Monday, May 28, 2007

2003 Casa de la Ermita

The D.O. Jumilla, south east of Madrid, is not Spain's best known winemaking region, but it (and the adjacent D.O. Yecla) can be a source of great values, like tonight's Casa de la Ermita - a blend of Tempranillo, Mourvedre, Cabernet and Petit Verdot.

An attractive cherry red in colour, the 2003 Casa de la Ermita Crianza (Oaked) leaps forth with oak and black cherries on the nose, with supporting scents of rose, licorice, and smoke. Dry, firm tannins, with spring cherries and grenadine on the palate, good acidity and a medium body. Great now, but may keep a few more years in the cellar. A good match for a pork stir fry, but probably a better pair with something meatier off the grill. I have had other vintages, and this seems to be a pretty consistently good wine.

13.5% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$19

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Joe's Wine - A Year in Review

Happy first birthday, Joe's Wine!

As you can see from my Blogger profile, I have been a member since May of 2006. While some of my posts go back to 2003, my first official 'new post' was last year’s Brunello tasting - everything before that was a retrospective data dump of old e-mails to my tasting group.

While originally intended as a repository of notes for my wine tasting group, I couldn’t resist expanding the scope and opening up to the public (See why I blog below). Now at one year old, an awkward toddler always struggling to find the right words, perhaps a few numbers can help review what has been accomplished in twelve months.

A Year in Numbers

Testing the limits of a human liver, I have published 135 posts over the past year, including:

  • 112 tasting notes on 128 wines, including two WBW reviews
  • 8 posts covering our Formal Tastings - blinded reviews of 40 of the world's most famous (and expensive) wines, as reviewed by our tasting group
  • 5 posts covering travel to Napa Valley and Canada's Okanagan Valley
  • Various other comments and tips, including shopping reviews from various travels
As some of you may have noticed, I value diversity in wine. To put it simply:

"Every wine has a perfect time, place, food pairing and person to share it with." - Joe

My cellar and my reviews reflect this. My score summary page is a spreadsheet snapshot of my tasting notes and scores from the past year, but just to highlight the range of wines in those 112 tasting notes:

  • France: 40 wines, with less than half coming from Bordeaux, the Rhone and Burgundy - the other half were Languedoc, VdP, and weird appelations (i.e. 5 Madiran posts)
  • Italy: 26 wines, equally split amongst Tuscany, Piedmont and the rest of Italy
  • U.S.A.: 15 wines, predominantly Napa cab blends and Pinot Noir
  • Australia: 15 wines, a decent selection of Shiraz, whites and other
  • Spain: 11 wines, tempranillo dominated
  • South America: 7 Chilean and 5 Argentinian wines, fairly diverse
  • Other: 9 wines from New Zealand, South African, Austria, Germany and Canada
  • Red vs. White: 28 Whites, vs. 100 Reds

I added a statcounter into my blog in mid-September, and since that time it tells me I have had 6,115 visitors and 9,243 page loads. Approx. 6,000 visitors since January, when I really came out of my shell. The geographic diversity has been quite amazing - I have probably had visits from ~85-90% of the countries worldwide, with many surprises. Welcome to all!

Most Unbelievable Wines

For me, all were memorable in their own ways, but I should probably flag the following as freakin' unbelievable (in no particular order):

  • 1998 Henschke "Hill of Grace", very elegant
  • 2001 Elderton Command, powerful, complex, enjoyed twice
  • 1990 Chateau Clinet, very cerebral
  • 2002 Sea Smoke "Botella", best Pinot of the year
  • 2001 Domaine Pegau "Cuvee Reserve", best CdP
  • 1990 Chateau Montelena, awesome 17-year old Napa cab
  • 1999 Ornellaia, there is a reason this is so expensive
  • 2001 Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis, ahh, so this is what great Barolo tastes like

Honorable mentions go to:

  • 1999 Hacienda Monasterio, amongst the world's greatest wines at under C$40
  • 2005 Palacios Remondo Placet, best white of the year
  • Greatest Value? Tough call, but it is probably the Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon
Drinking too much?

No need to worry, Edward, as I have relied extensively on the livers of my wife, family, dinner guests, and of course our tasting group, to help round out an extensive year of tasting.

Google AdSense?

I can't possibly figure out how this will be lucrative, and I have a day job that would require me disclose this, so I will stay "ad free" for now.

Resolutions for the Next Year

My blog is light on white wines overall, and I really need to cover more Burgundy wines, and add some Loire wines.

For travel, I will be visiting Champagne at the end of June, and Sonoma Valley in the fall.

And, while this will always be a blog focused on independent wine reviews, I will adding some wine commentary beyond the obligatory tasting notes. The 'Daily' quote will continue, and I will add an archive of older quotes.

I hope you enjoy, and stay around for year two - Cheers!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

2000 Catena Alta Malbec Angelica Vineyard

My good friend Cosme came over last night to open a bottle of 'something' before he went out with his wife. It was he who nurtured my budding interest in wine, and the two of us who instigated what has become our formidable 'Vinuous 11' tasting group, which in turn was the catalyst for this blog. I should also note that he was the supplier of two of the highest scored wines ever scored on this site. So, for this visit I needed something impressive, but I also wanted to showcase something he would never buy - expensive Argentine Malbec.

Tonight's wine came from Bodega Catena Zapata, which is one of the best quality winemakers in Argentina (highlighted previously in a Great Values piece). Their entry level wines are the Alamos line, the mid range is the Catena line, while the Catena Alta wines are their premium selections - I have tasted a number of their varietal wines, red and white, from all of these labels, and they are always a great experience.

For my good friend I served a premium Catena selection, the 2000 Catena Alta Malbec Angelica Vineyard, a wine that has been sitting in my cellar for a few years waiting for a perfect evening. Dense, dark purple in colour, with just a hint of ruby at the edges, it looked impressive just sitting there in the decanter. An attractve nose of dark chocolate and mint, blackberries and leather, it was beautiful, but not spectacular. But the eye and the nose lied! On the palate this was not an overpowering fruit bomb - it was very elegant, with the copious tannins very well integrated, sliding silkily across the palate, accented by smokey blackberry fruit. This is a wine that would be easy to serve, with great balance and flavours likely to please many a wine lover. Decent length, this may improve, but it is definitely drinking very nicely today. A perfect wine match for a steak, a hearty winter roast, or to be enjoyed on its own.
14% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$49 (SAQ)

decanted ~2 hours before serving

Thursday, May 24, 2007

2003 Chateau Reysson Reserve

It has been nearly three months since my last Bordeaux post, which is surprising given that Bordeaux wines are the single biggest collection in my cellar. However, with BBQ season upon us, the red Bordeaux will be flowing around here! Unfortunately, it is a rather young collection (mainly due to my 'enthusiastic' participation in the 2003 futures), so I have to be patient - I find 3-5 years in the cellar for a modest Bordeaux, like tonight's Cru Bourgeois, to be a decent amount of cellar time, as we see tonight.

The 2003 Chateau Reysson 'Reserve du Chateau' is a Cru Bourgeois from the Haut-Medoc appelation in Bordeaux. In the glass it was a shiny, cherry red, with big smokey aromas the first to appear. Very earthy, like the scents of wet undergrowth and wet stones on a walk through a rain-drenched forest, it also showed some leather, tar, and pine, with some subtle perfumes of violet and strawberry. Well done!

On the palate this medium-bodied wine was dry, elegant and well balanced with firm, but silky tannins, good acidity and decent length. Less complex than the nose, but it was very enjoyable. Overall, a very competently made Bordeaux to be enjoyed now, or over the next few years. An excellent foil for a simply prepared steak, right off the grill.
13.5% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: $25 (LCBO) (futures)
~1 hour decant

Monday, May 21, 2007

2004 Elderton Barossa Shiraz

I have spoken highly of the Elderton winery here - in my great values piece, in my Top 50 cellar picks, and in various tasting notes. So it should be no surprise that tonight's 2004 Elderton Barossa Shiraz also comes with glowing notes.

Bright, deep purple in colour and highly aromatic, the nose was beautiful, interesting, and complex, evolving over the evening. Starting with wild, chocolatey fruit on the nose, this brute unveiled scents of big blackberry fruit, violets, pepper, cloves, leather, vanilla, chocolate and a lovely smokey smell.

Rich and thick, with chocolate and gobs of fresh fruit, it sported big tannins that pound on your palate, but were balanced by nice acidity. A very long finish, this is a surprising 'entry-level' Shiraz that demands some patience. Way too powerful for hamburgers off the grill, I suggest game, lamb or a wild animal you just killed with your bare hands. Vinuous infanticide, I say - decant first, but better to stick it in the cellar for 3 more years (at least...). If Elderton keeps making their Barossa this good, who is going to pony up for the Command? Obviously very New World in style, a caution for those seeking something more restrained. Close to an 18, but I think it will take a few years to sort it out for sure.
14% alcohol
Score: 17.5+/20 (will improve)
Price: C$29

Sunday, May 20, 2007

2005 Placet Rioja (White)

I rarely find myself in the Spanish white wine section of my favourite wine shop, but there was something about this bottle that called out to me - an attractive label, an unusual name, Bodegas Palacios Remondo, and the realization that it has "been a while" all piqued my interest. One short web search on my blackberry and I was on my way, $50 poorer and two white Rioja 'richer'.

Bodegas Palacios Remondo is a famous Rioja house, and the 2005 Plácet is a white Rioja made from 100% Viura (aka Macabeo), the most widely planted white grape in Rioja. Gorgeous notes of white flowers, orange, apricot, and nuts leapt out of this pale gold wine, with a subtle hint of buttery oak behind it all. This was an extremely well balanced and elegant white. Rich, but with a lively acidity at the same time. Excellent now, with grilled chicken in a light honey/dijon glaze, this may have a few years of cellar time in it as well. Perhaps the best white I have posted on this site.
13.5% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$24.75 (SAQ)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

North vs. South - A Rhone Divided

The Rhone Valley is the second largest wine producing region in France, with 80,000 hectares producing some 3.4 million hectolitres of wine each year. While the vast majority of this production is for Cotes du Rhone and Cotes du Rhone Villages, the region is most famous for its Cote-Rotie and Hermitage wines from the North, and Chateauneuf du Pape (CDP) from the south.

In the northern part of the Rhone, Syrah is the dominant red grape, while the southern Rhone permits a variety of grapes, but the wines are typically dominated by Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Not wishing to break the bank this evening, I steered away from Hermitage and CDP, choosing a Crozes-Hermitage to represent the north and a Gigondas to substitute in for CDP.

I love pairing Rhone-styled wines with lamb, and our marinated lamb kebabs paired very well with tonight's wines.

Carrying the flag for the north was the 2003 Guigal Crozes-Hermitage. Red wines from Crozes-Hermitage must be 85% Syrah, and while not as famous as Hermitage wines, the prices are much lower and the wines tend to be more accessible at a younger age. Cherry red and very aromatic, this was a wild animal on the nose - very musky, leathery and oaky with some dark cherry fruit. Surprisingly acidic at first, this medium bodied syrah softened up over the evening, recovering its balance. This is NOT a new world Syrah - this interesting wine was meant for food, and ably dealt with tonight's grilled lamb. I would definitely recommend a one-hour decant for this wine today, but it is probably best to put this one away for two or three years.
12.5% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$26 (LCBO)

The south was represented by a 2000 Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas "Les Garancieres". Gigondas wines are typically dominated by Grenache, with the appelation allowing up to 80% of this grape, but the wines must also contain a minimum of 15% Syrah and Mourvedre. This ruby red wine was aging gracefully, with a spectacular bouquet - big, bright blackberry fruit with rose and lavender, coffee grounds, pepper, vanilla, and a beautiful earthiness. Medium to full-bodied, on the palate "Les Garancieres" had beautiful fruit, and was soft, smooth, rich, and extremely well balanced. This powerful and elegant wine is hitting its stride, and while it may improve with some more cellaring it will be hard to wait.
14% alcohol
Score: 18/20

Price: C$28 (SAQ)

In the end, the northern wine was probably a better match for these spiced kebabs, but I would choose the Gigondas for a more traditionally prepared lamb chop. Note that One year ago I was not impressed with this Gigondas, but at that time I drank it without a decant, and it was not paired with a meal. Let that be a warning...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

2003 Ramitello

I love Italian wine. Even when the wines are awkward or off balance, they are always so...intriguing, intellectually satisfying. I find them more of a secret pleasure, as their quirky and unusual flavours make them hard to serve to wine 'newbies', especially when going 'off the beaten path' from Valpolicella or Chianti. We can safely call tonight's 'Biferno Rosso' an Italian off the beaten path...

The 2003 Ramitello is by Di Majo Norante, the producer of some of Italy's greatest wine values. An unsual blend of 80% Prugnolo and 20% Aglianico, this cherry red wine had a complex and multi-layered nose. Lovely scents of cherry blossom, blackberry, oak and wet stones intermingled with flinty/smokey and meaty aromas. Very well balanced, medium-bodied, with tongue-puckering dry, velvety tannins and summer berry fruit, this was a very attractive package. Not a long finish, this complex and interesting wine is ready for drinking now. Enjoyable on its own or a terrific pairing with pasta, especially tonight's veal cannelloni.
13.5% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: C$18 (SAQ)

Note: I reviewed the 2000 Ramitello in February - the 2003 was marginally better, and very approachable considering its youth.

Boiling Over

This is a wine thermometer. An unnecessary wine accessory, perhaps, but a reminder that temperature is important. Unnecessary, as most wine can be brought to the proper temperature with a little foresight (see below). Important, as the wrong temperature can hide those most desirable aromas and accentuate the bad ones.

Most wine is served at the wrong temperature - restaurants and many wine afficianados make the same errors - red wine too hot, white wine too cold. This drives me crazy. While I cannot certify that I am always at the exact temperature, at the very least I always think about it, and attempt to minimize the frequency and degree of my error.

Based on personal experience and numerous books, the proper serving temperature for wines are as follows:

Red Wines: 'Chambre' is NOT room temperature. Broadly speaking, 16-18 Celsius, 61-65 Fahrenheit, or 289.15-291.15 Kelvin, is the right temperature for a red. I find Pinot Noir better at the low end, and Beaujolais even cooler. You can play around with the range and see what you like, but you will notice this is a fair degree below 'room temperature'.

White Wines: Whites should be 8-10 Celsius, 46-50 Fahrenheit. Inexpensive, uncomplicated white quaffers should be served cooler (or even mixed with ginger ale), while better whites will do nicely at the higher end. Use an insulated bag or an ice bucket to keep the wine from warming up to room temperature.

Note that the glassware and decanters are likely to be at room temperature, so you may wish to err on the cool side as the wine will warm up quickly. Also note the problem of summer weather, which can warm things up even faster.

Of course, it is no good ranting about wine temperature without a few tips about how to get to the right temperature and keep it there. And for those of you thinking "that's great, smarty pants with a temperature controlled cellar", you don't need a cellar.

Room temperature is 21-24 Celsius, 70-75 Fahrenheit. To chill a wine to the proper temperature, the freezer will knock off one degree Celsius every four minutes for a 750mL bottle (a tip from How and Why to Build a Wine Cellar, by Dr. Gold):

So, if you don't have a cellar and keep your wine on the counter, or you just bought it at the store, try this:

Red - chill it in the freezer for 20 minutes
White - the 4 minute rule needs to be modified slightly - about 40-45 minutes in the freezer should work fine

For those of you who don't believe me, compare two bottles of your favourite red - chill one for 20 minutes in the freezer, leaving the other the counter on a warm day.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

WBW #33 - 2004 Domaine La Tour Vieille "La Pinede"

The Languedoc-Roussillon (1,2) chapter in Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide (6th Ed.) has the sub-heading "Where the Quality and the Values Are", and gushes about the Midi:

" of the undiscovered bastions of delicious, value-priced wines. Its relative importance to consumers continues to increase as wine prices from many of the world's best-know regions have reached absurd levels."

Well said, and it was these comments, combined with a rather good selection of Midi wines at the local monopoly, that led me to start my wine adventures in the Languedoc.

In that vein, I must commend Marcus for focusing the wine blogosphere on "Mid-priced wines from the Midi", as well as his rather extensive supporting info for the uninitiated.

My choice came to me by 'chance'. After agonizing for weeks over what to open for WBW 33 (yes, I do that sort of thing), my brother-in-law brought over a wine from Collioure, the 2004 Domaine La Tour Vieille 'La Pinède'. Having recently returned from the Midi, he told me how he loved the wines, and having stayed close to Collioure he thought he'd bring this wine over to share. I assume he meant I was supposed to share it with him...

In the glass this youngster displayed a dense, dark purple hue. On the nose this blend of 75% Grenache and 25% Carignan lead with butterscotch and stawberries, followed by cocoa, cedar, undergrowth, and wet fur, also showing a minty/nail polish remover finish. Very nice, very interesting. On the palate this dry, full-bodied red was very smooth and balanced. Inky, with chocolatey strawberries that concealed firm tannins, La Pinede had mild acidity and a short finish indicating that this wine is ready for drinking. A bit heavy on the alcohol, and a bit too much for the pasta in a goat cheese rose sauce, I would suggest this wine for sipping all by itself, or with some lamb off the grill.
14.5% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Cost: C$24 (SAQ)

Thanks, Marcus! And thanks to Lenn of Lenndevours for inventing WBW.

Monday, May 14, 2007

2006 La Vieille Ferme

The Cotes du Luberon is a Rhone Valley appelation, southeast of such famed terroirs as Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Vacqueyras, and Gigondas. I have never had a wine from this region before, and I have had very few Rhone whites, so this was a fun wine to pair up with some shrimp on the barbie and some homemade fried calamari.

An interesting blend of Grenache, Bourbolenc, Ugni Blanc and Rousanne, the 2006 La Vieille Ferme (blanc) was a shiny, pale gold colour. Luscious fruit up front, with scents of red delicious apple and melon, it later revealed honey, hay, basil, mint, fresh cut grass, butter and toast. Elegant, rich and lemony soft on the palate, this was a balanced and enjoyable white, well made and interesting. A terrific value, and now one of my summer white staples. This would be perfect as a chilled, patio quaffer, or a serious white for flavourful white meats (shrimp, chicken, lobster). This paired better with the shrimp than the calamari.
alcohol 13%
Score: 16/20

Price: C$13.70 (SAQ)

(PS - I have had the rouge Vielle Ferme at some point in the past, and I was unimpressed)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Gaucho Grill

Having guests for dinner is a fantastic way to get through a couple of bottles of wine. And instead of serving two of the same bottle, I usually try to compare and contrast wines. For tonight's "Gaucho Grill" - a smorgassboard of meat (beef, chicken and sausage), marinated in an Argentine chimichuri sauce and barbequed to perfection (in my opinion...) - I thought a Malbec would be best. But lacking a second bottle, I dove into my California collection for a backup:

2004 Clos de Los Siete
2004 Steltzner Claret

Clos de los Siete is a new Argentine operation established by seven French investors, with Michel Rolland the winemaker. The 2004 Clos de Los Siete has captured a number of positive reviews, but the overwhelming message was "wait!". I ignored the warning, and gave this wine a 2-hour decant instead. Deep, dense purple in colour, this Malbec blend had a lovely nose of almonds, blackberry, blueberry, pepper, tea, cinnamon, and leathery oak. It was a full-bodied wine, with big, fat tannins, nice fruit, and a long finish. I was shocked at the high alcohol - it was not dominant on the nose or the palate. Very complex and enjoyable and a good match for the grilled meats, but it needs time in the cellar. (I hope I can find some more...)
15% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$24 (SAQ)

The 2004 Steltzner Claret was one of my favourite finds of last year's Napa trip, and is one of my Top 50 Cellar Picks - an excellent New World Claret at an affordable price, in a region that is not known for 'values'. Cheerful, cherry-red in hue, the nose covered a range of pleasing aromas - cedar, pepper, coffee, strawberry, mushroom, mint and vegetal aromas. A dry, tannic mouthfeel, it softened up over the evening, delivering strawberry-flavoured coffee. An excellent match for the steak, but perhaps a bit overpowering for the grilled chicken and sausage.
14.5% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$28 (Opimian)

With five adult wine lovers and two bottles of wine I was seriously unprepared for the evening, as we polished those off in no time. To maintain my "Good Host" status, after-dinner I uncorked a 2004 Ravenswood Vintners' Blend Zinfandel. It has been a few years since I have had this wine and quite some time since I enjoyed a Zin, so I had low expectations - I was very wrong. A lovely example of Zinfandel at an affordable price, with an uncharacteristicly low alcohol level - only 13.5%. Flavourful and balanced, it was not your typical overdone California Zin - at this price it should be everyone's go-to inexpensive Zin. No score - I was not really in a proper state of mind to score this one...


Friday, May 11, 2007

2004 Torbreck Juvenilles

With ribs snuggly nestled in their marinade, I went down to the cellar to grab a Pinot Noir, my favourite pairing for grilled ribs. But then I thought "what a rut!" - I always pair Pinot with ribs. My guide suggested a Cru Beaujolais (I use this book to get me out of ruts), so I grabbed a 2005 Marcel Lapierre Morgon. But it was not to be, cursed with a corked bottle.

Dinner was nearly over by the time I opened our next bottle, the 2004 Torbreck Cuvee Juvenilles. I was hesitant with this wine, as we suffered a corked bottle at our recent Shiraz tasting, but there was no problem tonight. The Juvenilles was a bright cherry red, with an up front meaty smell. This wild animal rushed at me with scents of smoked meat, cedar and spices (pepper, cloves), blueberry jam, white flowers and lovely flinty, smokey, aromas. On the palate this luscious, full-bodied, modern-styled Aussie blend was leathery smooth, with blueberry fruit, liquorice and firm tannins, but the 14.5% alcohol was obtrusive. A wonderful, after-dinner pairing with absolutely nothing. Sold out, unfortunately, or I might have gone back for another bottle.
Score: 17/20
Cost: C$29 (SAQ)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

2005 Les Jamelles Syrah

A few weeks ago I exchanged a few comments with Alder at Vinography about French wine. My studies in finance have instilled a deep sense of 'reversion to the mean', and it is my contention that just as the wine media and blogosphere are together predicting the 'death' of French wine, we are actually seeing the start of a French renaissance.

Of course, the French wine doomsayers never really referred to the First Growth Bordeaux or Premier Cru Burgundies, but the 'Vin de Table' - the sea of inexpensive, and largely forgetable, jug wine. With the wine world chugging Yellow Tail by the gallon, the French have had two choices - uproot the vines or compete. Hence the introduction of Fat Bastard, Red Bicyclette and the like - wines that are heavy on the fruit and oak, and mention the grape on the label.

And so we come to tonight's wine, a simple Vin de Pays (see the Doktor for some recent commentary on VdP). The 2005 Les Jamelles Syrah is a 'Vin de Pay d'Oc'. With its Mediterranean climate and long history with Syrah, how appropriate then that this region should lead the French counter-assault with inexpensive, quaffable Shiraz and Grenache-based wines. This wine was an attractive purple/cherry red, and exhibited a nose far beyond its modest price - spicy, with liquorice, cinnamon, pepper, and tea, enveloped in an earthy, oaky aroma - some blackberry and green pepper as well. On the palate it was light to medium-bodied, smooth and balanced, with big fruit and agreeable tannins. Hearty, interesting, but a short finish - drink now. A perfect after-dinner sipper, it would also make a great party wine. Outstanding at this price, I think the French have learned their lesson, Oz. Even more amazing, only 13% alcohol. Well done.
Score: 15.5/20
Price: C$12.45 (SAQ)

My wife raved about Les Jamelles before she saw the price, so it was good fortune that I happened upon this wine tonight. I have had the Les Jamelles Sauvignon Blanc and it was such a nice value that I thought I'd give the Syrah a try. Remember the name - I have seen it on a few restaurant lists.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

1997 Castell'in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva

I love the sangiovese-based wines of Tuscany. So why has it been 5 months since I last wrote one up? In part because I keep drinking my old faves - the Fonterutoli, Nipozzano, and Poggio Bronzone - but mostly because I forgot. In preparation for a dinner of wild boar steaks on the BBQ, I nearly went for the shiraz because of how well it pairs with game, but I read somewhere that a Chianti Riserva is also a perfect match. And it was.

The 1997 Castell'in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva is a great example of nicely made Chianti with a few years of cellaring behind it. Despite approaching nearly 10 years of age, the colour was still a bright cherry red, with only a hint of brick red from bottle age. The nose burst forth with musky, leathery, oaky aromas, with additional scents of tea, cloves, black cherries and some subtle floral scents. After a one hour decant, this wine was very, very smooth - medium bodied with velvety tannins, nice acidity and ripe cherry fruit. Complex, interesting, and a beautiful pairing for wild boar off the grill (a first for me). A classically-styled Chianti, this wine is at its peak now. A tip of the hat to my friend Lloyd who insisted I buy this.
13.5% alcohol
Score 17.5/20
Cost: C$45

PS - for our second bottle, I opened up the 2003 Nipozzano - a great wine, as always.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Mile High Club, Take 2

With my return flight featuring the same four wines as my outbound flight below, I was nearly SOL for blog material. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a stewardess steal away and return with a mini-bottle of Cava for the guy in front of me. Jackpot!

After requesting a bottle of Cava in both English and French, I gave up and blurted out Champagne. She nodded, and returned with the CAVA, in this case the Codorniu Brut Clasico NV.

Given the altitude and the stemware I could not assess the mousse, but the nose was very pleasing, delivering scents of lemon, grapefruit, apricot, and almonds, with a heavy leathery/oaky undertone, similar to a Red Rioja! Joyful bubbles of lemony toast tickled my palate and brought a smile to my face after two hellish days of travel (this is not a travel blog, so I'll spare you the details). A very nice, inexpensive bubbly, that begs the question - why save bubbly for a special occasion?

11.5% alcohol
Score: 15.5/20
Cost: C$13.50 (SAQ)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Mile High Club

With the Gods of Business Travel looking favourably upon me, I found myself seated at the front of the airplane for a change. For most airlines this means free alcoholic beverages. So, with four hours to kill an impromptu tasting was in order. It started well - beyond the obligatory "White or red?" question, I was even asked if I would prefer the "Merlot" or the "Shiraz", both from different wineries. Two thumbs up for giving me a choice - Bravo, Air Canada!

My "merlot" selection was a Jackson Triggs Proprietor's Selection Merlot, non-vintage. It was a bright cherry red, with little to no oak, allowing for the youthful merlot to express itself - fruity (cherry, blackberry), nutty and vegetal, on the nose it was a pleasant, classic, yet subdued merlot. On the palate it was surprisingly rich and soft, given the low alcohol content, with nice fruity flavours and a short finish. While uncomplex, this was an enjoyable little red for everyday drinking, nicely made without resorting to the crutches of heavy oak or overextraction. Normally I avoid Canadian wines like the plague, but this was not bad. Of course it was 'cellared in Canada', meaning foreign grapes...
alcohol 12.5%
Score: 13.5/20

At this point I should apologize for the misleading title, which has likely captured some unwitting surfers looking for something a little 'spicier' than Canadian Merlot. But with some wine bloggers using the names of Miss Universe contestants for increased traffic it is hard to compete!

My next wine was a white, which once again came in two selections, in this case a "French" and a "Chardonnay". The 2005 Domaine de Pellehaut was a Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne. A blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard and Gros Manseng, it was pale yellow, with with fresh cut melon, banana, toast and some earthy aromas leaping from the glass. Very Sauvignon blanc on the palate, this simple white was light bodied with crisp acidity and good balance. A good quaffer/big event wine and a nice pairing for the salad with balsamic vinaigrette.
alcohol 12.5%
Score: 13/20

My Shiraz selection came from Argentina. The 2005 Bodega San Telmo Shiraz comes from Mendoza, a region usually associated with Malbec. Deep purple in colour, the nose was very similar to many inexpensive Aussie Shirazes. Very nice aromas, with blackberry, flowers, leather, cocoa and pepper. Medium to full-bodied, it was more crisp and less fruity than most low-end Aussie Shiraz, which will make it easier to pair with a meal. Balanced, with a short finish, this is a wine to drink now. Nicely done.
alcohol 13.5%
Score: 14.5/20

My last wine was a non-vintage Colio Chardonnay, 'cellared' in Canada. Classic New World, lemon and butter, some toast. It was easy drinking with light acidity. Not bad, but very simple and a bit dilute. A good patio quaffer at the right price.
alcohol 12.5%
Score: 12.5/20

Stay tuned for the return flight...