Monday, June 29, 2009

Arrocal Seleccion 2004

With its minimalist design, the Arrocal is another excellent value red from Spain's Ribera del Duero. If you like big robust reds at affordable prices look no further. It strikes me that Spanish wine tends to fly a little under the radar here in BC, and perhaps in North America generally. I'm not quite sure why as most of Spain is offering not only better value than France and California but also many extremely 'terroir' driven wines.

This particular Tempranillo had a nose of baked raspberry, strawberry pie, graphite and dust. The palate was big on baked fruit, but had wonderful undertones of herbs and dried out underbrush. This is a large red with edge and fruit without sweetness that will kill most BBQ's and braised meats.

Very Good+ and Highly Recommended
$24 at BCLDB

NB: I've started a new 'category' for this blog for 'Highly Recommended Values', which are all wines that both far exceed their price point and offer something particularly unique to the drinker.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

Stout - isn't it summer? You wouldn't know that given the last week of weather here in Vancouver. Hence, I pulled out and revisited an old favourite from California brewer North Coast (maker of other tasty beers such as Brother Thelonious).

Pouring with an awesome thick head, the nose on this was classic toasty caramel and heavy roast coffee. The palate expands on this and is very deep and intense: fresh coffee grounds, ash and cigar punctuate the viscous texture. Each flavour also manages to keep in balance with the others and the alcohol (at 9% abv) is not overly noticeable - a feature that will smooth even more with the proper aging. In the end, this is a very well made Russian Imperial Stout and a perfect standby for cold summer evenings.

Very Good+
$4/333ml at Brewery Creek, Viti, Liberty

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Petaluma Shiraz 2006

I have generally enjoyed the wines from Petaluma, being particularly impressed by their Coonawara red blend. This shiraz is certainly not your typical Aussie fruit bomb. The nose on this shiraz from the Adelaide Hills had cassis, chocolate and eucalyptus, almost like some California Cabernets. The palate picked up many notes from the nose, including eucalyptus and chocolate, adding a secondary line of woodyness.

This was well rounded and extremely smooth drinking with very fine, almost undetectable tannins. With moderate sweetness and a good flavour package this wine is very solid, and while its not going to send you into the stratosphere, it will be a great sipper and pleasant with many types of food: everything a simple and tasty wine needs.

Very Good
$35 at BCLDB

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Gonzalez Byass 'Apostoles' Palo Cortado (30 years)

And now for something completely different, or at least moderately so. I don't get the occasion to write about Sherry too often, mostly because there is a dearth of selection in the BC market. However, a few impressive high end aged sherries have recently started to trickle through the morass of government controlled liquor distribution, occasioning an opportunity I hope to continue to take advantage of in the future.

Palo Cortado is a rare type of sherry that sits between Amontillado and Oloroso in sweetness level, making it off-dry, but still moderately sweet. This particular Palo Cortado had brown sugar, caramel and baking spice on the classic oxydized nose. The palate was full and complete with apple, fig and caramel. Big up front, this also had great layering and is a wonderful pairing with rich cheeses. However, it doesn't match Fino or Manzanilla in their beautiful ability to pair with cured meats and tapas. Nonetheless, this was much more complex and certainly would gain depth and balance with more age. 20% ABV.

Very Good (I suspect higher with more bottle age)
$35/375ml at BCLDB or Kits Wine Cellar

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Caracole Troublette

Summer often demands wheat beer, but wheat beer in Canada can also often be disappointing or overly simple. I got this Belgian wheat ale on recommendation, and while not spectacular, it steps up to the plate as a good summer standard.

With a mellow and simple nose and palate this Belgian white ale had pineapple, orange, fennel, and soda pop. Light and smooth, this goes down easy at 5.5% abv. Maybe lacking a little depth and freshness (not sure how old this bottle is), I still recommend it for a basic summer beer that far surpasses the likes of BC brewed wheat ales.

Very Good
$4.50/333ml at Brewery Creek

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thelema Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Sauvignon Blanc at reasonable price points tends to fit into a few well delineated pockets: the acid driven steely basic mineral concoction from France, the super rich, fruit and alcoholic versions from California and the Zesty citrus and grass firebrands from New Zealand. This particular Sauv Blanc, however, comes to us not from one of these three classic regions, but from the oft-neglected South Africa.

Thelema is a highly regarded producer down there, and luckily we get a few of their offerings on the other side of the world in BC. This Sauvignon Blanc really shone past its price point with quince, baking spices and pine on the nose. Defying typicity for an under $30 wine, the palate was massively flavourful and much more complex than expected: zesty lemon, quince, spice, and cloves. Full in the mouth, but fresh and zippy on the finish, this should be a destination summer white.

Very Good+ and Highly Recommended
$25 at BCLDB or Marquis

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Valsacro Dioro Seleccion Rioja 2001

Beer tends to predominate in my drinking patterns during hot weather, of which Vancouver has had plenty in the past few weeks. With a brief chilly evening, however, I took the opportunity to open a nice modern styled Rioja from a great vintage.

At 14% ABV this had a slightly hot but very complex nose with char, cocao, roasted nuts, cassis, black cherry and sage. I love when the aromas of a wine are as deep and layered as in this wonderful tempranillo - it provides the mind with limitless whimsy and makes drinking an end in itself rather than a means to one.

The palate was woody and had excellent tertiary flavours of chalk, stone and tar. Even with a little heat, the richness of the caramel and vanilla elements was greatly tempered by the much more dominant minerality. In the end, this is an herbal, stone-like savory wine that is far drier than the fruity nose suggests. While finishing with a little heat, I also appreciated the great balance of fruit, wood, dust and stone.

$? (I believe in the $50-$70 range) at BCLDB

Friday, June 12, 2009

Brooklyn Brewing Local 1

Brooklyn is one of those breweries that has helped spread the word about micro brewed beer. They have pretty good market penetration with their basic beers, which are all above average for the style. However, it is their specialty beers that really show their prowess.

The Local 1 is made in a Belgian Strong Blond Ale style and pours with a huge head. Proper carbonation can be hard to come by, but this is balanced just right and the bubbles add freshness to a pretty high alcohol brew. The nose has lots of Belgian Trippel notes - fruity esters, some rootbeer and cream. The palate has plenty of baking spice, licorice and candy floss. This is smooth and robust summer drinking, even at around 9% alcohol.

Very Good+
$15 / 750ml at Brewery Creek

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dogfish Head India Brown Ale

Dogfish Head are surprisingly consistent in quality across their huge selection of microbrewed beer. The India Brown Ale is somewhat of a hybrid between a creamy English style ale and a malty strong ale. Brewed with brown sugar, this has a significant texture that is smooth and viscous.

On the palate, the caramel and brown sugar flavours from the malts develop into a smoky and slightly bitter herbal finish. This is quite a robust beer at 7.2% ABV, but is balanced enough to go with many foods. I could see this with a pot pie or some sort of stew. And, a few days after drinking this I find myself repeatedly craving more. Always a good sign.

Very Good+
$5/375ml at Brewery Creek

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dogfish Head Red & White

This was an old bottle I had been storing for about a year: spoils from the Seattle International Beer Festival. Without comparison to a non-aged version it is hard to say what the effect was, but I can attest that this was very balanced for such high alcohol, which I find a common occurrence when you age such beers for about a year.

The spicy nose gave way to malted spice, bread, cake, orange peel, caramel sauce and maybe correander on the palate. Complex and well balanced, this went down super easily on a hot summer day. This was perhaps due to the distinct juicyness which suggested freshly pressed cherries and strawberries - a factor likely the result of the added pinot noir juice. The finish is refined and malty without being too sweet. Excellent stuff. 10% ABV.

Very Good+
Around $15-20 USD I think.

Dierberg Pinot Noir 2005

Wanting a little nostalgic reflection on California I pulled out this Santa Maria Valley pinot from Dierberg, who I visited back in March. The 2005 vintage is showing well right now.

The nose had mostly strawberry and licorice, with noticeable alcohol hinting at a slight imbalance. The palate, however, was well structured with its leafy edge to the dominant cherry and strawberry fruit alongside a hint of cola. This was rich, bold, and had a smooth finish with an elegant structure. In the end, though, this is overpriced in the Canadian market.

Very Good+
$70 at Steamworks Liquor Store

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer Cuvée Théo 2006

I am no connoisseur of Gewurztaminer, only having been mildly unimpressed by several inexpensive offerings in the past. This wine changed my perceptions of what G-wine can achieve. With this bottle Weinbach suggests to me the underappreciated beauty of Alsatian wine.

Pouring a rich apple yellow in the glass, this smelled like burnt hay, caramel, and grapefruit. The palate was very deep and full and was somewhat like biting into a candy-apple laced with grapefruit jam and drizzled with caramel. The beautiful off-dryness balances the sweetness and acidity to crisply suggest freshness while not sacrificing the intensity of the rich fruit flavours. In the end this is a flexed wine, with a muscled finish. Highly recommended.

$65 ($45 on sale) at BCLDB

Monday, June 1, 2009

Deschutes Mirror Mirror 2009

Here we have a highly anticipated beer from Deschutes (of Bend, Oregon) in the same series as The Abyss, an extremely well respected barrel aged Imperial Stout. This, on the other hand, is a barrel aged barley wine - a suped up version of the Mirror Pond ale.

There is almost a Belgian element to the nose with solid fruit esters, candy and cherry. Upon first tasting this I realized that Deschutes' recommendation to age the beer for at least one year was warranted - while carbonated it was clear the yeast had yet to fully activate. But, unlike the Angel's Share, I have no doubt that this will have perfect carbonation in a year.

The palate here is really fantastic with raisins, caramel, wood, white chocolate and some grain flavours. This is very smooth and balanced and has a wonderful creamy texture. Even with all its flavour, this does not go over the top nor is it boozy. This puts it well ahead of the Angel's Share, and I think it will end up being a better beer.

Excellent to Excellent+ (esp. with age)