Archive | April, 2017

Ginny and The Rosé Daily Slosh

28 Apr

Ginny and her Cong

We used to have a great Labrador Retriever named Ginny. She was everyone’s dog – neighbours’, family and friends’. Her near perfection (in our minds) has made us reluctant to get another dog. Who could compare to her? We’d just judge, love less, and destroy the new dog’s confidence and self-image. It’s kind of like your second child. You try to love them as much as the first but they’re toast from the get go. Just kidding, Andrew.

Well, this has something to do with this week’s release as it’s got loads of rosé. How does that relate, you ask? Well, I’ve picked out the name for our next Labrador Retriever if we can pull the trigger – Rose. See, there’s a connection – tenuous but………

The new rosés are this past vintage (2016) in most cases and I haven’t had them in the current year but I find that rosés tend to have a house style or a consistency between vintages at least to my palate. So, I’m recommending them sight untasted based on the 2015 vintage.

A few posts ago, I mentioned that there wasn’t any wine that tasted as much like the Mediterranean as did rosé from Provence. It evokes Antibbes, Menton, Nice. Well, how about 2 wines from Côtes du Provence? Both of these are bone dry.

I was at a roof-top bar in NYC last year and the person who had gotten us through security with simply a whisper in the ear of a very big guy asked me to recommend her a nice sipping wine. I whispered back that she would appreciate the Caves d’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé #325076 $16.95. She loved it! She really loved it! This wine may be my favourite rosé outside of a Tavel. It carries the citrus scents and gargle that’s typical of Provence. Plus, it is so friggin’ smooth. Seriously. You know the smack that many rosés provide. Well, this has it but the sensation is ‘hard to explain’ is what’s in my notes. Exquisite and not to be wasted on moments that you’re not going to give it the full attention it deserves. Have it with just a friend or a maximum of two friends, if like me, you only have two. Don’t be distracted. And, if you’ve been holding on to a couple bottles of Brangelina’s rosé, Miraval, pop the cork on those suckers and reload your cellar with this. It’s far, far better.

A perennial recommendation on these pages is the Carte Noir Rosé #319384 $18.95. It’s made by Les Maìtres Vignerons de la Presqu’ile de Saint-Tropez. Saint-Tropez is where Brigitte Bardot resided for many years. I previously recommended this wine with the following endorsement, “I believe that Brigitte Bardot lived in Saint-Tropez when she was, well, really hot. Maybe as un hommage to Brigitte, you could chill a bottle of this and serve with roast endangered species, carpaccio di baby seal?” This is crisp and the use of Cinsault provides some brushy characteristics – light and refreshing. It’s full of the red fruits of Grenache and moderate ABV at 13.5%. Perfect for the sun or apres-sun with some olives, tomatoey stuff, and bread.

Two other rosés that I’ve loved in years past are the Brancaia Rosé #490938 $19.95 and the Viña Esmeralda Rosé #490 920 $13.95. The first is made from 100% Merlot that’s had some time to sit on the lees in stainless steel. It’s bone dry and smooth – sophisticated. They take a similar approach to their red wines, in particular Tre and Ilatraia – balanced, elegant. A wine to sip with your smoking jacket on and Debussy spinning on the turntable. OK, forget Debussy, he was a bit weird. So, put on Amy Winehouse or Paloma Faith.

The Torres effort – Viña Esmeralda has a little more rock and roll and a hint of sweetness. I’d say it’s best when the sun is still up. Mostly Garnacha – so red and flowery. It might more approximate a New World rosé for me. Maybe Rush and flip flops?

Cheers

Bill

I will post on more great wines in this (April 29) release later. And, I will post my annual Rosés For The Dock edition just before we kick off summer.

Wine Neurosis – The Partial Red Daily Slosh

26 Apr

“Bill, would you like to share something with the group today?” “Yes, my name’s Bill and I’m a wine neurotic.” There I’ve said it. I’m not alone. Most wine people are at least a bit neurotic. We should have our own support group – Wine Neurotics Anonymous WNA (that’s not NWA, kids). Kind of like AA but instead of the ubiquitous coffee, substitute wine bottles covered in brown paper bags for blind tasting at our meetings. Maybe neurotic isn’t the proper word but let’s explore anyway.

The first live person that pops up when you google ‘neurotic’

You know that you could be suffering from wine neurosis if you: write tasting notes (guilty); subscribe to at least two wine magazines/websites (guilty); view travel as a bit of a wine explore (guilty); have a wine blog; and, have a Twitter account that consists mostly of wine related folks (guilty and guilty). If that’s you, you will understand the following.

We take wine seriously. There are many indications of this but the the most flagrant foul is in pushing for every wine experience to be a home run, or should I say slam dunk to keep the metaphor consistent.

My modest wine cellar…..kidding

Say, you’re asked to take a bottle to a friend’s house. If you’re like me, you try to figure out what’s being served and then you stand in front of your babies and agonize over the proper pairing. Then, and I’m not kidding here, you return that bottle minutes before you leave the house to replace it with a ‘better’ choice. Or, regardless of the significance of the occasion, you want the wine not to just be good but to be brilliant. If you’re lucky, it is. If not, you have to admit that you’re a little disappointed. Go ahead it’s OK, we’ve all experienced it. Oddly, this doesn’t pertain to trying different and new wines. You’re built for that and sometimes you just don’t care for them. But, that’s not a ‘true’ disappointment.

This need leads me, at least, to buy Reserva Rioja, Chianti Classico Riserva Gran Selezione, Bordeaux with ‘ieme’ on the label, Cru Beaujolais, and other vineyard specific wines. My thinking is that it might increase my odds of the perfection I seek – plus, maybe limit any potential disappointment. And by perfection, I mean my perfection – not a hundred point score laid on by others. But, for my appreciation and experience. Well, I’m changing that. This week (April 29) there’s a perfect example of wines that I haven’t been giving enough love to – Crianza wines.

* Let me explain in very, very general terms

  • Crianza is the third tier of Spanish red wines (wine aged at least 2 years after the harvest of which 6 months – 12 in Ribera del Deuro and Rioja – in oak)
  • Reserva the second (wine aged for a prolonged period according to appellation), and
  • Gran Reserva the top in most DOC’s and DOCa’s (selected wine aged at least 18-24 months in oak and 36-42 months in bottle).

So, wouldn’t most wine people trend towards the top two tiers? I know that I, unreasonably, do. But in reviewing my notes on a few Crianzas available this week, I realized that they performed brilliantly. And, if I’m honest (confession: usually I lie a lot) they probably are better suited to some of the occasions where I pop the cork on something more expensive. In this case, it isn’t settling for less – it’s making the perfect choice.

Say, sitting at the cottage thinking what wine to serve with a simple BBQ’d red meat meal. A well-crafted Crianza would be perfect? And, you would save money for that ‘ieme’ wine that you’re craving.

This week there are three worthy Crianzas for anyone’s table (there are 4 but I haven’t had the 2014 Luis Cañas Crianza). First there’s the 2012 Viña Real Crianza #657411 $18.95 by CVNE. These guys make a zillion bottles of Rioja and that’s only a very slight exaggeration. I’ve got several bottles of their Cune Gran Reserva in reserve (pardon the redundancy) for a special  moment with friends, imaginary and otherwise. But, why splurge if you could get this Crianza for half the price? It carries all the hallmark Rioja/Tempranillo aromas of tasty oak, leather, and red fruits and has a great tangy finish that makes it food friendly. The tannins are solid and would help to nicely cut through some of the fat of a good burger.

Aside: A burger cannot be made from lean meat IMHO. It gets a cardboard consistency. Add some pork or medium ground beef to the mixture if you insist on lean beef. A little fat in a lamb burger – yum. If you don’t believe me ask Rachel Ray who , BTW, coined the word ‘yum’.

The second Crianza is the 2012 Torres Celeste Crianza #210872 $20.95. If CVNE makes a zillion bottles of wine, Torres makes 2 zillion. And yet, they still keep the quality up. Plus, they’ve become an international player with wineries and partnerships in the US and Chile. I had this Crianza the last time it was released about a year ago and loved the drinkability of the wine. Where maybe you’d need food with some of the other Crianza’s I’d recommend, this is fine by itself. And, in North America we drink a ton of wine by itself. This has a darkness to it that’s surprising – dark fruit, anise, burned toast. Less red – more dark. Great sipper.

The last is the 2012 Dios Ares Crianza #305912 $17.95. This wine needs a little time in the glass or on decant, in my mind. It may appear harsh to some if just popped and poured and that’s not the vibe we’re looking for. Lip smacking acidity on the finish, pepperiness, and red fruits on the gargle. Like this a lot for the price. But, that’s an endorsement after some air. Perfect for those burgers I mentioned above.

Cheers

Bill – President of WNA (pending confirmation)

*Explanation of tiers of Spanish wine shamefully taken from The World Atlas of Wine  Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson

PS – I will post on some other great wines in this week’s release later

Are You OK? The Rainbow Daily Slosh

14 Apr

Had to put this in today. We are seeing the Dixie Chicks on Tuesday. I like them. Could be the boots?

When I was studying at university (if you knew me then, you are laughing uncontrollably now), the pop wisdom was reflected in books like I’m OK, You’re OK and How To Be Your Own Best Friend. The thinking was that our problems stemmed from a lack of self-love. I remember talking to a criminal client who had assaulted his wife over and over again. He said to me with a straight face, “I can’t love myself, so how am I expected to love her.” Loving her, dude? Seriously, we are just aiming for not killing her.

I had thought that this philsophy of self-love had disappeared and a new more ‘enlightened but fleeting’ thinking had taken it’s place years ago. But, I was creeping Facebook the other day and was struck with the number of ‘Likes’ that had something to do with a saying roughly about loving yourself. Some were quite clever and others just trite and simple.

And, then I remembered all the commercials, usually aimed at women, that talked about loving who you are (and buying some of our shit) regardless of what you look like. Or, conversely, loving yourself because we make you look so darn great. Self-love actualized through shopping. I wish that the problems facing us today could be solved with a little self-love. Drop thousands of copies of How To Be Your Own Best Friend on Syria. Presto. Peace.

Regardless, I know that I’m mostly OK and, unfortunately for those around me, a bit flawed as well.

What’s this have to do wine. Not much really, I just wanted to ramble a bit before I discussed the juice.

This weekend’s release (April 15) has a load of great new wines (94 in all). A marketing focus on Mediterranean wines, Aussie whites, and some local talent is prevalent. On the local front, there’s the 2014 Henry of Pelham Family Tree Red #247882 $18.95. I tasted this wine at my golf club as a sample to evaluate for the ‘house red’. It’s a blend of Syrah (33%), Merlot (29%), Cabernet Franc (19%), and Back Noir (5%). It’s seen quite a bit of time in oak (17 mos.) and you can both smell and taste the effect of the barrel time. It’s still crisp and juicy with nice acidity and integrated tannins. I like it a lot and think it’s perfect for a ‘house’ wine. A very quaffable wine and a great example of how well HoP take care of their stuff. Good label always.

We have family that recommended this wine to me years ago. They buy a bunch of it. I got an early sample of it this past week. The 2013 Papale Linea Oro Primitivo di Mandurai #261784 $18.95 is a Puglian beauty. It reflects the heat of that region. When we were there a few years ago, we were struck by the breadth of the agricultural industry there. Olives tress as far as the eye could see, vines neatly organized in straight rows all over the countryside. This wine is made with the Primitivo (early ripening) grape which is a DNA match with Zinfandel. That’s scientist-speak for it’s the same thing. So, even though it’s treated a little less bigly here, it’s still chewy, big enough and fruity. I find these a little less one-dimensional than a similarly priced Zin and this is true to that experience. A great host(ess) wine and one that I’ll be stocking up on for the summer ahead, if it lasts that long. Shout out to S & P.

I believe that you can actually taste the Mediterranean sun in the rosés of Provence. But, a close second are the red wines of rest of Southern France. This week, there’s a real good example of that in the 2014 Michel Gassier Nostre Païs #295410 $21.95. This comes from Costières de Nïmes an AC in the Southern Rhone. So, think a blend similar to a Côtes du Rhône and in this case with a whack of Grenache and Syrah. This producer seldom disappoints through their whole portfolio but I like this effort as much as any of theirs. This reflects the garrigue in the glass and on the swallow with loads of black fruit. Moderately elevated ABV (probably due to the Grenache) but no real heat. Good short term cellar candidate. And, maybe you don’t taste the Mediterranean but you can smell it in this wine.

A couple of good efforts from Argentina are the 2015 Zuccardi Serie A Torrontés #389262 $16.95 – great extra dry big-nosed wine. Summer sipper by the lake. Has an Alsatian vibe to it.

And the 2014 Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon #135202 $19.95. A New World CS Full-bodied and structured with loads of fruit. This would make a good ‘house’ wine as well. Crowd pleaser.

A wine that I’m going to pick up:

2014 Tornatore Nerello Mascalese #487090 $21.95 – we are travelling to Sicily this September and I’m cramming on Sicilian wine. This wine is from the Etna Rosso DOC  which is a trending wine region right now. It’s made from, you guessed it, Nerello Mascelese. I’ve been reading John Szabo’s fabulous book Volcanic Wines, a fabulous book (he says redundantly) that’s as pretty as it is well-researched and informative. I’m going to write a post on some of the books that I’ve been reading lately. I love cramming. But, then again, I love me too. Well, today anyway. I’m OK.

Cheers

Bill

P.S It’s all about the boots.

 

Wine Apps – Do I Need One?

7 Apr

Over the years of smart phone use (is it smartphone or smart phone? I will ask Siri), I’ve fooled around with wine apps that help me organize my cellar, pick a wine at a restaurant or retail, and provide me with tasting notes from ‘experts’ or slobs just like me.

I’ve put them on my phone in a moment of whimsy when I think that I’ll use them. Only to take them off when I’m worried that I’m using up all my data storage for an app I haven’t really used enough. They have been of very limited use and in very specific situations, is what I’m saying.

A few months ago, I received an invitation from the Natalie MacLean’s peeps to try their new app and write about it. I thought that it might be cool to do just that. But, in fairness to the other hard working developers and entrepreneurs, I thought that I should try as many as I could to see what they bring and if I can make a recommendation. Yes, you are right. I have lots of time on my hands and Siri says it’s OK. Siriously, I asked her.

Wine apps seem to fall into 4 non-mutually exclusive categories:

Retail Apps – inventories, availabilities, etc. at a particular chain – my example would be the LCBO app but I see one for the SAQ as well as other large retailers;

Recommendation Apps – these generally provide pairing tips, tasting notes, etc. for specific labels or general guidelines. Some are word based but most allow label scans to identify the wine;

Cellar Management – These apps allow you to keep a categorized inventory of your cellar, add your tasting notes, and, in some cases participate in a community of like-minded souls

Search – These apps provide a search tool that accesses retail inventories and pricing. Sometimes they are matched to accepted review and winery data.

Many apps are tied to other media. Such as magazines, zines, blogs, and/or subscription series.

But how to test drive and against what criteria? Criteria? That would a bit too scientific for this blog. So, I’m going to just use them and tell you what I think. Wish me luck.

Apps, that I’ve loaded are:

LCBO, Natalie McLean, Vivino, Pocket Wine Pairing, Corkz, Winepop, Wine Cellar Database, Vinocell. Some are free and others either you pay up front or there are in-use enhancements that cost. BTW, they are all “the number 1 app.”

I realize this has been done before, most recently in my world by Richard Hemming at http://www.jancisrobinson.com (subscription needed). But I think I’ll give it a try. If there are other apps that I should try, let me know. I’ll report back in awhile.

Cheers

Bill

 

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