Friday, March 26, 2010

oh my Achilles heel (Garnacha)

So everyone has something that is difficult for them. For some reason, blind-tasting Garnacha/Grenache is tough for me... I know Sebastian keeps reminding me to "look for the white pepper", but let's face it - it's not always there.

Grenache is a very widely planted grape - well known for spicy, fruit flavors, low tannins & high alcohol. It is also, I just learnt, often blended up to 80% into my wife's favorite wines; Chateau-neuf-du-Pape.

Lots to learn my friends.


clear visual:
  • moderate garnet centre
  • slight cherry rim suggesting little or no age (2007-08)
  • moderate legs = moderate alcohol (12%?)

clean nose; moderate+ intense notes of

  • Old World funky leather
  • red fruit/berries
  • fungal/mushroom
  • white pepper
  • some sort of funky vegetal

clean palate; 0 dryness, moderate++ acid, moderate+ tannin, moderately intense flavors

  • chalk
  • leather
  • red fruit/berries
  • young black fruit

moderate body, moderate alcohol (my guess was 12-13% but it was 14.5%), good structure

2007 Las Rocas, Garnacha, de San Alejandro (Spain) **very good value @ $20**



clear visual;

  • pale garnet centre
  • light cherry rim (indicating little or no age: 2008 or younger)
  • strong legs (indicating high alcohol of 13.5% or higher)

clean nose; moderate+ intense aroma of

  • white pepper (yes Sebastian I get it)
  • funky leather (Spanish kegs)
  • red berries
  • hot alcohol
  • light rosey floral

clean palate; 0 dryness, moderate++ acid, moderate+ tannin, moderate+ intense flavors of

  • plums
  • white pepper
  • floral
  • chalk terroir
  • red berries

moderate body, full alcohol (14.5%), excellent structure

2008 Tres Ojos, Garnacha, Calatayad (Spain) **BUY THIS @ $15**

So maybe I understand a bit better now... Garnacha is high in acid, low in tannin, stupidly high in alcohol (like a Zinfindel). Aromas of white pepper & red berries, flavors of the schistous soil & that oh-so-funky Spanish casking system of theirs. Big frikin wines & Lord knows I love a glass of this!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

hamburger wine

What is Cabernet Sauvignon and what does is have to do with hamburgers?

Cab Sauv is one of the most windely planted grapes in the world, and makes everything from table wine to Bordeaux blends "par excellence"... it is also b-t-w a relatively new varietal, only being created in the 17th century by chance.

The following is my notes on an inexpensive Cab Sauv, or, hamburger wine as my esteemed father would say.


clear visual
  • light garnet centre (indicating little age)
  • basically no rim (re-enforcing supposition#1)
  • moderate legs (indicating moderate alcohol of 13%+)

clean nose, moderately intense notes of

  • light barnyard
  • plums / black fruits
  • light floral background

clean palate, 0 dryness, moderate+ acid, moderate+ tannin, moderately intense flavors of

  • red berries
  • grapes!

moderate- body, moderate+ alcohol (13.5%), decent length

And so - it is what it is. Clean, simple, unassuming - this wine doesn't pretend to be what it is not. True enough, it starts to get a little boring after awhile - but this is a drinking wine, not a tasting wine!

non-vintage, Copper Moon, Cabernet Sauvignon, BC **buy this at $9.50 **

Sauvignon again

so I jump from one extreme to the other (more-or-less).

There is a winemaker in BC who produces very drinkable wines at a ridiculously low price (for BC) - around $10 a bottle. Ok, maybe they aren't the most interesting wines you'll ever drink, but they are well constructed (for the price) and very true to varietal type.


clear visual
  • ultra pale straw notes

clean nose, moderately intense notes of

  • vanilla
  • straw
  • lemon

clean palate, 0 dryness, moderate++ acid, 0 tannin, moderately intense flavors of

  • lemon
  • green apple
  • barest hint of vanilla

moderate body, moderate alcohol (12.5%), decent length

This is the wine you buy for your 20 year old sibling. This is the wine when 20 people come over for a bbq. This is your decent BC table wine. It doesn't try to be more, and does a great job at it. The difference in $10 between this and Monkey Bay is all the difference in the world - but you don't want to spend $20 all the time. The vanilla in this, by-the-way, I'm certain comes from the American oak chips they use.

non-vintage, Copper Moon, Sauvignon Blanc, BC **wow deal at $9.50**

Monkey Bay

very very very behind on transcribing my wine notes to the blog so bear with me if some dates don't match up!

A while back I decided that for class I needed to brush up on my knowledge of whites... well some whites I know, and Sauvignon Blanc is not one of them. This is what I've learnt:

Sauv Blanc makes one of my favorite whites - actually two of them. Puilly-Fuisse from France and Fume Blanc (Mondavi) from California... luv em to death. But New Zealand is supposed to be the producer of the best in the world. And no one knew until the 1990's.


clear visual
  • very pale straw centre

clean nose, moderately intense notes of

  • vanilla
  • grass
  • crisp green stonefruit (young peaches)

clean palate, 0 dryness, moderate++ acid, 0 tannin, moderately intense flavors of

  • vanilla
  • grass
  • crispy green stonefruit

moderate body, moderate alcohol (12%), very good length

Those who know my wine-notes know that I rarely put the same notes for nose and palate. This was an incredible exception. It tastes like it smells and is incredibly easy drinking. Be warned! A bottle of this can be drunk by one person far too easily! Ok... don't say I didn't warn you.

Pairs well with soft buttery cheeses, creamy pasta or risotto, anything with a bit of heaviness to it will be elevated by this crisp bright acids and young stonefruit of this lovely wine.

2008 Monkey Bay, Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand **buy this @ $20 or less**

Saturday, March 20, 2010

a proper Schooling!

So many of you know that Sebastian LeGoff (sommelier at UVA wine bar) is helping me with my homework... he does a blind tasting for me and then reviews my notes. Nice guy heh?

Well last week I did a went in and blindtasted (and correctly guessed) a 2004 Nebbiolo. This week I had my a$$ schooled by the master: blind tasted 3 wines and didn't get a one of them.

But they were great wines!


clear visual:
  • deep ruby centre with slight brickish rim indicative of age (2006?)
  • big legs indicative of high alcohol (13-14.5%)

clean nose: fully intense notes

  • violets and irises
  • plums
  • irony terroir
  • gameyness

clean palate: 0 dryness, moderate++ acid, moderate++ tannin, fully intense notes

  • mega floral violets
  • herbaciousness (garide)
  • deep iron earth
  • honeyed almonds

light+ to moderate body, moderate alcohol, very good length

I thought this was a Southern Rhone Grenache - but as Sebastian said "no white pepper - no grenache". It would not be the last time I make that mistake.

2003 Tormaresca "Bocca di Lupo" (aglianico)



clear visual

  • moderately intense garnet centre
  • pale strawberry rim (very light age:2007? & probably pale skin grape)
  • moderate legs - moderate alcohol (11-13%)

clean nose: moderately intense notes

  • rubber
  • earth & minerality
  • vanilla (american oak?)
  • a certain gamey meatiness

clean palate: 0 dryness, full- acid, moderate+ acid, moderate+ tannin, fully intense notes of

  • blackberry and black currant
  • old school black licorice
  • tomato paste

light body, moderate alcohol, very good length

I thought this was a crisp & bright, easy drinking wine... my guess was Sangiovese but in reality it was.... dah da da da !

2008 Desert Hills Gamay Noir, Black Sage Bench (BC)



clean visual:

  • moderately pale garnet centre
  • strawberry-cherry rim (still young - 2008?)
  • moderate legs (alcohol 12-14%)

clean nose: moderate+ intense notes

  • curiously funky nose!
  • barnyard
  • tar
  • cedar - what the heck is this?

clean palate: 0 dryness, moderate+ acid, moderate+ tannin, moderately intense notes

  • extremely fruit driven
  • bright cherry and rhubarb
  • light tea notes

moderate+ body, moderate alcohol, uberly long length

I had no idea what this was... not a clue. The best I could deduce was that it was a cold climate wine, and probably New World.... that's it - it was screwy.

2007 Red Rooster Merlot, Naramata Bench, BC

And so - no matter how much you learn, there is always more.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

some serious Syrah

Sandhill Syrah: award winning red wine from the Naramata Bench, and you must know that I am partial to the wines from the Naramata Bench.

So this was the first time for me making notes on Sandhill and I'm not sure what the hype is about. It was a well-made wine, but >>> well, let's just say that it was a well made wine and leave it at that.


clear visual:
  • deep plum centre
  • slight strawberry/orangish brick rim suggesting light age (my guess was 2007 to 2008 and it was 2007)
  • moderate+ legs indicating moderate+ alcohol (13%+)

clean nose: full- intense notes

  • plum
  • licorice
  • spice (cinnamon & anise)
  • deep earth & terroir

clean palate: 0 dryness, moderate+ acid, moderate++ tannin, fully intense notes:

  • spicy plums
  • blackberry jam
  • tobacco
  • chalky earth

moderate body

full alcohol (14.5%)

excellent length of over 10 seconds

This is a very well constructed wine, competely developed and full of gorgeous structure. However, I must admit that I prefer Syrahs/Shiraz with a touch less aggressiveness (Desert Hills is still my favorite BC Syrah to date). This is a wine that I feel demands some food to go with it, and can handle BIG food flavors... think grilled lamb, long-slow braised beef (osso bucco), garlic & rosemary, even reindeer (one of my favorites).

2007 Sandhill Syrah, BC (Naramata Bench) $22

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Barbera (ific)

Let's talk a little bit about Barbera.

Well to be honest, Barbera sometimes gets a bum-rap. This varietal is the third most planted in Italy (after Sangiovese and Montepulciano) and has in many instances been used worldwide as a blending grape in cheap table wines. But not always!

The most well known Barberas come from the D'Asti DOC (Piedmont - NorthWestern corner of Italy) and some are truly world-class-wines. Most of the best Barberas are still coming from Italy, but some success is being found in Argentina, Uraguay, Chile, South Africa, Australia and California.


clear visual:
  • medium cherry centre
  • pale strawberry rim and the tiniest hint of brick... it looked like a 2007 to me - was 2006
  • moderate legs

clean nose, moderate ++ intense notes of:

  • hot alcohol
  • leather
  • plum/cherry
  • vanilla and anise

clean palate, 0 dryness, full- acids, moderate tannins, moderate+ notes of:

  • berries
  • vanilla
  • leather
  • light minerality

a light bodied wine, moderate+ alcohol (13.5%), and decent length on the palate at 6 seconds++

I should start by saying that this wine, especially after breathing for 15 minutes, tasted for all the world like a thin, acidic port! Sounds wierd perhaps but as a dedicated port drinker I swear it is so...

A decent glass of wine - I found myself enjoying it more with a little nibble of cheese rather than on it's own. I would buy it again, but probably to start a meal in the summer, or to go with a baked pasta.

2006 Barbera D'Asti (DOC) "Ricossa", Italy, $22

Saturday, March 6, 2010

wine tasting # 70

I made this tasting note after my Sommelier class on Wednessday, March 03rd... I went to Uva Wine Bar, to have my friend and colleague Sebastian LeGoff pour me a little something special and then go through my notes with me.
It was to be the 70th wine I had tasted and made notes on in about 60 days, and I must admit, there have been times when I got a little sick of tasting wines and just wanted to go back to drinking them (if you know what I mean). But -
But then something really wonderful happened. Sebastian was busy and so a young lady behind the bar agreed to pour me something blind, and this was what I wrote:


clear visual: pale strawberry centre with slightly brickish rim suggesting some age and moderate
legs suggesting moderate alcohol (12-13%)

clean nose: moderate+ intense notes of
  • chalky terroir
  • leather (French oak)
  • red berries
  • hot alcohol and spice
  • woodsy/cedar
  • floral notes

clean palate: 0 or even 00 dryness, full- acid, full tannins, fully intense notes of

  • chalky terroir
  • red berries
  • leather (French oak)
  • hints of mushroom

moderate body

moderate alcohol

excellent length of well over 10 seconds!

My guess was a 2004-2005 Barolo. It just felt like it - tasted like it.

2005 Renato Fenocchio, Langhe Nebbiolo $18/glass and worth every penny

**Buy this if you can find the bottle - you will thank me for this

the joys of Barolo

the rarified wines from Piedmonte (north western Italy)... all Barolos are made from the Nebiolo grape, and yet not all Nebiolos are born to become Barolos.

what a thing of richness - in flavor and in cost (lol). Here in Vancouver Barolos start around $40 for bottom of the barrel (forgive the pun) and run about $60-$70 for something decent. Well, consider this your chance to pamper yourself, because a bottle of Barolo is truly something special everytime.


clear visual: strawberry centre with light brown/orangish rim (indicating age) and thin legs

clean nose: moderately intense notes of
  • earth/terroir
  • leather (French oak)
  • chalk
  • plum & blackberry

clean palate: 0 dryness, moderate acids, full tannins, moderately intense notes of

  • leather (French oak)
  • terroir/chalk/earth
  • strawberry burst on the palate immediately, followed by rich blackberry

light body

full alcohol (13.5%)

very very good length (over 10 seconds)

A wonderful wine to share with my wonderful woman. We savored every drop of this wine with its immediate presence of Pinot Noir qualities and followed by a structure like a world-class Merlot with its tremendous tannins. After drinking this "introductory" Barolo, I can't wait to try more!

2005 Beni di Batasiolo, Barolo (Italy) $40


So what the heck is Chinon?

Chinon is a little AOC in France in Touraine... it is also a very small town of about 10,000 by the same name. The AOC produces mainly Cabernet Franc (known locally as Cabernet Bretton) which is allowed to be blended with up to 10% Cab Sauv.

Apparently, these Chinon reds can cellar up to 10 years and have the potential for greatness!


clear visual: pale ruby centre with orangish/brick rim and medium legs

clean nose: moderate+ to full- intense notes of
  • leather(French oak)
  • barnyard(in a good way)
  • black fruit & dark berries
  • terroir (minerality)
  • hot alcohol
  • spice (I call it Asian 5-spice, they call it anise-same thing in my mind)

clean palate: 0 dryness, moderate+ acid, full tannins, moderate+ intense flavors of

  • plum
  • leather (French oak)
  • dark chocolate
  • rich cherry
  • chalk/granite

moderate+ body

moderate+ alcohol (12.5%)

good length on the palate (7 to 11 seconds)

Domaine Fabrice Gasnier, "Les Graves" Chinon, France, $25

Thyra & I really enjoyed this wine with its rich robust flavors and deep tannins. I think it's best with food but then again, we did end up finishing it watching a movie - with nothing but popcorn.