Thursday, June 29, 2006


This world cup thing has me on edge - who will win the quarter finals?? Italy I hope loses - such a blatant engineered last minute penalty kick. I would be ashamed to claim such a victory (I'm serious about that - I would disown my own team if they did that). It's amazing how the mind works - I was sniffing around in the "cellar" for something to drink, was thinking of a Nippozano, but something mentally made me keep browsing - I settled on the Crios, Susanna Balbo, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003. I then realized that I was so disappointed with the Italians, that I purposely skipped their wine....
So, what about the Crios? - I have had their Malbec before, and thought it pretty good. But, initially it was blahhhh..., not too exciting, pretty thin on the palate. After scarfing a pizza it perked up, and finished quite well, kinda like a mouth coating cherry cola. Koko said it finished like a "good stout" beer, whatever that means. She liked it.
The verdict: OK by itself, good with food.
Value: can't complain at $14.

Cheers, and lets hope Shevchenko delivers justice (belatedly) for the Australians.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Beer Weekend!

Grand Prix weekend just finished in Montreal and the world cup rolls on...what could be better!

My beer swilling brother and his brother in law were in town for the festivities, which meant, well, lots of beer swilling. Nothing like a Dutch Saxon from Essex to enrich the coffers of the breweries. Loads of fun had by all (especially by Mark the Saxon, since "anybody but Schumacher" won and Beckham finally bent one in).

I still prefer that classic Canadian beer, Molson Export but my guests leaned towards the Black Label - a forgotten brand, but still enjoyable (Robbie said "wow, Black Label, haven't had it in years....damn, it's good).

Opened a Mexican (yes, Mexican) wine tonight to salute the valiant effort Mexico put in to almost subdue those perennial cheaters, the Argentinian football team on the weekend. At least it was a nice winning goal. The L.A. Cetto, Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 is from Baja, south of california. This is a hot peninsula but the vineyards are on the western side and are cooled by the pacific (I've driven past the vineyards and the coast here was downright chilly in June whereas the interior and eastern side was sweltering). They are actually some of the oldest (if not the oldest) vineyards in North America, believe it or not. Anyways, this one has a not unpleasant "winey" aroma. On the palate it is dry, not really tannic, has an undercurrent of blackberries but aches for food. The verdict: a solid "OK" wine. Value: OK at $12. Make sure you drink it with burgers, sausages or a pizza.


Sunday, June 18, 2006


Last night opened a cracker of a wine. The Condesa de Leganza, reserva, 1995 is from La Mancha in Spain. La Mancha is not known for quality wine - it is one of the "wine lakes" in Spain that makes, well, literally, lakes of wine, most of it very undistinguished. These guys, in contrast, spend a lot of attention (translation: money) to make a wine a couple of cuts above normal for this region. As you can see from the back label, they use a "good" grape, tempranillo, age the wine for 12 months in new american oak ("ohio") barrels (which are $$$) and then for 2 years in the bottle before releasing it (someone has to pay the storage costs). Popping the cork releases gorgeous aromas of vanilla oak, and the palate doesn't disappoint - oaky, chewy, almost too much so. If there is a criticism, it is that the fruit is really hidden by the wood. Nevertheless, the verdict is a solid good. Value: simply a "wow" - how can they sell this for $13??? especially 11 years after its vintage date.

Blasphemy is your blog title today, you say? Well, yes, I did something I'm not supposed to do - eonophiles will piss all over me, but I couldn't resist. Tonight opened the Errazuriz Estate Carmenere, Aconcagua, 2003. This is well known wine to me, a rich, full bodied fruit driven wine. It's only fault lacks oak tannins (although it spends 7 months in french and american oak - I suspect old). Sooo, what did I do...I had a 1/3 bottle of Leganza left over, so I self-blended the two wines together, at first 50-50 then 70-30 (Errazuruz/Leganza). The two wines complemented each other in an amazing fashion. All of a sudden we get a blend never meant to be - tempranillo/carmenere, but what an oaky full bodied fruity plush combination! We move into "wow" territory.

Hey - you snobs out there, remember the supertuscans - blends of cabernet/merlot/sangiovese never meant to shush.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Just What The Doctor Ordered

Drinking this while watching the Holland-Ivory Coast game on videotape (old school, I know, but it works!!! and so does this old school wine which we are drinking!). This is quite the match - the dutch looked like they were running away with it, but the africans are now dominating. We just finished watching Argentina destroy Serbia, maybe should have had an argie wine instead to toast them...

This wine, the Chateau L'Hospitalet, Reserve, La Clape, 2003 is a beauty. Smoky deep nose, dark and brooding in the glass, chewy fruit with underlying smoked meat flavours. 2003 was a very hot year in Europe, many of the producers were able to make ripe concentrated wines.
The verdict: Koko likes it, wants to give it close to a "wow". I give it a solid "good".
Value: Excellent at $19. Will buy more if I can find it.

Cheap Tannins

Tannat is an uncommon grape best known from a region of France called Madiran. It is renowned to produce tannic, long lived wines, that, of interest to me, do not cost a fortune. They are not for everyone as they are not what most people call enjoyable, plush easy drinking wines. The Don Pascual Tannat Reserve 2005 is from Uruguay, a country where the grape is being used to success - it is now identifed with Uruguay like Cahor's Malbec is identified with Argentina. It is a black inky effort that draws a fine line between good and okay - it certainly feels full bodied on the palate with robust tannins but what brings it down is that tinge of what I call "bubble gum" - hard to describe but makes the wine feel "cheap"(I usually get this bubble gum taste in home-made wines or "tanker" depanneur wines...). Anyway, for the record, it is a fairly cheap wine at $14 so I guess in this case, you get what you pay for!!

Go Holland! - hopefully they will play better than England did today.


Monday, June 12, 2006


To congratulate the Italians for their 2-0 win over Ghana (and it was a good game - the Ghanans did well, just couldn't finish) we supped on some vino tonight, Brigaldara Valpolicella classico, 2003. Generic Valpolicella is often weak and insipid, but this baby immediately impressed with it's deep hue and stinky nose. On the palate there is a quite a bit of body with pleasing inky, iodinated up front flavours. Would cut into pasta quite nicely.
The verdict: Good.
Value: Excellent at 13 bucks or so.

And, go Togo!!!!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Riding the Paso Robles Horse

Paso Robles is an up and coming vineyard region in california that (I think) makes excellent cabernets at a fraction of the price found in NAPA. This particular wine was a gift to my girlfriend from a good friend of hers from New York. Why "Wild Horse"? I said. "Because I was born in the year of the horse, and I'm wild", duh!, was the answer.

Anyway, their Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 turned out to be quite nice. Initially closed, it opened up nicely with time and shone with food. A tight, well structured effort with berry highlights hiding in the background.

The Verdict: A solid "Good". Value: Unknown since I don't know the purchase price, but if less than $20, it's a solid buy.

ps - notice all the food groups in the picture?...protein, carbos, a little lipid and, of course, a little flavoured ethanol!!!


Friday, June 09, 2006

Stickin' with Zin

I can't let one bad zin ruin a week, so went one notch upscale with the "no wimpy wines" guys from Ravenswood. I still think Rosenblum makes better zins, but unfortunately didn't have any around. The wine opened tonight was their 2001 Amador County Old Vine Zin, which, if you believe their website, is "the most distinctive zin" in california. Wellll, if you're gonna say something like that, the goods had better deliver. There is absolutely nothing distinctive about this wine, although I do agree with their cherry cola analogy. It's hard to believe that this wine spent 18 months in oak barrels, and even harder to believe that some of these barrels were new (after the 5th sip I can kinda taste some french oak... but just kinda...). It is a smooth but tart effort, really nothing special. However, Koko likes it.
The verdict: it's an okay wine, trying really hard to be good (the "koko factor", but just doesn't make it. Value: Not there at $24. I won't be buying any more, and neither should you. Don't support this kind of marketing.

Mixed Feelings

I love this picture - Taylor 40 year old tawny, Montesodi '01, and Beaucastel '88. An amazing evening, was actually a 40th birthday celebration! Brings back good memories.

Which brings me to tonight's glass, ergo the mixed feelings. I love Zinfandel, buy it all the time, but the Dry Creek Vineyards, 2001, Heritage Clone Zinfandel from Sonoma is very disappointing. They graft buds from "century old vines" to new rootstock and pretend it works. It doesn't. This is an insipid non-descript wine totally undeserving of it's nice packaging. The verdict - kind of "OK", verging on crap. Value - don't go anywhere near it, not worth the $15 it cost.

Here's to good memories instead, cheers!!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Shiraz or Syrah?

See that black cork lurking in the (out-of-focus) background? That's what I look for when I pop the cork (I like concentrated wines....). This rule of course does not always hold - sometimes those pink-tinged corks seal wines that are lovely and woody-chewy too!

Tonights experiment was the Columbia Crest, Two Vines, Shiraz 2002. What is a little different about this wine is it's designation as Shiraz instead of Syrah - the americans seem to prefer the latter. Of course, it's the same grape, the prize of Hermitage in the Rhone Valley of France. The Australians like to call it Shiraz, and they make it in a completely different style than the French - more in your face as opposed to subtle. The yanks make it both ways, and I can see from the initial gulp of this wine why Columbia Crest calls this one shiraz. CC is a good winery from the Columbia Valley way north of california and I have enjoyed their Cabs and Merlots previously. Usually good price:quality ratios. Anyways, this was a fruit jam bomb for the first 30 minutes, nothing subtle here. I had to then go out and play hockey (what??? in the summer???), so it got to sit for 2 hours. Unfortunately, with time, it loses it's jammy appeal and becomes a little thin on the palate ("weak" as Joel would say). So, the Verdict - It's an OKAY wine, better chug it quick rather than linger over the whole evening. Value: marginal at $15. You can do better.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Back In The Saddle

It's good to be tasting wine again after a little hiatus. The last "Vintages" release in Ontario had a highly rated wine from Australia (and I quite like Aussie wines), so I thought it was worth a go. The Elderton, "Friends", Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 opens with conflicting evidence of richness - the cork is pale stained warning me not to expect too much concentration but the initial nose was encouraging - oaky berry spicy. The first half glass was quite enjoyable but as the evening wore on, so did this damn wine. It became nondescript and within a few hours had faded into an average effort. So much for the "mouth filling black cherry, chocolate and cedar" that was promised on the back label - they're kinda right, just expect it in the first five minutes... Whatever you do, don't decant this sucker or let it breathe.
The Verdict: Initially I was gonna give it a good, but it faded to OKAY.
Value: ooops, they goofed on the pricing. At $17.95 this is NOT worth it. Would compete well with a $9.95 entry level Chilean cab.
I do like the label, though. It has a nice quote by Abraham Lincoln on the back - "the better part of one's life consists of his friendships". I agree, but wonder what the hell this has to do with marketing a wine....


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Headache Medicine

What do YOU do when you arrive home at 10pm after a brain sapping day of work??
I crack open a bottle of red magic and have a glass or two of really does extend your life expectancy, you know. Grabbed the Vina Maipo, Carmenere Reserva 2004 and gave it a shot. Ooooh, such gorgeous texture in a dense black chewy wine, full of fruit (this is not "pointless" fruit like in some wines I have complained about in the past). And to think this grape was almost driven into extinction. 'nuf said.
Too bad Koko isn't here to share it, maybe I'll have her glass...
The verdict: Good.
Value: can't beat it - a GREAT mid-week wine, can't believe it only cost $13 (shudda bought more!).