Archive | October, 2017

Tom And The Rainbow Daily Slosh

24 Oct

It’s been a sad month or so for music lovers, hasn’t it? This one was so unexpected. “Well let me get to the point, let’s roll anther joint. And turn the radio loud. I’m too alone to be proud”.  I have it loud as usual.

I’ve been absent from the wine recommending crowd the last three months. Just my usual hiatus as I try and figure out if I can keep going. It takes real dedication to drink this much wine. Let’s give the October 28th release a try and we’ll see how it goes.

I’ll start with a few repeat recommendations. How much of the 2005 Balbas Reserva #085183 $22.95  did the mothership buy? I’m guessing a million cases although I’ve told myself a thousand times to stop exaggerating. Regardless, I have purchased this stuff in multiples as a “New Arrival” or part of a “Release” on numerous occasions over the past three years. I’ve recommended it every time. You can’t get a solid Ribera del Deuro Reserva of this age for this price anywhere. It’s a no-brainer. If you want to read my previous reviews they are here, here, and here. It’s still so ready to drink – expressive and balanced. And, yes, if your friends aren’t impressed by my enthusiastic endorsement, then you can flash the ’93’ from Wine Spectator sticker on the bottle.

Another repeat is the 2016 Miraval Rosé #342584 $22.95. I know that the weather has turned and many of us have tuned up the quintessential Canadian male 5th appendage (oh behave). I’m talking about the snowblower. But rosé isn’t just for summer. I keep a few bottles down below for sipping or even with a meal that pairs well – buttered popcorn, sea salt chips? – even in the colder weather. Past review here. Owned by Brangelina and worked by famille Perrin, I wonder how the celebs are going to split this community property. Have you taken sides on this break up? In our house, we cheer for Brad but I think that’s a function of Angelina’s weirdness (Billy Bob Thornton, really?). At least that’s where we are until I’m forced to read new revelations in the National Enquirer at the check out line. Speaking of which, the Enquirer tells me that Marilyn Munroe and Elizabeth Taylor were lesbian lovers. It’s going to be hard to get that picture out of my head. In my mind, Liz is Butterfield 8 Liz and Marilyn is, well, Marilyn. Say no more.

Ever had Torrontés? No, it’s not the city in Ontario that my AutoCorrect insists it is. It’s a white grape and wine that is Argentina’s answer to the question – “Name a wine that is yuuuge at home and hardly available abroad.” My ‘go to’ is Susana Balbo’s take but this one is cheaper and does the trick. The 2016 Zolo Torrontés #183913 $14.95 is big on the sniff with a hint of the citrus, lip smacking stuff to follow. Perfect with cold shrimp, smoked salmon with capers, or (not being an oyster lover) I bet with oysters. Or just sip on its own. Clean and crisp but not sharp edged. A nice surprise for your guests.

Another repeat – the 2015 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel #942151 $29.95 is returning to the shelves. I recommended this previously here. A friend who actually reads this site (yes, there are people that read this site), responded with purchase and a quick note to me that he y esposa enjoyed the wine. Shout out to J & O. Do you enjoy Zin? I mean there are the usual suspects led by the always tasty Ravenswood Old Vines. But, do yourself a favour and step up to this brilliant wine. This is loaded with character, power, and life. “Yet”, he adds, not the confusing jumble of darkness and heat that many entry-level Zins offer. It’s a sophisticated beaut.

A fellow blogger wrote a nice post on the wines of Languedoc-Roussillon. Shout out to Michelle at Rockin Red Blog. You can read her take here. If you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll know that I love many wines from that region. And, I’m excited that one of those guys is being released again this weekend – 2015 Château Saint-Roch Chimières #119354 $19.95. This is pure Roussillon. A result of hot summer days, dusty roads, lavender fields, and careful winemaking. A Grenache/Syrah/Carignan blend, it starts with the Grenache on the sniff and the swish – some heat, jamminess, and dark fruit. The Syrah on the finish shows some spiciness. This is a superb value only discounted to $19.95 perhaps because of the lack of caché that the AP Côtes du Roussillon-Villages carries. The herbal quality and spiciness would pair well with a lamb tagine – and that’s saying something about this wine’s spicy complexity.

From the “Previous Release’ file, there is a great red from Toro in Spain that you need to pick up – 2012 Terra d’Uro Finca la Rana #424135 #18.95. Before I talk about this wine, why don’t they just say $19.00? I think I speak for all of us when I say that we get that this wine is essentially $19.00. Just saying. OK, the wine. This is from Toro which means that it’s serious and oh so Spanish. No mistaking the origin of this. Mostly Tempranillo – so a bit of a Rioja or Duoro vibe. More stoney and less woody than Rioja. An attractive mustiness (is that just me? Not the mustiness part, although I can get musty, but the attractive part – love the mustiness) and some darker fruits on the sniff. I read where this is aged in used French oak barrels but there’s nothing to indicate such – loads of anise particularly after it’s gone. A real steal at this price. Don’t buy just one.

This might be a good time to load up on some bubbly. Not bubbly as in mixing-something-fizzy-with-orange-juice bubbly. Or, “Man, I’m a bit whirly” bubbly. But, substantive, classy, “Wow” bubbly. This is a hit with The Director who is a Chardonnay hound. Could be that it has some Chardonnay in it but I think that’s only part of the equation. This is smooth without being creamy – crisp, tightly knit bubbles like a good Champagne, apples – made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Aligoté. And consistent year-in, year-out as pointed out by Michel Godel in his review. I recommend it almost every time I see that’s it’s on offer. You can read my last one here and the one before here. Almost forgot, it’s the Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant de Bourgogne #991562 $19.95. I’m stocking up at this price.

There are some high priced beauties coming to shelves, as well. Headlined by the 2014 Sassicaia $216.95, the 2012 Antinori Pian della Vigne Brunello di Montalcino $62.95, and the exquisite 2010 Tedeschi Capitel Monte Olmi Riserva Amarone della Valpolicella Classico $79.95. And the Sassicaia is under $217!

Cheers.

Bill

Rehabilitaion Lives – Buy Frescobaldi

20 Oct

I wasn’t going to do this but. I mean, it’s Gord Downie we’re talking about. “There’s no simple explanation for anything important any of us do”.

We’ll eulogize Tom Petty next time.

I was reading a recent Wine Enthusiast and lingered on the last article. It was a great story about a visit by Amiee White Beazley to the island of Gorgona off the coast of Tuscany. Gorgona is a penal colony. A real penal colony where bad guys are isolated from the Italian population to do penance for whatever crime they’ve committed.

Gorgona

The deal at Gorgona is that the Frescobaldi family has a vineyard and winery there. It’s built on the remnants of an historic vineyard. The vines and buildings have been rehabilitated with the manpower and support of the inmates of the island. Although the Frescobaldi family lead the whole operation, the article tells us how involved the guests of the state are in the day-to-day operations – training to become vineyard managers, winemakers. And, how the work has forever changed them. I don’t say that off-hand. I mean it. They are changed. People can and do change if given the opportunity and kept away from firearms, reality television, and FoxNews.

I’m second from right in back row

As some of you know, I used to work in the corrections system. I left. Offenders have since pleaded with authorities for a sympathetic ear and an empirically-based approach to their rehabilitation. Can we just get some love and mercy (channelling Brian Wilson)? Anyway, this article touched me – took me back to an early passion and a heartfelt belief.

We used to have correctional farm operations in this province. I worked at an institution that had a woollen mill, an abattoir (misplaced optimism that a murderer or someone who pulls wings off flies would benefit from killing cows?), vegetable, livestock, and grain operations. I didn’t stay long enough to see the kind of change that this article talks about. However, having worked on farms, I can attest that it does change you and for the better. It provides a connection to the land, your place in it, and the onus of stewardship on us all. It humbles you. Despite the hard work (or perhaps because of it) getting your hands dirty in a tomato patch or baling hay is damn near spiritual. And yes, somedays, I hated spiritual but am glad I experienced it.

So, to honour Fescobaldi’s commitment to and investment in change, I’m reviewing the available Frescobaldi products in our market today plus a few I tasted in Italy last month.

A little history first:
(From Frescobaldi website) “The history of the Frescobaldi family starts over a thousand years ago and is closely connected with the history of Tuscany. At the high point of medieval Florence, the Frescobaldis spread their influence as bankers, earning the title of treasures (sic) to the English crown. A little later, with the flowering of the Renaissance, they became patrons of major works in Florence, such as the construction of the Santa Trinita bridge and the Basilica of Santo Spirito.

The family has always looked to develop and celebrate the diversity of Tuscany’s terroir. Being proud owners of some of the greatest vineyards in this region they have always sought to maintain the identity and autonomy of each property.”

Basilica di Santo Spirito

Cool, that part about the Basilica of Santo Spirito. When we were in Florence in September, our flat backed on to the Giardino di Palazzo Frescobaldi. And was a stone’s throw from the basilica. We dined al fresco on the Piazza Santo Spirito in front of the basilica. Isn’t that the beauty of Italy? All the cool stuff around you all the time.

As mentioned above, the Frescobaldi holdings are wide and varied, and include: Tenuta Castiglioni; Tenuta Remole; Castello Pomino; Castello Nipozzano; Castello Giocondo; Tenuta Ammiraglia; Gorgona; among others. Iconic labels include: Mormoreto; Giramonte; Montesodi; Masseto; Ornellaia (with Mondavi); and, Luce della Vita (with Mondavi). We’ve probably all quaffed a bunch of their wines. Hell, you couldn’t go wrong stacking your Tuscan racks with just their stuff. So, let’s get to the tasting!

In no particular order (and, as always, these were not samples – no inducement provided by Frescobaldi or their agents – I do this just for you):

2015 Frescobaldi Campo al Sasso Rosso di Montalcino #429415 $21.95 Rosso di Montalcino is wildly variable in quality, in my experience. This had a mustyish nose which got my heart racing. Crystal clear ruby red – really pretty wine. This wine opens with a burst of acidity. It put me off at first but over time, it tamed down significantly and you get the pure cherry fruit, clean mouthfeel and a medium finish. This would be a great pairing with a simple tomato/basil pasta. But, let the air out of this for awhile.

2015 Castello di Nipozzano Montesodi (2012 is available in limited supply at LCBO #304501 $51.00Enjoyed this at the Dei Frescobaldi wine bar in Florence (a story for later). This 2015 was surprisingly mature for it’s age. It might have been the wine bar situation – being open for awhile. However, it oozes leather/tobacco both on the nose and on the swish and swallow. I love that vibe. Dried berry fruit reinforcing the aged quality – oak integrated. A big wine. A really big wine, actually.

2014 Terre More Ammiraglia Cabernet Maremma Toscana IGT €8 (N/A at LCBO) This is a Cabernet-based red wine from Maremma which is in the southwest corner of Tuscany, near the coast. I’ve always viewed Maremma as good value but also quite variable in quality. The rule for using the Maremma nomenclature means that the wine is at least 85% of the variety on the label. Well, you could definitely pick out that fact without instruction. Straight forward Cab. Faint nose (but tasted in a tumbler not proper glass)- cassis on the swish – no oak effects – light to medium body – some lingering hint of Tuscany but can’t tell you what – maybe style rather than substance on that point. Matched our early evening cheese board, olives, and bread.

2016 Albizzia Chardonnay Toscana €11 (N/A @ LCBO) Like the one above, first night in Tuscany wine. A light to medium weight Chardonnay. Definite citrus nose. Peach in the mouth with some slight butteriness on the finish. Very good effort. A great sipper – maybe you’d want something a little more dynamic for food.

2007 Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino (2012 is available at LCBO in their Essentials program #650432 $52.95When you join CellarTracker, you’re asked to identify your dream wines. Brunello is one of mine. It just represents so well. It’s usually wise beyond its years, extremely food friendly or just fine being your friend, and always provides me an image of a seasoned (read: old) Italian gentleman standing at a cellar door with an inviting smile. I adore it. This 2007 was at a perfect age to create that image. Just starting to brown around the edges, tobacco on the nose with some cherry pie peeking its head out as well as some fumes indicating the power lurking. In the mouth, it replayed the cherry pie emphatically with some funk, liquorice, and leather. All in all a very elegant, balanced wine. I buy a few of these each year and wonder when to open. I’ve been too early (tannins really chewy and hard to get to fruit) and too late (flabby). I hit a home run with this one.

2014 La Vite Lucente #747030 $34.95 A Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon bend this qualifies as a Super Tuscan. And before the purists ‘harrumph’, I agree that not all Super Tuscans are ‘Super’. And, many aren’t that ‘Tuscan’ either. Well, put away the daggers. This is both. And both in a big way. My notes on the 2013 suggest musty cherry aromas – solid replay of the cherry with cola and liquorice on the swish and swallow. Medium finish. The Tuscan part is the restraint. I feel like they could have hit us over the head with ripe fruit – heavens knows it’s warm enough to ripen the fruit pre-harvest. However, there’s a veneer covering the fruit component, it’s fruit last not first – the nice acidity which I associate with Tuscany.

2015 Castello di Pomino Bianco #65086 $19.95 This is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco. It’s a superb sipper. Think sitting on a piazza with a plate of charcuterie, fresh tomatoes (I know there are always fresh tomatoes with me), olives, bread and olive oil. Perfect match – enough weight to carry the meats and enough acid to cut the fat of that meat and olive oil. Enough fruit to battle the tomatoes and lift the flavours of the Chardonnay. I’m not a big fan of Italian white wines but the three profiled here are ‘mighty fine’ which is a wine professional’s term. And, I’m a professional, so don’t try it at home.

2015 Benefizio Pomino Bianco Riserva (N/A @ LCBO) Enjoyed this wine at the Dei Frescobaldi wine bar in Florence. Not sure what the price might be here but I’m thinking…….high. This is a small production Chardonnay blend. Moderately oaked, apples and citrus on the nose – butter and peaches on the finish. A very sophisticated wine. Very, very nice. We sipped it with nothing other than conversation. But, I’m thinking this is a food wine – chicken, pork, mild to medium cheeses.

2015 Marchesi de’Frescobaldi Tenuta di Castiglioni #145920 $21.95 OK. I’ve promoted this wine from the beginning of my on-line life. This is pure Italy at a reasonable price. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese that leans toward a truly Tuscan wine. All that to mean that the Sangiovese is present enough that you’ll know where this wine comes from. The style is medium body, streak of acidity that provides a bit of bite on the first sip, and moderate tannins. Fruit is red – “No shit Bill, it’s a red wine’ – but what I mean is that it is cherries and strawberries. Some leather but no real evidence of major oak. Easy drinking, interesting wine.

I’m taking a deep breath here. Ok, on to the next. The 2013 Nipozzano Vecchie Viti Riserva Chianti Rùfina #395186 $29.95 brings a classic vibe to the path we’ve been on here. Put your hand up if you remember Chianti as the wine in the basket (candle to be applied later) that was weak, variable in quality and perfect for the third bottle of the night. I see some hands up there. Well, this isn’t your second year university Chianti. It exudes ‘old’. It screams ‘traditional’. There’s a solidness to this wine. It’s a wine for grown ups (wonder why I like it?)  – elegant, sophisticated, and settled. No one is going to take a sip of this and fall over in ecstasy. But give them a second and third sip and they will fall in love. I read a review of another vintage and they used the term ‘honest’. That pretty well sums it up. Great, great food wine.

I know that I’ve been absent from these pages. I will be posting a bunch of stories in the next few weeks on our Italy trip and about some great wines coming to the mothership.

Cheers.

Bill

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