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Wine Apps – Do I Need One?

7 Apr

Over the years of smart phone use (is it smartphone or smart phone? I will ask Siri), I’ve fooled around with wine apps that help me organize my cellar, pick a wine at a restaurant or retail, and provide me with tasting notes from ‘experts’ or slobs just like me.

I’ve put them on my phone in a moment of whimsy when I think that I’ll use them. Only to take them off when I’m worried that I’m using up all my data storage for an app I haven’t really used enough. They have been of very limited use and in very specific situations, is what I’m saying.

A few months ago, I received an invitation from the Natalie MacLean’s peeps to try their new app and write about it. I thought that it might be cool to do just that. But, in fairness to the other hard working developers and entrepreneurs, I thought that I should try as many as I could to see what they bring and if I can make a recommendation. Yes, you are right. I have lots of time on my hands and Siri says it’s OK. Siriously, I asked her.

Wine apps seem to fall into 4 non-mutually exclusive categories:

Retail Apps – inventories, availabilities, etc. at a particular chain – my example would be the LCBO app but I see one for the SAQ as well as other large retailers;

Recommendation Apps – these generally provide pairing tips, tasting notes, etc. for specific labels or general guidelines. Some are word based but most allow label scans to identify the wine;

Cellar Management – These apps allow you to keep a categorized inventory of your cellar, add your tasting notes, and, in some cases participate in a community of like-minded souls

Search – These apps provide a search tool that accesses retail inventories and pricing. Sometimes they are matched to accepted review and winery data.

Many apps are tied to other media. Such as magazines, zines, blogs, and/or subscription series.

But how to test drive and against what criteria? Criteria? That would a bit too scientific for this blog. So, I’m going to just use them and tell you what I think. Wish me luck.

Apps, that I’ve loaded are:

LCBO, Natalie McLean, Vivino, Pocket Wine Pairing, Corkz, Winepop, Wine Cellar Database, Vinocell. Some are free and others either you pay up front or there are in-use enhancements that cost. BTW, they are all “the number 1 app.”

I realize this has been done before, most recently in my world by Richard Hemming at (subscription needed). But I think I’ll give it a try. If there are other apps that I should try, let me know. I’ll report back in awhile.




Well Stated and Better Than I

30 Mar

Signed DW | Published on DoctorWine N°202 Code of ethyl by Daniele Cernilli 20-03-2017 What would you think of a famous Italian wine critic who allowed a surprise ‘secret’ birthday party to be organized for him by an equally famous wine producer who invited other producers who opened some very expensive bottles to pair them […]

via Daniele Cernilli on Wine Writers and a Code Ethics — Charles Scicolone on Wine

A Report From The Field

13 Jul

I’m filing this from the field and a week late. Excuse? At work on the many things that require fixing, building, and ignoring. Read: sitting, reading, swimming, boating, sleeping. So, I apologize for spelling errors, lack of label shots and links to inventory (kind of).

I do have time for a few recommendations. The July 9th release has some great summer wines to try.

coppiThe 2010 Coppi Peucetico Primitivo #724674 $14.95 is good value. It is made from the Primitivo grape which is genetically the same as Zinfandel but grows in Puglia. This approach to the grape is a little less jammy and high alcohol than Zin typically is. Gentler but carries the richness of Zin. It would be great with something tomatoey and gooey, sausagy like a hot Italian sausage pizza.

bilaAlways a redo on these pages is the M. Chapoutier les Vignes de Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussillon-Villages #168716 $14.95. This year it’s the 2014. Shit, two $15 wines in a row. It looks like I’m trying to appease the masses. And, we elites know better than to consider the opinions of the masses. It’s why ‘Leave’ will never win the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump will never win the GOP nomination. Elegant snort, “We know best.” Regardless, this label is exceptional value if you like Grenache, Syrah, Carignan blends – and I really. really do. This smells and tastes like you are drinking it overlooking a vineyard in Languedoc or Roussillon, say. Herby, lavender, spicy. Hitting well above it’s weight in class. Great every day wine for those that enjoy Grenache-based wines.

susanaI’d go on and on about Susana Balbo but you must get it by now – the 2013 Susana Balbo Signature Malbec #079798 $19.95 is elegant, smoky goodness. If you don’t believe me, search my web site for Balbo recommendations – probably the most recommended label on the site. Aaah, that would still be me though, wouldn’t it? So, why not just believe me. If you are a Malbec lover, it’s a must. Buy with confidence.

viognierA great white for the summer is the 2014 Gerard Bertrand Reserve Speciale Viognier #147975 $14.95 (another $15 wine?). Incredible aroma fills this glass and although that can be attributed to Viognier, I think this exceeds the Viognier-norm. Viognier is one of the more expressive whites, I think. The warm weather in the Languedoc allows this grape to ripen and although extra dry, it doesn’t come off as crisp – more round, ripe. Great food wine or by itself.

Most years at the lake, I try and pick a signature cocktail. Maybe it’s a Kahshe Cosmo, a Torontonian, a Muskoka Manhattan (if you have a Manhattan before 4, that’s a Muskoka Manhattan). This year, I’m going to perfect the Hugo. My niece in Germany gave us some pre-mixed Hugos for Christmas one year and I have tried to make this Euro-centric drink a few times before. This year, I’m all in. The Hugo is a blend of muddled mint, St-Germain liqueur (or non-alcoholic elderflower syrup), and Prosecco served over ice. This better be great because the St-Germain is expensive and tastes pretty “I’m not likely to serve this on it’s own.” So I need a cheap Prosecco. The NV Torresella Prosecco #400440 $14.95 is a bargain and tasty. Not as dry as some but loads of flavour unlike some of those same Proseccos. It will go great in the Hugo. I’ll let you know what the magic mix is. I love the experiment – just keep the boat tied to the dock after my second one because I don’t want to go water skiing or jumping off Mt. Mary as that always ends badly.

A wine I’ve liked in past vintages:
2014 Alkoomi Shiraz #138560 $16.95 – This label has been good to me before. It’s from Western Australia (Franklin River) which my experience has been primarily Cab Sav and Chardonnay. Less full-bodied than Barossa Shiraz. Leaner in past years – more subtle. I’ve always liked it. Will get this vintage too. Good cottage/beach/patio/BBQ wine.

Splurges if you are bringing me a host gift?
2013 Tenuta Sette Ponti Crogiolo #727636 $29.95 – I’ve had this one in other vintages. It’s a Super Tuscan – able to leap tall bottles in a single bound. This means that it doesn’t conform to ‘rules’ of Tuscan DOC’s. I’ve always appreciated the fruit forward nature of this wine. Tannins are integrated not grating and the finish was always interesting. I’m picking up a couple. One for now; another for much later. If you love the shelf talkers, this one will say 95!

2010 La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino #642561 $63.95 – 2010 Brunello is something else – unique for Brunello. It can be consumed short or early and can also sit awhile in the basement. I kind of got off drinking Brunellos as I found myself with only a few down below left to quaff. So, I’ve ante’d up with the 2010 vintage. This is one that I’ll get to supplement my addiction to this DOCG. I love Brunellos! Remember. I told you the story of the stinky Brunello that everybody at a tasting hated and then everyone later loved? Of course you do – shit, everyone remembers my stories. That was a La Gerla Brunello. I’m hoping for the same experience minus the hating. Into scores? This wine scored 95!

Bonus Recommendation:
miravalIf celebrity magazine purchases and Entertainment Tonight-type shows are any indication, we are clearly suckers for celebs. I even bought a Nespresso just because of George. He is gorgeous and uber cool. I’m sure that he likes me now – ‘cause I’m kind of like him. Well, as far as the Nespresso goes. So, why would that be any different with wine. Celebrity wine is a ‘thing’. Whether it’s Greg Norman Wines, Drew Barrymore, Kate Hudson or, in this country, Wayne Gretzky Estates we truly are susceptible to the call of the celebrity. And what better celebrities to hang with than Brad and Angelina? They are the epitome of cool and they even have a moniker that works – Brangelina. Brad and Angie have a nifty estate in Provence and they make wine there – 2015 Miravel Rose #342584 $22.95 – I’ve had in other vintages and it’s been full value. Made by Famille Perrin of Beaucastel fame. And, the bottle is beautiful but unlike Angie is quite plump. I worry about her. I just read in Them magazine that she is wasting away and adopting 6 more kids. I’d like to be adopted by her, if you know what I mean.



#MWWC24 Time to vote!

19 Apr

the drunken cyclist

wine-stain1-3It is time to vote!

The Remaining Timeline:

Voting Begins: Tuesday, April 19th, 2016 (Today!)

Voting Ends:  Monday, April 25th, 2016

Winner Announced:  Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Last night, after getting this post ready to go, there were just a handful of entries, leaving me to wonder whether it was the theme, the time of year, or simply general malaise that resulted in the relatively limited number of posts this go around (I should also state that there is no post from The Drunken Cyclist this month either). But a funny thing happened in the wee hours as there was a bevy of contributions, upping the total to a somewhat respectable thirteen fourteen entries this month. (Another was added after I wrote this little blurb.)

Here are this month’s entries:

Cheap Wine Curious: Mixing Business with Pleasure

Dracaena Wines: In The Wind of Pleasure

Duff’s Wines: 50 Shades of Pleasure

View original post 109 more words

Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Feb 20, 2016

13 Feb

Good discussion of the wine drinking practices of most folks. Take Szabo’s advice and step out of your rut! My only contrary comment – what’s wrong with walking down a dark alleyway in a foreign city? That’s where I’ve had some of my best fun.

Source: Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Feb 20, 2016

#MWWC22 Time to vote!

19 Jan

the drunken cyclist

wine-stain1-3It is time to vote!

The Remaining Timeline:

Voting Begins: Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 (Today!)

Voting Ends:  Monday, January 25th, 2016

Winner Announced:  Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

This month, while the number of posts may be relatively few, I dare say that this might be the strongest collection of posts that we have had for the Challenge (particularly since yours truly did not enter). We ended up with twelve submissions (eleven of which are eligible), so take some time to peruse the entries and be sure to cast your vote!

Here are this month’s entries:

Dracaena Wines: The Hole in the Heart is not Filled; Just More Space is Made

Duff’s Wines: Even A Bad Wine Deserves a Second Chance – #MWWC22

The Epicurious Texan: Try The Wine…Again.

Food, Wine, Beer, Travel: Inspired by the Theme Second Chance

JVB Uncorked: Why Wines Deserve a Second Chance

L’Occasion: I Might Pass This Way Again

View original post 78 more words

#MWWC20 Time to vote!

27 Oct

Source: #MWWC20 Time to vote!

Priorat – Day 2

23 Oct

Monsant – Image Courtesy of

That folks is a photo in Monsant Natural Park in Priorat. You can’t get away from it. Every time you look north and west, it seems to be there. Those two silhouettes are my friend and I in the midst of our Class 5 climb. OK, that’s not true. It’s not us. One: I’m afraid of edges and, Two: We didn’t have enough time to spend a day hiking. Next time, it will be me. The majesty of this rocky divide cannot be overstated. here’s another photo.


Monsant – Image Courtesy of

Last time, I started to tell you about our visit to the Catalunya region of Priorat. You can read my first Priorat post here.

Day 2: The plan today was to see Siurana, Escaladei, visit Scala Dei winery, taste more great wine, eat more great food, and just wander.

Off we went back down the alleyway (I did say it was narrow, didn’t I?) and past Porrera on the road to Siurana. While we twist up and down these narrow roads, let me tell you a little more about Priorat as a wine region.

Wine making in Priorat dates back to the Roman times but after Moorish control of the region in the 8th Century, wine was forbidden. When the village of Siurana fell, Catalonian control by the Moors ended – that was in the late 12th century. And what do kids do when they can finally do something their parents forbade? Well, they started making wine again. It’s generally held that the wine biz started up in a remote outpost under the Montsant bluffs. It was a monastery called Cartoixa de Santa Maria d’Escaldei – the scala dei refers to ‘steps’ or ‘stairs to God’ that the Monsant bluffs evoked. The area around the monastery was called a priory and hence – Priorat (priory in Catalan).


Ruins of Cartoixa de Santa Maria

Then came a few centuries of fairly widespread winemaking. BTW, Parker gave the 1634 Scala Dei an 89 – “unctuous with a vein of graphite”. One of his earlier tastings and it caused quite a stir with the monks who gave it a 100! Phylloxera arrived in Priorat in the late 1800’s and all vines were eventually felled by that pest on the more than 12,000 acres in the region. Modest replanting was subsequently undertaken with Cariñena and Garnatxa, as the traditional grapes most often used. The goal was quantity. There were ebbs and flows but things stayed pretty well the same until the 70’s.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s a handful of forward looking winemakers called The Big Five (it was truly 6!) came to Priorat. Drawn by the potential and the challenge. These Big Five were René Barbier (Clos Mogador), Josep Lluis Pérez (Mas Martinet), Àlvaro Placios (Àlvaro Palacios, formerly Clos Dofi), Mariona Jarqué and Carles Pastrana (Clos de l’Obac), and Daphne Glorian (Clos Erasmus). I’ll continue on to present day Priorat winemaking in the next post.

Road to Siurana looking back on the village of Porrera

Road to Siurana looking back through the morning mist on the village of Porrera

Back on the road, we twisted, rose, fell, and twisted again our way past Porrera, past Poboleda, through Cornudella del Monsant, and up towards Siurana. Why Siurana? Well, the history: it’s a small clifftop village of 21 inhabitants that was the last Moorish village to fall to those pesky Christians in 1153. The atmosphere: winding streets and sheer drop offs of several hundred feet. The journey: along cliffside on a one-lane road with switchbacks that accommodates two cars, if you know what you’re doing (I eventually did). Aside: Roads in Catalunya are in really good shape but can be narrow.

Road to Siurana

Road to Siurana

Arriving in Siurana, we wandered. As we entered the village, smoke wafted towards us from a small village resto that had just opened and had started a fire. It had that sandalwoody smell. It was a bit damp and cool. How tempting it was to stop in, sit by the fire, order the daily special (lamb) and have a glass of wine (or two). But, we had just gotten started. Siurana is a village that is mainly a day tourist spot although it was pretty empty when we were there. Maybe 5 cars in the parking lot. The road there is daunting and our hostess at Cal Compte, Graciela, cringed when we said that we were heading there. I’m guessing it discourages some.

‘Nuf said as there really is nothing to say about Siurana that pictures don’t capture more effectively.


A Busy Street in Siurana




Siurana Church

We left Siurana somewhat dreading meeting another car on the way down. We made it to the valley floor sans incident and returned to Cornudella del Montsant.

Cordunella (circa 1100 pop’n.) and Falset (circa 3000 pop’n) are the ‘big’ towns in the area. The only towns with a gas station! And, although I can’t remember it exactly, they may have a stop light each too.

We were driving through Cordunella to get to Escaladei and a much anticipated lunch when we saw a small corner building, door open and a small sandwich board on the sidewalk at the road saying it was a winery. Well, how could we resist our first tasting of the day?

Cellers Baronia del Montsant - Cordunella

Cellers Baronia del Montsant – Cordunella

The winery was Cellers Baronia del Montsant and we were met by the delightful Laura Lllevat Palau, Export and Marketing Manager. They were bottling in the glassed off room behind the tasting room but the rattling glass and bustling staff (there were 5 all told – 2 in the bottling room) didn’t take away from our experience – it heightened it. Laura took us through the history of the winery and we tasted the majority of their line.

Wine as an experience is complex, variable, and at the mercy of the winemaker. But, most wines of a particular region bring many similar characteristics. In the case of Priorat and near Priorat wines – like these DO Montsant wines – this is true and it really showed it’s stuff at this winery. The Cellers Baronia del Montsant bottle approximately 200,00 bottles annually which are officially DO Montsant. Think of a doughnut with DOQ Priorat the hole and DO Montsant the ring.

The red wines are made with Garnatxa and Cariñena mostly from older vines (50 -70 years). The llicorella, a black crumbly shale that makes up the vineyard soils in Priorat makes a statement on the nose and the finish. Quite minerally mouthfeel twinned with big but pretty well integrated tannins. I didn’t take notes so that I could pay attention to Laura. That doesn’t sound just right. I mean that I didn’t bury my head in a notebook because I wanted to hear the story of the wines and of the Cellers Baronia del Montsant. But, generally, these wines have just a hint of oak treatment (lower end) up to 14 months in oak (pricier label) with the strength of Cariñena supporting the fruit and ripeness of Garnatxa – all with that lovely background noise of earthy, dusty shale – strong finish.

Tasting Room at Baronia del Montsant - Laura Llevat Palau

Tasting Room at Baronia del Montsant – Laura Llevat Palau – my knee is displayed for verification

Laura asked where we were from and when we said Canada, she said, “Oh, LCBO and SAQ.” Laura had navigated the frustrating road to get her wines listed at both these large monopolies. She had also been to Total Wine in Naples, Fla. which was a good discussion point with my friend who has a mounted wall plaque there as a frequent flyer.

We bought a few wines each and were back in the car and on the somewhat less smooth and maintained road to Escaladei. The road takes you along the side of the Montsant bluffs. It is very cool.

We arrived in the little village of Escaladei maybe 15 minutes later. The village of Escaladei is a short drive away from the monastery ruins from which it derives it’s name. It has a lovely plaça, it had started to sprinkle a bit and we thought, “Let’s just sit under the umbrellas on the terrace, watch people and eat.” We ended up at a place where the kitchen was closed or it wasn’t. This was another moment. However, we had our red wine by the copa and waited to see what we had ordered – prawns, pan amb tomiquets (bread and tomatoes), and olives.

The prawn plate was massive and messy. The bread…..have I told you about my favourite food of Catalunya? No, I haven’t. In Catalunya and many places elsewhere in Spain, bread is toasted and served with tomatoes and olive oil smeared on it. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. It is heavenly and so easy to do yourself if you have real tomatoes. In fact, I’ve just talked myself in to it for lunch.

Speaking of olive oil – in the plaça were several commercial and retail spots, including an olive oil mill and retail store – Miró Cubells. As we walked toward the door of the mill, a woman came out, clearly preparing to close. As she saw us walking her way, she clapped her hands with a big smile and told us to come in. At least that’s what we inferred. She re-entered the premises and turned the lights back on. The smile never left her face the whole time we were there. We asked if she spoke any English and she said, “No,” which technically is an English word too, BTW. But, she gestured excitedly and explained in Catalan, that with our hands and our hearts, we would be able to communicate. So sweet.

olive grove

Priorat Olive Grove

She led us around the room, showing us some of the equipment required to create the products and we tasted several of their oils and vinegars with a bit of bread. She must have mentioned three or four times that the mill was her family’s – showing us pictures of her children and husband. They use Alberquina olives (I love Alberquina olives!) mainly but in their premium oil there is a blend of three olives – Alberquina, Rojal, and Negret – all bringing some qualities to the blend – it’s called Cavaloca. Beautiful olive oil. I mean beautiful! Nutty, spicy, and grassy too. I’ve created a link below to a piece on olive oil in Priorat if you’re so inclined. And remember Lesson #3 from my first post.

We departed the olive mill and walked the twenty feet to Cellers Scala Dei. This winery is one of the oldest, if not the oldest in Priorat. It has an amazing history  and their wines have garnered awards and accolades from the wine press for many years. The tasting premises were the nicest that we saw during our visit. Housed in a large building on the plaça, the presentation centre has loads of merchandise and a peaceful vibe. Despite the premises being open, we were disappointed that we were not afforded an opportunity to taste that day. But we had Scala Dei wine several times during our stay in Spain.

We got back in the car and drove the 5 minutes to the ruins of Cartoixa de Santa Maria d’Escaladei and spent 45 minutes or so wandering the grounds. They are returning this large monastery to some of its original state. It is impressive stuff.

Entrance to Cartoixa de Santa Maria d 'Escaladei

Entrance to Cartoixa de Santa Maria d’Escaladei – I didn’t take catechism intstruction but I’m betting that Maria herself over the door.

The meal at Cal Compte was not quite as outstanding but pure Catalunya. We had some nibbles, a bowl of house-made cream of zucchini soup, a salad, and a plate of various sausages. All was very tasty. We had their red wine again. The cost pf a five course meal? 25€!

To bed – it was quiet – no church bells oddly.


Olive Oil Times piece on Siurana oil:…siurana/44267

Website for Miro Cubells:

Baronia del Montsant (great video on the winery):

Priorat – Day 1 Torroja, Porrera

8 Oct
Priorat vines1

Terraced Vines – Image Courtesy of

“Where the hell is that?”, you ask. That is Priorat in Catalunya. And those terraces hold Garnatxa and Cariñena vines. It’s spectacular country! The DOQ Priorat (pronounced PRE – or – rat) is about 150 kilometres southwest of Barcelona. My BFF and I had the pleasure of spending 3 days there last month. This first post deals with our introduction to Priorat and hopefully provides you with a flavour of this special region.

Day 1: (circa 11:00 am) I maneuvered the balky rental out of Barcelona with my friend as navigator. Mood? Sky high anticipation and jet lagged after taking the red eye from Toronto. South through the environs of Barcelona, past Tarragona and Reus. About an hour and a half later, we arrived at the base of the town of Torroja. Pronounced To-ROY-ya in Spanish and To-ROW-je in Catalan.

Torroja - Population 143

Torroja – Population 143 – Image Courtesy of

You may think that places such as Torroja, Priorat, Montsant, Penedes, Barcelona, Girona, etc. are in Spain. You’d be wrong. They are in Catalunya.

Lesson #1: You will endear yourself to Catalans if you understand that they are not Spaniards – they are Catalans. When possible, using Catalan to communicate also is respectful and appreciated.

Back at Torroja, we sat in the car and pondered the question, “Where is our hotel, Cal Compte?” When you have no clue (BTW, we didn’t), you can sit in your idling car reviewing your travel file for only so long. Action is required. Ah, do we see potential help? Indeed, a stooped, old, weathered, darkly dressed woman with a cane was sitting at the regional bus stop. You can’t make this stuff up.

Now, this was the first of many occasions during my 2 and a half weeks in Spain that I wished that I had worked a bit harder with Hannah from However, it may not have helped asking, “¿Donde esta Cal Compte?” when the woman spoke Catalan, not Spanish (Lesson #1).

It’s interesting that most of us tend to shout when communicating in a language that you know the other person DOES NOT UNDERSTAND. It’s as if through volume comes comprehension. But, in this case, we found that speaking loudly was of little use – the woman was functionally hearing impaired. That’s being polite. The woman was stone deaf! But, she graciously hobbled away waving her hand for us to follow her to a main floor garage off a nearby alleyway. Buddy was there working on farm implements and he pointed us towards our hotel, Cal Compte. This is when I learned that the narrow “alleyway” was actually the “street” to Cal Compte. “Are you shitting me?”

Passage to Cal Compte - Torroja

Passage to Cal Compte – Torroja

After some ‘Whoa, put the mirrors in’ and ‘Bill wait, you’re going to hit the……..O…O…O…OK, it’s alright now’ moments, we arrived at a town square, a plaça complete with church and stone fountain. And, just as Buddy said, Cal Compte was on our left. On a rising cobblestone street of stone and brick facades, Cal Compte was the building with the door slightly ajar. We peeked inside the door and quietly stepped down off the cobblestones into a large, dark, stone-walled two-story room. Seriously, are we in the right place? Where’s the concierge and valet parking?

“Hello? No answer. We pushed deeper into the next room, an equally large room furnished with a dining table. “Hello?” Then from the back of the building we heard, “William?” And out of the kitchen walked Graciela, our host. We were home indeed. We were shown to our rooms on the second floor; discovering the elevator only after lugging my so-close-to-overweight suitcase up the stairs.

Asked if we wanted to eat at Cal Compte that night, we said, “Si.” This wasn’t the last time on this trip that we agreed to a meal that we neither knew the cost of or the menu. Never a regret associated with any of them. In fact, opting to eat at Cal Compte blind was one of the best decisions we made all trip. My advice, trust. Trust: how else were we to experience Catalunya and Spain?

But, first things first. Where could we get lunch? It was past 1:00 pm and we hadn’t eaten since that forgettable in-flight wake up snack 6 hours ago. Graciela, and her main squeeze Vincente, suggested that we return to Porrera (which we’d passed on our way in to Torroja) to eat at a place called La Cooperativa.

We drove the 10 minutes back to Porrera, parked the car in Plaça Catalunya – a small, surprisingly busy plaça with the winery Sangenis i Vaqué at its head. We wandered into a store to ask directions to La Cooperativa. We were informed that La Cooperativa was, in fact, closed. After all, it was harvest time and all hands were required for wine. It was our first indication that there was winemakin’ goin’ on. I was getting pumped, stoked. And a bit thirsty.

El Rebost de Cal Carlets

El Rebost de Cal Carlets

So, we chose El Rebost de Cal Carlets for lunch, nearby on the plaça. El Rebost (roughly translated – The Pantry) was very good. I had the bacallà a la crema d’avellana (cod in a hazelnut cream sauce) – huge tasty serving. And we split a litre of vi negre (red wine) that had started as una copa de vi – we are problem drinkers after all. I can’t describe the wine other than it was chilled a bit and very serviceable. Although I do distinctly remember the last few sips brought a, “This was pretty good.” Which is insightful wine critic stuff. Yeah?

Post meal, we wandered the town, bought a bottle of Porrera wine in a store on the plaça called Vinum Priorat ( It has a very good selection of Priorat wines, olive oil, and other locally made products – tastings available.

bridge porrrera

The Bridge to Vall Llach – Dry Riverbed – Catalan Flag Flying Proudly

Across the bridge from the plaça was the Celler Vall Llach in a renovated village house. Vall Llach is perhaps one of the more readily available and celebrated Priorat labels in North America. They produce more than 150,000 bottles annually from both DOQ Priorat and DO Monsant. The winery store and cellar were closed (you do need appointments here).  Next time for sure.

I will feature individual Priorat wineries in subsequent posts but maybe it’s time for a general overview on Priorat wineries and tasting.

Despite being one of only two wine regions in Spain/Catalunya with the ‘qualified’ adjective (Rioja being the other), Priorat isn’t exactly what you might be used to as a ‘touring’ wine region. Fancy faux chateaus a la Napa? Nope. Wineries designed by Frank Gehry? Nosiree. Tasting rooms with paired nibbles? What? No! Wine clubs and library wines? Seriously? No! Tourist buses hogging the roads? Didn’t see a one all week. In fact, we saw perhaps 10 tourists aside from us in three days and that’s being generous.

Sao del Coster "Tasting Room"

Sao de Coster “Tasting Room”

No, you taste wines By Appointment Only in what, in most cases, is the working winery. You interact amid the barrel room or press floor (which could be the same place) or in the vineyard directly with the employees, in particular the winemaker (enolog) in his or her boots and stained overalls. When you are in to wine and I am, it is simply an awesome way to understand what you are tasting, experiencing! It is so damn personal – as wine should be.

Now, there are a few large-scale wineries. Torres has a large high-tech winery that befits the multi-national wine company that is Torres, and Alvaro Palacios’s winery looks a bit Disney. But, in my limited experience, they are the exceptions. The bulk of the wineries are usually situated on small streets in one of the many villages or amid their vines in this rugged landscape.

Lesson #2: Enoturisme in Priorat is for real winos. But, it is growing. Let’s hope wineries and the people that work them can stay intimate, personal, and connected to tradition.

porrera street

A ‘Street’ in Porrera – Garage Door on Left

Where was I? Oh yeah, walking the streets of Porrera. One highlight was a smallish garage that opened on a stainless steel tank and crates of grapes recently harvested – people busy hand sorting. Cool to watch for awhile and completely unexpected. But we were bushed and a bit buzzy. So we headed back down the winding road, up the alleyway to Cal Compte and a quick time-zone nap.

Back up by 6:00 pm, we popped the cork on the Clos Dominic Clos Petó 2010 (15€) that we had picked up at Vinum Priorat. This wine qualifies for Vi de la Vila certification. That means that the wine is made entirely from grapes from a single village – in this case, Porrera. It took us a sniff and a swish to remember how high in alcohol these wines can get. This one was 15% ABV – large in the glass, the mouth, and on the finish. Cariñena first, maybe Cabernet Sauvignon second, my guess. I’d say we should have decanted it. We drank a tumbler (or two?) on the second level terrace by our rooms and then headed down to the main floor terrace.

We had no sooner sat down when Vincente came out with some local olives (love olives), hazelnuts and almonds. He asked if we wanted some wine. Seriously? He opened a bottle of the house red. More on the house wine in a minute.

As we sipped and noshed, we could look out over the rooftops of the village on to the vined and olive treed terraced sides of the mountains. Poetic? It was so quiet. As my friend said, “You CAN NOT believe how quiet it is. No REALLY.” That’s how quiet it was!

Terrace View Cal Compte

Terrace View Cal Compte – Montsant in the distance

I won’t go into too much detail on the meal – OK, I lie.

After the nuts and 0lives, we were started with a plate of thickly sliced aged sheep’s milk cheese with olive oil drizzled over and a bit of cracked black pepper on top with fresh bread on the side. I had seen the loaves covered with towels rising in the kitchen that afternoon. What an easy plate. Simple and evocative.

Lesson #3: Drizzle good olive oil on everything. FYI, Priorat produces a lot of olive oil for a small region  most of it under the Denominació d’Origen Protegida “Siurana” or Protected Designation of Origin Siurana. We visit an olive oil mill tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Then followed a bowl of the house made gazpacho with fresh diced tomatoes, cukes, and croutons on the side to add. Verrry nice. So incredibly fresh.

Following that we were served a green salad with perfectly ripe small tomatoes and a slab of fried goat cheese on top, drizzled with olive oil. No salt and pepper needed to get those tomàquets to release their flavour.

Then a plate of beef sliced thinly and lightly seared – almost carpaccio style – with olive oil and some fresh herbs. Melt in your mouth beef. Dessert? Poached pears with house made hazelnut ice cream. And to finish off the evening, a small glass of locally produced dessert wine – dolç, I believe it’s called. It had nice body and an herbal finish. But, I think it’s an acquired taste. How much did this meal cost? We had no idea.

Pedrablava 2012

Pedrablava 2012 – And it is Empty!

The house wine was PedraBlava 2012 and according to the label and Vincente, it was made expressly for Cal Compte by Clos Mogador, arguably the most renowned winery in Priorat. The first wine we had (Clos Dominic), although chronologically older was expressing it’s youth, edgy, unsettled but showing potential – needed time. This wine was drinking well right then with enough backbone, fruit, and spirit to age for awhile too. It may have simply been the difference between sipping sans food and sipping with a delicious meal. But, I preferred the Pedrablava. I couldn’t find the blend for the Pedrablava but I’m betting some non-traditional grapes made their way into it – Syrah maybe – a spicy finish? And like most of the Priorat reds we tasted, high in alcohol – 16%. Now, if we had thought about wine as a beverage containing serious alcohol before we started, we might have foregone the full litre at 3:00 pm given that this stuff is indeed large………….No, …………you know I’m just kidding. We would always chose to ignore that fact. If you have to think that hard about wine, you don’t deserve it.

Lesson #4: Priorat reds are generally high in alcohol.

Lesson #5: Pay no attention to Lesson #4. Priorat reds are large, expressive statements about this peaceful region. The power of the slate, the terraced slopes, the traditions, the labour intensity and passion required is reflected in the mass and grip of the wine. Enjoy them!

We slept soundly. Did I say it was quiet? Well, all except the church bells.

If your interest is peaked, my planning resources were:

Next Post: Siurana, Cordunella de Montsant, Laura, Escaladei, another Cal Compte meal, and lots more on Priorat wine

Word Power and The Red Daily Slosh

28 May

“When you hear the call you have to get it underway.” Ah, the 80’s and meaningful lyrics.

How many times have I glowingly recommended a red from the Southern Rhone? Go ahead think about it. Take your time scrolling through my posts. I’m waiting………… OK times up, ‘a lot of times’ is the correct answer. I love ‘em and assume that you do as well. They can be well-priced, adaptable to different situations, and, most importantly, almost always tasty. This week’s release features these wines among the 80 or so that are being featured.

Time out for a little recondite wine info. Like that word ‘recondite’? I looked up on and Recondite: little known; obscure: a reondite fact. If I use it three times, it’s mine – Word Power, baby!

The classification of wines from the Côtes du Rhone is eerily similar to that of Beaujolais. At least that’s how I try to keep all this stuff straight – by comparing and contrasting. The basic Southern Rhone appellation for reds, whites, and rosés is Côtes du Rhone. We’ve probably all had a red Côtes du Rhone. And, if we’ve had more than a couple, we’ve noticed a broad range of quality. Some truly great wines and others plonk. The next step up is the Côtes du Rhone Villages which means that the grapes come from one of 95 communes, many of which we don’t see over here. And, another step up is a village with its own terroir – a cru. They will show up on the label. The cru villages that we see most often include Gigondas, Vacqueras, Cairrane, and Rasteau. For all the reds, Grenache is dominant (at least 40%) with a supporting cast mostly of Syrah and Mourvèdre. I love the Grenache, the Granacha (Spain), the Cannonau (Sardinia). Rosé is from almost everywhere here but the best come from around the villages of Tavel and Lirac and are labeled accordingly. Recondite discussion over. Although it wasn’t really that recondite, was it? Three times!

ferme du montLet’s start in the très economical range. The 2012 La Ferme du Mont Première Côte Côtes du Rhone #251645 $14.95 is a cousin of a wine of which I’ve recommended several vintages here – La Ferme du Mont Le Ponnant. The Première Côte is smooth, jammy with moderate tannins – that’s the Grenache. Absent of any woody stuff – it’s aged in concrete tanks. I’d think that you could serve this as a red-in-the-sun wine. You know, there’s always someone who doesn’t drink whites or rosés that’s taking up space on your patio. Pour them some of this. That doesn’t mean that it can’t take food or couldn’t pass for a winter wine. I’m just thinking that it isn’t winter right now and we are all over tapas and appetizer style eating. I bet you’ll like it at this price.

ortasThe 2010 Ortas Prestige Rasteau #985929 $19.95 shows us that all Grenache dominated wines don’t have to be low-tannin, fruit first wines. This has a dry profile with Syrah pepper and spice. Great BBQ or stew wine. It’s had time to figure it all out and is comfortable with its life – kind of like me. Nice balance – unlike me.

monteslspnThe Montes Limited Selection label brings pretty good value. I’m thinking there’s probably a million cases of the ‘limited’ selection but I’ll let that paradox go. The next rung up is the Montes Alpha line and, if you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll know that I’ve recommended a bunch of Alphas. This week there’s a wine I think you should try – 2012 Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir #037937 $14.95. Pinot Noir tends to be pretty bad at the lower price range and that’s effected a lot of people’s perception of the grape – they just don’t like it. Have to agree that cheap Pinot is pretty lame or just too thin and bitey. This one is clearly a cool climate pinot – alive with acidity, freshness and red fruit. Nice tang on the finish. A wee little chill wouldn’t hurt. Let me know what you think.

nicaloFinally, BBQ season has arrived in The Great White North. If I wasn’t suggesting below that you get the Visa out, I’d suggest that you pick up a case of the 2013 Tedeschi Capitel Nicalò #984997 $17.95 for your next mess of grilled chicken or burgers. This is a Valpolicella Superiore from the usual suspects – Rodinella, Corvino, and Corvinone. The grapes are dried out lending a deep quality to the flavours and a raisinated sense to the nose. It’s a consistent performer. The 2013 carries some tobacco and black cherries on the nose and that’s replayed on the swallow and finish. Good tannin and acidity to pair with burnt meat or those Portobello mushrooms soaked in Balsamic and grilled to perfection. Great value.

Wines that I’m picking up untasted:

pagigondas2012 Pierre Amadieu Romane-Machotte Gigondas #017400 $27.95If I had to pick one village cru that has been my favourite over the years, it would have to be Gigondas. I haven’t done the geological analysis of terroir so I’m not sure if it’s just the luck of the draw, the producers that I’ve had access to, or if in fact Gigondas is a superior village generally. I find that the best ones can be like mini Chateauneuf-du-Papes – more accessible and flowery though. Or, is suggesting that there might be ‘mini’ C-d-P’s the statement of a wine heretic? I know this is outside the Daily Slosh range but don’t you deserve a bit of a treat tucked away down below for a special moment? That’s my rationalization, anyway. And, it works in keeping my cellar moderately sated.

auntsfieldSpeaking of treats – 2012 Auntsfield Single Vineyard Pinot Noir #361246 $29.95 – I loved, loved, loved the 2011 of this label. I hadn’t really sliced and diced the appellations for Pinot in New Zealand with the exception of understanding Central Otago’s brand a bit. But, last year, when I had the 2011, I did a little taste research into Marlborough Pinots. I do this for you, my readers. It’s very gruelling work but I soldier on. For me, I found that the Marlboroughs I had seemed to be a little more clearly defined red fruit and, although they carried minerality, not near as much as Central Otago, nor as lean and powerful. I’d say a gentler, more accessible Pinot. Here’s hoping that this is half as great as the 2011.

Thanks to Jancis Robinson and Karen McNeil for fact checks.

Word Up.




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