Monday, July 31, 2006

The Ripoff

Recently my good buddy Joel had a good meal in a good Greek restaurant called Hermes. He asked the waiter (?or maitre d') for a wine suggestion to go with his meal and was recommended the Amethystos, "Regional Dry Red Wine", Macedonia (Greek Macedonia), 2003 for a pricey $95. He thought the wine was a good foil for the food and went shopping for it at the local SAQ (our wine monopoly). Shocked, he found it for $25 in abundant numbers, so bought quite a few bottles. You could look at this two ways - he got what he considered a good wine for a fair price at the wine store or he got taken to the cleaners at the restaurant. So, Joel being Joel, he called the waiter that had served him at the restaurant and stated he was displeased with the markup of almost 400%; the fool replied "Oh, but it's not available, you won't find it any more in the SAQ, it's worth the markup". Joel immediately told him it was indeed freely available and the next day dropped a bottle off for him as a "gift" to prove it, after stating he would never grace the establishment with his wallet again. And, safe to say, neither will I. I do not appreciate gluttony when it comes to wine list price gouging either. Charge a lot of money for a good meal - that's fair - but don't charge more than double mark-up for the wine. Oh - the wine itself - it's dry, food friendly, and medium-full bodied, quite old world in style. The Verdict: Good. Value : I'd say fair, at $20 would be good, at $95 ridiculous.


Friday, July 28, 2006


Myths are meant to be just that - hard to live up to. I have had my eye on this myth for years but have never pulled the trigger and bought it. This year was different - this wine is from a respected co-operative in the Pays-d'Oc in the south of france and Europe was scorched by high temperatures (meaning ripe grapes!!) that year. And the wine was released big time by Vintages in Ontario. And it got some good, did the Cuvee Mythique, Reserve, Vin de Pays d'Oc, 2003 live up to it's hype? There are two ways to answer this question. Number one, how does it stand up to the "verdict" with no price tag attached? and, number two, how does it stack up for value? First off, the verdict is simple - this is a good wine, nothing more and nothing less. Interesting medium bodied, very iodine like initially, typically old world style. Made of syrah, mourvedre, grenache and carignan, this tastes the opposite of what the australians would do with these grapes (well, the first three at least...the aussies make "GSM" blends that are generally out of this world if made well, they are much more forward full bodied fruit driven wines). This mythical wine is definitely for food - the bigger the steak the better. As for question number two, is it worth it? The answer is "maybe" - if you are in need of serving a food friendly wine with meat, yes. For a sipper, forget it and go for Oz. Oh, it costs $18.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Pleasant Surprise

Mondays are mondays so opened what I expected to be a mediocre wine because last time I tried it two years ago it was just that - mediocre. The D'Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz 2001 had come highly rated so I had bought a whole bunch of bottles; it even had the almost obligatory "gold medal" sticker on the bottle. I had come to the conclusion on 3-4 previous tastings that it was a very ordinary wine and was disappointed at the expert's recommendations. So I did what I normally do with such wine (no, I didn't take it to a party and dump it unceremoniously in the corner somewhere and then ignore it) - I put it in a dark corner and left it there. When I opened the second last bottle tonight I was impressed by the dark stained cork and pleasantly surprised by the balance of fruit and light tannins in this medium bodied "pretty" wine. Just shows you what a little short term aging can do to some initially unimpressive wines (the pros called wines that do this "closed" -they need a little aging to "open up"). The verdict: turns out after all that this is a good wine. (just don't drink it with spicy pasta primavera - Koko had snuck some chilis in that I wasn't expecting...couldn't touch wine with dinner, but it turned out it was more of an after dinner sipper anyway). Value: this wine usually goes for about 20 bucks - so, turns out to be okay value for the money. Maybe I will try later vintages after all.
Started the evening off with a little aperitif - the Alvear's Fino, NV. Always a favourite alternative to sherry, this wine is made in nearby Montilla (sherry is mostly made in Jerez or Sanlucar de Barrameda (Manzanilla)). It is bone dry and very pleasant when drunk cold. Cheap too - usually less than $10/ bottle.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Lurton Argentinian Experience

mmmm....what could be better than a nice relaxing dinner with a couple of nice wines. Joel supplied a Lurton malbec, I matched it with a Lurton Cab. These guys are brothers, they fly all over the world making or advising on making fine wines. If their name is on the label, it is usually worth trying the wine. The Bodegas Lurton, Reserva, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003, Argentina, has a subtle iodine nose, is medium bodied, very dry, nice long finish. Their Malbec, Reserva, 2003, also from Argentina, is more subtle on the nose, but rougher on the palate. Shorter finish than the Cab, but growlier on the tongue. Also medium bodied. These two are food friendly, just a little different. It's nice to be able to open both and compare them with good food. The verdict: Both are a solid "good". Value: Fair at $16-18 per bottle. Drink them with food!!

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Lou and Kim have just returned from Italy and brought a couple of bottles of Chianti which they were kind enough to share. We drank them with Koko's famous smoked ribs, big and meaty. First up was the Castello Il Palagio, Chianti Classico Reserva, 1999. This is a very smooth smoky bacon mature CC, nice and elegant. Was the favourite wine of the night. The verdict: Good. Can't comment as to value coz I don't know how much it cost. Defintely would not turn down a glass of this stuff, though.
Following right after was the Fattoria Montagliari, Chianti Classico, can't remember the vintage ('03 or '04). They had met the owner at the vineyard and had commented that they really liked this wine. It is very different in style from the Il Palagio; obviously younger, more fruit driven, very little evidence of oak ageing. Altogether pleasant, but not as enjoyable as the first chianti. The Verdict: OK.
Next up was Joel's continuing quest for an Argentinian wine that he likes. This one Amanda really likes - the Gran Lurton, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza 2003. A thoroughly modern style cab, typical berry flavours with moderate tannins, a medium - full bodied wine. The verdict: Good. Value: fair at $22. I finished the wine portion of the evening off with a bottle from the "young winemaker of the year" in Australia, Ben Glaetzer's Heartland Shiraz, Limestone Coast, 2004. Well, quite the contrast from the preceding wines. This one was pure blueberry fruit, tasted like drinking concentrated blueberry essence. No vanilla tannins to speak of. Very plush and hedonistic, but not everybodies cup of tea. Mind you, Lou called it "too strong for him" as he filled his glass up with the last of the bottle. hmmmm. The verdict: interesting enough to get a "Good", but drink it as a sipper or with dessert. Value: fair at $20.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Portugese Faker

The world cup is long over but there are subtle reminders...this portugese wine for instance came highly rated - it is from the Douro valley, renowned for making dense, chewy, ageworthy ports. This wine, the Porca de Murca, Douro Reserve, 2001 Tinto has the right pedigree - uses port grapes, is from a good producer, has good packaging & the obligatory "gold medal" on the bottle, is called a "reserve" wine, hey, a pretty good buildup. is actually a very average table wine. I'm not even going to describe the wine, it is that ordinary. What I call a faker. Kind of reminds me of Figo or Ronaldo. The Verdict: OK. Value: here's the rub - if cost 8 bucks like most portugese plonk, I have no problem with it. For $19, this is a fake.

Buy wisely! CHEERS!

Sunday, July 02, 2006


I have my buddy (Captain) Carlo to thank for a most satisfying wine tasting session last night. The teaser leading up to this session was one of Gerard Depardieu's wines, a morrocan effort called "La Lumiere" which we had absorbed in February this year at Whistler. The choice had been an inspired one by Joel, this wine which he had chosen became the champion of the week (so said Carlo). So, he valiantly but ultimately unsuccessfully hunted it down in Quebec - alas, it was nowhere to be found. You may think this tale ends in a negative fashion, but no, happily he found another of Depardieu's efforts, this one from the latter's french vineyard in the Cotes du Blaye. This is a satellite appelation of bordeaux, usually producing "OK" kind of wines, sometimes fabricating more memorable efforts. Now, Carlo, like a good boy, held onto this wine for months so that I could have a sniff...and for this I am indebted. The Depardieu, Confiance, 2003 is the best wine I have drunk this year. The label states that only 3 bunches from each vine is harvested for the wine (? by Gerard himself), and the wine was aged in new oak for 20 months. I like these kind of statements if the wine backs up the talk. This one does - it is black, impenentrable in the glass with absolutely gorgeous vanilla scented berry aromas. A true blockbuster on the palate, young but decadently enjoyable. Interestingly enough, it is a blend of Merlot and Malbec. The rating: WOW. Value: for $54 you get every cents worth. Puts most of it's higher pedigree neighbours to shame - save your money, leave Chateau "Over-rated" on the shelf and pick up some confiance!
At this point I would like to apologize to everyone else at the tasting coz I shamelessly scarfed two whole glasses of this nectar.
There were two other notable wines served, one was Les Coteaux de L'Atlas, Celliers des Mekenes, 1998 from Morocco (presumably close to the Atlas mountains). This one was old world style, mature, not a sipper but shone with food. Unfortunately, it was poured after the confiance and couldn't compete on equal footing. The other was Montgras, Ninquen, 2003, a blend of cabernet sauvignon and malbec from chile. This was a heavy hitter also, oaky but plush, full bodied and very enjoyable. The fruit/wood blend was spot on. Would normally have been the star of the night, and still rates a "wow", but was clearly number two on the evening. Sorry, can't give a value rating, don't know how much it cost.