#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.”

Cheers.

Bill

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.

Cheers.

Bill

 

 

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…
lucente

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!
cambria

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.
blaignan

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.

Cheers
Bill

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.

Cheers.

Bill

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!

Cheers.

Bill

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?”

sunset3

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.

Cheers.

Bill

*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.

Quick Picks – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

10 Jun
socks

Bill’s Cool Socks?

I’ve had very little time in the last week or so to attend to my writing. What with sorting my sock drawer, drinking wine, grooving a faulty golf swing, drinking wine, solving the puzzle that is Elbowgate, drinking wine, and watching the Trump-a-mania drama, I haven’t had a lot of time. Hell, the last one is a full-time job if CNN coverage is any indication. A train wreck really and I can’t stop rubbernecking. What about you? Seriously.

But, I wanted to provide a couple quick recommendations for the June 11 release at the mother ship:

Two medium-bodied Washington wines are solid picks:

majesticThe 2013 Diversion Majestic Red #446997 $18.95 is a red blend – can’t seem to find the varieties utilized but am assuming there’s Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon as the biggest component. Fresh, earthy, lightly oaked, and decadent. Great summer evening wine.

sevenfallsmerlot2011 Seven Falls Merlot #420711 $19.95 is medium-bodied and chocolatey goodness. I used to do this regular or semi-regular wine tasting at the place I worked for. There was a person who attended almost every one that could sense chocolate in anything from this Merlot to Champagne to balsamic vinegar. At first, I thought it was a peculiarity of her palate. But later, I realized that she was just projecting her addiction to chocolate on to the wine. “I get a lift of Lindt in the glass with solid Ghiardelli 70% cocoa on the finish.” This wine as the one above would be a nice summer evening wine.

Just a quick aside: if you have never tried wines from Washington State and I know many of you haven’t because I see a lot of nodding heads out there, it’s time. The state makes some of the most structured Syrahs, bold Cabernet Sauvignons and solid Rieslings that come from south of the border. At the LCBO, there are always lots of Charles Smith’s offerings (Velvet Devil Merlot, Smith & Smith Red, Smith & Smith Chardonnay, Kung Fu Riesling, and occasionally his ‘K’ Vintners stuff) plus the Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest stuff that I’m always hawking. Start there and see what I’m talking about.

LAURA'S2012 Creekside Laura’s Red #117960 $19.95 a blend of six varieties, I tasted this at the cellar door. Creekside has a fantastic reception facility with great nibbles. Check out my recommendations on visiting that area here. I find this wine to be joyful. I would usually save that descriptor for a lighter, perhaps bubbly wine. But, in this case, I like that it’s local (feeling a little joy there), expressive (joy is building), and so drinkable (Level 11 joy reached – time to open another?). Although you could match this to many dishes, I like it neat.

nadjaStaying in Niagara, there is a bottling which I get every year – the Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling #578625 $24.95. I haven’t tried the 2015 which is this week’s feature, but I can bet that it is dominated by a streak of acidity that’s juicy and stoney. Great citrus and foodability built in. Plus, I’ve cellared this for anywhere from 5 – 10 years with nice development.

nemesisA Shiraz used to be my ‘go to’ back when I started this journey of wine exploration. It was reasonably priced, interesting and always available. Lately (as in the past 5 years), I haven’t been partaking in the Aussie take on that grape much. Not sure why – just don’t seem as interested as before. This week, though, there’s a Shiraz that I love. I think the fact that it’s more subtle, interesting than some of the other efforts. The 2013 Zonte’s Footstep Baron von Nemesis Shiraz #212936 $17.95 is a dry, spicy, powerful Shiraz perfectly suited to lamb, burgers, something burnt with a bit of fat. Swirl and sniff this beauty. Go ahead, I’ll wait – sniffing noises off stage – there you go – complexity even for a nose as large and unsophisticated as mine. I’m not fond of big with no point. This has a purpose – it’s your pleasure. I reviewed another Zonte’s Footstep offering here and the 2012 Nemesis here. A consistently excellent label.

delhommeauWhat would a summer late-afternoon-evening-sit-outside-with-friends-and-nibbles be without a Muscadet? OK, it would still be fine – even without all the hyphens and Muscadet. But it would be best with a bottle of über chilled 2013 Michel Delhommeau Cuvée Harmonie Sur Lie Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine #164624 $16.95. This isn’t quite as crisp as most Muscadets. It has a bit of roundness, ripeness to it. Sur Lie means the lees are not filtered out adding depth. This one demonstrates that. If you’re a score chaser, this didn’t score 90 (88) but it’s 3 and 1/2 fishes on the duffswinesscale®. For the uninitiated that’s pretty fine.

cotodeimazI’ve been drinking the 2010 Coto de Imaz Reserva #23762 $22.95 by the case the past………..well, would you believe month? OK, past weekor so…………..and not quite a case but still too much. This was the first Rioja I ever bought by the case. I like it in most years and love it in the rest. If you were to roll up all your great Rioja wine experiences and then sip this, you’d say, “Yeah – that be it.”. Pure old school Rioja. Sandalwood, cherries and beautiful tannins. If you can find some after I’m done – stock up. Thinking rockinredblog here but play Jimi Hendrix All Along The Watchtower while you drink this. Perfect pairing.

And, if I’m honest (and, “I’m nothing if not honest,” he smirked) I’ve been supplementing my Rioja fixation with a little (read: a lot) of the rosé. Particularly the 2015 Carte Noir Côtes de Provence #319384 $17.95. This is crisp, sunny, and has an almost salty character to it. I read somewhere (or I’m making it up) that wine appreciation follows a definite curve as people become more aware and grow older – from bubbly to sweet rosé to sweetish white to dry white to dry red to Champagne and then to rosé. Due to my lack of funds, I skipped the Champagne part but am all-in 0n the last one.

And, since no one not called ‘Bot’ could score any Hip tickets, here’s a treat. Listen to the love. Hard to imagine any other group getting this kind of reaction from a staid Toronto crowd. I can’t imagine what the farewell tour will be like. Tickets on resale at $1000 and up – crazy.

Cheers

Bill

May 2-4 – The Red Daily Slosh

24 May

As I wrapped up this post this morning, we got the news that Gord Downie was ill. Quite a shock. Bumped into a friend at the grocery store and that’s the first thing we talked about. So, I tried to find the perfect Hip video for the moment. To celebrate! I decided on a song that seems to speak to his character and values. Plus, he’s so young here. And besides, the video for “In a World Possessed By The Human Mind” was a little slow getting going. It’s available here if you want. Either way, take some time this weekend to listen to some Hip and think of Gord. And, when they tour your town, make it out! This, sadly, is a true farewell tour.

My sunset on Friday night

My sunset on Friday night

So on to the truly trivial, I’m back from the cottage and we are opened up for the season ahead. For those not from the Great White North, this past weekend was May 2-4 or, for the monarchist set, Victoria Day: our May Memorial Day. Well, we don’t memorialize anything other than drunken revelry (hence, the 2-4) and mosquitos. Where our cottage is located, there is the addition of black flies. So, drunken revelry, mosquitoes and black flies. If you have never experienced black flies, I can easily explain them. Think of a swarm of pestilence of biblical proportions. Yup, that be them. They are the most persistent, bothersome, pesky little biters in the insect world. Regardless, I got some stuff done. Docks? Sort of – after determining the location of the nesting snapping turtles. Sometime, I will regale you with tales of snapping turtles, dead beavers – no shit, Bucky The Beaver, and really scary friends. But, Bill, what did you drink? WIYG?

I enjoyed rosé – Carte Noire – a great, crisp, light but not too light wine from Provence. And, I had a Rioja that was, well, disappointing. I recommended this very wine just a few weeks ago. I’m hoping that this 2011 Muga Reserva was an aberration – cooked, maybe. It was flat – unexciting and I love this wine usually. Oh well – Raptors were winning on the radio (no television allowed) and I didn’t really care about the wine. Go Raps!

The coming weekend brings some great opportunity to stock up for the summer. Remember that season? It’s warm, if lucky you’re on vacation, and, in my case, I get to spend time with friends, family and Bucky at my favourite place, Kahshe Lake.

benmarcoPicture this, you’re sitting around after a heavy day at work in the garden. You love Malbec. I have the tonic to what ails you – 2013 Benmarco Malbec #657601 $17.95. This will become your ‘go to’ Malbec – made from 100% Malbec. It is accessible, drinkable as in “where did that bottle go – open another” drinkable, and a great value. Much more balanced, refined than most of the General Listing Malbecs. Benmarco also makes a high level offering – Expresivo. If you see it grab it. The 2013 Expresivo has 30% Cab Franc – it’s a beaut – shows what can be done with Malbec that’s grown at altitude – refined. The bonus to Benmarco – or should I say the guarantee is that the winemaker is Susana Balbo. Caselot!

We were at a wedding last month and a couple there were leaving the next day for Italy. A pilgrimage of sorts to Ancona where a father had fought in a tank battle in WW II. But, they also were traveling around Rome, to Ancona (in the Marche Region) and then up to Bologna. They asked for any unique wine aldianorecommendations in the regions that they might run in to. I suggested Lambrusco di Sorbara, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Pecorino whites and, of course reds from Abruzzo. They were all too familiar with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo as we get a ton at the mothership. This week, there’s a regular in my cellar – 2011 Aldiano Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Reserve #051706 $19.95. This is a perfect pairing with Spaghetti Bolognese. Ripe fruit, juicy acidity with a background of nastiness. Now, nastiness, for me, is the best part of these country wines. In this case, ‘nastiness’ is leather, brush, and brown. You might think brown is a colour not a flavour or aroma. In Duffs World, you’d be wrong, dude. If you sip this, you’ll see what I mean. It isn’t red, black, purple but brown in smell and taste. Tell me if you’ve experienced this.

Just re-read the above. “Brown” – um, that might not be an inducement to try this wine. When I think of brown liquid, I say, “Eeew.” What I meant to say, sans visualization, is that the wine has a sense about it close to leather, wood, and other brownish things. Just evokes ‘brown’ to me.

Oh, BTW, if you can find the 2012 Tre Saggi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo #204016 $15.95 still around your local, pick it up. Great value and good enough to serve at my son’s wedding celebration.

Local mid-priced reds include:
2012 Megalomaniac Bigmouth Merlot #067645 $24.95 – as the name suggests it’s big. Cherries and vanilla – good underlying muscle and support for the fruit.
2011 Tawse Grower’s Blend Pinot Noir #130989 $24.95 – this is a great entry into Tawse style and approach to this grape. Straight forward, purposeful, extremely refreshing Pinot. A guaranteed perfect host/hostess gift.

allegrinipdtAnd, I’ve saved the best for last. The 2012 Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre #672931 $24.95 is a petit Amarone in my mind. I realize that if your sweet spot is $15 – $20 then you’ll have to ignore the cold sweats at the checkout and plunk down the $25 for this big, expressive, chewy wine. It has the telltale dried fruits of the ripasso technique but I’ve never felt that they were heavy handed here. Turns out that the wine is only half-assed ripasso. They ferment half the grapes fresh and then have another fermentation with grapes that have dried for a few months. The result is close to perfect for my tastes. Aged cheese, please.

And, let me know your favourite Tragically Hip song in the comment section below. Still can’t believe it. He’s only 52.

Cheers

Bill

Remember; Click on the linked SKU and price and it will take you to the mothership’s inventory site. Drop down the menu and scroll to your location and it will tell you how many bottles there are around. Beats driving all over town looking for the last remaining bottles. Now, who the hell would do that? Seriously.

Celebrity Rant and The Rainbow Daily Slosh

13 May
uscover

Who the hell are these people?

I was sitting in the optometrist’s office this week and picked up a copy of US magazine. I don’t know if US magazine is legit or if like People is a bit of a National Enquirer under the guise of legitimacy. But, I scanned a copy and sat waiting, waiting (after all it is a waiting room). I got through two US magazines actually. The thing is I didn’t know very many of the people profiled – and there were thousands, it seemed. If truth be told, I didn’t know 10% of them. I didn’t have a clue at all. Before you say anything critical of my clue worthiness, hear me out. Were they television stars? Singers? Exploited reality television stars? Taxidermists? No clue. And their trials tribulations and designer wear wasn’t that interesting to me.

There was a time not so long ago (check that: it was a really long time ago) when I knew every person that was culturally significant. That’s an exaggeration but it’s my blog. I read Tom Wolfe, John Updike, Margaret Atwood, and Alice Munro; watched every episode of The Wire; studied Victor Frankl; knew who Jeff Beck, Yo Yo Ma, and Ginger Baker were; loved Julie Christie and Jessica Lang. And then later, because I had hip kids and nieces, I adjusted, I got to know Eminem, Paloma Faith, Lady Gaga, and Zoe Saldana (she is smoking’ hot!!). These people all did something besides just be. They are famous because they do something that people appreciate. They work in the public sphere. And, work at a level that is significant, noteworthy whether, like in the case of Eminem, you appreciate the craft or not.

kjennerBut now, even though I watch a bit of the tele, read a bunch, and I really do pay frigging attention, I don’t know the difference between one Jenner and the other (are there only two?). Hell, I didn’t know there were Jenners at all until the optometrist and they were on several pages. That’s Kylie on the left BTW – sexualized from birth. I checked out of the ubiquitous Kardashians – wait, I never checked in. I don’t know one from the other there either and can’t for the life of me understand why anyone gives a shit about them. How can anyone sell a magazine that gives so little information on so irrelevant a population? The cover above highlights a Bachelorette, or is it Bachelor, for Christ’s sake. How can that get anyone to think, “Hey, I’ve got to know about this before I read stuff that actually impacts my life…….like Duffs Wines. I better buy a copy”? If you are raging against my tone deafness to ‘today’s’ important people or you agree with me, let me know. But, before you do, ask yourself, “Why do more Canadians know all the judges on Dancing With The Stars but not who their Minister of Justice is?” Sad. Or, more relevant, why don’t more Canadians know the difference between Blancs de Blancs and Blancs de Noir? Seriously.

On to wine recos.

terra nobleWandering back home from a dinner with my niece a few months ago and stopped into The Church Key, a Richmond Row staple and a great place to eat or just sip and chat with the patrons. I ordered one of my favourite wines by the glass – 2012 Terra Noble Gran Reserve Carmenère #957050 $19.95. This is one of the better Carmenere out there that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. It’s smoky, full-bodied, and dark. Interesting. Great intro to Carmenere. So, if you haven’t tried this grape, pick up a bottle or two of this. Or if you are one of the Carmenere hounds of Providence, a case.

carte noirLast week, I did a post on rosés. You can read it here. I wanted to talk about the 2015 Carte Noire Rosé #319384 $17.95  but it wasn’t out yet. Now, it is. I’ve loved this pink for years. My write-up went something like this, “I believe that Brigitte Bardot lived in Saint-Tropez when she was, well, really hot. Maybe as un hommage to Brigitte, you could chill a bottle of this and serve with roast endangered species, carpaccio di baby seal?” Ok, the was a bit uninformative. This wine is due Provence. Crisp, cool matched perfectly to sliced avocados with olive oil, tomatoes, and sunshine. I have a couple of bottles of this already for the cottage dock at 4:30.

zontesA few months ago, a friend heavily recommended an Australian red due to the fact that they enjoyed the wine over Christmas. The wine? Not sure but it was a Zonte’s Footsteps effort. I’ve recommended their stuff before here. But I hadn’t had the particular cuvée but found a representative select this week – 2013 Zonte’s Footsteps Lake Doctor Shiraz #072975 $17.95. The thing is these guys, despite the fact that they access grapes from different terrors, have a particular house style that is restrained. I had their Avalon Tree #353193 $17.95 just the other night (Confession: drinking it as i typed this) and it had the same thing going on – focus on fruit, subtle, but purposeful. Just plain good. This Lake Doctor is spicy – Shiraz spicy a bit hot but all expressive, fresh Shiraz.

chardWe go through a yuuuuuge bunch of Chardonnay each year at this house. The Director prefers the grape, well-done and oaked just a little bit. That means that there aren’t too many available that we haven’t had.This week, there’s a Chilean effort. Question: Do you say Chlill-ay-an or Chill-ee-an? This week – 2013 Concha y Toro Serie Riberas Gran Reserve Chardonnay #287995 $16.95. This is a perfect summer Chard – fresh, vein of acid, and tropical.

One thing that we all probably do is wash, rinse, repeat. In wine, that means, we pop, drink and repeat with the same wines all the time. “There’s nothing wrong with that”, he says, as he proceeds to discuss what is wrong with that. It’s just that we enjoy different cuisines and foods. Who wants chicken every night? So, I’m going to break out of the norm with this week’s offerings. Let’s start with a Basilicata. I’ve checked and this is the very first time in seven years that I’ve recommended a wine from there. Where is ‘there’? Well, where Puglia is the heel of the boot of Italy, Basilicata is the arch and toe (minus Sicily).

sacraviteWe stopped in to Basilicata when we ventured to Matera several years ago. Matera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s eerie, haunting, unbelievable, yet fantastic (picture below). Caves and a history of poverty and another way of life that’s inconceivable. You can read the wiki piece on Matera here. This week, there’s the 2013 d’Angelo Sacravite #440834 $15.95. This is made from Anglianico yet is soft and accessible. I say ‘yet’ because Anglianico can be a bit edgy and dense. This isn’t either. A perfect, yet, atypical introduction to the reds of Basilicata. Have with BBQ.

Some more wines to try that are out of the ordinary?

2014 Barone Montalto Viognier #435479 $15.95 – Floral, yet clean, crisp sipping white. I dare you. A Viognier form Sicily. Chill it, sip it, repeat.

2013 Ilocki Podium Traminac #435412 $14.95 – Traminac is Gewürztraminer in these parts. A Croatian wine with history and richness.

IMG_1688

Matera

Have a great weekend.

Cheers.

Bill

 

Essentials Recommendations

10 May

A couple posts ago, I used a video of The Blind Boys of Alabama with Susan Tedeschi singing People Get Ready. I got a few responses saying that they had never heard Susan before. So, I’ve added another of her tracks above – a great John Prine song – great flute solo. Susan’s an accomplished blues guitarist and singer. Her main squeeze is Derek Trucks. How much great music must come from that house? Listen to it as you scroll.

On to the wine. Last week, I was asked by a golf buddy what would be a good red wine to take to a friend’s house for dinner. After I asked the requisite question about what the food was going to be (“Who knows?”), I kind of stalled. Oh, I finally gave a couple suggestions but I felt inadequate. Aren’t I supposed to know these kind of things off the top of my head? I think the issue for me was availability. What wines would be in stock and, ergo, a good recommendation?

The mothership has a cadre (over 100) of higher quality wines and spirits that are usually available in larger stores and they’re called the Essentials Collection. They range from Cristal Brut Champagne ($297) and Tignanello ($103) to Cathedral Cellar Cab Sav ($16) and Anselmi San Vicenzo ($17). It’s a broad spectrum but you should be able to find something that fits the occasion and your budget.

Budget Reds

Monte Antico #69377 $15.95 This is a food wine and it’s Italian. Meaning serve it with pizza, pasta with a tomato sauce, etc. Maybe even a mushroom dish. It has that bite that I love.

LAN Crianza #166538 $15.95 A $16 Rioja Crianza that carries the day. Perfect everyday medium-bodied red. I’m having ribs tonight and might pair them with this unless I get paralyzed down in the basement (so many choices) and end up bringing up something else. If you can find the Viña Real Crianza @ $18.95 – grab a couple bottles as it is very nice as well.

kaikenKaiken Malbec #58339 $14.95 This is a good value Malbec for those that love that grape. I know there are cheaper ones out there but step away from the Fuzion and make a very little step up price-wise to this much better version.

Mid-Range Reds

Muga Reserva #177345 $23.95 If there is even a hint that your guests or you, for that matter, like Iberian wine, this is the the ‘go to’ choice from Essentials. Consistent and typical Rioja cedary goodness. Food or just plain sipping.

Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon #193573 $22.95 If it’s VQA you’re looking for, this is a great example of Niagara Bordeaux red. A hint of green pepper but not distracting from the dark fruit. Good steak wine. It’s tasty.

tenutacastigligoniMarchesi de’ Frescobaldi Tenuta di Castiglioni #145920 $21.95 I have recommended this wine so many times that I can type the name without checking the spelling. Pure Tuscan goodness. Spicy and fabulous with a simple lamb dish.

Honourable Mention

Wynn’s Coonawarra Black Label Cab Sav, Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir, Espãrao Reserva, E. Guigal Côtes du Rhone, Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon

Budget Whites

Anselmi San Vicenzo #948158 $16.95 If you like the vibe of whites from north-eastern Italy (Soave), grab this one. A perfect paring would be sun and friends.

Willm Reserve Riesling #11452 $15.95 An extra dry Riesling from Alsace. Stony, citrus. Great food wine.

Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés #1834 $13.95 I couldn’t forget Susana. This is her entry-level Torrontés. I think it’s the perfect grape for sipping.

Mid-Range Whites

cloudy bayCloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc #304469 $32.95 The SB that started the whole Kiwi love-in. Powerful, clean, gooseberry. Perfect with grilled seafood. It can handle spicier, heavier fare – maybe even blackened grilled fish.

Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay #545004 $21.95  BC wines are available in short supply here. So grab a bottle of this judiciously oaked Chard. Perfect with chicken, salmon or for just you and your imaginary friend (never drink alone).

Henri Bourgeois Les Baronnes Sancerre #542548 $25.95 This would be a nice counterpoint to the Cloudy Bay above. Both SB’s but totally different styles. This one is restrained, minerally, and better with cleaner foods – like scallops or salads. Friends that winter in Florida start their evening imbibing with a white, frequently a Sancerre. Good sipping.

Honourable mention

Mer Soleil Chardonnay, Tawse Quarry Road Riesling, Malivoire Chardonnay, Astrolabe Province Sauvignon Blanc

Rosé

Malivoire Lady Bug #559088 $15.95 Have recommended this almost every year. I’m typed out on it.

So, if you need a wine that’s not from the General Listing aisles – something with a little cache, wander to the Vintages section, search these out and please let me know what you think. After all, I am all alone and appreciate contact with the outside world. Well I’m alone except for my imaginary friend, that is. Clink, clink.

Cheers.

Bill

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