Friday, May 30, 2008

2000 Di Majo Norante Ramitello (Redux)

Sometimes you raid the cellar and find something you had forgotten was in there. Sometimes you find a cheap wine aged way better than you thought possible. Tonight I got both:

The 2000 Di Majo Norante Ramitello, a blend of prugnolo (80%) and aglianico, had a wild and enticing nose of leathery dried fruit, dark berries, pine resin, black liquorice, and more. Great complexity on the palate, substantial crisp fruit supported by a nice acidic presence, and a rustic Italian edge that transports you to a tiny Italian village far, far away. This could be cellared for a few more years, and may improve - cellarwothy AND under 20$! Love this wine (I'm a sucker for quirky, rustic Italian reds) - a steal at this price.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$19.80 (SAQ)

Tasted previously, but even better now (or better tonight...)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Marcus and Joe vs. '05 Champys

The fourth (1,2,3) joint effort between fellow Montreal blogger Marcus and I was an '05 Champy night. Maison Champy is the oldest 'négociant' in Burgundy, producing dozens of wines from vineyards across the region. Thus, with some careful shopping, you can put together a real comparison of various terroirs, which is what Marcus and succeeded in an "open-label" comparison.

The 2005 Champy Gevrey-Chambertin "Vielles Vignes" was the tortoise of the night, starting a bit dull. Musty, muted at first, with air it opened up to reveal damp earth and woodsy notes, leather and flint, and a lovely underlying meatiness. Poised, with soft and generous fruit, velvety tannins and good crisp acid all in balance. Heftier than the Savigny, but simpler on the nose, I think we're going to see a better score after a few more years in the cellar. I am beginning to associate the softness on the palate and the meatiness with the Cote de Nuits.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 17+/20
Price: C$41.25 (SAQ)

The 2005 Champy Savigny-les-Beaune 'Aux Fourches' had an enticing and complex nose, starting mushroomy and earthy, then strawberry cream, oak and rose petal, some spiciness. Tangy, even edgey, on the palate with some mineraliness (something I find in other Cote de Beaune wines as well), it was perhaps a bit less balanced than the G-C above, but I found it more interesting. Tonight we call it a tie.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$29.70 (LCBO)

The 2005 Champy Chorey-les-Beaune was not a bad wine, but so much thinner and less complex - flint and oak on the nose, smooth and earthy on the palate, with wet stones and decent fruit. Simple, satisfying, but not like the others. Drink now.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 15.5/20
Price: C$25.50 (SAQ)

Two more comments - first, despite the fact that I had dinner before I arrived Marcus prepared an excellent spread of cheeses, vegetable couscous, sauteed mushrooms and other delicious stuff to pair with our wines - the dishes worked perfectly. Second, there actually was a fourth wine, but it was so cheap and so Romanian that I have to save it for a separate post...

Many thanks, Marcus! (Marcus' tasting notes and more photos on Facebook)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Joe’s Wine at Two


In late 2003 my friend Cosme and I decided to start a wine tasting group, and following our tastings I would send the gang an email recounting our experiences. On or about this date two years ago I decided to start a blog, a personal repository for those tasting notes. Eventually I decided there was no need to "hide" those notes, and soon thereafter I started posting notes on all sorts of wines. But it is not about the notes, per se, as I mentioned at the start of this year (study, study, study)…

For my friends who have followed this site, Year Two expanded beyond the notes and followed my resolutions to taste more whites (incl. 5 German whites), more Burgundies (20, vs. one in the prior year), and some Loire wine notes (11, vs. one the prior year). I also reviewed the appellations and wines of Southwest France, introduced American Wine Month (1), and drank with some fellow bloggers (1,2,3,4), amongst other "achievements"…

By the numbers

I don't have time to compile a bunch of stats, but can say that over the past year I have published 202 posts (now over 350 in total) covering, say, 300+ wines? Looking at the readership, since last May I have increased my readership more than five-fold, with over 50,000 page loads and>33,000 visitors.

Most amazing wines of the past twelve months

It is nice to have fond memories - over the past 12 months these wines have been etched into my memory:

Moreau Grand Cru Chablis – I had a chance to taste a number of Moreau's Grand Cru bottlings at this year's Salon des Vins – memorable, mind-blowing – now I understand the fuss over Grand Cru Chablis.

2001 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Musigny - How often do you get to drink a legendary Burgundy with a great friend, a decent pour, and time to contemplate that precious liquid? Thanks, Cosme.

2000 Serpico dei Feudi di San Gregorio – I'm a sucker for big, rustic, Italian reds, and this Aglianico was so different from anything I have ever tasted.

2000 Sierra Cantabria Coleccion Privada – Such a beautiful Rioja, and so comforting to know that I have two more bottles in my cellar.

1996 Sandrone Cannubi Boschis – Yes, I know aged Barolo is supposed to be amazing, but this amazing? I need a second job…

1988 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Rare Vintage – I've had lots of champagne in my life, but never anything good with some cellar time. It was very cool to taste a high-quality vintage champagne 20 years on.

Verite – The highlight of my 2007 Sonoma trip was a memorable flight of perhaps the best Californian wines I have ever tasted, Verite's La Joie, Le Desir and La Muse. I can't wait to see how this winery develops over the next few years.

(Be nice to me – I have another bottle of most of these wines in my cellar…)

Winery of the Year

To be considered for Joe's highly sought-after "Winery of the Year" Award, I must have tasted multiple wines from the winery and seen uniform excellence across the line, with bonus points if I tasted multiple vintages and different grapes. It really was no contest:

Luciano Sandrone: Throughout the year I sang the praises of Piedmont's Luciano Sandrone – humble Dolcetto, premium Barbera, regional Nebbiolo and top Barolo Cuvees, I have never been disappointed. Critics may call Sandrone a modernist but I call him talented, and there was never any doubt that these wines come from Piedmont or that they would slay an Osso Bucco.

Domaine A et P de Villaine (Runner-up): It is almost embarrassing to name Aubert de Villaine, the legendary winemaker for Domaine Romanee Conti, a `runner-up`. His personal estate, Domaine A et P de Villaine, is not DRC but produces great wines – I loved his chardonnay, aligote and pinot noir – and all at great prices (considering the quality). I just wish these were more widely available…

Resolutions for Year Three

I have already started with more German wines, so you can expect to see more. New Zealand has also been a bit glossed over, so I think I should address that. I will probably do American Wine Month again in August, and I will do another West Coast trip in the fall, perhaps Central Coast this time. I am also keen to taste wine beyond my wine group – last year I tasted with Weingolb, Brooklynguy, and had a near miss with McDuff – look for more ``blogger-a-blogger`` tastings over the next year (and maybe some more big wine tasting events). And expect more wine commentary beyond the notes...

Cheers to all!

Friday, May 23, 2008

2005 Louis Jadot Beaune "Boucherottes"

Been busy with the 2005 Burgundies as of late - here's another:

The 2005 Louis Jadot Beaune "Boucherottes" sported dark raspberry, vanilla, cocoa, basil and floral notes on the nose, crisp and balanced on the palate. Smooth, with a modest finish, it is drinking well now - hard to imagine extended cellaring is necessary. Paired very well with a whole chicken roasted on the bbq.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$48 (SAQ)

But, with guests over for dinner, you can see in the photo that we started our evening with champagne. The NV Piper Heidsieck "Brut Divin" is a "Blanc de Blancs", that is 100% chardonnay. Smokey toast and yeasty, lemony notes, some flowers as well, a fitting intro to this simple, but very elegant, bubbly. One of the last bottles from my trip to France last year.
cork. 12% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: ~35 euros (winery)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

2006 Marnay-Sorelles Hautes Cotes de Beaune "Les Frontenets" innocent comment on a variety of music led to threats and insults...maybe I'll stick to wine.

The 2006 Marnay-Sorelles Hautes Côtes de Beaune "Les Frontenets" led with crisp raspberry, wet fur and animally notes - simple but effective. The palate was light-bodied with bracing acidity and modest fruit - a touch awkward at first, but softened up nicely over the evening. An inexpensive take on classically-styled red Burgundy, and a great pairing for a pork tenderloin in a sweet soy-based marinade (and a great value).
cork. 12% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$17.60 (SAQ), but a gift from a friend

Stay tuned for more Burgs - Marcus and I dove into `05 Champys last night, and our tasting group is going Grand Cru in a week and a half.

Crap, I've Been Tagged...

image source: Tony King

So, just when I thought the meme thing was over I got "tagged". Edward is passing on a meme requesting that a few of us post seven songs that we are "into" (and then tag other people):

The rules (please pass on) are:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.

So, what is Joe listening to these days? As I said about wine, every wine has a perfect time, place and person to share it with. I have the same philosophy for my music - it depends on the situation and my mood. Here's an ecclectic mix to match my recent moods...

Pumped: Red Hot Chilli Peppers "Snow (Hey Oh)" - the Chillis are great companions for running or working out (and this is one of their only songs with lyrics appropriate for my kids...)

Sentimental: U2 "New York" - sends tingles down my spine thinking of when I lived there and how much I want to get back, as often as possible...

Studious: Rossini's "Barber of Seville" - Opera is great wine drinking music, stimulating the grey matter. Once a year the missus get out to the Opera de Montreal - how could I miss the "Rabbit of Seville" this year?

Happy: Ibrahim Ferrer and the Buena Vista Social Club. My great Cuban friend, Cosme, got me into wine and the music of this Cuban legend just makes me want to run to my cellar. What a voice!

Pumped (again): The White Stripes "Seven Nation Army" - Same as the Chillis, I'm training these days...

Reflective: The Flaming Lips - Brooklynguy flagged this cool, totally psychedelic band. Yoshimi, get out of my head!

Angry: Nine Inch Nails - why are you so angry, Trent? No matter, your anger is a great companion when I am fuming. (warning, mature subject matter - listeners are advised to make sure the kids are nowhere near the computer)

Those are the tunes most likely to be playing on my iPod these days but, like my wines, it will all be different next week. Classical, opera, jazz, punk, alternative - who knows? Depends on how I'm feeling...

I hate to pass a meme on, but consider yourself tagged: Marcus, Shea, David and Neil (that's for putting that Yoshimi thing into my head) - don't feel any obligation, but I'm morbidly curious to know what you are listening to (you are welcome to simply comment here...)

Monday, May 19, 2008

2004 Chateau Peyros Magenta

It's no secret that I have a soft spot for the tannat-based wines of Madiran, a small french appellation in Southwest France. But I have mainly tasted the pricier offerings, Chateau Montus and Chateau Bouscasse. Here's a great, inexpensive Madiran...

The 2004 Chateau Peyros Magenta (Madiran) had a pleasing mustiness on the nose and was very vegetal (garden herbs) - leather, black liquorice, and floral notes as well. Very smooth and balanced, a modest finish - easy drinking, but simple. A great value for my Ontario friends. 
cork. 13.8% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$14.85 (LCBO)

Note that this Madiran was 50:50 Tannat and Cabernet Franc (Montus is 80% Tannat/20% Cabernet Sauvignon), which explains the vegetal notes and Peyros' accessibility for such a young Madiran.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Feelings Cafe: Cheap White Burgundy in the Big Easy

New Orleans is not a town that I associate with wine - alcohol, yes, but not wine. Facing spicy Cajun cooking every night (JambalayaGumbo, Étouffée) I stuck to beer, for the most part (the local Abita is quite good), but our last evening in the Big Easy featured a family dinner at Feelings Cafe and I was pressed into service to pick the wine.

From a wine perspective, Feelings featured a short, but well-selected wine list. Unfortunately, the list did not show the wine vintages and the server had no idea about the wines on the list. The wine service was also lacking, as the red wine (see further below) was served warm and it was not decanted (yes, very anal). 

My white selection was the 2006 Cave de Lugny Mâcon-Lugny "Les Charmes", inspired by the great Mâcon-Loché I tasted in March. Attractive notes of lime and green apple on the nose, some minerality and floral aromas underneath. A smooth and luscious texture, it was minerally bitter-lemon on the palate. A charming wine, and a steal at this price (includes restaurant markup). It paired very well with my Étouffée and Red Snapper. 
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 15.5/20
Price: US$24 (menu)

I should also mention (1) that we ordered a 2002 Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz, a big hit with those enjoying red wine that evening, and (2) the food was terrific - I highly recommend this restaurant (in a city of great restaurants) for the food alone.

And don't forget to check out Neil's Silver Burgundy post for more wines from Mâcon-Lugny and the Mâconnais.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

2003 Zenato Ripassa

Been busy with work and on the road, but I am still taking notes so keep an eye out - I will be catching up as I have the opportinity to post them.

Tonight's Valpolicella is a favourite of mine. The 2003 Zenato Ripassa (Valpolicella Superiore) showed a very attractive and complex nose of smokey dark berry fruit, some meaty, floral, and spicy notes (musk, cinnamon, pepper, liquorice) as well. Gentle acidity and smooth, velvety tannins envelop delicious berry fruit - a luscious wine, but without the heavy alcohol that I usually associate with the word 'luscious'. Drinking very well today, this is a tremendously good wine at this price point.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$26.45 (SAQ)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Canuck Riesling, From Vineland Estates and 13th Street

Not a lot of Canadian wine on this site, reflecting the limited selection in Quebec and Canada's modest production volume (my figures show the Canadian industry as 5% the size of Australia's). With this oversight in mind I picked up a pair of Niagara whites on my last trip to Ontario, randomly selecting two 2005 rieslings (on a bit of a riesling kick these days).

The 2005 Vineland Estates St. Urban Riesling (Niagara) is fashioned from older plantings of riesling in their St. Urban vineyard. Floral and toasty with some petrol and wet stones on the nose, clean and fresh on the palate. A bit thin, but with an attractive bitter persistency. Nice evolution over the evening, I found to be the more intriguing of the two.
cork. 10% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: C$19.80 (LCBO)

The 2005 13th Street Riesling (Niagara) was rather simple yeasty, peachy and green appley on the nose, but very nice on the palate - soft, luscious mouthfeel with good acidity and faintly effervescent. Fresh, juicy and satisfying, simple and enjoyable. 
cork. 11.5% alcohol
Score: 15.5/20
Price: C$18.00 (LCBO)

Overall, these were polished wines, with the juicier 13th Street seeming to be a great party wine while the Vineland St. Urban seemed a better dinner wine.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

More Tassie Pinot: Bay of Fires and Pipers Brook vs. Black Bean Ribs

Barbeque season is here and ribs 'n pinot are back. Continuing where I left off last fall I once again dove back into Tasmanian pinot noir, this time a blinded comparison of a wine from Pipers Brook with a recommendation from Edward.  

The 2004 Pipers Brook Estate Pinot Noir was a lighter in hue and more "Burgundian" on the nose and palate, with aromas of mushrooms, undergrowth, cheese, raspberry toast, espresso grounds, and some floral notes. Velvety crisp and focused rasberry fruit were framed by dry, green tea tannins. I preferred the intriguing nose and focused palate, which my fellow tasters came around to over the course of the evening.
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$31 (SAQ)

The 2006 Bay of Fires Pinot Noir was a more modern-styled Pinot, and a competent one at that. Simple rasberry/blueberry, oaky vanilla, smoke and tobacco notes on the nose, it was soft, silky, lush, and dense on the palate. Very nice mouthfeel, but perhaps a touch too fruity and oaky for my taste. The younger of the two, this should benefit from a few more years in the cave. 
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$39 (SAQ)

Both wines worked extremely well with succulent ribs in black bean sauce. Note that the Pipers Brook Estate showed much better than it did last fall - it is unlikely that eight months in my cellar could have resulted in such an improvement, so bottle-to-bottle variation is my best guess.

Thanks for the recommendation, Ed, though the motives are suspect...

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

WBW #45: 2006 Donnhoff Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett

Tim at Winecast is the host of Wine Blogging Wednesday #45, and chose an interesting theme - Old World Riesling. The timing was perfect as I just polished off some very satisfying Donnhoff Weissburgunder and Grauburgunder and the SAQ had a release of Donnhoff's Rieslings.

Pale gold in the glass, the 2006 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett was very aromatic: classic petrol with honey and waxy notes, oranges, macadamia nuts and some grassiness. Off dry, minerally and faintly effervescent on the palate, luxuriously textured orange peel flavours, with great persistency and no rough edges. I'm going to hold a few bottles back and see how they evolve. Paired very well with a mild chicken tikka masala.
cork. 8.5% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$26.35 (SAQ)

Thanks to Tim and all of the WBW crew. I also owe a special thanks to Lyle for his assistance, as frantic blackberry-to-blackberry email exchanges resulted in some nice bottles of German riesling finding their way into my cellar - cheers Lyle!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

2004 Pasqua Valpolicella Sagramoso

The 2004 Pasqua Valpolicella Sagramoso was a gift dating back to our Christmas party. Musty at first, followed by some pepper, black earth and dark cherry notes. It starts crisp, coating the palate with velvety green tannins, some almondy flavours. A modest finish, but very few faults in this flavourful, polished valpo after a 30 minute decant. Great Value.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$21.65 (for the '05 at SAQ)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

2005 Mitolo G.A.M. Shiraz

Often when you drink a wine before it is ready there are so many good things going on you can appreciate it for "what it will become". But sometimes the wine is so very young that discerning greatness is difficult - tonight's Mitolo was like that.

The 2005 Mitolo G.A.M. Shiraz (McLaren Vale) was dark inky purple in the glass with a very nice bouquet of black earth and dark berries, leather (new car?), vanilla, mint, some almonds and violets. Gravelly/minerally on the palate with decent acidity, black fruit and spicy liquorice, but the heat of the massive alcohol level shows through. A sampling of notes: "Flavourful, but not smooth" and "backward, needs some time to sort itself out". Don't let that screwtop fool you - stick it away for at least five more years.
cork. 16% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$51 (BC Liquor)

A quick comment on the alcohol level - there is a sticker showing 16% on top of the Mitolo label - the original Mitolo label claims 14.5% alcohol. In Canada the authorities test these wines - was Mitolo trying to pull a fast one on consumers? I know that different testing methods can lead to variance, but this is a rather large one. Given the growing backlash against high alcohol wines, is there an incentive for winemakers to err on the low side?