussie wines are also great for the cellar ... not all of them mind you, you always have to be selective about what you lie down, but if you pick the right one your rewards can be great.  Switching gears a little, I was watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on the weekend (I think my favourite of the series) it strikes me that what I said above can best be put into words by the knight who says to Indiana "You have chosen wisely" - meaning this wine was a good one to lie down.  The nose was dried plum (but not pruney), chocolate liqueur, dried cherry and dried cranberry ... not at all the fresh fruit bomb one thinks about when they think Australian Cab.  The palate also showed signs of those dried fruits, namely blackberry and black cherry along with touches of graphite, chocolate with a hint of balsamic on the finish.  The nice part was this wine showed little sign of woodsiness, which means the wood it had seen had integrated with the wine nicely ... the bad part was the wine was ageing quickly in the glass - by the time I had reached an hour-and-a-half the wine was really showing it's age ... though it never got to a point where it was undrinkable.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Vigneronnement Votre 2009 Fleurie (France)

I have to be honest, I haven't been keeping up with this blog of late because I have been on the road and most of what I have been drinking has appeared in one form or another in the On the Road blog, so I am just playing a little catch-up with some of the wines I have had over the past month.  This is a Beaujolais from the Fleurie region made with Gamay Noir and it truly was a beauty with lots of black cherry fruit and great acidity - it wasn't a very complicated wine  but it hit all the right notes, and with a little chill it was perfect for what it was - an easy drinking, put your feet up kinda wine.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lailey Vineyard 2009 Chardonnay Niagara Peninsula (Ontario)

I rarely throw an Ontario wine into this column ... usually when I do it is because it was just recently released or reviewed and I can`t put it in one of my Taste it Again notations or into the Lost and Found.  Tonight the wife was trying a new recipe with pork loin with lemon and capers ... she needed a little dry white wine to cook with.  She originally told me half a cup, but after reading the directions again she found it was half a cup of chicken broth, and a tablespoon of white wine ... seriously?  Why do recipes screw with you in that way?  Why would anybody open up a bottle of wine to use just a tablespoon of it?  It`s not like we live in the US where you can find a bottle of wine for two-bucks (Two Buck Chuck comes to mind).  So I had to look through my white wines to find a good one (you wanna cook with a wine you like to drink - especially if you`re only using a tablespoon).  I came up with this bottle of Lailey 2009 Chardonnay ... now, looking at my review just now I noticed I gave the wine 4.5 stars, and as I was drinking it on this snowy Friday night I said to my wife, "wow, this is better than I remember - it's a shame we had to use some to cook with." ... I think the wine is still available ... so that`s the good news.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Charles & Charles Cabernet Sauvignon / Syrah (Washington)

I'm sitting in a London, Ontario hotel (Hilton) after my Schott Zwiesel presentation at the London Wine and Food Show ... I'm also listening to the Cee-Lo Green song "F**k You" and drinking a bottle of Charles & Charles Cab / Syrah - which seems very appropriate(if you have seen their website you'll understand). Before starting the review of this wine I visited their website to get some background on these boys and I found they have one of the most irreverent wine websites I have ever seen ... though they do speak about bottling this very wine in early August of 2010 - so I am drinking this wine within 5 months of bottling - which kind of surprises me that the LCBO would get a bottle that soon after it's release ... they always seem to be months behind the curve instead of in front of it ... it's a nice change.  So what about this wine:  Well I have to tell you that it tastes more Californian than Washington - though it has a Washington smell (hard to explain but it you drink enough Washington wines you'll know what I am talking about).  The nose is black cherry and plum with hints of chocolate; while the palate follows thru from the promise of the nose ...this is one succulent and juicy wine and one you can sit and sip on Lionel Richie style: all night long.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Simonsig 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon (South Africa)

My aging test with South African wines continue ... as I was logging in yesterday's wine I noticed I had a bottle by the same producer, same year, but a different grape.  Curiosity set in and I wondered how it would fare ... I would have to say it did better than the Syrah did.  The nose was pretty much a simplistic matter - while at first pop there was a little earthy and gritty smell it settled down pretty quickly into pleasant blackberry and vanilla aromas, those seemed to stick around through the length of the evening.  The palate was the thing that changed the most ... at first it was non-descript yet pleasnat, then I started picking out dried blackberry and black pepper.  A little later on vanilla and dried raspberries seem to be the focus, then about an hour and half in there was chocolate plain as day on the finish ... this was one nice drinking wine which I enjoyed very much.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Simonsig 2001 Shiraz (South Africa)

Tonight was an experiment in aging South Africa.  Many have noted that in young South African wines there's a note of tar and/or brett, in general a dirty note that is not always welcome.  I have talked to South African winemakers and my favourite answer to date was "dirty barrels", as in "they are using dirty barrels", implying of course that their competitor is making wine improperly while WE are doing it the right way ... the funny part of the conversation was that I was smelling the exact same smell in their wine as well, so I just nodded my head as if I understood and moved on to another wine.  Now I am not sure where the smell comes from, it could just be the terroir of South Africa or that they are making wines too close to the roadway, but I have learned to live with it and expect it (which is why I seem so surprised when I don't find it).  Have no fear it was here in the glass and on the palate, but what I have noticed is that as these South African wines age they develop more interestingly than the average bottle of Chilean or Argentinean wine.  The nose was an earthy very smoky number; the palate was full on earthy also while giving off some minor pepperiness to the tongue.  Then about 20 minutes on there seemed to be some smoked raspberry that appeared on the mid-palate which then led to a very smoky finish.  I have to admit that it was not a good pairing with BBQ chicken, but it was an interesting wine to have all on its own.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Vina Leyda 2009 Las Brisas Bineyard Pinot Noir (Chile)

Tonight we had some friends in from Toronto ... after a fun day on the road in Ontario wine country I learned a few things about the wine chugging male member of the couple.  1) He likes sparkling wine (who can blame one for that?).  2) He's always on the look out for good value, yet will also pay for good wine no matter what the price.  3) He likes aged Cabernet Franc (at least those from 1998).  And 4) he does not like Pinot Noir ... (WHAT?!?).  Now true, Pinot is an acquired taste, but it is a wine that people spend a lifetime trying to acquire a taste for - I have rarely met someone so wiling to discount the variety all together.  So wouldn't you know that once I stepped back into the house I was going to find something to shatter his image of the grape.  On our excursion I did determine that he leaned more towards the earthy than the fruity, but it was a slight lean and he could always pick out the Pinot in the crowd, and not "be a fan".  So up from the cellar came this bottle of Chilean Pinot.  Now Pinot from Chile sounds like it should be a jammy affair, but if you find the right one you can hit a sweet spot between the juicy and the earthy and have yourself a real good experience - and this was just that kind.  There was a nice fruitiness here, but it was fruit that bordered on the sour variety: sour black cherry, cranberry cocktail and a touch of spice to bring it all together.  There was also a fresh earth aroma and taste that really grounded the wine (couldn't resist that one).  All in all a good wine and one my friend was pleasantly surprised about ... considering I didn't tell him what it was until it was too late, he had already commited to liking it.  Next time I'll try him on something Australian - really there are good one's from there too, especially Tasmania.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Justin Vineyard 2000 Syrah (California)

Had a friend come over tonight bearing a ten year old bottle of Justin Syrah ... I have tried a few Justin wines in my time, but never something this old from this producer.  I would have to say the wine did not hold up well - yet by the end of the evening was considered still drinkable.  The nose was woodsy and leathery, more along the lines of what I would find in a bottle of South African wine than Californian.  The taste mirrored the nose and added some other odd flavours: leathery, cedary and tarry kicked it off, then turned spicy, woodsy (non-descript wood) and cinnamon-y about an hour in.  It started off disappointingly but ended on a high note - not too high, but high enough to be drinkable and enjoyable ... for those who like that kind of thing (an old wine I mean).