Archive | Weekend and Splurge Wines RSS feed for this section

Let It Snow – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

8 Dec

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

A couple of quick recos that hit shelves this weekend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers.

Bill

Quick Picks – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

10 Jun
socks

Bill’s Cool Socks?

I’ve had very little time in the last week or so to attend to my writing. What with sorting my sock drawer, drinking wine, grooving a faulty golf swing, drinking wine, solving the puzzle that is Elbowgate, drinking wine, and watching the Trump-a-mania drama, I haven’t had a lot of time. Hell, the last one is a full-time job if CNN coverage is any indication. A train wreck really and I can’t stop rubbernecking. What about you? Seriously.

But, I wanted to provide a couple quick recommendations for the June 11 release at the mother ship:

Two medium-bodied Washington wines are solid picks:

majesticThe 2013 Diversion Majestic Red #446997 $18.95 is a red blend – can’t seem to find the varieties utilized but am assuming there’s Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon as the biggest component. Fresh, earthy, lightly oaked, and decadent. Great summer evening wine.

sevenfallsmerlot2011 Seven Falls Merlot #420711 $19.95 is medium-bodied and chocolatey goodness. I used to do this regular or semi-regular wine tasting at the place I worked for. There was a person who attended almost every one that could sense chocolate in anything from this Merlot to Champagne to balsamic vinegar. At first, I thought it was a peculiarity of her palate. But later, I realized that she was just projecting her addiction to chocolate on to the wine. “I get a lift of Lindt in the glass with solid Ghiardelli 70% cocoa on the finish.” This wine as the one above would be a nice summer evening wine.

Just a quick aside: if you have never tried wines from Washington State and I know many of you haven’t because I see a lot of nodding heads out there, it’s time. The state makes some of the most structured Syrahs, bold Cabernet Sauvignons and solid Rieslings that come from south of the border. At the LCBO, there are always lots of Charles Smith’s offerings (Velvet Devil Merlot, Smith & Smith Red, Smith & Smith Chardonnay, Kung Fu Riesling, and occasionally his ‘K’ Vintners stuff) plus the Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest stuff that I’m always hawking. Start there and see what I’m talking about.

LAURA'S2012 Creekside Laura’s Red #117960 $19.95 a blend of six varieties, I tasted this at the cellar door. Creekside has a fantastic reception facility with great nibbles. Check out my recommendations on visiting that area here. I find this wine to be joyful. I would usually save that descriptor for a lighter, perhaps bubbly wine. But, in this case, I like that it’s local (feeling a little joy there), expressive (joy is building), and so drinkable (Level 11 joy reached – time to open another?). Although you could match this to many dishes, I like it neat.

nadjaStaying in Niagara, there is a bottling which I get every year – the Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling #578625 $24.95. I haven’t tried the 2015 which is this week’s feature, but I can bet that it is dominated by a streak of acidity that’s juicy and stoney. Great citrus and foodability built in. Plus, I’ve cellared this for anywhere from 5 – 10 years with nice development.

nemesisA Shiraz used to be my ‘go to’ back when I started this journey of wine exploration. It was reasonably priced, interesting and always available. Lately (as in the past 5 years), I haven’t been partaking in the Aussie take on that grape much. Not sure why – just don’t seem as interested as before. This week, though, there’s a Shiraz that I love. I think the fact that it’s more subtle, interesting than some of the other efforts. The 2013 Zonte’s Footstep Baron von Nemesis Shiraz #212936 $17.95 is a dry, spicy, powerful Shiraz perfectly suited to lamb, burgers, something burnt with a bit of fat. Swirl and sniff this beauty. Go ahead, I’ll wait – sniffing noises off stage – there you go – complexity even for a nose as large and unsophisticated as mine. I’m not fond of big with no point. This has a purpose – it’s your pleasure. I reviewed another Zonte’s Footstep offering here and the 2012 Nemesis here. A consistently excellent label.

delhommeauWhat would a summer late-afternoon-evening-sit-outside-with-friends-and-nibbles be without a Muscadet? OK, it would still be fine – even without all the hyphens and Muscadet. But it would be best with a bottle of über chilled 2013 Michel Delhommeau Cuvée Harmonie Sur Lie Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine #164624 $16.95. This isn’t quite as crisp as most Muscadets. It has a bit of roundness, ripeness to it. Sur Lie means the lees are not filtered out adding depth. This one demonstrates that. If you’re a score chaser, this didn’t score 90 (88) but it’s 3 and 1/2 fishes on the duffswinesscale®. For the uninitiated that’s pretty fine.

cotodeimazI’ve been drinking the 2010 Coto de Imaz Reserva #23762 $22.95 by the case the past………..well, would you believe month? OK, past weekor so…………..and not quite a case but still too much. This was the first Rioja I ever bought by the case. I like it in most years and love it in the rest. If you were to roll up all your great Rioja wine experiences and then sip this, you’d say, “Yeah – that be it.”. Pure old school Rioja. Sandalwood, cherries and beautiful tannins. If you can find some after I’m done – stock up. Thinking rockinredblog here but play Jimi Hendrix All Along The Watchtower while you drink this. Perfect pairing.

And, if I’m honest (and, “I’m nothing if not honest,” he smirked) I’ve been supplementing my Rioja fixation with a little (read: a lot) of the rosé. Particularly the 2015 Carte Noir Côtes de Provence #319384 $17.95. This is crisp, sunny, and has an almost salty character to it. I read somewhere (or I’m making it up) that wine appreciation follows a definite curve as people become more aware and grow older – from bubbly to sweet rosé to sweetish white to dry white to dry red to Champagne and then to rosé. Due to my lack of funds, I skipped the Champagne part but am all-in 0n the last one.

And, since no one not called ‘Bot’ could score any Hip tickets, here’s a treat. Listen to the love. Hard to imagine any other group getting this kind of reaction from a staid Toronto crowd. I can’t imagine what the farewell tour will be like. Tickets on resale at $1000 and up – crazy.

Cheers

Bill

Summer’s End? The Rainbow Daily Slosh

21 Aug

gbroseI was on a bit of a promotion tour for rosés a while back and penned this post. Oh, it wasn’t a real tour, it just felt like all I was drinking was pink liquid sunshine. As I wound down the fascination (Confession: I really haven’t actually wound it down as witnessed by my Famille Perrin Tavel last night), I picked up a bottle from one of my favourite producers in the south of France – Gérard Bertrand. And, what do I see in this week’s release? La meme chose. The 2014 Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Rosé #373985 $18.95 somehow allows you to smell the dusty, scrubby landscape of the Languedoc along with some strawberries right from the sniff – Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah. It’s a solid rosé. I’m not saying it isn’t fun but I’d suggest that you eat something with this to fully appreciate it. Something fresh and chewy. And, it doesn’t need the hot afternoon sun to strut its stuff. It has the heft of a Tavel. I’m buying a couple for the winter. Very cool bottle with a glass closure for good measure.

laclapeOK, before you say it, I do have a man crush on Gerard B. There is a series from the Languedoc that I like a lot – The Grand Terroir Series. Produced by Gérard Bertrand, the former French rugby star. This week, the 2011 Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir la Clape Syrah/Carignan/Mourvèdre #370262 $18.95 arrives. This is pure Languedoc for me. Full-bodied, rich and somewhat savage. Or should I say, sauvage? Spicy with some herbal things happening on the finish. Great red meat wine. I’d save a bunch for the winter stew season. A good value wine.

reichsratI spent a lovely evening with Oliver, The Wine Getter, last week and he popped and poured a few German Rieslings from the Mosel. When I returned home, I wanted to pick up some of the same. What did I find but a wine that is hitting the shelves this week? 2012 Reichsrat Von Buhl Armand Riesling Kabinett #060905 $18.95 It’s not from the Mosel but from Pfalz. What I’d read about Pfalz was limited but it implied that many of their wines had less minerality and more punch than some other German regions. Couldn’t tell you if that’s true generally but this wine seemed to fit that description. Acidity rather muted but a long finish of citrus fruit, suggestions of a warm region. I’m not sure that this would cellar for long but right now it’s a medium sweet introduction to Pfalz for me. Liked it a lot with emapanadas. What? Of course German empanadas.

balbasAs well as rosés, I’ve been pounding……er……sipping Spanish wines. I’m heading to Spain in September for 2 and half weeks and tried to fit in Ribera del Duero. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned – it’s better to do less well than to do it all poorly. So, next time for RdD. One of my favourite wines from there is the Balbas Reserva #085183 $20.95. This week it’s the 2005 but I’ve loved almost every vintage since ’01. If you love expressive, leathery, sandalwoody Tempranillo, you’ll love this wine. It’s already showing its stuff but could cellar for another decade. Just think about sharing that 2005 vintage in 2025. Sitting at the foot of my bed in the old folks home, my teeth in a bedside glass, paired with pureed pork, instant mashed, and canned fruit cocktail. Yum.

I like Sancerre.
Blogger Aside: You ever notice how wines from Europe seldom tell you what kind of grapes are in them. When in North America, the name of the varietal is almost always on the label front and centre. I like the cryptic quality of those Euro labels as do many oenophiles. It’s neat to have a label that you need WSET Level 3 to understand. It separates the ‘real’ wine drinkers from the wannabes. Kidding. Actually, the reason I like it is that it’s more specific. The DO, DOCG, and AOC in the case of French wines, prescribe fairly strict rules about what grapes can be used where and even many of the agricultural and cellar techniques allowed.

attitudeWhere was I going? Oh yeah, I quite like Sancerre. Outside of white Burgundy, it strikes me as the most sophisticated white wine. Now, don’t everyone send in their choice for the most sophisticated white wine. Save it for your own blog. Sancerre is from the Loire Valley and is made with Sauvignon Blanc – although not mentioned on the label. And, the ‘go to’ Sancerre for me is Jolivet’s – readily available and reasonably priced. This week, there’s one of his less typical Sauvignon Blancs – the 2014 Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc #971887 $19.95 is not strictly a Sancerre although from the Loire. And, I’m not sure that you could mistake it for one. It’s brasher with a Jimmy Durante nose – large and expressive. As youthful as this is, you might think that those smells aren’t evident in the mouth. You’d be wrong. They are all over your mouth – gooseberries, grapefruit. This is not for you if you prefer the more subdued Sancerre approach. Do I like it? Love it! Take this to a party where New Zealand whites are a fave and I bet people pause with this in the glass; not quite sure what it is. Could it be Kiwi? Probably not – a soupçon de je ne c’est pas? Try this and let me know what you think.

ornelloI mentioned above my trip to Ann Arbor and The Winegetter. I brought them a couple of reds. I later discovered that Oliver’s weakness in reds is Sangiovese. I had brought him much heavier wines. Great heavier wines – but still not the same style at all. If I had paid attention to his writings a bit more, I would have brought him something akin to the 2010 Rocco di Frassinello Ornello #412601 $37.95. This is a sweet red – as in suweeeet!. It’s a bit riper than many traditional Sangiovese wines, I find out it is made with Sangioveto (40%), Cab Sav (20%), Merlot (20%), and Syrah (20%). OK, before you run to whatever reference source you use in your little wine world, Sangioveto is obfiscation-speak for Sangiovese. I know this because it says so on the internet. A truly lovely smooth, lipsmacking red. All elements tied together until the finish when the acidity that I, for one, love provides a little extra kick. I’m positive that Oliver would love it too.

Cheers!

Wine As a Depilatory – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

11 Jun

I found an interesting and little known wine fact in one of my readings this week. Around 1000 BC, a white wine, that has DNA similar to Greek Assyrtiko, was used by the Phoenicians to wax their legs. Apparently, the acid and alcohol in the wine cleanly removed all leg hair. Smooth legs were revered by women and leg hair on a woman was seen as a negative class distinction back then. Vines were planted throughout the Levant to provide sufficient wine to render most Phoenician women smooth legged. All this explains the familiar Phoenician morning-after phrase – “Hair of the Leg.” Interesting.

This week, there’s a just a handful of recos, so I’ll just wrap all the colours of the wine rainbow together in one post.

carpeneThis time of year is great for cheap but cheerful bubbly. Is there really a time of year that isn’t? And Prosecco can be a good option. However, there so much Prosecco out there now that the category is a bit watered down IMHO. So, I tend to stay with one or two labels because bad Prosecco is, well, very disappointing. Ever since my friend Andrew introduced me to it, my ‘go-to’ Prosecco is Carpenè Malvolti 1868 Brut Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore #727438 $16.95. I find it has the proper balance of fruit, tight fizz, and weight for me. It is maybe a bit more stony than you’re used to but that’s why I like it. Pop a cold one of these when Suzie or Nicole comes over. They luv Prosecco! Question: do you say PRO seek o, or pro SEK o, or PRO sek o? I kind of interchange them just in case. That way I’m right part of the time.

frcchardonnayWe visited Flat Rock Cellars last September and I wrote about them here. They are, for my money, one of the most consistent producers of reasonably priced wines from Niagara. The 2012 Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay #286278 $18.95 is a perfect example of that. This isn’t your over-oaked, buttery vanilla bomb Chardonnay. But, neither is it one of those stern, minerally, unoaked varieties. It’s kind of what Goldilocks wanted – “just right”. It’s fruit first and fresh. Although this would be called a cool climate Chardonnay, I’d say that it will appeal to those that also like the warmer styles such as those from California, say. Confused? Don’t be. Get a bunch for the patio, deck, dock, table, bed, balcony, or sidewalk. Did I say it was just right?

trespicosWell, what have we here? It can’t be. Yes, it’s 2012 Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha #273748 $19.95. This was one of the better values in the store for several years when it was priced about $3 – $4 cheaper. Not sure what drove the price up. Lenin would say it’s the greedy capitalists. My friend, Tim would say it’s the unions. But, I bet it’s just a typo by an overworked LCBO employee. And, now they have to live with it. They must make a zillion cases of this stuff. You can’t go into a wine store in Canada or the continental US without seeing it. This vintage will be ‘released’ several times this calendar year at the mother ship. Don’t let that fact dissuade you from purchase. It’s pure Northern Spain  Garnacha – intense, full-bodied, cherries, woody things, and herbs. I wondered why so big and found out upon inquiry (Wikipedia – I know, I previously pledged not to Google wine stuff – but I caved) that the DO Campo de Borja gets very little rain, meaning fewer berries and it’s hot which combines to make it full-bodied and assertive. It needs food really to be appreciated. Great BBQ wine.

langaA cheap Garnacha – 2012 Langa Tradicion Centenaria #194795 $14.95 arrives this Saturday as well – a tiche less large than the one above. Provides good value. As well from a dry zone – DO Catalayud. It is a substantial wine as well. These wines really reflect the stony, scrubby ground they come from. This one has less complexity, more straight forward than the Tres Picos but at $14.95 it rocks. This would work with burgers.

fptavelFrom last release there’s the 2014 Famille Perrin Tavel #680801 $19.95. Tavel is the red drinker’s pink and this one definitely will appeal to those that prefer red wines. It’s substantive for a rosé but still carries that refreshing cleansing sensation in your mouth. Good and dry – darker fruits – no strawberries here. A hit of acid on the finish. I recommended this wine to a friend to accompany dinner and it was a winner. Great cottage wine with fresh tomatoes, olives, shrimp, avocados, and bread – that kind of stuff. Inventory is getting low – so get a move on.

castellodamaFor a wee bit of a splurge pick up the 2009 Castello di Ama Riserva Chianti Classico #039768 $34.95. This is all Chianti – cherries, earthy, mustiness. Lovely wine. As a fellow wine drinker tweeted yesterday about a different wine, “Wow, Wow, Wow.” That’s a triple Wow! And, as a former math major, I know that that’s just one Wow removed from a top score of 4 Wows. If this is the 2009, how great will the 2010 be? I’m betting 4 Wows. Cellar this one for a few years or pop and pour.

Oh yeah, the part above about the Phoenicians – just made that up. Not sure why. But, how many women out there thought for a minute that it would provide a great excuse to buy wine? And, those wine geeks were getting ready to reveal this interesting fact at their next tasting. Admit it.

Cheers!

Bill

 

For What It’s Worth – The Red Daily Slosh

3 Mar

This day in music history (1966) – Neil Young, Steven Stills and Richie Furay formed Buffalo Springfield. That’s our boy Neil sitting on the amp. Sorry for the video quality. I think it might have been filmed with a Kodak Brownie. Not sure what the ending is either.

saintrochBack when I simply sent out a newsletter, I remember singing the praises of an inexpensive red from Roussillon. The ’05 and ’06 were superb representatives of the region – lavender, herby goodness. This week, the ’12 version of this wine hits the shelves – 2012 Château Saint-Roch Chimères #119354 $18.95. Not quite in the inexpensive range anymore but in a world where you pay $11 to see a cartoon movie (and don’t get me going on that score), not that surprising. This vintage carries the same brushy, garriguey, herby full-bodied goodness both in the swirl, sniff and in the mouth. That doesn’t mean fruit isn’t present – black fruit – juicy fruit – not the chewing gum but fruit with a nice puckery quality. This might be a bit smoother than other years and a bit bigger – it’s hard comparing notes. Nonetheless, this is a formidable wine – powerful. Love it. Great value for those that love the Rhone-style blends of Syrah and Grenache. That would be me. This is 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Carignan. Highly recommend.

13thstreetCan we talk? I like to promote Ontario wine when I can. I like the wines, the people that make them, and the fact that they don’t feel compelled to send me samples. Well, maybe I hate that last part. The problem is that I’m usually reviewing and recommending from the bi-weekly Vintages release. And, there aren’t a ton of Ontario wines in each release. Example: this release has 120 offerings of which 9 are from Ontario. Just 9! It probably has more to do with the winery’s ability to supply enough product and, I admit, that there are lots of General Listing Ontario wines. But, it would be nice to have more ‘release’ Ontario wines, even in limited availability. OK, down off the soapbox. This week the 2012 13th Street Gamay Noir #177824 $19.95 arrives at the mother ship. There are some grapes that are done quite unevenly in Ontario and Gamay is one IMHO. There are a few great examples but way too many weak efforts. Gamay can be good simple and fruity usually with interest.. And, it can be just plain bad simple and fruity. The 13th Street Gamay is red fruity but has some underlying structure and loads of personality by way of earthiness and surprising minerality. That stuff comes through mostly on the sniff for me and dissipates a bit in the mouth – leaving the fruit and a nice bite. It’s interesting. Reminds me a lot of the Villages-Beaujolais that I recommended last time out but a bit fruit purer – less messy.

bonterrapnCheaper Pinot Noir is, well, usually pretty bad. It’s a grape that doesn’t lend itself to big harvesters, huge production numbers, and just-in-time delivery. So, I tend to avoid it. I know that I’ve recommended the Cono Sur Bicicletta Pinot Noir a few times over the years and it can be as low as $9.95 on sale. But, there haven’t been a lot like that. This week, there’s an organic Pinot Noir – 2013 Bonterra Pinot Noir #317685 $19.95. I like this – it has some wood effects – vanilla and cedary tannins. But, what I like is the unapologetic red fruit nose and finish. It’s juicy with a bite at the end but not too. It would be a great sipper – stand around wine. I’m going to check out now the price stateside just to show you how we get screwed on the lower end stuff……..lowest stateside price on winesearcher.com is $16.50 CAD. I stand corrected. I apologize. I guess $19.95 is fair considering that our monopoly helps build hospitals, women’s shelters, and pay off failed gas plant closures. Back to the Bonterra – pick this up. Recommended. Comment: the Bonterra label seems to be picking up its game – I have had a few different varietals from them that represent good effort.

benmarcoI haven’t had a Malbec for awhile. So, when I was out for dinner around the holidays, for our second bottle, we ordered the 2013 Benmarco Malbec #657601 $18.95. Either it was impressive or I was influenced by the poorer quality of the first bottle we had. I’m sticking with the first – it was impressive. This is a meat wine as are most Malbecs. It has integrated tannins, a vein of juiciness but the biggest thing you get is that this wine is together, balanced, smooth. Like The Spinners. Chocolate on the nose but I lost it in the mouth. Dark fruits everywhere. It’s made by my girl, Susana Balbo. There seems to be a purpose to all her wines. They tell a story; you don’t get confused – you know what you’ve got when you drink it. Highly Recommended. And, on second thought, you could just pop and pour this by itself. A guilty pleasure – put on The Spinners (you’ll need the little plastic thing that goes in the middle of the 45).

Splurge wines that I haven’t tasted but am picking up:

2009 Terre Nere Brunello di Montalcino #208462 $42.95 I love Brunello. It’s generally what people buy me if they truly appreciate me. Hint, hint. I have one of three 2004’s of this wine left in the basement. It has such a nice weight and juiciness to it (the 2004 that is). The review for the 2009 speaks to some of the same qualities I found in the 2004 – red cherries, spicy, big aromatics. From a vintage perspective, 2004 is a bit more heralded but, really, my palate may not be tuned to these nuances. I’m jumping in with both feet.

2011 Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz #422782 $34.95 When I started to splurge a bit, I always ended up with a few bottles of this wine. Through thick and thin we have travelled the roads to wine knowledge and appreciation. I love its weight – large but manageable; it’s berries too. I can’t identify a single kind of berry but it just smells like that yogurt you can get called “Fieldberries”. Strawberries? Not exactly. Raspberries? No not them either. But, by the Gods, jammy berries. And, it has some peppery notes but not overwhelming like some Shiraz. This one has great reviews and, in particular, I like the term, “finishing with good persistence”. Seems like a good way for a Shiraz to be. I’ll let you know what I think. I’ve had other vintages of this with lamb tagines. Perfect.

nkmip2011 Nk’Mip Qwam Qwmt Cabernet Sauvignon #303719 $27.95 OK, this is a light splurge. This wine always intrigues me because of the story. Oh, the wine is usually great but the story is the best part. This winery is the first wholly owned and operated aboriginal winery in Canada. The dedication of the band leadership is quite remarkable, courageous, and inventive. You can read about him here. The wine? Well, it’s a dark, complex, structured cab in most vintages. It feels right to drink this wine. But, it’s tasty too. And, if you can pronounce the name, you win the monthly DuffsWines prize package.

Bill

Tapas Dance and the Daily Sloshes

23 Jan

After my reference to Spanish quality wines last time out, I see that this week’s release (January 24) just so happens to feature Spanish wines. A coincidence? I think not. The problem for me? Of the wines that appear that I’ve tasted, I can’t recommend them. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some possibly very good wines out there just that I haven’t had them yet. Nice problem to have – wines that I just have to taste. But it does leave me in a quandary: what to talk about this week. Well, let’s start with some Spanish wines that I’ve had recently that are available (but not as part of this release) and maybe a few wines that I’m looking forward to trying?

As I mentioned last time, we are travelling to Spain this year and in doing research, I’ve tasted a bunch of Spanish wines. We had a planning session this past weekend. Over tapas we debated the value of just hangin’ in Spain without all the checklist sight seeing. And, we were convinced that my friend and I should go over early to see some wineries in Priorat, Montsant, and Penedes before our wives joined us. I wonder who came up with that idea? A wine was brought for consumption that I hadn’t had in the past. Remember the Viña Real Crianza that I recommended? Go ahead and nod. It will confirm that you actually read this stuff. I’m touched. It’s very affirming. We had the Reserva from the same place – 2009 Viña Real Oro Reserva #94846 $29.95. This was a vinaoropowerful, ruby red wine with what I interpret as evidence of newer oak being used. Pronounced nose of cedar, brush, red fruit (plums raspberries), jamminess and tastes of spice, toastiness, and raspberries – moderate to long finish. Balanced and leaving us wishing there was another bottle. This was a special wine for us to have with the tapas that yours truly expertly crafted. When I reflect back on my notes for the crianza, which was a 2010, I penned thoughts like, “very tasty but maybe needs a little more time to develop”, and “ well balanced, smooth, and yet not overpowering”. This reserva, on the other hand, is ready to pop and pour now but would still develop for another 10 years I bet. And, there’s nothing shy about it now. A virtual Tower of Power. Highly recommend! In fact, if you’ve said to yourself, “Not sure that I could tell the difference between fill in the name of your favourite plonk and a more expensive wine”, you need to pick this up. You’ll never say that again (I hope).

monopoleWe started the evening with a white Rioja 2013 Monopole #66951 $16.95. Why didn’t I start with this part of the story – at the start? Not sure. This was an interesting “guess the grape” exercise because we really haven’t had much of the Viura grape before. Served with manchego cheese topped with guava paste and dates stuffed with chorizo and wrapped with crispy bacon. Seriously. The wine smelled of Gewurtztraminer a bit – floral. Medium bodied and carrying the citrusness of Sauvignion Blanc. If it was the a second wine of the night it could have passed for SB actually. Yet, it was a bit rounder. A very nice wine. If you haven’t taken a swing at Viura, I’d say pick it up and enjoy like you would any other young, flavourful, dry white wine. Don’t over think it. Just chill and twist the cap.

The ‘other red bottle’ was a 1985 Coto de Imaz Gran Reserva that I’d had below for a few years. It’s not every day that I get to drink a wine this old (29 years for those without their phone calculator handy) and I IMG_0698was worried that it might be (Sophisticated Wine Term Alert!) ‘pooched’. Those unfamiliar with that descriptive term clearly haven’t passed their WSET Level 9! My basement outer wall is consistently dark, cool, and until they started infilling next door, still and quiet. My beauties rest and develop a real personality in most cases. But, there is always a chance that the pop is followed by a moan – something hasn’t kept well. That’s the risk and shit happens. This particular wine comes from a winery that I stock up with every year. It’s a good value Rioja usually around $20 for the Reserva. And, it’s fun comparing vintages. Really? Yes, wine geeks are weird. This 1985 looked just as expected in the glass – showing some browning on the edges and lighter than a young Rioja – throwing a bit of sediment swirling in the glass. It had a medium nose – think Sandra Bullock – of some kero and raisins. However on first sip, it was apparent – the power was gone. It tasted of dried fruits and some woodiness – not unlikeable – just faint. I wasn’t disappointed actually. It was a good experience for someone that doesn’t get to drink many truly older wines to see how things can develop. This was about 3.265 years too late but, hey, still consumable – which of course we did.

In an effort to taste as many wines as I can. Wait, that doesn’t sound very healthy. Let’s try this – In an effort to have as many wines to talk about as I can – much better – I buy and taste a bunch of wines that I’m hoping either stay in stock long enough or return later in the year so that I can talk about them. In this spirit, I picked up a bottle of the 2013 Rio Madre #354753 $14.95. It was nicely featured at an aisle end with a shelf talker proclaiming a high score (90) from an ‘expert’. It called my name. Yes, I’m influenced by the same marketing bullshit as everyone else, I’m afraid. But, in my defence, this wine was made with 100% Graciano, not Rocky but a grape that’s used as a blender in many Rioja wines (added to my Wine Century Club list). Let’s try it. Not sure about you but a synthetic cork just screams, “Mistake!” to me. I love the screw top ‘Stelvin’ closures but the fake corks just seem lazy and unnatural. My notes on this wine? “Meh”. It is an actual category on the Duffswines Cheatsheet. I wasn’t feeling the love that the expert reviewer did. The wine reminded me of a Garnacha in mouthfeel – low acid, lowish tannins. And, I like Garnarcha but this didn’t do it for me. Very floral in nose and on the finish which was short. Maybe it was the expectation not being met that put a negative on the wine. The good news? I have another down below that I will try much later and report back to the group.

Daily Slosh wines in this week’s release that I haven’t had but am going to pick up are:

2011 Casa Castillo El Molar #397190 $17.95 first I’ve never had a wine named after a famous Spanish soldier known for his extra strong teeth – he was (trumpets, please) EL MOLAR! Seriously, Jumilla wines are usually interesting and tasty. Plus, this winery’s entry level red wine 2013 Casa Castillo Monastrell #165621 $14.95 is a beaut and a true QPR red staple.

featherstone2013 Featherstone Black Sheep Riesling #080234 $16.95 I am always searching for a wine for my mother-in-law. She likes them off-dry (well, sweet) but I resist the sweet because, after everyone has gone home and The Director has retired, I end up finishing the bottle. I love off-dry Riesling. High praise for Featherstone lately and this wine should be no exception.

Splurge white – 2012 Bachelder Bourgogne Chardonnay #272005 $35.95 Thomas Backhelder makes wine in Burgundy, Ontario, Oregon and maybe elsewhere as well. His specialties are the Burgundian grapes – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I’ve enjoyed those made under his eponymous label and earlier efforts (Le Clos Jordanne).

Splurge red – 2012 Stoller Pinot Noir #401539 $31.95 an Oregon Pinot Noir is always a bit of a sucker pin placement for me. I have to go for it and take the chance that it’s consistent with my past experiences – complexity, power yet restraint, ageability, and some earthiness. It doesn’t always work out (like shooting for the pin) but this comes highly recommended by a fellow oenophile. Too expensive, you say? It’s cheaper than a dozen golf balls.

Have a great weekend!

Bill

Holiday Advice – Fini

22 Dec

I want to change gears for a bit. Maybe, like me, you struggle to find meaning in the beliefs, rites and traditions that are on full display at this time of year. What is their origin? What is their meaning? This short clip helps me better understand. I hope it helps you too.

This is the third and last of three posts offering some recommendations for wines a little out of the ‘daily’ range.

You can read the first installment (Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc) here; the second installment (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay) here.

When I wrote the first post, I had the brilliant idea to do three posts based on specific varietals and I began without truly scoping out the series. The problem is that there are too many types of wines to capture in the third installment. I can either turn the trilogy into a Diana Gabaldon style series (Outlandish Wines?) or I could just fill this last post with some good ideas that I haven’t mentioned yet. I’m lazy and the latter sounds best.

badiaChianti? Yes, please. What Italian red is the friendliest wine from the boot? Well, some may say Pinot Grigio but they’d be wrong. It’s Chianti. And, we are lucky that there are a few great vintages on the shelves right now. One wine that would impress your friends and family is 2009 Antinori Badia a Passagnano Chianti Classico Riserva #384552 $44.95. I enjoyed a bottle of Chianti with a friend this month and all we could talk about were the cherries that we could smell and taste. I know, it’s kinda weird. It was a fruit cake-with-cherries red wine – not sweet like fruit cake but the red fruits and yeastiness. Cherries are the predominant fruit in the Badia as well. Classic Sangiovese. More serious than your father’s Chianti – some heft – full-bodied. People I know make turkey chilli with leftovers. This is a perfect wine if the chili isn’t too spicy. Let it decant for a bit. FYI, wine-searcher.com has it at $69 a bottle in US.

If you picked up my recommendation of 2008 Ondarre Reserva #723452 $18.95, you’ll say that you that don’t have to sell the farm to taste great Tempranillo. It is indeed tasty (I bought a bunch – and am looking to buy a bunch more). But, this is a post about splurging a bit. So, why not pick up the 1998 Vega-Sicilia Único #230284 $829.00? Why murrietanot? It’s $829.00, that’s why not. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. If not the Unico, then maybe the 2008 Marqués de Murrieta Finca Ygay Reserva #209148 $27.95? This is ready to drink now, medium-to-full-bodied and quite round in the mouth for a Rioja, softer. Great dark fruits. A beautiful sipper, a second glass wine getting better as you go. This too with the turkey chilli.

Ontario Niagara Riesling is making its mark with a good vintage in 2011, in particular for Cave Spring. I tasted the 2011 Cave Spring cavespringCSV Riesling #566026 $29.95 at the beautiful tasting room adjacent to On The Twenty restaurant. Have I told you just how good the food is there? This is a medium Riesling but it doesn’t finish as sweetly as that would suggest. It’s full of peaches – there’s citrus too that may be the counter agent to the residual sugar. Or, it may be the acidity. There’s some lip smacking on the finish. From old enough vines to provide a hint that petrol will emerge. Beautiful and age-worthy.

It’s hard to splurge on rosé and yet it is a great wine for celebration and a turkey dinner. Especially if it has some depth, for me, that means Tavel would be good as well as some local pinks. Tavels:

2013 Delas Frères La Comballe Tavel Rosé #374884 $21.95

2013 Domaine des Caribinieres Lunar Apogé Tavel Rosé #375626 $19.95 see my earlier review here.

Ontario rosés:

2013 Flat Rock Pinot Noir Rosé #39974 $16.95

2013 13th Street Pink Palette Rosé #275834 $15.95

Both of these pinks carry a bit more sweetness, while still remaining in the ‘dry’ category, in their profile than the Tavels which are bone dry.

taylorThis week (or maybe last week now) the #NWTW (New Wine This Week) was Port. Port is a great sipper to have around for the holidays and maybe the only time that I drink it. It is lovely to sit and sip a glass of Port while recounting the story of The Baby In The Manger while young children in appropriate costumes for their part in the story sit somewhat bewilderingly at Uncle Bill’s feet (sorry, couldn’t resist a totally inside family joke). Port is good any time but best after dinner. Read this post by Please Bring Me My Wine about pairing Port. My faves:

Taylor Fladgate 10 Year-Old Tawny Port #121749 $34.95 (always in my cupboard)

1995 Dalva Colheita Port #69930 $32.95 this is a nutty, spicy treat.

I have something to share with the group, “I don’t drink Champagne very often.” There, I said it and now I can deal with it. It may not work – naming the problem out loud, that is. It didn’t work very often with my re-offending parolees. Then again, getting off crack might be a little harder than popping the cork on a few more bottles of Champagne. All this to say that I hesitate to recommend a bubbly splurge. My advice is to spring for Champagne or at least a Cremant de Bourgogne – there really is a difference between Boone’s Farms Sparkling Shotgun and Veuve Cliquot. Or, Prosecco and Mumm’s. Then again, if you’re making Mimosas, as we do, Cava such as Segura Viudas will do. On dealing with my specific problem? I’m going to work hard at it over the holidays (I have a personal plan, prescriptive action items, and measurable goals) and, Doc, I’ll report back next appointment.

castellaniOh yeah, this started back in Part 1, with a request for an Amarone recommendation from our Concierge Service. What did I recommend? 2009 Michele Castellani Cinque Stelle Amaraone Della Valpolicella Classico #75127 $57.95. I have had earlier vintages of this wine but not the ’09. Typically, the style is large with many dimensions – quite dark and dried in the fruit department – scents of leather and compost. A very special wine with which to end the meal (and post).

Remember: Wine is groceries; not a luxury (thanks to Richard Betts for that perfect phrase)

Cheers!

Bill

 

Holiday Advice – Part Deux

19 Dec

Last year I featured Bing and Bowie as an awkward couple. This year I thought we’d examine another unusual pairing. Think about it. Arguably the best female voice of all time and the guy who gave us Delilah – a song about an angry man stabbing his g/f in a fit of rage. Talk amongst yourselves.

This is the second part of three posts offering some recommendations for wines a little out of the ‘daily’ range. The first installment can be read here.

Pinot Noir

gravityPinot Noir may be the most personal of all wines. Some like them lean and under the tank top – muscular, others like ’em softer and round. I’m in the first camp. So, here goes. In Ontario, there are many great local pinots. You could start with 2012 Flat Rock Cellars ‘Gravity’ Pinot Noir #1560 $29.95 an earthy, darker-than-pinot, fruitful wine. Bigger on the nose than usual for this wine – probably 2012 showing through. Lovely wine. Another Ontario gem is any pinot by hardiepnNorman Hardie. Prince Edward County, Norman Hardie in particular, instills a very different take on pinot than Niagara. The 2011 Norman Hardie Unfiltered Pinor Noir #125310 $39.00 is a cherry tea stained long drink of pinot. What does it remind me of? Earl Grey tea – it’s tea alright but not the same. This is pinot but not the same as pinot. Complicated but worth getting to know. I’m heading to The County in the New Year and can’t wait to visit some of their exciting wineries.

Oregon has a very classic take on pinot. Lovely stuff. But, we are disadvantaged with limited selection. I couldn’t find any that had anything but a scattered availability in the province. I read other bloggers that talk about the breadth of choice they have with Pinot Noir in America. Alas, we have many more Burgundy available – which means we can go broke early and often. However, a non-Sonoma ‘go to’ calerapinot for me is Calera – which we do have. The 2012 Calera Pinot Noir #933044 $33.95 is a great introduction to a world of California pinot that isn’t ‘one-dimensional’ like the lower priced entries seem to be. I find you need to stretch the budget a bit particularly with pinots. Calera has several single vineyard offerings too that we get each year – the Jensen Vineyard being my fave and a wine that you don’t want to open because it just gets better and better with time. The one above is their entry level and is ripe, red fruity, earthy, and very accessible. Good value.

rdbgcIf you prefer a more Burgundian take and you don’t want to get a second mortgage, I’d suggest a bargain cru – Beaune Teurons 1er Cru. I call it my ‘Go To Cru Crew’. But, I see that there are but a few available. Another time. So, what to splurge on? Well, the 2012 Roche de Bellene Vieilles Vignes Gevrey-Chambertin #240242 $56.95 is dark and a bit wild but easy to understand, if that makes sense. I bought a couple and mistakenly opened one right away to find, as I knew that I would, that it wasn’t ready for prime time. Duh. Buy this for someone that has or is building a cellar.

akaruaAnd no, I didn’t forget New Zealand pinot. There are a bunch but let’s get some focus. The 2012 Akarua Pinot Noir #79541 $37.95 is a lovely Central Otago pinot. It’s not shy with red fruits and a lovely seam of acidity. Extremely food friendly. Go ahead and splurge on this one. Low risk – high reward. The minty, herbiness would match a sage turkey perfectly. I think that I’ve just talked myself into it. Damn, I hate when that happens.

Pinot recap – all but Roche de Bellene ready to drink and all good matches for turkey dinner.

I headed up these sections by varietal. But, I probably should have simply provided some whites, reds, rosés and bubblies instead of going the varietal route. Well, live and learn. At least tying Chardonnay to Pinot Noir makes some sense. Right?

Chardonnay

mersoleilOaky chards don’t get a lot of love these days. But, I still like them if there’s some balance and I don’t have to pull slivers of oak out of my tongue. A biggerish Chardonnay is the 2011 Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay #958975 $34.95. It is decadent (so, delete the “ish” above) with a hint of butter and some citrus on the nose but pure tropical fruit and butterscotch in the mouth and on the finish. We like the buttery ones here and this is a staple down below – that would be my basement. It works with creamy chicken stuff and the turkey if it’s not a spicy treatment but more trad. If you want to buy local, pick up the 2011 Tawse Daniel Lenko Vineyard tawsedlchardonnayChardonnay #344796 $44.95. This is made with grapes from the old vines at Daniel Lenko. I’ll tell the story of my visit to Daniel Lenko another time. Suffice it to say, the place is unique among the array of wineries on the bench. Blend Lenko’s grapes with the Burgundian leanings of Tawse and you get a Chardonnay that’s a bit more Old School than the one above. Pure tropical fruit and apples on the nose joined with some of the oak induced butter and vanilla in the mouth – a mineral echo on the finish. Love it. The Mer Soleil is Janis Joplin; the Tawse – Joan Osborne. Both great styles – substantial, full of flavour and nuance, just different.

Classic white Burgundy is around but scattered availability. It can be pricy. If you want to partake of the classic Burgundian Chardonnay, I’d suggest two approaches: Chablis (minerally, stony and crisper – lovely stuff – look for 2010) and Meursault (a little rounder, nuttier, and deeper – pricier as well). I haven’t tasted any of those that I see on-line and, frankly, there aren’t many. Ask a consultant at the store for advice if this is your leaning.

Now, I’m off to The Morrissey for a craft beer (or two). Have a great weekend!

Part Three: first of next week

Holiday Advice – Part 1

17 Dec

I want to hate Michael Buble because he’s so darn popular and cute. But, I have to admit that his Christmas stuff is catchy. And, yes it is Andrew’s Alma Mater wasting study time doing a lip-dub.

I received an email this week asking if there were any Amarones at the mother ship that I’d recommend. It got me to thinking that not everyone uses the duffswines.com Concierge Service. What is it? Well, I will give you advice on almost anything. Cottage book? Got it covered. Music? I’ve got the playlist. Restaurant? Too easy. Over the counter medications? Duh. Love interest? Most definitely.

Back to the Concierge Service. The Amarone request got me to thinking that a post on appropriate splurge holiday wines might be in order. If there were a time of year to splurge on wine, this would be it. So, here goes. We will do this in three parts. BTW, not all wines are ‘real’ splurges..

Big California Cabernet

You may think that since I sometimes dis big California Cabernets, I don’t like them. Not true. What’s not to like? I do think that they are best consumed with food. If like me, you don’t eat a lot of red meat, they just don’t get opened that much. Just to clarify further (this is the dis that I usually fling), I do believe that they can be the most over-priced wine in the store up here in The Great White North. But, all said, they can be really yummy.

montelenaMy closest friends will tell you that I always have a certain label in my cellar – Chateau Montelena. I don’t have a lot of Cali Cabs. So, I stay instead with proven winners. It saves time shopping. You should be able to find a few 2011 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon #718452 $59.95 – can be consumed now with a decant or put down for a few years. I’m kind of an Old World guy and this place makes Cabernet that is a great blend of Old and New. Solid, structured and full of red fruits – judicious use of oak as they say and not too too. Serious wine, if there can be such a thing. And, if that special someone is me, you could splurge further and pick up the 2010 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon #709881 $159.95. Wait, that price seems too high. Yup, it’s only $156.95! This wine seems to shine in even years. Weird that. The 2002 Estate is one of my favourite wines, all time. As with the Veedercrest below, Chateau Montelena participated in the 1976 Judgment of Paris and bested their French competitors.

Other worthy readily available candidates are:

2005 Veedercrest Vinter’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon #377119 $83.95 This is one of the older wineries in California and we seldom get it up here. This is ready to drink NOW or still can sit.

2009 Othello #156539 $42.95 a Bordeaux blend but somewhat cab sav dominated. From Christian Moueix of Jean-Pierre Moueix. They produce Petrus and a host of other massively successful Right Bank Bordeaux. In Napa, he is Dominus Estate.

Sauvignon Blanc

cloudy bayOne of the better white wines for almost any occasion is Sauvignon Blanc. Whether it’s Sancerre or New World. If you read my MWWC13 post you’ll know which splurge Sauvignon Blanc I’m going to recommend – 2012 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc #304469 $31.95. There are so many reasonably priced Kiwi SB’s that you have to ask yourself, “Why splurge?” I get it. There’s Astrolabe, Whither Hills, Seresin – all great wines at 2/3’s the price. But, every once in awhile, you have to go classic. Cloudy Bay is the ‘classic’ Kiwi white. Surprise someone with this wine. For the French take on Sauvignon Blanc – Sancerre, I’ve always found Jolivet the standard. The 2013 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre #264945 $29.95 – balanced and sophisticated. These wines can be stand around wines or served with food that has a little saltiness and pop, especially seafood. Other worthy Sauvignon Blancs:

jolivetAlas, Sancerres are few and far between at the LCBO, so why not it’s cousin Pouilly-Fumé

2013 Domaine Chauveau Pouilly-Fumé #390641 $23.95

2013 Wither Hills #919514 $17.95 Kiwi caselot?

2013 Astrolabe Province Sauvignon Blanc #10421 $22.95 a somewhat atypical Kiwi SB – has some different fruit aromas and flavours

Part Deux: tomorrow

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…Peeeee..no. 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?”

TTFN

%d bloggers like this: