Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Beer Week Number Two

Just returned from a week in Puerto Rico. Wasn't what I expected - was better. This moderate sized carribbean island has a bit of everything - one of the oldest towns in the americas (the old town is well preserved), tons of beaches (some absolutely deserted), diving and mountains with awesome rainforests. The people are extremely friendly.
Above is part of the walls of old San Juan.

Here is a view from the tallest mountain in P.R., always seems cloudy up there.

Well, you ask, what does this all have to do with a wine blog? Not much, coz guess what we drank all week - it was 95F so we drank beer!!!
The local brew is called MEDALLA, and it's a good crisp lighter style beer, goes down VERY easily when you've finished a 4 hour climb in a rainforest, and even easier after a 30 minute walk in a "dry" forest (translation: essentially a desert, too hot and arid to allow normal trees to grow so filled with cacti and scrub).
Above is a picture of Mr. Medalla, his wife and his friend MOFONGO...what is mofongo you ask? It is a regional dish, a concotion of mashed plantains served with just about anything. Here it is served with seafood.

Here is Mr & Mrs Medalla in the cordilla centrale, a view from our hotel room (the beautiful Hacienda Agripinas), where we were the only guests apart from a couple from San Juan.

Oh, yes, we did have wine once - on the last night in P.R. we attended a wedding in San Juan where they served Frontera, Cabernet Sauvignon, from Concha y Toro. I don't remember the year, it was an okay plain quaffer.

The Verdict: Medalla gets good, the wine okay.
The vacation gets a thumbs up. Congrats to the married couple, Anne and Anthony!!


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Festival of Indulgence, Round Two

What you see on the left is a result of last night. To celebrate the first edition of the International Heliski Film Festival the participants and special guests were invited to a feast worthy of, well, overindulgence. Koko BBQ'd her wonderful spatched marinated chicken while Joel personally rubbed his 10 pound filet mignon with dijon. To go with the feast I started with a mini-vertical of the Leasingham Magnus that I enjoyed last week. We drank the 2000, 2001 and 2003 blindly; I have to give it to Joel, he correctly identified the 3. Very enjoyable little test. The Verdict: The 2000 won hands down, earned a WOW overall - this was Joel's favourite on the night. The later two magni got a GOOD each. Followed this with a little palate cleanser - the Concha y Toro Trio we had earlier this week. Very different, but held it's own, Big Fish Carlo chose it as his favourite (he's always been impartial to Chilean fruit bombs). Then the wines came fast and furious. Super guest Jimmy the Greek brought a Farnito, Cabernet Sauvignon supertuscan, 2000 to do battle. It was an elegant, already mature, smoothie. It earned a GOOD. Heli-star Wayne, not to be outdone, brought the tried and true Rosemount Estate Show Reserve 2001 Shiraz, already branded pretty much as a WOW, plus an untried dark horse - the Stella Aurea, Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 from Chile. I've seen this wine with it's cool label in the shop but have never bought it. So, rubbing my hands with glee, off came the cork to reveal a pink tinge. Not a blockbuster, but a smooth drinking effort, compared well with the Farnito. The Verdict was GOOD. Running out of the good stuff fast, Joel whipped out one of his old stanbys, the Domaine d'Auphilac 2002 from the south of France. It struggled in comparison with the competition tonight, could only manage an "OK". That prompted him to bring on the St. Hallet's, the Blackwell Shiraz, also recently reviewed, to save the night. Lovely as always.

I vaguely remember a Lebanese wine crawling out of the mists around midnight, can't really comment on it since I was off in la-la land by then. I'll have to ask around to find out how good it was.....

Oh, and by the way, the Best Film Trophy went to the dynamic "Powder Lords", a CH film in collaboration with Crush Studios. It's available free to all who would like a copy, for a limited time only. Just leave your address in the "comments" box.

There'll be no postings for the next week since my liver has to recover.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Trio it is!

Cracked the latest Merlot Trio from Concha y Toro, the 2004. It is called trio because it is a blend of 3 grapes, in this case mostly merlot with some carmenere and cabernet sauvignon thrown in. This line of wines has always impressed me - so I bought a bunch on a hunch that the good run continues. Well, I wasn't disappointed. Cutting right to the chase, the first mouthfull was a gorgeous creamy richly textured piece of work. No oak evident here, just the natural grape tannins adding body. Very impressed.
The verdict: damn good.
Value: Unbeatable at $14.95. It put the more highly recommended Falesco, Vitiano 2003 to shame at exactly the same price. It makes the Italian wine look like crap.

Looking forward to a good wine weekend...Jimmy said he's bringing something special. And, Carlo, maybe you'll get to taste the Trio described above!


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Recycling Time

I hope you all do this - if not, it will be Tetra-Paks for everyone!!!

Tonight opened Kilikanoon Killerman's Run Shiraz, 2002 from south Australia. Wow. What a mouthful of fruit, but there's more to it than just "jam" or "grapeyness". Almost like the Penfolds bin 389 without the "biting the tree" oakiness. This is a very enjoyable wine that can be sipped alone or drunk with food. Impressive.

The verdict: Good, not quite a wow. Value: Excellent at $17. Buy a dozen.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Ladybugs know...

Put six adults and 4 good bottles of wine together and the wine doesn't stand a chance...
First off was a Tedeschi Amarone 2001. The ladybugs know when they're onto a good thing and tried to slip into the bottle... This is a typical sweetish, porty, alcoholly (I don't think that's a word, but what the heck...) amarone. Amarone is made by allowing the picked grapes to dry on mats for weeks before they are crushed and fermented; they wrinkle up and the drying process concentrates the juices (sugars) so that you get a high alcohol, intensely flavoured wine. The Verdict: if you like amarone, this one's good. (And if you don't, then you're not likely to buy this anyway). Value: good in that amarones are not cheap; this is in the lower end of the scale at $35. If you want to spend less, try the Zenato Ripassa (they add what's left over from the amarone fermentation to some ordinary valpolicella like wine, this "thickens up" the flavours at much less cost than the amarone...).
The Rolling, Cabernet-Merlot, 2004 from Australia has a trendy, pretty cool label and is screwcapped; in this case the wine inside the fancy packaging has the goods - a light fruity nose, medium bodied fruity palate with no hard tannins. An enjoyable sipper with the appetizers. The Verdict: Good. Value: very good at $15.
The Penfolds Bin 389, Cab-Shiraz, 2001 has a beautiful vanilla oak nose (ahhh...the best), has the typical Penfolds full bodied style on the palate - dense black fruit followed by a long oaky finish (like chewing on a tree). This one goes on and on. Thanks for sending Lianne with this bottle, Joe (too bad you weren't there to drink it!). The Verdict: WOW. I love this wine. Value: a mid range Penfolds, about $30-40 depending on where you live. Worth every penny.
The problem with a wine like the Bin 389 is that you can't drink less intense wines afterwards - they just wilt in comparison. This happened to a Two Hands, The Lucky Country, Shiraz-Cab, 2004. And this is no fading violet - it is a pretty "big", jammy wine - a cross between fresh blackberries and blackberry jam, feels thick on the tongue. No oak apparent. 15% alcohol to boot. Not a food wine, and cannot be fully appreciated after a blockbuster like the 389. The Verdict was mixed. I give it a "good". Value: OK at 15-20 bucks, buy the Rolling Cab-Merlot instead.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Pointless Fruit

Or should the title read "Faulty Advertising". I hate that we have to buy wine blind - it's rare that you get a tasting in the wine shop, and let's face it, even reading write-ups in the wine magazines and newspapers can be misleading - who is to say what agenda the critic has and what his/her personal taste is? And the lingo they use...... I can forgive critics for hiding "okay" wines (they have to make a living) with descriptions such as "elegant" (translation: weak) or "fruit driven" (translation: no body), but in reality they should just say: "this is an OK wine, if it costs less than 10 bucks, drink it with pizza on a tuesday night" and we would have no pretensions and would enjoy it for what it is.
Which brings me to tonight's wine. The Ferngrove, Shiraz, Frankland River, W.Australia, 2003 promises to be a good wine - it has the usual marketing stuff - a nice label and the almost obligatory "Gold Medal" sticker on the front of the bottle (this one was for the world famous (ha ha) "Qantas wine show of western Australia", in a town called Mt. Barker). It won "class 18" - maybe it was the only wine entered in class 18.
Anyway, it pisses me off that they get away with what they say on their back label: "Black plums, licorice and spice on the nose" and "concentrated palate with dark fruit flavours and a fine, long finish". Excuse me. It smells like your average red wine and tastes lightly fruity, and that's it. No "spice", or "licorice", or "concentrated" or "dark fruit", and certainly NO long finish (what is a "fine" finish anyway??).
The verdict: Okay.
Value: crap for the money at $18. And what really pisses me off was that I believed their marketing and thought it would be a nice concentrated thick shiraz - instead I get pointless fruit (by this I mean I can get fruity flavours from fruit juice a lot cheaper and minus the alchohol...so why spend $18?). And, because I believed their hype, I bought 3 bottles and have to get rid of the other two without thinking about how much they cost....


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Clare Valley Taste-off

Tonight was decision time. I'm returning to my wine source in Ontario tommorrow, and it will be my last chance to buy some of their latest releases (before they disappear!). We had some interesting wines this week, some of which I have talked about. Two are left - and lo & behold, they are both from the Clare Valley in Oz land. Should be interesting. The first we tried was the Wakefield, Merlot 2004. This was advertised as a "huge wine". Well, huge it's not. It's actually a medium bodied, fruity sipper. Koko actually thought it continued with the jammy style that we seem to have been inundated with this week.
The verdict: Good. Kind of grows on you.
Value: at $17.95, good. I'll buy some more.
The foil was the Leasingham, Magnus, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003. I've had this wine in previous vintages, and they have always been good. The 2001 was most impressive, especially back in 2003 - a massive brooding tannic mouth coater, probably one of the best quality:value wines I have ever tasted (the best Q/V wine ever was the 1991 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz/Cab at $8.95 a bottle, it was a black masterpiece that has never been matched under the Koonunga Hill label. I bought 4 cases back in 1993, and the last bottle was consumed just last year. You have to pay at least 40 bucks to get a Penfolds wine that good these days...). OK, enough sidelines. The '03 Magnus is another dark wine with a black stained cork. This vintage is not overpowering like earlier ones - just a very nice medium dense and medium chewy example. Definitely fuller bodied than the Wakefield (kinda like like Pam Anderson vs. Cameron Diaz).
The verdict: Good.
Value: also at $17.95, very good. I'll buy twice as much as the Wakefield (and there's your ultimate tiebreaker!!!).
The best part - I have the 2001 and 2002 Magnus to compare with the '03 in a mini-vertical... anyone interested???


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Back to the "Old" World

But first...another go at the jam from yesterday...I left half a bottle of the Rabbit Ridge Zin to stew for 24 hours and lo and behold - what a difference. Much less in your face, but the fruit still slams the palate, albeit in a very smooth kind of way. Nice.
Tonight it was time for something different - more of a classic old world wine in two senses of the word. First, it is from Spain; secondly, the vintage is 1999. The Vallformosa, Gran Reserva Tempranillo-Cabernet Sauvignon (Penedes), is a classic full bodied very dry red (think pucker) with backbone. A restrained nose, teeth coating tannins, earthy with not much fruit apparent, this is not what you would call the most pleasant wine to drink but it is very well structured (hey it doesn't have to be seductive to be likeable). Needs a big fat steak.
The verdict: Good
Value: Fair at 20 bucks.

ps managed to find a whole case of the Blackwell Shiraz....buy it all...


Monday, May 01, 2006

Fruity Night

Ah well, those nice evenings have started. Nothing better than sitting outside and relaxing with a nice glass of vino. The Prado Ray, Roble, Ribera del Duero, 2003 is a no-nonsense fruity young wine from a hot vintage. It does better when allowed to breathe.
The Verdict: Good.
Value: Good at about 15 bucks a bottle.
For a mouthful of jam, try the Rabbit Ridge, Westside Zin, Paso Robles, 2003. This one packs quite the punch at 15.6% alcohol, but it hides well in all that fruit. Also has a little bit of cola on the palate (sounds wierd - jam and cola??? but it works). Don't expect any finesse or meaty tannins in this one, though.
The Verdict: Good.
Value: fair at $27; can do better for this price (see for instance yesterdays posting - the Blackwell shiraz is similar price, but a better value).

Coco factor: Koko preferred the cheaper wine!