Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Poderi Luigi Einaudi Barolo 1997

Barolo is wonderful wine, especially when given a few years to ruminate. When aged Barolo loses some of its big tannic muscle, but gains smoothness and elegance. This decade old Einaudi Barolo was made in a traditional style by one of my favourite Piemontese producers.

Integrated flavours of blackberry, earth, leaf, and tobacco seduced my palate. The nose was well structured, but perhaps a bit tight given the fantastic flavours to follow. A velvety smooth texture and true extension and length provided a full bodied experience. Surprisingly elegant, but not at all dull or mild. Well integrated acidity kept this enticing over an entire evening. A great example of this style of wine making.

$90 at BCLDB

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Domaine Chevillon-Chezeaux Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Aux Champs-Perdrix 2005

The Champs-Perdrix vineyards near Nuits-Saint-Georges in Burgundy produce some excellent and well priced wines, and is especially worth looking at in strong vintages. This particular burgandy is, I believe, the first of the 2005's I have had the opportunity to experience. I was expecting a lot given the vintage, but was also a little trepidant given how few 'cheaper' Burgundies have been at all exciting.

The nose had solid red fruits like strawberry and cherry. But what made it interesting were the unique spice aromas that accented the fruit. This had good length and development, with outstanding grip and clarity of expression. I found this long and soft, but refined and structured. A great wine to start experiencing 2005 Burgundy.

$67 at BCLDB

Monday, April 28, 2008

Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva 2003

This wine approaches two hurdles quite well. The first is that this is Chianti, often a simple and boring take on Sangiovese. The second is that the vintage - 2003 - was very hot and tended to produce (at least in my experience) baked and thin wines. Carpineto was one of the first Chianti producers to take wine production more seriously, and having had both their normale bottling and this riserva, I think they still deserve recognition as a high quality producer.

This was quite an aromatic wine with hay, manure, cherry and raspberry on the nose. The palate was long and balanced, with well structured acidity. I enjoyed the finish, which I found refined and elegant for a chianti, albeit not overly complex. This is an excellent clasically styled Chianti that surpasses its vintage.

Very Good+
$45 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars

Mystic Wines Syrah 2005

Having enjoyed the Mystic Cab Sauv, I figured it was worth $30 to potentially find another great value bottle. Unfortunately, this syrah was highly disappointing given the precedent set by the Cab. The nose was heavy on dark berry liqueur that expanded on the palate into peppery smooth heavily ripened cherry and blueberry flavours. I found this a bit jammy and simple. Nevertheless, it's not horrible - it's just not speical.

$30 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rogue Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale

This is certainly a unique brew. If you ever wondered what a cross between a Japanese extra-dry beer and an American medium malt ale tasted like, this is for you. While I wouldn't call this astonishing, it certainly has a crispness that I really appreciate as highly food friendly, especially for sushi and sashimi, while also possessing a deeper complexity than standard Japanese beer. The malts bring more depth of flavour to the uber dry soba, and overall the combination produces a nicely balanced beer. Recommended with the appropriate food, but less so as a sipper.

Very Good
$8 at Liberty

Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2003

Celebration pairs well with the extravagant. In that spirit, upon finishing my second year of law school, I found and opened the last bottle of Yattarna in BC. This is one of Australia's top Chardonnays and was initially an attempt to bring world class sophistication to white wine in Australia. I tried this on its own and with two fantastic cheeses: a brie de meaux and a brebiou sheep's milk cheese. Two french cheese with a classically styled Australian Chardonnay.

The first point of notice: the colour, viscosity, and purity of liquid crystal in a glass. The nose was refined toasty peaches and several different nuts. This chard was very classic in its perfect tang and balance, with orange rind and a hint of lemon. This was crisp and silky in the mouth simultaneously and cut the palate perfectly. With the brie the Yattarna became rounder and smoother while cutting the palate more subtly. The brebiou brought out floral scents in the wine while the wine brought out the subtle flavours of the cheese rind. In some ways this reminds me of a really top class Chablis.

I decided not to give this my top rating, however, because I was hoping for a bit more complexity in the flavour profile. The texture, poise, and balance were outstanding, however. But let no one accuse Penfolds of making boring chard - this is world class stuff that has a distinct blend of old world bracingness and new world roundness and depth. A perfect way to celebrate the passing of one more year of school.

$93 at BCLDB (all gone, and supposedly not being ordered anymore)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Markus Molitor Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett Riesling Feinherb 2005

What's with the crazy German wine names. It's time to modernize guys! Anyhow, I just finished my second year of law school today, and it feels somewhat crazy. I actually opened a different bottle from this, but I figured I'd post this note first since I drank it last week (trying to be chronological and all). All I can say is that after taking both the hardest class and hardest exam I've ever taken (secured transactions) I can finally understand why corporate lawyers get paid so much... damn!

Ok, so on to the not so good review. I actually lost my notes for this in a recent cleaning frenzy, so I have to go on memory. I remember this being a bit simple of a Riesling, but that it also had pleasant classic Riesling flavours of lime and minerals. The finish was pretty short from what I remember, which put this below the more complex Slebach-Oster I had recently. This comes from the Mosel Saar Ruwer region.

Very Good
$30 at Marquis

Friday, April 18, 2008

Spinifex Indigene 2005

For all the talk these days of restraint in wine sometimes life just calls for a big boned flavour packed bottle. And, as much as I appreciate a huge diversity of wines and have learned to love lots of old-world style, acidity, and earthiness, my wine roots are a bit different and I can't seem to shake my love for the big stuff. This wine was an homage to that and a perfect match for a couple of fantastic sausages from Oyama on Granville Island.

I was kind of curious about the name of this winery after hearing some grumblings about it at a wine store. Looking it up on Wikipedia provided the info that Spinifex is a type of grass that grows in Australia that has many traditional uses for Australia's Aboriginal peoples. It's also a kind of Australian Pigeon. Which one of these is the wine chanelling, I wonder?

A very forward cherry and strawberry candy-fest. We're not talking loads of complexity here, but certainly this has tremendous depth and integrity and, while full of fruit, is also nicely balanced. A beautiful BBQ wine mixed with 55% Mataro (Mourvedre) and 45% Shiraz. A hint of spice on the finish, with good length and a distinct mocha element when paired with my coq-au-vin sausage. It would be unfair to call this simply a fruit bomb. This is really just a very well made Barossa wine with classic Barossa fruit done well - and no hint of pigeon.

Very Good+
$48 at Marquis

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mystic Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

This wine is a perfect example of an unknown producer from an unlikely region creating a varietal based wine that outshines others at a much higher price point. My thanks goes out to Sean over at Vinifico for writing about this little beauty, which actually hails from the Oregonian side of the Columbia Valley. Only 150 cases were made.

The nose was very opulent with rich cassis and a hint of vegetables. Up front this was all spice, smoke and bacon - and it was big, very big. The palate expanded into mintiness, and a bit of woodyness and an underlying current of cassis and other dark fruits. This is all about secondary and tertiary flavours, though, and is completely distinct from a New World fruit bomb, even though it is big and bold. The finish is very long and very fantastic. Overall the wine has great balance, depth and outstanding variety of flavours and scents. I HIGHLY recommend picking this up if you have the chance. It's a steal at this price point. Sitting at the very upper end of:

$36 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars

Monday, April 14, 2008

Quinta do Noval Unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage 2001

I rarely write about ports. I suppose that has to do with the difficulty of drinking a full bottle of port (often sitting at 18-20% abv) before it goes off. Full on vintage port is darn expensive and I often can't justify buying or opening a bottle knowing that at least half will probably go to waste. However, with the price point on this port I figured it would be worth having a bottle of dessert-y wine around to enjoy at leisure.

This has heady dark-berry and maple-syrup aromas and flavours. The palate is smooth and full with big fruit and rustic earthy/chalky tannins that give it surprising length for an inexpensive LBV. This is incredible value and way better than pretty much every other LBV I've tasted at this price point. If you like port pick up a bottle asap.

$33 at BCLDB

Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spatlese 2006

The first of many German rieslings I plan to consume over the summer. I know, it's premature, but I was hoping I could will in the weather while also beginning my treck through all things riesling. Essentially I've recently discovered how much depth and complexity riesling offers and realized that I knew very little about it. Thus began the journey into the Mosel region of Germany. Expect more riesling updates from Germany, Austria and Australia.

From what I can tell through my research, this wine is made with grapes from the southern facing Rosenberg vineyards in the Saar region of the Mosel valley, near the town of Oberemmel. Saar is in the southern portion of the Mosel River Valley and is renowned for its slate-gravel soil and its superb rieslings.

The nose promised baked peaches and toasted nuts, and yet had a bit of petrol - a result often found in German wines due to oxygen exposure during part of the winemaking process. Upon tasting the wine I found the sweetness perhaps a little overpowering, but the palate was quite pleasant with subtle minerals, hazlenuts, and a hint of citrus (maybe lime). A smooth and delightful wine that draws you into every sip. The low alcohol (9% abv - common for riesling) makes this easy to drink and mellow while giving the wine great potential to go with food. I had it with red snapper cooked lightly with herbs and olive oil. It was an excellent combination. A great start to the riesling treck, and one that prompts the superlative: I love riesling!

Very Good+
$38 at BCLDB

Friday, April 11, 2008

Unibroue 17

I have lost my taste for Canadian beer as of late. Once getting my hands on quality American and Belgian microbrews, it became difficult to appreciate their usually lesser-made Canadian cousins. This beer, however, is an exception. Made in a style similar to a Belgian Quadrupel, this 10% abv dark belgian-style ale is brought to us by Unibroue on the occasion of its 17th Birthday.

I tasted sweet foral and root notes on this, much like many Belgian-style dark beers. However, the complexity of the flavours was deeper than usual and the beer much better balanced than many. The alcohol level also did not detract from the subtlety of the flavours, was not readily apparent, but was also not just masked by sweetness. I had this with a wonderful mango curry lamb sausage: a fantastic combination.

Very Good+
$8 at BCLDB Signature stores

Note: I didn't have time to get a proper picture of the bottle, so I stole one from the public domain of the previous vintage. The bottle looks the same, just increase the number by one!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Saint Cosme Cote Du Rhone 2006

It's quite astonishing to get a wine in BC for $20 that evokes a sense of terroir. Most stuff is pretty commercialized and uninteresting, which is a shame given that in a deregulated market there would be plenty of great stuff in this price range. Until then, us BC wine consumers will have to rely on bottles like these.

This is a fabulous Cote Du Rhone that has a lot more character than most every CDR I've tasted. I enjoyed the dark red berry flavours, the concentration and the lush texture. Amazingly, the flavour profile includes notes of earth and is filled with the great brambly character of a tasty Gigondas or Chateauneuf. The wine has tremendous depth for a CDR and exhibits authentic Rhone character without being light, boring or overly juicy. I could drink this as my every day table wine. Overall I would compare this wine favourably to the Chateau Saint Cosme Gigondas, but note that the CDR has less complexity and refinement. However, it's also less than half the price!

Very Good+ to Excellent (in consideration of Price)
$20 at BCLDB (Also available at Kitsilano Wine Cellars and Broadway International Wine Cellars)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Domaine Les Pallieres Gigondas 2003

I have tasted the 2004 Les Pallieres before and appreciated its earthy but concentrated flavours. I recently had the opportunity to pick up the 2003 for only $23 a bottle (the 2004 goes for $40 now) and so I jumped at the chance to pick a few up.

The 2003 is similar to the 04, but has more concentration and heat on the finish. It is also less of a fruit bomb, and has a little less poise than the 04. Flavours of dried cherry, licorice, kirsch, and a hint of earthiness. This has a big nose and a smooth palate, despite having a bit of heat (no doubt a result of the super hot 2003 vintage). I like this a lot, but the 2004 is, in my opinion, a superior wine and will cellar for a longer time. This is great for drinking over the short-mid term.

Very Good+
$23 (marked down from $35) at Marquis

Friday, April 4, 2008

Wine, the Aesthetic Experience, and a Bottle of Erath Vineyards Oregon Pinot Noir

This post has been ruminating about the withering vestiges of my exam and paper riddled mind for a few weeks, and the time has come to expunge these inkling thoughts upon the world. Two recent, but disparate, experiences provided the impetus for writing on this subject. First was a debate I read on the merits or demerits of high alcohol wines and the effect that high levels of alcohol have on the flavour and quality of a wine. This debate has been trudging its way through the wine world for some time now, especially with announcements by California heavyweights Adam Tolmach (of Ojai) and Randy Dunn (of Dunn vineyards) that high levels of alcohol were ruining Californian wine and that they were subsequently going to revamp their wine making style, which had previously catered to the taste of American wine media. Now, this debate I read focused on two distinct perspectives. One, voiced by Vinography author Alder Yarrow, argued that high levels of alcohol were not inherently bad, but the impact of such levels on quality was rather a matter of perspective. Alder had recourse to neuroscience as propounding the view that sensual experiences are only factual on the base level of neuro-chemical responses and that our perceptions of these responses were largely contextual, relying on memory, emotion, etc.

The second perspective, voiced by many of Alder's critics, argued that high levels of alcohol created inherent characteristics in wine that were objectively detectable by trained palates. These inherent characteristics had sustained and repeated impact on the sensuous experience of a wine. This disagreement hinged on a debate over the nature of fact-based truth in aesthetic experience. Does wine have objective characteristics that determine the possible scope of one’s aesthetic experience of that wine? Or, are wine’s factual characteristics largely irrelevant to its aesthetic experience, with the perceiver bringing its subjective judgement to the table?

Before I attempt an answer to this question I would submit your attention to a slight digression. A few nights ago I had the occasion to watch a fascinating film directed by Carlos Saura. The film, called Blood Wedding, was a flamenco adaptation of a Lorca play filmed in the early 1980’s. I have never seen dance put to film in such an excruciatingly beautiful manner. As part of this experience I was sipping on a glass (or several) of the 2006 Erath Pinot Noir, an old world earthy and fungal Pinot with very pretty notes of ripe cherry. “This doesn’t have tremendous depth,” I thought, “but it does offer great value for the price.” I incidentally noted a probable rating of very good+ and the cost of $33.

Yet, with a somewhat indistinguishable grin I knew that this wine was also more than that. As part of my experience with the film it added a layer of intensity and intoxication at the level of art before me. As the flamenco dancers glided through syncopated rhythms and quick cuts between feet, faces, and limbs, a flavourful red liquid somehow helped bridge the gap between me and the performers, offering a kind of gateway into the aesthetic experience of the film.

Returning to the original question, I am forced to ask whether either perspective has it right. I take the distinction between objective fact and truth quite seriously, and I doubt that any serious scientist would conflate these two distinct realms. So, each wine does have unique objective factual elements. Each wine has a chemical structure and a factual relationship between chemical elements. However, these objective elements become fused with the aesthetic experience as soon as their aromas skirt under my nose and their flavours tumble into my mouth. And, as I am inclined to German philosophy, an aesthetic experience according to Kant is a combination of both this objective moment and this subjective movement towards the object of experience.

Rather than thinking of wine as a normal object of perception that we interpret using our reason and our mental faculties, if wine is an aesthetic object it comes to us as much as we come to it. Our experience of wine relies on its formal and objective characteristics that guide our judgement. However, our experience is not solely one of determinative reason. It is also, mainly, one of reflection on what we are experiencing. Reflective judgment, rather than determinative judgment, rises from the notions that an object stimulates in our minds rather than from the conceptual data that we bring to the object. Memories, emotions, hints of something ‘more’ than what we can express – each of these forms part of the experience.

So I can sit down and drink a bottle of Oregon Pinot, describe its flavours and give it a rating. However, that same bottle can become part of my experience of a flamenco film that is objectively, inherently, unrelated to the wine. Both of these experiences inform what wine brings to our lives, and I find that debates about the relative merits of total subjective perception versus definable objective characteristics often misses the nature of the very experience they try to describe.

Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2004

Having unfortunately opened a bottle of a corked 2005 Pommard village wine, I took the ugly duck back to the liquor store and exchanged it for this Oregon pinot noir. Dundee Hills pinot I find tends to be more smoky and savory than other Oregon pinots, which often make them a more unique choice. I recently tasted a Deponte Cellars 2004 Pinot, also from Dundee Hills, and it was a killer bit of juice. Let's see what this wine has in store.

Cherry and roasted coffee on the nose. A rustic wine with some smoky character and subdued fruit. A medium length finish and firm tartness - savory with a hint of bitterness. With air the aromas really opened up and the wine gained more depth. I might let this sit a little longer in the bottle if I were to have it again, but while good these pressed grapes just didn't excite me.

Very Good
$45 at BCLDB

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Damilano Barolo 2001

It's been a while since the last update, but that's what happens during exam and paper season! I tasted this wine at the Vancouver International Wine Festival, but I had an opportunity to have a bottle recently and I thought it would be interesting to compare the experiences. It was an interesting experiment comparing impressions for the same wine of the same vintage but consumed merely weeks apart. It perhaps says something about our perceptions of taste, but I am planning a future more in-depth post about that so I'll leave that idea as a nascent thought.

The nose on this was quite fungal upon first opening the bottle - also quite concentrated and a little earthy at the core. A few hints of blackberry on the nose expanded on the palate for a relatively fruity flavour for Barolo (strange given the last time I tasted this it was a lot more vegetal). The tannins were quite smooth and built the semi-tart fruit of the palate into a longish finish. I would recommend decanting this for several hours, though, since after a day in the fridge it really opened up and gained added depth and complexity. However, I didn't love it as much as when I first tasted it - an interesting shift. I have one more bottle in my cellar and am excited to try that maybe in a year or more and see how it has changed (I have a hard time cellaring anything beyond a couple years).

Very Good+
$50 at BCLDB