Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Bevy of Great Wines at À L'Os

Our tasting group got spring off to a great start, raiding our cellars for some great stuff to pair with MY favourite Montreal BYO, À L'Os.

Waiting for the entire crowd to arrive, Mark and I served up some 2007 Pio Cesare Langhe "Oltre" to whet our palates (a surprisingly fruity and accessible Piedmont blend from a terrific winemaker).

Ahh, so many wines tonight so we went with three flights - two Brunellos, then two Bolgheris, then two Nebbiolos...

It was nearly impossible to choose a favourite between Mark's 2000 Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova and my 1999 Banfi Poggio all'Oro Riserva. The Casanova di Neri was compote and cedar, with spicy liquorice and flint on the nose - very dry and more awkward on the palate than the Poggio all'Oro, but surreal evolution over the evening - very, very complex and could be a stunner in a few more years... Score: 18+/20. The Poggio all'Oro sported a more 'classic' nose - flint, cherries and chocolate, old leather and dried tobacco leaves - gorgeous, soft velvety tannins and a very, very long tobacco finish, impeccable balance, Score: 18+/20

After those two gems I was worried that the Bolgheris might disappoint, but then I spotted the Ornellaia label (and there was much rejoicing). Pramod's 1999 Ornellaia met my lofty expectations - aromas of green pepper, violets and blackberry, with a dash of oregano, grenadine, meaty white pepper. Minerally and reserved on the palate, beautiful balance and a long, silky finish Score: 18/20. Where Ornellaia sticks to the Bordeaux plot line, Lloyd's 2000 Enrico Santini Montepergoli had a different take on Bolgheri - Merlot, Cab. Sauv, Syrah and Sangiovese. A beautiful nose, with distinctive musty and mushroomy notes, some mint and basil. Bold, crisp cherries with silky tannins holding it together for a decent finish, very drinkable today Score 17.5/20.

The third flight, nebbiolo, was the heaviest - just as palate fatigue was beginning to set in. But a Conteissa?! I must be in heaven... Cam's 2007 La Spinetta Monferrato Rosso "Pin" gave up notes of roses, tar and white cherries. Very crisp, dry, and lengthy, but less polished than the other wines tonight (it was also the youngest), it should soften up with some more time in the cellar Score: 16.5/20. Chris' 1999 Gaja "la Conteissa" was the highlight of this tasting for me...cola, or maybe a Dr. Pepper smell, with fresh cherries and ink. Pretty, complex, with soft silky cherries dancing across the palate - incredibly lengthy but not overbearing, and so super polished (I wouldn't expect less from Gaja) Score 18.5/20.

After so many great wines we should have been finished, but Lloyd had a Quintarelli waiting in the wings. WOW. The 1999 Quintarelli Valpolicella was hot, with a nose of almondy liquer and ripe, raisin fruit, some woodsy and peppery notes. Despite the hot raisins up front, this was a polished offering.

OK, so Chris had a Tokaji for dessert but I'm done writing notes...look at the bottle, it tasted good.


Monday, April 04, 2011

Another Friday Night with Lloyd

My buddy Lloyd and I have shared so many good bottles together, he has such a good cellar, and we have bought so many wines together, that when we get together I really have to rack my brain to come up with something (a) good and (b) something he has not already had. Perhaps Catena's top Malbec bottling?

The 2006 Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino left me a little flat at first - some cooked meat on the nose, then ripe, dark blackberries, sweet cocoa, black earth and liquorice - simple at first, but opening nicely as the evening progressed (I am afraid we "sipped" rather hastily...). A very long finish - well over a minute of soft crushed velvet and rich cocoa - rich, complex and beautifully textured - clearly needed more time to show its stuff
Cork. 14.5% alcohol
Score: 17.5+/20
Price: C$ 85 (SAQ)

Lloyd had no similar difficulty in impressing me, fielding a half-bottle of exquisite Bolgheri (details to follow). Smokey crisp cherries, lead pencil, rose and sandalwood, old oak and tobacco...very impressive nose. So crisp, with silky tannins and surprising length - made me think of really good Chianti bottlings. Gorgeous!
Cork. 13.5% alcohol
Score: 18/20

Sunday, March 20, 2011

2000 Feudi di San Gregorio "Serpico"

This Aglianico bottling ranks among my favourite wines of all time - always a treat to open one of these, and it was especially enjoyable to try this blind on some of my wine buds.

The 2000 Feudi di San Gregorio "Serpico" was very minerally on the nose, cooked dark berries, meaty and inky, later some hints of lavender - reminiscent of my prior Serpico tastings it coughs up its olfactory secrets slowly, but your patience is well rewarded.

Very, very, very, dry, tongue puckering dry, gobs of silky, silky, tannins ... such an incredibly long finish. Opened for some after dinner sipping, but it merited a pairing of roast meat (rack of lamb, perhaps?).
Cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$89 (SAQ)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

2008 Clos de Gat Har'el Merlot

Such a terrific nose on this 2008 Clos de Gat Har'el Merlot - sweet cocoa, ripe black cherries, cooked meat, black pepper, and a hint of green pepper... later pencil shavings and damp earth. Crisp cherries and crushed velvet tannins envelop the palate and linger for an impressive finish. Incredibly balanced, flavourful, and complex - a little more acidity would have held it together perfectly, but still the nicest Merlot I've had in ages. Bravo!
Cork. 14.5% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$29 (LCBO)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Aussie Petit Verdot by Pirramimma

Petit Verdot is a rare grape, and even rarer to find in a "single varietal" wine, so I happily grabbed a bottle of the 2003 Pirramimma Petit Verdot (McLaren Vale) and stuck it away in my cellar. Two years later my bro-in-law thought the same thing and brought me a 2005 - noticeably disappointed when I said "I already got one", but he cheered up when he was on the receiving end of a "mini-vertical".

The 2003 Pirramimma Petit Verdot was very earthy - black earth and lead pencil on the nose, but not much else. Sour cherries and substantial, silky tannins on the palate (crisper and lighter than the colour and nose would indicate). Rather tannat/nebbiolo-ish, with a lengthy finish and more acidity than the '05. Score: 16.5/20

The 2005 Pirramimma Petit Verdot was also rather simple on the nose, leather and black currants but revealing little else. Silky, ample tannins, modest acidity, with more black cherry fruit on the palate than the '03, it softened up nicely over 2 hours. Score: 16.5/20, C$23.80 (SAQ)

Neither wine was particularly aromatic, and both took time in the decanter to soften up and show their stuff, but they are worth the wait if you have a decanter and patience! I really should try some other wines from this house...

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Bonville Prestige Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs

Sometimes you have to stop waiting for that "special occasion" and just open your bottle of bubbly! No special occasion tonight, just an opportunity to taste this tantalizing gift of grower champagne. The Bonville Prestige Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs was a delightful detour from 'still' wines -yeasty, lemon drop and hints of caramel on the nose, a palate of fine mousse, toasty lemons and good minerality. Nice gift!
Cork. 12.5% alcohol
Score: 16.5/20

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Medeival Mead Reserve

"Mead" is a word that conjures up times of old - medieval knights pounding the table, heartily emptying mugs topped up with an ancient brew to celebrate another glorious victory. These images in mind, I just couldn't resist grabbing this weighty, ceramic bottle (sealed with wax) and delivering it to my brother in law as a gag gift.

While the cashier at the SAQ nodded approvingly and went out of his way to let me know that this Mead was amazing, I still didn't know what to expect from the Médiéval Mead Reserve, a product of Québec's Intermiel. Yes I know it is made from honey, but I just couldn't picture those battle-hardened knights sipping something sweet, so in my mind it should have tasted something like beer (Belgian perhaps). Well, it wasn't very beer like - dark, thick and heavy (ummm, medieval?), with an (obvious!) nose of honey and earthy oak ... very smooth, very flavourful, but unexpectedly sweet. A very nice product, but I just don't know when, or why, or with what, I would open another bottle of mead!
cork. 16% alcohol
Cost: C$25.30 (SAQ)

(PS - Mead, or honey wine, comes from many different recipes and is probably more heterogeneous than wine)

Monday, February 07, 2011

Friday Night with Lloyd

I cannot say that my infrequent updates of this site are directly related to the decreasing frequency of our wine group meetings, but it is hard to ignore the fact that two of my favourite pastimes are falling by the wayside. This is partly due to the increasingly complex logistics of organizing 14 people and six wines for a blinded tasting, so I decided to schedule some smaller events and bring in some newbies for a smaller event, like this one at Lloyd's...

To kick things off Lloyd taunted us with a 1997 Castell'n Villa Reserva, suggesting that this 'starter' wine (to 'awaken' our palates, of course) could be the best of the night, and he wasn't far off - notes of flint and smokey dark cherries, lavender soap, and cocoa powder - surprisingly dense for an older sangiovese, with a long finish and beautiful fuzzy tannins - a wine that I mistakenly thought would not last this long so I drank mine years ago (arrgh). Score: 17.5/20

The theme of the night was "super-Tuscan", and featured some big wines:

On my left was a 2001 Flaccianello, a wine that ranks amongst my favourites of all time, but this particular bottle of wine has not aged well - pruney, cooked fruit and caramel on the nose, just old and tired. Velvety tannins and pruney compote greet the palate - signs of excitement, but this bottle was past its prime - I doubt this bottle is representative, and I have another to prove it someday. Score: 16.5/20

The next bottle on offer was a 1999 Paleo, but it was corked so Lloyd secretly replaced it with a 2003 Flaccianello that I brought to replenish his cellar. The most amazing nose, with fresh and vibrant cherries, signature tobacco notes ... crisp, rich and elegant on the palate with a very lengthy finish - such elegance, poise, I thought it was a Sassicaia. Score: 18/20

Next up was wine from that obscure Tuscan appellation of ... Pomerol? Ok, so the a 1989 Chateau le Gay was not a SuperT, but let me come back to that...

On my far right was a 2005 Sassicaia, another beautiful wine compliments of my buddy Cosme. Rather different on the nose - funky cheesey notes at first (in a good way), load of truffles and black fruit, every whiff a different aroma. Sooooo incredibly silky smooth on the palate that you are surprised when the finish lasts soooo long, it will be very interesting to see how this one develops over time. Score: 18/20

Well, you can't have a wine tasting without dessert, and after Lloyd had raved about this 2007 Konzelmann Vidal Ice Wine my expectations were high for this finisher. Dark goldent amber, with over-ripe apples, pears and hints of orange, caramel and vanilla - very intriguing. Soft, sweet, and luxurious, but not too sticky - a terrific wine, but perhaps lacking some of the crispness and minerality of the German wines that I like. Score: 17/20

Oops, I almost forgot about that 1989 Pomerol - meant to be a "ringer" in a group of SuperT wines, it stood out for a different reason - two of our party, including yours truly, felt the bottle to be corked, while the others disagreed and raved about its merits. I never score a wine that I feel to be corked, but my peers - two of the most respected palates I know - respectfully disagreed, and for what it's worth they LOVED this wine - guys, if you have some notes on this one I'm happy to publish them.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

2005 Chateau Tour des Termes

On the nose are smokey ripe blackberries and violets, flint, cedar and a hint of anise. Ample fruit, but the fruit doesn't dominate the palate, as the young, grainy tannins and nice minerality keep everything in balance and hold it together. Decent length, and still firm after a few hours in the decanter - good for a few more years in the cellar, but probably not dramatically longer. A gift from my buddy Guy, perfect with a grilled flank steak.
AOC Saint-Estèphe, 60% Merlot/40% Cab Sauv
Cork. 13.5% alcohol.
Score: 17/20
Price: gift