Sunday, February 22, 2009

Uco Magic

They say it will be the next NAPA valley...the Uco valley in Mendoza, Argentina. There has been a lot of big money invested there in the last 10 years - you get almost unlimited sunshine, copious amounts of Andes meltwater (most of it in a huge aquifier) and high altitude. Two of the newer European bodegas there are also architectural masterpieces - Salentein and O. Fournier. So, lets taste. The O. Fournier, alfa crux, 2002 is a blend with tempranillo the major component. Deep purple colour with a beguiling nose of berries and warm oak - the nose is the best part of this wine! This is a medium-full bodied, slick, racy wine with lush tannins. There is red fruit and blueberries. Wow. Not cheap at $39, but try to get this quality from Bordeaux for the same price....
From Salentein comes their Reserva Malbec, 2006. 14 months in oak. Not quite as deep coloured as the Fournier, this younger wine is closed on the nose. But it's ready to drink. A bright, vibrant, medium bodied wine with raspberry fruit, it's very smooth and goes down well. A good, serious wine. Good value at $18.

Now for a cheap quickie - from Portugal comes the Quinta de Bons-Ventos, Estramadura, 2006. $12 gets you a dirty little wine with redcurrants mixed in with earth, minerals and iodine. Noticeably Portuguese, this is an OK, honest everyday drinker.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Water Wheelies

Strange name for a winery, but can't fault the product. The Water Wheel Memsie 2007 is a blend of shiraz, cab s., malbec and petit verdot. 4 of my favourite grapes. And the price is right - $14. This must be one of their entry level wines. It gets you a nice dark coloured wine with a plummy, lightly spiced nose. Not surprisingly, it's fruit driven - but primarily the dried type - cherries mixed with figs ("fig newtons" was Koko's input). Medium-full bodied, nice smooth tannins, good length. A good wine and well priced.
A big notch up is the Water Wheel Shiraz, Bendigo, 2005. This one has been sitting quietly for about a year and it's settled down nicely. Strong oaky nose. Medium-full bodied again but this one is more oak driven with plum fruit and dark chocolate. Very nice mouthfeel, I kept going back for more, the wood is well integrated (not chewy at all). A beauty - very good and worth the $20.
Now, time to nit pick. When I read about this next wine (Domaine Cazes, Alter, 2003), I got sucked in by the review and picked up 3 bottles: "concentrated and firmly structured, deep intense flavours of dark plum, cherry, meat and spice. Plenty of sanguine notes on the finish, with stone and smoke. 90 points." Wine Spectator. I was actually excited to try it - but what a disappointment. This is an everyday table wine (not surprisingly, it's from the Cotes du Roussillon, where lots of table wine is made), I'd rate it as "OK" and nothing special. I won't even describe it, it was so uninspiring. I guess I'll leave the other 2 bottles in a dark corner and try them in a few years. $20 and about $15 over-priced.
A short note on a similar priced wine - the Flecha de los Andes, Gran Malbec, Mendoza, 2006 - this is also $20, is full bodied, intense and good. If you see it, it's worth a try.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Maturing Rioja

Wine doesn't have to be cellared a long time in order to "improve". In fact, most wine is made for immediate consumption and it's only the minority that needs long term cellaring in order to reach prime time. However, I am convinced that just laying a bottle down undisturbed in a cool, dark place for about 6 months does indeed improve it's character. For example, I had a bottle of the Baron de Ley, Reserva, Rioja, 2002 about 6 months ago and thought it a competent, good wine but nothing special. So it was a nice surprise that when opening another bottle recently I was met with a "wow" wine. Classic old style Spanish, it offers a cedar, vanilla and cinammon nose. Medium bodied, woody, creamy with smooooth tannins, stewed plums and a little toffee. Koko got a little smoked/cured Serrano "jamon" action on her palate. This stuff turns out to be a bargain at $20.
Another (pleasant) surprise was the Castellani, Sergio, Rosso Veronese 2000. This wine is made in the amarone style by drying the grapes in ventilated crates before fermenting, albeit for a shorter time than real amarone (only 2 months). This drying process raises the flavour profile as well as the alcohol content of the wine. Full bodied, dense, tannic and chewy with leather and mushrooms. A little hot on the finish. Good wine, a fair bit cheaper than amarone, worth the $22.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Number Ten

Wine Spectator's "Top 100" list for 2008 came out recently, so when I saw number 10 on the shelves of the BC wine store, I couldn't resist. It was a little over-priced at $35 as the suggested retail was $24USD and it can be had for $19 south of the border. Oh well, gotta pay the BC government the booze taxes to support their medical system... (which in my experience is woefully incompetent, but that's another story).
Okay, so the wine in question is the Seghesio, Sonoma County, Zinfandel, 2007. In the glass it's "see-through", not opaque as I expected. Lean black cherries on the nose (translation: not very aromatic) it is neither jammy nor full blown on the palate; a somewhat restrained zin. But, elegant it isn't. Medium-full bodied, creamy, smooth, very drinkable. The fruit is blackcurrant but there is a tobacco undercurrent. I was surprised to read 15.5% alcohol on the label, it carries the weight well. Long finish. All in all, a "good" wine, but didn't have the "wow" factor for any of the tasters. Not worth $35.
OK, next was an interesting wine. It comes from probably the furthest north winery in the USA, at least on the west coast. In Washington state, about 10 miles south of the Canadian border and due west of the volcanic Mount Baker is the Mount Baker Vineyards and Winery. Their Syrah 2004, Barrel Select, is however sourced from the more southerly Yakima Valley. Nice dark wine with rich plummy nose. Initially tannic, lean and austere, but with nice plum fruit, it needed Rod's famous ribs to smooth it out. What a good rib wine it turned out to be! A good wine, with the price about right ($15 USD). Time to visit the winery for a tasting, I think!!
Oh, and this is what Mt. Baker actually looks like (with J.L. as the model!):