Sunday, March 26, 2006

California dreamin'

Well, here we are in the middle of the Columbia mountains at a heli-ski resort, drinking what we hope is good wine. Tonite and last night we drank 3 bottles of california wine for comparison. There was quite the spread in prices, always interesting to compare wines from similar regions that cost different amounts. We started with Cigare Volant, Bonny Doon vineyards, 2001. This is a Rhone-style blend of grapes, done california style. Usually this is a dependable wine; this vintage was however not up to scratch. It was pleasant enough, very smooth and easy drinking, but the $50 price tag is always in the back of your mind.
The verdict: OK. Certainly nothing special.
Value: POOR!!! would I buy another - not this vintage, no way.

The Sterling 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, NAPA valley, is a little austere but still easy drinking; a classic "low grade" napa cabernet, again nothing special. It was however at least as good as the more expensive cigare volant.
The verdict: OK.
Value: fair at $19. Would I buy another? probably not.

Avalon, NAPA valley Cabernet sauvignon, 2003 was the best of the 3. It was very pleasant, sophisticated, light berry fruit and fine grained tannins.
The verdict: Good.
Value: Good (for california cabernet in canada; I would probably buy australian or chilean for the same $ but get better value).

So, here's hoping we get more ski runs in tommorrow coz today certainly wasn't that thrilling.


Thursday, March 23, 2006


I thought we'd have a treat tonite so I opened, with great anticipation, a multi-award winning wine, the Australian Warburn 2002 cabernet merlot premium reserve. It is easy to get seduced in the wine shop with nice labels and all sorts of medallions (see left) plastered over the bottle but deep down, I must have known there was a reason I only bought one bottle.
There was not much on the nose and the first taste was Yech! Tasted like old tobacco, very vegetal. It didn't open up over 2 hours either. Could only stomach 1 and a half glasses. Didn't taste "corked" so can't blame the cork.
The lesson to be learned is watchout for all the fancy stickers (and remember - a "gold" award does not mean the wine actually won a competition - it just means that it scored above a certain level, and who knows what that level was supposed to be. Each wine show/competition can award dozens or even hundreds of "gold" medals).

The verdict: CRAP
value for the money: at $18, a complete waste.

ps: I'm off skiing for a week so I'll summarize the hopefully excellent wines we taste when I get back.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Malbec Experience

Well we finished off the Routas Infernet from yesterday and boy did it open up after 24 hours. Just goes to show that I should have decanted the wine and given it time to "breathe" (sounds wierd, huh? - decant a $12 wine! just goes to show, don't judge a wine by its price) before guzzling it down. Wines of a medium age can sometimes "close down" and their true colours only show after they mature; decanting a wine and leaving it for a while may mimic this maturation (by exposure to air - mostly the oxygen in the air - which will then change the chemical nature of the wine via oxidation).
Enough mumbo jumbo, lets taste!!
Well the girlfriend won 1st prize in a photography competition today so she wants to have a bottle of wine to celebrate. So I pull out the top bottle and it turns out to be an Argentine malbec, Finca Flinchman Reserva, 2004. Argentina is one of the biggest wine producers in the world and they are arriving in north america in greater numbers. Malbec is their signature grape. This one has a medium dark stained cork, a smoked meat nose and is pretty black in the glass (Malbec is the the grape of Cahors in France, known for it's black wines; in "weak" years, in the past, some Bordeaux winemakers would sneak some Cahors into their barrels to "strengthen" their wines). On the palate it is medium full bodied and delicious. Soft smooth tannins leave a nice finish.
The rating: GOOD.
Value for the money: I think it was in the $10-15 range - buy a case at this price!

Cheers! By the way, here is the winning photo:

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Old Routas

Well just got back from the last hockey game of the season and what's waiting? a nice glass (I hope!) of wine. I opened a Chateau Routas Infernet 2000. I remember having this wine years ago and remember it being deep and delicious, not the usual crappo wine from the south of France, so when I saw it in the shop I snapped up the last 2 bottles. Well, the euro can't be doing too well because the bottle was incredibly cheap considering the producer has had to store this wine for 5 years (or, alternatively, maybe the wine will be incredibly bad...). The wine is from the appelation Coteaux Varois and made from a blend of grenache and syrah.
Popping the cork released a restrained allspice nose. On the palate it is a middle weight wine, tasting of raspberry jam (the girlfriend got more of a spicy fruitcake sensation, something I wish she got more often....).
The ratings: OK, a perfectly good monday night wine.
Value for money: at $12.95, right on.


Diemersfontein and the big chili

Well, here it is, the first posting. The wines I drank this weekend were recommended by Natalie Maclean, a well known wine critic in Ontario (the Diemersfontein) and the Wine Spectator, a "Daily Pick" (the Santa Rita).
So, how did they fare?? First I opened the DIEMERSFONTEIN, Pinotage, 2005 with great expectations. The label on the back says, "this is the one!, it befriends, it converts, it seduces". This is a South African wine, made with their signature grape; I can't honestly say I've ever had a "wow" wine made from pinotage, so I did have some reservations about the recommendation. Well, what an interesting wine. It smelled and tasted of coffee to me. My girlfriend went one better and hit the nail on the head - coffee crisp!! This wine is like drinking a coffee crisp bar. And the finish is loooong.
The rating: GOOD.
Value for money: Cost $23, would I buy another at that price? - just one bottle to let my friends try it because it is sooooo different.
I quickly opened the second wine with a "Oh, probably another good but non-descript Chilean effort", but was quickly blown away. The SANTA RITA, shiraz reserva, 2002 smelled like a bowlful of fruit and oak and had the stuffing to back it up on the palate. Simply delicious and the second best chilean shiraz I can remember (the best was a Luis Felipe Edwards Reserva that I had about 5 years ago; unfortunately, none of his efforts have stood up to it since).
The rating: WOW.
Value for money: Cost $14, it doesn't get any better than this at this price!