Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Continuing on the Wine Spectator theme of "top 250 picks" for less than than 20 bucks I found their top Portuguese pick in our wine monopoly - for $20 Canadian instead of the $15 US retail, though (not as much as a ripoff as the Tres Picos, though). They nailed this one - gave it "91" points. The Quinta de la Rosa, Douro, 2004 is a worthy wine. A rather stiff, leathery nose leads into a full bodied mouth coating wine with chunky tannins. No finesse or fruit bomb here. A cocoa earthy mid palate leads into a bitter chocolate finish. After some "air time" in the glass, some unusual spicy notes appear. A very interesting, fairly complex wine. This is a good wine, but doesn't have that in-your-face "wow" factor. But well worth the money. Jimmy, you'd really like this one.
Of interest (to me!), I would have picked this as a syrah in a blind tasting. It is made of the port grapes, Tinta Roriz/Barroca and Touriga Nacional/Franca and I could almost imagine this as port with the sweetness and grappa stripped out.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Underachieving Siblings

Don't you hate it when yo know something is good but you can't get it, then find what should be a good substitute's disappointing?
These wines are such beasts. The Wine Spectator called the Borsao,Tres Picos, Garnacha 2005 a "great value" at $12 a bottle retail, anointing it with the proverbial "90" points. Well, I couldn't get the 'o5 but found the 2006, at double US retail price (see the little green $21.90 tag at the bottom). So, do I go for it, I think? We have a wine monopoly, so it's this vintage at this price, or nothing. How much difference can one year make? Oops, in this case, quite a bit, because this is not a memorable wine ("90" points should translate into a wine that screams "wow" to your palate...) The 2006 version is a medium scarlet, you can easily see through the glass. French toast brunch nose. Tastes of strawberries, slightly sweet, medium bodied with a spicy finish. An interesting wine, maybe even a good wine, but nothing special and NOT worth $21.90. This should cost about 10 bucks, so save your dough for something better.
Lets try again. The Castello Monsanto, Chianti Classico Riserva, 2004 received even better accolades in the same magazine - it scored "91" and was named a "smart buy" at $22. I couldn't get it up here, but found their Chianti Classico, 2004 regular bottling for the same $22 (canadian). Lets try this ersatz version of the riserva, I thought - how much different could it be? Big mistake. This stuff is worse than several $7 plain Jane sangiovese's that crowd the general aisles of the liquor store. Earthy, dried cherries on the nose, but it's all about tartness on the palate. Just not very enjoyable. I even tried it with pizza (the newspaper wine writers seem to have a thing about "pizza wine" - as if we look for a wine to match with pizza???), but it didn't raise the Monsanto's enjoyability rating. A failure at a $10 price point, this is an absurd buy for $22. Yuk.
So, watch out for the impostor siblings!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

No Contest

Who do you trust for wine advice? the wine consultant at the local store or a magazine like the Wine Spectator? I was at the store picking up some Spanish wines and the local fella said - "hey, ya gotta try this one, it's hot and only $13". They had it stacked up by the case, and people were plopping the bottles in their carts. What the hell, I thought - it's only $13. The wine in question was the Laderas de El Segue, Alicante, 2006. Now, it wasn't such a stretch that this may be a bargain good wine because I've tasted $4 wines in Alicante that were very good. Sadly, this one is a complete miss. It had that fake, oh-oh nose (Koko immediately said "bubble gum"). On the palate it's a lightweight grape juicy sappy effort with no body, just a little heat from the alcohol. CRAP wine. So much for the local consultant.
As I was leaving the store I saw a bottle of the Montecillo, Crianza, Rioja 2003. In the back of my mind I remembered seeing an article in the Wine Spectator titled "250 wine bargains" that listed the Montecillo as a top Spanish bargain at $11, scoring 87 points. Now, I hate the point scale (more on that another day), but I think they correctly nailed this one as an "87" translates into "good" on their scale. Strong cedar nose (smells like sticking your nose into a pile of fresh chainsawed cedar chips) with a medium red, slightly brick colour. The predominent flavours are, er, woody but in a soft, beguiling style. The fruit is definitely in the background. This is still a good wine, especially if you love the traditional Rioja style. It costs about $17 up here, but that's still fair value.
So, in this case, the snooty magazine beats the snotty nosed kid at the wine store....

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Joke's on Who?

Who's right? Mr. Cork or Mr. Screwcap? I like the romance of the cork, but appreciate the bulletproofness and convenience of the screwcap. In the case of tonights wines, the cork gives a clue as to the easy winner...that black stain bodes only good things...

First up though, is another marketing ploy. The Mitolo, Jester, Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, 2006 is beautifully packaged. They even throw a twist into the winemaking - 20% of the grapes are air dried before fermenting to boost alcohol and add some body (at least that's the theory) amarone style. Well, it kinda works a little bit. The nose is tart (certainly not amarone-like) leading into a sweet, almost fizzy palate attack with a bright, tart cherry finish. There is a hint of amarone depth, but just a hint. There is a surprisingly medium bodiedness about this wine. It's "OK", and a complete waste of money at $23 a bottle. I have another bottle (woe unto me!!) so I'll keep it 3-4 years and see if it shows anything later.
Now for the competition. The Penfolds, Bin 28, Kalimna Shiraz 2004 is sooooo much better than the Jester (so, the jokes on, make that me coz I bought the damn bottle). Dense purple in the glass, this has a creamy, lush mouthfeel. No over-oaked monster here, this is pure blackcurrant fruit in perfect balance with silky tannins. Long, dark chocolate finish. Wow. A steal at $27 per bottle (we had a 10% off sale this weekend at our wine monopoly- woo hoo!!).
Now then, I can't wait for our Penfolds bin taste-off (28, 128, 389 and 407 - can't afford the 707 or 64). Jimmy, Joel, Joe, Carlo - are you in??

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Serious and Fun

I'm on a bit of a roll trying Tuscan wines, and tonights effort is the highly rated Tenuta Sette Ponti, Crognolo, Toscana, 2004. A shy nose - just a hint of cedar and blackberry - leads into a rather full bodied, chewy, tannic wine. The fruit is initially hidden but the blackberries emerge on the mid palate after the wine airs out a little. Medium finish. This is serious wine, very old world. Very good, but it just didn't scream out "wow"...maybe with a few more years under it's belt it will. I think I'll buy a few more and wait and see. Fair value at $30.

Now for a more fun wine - the oddly named Rolf Binder, Hales, Barossa Valley Shiraz, 2005. I didn't really get anything on the nose but it explodes on the palate with soft, juicy raspberries and blackberries followed by a little bit of mil k chocolate. Lush but not very complex. There's probably few people who would dislike this wine - and that's its fault. It's just too middle of the road, a "safe" style - I call them "dime-a-dozen" wines. Good, but wouldn't buy it again now that I know what it tastes like.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

91 Chiantis

Tasted 91 chiantis? Nope, can't afford that kind of action. What I did is get me hands on two chiantis that scored 91 in the Wine Spectator. Tasted 'em blind, too. Turned out to be no contest, though. Just look at the corks (above); that and a quick whiff of the glasses told me all I need to know - the Marchese Antinori, Chianti Classico, Riserva 2001 wins hands down. Deeply coloured it shows a bit of age with a bricky rim. The nose reeks of elegance with tar and dried cherries. It is chewy but oh so refined with more cherries on the palate balanced by wet earth. (Don't think a wine can taste of earth? check this link out... Beautiful integrated tannins. Bravo!, an old-style "WOW" wine. This is worth the $34, fellas - this kind of Italian beauty usually costs more (and a lot of more expensive Italian stuff is blown away by this baby).
So, where does that leave the Frescobaldi, Castello di Nipozzano, Chianti Rufina, Riserva 2004? More purplish in the glass than the Antinori, it's also deeply coloured. It has a candy-like, somewhat fake nose. Thank God the palate is clean and devoid of that candy. It tastes like sour cherry pie filling (smooth but not sweet) balanced by an earthiness also. The koko factor: "it tastes like fall smells". This is merely a "good" wine but not worth the $22.
How both these wines scored "91" is beyond me - one deserves it, the other doesn't. I was really disappointed with the '04 Nipozzano, especially as the 2002 version could have given the Antinori a run for its money (although this was purportedly essentially declassified Montesodi due to a poor harvest). Beware the '03 Nipozzano - it's relative crap.