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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.

 

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.

Language – The White Daily Slosh

24 Feb

 

 

quiche

Egg Pie

Somewhat relevant story: One day, when I was a jail guard as we served breakfast on a Sunday – which was a big deal because it was ‘brunch’ as in the inmates slept in, I let an inmate (one of the heavies) out of his cell and asked him to serve the other guys in the unit. He very seriously took a plate at a time and pushed it into the cell through a small latched door which I unlocked. The brunch that day was quiche. One inmate started to push the plate back out saying (and I might be paraphrasing), “What is this shit, man?” The inmate that was serving said, “It’s egg pie, you loogan. And it’s good so shut up.”  Quiche will forever be ‘egg pie’ to me. I think it but I never say it. That doesn’t sound like the same dish, does it?

Language is so fascinating, instructive, strongly communicating or unintentionally obfuscating, but many times very precise. And, it provides insight into identity. Colloquialisms, terms, grammar all contribute to our understanding of the speaker. We all judge people on the language they use. Do they sound as I sound? Are they using the Queen’s English at the level that passes my standards? And, don’t think we don’t all have standards. I, for one, judge the ‘like-sters” and the great Canadian ‘eh’. It’s not fair but regardless shut up with the ‘eh’, eh? Just the lot of a curmudgeon. Christopher Hitchens wrote a brilliant piece on the use of ‘like’ in Vanity Fair. Read it here.

Language used in wine descriptions also can help identify the speaker or writer. Wine novices and experts alike judge the writer on the terms, grammar, even style they use (never mind criticizing my punctuation. I know its woefully incorrect). When I hear wine descriptors like “unctuous” and “Maduro tobacco”, I just assume that the writer is: 1) being paid; 2) has some formal education in wine which needs some airtime; 3) is a serious person on the issue of tobaccos; and, 5) definitely not someone I want to drink wine with, unless Madura tobacco is the botanical name for weed. So, my goal linguistically is to be that someone that you’d enjoy drinking wine with. Or, should that be, “with whom you’d enjoy drinking wine”? Let me know.

Last week, I forgot to tell you about a Chilean Pinot Noir – 2014 Montes Alpha Pinot Noir #143214 $19.95 – a fabulous value – a large New World Pinot. On the mid-palate, some Maduro tobacco lurking underneath waves of Northern Lights #5. Really that good – worth twice the price. Case buy!

monteschardSo, this week (March 4th release), I don’t want to make the same mistake with their Chardonnay – 2014 Montes Alpha Chardonnay #390203 $19.95. This is a bright Chardonnay – fresh in the glass and yet bringing loads of rounder stuff in the swish and the swallow. Creamy finish without anything overdone. A very nice effort. Perfect as a food wine (herbed chicken) or just a Friday night sipper.

pacoI have to admit that I haven’t had a ton of Albariño over the years. I drink a bit when I’m in Spain and maybe a few times at home but it doesn’t seem to catch my eye in the store and hence, I don’t get it. Well, the 2015 Paco & Lola Albariño #350041 $17.95 can’t be missed on the shelf. It’s a colourful bottle and don’t tell me that labels aren’t important. It got me to pick this pretty wine up several vintages ago and every year since. This is from Rais Baixas DO in northwest Spain. If crisp was a picture it would look like this wine – crisp with almost an effervescence. Salinity too. This wine is all about seafood, lightly prepared, with some green scents like  cilantro or mint. If you’ve never had Albariño and you trend towards Sauvignon Blanc, ultra-dry Riesling, or dry Muscadet Serve et Maine, give it a try.

Floral? What does that mean to you? Would a review have more power if it said spring violets? Dripping honeysuckle, which sounds somewhat sexual. For me, I guess that I don’t extract the violets, honeysuckle, etc. that some tasters seem to do. It’s more of a sense of floral that I get – being visual – a scene of floral. And when I think of floral, it means certain wines for me – Viognier, Gewurtztraminer, and Torrontés.

pietromariniThere may be others and feel free to point them out in the comments section below.  But who doesn’t love Torrontés? Put your hand down in the back you’re just auditing the course. These wines can be floral bombs while still having loads of fruit, herbs, and lots of acidity. The 2015 Pietro Marini Torrontés #408443 $13.95 is a fairly light-weight representation of this grape. It is a superb sipper, lean by Torrontés standards (high altitude), minerally with lychee – I can do lychee. Pick up a few of these for warmer times. And it appears that warmer times are now. Thank you for this, Al Gore.

And yes, I was a jail guard. It paid the bills and had little to do with an undergrad in psychology. But it taught me about the unsexiness of boxer shorts, the origin of jeans hanging down below the crevice of one’s ass, the incredible abuse under which many men children were raised, and the inequality of access to justice in Canadian society. And, you thought it was all going to be fun lessons?

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. Have fun.

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.

Holiday Sniffles, Decision Trees, and The Rainbow Slosh

6 Jan

robitussinHere’s the thing about the holidays for a wine geek: we like to plan the use of our stash to gain optimum pleasure and minimum damage to the stash. By planning, I don’t mean the use of a spreadsheet, hours of internet research, analysis of the effects of barometric pressure variance on umami, and the consulting of an ouija board. I mean something a little more spiritual than that.

In my case, I like to stand in front of my babies glass of wine in hand seeking inspiration. Then, in my mind, I go down a complex decision tree which involves: food, mood, brood, and whether anyone gives a shit but me. Pulling out bottles, cradling them in my arms and asking for permission to end their useful lives for my pleasure only. Because it does mean saying goodbye to some of the best friends a guy can have. Let’s be honest about that. You can’t undrink a wine.

So after all that, I had a general idea of which friends I was going to sacrifice. And then, I got sick. I mean not so sick that I’m asking for comments of sadness or sympathy. Just a very bad cold that lasted – well, it’s still here actually. And what do we know about head and chest colds? You can’t taste anything. So, do I abandon the plan because it was always about me anyway? Or, stay the course? What do you guys think? I’ll let you know below what I did. Teaser: Kim Kardashian.

Now, the wine for the January 7th release:

orgcrimecfLast month, there was a day set aside for Cabernet Franc. It was called……..Cabernet Franc Day. Weird choice of name, huh? It didn’t exist before but it was conceived and pimped very enthusiastically by Lori at Dracaena Wines. I enjoyed a Chinon from the Loire to protect my street cred as a team player. But, if I would of had access to a solid Ontario Cab Franc, I might have popped the cork on one of them. Niagara’s climate lends itself to CF. This week, there’s the 2013 Organized Crime Cabernet Franc #472530 $18.95.  This one is a great food wine – red meat, if you’re so inclined. Loads of nice acidity and solid tannins to deal with something that has a bit of fat and char. Wood evident but not tricked up, some green notes but well integrated into the whole – good introduction to a Bordeaux grape that doesn’t get the kind love that it’s blendin’ buddies Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon get. P.S. If you visit Niagara, there’s a good tasting room experience at Organized Crime.

mount-rileyAt the aforementioned holiday festivities, we had a couple of Sauvignon Blanc lovers. Now, I’d have to say that my cellar is very undersubscribed in SB. So, I had some shopping to do. I bought a couple bottles of Cloudy Bay (knowing full well that I wasn’t popping that for company), Stoneleigh General Listing SB, and some Sancerre. I have to tell you how disappointed I was with the entry level Stoneleigh. I remember it as a serviceable wine and I love their ‘Latitude’ version. Oh well, open another………and, another……..Why this tale? Well, to tell you that you need to go ‘Latitude’ if you want the Stoneleigh and also that this week there’s a great Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that would do the trick – 2015 Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc #981670 $17.95. This is a full glass of tropical fruit and energy. As far as Kiwi SB’s goes, well balanced, not overpowering. Very nice wine at a very nice price.

umaniAt the Grandi Marchi tasting in October, we really enjoyed the Umani Ronchi table. In particular, their Verdicchio and the courtesy and educative effort of the rep. But there were a couple of reds too that were good. One was a spectacular value available at $14.95. And, what do I see in this week’s release notice? That very wine at $16.95. Hmmmm. Very curious pricing. Oh well, it’s still good value. That wine? The 2013 Umani Ronchi Jorio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo #134577 $16.95. This is an Italian country red wine and that’s not a pejorative comment. Italian country reds probably are my favourite wines. At least for the purpose of this discussion. Gutsy, food friendly, evocative of their place. This wine delivers on all that. Sangiovese-like fresh cherries, solid vein of acidity, lip smacking. Not big – simple, clean, fresh. Great, and I mean great, pizza wine.

pianWhile we’re on the subject of Italian red wines, I think that there are two Tuscan wines that provide a really wide range of quality, although they all are usually pretty pricey – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (VNdM) and Rosso di Montalcino (RdM). Some of my favourite wine memories are of these guys. But, there remain some other flashbacks that remind me that not all wines are created equal regardless of the DOC and price. So what’s a guy to do? Well, find a winery or, as in the next case, a family, that won’t damage their brand with moderately expensive crap. Such is the Antinori family. Their RdM – 2014 Antinori Pain Delle Vigne Rosso di Montalcino #467787 $31.95 delivers on the promise of any wine from Montalcino. Made exclusively from Sangiovese, this wine was tasted at the Grand Marchi as well. My notes reflect that I didn’t like the nose (I checked the “Not my Style” box) and moved on without sipping. But, that was premature. After wandering to the next table, with the sample of this wine still in my glass, I took another sniff “Hmm, better” and decided, what the hell, You’re here to drink wine – so, drink, drink. I’m glad I did. This wine brings a lot of the same geographical vibes as the MdA above but with so much more power, elegance, and complexity. I’d bet that many tasting this blind would pump their arm and shout, “I’ve got it! It’s Chianti Classico!” I scoff at keeners. Some might even try and impress with the vintage and producer. I once said at a tasting I led, that I detected barnyard which meant that the winery was south-facing. Seriously. It took a minute or two for someone to say, “Ah, you’re kidding right?” Anyway, I know this is more than a daily slosh for most. But, as it’s finish………finishes, you will be glad you picked up a bottle or two. Good replacement for some buddies you sacrificed over the holidays.

Did you read yourself down to this point or did you just scroll frantically down because of the Kim Kardashian reference? I’ve tagged her and we will see if views increase monumentally. If so, I’m changing the blog name to Duff and Kim Kardashian’s Wines. And, FYI, she doesn’t appear in the rest of the story.

Back to the holiday dilemma. I had two choices – ditch the plan and break out the plonk – nobody would know and I can’t taste anything OR keep to the plan and hope that people appreciate the deaths of so many close friends. I chose number 2. I stuck to my plan. Did I regret not truly thumbs-upexperiencing the promise of Dark and Stormies, Cremant de Bourgogne, Sancerre, Malivoire Small Lot Gamay, Russian River Chardonnay, Beamsville Bench Pinot Noir, and a gorgeous, I’m told, Umbrian Rubesco Riserva? Can’t lie. I kinda did. I’m not suggesting that I begged off and stayed dry. Hell no. I still drank the stuff. But, my tasting notes say, “Opens wet with a wet finish.” But, after everyone had left and it was just me, The Director, my son and his partner, I opened the Priorat red that I’d planned on to finish the night. This Cariñena-based wine battled through my congestion with it’s siren blaring. The heat of it’s elevated alcohol even had a clearing effect on my sinuses. It’s why I’ve been trying to beat this thing with elevated alcohol wines ever since, wink, wink. And, it was pure Priorat – concentrated, deep, dark fruits, mineral. There is a reason to keep to a plan that aims at a great wine experience. It’s not cheap but I believe that everyone appreciates the effort. And, if you’re lucky, you might find yourself enjoying the wine you’ve been waiting for all night, cold or no cold. That wine for me was a 2008 Terres de Vidalba from Poboleda.

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

Thanks Redux – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

25 Nov

 

OK, I’m hooked on “Live at Daryl’s House”. It could be a problem. And who the hell is Diane Birch – she rocks.

Spent US Thanksgiving Day (or, as we call it ‘Yanks-giving’) at Joe Kool’s watching the Lions win and doing my part for the craft beer industry. It’s kind of like cheating – getting 2 TG’s – the second minus the turkey. Allowable substitutes – chicken wings and pizza. Advice to my friends south of the border – grab a secondary TG and celebrate with us in October – catch the Aaaaargos and Ticats going at it. Osca-wee-wee. If you don’t know, don’t ask.

This week there are some very special wines at the upper end of the spectrum – ’13 Sassicaia ($212.95), ’13 Luce ($114.95), ’12 Elderton Command Shiraz ($89.95 – I opened an ’02 this past summer and, despite the 13 years, I still had to wrestle it into the glass – it was that proud and brawny – a beaut), ’14 Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay ($111.95). Alas, my pocketbook (does anyone use a ‘pocketbook’ anymore?) was stretched getting a couple bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau this week. Yes, that was me standing on the boulevard with a sign and the squeegee.

rotllantorraBack in Realsville, there are some good value wines. Let’s start at a place that I really, really love – Priorat. Despite my love for the reds of Priorat, there are two things that get in the way of me pounding them regularly – cost and the need for them to age (requiring patience on my part. Those that know me realize that I have none). So, we are in luck when a wine from there shows up ready to drink and at a reasonable price point – 2011 Rotllan Torra #267989 $19.95. I’ve recommended the ’10 of this cuvée before with much enthusiasm. I even received feedback from the son of a friend that it was one of the better wines he’d served to friends. The review of the ’10 is here. I was lucky enough to taste this ’11 vintage just prior to penning this. It is powerful with minerality and dustiness. A bit more structured than the ’10 – a longer life maybe? A fine wine requiring some substantial food. “Brings back memories,” he says, choking back a sob.

balbasStaying in Spain, the 2005 Balbas Reserva #085183 $22.95 is back in stock. The mother ship must have bought a million cases of this. I picked up a couple of bottles not more than a month ago on discount for $18 – what up with that? This is at least the third time through as a “New Arrival”. This makes you feel so good inside – good inside (un homage to Carole King). It is full value at under $25.

bjnewBeaujolais Nouveau was released last week and I tasted a few. The one that I like the best is the 2016 Georges Deboeuf Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau #932780 $15.95. It is exactly what this stuff is supposed to be – fresh, fun, fruity. There’s a joke just hanging there but it may not be appropriate to think it, let alone type it. My first nouveau was called Screech and Porch Climber Nouveau and crafted lovingly by my father from Marechal Foch grapes and aged in the family basement for…..oh…. at least a week. Oh, it was fresh. Fresh and sulfury. My father dreaded the possibility of contamination (not wanting to kill his friends) so he infused each vintage with enough sulphur to kill bacteria residing in the neighbouring county. The good news? I haven’t had the flu in forty-five years. Plus, he made so much of it that my friends and I could quaff (read: guzzle) a few bottles without him knowing. Where was I? Oh yeah, talking about Georges DeeBee. Pick up a bottle or two of this for the holidays. It’s perfect before noon – light, fresh, moderate alcohol. The funky label tells you what kind of wine is inside the bottle.

koyleAnother red that would be a great wine to stock for the holidays is the 2013 Koyle Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon #256073 $19.95. This is light version of cab sav. Which is why I like it. Very good for standing, sipping, engaging in intellectually stimulating discussion (Trump, what else?) at a holiday dinner party. It has the typical cassis aromas and flavours so you’ll know it’s cab sav and fine on it’s own.

crabOn the white side, there’s a returnee – 2015 D’Arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier/Marsanne #662775 $17.95. This is a Rhone blend. Here’s what I’d think you ought to do. Buy this and mix it up with the usual white suspects like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay. I will bet heavily that company will notice this wine – round mouthful and then a nice crisp finish that comes as a bit of a surprise. Lovely with simple seafood. Break out of the rut.

My splurges this weekend are going to be the 2013 Montes Purple Angel a Carmenere bomb that just gets better and better with a little time down below. And, I’m getting the 2012 Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin from the Okanagan – a great example of how rockin’ they are in ‘The Other Valley’.

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

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