Friday, July 31, 2009

July is the Cruellest Month: The Burial of the Dead

Today I investigated the state of my wine collection after Vancouver's record breaking heatwave with a week of weather ranging from 30-39 degrees celsius (86-102 F). It seems that the heat proved too much for the majority of my collection that was not cellared in a proper wine cellar but merely sat in my closet. It seems as though 4 years of collecting and a huge amount of money (which in my own stupidity was funded by student loans during law school) will be but a lost promise as seepage, raised or depressed corks have effected the majority of my wines.

I suppose this lies as a reminder of the power of nature, the foolishness of humanity, and the fact that life can sometimes really mess with your expectations and hopes. I suppose the lesson here is that wine is but something to be enjoyed and perhaps we can get carried away in our excitement for such a fleeting product, the real value of which comes from the stories it helps to create. In the hopes that many lost stories can converge into one major story that I will eventually look back on in a not-so-negative light, here is a list of all the bottles that are now but garbled and deformed images of their former selves:

Magdalena Toso '40 Barrels Selection' Malbec 2005
Penfolds 'St. Henri' Shiraz 2002
Miner 'Rosella's Vineyard' Pinot Noir 2005
Domaine Jo Pithon Anjou "les pepinieres' Chenin Blanc 2005
Damilano 'Liste' Nebbiolo 2003
Allegrini Amarone 2001
Dogpoint Pinot Noir 2005
Condado De Haza Tempranillo 2005
Long Shadows 'Sequel' Syrah 2004
Torbreck 'Descendant' Shiraz/Viognier 2005
Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Ridock Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
Chateau de Beauregard Joseph Burrier 'Vers Crus' Chardonnay 2006
Beringer Private Reserve 'Bancroft Ranch' Merlot 1998
Beringer Private Reserve 'Bancroft Ranch' Merlot 1997
Ridge 'Monte Bello' Chardonnay 2004
Giuseppe Quintarelli 'Promofiore' Valpolicella 2003
Tardieu-Laurent 'Cuvée Speciale' Chateauneuf du Papes 2003
Clos Mogador Grenache 2005
Miguel Merino 'Gran Riserva' Tempranillo 1996
Grosset Pinot Noir 2005
Chateau de Beauregard Joseph Burrier 'Aux Charmes' Chardonnay 2006
Saintsbury 'Brown Ranch' Chardonnay 2004
Orwin Swift 'Papillon' Cab Blend 2005
David Fulton Petite Sirah 2003
Damilano Nebbiolo 2001
Chateau de Saint Cosme 'Valbelle' Grenache 2005
Bodegas y Vinedos 'Alion' Tempranillo 2003
Roda I 'Reserva' Tempranillo 2003
Penfolds 'Bin 389' Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2004
Penfolds 'Bin 389' Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2005
Montes 'Purple Angel' Carmenere 2005
Didier Dagueneau 'Buison Renard' Sauvignon Blanc 2005
Dr. Loosen Erdener Treppchen Riesling Auslese 2005
Quinta Do Crasto Reserva Old Vines Douro Blend 2003
Quinta Do Crasto Reserva Old Vines Douro Blend 2004
Quinta Do Crasto Reserva Old Vines Douro Blend 2005
Quinta do Crasto 'Reserva' Old Vines Douro Blend 2006
Graham's Vintage Port 1997
Graham's Vintage Port 2000
Vega Sicilia 'Pintia' Tempranillo 2003
Long Shadows 'Pirouette' Cab Blend 2004
Tyrrell's 'Vat 1' Hunter Semillon Semillon 1998
Kay Brothers Amery Vineyards 'Block 6' Shiraz 2005
Clarendon Hills 'Moritz' Syrah 2003
Chateau Lafon-Rochet Bordeaux 2005
Domaine Jo Pithon Coteaux du layon 'Les 4 Villages' Chenin Blanc 2005
Prunotto Nebbiolo 2004
Zenato Amarone 2003
Niepoort 'Vintage' Port 2000
Auguste Clape 'Renaissance' Syrah 2004
Tardieu Laurent Syrah/Viognier 2001
Domaine Les Pallieres Greanche 2003
Kilikanoon 'Oracle' Shiraz 2004
Daniel Dampt 'Fourchaume' Premier Cru Chardonnay 2006
Domaine Christian Moreau 'Les Clos' Grand Cru Chardonnay 2006
William Fevre 'Fourchaume' Premier Cru Chardonnay 2006
Patrice Rion 'clos prieur' Pinot Noir 2005
Ridge 'Santa Cruz Mountains Estate' Chardonnay 2006
Damilano 'Cannubi' Nebbiolo 2003
Quinta Do Crasto 'Vinha Maria Teresa' Douro Blend 2003
Domaine de la Charbonniere 'Les Hautes Brusquieres Cuvée Speciale' Chateauneuf du Papes 2005
Auguste Clape 'Renaissance' Syrah 2005
Francois Villard 'Le Gallet Blanc' Syrah/Viognier 2003
Two Hands 'Lily's Garden' Shiraz 2006
Betz Family Winery 'Clos de Betz' (Magnum) Cab Blend 2005
Long Shadows 'Feather' Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Sinean 'Baby Poux Vineyard' Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Achaval Ferrer 'Finca Altamira' Malbec 2006
Domaine Jacques Prieur Premier Crus Pinot Noir 2005
Jean-Marc Brocard Grand Cru 'Les Clos' Chardonnay 2005
William Fevre 'Les Preuses' Grand Cru Chardonnay 2006
S.A. Huet 'Le Haut-Lieu' Moelleux Chenin Blanc 2005
Donnhoff 'Schlosbockelheimer Felsenberg' Spatlese Riesling 2006
Quinta Do Crasto Tinta Roriz 2003
Tardieu Laurent 'Cuvée Speciale' Grenache Blend 2005
Tardieu Laurent 'Vieilles Vignes' GSM 2005
Embruix de Vall Llach Grenache 2004
Bodegas Lan 'Edicion Limitada' Red Blend 2004
Catena Alta Malbec 2004
Cheval Blanc and Terrazas de Los Andes 'Cheval des Andes' Malbec Blend 2005
Grosset 'Watervale' Riesling 2006
Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz 2004
Domaine Louis Boillot & Fils Pinot Noir 2005
Beringer Private Reserve 'Bancroft Ranch' Merlot 1997
Tardieu Laurent Mourvedre 2005
Pascal Cotat 'La Grande Cote' Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Donnhoff 'Kreuznacher Krotenhfuhl' Spatlese Riesling 2006
Domaine La Bouissiere Grenache Blend 2005
Lo Givot Grenache 2004
Alonso del Yerro Tempranillo 2005
Donnhoff 'Oberhauser Leistenberg' Kabinett Riesling 2006
Alain Voge 'Les Vieilles Fontaines' Syrah 2005
Domaine Saint-Damien 'Vieilles Vignes' Grenache Blend 2007
Vi de Guarda 'Les Eres' Vinyes Velles Grenache 2003
Arrocal Tempranillo 2004
Condado De Haza Tempranillo 2005
Tinto Pesquera Tempranillo 2005
Tinto Pesquera Tempranillo 2005
Muga 'Reserva' Tempranillo 2004
Vega Sicilia 'Pintia' Tempranillo 2003
Vega Sicilia 'Pintia' Tempranillo 2004
Long Shadows 'Chester Kidder' Cab Blend 2005
Donnhoff 'Estate' Riesling 2006
Graham's Vintage Port 2003
Smith Woodhouse 'Vintage' Port 1980
Beckmen Vineyards 'Block Six' Purisma Mountain Vineyard Syrah 2004
Domaine Jo Pithon Quarts de Chaume 'Les Varennes' Chenin Blanc - sweet 2003
Domaine Jo Pithon Csavennieres 'La Croix Picot' Chenin Blanc 2005
La Spinetta 'Gallina' Barbera 2004
Domaine Saint-Damien 'Vieilles Vignes' Grenache Blend 2007
Delas 'Saint-Esprit' Grenache Blend 2007
Domaine Saint-Damien 'La louisiane' Grenache 2005
Domaine Saint-Damien 'La louisiane' Grenache 2005
Domaine Grand Nicolet 'Vieilles Vignes' Grenache Blend 2006
Pujanza 'Norte' Tempranillo 2005
Cobos "Bramare" "Marchiori Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Pax "Obsidian" Syrah 2006
Sean Thackrey "Sirius" Petite Sirah 2004
Brown Estate Chardonnay 2006
Brown Estate "Chiles Valley" Zinfandel 2007
Brown Estate "Chiles Valley" Zinfandel 2002
St. Clement "Progeny Vineyards" Syrah 2002
Nickel and Nickel "Copper Streak Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Araujo "Altagracia" Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Beau Vigne "Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1997
Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Duckhorn Estate Grown Merlot 2004
Sean Thackrey "Orion" Syrah 2004
Sean Thackrey "Orion" Syrah 2005
Sean Thackrey "Orion" Syrah 2006
Doyenne "Grand Ciel Vineyard" Syrah/Viognier 2005
Nicolas Catena Zapata Cab Blend 2004
Catena Zapata 'Argentino' Malbec 2004
Charles Smith Wines 'Skull' Syrah 2005
Arnot-Roberts 'Hudson Vinyeard North Block' Syrah 2005
Hudson Vinyeard Syrah 2005
Spottswoode Estate 'Lyndenhurst' Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Spottswoode Estate 'Lyndenhurst' Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Quixote Petite Sirah 2004
Darioush Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Spottswoode Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1999
Pharaoh Moans 'Westside' Syrah 2005
Pax 'Walker Vine Hill Vineyard' Syrah 2006
Foxen 'Williamson-Doré Vineyard' Syrah 2006
Pax ' Cuvée Moriah' Grenache Blend 2005
Clonakilla Shiraz/Viognier 2006
T-Vine 'Brown Vineyard' Zinfandel 2006
Outpost Zinfandel 2006
Seavy Cabernet Sauvignon 1996
David Fulton Petite Sirah 2005
T-Vine Petite Sirah 2006
Alma Rosa 'La Encantada Vineyard' Pinot Noir 2006
Drew 'Gatekeeper Rio Vista Vineyard' Pinot Noir 2007
Beckmen 'Purisma Red Wine' Grenache Blend 2005
Stolpman 'Hilltops Syrah' Syrah 2006
Sojourn Cellars 'Sangiacomo Vineyards' Pinot Noir 2006
K Vinters 'Roma' Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Domaine de la Vougeraie 'Les Evocelles' Pinot Noir 2005
Turley 'Rattlesnake Ridge' Petite Sirah 2006
Caliban 'The Noble Savage' Petite Sirah 2004
Ojai Vineyard 'Santa Maria Valley' Special Bottling Solomon Hills Vineyard 6 barrels made Chardonnay 2006
Domaine Weinbach 'Cuvée Ste. Catherine' Pinot Gris 2005
Domaine Weinbach Grand Cru 'Schlossberg' Riesling 2006
Luce La Vite Cuvente IGT 2006
Torres 'Grans Muralles' Red Blend 2001
Tinto Pesquera Reserva Tempranillo 2004
Finca Allende 'Calvario' Tempranillo 2002
Delille Cellars 'Chaleur Estate' Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2005

And for those who didn't get the reference in the title to T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland, here is the full version of the first stanza:

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

Wine Bloggers Conference 2009 - Day 2: Let There Be Wine

A bright and early saturday morning after an evening of wine tasting and discussion could have been a foreboding prospect if not for the promise of beautiful blue skies, a day's worth of tasting and talking Napa Valley wine, and a few Gatorades. Thus after a revitalizing breakfast at the Flamingo Sean, Graham and I headed over to the Culinary Institute of America for a talk by Barry Schuler of AOL fame.

Schuler's talk focused on the demise of traditional "gate-keeper" media, whether social media could become an effective model for business, how to capitalize on the fragmentation of media, and whether the niche markets catered to by bloggers could be re-aggregated effectively. In the end, it was quite an interesting talk by an engaging speaker. On my part, I wonder how social media will confront issues surrounding content quality since traditional vetting systems no longer exist - certainly one can find information on almost any topic they want to via web portals, blogs, and other forms of social media; but, what tools can assist users' digital literacy regarding the quality of content, rather than its ease of access? Nonetheless, it is clear that the wine industry is gaining serious curiosity in social media as the next big form of content delivery.

Sean and Graham of Vinifico tasting some Duckhorn Merlot

Unfortunately, we were unable to attend the lunch scheduled to take place after the conference session due to logistical and planning problems, instead leading us to grab a quick BBQ lunch before heading off to Brown Estate for a superlative and uplifting tasting experience that will be the subject of its own post.

Me, nosing some tasty vino

Later in the day, we drove down to Quintessa for the Napa Grand Tasting where we were treated to sips of some of Napa's most iconic wineries. While most of the wines were very good, the following six really struck me as something extraordinary:

1. Kapcsándy Estate Cuvée 2006

A beautifully expressive nose filled with some funky notes (maybe damp forest floor?) and replete with espresso and chocolate. The mocha elements expanded on the mid-palate in a soft somewhat Bordeaux-like manner, which was very unique for a Napa cab blend, which also had tremendous depth and a fully textured palate. A wine with personality.


2. Staglin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

It was certainly a treat to taste this rare Napa Cab from Rutherford with its perfect balance and classic cabernet flavours of cedar, cassis, and black fruits. While many Napa cabs can push the fruit so far forward that finesse is somewhat guillotined, here the fruit is both plush and in balance, and the structure of the mid-palate is very full and delineated, suggesting true aging potential. Thus, while beautiful now, this will become something very special with the proper aging. I've also noticed that Parker gave this 93 and the Wine Spectator 91, and while the wine is certainly deserving of those ratings, I don't think they fully communicate its personality and expression.

Excellent to Excellent+

3. Quintessa 2006

Textbook structure: every element of the wine making process is clearly meticulously attended to. A biodynamic winery, Quintessa has a very refined and controlled style that makes the wine somewhat clinical. That said, the wine also has a beautiful soft touch, an almost Bordeaux-like texture, and such perfect structure that this might have been the most ageable cab I tasted all day. And the flavour profile? In a word, dense: dark fruits, wood, licorice.


4. Nickel & Nickel John C. Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

For those who don't know Nickel and Nickel, whom I've written up before, they concentrate on single varietal wines from single vineyard parcels. This particular cab is from Oakville. I love how expressive this is of its site: extremely polished and built for aging, this is yet still soft and approachable now with lush dark berry fruit and impressive length. Great now, try this in 5-6 years for an even better experience.


5. St. Clement Oroppas 2006

Another cab blend, the Oroppas is one of the most consistent wines I've tasted. And given that I've been lucky enough to taste through at least 5-6 vintages I can attest that it never fails to impress. This cab has real structure and impressive dark fruit - in fact, this is maybe one of the best value blends in the Valley. Driven by very impressive brambly and dusty mountain fruit, the Oroppas also manages to be lithe and drinkable without age. If you like Napa cabs, especially made from mountain fruit, but don't like the price tags, the Oroppas is certainly one to investigate.


6. Quintessa Illumination Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Poured as we walked into the winery, this Sauvignon Blanc kept itself lively and replete with grapefruit, lime, and cat's pee with serious mineral lacing. This sauvignon blanc, blended with 8% semillon, was very full in its structure and the quality of fruit was outstanding. In my opinion, this is the only other Sauv Blanc from Napa that competes with Spottswoode's. Interestingly, part of the aging process occurs in concrete eggs, which Spottswoode also uses, and the winery claims that this increases the richness of the palate. Also aged in stainless steel tanks and neutral French oak barrels.


I wish I could write up every wine at the tasting since there really wasn't a dud amongst them. After a couple hours of tasting these beauties we were sent off to have dinner at Spring Mountain, a definite highlight and an experience that deserves a writeup of its own. As for the Napa Grand Tasting, Quintessa really was a beautiful setting for the event and is certainly a winery worth visiting. The Napa Valley Vintners hosted such a thoughtful and unpretentious tasting that I can't wait to read what all the other bloggers in attendance have to say about such illustrious wines.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Wine Bloggers Conference 2009 - Day 1: It All Begins

I am sitting now in the enclave dedicated to my desktop computer and feeling terribly old fashioned. The last three days at #WBC09 have been a tumult of wine and technology that puts this old clunky desktop to shame with iphones and blackberries momentarily about as ubiquitous as glasses of wine in Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Having unfortunately been stuck in Vancouver for the first half of Friday writing my final bar exam (let's hope I passed), I didn't roll in to the Flamingo Hotel until about 8pm. While my cold subway sandwich consumed on the airporter was somewhat on the malaise side, the Russian River Tasting later that night managed to properly whet my appetite for the next few days, which were so magnanimous in their generosity that it will take me quite a few extended posts to go through all of my experiences.

That said, in brief introduction I found the conference a fascinating experience as wineries from across the Valleys treated us extremely well and appeared to take wine bloggers very seriously, recognizing the shift in information production, the increase in expressive capacity, and the surprising power of niche markets. If bloggers tend to individually attract niche audiences, collectively at an event like this with over 200 bloggers in attendance you begin to realize the sheer size and impact of the movement. That, and the impressive lack of pretense, which tended to be replaced by genuine passion for, as I like to say, the confluence of extreme sensory expression and intellectual stimulation that comprises the world of wine.

Fortunately I met up with Sean (@vinifico) and Graham (@vino_g) of fellow Vancouver wine blog and had an absoultely brilliant weekend drinking wine, talking wine, debating wine, talking technology, social media and the influence of the biodynamic and organic movements on the wine world. At points we were also joined by Karen (@winebard) of, Jeff (@vinaroon) of Farmstead Wines, and Brad (@Bradinator) of Township 7 winery in the Okanagan.

During our lively discussion on the first evening we drank a Sean Thackrey Plaeides XVII, which true to form was a chameleon of a wine with its inspired open vat fermentation under Eucalyptus trees expressing itself in the floral minty nose that is so distinctive to that species. A blend of 13 grapes you wouldn't think belong together, this wine defies description and deserves a rating of excellent. I also wrote up the XVI a while ago. We also had a stunning Austrian riesling brought to the tasting by Jeff of Farmstead, which was oaked in Austrian oak and had a clean and mineral driven palate. However, there was an intensity of flavour that pushed the riesling slightly out of delicacy (its traditional territory) and into a new, brighter, burst of flavour. Frankly, I thought this was a beautiful wine highly deserving of an excellent rating. If only I wrote down its name - hopefully someone can remind me of this!

At the Russian River tasting I found many of the pinots to be pleasant but somewhat overwraught. However, there certainly were some standouts, notably Merry Edwards, Joseph Swann and C. Donatiello. I was particularly impressed with the clean lines and pure fruit of the Edwards and the austere almost Burgundian approach of C. Donatiello. Given that I had just written a bar exam and spent 8 hours on taxis, planes, and busses these are the extent of my notes for that tasting - rest assured much more is to come in future posts. Cheers!

Lastly, a HUGE thanks - my attendance at this conference was made possible by generous donations made through the Wine Blogger's Scholarship, and I thank all the sponsors for making this possible. #WBC09 was a superb event and certainly served to increase my understanding of the role of social media in not just wine, but in marketing and society more generally.

NB: Just got some stats on the conference of 1,124 Tweets, a total of 1,539,239 Followers were reached from Thursday (7/23) to Sunday (7/26).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Movia Ribolla 2005

Unheard of grape varieties often find their way into wine geek nerd speak as those of us who drink and taste large amounts of wine often end up with somewhat jaded palates. Strange varieties can often challenge those palates in a new way. However, I also find that sometimes wine geeks can over-hype varieties that really aren't that interesting and underplay the classics. Luckily, however, this 'Ribolla' based wine from Movia is a pristine example of how indigenous varieties can produce absolutely stellar and singular wine when made well.

I was pointed to Movia by Sean of Vinifico who noted in his post that Movia has been family owned since 1820 and straddles the Italian and Slovenian border near the Friuli region of Italy. Furthermore, this winery has been biodynamic for the last 20 years.

The colour on this was quite interesting: golden yellow with hints of orange. The nose shows this wine's singularity with an impressive bevy of melon (honey dew and cantaloupe I would guess), quince, lemon rind and floral honey. The palate is extremely dry and shows stone, mineral, wood, earth, bitter citrus rind, bark and cardamom. I don't usually go for such a huge list of discriptors, but I wanted to try and impart how unique this wine really is - it does not fit into any standard flavour profile that you would expect from an Italian white. All these interesting flavours are layered on a more traditional backbone of vanilla and lavender. Amazingly, this paired tremendously well with Indian cuisine. Any wine geek who feels jaded with their recent tastings really owes it to themselves to seek out this Ribolla from Movia - it will wake up any tired palate.

Very Good+ to Excellent
$37 at Kits Wine Cellar

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pelican Pub and Brewery MacPelican's Scotch Style Ale

With our arcane alcohol importing laws in BC it is an exciting event to see a new brewery on the shelves. Oregon's Pelican Brewery has recently arrived in Vancouver with 3-4 offerings. I had heard good things when I was living in California but never had the chance to try anything from Pelican, until now.

The colour on this scotch ale is a golden brown, which is metaphorically suggestive of the malty nose with its great notes of honey and walnuts. On the palate this has great balance for a scotch ale (many of which can be too sweet), and has a nice creamy texture for smooth drinking. When sipping I noticed flavours that remind me of lager yeasts along with nuts and honey. Easy drinking and food friendly, but also simple. Enjoyable but not mind blowing.

Very Good
$8 / 22oz Bomber at Brewery Creek

Sunday, July 19, 2009

John Glaetzer 'John's Blend' Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

You don't see too many wines from the Langhorne Creek region of Southern Australia over here in Canada, but I find myself often impressed with the lesser known regions. That said, Langhorne Creek fruit apparently forms the basis for most Wolf Blass wines and is known for its soft and mellow character. In fact, John Glaetzer is the winemaker that put Wolf Blass on the map internationally, and has now set up this project making some pretty fantastic stuff.

The nose on this has tremendous eucalyptus and cedar notes with layers of chocolate and cassis. Indeed, it is a classic aromatic profile for Aussie cabs - but so pure and expressive. The palate is, temptingly, very chocolate-forward in a fondue-like way with cassis, licorice, cedar, and eucalyptus rounding out this full, clean and texturally soft wine. With good balance of flavour and a big, full, delineated structure, this cab is well worth its price. Simply, an extremely enjoyable wine.

Very Good+ to Excellent
$40 at Taphouse Liquor Store

Friday, July 17, 2009

Domaine Drouhin Laurene Pinot Noir 2004

The famed Domaine Drouhin of Burgundy also has a now well-known project in Oregon doing up some fine Pinot Noir. The Laurene Pinot is the premier bottling and I picked up this bottle a year and a half ago at the 2008 Vancouver International Wine Fest. I was planning on aging this a little longer, but didn't have the patience, alas.

The nose on this had a tiny amount of funk, but predominantly had amazingly pure fruits such as strawberry, raspberry, rhubarb, and fresh cherries. While there were some 'cola' elements to the nose, they were subtle and did not overwhelm the pure expression of fruit that makes this so wonderful. The palate still has some tannic bite to it (ah, if I only I had patience), but was full of fresh strawberry and cherry fruit with pleasant savory herbal notes and a structured earthiness. Expressive and full flavoured, this could use another 3-4 years in the bottle. 14.1% ABV.

I experimented with my Eisch pinot glass here (compared to a Riedel Vinum Extreme pinot glass) and found the Eisch actually dulled the aromas and flavour considerably. While the wine tasted a lot smoother in the Eisch, I would not give up the bouquet and intensity found in the Riedel. Score another one for the big R.

This is certainly a bottle of wine that shows the tremendous promise of Oregon pinot and, despite my predilections against the general QPR of Oregon pinot, makes me excited about the state's future.

$70 at BCLDB Festival Store and available around town at Private Stores

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dogfish Head Raison D'Etre

Having tried and very much enjoyed the super version of this beer (Raison D'Extra) I was looking forward to seeing how the regular version faired. Happily I can say it did quite well in both drinkability and pairability, two essential categories for a great beer.

This poured a cloudy raisin brown with a fairly small head. While the aromas were subdued I did get soft malts and sweet sugar on the nose. Made with beet sugar and raisins, this beer is really quite unique flavour wise with cigar, tobacco, malts, and touches of raisin and beet on the finish. This was a smooth and full ale with some interesting components that actually came together quite well. Further, this was a great treat with cod, and complimented the fish's richness well. A true food ale.

Very Good+
$5/333ml at Brewery Creek (and other private stores)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Au Bon Climat Mt. Carmel Vineyard Chardonnay 2001

I picked this up about a year or so ago from Marquis on sale. You don't often run into California chard with this much age on it in BC, and certainly not at the price I paid. Further, Au Bon Climat is one of the best producers in the Santa Barbara region - all in all hard to pass up. That said, I was somewhat disappointed with this otherwise tasty wine.

The wine poured a dark golden yellow, like gold foil. It was also starting to brown at the edges - a sign of age. Nevertheless, the nose was big and full not suggesting tiredness: pineapple, vanilla marshmallow, kiwi, and creme brulée. The palate had awesome fullness and vitality, especially for 8 years on the bottle. I got plenty of creme brulée and banana cream pie. Although the flavours were rich and full, I found this wine a bit hot and thus imbalanced with respect to alcohol. And, even with the new world creamy goodness, this was not showing the kind of complexity I would expect for great chards after 8 years in the bottle.

Very Good+
~$30 on sale at Marquis

Monday, July 13, 2009

Gonzalez Byass 'Matusalem' Oloroso Sherry VORS (30 years)

I've written positively about Byass' VORS sherries before, but this Oloroso goes far beyond anything else I've tasted from Byass. Pouring a sticky thick brown like caramelized sugar, this 20.5% ABV concoction had an astounding level of depth and complexity. On the nose I got nuts, sage, brown sugar, marjoram, date, and figs (both dried and fresh). The palate was huge, sweet, balanced, and very intense: wood, smoke, figs, peat, cigar, and sage notes made this almost a cross between sherry and scotch and unlike any wine I've had before. In fact, when you pair this with fried tapas, chorizo, dates, and hard spanish cheeses you will realize this is perhaps one of the finest Olorosos, indeed sherries, you could have.

$35 for 375ml at BCLDB

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Palacio de Fefinanes Albarino 2007

I've tried a few albarinos before, often appreciating their easy drinking but not so much their lack of complexity. I think I just never got into the good stuff. This particular albarino comes to Vancouver from one of its most respected producers in Spain, thanks to Marquis Wine Cellars' John Clerides, who never fails to find some of the most unique and good value wines all across the world.

The nose on this had lemon, lime, and grapefruit not unlike a riesling. The palate was very impressive, with stone, apple, and lime predominating. The mid-palate held a full body and clean acidity. Somewhat like a cross between pinot blanc and riesling, I loved the cleanliness, the full body, and the superb food friendliness. Its very slightly off-dry character made it perfect for pairing with chorizo. I could imagine this wine perfectly paired with a chorizo mussel dish. Great stuff and the best Albarino I've yet had.

Very Good+ to Excellent and Highly Recommended
$30 at Marquis

Friday, July 10, 2009

Grosset Semillion / Sauvignon Blanc 2006

Grosset is so consistent in creating fresh, lively, and complete wines that they have become my favourite producer of white wine from Australia, from their rieslings to this excellent Bordeaux style white blend.

The perfumed nose on this blend was floral and filled with rich dense notes of nectarine and pear. The palate had lime and pear up front, a crisp and clean mid-palate and notes of nectarine and sour apricot on the finish. This was thicker than expected, which I suspect was brought to the wine by the Semillion. And, while this is certainly a cut wine, it is also expansive: a wonderful blend of acidity and fat that still dials back its opulence compare to, say, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Very Good+
$30 at Marquis

Thursday, July 9, 2009

CARM Grande Escolha 2003

Portuguese wine always goes unnoticed, and for no good reason at all. I've mentioned this before, but Douro dry reds can really be quite stunning and it's a shame not too many people indulge in their power and finesse. This wine came from the hot 2003 vintage which produced many overly alcholic wines across Europe, but in Portugal both the ports and the dry reds of Douro faired very well indeed.

The nose on this gem was all balance straight on the attack: I got wood, cassis, and blackberry jam on top of nice grip and excellent concentration. While this is a full mouth-coating wine, it is also not over-extracted nor does it have pronounced glycerin. Indeed, there is even a slight salty side to this eminently drinkable wine. Pair it with a great goat or sheep's milk cheese from Portugal or Spain and you will realize the unique approach that Portuguese wine brings to the fore.

$40 at BCLDB (Purchased for $28 on sale)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Green Flash West Coast IPA

Green Flash is an extremely solid San Diego based brewer that has recently entered the BC market with some of their well crafted year round offerings. However, given the dearth of quality beer in Vancouver Green Flash always seems to disappear quickly from the city's best beer stores. Lucky for me, I got one of four six packs of the West Coast IPA from Brewery Creek a few weeks ago.

This is a very west coast IPA in style: extremely dry with pretty much no residual sweetness or maltiness. The nose had pine, grapefruit and a nice floral element. The pine continued heavily on the palate, with the addition of crisp bitter citrus rind. Without much malt to balance out the hops, this is for hop-heads who love a dry-hopped style. Nonetheless, Green Flash does not go over the top like some brewers that tend to create hop extract rather than beer. And, the beautiful clean and crisp finish makes this ideal for the summer.

Very Good+ to Excellent
$17 / 6-pack at Brewery Creek

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Domaine Grand Nicolet Vielles Vignes Rasteau 2006

Cote du Rhone can really kill it, or it can be decidedly boring pepper stew. Rateau, however, a single village within the Cote du Rhone offers better quality wines, and when you can get them from a good vintage, a good producer, and at a price such as this wine they really shine through as some of the best value reds in the world.

The nose on this old vines grenache based cuvée has dusty, chocolate-infused blueberry driving the wine over a tiny edge of manure, which dissipated with air. The palate has superb fruit up front with tons of blueberry and strawberry. The mid-palate has a considerable tannic grip, but the finish is soft and smooth. The wine also maintains considerable freshness from the acidity. Heat and chalk fill out the mouth of this big-boned incredibly food friendly wine. An awesome value for the price.

Very Good+
$20 at Marquis

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sinnean Old Vine Zinfandel 2006

I doubt anyone associates Oregon state with the renowned all-American California variety zinfandel, but here we have one of Oregon's most noteworthy producers making one as their "flagship wine". As much as Sinnean is known for their Pinot Noir, they claim that it is this old vine zin, made from a 100 year old vineyard, that is their best wine. And, despite the latitude there are no signs of underripeness and no chaptalization.

The nose on this Columbia Valley zin was boozy and had blueberry, chocolate and candied cherry. The palate was extremely full and very extracted: sweet blueberry juice, cherry, strawberry jam, and chocolate undertones. This is extremely smooth and tasty, although somewhat simple.

However, the story does not end there. While I took the above tasting note while drinking from a Riedel glass, I decided to experiment and test out how that note compared to a simultaneous note taken while drinking from my new Eisch glasses. For those not in the know, Eisch has created glasses with a special coating that supposedly decants the wine instantly upon pouring it into the glass. Well, we shall see.

In the Eisch glass the nose was far more restrained and dusty, while also being far less fruity. On the palate the wine was much smoother, less boozy, and had intricate notes of herbs and underbrush. And, while noticeably less massive, it had impressive complexity and layering far superior than in the Riedel glass. So, it seems as though this limited test shows that Eisch can make a considerable difference to a wine's aromatics and flavour profile. Is it better? Not necessarily - but it certainly is different.

The wine itself? Although perhaps a little pricey, it is quite impressive and certainly worth a try.

Very Good+
$55 at Everything Wine