Monday, June 30, 2008

Little James Basket Press

Summer makes me remiss in posting, often getting in the way of routine. A good thing, generally. This is a no-vintage red blend from the Rhone Valley producer St. Cosme. I am fully intrigued by the small batch of forward thinking french producers who still yet remain true to terroir. This is just such a wine, with clever marketing, a good price, and quality to back it up.

Light fruit and spices punctuate this pleasant table wine. Very food friendly, especially with poultry or heavy fish like arctic char (what I consumed it with). Overall very much worth the money.

Very Good+
$23 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ojai Santa Ynez Valley Sauvignon Blanc Westerly Vineyard 2006

Ojai, a well respected boutique winery in Central California, made its reputation off of its big boned and heady Syrah's. I hope to do a bit more extensive of an Ojai tasting, including a Syrah, some time this summer, but this occasion called for a simple but tasty match to wondefully fresh Arctic Char. Sauv Blanc in California is all over the radar and it can be difficult to know when a wine will be a proper effort or some unoaked plonk to pan off on tourists who can't afford the higher priced bottlings. Luckily, this was the former rather than the latter.

Good Sauv Blanc can have perhaps my favourite nose of any white wine. This delivers with a grassy, rich and round nose that opens into a palate of apple, butterscotch and rich minerals. The buttery yellow colour foretold the viscous texture and full mouthfeel. A very very good Sauvignon Blanc.

$38 at Marquis

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Chateau La Nerthe 2003 Chateauneuf Du Pape

I picked this up with the knowledge that Chateau La Nerthe has established a very fine reputation for their CDP bottlings, but also knowing that 2003 was a sporadic year. But, I've had some good 03's so I figured it was worth a try.

The nose was classic southern Rhone grenache based blend - earthy, dusty, roasted and briary red fruits. The palate continued this trend and had a nice hint of savory earth that was well balanced with the simple cherry fruit. I found this exceedingly pleasant, but lacking depth, especially at this price point. A solid but disappointing wine from a top CDP estate.

Very Good+
$65 at BCLDB

Spinifex Esprit 2005

Another stab at the Aussie Rhone-style wines. This, as I've mentioned before, is made in the Barossa valley and carries its characteristically intense fruit. This is basically a GSM blend with a couple other grape varieties thrown in the mix (Cinsault and Carignan). The nose is very confection heavy, with the palate becoming tart cherry, plum skin and chocolate. The wine smooths out with air but still seems unbalanced and, honestly, a little pedantic.

Very Good
$45 at Liberty ($35 at Marquis)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Petite Sirah Tasting in Honour of My 100th Post

Astonishingly I have managed to post 100 notes on this site since its inception. I created this site with the same simply desire as many to just provide a space for my personal notes that a few others might also enjoy reading and debating. I wasn't sure if it would last, but the fact I've made it to 100 in only a few months is good assurance that I will continue!

So I had this tasting a couple weeks ago in support of summer and BBQ's. I pulled together a couple friends to taste one wine from Napa, one from Sonoma, and one from Barossa. Given my feelings that this varietal is undersung, this was a good chance to share the love and see if I still liked petite sirah as much as I used to. Ultimately, I have yet to had an expression of this varietal that fully blows me away; yet, there are also many very strong examples that work very well when paired with the right food. We had beef ribs, lamb and beef souvlaki to pair with these wines.

Wine #1: Foppiano Petite Sirah 2004
This wine is made from grapes sourced in the Russian River Valley. Foppiano also helped to champion Petite Sirah as a worthy single varietal wine. This had large fruit flavours like raspberry and red berries. A bit rough around the edges, but very big and a very authentic expression of fruit.
Very Good+
$20 in USD
Wine #2: Elyse Petite Sirah 2005
The Napa selection: chcolate, blackberry, cherry and blueberry. This was thick and full-bodied. A touch manipulated, but done well.

$40 at Marquis

Wine #3: Massena Howling Dog Durif 2004

Not typical for Petite Sirah, at least none of the ones I've tasted. Perhaps this is the unique terroir of Barossa. This was much tarter and more acidic than petite sirah normally is. A high-boned structure well poised for the proper food pairing. Blackberry tartness and a long finish.
$55 ($35 on sale) at Marquis

Lucente 2005

I had this during the last Vancouver International Wine Festival and thought then that it was excellent value. So much so that I picked up a bottle to drink later. As usual I couldn't keep it for long - and this is what I tasted:

Dry, dusty cherry on the nose and tart cherry raspberry on the palate with a hint of earth. This had nice balance, but I found the length somewhat short and lacking complexity. At the same time, this wine also had very good grip and liveliness.

Very Good+
$40 at BCLDB

Monday, June 9, 2008

Westrey Abbey Ridge Vineyard Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2006

Westrey is a pretty under the radar Oregon winery. Luckily someone up here in Vancouver discovered them and brought them in to one of the local wine stores. These guys are traditionalists who try to produce a very Burgundian wine, with Oregonian terroir and a non-interference wine-making philosopohy, meaning that everything is natural run and minimally manipulated.

This wine is very Burgundian in its earthy funkiness, but very Oregonian in the purity of its fruit. A silky texture and delightful mouthful develop into an outstandingly smooth finish. If you can find these guys, I highly recommend you give them a try.

$40 at Marquis

Talley Arroyo Valley Pinot Noir 2005

Talley is one of those slightly off-beat wineries that likes to buck tradition, both in style and marketing. These guys produce an atypical pinot, but in the end fail to really hit it home.

This has a cherry nose and a very distinct cherry cola palate - think coke bottle candies. Thus, the flavour profile is pretty simple and one-dimensional for a pinot. However, the texture was fantasticly smooth and silky, and I detected a bit of interesting woodiness on the mid-palate. So, while not an overly complex wine, this had a great mouthfeel and texture. Worth a try.

$40 at Marquis
Very Good+

The Prisoner 2006

The famous Napa Zin-based blend finally makes an appearance. I have been meaning to try this wine ever since I first sipped it at Napa's Bounty Hunter wine store over a year ago. And, I am pleased to report that this new vintage is even better than the last.

Peppery blackberry jam and plum filled the nose and palate. This was integrated and balanced, despite a reasonably high ABV. The flavours are intense and excellently structured against each other, with a long finish and smooth tannins.
$50 at BCLDB

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Penfolds Bin 389 2005

I picked up this wine on a high recommendation that this was Penfold's return to form on 389 - the wine also known as the 'mini-grange'. I am glad I followed up on the suggestion.

This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz and as such the nose combines smooth cassis and moderated, but very pretty Eucalyptus. The nose exploded upwards from the rim with one of the most powerful yet elegant bouquets I've nosed in a long while. The palate was long and complex with a full mouthfeel and lots of vegetable, rich black fruit, tar and licorice. I also sensed some earth and minerals here, but in a distinctly Aussie style.

This wine elevated itself above typicity of style while bringing in tons of flavour, terroir, and a truly unique style. One of the best wine's I've tasted, and at an excellent price right now in BC.

$50 at BCLDB

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Colonial Estate Explorateur Old Vine Shiraz 2005

A highly rated Parker wine from Aussie-land. This generally makes me think twice since I find he and I rarely agree on Australia. This, however, was a quality example of excellent Barossa shiraz that questioned the acuity of my perceptions of Parker's Aussie ratings.

Jammy blackberry and plush dark fruits like fig and plum filled both the nose and the palate. A little air also exposed some excellent chocolatey richness in the mid-palate. This was big but balanced, and with a long-ish finish that left you wanting more. Another classic well made Barossa shiraz.

$44 at BCLDB

Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc Te Muna Road Vineyard 2007

As much as New Zealand Sauv Blancs get slack from the average self-styled connoisseur these days, there are still many shining examples of superb Sauv Blanc coming from this oft-forgotten isle. Craggy Range has an excellent reputation, and this is the best NZ Sauv Blanc I've had since Cloudy Bay.

Rich and sumptuous, this grapefruit and orange laced liquid also boasted a big peach and peach pie nose that was simply beautiful. The acidity was quite low, but this just brought out more of the deliciousness of the orchard fruits. A fantastic creation.

Very Good+
$38 at BCLDB

Ledson Merlot 2000

I may be remiss in the lack of updates, but this is not related to a lack of wine consumption. Hopefully today's posts will catch me up slightly with my bad habit.

Ledson is a boutique winery in the Sonoma Valley with a chateaux-like structure posing as their port of call for the wine hungry tourist. Nothing they make can be bought outside the winery. Needless to say, I bought this on a trip down there about a year ago. Luckily, they also produce some stylish and flavour-packed wines.

The 2000 merlot was very elegant and had red berry, cassis and chocolate on the nose and palate. I also felt a small amount of very well integrated oak when sipping this soft and plush merlot. Finishing with medium length, I also noted a touch of residual heat. It is true to the softness of California merlot, but it is not bloated. It may lack somewhat in the acidity department, but Ledson still managed to produce a very likeable merlot.

$40 USD at the winery