Tag Archives: carmenere

Back From The Abyss – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

18 Mar

lazy

It’s me – Duff. Remember me? After two months of silence, I’m back to bloggin’. There are several reasons for my absence. All are deeply personal and can’t truly be shared on something as trivial as a wine blog. However, other bloggers will identify with the challenge of balancing life with writing, making sure that you are ‘there’ for friends and family as well as readers, the pressure to taste interesting wines all the time instead of just chugging cheap caselots, and the constant demands of fame and fortune.  Now, if you’ve been playing along at home over the past three years, you know that’s got nothing to do with why I haven’t posted in a while.

Truth be told, I’m stubbornly lazy. I don’t know about you but once I cast my lot with Monsieur Sloth, I’m all in. And the winter just depresses me – so why not just sit around, veg, contemplate my mortality, and watch my Prime Minister doing something cool every day? Is it just me or is he everywhere – the most selfied man in the world? That’s all nice, but I am still waiting on the steak.

This Saturday’s release is titled, ‘Viva Italia!’. Most of the affordable Italian offerings seem pretty run of the mill or I haven’t tasted them. But I guess that I have to recommend at least one Italian wine.

carpeneI hate to use absolutes but Prosecco is the most over-rated sparkling bev, IMHO. I mean it’s everywhere and usually underwhelming. I guess if you are in a cafe in Italy and you want a little something before you dig into the ‘real’ wine, you might order a flute of bubbly – not worrying about its quality. But, with sparkling (as in not Champagne), I kind of gravitate to Cremant de Limoux, de Bourgogne, even Cava (story for another time), and local stuff. However, The Director and I shared a glass of Prosecco with friends a few years ago, and said, “Whoa!” The Carpene Malvolti 1868 Brut Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore #727438 $19.95 is drier than most Proseccos. And not to flog the bad Proseccos horse too much, this one carries lots of actual flavour – peachy, stony. Pop this one with confidence.

susanabalbocsWho do I recommend the most? Susana Balbo, that’s who. Whether it’s her own label or Benmarco, I like her New World take on reds and Torrontes, in particular. This Saturday, her eponymous Cabernet Sauvignon returns to the shelves (if it ever left). The 2013 Susana Balbo Signature Cabernet Sauvignon #260919 $19.95 is all Cab Sav – dark fruit, cassis. I think it’s the best vintage ever of this bottling and I’ve got pretty much every vintage in my notes.  This is Serena Williams in a tux – classy and formal on the outside, powerful and beautiful underneath. This food friendly wine is full bodied with lots of stuffing, gentle tannins. Great value. Buy a case!

caliterraStaying in South America, the 2013 Caliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Carmenère #056630 $16.95 has all sorts of nervous energy. It’s powerful without the weight that this grape sometimes gives us. Struggling archaeology grad students love this stuff! Great value – great food wine. Smoky good.

 

 

 

Last one – the 2006 Monasterio de Las Viñas Reserva #166579 $14.95 is a blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo, and Carinena. The Garnacha comes through on the sniff for sure. Reminds me a bit of a Monsant without the higher alcohol (this one is 13% ABV). I’m sure there are a zillion cases of this made each year but that shouldn’t dissuade you from trying this well-aged, fun,

monasterio rand ready to drink red. This co-operative’s gran reserve (2005) is available in some mother ship locations and represents fantastic value too ($16.95). You can search for it here. Both these wines can be dinner wines and at these prices you don’t normally get something as balanced and food friendly.

One last pitch – I’ve been buying a lot of Bibi Graetz Casamatta #330712 $14.95 lately. Originally, I was thinking it would be a perfect cottage red – fruity, lightish, fresh. The problem? I got a case, I started drinking it every once in awhile, I bought another half dozen, and now I’m stuck with only 6 bottles left for the summer. And, I’m not too optimistic that there will be any left once the cottage road is open. If you like Tuscan reds that aren’t all funked up and leathery, pick up a bunch of these for the patio or deck.

P.S. On top of my laziness, I’m in a rut. I’ve been drinking French, Italian, Ontario, and Spanish wines a lot this past few months and I’ve noticed that I’m not drinking any California wines anymore. Well, aside from The Director’s Chardonnays. Why is this? I used to quaff those buggers like they were going out of style – Napa Cabs, Russian River Pinots, Rhone Rangers, Lodi Zins – loved them all. But, nothing lately. The only excuse I can muster is that my palate has changed? We all know that’s bullshit and since when is all California wine crafted to a single red-stained palate? So, help me out here fellow bloggers and readers. Help me edge away from the ledge of Euro-centric wineism. Shoot me some food friendly, exciting, not too big Cali wine recos to ease me slowly back. Thanks.

Cheers,

Bill

 

The ‘Best’ Red Daily Slosh Ever

26 Apr

Spent the night at a friend’s last weekend and after about a zillion bottles of lovely wine, we started to play tunes from our smartphones with the intro, ”No, you’re wrong, this is the greatest rock and roll song of all time.” It ranged from Jimi Hendrix through ……well, I can’t quite remember. Since then we have been emailing each other with second thoughts on the matter. I know the Dead (above) is an jeffbeckacquired taste but I couldn’t help it; I love ’em and that was one of my potentials. I think it’s probably either something by Jeff Beck (left) or The Allman Brothers Band. I’d tell you what the others were pimping but frankly, they were wrong. So what’s the point? It got me to thinking about wine and the use of superlatives. If we can argue about ‘the best ever’ in something as important as music, why aren’t we arguing about wine – as in the best wine ever? In my case, I like just about any wine if it’s been made with passion and attention to detail. And, probably it’s a harder call when you’ve loved a lot of different wines. But still. There must be a wine that is the ‘best ever’ for Bill. The wine that after several bottles of lovely wine you’d argue is the best wine that there is/was, hands down. I don’t have a best ever wine. And, I bet not many others do either. Why is that? Now, before you comment below that Wine Spectator has a Top 100 of The Year and Wine and Spirits has a Best 100 Wines and so there is, in fact, a ‘best’. Let me remind you that WS has a ‘top’ wine and Wine and Spirits simply offers the best wines by varietal for the year. Nowhere does anyone say, “This is the Greatest Wine of all Time (apologies to Cassius Clay)”. Why doesn’t Bill have a ‘best’ ever wine? I’m not asking because I have the answer, BTW. I just thought that I’d stimulate the mind before I dulled your senses with my recos and inane banter. Too late?

It’s a shortlist of Red Daily Sloshes from the May 2nd release. Haven’t tasted many in this circular.

Out for dinner the past month at The Church Key in #lndnont and we sat at the bar and chatted up the bartender and the owner. Got into a discussion about the tastes of patrons and their tendency to stay glued to a single wine. No experimentation, no taking the waiter’s recommendation, or just picking something different on a whim. Fierce adherence to the varietal and, even more importantly, the label. In this case, we were discussing McManis Cabernet Sauvignon. In this town you can’t dislodge ‘em. Can’t stretch their palate (too condescending?). Just make sure you’ve got it in stock. Now I know that people should just drink what they loves and I should leave them alone. So, I’ll drop it. Maybe one last thing before I do; you don’t eat the same meal every time you go out to dinner. Do you?

terra nobleI was a ‘by-the-glass’ guy that night and tried several nice reds. One of those glasses was 2011 Terra Noble Gran Reserva Carmenère #957050 $18.95. Well actually, two of them were. I’ve recommended this wine in other vintages (when I was newsletter only) and have bought a case lot before. Bear with the wine geek talk for a sec – it’s really good. Maybe I should elaborate. This is smoky on the swirl and sniff with little red fruits barely peaking their heads out. In the mouth there’s chocolate, cherries, and a hint of oak. What was that chocolate candy thing that came in a box? Lowney’s Cherry Somethingorother. Of course, it’s not sweet like that but it’s what I think of. A balanced Carmenere – great sipper or with food. Buy it!

There are wine labels that just seem by their appearance to tell you where they’re from. I’ve coined the term “label terroir” for this short essay. Some Burgundy labels have just so much stuff on them about where precisely they come from that you know they’re from a Clos de Pricey and you envision a walled vineyard worked lovingly by Francois. German Riesling in those brown and green bottles and incomprehensible labels – hard to miss where they’re from. Same goes for Alsace. The Hugel wines that I recommended last week come with a label that you don’t have to read to know is Alsatian. It may be the combination of bottle shape, bottle colour and label but you get the point. These labels speak to me. I’m weird.

lopezdeharoThe 2005 Hacienda Lopez de Haro Reserva #357335 $18.95 has one of those labels. Diagonal banner with script. A gold medal. From cheap Garnacha to Gran Reserva Rioja, labels like this say Spain. I recommended this wine last September. The review is here. I had to rescue one from the cellar to see what’s changed. Acidity that was prominent on the first sip then has dissipated a wee bit. But, the rest holds true. This could still cellar for another 10 years. Great value in Rioja. Buy more than one and take the extra down below for a year or two or five.

Wait , just rethinking here, the ‘best song ever’? Maybe Sympathy For The Devil? Imagine? Roadhouse Blues? Something by The Clash? Leonard Cohen? Cowgirl In The Sand? Could be that, like wine, there isn’t a best ever rock song either. Thoughts? If you do have a best ever wine or song, let’s hear it.

Cheers.

Bill

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

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

Fishes, Loaves and The Red Daily Slosh

28 Aug

My favourite blues singer (Beth Hart) and one of the all time great guitarists (Jeff Beck) celebrating the great Buddy Guy. Rocking a classic. Pair with the Carmenere below. Hang in for the encore – Sweet Home Chicago. It’s pretty cool.

This release (August 30) features wines scoring 90 points or more as awarded by wine reviewers. In wineland, there used to be controversy over scoring wines regardless of the system used. But now it seems that most wine writers use some system of grading wines – numerical scores, stars, wine glasses (bicchierres). I don’t like it as I get distracted by it. Here’s the thing. Sure everyone wants to know what the ‘pros’ think of a wine if they are considering buying it. But, when I hear that someone bought a $16.95 wine because it received a 90, and “$16.95 for a 90 is great value”, it makes me crazy. And, can we talk? There seem to be fewer and fewer wines that score poorly; making good scores pretty common place. Shelf talking scores in front of wines make good marketing; not necessarily good purchases. If you’ve followed me, you’ll know that I’ve stayed away from comparative scores. Why? Well, confession? I don’t have a great palate, my notes are cryptic, I’m lazy, I don’t want to be held that accountable, and I was a math major and I still can’t tell an 89 from a 90. Wait, I do know the difference between an 89 and a 90 – it’s one less. On the other hand, absolute scores may give you confidence and a reference point. So, if it helps you to use scores to better advise your purchases, knock yourself out. But, I’d think just talking to folks you trust, reading the write ups (while ignoring the scoring) that are available on the net or in the press, and maybe even asking my friend, Ken, at the LCBO would be a better use of your time. Or, I could revert to my fish and loaves scoring model. Over time you’d get the hang of what 4 fishes really means. It means it’s pretty good and one more fish than 3!

santacarolinaI recently spent time with my archaeologist son and some of his colleagues. One of his friends mentioned that she had picked up a Carmenère that I had recommended and found her new best friend – Carmenère. She said that she had subsequently asked at the wine store (Bottles in Providence, RI) about available Carmenère and had tried and enjoyed several different labels. What this means in archaeology-speak is that she subsequently drained the local wine store of every bottle of Carmenère. Why? Twenty-four hour-a-day fixation on fragments of pottery and weird details of early human civilization can do that to a person. It creates a feeling of insignificance in the vast historical universe. And leads to habitual alcohol consumption – not a criticism, just an observation. I also have a friend that drinks a lot of wine, but denies it. He said that he loves the Montes Purple Angel – a Carmenère-based wine. What’s going on with all the Carmenère love? Well, it’s good juice as my co-blogger, Conrad of the Wine Wankers would say. This week, one of our staple Carmenères hits the shelves. 2010 Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenère #034942 $18.95 is a pretty solid example of what Carmenère brings. And, that is? Well, for me it means full-bodied, full-flavoured, deeply coloured wine. The Santa Carolina is full-bodied with a big complex nose – fruit, spice and oak in the mouth with an interesting finish that’s long enough to resemble a biggish California Cabernet. In fact, if that’s your ‘go to’ wine, Cali Cab Sav that is, the Santa Carolina will be a perfect change of grape for you.

doglianiI have yet to be disappointed by Dolcetto di Dogliani wines. There’s a country-ness to the Dolcettos from the Dogliani DOC. Lip-smacking good – not heavy. Secret? Once I’ve hooked someone on Euro wine through Beaujolais. I move them on to Dolcetto. In a year or two, they’re pounding on my door at 2 in the morning begging for some Brunello. Yup, that’s how this wine thing works. Dolcettos are a fun wine but, like Beaujolais, not to be dismissed for that but rather celebrated. The 2011 Cantina del Dolcetto di Dogliani Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore #378547 $19.95 is a pretty serious Dolcetto for Dolcetto. Loads of things going on in the glass and the mouth. Enough that my tasting notes had entries crossed out with numerous notations and additions – not that easy to land on the usual terms. And, I have to say that this type of depth and complexity ain’t what I expected. This is a beautiful wine! Balanced, acidity not as front and centre as usual for this DOC, enough tannin to hold up to some fatty meaty dinner, or cellar. Go ahead and spring for this perfect-for-the-end-of-summer wine. And, one of the more elegant labels that I’ve seen lately.

rosewoodpinotSince I’ve already dissed my palate, I might as well give full disclosure. When I started to try and describe what I was experiencing with wine, I noticed some wineness on the nose and notes of wine on the palate and the finish. Then I graduated to all red wines having a definite cherry aroma and flavour hiding in there somewhere. I’ve been able to expand my repertoire quite a bit from those days but I’m always suspicious when I circle ‘cherry’. Is it that I’m just back-sliding? Am I not trying hard enough? Well, when I tasted the 2012 Rosewood Select Series Pinot Noir #112177 $21.95, I circled cherry and then had that self-doubt. But on careful reflection, I’m pretty confident that cherry is the dominant fruit in this wine. It has some wood notes and packs the acidity that pinots seem to bring from this region. Good food wine. I like what Rosewood does with their wines – they get out of the way and let it happen. This would be a great host/hostess wine or accompaniment with something smoky. Note: Image above is not the ‘Select Series’ (I couldn’t find it) but it provides an idea of what the Rosewood label will look like.

Wine that I am going to pick up untried in this vintage:

treOK, there are great mid-priced wines and there are spectacular mid-priced wines. Brancaia Tre has been one of those (spectacular, that is) over the years of this blog. I’ve enthusiastically recommended the 2009 and 2010. And received many thanks from those that picked one or two up based on the recommendation. Well, along comes the 2011 iteration of this label. The 2011 Brancaia Tre #164715 $23.95 comes with loads of critical praise and high scores but remember what I said above – I get distracted by the scores and prefer to focus on great producers, solid vintages, and past experience with the style. This one is fool-proof on that basis. Great producer, past examples exceptional, vintage good to great. This wine should either sit for a few years or get some air, if other vintages are any indication.

I’m off to Niagara this weekend. Visiting wineries and gathering stories. Stay tuned.

Image Credits:

Brancaia Tre – http://www.brancaia.com

Rosewood Pinot Noir – http://www.vintages.com

Cantina del Dogliani – http://www.cantinadolcettodogliani.it

Santa Carolina Carmenere – http://www.santacarolina.cl

 

 

 

Apologies and The Red Daily Slosh

30 Jul

Why this song today? It was playing as I typed? A little Cancon? Celebrate the late great Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and Pops Staples? Or, maybe just to hear one of the all time great songs with Mavis Staples joining in? All of the above, baby!

perrinrrFirst, apologies are in order. To those in the LCBO’s grasp, it appears that the French rosés that I recommended last time out were in short supply. Sorry, mea culpa, excuuuuuuuse me. If you were jonesing for the Tavel, there is a great substitute made by Perrin et Fils – 2013 Perrin et Fils Côtes du Rhone Réserve Rosé #719062 $15.95. And, you’ll note that it’s cheaper than the Carteresses and Apogé. Secondly, to everyone – I mistakenly used the wrong accent on the ‘e’ in ros(e) throughout my last post (and, potentially throughout my whole website?). I used l’accent grave quand l’accent aigu c’est correct. I try hard not to make mistakes and sometimes I fail due to fatfingering or just not seeing the obvious to others. It’s hard proofing your own stuff. This time my 5 years of French failed me. Rather than ‘search and replace’ every mistakenly used l’accent grave, I am going to leave it alone and simply bear the scars of continuing critical emails and comments. On to some Red Daily Slosh. This Saturday’s release features California, Greece, the Loire, and Alsace. So, it would be vinous gymnastics to speak to all these regions. Especially when I’d have had to have tried them all. Suffice it to say that you should take a wander through the aisles and see what might interest you, if I haven’t mentioned your sweet spot.

sanatalicia

Where can you find great value in red wines? Chile, that’s where. There are the Concha y Toro’s Casillero del Diablo and the Cono Sur labels in the general listing aisles and almost every release a few smaller order wines that provide great QPR. This week, there’s an interesting camenère – 2011 Santa Alicia Gran Reserva de Los Andes #093831 $15.95. Carmenère is the sixth Bordeaux grape but isn’t farmed there anymore. These days it appears, for all intents and purposes, to be Chile’s exclusive grape. As The Church Lady would say, “Hey, Chile. Aren’t we sssspecial?” I quite enjoy carmenère and over the years I’ve recommended a bunch of these but never this particular one as it came at you pretty hard – a bit confused. Maybe if I followed vintage descriptions and ratings, I would have realized that the 2011 was going to be a ‘prettier’ wine. Kind of made me smack my lips and that means, for me, that it was good with food. It’s a great change up from cabernet-based blends, if you are a score chaser it scored 91 at the Wine & Spirits (my fav wine mag), and the price is right.

monteslspn

Another Chilean wine that over delivers is the Montes line. Just about all their wines are reflective of the region and wine making traditioins of the country. Their entry-level pinot noir – 2011 Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir #037937 $14.95 – is a great low-priced pinot. Although the term ‘limited selection’ is probably an over reach. OK, I went to their website – I was curious. They made 35,000 cases! Even though Montes is very big, I don’t equate 35,000 cases with the term ‘limited’. I will ramble on the confusing labeling of wine at a later time. Despite the mislabeling, this is a great inexpensive pinot noir. Juicy and balanced with great red fruits and not cluttered with the sweetness that plagues a lot of the cheaper pinots (this one has 3.49g/l residual sugar). I’d think a good wine to take to a “stand around arguing” party. Boutari Naoussa

When I say, “Greece”, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Red wine from Naoussa? That’s right, me too. Weird how that works. The quintessential QPR Greek red in most vintages is Boutari Naoussa. The 2009 is no exception. The 2009 Boutari Naoussa #023218 $13.95 reminds me of a northern Italian red – just gives me that impression. Light in your mouth, balanced everything and, although the write up I saw said oak influences, I didn’t find them. It’s pretty pure and Old World good. Have with some pork souvlaki, marinated feta, and olives. Or, if you don’t like olives (I know people who don’t, gasp), maybe something else Greek – grilled octopus? But, if you must and you wish a rounder, more modern wine keep reading.

talamonti

A repeat recommendation that’s back – 2011 Talamonti Montepulciano d’Abruzzo #204016 $15.95. This is a surprisingly styled MdA. It’s international in style. Not one rustic edge. It’s gentle, round, bigger at first than after a sip or two – warm but not through alcohol – buy one and hope that they’ve got more when you run back. Because you will. Now, I’m going to step a bit outside the ‘daily’ price point on two very fine wines.

Spain is my weak spot. Well, along with Rhone, Tuscany, Niagara, Washington. Let’s just say, I’m awfully weak. But, Spain breeds such personality into their wines. Not sure why that happens but I bet I could read up on it. This week, one of my all time favourite petaloswines in this price range hits our shelves – 2011 Descendientes de J. Palacios Pétalos #675207 $26.95. In past years, I’ve raved about this wine here. But, this vintage surpasses all others IMHO. It’s just got its act together. Committed to your enjoyment with a big woosh up out of the bowl – big nose – fruit that I can’t definitely land on and mushrooms and anise.  I’m not really worried about what fruit I detect. Because if after I’ve had a swish, sniff, gurgle and swallow, I say quietly, “This s**t is great!”, I know all I need to. The wine is not nearly as heavy in the mouth as in the glass – not quite full-bodied and it’s as smooth as Joan Rivers’ visage. OK, that doesn’t really make me want to have this wine either. So, let’s just say it’s really smooth.

akaruarua

And now for something completely different. Different than the Montes, anyway. This week’s Kiwi pick up for Bill (I picked up the Staedt Landt last week) is the 2012 Akarua Rua Pinot Noir #295592 $24.95. I like the acidity that Central Otago seems to carry. This wine has that but in balance with some wood influences (vanilla?) and tree fruit. FYI, if I wanted to be a real wine writer, I would have used the term ‘stone fruits’. Both terms really don’t mean much to most people. So, I’ll back up – the fruit is most like cherries to me – but, darker – like black cherries. This is a superb food wine but if you drink alone like I do, just have it by itself. I know that I’m always upselling you guys but this is a wine that you can feel comfortable splurging a bit on. Talk to you later this week.

Rita of Cascia and Carmenere – Strange Bedfellows

26 May

As I finish this post, this was playing on my playlist. Rock On!

I’ve carefully watched the ‘successful’ wine bloggers and they tend to talk about what they’re drinking in the moment, weekly or monthly. I have foregone that until now in an attempt to avoid an intervention. And, if you read my post on swallowing, you might posit that I overindulge. You might be right. But, I’ll leave that for another ramble. So, I’ll wade into the two bottles I opened on the weekend. I didn’t finish them both in one sitting, BTW – just opening two for your benefit.

I realize that although I may purchase and quaff carmenère all the time, many of you have difficulty accessing good carmenère, haven’t tried regardless, or seem to usually gravitate to other varietals. It’s too bad really that carmenère is an afterthought purchase. It shows its best when from Chile where it was believed to be merlot for many years. Wine aficionado Grissom from CSI – Las Vegas completed a DNA analysis which took all of a commercial break and determined that what was previously thought to be merlot was, in fact, carmenère – the sixth of the Bordeaux grapes (others being cabernet sauvignon, malbec, merlot, petit verdot, cabernet franc). What a nice surprise. The grape usually makes a solid, full-bodied wine and, in this jurisdiction, is priced very reasonably. On to the wines.

photoI purchased the 2011 Valle Secreto First Edition Carmenere #371153 $18.95 because I hadn’t seen it before, being a ‘first edition’ and all. And, it had a nifty gold sticker on the bottle that said something about winning an award. Bonus. I was intrigued by the ‘first edition’ moniker. What are they going to call next vintage? Going out on a limb here, but Im betting that they don’t have a second but fold this into their “Private” bottling. The winery web site says, “First Edition, as indicated by its name, is the first wine ever produced by Valle Secreto, its first edition, its first secret.” Cool. Still the issue for next year. This is a smallish boutique winery with limited production, it seems. The wine was dark, somewhere between full-blown purple with ruby red hiding in there somewhere. Medium to full-bodied with a nice balance between the acid and the fruit. There was a spice present along with a greenness on the finish that wasn’t at all off putting like it can be sometimes. All in all, a solid carmenère worth a look see. Great with food (not too heavy) but I had it sitting in a chair with music (Fleetwood Mac, as it happens) blaring and without food.

medalla real carmenereThe other carmenère comes from a regular at the mother ship, Santa Rita. This is going from small to very large on the winery scale. Santa Rita has vineyards in all the major wine growing regions of Chile. You can find their stuff in Vintages’ as well as General Listing aisles. But, who was Santa Rita? Well, welcome to Wikipedia. She was Santa Rita of Cascia, an Augustinian nun who became known as the patron saint for abused women and heartbroken women. As a nun, she was known for practicing “mortification of the flesh.” OK, not sure we need to go any further. Santa Rita, in the case of the winery might mean something else entirely, guaranteed. But, mortification of the flesh sounds intriguing. Well, this wine – 2009 Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Carmenère #274118 $17.95 didn’t mortify me. I have it as a full-bodied, dark purple, jammy wine. It had evidence of oak both on the nose and the finish – some vanillaish stuff. Interesting floral – I’d say violets but can’t quite remember what violets smell like despite my back lawn being infested with the buggers. This wine also had a green component that reminded me of a Niagara red varietal  in cooler years– my best attempt would be celery. But, then again my notes are pretty cryptic as is my mind. I think that despite this being the heavier of the two, it could be a cocktail party wine which, if served, would make it a wine party. Interesting because the other wine is less full-bodied but I think that the increased acidity in the “first edition” makes it more suitable for food.

Both of these wines are good value, crowd pleasing type wines. Keep your eye out for them.

Front-On, Dude – The Red Daily Slosh

13 Feb

This is for the February 15 release.

barI read a bunch of bloggers (actually a ‘barrel’ of bloggers is the proper term when they write stuff about wine) that do a great job of educating readers on the world of wine. I’ve been at this ‘real’ blog thing for a year and a bit after three years of a newsletter, and the penny just dropped – I recommend wines, ramble about stuff, but it is frequently the same stuff nothing new or educational. I know this because I did a statistical analysis of my recommendations, collated the wine tasting terms used to describe these wines, and applied an algorithm to evaluate the variability of wines and their characteristics. These were further divided into quadrants that represented sixteen different experiences and price points. The graphic analysis is below. OK, I couldn’t copy the chart from my Excel worksheet. But if it was below you’d notice that I have never used the term unctuous.

cytcarmenereSo, let’s start the Red Daily Slosh with a repeat recommendation (that didn’t last long, did it?). Technically, it isn’t a true repeat because it was a different vintage before but…. Anyway, it’s the 2011 Concha y Toro Winemaker’s Lot 148 Carmenère #030957 $18.95. They say that this is an Ontario market-only bottling. Don’t get too excited because they just call it something else elsewhere, I’m betting. What’s carmenère? An opera whose title is the victim of a fat-fingered typist? No. Actually, it is a traditional Bordeaux grape that they don’t use much, if at all, anymore in Bordeaux blends. It migrated to Chile and other regions where it was thought to be merlot (Chile) or cabernet franc (Italy). Interestingly, the mistaken identity came to light when it appeared on an episode of Maury Povich (Who’s The Father of My Baby, Merlot?), had a DNA test, and found out it was, wait for it………………gasp, carmenère! It’s Chile’s answer to Argentina’s malbec in that it is arguably done best and definitely most frequently in Chile. Usually medium to full-bodied, dark, and yummy. Cheaper versions can be a bit sweet and creamy a la cheap malbec but good ones are chewy, edgy and great burnt meat wines. The Concha y Toro above is the latter – the full-bodied and yummy one. It’s syrah-like spicy, dense but some edge to make it feel less ‘heavy’ and has some bush on the nose and in the mouth – woodiness. Love it. Tannins are smoothing out nicely. I think that, if you’ve never had carmenère, this would be a great place to start. If you have had it, do it all over again with this wine from the most complete winery in Chile.

charvetI’d like Spring, please. Yes, it’s a bit of a bugger here with temperatures in the minus 20 Celsius range many days. And, what will we see on the shelves this weekend but a Beaujolais. Wait, isn’t Beaujolais a better warm weather red? Well, it can be but this is maybe more a shoulder season Beaujolais. More substantial and serious. The perfect wine as we wait out the shitty weather. The 2012 Domaine Gérard Charvet La Réserve d’Amélie Moulin-à-Vent #356741 $20.00 would be a bit expensive for a common Beaujolais. But, this one is worth the splurge, IMHO. This is strawberries and even some darker fruits on the sniff – pure and straight forward in the mouth but I don’t mean one-dimensional; rather purposeful – it sneaks up on you on the second swallow and the second glass is even better, duh. Make sure it isn’t too warm – basement temp is best. I’ve recommended a bunch of Beaujolais (mostly for Grant) and love the Cru Beaujolais. Moulin-a-Vent is my favourite. Hurray for Beaujolais! Spring can’t be too far away.

gamayAnd while we’re sipping on gamay why not try one of the better versions of this grape from Ontario. The 2012 Malivoire Gamay #591313 $17.95 is always good value but this year it is a bit deeper with darker fruit than usual. Not sure if they allowed the grapes to ripen more or it just worked out that way given the vintage. This would be a good gamay-off with the Beaujolais above. This one a bit lighter. Buy them both and re-familiarize yourself with the two faces of gamay. I really appreciate the consistency of Malivoire at all their price points. I had this at the cellar door and I encourage you, if you’re down that way to make Malivoire one of your stops.

foretThere’s a club that I’ve mentioned before called the Wine Century Club. It requires that you drink wines that represent 100 different grape varieties. This week there’s a grape that I haven’t knowingly had – negrette and I think it might be my first catalogued wine for WCC sainthood. The negrette grape is mostly found in southwestern France – this one is from AC Fronton (hence the title) 2010 Chateau Bellevue la Forét #354134 $13.95 . They say it’s “hearty old-school”, brambly, and goes with an Olivier salad. I think that they have confused me with someone who knows what an Oliver salad really is. We’ll see. Try one with me and we’ll compare notes.

That’s all that I have any positive perspective on for the weekend.

Music accompaniment – Last time I included a video of Cream and a friend wondered why I made the Eric Clapton reference in the lead up, because he didn’t recognize Eric in the video. Why not? He’s the old worn out crooner isn’t he? Nope, he’s like 18! So, I’ve included one this time of Cream and an iconic song, again – Eric is in the red. He’s not Eric The Red but wearing the red Sergeant Pepper knock off.

Barrel picture from wikipedia

New World, Old World, Thanksgiving – The Red Daily Slosh

11 Oct

roastturkeyIt’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. When our neighbours to the south celebrate their Thanksgiving on the wrong weekend, I will relate the story of how Canadians invented Thanksgiving; along with the wheel, the telephone, postage stamps, kegger parties, and the sports bra. But, back to my Thanksgiving. I’m making a spice-rubbed turkey with stuffing that has pine nuts, fennel and some other stuff. Although, you could get away with the usual pinot noir/syrah/chardonnay with turkey tradition, I think that the first two wines below might show up on my table. They have some spice, lots of authority without being heavy, and they’re relatively inexpensive. Oh yeah, and we also invented basketball. It was at an American college but James Naismith was Canadian. Further evidence of which is this week’s Sports Illustrated cover #wiggins

BorsaoTresPicos_2In January of this year, I recommended the 2010 version of this wine. It was a “solidly made full-bodied wine” and I liked it a lot. Many of you did as well given the feedback. The 2011 version is a big wine. Now, when I say “big”, what do you think of? Tom Hanks? Chris Noth? Chocolate Bars? Noneoftheabove? What I think of is a wine that has several dimensions, has a strong mouthfeel by way of tannin, some acid and a long finish. I think power. Well, this wine is ‘big’ but not heavy or overly tannic. It brings loads of spice, red fruit by way of the 100% Garnacha, and a little jam too. But, not all was barrel aged (just half) so it ain’t woody. I think that it might be the Garnacha Of The Year. “The envelope, please.”  2011 Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha #273748 $19.95. Love this stuff!

tessellaeWhen Arlene and I were in Languedoc-Roussillon, we stayed in Perpignan. What a great little town – loads of character, great food (ask me about the rodent night) and clearly some great wines nearby as evidenced by the 2011 Tessellae Carignan Old Vines Côtes du Roussillon #343517 $18.95 (sic). If you love the garrigue (and who doesn’t?) or if you don’t know what garrigue is, or you know what it is but would rather not talk about it, then this wine is for you. It is truly of this place – the Roussillon – garriguish as all get out. It’s balanced, smooth, and – wait a minute – it’s called “Carignan” in the LCBO website but the blend is 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre and 5% Grenache Gris. The winery website says it doesn’t have Carignan. So where is the Carignan? Don’t be confused if you don’t see Carignan on the label – because there is no Carignan. Which is good – Carignan wines can be pretty tableish and plain IMHO. This wine, on the other hand is anything but. It has a dirty Old World Syrah thing going on, which is perfect – full-bodied, balanced, red fruits on the nose and the palate and some interesting floral things that don’t dissipate until you swallow.  Great value too! Case purchase if you love the south of France.

canteloupI love Bordeaux reds. So, when I see a good one that’s reasonably priced (think: Chateau Lyonnat), I recommend it – the 2010 Chateau Haut-Canteloup #336867 $15.95 is one of those wines. This is such a surprise. The 2010 vintage is one in a series of “Vintage Of The Century”. Hear that phrase through a loud hailer with a distinctive Bordelaise accent and you get the gist of the hype machine from Bordeaux. But, it also means that you can get a lesser known wine during these vintages that provides exceptional value. Voilà, the Chateau Haut-Canteloup. Where did the name come from? Well, during the Classification of 1855 (which was actually a real event unlike this story), the panel visited this estate to meet the estate owner who stood 6’ 8” and had a very large head. Not so funny? Too oblique? This wine is still pretty closed up right now but either a couple hours of decanting or a few years in the dark will bring out loads of black fruit, blow off some of the woodiness and provide a great, solid wine for red meat. If I wasn’t buying a bunch of the wine above, I’d be over-weight in this value Bordeaux.

santacarmenereIt’s been awhile since I tried and am recommending a Carmenère. This is strange in that Carmenère provides such good value in most cases and truly satisfies those that prefer New World spins on Old World varietals – California Cabs, Merlots, Pinot Noirs, etc. – accessible, easy-drinking, stand around wines. This week, the 2010 Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenère #134942 $18.95 hits the shelves. This is exactly what you’re looking for if: 1) you drink red wine. It has quite a lot of different things going on. If there was a wine tasting, I’m saying that there would be very different takes on this wine. I like that – not one-dimensional and subtleties abound. It’s deep, dark (like most Carmenère), full-bodied, mildly tannic, and understated a bit – restrained. Stand around or serve with food.

There are a couple wines that I haven’t had but will pick up and may be of interest to you too:

2011 Heitlinger Mellow Silk Pinot Noir #344697 $16.95 Although Germany isn’t famous for its pinot noir, I have had a couple from there that were interesting and full value. This might be another. I found the others to be in a soft style but with good acidity. The one above’s name suggests that this will have a softness to it as well. Worth a try.

2009 Quieto 3 Malbec #275701 $14.95 A friend told me yesterday that he’s traveling to Argentina this winter and asked for suggestions for Argentinean wine to taste pre-departure – not right before the departure as in while in the lounge – but now to get the feel for the land and their wines. This week, there’s a wine that’s intriguing based on price and reviews that are very positive. Not sure what I’ll find but I think that I‘ll take the plunge. It’s only $14.95 afterall.

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