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#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.

Question – The Red Daily Slosh

16 Feb

Not to suggest that these guys are old but one of them is playing a tambourine. And he isn’t wearing a Sally Ann uniform either.

Question for all the wine peeps out there: At the end of the evening – a third of a bottle left, pump the bottle? Just put the cork back in and into’ fridge? No fridge? Or…..just have another glass and a half and finish the bugger off? That’s a question I ask myself many nights. I’ve been keeping score and trying to understand the variables that effect my decision – aside from the buzz level. It’s one thing only – the quality of the wine. Or, more accurately, how much I love the wine.

I’ve found that I’m not big on saving the wine for another day if it has provided a lot of interest and enjoyment. Although maybe, when I have a big day in front of me……..wait, there are no more ‘big’ days in front of me. Aside from the monthly sorting of the sock drawer – you need your wits about you for that, I must say. So for me, there’s really no reason to deny myself that last great glass, is there? Re-Cork the Ordinary – Quaff the Extraordinary!

angelsshareThis weekend’s release (Feb. 18) features a bunch of interesting Aussie wines – none of which I can comment on, unfortunately. Haven’t had them. But, in the spirit of supporting Aussie wines – I had a great Shiraz the other night – 2014 Two Hand’s Angel’s Share Shiraz #9480 $24.95. I’ve had the Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz #660043 $24.95 but on sale until Feb. 26th (good effort) and Bella’s Garden which is a special wine but have not had the Angel’s Share before the 2014. This is a big wine in the style of Aussie Shiraz that we’ve all come to love. However, it has another note under the power – class. Hard to put a solid experience of class into words – maybe it’s the way it opens, the balance, maybe it’s the clear chocolate notes and finish. Not sure. However, I’m assuming that the mother ship has some of this stashed away for another time – keep your head up. It’s cellar worthy too.

hopbaconoirStaying much much closer to home, the 2014 Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir #461699 #24.95 might be the best version of this wine that I’ve had. The Speck family does this grape better than anyone down in Niagara. This bottle will be a huge surprise to those that haven’t had a Baco above $12. Smoky, leathery on the nose, spicy on the swallow and finish. Big fruit. Cellar worthy. Some people I know never drink Niagara wines – just don’t like them. Maybe it’s from years ago. Maybe it’s people trying to convince them that they warrant another look. Not sure. But, you should drink what you love and love what you drink……….. unless I disagree with you. Then you’re just plain wrong and that’s not an alternative fact because I’ve held this belief for quite some time. Ergo, it’s true.

fiasco

Chianti Fiasco

Is anyone out there old enough to remember when Chianti was pure shit? I mean when enough white and unnamed varieties of grapes were added so that the final version was weak and confused. The good news? It was cheap. The bad news? Cheap meant that you bought a lot of it despite the experience.

Well, nowadays Chianti is anything but cheap or pallid. The rules have changed for the better. The other night a friend brought over a bottle of 2013 Chianti Classico full of cherries and acidity. It was a great effort. This weekend there are a few Chiantis to try – I haven’t had them in the vintage being offered but encourage you to pick one of them up or another Chianti Classico or Chianti Rufina that might catch your eye. The Frescobaldi, the Nippozano, the Gabbiano, the Lornano? It’s a perfect wine for the current weather and winter cuisine.

lagoneThere is a lovely Tuscan wine that I’ve had – 2013 Aia Vecchia Lagone Toscana #47690 $19.95. This is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc from Bolgheri. It’s very structured right now with tannins hitting pretty hard and up front – I should have left it to breathe longer or just sit down below until a little later. Full-bodied, powerful – darker fruits. This would be a great addition to any cellar despite the modest price. If you love Super Tuscans, pick this up for a special meal. FYI, a fellow blogger wrote a nice piece on this winery and some of their wines. You can read Jeff, The Drunken Cyclist’s piece here.

abaddombuenoLooking for a well aged red with loads of personality? Pick up the 2006 Abad Dom Bueno Crianza #244699 $15.95. This is so ready to drink – dark fruits filing the glass on the sniff – sandalwood and tea on the finish – tasty. I’ve reviewed this before and can only imagine that another year in bottle will be bringing to a close this wine’s window. So, pick up a couple, decant to remove some sediment that is present (or just pour carefully and leave a little in the bottom), and have with some cured meats, olives and tapas. Bierzo wines made from Mencia are tasty values and this is one. Hell, pick up three at this price. Four even.

grandtheatreA wine that I’m getting a few of is the 2014 Grand Theatre #468678 $20.95. Not because of the write up or past experience but because of our local theatre – The Grand Theatre – of which we’ve been subscribers for years. And, for whom my brother was the Head of Electrics for almost 25 years. Kind of a sentimental pick. A Bordeaux from Saint-Emilion – heavy on the Merlot. Hoping that it rewards my loyalty.

Cheers.
Bill

Remember: You can check availability of any wine by clicking on the link (product # and price), dropping down the city menu, choosing your city and clicking Find Stores. Good luck.

Time For A Quickie?

9 Feb

i-know-a-lot-about-wine

I had an SEO-website-functionality kind of guy send me an email (unsolicited, I might add) telling me where I might be able to use his help to improve my traffic and increase my business. Sell more. Be more…………….bigger. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I am pretty big already.

I’m thinking that 10% of the people that read my blog are people that I actually know. And to them, I’m a big deal. Then again, I’m on new meds to manage my delusions of grandeur. Uhhh…….. they may not be working.

The guy did get me to thinking that maybe I need to post more frequently than once every couple weeks to form a real relationship with the readers of the blog. Maybe a stronger relationship might lead us to a group project to build that cabin in the woods together, forage for ‘real’ food, make our own clothes from sustainable plants, study Vaishnava mantras, and grow some weed. Actually, I’m thinking in reverse order. Or, second best outcome would be that we’d exchange comments, read each others blogs, buy more wine. Not a bad second best.

In that spirit, this is a quick recommendation of three wines we’ve had in the past week or so (read: yesterday before dinner) that I feel are good value, tasty, and on top of all that very representative of the place they come from.

poggio-alla-guardiaThe 2013 Rocca di Frasinello Poggio Alla Guardia #25718 $18.95 has a pretty impressive pedigree. This Maremma Tuscan winery has an exceptional mid-priced red that is always full-value and an iconic Super Tuscan, Baffonero, that is reserved for tastings only for this poor scribe – it’s top drawer. So, what about the Poggio Alla Guardia? Well, it is so ready to drink right now. It’s a Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon blend that comes straight at you – a bit of browning already going on, a hint of old wood on the nose, and big ripe fruits in the mouth and on the finish. Superb Value! Reminds me a bit of the Brancaia Tre in style, sense, and heft. Great food wine. Also goes well with Rush. Just sayin’. We are travelling to the Maremma this September and I hope to connect with these folks.

creekside-iconoclastCreekside Estates in Niagara is an original winery there and has gone their own way to great success. Their 2013 Creekside Estates Winery Iconoclast #471797 $22.95 (it was on sale at Wonderland North mother ship check there before you pay full price) is a great example of striking out on their own. This is a Syrah and treated similarly to Northern Rhone Syrahs with a touch of Viognier. Hell, I didn’t even know that they grew Viognier in Niagara. And do they pull it off? Yes, they do. Now it has some spice/pepper but not in the strength that you might associate with Syrah. It’s ready right now so the tannins are integrated nicely. The Viognier definitely adds a bit of floral on the swish and depth in the swallow. It’s great to see folks do their own thing and succeed. Great burnt bird wine. Think roast chicken and herbs.

organized-crime-chardonnayFor the Chardonnay hounds, there’s a great edition from Organized Crime – 2013 Organized Crime Chardonnay #408435 $18.95. This is a full blown Chardonnay – softness, ripeness, and butter. It’s exactly what The Director ordered. Good food wine – chicken with a cream sauce of some kind or just sipping slowly by itself. I also got this on sale at Wonderland North so check that out. FYI, I recommended the OC Cabernet Franc – here.

Cheers.

Bill

Remember: To check inventory at the LCBO, click on the link (Product # and Price) for your wine, choose your city from the drop down menu on the right, and click the Find Stores button.

Waiting on The Red Daily Slosh

2 Feb

This is my Bordeaux and Barolo theme song, it seems, as I seldom open them. I will wait and I will wait.

Let’s look at the February 4th release. Last week, I made recommendations for sparkling bottles for that release (with a brilliant call to arms) here. I’ll focus on the reds today.

chateau-blaignanSpeaking of Bordeaux, there’s a value pick from the great 2010 vintage – 2010 Château Blaignan #400606 $23.95. I have started to ignore the annoying habit of wine writers and the Bordelais of declaring vintage after vintage the “Vintage Of The Century“. It’s getting a bit tired. That said, 2010 was one of those declared ‘greatest’ vintages and there are a lot of good values to be had by taking wine from petite chateaux, second labels, or from some of the lesser known AOC’s in 2010. This wine – the Blaignan – is an example of that value proposition. Well balanced, drinking great right now. This wine has loads of fruit, some spiciness, and some sultry notes as well. More sophisticated than the price indicates. If you don’t hold, hold, hold your Bordeaux, then get a bunch of this. It’s ‘go time’ right now.

There’s a tried and true method to establishing a winning wine industry in a region – know what can work, what the land gives you, and then work it to death. You don’t see Bordelais screwing around with Sangiovese or Primitivo? I know that there are breaks from tradition that bear great results as in Super Tuscan wine but generally, working with what you have works best. Certain regions do best with certain grapes. In Niagara, they are focusing a bit more on Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir. In particular, Pinot Noir grown off the flats and more in the Twenty Valley, Beamsville Bench, Vinemount Ridge appellations domaine-queylus-tradition-pinot-noirseem to thrive and shine. A master of Pinot Noir, Thomas Bachelder has been skulking around here, as well as Oregon and Burgundy, making great Chardonnays and Pinots. This week, there’s a beaut of his – 2013 Domaine Queylus Tradition Pinot Noir #392738 $$29.95 hitting the shelves; I imagine in small quantities. Tasted at the cellar door, this is still a bit too early to pound – so it’s youthful, reserved, waiting to grow up – loads of red fruits, earthiness waiting to burst through some serious acidity. It reminds me of his Oregon efforts – serious, restrained, yet power lurking, lurking and, if you’re patient rewarding you. Keep this down below for a few years – I know that I am. If your ‘kind a’ Pinot needs to be a la Meomi, take a pass on this. But, if your sweet spot is Oregon, Prince Edward County, even Burgundy – this is for you.

mompertoneAt the Grandi Marchi last year (you can read my post on the tasting here), I sipped a slew of great wines. FYI, a ‘slew’ is the metric equivalent of 1.765 times a ‘bunch’. A bunch being an imperial measure, of course. One of the tables was the Antinori family group and they had their 2014 Prunotto Mompertone Monferrato Rosso #388587 $18.95 among others. My tasting notes reflect that “I love it!” This is fresh – meaning youthful, sensuous, not round, angular. You need food with this. Tomato based pasta, sausage pizza, or a simple burger (not too much fancying  up) would be fantastic. If you had this wine blindfolded, you would have little trouble identifying that it was Italian and, if you’re a fan, you might even guess Piedmonte. Barbera grapes primarily with some Syrah. A swish or two in the glass allows this easy drinking, lip smacking red to open up.

 

casa-de-cambresI picked up a few of the Portuguese wines that were featured last release and the one that stood out for me was from the Duoro – the 2009 Casa de Cambres #470377 $13.95. This 40% Touriga Franca, 40% Tinto Roriz (Tempranillo), and 20% Touriga Nacional blend is drinking perfectly right now but will last through the next five years easily. So, it’s a cheap cellar candidate. Wood evident but not overpowering, dark fruits, and big nose. A good smack of acidity on the finish. If your first sip seems like the acidity overruns the fruit,  just let the wine rest and it will soften for you. Good value!

Cheers.

Bill

 

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

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