Monday, September 29, 2008

Drive for One Hundred: Two Obscure Whites

Two more oddities tonight as I close in on the finish line and that fancy scroll, some whites from the South of France and Sicily. 

The 2006 Grande Reserve des Bastides Blanc Sec Perlé is from the Gaillac region in the South of France, and is made from the local varieties Loin de L'œil, Mauzac and Sauvignon Blanc.  A nose of cream and freshly squeezed lemons, some green grass, toasted bread and subtle floral notes. Refreshing...with a slight effervescence, intense minerality and crisp acidity - how about VdP Cotes de Gascogne meets Chablis
cork. 12% alcohol
Score: 15.5/20
Price: C$15.55 (SAQ)

From Sicily we have the 2007 Primula Firriato Bianco, a wine made from the native grape Catarratto. Minerally, creamy, and buttery lime scents, some yeast and banana. Fresh limes, soft and chalky on the palate, modest acid. A smooth, balanced and easy drinking wine - a well-priced and enjoyable patio quaffer but a touch bland and fleeting.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 15/20
Price: C$10.60 (SAQ)

For those of you who are wondering when this odd grape madness will end, tonight's wines are number 93 and 94 on the list. I'm actually up to 99, notes coming soon...

Friday, September 26, 2008

La Colombe: Great Food & Friends, Pair With Awesome Wine

I joined two buddies, Ash and Lloyd, for an evening of great food and wine at La Colombe. It was my first ever visit to La Colombe, one of Montreal's great "bring your own wine" restos. Lloyd's favourite, I would have to agree that it is amongst Montreal's best, but as great as the food was (my veal shank was stupendous), an amazing flight of wines were the stars this evening...

Lloyd's contribution was a 1995 Grand-Puy-Lacoste (Pauillac). Leafy green notes gave way to unsweetened cocoa, leather, grenadine, smokey black pepper, truffles and pencil shavings - gorgeous! Ever so elegant on the palate, with bright cherry fruit, silky tannins, fresh acidity and a long finish, it was drinking very well this evening but could go MANY more years. A strong case for investing in a wine cellar.
cork, 13% alcohol, Score: 18.5/20

My wine friends rarely taste high-end Malbec so I thought I'd surprise them with my last bottle of 2000 Catena Alta Malbec Angelica Vineyard (Mendoza). A complex and ever-changing nose...beef au jus with a fruit sauce on top...dark cherries, charcoal, flint, undergrowth, cocoa powder and coffee grounds. A palate of crisp, dark cherry fruit and velvety tannins satisfied with a very long finish...even better than last year.
cork, 14% alcoholScore: 18/20

Ashkan's 1999 Cantina di Montalcino Brunello di Montalcino looked rather suspicious to Lloyd and I, as neither of us had heard of this estate. The mystery continued as this shy bottle took time to open up, later revealing notes of cloves, tobacco, smokey liquorice, and compote. Terrific mouthfeel, all liquorice and velvety tannins dancing across the palate, it may also have been the nicest wine with the food (the decanter emptied first, I believe). IIt might age, but it was drinking So well today.
cork, 13% alcohol, Score: 18/20

Wow, three 18+ wines, doesn't get much better than that...and the food was REALLY, REALLY good.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bu, Bar à Vin?

Bu is a Montreal wine bar ... well, sort of. Yes, it has an extensive list of wines and special "flights" of wines by the glass (constantly changing), but technically you cannot just sit down and have a drink - you have to order from the kitchen.

Which brings me to the main reason you need to visit Bu - the food. Yes, the wine list is great and the flights are interesting and challenging, but the star is Ms. Alba Delgado, "la chef de cuisine", who brings her twenty years in Italy to a tight selection of flavourful and impeccably-made Italian classics. I've been twice now and I had the "risotto du jour" both times - amongst the best risottos in town. But I digress....

Tonight's intrepid trio of wine tasters included myself, Marcus (who has moved over to Facebook), and my bro-in-law. Our opening flight featured a few whites:

2006 Cecilia Zeta del Tucano (Vermentino di Toscana)
2006 Odysseus (Priorat)
2006 Domaine Larue St-Aubin 1er Cru "Murgers des Dents de Chien" (Burgundy)

The Cecilia was thin and light, with creamy apple and key lime notes... crisp, green and unoaked, not bad. The Odysseus, crafted from Pedro Ximenez grapes, was soft and flavourful on the palate...cantaloupe, pears and applesauce on the nose, a touch hot - I had it pegged for a dry Jurancon (see Alder's winery description). The Domaine Larue was my first from this Burgundian appellation - an oaky, creamy, smokey-apple chardonnay with an up-front minerality that I thought was Californian - expensive and too much oak.

After we washed down the appetizers with the whites we switched to reds for the main course:

2004 Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot (Chambolle-Musigny)
2005 Philippe Alliet Coteau de Noire (Chinon)
2001 Joseph Swan Mancini Ranch Zinfandel (Russian River)

The Alliet Chinon was my favourite and easily pepper, damp undergrowth, flint and inky blackberry - dry woodsy tannins and crisp acidity on the palate, a long finish, YUM. The Domaine Confuron-Cotetidot had to be the least typical red Burgundy I have ever tasted - meaty walnuts and red berry fruit on the nose, but unbalanced on the palate with a sharp acidic frame and flavours of rusty nails - no one picked this as a pinot, much less Burgundy. The Swan Zin was tired, old, alcohol-y cooked fruit, I was thinking Nero d'Avola on this one (a term I occasionally use to describe an unidentified red wine I don't like...).

But Swan made it up to us, as we enjoyed a glass of the 2001 Joseph Swan Trenton Estate Syrah (Russian River) to finish the evening - meaty, dark berry fruit and cedary black pepper on the nose, blackberries wrapped in velvety tannins on the palate, a wine that is hitting its stride at 7 years old.

Sorry for the delay, Marcus - cheers!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Drive for One Hundred: 2007 La Sablette Muscadet Sèvre et Maine

Muscadet is a confusing wine word, the name of a grape (that also goes by other names), yet the French appellation of "Muscadet Sèvre et Maine" uses the Melon de Bourgogne grape for its dry white wines. Thus tonight's "Muscadet", the 2007 La Sablette Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie, is Melon de Bourgogne - not my first wine from this appellation, but with no notes on my site it ends up in my "Drive for 100". A pretty nose of soapy lavender and wildflowers, framed by aromas of flinty lemon peel, hummus and yeast. Very minerally on the palate, like sipping wine from a stone (or amethyst?) goblet, nicely textured but thin and fleeting. A simple, nicely balanced pre-dinner quaffer, I'd serve it with the salad course or a tray of oysters.
plastic cork. 12% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$13.55 (SAQ)

Note that the 'sur lie' means the wine is bottled straight from the vat without racking, and must spend a minimum amount of time on the lees before bottling. This is done for added complexity, and may result in some effervescence (but not noticeable tonight). 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Drive for One Hundred: 2005 Eugenio Collavini Pucino

"Bartender, I'll have a glass of you finest Refosco" ... yep, don't hear that much.

Tonight's obscure grape in my Drive for One Hundred was made from Refosco, a red grape native to northern Italy. Technically it was a "Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso", which is a sub-variety found in Friuli. The 2005 Eugenio Collavini "Pucino", from the Isonzo del Friuli DOC, had a nose of spicy wet wood, smokey currants, grenadine and some dried oregano lurking in the background - some nail polish/solvent notes, but in an attractive way. Light-bodied with decent acidity, delicate tannins and a gravelly palate - fresh and well-balanced, intriguing but uncomplex. Kinda Beaujolais-esqe, but more woodsy, it was very food friendly and might work in white wine situations. It would be neat to blind this in a flight of Beaujolais...hmmm
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$17.60 (SAQ)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

1996 Nicolas Feuillatte Grand Cru Cramant

The wife was ecstatic when my week of wine abstinence was over - I wasn't opening the good stuff if I wasn't drinking! We broke the dry spell in a big way, with my oldest bottle of vintage bubbly, a 1996 Champagne. This was a rather appropriate vintage to celebrate my 'comeback', as it was in November of 1996 that I went off to NYC in search of fame and fortune and ended a multi-year love of running.

The "Nicolas Feuillatte" brand is owned by a co-op, the Cave Vinicole de la Champagne, who adopted the single vineyard concept in the mid-90s. Tonight's "Cramant" is a single vineyard Champagne made from 100% Chardonnay (a 'blanc de blancs').

The 1996 Nicolas Feuillatte Grand Cru Cramant boasted a beefy scent of malt - a 'single malt' scotch from the highlands - with flinty and cream pastry notes, and a creeping sense that this wine held some untold secrets - swirling and sniffing over the evening further revealed subtle, but tantalizing, aromas of caramel, lemon, melon, and white flowers. A fine mousse blanketed a dry, steely and focused 'blanc de blancs', with an intellectually-stimulating earthy bitterness on the palate. Despite its 12 years of age it seemed young and closed down, the sturdy acidic structure keeping some beautiful scents under wraps for another day...
cork. 12% alcohol
Score: 17.5+/20
Price: C$66 (LCBO)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Swim, Bike, Run

Source: Wikipedia

Today I completed the Montreal Triathlon, finishing the Sprint distance at a respectable middle of the pack for my age group - not bad for rookie. What does this have to do with wine, you ask?

Well, training for a tri has impacted my posting frequency, as late night fatigue has made my bed the more attractive option vs. late night blogging. And the loss of nearly 8% of my body mass also means that I feel the effects of the wine more quickly, resulting in more use of the VacuVin - putting the wine aside for another day. 

So, after a week of no drinking (yes, BIG sacrifices have been made...), what does one pull from the cave to celebrate a personal success? Vintage champagne, of course!

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

2004 Domaine L'Olivette, A Bandol!

Want to throw one of your know-it-all wine buddies for a loop? Serve them a Bandol, blind, and tell them "if you guess the appellation you can have any bottle in the cellar".

That was pretty much story of this night, where two friends greeted their late-arrival (me) with a full decanter and no bottle to be seen. They, and the waitress, offered me a free bottle if I guessed the appellation - I guessed south of France (pretty darn close in the planetary scheme of things), but I guessed Corbieres ... sigh, back to the gym (cellar).

Bandol, is an obscure (in North America, anyway) French wine appellation in the south of France that is famous for big, dark wines made from (mostly) Mourvedre. The 2004 Domaine de l'Olivette was inky purple in the glass, with woodsy tannins, ripe blackberries, vanillla and dark cherries, black pepper and liquorice - and the "heat" was showing. Leathery and fruity with big, dark fruit on the palate, smooth but very tannic and touch awkward with that port-like alcohol showing through.
cork. 15% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20

Sunday, September 07, 2008

2006 Loosen Bros. "Dr. L." Riesling

Let's take another break from obscure grapes and taste that most elegant grape, Riesling, at a particularly interesting price point.

Dr. Loosen is one of German's most renowned estates, but this wine - the 2006 Loosen Bros. "Dr. L" Riesling - is their low-end bottling. The nose of lemon tart and cantaloupe, pretty white flowers, and slate-y petrol was anything but low-end. Pretty serious on the palate as well - flavourful, lemony and slightly efferscent - a joy to drink, and worthy of a shout out at this price point. Awesome with shrimp and feta pasta.
screw top, 8.5% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$14.40 (SAQ)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Drive for One Hundred: 2007 Lurton Bonarda Reserva

Bonarda is the second most widely planted Argentinian grape but its roots are not clearly established. Some believe it to be related to Italian Charbono (which is different from Californian Charbono), or perhaps a relative of the nearly extinct Savoie red varietal, Corbeau. Regardless of its origin, it is not a grape that wine drinkers commonly ask for by name.

Yes, I was aware of Bonarda before tonight, but I had a preconceived notion that it was an inferior grape. With that bias I set my expectations for the 2007 Bodega Jacques et Francois Lurton Bonarda Reserva low, and was pleasantly surprised - smokey, meaty and spicy (liquorice and cloves) on the the nose, with pretty blackberry and hints of vanilla and dark cocoa. If you are used to big, jammy Malbec the palate on this Bonarda will shock you with medium body, crisp fruit, and green tannins. Surprisingly more structured than I expected (just 12.5% alcohol), but perhaps too tightly wound... A 'rustic', brooding wine for a cold winter day and a hearty stew, some cellar time might soften up the rough edges.
plastic cork. 12.5% alcohol
Score: 15.5/20
Price: C$15.75 (SAQ)

Monday, September 01, 2008

2001 Domaine Santa Duc Prestige des Hautes Garrigues

My wine friends (especially Barry) will kill me if I spend a month drinking modest wines for their "novelty values", so I thought I'd throw them a bone with this Southern Rhône treat...

While Gigondas may be a source of inexpensive alternatives to nearby Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the 2001 Domaine Santa Duc Prestige des Hautes Garrigues certainly exceeds the prices for many CDPs. This wine creeps up on you: simple violet and prunes at first, flowering over the evening, adding precious scents of dark berry fruit, coffee grounds, leather and damp forest undergrowth, some liquorice - curiously port-like later on. Dry, crisp cherry fruit on the palate - very flavourful and not the bruiser that you might expect from the nose (or that 15% alcohol!). The tannins are a bit rugged, but were tamed by oxygen and should be housebroken after a few more years in the cave. A Rhône blend of Grenache (80%), Mourvèdre (15%), Syrah (3%) and Cinsault.
cork. 15% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$58 (SAQ)