Tag Archives: Australia

Celebrity Rant and The Rainbow Daily Slosh

13 May
uscover

Who the hell are these people?

I was sitting in the optometrist’s office this week and picked up a copy of US magazine. I don’t know if US magazine is legit or if like People is a bit of a National Enquirer under the guise of legitimacy. But, I scanned a copy and sat waiting, waiting (after all it is a waiting room). I got through two US magazines actually. The thing is I didn’t know very many of the people profiled – and there were thousands, it seemed. If truth be told, I didn’t know 10% of them. I didn’t have a clue at all. Before you say anything critical of my clue worthiness, hear me out. Were they television stars? Singers? Exploited reality television stars? Taxidermists? No clue. And their trials tribulations and designer wear wasn’t that interesting to me.

There was a time not so long ago (check that: it was a really long time ago) when I knew every person that was culturally significant. That’s an exaggeration but it’s my blog. I read Tom Wolfe, John Updike, Margaret Atwood, and Alice Munro; watched every episode of The Wire; studied Victor Frankl; knew who Jeff Beck, Yo Yo Ma, and Ginger Baker were; loved Julie Christie and Jessica Lang. And then later, because I had hip kids and nieces, I adjusted, I got to know Eminem, Paloma Faith, Lady Gaga, and Zoe Saldana (she is smoking’ hot!!). These people all did something besides just be. They are famous because they do something that people appreciate. They work in the public sphere. And, work at a level that is significant, noteworthy whether, like in the case of Eminem, you appreciate the craft or not.

kjennerBut now, even though I watch a bit of the tele, read a bunch, and I really do pay frigging attention, I don’t know the difference between one Jenner and the other (are there only two?). Hell, I didn’t know there were Jenners at all until the optometrist and they were on several pages. That’s Kylie on the left BTW – sexualized from birth. I checked out of the ubiquitous Kardashians – wait, I never checked in. I don’t know one from the other there either and can’t for the life of me understand why anyone gives a shit about them. How can anyone sell a magazine that gives so little information on so irrelevant a population? The cover above highlights a Bachelorette, or is it Bachelor, for Christ’s sake. How can that get anyone to think, “Hey, I’ve got to know about this before I read stuff that actually impacts my life…….like Duffs Wines. I better buy a copy”? If you are raging against my tone deafness to ‘today’s’ important people or you agree with me, let me know. But, before you do, ask yourself, “Why do more Canadians know all the judges on Dancing With The Stars but not who their Minister of Justice is?” Sad. Or, more relevant, why don’t more Canadians know the difference between Blancs de Blancs and Blancs de Noir? Seriously.

On to wine recos.

terra nobleWandering back home from a dinner with my niece a few months ago and stopped into The Church Key, a Richmond Row staple and a great place to eat or just sip and chat with the patrons. I ordered one of my favourite wines by the glass – 2012 Terra Noble Gran Reserve Carmenère #957050 $19.95. This is one of the better Carmenere out there that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. It’s smoky, full-bodied, and dark. Interesting. Great intro to Carmenere. So, if you haven’t tried this grape, pick up a bottle or two of this. Or if you are one of the Carmenere hounds of Providence, a case.

carte noirLast week, I did a post on rosés. You can read it here. I wanted to talk about the 2015 Carte Noire Rosé #319384 $17.95  but it wasn’t out yet. Now, it is. I’ve loved this pink for years. My write-up went something like this, “I believe that Brigitte Bardot lived in Saint-Tropez when she was, well, really hot. Maybe as un hommage to Brigitte, you could chill a bottle of this and serve with roast endangered species, carpaccio di baby seal?” Ok, the was a bit uninformative. This wine is due Provence. Crisp, cool matched perfectly to sliced avocados with olive oil, tomatoes, and sunshine. I have a couple of bottles of this already for the cottage dock at 4:30.

zontesA few months ago, a friend heavily recommended an Australian red due to the fact that they enjoyed the wine over Christmas. The wine? Not sure but it was a Zonte’s Footsteps effort. I’ve recommended their stuff before here. But I hadn’t had the particular cuvée but found a representative select this week – 2013 Zonte’s Footsteps Lake Doctor Shiraz #072975 $17.95. The thing is these guys, despite the fact that they access grapes from different terrors, have a particular house style that is restrained. I had their Avalon Tree #353193 $17.95 just the other night (Confession: drinking it as i typed this) and it had the same thing going on – focus on fruit, subtle, but purposeful. Just plain good. This Lake Doctor is spicy – Shiraz spicy a bit hot but all expressive, fresh Shiraz.

chardWe go through a yuuuuuge bunch of Chardonnay each year at this house. The Director prefers the grape, well-done and oaked just a little bit. That means that there aren’t too many available that we haven’t had.This week, there’s a Chilean effort. Question: Do you say Chlill-ay-an or Chill-ee-an? This week – 2013 Concha y Toro Serie Riberas Gran Reserve Chardonnay #287995 $16.95. This is a perfect summer Chard – fresh, vein of acid, and tropical.

One thing that we all probably do is wash, rinse, repeat. In wine, that means, we pop, drink and repeat with the same wines all the time. “There’s nothing wrong with that”, he says, as he proceeds to discuss what is wrong with that. It’s just that we enjoy different cuisines and foods. Who wants chicken every night? So, I’m going to break out of the norm with this week’s offerings. Let’s start with a Basilicata. I’ve checked and this is the very first time in seven years that I’ve recommended a wine from there. Where is ‘there’? Well, where Puglia is the heel of the boot of Italy, Basilicata is the arch and toe (minus Sicily).

sacraviteWe stopped in to Basilicata when we ventured to Matera several years ago. Matera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s eerie, haunting, unbelievable, yet fantastic (picture below). Caves and a history of poverty and another way of life that’s inconceivable. You can read the wiki piece on Matera here. This week, there’s the 2013 d’Angelo Sacravite #440834 $15.95. This is made from Anglianico yet is soft and accessible. I say ‘yet’ because Anglianico can be a bit edgy and dense. This isn’t either. A perfect, yet, atypical introduction to the reds of Basilicata. Have with BBQ.

Some more wines to try that are out of the ordinary?

2014 Barone Montalto Viognier #435479 $15.95 – Floral, yet clean, crisp sipping white. I dare you. A Viognier form Sicily. Chill it, sip it, repeat.

2013 Ilocki Podium Traminac #435412 $14.95 – Traminac is Gewürztraminer in these parts. A Croatian wine with history and richness.

IMG_1688

Matera

Have a great weekend.

Cheers.

Bill

 

Dracula, Susana and the Red Daily Slosh

19 Jun

christopherlee

RIP, Sir Christopher

So, what’s with this week’s release? It’s called “Back By Popular Demand”. There are clearly crowd favourites among the 80 or so wines and spirits featured. As is my privilege and right, I am going to feature those that I’m glad they brought back.

susanamalbecConfession: I have a serious crush. I love Susana Balbo. There are several issues with that – I haven’t met her, haven’t even seen a picture of her. I’m not letting those little details stop me. I feel like I really ‘get’ her through her wines. The Torrontés – she’s fresh faced and breezy, the Cabernet Sauvignons – serious and intelligent, and the Malbecs – voluptuous (which I’m really hoping for). I follow her on Twitter but, alas, she doesn’t return the love. If I wasn’t half-way through a bottle of her Crios Torrontés right now, I might creep her on Facebook. Social Media Rule #1: Never creep people after alcohol – it gets dangerous. Sip, sip………….might rethink that rule. Well, when I saw that her 2012 Susana Balbo Signature Malbec #079978 $19.95 was hitting the shelves on the 27th, all those feelings of rejection and unrequited love came flooding back. But I’m bigger than that and will recommend this full-bodied beauty (14.5% ABV). It’s pleasantly sophisticated for a very well-priced Malbec. By that I mean that it’s smooth with everything integrated – no one thing screaming for attention. Longish finish with some tightness, grip. Great wine for sipping with snacks or would do well with something burnt too. BTW, if you see Susana, let her know that I’m still pining away – waiting for a ‘like’ or ‘follow’. I mean, come on. (typed using the font ‘Whiny Sans’)

zontesI seldom recommend an Australian wine. I guess it’s just that I don’t drink a lot of them; ergo, I have very little to talk about. I have, however, had the 2012 Zonte’s Footsteps Baron Von Nemesis #212936 $17.95. This is very good QPR or Quality to Price Ratio. It doesn’t have the thickness of some Shiraz we find around this price. And, frankly, that thickness is why I don’t take too many chances on them anymore unless recommended by a trusted source – The Wine Wankers come to mind. On the fruit front, this has more a Cabernet Sauvignon profile – dark and cassisy. Great food wine as it has a cleanness to it – refreshing. A great summer red wine.

I was on the road this week attending our son’s wedding in Providence, RI. That meant a few more meals in restaurants than usual and since I pretend to know stuff about wine, I’m always asked to pick the wine. Hard to believe that people trust me. The restaurants in Providence are villamedorodecidedly leaning Italian and we ate a few traditional Italian meals. The wine lists were littered with a zillion Italian wines that I had never had the pleasure of drinking. So, what to do? Well, ask the server or sommelier? Yeah, you can do that. Or, you can tell everyone that since the offerings on the menu are country Italian they require a country Italian wine – Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. I know it’s a bit of a con, could be wrong, but who doesn’t love this stuff? So, we had a bunch of very good MdA’s; not all truly simple (and a very nice Morellino di Scansano, too). A very tasty MdA arrives next Saturday – 2012 Villa Medoro Rosso del Duca Montepulciano d’Abruzzo #367160 $19.95. The brochure says that it’s versatile. I’d say yes to that. But, don’t see that as meaning that it doesn’t have its own personality or doesn’t do anything really well. It certainly does. It does full, gutsy, and lip smacking very well. Someone suggested that it was pretty tannic but I didn’t think so. Maybe a style preference. Bright and fresher maybe than many MdA’s but still quite assertive, this wine would match well with country Italian fare (you knew that was coming, didn’t you) or as a pre-dinner quaff with antipasti. It has that bit of bite that you need to sense with these Italian reds. I like it a lot. On second thought, I’d keep it for something more substantial than the antipasti. Pizza with sausage and mushrooms?

ardalLast but not least is my ubiquitous Spanish selection – 2005 Ardal Crianza #167801 $16.95. Yup, that’s $16.95 for a 9 year old red from Ribera del Duero made by Bodegas Balbás. What? You heard me. This has settled with time in bottle and brings all that red fruit and soft wood both to your sniffy sniff, your mouth’s first impression, and the red fruit plays on the finish too. It’s knows what it is – Northern Spanish Tempranillo. This has enough tannin to go up against a rare burnt something or other. Just enough acid to provide some backbone and lip smack.  I like these wines by themselves which I realize is sacrilegious as they are first and foremost food wines. Too bad – I like ’em by ’emselves. I can savour every nuanced drop. For the wine geeks out there, this is a blend of Tempranillo (90%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%). Clearly has seen some wood – I love the way Rioja and Ribera del Deuro wines show the wood – cedary smell and smoky taste.

Bonus reco – this week, I had a great Aussie cab which oddly contradicts my statement above – 2013 Jim Barry The Cover Driver Cabernet Sauvignon #677746 $26.95. Definitely New World CS. Cherries, smoke and a great mouthfeel – level tannins and a bit of acid on the finish. Lower alcohol so no heat whatsoever (13.5% ABV). From Coonawarra, meaning a hit of dustiness. Great BBQ meat wine! Burgers, steak.

Put down the remote, grab a bottle or two and head outside to enjoy the last days of June 2015! Did I just say that June 2015 was almost over? Does that mean that my taxes are late? Shit.

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

Smokey and The Red Daily Slosh

19 Feb

Born this day in 1940 – Smoky Robinson.

The February 21st release is trumpeting the 2012 vintage in Australia – “The Best Vintage in 20 Years”, they say. The thing is that just because the vintage is a good one generally, there are a lot of other factors that also determine the quality of a wine. What’s a poor soul to do with this information? Just drink the Kool-Aid and buy up a bunch of 2012 Aussie wine? Or, tramp the back roads of unpronounceable Australian regions, speaking with winemakers, tasting each and every wine to find that one $18 beaut for dinner with the in-laws? Actually sounds like fun. But, no, we don’t have to do that.

My strategy is to think back to wines that I’ve loved from the region and seek them out in that ‘vintage of the century’. Why not stick with what you love? Plus, you can actually taste the difference that vintage makes – apples to apples, year after year.

I have to say that I’m disappointed that the mother ship didn’t include some Coonawarra cab in the release as some of those are my Aussie Montelenas. Oh well, something to look forward to.

stonedwellersI have only tasted one of the featured Australian wines. Good news? The one I had was a very positive experience. The 2012 Fowle’s Stone Dweller’s Shiraz #265967 $19.95 is a regular fixture on the shelves in most vintages. Or so it seems. This is a typical Aussie Shiraz weight-wise – full-bodied and expressive. Big but not braggy – balanced for it’s size. I have to say that the thing I like best about Aussie Shiraz is the unabashed spiciness. This one carries the peppery stuff I love – can even detect a bunch on the nose. On the finish – all spice, fruit, and nice. Highly recommended.

New Zealand makes more reds than just Pinot Noir. I picked up a Sileni Hawk’s Bay Merlot the other day as it was being discontinued – a reasonable representation of Merlot but a bit thin. cjpaskThis week, there’s a red blend that I think deserves a buy recommendation – the 2010 CJ Pask Gimlett Road Cabernet/Merlot/Malbec #279869 $19.95. This is a well balanced mid-weight red. I see this as a food wine but also a good stand around red. Use of the Malbec seems to ramp up the weight and colour. Where the Sileni was a bit washed out, this is fuller and weightier. Nice wine.

I’ve heard people say, “I can’t afford to drink French wine”. Aside from the generalization of French wines as all the same, it’s just plain bullshit. I say, “You can’t afford not to drink French wines.” French, Italian, German, and Spanish wine is what wine was meant to be. That doesn’t mean New World doesn’t make great wine. It just means for me that there’s something comforting in a French, Spanish or Italian wine, if it’s made well. I plead guilty to not drinking enough German wines. This week, the 2013 Domaine de la Madone Perréon Beaujolais-Villages #981175 $14.95 proves that French wine doesn’t have to be at least $30 to be good. This is a solid, incredibly easy-drinking, true-to-varietal wine. Everyone should drink Beaujolais. It’s purity of fruit, as in this example, is a refreshing break from the over-oaked, tricked up wines that we all secretly love. A confessional aside: tricked up wines remind me of guilty pleasure music. You can tell everyone that you don’t like ABBA (I don’t) but when Dancing Queen comes on the radio and you’re alone in the car, admit it, you’re conflicted – turn the channel and maintain your cred or just give in, smile, and sing along. It’s like Paul or John. It’s all good, really. Back to the Beaujolais – this wine isn’t quite as simple as I’ve portrayed the regional style. Although this is light-bodied and easy-going, it has a nice vein of acidity and enough tannin folded in to tell you that it would like some food. Think of sitting outside (in your down-filled parka?) in the sun with some mid-day stuff to eat. Maybe some salty olives and seafood. Oh yeah, and bread – lots of bread. Perfect wine for that. Great value. You can’t afford not to drink this French wine!

On the same theme, French wine that is, the 2011 Gerard Bertrand Saint-Chinian Syrah/Mourvedre #370247 $18.95 is a big, lip-smacking red beauty. Do I have a blind spot? Yup, well made red blends from the South of France. Let me put it this way (cue George Winston):

I swirl, sniff – sun-baked schist and lavender explode

Transformed

I sip – I am warmed under a duvet of red fruit, tangled underbrush, and stone

Nourished

Straining against the urge to stir and re-fill my glass

I sit back and smile

Sated.

gerardbscDuff does poetry? Of course, I’m not just a pretty face. This wine? Well, it delivers on that verse. Scents of big red fruit, anise, repeating in the mouth with lip-smackingness, wrapped up with a nice medium long finish. Good heft, full-bodied food wine. Perfect with some grilled stuff. Luv this! Gerard Bertrand is a cool guy with a great winery base, Château L’Hospitalet – that doubles as wine tourism – accommodations, food, jazz festival. Keep a look out for his labels.

Cheers

Bill

#MWWC13 – Serendipity is Fantastic!

8 Dec

MWWCThere’s a self-abusive, yet strangely entertaining, monthly event in wine writing circles called the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. I’ve copped out the last few themes but was recently shamed and frankly harassed by last month’s winner, Anatoli of Talk-A-Vino. As the worthy winner, Anatoli got to choose this month’s theme – Serendipity. Serendipity – I distinctly remember a children’s book about a sea creature called Serendipity but that plagiarized story might not qualify. After all, unlike me, the sea creature did not partake of the grape in it’s quest for purpose. So…….

About 20 years ago, I became inspired to learn and experience wine – which, for me, is somewhat the same thing. I learn through experiencing as much as reading, listening (I’m a notoriously poor listener), or taking courses. I was mistakenly looking for the experience that warranted paying more for a wine. What qualities can you experience with wine? Does price matter? Is quality all just marketing hype to justify higher prices? Is quality discernible only by those that make wine their life, that truly understand wine? Or, could a schmuck like me discover it? I’ve since realized that those were the wrong questions but.

Let me explain. I grew up in a family that valued quality over price. Not that they’re mutually exclusive, or that we lived in opulence – we certainly didn’t. It’s just that my parents always discussed ‘stuff ‘ (as my father would call things) in terms of how good they were. Oh, we still got the car serviced at Crappy Tire and we collected green stamps but quality was king – not cash. In fact, price was never mentioned out loud. Boasting about a bargain was gauche. And, I realize that might be more a generational thing than about my family in particular. Or, maybe it was just life before Costco and recreational shopping – a rant for another time.

So the concept of quality being intensely personal, I wanted to know what quality wine smelled, tasted, and felt like on my terms just for me.

Well, in this market way back then (I believe I started this during the Summer of the Short Corn), I thought the easiest place to bump quality without bankrupting myself was Australia. It was immensely available here. Plus, the labels had the name of the varietal, the region and that’s about it. That theoretically meant that I didn’t have to take a correspondence course in French label nomenclature to move my quality needle. The predominant thinking at that time with neophyte wine wannabes in my world was that Wolf Blass Yellow Label was the best wine on the planet. Seriously, stop chuckling, people told me this. After I got over the fact that a wine could be called Wolf Blass, I tried it. If it was a little better than Le Piat d’Or, what was it that made it that way? After a couple bottles (not consecutively), I thought, “This stuff isn’t thaaaat much better. It doesn’t have a quality that I can clearly identify or that I value more. I don’t really like it much either.” I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. Chalk it up to following the herd and failing. Did I give up? No, I picked myself up and surfed the shelves for wine in the $15-$20 range with high scores. That shotgun approach not surprisingly didn’t work either. Well, maybe I just couldn’t afford quality and should go back to making my own screech and porch climber. Maybe I wasn’t able to decipher wine – identify quality, get my head around wine. Or, maybe quality wine is a myth perpetrated on us all by the cult wine industry or the bloody Bordelais like the myth that McDonald’s food is actually made from……….food.

But, wait, there was a new product line at the mothership (the Liquor Control Board of Ontario for those that don’t follow me) called “Vintages” – wines and spirits that have some caché, may be in small supply, and unfortunately, in most cases, cost more. So, I wandered out on one of the first days of the new releases for Vintages and stumbled around following the masses. Correction: there weren’t masses, there were about six of us. It is there that I bumped into a guy in the middle of the aisle. I’d like to remember that he was about my age, handsome like me, with my regal bearing. But, the fact is he was about 45 with a baseball cap on backwards – covering, I believe, a balding pate. Now, the acceptable age for backwards baseball caps in my world is 35. Any older and, dude, you’re working too hard. He was loading a single wine into his cart – maybe a dozen already in there when I stopped him from his mission and asked, “What is so special about that wine?” He straightened up and said, “This stuff is fantastic, man.” That was it. No, “This brilliant straw-coloured, Marlborough single vineyard wine’s nose carries fresh cut grass and a hint of grapefruit, the latter replaying intensely on the mid-palate”? Nope, instead, “This stuff is fantastic, man”. Fantastic? Hell, that’s what I’ve been looking for! Wine can be fantastic? It was a bit out of my price range at $21.95 a bottle but I thought (and here’s a sample of the twisted rationalizations that wine buyers the world over utilize):

  1. ‘Fantastic’ is what I’m looking for:
  2. It comes from New Zealand and we Canadians identify with Kiwis – we both sleep with an elephant;
  3. Marlborough is a cigarette but, on balance, I need this wine; and,
  4. I really need this wine!

cloudy baySo, I picked up a bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Can’t remember the vintage. I can say now that it had such a sense of tension, power, and place. But back then, I thought, “This is freakin’ fantastic!”

The neat thing? I found quality. Let me rephrase that – I found something that was a ‘quality’ experience in my opinion at that time in my life. It might have had something to do with who I had it with or when I had it. Scratch that too – it definitely would have had a ton to do with all that. And although it was priced higher than I was used to, I experienced that it was worth the extra. I was cool with that too.

So, there began the never-to-be-completed journey. Of course, I realize that wine’s a bit more complex than “It’s fantastic, man” and I don’t exactly feel the same way about Cloudy Bay now. But the point is that that’s when I became a believer. I believed that great wine was out there  and, more importantly, that I could really experience and recognize it as such. And, it encouraged me to try and learn as much about wine as I could. Because when it’s good, it’s really fantastic, man.

To paraphrase Mr. Webster, ‘Serendipity’ means finding something of value where you don’t necessarily think you’ll find it – a nifty happenstance. I started a search for quality on the wrong terms, with the wrong ideas, and the wrong tools. In my search for ‘quality’ I bumped into it lurking underneath the word – ‘fantastic’, spoken by a guy with his damn cap on backwards. Who would have thunk?

Anyone else who went looking for noses of fig paste and long finishes end up finding fantastic?

serendipity

Images courtesy of: http://www.goodreads.com ; http://www.vintages.com

Portugal and The Red Daily Slosh

27 Mar

OK, the somewhat whispering voice is laughable but the story and pictures are spectacular. No?

I follow a bunch of people on Twitter and this week there was a thread about wine and, in particular, Portuguese wine. I have always loved Portuguese wine. But, I have to admit, I haven’t had much over the last few years. Oh, I have a glass of Port if my friend Rod offers (which he doesn’t nearly enough) but I mean unfortified Portuguese wine. Not sure why I’ve jumped off the Portuguese bandwagon. Actually, I came out of my first formal tasting with a case of wine from Alentejo. So, it’s time to put my money where my typing finger is. That doesn’t sound quite right but I think you get it.

So, I wandered to my local monopoly store and shopped for some value priced Portuguese wines. The good news? There were lots. The bad news? There were lots. I’ll talk about these over the next month or so.

montefinoFirst up is a wonderful wine – 2005 Montefino Reserva #165519 $17.95. This is a wine made from a blend of Trincadeiro, Alicante Bouscet, Aragones and Touriga Nacional. Don’t be too blown away by names that may be unfamiliar – just jump in. After all Aragones is just Tempranillo (and, we all love it) and Touriga Nacional coming in small berries with intense flavours and darkness makes great reds as well as being the preeminent grape in Port. This wine comes from Alentejo, a large wine making area that is also home to cork trees that sacrifice their skin so that we can enjoy popping a cork rather than unscrewing a top. Now, this wine has enough sediment in it to scare some off. Don’t be, just decant for that purpose alone. The wine doesn’t need a decant to settle or anything but you don’t want to choke on whatever has broken down and been accumulating over the last 8 years. How do I know? Let’s leave that for another time. The wine is medium to full bodied but has a hard to describe lightness to it that was my first impression (after the sediment, that is) that’s a great attribute – fresh and easy drinkin’. It’s well balanced and those that find some of my recommendations too ‘heavy’ won’t find this one that way. The label says, “This fresh and aromatic wine, consumed in moderation, exists to bring pleasure to those that drink it.” Well said. I felt warm all over and inclined to be not so – moderate, that is. It’s a potential case lot for sure but there are limited quantities out there. I’d suggest that you click on the inventory number to see what’s in your neighbourhood. And a shout out to Vera! Stay tuned.

These next ones are for the March 29th release.

barahondaAnother Iberian value this time from Spain is the 2011 Barahonda Sin Madera Monastrell #366823 $15.95. I first had this wine as an on-line order sight un……..drunk. I loved it. It’s gone. Time to reload. It’s made from Monastrell. Monastrell is really just Mourvedre that’s escaped across the border from France. Or maybe vice versa? This is a wine that doesn’t see wood – so stainless steel all the way – bringing you the fruit first but I like the fact that there’s a hardness, a spine, to it – minerality and tannins. It’s pretty intense, flavour-wise and I experience it as full-bodied. Like the one above – it’s warming and, I think, a perfect wine for friends and Iberian food – like, say, carne de porco à alentejana (never had it but scooped it right out of Wikipedia). But seriously, we have a diner in London called Rei Dos Leitoes that, frankly, has the best barbecued chicken and pork in the area. Pick up a dinner from there (chicken, pork, BBQ, piri piri) and crack a couple of bottles of this wine with friends. Perfect.

wakefieldI had lunch with some friends yesterday and one commented that he appreciated cabernet sauvignon when he was supposed to be working on his graduate school stuff. Thanks for that, Jeff, I don’t feel so unprincipled now. A good value cabernet that takes us away from those magnetic California shelves is the 2012 Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon #744235 $17.95. This is a pretty big wine in my mind. It’s got some heat from the alcohol (although only 14%). Is it just me or is there higher and higher alcohol content? I don’t like that the wines we see now are all over 12.5% as a matter of course and some of the bruisers are 14.5% to 15.5%! What’s wrong with getting just mildly buzzed? What? Anyway, this has some heat but it isn’t to the extent that it interferes with the big dose of flavours – dark fruit, mocha, maybe even some herby stuff – wait, definitely herby stuff. Not heavily oaked or tricked up. This is not a party wine. I repeat – eat with this. Something burnt and chewy – leave the fat on and the tannins will break it down and rinse it up. I like this for the cab lovers out there. Even ones that drink while doing grad school projects.

And because you all love boogie down music. I couldn’t help myself.

Sip, Sip The Jip Jip – The Red Daily Slosh

31 Jan

These recommendations are for the February 1 release. You can find out what inventory your local LCBO store has by clicking on the highlighted link (stock number and price) and follow the logical steps. For future reference, some stores start populating the shelves with this stuff as early as Thursday.

jipjipIn the past, I’d refrain from looking up or “Googling” stuff that didn’t impact my life in some way. I’d use Google Translate, Thesaurus, travel sites, etc. But I wouldn’t check out stuff like who Diane Lane is dating now that she’s dropped Josh Brolin. I never thought they could have been that good together anyway – he just looks weathered and mean and his step-mom is Babs and Diane is ……just about perfect. Well, then we got an iPad and, Shazam (once a Marvel/DC comic book hero also known as Captain Marvel; now a music app) I am now needing to know every little detail of stuff that doesn’t matter! I hate myself. BTW, what do they call people that hate? Wait, I’ll control the urge. Anyway, when I saw the re-appearance of the 2011 Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz #673897 $16.95 I had a decision to make. Do I Google “Jip Jip” to see what it means, if it’s a place, an aboriginal word, a typo? I resisted and rather than Googling, Yahooing, or Binging, I’m shouting out to the Wine Wankers, our friends Down Under. “Guys, any ideas what “Jip Jip” means?” While we wait for an answer, let’s talk about this regular visitor to these pages. I like the style of this wine – not heavy and chewy but plush with fruit. It is medium-bodied to me (the review says “full-bodied” – so maybe in the 3/4 bodied range), good balance and the pepperiness that I love in Aussie shiraz. This is a food wine, if you chose to wait until dinner (roast beef?) is served, but I also think that company would dig it by itself. Great price.

ramitelloWhat do you get when you cross a Montepulciano with an Aglianico? A fun, expressive Italian. Drum roll ………Monica Belluci? No, the 2010 Di Majo Norante Ramitello #973214 $16.95! This is an easy drinking black fruit (cassis?), herby, chocolaty, dark beaut of a wine. It is one of those that makes its case for deal of the week, month, season. So, you don’t drink Italian wine that isn’t spelled pinot grigio, you say? I get that if you don’t drink red at all. But, come on it’s $16.95 – you are worth it. Live on the edge, walk on the wild side, change your name and join a band. But before you do, get a bottle of this and try it. Remember my iron clad guarantee – If you don’t like a wine that I recommend, you can reseal the bottle and send it to me.

speriripassoStaying in the boot. I play golf with a lover of Italian wine. He recommended a Valpolicella by Speri once and he was bang on especially on the value or QPR (Quality to Price Ratio). The Speri family has been at the wine game for awhile (according to write up) and it shows. There is a Old World feel to this wine that benefits further from the Ripasso method. If you have read this blog a few times, you may have heard me say that Ripasso isn’t always my favourite process – I just think that it doesn’t always translate into better wines. Valpolicella is great when it’s simple and easy sipping – a summer red even. Ripasso can sometimes make it too heavy for me, anyway. The 2011 Speri Pigaroi Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore #285206 $18.95 is an exception to that – it’s very well balanced with just enough heft. Ripe but not pruney – the bite of all my favorite Italian reds. All this makes it a great accompaniment to meat. Accompaniment with meat? Never sure. Actually even ‘accompaniment’ looks weird. I need a glass of wine! Good with a sausagy tomato pasta too, I bet. Sausagy looks wrong as well. Pop the bloody cork!

akaruaI just got in the door from some time in southwest Florida with friends. One of the cool things about these visits is the shopping for wine. We trudge to Total Wine and spend far too much time in there combing the stacks and dodging octogenarians and their walkers. When there, I try and gorge myself on American wine. And, maybe too much focus on pinot noir – leaving me wanting more. So, when I saw a chance to support a splurge pinot noir, I said let’s do it. My staff of crack tasters, Googlers, and glugglers has found the perfect follow up for California/Oregon pinot – 2011 Akarua Pinot Noir #079541 $37.95. This is a spot on representation of Central Otago pinot. It’s lean, mean, and a burnt toast, red fruit machine. Puckering and mouth-watering on the first sip but softening over time and after getting acquainted with your palate. I see it as a wine that could sit in your basement for a few years (4 – 7). It would be great to see what happens after a rest. OK, the part about staff is a shameless lie. I have to drink this stuff all by myself.

I’m off to see Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt tomorrow night. Can’t wait. And, wanted to give you a sample of what I might hear. Bypass the open chatter – song starts around 1:00. Cheers!

The Very Last Way Too Early Holiday Edition – The White Daily Slosh

21 Nov

arethafranklinI did warn about another tune. Mylie Cyrus, The Queen of Twerk? Nope. As Steely Dan said, “Hey 19”, she’s the Queen of Soul – Aretha Franklin. Yes, she did look this young once. Don’t worry as this is my last seasonal song installment. Here it is. Just couldn’t do this without her. Did I ever tell you about seeing her live or that the best song (song, song – not aria) ever sung by a woman was sung by her? Another time maybe. Or just guess. OK, never mind, here it is (written by her sister) or maybe it’s this one. OK, I’ve stopped now. But, as soon as I post, I’m turning up the volume!

On to the wine!

So, what do we need as we approach Thanksgiving (US) and vicarious re-living of Thanksgiving (Can.)? We need loads of serviceable white wine, that’s what. Friends of mine had a cocktail party last year and they noticed that people who asked for white wine actually more frequently asked specifically for “chardonnay” – instead of simply “white wine”. Whereas the red wine drinkers just mumbled incoherently (trying unsuccessfully to project an image of sobriety), “Ummm, red wine, please. I want red wine.” Interesting that, given the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) trend that’s been on for a few years. So, let’s give you some reasonably priced options for that chardonnay.

PeninsularidgeLocal is always good and these guys make great wine – have a splendid restaurant – great view. If you haven’t, make sure to drop by next time you’re in Niagara (picture provided by website). The 2011 Peninsula Ridge Barrel Aged Chardonnay #211490 $15.95. This is unusual for me (I know – I am unusual) because I’m used to their Inox Chardonnay which has no oak – steely and fruit focused. This one has all the nuances of oak that you might be looking for – not heavy but present primarily in vanilla on the finish and some butter stuff when you gurgle it. Just the right weight for a cocktail party. Or, you could do this with your turkey if it’s the traditional sage thing.

scrcI included the 2010 Santa Carolina Gran Reserva Chardonnay #928580 $14.95 because it’s a great price point and provides the same utility that the one above does – great for people who like white wine and like standing around as they drink it. This gives you the oaky stuff way before the one above – from the first sniff, actually. So, of the two, if oak is your primary glug thing – get this one. Tropical fruits and the tell-tale Granny Smith apple that chardonnay usually brings. It might have a bit more acidity and it’s light-medium weight, as well. You can’t go wrong with this right-priced chard. Case lot?

roquefortIf you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll remember that I talked about the forgotten white – white Bordeaux a few weeks ago after reading a great Eric Asimov article. This week there’s a white Bordeaux that I got to taste at a local Vintages aisle – 2011 Château Roquefort Sauvignon/Semillion #313346 $16.95. Traditional Bordeaux blend that brings a lot more roundness – no, that doesn’t sound right – brings a lot less of a linear feel – that too sounds like bullshit. What about – it comes across as more New World than I thought it would – bigger, fuller in fruit flavours and still some of the Old World earthy, stoney mouthfeel that these can give you. I liked it a lot. It would also be perfect for a walk around cocktail party wine. And, if you haven’t in awhile – you should.

wynnA wine that I’m going to get that I haven’t tried is the 2012 Wynn’s Coonawarra Estate Chardonnay #468928 $17.95. I love Wynn’s approach to their line up. Particulary their cabernet sauvignons. And, this sounds pretty interesting – described as full-bodied against the lighter versions above. Maybe better with food. While I’m on the topic of pairing (which I kind of wasn’t), I agree that you eat what you like with a wine that you like. But, really, I do think that the old red wine with meat and white wine with chicken and fish works pretty well unless you are a white-a-phile or red stained. I’ll think a bit more about it – read a blog or article the other day that said this and after a few days consideration – I agree. Not my original idea but still.

Way Too Early Holiday Edition 2 – Weekend and Splurge Wines

18 Nov

binganddavidI’ve been remiss over the last few months in not including my usual splurge wines. And the year end holidays are getting closer when you might like a couple around the house. We know they are close because stores are playing Christmas tunes. I actually heard Bing and David butta, bum, bumming each other (excuse the image). Or, is it rutta, tut, tumming? They do look uncomfortable, don’t they? Bing in his 40 year old cardigan, David thinking to himself, “Is that pipe tobacco and scotch I smell on Bing’s breath? And why are his children bruised and cowering under the Christmas tree?” And, let’s not forget the scenes of our American friends crashing Target at 5:00 AM to get one of the 3 available 40 inch LED TV’s advertised for $1.50 (that’s $1.54 CAD). Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

A challenge for me is getting to taste wines in this price range. You may not have noticed but I’m not one of the wine writing crew in Ontario that gets invited by the mother ship to taste each release’s wares. Not until you bombard this site and get my numbers up, anyway. So, I have to buy these wines or sample them at a tasting. Starting to understand the lack of splurge wine recommendations? To quote Omar of The Wire, “Ya’ feel me?”

crognoloItalian wines? Why with the Italian wines all the time? Paraphrasing Tony The Tiger, “‘Cause they’re great!” When you get a chance to pick up a Toscana that smells like leather and tastes like love.  OK, overdoing it? Anyway, when the 2010 Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo #727636 $31.95 opens up, it smells of that leather that you get from Italy and seldom in abundance from anyplace else. It has loads of red fruits and a sense of the wood used on the nose. It’s got a great hit of acidity but not a long finish. I think you’d want food with this wine.  I’d say if you like the Tuscan take on using international grapes (in this case Merlot) with Sangiovese, this is for you.

09-elderton-command-shirazWhen I started this journey of discovering and appreciating wines, I bought a ton of Aussie reds in the $20 – $40 range (St. Hallett’s Old Block, Penfold’s Kalimna Shiraz, Penley and Parker Coonawarra Cabernet). I don’t buy as many Aussie wines as I used to and probably don’t recommend as many as you would like, given the feedback I’ve received. Well, some of these wines are still bringing it in the premium category. You’ll always see the consistently great d’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz on the shelves, several Penfold’s Bins (389, 407) and the Kalimna Shiraz (Bin 28) that I love in most years. But, one wine that I’ve always favoured is the Elderton Command Shiraz. If power and Aussie sensibility (always wanted to say, ‘sensibility’ and have it not fit, like when I see others use it) is what turns you on, this is the Shiraz for you. I bought several vintages when they were less lofty price-wise and they still lurk in the cellar (throat clear……basement). The 2009 Elderton Command Single Vineyard Shiraz #716142 $89.95 – power in this wine isn’t to be confused with soaring alcohol (although it is at 14.8%), chewy tannins and over-extracted fruit. “Well, what the hell do you mean by power, then?” I mean that the wine is big in the glass (nose) and big in the mouth. This wine fills the glass with dark swirly fruit, some oaky nuances, and one of the most pronounced chocolate scents I’ve experienced in a Shiraz. When you get to drinking it, that Shiraz spiciness, pepper, and the oak come through. It’s pretty balanced now but I’d say wait awhile to allow the oak to take a back seat and it will be even more velvety. I guess I need to bring up and pop the 2002 now. Anybody want to join me?

chmontelenaAnother region that I under-recommend, I’m told, is California. It makes some of the best wines for pop and pour standing/sitting around. And, heavens knows, we like to pop and pour and stand around drinking wine. My old standby for splurging without reading reviews, pouring over tasting notes of stooges like me is Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon. This venerable winery makes some of the most consistent Cabernet in both the regular cuvee and the estate offering. There are plenty of bottles of that regular cuvee 2010 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon #718452 $59.95 left on the shelves. I couldn’t resist and picked up, popped and poured one of these recently – all in the service of my readers of course. This is as good as it gets – opaque, solid, structured and balanced – acidity, fruit, tannin, and alcohol all working together. It’s bigger this vintage than, say, it’s 2009 version but I never find that this wine carries that label of BIG CAB. Smelling of herbs and red fruit, tasting of darker fruits like cassis and some herbs with a finish that lasts seemingly forever. So, I’d say make sure that you have some food with this – some serious food. This wine will keep for a decade and a half, if their record is any indication. This might be a good yearly purchase for those that have a vacant slot in their wine rack and love California reds (Craig? Bob?). Or, red wine lover on your Christmas list? This will do the trick.

I haven’t tasted these but will try and see if I can swing the splurge:

kistler2012 Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay #183921 $84.95  I read a great piece some time ago by Eric Asimov about Kistler and their natural evolution to a more restrained style of chardonnay – one that reflects the place from which they come. I’d suggest that people coming to our house and trying to impress Arlene might want to go big or go home with this wine. BTW, I’d enjoy it too.

2010 Domaine Rijckaert Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champgains #355909 $69.95 Staying with chardonnay, this wine in earlier vintages was special and 2010 was magic in the right hands. If you like Meursault and Michael does, this is a good pick for your special dinner over the holidays or keep for a few years and see how it develops. Or…….why not do both? I mean aside from spending all that money on yourself? Note to Michael: Not as buttery or muscular as the Meursault’s that you like usually are, I bet. Although they do speak of oak and medium weight. Perfect turkey wine!

A red super splurge wine deserves an installment of Bill’s Story Time. Back when I really worked, I had an invoice paid while I was overnight in Toronto. It was burning a hole in my pocket. My client asked me if I could host a reception at a conference on their behalf – i.e. buy all the stuff that they didn’t want to be seen buying and bury it in my invoice. I said, sure. So, I had someone get some munchies and I trundled to the liquor store to get wine. While there and after picking up a couple of cases of entry level reception-worthy whites and reds, I decided to splurge for my best friend, Bill. After all, I did just get paid. I love Tuscan wine and particularly Bolgheri reds. Who doesn’t? So, I bought a bottle of the iconic Ornellaia. The price doesn’t matter now but let’s just say that it was well north of anything I had purchased before or since (with the exception of the Blvd. Saint Germain Burgundy Escapade). I laid out the wines, someone helped with the munchies and people started to arrive at the reception. It was an informal kind of thing with people getting their own drinks and food. About halfway through the evening, I noticed that someone was standing and reaching behind the television to grab the Ornellaia (that I had stupidly hidden there). It was one of those slow-mo moments from a nightmare – me shouting above the crowd but not being heard, moving but seemingly my feet anchored in cement. “No. no. not the Ornellaia!” He grabbed a corkscrew. “No, get the hell out of my way!” I shouted, as I shoved through inconvenient guests. And, and …………he opened the bottle. Well, there goes the Ornellaia. I slowed, approached, gently took the bottle from him before he could replenish his glass, and suggested that he might prefer the Cline Syrah – ya’ I actually pulled that one off – and took the Ornellaia, stashed it in my hotel room, and surreptitiously asked a couple friends to join me after everyone left. We drank my only ever Ornellaia from hotel room tumblers (after removing the cellophane, of course), while eating leftover veggies and dip. Was it good? Oh yeah too good. It might have had more to do with the friends. I’ve been there, done that, but if you want to pick one of these beauties up 2010 Ornellaia #335497 $189.95 make sure you call me over. I’d like it in real glass this time. With a stem. Doesn’t have to be Reidel.

Zaftig It’s Not – The White Daily Slosh

16 Aug

LenkoOVChardA few years ago, a friend and I were traveling in the Niagara area and she insisted we track down Daniel Lenko Wines. She was my boss, so we did. She’d heard that they were spectacular and hardly available except through the winery itself. I’d heard that they were on the wine list at Sussur Lee’s restaurant which creates some substantial street cred. We arrived at a farmhouse sans sign (I mean no signage at all) just slightly off the main road by Beamsville. When I say farmhouse and you think of an old Victorian brick under spreading elms, forget it. This was a fifties cement block foundation brick home with cement steps and an iron railing to the side door. Steel farm buildings and farm equipment hard by the door. We were greeted by a rather largish but very friendly dog (have I ever said that I love dogs?). And, as a response to the barking, an older woman, who we later found out was Daniel’s mother, Helen, greeted us wearing an apron. She encouraged us to come in and taste some wine. She was experimenting in making latkes from an old Canadian Living recipe. We sat in the kitchen and talked with her while we waited for Daniel. And, we got to taste the latkes. I could recount the whole story but you get the idea. This is not your usual tasting room and not your usual winery. Tasting fees? Are you kidding me? The wines are as special as advertised. This week, 2010 Daniel Lenko Old Vines Chardonnay #352328 $22.95 is available through the mother ship. This is a great representation of what mature Niagara vines and an experienced winemaker/vineyard manager can create. It’s been in oak – so has lots of the buttery stuff that comes with that. Soft flesh fruit aromas (I think others may call peaches, apricots and such “stone fruit” – will look it up for next time) lurking under that on the nose but very evident as a flavour in your mouth. Solid finish and a little bite. Great stuff and made for food. If you are ever down that way, drop in and find out what all the fuss is about.  www.daniellenko.com

hermitcrabLast week, or was it the month before last, I’ve lost track, there was a viognier on the White Daily Slosh. It had a bit of Marsanne in it. A reader and fellow blogger, shirazrat, told me that if I liked that one, there was a great representation of that blend made by d’Arenberg – The Hermit Crab. I tried to track down a few bottles then but it wasn’t around. But as if someone’s ears were burning, someone was reading our minds or fate stepped in or maybe just a strange coincidence, we have that very wine available starting Saturday – 2011 D’Arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier/Marsanne #662775 $18.95. This is a very smelly wine – I mean good smelly – aromatic just like our friends on the Vintages panel suggest. I think that you’d like it, if you prefer a white that is a bit ‘funky and hedonistic’ as shirazrat suggested. Thanks for the tip! It can go solo quite comfortably or you might like some lighter fare that has some bite to go along with it.

yalumbaviognierStaying down under, there’s a consistent performer that I always try to pick up. OK, was it only me who immediately went to the gutter? I’m waiting for some of you to catch up. What I meant is that there is a line of wines that I think seems to hit the QPR mark. That’s the ‘Y’ series wines from Yalumba. I like their Shiraz/Viognier blend, in particular. This week, there’s the 2012 Yalumba The Y Series Viognier #624501 $16.95. It’s pretty large without being overwhelming. The write up suggests that past vintages have been rather hedonistic but I didn’t find them too much so. I liked them. This one is fun not serious. Tropical fruit on the nose and predominant in the mouth. I think it would be OK with food, but I like it by itself with me alone in my office, considering yard chores, dinner preparation, my rapidly deteriorating golf game. You could have it as an alternative white choice at a stand around function. I think people would really appreciate the variety and a chance to try a blend that’s all too seldom offered. Get both of the whites above and try a viognier taste-off with friends. Even imaginary friends will do – works great for me.

eidoselaLet’s stay with the aromatic whites. I had to wait on this because I couldn’t get ahead of the curve and had to wait until today to taste. This week I penned a post about trouble. In it, I referenced the great marriage between Albariño and seafood. I think that has as much to do with why I like it as the wine on its own. This week, there’s a 2011 Eidosela Albariño #336271 $13.95. Seafood – fried (less so), grilled (now we’re getting there), or raw (bingo!) and you get the match for this wine. Oysters, scallops, clams, sashimi, I bet even ceviche would ‘like’ albariño on Facebook. This one has nice acidity, it’s crisp, spicy and still has room left for some lemon and stone fruit. Karen MacNeill in her great book, The Wine Bible says that albariño wines are “not as zaftig as chardonnay…..the best of them as light as gossamer on the palate”. So, if it’s zaftig you’re after, look elsewhere. It’s from Rias Baixas which is a Spanish DO right above Portugal and south of France by the Atlantic. In completing my deep research for this piece, I read in Wikipedia that the vines are trained on granite posts to avoid damage due to humidity. Hope to see one day.

From a label perspective, this post may have two of the coolest labels – Eidosela and Y Viognier. Nice to see them among all the Skinny Girls, Red Legs,  Naked whatevers, and animal caricatures. I can’t afford Mouton Rothschild but that doesn’t mean that my labels can’t be art.

%d bloggers like this: