Monday, December 25, 2006

2002 Goldeneye Pinot Noir

The Goldeneye Winery is Duckhorn's Pinot Noir estate in the Anderson Valley. Despite the high price tag, I purchased a few bottles of the 2002 Goldeneye Pinot Noir one year ago due a strong review (93 points) in Wine Spectator. I love Pinot with a turkey dinner, so I grabbed this wine - one of my priciest Pinots - with high expectations for a perfect pairing with Christmas dinner.

This wine was a very dark cherry or ruby red, and visibly very dense. A very nice nose - very California Pinot Noir - this wine showed lots of interesting, subtle scents: strawberries, cherries, mint, earth, truffle, liquorice, almonds and venison. Very dessert like - my notes refer to Maraschino cherries.

However, on the palate I found the wine somewhat disappointing. Medium bodied, with flavours of very ripe (overripe?) black cherries, the Goldeneye was very rich, heavy and viscous, with low acidity and modest tannins. With modest length, this is a wine for drinking now.

Overall, it was nicely made, but nearly a dessert wine - over the top for my taste and disappointing vs. the price and my expectations. Score 17.5/20, Cost C$79. Note that Parker rates this wine a more modest 89 points.

After the Goldeneye, I opened a bottle of 2004 Ninth Island Pinot Noir. While not at the same level, the price was much more reasonable and paired very nicely with dinner.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

2003 The Ironstone Pressings

After the Cicinis below, we opened this wine (another gift) to simply enjoy by the fire on a wintery evening. The 2003 D'Arenberg "The Ironstone Pressings", an Aussie Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre, is an upscale wine from one of my favourite wineries. Despite its youth, I decided to pour this to enjoy with the bearer of such fine gifts!

A beautiful, deep cherry red, the nose was very interesting, with meaty scents dominating, followed by flowers, blackberries, mint, leather, oak, vanilla, and coffee. Medium bodied with big, dry tannins, it was very peppery, with flavours of blackberry and oak. Good balance, but a bit young, this wine had a VERY long finish and should improve with more bottle time. Could be a nice match for a steak or lamb right off the grill, but give it a few years (2008+?).
Score: 17.5/20
Cost: gift.

2004 Attems Colio Cicinis

My cellar is well stocked, but I don't keep a large selection of white wines, so I was very excited to receive as a gift an impressive looking bottle (a solid bottle, with the label embossed on the glass) of Italian white wine to enjoy over the holidays.

The Attems winery is an estate in the Friuli region of Italy, and recently established a relationship with the Frescobaldis of Tuscan fame. The 2004 Attems Cicinis is a blend of Sauvignon, Tocai and Pinot Bianco, and was a lovely, deep golden colour (almost amber). Very aromatic, the wine showed nice floral and fruit (apple, grapefruit) aromas, as well as some very oaky, buttery, toasty aromas. It was rich, and interesting, I thought it resembled a new world chardonnay. On the palate it was rich, silky, buttery, with very nice balance and light acidity. It was a heavy white that paired well with salmon and some heavy/diverse holiday fare, but perhaps the light acidity might make it a better wine to enjoy on its own? A crowd pleaser for sure, ready now.
14% alcohol
Score 17.5/20
Cost: A gift, but fancy Italian bottles tend towards pricey ...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

2005 Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon

I bought this wine based on a favourable write up in the Montreal Gazette, in which the reviewer referred to Decanter calling this the Best Value Cabernet Sauvignon on the Planet. I love corroborating evidence!

The 2005 Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon (made by Chilean giant Concha y Toro) was a deep cherry red hue. The nose was spectacular, starting with a very strong scent of vanilla, later developing chocolate, pepper, cedar, leather/spice, maybe even some tar and floral scents. Powerful, and very interesting. On the palate the wine was bold, medium bodied, well balanced, with a good dose of gentle but firm tannins - very cool. The length was short, so no need to cellar this - it is ready for drinking now. Would pair well with food, but is also nice on its own. According to Decanter, this is "Mass-produced excellence". I agree - Bravo! At this price it should be a staple at weddings and holiday parties. Buy! Buy! Buy!
Score: 17/20
Cost: C$13

PS - here is a write up of the Casillero del Diablo Malbec. Also note that Wine Spectator's Wine of the Week is the 2005 Casillero del Diablo Carmenere (85 points)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

2001 Chateau Montus

Ok, so I like Montus (1,2)! Not exactly a mainstream wine, Chateau Montus hails from the little known appelation of Madiran in the rather annonymous "Southwest France" winemaking region, and is made (mainly) from the very rare Tannat grape. Don't expect to find this on too many wine lists...

Anyway, there is something very extraordinary, in my opinion, about a well made Madiran. Leathery, gamey, tannic, but in the right hands balanced. Alain Brumont, proprietor of Chateau Montus, has "the right hands", both in the less expensive regular cuvee (which I drank tonight), the high end "Cuvee Prestige", and at his other Madiran estate, Chateau Bouscasse. All of those wines are fabulous.

The 2001 Chateau Montus has a wonderful, complex nose, hitting you with leather, cedar, rose, blackberry, mint, tea, nutmeg and some licorice. Awesome. On the palate there were dense, but velvety tannins. Full-bodied and very well balanced with good length. Excellent. This wine showed well with a one hour decant, and paired extremely well with Swedish meatballs and egg noodles. May improve, but very drinkable now (with some air).
Score 18.5/20
Cost C$32 (SAQ)

Buy! Buy! Buy! (easy for me to say, I bought every last bottle in town...)

1) Note that this is a wine that pairs very well with a grilled steak or any beef dish.
2) The key difference in my mind between this wine and the pricier Cuvee Prestige is length - the Cuvee Prestige is meant for aging, while the regular Montus is more accessible today.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

2003 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon

My wife grabbed an 'approved' (stuff she is allowed to touch) bottle of the 2003 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon from the cellar to pair with a roast beef. Cab and roast beef? Sounds great to me.

Very oaky and cedary on the nose, with a wild, earthy and meaty undertone. Some violet, strawberries, and LOTS of spice - kind of a cinnamon, nutmeg thing. Very exciting, if slightly unpolished.

Rich, chocolatey and SPICY on the palate, with good length, but slightly unbalanced. It softened up over the evening, but it might benefit from a few years in the cellar. I recommend having it now, but with a good decant before serving.

Note that this wine was overpowering with our roast beef - maybe a bbq lamb would pair better?

Overall, I really liked this wine, and not bad for the price. Score 16/20. Price C$29.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

1999 Joseph Phelps Insignia

It is nice to have good friends, and it is even nicer to have good friends who make surprise visits with very nice wines! So it was a late Saturday evening when a (SUPER TERRIFIC EXTRA SPECTACULAR) friend decided to drop by and share a bottle of the legendary Joseph Phelps Insignia.

The 1999 Joseph Phelps Insignia is one of Napa's most famous wines, and comes with a 'famous' price tag. I rarely get an opportunity to taste a wine of such pedigree, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity. Despite a few years under its belt, the 1999 still had an attractive deep purple colour. Tannic on the nose, with nice minty/vanilla scents, followed by leather, spice, oak, butter? , and some green pepper. The wine went through a major transformation in the decanter, later delivering scents of chocolate and coffee. Well balanced, rich, and voluptious, the nose was deceiving - I thought the tannins would be more powerful, but they have softened up to deliver a very drinkable wine.

Overall a terrific wine, although I expected more persistency and a longer finish after that wonderful nose. Perhaps difficult to pair with a meal, this is a special wine for drinking now - late at night with a cheese platter?
14% alcohol
Score: 17.5 to 18/20
Cost: I can't afford it

2001 Domaine de la Garreliere Cendrillon

This is one of my only experiences with a Loire Valley wine. I have typically avoided this region as the grapes are not my favourite, and there is very substantial vintage to vintage variation. Why do all that homework to find one good wine every four years?

Anyway, the 2001 Domaine de la Garreliere "Cendrillon" is from the Touraine appelation, and it is a Sauvignon Blanc blend. A very nice light gold colour, almost amber, with a very nice nose. Scents of white flowers, honey (dominant scent), apricot, truffle, oak, butter, and hazelnuts - one of the nicest whites I have ever smelled - almost like a Sauternes. On the palate it was EXTREMELY well balanced, smooth, rich, and elegant. An excellent match for a roast chicken. Drink now. Score 17/20, cost C$25.

Friday, December 01, 2006

2004 Steltzner Cabernet Franc

I bought this wine when I visited the Steltzner winery in October. Funny - I do not have any tasting notes for that wine during our visit, but I bought two bottles? Sure I tried it there.

Anyway, this was another Steltzner hit. Deep cherry red, with an impressive nose: captivating aromas of violet, blackberry/strawberry, a strong scent of truffles, leather, cedar, and spice, it also had nice meaty aromas and pencil shavings. Very complex, it changed and developed over the evening - fascinating. On the palate it was full-bodied with firm tannins, big fruit and a decent finish. Very drinkable, but slightly awkward due to the high alchohol. A bit of a bruiser. Nice now with a good decant, but should soften up with some more time in the bottle. Overall, a big muscular wine, and a nice take on Cabernet Franc - a nice change from those 'everyday' red grapes (Shiraz, Cabernet).
cork. 15% alcohol
Score 17.5/20
Cost C$40 (winery)