Sunday, February 21, 2010

Altavista, Bosca and the Ghost

Altavista, Atemporal, Mendoza, 2007 is an assemblage of malbec, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and petit verdot. Opaque purple, this is a ripper. Full bodied and dense, lots going on here, with raisins, plum pudding and dark chocolate. Problem is when the fruit fades there's a background of menthol - but it's a Halls coughdrop kind of menthol, and it's off-putting. The long finish is marred by this same coughdrop. It's still a good, big wine. Decant for one hour to let it settle before drinking. Next day wasn't as impressive, so don't keep it open too long. $20.
A next door neighbour is the Luigi Bosca, Single Vineyard Malbec, Lujan de Cuyo, 2006. The labelling on this bottle is interesting, it is one of the few Argentine wines that pushes "DOC" status on it label. This stands for Denominacion de Origen Controlada, meaning it is guaranteed to come from a specific area and conform to whatever rules the local authorities deem necessary to control the quality of wine from that region. This wine comes from a 70 year old vineyard, and it shows. Deep purple but not opaque. Clean nose of boysenberries and pomegranate. Medium-full bodied, lively and bright with intense, rich red fruits with some licorice and chocolate in the background. Not overbearing at all, very slick and new world in style with a nice, easy smooth mouthfeel. Good wine, well priced at $18, very impressive they can give you wine from a low yielding 70 year vineyard for this little. Left out for 24 hours it loses some brashness and becomes a little more elegant.
Last up this week is an interesting wine. The Ghost Pines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Winemakers Blend, 2006 is sourced from fruit from both NAPA and Sonoma, and is packaged like a marketing exercise. It's not a bad wine though - nice deep burgundy colour with a straightforward nose of blackberry and cherry. Firm, medium-full bodied, mix of raspberries and blackberries. Well made, clean, easy drinking although there are some slightly chewy tannins. Good wine, price point about what it should be for generic California cab - $20. This is what that funky Costco Julia wine should have tasted like....

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Frozen Taster

OK, I couldn't resist - I just had to try the Julia, Cellier 22, NV, "product of USA" wine. I tried not to be biased based on the first two Julia wines I tried, but... anyway, here we go. On the nose - oh, oh - there's a faint, but definite, whiff of bubblegum. Smells fake. The palate is better than the nose. Light to medium bodied, candyish, on the sweet side. Almost cloying (for a supposedly dry red wine). Plum and boysenberry fruit, but a little on the stewed side (again!). No finish. Look, it's an "OK", drinkable $5 party wine, but oh so predictable (and forgettable). And a ripoff at $14. If you have some, put it in the fridge for half an hour, it makes it easier to chug.
On to better things. Citra is one of those bargain producers that actually make good entry level wine, year in year out. It's low end stuff is sold in liter bottles and was a screwcap before it became fashionable. But, if you only had $9 to spend, this was a go to wine. They've just released a higher end version of their Montepulciano d'Abruzzo here, so of course I hunted it down and tried it. It's a 2007 and goes under the moniker Palio. Nice artwork on the label. Good deep colour, floral notes and plums on the nose. Medium bodied, firm, very dry, puckering tannins. Needs food. Sour cherries, a little dirty earthiness. This is so Italian tasting. You want authenticity, a wine that shows some terroir? Look no further. Good wine, well made, a good price at $14.
The next wine I expected very little from - it looked like a generic California cheapo, but the guy in the shop recommended giving it a whirl...
The Benziger Family Winery, Syrah, North Coast, 2004 has a nice dark, almost opaque colour. They got good extraction on this one. Nice cedar and spice nose. Full bodied, supple, rich and bursting with ripe black fruit. Well integrated tannins. Judicious use of toasty oak. Straightforward delicious. Wow, a winner! and totally unexpected. Bargain at $19.

Cheers from the frozen north!!

Friday, February 05, 2010

American Week

Nothing like a good book and a good glass of wine, especially when its -20 outside and the fire is roaring inside. Everybody knows this first wine - I've seen it in most Canadian provinces and it's widely available in the US. That means they make tons of it, so how good can such a big production wine be? The J. Lohr, Seven Oaks, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007, Paso Robles has loads of vanilla on the nose. Medium-full bodied, soft, ripe, toasty coconut (?american oak barrels anyone), almost creamy in texture. Much softer than the typical Australian (example: Penfold's) ripper. Blueberry-blackberry mix of fruit. An obvious style but delicious nonetheless, a good analogy would be "comfort food" - no haute cuisine but yummy. 13.5% alcohol - bravo for keeping the EtOH level down! Rating: Good wine, I can't give it a "wow" as it's a little too simple. $20, worth the price.
Now to a much smaller California producer - Joel Gott. His 815 Cabernet Sauvignon, California is a nice dark colour. Nose of fruit compote with something gamey hiding, maybe even sweaty socks. It's not corked, though. Medium bodied but in a lean style, with rhubarb, green pepper and initially a touch of sour candy. Needs food. The next day it seems to thicken up a little, dark plums and black tea make an appearance. An "OK" wine, not a go-to effort. $18 USD.
While shopping for the usual suspects at Costco (1kg bags of chocolate chips and 4kg filet mignons...) I went to pick up 24 cans of mango juice, bringing me by the wine section. Normally I scoot right by this section as the stuff they sell in supermarkets here is what we call "dep" wine - the worst plonk tankered in and bottled (or boxed) in Quebec, then sold for way too much (it's $5 wine but sold for 2-3 times as much). However, there was a big table with about 8 kinds of wine on it, all with similar labels, "Julia" and people were snapping them up. And it was priced from $10-$50. I've never seen a "dep" wine for $50, so this must be something different...turns out these guys zip around the world and buy "small lots" of bulk wine that they think is of high quality, they ship it up here and bottle it locally, giving them the right to sell it outside of our booze monoply, the SAQ. They say they cut out the middlemen and therefore a "$50 bottle can be sold for $25". Right, this story is getting too long....
I picked up the $24, $20 and $14 bottles Cellier 26, 24 and 22, they are all labelled as "new world wine" and "product of the USA" and, suspiciously, ALL are labelled as having 13.9% alcohol (are they all blended from different bulk lots??). No indication of varietal or vintage on the labels.
Lets taste. The Julia, Cellier 26 has a stewed plum nose. Medium red colour, already bricky. Medium bodied with an overwhelming taste of fermenting plums. Almost rotting fruit. It's best asset is a compote-like finish. This is awkward - it tastes like something went seriously wrong with their bulk transport or local bottling; or it was sitting in limbo in some warehouse for too long. They say on the label you can keep this wine for 10 years. Yikes. It's already worn out. What a waste of $24. Booooo.
The Cellier 24 is darker and has a better nose - more complex with some exotic spices...but in the background, there's that stewed plum thing again. Much cleaner palate than the Cellier 26, good acidity, crisp attack. Also medium bodied. Flavours are grape and blackcurrant hard candy. I'll rate this as an "OK" wine, way overpriced at $20. I'm terrified to try the Cellier 22. Thank the Gods I didn't buy their $50 bottle.
OK, good idea guys, but get the funky transport, bottling or blending problem solved.
On that note, Cheers!!