Archive for the 'Chardonnay' Category

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

Duval-Leroy Brut Rosé Champagne de Saignée NV

01012009This was our wine to ring in the new year… and what a way to start 2009. The year has just started, so I’ll keep this short. Y’all know I love the bubbly and I was kinda’ craving the rosé side of the category, so this looked mighty tasty on the shelf.

I popped it open at the crack of the new year and wow… this stuff is good bubbly (thank God, because who wants their new year’s bottle to suck??). The nose gave up berry and lemon. A sip was all about the fresh berry juice (think light strawberry and then a bunch of ripe red raspberry) with a squirt of lemon and a long mineral-edged finish.

Was it something I’d drink again? Hell yeah. This is tasty stuff.

Happy new year!

~$80 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars

No comments

2006 Jean Latour-Labille & Fils Bourgogne Chardonnay

Look at these French guys being all straight-forward with their wine labeling. You look at the label and you can pretty much tell at a glance who makes it, where it comes from and what grape’s juice made the wine. Refreshing.

I’ve had this a few times and have been meaning to review it. That hasn’t been too rushed along just because I’ve really liked it each time, so buying it again hasn’t been a real stretch. 🙂

This has everything I like about the Chardonnay grape goin’ on. On the nose, it’s got the nutty, tropical edge, but that is immediately followed up with a good whiff of crisp lemony-minerality. A taste shows melon, nut and stony mineral leading into a healthy squeeze of lemon on the finish.

You’ve just finished an almond and a piece of honeydew melon and then take a big lick of a lemon soaked rock – that’s this wine. Sounds kinda’ tasty right? Oh, c’mon. Well, it is. Buy it.

$35 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 stars

(verging on 4.5)

No comments

2006 Golden Mile Cellars Chardonnay, Luckhurst Family Vineyards

OK, so I went up to the Okanagan the weekend before last with the intention of writing up the trip… and I will. I’ve just been so damned busy that I haven’t gotten around to it. What I have done is drink some of the wine I brought back, especially some of the case I picked up at Wild Goose.

Tonight I’m sipping a 2006 Chardonnay from Golden Mile Cellars, which is located between Oliver and Osoyoos… and you know what? This is tasty stuff.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I love the New World slutty Chardonnays… all tropical pineapple and citrus fruit with almond and caramel on both the nose and the flavours. Well, this is the best example of that type of Chardonnay I’ve tasted from BC to this point… and at $19.99. It’s tasty. I really like it.

I had this tonight with some grilled salmon and it went swimmingly (swimmingly… get it? cheesy). Seriously though folks… I’ll be here all week. Drive safe, try the salmon and buy this wine if you can find it

$19.99 at the winery.

4 stars

No comments

Step Rd. Blackwing Pinot Noir-Chardonnay, NV

I was going to write up a beautiful Greek wine I recently popped open, but I had a sip of this tonight and was inspired to write up another tasty bubbly instead. C’mon, it’s summer… you NEED to drink more bubbly anyway. 🙂

When it’s poured into a Champagne glass this wine shows a slight pink edge to its pale golden colour – like you’ve poured some Chardonnay into a glass that had a little bit of red left in it. A big ‘ol sniff gives up lemon, green apple, honey and some flinty stone. A sip shows off elegantly fine bubbles that lead into really tasty apple and lemon with an edge of red cherry. It all finishes off with a bit of that flinty stone and some really crisp bubbly acidity.

I really liked this wine. Would I buy it again? Yep. Should you? Probably. Especially if you like the bubbly and want to try something different from Prosecco or Cava. Go to town, folks.

~$26 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 stars

2 comments

2004 Antech Brut Blanquette de Limoux Grande Réserve

Y’all should know by now that I’m a fan of anything tasty and bubbly. Thanks to the folks at Kitsilano Wine Cellars, I’ve gotten hooked on the Znovin Classic. Recently Matt introduced me to this wine.

The winery has been making Blanquette, the original French bubbly for over 500 years, which predates Dom Perignon’s “discovery” of Champagne by over 150 years. The family’s vineyards are on the slopes surrounding the town of Limoux, near the Mediterranean Sea.

OK, can I just say that this wine is amazing for the money? It’s a blend of Mauzac, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. What it adds up to is sip after sip of crisp honeyed pear and mineral-laced goodness. Its crisp-ness would make it a great pairing for many foods, from seafood (salmon) to Thai or as an aperitif.

It’s more complex than the Znovin… more so than the extra $6 would imply. That’s not to say that the Znovin isn’t a great value. It just speaks volumes as to what a find this wine is. It’s actually tastier than some Champagnes I’ve had recently – at less than half the price.

Wow, tasty.

$23 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars

2 comments

2005 Walter Hansel Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Cuvée Alyce

I had this wine a couple of weeks ago on the same night we tasted the Montelena Chardonnay. When I first tried it, I wasn’t sure what to think… After the crisp subtlety of the Montelena wine, this one hit me over the head with its flavours in comparison.

The more I tasted of it though, the more it grew on me. It’s an amazingly complex bottle of wine, tossing up more flavours per sip than just about any wine I’ve had in recent memory.

It all starts with the nose… and what a nose it is. It has toasty oak, which gives a big dose of vanilla… and then the fruit. What it made me think of were honey toasted oats with pear slices and hazelnuts.

A thick and juicy sip gives honey, melon, hazelnut, and a lightly lemony mineral-edged finish… and that finish goes on for minutes. It’s a memorably tropical Chardonnay. I really liked it.

This is one for the New World Chard fans. If that’s you, I’m sure you’ll love this wine.

$70 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars

1 comment

2005 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, Napa Valley

Last weekend, I decided to have a New World Chardonnay night. This says 2 things about me:

  1. I haven’t had a much New World Chardonnay lately
  2. I’m a wine geek, jeez…

There were 2 wines chosen and this was the first up. What can I say, but, “Wow”? This was exactly what I wanted. Along with Grgich Hills, Chateau Montelena is a Napa winery that makes wine bridging the gap from Old World to New World. There is some of that sexy tropical fruit, but it also has that crisp citrus acidity that makes it a great wine to pair with food.

The winery was founded back in 1882, making it one of the oldest wineries in the Napa Valley. It was on July 7th, 1976 that they really made their name. They were one of the wineries to take part in the famed Paris tasting (which is being made into a movie, BTW) where their ’73 Chardonnay beat all comers, including many famed White Burgundies. Their winemaker at the time was Mike Grgich so the fact that both wineries still have similar styles is no fluke.

I’ve been there a few times and it’s always a good visit. They’re located near the town of Calistoga, in the Napa Valley and really make some smokin’ wines. The current winemaker, Bo Barrett seems to know what he’s doing.

OK, back to the wine. The nose is an amazing mix of pineapple and honeydew melon, with a flinty citrus edge. The flavours are a perfectly balanced bunch of round melon, apple and citrus… with that lemon on stone finish that goes on for minutes.

It may have been the night, or food that I had eaten, but I enjoyed this wine as much as any white I’ve had in years. It was fantastic.

~$60 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars

1 comment

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