Archive | August, 2014

Fishes, Loaves and The Red Daily Slosh

28 Aug

My favourite blues singer (Beth Hart) and one of the all time great guitarists (Jeff Beck) celebrating the great Buddy Guy. Rocking a classic. Pair with the Carmenere below. Hang in for the encore – Sweet Home Chicago. It’s pretty cool.

This release (August 30) features wines scoring 90 points or more as awarded by wine reviewers. In wineland, there used to be controversy over scoring wines regardless of the system used. But now it seems that most wine writers use some system of grading wines – numerical scores, stars, wine glasses (bicchierres). I don’t like it as I get distracted by it. Here’s the thing. Sure everyone wants to know what the ‘pros’ think of a wine if they are considering buying it. But, when I hear that someone bought a $16.95 wine because it received a 90, and “$16.95 for a 90 is great value”, it makes me crazy. And, can we talk? There seem to be fewer and fewer wines that score poorly; making good scores pretty common place. Shelf talking scores in front of wines make good marketing; not necessarily good purchases. If you’ve followed me, you’ll know that I’ve stayed away from comparative scores. Why? Well, confession? I don’t have a great palate, my notes are cryptic, I’m lazy, I don’t want to be held that accountable, and I was a math major and I still can’t tell an 89 from a 90. Wait, I do know the difference between an 89 and a 90 – it’s one less. On the other hand, absolute scores may give you confidence and a reference point. So, if it helps you to use scores to better advise your purchases, knock yourself out. But, I’d think just talking to folks you trust, reading the write ups (while ignoring the scoring) that are available on the net or in the press, and maybe even asking my friend, Ken, at the LCBO would be a better use of your time. Or, I could revert to my fish and loaves scoring model. Over time you’d get the hang of what 4 fishes really means. It means it’s pretty good and one more fish than 3!

santacarolinaI recently spent time with my archaeologist son and some of his colleagues. One of his friends mentioned that she had picked up a Carmenère that I had recommended and found her new best friend – Carmenère. She said that she had subsequently asked at the wine store (Bottles in Providence, RI) about available Carmenère and had tried and enjoyed several different labels. What this means in archaeology-speak is that she subsequently drained the local wine store of every bottle of Carmenère. Why? Twenty-four hour-a-day fixation on fragments of pottery and weird details of early human civilization can do that to a person. It creates a feeling of insignificance in the vast historical universe. And leads to habitual alcohol consumption – not a criticism, just an observation. I also have a friend that drinks a lot of wine, but denies it. He said that he loves the Montes Purple Angel – a Carmenère-based wine. What’s going on with all the Carmenère love? Well, it’s good juice as my co-blogger, Conrad of the Wine Wankers would say. This week, one of our staple Carmenères hits the shelves. 2010 Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenère #034942 $18.95 is a pretty solid example of what Carmenère brings. And, that is? Well, for me it means full-bodied, full-flavoured, deeply coloured wine. The Santa Carolina is full-bodied with a big complex nose – fruit, spice and oak in the mouth with an interesting finish that’s long enough to resemble a biggish California Cabernet. In fact, if that’s your ‘go to’ wine, Cali Cab Sav that is, the Santa Carolina will be a perfect change of grape for you.

doglianiI have yet to be disappointed by Dolcetto di Dogliani wines. There’s a country-ness to the Dolcettos from the Dogliani DOC. Lip-smacking good – not heavy. Secret? Once I’ve hooked someone on Euro wine through Beaujolais. I move them on to Dolcetto. In a year or two, they’re pounding on my door at 2 in the morning begging for some Brunello. Yup, that’s how this wine thing works. Dolcettos are a fun wine but, like Beaujolais, not to be dismissed for that but rather celebrated. The 2011 Cantina del Dolcetto di Dogliani Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore #378547 $19.95 is a pretty serious Dolcetto for Dolcetto. Loads of things going on in the glass and the mouth. Enough that my tasting notes had entries crossed out with numerous notations and additions – not that easy to land on the usual terms. And, I have to say that this type of depth and complexity ain’t what I expected. This is a beautiful wine! Balanced, acidity not as front and centre as usual for this DOC, enough tannin to hold up to some fatty meaty dinner, or cellar. Go ahead and spring for this perfect-for-the-end-of-summer wine. And, one of the more elegant labels that I’ve seen lately.

rosewoodpinotSince I’ve already dissed my palate, I might as well give full disclosure. When I started to try and describe what I was experiencing with wine, I noticed some wineness on the nose and notes of wine on the palate and the finish. Then I graduated to all red wines having a definite cherry aroma and flavour hiding in there somewhere. I’ve been able to expand my repertoire quite a bit from those days but I’m always suspicious when I circle ‘cherry’. Is it that I’m just back-sliding? Am I not trying hard enough? Well, when I tasted the 2012 Rosewood Select Series Pinot Noir #112177 $21.95, I circled cherry and then had that self-doubt. But on careful reflection, I’m pretty confident that cherry is the dominant fruit in this wine. It has some wood notes and packs the acidity that pinots seem to bring from this region. Good food wine. I like what Rosewood does with their wines – they get out of the way and let it happen. This would be a great host/hostess wine or accompaniment with something smoky. Note: Image above is not the ‘Select Series’ (I couldn’t find it) but it provides an idea of what the Rosewood label will look like.

Wine that I am going to pick up untried in this vintage:

treOK, there are great mid-priced wines and there are spectacular mid-priced wines. Brancaia Tre has been one of those (spectacular, that is) over the years of this blog. I’ve enthusiastically recommended the 2009 and 2010. And received many thanks from those that picked one or two up based on the recommendation. Well, along comes the 2011 iteration of this label. The 2011 Brancaia Tre #164715 $23.95 comes with loads of critical praise and high scores but remember what I said above – I get distracted by the scores and prefer to focus on great producers, solid vintages, and past experience with the style. This one is fool-proof on that basis. Great producer, past examples exceptional, vintage good to great. This wine should either sit for a few years or get some air, if other vintages are any indication.

I’m off to Niagara this weekend. Visiting wineries and gathering stories. Stay tuned.

Image Credits:

Brancaia Tre –

Rosewood Pinot Noir –

Cantina del Dogliani –

Santa Carolina Carmenere –




#MondayBlogs : Age? It’s Only A Number

25 Aug

radiciWhat? No music? Sorry but I wanted desperately to plug in Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Riviera Paradise but couldn’t find it. And, I didn’t want to compromise.

I haven’t rambled in awhile. That’s not exactly true as I tend to ramble with every post. But, I haven’t dedicated a ramble-only post in a long time. So, to correct that oversight and to execute a bit of a brain dump, this is it. The ramble, that is.

Basically I’m an immediate gratification leaning man – waiting on stuff doesn’t suit me. Waiting on wine, in particular, makes me anxious. I want the best wine (that I can afford) at its best, right now. On the aging wine front, I’m a little uncomfortable with the term ‘predicted drinkability’. As in, “the drinking window for this sturdy Chateauneuf-du-Pape is 2014 to infinity.” Regardless of the pedigree of the suggester, I struggle to trust it. What happens if I wait too long? Open it too early? Second, I don’t really get aging. Let me explain.

I read all kinds of stuff about all kinds of stuff. It makes me a good conversationalist at a dinner party. Topic: the effects of pesticides on bee populations? I’ve got it canned, locked and loaded the moment it comes up. It never comes up, actually, if you need to know. Topic: A-Rod – bum or victim? Charming dissertation on the history of PED’s in sport. Topic: Mount Veeder viticulture as a metaphor for life? Don’t get me started. OK, that last one was bullshit – I have nothing on that one. But, my knowing, really knowing most stuff is a hoax. I don’t truly learn things through reading. I learn through doing, experiencing. So, someone telling me in a book that aging wine improves the depth, texture, balance, etc. doesn’t inform me in my core. It just gives my mind more stuff. I still won’t truly get it. Even if someone were to patiently tell me how it chemically changes – the #*****ases and the #****phenols, the unexplained changes brought on by French being spoken quietly in a dark cellar, I won’t truly understand it. And I really don’t want to understand it that way other than to use it as a party trick. Sorry.

There is a point to this story. A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I had dinner at my place. It’s a bit of a tradition that we have a bottle of his and a bottle of mine. And, you need to know that we have many of the same wines, having similar tastes. That night, he brought a 2003 Chateau Haut-Bages-Libéral. I contributed a 2006 Chateau Duhart-Milon. Yeah, yeah, I get it oenophiles, we both thought Pauillac, how intuitively in tune we are. I decanted the latter for……..ever. The ’03 – pretty well popped and poured. What did I learn? Well, I learned what happens to a wine that ages. Correction: I learned again what happens to red Bordeaux like ’03 Haut-Bages-Libéral when it’s aged a bit compared to a similarly structured newer wine. If I was at a dinner with unsuspecting people and this particular evening came up, I’d tell them the textbook stuff. I’d bullshit them or carefully toe the correct wine guy line. But, I don’t want to do that to you. I speak almost truths to you guys. My truthiness is unassailable! So, how were the two Bordeaux? The ’03 was sooooo much better. That’s it? Well, not exactly. My friend and I talked feminine versus masculine. Seriously, we did or maybe it was just me? But, what it boiled down to for me was that the older wine seemed more settled – more ready for prime time – more interesting. I could say that the tannins were a little softer, acidity a bit further in the background, fruit more focused, all more balanced because I think that’s true. But, what’s the point? You don’t need to know that exactly and you may have felt, tasted and experienced it a bit differently. What’s important is that I reinforced my belief that there are wines that just don’t do as well early as they do after some time in bottle. If I had a theory that allowed me to understand when exactly to open these wines, I’d be all set. But, I will continue to open many too early a la ’06 Chateau Duhart-Milon and others too late. ’94 Lazaretti BdM comes to mind. And, the way I learn that it’s too early or too late is by opening them. So, take my advice about aging wines with a pinch of salt, a jaundiced eye and any other old weird saying that comes to mind. When I taste a young wine, I do know if it needs time for me to truly enjoy it at its best. That’s for me to truly enjoy it. And, I’ll recommend when that’s my belief. But, I think that I’ll stay away from suggesting the exact month, week, and time of day.

So, why the ramble? Maybe just a nudge to readers to try the open-one-now-leave-one-for-later approach to wine. Or, it could be a veiled attempt to ensure that my friends reading this don’t try to lay some young Oregon pinot or 2010 Barolo on me when they drop over. I’m not having it. And, thinking this all through has contributed to a bit of angst about the ’98 and ’99 Taurasi Radici’s downstairs. What to do? Any advice?

Photo Credit:

Sad Songs and Dirty Old Men – The Red Daily Slosh

14 Aug

I’m kind of in a sad mood amid Robin Willaims’ passing and the realization that there are so many people feeling such despair. Randy Newman is usually satirical and clever, but I find this song quite sad, actually. Fits the day.

These recommendations are for the LCBO release August 16th.

Random preamble – a year ago on these pages, I told the story of wandering the aisles of the wine store and seeing a man trying to pick up women there by sidling up and talking to them about the wine they were looking at. How disgusted I was that a guy would use the sacred store (apologies to Don McLean) to find his one night stand. Well, this past week, I’m in the LCBO and as I’m checking out a wine, an attractive woman steps up beside me and what do I do? I start to talk to her about the wine she’s holding and tell her something like, “I’ve had that and it’s quite good. If you prefer California wines, you’ll love it.”  Now, there was no intent here. But, in a heartbeat I could tell that she was, well, creeped out a bit. Maybe creeped out a lot. A contributing factor might have been that she probably was going to be carded while I’m seeking the senior’s discount, if you know what I mean. It got me to thinking that my earlier characterization of that wine store guy as a predatory gigolo was hasty and I believe apologies are in order. So, if you see a middle-aged guy in the wine store smelling strongly of Axe with a very large gold chain revealed in an open necked Hawaian shirt (chest hair prominent), Oakley shades pushed up on his forehead, and chewing Thrills gum, apologize to him for me, will ya.

Now, on to the wine. Languedoc, Roussillon and environs are featured in this release. It’s an area that I’ve been to and love. The heat produces wines with loads of fruit and the shrubby stuff that abounds on the hills there comes through both on the nose and the finish. It can be rustic or almost sophisticated but I think that I like the rustic ones the best. So, bear my preferences in mind. I also think of these wines as second sippers. You need to have a full glass to really ‘feel’ the wine. If the ones that I recommend aren’t in stock, ask for help finding a similar product.

tessellaeEvery once in awhile, there’s a cool label to include in my recommendations. This one is a primitive representation of a cellar wall or the Via Domitia, I’m assuming. Sure beats a graphic of a bare foot or a little black dress 2012 Tessellae Old Vines Côtes du Roussillon #343517 $18.95. Weird how the mother ship tells us it’s “Carignan” Old Vines on the header and the review says there is no carignan in it. Which is true? Checking the winery website, the answer is……there is no carignan! This is a GSM wine – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. That’s a relief as I’m not a carignan lover. This wine gives you the garrigue in spades – the shrubbiness tells you to have another sip. Lovely Grenache dominance on the sniff and the swallow which also means relatively soft tannins. Drink now with lighter fare.

hbscHecht and Bannier are not lion tamers, a law firm, or quirky magicians (one of which is mute). They are two guys that got together to help drive an improvement in wine production in the southwest of France. Well, did they? If this wine is any indication, they sure did. I’ve mentioned my penchant for Saint-Chinian wines about a million times. I love this appellation especially in the north. Not only is it beautiful to trundle through (my picture of the village Rocquebrun below), the people are engaging, of the earth, and tourism is limited. The wine – 2011 Hecht & Bannier Saint-Chinian #184184 $25.95. OK, I know that it’s a stretch to call a wine costing $25.95 a “daily” slosh. So, buy it and save it for a special occasion, then. This wine is deep, chewy and dark fruit spicy. It is rustic in a non-tannic way. There’s tannin there just not over the top. Rustic in flavour not texture, is what I mean. Great food wine. A shout out to Dale R. He once told me how Saint-Chinian got it’s name and he said it wasn’t named after a saint (in direct conflict with Wikipedia). Dale, if you’re out there, enlighten us. Or, if anyone else can answer the question, leave a comment below.

delabadAnother wine that I’m glad is back is the 2008 Abad Dom Bueno Mencia #291989 $16.95. It’s Spanish not from Languedoc-Roussillon. Note the vintage. It’s a 2008 and still could benefit from cellaring. A great way to start a little wine stash under the stairs. But now, it’s deep, dark, and strong. Beautiful yet you don’t mess with it. Which all adds up to Grace Jones? I’d suggest it for those that like a wine that makes its own statement. You don’t taste this and then say, “This tastes a lot like Abad Dom Delouise”. Spicy – anise-like aroma from the glass, dark fruit in the mouth. Like it a lot. Food and more food, please – think sausage pizza with Joe Bonamassa shredding. For my previous review of this wine click here.

lopez de haroLast but certainly not least – the 2008 Lópes de Haro Crianza #377481 $15.95 is one of the best Rioja values that I’ve come across in a long while. It’s had the benefit of time in oak which imparts a cedar chest vibe emanating from the glass. It’s medium bodied in complete balance with enough stuffing to drink with a meal. Dried fruit on the finish. Love it! Love it! Love it! It is also available through the on-line merchant If you are so inclined, check these guys out – they offer a great portfolio of wines from all over and sometimes they ship for free. My experience of welcoming the Canada Post parcel guy – him, hauling a case of wine to my door; me, in my housecoat and slippers; the Director heading out to work is one of the most enduring images connected with this wine blog.

copertinoWhen I was in Puglia last year, I drank a bunch of Negroamaro wines. All grapes deliver a vast array of wines. That is, they don’t all taste alike. But, I’ve found that this grape is really unpredictable. Salice Salentino is made with Negroamaro and even that singular designation can have a zillion variations in quality and drinking experience. As Forrest Gump’s mother said, “You never know what you’ll get”. This week, there’s the return of 2007 Apollino Copertino Rosso #023226 $18.95. This one I like. I find that this wine has a porty thing going on – not sweet but thick. It’s ripe and full-bodied. Nothing complex, straight-forward. Easy to drink too much of, if that makes sense. Its ABV is 14% which isn’t crazy high but I’d stay away from having it as a stand around wine – pair with something that can hold up against the full-bodied nature of the wine. The LCBO suggests “pasta with a lightly spiced arrabbiata sauce.” I might step up the sauce to something more spicy but pasta and tomato sauce seems about right.

Wine that I’m going to pick up:

2012 Megalomaniac Sonofabitch Pinot Noir #085134 $24.95 – The same winery that has ‘Pink Slip’ and ‘Bigmouthed’ wines brings us one of the better names I’ve encountered. I understand that it reflects the difficulty in cultivating and vinifying pinot noir. It can be an SOB. I usually steer clear of wines with cute names but my interest is piqued and Megalomaniac has a pretty good track record. I’ll let you know how it works out.

“DRC is God’s way of telling you that you have too much money.” Robin Willaims



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