Archive | April, 2015

The ‘Best’ Red Daily Slosh Ever

26 Apr

Spent the night at a friend’s last weekend and after about a zillion bottles of lovely wine, we started to play tunes from our smartphones with the intro, ”No, you’re wrong, this is the greatest rock and roll song of all time.” It ranged from Jimi Hendrix through ……well, I can’t quite remember. Since then we have been emailing each other with second thoughts on the matter. I know the Dead (above) is an jeffbeckacquired taste but I couldn’t help it; I love ’em and that was one of my potentials. I think it’s probably either something by Jeff Beck (left) or The Allman Brothers Band. I’d tell you what the others were pimping but frankly, they were wrong. So what’s the point? It got me to thinking about wine and the use of superlatives. If we can argue about ‘the best ever’ in something as important as music, why aren’t we arguing about wine – as in the best wine ever? In my case, I like just about any wine if it’s been made with passion and attention to detail. And, probably it’s a harder call when you’ve loved a lot of different wines. But still. There must be a wine that is the ‘best ever’ for Bill. The wine that after several bottles of lovely wine you’d argue is the best wine that there is/was, hands down. I don’t have a best ever wine. And, I bet not many others do either. Why is that? Now, before you comment below that Wine Spectator has a Top 100 of The Year and Wine and Spirits has a Best 100 Wines and so there is, in fact, a ‘best’. Let me remind you that WS has a ‘top’ wine and Wine and Spirits simply offers the best wines by varietal for the year. Nowhere does anyone say, “This is the Greatest Wine of all Time (apologies to Cassius Clay)”. Why doesn’t Bill have a ‘best’ ever wine? I’m not asking because I have the answer, BTW. I just thought that I’d stimulate the mind before I dulled your senses with my recos and inane banter. Too late?

It’s a shortlist of Red Daily Sloshes from the May 2nd release. Haven’t tasted many in this circular.

Out for dinner the past month at The Church Key in #lndnont and we sat at the bar and chatted up the bartender and the owner. Got into a discussion about the tastes of patrons and their tendency to stay glued to a single wine. No experimentation, no taking the waiter’s recommendation, or just picking something different on a whim. Fierce adherence to the varietal and, even more importantly, the label. In this case, we were discussing McManis Cabernet Sauvignon. In this town you can’t dislodge ‘em. Can’t stretch their palate (too condescending?). Just make sure you’ve got it in stock. Now I know that people should just drink what they loves and I should leave them alone. So, I’ll drop it. Maybe one last thing before I do; you don’t eat the same meal every time you go out to dinner. Do you?

terra nobleI was a ‘by-the-glass’ guy that night and tried several nice reds. One of those glasses was 2011 Terra Noble Gran Reserva Carmenère #957050 $18.95. Well actually, two of them were. I’ve recommended this wine in other vintages (when I was newsletter only) and have bought a case lot before. Bear with the wine geek talk for a sec – it’s really good. Maybe I should elaborate. This is smoky on the swirl and sniff with little red fruits barely peaking their heads out. In the mouth there’s chocolate, cherries, and a hint of oak. What was that chocolate candy thing that came in a box? Lowney’s Cherry Somethingorother. Of course, it’s not sweet like that but it’s what I think of. A balanced Carmenere – great sipper or with food. Buy it!

There are wine labels that just seem by their appearance to tell you where they’re from. I’ve coined the term “label terroir” for this short essay. Some Burgundy labels have just so much stuff on them about where precisely they come from that you know they’re from a Clos de Pricey and you envision a walled vineyard worked lovingly by Francois. German Riesling in those brown and green bottles and incomprehensible labels – hard to miss where they’re from. Same goes for Alsace. The Hugel wines that I recommended last week come with a label that you don’t have to read to know is Alsatian. It may be the combination of bottle shape, bottle colour and label but you get the point. These labels speak to me. I’m weird.

lopezdeharoThe 2005 Hacienda Lopez de Haro Reserva #357335 $18.95 has one of those labels. Diagonal banner with script. A gold medal. From cheap Garnacha to Gran Reserva Rioja, labels like this say Spain. I recommended this wine last September. The review is here. I had to rescue one from the cellar to see what’s changed. Acidity that was prominent on the first sip then has dissipated a wee bit. But, the rest holds true. This could still cellar for another 10 years. Great value in Rioja. Buy more than one and take the extra down below for a year or two or five.

Wait , just rethinking here, the ‘best song ever’? Maybe Sympathy For The Devil? Imagine? Roadhouse Blues? Something by The Clash? Leonard Cohen? Cowgirl In The Sand? Could be that, like wine, there isn’t a best ever rock song either. Thoughts? If you do have a best ever wine or song, let’s hear it.

Cheers.

Bill

Dusty and The White Daily Slosh

16 Apr

Born on this day in music history. 1939 –  Dusty Springfield. Outspoken, courageous, and a damn fine singer.

What to drink on the first patio of the Spring?

If it’s red wine you crave, see my recommendations for reds in the April 18th release here.

If it’s whites, I’m going to suggest two options: fresh, crisp and light – think oysters, tapas, potato chips; and full-bodied and creamy – think chicken, buttered popcorn. But all these you can drink on their own, as well.

hugelWhen I drink whites in warmer seasons, I try to pick something that has a bit of edge to it. So, from the mainstream, that means Muscadet, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling to me. From the lesser available whites, that means Gavi, Assyrtiko, Albarinho and others. The edge just seems to make lyrical sense in warm weather – plays off the food that we tend to nibble on – it refreshes. This week, there’s a favourite Alsatian pair from Hugel & Fils (members of the Primum Familia Vini). 2012 Hugel Riesling #042101 $24.95 is a cool, lean customer. Just an aside: when Harry Potter was the rage, they had these JellyBelly candies that tasted like awful stuff. I can’t remember the names of them. Did you ever eat those? And, when you thought that the jelly bean actually tasted like grass, ear wax, etc., you had to wonder how you knew what that tasted like in the first place. I mean, you haven’t ever eaten an earth worm, have you? My theory? It tastes like it smells and we’ve all smelled ear wax (old Uncle Stan), grass, dirt, earthworm. Smell drives our taste. I say this why? Because this wine has a distinct stony taste, particularly on the finish. How would I know what stones taste like aside from the fact that as a small boy I put stones in my mouth? Stones, granite, slate have a very distinct smell and that explodes and changes when they are wet after a warm rain. I love that smell. Well, this wine is mostly citrus on the nose but in the mouth and on the lip smacking finish, it says stones and maybe peaches. But, it’s the stoniness that I like the most. This is a pretty classic take on Alsatian Riesling in my limited experience. Like über dry Riesling? This is for you.

gentilHugel also brings another crispy white to the party this week. The 2013 Hugel Gentil #367284 $15.95 is a blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurtztraminer, Sylvaner, and Pinot Blanc. Hell, you’re partway to the Wine Century Club just drinking this one wine! Now, confession: I haven’t had this vintage of the wine. I’m going on past performance (’10, ’11, ’12) and the reviews for the 2013. But, if you’re wanting an extra dry white with a floral lift, a little more fruit in the front, and a crisp finish, this is a great white for you. I like it mostly as a sipper – reception type of wine. Pre-big boy wine. Interesting phenomenon – I’m told that a lot of folks like to start the evening with one glass of a light white like SB, Riesling, or unoaked Chardonnay before they dig into big reds. They don’t really like whites but nonetheless, it’s a process that’s de rigeur. Anyway, the Gentil has always been one of the ‘go to’ whites for sipping in the warmth of the sun. If you’ve never had an Alsatian blend like this, pick this one up and let me know what you think. A wine geek observation – I love the Hugel labels – classic.

chardsmNow for the full-bodied, creamy stuff. Nothing screams creamy like an oaked Chardonnay. The under $20 Chardonnay that I love (OK, The Director loves) is 2013 Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay #232439 $19.95. This is just such a consistent label. Year after year it brings about the perfect weight of oak and butter for me. What I call a Goldilocks Wine – just right. Being a little less oaked, it avoids tropical and inserts citrus and the typical apple flavours instead. Medium, slightly creamy finish. Great food wine – BBQ chicken if it isn’t too spicy. Or, just pop a cork (or two) of this as you sit on the deck with friends (imaginary ones are great listeners, I find).

Cheers.

Bill

Remember: If you want to check availability at the mother ship, click on the wine’s link (stock number and price) and check your town/city in the drop down menu. Easy.

Play Ball – The Red Daily Slosh

15 Apr

I love baseball. I know, I’m Canadian and that means hockey, hockey, hockey. Of course I played hockey all through my youth and early adulthood.. But, baseball is my true love. This weekend is my fantasy baseball draft. It’s a lot of fun. BTW, Duffs Tunas will triumph in 2015! Yes, my team is called Duffs Tunas – affectionately called The Tunas by family members. I inherited the team on the deathbed of my brother – true story soon to be made into a feature film. And, that team he had drafted in 1998 finished second last, if you can believe it. I couldn’t end his legacy with secondbaseballglove last, could I? So I picked up the mantle and The Tunas have been my responsibility for the last 16 years.

Back to the draft – an important issue is the beverage choice. For years, I stuck to beer. Lately though, I’ve felt that I need to wave the wine flag proudly and have taken some wine from the basement. It’s a dilemna. A couple of the guys are wine drinkers and some are not. If you write a blog, do tastings, etc., it’s assumed that you’ll bring something a-may-zing. And, perhaps something that no one has had before because you are so darn knowledgeable. But agonizing over a choice that most, if not all, participants won’t care about? I’ve landed on a Barolo for the evening before (oh yeah, it’s a sleepover) for pairing with a lamb stew. And, just in case it’s a spicier lamb stew (or not stew at all), I’ve got a back up – a Rhone Syrah. During the draft – Ontario Pinot. It’s always great to share a bottle of something tasty with friends and opponents. Wait……maybe I should switch out the Barolo for a Brunello? A CdP? Boone’s Farms Strawberry Hill? Damn, but it’s a high class problem to have, isn’t it?

pfvThe April 17th release features Europe’s Primum Familia Vini – that group of families in Europe that carry the history and glory of European wine – Mouton-Rothschild, Marchesi Antinori, Famille Perrin, Hugel & Fils, Miguel Torres, Joseph Drouhin, Tenuta San Guido, Symington, Pol Roger, Egon Müller-Scharzof, Vega-Sicilia. Interesting that the LCBO profiled the Wagner family of Caymus fame in the same release. What it did was show the difference in what constitutes a long run of quality in the New World versus the Old World. The Wagner clan have made many great wines for over 40 years and yet, they are relative newcomers compared to the PFV.

It goes without saying that, if you have deeper pockets, you can pick up some of the moderately expensive wines of these families – ’11 Solaia (Yaozza!), ’12 Château de Beuacastel (Whoa!), ’00 Warres Colheita Tawny Port (Suweeeet), ’12 Guidalberto, ’11 Alion, ’12 40th Anniversary Caymus, among others. But, this isn’t a splurge post and if I left it at those sips, you’d whine (read: bitch) and moan about how these wines are too expensive for you (mortgage, kids education, fixed income – excuses, excuses. You have a line of credit, use it). So, how about a solid inexpensive Rioja?

ibericos2The 2012 Miguel Torres Altos Ibericos Crianza #381046 $16.95 is an excellent value crianza. Sometimes I hear that the Riojas I recommend are too…cedary. I’m not kidding. People do say this. I mean can you have too much cedar? Clos de Sauna? Anyway, this one uses wood very judiciously. That being said, there is some evidence of oak – on a somewhat restrained nose that opens after a time in the glass. Some pepper, red fruit in the mouth. 100% Tempranillo. Grows better every minute – it balances up nicely. So, don’t rush it. I had this at the cottage and my notes will definitely be affected upward by the location – haven’t had a poor wine up there. Regardless of the cottage factor, it’s safe to say that this is a good wine at a great price.

bilahautThere are few producers that are a lock at almost any price. M. Chapoutier is one of those. The 2013 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes de Roussillon Villages #168716 $15.95 will be familiar to readers of this wine drenched scribe. I have recommended the Bila-Haut – Vielles Vignes and the Occultum through several vintages. I’ve also enjoyed his Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Cote-Rotie, Cornas, and Saint-Joseph cuvées. I even have had his Portuguese effort, Printeveira – exceptional. But wait, there’s more – he even does Australian Syrah. I love M. And, yes, that’s Braille on the labels. Back to the Bila-Haut. This is a Grenache based experience – a little tanginess but tannins are gentle. Dark fruit and brush on the nose. Lip-smacking fruit and a medium finish. This is just so Roussillon. Picture sitting at a café along la Riviere Basse in Perpignan, ordering (in Catalan) a bottle of the Bila-Haut and pa amb tomàquet. The perfect end to a perfect afternoon wandering the vineyards. Or, open it at home with your own smashed tomatoes and garlic on bread. That doesn’t sound quite as tasty, does it? Pa amb tomàquet sounds better, yeah?

abadYears ago I pleaded with someone to give me a play on words to use with the grape Mencia. I guess my 16 readers got tired of helping me write the blog and went on strike. No, “This varietal is a real mensch.” Nada. It all started with this wine in a different vintage (2008). This good old wine – 2006 Abad Dom Bueno Crianza #244649 $15.95 has been laying on its side in the dark for 8 years, waiting for you. Just trying harder and harder to improve with age – kind of like me and my rapidly aging friends. Laying on our sides and trying. Snoring a wee bit and trying. This wine is made from Mencia and hails from Bierzo. It’s dry, yet the time has softened the tannins – not mouth drying, allowing the fruit to step forward – dark fruit flavours. It’s got power without being heavy – more medium-bodied. A little sediment. Great value. I have just talked myself into taking this to the baseball draft as well.

I’ll keep it at that as I want to write about some whites this week.

badiaOh, one more thing. If you do want to splurge on the Primum Familia Vini, take a stab at the 2009 Badia a Passignano Gran Selezione Chianti Classico #384552 $44.95. Just what we all needed was the Tuscans to come up with another designation so that the names of their wines could form full sentences. However, this is truly quite a ‘gran’ selection – a real step up in quality from their Chianti Classico Riserva. Cellar it or pop and pour with some air and country Italian fare. Great juice.

Now, on to baseball. Go Tunas!

Bill

Be Careful – The Red Daily Slosh

1 Apr

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I’ve been following March Madness on the tube and have seen quite a few commercials concerning pharmaceuticals – mostly dealing with erectile dysfunction. I hadn’t made a connection between basketball and that particular malady. All I can think of is that it must have something to do with the constant dribbling.

It’s interesting watching the different approaches to what’s allowed on these commercials. Up here, you see men skipping down the street in the morning with a Viagra logo floating over their heads but no mention of erectile dysfunction or what, in fact, Viagra has done for them. They just feel friggin’ fantastic, wink, wink. Or alternatively, they tell you what problem you might have (40% of men in the world have ED), suggest that you talk to your physician but give no product name just a website to find out more www.getitup.com . Arriving there, you guessed it – Viagra.

South of the border, it seems they can say everything about erectile dysfunction and the drug as long as they tell you that your personal health situation precludes you safely taking it. “If you’ve ever had the feeling that someone doesn’t like you, you’ve misplaced your house keys, or you’ve had a stiff neck, consult your physician before taking Viagra. If you experience erections lasting longer than the God of your choice intended, stand down, sip some wine, and modify your Power of Attorney. Do not take a selfie.”

So, I’ve decided to provide my own caution for my recommendations. It will be included at the bottom of this post.

Let’s get started.

allegriniThe April 4th release features wines from Veneto. So, let’s start with a ubiquitous wine from that region – 2011 Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre #672931 $24.95. I guess what I mean by ubiquitous is that I seem to see this wine all over the place. Other bloggers talk about it, restaurants carry it, I turn the corner at the Masonville LCBO and there’s a stack of it with a shelf talker by Natalie MacLean (92, if that means anything to you). Well, it’s either pretty solid or it’s an exceptional feat of marketing. The former is true. This is a consistent performer. Rich (there’s a bit of raisinated grapes added post first fermentation) and layered. One time you pick up the dried fruit and the next you swallow a gob of fresh black cherries. It’s pretty cool. Great wine with cheap Italian fare – spaghetti with tomato sauce and meatballs, sausage pizza. Friday night before the blue pill?

donatoniAnother but less expensive wine utilizing dried grapes is the 2011 Donatoni Massena Appassimento #332403 $16.95. Some of you shy away from Old World and, in particular Italian, wines because you sense a sharpness, thinness and/or just too much acidity. I could argue that you are just wrong but what’s the use? Instead, you need to try these appassimento wines.  In fact, anything that uses dried grapes or spent must to deepen wines – as in Ripasso, Amarone. This wine is great value – brings dark red fruit aromas and flavours with all sorts of spiciness and depth. Finishes long and satisfying. I like this wine all by itself. But, then again, I like a lot of wines by themselves. This would be great sitting-by-the-last-fire-of-the-cold-season wine. Spending quality time discussing Bill C-51 and the potential fate of Omar Khadr. Who am I kidding? How about recapping the day and snuggling? Remember: Snuggle Responsibly.

In this market, we are barraged at the mother ship with far too many selections of cheap New World Cabernet Sauvignon. Most LCBO’s dedicate about ten feet of shelf space in the US section and at least that much in other New World aisles columbiuacrest combined for these wines. You know the ones I mean – stylized foot imprints, skinny girls or little dresses , and fuzzy animals on the label. Heavy, off-dry, woodified crap – a technical assessment. So, it would be easy to write off cheap, New World Cabernet. Well that would be wrong. Every vintage it seems that there’s a great cab or three from Washington that goes against that theory (think H3). This week, the 2012 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon #240093 $17.95 arrives in stores. This is from the Chateau Ste. Michelle powerhouse. I’m a little guy….guy but these Michellians do a pretty good job of churning out mass produced wines with appeal at reasonable prices. This one is sophisticated for the price point. A luxurious mouthfeel but with enough tannin and a tangy finish to provide a few edges, particularly on the finish – plenty dry enough. It’s straightforward and simple in a good way. I’d want to have this as a sip and nibbler primarily – friends drop in, hostess gift, Easter dinner at my place (hint, hint).

frontariaWho says that I never recommend a wine under $18? I’ve nailed it twice already this week. Here’s a trifecta and going real low. Where have I heard that phrase, “Going Low”? #insidejoke The 2009 Quinta do Portal Frontaria #324533 $13.95 was a wine I tried when Duoro was the New Wine This Week – that’s a fun weekly exercise carried on by obsessive wine geeks. This was a huge surprise. I was gobsmacked. Taken aback. Dumbfounded. This is an Old World wine with New World ambitions – round, smoothed out, settled by time in bottle. Dark fruit. Nice heft, full-bodied for $13.95. To quote Jeff, The Drunken Cyclist, “Whoa.” Please pick it up – good wine, great price. Whoa.

Wines that I want to try:

2012 Carmen Grand Reserva Carmenère #439166 $17.95 – like the one below, I’m going on past performance here. Carmen’s Carmenère is usually good good. Deep, smoky and sturdy – backbone of tannin just intentional enough – long finish. Hopefully this vintage doesn’t disappoint on that promise. Shout out to the Joukowsky Institute Carmenère Club.

2013 DeBortoli Gulf Station Pinot Noir #015511 $19.95 – I love Yarra Valley Pinot and I’ve had DeBortoli’s different Pinots many times – love their take. Usually fresh, red fruity and just enough tang – dignified, if that makes sense. Stand and chatter Pinot. I want to give this one a try.

drinkresponsiblyCaution: If after consuming wine, you experience any of the following, step away from the wine immediately: believing that The Maple Leafs don’t need a total rebuild; mistaking Zero Mostel for a non-alcoholic Piedmontese wine; calling the red wine you’re drinking – ‘cabaret’ sauvignon; or, and pay attention to this one – thinking that a fourth bottle makes sense.

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