Tag Archives: LCBO

Rediscovered Foods – What We’ve Been Drinking

28 Jul

2017 – Dock View North Early Evening

I know. It looks idyllic and it is. But don’t try to sit down there and admire the view for anything longer than three minutes unless you’ve brought a transfusion. The twin engine mosquitoes love early evening.

I have rediscovered a food that I had all the time when I was a kid. I mean it didn’t disappear; it’s just that I didn’t eat it anymore. And we’re not talking fluffinutters here – real non-childish foods. And now – I’ve fallen in love with it again. This happened to me this summer. I’ll tell you all about it later in the post.

Then there’s wine. What did we drink this past few weeks. In a nutshell – really really good shit. Here are just a few.

I bought a bunch of Bordeaux Futures over the years. Always hard to determine when to pop the cork. One of my faves is Château Duhart-Milon. The vintage that I brought to the party was the ’06. It needed a lot of time to get ready – so I decanted for about three hours. Enjoyed with Rye and Ginger Steak – rib eye steak marinated in Canadian rye whisky, fresh ginger, and thyme. This wine delivered on the promise of Bordeaux. A dustiness of red and black fruits supported by a backbone of tannin. Medium to full-bodied. Smokey but still closed off enough that I’ll wait on the other ’06’s..

The friend that I travelled to Priorat with brought the 2014 Torres Salmos #450734 $31.95. This is made by the large Torres operation – although in Priorat it’s difficult to impose a mass production approach and, I believe, they have tried to reflect the region in this wine. Wow! If you’ve never had a Priorat Garnacha/Cariñena wine, you are getting a detention. If you have, you know the power of these wines. They are unmistakable. We sniffed nd sipped this and both agreed that this is Priorat. Heightened alcohol and fruit galore from the Garnacha. Colour, stability and backbone from the Cariñena. It was great with a pork tenderloin.

In our market, we don’t get very many wines from Emilia-Romagna. It probably has as much to do with customer recognition as anything else. I mean everyone knows Tuscany, Piedmont, Venezie but Emilia-Romagna might be a bit foreign to them (pardon the pun). We popped a cork on the 2014 Umberto Cesari Liano Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon #225086 $27.95 and revisited this region. Despite its vintage, this had the nose of a wine dominated by an aged Sangiovese – cherries, leather. It wasn’t as big as a Super Tuscan tends to be; less International and more Old World – gutsier – I liked that. Some barrel characteristics without any creaminess or vanilla – solid tannins. Italian evening bistro wine. Great food wine.

Summer evenings scream, “Pinot Noir!” We enjoyed the 2012 Bethel Heights Estate Pinot Noir #510842 $37.75 from Oregon. Oregon, New Zealand, and Ontario Pinots are my favourite New World takes on this grape. They tend to be leaner and more powerful and mineral than others I’ve tried. This one stuck to that script. Blackberry, tea, and earthiness on the swish and swallow – medium plus finish. This might be a bit more soft (or, as they say in grammar class, “softer”) than what I’m used to from Oregon. Might be that it’s evolved and tannins have integrated. But, what a treat.

One last mention – 2013 Alto Moncayo Veraton Garnacha #173211 $27.75. These guys make great wine and, despite this one being their least expensive, it is perhaps my favourite and, yes, maybe I’m influenced by price in that assessment. 100% Garnacha, this is huge – Priorat-like – in experience and alcohol (15.5%) – warm in the mouth with fruit front and centre. Vines from 30 to 50 years of age at 300m to 500m. Rich, chocolate, anise, big mouthfeel, intense black fruit. Glad I have one more left.

That rediscovered food?

When we barbecued, my father would charge up the charcoal using about enough starter fluid to propel a Gemini rocket. Before he dropped the lit match on the grill, he had to dress in a  flame retardant suit. Singed eyebrows weren’t uncommon. The food tasted like it had been dipped in kerosene. I believe to this day that my father, an oil man who worked 37 years for Imperial Oil (Standard Oil of New Jersey), was just trying to contribute to the bottom line by going through a liter and a half of starter fluid per meal.

And, when we barbecued, my mother would put out freshly sliced garden tomatoes, spears of cucumber, and………..wait for it……..fresh garden radishes. Big, hot, beautiful radishes. And, we sprinkled salt….hell, we poured salt on to our side plates and dipped the radishes into the salt for every bite. Pure heaven.

And, until this past few weeks, I hadn’t really done that for a long time. Oh, I’d purchased radishes (probably grown in a hot house far away) and sliced them into a salad. But, I hadn’t had locally grown radishes, sprinkled with salt. Man, makes me want to get up and have a couple right now – the burps are a bit of a unforced error, though.

The other thing is green onions (scallions) with the same salty treatment. Always at the table in the summer of my youth. Beautiful.

So, if you don’t have your own garden patch, get thee to a market somewhere near you and get some locally grown, big, red, sassy radishes. And, ignore the #fakenews about salt being bad for you. Douse these little buggers in salt and enjoy. I’m thinking the wine to pair – is whatever you’re already drinking because nothing will really pair with them. Maybe best to stick to beer – that’s what dad had – Old Vienna.

Cheers.

Bill

Too Few Friends – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

27 Jul

When I was away, I found out that I only had two rosé friends. That’s very close to 100% of my friends, BTW. Unless you count the imaginary ones. I have a mess of those guys.

I had taken a bunch of rosés to the cottage but had only two takers. And you know what that means? I had all those rosés to myself! The only problem? Among them, I had brought the 1500 ml bottle of Bertrand’s Côte des Roses Rosé (above). It’s a big bottle – good news. The bad news is that no one would pitch in and help me drink it. And, it doesn’t fit upright in the cottage fridge.

So, once opened, you have to finish it – normally not a problem for the undersigned. But, accidents happen on the water when alcohol is involved. Story for another day. So, no big, beautiful bottle of rosé for me. Lesson learned.

The corollary is that the cottage is not the place to experiment with wine for guests. If your guests haven’t heard of it (Arneis, Melon de Bourgogne, Mencia), don’t expect them to prefer it to wines/grapes that they are familiar with no matter how much they trust you. And, when you’re the host, you give guests choices and bend to those. Not everyone wants to ‘try’ something when they’re sitting on the dock getting mellow and sun burnt.

Last weekend’s (July 22nd) LCBO release is entitled “Old Favourites + New Favourites”. It’s about Old World and New World wines – where they intersect and where they differ. At the mid-to-high end of the price spectrum, there are some absolute stunners. In the mid-price stunner category is the 2014 Luca Malbec #167312 $34.95. This wine is made by Laura Catena so you can count on attention to detail, expression of place, and experimentation with traditional practices.This comes from high altitude (3500 feet) both well established and newer vineyards. It is fresh yet doubles down on first impact – broad, full darkish fruit and, although the alcohol is middle range (13.5% ABV), it has a bit of heat. This is a food wine. And, remember it is an Argentine food wine – so, think grilled burgers, steaks. This proves the point that all Malbecs are not created equal.

A more reasonably priced red is the 2014 Papale Linea Oro Primitivo di Manduria #261784 $22.95. I’ve recommended this before in other vintages – most recently the 2013. You can read that review here. Made from the Primitivo (early ripening) grape which is Italian for Zinfandel, it carries a lot of the same characteristics understandably. Puglia is a hot place – grapes get ripe and this is reflected in this wine – fruity, big flavours, alcohol starting to get a bit high (14% ABV). This vintage has more of a dried fruit experience like a Ripasso does. Great summer evening or autumn wine.

Despite the rosé discussion above, I’m not shying away from them. This week, the 2016 Domaine Maby La Forcadière Tavel Rosé #701318 $18.95 is a typical Tavel – darker pink (check the pic out), more red than salmon. It’s fruit forward with heft that you don’t usually experience in a crisp, refreshing Cotes de Provence. That does sacrifice some of the refreshment but it’s a great food wine – acidity on the finish and even a little tannin peeking through. Great value Tavel!

The previous release (July 8th) has a must buy from Piedmont – the 2015 Fontanafredda Raimonda Barbera d’Alba #023135 $16.95. This is a lightish, bright red with cherries and spice in the gargle. Almost too easy to drink – dry, fun, and fresh. Think bistro red and you’ll have it. If you think all wines need to be big and brawny, skip this. Barberas can be quite variable in quality. But no worries of being underwhelmed here. I bought one of these to try and am headed back for half a dozen more.

Also from the July 8th release is one of the most opulent wines that I’ve ever had at this price point – 2015 Bastide Miraflors Vieilles Vignes Syrah/Grenache #320499 $19.95. Maybe it’s my Grenache/Garnacha addiction but so what? But, it’s more Syrah (70%) than Grenache (30%), you say. Well, I love Syrah too. No serious wood treatment so pure ripe fruit on the nose and the swallow. Some of the telltale Roussillon notes of lavender and other scrubby stuff as well as some pepper on the medium length finish. It scores high on the GSS (Good Shit Scale) – between Really and Really Really. This wine reminds us that although Roussillon brings us mass production wines, it also makes wines like this one – crafted with integrity.

Just a quick recommendation on an available  sparkling that I’ve mentioned a bunch of times – the Bailly-Lapierre Pinot Noir Brut Cremant de Bourgogne #420984 $23.95. If you can’t afford to buy Champagne, I believe the next best thing in sparkling wine is Cremant de Bourgogne (unless I’ve said something else in an earlier post – in that case, I’ve changed my mind). This is made from Pinot Noir and although not as dry as the fabulous Louis Boillot Perle d’Or that I recommend from time to time, it’s dry enough and the wee bit more lends creaminess. The Pinot comes through on the finish for me along with lemon peel. Exceptional cuvée!

Saw the HBO documentary about Bowie’s last 5 years and listened to his last album – Blackkstar when I was doing the final edit on this post. Man, he was special. Enjoy this video. The definition of cool. And, check out the song Dollar Days on Blackstar on whatever streaming service you use – pure Bowie.

Cheers.

Bill

 

Porcupine Leading to Drinking Alone

25 Jul

A loon captured in front of our cottage by my cousin’s talented photographer wife, Brenda Dickie

Just returned from three full weeks at the lake. No wireless, no television, just sports radio and expensive data through my iPhone. So, haven’t been following the news – wine news or world news. Although I’m guessing that The Donald did something to get Daddy’s attention.

So, how about a story from the wilds of Muskoka?

You can hear the echoes on the lake: the lonesome whippoorwill (homage to Hank Williams); the haunting call of the loon; the laughter of children swimming; and then there’s THE SOUND.

The sound might remind the untrained ear of someone dragging a hammer claw under the floor of your abode. Or, a small jet aircraft revving on the runway prior to takeoff. It occurs only at night while you sleep. It’s loud, the vibration moving up through the floor, through the bed frame, through the mattress and into your bones. The Director lies sleeping. I, on the other hand, leap from the bed a la the man in the Christmas poem to see what is the matter.

Most would wake and yell, “What the hell is that?” I, however, in a matter of seconds, know exactly what ‘that’ is and simply say, “Oh shit, the porcupines are back.” Yes, folks porcupines can plague even a seasoned cottager like yours truly.

A porcupine pre-glue sniffing

What the heck do porcupines do that makes that sound, you ask? Well, they gnaw on the striated beams that support our cottage with their humongous sharp teeth. Striated beams are made by gluing together a zillion strands of wood. They are as hard as steel.

Years ago, the porkies gnawed right through the floor of our cabin (an abode since torn down) and through the hole, you could see their beady little eyes blinking as they tried to extract as much salty glue as they could from the plywood. That’s right folks – porcupines are glue addicts (Editors Note: They love the glue because plywood glue has salt in it – they crave salt). Imagine the strung out porky retired to his little whatever it is he lives in, bending over a small paper bag of hard won glue, taking a big sniff, and saying, “Far out man, that’s good shit,” as wisps of resin float about his little prickly face.

This last time, I got out of bed and proceeded to pound on the floor over the area where I surmised the porky sat. I yelled, I pounded, I stomped, The Director slept. Seriously?

Eventually, the big fellow – I just noticed that I’ve assigned a gender to this creature. Let’s see – the animal’s a pain in the ass, has no ambition, is glue addicted and up drugging at 3 in the morning – of course, it’s a ‘he’. Where was I? Oh yeah, he crawled out from underneath the cottage and waddled up the path and into the woods. Phew, it’s over. Back to bed? Unfortunately I’m not built like that. Once up – I’m up – really up. That’s a surprise?

This brings me to the wine. You knew that I’d get there. My challenge? Pairing wine to three in the morning in your pyjamas and Googling on your phone “how do I get rid of a porcupine?”

What did I do about the wine? Decision tree on pairing: no food – just empty calories at that time of day – unlike the alcohol, wink, wink; palate a little muted by snore breath; heart racing because, although I know the porcupine isn’t going to burst through the door and begin shooting his quills shouting, “Say hello to my lil’ friend,” I’m just a little anxious; and most importantly, I don’t want to upset my whole three weeks of wine planning by taking a bottle out of turn when the mothership is a one hour drive away.

You might say – how about Port? Too nutty and heavy. Or, maybe a cup of tea? Tea? You think I drink tea? Red wine? Naw, too intense.

As it turned out, there was an open bottle of Chardonnay in the fridge. It’s a familiar label in this market – J. Lohr Arroyo Seco Monterey Chardonnay #258699 $19.95 . It’s a great value Chardonnay with some oak but nothing chewy or over-buttery. Ripe, round and medium weight. This night a glass went perfectly with my frantic internet search for creative ways to rid myself of a beast. OK, it was two glasses.

How can an animal survive with a glue sniffer’s approach to life? Well here’s how, the only predators that porkies need to fear up here are Subarus – the official car of Muskoka. They just go about their business without a care in the world. You can shoot them or poison them and I don’t have the heart for either. So, I’m stocking up on the J. Lohr and learning to live with it.

So, if you’re up in the night with a bit of anxiety and some homework to do, I’m suggesting a medium weight Chardonnay. It doesn’t solve your problems because that, as we all know, requires Scotch. But, it sure beats tea.

Or, might you have any suggestions from personal late night experience?

Cheers.

Bill

Confession – it was two and a half glasses!

Rosés For The Dock – 2017 Edition

28 Jun

When I’m up. I can’t get down! Can’t get down. Can’t get level. YKWIM?

Over the past many weeks, I’ve been recommending rosés at quite a pace. But, who wants to scroll through all those posts to find a perfect sip for the dock or before supper, or after a cool swim, or ……..well, you get it. So, this should serve as a refresher.

This week, I was asked by a friend why I liked rosé so much. I didn’t really have an answer at the ready. I hadn’t ever questioned my ‘friending’ of rosé. I mean do any of us ever do a deep dive into why we like say sea scallops, fennel anything, hashwi, kibbi nayii, Omran’s curry? Not really.

So, I took the question away, gave it my full attention (if you know me, you know that I have the attention span of a gnat) and I now have my answer.

It’s just sitting there waiting

First let me say that I think rosé brings all sorts of good stuff to your experience – moderate alcohol, food friendliness, beauty, and usually a sense of place. But, I think I like rosé because it’s refreshing. Sometimes, I want refreshing, period. Now, all the wine geeks out there will write below that Sancerre is refreshing. They’d be right. Oh yeah, and Assyrtiko is nothing if not refreshing. All sorts of chilled whites bring refreshment. There are even red wines that bring refreshment, as well – like something tart from Maremma, perhaps.

So, I’m not suggesting that other wines can’t ‘refresh’. Just that a cool to cold glass of rosé is next to godliness on the refreshment scale. And, without sacrificing depth and complexity. Another reason might be that it’s reasonably priced. My favourite pink costs only $26.95. My favourite red or white wine costs multiples of that. Shit, that’s scary actually now that I see it in print.

OK, just popped the cork on a bottle of rosé to get in the mood. And, yes, it’s really refreshing. The later points I’ll try to make in this post may suffer from the fog but that’s wine bloggin’, baby.

Here we go:

My recommendations will fall into two categories – Provence and the rest of the world. I won’t wax too long on each.

Provence (in no particular order)

2016 Château la Tour de l’Eveque #319392 $18.95 I’ve recommended this rosé almost every year. It’s a beaut. Strawberries, and cherries, crisp, with a depth that defies usual Provence offerings. Love, love, love it!

 

Now, there’s a so much good rosé that’s moderately inexpensive that it might look like you shouldn’t pay too much for a sip. But, the 2016 Caves d’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé #325076 $26.95  is worth every penny. It carries a bigger citrus presence than most of the Provence pinks. Solid depth, breathless purity. OK, I made that breathless part up. But, it is pretty special. Confession: this is my favourite Provence rosé. FYI, it comes in a 1.5L edition suitable as a gift if you were coming to my dock.

Every year, every year, every year, I recommend the 2016 Carte Noir Rosé #319384 $18.95. I mean it’s different vintage each year but you get the point. This might carry the most sunshine of these Provence rosés. Bright, grapefruity sunlight. Mid-afternoon with fresh sliced tomatoes and herbs, avocados with drizzled olive oil, bread, and olives. An almost perfect combination improved immeasurably if you had bright sun and the reflection of the Mediterranean in your Wayfarers.

I won’t go on about the 2016 Miraval Rosé #342584 $22.95 (750 ml) #490870 $46.95 (1500 ml). It’s here if you want to read about it. A worthy addition to this list.

Want to save a few bucks. Question: why do they call them ‘bucks’? And no Googling – you have to impress with the fact that you already knew something for once. Anyway, the 2016 Henri Gaillard Rosé #450825 $16.95 will fit the bill. Or the Bill. This is full value – crisp, fruit lurking on the finish and, yes, refreshing. A real good example of Provence rosé.

Another great value Provence rosé is the 2016 Gassier Sables d’Azur #33621 $16.95. Professionally crafted. Brings the sunshine of the Còtes d’Azur to your mouth. Fresh and perhaps a bit deeper than you’d expect. Very nice afternoon food wine!

One last beauty from that special place – the 2015 Saint AIX Rosé #451906 $22.95 (750 ml) 2016 Saint AIX Rosé #490 904 $45.95. Another step up the weight ladder. Citrusy as well. Chill this one and serve with a light barbecue before the sun goes all the way down.

The rest of the world:

Let’s start locally. Malivoire makes two rosés – 2016 Vivant Rosé #498535 $19.95 and 2016 Ladybug Rosé #559088 $16.95. I like them both. But I prefer the Ladybug and I’ll tell you why. The Vivant is more sophisticated, subtle, and expensive than the Ladybug. I’m not two out of three of those qualities. The Ladybug is weightier, I believe a bit more food friendly and, yes, more refreshing. I get more feedback on people trying the Ladybug and loving it than almost any other recommendation.

Another local rosé that I recently tried was the 2016 Creekside Cabernet Rosé #48819 $14.95 . This was a bit of a surprise. Expecting a little sweetness, it was bone dry. Expecting stainless steel, I got a hint of oak or smokiness. Made from Cabernet Sauvignon, a somewhat atypical or non-traditional rosé grape. But then again Creekside doesn’t conform. Tart and ready for some food. Nice effort.

If it’s mid-afternoon and you’re wanting to top up the tank, pop the cork on the 2016 Brancaia Rosé #490953 $19.95. The only problem that you’ll have with this wine is that it will be gone too soon. A great wine for your introduction to chilled rosé. Classic weight, elegance.

And then there’s Tavel. Tavel is the red wine drinkers rosé. It ain’t Provence rosé. It’s so much more than a ‘summer sipper’, which BTW is a pretty pejorative term for wine as tasty as rosé. The 2016 Domaine des Carteresses Tavel #739474 $17.95, the 2016 Château d’Aquéria Tavel #319368 $21.95, the Domaine Maby Forcadière Tavel Rosé #701318 $17.95 all have the medium body and long finish associated with Tavel. And do yourself a favour – stash a couple down below for the cooler months. These wines can handle the winter and winter fare very nicely, thank you.

That’s it folks. I see that some of my annual favourites aren’t in stores yet. So, I will give you a heads up if/when they appear.

Cheers. I’m off to God’s country. Happy Canada Day (150) to my compatriots! And, Happy 4th to those folks in the US.

Bill

Buddy’s Got The Blues – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

22 Jun

Saw Buddy Guy last night. 80, and man, he still can play. And, yes, he still has the blues, poor bugger.

This week’s release (June 24) features a bunch of wines made by Canadians abroad paired with their Canadian efforts. They include: La Crema; Thomas Bachelder’s Oregon, Niagara, and Burgundy wines; Ann Sperling’s Versado (Argentina) and Southbrook wines; John Howard’s Megalomaniac and Chateau La Confession (with help from Sue-Ann  Staff); and, Moray Tawse and his Burgundy partnership with Pascal Marchand, among others. I’ve enjoyed the Tawse-Marchand, Bachelder, and La Crema efforts and now can’t wait to try the Versado. Hopefully, these successes will serve to promote Canadian wine as well.

And, remember that there may be a strike at the mother ship starting June 26th. So, stock up or go on the wagon.

Before I wade into this release, let me give you a heads up on a great gift bottle of wine – 2016 Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Rosé #490912 $37.95. This 1.5 L edition of Bertrand’s rosé comes in a beautiful bottle with a rose carved into the base. Plus, the wine is a tasty, lip smacking pink with loads of fun fruit. I picked up a couple to pop for that moment when you want to dress up your experience.

 

It seems like Prosecco has become the new Cava. Used to be that you’d pop a cork on a Freixenet or Cordonui semi-regularly. Now, everyone has fallen in love with Prosecco. But beware – there are Proseccos and then, sigh, there are Proseccos. The good ones are good to great. The shitty ones are….well, shitty. And, there are a lot of those. This week, there’s a good one made by a Canuck, Franco Prevedello. The 2016 Prevedello Asolo Superiore Extra Dry Prosecco #262881 $16.95 is fresh, extremely dry and carries a nice tight bubbliness. Great wine to start the day – not suggesting an 8:00 am beginning but quaff this before you get serious. And, no Mimosas with this, please.

Starting or replenishing a cellar? The 2013 Laplace Madiran #103705 $17.95 is la perfect place (get the pun?) to start. This is made from the Tannat grape. I have a good friend who loves wines from the Southwest of France and he got me hooked on Tannat. Tannat usually makes a rustic wine but if done right and with some cellar time to smooth out the edges, it’s full value and great with meals that are substantial in weight – say, a red meat stew. The Laplace is a great Madiran wine. Put it down for a few years or decant for a few hours and please – this is not a standing around wine. It’s serious, structured, and bursting with lip smacking fruit.

I believe that most of us are tired of drinking the same thing over and over again. I’m talking to the McManis afficinados out there. So before I forget and in an effort to get you guys out of your woody rut. I’ve been enjoying a very special Morgon lately. I’m afraid it may run out before I’ve been able to stock up. The 2014 Laurent Gauthier Grand Cras Morgon #279059 $21.9is a great representation of what Beaujolais can aspire to. I absolutely love this stuff! Red fruit on the sniff and finish. Although it claims to be medium weight, I’d say it trends heavier than that – which is a surprise for me. Would benefit from a few years down below but easily drinkable now as well. Perfect summer evening dinner wine! Deep, black, complex, cellarable – everything that you’d want in a supper wine. I have a few faves in my Beaujolais stash and this proudly takes it’s place among them. Fall in love with Beaujolais again. But hurry because there isn’t much left.

I used to recommend a Malbec almost every week. I haven’t had a lot recently. So, sorry to all the Malbec lovers out there but my body can only withstand so much research. However, this week, there’s a malbec that I have had and enjoyed – the 2013 Alamos Selección Malbec #322800 $16.95. This is a Laura Catena effort and, thus, although low-priced, it is meticulously crafted. This is a concentrated, complex wine with all sorts of sniffs emanating from the glass. Mouthfeel is heavy minus a bit and the finish is substantial for a wine at this price. I know that I’m always trumpeting value at a higher price. I’d say this is the best Malbec that I’ve had under $20 that wasn’t made by Susanna Balbo and, if you’ve been playing along at home, you know that’s saying something.

One last little tip. There’s a Spanish wine – 2008 Anciano Gran Reserva Tempranillo Valdepenas #464214 $12.95 – that’s a great value from the Iberian peninsula. Now, it’s a bit light for a Tempranillo wine but still has loads of personality and is suited for sipping. Hard to beat the price. So, if you are thinking of stocking up for the long drawn out strike (wink, wink), pick up a few of these.

Cheers.

Bill

 

Salute to US Wine Merchants – The Rosé Daily Slosh #drinkpink

6 Jun

Saw Bonnie Raitt this past Saturday. Couldn’t find any better video to include than her rendition of a great John Hiatt song. Cameo by Dennis Quaid. “Whether your sunglasses are off or on, you only see the world you make”. BTW, she still has it in spades (yes, a bridge reference).

Joukowsky Institute, Brown University

Spent the Memorial Day weekend in Providence RI for a grad weekend at Brown University and left with some observations about how we do things differently than our neighbours to the south. And, before you neighbours start to think that I’m going to be smug or superior (which, my friends will attest, I’m fully capable of being), let me add that these things are done better there than here.

One: the inspiring, celebratory, and family-like atmosphere at Brown University grad so much better than our uni snooze fests which are just bigger iterations of high school grad. Two: in my experience, wine sales are way better there too.

About five minutes after we arrived in our hotel room, I got the shakes and needed to go get some wine. I wandered to one of my favourite wine stores in Providence – Eno on Westminster (my other fave is Bottles on Pitman). And there at the front island was a lovely WSET educated woman pouring bubbly. She said that she had chosen bubbly due to the grad weekend and thought that it would be nice if people got to try a few different incarnations of celebratory bubbly before landing on their choice.

She poured me glasses (real glass glasses) of a non-memorable take on sparkling, a great Muscadet bubbly from the Loire (on the left), and some grower Champagne. We stood and talked about each wine. I was educated on the Muscadet as I’d never seen a sparkling wine made from that grape. I go to Vouvray when I think Loire bubbly. And, we oohed and aahed together over the Champagne. Really was there any doubt that I’d like that best?

Now, compare this to what we see on weekends at the LCBO. Usually, it’s a sample provided in a wee plastic cup by a presenter who, maybe if you’re lucky, has a passing knowledge of the product they are serving. It’s seldom an employee of the mother ship. Which brings me to the issue. A wine store isn’t Costco. Although samples are designed to sell, wine isn’t a mini sausage. Maybe Costco crowds swell when free stuff is available (not ‘maybe’, crowds do swell), but no one goes to the LCBO to fill up on free rootbeer vodka in half ounce quantities. Customers go there to buy booze and get 0ut. So, why not help them with the decision, à la Eno, with an informed sales person. Think of the upsell potential alone. No one would buy the Prosecco once they sipped the Champagne. It worked that way for me this weekend.

Interesting final observation – European wine is generally cheaper at the LCBO than in Rhode Island and Florida at least (didn’t research other potential states) and very much so when comparing to Rhode Island stores. Example: Antinori’s 2010 Badia a Passignano is offered at $49.99 CAD at the mother ship, was $69.99 USD (dollar adjusted $94.62 CAD) at the ‘go to’ Italian wine shop in Providence and $53.99 USD ($72.99 CAD) in TotalWine Naples. Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo BdM is $52.95 CAD here, $79.99 USD ($108.14 CAD) in Providence and $45.97 USD ($62.15) at TotalWine in Naples. Almost every moderately expensive European wine, that I could find comps for, was cheaper here. And RI was much more expensive.

Maybe my US readers could enlighten me. Is the tax structure in RI the reason? BTW, almost all entry level Euro wines were cheaper at the two shops that I searched. Entry level being $10 USD and less. And US wines are always cheaper outside Ontario.

OK, let’s talk rosé. In a few days, I’ll highlight some white and red wines available in the June 10th. This release has loads of ‘old favourites’ in a current vintage plus a few new faces. The rosé old standbys include:

2016 Château Val Joanis Tradition Rosé #707281 $15.95 – This is from the Luberon so leans weight-wise toward Tavel and away from Provence. A bit heavier than the latter, structured and capable of matching with heavier fare than you might usually pair with rosé. I always get a couple of these for my shelves that I can pop in the summer but also keep for a cooler time.

Staying with rosé, there’s the Brangelina wine, if we can use that portmanteau anymore, 2016 Miraval Rosé #342584 $22.95. I’ve bought this in the past with the hope that, Brad or Angelina might reward loyalty to their wine by producing my screenplay – Raiders of The Lost Vat – suffice to say that it involves wine, a whip, a staggeringly handsome wine blogger from Ontario, and some flirty women – my casting would include Penelope Cruz, yeah? About the wine? Another blogger expressed disappointment with this wine given the price point and the scads of alternatives at lower prices. I agree the wine is perhaps a bit pricey but spending on rosé shouldn’t be antithetical. Exhibit 1 is the Whispering Angel that I’ve recommended previously @$26.95. The Miraval is a lovely Provence bone dry, crisp and strawberry rosé but I’m thinking the caché of Brangelina and la famille Perrin who make it drives the price point a little. Bottle is cool (large punt – size matters) and I think it’s worth a splurge.

Don’t forget the rosés that I’ve recommended over the last few weeks. You can read about them here and here. Stock up, chill, and invite me over.

I’ll be back in a few days with some reds ands whites for June 10th.

Cheers.

Bill

Aborted Crop Tour – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

26 May

I arrived at the lake this past weekend with a mighty thirst after battling the throngs straggling north from Toronto. And, the tradition is that as soon as you turn on to the cottage road, you have to open a beer. Yes, a brown rocket, a road pop, a traveller as we used to call them. It just seems like the right thing to do and I haven’t driven the car off the very narrow and hilly cottage road yet.

A trusted traveller from the past

But there was an issue – stop the truck, pop the back, rifle through the spring stock-up and pull out a warm beer. Oh yeah, and suffer the ubiquitous black flies as they gnaw on my all too too sullied flesh (not many wine blogs can weave in Hamlet, yeah?) ….. So this time, “To hell with tradition. No beer en route.”

One year, a friend and I popped into the mother ship in Washago to pick up some cold beer on our way in. We got it to the counter when I discovered that it wasn’t twist off but required a bottle opener. I said to my friend, “Wait, we won’t be able to open that in the car,” and my friend switched out the beer for a more accessible brand. The cashier looked at us and said, “You’re kidding, right? Because if you’re not, I shouldn’t sell this to you.” We assured her that we were just foolin’ around. But, lesson learned.

We arrived at the cottage, unpacked, made the bed, turned on the water pump, checked for squirrels (I hate squirrels), put the groceries (read: wine and liquor) away, and The Director headed down to the dock to catch a few rays. But what to have with dinner? It’s never too early to consider the implications of a great pairing or of a disastrous one. But suffice it to say, I wanted rosé regardless of food. And, it just so happened that I had brought up a bottle of the 2016 Whispering Angel #325076 $26.95. Reflect back on my ringing endorsement of this wine here. This is great rosé! I don’t kid around.

This week’s release (May 27) focuses on Southern Italy. This is in my sweet spot but I haven’t had any of the offerings, save the one below – so maybe after I’ve tried a few, I’ll let you know. Instead we are just going to have a wander around the rest of the world. Before I start, just a heads up that there are two rosés this week. Both are recommended each year – the 2016 Château La Tour de l’Évêque Rosé #319392 $18.95 and 2016 Gassier Sables d’Azur Rosé #033621 $16.95. These are both Côtes de Provence and available for the next few months usually. Great crisp summer rosés – nervy, fresh, dry. Can be paired with salads, light BBQ and great with fish or seafood. I enjoy the La Tour so much that I asked for a bottle for Christmas and, damn if I didn’t get one! Shout out to S & B.

Sardinia is included in the Southern Italy feature and an Essentials red is the 2014 Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva #425488 $14.95. Cannonau is Sardinian for Grenache, Garnacha. This is a rustic, gutsy wine – so, food is a must – maybe ribs, pork something or other. Its medium plus body, leathery finish and Garnacha fruit make it a solid value. It’s on sale now ($2 off) at the price above.

A 2010 Bordeaux can be a beaut. 2010 was the third or was it fourth “Vintage of The Century.” It’s hard to keep track of those expert self-promoters, Les Bordelaise. This week there’s a relatively cheap 2010 – Château Blaignan #416727 $21.95. This wine doesn’t need any more time down below although could withstand a couple more years, if you’re so inclined. It’s ready for pop and pour. Smooth, well balanced – perhaps a bit lighter than I was expecting. Bordeaux blend scents of cassis. Some oakiness dissipates after a swallow or two. Good value in Bordeaux.

I’m sounding a bit like a broken record because I’ve recommended the 2005 Balbas Reserva #085183 $21.95 a gazillion times. Sandalwood or cedar on the nose (I know there’s a difference there but I can’t tell), loads of warmth and structure still. Very youthful for a wine that’s already over 10 years old. Impress someone with this as a host(ess) gift.

While I was at the cottage, I popped the cork on a bottle of the 2014 Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir #461699 $24.95. This is a substantial wine. I’m not sure if any of you Ontarians out there can remember when the first few vintages of Malivoire’s Old Vines Foch came out. Oh, it almost made you giddy. It still kind of does for me. Well, this is in that class. A lesser known and modestly vinted grape masterfully delivered. Dates and jamminess. This has an almost port-like finish. Nuts and dark fruits. Henry of Pelham makes a decent entry level Baco Noir as well. But, once you’ve had this, you’re not going back there.

Let me know if you have any illegal traditions involving vacations. I can’t be the only one.

Cheers.

Bill

#Sad – The Red Daily Slosh

11 May

Why “Blues Deluxe”? Well, there’s a crisis in my life. I’m a sports fan. And, in that role, I have two favourite teams – the Toronto Raptors and the Toronto Blue Jays. The Raptors were eliminated from the playoffs after a shameful showing against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Jays just stink, plain and simple. Lately I have been spoiled by both these teams as they battled from pathetic through mediocre to almost victorious over the past few seasons. But, this year the results are just sad. Or, as The Donald says, #sad. And, since it’s a wine blog and there are other sufferers out there (think – Browns fans – oh yeah I’m a Browns fan too, aargh!), I’m going to recommend some wines to quaff while you’re sad, discouraged, or down in the dumps.

Let me approach it this way. Comfort food is what we crave when we’re a bit gloomy, tired and frustrated, yeah? So what wines do we associate with comfort foods? Comfort being the proxy for the mood. Pair with comfort food and we’ll match with #sad.

Comfort food is a very individual thing running the gamut from popcorn to mac and cheese. So, I’m just going to use my ‘comfort food’ in the pairing. So don’t try this at home unless your comfort food is………..SOUP! Hot, vegetable-based soup. It might be easier to simply pair my soup with whites. However, this is a red wine edition. I think I’m up to the challenge.

What to drink post LeBron torching the Raps while slurping my homemade Cream of Fennel soup? I’m thinking that we need to stay rich to match the cream and savoury to match the fennel. So, let’s pound a bottle or two (remember: we are gloomy and two bottles is kind of a requirement if you want to cry uncontrollably later on – I know this from my research) of the 2013 Allegrini Palazzo Dela Torre #672931 $24.95. I realize that I’ve recommended this wine a million times, even this vintage. But, it’s in this release (May 13) and it works. I feel the doom and gloom lifting already. This is a rich wine but medium-bodied to fit the heft of the soup and to lighten your mood. The appasimento technique gives it loads of depth – dried fruits, old leather, and maybe a whiff of Old Spice like a hug from your grandfather. Now, that has to make you feel better.

The other #sad pairing has to go with my favourite – Celeriac Soup. I know it’s a bit weird as a favourite. Let me explain why it’s comforting. My mother was a great cook. Hell, she helped pen a cookbook in 1935 when she attended the University of Toronto. I have a copy of said cookbook held together with elastics. One of my food memories is her Cream of Celery Soup. It probably exceeded the DRI of sodium – those were the days – but it sure was comforting. So, I’ve had to figure out my own recipe and it includes celeriac to bump it up a notch. Celeriac says earthy to me. Just scrubbing the bulb before you chop it tells you that. So, an earthy red but not too heavy is the ticket. So, let’s focus on the last release (May 13) and recommend the following: the 2015 Errazuriz Pinot Noir #494807 $24.95. Pinot Noir carries earthiness as a rule and this doesn’t disappoint. It’s sneaky powerful like the one below. Looks innocent enough in the glass but opens up to show you some red fruit and forest funk. Funky like the celeriac. A nice bite to cut the cream. A wine that punches above it’s weight.

From the April 29th release, the 2015 Renato Ratti Ochetti Langhe Nebbiolo #475913 $23.95 is a quiet bomb. You might not have had Nebbiolo or love it and can’t afford it as Barolo or Barbaresco. But, there are other less expensive incarnations that shouldn’t be dismissed – DOC’s Gattinara, Ghemme, and Bramaterra are all also brimming with the power and finesse of Nebbiolo. There’s also the Langhe DOC east of Barolo and south of Barbaresco that gives us great Nebbiolo at a discount. After giving it some air, the Ratti Langhe opens up with a raspberry jam and eucalyptus nose. The colour reminds me of a Burgundy – portending sneaky power. Did I say, “Portending?” It has a complex gargle with sandalwood, red fruit, and then a medium plus finish. I actually said out loud, “Shit, that’s a great wine.” I was all by myself. Seriously, I’ve got issues – drinking and talking all by myself. I enjoyed it with grilled Italian sausage and quinoa salad. As good as that was, I should have just quaffed it by its lonesome to pay homage. If you can’t afford Barolo, pick this up to experience quintessential Nebbiolo. Forget that. Even if you do have a cellar full of Barolo, pick this up! 

Another red from the April 29th release is disappearing quickly. The 2015 Domaine des Houdieres Fleurie #342725 $16.95 is a Cru Beaujolais that warrants a ‘buy’, to use market terms. I tend to stick to Moulin-a-Vent (power) and Morgon (spiciness) in my Beaujolais sipping. Fleurie can be a bit too light for me – too Beaujolais if you know what I mean. I got talked into this Fleurie at the mother ship. Glad I took the $17 plunge. This is very aromatic – pure Gamay. Red fruit from sniff to swallow to lip smacking finish. Perfect Spring red with an arugula salad with grilled peaches. Ah, I’m just screwing with you on the pairing – I made it up. Sounds good though doesn’t it? I had the Fleurie with cheesy nibbles. Great value Beaujolais!

Hopefully, I’ve provided some help to those that are a bit woebegone like me. Remember: Sports disappointment is simply a state of mind. It’s a shitty state of mind but still……you know what I mean. There’s always next year.

Cheers.

Bill

Remember: You can check inventory for all the wines recommended by clicking on the link (Stock Number and Price), dropping down the Cities menu, choosing your burg and clicking on Find Stores.

Young Bruce and The Rosé/White Daily Slosh

9 May

This day (May 9) in 1974, Bonnie Raitt played a concert at Harvard Square in Cambridge Mass. The opening act was Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Rolling Stone critic John Landau saw Springsteen and wrote, ” I have seen rock n’ roll’s future and his name is Bruce Springsteen.” The Boss looks so young in this video.

There’s a thing that I perceive in wine circles. I’m not sure if it has a real name so I’ll call it ‘wine agnosticism’. It means that wine peeps don’t give too much bias to a certain wine variety. What I mean is that wine peeps seem to appreciate all wines. It’s kind of like a code. You’re supposed to be accepting of every mainstream wine and adventuresome on the not-so-mainstream varieties, if you want to call yourself a wine geek. My impression is that it’s a personal failing if you can’t find anything good to say about a whole class or a single variety of wine. Particularly, if it’s a sample. Sort of like foodies – do they have to like everything as a requirement for their Foodie Membership Card? Not many restaurant reviews start off with, “I didn’t try the oysters as I can’t stand them.” See what I mean.

Confession: I don’t appreciate all wines no matter how well done they are. Big, brash, oaked Cab Sav? Not for me; no matter how cultish or expensive they might be. Cava? Sorry, unless I’m in Spain, I’m going for another type of bubbly. There are others as well. Not many but a couple. And, oh yeah, the biggest none starter for me is Pinot Grigio. And don’t tell me that I just haven’t had the good ones. I have.

So, does this mean that I have to surrender my wine creds? Do I have to appreciate all wines to have a wine blog? I’ll let you decide. Be gentle.

Why the ramble? Well, this week’s (May 13th) release features saké. Now, I’ve had saké as a matter of politesse at an Asian restaurant. Oh, and I bought a bunch when I visited the Toronto saké company – Izumi – in the Distillery District. But, I don’t get it, really. I approach it like a book that’s frustratingly difficult to get in to – I’m not going to run out of good books to read/wine to drink, so why put myself through this? Could be why War and Peace is still on the shelf. So folks, no saké for you!

When people outside of Canada think of Canadian wines, they probably think Inniskillin and/or ice wine. Indeed, Inniskillin is a fixture of domestically and internationally marketed Canadian wine. They have holdings in the Okanagan as well as Niagara and slay it with many of their labels. This week, there’s the Niagara Peninsula 2014 Inniskillin Reserve Riesling #034025 $18.95. This is dry with loads of green apples and tree fruit. Crisp – serve chilled with seafood or munchies. Could develop nicely over time if you want to cellar. If you buy the Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard (which I do), this is a nice example of the differences site provides. The result is significantly more minerally in Nadja and more accessible fruit up front in Innikillin’s take. Cool

Another white that would line up nicely for upcoming summer dinners is the 2014 Tom Gore Chardonnay #458810 $19.95. This is a straight up California Chard with some butter and yet a really nice crisp finish. Nary a syrupy note that sometimes rears it’s head with some of these wines.

 

 

In a recent post, I sang the praises of rosé and recommended some worthy efforts in the new vintage. This week, I need to add a couple more. The 2016 Domaine des Carteresses Tavel Rosé #739474 $17.95 is a beaut. Tavel for me is the pink that I quaff after dark. It is so much more forthright than most rosés. Big on the swirl and the swallow but dry, strawberry goodness. Hint of garrigue. This is for you red drinkers out there that eschew rosés as insipid or light-weight. Pick it up and if you don’t like it, send the unfinished bottle to me.

The other pink newly available this week is another wine from Provence; more correctly stated AP Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence – the 2016 Saint Aix Rosé #490904 $45.95.  Before you dismiss it as too expensive, remember it’s a 1500 ml bottle. For Bill, he just has to remember how many Whispering Angels he purchased last week @ $26.95 to understand the value. BTW, Whispering Angels are not the new dance troupe at the Beef Baron Gentleman’s Club. Think how impressive that big bottle of Aix would be sitting on your patio table, very quickly draining – causing just a little concern among your fiends as to your drinking habits. Don’t be too hard on yourself. This is good shit and deserves a quick demise. Similar to my earlier posted Provence rosé, this is crisp, bone dry, and full of cherries, strawberries and perhaps many other easily suggestible red fruits. Go ahead and say raspberry and watch everyone nod their heads, “Yeah, I catch the raspberry too,” they’ll say. Sophisticated wine.

I’ll be back later in the week with a few reds to pick up.

Cheers

Bill

Remember: You can check your city’s inventory by clicking on the link (SKU and Price), dropping down the ‘Cities” menu, choosing your burg, and clicking on Find Stores.

 

Ginny and The Rosé Daily Slosh

28 Apr

Ginny and her Cong

We used to have a great Labrador Retriever named Ginny. She was everyone’s dog – neighbours’, family and friends’. Her near perfection (in our minds) has made us reluctant to get another dog. Who could compare to her? We’d just judge, love less, and destroy the new dog’s confidence and self-image. It’s kind of like your second child. You try to love them as much as the first but they’re toast from the get go. Just kidding, Andrew.

Well, this has something to do with this week’s release as it’s got loads of rosé. How does that relate, you ask? Well, I’ve picked out the name for our next Labrador Retriever if we can pull the trigger – Rose. See, there’s a connection – tenuous but………

The new rosés are this past vintage (2016) in most cases and I haven’t had them in the current year but I find that rosés tend to have a house style or a consistency between vintages at least to my palate. So, I’m recommending them sight untasted based on the 2015 vintage.

A few posts ago, I mentioned that there wasn’t any wine that tasted as much like the Mediterranean as did rosé from Provence. It evokes Antibbes, Menton, Nice. Well, how about 2 wines from Côtes du Provence? Both of these are bone dry.

I was at a roof-top bar in NYC last year and the person who had gotten us through security with simply a whisper in the ear of a very big guy asked me to recommend her a nice sipping wine. I whispered back that she would appreciate the Caves d’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé #325076 $16.95. She loved it! She really loved it! This wine may be my favourite rosé outside of a Tavel. It carries the citrus scents and gargle that’s typical of Provence. Plus, it is so friggin’ smooth. Seriously. You know the smack that many rosés provide. Well, this has it but the sensation is ‘hard to explain’ is what’s in my notes. Exquisite and not to be wasted on moments that you’re not going to give it the full attention it deserves. Have it with just a friend or a maximum of two friends, if like me, you only have two. Don’t be distracted. And, if you’ve been holding on to a couple bottles of Brangelina’s rosé, Miraval, pop the cork on those suckers and reload your cellar with this. It’s far, far better.

A perennial recommendation on these pages is the Carte Noir Rosé #319384 $18.95. It’s made by Les Maìtres Vignerons de la Presqu’ile de Saint-Tropez. Saint-Tropez is where Brigitte Bardot resided for many years. I previously recommended this wine with the following endorsement, “I believe that Brigitte Bardot lived in Saint-Tropez when she was, well, really hot. Maybe as un hommage to Brigitte, you could chill a bottle of this and serve with roast endangered species, carpaccio di baby seal?” This is crisp and the use of Cinsault provides some brushy characteristics – light and refreshing. It’s full of the red fruits of Grenache and moderate ABV at 13.5%. Perfect for the sun or apres-sun with some olives, tomatoey stuff, and bread.

Two other rosés that I’ve loved in years past are the Brancaia Rosé #490938 $19.95 and the Viña Esmeralda Rosé #490 920 $13.95. The first is made from 100% Merlot that’s had some time to sit on the lees in stainless steel. It’s bone dry and smooth – sophisticated. They take a similar approach to their red wines, in particular Tre and Ilatraia – balanced, elegant. A wine to sip with your smoking jacket on and Debussy spinning on the turntable. OK, forget Debussy, he was a bit weird. So, put on Amy Winehouse or Paloma Faith.

The Torres effort – Viña Esmeralda has a little more rock and roll and a hint of sweetness. I’d say it’s best when the sun is still up. Mostly Garnacha – so red and flowery. It might more approximate a New World rosé for me. Maybe Rush and flip flops?

Cheers

Bill

I will post on more great wines in this (April 29) release later. And, I will post my annual Rosés For The Dock edition just before we kick off summer.

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