Archive for the 'Syrah/Shiraz' Category

Vinifico on D3 TV

Last Friday, my colleague at Sitemasher, Shannon Yelland and I paid Clinton Kabler a visit at D3 Security Management Systems to appear with him in an episode of their D3TV video blog. We talked business and, just as importantly – wine.

Clinton had picked up 2 bottles of wine to taste while we chatted – both are available at Marquis Wine Cellars here in Vancouver:

  • 2007 Churton Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough Valley – I didn’t pick up on it initially, but I think this wine was slightly corked… and I mean slightly. It had just enough of that TCA sharpness on the edge. It became more apparent as the wine warmed up. Although it was not at all unpleasant, I’d like to give this wine another shot sometime soon (not rated due to TCA). $29 at Marquis.
  • 2007 Domaine du Joncier Lirac Rosé from France’s Southern Rhône – this was bloody tasty. I’ve actually bought the wine since and will again over the summer. It had a load of bright berry flavours (raspberry and cranberry came to the front). Clinton got bubblegum in there as well… and I can’t say I disagree. Tasty stuff! (**** stars). $24.50 at Marquis.

Here’s the video:

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2005 Stags’ Leap Petite Syrah, Napa Valley

A video run-down of our latest wine… turns out it’s a field blend of Petite Syrah, 8% Syrah, 4% Grenache and 2% Viognier vines, all of which are around 85 years old.

$34.99 USD on Maui.

4 1/2 stars

6 comments

Sean Thackrey Pleiades XVI

02192009Wow. What else can you say when you taste this wine? I would actually mistake it for a Nebbiolo-based Piemontese wine… It’s just that hard to pin down. I first tasted it at Vancouver’s Salt Tasting Room a while back and had been looking for it since.

It’s a field blend of Syrah, Sangiovese, Mourvèdre, Barbera, Carignane, Petite Sirah and Viognier, among other varietals. After harvest, winemaker Sean Thackrey lets the grapes sit and “rest” at least 24 hours outside his home. Then after crush, he transfers the juice to ferment in open vats under the eucalyptus trees that surround the winery.

Thackrey doesn’t keep track of the exact percentage that ends up in each blend so it’s different from year to year. No fancy schmancy modern science-driven techniques going on here. He got his education from what he says is the world’s largest collection of ancient wine scripts and lets his palate guide the final mix. The man is a character – something his wines have in spades.

The nose is really unique, especially for a California wine. There’s tar, powerful dark cherry and a bit of citrus edged by Thackrey’s signature note of eucalyptus. A curious sip gives up tar-edged cherry fruit along with a full-bodied mouth-feel and a finish that actually builds before it starts to fade a minute later.

I could drink this all the time and when you can find it, it’s quite the value. I was lucky enough to come across it at K & L Wine Merchants on my recent trip to San Francisco for the 2009 ZAP Festival.

$22.99 USD at K & L Wine Merchants in San Francisco.

4 1/2 stars

5 comments

2007 Henry’s Drive Pillar Box Red, Padthaway

01202009So, my friend Eric phoned me earlier tonight while in his local LDB store asking what to buy. We ran through a few choices (finding none – it WAS over the phone) before he mentioned that while they didn’t have the Pillar Box Shiraz, the Red was in stock. I told him to go with it… and because I like to taste what I recommend, I went out and picked one up myself.

I opened this after dinner while watching the Canucks game against San Jose (loss, dammit)… and what can I say? I really like it. It definitely stands firmly on the “slutty” side of the fence, but also offers up enough depth of flavour that it’s an interesting quaff.

The nose shows ripe, stewed black cherry, along with black currant and berries with a bit of earth. A sip leads to an explosion of dark fruit (think black cherry, blackberry, blueberry, etc.) and a long-lasting, slightly boozy (it weighs in at 15% alcohol) finish.

Do I like it? Yep. But, you have to be in the mood for a Robert Parker-styled fruit bomb to love it. I was in the mood for that… and it’s a great value at under $20 CDN.

$19.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

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2007 Orin Swift Cellars The Prisoner

01172009I’m always up for trying a vintage of The Prisoner. I’ve loved the last 2 vintages (the 2006 made my list for top wines of 2008), so when I came across the 2007 on Friday, I grabbed one to test it out.

One thing I should point out – this is a young wine and really benefits from some time in the decanter. I’ve grabbed a couple to put away for a while (if I can keep my hands off them).

So, I decanted this for a couple of hours last night before taking a sip and that really helped it out. When I first popped the cork, the wine had that bright and youthful fruit thing going on… as the air mellowed it, that evolved into dark jammy blackberry fruit with chocolate.

That really became evident when I took a sip. This blend of 50% Zinfandel, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Syrah, 9% Petite Sirah, 2% Charbono and 1% Grenache made for a concentrated dark fruit explosion with a beautifully balanced chocolate edge to the long finish. Imagine a big handful of ripe blackberries mixed with chocolate covered cherries. Yep, that’s this wine.

Another score for Dave Phinney and the gang down in St. Helena. Tasty stuff.

$52.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 1/2 stars

11 comments

2008 – My Favourites in Wine and Music

It’s the time of year that the “best of” lists make their appearances. Despite what some folks may say, these lists are pretty fun to put together and it’s always good to hear what others liked the most in the past year. What better thing to do on a snowy Saturday than to sit down and make my list? :)

Music and wine are a natural match. I’m a music freak/I’m a wine geek. Almost every memorable bottle of wine I’ve had over the years was drunk while music was playing. With that bond in mind, I thought for fun that I’d put together a list of my most memorable albums of the year and pair them with the wines I loved most in 2008 (in no particular order and based only on full bottle samples).

mgmt12000 Paitin Barbaresco, Sori Paitin paired with Oracular Spectacular” by MGMT
I’ll lead off with this one because they were both my top choices for the year. The wine was memorable in a way no other matched and the album still gets regular play. There’s more going on with both than you get at first taste or listen. They both just get better as you go. The wine was, in a word, stellar. The album had standout tracks such as “Time to Pretend”, “Kids” and “Electric Feel” – great stuff.

tvontheradio2001 Yalumba The Octavius, Barossa Old Vine Shiraz paired with Dear Science,” by TV on the Radio
What can I say about these two?.. This was what I popped open on my fortieth birthday and TV on the Radio have put out three of my favourite albums. Both have layers and layers and make you think as much as they are just plain good. The more you taste the wine, the more it comes alive – the same goes for the album. It requires multiple listens to worm its way into your consciousness… and I’m glad it did. Standout tracks include “Halfway Home”, “Golden Age” and “Dancing Choose”.

boniver2003 Russell Creek Winemakers Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley paired with For Emma, Forever Ago” by Bon Iver
This is one of my favourite Washington State wineries, owned by a cantankerous and interesting guy, Larry Krivoshein. I bought this wine at his tasting room in Walla Walla and really liked talking and tasting with him. Both the album and the wine are the work of solitary guys in relatively remote locations – Justin Vernon in a remote Wisconsin cabin during a cold winter and Larry down in Walla Walla (seriously, do the drive some time). Both of them doing it their way. In 2008 they both put out products worthy of praise and enjoyment. Standout tracks on the intimate and beautiful album are “Skinny Love”, “The Wolves (Act I And II)” and “Blindsided”.

m831997 Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico paired with Saturdays = Youth” by m83
Both the wine and the album had many layers… Hell, the wine was in the running for my wine of the year. Everyone who knows me knows that I love the Amarone.. and this is a helluva’ bottle of the Amarone. The wine was absolutely seductive – with raisins, plums, cherries, brandy and spice in its flavours. The album? Amazing. m83, aka Anthony Gonzalez, pulls off stuff you wouldn’t think anyone is trying these days. It’s symphonic in parts, with a sense of pop melody that leaves many of the songs in your head long after you’ve given it a listen. It’s also a “grower”, which is a good thing – it’s one of those albums you like more with each listen because you’re getting more from it. Strong stuff. I’d say it’s in my top 3 albums of the year. Tracks such as “Graveyard Girl”, “Kim & Jessie” and “Couleurs” help show why this album made my list.

elbow1999 H. Billiot Millésime Champagne paired with The Seldom Seen Kid” by Elbow
Classics… that’s what both of the wine and the album strike me as. The Billiot is amazing… and to me, is what a Champagne should be – toasty, complex and sexy, with an everlasting finish. The flavours were all about baked apples, along with some peach, honey and ginger spice. Onto the album – Elbow is one of those bands about whom I constantly marvel they’re not more popular. The singer, Guy Garver has an amazing voice that sounds like Peter Gabriel on a bender… and they consistently record strong albums. Great songs on the album are “Grounds For Divorce”, the cheery, hopeful and amazing “One Day Like This” and “The Fix” which just begs to open a British gangster film. I may have listened to this more than any other album this year.

fleetfoxes1998 Castello di Verduno Barolo, Massara paired with Fleet Foxes” by Fleet Foxes
Both of these choices were unexpected finds in 2008. I stumbled on the wine while having lunch in Verduno, Italy. It may have been the setting, but I loved this wine. The Marsala sherry, nuts, leather, cherry and flowers led to a sexy cherry brandy finish. Likewise for the album. At first it struck me as too softly harmonic and folksy (very Simon & Garfunkel-y)… but the more I listened to it, the beauty of the music won me over. It’s a mellow-day album that will leave you in a better mood for having heard it. I can’t say there are standout tracks. It’s a complete and round achievement that stands as an album.

hercules2005 Mazzocco Sonoma Zinfandel Pony, Dry Creek Valley & 2004 Mazzocco Stone Ranch Zinfandel, Alexander Valley paired with Hercules and Love Affair” by Hercules and Love Affair
These choices represent the good-times party choices of the year. If you’re at a party and drag these wines out, anyone who likes wine (especially a great Zin) will love them… and the album will get their booties moving. Both the Mazzocco Zins are made in that crushed blackberry syrup and briar style with balanced structures and finishes. Winemaker Antoine Favero does a great job there. I think they were my favourite Zins of the year – and that’s saying a lot. The Hercules album has the fantastic tune “Blind” that Pitchfork chose as their track of the year. I have to admit, it is pretty bloody good.

neonneon2006 Orin Swift Cellars “The Prisoner” paired with Stainless Style” by Neon Neon
Both of these choices are just plain unique and rock n’ roll. Dave Phinney heads a small (when we visited last January, there were 4 people doing it all) operation that turns out phenomenal wines. I first tried this wine in their offices and then gladly took one to enjoy that night. Graham’s review noted, “the Prisoner has a vibrant blackberry and ripe plum on the bouquet, which opens into briar and with some dark chocolate in the mix.” Loved it. Neon Neon grab you right away with their brand of tense early-80’s musical nostalgia and take it from there. It’s a lot of fun for someone who actually became an adult in the 80’s. I loved the tracks “Dream Cars”, “Belfast” and “Michael Douglas”.

lykkeli2001 Damilano Barolo paired with Youth Novel” by Lykke Li
I loved this wine… it was one of my finds at the Vancouver Wine Fest and was helping me set up for my forthcoming trip to Piedmont at the end of March. Like I wrote back then “…it’s a complex mix of brandied cherry, plums, leather, tar, and spice along with a violet-floral thing going on.” This family-owned winery located near the town of Barolo consistently turns out some of the best values (and wines) from the Langhe. Production on the album is provided by by Bjorn Yttling of Peter Björn and John and are just plain catchy – with Lykke’s sexily fragile voice. Standout tracks are “Dance Dance Dance”, and “Let it Fall”.

cutcopy2007 Seghesio Zinfandel, Sonoma County paired with In Ghost Colors” by Cut/Copy
An amazing wine and an equally impressive album. The Seghesio Zin was tapped by the Wine Dictator as their #10 wine of the year and given a hefty 93 points. I can’t disagree with them much. Personally, I enjoyed the Mazzocco Zins more, but I also loved this wine. We’ve gone through 6 bottles in the last while. It’s got ripe and juicy blackberry fruit long with a form and tannic backbone showing a brambly and spicy finish. Wow. The album is also a “Wow”. I loved it the first time I heard it and have listened to it countless times since then. It’s another 80’s-influenced wonder, is funky as Hell and makes you want to shake your ass. I’m still digging tracks such as “So Haunted”, “Far Away” and “Hearts On Fire”.

frenchkicks2007 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough paired with Swimming” by French Kicks
I’ve drunk a helluva’ lot of this wine this year. It’s amazingly diverse in its food pairings and is mouth-wateringly tasty… and it’s the wine I ordered on my first date with Candace in 2008. We still drink it regularly. It’s got lots of tropical and citrus fruit, with a crisp backbone of acidity. It’s also a pretty amazing deal at $21.99 here in BC making it my value wine of the year. The album. I loved it. It’s one of those albums you put on and like pretty much every track. I’ve listened to it a tonne this year while preparing dinner, driving and working. It stands pretty strongly as an album, but also has great tracks with chiming guitar like “Sex Tourists”, “Abandon” and “Love in the Ruins”.

lsp2005 Lange Estate Winery and Vineyards “Three Hills Cuvée” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley paired with The Age of the Understatement” by The Last Shadow Puppets
OK, last on the list, but certainly not least… I grabbed this bottle on a trip down to the Willamette Valley last year and had been saving it… for a Pinot craving. I popped it open after Candace and I visited Portland in October and it was all it should have been – blackberry, dark cherry, dark chocolate and earthy spice. The album? Again, I loved it. It’s a very stylish side project from the Arctic Monkey’s singer, Alex Turner and  good friend of his, Miles Kane, the guitarist of the Rascals. What they came up with is a stylish and catchy sound that’s like a 60’s garage band that has developed a sudden taste for martinis. I personally think it’s a crime that the amazing tune “My Mistakes Were Made for You” wasn’t the theme for the latest Bond film, “Quantum of Solace”. Other good tracks are “The Age Of The Understatement”, “Standing Next To Me” and “I Don’t Like You Anymore”.

Honourable mentions for wines in 2008 (based on me just really likin’ them):

5 comments

2005 Domaine Gallety Récolte, Côtes du Vivarais AOC

This wine comes from the Rhône Valley’s Côtes du Vivarais, which was made an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée in 1999 and is a blend of Grenache and Syrah (with maybe some Carignan and Cinsault tossed in for good measure).

After some air, the nose really reached out of the glass and grabbed me. It’s full of dark plum and cherry jam with a spicy and smoky edge. The flavours show a big glass of dark plum juice with a splash of black cherry and a spicy minutes-long balanced mineral-edged finish.

It’s juicy goodness caught me off guard with the ripeness it offered up. This wine hits on so many levels and layers… its kinda’ slutty, but also has enough going on in its earthy finish that I sat and went “Hmmmm”. It’s got that New World appeal, with the Old World mineral edge. I wanted sip after sip to last all night. You can drink it now or sit it down for a while. Your choice. I’d find it tough to not sip away though… I’ve already gone through 2 of them.

I’ll definitely be buying it again.

$45 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars

2 comments

1996 E&E Black Pepper Shiraz, Barossa Valley

With a big birthday comes a big bottle of vino.   After much debate I decided to celebrate my departure from the “thirtysomethings” with this beauty.  I’ve had it in the cellar for in the neighbourhood of ten years and decided it was time.  The minute it headed into the decanter, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed – dark chocolate, cinnamon and dark berry were immediately evident as I carefully avoid the thick and chunky sediment in the bottle.

With kids in bed, it was time.  Into the shiraz glass, and “oh-my” in a word or two.  Some nice ruddy bricking into a deep ruby purple in the glass, I had to resist finding somewhere to hide in the house and hoard the bottle.  A few swirls, and there was more cinnamon with intense black currant that was accompanied by a bit of mint and some fresh pepper as the evening went on.  From there it was juicy red currant, raspberry and ripe plum with a nice viscous and juicy feel in the mouth.  The finish was all about length… bitter chocolate, nettle, herbs and some almost floral bits (violets?) as I sat and savoured.

Happy birthday to me indeed!

Current release $95 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 1/2 stars
and some very happy dark purple teeth.

4 comments

2006 Henry’s Drive Pillar Box Reserve Shiraz, Padthaway

I tried this wine last weekend at one of my favourite spots in Vancouver to grab a glass of wine, Salt Tasting Room and had been keeping an eye out for it since then. Well, while I was at BC’s main LDB store tonight, I happened to spot it in an aisle display… and immediately grabbed a few bottles.

When I tasted it at Salt, what struck me was the way the wine’s flavours exploded in my mouth after the initial taste. I was out to see if my taste buds had somehow fooled me, or if this was the real deal – a wine under $30 CDN that really rocked my world. Well folks, it really does rock my world.

I haven’t been drinking many Aussie Shirazes lately. Not because I don’t like them (hell, they’re some of the best wines I’ve ever had), but there’s so many wines out there to try and I had really gone whole hog on the Shiraz in the past.

This one hails from the cooler Padthaway region and its terra rossa soil. All I can say is that it’s a helluva’ wine for the money and has me thinking Shiraz again.

The nose is full of dark cherry syrup and brown sugar along with some felt tip marker, earth and heat (the wine is an astoundingly balanced 16% booze). The flavours are initially all about the leathery dark cherries, but then that explodes in a way that you have to try to know what I’m writing about. Suddenly a burst of dark cherry, licorice and pepper take over the mouth and last for a long and lingering minute before leaving you wanting another sip.

This is my deal wine of the moment. Maybe I just needed a taste of a good and reasonable Shiraz, but this is totally doing it for me right now.

$24.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 1/2 stars

1 comment

2006 Giant Wine Company “Sinner’s Punch” Red Wine, Columbia Valley

So many of the Columbia Valley wines I’ve tasted over the last while are big rich Bordeaux Blends.  I really love ‘em, but when I spotted this one on my recent trip to Seattle, I had to give the 90% Syrah 10% Cabernet blend a go.

Big and black in the glass, a sniff brought some fresh cracked pepper into play with nice black plum and bit of mint and brown sugar.  Definitely both grapes at work here.  A few tasty sips and I was in jammy black cherry and plum bliss.  Mouth-filling to say the least, it certainly belies the $13.99 price tag.  The finish was nice and full with more sweet spice and and a medium acidity.  Good stuff, complementing a nice burger on the BBQ while sitting in the backyard.

Summer’s not done yet and BBQ season never ends.

$13.99 at Esquin Wine Merchants.

3 1/2 stars
(leaning toward 4)

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