Tag Archives: zinfandel

Duff’s Book Club – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

7 Aug

Well, what’s everyone been up to? Me? I’ve been off these pages for better than a month. I’ve been at the lake, doing man stuff (building things, beer, baseball on the radio), boating, swimming, sitting, drinking a shitload of wine (that’s a anthonydoerrmetric measurement for my friends south of the border), and reading a lot. Some great books. Some very disappointing ones. On that score, I’ve decided that I will never read another book with the word “Girl” in the title. And, if the book also tells its story through several different unreliable narrators, I am out of here. Did anyone read Gone Girl? It was pretty sorry, wasn’t it? Everyone is writing books that mirror Gone Girl’s tale, technique, and style. I made the mistake of getting The Girl On The Train and The Good Girl under the guise that The Director would like them. Brutal. Why everything the same again and again until no one buys it?

rawihagePlease no more ‘Young Adult’ books that involve wizards, vampires, and/or post apocalyptic young women. Everything the same again. Uncle. I give up!

I did read some great books. The best of which were: Rawi Hage’s DeNiro’s Game, Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See, and a Carl Hiassen one that I probably read before – love him. I’m off to Spain next month so if you have some good reads to share, let me hear them.

This is a wine blog. So, on to the wine!

I thought that I’d just make this a mélange, a cornucopia, a bit of a mashup really of reds and whites.

Let’s start with Argentina. I was speaking with the son of a friend of mine and he said that every time he sees Susana Balbo’s Malbec, he buys it and then benmarcocswhen he takes it to an event, the host (if she/he even opens it- which is the peril of taking something that’s actually good to an event, isn’t it?), they remark that it’s great and posit that it cost a lot more than it actually did. The power of good winemaking is what that is. Well, this week, there’s another from Dominio del Plate (Susana’s home perch) 2013 BenMarco Cabernet Sauvignon #232637 $18.95. This is pure Cabernet Sauvignon. Cassis, structure, grip – a food wine. Hands up – how many people think California when they think Cabernet Sauvignon? Bordeaux? Chile? Australia (stay tuned)? Argentina? Now, if there is one person with their hand up, I’ll buy a new MacBook. I’m not sure if anyone thinks of Argentinean cab sav as ‘classical’. This may change your mind and it’s only $18.95! You may say that I’ve been a little too effusive about Susana in the past and you’d be right. Regardless of the past love, my eyes are open, this is good juice.

roscsStaying on the cab sav bandwagon, let’s travel to the Margaret River region of Australia. In Western Australia, they make the best Cabernet Sauvignon in Australia possibly with the exception of Coonawarra in some vintages IMHO. It’s warm, dusty, and crafty there. The 2012 Robert Oatley Cabernet Sauvignon #323741 $19.95 is one of those solid yet elegant reds. It doesn’t hit you over the head with tannins and acidity but everything nonetheless is yummy – subtley good. Restrained. I’d say this could be a sipper – as in, just pop and pour during the argument phase of the evening which happens at my place pre-dinner, post dinner or actually during dinner. Actually save the dinner for a bigger more flamboyant red. This carries redder fruits than other New World cabs.

eastonI always love a good zin and this week there’s a consistent one that costs a bit more but I’m good for it – the 2012 Easton Zinfandel (Amador County) #328377 $27.95. I first had this label at a zin tasting and it blew me away. A zin tasting is like a Bordeaux pre-release tasting. By the time I taste 10-15 wines, my palate is shot, if I was being honest. Oh, I still swish and spit and ooh and aah but it’s a farce really. My notes become more and more cryptic and vacuous (like my comments here?). Well, this wine in it’s 2010 vintage broke through the sock mouth and showed leather notes, red fruit, and an earthiness that I don’t always associate with Zinfandel. This vintage is similar. Not heavy, good grip, and a burst of red fruit. After you swallow, you get a nice finish with a smokiness or leatheriness. A very sophisticated Zinfandel at this price. I’d love to understand if it’s the winemaker or the vineyard or both that brings this experience. Maybe a trip to California for research?

closOn the white side, there’s a nice Muscadet. I do love Muscadet. This one, 2010 Clos les Montys Vieilles Vignes Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie #297911 $13.95 is a typical one. Salty, crisp, and full of pears. Love pears too. This is the perfect accompaniment to shellfish simply prepared and eaten al fresco under the stars. OK, you could have it in the living room too. I had a comment a long time ago. The troll wondered why I slagged Pinot Grigio but loved Muscadet. Well, 1. it’s my blog and I’m OK with you thinking I’m contradictory, and 2. They are not remotely the same wine! Go ahead PG lovers, pick this up and have with the aforementioned shellfish or fresh field tomatoes and tell me that reminds you of PG.

yEvery year I mention the 2014 Yalumba The Y Series Viognier #624502 $16.95. I had this vintage at a restaurant while I waited for a colleague. Yes, that’s right, I started drinking before he got there. I know I have a problem. This wine just bursts from the glass – peaches and cream. Such an invitation to gulp! But, don’t. You’ll miss the bright acidity and lovely mouthfeel. It’s smooth and spicy at the same time.

contradeSplurge alert – in winegeekdom, there’s a club called the Wine Century Club. The goal of the club is to drink wines made with 100 different grapes. I started to fill in the forms with every different grape I sampled. But, like every other endeavour I undertake, I ran out of steam. But, if I was still doing the note taking, the 2012 Contrade di Taurasi Grecomusc’ #418715 $32.95 would have to be included. This wine is made from the Roviello grape. I associate Taurasi with red wines. I hadn’t heard of the white Taurasi made with Roviello. This was a glass in a restaurant again so I’m going with memories only here. Anyway, this white wine is all citrus and spice and incredibly strong. Not strong as in medicine but strong as in it’s intensity. It has a big backbone of acidity and I bet needs a few years or some time in the glass and warmth to express itself. Very interesting and worthy of a pick up in your Wine Century Club pursuit.





Dude, It’s The Red Daily Slosh

3 Jun

zinfandelvinehttp://www.dictionary.com ‘s slang definition of ‘gnarly’ is “distasteful; distressing; offensive; gross”. Clearly a winemaker wouldn’t use this word in the name of its wine as an attempt to be cool and current. “Buy our wine, it’s distasteful! And, it’s gross too.” So, why do we find 2011 Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin Zinfandel #678698 $17.95 on our shelves this weekend? Perhaps, it’s the non-slang meaning of the word – which is “gnarled”. The picture above sums up the connection for this wine. Zinfandel vines are: 1) gnarlysome of the oldest vines in California; and 2) pruned in a way that features big, thick gnarled vine stalks with curly grape producing vines at the top, like a head, as it were. Now, why this same producer makes Gnarly Head Merlot, Gnarly Head Pinot Noir, and Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon sans a de facto ‘gnarly head’ for these varietals is a mystery for another time. It’s just plain distressing. Getting to this wine, this is one of those consistently yummy zinfandels that brings in the fruit and the power that we’ve become used to from California zins – perfect for the backyard, round enough for standing, swilling, and arguing but with enough stuffing for some burgers or ribs. Yes, I think ribs would be great with this wine.

alamosI’m hearing grumblings that many of my Daily Slosh recos are not all that ‘daily’, price-wise. I admit to a bit of price creep over the last couple of years. But, you have to work with what you’ve got. In the spirit of shaving a few bucks off the $20 norm that I’m accused of, let’s take a trip to Argentina; which along with Chile probably brings the best value wines available in these parts. The Catena family makes wines from $9 to a billion dollars a bottle. I think that I’ve waxed on enough about the Alta line, especially the cabernet sauvignon, so I won’t bore you. This week, there’s their 2010 Alamos Selección Malbec #322800 $16.95. (image courtesy of www.mightygrapes.com). This wine is all that malbec can be. It’s got loads of personality so not insipid and monotone like that über cheap one that we all know and are forced to drink. It has a strong tannic thread through the sip, swish, and swallow. But, don’t think that’s a bad thing. It just prepares your mouth for the finish of dark fruits. Neal Martin of www.erobertparker.com says this wine has ‘chutzpah’. It certainly does.

 And, don’t forget that I recommended a couple of other Argentinean wines a while back. I bought a bunch of the Terrazas malbec and it is a great sipping wine and still around and priced right.

 argadensWhat did I say last time out? That I’d be looking for Bordeaux that comes in at the ‘daily’ range and still delivers. This week, there’s another goodie. The 2009 Château Argadens #681843 $17.95 is a great example of price conscious Bordeaux that, like all good Bordeaux, still has the legs to stand in your basement for a while. Or, let it breathe for a few hours before serving. It represents a pretty solid red with more interest and stuffing than you might expect. Buy a couple and just let them be, let them be, let them be, oh let them be for awhile (say 2 years) and see what age does to a solidly built wine. Great with red meat or sharp cheeses.

bilahautNow, when I recommend anything in the following stable of wines, the phone rings off the hook with accolades and comments about my astute wine savvy and, oh yeah, my modesty. That wine stable – the one that is oh so good – is Bila-Haut and this week brings 2011 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon-Villages #168716 $14.95! Great winemakers make great wines at all price points. M. Chapoutier makes this beauty and it’s hitting way over its weight – which proves the point. This is full-bodied and lures the smell of the south of France right out of the glass. What does Emeril say? “Bam!” Loads of fruit, plenty of woody, briary stuff and still enough tannin and acid to strike a great balance. If you love wines from this region and I see that some of you do, you can put your hands down now, place an advance order to ensure you get this red. And, yes, the bumps on the bottle are Braille. Probably a great one-liner about why and when Bill might need the Braille but I think I’ll pass.

balbasSecond consideration from an earlier recommendationBalbas Reserva. Had a bottle the other night with friends and all at the table were gobsmacked. This Spanish beauty may be the steal of the year @$20.95. It’s just so gentle and interesting. I vote for Balbas for the Red Daily Slosh of The Year (RDSOTY) and reserve the right to change my mind later on. There’s lots left in Ontario, you just need to know where to look.

Let me know if you have a RDSOTY candidate.



Try It You’ll Like It – Red Daily Slosh

9 Apr

eastonlabelThe zinfandel tasting that I went to this time last year had a remarkable Easton Estate Zinfandel from 2006, I believe. It was full of interest and, despite the fact that we had already sipped, swished, and spit or swallowed too many zinfandels (when I say “too many”, that’s a lot of zinfandel), this one captured our attention. I’ve subsequently had their 2000 Estate Bottled Zinfandel which is widely available and overflowing with coffee, chocolate and alcohol. This week, the 2010 Easton Zinfandel #328377 $22.95, their entry level zinfandel, arrives. It isn’t nearly the fun that their estate bottlings are but bears some of the same house style characteristics. Spicy, structured and mouth-watering. It could even take a few years in the basement or closet. As summer (AKA grilling season) approaches, you need to stock up with zinfandels anyway, so this is a start.

KimCrawPNKim Crawford wines are featured this week at the mothership. We’ve all had them. Probably the sauvignon blanc, in particular – pretty dependable, depending on vintage. The 2012 Kim Crawford Pinot Noir #626390 $19.95 is one of those. Dependable Kim Crawford wines, that is. I’ve served this (an earlier vintage) at a New Zealand wine tasting and people weren’t prepared for the tang that this wine can hold. It’s a good tang. It’s a pinot noir tang. And, if that’s your……tang, you should pick this up. Loads of red fruits and a little smokiness too. It’s pretty fresh and could use some time in bottle or swishing violently in your glass. Leaving it for a year or two would soften the wine for sure.

There was a great discussion on a blog that I follow www.savorencyclopedia.wordpress.com about New World versus Old World wines. Sometimes readers take my advice (which never ceases to amaze me) and try Old World wines when they’ve been swilling New World Aussie shiraz, California cabs, and Fuzion since they were babies. These readers sometimes tell me that they can’t see what the big deal is with, say, Italian wines because they are too ‘sour’. It makes ‘em pucker. Well, embrace the pucker! Let it dissipate (“thaw, melt and resolve itself in to a dew” – apologies to Bill Shakespeare) and taste villa cafaggiothe fruit that these wonderful reds offer – Bonus Track – you get all the musty, floral/herabally, earthy, cedary stuff too. Wait, there’s more. You get the feeling that you’re actually there – in Italy – sitting outside overlooking a piazza, Monica Bellucci pushing a flower cart, an older woman in black with a sack of fresh baked baguettes on her shoulders (they smell fantastic – the baguettes that is), two older men playing chess at a café table, did I mention Monica Bellucci? All this as lead up to a Try-It-You’ll-Like-It red from the Old World – 2009 Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico #176776 $19.95. This wine is medium bodied with some good smack but not too much. It has loads of personality in the way of sangiovese red fruit (cherry?) and some essence of the spice that I like in the Chiantis I love the most. Go ahead, try it, you’ll like it.

marransI feel that Beaujolais is a bit under appreciated. How many times do you hear anyone say, “Back up the Beaujolais truck and unload a case or two.” Never. Is it the memories of Beaujolais Nouveau past? Is the name too silly sounding; reminding you of a French Foreign Legion flick? (Note: Shout out to anyone who gets that last line) Is it because it isn’t pursued and analyzed to death by the wine cognoscenti? What’s not to like with a food friendly wine that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? This week 2011 Domaine des Marrans Fleurie #324897 $19.95 hits the shelves. Fleurie is usually the freshest of Beaujolais for me – maybe a bit lighter but still packin’. This one should be chilled a bit – maybe 15 minutes in the fridge to release all the good stuff. Serve with a whole lot of sunshine, a patio, and friends.

There’s a promotion of Portuguese wines this weekend. So, I have to mention something Portuguese. There are a bunch to try and fortunately (for me) I had tasted one and this is it. The 2009 Quinto do Portal Frontaria #324533 $13.95 is a fairly complex wine for the price point. This definitely has the Old World feel to it for me but rounder (not sure if we all mean the same thing when we say round – save that discussion for another time – I guess I mean that it doesn’t start with tannin or acid – so, not sharp in my mouth), a little oak, and some backbone despite the lack of attacking tannins. I like it a lot.

cusumanoOne last Old World red – 2008 Cusumano Noà #109512 $18.95. This red comes from Sicily. Little known fact – Sicily is Italy’s largest wine region and in most years produces the most wine of any region in Italy (courtesy of Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible if you don’t already you really should own this book). This wine is a blend that includes Nero d’Avola, a grape that I mostly associate with Sicily – maybe because most red Sicilian wines that we get here include this grape. When I’ve recommended a wine from this grape in the past, those that take me up on it (fools that they are) are enthusiastic in their praise for the wine – and send me expensive gifts by way of appreciation. Take me up on this one too. It’s not shy and brings lots of spice and earthiness. So, comparing to the Chianti above, it’s got more of a New World presence with an Old World pedigree. I am getting a bunch of this for BBQ’s at the lake. Who’s betting that they don’t last until summer?

A Splurge-off Between Two Graceful Powerhouses and a Super Duper Tuscan

14 Mar

RavensonwoodNow I ranted this week about the cost of California wine. I did hedge my indignation with a possible purchase of Chateau Montelena to discover that their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is not on offer just their chardonnay. Well, what to do? Maybe I could cheat a bit and get another of those rich, beefy cabs……….lots of label chasing potential (eh, CR?) as in Dunn, Caymus, Shafer, Rubicon. But, they are the examples that I referenced last week. Great wines all – just too rich for my blood. No, I think that I’ll spring for a zinfandel – 2009 Ravenswood Dickerson Zinfandel (#599183 $39.95). I spoke with Joel Peterson (Ravenswood founder and wine savant) last year, when I tried this and it all just made me want more of his wine; the talk and the taste, that is. This brand is zinfandel – well, and a few others too (I did wax last time about Ridge) – but you get it. We’ve all had their entry level zin and loved it. This is a step up in interest (spice, smoke, and more minerality – someone give me another word for that – than you usually get from zinfandel) and forcefulness. Not to say it’s heavy in the mouth or strong to the taste – it just brings it. But brings it with class and grace.

BaroloAnd, to drive home my point about pricing, let’s splurge – 2008 Paolo Conterno Riva del Bric Barolo    (#172783 $36.95.) From a small producer in Piedmont. Small as in 12 hectares and in the same family for 135 years. This is not an ageworthy wine, according to Antonio Galloni which is unlike much of Conterno’s previous vintage Barolos. This Barolo, like most, sneaks up on you – power under grace.  Love these.

VenerossoThe Super Tuscan that I get most vintages is 2009 Tenuta di Ghizzano Venerosso (#103218 $29.95). I guess that didn’t come out right. I mean that I’ve picked up this wine the past few vintages and this is the 2009 version. This is a beautiful wine – as in, it’s a beaut! If you liked Brancaia Tre and the Greppicante that I’ve recommended, this is a nice complement to those. My friend Michael says that these wines are ‘elegant” and I’d have to agree. This one is balanced throughout the sniff, swish and swallow and brings a nice medicinal (I mean that in a good way – minty, horehoundy thing) quality. Plus loads of fruit. I’m regretting the medicinal note. Let’s back up and try mint, a touch of sweetness and then there’s the usual tobacco stuff that I seem to always find in these wines. I can say ONLY $29.95 without a hint of irony. If you buy one, you’ll wish you’d bought more.

A Zinful Weekend for Splurges

1 Mar

2010 Chalone Estate ChardonnayLast year I attended a zinfandel tasting with some friends. It was a great opportunity to try some great zins, people watch, and discover that a million little sips add up to a poor start to the morning. When we arrived, we had to decide where we were going first, while our palates were unstained and uncompromised. And, probably more importantly, before we got a heavy buzz on. So, for my money these are two sure fire producers with several top-flight zin blends: Ridge and Ravenswood. Ridge was closest and we moved in on what was perhaps the best tasting of the night – Ridge Geyserville and Ridge Lytton Springs. The shelves are receiving 2010 Ridge Lytton Springs (#982413 $48.95) this week. I know its expensive and there are tones of worthy zinfandels that don’t cost half as much (am I talking you in to this purchase, or out of it?) but there has to be a night this summer where you will want to match a nice barbecued steak with a full-bodied special wine. No? OK, just pick this up so that you can tell friends, “Once in a while, I splurge.” This has the full aroma of zinfandel that is its distinctive trademark. Full-bodied, jammy and fun. Decant this one for a couple hours, or cellar for a few years.

Few California producers are synonymous with a grape variety to the extent that Chalone is with chardonnay. Continue reading

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