Thursday, December 31, 2009

1999 Tenute Marchesi Antinori Magnum

Purchased in April of 2003, this was my first magnum - and I always had a Christmas dinner in mind. I know I always drink Pinot Noir with Turkey, but I just had this feeling that an aged Sangiovese would be particularly lovely...

At the end of its first decade this 1999 Tenute Marchesi Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva displayed only faint brick hues, seemingly unfazed by its long repose. After nearly two hours in the decanter the wine came alive with an expressive, powerful, nose of tobacco and leather, violets and plums, wet paper...finishing the evening with smokey/flinty notes, sandalwood, and sweet nutmeg...beautiful. A gorgeous, soft velvety starts dry, crisp, and somewhat unbalanced, but with decanter time it all came together. Truly aged to perfection, and drinking so well now that I cannot recommend leaving it in the cellar (but it wouldn't suffer if you did).
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$119 (SAQ)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Another Christmas Party Wine Mystery

For our Christmas Party each year (1,2) I decant and serve four red wines blind, asking my guests to use their intuitions and "guess" which wine is which, typically by providing clues about the grape or region. An incredibly simple concept, but extraordinarily difficult (and humbling) in reality - even for the experts. But what a marvelous way to get people thinking about, and talking about, wine!

This year's selections:

2007 Falesco Vitiano (Umbria, Italy)
2007 Wolf Blass Cabernet Sauvignon Yellow Label (South Australia)
2006 Montecillo Crianza (Rioja, Spain)
2007 Alamos Malbec Seleccion Especial (Mendoza, Argentina)

The rationale for tonight's picks? Excellent price to quality for their respective styles, based on personal experience, and sufficiently different grapes and winemaking styles to make the guessing a bit easier....

Unfortunately, nobody correctly identified all four wines - in fact only two guests picked two of four correctly. I blame the Vitiano mainly - 1/3 each of Merlot, Cabernet and Sangiovese it came across more modern and approachable for an "Old World" wine and displayed no definitive "Italian-ness". Adding to our intrepid wine detectives' misery, the Wolf Blass was very reserved and came across as a reserved, "Old World", wine.

Yes, the wines were not easy to triangulate, but at least the wines were pretty darn good overall - no duds tonight, as in previous years. (It shouldn't be much of a surprise, I suppose, as most of these wines frequently appear on "best value" lists)

It was interesting to note that all of the wines were 13.5% alcohol - not low, but certainly NOT the elevated alcohol we see with too many entry level wines these days. Less surprising for the Rioja, perhaps, but an Argentine Malbec? Wonderful to see.

There was some debate as to whether the Falesco was better than the Montecillo., but in the end both of those decanters drained equally quickly. (the true test)

All in all a great evening, and nobody had a bad glass of wine - that's the "Joe Guarantee®"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2001 Mas Amiel Maury

This was a very good wine, and it wasn't meant to be the backup, but a smashed bottle of Spanish dessert wine (see below) lead to a change of plans.

The 2001 Mas Amiel (Maury, 100% Grenache) tantalized with a meaty, leathery and almondy nose, blackberries omnipresent. Beautifully textured on the palate, with a tasty nuttiness and some dried fruit. It paired very well with some dark chocolate, and unlike a port the elevated alcohol level was barely noticeable.
cork. 16% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$19.20 (SAQ), 375ml

The 2004 Olivares Dulce Monastrell, a Mourvedre dessert wine from the Spanish region of Jumilla, was to be the star of the evening, but only two precious ounces were recovered from the accident scene. After running this precious liquid through a coffee filter I felt brave enough to taste - hot, minty, with syrupy red berries and black liquorice, a wall of powerful tannins hiding under that sweet fruit. While the Mas Amiel felt reserved, the Olivares was an impetous youth - more dessert than dessert wine, but worthy of a retaste after a few years in the cave.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2002 Don Melchor

It is easy to be cynical when a mass producer of inexpensive wine produces a pricey, single vineyard offering. But this label has been produced for many years, and while the critics have raved about the Don Melchor for years it has only recently started getting consumer attention (i.e. prices skyrocketing).

I have been assembling a vertical of this wine over a number of years (hence the modest price below), and this was my first taste from that collection. The 2002 Concha y Toro Don Melchor (96% Cab Sauv, Cab Franc) showed long legs in the glass, and it was very, very violety on the nose. Classic Cab blackberry notes as well, it kept on delivering with pepper and butterscotch, flint and old leather, liquorice and, musk, and cedar. A big, expansive, thick wall of tannins, accented by spicy black pepper and dark berry fruit. Awkward and a touch hot, but a never ending finish and it started to come together with air time. While sipping I couldn't help thinking "tremendously complex" and "already done". This is worth seeking out, and I can't wait to host a vertical of this.
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 17.5+/20
Price: C$44.78 (SAQ)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2001 Di Majo Norante Don Luigi

Another sad goodbye to a last bottle....

The 2001 Di Majo Norante "Don Luigi" (90% Montepulciano, Aglianico) was prunes, with tarry, minty notes...made me think Piemontese...some liquorice and flint. A velvety carpet of tannins carries dense, plummy fruit...minerally, a touch edgy at first, but softens up nicely. Very big and flavourful with a long, pleasing finish. A Top 50 Cellar Pick.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$34.95 (LCBO)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tannats a world apart - Bouscasse and Arretxea

An interesting head to head tonight, a "Tannat-Fest" if you will, a Bouscasse Vielles Vignes from the South West of France vs. an Uruguayan discovery, the Pisano Arretexea.

The 2001 Pisano Arretxea has aged since I last opened a bottle - tobacco and dark cherry aromas lead, cooked fruit, mint and rose petals. A soft mouthfeel, cooked fruit and silky, substantial, tannins. A better sipping wine than the Bouscasse, at its prime now.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$38.75 (SAQ)

The 2000 Chateau Bouscasse Vielles Vignes is one of my all time favourite wines - enticing aromas of medicinal sour cherries, tobacco, leather, cloves, and roses. Crisper on the palate, with sour cherries and a tremendously long finish - a delicious wine, and a better pairing for tonight's roast. One of my Top 50 Cellar Picks.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$38.50 (SAQ)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

What wine to pair with Bach?

Our good friends Mark and Sandra invited me to Montreal's Bach Festival...for a wine tasting! A very intriguing concept - what wine to pair with Bach's Goldberg Variations?

Not a concept really, as research has shown that music can affect our appreciation of wine. Well, eXcentris, Matt Haimovitz and sommelier Nicolas Charron Boucher took this research to heart, enlisting Nicolas to pair wine with the nine canons of the Variations (Dmitri Sitkovetsky’s arrangement for String Trio), as performed by cellist Matt Haimovitz, violinist Jonathan Crow and violist Douglas McNabney.

Taking his cues from musicians' descriptions on the pieces, Nicolas chose as follows:

Actually, the first pairing started not with the first canon, but was the Aria. For this piece Nicolas chose the Xerez Manzanilla Papirusa Solera Reserva Lustau. Almondy, oxidized, with hints of orange peel, this tart and crisp liquid slashed across the palate, yet smooth and sunshine-y at the same time. I question the music pairing, but a good example of Spanish sherry.

Variation III, the Canone all'Unisono, featured a 2008 Domaine Landron Amphibolite (Muscadet de Sevre et Maine sur Lie). Soapy and minerally with citrus and white flowers on the nose, fresh and lively white grapefruit on the palate. Really a delicious white wine, with great persistency - a highlight of the evening, and it even paired beautifully with the music.

Variation VI, the Canone alla Seconda, featured a 2007 Chateau Thivin Cotes de Brouilly. Not a hit with my friends, but I really liked this stark, smokey and earthy Bojo replete with ripe strawberries...light and silky it danced across the palate, an incredibly long finish and a good pair with this music.

Variation IX, the Canone alla Terza, paired with a 2007 Inama Vigneti Foscarino Soave Classico Superiore. It's been a while since I sipped a Soave, so this nose of lychee, peach, pears, flowers and cheese rind was a glorious reminder of Soave's potential. Minerally, flavourful and well balanced, a great summer white and a good music pairing (but another miss with my friends).

Variation XII, the Canone alla Quarta, was matched to Portuguese red, the Casal do Jordoes Guardiao Vinho de Mesa Tinto. A hit with the whole gang, a nose of sour cherries, spicy oak, tobacco and violets, a palate of crisp cherry fruit, delicate tannins and great balance...bitter citrus peel later on. A wine worth seeking out, and a decent pairing for this music.

For Variation XV, the Canone alla Quinta, we moved north to France, a pairing with the 2007 Chateau Haut Marsalet (Bergerac). Green, musty forest notes...blackberries, violet, pepper and fresh mint as well. Very dry, with dense grainy tannins and a touch hot. Rather similar to the Grinou that I like, a good pair with the music.

Variation XXI, the Canone alla Settima, featured the 2007 L'Ocre Rouge, a Vin de Table from the Rhone. Tarry blueberry fruit, earthy and warm, sweaty old leather...greener and crisper than I expected on the palate, but still a fruit bomb. Needs a steak, a great pair for the music.

Variation XXIV, the Canone all'Ottava, was paired to a wine from one of my all time favourite wineries. The 2006 Chateau Bouscasse did not disappoint - rustic, yet complex, with liquorice and funky new leather on the nose, green herbs and gravel as well. Smooth green tannins, tart cherry fruit and a great finish, mmmm....and it worked reasonably well with this piece.

The ninth, and final, wine for Variation XXVIII (Canone alla Nona) was a 2002 Muenzenrieder Trockenbeerenauslese, a dessert wine from Austria. A terrific wine to pair with our final Variations....rather simple - sweet apricot notes, soft and sweet on the palate, very elegant.

Once again, my notes are too long, but it was a special evening worth of journalistic record!

So, the highlights? Hats off to the entire trio for a lovely afternoon of music, and as my son is a budding cellist Matt's playing was particularly noteworthy. And kudos to the organizers for coming up with this idea - it is a foundation to build on and I look forward to attending this event in the future.

Anything I'd recommend for future events? Nine glasses of wine and not a cracker or hunk of bread to munch on?! The deluge of wine, especially such different wines, was difficult to take on an empty stomach - a small basket of oyster crackers would have sufficed.

Many thanks to Mark, Sandra and Shira for organizing, Cheers!

Friday, December 04, 2009

2008 Southern Hemisphere Pinot

Nothing terribly unusual about Pinot from south of the equator, but these are from Chile and Tasmania - just unusual enough to call them oddities...

Amongst New World Pinot Noir offerings, Ninth Island's Pinots come closest to capturing the essence of Burgundy for me, and thus are always to be found in my cellar. The 2008 Ninth Island Pinot Noir (Tasmania) was no exception - earthy, with smokey oak and crisp, fresh raspberries...adding to this expansive nose with garden flowers, white pepper, and oregano. Light and very crisp, nice bitter citrus peel - a touch grainy, not as poised as a top burg, but still really good.
screw top. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: C$21.85 (SAQ)

I've enjoyed some other Montes offerings in the past, so it seemed like a good bet to pick up this 2008 Montes Pinot Noir Limited Selection. Riper, darker berries on the nose, some barnyardy, leathery notes and a prominent minerality. Modern on the palate - softer, more luscious - very smooth, silky tannins, nice bitters and modest acid. Good, just a little less structured and complex than the Ninth Island.
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$17.60 (SAQ)

Both good offerings, especially at these price points - more a question of style than substance. And remember, Pinot and Turkey rocks.

Monday, November 30, 2009

If you give a Joe a turkey...

If you give a Joe some turkey, then he'll probably want a Pinot Noir to go with it. On his way to the cellar he'll notice a painting on the door to his cellar and it will remind him of Burgundy. Thinking of Burgundy, his thoughts will immediately turn to the outstanding 2005 vintage, and he will give thanks. Giving thanks will return Joe's thoughts to roast turkey, and chances are, if you give him some turkey, then he's going to want some 2005 Burgundies by Maison Champy to go with it...

The 2005 Maison Champy Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru "Les Peuillets" was surprisingly oaky, raspberries and barnyard, cloves and sweet spice, some wildflowers, mushrooms, sulphur. Crisp, fresh, but overoaked and a bit too crisp - probably needs some time in a decanter, or a few more years in the cave, to sort itself out (but probably worth the wait).
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: C$35 (SAQ)

The 2005 Maison Champy Gevrey-Chambertin "Vieilles Vignes" sported mushroomy, barnyardy notes, flinty raspberries, hazelnuts and old leather. Very smooth, minerally, with modest acid and a good finish. Starts simple, but got more and more interesting over the evening...nicely done.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$41.75 (SAQ)

Dessert featured a 2006 Henry of Pelham Special Select Late Harvest Riesling. Rather simple - apples and apricots, some white flowers. Soft and sticky on the palate, dried apricots with some minerality and tangy acid. Very enjoyable.
cork. 9.5% alcohol
Score: 16/20

Thursday, November 26, 2009

2007 Poggio al Tufo Alicante

Always on the hunt for something quirky, I found this Alicante, from Tuscany, made by Tommasi - a producer best known for its Amarone and Valpolicella.

I had it in my mind that Alicante produced light, delicate reds, but there was nothing light or delicate about the 2007 Poggio al Tufo Alicante (Maremma Toscana). A heavy dose of spicy new oak, leather, and plums greet the nose...minerally and flinty, almost ashen, later revealing some roses and hints of vanilla. Very minerally on the palate, with spicy new oak and delicious dark cherry fruit, a long finish of soft silky tannins. A bit edgy, almost rustic, but seriously good stuff - an incredible case for more Alicante.
Cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: C$18.95 (LCBO)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

1999 Hacienda Monasterio

How can a bottle so brimming with joy bring me so much sadness?

It was last call for my 1999 Hacienda Monasterio Crianza (Ribera del Duero), a Tempranillo (70%) with a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Notes of earthy, damp forest undergrowth, cherries and coffee grounds, almonds, roses and ferns wave a tearful goodbye, while crisp, spicy, peppery cherries, silky tannins and a fine chalky texture sensually kiss the palate, an interminable last bottle - gone, my love, but never to be forgotten (1, 2, 3, 4) ...
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$38 (SAQ)

Note: This wine has also earned a mention on my Top 50 list, but sadly the latest vintage sold out at a price DOUBLE what I paid for this. I shoulda kept my mouth shut...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2004 Collioures from Domaine Madeloc

My bro-in-law kindly brought back a Collioure wine from France, which slept quietly in my cellar until I found another bottle from the same winery, same vintage, here in Montreal. Time for a blind tasting!

The tiny Collioure appellation lies just across the border from Spain, facing the Mediterranean. The red wines are made mainly from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (at least 60%, but less than 90%), Carignan and Cinsaut are also allowed but must comprise less than 40% of the blend.

On my left was Cam's gift from France, the 2004 Domaine Madeloc Cuvée Crestall. The first notes are very intriguing - dark berries, flint and violets, some earthy new leather, liquorice later in the evening. Smooth and silky textured on the palate, with bright cherry fruit and a nice long finish. More flavourful, interesting, and complex than the Magenca below.
cork. 14.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: ~ euros 39 (France)

On my right, the locally purchased 2004 Domaine Madeloc Cuvée Magenca. More subtle on the nose - also showing dark berry fruit, a hint of vanilla and cloves, some violets. Soft, earthy fruit...chewy, velvety tannins, very smooth and delicious. Gaining complexity over the evening.
cork. 14.5% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: ~C$25 (SAQ)

Kudos to Domaine Madeloc for serving a beautiful pair of wines - definitely worth seeking these out. Great with grilled lamb.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Revisiting Chateauneuf du Pape

Our tasting group has not dedicated an evening to Chateuneuf du Pape since...April of 2005? You might think we hate the stuff! Yet most of the group has a decent collection of these...sounds like a Grand Tasting!

Once again, a colossal flight of wines, blinded and rank ordered by our capable panel of tasters:

Clearly the oldest, and nearly unanimously rated number one, was Lloyd's 1990 Château de Beaucastel. Surprising, as this wine almost didn't make it into the tasting lineup - Lloyd's first bottle was corked and this second bottle had a funky nose that was only starting to blow off as we went into the tasting - very fortunate. This perfectly aged CDP makes my short list of "best ever" wines - sour cherries meet pencil shavings on the nose, blanketed in roses and blackberries, some truffles, leather and tea...even figs in a supporting role. Incredibly polished, flavourful, and complex - silky smooth tannins deliver crisp fruit to the palate and directly into the, so, good. Score: 19/20

Second, third and fourth place were very close, but Cam's 2004 Domaine du Pégau Cuvée Réservée edged out the rest with a nose of cooked fruit and grenadine, dried meat and some interesting mustiness. Very dry, with big, gripping tannins, it was a touch unbalanced at first taste but it had such a tremendous finish that sufficiently sorted itself out by the end of the night. Score: 18+/20

Third was the 2003 Domaine de St-Paul, continuing Ash's string of strong showings. Not a house I knew before tonight, it was showing its age - musty cooked fruit, mushrooms and old leather on the nose...balanced and tasty, just a bit old and flat on the palate. Past its prime, probably better in its past? Score: 17.5/20

Fourth place went to the "other" Beaucastel, Pramod's 1995 Château de Beaucastel. Pramod was disappointed with the showing, but it was "controversial" wine, with a bunch of high ratings pulled down by two last place ratings. Tarry cherries and liquorice on the nose, a powerful wine of tremendous length on the palate, dry velvety tannins, crisp fruit and spicy oak. This house is restoring my faith in CDP. Score: 18.5/20

In fifth was Cosme's 2005 Domaine de la Janasse Chaupin, another controversial wine with high and low rankings. Notably younger and fruitier on the nose, with ripe cherries and vanilla in the foreground, a hint of violets as well. Silky smooth, nicely balanced with dense velvety tannins, a great wine but stylistically away from where my palate is these days. Score: 17.5/20

Sixth place was a three way tie between my 2001 Domaine du Pégau Cuvée Réservée, Lloyd's backup wine, the 2001 Usseglio Cuvée de mon Aïeul and Chris' 2006 Domaine de la Vieille Julienne. My older Pegau smelled old, with compote, tar and almonds on the nose, fruity and well balanced on the palate but needs some more time in the cellar Score: 17/20. The Usseglio was just .... bland? Leather, fruit and vanilla on the nose, fruity with modest tannins Score: 16.5/20. Chris' Vieille Julienne was violets and venison on the nose, heavy fruit up front, this gave way to a better wine than that I first encountered. A very long finish, drinking well now Score: 17/20.

So...Beaucastel was not a house I had tasted frequently (maybe never?), yet two different vintages scored first and second for me. And that 1990 Beaucastel ranks with the best wines I have ever tasted (thanks Lloyd!)...I smell a shopping trip.

Many thanks to our host, Cosme, and to the gang for raiding their cellars for these treasures.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mini Vertical #13: Meerlust Rubicon

Ahh, South Africa on the mind, so I should write some notes on my favourite South African wine to date. One of my Top 50 Cellar Picks, and amongst my all-time wine favourites for price:quality, the Meerlust Rubicon.

Actually, it was the 2000 vintage of the Meerlust Rubicon that really caught my fancy. A nose of woodsy tannins and black cherries introduces the 2000 Meerlust Rubicon (70% Cab Sauv, 20% Merlot, Cab Franc), but so much complexity pepper, later some butterscotch, cloves and dark flowers, white pepper and cooked meat, flint and leather...a joyous symphony for the nose. Dense tannins envelop dark cherry fruit, resulting in delayed satisfaction - it took some time for this wine to open up and sort itself out. But when it did it opened beautifully...velvety tannins, crisp fruit and a deliciously lengthy finish. This could easily go another decade, I wish I had more.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$27 (SAQ)

The younger 2004 Meerlust Rubicon (63% Cab Sauv, 27% Merlot, Cab Franc) still retained the Bordeaux-like aromas that I loved in the 2000 - very green peppery, with gamey meat, damp old oak, leather and liquorice, black smoke and ripe, hot climate, fruit that made me think of the Languedoc. Gorgeous mouthfeel, with luscious fruit and fine-grained woodsy tannins, a balanced but modest finish. Just a shade less impressive than the 2000. No need to cellar this wine, it is ready now after a short decant.
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$26.20 (SAQ)

Friday, November 06, 2009

You Say Shiraz, I Say Syrah: A Tasting with Marcus and Friends

Marcus was one of the first wine bloggers I ever exchanged comments with, all those years ago....but Marcus has moved off the blogosphere and onto Facebook, so I see less of him around these parts. No matter - instead of sharing electronic wine commentary we get together regularly (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) and share a glass of the real stuff!

To celebrate moving into his new apartment Marcus invited a few friends over for Syrah/Shiraz tasting. It was a diverse group of tasters, a wide range of wine experience, and an ecclectic collection of wines, but tonight this combined with a casual, laugh-out-loud, wine-tasting atmosphere that was simply a ton of fun.

So how did we get six Shirazes and not a single Aussie wine?! Strange, but it gave us a chance to try a few South African we go.

First Flight:

Our first wine was the 2008 Errazuriz Estate Shira , a very modern-styled Syrah that could easily have passed for entry-level Oz Shiraz. Chocolate, sulfur, and medicinal notes, some violets and tar. Big fruit, soft and smooth, with delicate tannins and a short finish. Nothing fancy, but actually very nice at this price - it could easily compete with some of the more famous entry-level Aussie Shirazes. Score: 15.5/20

The 2006 Tardieu-Laurent "Les Grands Augustins" was very French. Stark, with grenadine and flint, meaty, cheesy and minerally, some tar as well. Very elegant, very polished on the palate, with wet gravel binding the crisp cherry fruit tightly. A tremendous finish, a vin de garde (for a modest price), and (ever-so-slightly) my favourite of the evening. Score: 17.5/20*

The 2005 Bellingham "The Maverick" Syrah was a very good wine. Cherries and herbs, wet black earth, a can of stale cola with spicy oak overpowering all. Heavy, tannic, brooding, getting jammy over the evening, but keeping its velvet spiciness. A bit too heavy on the oak, but deliciously complex nonetheless...Score: 17/20

Second Flight:

Not a bad wine, but the 2004 Graham Beck Shiraz didn't stand out either. A pretty nose, cherry, cheese and wet dog (yes, wet dog can be pretty...). Jammy and chocolatey on the palate, a decent finish. Score: 16/20

Wow! Surprise, surprise. Knowing there was a Canadian Shiraz I automatically assumed it would suck, so this wine taught me a valuable lesson. And I didn't think it would suck because it was Canadian, I just thought Mission Hill sucked - I was wrong (at least with this wine)... The 2006 Mission Hill Reserve Shiraz was stunning - spicy sausage and black fruit mix with violets and green tannins on the nose. Light, fresh, a touch bitter on the palate, but delicious fruit. Very much like the Tardieu-Laurent, but with better fruit. Score: 17.5/20

My contribution of the evening was a very unimpressive bottle of Cornas, even more disappointing as I have tasted this bottle before and I thought it was a shoe-in for the gold medal. The 2003 Delas Chante-Perdrix Cornas was easily the priciest wine of the night, embarassingly so. A nose unlike anything else - cream soda, some jammy fruit, but otherwise rather uninteresting. A soft, vanishing palate with no acidity - not offensive, just ... boring. Could this bottle be dead? I hang my head in shame...Score: 14.5/20

So, chalk one up for Mission Hill and a big thanks to Marcus. If you are a member of Facebook, check out Marcus' photos and notes here.

Monday, November 02, 2009

2007 Masi Modello delle Venezie

What I love about Masi is the consistency - the wines are ubiquitous, and yet almost every Masi wine I have ever tasted has been above average quality and a great value for the price. I would have to think long and hard of a winery that comes as close to a sure thing - sure to be in the shop or on the restaurant menu, and sure to represent a good value (Campofiorin and Brolio labels come to mind). Tonight's wine further affirms this.

The 2007 Masi Modello delle Venezie was a "hey, never seen this before" pick, and Masi once again delivers. Dark, earthy, leathery raspberries, later some pruneyness ... so deep and brooding on the nose that I was rather surprised when this light, crisp, and fresh juice crossed my palate, delivering earthy, minerally berries and some enjoyable bitterness. A short finish, but who cares? Drink this tasty red now - great with food, at an astonishingly great price. Bravo! (made from local varietals Corvina and Raboso)
cork. 12% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$13.95 (SAQ)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

2007 Terra di Corsica Nielluccio-Syrah

Nielluccio? Ok, I thought I had discovered something new, but this is in fact the Corsican name for Sangiovese. Maybe the wine will be a more exciting discovery?

The 2007 Terra di Corsica Nielluccio-Syrah was another quirky gift from my brother-in-law. Leathery, earthy, dark berry fruit on the nose, some pepper and chalk...pretty good. Rather undistinguished on the palate, with a finish that lasted nanoseconds, but nothing wrong with this - I'd recommend you pick up the Gabbiano instead for a Sangiovese fix (same price).
cork. 12.5% alcohol
Score: 15.5/20
Price: C$14.60 (SAQ) for the 2008

Sunday, October 25, 2009

2003 Chateau D'Armailhac

This was another treasure from my 2003 Bordeaux futures order. For a wine of this pedigree, a Fifth Growth from the Rothschild empire, I would normally have waited a few more years, but this particular bottle had a cork pressing against the foil so I was worried about leaving this one for a long period of time. Besides, most of my 2003 tastings have indicated this is a vintage that is now hitting its stride.

The 2003 Chateau D'Armailhac (Pauillac) showed its pedigree with a gorgeous nose - spicy, damp black earth and green ferns, liquorice, hazelnuts and wet coffee grounds, blackberries and very, very violet...subtle, but incredibly complex. Light, fresh, and a touch bitter on the palate with suprisingly green tannins for this vintage. A nice long finish envelops the tongue in a velvety carpet of cherry tannins and nice, subtle fruit. A touch unbalanced at first taste, but opening nicely over evening - should age well, I'll try again in 2-3 years.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$54 (LCBO)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

2007 Dashe Zinfandel

This Zin took a long, circuitous, route to get to Montreal, accompanying my in-laws on a cross-North America driving tour (with a stop in Sonoma, of course). The lengths they would go to guilt me into drinking Zin...

The 2007 Dashe Todd Brothers Ranch Old Vine Zinfandel (Alexander Valley) was pretty darn good - leathery blueberries, damp earth, then some white pepper and rose petals. Thick, hot blueberries and (modest) silky tannins coat the palate - this is big jammy fruit. Rather delicious for the style, just shy of the finesse I've found in the best Zins.
cork. 14.7% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: gift

Saturday, October 17, 2009

White Burgundy Blues

One thing that drives me crazy about my wine group is just how difficult it is to get them to sit down and taste white wines. After twisting their arms I finally got them to agree to a white wine evening and it was fabulous. Despite this, it has taken me two years to get the gang to agree to another white tasting and unfortunately this was less successful...

But it SHOULD have been a success - a bunch of winos with reasonable wine budgets were tasked to find some White Burgundies (my idea), but somewhere between idea and execution it flopped.

This was absolutely no fault of the host - Chris put on a tremendous spread of aquatic delicacies, so incredible that we saw very little of him that evening as he was continuously shuttling between the bbq and the table, serving up steamed fish and grilled seafood - truly stunning, over the top decadent, actually.

But the disappointment was the wine, a rarity in my group tastings. There were simply no "wow" moments, as wine after wine went from pretty good to ho-hum...

Interestingly, tonight's flight of wines included two of EXACTLY the same wine, and two of the same wine but different vintages - here are my notes:

The crowd favourite was Ash's 2005 Domaine Cordier Juliette la Grande from Pouilly-Fuise, definitely not the appellation I expected to win. Crisp apples, white flowers, pear and a hint of limes on the nose, flavourful and crisp, minerally and focused on the palate. Score: 17.5/20

Ok, so I threw in a non-Burgundy "surprise", and my 2005 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay ranked a surprising second place in this flight of pricey Burgundies. Woody, citrussy and a some cheesey notes, but absolutely impeccable on the palate, with acid, minerals and fruit in near perfect harmony. Great balance, a tremendous finish, this wine is sooo underpriced. Score: 18/20

Saving our tasters from embarrassment, the third and fourth place wines (brought by Cam and Chris) were in fact the same and scored nearly identically by most tasters. The 2006 Bouchard Pere et Fils Meursault "Le Porusot" was buttery apples, white flowers and a subtle "green-ness" on the nose, soft and creamy on the palate with good acidity, nearly perfect balance. This was the kind of wine I thought we'd see more of tonight. Score: 17/20

Sticking to the theme, my other wine was a Chablis. But my 2006 Moreau et Fils Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir underperformed where I thought it would show. Citrus and flowers with some expected apple notes, incredibly finessed and well structured - firm, minerally, but with nice fruit and a very long finish. More controversial (scores all over the place), but my style of Chablis. Score: 17.5/20

Next was Pramod's 2003 Louis Jadot Meursault Genevrières - it started ok, with pretty caramel apples and green grass, but it was awkward and flat on the palate - tasty on another evening, but surrounded by too many great wines today. Score: 16.5/20

Interestingly, the last place wine was the 2002 Domaine Cordier Juliette la Grande, an older vintage of our first place wine. Very intriguing on the nose - almost Sauternes-like, with caramel and cooked fruit, dried apricots and floral notes. Unfortunately it had faded on the palate and was soft and unfocused - very different from the other wines. A wine that seemed past its prime, but it struck me as a wine that was probably VERY good in its prime. Score: 16/20

Personally, my disappointment was with the concentration of the wines amongst a few vineyards - I just don't feel like we captured the essence of white Burgundy today. But even more disappointing is the knowledge that it could be a VERY long time before I get the gang to agree to another white wine tasting.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gracefully Aging Gruner: 2006 Hopler

I only recently (past 3 years) set aside a few whites for aging, so these are just starting to come out of my cellar. Some Chablis, white Rioja, German Rieslings, and tonight's Grüner Veltliner - no rhyme or reason, just wherever my (infinite) curiousity took me.

So, does aging improve your Gruner? Too early to tell - the 2006 Höpler Grüner Veltliner welcomed with a nose of freshly cut apples, a hint of white flowers, some minerality and creamy custard later but pretty simple overall. An initial impression of softness on the palate is misleading, hiding its firm acidic structure and mouthfull of juicy apples - ripe and crisp, with a notable minerality. That acid and minerality points to continued improvements with cellar time, but it is too early to see this improvement.
plastic cork. 11.5% alcohol
Score: 16/20
Price: C$22 (Opimian)

Friday, October 09, 2009

2003 in Bordeaux: du Tertre and Lagrange

My last post featured wines from the uncelebrated, but uncontroversial, 1999 vintage. Tonight we go to the left bank to taste some wines from the more controversial 2003 vintage. According to Stephen Brook's excellent "The Complete Bordeaux", 2003 was "...a year of extremes." Extreme heat led to early veraison, early picking, and yields were low. Generally speaking, the red wines of this vintage are supposed to tend towards more fruit, higher alcohol and lower in acidity, leading to significantly divergent takes on the vintage by different critics. From my tastings of '03, this vintage was not dramatically fruity, but I do find the acidity low and the aging potential seems more limited vs. other vintages. On the plus side, the '03s tend to be approachable in their youth - drink these while your 2000s are sleeping away in the cellar.

The 2003 Chateau Lagrange (St-Julien) showed substantially more dark berry fruit (very, very black curranty) on the nose, slate and nuts in support. Smooth, elegant, with soft, ample, tannins and a nice long finish, but a touch of that summer heat coming through.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$55 (LCBO)

For the 2003 Chateau du Tertre (Margaux) a nose of dark, burnt wood, wet stones, pepper and fresh vanilla beans introduced a palate of crisp cherry fruit and bitter green (in a good way) held firm by stoney minerality - better structured, with a lengthy finish, this Margaux needs some cellar time to come together and will probably be the better of the two.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$49 (LCBO)

Monday, October 05, 2009

1999 in Bordeaux: a Pessac Leognan and a St-Emilion

When I first started collecting the wines of Bordeaux I lived for the vintage reports. The problem is that vintage reports are an overall, or "average", view of mother nature's gifts over a broad geography. When you use these reports for a large region like Bordeaux, you are bound to pick up few clunkers in a great vintage and a few gems in an "off" vintage - vintage reports are pretty good guide, but you can never be to sure.

For example, tonight's two wines were excellent, despite coming from a difficult 1999 vintage that was not notable for late season rains and rot that apparently plagued many producers.

Tasted here before (1,2), the 1999 Chateau Carbonnieux (Pessac Leognan) served up musty, woodsy, black cherries, later rewarding us with some basil, thyme and pencil shavings. Blinded I was thinking it was the St-Emilion - soft and velvety smooth...its elegance nearly masking an enduring finish of wet, black earth. Deliciously Bordeaux.
cork. 12.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$65 (SAQ)

On my right was another repeat, the 1999 Moulin St-Georges (St-Emilion). A glassful of toasty new oak, old leather and black cherries to sniff, a chameleon as it shifted and changed over the evening. Spicy, crisp blackberries on the palate over substantial tannins, which presented this offering as a touch more awkward. Greater presence and complexity, but a touch rougher around the edges - in a very good way.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$65 (LCBO)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

2006 Placet

Over the past two or three years I started to put a few whites aside in my cellar for aging - mostly German whites and a few Chablis, but I have also set aside some oddities as an experiment.

I wouldn't think to age a white Rioja, but a tasting with Marcus gave me the idea to cellar this 2006 Palacios Remondo Placet. A gorgeous nose of creamy golden butter, white flowers, hints of citrus, banana and papaya, citrus peel, some grassy woodsy notes. The beauty continues on the palate, complex, flavourful and tremendously well balanced, with a soft, luscious finish. While this is not yet "old", it is aging well and I have one more bottle for a future redo
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$29.95 (SAQ)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

White Coulliore

My in-laws went to France two years ago, and since that time they have tried a number of Languedoc reds on me, from Coulliore in particular. Tonight I thought I'd turn the tables and try a WHITE Coulliore on them...

The 2007 Les Clos de Paulilles (Collioure) is 100% Grenache blanc, and it has been some time since I last tasted one of those. An intriguing nose...lemon jelly and butterscotch, vanilla and graham cracker, flint and a hint of white flowers. All soft and fruity on the palate, it tastes of warmth and sunshine - smooth and flavourful with some decent minerality, but flabby and a bit hot - not terribly so, but just enough to be noticed.
cork. 13.5% alcohol.
Score: 16/20
Price: C$21.50 (SAQ)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

2003 Quinta dos Roques Touriga Nacional

I just lost my camera - stolen, more accurately - and to add insult to injury I lost a number of bottle shots as well. At least my trusty blackberry was there to save a few for posterity...

The unimpressive image of the 2003 Quinta dos Roques Touriga Nacional above is at odds with the beauty inside this bottle. A bouquet of sour cherries, old oak/damp wood, some vanilla, currant, and subtle floral notes - later some attractive greenness, white pepper and subtle notes of allspice...aromatic and truly gorgeous. Crisp, flavourful, fruit and flowers deliver an impressively long, silky, finish without being overly tannic. Incredibly well balanced, and a catalyst for a few more purchases from this winery.
Cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$30.25 (SAQ)

(PS - new camera purchased, but a few more posts before it appears...)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Sip of Long Island: Bedell Cellars

Long Island Wine is, for the most part, a local delicacy. With just 3000 acres under vine and an annual production of 500,000 cases you won't find much wine leaving the country, and it would probably be a rare wine shop that carried any sort of selection outside of New York and the neighbouring states.

But a wedding on Shelter Island put me a stone's throw away from Long Island's North Fork wineries. I regret to inform that this was NOT a wine tour - the wife and kids made sure of that - but I did have time for one stop, and local knowledge directed me to Bedell Cellars.

I coughed up 12$ for the "Premium" Flight, and this was how it went:

The 2007 Bedell Chardonnay Reserve was steel and oak aged - oaky, buttery, ripe red apple, with some wet stones, almost caramelly on the nose. Lighter bodied, tart and pleasing, short finish. 13% alcohol, Score: 16/20

The 2007 Bedell Gallery was an interesting blend of Chardonnay (69%), Sauvignon blanc (19%), and Viognier. Fleeting floral notes on the nose, probably from the viognier, but tangy citrussy and apricot aromas dominate, some toast. Terribly well balanced, and more flavourful than the Chardonnay, delicious spicy fruit... 13% alcohol, Score: 16.5/20

Long Island is famous for its Merlot (a grape getting a lot more play at Joe's house these days...), so I wasn't going to miss Bedell's red offerings:

The 2007 "Taste" Red was a blend of Merlot (56%), Cab Sauv (25%) and Syrah. Noticeably green and earthy at first, pretty violets, cedar and a hint of dark syrah berries on the nose. A spicy palate with tasty green tannins and gooseberries, a light- to medium-bodied everyday red. 13% alcohol, Score: 16/20

A whiff of the 2006 Bedell Reseve Merlot revealed smokey, dark earth, new leather, blackberries and vanilla, maybe some charcuterie - nicely done! Gritty, dark fruit, a good balance between fruit and acid, very Bordeaux like. This tastes too young - it has the acid, tannin and fruit to keep, I would age this one. 13% alcohol, Score: 17/20

The winery's signature offering was the 2006 Musée, predominantly Merlot (75%), but with some Cab Sauv (13%) and Petit Verdot blended in. Lovely aromas of green herbs, blackberries and roses, damp earth and crisp cherries, chalky... Soft and fruity on the palate, but with dense, velvety tannins, and a nice long finish. Lush, complex and very well balanced. 13% alcohol, Score 17.5/20

Overall, the offerings were very well done across the board, even those sips I had from my wife's flight of entry-level wines (the 2007 Merlot was particularly notable as a great value).

I would not dare make any generalizations about Long Island wine based on a 2 hour stop at a single winery, but I think I can say this - nearly every wine I tasted or saw in local shops was 1% to 1.5% lower in alcohol than their California bretheren. Perhaps it is climate, or a conscious effort to be "different" from their West Coast winemaking peers, but this observation and the wines that I tasted tell me that something different is going on in Long Island - and this "different" is more in line with the kind of wine I am seeking out these days...

PS - Congrats Rob (my Napa and Sonoma partner in crime) and Ellyn!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2005 Tabernero Gran Tinto Reserve

My bro-in-law has a philosophy that if there is a wine on the shelf at the SAQ that doesn't make sense, it is probably good. Case in point - who in Montreal goes trolling around the Peruvian wine section looking for $15 Malbec/Merlot? After all, the SAQ is one of the world's largest wine buyers - it must have been good to make it onto their shelf, especially since the product profile is not an obvious sell, right?

The logic seems to fly tonight, as the 2005 Tabernero Gran Tinto Reserve (50:50 Malbec Merlot) was a pretty darn good wine, especially at this price. It started with a powerfully funky, nose - we couldn't agree on barnyardy or sour milk, but that odour blew off before we were finished the debate, and the wine opened up to reveal dark berries, black pepper, old oak and hints of vanilla. Dry, with dense berry fruit and a decent finish, it was maybe lacking acidity and almost a bit too spicy. More Malbec than Merlot, a tasty wine for my first ever Peruvian.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 15.5/20
Price: C$14.60 (SAQ)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

2003 Vray Croix de Gay

It is a rare evening when I pull two 18+ point wines from my cellar (also enjoyed this evening), but with two members of my wine group coming by for a drink I had to dig deep, and Pomerol is deep ($$$, that is). The pricing for Pomerol offerings is such that I have very few, so I was actually surprised to find this resting at the bottom of one of my Bordeaux bins.

The 2003 Chateau Vray Croix de Gay demonstrated exactly why Pomerols are so pricey, and further added to a suspicion that merlot is my new love...An absolutely gorgeous nose, brimming with rose petals and sandalwood, wild stawberries and damp forest, dark cocoa powder and leather, nuts (almonds) and plums...I could open another bottle just to smell this again. Fresh and well balanced on the palate, with a long, silky finish. A joy to drink, and a greater joy knowing I have two more bottles in my cellar.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$85 (LCBO futures)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

2004 Descendientes de J. Palacios "Villa de Corullon"

I find one of the greatest challenges is to open something for a visiting oenophile - can I find something impressive that they have not yet tasted?

I went out on a bit of a limb with this 2004 Descendientes de J. Palacios Villa de Corullón from Spain's very intriguing Bierzo region. (Well, not entirely on a limb, as I have enjoyed the wines of this maker before) Crafted from the Mencia grape, the Villa begins wild and meaty, later showing some cassis, black ink and an exotic spiciness on the nose as well...joyous! Smartly enveloping the palate...earthy, minerally, with sublime, delicate tannins and impeccable balance, this beautiful wine was still evolving, improving, as Cosme and I emptied the decanter.
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 18+/20
Price: C$55 (SAQ)

Friday, September 04, 2009

2007 Irurtia Gewurztraminer

My brother-in-law loves to surprise me with the quirky and unexpected, so it's back to South America for an...Uruguayan Gewürz?

Pale white gold in the glass, the 2007 Irurtia Gewürztraminer shouted classic Gewürz notes of soapy flowers, followed by hints of lime rind. Clean and fresh, little acidity but some minerality to hold it together. A classic gewurtz, tasty and flavourful - I quite liked it (especially at this price), but I can't say that Gewürz has resonated with me of late.
cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 14.5/20
Price: C$13.00 (SAQ)

Monday, August 31, 2009

2007 Quinta dos Roques Vinho Tinto

Bought on account of a tremendous experience with the higher end "Reserve" bottling (notes soon) from this Portuguese estate, this entry level red was equally impressive.

The 2007 Quinta dos Roques Vinho Tinto (Da0), bright cherry red in the glass and with so much going on on the nose - spicy, cedary and earthy to start, some old leather, tart blackberries, and herbal/medicinal notes in the backstage. Fresh and spicy on the palate, excellent balance between the fruit, tannins, and acidity. Silky textured with a pleasing finish, but some heat showing later. No matter - seriously good juice at this price.
Cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: C$15.90 (SAQ)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Celebrating with a 2002 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin

No matter how often I hear that Champagne is NOT just for special occasions, I ALWAYS save Champagne for special occasions. Cava - now that's an everyday wine - but not Champagne. This bottle was opened to celebrate my first Olympic distance triathlon (is it wrong to celebrate athletic achievement with alcohol?).

The 2002 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, a gift from my wife, was rather noteworthy for being...well not noteworthy. Classic buttery, lemony, croissant...minerally, with a hint of white flowers. A soft, creamy, mousse and delicately textured, some crisp lemon and bitters. Great persistency, but rather ho-hum for being so technically correct and emotionally flat. Maybe it was just a mood thing.
cork. 12% alcohol
Score: 16/20

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Obscure Wine Appellations: 2007 Domaine des Ballandors Quincy

Surely a Loire appellation, but what grape? Pondering this, I opened it as an apertif rather than mistakenly serve a Chenin Blanc when a Sauvignon Blanc was called for...

The 2007 Domaine des Ballandors (Quincy) was fresh and joyful on the nose, some soapy white flowers at first, later fading to pink grapefruit...some minerality as well. On the palate a near perfect balance of fruit and acidity for a Sauvignon Blanc, and a fine-grain minerality and bitter citrus rind. Delicious, but should be at this price.
Cork. 12.5% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Price: C$21.25 (SAQ)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cheap Rosés for Breast Cancer - A Guest Blog from Joe’s Wife

I am honoured that Joe has allowed me a guest-blog spot, albeit to describe wines in which he has very little interest. My topic is the cheap rosé wines available in grocery stores and depanneurs (Quebecoise for “corner-stores”) throughout Quebec.

Many wine gourmands may disagree, but I believe that rosé wines have their place - I find a well-chilled rosé particularly refreshing on a hot summer day, either on its own or while enjoying a plate of barbequed chicken or shrimp.

What caught my eye in the grocery store last week was a series of cheap, depanneur rosés marked with the pink ribbon synonymous with breast cancer awareness. On closer examination, I discovered that Vincor Quebec, the largest distributor of wines in Quebec, is donating money to the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation for every bottle of rosé with a pink petal purchased. A detailed search of Vincor Quebec’s website as well as the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation failed to uncover exactly how much will be donated per bottle purchased, however Vincor has pledged to raise $150,000 in 2009.

So, with thoughts of Joe’s mother who died of breast cancer, and my grandmother and cousin who where/are breast cancer survivors, I decided to drink some pink petal rosés and write a 2-part guest-blog piece reviewing these wines.

I randomly – and by randomly I mean that I picked based on the name and graphics displayed on the label - picked 3 rosés to taste from the Metro grocery store. All were between $10 and $12 per bottle. (Interestingly none of the cheap pink petal rosés indicate the vintage year.)

Caletta Vineyards Seleccion Espania: Of the three wines, this one had a more complex nose that was sweet, smelling of plum, cherry coughdrops, and roses. It was pleasantly sweet on the palate, with a hint of cherries. Not unexpected from a cheap rosé, it had very little length. However, it was very drinkable and matched well a dinner of barbequed chicken.
cork: 12% alcohol

Elle Rosé de France: Admittedly, I had been staring at the picture of the women’s eyes on this bottle for weeks, wanting to buy it. Like the Mona Lisa, they seemed to follow me wherever I went. However, the actual wine was not as intriguing as the image. On the nose, this wine was citrussy, reminding me of grapefruit, and slightly minty. Upon tasting, it was crisp, dry and acidic. It was easy-drinking on a warm evening, but not overly exciting.
Cork: 12% alcohol

Champs Elysées Paris, Rosé de France: This wine smelled of lemons and raspberries. Initially, I enjoyed the fresh, citrusy taste, however it left a slight bitter after taste on the back of my tongue afterward.
Cork: 12% alcohol

*Disclaimer: Prior to each tasting, I popped a pre-emptive antacid to prevent heartburn, which I believe added to my enjoyment of the wines. In addition, all rosés were well-chilled and were tasted with food.

(Editorial. With my good buddy Lloyd shirking his official guest blogger duties I have been reduced to pink charity wine! Seriously, my wife has a tremendous palate and has always been welcome to guest-blog - I didn't think she knew I had a website. The antacid aperitif is real, and more effective than the H2-chaser.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

2006 Henry of Pelham Cabernet Franc Ice Wine

Cabernet Franc Ice first thought is "oops, nobody knew what to do with the poor Cab Franc, so they left it in the field a little too long." Or maybe it was not an oversight, just a marketing gimmick - the Canadian answer to Sparkling Shiraz? Ok, I was a bit suspicious, but I have tasted some great Henry of Pelham white wines so I went in open minded.

Actually, I loved this 2006 Henry of Pelham Cabernet Franc Ice Wine - raspberry and botrytis notes, apricots, wild flowers and a hint of vanilla...kind of Sauternes-ish, but fruitier. Sweet and appley but not cloying, nicely balanced...thinking Sauternes again, but with a firmer acidity and minerally backbone. A very tasty gift from my brother and sister-in-law (you are too kind), but I would actually pay for this one again.
cork. 9.5% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20
Cost: gift

Thursday, August 13, 2009

2007 CataMayor Reserva Viognier

I seem to have an unquenchable thirst for odd vinous pleasures, so much so that tonight's Uruguayan Viognier seems rather...pedestrian?

Fortunately, this wine experiment turned out rather well. The 2007 CataMayor Reserva (Bodegas Castillo Viejo) sported classic Viognier notes, with soapy white flower finding some minerally support. A soft, luscious palate with tasty flavours of lime rind, it started thin at first, but had good balance and really opened up as it warmed from up. Modest, but pleasing - a great Viognier at this price.
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 15.5/20
Price: C$14.60 (SAQ)

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Mini Vertical #12: 1996 and 1999 Chateau Dauzan La Vergne

My father-in-law has been a member of the Opimian Society for many years, Canada's largest, and longest-running, wine club. Chateau Pique Segue, a Bergerac estate, has been a long-time supplier to the Opimian, and recently offered some older vintages of its Dauzan La Vergne label to the society - and some of these found their way into my cellar when my in-laws sold their house :)

Visually older, with more brick colouring at the edges, the 1996 Chateau Dauzan la Vergne (Cotes de Bergerac) showed musty, cooked fruit (cherries), and green vegetal notes at first, later some almonds, cheese rind, then some black ash and mushrooms. Thin, light on the palate, green and tart, nutty, with a shorter finish than the 1999 below. Fairly complex, with a late flowering complexity on the nose...intriguing, but a touch rough, edgy, unbalanced. But this Bordeaux lookalike was drinking surprisingly well after three hours in the decanter.
Score: 16.5/20

The 1999 Chateau Dauzan la Vergne (Bergerac) was a deeper cherry red in the glass. Simpler, with a nose of musty undergrowth, some spice and old leather, but flatter than the 1996. A palate of peppery wet stones, both smoother and harsher at the same time, but becoming velvety over the evening. A riper, softer and more modest finish.
Score: 16/20

Both were quite oaky, heavy, and I have to admit that I am surprised how much time these old wines from "lesser" appellations needed to open up. I am not sure how much these cost, but I am guessing these present good values vs. true Bordeaux. And I wonder why these are from two different appellations?

(NOTE: Some healthy competition has been injected into the Canadian wine market with the recent creation of the Hemispheres Wine Guild, which I will address in a future post).

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Seaview Sparkling Shiraz

Ok, what the heck is this? Yes, I know sparkling Shiraz is not NEW. Could it be that Joe is so un-cool that he never tried one or these, or could it be that I am so horribly snobbish that I would never buy a sparkling Shiraz? I will not answer that question right now, but I still want to know: what the heck did they do to my Shiraz?!

The Seaview Sparkling Shiraz was a tantalizing purple-y colour with a pinkish foam, but there was no doubt on the nose that this wine was a Shiraz - Aussie Shiraz. But those vanilla, dark berry and violet notes were no preparation for the shocking interaction of big fruit, big tannins and foam on the palate. Big, soft, fruity bubbles, a surprisingly fine tannic structure - I couldn't decide whether I wanted the bubbles to disappear and the wine to warm to reveal the Shiraz, or the tannins and big fruit to disappear and reveal a bubbly. No need to decide - the bubbles faded fast and it became a regular Shiraz, tasty but modest. A clever novelty from the marketing department.
cork. 13% alchol
Score: 14/20
Price: gift