Saturday, June 30, 2007

Normandy: 2002 La Chablisienne Petit Chablis

Funny how the "Vin du mois" was different tonight (29th) - perhaps they are working on a different calendar! Anyway, the vins du mois were different this evening, with the white selection an old reliable - the basic Petit Chablis from La Chablisienne. La Chablisienne is kind of a co-op winemaking outfit for independent vignerons in Burgundy, and its whites are frequently hailed as excellent price:quality wines in a very expensive wine region. I have had them on a number of occasions, and they were well priced vs. the competition.

Tonight's 2002 La Chablisienne Petit Chablis was a pale straw yellow, with green apple and brioche on the nose. On the palate it was minerally, with almonds and lemon, displaying nice balance and moderate acidity. Overall a nice example of entry level Chablis, and a nice match for crab, sardines (grilled, with Norman butter) and cod in a buttery sauce. (Somebody, please call a doctor...) This went down very well, but was pricey.
12.5% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: €32 (menu)

We're off to the north of France, then Champagne.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Normandy: 2005 Domaine Bellegarde La Pierre Blanche

After speed-touring Paris, we headed for Normandy, with the coastal fare a perfect match for a number of French white wines. In Arromanches we checked in at the Hotel La Marine, with a demi-pension rate that assured us a table for breakfast and dinner overlooking the English Channel and the D-Day beaches.

Despite the fact that dinner was "included" with our room, this was a serious seaside restaurant with a wonderful selection of seafood and Norman cuisine (i.e. Camembert and cream sauces, tripe), with the catch brought in fresh from local fishermen every day. I had every intention of going for the seafood (tripe is a taste I have not yet acquired...), and after my success at Perraudin in Paris I went for their "Vin du mois" - another success! This was especially gratifying, as I have never tried a wine from Jurancon before, sweet or dry.

The 2005 Domaine Bellegarde "Cuvee La Pierre Blanche" is a blend of gros manseng (20%, 50-60 year old vines) and petit manseng. Golden yellow in the glass, it burst forth with lemon and butter, pineapple and white flowers - very nice. Rich, balanced, lemony, minerally, with a nice crisp acidity - a beautiful match for Salmon Tartar (appetizer) and Ray doused in Norman butter. Service was slow, but the quality of the food, the view, and the delicious wine made up for it.
13.5% (?) alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: €28 (menu)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

2005 Delas Freres Cotes du Ventoux

Travelling with three kids generally means an early return to the hotel, which provided my wife and I with an opportunity to read and sip on some wine while the kids slept. For such an occasion I trekked to the local shops in search of something passable - while I can assure you there is no shortage of wine in Paris, the average corner store is rather dominated by 'vin de table'. Not wishing to entrust myself to the proprietor of the Paris equivalent of Quick-E-Mart, I decided to go with a trusted name.

This evening I discoverd a very convenient half bottle of the 2005 Delas Freres Cotes du Ventoux, a Rhone Valley red. Delas is a famous Rhone house and maker of stunning high end wines, so I felt fairly safe going with this more modestly priced Delas wine. It was dark cherry red with a simple, but pleasing, nose of musk and crushed berries. On the palate it was medium-bodied, with strawberry fruit, good balance, light tannins, and nice acidity. Rather more modern-styled, but with a nice acidic bite that would pair well with a meal (I have no idea why, but Cassoulet came to mind). Another fine example of Delas' focus on quality. Drink now.
13% alcohol
Score: 15/20
Price: €3.80

PS - links, formatting and photos will show up when I return to Montreal

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Paris: 2003 Croix des Sablons

After a simple meal at an unnamed global restaurant chain last evening, we returned to the full glory of French cuisine. Just two blocks from our hotel was the Restuarant Perraudin, a Paris bistro recommended in our Rick Steves guide to France. Packed with tourists (I noticed someone else with a Rick Steves guide), the omnipresent English language made me wonder if I was just dreaming, and still back in North America...nothing like a simmering plate of 'cuisses de grenouille' (frog's legs) to bring me back to Gallic reality!

For the wine I chose the red 'Vin du Mois', a Bordeaux from the well regarded 2003 vintage. The 2003 Croix des Sablons comes from the Haut-Medoc AOC, and was a stunning example of why Bordeaux is so special. Deep, dark purple, with a beautiful nose of violet, pepper, dark cherry fruit, cloves, leather and oak. Pulled from the cellar and served at the proper 'chambre' temperature, on the palate it was rich and full-bodied, tannic and leathery with juicy blackberry fruit and good acidity, it had very nice length - good now, or may age for a few more years. More new world in style, it was a nice match for my duck confit.
14% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: €25 (menu)

My compliments to Restaurant Perraudin. While service was slow (rather common over here), they did not flinch at the arrival of a family of five, the food was stunning, the choice of the Wine of the Month was spectacular and served properly. Bravo!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Paris! 2006 Baron Daniel de Martinay Cotes du Rhone

We finally arrived in Paris after a day at the air show, a tired family searching the Latin quarter for something that wasn't McDonald's. A cheap Paris creperie seemed to have all of the right ingredients - close to the hotel, floors that could withstand the eating habits of a three year old, and a tourist clientelle that were less likely to frown upon our 'lively' family. As a bonus, the wine list was short and cheap.

The wine list at La Petite Bouclerie was rather simple - three whites and four reds, choose a glass, half bottle or bottle, with the wines categorized by appelation (maker unknown). Thrown into uncertain circumstances, and not wishing to spoil our first evening, I went for the Cotes du Rhone, thinking a Grenache Shiraz blend was 'easy' and less likely to disappoint. The 2006 Baron Daniel de Martinay Cotes du Rhone was a nice choice, and while not estate bottled (mis en bouteille dans la region de production), at 12 Euros it was tough to beat. Served warm, it displayed notes of cherries, pepper, mint and leather. Light-bodied and simple with no length, it was enjoyable - a nice match for my Crepe Basque.
13% alcohol
Score: 13.5/20
Price: €12 (menu. I saw this at a local shop for €3.80)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Historical WineQuote

I promised to post my history of ever-changing "WineQuotes". Note that these have been selected at random for their entertainment or thought-provoking values, and by no means reflect the views of this wine author. Off for a few weeks - will try to keep in touch, but at a MUCH reduced rate. Cheers!

"More important than the food pairing is the person with whom you drink the wine." - Christian Moueix

“I am convinced that there is no better way of problem-solving than for the parties to meet over a well-chosen bottle.” – Tony Aspler

“Wine drinking goes back at least six thousand years. Wine writing probably began a year or two later.” – Frank J. Prial

“The art of tasting, in contrast to the act of drinking, is a question of measure: it teaches you to put quality before quantity. And because it stimulates all the senses – sound, sight, smell, taste and touch – it is an invitation to hedonism.” – Pierre Casamayor

“It is especially taboo for a wine writer to admit that he or she likes the buzz. But wine is a full sensory experience. It's not just tasting notes.” – Natalie MacLean

“Scores do not reveal the most important facts about a wine. The written commentary (tasting notes) that accompanies the ratings is a better source of information than any score regarding the wine’s style and personality, its quality level relative to its peers, and its relative value and aging potential.” – Robert M. Parker, Jr.

“Wine is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” – Novelty wine coaster

“...a man cannot make him laugh - but that's no marvel; he drinks no wine." – from Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2

“My brother Julio and I worked to improve the quality of wines from California and to put fine wine on American dinner tables at a price people could afford” – Ernest Gallo

“Red, red wine
Stay close to me
Don`t let me be alone...”
– from Red Red Wine, by UB40

"I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food." - W. C. Fields

“There are no great enologists. Only good grapes” – Michel Rolland

“For the price of a top-notch American Chardonnay, we could have a finer Burgundy -- or two.” – Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher (WSJ)

“We are not the best in the world, we are just trying to make good wine.” - Aubert de Villaine (Domaine de la Romanée-Conti)

“People who say you can’t drink good stuff all the time are fools. You must drink good stuff all the time. Every bottle of inferior wine you drink is like smashing a superior bottle against a wall; the pleasure is lost forever. You can’t get that bottle back.” – Leonard Paul Evans

“We’ve got to make it more American. It’s not going to blossom in American culture until we take the mystique out of it.” – Jess Jackson, on wine

“For every dish, there is probably one perfect wine – but for most of us, life is too short to figure out what it is.” - quote from What to Drink with What You Eat

"I think it is a great error to consider a heavy tax on wines as a tax on luxury. On the contrary, it is a tax on the health of our citizens." - Thomas Jefferson

“Buying wine is a political act.” – Jonathan Nossiter

“If I can show them what quality wines we make here, perhaps they will drink our Barbaresco, too.” – Angelo Gaja, on why he introduced cabernet and chardonnay wines

“Global warming is more of a blessing than a curse." – Julian Barnes of Kent's Biddenden Vineyard (England)

“From a wine critic's perspective, there are far too many innocuous, over-oaked, over-acidified, or over-cropped wines emerging from California. While those sins would not be a problem if the wines sold for under $20, many are in fact $75-$150. That's appalling.” - Robert M. Parker, Jr.

"Wine prepares the heart for love, unless you take too much." - Ovid

“It takes a great deal of labor and love to make ice wine. When you have it with dessert, you miss the point of enjoying it on its own.” – Alpana Singh, MS

“Even where it prospers, it needs to be coaxed, wheedled, flattered, cajoled, cursed and (or) prayed over almost ounce by ounce through a series of crises that starts at the fermenters and lasts beyond bottling.” – Bob Thompson, on Pinot Noir

“I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day.” – Frank Sinatra

“The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.” - Benjamin Franklin

"Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance." - Benjamin Franklin

“I like wines that you’re still smelling after the meal is over and the glass is empty." - Thomas Bachelder, winemaker

“A classification is only important if it means something to consumers.” – Count Stephan von Neipperg

"They're so good, I give them away to the gendarmes each time I get a speeding ticket." – Count Stephan von Neipperg of Canon-La Gaffelière

“I hate to see a beautiful woman drink bad wine” – actor Victor Lanoux as ‘The Thief’ in National Lampoon’s European Vacation

“The best advice I can give people when they buy Burgundy, which is a bit of a roulette game, is to look for producers who are tried and true… Look for the name of the producer, whether Michel Lafarge, Domaine Leflaivre, Dominique Lafont, or another. When they put their name on the bottle, they’re proud.” – Daniel Johnnes, beverage director of Daniel

“If penicillin can cure those that are ill, Spanish sherry can bring the dead back to life.” – Sir Alexander Fleming

“Wine is the drink of the gods, milk the drink of babes, tea the drink of women, and water the drink of beasts.” – John Stuart Blackie

“Wine can of their wits the wise beguile,
Make the sage frolic, and the serious smile
.” – Homer

“When there is plenty of wine, sorrow and worry take wing.” – Ovid

“Wine is a living liquid containing no preservatives. Its life cycle comprises youth, maturity, old age, and death. When not treated with reasonable respect it will sicken and die.” – Julia Child

“An occasional enophile, after investing his psyche in cellar construction, goes on a buying rampage. He behaves as though he considers empty cellar space to be an abhorrent vacuum in desperate need of immediate obliteration. There will be great vintages in your future. Save cellar space for them.” – Richard M. Gold, Ph.D. “How and Why To Build a Wine Cellar”, 3rd Ed.

What makes these special Beaujolais attractive is the same thing that has always made Beaujolais attractive: the price. Given the insane prices of so many wines right now, Beaujolais and the delicious wines pouring in from southern Italy and Sicily keep many wine drinkers from switching to iced tea.” – Frank J. Prial, on cru Beaujolais

I only regret that I have but one liver to give to my blog” – Joe

I love white Portugal wine better than claret, champagne, or burgundy. I have a sad vulgar appetite.” – Jonathan Swift

“If you’ve been drinking wines that are in the under-$15 category, it’s improved your life substantially” – Joel Peterson of Ravenswood, on the improved quality in low end wines.

"In over twenty years of winemaking this is by far the hardest wine I've had to make. It's like mixing 9 different colors of paint and trying to end up with a rainbow instead of a muddy brown." – Russ Rosner, winemaker at Sokol Blosser, on the Evolution White

"No viticultural region in America has demonstrated as much progress in quality and potential for greatness as... the Santa Barbara region, where the Burgundian varietals Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are planted in its cooler climates." - Robert Parker Jr.

“The secret of the world's best wines is soul. That soul comes from the vineyard and the winemaker's hands." - Mike Drash, winemaker, Luna Vineyards

"When it comes to quality, California is greatly indebted to Mr. G. de Latour, of Rutherford, who for some years has imported hundreds of thousands of the choicest French grafted vines, which have been planted in all the important vineyards of the State." - St. Helena Star, May, 1911

"The wines are well-balanced and elegant. They may not be as powerful these days as some other Napa Valley Cabernets, but that is their stylistic choice." - David Ramey, on Dominus wines

To err is human
but to Zin is d’vine
Here lies the last wimpy wine.

- Ravenswood slogan

We honor the land by farming organically, creating rich soils providing healthy vines an opportunity to deliver wonderfully flavored fruit.” - David Koball, Bonterra

There are hundreds of decisions that go into making a bottle of wine and it all begins in the vineyard, with the land. One of the most basic and essential ingredients in growing a great grape is starting with healthy soils.” – Chateau Montelena

My mother served me wine and water from the time I was 3 years old.” – Robert Mondavi

In volume terms, the Tasmanian wine industry is as tiny as its potential is large.” – James Halliday, in the Oxford Companion to Wine (3rd Ed.)

In Châteauneuf you never find stones at two or three metres deep, as you do here. The terroir in Madiran is unique!” - Alain Brumont

In Canada, it’s almost always a good idea to offer wine at a business meal.” - The Wydham Estate Executive Guide to Wine: Choosing Wines for Business Meals

This valley is just flaming red hot at the moment” – John Simes, Mission Hill winemaker

I think that to make good wines, the less you modify them during vinifications, the best it is. That means that I prefer a more sensitive wine-making than a work made according to analysis results.” – Nicolas Potel

"To make a great wine one needs a madman to grow the vine, a wise man to watch over it, a lucid poet to make the wine, a lover to drink it!" – Dali

"Qui sait déguster ne boit plus jamais de vin, mais goûte des secrets" – Dali

“It is science that brings us an understanding of the true complexity of natural systems. The insights from the science of ecology are teaching us how to work with the checks and balances of nature, and encouraging a new, rational, limited-input, environmentally sound means of vineyard management that offers a third way between the ideologically driven approach of Biodynamics and conventional chemical-based agricultural systems.” – Jamie Goode in “The Science of Wine – From Wine to Glass”

"I learned how to make wine in hot weather. With global warming underway, that is an important lesson." - Pierre Seillan, Vigneron, on what he learned in California

"Oak in wine should be like a ghost. You sense its presence, but you don't actually perceive it." – Pierre Seillan, Vigneron

“May you never want for wine, nor a friend to help drink it." - French proverb

“One barrel of wine can work more miracles than a church full of saints.” - Italian Proverb

"In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria." - Ben Franklin

“A man will be eloquent if you give him good wine.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Representative Men

“Great love affairs start with Champagne and end with tisane.” - Honoré de Balzac

"He who does not love wine, wife, and song will be a fool his whole life long." – saying?

“When Prohibition was introduced, I hoped that it would be widely supported by public opinion and the day would soon come when the evil effects of alcohol would be recognised. I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe that this has not been the result. Instead, drinking has generally increased; the speakeasy has replaced the saloon; a vast army of lawbreakers has appeared; many of our best citizens have openly ignored Prohibition; respect for the law has been greatly lessened; and crime has increased to a level never seen before.” – John D. Rockefeller

“Everything really desirable has come about because of, or in spite of, wine!” – Lawrence Durrell

“Smooth out with wine the worries of a wrinkled brow.” – Horace

"To my mind, Petite Sirah is Durif. There is no doubt about this. Some Petite Sirah vineyards, especially old ones, often contain a few vines of other varieties, but when we analyzed the DNA of vines that look like Petite Sirah, more than 90% of them are Durif. The few that are not turn out to be Peloursin, which is the mother of Durif and looks a lot like it." - Dr. Carole Meredith

“When a man drinks at dinner he begins to be better pleased with himself.” – Plato

"It is good to have good friends, and even better to have good friends who love wine, but it is absolutely spectacular when those good friends love the really, really good stuff and want to share." - Joe

“If you drink it, then you can’t smell it anymore.” – Kenn

“It warms the blood, adds luster to the eyes, and wine and love have ever been allies.” - Ovid, The Art of Love

“The best wine comes from home, wherever it is.” - Kirk Douglas, in the film "Spartacus"

"God made only water, but man made wine." - Victor Hugo

"Where there's wine, there's civilization" - Hubert de Montille

"I don't know anything but I do know a good shiraz." - my good friend Eden

"It's not revolutionary viticulture, or even totally French, but seeing everything in one place, on one vineyard, concentrated on making one wine, is enough to make a crusty old wine writer weep." - Anthony Gismondi, on the Osoyoos Larose winery

"If I'm drinking a $75 bottle of wine, every glass is worth $15, every sip worth $3. That is a wine that demands, and deserves, my complete and undivided attention." - Joe

"…aging zin in French oak is like putting perfume on John Wayne” – from Red, White and Drunk All Over, Natalie MacLean

"I’d rather had a frontal lobotomy than a Laube in front of me” – Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm, in Red, White and Drunk All Over by Natalie MacLean

"Wine is dead." - Aimé Guibert

“Suffice it to say that no-one to my knowledge has ever contracted typhoid, yellow fever or cholera from drinking wine. The same cannot be said of water.” – Tony Aspler

“It scares the living crap out of me how good wine is at ten dollars.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

“In the New World, wine and food are in two simultaneous monologues - a dysfunctional pairing.” – Randall Grahm, Bonny Doon Vineyards

“I look for a distinctly sensuous character, in aroma and texture, combined with a firm but not rigid structure. Where there is power, it is usually discreet; where there is tannin, it does not obscure the fruit.” – Stephen Brook, on the wines of Pomerol

“I hope that some day (we are at a point where in California) we rate the great wines based on the terroir." – Jess Jackson

“French wines rock – they have soul” – Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm, in Red, White and Drunk All Over by Natalie MacLean

“Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living." – Robert Mondavi, 1913 – 2008

“Black wines have become the rage over the last 20 years. I prefer our wines to be red." – Christian Moueix

“Quand le moût de
la Nerthe
Vibre et rit dans
le verre..."

I said “Close your eyes, I got a surprise," and I ran away with the bottle of wine - LL Cool J, Going Back to Cali

"Like a bottle of Chateau Neuf Du Pap
I'm fine like wine when I start to rap"
- Beastie Boys, Body Movin'

"Of the sparkling wines, the most famous is Perth Pink. This is a bottle with a message in, and the message is "beware". This is not a wine for drinking; this is a wine for laying down and avoiding." - Eric Idle in Monty Python's "Australian Table Wines"

"Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever" – Aristophanes

"Wine is sunlight, held together by water." - Galileo

Monday, June 18, 2007

2005 Boschendal "The Pavillion"

My good friend JP recommended this inexpensive red wine. Never one to ignore my friends, I rushed out to grab the last few bottles of this S. African wine, a rarity here in Montreal. There was even a "10% off everything in the store" sale when I arrived - good fortune is shining upon me!

The 2005 Boschendal "The Pavillion", a blend of 55% Shiraz and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, hails from the Coastal Region of South Africa. Cherry red in colour, it leapt forth from the glass with wild, meaty aromas (hello, any Pinotage in there?). Tobacco, pepper, roses and a hint of mint rounded out the very pleasing nose. On the palate this medium-bodied red was well-endowed with blackberry and leather, balanced, with a decent finish. May keep a few more years, but excellent now, and a perfect pairing for burgers off the grill. An absolute steal, thanks JP.
14% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$15 (SAQ)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

More Mile High Tasting Notes

On my latest Air Canada flight to Vancouver I was disappointed that the four wines available were the same as those tasted last month. Nothing to write about. Then I heard the stewardess speaking to the guy in front of me, apoligizing that the Argentinian Shiraz was finished but she had a "French red" that he might like.

The "French red" was a 2005 Chateau Calbet Grande Cuvee Cabardes AOC, a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and grenache. Very disappointing. Very little on the nose - lots of smoke, some blackberry, toast and that sweetish smell of a hot climate wine. On the palate it was light- to medium-bodied, with an almond extract taste that was dominated by alcohol (despite the low-ish alcohol on the label). Green fruit and an unnatural taste of oak. Overall, too tart, unbalanced and uninteresting. With so many great grenache/shiraz wines in this region, one has to wonder at the grapes this estate is growing? At least it was free. I switched to the Codorniu Cava after half a glass.
13% alcohol
Score: 12.5/20
Price: Free!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

2005 L'Ecole Semillon

Well, the WWWWW piqued my interest in the wines of WA, and in searching for a WA Cabernet Sauvignon for WBW #34 I stumbled across this white. Always on the prowl for interesting whites, I thought WA Semillon sounds interesting, and the high Wine Spectator score was further inducement. I have to disagree with the Spectator (90 pts) on this one.

The 2005 L'Ecole No. 41 Semillon shows a nice golden hue in the glass, with interesting and powerful aromas on the nose - green apples and butter, with some pine, white flowers and banana in the background - pleasing, but not overly complex. On the palate this medium-bodied white was rich, with juicy green apples, but lacking structure due to its low acidity and somewhat off balance with that high alcohol quite noticeable. Overall, a nice sipping wine with a nice nose to ponder, but a bit flabby and uncomplex. Paired well with steamed sole and an avocado/mango salsa, but may pair better with crab or lobster?
14.3% alcohol
Score: 15.5/20
Price: C$23 (SAQ)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

WBW #34 - 2003 L'Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon

How could I resist participating in WBW #34? I love Cabernet Sauvignon and I have virtually no tasting experience with Washington State...I'm in! Slim pickings here in Montreal, unfortunately - apparently the ATF is patrolling the border preventing those shifty Canucks from buying up WA Cabernets - not even a Columbia Crest to be found. Perhaps it was a the French name on tonight's wine, L'Ecole No. 41, that allowed this WA treasure to get past the dragnet and into my gullet.

L'Ecole No. 41 is a winery in WWWWW's favourite WA region, the Walla Walla Valley and famous for a number of top cuvees, including its Perigee and Apogee blends. In the glass the 2003 L'Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon displayed a cherry red colour that was rather paler than the Napa Cabs I have tasted over the years. A beautiful nose, starting with cocoa, violets, roses, and ripe strawberries, giving up additional aromas of pepper, cloves and vanilla, with a nice smokey finish. On the palate this unfiltered wine was very structured and elegant at first, with crisp acidity, but became slightly flabby over the evening and showing the alcohol. Medium-bodied with smooth tannins and a lengthy finish, this is ready now or may keep for a few more years. Very enjoyable, and a nice match for a grilled pork tenderloin.
13.9% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$41

Hats off to the Walla Walla Wine Woman, and to Lenn for starting WBW. I took advantage of this rare local offering of WA greats to buy some Perigee, Apogee, Semillon and the Ferguson - stay tuned!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

2005 Zenato Lugana San Benedetto

Well, I didn't know the grape and I didn't know the region, but I did know that Zenato makes great wine, and that was enough for this wine to find its way into my cellar.

The 2005 Zenato Lugana DOC San Benedetto is a white fashioned from the Trebbiano di Lugana grape (100%). Trebbiano di Lugana is the same grape as the French 'Ugni Blanc', which is most notable for its use in brandy/cognac, and not well known for producing compelling dry white wines. That was not the case this evening. Golden yellow in the glass, it displayed pleasing scents of lemon peel, green grass, pineapple, brioche, almonds and a hint of flowers. On the palate it was all lemons and pineapple fruit, with nice acidity and good balance. Overall, a great wine at a great price. I can't recall what I paired this with, but it should go nicely with simply prepared fish (maybe even sushi?) or poultry in a citrus marinade.
13% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$15 (SAQ)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Cabernet Sauvignon - Australia vs. California

My orignial intent this evening was to compare a cab-dominated Bordeaux to the Vasse Felix acquired at Edward's suggestion. Unfortunately, my Bordeaux are too young, and I could not find a good match of similar price/similar vintage. Thus, I threw in a Californian to see what would happen.

The following wines were tasted head-to-head tonight, unblinded, and in the presence of grilled steak. It is interesting to note that while both of these wines hail from world famous winemaking countries, this was not a heavyweight 'Napa vs. Coonawarra' match, as both wines are from more 'off-the-beaten path' wine regions.

2003 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon (Margaret River)
2003 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles)

Vasse Felix is one of the pioneers of Australia's Margaret River winemaking region. Rather difficult to find here in Canada, Edward's recommendation led me to acquire some of the last few bottles in Quebec. The 2003 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon was a deep cherry red, and started off very smokey and vegetal. Fresh red cherries, violets, green pepper and leathery, it was very Bordeaux-like on the nose. On the palate it was medium-bodied and well balanced, with crisp acidity, supple tannins and bright cherry fruit. A lengthy finish, this wine probably needs a few more years in the cellar to pull together. A better match for tonight's marinated steaks.
14% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$34 (SAQ)

The wines of Justin are not available here in Montreal, so I bought this in Toronto (before it disappeared there). The 2003 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon representing California has been tasted here previously, but I scored it higher tonight. Very dense purple in colour, it was also very smokey and vegetal, but with a dark cherry fruit. Minty, with cocoa and tar in the background, it was slightly less impressive that the Vasse Felix. On the palate the unfiltered Justin was very powerful - medium to full-bodied with jammy cherry fruit and firm tannins. Nice, but missing some of the complexity of the Aussie above. This wine will improve, and is great drinking on its own.
14.5% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$30 (LCBO)

Friday, June 08, 2007

2002 Domaine Joblot Givry "Pied de Chaume"

I promised more Burgundy in my second year of wine blogging. Pinot and Ribs are one of my favourite food:wine pairings, so with agreeable BBQ weather here in Montreal I was afforded another opportunity to enjoy this heavenly match.

The 2002 Domaine Joblot Givry "Pied de Chaume" was a classic, ruby red Bourgogne, with a meaty nose. Scents of truffle, venison and strawberries were underscored by an earthy backbone. On the palate it was very focused - light-bodied with fresh strawberries, supple tannins and crisp acidity. The wine softened up nicely over the evening and was a nice pairing for the BBQ ribs. While very enjoyable, I preferred the similarly priced Domaine de Villaine.
13% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: $30 (SAQ)

PS - The label proclaims "Vin Préféré du Roi Henri IV". As my French history is a little weak, I went to Wikipedia for a synopsis on King Henri the Fourth, ruler of France from 1589 to 1610. I have no way of confirming if Henri really loved this wine, but I would have thought a more contemporary celebrity endorsement would be of greater value?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

2001 Chateau Signac "Cuvee Terra Amata"

This wine was a strong performer (in my mind, anyway) at our Under $35 tasting, and was also one of my Top 50 Cellar Picks, so it should be no surprise that it was heartily enjoyed tonight.

The 2001 Chateau Signac "Cuvee Terra Amata" comes from the Côtes du Rhône region of France, and is a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mouvedre. Deep cherry red, with gobs of glorious sludge left in the bottle (all the great wines have tons of goop), it started strutting its stuff after an hour in the decanter. Jammy blackberry and very meaty on the nose, with smoke, mocha, spice, mint, cedar and subtle floral aromas rounding out this racy, beautiful wine. On the palate it was a rich, meaty, full-bodied wine with nice cherry fruit and great balance. Nice, supple tannins, but the elevated alcohol was somewhat noticeable. Overall, a lovely modern-styled Rhone red, good now, or over the next few years. A nice match for a Beef Wellington.
14.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$26 (SAQ)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

1999 Falesco Marciliano: Bin 36, Take Two

Another night in Chicago, another night to taste wine! After an aborted attempt to visit The Tasting Room at Randolph Wine Cellars, we returned to Bin 36. Jimmy was not there to ply me with more of his wares, so my friend and I turned to the well-stocked cellar for a bottle of something a little more special.

After some debate and arm-twisting, I managed to get my way and order a bottle of the stunning 1999 Falesco Marciliano. Consistently one of the best producers of inexpensive Italian wine (try the Vitiano sometime), I was curious to see what this top cuvee (which I never knew existed) could acheive.

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, this deep-purple hued wine leapt from the glass with exuberant earthy and tobacco scents. Without even tasting this, I knew it was extraordinary - a bountiful, evolving nose of blackberries, musk, tea, almonds and very nice vegetal aroma. Equally impressive on the palate, this hearty Italian wine showed very dry, smooth, velvety tannins. Complex, balanced, with beautiful fruit, one of the best Cabs I have ever tasted. It will likely keep for many years, but it would never last a day in my cellar - it is ready now. Great as an after dinner sipper, supported by a plate of terrific cheeses.
13% alcohol
Score: 18.5/20
Price: $$$?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Bin 36 - Wine in the Windy City

I haven't been to the Windy City in years, so I was determined to duck into a local wine shop (or two...). A special thanks to Dr. Vino, whose Chicago wine shops page allowed me to quickly locate those shops nearest to my hotel, including Bin 36 and Binny's (a future post).

Bin 36, located right next door to Chicago's "House of Blues", was a rather modest wine shop, with a short (but carefully selected) list of unusual (i.e. no big names or standard Wine Spectator fare) items, but it was also a wine bar. Alone for the evening and in need of dinner, I figured I could grab a seat at the bar, have some dinner and try some unusual wines - now that's a Friday night!

While this sounds like place you would need wild horses to drag me out of, I was hesitant at first, as the "too-hip" atmosphere combined and no-name wine list was surely a recipe for disaster? Wrong.

My appetizer was an asparagus salad with honey goat cheese and a pink grapefruit dressing. Jimmy, the head of the wine bar, was an excellent host, and encouraged me to pair this with a gruner vetliner. The 2005 Laurenz V. "Sophie" Gruner Veltliner was an excellent choice for this dish - on the nose were toasty scents of apricot, banana and pineapple, followed by some white flowers. Almost white burgundy in style, with a crisp, minerally structure, this was a more full-bodied gruner vs. all my previous experiences with the grape. Nicely done at this price - great value!
Score: 16.5/20
Price: US$15 (Bin 36)

The main course was arctic char, and once again it was Jimmy to the rescue. In this case he even allowed me to sample a few of his wares before making my final selection. Now that's service! We decided on California for some new world chardonnay. The 2005 Foxglove Chardonnay was a rather simple affair, with classic buttered toast aromas but not much else going on. Rather one-dimensional, but very well balanced and a nice pairing for the meal.
Score: 15.5/20
Price: US$16 (Bin 36)

Other wines sampled this evening included an Austrian red, the 2004 Zantho Zweigelt, a modern styled red with aromas of fresh crushed blueberries. Rather uncomplex, but a very nice quaffer and cheap ($10.95). The 2005 Earth, Zin and Fire "Front Row Zin" was a terrific take on this grape. Pink cava, South African chard, and a strong finish with the 2005 Kracher Beerenauslese.

If you are ever in Chicago, stop by Bin 36 and tell Jimmy I sent you.