Wednesday, February 28, 2007


You'd think if you spent over $30 a bottle, you should get some decent wine. Just think, for that thirty bucks you could get a very nice slab of steak or tuna at a reasonable restaurant, a good hardcover book, crikey, you can even buy a DVD player these days for that kind of money. So if you plonk your money down and the wine is just "okay", you feel a little robbed because you know you could have gotten a similar quality wine for sometimes less than half the price.
Which leads me to these wines. Three of us were guilty, all relying on other's advice. Don't get me wrong, none of these wines were crap, but they ranged from only okay to good, and at these prices, that is just not good enough. The best of the bunch was the Fontodi, Villa del Sorbo, Chianti Classico Reserva 2000. I almost gave this a "wow" rating as it opened up during the tasting session. This is classic chianti, full bodied with a nice tannic backbone and a half decent finish. I thought it was quite enjoyable but for the price....eeek!! It retails for over $60!!. So, will I be buying more? No sir.
The next best wine has been described as a "future classic", and perhaps the best carmenere made in Chile. The Concha y Toro, Terrunyo, Peumo, Block 27 Carmere 2004 is a rich wine, full of ripe raspberries but is in no way a "wow" wine. It may not even be the best carmenere I have had the pleasure to taste, I can recall other equal wines that cost half the price. The only attenuating factor may be that this wine will be great in 10 years ... but I doubt it. Would I buy another to lay down and try in 10 years? Nope, not at $30 a pop.
Then there is a bit of a California oddity - the Viader, DARE, Cabernet Franc, NAPA Valley, 2003. I have never had a pure cab franc from California; on the basis of this one, I doubt if I will be running out to try more. It is a very average wine, Ontario makes better. A waste of money at $50 a bottle.
Lastly, and in this case I mean solidly in last place, the Jean Pierre Mouiex, Pomerol, 2000.
This is disappointing because this late gentleman's firm makes some of the finest wine in Bordeaux including at Chateau Petrus in Pomerol. So why are they selling such insipid ordinary bordeaux for $33 a bottle? especially since the 2000 vintage was a good one. I give it an "okay" only because it improved with food but it is still a terrible value.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dysfunctional Family

Talk about two different approaches to wine making. These two are from the southern hemisphere, but from opposite sides of the world. The appropriatley named Del Fin Mundo, Malbec, Reserva, 2004 is from Patagonia in the south of Argentina. It is another attempt to find an Argentinian gem. This one is black, black, black in the glass. Talk about extract - how they get this much colour in a wine is amazing. On the palate it is super dense and thick, but the fruit is either absent or it's hiding behind all that darkness. So, a "good" wine, lots going on, well made, but tough to enjoy right now. It may do better if it opens up in the future. A steal at $13 a bottle, if you like this style of wine (all you lovers of Madiran and young dense Bordeaux, stand up!).
Tonight's wine is a bit of a (pleasant) surprise. The d'Arenberg, d'Arry's Original, McLaren Vale Shiraz-Grenache 2002 is not quite as inky black as the Mundo, but it shares the dense mouthfeel with the bonus of ample berry fruit - it is almost a fruit bomb, but with backbone. Long finish. Ooodles of style. I thought it was going to be a ho-hum aussie middle of the road effort, but I give it a solid "good", it is short of being a "wow" wine because it lacks that chewy vanillin oaky undertone that I like. A solid buy at $20.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Rotten Fish

I hate marketing and packaging. There are so many wines these days with trendy labelling ("fat bastard", "red truck", as well as loads of frog analogies...). This is a good example of why I hate it... Koko admitted she was struck by the cute label, so picked up the Fish Eye, California Shiraz, 2004 while looking for a cheapie tuesday night wine. Well, when she pours the first glass down the toilet, I know I'm in for a real treat (ha ha). This stuff is so bad, I wouldn't even cook with it. It is perhaps the worst wine that has ever passed my lips, and that includes corked versions. I can't even describe to you how bad it tastes. Why anyone would drink this, I don't know. How can they sell this shit?
The verdict: below "crap". Value: if you think a good toilet cleaner should cost $9, then this is good value.
The good news: Our provincial wine store monopoly has an iron clad return policy - just tell them it is "bad" and they refund your money even without a bill. So the joke is on them for once....

Tuesday, February 20, 2007 be in the South

We are getting more and more south american wines to try up here in the cold far north, but much moreso in Ontario than Quebec. After a buying spree I got to try some fresh vintages and some wines I have never had before. "South American wines" usually translates into Chile and Argentina (there are very few Uruguayan wines sold up here). And if you believe the wine press, Argentina is beginning to outstrip Chile for both quality and potential. Soooo..., lets start with a trio of inexpensive wines that promised to be half decent. The Finca El Retiro, Syrah, 2004 is from Mendoza, Argentinas largest viticultural region. I have had the 2001 version before and found it a full blown bargain. The 2004 is therefore disappointing - it is just not as good. Light on the nose, middleweight on the palate, pleasant with slightly spicy berry fruit, it is a good "monday night wine". Definitely not "rich, great depth, great length" as it says on the back label. An OK wine, questionable value at $13. Another Argentinian, the Trapiche, Broquel, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004 is also quite ambitious on it's label: "an ultra-premium wine; powerful; great concentration". It's a good wine, worth the money, and better than the Finca El Retiro. The Montes, Limited Selection, Cab(70%)-Carmenere(30%), Alpalta, 2005 is from Chile and was again a step up from the 1st two wines. This one is more full bodied, richer, a good wine to savour. A "good" wine, good value at $15.
Last up tonight is the wine that disappointed the most...and this is because the Wine Spectator, a publication I respect, gave it 90 points...this should equate into a "wow" wine all things being equal. I was so looking forward to the Norton, Malbec Reserva, Mendoza, 2004 that I bought a case untasted, expecting that thick, rich, fig like wine that they described. I like figs, but this wine tasted nothing like a fig; it was closed on the nose, and on initial tasting it was quite ordinary. Sure it's dense, but it's also tight and not what I would call rich. It does better with decanting, indicating that maybe it is too young and needs a few years to smooth out. But it will never be a "wow" wine. I've got enough bottles that I'll let you know how it does with time. The verdict: an "okay" wine. Value: Crap at $20 a bottle.
The search for my first "wow" wine from South America continues....

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Legs are a term used to describe those tear-like drops that form on the side of a glass of good wine. By a good wine, I mean one with a high alcohol content because the droplet forms from the liquid that climbs up the side of the glass (due to surface tension) as the alchohol evaporates, leaving a more water-like teardrop that, when large and heavy enough, falls back into the main body of wine in the glass. Anyway, I'm cheating in the picture big time because we were drinking wine last night in -20 degree weather and wouldn't you know it, it started to feel a little slushy after about 10 minutes. No good as antifreeze, this wine. Don't worry, we didn't waste any good wine because it was a very average wine night. One bottle, a Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet of a recent vintage was so BAD it got poured down the sink after two of us gagged our the first sips - it wasn't off or corked, just a crap wine. The best of the bunch was probably the Infinitus, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot 2004 from Patagonia in Argentina. It was a good middleweight sipper, OK with food, got better with time (was best with lunch the next day). Not worth the $18 bucks though. The Miguel Torres, Cordillera, 2001 is a supposedly high end Chilean wine (high end because it cost $28). It was very ordinary, nothing special at all, a waste of money for the price they're charging. The Infinitus was better. The Goldwater, Wood Hill, Cabernet, 2002 from New Zealand was the worst value of the lot at $32. Again, so non-descript a wine I won't bother you with the details. Just don't buy it. The last wine was also a disappointment, but only because I was pleasantly surprised by it last week. I tried the Jacob's Creek, Shiraz, Reserve, 2004 only because the 2003 vintage got a 90 score in the Wine Spectator. The first bottle we tried was quite yummy, full bodied with nice integrated toasty tannins, I almost gave it a WOW rating. It was good enough at $19 that I went out and bought a half a dozen more. Well, there must be bottle variation (not surprising because they probably make tons of this wine and keeping quality uniform must be tough) because the second bottle we tried last night was very average..."OK" to good, but not worth the $19. Beware - buy only one and if you like it, go back to the same store and buy its siblings only, hoping they are from the same batch.

Friday, February 09, 2007


Every now and then I "discover" a wine gem completely by chance. I think this is one of those times. Petit Verdot is an uncommon grape to find as an unblended wine these days. It is a late ripening grape that, in the right circumstances, can produce rich tannic wines. It is used for blending in Bordeaux but there are a few wineries in California and Australia that bottle it pure. The Pirramimma, McLaren Vale, Reserve Petit Verdot, 1999 is a black, dense effort. Look at the stained cork. A somewhat restrained nose belies the tannic whack on the palate. Ah, but tannins in the good sense - thick, chewy and mouth coating (they also coat your tongue and teeth black!). This is not an oaky, vanillin wine - I think the tannins come naturally from the must itself. Long finish too. This is seriously good wine - I give it a "wow" rating. I'm sure it could easily last another 10 years. Value? this is great at $22. The only downer? I only bought 2 bottles about 4 years hoo.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


I can get used to this. Another night, another great meal and a great selection of wines. Thanks, Joe and Lianne!
Two wines stood out in this bunch. First of all, I have to say I just love Mudgee. What the hell is that, you ask? Well, Mudgee is an appelation in Australia (they sure have some funny names down under). It has a hot climate and little rainfall, yielding intensely flavoured red wines that I almost invariably have found are right down my alley. The Rosemount Estate, Mountain Blue, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, Mudgee, 2001 is one of the best. Plush and lush, ooodles of length, beautiful and definitely a WOW wine. I can't tell you how much it cost, but anything under $75 and I wouldn't feel ripped off. The other notable wine was one I have had in the old cellar for a while. I only brought it out because it was Joel's birthday. The Ridge, Santa Cruz Mountains , Cabernet 1991 didn't disappoint. One whiff and I knew I was gonna like it. Thick, intense oaky aromas filled my nostrils with anticipation. Full bodied, it remains tannic but in a soft sense and with an elegant maturity. This could have stayed in the cellar even longer. And it isn't even their Montebello bottling, usually their best. Great winery. WOW wine. Can't really comment on value since I doubt you can buy this vintage anymore, but I think in general Ridge is worth the money (unlike some other California wineries which have become over-hyped).
A note on the Penfolds, St. Henri, Shiraz 2002 - it is a good wine, but not as good as the 2001 we tasted last week.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Lion, the Witch and the Cheapo

One of these three roars, one stinks and the other is, well, plain cheap.
Lets start with the best. The Mildara, Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000 is a chewy, woody, but fairly complex wine at the same time. It is aging well. Definitely worth the money at $20 a bottle. I give a solid "GOOD".
The LaPlaya, Block Selection, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004 is a big disappointment. It is just so very plain, not even the usual Chilean fruit comes through. Ugh. An OK wine but crap for value at $16. Don't waste your money.
For a lark, I picked up a bottle of the cheapest wine on the shelf. The Casal Thaulero, Sangiovese, Terre di Chieti, 2005 is surprising because for $6.95 you get an OK, very quaffable wine. The initial mouthful is actually good, but it blows off to just OK by the second glass. Hey, even if you only drink the first glass and cook with the rest, you haven't really lost anything. California may have its much maligned but actually drinkable "Two Buck Chuck", but this is our own bargain!