Tag Archives: wine

Cheap Wine Woes – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

27 Apr

I read a piece at http://www.cnn.com about the price of cheap wine rising due to “weak harvests in key markets including Europe and South Africa”. You can read it here. The harvest in 2017 produced 25 billion litres of wine down from 26.7 in 2016 and 27.6 in 2015. Although that’s somewhat depressing – 1.7 billion fewer litres to drink, aargh – it’s doubly troubling as it increases the cost of wholesale basic wine (74% in Italy) and puts pressure on producers with small margins to deliver on cheaper wines. Stay tuned to see how this plays out.

Typical Tinos walkway

We all have cheap wine stories. My worst experience with über cheap wine was while in Tinos, a small island in the Cyclades. My friend and I left our wives behind while we went to pick up some local wine and chips to guzzle and munch back in the sun by our rooms. We wandered into a small convenience store just down the road. We had forgotten that stores were closed for the afternoon but being bargy North American tourists, it was unlocked so we just walked into a dark little store. We could hear the sound of a television (a Greek soap opera?) from the back room. Eventually a woman stuck her head out and we explained that we wanted a bottle of white and a bottle of red. She took us to the back, pulled out a couple used but hopefully clean 2 litre plastic pop bottles and filled each of them from small casks. No mention of variety, barrel age, or terroir. I believe they were €2 each! Suffice to say, that it taught me that price shouldn’t be the deciding factor in wine purchase. Also beware a vintage that’s a month not a year.

The silver lining in rising cheap wine prices for some of us? It serves to reinforce the notion that it’s OK to spend a little more on wine. That’s my mantra when cost rears its ugly head. “Go ahead, Bill, you will just waste that extra money on food and shelter if you don’t go all-in on a First Growth or two.”

This week’s release (April 28th) features a few great values and an impressive Okanagan icon.

I’ve pimped the 2009 and 2013 Abad Dom Bueno Mencía #291989 $16.95 many times here and I see that there’s still a tonne of the ’13 at the mothership. It’s case worthy to have on hand as perhaps one of the safest red wines to pop for company. This week there’s another Mencía wine from the same region of Spain – Bierzo. Topic: Mencía – it’s a red grape that’s predominantly found in Bierzo with a little over the border in Portugal as well. My first run in with the grape was in Alvaro Palacios’ beautiful Descendientes de J. Palacios Pétalos which has been offered here for a few years now. These wines can vary in quality quite a bit. But, lately are a bit more refined and refreshing than, say, a Rioja. Less serious. This week there’s the 2014 Casar de Burbia Mencía #392530 $19.95 to get excited about. This is a nervy effort – fresh, aromatic, and lip smackingly good. You can just sip it around the patio or serve with some seafood tapas. If you’ve never tried Mencía, can I suggest something? How about you pick up a bottle of the Abad Dom Bueno and this one. Invite some friends over, pop a few corks and get acquainted with this grape.

Staying with the aforementioned Alvaro Palacios, the 2016 vintage of his Camins del Priorat #216291 $30.95  hits the shelves this week. I haven’t had this vintage but have had the 2014. If the style is consistent, this will be a savoury effort. Meaty and spicy. I had the 2014 with Manchego, ground black pepper, olive oil and crusty bread. Good news? I still have another 2014 down below.

At a friendlier price point is the 2015 Saint-Roch Vieilles Vignes Syrah/Grenache #195107 $16.95. You may remember fondly the Saint-Roch Chimieres in the 2012 and 2013 vintages. This is its little brother. Although a wine from Côtes du Roussillon, it speaks to me of a Côtes du Rhone. Well, it only speaks when I’m drinking alone and considering a second bottle. But, if you like Côtes du Rhone, you’ll appreciate this – pure fruit without the wood (done in concrete tanks) – red berries, spice, herbs, and tenderness. This, like the Abad above is a perfect wine to pick up enough so that you can confidently pop a cork when company unexpectedly arrives. Like so many reds, this improves with air.

Yes, it does seem like Spring out there finally. So, what better time to celebrate with a rosé? Rosés can be quite inexpensive but a mild splurge can’t hurt, can it? The 2017 Miraval #342584 $23.95 is just the tonic we need after a long winter and shy early Spring. This is made by Famille Perrin for Brangelina. Can you still call them that? And, I wonder how they split this family property. Regardless, it’s a cute bottle (with a yuuuge punt – wink, wink), a cute wine, and a good story to tell. Very strawberry in the sniff, it has  a large presence on the mouth as well – medium-bodied. Citrusy on the finish – refreshing as a good Cötes de Provence should be. Pick this up for your first deck party, chill it well, and discuss who is really to blame for the Brad and Angelina split. I really don’t like either of them.

Niagara does Riesling well. And, in my view, the best is made from Beamsville and Twenty Mile Bench fruit. They are more mineral-driven. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll remember my love of Flat Rock Cellars’ Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling, Vineland’s St. Urban’s Vineyard Riesling or the multitude of different Rieslings from Tawse. Well, this week, Creekside joins the gang with their 2016 Creekside Marianne Hill Riesling #443572 $21.95. This is also a mineral-driven wine with a lively combination of citrus and peaches – I know that’s weird. A vein of acidity that carries through to a snappy finish. A good wine to stick down to allow those Riesling petrol/kerosene notes to develop.

A Riesling that I’m going to try is the 2016 Hidden Bench Estate Riesling #183491 $23.95. These guys and gals make extraordinary wines and I’ve yet to try their Riesling. If you pick one up, let me know what you think.

Some splurge-worthy wines:

2014 Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin #626325 $47.95 – From the Okanagan. Made in partnership by Groupe Taillion of Bordeaux (Château Gruaud Larose) and Constellation Brands of Canada. In vintages past, it’s a great reflection of that pedigree as well as the character of the Okanagan. Serious wine.

2012 Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano #368910 $32.95 – Lovely ‘drink now’ wine with substantial Italian fare.

Cheers.

Bill

Big Brother (Wino Edition) – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

13 Apr

I received a bit of feedback on my last piece. One reader suggested that reality shows about wine should be the next trend. I agree. I mean it’s been tried before – 2 British blokes wandering Italy and sipping wine, youtube channels galore with guys and gals downplaying wine snobbery, and the short-lived I’m Getting Graphite -The Robert Parker Channel available on Roku.

If you think of it though, a proliferation of wine shows would get some of the thirty thousand or so wine bloggers out of their pyjamas. And it couldn’t hurt as most of us are significantly underpotentialized.

Here’s Pitch #1: “Twelve shallow, self-absorbed wine bloggers are locked in a house with a $20,000 cellar (above) curated by one of 0ur sponsors. Multiple cameras follow their every move. While they work their way through the cellar, fights about closures break out. Old World hounds align together and plot against the New World order. There’s a fight between Charmat Method versus Methode Traditionelle. And that’s just the FIRST week! At the end of each week, they are given a challenge – they have to name the grape, the country, region, and vintage of a blind tasted glass of wine. All facts known to the audience. The resident with the lowest score is kicked out of the house unless saved by the fifteen people watching on the Hulu channel. And that is repeated weekly until only one blogger is standing and he/she receives the remnants of the cellar.” Cool. It just needs a catchy name.

On to real wine. This past week I received a case of beautiful wine that I split with a friend. The 2015 La Garnatxa Fosca from Projecto Garnachas de España is a pure Garnatxa from Priorat. I thought that although it had a nose of Priorat with a floral vibe. It didn’t have the opaqueness, heft, mouthfeel that we associate with Priorat. It actually had the look and mouthfeel of a young Nebbiolo. Before a significant decant, it was crystalline, light, shy. Anything but ripe.

But, upon getting that time on the shelf and in the glass, it opened to red raspberry fruit, a touch of funkiness, and a minty finish. Although Garnacha higher ABV (14.5%), little heat. I love wines that show you that they’re not a one trick pony. I mean, “Everyone deserves the benefit of being able to change for the better,” he says to those he’s wronged in the past. This wine will improve in bottle for many years. Shout out to importer www.wineonline.ca If you’re wanting to buy caselot(s) of wine that you can’t always get access to, they have a great portfolio of wine, craft beer, and some foods. In fact they have my new favourite Crianza Rioja – Lopez de Haro @ $14.95 per. Bargain! Shipping of a case or more is free.

From this week’s release (April 14), there are a number of solid picks.

There’s a little Italian red that I’ve fallen in love with. I first tasted it at the Grande Marche that I attended a few years ago and since am always on the look out for it. The 2014 La Braccaesca Vino Nobile di Montepulciano #566216 $24.95 is a perfect example of what’s right with Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. It’s a beaut. I had this vintage while in Italy and it blew me away. Smells of a Chianti-style Sangiovese – cherries, spice box, celery salt (not kidding. I know from celery salt, having rimmed a billion Bloody Caesars. And Bloody Caesars, as we know, are the life blood of many of us before noon). Medium bodied with a distinct vein of acidity that leaves you smacking your lips. Not enough acid or tannin though to cover up the myriad of flavours – cherries, leather, a little barnyard (yum). This is a rocking food wine. Maybe something as simple as a tomato/mozza pizza or a tomato pasta with basil and some sausage. What a great DOCG, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. This has become a great story for me. It used to be inconsistent, bland, wandering to find out what it wanted to be. Now solid producers like Antinori, in this case, and Dei have rejuvenated this place for me.

Since Gord Downie passed, I’ve been living on Spotify binges of Tragically Hip and regret that I never saw them live. Well, at least those of us who didn’t can swill some 2016 The Tragically Hip Ahead By A Century Chardonnay #483875 $19.95. This is made by Stoney Ridge Estate Winery, I believe. The style is moderately oaked until a finish which carries some butter. Flavours are citrusy with the typical green apple of Chardonnay. This is a nice Chard for afternoon sipping and falling off, I mean sitting on, the dock.

I took a wander down to Niagara with my niece a few weeks ago. My goal? To see as many wineries that were new to me as possible. What actually happened? First let me explain that there are over 100 wineries in Niagara. And, yes, I should be able to spend a day seeing only ones who’s threshold I haven’t crossed. Well, I tried and saw two of the new ones. But, I still had to take her to Tawse and Malivoire. It’s just not a trip down there without my Visa getting a workout at these two places. This week, there’s a very nice red from one of those guys waiting for you – 2016 Malivoire Gamay #591313 $17.95. Gamay is done really well here. Malivoire has a Small Lot Gamay that’s worth scouting and ordering on line. This one isn’t as complex as that – straight forward, fresh wine. Feels like you’re at the winery even when you’re home. Red, red, red fruit. A little heavier in the mouth – hotter – than usual but a very nice sipping wine or with noshes, salads. A slight cill doesn’t hurt this wine either. Perfect summer hostess/host gift.

If you’re jonesing for a day on the patio, and who isn’t, there’s a whack of 2017 rosé already on shelves:

2017 Gérard Bertrand Côte Roses des Rosé #373985 $18.95

2017 Caves d’Esclans Whispering Angel #325076 $29.95

2017 Henry of Pelham Family Estate Rosé #613471 $14.95

2017 Malivoire Ladybug Rosé #559088 $16.95

Keep an eye out for the mess of Provence and Tavel rosés which should be hitting the mothership soon.

Pitch #2: “Four wine bloggers are given different already prepared stages of a three course meal. Then they open a mystery basket of wine barrels. Well, maybe we have to work on that part seeing as barrels are bigger than baskets. But, suffice it to say, there are several barrels of different wines.They have 25 minutes to blend the perfect wine to go with the appetizer, main, or dessert that they are presented with. The worst blender drops off each course. Their wines are judged by other wine bloggers (some savvy cross-marketing with Pitch #1). Winner after three courses gets to take the barrels home and claim the title – Top Blend Champion.” What do you think?

Maybe have to work a bit on the television ideas. Help me out if you’ve got a good one.

Cheers.

Bill

 

 

Open Wide – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

15 Mar

 

Most times, my obsession with wine doesn’t embarrass me. However, I just changed dentists and at my first meeting with my new guy, he asked me what I did. I could have given my usual response that I am a lonely man relegated to glimpses of his mediocre past through a veil of regret. But instead, I said that I was basically retired and was somewhat obsessed with wine. He asked for my web site and I thought that would be it. The next time I was there, he came in with a huge smile and loudly said, “Bill, I checked out your web site and boy you drink a lot of wine!”

The dental office is one of those that doesn’t have doors and so everyone getting root canals, crowns, etc. hears everything that’s going on in other chairs. I could envision them all craning their necks to try and catch a glimpse of the guy who “drinks a lot of wine” – hopefully without getting their cheek punctured by a weapons grade steel pick. I should have told him I was a marathoner? No, not possible to pull that off without liposuction. I know, this is it, “I’m the principal in a boutique public sector consultancy”. I’ve used that before and that shuts people up right away.

I confess. He’s right. I do drink a lot of wine.

So what has Bill, the guy that drinks a lot of wine, been drinking lately? Glad you asked.

I always request a certain label each Christmas and usually someone picks it up for me. I popped the cork on the 2013 La Vite Lucente from Tenuta Luce della Vite, a Frescobaldi holding. I wrote a flattering piece on Frescobaldi a few months ago. You can read it here. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is when you can count on a label to out-do your memories of the last bottle you had. This 2013 was perfectly balanced, the tannins had settled down to play a supporting role and the acid just making an appearance on the finish. Leathery, tobacco and red raspberries, a hint of cinnamon, cherries. And, yes, I will be asking for a repeat next year. This vintage isn’t available locally but the 2015 La Vite Lucente #747030 $34.95 is in good supply and is $2 off now – so, $32.95.

If you follow these pages, you’ll know that I’m a bit gun-shy with Cabernet Sauvignon unless it’s expensive and starts with ‘Château’. Which means that I drink it by exception. But, I’ve been trying to change that. In that effort, I picked up a bottle of 2014 Wakefield Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon (Clare Valley/Coonawarra) #142398 $24.95. This was a gentle giant. Oodles of dark fruit and wood on the sniff. In the mouth just full-bodied cassis goodness and a nice snap on the finish – some residual heat from the alcohol (14.5%). No wood chips in between your molars, no vanilla over the top, no cloying sweetness that are the qualities that drove me screaming from CS. A really nice wine – elegant. And, loads still available at the mothership.

I have a friend who always seems to be popping a cork on a wine from Portugal. I’ve tried to stay in touch with these wines but haven’t done a very good job. This week, I picked up 2015 Gloria Reserva (Duoro) #146522 $16.95. Now this is dark, deep. I had it all alone. That didn’t sound right. I had this without food (and, BTW, all by myself – so, yes, alone X2). This demands food. And, it really isn’t ready. The backbone kind of dominates and covers everything up – this needs to soften up and release the fruits. That sounds rather declarative – “Release The Fruits!”. It’s a tannic monster now. So, decant for an hour or two at least. Or put it down below and wait. Loads still out there, so get a case. I’d open at the cottage this summer after a decant or wait until 2019-20.

I love sushi and rosé. It has to be a zippy rosé and can’t be wimpy either – so Tavel, Bandol or, as in this case, Provence. This past week, I enjoyed some Ahi, Hamachi and Unagi nigiri, and a dragon roll with 2016 Caves d’Esclans Whispering Angel #325076 $29.95. You have to ask yourself, “Why do we like wasabi so much?” And, how could it possibly go with any beverage? But it does. I’ve even had it with a sparkler. Shouldn’t be too surprised as we’ve all had hot-to-suicide wings with beer.This Angel is a special rosé for me. A big splurge when you consider how many great rosés there are under $20. It’s worth it. Elegance. Substantive (Grenache, Vermentino, Cinsault).

We found a great value Chardonnay, 2016 Cono Sur Bicicleta #321448 $10.95. I’ve read other bloggers review this line and I’ve tried their Pinot Noir and the Viognier. I was pleasantly surprised. This one is pretty simple but simple and tasty. Lightly soaked (or in a non-AutoCorrect world ‘oaked’) and refreshing. Great party white. You could serve your neighbours this while keeping the more expensive stuff for yourselves. That’s what we do.

A couple of decent picks in the March 17 release are:

2016 Robert Oatley Signature Series Chardonnay #350900 $18.95 A great very lightly oaked fresh, crisp Chardonnay.

2015 Château de Nages Vieilles Vignes Costières de Nîmes #040964 $19.95 Quintessential Southern Rhone Grenache – dark fruits, briary, and peppery finish.

2014 Baigorri Crianza #376376 $22.95 Punching way above its weight as a Crianza. The 2009 Baigorri Reserva #319814 $29.95 is also available. This is an example of a wine that you don’t serve your neighbours.

Cheers. Off to drink some wine. Lots of wine, I hear.

Bill

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

 

 

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