Saturday, September 30, 2006

2001 Elderton 'Command' Shiraz

Holy crap, I think I've died and gone to heaven! Un-freakin' believable! I could fill this tasting note with exclamation marks! What a great wine!

I have a few bottles of the 2001 Elderton Command Shiraz from Australia's Barossa valley. I was saving this wine for for a special occasion, and while the special occasion did not manifest itself in the way I had hoped for, I thought this wine should be the special occasion. And it was!

I was totally immersed in this wine's aromas - leading with coffee and cherry scents, and followed by a violet and other white flowers, blackberries, oak, butter and SPICY (pepper, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla). There were so many wonderful scents, and they developed and changed over the evening. I could picture myself in Starbucks with a "tall bold" and a pumpkin scone!

On the palate, this was the most 'viscous' wine I have ever tasted. This soft, thick, heavy, powerful wine coated my mouth with sweet glyerin fruit while big fat tannins pounded on the back of my tongue. "Liquid Gold". The finish was very long, seemingly infinite. While high in alcohol (15%) it was not obtrusive, everything was in good balance. While drinkable now, the tannins should soften up over the next few years. I will wait until 2010 before trying my other bottles.

Overall, this was a spectacular wine that paired very nicely with a roast beef dinner. While not cheap, I doubt you could find many better wines in this price range. This is definitely one of the best wines I have ever tasted.
15% alcohol
Score: 18.5+/20

Cost: C$79

PS-I have yet to have a bad Elderton wine. This winery produces great wines at all price levels! FYI - WS rated 96, RP rated 95

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Matching Ribs, Part 2

A depressing, rain-soaked, Saturday night - at least we had some nice wines! For tonight's ribs, I returned to my comfort zone with a pinot noir, using one of the last Burgundies in my cellar. However, I opened a Bordeaux as a backup due to my horrendous misadventures in buying wines from Burgundy - you can never be too sure...

Tonight's wines:

1999 Maurice Ecard Savigny-les-Beaune "Les Narbontons" (Bourgogne)
2000 Chateau Carsin Cuvee Noir (Bordeaux)

The "Narbontons" was very nice, my best Burgundy experience in a long time. VERY strawberry on the nose, with some citrus, oak, mushroom and leather, perhaps a touch minerally? And it tasted very nice as well - light to medium bodied with firm tannins and fresh acidity, very glycerin-smooth on the tongue, tart but very enjoyable. Seemed to have some life left, but not for too much longer. A great match for food and ribs, a great Burgundy.
Score: 16/20. Cost: C$45

The Carsin was also an enjoyable wine, but less interesting than the last. Nice aromas of raspberry, hay, strong vanilla, and perhaps some nuts? Not as heavily oaked as other Bordeaux, allowing the fruit to come out, but not very complex. On the palate, medium bodied with nice fruit, this was very quaffable. Ready to drink now and probably not getting any better. Also a nice match for food.
Score: 15/20. Cost: C$34

Overall, Pinot Noir and ribs remain a favourite pairing of mine, and M. Ecard has rekindled my interest in Burgundy.

Friday, September 22, 2006

1999 Yalumba "The Menzies"

This wine has a bit of a checkered past here. I bought it because of my success with other Yalumba offerings and some great reviews, but "The Menzies" has not performed particularly well in two of our formal tastings (1,2). On account of this mediocre performance my last bottle was consigned to the back of the cellar, waiting for an opportune time. The opportune time turned out to be a quiet Friday night.

So it was with modest expectations that I opened 1999 Yalumba "The Menzies" (Coonawarra) tonight. What a surprise! The nose was very nice, a classic nose of 'aged cabernet', with lots of bold, terrific scents - violet, strawberry, blackberry, mint, oak, pepper, cocoa, and pencil shavings. I am sure the last time I tasted this wine the dominant theme was prunes. Anyway, the taste did not disappoint either. Medium- to full-bodied, very well structured, well balanced: "Hearty, fruity, yet elegant, nice!" I would say Bordeaux-like with nice length, and may have some potential for improvement?
14% alcohol
Score: 17+/20
Cost C$44

The last time I tasted this wine it was pruney, fruity, and unstructured. So, how do I explain the transformation? Possibilities:
  1. Previous bottles were not stored properly?

  2. It needed more bottle time?

The first seems more likely.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Breaking the Shiraz Habit

Every few months I get together with a old friend in Toronto, and the first order of business is a visit to the wine store. I tend to select an unusual menu of wines, in an attempt to break his Aussie Shiraz habit. It's not a bad habit, per se, more of a rut. He drinks so many wonderful Shirazes, but he is missing other wonderful grapes and regions. Fortunately, he's ok with my experiment, and I have not been totally unsuccessful - he now likes a good Argentinian Malbec for a change!

Tonight's experiment featured two oddities (Italian wines are not odd, but these choices were not mainstream Italian):

2000 Allegrini "La Grola", C$30
2004 Elio Altare Barbera D'Alba, C$27

I have had the "La Grola" on a few occasions, and I always found it to be a wonderful wine for the price. I scored it a little lower on the nose - while pleasant, there were very few scents and those present were fleeting - blueberries and vanilla were all I caught this evening. However, the taste was excellent - full bodied with very nice fruit and structure, soft tannins with a hearty feel and a nice long finish. This wine should continue to improve, but is easy drinking now. Score: 16/20.

The Barbera was a more unusual selection, as I have not had many in my life and I have never tasted any of Altare's wines (famous for his Barolos). Dark purple with a fantastic wild and gamey nose, this wine was bursting with interesting aromas: Violet, citrus, raspberries, earth/undergrowth, leather, smoke - fabulous! On the palate the wine started out very acidic, powerfully tannic and a little off balance - a disappointment vs. the nose. A funny thing happened over the evening, and as this wine got more air it developed wonderfully - I am not sure my score captures how nicely this wine became with more air time. Definitely needs some more time in the cellar, and should improve. Score: 16/20.

Both wines were an excellent match for Domino's pizza.

To be fair, we decanted the La Grola and drank the Barbera out of the bottle - a little unfair to the young Piemonte upstart.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

2002 Fonterutoli Chianti Classico

This is one of my favourite Chiantis, and a regular in my cellar. After many (MANY) failed adventures into inexpensive Chianti, I think I have found a winery with a consistent, reasonably priced, Chianti.

The 2002 Fonterutoli Chianti Classico was very aromatic, lovely, rustic, smokey. Scents of dark cherries, blackberries, backed up by wild earth and leather smells, liquorice and cloves, and almonds!? In summary, spicy with lots of interesting smells and very nice fruit.

The taste was equal to the smell - medium bodied with good fruit, firm tannins and fresh acidity, this Chianti had good balance, a tad rustic in a nice Chianti Classico sort of way. Well made, with great length, this wine will probably get better and soften with age, but is ready now after a good decant. Great with food, seek this out.
Score: 16.5/20
Cost: C$25

PS-while 2002 was a bad vintage for the region, Fonterutoli did not release its high-end "Castello" wine, so the estate's best grapes went into the pedestrian Chianti Classico. I have had the 2001 (a better vintage), and the 2002 is equal to that fine wine.

Monday, September 18, 2006

2004 The Olive Grove Chardonnay

I usually choose the wine for dinner. On occasion I even make suggestions to the chef about what food will pair with the wine I would like to drink that evening. However, this wine was selected by my wife from the 'approved wine' section of the cellar - specially marked wines to make sure that first growth doesn't end up in a steak marinade. So tonight's wine, D'Arenberg's 2004 "The Olive Grove" Chardonnay, was her choice to match a mediterranean style shrimp dish (tomatoes, feta).

This wine found its way into my cellar because of D'Arenberg's reliability - I have never had a bad D'Arenberg wine, so why not the chardonnay? This wine surprised me at first, as it was quite different from other Aussie chardonnays - slightly lighter in colour, more subtle. On the nose it was also delicate, with citrus scents and hints of apricot, wild clover, hay, oak, and a strong aroma of buttered toast. Very nice, not overpowering, dare I say very French?

On the palate it did not have the buttery taste of so many new world chardonnays. Light bodied with a soft texture and mild acidity, I described it as refreshing and minerally, Chablis-like, but a little softer on the palate on account of the alcohol. Overall, a nice wine that went well with this seafood and tomato dish.
Score: 15.5/20
Cost: C$16

Friday, September 15, 2006

2000 Masi Costasera Amarone

Well, well, well, it has been a long time since I had an Amarone! The 2000 Masi Costasera Amarone Classico is not considered to be one of the top flight Amarones, but it is widely available and I have had pretty good experiences in the past. On the nose, nice scents of chocolate, coffee, mushroom, black cherries, but the high alcohol level was very apparent - I could swear it smelled like a fine single malt scotch! On the palate it was medium-bodied with nice balance. It had a short finish, and is definitely for drinking now. I have rarely had the finer Amarones, but I think this is a reasonable facsimile at half the price. Don't plan on driving - with this 15% alcohol you will quickly have trouble touching your nose. This wine was nicely paired with a lightly marinated grilled lamb.
15% alcohol
Cost: ~C$35

I find all of the Masi wines are generally nice values at the low end of the price range - good to know while perusing the wine list at an Italian resto. Even the Tupungato (Argentina meets Verona in a Malbec Ripassa) is nice wine for the price.

Note: Allegrini's Pallazo della Torre and La Grola are made in the Ripassa method, similar to an Amarone, and they are better wines in my opinion.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

2001 Clerico Trevigne Barbera d'Alba

I kinda have a system right now - Steak (Bordeaux, Tempranillo), Lamb (Shiraz), Pasta/Italian food (red sauce-Tuscany and other Italy, white sauce-Italian chardonnay), pork (Bordeaux, pinot noir, Alsace white), chicken (pinot noir, Beaujolais 1er cru, chardonnay), salmon (chardonnay, rose, pinot noir), whitefish/shellfish (pinot gris, sauvignon blanc), sushi (sake, beer, Alsace white), Indian food (beer), and various other pairing philosophy. This is based on experience, rather than some bookish study. I find this system works pretty well for me, so I don't mess with it too much. But what the heck do I serve with a Barbera? Hmmm

The 2001 Clerico Barbera d'Alba "Trevigne" is a wonderful drinking wine. The nose was subtle, but with lots of interesting aromas - raspberries, blueberries, floral (violet/rose), and some spicy pepper and licorice scents. Lovely fruit, but the high alcohol level was noticeable. On the palate, this wine was very nice - medium-bodied with supple tannins, fresh acidity and very nice balance. This went down really well both with, and after, dinner. Fruity, with a nice tannic bite, and very nice length implying a few more years in the cellar. Tonight I had the wine with a BBQ pork tenderloin. It paired very well with this, but I think the great strenght of this wine is that it would pair very well with a wide variety of dishes - there are not many wines that I would describe that way. Overall, nice quality, ready to drink (will keep for some time, but I don't will get any better), and a great price for the quality.
14.5% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Cost: C$23.95 (LCBO)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

2000 Ghiaie Della Furba

Capezzana's Ghiaie della Furba is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah from Tuscany. A previous vintage of this wine came in third at one of our tastings, but I was so enamoured with this wine I ran out and bought as much of the 2000 as I could find when it was released locally. Tonight was my first opportunity to taste the 2000...

The wine had a beautiful, rustic, Bordeaux-like nose. Smokey up front, followed by sumptious scents of violet and blackberry, and earthy scents of pine, undergrowth, mushrooms, green pepper, and leather. Upon more reflection, the fruitier presence gave it an almost "Californian" nose - very earthy, fruity, very nice. On the palate this wine was "Extremely well balanced, elegant, with a slight Italian edge". Very full bodied with smooth tannins, this was a fine wine. While this wine had copious tannins and high alcohol, neither threw this wine off balance, and the length was deceptively long.

Overall, a fabulous wine that paired very well with food (BBQ steak in this instance). My only disappointment was not with the quality, but just how ready this wine is today - I stocked up on this wine, expecting it to take a few years to be ready. This wine is ready now - I will have to drink fast! Cost C$41. WS 94
Score: 17.5/20

It would be interesting to throw this wine into a Bordeaux vs. California tasting - I wonder where the the tasters would think it came from?

Friday, September 08, 2006

2000 Palazzo della Torre

Ok, so the White went down a little TOO easy...

Which forced me to open up this Red for the nightcap. Normally I'm cheap with the nightcap, but this 2000 Allegrini "Palazzo della Torre" has been calling my name for weeks. This Veronese wine is made in the Ripassa method (using dried grapes, like Amarone) and uses traditional Veronese grapes (Corvina, Rondinella, some Sangiovese).

The nose was very nice, fruity and sweet, with prunes and strawberry/cherry aromas, mint, truffles, and leather. Pencil shavings? The alcohol was also quite notiecable on the nose, despite the label that claimed only 13.5% alcohol.

On the palate, this was a very animally, spicy wine. Full bodied with fresh acidity and supple tannins, this wine was very well balanced.

Despite the heavy fruit on the nose and the supple tannins, this was not a "wimpy" wine - this wine had very good length. Overall, a very interesting wine with power and finesse. "A cure for the common Cab" (or Sangiovese)

I think this wine would be an excellent match for lamb, steak, osso buco or even a meat lasagne.
13.5% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Cost: C$25

2004 Hugel Gewurtztraminer

Ok, so the blog is a little short on whites - working on it...

Anyway, tonight I had the 2004 Hugel Gewurtztraminer. Most of my favourite whites are from Alsace, and this Gewurz is an old standby. And what wine could better match a juicy German sausage right off the BBQ?

This wine has nice, classic Gewurtz aromas - white flowers, peaches, some apricot. Good acidity, a well balanced quaffer, just off dry but not annoyingly so. While it is lacking some of the complexity I have experienced with more expensive Gewurtz, it is a really a nice drinking white wine for C$20 (SAQ).

I would recommend this as your go-to inexpensive Gewurtz, for pairing with spicy sausage or Asian cuisine (especially Sushi).