Monday, March 30, 2009

2005 Marcel Lapierre Morgon

I don't do Beaujolais justice, so to make amends I will stick with the Bojo theme tonight, dragging this little treasure out of the cellar and surprising my good friend Cosme with this impressive example.

Floral notes and wet stones greet you at first sniff of the 2005 M. Lapierre Morgon and dominate throughout the evening, but this chameleon keeps changing its colours - grape jelly? was that custard? black earth, old leather...a hint of ginger? crushed cherries...fabulous. Velvety and nutty on the palate, angular at first but better with every minute in the decanter and glass. Fresh and beautifully textured on the palate, it started very angular and took a long time to show its true colours (I never thought I'd drink a Beajolais that had been in a decanter for 3+ hours and it was still getting better). Too bad my last bottle was corked the last time I tried it, I wish I had another to stash away for a few more years...
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$37 (BC Liquors)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

More from the Wine Library: Beaujolais and Jurancon

I picked up more than a Wine by Joe Pinot during my stop at New Jersey's Wine Library, experimenting once again and foisting upon some friends a wine they wouldn't usually think to buy. Tonight's victims, our New Jersey hosts...and the wine, a Beaujolais...

The 2005 Michel Tete Julienas Domaine du Clos du Fief Cuvee Prestige was a terrific
example of how Beaujolais can be so much more than a picnic lunch wine. Fresh hazelnuts over strawberries and cherry candy, some damp earth, flinty and violet notes as well. A palate of soft, silky, tannins frame earthy, dry strawberries...a nice long finish, this wine may benefit from some cellaring, but absolutely gorgeous today. (Lyle raves here)
cork. 13% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: US$22.99 (Wine Library)

Seat me at one of the world's finest restaurants and show me the dessert menu and I will politely pass, opting for the wine menu instead. Unfortunately most dessert wines are dearly priced, but I have found some nice values in the South West France appellation of Jurançon. The 2004 Domaine Bellegarde Jurançon Cuvee Thibault was a perfect end to our meal...simple notes of toasty creme caramel, perfume and green melon introduce a palate that is both "soft" and "tight" at the same time - all marmaladey, minerally and delicious. A tremendous value...
cork. 500ml. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 16/20

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mini Vertical #10: 2001 and 2002 Kanonkop

The last two wines that were opened to dull the senses and help me forget the Big 4-0 were a pair of Kanonkop Pinotages, one of South Africa's premier bottlings of Pinotage. Now in many (most?) wine circles the words "Premier" and "Pinotage" rarely come together, but I can't say I have tasted enough of this grape (a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault) to condemn it to mediocrity - what I can say is that in the hands of this estate you get a fine product (one of my Top Cellar Picks):

The 2001 Kanonkop Pinotage was much more subtle than its younger brother below - some earthy and flinty notes at first decant, it took a while to open up ... later adding some pretty notes of coffee grounds and violets, but relatively uncomplicated. Silky smooth and very elegant on the palate, crisper and earthier than the 2002 below, I would be surprised if this were simply due to another year in the bottle - clearly these were quite different vintages.
cork. 14.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20
Price: C$38.95 (LCBO)

The 2002 Kanonkop Pinotage was just so much...MORE - riper, heavier, with a nose of meaty cooked fruit, spicy (cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves) black earth, vanilla, violet and some tobacco. Hot and quite heavy on the palate, a nice velvety finish but lacking the acidity that held the 2001 together a bit better. An intriguing take on this grape that could challenge some of the best from the south of France, but perhaps bit TOO much...
cork. 14.5% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: gift

Many thanks to Chris, my good friend and the member of my wine group who first put me on to this wine a few years back.

Friday, March 20, 2009

More Celebratory Wine: 1999 Pian Delle Vigne

My good friend Cosme decided stop by the day after my birthday to celebrate, and for this occasion I reached into the cellar for Brunello - I don't know why, but it felt like the right thing to do tonight.

The 1999 Pian delle Vigne (Brunello di Montalcino) was quite successful in our monster Brunello tasting nearly three years ago. Tomatoes and grainy black earth start the nose, aromas of nutmeg and cloves, roses, almonds, wet coffee grounds, and bing cherry (less leather and tobacco than I expected...). Long, velvety tannins, pruney fruit, tongue-twisting acid and a minerality that was not far off from the Mercurey below. Lengthy and well-balanced, but not a brawny "in your face" Super Tuscan.
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 18/20

Sorry to disappoint you Barry, but I simply enjoyed this half-bottle of 2005 Chateau de Chamirey Mercurey with few notes. Personally, I love how Mercureys tend to be stern and foreboding, and this was a a classic - surprisingly tart and minerally, it was a bit unfriendly at first and took some time to open up (as Mercureys seem wont to do...) ... but drinking very well later.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wines Good Enough for a 40-Year Old

Ok, so I left that post about turning forty on a bit long - so long that Barry is now accusing of milking this event. But what has really taken me so long is writing up so many notes on the various wines I drank to celebrate - thank God the festivities occur only once per decade...

For my birthday my wife secretly invited a group of friends out for dinner at Yoyo, and she even raided my cellar for an old Bordeaux (doesn't she know she's not allowed down there?). I cannot blame her, as she was only following the instructions of my good friend and occasional guest blogger Lloyd...

Actually, my 1994 Chateau Pontet-Canet (Pauillac) was already standing up in anticipation of this personal milestone, and did not disappoint. A big nose of mushrooms, green pepper and black earth ("Smells like the earth it was grown in", said my wife), minty and hints of creme brulee, later some fresh flowers (violet) and slate. Tremendous length and silky tannins, but with that crisp fruit and wonderfully fresh acid that modern Bordeaux seems to lack...some nuttiness and green olives at the end. Drinking very well after 3 hours in the glass, this could easily age for a few more years. Simply classic...
cork. 12.5% alcohol
Score: 18.5/20

Ashkan has been on a streak lately, and his 2001 Condado de Haza Reserva Seleccion Roble Frances (Ribera del Duero) only added to his impressive wine CV. A delicious nose of cheese rind and blackberries, flint and flowers ... a palate of crisp, velvety tannins and a tremendously long finish ... a touch edgy, I wonder if some time in the cellar will sort this out?
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 17.5+/20

Lloyd's 2001 Terra d'hom (Priorat) was pretty much what I expected from this region - gobs of ripe, dried raisiny fruit, black currants, and woodsy, smokey vanilla...surprisingly lighter bodied and better structured than the nose suggested - delicious velvety fruit, a great wine from a region I rarely have the opportunity to taste...
cork. 14.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5/20

The 2001 Elderton Command (Barossa) was the reason I ordered the lamb shank for a main course, and after 3 hours in the decanter it was ... mmm ... A brilliant nose of menthol and eucalyptus, cherry pits and wet stones, some classic violet notes ... ginger, flint, and smokey black cherry. Soft and silky on the palate, much more developed since my last smooth, so elegant, a very long finish of cherry fruit and unsweetened cocoa, but perhaps a bit more tired than I expected (1,2)...
cork. 15% alcohol
Score: 18/20

Thanks to my wife and friends - great food, great wine, great company ... no better way to spend my birthday... (unless it was the Brunello and Burgundy I had the next day)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

On Turning 40

I turned 40 this week.

I never thought about this impending milestone much, figuring it was just another birthday. But as the hours ticked down I got into a panic of sorts ... a few good bottles of wine shared with many friends over a few days were just the thing to ease my anxieties.

Well, "The Big 4-oh" has come and gone, and the dead soldiers include a 1994 Pontet Canet, a 2001 Command, a 1999 Pian delle Vigne, two nifty Spanish wines and the Kanonkops ('01/'02, see above).

More soon...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wine by Joe, Reviewed by Joe

Seriously, Wine by Joe? How could I NOT buy this wine. Kinda cool that I bought this wine at the Wine Library in New Jersey - you know, THE Wine Library (Hint: Gary Vaynerchuk, Wine Library TV) - ok, who cares, Gary didn't make me eat dirt, but it was a cool store.

Pinot is a grape that just doesn't seem to lend itself to gimmicky marketing, so I approached the 2007 Wine by Joe Pinot Noir with caution. Reminiscent of Beaujolais at first - a pretty, delicate nose of flint and some smokey, cedary raspberry. Started a bit flat and unbalanced on the palate, but over time opened and sorted itself out, revealing tart, grainy, rasberries and some (substantial) velvety tannins. Quite enjoyable, and a tremendous value - Go, Joe, Go!
Score: 16/20
Price: ~US$8.99 (Wine Library)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Burgundy Tasting: Bize and Grivot

My great friend Cosme invited me to a wine tasting at his favourite restaurant, Le Club Chasse et Pêche. Now this is a restaurant I have been dying to try, and with a flight of Burgundies from Domaine Simon Bize and Domaine Jean could I resist?

First, I am taking nothing away from the wine tonight when I say the real star of the night was the chef - the wines were excellent tonight, even outstanding on occasion, but those words cannot describe the mouthwatering delicacies served up this evening...

Oops, I almost got all foodie on you - back to the wine.

Upon arrival we were served the 2004 Domaine Bize Bourgogne Chardonnay - a beautiful nose of asparagus and almonds, mushrooms and grassy lemon peel, light bodied but with vibrant and sparkling minerality - very nice for this appellation (Score: 16.5/20).

Two 2004 Domaine Bize whites were served with the appetizers, the Bourgogne "Les Champlains" and the Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru "Aux Vergelesses". The "Les Champlains" showed creamy brioche, mint and yeast...light, minerally with a dash of limes on the palate (16.5/20). The Premier Cru "Aux Vergelesses" was a tremendous offering - flinty, butter, creme caramel and delicate cedary notes, with a flavourful and stylish mouthfeel - soft, yet crisp and minerally, fleshy and opulent, yet bitter and fresh...a reminder that I really need to drink more white burgundy (17.5/20).

The next three flights featured red burgundy. With a "Risotto au Canard" and some Foie Gras we tasted the 2003 Bize Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru "Aux Vergelesses" and the 2002 Domaine Grivot Vosne-Romanée. The "Aux Vergelesses" was quite aromatic, with cola and raspberries, woodsy, flinty...the fruit, acid and oak came together quite well on the palate - complex, but a touch edgy today (17/20). The first Grivot of the night (four more to come) was perfumed with pretty cloves, stoney wild berries, coffee and anise - silky tannins, raspberry fruit and a deceptively long finish finish, more subtle, more beautiful (17.5/20).

The "Travers de Porc" was served with Grivot's 1997 and 2000 Clos Vougeot. The 1997 Grivot Clos Vougeot was cola and baked cookies on the nose, some meatiness and a hint of spice - big velvety tannins and a tremendous finish, very earthy and surprisingly young. (17.5/20). The nose of the 2000 Grivot Clos Vougeot was subdued, some toffee and nutty notes - a palate of silky raspberry fruit, a pleasing minerality and a long finish (17/20).

Succulent "Kobe Américain" with mashed potatoes "truffee" was served with a 2003 Grivot Vosne-Romanée "Les Chaumes" and a 2002 Grivot Nuits-St-Georges "Roncière". The "Les Chaumes" was the standout for me tonight - fuller, richer and more complex than the other wines, a nose of meat, caramel and coffee, pepper and dark berries. So elegant and incredibly balanced, with a very, very long, silky finish (18.5/20). The "Roncière" was also impressive - truffles and flowers, crisp raspberries, and a notable minerality. Very elegant. (18/20).

Of course, a tasting menu like this should end with dessert, which was paired with a Balinet Cerdon-Bugey "méthode ancestrale". Ok, everyone put their hand up if you have tasted a Cerdon-Bugey....thought so. A rather unusual sparkling beverage (some background here), it smelled of applesauce and cherries, a palate of soft, sweet and cidrey mousse - delicious.

Hats off to Le Club Chasse et Pêche for creating a tasting menu that would allow many a wine to shine, and congratulations to the organizers for the well-selected wine pairings.

(Note: the wines of Domaine Bize and Domaine Grivot are represented in Montreal by Liquid Art)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Turning Wine into Water: VI-NO-ZE-RO

I have come to peace with dealcoholized beer, but you need to treat it as an entirely new class of beverage - if you go into hoping for a drink that tastes just like your regular brew you will always be disappointed. But if you go into it looking for an alternative drink you can better appreciate it. That being said, most of them are pretty awful "alternative beverages", but I have found some that are drinkable - Bitburger 'Drive' is my personal fave.

So I approached this wine with a more open mind than my wife, who called me in a panic - "Joe, I need wine help". She NEVER calls me to ask about wine, so I knew it was serious. Calling her back I got a panicky "Do you have any other wine...that wine in the's, it's...AWFUL". She was referring to tonight's wine...

The non-vintage VI-NO-ZE-RO (Müller Thurgau) was a very pale gold in the glass, unusual (but rather interesting) on the nose - yeast, wet stones, but difficult to discern much else. Cool and wet on the palate, but very bland - not "bad" in my mind, just very, very bland. Overall, I commend the production of a dealcoholized (<0.5%) wine that is not too sweet and has no rough edges, and maybe with time I can come to terms with this beverage in the same way I have come to terms with dealcoholized beer.
screw top. 0.5% alcohol
Score: 8.5/20
Price: C$7.60 (SAQ)

But I speak only for myself - my wife's take: "I would not drink that, even if I were pregnant"