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New Year – New Rainbow Daily Slosh

4 Jan

Thought a Barcelona Gypsy Klezmer Band video might stir you out of your winter doldrums. Hang with it, it’s good fun. Get out of your chair and dance along. Bet you can’t name all the movies used. Leave your guesses in the Comment section below.

Trust you all had a great holiday/Christmas break. I had a superb time, thanks for asking.

As a wine aficionado, I frequently get wine themed gifts for Christmas. This year was no exception. Great books, gift certificates to the mothership, and gadgets. The ‘big’ gadget this year was a Coravin from The Director, er, Santa. For the uninitiated, it’s a gizmo that can extract a glass/sip of wine from a corked bottle without damaging the wine. In other words you can wander through your cellar tasting to see what’s ready, what’s not, and simply treating yourself to some of the untouchables without pulling the cork. God, that sounds fun – I may step away from the MacBook for a second…………back now.

Where was I? Coravin……Well, word to the wise: do the Coravin party tricks  early in the evening and definitely not after several bottles of wine have already been consumed. My family now has a video of yours truly enthusiastically plunging the Coravin into several bottles of his best. Getting excited? Of course, it is kind of a wine porn thing. Another word to the wise? RTFM!! Just sayin’.

Some quick recos for the upcoming (January 6th) release.

Have you ever been abroad and had a wine that was ‘perfect’? Revelatory, evocative of place and time? And you thought – I need to take a case of this home. “3 Whoas!” “Fanfreakingtastic!” Then, brought it home with you, popped the cork only to wonder what happened to that beautiful wine you enjoyed while sitting in a street-side café in Aix-en-Provence. It’s…..well, disappointing. Let’s hope this next wine isn’t one of those.

While in Italy this past September, I plumbed the depths of Morellino di Scansano. Oh yeah, I did plumb. We don’t get a ton (tonne?) of it here. It’s usually reasonably priced and is never over the top – understated. So, I wanted to get as much of it as I could while there. And, what do I see in this week’s catalogue but one of those wines – 2015 Fattoria le Pupile Morellino di Scansano #455659 $17.95. This is bigger than most MdS – medium plus body. Vibe? Well, I thought Piedmonte, not Tuscany – Dolcetto-esque in mouthfeel – refreshing, youthful. Very aromatic wine and perfect with a tomato pasta dish or better yet – a pizza. I love this style of wine – straightforward, fruit driving the experience.

A good friend loves the wines of Southwest France – Madiran, Cahors, Gaillac, Marcillac, among others. He has spent a fair bit of time in the Dordogne and Bergerac which makes him my ‘go to’ guy on these wines. He has trumpeted the cause of Madiran wines for years now and, I have to admit, I’m hooked. The reds are made primarily from the Tannat variety. Don’t feel bad – I had to Google it the first time I heard of it too. Not a staple in many markets. It’s a hardy, thick skinned (AKA non-Trump) variety. It usually needs time to soften, evolve.

So, seeing the 2014 Aydie l’Origine Madiran #343566 $14.95 made by la Famille Laplace back in the mothership, I placed an order. This might be the cheapest cellar starter I know of. That doesn’t mean you can’t drink it now, it just takes a decant and/or some violent swishing and/or time in the glass. It will grow on you, trust me. This one is fairly settled already, finding a nice balance between its blended tannin, acidity, and the darkness of the fruit. No cherries here. Only to further improve and open up in the dark of a closet. This wine ranked #59 on Wine Spectator’s Best Buys for 2016. The next step up in this line is la Famille Laplace’s Ode d’Aydie ($22.95). I have a couple of the 2012 of this downstairs – the 2014 of the Ode was #29 on Wine Enthusiast’s Best Wines of 2017. So, you can see the accepted incredible value in these wines.

It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned Dominio del Plata and Susanna Balbo, their winemaker. Well, here I go again – the 2014 Benmarco Malbec #657601 $18.95. This is benchmark entry-level Malbec for me. Full-bodied, deep and dark (is there a campfire song there – 🎵 Deep and Dark, Deep and Dark 🎵 Anyone follow?). Just a smooth sipping beaut. And, I think this vintage might be the best yet and that’s saying something. Please bring me a steak.

Chilean Carmenère is a wonder. It seems to be one of the few big selling varieties that isn’t being replicated anywhere else in the world. So, when I taste a good one, I remember. That’s the issue with the 2015 Caliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Carmenère #056630 $17.95 – it’s memorable. Carmenère at this price point with the depth, complexity, spiciness, and telltale Carmenère smokiness is a keeper. Ready now but could stick around through summer of 2018 – meaning BBQ – perfect.

Every year, I get a few Niagara Rieslings – the Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard, Thirty Bench Riesling, Cave Springs CSV Riesling, Tawse’s Sketches Riesling, and the Vineland Elevation Riesling. The 2016 Vineland Estates Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling #038117 $19.95 is an off-dry yet crisp and sassy Riesling with the qualities of an aged wine of this variety – petrol on the nose and on the slick finish – citrus pushing the front and soft fruits bringing up the rear after the swallow. Just a perfect example of what Niagara can do with this variety. Opulent.

A friend called pre-Chruistmas looking for a reasonably priced wine to stock for the family blitz that was coming. I suggested the 2013 Abad Dom Bueno Mencia #291989 $16.95 considering his penchant for the Iberian peninsula. But really, you just have to appreciate good drinking reds to love this. I recommended a month ago here. There still remains a whack of this wine at the mothership  – so get thee hither and pick some up before it’s gone.

 

Cheers.

Bill

Emojis – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

6 Dec

I was thinking the other day about communication and how we use different styles, fonts, grammar, and even spelling depending on where we are doing the communication. And, since many of us just communicate with our phone, I wondered if things are starting to devolve to the use of single letters, acronyms and emojis to tell our story. Full disclosure, I was in the bathroom sans reading material when I thought this up – explains this whole ramble, doesn’t it?

I have never used an emoji. That keyboard pops up on my iPhone once in awhile by fat finger mistake and it scares me – all these spooky little yellow faces just staring, smiling, winking out from the screen. What do they want from me? And, I don’t read emojis, if ‘read’ is the proper word. I don’t get ’em. So, I guess I’m emoji challenged? Emoji-phobic?

As background for this post, I scrolled through the zillion existing emojis. If you’ve done this, you end up asking yourself, “Who thought up this 💩? Why do 👫 need them?” I’m admittedly on the curmudgeonly cynical side but there must be some pay off to emoji use. Why else would they exist?

So, today I tried to figure out how I could utilize emojis in this blog.  I first littered the whole post with the little critters and used an emoji-based rating system for my recommendations. The rating system, although brilliantly conceived was lame. I’ve kept it on the Allegrini below for you to judge for yourself. Wine criticism shouldn’t be trifled with. I mean rating systems are dead serious, yeah? Is that an 89 or a 90 is a question that requires a solid set of universally accepted and understood criteria. Maybe a move to a more ‘modern’ graphic nomenclature is where we are headed though. I mean ☹️ replaced the lengthy and clearly ambiguous statement “I’m feeling really shitty today.” My suggestion? WBC18 Topic: “Rating Systems – Is It Time For The Emoji? Talk amongst yourselves.

This week’s release (December 9) is offering wine and spirits in preparation for the holidays.

Holiday fêtes would not be complete without a little bubbly. Although there are the classics from Champagne (in this release – Roederer’s Cristal, Ruinart R de Ruinart, among others), you can get a good to great sparkling wine that hints at the glory of Champagne when you pick up a Crèmant de Bourgogne. This week, there’s the N/V Bailly-Lapierre Chardonnay Brut Crèmant de Bourgogne #369066 $24.95. This is a crisp Chardonnay with tight bubbles and a medium plus finish. I’ve touted this wine many times and hope that you too have enjoyed it in the past. Never disappoints.

A foursome from South America will get you stocked up in the ‘crowd-pleaser’ category and with a very reasonable investment:

The 2015 Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva Carmenère #057513 $17.75 is a great barbecue wine. I had it at the cottage this year and it was perfect. Very smoky nose – everything black, dark like a Starbucks with just a little kick at the end. Love this wine!

 

 

 

A month ago, I recommended a Torrontés that was well received. Review here. This week, there’s another Torrontés that deserves consideration – 2016 Santa Julia Organic Torrontés #232694 $13.95. This is a very aromatic wine – more nervous than the one previously recommended. Loads of energy just below the surface and that energy is really noticed on the finish. Pear and citrus. It would be great with Asian fare, despite the dryness of its character.

The 2015 Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir #037937 $14.95 is a great value-priced Pinot that might not battle food that well but would be a great standing around wine. It is typical fresh, restrained Pinot with perhaps a bit more minerality than you’d think at this price but the price point also means that it doesn’t carry that underlying power that we come to expect from Pinot.. Fruit not that prominent. But I still believe a great value Pinot.

2013 Primus Cabernet Sauvignon #486043 $19.95 – the last Chilean offering brings the prototypical aromas of cassis, some oak to the glass. Very New World. Medium plus body, easy, easy drinking – meaning you’ll pop two corks on this lovely Cab Sav.

The last daily red that I’ll talk about is the 2014 Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre #672931 $24.95. This is one of my favourite non-Amarone reds from Veneto. This is like a mini-Amarone – big, powerful, almost thick wine. Another smoky, lip smacking red with loads of backbone for almost any food that you could throw at it. Rich. 👊👍 👍👃😁

 

There are a number of special splurge wines this week. If I were to pick only one (or two) , I’d pick up the 1994 Faustino 1 Gran Reserva #929489 $68.95. I mean it’s 22 years old like me. Or, perhaps the 2013 Castello di Ama San Lorenzo Gran Selezione Chianti Classico #418897 $50.95 as that would free me up to open the 2010 of this cuvée that I have stashed below. Love their stuff.

Any thoughts on the emoji? I’m only half kidding.

Cheers.

Bill

Update: I wrote a piece on the Planeta winery in Menfi. The restaurant at their agriturismo, La Foresteria just won the “Restaurant of the Year” in Italy for 2018 as awarded by the Bibenda Guide. Pretty cool. You can read my piece here.

Standards – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

24 Nov

Years ago I read Bill Gates’ book, The Road Ahead. I didn’t take much from it except for his explanation of the concept of an ever elevating standard (my words). Essentially technology pushes into the marketplace and over time, if successful that technology becomes a standard – a standard of hardware, software, functionality, etc. until the next standard comes along. Just five or six years ago, CD’s were still relevant – the standard in music. Now, they are used to prop up wobbly tables – the standard is streaming services. We kind of pay for these services as if we need them. Likewise automobile ‘options’. You can’t find a car without air conditioning, power windows, back up cameras. These things have become standard and are built into the price instead of set outside as an add-on that we can choose. They just include them because we ‘need’ them, damn it!

Kings College

I was driving past our local university today and I was struck with the student cars parked on the side of the road surrounding campus. Well, not actually struck as in hit by them but, you know, I noted something significant. There were a lot period and many were automobiles that I can’t presently afford. As a student, on my res floor there was one car owner, Steve, and he lent his car out judiciously until I hit someone with it. Shit happens.

But the point is, there weren’t any student cars. It just wasn’t so. The standard was walking or public transit. Now, I think that a car for many students is a standard. At least in this town. They wouldn’t think of going to school without one. And you can think of so many other standards that we all now have – smartphones, home security, concealed weapons and 400 rounds of ammo (just kidding…….well, kind of), tablets, wi-fi, funky socks, Netflix. It goes on and on.

Now, wine. Many in the wine blogging community talk about reviewing wines in an easily understood and unpretentious way. Sounds kind of condescending when I say it like that, doesn’t it? I know that I used to prescribe to that mantra. But, just as Mercedes and BMW’s now sit in a student parking lot, my standard has risen in price and pretentiousness steadily over the last few years. I cop to the pretentiousness as it’s always been a part of my personality. I can’t even walk the General Listing aisles at the mother ship anymore. I dismiss those wines as without merit. My standard is Vintages and I have fallen into the belief that price does predict quality which I know in my little arrogant heart isn’t always the case. And still, I struggle to find a wine to talk about that’s under $30!

I’ve heard from people who read my stuff that they don’t want to pay as much for wine as I’m recommending they do. I get that. Although some have admitted that I’ve upsold them and they have more or less become accustomed to it – many going without heat and hydro to support their habit.

So, I realize that I’m an elitist and I hear those that would like me to bring the price down to their standard. I’m not saying that much is going to change but I will at least be aware of my standard and realize that not everyone wants air conditioning. They are fine with a window open. And if I can find them a nice breeze, I’ll tell them about it.

I have had a few wines from earlier releases that warrant a look:

2013 Abad Dom Bueno Mencia #291989 $16.95 – see that’s a bit cheaper. I finished my stash of the 2008 of this wine just this year. This vintage is much fresher and nervous understandably. Mencia is a grape that you may not have knowingly had. It ages well – witness the 2008 – is usually medium-bodied and is medium plus aromatic. It looks great in the glass as well. I like it a lot and it’s a nice break from Temporanillo and Ganarcha without losing the Spanish vibe. This is nicely oaked, full of red berry goodness on the sniff, the gargle and the finish. More modern tasting than the 2008 but that might make it the crowd-pleaser you’d want to have on hand for the holidays.

2014 Rabelo Mosteiro Duoro Tinto #523571 $22.95 This is a 40% Touriga Nacional, 25% Tinta Roriz, 20% Touriga Franca, and 5% Tinto Cāo blend. The first, third and fourth are ones used in the production of Port. The second one, Tinta Roriz is Tempranillo with a Portuguese passport. This is a sophisticated wine. I didn’t decant but think that this could use an hour or two minimum to improve that element even more. Although a caveat: I have to say it is an Eliza Doolittle wine – able to deliver sophistication on the outside but you can’t be blind to the other Eliza – powerful, gutsy and bawdy underneath. Wine can be elegant and fun too. This proves the point.

2013 Columbia Crest H3 Les Chevaux Red Blend #287425 $20.95 – This is a perennial favourite at the mother ship. A Washington blend of Merlot, Syrah, Viognier, and Cabernet Franc it fits firmly in the New World red camp. It’s a lovely full-bodied red with enough tannin peeking through the blackberries, pepper, and a coating of smoky toasty oak to keep it interesting and not flabby. Trust me when I say that friends and family will love this wine.

From the November 26th release:

N/V Gerard Bertrand Cuvée Thomas Jefferson Brut Crémant de Limoux #438838 $19.95 – My first taste of Crémant de Limoux was in the south of France from which it comes. Not unlike Cava or Prosecco, it is standard there to start an evening of wine drinking and food with a glass of this. Limoux claims to be the first wine made using the ‘Methode Traditionale’ or the same method as Champagne. Hence, it predates Champagne. This is made with Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Mauzac, and Pinot Noir. Gerard is one of my heroes. Here he has continued the love affair with Languedoc-Roussillon. There’s an herbal quality to this. Dry, not overly lemony, nicely balanced and a snap at the end. Switch it up and serve this instead of your usual.

2015 Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling #089029 $18.95 – Always a favourite of mine. This vintage doesn’t disappoint. It’s a powerful Riesling at this price point – citrus (lemon/lime), a hint of petrol on the sniff but not yet following up, huge acid on the finish which will help this age nicely, I think. It suggests Off-Dry but the tartness of this wine doesn’t allow any sugar to show up. Another good year for this Sketches.

So you want a bargain, eh? Well, look no further than the 2016 Honoro Vera Monastrell #167684 $13.95. Love this wine. It’s not complex but it’s substantial, has some characteristics of spice, garrigue, and dominant dark fruits like blackberries. Great value. On the same planet is their Honoro Vera Garnacha #440867 $12.95  (there’s lots of the Garnacha around so take a look and see of there’s some of that near you). Both of these wines are great value and wines that I bet will get folks talking around your dinner table. Plus the labels are fascinating.

A modest upsell. The 2012 Travaglini Gattinara #713354 $29.95 is a Nebbiolo from the Gattinara DOC which doesn’t get the love that its more famous cousins, Barolo and Barberesco do. If Nebbiolo is your sweet spot like it is one of mine, this is a great representation at a far lower price point than the others. This is shy at first with some stony/granite mouthfeel. But don’t mistake this for the tannins covering everything up. This is the Nebbiolo – it is a shy grape. It’s sleek and given a good decant or a violent swirl in the glass opens up to flowers and red fruits. A pleasure to sniff and even better to quaff. Worth every penny. Perfect with a sturdy supper. And the bottle is cool too.

Cheers.

Bill

P.S. Just thought of how this discussion applies to the guys and gals who really do have the wherewithal and the inclination to only drink wines in the upper echelon of price and prestige. “Seriously, Chauncey, I couldn’t bear another bottle of Domaine Romanee-Conti La Tâche that was younger than 20 years!” There’s part of me that would love to join them but there’s also a part that really likes where I’ve landed. I’m fortunate. No need to get greedy or have a friend called Chauncey..

A Canadian Quickie – The White Daily Slosh

9 Nov

So, what is a Canadian quickie, you ask? The funny answer probably has something to do with parka zippers, a station wagon, and a Canadian Tire parking lot. Not that I’d know anything about that. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

But, what I mean here is that I’m sending out a few ‘quick’ recommendations for the November 11th release and they are all Canadian wines.

I recommend the Flat Rock Cellars stuff a lot. The 2016 Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling #578625 $24.95 has crept in to my basement and taken up residence with the last few vintages of this same cuvée. It’s about as solid a dry Riesling as the region produces. You notice I said ‘dry’. The rating is ‘medium’ but I find that this wine carries such a dose of acidity that you don’t notice any residual sugar. On the sniff it gives off a little petrol but, after a swirl, mostly peachy vibes. Quite a rocky, minerally, and spicy wine in the mouth. Medium + finish.

Another Niagara Riesling on offer is the 2013 Henry of Pelham Estate Riesling #557165 $17.95. This winery is another that has been featured here a bit but mostly for their spectacular Reserve Baco Noir – a classic take on a grape that most people haven’t had, IMHO. Here the Riesling does exhibit a bit of sweetness but nothing cloying and more about what the grape gives than by design. This wine isn’t quite as insistent as the one above. It kind of pleads its case rather than shouts at you. Maybe better suited as a sipper than Nadja. More citrus as well. Powerful label art – well done.

Last but not least is the 2014 Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay #148866 $28.95. Prince Edward County is about as cool climate as Chardonnay gets. This wine exudes that character – restrained, not overly oaked but expressing some wood effects on the finish, in particular. Clean, acid on the gargle and finish. Apples and citrus on the sniff and swallow. Love it!

Have a great weekend. Cheers.

Bill

Tom And The Rainbow Daily Slosh

24 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers.

Bill

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.

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