Friday, March 28, 2008

Castello Dei Rampolla Chianti Classico 2004

I write this after a day of trudging through the first half of an essay on Sustainable Development law. It seems to me that we often use that term without really understanding what it means, and that while we have trouble defining it, that it still points to something of merit. So after the complexities of a philosophical and legal discussion of development and the environment I thought something simple was in order.

Chianti is a superabundant wine, but rarely where it counts. It often suggests something simple. These days, however, Chianti is growing in complexity and density and is becoming a little more exciting. This wine hints at that potential.

This particular producer became a bit of a cult hit with its Cab based super tuscan blends, which are likely the polar opposite of this wine. The nose is burnt red fruit. It almost smells like burning hay. The palate continued this trend and coupled those flavours with a high level of acidity that demanded food. This is not a sit on the patio sipper, but a wine built for a simple stewed meat or pasta. So, while the fruit is simple, the wine is good and even has a bit of chalky tannin. The acidity is high enough, though, that this without doubt a food wine. Enjoyable, but overpriced.

$38 at BCLDB
Very Good

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Chateau de St. Cosme Gigondas 2005

The exact opposite of the wine from yesterday's review. This is real Rhone Valley that typifies why this region is so exciting for me. Here we have a regular Gigondas wine that is bold, rustic and edgy without being manipulated or alcoholic.

The nose was very much that of baked earth and fresh cherry; I can feel the sun beating down on the grapes. This does not have that 'baked' fruit flavour, though, but is quite well balanced. The palate is again roasted earth and cherry with waves of gamey pepper and spice. The flavours also concentrate and expand on the finish, which brings a fantastic end to a sip of this fantastic Gigondas. One of the best Gigondas I have had. These guys also make a single vineyard Gigondas, which I have sitting in my cellar collecting the appropriate amount of age. I have high expectations.

$46 at Broadway International Wine Cellars or Kitsilano Wine Cellars

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chateau de Montfaucon "Baron Louis" Cotes Du Rhone 2005

It's bound to happen. At some point. Against all my expectations this was one of the worst wines I've had in recent memory. This came highly recommended as a Cotes du Rhone made in the Chateauneuf du Pape style (blending Chateauneuf varieties) from a single vineyard across the river from CdP and in a great vintage. And, amazingly, this vineyard is owned by a former member of the winemaking team at none other than Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe.

The nose was very simple and slight - a hint of red berry. Palate-wise this was all sour-cherry and boring. Too acidic and poor balance. Overall this was actually hard to drink and it took a few days and two people to get it all down (and with food). After an hour decanting it opened a bit and the fruit was a little more concentrated. So, while not gross, I cannot recommend this to anyone. I hear the 2004 was better.

$35 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Page Cellars "Preface" Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

Page built this fascinatingly elegent Cabernet from Washington grapes of the Red Mountain AVA (American Viticultural Area). I'm a sucker for the concentration often seen from high altitude grapes -which is a result of oxygen deprivation and increased exposure to ultra violet light - although I have never tried this particular AVA before. The wine, while definitely dense and brambly, is also quite elegant and really shows the quality of Washington viticulture. Being in Vancouver and Living so close to the state promises many fantastic wine trips in the future, especially given that Washington and Oregon have established a fantastic nexus between old and new world styles.

The nose on this was heavy in blackcurrent and blackberry. Upon initially opening the bottle, this actually tasted pretty unripe and green. However, following one hour of decanting the wine developed into a very refined and elegant Bordeaux-style cab replete with rocky earth and big tannins, but also with incredible big briary fruit. This is a great wine and a great value.

$40 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Torres Salmos Priorat 2005

Spanish wine is a bit of an untapped resource for me, which is a shame given bottles like these. I've been trying to explore a bit more of Spain, from tasting a Monastrell a few days ago to exploring the Priorat Region of Northeaster Spain, which is quite an interesting place. Priorat specializes in old vine Grenache. For many years they were known for rustic and rough wines, but lately there has been a bit of a renaissance in the region and winemakers have started tapping into the amazing potential of the often 100+ year old Grenache vines. Prices have also gone up, but this is a pretty exciting region, especially for someone like me who loves Grenache (most southern Rhone wines are heavy in that variety of grape).

The nose on the Salmos was very cherry and a bit of cherry cola (i.e. dried/candied cherry). The palate was cherry, berry, supple and smooth with chocolate, herbs and licorice rounding out the fruit. This was also a low acidity wine, but was not bloated, limp or jammy. A big and fruity wine that is full of character and, while powerful, not over the top. I am definitely seeking out more wines from this region, especially given Torres is a new entry into the region and there are plenty of older generation wineries to sample.

$43 at BCLDB

Friday, March 21, 2008

Capitel della Crosara Monopolio Montresor Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1999

So sometime last week I felt that I needed to celebrate absolutely nothing and open a really nice bottle of wine. This has been sitting around in my cellar for a while and recent reading revealed to me that the Amarone's of the late 90's are peaking right about now; so there was no real reason to wait on this one. And boy was that a good choice.

This is a beautiful Amarone with a nose of classic dark and raisiny fruit, but with absolutely amazing intensity. The palate was simply brilliant with cedar, blackberry, plum, dried cherries and berry liqueur. All of these flavours were integrated perfectly with nothing out of balance. This type of integration and consistency is very rare in wine since there is often a hole in the development from the nose, over the palate and down the throat. With this Amarone, however, there was absolutely no break in the development and the flavours kept growing and changing so consistently over the entire experience that it was simply amazing. Plus, the finish was nearly endless, lasting in the mouth for several minutes. This wine was a beautiful and seductive temptress in a dimly lit bar - think Casablanca.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Luis Perez Monastrell 4 D.O. Bullas 2005

Monastrell is a Spanish grape that in this case grows in the Bullas wine region in south eastern Spain near the city of Murcia. For many years wine experts thought that Monastrell was the same grape as Mouvedre. Now, genetic tests have shown the two varieties to be different. So, there is actually little known about Monastrell as a distinct grape since this discovery is pretty new. However, this is a pretty thick skinned grape that is quite dense and flavourful. This particular wine is a Parker favourite (rating at 92 I think), so keep in mind his preference for big, bold and up front wine.

The nose on this 100% Monastrell wine was candied cherry, red licorice and roasted herbed red meat. The palate continued the candied cherry trend and was generally a big fruit blast with a hint of pepper, sourness and fertalizer. This is big and flavourful, but it is also sort of artificial tasting. I much prefer my wines to taste like fresh cherry and not candied cherry. Some may enjoy this, but for me it was distinctly on the upper end of average.

$27 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Eroica Riesling 2006

This Riesling from Washington state is a joint project between Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington and Dr. Loosen of the Mosel region in Germany - a superb producer of German Riesling. I am a huge fan of Riesling but I tend to drink Australian Riesling because of the price to quality ratio, so it's always exciting to try one from a new region.

The wine is quite pale, so much so that I wonder if this has been aged in Oak at all. The nose on this was rich tropical fruit with a hint of vanilla. The palate was replete with apple, tropical fruit and vanillan flavours (suggesting oak). This was quite nicely balanced between sweetness and acidity, but I found it perhaps a bit too fruit forward for my tastes. It's quite light and airy in texture, which is great, but I would like more complexity in the finish. This is, nonetheless, quite a tasty quaffer.

Very Good
$35 at BCLDB

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

David Fulton Petite Sirah 2003

As I've mentioned before, I've always been a fan of petite sirah. It's not what I would classify as my favourite grape, but I appreciate its uniqueness. David Fulton began just as a grape grower who would sell his petite sirah to some pretty high class customers for blending purposes. These days the winery is also producing a top notch petite sirah bottling of their own that shows what this grape is capable of.

The nose was very pruney this time around. When I originally had this wine about six months ago the nose was a lot more toasty. The palate was very chocolatey with dark cherry and prune fruit flavours. Upon initially tasting the wine it seems a bit simple, but then after a couple seconds the mid-palate explodes into intense flavour that develops into a length and very pleasurable finish. This wine is big and intense, but has superb tannin structure and is concentrated and focused, unlike other petite sirahs. This is a BBQ wine from the gods and probably the best petite sirah I've tasted to date.

$37 USD (purchased in California)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Vancouver International Wine Festival - Round 3

It seems that life often gets in the way of the most well intentioned of plans. Thus it is that I finally attend to finishing my tasting notes for the Vancouver International Wine Festival. In this final installment of the Wine Fest Series I traverse the world to provide notes on wines from all the (other) global regions of the world. Italy may have been the focus of the festival, but there were certainly many other fantastic entries. So let's go globetrotting...

United States

Domaine Drouhin (Oregon) Pinot Noir 2006: Classic burgundian style with intense new world fruit. Strawberry and earth. Solid, but somewhat simple for the price.
Very Good+ - $60

Domain Drouhin (Oregon) "Laurene" Pinot Noir 2006: Now this is Pinot Noir. Lush, structured, lengthy, intensity of light berry fruits. This was like drinking a Strawberry Rhubarb barnyard poured over minerally earth. This was simply fantastic and shows why Oregon is well on its way to becoming the Burgundy of the New World.
Excellent+ - $75

Ridge Santa Cruz Mountain Estate Chardonnay 2005: This is what New World white should taste like. Explosive nose of hazlenuts and tropical fruits. An absolutely intense palate with similar flavours that develops into an outstanding finish. Even though the flavours were fantastic, what really stood out with this wine was its mouthfeel. It was like drinking liquid cashmere. This was the best white I tasted at the show.
Excellent+ - $55

Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel 2005: This zin had great purity of fruit and while it wasn't quite as in your face as the Lytton springs, I actually preferred it for its softness and texture. Tasty stuff.
Very Good+ - $50

Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel 2005: I've tasted this zin before and was not a huge fan. While I enjoyed this, it was a tad too peppery and briary for me. Blackberry dominates the palate. I like my wines a little more refined and a little less monster. Still, this is great if you like the style.
Very Good - $50

Ridge Santa Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon: Oak and Eucalyptus abound on the nose and palate with this one. The moderate tannins bring the mid-palate into a nice finish that lingers, but I found the flavours a little boring to be honest. Very well made, however.
Very Good - $?

Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon 2004: I'm not sure what I said to get the president of Ridge to pull this from underneath the table, but damn was I happy. The Monte Bello is a renowned Cabernet from Napa, one that was used in the famous Paris Tasting that saw a Californian Cabernet (from Stag's Leap Wine Cellars) beat the best of Bordeaux in a blind tasting. This wine was incredibly smooth and consistent and had a beautiful mocha nose. While the fruit wasn't over the top or overly complex, the simplicity of the blackberry-black current flavours coupled really well with the mocha in a wine that simply had an outstanding structure. Still, I would not pay full price for this - it's just too damned overpriced. Great wine, though.
Excellent - $180


Majella "The Malleea" 2003: Majella is a fantastic producer from the Coonawara region in Australia that makes beautiful blends. This special blend is their top of the line wine and while it was tasty, I just didn't love it. The nose was heavy on the eucalyptus, which I find prevalent in a lot of Australian Cab Sauv's or Cab based blends. The red and dark berry fruits were mild, but pleasant and the finish was decent. But this didn't blow me away.
Very Good - $90

Peter Lehman "Stonewall" Shiraz 2002: This Shiraz is quite renowned in Australia and I was pretty excited to give this a taste. I have to say, though, that while good the hype has raised the price of this wine a tad too high. Again I tasted mocha-mint and cassis, like many a Cab. And, while I appreciate that this cab was all about structure and balance I must say that I tend to like my wines earthier or brighter.
Very Good - ~$80

Plantagenet "Great Southern" Shiraz 2005: I tend to like Plantagenet, and I also find Western Australian wines to be a unique break from the hordes of Barossa Shiraz's that proliferate the Australian eisle at the local wine stores. This had a nose of cherry which developed into a tasty palate of cherry, plum and pepper. This is good value and very drinkable.
Very Good - $35

Turkey Flat Shiraz 2005: I didn't take too many notes on this one. But this is one of my favourite Australian Shiraz's. Year in and year out these guys producer some great Barossa Shiraz that is a cut well above the norm. I don't have any official tasting notes except that I rated this as:
Excellent - $50

Clonakilla "Hilltops" Shiraz 2005: This Rhone style wine is made by a producer obsessed with all things Rhone. Clonakilla has led a mini-revolution in Rhone style wines in Australia and has solidified their reputation with their Shiraz-Viognier (made in the Cote-Rotie style). This shiraz, however, is half the price of that and a fantastic briary, rustic in your face syrah. This is great stuff. What can I say, I love "syrah".
Excellent - $35 (at festival store), $45 (at Kits Wine Cellar)

Greenock Creek "Alice's Block" Shiraz 2005: I don't usually agree with Robert Parker, but this wine, which for the last four years has received ratings between 96 and 98 from Robert Parker lives up to the hype he creates. This has absolutely outstanding purity in the fruit and a very warm dark and red berry palate. What makes this special is that it has a nearly perfect structural development with the berry flavours developing evenly and consistently from the initial sip well into a couple minutes after the final gulp. This is the kind of Shiraz I want to drink all the time.
Excellent+ - $80


Albis 2004: I didn't get to many Chilean wineries this year, but I am glad I gave this wine a try. This is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Carmenere. The nose was rather barnyardy and earthy while the palate was alive with fruit and mocha flavours. This wine consists of what I like to call silky tanins. Very Very tasty.
Excellent - $? (probably over $50)


Cortes de Cime Chamine Vinho Tinto Alentejano: Wow, that's a long name. Ok, this baby was the best value wine at the show and is readily available in BCL stores. What else can you ask for? This wine is interestingly made from the Spanish grape Tempranillo, which I believe is also native to certain regions of Portugal, although it goes by another name that I forget. The nose was quite interesting blackberry with a tinge of earth. The palate is best described as eating a piece of toast layered with blackberry jam while sipping on a well brewed coffee. This is great if you like jammy wines.
Excellent - $19!!

Quinta Do Crasto Touriga Nacionale 2005: First off, I have to mention that somehow I stupidly forgot to make notes on the new release of Crasto's Old Vines Douro, which I remember was in need of a bit of age but was showing great potential. This wine, however, is one of Crasto's high end jobbies and was absoltely brilliant. The nose was insanely fruit forward, but what got me with this wine was the palate which was full of mushroomy, earthy fruit that blew me away with its uniqueness. I love Portuguese wines and they are unfarily way way too under the radar.
Excellent - $75

Quinta Do Crasto Maria Theresa 2005: This came close to being wine of the show for me. Boasting utterly complex fruit and a finese and elegance rarely seen in wine the Maria Theresa single vineyard Douro had incredible structure, complexity and length. I also inexplicably picked up a bottle of this in the summer for $60 off on some strange manager's special at a nearby BCL store (I guess no one buys Portugese wine). This is worth the money, even at full price.
Excellent+ - $120

French Wine

Coudoulet Beaucastel 2005: Gamey fruit that is simple but tannic. Didn't love this, but was ok.
Very Good - $? (around $35?)

Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape 2005: This is one of those legendary wines from the Rhone Valley and also from an outstanding vintage. This was closed and tight. This needs serious time and it was hard for me to assess its qualities at such a young age for such a complex wine. It was dense as hell, though.
Excellent - $90

So this year's wine festival was an overwhelming event at which I tasted over 100 wines and wrote notes for about half of those (the wines I liked most). This is a whirlwind experience for those who haven't gone before, but it is well worth the effort. These events give you the opportunity to learn about wine, improve your palate, taste wines side by wide, and chat with some winemakers and other folks in the wine biz. It was a great experience, but a tiring one - evidenced by how long it took me to get all the tasting notes up. So, until next year!

And that's all she wrote.

Marquis Wine Cellars New Product Tasting

This Saturday Marquis held a tasting of several of their new products and I attended in order to provide all you readers with a summary of what I thought of some of their new stuff. Most of the wines tasted were under $30 and I had about 20 different wines, although I am only posting reviews of wines I think were decent.

As anyone from BC knows, finding a good wine under $30, and especially under $20 can be a serious task. This tasting continued to show that it is hard to get complexity and purity of flavour at the below $20 range, but that there are some decent options. Let's see what made the cut. All wines are available at Marquis.


Qupé Bien Nacido Cuvée 2006: Qupé is always a reliable producer from Central California and this effort is no different. It has a fair amount of toasty-nutty flavours coupled with some nice orchard fruit and low acidity. It's a bit manipulated for my tasted, but this is a decent effort at a pretty good price.

Very Good - $29

Alphonse Mellot Sancerre "La Moussiere" 2006: Quite excellent. Peachy grassy tones with an excellent crisp acidic core. This will go well with food and will be excellent on a hot day. Very refreshing.

Very Good+ - $35

Grosset Watervale Riesling 2006: The nose on this Australian Riseling was a bit weird - I even picked up some notes of rubber. But, the palate had a nice core of citrus fruits and a decent length finish. What was special about this dry Riesling, though, was its superb structure and amazing acidity. This was very crisp, well built, and well integrated. The strange nose brings the rating down a notch, though.

Very Good - $37


Chateau La Gravette Minervois 2005: This is good value wine, but only if you like pepper. A simple but inoffensive nose leads into a very peppery palate, which while a tad over peppery, was still very natural tasting. It's hard to get a wine this cheap that doesn't taste overextracted or funky. So, while not my style I think many will enjoy this.

Good+ - $16

Laura Hartwig Cabernet Sauvignon 2005: This winery hails from Chile and is well known for producing quality value wines. This is no exception and is a fantastic wine at the price. Classic Chillean flavours of cassis and blackberry with a solid oak core - but not overly oaky. This is definitely not over-extracted, but of course still somewhat simple. Compared to the plonk out there at this price point I am pretty darn impressed.

Very Good+ - $19

Westrey Wine Co. "Justice Vineyards" Pinot Noir 2006: I've been wanting to taste a Westery wine (an Oregon Pinot producer) for quite some time so I was pretty excited to get this liquid in la bouche. I was a bit disappointed. This had pretty strong blackberry flavours and slight strawberry flavours, but overall the fruit was dominated by tannins. I think this wine was really just far too young and so it lacked the depth and complexity I was hoping for. The structure seemed pretty decent, but I didn't love what I was tasting. So, while I think this will get better with age, I don't think it is my style of Pinot. It has promise, though, and I would still love to try other wines from this winery.

Very Good - $38

So those are my picks from the tasting. I wish more stores in Vancouver would put on proper tastings like this: they really magically do lead to more sales and more customer loyalty. Maybe one day the local wine business will get its act together. Until then we'll have to rely on these occasional events at the couple decent stores in the city.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Rhone Gang "Hold Up" no. 6

Today's post brings us quite a unique wine, and one that I am happy to say hails from the Rhone Valley in France, which as I've mentioned before is probably my favourite wine region. The first interesting detail with this wine is that it is put together by some of the Rhone’s top producers, including the likes of Louis Barruol (from Château St. Cosme) and Frederic Chaudière (from Château Pesquié) who collectively go by the name “The Rhone Gangsters”. The second, and quite surprising point of interest, is that this wine is a blend of Pinot Noir and Grenache! I didn’t think I’d ever see these two grapes together, especially in a Rhone wine. But there you have it.

The Hold Up no. 6 is light but bright with a good acidic core and smooth tannins. The palate brings forth some really nice sour cherry flavours (probably from the Grenache) and a hint of strawberry (there’s the Pinot). Underneath the fruit are some pretty tones of earth, rocks and flowers. This will go great with lighter meats and cheeses and is also a heck of a lot of fun to drink. This is an exceptional wine, and quite under the radar right now. Plus, at this price point, this stuff is worth buying by the case. I just hope there's some left when I can afford to buy a few bottles.

$27 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Au Bon Climat Hildegard 2002

I tend to love this winery, so when I saw one of their whites on sale I had to jump. I have to say that I was pretty disappointed in this one, but that it was well made enough for me to want to try some other of Au Bon Climat's whites.

The wine had a nice golden straw colour and comprised 55% Pinot Gris, 40% pinot blanc, and 5% Aligote. This was a pretty low-acidity wine that presented notes of pear on the nose. The palate was heavy on the pear and apple and felt slightly caramalized. I just couldn't get over the seeming lack of integration of flavours into a pleasant whole. The wine kind of went from tart apple to smooth pear to caramel and back to apple again. Needless to say I wasn't a huge fan. At least it was an ok sipper.
$48 ($34 on sale) at Marquis

Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion 1998

I managed to find this wine tucked away in the corner of my local BC Liquor store. While I know that this is a far cry from the famous Haut Brion Bordeauxs, I figured it would be a lot of fun to try out an older vintage Bordeaux from a decent producer. Keep in mind, however, that this wine was more a combination of new and old style Bordeaux as opposed to the purely classic.

The nose gave up sweet jammy mint and chocolate notes. The palate was tangy and earthy with pretty subdued fruit. I liked that. This is what you might call a more austere wine that has a lot of finesse and structure, smooth tannins, medium body and a medium length finish, but that is also not a big fruit fun blast. This requires you to be in the right mood when drinking. With some air the palate opened up into barnyardy coffee flavours.

Very Good+
$77 at BCLDB

Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

I've been pretty busy lately and so I've also been backed up a lot with the wine reviews. Today I plan to go through a few wines that I've had lately. The Montes Alpha Cab was a good value wine from Chile with a nose of roasted tomatoes, burnt hay and cherry. The palate was a blend of earth, cassis and chocolate. This wine was a bit rough, but it had a really nice flavour profile and a pretty darn good finish given the price point. Its moderate tannins gave it a nice structure but they do not overwhelm. If I have any critique it is that the wine is a bit over-extracted. Still, a good value.

Very Good
$27 at BCLDB

Friday, March 7, 2008

Vancouver International Wine Festival - Round 2

Things have been hectic around here so I've been a bit delayed posting this continuation of the Wine Fest series. However, today we are in for a treat as I highlight the wines of Piemonte.


Damilano Barbera D'alba

Mushroomy nose with a very earth palate. Closed and tannic right now. A heavy Barbera that probably needs age.

Good+ - $35

Damilano Barolo 2001

Very veggie, with wood spliters and smoke and moderate tannins. This was quite a unique wine that woke my brain up. After you taste enough wines you get used to certain flavours and even bored when the same old thing comes your way. However, this wine, the first Barolo I tasted at the festival, woke me up to the delights that wine is capable of. It was still a bit closed, but showed a lot of promise.

Very Good+ to Excellent (with Age) - $50

Damilano Barolo 2003

Another vegetal wine that is what I like to call "atom-dense". Drinking this is like pulling teeth and getting pummelled by a heavy-weight boxer. If you're a masochist wine drinker, this is great. Otherwise, needs time - but should be pretty good with enough coaxing.

Very Good - $50

Damilano "Cannubi" Barolo 2003

Wow. Very fruity and alive with a great flavour profile. The structure is there for this to last quite a while, even for a 2003. The finish is a bit short right now but I suspect this will develop with age.

Excellent - $85

Damilano "Liste" Barolo 2003

The best of the bunch. Amazing concentration and purity with loads of complex earth aromas and flavours. Yet, it is actually 'spritely' for a Barolo with a perfectly constructed acid and tannin balance - I love this sense of wit.

Excellent+ - $85

Prunotto Costamiloe Barbera d'Asti DOC 2001

Barnyard and heavily fragrant. An amazing Barbera to pair with a fancy pasta or Osso Buco. This one has aging potential.

Very Good+ - $56

Prunotto Nebbiolo d'Alba Occhetti 2005

Big bodied Nebbliolo with ripe tannins, but enough depth to make this a kind of "mini" Barolo. The rough-edged younger brother of the Barbaresco's to come who has not developed quite as much class.

Very Good+ - $35

Prunotto Barbaresco 2004

Wow. Crazy intensity here coupled with outstanding character. The fruit is big and powerful and very in your face. Yet, this is no new world wine - it's got a rustic temperament. This could sit in the cellar for quite some time and it will probably mellow into something quite special. Right now it's just a lot of fun.

Excellent - $55

Prunotto Barbaresco Bric Turot 2001

Very Rich, but also very soft. The tannins are well balanced. This is a reflective wine - something to drink on a cold sombre day in front of the fire place. It's the classy relative to the 2004 Barbaresco, and equally good. A wine for each mood.

Excellent - $80

Prunotto "Bussia" Barolo 2000

This will be a favourite amongst traditional Barolo lovers. It's tight right now, but not so closed as to be inexpressive. This has intensity, real intensity: the kind of intensity you rarely find in wine. It's broody too and I think it needs patience and cellaring to bring out its full character. This is another 'atom-dense' wine, but it has tremendous depth to boot.

Excellent - ~$100

Prunotto "Bussia" Barolo 2003

Chewy prune fruit with currently a lot more fruit concentration than the 2000. The tannins may be a bit much for some, but they will mellow with time. For me, this is drinking great now and in the next few years. It's the kind of wine that'll make you pause, take a breath, and reconsider, with each sip. Definitely one of the highlights of the show.

Excellent+ - ~$100

In the next installment I will be going international to explore the remaining wineries from across the world that I managed to taste.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wine Blogging Wednesday: Comfort Wine

The theme this month with wine blogging wednesday is "comfort wines". Joel from wine life today has asked all us bloggers to choose a wine that we love to unwind to and write about it. For me this is a bit of a problem since I rarely drink the same wine twice unless I absolutely love it. So, like Sonadora, over at Wannabe Wino I am going to write about a 'type' of wine that I love. For me this is not a varietal, a winery, or a region. The wines I love to relax to are wines that go exceptionally well with food. I don't always drink wine with food or look for wine that matches well with food - but there is something special about finding that flavourful match for the food you love.

I am no expert at matching wine and food, but I love when I discover those magical combinations like Riesling and sushi, or Barbera and a simple tomato pasta. There is nothing more comforting after a long day than simple tasty food highlighted by a simple tasty wine. In this spirit, today I'll be writing about what has been an absolutely fantastic combination: a 2002 Woodward Canyon Charbonneau with some fantastic sushi (if you live in Vancouver you know that sushi is a staple of life here).

There's something special going on here. Pairing a Pacific Northwest Wine with a Vancouver speciality ended up being pretty much the definition of comfort. Woodward Canyon, a renowned Washington winery from Walla Walla, is known for their Cab Sauv's but this lovely white blend was simply fantastic.

The wine is 65% Semillion and 35% Sauvignon Blanc. Dark mellow yellow in the glass. This is seriously vibrant stuff. It's so unique that its secondary and tertiary flavours actually made me not only appreciate its boysenberry core, but actually enjoy boysenberry - something I don't generally do. The nose of this wine was a beautiful combination of caramel and hay and some sort of floral scents I couldn't strictly identify. The palate was heavy on the boysenberry, but it had a tinge of caramel and peaches without being over-toasted. The beautiful structure and pretty much perfect acidity made for a great match with sushi. One bite of a spicy tuna roll and a sip of the Woodward Canyon was the essence of comfort and I couldn't recommend this wine highly enough. Brilliant stuff.

P.S. For those who have been following my Vancouver Wine Festival coverage, I will be continuing that within a few days (it's been a busy week!).

$47 at Marquis (Bought on sale for $33)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Vancouver International Wine Festival - Round 1

This weekend I attended the Vancouver International Wine Festival - a rather large event with over 700 wines poured. Amazingly I managed to taste 100 of those. The theme this year was Italian wine, which was a fantastic treat for those of us into old world flavour and style. There were a lot of great showings this year and in the next series of posts I will be providing my impressions on the top 40-50 or so wines I tasted, concluding with my top picks of the festival. Also, I don't have prices for many of these since only some are available right now in the BC market. Let the craziness begin!

Given the sheer quantity of wine I tasted, I am going to try and organize my notes by country, beginning with Italy. Since there were so many Italian wines I will be organizing my Italian notes by region. A nice map of the Italian wine regions is below:

I propose to begin with the Veneto, an old favourite.

The Veneto

Bertani Amarone 2000

The nose was typical, but rich, raisinated fruit. The palate was very nicely structured and built with notes of pitted fruit like plums. The wine was still a bit closed, but Bertani's are built to age and I think this one will do so beautifully.

Very Good+ to Excellent (with age) - ~$100 CAD

Bertani Amarone 1990

I was also lucky enough to taste the 1990 Bertani, which had a nose of some sort of coffee like liqueure, maybe kalhua. The palate was very heavy on the over-ripe raisin flavours with smoke and barnyard. I was a bit disappointed with this - it just seemed unbalanced a bit too sickly sweet or something. Still enjoyable, but not so much for the price.

Very Good - $120+ CAD

Bertani Villa Novare Valpolicella Ripasso 2003

My notes for this are sparse, but to the point: Fruity and raisinated with classic berry aroma.

Very Good


Tignanello 2004

The first super tuscan. I'd been wanting to try this for some time. A blackberry nose revealed, upon sipping, a very dry and tannic youthful wine that was slightly gamey, but still closed. Excellent to superb structure. Needs time.

Very Good+ to Excellent (with age) $96 CAD at BCLDB

Ruffino Tenuta Greppone mazzi Brunello Di Montalcino 2003

The best way to describe this wine is "refined barnyard". What a beautiful nose - just remarkably evocative of terroir, and gamey, earthy fruit. This wine is structured amazingly on the front end and the mid-palate and is a sheer joy to drink. The finish drops off a bit early, but I can't fault the wine too much for that given its beautiful flavours of hay-tea-like red berries.


Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale "Oro" 2004

I've had and loved the 2003 version of this wine. 2004 is regarded as a superior vintage and generally as a fantastic vintage in Tuscany generally. This was very intense and tannic and had an incredibly amount of body, especially compared to the '03. This is not drinking super great now, but it has the ability to age for quite some time. The 2003 on the other hand is drinking great right now, but won't age for long. Good job, but needs time.

Very Good+ $50 CAD at BCLDB

Banfi Barrel Sample - Janus Clone 10

I was lucky enough to taste several barrel samples from Banfi for their upcoming 2005 brunello. This clone was very mouth-forward and incredibly tannic in the finish. It was a bit barny and definitely had the suggestion of brunello, but this is obviously meant to develop the structure of the wine.

Banfi Barrel Sample - Janus Clone 50

This was very fruity in the nose and in the forward palate. However, it dropped off quickly. I suspect that the right blending of this and the last clone will produce an excellent wine. Quite a fun experience.

Carpineto Chianti Classico 2005

Wooh! Manure. At least that's what I got. It was pleasant in a strange way and I think it will drink fantastically well with the right kind of food. This is earthy, fungal and rustic. These guys made one of the first Chianti Classico's ever made and they clearly still know what they are doing. Great value.

Very Good+ - $22 CAD at BCLDB

La Braccessa Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2004

You don't see too many Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano's around Vancouver, so this was a treat. The nose was subdued fruit and earth. The palate had a fantastic development of plum and very smooth tannins. This tastes like the countryside - just a fabulous sense of terrior.

Excellent - $40 CAD

Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2003

This was quite surprising because the nose revealed the intensity of a new world minty and fruity cab sauv, even though this is made from Sangiovese. The palate was fruity and long and had very lovely smooth fruit and earth.

Very Good+

Altesino "Montosoli" Brunello Di Montalcino 2003

This single vineyard Brunello was a knockout. It will also kock you out with its price tag - which is around $150 CAD. Fungus and mushroom on the nose - this had great style and complexity. It was really earthy and had tremendous depth of flavour and the finish lasted ages. If only I could afford such things!

Excellent+ - $150 CAD

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino 2003

This is basically a toned down version of the last wine, at less than half the price. It's got character and a nice smooth style, but the loss in structure and finesse really hurt this.

Very Good+ - $70 CAD

La Vite Lucente 2005

Luce is run jointly by Frescobaldi and Mondavi and is trying to position itself as a sort of Opus One of Italy. Another Super Tuscan - but a good one. The nose was very mocha and the palate, while tannic, was nice and chewy and dense and had tremendous potential, especially for the price. Given the value on this wine, I think it deserves a hefty rating.

Excellent - $40 CAD

Luce 2004

This blend is 60% merlot and 40% sangiovese. The nose gives up dusty earth, but the palate is, as my notes say, "pucker pucker". Way to young right now - needs a lot of time and as such I don't feel I can judge this completley accurately. Not sure if it has the potential to turn into something great.

Very Good - $90 CAD

PHEW! Well, that's it for today. In the next installment I will be touring Piedemonte, including a host of Barolo's. I hope this post gave you the sense that there are some fantastic wines coming out of Italy these days. Clearly Tuscany as a region was a higlight of the show, but there is oh so much more to come.