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!!