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Rediscovered Foods – What We’ve Been Drinking

28 Jul

2017 – Dock View North Early Evening

I know. It looks idyllic and it is. But don’t try to sit down there and admire the view for anything longer than three minutes unless you’ve brought a transfusion. The twin engine mosquitoes love early evening.

I have rediscovered a food that I had all the time when I was a kid. I mean it didn’t disappear; it’s just that I didn’t eat it anymore. And we’re not talking fluffinutters here – real non-childish foods. And now – I’ve fallen in love with it again. This happened to me this summer. I’ll tell you all about it later in the post.

Then there’s wine. What did we drink this past few weeks. In a nutshell – really really good shit. Here are just a few.

I bought a bunch of Bordeaux Futures over the years. Always hard to determine when to pop the cork. One of my faves is Château Duhart-Milon. The vintage that I brought to the party was the ’06. It needed a lot of time to get ready – so I decanted for about three hours. Enjoyed with Rye and Ginger Steak – rib eye steak marinated in Canadian rye whisky, fresh ginger, and thyme. This wine delivered on the promise of Bordeaux. A dustiness of red and black fruits supported by a backbone of tannin. Medium to full-bodied. Smokey but still closed off enough that I’ll wait on the other ’06’s..

The friend that I travelled to Priorat with brought the 2014 Torres Salmos #450734 $31.95. This is made by the large Torres operation – although in Priorat it’s difficult to impose a mass production approach and, I believe, they have tried to reflect the region in this wine. Wow! If you’ve never had a Priorat Garnacha/Cariñena wine, you are getting a detention. If you have, you know the power of these wines. They are unmistakable. We sniffed nd sipped this and both agreed that this is Priorat. Heightened alcohol and fruit galore from the Garnacha. Colour, stability and backbone from the Cariñena. It was great with a pork tenderloin.

In our market, we don’t get very many wines from Emilia-Romagna. It probably has as much to do with customer recognition as anything else. I mean everyone knows Tuscany, Piedmont, Venezie but Emilia-Romagna might be a bit foreign to them (pardon the pun). We popped a cork on the 2014 Umberto Cesari Liano Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon #225086 $27.95 and revisited this region. Despite its vintage, this had the nose of a wine dominated by an aged Sangiovese – cherries, leather. It wasn’t as big as a Super Tuscan tends to be; less International and more Old World – gutsier – I liked that. Some barrel characteristics without any creaminess or vanilla – solid tannins. Italian evening bistro wine. Great food wine.

Summer evenings scream, “Pinot Noir!” We enjoyed the 2012 Bethel Heights Estate Pinot Noir #510842 $37.75 from Oregon. Oregon, New Zealand, and Ontario Pinots are my favourite New World takes on this grape. They tend to be leaner and more powerful and mineral than others I’ve tried. This one stuck to that script. Blackberry, tea, and earthiness on the swish and swallow – medium plus finish. This might be a bit more soft (or, as they say in grammar class, “softer”) than what I’m used to from Oregon. Might be that it’s evolved and tannins have integrated. But, what a treat.

One last mention – 2013 Alto Moncayo Veraton Garnacha #173211 $27.75. These guys make great wine and, despite this one being their least expensive, it is perhaps my favourite and, yes, maybe I’m influenced by price in that assessment. 100% Garnacha, this is huge – Priorat-like – in experience and alcohol (15.5%) – warm in the mouth with fruit front and centre. Vines from 30 to 50 years of age at 300m to 500m. Rich, chocolate, anise, big mouthfeel, intense black fruit. Glad I have one more left.

That rediscovered food?

When we barbecued, my father would charge up the charcoal using about enough starter fluid to propel a Gemini rocket. Before he dropped the lit match on the grill, he had to dress in a  flame retardant suit. Singed eyebrows weren’t uncommon. The food tasted like it had been dipped in kerosene. I believe to this day that my father, an oil man who worked 37 years for Imperial Oil (Standard Oil of New Jersey), was just trying to contribute to the bottom line by going through a liter and a half of starter fluid per meal.

And, when we barbecued, my mother would put out freshly sliced garden tomatoes, spears of cucumber, and………..wait for it……..fresh garden radishes. Big, hot, beautiful radishes. And, we sprinkled salt….hell, we poured salt on to our side plates and dipped the radishes into the salt for every bite. Pure heaven.

And, until this past few weeks, I hadn’t really done that for a long time. Oh, I’d purchased radishes (probably grown in a hot house far away) and sliced them into a salad. But, I hadn’t had locally grown radishes, sprinkled with salt. Man, makes me want to get up and have a couple right now – the burps are a bit of a unforced error, though.

The other thing is green onions (scallions) with the same salty treatment. Always at the table in the summer of my youth. Beautiful.

So, if you don’t have your own garden patch, get thee to a market somewhere near you and get some locally grown, big, red, sassy radishes. And, ignore the #fakenews about salt being bad for you. Douse these little buggers in salt and enjoy. I’m thinking the wine to pair – is whatever you’re already drinking because nothing will really pair with them. Maybe best to stick to beer – that’s what dad had – Old Vienna.

Cheers.

Bill

Too Few Friends – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

27 Jul

When I was away, I found out that I only had two rosé friends. That’s very close to 100% of my friends, BTW. Unless you count the imaginary ones. I have a mess of those guys.

I had taken a bunch of rosés to the cottage but had only two takers. And you know what that means? I had all those rosés to myself! The only problem? Among them, I had brought the 1500 ml bottle of Bertrand’s Côte des Roses Rosé (above). It’s a big bottle – good news. The bad news is that no one would pitch in and help me drink it. And, it doesn’t fit upright in the cottage fridge.

So, once opened, you have to finish it – normally not a problem for the undersigned. But, accidents happen on the water when alcohol is involved. Story for another day. So, no big, beautiful bottle of rosé for me. Lesson learned.

The corollary is that the cottage is not the place to experiment with wine for guests. If your guests haven’t heard of it (Arneis, Melon de Bourgogne, Mencia), don’t expect them to prefer it to wines/grapes that they are familiar with no matter how much they trust you. And, when you’re the host, you give guests choices and bend to those. Not everyone wants to ‘try’ something when they’re sitting on the dock getting mellow and sun burnt.

Last weekend’s (July 22nd) LCBO release is entitled “Old Favourites + New Favourites”. It’s about Old World and New World wines – where they intersect and where they differ. At the mid-to-high end of the price spectrum, there are some absolute stunners. In the mid-price stunner category is the 2014 Luca Malbec #167312 $34.95. This wine is made by Laura Catena so you can count on attention to detail, expression of place, and experimentation with traditional practices.This comes from high altitude (3500 feet) both well established and newer vineyards. It is fresh yet doubles down on first impact – broad, full darkish fruit and, although the alcohol is middle range (13.5% ABV), it has a bit of heat. This is a food wine. And, remember it is an Argentine food wine – so, think grilled burgers, steaks. This proves the point that all Malbecs are not created equal.

A more reasonably priced red is the 2014 Papale Linea Oro Primitivo di Manduria #261784 $22.95. I’ve recommended this before in other vintages – most recently the 2013. You can read that review here. Made from the Primitivo (early ripening) grape which is Italian for Zinfandel, it carries a lot of the same characteristics understandably. Puglia is a hot place – grapes get ripe and this is reflected in this wine – fruity, big flavours, alcohol starting to get a bit high (14% ABV). This vintage has more of a dried fruit experience like a Ripasso does. Great summer evening or autumn wine.

Despite the rosé discussion above, I’m not shying away from them. This week, the 2016 Domaine Maby La Forcadière Tavel Rosé #701318 $18.95 is a typical Tavel – darker pink (check the pic out), more red than salmon. It’s fruit forward with heft that you don’t usually experience in a crisp, refreshing Cotes de Provence. That does sacrifice some of the refreshment but it’s a great food wine – acidity on the finish and even a little tannin peeking through. Great value Tavel!

The previous release (July 8th) has a must buy from Piedmont – the 2015 Fontanafredda Raimonda Barbera d’Alba #023135 $16.95. This is a lightish, bright red with cherries and spice in the gargle. Almost too easy to drink – dry, fun, and fresh. Think bistro red and you’ll have it. If you think all wines need to be big and brawny, skip this. Barberas can be quite variable in quality. But no worries of being underwhelmed here. I bought one of these to try and am headed back for half a dozen more.

Also from the July 8th release is one of the most opulent wines that I’ve ever had at this price point – 2015 Bastide Miraflors Vieilles Vignes Syrah/Grenache #320499 $19.95. Maybe it’s my Grenache/Garnacha addiction but so what? But, it’s more Syrah (70%) than Grenache (30%), you say. Well, I love Syrah too. No serious wood treatment so pure ripe fruit on the nose and the swallow. Some of the telltale Roussillon notes of lavender and other scrubby stuff as well as some pepper on the medium length finish. It scores high on the GSS (Good Shit Scale) – between Really and Really Really. This wine reminds us that although Roussillon brings us mass production wines, it also makes wines like this one – crafted with integrity.

Just a quick recommendation on an available  sparkling that I’ve mentioned a bunch of times – the Bailly-Lapierre Pinot Noir Brut Cremant de Bourgogne #420984 $23.95. If you can’t afford to buy Champagne, I believe the next best thing in sparkling wine is Cremant de Bourgogne (unless I’ve said something else in an earlier post – in that case, I’ve changed my mind). This is made from Pinot Noir and although not as dry as the fabulous Louis Boillot Perle d’Or that I recommend from time to time, it’s dry enough and the wee bit more lends creaminess. The Pinot comes through on the finish for me along with lemon peel. Exceptional cuvée!

Saw the HBO documentary about Bowie’s last 5 years and listened to his last album – Blackkstar when I was doing the final edit on this post. Man, he was special. Enjoy this video. The definition of cool. And, check out the song Dollar Days on Blackstar on whatever streaming service you use – pure Bowie.

Cheers.

Bill

 

Buddy’s Got The Blues – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

22 Jun

Saw Buddy Guy last night. 80, and man, he still can play. And, yes, he still has the blues, poor bugger.

This week’s release (June 24) features a bunch of wines made by Canadians abroad paired with their Canadian efforts. They include: La Crema; Thomas Bachelder’s Oregon, Niagara, and Burgundy wines; Ann Sperling’s Versado (Argentina) and Southbrook wines; John Howard’s Megalomaniac and Chateau La Confession (with help from Sue-Ann  Staff); and, Moray Tawse and his Burgundy partnership with Pascal Marchand, among others. I’ve enjoyed the Tawse-Marchand, Bachelder, and La Crema efforts and now can’t wait to try the Versado. Hopefully, these successes will serve to promote Canadian wine as well.

And, remember that there may be a strike at the mother ship starting June 26th. So, stock up or go on the wagon.

Before I wade into this release, let me give you a heads up on a great gift bottle of wine – 2016 Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Rosé #490912 $37.95. This 1.5 L edition of Bertrand’s rosé comes in a beautiful bottle with a rose carved into the base. Plus, the wine is a tasty, lip smacking pink with loads of fun fruit. I picked up a couple to pop for that moment when you want to dress up your experience.

 

It seems like Prosecco has become the new Cava. Used to be that you’d pop a cork on a Freixenet or Cordonui semi-regularly. Now, everyone has fallen in love with Prosecco. But beware – there are Proseccos and then, sigh, there are Proseccos. The good ones are good to great. The shitty ones are….well, shitty. And, there are a lot of those. This week, there’s a good one made by a Canuck, Franco Prevedello. The 2016 Prevedello Asolo Superiore Extra Dry Prosecco #262881 $16.95 is fresh, extremely dry and carries a nice tight bubbliness. Great wine to start the day – not suggesting an 8:00 am beginning but quaff this before you get serious. And, no Mimosas with this, please.

Starting or replenishing a cellar? The 2013 Laplace Madiran #103705 $17.95 is la perfect place (get the pun?) to start. This is made from the Tannat grape. I have a good friend who loves wines from the Southwest of France and he got me hooked on Tannat. Tannat usually makes a rustic wine but if done right and with some cellar time to smooth out the edges, it’s full value and great with meals that are substantial in weight – say, a red meat stew. The Laplace is a great Madiran wine. Put it down for a few years or decant for a few hours and please – this is not a standing around wine. It’s serious, structured, and bursting with lip smacking fruit.

I believe that most of us are tired of drinking the same thing over and over again. I’m talking to the McManis afficinados out there. So before I forget and in an effort to get you guys out of your woody rut. I’ve been enjoying a very special Morgon lately. I’m afraid it may run out before I’ve been able to stock up. The 2014 Laurent Gauthier Grand Cras Morgon #279059 $21.9is a great representation of what Beaujolais can aspire to. I absolutely love this stuff! Red fruit on the sniff and finish. Although it claims to be medium weight, I’d say it trends heavier than that – which is a surprise for me. Would benefit from a few years down below but easily drinkable now as well. Perfect summer evening dinner wine! Deep, black, complex, cellarable – everything that you’d want in a supper wine. I have a few faves in my Beaujolais stash and this proudly takes it’s place among them. Fall in love with Beaujolais again. But hurry because there isn’t much left.

I used to recommend a Malbec almost every week. I haven’t had a lot recently. So, sorry to all the Malbec lovers out there but my body can only withstand so much research. However, this week, there’s a malbec that I have had and enjoyed – the 2013 Alamos Selección Malbec #322800 $16.95. This is a Laura Catena effort and, thus, although low-priced, it is meticulously crafted. This is a concentrated, complex wine with all sorts of sniffs emanating from the glass. Mouthfeel is heavy minus a bit and the finish is substantial for a wine at this price. I know that I’m always trumpeting value at a higher price. I’d say this is the best Malbec that I’ve had under $20 that wasn’t made by Susanna Balbo and, if you’ve been playing along at home, you know that’s saying something.

One last little tip. There’s a Spanish wine – 2008 Anciano Gran Reserva Tempranillo Valdepenas #464214 $12.95 – that’s a great value from the Iberian peninsula. Now, it’s a bit light for a Tempranillo wine but still has loads of personality and is suited for sipping. Hard to beat the price. So, if you are thinking of stocking up for the long drawn out strike (wink, wink), pick up a few of these.

Cheers.

Bill

 

Aborted Crop Tour – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

26 May

I arrived at the lake this past weekend with a mighty thirst after battling the throngs straggling north from Toronto. And, the tradition is that as soon as you turn on to the cottage road, you have to open a beer. Yes, a brown rocket, a road pop, a traveller as we used to call them. It just seems like the right thing to do and I haven’t driven the car off the very narrow and hilly cottage road yet.

A trusted traveller from the past

But there was an issue – stop the truck, pop the back, rifle through the spring stock-up and pull out a warm beer. Oh yeah, and suffer the ubiquitous black flies as they gnaw on my all too too sullied flesh (not many wine blogs can weave in Hamlet, yeah?) ….. So this time, “To hell with tradition. No beer en route.”

One year, a friend and I popped into the mother ship in Washago to pick up some cold beer on our way in. We got it to the counter when I discovered that it wasn’t twist off but required a bottle opener. I said to my friend, “Wait, we won’t be able to open that in the car,” and my friend switched out the beer for a more accessible brand. The cashier looked at us and said, “You’re kidding, right? Because if you’re not, I shouldn’t sell this to you.” We assured her that we were just foolin’ around. But, lesson learned.

We arrived at the cottage, unpacked, made the bed, turned on the water pump, checked for squirrels (I hate squirrels), put the groceries (read: wine and liquor) away, and The Director headed down to the dock to catch a few rays. But what to have with dinner? It’s never too early to consider the implications of a great pairing or of a disastrous one. But suffice it to say, I wanted rosé regardless of food. And, it just so happened that I had brought up a bottle of the 2016 Whispering Angel #325076 $26.95. Reflect back on my ringing endorsement of this wine here. This is great rosé! I don’t kid around.

This week’s release (May 27) focuses on Southern Italy. This is in my sweet spot but I haven’t had any of the offerings, save the one below – so maybe after I’ve tried a few, I’ll let you know. Instead we are just going to have a wander around the rest of the world. Before I start, just a heads up that there are two rosés this week. Both are recommended each year – the 2016 Château La Tour de l’Évêque Rosé #319392 $18.95 and 2016 Gassier Sables d’Azur Rosé #033621 $16.95. These are both Côtes de Provence and available for the next few months usually. Great crisp summer rosés – nervy, fresh, dry. Can be paired with salads, light BBQ and great with fish or seafood. I enjoy the La Tour so much that I asked for a bottle for Christmas and, damn if I didn’t get one! Shout out to S & B.

Sardinia is included in the Southern Italy feature and an Essentials red is the 2014 Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva #425488 $14.95. Cannonau is Sardinian for Grenache, Garnacha. This is a rustic, gutsy wine – so, food is a must – maybe ribs, pork something or other. Its medium plus body, leathery finish and Garnacha fruit make it a solid value. It’s on sale now ($2 off) at the price above.

A 2010 Bordeaux can be a beaut. 2010 was the third or was it fourth “Vintage of The Century.” It’s hard to keep track of those expert self-promoters, Les Bordelaise. This week there’s a relatively cheap 2010 – Château Blaignan #416727 $21.95. This wine doesn’t need any more time down below although could withstand a couple more years, if you’re so inclined. It’s ready for pop and pour. Smooth, well balanced – perhaps a bit lighter than I was expecting. Bordeaux blend scents of cassis. Some oakiness dissipates after a swallow or two. Good value in Bordeaux.

I’m sounding a bit like a broken record because I’ve recommended the 2005 Balbas Reserva #085183 $21.95 a gazillion times. Sandalwood or cedar on the nose (I know there’s a difference there but I can’t tell), loads of warmth and structure still. Very youthful for a wine that’s already over 10 years old. Impress someone with this as a host(ess) gift.

While I was at the cottage, I popped the cork on a bottle of the 2014 Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir #461699 $24.95. This is a substantial wine. I’m not sure if any of you Ontarians out there can remember when the first few vintages of Malivoire’s Old Vines Foch came out. Oh, it almost made you giddy. It still kind of does for me. Well, this is in that class. A lesser known and modestly vinted grape masterfully delivered. Dates and jamminess. This has an almost port-like finish. Nuts and dark fruits. Henry of Pelham makes a decent entry level Baco Noir as well. But, once you’ve had this, you’re not going back there.

Let me know if you have any illegal traditions involving vacations. I can’t be the only one.

Cheers.

Bill

#Sad – The Red Daily Slosh

11 May

Why “Blues Deluxe”? Well, there’s a crisis in my life. I’m a sports fan. And, in that role, I have two favourite teams – the Toronto Raptors and the Toronto Blue Jays. The Raptors were eliminated from the playoffs after a shameful showing against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Jays just stink, plain and simple. Lately I have been spoiled by both these teams as they battled from pathetic through mediocre to almost victorious over the past few seasons. But, this year the results are just sad. Or, as The Donald says, #sad. And, since it’s a wine blog and there are other sufferers out there (think – Browns fans – oh yeah I’m a Browns fan too, aargh!), I’m going to recommend some wines to quaff while you’re sad, discouraged, or down in the dumps.

Let me approach it this way. Comfort food is what we crave when we’re a bit gloomy, tired and frustrated, yeah? So what wines do we associate with comfort foods? Comfort being the proxy for the mood. Pair with comfort food and we’ll match with #sad.

Comfort food is a very individual thing running the gamut from popcorn to mac and cheese. So, I’m just going to use my ‘comfort food’ in the pairing. So don’t try this at home unless your comfort food is………..SOUP! Hot, vegetable-based soup. It might be easier to simply pair my soup with whites. However, this is a red wine edition. I think I’m up to the challenge.

What to drink post LeBron torching the Raps while slurping my homemade Cream of Fennel soup? I’m thinking that we need to stay rich to match the cream and savoury to match the fennel. So, let’s pound a bottle or two (remember: we are gloomy and two bottles is kind of a requirement if you want to cry uncontrollably later on – I know this from my research) of the 2013 Allegrini Palazzo Dela Torre #672931 $24.95. I realize that I’ve recommended this wine a million times, even this vintage. But, it’s in this release (May 13) and it works. I feel the doom and gloom lifting already. This is a rich wine but medium-bodied to fit the heft of the soup and to lighten your mood. The appasimento technique gives it loads of depth – dried fruits, old leather, and maybe a whiff of Old Spice like a hug from your grandfather. Now, that has to make you feel better.

The other #sad pairing has to go with my favourite – Celeriac Soup. I know it’s a bit weird as a favourite. Let me explain why it’s comforting. My mother was a great cook. Hell, she helped pen a cookbook in 1935 when she attended the University of Toronto. I have a copy of said cookbook held together with elastics. One of my food memories is her Cream of Celery Soup. It probably exceeded the DRI of sodium – those were the days – but it sure was comforting. So, I’ve had to figure out my own recipe and it includes celeriac to bump it up a notch. Celeriac says earthy to me. Just scrubbing the bulb before you chop it tells you that. So, an earthy red but not too heavy is the ticket. So, let’s focus on the last release (May 13) and recommend the following: the 2015 Errazuriz Pinot Noir #494807 $24.95. Pinot Noir carries earthiness as a rule and this doesn’t disappoint. It’s sneaky powerful like the one below. Looks innocent enough in the glass but opens up to show you some red fruit and forest funk. Funky like the celeriac. A nice bite to cut the cream. A wine that punches above it’s weight.

From the April 29th release, the 2015 Renato Ratti Ochetti Langhe Nebbiolo #475913 $23.95 is a quiet bomb. You might not have had Nebbiolo or love it and can’t afford it as Barolo or Barbaresco. But, there are other less expensive incarnations that shouldn’t be dismissed – DOC’s Gattinara, Ghemme, and Bramaterra are all also brimming with the power and finesse of Nebbiolo. There’s also the Langhe DOC east of Barolo and south of Barbaresco that gives us great Nebbiolo at a discount. After giving it some air, the Ratti Langhe opens up with a raspberry jam and eucalyptus nose. The colour reminds me of a Burgundy – portending sneaky power. Did I say, “Portending?” It has a complex gargle with sandalwood, red fruit, and then a medium plus finish. I actually said out loud, “Shit, that’s a great wine.” I was all by myself. Seriously, I’ve got issues – drinking and talking all by myself. I enjoyed it with grilled Italian sausage and quinoa salad. As good as that was, I should have just quaffed it by its lonesome to pay homage. If you can’t afford Barolo, pick this up to experience quintessential Nebbiolo. Forget that. Even if you do have a cellar full of Barolo, pick this up! 

Another red from the April 29th release is disappearing quickly. The 2015 Domaine des Houdieres Fleurie #342725 $16.95 is a Cru Beaujolais that warrants a ‘buy’, to use market terms. I tend to stick to Moulin-a-Vent (power) and Morgon (spiciness) in my Beaujolais sipping. Fleurie can be a bit too light for me – too Beaujolais if you know what I mean. I got talked into this Fleurie at the mother ship. Glad I took the $17 plunge. This is very aromatic – pure Gamay. Red fruit from sniff to swallow to lip smacking finish. Perfect Spring red with an arugula salad with grilled peaches. Ah, I’m just screwing with you on the pairing – I made it up. Sounds good though doesn’t it? I had the Fleurie with cheesy nibbles. Great value Beaujolais!

Hopefully, I’ve provided some help to those that are a bit woebegone like me. Remember: Sports disappointment is simply a state of mind. It’s a shitty state of mind but still……you know what I mean. There’s always next year.

Cheers.

Bill

Remember: You can check inventory for all the wines recommended by clicking on the link (Stock Number and Price), dropping down the Cities menu, choosing your burg and clicking on Find Stores.

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.

 

Sale – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

31 Mar

The mothership has a lot of wines. Hell, they introduce about 120 new ones every other weekend. And, when you have that many wines, you need to put a few on sale to open up some shelf space. I bought a case of sale wine this week. Best buys were Bibi Graetz’ Casamatta Rosso #330712 $12.25 (sorry, I cleared out Masonville) and two appasimento faves 2014 The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy #149237 $17.95 and 2013 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre #632971 $20.95 – I believe the Palazzo is only on sale in certain stores (Masonville had it on sale).

I just love the Allegrini wine – a baby Amarone for half the price. I really don’t need it to be on sale to lust after it. And, The Conspiracy is a great introduction to how this winery approaches the method to enrich flavours without being overly raisiny or hot with alcohol – this wine at only 13%. Both great efforts.

The Casammatta is a nice, simple sipping red for pizza or Eggos with whipped cream. If you want to peruse the wines on sale you can find them here. Note that it’s “while supplies last’ and many may be gone or not available at your local. Scroll down the list as there are some great values there that I didn’t mention and you might find your favourite on sale.

Baseball season is upon us. Basketball playoffs and the opening of baseball season are about the two greatest times in sport. Oh yeah, and The Masters is next weekend. This time of year also marks the beginning of fantasy baseball season. Now, point of clarification, fantasy baseball is not where Victoria Secret models beat out grounders or turn a nifty double play around the horn. Although….it could be a fantasy for some. Back on earth, I had my fantasy baseball draft last weekend. And, as is the practice, I brought a tasty wine to accompany my cunning assembly of the eventual winning team. Can you spell Repeat? I picked it as the last of my stash of this wine knowing that this weekend (April 1), it was going to be back on the shelves. The 2006 Ardal Reserva #167700 $21.95 is a wine that I bought a bunch of when it last visited town. This wine is drinking perfectly right now (why my half a case disappeared so quickly) and continuing for another three or four years. It’s mature – balanced, smooth – judicious use of oak leads to a cedar sniff but not enough to blot out the scrubbiness or the dark fruit on the shortening swallow. And sticking with the theme, there’s a hint of leather on the nose. Tannins well integrated and it still possesses enough acid to avoid flabbiness. I think it’s one of the better values in aged Ribera del Duero wines that I’ve seen in a while. Similar in style to the 2005 Balbas Reserva that I always pimp. Get a bunch!

Chile brings value. In fact, I recommended a Casillero del Diablo wine to my niece as a host gift that became the hosts new BFF. You don’t have to sell the farm to get tasty treats from this country. This week, 2014 Primus The Blend #712463 $19.95 arrives. Truth be told, it’s been herre for a while already. I opened a bottle last week and have to disagree with James Suckling. I didn’t find the wine ready to “Drink now.” It seemed pretty serious and reserved. I agree that it is chewy which reminded me in mouthfeel a bit of Barossa Shiraz but this is a blend of Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon with some wee bits of Petit Verdot and Merlot. After I left it alone for an hour or two, which in my case requires some serious restraint, it opened up and had a meaty, medium bodied, dustiness to it. I think that it may proceed to a better place in time or just decant now for a couple hours. Great food wine.

At our house, there’s my wine and then there’s that of The Director. Despite the trends of the day (ABC, etc.), she is firmly ensconced in the ATC club Anything That’s Chardonnay. And, when we venture to the lake, it’s a couple of La Cremas or Mer Soleils that accompany us each time. This week, the 2014 La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay #962886 $29.95 returns. What can I say? It’s a prototypical Sonoma Chardonnay with oak present but not overwhelming, apples, and a little citrus. Creamy finish. If this is your style, grab one or two. It is “Director Approved” and extremely food friendly.

We have a friend who is always popping a cork on sparkling wine as soon as you cross the threshold. Yes you guessed it, I go to her house every morning now. I think that I’ve got her off the Prosecco and on to the Crémant de Anything. But, my favourite is the ‘de Bourgogne’ made from the aforementioned Chardonnay. The Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant de Bourgogne #991562 $19.95 is full value. Dry, crisp and lively. A great ‘first’ sip – not to be confused with a food wine. If not this exact wine, you should be able to find a Crémant de Bourgogne by either Louis Bouillot or Cave de Lugny in brut or brut rosé – both superior examples of the style and worth every penny – hey, we don’t have pennies anymore, yahoo – worth every nickel.

Some frequent flyers on this site, gave me a heads up that the 2011 Iturria Tinto #481408 $20.95 was good juice. I picked up a couple bottles and tasted it the other night. It is a sophisticated wine, well settled into its drinking window. Significant time in oak shows it in the nose but has softened over time in bottle – good balance – peppery – Garnacha fruit peeking through. Tempranillo and a small dose of Garnacha from Toro where value is good. Shout out to Joanne and Oliver.

Remember: You can check the availability of each wine by clicking on the link (stock number and price), dropping down the city menu, choosing your city and clicking on Find Stores.

Senior Discount – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

18 Mar

A few months ago, or was it longer, they allowed supermarkets in Ontario to sell wine and craft beer. Oh, not every one of them (supermarkets that is). Just a select few and you don’t know until you wander the aisles looking for wine and beer if the one you’re in does. It is so crazy what passes for the responsible sale of alcohol in Ontario. I mean wouldn’t you want a person that’s jonesing for their third box of Maria Christina of the day to avoid driving from store to store?

The other day when I was in Sobey’s (Wonderland and Oxford – right beside my new favourite LCBO), I stumbled onto the wine display. I felt a bit like Henry Morton Stanley (go ahead and Google him, if you must). Well, the wine selection, as one might expect, wasn’t all that interesting. Some local stuff, some standby imports and being a snob, there just wasn’t anything worth my lofty palate. But, I needed to get a few cans of beer. And I found what I was looking for – Great Lakes Brewery Pompous Ass English Ale #408054 $2.65 – my new ‘go to’ beer. And, not just because I am one.

Now, here’s the interesting part. You had faith that it would eventually get interesting, didn’t you? I took my purchases to the counter (there are designated “Wine and Beer ” counters, I’m not shitting you). And, the check out woman who was a few years younger than me, asked me for ID. Seriously? Apparently it’s a ‘RULE’. It’s more a question of whether I get the seniors discount – and I do (which is a great idea for the LCBO BTW – Senior’s Tuesdays – a fifth of Scotch for $5?). The rule is that all people must show ID. That’s how the system will protect us from youngsters between 50 and 70 years of age getting all gooned up on supermarket wine and falling asleep before the evening news. Makes sense.

This release (March 18) doesn’t require you to show your ID as it’s only available at the mother ship. Front page trumpets “California Stars”, and they are just that. Paul Hobbs, Belle Glos, Cakebread, Silver Oak, etc. The only one of the offerings that I’ve tasted is the 2015 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel #942151 $29.95. I’ve pimped this wine in previous vintages. In most years, this is one of the best sub-$40 Zins out there. This year it shines again. I’m not sure if it’s the impact of Sonoma but this wine is so much more restrained than most Zin. That doesn’t mean it’s insipid or boring – it certainly isn’t either. Loads of fruit and toast in the glass. Very lively, fresh. It would be a great steak wine or good with something else BBQ’d. Similar experience to Ridge’s Geyserville. Highly recommended.

“Back in the day,” he says sagely, “We drank gallons of Lindemans Cawarra Chardonnay/Semillon.” I’m not speaking figuratively here. We drank gallons of this stuff. It was cheap. It was dependable and people liked it. The blend wasn’t one that you would find anyplace else either. Kind of a one off. Well, there’s another blend with Chardonnay that carries the same value – 2015 Zuccardi Serve A Chardonnay/Viognier #262097 $16.95. This blend hasn’t the snap that the Lindeman’s did. It’s rounder due to the Viognier and has a floral finish. More elegant, actually. And, closer to a Chardonnay focused white. This would be a great stand around wine. For your first (and, sadly only) Spring Open House. People will ask what it is and where you got it.

Too many people turn their noses up at any wine that carries even a hint of sweetness. Either it’s a mistaken diet kind of thing. Or, they remember back to Blue Nun and Black Tower. And remembering those times, usually means some illness after too much of The Nun. Well, it’s time to cool it with the hate. Sweetness isn’t ‘bad’ or unpleasant; certain sweeter wines go great with Asian inspired food. Plus, if there’s a nice bit of acidity, the sweetness is complimentary not cloying. The 2015 Vineland Estates Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling #038117 $19.95 is a perfect example of this balance. This isn’t actually Sweet it’s technically a Medium. I bought a few of the 2012 version and it had to be one of the best Rieslings I’ve ever had from Niagara. Still have one left and will let it mellow. You can drink the 2015 now or let it sit for a year or two minimum. It’s a powerful Riesling experience.

A wine that i’m eager to pick up and try is the 2015 Jean-Perrier & Fils Cuvée Gastronomie Monduese Savoie #272112 $21.95. We don’t get much Savoie wine here. Most of the production in Savoie doesn’t leave France. Lots of other wine geeks talk favourably about the region and I’m anxious to try some. Plus, Mondeause is a grape that I haven’t had before. Should be cool.

That’s all I got this week. If I taste some of the other offerings, I’lll tweet about them.

Cheers

Bill

Remember: You can check the availability of each wine by clicking on the link (stock number and price), dropping down the city menu, choosing your city and clicking on Find Stores.

Anticipation #OTBN – The Red Daily Slosh

3 Mar

The red wines available on March 4th are plentiful (80 new additions to the mother ship). But, I want to start with a wine that I enjoyed for Open That Bottle Night (OTBN). Let me explain.

OTBN falls on the last Saturday of February. Here’s the premise – most people have a few bottles tucked away or, if they’re fortunate like me, too many bottles that they can’t bring themselves to open. Why can’t we open these wines? Whether it’s the company – and you’ve probably  noticed that I haven’t many friends. Or, you just feel that a certain bottle is just too special to waste on anything short of a ‘special’ night. And, unfortunately that night never arrives. Erma Bombeck used to say that’s why you never used the ‘good’ china.

The purpose of OTBN is to break through the resistance and pop a cork on one of those bottles. This past Saturday, I opened a 2009 Château Gloria (Saint-Julien) – a Bordeaux that I had purchased through the Futures program at the LCBO with a buying group. I have a bunch of these wines sitting down below and this isn’t even the most anticipated Bordeaux. I may go to my grave with those ones sitting dusty and alone in my basement.

And what did this year’s OTBN teach me? I guess what I already knew. Don’t worship at the altar of bottle tags telling you what the ‘experts’ suggest is a drinking window. Don’t wait for that perfect moment – perfection might only be apparent after you’ve opened the bottle. OTBN, for me at least, should be more frequent.

OK, this Saturday (March 4th), there are are many red wines that I’m dying to taste. But, of the ones that I’ve tasted already , these are my recos:

cotodeimazThe first full case of wine I ever purchased was the 1983 El Coto de Imaz Reserva. It was the first real cedar boxy, eucalyptus red wine that I had ever really had. A big break from the Colli Albani and Sex on Saturday that I was pounding. It was smooth and special. This week, there’s the 2011 El Coto de Imaz Reserva #472928 $22.95. This still carries the vibe – traditional Rioja – more wood than many might like – but I love the treatment. Smoky, herbal, dark fruits (not the normal red fruit that Tempranillo brings). This is a wine that you could easily put down for 5 – 10 years – a great cellar starter. Drink with food – barbecue ribs, burgers, or paella. Great value for a reserva. I might buy a case for old times sake.

castignoIf you’ve been playing along at home, you’ve heard me wax romantically about Saint-Chinian (what does ‘wax’ really mean and did I use it properly here?). It was one of my first true wine vacays and it stuck. I got hustled by local wine merchantesses, loving every minute of it, and ended up lugging home an overweight suitcase of their wares. This week, the 2011 Château Castigno Secret des Dieux Saint-Chinian #479626 $21.95 arrives and renews my love affair. Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, and Carignan. It’s medium-bodied with so much sniff going on – big in the glass – cassis, spice. Smooth on the swish and swallow already. Medium finish – cherries. This is good now – with it’s brambliness, lending itself to complex dishes – tomatoes, herbs. The Carignan provides a nice lip smacking kick at the end.

montespinotI mentioned last time out the 2014 Montes Alpha Pinot Noir #143215 $19.95 as great pick up for those favouring a bolder, rounder Pinot Noir. This is great value, expertly crafted Pinot. Lithe, fresh, and brimming with smoky red fruit. It comes from the Casablanca Valley in Chile – which seems to produce great Chardonnay as well as Pinots like this. Interesting how those two go together, isn’t it? It may be running low on the shelves, so scoop a few. And, don’t wait for an occasion.

Cheers

Bill

Remember: You can check the availability of each wine by clicking on the link (stock number and price), dropping down the city menu, choosing your city and clicking on Find Stores.

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