Monday, May 28, 2007

Spring Fever

Nothing like some good wine and sunshine to get you finally into the mood for summer being on it's way. In this case, it was some mighty fine wine! I think the best of the nights tasting was the Lindemans, Limestone Ridge, Coonawarra, Shiraz-Cabernet 1997. Always a dense, classy wine. Beautiful nose (that initially stank like mushrooms...), with layers on layers of thick rich vanillic tinged fruit on the palate. Wow - outstanding.
The Hardy's, Eileen Hardy, Shiraz 1998 was also much enjoyed - it was more restrained and perhaps more elegant than the Lindemans. I think perhaps we opened it a little too early, it felt a little like the Lindeman's "little brother" at this stage in it's development. A good wine that I predict will get better.
The Vina Pedrosa, Reserva, Ribero del Duero, 2001 kickstarted the red wine portion of the evening. This was a real smooth operator, warm and inviting but with ample mouth coating tannins - very balanced and ripe for drinking. Wow.
The surprise of the night was the Saintsbury, Carneros, Pinot Noir Reserve, 2001. Now, I'm not a big PN fan, but this could very well have been the best PN I've tasted (I admit I don't have a lot to compare it to as I usually shy away from this often badly made variety). This was full bodied, tannic and loooong, but still quite smooth. A "good" wine", but couldn't bump it to "wow" status (the competition was too strong tonight - thanks Joe and Joel!!).
Finally, I threw in an Argentinian dark horse in the quest for the perfect Malbec. This one won a gold medal in a Decanter tasting. Unfortunately, the Chakana, Malbec Reserva, Mendoza, 2004 paled in comparison to the blockbusters served on the same table. This is a good wine, fruit driven, medium bodied but lacks ooomph and complexity. It did OK the next day by itself with lunch after oxygenating a little. It is good value for the money at $18.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Turks and Frogs

What on earth do Turks and Frogs have to do with wine, you ask?
Well, on a recent trip to New York we found this cute little wine bar called just such in the West Village (323 W 11th St). Even had pictures of Constantinople on the wall. The staff is Turkish (of course) and their wine list is small but includes some Turkish wines! On questioning the waiter, he admitted that the Turkish wines were "not the best - try some of the others", we suppressed the adventurous spirit and settled for California and Australia. Owning such an establishment must be difficult - you want to serve good wine but the price per glass has to be attractive, so you've got to find interesting, good wines that show strong value. I think they hit the nail on the head with at least some of their selections. The Bleasdale, Generations, Shiraz, 2002 is a fruitcake, oaky, vanilla delight that is rich, full blown and quite mouth filling. Wow. The Dreyer, Sonoma, Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 is more of an earthy wine with notes of coffee and green peppers, not as juicy as the Bleasdale but still very pleasant. A "Good" wine. Both were about $12 a glass. We finished off with the rich, rich, rich Quinta do Castelinho 1962 Porto, a colheita. Figs, nuts, honey - this is complex and goes on and on....WOW!!

I couldn't resist stepping inside when I saw the Crush winestore in Manhattan. They stole my name, but I forgive them - what a display!! The place is cool and temperature controlled, feels like you're in a supermodern cellar. The only problem is you get a crick in your neck looking at the labels as the bottles are all horizontally displayed.

One last note - found the Pepperwood Grove 2005 Cab up here in Canada for $16, so gave it a whirl as I liked their Syrah so much (see previous post). This is nowhere near as good as the syrah, tastes mass produced (which I'm sure it is), slightly sweet and "bubble-gummy". Gets an OK, would not buy this again for the price.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Bogus Bogle

I think this is the kind of Merlot that got slagged in the movie "Sideways". The Bogle Vineyards, Merlot, California, 2004 is light red in the glass (you can see through it) and was very disappointing on first taste. I was going to give it a "crap" rating and use it as a drain cleaner. However, since it was the only bottle of wine I had on me, I waited and gave it another chance. It was initially light bodied and tart, but with bit of oxygenation it plumped up a bit. It turned into an easy drinking quaffer, I gave it a final rating of just "OK". Value - terrible value at $15-20 a bottle. Not worth it unless this is your style of wine....
ps. I thought the scene in "Sideways" when Sandra Oh beat the crap out of that twit with her motorcycle helmet was hilarious - he deserved every last whack...


Saturday, May 19, 2007

In Flight Harmony

Talk about a surprise. While flying back from the UK on British Airways I received a pleasant surprise. I was served the best wine I have ever received at 30,000 feet (except when I manage to luck out and fly first class). The Pepperwood Grove, Syrah, 2005 from California immediately hit the right spot on the first sip. It was a full bodied, oaky effort that kept me wanting to drink more...
Kudos to BA for serving this style of wine on a long distance flight - I am used to more generic, insipid affairs that are easy drinkers and able to please the masses. However, don't get me wrong - the Pepperwood is made to please and not too complex, but I think it's targeted for a more seasoned crowd than cattle class in the back of the airbus. So, a solid "good" for this wine. A quick search on the internet yields an under $10 US price, so I think it is solid value.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Land of Bitter

Just returned from a little jaunt back to the old country - England of course!
Drank mostly beer - cask pulled bitters and ales, many of which I had not had the pleasure of trying before. Notable breweries tried were Black Sheep, Wold Top, Theakstons, Burford, Hook Norton, Hambleton, Timothy Taylor, Wadworth and Wychwood (this latter brewery makes a delightful ale called "Hobgoblin").
ps a "wold" is olde English for a little hill ("tertre" in French), and this brewery grows it's own barley in the Yorkshire Wolds.

We visited my favourite pub, the Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge. The only problem with this pub is it's location - on an isolated ridge on the North Yorkshire moors, giving it a spectacular setting but prone to ugly weather. Twice I had to drive home over the ridge in pea-soup fog and horizontal rain, visibility down 10 feet and sheep all over the road.

I did manage to sneak some wine in here and there, mostly non-descript stuff. There were a few that stood out for one reason or another. The best packaged wine was the Pure, Shiraz, Vin de Pays d'Oc, NV. Unbelievably simple label, the product inside the bottle actually wasn't that bad - no nose to speak of, pure blackberry fruit on the palate but without any real "body" and not jammy at all. The surprise was a medium-long finish. An OK everyday wine, a little overpriced at 6 pounds a bottle.

The worst wine was some atrocity called Flinders Realm, The Reliance, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 from Australia. This was pure unadulterated plonk - do not buy this crap.

The best wine was this rather ugly packaged Kingston, Cabernet-Petit Verdot, 2005, also from Australia. A good wine and a bargain to boot at 4 pounds.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Lizard Soup

It happened again. Koko bought a wine because she loved the label...a buying policy that I do not generally recommend . This buying strategy often leads to being stuck with a lousy wine. This wine is a Carignane (better known as Carignan in France and Carinena in Spain), a high yielding grape variety which generally makes unspectacular wines but can, with old vines and in the right hands, be made into a good wine.
Alas, not to be with this one. The Chameleon, North Coast, Carginane, 2005 is an insipid sipper. Too bad, the nose is fruity enough, but it is light bodied and hollow on the palate. Kind of reminds me of a mediocre beaujolais.
Complete waste of money at US$17, unless you collect interesting labels!