Friday, March 30, 2007

North vs South

Two cabs, both young, one is in a snazzy dressup and the other quite boring. Which would you go for? Well, the aptly named "screw kappa napa" NAPA valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 was better than I thought it would be. Typical cab s. nose and flavours, it is a medium bodied everyday drinker, not too complex. I give it an "ok", nothing wrong with it. For value, it is just about right for a ho-hum NAPA cab at about $17 (this just goes to show how pricey these wines have become).
The traditonally presented Perez Cruz, Reserva, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 is a hot little number. Also a typical cab s. but with more going on than the s/k/n. A little earthiness with the fruit. No sign of new oaky vanillins, the moderate tannins are all from the grapes. A good wine, better value than the s/k/n at $16.
By the way, whats going on with all these high alcohol wines? These both clock in at 14.5%, I don't think I've had a wine under 13.5% for months....some are whacking me with 15.5%!


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hand Job?

A-MANO apparently means "by hand" in Italian. These guys are thus claiming that their Primitivo, 2003, Puglia is hand made with care. Blah blah blah. Nice packaging, nice try I say, but this is an average everyday wine, an okay middle of the road sipper with slight sweetness and spice...Gets an "okay". Poor value at $15...this cannot compete with a Chilean Carmenere or Spanish red at the same price. Pretty label, though, and a screwcap to make the package look modern.
Aaack!! I hate marketing!!


Sunday, March 25, 2007


When I think of the term "ripped" I think of my buddy Joel with his shirt off, flexing his ample muscles. It is a term I think meant to display power and bruteness. So what do I expect from the Hope, Shiraz, The Ripper, 2004? I expect it to be ripped! Instead, it is a thick, seductive, in your face fruit jam explosion. I initially did not like it...I prefer a little more complexity (well, ok, a lot more complexity) in a wine. It did however, grow on me (hence the seduction). Koko liked it right away, no seducing neccessary. Berry jam. It took me 3 hours to choke back half a bottle of this stuff because this is a real sipper - you just can't guzzle it. Got it! - Raspberry jam.
I am not a big fan of numbered wine rating schemes (what on earth is the difference between an "88" and an "89'??) but I can kind of see why 2 critics gave this one an screams richness and opulence but you just can't put it into that "excellent" or "classic" category of is just too jammy. Good luck pairing this with food.
So, I give reluctantly give this a "good", and am torn as to value...I guess it is worth the $20. I'll buy another so you can try it...
Oh, did I mention - this is really jammy!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Snow, Food, Wine...

So, time to summarize a week of single appelation Okanagan wines. I covered Mission Hill yesterday, so today I'll start with Quail's Gate. I have to admit I was surprised at their Pinot Noir Reserve, 2004. It was an interesting tipple for someone who is not a big pinot fan. I actually enjoyed it more than their 2004 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It had a medium body and that indescribable good length that pinot noirs can have. Well done, worth the $23. The cab and the merlot were quite average ("OK") and simply put, not worth the $23 each. Their 2004 Old Vines Foch was very disappointing for $40. I always like to try these weirdo hybrid wines just for the hell of it; this is the most expensive Marechal Foch I have have ever tasted. It was thick and rich enough, but just not very complex for the money. A good wine, I would have gladly paid $15 for it, but not $40. We tried the Mount Boucherie Winery, but found their wines not really good enough for the money at the tasting and only bought a non-descript cab or something (I don't even remember what it was it was so plain). The Jackson-Triggs Meritage Reserve 2004 was fruity but very average , an "OK" wine also, not worth the $20. The Summerhill Pyramid Winery is an oddball sort of place. The shop, tasting room and restaurant all seem normal but these weirdos store their wine barrels in a big concrete pyramid - no kidding! They seem to think it ages better due to the pyramid "effect". Well, just goes to prove that gimmicks don't end with wine labels! Their wines up for tasting were just "OK", but they wouldn't let us into their high end platinum line so we decided to eat in their restaurant since we were starving (especially Carlo) and the markup was only about $5 a bottle. We started with one of their Platinum vinifera wines, it was so average that I can't remember if it was a cab or merlot, but I can tell you it was a rip off at $40 a bottle. I then ordered their Platinum Series, Baco Noir, 2005. This experience was exactly the same as with the Quail's Gate Foch...a dense, good but slightly funky weirdo wine, also not worth the $40. We ended at Cedar Creek, one of Joel's favourite BC wineries. The chap behind the counter was bored, he had had only a few visitors in all day so his eyes lit up when we walked in. He was quite nice and let us taste about 9 wines. Their Platinum Merlot 2004 was quite good, bordering on "wow". Pricey at $40 each, we nevertheless bought 4 of each and 4 of their Platinum Cab and Meritage also, which they wouldn't let us taste due to "limited availability" (this is where tasting with the sommelier at Mission Hill really helped...). I'll tell you how they taste when we crack them. I tried their 2003 Platinum Merlot a couple of days later when my brother-in-law Doug showed up at my sister's house. The 2003 is a "wow" wine, at this point it is better than the '04.
Well, if the weather doesn't co-operate for fantastic snowboarding, at least in the Okanagan you can go wine tasting instead!!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mission Hill

Just finished a week of drinking only BC wines (that's British Columbia, not wines from "Before Christ"...). A highlight was a visit to the Mission Hill Estate on Lake Okanagan. These guys do a very good winery tour if you feel like spending 40 bucks. You get access to their Sommelier (in our case, Jon Randle, who was an excellent host) who shows you around and answers all your questions (for instance, land suitable for vineyards goes for $60,000+ per acre in this region!!, new oak barrels cost about $800 each...). We also get to taste "the good stuff", as he puts it...with hors d'oeuvres to boot. Jon pulled out some of their older wines from the cellar, including a wonderful Chardonnay and a most delicious Merlot Family Reserve 2001 that cost a measly $21 (he sold us a few bottles to take "home" from their remaining stocks, you won't find it any more in the shops). We also got to taste their top wine, the Oculus 2003. It is young, thick and mouth coating. It is also one of the most expensive Canadian red wines you can buy ($60). I thought it was worth buying a trio of bottles to try in a few years; Jon mentioned that he thought that the 2004 was going to be even better. And, surprise surprise, we found out that you can order the wines directly from the Estate and they will ship them across provincial more waiting for Vintages releases!! The only disappointment was that their "SLC" line of wines that we tasted/bought seemed overpriced at about $40 per bottle; they will improve with age but I still don't think they're worth that much (especially when compared with the 2001 reserve merlot at half the price).
So, if you're in the region, I suggest you take the tour, sample the goods, and , if their restaurant is open, eat the food too!!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ambitious Claim

When I see claims like this one I feel like doing a bit of mythbusting. How can someone seriously make such a claim? There must be at least 10,000 different cabernet sauvignons being made on this planet alone, and I don't think Mr. Jukes has tasted them all. I do have to admit that Concha y Toro generally makes good value wines. Their Casillero del Diablo, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, 2005 is certainly a smooth effort that glides down effortlessly - hey, maybe a little too effortlessly, leaving very little to actually savour. What I am trying to say (without all the wine critic gobblydook), is that this is an extremely average wine. I give it an "OK", it struggles to find value at $13 a bottle. I can think of many wines that beat it for value (but, wait a minute...they said best cab...hmmm...coming to think of it, there aren't many good cabs around for that price...nevertheless, I stick with my initial feeling - how can any rational person make such a claim?). My next beef with such marketing: the wine that earned the acclaim may have been from the 2004 or even 2003 vintage - these guys often just slap these claims on later vintages that don't deserve it...more misleading advertising!
ps: I love the little devil on the label...I think this guy is the guilty party...