Archive | January, 2015

#MWWC14 – Screw Tradition

26 Jan

wine-stain1-3There’s a self-abusive yet strangely entertaining monthly event in wine writing circles called the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. This month the theme is “Tradition”. Now, before you suggest that it may seem unfair that I’d choose the theme and then write a post. I feel like I have something to say about traditions in wine. I read with interest The Food and Wine Hedonist’s take on the theme of “Tradition” – traditions with wine that we should keep and ones that we should discard. The Drunken Cyclist spoke of three overdue traditions. You can read it here. It got me to thinking, “There sure are some very bad wine traditions that need changing. Let’s form a protest group”

First let me say, that I am of the generation that had the luxury of protest without consequence. Protest was valued. We marched on Parliament Hill to protest the War Measures Act carefully watched by soldiers with really big guns. We protested the Vietnam War by traveling south and joining even though our connection to it in Canada was  based on friendships with conscientious objectors, dodgers, and deserters in our dorm. We marched against subdivisions being built at the expense of trees, and we protested the rise of tuition to, wait for it……… gasp….$600 a year! These weren’t necessarily all big protests but we saw the establishment as something not to be trusted. There even was a saying, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” And, we believed it. The truth? We were mostly privileged white kids in the age of the sexual revolution and acid. I won’t tell you if I participated in either but that might be why I seem to talk about wine in terms of it’s acidity and Italian actresses. Ya think?

Protest is viewed differently now. How does Occupy get ignored, dismissed and fizzle out while the 1% is still the 1% and at the same time, we’re making movies glorifying protest moments like Selma? What does this have to do with tradition and wine? I’m glad you asked.

There are numerous traditions in wine that we need to change. And change doesn’t come easily. We need to force change through taking up arms, throwing tea overboard, taking a petition, non-violent protest, or if you’re a Canadian, seeking compromise and then after that fails asking politely. OK, pour me a glass of heavily taxed wine…….here goes.

The tradition that I want to change is government monopoly wine sales. For me, this Liquor Control Board of Ontario tradition started when I turned 17 (age of majority was 21) and I strolled into the local LCBO, with fake ID, to pick up a very cheap  ’mickey’ of rye –  an acquired taste for sure. You had to fill out a form with the stock number of the product you wanted and hand it to a clerk who walked back into the stock room finally emerging with your bottle wrapped in a plain brown paper bag. Then, I coolly sauntered out to the car full of my buddies with a big smile on my face. Oh, I was cool – passing for 21, man. Now, if the acne would just behave.

The LCBO is significantly more user friendly now. But, we still go to the LCBO instead of Bubba’s Liquors and Hastymart. I can’t speak for every jurisdiction where this happens but I can talk about our elephant mother ship.

First let me say that there probably isn’t a state run liquor agency that runs a better business than our dear LCBO. In almost every community, they provide a good selection of wine, craft beer, and hard liquor. They are clean, well staffed, and have reasonable hours and locations (shout out to Washago – Wahoo!). They have regular glossies with stories of wine and the people that make it. The point isn’t what they do. It’s what they can’t do or won’t do.

Ontarians want to be able to order wines that we want. When we want them. Not just from the current in-store stock or on-line shopping offerings! We want a salesperson to sell us wine – help us connect with available wines, try and get what I want or point me in the direction of fulfillment elsewhere.

We want tasting events that don’t start and stop at the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) but serve the needs of all Ontarians! We all vote don’t we? I’m doing my best to put London wine consumption on the data map and want a reward. Why can’t I taste the Bordeaux Futures in advance in London?

We want to be able to get delivery to our house not the nearest LCBO outlet. Even if it means that it’s delivered while we’re still in our housecoats at 2 pm (TMI?).

And, most importantly, we want our own guy! Now, there are guys and gals at the mother ship but really do you develop a real relationship with them. Do they know the last 4 digits of your over-the-limit credit card? I think not. We want a Steve, who just happens to be a wine freak (this you can tell from the faint odour of 2000 Chateau Lagrange emanating from his pores – Steve has good taste). I want Steve to help me understand the wines that are on the shelves.

And, maybe most importantly, (wait I already said that but I mean it this time), we want to see more of our Ontario wines available. Maybe have a store in town that offers Ontario wines only and not at the supermarket check out?

And, I get that the price is a bitch here. I’m not even asking for lower prices on wine. What? I repeat, I don’t care about the prices we pay in Ontario. I mean we have to pay for universal health care and lousy transit.

Here’s the problem with the LCBO meeting our demands. They can’t. If they could have, they’d have done it already. They are big, rule bound, and big. And, they’re big. Built for big – cookie cutter big. There are certain truths about big. One: it isn’t small.

Small strains to meet customer demands because if they don’t, they’re dead.

Small is Steve spending time with you to talk about a new winery that he’s discovered and brought in to try; “Here Bill, try a bit of this excellent Aglianico from Campania.”…………”yes Bill, I guess you can have a second glass.”

Small is developing relationships with a few Ontario wineries and bringing in the stuff that is hard to get to promote local excellence – not in all 450 stores – just at Steve’s.

Small is having tasting events at a location (like London!) that big data wouldn’t support with the goal of broadening the acceptance and interest in wine. Build it and maybe they’d come.

Small is extending some credit to a regular customer like yours truly. I mean some of us need a fix of Gran Reserva Rioja and are waiting on our monthly cheque.

ratSo, what can we do to get what we want? Well, protest. Did you read the top of the post? Vote the issue. Sign a petition. Write your member of the legislature. Vote the issue (did I say that already?). And, this might just do it, support alternative access to wine. That means buying from, ordering through an agent, smuggling, buying directly from the winery. I know that the LCBO still probably gets a cut as they have to warehouse every drop of beverage alcohol in Ontario, it seems. A rant for another time. Or, meet me this Saturday morning at 9:30 am at the Masonville LCBO. Bring your placards with WE WANT STEVE on them. If I’m late, start without me.

So, that’s the tradition that I want to drop kick to the curb. I think that we still need a retailer like the LCBO. I get that we make thousands of billions of tax dollars through these franchises. And, I’m not too fussed about simply exchanging the LCBO for huge retailers like Costco (a rant for another time). But, I want some competition that provides what they can’t.  I want some of the things that small could bring. How about this compromise? And I did say that was a Canadian’s first choice. Why not allow Steve to set up shop in Old North London within walking distance of my house? Steve’s Wines. Please. That’s asking politely. And, warning – I might discuss this again.

Now, all we need is a protest song………..

“Imagine there’s a Steve’s

It’s easy if you try

Below us only wine cellar

Above us only sky

You may say that I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one?”

I’m kind of stuck there. Help me out.



This Just Might be the Best Article I Ever Read About Wine

25 Jan

I love Asimov’s approach to wine; the creating, drinking and the discussion of wine.

Charles Scicolone on Wine

Nonsense. Romance is the essence of wine.

Great wine by its nature is mysterious, unpredictable and perhaps ultimately unknowable. We understand a lot about it, and yet so much is unresolved. How does a wine express a sense of place, subject to minute differences of terroir? How does it evolve and become complex with time? I embrace these and many other uncertainties, which requires me to give up the illusion of omniscient expertise that is so often conferred to wine writers. Consider the sorts of questions that may arrive in one day’s inbox:

1. “I just bought a case of 2010 Barolo…

View original post 931 more words

Tapas Dance and the Daily Sloshes

23 Jan

After my reference to Spanish quality wines last time out, I see that this week’s release (January 24) just so happens to feature Spanish wines. A coincidence? I think not. The problem for me? Of the wines that appear that I’ve tasted, I can’t recommend them. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some possibly very good wines out there just that I haven’t had them yet. Nice problem to have – wines that I just have to taste. But it does leave me in a quandary: what to talk about this week. Well, let’s start with some Spanish wines that I’ve had recently that are available (but not as part of this release) and maybe a few wines that I’m looking forward to trying?

As I mentioned last time, we are travelling to Spain this year and in doing research, I’ve tasted a bunch of Spanish wines. We had a planning session this past weekend. Over tapas we debated the value of just hangin’ in Spain without all the checklist sight seeing. And, we were convinced that my friend and I should go over early to see some wineries in Priorat, Montsant, and Penedes before our wives joined us. I wonder who came up with that idea? A wine was brought for consumption that I hadn’t had in the past. Remember the Viña Real Crianza that I recommended? Go ahead and nod. It will confirm that you actually read this stuff. I’m touched. It’s very affirming. We had the Reserva from the same place – 2009 Viña Real Oro Reserva #94846 $29.95. This was a vinaoropowerful, ruby red wine with what I interpret as evidence of newer oak being used. Pronounced nose of cedar, brush, red fruit (plums raspberries), jamminess and tastes of spice, toastiness, and raspberries – moderate to long finish. Balanced and leaving us wishing there was another bottle. This was a special wine for us to have with the tapas that yours truly expertly crafted. When I reflect back on my notes for the crianza, which was a 2010, I penned thoughts like, “very tasty but maybe needs a little more time to develop”, and “ well balanced, smooth, and yet not overpowering”. This reserva, on the other hand, is ready to pop and pour now but would still develop for another 10 years I bet. And, there’s nothing shy about it now. A virtual Tower of Power. Highly recommend! In fact, if you’ve said to yourself, “Not sure that I could tell the difference between fill in the name of your favourite plonk and a more expensive wine”, you need to pick this up. You’ll never say that again (I hope).

monopoleWe started the evening with a white Rioja 2013 Monopole #66951 $16.95. Why didn’t I start with this part of the story – at the start? Not sure. This was an interesting “guess the grape” exercise because we really haven’t had much of the Viura grape before. Served with manchego cheese topped with guava paste and dates stuffed with chorizo and wrapped with crispy bacon. Seriously. The wine smelled of Gewurtztraminer a bit – floral. Medium bodied and carrying the citrusness of Sauvignion Blanc. If it was the a second wine of the night it could have passed for SB actually. Yet, it was a bit rounder. A very nice wine. If you haven’t taken a swing at Viura, I’d say pick it up and enjoy like you would any other young, flavourful, dry white wine. Don’t over think it. Just chill and twist the cap.

The ‘other red bottle’ was a 1985 Coto de Imaz Gran Reserva that I’d had below for a few years. It’s not every day that I get to drink a wine this old (29 years for those without their phone calculator handy) and I IMG_0698was worried that it might be (Sophisticated Wine Term Alert!) ‘pooched’. Those unfamiliar with that descriptive term clearly haven’t passed their WSET Level 9! My basement outer wall is consistently dark, cool, and until they started infilling next door, still and quiet. My beauties rest and develop a real personality in most cases. But, there is always a chance that the pop is followed by a moan – something hasn’t kept well. That’s the risk and shit happens. This particular wine comes from a winery that I stock up with every year. It’s a good value Rioja usually around $20 for the Reserva. And, it’s fun comparing vintages. Really? Yes, wine geeks are weird. This 1985 looked just as expected in the glass – showing some browning on the edges and lighter than a young Rioja – throwing a bit of sediment swirling in the glass. It had a medium nose – think Sandra Bullock – of some kero and raisins. However on first sip, it was apparent – the power was gone. It tasted of dried fruits and some woodiness – not unlikeable – just faint. I wasn’t disappointed actually. It was a good experience for someone that doesn’t get to drink many truly older wines to see how things can develop. This was about 3.265 years too late but, hey, still consumable – which of course we did.

In an effort to taste as many wines as I can. Wait, that doesn’t sound very healthy. Let’s try this – In an effort to have as many wines to talk about as I can – much better – I buy and taste a bunch of wines that I’m hoping either stay in stock long enough or return later in the year so that I can talk about them. In this spirit, I picked up a bottle of the 2013 Rio Madre #354753 $14.95. It was nicely featured at an aisle end with a shelf talker proclaiming a high score (90) from an ‘expert’. It called my name. Yes, I’m influenced by the same marketing bullshit as everyone else, I’m afraid. But, in my defence, this wine was made with 100% Graciano, not Rocky but a grape that’s used as a blender in many Rioja wines (added to my Wine Century Club list). Let’s try it. Not sure about you but a synthetic cork just screams, “Mistake!” to me. I love the screw top ‘Stelvin’ closures but the fake corks just seem lazy and unnatural. My notes on this wine? “Meh”. It is an actual category on the Duffswines Cheatsheet. I wasn’t feeling the love that the expert reviewer did. The wine reminded me of a Garnacha in mouthfeel – low acid, lowish tannins. And, I like Garnarcha but this didn’t do it for me. Very floral in nose and on the finish which was short. Maybe it was the expectation not being met that put a negative on the wine. The good news? I have another down below that I will try much later and report back to the group.

Daily Slosh wines in this week’s release that I haven’t had but am going to pick up are:

2011 Casa Castillo El Molar #397190 $17.95 first I’ve never had a wine named after a famous Spanish soldier known for his extra strong teeth – he was (trumpets, please) EL MOLAR! Seriously, Jumilla wines are usually interesting and tasty. Plus, this winery’s entry level red wine 2013 Casa Castillo Monastrell #165621 $14.95 is a beaut and a true QPR red staple.

featherstone2013 Featherstone Black Sheep Riesling #080234 $16.95 I am always searching for a wine for my mother-in-law. She likes them off-dry (well, sweet) but I resist the sweet because, after everyone has gone home and The Director has retired, I end up finishing the bottle. I love off-dry Riesling. High praise for Featherstone lately and this wine should be no exception.

Splurge white – 2012 Bachelder Bourgogne Chardonnay #272005 $35.95 Thomas Backhelder makes wine in Burgundy, Ontario, Oregon and maybe elsewhere as well. His specialties are the Burgundian grapes – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I’ve enjoyed those made under his eponymous label and earlier efforts (Le Clos Jordanne).

Splurge red – 2012 Stoller Pinot Noir #401539 $31.95 an Oregon Pinot Noir is always a bit of a sucker pin placement for me. I have to go for it and take the chance that it’s consistent with my past experiences – complexity, power yet restraint, ageability, and some earthiness. It doesn’t always work out (like shooting for the pin) but this comes highly recommended by a fellow oenophile. Too expensive, you say? It’s cheaper than a dozen golf balls.

Have a great weekend!


Nudge, Nudge #MWWC14 – Tradition

20 Jan

wine-stain1-3Just a reminder that the time is running out on #MWWC14. Here are the rules. The theme this month is “Tradition”. Having chosen the theme, I feel somewhat compelled to nag. Oh, yeah, of course to help…..and nag. In that spirit, here are some great ideas to break writer’s block.

You could talk about your traditional bottle opening techniques. Say for example, you always open your Clos Vougeot by expertly wielding the corkscrew you picked up on a jaunt to Beaune. It always causes memories to flood in. That day you were lost on a narrow twisty street and stumbled into a little store for directions. Your eye caught sight of an unusual corkscrew on the counter. The owner, a small man in traditional French attire (worn jeans and crumpled linen shirt) who spoke no English saw your interest and insisted you take it gratis. That night you opened your first bottle of Clos Vougeot (was it a 1990?) with your newfound tool. Epiphany. Since then, you always laugh about that wonderful day and the corkscrew. And, you use only that corkscrew for overpriced Burgundy.

Cool tradition? No? Not helping?

How about this? You could tell a wine making tradition. For example, how each and every year on the remote island of Pentalleria prior to the harvest of the rare varietal “Usaxelaun” (yes, it is a grape), the vineyard workers at Chateau Demento partake in a feast of mushrooms dug from the roots of chestnut trees. Magic mushrooms. At midnight, they dizzily and confusedly climb the treacherous cliffs to pick the perfectly ripe grapes on the terraces above. In the dark they deposit the grapes in wicker baskets that were made in the 6th century by prisoners. Why not stay straight, pick in the daytime, and use a harvester and crates? Tradition, of course. Well, that and a meal of magic mushrooms, duh.

Last idea and stay with me on this. When people come to your house they always bring wine because you are a ‘wine guy’ and you’re easy. In the beginning, you opened the wine they brought as soon as they were seated – as a courtesy and an effort to show that you are not a snob (but you really are). But (choose one): the wine was usually bad; the gesture did nothing to dispel the belief that you are a snob (BTW, you are); or, you didn’t want the homeless bottle collectors that go through your recycling bin to doubt your wine street cred – heck, they’d stop reading your blog. In any event, you decided that something else must be done with these host/hostess gifts. You can’t drink them. So, you stockpile turduckenthese full bottles. And then every Thanksgiving before you sit down to your meal of Kobe beef, turducken, and organic kale (another tradition), you gather up the kids and trudge down to the local Food Bank with several cases of wine. Wine is groceries, you know (Quote credit to Richard Betts). You’re all about setting a positive example to those formative young minds. Each and every Easter, yup. Why? Tradition.

So, that’s enough of me writing your entries for you. Brilliant ideas that you’re welcome to plagiarize. But, I have to keep some ideas for myself. Come on, get to work! If you’ve thought about entering the challenge in the past and thought, “But, I don’t think that I can compete against these other bloggers.” Hell, I won last month and you’ve read this post. Go for it. You can read about the challenge and again the rules here.

Good luck.


#Mondayblogs – It’s a Ramble. Just Go With

12 Jan

I was taught, in my rather Victorian childhood home, that there is a right way and there are other ways – which are all wrong. I’ve mellowed over the years. I’ve seen and accepted that there are different points of view, different ways of doing things. Diversity is good. We need fewer rules not more. Marrying a woman that tolerates a man that breaks as many ‘rules’ as I do might be part of that growth. In that spirit, I’ve held off rambling on the current state of the Queen’s English. I wanted to tolerate it, not rail against it. But, I don’t know about you. I think the written and spoken word are in dire shape (grammar check says that I should have written ‘is in dire shape’. That just sounds wrong). I’ve read similar rants. And, I want to get it all out too. I realize that I risk the wrath of mean spirited people with red pencils forever scouring my blog for mistakes and pointing them out. Knock yourselves out. Here goes.

letseatgrandmaI admit that I sometimes have a pretty fast and loose relationship with proper written English on these pages including “some; sketchy punctuation! on my blogs. I plead for an exemption – this merely reflects a ‘style’ of communication. It’s more artistic or stylistic than wrong. No? Doesn’t sell it? Maybe it’s just that bloggers should get some slack due to the freedom that blogging, by its very nature, demands. No? Well, let’s just say that I am allowed conflicting behaviours on my own blog. So, in no particular order, here are my worst offending culprits:

  1. Loss of the adverb. I remember long ago in a land far away, the adverb roamed the earth shaking frequently and enthusiastically it’s ‘ly’. Now, it’s all but left common usage. The loss is most pronounced in the sports writing and reporting fields. Sports reporters cover the game excellent. I’m not trying to say that they don’t do good. Just that they must have skipped Spoken English 101 when they completed their basket weaving degree at OFU (Only Football University). Please, “Save The Adverb!”
  2. If you are asking someone if they wish to accompany you, it’s quite acceptable to include the appropriate pronoun at the end of ‘go with’. Trust me, it’s OK.
  3. “My bad”. Enough said…………. OK, not enough said. What is a bad? Why do grown adults need to sound like hip young people? It’s as wrong as wearing your baseball cap backwards after cresting 40. Come on. Talk and dress your age.
  4. As I walked home late the other night, I was passed by two teen girls on bikes having a conversation. One of them said, “He was like sayin’ what do you want? And, I said like whatever.” What? What does that actually mean? What did she really want? Or is it speech designed to simply fill the air with words? And, don’t say, “Sort of like this blog.” Back when they taught grammar, I learned that you would use ‘like’ in a simile. I realize that ‘like’ is also accepted as a “nonvolitional interjection”. I know this because I read it on But please not with every friggin’ breath you take (apologies to The Police). Here’s how we fix this. If your child has a speech problem, you get it tended to. For example, I couldn’t say r’s when I was little. So I know first hand what happens. You further humiliate your child by having him publicly excused from class to spend time with the speech pathologist twying to WEAWY WEAWY IMPWOVE. Phew, didn’t know that anger was still there. The point? If your child says ‘like’ after every other word, you get him to a speech pathologist. The only way to stomp this out is to embarrass the perpetrators.
  5. Use of non-words and acronyms. Yes, people use non-words all the time. I can see using ‘u’ as a pronoun in a tweet due to character restrictions, maybe a text? No, not a text – lazy. How lazy do you have to b to save your fingers by maybe a couple letters a text? Same goes with the ubiquitous LOL. Really? You were laughing out loud? What it really means is, “Hey, this is the end of the text and like……whatever.”
  6. I hate that biz-speak phrases or words are creeping into common usage. I heard an interesting phrase the other day. I was told that on a conference call, a participant suggested that they ‘socialize the concept’. What? How effective is communication that leaves most people on the call shaking their heads and wondering, “What the hell did he just say? Socialize the concept? Are you shitting me?” Bureaucratese and biz-speak have been around for years. Years ago, I worked for a very bureaucratic organization that used so much biz-speak, I circulated Bingo cards that had words instead of numbers. It was called Bullshit Bingo. Then, participants on conference calls or at meetings would furtively cross out these words/phrases as they were used and whisper, “Bingo” when they had a line filled. That went on until one day the boss on a call heard the “Bingo” and asked what that was about. Silence. We were unable to clarify the environment for her. Clarify The Environment? Hey. Bingo! Stomp out biz-speak!
  7. Another culprit is print media. I’m not sure who proofreads proofreads their stuff. But, it’s brutal. Words are mispeled, sentences disconnected. Out of the blue, they introduce the last names of people who they haven’t even told us about. Taylor commented on this and the sloppy use of proofreading as a means to edit out content to fit items into available space.
  8. Using the present tense in a story about the past as in, “He goes. Then I go” This took place in the past; so use the past tense. “He went. Then I went.” I’d like to talk about using ‘goes’ in the first place but another time for that.

IloveEnglishI just re-read the above and it sounds that I’m a bit uptight and the criticism is indeed a bit harsh. I’m sorry if I’ve offended friends and family. Oh, on the uptight part, I plead – guilty. Why do you think I drink so much wine? Wine: The Great Unuptightener! And, yes, unuptightener can be a word. We just all have to use it three times and it’s ours. Language evolves, you see.

There are many, many, many more examples presaging the end of the linguistic world as we know it. But, let’s leave those for another time. Or, we could socialize the concept by using the virtual interface at the bottom of the page where it says, “Leave a Comment”. Let me hear ur most egregious perpetrators. LOL.TTFN.


A New Year – The White Daily Slosh

7 Jan

Aside from my splurge posts last month, it’s been awhile since I last posted on white sloshes. FYI, click on the links here to read the splurge posts: Holiday Advice Part 1; Holiday Advice Part Deux; Holiday Advice Fini

Can we talk? I hate winter. Back when I skied or took my son to hockey, at least there was something to celebrate besides gassing up the snowblower and road reports. The Red Daily Slosh that I posted yesterday was influenced by this sentiment, the cold, and the snow shovel, I’m afraid. It’s been pointed out to me that two (Sangrantino, Tannat) of the four wines were pretty heavy hitters – come-in-from-the-cold wines. OK, I did do that. So, why now would I recommend a white wine that’s so inextricably malingelinked to summer patios? Not sure. Maybe it’s because I like it, it’s my blog, and I’m not a slave to time of year. Heck, I drink rosé in the winter too. The 2013 Domaine du Bois-Malinge sur Lie Sèvre et Maine #224236 $13.95 could never be accused of being ‘heavy’. But it does pack a punch – an acidic punch. A lip smacker. It says in the review that it has a spritz to it but I’d say a tingle sums it up best for me. Great sipper or a great wine for salty seafood dishes. If you trend to Pinot Grigio (and, we won’t make a disparaging comment – live and let live – drink what you love), I’d think that you’d appreciate this light, refreshing white.

There’s a thing called #NWTW that wine lovers the world over participate in. OK, it may not be “the world over”. But, there’s a broad base of participation that you might want to think about joining. It’s gavidesigned to get us all to try different wines – get out of our rut. Change it up. Each week in 2014, a different wine was explored by Please Bring Me My Wine, the fearless leader of the idea. History, how it’s made, what to eat with it, and several suggestions of what labels to look out for. It is fun. So, let’s try this out here. Everyone pick up a bottle of 2013 Bersano Gavi di Gavi #999979 $14.95, break into small groups, sip and discuss, create a mindmap of your thoughts on the wine, and then report back to the large group minuted on a central flipchart. Sound like fun? Or just the work of a former “front-of-room” organization guy? I plead guilty. OK, forget about it. But, there’s a chance for rut escape with this crisp, meadowy white. Focused and light – a great white for sipping before a meal or with a light lunch. Try it out.

Where do bargains reside in droves? South America. I used to recommend a Chilean or Argentinean wine almost every post but have switched my tasting style to a more traditional continental feel, it seems. But, one winery always brings me back – Dominio del Plata and their winemaker, Susana crioschardonnayBalbo. The 2013 Crios Chardonnay #243196 $13.95 is a perfect cottage wine. I’m not planning on travelling to my cottage any time soon (couldn’t get in to it) but I could put a fire on right here and pretend that I’ve just spent the day doing nothing (OK, I really don’t have to pretend on that part) in the sun and open a bottle of this value Chardonnay. Crios in Argentina must mean “bargain”. The Torrontes and Malbec are also stunningly good value. This Chardonnay doesn’t fall into the “cheap Chardonnay” fault of lack of punch. It carries some weight and can take on foods that you’d think you’d need a richer wine to tackle. It has creaminess on the finish in particular with a hint of acid that takes away any impression that it’s flabby. Great value for the oaked Chardonnay lovers. BTW, at Duffswines, we hate flabby wines. Hate ‘em, hate ‘em, hate ‘em.

A couple Chardonnays that I’m going to pick up for The Director include 2013 Wakefield Chardonnay #711556 $14.95 which, in vintages past, provides great value in an oaked Chardonnay – balanced, straight forward, and full of toasty notes on the finish. And, the 2012 Voyageur Chardonnay #389544 $16.00. This is made by a Prince Edward County winery from Niagara fruit. If it’s PEC, it should be a little more restrained and classic – can’t wait.

For those new to the blog, if you click on the link provided with each wine (product number and price), you will be taken to an LCBO description of the wine. You can check availability in your area by pulling down the city list in the top right. If you have any trouble let me know.

Also, if you try any of these wines, drop me a line at the email address on the right or put a comment in below.





A New Year and New Red Daily Slosh(es)

6 Jan

I wanted to start the year with one of my favourite songs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a video of Joni Mitchell singing it but Diana Krall is no slouch, if you knowwhatImean.

Happy New Year to everyone! With resolutions in hand or, if you’re like me, already discarded, it’s time to stock up. There’s a movement that happens each Jan. 1 called “Alcohol-Free January” or some such thing. Really? I admit that maybe cutting back or abstaining for a while never hurt anyone. But, if you have to give it a name and a month, you might need to consider the next 11 steps. And that analysis means? Bill is continuing to sip during this bloody cold month. What kind of wine blog would this be if I didn’t?

This LCBO release is called “The Smart Buy Issue” providing some value picks.

vinarealWe are heading to Spain with friends in September for a wander. Maybe by design or just luck, I’ve been drinking a lot of Spanish wines over the past year. Love them. So, it’s neat to see some come around again so that I can talk about them. Now, hands up. How many of you picked up the 2008 Ondarre that I recommended late last year? It was an especially tasty wine. And, I’m not using that wine snob description to impress. If you’ve had some, you’re already impressed enough. There is disproportionate value in the many DO’s of España. The Rioja,  2010 Viña Real Plata Crianza #657411 $18.95 is a perfect example. Its fresh red fruit comes through on the nose and in the mouth. Enough of a backbone to stand up to some food – seafood tapas – quite smooth. Where the Ondarre had a background of woodiness, this seems absent of oak effects – steeliness Great sipper.

laplaceHave I ever told you about my friend Andrew? I think that I have here. And, without giving things away, he loves wines from the Midi and Southwest of France. “Been there, done that, luv it”, he’d say. So, when there’s a repeat from Madiran, I have to give him a heads up. The 2011 Laplace Madiran #103705 $16.95 is a sturdy red that should go below for a few years. It’s made from the Tannat grape which if you give it an intuitive thought….go ahead, I’ll wait……yup, it carries a lot of tannin. You might call them rough wines but we call them ‘gutsy’ which is more endearing and accurate. This one is deep, dark and rich. Still lots of tannins peaking through and hitting you on the finish. But on second thought, I like it now but with some decant.

CastellodiMeleto_ChiantiClassicoDOCG_bottleThumb2010 is a great year for Chiantio Classico. I’ve had a bunch and almost every one has brought bright red cherries, some earthiness and if I’m lucky a little leather, violets, and grit. This week, there’s the 2010 Castello di Meleto Chianti Classico #332114 $18.95 to join that longish list. Balanced, medium-bodied and fresh – that cherriness on the nose and in the mouth – a little shy in that it isn’t a big wine. Don’t wait on this – pop and pour with friends (imaginary or real). A nice easy drinking Italian red to sip from a tumbler with bread, olive oil, and tomato something or other

And while we’re strolling around the middle of Italy, let’s look to Umbria. Yes, that’s Ahhhhmbria. Lovely sounding word. A great place for values and home to the pretty hilltop town of Orvieto – just heard some montefalcoOrvieto stories last week. There’s a grape there that we don’t see that often here but keep an eye out – Sagrantino. What a great name for a grape ………..or a Joe Pesci role. Anyway, this red grape carries a thick skin (go ahead and tease it. Water off a duck’s back) and has a load of flavour. This grape needs some time in bottle and we’re in luck because the 2008 Villa Mora Montefalco Rosso Riserva #357079 $16.95 is, obviously a 2008. This is big, dark and full-bodied with a personality of herbs – anise in the mouth. Just think of this bottle sitting in a cave in Montefalco seemingly waiting for your corkscrew (please tell me it isn’t battery powered), glasses, and friends. This is the beauty of wine from a region with a zillion years of history. A heads up – another from this stable – 2008 Villa Mora Montefalco Sagrantino #342394 $21.95 which is a beaut is in short supply at the mother ship. A step up in balance, intensity and purpose from the Rosso Riserva.

If you’ve tried these wines, let me know what you think. My email is in the right banner or leave a comment below.



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