Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wines of New Year's Eve 2013 (Germany / California / Ontario)

New Year's Eve to me has always been a time for pulling out an older bottle of wine, and then after that it's a free-for-all.  We started with ordering Chinese food from our favourite place, it took almost two hours for us to finally sit down and eat it, and we picked it up (they were just that busy), and to pair with it I chose a bottle of St. Urbans-Hof 2005 Riesling Kabinett, which was a real beauty: nose of apricot, hints of petrol, and a lovely bit of lime cordial; on the palate we found peach, pear, and apricot, flavours along with sweet lime notes which all lead to a nice long, lingering finish. The wine, although 8 years old still tasted fresh with that signature Mosel sweetness, but always backed by great balancing acidity.  My wife stuck with Riesling after the Urbans-Hof bottle was finished, opting for an Ontario beauty in the form of a Featherstone 2012  Black Sheep Riesling.  I went in another direction and picked out another Dave selection: an Elusiv Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir (Monterey County) from the wine fridge.  Now, for those who have been following along this holiday season, you'll be glad to know the Elusiv is more Pinot-esque than my last bottle of "Pinot Noir" (Belle Glos Meiomi) ... nose is very raspberry, with black cherry and plum backing it up; as it warmed beets and white pepper also showed up.  On the palate were sour cherries, black cherries and clove backed by good acidity, and some typical Pinot earthiness.  As midnight rolled up on us I pulled a bottle of Hinterland 2009 Rose (from Prince Edward County) out of the fridge, which had been chilling most of the day - I managed to pop the cork at the exact moment the countdown reached zero - perfect sparkling to ring in 2014 ... Happy New Year - we left the old year with a magnificent Riesling and brought in the new with a marvelous bit of bubbly.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Rock Wall Winery 2011 Rock Hound (California)

The holidays are a time for the three 'F's': family, feasts and forgetting ... yup, we forgot one of my niece's gifts on Christmas Day which gave us the perfect excuse to have them over to our place to share in some beef stew and a few bottles of wine.  Now I know the title of this post only refers to one wine, that's because it is the only wine I have not written about recently; the others, like the Rosewood 2011 Pinot Noir, the Malivoire 2011 Small Lot Gamay Noir and the Cattail Creek 2009 Riesling, have all appeared on my website in the past few years and it's too soon to write a "Taste it Again" piece, though the Cattail Riesling is getting close.  I can say that all those wines are drinking very well, and of the 3 the Cattail received the most compliments.  And so, without further ado we'll move on and take a look at the Rock Wall 2011 Rock Hound ... I did a little digging to find out what exactly the Rock Hound was made of, but my research could only bring up the 2010, which was a blend of Syrah (70%) and Petite Sirah (30%), though some further digging might have shown the 2011 is the same blend (depends what they were serving at the 2012 Rock Hound Event) ... I got this wine from my friend Dave, in Michigan, who works at Champane Wine Cellars, who told me this was a big wine that needed early opening and a decanter, so I did both.  Aromas of cassis and black raspberry along with a mix of black and red licorice; palate showed quite a bit of milk chocolate, spiced-blackberry, some sweet dark fruit, nice pepper notes, licorice root and a long finish.  I probably could have aged the wine a bit more or left it in the decanter longer to get more of the fruit out of it, but I liked the way it was drinking with those multitude of flavours, and it paired well with the stew.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wines of Christmas 2013 (California / Spain)

When I picked these wines I had no idea I had gone with a complete California theme for Christmas, thankfully I added a little Spain in for a little outside sourcing for dessert.  These days Christmas Eve is spent with my in-laws while Christmas Day is spent with my brother and his family - sure we do a fair amount of driving, but it's worth it to see everybody.  My in-laws are more beer oriented, but I'm glad to see some of them coming over to the dark side of wine; my brother is also a beer guy but when it comes to dinner wine is his drink of choice, and he seems to like 'em big and bold.  Hopefully you've read what Eve brought to the palate (3 Cabs) - now it's time to see what Day brings.  

We started with a bottle of Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, cause everything goes better with bubbles:  mac apple sweetness with hints of lemonade and fresh bread, very tasty and so easy drinking - truly a wonderful start to the evening.  I know many are going to give me flack when I call this a Pinot Noir, because it is hard to distinguish this wine as Pinot from say Zinfandel or Shiraz, but I like the Belle Glos 2011 Meiomi, it just has its place and with all that black cherry, plum, and chocolate it's hard not to like it ... some will say "it aint Pinot", but it sure is tasty.  I dug a little deeper into the cellar for this next one, Bonny Doon Vineyard 2005 Le Cigar Volant, this is a Rhone Valley style blend made in the US of A (50% Grenache, 24% Mourvedre, 22% Syrah, 3% Carignane, 1% cinsault) and with 7 years on it the Rhone pedigree really come through in the form of smoky notes and touches of pepper on the nose; the palate has pencil shavings, cassis, wood smoke, and peppered-raspberry.  I really liked the complexity without the over indulgence of too much fruit.  For dessert I pulled out a bottle of Miguel Torres Moscatel Oro Floralis, this is a decadent wine that one should sip on slowly for full enjoyment, but one feels like they should sip quickly because the next glass could be your last, as everyone else does the same - it's just so decadent and delicious: caramel-spiced-orange on the palate while floral and citrus hit the olfactories, the finish is long, lingering and sensuous with its orange blossom note.  Quite an array of wines, and all delicious in their own right. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Wines of Christmas Eve, 3 Cabernet Sauvignons (California / Australia)

It was an unconventional Christmas Eve at my in-laws this year ... usually it's family get together about an hour outside of town, but this year we stayed put with my in-laws, ordered Chinese food, played games and drank wine (cider and beer for some) - there was no worry about driving home so I could sample a few more wines than usual.  I started with a wine I picked up at Meijer a few days before called Carnivore, a  2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, simple yet a great sipper to just sit around the table and sip on: plum, blackberry, cocoa, black currant, smooth and silky ... of course it did not pair with the food what-so-ever, but I don't think that is what I was going for.  The next bottle to be opened was a Shinas Estate 2009 The Verdict, I picked this one up from my buddy Dave at Champane Wine Cellars; it's not as big and robust as I thought it might be, but then again isn't it nice get an Aussie wine that shows more finesse than being all alcohol and sweet fruit.  The Verdict is a Cabernet Sauvignon from Victoria the still showed plenty of fruit black cherry and plum, with a middling of chocolate, some blackberry, and a touch of alcohol on the nose (not surprising with it coming in a 15.5%), there's also an element of cherry-kirsch, all seems to follow on palate ... it too was basically smooth with silky tannins.  Turns out it was a really pleasant drink that would match well with a meat dish because of the acidity that appeared on the finish.  The final wine was something my niece and her boyfriend call their house wine: Trader Moon Wine 2012 Velvet Moon Cabernet Sauvignon, to me this one smelled more like a Zin than a Cab, I had to re-check the label and the back of the bottle to see if any existed within ... No mention.  Red and black plum ruled the roost with blue fruit and vanilla; it too was a rather tasty wine.  I think I still enjoyed the first wine best of all, just because of it smooth, sippable nature.  The night wasn't about complex wines it was about all things easy drinking.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

St. Francis 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County (California)

We arrive in Michigan for the holidays early on Saturday morning.  We do a little shopping at that French bulls-eye store everyone talks about known as Tar-jay (Target) and then we head over to Meijer for a look-see at the groceries on our list to take home.  Once done I wonder into the wine department to grab a couple of bottles for the next few days.  I am heading over to see my buddy Dave at Champane Wine Cellars in a few days so I just need a couple till I get there to discuss wine, have a drink and buy some interesting bottles.  The first bottle I picked up was this bottle of St. Francis Sonoma Cabernet: nose of  black currant, smoked-blackberry, and cinnamon; while the palate had some mocha notes along with smoked currants, black cherry, and some mean-spirited blueberry skin tannins.  There also seems to be a grittiness to the finish that is not tannin related.  This one's not much of a sipper as the drying finish could be seen as more food based ... maybe with the pizza proposed for dinner tonight.  Turns out it was okay with dinner, but those tannins and that grit never seem to mellow.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

One from France, One from Ontario and One from Washington (France / Ontario / Washington)

My brother and his wife came over for dinner, we made roast pork and a whole bunch of appetizers ... maybe next time we'll just have an appetizer party because there was lots of pork left over and very little of the appetizers ... the wines we poured were interesting and enjoyed (enjoyable).  My brother kicks his evening off with a little Dead Elephant, an India Pale Ale from Railway City Brewing Company located in St. Thomas, Ontario - I'm a fan of the Dead Elephant, but it sounds disgusting to tell people you're sucking on a Dead Elephant on a hot summer day.  Bro has never done such a thing and his response to having his first was to have a second (he must have liked it), at one point he turned to me and said, "quite hoppy, more so than you'd expect in an India Pale".  The ladies (my wife and his) decided to go with white in their glass, so I opened a bottle of Keint-he 2009 Chardonnay out of Prince Edward County, they polished off the bottle in record time.  Myself, I kicked off my evening on the red side with a chilled bottle of Laurent Gauthier 2011 Grand Cras Morgon, a "vieilles vignes" (old vines) Gamay from the Beaujolais' Morgon region: black cherry and cranberry, both tart, with white pepper notes to compliment ... I must say this wine was quite young and still has plenty of time to go, proving that Beaujolais can age, this could easily go 5+ years.  The dinner wine was from one of my favourite regions in Washington, Horse Heaven Hills, this is the one from Columbia Crest, 2009 Les Cheveux, a Bordeaux blend:  lovely blackberry and black raspberry with a great chocolate seam that runs right down the middle, proved to be very smooth and silky.  All-in-all a great night of food and wine.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ten Birthday Wines - Starring a 1970 Bordeaux (France, Germany, Ontario, California)

'Twas the night of my birthday and friends were in the house - bottles of wine were opened and here's what we had:

Starting with a Dr. Burklin Wolf 2004 Riesling, which was quite an interesting older German Riesling full of honey and waxy notes with some apricot pit ... this was the first dead soldier of the night (some wines did not get finished).  Other whites of the night were a Thirty Bench 2012 Riesling, Chateau des Charmes 2010 St. David's Bench Chardonnay, Cave Spring 2012 Dolomite Chardonnay, Vineland 2011 Elevation Riesling, and a Vineland 2005 Dry Riesling (this one did not show well).  Speaking of not showing well, we also opened a bottle of Ruhlmann 2004 Sylvaner Bouquet Printanier - Cuvee Prestige, sealed with a cheese-o plastic cork, this wine should never have spend this long in my cellar, nor should it have been opened tonight - this wine should have stayed lost.

Surprisingly, only two reds were opened, a Tom Eddy 2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which proved to be a delightful wine, well aged, well balanced but certainly not the star of the night ... on any other night maybe, but tonight it was a 43 year old Bordeaux that stole the show.  The Chateau Gruaud Larose 1970 Grand Vin was absolutely stunning, considering its age.  To the average everyday wine drinker this is going to sound unappealing, but to wine geeks (like a couple around the table tonight) this wine kept changing and opening and giving different aspects of its character that were admirable: starting with Band-aid and forest floor on the nose and a bit on the palate, there were also welcome (and surprising) hints of raspberry that appeared, not strong, but subtle and appealing.  No doubt the wine is very mature, but still very drinkable. The most surprising part is the acidity, which still stood up and kept the wine "fresh" or at least the palate from getting tired.  The biggest and best compliment I can give this wine is that it is savoury and sexy - in its own kinda way.  This is only the second wine I have ever had from my birth-year, this time it was extra special cause it was my actual birthday.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Michel Torino 2006 Don David Malbec (Argentina)

It's a Thursday, that has no real significance but I thought I would point that out - looking for a bottle of wine I go no further than my sideboard, which has been housing this bottle for a few weeks now because we did not open it at a recent gathering of friends (it was picked out to open but never made the table).  I have had a bottle or two of this wine in the past and find it not only good value, but exceptionally well balanced and enjoyable, especially in the fruit-department.  So far I can say all that for when it's young: it is deliciously easy to drink - thing is, now it is 7 years old:  will it be just as fun to drink?  The answer is a resounding yes.  The nose and palate seem to go hand-in-hand with plenty of chocolate, blackberry, cassis, and white pepper; palate adds an inkling of sour blueberry but is smooth with hints of black licorice on the finish.  It has held up well, and still has life left in it - looking at my cellar inventory it seems I have a bottle left and will be glad to have it within the next year or two.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Finca Los Trenzones 1998 Condesa de Laganza Reserva (Spain)

I keep my wine inventory on-line through a program called CellarTracker I know many who do - it really is a great way to keep track of your wine collection, no matter what the size.  But I'm not here to plug CellarTracker - what I do want to say is I looked up the community wine notes of this wine before I pulled it out of the cellar and no one had anything nice to say about this wine: poor marks and words like "thin" ('08), "spoiled" ('09) and "fading" ('07) peppered the reviews ... it was cringe inducing, especially because the worst of the notes were written in 2009 ... I was four years later.

I ended up taking this wine into a wine class I teach for those with a more sophisticated palate ... I told them it was a single grape varietal - some thought it old, but no one thought it 15 years old (2006 was the closest guess) ... though someone did nail the country and grape variety: 100% Tempranillo from Spain (Rioja) - though the wine is from La Mancha.  The rest of the vinification goes something like this: 12 months in oak barrels and 24 months of bottle age before release.  Aromas started out earthy and musty (typical for a wine in bottle this long) with a pruny vegetal note that sooner rather than later began to reveal dried strawberry compote.  And while the palate was earthy there were other aspects to it that were interesting, if you were willing to give it a chance: dried sour cherry with a hint of fig; the acidity was also up to par along with a core that showed lots of woodsy notes.  My final note on the wine read:  "This wine will not set the world on fire, but it is quite drinkable the longer it sits in glass the better it gets" (I only had it in glass about an hour before I drank the rest) ... I would definitely not want to hold this wine any longer cause it ain't getting any better. but it sure was a great experiment that paid off handsomely.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Montes 2006 and 2011 Limited Selection Red Blend (Chile)

Over the years I have written about and purchased quite a few Montes wines - this Chilean producer has proven they make quality wine at reasonable prices (sometimes too reasonable - but you didn't
The label has changed but the blend has not.
hear that from me).

Recently, the agent for Montes sent me a bottle of their newest vintage of the Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon (70%) Carmenere (30%) blend 2011 ... I decided to bring it to my wine class to taste, but I also wanted to show them what aging a quality wine could do for enjoyment of a wine, and also that you don't have to spend an arm and a leg for good, cellarable wine.  So I found, in my cellar, a bottle of the 2006 Montes with the same blend to compare with the newer vintage - the results were quite delicious:

2011 ...
The nose had blackberry, black currant, mint, licorice and smoke - the palate had quite a bit of tannin but it was pleasantly in the background allowing the mint, smoke and black currant to shine.

2006 ...
Showed more interesting notes both on the nose and palate with good complexity:  the nose was a little musty with earthy and peaty notes, there were also elements of prune, spearmint and coffee.  The palate also held lots of interesting flavours - first it came off as soft and smooth with a woodsy short finish; tannins were present but they were rounder and more supple and as the wine sat in the glass the mustiness wore off bringing forth coffee, dried cherry and mocha notes.

The conclusion was that the 2006 was a real winner - once it got over the initial funk - it proved to be a fascinating and ultimately enjoyable wine; while the 2011 was something everyone could get at any time --- the key is to give it some time to mature and you'll end up with something much more interesting to sip on, or take to dinner.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Banfi 2009 Cuvee Aurora Rosé (Italy)

It is 10:30 in the morning ... I know it is not really the traditional time to be opening up a bottle of wine for consumption, but it's a special occasion.  We have spent the last 3 weeks looking at a half-completed bathroom.  We started this project quite simply as a painting gig, it turned into a new vanity gig, which in-turn turned into a new flooring gig ... needless to say the entire bathroom looks different and much better.  The whole project was suppose to take 3 days - so 3 weeks ago I put a bottle of this Banfi Aurora Rosé sparkling into the fridge hoping to pop it on the completion of the bathroom ... and I waited, and I waited, and I waited.  Between contractors not showing up, flooring stores giving me the cold shoulder and one contractor with a heart of gold we finally got it done.  Which means finally I was able to open the sparkling and drink it - and I did not care what the time of day: the water flows, the toilet flushes, the flooring is down and the lighting lights - hazzah.  As for the wine, this Italian bubble is a beauty and perfect to toast the new fixtures, flooring and faucets (now if only I could figure out how to get it to flow through the taps) - it's a traditional method bubble made from 100% Pinot Noir which has a lovely rosé colour to it ... the acidity is wonderfully tart while the raspberry and strawberry peak through to give you a lovely sparkling wine experience - I could not ask for anything more.  It's crazy good and fits with the crazy time we had getting this bathroom completed.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Folie a Deux 2005 Menage a Trois - Red (California)

I brought this wine into my wine class to prove a point and ended up proving quite a different one.  I had opened a bottle of this California blend a few months ago and found a synthetic cork under the capsule and a nasty tasting wine under the "cork" (so bad in fact that I never wrote it up, but did make a private note of the incident).  Now I know this isn't suppose to be a long-lasting wine, it was a fluke that I found it in the first place, buried in my cellar - sad part is ... there was a companion bottle with it.  And so I took it to class to show what an oxidized wine tastes like ... but that is not what actually happened.  Imagine my surprise when I found a natural cork under the capsule - and a mighty fine wine under that:  At first this wine made no friends at all, descriptions from the class ranged from earthy to dirty diaper, but once over the initial shock of finally being opened this wine started to reveal its real smells: dried cherry fruit, tobacco, dried blackberry and dried raspberry ... fresh fruit was not to be found here, but then it really wasn't expected either.  Palate proved to be more interesting: vanilla and dried cherry  with port-like nuances.  Plenty of dried red fruit with touches of the occasional spice ... but most of all it was sweet with candied fruit and a quick finish.  A very interesting curiosity of a wine and it served to prove a different point to those who liked it: wine is finite and once it's gone you can't buy any more - much to the chagrin of those who wanted to know where they could get a bottle or two.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Casa Marin 2006 Cartagena Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile)

It's Saturday night and I have just finished my seminars in Sarnia for the Fusion Festival ... now sitting quietly in my room I am able to open a bottle of something I have been looking forward to all day, put my feet up and watch a little hockey.  But before I get too comfortable I thought I'd let you in on that wine I have been looking forward to all day, a Casa Marin 2006 Cartagena Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile.  What possessed me to bring it along as a room wine, I am not sure, but I am sure glad I did.  The starting aromas are coffee and licorice adding touches of cassis for fruit.  Then comes some white pepper and hints of mint - these appear on the nose and palate.  The finish has a touch of chocolate and spice.  As the wine sits in the glass the fruit starts to come out a little more and now we're at a juicy blackberry, cassis and white pepper stage ... so this is obviously getting better the longer it is open.  So I'm gotta get right to it and enjoy the game along with my (turning into) delicious Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fess Parker 2004 Syrah - Santa Barbara County (California)

This is a wine that was once described to me as "panty remover", for the simple fact that it had a whopping 16.4% alcohol ... that's massive and one of the biggest I've seen in a still wine.  I aged it to see what would happen to it and I can honestly say I'm not totally disappointed but neither am I super thrilled.  From the get go it was a little on the prune-y side, though it did also have a nice hint of plumy-ness to it - so it seems to be going from plumy to prune-y.  There are also touches of vanilla and chocolate with a big sweet middle palate (that's the alcohol talking) - that prune-y-ness seems to be hanging out in the background as if it is ready to jump out and fully consume the rest of the wine ... the finish shows some licorice all-sorts notes and there there's the imbalance due to the rampantly high alcohol.  Turns out I have a couple more bottles and I'm thinking I'll want to drink both within the next year before it becomes nothing but sweet stewed prunes.  Here's one time I am hoping for bottle variation.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

RJ Vinedos 2006 Pasion 4 Merlot (Argentina)

This screwcap Merlot from Argentina started off very slowly, in fact it proved to be pretty harsh at first and I began to believe it was not going to get better - but 30 minutes later it began to wake up and show a nose of blackberry, blueberry and cocoa ... on the palate there was cassis, blueberry skin, dried blackberry and a subtle, enjoyable smoky-oaky finish.  Goes to show you, sometimes all you need to do is give it some time and it'll opened nicely.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Meiomi 2010 Pinot Noir - Duorum 2010 Red Blend (California / Portugal)

Thanksgiving is a perfect time to pull out some of those wines you've been dying to try, or try those wines that are new to you.  This past Thanksgiving I popped the cork on 4 wines, 2 older wines from Ontario and two more recent vintages from "away".  The two Ontario wines will be written up elsewhere (Lailey 2008 Zweigelt & Stoney Ridge 2005 Cranberry), but the wines from other places I'll tell you about now.  We started the night with a bottle of Belle Glos 2010 Meiomi (which is a Pinot Noir).  Now there are those who find the Meiomi wine to be a little on the jammy and full side, especially for a Pinot Noir - "it's wine, but it isn't Pinot" ... and while I see their point it is one of my guilty pleasure wines, it's just one of those reds that puts a smile on your face with it (too?) fresh fruitedness and the 2010 delivered exactly what I was expecting: rich black cherry, hints of white pepper and light touches of other spices.  Is it classic Pinot Noir? Not by a long shot, but it is tasty, and has the ability to turn non-Pinot drinkers around, in that they don't hate all Pinots.  The dinner wine was not classic Thanksgiving fare either, and definitely not an apparent match for turkey, but it was another delicious wine: Duorum 2010 from the Douro Valley in Portugal.  I visited this winery a couple of years ago and was impressed with the terrain and what they were trying to accomplish at this new winery in a very old region.  But I found the alcohol a little high and the wines slightly out of balance, they were good but just needed tweaking so they did not taste so ... Australian (for lack of a better comparison).  Well it seems in the interim Duorum has found that precious balance.  This is a beauty and at only 13.5% if has struck the right balance of fruit and finesse: raspberry, black cherry, great acidity (for balance) and a long finish.  Twas a good Thanksgiving for wine - and I look forward to the American version where I can do it all again, with different wines of course.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Le Ragose 2000 Valpolicella (Italy)

Yes it was quite a weekend when my wife left town ... I opened a variety of bottles that I found while cleaning up the cellar without being told I was an alcoholic ... I also have to admit I dumped quite a few as well, they were just too old, or I had previously written about them as being bad (and as luck would have it I found another bottle).  It seems to always be the way.  You wait for that perfect occasion to open that "special bottle" and the "perfect" occasion never comes and the bottle languishes and (sooner or later) goes off.  But that was not the case for this 2000 Le Ragose, a ripasso method Valpolicella.  I was pleasantly surprised by what I found under the cork:  aromas of anise, dried blackberries and hints of plum (there was still an element of freshness to this wine that I was not expecting, especially on the nose).  The palate followed the nose's lead kicking in nice acidity and a dried raspberry finish. But what really stood out was the smoothness that started mid-palate and lasted to the end.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ernest & Julio Gallo 2000 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

Another one of those finds in the cellar ... what am I doing with a Gallo wine from 2000 still kicking around down there?  On the other hand, these days the Gallo boys are derided for being successful, or is that for making plonky, cheap wine ... but when you climb the ladder of quality (away from Barefoot and such) you do find some really beautiful wines - and in 2000 this was the case.  I found this Sonoma Cab to be very good, especially when considering its age: dark red fruit (definitely not fresh) along with dried cranberry, there was also just a hint of spice towards the finish.  What I really found surprising was the long lingering mouth presence that came post-swallow and that brought with it some hints of licorice.  This was actually a very pleasant surprise of a wine, showing that when the Gallos aren't making those cheap and cheefuls they can make some really good ageable stuff too.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Richard Hamilton 2002 Colton's SGM & Pike 2002 Shiraz - Clare Valley (Australia)

Tomorrow I start the long process of re-organizing my wine cellar ... well, it shouldn't be that long, but it'll take me most of the day.  Tonight I have Syrah on the brain, but suddenly these two wines strike me as something interesting to try - they are in line with my original hankering, but the year and the comparison factor make them interesting to me on this night.  I first open the Richard Hamilton, a Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre combination (SGM) ...  it smells of pepper and alcohol (it clocks in at 14%) - in fact alcohol seems to be a dominating smell here.  Gave it a little bit of time and found some black fruit and spice coming to the surface, but always with that whiff and (as it turns out) overly alcoholic taste, it smells hot and tastes the same way (and by that I mean alcoholically so) - bad balance, or it did not age well, which ever it is not a favourite.  But if you get past that alcohol there is some pleasant white pepper and dark fruit, but you really have to find it.  From the same year I tried a straight Shiraz from Pike (Clare Valley), this proved to be a more elegant and smooth wine, and although it had .5% alcohol higher than the Hamilton, you hardly noticed the booze at all - and that's what I call a dangerous wine.  Red licorice, blackberry, and a touch of cocoa kick it off, but as it aerates it develops dried character and that adds some depth and additional flavours to this wine; it's smooth character made it a much more enjoyable wine than the Hamilton.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Quinta do Encontro 2004 Preto Branco (Spain)

After the relative freshness of the first bottle I opened this evening (2009 Between the Line Cabernet Franc) this was almost a shocker, until I looked at the year - somewhere along the line I did not look at the year of this wine and I thought 'man it is prematurely oxidized and really tired' ... but then when I realized it was some 9 years old it all made sense.  The nose was leathery and full of dried dark fruit along with a slightly smoky note to it.  On the palate there were dried cranberries, dried blackberries and some cassis, all mixing with that leatheryness found on the nose.  Plus there was a seam of earthiness running right down the center from first sip to last swallow.  The wine is a little tired and it's not going to get any better - but once you got passed it's short-comings (and realize its age) you'll come to the realization that it's not a bad wine at all ... plus it has its place at the table.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Celler Acustic 2008 Acustic (Spain)

A real lazy Sunday ... I wrote up a couple of wine tastings and the wife caught up on some of her paperwork - then we watched Black Rain (with Michael Douglas) - I was shocked to learn my wife had never seen it (where has she been?).  Then we made an special early Sunday dinner of nachos ... I had already picked out my wine for tonight on Friday (it was my back up bottle in case a certain synthetic closed wine turned out to be faulty) ... a bottle of Acustic: a Spanish blend made with Garnacha and Samso (aka Carignan) from the Montsant region and "Vinyes Velles Nobles" - now my Spanish is very rudimentary but I read that is 'old noble vines'.  The last bottle I had of this was back in 2010, and I enjoyed it then but I probably enjoyed it more tonight.  Back in 2010 it was one bottle out of 6 poured on an evening with friends and some real hit and miss wines ... tonight it was all by its lonesome and paired with a delightful plate of corn chips, cheese, ground chicken, onions, peppers, salsa and sour cream.  Rich and plummy with an elegant hint of spice on the nose; the palate delivered black cherry, hints of vanilla, blackberry and a dusting of pepper and clove.  It finished with some mocha and licorice on the last sip, about an hour and a half later.  10 years ago it was all fruit, but now it had developed into something much more enjoyable.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bodegas Juan Gil 2008 Wrongo Dongo (Spain)

I'm a big fan of Juan Gil winesThis is one I found while I was in Florida, and unbeknownst to me this was a Juan Gil wine - I found that out when I got home and was logging the wine into my CellarTracker account ... it's what made me realize (and solidify) I was a fan of Gil wines.  Anyway it's a beautiful early-fall evening here and we put on the charcoal BBQ to make some steaks for dinner (nothing beats a charcoal grilled steak for flavour).  I went into the cellar and pulled out two Spanish wines (I noticed this was a synthetic closure so I wanted a back-up).  Hazzah, the wine turned out to be fine (thankfully it wasn't too old), not as fresh as I would have liked but it definitely had character.  Dried black cherry and blackberry on the nose, a palate that was also filled with black fruit and a little spice, along the lines of white pepper ... there was also some oak tannins on the finish that seem to want to take over, it makes me think there isn't much time left for this wine to be enjoyable - had I waited another year (or two) I would have had some serious problems with this one - for now it is tasty and drinkable and should pair well with dinner.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Laura Hartwig 2001 Reserva Merlot (Chile)

Not sure what prompted me to pull this bottle out of the cellar; I was in there re-arranging a few bottles and one of the ones I put my hands on was this Merlot from Laura Hartwig.  An interesting wine to say the least and a nice little pairing with my homemade burger (dinner).  It was smoky with licorice notes, spiced-dried-cherry, cinnamon-cocoa and some foresty floor notes that emerged fully after about an hour of being open ... there was a certain kind of sweetness on the finish that mixed well with that smoky-licorice and spice, most likely from the 15% alcohol.  Definitely not for those looking for fresh fruit in their Merlot because this one is showing its age, but for those who like age on their wines this one sure delivers.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Family and Five Bottles of Wine (Ontario / France / California / Australia)

It's always fun to gather family around the table, it's even more fun to ply them with alcohol and find out just what you can get people to try ... now it's not like I was pouring strange wines, in fact this might possibly one of the best array of wines I have poured for a group in a long time, starting with the Collin Bourisset 2011 Brouilly 'Les Terres Bleues', something new to hit the LCBO shelves here in Ontario.  This is a lovely wine from the Beaujolais region of France and one I just couldn't wait to try again.  I put a touch of a chill on this bottle and it just sang from the glass with lovely ripe cherry with a hint of white pepper on the finish and the freshness of acidity to keep it lively on the tongue.  I could have had two more bottles myself, but instead we moved on.  The EastDell 2010 Gamay Noir was a perfect follow up to the Collin Bourisset - a little more darker in the cherry department; my full review can be found here (video and written review).  Moving on ... for dinner of fresh pulled pork and some left over ribs from our feast a couple nights before at Ravine Vineyard, I pulled the cork on a Villa Mt Eden 2008 Antique Vines Zinfandel ... what a pure Zinfandel delight this is - there was smoky plum, hints of cocoa, dried cherry and red licorice, touches of spice, all melding together and pairing so well with the pulled pork and ribs; yum.

After dinner you had your choice of sweeties:  2008 Chateau des Charmes Cabernet Franc Icewine (opened specifically for my mother-in-law who has a sweet-tooth that makes mine look like a minor itch) and an Australian Tawny Port-style wine from Dutschke called Old Codger (which three people partook of) ... The Codger is a wine I've had in my cellar for quite some time and has no date on it: spiced orange and cherry on the nose with a smoother than expected mouthfeel of dried cherry and spice along with the 18.8% alcohol heat ... it was a cool night (6 Celsius) so the warmth of this liquid was quite welcome.  As for the Icewine, mother polished off a good 3/4 of the bottle, which was just simply a lovely version:  strawberry, raspberry and cherry mingling together with a honeyed sweetness and near perfect acidity to keep it from being cloyingly sweet, there was just enough left in the bottle for me to get a little taste and make this note.  Congrats to the Chateau on this beauty - if I were to score it (which it turns out I never did on my website, I'd give it 4.5 stars)

It is my understanding that everyone had a great time - and ate well - and of course, we drank well too.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Nieto Senetiner 2001 Don Nicanor Fine Red Wine (Argentina)

After my experience with my last Don Nicanor wine and my discovery that I had an even older red blend from the same buried in my cellar, I decided that tonight I would give it a try ... it's Sunday evening and there's no rush, so if the bottle turns out to be less than adequate I'll move on.  This is a 12 year old wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot aged 12 months in French oak barrels - all this information was listed on the back label, but no cellaring recommendations beyond 16 Celsius or lower, and that the wine was made unfiltered (which really means there could be sediment).  Not sure what I was expecting but here's what I got ... nose started out with cocoa powder, spice, clove and oak; palate was also spiced and dried fruit, mainly of the dark berry varieties.  The label did recommend opening 30 minutes before drinking, had I done that I would have missed out on all of the above, and instead had the following:  (~30 minutes) opened to reveal the definite smells of spiced raspberry on the nose and a palate that showed off surprising complexity of raspberry, cassis and blackberry (more dried than fresh, but there was an element of freshness there) though everything was still a tad on the oaky side.  After an hour the wine smoothed out dramatically (seemingly between sips) but the profile of dried dark fruit and oak still remained.  I would have to say I was very impressed with this wine, sometimes it's good to come to a wine with no expectations.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Nieto Senetiner 2008 Don Nicanor Malbec (Argentina)

A little family dinner and it came after a large Gallo tasting I had in downtown Toronto ... one of my rules of thumb after a tasting is that I want to get as far away from the tasting country as possible.  With lots of different wines in the Gallo portfolio it is hard to figure out where to go, but I figured Argentina might be a good place to start ... and this Nicanor is always a good wine (in fact I have a 2001 in my cellar that I might be trying sooner rather than later).  This aged Malbec really delivered the goods with blackberry, cassis and spice on the nose followed up with black raspberry and black pepper on the palate, quite a delight.  The wine was dark and brooding with a delicious peppered-cocoa powder finish.  Checking my cellar inventory I see I still have a bottle of this beauty left, might leave it a couple more years to see where it goes - on the other hand, maybe I won't, it really waits to be seen.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Couple of Dancing Bulls (California)

Went to my brother's house a dinner of beef rib and coleslaw and in the deep bowels of the wine cellar I found a couple of bottles of interesting wine - a set of Dancing Bull wines: Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel both from 2003.  Now how they made it through all these years I'm not sure, but tonight was the night to try them.  Interesting to note that once the capsule was removed one of the wines was under cork the other under a synthetic closure ... weird, as you would suppose they would have the same closure.  The Cabernet was thin with hints of dried fruit, sweet dried-cranberry, and a massive hit of oak, but you really had to look for the fruit - for the most part the wine was lifeless and un-appealing.  The Zinfandel on the other hand was full of spiced vanilla and raspberry, while on the finish there was red fruit and spice mixing interestingly in an appealing combination - the wine still had quite a bit of interest to me as a Zin fan and those assembled as it contained some real umph as it sat in the glass.  I won't tell you which wine was under synthetic and which had natural cork, I'll let you figure that out yourself.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Vina Cobos 2008 Felino Cabernet Sauvignon (Argentina)

It's been a long day ... my feet hurt and I'm tired ... dinner is still an hour away and I pour my wife and myself a glass of Featherstone 2012 Black Sheep Riesling - as I get to pouring my second glass of Riesling my wife suddenly gets very possessive (she's had a hard day too it seems), "Hey," she says loudly form the other room, "get your own wine and leave my Riesling alone."  Gosh darn it she's right, why am I wasting a hard day on a Riesling when what I'm really craving is something with some umph.  I look on the wine rack upstairs (too lazy and tired to go down to the cellar) and find a bottle of Felino 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ... my wife, not knowing what I am up to, pipes in with, "someone on Facebook says it's Cabernet Sauvignon Day" ... that's good enough an excuse for me.  I pull the wine off the rack, pop the cork and take a sniff.  The nose is loaded with cassis, blackberry, spice and cocoa powder ... the palate is white pepper and spice before it brings out the rich fruit flavours of blackberry, black currant and black raspberry, following it up with some cinnamon and a dollop of chocolate.  Now that hits the spot.  Sorry about the Riesling mix-up dear, I don't know what came over me.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

La Crema 2006 Sonoma Pinot and Tarapaca 2006 Carmenere (California / Chile)

Today I attended a BBQ with some fellow wine writers and if you think you have trouble deciding what to bring to a BBQ imagine if where you were going was filled with wine critics ... so instead of looking to impress I went with a couple of bottles I wanted to try myself (which is good advice anytime), and if they turn out to be impressive it's a double bonus.  I started off by popping the cork on a bottle of La Crema 2006 Sonoma Pinot Noir, I had put a bit of a chill on it and wanted to see if 7 years has made the difference.  Last time I had this wine was three years ago duing an American Thanksgiving celebration, and I thought the fruit was beginning to fade even then. This time out I picked up some nice cran-cherry and violets on the nose, definitely an improvement from last opening.  The acidity was pretty good, there was also white pepper and some sour cherry ... not the best version of this wine I have had but it was drinkable.  Some writers thought it a little green.  The other wine was one I enjoyed myself (meaning I did not see anybody else pour themselves a glass) and that was the Tarapaca 2006 Reserva Carmenere.  Say what you want about Carmenere, but well made versions are worth there weight in gold, I found this version to be lively and juicy and still vibrant even at 7 years of age.  I remember buying a bunch of this particular year because it was one of the best I had tasted in quite some time and it still delivers:  minty blackberry and lovely cassis - I think it still has life left in the bottle.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Butternut 2011 Chardonnay and Catena 2007 Malbec (California / Argentina)

Truthfully there were three bottles of Chardonnay and a Malbec opened this evening; alas one of the bottles was atrocious, but thankfully the others were delicious.  One of the Chardonnays has previously been reviewed on my website, thus leaving me with only two wines to report about.  We invited our Chardonnay loving friend over for a little pulled chicken, Chardonnay and a chat about life, the universe and everything - after all it was a summer Saturday one dies for, not to hot, not too cold, and not a cloud in the sky.  We started our mid-afternoon get together with a bottle of Butternut 2001 Chardonnay, a bottle I picked up on my last foray into the States with her specifically in mind, I was told the grapes were "most likely" Dijon clone - but after reading the website I learned that was not the case, my buddy Dave can't be right all the time.  But what he wasn't lying about was that the wine lived up to its name:  butter and nuts were all over this thing along with caramelized banana, grilled pineapple, maple, and double double caramel Kernels popcorn (if you have never had it its a must try) on the nose ... the thrill of this wine was really the sniffer, on the palate it doled out the same kinda stuff, but the nose is where it was its most interesting - hazelnut, pineapple and butter rounded out the mouth.

After two more openings we served dinner, and with it a bottle of Catena 2007 Malbec ... aged to perfection, if I do say so myself: cassis and raspberry with good acidity to cut through the rich fruit, there was also some cranberry and sour cherry that appeared near the finish along with a touch of white pepper.  This wine delivered the goods and was a lovely match to the chicken.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lyeth 2011 Fleur de Lyeth (California)

I went to visit my friend Dave in Michigan today and we shared a wonderful bottle of Zinfandel earlier in the day ... but when I got to my brother-in-law's place it was child's birthday party time (my nephew was turning nine), so the idea of pulling out a bottle of something nice with plenty of kids running around shooting off Nerf guns seemed a bit to much.  Party wrapped up around 6 and by 7:00 we were in front of the TV watching some pre-season football.  I know that football screams for beer but instead I asked one of my niece's boyfriend (the one who is into wine) if he wanted to share a little something ... and here we have it.  This was recommend to me by Dave who said it was great value in an under ten dollar bottle and punched well above it price tag ... and I am now in total agreement.  This Fleur de Lyeth is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec and gives the best of these three worlds.  Plenty of dark fruit right off the hop and it dominated throughout with plum and blackberry leading the charge, there was also a hint of white pepper that came along at the end, but it was the smooth and silky dark fruit that made this one a real winner.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ninquén Mountain Vineyard 2010 Antu Syrah (Chile)

It was a long drive to Michigan (not really longer than usual, but when it is done later in the day it feels longer), and when I got to my in-laws I allowed myself to unwind with a big red.  I've had this Antu Syrah before, and in fact have a number of bottles in my cellar, and for good reason - it's really good and it's getting better.  The nose was so full of raspberry it seemed to almost take over the glass, there was other stuff there too but the raspberry was the most noticeable and very welcome.  As it sat in the glass the raspberry mellowed, but it was what was on the palate that made this wine:  mocha, pepper, smoked meat, and of course, raspberry.  A beauty of a bottle to unwind with.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cline 2006 Syrah - Sonoma County (California)

It's been a long day, amongst the things I've accomplished are the household finances and the recording of 23 new videos for my YouTube Channel ... so I feel I need a drink.  I decided to dig through a box of "hold 'em" wines and found this bottle of 2006 Cline Syrah.  Now if memory serves I paid $12.95 for this bottle back when I bought it, and it's always interesting to find out how those bargain bottles are aging.  Nose is initially smoky with raspberry notes ... so far pretty impressive.  As it opens there's a peppery-ness that creeps into the aromas and maybe a touch of smoked meat ... then again maybe I'm just hungry.  On the palate there's a oaky-spiciness and also some fruit coming out as dried and peppered-raspberry ... all in all it's quite smooth and that bite from the spice and pepper doesn't get in the way of a pleasant drinking wine ... now if that oak will just hold off getting in the way it'll be a good wine to continue drinking.  Half and hour in and it looks like it is dissipating ... nice bottle of under-$13 ... my patience on this one has turned into a virtue.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Two Big Reds: Zinfandel (California) and Shiraz (Australia)

The night started with a lovely bottle of Chateau des Charmes 2012 Cuvee d'Andree Rose and ended with a big Aussie Shiraz, a bond fire that did not quite get going and a morning after with wax on the ground and burnt holes in chairs (you know it's a good party when ...). We had some new friends come over for dinner, something simple really, a little pulled pork (so you have to know what wine is coming), beans, slaw, and my wife's famous pea salad.  We started with a light welcome wine (the Rose, listed and linked above) ... we then moved to a Gamay from Malivoire (full review coming to the website) and then dinner was served.  With pulled pork or ribs you just know I'm pulling out a Zinfandel and so tonight's gamble was with a 2006 L de Lyeth Sonoma County Zin:  this one was good, not great, but passable for all the right reasons, yes it is 7 years old but I have tried some amazing older Zins ... this one stood up, but seemed a little muted, even after an hour of being open.  Dried plum (but not prune-y) with a hint of pepper and subtle vanilla, silky yet drying, it was a good match to the pork.  One of our guests was driving so he was out for the next round (in fact he does not drink red, so he partook in a little white wine with my wife); but his wife expressed an interest for Shiraz, so down to the cellar I went for a bottle of Sister's Run 2011 Epiphany Shiraz - smooth and supple with lots of dark fruit, hints of cocoa and not too much spice on the finish, but with some pepper to make you know it's still Shiraz, a perfect wine for in front of the fire.  Which is where we enjoyed it; to steal from an old phrase:  We drank while wood burned.  Let's hope we can all get together to do it again very soon (minus the holes in the chairs of course).

Friday, August 2, 2013

Vina Cobos 2008 Felino Malbec (Argentina)

After an array of Chardonnay, starting with a Closson Chase 2011 Loyalist, then two from Lailey Vineyard, I thought it about time in the evening to get something a little heavier and something with a little deeper colour, namely a red.  I had picked out a Malbec as an after dinner sipper, unbeknownst to me that our friend was a huge Malbec fan.  This Vina Cobos version I have had in the cellar for quite some time and was enthralled with it when I bought it - though I can't seem to find any previous notes on it.  The fruit and the oak have melded really well together here so they seem almost seamless.  Cassis and spice dominate with oak carrying them and not trying to over-shadow them - the fruit and spice rest delicately on the wood - heck I don't know how many more ways I can say it ... this wine drink real fine right now.

Friday, July 26, 2013

4 Wines - 1 Friends - 1 Big Headache (California / Rhone / British Columbia / Portugal)

Tonight we had some friends come over whom we see at least once a year, but thankfully speak to more often ... turns out it was the first time they have visited in the summer so we finally got a chance to sit out on the deck with them.  One of our friends just got her Canadian citizenship so we decided to kick things off with a little Canadian bubbly; but instead of hitting up Ontario for a bottle we picked something from the west coast, British Columbia: Steller's Jay 2007 Brut from Sumac Ridge ... to tell you it was a great starter is an understatement, it was delightful, delicious and a real winner, I think the whole bottle was gone in 3 minutes (poured out) and most, if not all of the glasses were consumed within 15 ... a real tribute to a wine when it's polished off that quickly.  We moved on to try a bottle of one of Ontario's soon to be wineries, Brickyard, and their 2012 Riesling - I will not be reviewing that here but it will appear on my website before too long.

Dinner was steak so red wine seemed in order.  One of our friends is a Pinot Noir fan, so he had a glass of Cattail 2010 Pinot Noir, another wine that will be reviewed on the website in short order.  He also mentioned that he was a fan of Zinfandel, one of my faovurites too ... but more on that in a minute.  The rest of us shared a bottle of Perrin & Fils 2008 Rasteau L'Andeol from the Rhone ... this was a lovely steak pairing wine that had plenty of raspberry and peppery goodness, old enough be smoothing out in all the right places, yet still has enough umph to pair with the smoky, char-grilled steak.  With that bottle down the hatch, and our Pinot-friend finished his glass out from the cellar came a bottle of Ravenswood 2004 Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel, a bottle that is courtesy of my wife and her American roots.  At nine years of age this was a beauty of a Zin that has kept its plum and spice nature while developing other real robust flavours that made it more than a pleasure to drink - at 14.5% it is no shrinking violet of a wine ... it too was consumed with gusto.

Finally, our friends are big Port fans, and so it was decided a bottle must be cracked open so that we could have a glass ... there was some hemming and hawing over a Late Bottled Vintage, but when I said it was a 2000 Late Bottled Vintage suddenly it became a curiosity: Sandeman 2000 LBV - dark chocolate dominated with hints of cherry, spice and a beautiful baked raisin finish.  One glass turned into two, turned into three and then suddenly the bottle was gone.  And we realized that our Pinot-Zin lover had been secreting glasses while we were all engaged in conversation ... we were not aware of this fact till the next morning when our slow moving, hung over friend, heard every pin drop as if it were an a hammer on an anvil.  A good night was had by all - it's just the morning that wasn't as good for one.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sister's Run 2008 Gomersol Cabernet Sauvignon

A Thursday night with the BBQ on, what in the world to drink is the main question ... we're doing a simple supper of burgers (flame grilled to perfection) and I'm in the mood for something rich from Australia.  I have also recently finished my Vintages Release report and remember a wine from a winery called Sister's Run, I'm pretty sure I still have something from them left in the cellar, and so the choice is made.  The difficult part will be to find it.  Thankfully it's an easy one to locate because of the red screw cap closure.  I have to admit I thought I had a Shiraz in the cellar but it turned out to be a Cabernet, was I disappointed?  Only for a minute, because once I got a whiff and a taste of this wine, the smile on my face went ear to ear.  What a delightfully silky smooth wine with plum, cassis, vanilla, chocolate and a delight of a raspberry finish ... looking through my inventory I am sad to report I have not a single bottle left of this delicious wine (as the French say, "c'est dommage") - guess I'm just gonna have to buy something else from these guys.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cono Sur NV Brut (Chile)

This is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling that I have had languishing in my cellar for I don't know how long.  It was a hot day here in Niagara, the humidex said it was around 40 between the temperature and the humidity - so when my little lady got home it seemed the best time to pop the cork on a bottle of this Brut (sparkling).  The nose was of dried tropical fruit and apple skin with hints of biscuitiness; the palate was similar to the nose adding apricot and pear to the pineapple and apple notes.  Wish I had marked on the bottle how long this bottle has been in the cellar, cause it seems every time we open a bottle of this wine it gets better.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Masi 2006 Campofiorin (Italy)

Before I even begin I have to come clean, I am a fan of Masi's Campofiorin ... I am also a big fan of well-made Ripasso, hence now you know why I enjoy Campofiorin, still one of the best made in the style.  This one is from a Masi-declared 5-star vintage, of which their have been very few, I believe it's something like five over the past 80 years (checking back with my notes on the subject it's 8 since 1942).  I have been sitting on this bottle for probably the last 4 years and still have a few more in my cellar so I can watch the development of this wine.  Tonight we had my brother and his family over for dinner and after some aperitifs of Rose and Sauvignon Blanc I BBQed up some sausages and had to find a wine that would go.  Now it's 30 degrees in the shade (that's ~ 90F) on this lovely Saturday and the thought of a hot and heavy red did not seem like a good plan ... but this wine fridge dweller seemed like it just might do the trick.  The wine was silky with enough acidity and tannins to keep it on pace with the smokiness and flavour profile of an array sausages (honey mustard, cheese and onion, medium, etc).  The fruit was also very nice with cherry and plum taking center stage followed up by spices and some smoky character; all finished off with a lovely bit of chocolate.  This wine stood up extremely well and still has plenty of life left in it, in fact it barely showed any of its 7 year age.  I can't wait to open my next bottle, which could be in a few months or in a few years, but I have no doubt that it will be another exciting and tasty experience with Masi.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Starry Night 2011 Zinfandel (California)

A friend of mine in Michigan recommended this bottle of Zinfandel, and so after sitting on it for all of 3 months I finally figured it was time to open it ... it was rib night after all and what goes better with a plate of back ribs than a lush and fruity Zinfandel.  Great honey garlic bbq ribs and this Zin was a match made in heaven:  the nose and palate matched right up with lots of plum, black cherry, vanilla and smoke - there was also a lovely hint of cocoa that lingered on the finish.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Darting 2006 Riesling Spatlese - Ungsteiner Herrenberg (Germany)

Riesling doesn't get anymore chuggable than this one on a hot day ... this Darting 2006 Spatlese was just the ticket as the sun beat down.  Now Spatlese can be somewhat of a gamble in the heat (or anytime), too sweet and it's syrupy, too dry and ... let's just go with the sweet part, dry Riesling is good anytime.  This Darting is a delight at 7 years of age, the nose has peach and apricots rolled in with a lick of honey and lemon.  Taste follows the nose to a tee and still with enough acidity to cleanse the palate leaving enough sweetness behind for a long finish that gets you craving the next sip - quite delicious.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

One with Friends - One for Us (California / France)

Beautiful (almost) summer evening on the back deck.  Some friends came over for an impromptu drink and I open a bottle of something I picked up in Michigan this past weekend, Greystone Cellars 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from California ... this is an almost perfect deck wine as it is big on fruit, low on tannin and nothing to get in the way of the fruity nature of this wine on the palate; had I chilled this wine for about 20 minutes it would have been perfect: fruit forward, lots of plum and cherry with no complications.

Then they went off to make dinner for their respective families and we were left to deal with own dinner plans (tonight we are breaking in the new wok): a stir-fry of shrimp and veggies, it seemed only fitting to open something to enjoy.  Bouchard Pere & Fils 2010 Mâcon-Lugny Saint-Pierre was the Chardonnay of choice for this seafood dish.  Peach (pit), apple and butter on the nose with a hint of vanilla (bordering on butterscotch) hanging out in the background; the palate follows pretty close to the nose with a really good acid backbone that makes it so easy to take another sip ... there's also a hit of citrus pith on the long finish that lingers pleasantly.  Great for sipping before, during and even after the meal.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

J. Lohr 2005 Bay Mist Riesling (California)

In the midst of an Ontario Riesling extravaganza, which included a 2006 Rockway, 2007 Calamus and a 2012 Jackson-Triggs I found myself with a bottle of this J. Lohr from Monterey, California ... also funny to note that it was the oldest wine in our line-up today.  I'm not usually a California Riesling kinda guy, so I'm not sure how this wine managed to find it's way into my cellar (obviously I bought it, but when?).  I think I was most impressed by the initial subtlety of this wine and its under-expressive nose upon opening ... it's closing statement was one filled with fun and intrigue ... let me explain.  When the nose finally started to come around there were aromas of lemon seed, yellow apple and a touch of pear ... the palate also took a little time to coax, at first it was mostly the sweetness of apple and pear and there also seemed to be a lack of bracing acidity, in fact there was almost no acidity at all.  By the time the nose came on line and the palate started to show itself to have a rather pleasant sweet white fruit seam with (and this is where it got interesting) a funky / fun  vanilla coconut finish - not flavours I readily relate to Riesling but it definitely added another dimension to this wine.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Kaesler 2005 Stonehorse Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre (Australia)

I have to tell you that I have been eyeing up this bottle of wine for the past week or so and why I did not open it sooner was because of antiquated wisdom.  First, this is a big red from Oz with huge alcohol (15%) and over the past week we were having some nice fish dishes for dinner, and the thought of trying to force this wine to match with shrimp, salmon, or cod was a bit of a hard pill to swallow (or wine to drink) ... I know I always say to drink what you want with what you like to eat and throw out the old white with fish / red with meat guide book our parents all preached from; but there are times when that old book comes in handy and a big Aussie blend is not for the feint of heart (or the delicate of fish).  And I have to say that I am glad I waited for Saturday's dinner of London Broil because the pairing of the pork and steak mix with the ballsyness of this wine went quite well together.  The first thing I noticed upon opening this 8 year old wine was that the inside of the screwcap looked like the business end of the paint can lid ... the bottle was also stained with sediment and inside the neck there was also a caking of sediment.  Of course none of that will kill you so time to move on.  The nose was very raspberry, mostly of the jam variety, with sweet spices and some sweet cherry, as time in glass passed I swear I could smell red jujubes ... and that's not a bad thing.  The palate was also very interesting.  The raspberry and spice ported over from the nose adding in a touch of vanilla and a little cedar, but always with plenty of spice.  As the night wore on other flavours appeared, like blackberry, cassis and dark cocoa.  This was an amazingly delicious wine and I can't wait to polish off the remaining bottles in my cellar over the next couple of years.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hartley-Ostini 2009 Hitching Post Pinot Noir Hometown (California)

My inner chef came out tonight as I made a pea pasta and bay scallop dinner ... sounds odd but it tasted delicious.  The wine I chose to pair with it was a Hitching Post Hometown Pinot Noir - as a big fan of the movie Sideways it only seemed  fitting that I have a few bottles of this wine in my cellar ... I had planned to sip on it while watching the movie but the urge to drink it tonight came over me and I thought it might go well with the pea sauce and the scallops.  It did.  The nose is full of ripe black cherry - it really smells sweet fruited and lures you into the glass along with some cinnamon and vanilla backing ... the palate isn't sweet but it really is juicy with cherry and good acidity on the finish.  I also find a little spice here that really helps bring the whole wine together.  Acidity, spice and lots of fruit, what a pretty glass ... and now empty bottle ... of wine.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Montes 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Aged (Chile)

It's Montes week here at Casa de Pinkus ... yesterday I opened a bottle of 2006 Limited Selection Red Blend ... tonight I went for the single variety: Cabernet Sauvignon, but this time I've gone back 2 more years, to 2004.  I opened this bottle a little early because tonight's dinner is cedar plant salmon Provencale, and as much as I am into trying different wines with different kinds of food, the Cab Sauv / Salmon pairing is not one that (from my experience) works very well.  So I will have a glass now and maybe one after I finish dinner ... though as a glutton for punishment I will most likely still try it with the fish.  Tonight's wine is hugely better than last night's so-so affair ... this 2004 still has weight and structure, the tannins aren't big in-your-face bruisers and the oak is well-balanced and delicate on the tongue.  There's an an element of fruit that still seems lively and vibrant right down the heart of this wine.  Sure there's a touch of dried fruit here but it is counter-balanced with a nice baker's cocoa that comes through, and while the tannins are most definitely present they do not interfere with what the cocoa and the fruit have going on ... in fact it seems to add just the right amount of a drying effect along with a lovely smokiness to make me want to take sip after sip after sip - and the finish lingers with a delicacy that seems to say "take another sip, I won't disappoint."  This bottle shows an elegance and finesse that last night's bottle could only dream about ... and it's 2 years older.  This is one you could still hold a few more years, but it's drinking very well right now.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Montes 2006 Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere (Chile)

At times I get in a little hot water for this column (and my other two aged wine columns: Taste it Again / Lost & Found) for waiting too long to enjoy some of these bottles I review.  Comments and emails from winemakers that tell me it wasn't fair to write about it because the wine was "past its prime", "too old", "never meant to age this long", etc. etc. etc.  But that's the nature of both the business and people - you don't always get to a bottle on time within its peak period, especially if you collect bottles of fermented grapes.  The purpose of this column is to discover wines at various stages of their lifespan:  some have over-shot their mark, some are too early in their life and other are exactly where they need to be (reached their fullest potential).  If you want to enjoy wine you have to be willing to accept the good with the bad.  All this is preamble to a so-so bottle of Montes 2006 Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere, a 70/30 blend from Chile.  I have tasted this wine at better stages in its life ... now some 7 years from vintage date things are a little drier than the fruit forward wine I remember.  The nose is dried mint with clove and dried blackberries.  The palate is all over the place, in both good and bad ways.  Dried mint shows, as it does on the nose, along with the dried blackberries, cassis and saliva-sucking tannins ... the finish is an interesting blend of cassis, mint, cedar, and pencil shavings with some clove and anise thrown in for seasoning.  Missed the sweet spot of this wine?  For sure, but it's an interesting older wine that deserved to be discovered in this state.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt 2002 Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese (Germany)

From the name alone you can probably tell this is a German wine ... thanks to two colliding incidents today I find myself drinking a bottle of von Kesselstatt Spatlese.  One: today was the day of the German wine tasting in Toronto, over 100 wines of which 90% were Riesling - you would expect after leaving such a tasting that one would have no interest in tasting Riesling for quite some time, but that's where you are wrong, it only whet the appetite for something aged and interesting in the Riesling department.  Two: on my way home from the tasting I tweeted from the train a choice of wines I was thinking of drinking, one was a local Gamay, the other a German Riesling (which I was pairing with fish) ... within seconds of posting my friend Alex Good from Calgary wrote back: "Riesling.  Pick the Riesling."  And so the table was set for the Reichsgraf.  And how right he was.  At 11-years-old this wine showed very little sign of its age, in fact the only thing my wife noted, when I poured her a glass, was the wine seemed dark in colour ... golden.  From there it was all uphill ... the nose was apple and apricot with some lemon rind and minerality showing through.  The palate just made you want to take sip after sip, and at only 8% alcohol it was so easy to do.  A lovely sweetness filled the mouth mixing with it apricot, pear and some intense sweet lemon notes - my wife called it "apple juice" - but there was so much more here.  The acidity helped to balance it out, but it did not get in the way of the gulpability of this wine ... I think my Riesling-loving friend, Alex, would have loved this one ... my wife will stick to her dry Rieslings ... but there's something to be said for a well-made, well-executed Spatlese that one just can't quite put into words except to say: "you've got to try this."

Monday, May 27, 2013

Hardys 2005 Bankside Shiraz (Australia)

Oh Baby what beauty of a wine this is ... was.  We were grilling up some inch thick steaks on the new charcoal grill tonight and it seemed only right to pull out something with a little heft.  I had my choice between a 15% Kaesler blend (also from Australia) or this Bankside (at 14%) ... and I am glad I picked this one.  The nose had a beautiful spiced-raspberry aroma, along with some white pepper that really brought out that fruit.  The palate was loaded with dark berries, cassis, pepper with touches of smoke and vanilla notes for extra accents.  This wine was delicious with the steaks and was nicely aged ... nice job Hardys and good for me for having the patience to wait.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Anakena 2005 Carmenere, Single Vineyard (Chile)

Some of the best bottles of wine you drink are those that you have the least expectations from.  I have to be honest, I had no idea what to expect from an eight year old bottle of Carmenere.  Would the fruit be dried or still fresh?  Would the wood over-take the fruit?  Would there be anything there worth drinking at all?  I'm happy to report that this was one impressive bottle of wine, that over the course of a number of hours showed little of its age.  The nose was full of smoky notes with spiced-blueberry backing it up ... the nice part of the aroma was that it never faded, never got stronger, nor did dissipate in any way - the nose remained constant.  The palate, on the other hand, did change, but always for the better adding elements that enhanced:  starting off with spiced-raspberry along with some tannins notes, then it added hints of cocoa within the first half hour.  As time passed it seemed to smooth out yet retained a chalky almost mineral character (kinda like baker's cocoa) then, before I stopped drinking it, there seemed to be an added quality of mint to the mix ... very lovely and it complimented dinner, which was simple as can be: Sloppy Joes.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A to Z Wineworks 2006 Chemin de Terre (Oregon)

Tonight, once again I pop the cork on a bottle of A to Z Chemin de Terre ... sadly this is my last bottle of this totally delicious wine and I am so happy that I waited to give it one last go.  The last time I opened a bottle was in August 2010, before that it was July 2010 and then at some earlier times (because at one point I had 5 bottles of this wine in my cellar).  This really is a kitchen sink wine as it had about 7 or 8 different varieties in the blend, and some you never would have pegged to be grown in Oregon (Sangiovese anyone?).  But now some 7 years from vintage date I can tell you the wine has held up extremely well and currently has smoky blackberry notes with cassis and black cherry, lots of fruit left in it for a wine of this age - it was smooth, elegant and really sexy in the glass.  I know we had some people come over and I have to tell you I have no idea what they drank - I just know I enjoyed this.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tale of Two Vintages: Jackson Triggs Okanagan Cabernet Sauvignon (British Columbia)

Not sure what possessed me to do this but tonight I thought it a great idea to pull out two bottles of wine from the same winery: same grape variety but different vintages ... why not eh?  If you've got 'em flaunt 'em, or at least pull 'em out and try 'em.  The two wines were Jackson Triggs Proprietors' Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2001 and 2004 vintages.  Starting with the opening of the bottles:  the 2001's cork pretty much disintegrated in the bottle, it was spongy and soft and no matter how I tried I could not get that all the cork out of the bottle.  My last resort was to push the remainder of the cork into the bottle - while an eighth of the cork remained adhered to the side of the neck.  The 2004 was in much better condition and slid out without any hassle what-so-ever.  Colour of the wines were as expected, the 2001 was definitely brickier than the 2004 - though the 2001 was more evidently aged and showed its 12 years more readily, whereas the 2004 did not look to be a wine of 9 years from vintage date.  Initially the 2001 was a nice wine with sweet dried fruit notes and it was quite smooth with just a hint of some tannin or acidity - it was hard to make out what was biting back ... but that was short lived as the wine became very raisiny within 30 minutes and stayed that way for the rest of its life span in the glass (about 2-and-a-half hours) ... it had definitely crested the hill and was hurtling towards the bottom.  The 2004 had the opposite effect:  it started off pretty rough and rugged, almost to the point of being aggressive - but once it settled into the glass it started to reveal its true nature, lots of cassis and other dark fruit with creme de cacao on the palate ... over the course of its lifespan in the glass (same as the 2001) it developed a wonderful texture in the mouth, mixing tannins with a pseudo-creaminess.  Within the course of 2 hours it opened to the point that it was expressing itself with dark fruit (mostly dried) with black licorice and sweet spice.  Truly impressive.  So while the 2001 is definitely on the decline the 2004 is just a hair off its peak and should be drunk this year - yes it has crested the hill but it sure doesn't want to go down with any quickness.