Archive | March, 2014

The “Out Of The Darkness” Survival Kit

31 Mar

George, Ringo, Phil, Elton and Eric (with a perm, it seems). And does anyone recognize the guy playing tamborene? He looks familiar but I can’t place him.

It’s almost spring-like weather if you’re in the Great White North or even the Northeast. At the risk of jinxing us, I’m going out on a limb and saying that winter is finally over. And, we’re jonesing to get on the patio or deck and into the sun. But, since we’ve had so little practice over the last thousand months (or so it seems), I thought some suggestions for what you’ll need to truly enjoy this time of year is in order.

Twist Cap Wine – Let’s face it, in most cases, our utility corkscrews are crappy. They were free with the purchase of a box of wine back in 1994 and only see the light of day when you travel (got one in my overnight kit) or at the cottage. So, rather than worry about that, go to twist caps. That way you don’t require any additional accessories and they avoid any unpleasant injuries when opening bottle number three in mid-afternoon. You know those injuries where you’ve been a little careless or overzealous removing the foil or inserting the screw……….. Oh behave – you know what I mean. So, most of my recommended wines will be so enclosed.

sippy winePlastic Wine Glasses – I can hear the purists out there screaming, “Bill, not plastic! It ruins the nose, the flavours, the wine!” Well, I agree that there is something specialer, more special? about drinking wine from the appropriate made vessel. And, that would most definitely be made of glass. But, similar to the corkscrew, accidents can occur. I’m suggesting that you eliminate the worry of potential breakage of the Reidel (designed for medium riesling) glasses by using plastic glasses or, gasp, tumblers. Yes, tumblers like they do in many Mediterranean countries and my backyard. Have you seen those coloured wine sippy cups (picture above courtesy of http://www.whatonearthcatalog.com and available at Kiss The Cook here in London)? They’re pretty cool but have a back up plan as you tire of them a bit after the 3rd or 4th glass. Who wants to sip glass 4 through 7? Your sipping muscles get tired.

The Nibbles – Spring is special and perhaps the third best part of a Patio Sip and Nibble is the nibble. I don’t usually stand on formalities or conventions but I do draw the line for this occasion at packaged nibbles as in potato chips, tortilla chips, etc. It just isn’t done. Those snacks are for propping you up while in the throes of depression or, as we like to call it, winter. So, get off your ass and head to those stores that have been proliferating like rabbits – the Whole Foods style stores that make their “own” recently re-packaged nibbles (all from the same supplier, I bet). Or better yet, dig out one of your never-looked-at-in-two-years-because-you-get-recipes-on-line cookbook entitled “Nibbles On The Patio: 100 Sure Fire Recipes” make something yourself.

The Wine – I’m going to suggest that you remember that wine is one part of a patio day in the sun – not the only part. And, it’s hard for me to say this but I mean that you needn’t try and carry the day with the wine – it’s nice enough just to be outside and swigging something other than hot chocolate. It’s more important that the wine matches the gleeful and fun nature of the pationess. And, I think that we can stay at home for most of these.

Rosé
malivoireladybugMalivoire Labybug Rosé #559088 $15.95 – This is a wine that you should always have in the basement – to be utilized as a First Aid remedy for the blahs. Fresh, strawberries and a bit of a bite – perfect for nibbles – even if they are substantial nibbles. Serve well-chilled.
charteressesTavel – No, not a character from Fiddler On The Roof. It’s a rosé from the south of France, where rosé takes on an almost spiritual character. Who am I kidding? – it’s just wine but very good. A lot more substantial than many rosés (the reddest of pink wines – red wine lovers’ rosé) – so, made for real food. Some of my favourites are: Domaine des Carteresses Tavel #739474 $16.95, Domaine Maby la Forcadière Tavel Rosé #701318 $16.95. mabyroseDownside is that these Tavels have corks, better left for early in the session.

 

Pinot Noir
flatrockpnFlat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir #1545 $19.95 (on sale right now for $18.95) – this red is great for many occasions but I think that twisting a cap on this with some smoked salmon something would be perfect. Or just by itself, which I admit I’ve done but really just once.
thenedThe Ned Pinot Noir #361261 $19.95 – from New Zealand this is a great introduction to Marlborough’s take on pinot noir. A little darker than the Flat Rock but equally zesty and fun. Nothing serious here and that’s not a knock; that’s a compliment. Who wants to work at it when you’re outside sipping and slurping?

Riesling
There are a couple of ways to go here – dry or mediumish
csestaterieslingCave Springs Estate Riesling #286377 $17.95 this dry (not bone) riesling is one of the wines that shows us all that Niagara does wieswing weewee well – consistent, citrusy, a bit of floral something-something, and an acidity that’s lip-smacking good.
rosewoodsussreserveRosewood Sussreserve Riesling #258806 $14.94 this is a Beamsville Bench medium riesling but with enough acidity to quieten down the sweetness. Just saying that if you are one of those that say, “I only drink dry wines.” Then, decide whether you want to be convinced that there’s life outside dry wines. If you do – slug some of this down. If not, forget about it. This comes from a winery that doubles as a meadery (is that a word?) and it’s spooky but I detect a hint of clover in this.

Pinot Grigio – Hey, this is a wine blog and pinot grigio before June is like wearing white after Labour Day – it’s just not done. In fact, not sure it’s done after June either.

Now, I’ve missed some. You might say, “somewhat intentionally”, to drive some chatter in the comment box below about what wine I failed to include – Grüner Veltliner? Chardonnay? Dolcetto? Bubbly? Come on, you know there’s others.

So, get out there – grab some sun, some friends that have been hibernating, and some artchoke bruschetta, lamb kabobs with mint, roasted sunchoke with rosemary dip. See, there I go. A person that writes about wine can’t help it – we all have to get fancy about something. If it isn’t the nose of fresh fig paste and spice box nuances, it’s the creative use of unusual food pairings that sound impossible with ingredients that require a trip back to Whole Foods. So I’ll drop the wine pairing smack, get out the chips and dip, popcorn, nachos and salsa and get yourself some spring. And, if nibbles are the third best part of pationess, what are first and second? Well, friends and wine, of course! Here comes the sun!

 

 

Portugal and The Red Daily Slosh

27 Mar

OK, the somewhat whispering voice is laughable but the story and pictures are spectacular. No?

I follow a bunch of people on Twitter and this week there was a thread about wine and, in particular, Portuguese wine. I have always loved Portuguese wine. But, I have to admit, I haven’t had much over the last few years. Oh, I have a glass of Port if my friend Rod offers (which he doesn’t nearly enough) but I mean unfortified Portuguese wine. Not sure why I’ve jumped off the Portuguese bandwagon. Actually, I came out of my first formal tasting with a case of wine from Alentejo. So, it’s time to put my money where my typing finger is. That doesn’t sound quite right but I think you get it.

So, I wandered to my local monopoly store and shopped for some value priced Portuguese wines. The good news? There were lots. The bad news? There were lots. I’ll talk about these over the next month or so.

montefinoFirst up is a wonderful wine – 2005 Montefino Reserva #165519 $17.95. This is a wine made from a blend of Trincadeiro, Alicante Bouscet, Aragones and Touriga Nacional. Don’t be too blown away by names that may be unfamiliar – just jump in. After all Aragones is just Tempranillo (and, we all love it) and Touriga Nacional coming in small berries with intense flavours and darkness makes great reds as well as being the preeminent grape in Port. This wine comes from Alentejo, a large wine making area that is also home to cork trees that sacrifice their skin so that we can enjoy popping a cork rather than unscrewing a top. Now, this wine has enough sediment in it to scare some off. Don’t be, just decant for that purpose alone. The wine doesn’t need a decant to settle or anything but you don’t want to choke on whatever has broken down and been accumulating over the last 8 years. How do I know? Let’s leave that for another time. The wine is medium to full bodied but has a hard to describe lightness to it that was my first impression (after the sediment, that is) that’s a great attribute – fresh and easy drinkin’. It’s well balanced and those that find some of my recommendations too ‘heavy’ won’t find this one that way. The label says, “This fresh and aromatic wine, consumed in moderation, exists to bring pleasure to those that drink it.” Well said. I felt warm all over and inclined to be not so – moderate, that is. It’s a potential case lot for sure but there are limited quantities out there. I’d suggest that you click on the inventory number to see what’s in your neighbourhood. And a shout out to Vera! Stay tuned.

These next ones are for the March 29th release.

barahondaAnother Iberian value this time from Spain is the 2011 Barahonda Sin Madera Monastrell #366823 $15.95. I first had this wine as an on-line order sight un……..drunk. I loved it. It’s gone. Time to reload. It’s made from Monastrell. Monastrell is really just Mourvedre that’s escaped across the border from France. Or maybe vice versa? This is a wine that doesn’t see wood – so stainless steel all the way – bringing you the fruit first but I like the fact that there’s a hardness, a spine, to it – minerality and tannins. It’s pretty intense, flavour-wise and I experience it as full-bodied. Like the one above – it’s warming and, I think, a perfect wine for friends and Iberian food – like, say, carne de porco à alentejana (never had it but scooped it right out of Wikipedia). But seriously, we have a diner in London called Rei Dos Leitoes that, frankly, has the best barbecued chicken and pork in the area. Pick up a dinner from there (chicken, pork, BBQ, piri piri) and crack a couple of bottles of this wine with friends. Perfect.

wakefieldI had lunch with some friends yesterday and one commented that he appreciated cabernet sauvignon when he was supposed to be working on his graduate school stuff. Thanks for that, Jeff, I don’t feel so unprincipled now. A good value cabernet that takes us away from those magnetic California shelves is the 2012 Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon #744235 $17.95. This is a pretty big wine in my mind. It’s got some heat from the alcohol (although only 14%). Is it just me or is there higher and higher alcohol content? I don’t like that the wines we see now are all over 12.5% as a matter of course and some of the bruisers are 14.5% to 15.5%! What’s wrong with getting just mildly buzzed? What? Anyway, this has some heat but it isn’t to the extent that it interferes with the big dose of flavours – dark fruit, mocha, maybe even some herby stuff – wait, definitely herby stuff. Not heavily oaked or tricked up. This is not a party wine. I repeat – eat with this. Something burnt and chewy – leave the fat on and the tannins will break it down and rinse it up. I like this for the cab lovers out there. Even ones that drink while doing grad school projects.

And because you all love boogie down music. I couldn’t help myself.

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #8: Time to Vote!

25 Mar

#MWWC8 Wanna Get Lucky?

20 Mar

wine-stain1-2There’s a somewhat self-abusive sport that wine bloggers play each month. It’s called the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. It’s where wine bloggers undertake to express opinions, tell a story, entertain their peeps upon a theme cruelly chosen by the winner of the previous month’s challenge. This month our most recent winner The Sweet Sommelier has chosen the theme ‘Luck”. Well, I am the luckiest guy I know so it should have been easy, right? Wrong!

There’s a saying in sport – “You have to lucky to be good. And, you have to be good to be lucky.” Essentially indicating that excellence carries a symbiotic relationship with luck. I believe it – you make your own luck either good or bad. With wine, to quote Raymond Babbitt, “You most definitely, most definitely, definitely make your own luck”.

“So, how do I get lucky with wine, Bill?” Well, if I knew anything about making wine I’d comment on the techniques used by savvy and experienced winemakers to counteract the negatives of a particularly challenging vintage on their way to an impressive cuvee – getting lucky ‘making’ wine. But, if you’ve been playing along at home (and I’m speaking to my 22 ardent followers, here. Wait, just lost one – so, 21 followers), you’ll have heard of my elderberry wine (Screech and Porch Climber) experience and the fact that I don’t know much about winemaking. I leave that to the purple stained wretches. But, you’re all in luck because I know that I don’t know anything. There’s that word – luck. Anyway, I want to talk about how wine drinkers get lucky. And, no it doesn’t have to do with pick up lines or pharmaceutical assistance. What I’m trying to get to is that we can get lucky with wine. And, it’s pretty easy. LIke in another paradigm, ‘Easy’ and ‘Getting Lucky’ kind of go together. It’s all about trying something new, different, unpronounceable and delicious. As Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny, and Anni-Frid said – take a chance.

We live in a Golden Age of wine. If you check a vintage chart (give me a second to open my rudimentary chart courtesy of our monopoly), you’ll see that there are few if any vintages that stink. Par exemple, if we agree that 7 is “Very Good” – then here’s the outcome and puleeese wine geeks do not run to your ‘go to’ vintage chart to dispute minutiae just go with me here. I’m trying to make a small, very general point. From the year 1985 (inclusive):

Red Bordeaux – 4 vintages below 7

Red Burgundy – if you can afford it, there have been 2 vintages below 7 and those back in 1985, 1986

Northern Rhone – 2 vintages – that’s right 2! And those were in early 90’s

Love Italy? Tuscany – 3 vintages is all

Like California wine? California cab – 3 vintages

Ontario – 2 vintages

You get the idea. It’s been a great time to be a wine fan! And, despite climate change’s very real and cruel ravages, I’m assuming that winemakers will have an app for that too soon.

When most if not all wine has a pretty good chance to be reasonable to very good to excellent, how can you possibly get really lucky – as in luckier than simply being around during this run?

Well, if you want to stick to your fill in the blank with your regular quaff  then by all means, go for it. But, you’ll never get really lucky that way. Good luck is redolent (always wanted to use that word – next post it’s going to be “lagubrious”) with expectations being exceeded. How can expectations be exceeded when it’s the same old, same old regardless of how much you like the SO-SO. Let’s put into practice what I’m saying here. I’ve just waddled (no, strided? Strode? Maybe, wandered?) to my basement to get a wine that I have never tried – 2010 Paulett’s Polish River Riesling from the Clare Valley in Australia. I have had very little Aussie riesling. And that’s not meant as a disparaging comment or insult to proud Aussie riesling producers – just making that general point again. Twist the cap, pour, sniff, swirl, sniff again, and gulp. I won’t go into my tasting notes – it could use some time in bottle, though. I just want to say that I’ve luckily found a perfect match for either spicy shrimp or an afternoon in the warm sun (I do remember the warm sun) or just sitting in my office now getting a mild buzz on – by myself. In other words, I’ve luckily discovered a good to very good wine. Pure luck? I think not. I could go on and tell you about my Barolo ‘experiment’ which luckily has turned into a nasty, very beautiful habit with my new favourite wine. Or, how Rioja luckily became my muse. Whatever the hell that means. Anglianico? Love it! Primitivo di Manduria? Gotta have it! See what I mean? I am one of the luckiest guys around. It hasn’t all been good luck. Oh no, I have my stories of The Funky Brunellos, actually a Tuscan band with former members of The Parliaments, and The Day That Bill Swallowed the Very Chunky Sediment. But, I’ve made my luck – both good and bad. I wouldn’t trade the travel for anything.You have to be good to be lucky and lucky to be good. But, you cannot, will not, ever make good luck by staying in a rut. Ruts lead us to Ohwellville and Nottoobadtown. Never Eureka!

So, want to get lucky? Don’t we all? Step out of what you know and find out what your next favourite wine will be. For crying out loud, Bill has declared this The Golden Age of Wine! What’s to fear? I’m trying PicPoul Noir tomorrow night, FCOL. No shit. How can you go wrong when it’s all so beautiful? And to bastardize Billy Crystal, “I love when that happens.”

The Red Daily Slosh is in The Houze

12 Mar

More funk. It’s one of those winters, isn’t it? Snowmagedon has arrived again today. We need something to get up and dance about. I try to do my part. And BTW, that is Lionel Richie rocking the sax (can you lip sync a sax?).

These recommendations are for the March 15th release.

This release focuses on “California Classics” read: overpriced labels. I was going to save this for a ramble but I might as well do this now. I read a post (rant) by The Drunken Cyclist about ‘library wines’ as in – what a disrespectful rip off. And I thought to myself – it’s time. Let me provide a disclaimer – I love all wines, t’is true. But, for the record, I do indeed love California wines – pinots, cabernet sauvignons, Rhones, zinfandels, chardonnays, you get the picture. But, there may not be a region that’s been better at leveraging labels cache into dollars. Strike that; as I‘ll be talking about Bordeaux some other time. I could provide many examples – Cakebread entry-level cab sav costing the same as Tignanello and Chateau de Beaucastel, Screaming Eagle at twice the price of Ornellaia. Before people start commenting about the principle of letting the market decide – I get it, they’re selling this stuff – why reduce the price? And, wine is a subjective experience that takes into account everything from sight, smell, perceived value, and luxury. “If I want to spend $199 on a California cabernet (editorial comment: probably very big), why can’t I?” I’m just saying it’s my blog and I think that it’s a ’library wine’ sized rip off. There are exceptions – I can think of lots of great California wines that are an expensive-ish bargain – there’s always Chateau Montelena with a pedigree and product that some of these ‘cult’ guys could only dream of IMHO and offers its stuff at one-quarter to half their price. All this to say, that I’m not talking this week about the expensive California wines in the release because I drink them by exception not as a rule but, and I want reps out there to take note, would certainly entertain samples designed to sway my opinion? Because I do love California wines.

On to the wine.

masdauzieresWhile driving through the Languedoc, you can’t help but be struck with the thought, “Holy shit, they grow a lot of grapes!” It is indeed a large and active wine region and there are lots of cheap, mass-produced wines. This and similarly styled areas of Italy are called Europe’s Wine Lake. But, there are also many great AOC’s and producers that work to provide fine wines that reflect the history, culture and, dare I say, terroir of the Languedoc. You’ve heard me rave about St.-Chinian (Dale, remind me of how the town got its name) and Faugeres to name two AOC’s that you should keep an eye out for. This week, there’s a wine from the Côteaux du Languedoc – 2009 Mas de d’Auzierès les Éclat #271742 $18.95. This wine is made with syrah, grenache and mourvedre and grows on very rocky soils in the shadow of Pic St. Loup. The video below is great (Pic St. Loup in the background) and gives you an idea of the dedication and enthusiasm of the owners. But what does it taste like? Well, the owner speaks of rocks (les eclats) and this wine brings a distinct Nose of Stone (formerly a superhero who beat opponents with a large, super-sensitive, and hard sniffer) and a finish that has a minerally element too – so I get les eclats. The absence of oak is evident by the freshness of the fruit, in my mind. It is sturdy but for me not too – tannins not over-riding the experience of cherries and darker fruit. I’m thinking a case wine if you purchase that way and love syrah and/or grenache. I don’t venture into talking about longevity but a review suggests this wine will develop over half a dozen years. So, you don’t have to drink the whole case in the first two months…….Bill.

closlacoutaleStaying in France, there’s a great malbec/merlot blend from Cahors – 2011 Clos la Coutale Cahors #286385 $17.95. Alongside Argentina, Cahors has malbec as it’s most well-known grape. And it’s a different take on the grape as well. Maybe not as uniform as Argentinean malbec can be sometimes. Not complaining about it, mind you. This winery has a long and distinguished pedigree. It’s spent significant time in barrel – bringing a smokiness to the sniff. I’d call it full-bodied and a bit chewy with lots of different things going on and none clearly the winner. It’s not confused though just finding it’s way. The second sip (or glass) brings it into focus a bit more – the tannin seems to smooth out, mocha flavours start to develop along with spicy, tangy stuff. Lovely and sturdy – ready to go with some cold weather cuisine like maybe roast pork – or something else with some fat.

A wine that I haven’t had that I’m going to try:

lacrimusA highly reviewed Rioja under $20 deserves some attention. So, I think that I’ll pick up the 2009 Lacrimus Criaza #359968 $18.95. A crianza Rioja requires less time in barrel and bottle than a reserva (like the one below). But, this is an ’09 so has had more time than most crianzas to smooth out and get it together, I’m assuming. It sounds like a complex (licorice, strawberries and morello cherries – oh my) beaut. And, I love a beaut.

Return to the scene of the crime:

I just finished the last of my ’08 Beronia Reserva. Man, I love this stuff. There are very few bottles remaining in my market. If you see it, buy it. The rest of us will have to wait until they flood the market with some left overs or the ’09 vintage.

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