Sunday, August 31, 2008

Rustenberg John X Merriman 2005

Another experiment in South African wines, this comes from a well respected producer of red blends. The nose on this Cabernet based blend was oaky and heavy in cassis (I find a lot of SA wines to be a bit too oaky or woody). However, while this was perhaps too oaky, the oak DID give structure and depth to the fruit that probably would not have been there otherwise. Simple, but concentrated flavour, this is pretty good for the price point and worth a try for those interested in exploring a more worldly milieu.

Very Good
$35 at BCLDB

Ben Marco Malbec 2005

A gift from a friend giving me a lesson in South American Terroir. I found this Argentian (Mendoza) Malbec plummy, with a small amount of earthiness and very smooth if maybe somewhat flabby tannins. Simple but pleasant. Very sweet, though - but this paired well with the Dominos Pizza I ate with it (what can I say? I don't always go upscale), which has sweetened tomato sauce. Nothing special, though - but a good lesson in what you get from Mendoza at this price point. I also imagine this would appeal to those who are still transitioning from sugared wines to dry wines (the extreme fruit-forwardness gives the wine the impression of sweetness).



Hirsch Gaisberg Riesling 2005

Austria - most North Americans unfortunately don't get a chance to experience the beauty of Austrian white wines. Producing dry versions of Riesling and the indigenous grape Gruner Veltiner, Austria is exciting, surprisingly modern, and relatively good value.

This Hirsch offering from a very good vintage was 13.5% abv and had smoky vanilla oak aromas coupled with clay and white minerals. The palate introduced some very pleasurable notes of honeysuckle along with the typical citrus. Very full and complex, this was also refined and balanced. A very nice Riesling, even if lacking the total complexity I've been longing for from Riesling.

$28 on sale (normally $40) at Marquis
Very Good+

Thelema Mountain Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Now here is a brilliant South African Producer. This Sauv Blanc was fresh, very aromatic and filled with complex rocky and stony mineral flavours, powerful pomello rind, and a touch of grassyness. Bone dry and unoaked, what made this so special was the exceptional structure and very robust depth to the flavour profile. If you like Sauv Blanc at all this is a must try and definitely a best in class type of bottle. I can't wait to try their Cabernet.

$25 at Marquis (also available at other private stores)

J. Daan Pinot Noir 2006

Another Willamette Pinot which came highly recommended from a good wine shop. However, this was just too typical for me. This can be described in 3 parts:

1. bitter barnyard

2. sweet strawberry

3. lack of integration

Typical Oregon and lacking elegance and excitement. I still can't say this was bad, but it just doesn't do it for me anymore.

Very Good
$40 at Kitsilano Wine Cellar

Pascal Jolivet La Grande Cuvee Sancerre 2002

Great potential, but corked! This would probably have been amazing. As it stood, it went down the drain. Sad.

Luigi Einaudi Barolo 2001

Being from Piemonte, I figured this Barolo would pair well with another Italian Northwestern treat: truffles. Or, more accurately Cacio Di Basco Al Tartufo cheese. The nose on this was all intense blackbery coupled with tobacco and tar. All of this continued on the palate, which was quite tart, with a dose of savory herbal flavours. The finish was mostly tarry and earthy, which I liked a fair amount. The tannins were pretty and refined, especially for a Barolo. A very nice effort from a very good year and definitely better than the 97 I tried earlier.

$90 at BCLDB

Massena Barbera 2006

One usually does not associate Barbera with Australia, but they seem to manage to grow pretty much any grape down under. I thought this one would be worth a try since I tend to like Massena's efforts with other varieties. I found this very rich and fruity, but also quite bright and open with black cherry and blackberry flavours. There was also a strawberry-like component to the fruit that suggested pinot. I might classify this as a combination of Pinot-like fruit with Shiraz like intensity. Not a typical Barbera, but quite a good one. And, it will pair well with high acid dishes like tomato pasta.

Very Good+
~$35 at Marquis

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mauro Veglio Dolcetto D'Alba 2006

Dolcetto is an underappreciate grape. Grown in the northwest Piemonte region of Italy, it is often forgotten, with Barolo and Barbaresco stealing the show. However, Dolcetto is a supremely food friendly wine that should not be overlooked, especially with the right pairing.

This Dolcetto was extremely small production (350 cases) and boasted a nose of light red berries and earth. The palate expanded the earthy component, which was quite rich, to add mushroomy flavours. Not at all tannic, this was very structured, with a tight acidity that paired perfectly with a Bechemel, morrel, prosciutto linguine. With such a fantastically smooth texture in the mouth and such potential for food pairing, this particlar Dolcetto outshines other solid examples of the grape. A very very strong expression. Not having a picture of the bottle, I opted for one of the grape itself. If you haven't yet had a Dolcetto, it is worth checking one out.

Very Good+ to Excellent (with proper pairing)
~$38 at Steamworks Liquor Store

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Miner Petite Sirah 2004

This is the sort of wine that tends to funnel all its complexity into exclamations of "yummy" and "mmm". Here we have a classic dark inky Petite Sirah. Very ripe fruit, but not over the top. In fact, this big wine is balanced very nicely with a healthy dose of tannins. A chocolatey and rich blue and black berried effort, this is what PS should taste like. And, it's perfect with a burger. One of the last bottles left from my Napa trip last year. And, by the way, Miner is a great little winery to visit with friendly and honest staff and a nice range of well made wines to sample.

$40 USD at the winery

Pierre Gaillard Cote Rotie 2004

Northern Rhone produces,in my opinion, the most elegant expression of syrah found in the world. While I love syrah from all over the world, the Northern Rhone is for me the shining light that many years ago really opened my palate to the complexities of flavours besides fruit. Gaillard is one of the 'gang of four' top producers in the Rhone, so I was pretty excited to finally try out one of his creations.

This 04 was spicy, dusty, peppery and floral. The acid levels are pretty high and tightly wound. However, with air this evolved into a well balanced, earthy syrah with undertones of fungus. Sour earth strawberry (fresh and dried). Other red berry flavours open up with a few hours of decanting. The finish was long, big and bold. Good, but not worth full price.

Very Good+
$70 ($50 on sale) at Marquis

St. Innocent Justice Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006

I have been drinking a fair number of Oregon pinots in the past several months and found that my initial enthusiasm for them has become somewhat tempered lately. The problem, I think, is that pinot is so extremely hard to make because its delicacy can easily be overwhelmed or overproduced. Oregon, when successful, can blend the fruitiness allowed by New World heat and the savory earthiness and funk of cool climate old world pinots. However, more often than not these days Oregon pinots are getting more and more over the top with fruity and often cola-like flavours and aromas. Also, the subtle savory flavours frequently taste identical: a basic farm-fresh funkiness without the mushroomy, manure and soil-like layers found in the best pinots from Burgundy. Couple with that ever increasing prices and Oregon is, in my opinion, far less exciting than its neighbour Washington where wine is still being made with cool-climate verve.

This perception now informs all of my Oregon pinot tastings. The St. Innocent offered up classic Oregonian burnt hay aromas, chocolate, cherry, licorice and a little brown sugar on the nose. So, upon sniffing, this was already offering more than most. While the fruit was quite heavy, the wine was also bright and acidic, which balanced out the intensity of the cherry. Big and bold for a pinot, but with a very silky mouthfeel, the wine also offers a moderately tannic back-end. Ultimately, the alcohol needs better integration, but the rest of the wine is pretty nicely balanced, especially for a fruit-forward pinot. The finish was also quite a lot longer than most of the Oregon pinots I've had. A very solid effort, and should improve a lot with some age.
P.S. I forgot to take a picture of this and the only image I could find has a lame watermark on it. So please ignore that!

$50 USD in Seattle

Monday, August 11, 2008

Les Pallieres Vertical

I ran this vertical tasting on one of my favourite southern Rhone wines some time ago and am glad to finally be able to put the experience to electrons. Our group tasted a 2003, 2004, and 2005 Les Pallieres Gigondas, all of which had something interesting to offer. Here are the notes, beginning with an overview of each vintage.

2003: The southern Rhone needed patience in harvesting since drought delayed ripening. The grapes were perfectly healthy and quality was exceptional, despite a slight lack of acidity. The wines have high alcohol levels and very rich, mature tannins: the 2003s will keep for a very long time.

2004: After the 2002 rains and the heat wave of 2003, 2004 marked a return to a classic vintage in the Rhone Valley. Very favourable weather conditions during September produced healthy ripe grapes. The harvest schedule was normal: between September 6 and mid-October. Concentration is remarkable and alcohol levels are quite high, but the consequences of 2003 are still visibile: yields are 20 percent lower than normal. in the south, the 2004's seem better balanced than the 2003s.

2005: A rainy spring, a dry summer, and a bright, sunny September gave a winning ticket to the Rhone Valley in 2005. With a maturity that came early, this vintage has produced rich though extremely balanced wines. In the south, the 2005s could match the excellent 1990s. The Grenache is stunning, with a remarkable balance between alcohol, fruit, and acidity. Yields were generous.

Wine #1 - Les Pallieres Gigondas 2003

Cherry, peppery and a bit tart. This had a moderate body, but was full flavoured with mid-grained tannins and classic scorched earth flavours. What makes this stand out is its bouquet and roundness, especially when paired appropriately (try it with braised short ribs). Perhaps my favourite vintage of this wine as it keeps evolving everytime I taste it.


Wine #2 - Les Pallieres Gigondas 2004

Super fruity, up front and in your face. This had a shorter finish than the 03, and perhaps was slightly unbalanced with a tad too much alcohol on the way down. I also missed some of the earthy and peppery notes of the 03. Still good, but perhaps less well structured than the previous year.

Very Good+

Wine #3 - Les Pallieres Gigondas 2005

This wine still needs time to develop. The nose was surprisingly thin and overall the wine was much more closed than 03 and 04. However, the fruit was pure and very balanced with notes of chocolate and cherry. What marks this as special, though, is its amazing elegance for a Grenache. Perhaps not typical for southern Rhone, I still think this will be absolutely fantastic in a few years when some bottle age gives fuller expression to the brilliant fruit lying in waiting for the patient.

Very Good (I'm guessing will be Excellent in 1-2 years)

$40/bottle across the board

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Vina Chocalan Cabernet Franc Reserve 2005

Another Chilean wine, this time from the Maipo valley. Far less refined than the Polkura, this also came in at about half the price. The 14% alcohol left a bit of heat, but luckily the wine also left me with funky coffee flavours, with savory game-like characters. Perhaps slightly oaky, but this added well to the finish and body on a wine that might otherwise have been too acidic. Very Good Value.

Very Good
$18 at Marquis

Polkura Syrah 2006

This Colchagua valley syrah is a small production (1350 cases) gem that challenges the many over-sulfered cheaper examples from down south. This was juicy on the nose, with blackberry and cassis. The palate developed into a fruity but savory well structured wine with notes of herbs, wood and chocolate. The medium length finish kept up the intensity, rounding out what amounts to a very excellent value Chilean wine worth seeking out.

$33 at Steamworks Liquor Store (not related to Steamworks)