Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Dfference in Fortunes....

Nice script on the labels. Looks fancy, huh? Well these two Chileans are not expensive - they come in at about 14 bucks a bottle. One's a Cab, the other a Merlot. One's from Lontue, the other Maule. One's "organic", the other's not. One came highly recommended, the other didn't. One's good, the other isn't!

The La Fortuna, Merlot, 2005 is plain and simple, a plain and simple wine. Bright fruit, and not much else. Not a whole lot of fun to drink. Gets an "OKAY". Thumbs down for value. Will never buy this again. Why it got a good critical review is a mystery to me.

The Cremaschi Furlotti, Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 is plain and simple, a good wine. Has the fruit but also depth and some tannins. I've had this producer's cab and carmenere before in previous vintages, I always buy at least 6 bottles and have yet to be disappointed. Gets a solid "GOOD" and the double play - "GOOD" for value also.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Halloween Megasession

I enlisted 3 fellow tasters and embarked on an ambitious project: to more or less enter the LCBO and buy 20 commonly available (on the general list) wines from various parts of the world that cost little enough that you wouldn't think twice about opening a bottle anytime. In other words, the kind of everyday wines that the world drinks. A Reality check. Now, there weren't any superstars ("wow" wines) in this bunch, heavens knows, I didn't expect any, but apart from a few dogs, there is a lot of well made plonk out there.
I'll start with a local dog, the Pelee Island Baco Noir, 2005, from ontario. This is a hybrid grape, can make a good wine with the right care, but if it was all like this, I can see why they are pulling the vines out. This was tart, acidic fruit, no body. Not very pleasant. This is so bad it barks at you..."CRAP. ZERO value" even at $8.95.
The Trapiche, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 from the Argentine, was much better, but in the long run not very exciting. Medium bodied, easy drinking. "OK. OK value" at $15.40 for a magnum. The Trapiche, Malbec, 2005 was a step up from their cabernet. Black in the glass, initially thick and rich on the palate it disappointed with a short finish. A one-dimensional wine, still rates only an "OK." Value is also OK, but definitely would take this over the cab. $8.55.
Also in the Argentine is the La Chamiza, Cab/Merlot 2005. This is the lightweight of the three argentine wines, punches below the belt. Light to medium bodied, even haddock wan't overwhelmed by it. OK for what it is, it's not a bad wine so I can't call it crap, it's just not my style. Value is OK at $7.55, but buy the Trapiche malbec for a buck more.
The Gato Negro, Vina San Pedro, Merlot, 2005 from Chile is light and disappointing compared with previous skirmishes I have had with this wine in the past. OK verging on CRAP. Not worth buying even at $15.15/magnum. Much better was their Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005. This is very pleasant to drink, medium bodied but interesting enough to keep filling the glass. This one borders on being GOOD. Good value at $15.15/magnum.
Staying with Chile, the Frontera, Concha y Toro, Cabernet/Merlot is an easy drinker, nice fruit, just a hint of complexity. This one was actually better the next day. Almost GOOD. Good value at $15.65/magnum.
Flying across to Europe, the Portuguese used to be known for value wines. Ooops, they goofed on this one. The Alianca Foral, Douro, Reserve 2005 checks in with a stated 13.5% alchohol, but where's it hiding? where's the body? (Show me the meat!!! I could thunder). It tastes like a depanneur wine (the lowest quality wine you can buy here - they ship it over in tankers, bottle it here and sell it in the local grocery shops for an absurd price given what it is).
This is CRAP and a waste of money at $8.05. How do they have the balls to call this a "reserve wine???"
Next door in the Douro valley they make the Vila Regia, Douro Reserve, 2001. This one saves the Portuguese reputation a little. It is much better that the Alianca Foral, has both complexity and tannins together with a medium "oakiness" from some time in wood, no doubt. A GOOD wine and worth the 12 bucks.
Lets cross the mountains and go into Spain. Spanish wines are one of my favourites, and I just love visiting Spain. The Candidato, Tempranillo Barrica 6, 2003 is aged in barrels for 6 months. Now, this wine used to be an incredible bargain, year after year they made the wine in a very similar style, it was almost too good to be true for the price. I am wondering if they are cheating a little, lowering their quality because this wine was just OK. A medium hit of oak, certainly drinkable but I was still a little disappointed. Value remains hard to beat at a whopping $8.05 a bottle.
The Romans made lotsa wine so lets see what the modern day inhabitants of Italy make for a couple of bucks. I've always liked the Citra, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, how can you not like a wine from a place with such a name? Their 2005 effort is a meaty, iodine like effort, tastes almost like a lower end chianti. This is OK, verging on good. Not everybody's cup of tea, though. Very good value at $6.35 - you can't buy much wine at this price in this country, and I think this is very drinkable. Next vineyard over is the Farnese, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, I think it was a 2005 also, but forgive me, I don't remember. What I do remember is looking over at Koko and saying - "hey, this really isn't bad", and she was thinking exactly the same thing. It is bright and lively, spicy and a very pleasant wine. Those who don't like the Citra will probably like this. We thought it close to being a GOOD wine, cannot beat the value at $12.55/magnum. Hey, we're on a roll in the land of pasta, so lets keep going. The Mezzomondo, Negroamaro Rosso Salento, 2005 is from the south and uses a grape most North Americans haven't heard of, even though it is the 6th most commonly planted grape in Italy. "Negroamaro" translates to "black and bitter", but this wine certainly wasn't bitter. It clocks in at 13.5% alchohol, though. It is fruity, medium bodied, an OK-GOOD wine. Buy a dozen at $8.05 a bottle.
One of the most memorable wine tastings I have ever had was in Hungary. How I got home alive that night I have no idea. The wine was good, the company good, and the vineyard owner and his wife were very patient (serving 5 drunk canadians in his cellar for 4 hours, I think it was 5 bucks all you can drink .... I still have one of his barrel aged Chardonnays left, will have to drink it soon). Anyway, I digress. The Szekszardi Voros Kekfrankos, 2005 is plain and simple a CRAP wine. Too bad, Hungary is capable of producing good wine, this just isn't one of them. Tart, sour and a waste of money at $9.45/litre. Made a good drain cleaner.
The label of a South African wine caught my eye so what the hell, I bought it. The Obikwa, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 gave a decent impression of a cherry but was a little tart. It is a light, OKAY wine. Absolutely no reason to buy it when it costs $9.05 a bottle.
To finish all this off, we have the Newman's Celebrated Port, NV. A very sweet blend, it is now made and bottled in Portugal so why they keep the map of Newfoundland on the label is a mystery to me. The story goes that a Portuguese ship carrying wine was chased across the atlantic to Newfoundland, by the time they got back to Europe the wine had "changed" for the better; so they started sending Port to be aged in Newfoundland, but recently EEC rules have put an end to this practice. Anyway, the port is just OK, certainly not complex. You just about get what you pay for at $14.95 a bottle (you can't buy real port cheaper than this in Canada).

Sunday, October 22, 2006


This is a pretty good trio for a tasty dinner. Two from Rioja, one from Ribera del Duero. The Conde de Valdemar, Gran Reserva, Rioja, 1997 shows its age with a brick colour. It is a medium bodied, elegant, mature wine - easy drinking. Quite the opposite, the Condada de Haza, Ribera del Duero, 1996 is a stinky nosed ("mushrooms" was one comment), full bodied but not "thick", still tannic wine that is smoothing out nicely with age (I last opened this wine 3 years ago, it is definitely more approachable now). It even ate up the steak spices.... Last up for the evening was another enjoyable offering from a traditionally good producer. The Muga, Reserva, Rioja, 2002 is another medium bodied, medium woody, easy drinking well made effort that goes down toooo easily.
The Verdict: this is easy - all are GOOD, would definitely not turn down a glass. My preference was for the Condada, but I think the Valdemar won the other three over (One of our ranks wouldn't even drink the Condada after a sip! - more for me!!). Value: The Muga and Condada are worth the $20 and $25 they cost, but you won't find the 1996 vintage of the Condada easily (I just bought a bottle of the new release, the 2003, so stay tuned for a mini-vertical....). The Valdemar struggles to find value at $33.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy


I'mmmmmmmmm back!!!

Tried this baby tonight - love the label (although we don't fall for fancy packaging, do we?). Actually I've had the Porcupine Ridge, Syrah, 2005 from Boekenhoutskloof (South Africans) before, so jumped when the new vintage was released. This is a beefy, meaty effort that clocks in at 14.5% booze. Thick, leathery syrah, just how I like it. The only thing it lacks is some soft vanilla from a nice new oak barrell, but at $15 this is not to be expected.

The verdict: Gooooooood....

Value: Good, you get exactly the quality that you pay for and this should be the case 99 times out of a hundred in the wine world (unfortunately, it's not).

PS: If you recognize where today's title came from, you are, well, OLD!!


Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Not being lazy, are on a bit of a posting hiatus right now - we are undergoing a massive tasting of about 20 different wines over two weeks, should have the results out mid next week or so. (?does anyone out there care.....?).



Sunday, October 01, 2006

North vs South

Rutherford Ranch is a vineyard in the NAPA valley that likes to tout itself as the "best value in NAPA". And their 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon won a gold medal at some local american wine fair. Anyway, I like that kind of talk so I popped this bottle with some lamb chops and hoped for the best. Well, no major news here. It was a straightforward NAPA cabernet, nice and fruity, medium bodied, no overpowering tannins. Overall, an OK kind of wine, verging on good. Certainly nothing special, how it won a gold medal is anybody's guess (mind you, who knows how this wine fair was I've noted before, often all you need is to score a certain minimum amount and they give you a gold sticker (a minimum score may even be as low as an "85"on 100). As far as value is concerned, it's fair for a NAPA cab at about $20; again, you get what you pay for (NAPA cabs tend to be expensive).
Next up was the Catena Alamos Malbec 2005, an offering from South America (Argentina). Well, this baby blows the northern imposter away. A full bodied wine, this one whacks the palate with hard fruit and tannins, so much more substance than the Rutherford. The rating: a solid "good", my kind of wine. Value: excellent at $14. Buy a case.