Tasting Room Talk – The Red Daily Slosh

13 Oct

The Third Debate?

In the event that a tape, which may or may not be out there, becomes public, I’d like to make the following statement.

Let me say that I’m not proud of what’s on the tape. It happened when I was much younger and represents tasting room talk. Tasting room talk that’s all. I apologize to anyone that I’ve offended and my intention is not to objectify wine. I have wine bottles in my basement, my friends have wine bottles, my wife has wine bottles, some of my best friends are wine bottles and I wouldn’t want anyone to talk or think about them in that way. I’m truly sorry.

It just keeps getting better and better doesn’t it?

seghesioThis weekend the LCBO is releasing some heavy hitters from Piedmont and some California stalwarts. Have only had one of the lot – the 2014 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel #942151 $29.95. This is one of my favourite Zins and this vintage doesn’t disappoint. Spicy, rich, anise goodness. And, although it’s a typical Zin with higher alcohol levels (14.8% ABV), it doesn’t carry any heat. Beautiful Zin.

baldiosAlways some Iberian wine to talk about. Popped the cork on a bottle of the 2009 Baldios Crianza #366393 $19.95. Still holding strong. Despite being only a Crianza, this is full value. Age has imparted richness, knitted it together to bring you a balanced palate – smoky, cherries, and vanilla. Love it!

Staying in Spain, the 2013 Torres Altos Ibericos Crianza #381046 $16.95 is a nice sip. Not as round or full as the one above, it’s great sipping wine with snacks. It too is smoky and brimming with Tempranillo fruit. This is what I’d call straight up Rioja – no mystery. It just delivers.

leponnantWhen I’m not loitering in Spain, I like to drink wines from the Southern Rhone and Provence. They reflect their neighbourhood better than most. And, I love the hood. The 2014 Le Ferme du Mont Le Ponnant Cotes-du-Rhone-Villages #171371 $19.95 is one of the better CdR-Villages that I’ve ever had. If you like your CdR’s big, brawny and brimming with dark berries, this is for you. This is very full-bodied and fruity – some scrubby/herby elements. Great effort and good value.

gravityTaking my seasonal journey to the Niagara Peninsula in the next few weeks and, as always, I will drop in to Flat Rock Cellars to see what’s up. Their 2013 Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir #001560 $30.25 is arriving this weekend. Flat Rock, Tawse, Westcott, Queylus and many others down there, make exquisite Pinot. This one is special in it’s consistency year after year. Floral up front, red fruits on the gurgle and earth on the finish. Just a lovely, lovely wine. Wish that I’d had some for the turkey last weekend. Perfect match.

aspresQuick shout out. This month’s Wine Enthusiast featured the 2014 Gerard Betrand Grand Terroir Les Aspres GSM. Gave it a score of 91 “Dense, generous ………and robustly fruited”. I recommended the 2013 and it is still available – so that’s 2013 Gerard Bertrand Grand Terroir Les Aspres #413245 $18.95. My review here.

I’m off to the Grand Marchi at the Royal Ontario Museum next Tuesday. Sipping and regrettably spitting some of the better Italian wines from many of the boot’s best producers (Antinori, Gaja, Mastroberardino, Chiarlo, Donnafugata, San Guido, Alois Lageder………), chat up the winemakers. Can’t wait. I’ll report on the experience in the future.

Royal Ontario Museum

Royal Ontario Museum



Schmeet Spot Rant – The Red Daily Slosh

29 Sep

A little Cape Breton music. Travel there and you might get to sit in on a ceilidh.

I just came back from Cape Breton Island and, if you haven’t heard, there was a cheeky campaign to lure Americans there should Donald Trump win. Check it all out here. Absolutely beautiful place. But, then again, I was there in September not February. Best people ever.

I’m told by many that my recommendations are a bit higher cost-wise than their particular ‘sweet spot’. I agree that the prices on duffswines have crept up over the years. But, a financial sweet spot? You should adjust. For example, think back to the first car you bought that had power windows or air conditioning. OK, I know that I’m old and dating myself but I do remember crank windows and family trips in cars that you would now be charged for leaving your dog in. So, we all get used to air conditioning in our car. You might have had a sweet spot for car beaterprices but you’ve adjusted to incorporate the cost of options and must-haves such as A/C. Car buyers understand that you usually expect to get what you pay for. No one would say to you, “I think my $4,000 favourite used car is as perfectly nice, dependable, and comfortable a car as you can get. And, I wouldn’t know the difference between driving it and your Lexus.” But wine drinkers are always doing that. I hear that people think that their $4 home made wine is just as good as, say, the wines that I’m recommending below. Well, I can’t argue with what is clearly wrong. “It isn’t as good to anyone but you,” I feel like screaming. “And, BTW, you’re wrong! You can tell the difference!” I could go on but I’m suggesting that you think of the wine first and the price second – that’s all. Well not quite. Think of the wine first and the price second and also keep an open mind to the experience – that’s all. Well, one more thing, actually. Do those two things and then send me an email about how right I am. That I’ve opened your mind to the $25 and up wines. Yes, I’m being a wine snob. Or, maybe I’m just trying to justify the prices of my recommendations this week. I’m OK with that too.

The mother ship is pimping Tuscan and Rioja wines this weekend. In the case of the Tuscan stuff, that means you might end up spending a lot of money and having to explain the credit card balance to your significant other by suggesting that you were buying for her, ergo, she shouldn’t check the cellar or risk ruining the surprise. Who would use such a transparent tactic?

crognoloFirst a Tuscan wine that represents a bit more than a Daily Slosh – 2013 Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo #727636 $29.95, This is perhaps the best priced Super Tuscan ever. And, you pronounce that EH-fer. A blend of Sangiovese and Merlot. Drinking right now with well integrated tannins, still fresh and lip smacking. Wood there but barely noticeable. In perfect balance. I think that you could cellar this for a few years more. I’d love this with a tomato sauce pasta – maybe some cheesy, tomatoey veggie lasagne. If you’re into scores – James Suckling gives this a 95! My Good Shit meter gives it a ‘Really, Really’.

castello-di-amaThe 2010 Castello di Ama San Lorenzo Gran Selezione Chianti Classico was Wine Spectator’s #6 wine of 2014 or ’15. I jumped at the chance to buy a few when the LCBO had it at somewhere around $30. Now, they have the 2011. If you check the assessment of the 2010 vintage versus the 2011, you might think that there’s a fall off (96 to 93). But, seriously, does your palate know the difference when they are both great? Mine doesn’t. I mean I can tell the difference between vintages when they’re uncharacteristically wet, cold or just plain shitty. But, when they’re generally excellent, a point one way or the other is a waste of consideration IMHO. This week, the 2011 Castello di Ama San Lorenzo Gran Selezione Chianti Classico #418897 $48.95 is in store. I know, I know. It’s s stretch to spend $50 on my recommendation. But, have I ever steered you wrong? Wait. Have I ever steered you wrong with the exception of the case of Chateau Corké that you bought? Let this sit for a couple years and then see what your sweet spot financial limit has to do with great wine.

dramatis-personaeOK, we’ll bring it down, as Tina Turner once said. I stumbled on a ‘sale’ wine at the Wonderland North store – shout out to Ken B. – the other day. Could it be? What the hell. I bought a couple. The 2010 Dramatis Personae #450650 $15.20 ($18.95 regular price) smells and tastes a lot like a Rioja. Sandalwood, cedar scents and solid red fruit, leathery stuff on the medium finish. I sniffed it and had to check the label to make sure I was smelling something from Argentina and not made with Tempranillo. It’s a Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda blend. Remarkably light in the mouth but still carrying loads of personality and power. I think it’s probably a year away from being spent but I think that I might drink a case of everyday wine between now and October 2017. Just sayin’ I’m a hard worker.

tre-saggiI love a wine with a name that I can fool around with. And, I’ve fooled with this wine in other vintages a few times. The 2013 Talamonti Tre Saggi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo #204016 $15.95 is a repeat offender here. It is tres droopy, oui? This is great for sipping outside during the last weeks of al fresco weather. Doesn’t need food but, if you wish, something fingery would be great – mildly spicy peel and eat shrimp, decent mid-tang cheeses, and/or bread and oil. This has the effects of oak – toast, roundness, vanilla. It’s not what I would call ‘typical’ MdA in that it’s a bit less rustic than I’m used to. I love rustic but I really like this too.

chocolate-factoryAnd, just because I need to feed my habit, I’m going to pick up a few of the 2014 Zonte’s Footsteps Chocolate Factory Shiraz #396481 $17.95. If you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll remember that I’ve recommended several of the offerings from Zonte’s Footsteps. In the other cuvees, their style is more on the lighter, fresher and less on the heavy, chewy. So is this.

And, just to review – chuck the ‘sweet financial spot’ approach and buy in to the ‘good wine first’ approach to selecting your slosh.



The Way It Is – The Red Daily Slosh

15 Sep

Love this song. Years ago, I tried unsuccessfully to get tickets locally to Bruce and Bonnie Raitt. Two people that I really want to see before my hearing goes.

As always upon returning from a week at the cottage, I pledge to drink less wine. “I will drink less wine! I……….umm…well….will drink a little less wine. Here’s hoping’ that I drink a little less wine.” Shit, who am I kidding? It’s just so damn good. Have to say that I like the buzz too. I’m not lyin’.

ardalSo, what to stockpile for the upcoming fall season. Nothing says ‘Fall’ like Iberian wine. So, I’m rushing back to the mother ship to pick up a mess of the 2006 Ardal Reserva #167700 $21.95. This was a host gift from friends visiting (thanks Rod and Nancy) and we quaffed it far too fast. It just said, “You want me, don’t you? Go ahead take me. Take me now! My generously full body is all yours.” Ok, I’m living alone during the week so I’m a bit distracted. But this wine is that kinda seductive. This is Tempranillo with 20% Cab Sav. The 20% provides a backbone that’s missing in a lot of Ribera del Duero reds of this age. If you’re an anti-woodite, steer clear. This has a bunch of sandalwood/cedar both on the nose and in your mouth, some vanilla with good grip on the finish. It has lots left – 5 years at least. A 10 year-old RdD of this stature is worth a lot more than the price tag. We had it with gourmet hamburgers (brie and blue cheese topping). Perfect.

mouraAnother host gift was the 2013 Aguia Moura em Vinhas Velhas Reserva #354738 $16.95. This is a Duoro red. Discovering red cherries and coffee at the finish. Full bodied with very present tannins throughout and a clear bite of acidity. Made from Touriga Franca and Tinto Roriz predominantly and aged 12 months in French oak. Great food wine and a value for sure. Not that many left locally but, if practice is any indication, keep an eye out for this same wine in a future release. If I see it, I’ll let you know.

gamayStarting to line up a few trips down to Niagara for the fall. One of my faves is Malivoire. Maybe it’s because I’m familiar with their stuff or maybe just because it’s a fun spot and their juice is good. They make a couple Gamays – a Small Lot one and their regular Gamay. This week, the regular Gamay – 2014 Malivoire Gamay #591313 $17.95 is available. This qualifies as ‘fun’ wine. That doesn’t mean inconsequential or non-memorable. But, just not serious as in, “Man, that’s a serious wine.” It’s Gamay as in “refreshing, mid-weight, medium-bodied, yummy.” Did I say it was fun? Juicy, lip smacking (is that just juicy a different way?). This is a late summer wine with something lightly charred – like lamb kabobs. Or, ignoring my pledge above, just by itself while watching those frustrating Blue Jays. Despite the fact that baseball is my favourite sport to watch, I’m pining for the NBA to startup. Go Raps! Come to think of it, this wine would go well with a Raps victory over the Cavs. But then again, it won’t cellar forever.

keinteStaying in Ontario, the 2013 Keinte-he Voyageur Pinot Noir #373407 $19.00 is a serious – notice a theme here? – wine. I’d say it’s a few years away from releasing some of the red fruit and easing up on the obfuscating acid and tannin. A very French or maybe Oregon-style Pinot. What I find interesting is that this wine is from Niagara grapes. You’re more likely to find this take from PEC, where this winery is located, than Niagara. If you prefer Rodney Strong’s entry level or Meomi-style Pinots, forget about this. This is power without the round and cloy (yes, a value statement). When we were there last year, I was taken with the winery. They focused on a few varieties and didn’t stray from a house style that, frankly, isn’t mainstream, Maybe that’s a function of lower inventory. They don’t have to please everyone. They had a splendid Gamay as well that’s available in a few stores. Slightly chill that one.

maneroYou’ll see below a pricier Tuscan blend but I’m not sure that you’ll find one much better under $30 than the 2013 Tenute del Cerro Manero #461855 $17.95. I almost always recommend Brancaia Tre as a perfect example of what Tuscan winemakers can do with a little freedom and imagination. But, I might have to change that to this cuvee. This is too tasty. Too tasty. And that’s two tasty’s? Softer than the Tre and much meatier, herby. It has a French nose – lavender and garrigue. Goes down smoothly with cherries on the finish. I love it and was hoping to see it again. If I don’t blow my budget on some other wines that I have my eye on, I’m going all in on this. You can never have too much gulpable Toscana.

Splurge a bit:

modus2012 Ruffino Modus #912956 $29.95 – This is smooth as………well, something that is really, really smooth – I don’t have the proper simile handy. A très tasty Tuscan blend in the spirit of much higher priced wines. Great right this minute. Impress a friend with this Super, Super Tuscan. Red fruits with a hint of the cassis of the Cab Sav in the blend. Perfect balance, medium finish. Elegant stuff. You will wish that you had a second bottle. In my case, a third bottle. Because I have to say that my pledge is failing.

Blind pick ups:

2013 Falesco Tellus Cabernet Sauvignon #454504 $15.95 – Hard to believe the price on this wine. In other vintages, it was a solid near flawless wine. No reason to suspect that this vintage is any different. Plus, it’s from Umbria. Go ahead and ask me why that’s significant.



Late But Timely? – The Red Daily Slosh

5 Sep

Just a little soul with one of the greatest of all time, Smokey Robinson. Shout out to Sara H.

I’ve been distracted and busy the past couple weeks. So, not very timely with these recommendations for the September 3rd release as it’s already the 5th. Rather than entertain you with a tale or two, let’s jump right to it.

montgoIf it’s Iberian value you love. And who doesn’t? You might want to buy a case of the 2012 Montgó Monastrell #452136 $13.95. Yes, that’s less than $14! Monastrell is Spanish for Mourvedre. So, if you love wines from Bandol or just Cotes du Rhone style GSM wines, this will meet your palate. It’s dry, spicy and full of fruit in the mouth more than swirling in your glass. BBQ wine for those last hot summer days.

gebratMy friend, Andrew, asked me if I’d tried 2014 Clos Gebrat CG+ #360511 $19.95 from my favourite wine region – Priorat. I hadn’t. So, I ran out yesterday and gulped down a bottle last night. Oh, I swirled it in the glass, made notes on the colour, sniffed, inhaled, and then……. I gulped it down. This wine is made by the co-op in Gratallops. When we were in Gratallops visiting Sao del Coster and Devinnsi wineries, we learned that the co-op had the community crusher. They piled it into the back of their truck and drove to the doorway of the local garage wineries to rent out the machine. Just parked it in the street. We visited wineries in Gratallops that probably couldn’t even accommodate the size of the crusher in their space. This wine is typical Priorat – big, high in alcohol (15% ABV), and dark Garnacha present and accounted for. Cariñena lurking in the background. Thanks, Andrew.

graetzTuscan sun? This week there’s a cheap NV Tuscan wine – Bibi Graetz Casamatta Rosso #330712 $15.95 that is a light, balanced red that you can serve as a sipper (at least, I drink it alone – that’s the wine by itself and me by myself – sadly alone. But, I don’t have a drinking problem unless you count the empties). But you can serve with something light Italian – margarita pizza?  Great value. The label, as are all Graetz’, is very cool.

I had a discussion with someone the other night about Pinot Noir. They preferred California Pinot over Burgundy. I think there are a lot of people out there that would agree. I’m thinking it might have to do with Burgundy’s need to age a bit before you scarf it down. Or, the California fruit over the lean earthiness of most Burgundy. Whereas many California Pinot is made to drink younger. Somewhere in between, in my experience, is New Zealand. Particularly Central Otago – lean, powerful, but still a bit of sexiness and accessible fruit. This week, there are two Kiwi Pinots that I purchase in most vintages:

rua2015 Avarua Rua Pinot Noir #295592 $27.95 is one of the Central Otago Pinots that I think is proper to very good value at this price. It is typical as described above but also has some herbal stuff. I’ve had this vintage and it’s a beaut but could use some more time to develop or a bit of a breather. Nothing better than to know that there is a good Pinot Noir nestled down below and waiting for a good screw……Corkscrew, that is.

2013 Auntsfield Single Vineyard Pinot Noir #361246 $31.95 is from the North island. This is more typical of Pinot with cherries, some earthiness, and a nice lip smacking finish. I have not had this vintage so can’t recommend the proper time to swill. Highly recommended just the same.

Untasted but of interest:

2010 Viña Real Reserva #094896 $21.95 I think I’ve had this vintage but can’t find any record of it. This is typically a very good example of a Rioja Reserva at this price point. Cellaring capacity but good now too. And, you will really impress your guests with a bottle or two of this and some meaty lamb or pork.

2013 Borgo Scopeto Borgonero #421396 $19.95 Had this in the 2009 and 2010 vintage then we lost contact. I blame myself really as I misplaced her email, FaceBook, Twitter, Snapchat, ……..addresses. But, now we stumble into each other. In those earlier vintages this was a big Toscana, full bodied with great bones. As I re-read my notes, I’m thinking that I quaffed those earlier vintages way too soon. So, let’s see if I can control my urges and leave one or two of these down below for a few years. But, I will have to drink one this week.

That’s it. Sorry for the delay. Have a great week – we are heading to the lake for some work, sun, food, and drink.




#WBC16 – Serious Business? #SundaySips

21 Aug

The 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference (#WBC16) was held last week. It’s a big deal where wine bloggers get to meet their virtual wine buddies in the flesh, drink wine together and talk wine and the art of the blog. This year it was held in Lodi. So, tastings, tours, etc. were of that region. Did I mention you drink wine together?

This shouldn’t be construed as indicating that wine bloggers have their shit together. Bloggers are a bit troubled and conflicted.

Let me explain. Most people practicing the genre (always wanted to use that word), started by enjoying wine, being interested in learning more about wine, educating themselves and/or taking some formal structured learning, perhaps getting into the trade, and then being encouraged by delusional loved ones and friends (in my case, imaginary) to write a blog.

UmBut, here’s the challenge that we face. Wine bloggers are needy. We mistakenly think that we want to be taken seriously. We really do want a lot of ‘follows’, daily stats, even if we deny it. We might write for ourselves (so, we say) but it’s nice to know that we’re not whistling in the wilderness, isn’t it? Did anyone out there follow my suggestion to buy some 2010 Chateau Obscure? Damn, didn’t think so. We want our opinion heard and weighed. And, yes, followed – at least once in awhile. But, there’s the rub. We want all that but we don’t want to be viewed as ‘them’. You know who I’m talking about.

I took an informal poll and discovered that there are 1 billion wine drinkers on the planet (survey results have a 95% confidence level plus or minus half a billion people). And wine isn’t any more important to most of them than having an aquarium, sorting their sock drawer, and/or Bob Ross’ Still Life with Apple.. Oh, we wine geeks would like to think that most people, if given the chance to experience a vintage DRC or Ch. Haut-Brion, would come over to the dark side and ‘get into wine big time’. They’d be like, “Yes, I love, love, luuuuuve, the finish on that d’Yquem.” They’d argue the benefits of Stelvin closures. I am not shitting you – there is a debate about closures. They’d be more like us. Validate our obsession. But, aah, I’m thinking that they really wouldn’t. They really, really don’t care that much.

So, that leaves bloggers talking to bloggers, casual wine drinkers who, remember, don’t really care, and friends who are too rude to unsubscribe.

awesomBut, how does that compare to serious wine scribes? You know the names: Parker, Molesworth? Well, most bloggers truly don’t care about having that kind of Klout score. And yet, we’d like just a little more than we currently have. What blogger wouldn’t like his/her name on a shelf talker. “Duffs Wines Recommended.” I used to think that I’d love to see that. Even better, a case of wine that I recommended in a friend’s cellar. Bloggers want people to value their experiences and opinions. Who wouldn’t?

But wait a minute my blogger friends. If we did – have that much power, that is. We would be forced to do the unthinkable. Get deadly serious about wine. I mean Sauternes versus Barsac serious. Be held accountable (I’m too old to be held accountable, BTW). We would be more obnoxious than we already are. We would spit more before noon than we drink before noon now. Speaking personally here, that’s a lot of spitting. We would be subjected to full eight hour days of tasting hundreds of wines – enjoying none of them. Plus, think about having to come up with new esoteric aroma and flavour descriptors. How else to explain Maduro tobacco and fig paste?

I’m not sure I could handle it. So, although saying this is totally unnecessary, “You don’t have to take me seriously”. I know that with a few exceptions………actually, without exception, I don’t take the bloggers I follow very seriously either. I just simply really enjoy them, thanks.

That brings us back to WBC 16. I wish I could have been there. I’d love to spend time with some of my social media and wine writing peeps. I’d like to be surprised by who they really are. I might surprise some of them with my substandard singing voice and misplaced sense of self-importance (hence, this self-indulgent ramble). And we would never be serious. Well, with the exception of the closure debate. Wouldn’t that be great?

Like a Leafs’ fan, I will just say, “Maybe next year.”



Hip’s Last Stand – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

18 Aug

A great version of this song. This Saturday marks the final concert of the Tragically Hip. It’s being streamed live from their home of Kingston, Ontario on CBC television, cbc.ca, CBC Music, and CBC Radio 1 & 2. I think locally they are playing it on a big screen in Victoria Park. Worth a watch with, I’m sure, hipa wet eye. And what better wine to get a bit blurry on than 2013 The Tragically Hip Fully Completely Grand Reserve Red #411595 $24.95 . This wine is made by Stoney Ridge Winery near Jordan with the help of the Hip. I’m getting a few just for keepers for down below. They may become those wines that you keep too long because you can’t bring yourself to open them. You never want to say good bye. Not really wanting to say goodbye to The Hip either.

asoresI know nothing about rugby other than the Super Seven rugby at the Olympics was fast and a little scary, actually. Those guys from Fiji are massive and wicked fast! One of France’s rugby heroes is Gérard Betrand. I understand that rugby is yuuuuge in France and this guy was one of its national stars. Now, he owns a substantial winery in Languedoc. I’m always recommending his stuff. I feel so safe in picking up a bottle of his juice – never had a bad one. His 2013 Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Aspres Grenache/Mourvédre/Syrah #413245 $18.95 is still available in most locations. It’s surprisingly light in mouthfeel. This makes it a perfect red for the summer with apps or lightish BBQ – chicken, fish. Look for his Corbieres and his rosé which hit Vintages shelves Saturday. If I remember, I’ll talk about them next time.

ghmOpened a bottle of the 2008 Hacienda Molleda GHM Garnacha #442756 $19.25 the other night and had to send out emails to friends telling them to run out and get a couple bottles. This is a red from Cariñena in Spain – an under appreciated and underrepresented wine region on these shores. You’d think with a hot climate, this wine would be over ripe and bearing some heat from the alcohol (14.5% ABV). But, nope. It’s smooth, cool, and has a great sandalwood finish that I love. If you dig Iberian reds, this is a must try. Plus, take a good look at the label. The words Garnacha in the form of a cross emblem, an arrow on the neck of the bottle, silver lettering, three simple letters representing the Latin phrase grapus holium magi. Cryptic? I believe that I could craft a novel based on a religious puzzle on a bottle of wine that leads through a complex web of intrigue featuring ancient winemakers, a little known monastic order of killer priests, a cathedral connected to ancient texts, and a simple wine blogger turned unwilling hero. Yeah, I think that might work. But who will play me? Stay tuned.

oatleyI don’t recommend a lot of Aussie wine. I think because I don’t drink as much as I used to. And, I think that I’ve lost touch with who the players are, what the flavour profile trends are, etc. and just pick up other stuff. But, when I see Robert Oatley’s name on a label, I instinctively grab it. In particular, their Signature Series is consistently great value. The 2014 Robert Oatley Signature Series Shiraz #460907 $19.95 is no exception. Although I like my Shiraz (see Zonte’s Footsteps) a little more reserved than most, this Barossa take is fine with me. The reason? It’s got loads that front the weight. It isn’t just big for big’s sake. Dark stuff, including a meaty thing, very balanced, herbal and lip smacking finish. Beautiful. The Signature Series Chardonnay is special as well.

Here we go again. I’m pimping Tawse. The 2014 Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling #089029 $18.20 is a mid-weight off-dry Riesling that has enough acid to get you to forget any lingering sweetness. It’s citrus, mouth-watering and perfect for swilling on a hot late summer night under the Perseid meteor shower or, in the case of city folk, under the ubiquitous halogen glow of streetlights. Tasty.

zuccardiZuccardi makes the scorned, yet, hugely successful Fuzion. They also make other labels which make you forget Fuzion – good stuff. The Serie A is one of those. This 2014 Zuccardi Serie A Chardonnay/Viognier #262097 $16.95 is fresh with tropical fruit all the way through to a puckery finish. Not ‘bad’ puckery – as in, “Man, that pure lemon juice is puckery!” but ‘good’ puckery, as in ………..well, I don’t have a good puckery quote but maybe you get the idea. Oak if you really look for it.





Back Home and Unsettled

3 Aug

Love, love, love this song. It sums up my return home from the lake – needing a rest. Saw a great documentary called Spirit Unforgettable (on HBO Canada) about John Mann, the head writer, guitarist, and singer for Spirit of The West, and his early onset Alzheimers diagnosis – in his early 50’s for God’s sake. If you can stream it, watch – it’s gut wrenching and inspiring.

I’m back from the lake. It’s challenging to be cut off from everything except Toronto sports radio (making Leafs shit up to talk about) and my small screen iPhone. No internet, unless I drive half an hour to the local library – which I did but once in three weeks. Oh, I would wander to the woefully inadequate ‘general’ store for a copy of the Toronto Star once in awhile (New York Times crossword and Sudoku needs). And you won’t believe this – I didn’t hear the word ‘Trump’ once – which is, after returning home, impossible to conceive, yeah?

I was completely out of touch on world affairs. While up at the lake, my youngest informed me by email that there was a coup going on in Turkey and that he was, in fact, there in Istanbul right then. A coup? How’d I miss that?He’d be fine – now home safe and sound in Providence. But, the important thing?

How much wine did I have left? Could I make it to the end without a time sucking trip to the Gravenhurst mother ship. I didn’t. And, that wasn’t because I drank too much. Rather I hadn’t planned to drink that much, you see. It was the planning that was wrong. It’s always the planning.

Let me review a small sample of the beverages we had while away:

2015 Hecht & Bannier Bandol Rosé #450767 $24.95 Yeah, it is more expensive than many great rosés that I’ve recommended this year. But, you see it’s Bandol and that means structure and bang. This was chilled to perfection and served pre-dinner with junk food (children were involved – hence the junk – the little buggers loved the wine too). These guys (H&B) make loads of labels from the south of France and I’ve never been disappointed. This is primarily Mourvedre with some Grenache and Cinsault thrown in to perhaps soften the profile. Lip-smacking good.

2006 Marcarini Barolo Brunate (no record of cost but it is a true splurge) All the Piedmonte purists will he shouting at the screen now. Yes, I know it was a bit young to open. But, it was my birthday and I threw caution to the wind. And that didn’t mean that it didn’t eventually open up beautifully. Intense in the extreme with herbal and earthy sniffs, spicy tobacco in the mouth and some vanilla from the barrel, I assume, on the finish. A real privilege to drink this wine. This is why I love Barolo. Can’t afford a lot of it but…

2013 La Vite Lucente #747030 $34.95 Talking to a friend the other day and he said that he could sniff out Merlot from a mile away and he never truly appreciated it. I suggested that he try some Right Bank Bordeaux before he kicks poor old Merlot to the curb. And, this Italian Merlot blend might change his mind too. This is a joint enterprise of Mondavi and Frescobaldi located in Montalcino. This wine defines the term ‘smooth’. I mean if you look up the word ‘smooth’ in the dictionary, there’s a picture of this label. Seriously good Tuscan juice. Good news? I have more down below. Yahoo!

2012 Cambria Estate Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir #980482 $29.95 If you visit here often, you’d notice that there isn’t a whole lot about California Pinot Noir. I’ve been disappointed so many times that I don’t trust myself – “Do some f**ing research, Bill! Try some better CPN’s FCOL!” I know that would help me pick the winners. So, why this wine? ‘Cause, I get it all the time and really,really appreciate it. Sour cherry but like you’d taste in a pie – softened a bit but still the bite, the acid. Earthy but not dirty. Spicy but not hot. Almost a sin to have by itself but thats just what I did. No regrets. And, if there are any California PN freaks out there, give me a few suggestions. I just love research.
sancerre2014 Henri Bourgeois Les Baronnes Sancerre #542548 $25.95 Love this wine! Perfect for pre-dinner which in this case was BBQ’d fish with mango salsa. Not appreciated by all, I’m afraid. Not the wine but the fish. This is the counterpoint to SB from NZ, like Kim Crawford or Stoneleigh’s stuff. Subtle with great acidity. Gooseberry. Lovely wine and usually available at the mother ship.

2012 Seven Falls Wahluke Slope Chardonnay #385773 $19.95 A well balanced, light Chardonnay. Great sipper. Beginning to think that Washington State does all varieties very well.

2010 Château Blaignan #416727 $25.95 It’s damn hard to find a solid Bordeaux under $30 or, to be truly honest, $50. This is a great Bordeaux for sipping or for a meal of something a little less fatty and sturdy than steak. Tannins integrated and supportive rather than front and centre. Fruit a little muted but lots going on to create enough stuff to enjoy fully.

lugnyCaves de Lugny Brut Rosé Cremant de Bourgogne #297846 $19.95 What’s a summer day without bubbly. We had a few Proseccos and Cavas too but this rosé was the beast that we kept coming back to. What an ethereal, tasty treat. Look at that colour. If you are tired of the same old cheap Proseccos and Cavas step up a notch to this classically made wine. Huge value!


pommiesPommies Dry Cider #244897 $12.95 (4 pack) I have a cider freak in my family. When we travelled England, he tried every local cider while I stayed with the lovely ales and porters. I never really liked cider. But, I was at my local – The Morrissey House last month and they had the Pommies Dry Cider on tap. Gave it a try and now I’m a convert. This is made in Caledon from Ontario heritage apples, whatever the hell that means. Regardless of the provenance, it’s damn tasty. Perfect for an early afternoon, pre-nap, sip. or, you could end the evening with it. Dry as a popcorn fart.


That’s enough for now. Suffice it to say, we had a few more good bottles than that. Well, a way lot more.

This week at the mother ship there’s a few to pick up. I’ve wasted enough of your time already so I’ll just list them here instead of providing a description.
2010 Cims del Monsanto Garnatxa/Carinyena #311894 $15.95 Visited this winery when I was in Priorat. You can read about my visit here Monsanto provides a glimpse into the style and power of Priorate reds.
2009 Hacienda López de Haro Reserva #357335 $17.95 – a Reserva for $17.95!
2013 Fattoria le Pupille Morellino di Scansano #455659 $16.95 – maybe I’m just a Morellino slut (maybe?). I like this stuff always – Italian to the core
2011 Villa Mora Montefalco Rosso Riserva #357079 $19.95 – an Umbrian classic like Monica Bellucci (who just happens to have been born in Città di Castello in Umbria)
2013 Brancaia Tre #164715 $23.95 if I’m repeating myself on this one, forgive me. I know that I’ve fussed over this before but it’s a beaut and worth every penny.

One more Spirit song before we go. ““Cause beauty’s religion and it’s christened me with wonder.” Love that line.


A Report From The Field

13 Jul

I’m filing this from the field and a week late. Excuse? At work on the many things that require fixing, building, and ignoring. Read: sitting, reading, swimming, boating, sleeping. So, I apologize for spelling errors, lack of label shots and links to inventory (kind of).

I do have time for a few recommendations. The July 9th release has some great summer wines to try.

coppiThe 2010 Coppi Peucetico Primitivo #724674 $14.95 is good value. It is made from the Primitivo grape which is genetically the same as Zinfandel but grows in Puglia. This approach to the grape is a little less jammy and high alcohol than Zin typically is. Gentler but carries the richness of Zin. It would be great with something tomatoey and gooey, sausagy like a hot Italian sausage pizza.

bilaAlways a redo on these pages is the M. Chapoutier les Vignes de Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussillon-Villages #168716 $14.95. This year it’s the 2014. Shit, two $15 wines in a row. It looks like I’m trying to appease the masses. And, we elites know better than to consider the opinions of the masses. It’s why ‘Leave’ will never win the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump will never win the GOP nomination. Elegant snort, “We know best.” Regardless, this label is exceptional value if you like Grenache, Syrah, Carignan blends – and I really. really do. This smells and tastes like you are drinking it overlooking a vineyard in Languedoc or Roussillon, say. Herby, lavender, spicy. Hitting well above it’s weight in class. Great every day wine for those that enjoy Grenache-based wines.

susanaI’d go on and on about Susana Balbo but you must get it by now – the 2013 Susana Balbo Signature Malbec #079798 $19.95 is elegant, smoky goodness. If you don’t believe me, search my web site for Balbo recommendations – probably the most recommended label on the site. Aaah, that would still be me though, wouldn’t it? So, why not just believe me. If you are a Malbec lover, it’s a must. Buy with confidence.

viognierA great white for the summer is the 2014 Gerard Bertrand Reserve Speciale Viognier #147975 $14.95 (another $15 wine?). Incredible aroma fills this glass and although that can be attributed to Viognier, I think this exceeds the Viognier-norm. Viognier is one of the more expressive whites, I think. The warm weather in the Languedoc allows this grape to ripen and although extra dry, it doesn’t come off as crisp – more round, ripe. Great food wine or by itself.

Most years at the lake, I try and pick a signature cocktail. Maybe it’s a Kahshe Cosmo, a Torontonian, a Muskoka Manhattan (if you have a Manhattan before 4, that’s a Muskoka Manhattan). This year, I’m going to perfect the Hugo. My niece in Germany gave us some pre-mixed Hugos for Christmas one year and I have tried to make this Euro-centric drink a few times before. This year, I’m all in. The Hugo is a blend of muddled mint, St-Germain liqueur (or non-alcoholic elderflower syrup), and Prosecco served over ice. This better be great because the St-Germain is expensive and tastes pretty “I’m not likely to serve this on it’s own.” So I need a cheap Prosecco. The NV Torresella Prosecco #400440 $14.95 is a bargain and tasty. Not as dry as some but loads of flavour unlike some of those same Proseccos. It will go great in the Hugo. I’ll let you know what the magic mix is. I love the experiment – just keep the boat tied to the dock after my second one because I don’t want to go water skiing or jumping off Mt. Mary as that always ends badly.

A wine I’ve liked in past vintages:
2014 Alkoomi Shiraz #138560 $16.95 – This label has been good to me before. It’s from Western Australia (Franklin River) which my experience has been primarily Cab Sav and Chardonnay. Less full-bodied than Barossa Shiraz. Leaner in past years – more subtle. I’ve always liked it. Will get this vintage too. Good cottage/beach/patio/BBQ wine.

Splurges if you are bringing me a host gift?
2013 Tenuta Sette Ponti Crogiolo #727636 $29.95 – I’ve had this one in other vintages. It’s a Super Tuscan – able to leap tall bottles in a single bound. This means that it doesn’t conform to ‘rules’ of Tuscan DOC’s. I’ve always appreciated the fruit forward nature of this wine. Tannins are integrated not grating and the finish was always interesting. I’m picking up a couple. One for now; another for much later. If you love the shelf talkers, this one will say 95!

2010 La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino #642561 $63.95 – 2010 Brunello is something else – unique for Brunello. It can be consumed short or early and can also sit awhile in the basement. I kind of got off drinking Brunellos as I found myself with only a few down below left to quaff. So, I’ve ante’d up with the 2010 vintage. This is one that I’ll get to supplement my addiction to this DOCG. I love Brunellos! Remember. I told you the story of the stinky Brunello that everybody at a tasting hated and then everyone later loved? Of course you do – shit, everyone remembers my stories. That was a La Gerla Brunello. I’m hoping for the same experience minus the hating. Into scores? This wine scored 95!

Bonus Recommendation:
miravalIf celebrity magazine purchases and Entertainment Tonight-type shows are any indication, we are clearly suckers for celebs. I even bought a Nespresso just because of George. He is gorgeous and uber cool. I’m sure that he likes me now – ‘cause I’m kind of like him. Well, as far as the Nespresso goes. So, why would that be any different with wine. Celebrity wine is a ‘thing’. Whether it’s Greg Norman Wines, Drew Barrymore, Kate Hudson or, in this country, Wayne Gretzky Estates we truly are susceptible to the call of the celebrity. And what better celebrities to hang with than Brad and Angelina? They are the epitome of cool and they even have a moniker that works – Brangelina. Brad and Angie have a nifty estate in Provence and they make wine there – 2015 Miravel Rose #342584 $22.95 – I’ve had in other vintages and it’s been full value. Made by Famille Perrin of Beaucastel fame. And, the bottle is beautiful but unlike Angie is quite plump. I worry about her. I just read in Them magazine that she is wasting away and adopting 6 more kids. I’d like to be adopted by her, if you know what I mean.



White Man Privilege Rant – The Red and White Daily Slosh

24 Jun

Love, love, love this song. And, it is so relevant today. You’d think it was written yesterday.

I don’t usually express a non-wine opinion on these pages. Whaaat? Duff always expresses non-wine opinions on these pages. Which means that I have mission permission (as the Organizational Development guy in me would say). That said, may I take a wee bit ‘o’ your time?

I’m heading to a fundraiser for Women’s Community House tonight (tickets still available 519-672-8800). It gave me pause to reflect on the issue of woman abuse and it never ceases to shock me. We have been dealing with this issue head-on seemingly forever yet we still need easily accessible services and supports for women and their children who are subjected to this violence. Everything has changed. Nothing has changed. Women still are likely to experience abuse – sexual, emotional……………at a shameful rate. It saddens me. Make me wanna holler.

But luckily, it’s not happening to me. You see, I don’t have to worry about being raped if I had a drink or two at a bar, I’m walking home late at night, I’m asleep in my dorm room, or just ’cause. I was never sexually harassed in the workplace despite my snappy business casual look. My spouse isn’t the most likely person to assault me. Come to think of it…… I will never be carded as part of ‘good’ policing. I won’t be routinely stopped on the basis of my skin colour as I drive to work. I won’t be led to a more intensive Canada or US Customs inspection line for people who simply look like me. My parents and/or grandparents weren’t scooped off to a residential school. I won’t be assaulted, targeted in a terrorist attack, refused service, or excluded from sharing my life with the person I love based on my sexual orientation or gender identity. And, I get to drink wine as a frigging hobby and write about it! Conclusion?    BILL      IS      AWESOME!

So, what did I do to ‘earn’ this life? I mean there must be something that I accomplished that set me apart for special status. Honest answer: I am an older (don’t you dare say ‘old’) heterosexual white male born into an Anglo-Saxon family in a western democracy that just so happens to be the best country in the world IMHO. That means that I, personally, did nothing, squat, zero, nada. I didn’t earn it; I was given it as my birthright. And believe me, I am thankful for my good fortune. But also it’s horribly, horribly wrong. It needs changing on so many levels. It should be everyone’s birthright. Hopefully we are heading in the right direction. But tonight sadly shows me that it’s taking way too long.

Done. Thanks for staying with me. I apologize for the smugness and self-indulgence – wasn’t my intention. It’s just that I am unfortunately a very smug and self-indulgent older white guy. And that’s my friends saying that.

Wine, yes, wine. It is a wine blog after all. Some quick recos.

bacoHave you ever had Baco Noir? Get your binder out and check your tasting notes. Well, Niagara makes good Baco Noir. It ranges from Gamay-styled wannabes to rich, creamy chocolatey age-worthy reds.  The best of the second style that I’ve found is that made by the Speck Brothers of Henry of Pelham. This release (June 25th), there’s a great example in the 2013 Henry of Pelham Reserve Baco Noir #461699 $24.95. This is dark in the glass and in the mouth. Burn barrel and black fruits. But, the main event is really the texture. Soft, full-bodied, moderate alcohol (13.5%) without any heat. Suffice to say, that this is a pleasure to drink on it’s own or with something fresh and soft – perhaps something cheesy. Henry of Pelham does an “Old Vines” Baco (circa $20) and a regular Baco ($15) as well that are usually in the General Listing aisles. Maybe Baco will become you new fave.

medoroSpeaking of smooth, the 2012 Villa Medoro Rosso del Duca Montepulciano d’Abruzzo #357160 $21.95 has a similar vibe but with a nice vein of acidity on the finish and much more complexity. Rich is the first thing to come to mind once it hits your mouth. You might think, “It’s an MdA and $22? I usually can pick those up for $14.” Well, get over that. Seriously. If it doesn’t work out, send me the rest of your bottle(s) and I will give you credit toward a DuffsWines T-Shirt. The Henry of Pelham is an exceptional food wine due to the structure and texture. Great hostess gift if it’s a BBQ (ribs, burgers, grilled portobellos). It’s a night wine, if that makes sense and make sure it isn’t room temperature if your room is 80 degrees plus. In that case pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes. In fact, when it’s unbearably hot, do that with most if not all reds. I have recommended this label in several vintages and look forward to many more.

hogueIn my earliest email broadcasts pre-website, I used to talk about ‘Value Labels”. Labels and therefore wineries that people could usually count on for strong QPR (Quality to Price Ratio). It was designed to present recognizable options you could trust without too much blabbing about the wine. And, when I did, I frequently mentioned Hogue from Washington State. Seldom had a poor one. This week, there’s the 2013 Hogue Chardonnay #402172 $15.95 hitting the shelves. This is exactly what we need by the case this summer. Well-priced, judiciously oaked and balanced without being flabby. Perfect summer sipper for the Chardonnay lover at your place. Look for other Hogue products at the mother ship – Hogue Genesis Cabernet Sauvignon $18.95, Genesis Meritage $18.95.

vouvrayMy niece has relocated to London and she and her husband came over the other night and made me curry. Fabulous family recipe curry. But, what to have with a dish with so much going on? I chilled up one of my Mosels but couldn’t bring myself to pop the cork as I think it’s still developing. So, I went with a Vouvray. No well-thought out pairing paradigm used to connect this sightly off-dry wine with curry but it seemed to make sense. The Vouvray that I bought was 2014 Donatien Bauhaus Les Grands Mortiers Vouvray #140889 $17.95. This wine turned out to be perfect. The curry demanded a bit of sweetness but not too much. The wine was expressive with peaches and enough acid to not get run over by the curry. If you are curious, Vouvray is from the Loire and is made from Chenin Blanc. In my experience Vouvray doesn’t present like the Chenins from South Africa – not as straight forward, not as fruity but maybe that’s just my prejudice showing. I like them a bit off-dry unless it’s bubbly Vouvray where brut is usually the style. About this particular wine, I’m not sure there’s a lot available still. There is another label that seems in higher volumes – 2014 Charles Bove Vouvray #448563 $17.95 – with exceptional reviews, so pick one up and you will shout “Hurray For Vouvray!” A great wine that’s usually overshadowed by Sancerre.

carteressesHey, just as I was finalizing editing this post (Thursday evening), I opened a chilled bottle of 2015 Domaine de Carteresses Tavel #739474 $18.95. I get it. I have a problem with rosés. And that kind of works against my pledge of cutting back on the wine mid-week – tomorrow, I’ll cut back – promise. Wait, it’s Friday tomorrow. Anyway, I’ve raved about this wine before but this vintage seems a bit better then previous. Not quite as crisp as the Côtes de Provence that you may have had. This Tavel really provides a hint at what people are talking about when they say that Tavel is the red wine drinker’s pink. No time to write notes. Suffice to say that it’s fuller-bodied than most rosés – rounder, deeper, almost red winish.  Absolutely love this stuff!



It’s Time to Pack – The Rosé Daily Slosh

21 Jun

Nostalgia. Saw jacksoul opening for James Brown years ago having never heard them before. Haydain Neale was mesmerizing. His was a loss to Cool.

I love this time of year! No, seriously, I love it. “Why do you love it, Bill?”


Best sunsets ever

Glad that you asked. I love the anticipation of heading to the cottage – the start of summer. We were at the lake for a few days in May but not since. You see it’s a 3.5 hour drive each way and requires packing, unpacking, finding stuff that people have moved  (AARGH!), making beds, etc. So, an overnight isn’t in the cards. Plus, this year, I haven’t been up to do my usual “annual project”. Not sure why. I know “the annual” is the stairs down to the water but I haven’t grown any ambition over the past two months to get up there, work a bit, drink beer and wine with the guys helping. Suffice to say that I will waste a bit of my summer working. But, working in Muskoka on the lake is a high class problem, right?

And, I will need some wine to support the intellectual and physical labour. So, here goes:

Let’s just head to the main event – rosé. I realize that some of these are repeats from my annual Rosés for The Dock post but they are included in this weekend’s (June 25) release so I thought it bears repeating. Odd that “New Arrivals” at the mother ship are, in fact, “Old Friends” that never left. I will post on reds and whites later in the week.

I was in NYC last month and we hit a rooftop bar in the Meatpacking District populated by millennials with money. It was scary. The cliché is mullenials still on their parents cellphone plan. But these looked pretty independent. Great looking men and women. angelLoads of financial wherewithal clearly evident. The friend that had got us in to the place was considering a glass of wine and I suggested that, if she liked rosé, she would love the 2015 Caves d’Esclans Whispering Angel #325076 $26.95. She did. This is one of the better if not the best Provence rosés at this price point (or perhaps at any price point) in most years. This vintage doesn’t disappoint. It’s citrus, crispy goodness. If you’ve been playing along at home, you know that my ‘go to’ rosé is most likely a Tavel. But, I love Provence pinks – particularly to have with something light or just on their own. I realize that there are many pinks at a little less of a tariff. But, splurge and quietly enjoy this by the lake with friends (imaginary and otherwise). Interesting that the imaginary ones always seem to enjoy the wine and it takes a little longer to get through the bottle.

chateaulatourStaying with Provence wine, the 2015 Château La Tour de l’Évêque #319392 $19.95 is a repeat offender here. I wrote of it in a past post here. Yes, I absolutely love it!

Tawse makes great stuff and their swing at rosé is no exception. The”Sketches” portfolio is an entry level wine but the only rosé that Tawse makes, I believe. Their 2015 Tawse Sketches of Niagara Rosé #172643 $16.95  is full value. Definitely dry but maybe a teeny bit sweeter profile. My earlier review is here.

triompheStaying close to home, the 2015 Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc Rosé #279117 $19.95 is a dry, citrusy, cherries and smack kind of wine. It’s organic too. A solid pick. Read my review of Southbrook Estates here. Great peeps doing good work. I like Cabernet Franc from Niagara and maybe that’s why a rosé made from it is appealing to me. Not surprising that rosé carries the fingerprint of the grape(s) from which it is made. In this case, herbal and quite aromatic. And, it looks delicious too. And, you know darling that it is more important to Louk Mahvelous than to Feel Mahvelous.

sorbaraI know that this is a rosé post supposedly, but there’s a wine that I’m going to try that you might find interesting – 2014 Cantina di Carpi e Sorbara Omaggio a Gino Friedman Lambrusco di Sorbara #419101 $15.95 is a sparkling red made from the Lambrusco grape. Now, before you concur up memories of Castelvetro or Baby Duck, this isn’t sweet or heavy handed. The Lambrusco di Sorbaras that I’ve had before were ‘pretty tasty’* and went well with charcuterie. Give it a try and let me know.



*The DuffWines rating scale and DuffsWines tasting terms are copyrighted. Accordingly, the use of the term “pretty tasty” without prior expressed written permission from Duffswines Inc. LLP. Corp. is strictly prohibited.

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