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)