Archive for the 'French Wine' Category

2006 Domaine Tempier “La Tourtine” Bandol

The other night I walked into Marquis Wine Cellars with an open mind – without any idea what I felt like sipping. Marquis is arguably the best shop in town to happen upon in that state of mind. Through their entrance to the right is an area piled with recent arrivals and staff picks. It was there that I found this wine.

This is my first Bandol, yet I’ve had all the grapes in the mix many time before… and why not start with a single vineyard wine from what is arguably the area’s best-known winery. What’s in the wine? Well, it can vary vintage to vintage, but it’s generally 70-80% Mourvèdre, which is rounded out with an equal blend of Grenache and Cinsault.

What’s it like? I loved the nose. It’s full of black pepper along with some burnt rubber (it fits better than you would think), ripe plum and dark berries. The flavours deliver on the promise of the nose. There’s so much going on with this wine – it’s so complex. There are layers of jammy dark fruit with a big backbone of black pepper and firm flinty tannins. Wow.

Drink it now or in 15 years. That’s your choice. It could certainly cellar for a while.

Strongly recommended.

$60 at Marquis Wine Cellars here in Vancouver.

4    1/2 stars

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2008 Joseph Drouhin Mâcon-Villages

This is a crisp glassful of flinty and lemony goodness. We had it last night with fresh BC Sockeye salmon and it was a delicious pairing. The citrus of the wine really hit it off with the fish.

The nose is like freshly squeezed lemon drizzled on a freshly cracked rock. A sip gives flavors of slight tropical fruit along with the tart lemon flavor that leads out to a crisp and flinty finish that goes on for a minute.

It may not be the most complex wine, but on a warm night with some grilled salmon, it was really nice.

$25 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars here in Vancouver.

3 1/2 stars

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Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival – Return to the French Classics Dinner at The Hermitage

This dinner at The Hermitage featuring the wines of Domaine Doudet Naudin was the first of two events I received invites to as part of my Media pass for the 2010 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. Classic French food paired with extremely food-friendly Burgundy wine – what’s not to like? Nothing as far as I was concerned.

I hadn’t been into The Hermitage before last night. It’s a cozy place that is what you’d expect of an old-school French restaurant with a dose of 70’s living room tossed in – decorative brick arches, flowered curtains and all… but it worked. The room was comfortable and many of the folks in attendance last night were regulars who seemed to be on a first-name basis with the Hermitage’s owner, Hervé Martin. He creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

I grabbed a seat at the table reserved for media types and started chatting with the folks seated there, including Julie Pegg (contributing editor for EAT Magazine), Kelly Robson (wine writer for Chatelaine Magazine & her Full Bodied wine blog) and a couple of non wine geeks, Arnaud and Bobby. Soon enough, the dinner kicked off with a chat from the event’s sponsor, Rare Finds Wine Importers LTD and we were off. Here’s a scan of what was ahead. My mouth and palate were watering.

While we waited for the first course, we sipped the 2007 Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune, Château d’Antigny ($27.95 – 4 stars). It was the perfect palate cleanser – all flinty lemon with a puckering acidity that just begged for some food. Up next was possibly my favourite pairing of the night – the wild mushroom feuilletté with a veal and port reduction paired with the close to magical 2006 Savigny-Les-Beaune en Redrescul, 1er Cru ($45.95 – 4.5 stars). A white with a sauced mushroom dish? Yep, this white – and it was fantastic. It reminded me a lot of the Tissot Jura Chardonnays I tried a few months ago. It had a dill-like funkiness that really added to its powerful and earthy flavours. It was complex and delicious. Try some if you can find it.

After that, it was onto a delicate salmon fillet with a creamy sorrel sauce ‘troisgros’ paired with the last Chardonnay of the evening; the 2007 Pernand-Vergelesses Sous-Fretille, 1er Cru ($49.95 – 4.5 stars). It was another great wine-food pairing. The delicate flavour of the salmon helped highlight the crisp elegance of the wine. Delicious.

Next up was a delicious house-made duck sausage with pistachio purée of Jerusalem artichokes paried with a delicious and light and 2007 Gevrey-Chambertin ($56.95 – 4.5 stars). This is the kind of pairing that really helps explain the earthy French Pinot Noir food pairing magic. You taste each separately and they’re good, but it’s together that they really sing. The light red fruit and crisp tannins of the wine perfectly balanced the fat and earthy meat flavours of the duck sausage.

We weren’t done yet… the kitchen then served the beef tenderloin medallions and the 2003 Savigny-Les-Beaune Les Vergelesses, 1er Cru ($42.95 – 4.5 stars). The meat was fantastic and the wine really grabbed my taste buds. It had gorgeous dark cherry and plum fruit along with a floral and black pepper edge to its earthy finish. Wow. Another great pairing, by the way.

The last food/wine pairing of the evening was a selection of French cheeses with the 2000 Aloxe Corton Les Marechaudes, 1er Cru ($56.95 – 4.5 stars). I loved the earthy elegance of the wine, but this was the only pairing of the evening that didn’t click. I separated them – downing the cheeses and then savouring the wine.

A delicious vanilla syrup soaked rum baba rounded things off and left me wanting a walk to wear off the meal. All in all, Hervé Martin and his team did a heckuva’ job with the food choices and the wines really stepped up as well.

I left determined to drink more wines from Burgundy. That’s never a bad thing.

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2007 Château de Paraza Minervois Cuvée Spéciale

Holy value alert! Along with a 2005 Di Majo Norante Contado Aglianico (review coming soon) I had a week ago, this is the best red wine value I’ve come across since I started the under-$30 challenge a while back.

This wine from Minervois, in the heart of France’s Languedoc region, is  just plain tasty. It’s a blend of Syrah (40%), Grenache (40%) and Mourvèdre (20%).

A sniff gives up some vanilla from the oak along with ripe red cherry and black pepper. A big ‘ol sip of this medium-coloured red shows juicy ripe blackberry, red cherry and plum fruit, licorice, black pepper and a nice minerality on the medium finish. It just feels good and rich in the mouth, unlike many reds in this price range.

It’s a heckuva’ value, folks. It may not blow you away, but I’m thinking it will make you raise your eyebrows and go, “Mmmm.” Not many red wines under $20 will do that these days.

$17.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

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2005 Domaine Courbis St.-Joseph, “Les Royes”

I’m going to detour from the under-$30 wine challenge for a day. I had this wine a couple of weekends ago and I liked it so much that I had to get it on the site. It comes from the France’s Saint-Joseph Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in the northern Rhône and like many wines from that area is comprised of 100% Syrah.

Holy crap. I haven’t enjoyed a wine in this price range so much in so long. The nose is INTENSE – with bacon, cracked black pepper, blackberry, herbs and dust. It smells so GOOD. Look at me using the caps. This wine calls for it.

The flavours? It’s jam-packed with concentrated, yet polished blackberry, plum, meaty-like-bacon mineral and herbs. Yowza. It builds in the mouth unlike many wines I’ve had recently. This is the full-meal deal. It’s the wine equivalent of a beret-wearing macho man walking up to an Aussie (Shiraz) and knocking him out. It’s much better than any Shiraz I’ve had in a long time. So much better.

This is a kick-ass bottle of wine – especially for $50. If you can find it, grab a couple. Hell, grab a few. You’ll be glad you did.

$50 at Marquis Wine Cellars.

4  1/2 stars

2 comments

2007 Joseph Faiveley Bourgogne Paulée – A Nuits-Saint Georges

So, we’ve started the under-$30 challenge. I’ve decided that I’m going to embrace the challenge, and begin my search with the heartbreaking Pinot Noir. To be honest, I’m not sure it’s possible given my growing love for the beautiful arts of Burgundy.

That said, we promise to keep an open mind and I will endeavor to explore the breadth of the pinot world.

Tonight I cracked open the Joseph Faiveley 2007 Bourgogne to give it a whirl. A few swirls of the Pinot glass gave me loads of barnyard, and a bit of floral and brine – nice and interesting to start. I let it sit for a while and some tart cranberry and red currant started to show on the nose.

A few sips bring a blend of green stalk veg and tart red fruit. Rhubarb and more red currant on the palate with some really solid acidity. The finish has more veg and some soft violet. As the evening went on, the currant was joined by some tart cranberry, but consistently backed by the consistent tight acidity that characterizes this wine.

This wine would rock with some mushroom risotto or some hard goat cheese given the tight acidic backbone. I liked this wine for it’s rustic nature but didn’t love it. I still believe that finding a solid pinot under $30 will be a challenge, but this one inspires me to keep searching…

$22.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

3 1/2 stars

1 comment

2006 Domaine André et Mireille Tissot Chardonnay “Les Graviers”, Arbois

The Jura. I’ve already written about this fantastic area – and you can easily do some reading when you have the time. I’ve been on  kick with the region lately, thanks to the folks at Kitsilano Wine Cellars here in Vancouver. They received an impressive selection of wines from the Tissot winery a few weeks ago and I’ve been trying to make my way through them one at a time.

The nose on this wine is really piquing my interest. The first thing that came to mind with my initial sniff  – apart from the word, “Wow” – was slightly burned buttered popcorn. That’s exactly what I was smelling. Initially the flavours reflected that – like it had been liquefied and poured over a flinty stone before my sip.

10 minutes later, I’m getting vegetable stock on the nose, with a really approachable sweet citrus fruit edge to the flavours. With even more time, I’m starting to get warmed orange rind added to the nose… with candied orange peel going on in the flavours. Insane. I love it. It’s complex, yet forward and just plain fun at the same time. This is a swirl, sniff, taste, swirl, taste and smile wine. One that I want to last all night. I’m sure it would continue to change.

The truly remarkable thing about this wine is how alive the flavours are. It changes every five minutes. Essentially this is alive. Remember that conversation in “Sideways” when Virginia Madsen’s character explains why she loves wine? It went something like “… when you taste that wine, it tastes unlike it will at any other time. It’s alive and constantly changing.” The screenwriter was clearly thinking about wines like this. It evolves in the glass and decanter unlike many other white wines I’ve had; save for Tissot’s own 2006 “En Barberon” that I reviewed last month.

Shea over at Just Grapes Wine recently named this his #2 wine for the year. I can’t disagree with him. I’m thinking this will make my top 5 as well.

$65 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars

PS: If you’re going to take this wine home, just give it 20 minutes in the fridge – no more. It just needs to be slightly cooler than room temperature (if that) to let its dictionary of flavours loose.

1 comment

2006 Domaine André et Mireille Tissot Chardonnay “En Barberon”, Côtes du Jura

11272009Thanks to Jake over at Cherries & Clay and Matt at Kitsilano Wine Cellars, I’ve been drinking some mighty fine grape juice from France’s Jura region in the last couple of weeks. It started with the Tissot non-vintage Crémant, carried on with their very (very!) tasty Trousseau along with their beautiful Rosé Crémant (check out what the folks at Kitsilano Wine Cellars had to say about it on Twitter). The latest one to make its way to my glass is this tremendous Chardonnay from the Côtes du Jura Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC).

The nose is very unique. I mean its unlike anything I had ever smelled in a white wine. I got sweet buttery melon and smoky popcorn with an herbal (dill?) earthy edge. The flavours are intense and again, very interesting, There’s a big burst of slightly sweet melon followed up by what I can only describe as pickled popcorn, especially when the wine is first opened. Have you ever had that powdered dill pickle flavouring for your popcorn?… I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but I’m getting some of those flavours. That powdered stuff is pretty crappy, but this wine isn’t.

The wine kept evolving. I decanted it and a couple of hours later the dill edge was pretty much gone, but other flavours emerged. Caramel, more melon, lanolin and a vegetal edge. Those flavours are followed by a balanced light citrus and mineral-edged finish – that went on for minutes. Seriously.

How simply can I put it? The taste is big and made me very happy. What more can I ask? It also made me think of what I would pair with it. A baked white fish with capers maybe?

If you live in Vancouver and are a wine fan, you really should make the trek to Kitsilano Wine Cellars to check out their selection of wines from Jura. If they’re all this good (and they seem to be – check out what Shea over at JustGrapesWine.com had to say about their Chardonnay “Les Graviers”), they won’t last long.

$65 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars

1 comment

2007 Domaine André et Mireille Tissot Trousseau “Singulier”, Jura

11201009Wow, what a cool bottle of grape juice. First off, let’s talk about the grape. Along with Poulsard, Trousseau is the principle red wine grape of France’s Jura region. From what I can find, it’s also known as the Bastardo grape and makes a red wine fairly light in colour with a lot of fruit on the nose and definite complexity on the palate.

Now onto the wine. The grapes for it are grown in low-yielding vineyards in Jura’s Montigny-Les-Arsures and are taken through a bio-dynamic vineyard-to-bottle process by winemaker Stéphane Tissot, using no chemicals or synthetic pesticides.

I tasted it at Kitsilano Wine Cellars yesterday night and immediately grabbed a bottle to bring home. It didn’t last long. Like many of the unique bottles I buy, it was on my mind and I couldn’t resist for long. I popped it open tonight to sip while we made a 4 cheese macaroni.

In the glass it’s a light, but kinda’ rich red in colour – as if a young Cab had been watered down. You’d almost mistake it for a Burgundy – though for me, it’s more along the lines of a good Gamay from Beaujolais.

The nose gives a big whiff of ripe red berry fruit, along with black pepper and an earthy edge. Wow, it really comes alive with a sip. The flavours are a juicy mix of that almost candied ripe red berry fruit along with pepper and a rustic earthy edge. It finishes with nice acidity and fine tannins. It’s ready to drink now, though I’d be interested to see how it ages.

I loved it… and if you have a bit of the wine gee in you, I’m sure you will as well. To quote Shea from JustGrapesWine.com, “Man it’s so good – I could drink a case of this stuff.” I agree. Completely.

$58 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars

2 comments

Best Damn Tasting Ever! presented by the Seacove Group and New World Wines

OK, so I’ve been really bad with posting lately… and rightfully so. I’ve got a life and a full-time, outside wine job. I’ve been feeling badly about the lack of posts, so I’ve resolved to writing at least a few of ’em a week for the next while. Not only does that accomplish the more-posts-in-a-month goal, but it also makes me document the wine I drink, which was the original idea behind this site.

Well, now that that’s out there, I’ll get down to the task at hand. A few weeks ago, I received an invite from my friend Paul Watkin, who works with the Seacove Group, a wine agency in town for a tempting-sounding trade tasting being held at the Metropolitan Hotel.

The tasting was put on by the Seacove Group and the New World Wines agencies – and featured a diverse selection of wines from pretty much everywhere. There were wines from Italy, France, Spain, New Zealand, Portugal and the USA. Graham and I made our way around the room and I can honestly say there wasn’t a single wine we didn’t enjoy. Both agencies have some stunners, so I’m just going to give you our top 5’s from each.

Graham’s picks from Seacove:

  • Champagne de Venoge Brut Milliesime 1995 – Stunning length with beautiful citrus and lees.
  • Livon Braide Alte 2006 – Loved this wine.  Superbly crisp with nice pear and lime and solid mineral finish.  I imagined this with mussels or clams.  Mmmmm….
  • Egelhoff Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 – A gorgeous Napa Cab with great black fruit.  This wine was like someone ground a pepper mill over the glass.  Excellent stuff.
  • Chateau des Graviers AOC Margaux “Quintessence” 2001 – Delicious.  Great nose of tea, marker and ground coffee.  Finishes up with some nice graphite and green leaf.
  • Moncellior Pinot Noir 2008 – I really liked this one.  Nice full raspberry nose with great acidity and some nice green stalk on the finish.  This is a great value in the Otago Pinots for $35.

My picks from Seacove:

  • 1995 Champagne de Venoge Brut Millesièmme -Wow. Just wow. So graceful and tasty.
  • 2006 Signorello Winery Padrone – OK, it’s expensive, but it’s also really bloody tasty. Massive black fruit and pepper are followed by equally massive tannins. This one needs time.
  • 2005 Van Zeller Douro CV “Curriculum Vitae” – Elegant dark plum and berry fruit lead to a loooong finish. Pretty wonderful stuff.
  • 2003 Egelhoff Wines Cabernet Sauvignon – Great dark fruit and black pepper flavours made me want to go back for more.
  • 2006 Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional – Dark fruit and chocolate with a finish that lasted minutes. I love this wine.

Graham’s picks from New World Wines:

  • Barnett Vineyards Merlot Spring Mountain 2006 – Amazing spice on this wine.  Anise and Cinnamon with gorgeous red fruit.  Loved it.
  • Darioush Winery Signature Series Shiraz 2005 – Deep intense black fruit with nice black pepper and firm tannins.
  • DeLille Cellars D2 2006 – This was soft and sexy goodness.  Gorgeous red fruit and silky finish.
  • Betz Family Winery Clos de Betz 2006 – Beautiful dark chocolate, black fruit and some nice mint on the finish. – Loved it.
  • Flowers Vineyard & Winery  Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006 – Elegant, with beautiful cranberry and currant.  Great length with a bit a brown sugar on the finish.

My picks from New World Wines:

  • 2005 Darioush Winery Signature Series Shiraz – So good! Immense dark fruit, dark chocolate and black tea flavours lead out to a long-long finish.
  • 2006 Barnett Vineyards Merlot Spring Mountain – Dark chocolate and plum fruit with a toasty edge. So good.
  • 2006 Betz Family Clos de Betz – It may be starting to sound like a record on repeat, but dark chocolate and blackberry flavours made me want more.
  • 2006 DeLille Cellars D2 – Mouth-filling dark fruit. Yum.
  • 2004 Lail Vineyards Blue Print – This had a hint of bell pepper to its dark fruit and spice. Bloody good.
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