Archive for the '$36 – 40' Category

2007 Mauritson Wines Rockpile Jack’s Cabin Vineyard Zinfandel

It’s been a while since I wrote up a Zinfandel, but last week was the big Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) Festival in San Francisco. I didn’t attend this year, but it’s a wine fest that holds a special place in my heart. It’s got to be the most fun-oriented/least pretentious wine event I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. I was down there the day after it ended, but America’s grape was on my mind. I went into my write-up archive and found this one that I had tasted a month or so ago. I had picked this bottle up at the winery when Candace and I visited Napa and Sonoma back in March, 2010.

In the glass it’s got a dark-dark red colour. I kept burying my nose in the glass to smell the aromas of ripe blackberry, dark chocolate, black pepper and cracked stone. You can smell the minerals from the soil. After a sip, the progression of the wine’s flavours disappointed just a bit. They start out full and ripe, but then disappear a bit and go flat… then they make a sudden reappearance with the full ripe berry fruit and a jammy, yet balanced and looooooong finish. So what we have here is a wine with a killer nose that starts out impressively in the mouth then disappears for a bit before making a memorable comeback.

All in all, I did like this wine – quite a bit. I liked the dustiness and minerality that mixed in with the fruit.

~$37 at the winery.

4 stars

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Tasting Mexican Wine: San Lorenzo and Monte Xanic

Mexican wine is something I haven’t devoted much time to up to this point in my wine journey. Over the years, I have tasted a few of the LA Cetto wines, but that had pretty much been it. So, when I received an email through this site from Eduardo Ramirez asking if I’d like to try a few Mexican wines, I jumped at the chance. I met Eduardo a while later to chat about the wines he represents and to accept 4 samples.

The first two represent the value line from Casa Madero, which at close to 500 years old, is apparently the oldest operating winery in the Western hemisphere. These value wines are named for the original San Lorenzo Winery, which was founded in its current location in Central Mexico in 1597.

Here’s what I tasted:

2009 San Lorenzo Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay & Colombard: This is an interesting blend of 50% Chenin Blanc, 25% Chardonnay, and 25% Colombard. The nose is a mix of lemon, apricot and flinty stone, which lead to a really nice mix of flavours that finish with the whole citrus-melon-flinty stone thing going on. It’s a very nice sipper and went really well with a simple dish of grilled halibut with lemon. It’s a solid value at $17-20 here in Vancouver.
3 1/2 stars

2008 San Lorenzo Cabernet Sauvignon – Tempranillo: This is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Tempranillo. It has a nose that gives up a bit of red cherry/berry fruit, and a bit of tar and mineral. A sip had me thinking of dusty dark cherries and an earthy bitterness that led out to a medium finish with decent tannins. Not complex, but a nice sipper, especially for the money ($19.90 here in BC).
3 stars

Now onto the Monte Xanic wines. According to their site, the name, “Xanic” originates with the Cora Indians who continue to inhabit parts of Nayarit on Mexico’s Pacific coast, and means, “Flower which blooms after the first rain.” The winery was founded in 1987 in response to the recent opening of the border to foreign wines, which many deemed superior to Mexican wine. The owners of Monte Xanic set out to prove they could make wines to compete with any of the wines from outside Mexico.

While they may not be up there with the world’s best wines, they are doing a respectable job.

2008 Monte Xanic Chenin Colombard The nose has a honeyed edge to lemony citrus and pear and is a blend of 95% Chenin Blanc and 5% Colombard. The flavours are all about exactly what the nose hinted at… the medium-bodied pear and lemon have a light coating of honey and the finish goes on for a minute with a crisp and flinty minerality that I really like. This is a very tasty and well-made wine. I think it would be delicious with some grilled salmon. It retails in Vancouver for $24.
4 stars

2006 Monte Xanic Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot: This one is a blend of 60% Cabernet, 20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec. To me, the nose on this wine is a bit like sniffing the venerable “oak monster” itself. It mellows with some air, but this is definitely a case of a wine-maker choosing the new oak route. The nose has powerful vanilla, mocha and berry aromas – more a sign of the oak than the grapes. The flavours of the grapes do come through with delicious dark berries along with the oak-influenced vanilla spice. I liked it, but would like to see less of the new oak. In Vancouver, it retails for $36.
3 1/2 stars

All in all, I would say that I was both surprised and impressed by the wines – surprised that a white blend was my pick of the group and impressed with the overall quality of the wine. Check them out if you feel like trying a few of the wines of Mexico.

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Napa/Sonoma trip – Day 2 in Sonoma Valley

Our second day in California’s wine country got off to a lazy start at my new favourite coffee spot in Santa Rosa, Flying Goat Coffee. After taking a leisurely stroll around Santa Rosa’s historic Railroad Square, we hopped in the car and headed toward our first stop of the day – Mazzocco Winery, near Healdsburg.

I had been emailing back and forth with Mazzocco for a while regarding a sample bottle they wanted to send me. Because of British Columbia’s antiquated and ridiculous liquor laws, it’s next to impossible to receive wine as samples in our province (I know – go figure)… so, while I was down in the area, it made sense to drop by, pick up the sample and taste the rest of the current releases.

Mazzocco Winery
It was Saturday, so that meant that both the parking lot and tasting room were chock full of Mazzocco wine fans. Candace and I made our way in and found a little corner at the tasting bar. I’ve liked pretty much everything I’ve tried from Mazzocco, so I was looking forward to trying their new wines. I’ll give something away here – I wasn’t disappointed. At all.

Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2007 Stuhlmuller Reserve Chardonnay ($36)
    Nice notes of vanilla, butter, caramel and citrus lead to a balanced and crisp finish.
    4 stars
  • 2004 “Inheritance” Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)
    5 years in oak produced a smoothly balanced wine with a lot of vanilla and licorice spice to the dark currant flavours.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2005 Merlot – Dry Creek Valley ($28)
    This had a nice vanilla edge and some cracked pepper and a tonne of dark cherry/berry fruit with a long finish.
    4 stars
  • 2005 Aguilera Petite Sirah ($35)
    This was very firm and tannic, yet approachable with its licorice and black cherry/berry flavours.
    4 – 4.5 stars

The Zinfandels:

  • 2007 Briar Zinfandel ($29)
    This was the first Zin of the tasting and wow – the pure fruit that Mazzocco gets out of their Zins is so good. This had big ripe blackberry syrup with a vanilla bean edge. The finish lasted minutes.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Stone Zinfandel ($29)
    Big, delicious ripe red berry fruit with a syrupy edge and a long, long finish.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2007 Warm Springs Zinfandel ($32)
    A dose of Petite Sirah added some tannic heft to this full-bodied dark berry bomb. So good.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Smith Orchard Reserve Zinfandel ($50)
    Wow. I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but… again – this wine has outstanding dark berry with a syrupy edge to its long and pleasantly tannic finish.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Maple Reserve Zinfandel ($60)
    Mmmmmmm… the Maple Reserve. I really liked this (though I have to say that I really liked all their Zins). This one stayed with me just a little bit more. It had a dusty edge to its dark berry fruit with a touch of brown sugar to the long finish. Outstanding.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Antoine Philippe Reserve Zinfandel ($120)
    The winemaker’s personal reserve. Ever wonder what an over-$100 Zinfandel tastes like? Like this… or this is what that should taste like. When I reviewed the 2006, I called it “possibly the best Zinfandel I’ve ever tasted.” Well this may have surpassed it. Although the previous wines were great Zins, this was just a step above. Firm, but fine tannins cap the delicious dark fruit. Wow. Just wow.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Kenneth Carl Reserve Zinfandel ($150)
    This is just about right up there with the Antoine Philippe. This is the personal reserve chosen by the winery’s owner, Ken (Kenneth Carl) Wilson. It’s immense, with blackberry, black pepper and licorice. The finish just keeps on going. Another amazing effort.
    4.5 stars

I’d like to give a shout to Bernie (that’s her with me in the pic above), who despite having a packed tasting room, manged to keep the samples coming and was kind enough to fill me in on every wine we tasted and even showed me pics from the different vineyards.

The Zinfandels that Mazzocco turn out really hit my palate in all the right ways. They’ve got big and balanced fruit flavours with a briary edge to the firm, but not too firm tannins. Candace agreed. She picked these as her favourite wines of the trip.

Mauritson Wines
After leaving Mazzocco, I chose to drop in at nearby Mauritson Wines. Last summer, while in the area for ZAP, I had picked up a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County from them and was curious as to what their other wines might be like.

Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Dry Creek Valley ($17)
    This had crisp citrus fruit and a nice mineral edge to the finish. Very refreshing.
    3.5 – 4 stars
  • 2007 Chardonnay Alexander Valley Valley ($25)
    I really liked this. It had a crisp citrus edge to its tropical fruit that led to a long finish. A very nice effort – only 457 cases were produced.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2008 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley ($27)
    There was an almost meaty edge to the pepper and dark berry/cherry fruit. Very tasty.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County ($35)
    This had refined and tasty black currant fruit with a vanilla edge. The tannins were fine, but firm and the finish lasted minutes. This could definitely benefit from some time in your cellar.
    4.5 stars

The Rockpile Zinfandels:
These are the wines for which Mauritson is best-known. I hadn’t really tried them before and have to say that I was very impressed. They were very well-balanced with loads of spice and dark fruit.

  • 2007 Rockpile Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel ($35)
    Tasty jammy ripe red berry fruit with black pepper and really nice mineral-edged tannins on the finish. Really good stuff.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Rockpile Jack’s Cabin Vineyard Zinfandel ($37)
    This really grabbed me. I picked up flavours of black pepper, licorice, dark chocolate and juicy dark berries.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Rockpile Westphall Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel ($37)
    I got a bit of a meaty edge to the nose of this wine… but the flavours were all about the dark berry fruit along with licorice. Wow – a very tasty Zin.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Rockpile Cemetary Vineyard Zinfandel ($39)
    This is a bit of a monster – it’s got all the beautiful dark Zinfandel fruit, but with layers of complexity and a load of tannins on the finish. This is the one I tasted that could sit in your cellar for a while. Very, very good.
    4.5 stars

There were a few other wineries I would have liked to have visited on Saturday, but quality should always win out over quantity. I would whole-heartedly recommend visits to both wineries. The folks manning the tasting rooms were unbelievably friendly and the wines… well, there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. Check them out. Your taste buds will thank you.

2 comments

2006 McKinlay Vineyards Ladd Hill Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

I’m putting together my write-up of last Saturday in Sonoma, but I was both thirsty and hungry, so this post worked its way into the mix.

Holy silky Pinot Noir, folks. This bottle was exactly what I was looking for when I pulled the cork tonight. I was cooking up some wild mushroom Tagliatelle and craving some Pinot – OK, it was in the opposite order. I was craving some Pinot and so I cooked up something to go with it.

I hadn’t really heard of McKinlay Vineyards before this bottle caught my eye the last time we were in Portland. It turns out they’re doing their thing in a more Burgundian style and have a bunch of folks excited about the bottles they’re turning out. You can now count me in with them.

I had a few sips before we ate and really liked it, but in true Burgundian style (13% booze, by the way), it was with the food that the wine really came alive. The earthiness of the wine really complemented the mushrooms and the fruit and acidity built on that. Wow. I really liked it.

The nose has a schwack of ripe cranberry and cherry along with a handful of of flowers and some smokey spice. A sip really explodes with the ripe red cherry, rhubarb, cranberry and citrus fruit. I’ll break it down. It just tastes really good and went so well with our meal that I wish we had another bottle. Enough said.

If you like Burgundy and have been looking for an Oregon wine to try, give this a go. I can’t guarantee you’ll like it – thank God everyone’s tastes are different – but I sure as heck did.

Nice work McKinlay.

~$38 USD at Vinopolis in Portland.

4   1/2 stars

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2006 Brown Estate Vineyards Chaos Theory, Napa Valley

Chaos. The holiday season seems to breed it in various forms, and today for me it was in the form of my youngest daughter’s 5th birthday and a bowling party for 21 five year olds. Chaos sometimes comes lovely and adorable ways.

To celebrate the success of this event, I decided to open the last of my gems from our journey to Brown Estate Vineyards in July. We have detailed the stunning nature of the visit and the wines previously (including this one, however it is worthy of mention repeatedly). Again, it lives up to all the others.

The Chaos Theory is blend of the various blocks of zinfandel, and some of their tasty cabernet. When we visited, we had the chance to savor a barrel sample of the upcoming Cabernet (to be blended with Syrah I believe) and it had a beautiful dark fruit and graphite character. This offering makes the blend a seamless silky goodness.

The nose has beautiful blueberry with some cedar and nettle the builds into what I can only describe as “Christmas Spice” that continues on throughout every gorgeous sip. The palate has delicious dark fruit, plum, currant, and more blueberry in all it’s viscous goodness. The finish brings some clove, orange zest, and just superb balance that characterize Brown Estate wines in my experience.

This is another in the series of Brown Estate offerings that speak to the honesty, integrity, and genuine passion that are hallmarks of their wines. Love it. Plain and simple.

$36 USD at the Winery (a great deal).

4 1/2 stars

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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

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2005 Bodegas J.C. Conde Neo Sentido, Ribera del Duero & Floyd Landis’ Road Shoes from Specialized

You may or may not know that along with being a wine and web geek, I’m also a road cycling geek. Speaking of cycling, a couple of weeks ago, bike clothing/accessories/bikes company Specialized (@iamspecialized – you can follow me at @vinifico) had a contest on Twitter where a re-tweet of their message would automatically enter you to win a pair of Floyd Landis‘ road shoes that had been worn during racing/training. Floyd has definitely been an inspiration to me, despite being stripped of his 2006 Tour de France win under controversial circumstances. He’s done his 2 year ban and is back racing for the North American-based OUCH Pro Cycling Team. Well, I entered… and actually won.

Today I received the US Postal package (a former team of Floyd’s where he raced along-side Lance Armstrong) and opened it to check out the shoes. They had definitely seen a few miles and Floyd hadn’t even bothered to remove his Speedplay cleats before sending them to the folks at Specialized for this contest. Pretty cool. They’re the BG Pro Road shoe in white with black. I have to admit that if they had been in a size 42, I would have probably worn them, but they’re a 44.5 – Floyd has some big feet for a 5’9″ guy.

Now to the cycling/wine tie-in… this weekend marks the start of the 3rd Grand Tour of the year, the Veulta a Espana. Floyd won’t be in the race (maybe next year), but I’ll be following it at Velonews.com and other sites. So, I felt like pairing the shoes with a beautiful Tempranillo from Spain’s Ribera del Deuro region that I had tasted last week –  the 2005 Bodegas J.C. Conde Neo Sentido. Check out the video.

~$38 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 stars

2 comments

2005 Erich Salomon/Undhof Grüner Veltliner Reserve, Lindberg

Last Friday afternoon, I visited Clinton Kabler over at D3 Security to talk a little bit about business and a lot about wine for his 10th episode of D3TV. Have a look.

The wine rocked. It was definitely one I’ll pick up again some time in the next little while.

$36.90 at Marquis Wine Cellars here in Vancouver.

4 1/2 stars

2 comments

2005 Movia Ribolla Gialla, Brda

06152009This bottle comes from a winery which has been in one family’s hands – the Kristancic family – since 1820. Its estate straddles the Italian and Slovenian appellations of Collio (in Italy) and Brda (in Slovenia). 20 acres are on the Italian side and 18 acres on the Slovenian side (thanks to Alder over at Vinography.com for digging up these facts).

When I was in Italy last year, I had the luck to taste some truly unique wines from the Friuli area, which is near this wine’s home. This little beauty brings back some great wine memories and reminds me of how unique some of the flavours of the area were.

The Movia winery is now run by Ales Kristancic who Decanter Magazine described as having “the creativity of Andre Ostertag, the energy of Angelo Gaja and the dedication of Willi Brundlemayer plus inherited flair and determination.” That’s some pretty heady company.

He’s been using full biodynamic production for the last 20 years and you can taste the character and care in the glass from the indigenous Ribolla Gialla grape. This is wine with a sense of place.

It’s a wine geek’s wine. It’s pretty much unlike anything else out there and is drop-dead sexy. The nose is totally unique. It’s got light melon, mineral and vanilla spice going on… among other things. The flavours struck me as honey-buttered popcorn with a melon drizzle… and it’s tastier than that simplified description sounds. It finishes with an elegant crispness that shows this wine could age for a while.

~$40 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars here in Vancouver.

4 1/2 stars

5 comments

1997 Remoissenet Père & Fils Renommée Bourgogne Blanc

04172009We don’t get much wine in Vancouver with more than a few years of age, so when I came across this reasonably-priced ’97 white Burgundy last night at Kitsilano Wine Cellars, I got a little giddy and grabbed it. Thanks to the Burgundy Wine Board’s tasting at the Terminal City Club last month, I’ve been drinking a lot of wine from their region… and well, I always have a healthy curiosity when it comes to French wine – I am a wine geek, after all.

I opened it tonight with some tuna… and wow. Tasty. It has a lemon yellow colour and is still very crisp and youthful, with lemon, green apple and a lip-smackingly flinty finish. There’s a bit of a honey and caramel edge to the flavours, but that’s its only nod to its 12 years of age. Very cool.

It’s a food wine. Open it with some fish/shellfish/chicken or cheese and enjoy. I think you’ll be pretty happy you did.

~$37 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 stars

3 comments

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