Answers #SundaySips

19 Feb

answers

Well, ask a question and you shall receive answers. On Thursday I posted my usual pre-release recommendations. I started the post with a question about whether people finished off a bottle at the end of the evening or re-corked and savoured it the next day. I confessed to most often finishing it off under the condition that it was an extraordinary wine. Maybe I wasn’t clear that I do sometimes re-cork but that’s the exception.

The verdict is in, people have spoken and I’m thinking I have a problem (“No shit, Sherlock”). Most responders re-corked – red on the counter, white in the fridge – and savoured it the next day. Several felt that the wine changed for the better and that it was instructive and even of benefit to taste it with the extra evolution.

I agree. There is an evolution once oxygen has rattled the wine. It’s like a decant effect – some funk may get blown off, tannins integrate, and the wine opens up and tells us about its aspirations and the previous evening of neglect.

chdmI have listened and I have heard you. I can’t promise anything because tonight I’m opening a 2003 Pauillac (Ch. Duhart-Milon for the geeks out there). That’s VGS quality. And, my level of restraint post-first glass of great wine isn’t the best. Wish me luck.

Cheers.

Bill

Question – The Red Daily Slosh

16 Feb

Not to suggest that these guys are old but one of them is playing a tambourine. And he isn’t wearing a Sally Ann uniform either.

Question for all the wine peeps out there: At the end of the evening – a third of a bottle left, pump the bottle? Just put the cork back in and into’ fridge? No fridge? Or…..just have another glass and a half and finish the bugger off? That’s a question I ask myself many nights. I’ve been keeping score and trying to understand the variables that effect my decision – aside from the buzz level. It’s one thing only – the quality of the wine. Or, more accurately, how much I love the wine.

I’ve found that I’m not big on saving the wine for another day if it has provided a lot of interest and enjoyment. Although maybe, when I have a big day in front of me……..wait, there are no more ‘big’ days in front of me. Aside from the monthly sorting of the sock drawer – you need your wits about you for that, I must say. So for me, there’s really no reason to deny myself that last great glass, is there? Re-Cork the Ordinary – Quaff the Extraordinary!

angelsshareThis weekend’s release (Feb. 18) features a bunch of interesting Aussie wines – none of which I can comment on, unfortunately. Haven’t had them. But, in the spirit of supporting Aussie wines – I had a great Shiraz the other night – 2014 Two Hand’s Angel’s Share Shiraz #9480 $24.95. I’ve had the Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz #660043 $24.95 but on sale until Feb. 26th (good effort) and Bella’s Garden which is a special wine but have not had the Angel’s Share before the 2014. This is a big wine in the style of Aussie Shiraz that we’ve all come to love. However, it has another note under the power – class. Hard to put a solid experience of class into words – maybe it’s the way it opens, the balance, maybe it’s the clear chocolate notes and finish. Not sure. However, I’m assuming that the mother ship has some of this stashed away for another time – keep your head up. It’s cellar worthy too.

hopbaconoirStaying much much closer to home, the 2014 Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir #461699 #24.95 might be the best version of this wine that I’ve had. The Speck family does this grape better than anyone down in Niagara. This bottle will be a huge surprise to those that haven’t had a Baco above $12. Smoky, leathery on the nose, spicy on the swallow and finish. Big fruit. Cellar worthy. Some people I know never drink Niagara wines – just don’t like them. Maybe it’s from years ago. Maybe it’s people trying to convince them that they warrant another look. Not sure. But, you should drink what you love and love what you drink……….. unless I disagree with you. Then you’re just plain wrong and that’s not an alternative fact because I’ve held this belief for quite some time. Ergo, it’s true.

fiasco

Chianti Fiasco

Is anyone out there old enough to remember when Chianti was pure shit? I mean when enough white and unnamed varieties of grapes were added so that the final version was weak and confused. The good news? It was cheap. The bad news? Cheap meant that you bought a lot of it despite the experience.

Well, nowadays Chianti is anything but cheap or pallid. The rules have changed for the better. The other night a friend brought over a bottle of 2013 Chianti Classico full of cherries and acidity. It was a great effort. This weekend there are a few Chiantis to try – I haven’t had them in the vintage being offered but encourage you to pick one of them up or another Chianti Classico or Chianti Rufina that might catch your eye. The Frescobaldi, the Nippozano, the Gabbiano, the Lornano? It’s a perfect wine for the current weather and winter cuisine.

lagoneThere is a lovely Tuscan wine that I’ve had – 2013 Aia Vecchia Lagone Toscana #47690 $19.95. This is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc from Bolgheri. It’s very structured right now with tannins hitting pretty hard and up front – I should have left it to breathe longer or just sit down below until a little later. Full-bodied, powerful – darker fruits. This would be a great addition to any cellar despite the modest price. If you love Super Tuscans, pick this up for a special meal. FYI, a fellow blogger wrote a nice piece on this winery and some of their wines. You can read Jeff, The Drunken Cyclist’s piece here.

abaddombuenoLooking for a well aged red with loads of personality? Pick up the 2006 Abad Dom Bueno Crianza #244699 $15.95. This is so ready to drink – dark fruits filing the glass on the sniff – sandalwood and tea on the finish – tasty. I’ve reviewed this before and can only imagine that another year in bottle will be bringing to a close this wine’s window. So, pick up a couple, decant to remove some sediment that is present (or just pour carefully and leave a little in the bottom), and have with some cured meats, olives and tapas. Bierzo wines made from Mencia are tasty values and this is one. Hell, pick up three at this price. Four even.

grandtheatreA wine that I’m getting a few of is the 2014 Grand Theatre #468678 $20.95. Not because of the write up or past experience but because of our local theatre – The Grand Theatre – of which we’ve been subscribers for years. And, for whom my brother was the Head of Electrics for almost 25 years. Kind of a sentimental pick. A Bordeaux from Saint-Emilion – heavy on the Merlot. Hoping that it rewards my loyalty.

Cheers.
Bill

Remember: You can check availability of any wine by clicking on the link (product # and price), dropping down the city menu, choosing your city and clicking Find Stores. Good luck.

Time For A Quickie?

9 Feb

i-know-a-lot-about-wine

I had an SEO-website-functionality kind of guy send me an email (unsolicited, I might add) telling me where I might be able to use his help to improve my traffic and increase my business. Sell more. Be more…………….bigger. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I am pretty big already.

I’m thinking that 10% of the people that read my blog are people that I actually know. And to them, I’m a big deal. Then again, I’m on new meds to manage my delusions of grandeur. Uhhh…….. they may not be working.

The guy did get me to thinking that maybe I need to post more frequently than once every couple weeks to form a real relationship with the readers of the blog. Maybe a stronger relationship might lead us to a group project to build that cabin in the woods together, forage for ‘real’ food, make our own clothes from sustainable plants, study Vaishnava mantras, and grow some weed. Actually, I’m thinking in reverse order. Or, second best outcome would be that we’d exchange comments, read each others blogs, buy more wine. Not a bad second best.

In that spirit, this is a quick recommendation of three wines we’ve had in the past week or so (read: yesterday before dinner) that I feel are good value, tasty, and on top of all that very representative of the place they come from.

poggio-alla-guardiaThe 2013 Rocca di Frasinello Poggio Alla Guardia #25718 $18.95 has a pretty impressive pedigree. This Maremma Tuscan winery has an exceptional mid-priced red that is always full-value and an iconic Super Tuscan, Baffonero, that is reserved for tastings only for this poor scribe – it’s top drawer. So, what about the Poggio Alla Guardia? Well, it is so ready to drink right now. It’s a Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon blend that comes straight at you – a bit of browning already going on, a hint of old wood on the nose, and big ripe fruits in the mouth and on the finish. Superb Value! Reminds me a bit of the Brancaia Tre in style, sense, and heft. Great food wine. Also goes well with Rush. Just sayin’. We are travelling to the Maremma this September and I hope to connect with these folks.

creekside-iconoclastCreekside Estates in Niagara is an original winery there and has gone their own way to great success. Their 2013 Creekside Estates Winery Iconoclast #471797 $22.95 (it was on sale at Wonderland North mother ship check there before you pay full price) is a great example of striking out on their own. This is a Syrah and treated similarly to Northern Rhone Syrahs with a touch of Viognier. Hell, I didn’t even know that they grew Viognier in Niagara. And do they pull it off? Yes, they do. Now it has some spice/pepper but not in the strength that you might associate with Syrah. It’s ready right now so the tannins are integrated nicely. The Viognier definitely adds a bit of floral on the swish and depth in the swallow. It’s great to see folks do their own thing and succeed. Great burnt bird wine. Think roast chicken and herbs.

organized-crime-chardonnayFor the Chardonnay hounds, there’s a great edition from Organized Crime – 2013 Organized Crime Chardonnay #408435 $18.95. This is a full blown Chardonnay – softness, ripeness, and butter. It’s exactly what The Director ordered. Good food wine – chicken with a cream sauce of some kind or just sipping slowly by itself. I also got this on sale at Wonderland North so check that out. FYI, I recommended the OC Cabernet Franc – here.

Cheers.

Bill

Remember: To check inventory at the LCBO, click on the link (Product # and Price) for your wine, choose your city from the drop down menu on the right, and click the Find Stores button.

Waiting on The Red Daily Slosh

2 Feb

This is my Bordeaux and Barolo theme song, it seems, as I seldom open them. I will wait and I will wait.

Let’s look at the February 4th release. Last week, I made recommendations for sparkling bottles for that release (with a brilliant call to arms) here. I’ll focus on the reds today.

chateau-blaignanSpeaking of Bordeaux, there’s a value pick from the great 2010 vintage – 2010 Château Blaignan #400606 $23.95. I have started to ignore the annoying habit of wine writers and the Bordelais of declaring vintage after vintage the “Vintage Of The Century“. It’s getting a bit tired. That said, 2010 was one of those declared ‘greatest’ vintages and there are a lot of good values to be had by taking wine from petite chateaux, second labels, or from some of the lesser known AOC’s in 2010. This wine – the Blaignan – is an example of that value proposition. Well balanced, drinking great right now. This wine has loads of fruit, some spiciness, and some sultry notes as well. More sophisticated than the price indicates. If you don’t hold, hold, hold your Bordeaux, then get a bunch of this. It’s ‘go time’ right now.

There’s a tried and true method to establishing a winning wine industry in a region – know what can work, what the land gives you, and then work it to death. You don’t see Bordelais screwing around with Sangiovese or Primitivo? I know that there are breaks from tradition that bear great results as in Super Tuscan wine but generally, working with what you have works best. Certain regions do best with certain grapes. In Niagara, they are focusing a bit more on Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir. In particular, Pinot Noir grown off the flats and more in the Twenty Valley, Beamsville Bench, Vinemount Ridge appellations domaine-queylus-tradition-pinot-noirseem to thrive and shine. A master of Pinot Noir, Thomas Bachelder has been skulking around here, as well as Oregon and Burgundy, making great Chardonnays and Pinots. This week, there’s a beaut of his – 2013 Domaine Queylus Tradition Pinot Noir #392738 $$29.95 hitting the shelves; I imagine in small quantities. Tasted at the cellar door, this is still a bit too early to pound – so it’s youthful, reserved, waiting to grow up – loads of red fruits, earthiness waiting to burst through some serious acidity. It reminds me of his Oregon efforts – serious, restrained, yet power lurking, lurking and, if you’re patient rewarding you. Keep this down below for a few years – I know that I am. If your ‘kind a’ Pinot needs to be a la Meomi, take a pass on this. But, if your sweet spot is Oregon, Prince Edward County, even Burgundy – this is for you.

mompertoneAt the Grandi Marchi last year (you can read my post on the tasting here), I sipped a slew of great wines. FYI, a ‘slew’ is the metric equivalent of 1.765 times a ‘bunch’. A bunch being an imperial measure, of course. One of the tables was the Antinori family group and they had their 2014 Prunotto Mompertone Monferrato Rosso #388587 $18.95 among others. My tasting notes reflect that “I love it!” This is fresh – meaning youthful, sensuous, not round, angular. You need food with this. Tomato based pasta, sausage pizza, or a simple burger (not too much fancying  up) would be fantastic. If you had this wine blindfolded, you would have little trouble identifying that it was Italian and, if you’re a fan, you might even guess Piedmonte. Barbera grapes primarily with some Syrah. A swish or two in the glass allows this easy drinking, lip smacking red to open up.

 

casa-de-cambresI picked up a few of the Portuguese wines that were featured last release and the one that stood out for me was from the Duoro – the 2009 Casa de Cambres #470377 $13.95. This 40% Touriga Franca, 40% Tinto Roriz (Tempranillo), and 20% Touriga Nacional blend is drinking perfectly right now but will last through the next five years easily. So, it’s a cheap cellar candidate. Wood evident but not overpowering, dark fruits, and big nose. A good smack of acidity on the finish. If your first sip seems like the acidity overruns the fruit,  just let the wine rest and it will soften for you. Good value!

Cheers.

Bill

 

On Borders and The Sparkling Daily Slosh

27 Jan
border-wall

And the French will pay for it!

The other day I opened a bottle of red Bordeaux only to find that the bottle was corked, bad, stinky. It ruined my week of sipping! And, it frightened me – I have a bunch of red Bordeaux in my cellar. Do I need to fear them all? So, I’m penning this post to warn you. Oh, I know it’s a broad brush and I’m sure there are red Bordeaux that are good bottles – it really has nothing to do with all Bordeaux. In fact, I have friends that are Bordeaux. Let’s face it, though – Bordeaux are the predominant wines that lean to corkiness – those few can bastardize the true meaning and message of Bordeaux for their nefarious goals. The only way to ensure that we aren’t savaged by tainted bottles is to: 1) take an accurate inventory of the red Bordeaux in all cellars – I’ll set up a central database (please use form below) – if we know where they lurk, we can protect ourselves; and, 2) bar our borders to any more red Bordeaux coming into the country. What’s that you say? You’ve had “a corked bottle of California Chardonnay. Isn’t it winest to discriminate against a single wine?” No, don’t fall for that false equivalency. Let me explain – that’s an alternative fact that the Bordelais sow to get us to relax our vigilance on the red menace. Following that logic, soon all we will be able to drink is red Bordeaux to be………PC. California Chardonnay won’t be able to get a job. Then, the red Bordeaux get into Canada and voilà (to use our other official language – so you see it’s already working), we get corked.

Now, let’s get in to recommendations for the release of February 4th..

Having a few bottles of reasonably priced sparkling wine around is key to…………drinking reasonably priced sparkling wine. I usually have a enough bottles of Cremant de Something, Niagara bubbles, Cava, carpene-malvoltiand/or Prosecco to meet the requirement of a non financially painful fizzy to start the evening. And, I really love two of the sparkling wines featured in the February 4th release. The Carpene Malvolti 1868 Brut Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore #727438 $18.95 should become your ‘go to’ Prosecco. It’s drier than a popcorn fart. How’s that for evocative description? It has a great amount of energy bursting from the glass – apples, peaches and a bit of sea salt – great acidity and the bubbles are softer than most Prosecco for me. Classy stuff for the price.
louis-bouillotThen, there’s the Louis Bouillot Perle d’Ivoire Blanc de Blancs Crémant de Bourgogne #048801 $19.95. This is a Chardonnay with the typical green apples and citrus character of the fruit. Much more citrusy and fuller bodied than the Prosecco. A hint of yeast like a good Champagne. Carries a lot of flavour on the swallow. I have a couple of these down below and, if it wasn’t 10 am, I’d be tempted to pop a cork on one of them right now. A perfect wine for brunch? You bet. This doesn’t always end well.

Cheers.

Bill

You didn’t expect a Bordeaux registration form here, did you?

Ludwig Von Dufton and The Rainbow Daily Slosh

20 Jan

ludwidvondrakeRiding on the train yesterday, I sat across the aisle from a couple of youthful academics. They conversed the whole 2 and a half hours about their field of study. Seriously – all the way. No let up. Did I say that they didn’t stop? I squirmed, I tried to turn them off, but it just dragged on and on. And, then I thought, “I wonder if two wine geeks sitting together on a train discussing the very critical issue of wine closures would piss off other passengers?” I mean, we’d need more than 2 and a half hours but I’m just using it as an example. Closures! Really, really important stuff.

corksI thought of my insufferable soliloquies at dinner parties about some arcane piece of wine junk as people’s eyes glazed over. And I realized – hey wine geeks – no one gives a shit about this stuff but us. Like the academics, we are submerged in our very, very important world. And, I got a little piece of perspective on that world today. That being said, let’s get real – corks or Stelvin are the only closures – and Stelvin only if you don’t require cellar time (air quotes) or the seductive pop of a cork.

The January 21st release has a few wines that are of interest. gassierThere’s a rosé that I’ve recommended before – 2015 Gassier Sables d’Azur Rosé #033621 $16.95. This is a typical pink from the Côtes du Provence – dry, snappy, medium-bodied goodness. I know the freezing rain outside doesn’t scream – “ROSÉ” but regardless, pink is good for occasions other than just sitting in the sun munching pan com tomate. I’m thinking, you arrive home after a hard day (of which I don’t have anymore – hard days, that is) to find a quiet house and only a few things to nosh – bread, olive oil, and olives. What to drink? Hey, if you’ve been paying attention, it’s this crisp cherry treat. Even if you haven’t any bread, olives or olive oil………well, I’d drink this by itself with the lights out and Barry White on. Correction of tense: I have had this with the lights out and no food but paired with Astrid Gilberto and tearful nostalgia. Maybe I needed to share. Perfect match.

tragicallyhipA few months ago, I suggested that I was buying a wine to celebrate the Tragically Hip’s last tour. Not sure if you watched the last concert in Kingston but I did. It was emotional – all I’m saying. I did buy and drink the wine too. The wine? 2015 The Tragically Hip Fully Completely Grand Reserve Red #411595 $24.95. This is pure Niagara. A blend of Bordeaux grapes – Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as Merlot. This is an endorsement of the belief that Niagara Bordeaux varieties need a little cuddle time – blending. This is much lighter than you’d expect. Subtle, dark fruit, structured for a longer term, and a bit dirty as would befit The Hip. I’m keeping a bottle or two down below to celebrate The Hip and Gord Downie at an appropriate time.

Have I told you that I love Beaujolais? Duh. We had company over the other night and I opened a bottle of Morgon – Jean Michel Dupré Vieilles Vignes de 1935 Morgon #440297 $19.95. They loved it. Perfect sipping wine on a cold descombeswinter evening. I got a bunch of it. This week, there’s the 2012 Jean-Ernest Descombes Morgon #946186 $21.95 from Georges Duboeuf. This wine is a keeper – it can cellar for at least 5 years rounding out some of the zip it exhibits now. Complexity is somewhat oxymoronic for many Beaujolais but this one carries some leathery stuff while not abandoning the fresh red fruits both on the sniff and swallow. It’s interesting. Given that it’s approaching Super Bowl time, I’d say a perfect Super Bowl sipper with onion and sour cream chips. Pretzels?

honoroCheap wine that I might recommend is hard to find. When I do find something that lands in that space, it’s usually an Iberian wine. I recommended the cousin of the 2015 Honoro Vera Monastrell #167684 $13.95 a couple times before. That’s the Garnacha (#432997 $12.95). They are both super value wines. The Granacha is a bit more round, easy drinking. But, the Monastrell is a beaut at this price too. Very peppery, big flavours and a Jimmy Durante nose. Intense. Way more wine than $13.95 deserves. They both have ultra cool labels too.

susanabalbocsThis release has a focus on Argentina. And when I think Argentina, I think Susana Balbo. Well, I think Buenos Aires, gauchos, Torrontes, and beef but I also think Susana. Then again, I’ve got a crush. What do I see but 2014 Susana Balbo Cabernet Sauvignon #260919 $19.95? This is a drink now, crowd pleasing cab sav. Typical of the variety, medium to full-bodied – little cassis, little blackberry. Want a ‘go to’ for company? Stand around or dinner? This is it.

expressivoThen, also from the Balbo stable, there is the 2014 Benmarco Expressivo #263517 $39.95. This is exquisite. Crazy complex and furry. Needing a few years to sit in the bottle deciding what it wants to be when it grows up or a couple hours of decant minimum. This is what South America can craft from Malbec. It’s the Argentinean equivalent to Montes’  Purple Angel Carmenere which means it’s friggin’ great. Or for another option at high class Malbec, there’s Laura Catena’s 2014 Luca Malbec #167312 $33.95. It’s not in this release but still out there, I think – elegant and deep.

I just noticed that the labels for this week’s recos are crazy cool. Could I have been influenced by the labels alone? Nah – but the closures, absolutely.

Cheers.

Bill

Holiday Sniffles, Decision Trees, and The Rainbow Slosh

6 Jan

robitussinHere’s the thing about the holidays for a wine geek: we like to plan the use of our stash to gain optimum pleasure and minimum damage to the stash. By planning, I don’t mean the use of a spreadsheet, hours of internet research, analysis of the effects of barometric pressure variance on umami, and the consulting of an ouija board. I mean something a little more spiritual than that.

In my case, I like to stand in front of my babies glass of wine in hand seeking inspiration. Then, in my mind, I go down a complex decision tree which involves: food, mood, brood, and whether anyone gives a shit but me. Pulling out bottles, cradling them in my arms and asking for permission to end their useful lives for my pleasure only. Because it does mean saying goodbye to some of the best friends a guy can have. Let’s be honest about that. You can’t undrink a wine.

So after all that, I had a general idea of which friends I was going to sacrifice. And then, I got sick. I mean not so sick that I’m asking for comments of sadness or sympathy. Just a very bad cold that lasted – well, it’s still here actually. And what do we know about head and chest colds? You can’t taste anything. So, do I abandon the plan because it was always about me anyway? Or, stay the course? What do you guys think? I’ll let you know below what I did. Teaser: Kim Kardashian.

Now, the wine for the January 7th release:

orgcrimecfLast month, there was a day set aside for Cabernet Franc. It was called……..Cabernet Franc Day. Weird choice of name, huh? It didn’t exist before but it was conceived and pimped very enthusiastically by Lori at Dracaena Wines. I enjoyed a Chinon from the Loire to protect my street cred as a team player. But, if I would of had access to a solid Ontario Cab Franc, I might have popped the cork on one of them. Niagara’s climate lends itself to CF. This week, there’s the 2013 Organized Crime Cabernet Franc #472530 $18.95.  This one is a great food wine – red meat, if you’re so inclined. Loads of nice acidity and solid tannins to deal with something that has a bit of fat and char. Wood evident but not tricked up, some green notes but well integrated into the whole – good introduction to a Bordeaux grape that doesn’t get the kind love that it’s blendin’ buddies Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon get. P.S. If you visit Niagara, there’s a good tasting room experience at Organized Crime.

mount-rileyAt the aforementioned holiday festivities, we had a couple of Sauvignon Blanc lovers. Now, I’d have to say that my cellar is very undersubscribed in SB. So, I had some shopping to do. I bought a couple bottles of Cloudy Bay (knowing full well that I wasn’t popping that for company), Stoneleigh General Listing SB, and some Sancerre. I have to tell you how disappointed I was with the entry level Stoneleigh. I remember it as a serviceable wine and I love their ‘Latitude’ version. Oh well, open another………and, another……..Why this tale? Well, to tell you that you need to go ‘Latitude’ if you want the Stoneleigh and also that this week there’s a great Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that would do the trick – 2015 Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc #981670 $17.95. This is a full glass of tropical fruit and energy. As far as Kiwi SB’s goes, well balanced, not overpowering. Very nice wine at a very nice price.

umaniAt the Grandi Marchi tasting in October, we really enjoyed the Umani Ronchi table. In particular, their Verdicchio and the courtesy and educative effort of the rep. But there were a couple of reds too that were good. One was a spectacular value available at $14.95. And, what do I see in this week’s release notice? That very wine at $16.95. Hmmmm. Very curious pricing. Oh well, it’s still good value. That wine? The 2013 Umani Ronchi Jorio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo #134577 $16.95. This is an Italian country red wine and that’s not a pejorative comment. Italian country reds probably are my favourite wines. At least for the purpose of this discussion. Gutsy, food friendly, evocative of their place. This wine delivers on all that. Sangiovese-like fresh cherries, solid vein of acidity, lip smacking. Not big – simple, clean, fresh. Great, and I mean great, pizza wine.

pianWhile we’re on the subject of Italian red wines, I think that there are two Tuscan wines that provide a really wide range of quality, although they all are usually pretty pricey – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (VNdM) and Rosso di Montalcino (RdM). Some of my favourite wine memories are of these guys. But, there remain some other flashbacks that remind me that not all wines are created equal regardless of the DOC and price. So what’s a guy to do? Well, find a winery or, as in the next case, a family, that won’t damage their brand with moderately expensive crap. Such is the Antinori family. Their RdM – 2014 Antinori Pain Delle Vigne Rosso di Montalcino #467787 $31.95 delivers on the promise of any wine from Montalcino. Made exclusively from Sangiovese, this wine was tasted at the Grand Marchi as well. My notes reflect that I didn’t like the nose (I checked the “Not my Style” box) and moved on without sipping. But, that was premature. After wandering to the next table, with the sample of this wine still in my glass, I took another sniff “Hmm, better” and decided, what the hell, You’re here to drink wine – so, drink, drink. I’m glad I did. This wine brings a lot of the same geographical vibes as the MdA above but with so much more power, elegance, and complexity. I’d bet that many tasting this blind would pump their arm and shout, “I’ve got it! It’s Chianti Classico!” I scoff at keeners. Some might even try and impress with the vintage and producer. I once said at a tasting I led, that I detected barnyard which meant that the winery was south-facing. Seriously. It took a minute or two for someone to say, “Ah, you’re kidding right?” Anyway, I know this is more than a daily slosh for most. But, as it’s finish………finishes, you will be glad you picked up a bottle or two. Good replacement for some buddies you sacrificed over the holidays.

Did you read yourself down to this point or did you just scroll frantically down because of the Kim Kardashian reference? I’ve tagged her and we will see if views increase monumentally. If so, I’m changing the blog name to Duff and Kim Kardashian’s Wines. And, FYI, she doesn’t appear in the rest of the story.

Back to the holiday dilemma. I had two choices – ditch the plan and break out the plonk – nobody would know and I can’t taste anything OR keep to the plan and hope that people appreciate the deaths of so many close friends. I chose number 2. I stuck to my plan. Did I regret not truly thumbs-upexperiencing the promise of Dark and Stormies, Cremant de Bourgogne, Sancerre, Malivoire Small Lot Gamay, Russian River Chardonnay, Beamsville Bench Pinot Noir, and a gorgeous, I’m told, Umbrian Rubesco Riserva? Can’t lie. I kinda did. I’m not suggesting that I begged off and stayed dry. Hell no. I still drank the stuff. But, my tasting notes say, “Opens wet with a wet finish.” But, after everyone had left and it was just me, The Director, my son and his partner, I opened the Priorat red that I’d planned on to finish the night. This Cariñena-based wine battled through my congestion with it’s siren blaring. The heat of it’s elevated alcohol even had a clearing effect on my sinuses. It’s why I’ve been trying to beat this thing with elevated alcohol wines ever since, wink, wink. And, it was pure Priorat – concentrated, deep, dark fruits, mineral. There is a reason to keep to a plan that aims at a great wine experience. It’s not cheap but I believe that everyone appreciates the effort. And, if you’re lucky, you might find yourself enjoying the wine you’ve been waiting for all night, cold or no cold. That wine for me was a 2008 Terres de Vidalba from Poboleda.

Cheers

Bill

Let It Snow – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

8 Dec

I spent last weekend in Providence, RI. I was no sooner checked in when I scouted wine for the hotel room, my brown bag, and maybe to take home. The thing that really struck me was the pricing. In most cases, the price was dollar for dollar in line with the mother ship. That’s USD to CAD. For example a wine that costs us $29.99 CAD was priced very close to or above $29.99 USD. That was the case with all but American wines which were cheaper. Our battered Loonie is 37% below USD. So, it seems to me that RI wine is expensive. I’m told that Rhode Islanders scoot across the state line to Mass to get their stuff. So, maybe it’s just this state. But, I might pack a couple of good ones for next time down.

A couple of quick recos that hit shelves this weekend.

levequeA previous pick here in my annual rosé recommendations – the 2015 Château La Tour de L’Eveque Rosé #319392 $19.95 is a great example of Provence rosé – crisp, fresh, peachy, medium-bodied. I know it’s cold outside but there is still a place for pink in your diet. If you need a summer vibe, spread out a beach blanket beside the Christmas tree, don your Speedo, and pop a cork. I don’t need the extra push, I will drink this stuff with nibbles that get passed at holiday parties or just a bag of Miss Vickies (Plain – don’t even think of having a rosé with Sour Cream and Caramelized Onion – that would violate numerous rules of pairing wine with chips).

sedaraAt the Grandi Marchi in October, I tasted the 2014 Donnafugata Sedara #900274 $16.95 from Sicily. I didn’t purchase any that night knowing that it would arrive this weekend. This is a super value. It is just so likeable, friendly, and cheap – which sounds like that girl you dated in first year? It’s Nero d’Avola all by itself – dry, medium-bodied, loads of nice cherry fruit – great to pick up for a holiday crowd – food please.
zenato-luganaA year or so ago, a friend gave me a bottle of Lugana. He was quite excited about the wine and thought, in particular, The Director would like it. She did. But, try and find Lugana without going through an agent. One reason we don’t see a lot of Lugana is that it’s a relatively small DOC – 700 hectares – that straddles Veneto and Lombardy. Well, this week, there’s the 2015 Zenato San Benedetto Lugana #707158 $17.95. I pried one from my LCBO consultant and tasted this week. This is a medium weight, round, melony treat. I think it hits my sweet spot because of the vein of acidity on the finish – lip smacking, food-friendly. A great break from the ubiquitous and many times shitty Pinot Grigio.

allegriniJust have to say a few words about the 2013 Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre #672931 $24.95. A fellow wine blogger called this wine a “mini-Amarone”. Bang on. This uses some dried grapes for a second fermentation and it creates a deep, rich wine. I have had this wine with sharp cheeses and a real meat meal. What’s ‘real’ meat, you ask? Seriously? How about charring up something big, red and nasty – this wine will mellow out the fattiness and go well with the char. Great wine.

You’re probably looking for a wine that would be appropriate host(ess) or Christmas gift?

I tasted the 2012 Michele Chiarlo Palás Barolo #474437 $37.95 at the Grandi Marchi. Chiarlo makes some of my favourite Barolos and a Barolo priced this low requires a second (and third) swirl and sip even on a night that you’re tasting a zillion wines. 2012 produced a lot of multi-purpose Nebbiolo wines – ready now but also open to cellaring. This is such a wine. It has the power of Nebbiolo with the seductive properties of warmth and concentration while having moderate alcohol (14% ABV). This will need to breathe a bit and just has to be had with some substantial food – my notes say ‘mint’ so maybe lamb – yeah, lamb would be good.

Remember: You can check availability by simply clicking on the link (# and price) and dropping down the menu to find your location.

Over the past year, I had fallen out of the habit of itemizing my stash. My CellarTracker account had lapsed and my spreadsheet was horribly out of date. So, I turned my very low energy to reorganizing and documenting what was there. I discovered that my equilibrium was wonky. France, Italy, Spain and, to a lesser extent Canada constituted 85% of my reds. That’s a high class problem to have but it limits situational drinking. And, who wants to have that happen? What I mean is that guests might have a particular region/style/grape that excites them. And, if it’s Napa, Australia, Paso Robles, New Zealand, Oregon…….they are shit out of luck at my place aside from some fairly expensive representations from those places. What if the meal screams a particular wine – I’ve got nada. So, I’m on a mission to get things balanced out a bit which requires hitting my Euro-centric stash often and hard and then buying more from those regions with hurt feelings. So, if you have a non-Euro red that is a mainstay in your cellar and it isn’t too, too expensivee (Ask the question – “Do I find it difficult to find an occasion that is special enough to open this wine?” If so, it’s too expensive for the purpose of balance), let me know and I’ll source it and bring it home for a visit.

Cheers.

Bill

Thanks Redux – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

25 Nov

 

OK, I’m hooked on “Live at Daryl’s House”. It could be a problem. And who the hell is Diane Birch – she rocks.

Spent US Thanksgiving Day (or, as we call it ‘Yanks-giving’) at Joe Kool’s watching the Lions win and doing my part for the craft beer industry. It’s kind of like cheating – getting 2 TG’s – the second minus the turkey. Allowable substitutes – chicken wings and pizza. Advice to my friends south of the border – grab a secondary TG and celebrate with us in October – catch the Aaaaargos and Ticats going at it. Osca-wee-wee. If you don’t know, don’t ask.

This week there are some very special wines at the upper end of the spectrum – ’13 Sassicaia ($212.95), ’13 Luce ($114.95), ’12 Elderton Command Shiraz ($89.95 – I opened an ’02 this past summer and, despite the 13 years, I still had to wrestle it into the glass – it was that proud and brawny – a beaut), ’14 Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay ($111.95). Alas, my pocketbook (does anyone use a ‘pocketbook’ anymore?) was stretched getting a couple bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau this week. Yes, that was me standing on the boulevard with a sign and the squeegee.

rotllantorraBack in Realsville, there are some good value wines. Let’s start at a place that I really, really love – Priorat. Despite my love for the reds of Priorat, there are two things that get in the way of me pounding them regularly – cost and the need for them to age (requiring patience on my part. Those that know me realize that I have none). So, we are in luck when a wine from there shows up ready to drink and at a reasonable price point – 2011 Rotllan Torra #267989 $19.95. I’ve recommended the ’10 of this cuvée before with much enthusiasm. I even received feedback from the son of a friend that it was one of the better wines he’d served to friends. The review of the ’10 is here. I was lucky enough to taste this ’11 vintage just prior to penning this. It is powerful with minerality and dustiness. A bit more structured than the ’10 – a longer life maybe? A fine wine requiring some substantial food. “Brings back memories,” he says, choking back a sob.

balbasStaying in Spain, the 2005 Balbas Reserva #085183 $22.95 is back in stock. The mother ship must have bought a million cases of this. I picked up a couple of bottles not more than a month ago on discount for $18 – what up with that? This is at least the third time through as a “New Arrival”. This makes you feel so good inside – good inside (un homage to Carole King). It is full value at under $25.

bjnewBeaujolais Nouveau was released last week and I tasted a few. The one that I like the best is the 2016 Georges Deboeuf Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau #932780 $15.95. It is exactly what this stuff is supposed to be – fresh, fun, fruity. There’s a joke just hanging there but it may not be appropriate to think it, let alone type it. My first nouveau was called Screech and Porch Climber Nouveau and crafted lovingly by my father from Marechal Foch grapes and aged in the family basement for…..oh…. at least a week. Oh, it was fresh. Fresh and sulfury. My father dreaded the possibility of contamination (not wanting to kill his friends) so he infused each vintage with enough sulphur to kill bacteria residing in the neighbouring county. The good news? I haven’t had the flu in forty-five years. Plus, he made so much of it that my friends and I could quaff (read: guzzle) a few bottles without him knowing. Where was I? Oh yeah, talking about Georges DeeBee. Pick up a bottle or two of this for the holidays. It’s perfect before noon – light, fresh, moderate alcohol. The funky label tells you what kind of wine is inside the bottle.

koyleAnother red that would be a great wine to stock for the holidays is the 2013 Koyle Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon #256073 $19.95. This is light version of cab sav. Which is why I like it. Very good for standing, sipping, engaging in intellectually stimulating discussion (Trump, what else?) at a holiday dinner party. It has the typical cassis aromas and flavours so you’ll know it’s cab sav and fine on it’s own.

crabOn the white side, there’s a returnee – 2015 D’Arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier/Marsanne #662775 $17.95. This is a Rhone blend. Here’s what I’d think you ought to do. Buy this and mix it up with the usual white suspects like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay. I will bet heavily that company will notice this wine – round mouthful and then a nice crisp finish that comes as a bit of a surprise. Lovely with simple seafood. Break out of the rut.

My splurges this weekend are going to be the 2013 Montes Purple Angel a Carmenere bomb that just gets better and better with a little time down below. And, I’m getting the 2012 Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin from the Okanagan – a great example of how rockin’ they are in ‘The Other Valley’.

Cheers.

Bill

The Instituto del Vino Italiano di Qualità Grandi Marchi – Toronto, October 18th #SundaySips

13 Nov

grandi-marchi

On October 18th, I attended the Grandi Marchi at the Royal Ontario Museum. I was going to break this into two posts to avoid readers nodding off but…..

What is the Instituto del Vino Italiano di Qualita Grandi Marchi? I had the same question. From the event pamphlet: “The Instituto del Vino Italiano di Qualita Grandi Marchi is the result of determination and enthusiasm of some of Italy’s most important producers to promote premium quality Italian wines to the world……..One of the Institute’s major goals is to provide leadership and direction in the development of quality Italian wine in world markets.” It’s kind of the Italian equivalent to the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux, it seems. And I suppose that, since the mother ship is the largest purchaser of wines and spirits, an appearance in Toronto was in order.

Royal Ontario Museum

Royal Ontario Museum

Just a quick word about the venue. If you’ve been, I don’t need to say much. But, if you haven’t, think of a grand hall with marble statuary, a spectacular crystal treatment on Bloor, columns (Corinthian?), and old shit scattered about inside. Why don’t I just show you a picture of our host.

fuggy

Now, the wines. Most Italian DOC’s and DOCG’s were represented. I’m only going to talk about the highlights and/or wines generally available in wider distribution. They are in no particular order but the more cryptic my notes get, the later in the evening they probably were. Sorry, but I did swallow much of it and it’s awkward holding your glass, juggling the tasting notes book, making notes, dropping your pen, picking it up, spilling your wine, stumbling into a well dressed woman – you get the picture.

The wines:

Carpene Malvolti

carpeneCarpene Malvolti 1868 Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Brut #727438 $18.95 this is a wine that I’ve recommended before and it was a great start to the evening. Extremely dry, toasty notes. Great value and a Prosecco to celebrate not berate. Available starting February 4, 2017

Carpene Malvolti Spumante Brut Rose #474460 $19.95 Liked this wine. Quite dry as well. Hint of red fruits – strawberries. Perfect holiday season bubbly. Available starting December 10, 2016. I’m going to get a few for the holidays.

Donnafugata

sedara2014 Donnafugata Sedara #900274 $16.95 A blend with Nero d’Avola and native varieties. Very dry, as in, “Please drink me with food”. Despite the fact that I had no food, I liked this medium-bodied red. Great value, particularly on a night like this. Available starting December 10, 2016. I’ll try to remember to recommend for you before that release.

2014 Donnafugata Ben Ryé #568063 $42.00 (375 ml) This is a wine from the DOC Passito di Pantelleria. Where is that, you ask? It’s a small historically strategically important island between Sicily and Tunisia. My archaeologist son has dug there and tells me that it’s particularly beautiful. The wine is a dessert wine – nutty, dried fruits, apricots. I’m not a big dessert wine fan but this was nice – just wish I’d waited until I was actually through with the others. Only available at the event.

Gaja

2013 Gaja Barberesco #92080 $279.00 Here’s the thing: The Director was with me and she only drinks white wines due to a red wine headache issue. She sniffs the ones that I rave about and usually says, “Cannot see what you’re raving about. Smells awful.” The strategy that night when we went to a table that only had red wines was for her to ask for a sample of a red too, we’d step aside and I’d get to sample both. At Gaja, I suggested she get the Barberesco while I sampled the one below. She swirled the Barberesco, sniffed and said (I kid you not), “This smells very nice.” Ventured a sip and said, “If I didn’t get headaches, I think that I’d like to drink this.” Sure. The $279 wine, she likes! This wine was as promised. Powerful elegance if that”s possible. Perhaps the nicest wine of the night. Just wish I could pull the trigger on a wine this pricey.

2013 Gaja Ca’Marcanda Camarcanda #174342 $184.00 This is a wine from DOC Bolgheri in Tuscany. Like many people, I know Gaja as Langhe, Barolo, and Barberesco primarily. So, I was particularly interested in trying this wine and seeing if he brought the same attention to terroir to this effort. Bingo. This is a Super Tuscan – so Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other international grapes rather than Sangiovese. Cassis overflowing on the swirl but hiding a bit on the sip and swish. Very present tannins and a nice acid kick on the finish. A food wine that requires a decent time in the basement. Only available at event.

Lungarotti

lungarotti2I chatted up a guy at this table that had already tasted the Lungaotti offerings. I asked him what he thought of the four offerings. He said, “I’m going to wait until you taste, then we’ll talk.” I tasted and well we were in agreement on the best wine for us and it wasn’t what most others were expecting and assuming. A cool moment to be sympatico with another geek in front of thousands. Well, in front of The Director and this guy’s eye candy, at least.

2009 Lungarotti Rubesco Monticchio Riserva #51771 $51.00 This is a DOCG Torgiano Rosso Reserve wine and if that doesn’t get your heart racing, let me say that it is beautifully crafted. In the swish and swallow – spices, liquorice, and chocolate. Is that even possible? Man, I love this wine! And it still has loads of stuffing to get you through the next 10 years. Who am I kidding, this won’t last that long at my place. Only available at event.

1997 Lungarotti Rubesco Torgiano Riserva #473975 $51.00 As I stood at this table, people stepped up and were jonesing to try the oldest wine there – the 1997. Age is as seductive in wine as it is in male wine bloggers. The older we get, the more attractive we become. I can’t explain it – weird but true. Anyway, everyone wanted the 1997 – it had to be great, right? Many even seemed to nod and spit appreciatively. They were wrong. Oh, it is mature, spicy, but seemed to be getting to dried fruit a bit too much for me. It was very good but the 2009……… Only available at event.

Marchesi Antinori

antinoriI have several Antinori wines in my basement (Tignanello, Badia a Passignano among others). I like this family winery. But, this was a bit of a disappointment from a service perspective. The rep was buddying up with a crowd of guys off to the side (you wine geeks know what I mean – the guys that buy a shitload and know not what they buy aside from the badge). But I could be wrong. Well, that’s silly to say – I’m never wrong. Regardless, that didn’t detract from the wines.

2013 La Braccesca Vino Nobile di Montepulciano #473694 $25.00 This is another special wine I tasted. And, it’s not just because it was later in the night. I still had loads of palate agility and sensitivity left. Well, loads is overstating it a bit. This Sangiovese with a bit of Merlot had cherries – not the red sour type that seem to come with sangiovese but the black sweetish ones. Toasty notes. My notes say, “Cherries, cherries, cherries – and coffee.” This is a great value Tuscan. Only available at event.

2014 Prunotto Mompertone Monferrato Rosso #388587 $18.95 Quick review – burn some burgers or other red meats and pop a cork on this. Barbera and some other stuff. Available starting February 4, 2017.

Mastroberardino

This was the table that I was most interested in. We get a ton of wine from other Italian regions but Campania is underrepresented. I don’t get much opportunity to taste this stuff. Plus, I had a boatload of it two years ago when I was in Camopania. FYI, a ‘boatload’ is just a ‘tich’ less than a ‘shitload’. Never mind what a ‘tich’ is.

greco2014 Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo #568105 $19.95 This is a grape that even California doesn’t try to monetize. It must be difficult to manage and the payoff would require a massive marketing campaign – “greco de what?” This is a perfect summer white wine. Perfect is strong praise and this particular wine carries that label proudly. Light, yet flavourful. Crisp, yet cool and refreshing. Bring on the seafood! Love it! Available at LCBO locations now.

2009 Mastroberardino Radici Riserva Taurasi #683615 $56.00 I really like Taurasi. I’m not sure what it is that does it for me but it just seems to best represent the volcanic soils, mountains and beauty of Campania. It can be rough – Anglianico is like that, but I like it rough – wink, wink, nudge, nudge. However, this particular wine was a long, long way from ready to drink. I’m thinking 5 to 10. Liked the hint of dark fruits that it showed but wanted a little less obfuscation before it made the grade. Only available at event.

2011 Matroberardino Radici Taurasi #340562 $53.00 Now, here is the weird thing. This 2011 is good right friggin’ now while the more mature cuvée is many years off. I know the older one is a riserva but it shouldn’t make that much difference. This is an Aglianico bomb! Big, dark, earthy, anisey. Muscular, full-bodied and bringing little heat as it’s only 13.5% ABV. Now, we’re talking.  I want this wine in my cellar. Only available at event.

Tasca d’Almerita

Have I told you that a bucket list wine trip is Sicily? Well, it is. Cannot wait.

maria2014 Tasca d’Almerita Guarnaccio Perricone #473934 $21.00 This is a Sicilian beauty like Maria Grazia Cucinotta (at left). Only you get to actually keep this in your basement. That didn’t come out right but hopefully you get it. I wondered why they called it ‘Perricone’ until the penny dropped and I realized that the variety of grape is ‘Perricone”. This is full on. Loads of spunk from the alcohol (15% ABV) and dark, dark fruits. I loved this wine and felt at this price point – it’s great value. Super spicy and ready for some marinated grilled portobellos or red meat. Only available at event.

Umani Ronchi

This table was a pleasant surprise! So, what does a white wine only drinker do at these events? Particularly when the bulk of the ‘cool’ wines are red? Well, they mill around at the tables that promote white wines – like Umani Ronchi. And, The Director did just that. This table was great in all areas. The rep was educational to a deep, deep (did I say it was deep?) level and the wines were just what the doctor or Director ordered.

umani-ronchi2015 Casal di Serra Verdicchio Dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore #268169 $18.00 This wine was the hit of the night. Given that we were tasting Pio Cesare Barolos, Gaja Barberescos, Sassicaia, Chiarlo Barolos, it’s a stretch to say that an $18 wine won the night. But, I am nothing if not attentive to the needs and wants of my wife. This particular wine was floral on the nose, round enough for a Chardonnay hound and ethereally light. I gave it three check marks on my scoring scheme of check marks and ‘blahs’. Pears and citrus are my main notes on this. Lovely sipping wine for white wine aficionados. Only available at the event.

So that’s it. What did I buy, you ask? Well, I had to have me (apologies to grammar teachers everywhere) the Umani Ronchi Verdicchio, the Mastroberardino Taurasi 2011, the Perricone, the Antinori La Braccesca, and the 2009 Lungarotti. I mean they took Visa and I have 21 days to clear the account, right?

In summary, if you get a chance to partake in this event in your hamlet, don’t hesitate. There are some wines that don’t show well in this type of event, as usual, and there will be human wine nuisances at many tables. But, plow through and enjoy the wines of the best wine country in the world, IMHO.

Cheers.

Bill

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