Sunday, January 31, 2010

2008 Martin Codax Salterio Albarino

Albariño is Spain's big secret, for now. The signature grape of Galicia's Rías Baixas wine region, I never think to buy these - but I have never been disappointed. The pretty label grabbed me this time - wow, what a nice surprise!

The 2008 Martín Códax Salterio Albariño (Rias Baixas) tempts with notes of papaya, buttery croissant, apples and flowers. Soft and appley on the palate with a distinct minerality, not crisp but the minerals hold it together quite well. A delcious sipping wine yet flavourful enough to stand up to turkey kebabs...lots of fun!
plastic cork. 12.5% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: C$16.95 (LCBO)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Guest Blogger visits Bistro à Champlain

Guest Blogger Lloyd returns with this write up of Bistro à Champlain...

Since returning to Montreal 20 years ago, wine fanatics have bragged to me about Bistro à Champlain on Lac Masson about an hour north of Montreal. Apparently, an excellent bistro with an outstanding wine cellar. I wrote it off to locals promoting the local, and put it off as long drives and lots of wine are hard to match up.

But last July, in need of a meeting place between Montreal and points further north, we connected with dear friends for a memorable dinner at this venerable spot. I can't believe I waited so long.

First, this was more than just a great wine may be one of the most impressive cellars anywhere in North America. It boasts among the largest collections anywhere of DRC magnums (see photo), numerous verticals of first growths back to the 40s, and a broad range of offerings from the old world in its 35,000 bottles (unbelievable CDPs, Burgundy, Hermitage - the full set of Guigal's "La La"s - and smaller but outstanding collections of Barolo, Super Tuscan and Napa). Yes, 35,000 bottles. And that cellar is made all the more exciting by its builder and host, Dr Champlain Charest, a radiologist turned restaurateur with a gift for storytelling and a depth of wit that matches his collection.

We started with a 1993 d'Angerville Clos des Ducs, recommended by our waiter with a clear and deep knowledge of the incredible offerings. He considered the '93s to have really come out, and that they were under appreciated on the whole. He guided us through our selections in the context of our food order, and made subtle suggestions on that order ensuring great matches between food and wine. The d'Angerville was bright berry in colour, almost luminous. The nose started subtle, but was bolder as it warmed from cellar temp, all cut flowers, morning-after campfire and spice. Surprisingly full-bodied, on the palate it was ripe plums, cherries and a hint of black fruit. Great complexity with a note of stones and lingering minerally, dusty tannins that, after 45 mins, were leaving a long and light aftertaste. Really wonderful stuff! 18.5 on the Joe scale.

We followed with a 1982 Talbot, a selection of my good friend Robbie, who had tasted one years back and proclaimed it a hidden gem. Hard to disagree. Right out of the bottle this wine was spectacular. Purple with only a bit of bricking at the edges, the nose was an assault of black tea, truffles and leather. Hints of liquorice. Full-bodied and even a bit creamy as it warmed up, at 27 years of age the tannin has melted perfectly into a sea of dark fruit, earth and something meaty. Round and soft, there was some chocolate there, that sung for close to a minute. It hurt to see the end of the decanter. Who knew that a Talbot could be that impressive - or long-lived! 19+ on the Joe scale. The plus, as we downed this so quickly, I'm certain this would've continued to improve!

I can't say enough about this dinner and our host. Though I did not note the prices of these wines, I will say that the price for both was below recent auction values for each. Bistro a Champlain's list is incredibly reasonable for the unique - perhaps unmatchable - offering. I did not take notes on the '93 d'Yquem - an 'open bottle' for the evening special of seared fois gras - but it was delightful and a perfect match for the dish (and served complimentary by our host!). Do not miss the tour of the cellar graciously offered - and annotated - by Dr. Charest, truly a collector's collector and a man who, after years at this, never tires of discussing his passion. Bistro a Champlain is undoubtedly worth the trip...but book one of the many neighbourhood B&Bs and enjoy it fully!

Editor's Note: It has been two years since my buddy Lloyd has provided me a guest blog, but I might forgive him if he takes me here for some DRC...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2004 Marchesi Pancrazi Casaglia Rosso Toscano IGT Colorino

Who drinks Colorino? A 100% Colorino? What the heck is Colorino? All very good questions, and the reason I bought this 2004 Marchesi Pancrazi Casaglia Rosso Toscano Colorino IGT ...

Colorino is a minor Italian grape variety, mostly known for the secondary role this grape plays in Chianti (mainly to add colour) - the Tuscan equivalent to Bordeaux's Petit Verdot?

Aptly named, as the Marchesi Pancrazi Casaglia was a very dark, inky purple in the glass. Very earthy, with notes of plums, sweet vanilla, nutmeg, and brie cheese on the nose. A silky smooth texture, very dry and lingering...tannic, but not heavy, with a deceptively long finish...surprisingly light given the inky darkness and big nose. Terribly unique, very interesting... (and we all had blue teeth).
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$39 (LCBO)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

2008 Gemtree Bloodstone Shiraz Viognier

It is rare that my buddy Eden sends me a frantic wine email screaming "you've got to try this!", so I couldn't ignore his plea...

The first thing that leaps out at you is just how very, very smooth this 2008 Gemtree Vineyards "Bloodstone" Shiraz Viognier is. Big, classic, violet and blackberry on the nose, notes of allspice, butterscotch, and freshly cut wood as well. Smooth, soft, and beautifully textured, with silky tannins and a light, fresh finish (only a touch hot). Perhaps I simply have an affinity to the McLaren Vale? I thought it was just d'Arenberg...
Screwcap. 14.5% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: C$17.95 (LCBO)

Great catch Eden! This wine just made it into my house wine rotation.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

American Sangiovese, 2004

Drinking Napa Sangiovese feels historic, like I am drinking the last of dying breed. Napa Sangiovese extinct? Hardly. But while my terminal diagnosis for Napa Sangiovese has no facts to back it up, I certainly get the "sense" that the "Sangiovese Experiment" will soon perish under the Napa Cab steamroller...

It would be a shame if the steamroller eliminated this Steltzner offering. The 2004 Steltzner Sangiovese Riserva (Stags Leap) coulda been straight from Chianti - lighter and fresher than the Luna below, with classic tobacco, green ferns, black pepper and flint. A soft velvety texture held together by crisp cherries, such delicate tannins and a delicious finish. Purchased on my '06 trip to Napa, from a Napa winery that keeps me from losing hope...
cork. 13.6% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: US$38 (winery)

This Luna offering seemed oddly familiar... undoubtedly straight out of Napa, the 2004 Luna Sangiovese Reserve showed a very nice, very modern, nose of big, ripe, jammy cherries, smokey vanilla and sweet cocoa, mint and liquorice. Jammy on the palate, coating the tongue with big, hot fruit, but redeemingly delicious tannins and a lengthy finish. Really opened nicely, just sooo different from the Steltzner above.
cork. 15.8% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: US$60 (winery)

Both tasted blind, it is really a battle of old versus new - you decide.

(PS - note the serious price differential)

Friday, January 08, 2010

Belguardo Poggio Bronzone Vertical

A vertical tasting - tasting different vintages of the same wine - is one of my favourite wine tasting activities. Sometimes with vintage notes in hand, sometimes not (like tonight), I sip these mysteries and try to picture the weather of years past in a distant land...dilute (rains at harvest), green/vegetal (earlier harvest), raisiny (extreme heat)...wines typically give us hints to the climate in which they were raised. Except for tonight, where this "accidental" vertical of four Tuscan vintages gave nearly identically wonderful expressions of Sangiovese.

Accidental? Most of the verticals in my cellar are carefully assembled, but this was a funny discovery (or perhaps a sign of aging) - four different vintages of this wine from Mazzei's Belguardo Estate! Mazzei has been pushing the promise of the Tuscan Maremma for a few years now, and judging by tonight's wines the Maremma is more than promising.

Tonight's favourite was the 2001 Belguardo Poggio Bronzone - beautifully complex on the nose, with earthy, charcoal notes, some cocoa powder, liquorice, basil and old fruit as well. A carpet of velvety tannins carries crisp, minerally cherry fruit to the palate. Poised, a very nice finish, nearly perfect if the oak was more subdued. Score: 17.5+/20

A nose of minty cooked fruit and the 2004 Belguardo Poggio Bronzone nearly passed for the oldest. Terribly interesting, later adding notes of sour cherries, roses, and cooked sausages. Silky tannins and raisiny, cooked fruit awkwardly danced across the palate - kinda odd at first, but it developed nicely. Bottle variation? Wish I had another '04. Score: 16.5/20

The 2005 Belguardo Poggio Bronzone was a lovely wine, with flinty sweet black cherries, and tobacco notes - a touch spicy. Juicy, tart and lighter bodied than the others, with a very long smoky finish, even a touch nutty. Very well balanced...Score: 17/20

The 2006 Belguardo Poggio Bronzone, was an impetuous youth - big smokey and leathery aromas with a heavy dose of toasty oak, fleshed out with roses and dark berries. Tangy, earthy and very smokey, with a deceptively long, minerally, finish. A bit over-oaked, but otherwise showing many signs of greatness. Score: 17/20

A great flight of Sangiovese (more similar than different), I can only speculate on the subtleties of these vintages - the 05 seemed touch dilute (rain?), the '04 hot and raisiny (hot and dry?). It is noteworthy that all were 13.5% alcohol, not showing the trend I see in my cellar with wineries showing increasing alcohol in consecutive vintages.

While there was not a bad wine in the bunch, a lighter touch with the oak would be appreciated by this palate...

Monday, January 04, 2010

2004 Caparzo "Le Grance" Sant' Antimo

I was pleased to see that for this year's holiday bash more of our friends decided to bring wine. Not that gifts of wine weren't offered in the past, but I definitely sensed some apprehension as they all know I am a wine fanatic. What they don't know is that I always love to try something new, even if the wine doesn't work out...

Tonight's wine was an intriguing gift from my good friend Marcus - intriguing because Tuscan Chardonnay is not exactly commonplace, and Marcus has been carefully aging this Tuscan Chardonnay, the 2004 Caparzo "Le Grance" Sant' Antimo, for a few years. But Marcus' bold experiment was a good one - bright amber in hue, with a nose that screamed "breakfast!" - apple danish, to be exact - adding some oxidized floral and minerally notes, wet hay and caramel. A deceptively soft texture, yet stark and minerally, with flavours of oxidized bitters - a white in the vein of those from the south of France. It has aged well, but is now at its peak.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20