Tag Archives: roussillon

Sad Songs and Dirty Old Men – The Red Daily Slosh

14 Aug

I’m kind of in a sad mood amid Robin Willaims’ passing and the realization that there are so many people feeling such despair. Randy Newman is usually satirical and clever, but I find this song quite sad, actually. Fits the day.

These recommendations are for the LCBO release August 16th.

Random preamble – a year ago on these pages, I told the story of wandering the aisles of the wine store and seeing a man trying to pick up women there by sidling up and talking to them about the wine they were looking at. How disgusted I was that a guy would use the sacred store (apologies to Don McLean) to find his one night stand. Well, this past week, I’m in the LCBO and as I’m checking out a wine, an attractive woman steps up beside me and what do I do? I start to talk to her about the wine she’s holding and tell her something like, “I’ve had that and it’s quite good. If you prefer California wines, you’ll love it.”  Now, there was no intent here. But, in a heartbeat I could tell that she was, well, creeped out a bit. Maybe creeped out a lot. A contributing factor might have been that she probably was going to be carded while I’m seeking the senior’s discount, if you know what I mean. It got me to thinking that my earlier characterization of that wine store guy as a predatory gigolo was hasty and I believe apologies are in order. So, if you see a middle-aged guy in the wine store smelling strongly of Axe with a very large gold chain revealed in an open necked Hawaian shirt (chest hair prominent), Oakley shades pushed up on his forehead, and chewing Thrills gum, apologize to him for me, will ya.

Now, on to the wine. Languedoc, Roussillon and environs are featured in this release. It’s an area that I’ve been to and love. The heat produces wines with loads of fruit and the shrubby stuff that abounds on the hills there comes through both on the nose and the finish. It can be rustic or almost sophisticated but I think that I like the rustic ones the best. So, bear my preferences in mind. I also think of these wines as second sippers. You need to have a full glass to really ‘feel’ the wine. If the ones that I recommend aren’t in stock, ask for help finding a similar product.

tessellaeEvery once in awhile, there’s a cool label to include in my recommendations. This one is a primitive representation of a cellar wall or the Via Domitia, I’m assuming. Sure beats a graphic of a bare foot or a little black dress 2012 Tessellae Old Vines Côtes du Roussillon #343517 $18.95. Weird how the mother ship tells us it’s “Carignan” Old Vines on the header and the review says there is no carignan in it. Which is true? Checking the winery website, the answer is……there is no carignan! This is a GSM wine – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. That’s a relief as I’m not a carignan lover. This wine gives you the garrigue in spades – the shrubbiness tells you to have another sip. Lovely Grenache dominance on the sniff and the swallow which also means relatively soft tannins. Drink now with lighter fare.

hbscHecht and Bannier are not lion tamers, a law firm, or quirky magicians (one of which is mute). They are two guys that got together to help drive an improvement in wine production in the southwest of France. Well, did they? If this wine is any indication, they sure did. I’ve mentioned my penchant for Saint-Chinian wines about a million times. I love this appellation especially in the north. Not only is it beautiful to trundle through (my picture of the village Rocquebrun below), the people are engaging, of the earth, and tourism is limited. The wine – 2011 Hecht & Bannier Saint-Chinian #184184 $25.95. OK, I know that it’s a stretch to call a wine costing $25.95 a “daily” slosh. So, buy it and save it for a special occasion, then. This wine is deep, chewy and dark fruit spicy. It is rustic in a non-tannic way. There’s tannin there just not over the top. Rustic in flavour not texture, is what I mean. Great food wine. A shout out to Dale R. He once told me how Saint-Chinian got it’s name and he said it wasn’t named after a saint (in direct conflict with Wikipedia). Dale, if you’re out there, enlighten us. Or, if anyone else can answer the question, leave a comment below.

delabadAnother wine that I’m glad is back is the 2008 Abad Dom Bueno Mencia #291989 $16.95. It’s Spanish not from Languedoc-Roussillon. Note the vintage. It’s a 2008 and still could benefit from cellaring. A great way to start a little wine stash under the stairs. But now, it’s deep, dark, and strong. Beautiful yet you don’t mess with it. Which all adds up to Grace Jones? I’d suggest it for those that like a wine that makes its own statement. You don’t taste this and then say, “This tastes a lot like Abad Dom Delouise”. Spicy – anise-like aroma from the glass, dark fruit in the mouth. Like it a lot. Food and more food, please – think sausage pizza with Joe Bonamassa shredding. For my previous review of this wine click here.

lopez de haroLast but certainly not least – the 2008 Lópes de Haro Crianza #377481 $15.95 is one of the best Rioja values that I’ve come across in a long while. It’s had the benefit of time in oak which imparts a cedar chest vibe emanating from the glass. It’s medium bodied in complete balance with enough stuffing to drink with a meal. Dried fruit on the finish. Love it! Love it! Love it! It is also available through the on-line merchant www.wineonline.ca If you are so inclined, check these guys out – they offer a great portfolio of wines from all over and sometimes they ship for free. My experience of welcoming the Canada Post parcel guy – him, hauling a case of wine to my door; me, in my housecoat and slippers; the Director heading out to work is one of the most enduring images connected with this wine blog.

copertinoWhen I was in Puglia last year, I drank a bunch of Negroamaro wines. All grapes deliver a vast array of wines. That is, they don’t all taste alike. But, I’ve found that this grape is really unpredictable. Salice Salentino is made with Negroamaro and even that singular designation can have a zillion variations in quality and drinking experience. As Forrest Gump’s mother said, “You never know what you’ll get”. This week, there’s the return of 2007 Apollino Copertino Rosso #023226 $18.95. This one I like. I find that this wine has a porty thing going on – not sweet but thick. It’s ripe and full-bodied. Nothing complex, straight-forward. Easy to drink too much of, if that makes sense. Its ABV is 14% which isn’t crazy high but I’d stay away from having it as a stand around wine – pair with something that can hold up against the full-bodied nature of the wine. The LCBO suggests “pasta with a lightly spiced arrabbiata sauce.” I might step up the sauce to something more spicy but pasta and tomato sauce seems about right.

Wine that I’m going to pick up:

2012 Megalomaniac Sonofabitch Pinot Noir #085134 $24.95 – The same winery that has ‘Pink Slip’ and ‘Bigmouthed’ wines brings us one of the better names I’ve encountered. I understand that it reflects the difficulty in cultivating and vinifying pinot noir. It can be an SOB. I usually steer clear of wines with cute names but my interest is piqued and Megalomaniac has a pretty good track record. I’ll let you know how it works out.

“DRC is God’s way of telling you that you have too much money.” Robin Willaims

Rocquebrun

Rocquebrun

Ireland’s Lessons and the Red Daily Slosh

21 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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