Tag Archives: Sauvignon Blanc

Essentials Recommendations

10 May

A couple posts ago, I used a video of The Blind Boys of Alabama with Susan Tedeschi singing People Get Ready. I got a few responses saying that they had never heard Susan before. So, I’ve added another of her tracks above – a great John Prine song – great flute solo. Susan’s an accomplished blues guitarist and singer. Her main squeeze is Derek Trucks. How much great music must come from that house? Listen to it as you scroll.

On to the wine. Last week, I was asked by a golf buddy what would be a good red wine to take to a friend’s house for dinner. After I asked the requisite question about what the food was going to be (“Who knows?”), I kind of stalled. Oh, I finally gave a couple suggestions but I felt inadequate. Aren’t I supposed to know these kind of things off the top of my head? I think the issue for me was availability. What wines would be in stock and, ergo, a good recommendation?

The mothership has a cadre (over 100) of higher quality wines and spirits that are usually available in larger stores and they’re called the Essentials Collection. They range from Cristal Brut Champagne ($297) and Tignanello ($103) to Cathedral Cellar Cab Sav ($16) and Anselmi San Vicenzo ($17). It’s a broad spectrum but you should be able to find something that fits the occasion and your budget.

Budget Reds

Monte Antico #69377 $15.95 This is a food wine and it’s Italian. Meaning serve it with pizza, pasta with a tomato sauce, etc. Maybe even a mushroom dish. It has that bite that I love.

LAN Crianza #166538 $15.95 A $16 Rioja Crianza that carries the day. Perfect everyday medium-bodied red. I’m having ribs tonight and might pair them with this unless I get paralyzed down in the basement (so many choices) and end up bringing up something else. If you can find the Viña Real Crianza @ $18.95 – grab a couple bottles as it is very nice as well.

kaikenKaiken Malbec #58339 $14.95 This is a good value Malbec for those that love that grape. I know there are cheaper ones out there but step away from the Fuzion and make a very little step up price-wise to this much better version.

Mid-Range Reds

Muga Reserva #177345 $23.95 If there is even a hint that your guests or you, for that matter, like Iberian wine, this is the the ‘go to’ choice from Essentials. Consistent and typical Rioja cedary goodness. Food or just plain sipping.

Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon #193573 $22.95 If it’s VQA you’re looking for, this is a great example of Niagara Bordeaux red. A hint of green pepper but not distracting from the dark fruit. Good steak wine. It’s tasty.

tenutacastigligoniMarchesi de’ Frescobaldi Tenuta di Castiglioni #145920 $21.95 I have recommended this wine so many times that I can type the name without checking the spelling. Pure Tuscan goodness. Spicy and fabulous with a simple lamb dish.

Honourable Mention

Wynn’s Coonawarra Black Label Cab Sav, Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir, Espãrao Reserva, E. Guigal Côtes du Rhone, Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon

Budget Whites

Anselmi San Vicenzo #948158 $16.95 If you like the vibe of whites from north-eastern Italy (Soave), grab this one. A perfect paring would be sun and friends.

Willm Reserve Riesling #11452 $15.95 An extra dry Riesling from Alsace. Stony, citrus. Great food wine.

Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés #1834 $13.95 I couldn’t forget Susana. This is her entry-level Torrontés. I think it’s the perfect grape for sipping.

Mid-Range Whites

cloudy bayCloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc #304469 $32.95 The SB that started the whole Kiwi love-in. Powerful, clean, gooseberry. Perfect with grilled seafood. It can handle spicier, heavier fare – maybe even blackened grilled fish.

Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay #545004 $21.95  BC wines are available in short supply here. So grab a bottle of this judiciously oaked Chard. Perfect with chicken, salmon or for just you and your imaginary friend (never drink alone).

Henri Bourgeois Les Baronnes Sancerre #542548 $25.95 This would be a nice counterpoint to the Cloudy Bay above. Both SB’s but totally different styles. This one is restrained, minerally, and better with cleaner foods – like scallops or salads. Friends that winter in Florida start their evening imbibing with a white, frequently a Sancerre. Good sipping.

Honourable mention

Mer Soleil Chardonnay, Tawse Quarry Road Riesling, Malivoire Chardonnay, Astrolabe Province Sauvignon Blanc

Rosé

Malivoire Lady Bug #559088 $15.95 Have recommended this almost every year. I’m typed out on it.

So, if you need a wine that’s not from the General Listing aisles – something with a little cache, wander to the Vintages section, search these out and please let me know what you think. After all, I am all alone and appreciate contact with the outside world. Well I’m alone except for my imaginary friend, that is. Clink, clink.

Cheers.

Bill

Holiday Advice – Part 1

17 Dec

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

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

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

Big California Cabernet

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

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

Other worthy readily available candidates are:

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

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

Sauvignon Blanc

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

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

2013 Domaine Chauveau Pouilly-Fumé #390641 $23.95

2013 Wither Hills #919514 $17.95 Kiwi caselot?

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

Part Deux: tomorrow

#MWWC13 – Serendipity is Fantastic!

8 Dec

MWWCThere’s a self-abusive, yet strangely entertaining, monthly event in wine writing circles called the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. I’ve copped out the last few themes but was recently shamed and frankly harassed by last month’s winner, Anatoli of Talk-A-Vino. As the worthy winner, Anatoli got to choose this month’s theme – Serendipity. Serendipity – I distinctly remember a children’s book about a sea creature called Serendipity but that plagiarized story might not qualify. After all, unlike me, the sea creature did not partake of the grape in it’s quest for purpose. So…….

About 20 years ago, I became inspired to learn and experience wine – which, for me, is somewhat the same thing. I learn through experiencing as much as reading, listening (I’m a notoriously poor listener), or taking courses. I was mistakenly looking for the experience that warranted paying more for a wine. What qualities can you experience with wine? Does price matter? Is quality all just marketing hype to justify higher prices? Is quality discernible only by those that make wine their life, that truly understand wine? Or, could a schmuck like me discover it? I’ve since realized that those were the wrong questions but.

Let me explain. I grew up in a family that valued quality over price. Not that they’re mutually exclusive, or that we lived in opulence – we certainly didn’t. It’s just that my parents always discussed ‘stuff ‘ (as my father would call things) in terms of how good they were. Oh, we still got the car serviced at Crappy Tire and we collected green stamps but quality was king – not cash. In fact, price was never mentioned out loud. Boasting about a bargain was gauche. And, I realize that might be more a generational thing than about my family in particular. Or, maybe it was just life before Costco and recreational shopping – a rant for another time.

So the concept of quality being intensely personal, I wanted to know what quality wine smelled, tasted, and felt like on my terms just for me.

Well, in this market way back then (I believe I started this during the Summer of the Short Corn), I thought the easiest place to bump quality without bankrupting myself was Australia. It was immensely available here. Plus, the labels had the name of the varietal, the region and that’s about it. That theoretically meant that I didn’t have to take a correspondence course in French label nomenclature to move my quality needle. The predominant thinking at that time with neophyte wine wannabes in my world was that Wolf Blass Yellow Label was the best wine on the planet. Seriously, stop chuckling, people told me this. After I got over the fact that a wine could be called Wolf Blass, I tried it. If it was a little better than Le Piat d’Or, what was it that made it that way? After a couple bottles (not consecutively), I thought, “This stuff isn’t thaaaat much better. It doesn’t have a quality that I can clearly identify or that I value more. I don’t really like it much either.” I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. Chalk it up to following the herd and failing. Did I give up? No, I picked myself up and surfed the shelves for wine in the $15-$20 range with high scores. That shotgun approach not surprisingly didn’t work either. Well, maybe I just couldn’t afford quality and should go back to making my own screech and porch climber. Maybe I wasn’t able to decipher wine – identify quality, get my head around wine. Or, maybe quality wine is a myth perpetrated on us all by the cult wine industry or the bloody Bordelais like the myth that McDonald’s food is actually made from……….food.

But, wait, there was a new product line at the mothership (the Liquor Control Board of Ontario for those that don’t follow me) called “Vintages” – wines and spirits that have some caché, may be in small supply, and unfortunately, in most cases, cost more. So, I wandered out on one of the first days of the new releases for Vintages and stumbled around following the masses. Correction: there weren’t masses, there were about six of us. It is there that I bumped into a guy in the middle of the aisle. I’d like to remember that he was about my age, handsome like me, with my regal bearing. But, the fact is he was about 45 with a baseball cap on backwards – covering, I believe, a balding pate. Now, the acceptable age for backwards baseball caps in my world is 35. Any older and, dude, you’re working too hard. He was loading a single wine into his cart – maybe a dozen already in there when I stopped him from his mission and asked, “What is so special about that wine?” He straightened up and said, “This stuff is fantastic, man.” That was it. No, “This brilliant straw-coloured, Marlborough single vineyard wine’s nose carries fresh cut grass and a hint of grapefruit, the latter replaying intensely on the mid-palate”? Nope, instead, “This stuff is fantastic, man”. Fantastic? Hell, that’s what I’ve been looking for! Wine can be fantastic? It was a bit out of my price range at $21.95 a bottle but I thought (and here’s a sample of the twisted rationalizations that wine buyers the world over utilize):

  1. ‘Fantastic’ is what I’m looking for:
  2. It comes from New Zealand and we Canadians identify with Kiwis – we both sleep with an elephant;
  3. Marlborough is a cigarette but, on balance, I need this wine; and,
  4. I really need this wine!

cloudy baySo, I picked up a bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Can’t remember the vintage. I can say now that it had such a sense of tension, power, and place. But back then, I thought, “This is freakin’ fantastic!”

The neat thing? I found quality. Let me rephrase that – I found something that was a ‘quality’ experience in my opinion at that time in my life. It might have had something to do with who I had it with or when I had it. Scratch that too – it definitely would have had a ton to do with all that. And although it was priced higher than I was used to, I experienced that it was worth the extra. I was cool with that too.

So, there began the never-to-be-completed journey. Of course, I realize that wine’s a bit more complex than “It’s fantastic, man” and I don’t exactly feel the same way about Cloudy Bay now. But the point is that that’s when I became a believer. I believed that great wine was out there  and, more importantly, that I could really experience and recognize it as such. And, it encouraged me to try and learn as much about wine as I could. Because when it’s good, it’s really fantastic, man.

To paraphrase Mr. Webster, ‘Serendipity’ means finding something of value where you don’t necessarily think you’ll find it – a nifty happenstance. I started a search for quality on the wrong terms, with the wrong ideas, and the wrong tools. In my search for ‘quality’ I bumped into it lurking underneath the word – ‘fantastic’, spoken by a guy with his damn cap on backwards. Who would have thunk?

Anyone else who went looking for noses of fig paste and long finishes end up finding fantastic?

serendipity

Images courtesy of: http://www.goodreads.com ; http://www.vintages.com

Rainbow Daily Slosh

11 Oct

I read a piece by Eric Asimov courtesy of Charles Scicolone that talks about the issue of expressed bias in wine criticism. Great piece. Question: Should a wine critic attempt full neutrality or should they allow their biases to come through as long as they are declared? If you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll know that I have many biases and hopefully, they’re expressed clearly as I expound on the wines that I love. In other words, if you don’t know me by now….Also, I’m not often talking about wines that I don’t care for. So, even by exception, you’ll get to know my preferences. But, that doesn’t mean that I think there are wines that you ‘should’ drink and wines that you ‘shouldn’t’ drink. Well, that’s not true. I do think some wines need to get a pass. But, I don’t judge – drink what you love. And often. Just consider the wide world of wine and once in a while take a jump in the deep end. I’ll swim with ya. If you’re interested in reading Eric, I’ve linked to Charles’ reblog of Eric’s piece here.

I’ve had difficulty getting to white wine recommendations. The same goes for sparklers. So, I decided to incorporate all colours into this post. I’ll try and make it short, he says as a long and winding idea comes to his mind.

Sparklers

carpeneDo you have friends that like to open a bottle of bubbly as you enter their kitchen? No? Then get some new friends. Our friend, Suzie B. loves her Prosecco and frequently is itching to open a bottle. That opportunity presents itself when you cross the threshold. I’m not complaining mind you. I initially had trouble warming to Prosecco, however. I found that the category was a bit watered down – non-descript. I found the same thing with Cava a few years back. I just got tired of the product just got less interesting and fun. I said it was me not them and we went our separate ways. Well, that all ended when my friend, Andrew, introduced me to Carpenè Malvolti Cuvée Brut Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore #727438 $16.95. This is a very dry Prosecco with some minerally components……OK, it is my favourite Prosecco year-in year-out. Period. Why? Way more fruit (white flesh), controlled, tight bubbles, and a nice kick at the end. Balanced. I think Suzie will love it and I’m hoping she’ll pop it the moment we walk in the door. Hey, Canadian Thanksgiving is this weekend. A perfect time to pop and pour one of these.

Red Daily Slosh

langagarnachaLast year, I featured the 2008 vintage of the 2011 LangaTradicion Centenaria Garnacha #194795 $14.95. It was well received by all my readers (several? – well, more than ten). This vintage is a bit stricter – more evident tannins than Grenache usually presents. If you like garnacha (grenache) like I do, you’ll appreciate this well-priced wine with some real food. Think Cotes du Rhone and you’ll get the garnacha vibe. This one appears more mature than the vintage suggests – some stewing of the fruit and a little earthy, smoky thing going on particularly in the glass. Great value!

villamedoroWhen I see a repeat bottle in the ‘New Arrivals’, it bugs me. What’s ‘new’ about a wine that was available a year ago? I feel betrayed by the mother ship trying to sneak an old friend through as the new kid in town. Then, I’m conflicted. Do I recommend again? I loved it before, why not show it some love again? So, here goes. The 2009 Villa Medoro Rosso del Duca Montepulciano d’Abruzzo #357160 $18.95 is a nice big MdA. My previous review here. But, I know you’re lazy and don’t want to click here and there to get your news. So, to quote myself (December 2013), “Medium to full-bodied. It also has a great nose of Italian-ness – dirty, smelly, funky that follows you to the finish – not George Clinton funky but Isley Brothers – relatable, I’m thinking. And, it tastes good too. Perfect wine for a thin crust sausage pizza (spare me the deep dish), spaghetti with store bought tomato sauce, or a plate of antipasti.” Just a word to the wise. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo’s are not your shy Italian wines – subtle, intellectual, requiring you to draw them out. MdA’s make a statement – simple and straightforward. I love ’em.

mommyRemember Mommessin? It used to come in two formats – red and white. It was a litre and a half, dirt cheap, and French too. One of the neat discoveries that I’ve made over the years is that some of these big French box wine style companies also make tasty and even vineyard specific wines too. Bouchard et Fils, Louis Latour, and Georges Duboeuf Come to mind. Mommessin works like that too. They please the masses with some straight up red and white in big bottles with thumb holes and make some great, distinctive wines as well. This week, the 2012 Mommessin Domaine de Champ de Cour Moulin-a-Vent #430876 $19.95 fills that niche. Distinctive, that is. Moulin-a-Vent Beaujolais is more….masculine than most other Beaus. It has a structure that doesn’t really say Beaujolais to most people but still brings the fruit that we love. This one is in that vein – solid tannins and acidity carrying some fruit (hiding a bit still – give the wine some air) and a country feeling – think of sitting on a piazza watching those little white (read: rusty) pick-up trucks that they have in Europe filled with freshly harvested grapes bombing along, heading to the winery for crush. Sip, nibble something local (cheeses?) and remember how special it is to be there. This wine is perfect for that image.

White Daily Slosh

spyvalleyThe white wine that used to carry the most controversy was chardonnay. It’s too big, too creamy, too woody, just too too. Now we are inundated with unoaked chardonnay and that’s supposed to be what we want. Sorry, I don’t like most of them. Now, I’m hearing some of the same disputes about sauvignon blanc – too ‘cat pee’, too grassy, too gooseberry, too big, too big, too big. OK, time to take a break from dictating what a wine is supposed to be like. Style is a matter of taste. Please disregard my opening paragraph – I reserve the right to be contrary. I don’t like bow ties. Really think they look stupid – especially on television personalities. Who the hell was that Charles guy on CBS? That does not mean that they aren’t ‘true’ ties. No matter what styles come and go, bow ties are still legitimate ties. And, no one is compelled to wear them or like them. Where was I? Oh, sauvignon blanc. I think that the most controversial sauvignon blancs come from New Zealand. They aren’t shy usually. Have an abundance of bite, fruit, and grassiness. Maybe a bit over the top for some. This week there’s one that I think does all that respectfully. It isn’t shy but not dominating the conversation either. It’s grassy or herby – I can’t quite decide which, an assertive nose (Jimmy Durante?) and packs an acidic punch. I quite like this style. The 2013 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc #686675 $18.95 is that wine. I’d suggest that you not drink this as a sipper. It needs some food. I’d say seafood (shrimp?), salads, limey Asian stuff.

Wines that I’ll pick up:

clarkeSpent an interesting post-golf round discussion about wine with John. He told me that he doesn’t know that much about wine but loves red Bordeaux. Especially those that have a bit of age. Sounds like he knows everything that he needs to know. There’s a perfect mid-priced red Bordeaux on the shelves this week – 2009 Château Clarke #503904 $37.95. I went to a Bordeaux Futures tasting one year for the ‘03’s. My friend and I wandered about tasting red after red. Near the end of the night whilst removing the sock from my mouth, I tasted the ’03 Ch. Clarke and thought, “What the hell, it’s one of the lowest priced ones and it tastes like every other at this point.” And also thought, “I think that I’d better stop drinking….I mean, tasting, now.” I bought a bunch and watched it evolve over a few years. It was great value. Not a long cellar candidate. But very nice. I can’t speak to this vintage specifically but I think it’s pretty safe to say it will reward a little time and a modest investment for a Bordeaux. John, go for it.

The Average White Daily Slosh – Finally

27 Feb

This is for the March 1 release.

What’s been going on with the White Daily Slosh? It’s been non-existent and my white drinkers are rattling my cage to try and get me motivated to talk about white wines. I haven’t had that many whites lately but I think the proper excuse is the weather.

I’ve finally reached the point where I’ve HAD IT! Not with wine, a little with our monopoly, but it’s this winter. I don’t need some almanac wannabe to tell me that this is the worst winter of 2013-2014. It has been terrible. I’ve seen similar sentiments from The Winegetter who is stranded in Michigan. A winter like this brings a certain challenge to this wino. Correction: oenophile and wine blogger (wingger?)

Although there are many white wines that perform in colder weather, winter for me is a mostly red season. Substantial, warming reds. In my basement (it’s really not a wine cellar), I have only so many everyday winter reds that I feel that I can open, well, everyday. This doesn’t seem like much of a problem to others. I mean, “get over it, Bill.” But, think about poor Bill pondering his wine selection for the evening and realizing that he doesn’t have any more (well, maybe just a couple?) everyday Cotes du Rhone, Syrah/Shiraz, Zinfandel, Italian chewies, or reasonably priced Bordeaux that he could bring himself to open. It’s almost criminal. Violation of Sec 234 sub.1 (Failing to provide for the necessities of life). See, what’s happened to me is that I haven’t kept pace – my drinking is outstripping my everyday stock. And, before you say anything, I do realize that there is a simple answer, thank you very much. But, I’ve got better-keep-for-a-special-day ones and summery stuff and it just might have to be OTBN every week for the rest of the winter. It’s a high class problem, I realize, but here’s the other complication – Arlene doesn’t drink red wine. Gasp, I know it’s unthinkable but true. So, not only OTBN but FTBN (Finish That Bottle Night). I’ve got a vacuum thingie but I’m not a quitter, you see. Long winters suck.

But, I do have a few White Daily Sloshes recos.

giesenWe went out with friends last weekend for Indian food – Rogan Josh, King Prawn Tikka (also the name of an Indian rapper – actually Rogan Josh might be a good rapper name too). We ended up having a sauvignon blanc (Oyster Bay) which, although not textbook pairing, went pretty well actually – enough pluck to deal with the strong flavours. I like the vibrant and racy nature of Kiwi SB. This week there’s a great example 2012 Giesen ‘The Brothers’ Sauvignon Blanc #247213 $19.95. It’s a little more reserved than, say the Oyster Bay, but I kind of like that. The review suggests a great match with asparagus. But, let’s think about this for a minute. Who the hell just eats asparagus? I’ve never thought of asparagus as an entrée, a meal. I guess you could have an asparagus course. On second thought, you couldn’t have that either. I’d think that maybe this would go with some spicy seafood, veggie appetizers, cold asparagus spears?, even something with a kick, like pakoras. It’s fresh and grassy with that lovely SB acidity and excitement. I’d love to hear from you all as to your best match with Indian foods. Kingfisher beer, although probably right, is not a qualifying answer – this is a wine blog.

marquisIf it’s chardonnay you’re looking for, and I think of it as a winter wine, kind of, there are a couple choices – the 2011 G. Marquis Silver Line Chardonnay #258681 $17.95. I’ve recommended this wine before. Can’t find the post but in the last few months. This has a real nice balance to it. It has some of the creaminess that an oaked chardonnay should have but it doesn’t present as heavy or thick. It has a tree fruit note on the swirl and that continues in the mouth. There’s some stoniness or flint, almost as if it’s unoaked, on the finish that’s quite refreshing.

bellenechardonnayThe other chardonnay is from the home of chardonnay – Burgundy. This is a producer that I’ve come to rely on for my meagre collection of Burgundy. You see, Burgundy is a study all onto itself. I’ve tried and I’m still learning. So, the easiest thing to do is pick a few producers whose approach and style you like and stick to it until you’re better equipped knowledge-wise to wander around a bit. Nicholas Potel used to have his own eponymous label but has since changed to Maison Roche de Bellene. It took me awhile to catch on to the name change and then I’ve kept an eye out for their stuff. If you’re just starting to wade into Burgundy try the Roche. The 2011 Maison Roche de Bellene Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Chardonnay #299867 $18.95 is a very well priced chardonnay. It isn’t one of those roundish, oaky efforts. Not even that creamy – rather strict and sticking to the script of elegance rather than power. I like it a lot. It has some of the typical apple notes in the mouth with a nice, medium finish. You would think that the Burgundy would have the stoniness on the finish but not so much. Great food wine – white meat, fish, pork roast with apples, and asparagus.

And, pick up the pieces!

The Very Last Way Too Early Holiday Edition – The White Daily Slosh

21 Nov

arethafranklinI did warn about another tune. Mylie Cyrus, The Queen of Twerk? Nope. As Steely Dan said, “Hey 19”, she’s the Queen of Soul – Aretha Franklin. Yes, she did look this young once. Don’t worry as this is my last seasonal song installment. Here it is. Just couldn’t do this without her. Did I ever tell you about seeing her live or that the best song (song, song – not aria) ever sung by a woman was sung by her? Another time maybe. Or just guess. OK, never mind, here it is (written by her sister) or maybe it’s this one. OK, I’ve stopped now. But, as soon as I post, I’m turning up the volume!

On to the wine!

So, what do we need as we approach Thanksgiving (US) and vicarious re-living of Thanksgiving (Can.)? We need loads of serviceable white wine, that’s what. Friends of mine had a cocktail party last year and they noticed that people who asked for white wine actually more frequently asked specifically for “chardonnay” – instead of simply “white wine”. Whereas the red wine drinkers just mumbled incoherently (trying unsuccessfully to project an image of sobriety), “Ummm, red wine, please. I want red wine.” Interesting that, given the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) trend that’s been on for a few years. So, let’s give you some reasonably priced options for that chardonnay.

PeninsularidgeLocal is always good and these guys make great wine – have a splendid restaurant – great view. If you haven’t, make sure to drop by next time you’re in Niagara (picture provided by website). The 2011 Peninsula Ridge Barrel Aged Chardonnay #211490 $15.95. This is unusual for me (I know – I am unusual) because I’m used to their Inox Chardonnay which has no oak – steely and fruit focused. This one has all the nuances of oak that you might be looking for – not heavy but present primarily in vanilla on the finish and some butter stuff when you gurgle it. Just the right weight for a cocktail party. Or, you could do this with your turkey if it’s the traditional sage thing.

scrcI included the 2010 Santa Carolina Gran Reserva Chardonnay #928580 $14.95 because it’s a great price point and provides the same utility that the one above does – great for people who like white wine and like standing around as they drink it. This gives you the oaky stuff way before the one above – from the first sniff, actually. So, of the two, if oak is your primary glug thing – get this one. Tropical fruits and the tell-tale Granny Smith apple that chardonnay usually brings. It might have a bit more acidity and it’s light-medium weight, as well. You can’t go wrong with this right-priced chard. Case lot?

roquefortIf you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll remember that I talked about the forgotten white – white Bordeaux a few weeks ago after reading a great Eric Asimov article. This week there’s a white Bordeaux that I got to taste at a local Vintages aisle – 2011 Château Roquefort Sauvignon/Semillion #313346 $16.95. Traditional Bordeaux blend that brings a lot more roundness – no, that doesn’t sound right – brings a lot less of a linear feel – that too sounds like bullshit. What about – it comes across as more New World than I thought it would – bigger, fuller in fruit flavours and still some of the Old World earthy, stoney mouthfeel that these can give you. I liked it a lot. It would also be perfect for a walk around cocktail party wine. And, if you haven’t in awhile – you should.

wynnA wine that I’m going to get that I haven’t tried is the 2012 Wynn’s Coonawarra Estate Chardonnay #468928 $17.95. I love Wynn’s approach to their line up. Particulary their cabernet sauvignons. And, this sounds pretty interesting – described as full-bodied against the lighter versions above. Maybe better with food. While I’m on the topic of pairing (which I kind of wasn’t), I agree that you eat what you like with a wine that you like. But, really, I do think that the old red wine with meat and white wine with chicken and fish works pretty well unless you are a white-a-phile or red stained. I’ll think a bit more about it – read a blog or article the other day that said this and after a few days consideration – I agree. Not my original idea but still.

Whites That Schmeck – The White Daily Slosh

11 Oct

angelsgateI spent an afternoon in Niagara this past week at Pondview Winery and will report back on the visit in a future post. So, let’s start this post with a Niagara staple – Riesling – 2010 Angel’s Gate Riesling #160523 $13.95. From one of the more picturesque winery locations in the region, this is a dry Riesling but not without some fullness usually associated with some residual sugar. It carries acidity and therefore matches well with seafood or even some Thai. Pick up a couple bottles and serve pre-Thanksgiving dinner with some apps.

sileniI’ve never been one to shy away from being predictable. I always laugh at my own jokes (I crack me up), always tell each story more than two times (“Honey, honey, we’ve all heard this before”), always fuss over food or wine preparations, and always, always cry for just about anything remotely sentimental or touching. And, oh yeah, I always recommend great, reasonably priced New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. This week there’s the 2013 Sileni Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc #662882 $17.95. There are those out there that gravitate to the old Kim Crawford aisle and scoop that great SB. But, just walk a little further, sashay to the Vintages section, wander upscale a bit and you’ll find a suitable substitution and worthy wine all on its own. This is true Kiwi SB – gooseberries and intensity. Fabulous wine with foods that have some chew, crunch and a little spice, I’d say. The write up suggests just stand around too but I think that you need something to fight with (sorry, be a counterpoint to) the spunk of this wine. It’s pretty touching actually, sniff, sniff to think about the dedication and work that goes into making a wine like this. Pass the Kleenex.

escondidachardWe’ve never been big fans of Argentinean chardonnay. They have seemed to be either too thin or mushy, if that makes sense. No balance. So, trying the 2012 Finca La Escondida Reserva Chardonnay #270207 $14.95 was a nice departure from those two negative experiences. This white is large enough to clearly be New World and brings some nice notes in the air that speak to some wood treatment – tropical, toasty. At this price, I’d suggest that you trick your company into thinking that you spent big on the chardonnay to accompany the turkey. Or, for the vegetarians – the tofurkey.

bavaNow, the last time I recommended a Moscato d’Asti, I received some not too favourable replies. But, I’m nothing if not a slave to my own perceptions, the belief that others require my wisdom and that others need to try new things. So, another Moscato! 2012 Bava Moscato d’Asti #712547 $16.95.  This is low alcohol (oh, it’s OK if the kids have a little glass like the grownups), medium sweet, and packs some lovely peachy aromas and flavours. Perfect with a fruit dessert! Give it a try – I mean, GIVE IT A TRY!

Groovy Baby It’s Chardonnay Day – The White Daily Slosh

23 May

groovyI couldn’t resist this White Daily Slosh. I have never tried it, have never seen it, but I’m madly in love with the name. When I was a child there was a nursery rhyme called Solomon Grundy. Say it with me – Solomon Grundy born on Monday, Christened on Tuesday, etc., etc. through to Solomon’s unfortunate demise on Saturday. Not sure of the origin, meaning or purpose of this somewhat depressing rhyme. We are born only to be buried on Sunday? Life’s a bitch and then you’re dead? Let us know if you are eccentric enough to know the meaning of this tale. Anyway, I was returned to those childhood memories when I saw the 2012 Salomon Groovy Grüner Veltliner #669606 $13.95. I mean how much fun can you have with that name? “Would you like another glass of Groovy, sir?” “Oooh, beeehave.” I can’t speak to this exact wine, vintage et al but will provide you with a little background on Grüner Veltliner via another blog – Restaurant Uprising. Suffice it to say that Grüner Veltliner is not a mid-fielder for Bayern Munich but a hip white grape (apparently, the nickname for Grüner Veltliner is ‘Groovy’). The reviews I’ve found for this particular wine make it sound perfect to serve with a light meal and Simon and Garfunkel. Be Groovy! Are those Ray-Bans on the salmon?

domainelecomteThe 2011 Domaine Lecomte Quincy #172528 $18.95 ain’t Sancerre but it’s close both geographically and experience-wise. It’s crisp, food-friendly and spicy, It’s not your New World Sauvignon Blanc but more restrained. This doesn’t mean it isn’t full of fruit flavours (apples, citrus) and couldn’t satisfy your need for a white to accompany dinner. It could carry seafood as suggested in the review or even something more full-bodied. I even think it could do battle with something spicy. If you love Sancerre, pick this up as a substitute and see what you think.

silenisbOh, remember that New World Sauvignon Blanc that I just mentioned? Yup, there’s a good one on the shelves this weekend too. The 2012 Sileni Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc #662882 $17.95 has all the Kiwi fruit that we’ve become accustomed to but maybe not big gooseberries. That’s not actual kiwi fruit, as in fuzzy little brown things, but Kiwi as in New Zealand. So, some tropical scents and tastes and a kind of greenness too. It isn’t shy but neither is it over-the-top. I think it strikes a great balance – perfect for gossiping and noshing.

cannonballSo, what is Thursday, May 23rd? Yes, we all know – the birthdays of Drew Carey and Rosemary Clooney (yes, I had to Google it just like you just tried to do). But what else? Why It is Chardonnay Day – a day when all people of the world celebrate the great white grape. When chardonnay farmers, vintners and drinkers alike put down their instruments of toil and industry and pour themselves a glass of oakey or unoaked, twist cap or corked (not corked as in smelling bad – but sealed with a cork) chardonnay. It’s a pretty big day around our house. Streamers, Reidel chard glasses, corksicles, goody bags, music performed live by k.d. lang, the biggest chardonnay hound in all Canada and a big friend of Duffswines! Yes, we celebrate it. But what to drink? Meursault? No, I’m waiting for the centennial of Chardonnay Day for that stuff. Mer Soliel? No, too heavy for just pounding back and dancing like no one is watching. What about 2010 Cannonball Chardonnay #311563 $20.95? When in doubt, Cannonball! This is a mid-sized chardonnay. Oh, it’s oakey – so oak-a-philes need to get a few. But, not in the spirit of hiding all the good stuff. There’s lots of true fruit from the chardonnay grape – apples, maybe a bit of pineapple too. It’s a perfect way to celebrate Chardonnay Day which by the time you read this will be over. So, timing doesn’t have to be everything. The label is great on this one as well.

Climbing Mount Riley – White Daily Slosh

12 Apr

mount riley sbSlim pickings for daily slosh whites, this release. I haven’t had many of the New Zealand whites and much of the others are new to Vintages. I’ll keep it short and sweet. Well, actually long and extra dry.

Every year, there seems to be a mess of New Zealand sauvignon blanc that represents value. This week, the 2012 Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc #981670 $16.95 is one of these. This producer makes a sauvignon blanc with lots of attitude. Crisp, classic, and best consumed with friends and more Mount Riley. All the gooseberry that you can handle. “How much gooseberry is it?” Well, it’s so much gooseberry that somewhere there is a guy chewing on a gooseberry and saying, “wow, there’s some Mount Riley on the mid-palate.” Perfect wine for the spring that’s coming. It is coming isn’t it? Soon?

Hahn chardonnayLove to entice the chardonnay hounds out there. Why is it that chardonnay lovers are ‘hounds’ and pinot lovers are pinot-philes? What about cabernet sauvignon lovers? Cab savages? Let’s see if we can agree on a name. We could get T-shirts made. Anyway, from the general listing aisles comes a very quaffable California chardonnay Hahn Chardonnay Monterey #234393 $16.95. It’s got a creaminess that belies the price point in that it isn’t creamy gone wrong but just the right amount of buttery goodness.

Splurgin’ On The Bay – Weekend and Splurge Wines

11 Apr

2012 CloudyBayIf there ever was a wine that created a buzz for a wine region, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is it. New Zealand came to life here one day, like Frosty The Snowman, when our dear monopoly brought Cloudy Bay to town many years ago. At that time, there weren’t a lot of kiwi wines that were known to the masses. This one had people lining up like junkies to get a sip.  2012 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc #304469 $29.95 I haven’t had the 2012 but given the reviews I’ve read, my experience with other vintages, the history of the wine itself, and this particular vintage, I’d say scoop a couple up. If you like a sauvignon blanc that’s bold, thick (not sure that’s the proper word – substantial?), and full of tropical fruits, this wine is for you. Get one of these and have a sauvignon-off with others that I’ve recommended. You do obediently run out and get my recommendations, don’t you? Unfortunately, I know the answer. So, bring a bottle of Cloudy Bay to my place and I’ll throw in the others.

MdCTintoIt seems lately that I’m always talking about Spanish reds. Well, I like them and I have the pen. It could be that I can’t resist getting them, try them, and then want to talk about them. They’re interesting always, reasonably priced, and have a sense of place that’s not always evident in other wines. Two weeks ago it was Beronia, a regularly available label. This week it’s another label that we’ve all seen. Some of you may not remember not having my incredible eidetic memory (go ahead and Google it, I’ll wait). But, you have seen this brand label many times 2005 Marqués de Cáceres Tinto Reserva #702761 $24.95. Another balanced, expressive Rioja. Check the vintage. This wine has had time to caucus and decide what it’s going to be. Full of fruit with a very pleasant “what the hell is that?” post-swallow. I see several answers to that question in my notes – “cedar”, “some kind of herbal thing that I can’t nail down”, and “lovely.” Sorry for the less than precise description, I was just enjoying it, not studying it. When I open my next one, I’ll elaborate. If Spain is your place, run, don’t walk to get a few of these.

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