Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Forstmeister Geltz Zilliken Riesling Spatlese Saarburger Rausch 2005

A short note today, in honour of summer and simplicity.

Another German riesling from the Mosel-Saar-Ruuer region. A nose of clay-like petrol expanded into a palate of citrus, apple and peach. This had a fantastic nose and nice flavours, but ended up with a mediocre mouthfeel for a riesling, which ideally should be light, airy and yet full flavoured.

Very Good
$45 at Liberty

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Strange World of the Internet

So Joe has tagged me with the following meme:

The rules (please pass on) are:List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.

Seems like fun, plus I can't buck a trend, so here it goes:

Song #1: Dizzy Gillespie and Arturo Sandoval - Wheatleigh Hall. A great piece from a lesser known album called To a Finland Station. In my opinion, this song, and the cd it is on marks one of the greatest trumpet duet moments of all time!

Song #2: McCoy Tyner - Enlightenment Suite - Crazy crazy jazz that awakens the soul. Pretty phenomenal stuff.

Song #3: Uri Cane Ensemble - Goldberg Variations - If you think that Bach is cool, you MUST check out this great collection of variations from one of NYC's greatest avant garde musicians.

Song #4: Vampire Weekend - Oxford Comma - pretty simple, but catchy poppy goodness.

Song #5: MGMT - Kids - I like the retro-80's synth sound with a modern edge.

Song #6: Rachmaninov - Elegy - a little known piece, but stunningly beautiful. One my all-time favourites.

Song #7: Martha Argerich playing the Bourree from Bach's English Suite no. 2 on her Live from the Concergebouw cd - no one plays Bach like this.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Vieux Telegraph Winemaker's Lunch

Today I had the lucky fortune to attend a paired luncheon with winemaker Daniel Brunier of Vieux Telegraph. We had six of the wines produced by both the famous Domaine and the other projects run by Mr. Brunier and his brother. This all took place at Mistral Bistro, a fantastic little French Restaurant here in Vancouver.

We started with an aperatif of Antech 2004 Blanquette de Limoux "Grand Reserve" - a sparkling wine unrelated to Vieux Telegraph, but meant to whet the palate. This was nice and full, with strong toast characters and a nice balance, but it didn't get me over my predilection against sparkling wine. I am not a huge fan of the texture and overall mouthfeel of these wines.

Next up was the first course: marinated lightly seared salmon (raw in the middle) served on a salad of in season artichokes a la Greque, cucumbers, and nicoise olives. This was nicely presented and had a beautiful combination of flavours. With the first course was paired three wines:

1. Domaine du Vieux Telegraph 2003 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc "La Crau"
2. Domaine Les Pallieres 2001 Gigondas
3. Domaine la Roquete 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge

All three wines paired very nicely with the salmon, further dubunking the white wine with fish myth. And, who would have thought Grenache would pair with Salmon, but it truly worked beautifully.

1. Domaine du Vieux Telegraph 2003 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc "La Crau"

The first wine, a white blend from the famed La Crau vineyards was very balanced and smooth, with fantastically integrated acidity that paired great with the Salmon, but did not overwhelm the flavours of the artichoke. Fresh in season artichoke is actually much less tangy than its canned counterpart, and provides a far better balanced to dishes. I'd rate the first wine as:


2. Domaine Les Pallieres 2001 Gigondas

I've had the Les Pallieres several times, from both the 2003 and 2004 vintage. I enjoyed the '04 much more, but the 2001 here was more similar to the 2003 in its lightness and simplicity. However, this lightness made it a truly fantastic food wine. In fact, in the future I don't think I will be drinking Les Pallieres without some sort of food pairing as the structure and quality of the wine is really meant to balance out with the proper protein pairing - and the salmon was a great match. I found the wine to have classic dry cherry flavours and moderate tannin and acidity.

Very Good

3. Domaine la Roquete 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge

Another excellent pairing with the salmon, this Domaine produces a gamey, earthy, old-world wine that reminds me of certain Tuscan flavours. I have never tried this Domaine before, but I will certainly seek it out in the future. My only criticism is that the flavours, while good, are more typical old world and the wine lacks the finesse of the next three bottlings.

Very Good

After a pretty hefty first course, we were treated to a massive portion of Hautes cotes de boeuf braised in a savory red wine stew, vegetables, and Ricotta quenelle. This was accompanied by innovative and very flavourful fried chick pea cakes. There's nothing like a properly made french stewed meat dish to bring me closer to my French Canadian heritage and make me long for French Onion Soup, Tortiere, and a big 'ol apple boiled spiced French Canadian ham. This dish is a memory dish for me, and Mistral did a truly authentic and exceptional job here. This dish was paired with the following three wines:

1. Domaine du Vieux Telegraph 1999 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge "La Crau"
2. Domaine du Vieux Telegraph 1994 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge "La Crau"
3. L'Hippolyte 1995 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge "La Crau"

The last wine is made only for friends and family and is not available for sale anywhere, so we were quite lucky to get a taste of this. Again, all of the wines paired fantastically with the food and the lunch really showcased the wines' ability, even at such high levels of refinement and elegance, to pair in a complex way with the proper dish.

1. Domaine du Vieux Telegraph 1999 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge "La Crau"

This was very refined and balanced - probably the most balanced Chateauneuf I have tasted to date. I loved the elegance and structure, and found the wine got more complex with more and more air. This was quite fruity (light red berries), without being really fruit-forward. I could also detect hints of earthiness without this being at all rustic - an elegant earthiness. Also, the tannins gripped firmly, but became quite silky paired with the beef stew.


2. Domaine du Vieux Telegraph 1994 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge "La Crau"

Very similar to the first wine, but it had a much stonier complexion. I could literally taste the smell of well worn stones familiar from childhood excursions. Again, an elegant and refined wine with firm grippy tannins that paired very well with the stew. This and the previous wine evolved over the lunch and competed for my pick of the tasting. I would have to tie them equally in the end, perhaps with a slight edge for the 94.


3. L'Hippolyte 1995 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge "La Crau"

A very different Chateauneuf, and one that is not for sale on the market. I found this, strangely, to be similar in some ways to Amarone with a heavy liqueur flavours. This was well structured, but very powerful. However, it lacked the same elegance of the two Vieux Telegraph CDP's.

Very Good+

Overall, this was a great experience to drink wines while listening to stories of family history, winemaking philosophy and technique, and the impact of weather on the grapes from the winemaker to one of the top Domaines in the region. And, if you live in Vancouver, I highly recommend giving Mistral Bistro a try - the service and food were fantastic. This event was put on by Marquis Wines.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

St. Peter's Honey Porter

Tastes like cough syrup.

No Good
$7 at BCLDB

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Qupé Santa Ynez Valley Stolpman Vineyard Syrah 2004

I've always been a huge fan of Qupé, run by cellar-mate and friend of Au Bon Climat's Jim Clendenon, Bob Lidquist. These guys punch out serious heavy-duty syrah with a style unique from both the Rhone valley and Australian Shiraz. This selection was one of their many single vineyard offerings.

The nose was big and black-fruit intensive. On the palate I got fig, plum, and other such fruits, with an inky texture and big pepper and spice flavours. This was well balanced and smooth despite its bigness and high alcohol content (15.6%). I think this is a very good expression of a true blue California fruit driven style. Unfortunately, this dissipated somewhat with an hour's decanting, which notched the rating down slightly for me.

Very Good+ to Excellent
$40 at Marquis

Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2004

Work has been keeping me busy, so the updates have slowed a bit. Nevertheless, the wine drinking continued. I had this a few nights ago as foray into the fantastic 2004 vintage in Tuscany. I think that Vino Nobile di Montepulciano can offer tremendous value in sangiovese - with prices between cheaper Chianti's and more expensive Brunellos. A good middle ground.

The nose had bright berry fruit that opened into a fairly simple, but authentic palate. This was very fruity, but in a pure unmanipulated manner. Other flavours were a little savory, and were undergirded with a bit of caramel. A simple and medium length finish rounded this out well. I'd pair this with a pasta or stewed meat of some sort - but I'm not an adventurous wine-pairing afficionado.

Very Good
$40 at BCLDB

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Stefano Farina Barolo 2003

The recent lack of updates is due to some crazy hours at my firm of late. Hopefully things will calm down and the updates will again flow regularly! I had this a while ago, but didn't write about it until now largely because it was a pretty disappointing wine. Mostly blackberry and black current on the nose, the herbaciousness was a bit green and the acidity tangy and unbalanced. Barolo rarely provides such simple and unpleasant flavours. Enjoyable enough for a $20 bottle, this is something to pass by at $45.

$45 at BCLDB

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wine Blogging Wedndesday: Old World Riesling

With work beginning to gear up for the summer, it's nice to take a bit of a mental break with some old world grace. The wine I chose for this month's WBW was a Dr. Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese 2006, which comes from the Mosel region of Germany. Dr. Loosen is, of course, a high profile and well respected German Riesling producer, but I had not previously had a chance to try their old world wines.

The nose reminded me more of a dry riesling with citrusy lime and stark minerals. The palate, however, expanded to include peach and apricot that accomplished a nice balance with the citrus. While having a very full and supple texture, this was also light in the mouth and delicate. The sweetness level was well balanced and a nice full sip develops buoyantly into a silky finish. My only 'reservation' is the lack of complexity in the flavours. I would like a more developed and lengthy flavour profile - but the texture is in itself exceptional.

Very Good+
$38 at BCLDB

Monday, May 5, 2008

Torres Mas La Plana 2003

Mas La Plana is a Cabernet based blend made in the Penedes region of Spain by one of Spain's top (or at least most widely known) family wineries. Known as an elegant and stylish wine, Mas La Plana is really an attempt to produce a terroir based approach to an international grape variety. And, on that level, I do believe that Torres has succeeded: this is no heavy-oaked malo-lactic'd pimped out flavour bomb. Rather, this has real terroir and a real sense of style.

The nose was initially almost like a Grenach based Rhone blend - quite surprising. However, the palate was appropriately much more austere and gave up flavours of blackberry, cassis, earth, dust, and meatyness. I also tasted mint, herbs, and savory earth coupled with well integrated and high quality tartness. The finish was medium length and had great elegance. The only issue I had here was that while this had great structure, integration and elegance, overall I found the flavour package a bit boring. Accordingly, I bring down the rating a notch.

Very Good+
$50 at BCLDB

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Peter Lehmann "The Mentor" 2002

The more and more I approach wine with greater 'objectivity', the more I become confident that I simply and authentically love the lush New World style of wine making. This is not to say that I don't also love subdued and elegant wine-making, but I certainly don't agree with what appears to be a trend towards deriding overly lush and fruity approaches. Recently I've been rediscovering the beauty and power of Australian wine, and this particular Bordeaux style blend continued to reinforce my positive image of modern Aussie wine making.

The nose on this beautiful Cab based blend had intense chocolate and dark berry aromas. The palate had a huge body of oak, eucalyptus, and dark berries. But, none of this was out of place or unintegrated. This was also complex, but not boring, over-oaked nor did it have heavy cassis flavours. This was long and elegant, with a full bodied palate-coating mouthfeel and beautifully integrated and smooth tannins. A truly great blend.

$45 at BCLDB

Friday, May 2, 2008

Vina Arana Rioja Reserva 1998

Being new to Spanish wine I was quite excited to find an aged Rioja from an excellent producer available at retail. This particular Rioja is from La Rioja Alta region, which is known to be one of the highest quality wine regions in Spain. I am planning a trip to Spain in a year, and if I'm fortunate I'll be drinking this sort of thing on a daily basis.

The nose on this superlative old world red had toasted nut aromas of almonds and filberts. The palate was fantastic, with melted choclate, licorice, Indian spices like cardamom and a hint of dill. Very smooth and silky, this full flavoured but medium bodied wine developed into a very well structured medium length finish. Sure to impress, and certainly a fantastic effort.

$45 at Marquis