Archive | October, 2013

Memories of Le Piat d’Or

31 Oct

memoriesI was zoning out the other day. It’s kind of what I do most days – don’t tell Arlene. Can’t really remember what it was that was catching my fancy but all of a sudden a name came back to me – Kressman Selection. Now, as many a scribe has said – wine is liquid memories. God, I like that. And Kressman is a big bunch of liquid memories. Then I started to remember all those brands, long forgotten, that always seemed to be there at memorable moments in my life. See if you too remember any of these:

Colli Albani

Colli Romani

Le Partager

My favourite – Le Piat d’Or

A Canadian staple – Maria Christina (came in a box which made the party that much more fun). Actually they were all super-sized and had another thing in common – they were cheap and were from somewhere other than here – very sophisticated. They started me on my way to wino-hood. Thanks for that.

And, if we set the way back machine a little further back (hell, I must have been underage then, right?):

Blue Nun

Black Tower

Cold Duck

Castelvicho (sic)

Oh yeah, my home made elderberry wine – brand name – Screech and Porch Climber

These liquid beauts are full of memories in name only let alone if I sniffed, swirled, slurped and swallowed them again. But, I think I’ll pass. I’ll let others grab those memories.

I’ve got lots of less distant memories too that have wine right smack dab in the middle of those moments.

So the question is, “What wines are going to be my memory wines from current times?” The great thing is that I don’t know until it happens. But, if I had to guess; it probably will start with my next one and be much more about family, friends, music, food – than the wine itself. Long live Kressman Selection! Bring on the weekend and make some winey moments of your own!

BTW, what are your memory wines?

Withers, But Not the Horsey Kind – The White Daily Slosh

28 Oct

fieldingThe Lodge at Fielding Estates Winery

As I mentioned in Value Bordeaux and Passo Appassimento, this week’s release has a bucket full of value Bordeaux from the great 2010 vintage. So, why this statement in a White Daily Slosh post? Well, I was re-reading a great article by Eric Asimov of the New York Times – The Paler Side of Bordeaux (March 2006) – in which he extols the virtues of white Bordeaux and laments its relegation to second tier status behind, particularly, white Burgundy. So, a release with value Bordeaux should include white Bordeaux, right? Well. There is one Sauternes. But, nothing else. In a modest, and most certainly doomed, effort to re-invigorate this formerly prestigious and still yummy white, I’ll try and mention them when I see them.

fieldingrieslingLast summer on a stumble through Niagara, I stopped in to Fielding Estates Winery for my first time. The winery property is quite striking – they call the building The Lodge. It’s pretty cool (picture above). This week, their 2012 Fielding Estate Riesling #251439 $18.95 hits the shelves. Off-dry but with enough acidity to quell your fears, “I don’t like sweet wines, Bill.” Settle down – this will surprise you. The residual sugar gives the wine a little weight but the acidity washes through what you’d call ‘sweetness’. It’s citrusy on the nose with the benefit of added tree fruits (still trying to come up with a descriptor for apricots, peaches, pears, etc.) once it’s in your mouth. Good autumn wine. I agree with many that say Niagara does this style of Riesling really well. I had recommended the Rosewood Sussreserve Riesling a while back. It’s different than this one but in a similar vein weight-wise. Good stuff! I’m saving some of these great Niagara Rieslings for when my niece gets home from Germany with her beau. They will have a good perspective on the grape and we can enjoy together.

witherhillsAlways with the NZ Sauvignon Blanc? Yes, because I always hear from you that you like it a lot (thousands of letters, comments, small but expensive presents, shout outs). This week, I’m stretching my WDS definition by a couple bucks. The 2012 Wither Hills Rarangi Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc #288134 $21.95. NZ SB can be a bit ‘too much’ and sometimes a bit ‘too much’ is just what you want. Not this time of year though. You want something with a little more subtlety. Well, this does sneak up on you. Not so much on the nose but full of citrus, gooseberries, and vegetal things in the mouth – great focus. This will compliment foods that have some presence and I’d say spice. Nothing hot but savory. Plus this winery’s regular Sauvignon Blanc should still be around and it is worthy of a look see and slurp – a bit more intense and urgent but a beaut – 2012 Wither Hills Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc #919514 $17.95. Wither Hills Pinot Noir is usually a pretty good pick as well. Wither does thou goest, you will enjoy their vino. And, if it’s New Zealand wines that you crave, check out What’s In The Glass Tonight – a blog that’s all about New Zealand wines to discover and learn about.

Italian Wines Newly Discovered

23 Oct

photoI promised that I’d tell you about some of the wines that I quaffed while in Italy. If I’d been a true and dedicated blogger with my readership front of mind, I’d have posted regularly with interesting anecdotes of our trip. “As we approached Guagnano from the north, the facade of the imposing cathedral cast a long protective shadow across the surrounding countryside like a grey polar fleece blanket on an autumn morn. I shifted into third gear and took a long drag on my dwindling Guitane. I shifted into third gear and tried to get my bearings. I wondered what the vineyards of Taurino Cosimo would have in store for a weary traveler and his sleeping wife.” But, “Bill, we don’t really care” right? Although I sniffed, quaffed, tasted, drank, swallowed many wines, there are but a small proportion mentioned in this post. Some of the left out wines were very local and never to be seen on these shores. The ones I’m reporting on are from producers with connections in North America or, in the case of the Morellino, a type of wine that I haven’t really mentioned much in my posts but bears looking out for at your local store.

2011 Mantelassi Morellino di Scansano

mantelassiScansano is a village in the Tuscan region near the city of Grosseto. So, it’s south and closer to the coast than many of Tuscany’s more familiar DOC(G)’s. Morellino di Scansano is a Sangiovese based wine (in Scansano, they call Sangiovese – Morellino). The wine doesn’t carry the importance or the critical acclaim of other Sangiovese wines – Chianti, Montalcino, but I’ve always found these wines great value, early drinking, and food friendly. The Morellino grapes ripen a bit more here than north and they capitalize on that with a fresh, early drinking wine. I had this wine at a trattoria in Roma with what ended up being my favourite dish of the whole trip – spinach and ricotta stuffed ravioli with a butter sage sauce. You could smell it coming across the floor. Somehow that sounds like a Neil Young song? Utterly orgasmic – the ravioli that is. Why can’t we get pasta like this in North America? The wine was a great match to this with its understated herbal character, moderate acidity, and red fruits. If you have never had a Morellino, do pick one up or search out on a restaurant’s wine list. They are usually inexpensive. Yes, got it, Neil Young’s Unknown Legend – “I used to order just to watch her walk across the floor.” Approximate cost $15 CAD. Recommend.

2011 Feudi di San Marzano SUD Primitivo di Manduria

sudprimitivoManduria is a commune (circa 30,000 pop) that lies between Taranto and Lecce in Puglia. It has been making Primitivo wines forever if not longer. Much of that was shipped north to be blended (allegedly in some cases unmentioned with high priced juice) to add weight and roundness in watered down years. However, in the last couple decades, growers and wineries have started to focus on making fine local wines from this early ripening grape. Primitivo is a descendent of a Croatian grape and, I’ve read, is a DNA match for zinfandel. I don’t taste any great similarity but then again it’s a very different climate, soil, method of growing and vinification than California.  We purchased this wine in Alberello (picture – bottom of page) north east of Brindisi for our room (I really should say ‘I’ purchased it as Arlene doesn’t drink reds). So, bread, cheese and potato crisps were the accompaniment. All very ‘local’ as in purchased at the local Alimentari. This wine is a great introduction to Primitivo di Manduria. It had loads of what you typically find in southern France – a garriguish note with the fruit very much in the background in the glass until you take a swig. It’s round with softish tannins – which was a surprise as I usually get tannins that are pretty robust with these wines. Great red fruit, some of that same garrigue, and little to no meaty flavours and just as the finish finishes finishing there’s a hint of chocolate. OK, I made up the chocolate part to get you to try some. Loved this! Approximate price here will be about $16 CAD. I did recommend the 2010 in my newsletter a year or so ago. Would highly recommend this!

ilselva2011 Il Selva DOC Locorotondo

While in Alberobello, we were entertained by an owner of an alimenteri and butcher shop. He and his brother (I’m assuming here) told us all about the homemade charcuterie and local wines. I picked up the SUD Primitivo mentioned above which wasn’t all that local and Arlene tasted and purchased an interesting white from the winery located in Aberobello – Cantina Albea. White wines from hot locales, IMHO, tend to be crisp, lighter, and minerally usually. This white had some roundness – our host suggested that there was some Chardonnay involved. But I think that he overheard that Arlene’s favourite white was Chardonnay. In doing some research, the blend is 60% Verdeca, 35% Bianco di Alessano, and 5% Fiano Minutolo. It had a refreshing fruitiness, nice length and just loved being served cold which is just what we needed.

2011 Leone de Castris Villa Santera Primitivo di Manduria

villasanteraThis producer is perhaps the oldest one in Puglia as far as bottling their own wines. They work out of Salice Salentino, have large holdings themselves and purchase grapes from many growers in the region. Their flagship wines are generally Salice Salentinos (we get them in Ontario) but I thought that since I was on a Primitivo kick, I’d keep the meter running. I had this wine in Otranto. This didn’t have the heft of the one abovefairly unmemorable and my notes indicate a bit of flailing around trying to describe this wine – never a good sign. Although not higher in alcohol than the San Marzano – it carried a bit of heat that I attributed to the lack of balance generally and my sipping while talking without food mode. Approximate cost $14 CAD. Would not recommend this. But, do try their Salice Salentino Riserva – in most years good value. An incredibly consistent winery.

2010 Tenuta San Francesco Costa d’Amalfi 4 Spine

4spineI purchased this from a little wine shop in Amalfi. Il Costiera Amalfitana is quite simply – spectacular. To find local wines was just a pleasant bonus. Friends, Susanne and Brenda, had been to the area in June and visited this winery in Tramonti, so I wanted to look up their wares. This was supposed to be a ‘bring home’ wine @ 20 Euros but that concept got lost when I had to keep looking at it in our room in Ravello. Well, we had some local sheep’s milk cheese, a crust of bread and such (Bless the Child), and some fruit. It was perfect for an afternoon repast and gazing out over the Mediterranean (picture of view at top of post). This wine is a blend of 60% Tintore, 30% Aglianico, and 10% Piedirosso. To say I was blown away might be an understatement. This wine needed about an hour to clear the cobwebs and settle down which meant that I only had half a bottle left when it found its stride. Full-bodied, licorice, tar, and dark plums and black stuff – simply lovely to sit and sip. Contemplate life, a pre-dinner snooze, and re-cap the day’s walk. No heat present – balanced with more than enough tannin to match the sheep’s milk cheese and would duel well with red meat, I bet. Approximate cost $28 CAD. Highly, highly recommended! Did I say that I liked it?

2012 Mastroberardino Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio

lacrymaI had read a recent post by The Armchair Sommelier about this remarkable winery and man. He has been in large part responsible for the rejuvenation of the Taurasi DOCG and plantings in and around Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius (see below – my keeper wine). This wine is predominantly Piedirosso and I suspect a little blending of Aglianico (couldn’t find out definitively). I purchased this in the restaurant, drank half with a huge plate of scampi and prawns with mint sauce.  Did I say it was yuuge? I took the rest of the wine back to our room. I finished it up over the next two days. Anyone who knows me knows that that is a lie. I finished it that night! Well, if you like dirty reds – this wine is for you. Earthy, traces of foliage, figs and red dripping fruit on the nose and in the mouth everything coming through but with some minerality (the volcanic soil?). Moderately tannic but not too much so. Medium bodied and just plain nasty and delicious. I am going to make it my mission to turn people on to this inexpensive wine. Approximate price $17 CAD (at the friggin’ restaurant!). Highly recommend. Thanks to the Armchair Sommelier!

What I Learned In Italy Lesson #4

Based on the recommendation of The Armchair Sommelier, as I mentioned above, I looked for wines from Mastroberardino and found quite a few. They were readily available in Amalfi and Ravello. But not knowing that, I jumped the gun and the first ones I saw in a wine shop in Amalfi, I bought,. The man there was the best wine merchant on the trip – he was very convincing on the benefit of purchasing two bottles of everything. “You have now, you think about it, you leave other one for later? Good way.” Well, I ended up with a 1999 Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici. Given how good cheaper wines were, I was thinking that I’d overspent at approximately $38 CAD (28 Euros). It’s now nestled safely in my basement and I can’t wait to drink it. The thing that I wanted to mention though was the variation in pricing in Italy generally but especially in tourist areas. The same wine in Ravello was 65 Euros or about $90 CAD. That’s $52 CAD or $51 USD more! Another revelation was the relatively solid pricing we have in Ontario for Italian wines compared to the Duty Fee at Roma Fuicimino. Example – Frescobaldi’s Castelgiocondo Brunello costs me $49.95 here. At the Fuicimino Duty Fee it was 40 Euros or about $58 CAD! Likewise Luce, Tignanello (80 Euros! – $102.00 CAD here). So, word to the wise – cheap wines abound in Italia just not as you’re exiting stage left or wondering around Villa Cimbrone.

Thanks to Karen McNeil’s Wine Bible, Wikipedia, and for some of the more arcane details of these wine regions and grapes. “Somewhere on a desert highway. She rides a Harley-Davidson. Her long blond hair flying in the breeze. She’s been running half her life. The chrome and steel she rides  – colliding with the very air she breathes.”


Value Bordeaux and Passo the Appassimento – The Red Daily Slosh

21 Oct

chateaulamotheThis week’s release features 2010 Bordeaux from less expensive appellations and there are plenty of great values. Shop districts like Blaye, Lalande de Pomerol, Cotes du Bourg, Listrac-Medoc for value. I haven’t tried very many of those on offer but will give it the college try and start popping corks once I get my hands on them. But there is one that I have had that I think is exceptional value – 2010 Château Lamothe de Haux #641555 $16.95. This red is from another minor Bordeaux district – Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux. In a year like 2010 that means that you’ll probably be getting a very good Bordeaux for less. And, that is the case here. This wine is ready to drink now with a traditional red meat dinner. It has tannins (which is good) but not so evident that the fruit is buried underneath your furry tongue. Red fruits of cherries and evidence of barrel treatment (sandalwood?), kind of  floral on the nose too. Get a couple and put one down for a year or two.

laplaceI have a friend who loves wines from Madiran and Cahors because they’re good and reasonably priced. But, I really think that he likes to step away from the crowd and when he can do that and drink great wine at the same time, he jumps at the chance, don’t you Andrew? 2010 LaPlace Madiran #103704 $16.95 is a wine made from Tannat like most Madiran reds. Tannat is exactly what it sounds like, a fairly tannic red wine grape that usually brings some raspberry fruit, tannins, acidity and ageability to the table. Actually I hate that phrase “brings to the table”. So, let’s try that again. ……………usually brings some raspberry fruit, tannins, acidity and ageability to the dance. The dance? Come on, I can do better than that ……………..usually is raspberryish, with tannins, acidity and, oh BTW, it can age. Better. This is most definitely a food wine. As above, buy two, have one now with something substantial and wait a few years for the other to see how time can soften the edges and bring the raspberries to the table, to the dance?

tedeschi2009 Tedeschi Capitel Nicalò Appassimento Valpolicella Superiore #984997 $15.95. I’m not always enamoured with appassimento/ripasso approaches. It’s supposed to bring a depth, body, and fullness to wines that otherwise would be more simple.  With the appassimento approach, there are many that just kind of get the cred without the improvement. But, some guys pull it off and when they do, I’ll recommend. This is one of those times. This wine brings some of the cooked elements of appasimento but not too much – it’s dark, medium-bodied and would be great with a big bowl of something tomato tangy. So, and I don’t usually do this, if you are having a rich meat sauce pasta next week, you must serve this with it! Now, Prego doesn’t count and doesn’t really qualify as rich. And don’t give me any guff about how hard it is to prepare meals when you work all day (from a man who sits at home in his housecoat and tastes wine before noon). I’ll meet you halfway – you’re allowed to use some organic pseudo gourmet sauce in a bottle but one that’s only available at Whole Foods (in London – SunRipe/Remark). Let me know how fantastic it turns out.

zoloArgentina makes more than just Malbec. I know. There doesn’t seem to be much else – but trust me this one time, there is. I’ve sung the praises of Torrontes in these pages and had good feedback on that white grape. This week, there’s a very solid Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Zolo Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon #054098 $17.00. If you like the ubiquitous California Cabernets at a similar price point, you’ll be pleasantly pleased with this step up. The review says that it’s balanced but I think it tilts toward its fruit and alcohol (14%) – so some heat. Nonetheless, you’ll experience a suave, full-bodied red with a pretty awesome finish for this price. I could handle it standing around (leaning a bit, mind you) but also might like it with some food.

A wine that I haven’t had but piques my interest:

M2011 Vinos Sin Ley ‘M’ Old Vine Monastrell #344226 $18.95. I like Monastrell (Mourvedre) wines. Why, you ask? Well, to quote my youngest when he was, in fact young, “Because.” OK, my real answer is that I prefer wines that are, for many, a bit hard – rustic – earthy. Mourvedre or Monastrell is just that when young. But, this one is said to carry the earthiness that I love but is softer, more accessible – fruit very up front and fragrant. Sounds very good. Let me know if you try it.

Revisiting a recommendation:

BorsaoTresPicos_2I recommended the 2011 Tres Picos Garnacha #273748 $19.95 from Borsao last time out. I had a bottle with a friend the other night and I was reminded how smooth, full, and yummy this wine is. Sometimes when I’m in a funk or writer’s block, I question my recommendations. Was I right to put a ‘Buy’ on the Chateau Whatever? Is the Don Diego De La Vega Reserva all that and a bag of pretzels like I said? Well, this return visit to the Tres Picos dispels my momentary lack of conviction and commitment to bring you the greatest recommendations on this particular web site. Or, was it the company and the third glass? Regardless, run to the store and get a few of these beauties. There are lots left! Click on the link above and search stores near you.

Whites That Schmeck – The White Daily Slosh

11 Oct

angelsgateI spent an afternoon in Niagara this past week at Pondview Winery and will report back on the visit in a future post. So, let’s start this post with a Niagara staple – Riesling – 2010 Angel’s Gate Riesling #160523 $13.95. From one of the more picturesque winery locations in the region, this is a dry Riesling but not without some fullness usually associated with some residual sugar. It carries acidity and therefore matches well with seafood or even some Thai. Pick up a couple bottles and serve pre-Thanksgiving dinner with some apps.

sileniI’ve never been one to shy away from being predictable. I always laugh at my own jokes (I crack me up), always tell each story more than two times (“Honey, honey, we’ve all heard this before”), always fuss over food or wine preparations, and always, always cry for just about anything remotely sentimental or touching. And, oh yeah, I always recommend great, reasonably priced New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. This week there’s the 2013 Sileni Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc #662882 $17.95. There are those out there that gravitate to the old Kim Crawford aisle and scoop that great SB. But, just walk a little further, sashay to the Vintages section, wander upscale a bit and you’ll find a suitable substitution and worthy wine all on its own. This is true Kiwi SB – gooseberries and intensity. Fabulous wine with foods that have some chew, crunch and a little spice, I’d say. The write up suggests just stand around too but I think that you need something to fight with (sorry, be a counterpoint to) the spunk of this wine. It’s pretty touching actually, sniff, sniff to think about the dedication and work that goes into making a wine like this. Pass the Kleenex.

escondidachardWe’ve never been big fans of Argentinean chardonnay. They have seemed to be either too thin or mushy, if that makes sense. No balance. So, trying the 2012 Finca La Escondida Reserva Chardonnay #270207 $14.95 was a nice departure from those two negative experiences. This white is large enough to clearly be New World and brings some nice notes in the air that speak to some wood treatment – tropical, toasty. At this price, I’d suggest that you trick your company into thinking that you spent big on the chardonnay to accompany the turkey. Or, for the vegetarians – the tofurkey.

bavaNow, the last time I recommended a Moscato d’Asti, I received some not too favourable replies. But, I’m nothing if not a slave to my own perceptions, the belief that others require my wisdom and that others need to try new things. So, another Moscato! 2012 Bava Moscato d’Asti #712547 $16.95.  This is low alcohol (oh, it’s OK if the kids have a little glass like the grownups), medium sweet, and packs some lovely peachy aromas and flavours. Perfect with a fruit dessert! Give it a try – I mean, GIVE IT A TRY!

New World, Old World, Thanksgiving – The Red Daily Slosh

11 Oct

roastturkeyIt’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. When our neighbours to the south celebrate their Thanksgiving on the wrong weekend, I will relate the story of how Canadians invented Thanksgiving; along with the wheel, the telephone, postage stamps, kegger parties, and the sports bra. But, back to my Thanksgiving. I’m making a spice-rubbed turkey with stuffing that has pine nuts, fennel and some other stuff. Although, you could get away with the usual pinot noir/syrah/chardonnay with turkey tradition, I think that the first two wines below might show up on my table. They have some spice, lots of authority without being heavy, and they’re relatively inexpensive. Oh yeah, and we also invented basketball. It was at an American college but James Naismith was Canadian. Further evidence of which is this week’s Sports Illustrated cover #wiggins

BorsaoTresPicos_2In January of this year, I recommended the 2010 version of this wine. It was a “solidly made full-bodied wine” and I liked it a lot. Many of you did as well given the feedback. The 2011 version is a big wine. Now, when I say “big”, what do you think of? Tom Hanks? Chris Noth? Chocolate Bars? Noneoftheabove? What I think of is a wine that has several dimensions, has a strong mouthfeel by way of tannin, some acid and a long finish. I think power. Well, this wine is ‘big’ but not heavy or overly tannic. It brings loads of spice, red fruit by way of the 100% Garnacha, and a little jam too. But, not all was barrel aged (just half) so it ain’t woody. I think that it might be the Garnacha Of The Year. “The envelope, please.”  2011 Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha #273748 $19.95. Love this stuff!

tessellaeWhen Arlene and I were in Languedoc-Roussillon, we stayed in Perpignan. What a great little town – loads of character, great food (ask me about the rodent night) and clearly some great wines nearby as evidenced by the 2011 Tessellae Carignan Old Vines Côtes du Roussillon #343517 $18.95 (sic). If you love the garrigue (and who doesn’t?) or if you don’t know what garrigue is, or you know what it is but would rather not talk about it, then this wine is for you. It is truly of this place – the Roussillon – garriguish as all get out. It’s balanced, smooth, and – wait a minute – it’s called “Carignan” in the LCBO website but the blend is 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre and 5% Grenache Gris. The winery website says it doesn’t have Carignan. So where is the Carignan? Don’t be confused if you don’t see Carignan on the label – because there is no Carignan. Which is good – Carignan wines can be pretty tableish and plain IMHO. This wine, on the other hand is anything but. It has a dirty Old World Syrah thing going on, which is perfect – full-bodied, balanced, red fruits on the nose and the palate and some interesting floral things that don’t dissipate until you swallow.  Great value too! Case purchase if you love the south of France.

canteloupI love Bordeaux reds. So, when I see a good one that’s reasonably priced (think: Chateau Lyonnat), I recommend it – the 2010 Chateau Haut-Canteloup #336867 $15.95 is one of those wines. This is such a surprise. The 2010 vintage is one in a series of “Vintage Of The Century”. Hear that phrase through a loud hailer with a distinctive Bordelaise accent and you get the gist of the hype machine from Bordeaux. But, it also means that you can get a lesser known wine during these vintages that provides exceptional value. Voilà, the Chateau Haut-Canteloup. Where did the name come from? Well, during the Classification of 1855 (which was actually a real event unlike this story), the panel visited this estate to meet the estate owner who stood 6’ 8” and had a very large head. Not so funny? Too oblique? This wine is still pretty closed up right now but either a couple hours of decanting or a few years in the dark will bring out loads of black fruit, blow off some of the woodiness and provide a great, solid wine for red meat. If I wasn’t buying a bunch of the wine above, I’d be over-weight in this value Bordeaux.

santacarmenereIt’s been awhile since I tried and am recommending a Carmenère. This is strange in that Carmenère provides such good value in most cases and truly satisfies those that prefer New World spins on Old World varietals – California Cabs, Merlots, Pinot Noirs, etc. – accessible, easy-drinking, stand around wines. This week, the 2010 Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenère #134942 $18.95 hits the shelves. This is exactly what you’re looking for if: 1) you drink red wine. It has quite a lot of different things going on. If there was a wine tasting, I’m saying that there would be very different takes on this wine. I like that – not one-dimensional and subtleties abound. It’s deep, dark (like most Carmenère), full-bodied, mildly tannic, and understated a bit – restrained. Stand around or serve with food.

There are a couple wines that I haven’t had but will pick up and may be of interest to you too:

2011 Heitlinger Mellow Silk Pinot Noir #344697 $16.95 Although Germany isn’t famous for its pinot noir, I have had a couple from there that were interesting and full value. This might be another. I found the others to be in a soft style but with good acidity. The one above’s name suggests that this will have a softness to it as well. Worth a try.

2009 Quieto 3 Malbec #275701 $14.95 A friend told me yesterday that he’s traveling to Argentina this winter and asked for suggestions for Argentinean wine to taste pre-departure – not right before the departure as in while in the lounge – but now to get the feel for the land and their wines. This week, there’s a wine that’s intriguing based on price and reviews that are very positive. Not sure what I’ll find but I think that I‘ll take the plunge. It’s only $14.95 afterall.

What I Learned In Italy This Fall – Part 1

7 Oct

alberobello1We have just returned from a two week vacation in Italy – a bite of Roma, a big sip and swallow of Puglia, and a deep breath of the Amalfi Coast. It was just what the doctor ordered – minus the unavoidable wine which she, my doctor, would have discouraged. This trip held some interesting observations and lessons. I’ll share a few lessons learned this time and then sow some others into future posts. I’ll talk about the wines in a separate post.

  1. Who Needs Information and Documentation?

Seconds before we left the house for the transfer to the airport, I repacked my carry-on to make it lighter. In so doing, I took out all our travel documents and inadvertently forgot to put them back in: e-tickets for two flights; hotel reservation information (including directions, phone numbers) for four different hotels; photocopies of passports; car rental reservation and electronic confirmation; travel health insurance documentation; train timetables; a list of wineries with directions, phone numbers and their top wines as per Gambero Rosso; and, a lovely piece that I’d printed out on wine travel in Puglia. “What certain disaster would befall us?” I asked as I discovered too late that I’d made this booboo. What indeed? Almost nothing. Nada. Zilch. Everything went off without a hitch. I even remembered many of the wineries – ‘cause that’s just what wine geeks do – remember stuff like that. Next time, I won’t even bother to print that stuff – The Planet will, in fact, be saved.

  1. High School Translation Can Be Perilous

On one segment of our journey, we trained from Brindisi to Caserta and then on to Naples. At Caserta, the automated biglietto machines were down so we stood in line to purchase our tickets. While in line, we observed the train schedule on a large screen and saw that the train we wanted for Napoli Centrale had several comments scrolling after it. One little description was bothersome. It said “Via Cancello”. Now, I took Latin for five long years in high school (yes it only took me five years and I realize that Italian and Latin aren’t exactly the same – as W so eloquently stated, “Latin is spoken in Latin America”, for crying out loud) and I know that ‘Via’ in Latin means ‘Way’. So, Via Cancello could only mean that the ‘way’ was Cancello – Cancelled! What to do? Yup, it said – Via Cancello! We were meeting a transfer to our hotel at Napoli Centrale. Disaster was imminent or ‘imminente’. But, we blundered on and pretended that all was well. The ticket purchase went off without a hitch (4 Euros for both of us!), the train arrived, we got on, fingers crossed. and voila (which I realize is a French word ‘cause I’m Canadian and – you guessed it – took five years of high school French), we slowed down and stopped at the ‘Cancello’ train stop. Yes, Cancello is a friggin’ train stop, a village hard by Caserta – we were going by way of Cancello – Via Cancello. That was the last time I assumed that I understood any Italian. Well, maybe not the very last time.

  1. “Apparently, You’ve Confused Me With Someone Who Gives a S@*t What You Do”

I write a blog – a wine blog. If you Google me, you’ll get a connection to my blog. That’s the kind of power a sparingly read writer has. Many bloggers possess this lofty recognition factor. In my world, I’m famous. It’s a very small world of a few friends (6 and shrinking) and a weird guy from Iceland with an interesting Gravatar profile, but – they know me. So, what to expect when a wine writer arrives at a winery to visit? Red carpet? Well, we’re closed. Next one – well, its closed too. See above – I did have numbers, contacts to call ahead. Then we have a meal at a special restaurant in Puglia – I mention quite self-deprecatingly that I write stuff mostly about wine – I get a free prosecco stopper – now, we’re getting somewhere! Mostly though, explanations were given on wine that pre-supposed that I hadn’t done the hours of research that I’d actually done. That I wasn’t a wine geek. That I hadn’t heard of or had Aglianico or Piedirosso before, that I mistook Fiano di Avellino for Greco di Tufo (OK, I did that mistook but most people would, wouldn’t they?), or that I thought Primitivo di Manduria was an Italian take on a Richard Condon novel – ba-da-boom. Suffice it to say that I was an ordinary soul as far as anyone was concerned. Humble? Happy? Ordinary? That’s me always.

Exclusive Tutored Tasting with Flat Rock Cellars – An Exploration of the Vineyard through Pinot Noir

2 Oct

Hey, if you love Pinot, lke it a lot, want to learn more about it, and you’re in the GTA, take up WineAlign’s offer of a great night tasting some great pinots from one of Ontario’s most interesting wineries – Flat Rock. Ciao


WineAlign is pleased to present an Exclusive Tutored Tasting with Flat Rock Cellars – An Exploration of the Vineyard through Pinot Noir 

Come explore the fickle and fascinating Pinot Noir grape with Flat Rock Cellars, one of Ontario’s benchmark producers. See and taste why the Niagara Peninsula and the Twenty Mile Bench are capable of producing world-class, premium Pinot Noir. Hosted by WineAlign’s David Lawrason, join Flat Rock Cellars‘ engaging proprietor Ed Madronich and winemaker Jay Johnston who will take you through why Pinot Noir does so well in Niagara, specifically on the bench. Learn about what goes into making a premium Pinot Noir, the geology and the climate of Niagara. Understand how these high-quality wines are produced; from sustainable agricultural practices to a 5-level state-of the-art gravity-flow facility and through a careful winemaking process that allows the nuances of the vineyard to show through.

Flat Rock Cellars

In what promises to be…

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