Monday, March 28, 2011

Cedar Creek "Platinum Reserve" Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley VQA

Everything worthwhile in life is a gamble. Everything worth that gamble, worth that risk, is worth working for and work you must if you want to reap the rewards.

   The sentiment is encapsulated by Cedar Creek winery and it's proprietor, Senator Ross Fitzpatrick. The senator bought the winery in 1986; a time in BC winemaking when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was threatening to swallow the infant wine industry in the Okanagan.

View at Greta Ranch, part of Cedar Creek Winery

   True enough, grapes had been planted in the Okanagan Valley (VQA) since the late 1800's in some cases, but the industry was modest to say the least, and quality was... sporadic. The senator was born and raised in the Okanagan, though his work had taken him far from home. I imagine that it was during those travels that he developed an appreciation for the magic that the grape can carry with it. It was a belief in that magic that brought him back to the place he was raised, and an incurable desire to create the same magic at home.

   Since then, Cedar Creek winery has replanted hybrid vines with vitus vinifera, turned a basement cellar into "state-of-the-art" facilities, and brought many awards to their shelves including twice being named Canada's Winery of the Year. It is the adherence to quality with the "temperance of patience and perseverance" which has lead them down the road of success.

   How do I know that Cedar Creek is living it's words and not just mouthing pleasant platitudes? As of 2010 they are separately fermenting separate blocks of Pinot Noir! Perhaps that isn't a revolutionary tactic, but it is most certainly a mark of dedication and shows that Cedar Creek's winemaker Darryl Brooker is willing to put in the extra time and effort to achieve superior results. But did the work pay off?

Cedar Creek "Platinum Reserve" 2007 Pinot Noir
Okanagan Valley VQA, British Columbia, Canada
13.9% ABV, $38 CAD    ** EXCELLENT VALUE **
SOIL       clay, loam and some sandy soil
AGED        17 months in 100% French oak
  • visual:   clean; moderate ruby/garnet core with substantial cherry-brick rim
  • nose:    clean; moderately intense and developed bouquet of red and black cherries, black raspberries, black currant (cassis), old worn leather, light Christmas spices at the end such as nutmeg and clove, soft layers of dried flowers
  • palate:    clean; dry, moderate+ (red currant) acids, moderate+ (slightly grippy) tannins, moderate alcohol, light body, moderately intense and developed flavors mimicking the nose; red and black raspberry and cherry, old worn leather, light vanilla nuances, dried flowers, black irises and roses, an almost buckwheat honey quality. Excellent balance and structure, long finish on the palate
  • conclusion:   Stunning wine and well worth the money. I'm not used to BC Pinot Noir that keeps for 5 years or longer, and this wine will cellar well until 2013 I have no doubt... excellent concentration of flavor still, crisp acids and lively tannin structure
  • PAIRINGS:   Firstly do yourself a favor and please decant a minimum of one hour. At first I wanted just a simple turkey dinner with this, then found myself moving to smoked pork loin as it opened up. After an hour there was so much development on the palate that I wanted - was craving -a classic Steak Tartare; the beef plays off the tannins, the acids play off the fat. Roast some elephant garlic (softer, more subtle) to rub into the crostini you use and that too will invigorate the Pinot Noir
    Senator Ross Fitzpatrick and his son Gordon have a mantra for Cedar Creek Winery:
Respect the land, honour tradition, pursue perfection.
   Apparently, they have succeeded.

Senator Ross Fitzpatrick and son Gordon

As always, I look forward to any questions or comments.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Las Perdices Cabernet Sauvignon, Lujan de Cuyo DOC, Argentina

There was once a joke in the wine industry that "It is the duty of all wines to be: red".

   Being a red wine drinker, I certainly have felt like that from time to time, but I am more inclined to follow the new adage that: "It is the duty of all wine to express terroir". Terroir: that inexplicably French term meaning the soil of a specific region, the wind, the quality of sunlight, the very energy of the people and how all of that translates into flavor of the grape.

   It is the duty of all wine to express where they are from; the land from whence it is grown, the tang of seasalt on the wind as it brushes the vineyards, the soft blanket of sunlight holding the grapes as they work their magic and transform from acidic berries to lush flavor bombs. It is the duty of wine to tell a tale of the people who worked the vineyards and toiled through the fermentation and maturation process. It's alot to ask from a bottle of wine, but is it too much to ask?

   In the early 1950's, Juan Munoz Lopez left Spain to begin a new life in Argentina. As I've said many times before (and will no doubt say many times again) I have nothing but the utmost respect for anyone who forges out on their own and begins their own something. Build a winery, open a car-repair shop, start a cupcake business - I think you are absolutely brave.

   I imagine it must have been difficult for Juan leaving friends and family and moving to the other side of the world. He must have felt quite alone as he walked through the fields of his new vineyard, his new life, and was trying to decide whether or not he had made "the right move". When along comes a partridge...

   Sounds like the opening line of a joke right? But no, seriously, Juan was walking the vineyards and was genuinely surprised by the number of wild partridges on his property. He asked his neighbours and they said that the partridges had always been there, and so the wild birds became constant companions on Juan's walks through the vineyards. It's easy to understand, then, how the vineyard became "Las Perdices" (The Partridges) rather then Domaine Juan Lopez... after all, hadn't the partridges been there first?

equipment at Las Perdices

   Juan's two sons now run the winery, and are developing a portfolio with international standing and respect. They have developed their skills and infrastructure to be able to allow the nuances of the grape to show through - even though their production has now reached a capacity of 900,000 Litres. They still use manual labor to pick the grapes, the grapes go through a sorting process not once, but twice, and the winery has invested in French and American oak barrels of the highest quality.

   It says alot, about this family's beliefs in quality above quantity, and striving every day to allow their wines to express themselves as completely as possible.

Las Perdices 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
(the town of) Agrelo, Lujan de Cuyo DOC, Mendoza, Argentina
14.5% ABV, $18 CAD  
90+ points, **Good Value**

ALTITUDE         1,030 meters above sea level
SOIL                    Alluvial origin, loam-lime, medium depth, supported by a layer of gravel.
MATURATION   aged for 6 months in French and American oak (new and used)
  • visual:   clean; deep plum-garnet core with slight cherry rim (little brick)
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ intense youthful aromas of red raspberries, red cherries, old leather, light vanilla, rich floral notes, black pepper on the end
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ (red currant) acids, moderate+ (slightly chalky and grippy) tannins, moderate+ alcohol, moderate body, moderately intense and youthful flavors of red raspberries and cherries, red currants, old leather, light notes of rich earth, slightly blackcurrant (cassis) finish. Very good balance and structure, medium length on palate
  • conclusion:   Good value for the money, this wine will hold in the cellar to 2013 certainly. It's a well balanced wine but doesn't have alot of personal expression in it - still - much more then one would find for the same price from other regions
  • PAIRINGS:   Good Cab-Sauv calls for good beef - try this with your roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, pot roast with crispy parsnips, or even just a well made burger~!

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Abbey Rock Coonawarra "Old Schoolhouse" Riesling

Riesling is one of those varietals that I find people love or hate, which is really odd when one considers the vast diversity of rieslings in the world.

   Riesling can be sweet or dry - it can age well under great circumstances and can easily be enjoyed quite young. Riesling pairs well with traditional German, Swiss and Alsatian foods like schnitzel, seared pork with saurkraut and sour cream, even a raclette of cheese. Riesling is also a dream with a great grilled cheese sandwich. Riesling, in other words, is capable of greatness.

   But nothing in what I've said would make one put the thought Riesling with the thought Australia, but it's a more natural fit then one might think. Many Germans emigrated to Australia in the last 1800's and gravitated to the (by comparison) cooler parts of the country. Granted, snow may be a dream for most Australians, but in South Australia, about 300 km south-east of Adelaide is the wine-growing region known as Coonawarra (which means honeysuckle in aboriginal).

photo courtesy of South Australia
   Coonawarra has only recently become famous for it's wine production. Before the 1950's it was unknown even to Australians, but it was Samuel Wynn who discovered the famous terra rosa soil, which has spawned a whole generation of Australian winemakers who gave up their roots in fortified wines and moved into table wines.

   Jump to 2001 and winemaker Les Sampson, viticulturalist Ted Apted and wine marketer Michael Parkinson.  This group of fine fellows decided to do something brave and make wine. I say brave because I truly believe that anyone who strikes off on their own and blazes their own trail is brave... what was it Robert Frost said: "and I took the path less trodden by". Amen.

photo courtesy South Australia

   Since 2001 the team have garnered awards around the world, taking wine from several sub regions in South Australia that suit the varietals they are making. Coonawarra has become famous for it's Shiraz, but Riesling has been planted here for decades, and this  Riesling is so classical as to be textbook.

Abbey Rock 2004 "Old Schoolhouse" Riesling
Coonawarra, South Australia
12.8% ABV, $12 CAD   **Very Good Value **
  • visual:   clean; pale straw core with watery rim
  • nose:   clean; fully intense and developed aromas of German style aged riesling; petrol, plastic, stark and crisp minerality, soft undertones of dried apples and old hay
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ (crabapple) acids, moderate- alcohol, moderate- to light bodied, moderately intense and developed flavors that mimik the nose well; soft chalkiness to the minerality on the palate and a long finish of dried apple and limestone. Very good balance and structure, solid moderate length on the palate
  • conclusion:   Completely overdelivers for the price. If I had a class on riesling, I would definitely serve this wine. Drink before the end of 2012 for best results.
  • PAIRINGS:   German style wine wants German style food - if you can bread it and fry it then it probably goes great with this wine! German cheese also a natural pairing.
   The lesson in today's wine? Don't be prejudiced by a $12 pricetag - something great might be inside! The folks at Abbey Rock Winery only made 1000 cases of this wine, and that was quite a few years back... if you're lucky enough to see a bottle in your local store, then do yourself a favor and try something new.

As always, your comments and questions are welcome.

CINCIN~!!!      SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lustau Dry Amontillado, Los Arcos Sherry

I didn't think that I would be writing an article about sherry production, but how does one write about sherry without talking about production?

   The world of sherry is a new an exciting one to me, being from Western Canada. Sherry consumption (such little as there is) is usually reserved for old matriarchs who sip contentedly during Christmas on a dram of Harvey's Bristol Cream. Far be it (very far indeed) for me to put forward my much maligned notions on cream sherry, but suffice it to say that I have never been, nor expected myself to become, a sherry drinker.

   At least, not until I myself come a matriarch, which I consider most unlikely.

   Lo and behold, "the times they are a'changin". I have consumed sherry, willingly, and enjoyed it! I had an upcoming lecture and, as always, fear of being embarrassed by my lack of knowledge made me pick up a few bottles at my local BC Liquor Store (

   First on the hit-parade was a little number known as a dry Amontillado, and here is when I must say a little something about sherry production.

Lustau casks

   Firstly, sherry is made using a method of production known as the solera-system. This is a system by which three layers of large barrels are stacked on top of each other. The top layer is the youngest aged sherry, the bottom layer is the eldest. Each bodega or winery has it's own system, but in general every 4 months to 2 years the bodega will move about 15% of the wine down to the next level. The wine then takes on the characteristics of the older wine in the barrel, and magic is made. When the sherry is ready to move on from the bottom level, it's time to put the magic in a bottle.

   An important part of the magic however, lies inside of the sherry casks themselves. Sherry comes from a very moist part of Spain... yeasts and molds are abundant thankfully. I say "thankfully" because one of those yeasts lives inside of the sherry casks. It is responsible, in large part, to giving fine sherry it's distinctive flavors and aromas. Amontillado starts it's life with that flor or yeast, but then the flor dies and what is left behind begins to oxidize in a completely beautiful way.

Lustau reserva Dry Amontillado, Los Arcos Sherry
Jerez de la Frontera, Jerez D.O., Spain
18.5% ABV, $15 (375 ml)    **Very Good Value**
  • visual:   clean; moderate+ caramel core with slight watery rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ intense developed aromas of toasted almonds, soft wildflowers in the background, rich sea salt, raw walnuts
  • palate:   clean; ultra-dry, moderate+ (young crabapple) acids, moderate+ ABV, moderate+ body, moderate+ intense developed flavors of lemon and yellow grapefruit zest, toasted and raw almonds and walnuts, slight white pepper finish, sea salt, light caramel nuances. Very good balance and structure, excellent finish (for the price)
  • conclusion:   Great value for the money. Enjoy now - cellaring will have no effect
  • PAIRINGS:   popular opinion is to serve this with a beef consume. While I can envision the wisdom of this, I would add some heirloom tomato and fresh pasta... but please, enjoy this wine in the warmth! This is not a wine made for cold weather, at least, not for an Irishman like myself
   So I learned a little something, tried something new, and still got to prepare for my lecture. Sherry really is something special, and has it's own type of magic in the fermentation world. Most sherries are aged for years before they make it to market, and I have in the past been reluctant to give a few moments to taste a new sherry instead of returning to a wine I know. Who am I to be so reluctant with a few moments when someone has dedicated years for my eonological pleasure?

Lustau bodega in Jerez de la Frontera

As always, I welcome your questions and comments.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Heggies Vineyard Chardonnay, Eden Valley, South Australia

"Minimum intervention in my winemaking" is a guiding principle of Peter Gambetta, winemaker for Heggies Vineyard, and a principle echoed by some of the finest winemakers in the world.

Eden Valley (courtesy of South Australia)

   I have nothing but the fullest respect for any winemaker who says that categorically, his (or her) work is to do everything possible to allow the land to express itself fully through the grape. Amen. But work it most definitely is, as Peter talks about the challenge of developing care programs that are individually suited to each varietal grown at the property. Then there is the innovative concept of working with the natural surroundings rather then (as has been the case many times) trying to impose a man-made sense of order and rhythm. No less innovative (and beautiful) is Peter's use of wild yeasts - something we are starting to see more and more of in the marketplace but by it's very nature being a time-consuming and volatile practice.

Colin Heggies on his horse Jack

   And what of the Eden Valley, the rolling high-elevation appellation in which we find the Heggies Vineyard? Eden Valley has a rich history of viticulture, stretching back to the 1840's, or, about the same time as viticulture began in the more famous neighbour; Barossa. Eden Valley is more widely recognized for it's plantings of Riesling (considered some of the best in Australia) and Syrah, with Chardonnay being a more recent addition to the "family". Since 1973 when it was first planted, Chardonnay has proven to be more then well-suited to the region with rich and complex flavors developing in the Eden Valley's (relatively) cool climate.

2004 Heggies Vineyards Chardonnay
Eden Valley, South Australia
14.5% ABV, $28 CAD   **Very Good to Excellent Value **
  • visual:   clean with slight sediment; moderate+ rich gold core with light watery rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ intense developing aromas of grilled pineapple, butterscotch, apricot preserve, ripe honeydew melon, slight eucalyptus finish
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate (meyer lemon and yellow grapefruit) acids, moderate+ ABV, moderate+ body, moderate+ intense developed flavors; Meyer (aromatic) lemons, yellow grapefruit, young apricots, stony terroir minerality, sea salt caramel, pineapple, green apple. Very good balance, very good to excellent structure, very good to excellent length
  • conclusion:   This wine drinks superbly now and will do so until 2012 at the earliest. Strong concentration of flavors, good balance and length will continue to deliver.
  • PAIRINGS:   Pasta Carbonnara with double smoked bacon and steamed snow peas... a natural. The acids in this want a little fat to play off (veal scallopini is another similar option) but also pork in it's many forms loves apricot as a complimentary flavor... the steamed snow peas would keep the dish from being too heavy and play off the freshness still found in this wine

Eden Valley (courtesy of South Australia)
   At the southern end of the Eden Valley, the altitude reaches an average 500 metres, which is where we find Heggies Vineyard. The altitude and it's incumbent cooler days, shorter growing season, is one of the main contributors to the uniqueness of the wines coming from this region, although not the only one. Soil-type is also critical and here it's grey sand loam over clay and decomposed rock which retains little moisture, holds little nutrients, and makes the vines compete for their survival which, much like humans, only makes them stronger. Vive le Chardonnay!

As always, I welcome your questions and comments.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Robert Hall Syrah, Paso Robles, California

Robert Hall

No one could ever accuse Robert Hall of being anything less then incredibly business savvy. This is something to be desired when entering the sometimes overly artistic arena of wine-making!

   Winemaking is a business, and, an artistic one. I think from what I've read, that it is this point that Robert Hall understands full well... a diverse man, he has pursued an array of business ventures in his long life until, in the 1970's, he found himself in the Rhone valley in France.

Rhone Valley winery

   The Rhone valley has its' own magic, none can deny that. Robert however knew of a similar type of magic found in his own beloved USA, and returned to California with a new image of what he wanted to invest his time in. It didn't happen overnight, but in the early 1990's Robert and his wife had decided that Paso Robles in the county of San Luis Obispo, California, was going to be the place for them to live that dream. 1995 saw them purchase and build the "Home Ranch" and the two have entrenched themselves in the local community and the wine community ever since.

   As I said previously, winemaking is a business, and for some a profitable one. In 2010 Robert Hall was awarded the much desired Golden State Winery of the Year award, winning out over 600 other wineries from California. His wines have won accolades throughout the state, the country and abroad. Robert is doing what so many would like to do; he's pursuing his dream with a ruthless enthusiasm that is nothing less then inspirational.

2006 Robert Hall Syrah
Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County, California, USA
  • visual:   clean; deep plum garnet core with brick-dark cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ intense and developed aromas of blackberries, dark floral, black cherries, black currants, old worn leather, mild pencil shavings
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ (young raspberry) acids, mild (soft silty) tannins, moderate ABV, moderate- body, moderately intense developed flavors; mimicking the nose well with a hint of dark cocoa. Good balance, very good to excellent structure, very good finish.
  • conclusion:   wine is drinking well now with a minimum one hour decant. Drink 2011 to mid 2012, but certainly is starting to lose some of it's concentration
  • PAIRINGS:   high acids call for fat! I would love a smoked pork loin wrapped in bacon and oven roast - smoked to play off the dark floral and dark berry, pork because it's only moderate concentration of flavors, bacon fat balances the acids. Also consider pate or just a really good Ploughman's Lunch of meat, cheese, egg, and branston pickle!

   The Paso Robles appellation is a dream: stony soil that drains well, hot days and cool evening breezes coming in off the Pacific Ocean. Grapes here develop amazing concentration and reflect the nature of the land they come from. Robert Hall has done well with pursuing his dream, and finding the technical talent to make that dream a welcome reality.

view from "Home Ranch"

As always, comments and questions are more then welcome.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hainle Vineyards, Peachland, Okanagan Valley, Canada

The history of the Okanagan Valley ( wine-region is a short and troubled one by modern standards: the first vineyard was planted in the 1850's by a Catholic missionary at a time when Europeans were virtually unheard of in British Columbia. (B.C. didn't become a recognized province until it joined the Dominion of Canada in 1871)

view from HAINLE vineyards
 Well, that missionary may have done well working for God, but in working for the grape he perhaps didn't do as well... plantings of vines were sporadic at best until the 1920's when prohibition came into effect. Then out came all the vines and fruit wines were virtually the only wines produced in the province.

 Fast-forward to the 1970's and a few enterprising individuals began to invest time, money and themselves to this northern climate (it lies on the same lines of latitude as Champagne in France) to see if something other then fruit wines could be made here. Walter Hainle ( was one such individual.

vines at HAINLE vineyards

 In 1972 an early frost threatened to wipe-out one of Walters' first crops. Rather then lose his entire years work, he decided to fall back on his Germanic heritage and made an icewein or icewine. It was Canada's inaugural vintage of 178 bottles, and if one could be found today, it would be worth approximately 1,500,000 British Pounds Sterling at auction. One bottle.

 I have not been fortunate enough to sample one of those bottles. I haven't even had the pleasure of tasting one of their vintages of icewine. What I did happen across, in a little winestore in Chiliwack, was the 2002 Pinot Blanc selling for less then $25. I thought to myself, "How bad could it be?"

 The truth was, I had no idea how good it could be. Pinot Blanc is a varietal grown in Alsace (France), Germany, Hungary and Slovenia most notably. The Hainle family is from Austria, and whilst it is certainly grown in Austria, it is not one of the main varietals for the country. Pinot Blanc is actually a mutation (in the best possibly way) of Pinot Noir (a varietal I adore), although it can easily be confused for Chardonnay, and until recently (1980's) was actually mistaken for Muscadet in California. Pinot Blanc is often vinified the same way as Chardonnay going into oak barrels and undergoing malo-lactic fermentation.

 So here is an anomaly for me: not only a varietal that doesn't normally age well (most are consumed 5 years or under), but also an older vintage than one normally sees for anything other then icewine from BC. What to do with a 9-year old Pinot Blanc from BC? The answer is pure enjoyment.

2002 Hainle Vineyards Pinot Blanc
Peachland, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada
12.5% ABV, $25 CAD ** BUY THIS NOW **
  • visual:   clean (trace crystals at bottom of bottle); moderate gold amber core with slight watery rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ intense and fully developed bouquet of golden delicious apples, apricots both fresh and dried, wild grass and clean hay, sharp minerality, aromatic lemon such as Meyer lemon, lime zest, soft honey notes and dried flowers
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ to full (lime and pink grapefruit) acids, moderate- ABV, moderate+ body, moderately intense and fully developed flavors that mimick the nose well; flowers are more noticeable as dried roses, apple flavors are almost "baked apple" with lemon zest. Excellent balance, structure and length... the flavors sit and develop on the palate for 30 seconds and longer
  • conclusion:   A stunning example of a vintage Pinot Blanc, this is drinking well in 2011 and should be consumed soon. There is still great concentration on the nose, and strong (well balanced) acids, but the palate is fading. If you are lucky enough to find this - buy it and enjoy it!
  • PAIRINGS:   consider rabbit. Just enough wildness of flavor to balance the apple/lemon, enough fat to balance the moderate+ acids (if you don't overcook the rabbit)... I would go to an old favorite of mine: butter poached rabbit with wild thyme and fresh farfalle pasta. A match made in heaven!
 So my first foray into Hainle vineyards, but most definitely not my last. This wine shows well why Hainle vineyards has garnered so many accolades and awards over its' almost 40 years of winemaking.

HAINLE vineyards

As always, I welcome and enjoy your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Villa Gresti di San Leonardo

High in the valleys of Northern Italy is a province named Trento. Trento is a very, very old place for mankind; traces of humanity have been found there that stretch back to the beginning of the Stone Age, and earlier.

 How long then, can one assume we have been enjoying fermented grape juice from that region?

 So in the Province of Trento there lies a walled town San Leonardo. At the outskirts of San Leonardo is the Villa Gresti. At the Villa, they produce superb wine.

 A simple enough story?

San Leonardo, Italy
 Except that the wine produced there is not really what one might expect from Italy, much less Northern Italy high in the hills, where most of the region is mountainous (to say the least) and one of the tourist activities of the region is to go to the glacier. Alright, to be fair, I wouldn't have expected any wine to be produced in a place such as this.

 But Trento has alot going for it in terms of wine production: the valleys have a beautiful soil; deep gravel and sand that drain extremely well and keeps vines from getting too wet, deep valley walls that trap the suns' heat and provide intense summer days, and also - a very long history of winemaking meaning that these people have learned from their parents, not a book. Sometimes, that accumulated knowledge can be the difference between good winemaking, great winemaking, and inspired winemaking. Italians have long known that Trento produces superb wines, and are trying their best to keep the secret for themselves.

 My thanks then to the BC Liquor Stores and to Barbara Philip, MW ( ),  for braving the Italian temper by stealing some of their precious drink and bringing it back to us!

 Villa Gresti di San Leonardo is rightfully proud of the fact that they are growing all three of the classic Haut-Medoc Bordeaux varietals for their wine; Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. The Cab-Sauv and Cab-Franc is grown on sandy soil about 200m elevation on a southern exposure, and the Merlot is on pebbly soil around 150m. The training systems are both antique (trellised) and modern (Guyot), and I unfortunately am not educated enough to say which is better... however their website does mention that Guyot is proven to reduce yields, which will lead to an increase in flavor concentration.

2004 Vendemmia (Bordeaux styled blend)
Villa Gresti di San Leonardo, Trento Province, Italy
60% Cab Sauv, 30% Cab Franc, 10% Merlot
13.5% ABV, $55 CAD   ** EXCELLENT VALUE **
  • visual:   clear; deep garnet core with slight cherry-ochre rim (indicative of age)
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ to fully intense and developed bouquet of cassis, old leather, blackberries, savory herbs, black and red cherries, notes of tar, light white pepper finish with long lush black florals such as irises and black roses
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ (red and black currant) acids, moderate (slightly chewy) tannins, moderate ABV, moderate+ to full bodied, moderate+ intense and developed flavors mimicking the nose to perfection - red currant plays more on the palate then the nose. Excellent balance and structure, length on the palate is brilliantly long
  • conclusion:   Excellent wine drinking superbly now and until the end of 2011. By 2012 it will definitely start declining.
  • PAIRINGS:   Rich Osso Bucco Milanese, truffled pastas will play their earthiness of the leathery fruit, consider wild meats such as venison if you want to play straight off the bold berry flavors... lots of room to play with the food because there is so much dimension to the wine!
 An excellent offering from Villa Gresti, especially when one considers that the vines are only 10 to 25 years old! That's as young as most of the vines in BC, and much younger then one expects from the Old Country. I most assuredly look forward to next years' offering from them.

the courtyard of VILLA GRESTI

As always, I welcome and enjoy your comments/questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Riesling, St. Urbans-hof, Mosel, Germany

Mosel River
There is a place in Germany where the river cuts through the valley like a knife, and there on the slopes facing south, one can see for miles on end the stretch of vineyards that have, in some cases, been there for literally hundreds upon hundreds of years. This place is called the Mosel river, and on the banks of that river lies a small town called Leiwen.

Leiwen, Germany
 Leiwen is home to a relative new-comer; St. Urbans-hof winery ( The winery was started in 1947 although, in the families' words, "they had owned vineyards for centuries". This, much like many farms, is a family affair and now the Wies family is on its' third generation of people lovingly giving their long days and nights to the mighty grape.

 And mighty indeed are the grapes that grow on the Mosel. Although the temperatures are never terribly cold for a northern climate, still there is a substantial lack of sunlight which makes is incredibly difficult to ripen many types of grapes. Luckily for all of us involved (growers and consumers alike), the Mosel river has the perfect soil-type (mostly slate) and just the right amount of sunlight, moisture, etc to be able to grow some of the finest Riesling in the world.

 This cheery little bottle is not one of the finest in the world, but gives remarkable value for the money and would be a welcome addition to any dinner party.

2007 Riesling, weingut St. Urbans-hof
Leiwen, Mosel, Germany
10% ABV, $20   ** EXCELLENT VALUE **
  • visual:   clean with slight sediment; pale gold core with slight watery rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate- intense youthful aromas of summer hay, little summer field flowers, ripe apples, young stonefruit, light lingering petrol notes
  • palate:   clean; off-dry, moderate+ to full (crabapple) acids, moderate- ABV, moderate body, moderate+ intense youthful flavors mimicking the nose quite well with an underlying tight minerality that balances the whole wine. Excellent balance, very good structure and medium length on the palate
  • conclusion:   For just shy of $20 this wine delivers. It has great depth, balance and structure for the price and I would be proud to serve it to guests. Drink now to 2012 - enjoy it before it starts to fade
  • PAIRINGS:   There is a bit on inherent sweetness that makes me want to pair it with something spicy! This is especially true as the alcohol is relatively low, and moderate+ to high alcohol feels much stronger with spice... consider KungPow chicken with almonds, or just a rich Pad Thai... even a gourmet Pho with its' Thai basil and lime would love this wine!
 St. Urban is the old German patron saint of winemaking, and Hof is their word for an estate... I can imagine that St. Urban is well and truly pleased with the work that is being done in his name on the Mosel. Finally, something worth raising my glass and drinking to!

1947 at St. Urbans-hof
As always, I welcome and appreciate your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Calvet Reserve, Bordeaux, France

Every once-in-a-while, everyone needs some time with a good friend. Maybe you play some basketball, maybe you go to a movie, or maybe, like me, you sit with a good cigar and a bottle of wine. No matter the "indulgence" (shall we say) the intent is the same: to share time with the ones we love.

 Tonight I was lucky enough to do exactly that.

 Rocky Patel produces some exquisite cigars, of which the "The Edge: Square" would most definitely be one... I smoked this cigar for over 30 minutes and was only half-done, it was smooth and full of rich nuanced flavors, tightly rolled and a genuine pleasure. Rocky Patel produces no mediocre cigars, and I have always treated them as the special occasion they are (no matter how frequently I may smoke them).
 At the current rate of under $3/ cigar ( has them on sale for a box of 50 for under $150), these are a pleasure you can enjoy any day of the week. I was lucky enough to have them included in a sampler pack sent to me, and will enjoy ordering them again.

Rocky Patel, The Edge "Square"
Country of Origin: Honduras
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Corojo, Maduro
Binder: Nicaraguan
Filler: Nicaraguan

 But the cigar was only part of the evening. Just as important was the wine, and tonight we shared a bottle of Calvet Reserve, 2009; Merlot- Cabernet Sauvignon

 One of the things I really appreciated about this wine was its approachability; easy to drink as soon as we opened the bottle, that doesn't always happen with Bordeaux wines. My theory is that this is mostly Merlot based, perhaps around 70 to 80%, because it is so supple and full or rich body (and drinking so easily so young). The Cab-Sauv is there for some structure and a bit more layering of the perfume. Smart way to make Bordeaux style wine if you want it to drink early.
 Of course, no one could ever think of Maison Calvet as being anything less then savvy wine people. The infamous Emile Paynaud ( started with them at the tender age of 15 in 1927... Emile was not only a brilliant eonologist but was also decidedly full of common-sense, a sometimes rarity in the wine (or any other) industry.

  Emile brought many new ideas to winemaking (eonology): picking fruit when it was fully ripened, selective picking, accelerating the speed from picking grapes to actual fermentation, and what may have been the most controversial at the time - using malolactic fermentation as a technique and not viewing it as a mistake. These and many other reasons are why Decanter Magazine ( named him "Man of the Year" in 1990, and deservedly so.

2009 Calvet Reserve, Bordeaux, France
Merlot - Cabernet Sauvignon
13.5% ABV, $16 CAD  **Very Good Value**
  • visual:   clean; deep plum-garnet core with slight cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ intense youthful aromas of cherry, blackberry and cassis, light hints of old leather, dark florals like irises, dark roses, some green peppercorn at the end
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ (red currant) acids, moderate+ (dry chalky) tannins, moderate ABV, moderate+ body, moderate+ intense youthful flavors of red and black currants, red and black raspberries, light nuances of old leather, some dark florals and light peppercorn at the end of the palate. Good balance and structure, short to medium length.
  • conclusion:   Well thought out and executed value wine. This doesn't express much of Bordeaux, but is imminently drinkable for $16 which can't be said for alot of wine in that price-range. Drink now or hold for up to 18 months, will not improve with aging
  • PAIRINGS: Classic Steak Tartare; the bit of Cab-Sauv wants some beef flavors to marry against, but the soft Merlot doesn't want too intense flavors. The moderate acids will love a touch of fat, and because it's an easy drinking wine its a good way to start a meal rather then use during main course. Want it for a simple dinner? Pasta bolognese - or as I'm doing tomorrow, some rich and robust lazagna!
As always, I welcome and value your comments.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!