Monday, June 30, 2008

2005 S.A. Prum Wehlener Sonnenhur Riesling Kabinett

With so many wine notes on this site it is hard to discern a trend, but I have definitely been drinking more German wine as of late. This bottle is rather special, as I picked it up at Montreal's Salon des Vins in March - after tasting many dozens of wines, only few were deemed worthy of transportation back to my cellar and this was one.

The 2005 S.A. Prum Wehlener Sonnenhur Riesling Kabinett (Mosel) was a beautiful expression of German Riesling: floral and petrol on the nose, with honeyed lemon, steely wet stones and a hint of banana. Crisp and (slightly) effervescent apple with a hint of minerally sweetness, it was so balanced and easy to drink that my wife and I got into a fight over the last few ounces in the bottle - really, really good, but make sure you have enough to share...
cork. 9.0% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: ~C$23.60 (SAQ)

Note that Prum also makes some great, inexpensive riesling (reviewed here), but this label was much, much prettier...

Friday, June 27, 2008

2006 Cave de Lugny Macon-Villages "Les Florieres"

The appellations of Mâcon are the southernmost in Burgundy and are notable for inexpensive white chardonnays, which in my experience are soft and luscious - stylistic opposites to the crisp, steely chardonnay from Chablis. I've had some success (1,2) as of late with some random Mâcon buying, but neither of those compared to this little gem:

The 2006 Cave de Lugny Mâcon-Villages "Les Florières" was very complex on the nose - lemon cream, vanilla, juicy apples, wildflowers, pears and wet ferns. Minerally pears on the palate, it was flavourful, poised and refreshing - a great match for a simple shrimp pasta. Amazing quality for this price point.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$16.05 (SAQ)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

2006 Jean Pabiot Domaine des Fines Caillottes Pouilly-Fume

Pouilly-Fumé is one of the better known Loire Valley appellations, famous for its white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc. But SB needs seafood, and my wife hates seafood, so I rarely get a chance to dive into this region...

What a great bottle the 2006 Jean Pabiot Domaine des Fines Caillottes (Pouilly-Fumé) was! Appley, pis de chat, white grapefruit and peonies on the nose, impressive on the palate - steely minerals (like sucking wet stones) with soft, delicate citrus notes and firm acidity - such terrific mouthfeel that I found myself swirling it around my mouth more than I drank it. A perfect match for simply prepared tilapia (my wife was out).
cork. 12.5% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Cost: C$24.80 (SAQ)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A New York Minute with Brooklynguy, Rockss

Source: Wikipedia

Once again Neil (Brooklynguy) played the gracious host, this time welcoming Joe to his house in Brooklyn. With only 90 minutes to share a drink we had to work fast, competing with BrooklynBabyGirl who was trying to snitch our glasses for a quick olfactory evaluation (adding notes of banana and yogurt for our enjoyment...)

Noting the limited selections of Beaujolais on my site, Neil started with the 2005 Louis-Claude Desvignes Morgon Javernières Côte-de-Py, a wine from one of Beaujolais' top appellations. On its second day this beauty exhibited a nose of earthy flowers and a hint of candy strawberry, a palate of velvety tannins, mineraliness (like mineral water), crisp acidity and tremendous length. Much too young, I would love to get a hold of a few bottles and stick them away. This impressive yet subtle wine may be the best bojo I have ever tasted - a tremendous value as well.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20

While great bojo is rare enough for Joe, Neil topped that with a 2002 Francois Cazin Cour-Cheverny Cuvée Renaissance, a wine made from the very rare Romorantin grape. A deep golden hue in the glass with pleasing notes of lemon, honey, yeast and noble rot, it really impressed on the palate - softly textured with juicy lemon and minerals, everything in near- perfect balance. Slightly off dry, it made me think of Alsace for some reason, Alsace pinot gris perhaps (but it has been so long). Nice to sip, but it would have been even better with a nice plate of scallops, perhaps? Another great value.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score 16.5/20

So, some great wine, a neat trip to Brooklyn and an opportunity to meet Brooklynguy, BrooklynLady, and the very charming BrooklynBabyGirl (who is not really a baby anymore) - I look forward to hosting all of you up here this fall.

While brief, I should also mention a few minutes chatting with Lyle of Rockss and Fruit. This was actually a wine swap, the result of my Donnhoff Weissburgunder/Grauburgunder post in April. Lyle commented that those were difficult to find, so I agreed to deliver a bottle of each on my next trip to NYC. In return Lyle spotted me a German riesling and a Marcillac, wines he has recommended on his site. I am looking forward to both of those Lyle - many thanks.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Merlot from Two Hemispheres: 1998 Moueix Pomerol and 2000 Meerlust Merlot

As my passion for wine has grown exponentially, my friends and family no longer gift me wine (I didn't know I was that scary!). It's too bad, as I always appreciate the gifts, especially when they take me "out of my zone" and get me to try new grapes, regions and price points. Both of tonight's wines were exemplary gifts - a merlot-based wine from the Bordeaux appellation of Pomerol and a merlot from South Africa's Stellenbosch region.

The 1998 Jean-Pierre Moueix Pomerol was a surprising gift - I did not know Moueix (owners of a little Chateau called Petrus) made a generic Pomerol, I would not have expected someone to cellar it for ten years, and if they had I wouldn't expect them to give it to me! (many thanks, John) Spearmint and mushrooms appear first on the nose, very earthy, vegetal, and mushroomy as well - subtler, but just as intriguing as the Meerlust below. Very Pomerol on the palate - soft and elegant with black peppery fruit. Despite ten years in the cellar it still showed a good long finish, nice tannins and fresh acidity. Nicely done, and you could stick it back in the cellar for a few more years. 
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: gift

Knowing my love of Meerlust's Rubicon, my friend Andreas insisted that I take home a bottle of the 2000 Meerlust Merlot (nice of him to tell me about it AFTER he bought every bottle in the province). A wild nose that was, well, very South African - animally/barnyardy at first, green pepper and blackberry, mint and leather, wet coffee grounds and black pepper - very pretty, very complex. An animal on the palate as well, with substantial fruit framed by good acidity, but the tannins are harsh at present. A very long finish, I fear this wine is going to need a few more years to soften, but there is so much there I think you will be well rewarded for your patience.
cork. 13.3% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: gift

Many thanks for the gifts, my friends! (now if only that were a 1998 Petrus...)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mini Vertical #7: 2001 vs. 2004 Elderton Barossa Shiraz

Where the heck is Joe? Busy as heck with some big life changes, but still taking notes - will work through them eventually, like this Mini Vertical of Elderton.

Regular readers may recall I conducted a number of "Mini Verticals" earlier this year, spending more time thinking about the importance of vintage - it was a pleasure to get back into the vintage thing with some wines from one of my favourite Aussie wineries:

The nose of the 2001 Elderton Shiraz (Barossa) showed minty plums at first, later revealing pine tar and liquorice, violets and cherry jam, some smokey tobacco as well. Better structured on the palate than the '04 with more acid, less jam, nicer tannins, and a pleasingly long finish. An elegant Aussie shiraz worth cellaring for a few more years.
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$28 (LCBO)

The 2004 Elderton Shiraz (Barossa) had a big nose of violets, dark berries, black earth, white pepper, coffee grounds and smoke. Beautifully textured with soft, velvety tannins - very smooth, but bigger and jammier, missing the complexity and structure of the '01. I was more complimentary last year, but perhaps the '01 and another year in the cellar gave this wine greater context tonight.
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: C$29 (LCBO)

While these wines sport a higher price tag than many Aussie shirazes, these are better quality bottlings and highly recommended - for big fruit smoothness pick the '04, but for structure and elegance I recommend the '01.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cheap Bubbles - 2004 Sieur d'Arques "La Bulle de Limoux"

With his "Friday Night Bubbles" series Neil has inspired me to drink more sparkling wine, from Champagne and beyond, and not just on special occasions. I have been especially intrigued by his French bubbly finds outside of Champagne, so I took a flyer on this "Blanquette de Limoux".

The 2004 Sieur d'Arques "La Bulle de Limoux" comes from the Blanquette de Limoux appellation in France and is made from the local grape Mauzac, with some Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay mixed in. A yeasty, lemony croissant with white flowers and a hint of oranges on the nose. Fresh and minerally on the palate with a modest mousse, this well-balanced and easy-drinking bubbly is a great value - serve it blind and guests will think you brought out an inexpensive chamapgne (only you will know you just saved 30 bucks).
cork. 12.5% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$18.25 (SAQ)

A nice surprise, and a compelling reason not to save the bubby for special occasions.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Tantalizing Taste of Some Grand Crus of Burgundy

Ok, so I teased everyone with a photo of some pretty amazing wines last week. And yes, it has been a few days since my last post, but I have a very good excuse - some major changes in my life (all good) are eating up a huge chunk of time. But the real delay in writing this post has been a nagging doubt: How do I write up what was probably the best evening of wine I have ever experienced?

Once again our tasting group raised the ante, bringing a terrific selection of wine to our first ever Burgundy-only tasting, but the late arrival of a DRC Richebourg the icing on the cake...

The top wine in the blinded part of our tasting was the 1999 Taupenot-Merme Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru, so it was fortunate that we had two bottles (Chris and Pramod). An absolutely terrific nose - musty and barnyardy, wet fur, damp undergrowth, adding delightful notes of truffley fruit as it aired out. On the palate it was extremely elegant - flavourful, but not overpowering, with acid, fruit and tannin in perfect harmony and a long finish that hints of many more years of joy. Note the prices, one bottle was purchased for $89 in 2003, while the second was fresh from the SAQ – C$161! It pays to have a cellar.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 18.5/20
Price: C$89 (SAQ), or C$161

Following very closely behind was Lloyd's terrific 2002 Bouchard Pere et Fils Le Corton Grand Cru, a wine that showed similarly well in December. Cola notes at first, fresh berries, leafy, earthy and tobacco aromas as well, nearly perfect on the palate with fresh, not overripe, fruit in perfect harmony with the acid and minerality. If the bottle had lasted another half an hour it could have been the best of the evening. Apparently this is US$61 on line - a tremendous value for a Burgundy of this quality.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$80 (SAQ)

Cam braved the wrath of his partners by not bringing a Grand Cru, but his 2005 Denis Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin "Mes Cinq Terroirs" was not a lightweight. Sweeter and fruitier on the nose (dare I say "jammy"), smokey cocoa – a rather atypical, modern-styled wine. Softer and juicier than any of the others, but with decent acidity that held it together. It evolved and gained complexity over the evening, but it was so different from the others...
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$108 (SAQ)

Once again I find myself in last place with a 2002 Prince Florent de Merode Corton Les Bressandes Grand Cru. Flinty, green and weedy on the nose, with a curious scent of ginger (much prettier than that sounds). A touch awkward on the palate, with hints of Bouchard Corton above, but not as well integrated as that Corton. Lloyd opined that in five years this could be the best bottle of the night, and there is some underlying power that hints to that effect –I have one more bottle of both 2002 Cortons, with a rematch scheduled for 2013.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: C$85 (LCBO)

So, how does one taste, evaluate, score and enjoy a tantalizing 3 oz pour of a Burgundian legend? While worthy of a separate post (I may yet do that), tasting a Domaine Romanee-Conti in the context of so many great Burgundy wines is an even better story. Served unblinded, I approached Cosme's 1996 Domaine Romanée-Conti Richebourg with some trepidation, as a number of the world's greats have disappointed when paired with my lofty expectations. No need to worry tonight: a precious nose of earth and mushrooms, nutty and very green, it was coy at first, but some air (it had a very short decant) teased out pretty white flowers, black pepper and subtle raspberry fruit. Surprisingly viscous, with soft silky tannins and tremendous length (minutes), the soft and pleasing palate is toying with you – the wine is not ready yet, and despite the pleasure it gives you today you will be rewarded by another decade or more in the cellar (if you ever get a hold of one...)
Score: 19/20
Price: $$$ (Lavinia)

So there it is - thanks to my good friend Cosme I have tasted a DRC. Was it impressive? Yes, very. But in the presence of so many great wines you get that nagging doubt about price...unfortunately, those precious 3 ounces will have to do. 

And many thanks to the entire wine group for another great event, and to my wife for some killer grilled mushrooms, jambon de canard, and a selection of cheeses and pate that worked extremely well with the wines. 

American Cabs and steaks on the grill, a patio party for our next tasting...Cheers!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

WBW #46 (Part 2): A Rhone White from CDP, 2004 Chateau La Nerthe Blanc

A special thanks to Debs for hosting this month's WBW, and for choosing a great theme – the underappreciated whites made from Rhone Valley grapes (see her post for more detail). Debs promised a special billing for bloggers trying wines from different regions, so this is a follow up to my Canadian Viognier posted earlier today.

The 2004 Chateau la Nerthe (blanc) is a white wine from France's Chateauneuf du Pape appellation – a world famous appellation that is better known for its big red wines made from Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre. Tonights white CDP is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Roussanne and Clairette, most of which are rarely seen outside of France. Its haunting nose changed constantly over the evening, with notes of creamy custard, quince, lychee, spring flowers, lemon peel, wet stones and some gentle oakiness – an interesting greenness (wet ferns?) as well. Stunning on the palate – opulent, with a nice oily texture, lemony cream flavours and a nice bitter finish – so unusual, I'd almost use "rustic" if the wine wasn't SO elegant and polished. It paired nicely with a pork tenderloin, but all I could think about was buttery lobster…Very, very good.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$50 (SAQ)

Thank you to the Wine Blogging Wednesday organizers, and Debs for forcing me to try a few wine I would not have tried otherwise - I look forward to the "special billing" in your review ;)


WBW #46 (Part One): A Canadian Viognier from Chateau des Charmes

There are precious few Canadian wines on this site, perhaps a reflection of the fact that Canada represents a small fraction of global wine production. But the whites of Chateau des Charmes have tickled my fancy in the past, and there it was - a Canadian viognier! This I have to try - a perfect wine for today's WBW #46...

The 2006 Chateau des Charmes Viognier comes the winery's St. David's Bench vineyard. Pretty notes of lavender, honeyed apple, apricots, pear and lemon peel. I typically associate viognier with low acid and high alcohol but this was neither - crisp acid, notable minerality and a nice bitter apricot finish framed a flavourful and elegant Canadian white. Bravo!
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$22.55 (SAQ)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

2007 Vin Gris de Cigare (Bonny Doon)

Hard to believe that I have notes on hundreds of different wines and not ONE rose. Ok, maybe a couple of bubbly roses, but that's it. It's not that I don't like rose - just so many uninspiring wines - a writer needs his/her muse...

So the 2007 Vin Gris de Cigare from California's Bonny Doon was a pleasant surprise. A pretty salmon hue, simple notes of fresh strawberries, herbs (basil, thyme) and a pleasant muskiness on the nose. An impressive silky texture, fresh acidity and nice balance on the palate, this was a delicious patio wine - the best rose I have had in a while. Drink now.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$19.80 (SAQ)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

A picture worth a thousand words...

Been very busy lately, but I thought you might like to ponder this picture as I work through my backlog ...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

2006 Catena Chardonnay

I have spoken frequently about Catena's wines on this site. In my opinion, Catena's wines are in a "sweet spot" for those of you seeking out great wine values - wines that are amongst the best in the world, but listed at prices well below the much-hyped wines from places such as Napa/Barossa/etc. because of the word "Argentina" on the label.

The 2006 Catena Chardonnay (Mendoza) region is a case in point. An explosive nose of peaches, apricots and apples, spring flowers, toasty oak and minerals. Luscious, honeyed apples on the palate with a soft oily texture, nice acidity, minerality, persistency and great balance, it hides the elevated alcohol very well. This wine is equal to, or better than, most Napa/Somoma chardonnays at twice the price, and (for a special evening) worth the few extra $ over entry-level chardonnay. 
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$20.85 (SAQ)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

2004 Vox Populi

My notes on the 2005 Champy night are incomplete, as I sprung a cheapo Romanian wine on Marcus - just for fun. While some might construe this as teasing (who guesses Romanian Pinot when blinded), it was an experiment for both Marcus and I as I had not tasted this wine before.

So just how did Joe come into posession of yet another bargain bin Romanian Pinot? Wandering (stalking is such a strong word) the SAQ, I overheard an employee say to a customer "You like Pinot? You have to try this! Its from Romania". Thinking she was touting one of my Under $12 finds, the Chevalier de Dyonis, I slinked over to see what she was recommending. It was Romanian all right, but not the bottle I had pitched - I had to buy it!

The 2004 Vox Populi Pinot Noir (Dealu Mare) was wet leather, fresh strawberries and pine resin on the nose ... light, crisp and flavourful on the palate. Short finish, but at this price...who cares?! The people have spoken (at least Marcus and I) - good Pinot juice for a measly 13 bucks.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 15/20
Price: C$13.60 (SAQ)

You will be lucky to find a bottle after I hit the stores tomorrow...

PS - Marcus' notes here.