Archive | May, 2014

Rita of Cascia and Carmenere – Strange Bedfellows

26 May

As I finish this post, this was playing on my playlist. Rock On!

I’ve carefully watched the ‘successful’ wine bloggers and they tend to talk about what they’re drinking in the moment, weekly or monthly. I have foregone that until now in an attempt to avoid an intervention. And, if you read my post on swallowing, you might posit that I overindulge. You might be right. But, I’ll leave that for another ramble. So, I’ll wade into the two bottles I opened on the weekend. I didn’t finish them both in one sitting, BTW – just opening two for your benefit.

I realize that although I may purchase and quaff carmenère all the time, many of you have difficulty accessing good carmenère, haven’t tried regardless, or seem to usually gravitate to other varietals. It’s too bad really that carmenère is an afterthought purchase. It shows its best when from Chile where it was believed to be merlot for many years. Wine aficionado Grissom from CSI – Las Vegas completed a DNA analysis which took all of a commercial break and determined that what was previously thought to be merlot was, in fact, carmenère – the sixth of the Bordeaux grapes (others being cabernet sauvignon, malbec, merlot, petit verdot, cabernet franc). What a nice surprise. The grape usually makes a solid, full-bodied wine and, in this jurisdiction, is priced very reasonably. On to the wines.

photoI purchased the 2011 Valle Secreto First Edition Carmenere #371153 $18.95 because I hadn’t seen it before, being a ‘first edition’ and all. And, it had a nifty gold sticker on the bottle that said something about winning an award. Bonus. I was intrigued by the ‘first edition’ moniker. What are they going to call next vintage? Going out on a limb here, but Im betting that they don’t have a second but fold this into their “Private” bottling. The winery web site says, “First Edition, as indicated by its name, is the first wine ever produced by Valle Secreto, its first edition, its first secret.” Cool. Still the issue for next year. This is a smallish boutique winery with limited production, it seems. The wine was dark, somewhere between full-blown purple with ruby red hiding in there somewhere. Medium to full-bodied with a nice balance between the acid and the fruit. There was a spice present along with a greenness on the finish that wasn’t at all off putting like it can be sometimes. All in all, a solid carmenère worth a look see. Great with food (not too heavy) but I had it sitting in a chair with music (Fleetwood Mac, as it happens) blaring and without food.

medalla real carmenereThe other carmenère comes from a regular at the mother ship, Santa Rita. This is going from small to very large on the winery scale. Santa Rita has vineyards in all the major wine growing regions of Chile. You can find their stuff in Vintages’ as well as General Listing aisles. But, who was Santa Rita? Well, welcome to Wikipedia. She was Santa Rita of Cascia, an Augustinian nun who became known as the patron saint for abused women and heartbroken women. As a nun, she was known for practicing “mortification of the flesh.” OK, not sure we need to go any further. Santa Rita, in the case of the winery might mean something else entirely, guaranteed. But, mortification of the flesh sounds intriguing. Well, this wine – 2009 Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Carmenère #274118 $17.95 didn’t mortify me. I have it as a full-bodied, dark purple, jammy wine. It had evidence of oak both on the nose and the finish – some vanillaish stuff. Interesting floral – I’d say violets but can’t quite remember what violets smell like despite my back lawn being infested with the buggers. This wine also had a green component that reminded me of a Niagara red varietal  in cooler years– my best attempt would be celery. But, then again my notes are pretty cryptic as is my mind. I think that despite this being the heavier of the two, it could be a cocktail party wine which, if served, would make it a wine party. Interesting because the other wine is less full-bodied but I think that the increased acidity in the “first edition” makes it more suitable for food.

Both of these wines are good value, crowd pleasing type wines. Keep your eye out for them.

Ireland’s Lessons and the Red Daily Slosh

21 May

Relevance of the video? None really, just love this song done by an amazing singer and it’s my blog. Dare you not to sing along. One of my favourite sad shower songs. TMI?

I apologize for leaving you in the lurch for awhile. I was away on a not even remotely earned vacation in Ireland. I mean there’s no possibility that anyone could mistake me for someone needing a vacation. There is no way that I ever work that hard. Have I been clear? I don’t deserve vacations. However, things that I learned in Ireland include:

  • Guinness won’t kill you – it is great!
  • Guinness is very good, I like Guinness
  • I know that I’m repeating myself but, you guessed it, I like Guinness
  • Rain is not my friend
  • Music is universally important. Music matters
  • It rains a lot in Ireland
  • Aer Lingus isn’t Irish for free drinks during flight
  • Galway is the new…………whatever the old ‘cool’ place was
  • Smithwicks is pronounced Smithicks or, alternatively, Smithwicks and it doesn’t depend on how many you’ve had
  • The right side of the road is in fact the right side of the road
  • Skoda makes every automobile driven in Ireland and none driven in Canada – what’s with that? Where for art thou, Skoda? “Feel the force”. Anyone get that one or too geeky?
  • Friends make life worth living – well, that and wine

These recommendations are for the May 24th “New Arrivals” release.

bilahautvvRoussillon is part of the Lake of Wine in the south of France. It, along with the Languedoc, has spawned labels such as Fat Bastard, Arrogant Frog, a bicycle one that I forget, and other cute but reasonably solid wines. I have recommended a tonne of wines from this area because…………….well, I really like them and I worked several harvests at Chateau L’Homme Faible as a grape frere. There are three that make these virtual pages each and every vintage, it seems – those carrying M. Chapoutier’s Bila-Haut label. This week there is the entry level Bila-Haut and the premium one as well. Let’s start on the easier price point – 2012 M. Chapoutier Les Veilles Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon-Villages #168716 $14.95. That’s a mouthful – “I’d like a glass of the Chapoutier Les Viieilles Vignes (is it veel vins? deep breath) de Bila-Haut (hard swallow) Cotes….oh shit, just give me a glass of this (pointing to the item on the menu with your finger).” These wines sometimes can be quite simple or one-dimensional at this price point but this wine defies that description – it’s medium bodied but brings it with earthy, chewy flavours and tannins. Syrah, Carignan, and Grenache grown on “gneiss and schist from the Devonian Period.” I’m not schisting you; that’s directly from their web site. It creates a wine that has minerality, spiciness, and some smell and taste of the scrubbiness from which it comes. A good value. The shelf label will say that I gave it 3 fishes or it more likely will say that www.winefront.com.au gave it a 91.

occultumlapidemThe other Chapoutier gem is the premium – but not much 2011Domaine de Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem #643239 $25.95. This wine has a similar feel to the cheaper one – brambly, garrigueiness. A more full-bodied effort. I’m not sure whether there was any wood used but I bet if it was it was old casks – fruit isn’t overshadowed by anything that doesn’t come from the field. Bigger and rounder than the one above. My notes say, “Love this stuff!!!” Yes, three exclamation points. BTW ‘occultum lapidem’ means ‘hidden stone’ or ‘gem’, I believe. But then again, I only took Latin for four years about a hundred years ago. Glad I did as it’s a big help on crossword puzzles and Dan Brown novels. I’ll let you discover the shelf talkers yourself but this scored very high marks from some of the ‘experts’. These labels have Braille on them too. There’s a story there that I’ll leave you to Google.

montes aslpha syrahThere was a time when many of my recommendations included wines from Chile. Not sure why they’ve fallen off – probably because I’m not drinking as many of them so don’t know what’s what? This week, the 2010 Montes Alpha Syrah #000612 $19.95 appears on the shelves. This label is a ‘go to’ for some of you (Oliver and Joanne?) as you’ve told me about the cabernet sauvignon, carmenere, and chardonnay; all consistent performers. This syrah has been climbing on quality over the last few vintages IMHO. This one has staying power requiring a little basement time, breathing or violent swishing. Subdued nose but a powerful experience in the mouth. It reminds me of a New World cabernet sauvignon a bit – with the oak very present – some cab in the blend. Powerful wine – food wine – lamb chops, pork roast, fatty meat – spice and acid on the finish making my lips smack. Wait, I really don’t know if my idea of lip smacking is everyone else’s. Let’s all do this together – 1, 2, 3 smack your lips. You did try it didn’t you? You guys are just weird.

ironyBringing you wines that you’ll actually pick up is one of my goals here. Repeating labels so that you get familiar with the good ones. No use recommending the 2006 Blaufränkisch if the name itself scares you off. We’ll build up to those unfamiliar wines another time. This time of year, you’re looking for getting the Q started and burgers burning. This week there’s a wine that can do one better than burgers – the 2011 Irony Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon #025106 $19.95 arrives to give those Calicabaholics a very nice picnic table red. Food friendly with balanced acidity and enough backbone tannins to stand up to steak, I think. Dark but not swarthy. Pretty quintessential California cabernet sauvignon and the price is very good for this much power and balance.

Speaking of pricing. And, I’m sure we were. What’s with the seemingly big mark up on US wines? Isn’t the mother ship one of the biggest purchasers of wines and spirits in the world? Drive a hard deal, FCOL. The wine above is probably $9.99 USD at Costco. As a former math major, I calculate that as about a 100% markup. Done without a calculator or slide rule, I might add. So either Mister Irony (in cahoots with his Canadian importer) is screwing with us or we’re getting new hospital beds at my local with the profits. Which is a definite plus as I age and detect significant mental slippage. But it ain’t just the exchange and sin tax is what I’m sayin’.

This release features Rhone reds – and, I Iove Rhone reds! But alas, I haven’t sampled any of the Rhone wines on offer. Note to LCBO – “If you want me to keep on upselling the masses, show me some love and get me some samples”. I do have two sight–undrank wines that I might pick up – 2011 Le Gravillas Côtes du Rhône-Villages Séguret #309260 $15.95 and 2010 La Font du Vent Passion Côtes du Rhône-Villages Signargues #370260 $16.95 both sound like they’re the type of Cotes I like to wear.

Recommendation revisited: I recommended the Clifford Bay Pinot Noir #309500 $19.95 quite a while ago and was surprised to see that there are still a bunch at my store (Masonville). Go get it if you’re a New World pinot fan – good value from Down Under.

10 WAYS TO FOOL PEOPLE INTO THINKING YOU KNOW ABOUT WINE

19 May

Just coming clean with this re-blog. And will be very conscious of how many times I use ‘lemon’ in my wine descriptions from here on out.

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