Sunday, December 31, 2006

California Challenger

Well, well. I issued a challenge yesterday for a californian to stand up and answer to the Australian cabernet value challenge. It didn't take long for me to find a worthy opponent. The Eberle, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, 2000 is also dark and delicious. It has the bonus of 4 extra bottle years as compared with the Aussie and it showed. An earthy but complex nose, full bodied palate, mature tannins, long finish - simply delicious. Does not make the "wow" category, but a solid good wine. Buy it without hesitation, $20 per bottle. I've had an early 90's Eberle cabernet before, that was close to being a "wow". This is a good winery.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Screwcap Heaven

This happens to be the best screwcap wine I have tasted to date. I have not drunk a St. Hallet wine I did not like. The streak continues. Their Barossa, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004 pours like ink, smells divine and has a medium-full bodied classical cabernet palate...lots of berry fruit, easy to take tannins and a fairly long finish. This is yummy. Gets a definite "GOOD", misses out on a wow only because it lacks a little oomph. For value, why bother sweating it out in the wine shop looking at $15-30 cabs? this one fits the bill at $20 and it will be hard to find a California cab this good for this price.

CHEERS!!! And I hope you all have a happy and safe New Years Eve!!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Sensory Overload

Well, well, it's that time of year - all the good wines tend to creep out of the dank dark cellars and end up in our glasses. Hee hee. Thanks to my friend JC (, not that one, silly) I supped on a vertical tasting (of sorts) from Bodega Martinez Bujanda of Rioja. The wines in question were the following: the Gran Reserva, 1981, which as you can see from the cork below was almost spoiled. This wine really shows it age with a lovely bricky colour. It is a very elegant, smooth, almost perfumed wine that unfortunatley is on the slippery downslope of it's lifespan. Definitely a senior citizen but still medium bodied. A little short on the finish. Much in the same style but with more oomph was the Conde Valdemar Grande Reserva 1997. We've already tried this one and written about it before. Was very interesting to compare with it's grandfather from 1981, though...there was a definite family resemblance! Last up was the Conde Valdemar Reserva 2000. This was the young whipper snipper, much redder in the glass, not as complex, more fruit evident but said fruit is pretty austere. Not a very enjoyable sipper (needed some hard cheese to take off the edge) but nevertheless a well made wine.
The verdict: The wines bounced around from "OK" to "Good" during the evening. One thing for sure, no blockbusting "wows" here. These wines are pushing it for value with the older one just not worth the money at $60 plus. However, I am willing to drop my value criticism only because it was interesting to try such an "old" wine especially in the context of being tasted with it's younger siblings.
Now look at what I get to try next:


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

All Things Spanish

I love Spanish, olive oil, art, etc.... and why not - it's good stuff. We recently received this bottle of vino as a gift, as well as the olive oil, from good friends, couldn't wait to try the wine so we popped the cork tonight. This wine is from the Valdepenas region, a not so well regarded appelation but this one is designated as a "gran reserva", meaning it should be of high quality (In Spain, "reserve" actually means something - there are strict rules for such nomenclature. Joven, meaning young, is the 1st rung, then crianza, meaning aged, then reserva and finally gran reserva, the latter two being aged in barrel and then bottle for mininmum periods of time). The Laguna de la Nava, Gran Reserva, 1999 from Bodega Navarro Lopez is certainly a mature wine. It is dark in the glass, beautiful oaky nose, rich and tannic on the palate with tons of wood - you can tell this baby was aged for a while in barrels. The only complaint I have about this wine is that it is short on the fruit, but I much prefer this style over a one-dimensional fruit bomb. This is a GOOD wine. The quibble about the fruit disappears when you factor in the price (sorry, I know it was a gift, but I found out it costs a VERY reasonable $15). I'll be buying more of this......


Sunday, December 17, 2006

D to the Power of Three

Deep, dark, delicious. Those are my kinds of wine. The Errazuriz, Estate Carmenere, 2003 blows that wimpy australian grenache pretender from yesterday away. Read the front label - "exotic and spicy, full bodied, damson and blackberry fruit" - I agree with all except I don't really know what "damson" is supposed to taste like - I think it is a type of plum, and this wine doesn't taste like any kind of plum I've eaten. Anyway, I'll put up with the hyperbole because the only criticism I have about this black beauty is the lack of vanillin to add some oaky complexity. It spent 7 months in barrels that were probably as old as me!! When I see black corks like this my tastebuds tingle...
This is a GOOD wine, and very good value at $15 a pop. Try the reserve series (also comes in cabernet, merlot, etc) from this winery - even if they aren't as good as this one, they will probably be better than that aussie wine for the same price... (ouch!).

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ye Olde and the New

Quite the contrast in wines, these two. I expected the Palha-Canas, Estremadura, Casa Santos Lima, 2004 to be nothing more than an average Portuguese monday quaffing wine, but boy was I wrong. This is a full bodied serious wine, tannic but balanced and quite tasty. Very old world style and much better than some of the "newer" style wines coming out of Portugal. I give it a definite thumbs up, a GOOD wine and an excellent value at $11. Buy it by the case at that price.
The Yalumba, Bush Vine Grenache, Barossa, 2004 is a very different wine. It received rave reviews so I expected a lot. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed as the wine was not the concentrated, thick, rich fruit bomb I had hoped for. It is called "bush vine" because it is harvested from gnarly old free-standing grenache grapevines with a short trunk and only a few grape bunches - they actually look like bushes. This kind of grapevine is "low yielding" and expected to produce concentrated must (the mix of grape juice, skins, stems, etc that comes from the crusher)...hence I expected a thick rich wine. Now, don't get me wrong, this is not a bad wine, it just isn't that good. It has the requisite berry nose, is medium bodied (almost light on the tongue), with bright but not lasting fruit and a short finish. Not very tannic or complex, just new style in your face fruitiness. All you beaujolais lovers out there, this is right up your alley (like a beaujolais on steroids). I'd really like to give this one a "good", but just can't bring myself to upgrade it from "OK". Oh - for value - forget it, it is a rip off at $20. If it cost 8 or 9 bucks, I'd buy this one to drink on a monday....


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Messy Chef

You've all probably heard of the "Naked Chef", but on sundays I turn into the "Messy Chef". Can you even make out the wine bottle in the background?...

It's winter so I made a squash soup...1 large green squash (seeded, skinned and chopped), 3 potatoes, 1 big red onion, 10 asparagus stalks, 4 carrots, all chopped, add 5 bay leaves, a bunch of tarragon, a smaller pinch of marjoram, a couple of teaspoons of turmeric (yes, turmeric - it adds wonderful colour and is now thought to be very beneficial for the health), salt and pepper to taste. Add all to a quart of boiling water or stock (the stock makes it more flavourful). Simmer for an hour, then put in a blender and make it all smoothie. Yummmy.

Anyways, about the was the Morande, Terrarum, Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002. This is from Chile, was good when I bought it over a year ago. This example has been sitting neglected since then as I had lots of other wines to try. It hasn't improved with a little age, in fact it's fruit is fading fast. Kind of what you expect for a $15 Chilean wine although it's dark character in the glass and dense mouthfeel suggests it might have been ageworthy. So, it retains its tannins and loses it's fruit - I'd give it an "OK" at the present time, a very unremarkable wine. I'll buy the brand again, but drink it all within a month of purchase!


Saturday, December 09, 2006


I have a sweet spot for amarone, the dry full bodied wine made in the veneto from grapes dried on mats for months (to concentrate the flavours...and the alcohol content) but it is expensive to make and therefore expensive to buy. So, a reasonable alternative is a wine made by the ripasso technique - a good valpolicella is allowed to referment with the lees of an amarone (basically the skins after the juice has been racked off). This fortifies the valpolicella and adds body. The Sa' Solin, Ripasso Valpolicella 2003 is such a wine. This, however, is not quite what I expected. It is a thick sweet effort, not like a recioto or porto, but still more than I expect from a ripasso...almost cloying. This would be hard to stomach with most foods, and it is tough to choke down half a bottle as a sipper while watching Marv do his Sin City stuff. So, a valiant effort but gets a just "OK" rating with a so-so for value at $15. I don't think I'll buy another, but if you're a fan of the style, give it a shot.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Protect your heart!

A quick note on a winner. The Bodega Septima, Malbec, 2005, Mendoza rings in at 14% acohol and spent 6 months in american oak. More importantly, the grapes for this wine are grown at 1,000 metres and a recent study has shown that the protective effects of red wine on lifespan are best in wines from grapes grown at a higher altitude. This baby is black in the glass. Nice pleasant fruity nose. A medium bodied slightly beefy wine with mild smooth tannins in the back ground. This is a good wine, nice and easy drinking with some character, although not a blockbuster. And it is definitely good value at $14-15. Buy some for a longer life!!


Sunday, December 03, 2006



Anticipation is....looking at that roast beef and thinking about how nice the wine is gonna taste with it. The Roland La Garde, Cuvee Prestige, Bordeaux, 2000 looks good in the glass, quite dark with a nice oaky restrained nose. On the palate it is dry and tannic, thick and not too juicy. In otherwords, a typical good bordeaux. It will last 10 years in the right cellar.
This wine is from the "premieres cotes de Blaye", meaning literally the "first sides of Blaye", a town considered in the periphery of the Bordeaux appelation, across the river from the classic left bank regions and further north from the better regarded Pomerol and St Emilion. Therefore the producer can't charge as much for his wine as the "big boys" can (well, he could, but he probably wouldn't sell much) and this translates to VALUE (music to my ears!). So, tonight's wine is a solid "GOOD" wine and a solid "GOOD" value at $20. Buy half a dozen, drink one a year for the next six years and enjoy.

Friday, December 01, 2006


While in Spain last year I went wine tasting and picked up some stuff to bring back (now that we can't bring liquids in hand luggage, this may be difficult to do in the future). I was in the Alicante region on the east coast, so drove inland to Yecla (I have had good wines from this region before). This is HOT country, it was a blistering day. In a little town called Villena I stopped at the local co-operative (which was basically an ugly warehouse with a little shop for the locals to buy stuff in) and picked up this wine and a bottle of the local olive oil.

The Vinalopo, Reserva, Alicante, 2000 is a very good wine. It has a full oaky nose with oodles of plush vanilla on a full bodied palate. And how much did it cost? about 5 bucks. NO KIDDING. This is wine I dream of. More to the point, this is criminal!! Wine of this quality in Canada will cost at least $25 and I would buy a case even at that price. It is better than the MUGA reserva 2002 we tried recently, which cost $22. Why do we let the governments in this country get away with highway robbery like this? Europe is so much more civilized. Oh well, maybe I've gotta go back more often. Hey, Jimmy, I can't wait to try your Spanish wines (he went wine tasting on the same trip with a vineyard owner, who treated him for dinner with some of his reservas).

CHEERS!! By the way, it's one of the Van de Veldes (Willem) in the background , in case you were interested.