Thursday, December 31, 2009

1999 Tenute Marchesi Antinori Magnum

Purchased in April of 2003, this was my first magnum - and I always had a Christmas dinner in mind. I know I always drink Pinot Noir with Turkey, but I just had this feeling that an aged Sangiovese would be particularly lovely...

At the end of its first decade this 1999 Tenute Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva displayed only faint brick hues, seemingly unfazed by its long repose. After nearly two hours in the decanter the wine came alive with an expressive, powerful, nose of tobacco and leather, violets and plums, wet paper...finishing the evening with smokey/flinty notes, sandalwood, and sweet nutmeg...beautiful. A gorgeous, soft velvety starts dry, crisp, and somewhat unbalanced, but with decanter time it all came together. Truly aged to perfection, and drinking so well now that I cannot recommend leaving it in the cellar (but it wouldn't suffer if you did).
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$119 (SAQ)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Another Christmas Party Wine Mystery

For our Christmas Party each year (1,2) I decant and serve four red wines blind, asking my guests to use their intuitions and "guess" which wine is which, typically by providing clues about the grape or region. An incredibly simple concept, but extraordinarily difficult (and humbling) in reality - even for the experts. But what a marvelous way to get people thinking about, and talking about, wine!

This year's selections:

2007 Falesco Vitiano (Umbria, Italy)
2007 Wolf Blass Cabernet Sauvignon Yellow Label (South Australia)
2006 Montecillo Crianza (Rioja, Spain)
2007 Alamos Malbec Seleccion Especial (Mendoza, Argentina)

The rationale for tonight's picks? Excellent price to quality for their respective styles, based on personal experience, and sufficiently different grapes and winemaking styles to make the guessing a bit easier....

Unfortunately, nobody correctly identified all four wines - in fact only two guests picked two of four correctly. I blame the Vitiano mainly - 1/3 each of Merlot, Cabernet and Sangiovese it came across more modern and approachable for an "Old World" wine and displayed no definitive "Italian-ness". Adding to our intrepid wine detectives' misery, the Wolf Blass was very reserved and came across as a reserved, "Old World", wine.

Yes, the wines were not easy to triangulate, but at least the wines were pretty darn good overall - no duds tonight, as in previous years. (It shouldn't be much of a surprise, I suppose, as most of these wines frequently appear on "best value" lists)

It was interesting to note that all of the wines were 13.5% alcohol - not low, but certainly NOT the elevated alcohol we see with too many entry level wines these days. Less surprising for the Rioja, perhaps, but an Argentine Malbec? Wonderful to see.

There was some debate as to whether the Falesco was better than the Montecillo., but in the end both of those decanters drained equally quickly. (the true test)

All in all a great evening, and nobody had a bad glass of wine - that's the "Joe Guarantee®"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2001 Mas Amiel Maury

This was a very good wine, and it wasn't meant to be the backup, but a smashed bottle of Spanish dessert wine (see below) lead to a change of plans.

The 2001 Mas Amiel (Maury, 100% Grenache) tantalized with a meaty, leathery and almondy nose, blackberries omnipresent. Beautifully textured on the palate, with a tasty nuttiness and some dried fruit. It paired very well with some dark chocolate, and unlike a port the elevated alcohol level was barely noticeable.
cork. 16% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$19.20 (SAQ), 375ml

The 2004 Olivares Dulce Monastrell, a Mourvedre dessert wine from the Spanish region of Jumilla, was to be the star of the evening, but only two precious ounces were recovered from the accident scene. After running this precious liquid through a coffee filter I felt brave enough to taste - hot, minty, with syrupy red berries and black liquorice, a wall of powerful tannins hiding under that sweet fruit. While the Mas Amiel felt reserved, the Olivares was an impetous youth - more dessert than dessert wine, but worthy of a retaste after a few years in the cave.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2002 Don Melchor

It is easy to be cynical when a mass producer of inexpensive wine produces a pricey, single vineyard offering. But this label has been produced for many years, and while the critics have raved about the Don Melchor for years it has only recently started getting consumer attention (i.e. prices skyrocketing).

I have been assembling a vertical of this wine over a number of years (hence the modest price below), and this was my first taste from that collection. The 2002 Concha y Toro Don Melchor (96% Cab Sauv, Cab Franc) showed long legs in the glass, and it was very, very violety on the nose. Classic Cab blackberry notes as well, it kept on delivering with pepper and butterscotch, flint and old leather, liquorice and, musk, and cedar. A big, expansive, thick wall of tannins, accented by spicy black pepper and dark berry fruit. Awkward and a touch hot, but a never ending finish and it started to come together with air time. While sipping I couldn't help thinking "tremendously complex" and "already done". This is worth seeking out, and I can't wait to host a vertical of this.
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 17.5+/20
Price: C$44.78 (SAQ)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2001 Di Majo Norante Don Luigi

Another sad goodbye to a last bottle....

The 2001 Di Majo Norante "Don Luigi" (90% Montepulciano, Aglianico) was prunes, with tarry, minty notes...made me think Piemontese...some liquorice and flint. A velvety carpet of tannins carries dense, plummy fruit...minerally, a touch edgy at first, but softens up nicely. Very big and flavourful with a long, pleasing finish. A Top 50 Cellar Pick.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$34.95 (LCBO)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tannats a world apart - Bouscasse and Arretxea

An interesting head to head tonight, a "Tannat-Fest" if you will, a Bouscasse Vielles Vignes from the South West of France vs. an Uruguayan discovery, the Pisano Arretexea.

The 2001 Pisano Arretxea has aged since I last opened a bottle - tobacco and dark cherry aromas lead, cooked fruit, mint and rose petals. A soft mouthfeel, cooked fruit and silky, substantial, tannins. A better sipping wine than the Bouscasse, at its prime now.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$38.75 (SAQ)

The 2000 Chateau Bouscasse Vielles Vignes is one of my all time favourite wines - enticing aromas of medicinal sour cherries, tobacco, leather, cloves, and roses. Crisper on the palate, with sour cherries and a tremendously long finish - a delicious wine, and a better pairing for tonight's roast. One of my Top 50 Cellar Picks.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$38.50 (SAQ)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

What wine to pair with Bach?

Our good friends Mark and Sandra invited me to Montreal's Bach Festival...for a wine tasting! A very intriguing concept - what wine to pair with Bach's Goldberg Variations?

Not a concept really, as research has shown that music can affect our appreciation of wine. Well, eXcentris, Matt Haimovitz and sommelier Nicolas Charron Boucher took this research to heart, enlisting Nicolas to pair wine with the nine canons of the Variations (Dmitri Sitkovetsky’s arrangement for String Trio), as performed by cellist Matt Haimovitz, violinist Jonathan Crow and violist Douglas McNabney.

Taking his cues from musicians' descriptions on the pieces, Nicolas chose as follows:

Actually, the first pairing started not with the first canon, but was the Aria. For this piece Nicolas chose the Xerez Manzanilla Papirusa Solera Reserva Lustau. Almondy, oxidized, with hints of orange peel, this tart and crisp liquid slashed across the palate, yet smooth and sunshine-y at the same time. I question the music pairing, but a good example of Spanish sherry.

Variation III, the Canone all'Unisono, featured a 2008 Domaine Landron Amphibolite (Muscadet de Sevre et Maine sur Lie). Soapy and minerally with citrus and white flowers on the nose, fresh and lively white grapefruit on the palate. Really a delicious white wine, with great persistency - a highlight of the evening, and it even paired beautifully with the music.

Variation VI, the Canone alla Seconda, featured a 2007 Chateau Thivin Cotes de Brouilly. Not a hit with my friends, but I really liked this stark, smokey and earthy Bojo replete with ripe strawberries...light and silky it danced across the palate, an incredibly long finish and a good pair with this music.

Variation IX, the Canone alla Terza, paired with a 2007 Inama Vigneti Foscarino Soave Classico Superiore. It's been a while since I sipped a Soave, so this nose of lychee, peach, pears, flowers and cheese rind was a glorious reminder of Soave's potential. Minerally, flavourful and well balanced, a great summer white and a good music pairing (but another miss with my friends).

Variation XII, the Canone alla Quarta, was matched to Portuguese red, the Casal do Jordoes Guardiao Vinho de Mesa Tinto. A hit with the whole gang, a nose of sour cherries, spicy oak, tobacco and violets, a palate of crisp cherry fruit, delicate tannins and great balance...bitter citrus peel later on. A wine worth seeking out, and a decent pairing for this music.

For Variation XV, the Canone alla Quinta, we moved north to France, a pairing with the 2007 Chateau Haut Marsalet (Bergerac). Green, musty forest notes...blackberries, violet, pepper and fresh mint as well. Very dry, with dense grainy tannins and a touch hot. Rather similar to the Grinou that I like, a good pair with the music.

Variation XXI, the Canone alla Settima, featured the 2007 L'Ocre Rouge, a Vin de Table from the Rhone. Tarry blueberry fruit, earthy and warm, sweaty old leather...greener and crisper than I expected on the palate, but still a fruit bomb. Needs a steak, a great pair for the music.

Variation XXIV, the Canone all'Ottava, was paired to a wine from one of my all time favourite wineries. The 2006 Chateau Bouscasse did not disappoint - rustic, yet complex, with liquorice and funky new leather on the nose, green herbs and gravel as well. Smooth green tannins, tart cherry fruit and a great finish, mmmm....and it worked reasonably well with this piece.

The ninth, and final, wine for Variation XXVIII (Canone alla Nona) was a 2002 Muenzenrieder Trockenbeerenauslese, a dessert wine from Austria. A terrific wine to pair with our final Variations....rather simple - sweet apricot notes, soft and sweet on the palate, very elegant.

Once again, my notes are too long, but it was a special evening worth of journalistic record!

So, the highlights? Hats off to the entire trio for a lovely afternoon of music, and as my son is a budding cellist Matt's playing was particularly noteworthy. And kudos to the organizers for coming up with this idea - it is a foundation to build on and I look forward to attending this event in the future.

Anything I'd recommend for future events? Nine glasses of wine and not a cracker or hunk of bread to munch on?! The deluge of wine, especially such different wines, was difficult to take on an empty stomach - a small basket of oyster crackers would have sufficed.

Many thanks to Mark, Sandra and Shira for organizing, Cheers!

Friday, December 04, 2009

2008 Southern Hemisphere Pinot

Nothing terribly unusual about Pinot from south of the equator, but these are from Chile and Tasmania - just unusual enough to call them oddities...

Amongst New World Pinot Noir offerings, Ninth Island's Pinots come closest to capturing the essence of Burgundy for me, and thus are always to be found in my cellar. The 2008 Ninth Island Pinot Noir (Tasmania) was no exception - earthy, with smokey oak and crisp, fresh raspberries...adding to this expansive nose with garden flowers, white pepper, and oregano. Light and very crisp, nice bitter citrus peel - a touch grainy, not as poised as a top burg, but still really good.
screw top. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: C$21.85 (SAQ)

I've enjoyed some other Montes offerings in the past, so it seemed like a good bet to pick up this 2008 Montes Pinot Noir Limited Selection. Riper, darker berries on the nose, some barnyardy, leathery notes and a prominent minerality. Modern on the palate - softer, more luscious - very smooth, silky tannins, nice bitters and modest acid. Good, just a little less structured and complex than the Ninth Island.
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$17.60 (SAQ)

Both good offerings, especially at these price points - more a question of style than substance. And remember, Pinot and Turkey rocks.