Monday, August 25, 2008


Bit of this, bit of that. The Ridge, Three Valleys, Sonoma County, 2004 is a mostly zinfandel blend from vineyards located in 3 Sonoma valleys (go figure!). Ya gotta love the way these guys label their wines - NO nonsense. Nice nose. Bright bright fruit - red berries, mostly raspberry with a little chocolate. Medium bodied, smooth, plush, an easy drinking rich sipper. Good stuff, not as interesting as Ridge's higher end bottlings, but remember these guys just don't sell bad wine!! Worth the experiment at around $25/bottle.
The Chateau du Grand Moueys, Premiere cotes de Bordeaux, 2005 is from that fantastic Bordeaux vintage. This is a prime example of what happens in a great year - small otherwise overlooked properties make very good wine. Blueberry, blackberry, cloves and pears (?pears) on the nose. Full bodied, tannic, cassis, iodine - this needs food. Good. An excellent cheap Bordeaux at $18, buy a case.
Oh well, there's always a stinker in the bunch, eh? This is the modern packaged Wild Rock, Merlot-Cab Franc-Malbec, Hawkes Bay, NZ, 2005. Shy nose. Medium bodied, some black fruit and sage but completely uninteresting. An "OK" wine. Waste of money at $18.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Too Much To Chew!

Whew. When you attend a 3 day party with about a hundred guests you end up drinking a LOT of different wines. Some were pretty darned good. I made quick notes on only a few of them as many I got only a brief taste of (including an always good Chateau Musar, a stupendous Burgundy - I have to find out what it was (I forgot!), a really good classic Rioja and a nice recent example of La Volte from Tuscany).
The Terrazas de Los Andes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza 2006 had a subtle nose but was a nice mouthful of blueberries and blackberries. A fairly serious entry level Cab, it's worth the $15.
Stepping it up a notch was the Altano, Reserva, Douro 2004 - vanilla and cedar nose leading into a woodsy palate with cherry fruit. Nice, well integrated tannins and a good finish. This made from traditional Port grapes and is good wine! Fair value at $25.
Next in line is the Penfolds, Bin 389, 2004. Nice cedar, vanilla and blackberry nose. Chewy oak mouth coating tannins but (?paradoxically) it goes down nice and smooth. Simply delicious, this borders on that "wow" feeling. Worth putting a few away at $35.
Now for the big guns. The Hardys, Eileen Hardy Shiraz, 1998 is hard to find and a quick search finds that it now retails for about a hundred bucks. You get a black, completely opaque monster with a big nose of mint and black fruit. Thick and unctuous palate, the black fruit is still there with menthol, nutmeg and tar. Wow.
Chateau Palmer, Margaux, 1999 will currently set you back at least a couple of hundred bucks if you tried to find it today. Good luck. It smells of very pungent musty blueberries. Full bodied, meaty, graphite, black coffee hide the cassis. Nice long finish. Would like to try this in 10 years. Wow.
Thanks to everyone who allowed me to share these last couple of days!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Malbec Battle

I've never had Malbec from France and Argentina head to head. Always meant to, but as you know....too much wine, too little time. I have to say after visiting both Cahors and Mendoza, as to which is the nicer (and more exciting) place to visit, the latter wins hands down. So, who makes the better wine? Cahors is perhaps the last stronghold of Malbec-making in Europe, Mendoza is the new star region for this varietal. We chose 3 wines, one a premium wine from Argentina that made the "top 100" list for the Wine Spectator in 2007, one from Cahors that received a "95" rating from this same magazine, and a 13 year old bottle of Cahors I found skulking about in my "cellar". This was a blind tasting. The old Cahors, the Chateau LaGrezette, 1995, was easy to pick out. Meat and mushrooms on the nose and a brick colour in the glass. Medium bodied, elegant, sour cherry, camphor...a good meat wine (it was sampled with a "cowboy" grill of lamb, steak, sausage and chicken). "Good".
I couldn't tell which was which for the other two samples. Turns out the wine most preferred was the Argentinian - the Bodega Catena Zapata, Catena Alta, Malbec, 2004. An explosion of vanilla milk chocolate on the nose, this was the silkiest, softest wine of the three. Unctuous, creamy, this goes on and on. It was definitely better than another bottle of the same sampled a few months ago (?perhaps a longer decanting helped it, but I think it was bottle variation). Wow. Pricey at $60, but if you want to sample what this grape is capable of, ante up.
The Le Cedre, Cahors, 2004 was labelled a "monstrous" malbec by the Wine Spectator. It showed loads of cherries on the nose but was also a bit medicinal. Lots of red fruit on the palate - cranberries, pomegranate, boysenberries. There was a hit of white pepper on the back palate. Quite tannic, we were probably drinking this one too early. Wow, lots to chew on here for $49, but sorry to have to say it, Argentina "officially" beats France for Malbec.

Monday, August 04, 2008


It's rare that you can sample 5 consecutive bottles of wine in the $10-20 range and be impressed. Well, impressed I was with this lot. All were quite good and each was distinctive - no hum-drum repetitiveness here. I'll take two examples. First, the Viu Manent, Reserva, Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 from Chile gave cassis, cloves and cardamom on the nose. It was medium bodied, silky in texture with black cherries balanced by an underlying dirty, earthy backbone. It was like I was tasting the fruit mixed with the dirt it grew in (terroir!!). Quite complex for the price, it made me step back and say "wow, how can they do this for $14"??? One note of caution - this was the third bottle of this particular wine that I've tried, and the first two were average ("OK"), either there's bottle variation or a couple of months of rest works wonders with it.
I bought the Zenato, Merlot delle Venezie, 2003 a couple of years ago and promptly lost it in the "cellar". So, why not pop it was my reaction when I stumbled on it last week. I would never have guessed this as merlot in a blind tasting - Italian, yes, but probably Sangiovese I thought. Dirty nose - earth, rotten leaves, wood. Complex. Medium bodied palate, with chocolate and cedar overpowering the red fruit. Nice tannic feel to it. Good. Worth seeking out. $20.
I think these wines were saying "welcome home" to me!