Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Winners,,,and Losers

After a week of wine in British Columbia there were some memorable winners....and, of course, some losers.
I'll start with the winners - and you'd be happy to see that, even in BC, you can get some half decent wine under $25. The best of the lot was the Vasse Felix, Adams Road Shiraz, 2004 from Margaret River in Western Australia. Simply a classy, tasty shiraz, lots of chewy fruit and oak but with an elegance not often seen in shiraz at this price point. I thought this one cost over $30 for sure but it clocks in at $24.99. Wow.
Next was a close tie. The biggest surprise was the Yellow Tail Reserve Shiraz, 2006. This is no yellow tail joke wine - a crowd pleaser, yes, but plush, smooth and very sippable. Some would say it's over-oaked, but I love it. Wow. And $20 to boot.
The Carmen Reserve Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 I've found before in Ontario, and it's just as good in BC. Full bodied and more meaty than the Yellow Tail. Another "wow" wine, and worth the $22 (It cost $20 in Ontario, so not too much of a mark-up. More commonly the mark-ups are atrocious, such as the Liberty School cab, this is down to $16.95 in Ontario but comes in at $22 in BC).
Bringing up the rear for the best-of-the week wines is the Saint Cosme, Cotes du Rhone, 2006. Full bodied, with meat, leather and smoke with red cherry fruit. I rate it as a "good" wine, not as impressive as the previous three, but if you like old world style, this is right up there baby!
Now, the thankless task is to talk about the bottom of the barrel...stay away from these wines. The Don Miguel Gascon, Syrah, 2005 from Argentina is actually not that bad, but it is so over priced at $17 I don't recommend it. Tastes like a $9 French vin de pays, medium bodied, light spice, leathery background. Very average, an "OK" wine. The JP Chenet, Founders Reserve, Merlot-Cab, 2006 is from the Pays D'Oc, but is very new world in style - 14% alcohol, fruit driven (but the fruit is candy like - yuck), almost jammy. "OK", but why buy it? $13, so at least you don't waste too much money. Tied for last place is the Wolf Blass, Yellow Label, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006. Crap wine, I won't talk any more about it, the worst value at $18. Equally crappy but cheaper at $14 is the Simonsig, Cabernet Sauvignon - Shiraz, 2005 from Stellenbosch in South Africa. Fake candy tasting. Yuck. Crap wine.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Eclectic wine weekend. Lots of stuff going on, but I'll review 4 wines (the ones I was compus mentus enough to take some tasting notes!!). First up is the a monster wine Bodegas Catena Zapata, Alta, Malbec 2004 - #23 on the Wine Spectator top 100 list for 2007, it garnered 93 points. Ooops. I think we got a bad bottle here - not bad meaning corked or "off", but bad in the "bottle variation" sense. This is something that no-one talks about but I believe is a problem that arises more often than not. How do you assure every tank/vat/barrel is uniform? especially in big run wines. Anyways, I digress. Don't get me wrong, this is still a good wine. Subtle cranberry nose. Deep, elegant and silky with redcurrant fruit and a slightly tart finish. But not a blockbuster. And this bottle wasn't worth the $50 it cost.
Right, this one I had really high hopes for. An early 90's vintage I had was incredible. The Rosenblum, Richard Sauret Vineyard, Zinfandel, 2005 clocks in at 15.6% alchohol. Woaaah. On the nose: intense, strawberries. On the palate, it is rich, thick and unctuous. Red fruit and tobacco. This is smooth and the high alcohol is well hidden. It's only flaw - a short finish. This squeaks in as a "wow" for me, but others didn't like the style. Cost me $30 in New York.
Right, now for the horror story (not you, Sean!). This stuff was absolute crap. The Hunyady, Kekfrankos, Kethely 2004 was almost pink, very light and tasted like weak cherry juice. Couldn't even stand up to Cheerios. Sink plumbing cleaner. Get your money back at $18.50 a bottle. Funny, because I know the Hungarians can make good wine...(remember that tasting day near Lake Balaton, guys?).

Can't end like that, right? So, to salvage some pride for Eastern Europe, here comes the oddly named Cluster, Mavrud and Rubin (no, I've never heard of these grapes either), 2003 from Domaine Boyar in Bulgaria. Nose: Nice with cherry and cedar. Medium bodied, it is initially tart but then watermelon and some fig comes through. A little rustic, way overpriced at $27 a pop, but at least I can say it is a "good" wine.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Good Stuff

Whaddya need after an intense session of chopping firewood? Beer? I don't think so!!! Gimme some Torbreck, Woodcutter's Shiraz, Barossa Valley, 2006. Plums and other dark fruit with hints of with cardammon. This is a big, plush fruit bomb, it warms the mouth with goodness. Jammy. The problem: no complexity at all. Hedonistic I suppose but a little too one dimensional. It's good, but not worth the $26.
How about a little bottle age with one of these fruit driven Aussie jobs? Well, the Wynn's, Coonawarra Estate, Shiraz, 2001 fits the bill. Black, black, black in the glass. Cassis, but restrained, on the nose. Licorice notes. In the mouth, it's dry and tannic...not jammy at this stage in its' development, but there's lots of black fruit left - intense brambles and blackberries. The finish is moderately long. So, it's good, but didn't hit the "wow" factor. Worth the $20 for this vintage. Pity it's the last of 6 bottles I bought....I would like to try it in another couple of years.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

In The Ring

The best of both worlds...for the old world, in the turkey corner, is the Chateau de la Gardine, Chateauneuf-du-pape, 2001. Anise and leather nose. Licorice, dried dates (thanks, koko!) and cherries massage the taste buds. A medium bodied, very elegant wine, great with food. The tannins are drying without food, so this one could be put away longer. Wow. Wines from this region are not cheap, they start at $25 in our neck of the woods, but compared to Bordeaux or Burgundy they can be a relative bargain. Note to self: time to start buying more Chateauneuf-du-Pape!
Next up, for the new world, in the dancing kiddies corner, is the Concha y Toro, Marques de Casa Concha, Merlot, Pneumo, 2005. A brilliant follow-up to the scrumptious 2004 vintage, this one is a worthy wine also. Fantastic nose of dark berries, pears, chocolate and cedar. Full bodied, rich and opulent. A fruit bomb of the best kind, backed up by vanilla and cedar. The tannins are a little rough but are manageable. Wow. My kind of wine. An absolute steal at $20 if you like big brawny new world wines.
So, who wins? We do!!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Less Impressive...

Another Aussie winery that wimps out with time!! I've seen this with Rosemount, Wolf-Blass and other producers. Too bad, they're either adjusting to consumer taste or laughing all the way to the my detriment.
I tasted the Pirramimma, Petit Verdot, McLaren Vale, 1999 last year (see archives, February 2007) and was "wowed" by it. So, when our local newspaper wine critic informed me that it was available in Quebec in the 2003 vintage and recommended it, I sauntered down to the shop in the spring sunshine and bought a couple of bottles of the new vintage. Well, as soon as I pulled the cork, I knew this wine was in trouble. A pink stained cork told me that this wine was not gonna be as "big" as the '99 (take a look at the black cork from the February archives). The nose remains its strong point - complex with blackberries and, er, um, Chinese food (you know, the good stuff, not that take out crap). It's only medium bodied on the palate with the blackberries reappearing , but there's not a lot of depth here. Definitely not a bruiser, this one is more of an elegant style...would actually have guessed it was a cab.
24 hours later that beautiful nose mutes a little, but the palate steps it up a notch - cedar and vanilla now share the fruit, which has become a little sour.
The verdict: It's a good wine, but miles behind the '99. Not gonna buy any more of this vintage at $26 a pop.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Southern Hemisphere

This is kind of unfair, comparing these two wines from the Southern Hemisphere, one from Africa and the other from South America. One trounces the other, but it's unfair because there is a significant price and age difference.
So what, here goes. The South African Graham Beck, Coastal Cellars, Shiraz, 2002 verifies its 5 years in bottle by giving of a musty nose, but when that blows off there is black fruit and oak. Full bodied with smoke, leather, wood and plums it finishes with sweet glycerin. Very smooth tannins. This is good stuff, I thought it was closer to a French Rhone than a typical new world shiraz. Worth the $20.
The Argentinian Rutini, Trumpeter, Malbec 2006 has an awkward nose of pine mixed with berries. The next day it had more of a candy bubblegum nose, not very pleasant. Medium bodied, spicy, raspberry jam (the koko factor: "boring jam"). Pleasant but light tannins add a little bit of structre. The next day, it tasted like a generic light red wine. This is a disappointing vintage, usually the Trumpeter malbec is a good wine. Poor value at $14 a pop.
Next up will have to be an Aussie wine to keep thinks southern...