Saturday, October 28, 2006

2001 Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Reservee

This Chateauneuf du Pape comes from an estate that is well regarded by the critics, but prices remain reasonable. While the 1999 did not place very well at one of our tastings, this 2001 Pegau was VERY different. After a 90min decant, a beautiful garnet red and very aromatic on the nose. Aromas of white flowers, blackcurrant, white cherries, cedar, woodsy/mushroom, musk, leather, cloves, pepper, smoke, tobacco, and caramel. Spicy above all, stunning. On the palate it was just as nice - medium to full bodied, rich, harmonious, lovely fruit and tannins. Deceptively ready now, it will get better. It was a nice match for our lamb stew, but I would have this wine for a meal. Spectacular, a great wine now, and will get better. Score: 19/20, cost C$54.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

2003 Cline Small Berry Mourvedre

For my first wine in three days (I had to recover from that Napa thing...), we opened a bottle of the Cline Mourvedre. I was dying to try this as it Mourvedre is rarely produced in the new world, especially as a single varietal. This was a big, powerful wine, with strong fruit and big tannins, and the wild leathery scent of Mourvedre. Kinda like a cross between a Madiran and a Zinfandel. A bit awkward, it had a good finish. It is ready to drink now, but will keep as well, I suggest a good decant before drinking. I had it with some Gnochi - not bad, but I recommend something heavier, like steak off the grill or game.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Napa - Day 3

On our third day we decided to get out and see some sights. We went to Old Faithful first, and fortunately we didn't have to wait too long to see the geyser blow. More importantly, we didn't get too soaked with the sulphur-scented water. After that we decided to go see the Petrified Forest, but the imposing gift shop out front scared us off and we got back to business.

On the way back from the geyser, Rob and I finally decided to make St. Clement our next stop. I first tasted one of St. Clement's wines with Pramod, a member of my wine tasting group, and their Oroppas (a meritage blend) made an impression on me. We tasted six of their wines. The 2005 Bale Lane Sauvignon Blanc ($20) had crisp, fruity aromas and a rich full-bodied taste - well done. The 2004 Abbott's Vineyard Chardonnay ($22) was a classic, buttery chard with melon and floral aromas, a nice rich texture and low acidity - nice, but the low acid may make it a challenge to pair with food, but it doesn't you can't enjoy it before dinner! The 2002 Merlot ($28) was earthy and peppery on the nose, with aromas of violet, rose, cherry, and smoke. Very well balanced with nice tannin and decent length, a great value. The 2002 Cabernet ($35) smelled of chocolate, pepper, leather, prunes, minerally. Big, lovely, gentle tannins with very nice lenght, very well balanced, would pair nicely with food. Terrific wine, great value. We also tried the 2003 Cabernet (same price) - it was fruitier on the nose than the 2002, less spicy with hints of truffles. A shorter finish, and perhaps a little less elegant than the 2002, it was a beautiful, drinkable wine. The last wine was the 2003 Oroppas ($50), one of their high end cuvees. A gorgeous nose of leather, black cherries, violet, pepper, cloves, mint, and undergrowth. It was rich, spicy, fruity and oaky on the palate, with a nice looooong finish yet very well balanced - stunning.

Overall, do not miss this winery. A beautiful house in a beautiful setting with great wines.

We drove through scenic St. Helena on our way to lunch at Bouchon, one of Napa's famous eating establishments. This French Bistro-styled restaurant was very nice, with excellent food an a well-chosen wine list. The service was good, but they do rush you out the door - 45min for lunch! I had a glass of 2004 Chave Cotes-du-Rhone "Mon Coeur" for a short break from Napa - spicy with black cherries, it was a nice, medium-bodied, well balanced quaffer with a leathery finish.

Cardinale is one of the most expensive wines in Napa, but it seemed like a quiet place and a Parker favourite so we had to stop. Speaking of Parker, he was in the room next to us, with the winemaker, tasting the Cardinale lineup! How awesome is that! Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to see him, but it was enough for me to know that I was tasting in his presence...

We tasted two vintages of Cardinale - the 2000 and the 2003. The 2000 Cardinale, deep purple in colour, was sweet floral (violet) and chocolate aromas, cherries, coffee, smoke, cedar and oak, some mint and green pepper. On the palate it was medium-bodied with a strawberry tannic bite. Unfortunately, it was slightly dilute, not a long finish and slightly unbalanced. A great wine, but not outstanding. And then there was the 2003 Cardinale...a beautiful purple colour with mint, flowers, strawberries, liquorice and caramel on the nose. Sumptious, dense and well balanced fruit and tannins on the palate, this had a looooooooong finish. Harmonius, will soften with time but absolutely wonderful today. A stunning wine. They were also pouring the less expensive Atalon line of wines, so we sweet talked them into an extra pour (I was also stalling in hopes of see Mr. Parker...). The 2001 Atalon Cabernet had nice spicy licorice, coffee, chocolate, and black fruit scents. Powerfully tannic, with a looong finish. Beautiful, this wine should age well, and at a fraction of the price of the Cardinale this is a terrific value. Rob recently tried the Merlot at a restaurant and said it was spectacular.

More of a trendy club than a winery, this 'tasting room' was blaring hip music while 30-somethings from silicon valley jostled up to the bar for a pour. They were actually turning people away from the place (dare I call the parking lot attendant a 'bouncer'), but we sweet talked our way in (long story).

While the winery makes some celebrated Cabs, these were not on the menu today. We started with the 2005 Chardonnay. Lighter on the oak than some other Napa chards, this wine was crisp with nice scents of flowers, melon, lemon, peach and vanilla. Next was the 2004 Merlot (10% Cabernet). Fruity scents of dark cherries, almonds, toast, caramel and pepper. Rich, chocolatey fruit and nice tannins coated the tongue and stuck around. A very fruit forward style, this was a crowd pleaser. We finished with the 2004 St. Helena Cuvee, a 100% Cabernet. Very nice nose, minty with big chocolatey fruit, and scents of caramel/vanilla. However, it was heavy and dense, overextracted, definitely not my style. Almost port like. Overall, only the Merlot was interesting, and I recall it being expensive vs. the fine Steltzner and St. Clement offerings. While Plumpjack may make some famous wines, don't expect them to be on the menu.

Opus One

Such a famous and controversial estate, we had to go. Obviously, one attraction is the stunning architecture and stunning views, but we also had a chance to taste the wine. Expect to pay a big price for a glass of wine and a chance to look around this facility. The 2001 Opus One was oaky, with big leather and hints of nuts, strawberries and coffee. Spicy. Rough tannins, lighter fruit (vs. other Napa Cabs) and a decent finish, much more 'French' than most of the Napa wines I have had this trip. Additional scents of tea, earthy tones. Nice. The 2003 Opus One was more fruity on the nose, with hints of mint, cocoa, coffee, plum and 'lemon drop'? Lighter bodied than the 2001, but fruitier. It had nice length, good balance, and buttery oak aromas - very reminiscent of the Georges de Latour Private Reserve from yesterday. Overall, I loved the visit, but at that price point I recommend the Cardinale.

Elyse Winery

Our last tasting of the trip was a boutique winery I had never heard of. One of my questions for the locals was: "Which winery would you go visit if you weren't working here?". This winery came up a lot (for those tasting rooms with employees that actually drink wine...). That was enough for me to make the detour. The first wine was a 2005 Rose, made from Carignan. Crisp, with strawberry scents, well balanced, nice rose. The 2005 Chenin Blanc was a surprise, as it was off dry - didn't see that coming, but it was fruity, peachy and lovely. Next we tried a red, the 2004 Nero Misto. A blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and other grapes, this was very fruit forward with very high alcohol levels. The 2004 Morisoli Zinfandel was chocolatey, almost desert like on the nose. Very fruity, this wine had alcohol levels approaching a port. The 2001 Tietjen Cabernet Sauvignon had big fruit, with nutty/buttery aromas. Rich and thick, almost strawberry jam, fruit forward is an understatement. Very nice balance. We finished with the 2004 Petite Sirah, my favourite. On the nose it smelled of stewed fruit, leather, it was meaty/spicy/smokey - reminded me of a fine Madiran (some of my favourite wines - Napa should try Tannat). Big dry tannins, this is a very interesting wine that needs time to soften up. Once again, strong scents and tastes of alcohol. We bought this wine to take to Cole's Chop House for a big, fat steak dinner.

Overall, I think Elyse is a very high quality operation, and I commend their more restrained use of oak, but the high levels of extraction and high levels of alcohol are not really my style. The quality is such that I would recommend anyone to stop, try the wines, and let me know what you think.

Cole's Chop House
This is a fine dining establishment, with perhaps the best steak I ever had, and the Elyse Petite Sirah was a good match. The service was also splendid.

My only criticism (also directed to their Napa peers, and all restaurants in general) was the lack of decanters. No offer to decant, and this was a wine that REALLY needed it. I am tempted to bring my own decanter to restaurants - it pisses me off to see restaurants going on about their wine list when they don't serve the wine properly.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Napa - Day 2

We had a late start, as Rob went on a futile mission to find a 'happening' bar in Napa last night (we stopped at a jazz bar, but I can't recall the name right now). Anyway, it was sparkling wine for breakfast once again.

Domaine Chandon
Beautifully landscaped with a fancy schmancy visitor centre (the building is shaped like wine barrels...), Domaine Chandon also houses one of the better restaurants in Napa. We just went for the sparkling. After travelling so far to get to Napa, I had no interest in having a bad glass of wine, so I ordered the expensive "Prestige Cuvee" tasting of three of their sparklers. The first taste was of their US$40 "etoile Brut" (NV). Nice scents of dessert pastry, with soft, tiny and delicious bubbles, great balance and a persistent finish. Next was the "etoile Rose" (NV), US$50. The colour was very un-rose (you could hardly see the pink) - it had a lovely and elegant nose, spicy with soft foamy bubbles. Nice. The final taste was the US$45 1997 Chandon Vintage Brut. Larger bubbles, with a very subtle nose, I found it smooth but not as persistent as the last two. Overall, nice show - worth a stop.

Steltzner Vineyards
Steltzner was a big hit with us for a couple of reasons:
  • The winery produces excellent value wines in many different varietals and price ranges.

  • We got the full blown tour, including cask samples of their wonderful wines.

  • We tasted EVERYTHING (we were there for three and a half hours!).

Overall, thank you to the Steltzner family for their gracious hospitality!

We tasted (at least) eight different wines there. The 2005 Sauvignon Blanc was not bad, but I did not fly across the continent for Sauvignon Blanc! After the white, we moved on to their 2004 Claret - this wine was earthy with lovely fruit, an easy drinking wine and probably the best value (US$18) I tasted on the whole trip. The next was a total curve ball - a 2004 Pinotage (US$28)! The only Pinotage I ever tasted was the Kanonkop (an excellent wine), and this (100% Pinotage) was a very nice take on the varietal made famous by South Africa. It had an earthy, tarry, blackberry nose - medium bodied with soft tannins, decent length and a persistent, spicy finish. I loved it, but it's a bit rustic and I wonder how the "tours" will react to this one? The 2004 Malbec (90% Malbec, 10% Merlot) had a beautiful nose of nuts, fruit and chocolate, I thought it was 'ok' - not my normal Malbec style. The 2002 Merlot (100%) may have been the best Merlot of the trip, and at US$26 it was a terrific bargain. On the nose it was spicy, with scents of cloves, truffles, cherries, prunes, and coffee. Medium bodies with nice tannins and luscious mouthfeel, it was very well balanced and elegant. Delicious cherry fruit and nice lenghth. Bravo!

The 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (with some Merlot, Cab Franc) had scents of violet, ripe cherries, buttered toast, pepper, smoke, vanilla and strong alcohol. On the palate it was elegant and well balanced with light tannins, minerally, tasty with a short finish. Enjoy now (US$36). The 2004 Sangiovese Riserva (100%) was very Italian - leathery, chocolatey, with cloves/nutmeg, and mint. Very Chianti with that tart white cherry flavour, good length, a bit wild but would pair very well with food, well done for Chianti lovers. (US$38). Finally we tried the 2002 Reserve Barrel Select Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep, tooth-staining, purple in colour, the nose was meaty, chocolatey, minty and leathery. It had a nice, rich texture with soft tannins and great length. This wine will likely improve with time, but had great balance and nice, dry tannins today. I think this was the wine that won one of our tastings. Awesome.

Overall, if you want great Stag's Leap wine, and a nice unpretentious visit, stop here. I bought the Sangiovese and both Cabernets, and if I had the luggage space I would have considered the Merlot (and maybe the Pinotage) as well.

Beaulieu Vineyards
After the long visit to Steltzner, we only had the time for one more stop. An older vintage of BV Georges de Latour won one of our tastings, so I had to go. I went for the pricey "reserve" flight to taste all of BVs best. First up was the 2004 Reserve Pinot Noir. A very nice nose, but thin and tart on the palate. At US$40 I would rather choose any Domaine Carneros Pinot. The 2003 Reserve Dulcet was a Cab/Shiraz blend, very reminiscent of the Penfold's offerings. The scents of mint, chocolate, vanilla and caramel were very nice, and the spicy easy-drinking flavour would make this a great party hit. Short finish, drink now (US$40). The 2003 Tapestry Reserve is a meritage blend, with a lovely nose of pine, mint, chocolate, vanilla, and noticeable alcohol. It was a fruity, chocolatey wine - a little unbalanced at first, but it opened up after a few minutes (US$50).

Next up were three vintages of BV's signiature wine, the Georges de Latour Private Reserve. I started with the 2002. Deep purple in colour, with minerally scents of strawberry, oak, mint, caramel and chocolate. On the palate it was luscious, with soft tannins and decent length. It was a stunning wine, but US$85. The 2003 had more noticeable alcohol on the nose, and scents of coffee/cocoa, vanilla, spicy. On the palate it was very young - minerally, with nice leathery, chocolatey fruit flavours, but harsh tannins and a looong finish. Give this one a few years of cellar time. They were also pouring a 1990 vintage for an extra fee - could I afford NOT to partake in this piece of history? Rust coloured and very pruney, some scents of strawberry, mushrooms, the wine was very well balanced but probably at or past its peak.

I notice that Parker is not a big fan of the BV wines. My theory is that while these are great wines, they are missing some of the added depth and complexity of the world's greatest wines, and Parker is being hard on them because he believes they are capable of producing at a higher level. Just a theory.

NV Restaurant and Lounge

We learned today that all of the Napa restaurants allow you to bring a bottle of wine to dinner. This modern-styled restaurant in the heart of Napa had a nice atmosphere, excellent food, and nice service. I brought a bottle of the 2002 Georges de Latour for dinner - an excellent match for a rack of lamb. A perfect end to a perfect day.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Napa - Day 1

We started out from San Francisco early in the morning so that we could hit the tasting rooms by the 10am opening time. However, our early morning quest for a hit of Starbucks led to delays, and we decided to take the slower Golden Gate route for the view. Thus, we arrived in the area just south of Sonoma, well, parched! The weather was glorious, with beautiful fall colours, and as we zipped past winery after winery we felt a need to stop.

Gloria Ferrer
This was a slight deviation from 'the plan', but bubbly was probably the best place to start, and Ferrer is owned by Spanish Cava house Freixenet. We started with the Sonoma Brut (NV), a wine apparently rated 90 (and Top 100) by Wine Spectator. I liked the nice, toasty, brioche aromas, and soft bubbles and good finish - an excellent Brut and a terrific value (US$20). I also tasted the 2002 "Gravel Knob" Pinot Noir. A subtle nose of fresh cherries and oak, this was a lighter bodies uncomplex Pinot with lively acidity (very Burgundy-like). Pricey at US$40.

Domaine Carneros
This winery easily wins for beauty. Founded by the famous French Champagne house Taitinger, this stunning red brick French-styled Chateau sits nestled amongst the rolling hills of Carneros, with beautiful terraced gardens flanking the steps up to the Chateau and no other wineries in obvious sight - just fields of vines. I ran up the steps in anticipation of tasting their Pinot Noir (their "Famous Gate" won our last Pinot Noir tasting). While the 'tourists' all went straight for the bubbly tasting, we tasted a flight of three Pinots - the low end "Avant Garde", the Estate, and the "Famous Gate". The 2004 Avant Garde (US$22) had nice aromas of chocolate and cherries, tea, smoke, almonds, it was light bodied and elegant, but slightly unbalanced. While the cheapest, the best value (US$30) was the 2004 Estate Pinot - scents of truffle, oak, strawberries, oak, mint. This was a full-bodied, tannic wine, with a decent finish - getting elegant but could use some more time in the bottle. If you can afford it (US$55), the 2004 Famous Gate is a winner - very pleasant scents of black cherries, smoke, hazelnut, coffee, toasty, buttery, earthy, a beautiful ever-changing nose. It was very elegant and very well balanced, with medium length - nicely done, and maybe even more approachable today than the Estate. Sitting on the patio, sipping Pinot, was a "Life is Good" moment (to quote Rob). My recommendation - don't go to Napa without visiting fine winery. I bought the Famous Gate and the Estate.

I wanted to stop here to see the funky modern architecture, and I have had their low end Pinot before (2001), which I thought was terrific. The winery was crowded, with no chance to chat with the employees at the bar - must be a major stop on the bus tour. The 2004 Pinot was nothing like the 2001. While it had a nice nose of cherries and chocolate, it was a bit tart and unbalanced, not very complex - it was good, but a let down after Domaine Carneros - go here first if you want to do two Pinots in a row. It was US$40 - yikes! The 2003 Tempranillo (US$25) was a nice surprise - peppery, with subtle floral aromas - lovely, with a pastry kind of smell. On the tongue it was very classic tempranillo with a loooong finish, very oaky. Needs some bottle time, but interesting and fun. I have notes for the 2002 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon but not really relevant - musty, appeared corked, I asked them to open a new bottle, but it had the same musty smell.

Luna Vineyards
This was a target due to their focus on Italian varietals. The winery was very close to the town of Napa, with Tuscan-inspired architecture and a tower to climb and look out over the vineyard in its fall glory. Our first taste was the 2004 Pinot Grigio - oaky/buttery on the nose, with scents of lemon and green melon. Very fresh, very drinkable, but sported a hefty US$40 price tag. The 2003 Terrestrial was a blend of Teroldego (never heard of it) and Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep purple in colour, with strawberries and bready, gamey/meaty scents. Fruity with nice tannins, would pair well lasagna. A bit pricey at US$37, but very drinkable (and original). I was looking forward to the 2002 Canto (US$60), a blend of Sangiovese/Merlot/Cab Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon/Petite Sirah, and Luna's signiature wine. Beautiful earthy scents of leather, truffle, chocolate - plummy, oaky, and minerally (wet stones?). Very nice fruit and tannic, with good length, well balanced but racy, it will probably benefit from a few years in the bottle. The 2004 Sangiovese Riserva was bright and cheerful on the nose, with lemon and strawberry with hints of truffle and game underneath. Tannic with dark fruit, balanced and exciting - I bought two. The 'coup de grace' was their impromptu serving of a wine called Mille Baci (NV), a Sauternes-style white dessert wine - "stunning". Overall, a nice quiet tasting room with knowledgeable staff.

Sinskey Vineyards
An impromptu stop - something about Rob's local resto serving this. We tried two Pinots (2002 Vandal Vineyard and the 2002 Four Vineyards), a 2002 Merlot and a 2002 Cabernet Franc Vandal Vineyard. I was not terribly excited about the wines, and it seemed a bit of a tourist trap, but the canapes they served were delicious. The Four Vineyards was the best of the lot in my mind.

Clos du Val
Another impromptu stop - famous, on the way to our hotel, and (most importantly) they were still open. The first pour was a 2004 Carneros Chardonnay - classic, buttery toast, oak, minerals and citrus, a very nice Chardonnay. After that we had the 2004 Pinot Noir and the 2003 Merlot, and they were ok. Next was the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon - minty, but not a classic cab on the nose. Big and balanced with a decent finish. However, the finale was the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. A lovely nose, also with a hint of mint, it was richer than the regular Cabernet with big cab tannins, more oak, and a looong finish. Very Bordeaux-like, elegant and powerful, will soften up in the bottle. Excellent wine.

To be fair, After so many wines on our first day in the valley my palate was probably a bit stunned, so the last two wineries deserve a retaste on our next visit.
For dinner we went to Tra Vigne, a relatively famous Italian resto in Napa. The ambiance was wonderful, the service great and the food was spectacular. Highly recommended. Not inexpensive, but hey, if you wanted a deal you would probably avoid Napa altogether. For dinner we had a 2003 Swanson Merlot, as recommended by the staff. A wonderful choice! Deep purple, with a nice big nose - black pepper, cherries, oak, tannins. On the palate is was rich and viscous, very well balanced with good length, it will benefit from some bottle aging. My notes proclaim it to be the best merlot of the day. I even scored it 17/20. Apparently a WS90.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sideways "2" - Trip to Napa

My proposed script for Sideways "2" is a much less entertaing sequel, and points towards box office failure. Starring a Blackberry-toting neurotic wine freak, the plot deviates substantially from the original thereafter:
  1. I am not divorced (at least not yet, unless I plan Sideways "3"), and my buddy was not getting married.
  2. We did not drive a convertible, and I did NOT have to rescue his wallet (even though he tried to lose it...).
  3. I am not a huge fan of Pinot Noir and I love a good Merlot.
  4. It was overpriced/overhyped Napa, not quiet little Santa Barbera.
  5. The feature wine was not a dying bottle of Cheval Blanc in a paper cup at a diner, but a BV Georges de Latour Private Reserve at a swank Napa bistro.
With such a weak plot-line, a rewrite may be necessary to save myself the rejection letter from the studios!

Despite my obsession with wine, I have never done much wine travel, so this was, well, freakin' amazing! Over a brutal, mind-numbing, three-day stretch, we visited an astonishing (only to those that don't know me) 14 wineries (in order of appearance):

Gloria Ferrer
Domaine Carneros
Luna Vineyards
Sinskey Vineyards
Clos du Val
Domaine Chandon
Steltzner Vineyards
Beaulieu Vineyards
St. Clement
Opus One
Elyse Winery

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

2003 Napanook, Goin' to Napa

I'm leaving for Napa tomorrow!!!

So, to get in the mood, I thought I'd break open a Napa wine. Tonight's choice was Christian Moueix's 2003 Napanook. This wine is mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, with some Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec thrown in.

What a great way to get in shape for the big event! I was worried that this wine would be too young. It was not, and it did not throw a lot of sediment. While I did decant it, it probably would have been fine right out of the bottle.

On the nose it was subtle, with nice earthy, citrus and strawberry aromas. On the palate it was a veeery well balanced, medium to full bodied, with a nice glycerin texture and ok lenghth. What a delicious take on California Cab - more restrained than a California Cab, but more approachable than a Bordeaux. Excellent with a beef dish - very delicious, and very drinkable now. A definite crowd pleaser.
Score 17/20
Cost C$37 (SAQ)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

2001 Chateau Lascaux "Les Nobles Pierres"

I was at the Manoir Richelieu for a weekend getaway with the family, and we had the opportunity to get a babysitter and enjoy the fine dining at the Restaurant le Charlevoix. The five diners were having a variety of dishes in very unusual preparations (i.e. veal, emu, and beef), so we agonized over the ample wine list over what wine to serve this thirsty crowd.

We settled on Grenache, and the waiter suggested the 2001 Chateau Lascaux from the Languedoc region of Pic St-Loup. I have had wonderful Pic St-Loup wines before, so we took his suggestion. It was a terrific choice - wonderfully fruity like an Aussie Grenache, but still very well structured and well balanced. I highly recommend this wine, and it appears to be available at reasonable prices.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

2000 Terre Rouge Mourvedre

We had a 2000 Terre Rouge Mourvedre with a veal stew tonight. I didn't have my score sheet, but a few comments:
  • I thought this wine would be well past its prime, but not so. Heavy tannins were supported by good fruit. Nice leathery, mushroom and vanilla scents, with some dark fruit.
  • The wine had good length, and hid the high alcohol level well. However, the tannins were still tough - dare I say this could benefit from a few more years? Slightly rustic and unbalanced, perhaps poorly matched with a delicate veal.

Overall, a nice, thick, medium-bodied wine with heavy tannins. I would wait a few more years, but I am not 100% convinced it will improve. I suspect that the heavy tannin inherent in Mourvedre call for a little less oak?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Lasagna Night

For lasagna night I went straight to the safety of Tuscany:

2002 Fonterutoli Chianti Classico
2001 Capezzana "Villa di Capezzana" Carmignano

For my notes on the Fonterutoli see my post below, as this wine was just as nice as the last time.
A few months ago I purchased a few bottles of the Capezzana for two reasons: (1) the Ghiaie della Furba (see below) is one of the best wines I have ever had, and (2) WS rated this a 91 and RP an 89. Always on the prowl for a new sangiovese, this sounded like a winner.

On the nose the first sensation was gobs of leather (like sitting in a new Jaguar?), with a very woodsy/undergrowth sort of smell. Very nice and rustic, I also had scents of violet, cedar, pepper, coffee and lots of smoke. Wild and interesting. On the palate the wine was more tannin than fruit at first. While having a nice glycerin feel, the tannins were firm, the acid high, and the wine seemed a bit rustic and unbalanced. However, the wine underwent an amazing transformation tonight, and as the Fonterutoli seemed to get flabby the Capezzana got more elegant and refined. Very interesting. A decent finish, this wine is ready now and should remain nice for a few more years.

Given the rustic style of this wine, I might be cautious in serving it to novice wine drinkers, but the quality is definitely there. It paired very well with a meat lasagna.

Score: 16.5/20
Cost: C$32.50 (SAQ)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Turkey Dinner and Pinot Noir

For Thanksgiving dinner we had the requisite turkey, and I chose to accent this lovely bird with some Californian Pinot Noir. While it was disappointing to clear out the last two decent pinots out of my cellar, they were very nice and a perfect compliment to the bird. The wines were:

2001 Morgan Rosella's Vineyard (Santa Lucia Highlands) Pinot Noir
2002 Sea Smoke Botella (Santa Rita Hills) Pinot Noir

I have had the Morgan before, in Dec. of 2004, and I made notes to set this wine aside until 2006. Two years later, it was one of my choices this evening. Nice, subtle earthy, woody and leathery aromas, with scents of strawberries, pepper, tea, coffee and almonds. On the palate it was very strawberry, somewhat tart and a little unbalanced, but very rich. Ready now, it would pair well with food. Not as nice as the next wine, and very expensive (it cost me US$42).
Score: 16.5/20 (RP-88, WS-86)

The Sea Smoke Botella was a gorgeous wine. A lovely desert-like smell, with dark cherry, oaky-undergrowth, earthy, leathery, pepper, smoke, cocoa, pencil shavings - there was a lot going on here! Well balanced and very soft on the palate, easy to drink with cherry fruit and a firm acidic structure. Splitting hairs, but the heavy alcohol was somewhat apparent in the background. A very long finish, this was a spectacular, fruit forward, well-made wine, and may improve. Over the evening (4 hours) the nose continued to evolve and show off its fabulous aromas. At US$28, this was a stunning value.
Score: 18/20 (RP-91, WS-91)

Overall, I really like the pairing of Turkey dinner with Pinot. Cheers!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Barolo Tasting at Cosme's - October 2006

For me Barolo is a fall wine – earthy, brooding, I picture a glass of Barolo while pondering a roast beef on a chilly fall day. So it was appropriate that our first autumn tasting was a Barolo tasting, on a chilly Montreal evening. We tasted the following six wines blind, but with one key difference vs. last year's Barolo tasting - we decanted the wines nearly 3 hours before the tasting.

Like last year's Barolo tasting, there was very little was less consensus - four of the six wines received multiple first place rankings. The final tally was as follows:

First - 1997 Parusso Barolo "Piccole Vigne"
Lloyd finally won! After a fairly consistent string of strong finishes, he pulled out the win when he least expected to. Consistency was the key to a very strong first place finish - while the third place Sandrone garnered just as many first place rankings, the Parusso was almost every taster's 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Everyone seemed to like the classic Barolo smell of this wine - I smelled rose, gooseberry, gobs of licorice, with some earthy, sulphur undertones. Very interesting. This full bodied barolo had firm tannins and a long finish, with more subdued fruit vs. some of the others. I found the wine to be somewhat unbalanced, but should get better and would pair very well with food. It was my second place wine. A very classic Barolo, and seems to be the value winner as well (cost approx. C$80). RP-90

Second - 1995 Massolino Barolo "Margheria"
Pramod's Massolino was the oldest wine of the evening. While it had only two first place rankings, it was also consistently a top 3 wine. The nose was very nice, but so subtle it was hard for me to identify the scents - I found some white flowers, strawberries, mushrooms, vanilla and a nice nutty smell. On the palate this medium bodied wine was delicate, very well balanced, (maybe a bit musty?) with some length. According to my notes this one has peaked. My third favourite. Cost C$86.

Third - 2001 Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis
Chris/Marie-Lise's Sandrone was very controversial - while garnering three first place scores, it also garnered a number of low scores (Marie-Lise and Chris ranked it 5th and 6th, respectively - hehehe). I was one of those who ranked it first place - Luciano, I praise you and your winemaking! Such stunning beauty entombed in a 750ml glass container! A beautiful nose - beautiful fruit, with scents of cedar and pine, truffles, leather, mint, butter, vanilla, with nice tannins underneath. This very full bodied wine was more viscous than the others, coating the tongue with chocolatey fruit. Very well balanced, harmonius actually, it still retained that hearty, rustic Barolo flavour. A never-ending finish, this wine will get better. Spectacular. Brought back from Italy, it apparently cost 90 Euros. (I found some US web sites listing it for US$140). Such rare magic, so tantalizingly close to perfection, it is worth every cent in my opinion. A WS-96 I think, and a Stephen Tanzer 97.

Fourth - 1998 Fontanafredda Barolo "la Rosa"
This was my contribution to the evening, and chosen for the simple fact that it was the oldest Barolo in my collection. It was also controversial, with a number of first place (i.e. my wife) and last place (i.e. me) rankings. It was my least favourite, as I believe the wine was corked. Musty, with some cherry and rose aromas, it was not very complex in my opinion. I found this wine to be thin, dilute, and acidic, with harsh tannins. It was somewhat unbalanced, but may improve - it would probably have ranked much higher with me if not corked. At least my wife liked it, as I have one more bottle (hopefully not corked). The least expensive at C$66, probably a close second for the value prize. RP 91-93.

Fifth - 1999 Paolo Scavino Barolo
Ratings were pretty consistent for Cam's Scavino. This was a very nice wine, but young and facing some tough competitors. On the nose it was slightly tart, with scents of raspberry, flowers, liquorice, tea, and smoke, maybe with some green pepper scents. On the palate it was a bit rustic, good but not great, I am not sure if this young Barolo will improve. Cost C$92. RP-89

Sixth - 1999 Marchesi di Barolo Cannubi
Bringing up the rear was Cosme. I don't think he has ever come in last, and I would not have expected it at a Barolo tasting! I actually ranked this wine fourth, and my notes were fairly complimentary. The nose was pleasant and very fruity, with scents of cherries and strawberries, mint, cocoa, nice and subtle. On the palate it was full bodied with firm tannins and a long finish, a very classic barolo with a fruity, chocolatey flavour. This young Barolo will improve. It was C$71, but I have a hunch you can get this cheaper - if you can, it is probably a good buy in my opinion. RP-91.


The warmup wine was the 2000 Chateau Bouscasse Vielles Vignes from Madiran. I love Madiran, and I love the Alain Brumont - winemaker for both Chateau Bouscasse and Chateau Montus. A perfect lead in to our tasting!

Age? While not nearly as linear as last year's Barolo tasting, three of the top four wines were also the oldest. The long decant may have improved the ratings for the younger wines slightly, but not much.

Overall a great, but expensive, evening! Time for a Barbaresco night?