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Young Bruce and The Rosé/White Daily Slosh

9 May

This day (May 9) in 1974, Bonnie Raitt played a concert at Harvard Square in Cambridge Mass. The opening act was Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Rolling Stone critic John Landau saw Springsteen and wrote, ” I have seen rock n’ roll’s future and his name is Bruce Springsteen.” The Boss looks so young in this video.

There’s a thing that I perceive in wine circles. I’m not sure if it has a real name so I’ll call it ‘wine agnosticism’. It means that wine peeps don’t give too much bias to a certain wine variety. What I mean is that wine peeps seem to appreciate all wines. It’s kind of like a code. You’re supposed to be accepting of every mainstream wine and adventuresome on the not-so-mainstream varieties, if you want to call yourself a wine geek. My impression is that it’s a personal failing if you can’t find anything good to say about a whole class or a single variety of wine. Particularly, if it’s a sample. Sort of like foodies – do they have to like everything as a requirement for their Foodie Membership Card? Not many restaurant reviews start off with, “I didn’t try the oysters as I can’t stand them.” See what I mean.

Confession: I don’t appreciate all wines no matter how well done they are. Big, brash, oaked Cab Sav? Not for me; no matter how cultish or expensive they might be. Cava? Sorry, unless I’m in Spain, I’m going for another type of bubbly. There are others as well. Not many but a couple. And, oh yeah, the biggest none starter for me is Pinot Grigio. And don’t tell me that I just haven’t had the good ones. I have.

So, does this mean that I have to surrender my wine creds? Do I have to appreciate all wines to have a wine blog? I’ll let you decide. Be gentle.

Why the ramble? Well, this week’s (May 13th) release features saké. Now, I’ve had saké as a matter of politesse at an Asian restaurant. Oh, and I bought a bunch when I visited the Toronto saké company – Izumi – in the Distillery District. But, I don’t get it, really. I approach it like a book that’s frustratingly difficult to get in to – I’m not going to run out of good books to read/wine to drink, so why put myself through this? Could be why War and Peace is still on the shelf. So folks, no saké for you!

When people outside of Canada think of Canadian wines, they probably think Inniskillin and/or ice wine. Indeed, Inniskillin is a fixture of domestically and internationally marketed Canadian wine. They have holdings in the Okanagan as well as Niagara and slay it with many of their labels. This week, there’s the Niagara Peninsula 2014 Inniskillin Reserve Riesling #034025 $18.95. This is dry with loads of green apples and tree fruit. Crisp – serve chilled with seafood or munchies. Could develop nicely over time if you want to cellar. If you buy the Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard (which I do), this is a nice example of the differences site provides. The result is significantly more minerally in Nadja and more accessible fruit up front in Innikillin’s take. Cool

Another white that would line up nicely for upcoming summer dinners is the 2014 Tom Gore Chardonnay #458810 $19.95. This is a straight up California Chard with some butter and yet a really nice crisp finish. Nary a syrupy note that sometimes rears it’s head with some of these wines.

 

 

In a recent post, I sang the praises of rosé and recommended some worthy efforts in the new vintage. This week, I need to add a couple more. The 2016 Domaine des Carteresses Tavel Rosé #739474 $17.95 is a beaut. Tavel for me is the pink that I quaff after dark. It is so much more forthright than most rosés. Big on the swirl and the swallow but dry, strawberry goodness. Hint of garrigue. This is for you red drinkers out there that eschew rosés as insipid or light-weight. Pick it up and if you don’t like it, send the unfinished bottle to me.

The other pink newly available this week is another wine from Provence; more correctly stated AP Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence – the 2016 Saint Aix Rosé #490904 $45.95.  Before you dismiss it as too expensive, remember it’s a 1500 ml bottle. For Bill, he just has to remember how many Whispering Angels he purchased last week @ $26.95 to understand the value. BTW, Whispering Angels are not the new dance troupe at the Beef Baron Gentleman’s Club. Think how impressive that big bottle of Aix would be sitting on your patio table, very quickly draining – causing just a little concern among your fiends as to your drinking habits. Don’t be too hard on yourself. This is good shit and deserves a quick demise. Similar to my earlier posted Provence rosé, this is crisp, bone dry, and full of cherries, strawberries and perhaps many other easily suggestible red fruits. Go ahead and say raspberry and watch everyone nod their heads, “Yeah, I catch the raspberry too,” they’ll say. Sophisticated wine.

I’ll be back later in the week with a few reds to pick up.

Cheers

Bill

Remember: You can check your city’s inventory by clicking on the link (SKU and Price), dropping down the ‘Cities” menu, choosing your burg, and clicking on Find Stores.

 

Ginny and The Rosé Daily Slosh

28 Apr

Ginny and her Cong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers

Bill

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

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.

On Borders and The Sparkling Daily Slosh

27 Jan
border-wall

And the French will pay for it!

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

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

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

Cheers.

Bill

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

Ludwig Von Dufton and The Rainbow Daily Slosh

20 Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers.

Bill

Let It Snow – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

8 Dec

I spent last weekend in Providence, RI. I was no sooner checked in when I scouted wine for the hotel room, my brown bag, and maybe to take home. The thing that really struck me was the pricing. In most cases, the price was dollar for dollar in line with the mother ship. That’s USD to CAD. For example a wine that costs us $29.99 CAD was priced very close to or above $29.99 USD. That was the case with all but American wines which were cheaper. Our battered Loonie is 37% below USD. So, it seems to me that RI wine is expensive. I’m told that Rhode Islanders scoot across the state line to Mass to get their stuff. So, maybe it’s just this state. But, I might pack a couple of good ones for next time down.

A couple of quick recos that hit shelves this weekend.

levequeA previous pick here in my annual rosé recommendations – the 2015 Château La Tour de L’Eveque Rosé #319392 $19.95 is a great example of Provence rosé – crisp, fresh, peachy, medium-bodied. I know it’s cold outside but there is still a place for pink in your diet. If you need a summer vibe, spread out a beach blanket beside the Christmas tree, don your Speedo, and pop a cork. I don’t need the extra push, I will drink this stuff with nibbles that get passed at holiday parties or just a bag of Miss Vickies (Plain – don’t even think of having a rosé with Sour Cream and Caramelized Onion – that would violate numerous rules of pairing wine with chips).

sedaraAt the Grandi Marchi in October, I tasted the 2014 Donnafugata Sedara #900274 $16.95 from Sicily. I didn’t purchase any that night knowing that it would arrive this weekend. This is a super value. It is just so likeable, friendly, and cheap – which sounds like that girl you dated in first year? It’s Nero d’Avola all by itself – dry, medium-bodied, loads of nice cherry fruit – great to pick up for a holiday crowd – food please.
zenato-luganaA year or so ago, a friend gave me a bottle of Lugana. He was quite excited about the wine and thought, in particular, The Director would like it. She did. But, try and find Lugana without going through an agent. One reason we don’t see a lot of Lugana is that it’s a relatively small DOC – 700 hectares – that straddles Veneto and Lombardy. Well, this week, there’s the 2015 Zenato San Benedetto Lugana #707158 $17.95. I pried one from my LCBO consultant and tasted this week. This is a medium weight, round, melony treat. I think it hits my sweet spot because of the vein of acidity on the finish – lip smacking, food-friendly. A great break from the ubiquitous and many times shitty Pinot Grigio.

allegriniJust have to say a few words about the 2013 Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre #672931 $24.95. A fellow wine blogger called this wine a “mini-Amarone”. Bang on. This uses some dried grapes for a second fermentation and it creates a deep, rich wine. I have had this wine with sharp cheeses and a real meat meal. What’s ‘real’ meat, you ask? Seriously? How about charring up something big, red and nasty – this wine will mellow out the fattiness and go well with the char. Great wine.

You’re probably looking for a wine that would be appropriate host(ess) or Christmas gift?

I tasted the 2012 Michele Chiarlo Palás Barolo #474437 $37.95 at the Grandi Marchi. Chiarlo makes some of my favourite Barolos and a Barolo priced this low requires a second (and third) swirl and sip even on a night that you’re tasting a zillion wines. 2012 produced a lot of multi-purpose Nebbiolo wines – ready now but also open to cellaring. This is such a wine. It has the power of Nebbiolo with the seductive properties of warmth and concentration while having moderate alcohol (14% ABV). This will need to breathe a bit and just has to be had with some substantial food – my notes say ‘mint’ so maybe lamb – yeah, lamb would be good.

Remember: You can check availability by simply clicking on the link (# and price) and dropping down the menu to find your location.

Over the past year, I had fallen out of the habit of itemizing my stash. My CellarTracker account had lapsed and my spreadsheet was horribly out of date. So, I turned my very low energy to reorganizing and documenting what was there. I discovered that my equilibrium was wonky. France, Italy, Spain and, to a lesser extent Canada constituted 85% of my reds. That’s a high class problem to have but it limits situational drinking. And, who wants to have that happen? What I mean is that guests might have a particular region/style/grape that excites them. And, if it’s Napa, Australia, Paso Robles, New Zealand, Oregon…….they are shit out of luck at my place aside from some fairly expensive representations from those places. What if the meal screams a particular wine – I’ve got nada. So, I’m on a mission to get things balanced out a bit which requires hitting my Euro-centric stash often and hard and then buying more from those regions with hurt feelings. So, if you have a non-Euro red that is a mainstay in your cellar and it isn’t too, too expensivee (Ask the question – “Do I find it difficult to find an occasion that is special enough to open this wine?” If so, it’s too expensive for the purpose of balance), let me know and I’ll source it and bring it home for a visit.

Cheers.

Bill

#RememberThem – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

10 Nov

poppy

I want to mention tomorrow’s (November 11th) day of remembrance. Many people take this day to remember special selfless people important in their lives who served their country. My hero is Capt. F.R. Dufton of the Royal Canadian Engineers, 1st Army Survey Corps. Very, very proud of my dad – mentioned in dispatches BTW. #RememberThem The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Take a moment of silence wherever you are. I know I will.

The wine, Bill, the wine. This week’s release features ‘star’ wines. That means (and you might have to turn up your sound because I’m going to whisper), “Expensive wines.” But there are mid-priced and wines that better fit my usual recommendations as well.

Like many an evening, let’s start with bubbly. I often recommend Cremant de Bourgogne as a not quite substitute for Champagne. Last week we had friends over and started with a bottle of the Louis Bouillot Perle d’Or Cremant #51565 $24.95. As we cleaned up the next morning, The Director asked me what we had and said that although she doesn’t usually have more than a single glass of bubbly, she lapierreloved the Perle – as evidenced by the empty bottle. So, I bought a few more to store for the holidays and should have maybe waited until this Saturday to pick up the Bailly LaPierre Réserve Brut Crémant de Bourgogne #991562 $19.95 to get a little variety. This one is more citrusy than the Perle but the bubbles are tight carrying some acidity on the finish – tart but lovely. A great way to start any evening.

bisquerttSince I don’t get the invite to the LCBO tastings pre-release and unlike my blogpals to the south I don’t get samples sent to me by importers (we are nothing if not Victorian on such matters – not complaining – glad to live here at this moment in time – blog for another day), I have to bang on cellar doors, buy a bunch of wine on spec so to speak and hope that some day they will show up on the shelves so that I can talk about them. The 2014 Bisquertt La Joya Gran Reserve Sryah #325407 $17.95 is one of those last wines. I had this some time ago and my notes say, “Compares very favourably with the Montes Alpha Syrah – in style, punch (can’t remember what the hell I meant by that), and softness.” That’s high praise from me as I love Montes Alpha Syrah in most vintages. This Chilean Bisquertt wine is round and smooth. Lots of things to talk about – meaty, dark fruits, and just enough structure – not flabby. Great value and Syrah is a long, hard chase for value! But, then again, I love Côte Rotie, Hermitage, and Saint Joseph. Have I ever told you the Côte Rotie story when I …………..Never mind.

As I scan the release publication, I notice that there are a ton of great value Chilean and Argentinean wines – Susana Balbo Malbec, Perez Cruz Limited Edition Cab Sav, Laura Catena’s La Posta Pizzella Malbec, Kaiken Ultra Malbec. You can’t go wrong with any of those and most likely the in-store consultant will be aware of these and point you in that direction.

badiaBut….drum roll……since they are pimping pricier wines, I have to tell you about the 2010 Antinori Badia a Passignano Gran Selezione Chianti Classico #384552 $44.95. Ramble: I just re-arranged my wine cellar to accommodate a beautiful set of oak shelves graciously provided to me by a friend through his daughter and son-in-law – shout out to J & P. As I rearranged, I discovered that I was overweight in Tuscany, Bordeaux, and Spain. Now, that’s a high class problem to solve. So, why would I want to stock up on this particular wine? I mean, it’s Tuscan. It will contribute to a situation that offends my suspected OCD balance needs. Why? Because my tasting notes say that it’s and I quote here, “Good shit!!!”  I mean:  “sniff – good shit; swish – good shit; swallow and finish – really, really good shit”. Now, that description may not qualify me for WSET Level 4 status but I think you get the picture. This wine is one of my favourite cuvées, year-in, year-out. It might be the best mid-priced wine that I buy on the basis of consistent excellence. In this vintage, everything is ready, in balance, and just so expressive. T – E – double R- F – I – C! You know what this means? I will have to buy even more American, Canadian, and South American wines to balance things out. Damn! But you know what? They are releasing the 2012 Bethel Heights Estate Pinot Noir, the Hidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage, and the 2013 Foxen Block 43 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir this weekend too. I hate it when that happens.

zisolaI had the benefit of tasting through a bunch of wines from Sicily last month. They reminded me of two things: 1) I really want to go to Sicily; 2) Both white and red wines from Sicily are very rewarding. This week, there’s the 2013 Mazzei Zisola #303925 $18.95. This is a biggish, powerful wine. Loads of fruit – figs, raisins too. I think that you might want to let it sit open for a few hours or just give it to me and I’ll put it in my new rack (remember the new rack?) and I’ll keep it for you.

henryWe go through a lot of Chardonnay at our house. Chardonnay may not be the ‘style’ anymore, people might sneer and look askance but, what the hell, we like it – a lot – Burgundy, Central Coast, Lodi, PEC, Niagara………..One of the local Chardonnays we like is the Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay #268342 $19.95. This week it’s the 2014. This is a classic Chardonnay in that it has everything but not too much of anything – a streak of acidity, tree fruit and some creaminess and citrus on the finish. Powerful. Like it a lot.

That’s all this week. Just a reminder for those that I might see over the holidays. You are surely wondering what to bring to the house when you visit or perhaps a presssie for Yours Truly. I really like the Badia a Passignano. What I mean by that is I really, really like it. It seems a pretty appropriate gift to me. And that gift may encourage me to open something ‘better’ when you visit – just sayin’.

Cheers

Bill

Punkins and Porcupines – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

27 Oct

Heading to the Grand Theatre tonight to see a play/concert about Joni Mitchell. She is such a creative force. A poet, musician, painter, prairie girl, dulcimer player.

Halloween is coming up and it brings back memories of being dragged along by my boys from house to house. At one time, I would get a wee drink at each house in our neighbourhood. Verrrrry scary! The best memories are my oldest dressed as a porcupine – costume made from a paper bag, make-up whiskers, and straws. He knocked on our neighbours, recent immigrants, who clearly hadn’t gotten the memo about Halloween and didn’t know quite what to do with a kid dressed in a paper bag saying, “Trick or Treat” and not wanting to leave until he got his candy. They must have thought – WTF or the Urdu equivalent! Or, my youngest on his first walking Halloween, cautiously approaching the third or fourth door of the night, ringing the bell, almost apologetically murmuring “Trick or Treat”, receiving his treat, and then turning and running back to the street shouting, “Dad, THEY gave me candy too!” Where does that innocence go.

fermedumontSniffle, sniffle. Enough nostalgia. The wines released this month are a bit Bordeaux heavy and I haven’t had any of them so can’t comment. I’ll pick up a couple and see if I can choke down a bottle or two before my next release post. The other focus is blends and on that score, I’ve had the 2014 La Ferme du Mont Première Côte Côtes du Rhone #251645 $17.95. This is not to be confused with the red from this producer that I recommended last time here. This is their everyday wine. But, it doesn’t cheat in size or interest. Great value CdR that goes down easy and is perfect for a Friday night pizza or graze. On the graze, we have sworn off grazing on Friday nights – which is kinda like pledging to go to the gym – futile. Used to be our tradition – hummus, olives, Syrian flatbread, kibbi, grape tomatoes, loads of wine, and crappy Friday night TV fare.

chimeresStaying in the South of France, the 2014 Château Saint-Roch Chimères Côtes du Roussillon-Villages #119354 $19.95 is full-value as a GSM (60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre). Not all oaked up so the purity of the fruit, particularly the Grenache comes through. Moderate alcohol at 14% ABV. Loads of mature fruit, some garrigue, and even a bit of spice make this a great fall wine. Fresh. We had two vacations in the Languedoc- Roussillon and this wine represents that region magnificently. A sip takes me back to Rocquebrun (below).

Rocquebrun

michelgassierI hate to present too many wines with the same vibe or from the same region but I have to mention the 2013 Château de Nages Vieilles Vines Costières de Nîmes #040964 $19.95. Quick test: What ubiquitous product was invented and first used in Nîmes? I’ll award the first correct answer (no Google allowed) with a first edition copy of my new novel, hitting bookshelves everywhere in 2034. This wine is seemingly an annual pick on these pages. Michel Gassier seldom disappoints and this is no exception. Another GSM with a hint of Carignan which contributes to a structured, solid wine. This is oaked a bit – dark, biggish, anise, herbs. Another great value – stew wine.

flatrockWas in Niagara last week – will post on my visits soon. I didn’t visit Flat Rock but will next time. This Saturday, there’s their 2013 Flat Rock Chardonnay #286278 $18.95. This is a consistent Chard with just a hint of oak – in the bit of creaminess on the finish. Mostly, it’s the typical GS apples and a bit of tropicality. Very nice and a crowd pleaser – even for the trend following ABC crowd. On that topic, we were at the Grand Marchi tasting this month and a representative of one of the wineries went on and on about how people who drink white don’t know about anything other than Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. Word of advice to reps: keep your opinions to yourself. You sound kind of whinny and snobbish when you opine on ‘proper’ wine basics to people that just want to taste the shit that you’re peddling.

moncontourIt’s time to start to stock up for holiday season. We Canuckleheads are past our Thanksgiving but our friends below are just getting ready – election, shrug, Thanksgiving. So, you’ll need a crisp lip-smacking bubbler to greet your guests. I had this two years ago but it is a Non-Vintage bubbly that should stay consistent flavour profile-wise. The Château Moncontour Tête de Cuvée Brut Vouvray #207936 $17.95 should fit the bill for nibbles and bubbly. Medium-bodied, fruitful, great acidity, bubbles taut and tangy. Many cheaper bubblies suffer from sameness – you can’t tell one from the other. This is made from Chenn Banc and it definitely stands out as different. I like these Vouvray Bruts a lot. Interesting fact (according to LCBO write-up): This is from “one of the oldest estates in Loire’s Touraine region. The French author Honoré de Balzac tried to purchase the estate in 1846 but was unable to do so, although it didn’t keep him from mentioning the estate in his novel A Woman of Thirty.” Very cool.

Cheers – enjoy your treats

Bill

Back Home and Unsettled

3 Aug

Love, love, love this song. It sums up my return home from the lake – needing a rest. Saw a great documentary called Spirit Unforgettable (on HBO Canada) about John Mann, the head writer, guitarist, and singer for Spirit of The West, and his early onset Alzheimers diagnosis – in his early 50’s for God’s sake. If you can stream it, watch – it’s gut wrenching and inspiring.

I’m back from the lake. It’s challenging to be cut off from everything except Toronto sports radio (making Leafs shit up to talk about) and my small screen iPhone. No internet, unless I drive half an hour to the local library – which I did but once in three weeks. Oh, I would wander to the woefully inadequate ‘general’ store for a copy of the Toronto Star once in awhile (New York Times crossword and Sudoku needs). And you won’t believe this – I didn’t hear the word ‘Trump’ once – which is, after returning home, impossible to conceive, yeah?

I was completely out of touch on world affairs. While up at the lake, my youngest informed me by email that there was a coup going on in Turkey and that he was, in fact, there in Istanbul right then. A coup? How’d I miss that?He’d be fine – now home safe and sound in Providence. But, the important thing?

How much wine did I have left? Could I make it to the end without a time sucking trip to the Gravenhurst mother ship. I didn’t. And, that wasn’t because I drank too much. Rather I hadn’t planned to drink that much, you see. It was the planning that was wrong. It’s always the planning.

Let me review a small sample of the beverages we had while away:

2015 Hecht & Bannier Bandol Rosé #450767 $24.95 Yeah, it is more expensive than many great rosés that I’ve recommended this year. But, you see it’s Bandol and that means structure and bang. This was chilled to perfection and served pre-dinner with junk food (children were involved – hence the junk – the little buggers loved the wine too). These guys (H&B) make loads of labels from the south of France and I’ve never been disappointed. This is primarily Mourvedre with some Grenache and Cinsault thrown in to perhaps soften the profile. Lip-smacking good.

2006 Marcarini Barolo Brunate (no record of cost but it is a true splurge) All the Piedmonte purists will he shouting at the screen now. Yes, I know it was a bit young to open. But, it was my birthday and I threw caution to the wind. And that didn’t mean that it didn’t eventually open up beautifully. Intense in the extreme with herbal and earthy sniffs, spicy tobacco in the mouth and some vanilla from the barrel, I assume, on the finish. A real privilege to drink this wine. This is why I love Barolo. Can’t afford a lot of it but…
lucente

2013 La Vite Lucente #747030 $34.95 Talking to a friend the other day and he said that he could sniff out Merlot from a mile away and he never truly appreciated it. I suggested that he try some Right Bank Bordeaux before he kicks poor old Merlot to the curb. And, this Italian Merlot blend might change his mind too. This is a joint enterprise of Mondavi and Frescobaldi located in Montalcino. This wine defines the term ‘smooth’. I mean if you look up the word ‘smooth’ in the dictionary, there’s a picture of this label. Seriously good Tuscan juice. Good news? I have more down below. Yahoo!
cambria

2012 Cambria Estate Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir #980482 $29.95 If you visit here often, you’d notice that there isn’t a whole lot about California Pinot Noir. I’ve been disappointed so many times that I don’t trust myself – “Do some f**ing research, Bill! Try some better CPN’s FCOL!” I know that would help me pick the winners. So, why this wine? ‘Cause, I get it all the time and really,really appreciate it. Sour cherry but like you’d taste in a pie – softened a bit but still the bite, the acid. Earthy but not dirty. Spicy but not hot. Almost a sin to have by itself but thats just what I did. No regrets. And, if there are any California PN freaks out there, give me a few suggestions. I just love research.
sancerre2014 Henri Bourgeois Les Baronnes Sancerre #542548 $25.95 Love this wine! Perfect for pre-dinner which in this case was BBQ’d fish with mango salsa. Not appreciated by all, I’m afraid. Not the wine but the fish. This is the counterpoint to SB from NZ, like Kim Crawford or Stoneleigh’s stuff. Subtle with great acidity. Gooseberry. Lovely wine and usually available at the mother ship.

2012 Seven Falls Wahluke Slope Chardonnay #385773 $19.95 A well balanced, light Chardonnay. Great sipper. Beginning to think that Washington State does all varieties very well.
blaignan

2010 Château Blaignan #416727 $25.95 It’s damn hard to find a solid Bordeaux under $30 or, to be truly honest, $50. This is a great Bordeaux for sipping or for a meal of something a little less fatty and sturdy than steak. Tannins integrated and supportive rather than front and centre. Fruit a little muted but lots going on to create enough stuff to enjoy fully.

lugnyCaves de Lugny Brut Rosé Cremant de Bourgogne #297846 $19.95 What’s a summer day without bubbly. We had a few Proseccos and Cavas too but this rosé was the beast that we kept coming back to. What an ethereal, tasty treat. Look at that colour. If you are tired of the same old cheap Proseccos and Cavas step up a notch to this classically made wine. Huge value!

 

pommiesPommies Dry Cider #244897 $12.95 (4 pack) I have a cider freak in my family. When we travelled England, he tried every local cider while I stayed with the lovely ales and porters. I never really liked cider. But, I was at my local – The Morrissey House last month and they had the Pommies Dry Cider on tap. Gave it a try and now I’m a convert. This is made in Caledon from Ontario heritage apples, whatever the hell that means. Regardless of the provenance, it’s damn tasty. Perfect for an early afternoon, pre-nap, sip. or, you could end the evening with it. Dry as a popcorn fart.

 

That’s enough for now. Suffice it to say, we had a few more good bottles than that. Well, a way lot more.

This week at the mother ship there’s a few to pick up. I’ve wasted enough of your time already so I’ll just list them here instead of providing a description.
2010 Cims del Monsanto Garnatxa/Carinyena #311894 $15.95 Visited this winery when I was in Priorat. You can read about my visit here Monsanto provides a glimpse into the style and power of Priorate reds.
2009 Hacienda López de Haro Reserva #357335 $17.95 – a Reserva for $17.95!
2013 Fattoria le Pupille Morellino di Scansano #455659 $16.95 – maybe I’m just a Morellino slut (maybe?). I like this stuff always – Italian to the core
2011 Villa Mora Montefalco Rosso Riserva #357079 $19.95 – an Umbrian classic like Monica Bellucci (who just happens to have been born in Città di Castello in Umbria)
2013 Brancaia Tre #164715 $23.95 if I’m repeating myself on this one, forgive me. I know that I’ve fussed over this before but it’s a beaut and worth every penny.

One more Spirit song before we go. ““Cause beauty’s religion and it’s christened me with wonder.” Love that line.

Cheers
Bill

White Man Privilege Rant – The Red and White Daily Slosh

24 Jun

Love, love, love this song. And, it is so relevant today. You’d think it was written yesterday.

I don’t usually express a non-wine opinion on these pages. Whaaat? Duff always expresses non-wine opinions on these pages. Which means that I have mission permission (as the Organizational Development guy in me would say). That said, may I take a wee bit ‘o’ your time?

I’m heading to a fundraiser for Women’s Community House tonight (tickets still available 519-672-8800). It gave me pause to reflect on the issue of woman abuse and it never ceases to shock me. We have been dealing with this issue head-on seemingly forever yet we still need easily accessible services and supports for women and their children who are subjected to this violence. Everything has changed. Nothing has changed. Women still are likely to experience abuse – sexual, emotional……………at a shameful rate. It saddens me. Make me wanna holler.

But luckily, it’s not happening to me. You see, I don’t have to worry about being raped if I had a drink or two at a bar, I’m walking home late at night, I’m asleep in my dorm room, or just ’cause. I was never sexually harassed in the workplace despite my snappy business casual look. My spouse isn’t the most likely person to assault me. Come to think of it…… I will never be carded as part of ‘good’ policing. I won’t be routinely stopped on the basis of my skin colour as I drive to work. I won’t be led to a more intensive Canada or US Customs inspection line for people who simply look like me. My parents and/or grandparents weren’t scooped off to a residential school. I won’t be assaulted, targeted in a terrorist attack, refused service, or excluded from sharing my life with the person I love based on my sexual orientation or gender identity. And, I get to drink wine as a frigging hobby and write about it! Conclusion?    BILL      IS      AWESOME!

So, what did I do to ‘earn’ this life? I mean there must be something that I accomplished that set me apart for special status. Honest answer: I am an older (don’t you dare say ‘old’) heterosexual white male born into an Anglo-Saxon family in a western democracy that just so happens to be the best country in the world IMHO. That means that I, personally, did nothing, squat, zero, nada. I didn’t earn it; I was given it as my birthright. And believe me, I am thankful for my good fortune. But also it’s horribly, horribly wrong. It needs changing on so many levels. It should be everyone’s birthright. Hopefully we are heading in the right direction. But tonight sadly shows me that it’s taking way too long.

Done. Thanks for staying with me. I apologize for the smugness and self-indulgence – wasn’t my intention. It’s just that I am unfortunately a very smug and self-indulgent older white guy. And that’s my friends saying that.

Wine, yes, wine. It is a wine blog after all. Some quick recos.

bacoHave you ever had Baco Noir? Get your binder out and check your tasting notes. Well, Niagara makes good Baco Noir. It ranges from Gamay-styled wannabes to rich, creamy chocolatey age-worthy reds.  The best of the second style that I’ve found is that made by the Speck Brothers of Henry of Pelham. This release (June 25th), there’s a great example in the 2013 Henry of Pelham Reserve Baco Noir #461699 $24.95. This is dark in the glass and in the mouth. Burn barrel and black fruits. But, the main event is really the texture. Soft, full-bodied, moderate alcohol (13.5%) without any heat. Suffice to say, that this is a pleasure to drink on it’s own or with something fresh and soft – perhaps something cheesy. Henry of Pelham does an “Old Vines” Baco (circa $20) and a regular Baco ($15) as well that are usually in the General Listing aisles. Maybe Baco will become you new fave.

medoroSpeaking of smooth, the 2012 Villa Medoro Rosso del Duca Montepulciano d’Abruzzo #357160 $21.95 has a similar vibe but with a nice vein of acidity on the finish and much more complexity. Rich is the first thing to come to mind once it hits your mouth. You might think, “It’s an MdA and $22? I usually can pick those up for $14.” Well, get over that. Seriously. If it doesn’t work out, send me the rest of your bottle(s) and I will give you credit toward a DuffsWines T-Shirt. The Henry of Pelham is an exceptional food wine due to the structure and texture. Great hostess gift if it’s a BBQ (ribs, burgers, grilled portobellos). It’s a night wine, if that makes sense and make sure it isn’t room temperature if your room is 80 degrees plus. In that case pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes. In fact, when it’s unbearably hot, do that with most if not all reds. I have recommended this label in several vintages and look forward to many more.

hogueIn my earliest email broadcasts pre-website, I used to talk about ‘Value Labels”. Labels and therefore wineries that people could usually count on for strong QPR (Quality to Price Ratio). It was designed to present recognizable options you could trust without too much blabbing about the wine. And, when I did, I frequently mentioned Hogue from Washington State. Seldom had a poor one. This week, there’s the 2013 Hogue Chardonnay #402172 $15.95 hitting the shelves. This is exactly what we need by the case this summer. Well-priced, judiciously oaked and balanced without being flabby. Perfect summer sipper for the Chardonnay lover at your place. Look for other Hogue products at the mother ship – Hogue Genesis Cabernet Sauvignon $18.95, Genesis Meritage $18.95.

vouvrayMy niece has relocated to London and she and her husband came over the other night and made me curry. Fabulous family recipe curry. But, what to have with a dish with so much going on? I chilled up one of my Mosels but couldn’t bring myself to pop the cork as I think it’s still developing. So, I went with a Vouvray. No well-thought out pairing paradigm used to connect this sightly off-dry wine with curry but it seemed to make sense. The Vouvray that I bought was 2014 Donatien Bauhaus Les Grands Mortiers Vouvray #140889 $17.95. This wine turned out to be perfect. The curry demanded a bit of sweetness but not too much. The wine was expressive with peaches and enough acid to not get run over by the curry. If you are curious, Vouvray is from the Loire and is made from Chenin Blanc. In my experience Vouvray doesn’t present like the Chenins from South Africa – not as straight forward, not as fruity but maybe that’s just my prejudice showing. I like them a bit off-dry unless it’s bubbly Vouvray where brut is usually the style. About this particular wine, I’m not sure there’s a lot available still. There is another label that seems in higher volumes – 2014 Charles Bove Vouvray #448563 $17.95 – with exceptional reviews, so pick one up and you will shout “Hurray For Vouvray!” A great wine that’s usually overshadowed by Sancerre.

carteressesHey, just as I was finalizing editing this post (Thursday evening), I opened a chilled bottle of 2015 Domaine de Carteresses Tavel #739474 $18.95. I get it. I have a problem with rosés. And that kind of works against my pledge of cutting back on the wine mid-week – tomorrow, I’ll cut back – promise. Wait, it’s Friday tomorrow. Anyway, I’ve raved about this wine before but this vintage seems a bit better then previous. Not quite as crisp as the Côtes de Provence that you may have had. This Tavel really provides a hint at what people are talking about when they say that Tavel is the red wine drinker’s pink. No time to write notes. Suffice to say that it’s fuller-bodied than most rosés – rounder, deeper, almost red winish.  Absolutely love this stuff!

Cheers.

Bill

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