Saturday, December 29, 2012

Turkey Shoot

 I can't resist trying Mexican wines.  One of my great regrets is not stopping at the Cetto Bodega in
Baja - we flew by on the Baja highway as the cold fog rolled in from the Pacific, all intent in putting in as many miles as possible so we could make down to Bahia de Los Angeles.  These guys make real California wine (Baja California - get it?) at a pretty good price point.   So - it's turkey time and I wanted to try the L.A. Cetto Nebbiolo Private Reserve 2005 with the turkey, but also to see what the Mexicans can do with this varietal compared with the Italians.  You don't see nebbiolo outside of Italy very often. I chose a low end barolo to compare it to in order to be fair - the Patrizi Barolo 2008.  Both wines clock in at 14%.  The Cetto had a very delicate nose of violets with hints of vanilla.  Medium bodied with a nice sharp attack - almost tart.  Pomegranate and cranberry fruit with a medium-long finish.  Great turkey wine.  Overall, a good wine, a fair effort for $20.
The Patrizi is much lighter and brickier looking than the Cetto, despite being younger.  Very shy nose.  Medium bodied but less dense than the Cetto.  Red currants.  This wine definitely needs food and was good with the turkey, although not a very pleasant sipper. OK wine, not worth the $30.
After a couple of hours the wines opened up a little and diverged in character.  The Italian turned to tobacco notes, the Mexican to linzer torte with mint/camphor.
Score this one for the Mexicans.
 Right, it's Christmas, so had to throw in another contender - the Ramon Bilbao, Rioja Gran Reserva, 2004.  Tempranillo, 13.5%, 3 years in the barrel.  First sip is a wow - soft, luscious, smooth with black fruit mixed with vanilla, coconut, coffee.  However, unfortunately, the mouthfeel is a little thin.  Also good with the toikey, but would make a good sipper.  Too bad, with a little more body and complexity, this would be worth multiple purchases.  $26. 
Cheers and Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tasty New Argentine Offerings

SAQ had a sale on, a whole 10%!!  So off we went to try out some new offerings.
 A bunch of Argentine wines got my attention, scoring between 90-92 points WS.
First up was the 25/5, Desierto, Cab. Franc, La Pampa, 2009.  14.9%.  Smells like no other CF I've had, with a nose of cranberry sauce and apples.  It's racy, acidic, medium bodied, with a sharp finish, but perhaps a bit simple.  The fruit is light fleshed plums.  No CF herbal/green pepper notes here.
This wine sang with the wood-grilled pork chops.  Good wine, good value at $17.

Next up is the Colome, Estate Malbec, 2010 from Salta.  Now this is a high altitude vineyard, up to 9500 feet!  This winery is championed by the WS columnist Matt Kramer.  Intense malbec nose with watermelon.  Intense fruit on the palate as well - fresh black figs.  Dark, dense and full bodied but not chewy at all.  Hides it's tannins well.  The oak (15 months 1st and 2nd use barrels) is so well integrated you wouldn't guess it was there.  Very easy drinking, sails right along.  Better with food though - mutes the bright notes and makes it more enjoyable.  14.5%, $25.  Good wine.
Last was the Achaval Ferrer, Malbec, 2011, Mendoza.  The generic bottling from this malbec specialist.  A more floral nose than the prior two wines.  Smells like walking into a florist shop - violets and freesias. Racy and zippy, the flowers stay on the palate like nectar.  The most intense wine of the three.  Full bodied but carries less weight than the Colome.  Went well with the salad dressed with aged balsamic, moreso than with the pork. 14.5%, $24.  Good wine also.
So none of the wines hit the "wow" factor, although all were enjoyable.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Summer Refreshments

 Have been going through some whites and rose as the temperature climbs.  But have also started to drink the Niagara wines we bought 2 years ago in case they don't last...would hate to keep them in the cellar for 5 years or more to find them turning into crap.  So started with a relative cheapo, assuming these would not last as long as the pricier wines.  The Konzelman Estate, Cab Sauvignon Reserve, Niagara-on-the-Lake 2008 rings in at about fifteen bucks.   On the nose it is movie theater popcorn butter (translation: fake butter) and green peppers.  To taste, it's full bodied and ALL about green peppers - definitely on the veggie side - closer to Cab Franc than CS??  Crunchy.  Not bad, actually a good food wine.  Worth checking out given it's cheapo price (for Ontario reds).
Back to the whites.  Bargain of the week is the La Puerta, Torrontes, 2011 from the Famantina Valley in Argentina.  Torrontes is an up an coming varietal championed in Argentina, is generally very floral and perfumed, and usually light and quaffable.  This stuff has a floral and lychee nose with bright tropical fruit on the palate.  Very refreshing, so easy to drink.  All for nine bucks - there are not many wines this price that taste so good...this is light years better than it's stable mate on the shelves, the similarily priced Fuzion, a blend of Chenin Blanc and Torrontes, which is pure garbage.  Another good cheapo is the Chilean Cono Sur, Chardonnay, "bicycle label", NV at about $11.  A little less enjoyable but very drinkable bargain is the South African Robertson Winery, Chenin Blanc, 2011 at $10. Even better is the Megalomaniac, 2011 Homegrown Riesling, Cellar 4379 - a good example of Niagara riesling and well worth the $13.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Odds 'n Ends

Summer's here (I think!), so time to start sampling some cheapo whites that will be quaffed quickly on those lazy, hot afternoons.  K picked up an Indian wine that she saw - not as cheap as I like my white quaffers but she thought it might be interesting to try.  Hmmmm... interesting is not the word I would choose to describe this beverage.  I call it a beverage because I am not sure what manner of drink it resembles.  The Sula Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 comes from Nashik, 180km from Mumbai.  It has the MOST green pepper vegetal nose I have ever smelled, although a friend (Ben, you know who you are!) thought it smelled like asparagus piss (that smell that your pee gets after eating asparagus).  Drinking it is like drinking a green pepper smoothie, without the bits.  K said that it reminded her of an algae clogged water filter from one of her guppy evolution experiments.  Very overpriced at $14.   Drink this VERY cold if you have to drink it.  Or, better still, buy the Citra, Terre di Chieti, Chardonnay.  Can't remember the vintage, probably 2010 but could have been 2011...doesn't really matter as this producer makes pretty consistent, very drinkable plonk.  Worlds apart from the Sula, this has a pleasant lemon pineapple nose and a snappy grapefruit palate.  Nice acid, very refreshing.  Drink at about 8 degrees, doesn't need to be mind-numbingly cold to enjoy.  If you take it for what it is, it's an absolute bargain at $9 a litre.  

 Shooo - go away!!  The Shoo fly, Shiraz, 2009 is from "somewhere" in southern Australia.  They don't exactly say where from, but they tell you their 2007 juice made a Wine Spectator "top 100" list a while back.  Almost opaque, bricky purple.  Big minty eucalyptus nose - dead giveaway for Aussie shiraz.  Jammy, sweet, big black fruit but too minty on the palate.  No chewy tannins here - this is alcoholic fruit juice.  A struggle to enjoy.  Waste of money - this is VERY generic Australian shiraz that could have been made at any of a hundred south Australian wineries.  

Instead, go out and get the Malondro, Besllum, 2008, from Montsant in Spain.  50-50 old vine carignan and grenache (garnacha).   Moderate colour depth, ruby.  Very floral nose with hints of vanilla.  Medium-full bodied, some creamy oak but balanced by tart cherries.  Stood up very well to rib roast.  Quite pleasant and very drinkable - won't knock your socks off but good wine and worth the $20. If you see it on a restaurant wine list for $40 would make a smart buy.

        OK, now for the bargain of the day.  And this winery up in the lesser known province of San Juan in Argentina (as opposed to Mendoza) bangs out the bargains!  And to think that the owner of Southern Cross Lands (a large fly-by-night Wine real estate company in Mendoza) once told me when asked  - "San Juan?  A wine region?  They can't make good wine up there..."  Pffft.  Either he didn't know what he was talking about or he was trying to foist some crappy Mendoza land off on unsuspecting foreigners (or maybe both!).
Anyway, this is some serious juice.  The Las Moras, Tannat, 2010 is dense, chewy, bold, rich and damn good.  But if you are not a fan of  American oak, maybe stay away.  However, I like the fact there is some tannat rusticity to the wine as well.  And I really like the price.  $15.  Wow.


Monday, May 07, 2012

Cuban Plonk

Cuban wine?? WTF.  Not what I expected to find there.  Talk about "hot climate" wine.  But you know me, I had to try it.  The one I found was called Soroa from Bodega San Cristobal, NV.  They only get 12% abv, bit of a surprise as I'm sure they have no problem ripening the grapes....mmm, no idea what kind of grapes they use.  The red wine was a shocker - and not a good one.  A mixture of diesel, vinegar and stewed plums.  Almost undrinkable (LOL)!!  Yuk.  Price is right, though, only $2.50 cdn.  The white is, well, I won't go there.  Nuff said.   Best to stick to what they do better:

Or the rum, of course (although there is some real gut rot rum down there as well).

Right, back to reality.  Found  a stray bottle of Condesa de Leganza, Tempranillo Reserva 1995, Finca Los Trenzones in the cellar.  I had picked up a dozen bottles years ago as the price was right - $12.95.  Why so cheap you ask - because it's from a not too highly regarded appelation, La Mancha.  Well what a surprise - this stuff is still good!  Opaque brick with lotsa vanilla and coconut (this spent 24 months in "barrels").  Full bodied, chewy, toasty, still some dark plum fruit.  LONG finish.  Wow.  This blew a Penfolds Bin 28 shiraz (2004) that I had recently a fraction of the price.  Spanish wine can really age well.  
Cheers!!! Looking forward to a good wine weekend coming up, the first of the spring...
(Plaza Mayor, Trinidad, Cuba)

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Fed Up

I am sick and tired of some of the garbage that is being packaged as mid priced wine. Yeah, the $15-20 range, that "sweet spot" - cheap enough you can drink it mid week, but may still be a very good (sometimes even great) wine. By garbage I mean don't mean a bad, undrinkable bottle, but rather one that really is way overpriced - one that should be in the "bargain" range of $5-10. The latest culprit is the Boekentroutskloof, The Wolftrap, Syrah-Mourvedre-Viognier, 2010 from South Africa. No nose. Light to medium bodied. A terrible sipper with really nothing going for it - was like grape flavoured hard candy. It was more drinkable with a nice beef stew, but really didn't add anything to the meal and certainly did not really stand up to the stew. Don't drink this one without food. $15. Rating: Crap wine by itself, OK if drunk with appropriate food. But please, save yourself some money and buy this if you want a cheap drinker:
The Santa Isabella, Cabernet Sauvignon, Valle Centrale, Chile comes in 3 litre box for about $30. So it knows where it stands, and does admirably for the price. 12.5% alcohol. Has a "real" wine nose - that is, smells of fruits, not bubble gum or candy. Slightly sweet, mellow, soft - tastes more like a merlot than a cab. Red berries but with a little white pepper on the back end that keeps it interesting. Gulpable. OK wine, bang on for the money.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ridge and a Surprise

Ridge is one of my favourite California wineries. One of the best Cabs I have had came from their Monte Bello vineyard in the Santa Cruz mountains. But they are perhaps better known for a whole slew of single vineyard Zinfandels. To go with these wood-grilled T-bones we opened a 2003 Pagani Ranch Zinfandel.
It is actually 90% zin with the rest petite sirah and alicante bouschet. This is a mature heavy hitter, coming in at a not shy 15.3% alcohol whose heat can be felt on tasting. Shy nose. On the palate there are prunes and dried figs, earthy but still refreshing enough when paired with the big fat smokey T-bones. Nice to see a zin that can age a little. Good wine. $30-40 in the US for a more current vintage.
What on earth is this concoction you may ask? It makes a good story - my youngest brother used to dabble at winemaking in his previous life. He made plum wine from the plum tree in his backyard and pear wine from the pear tree in our parents backyard. The plum wine actually won a medal at a country fair, but I preferred the pear one - it actually tasted of pears, with a clean palate that belayed it's rather amateur upbringing. At one point he decided to try making "port" - from fresh grape concentrate meant for winemaking. To boost sugar content he chaptalized with either maple syrup or mashed bananas (the local depanneur was throwing out a whole bunch of overripe bananas). The must was fortified with cheap Mexican brandy that we had brought home after a trip through the Mayan ruins of the Yucatan. How did it turn out? pretty darn good considering the wines humble beginnings. And the damn stuff got better with time!
On Christmas day I was making gravy for the turkey and stumbled across a bottle in my vinegar and condiment area - it was an old bottle of the "port" with about a glassful of brown liquid in it that I had forgotten about...hmmm....probably vinegar by now I thought. Smells OK though. Should I try it? Why not. A little sip revealed no horrid surprises. A mouthful revealed a treat - this stuff had turned into a fine tawny. Lusciously sweet still, with raisins, figs, treacle! Too bad it was all gone in a matter of minutes. Just got back from a Boxing day dinner at Joe and Lianne's. Always a wine treat - we sampled St Supery Elu, Torres Mas La Plana cab, Luca Nico Malbec, Kacaba Niagara merlot, Caymus special select cab and my favourite, the Paul Hobbs 2006 Napa cab. And then he opened a 1980 Dow and a 1985 Smith Woodhouse. WOW!! Best wine night of the year.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rubber Chicken

Ever try any Long Island wines? Long where you say? North Fork, Long Island, New York state to be exact. This peninsula is surrounded by water (Atlantic on one side, a bay on the other) which moderates the winter chill. Castello di Borghese has the oldest vines in the region, so this winery should show us what the area is capable of. Their 2009 Chardonnay has a Meyer lemon, butter nose. It is vivacious, bright and citrusy with floral accents, driven by really nice acidity. Very clean, medium bodied, so easy to drink. Let it come it come up to 8 - 10 deg. Celsius or so to show off it's flavours. This is pretty good wine. Can't wait to tour the region and see what they can do with their reds as well. $17 at the winery, and worth it.
Dang. Missed it by a year. Happens all the time, I read about a highly rated wine, then when in the wine shop needing a bottle I spot the label but don't remember the vintage that earned the accolade. So I buy it anyway and hope it's the "right" year. The Ruffino, Modus, Toscana is a blend of Sangiovese (50%) and equal parts Cab S. and Merlot (25% each). The 2007 scored a soaring 96 points in the WS, enough for me to keep my eye out for it. Too bad I had picked up a bottle of the 2006. Meaty nose. Very Italian tasting - dirty, smokey, burnt fruit. Wood is well integrated. Complex and harmonius, but you'd better like old world wines if you try this on. Classy wine, good, but at $30, would not buy this vintage again. Gotta keep looking for the 2007!
ps the rubber chicken (the orange thingy in the bread) is a meat thermometer for turkeys...thanks Nancy!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


The latest Wine Spectator top 100 list is out...and coming in at #58 is the Bodega Catena Zapata, Malbec, 2009. It is readily available where I live, so naturally I went out to buy some to try. And on reading the WS tasting note, I recommended it to a friend before actually trying it...?mistake or savoir faire?
Well, yes, it is a flashy, new world wine but really, there's not much too it. It did improve with time - it was a lot better the next day, but where in the world was the richness, the plum pudding, the fig paste, the layers of flavour that the experts are talking about? A "good" wine at a stretch, but a top 100 wine should be a "wow". And my buddy, to whom I recommended the wine to sight unseen, was pretty cheesed off. His bottle was "crap" - he and his wife left most of it on the table in the restaurant they were at, he found it so uninspiring. Worse still he berated me in the changing room at hockey as soon as I walked in. Very embarrassing Mr. Molesworth. The only defense you can have is that, with at least 75,000 cases imported into the USA (meaning there were at least a million bottles made), there is a lot of bottle variation. Very disappointing, this could have been a "must buy" at $21 if it came as advertised. Beware.

At least Malbec was vindicated the same weekend - but courtesy of France. The Clos Triguedina, Prince Probus, 2000 from Cahors is also 100% malbec. But what a difference! A beautiful, full bodied, structured, classy wine. Dark but not inky black, this is what Bordeaux should be but often isn't at this price point. Nicely tannic, this would cut right through steak. Muted black fruits, chewy with some licks of vanilla. $30. Wow.
Camembert veggie pizza from the brick oven...mmmm good. Cheers!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Smokin' Partners

Mencia is an uncommon grape from the little known (in North America) appellation of Bierzo in Spain. When I saw a review for the Pittacum, Mencia, 2006 in the WS recommending it as a smart buy (coz I like smart buys) scoring 92 pts, I had to give it a whirl. "Toasty, smokey aromas" they said. And since I was smoking a turkey for american thanksgiving (any excuse for a turkey, eh?) I thought it might be a match. Well I didn't get any smokey aromas - more like meaty cherry. On the palate, without decanting, it was rather weak and uneventful. After 2 hours of breathing it opened up to a thicker, medium bodied wine. "Deep, focused black cherry, mineral, licorice and mountain herb" they said. Mmmm. More like cola with slightly stewed black fruit and prunes. I don't disagree with the herb comment but they are definitely in the background. Good wine in the end, chuggable and food friendly, but too forgettable to score 92 points. It is worth the $19 though.

For only $3 more a much more satisfying wine (although not as food friendly) is the Magpie Estate, The Sack, 2005 Barossa Shiraz. This is the real deal - full bodied, opaque, dense, chewy, black fruit compote, hint of menthol. Drink up though, it's on the downside of it's life - you get the feeling the fruit is stewing slowly and losing it's freshness. Close to a "wow" wine, probably was 2 years ago.
ps here is the smoked beast:

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Brash Marketing

Woaaah...this label is so brash you almost need sunglasses to tone it down. Washington state's The Magnificent Wine Company's labels are all similar to this one, and certainly catch the eye, but is it a marketing hoax or is the wine any good? Well, the Pinot Noir, Columbia Valley 2006 is actually pretty darn good. Stinky old barnyard nose. Light to medium bodied, very smooth, burnt cherry fruit with a herbaceous edge and nice loooong finish. Great sipper. Wow. Not cheap up here at about $30, but if you like pinot, it's worth a whirl.
A different marketing ploy is adding a tag to the wine touting it's media merits - such as with the Delas, St.Esprit, Cotes du Rhone, 2007. The 2005-2007 Rhone vintages have been quite good, even the lower level generic wines are very drinkable. Robert Parker seems to have liked this wine back in 2008 giving it his magical "90" score, and the producer is not shy to show this mark off. The wine is somewhat light in the glass (7/10), and has a quite strong white chalk board nose. Medium bodied, strawberries, pepper and a little spice. It's a pleasant wine, but with no real structure, no appreciable tannins and a poor finish. "OK" wine, not worth seeking out. $18. Lose the tag, guys.

The Elderton, Ode to Lorraine, Barossa, 2006 is surprisingly light in colour (8/10) for a Barossa wine. Medium-full bodied, it is on the elegant side - no big joosy fruit bomb here. Could almost be mistaken for a new style Bordeaux. Balanced with very easy to handle tannins, as it airs out there are hints of caramilk smoothness. Good dinner wine. Not quite a "wow", but close. $40 is a bit steep for this wine.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More Mendoza

Continuing my visits to Uco Valley vineyards brings me to Altus, just outside the town of Tupungato (which itself is shadowed by the 22,000 foot Tupungato volcano). Tempranillo? the Argentines do well with French malbec and cabernet, Italian bonarda, so I thought why not Spanish tempranillo?. The Altus, Tempranillo, 2006 comes from a 1200 meter vineyard of 25 year old plants. Unfortunately the bottle I got had a strong sulfur nose (more fart than match-strike). Thankfully it tastes better, but I still left it for the next day as that nose was really off-putting. The next day the sulfur had largely blown off, leaving a meaty, plummy dark full bodied wine that still had a little funkiness going on. It scores as an "OK" wine, but maybe I got a bad bottle. 38 pesos.
Closer to the Uco town of Tunuyan is a beautiful little lodge called Postales del Plata. They even have a little 6 year old 5 acre malbec vineyard on the property, so when you have dinner there, it seems only right to drink their wine. You probably won't see it anywhere else anyway! Their 2007 Malbec has a spiced, floral, blueberry nose. Medium bodied, bright boysenberry and pomegranate, good bite and a fair finish - this is a good boutique wine (5,000 bottles/year) and you can see how a small, well run property can pump out good wine at a fair price in this region. 40 pesos.

Further up north in the Province of Mendoza comes the Altavista, Premium Malbec, 2007. A dark wine with blackberries and blueberries on the nose. Full bodied yet very approachable - slick, smooth, red and blue fruits, no hard edges, well made. Excellent with Bife Chorizo (a monster 3 inch thick grass fed beef steak from the pampas). 44 pesos/half bottle.
I finished this little trip sitting on the sidewalk terrasse in the downtown Mendoza restaurant La Florencia eating the best ribs I have ever had - charcoal grilled, meaty and tasty, and the Argentines put no gloopy syrupy sauce on these babies - they don't need anything else! The wine I was matched with was the Finca La Linda, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008. Only 6/10 for colour (this was the lightest wine of the week) it was a more elegant style of new world wine. Raw beef and crushed blueberry nose, it was medium bodied, spice driven with subtle blackberries. Very smooth and polished, but lacked tannic strength and that robustness I was looking for to chew through the pork ribs. A good lunch wine, though. 38 pesos/half bottle.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


Ahhh, harvest time. Ripe, sweet, fat malbec grapes. Nothing is better than tasting the grapes in the hot sun gazing at the Andes, and then eating a succulent bife chorizo at an outdoor table either at the winery or at a local restaurant.
Trapiche, seleccion roble, Syrah, 2007 has a warm, slightly oaky nose with some caramel. Medium-full bodied, very accessible, definitely oaked, the fruit is hiding but it sings paired with a juicy steak. Good wine, but not for the "oak monster" haters. 41 pesos/500ml (that's about $12) in the restaurant Winery. Total cost for a great meal, a glass of white Torrontes and the bottle of red wine was $30. That's a wow.
Bodega Giaquinta is just outside Tupungato in the Uco Valley. In local restaurants a few kilometers from the winery I tried their higher end and lower end malbecs. The lower end generic Malbec, 2007 costs 28 pesos, clocks in at 14% alcohol and is dark, opaque purple. Very ripe, almost sweet plums, very fruity, so dense it was close to being a dessert wine. Not the best dinner wine, more of a sipper, but would make a killer house wine for the price. This is way better than most cheap wines available up in Canada. No fakeness here, just an authentic, honest wine.
The most expensive wine in the restaurant was the Giaquinta, FG Malbec Roble 2004 at 58 pesos. Only 3000 bottles of this wine were made, so I don't expect to see this outside Mendoza. Vanilla and cedar nose. Medium bodied, gorgeous wine, smooth and very slick, fantastic blend of oak and blackberry fruit. This could be from Bordeaux (except for the price!). Wow.
Below is the view when you're stuck behind a truck full of grapes heading for the bodega in Lujan....Cheers!!