Tag Archives: Bierzo

Play Ball – The Red Daily Slosh

15 Apr

I love baseball. I know, I’m Canadian and that means hockey, hockey, hockey. Of course I played hockey all through my youth and early adulthood.. But, baseball is my true love. This weekend is my fantasy baseball draft. It’s a lot of fun. BTW, Duffs Tunas will triumph in 2015! Yes, my team is called Duffs Tunas – affectionately called The Tunas by family members. I inherited the team on the deathbed of my brother – true story soon to be made into a feature film. And, that team he had drafted in 1998 finished second last, if you can believe it. I couldn’t end his legacy with secondbaseballglove last, could I? So I picked up the mantle and The Tunas have been my responsibility for the last 16 years.

Back to the draft – an important issue is the beverage choice. For years, I stuck to beer. Lately though, I’ve felt that I need to wave the wine flag proudly and have taken some wine from the basement. It’s a dilemna. A couple of the guys are wine drinkers and some are not. If you write a blog, do tastings, etc., it’s assumed that you’ll bring something a-may-zing. And, perhaps something that no one has had before because you are so darn knowledgeable. But agonizing over a choice that most, if not all, participants won’t care about? I’ve landed on a Barolo for the evening before (oh yeah, it’s a sleepover) for pairing with a lamb stew. And, just in case it’s a spicier lamb stew (or not stew at all), I’ve got a back up – a Rhone Syrah. During the draft – Ontario Pinot. It’s always great to share a bottle of something tasty with friends and opponents. Wait……maybe I should switch out the Barolo for a Brunello? A CdP? Boone’s Farms Strawberry Hill? Damn, but it’s a high class problem to have, isn’t it?

pfvThe April 17th release features Europe’s Primum Familia Vini – that group of families in Europe that carry the history and glory of European wine – Mouton-Rothschild, Marchesi Antinori, Famille Perrin, Hugel & Fils, Miguel Torres, Joseph Drouhin, Tenuta San Guido, Symington, Pol Roger, Egon Müller-Scharzof, Vega-Sicilia. Interesting that the LCBO profiled the Wagner family of Caymus fame in the same release. What it did was show the difference in what constitutes a long run of quality in the New World versus the Old World. The Wagner clan have made many great wines for over 40 years and yet, they are relative newcomers compared to the PFV.

It goes without saying that, if you have deeper pockets, you can pick up some of the moderately expensive wines of these families – ’11 Solaia (Yaozza!), ’12 Château de Beuacastel (Whoa!), ’00 Warres Colheita Tawny Port (Suweeeet), ’12 Guidalberto, ’11 Alion, ’12 40th Anniversary Caymus, among others. But, this isn’t a splurge post and if I left it at those sips, you’d whine (read: bitch) and moan about how these wines are too expensive for you (mortgage, kids education, fixed income – excuses, excuses. You have a line of credit, use it). So, how about a solid inexpensive Rioja?

ibericos2The 2012 Miguel Torres Altos Ibericos Crianza #381046 $16.95 is an excellent value crianza. Sometimes I hear that the Riojas I recommend are too…cedary. I’m not kidding. People do say this. I mean can you have too much cedar? Clos de Sauna? Anyway, this one uses wood very judiciously. That being said, there is some evidence of oak – on a somewhat restrained nose that opens after a time in the glass. Some pepper, red fruit in the mouth. 100% Tempranillo. Grows better every minute – it balances up nicely. So, don’t rush it. I had this at the cottage and my notes will definitely be affected upward by the location – haven’t had a poor wine up there. Regardless of the cottage factor, it’s safe to say that this is a good wine at a great price.

bilahautThere are few producers that are a lock at almost any price. M. Chapoutier is one of those. The 2013 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes de Roussillon Villages #168716 $15.95 will be familiar to readers of this wine drenched scribe. I have recommended the Bila-Haut – Vielles Vignes and the Occultum through several vintages. I’ve also enjoyed his Crozes-Hermitage, Hermitage, Cote-Rotie, Cornas, and Saint-Joseph cuvées. I even have had his Portuguese effort, Printeveira – exceptional. But wait, there’s more – he even does Australian Syrah. I love M. And, yes, that’s Braille on the labels. Back to the Bila-Haut. This is a Grenache based experience – a little tanginess but tannins are gentle. Dark fruit and brush on the nose. Lip-smacking fruit and a medium finish. This is just so Roussillon. Picture sitting at a café along la Riviere Basse in Perpignan, ordering (in Catalan) a bottle of the Bila-Haut and pa amb tomàquet. The perfect end to a perfect afternoon wandering the vineyards. Or, open it at home with your own smashed tomatoes and garlic on bread. That doesn’t sound quite as tasty, does it? Pa amb tomàquet sounds better, yeah?

abadYears ago I pleaded with someone to give me a play on words to use with the grape Mencia. I guess my 16 readers got tired of helping me write the blog and went on strike. No, “This varietal is a real mensch.” Nada. It all started with this wine in a different vintage (2008). This good old wine – 2006 Abad Dom Bueno Crianza #244649 $15.95 has been laying on its side in the dark for 8 years, waiting for you. Just trying harder and harder to improve with age – kind of like me and my rapidly aging friends. Laying on our sides and trying. Snoring a wee bit and trying. This wine is made from Mencia and hails from Bierzo. It’s dry, yet the time has softened the tannins – not mouth drying, allowing the fruit to step forward – dark fruit flavours. It’s got power without being heavy – more medium-bodied. A little sediment. Great value. I have just talked myself into taking this to the baseball draft as well.

I’ll keep it at that as I want to write about some whites this week.

badiaOh, one more thing. If you do want to splurge on the Primum Familia Vini, take a stab at the 2009 Badia a Passignano Gran Selezione Chianti Classico #384552 $44.95. Just what we all needed was the Tuscans to come up with another designation so that the names of their wines could form full sentences. However, this is truly quite a ‘gran’ selection – a real step up in quality from their Chianti Classico Riserva. Cellar it or pop and pour with some air and country Italian fare. Great juice.

Now, on to baseball. Go Tunas!


JJ et La Famille – The Red Daily Slosh

25 Aug

jj cale

Just a shout out to JJ Cale fans – he will be missed. Click on pic for a great rendition of one of my favourites. Love it!

Now to wine – just poured a little something for the writing grind. I’ve been asked why I seem to recommend wines on some arcane and unusual schedule rather than just speak about what I’m drinking. So, a primer for those non-Ontario residents.

Every two weeks our beloved Liquor Control Board of Ontario (the LCBO, the mother ship, but more importantly – the place everyone goes for boxes when they’re moving) puts together a ‘special’ release of wines that they’ve carefully selected for the season, etc. They print a truly beautiful and informative brochure with reviews, stories and a theme for the release. Since the inception of the release approach, the average price per bottle has risen substantially and it is shamelessly an attempt to upsell gullible Ontarians. Hand up – guilty – I’m gullible – it works flawlessly in my house. My reviews are based upon these releases and are an effort to pique readers’ interest in certain wines with the ultimate goal of uncontrolled spending on wine and immense gratitude, in the form of gifts to me for my astute observations. The first part kind of works in the case of my closest friends and I feel like I don’t have a problem any more than they do; the second goal not so much.

This week’s release focuses on wines that score high with the critics – both high priced ones and those to which we’re more likely to gravitate. If I get to it before Friday, I’ll post for Splurge wines on some of the expensive ones that merit a look.

perrinI am nothing if not predictable – well, and undisciplined, compulsive, narcissistic, and frankly over-thinking every aspect of my life – including the preceding analysis. So on the issue of predictability, I’m recommending a Côtes du Rhône – 2011 Perrin Pevre Blanche Cairanne Côtes du Rhône-Villages #650960 $17.95. This is a wine from the famous Famille Perrin. This Cairanne I find to be très solid. Flabbé comme le plonk? Non! Recent vintages in the Southern Rhone have been exceedingly good. This does nothing to dispel that. Grenache et Syrah, full of the smells and tastes of the area – scrubbiness (they call it garrigue), herbal on the nose but more serious in the mouth. A cacophony of flavours – just kidding but it is a mouthful and I had trouble not checking too many flavours off on my tasting notes. Similar to when someone at a tasting suggests cinnamon, then everyone smells it. I was kind of suggesting too much to myself. Leads me to think that the wine could use some time to grow up and sort itself out a bit.  If you really want to know about this wine there’s a discussion of the wine in English and a great video en francais on the Famille Perrin website. A friend recently bought a bunch of Rhone wine and I know that he’d like this one on the balcony with a cigar, which is his style.

brecaThis release features a whole flight of new high scoring Spanish wines but I have only tried the one – 2010 Breca Old Vines Garnacha #329086 $19.95. Robert Parker says that “it may be the most amazing wine I have ever tasted at this price in over three decades.” This roughly translated means that it will be gobbled up if you wait until after noon on Saturday. So, check the inventory via the link to see what store you need to raid – or call to reserve like I will. I love wines from Catalonia – have recommended them with much acceptance by my peeps. This one is a lot more evolved than some of the similarly priced wines from there. It carries the minerality that you might expect but also swirls of black fruits and although Parker says aromas of “lavender’, it’s more fennel to me. But, he’s the expert – so lavender it is. There are times for serious wines and this is one of them – times, that is.

villamtedenzinI see that this month’s Wine Enthusiast has an article on zinfandel and on the cover an Amador County Zin –  Easton (which I recommended a few months back). I love Amador zinfandels! This week the 2008 Villa Mt. Eden Antique Vines Grand Reserve Zinfandel #256719 $19.95 represents a blend of Amador County and Napa fruit. Can we talk? I find that zinfandels can sometimes be a bit………..disorganized and/or flabby. They’re good but maybe because of the higher alcohol, extracted fruit – too full-bodied and just too much – could be better is all I’m saying. The sometimes knock on California wine by critics is that it is just too big and extracted – no subtleties – no balance (and there definitely are a lot like that). This one, perhaps because of the old vines used (Amador County has some of the oldest vines in the state) or the cooler nights, is spicy, balanced and has enough acidity to carry all the alcohol and fruit. It’s a beaut! I know many of you used to zinfandel (the verb) a lot and have branched out or moved off this noble grape. Give this a try, if you don’t like it, put the cork back in and call me to come and get it. Perfect ribs wine, I’d think. Vegetarian? Grilled marinated portobellos with arugula salad (feta cheese), and fresh sliced field tomatoes. Vegan? Skip the cheese. Dumpster diver? Can’t help you there.

A few repeats from earlier posts:

delabadIn re-reading the post, I realize that I’ve had two of the Spanish wines that are highly rated including, the Breca above and the 2008 Bodegas del Abad Dom Bueno Mencia #291989 $15.95. After revisiting this, I’d say OK to leave in your basement, closet or whatever you tell friends is your wine cellar, wink, wink, nod, nod for awhile or have now with time to breathe in a decanter. I, myself am not afraid and like its darkness, size and depth of flavour – straight forward, not overly complicated now.

I may have drank, drunk? drunken? as much of the 2006 Rivera cappellaccioCappallaccio Riserva Aglianico #305276 $17.95 as any other recommended red aside from the Beronia and the Le Ponnant. I recommended this wine pre-on-line-blog in my newsletter. It’s an aglianico that has an easy style but don’t be fooled it’s got complexity (not really sure I like that word – seems lazy). I mean that there’s a lot going on in the glass and when you swirl it in your mouth. Herbs, darker fruits and woodiness – but not oak – cedar? Then, fruit, leather and a good dose of tannin on the finish – perfect for pasta in tomato sauce or pizza!

BTW, I poured a glass of Malivoire Ladybug Rosè at the top of the page – so that’s what I’m drinking, drank, drunken. Anyway, it’s finished. I’ll talk about it another time.

Fantasy Baseball and Wine – Two of My Favourite Things

8 Apr

baseballgloveI completed my fantasy baseball draft in the Pals Of Olaf Baseball Association (POOBA) on the weekend. As usual I left the draft deflated but hopeful. I didn’t land Miggy Cabrera or Justin Verlander but if I’m lucky and they are not, they will get injured and my team, Duffs Tunas, will grasp the championship!

As I prepared for the draft and prepared may not be the right word…..scrambled, might better describe my technique, I considered the proper beverage for an auction style draft. And, it goes without saying that it had to be wine. I know, then why say it?

French? – Displays the fact that I don’t really know much about baseball. As in, how many French pitchers have won the Cy Jeune? Let’s say it would be bad karma.

Italian? – Conveys the fact that I don’t really care who wins because I’m taking a break until my Juventus side plays next weekend

New World? – Really? If the beer swillers that I’m defeating can pronounce it, I lose my wine mojo.

So, what did I land on? – Spain.

My thinking? My favourite team in the real baseball world is the Toronto Blue Jays and they are, for the most part, Dominican. They don’t make wine in the Dominican Republic but their national drink, rum, would result in a very bad ending for the Tunas. Trust me there is anecdotal and jurisprudence support to that prediction. Despite the fact that Sarah Palin understood Latin American people to speak Latin, Domincans speak Spanish. Ergo, Spanish is the language of my people – my Blue Jay people. So, I went to a mencia wine from Bierzo – Bodegas del Abad Dom Bueno Mencia 2008 ($15.95). My notes – “Opened far ahead of its time – dark fruits abound in this full-bodied, deep……” That’s about all I bothered to take down. It’s hard to pay attention to the draft and the wine. However, I did notice great acidity to go with convenience store popcorn and creeping regret. Actually am going to get a few more of these.

I will keep you apprised of the Tunas speedy rise to the top of league standings. Why rise, you ask? Because we currently reside in second last place. Maybe next year?

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