Archive for the 'Italian Wine' Category

2003 Tormaresca Negroamaro Salento Masseria Maìme

10062009I walked into my local Specialty LDB store here in Vancouver tonight not knowing what I felt like picking up… just that I’d like it to be tasty and a great value. In the back corner of the specialty section, there’s a little cart upon which the folks that run the store put mark-downs in the more-than-$25 range. When I saw this wine on the table (marked down to $29 from $39), it really piqued my interest. It checked two boxes on my wine dance card – it’s Italian and it’s a semi-obscure grape, Negroamaro.

Now for a little background on Negroamaro. The grapes that made up this bottle were grown in the Southern Italian region of Puglia and more specifically in the Salento area, which would be pictured as the “heel” of Italy (if you think of the boot shape of the country). It’s an ancient grape, which can generally be described as a deep, dark and perfume-y.

Well, this wine is certainly deep, dark and perfume-edged; although it’s more than that. 2003 was an extremely hot year throughout much of Europe… and many wines suffered. The native Negroamaro grape seems to have fared well though. It’s accustomed to the heat of southern Italy, so the heat of that summer wasn’t too much for it. In fact, instead of the flabbiness of many of the wines from 2003, this one shows depth and structure.

It’s got a nose that is loaded with ripe dark fruit, perfume-like floral notes (think violets) and a rustic felt-tip marker like earthy edge. A sip gives up a really tasty gob of that dark fruit with blackberry and ripe black cherry, violets, leather, tar and a long and tannic rustic finish. It’s got healthy, but not very noticeable 14% booze.

For the money (at least here in tax-burdened BC), this is a helluva’ a wine for $29. I actually can’t think of another red wine I’d rather drink in that range. If you can find it for this price, you really should give it a try.

$29 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars


2006 Masi Campofiorin Ripasso

10012009Due to the outrageous liquor taxes in our fair province of British Columbia, this wine falls solidly into the value category. Yep, $20 for a decent bottle of wine is considered a value here in British Columbia. Don’t even get me started. Well, I will get started, but that’s another post.

OK, back to the wine. I’ve had it many times in previous vintages and thought it might pair fairly well with the home-made pizzas I was putting together tonight. The last vintage I tasted (2003) was a bit of a disappointment, but this one makes up for it. It’s a solid bottle for the money. The 2006 vintage has been declared by Masi as a 5-star vintage, the first since 1997 and only one of seven since 1964.

For the Veneto region, this is a pretty common blend  – it’s comprised of 60% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 10% Molinara, and 5% Rossignola. Up front, when you take a sniff, there’s a bunch of ripe cherry and herbs. A sip shows dark cherries with a bit of a stewed edge, along with dusty earth and an herbal edge to its lingering and pleasantly tannic finish.

Yep, I’ll buy this again sometime soon. It makes a great sipper for when company drops by or for during the week.

$18.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

3 1/2 stars


2003 G.D. Vajra Kyè Freisa, Langhe

09192009This is a wine that knocked my wine geek senses out of the park. I was down in Portland last weekend and wandered into the local wine geeks’ paradise, Vinopolis. I picked out 5 bottles of Oregon Pinot to bring back home and then asked the shop’s on-shift wine guy to pick the coolest bottle of the wine in the store in the under-$45 range. He immediately made his way to the back of the store to the Italian section and grabbed this wine.

Anyone who has ever read this site knows I’m a huge Nebbiolo fan, especially in its Barolo and Barbaresco forms… and Freisa is Nebbiolo’s genetic father, so it’s to be expected that you’ll have to get ready for your tar and roses fix… though rumour has it that Freisa has a more refreshing approach with its flavours.

With an initial whiff, I could have sworn that it was a gorgeous example of a Langhe Nebbiolo wine. Even though it comes from the very warm 2003 vintage, the wine has an extremely complex and sexy nose – all of that already-mentioned tar and rose petals mix, along with the Barolo/Barbaresco-like walnut and cherry brandy. It just smells so good.

A sip really shows what this wine has to offer. It slips into another gear. Wow. It’s like a Langhe Nebbiolo on steroids. More Barolo-like than anything. It’s not as raw as a Barbaresco. It has the gentle, sexy fruit of a good Barolo with softer tannins. That could come from the warmth of the vintage, but this is one of the better 2003 Langhe wines I’ve tasted. Again – wow.

The everlasting finish is full of walnut and cherry liqueur followed up with a long-lasting floral-edged (think violets) finish… very tar-like, but much better than you might be thinking. This is a complex and wonderful bottle of wine. If you come across it and are a Piedmont fan, you have to give it a try.

Trust me.

$39 USD at Vinopolis in Portland, OR.

4 1/2 stars

No comments

2004 Paitin Nebbiolo d’Alba, Ca Veja

09122009This past weekend, Candace and I were in Portland, right near the Willamette Valley, which is home to some of my favourite Pinots… so what do I do? I head to Vinopolis Wine Shop and grab an Italian wine. Hey, they had a sale on and I always like a good Piemontese wine. I did bring back 5 bottles of Pinot  – all destined for write-ups on the site over the next while.

A bit later in the afternoon, when we were back at the Hotel Lucia for a bit of a break, I popped it open and stuffed my nose in the glass. What did I smell? Rose petals in cherry juice with a touch of your next-door neighbour tarring their roof, with an edge of felt tip marker. ‘Nuff said. It smelled pretty good. I like those smells from Nebbiolo.

I took a sip and tasted walnuts dipped in cherry syrup followed up with a gnaw on a leather bootstrap… with a long and very tannic finish. The flavours are good, and certainly reflective of what I’ve come to expect from a Nebbiolo-based wine, but it lacked the build and linger of the good stuff. The middle gets lost somewhere. It’s wandered away in search of its big brother, Barbaresco and the better grapes.

Don’t get me wrong I do like this wine. I just don’t love it. After having the Barbaresco from these folks, I was just expecting more.

$18.99 (on sale from $21.95) at Vinopolis in Portland.

3 1/2 stars

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2006 Azienda Agricola Bergadano Dolcetto d’Alba

02092009I made a trip to Kitsilano Wine Cellars after work today to get a bottle to lay down in the cellar/closet. I ended up with a 2004 Pio Cesare Barolo… and because I was taking that home to put away and keep my hands off it for a while, I wanted something I could pop open tonight with dinner (a pizza).

In Italy’s Piedmont region, Dolcetto is considered the everyday wine. The folks there love it and while I was there, I have to admit I developed a fondness for it as well. It’s an uncomplicated and unpretentious wine – all light tannins and peppery cherry fruit.

That’s exactly what this bottle of wine is – uncomplicated and unpretentious. It may not be super-complex, but it’s exactly what I thought it would be. There’s the dark cherry fruit and dusty tannins that make it a great pairing with pizza (or pretty much any other tomato-based Italian inspired food). The flavours may not last long, but they’re food-friendly and fun.

It gets an extra half-star for just being a good, food-friendly wine.

$29 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 stars

No comments

2009 ZAP Festival Tasting in San Francisco

01312009I’m not going to make this a long post, but I just wanted to give a quick update to our SF trip. Today marked the third year in a row that both Graham and I have made the trek down to San Francisco for the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP for short) Festival Tasting at the Fort Mason Center.

There’s a reason we head here every year – it’s FUN. The thing about Zinfandel seems to be that it’s the least threatening of the wine varietals. It tends to be jammy and fun, so the people who are drawn to it tend be unpretentious sorts. That was certainly true this year. Everyone from the winemakers to the volunteers seemed to have fun at the fest.

We hit the floor at 10am for the start of the media and trade tasting and stayed until around 2:30… a lot of that time spent up in the handy media lounge pouring our own samples and taking notes. We spent quite a bit of time hanging out with Shea Coulson from Just-Grapes – another Vancouver-based (but down in Berkeley for the next few months) wine geek and a heckuva’ nice guy.

We were all impressed with the quality of the wines this year. They seemed a bit more in balance and complex. Having said that though, I’ll be up-front and say that my favourites were hit-you-over-the-head fruit bombs. Mazzocco, Turley, Woodenhead and Ravenswood had standouts along with a bunch of smaller producers. The quality of the wine being poured was pretty bloody high.

Another thing that Graham just reminded me of was that all the big-boy producers were pouring full line-ups – from 5 – 10 wines and all of the were great. It was “Mmmm” after “Wow.” Ridge, Ravenswood, Renwood and Mazzocco had multiple wines on the table that just reminded me why I love this grape.

We did run into a few detractors of the wines’ styles, but you know what? If you don’t like your wines diverse – sometimes lean slky and complex but  sometimes huge and jammy, don’t go to the Zin tasting. ‘Nuff said.

I’ll be back next year… and here’s a little shout out to Julie Ann Kodmur and the ZAP folks for the great time we had at ZAP 2009.


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):


2004 Tommasi “Ripasso” Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Magnum

12192008I was on one of my regular visits to Kitsilano Wine Cellars last week when Kirk pointed me to this 1.5L Magnum as a frugal and food friendly crowd-pleaser. I was thinking I’d be having sometime next week at a party, but the cork was popped last night when Candace’s brother Michael was over for some pizza.

I’ve gotta say – this is my new favourite pizza wine. Its flavours paired so well that it brought a smile to my face.

If you’re not aware of what a Ripasso is, it’s an red wine from Italy’s Valpolicella region made by fermenting the young wine with the unpressed but drained skins and lees left over from making Amarone. This blend of 70% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella and 5% Corvinone was all dusty sour cherry fruit on both the nose and in the mouth with bits of milk chocolate and raisin rounding out the flavours. Very tasty stuff that is completely ready to drink now.

Kits Wine Cellars was selling the wine only in Magnums… and I’m headed over tonight to see if they have more.

$40 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars for the Magnum.

4 stars

1 comment

2005 Movia Pinot Grigio, Brda

12152008Well now. I stumbled on this wine while shopping for a Christmas gift for a client of mine – and she’s a big fan of Pinot Gris/Grigio. I’ve had a few over the years that I’ve thought were decent, most notably Alsatian… and even one or two from Northern Italy. I walked into Kitsilano Wine Cellars and Kirk said if that’s what I was looking for, I had to pick this bottle up and give it a try. The grapes are grown in Italy, but then trucked just over the border into Slovenia, where the wine is made. I’ve never had a Slovenian wine. From reading the blog, you may have picked up on the fact that I have a pretty curious palate, so home it came.

Candace and I were cooking up a squash and sage risotto tonight, so I thought this might be a tasty match. Out came the cork and sip after sip gave up a nose that had tropical fruit, melon and stone. A juicy sip gave up all the baked tropical fruit and a flinty melon finish… like eating honeydew and pineapple out of a stone bowl. The finish stayed with me for a while.

What can I say? I really liked this wine – a lot. This ain’t your Momma’s Pinot Grigio. This is complex, tasty and has a finish that keeps your tongue busy. In the past, the Wine Dictator has called this, “The greatest Pinot Grigio from Italy”. I’m not gonna disagree.

Try it.

$37.50 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 stars


2004 Villa Cerna Chianti Classico Reserva

32131I was cooking a little homemade pizza this weekend and spotted this bottle being cleared out at the local liquor store. One of the perks of living in the ‘burbs seems to be that our local stores are often discounting some pretty nice stuff.

It definitely didn’t disappoint. Deep purple in colour, it has some nice earth and floral hints with a bit of toasty espresso. Lots of dark cherry and plum with tight acidity made it nice pairing with the pizza (love my whole wheat crust!). The finish had more dusty violet and again the espresso made an appearance.

This was a really nice bottle for the money. If you see it in the discount section of your local store, it’s definitely worth a go.

$24.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

3 1/2 stars

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