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This Just Might be the Best Article I Ever Read About Wine

25 Jan

I love Asimov’s approach to wine; the creating, drinking and the discussion of wine.

Charles Scicolone on Wine

Nonsense. Romance is the essence of wine.

Great wine by its nature is mysterious, unpredictable and perhaps ultimately unknowable. We understand a lot about it, and yet so much is unresolved. How does a wine express a sense of place, subject to minute differences of terroir? How does it evolve and become complex with time? I embrace these and many other uncertainties, which requires me to give up the illusion of omniscient expertise that is so often conferred to wine writers. Consider the sorts of questions that may arrive in one day’s inbox:

1. “I just bought a case of 2010 Barolo…

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Wine Gifts – A Practical and Pragmatic Guide, Part 2

11 Dec

Some great advice from Anatoli on buying for your wine geek, taking any pressure off me to publish a similar post.
A note to those contemplating a gift for Yours Truly, I know you’re out there. Anatoli has done a great job of highlighting the options and please do click the link to the earlier post on gifts of wine. I’m really easy on that score. A bit of a wine……….what’s the word? And, since you’re asking, yes, Barolos and Brunellos are not going overboard.


Happy HolidaysHere we go again – as promised, a continuation of our Wine Gift Guide (here is the link for the first part, where we were talking specifically about wine as a gift). Please remember our guiding principals – practical and pragmatic. Know what your gift recipient needs or wants. Measure it up for yourself – would you be happy getting same exact gift. Spend the money as you would for yourself, not as you would think you have to spend to look good.

The theme of today’s installment of the Wine Gifts Guide is Wine Gadgets, often also called Wine Accessories. This category includes everything which helps you to handle the wine or the bottle, and the whole idea behind gadgets is that they help to enhance the pleasure of drinking wine. An elegant glass, a beautiful decanter, an easy to use wine opener, a pourer which protects…

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#MWWC13 Time to vote!

9 Dec

Here lies the link to the entries into this month’s Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. This is where you read the entries and vote, if so inclined. No, this is where you vote – period. Democracy is a privilege worth preserving.

the drunken cyclist

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Pais It Forward – The Red Daily Slosh

19 Nov

As I type this post, I glance out the window to a yard covered in snow (and getting deeper) and rock to Talking Heads, volume at 11. We all remember that über cool 80’s group, right? I discovered that they’re same as they ever were. To quote Chris Farley, that means they’re, “Haaaawesome”.

These recommendations are for the class of November 22nd.

A release called “Uncork The Finest” naturally focuses on the finest (read: expensive) wines and makes it difficult to provide ‘daily’ slosh recommendations. But, I’ve given it a college try and found 4 beauts. And, if you want to splurge in the run up to the holidays, there are also some classic, iconic labels such as Chateau de Beaucastel, Sassicaia, and Silver Oak. Suggestion? Save some money by going on one less treasure hunt at Costco. You’ll save enough for a case!

Disclaimer: It seems that every time I review the wines available against my experience and notes, I bump into a Grenache (Garnacha) dominated wine that I’ve liked a lot. Not sure what the attraction is. Grenache is generally a little less tannic? But, I quite like a streak of tannin. I’ve been to the Languedoc-Roussillon, Southern Rhone and Provence – all areas that grow a lot of Grenache and I like to recreate that vibe? I don’t really get it. Maybe it’s just a phase that I’m going through. Wait, I know. They’re really good!

nostre paisThis week there is a three-peat wine. I liked it in 2010, liked it more in 2011, love it in 2012. The 2012 Nostre Païs Costières de Nîmes #295410 $21.95 from Michel Gassier is a wine of elegance and regional representation – a blend of Grenache, Carignan, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Syrah. It’s medium-to-full-bodied, scents of leaves, lavender – chock full of herbs, dark fruit in the mouth. This is bolder than the last two vintages – more complete and definitely more substantial – longer finish. I enjoyed the last two versions with simple fare like pizza and those ones were perfect for that. I think this vintage needs a bit more class. I’d think a stew with winter vegetables might work. This would cellar for a few years (3 – 5). The 2013 vintage was a bit of a challenge for Grenache in the south. Can’t wait to see what 2013’s Nostre Pais brings. FYI, there’s another Michel Gassier offering this week – 2012 Château de Nages JT Costières de Nîmes #7368767 $24.95. I can’t comment on this vintage but it is highly recommended in several reviews I read. I guess that qualifies as a comment after all?

barahondaLately, there have been more Monastrell wines out of Spain showing up than in the past. What is Monastrell? Monastrell is just Mourvedre carrying a Spanish passport. Generally, unless it’s blended with some of its friends and called Chateauneuf-du-Pape, it’s well-priced. This week, the 2011 Barahonda Sin Madera Monastrell #366823 $15.95 arrives. This wine comes from Yecla DO (Denomenación de Origen) a region that we don’t see that often – but Yecla’s making a move up the charts. Yecla is in the south of Spain just under Valencia, near the Mediterranean – it’s hot and the wines show it. This wine is all fruit – darker and red. Fermented and aged in stainless steel, there isn’t a hit of anything that might be associated with time in wood. It’s easy drinking with some good spicy elements on the finish. Moderately high 15% ABV – so some heat on the nose and mouth. Smooth party wine and a great introduction to Mourvedre’s Spanish alter ego.

Interesting factoid: The Mourvedre grape was named via a contest held in the village of Uzes from where the grape was thought to originate. The contest asked residents to suggest a name easy to correctly pronounce by francophones but impossible for anglophones. Mission accomplished.

fincaecinalA couple weeks ago, I opened a Ribera del Deuro Reserva (2005 San Cristobal) that I’d forgotten in my mess down below that masquerades as a ‘cellar’. It was the best wine that I’d had in months. Sweet cedary scents, fruit still showy and perfectly balanced. I regret to say that I have very few RdD left. So, what to do? Well, let’s buy a few and let ‘em grow up in the basement. Although it may not cellar for as long, the 2010 Finca el Encinal Crianza #355081 $17.95 provides me with that opportunity. These wines are predominantly Tempranillo or Tinto Fino as they call it in Ribera del Deuro. This one has a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon. Crianza wines can be a real find for Spanish red lovers. Usually immediately drinkable, easy-going, priced well, and lip-smacking yummy. This wine is a huge cut above anything explained that simply. It is smooth, full-bodied, complex, wanting to please above its designation. Love it. This has a real presence. Let it gasp a bit before you slurp. Very impressive.

ironyPreviously recommended and re-released – 2011 Irony Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon #025106 $19.95. My previous review here.

Also, the 2010 Chianti Classico’s are generally very good. There are a few already on shelves and two in this release (Rocca Delle Macie and San Felice il Grigio) – both riservas.

Images courtesy of:


Save Thanksgiving, Start Shopping Today!

18 Nov

An interesting and compelling argument to close stores on US Thanksgiving Day. I’d suggest we move it back further to either Canadian Thanksgiving or July 6, my birthday. Think of all that time to get the ‘perfect’ gift. Although, I fear that I would still be left pounding on the LCBO door at 6:05 Christmas Eve for a few last minute stocking stuffers. Or, we could just need so much stuff.

The Food and Wine Hedonist

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about people protesting stores being open on Thanksgiving to start the Holiday Shopping Season.   There are a few Facebook groups on it and people have protested some shopping malls.   Of course the stores’ reactions have been something silly about providing a service to the community or some BS like that.  But some have announced that they will NOT be open on Thanksgiving, and I think people should actively seek those stores out.    

All of this has been because of this post from last year.  I really wish those rat bastards would give me some credit.   Sheesh…


This Thursday in America is Thanksgiving, that terrific confluence of family, friends, gratitude, food, drink, relaxation, and maybe some football.   It’s also the first day of Hanukkah, so many of you “Members of the Tribe” will be celebrating Thanksgivingkah.  (Can I trademark that?)


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Confessions of a wine (buying) addict; 10 signs you may have a problem

12 Jul

I think that you’d enjoy this take on a disease that afflicts people that I know. But not me. I have made a resolution to shed the cellar. Live in the moment. Wait…..dud you say they have a case lot price for Barolo?

The Wine Wankers

CellarThey say the first step is acknowledging you have a problem. If you are not sure whether you have one, read on, for our 10 signs that you may have a wine buying problem.  Our extensive research (mostly practical) indicates that if you score 5 or more out of 10, you are in trouble 🙂

We must admit that we get almost the same thrill from finding a wine treasure/bargain as we do drinking it; then there is the problem of how many to get. At least 3. One now, one at peak age and one to see how long it will last. Maybe 6, oh it’s the same freight for 12. So 12.

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19 May

Just coming clean with this re-blog. And will be very conscious of how many times I use ‘lemon’ in my wine descriptions from here on out.


How to become an obnoxious wine jerk in just minutes. © iStockphoto
Do you enjoy wine, but have no desire to learn that much about it? Or perhaps you just want to have a non-embarrassing conversation with the sommelier. Follow these 10 steps to go from wine ignoramus to obnoxious wine jerk in just minutes.

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Archive – A Chilly Spring Charcuterie Crawl

25 Apr

Some of the bloggers that I follow include restaurant reviews or tales of eating out. So I thought that I’d give it a try.

archive1This past week, I was slumming in Toronto, spending a night at the pleasure of the province. No, not doing my normal 30 to 90 day intermittent sentence but tagging along with the Director. That usually means while she tends to the J-O-B, I fill my time with a trip to Summerhill LCBO and visiting with dear friends. I’ve spoken in these pages of the Summerhill store and the bounty that it holds but today I’ll focus on an interesting night of charcuterie crawling with my friend, Andrew. The thing that you need to know is that Andrew borders on obsessive on the subject of what my mother used to call ‘cold cuts’. Now, mom really only meant bologna, or better spelled baloney, not what passes these days for ‘cured meats’. Andrew informed this day that he had even made his own (now, let’s see if I have this right), capacollo? The details were of immense interest to him – the story ending with the product hanging in his basement, I believe. That’s dedication to the subject of your obsession – if you read my last post, you’ll understand me if I say, I’ll not follow his lead and make my own wine.

Where was I? Oh yeah, charcuterie crawling. We met up on Portland, above King at Gusto. It was a new spot for me, we sat at the bar, and I innocently asked the bartender how long they had been open assuming “not very long”. The answer escapes me (somewhere around 2 years) but it was a where have you been? answer. So, I’m clearly not up to date on my cool places. Among a full menu, before 6 they serve a charcuterie plate which we had to have. They have their own barrel wine at $1 an ounce. A cool concept – but struggled to translate for me. Call me a wine snob but it was not great, just OK. I’d mention their Niagara pinot grigio was redolent with some fruit that you all have never heard of – but you’d see through me and you’ll know I didn’t have any. However, it allowed us a little wriggle room on the budget. I won’t expand on Gusto – just to say that it seems to be a great place to sit on their front or second story patio – great vibe, super staff, good wine selection (excellent Italian selection but avoid the barrel). I’d recommend for afternoon cocktails – small batch liquor available.

We then cabbed to Archive: a small, village-style bistro on Dundas a few blocks west of Bathurst. When I say ‘village-style’, I mean that it isn’t all tricked up by a designer – it’s sparse but not ‘minimalist’. Follow? Archive is the brainchild of Joshua Corea and his business partner, Joel. Along with chef, Ian Liepurts, they serve a small plate menu with quite an interesting wine list. We settled in for a session of discussing cultural affairs, our families and ordered some stuff: Baccala Mantecato (as per the menu – salt cod whipped w/olive oil and topped with/orange zest, olive, parsley); chorizo; lonzino (cured pork loin); celery, fennel, parsley salad; olives; dates with manchego wrapped in prosciutto; and 1608, a Quebec unpasteurized semi-firm cheese.

So, how was it? These guys played right into Andrew’s weakness because they make some of their own cured meats in-house, including the lonzino. Much discussing of techniques with the on-site meat curer ensued (yawn). But, the lonzino was superb and the best lonzino (read: only lonzino) that I’ve ever experienced. I’m not someone who orders salt cod much. Not sure why but I don’t. So, I was interested in the baccala. It was unexpectedly light, creamy and just the right amount of citrus playing off the cod – served on crostini. Loved it. When I return it will again be on my plate (board). Quebecois cheese was great – just starting to have a little stink but not too much. But, let me say that the highlight was the dates. I had recently been in Chicago and was told to allez-vous à Avec, a trendy restaurant that I was told served these exquisite prosciutto wrapped chorizo stuffed dates. We didn’t – allez à Avec, that is – so I missed the dates. Just had to try them at Archive and well, I now have a new favourite nibble – dates with a snippet of manchego wrapped in prosciutto and slightly warmed – wow!

But, this is a wine blog and I must talk wine or my wine blogger’s license is revoked. I find that many restaurants’ wine lists are somewhat lazy. The work goes into trying to attract purchases with styles, regions, and labels that diners will appreciate sans sip. Wines they won’t fear. Wines that they’ve had, seen on other wine lists, or can somehow be related to their favourite wine at home by skilled staff. “May I call you Bill? Bill, if you like Flowing Creek cab sav, you’ll love Babbling Brook cab sav.” It’s not to say that there’s anything objectively wrong with these wines – just the same old- same old – boring. “But. Bill, we need to sell wine and people are uncomfortable enough ordering wine. Let alone when they’ve never heard of the region, the producer, etc.” I get it. Then step up to educating them and they’ll thank you. But, for me and my peeps, it’s neat to see Gaillac, Bierzo, Montsant, Barberesco, Cotes du Jura, and Pic Saint-Loup wines, among others, available by the glass (average price $11) as we see at Archive. I fear someone having the salt cod with McManis or Ironstone. – because there are always style points available and they’d be leaving them on the ice with Virtue and Moir and to make it worse, the perfectly good wine would lose as would the food. The list isn’t Euro-centric. Well, maybe a bit. But it’s European cuisine, isn’t it? There are Ontario wines – Lailey, Stratus, Norman Hardie, Cave Spring, Pearl-Morissette, and Tawse all represented. And, they have a fine rotating selection of port – I had a superb Coheita to end the night.

When I see places like this, ones I like, I right away think to myself, “What a risky concept. I wonder if they can make it work.” Well, bravo to Joshua, Joel, and Ian – this place works. If you’re looking for a meal of primi, secondi, etc. head further west on Dundas to Campagnolo (superb country Italian – wish that I’d written a post on it after we visited last summer – try the bone marrow). But, if you want what Andrew and I wanted – conversation, great wine choices, inventive takes on traditional tapas-style nibbles, light eating, and Andrew’s all too necessary house-made charcuterie, book a bistro table at Archive. And, for crying out loud double up on the dates!

Archive: 909 Dundas Street West, Toronto 647-748-0909

Cash and debit only.

Portugal Redux and the Red Daily Slosh

21 Apr

Spring weather shout out to the David Wilcox fans out there. You know who you are.

Disregard my earlier proclamations stating that Spring was here because today marks the real date. I mean, Spring Is Here, Baby! It’s glorious outside, windows open, birds chirping and my keyboard singing. If you’re looking for spring recos, check out my post on that very topic.

passerelaA post or two back, I reviewed a Portuguese red and stated that I was going on a hunt for good Portuguese wines. I opened another a week back – 2009 Casa de Passarela Reserva #365557 $18.95. This is from the Dao region which is a ways south of the Duoro river – sheltered and warm, it makes Mediterrenean style reds. This blend is predominantly touriga nacional, the most commonly used grape for port. I found it a bit closed and tight at first needing loads of air. I didn’t really let that stop me. And, once it got going, it provided some strong wood influences and purple fruit. Opaque, quite sophisticated, lots of energy, and I’d highly recommend if you lean toward Tuscan-style wines.

These recommendations are for the April 26th release.

threeriversThis winter I got away a couple times to visit our neighbours to the south, as we like to call them. It was decidedly warmer, cheaper, and, when you feel like you’re on vacation (and, don’t suggest that I’m on permanent vacation again) more fun. I had maybe a bottle of wine or two. One was a great Washington red – 2011 Three Rivers River’s Red #287433 $19.95. I did not pay $19.95 – or even an exchange adjusted $19.95 – way south of that. But, I digress. This is a merlot dominated substantive wine – not with fruit but its structure – solid tannins through to the finish, a bit dry at the start, a nice vein of acidity, and the fruit I get isn’t the normal merlot reddish fruits but dark and dirty ones – maybe the syrah and cab franc in the blend. The write up suggests steak and that seems bang on. This isn’t a standing around wine. I know because I stood around when I had it. Confession: sat around. Have with food. If you’re partial to California cabs, take a peek at this. I think it will please you and remember: eat responsibly.

momopnI have been disproportionately enjoying New Zealand pinot noir lately. Our Easter dinner this past weekend featured The Ned and Te Mania – both nice examples of entry level Kiwi Pinot . Which coincidentally is the sound I hear out my window right now. The northern shrike in spring – Ki….WI… This week, there’s the pinot half of the Momo label – 2011 Momo Pinot Noir #163972 $19.95. This is an organic product. Great pinot acidity, minimal oak effects except for the tea notes that I love, and medium bodied. This is indeed a standing around wine – gravitating to leaning around – on to sitting around. It was great with a simple shrimp pasta (butter, EVOO, and garlic) but you can just twist and pour and enjoy by itself. If you haven’t had New Zealand pinot lately, pick this up. If, like me you have, pick it up anyway. Momo’s sauvignon blanc is outstanding value as well.

villacafaggioI have had a few of the 2010 Chianti Classicos and, there wasn’t one that I didn’t like. Not sure if the consensus is that it’s a good vintage, great vintage or meh. But, I think that if you pay attention and Tuscany didn’t suffer from a flood or drought, you can find great Chianti Classico in most vintages. This just in – I did a little extra research and it was a ‘great’ vintage according to the pros. This beaut of a Chianti is one that I look for every year and keep a few in my basement that seem to age very well (still have a ’98) – maybe 10 to 15 years. The 2010 Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico #176776 $19.95 is a solid value as always – strong bones of acidity, easy tannins, and musty Tuscan scents and flavours. A friend that loves Italian reds would love this – so, MR, pick up a couple – one now and the other a few years hence. I love this! Pork roast. Actually, if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll know that my food recommendations are a crap shoot. I presently believe that the ‘science’ of pairing is a bit overblown. But, I am open to arguments to the contrary. I find that if you love the wine and you love the food, you’ll probably like the match.

faustinoReaders’ feedback suggests that they are most interested in everyday priced wines. I have a splurge category but haven’t written much on splurges to focus on more affordable quaffs. I listen to my readers (all 7 of them). But, I just couldn’t ignore a stunningly elegant wine like the 2001 Faustino I Grand Reserva #976662 $32.95. A Rioja Gran Reserva must age at least 5 years, 2 of which has to be in oak barrels. Had this a year ago and it still carries lots of pep – not flabby or easy – still demanding your attention. I can’t really see how this couldn’t age gracefully (like Sophia Loren?) another five or so years. Wait that doesn’t sound right. Of course, we want Sophia to age for more than 5 years. Back to the wine – powerful and smoky, nervy, lipsmacking good. And, lots of fruit especially after the swallow –  long finish. If you’re a fan of shelf talkers, this one will probably have a 97 on the tag. And, oh yeah, it was Decanter Magazine’s Top Wine of 2013 (out of 3,200 wines tasted)! Sometimes, you spend a little extra and ask, “Why did I bother?” this will not invoke that sentiment, rather “Why didn’t I splurge for more than one?”


Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #8: Time to Vote!

25 Mar
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