Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Plantagenet Riesling Great Southern 2005

Tonight was an order-in sushi night. I also felt like some wine with the sushi, and I had heard that Riesling was a good pairing. Thus, I chose the Plantagenet Riesling from Western Australia, which I believe was chosen as the best value white wine at last year's Vancouver International Wine Festival. It was a good choice.

This is a pretty citrusy wine with a lot of lime action on the nose and palate. It's quite a well balanced wine with solid acidity that stood up to the spicy salmon and tuna rolls. It's also a dry riesling, which I tend to prefer to the overly sweet ones (except when they are made exceptionally well). The Plantagenet has a firm structure with a tart but very crisp finish. After about 30-40 minutes the palate revealed some pretty interesting and flavourful raw clay-like/limestone flavours. Overall, an exceptional value.

Very Good+
$23 at BCLDB

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Far Niente Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2005

So I was in Toronto over the weekend for a law competition, which went fantastically well, despite my team not getting picked for the final (but we were robbed!). This little excursion gave me the chance to catch up with some good friends from back in the days when I used to live in that dread city. To celebrate our brief reunion we decided to open a bottle of Far Niente Chardonnay. Now, I have to say that the actual winery Far Niente in Napa Valley is annoyingly pretentious and made for super-rich people to feel good about themselves. However, they do make absolutely killer wine, and this bottle is no exception.

It has a quality oak backbone, but is not in any way overly-oaky. In fact, this chard has a wonderful crisp acidity that gives it a beautiful freshness. But, it also has a supremely velvety texture which just provides tremendous satisfaction when swishing the wine around your mouth. I detected a hint of nuttyness, but couldn't really place that flavour well. The wine is beautifully balanced, has nice length and drinks amazingly well at room temperature. All in all this wine was a great wine for a great occasion: if you like Chard, this is one to get.

$? (probably over $60 here)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tommasi Viticoltori "Ripasso" Valpolicella 2004

I've always been a big fan of the wines of the Veneto, especially wines of the Ripasso style, which involves exposing the wine to the dried skins of the grape for an extended period of time. Amarone's are the epitome of this style, but I've always found that valpolicella ripasso's can offer a great value if you find the right bottle. I was lucky enough to have a Tommasi Amarone over Christmas and it was excellent so I had strong hopes that this ripasso would deliver. I was right: this wine proves to me that Tommasi is a brilliant producer and I look forward to checking out more of their wines. This is one of Tommasi's more 'budget' wines, but it has a lot of character and goes fantastically with pasta, especially the sun-dired tomato, chicken pesto pasta I had tonight!

In the glass, the wine is a nice medium garnet colour. The nose suggests dusty raisinated fruit. The palate provides cherry fruit and a wonderful barnyardy flavour that gives the fruit tremendous depth. The wine generally has fantastic concentration. The tannins are very moderate and well balanced. What can I say, I love this wine and it is the best value wine I've had in a long time. I am greatly looking forward to the wine festival coming up at the end of february and especially its focus on Italy. And if this wine is of any indication, we are all up for a treat.

Anyhow, buy this wine and enjoy it at your earliest convenience: it is superb value.

$30 at BCLDB

Sunday, January 20, 2008

L.A. Cetto Petite Sirah 2004

I should first note that I drank this while watching The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, which is such a great movie that it maybe swayed my mood upward! If there ever was a perfectly paced and structured western, it certainly ranks among the best.

The Ugly: The only thing ugly here were my expectations, since this wine hails from Mexico. I admit I had preconceptions about its quality (although I still got it on a recommendation). This was pretty unfair given what I ended up drinking.

The Bad: the structure is a bit simple and the wine has a tinge of that 'burn on the way down' feeling that is oh so wonderful. However, no more than most wines at this price point.

The Good: Let's just say this wine made me realize that I should spend a bit more time seeking out good budget wines, because they can often give you the value of something twice as expensive. The nose revealed mostly blackberry aromas, and a bit of alcohol (even though this was only 13.5%). The palate was quite interesting with cherry, blackberry, a bit of blueberry, black and red licorice and a hint of tar. I wasn't too into the slight taste of boysenberry on the finish, but that's cause I really don't like boysenberry. Overall it was a medium bodied wine with a lot of flavour. It comes from the valle de Guadelupe in Baja, and while I'm not too sure how many Mexican wines are worth drinking, generally this is an impressive effort and well worth the price.

Very Good
$17 at Liberty

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2006

I am not one who is usually into whites. However, a good friend of mine was raised on white wine and never drank reds until I convinced him otherwise. Part of this process involved each of us bringing a bottle (or 2) of our favourite red/white and using it to convince the other to switch allegiences. I'm happy to say that while I wasn't converted to whites, I gained a new appreciation for them, and this wine was one of the ones he brought over. I just had it again, and it lives up to the memory.

The wine is quite pale, even for a sauv blanc; however it still has a lot of character and body. The nose is powerful and pretty grapefruity. The palate is strong on the grapefruit/pomelo with a nice hint of passion fruit. The wine has a lovely buttery texture, but not like cheap crappy over-oaked chardonnay. I believe the original wine makers at Cloudy Bay have moved on to other projects, but I think their legacy is still quite good (although I've heard not as good as it used to be). Given how much I like this wine, I'm going to seek out their new premium winery project (Dog Head I think...). Anyhow, the wine has a nice finish and a firm yet not overbearing structure. Well worth it.

$35 at BCLDB

Achaval Ferrer Quimera 2005

I generally drink a lot of california and Australian wines, probably because I visited Napa and Sonoma and loved it and Australian wine offers good value for money (given the Australian government's reduction on tax for exports of wine). Anyhow, I decided I wanted to try a region I used to go to a lot for good value wines: Argentina. However, in this case I wanted a wine that would express some authentic Argentinian terroir and a little something extra in the flavour department.

This wine consists of 27% malbec, 28% merlot, 25% cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc. The nose presents aromas of chocolate, mint, and blackberry. The palate is mostly blackberry and earthy leather. The wine is a moderately tangy and has a decent length in the finish, even if the complexity is somewhat lacking. It is a little closed and simple on the palate, but this might be due to the year - 2005, which saw less heat and therefore less ripeness and lower alcohol levels. But, the lower alcohol provides somewhat of a 'raw' element to the wine, which is appealing.

Upon first tasting the Quimera promises a lot, but kind of fails to deliver on the mid-palate and the finish. That is not to say it is a bad wine - far from it. It's well integrated and structured. It just lacks a 'wow' factor. It is certainly enjoyable sipping wine. However, it's too expensive for what you get. So, I would recommend a pass on this, despite the 'very good' rating, unless you are interested in tasting a slightly 'finer' wine with a decent sense of Argentinian terroir.

$45 at BCLDB
Very Good

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Heather Ale Ebulum Elderberry Black Ale

This is another of Heather Ale's traditional Scottish ales brewed with various alternatives to hops. The Scottish were not too fond of English brewing laws and decided to supplement their traditional alternatives to hops despite English laws to the contrary. Despite being just generally cool for their disobedience, the Scottish also create some pretty unique flavours with their hop alternatives.

For this particular beer, Elderberry is used instead of hops and produces quite a nice floral/fruity aroma. The beer is slightly smoky with moderately roasted malt flavours. There is a slight bitternes, but a lot less to traditional hops and it compliments the floralness nicely. This ale is a very unique combination of light and dark flavours and I think it's very tasty. Nevertheless, it might be a bit strange for some people and it was definitely too expensive where I got it. But if you are adventerous, like dark beers, and can find this for a better price than me, definitely give this one a whirl.

Very Good
$6 at Liberty

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Henry's Drive Dead Letter Office Shiraz 2005

I wanted a glass tonight while studying so I opened this Australian Shiraz I bought in the summer. This is mega-bomb super-intense Australian Shiraz, but is definitely a cut above the average.

The nose gives up very strong notes of candied cherry, and is simple if not intense. The palate is over the top, with the wine tasting of super-dark fruit, chocolate, vanilla, caramel and pepper. The wine is very juicy, and comes in at an incredible 16% alcohol, but it is not as 'hot' as I would expect for such high alcohol levels.

The wine is not incredibly complex, but it has a beautiful fruit forwardness and is great for the price. I like the integration, but this is not what I would call 'refined'. Over time the wine becomes a little less tasty because of its simplicity. If you aren't into fruit-bombs, maybe take the rating down a notch. However, if you are definitely give this a try - it is probably worth the

[Edit: I've had a few more glasses of this over the last couple days and I have revised my opinion. It is just too simple to warrant the original rating I gave it. Still enjoyable, but definitely deserving of a lesser rating]

$35 at BCLDB

B.R. Cohn Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

To celebrate my grades from last semester my girlfriend and I decided to go out for some sushi (which we hadn't had for a month - and if you live in Vancouver you know how long this is to go without). The evening evolved into a stroll to Granville where we popped into West (one of Vancouver's premier restaurants), sat down at their very nice bar and ordered a bottle of wine to share.

I visited Napa and Sonoma about 8 months ago, and the first winery I stepped into was a little homey place called B.R. Cohn. I thought the wine was excellent (as was the olive oil they also make there), but I didn't want to get overambitious and buy tons of wine at the beginning of my trip so I ended up not picking anything up. This was clearly a bad idea as I never ended up getting a bottle from this great little winery. So, when I saw one of their wines on West's wine list, I was intrigued, and a very positive recommendation from the sommelier tipped the scales in favour.

This is a great little wine that goes for only $20 in the US, which is well worth it. It is a more old-world bordeaux style cab with flavours of damp earth, wood, and a little mushroom. There is a nice balance with the fruit, but the fruit is quite subdued and acts more as a canvass than as the full expressive character of the wine. Even with this earthiness, which is the one of the 'old-world' style flavours I love, the acidity was not at all over-bearing and it made a great sipping wine. No food required, although we ordered a fantastic cheese plate (Pecorino goes amazingly well with this wine).

It's probably impossible to find this particular bottle in vancouver at a liquor store, but I do remember seeing the higher end B.R. Cohn Olive Hill or Olive Grove (something like that) Cabernet at Kitsilano Wine Cellars. It won't be cheap, though, as that particular cab goes for $50 in the US.

Very Good+
$20 in the US

Beckman Vineyards Purisma Mountain Syrah Clone #1 Santa Ynez Valley 2003

The new semester has started and I am finally back in town and able to taste some wine again (Asia is not the ideal place to find a good bottle). I have been very busy with a competetive law moot so it was nice to take a small break and try out a vineyard I've been interested in for quite some time. Beckman is situated in central California and has become more and more noticed over the past few years as producing some high quality crafted wines. Beckman is trying to bring some old-world style to the new world. Here's an explanation from their website: "With high elevations, a unique microclimate and the same rare limestone subsoil as found in the great Rhone region, this vineyard is perfectly suited for producing outstanding Rhone varietal offerings and serves as the source of our exclusive Purisima Mountain Vineyard wines. "

Without having known this before drinking, I definitely had the impression that the wine at least paid tribute to a northern rhone valley syrah, even if I would still describe the fruit as more new-world in style. So, on to the review

The nose was very plummy with a hint of cassis. The aromas carried a nice rich juicy character. With a couple hours in the glass the nose changed more into baked red fruit. The mouthfeel was very silky and well balanced, and the finish had a nice smooth texture.

As for the palate, I found the wine to be a little tart and acidic, especially upon first opening the bottle. I don't mean this in a bad way, though, but I think the wine would really benefit from pairing with food or cheese to mellow the acidity. Drinking the Beckman felt like drinking a tart rasberry pie and the fruit had a slight, but not overwrought, jammyness. Overall I think the winei s very well made, but while I like it, it is not entirely my style.

However, after several hours in the glass and sitting in an open bottle (I didn't bother properly decanting this one), the flavours really evolved and the acidity mellowed out quite a bit. The oaky vanillan flavours became more pronounced, which added a nice contrast to the tart fruit. The tannins became more and less expressive over time, fluctuating from very subtle to slightly grippy on the mid-palate. However, they never became overwhelming.

I say kudos to the winemaker for producing such a 'crafted' product, and even if it was not entirely my style, I am sure many people would enjoy this a lot.

Very Good to Very Good+ (depending on what style you like)
~$50 (at Marquis)