Saturday, January 30, 2010

All Italian

Italian week. The above three went head to head. Two are from a Sicilian winery, Calatrasi. Their Terre di Ginestra, Nero d'Avola, 2006 had a cranberry shortbread nose with an easy drinking, medium bodied profile. Sharp and focused but followed up by some warmth and spice, it offers red berries. Good food wine. "OK" overall, not good value for $20. A step up was their "651", Nero d'Avola and Syrah, 2006. Dark wine. Raspberry nose. Medium-full bodied with moderate and well integrated tannins, blackcurrants, spicy, very old world style. Good wine. Still, not good value for $29. Third up was the Villa Cafaggio, Chianti Classico Riserva, 2005. Truffles on the nose. Medium bodied, raw meat, iodine, earth, dried cherries. Crisp and clean though, don't think this is a "dirty" wine. Classic Chianti, good wine and great with food. It was a gift, so can't tell you how much it goes for in Canada; it retails for $20-25 in the US, which is about right.
Later in the week tried a "Gambero Rosso" two glass wine (their scoring scale is one to three glasses), the Poderi del Nespoli, Prugneto, Sangiovese di Romagna, 2007. What the hell does all that mean, you may ask. Well, a poderi is basically a "farm", Prugneto is the vineyard name, and sangiovese di Romagna is the grape type. It refers to the clones of sangiovese grown in the region of Romagna; these clones are generally considered poorer cousins of the noble Tuscan sangiovese used in Chianti and super-Tuscan reds. So, I had mixed expectations - and ended up with mixed feelings about this one. Medium red in colour, sweet whiff of plums, light to medium bodied, nice fruit (cherries and plums). Initial sweet attack but this dries out as it goes down. Juicy finish. Not bad, quaffable. I guess you can say "simple label, simple wine". BTW, you gotta love the simplicity of the label! $14 is too much for this weekday wine.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Partners In Crime

Ah, this weeks sampling of vino. Good or bad? Lets start with the good. Head to head went the Spanish giant Torres, Grand Coronas, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2005 with the Italian minnow Lamborghini, Trescone, Umbria, 2004. Yup, that Lamborghini - except it's the daughter of the maestro carmaker who runs this winery, not the (now dead) carmaker himself. This was an interesting comparison because it was like six of one, half a dozen of another. The Lambo yielded a nose of pretty floral notes over (not unpleasant) unripened cheese. Medium bodied, elegant, balanced, smooth with cranberries and plums and hints of tobacco. An excellent white meat wine, it went well with a post Christmas turkey scoff (I love turkey dinners!!). Good wine, $19. The Torres was slightly darker and deeper than the Lambo. Plummy nose, medium-full bodied, also well balanced. Mild black fruit supported by smooth, already mature tannins. 30 second finish. Good wine, $19 also.
Right, lets get the Port out of the way, because that's where it belongs. Messias is a minor Port House with a spotty track record, so I shouldn't have been too surprised. Their 2004 LBV is supposedly the "Late Bottled Vintage" style - wine from a poor or relatively poor year is casked in wood for about 4 years instead of the 2 years that wine from a good (a so called "Vintage") year to smooth it out more. The wine is then bottled and sold for immediate consumption. This one is a very sweet style, initially rough and non-descript - it actually tasted like what it is, a cheap fortified wine. The next day it softened, became a little richer with some figgy raisin notes, but still too sweet and rough around the edges. "OK" wine. $16 - I said it was cheap!! Would not buy again.
Alkoomi's 2007 Shiraz from Frankland River in Western Australia is, well I might as well say it right away, not a very good wine. I was very disappointed, as the local Ontario wine critic gave it 4.5 stars out of 5. What the f$@#%!! is wrong with this guy? His palate is driving me nuts. This is light coloured, dusty nose (NO fruit), light to medium bodied, sour cherries, cranberries with a little green veggie action going on. Short finish. This stuff is a struggle to drink. Waste of money at $15. This is a $5.95 wine.
Speaking of cheap wines, the Toronto Life Magazine released their top 10 wine value list recently. I'll report on them as I pick them up and force myself to drink them. First up is the respectable Spanish winery from Yecla, Bodegas Castano. I like these guys and I like visiting this region. Very hot and unpretentious. Their La Casona 2007 Monastrell Old Vines comes conveniently screwcapped. Medium depth on the colour chart. Cherry pie nose. Spicy, soft, good acidity, very quaffable but candied fruit is a drawback. Reasonable finish. "OK" wine (hey, it made the cheapo top 10 list, not the best of the year) and at $8.95 it's reasonably priced. But I won't be buying any more.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Syrah - Old or New?

This tasting pair up was a disaster. I had a couple of Syrah's that cost about the same, so I thought we'd blind them and see if we preferred Italian style or Californian. It took all of half a second of smelling each to know this was a mismatch. The Coppola, Diamond Collection, Green Label, "Syrah-Shiraz", 2007 smelt of sweet cranberries with a whiff of bubblegum. Medium colour. On the palate it was sugary with an overwhelming Dr. Pepper flavour. Not that there's anything wrong with Dr. Pepper, but I don't want it in a $24 wine. Robbery. This smells and tastes cheap - one notch above home made. Crap wine. If you have any, take it to a college party and leave it in the corner - someone will drink it!
On the other hand, the Tennimenti Luigi D'Alessandro, Cortone, Syrah 2004 had the same medium colour as the Green Label, but a much more interesting nose of Christmas cake. On the palate it was medium bodied and had this total Christmas cake with marzipan thing going on, but with a nice leathery finish. Crisp and bright. Good old style syrah. $23, not exactly good value but not a rip off either.
OK, Mr. movie director Coppola. Shame on you for foisting the Green Label plonk on us for $24. But I know you can do better (your 7 year old Black Label Claret we had last year was yummy). So how does his Diamond Collection, Blue Label, Merlot, 2007 stack up? Nice dark colour with a nose of creamy milk chocolate and cherries. It's looking better already. Medium bodied, a smooth operator, more milky chocolate - perhaps covering dried montmorency cherries. Almost plush with a silky texture. Nothing complex here, just a good, easy sipper. Pricey at $25.
Keeping in California, the Gnarly Head, Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, 2007 comes in flashy packaging, including graphic artwork on the screwcap. Surprisingly light coloured for a head pruned old vine vineyard (head pruned old vines are usually low yielding, meaning they should yield a concentrated wine). The nose and flavour profile is all strawberry Sun-Rype dried fruit bar. Plush, intense, very concentrated, almost sweet tasting fruit. It hovers just above that chasm of fake candy, but the "real fruit" flavours hang tough. "OK" wine, the $15 price is probably also OK if you like the almost sweet style.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Last Wines of 2009

The new vintage of Clos de los Siete available at the moment is the 2007. This Argentine wine is made from a sort of co-op (with seven [siete] rich partners!) supervised by Michel Rolland, so one expects a ripe, dense, heavily extracted wine. Opaque in the glass, it has a ripe crushed blackcurrant nose. Full bodied, moderately tannic, it has a savoury profile, a little dirty, with figs and some cassis hiding in the background. More subtle than previous vintages, it's not as big as I expected. Yummy though. Good wine. $24. Head to head, it is surpassed easily by the Pascual Toso, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007. Absolutely gorgeous, heady nose. Toffee, raspberry, oak, cassis, but with a nice herbacious edge. Full bodied. Rich and expressive. Wow. $20. Word of caution, though - a second bottle was good, but not as impressive, so there may be some bottle variation.

Arboleda translates as "grove", so I guess this Chilean winery has lots of trees. Their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is classic - one sniff and you know you're dealing with a good Chilean cab. The nose is strong cassis mixed with gamey notes. Full bodied, fruit driven, the very essence of cassis, a little chewy, chocolate and spice notes keep it interesting. A sipping cab, good wine, worth the $19.
(Wine Spectator 88 pts).

The Argentine Chakana, Wiphala, Malbec-Syrah, 2008 is a dark purple, intense, bright fruit driven (plums) wine. Cherries on the nose. Medium bodied, a very drinkable but simple fruit bomb. Good value at $16.

It wasn't all South American wines - this one is from Australia. The Innocent Bystander, Shiraz-Viognier, Victoria, 2006 is dark in the glass, but not inky black. Nose of stewed plum compote. Soft, lush, jammy black black fruit. Hedonistic, it slides down like luxurious grape juice, but falls flat fast. Pleasant enough and a good sipper, but very generic. Koko factor: "nice wine, but nothing distinctive about it."
24 hours later a little beef stock showed up, but still too much like fancy grape-ade to be interesting. Definitively not worth the $24. Nice label though.

Cheers, and I hope everyone had a Happy New Year!!