Archive | January, 2017

On Borders and The Sparkling Daily Slosh

27 Jan
border-wall

And the French will pay for it!

The other day I opened a bottle of red Bordeaux only to find that the bottle was corked, bad, stinky. It ruined my week of sipping! And, it frightened me – I have a bunch of red Bordeaux in my cellar. Do I need to fear them all? So, I’m penning this post to warn you. Oh, I know it’s a broad brush and I’m sure there are red Bordeaux that are good bottles – it really has nothing to do with all Bordeaux. In fact, I have friends that are Bordeaux. Let’s face it, though – Bordeaux are the predominant wines that lean to corkiness – those few can bastardize the true meaning and message of Bordeaux for their nefarious goals. The only way to ensure that we aren’t savaged by tainted bottles is to: 1) take an accurate inventory of the red Bordeaux in all cellars – I’ll set up a central database (please use form below) – if we know where they lurk, we can protect ourselves; and, 2) bar our borders to any more red Bordeaux coming into the country. What’s that you say? You’ve had “a corked bottle of California Chardonnay. Isn’t it winest to discriminate against a single wine?” No, don’t fall for that false equivalency. Let me explain – that’s an alternative fact that the Bordelais sow to get us to relax our vigilance on the red menace. Following that logic, soon all we will be able to drink is red Bordeaux to be………PC. California Chardonnay won’t be able to get a job. Then, the red Bordeaux get into Canada and voilà (to use our other official language – so you see it’s already working), we get corked.

Now, let’s get in to recommendations for the release of February 4th..

Having a few bottles of reasonably priced sparkling wine around is key to…………drinking reasonably priced sparkling wine. I usually have a enough bottles of Cremant de Something, Niagara bubbles, Cava, carpene-malvoltiand/or Prosecco to meet the requirement of a non financially painful fizzy to start the evening. And, I really love two of the sparkling wines featured in the February 4th release. The Carpene Malvolti 1868 Brut Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore #727438 $18.95 should become your ‘go to’ Prosecco. It’s drier than a popcorn fart. How’s that for evocative description? It has a great amount of energy bursting from the glass – apples, peaches and a bit of sea salt – great acidity and the bubbles are softer than most Prosecco for me. Classy stuff for the price.
louis-bouillotThen, there’s the Louis Bouillot Perle d’Ivoire Blanc de Blancs Crémant de Bourgogne #048801 $19.95. This is a Chardonnay with the typical green apples and citrus character of the fruit. Much more citrusy and fuller bodied than the Prosecco. A hint of yeast like a good Champagne. Carries a lot of flavour on the swallow. I have a couple of these down below and, if it wasn’t 10 am, I’d be tempted to pop a cork on one of them right now. A perfect wine for brunch? You bet. This doesn’t always end well.

Cheers.

Bill

You didn’t expect a Bordeaux registration form here, did you?

Ludwig Von Dufton and The Rainbow Daily Slosh

20 Jan

ludwidvondrakeRiding on the train yesterday, I sat across the aisle from a couple of youthful academics. They conversed the whole 2 and a half hours about their field of study. Seriously – all the way. No let up. Did I say that they didn’t stop? I squirmed, I tried to turn them off, but it just dragged on and on. And, then I thought, “I wonder if two wine geeks sitting together on a train discussing the very critical issue of wine closures would piss off other passengers?” I mean, we’d need more than 2 and a half hours but I’m just using it as an example. Closures! Really, really important stuff.

corksI thought of my insufferable soliloquies at dinner parties about some arcane piece of wine junk as people’s eyes glazed over. And I realized – hey wine geeks – no one gives a shit about this stuff but us. Like the academics, we are submerged in our very, very important world. And, I got a little piece of perspective on that world today. That being said, let’s get real – corks or Stelvin are the only closures – and Stelvin only if you don’t require cellar time (air quotes) or the seductive pop of a cork.

The January 21st release has a few wines that are of interest. gassierThere’s a rosé that I’ve recommended before – 2015 Gassier Sables d’Azur Rosé #033621 $16.95. This is a typical pink from the Côtes du Provence – dry, snappy, medium-bodied goodness. I know the freezing rain outside doesn’t scream – “ROSÉ” but regardless, pink is good for occasions other than just sitting in the sun munching pan com tomate. I’m thinking, you arrive home after a hard day (of which I don’t have anymore – hard days, that is) to find a quiet house and only a few things to nosh – bread, olive oil, and olives. What to drink? Hey, if you’ve been paying attention, it’s this crisp cherry treat. Even if you haven’t any bread, olives or olive oil………well, I’d drink this by itself with the lights out and Barry White on. Correction of tense: I have had this with the lights out and no food but paired with Astrid Gilberto and tearful nostalgia. Maybe I needed to share. Perfect match.

tragicallyhipA few months ago, I suggested that I was buying a wine to celebrate the Tragically Hip’s last tour. Not sure if you watched the last concert in Kingston but I did. It was emotional – all I’m saying. I did buy and drink the wine too. The wine? 2015 The Tragically Hip Fully Completely Grand Reserve Red #411595 $24.95. This is pure Niagara. A blend of Bordeaux grapes – Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as Merlot. This is an endorsement of the belief that Niagara Bordeaux varieties need a little cuddle time – blending. This is much lighter than you’d expect. Subtle, dark fruit, structured for a longer term, and a bit dirty as would befit The Hip. I’m keeping a bottle or two down below to celebrate The Hip and Gord Downie at an appropriate time.

Have I told you that I love Beaujolais? Duh. We had company over the other night and I opened a bottle of Morgon – Jean Michel Dupré Vieilles Vignes de 1935 Morgon #440297 $19.95. They loved it. Perfect sipping wine on a cold descombeswinter evening. I got a bunch of it. This week, there’s the 2012 Jean-Ernest Descombes Morgon #946186 $21.95 from Georges Duboeuf. This wine is a keeper – it can cellar for at least 5 years rounding out some of the zip it exhibits now. Complexity is somewhat oxymoronic for many Beaujolais but this one carries some leathery stuff while not abandoning the fresh red fruits both on the sniff and swallow. It’s interesting. Given that it’s approaching Super Bowl time, I’d say a perfect Super Bowl sipper with onion and sour cream chips. Pretzels?

honoroCheap wine that I might recommend is hard to find. When I do find something that lands in that space, it’s usually an Iberian wine. I recommended the cousin of the 2015 Honoro Vera Monastrell #167684 $13.95 a couple times before. That’s the Garnacha (#432997 $12.95). They are both super value wines. The Granacha is a bit more round, easy drinking. But, the Monastrell is a beaut at this price too. Very peppery, big flavours and a Jimmy Durante nose. Intense. Way more wine than $13.95 deserves. They both have ultra cool labels too.

susanabalbocsThis release has a focus on Argentina. And when I think Argentina, I think Susana Balbo. Well, I think Buenos Aires, gauchos, Torrontes, and beef but I also think Susana. Then again, I’ve got a crush. What do I see but 2014 Susana Balbo Cabernet Sauvignon #260919 $19.95? This is a drink now, crowd pleasing cab sav. Typical of the variety, medium to full-bodied – little cassis, little blackberry. Want a ‘go to’ for company? Stand around or dinner? This is it.

expressivoThen, also from the Balbo stable, there is the 2014 Benmarco Expressivo #263517 $39.95. This is exquisite. Crazy complex and furry. Needing a few years to sit in the bottle deciding what it wants to be when it grows up or a couple hours of decant minimum. This is what South America can craft from Malbec. It’s the Argentinean equivalent to Montes’  Purple Angel Carmenere which means it’s friggin’ great. Or for another option at high class Malbec, there’s Laura Catena’s 2014 Luca Malbec #167312 $33.95. It’s not in this release but still out there, I think – elegant and deep.

I just noticed that the labels for this week’s recos are crazy cool. Could I have been influenced by the labels alone? Nah – but the closures, absolutely.

Cheers.

Bill

Holiday Sniffles, Decision Trees, and The Rainbow Slosh

6 Jan

robitussinHere’s the thing about the holidays for a wine geek: we like to plan the use of our stash to gain optimum pleasure and minimum damage to the stash. By planning, I don’t mean the use of a spreadsheet, hours of internet research, analysis of the effects of barometric pressure variance on umami, and the consulting of an ouija board. I mean something a little more spiritual than that.

In my case, I like to stand in front of my babies glass of wine in hand seeking inspiration. Then, in my mind, I go down a complex decision tree which involves: food, mood, brood, and whether anyone gives a shit but me. Pulling out bottles, cradling them in my arms and asking for permission to end their useful lives for my pleasure only. Because it does mean saying goodbye to some of the best friends a guy can have. Let’s be honest about that. You can’t undrink a wine.

So after all that, I had a general idea of which friends I was going to sacrifice. And then, I got sick. I mean not so sick that I’m asking for comments of sadness or sympathy. Just a very bad cold that lasted – well, it’s still here actually. And what do we know about head and chest colds? You can’t taste anything. So, do I abandon the plan because it was always about me anyway? Or, stay the course? What do you guys think? I’ll let you know below what I did. Teaser: Kim Kardashian.

Now, the wine for the January 7th release:

orgcrimecfLast month, there was a day set aside for Cabernet Franc. It was called……..Cabernet Franc Day. Weird choice of name, huh? It didn’t exist before but it was conceived and pimped very enthusiastically by Lori at Dracaena Wines. I enjoyed a Chinon from the Loire to protect my street cred as a team player. But, if I would of had access to a solid Ontario Cab Franc, I might have popped the cork on one of them. Niagara’s climate lends itself to CF. This week, there’s the 2013 Organized Crime Cabernet Franc #472530 $18.95.  This one is a great food wine – red meat, if you’re so inclined. Loads of nice acidity and solid tannins to deal with something that has a bit of fat and char. Wood evident but not tricked up, some green notes but well integrated into the whole – good introduction to a Bordeaux grape that doesn’t get the kind love that it’s blendin’ buddies Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon get. P.S. If you visit Niagara, there’s a good tasting room experience at Organized Crime.

mount-rileyAt the aforementioned holiday festivities, we had a couple of Sauvignon Blanc lovers. Now, I’d have to say that my cellar is very undersubscribed in SB. So, I had some shopping to do. I bought a couple bottles of Cloudy Bay (knowing full well that I wasn’t popping that for company), Stoneleigh General Listing SB, and some Sancerre. I have to tell you how disappointed I was with the entry level Stoneleigh. I remember it as a serviceable wine and I love their ‘Latitude’ version. Oh well, open another………and, another……..Why this tale? Well, to tell you that you need to go ‘Latitude’ if you want the Stoneleigh and also that this week there’s a great Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that would do the trick – 2015 Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc #981670 $17.95. This is a full glass of tropical fruit and energy. As far as Kiwi SB’s goes, well balanced, not overpowering. Very nice wine at a very nice price.

umaniAt the Grandi Marchi tasting in October, we really enjoyed the Umani Ronchi table. In particular, their Verdicchio and the courtesy and educative effort of the rep. But there were a couple of reds too that were good. One was a spectacular value available at $14.95. And, what do I see in this week’s release notice? That very wine at $16.95. Hmmmm. Very curious pricing. Oh well, it’s still good value. That wine? The 2013 Umani Ronchi Jorio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo #134577 $16.95. This is an Italian country red wine and that’s not a pejorative comment. Italian country reds probably are my favourite wines. At least for the purpose of this discussion. Gutsy, food friendly, evocative of their place. This wine delivers on all that. Sangiovese-like fresh cherries, solid vein of acidity, lip smacking. Not big – simple, clean, fresh. Great, and I mean great, pizza wine.

pianWhile we’re on the subject of Italian red wines, I think that there are two Tuscan wines that provide a really wide range of quality, although they all are usually pretty pricey – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (VNdM) and Rosso di Montalcino (RdM). Some of my favourite wine memories are of these guys. But, there remain some other flashbacks that remind me that not all wines are created equal regardless of the DOC and price. So what’s a guy to do? Well, find a winery or, as in the next case, a family, that won’t damage their brand with moderately expensive crap. Such is the Antinori family. Their RdM – 2014 Antinori Pain Delle Vigne Rosso di Montalcino #467787 $31.95 delivers on the promise of any wine from Montalcino. Made exclusively from Sangiovese, this wine was tasted at the Grand Marchi as well. My notes reflect that I didn’t like the nose (I checked the “Not my Style” box) and moved on without sipping. But, that was premature. After wandering to the next table, with the sample of this wine still in my glass, I took another sniff “Hmm, better” and decided, what the hell, You’re here to drink wine – so, drink, drink. I’m glad I did. This wine brings a lot of the same geographical vibes as the MdA above but with so much more power, elegance, and complexity. I’d bet that many tasting this blind would pump their arm and shout, “I’ve got it! It’s Chianti Classico!” I scoff at keeners. Some might even try and impress with the vintage and producer. I once said at a tasting I led, that I detected barnyard which meant that the winery was south-facing. Seriously. It took a minute or two for someone to say, “Ah, you’re kidding right?” Anyway, I know this is more than a daily slosh for most. But, as it’s finish………finishes, you will be glad you picked up a bottle or two. Good replacement for some buddies you sacrificed over the holidays.

Did you read yourself down to this point or did you just scroll frantically down because of the Kim Kardashian reference? I’ve tagged her and we will see if views increase monumentally. If so, I’m changing the blog name to Duff and Kim Kardashian’s Wines. And, FYI, she doesn’t appear in the rest of the story.

Back to the holiday dilemma. I had two choices – ditch the plan and break out the plonk – nobody would know and I can’t taste anything OR keep to the plan and hope that people appreciate the deaths of so many close friends. I chose number 2. I stuck to my plan. Did I regret not truly thumbs-upexperiencing the promise of Dark and Stormies, Cremant de Bourgogne, Sancerre, Malivoire Small Lot Gamay, Russian River Chardonnay, Beamsville Bench Pinot Noir, and a gorgeous, I’m told, Umbrian Rubesco Riserva? Can’t lie. I kinda did. I’m not suggesting that I begged off and stayed dry. Hell no. I still drank the stuff. But, my tasting notes say, “Opens wet with a wet finish.” But, after everyone had left and it was just me, The Director, my son and his partner, I opened the Priorat red that I’d planned on to finish the night. This Cariñena-based wine battled through my congestion with it’s siren blaring. The heat of it’s elevated alcohol even had a clearing effect on my sinuses. It’s why I’ve been trying to beat this thing with elevated alcohol wines ever since, wink, wink. And, it was pure Priorat – concentrated, deep, dark fruits, mineral. There is a reason to keep to a plan that aims at a great wine experience. It’s not cheap but I believe that everyone appreciates the effort. And, if you’re lucky, you might find yourself enjoying the wine you’ve been waiting for all night, cold or no cold. That wine for me was a 2008 Terres de Vidalba from Poboleda.

Cheers

Bill

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