Tag Archives: LCBO

Sherry Baby – The Red Daily Slosh

19 Jan

A month or so ago, a fellow blogger who is in the wine trade did a series of videos on sherry with a friend. His second instalment is above. The thing that struck me was the enthusiasm with which Mike of Please Bring Me My Wine and his co-conspirator, Amelia Singer, sipped and described the different styles of sherry. It made an impact on me. I wanted to feel some of that sherry love too.

The issue? I don’t like sherry. And that poses a problem. There’s an unwritten rule. Any person presenting themselves as a wine enthusiast is supposed to love, love, love any well made tipple. The more esoteric or obscure the grape the more street cred you earn by loving it. That’s why there are treatises on the Schönburger grape (and those that have sipped Schönburger know that the perfect pairing for Schönburger is regret). We’re allowed our favourites of course but we have to worship at the altar of all wine. Strangely it’s the only altar that I can get close to without lightning and thunder. God knows why that is. Where was I?

Oh yeah, all wine as worthy of our unquestioning love. Well, sherry has never really worked for me. But, given Mike and Amelia’s enthusiasm and expert education, I tried some well crafted sherries. Tried them with almonds, cheeses, olives. Tried them chilled, more chilled, less chilled. Didn’t like ’em. So what to do?

The Cool Way to Serve Your Guests Sherry

Well, when in doubt, go to the source. I’ve started planning a Fall trip to Andalusia and once there, in the home of sherry, I will befriend this mysterious elixir. Similar appreciation has befallen me with other previously dismissed food and drink. All it takes is the presence of a knowledgeable and cool looking dude or woman to educate me. Who am I kidding? I just put the ‘dude’ in there as cover. My uncontrolled need for coolness takes over and I am co-opted to extol the virtues of, in this case, sherry. “Yeah, I am definitely getting the herbal notes of that Manzanilla, Francisca.” I’ll let you know how it goes.

Recommendations for this weekend’s (January 20) release:

This weekend there’s a focus on Chile and sustainable wineries. I’ve had many of them in other vintages but don’t want to generalize to the vintages offered. One that I have had and can recommend is the 2010 Valdivieso Eclat #541128 $29.95. This is a big bugger – full-bodied and by now settling in nicely. It’s Carignan and Mourvèdre from old vines and carries a Mediterranean vibe to it. Wines from Chile twenty years ago were often characterized as young and rustic. This wine is all grown up and dressed in a tux. Classy.

Although not part of this release, my favourite organic red from Chile is the 2013 Emiliana Coyam #63891 $29.95. It’s a blend of 48% Syrah, 24% Carmenère, 11% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Mourvèdre, 3% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot. I’m not shitting you. It’s as if, they just put everything they grow in there. But, that precision tells me that someone is paying attention to quality – purposeful and intent on crafting a particular style of wine. This is big in the glass and opens easily with a swish or two. Dry finish with a hit of acidity and moderate tannin that tells me that it would hold up against ribs or other burnt red meat. It’s still in stores. Buy now and save for the summer BBQ season.

san marzanoAfter my trip to Puglia way back in 2014 (or was it 2013?), I quaffed an unusually large amount of Salice Salentino and Primitivo. An “unusually large amount” for me is………well. unusually large. Quite a lot. More than normal. If it were an elephant it would be Jumbo. I loved it. Lately, however, I’ve begged off for some reason. Well, that ended a while back when I read a post on wines of Puglia and, in particular, the wines of San Marzano. This week there is a beaut from there – the 2015 San Marzano Talò Primitivo di Manduria #455220 $16.95. This is a perfect wine for the winter – warming, bold, and chewy. I had it with leftover beef stew but it will pass as a crowd pleasing standing around wine as well.

cune crianzaI know some folks who take a pass on Crianza wines from Rioja; preferring instead the Reservas and Gran Reservas. I’ve had my share of underwhelming Crianzas too but there are some stalwarts that are tasty values. The Lopez de Haro ($14.95) and Viña Real ($18.95) come to mind. Then there is the 2014 Cune Crianza #039925 $16.95. This is a bit more Old School than the other two but reminds me of nights in Madrid – a Spanish house wine vibe. It is young still and could use a bit of air or time in bottle to round out and fruit up a bit. Red fruits, medium-to-full-bodied with a lip smacking medium finish. Little of the wood that many Reservas have in spades. Lighter, fresher.

If any of you know of Andalusia must-sees, places to stay, restaurants, etc. or slam dunk sherry labels let me know.

Cheers.

Bill

New Year – New Rainbow Daily Slosh

4 Jan

Thought a Barcelona Gypsy Klezmer Band video might stir you out of your winter doldrums. Hang with it, it’s good fun. Get out of your chair and dance along. Bet you can’t name all the movies used. Leave your guesses in the Comment section below.

Trust you all had a great holiday/Christmas break. I had a superb time, thanks for asking.

As a wine aficionado, I frequently get wine themed gifts for Christmas. This year was no exception. Great books, gift certificates to the mothership, and gadgets. The ‘big’ gadget this year was a Coravin from The Director, er, Santa. For the uninitiated, it’s a gizmo that can extract a glass/sip of wine from a corked bottle without damaging the wine. In other words you can wander through your cellar tasting to see what’s ready, what’s not, and simply treating yourself to some of the untouchables without pulling the cork. God, that sounds fun – I may step away from the MacBook for a second…………back now.

Where was I? Coravin……Well, word to the wise: do the Coravin party tricks  early in the evening and definitely not after several bottles of wine have already been consumed. My family now has a video of yours truly enthusiastically plunging the Coravin into several bottles of his best. Getting excited? Of course, it is kind of a wine porn thing. Another word to the wise? RTFM!! Just sayin’.

Some quick recos for the upcoming (January 6th) release.

Have you ever been abroad and had a wine that was ‘perfect’? Revelatory, evocative of place and time? And you thought – I need to take a case of this home. “3 Whoas!” “Fanfreakingtastic!” Then, brought it home with you, popped the cork only to wonder what happened to that beautiful wine you enjoyed while sitting in a street-side café in Aix-en-Provence. It’s…..well, disappointing. Let’s hope this next wine isn’t one of those.

While in Italy this past September, I plumbed the depths of Morellino di Scansano. Oh yeah, I did plumb. We don’t get a ton (tonne?) of it here. It’s usually reasonably priced and is never over the top – understated. So, I wanted to get as much of it as I could while there. And, what do I see in this week’s catalogue but one of those wines – 2015 Fattoria le Pupile Morellino di Scansano #455659 $17.95. This is bigger than most MdS – medium plus body. Vibe? Well, I thought Piedmonte, not Tuscany – Dolcetto-esque in mouthfeel – refreshing, youthful. Very aromatic wine and perfect with a tomato pasta dish or better yet – a pizza. I love this style of wine – straightforward, fruit driving the experience.

A good friend loves the wines of Southwest France – Madiran, Cahors, Gaillac, Marcillac, among others. He has spent a fair bit of time in the Dordogne and Bergerac which makes him my ‘go to’ guy on these wines. He has trumpeted the cause of Madiran wines for years now and, I have to admit, I’m hooked. The reds are made primarily from the Tannat variety. Don’t feel bad – I had to Google it the first time I heard of it too. Not a staple in many markets. It’s a hardy, thick skinned (AKA non-Trump) variety. It usually needs time to soften, evolve.

So, seeing the 2014 Aydie l’Origine Madiran #343566 $14.95 made by la Famille Laplace back in the mothership, I placed an order. This might be the cheapest cellar starter I know of. That doesn’t mean you can’t drink it now, it just takes a decant and/or some violent swishing and/or time in the glass. It will grow on you, trust me. This one is fairly settled already, finding a nice balance between its blended tannin, acidity, and the darkness of the fruit. No cherries here. Only to further improve and open up in the dark of a closet. This wine ranked #59 on Wine Spectator’s Best Buys for 2016. The next step up in this line is la Famille Laplace’s Ode d’Aydie ($22.95). I have a couple of the 2012 of this downstairs – the 2014 of the Ode was #29 on Wine Enthusiast’s Best Wines of 2017. So, you can see the accepted incredible value in these wines.

It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned Dominio del Plata and Susanna Balbo, their winemaker. Well, here I go again – the 2014 Benmarco Malbec #657601 $18.95. This is benchmark entry-level Malbec for me. Full-bodied, deep and dark (is there a campfire song there – 🎵 Deep and Dark, Deep and Dark 🎵 Anyone follow?). Just a smooth sipping beaut. And, I think this vintage might be the best yet and that’s saying something. Please bring me a steak.

Chilean Carmenère is a wonder. It seems to be one of the few big selling varieties that isn’t being replicated anywhere else in the world. So, when I taste a good one, I remember. That’s the issue with the 2015 Caliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Carmenère #056630 $17.95 – it’s memorable. Carmenère at this price point with the depth, complexity, spiciness, and telltale Carmenère smokiness is a keeper. Ready now but could stick around through summer of 2018 – meaning BBQ – perfect.

Every year, I get a few Niagara Rieslings – the Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard, Thirty Bench Riesling, Cave Springs CSV Riesling, Tawse’s Sketches Riesling, and the Vineland Elevation Riesling. The 2016 Vineland Estates Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling #038117 $19.95 is an off-dry yet crisp and sassy Riesling with the qualities of an aged wine of this variety – petrol on the nose and on the slick finish – citrus pushing the front and soft fruits bringing up the rear after the swallow. Just a perfect example of what Niagara can do with this variety. Opulent.

A friend called pre-Chruistmas looking for a reasonably priced wine to stock for the family blitz that was coming. I suggested the 2013 Abad Dom Bueno Mencia #291989 $16.95 considering his penchant for the Iberian peninsula. But really, you just have to appreciate good drinking reds to love this. I recommended a month ago here. There still remains a whack of this wine at the mothership  – so get thee hither and pick some up before it’s gone.

 

Cheers.

Bill

Emojis – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

6 Dec

I was thinking the other day about communication and how we use different styles, fonts, grammar, and even spelling depending on where we are doing the communication. And, since many of us just communicate with our phone, I wondered if things are starting to devolve to the use of single letters, acronyms and emojis to tell our story. Full disclosure, I was in the bathroom sans reading material when I thought this up – explains this whole ramble, doesn’t it?

I have never used an emoji. That keyboard pops up on my iPhone once in awhile by fat finger mistake and it scares me – all these spooky little yellow faces just staring, smiling, winking out from the screen. What do they want from me? And, I don’t read emojis, if ‘read’ is the proper word. I don’t get ’em. So, I guess I’m emoji challenged? Emoji-phobic?

As background for this post, I scrolled through the zillion existing emojis. If you’ve done this, you end up asking yourself, “Who thought up this 💩? Why do 👫 need them?” I’m admittedly on the curmudgeonly cynical side but there must be some pay off to emoji use. Why else would they exist?

So, today I tried to figure out how I could utilize emojis in this blog.  I first littered the whole post with the little critters and used an emoji-based rating system for my recommendations. The rating system, although brilliantly conceived was lame. I’ve kept it on the Allegrini below for you to judge for yourself. Wine criticism shouldn’t be trifled with. I mean rating systems are dead serious, yeah? Is that an 89 or a 90 is a question that requires a solid set of universally accepted and understood criteria. Maybe a move to a more ‘modern’ graphic nomenclature is where we are headed though. I mean ☹️ replaced the lengthy and clearly ambiguous statement “I’m feeling really shitty today.” My suggestion? WBC18 Topic: “Rating Systems – Is It Time For The Emoji? Talk amongst yourselves.

This week’s release (December 9) is offering wine and spirits in preparation for the holidays.

Holiday fêtes would not be complete without a little bubbly. Although there are the classics from Champagne (in this release – Roederer’s Cristal, Ruinart R de Ruinart, among others), you can get a good to great sparkling wine that hints at the glory of Champagne when you pick up a Crèmant de Bourgogne. This week, there’s the N/V Bailly-Lapierre Chardonnay Brut Crèmant de Bourgogne #369066 $24.95. This is a crisp Chardonnay with tight bubbles and a medium plus finish. I’ve touted this wine many times and hope that you too have enjoyed it in the past. Never disappoints.

A foursome from South America will get you stocked up in the ‘crowd-pleaser’ category and with a very reasonable investment:

The 2015 Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva Carmenère #057513 $17.75 is a great barbecue wine. I had it at the cottage this year and it was perfect. Very smoky nose – everything black, dark like a Starbucks with just a little kick at the end. Love this wine!

 

 

 

A month ago, I recommended a Torrontés that was well received. Review here. This week, there’s another Torrontés that deserves consideration – 2016 Santa Julia Organic Torrontés #232694 $13.95. This is a very aromatic wine – more nervous than the one previously recommended. Loads of energy just below the surface and that energy is really noticed on the finish. Pear and citrus. It would be great with Asian fare, despite the dryness of its character.

The 2015 Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir #037937 $14.95 is a great value-priced Pinot that might not battle food that well but would be a great standing around wine. It is typical fresh, restrained Pinot with perhaps a bit more minerality than you’d think at this price but the price point also means that it doesn’t carry that underlying power that we come to expect from Pinot.. Fruit not that prominent. But I still believe a great value Pinot.

2013 Primus Cabernet Sauvignon #486043 $19.95 – the last Chilean offering brings the prototypical aromas of cassis, some oak to the glass. Very New World. Medium plus body, easy, easy drinking – meaning you’ll pop two corks on this lovely Cab Sav.

The last daily red that I’ll talk about is the 2014 Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre #672931 $24.95. This is one of my favourite non-Amarone reds from Veneto. This is like a mini-Amarone – big, powerful, almost thick wine. Another smoky, lip smacking red with loads of backbone for almost any food that you could throw at it. Rich. 👊👍 👍👃😁

 

There are a number of special splurge wines this week. If I were to pick only one (or two) , I’d pick up the 1994 Faustino 1 Gran Reserva #929489 $68.95. I mean it’s 22 years old like me. Or, perhaps the 2013 Castello di Ama San Lorenzo Gran Selezione Chianti Classico #418897 $50.95 as that would free me up to open the 2010 of this cuvée that I have stashed below. Love their stuff.

Any thoughts on the emoji? I’m only half kidding.

Cheers.

Bill

Update: I wrote a piece on the Planeta winery in Menfi. The restaurant at their agriturismo, La Foresteria just won the “Restaurant of the Year” in Italy for 2018 as awarded by the Bibenda Guide. Pretty cool. You can read my piece here.

Standards – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

24 Nov

Years ago I read Bill Gates’ book, The Road Ahead. I didn’t take much from it except for his explanation of the concept of an ever elevating standard (my words). Essentially technology pushes into the marketplace and over time, if successful that technology becomes a standard – a standard of hardware, software, functionality, etc. until the next standard comes along. Just five or six years ago, CD’s were still relevant – the standard in music. Now, they are used to prop up wobbly tables – the standard is streaming services. We kind of pay for these services as if we need them. Likewise automobile ‘options’. You can’t find a car without air conditioning, power windows, back up cameras. These things have become standard and are built into the price instead of set outside as an add-on that we can choose. They just include them because we ‘need’ them, damn it!

Kings College

I was driving past our local university today and I was struck with the student cars parked on the side of the road surrounding campus. Well, not actually struck as in hit by them but, you know, I noted something significant. There were a lot period and many were automobiles that I can’t presently afford. As a student, on my res floor there was one car owner, Steve, and he lent his car out judiciously until I hit someone with it. Shit happens.

But the point is, there weren’t any student cars. It just wasn’t so. The standard was walking or public transit. Now, I think that a car for many students is a standard. At least in this town. They wouldn’t think of going to school without one. And you can think of so many other standards that we all now have – smartphones, home security, concealed weapons and 400 rounds of ammo (just kidding…….well, kind of), tablets, wi-fi, funky socks, Netflix. It goes on and on.

Now, wine. Many in the wine blogging community talk about reviewing wines in an easily understood and unpretentious way. Sounds kind of condescending when I say it like that, doesn’t it? I know that I used to prescribe to that mantra. But, just as Mercedes and BMW’s now sit in a student parking lot, my standard has risen in price and pretentiousness steadily over the last few years. I cop to the pretentiousness as it’s always been a part of my personality. I can’t even walk the General Listing aisles at the mother ship anymore. I dismiss those wines as without merit. My standard is Vintages and I have fallen into the belief that price does predict quality which I know in my little arrogant heart isn’t always the case. And still, I struggle to find a wine to talk about that’s under $30!

I’ve heard from people who read my stuff that they don’t want to pay as much for wine as I’m recommending they do. I get that. Although some have admitted that I’ve upsold them and they have more or less become accustomed to it – many going without heat and hydro to support their habit.

So, I realize that I’m an elitist and I hear those that would like me to bring the price down to their standard. I’m not saying that much is going to change but I will at least be aware of my standard and realize that not everyone wants air conditioning. They are fine with a window open. And if I can find them a nice breeze, I’ll tell them about it.

I have had a few wines from earlier releases that warrant a look:

2013 Abad Dom Bueno Mencia #291989 $16.95 – see that’s a bit cheaper. I finished my stash of the 2008 of this wine just this year. This vintage is much fresher and nervous understandably. Mencia is a grape that you may not have knowingly had. It ages well – witness the 2008 – is usually medium-bodied and is medium plus aromatic. It looks great in the glass as well. I like it a lot and it’s a nice break from Temporanillo and Ganarcha without losing the Spanish vibe. This is nicely oaked, full of red berry goodness on the sniff, the gargle and the finish. More modern tasting than the 2008 but that might make it the crowd-pleaser you’d want to have on hand for the holidays.

2014 Rabelo Mosteiro Duoro Tinto #523571 $22.95 This is a 40% Touriga Nacional, 25% Tinta Roriz, 20% Touriga Franca, and 5% Tinto Cāo blend. The first, third and fourth are ones used in the production of Port. The second one, Tinta Roriz is Tempranillo with a Portuguese passport. This is a sophisticated wine. I didn’t decant but think that this could use an hour or two minimum to improve that element even more. Although a caveat: I have to say it is an Eliza Doolittle wine – able to deliver sophistication on the outside but you can’t be blind to the other Eliza – powerful, gutsy and bawdy underneath. Wine can be elegant and fun too. This proves the point.

2013 Columbia Crest H3 Les Chevaux Red Blend #287425 $20.95 – This is a perennial favourite at the mother ship. A Washington blend of Merlot, Syrah, Viognier, and Cabernet Franc it fits firmly in the New World red camp. It’s a lovely full-bodied red with enough tannin peeking through the blackberries, pepper, and a coating of smoky toasty oak to keep it interesting and not flabby. Trust me when I say that friends and family will love this wine.

From the November 26th release:

N/V Gerard Bertrand Cuvée Thomas Jefferson Brut Crémant de Limoux #438838 $19.95 – My first taste of Crémant de Limoux was in the south of France from which it comes. Not unlike Cava or Prosecco, it is standard there to start an evening of wine drinking and food with a glass of this. Limoux claims to be the first wine made using the ‘Methode Traditionale’ or the same method as Champagne. Hence, it predates Champagne. This is made with Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Mauzac, and Pinot Noir. Gerard is one of my heroes. Here he has continued the love affair with Languedoc-Roussillon. There’s an herbal quality to this. Dry, not overly lemony, nicely balanced and a snap at the end. Switch it up and serve this instead of your usual.

2015 Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling #089029 $18.95 – Always a favourite of mine. This vintage doesn’t disappoint. It’s a powerful Riesling at this price point – citrus (lemon/lime), a hint of petrol on the sniff but not yet following up, huge acid on the finish which will help this age nicely, I think. It suggests Off-Dry but the tartness of this wine doesn’t allow any sugar to show up. Another good year for this Sketches.

So you want a bargain, eh? Well, look no further than the 2016 Honoro Vera Monastrell #167684 $13.95. Love this wine. It’s not complex but it’s substantial, has some characteristics of spice, garrigue, and dominant dark fruits like blackberries. Great value. On the same planet is their Honoro Vera Garnacha #440867 $12.95  (there’s lots of the Garnacha around so take a look and see of there’s some of that near you). Both of these wines are great value and wines that I bet will get folks talking around your dinner table. Plus the labels are fascinating.

A modest upsell. The 2012 Travaglini Gattinara #713354 $29.95 is a Nebbiolo from the Gattinara DOC which doesn’t get the love that its more famous cousins, Barolo and Barberesco do. If Nebbiolo is your sweet spot like it is one of mine, this is a great representation at a far lower price point than the others. This is shy at first with some stony/granite mouthfeel. But don’t mistake this for the tannins covering everything up. This is the Nebbiolo – it is a shy grape. It’s sleek and given a good decant or a violent swirl in the glass opens up to flowers and red fruits. A pleasure to sniff and even better to quaff. Worth every penny. Perfect with a sturdy supper. And the bottle is cool too.

Cheers.

Bill

P.S. Just thought of how this discussion applies to the guys and gals who really do have the wherewithal and the inclination to only drink wines in the upper echelon of price and prestige. “Seriously, Chauncey, I couldn’t bear another bottle of Domaine Romanee-Conti La Tâche that was younger than 20 years!” There’s part of me that would love to join them but there’s also a part that really likes where I’ve landed. I’m fortunate. No need to get greedy or have a friend called Chauncey..

Italy 2017 – Secondi – Bolgheri

12 Nov

 

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

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

Day 2 – Bolgheri

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

Guado al Tasso

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

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

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

Sassicaia

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

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

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

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

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

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

The flight above-mentioned

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

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

Spring-fed pool/pond at Podere San Lorenzo

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

Cheers.

Bill

 

A Canadian Quickie – The White Daily Slosh

9 Nov

So, what is a Canadian quickie, you ask? The funny answer probably has something to do with parka zippers, a station wagon, and a Canadian Tire parking lot. Not that I’d know anything about that. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

But, what I mean here is that I’m sending out a few ‘quick’ recommendations for the November 11th release and they are all Canadian wines.

I recommend the Flat Rock Cellars stuff a lot. The 2016 Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling #578625 $24.95 has crept in to my basement and taken up residence with the last few vintages of this same cuvée. It’s about as solid a dry Riesling as the region produces. You notice I said ‘dry’. The rating is ‘medium’ but I find that this wine carries such a dose of acidity that you don’t notice any residual sugar. On the sniff it gives off a little petrol but, after a swirl, mostly peachy vibes. Quite a rocky, minerally, and spicy wine in the mouth. Medium + finish.

Another Niagara Riesling on offer is the 2013 Henry of Pelham Estate Riesling #557165 $17.95. This winery is another that has been featured here a bit but mostly for their spectacular Reserve Baco Noir – a classic take on a grape that most people haven’t had, IMHO. Here the Riesling does exhibit a bit of sweetness but nothing cloying and more about what the grape gives than by design. This wine isn’t quite as insistent as the one above. It kind of pleads its case rather than shouts at you. Maybe better suited as a sipper than Nadja. More citrus as well. Powerful label art – well done.

Last but not least is the 2014 Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay #148866 $28.95. Prince Edward County is about as cool climate as Chardonnay gets. This wine exudes that character – restrained, not overly oaked but expressing some wood effects on the finish, in particular. Clean, acid on the gargle and finish. Apples and citrus on the sniff and swallow. Love it!

Have a great weekend. Cheers.

Bill

Remember – The Red Daily Slosh

8 Nov

Remembrance Day is this coming Saturday (November 11th) and it’s time to give thanks and appreciation to those that have served and those that continue to serve our country. I have been blessed to have been born a white boomer-generation man in Canada. I’ve never been conscripted or required to fight in a war nor have my children. I have been able to keep a roof over my head, I can walk the streets of our cities and towns without fear any time of day, my healthcare is always there when I need it, and generally speaking my nation’s hockey team wins more times than it loses.

I didn’t earn this good fortune. It was bestowed on me by the generations that came before through philanthropy, creativity, industry, and, yes, by serving militarily. We all have family heroes in this latter regard. Take time this Saturday, if not every day, to give thanks to and remember these heroes. Wear the poppy proudly!

Phew, “That was a little heavy for a wine blog,” he says while dabbing his teary eyes and slurping his wine.

Before I start on this week’s (November 11th) release I want to alert you to three wines from previous releases.

I’m a sucker for Iberian wine. I particularly like Lopez de Haro Crianza as an everyday Rioja – relatively inexpensive ($14.95) and tasty. Their Reserva is now on shelves. The 2010 Lopez de Haro Reserva #357335 $18.95 is a bargain at this price. A criticism of Rioja might be that it’s a bit over oaked. And some can be way too woody or vanilla.  This carries quite a bit of cedar on the sniff and in the mouth. I like this style myself if the wood effects realize some balance with the fruit and the structure. This wine does. It’s soft – pretending to be much older than it is – I had to check its ID to truly believe that it’s as young as a 2010. Upside? Ready to drink now. Downside? I don’t see this lasting any more than five years or so. If you’re looking for a great sipper or dinner Rioja and you don’t want to spend for the Ardal below, pick up a few of these.

Another wine to seek out is the 2015 Two Hands Angels’ Share Shiraz #9480 $24.95. I have spoken of these guys before. You may have seen their Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz which makes a regular appearance at the mother ship. Or, their ‘Garden Series’ wines which used to frequent my cellar but have slipped into a price range that has caused me to hesitate. They make a variety of Shiraz’ crafted to reflect the region. This one is from McLaren Vale. The Two Hands house style is reserved, elegant and sophisticated. This one is all that. Spicy, dark berries, and cola. A superb Shiraz for lamb – tannin to cut the fat – spice to match usual lamb seasoning. Don’t waste it on just sipping, as I did. Get some food to the table and pop the cork. In this case, I mean twist the cap.

A nice value pick is the 2015 Falernia Reserva Carmenère #269175 $14.95. Interesting, Carmenère smokey. At this price point worth a few bottles to have for weekday sipping. Easy drinking Chilean red.

Now to the release.

Referenced above is the 2006 Ardal Reserva #167700 #22.95a product of the Balbas folks. I flogged the eponymous Balbas last time out here. This is a bit more substantial – a heavier wine. It’s balanced, typical Ribera del Deuro, a sense of minerality, slate on the sniff, and a decent finish. The fruit is a bit darker than you might expect. Probably due to 20 % Cabernet Sauvignon. I mean how can you go wrong with this wine? Unlike the Balbas, this will withstand some more time down below. I will test that theory by putting some down and seeing what happens. I tried that last time this vintage was out and……….well, it’s all gone. My solution to this continuing problem is to buy more wine to cellar. Or, I could use some restraint…………..nah, I’ll just buy more wine.

Have you ever had a wine that scored  as high as 99? Well, now’s your chance. The 2014 Corte Medicea Athos #475996 $28.95 is an IGT Toscano that was given a score of 99 by Annuario dei Magliori Vini Italiani. A IGT Toscana designation usually means some variation from the Sangiovese-first or winery management regime applied in Tuscany for many specific DOC’s and DOCG’s. I tried to find a winery website to see what’s up but to no avail. I know it’s from the Montepulciano area but that’s it. This is a big wine. And that’s not just the 5 pound bottle it comes in. It overflows with thick creamy dark fruit. Solid but integrated tannins and a good dose of acidity. It is a food wine. If you’re thinking Tuscan, I’d say roast pork or wild boar. Love the boar (sometimes available at the Covent Garden Saturday market). The wine needs some time to open up a bit. So, sit on it or decant for a few hours. And, make sure guests see the red “99” medallion on the bottle when served.

I’m always trying to get people to take another look at Beaujolais. Most people of my generation’s first experience with Beaujolais was Beaujolais Nouveau or the generic ‘flower’ label of Georges DuBoeuf – fresh, fruit forward, and fun. Nothing wrong with that but if this is it for Beaujolais, you might not take it too seriously. Too bad really. I love Beaujolais! I have more Morgon down below than US wine. Now, I know that I need to do something about that but just sayin’. This week, there’s a Beau from Moulin-a Vent, my second favourite cru Beaujolais.The 2014 Stéphane Aviron Vieilles Vignes Moulin-a-Vent #368134 $21.95 is a great example of what this area can magically create. Very substantial wine – extremely age-worthy (5 plus years, easily). Typical of Moulin-a-Vent, the wine has loads of structure supporting the red fruits of the Gamay – depth and complexity worthy of a stew such as coq au vin. This isn’t your bistro Beau but I guess I’ve stressed that enough.

Wines that I haven’t had but will check out:

2104 Ridge Lytton Springs #982413 $64.95 – a benchmark Zinfandel in most years, this one is effusively reviewed (94+) by Antonio Galloni who I seem to share similar tastes with. I used to get this once in awhile when I wanted a classy, classic Zin. The price had started to scare me away but this year might be an exception.

2014 Demogenzon DMZ Syrah #404202 $16.95 – this Stellenbosch winery pipes Baroque music throughout the vineyard. I mean, the Goldberg Variations would have to help this Syrah, wouldn’t they?

2015 Viñedo de Los Vientos Catarsis #514158 $16.95 – a wine from Uruguay. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Tannat, and 30% Barbera. What a weird blend. I’m curious.

Cheers.

Bill

To check availability, simply click on the link for each wine (stock number and price), drop down the city menu, choose your burg and then click Find Stores to see inventory near you.

Tom And The Rainbow Daily Slosh

24 Oct

It’s been a sad month or so for music lovers, hasn’t it? This one was so unexpected. “Well let me get to the point, let’s roll anther joint. And turn the radio loud. I’m too alone to be proud”.  I have it loud as usual.

I’ve been absent from the wine recommending crowd the last three months. Just my usual hiatus as I try and figure out if I can keep going. It takes real dedication to drink this much wine. Let’s give the October 28th release a try and we’ll see how it goes.

I’ll start with a few repeat recommendations. How much of the 2005 Balbas Reserva #085183 $22.95  did the mothership buy? I’m guessing a million cases although I’ve told myself a thousand times to stop exaggerating. Regardless, I have purchased this stuff in multiples as a “New Arrival” or part of a “Release” on numerous occasions over the past three years. I’ve recommended it every time. You can’t get a solid Ribera del Deuro Reserva of this age for this price anywhere. It’s a no-brainer. If you want to read my previous reviews they are here, here, and here. It’s still so ready to drink – expressive and balanced. And, yes, if your friends aren’t impressed by my enthusiastic endorsement, then you can flash the ’93’ from Wine Spectator sticker on the bottle.

Another repeat is the 2016 Miraval Rosé #342584 $22.95. I know that the weather has turned and many of us have tuned up the quintessential Canadian male 5th appendage (oh behave). I’m talking about the snowblower. But rosé isn’t just for summer. I keep a few bottles down below for sipping or even with a meal that pairs well – buttered popcorn, sea salt chips? – even in the colder weather. Past review here. Owned by Brangelina and worked by famille Perrin, I wonder how the celebs are going to split this community property. Have you taken sides on this break up? In our house, we cheer for Brad but I think that’s a function of Angelina’s weirdness (Billy Bob Thornton, really?). At least that’s where we are until I’m forced to read new revelations in the National Enquirer at the check out line. Speaking of which, the Enquirer tells me that Marilyn Munroe and Elizabeth Taylor were lesbian lovers. It’s going to be hard to get that picture out of my head. In my mind, Liz is Butterfield 8 Liz and Marilyn is, well, Marilyn. Say no more.

Ever had Torrontés? No, it’s not the city in Ontario that my AutoCorrect insists it is. It’s a white grape and wine that is Argentina’s answer to the question – “Name a wine that is yuuuge at home and hardly available abroad.” My ‘go to’ is Susana Balbo’s take but this one is cheaper and does the trick. The 2016 Zolo Torrontés #183913 $14.95 is big on the sniff with a hint of the citrus, lip smacking stuff to follow. Perfect with cold shrimp, smoked salmon with capers, or (not being an oyster lover) I bet with oysters. Or just sip on its own. Clean and crisp but not sharp edged. A nice surprise for your guests.

Another repeat – the 2015 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel #942151 $29.95 is returning to the shelves. I recommended this previously here. A friend who actually reads this site (yes, there are people that read this site), responded with purchase and a quick note to me that he y esposa enjoyed the wine. Shout out to J & O. Do you enjoy Zin? I mean there are the usual suspects led by the always tasty Ravenswood Old Vines. But, do yourself a favour and step up to this brilliant wine. This is loaded with character, power, and life. “Yet”, he adds, not the confusing jumble of darkness and heat that many entry-level Zins offer. It’s a sophisticated beaut.

A fellow blogger wrote a nice post on the wines of Languedoc-Roussillon. Shout out to Michelle at Rockin Red Blog. You can read her take here. If you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll know that I love many wines from that region. And, I’m excited that one of those guys is being released again this weekend – 2015 Château Saint-Roch Chimières #119354 $19.95. This is pure Roussillon. A result of hot summer days, dusty roads, lavender fields, and careful winemaking. A Grenache/Syrah/Carignan blend, it starts with the Grenache on the sniff and the swish – some heat, jamminess, and dark fruit. The Syrah on the finish shows some spiciness. This is a superb value only discounted to $19.95 perhaps because of the lack of caché that the AP Côtes du Roussillon-Villages carries. The herbal quality and spiciness would pair well with a lamb tagine – and that’s saying something about this wine’s spicy complexity.

From the “Previous Release’ file, there is a great red from Toro in Spain that you need to pick up – 2012 Terra d’Uro Finca la Rana #424135 #18.95. Before I talk about this wine, why don’t they just say $19.00? I think I speak for all of us when I say that we get that this wine is essentially $19.00. Just saying. OK, the wine. This is from Toro which means that it’s serious and oh so Spanish. No mistaking the origin of this. Mostly Tempranillo – so a bit of a Rioja or Duoro vibe. More stoney and less woody than Rioja. An attractive mustiness (is that just me? Not the mustiness part, although I can get musty, but the attractive part – love the mustiness) and some darker fruits on the sniff. I read where this is aged in used French oak barrels but there’s nothing to indicate such – loads of anise particularly after it’s gone. A real steal at this price. Don’t buy just one.

This might be a good time to load up on some bubbly. Not bubbly as in mixing-something-fizzy-with-orange-juice bubbly. Or, “Man, I’m a bit whirly” bubbly. But, substantive, classy, “Wow” bubbly. This is a hit with The Director who is a Chardonnay hound. Could be that it has some Chardonnay in it but I think that’s only part of the equation. This is smooth without being creamy – crisp, tightly knit bubbles like a good Champagne, apples – made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Aligoté. And consistent year-in, year-out as pointed out by Michel Godel in his review. I recommend it almost every time I see that’s it’s on offer. You can read my last one here and the one before here. Almost forgot, it’s the Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant de Bourgogne #991562 $19.95. I’m stocking up at this price.

There are some high priced beauties coming to shelves, as well. Headlined by the 2014 Sassicaia $216.95, the 2012 Antinori Pian della Vigne Brunello di Montalcino $62.95, and the exquisite 2010 Tedeschi Capitel Monte Olmi Riserva Amarone della Valpolicella Classico $79.95. And the Sassicaia is under $217!

Cheers.

Bill

Rehabilitaion Lives – Buy Frescobaldi

20 Oct

I wasn’t going to do this but. I mean, it’s Gord Downie we’re talking about. “There’s no simple explanation for anything important any of us do”.

We’ll eulogize Tom Petty next time.

I was reading a recent Wine Enthusiast and lingered on the last article. It was a great story about a visit by Amiee White Beazley to the island of Gorgona off the coast of Tuscany. Gorgona is a penal colony. A real penal colony where bad guys are isolated from the Italian population to do penance for whatever crime they’ve committed.

Gorgona

The deal at Gorgona is that the Frescobaldi family has a vineyard and winery there. It’s built on the remnants of an historic vineyard. The vines and buildings have been rehabilitated with the manpower and support of the inmates of the island. Although the Frescobaldi family lead the whole operation, the article tells us how involved the guests of the state are in the day-to-day operations – training to become vineyard managers, winemakers. And, how the work has forever changed them. I don’t say that off-hand. I mean it. They are changed. People can and do change if given the opportunity and kept away from firearms, reality television, and FoxNews.

I’m second from right in back row

As some of you know, I used to work in the corrections system. I left. Offenders have since pleaded with authorities for a sympathetic ear and an empirically-based approach to their rehabilitation. Can we just get some love and mercy (channelling Brian Wilson)? Anyway, this article touched me – took me back to an early passion and a heartfelt belief.

We used to have correctional farm operations in this province. I worked at an institution that had a woollen mill, an abattoir (misplaced optimism that a murderer or someone who pulls wings off flies would benefit from killing cows?), vegetable, livestock, and grain operations. I didn’t stay long enough to see the kind of change that this article talks about. However, having worked on farms, I can attest that it does change you and for the better. It provides a connection to the land, your place in it, and the onus of stewardship on us all. It humbles you. Despite the hard work (or perhaps because of it) getting your hands dirty in a tomato patch or baling hay is damn near spiritual. And yes, somedays, I hated spiritual but am glad I experienced it.

So, to honour Fescobaldi’s commitment to and investment in change, I’m reviewing the available Frescobaldi products in our market today plus a few I tasted in Italy last month.

A little history first:
(From Frescobaldi website) “The history of the Frescobaldi family starts over a thousand years ago and is closely connected with the history of Tuscany. At the high point of medieval Florence, the Frescobaldis spread their influence as bankers, earning the title of treasures (sic) to the English crown. A little later, with the flowering of the Renaissance, they became patrons of major works in Florence, such as the construction of the Santa Trinita bridge and the Basilica of Santo Spirito.

The family has always looked to develop and celebrate the diversity of Tuscany’s terroir. Being proud owners of some of the greatest vineyards in this region they have always sought to maintain the identity and autonomy of each property.”

Basilica di Santo Spirito

Cool, that part about the Basilica of Santo Spirito. When we were in Florence in September, our flat backed on to the Giardino di Palazzo Frescobaldi. And was a stone’s throw from the basilica. We dined al fresco on the Piazza Santo Spirito in front of the basilica. Isn’t that the beauty of Italy? All the cool stuff around you all the time.

As mentioned above, the Frescobaldi holdings are wide and varied, and include: Tenuta Castiglioni; Tenuta Remole; Castello Pomino; Castello Nipozzano; Castello Giocondo; Tenuta Ammiraglia; Gorgona; among others. Iconic labels include: Mormoreto; Giramonte; Montesodi; Masseto; Ornellaia (with Mondavi); and, Luce della Vita (with Mondavi). We’ve probably all quaffed a bunch of their wines. Hell, you couldn’t go wrong stacking your Tuscan racks with just their stuff. So, let’s get to the tasting!

In no particular order (and, as always, these were not samples – no inducement provided by Frescobaldi or their agents – I do this just for you):

2015 Frescobaldi Campo al Sasso Rosso di Montalcino #429415 $21.95 Rosso di Montalcino is wildly variable in quality, in my experience. This had a mustyish nose which got my heart racing. Crystal clear ruby red – really pretty wine. This wine opens with a burst of acidity. It put me off at first but over time, it tamed down significantly and you get the pure cherry fruit, clean mouthfeel and a medium finish. This would be a great pairing with a simple tomato/basil pasta. But, let the air out of this for awhile.

2015 Castello di Nipozzano Montesodi (2012 is available in limited supply at LCBO #304501 $51.00Enjoyed this at the Dei Frescobaldi wine bar in Florence (a story for later). This 2015 was surprisingly mature for it’s age. It might have been the wine bar situation – being open for awhile. However, it oozes leather/tobacco both on the nose and on the swish and swallow. I love that vibe. Dried berry fruit reinforcing the aged quality – oak integrated. A big wine. A really big wine, actually.

2014 Terre More Ammiraglia Cabernet Maremma Toscana IGT €8 (N/A at LCBO) This is a Cabernet-based red wine from Maremma which is in the southwest corner of Tuscany, near the coast. I’ve always viewed Maremma as good value but also quite variable in quality. The rule for using the Maremma nomenclature means that the wine is at least 85% of the variety on the label. Well, you could definitely pick out that fact without instruction. Straight forward Cab. Faint nose (but tasted in a tumbler not proper glass)- cassis on the swish – no oak effects – light to medium body – some lingering hint of Tuscany but can’t tell you what – maybe style rather than substance on that point. Matched our early evening cheese board, olives, and bread.

2016 Albizzia Chardonnay Toscana €11 (N/A @ LCBO) Like the one above, first night in Tuscany wine. A light to medium weight Chardonnay. Definite citrus nose. Peach in the mouth with some slight butteriness on the finish. Very good effort. A great sipper – maybe you’d want something a little more dynamic for food.

2007 Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino (2012 is available at LCBO in their Essentials program #650432 $52.95When you join CellarTracker, you’re asked to identify your dream wines. Brunello is one of mine. It just represents so well. It’s usually wise beyond its years, extremely food friendly or just fine being your friend, and always provides me an image of a seasoned (read: old) Italian gentleman standing at a cellar door with an inviting smile. I adore it. This 2007 was at a perfect age to create that image. Just starting to brown around the edges, tobacco on the nose with some cherry pie peeking its head out as well as some fumes indicating the power lurking. In the mouth, it replayed the cherry pie emphatically with some funk, liquorice, and leather. All in all a very elegant, balanced wine. I buy a few of these each year and wonder when to open. I’ve been too early (tannins really chewy and hard to get to fruit) and too late (flabby). I hit a home run with this one.

2014 La Vite Lucente #747030 $34.95 A Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon bend this qualifies as a Super Tuscan. And before the purists ‘harrumph’, I agree that not all Super Tuscans are ‘Super’. And, many aren’t that ‘Tuscan’ either. Well, put away the daggers. This is both. And both in a big way. My notes on the 2013 suggest musty cherry aromas – solid replay of the cherry with cola and liquorice on the swish and swallow. Medium finish. The Tuscan part is the restraint. I feel like they could have hit us over the head with ripe fruit – heavens knows it’s warm enough to ripen the fruit pre-harvest. However, there’s a veneer covering the fruit component, it’s fruit last not first – the nice acidity which I associate with Tuscany.

2015 Castello di Pomino Bianco #65086 $19.95 This is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco. It’s a superb sipper. Think sitting on a piazza with a plate of charcuterie, fresh tomatoes (I know there are always fresh tomatoes with me), olives, bread and olive oil. Perfect match – enough weight to carry the meats and enough acid to cut the fat of that meat and olive oil. Enough fruit to battle the tomatoes and lift the flavours of the Chardonnay. I’m not a big fan of Italian white wines but the three profiled here are ‘mighty fine’ which is a wine professional’s term. And, I’m a professional, so don’t try it at home.

2015 Benefizio Pomino Bianco Riserva (N/A @ LCBO) Enjoyed this wine at the Dei Frescobaldi wine bar in Florence. Not sure what the price might be here but I’m thinking…….high. This is a small production Chardonnay blend. Moderately oaked, apples and citrus on the nose – butter and peaches on the finish. A very sophisticated wine. Very, very nice. We sipped it with nothing other than conversation. But, I’m thinking this is a food wine – chicken, pork, mild to medium cheeses.

2015 Marchesi de’Frescobaldi Tenuta di Castiglioni #145920 $21.95 OK. I’ve promoted this wine from the beginning of my on-line life. This is pure Italy at a reasonable price. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese that leans toward a truly Tuscan wine. All that to mean that the Sangiovese is present enough that you’ll know where this wine comes from. The style is medium body, streak of acidity that provides a bit of bite on the first sip, and moderate tannins. Fruit is red – “No shit Bill, it’s a red wine’ – but what I mean is that it is cherries and strawberries. Some leather but no real evidence of major oak. Easy drinking, interesting wine.

I’m taking a deep breath here. Ok, on to the next. The 2013 Nipozzano Vecchie Viti Riserva Chianti Rùfina #395186 $29.95 brings a classic vibe to the path we’ve been on here. Put your hand up if you remember Chianti as the wine in the basket (candle to be applied later) that was weak, variable in quality and perfect for the third bottle of the night. I see some hands up there. Well, this isn’t your second year university Chianti. It exudes ‘old’. It screams ‘traditional’. There’s a solidness to this wine. It’s a wine for grown ups (wonder why I like it?)  – elegant, sophisticated, and settled. No one is going to take a sip of this and fall over in ecstasy. But give them a second and third sip and they will fall in love. I read a review of another vintage and they used the term ‘honest’. That pretty well sums it up. Great, great food wine.

I know that I’ve been absent from these pages. I will be posting a bunch of stories in the next few weeks on our Italy trip and about some great wines coming to the mothership.

Cheers.

Bill

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

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