Tag Archives: wine

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 – Florence

22 Nov

Saw these guys a couple of weeks ago. Great musicianship!

After 6 days in the Tuscan countryside and 5 days in Sicily, we hopped back up to Florence by air, took a short cab ride into town and bedded down there for 4 days.

I had never been to Florence before. Triple Wow! Wow One – Man, there are a lot of tourists. I thought that Athens, Rome, London were a bit touristed up. But Florence takes the cake. Not sure why that is. Maybe it’s a bit more compact than Rome or London. And, guys, the tourists are old. I was a relative youngster compared to many. Or, it just might be that I view myself as still in my early thirties. At least people tell me they think I look that young. Wow Two – Damn it’s a charming city. The River Arno, the architecture, the cobbled streets. It’s as if the only changes over the past hundreds of years are store fronts – I mean they couldn’t very well have had a flagship Ferragamo store or Desigual in 1700, could they? Wow Three – The Renaissance. The city just oozes art and culture. Some cities tell a story of joie de vie (Paris), royalty (London), nation-building (Washington). Well, Florence provides a short course in culture, period.

The urn outside a flower shop on our street. Yes, those are radishes! Uber cool and creative.

And, while I’m at it – the fashion! You know those fragrance commercials. You’ve seen them. The ones where there’s some kind of art film scene with a woman melding into the sky while a man stares at his watch. They end together partially naked? Well, people dress and look like that in Florence. It was best captured in a single moment. We were eating dinner in a street-side cafe. A woman rode her bicycle past us. An upright bicycle with a basket, the woman with a flowing mid-length skirt, fashion boots, glistening mane of dark hair. I mean styling’, baby. Audrey Hepburnesque – absolutely stunning.

The guys are the same – casually out of control manes of hair, scrubby near-beards, and jackets over open neck shirts. Truly beautiful men. We got neck cramps people watching. We witnessed this same phenomenon in Paris to some degree and even Montreal has a bit of a similar attention to style. It’s an added bonus for Florence and it made us want to shop, unfortunately.

Evening view from terrace. That’s the Duomo peaking up in the middle

We did Airbnb in Florence. Apartment on Via Santo Spirito close to Ponte alla Carraia. From the ground floor, walk up 25 steps to the elevator, take the elevator up three floors, get out and walk down two flights to the apartment. We had out own roof-top terrace which was accessed by walking up three flights of stairs past the elevator, of course. But, it was special returning to the apartment each afternoon and taking some wine, cheeses, bread, olives, etc. up and watching out over the rooftops as the city flips the switch from day to night. The apartment was a bit tired furniture-wise but we didn’t spend much time inside. Airbnb listing here.

So, what does a wine guy do in Florence? Despite impeccable research – my plans were pretty sketchy. So, I reached out to a fellow wine Tweep – TuscanVines, @JohnMFodera, to ask that very question.. John said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Get thee to Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina. Guys really know their stuff. Rare wines!” That’s what we did.

It’s a small cantina and wine tasting shop with seating outside overlooking the Pitti Palace. Very scenic. What did I taste? Well, I asked the owner to just give us some different stuff that he thought was interesting (Stuff – a wine  professional’s term – do not try it at home). Here goes:

1980 Fattoria Salvapiana Chianti Rufina Riserva – I haven’t ever kept any of my Chianti, Riserva or otherwise, for 36 years (Remember: I’m barely 36 years old myself). So, I didn’t know what to expect. This wine was still packing a lot of flavour. Of course it had settled out much of the tannin but the acidity was still there – mature dried fruits, tobacco – subtle and pleasing. It was Old School. I think it could last for a number of years more. A huge and pleasant surprise. It has encouraged me to leave some of my better Chianti alone longer.

2009 Bucciarelli Chianti Classico Riserva This is made at Antico Podere Casanova in Castellina in Chianti and is organic. These two wines couldn’t be more different. To the point where you might expect that the grapes used weren’t the same variety – Sangiovese. This was in a more modern style – cherry fruit up front on the sniff and continuing right through to the finish. Not a huge wine but elegant and what we’ve all come to expect from Chianti Classico – it’s all-Italian wine.

The Director was treated to two whites. 2013 Gattaia Toscana Bianco from Terre di Giotto was a wine that wasn’t in our typical sweet spot. It is 70% Chenin Blanc, 25% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Sauvignon Gris. It poured and looked like an orange wine. It was very aromatic and started out quite bitter. We asked if it was oaked because it reminded us of wines that take on a bitterness from the oak. But it hadn’t been. It did round out a bit and the bitterness subsided. But not a wine that we would gravitate to.

2015 Le Oche Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore – Now, this is what we’re talking about! Maybe it’s me (and, it’s my blog so that’s fair) but I think that Verdicchio is my favourite Italian white on balance. I love Grillo and Arneis but this stuff pushes all the buttons. This wine did not disappoint. It’s texture reminds me of a Riesling with some oiliness or weight – hard to describe. Almonds on the sniff and finish. Lemon zest and pears. Lipsmackingly good.

As we were speaking with the proprietor, Edoardo Fioravanti, he asked my opinion on a wine that an agent had dropped off for the cantina’s consideration. It was a label, from Piedmont, that I am very familiar with – their entry-level Barolo – 2013 – and I was excited to try it. In an effort to avoid blow back – I won’t mention the winery. Upon completion of a reasonable amount of time and study, I said, with much trepidation “It’s undrinkable.” And waited…1,2,3. Edoardo said, “You are absolutely right. I cannot believe that they can sell this for that price.” I suggested that, like most Barolo, it just might need time but Edoardo went on to say the he felt that time wouldn’t do much to improve this wine – it was hollow. What a great characterization – bang on.

They have a great esoteric collection of wine for purchase as well. If you get to Florence, Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina is a ‘wine’ must. Website here. Thanks, John.

Since I admire the Frescobaldi family’s enterprise (story here), I felt compelled to visit Dei Frescobaldi Wine Bar. This is a small bar attached to the bigger ristorante of the same name. Easy to find the risto (just off Piazza della Signoria) – harder to find the wine bar which is around the corner tucked up between two buildings. There’s a shady outside seating area where we enjoyed a couple glasses of the house wine. The place brings a whole new meaning to ‘house wine’.  My post on Bolgheri spoke of damning the price and just going for it. Well, same here. They carry all the Frescobaldi wines by the glass as they use a Coravin system at the table – no need to worry about fatigued wine. Time to dig in and enjoy,

2013 Mormoreto Toscana IGT from Castello di Nipozzano. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese with a touch of Petit Verdot from a singe vineyard of the same name (25 hectares) – opaque ruby, beautiful looking wine. And looks matter, don’t kid yourself. Dark berries and espresso on the sniff. A very smooth wine despite its youth – rich, velvety mouthfeel. Some heat from the alcohol (14.5% ABV) and a little not unpleasant nip of bitterness on the finish. Complex and intriguing. If you enjoy deconstructing wine, this is a good one. Or, just enjoy it sans thinking with some pasta in a meaty tomato sauce.

2014 Montesodi Toscana IGT also from Nipozzano is Sangiovese from a single vineyard of the same name (20 hectares). Ruby red but not as opaque as the one above – more crystal and sparkly. This wine had a bit of a hard nose until it sat for a bit. Then it opened with dark berries and balsamic notes. The dark berries continue on the gargle and it finishes off with a nice hit of anise. Surprised by how dark this was – usually look for red cherry/berries with sangiovese. Oak evident but not a real factor – balanced.

2014 Beneficio Pomino Bianco Riserva DOC We enjoyed the Planeta Chardonnay in Menfi a lot. Well, this was full value against that white. Elegant, rich, deep, peaches and cream, lightly oaked – butter and a citrus snap, lively on the finish. Can I call a Chardonnay sturdy? Built for the cellar. Lovely wine.

There were loads more wines to talk about. I might do another post on Italy to cover those. But for now, we returned home with heavy luggage and heavy hearts. Plus, a commitment to return for a long stay in the future.

Cheers.

Bill

P.S. A quick Happy Thanksgiving to our neighbours. I will toast you all with a pitcher of beer as I watch my Lions lose…..again, I fear.

#MWWC36 – The Environment? You Bet

19 Nov

Love Marvin Gaye. This version does him justice. “How much more abuse from man can she stand.”

There is a monthly event that wine bloggers subject themselves to called the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. I have been absent for quite some time. I enjoy writing so I’m not sure what the barrier has been. Last month’s winner, Jeff of The Drunken Cyclist – or should I say Jeff, The Drunken Cyclist? won the challenge and as is the rule, he got to choose the theme for this month’s challenge – Environment.

I couldn’t let this one go by without an effort. I’ll try to keep it short and not too preachy.

Wanted Poster

As I’ve waxed on about far too often here, I was a hippy in university. I wore the uniform of hippiedom – jean shirt with dome snaps, frayed bellbottom jeans with colourful patches installed by yours truly, work boots or sandals depending on the season, a copy of Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush  permanently affixed to my hand, and hair down my back. I did hippy stuff – smoked up, read Timothy Leary (if you know what I mean), followed the Grateful Dead, watched Ingmar Bergman movies, argued whether Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck was the Best Guitarist Ever, and raised the alarm on social/political issues. I marched on Parliament Hill protesting the Vietnam War with my conscientious objector and deserter friends. I mean I wasn’t even involved in the war nor was Canada (besides harbouring my friends) but it was imperative to march or I’d have to cut my hair. I stole Abby Hoffman’s book, Steal This Book, and didn’t trust anyone over 30. I was in to being a hippy. Big Time.

One of the ’causes’ that my friends and I got in to was the ecology. It was “Far out, man.” Yes, even way back then, ecology/the environment was a pressing issue – to use today’s lexicon, it was ‘trending’. I bought all the Paul Ehrlich books, had a brain crush on Rachel Carson, and firmly believed that we were doomed as doomed can be. Since then, I’ve tried to be aware of my contributions to the world’s condition and done ‘little things’ i.e. buying local, composting, recycling, managing a greening social enterprise for several years, and wearing the same housecoat for 10 years without washing it. TMI? Let’s face it, I’ve become part of the problem. But, in my defence, I care, I pay attention, I believe, voted for the Green Party, and I do still try. And that’s apparently not enough.

So, what does this have to do with wine? Well, one of the biggest trending topics on wine social media and wine media generally in North America is the California wildfires and whether the state wine industry is devastated or surviving remarkably well thank you very much. The consensus is that it has generally survived with some sad casualties and we all need to support the industry there.

First, let me say that I agree wholeheartedly with that approach – support our fellow (wo)man – particularly if they’re doing the wine thing. I’ll will do my part on that score. However, I do believe that we are missing an opportunity. Let me explain.

A few years ago, one of my Wine Spectators talked about the business end of climate change in Napa. It spoke of investments in planting in cooler areas – Atlas Peak, etc., technical approaches to deal with warmer average temperatures, managing the prospect of earlier ripening fruit, and other stuff I’ve forgotten. The point of the article, I think, was to talk about climate change and the adaptation required to stay in the business of making good to great wine. It was a good read.

It, along with this month’s theme, did get me thinking, “What if moving chairs around on the Titanic works and we can still get really good wine from the Denali AVA? Does climate change really matter then?” See how I went from a reasoned, rational discussion to panic? Although to be fair, that scenario is viable as the cool evening temperatures at Denali in 2070 would make for some great Pinot!

Furthermore, I was in Sicily in September and people there told us that they were just coming out of the biggest wildfire season on record. And yet, despite a preponderance of evidence (and, please don’t argue with the science. Regardless of the ‘why’ it is happening. It is indeed happening), there is a half-hearted and not universal effort to either adapt to and/or change the trajectory of our planet. Campaigns with pictures of polar bears floating off to oblivion, winds whipping through a newly created desert, icebergs slipping into Greenland waters, and F-A-C-T-S haven’t worked.

Southwest facing slope perfect for cool climate Pinot Noir in 2070

Here’s what I’m suggesting: The wine media empire further raises the alarm. Yup, a little less “Berries on the attack”. And more, “Holy shit! Wineries in Virginia unsustainable past 2070!” That last one might even get someone’s attention, if you know what I mean. Let’s help wine enterprises who now have to invest their hard earned money in adaptation strategies and technologies or patiently wait until the next wildfire to have people ‘support’ them.

There are many commercial and non-profit initiatives underway to assist them in dealing with climate change, reducing their own footprint, etc. So, let’s seed our narrative from time to time with the imperative. Maybe the key to action on the big issue is getting wine swilling politicians, corporate leaders, and generally the 1% to fear that their wine will be effected. If we won’t do it for polar bears, let’s do it for our grandchildren. Because I’m a good Grandpa and I want those kids to get great Pinot when they grow up just like I did. And let’s do it, even if, and in full disclosure I have shares in Denali Cellars, we do have the Denali project in our back pocket.

Cheers.

Bill

 

Italy 2017 – Menfi – Planeta

18 Nov

After 6 days in Tuscany, we took the short (90 minute) flight to Palermo from Florence. As ‘under development’ as Florence Airport was, Palermo’s airport (Falcone-Borsellino) was the finished product – shiny and clean. A beautiful atmosphere at the shoreline in the shadow of mountains.

We stayed 5 days at an Airbnb outside of the small town of Menfi – directly south of Palermo on the south shore of Sicily. Having never Airbnb’d it before we were a little nervous about how this might all end up. And, we had the recent experience of Wrong Date Dufton in Volterra to give us pause.

In Tuscany it seemed that most everyone you would  bump into spoke some English. In Menfi, the opposite may be true. Those involved in hospitality certainly speak some English but most other people don’t. Our host didn’t. Then there’s Sicilian which is a nothing like Italian. Ah, but there was Google Translate.

I had used Google Translate to find words or phrases for this blog or in a previous life – typing in the English to read the translation. I hadn’t used its spoken functionality on the fly though. Agostino, our Airbnb host (an absolutely charming guy) met us at a preordained spot with his cell phone at the ready. He greeted us with, “Hello, Beel.” and then proceeded to speak Italian quickly into his phone. Then turned the phone toward us where a lovely lilting UK-accented woman said, “I now take you to the house.” Got it. It was a discovery that was of great assistance on the rest of our journey. I like my new friend GT, she’s cool.

The home in Menfi

The accommodation was beautiful – a purpose-built home on a hill overlooking an olive grove that flowed down to the Mediterranean Sea – south-west facing for the sunsets (below). Four minutes to the shore.  There was an organic farm on the property where we could avail ourselves of fresh organic pomodoro, melanzana, basilico, etc. We harvested and ate several meals from the garden served along with the prior year’s olive oil from the grove surrounding the house. If you’re ever heading that way, the Airbnb link to this property is at the bottom of the post. Highly recommend it.

Sunset in Menfi

On the wine front, there were many options and opportunities to explore in the area. There is a huge and I mean yuuuge, Carolyn, wine co-op in Menfi. Settesoli is the biggest wine operation on the island.

Settesoli wines are marketed under the Mandarossa or Inycon labels and include: Pinot Grigio; Zibibbo; Grillo; Chardonnay; and, Nero d’Avola among many others. There is even a ‘life-style’ magazine put out by ‘Mandarossa’. A neat little boutique with knowledgeable staff at the winery property is easy to find in the southeast corner of Menfi town .

As we looked out at the sea from our house, there was a rolling grove of olives trees that led all the way to the shore. Those olive trees were part of Planeta’s operation. Planeta is a wine, hospitality, and olive oil operation. They have wineries throughout Sicily (Noto, Etna, Vittorio, Capo Milazzo), the olive oil farm (Capparrina) and a beautiful agriturismo (Foresteria) the latter two just outside Menfi town. And, it all started just outside Menfi below the town of Sambuca di Sicilia on the shores of Lake Arancio.

Planeta, the family, has been involved in agriculture for 17 generations beginning on the site near Sambuca. The ethos of the whole Planeta family of wineries is: (from their website):

Planeta at Ulmo – Vines leading down to Lake Arancio

“The ethics of production and the protection of the environment, the countryside and the culture of each place, through sustainable long-term viticulture, wineries perfectly integrated in the landscape and wines which perfectly represent each territory, are common to our presence everywhere. The spontaneous impulse to pursue beauty pushes us to seek ever new ways to be witness to them, not only with our wines and olive oils but also through the projects for hospitality, art and social responsibility in which we continue to invest.”

Strada del Vino Terre Sicane

So, we were off to Planeta at Ulmo below Sambuca di Sicilia. After but one turn around on the Strada del Vino, we arrived at the town of Sambuca di Sicilia – I never did find out if the anise-flavoured flaming digestif was named after the town but I somehow doubt it. Prior to setting out, The Director had asked if I needed to get ‘real’ directions to the winery. In a misplaced sense of confidence (and unfortunately being a man), I replied, “No worries. It’s a pretty big operation. There will be directional ‘PLANETA’ signs all over the place.” That would be wrong, Bill. To arrive there, I had to perform as a wine diviner sans rod – a virtual wine dowser, if you will. Because I can indeed find the wine is all I’m saying. I’m good. It’s intuitive. I have a gift. How can I monetize it?

Barrels of Chardonnay

At Planeta, we were met by a lovely woman (who’s name my notes don’t reveal. Damn). She apologized profusely as her English was a ‘disaster’.  Not at all. She was great! After a tour of the winery – in the midst of fermentation – which was cool, we toured the barrel room where we were treated to the small cave of Traditional Method Blanc de Blancs made from Menfi Chardonnay.

The road down to Lake Arancio flanked by vines

Then back to an al fresco tasting room for the main event. Well, here we go.

We started with a sparkling wine from Etna – Planeta Metodo Classico made from 100% Carricante. A big hit with us. Not really a food wine but an above grade bubbly for toasting, appeftif, or just sipping afternoons by the lake. Crisp, clean, mineral, apples and citrus.

Then followed the 2015 Planeta Cometa. The Cometa is made with  100% Fiano from the Menfi area. Fiano is pure Southern Italy. It shines predominantly in Campania but this Sicilian take is representative of the grape – herbal, floral nose – crisp at first sip (nice acidity) then rounding out a bit as it progresses – minerality, citrus vibe. Medium finish. Very nice effort.

The crown jewel of Planeta at Menfi is their Chardonnay. They make it at Ulmo, hence the barrel room above. It is the wine that put Planeta on the map initially and, I’d have to say it’s the best Chardonnay that I’ve ever tasted from Italy (notwithstanding the Frescobaldi offering I’ll talk about next post). We tasted the 2016 Planeta Chardonnay €20. Toast, lemon on the sniff. Oak evident on the palate – nice lip smack on the finish. Balanced, not overly oaky (French oak – 50% new), opens nicely in the glass. A very classy sip. Did not present as being from a hot climate as in the fruit wasn’t as ripe as you might expect – restrained. Well made wine.

On the red front, we led with the 2016 Santa Cecilia €20 from their Noto operation. This was a 100% Nero d’Avola wine. Wine Enthusiast gave the 2011 vintage a 94 and said, “Always one of the finest expressions of Nero d’Avola.” That’s a pretty good endorsement. The most evident thing in this wine was the chalky, minerality – both on the sniff and the gargle. It presented as a more mature wine taste-wise than it’s real age might have predicted – dried fruits, leather, raspberry. But, the tannins were still a bit hard and the wine needs some time down below to reach its full potential IMHO. We saw how that might work out when they popped the cork on a 2007 Planeta Santa Cecilia N/A. This wine smelled of stony prunes and tasted like blueberries – big time on the finish, pomegranates. Tannins well integrated. Verrrry nice wine. Truly Old School Nero d’Avola. Just typing this makes me wish I had brought a few bottles of the 2016 home.

The last wine tasted was the 2013 Planeta Burdese €18. This wine made from 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc was intriguing. After my time in Bolgheri, I was interested in seeing how Bordeaux grapes translated further south. This smelled of earth, dark fruit with a hint of the 14.5% ABV wafting up. Full on cassis on the gargle – very fruit forward – international style dominated by the Cabernet Sauvignon. This was the only wine that we tried that didn’t really do it for me. It could have been the fact that it was late in the tasting. Or, my lack of enthusiasm at times for Cabernet Sauvignon. So, I’ll give this one another chance all on its own.

They make a 100% Syrah at Sambuca – 2013 Planeta Maroccoli Syrah €30. Our host was very insistent that I take a bottle home – spicy, toasty, ready now or hold for 7 to 10 years. I’m an easy target on stuff like this.

Planeta makes wines from other grapes at this site as well –  Grillo, Grecanico, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

We also picked up the 2008 Planeta Chardonnay €30. Our guide threw in a 375 ml Chardonnay, “Madam, you must”, and an apron. She was fabulous. We left with a stash that was going to prove problematic on the flight back to Florence. I long for the olden days when you could bring liquids on to the flight. Back then, that was me with the tinkling 85 pound carry-on.

Returned home for a glass on the terrace.

When we checked out after 5 days, our host came in to the kitchen, took one look at the empty wine bottles on the counter smiled and said, “Ah, Beel.” Not sure if that was meant as, “Ah Beel, you crazy bugger. You are my hero.” Or, “Ah Beel, time for an intervention.”

Southwest Sicily is truly amazing! If you do go, word of advice: bring along GT.

Cheers.

Bill

Settesoli website

Menfi Holiday House

Planeta website

 

 

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.

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