Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ridge and a Surprise

Ridge is one of my favourite California wineries. One of the best Cabs I have had came from their Monte Bello vineyard in the Santa Cruz mountains. But they are perhaps better known for a whole slew of single vineyard Zinfandels. To go with these wood-grilled T-bones we opened a 2003 Pagani Ranch Zinfandel.
It is actually 90% zin with the rest petite sirah and alicante bouschet. This is a mature heavy hitter, coming in at a not shy 15.3% alcohol whose heat can be felt on tasting. Shy nose. On the palate there are prunes and dried figs, earthy but still refreshing enough when paired with the big fat smokey T-bones. Nice to see a zin that can age a little. Good wine. $30-40 in the US for a more current vintage.
What on earth is this concoction you may ask? It makes a good story - my youngest brother used to dabble at winemaking in his previous life. He made plum wine from the plum tree in his backyard and pear wine from the pear tree in our parents backyard. The plum wine actually won a medal at a country fair, but I preferred the pear one - it actually tasted of pears, with a clean palate that belayed it's rather amateur upbringing. At one point he decided to try making "port" - from fresh grape concentrate meant for winemaking. To boost sugar content he chaptalized with either maple syrup or mashed bananas (the local depanneur was throwing out a whole bunch of overripe bananas). The must was fortified with cheap Mexican brandy that we had brought home after a trip through the Mayan ruins of the Yucatan. How did it turn out? pretty darn good considering the wines humble beginnings. And the damn stuff got better with time!
On Christmas day I was making gravy for the turkey and stumbled across a bottle in my vinegar and condiment area - it was an old bottle of the "port" with about a glassful of brown liquid in it that I had forgotten about...hmmm....probably vinegar by now I thought. Smells OK though. Should I try it? Why not. A little sip revealed no horrid surprises. A mouthful revealed a treat - this stuff had turned into a fine tawny. Lusciously sweet still, with raisins, figs, treacle pudding...wow! Too bad it was all gone in a matter of minutes. Just got back from a Boxing day dinner at Joe and Lianne's. Always a wine treat - we sampled St Supery Elu, Torres Mas La Plana cab, Luca Nico Malbec, Kacaba Niagara merlot, Caymus special select cab and my favourite, the Paul Hobbs 2006 Napa cab. And then he opened a 1980 Dow and a 1985 Smith Woodhouse. WOW!! Best wine night of the year.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rubber Chicken

Ever try any Long Island wines? Long where you say? North Fork, Long Island, New York state to be exact. This peninsula is surrounded by water (Atlantic on one side, a bay on the other) which moderates the winter chill. Castello di Borghese has the oldest vines in the region, so this winery should show us what the area is capable of. Their 2009 Chardonnay has a Meyer lemon, butter nose. It is vivacious, bright and citrusy with floral accents, driven by really nice acidity. Very clean, medium bodied, so easy to drink. Let it come it come up to 8 - 10 deg. Celsius or so to show off it's flavours. This is pretty good wine. Can't wait to tour the region and see what they can do with their reds as well. $17 at the winery, and worth it.
Dang. Missed it by a year. Happens all the time, I read about a highly rated wine, then when in the wine shop needing a bottle I spot the label but don't remember the vintage that earned the accolade. So I buy it anyway and hope it's the "right" year. The Ruffino, Modus, Toscana is a blend of Sangiovese (50%) and equal parts Cab S. and Merlot (25% each). The 2007 scored a soaring 96 points in the WS, enough for me to keep my eye out for it. Too bad I had picked up a bottle of the 2006. Meaty nose. Very Italian tasting - dirty, smokey, burnt fruit. Wood is well integrated. Complex and harmonius, but you'd better like old world wines if you try this on. Classy wine, good, but at $30, would not buy this vintage again. Gotta keep looking for the 2007!
ps the rubber chicken (the orange thingy in the bread) is a meat thermometer for turkeys...thanks Nancy!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


The latest Wine Spectator top 100 list is out...and coming in at #58 is the Bodega Catena Zapata, Malbec, 2009. It is readily available where I live, so naturally I went out to buy some to try. And on reading the WS tasting note, I recommended it to a friend before actually trying it...?mistake or savoir faire?
Well, yes, it is a flashy, new world wine but really, there's not much too it. It did improve with time - it was a lot better the next day, but where in the world was the richness, the plum pudding, the fig paste, the layers of flavour that the experts are talking about? A "good" wine at a stretch, but a top 100 wine should be a "wow". And my buddy, to whom I recommended the wine to sight unseen, was pretty cheesed off. His bottle was "crap" - he and his wife left most of it on the table in the restaurant they were at, he found it so uninspiring. Worse still he berated me in the changing room at hockey as soon as I walked in. Very embarrassing Mr. Molesworth. The only defense you can have is that, with at least 75,000 cases imported into the USA (meaning there were at least a million bottles made), there is a lot of bottle variation. Very disappointing, this could have been a "must buy" at $21 if it came as advertised. Beware.

At least Malbec was vindicated the same weekend - but courtesy of France. The Clos Triguedina, Prince Probus, 2000 from Cahors is also 100% malbec. But what a difference! A beautiful, full bodied, structured, classy wine. Dark but not inky black, this is what Bordeaux should be but often isn't at this price point. Nicely tannic, this would cut right through steak. Muted black fruits, chewy with some licks of vanilla. $30. Wow.
Camembert veggie pizza from the brick oven...mmmm good. Cheers!!