Friday, July 31, 2009

Mini Vertical #11: Vieux Telegraphes

It is interesting to see what a few years in the cellar can do for a wine. Two years ago I was not highly complimentary of the 1998 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe "La Crau", yet time has done wonders for this bottle (tasted blind vs. its younger sibling, below). Starker, crisper, with scents of damp campfire embers, old leather, old cherries...spicy and cheesy, wet stones also compliment this gorgeous nose. On the palate it seemed older, more distinguished, focused, with soft velvety tannins, good acidity and a deceptively long finish. Nicely done.
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$67 (SAQ)

Despite being three years younger, the 2001 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe "La Crau" showed more "bricking" at the edges, which mistakenly led me to believe this was the older bottle. More prunes and cooked fruit on the nose as well - perhaps this bottle was not as well treated as the '98 above? Beautiful aromas of wild flowers and meaty truffles, definitely the fruitier, jammier wine. Soft and oily at first, but a monster tannic presence and a long finish. Much hotter and less balanced, the three of us just didn't like it as much as the '98 above.
cork. 14.8% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$59 (SAQ)

Monday, July 27, 2009

2003 Michel Magnien Gevrey-Chambertin

A few years back my wine buddy Neil recommended a visit to the Burgundy Wine Co., a Manhattan wine shop that is almost entirely focused on the wines of Burgundy. Back in those days I was going to New York on a regular basis and you could still bring wine in your carry on bags. Ahh, the good old days...

Well-endowed on the nose, the 2003 Michel Magnien Gevrey-Chambertin was a beautiful blend of cherry candy and musty, old shoe leather...prettied up with some fresh garden flowers. A silky palate, firmly held together with fresh acidity and a grainy minerality. Very well balanced, this wine is coming together very nicely in its 6th year, but with a terrific finish that hints at many more years of enjoyment.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: US$60 (Burgundy Wine Co.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Beaujolais at L'Express

L'Express is not a Montreal secret - smack dab in the middle of rue St-Denis, it is a Montreal icon, serving up exquisitely simple French Bistro fare. Glowing reviews are easy to find, yet in our 17 years here in Montreal my wife and I had never been. On her 40th Birthday I set out to make amends.

I will start out by simply saying that the food (the bone marrow appetizer was particularly notable) and service (wine served at the proper temperature) were wonderful and worthy of a repeat visit, but - as always - it was the wine I remembered best...

We decided on a glass of rose, which the waiter quickly poured from an open bottle of 2007 Colinot Bourgogne Rose. My good friend Cosme would cry knowing that red Burgundy grapes had been defiled and turned into a pink wine, but this was easily the best Rose I have had this season. Strawberries and green apples on the nose precede a smooth, deceptively simple palate that featured tangy green limes and a surprisingly long finish.

But Rose by the glass was just a start to the evening, ably whetting our palate for the main event. I commend the waiter for guiding me up the price list to a cheaper wine, and he promised great things from this 2006 Chateau Thivin Côte de Brouilly Cuvée La Chapelle. Wow.
Rosemary and earthy notes enveloped ancient leather, adding some gamey notes and berries, fresh off the vine. A palate of delicious, fresh, and vibrant raspberry fruit, great minerality and terrific balance, it evolved nicely and was poised to the finish. Probably not for aging, but very complex nonetheless. So much joy at this price point - I can't remember the last time I had wine at a resto for less than 50 bucks and truly immersed myself in it.
cork. 12.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: ~C$42 (menu)

Monday, July 20, 2009

2004 Vice Versa 'Le Petit Vice' Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa is filled with little boutique wineries like Vice Versa. The winery's flagship Cabernet Sauvignon has received rave reviews, but tonight we are tasting their second wine, 'Le Petit Vice'.

The 2004 Vice Versa 'Le Petit Vice' Cabernet Sauvignon featured a predictable nose of jammy berries and vanilla, violets and blackberries, pepper, slate - some lovely notes, but the heat of the alcohol was noticeable. Hot on the palate as well...soft, jammy fruit and a bit flabby, the pleasing but modest tannins just holding the ripe berries together. A tasty modern-styled Cab, but rather indistinguishable in a sea of Napa Cabs. Drink now.
cork. 15% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: gift

Friday, July 17, 2009

2008 Domaine des Aubuisieres Cuvee de Silex

Not many Loire wines around here of late and it has been two years since I last published on a Vouvray. And I really liked those, so what gives?

No idea, but this 2008 Domaine des Aubuisières Cuvée de Silex (Vouvray) questions that oversight. A welcoming nose of woodsy fruit, green apples and mangoes (mango rind?), a noticeable flintiness. A softly textured palate held together by grainy minerality. Not off dry in my mind, just a hint of sweet green apple. Very nice balance, and a joy to drink at this price.
cork. 13% alcohol.
Score: 16/20
Price: C$18.50 (SAQ)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2006 Dan Aykroyd Cabernet Shiraz

Anybody can crack one good joke, so it stands to reason that a comedian could accidentally make one good wine. Following a recent success with a Dan Aykroyd Cabernet Merlot I decided to try his Cabernet Shiraz to see if Dan got lucky, or if he is really on to something.

The 2006 Dan Aykroyd Cabernet Shiraz was deeper purple and fruitier than the cab/merlot, but with nice vegetal notes, some blackberries, flint and a hint of cocoa...leathery notes appearing later in the evening. Equally pleasing on the palate - smooth and well balanced, perhaps lacking the length and structure of the greats, but this was a 15$ wine! I probably liked the cabernet/merolot better, but this wine is another winner. Nicely done Dan, and very impressive at this price point.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$ (LCBO)

Pondering Dan's wines, I wondered - is Dan deliberately trying to avoid the New World fruit bomb (neither of his wines were jammy fruit bombs or high in alcohol), or has the Canadian climate and a young vineyard prevented him from going that route? Only time will tell, but I hope that Dan keeps this more reserved style of winemaking in the years to come.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Obscure Wine Appellations: 2007 Argiolas Perdera Monica di Sardegna

It was inevitable that my tour through quirky wine appellations would dredge up a few interesting grapes to pad my Century Club resume, like today's Monica di Sardegna. In the Monica di Sardegna appellation the Monica grape, a red varietal rarely seen outside of Sardinia, must be at least 85% of the final blend, the balance made up using other red Sardinian varietals.

The 2007 Argiolas Perdera Monica di Sardegna was green and earthy on the nose, also showing dark currants, ink and liquorice. Crisp and grainy black currants on the palate, a modest finish, rustic yet refined at the same time - the Marlboro man in a glass. I quite liked it, and I think lovers of Loire reds would love this too.
cork. 12.5% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$15.80 (SAQ)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

2007 Domaine de L'Olivette Bandol

Ok, so I've had Bandol before - those big, inky Mourvedres from the south of France - but a WHITE Bandol? This I had to try.

With pork chops I would usually go for something Alsatian or Germanic, but the cellar was a bit thin today so I gave it a shot.

The 2007 Domaine de L'Olivette Bandol offered a nose of soapy white flowers, limey apricot...almost cognac-like on the nose. A soft, luscious palate, and the lack of acidity is compensated in part by a nice, firm minerality holding it together. I would have guessed Viognier, but in this appellation the whites are made from Clairette, Bourboulenc and Ugni blanc. Worth a try, but at 25$ I would suggest a white Languedoc or Cotes du Rhone.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$25 (SAQ)

Worked well with the BBQ pork chops...

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Obscure Wine Regions: Dogliani

Italy has so many obscure wine appellations, but I thought I had a good handle on those. Then I saw this Dogliani. Ok, so it is not that mysterious - a Dolcetto from Piedmont - but something new, I'm a big fan of Dolcetto, and there are not too many on offer at the local wine shops.

The appellation of Dogliani (or Dolcetto di Dogliani) lies to the south in the Piedmont wine region, fashioning wines from this oft-neglected Piemontese grape. According to my good friend David, this region was only granted DOCG status, Italy's highest quality ranking, in 2005. You can read more on this appellation here.

I was very impressed with this example, the 2005 Siri d'Jermu Dolcetto di Dogliani by Pecchenino. A beautiful, earthy nose with ripe dark fruit - much riper that Dolcetto d'Alba's I have tasted - some cedary notes and a subtle use of oak. Good length on the palate, with generous but pleasing tannins, very flavourful but with modest acidity. A very nice package, but perhaps lacking the presence of top Dolcetto d'Albas I have tasted.
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: C$24.95 (SAQ)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

1990 Montus Cuvee Prestige (Magnum)

About two years ago the SAQ received a special order of older vintage, large format bottles from Montus and Bouscasse. Old Madiran from M. Alain Brumont? Surely there would be a lineup for such a treasure! I dutifully made my way to the store well before opening time, but I soon realized that I was the only person there with similar intentions...surely there are Madiran fans out there, somewhere?

After this stunning 1990 Chateau Montus Cuvee Prestige (Madiran) Magnum, I don't care if nobody digs this stuff the way I do - more for me at better prices. New leather, oak embers, black earth, roses and crisp, spicy cherries - my guests were content simply basking in this bouquet. A deep sea of velvety tannins on the palate, omnipresent but well integrated, the most incredible interplay of ample tannins and fresh acidity I have ever tasted. Add to this earthy dark berries, impressive minerality and substantial length - my in-laws were VERY impressed.
cork. 12.5% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: ~C$217 (SAQ)