Thursday, October 29, 2009

Aging Huts

Can Australian wines age well? Many worry that they may not age as well as European wines with a long track record for cellaring (except for the really high end stuff like Penfold's Grange). I had some mid priced Aussie juice from the same vineyard from three different years - 1998, 2002 and 2007 - so I rousted up 3 other tasters and we gave the wines a whirl.
The producer is Richard Hamilton and the wines are made from Cabernet Sauvignon from the "Hut Block", so called because the vines grow around a long-standing grape pickers hut. These wines had a remarkably similar style despite the vintage differences, but 3 of the 4 tasters were able to correctly identify them. The 1998 still had a nice blackcurrant nose leading to a medium full bodied wine with nice fruit still evident. This is aging well and still has a few years left in it, although it is a lot mellower than it was in 2000 (it was a "big" wine back then). The 2002 is a little earthier as well as having more intense fruit, and adding some crisp green pepper flavours. The 2007 is much like the 2002, just "fresher". All in all, hats off to the producer for keeping the wine true to style, and making it age-worthy for at least the medium term. Good wines, worth the $19 (interestingly, the retail price has stayed the same through the years as well...). I just wonder why they keep redesigning the labels...I think the oldest one is the classiest. This wine now comes with a screwtop.
Speaking of closures, the next wine we tried has an interesting "cork". It's soft plastic that you "peel" off (see the picture), leaving a rubber like re-useable stopper. Very neat, I like the simplicity (easier to open than a screwtop, and easily re-sealable). Too bad the wine was not very good. The Leese-Fitch, California Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 looks classy - but it is wine without terroir - reading the label, there's no clue as to what part of California the grapes came from (there are allusions to both Sonoma and NAPA on it, but I doubt the wine actually comes from either of these appelations). Stewed plums on the nose. On the palate, a lean style, here come the fermenting plum flavours (the kind you would spit out if you bit into one). Then the wine just dies off. No complexity here. No hint of time spent in a barrel. "OK" wine, way overpriced at $18.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lotus, Ique and Vacque...

This has to be one of the most original bottle labels I have come across....a very striking mix of local features and people in B&W spanning the circumference of the bottle (click on the photo to better see it) . Unfortunately the winery it comes from has a crappy little shack of a tasting room that is sooo ugly and tackily signposted that most people are probably afraid to stop by. Too bad. These guys, Lotusland, make tiny batches of varietals such as Ortega, Zweigelt, Cabernet and Pinot Noir in the Fraser Valley of BC where new wineries pop up every year. I was impressed with their Pinot Noir, 2002, probably because it uses dollops of oak to add some meat to the wine. Beautiful oaky nose - you PN purists will NOT like this wine as the soft, warm oak overpowers the palate. Chewy, but there is some bright fruit. Pretty long (oaky) finish. I like this - it's "good", and damn good for a red sourced from Fraser Valley fruit. $22. Stop in and have a taste next time you drive by.

Vacqueras is a village appelation in the Cotes-du-Rhone. The Montirius, Le Clos, 2004 is a 50-50 mix of Grenache and Syrah that is organically farmed. Initially quite closed - all minerally and graphite, it needs a good decant for a few hours to freshen up. It retains the lean, tannic frame but some nice brambly fruit shows up, laced with an iodine like tinge. Nice 30 second finish, this was a good foil for a turkey leg and portobello mushroom stuffing. Good wine. $22, worth the admission price if you like this old world style.

Enrique Foster of Mendoza dabbles only in Malbec. The Ique, 2007, is a black wine with blackcurrant and pomegranate nose. Medium bodied, classic malbec - more of the same fruit follows on the palate plus a little raw meat. No oak evident. Nice long finish. Good food wine, also went very well with turkey. Gobble gobble. $20.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Moving Up

When you move up from $15 to $25 a bottle, you expect a lot more out of your wine. I like it when it makes me say "wow"...
Robert Parker gave the Chateau Saint-Roch, Chimeres, 2006 an outstanding score for a wine from the southeast area of France - 92 points. So when I saw it for $25, I picked a bottle up to take for dinner at my sister in law's, she loves French wines and hates new world stuff. This is a black wine, full bodied and austere in style. Graphite, tobacco, not much fruit showing, it's a Bordeaux mimic. Needs time. I'd call it "good", maybe in 5 years or so it'll open up, so don't buy it unless you can lay it down for a while.
On to the new world. The Jackson Triggs, Okanagan Estate, Proprieters Grand Reserve, Shiraz, 2006 apparently was awarded Silver, best in class, at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London and Double Gold, Best of Nation, at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. So for $28 I thought this may be a "wow". Let this one decant for a while - initially it has a candy like nose that thankfully blows off to red berries. It's vibrant, spicy, medium bodied with cherries and redcurrants and a bit of white pepper. A bit light for a shiraz in my opinion. There is a short blast of tannins that quickly fade off. Out of it's league compared with good Aussie and Argentine shiraz. Good, but not worth the $28 (would be an interesting buy at maybe $18).
I had high hopes for the McLaren Vale Australian Gemtree, Uncut Shiraz, 2007. The 2006 was phenomenal for the money - $25. The 2007 is simply not as good, although I still like it and think it's worth considering for the price. Warm, toasty, toffee nose. Soft and caressing mouthfeel, not complex, not a palate wacker, lots of deep red fruit, it's a smooth sipper. It's definitley more my style than the Triggs.
OK, I digress from the $25 wines to talk about yet another $15 winner. This one's from Chile - the Undurraga, Sibaris, Carmenere, Reserva Especial, 2007. Opaque black, this is concentrated stuff. Full bodied, rich style. Very spicy, black olives (the canned pitted kind, not kalamata), boiled beetroot - it could easily pass for merlot (which the Chileans thought this grape type was for years...). No oak evident. New world in-your-face-style..."good" wine for those who like the style, overbearing for those who don't.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Continuing with the fifteen buck theme are a Chilean family - the Santa Carolina Barrica Selection series. I guess they age these in some sort of barrel, probably a large (old) one at that ("Barrica" roughly translates to the Bordeaux style barrel, but the term can be used more generically). They come in at $14.95 each. Their Carmenere, 2006 has an intense cassis nose. The palate is more disappointing - it is a medium bodied, non-descript fruit driven wine showing raspberries and cranberries. An OK wine.
Better is the Petit Verdot, 2006. Dates and blackberries greet a sniff. Vibrant, intense blackcurrant taste, almost tart. Very nice. A good wine.
Best of the bunch is the Syrah, 2006. The leathery nose is promising. Medium-full bodied with juicy blackberries and smooth tannins in the background. Kind of mid-way between an old world/new world syrah. Good wine, a winner for this price...