Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bodegas y Vinedos Alion 2002

I picked this up on sale, which I assume was due to the fact this came from a lesser vintage. However, I heard these guys are pretty reliable in less than perfect vintages so I thought it would be worth a try.The nose was very blackberry, vanilla cream puff, and raspberry pie a la mode. Very aromatic, this really needs to go with food due to its relatively high acidity and tang. The palate tasted much like cranberry, raspberry, and with air chocolate coated cherry.

I found it somewhat closed, perhaps suggesting the need for more bottle age, but with air it added a lot of weight. The finish was very long, at around 40-50 seconds. However, I have to confess that I was hoping for more from this famous wine. It was still good and enjoyable, but just not at the level suggested by its reputation. Perhaps it was the year (although the wine mags scored this pretty well).

Very Good+
$95 ($65 on sale) at BCLDB

Friday, October 24, 2008

Schloss Johannisberger Riesling Spatlese 2006

Once a famed estate equivalent to the first growth Bordeaux's, Schloss Johannisberger's stature has diminished somewhat in recent years. However, looking for a good quality Riesling to pair with a tasty green curry one evening led me to this particular bottle, and I'm glad it did.

The nose was utterly explosive in minerality and grapefruit / slightly sweeter citrus flavours. The palate opened considerably from the nose to offer very distinct peach, nectarine, and candied grapefruit flavours. When coupled with the brilliant mouthfeel (as fluffy as a Cloud, but as elegant and poised as Raphael painting), the superbly balanced sweetness made this an outstanding riesling and a perfect match for thai curry. A nice long finish rounded everything out. Good stuff.

$54 at BCLDB

Kestrel Estate Sangiovese 2003

Having recently tried this small Washington producer's Syrah and finding it quite exceptional, I decided to give another of their varietal offerings a try. This time I chose something not so well known in Washington - a Sangiovese from the Yakima Valley. At 13.8% alcohol, I found this surprisingly Italian in style with a barn-y, raspberry and burnt hay nose. A very lively wine, it was also stinky just like a Chianti Classico. In the end, this was perhaps too simple for the price, but it was well made and had terrific structure. Plus, I would definitely mistake this for a Tuscan wine in a blind tasting - which is pretty cool in itself.

Very Good
$36 at Everything Wine

Two Hands Brave Faces 2006 Shiraz/Grenache

A Barossa wine from the well-known Australian 'negocient' Two Hands. This is another big american-style bruiser at 15.5% alcohol, although I thought it did a decent job with that percentage. The nose was very much classic Barossa shiraz with chocolate cherry and a touch of gameyness. This was very potent, but had excellent flavour concentration. Ultimately this is a big fruit blast without an exaggerated sense of extraction. The big complaint at this price point is that the wine is somewhat thin in the complexity (not the intensity) of its flavours.

Very Good
$40 ($28 on sale) at BCLDB

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Doyenne Syrah 2004

Doyenne is the Rhone-style wine project of Washington's famed Delille Cellars. My several samplings of Washington syrahs have convinced me of this grape's viability in that state, and I think there is great potential for its future development.

The nose was extremely rich and fruity with cherry cola and game aromas. The palate was a big punch of fruit, cassis and chocolate, with a very long back end. On its own, this was good but not fantastic and I think needs a little more work (or perhaps a better vintage). However, when paired with braised lamb this was a beauty - the lamb bringing out an intense mocha flavour and complimenting the richness of the wine very nicely.

Very Good+ (on its own)

Excellent (with braised lamb)

$55 USD ($80 CDN) purchased in Seattle

PradoRey Elite Tinta Fina 1999

This Ribera del Duero wine comes from a relatively new producer, PradoRey. They have an extensive lineup of wines, but this came highly recommended from a respect store owner. I found it an astonishing amalgam of a southern Rhone grenache blend and a Portuguese dry Douro red.

Extremely sophisticated, the nose was very rich and layered, with currant and dark fruit laced in with minerals in an almost Amarone-like manner. The palated expanded the currant flavours and brought in subtle blackberry and an intense mineral core. In fact, I would liken the structure of the minerality to a northern Rhone Cote-Rotie. A touch of oak integrated all the superbly-balanced fruit with the acidic mineral core and released many repeating layers of flavour on the finish, which was 30-45 seconds. This is a truly exceptional wine.

$55 at Steamworks Liquor Store (also available at Everything Wine)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Henschke 'Abbotts Prayer' Vineyard Merlot 2001

A relatively young-vine Merlot from the legendary Australian producer. A Lenswood wine, this merlot was Brownish-red in the glass. A HUGE nose of plum, cherry and cassis developed into a less big but very juicy palate with similar flavours. A smooth palate coupled with integrated fruit developed into a long finish brought on by a great combination of up front fruit, softness and a solid acidic structure with secondary flavours of wood and earth. A very nicely made new world merlot.

Very Good+
$60 at BCLDB

Thelema Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Another South African wine, again from Thelema - a renowned producer. This was a classic Cab, perhaps lacking in concentration, despite having reasonable potential. The flavour profile revealed cedar-forest, cassis and red fruits. This had excellent balance and was quite elegant and polished, but it lacked a wow factor. It was, perhaps, too thin for this price point.

Very Good+
$50 at Marquis

Friday, October 10, 2008

Plantagenet Shiraz Great Southern 2003

I drank this wine a while ago. Now, however, I can't help but feel that my wine habbits will go more towards sale items such as this with the crashing markets and depreciating Canadian currency. My once exciting 5 month exchange to UC Berkeley is shaping up to cost considerably more than I expected. With mounting student debt levels, it's time for some serious budget wine. I suppose luckily I have some stock to go through before needing to buy anything more.

On to the wine. I found this shiraz to have a pretty unique flavour profile for Australia, with a nose of meaty dark fruits. The palate was quite layered, and I detected plum, chocolate, cinnamon, pepper, and indian spices. My big complaint, however, is that the alcohol was too hot and unbalanced with the rest of the wine. This makes me feel this particular vintage was unpolished, which is a shame because I think there is great potential here. Definitely something to look for and an indication of the quality to be had from Western Australia (the Great Southern region to be exact).

Very Good
$28 on sale ($40 regular)

Chateau Gruaud Larose 1997

A special occasion warranted opening this 11 year old bottle of the second growth Gruaud Larose. Given that 1997 wasn't a great year, I was worried this wouldn't deliver. However, my experience showed me that even in an off year quality wine can be made by a quality chateau. While I am not experienced in aged Bordeaux, I can safely say that I nevertheless thought this was a good example for a bad year.

On the nose was black current, wood and earth. A very stylish palate opened more flavours, such as minerally earth, tobacco and tea. The back end, while medium length for Bordeaux, was long compared to what I tend to drink. Complex and layered, this dissipated quite quickly after openining (which I find with a lot of aged wine).

$150 at BCLDB

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Kestrel 'Kestrel View Estate Vineyard' Syrah 2003

Produced in the famed Yakima Valley of Washington, this syrah bucks the trend and comes in at 13.8% ABV. I find Syrah from WA can be a bit too rich and creamy for my tastes. However, Kestrel offers quite a different take on Syrah from some of the other producers.

Wow - syrah rarely tastes this good for $40. That is, if you like a brambly, southern Rhone style or Languedoc style version of syrah. While this had greaty purity of fruit, it did not come across at all like California syrah or Australian Shiraz. Rather, it had a rich peppery, scorched earth, dark fruit palate with blueberry and mocha notes. Ending with a 30 second finish, this had nice balance, was amazingly well rounded, and simply delicious. A perfect pairing with a simple cheese pizza.

$40 at Everything Wine

Poet's Leap Riesling 2006

Poet's Leap is part of the Long Shadows project in Washington. This project is bringing some of the top wine makers from around the world to produce a single wine based on their expertise. This particular Riesling was made by Armin Diel of Schlossgut Diel.

This is a great buy and shows the potential of Washington for Riesling. A lemony-yellow in the glass (and quite dark for Riesling) this had citrus, apple and pear on the nose and palate. I loved the incredible body, structure and length of this wine. By far the best Riesling I've had in BC at this price point.

$35 at Everything Wine, $40 at Kits Wine Cellar