Tag Archives: cabernet sauvignon

Italy 2017 – Secondi – Bolgheri

12 Nov

 

That’s me striding with purpose (a raging thirst) into the town of Bolgheri

When we last met our intrepid traveller, he was sipping Vernaccia di San Gimignano and asking the universal traveller’s question, “What the hell are we going to do tomorrow?” Oh yeah, head to Bolgheri.

Day 2 – Bolgheri

The plan was to wander Bolgheri and then head to the beach at Marina di Bibboni. It was about a 50 minute drive from Volterra, Without a map or GPS – only 10 minutes longer. Yes, I’m the guy in the Fiat calmly driving the round-a-bouts twice. Did that ruin the day? Never. If you read my first instalment, you know that getting lost can be… not exactly fun, but interesting. Plus, it’s a character builder. First, I’ll tell you a little about Bolgheri as a wine DOC.

Guado al Tasso

DOC Bolgheri and DOC Bolgheri Superiore lie south of Livorno between the Tuscan hills and the coast, near the village of Bolgheri. The DOC isn’t big (1200 hectares – 40 members of the Bolgheri Consorzio) but it is mighty. Many of the first Super Tuscans came from Bolgheri with Sassicaia (first made as such in 1968) being the most famous. In fact there is a DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia which requires 80 % Cabernet Sauvignon, aging for 2 years, 18  months of which has to be in 225l barriques. Wow, that’s prescriptive!

The distinguishing thing about DOC Bolgheri red wines versus other Tuscan DOC’s/DOCG’s is the use of Bordeaux varieties (allowable % in brackets): Cabernet Sauvignon (0% – 100%), Merlot (0% – 100%), Cabernet Franc (0%-100%), Petit Verdot (0% – 30%) and Syrah (0% – 50%). they also continue to grow Sangiovese (0% – 50%). It’s hard to keep up but just think that most of these wines feature the Bordeaux Big 4 potentially supported by Sangiovese and Syrah. Of course, wineries can make wines somewhat outside these restrictions but they’d be IGT Toscana wines not DOC Bolgheri. Confused? Bolgheri labels that you might know include Guado al Tasso, Tenuta San Guido, Satta, Le Macchiole, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, Podere Grattamacco, Campo all Sughera, Poggio al Tesoro, Gaja Ca’Marcanda, and the list goes on.

There is still a wee bit of controversy about the use of traditional ‘Bordeaux’ grapes instead of autochthonous (wine geek speak for ‘indigenous’) grapes in Italy – Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Barbera, etc. While I agree that there already is enough Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in this world, there are two compelling reasons that I’m a ‘yeah’ to Bordeaux in Tuscany: 1) the wine is really, really good; 2) everywhere else does it, so why dis Bolgheri. And did I mention, it’s really good?

Sassicaia

Although reservations to visit may, in fact, be needed in many wine regions in the world, reservations really are the exception. When we were in Napa, you needed reservations for Duckhorn, Quintessa, and Caymus, for example. But many other wineries accommodated you as a walk-in. Similarly in Niagara, Languedoc, and much of Tuscany. These wineries have adequate tasting rooms and sell much of their stuff from the cellar door. Well, Bolgheri don’t roll like that, baby. I guess Tenuta San Guido doesn’t want a busload of seniors from Goderich, Ontario working their way through a case of Sassicaia one taste at a time. Then buying a few sachets of lavender and staggering out to the bus.

In this environment, the one casualty of playing it ‘by ear’, other than a poor rendition of Smoke On The Water, is that you might not be able to taste at some wineries. Hell, you might not even get in through the automated gate. We did have a reservation at Le Macchiole but it cratered. So, we wandered around anyway – dropped in to Guado al Tasso, Relais il Beserno (unbelievable place), Tenuta San Guido – nice chats but nary a drop of wine. I was getting thirsty. In my Lonely Planet it talked about a wine bar in the little town of Bolgheri where you can taste just about anything that comes from Bolgheri. As if. So, we wandered into the town and found the sign below out front of Enoteca Tognoni! Seriously?

You are reading that right, wine peeps. Ornellaia and Sassicaia by the glass! And, you can get tasters of it too – 5cl or 10cl. Friends, there is a bit of a downside to having this type of selection and, in Italian, that downside is called il conto.

The inside of Enoteca Tognoni is crazy cluttered with wine bottles, stacks of half-opened wine cases and amongst all that, tables to sit, taste, and eat if you wish. It’s atmospheric. I’ll give it that. Service was exceptional. We had a very knowledgeable woman who took time to give us a selection that fit our palate, pocketbook, and understanding. She stood by us and explained each wine – who, what, particularities, vintage, etc.

A chaotic but thrilling wall of wine at Enoteca Tognoni. Glad I don’t have to do inventory

Here’s the thing. Is it expensive? Yeah. But, will I ever have another chance to taste these wines together? Probably not. So forget il conto and taste! One flight tasted out like this –  2012 Arnione €35 from Campo alla Sughera. Made from 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, and 20% Petit Verdot – powerful, balanced and still early in its development. This carried the day for me. I know that the Merlot here was just one of many players but it shone through – cherry and mint. Smooth tannins, deep wine. Loved, loved this wine! The 2013 Castello Bolgheri €50 is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot. It was strictly cellar material – fruit hiding behind tannin and acid. Nonetheless, it was powerful stuff which seems to be the theme here. I wish that I could figure out where it might end up. The last of this flight 2013 Aldone €48 from Terre dei Marchesato is all Merlot. It did have a real Pomerol feel to it. Dusty, tannic and needing a load of time in the cellar. It opened a bit over time. Well, 30 minutes. Another wine worth mentioning – 2011 Cont’Ugo €35 – 100% Merlot from Guado al Tasso (Antinori). And for the Cabernet Franc fiends out there, I tasted Le Macchiole’s 2013 Paleo Rosso €70 – 100% Cab Franc. Stunning! Still hiding out a bit but what a wine. These may all seem a bit on the expensive side but significantly cheaper than comparable Napa Bordeaux stuff.

The flight above-mentioned

So, what did the Sassicaia by the glass cost? €40 is all. A tasting of 5cl (1.7 oz.) was  €14. If you have to ask on the Ornallaia, you can’t afford it. I’ve had them both before – snobbish yawn. So, stuck to wines new to me.

Did we get to the beach? We did. This wine stained wretch snoozed in the shade (wonder why I was sleepy) and my Mediterranean companion soaked up the sun. And, then it was back to Volterra. We went a different way. By design? Not really. We just kept heading to Volterra by road sign and then visually. Hard to miss Volterra when you’re anywhere within 40 kilometres. Then back to Podere San Lorenzo for nibbles and wine.

Spring-fed pool/pond at Podere San Lorenzo

I learned something in Bolgheri. I rail against big wines that are too oaked, too thick, too fruit forward, and/or just too much. And yet, I loved the wines that I tasted in Bolgheri and they weren’t shy, subtle, restrained efforts. They weren’t blockbusting behemoths (quoting Parker here) either. Likewise the wines that I love from Priorat – they too are largish. I may have to just admit that the issue of size isn’t as important to me as I let on sometimes. Maybe, “Size doesn’t matter,” he says, always the contrarian. Thoughts?

Cheers.

Bill

 

Phone Rage – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

14 Apr

Question: What is proper smartphone etiquette at the gym?

cellhonebanThe reason I ask? I was at the gym the other day (no scoffing, please) and retired to the sauna after several hours of heavy weights. I entered to find a young man on the top bench in full gym gear, including shoes. EEEW. But that’s not the real issue. He had his smartphone with him, earbuds in and music blaring enough that I could hear the lyrics to Hotline Bling. And, that’s not all. He kept texting someone (clickety, clickety, click) who’s return texts were announced with an annoying gong. What to do:

  1. I could have asked him politely to get undressed after all saunas are for the semi-naked, place phone in Airplane Mode, and turn the music off – maybe could be taken the wrong way on the, “get undressed, please”;
  2. I could have asked if he was so pathetically lonely that he needed an electronic substitute for his blankie even in the sauna – a bit too psychoanalytical; or
  3. Do what I actually did – the indirect dis – which was start to talk to the other naked man in the sauna about how sadly attached people were to their gadgets, wink, wink. He promptly got up and left. Not the man I was talking to, although he might have thought about it, but the offender left. Point made. Not sure what I would have done if he ‘got in my face’, as they say. Headline: “Man Killed in Sauna was Victim of Phone Rage”

The reason I mention this is that today I was sitting, thinking. Just thinking. No smartphone, no music on. I repeat – just me alone with my thoughts. A lost art? I’m not bragging because I couldn’t do it as long as I used to. After awhile, I needed to put some tunes on, find my phone and check for texts and emails that would validate my existence. Yup, Bill is here ’cause he got a text. I, too, am needing a little electronic recognition, I fear. But never in the sauna.

And, if you believed the “several hours of heavy weights” I claimed above, you don’t really know me. It was 90 minutes on the treadmill and fifteen on some circuit training machines. OK, that’s a lie too. It was mostly just the sauna.

This week’s (April 16) release has some old favourites of mine and a couple new faces.

frchardLet’s start close to home – the 2013 Flat Rock Chardonnay #286278 $18.95 will serve you well in the build up to summer and then on warm summer evenings. Any oak is is under the influence of the juicy fruit (not the gum) and a nice bite of acid on the finish. Nice effort by a very solid winery. You can read about my visit to Flat Rock here.

kacabaAgain from Niagara up on the escarpment, the 2011 Kacaba Cabernet Sauvignon #326496 $24.95  is a handful and carries that personality of red rather than black or cassis fruit. Tannins suggesting further cellaring back when I tasted it. Perhaps not needing that now. Great red meat wine – grab a steak and pop, breathe and enjoy.

 

brazinLodi is an under appreciated wine region IMHO. It’s straining to be recognized, loved, and benefitting economically from that love. My fave wine from Lodi? Zinfandel. This week there is a repeat offender from these pages – 2013 Brazin (B)Old Vine Zinfandel #256750 $20.95. This won’t remind you of those yuuuuge Zins that we all like despite ourselves. It’s more reserved, complicated. Laura Linney? Love Laura. Love this wine too. I lamented about not getting it on with California ones lately and this is an excuse to break that trend. This really says, “Cottage.”

mdfcsWhile in Lodi, let’s pick up a bottle of the Michael David Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon #405175 $26.95. I love these guys. Their Petite Petit is an annual must buy. This one has the coolest label. This is big, complicated in a very nice way – different sensations in the mouth – dry, fruits, smack, finish. There’s a dirty quality to it – oh behave. A terrific wine.

saintamourA wine that was released a while ago but is still hanging around and worth a visit is the 2014 P. Ferraud et Fils Cuvée Ensorceleuse Saint-Amour #443044 $19.95. I seem to remember that Saint-Amour as a Cru is a bit more seductive and less masculine than, say, Moulin-a-Vent or Morgon. Well, this wine flexes it’s fruit muscles plenty. Raspberry pie is what I thought to myself. Not syrupy but tangy raspberries. In fact, think raspberry pie and then sniff and sip. I told you. My friend, Grant, will dig this big time. Great sipping wine with a cigar for him.

Wines that I’m curious to try:

2013 Edmeades Zinfandel #105924 $23.95 A Mendocino Zin. Say no more.

2011 Cune Reserva #417659 $24.95 This is usually such a pleasurable, easy to quaff Rioja. Here’s hoping the 2011 is.

Spring is here! Enjoy the weekend.

Bill

Duff’s Book Club – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

7 Aug

Well, what’s everyone been up to? Me? I’ve been off these pages for better than a month. I’ve been at the lake, doing man stuff (building things, beer, baseball on the radio), boating, swimming, sitting, drinking a shitload of wine (that’s a anthonydoerrmetric measurement for my friends south of the border), and reading a lot. Some great books. Some very disappointing ones. On that score, I’ve decided that I will never read another book with the word “Girl” in the title. And, if the book also tells its story through several different unreliable narrators, I am out of here. Did anyone read Gone Girl? It was pretty sorry, wasn’t it? Everyone is writing books that mirror Gone Girl’s tale, technique, and style. I made the mistake of getting The Girl On The Train and The Good Girl under the guise that The Director would like them. Brutal. Why everything the same again and again until no one buys it?

rawihagePlease no more ‘Young Adult’ books that involve wizards, vampires, and/or post apocalyptic young women. Everything the same again. Uncle. I give up!

I did read some great books. The best of which were: Rawi Hage’s DeNiro’s Game, Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See, and a Carl Hiassen one that I probably read before – love him. I’m off to Spain next month so if you have some good reads to share, let me hear them.

This is a wine blog. So, on to the wine!

I thought that I’d just make this a mélange, a cornucopia, a bit of a mashup really of reds and whites.

Let’s start with Argentina. I was speaking with the son of a friend of mine and he said that every time he sees Susana Balbo’s Malbec, he buys it and then benmarcocswhen he takes it to an event, the host (if she/he even opens it- which is the peril of taking something that’s actually good to an event, isn’t it?), they remark that it’s great and posit that it cost a lot more than it actually did. The power of good winemaking is what that is. Well, this week, there’s another from Dominio del Plate (Susana’s home perch) 2013 BenMarco Cabernet Sauvignon #232637 $18.95. This is pure Cabernet Sauvignon. Cassis, structure, grip – a food wine. Hands up – how many people think California when they think Cabernet Sauvignon? Bordeaux? Chile? Australia (stay tuned)? Argentina? Now, if there is one person with their hand up, I’ll buy a new MacBook. I’m not sure if anyone thinks of Argentinean cab sav as ‘classical’. This may change your mind and it’s only $18.95! You may say that I’ve been a little too effusive about Susana in the past and you’d be right. Regardless of the past love, my eyes are open, this is good juice.

roscsStaying on the cab sav bandwagon, let’s travel to the Margaret River region of Australia. In Western Australia, they make the best Cabernet Sauvignon in Australia possibly with the exception of Coonawarra in some vintages IMHO. It’s warm, dusty, and crafty there. The 2012 Robert Oatley Cabernet Sauvignon #323741 $19.95 is one of those solid yet elegant reds. It doesn’t hit you over the head with tannins and acidity but everything nonetheless is yummy – subtley good. Restrained. I’d say this could be a sipper – as in, just pop and pour during the argument phase of the evening which happens at my place pre-dinner, post dinner or actually during dinner. Actually save the dinner for a bigger more flamboyant red. This carries redder fruits than other New World cabs.

eastonI always love a good zin and this week there’s a consistent one that costs a bit more but I’m good for it – the 2012 Easton Zinfandel (Amador County) #328377 $27.95. I first had this label at a zin tasting and it blew me away. A zin tasting is like a Bordeaux pre-release tasting. By the time I taste 10-15 wines, my palate is shot, if I was being honest. Oh, I still swish and spit and ooh and aah but it’s a farce really. My notes become more and more cryptic and vacuous (like my comments here?). Well, this wine in it’s 2010 vintage broke through the sock mouth and showed leather notes, red fruit, and an earthiness that I don’t always associate with Zinfandel. This vintage is similar. Not heavy, good grip, and a burst of red fruit. After you swallow, you get a nice finish with a smokiness or leatheriness. A very sophisticated Zinfandel at this price. I’d love to understand if it’s the winemaker or the vineyard or both that brings this experience. Maybe a trip to California for research?

closOn the white side, there’s a nice Muscadet. I do love Muscadet. This one, 2010 Clos les Montys Vieilles Vignes Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie #297911 $13.95 is a typical one. Salty, crisp, and full of pears. Love pears too. This is the perfect accompaniment to shellfish simply prepared and eaten al fresco under the stars. OK, you could have it in the living room too. I had a comment a long time ago. The troll wondered why I slagged Pinot Grigio but loved Muscadet. Well, 1. it’s my blog and I’m OK with you thinking I’m contradictory, and 2. They are not remotely the same wine! Go ahead PG lovers, pick this up and have with the aforementioned shellfish or fresh field tomatoes and tell me that reminds you of PG.

yEvery year I mention the 2014 Yalumba The Y Series Viognier #624502 $16.95. I had this vintage at a restaurant while I waited for a colleague. Yes, that’s right, I started drinking before he got there. I know I have a problem. This wine just bursts from the glass – peaches and cream. Such an invitation to gulp! But, don’t. You’ll miss the bright acidity and lovely mouthfeel. It’s smooth and spicy at the same time.

contradeSplurge alert – in winegeekdom, there’s a club called the Wine Century Club. The goal of the club is to drink wines made with 100 different grapes. I started to fill in the forms with every different grape I sampled. But, like every other endeavour I undertake, I ran out of steam. But, if I was still doing the note taking, the 2012 Contrade di Taurasi Grecomusc’ #418715 $32.95 would have to be included. This wine is made from the Roviello grape. I associate Taurasi with red wines. I hadn’t heard of the white Taurasi made with Roviello. This was a glass in a restaurant again so I’m going with memories only here. Anyway, this white wine is all citrus and spice and incredibly strong. Not strong as in medicine but strong as in it’s intensity. It has a big backbone of acidity and I bet needs a few years or some time in the glass and warmth to express itself. Very interesting and worthy of a pick up in your Wine Century Club pursuit.

Cheers.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Be Careful – The Red Daily Slosh

1 Apr

ed

I’ve been following March Madness on the tube and have seen quite a few commercials concerning pharmaceuticals – mostly dealing with erectile dysfunction. I hadn’t made a connection between basketball and that particular malady. All I can think of is that it must have something to do with the constant dribbling.

It’s interesting watching the different approaches to what’s allowed on these commercials. Up here, you see men skipping down the street in the morning with a Viagra logo floating over their heads but no mention of erectile dysfunction or what, in fact, Viagra has done for them. They just feel friggin’ fantastic, wink, wink. Or alternatively, they tell you what problem you might have (40% of men in the world have ED), suggest that you talk to your physician but give no product name just a website to find out more www.getitup.com . Arriving there, you guessed it – Viagra.

South of the border, it seems they can say everything about erectile dysfunction and the drug as long as they tell you that your personal health situation precludes you safely taking it. “If you’ve ever had the feeling that someone doesn’t like you, you’ve misplaced your house keys, or you’ve had a stiff neck, consult your physician before taking Viagra. If you experience erections lasting longer than the God of your choice intended, stand down, sip some wine, and modify your Power of Attorney. Do not take a selfie.”

So, I’ve decided to provide my own caution for my recommendations. It will be included at the bottom of this post.

Let’s get started.

allegriniThe April 4th release features wines from Veneto. So, let’s start with a ubiquitous wine from that region – 2011 Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre #672931 $24.95. I guess what I mean by ubiquitous is that I seem to see this wine all over the place. Other bloggers talk about it, restaurants carry it, I turn the corner at the Masonville LCBO and there’s a stack of it with a shelf talker by Natalie MacLean (92, if that means anything to you). Well, it’s either pretty solid or it’s an exceptional feat of marketing. The former is true. This is a consistent performer. Rich (there’s a bit of raisinated grapes added post first fermentation) and layered. One time you pick up the dried fruit and the next you swallow a gob of fresh black cherries. It’s pretty cool. Great wine with cheap Italian fare – spaghetti with tomato sauce and meatballs, sausage pizza. Friday night before the blue pill?

donatoniAnother but less expensive wine utilizing dried grapes is the 2011 Donatoni Massena Appassimento #332403 $16.95. Some of you shy away from Old World and, in particular Italian, wines because you sense a sharpness, thinness and/or just too much acidity. I could argue that you are just wrong but what’s the use? Instead, you need to try these appassimento wines.  In fact, anything that uses dried grapes or spent must to deepen wines – as in Ripasso, Amarone. This wine is great value – brings dark red fruit aromas and flavours with all sorts of spiciness and depth. Finishes long and satisfying. I like this wine all by itself. But, then again, I like a lot of wines by themselves. This would be great sitting-by-the-last-fire-of-the-cold-season wine. Spending quality time discussing Bill C-51 and the potential fate of Omar Khadr. Who am I kidding? How about recapping the day and snuggling? Remember: Snuggle Responsibly.

In this market, we are barraged at the mother ship with far too many selections of cheap New World Cabernet Sauvignon. Most LCBO’s dedicate about ten feet of shelf space in the US section and at least that much in other New World aisles columbiuacrest combined for these wines. You know the ones I mean – stylized foot imprints, skinny girls or little dresses , and fuzzy animals on the label. Heavy, off-dry, woodified crap – a technical assessment. So, it would be easy to write off cheap, New World Cabernet. Well that would be wrong. Every vintage it seems that there’s a great cab or three from Washington that goes against that theory (think H3). This week, the 2012 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon #240093 $17.95 arrives in stores. This is from the Chateau Ste. Michelle powerhouse. I’m a little guy….guy but these Michellians do a pretty good job of churning out mass produced wines with appeal at reasonable prices. This one is sophisticated for the price point. A luxurious mouthfeel but with enough tannin and a tangy finish to provide a few edges, particularly on the finish – plenty dry enough. It’s straightforward and simple in a good way. I’d want to have this as a sip and nibbler primarily – friends drop in, hostess gift, Easter dinner at my place (hint, hint).

frontariaWho says that I never recommend a wine under $18? I’ve nailed it twice already this week. Here’s a trifecta and going real low. Where have I heard that phrase, “Going Low”? #insidejoke The 2009 Quinta do Portal Frontaria #324533 $13.95 was a wine I tried when Duoro was the New Wine This Week – that’s a fun weekly exercise carried on by obsessive wine geeks. This was a huge surprise. I was gobsmacked. Taken aback. Dumbfounded. This is an Old World wine with New World ambitions – round, smoothed out, settled by time in bottle. Dark fruit. Nice heft, full-bodied for $13.95. To quote Jeff, The Drunken Cyclist, “Whoa.” Please pick it up – good wine, great price. Whoa.

Wines that I want to try:

2012 Carmen Grand Reserva Carmenère #439166 $17.95 – like the one below, I’m going on past performance here. Carmen’s Carmenère is usually good good. Deep, smoky and sturdy – backbone of tannin just intentional enough – long finish. Hopefully this vintage doesn’t disappoint on that promise. Shout out to the Joukowsky Institute Carmenère Club.

2013 DeBortoli Gulf Station Pinot Noir #015511 $19.95 – I love Yarra Valley Pinot and I’ve had DeBortoli’s different Pinots many times – love their take. Usually fresh, red fruity and just enough tang – dignified, if that makes sense. Stand and chatter Pinot. I want to give this one a try.

drinkresponsiblyCaution: If after consuming wine, you experience any of the following, step away from the wine immediately: believing that The Maple Leafs don’t need a total rebuild; mistaking Zero Mostel for a non-alcoholic Piedmontese wine; calling the red wine you’re drinking – ‘cabaret’ sauvignon; or, and pay attention to this one – thinking that a fourth bottle makes sense.

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

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

Pais It Forward – The Red Daily Slosh

19 Nov

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

These recommendations are for the class of November 22nd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images courtesy of:

http://www.vintages.com

http://www.bodegasvalparaiso.com

 

People Get Ready – The Red Daily Slosh

5 Nov

One of my best live music memories was seeing The Funk Brothers with my son at Ronnie Scotts in London several years ago. So, when I saw this video – great song, one of the all-time best guitarists, smoking vocalist, and it’s at Ronnie’s, I couldn’t resist. Who are (were) The Funk Brothers, you ask? Only the biggest selling band in the history of recorded music, is all. Go ahead and Google them, I’ll wait.

Winter blows in to town in these parts  for serious (last phrase un homage to my home town) in about a month. And that means stuff to do. The great thing about having all sorts of closing up and winter prepping chores is the reward at the end. I’m not sure about you but I like to work a glorious fall weekend day outside, cleaning gutters, bagging leaves, putting stuff away, and then coming inside to reward my hard work. The reward can be a scotch, a local craft beer, microwave popcorn, or a glass of wine. Sit by the fire and watch the squirrels plundering my newly filled bird feeder – bastards! What I’m trying to say is that there are all sorts of reasons to reward yourself with your favourite beverage or nibble. Solve that Sudoku? Pop a cork. Discover the origin and proper use of diacriticals? Pop a cork. Unblock your formerly blocked plug-ins? You got it. BTW, the part above about liking the weekend chores is B.S. But, the squirrel hatred is too true. Despise them above all else. The point? Pick up a couple bottles of those wines mentioned below and reward yourself.

caliterra2How many times have I recommended a carmenère? Technically, in wine blogger terminology, ‘a bunch’ is the answer. A bit more than ‘many times’ and less than ‘lots’ of times. Why that often? I like carmenère and, frankly, it’s my blog. The 2011 Caliterra Tributo Carmenere #56630 $16.95 was featured in the last release and is a bit of a surprise. Carmenère is usually dark, full-flavoured, full-bodied. This Tributo is more instantly approachable and not quite as heavy or full-bodied as I’ve come to expect from this grape. It has some herbal character and it feels more European than Chilean. I’ve got it – it’s not as ripe as the usual carmenere gang . Big flavour, no heavy mouthfeel. I really like it. Lip smacking acidity. At this price and versatility, it’s a case lot possibility.

bertrandcorbieresI’ve spoken about Gérard Bertrand before. I wanted to recommend his Saint-Chinian a few months back (still a few of those available at First Canadian Place and Oxford Street, London – fabulous, baby!) but must have run out of space or ambition. The May 2014 edition of the Wine Enthusiast had a nice feature on Gérard’s take on the Languedoc-Roussillon, his estates, and his wines. His own personal history as well as that of his wines is firmly rooted in Corbières and the village of Boutenac. He has grown his enterprise to include several parcels including Domaine l’Hospitalet, a wine tourism destination in the Languedoc – check out their jazz festival. I know that I raved about the viognier and the Saint-Chinian so maybe you’ll disregard the following as simple groupie-ness – heaven knows he is plenty cool enough. But, bear with me. The 2011 Gerard Bertrand Terroir Corbieres #394288 $18.95 is a recreation of the better red wines that I drank while in that region. Only it accomplishes all this without the benefit of the influence of a cool sidewalk bistro in Narbonne. It sheds some of the ripeness and confusion of many wines from Pays d’Oc that we’ve all had. It has a streak of stoniness in the glass but is pretty fruit-ful in the mouth – an interesting combination. Tannins evident but in the background. Dark, medium-bodied. Opens up quite a bit after awhile in the glass. Technically speaking, it’s yummy. But remember, I’m trained to use such terminology and I’m biased. It’s a GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre) and they all seem to be great cold weather wines. What’s that stew that I love but have never made? Cassoulet? That’s the match.

scallops

On The Twenty scallops

cavespringcfMy last post was about winery hopping in Niagara and I mentioned that we ate at On The Twenty in Jordan. I had a glass of local cab franc with my scallops (OK, it was two glasses but they were smallish). I know that cab franc and scallops doesn’t sound like a great match. My philosophy? Drink a wine you like with food you like and it will match up just fine. But, you would be right if you thought that the cab franc would be a bit too too for the scallops. That cab franc? 2012 Cave Spring Dolomite Cabernet Franc #391995 $19.95. The great thing? The Cave Spring tasting room and retail is connected to the restaurant. Of course I needed a bottle to provide a little remembrance of our great meal. This wine is an excellent example of Niagara escarpmentish cabernet franc. Medium-bodied and presenting more shrubby characteristics than fruit ones. Herbs, spices, a streak of acidity, and enough tannin to support it all against any meaty food. Actually, this wine needs food to show its stuff. Doesn’t have to be big food – scallops? Pass on the scallops and try a spicy chicken dish or something fattier.

HHH3A few posts back, I said that I’d provide some wines that have better availability through the Vintages Essentials program. Well coincidentally, I was reading a post on www.snooth.com about ‘go to’ steak wines. Different wine writers including The Drunken Cyclist and, I believe, Julia Bailey, weighed in with their faves. To my surprise, one writer picked the Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills (H3) Cabernet Sauvignon #210047 $19.95. Now, I don’t mean surprise as in “WTF are they thinking?” but more, “That’s actually an available, affordable wine.” I guess I was expecting everyone to talk about Silver Oak, Alexander Valley or a well-aged Left Bank Bordeaux. BTW, the latter I have but can’t bring myself to open. Who is special enough to share it with? Anyone? The H3 cabernet sauvignon is an elegant steak wine at an affordable price. Great hostess/host gifty or BYOB at a neighbourhood BBQ.

FYI, another good value red is 2012 La Posta Angel Paulucci Vineyard Malbec #075515 $15.95 a mid-weight malbec with some backbone.

Images courtesy of:

http://www.vintages.com

http://www.caliterra.com

http://www.cavespringcellars.com

http://www.innonthetwenty.com/dining

Election Night – The Red Daily Slosh

21 Oct

Municipal elections are taking place in Ontario this upcoming week and I thought that this video sums up the coverage that we’re likely to get. If I lived in Toronto, I’d know who the Silly Party candidate is. Hell, everyone in North America knows who that is. Although we have candidates here in London vowing to stop the waste, shut down the gravy train at City Hall, and save the hard working taxpayers of this city……..oh, about a billion dollars, is all. So, maybe Toronto isn’t alone with Silly Party candidates. My election night beverage choice? High test – single malt. You need real alcohol to survive this stuff.

This week’s release (October 25) features Tuscan “Trophy Wines” and wines from Chile. Guess which ones cost the most. Using ‘trophy in this way seems to intimate that the wines are beautiful but perhaps hollow as in ‘trophy wives.’ Not exactly the vibe they were looking for, I bet. Regardless, it means that we won’t be talking about the Ornellaia or Luce but I will find you some decent ‘daily’ sloshes. And, because there aren’t many reds that I’ve had that I’d also recommend, I’m going to add a wine from the Vintages Essentials program. Vintages Essentials should be available in all but the smallest stores.

amplusStarting south of the equator with Chile, we find the 2010 Santa Ema Amplus Cabernet Sauvignon #076307 $19.95. This is a pure “New World” cab sav. It’s got some oak both on the sniff and in your mouth. It has classic black currant scents and on the finish and some spice as you swish it around. It’s a smooth yet determined drink – lots of power and a bit of heat (14% ABV). I’d like it with elk burgers, steaks, or something warm and cozy. OK, I have no idea what goes with elk burgers never having had them. It does sound exotic though doesn’t it? “Serve at 62 degrees F. with organic elk burgers, ancho chile aioli and lightly dusted and fried Jerusalem artichokes”? Nice spicy steak wine.

BordonAbout this time last year, I recommended the ’04 Rioja Bordón Gran Reserva. I loved its maturity and food friendliness among other things. This year, the ’05 vintage is on shelves. The 2005 Rioja Bordón Gran Reserva #114454 $22.95 is one of those wines that you fill up your tasting note with – so many different scents and flavours. That doesn’t mean it’s confused (or that I am), just full of experiences and nuances. Like the ’04, this wine is very accessible and smooth with maybe less tannin and acidity – incredibly drinkable. A wine that needs food and friends. Come to think of it, all wine needs friends. That’s why I have an imaginary one. Friend, that is. It allows me to drink wine more often. This wine would develop further over another few years, if you want to see what it becomes when its more experienced. I still have a couple ‘04’s that I’m waiting on.

Biggest complaint I receive from my long suffering listserv peeps is, “Bill, what’s with the price creep? You used to recommend all sorts of wines around $15. We don’t like to spend so much on wine. We’re not winos like you.” Mea culpa both on the ‘wino’ label as well as the price creep. But, let me explain why that might be – the price creep, that is – the wino thing would take awhile. This week’s release features Tuscan wines that average about $40 each. The rest of the offerings may not be so expensive (California aside) but still exceeding the $25 limit on average I have for the “Daily Slosh”. And, this is somewhat normal for the New Arrivals or New Release wines. I have taken to buying cheaper wines in the hope that they will come around again and I can talk about them. That’s real sacrifice on my part but I do what I can for you. In the interim, I’ll try to make sure I mention at least one choice that isn’t over $20. And, I’ll mention some General Listing and Vintages Essentials wines to fill in the gaps as needed.

palaciosremondoThis week there’s one of the Perennial “Best Value” wines arriving. The beauty of the 1012 Palacios Remondo La Vendemia #674564 $16.95 is that it’s not expensive, it’s readily available a couple times a year in this market, and in this vintage, it’s really really good. If you like Garnacha and I really do, you’ll love this. And, surprise, if you like Tempranillo and I really do, you’ll love this. It’s got the personality of both of these grapes showing through. Tannins soft a la Garnacha and acidity, herbal notes from the Tempranillo. This would be a great stand around and party red wine. A host/hostess gift? Now, if you’re a New World red gal or guy, maybe you’d want some food with this – nah, you’d love it by itself too. Let it breathe a bit before you quaff.

Vintages Essentials Selection

cettoYears ago, I picked up what was then my first Mexican wine. Well, it’s still my only Mexican wine to be truthful. Trying new regions, new wines, new grapes and blends provides such a great experience. Even if you kind of decide that it isn’t your cup of wine, you still get to sip something from somewhere else, made in another important tradition. A privilege really. Oh yeah, years ago…….I tried this wine and thought, “Wow, really? This is from Mexico and isn’t a margarita ingredient or illegal?” Even more important was that this wine was pretty good. Well, a few weeks ago, my friend Rod had me to dinner and opened the 2011 vintage of this wine and almost apologized for the commonness of the wine (price equating to commonness – which is not true). It was still as good as I remembered the olde vintage! The wine? The 2011 L.A. Cetto Petit Sirah #983742 $11.95 (yes, I said $11.95 and we’re not standing at Trader Joe’s in Omaha) isn’t Fuzion. I repeat, “This isn’t Fuzion”. Which is a good thing, right? Not sickly sweet and thick. A wine that improves with some air, it carries some herbal notes, some tannins and acidity in the mouth but all pretty balanced for a wine at this price point. I liked its spicy goodness – with a steak or sausages on the grill? – something fatty for sure. Rod and I had it with steak – well, we started the bottle as the steaks were being prepared (Chet Baker in the background) and, surprise, it was done before the steaks were served. But, I bet it would have been a match.

Images courtesy of:

L.A. Cetto, Rioja Bordon – http://www.vintages.com

Santa Ema Amplus – http://www.santaema.cl.en

Palacios Remondo – http://www.winealign.com

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