An honest, no-nonsense appraisal about the wines I have recently drunk - based on a modified Cyr rating scheme (see right panel). The bottom line will be, IS IT WORTH IT? From experience (some of it bad - read COSTLY) I have found that paying a lot for wine does not always mean great wine. I am based out of Canada, so prices and availability are for Quebec and Ontario. PS: CLICK ON THE IMAGES if you want to enlarge them!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.