Tag Archives: California

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

Wine Beliebers – Friday Ramble

7 Apr
biebs

Yes, it’s kinda sad really

I read an interesting piece at http://www.cbcnews.ca about Justin Bieber’s new dreadlocks. You can read it here. It was about the non-entitled appropriation of the culture of others. The others, in this case, being the owners of the dreadlock franchise, I guess. Dreadlocks R Us? Marleyville? Reggae-A-Rama?

My first response to any complaint about Justin, a lad from just up the road in Stratford, is that The Biebs is a young, spoiled brat and that whatever he has done is most likely wrong. But on this point, we need to ask, “Do dreadlocks constitute cultural property? If so, who owns the right to that property? Is it proper for others without that particular cultural passport to wear them?”

Now you didn’t think I was going to answer those questions here, did you? It’s a wine blog. Instead I want to discuss the cultural appropriation that has been and is still occurring in wine and whether, just like The Biebs, it might be culturally insensitive and just plain wrong

Here’s the thing:

When I started to appreciate wine in the early 70’s it was all about Europe. European wine had many identities and all were über sophisticated for a young lad. My earliest fine wine memories?

Monsieur Corndog

Monsieur Corndog

A lunch with a former high school teacher and her husband in Ottawa. They introduced me to white Bordeaux – Château SomethingOrOther. Really – Château avec l’accent circumflex? That had to be good shit, right? And then there was my first year room mate – a grad school Vietnam War deserter and Westchester County trust fund baby – providing me instruction on the proper wine to pair with corn dogs from the cafeteria vending machine. The wine was red and from the Dordogne, wherever the hell that was. Corn Dog Pairing Tip: Grainy Dijon mustard, preferably Maille, is the key to pairing this delectable snack with an earthy, rustic red.

Back then, it was all Europe with the rest of the world trying to catch up. But, then something happened. A serious wine culture developed in North America, at first primarily in California. And it was specific to that place. We all know about the Paris thing in the 70’s. That’s where the wine world was gobsmacked by the upstart Yanks………….yada, yada……….vous plaisantez j’espère?

Jump ahead in wine evolution to the 80’s and early 90’s and the proliferation of wineries in Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, Mendocino, etc. and the style of those wines at that time (and please don’t shoot me on these broad generalizations) – Chardonnays were big, buttery and heavily oaked; red wines were big, hot, fruity, and heavily oaked as well. And, they sold buckets and buckets of these wines – many priced in the relative stratosphere – to critical acclaim from the US wine intelligentsia – read: Parker. The UK wine establishment? Not so enthusiastic about them. But, the world’s biggest economy and the largest opportunity to grow wine sales had voted. It loved these big brawny beasts.

What were Messieurs Arrogant Frog and Fat Bastard to do? Wait, I kind of gave it away there didn’t I? I’ll try again.

arfrogWhat were Messieurs Petit Clos and Domaine de Coûteux to do? Well, they along with their UK wine writing co-conspirators railed against the sacrilege of making such inappropriate wines. They lost market share. They didn’t change. They lost some more market share. And then, they decided that big and fruit forward (high scoring wines) was their thing too. Oh, they didn’t go all in. But, on balance, they did change it up. And, here’s where I connect The Biebs. You were waiting for that weren’t you?

Doesn’t that make them culture appropriators, if that’s a proper noun? They did it publicly and not even begrudgingly. Even the Italians, to a lesser extent, decided to trend towards (and I’m using the Euro euphemism here) an ‘international’ style in their cuvées.

So, is that the end of it? All wine trending toward metaphorical dreadlocks. Screaming Eagles everywhere? Of course not. Nothing is consistent but change.

What’s happened? Well, Washington State, California, Prince Edward County, Niagara, and the rest of the New World over the past decade or so, seem to be looking to a more terroir-driven style. Wait, that sounds like what the Euros were doing before they got knocked off their game – making wines that spoke of place. Even the word ‘terroir’ is French for crying out loud. Now, who’s appropriating who?

To quote The Armchair Sommelier, “Le Sigh.”

So, before the moaning resumes about The Biebs and Kim K. rocking the dreadlocks, let us first support our neighbours to the south and boycott European wines. After all, they stole the equivalent of the wine cultural capital of California. Il sont les imposteurs. And, while we’re at it, since the New World is now seemingly appropriating the cultural property of the European wine establishment – terroir, maybe we need to boycott New World wines too. And what about the new wines coming from China? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge – ya think they might be knock offs? Duh.

banwineWhat did I just say? Boycott all wine? All that tasty yummy wine? ………Well, maaaaaaybe there’s another way to make our point on cultural appropriation that doesn’t cost me so much pain. Boycott The Biebs and other non-wine cultural appropriators! Yes, BOYCOTT THE BIEBS! BOYCOTT THAT WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM! Our point will then be sufficiently made. Right?

Cheers. Have a great weekend!

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

Holiday Advice – Part Deux

19 Dec

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

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

Pinot Noir

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chardonnay

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

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

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

Part Three: first of next week

Holiday Advice – Part 1

17 Dec

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

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

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

Big California Cabernet

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

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

Other worthy readily available candidates are:

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

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

Sauvignon Blanc

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

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

2013 Domaine Chauveau Pouilly-Fumé #390641 $23.95

2013 Wither Hills #919514 $17.95 Kiwi caselot?

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

Part Deux: tomorrow

Chicchitti, Bang, Bang – The Red Daily Slosh

5 Dec

alligator

I’ve just returned from a week in Florida where I enjoyed some quality time drinking wine, getting some sun, golfing, and, well, drinking more wine. My friend and I were unable to solve the important riddles of life but we did discover that, Holy Jumpin’, alligators are not as quick on land as myth would lead you to believe. The first or was it the second wine we opened was a Rioja – 2007 Montecillo Reserva and the room quickly filled up with oh’s and ahs. Well, maybe not oh’s and ah’s but, “This sh** is greats!” and “Wow, smell that – no, Bill, I mean really smell it.” Just such a pretty wine, powerful nose with loads of

montecillowinecedary, spicy interest. All grown up, solid, settled in. Medium-bodied, moderate tannins and acidity. Rioja Reserva with a little age like this one is just so dignified and satisfying. So, I decided to source it locally and to my surprise it is offered in the General Listings aisles at the LCBO. But what vintage? It wasn’t given on-line. So, I wandered out to Fanshawe and Hyde Park to pick one up. Now, being a wine snob, I had to get directions to the General Listings section – “It’s just past the ‘Barefoot Strawberry Blush’ aisle end display, keep going until you see the basket of boxed wine. If you reach the red velvet cake-flavoured vodka pyramid, you’ve gone too far.” I said that I was a wine snob. The vintage that’s on shelves here now is mostly the 2009 Montecillo Reserva #621003 $18.95 (with currency exchange, the price at Total Wines was about the same as in Ontario). Now, to try it. This wine isn’t as settled as the 2007. It comes across as a bit more restrained and carries more acid. I like it but will like a lot better after a few years down below. If you can find some 2007 – big recommendation. Update: I’ve just let the ’09 decant for 4 hours and it’s just now starting to open up. Definitely a cellar and finish the bottle candidate. BTW, the label looks black above but is, in fact, blue.

ondarrewineA wine with similar characteristics to the ’07 Montecillo is the 2008 Ondarre Reserva #723452 $18.95. This wine has a darker tone to its fruit and a little less woodiness than the ’07 Montecillo. But, it too is medium-bodied, a streak of acidity that softens a bit with air. These wines would be great to have on hand for the cooler months ahead and the time of year where company comes and expects a sip or two. A nice break in the party season from the same old, same old.

Part of feeling confident in choosing wine for a dinner out or at home is familiarity with the label, producer, grape, etc. That’s probably why, in my home town, every restaurant it seems carries McManis wines. People are familiar with them, confident in what they’ll get. In this case, I don’t get it – I’m not usually a fan of McManis at their price point – well, almost any price point. But, most folks like to stay on a familiar road. The corollary is that my susana_balbo_malbecopinion obviously matters little. But, what I can contribute is a few more labels that you recognize and feel confident ordering. This brings me to Susana Balbo. I haven’t mentioned Susana’s wines in a while but I didn’t cry. The truth is she never left us. Yes, you noted correctly – an Evita reference. I promise it’s my last when mentioning Argentine wine. This week her 2012 Susana Balbo Signature Malbec #079798 $19.95 arrives and I hope it stays a while. This is a superbly balanced wine for this price. I don’t mean all blended together like a smoothie when I say ‘balanced’. It’s just that there isn’t one voice yelling above the rest. It’s more a chorus where you can still pick out the altos, the tenors and the basses but not one dominates – harmonious. This is full-bodied with a bold nose of predominantly berry fruit. In the mouth, it holds some heat (14.5% ABV), a sticky tannin or two on the finish. It is just so tasty and warming. I loved the ’10 (reviewed here) but my notes on this vintage seem more effusive.

cicchittiwineIf you’re interested in seeing what some age can do for a Malbec pick up the 2004 Chicchitti Gran Reserva Malbec #155713 #22.95. I first picked this up seemingly years ago through the on-line shopping service of the LCBO. I left it a few years and opened the last one in 2010. It seems that the ’04 appears every year. This is grown up wine. How do you know if you’re a grown up wine drinker? You know you’re not a grown up wine drinker if:

  • When ordering wine in a restaurant, you’re torn between the Pinot Grigio selection and “No, wait – I’m having the featured cocktail – The CNIB Slurpy”, or
  • You can’t quite pronounce Rojaa or Sawveegnoon so you order the Meirlotte, or
  • Your best wine drinking memory is that Purple Jesus night during Greek Week, or
  • You’re thinking, “Wine? Not enough alcohol in it.”

Back to the Chicchitti. This is a deep dark wine with lots of stuffing left – no flab or stewed fruit – still fresh. More interesting in the mouth than the glass. Long spicy finish. I think it would keep for awhile longer but it’s yummy now. If you’re interested in shopping on-line for some smaller availability and premium wines, this is the link. It’s relaxing to spend hours researching wines on a MacBook screen. At least that’s what I tell my therapist.

An untasted suggestion:

I may have had the 2011 Rosenblum Zinfandel #031781 $19.95 from Paso Robles and failed to make any notes. It can happen. I’ve always liked this product in other vinatges. In any event, it’s hitting shelves this weekend. If you’re a zin freak and who isn’t, pick this one up. It’s usually big enough to carry some burnt meat or ham with crackling. Shelve the cab sav and pour this one. But remember it carries 14.9% ABV so no more than a bottle each.

Images courtesy of:

http://www.vintages.com

http://www.thesun.co.uk

 

 

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

 

Peace, It’s Far Out* – The Red Daily Slosh

24 Sep

peacesignhand

*And far far away.

No video today. I’m kind of bummed out by all the hostilities, refugees, insurgencies, attack drones, and “Boots On The Ground” blabber these days. The upside? The depression makes the wine drinking seem more….well….justified. The news never changes and that’s just the stuff that’s happening far away! So, to reflect my angst, I looked for a protest song video of relevance but they were all from my youth. Here’s the thing: with this world immersed in a never ending cycle of tribal conflicts, proliferation of weapons, and inequality enough to disadvantage all but a few, I am puzzled that the protest song or actual protest, for that matter, is dead (apologies to Ferguson). I was very fortunately born into a politically curious and active family. And I was an idealistic Canadian boomer that had college friends that were Vietnam draft dodgers and deserters (and, I’m not trying to stir anything up here), I marched arm in arm with them on Parliament Hill, signs in hand – Peace Now/La Paix Maintenant! Not sure what we were trying to accomplish – it wasn’t our war and the House of Commons was probably out of session that year. But, we were pissed about it anyway. It was so hard to comprehend – the mission and the loss of life that is. Admittedly, we were naive. Fast forward to today. I don’t see any broad swell of indignation on the part of today’s youth concerning what’s going on. Don’t give the world Taylor Swift boyfriend put down songs and LOL’s, FCOL. Mobilize – make us old white guys uncomfortable (don’t threaten my meager savings for retirement, though). March on a street near you. Get involved in the issues on any side! I’d even listen to a hip-hop version of Eve of Destruction! That’s how badly I want to see some engagement. If there indeed are protest songs and I’ve just missed those engaged youth, let me know. I’d be thrilled to be wrong. So, short story long, that’s why no video. Phew, now on to the wine.

These recommendations are for the new release of September 27.

balbasI won’t go into too much detail – GET A BUNCH OF 2001 Balbas Reserva #085183 $20.95. My past reviews of this wine – a Ribera del Deuro beaut – are here and here

 

 

A few months ago, I recommended this Niagara blend and got good feedback. Well, that was the 2010 and there’s been some shelf space allotted for 2011 Creekside Laura’s Red #117960 $19.95. As I mentioned last time, Creekside has a nice vibe at the

laurascellar door. They identify themselves as having a bit of an attitude. They might have been the first in Niagara to provide nibbles with their sips. And great nibbles at that. This blend includes shiraz/syrah which isn’t plentiful in Ontario. In my experience, it’s best done around Beamsville (the Creekside Shiraz and Flat Rock’s Rogue comes to mind) with the exception of Lailey’s NOTL versions. Well, this wine is very similar to the 2010 – I’d say a bit richer in the fruit department than 2010 but the same style – friendly, accessible, and spicy. Loads of smoky goodness. My friend, Grant, loved the last vintage and will likewise appreciate this local effort.

haroWe are starting to plan a trip to Spain this weekend. And, even though I’ve mentioned the Balbas up top, I need to show Spain more love. A few posts ago, I mentioned a great Rioja value – 2008 Lopez de Haro Crianza. See, how it works in Rioja is like this – there’s the Crianza – the bulk of most bodegas’ offering – made from good but not exceptional grapes and aged a shorter time in wood and bottle. Reserva – from better grapes, more highly regarded vineyards and aged longer in wood and bottle before release, and Gran Reserva —-you get the point. There is a progression in quality. At least there should be some integrity within a single producer. Now we have the – 2005 Hacienda Lopez de Haro Reserva #337355 $18.95. I mentioned that the crianza was a great value. And, if the system works, this should represent a more balanced, complete wine. It does! This is my kind of Rioja – cedary in the glass and the mouth, great acidity on the first sip that kind of eases off after that. Some dirt and grit from the land. Perfect red for my favourite Spanish meal – paella. And, only $18.95!

ventisqueroWhere do the best value reds reside? Chile, man. Yes, Chile has kept their pricing in the range of most wine consumers unlike some of the past bargain centres (Australia, California come to mind). This week, there’s another carmenère – 2011 Ventisquero Grey Single Block Carmenère #325415 $19.95. This wine brings the distinct darkness and full-body that I like. It might not be as tannic as many of these can be, which I think you’ll appreciate. Stand around is allowed but food would really help this wine shine. I posted my theory of carmenère and archaeologists in a previous post.

A wine that I’ll probably pick up but haven’t had this vintage:

Any self respecting California winehound (with resources) has enjoyed a bottle of Caymus. For me, Caymus Special Selection was the first over-priced California cab that I had and, wow, it was a bit of a revelation. It had more complexity and, well how to put it in my early wine description phase, ‘flavour’ than anycaymus red wine I had had to that date. And, since I couldn’t afford the Special Selection ($219), I settled for the regular bottling – which is almost always a solid cab. Well, this week our local favourite wine store (read: only wine store) has the 2012 Caymus 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon #222877 $68.95. This wine has introduced many more than this poor scribe into the financially unfortunate habit of buying what all but the 1% would judge as expensive wine. Why not let it do the same for you? Plus, when you’re done, you could put a candle in the empty bottle and use as a centre piece – great conversation starter – “How we spent $70 on a bottle of wine and luvved it, baby.”

And on the slagging of all youth, I hope that I’m wrong and you’ll send in your experiences and protest songs through the comment box below. And, ‘Working In a Coal Mine’ and ‘Car Wash’ don’t count regardless of how hard it was. FYI as a poor student, I worked at a car wash – talkin’ about the car wash, yeah. And, since you’ll want to know, indeed those cars never seemed to stop coming.

Images courtesy of:

All bottle images – http://www.vintages.com

Peace sign – http://www.clipartpanda.com

Ireland’s Lessons and the Red Daily Slosh

21 May

Relevance of the video? None really, just love this song done by an amazing singer and it’s my blog. Dare you not to sing along. One of my favourite sad shower songs. TMI?

I apologize for leaving you in the lurch for awhile. I was away on a not even remotely earned vacation in Ireland. I mean there’s no possibility that anyone could mistake me for someone needing a vacation. There is no way that I ever work that hard. Have I been clear? I don’t deserve vacations. However, things that I learned in Ireland include:

  • Guinness won’t kill you – it is great!
  • Guinness is very good, I like Guinness
  • I know that I’m repeating myself but, you guessed it, I like Guinness
  • Rain is not my friend
  • Music is universally important. Music matters
  • It rains a lot in Ireland
  • Aer Lingus isn’t Irish for free drinks during flight
  • Galway is the new…………whatever the old ‘cool’ place was
  • Smithwicks is pronounced Smithicks or, alternatively, Smithwicks and it doesn’t depend on how many you’ve had
  • The right side of the road is in fact the right side of the road
  • Skoda makes every automobile driven in Ireland and none driven in Canada – what’s with that? Where for art thou, Skoda? “Feel the force”. Anyone get that one or too geeky?
  • Friends make life worth living – well, that and wine

These recommendations are for the May 24th “New Arrivals” release.

bilahautvvRoussillon is part of the Lake of Wine in the south of France. It, along with the Languedoc, has spawned labels such as Fat Bastard, Arrogant Frog, a bicycle one that I forget, and other cute but reasonably solid wines. I have recommended a tonne of wines from this area because…………….well, I really like them and I worked several harvests at Chateau L’Homme Faible as a grape frere. There are three that make these virtual pages each and every vintage, it seems – those carrying M. Chapoutier’s Bila-Haut label. This week there is the entry level Bila-Haut and the premium one as well. Let’s start on the easier price point – 2012 M. Chapoutier Les Veilles Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon-Villages #168716 $14.95. That’s a mouthful – “I’d like a glass of the Chapoutier Les Viieilles Vignes (is it veel vins? deep breath) de Bila-Haut (hard swallow) Cotes….oh shit, just give me a glass of this (pointing to the item on the menu with your finger).” These wines sometimes can be quite simple or one-dimensional at this price point but this wine defies that description – it’s medium bodied but brings it with earthy, chewy flavours and tannins. Syrah, Carignan, and Grenache grown on “gneiss and schist from the Devonian Period.” I’m not schisting you; that’s directly from their web site. It creates a wine that has minerality, spiciness, and some smell and taste of the scrubbiness from which it comes. A good value. The shelf label will say that I gave it 3 fishes or it more likely will say that www.winefront.com.au gave it a 91.

occultumlapidemThe other Chapoutier gem is the premium – but not much 2011Domaine de Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem #643239 $25.95. This wine has a similar feel to the cheaper one – brambly, garrigueiness. A more full-bodied effort. I’m not sure whether there was any wood used but I bet if it was it was old casks – fruit isn’t overshadowed by anything that doesn’t come from the field. Bigger and rounder than the one above. My notes say, “Love this stuff!!!” Yes, three exclamation points. BTW ‘occultum lapidem’ means ‘hidden stone’ or ‘gem’, I believe. But then again, I only took Latin for four years about a hundred years ago. Glad I did as it’s a big help on crossword puzzles and Dan Brown novels. I’ll let you discover the shelf talkers yourself but this scored very high marks from some of the ‘experts’. These labels have Braille on them too. There’s a story there that I’ll leave you to Google.

montes aslpha syrahThere was a time when many of my recommendations included wines from Chile. Not sure why they’ve fallen off – probably because I’m not drinking as many of them so don’t know what’s what? This week, the 2010 Montes Alpha Syrah #000612 $19.95 appears on the shelves. This label is a ‘go to’ for some of you (Oliver and Joanne?) as you’ve told me about the cabernet sauvignon, carmenere, and chardonnay; all consistent performers. This syrah has been climbing on quality over the last few vintages IMHO. This one has staying power requiring a little basement time, breathing or violent swishing. Subdued nose but a powerful experience in the mouth. It reminds me of a New World cabernet sauvignon a bit – with the oak very present – some cab in the blend. Powerful wine – food wine – lamb chops, pork roast, fatty meat – spice and acid on the finish making my lips smack. Wait, I really don’t know if my idea of lip smacking is everyone else’s. Let’s all do this together – 1, 2, 3 smack your lips. You did try it didn’t you? You guys are just weird.

ironyBringing you wines that you’ll actually pick up is one of my goals here. Repeating labels so that you get familiar with the good ones. No use recommending the 2006 Blaufränkisch if the name itself scares you off. We’ll build up to those unfamiliar wines another time. This time of year, you’re looking for getting the Q started and burgers burning. This week there’s a wine that can do one better than burgers – the 2011 Irony Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon #025106 $19.95 arrives to give those Calicabaholics a very nice picnic table red. Food friendly with balanced acidity and enough backbone tannins to stand up to steak, I think. Dark but not swarthy. Pretty quintessential California cabernet sauvignon and the price is very good for this much power and balance.

Speaking of pricing. And, I’m sure we were. What’s with the seemingly big mark up on US wines? Isn’t the mother ship one of the biggest purchasers of wines and spirits in the world? Drive a hard deal, FCOL. The wine above is probably $9.99 USD at Costco. As a former math major, I calculate that as about a 100% markup. Done without a calculator or slide rule, I might add. So either Mister Irony (in cahoots with his Canadian importer) is screwing with us or we’re getting new hospital beds at my local with the profits. Which is a definite plus as I age and detect significant mental slippage. But it ain’t just the exchange and sin tax is what I’m sayin’.

This release features Rhone reds – and, I Iove Rhone reds! But alas, I haven’t sampled any of the Rhone wines on offer. Note to LCBO – “If you want me to keep on upselling the masses, show me some love and get me some samples”. I do have two sight–undrank wines that I might pick up – 2011 Le Gravillas Côtes du Rhône-Villages Séguret #309260 $15.95 and 2010 La Font du Vent Passion Côtes du Rhône-Villages Signargues #370260 $16.95 both sound like they’re the type of Cotes I like to wear.

Recommendation revisited: I recommended the Clifford Bay Pinot Noir #309500 $19.95 quite a while ago and was surprised to see that there are still a bunch at my store (Masonville). Go get it if you’re a New World pinot fan – good value from Down Under.

Down By The Ribero – Red Daily Slosh

16 Jan

H3csI penned a post about the end of the calendar year and my first year writing this blog. But, after reading The Hosemaster of Wine’s rant on end of year posts, I declined to post it (click on his link – right banner – to read his take on end of year lists). One of the things that I did mention in that post is that I am going to drink more North American wines. So, lets’ kick the year off with one of my favourite North American red labels – 2011 Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon #210047 $19.95. This is from the guys and gals that bring you all kinds of value wines from the Northwest, Chateau Ste. Michelle. I sometimes eschew (always wanted to use that word) ‘big’ wines. This is the exception that proves the rule – it’s pretty big and I love it; like I love John Goodman and Katie Webster. It has a smoky aroma and a smoky taste – even maybe meaty taste. It has a little heat at 14.5% ABV that I could detect on the nose even (which sometimes means a lack of balance to me) but this wine’s large enough to handle it. Dark fruit. I’d let it air out a bit or pour it through one of those wine gadgets you received for Christmas. And, have some burnt meat with it – steaks, ribs, BBQ chicken. Or, going out on a limb here, just pop and pour – forget about the fuss and drink alone, like me.

balbasI know, I know, $20.95 doesn’t qualify for a daily drinking red at my house either. But, this isn’t really a splurge and it might be the best $20.95 you’ve spent in a while. Well, since the 48 pound box of Tide at Costco? The 2001 Balbas Reserva #085183 $20.95 is a wine that I’ve recommended before and they’ve stocked up again at the LCBO. Plus, it won’t give you a hernia like the aforementioned Tide. They’ve done all the aging for you, it’s balanced, all nonsense integrated and working together, with a splash of acid that makes it very food friendly. It has leather both on the nose and a bit in the mouth. It’s grown up, mature – although gracefully so with a few years left and it’s settled on being one of the better value Ribera del Deuros available at the monopoly. I have purchased this wine on three occasions, same vintage and all, over the last 4 years and when I ran out, I cried, I hated myself for not getting more. So, seeing it once more on the shelves means a caselot, I fear. I want to love me; not hate me and I absolutely love this wine!

boutarigrI was sitting with a bunch of archaeology grad students last night and they were talking shop and Greek wines came up. The consensus was that Greek red wine was not so great. “Maybe when you’ve spent 10 hours in the sun crouched over a hole in the ground,” Bill says, demonstrating that he really doesn’t know what archaeologists do. But, there are many good to very good Greek red wines and many are made by Boutari. Hitting the shelves this week is the 2007 Boutari Grand Reserve #140111 $16.95. This is a full-bodied Naoussa red (one review says medium-bodied but I disagree) that’s chewy, ripe and full of fun stuff that everyone won’t agree on. I like it’s cedary, long finish and the fact that it’s lost a bit of it’s edges over time without being flabby. A challenge to those Greek red wine critics – pick this up and change your outlook. BTW, the Santorini Assyrtyko whites are fab too.

A wine that is coming in this weekend that I’m going to try:

perinet2005 Mas Perinet Perinet #143453 $16.95 Priorat wines that appear on these shores can be pricey. It’s a ‘hot’ region right now and the buzz is leveraged with higher pricing, I think. So, a Priorat wine with good pedigree that costs $16.95 is a good way to introduce/reacquaint yourself with this region. Love the label!

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