Archive for the '$46 – 50' Category

2001 Mayacamas Vineyards Merlot, Napa Valley

God knows I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Merlot. I’m pretty much there with Miles from “Sideways“. When I hear “Merlot”, I think a bit of cherry fruit, bland, vanilla and pretty much nothing else. There’s a lot of that floating around this province, produced here and elsewhere, that fit that description perfectly.

Here’s how I happened to pick this bottle up at Marquis Wine Cellars the other night. I was headed out for a long road cycling workout the next day and hadn’t soaked up much iron in my diet in the last week, so I thought a steak would be a great choice for dinner. With that in my mind, I headed into Marquis and was looking for the classic steak pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon. While scanning the Cali section, my eyes landed on this bottle. 2001. From Mayacamas. A Merlot, I know, but I was thinking a Mayacamas Merlot should fit the bill quite nicely.

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call this an Old World style New World wine, but I guess I will. It’s got a funky edge to it that most California producers seemingly try to avoid. Instead of a manipulated and polished vanilla-ness, this wine tastes of the grapes and that’s  good thing. Its colour is a dark brick-ish red that doesn’t show any age-driven mellowing around the edges. The nose is an intriguing mix of black olives, tea, plum and dark cherry.

The flavours? Wow. The flavours amplify the slightly bitter edge of the dark cherry and finish off with tea-edged dark plum. The finish goes on for minutes. I had it with that steak and experienced one of those happy food-wine moments I wanted to last and last.

If you want to try an old-school California approach to Merlot that won’t have you longing for less oak and more flavour, give this a try.

$49.90 at Marquis Wine Cellars here in Vancouver.

4    1/2 stars

2 comments

Tasting – Marquis Wine Cellars presents Buty Winery at C Restaurant

First things first… I’d like to thank John Clerides and the staff at Marquis Wine Cellars for putting on this great tasting. The food and wine pairings at C Restaurant made my day.

From the left, that’s Graham, Caleb (the winemaker and co-proprietor at Buty), John and me (sporting a bit of a winter beard).

Last summer, when Graham and I were down in Walla Walla for the Wine Bloggers’ Conference, we ran into John and as I’ve already written, he said, “Do you guys want to taste something great? Come with me.” We headed out to Walla Walla’s airport wine area and made our way into Buty Winery’s tasting room. What we tasted were some of the highlights of the weekend.

So, when John decided to bring some of the Buty wines into his shop I was pretty stoked. I’ve grabbed a few bottles of the Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and  Muscadelle blend over the last month or so.

I’ll run through what was being poured, with a bit of a review of each wine. So, let’s go. Here’s they are:

  • 2009 Beast Sphinx Semillon
    This was the surprise of the tasting for me. It was a medium-bodied mouthful of honeyed lemon and mineral. So tasty. (4 stars – $24.99)
  • 2009 Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc/Muscadelle
    Personally, I love this wine. It has a crisp acidity that makes it a great food pairing wine along with beautiful melon, noney, citrus and stone flavours. What’s not to love? (4-4.5 stars – $31.99)
  • 2009 Conner Lee Vineyard Chardonnay
    Wow. This was another surprise for me – and was a perfect pairing for the delicious C Restaurant-prepared lobster. It had a really nice citrus-edged crispness with nice tropical and stone minerals on the finish. More Chablis than slutty Chardonnay. Very nice. (4-4.5 – $45.99)
  • 2008 Beast Wildebeest Red Wine
    This blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Syrah and 10% Malbec adds up to a really tasty deep cherry, berry fruit-driven wine with a pepper-edged mineral finish. Nice. (3.5-4 stars – $32.99)
  • 2009 Merlot & Cabernet Franc
    Well now… another surprise. I really liked this. It had wonderful dark fruit and a flintiness on the finish that I find really appealing, especially on elegant Washington State reds. (4.5 stars – $48.99)
  • 2008 Columbia Redviva
    Wow. This is the winner. This blend of 52% Syrah and 48% Cabernet Sauvignon was definitely the standout of the tasting for me. In a word, this wine is elegant. It has a tonne of dark red fruit, but not in an over-ripe sort of way. The berry fruit is almost perfect. So good! (4.5 – $59.99)
  • 2009 Redviva of the Stones
    This wine is a blend of 79% Syrah and 21% Cabernet Sauvignon. To me, this one needed a bit of time. It was pretty closed up. I’m thinking in a year or so its dark fruit and minerality will be more in balance. (4-4.5 stars – $59.99)

It was great to see Caleb again. I always love seeing talented folks who are passionate about what they’re doing. All wines are of course available for purchase or order from Marquis Wine Cellars. Head on over to their site for the contact information.

The folks at C Restaurant deserve a special mention for the fabulous food. Everything was delicious and reminded me that I should head there soon for my seafood fix. Amazing stuff.

2 comments

2005 Dominio DosTares Cumal

Every time I’ve drunk a wine lately, I feel a bit guilty that I haven’t been posting. I originally started this site as my online wine journal and now it’s time for to get back to that – it doesn’t always have to be an article-like write-up; I just have to get them done. I’ve got a HUGE backlog, so I’ll try to get some of them online in the next while.

This bottle is as good a place to start as any. I’m sitting here sipping and it’s pinging parts of my taste buds that haven’t been tickled in a while. It’s 100% Prieto Picudo from vines of more than 90 years of age and is from Spain’s Castilla y León region. You’d have to be forgiven for not knowing that grape. Heck, I didn’t but wow it’s tasty.

The wine is a deep, slightly opaque red, with a brilliant ruby edge. It’s big. More so than what I’m used to seeing when I think of wine from this area of Spain (near Bierzo). When I stuff my nose into the glass, I smell a seductive mix of aromas – dark plum, black currants and berries, black pepper, tobacco and some felt tip marker. A juicy sip loads my mouth with a beautiful mix of that ripe fruit and it finishes with a firm dose of tannin.

This is my kind of wine. It’s funky, interesting and most of all, tasty. In a word, it’s delicious.

$50 at Marquis Wine Cellars here in Vancouver.

4    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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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

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

Brown Estate Wine Dinner – 2007 Napa Valley Chardonnay, 2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 Chaos Theory & 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

On Saturday night Shea and I headed out to Graham and Leah’s place in the ‘burbs with our better halves to cook up our much-anticipated Brown Estate wine dinner. When we visited the Browns back in July while we were in Sonoma and Napa for the Wine Bloggers’ Conference, Deneen and Coral by-passed awesome and went straight to best ever by giving the three us a great tour, taking us through a tasting of pretty much every wine they had on the property (paired with Coral’s selection of cheeses), giving us a tour of their cave along with tastes straight from the barrels and then topped it all off by handing us 4 bottles of wine to take along as we were headed out.

We told them we would get together and share the 4 wines over dinner. So, the past couple of weeks saw a flurry of emails go back and forth as we decided what would be served with each wine. We settled on a couple of nice cheeses from Les Amis du Fromage here in Vancouver with the Chardonnay, lamb kebabs with the 2001 Cabernet, freshly made pizzas with the 2006 Chaos Theory and finally some delicious tenderloin steaks with the 2004 Cabernet. I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed food and wine more than I did last Saturday.

OK, so the first wine out of the gate was the 2007 Napa Valley Chardonnay. Shea had brought along a couple of cheeses from Les Amis du Fromage that paired beautifully. They each brought out different flavours in the Chardonnay. If you can find it, buy this wine. It’s a gorgeous bottle of Napa Valley Chardonnay that also shows some of the crispness and complexity of a white Burgundy. Wow. Have a look.

$48 USD at the winery.

4 1/2 stars

The 2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (signed by the winemaker, David Brown) was up next. Graham had BBQ’d up some incredibly tasty lamb kebabs to have with the wine. The pairing really worked . The wine had gorgeous round berry and dark cherry fruit that showed a slightly stewed edge to the fruit (very slight) with its age. It was an amazing bottle – and thinking back, possibly my favourite of the night.

Price N/A.

4 1/2 stars

Next up was the 2006 Napa Valley Chaos Theory Cabernet-Zinfandel Blend. I can’t track down the exact percentages in this blend, but WOW, it adds up to a gorgeous bottle of wine. There’s the briary dark fruit from the Zin, with the dark and tannicly fruity edge of the Cab. It’s complex, gorgeous and incredibly fun to sip. It’ simply delicious.

We paired the Chaos Theory with a handmade pizza made up of freshly grilled veggies, a sauce I made when I got out to Graham’s (tomatoes, smoked tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, cracked chilis and freshly ground pepper), mozzarella cheese with a bit of crumbled feta cheese and black pepper.

$45 USD at the winery.

4 1/2 stars

… and finally,  we had the the 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with grilled tenderloin steaks. Wow, this worked. Thanks to Graham’s deft work on the grill, the meat was incredibly tender – cut with a fork tender. It was simply spiced with a brushing of olive oil (from Napa’s Spring Mountain Vineyards – thanks Ted!), freshly ground pepper and coarse salt.

It was incredible with its youthful tannins, cracked pepper sprinkled blackberry and dark currant flavours. It had a finish that went on as long as we wanted and left us longing for more. Like the others, it was a beautiful bottle of wine.

$65 USD at the winery.

4 1/2 stars

The evening was exactly what we wanted it to be, helped along by wines that were simply unforgettable – as much for their quality as our new-found attachment to the place. Brown Estate Winery is a special place, made so by the family that owns and nurtures it. We all felt a special attachment when we visited and can only hope that if you head down to Napa, you give them a call, drop by and have as much fun as we did.

2 comments

2006 Seghesio “Rockpile” Dry Creek Zinfandel

07062009I picked it up at K & L Wines in San Fran back in January while Graham and I were down there for ZAP. It’s a refined big big boy of a Zin. Its nose is a heady mix of blackberry jam, black licorice and pepper spice along with a bit of heat from the 15.6% booze. A sip lets loose a big mouthful of ripe blackberries along with the spice the nose hinted at and leads to a long mineral-edged finish.

To me, this is like the bigger brother of the 2007 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel everyone (including me) made all the fuss over back when Wine Spectator’s Top 100 listed it as the #10 wine of the 2008. Yes, it’s good.

Zin fans who like a bit of refinement with their ripeness should check it out. I’m glad I did.

$29 at K & L Wines in SF – $49.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 1/2 stars

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2005 Ridge Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains Santa Cruz Mountain Estate

01242009

NOTE: Graham opened this a couple of weeks before I opened mine. Here’s what he had to say. (Sean)

Resistance is like the Borg said “futile” when it comes to a wine like this. It’s amazing this one has lasted this long in the cellar. I ‘ve been debating opening this for a while and man, it did not disappoint.

We first tasted it last year at the Playhouse wine fest and were stunned at the nutty tropical goodness. Plain and simple – this is an amazing bottle of chardonnay.

The nose is full of sweet hazelnut and with hints of almond and some lemon as well.  Basically I could sit and swirl and sniff this wine for hours….

On to a couple of gorgeous sips – right off the bat there’s loads dried pineapple and apple that leads into sweet figs. The beautiful fig flavor continues long into the finish with some toasty caramel, some citrus and beautiful honey notes that go on and on.

No doubt about it. This wine is amazing. Love it. Want more.

~$50 when I bought it at a BC LDB store.

4 1/2 stars

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2005 Ridge Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains Santa Cruz Mountain Estate

01242009One of the best wines I’ve had in the last few years is… *gasp*.. a California Chardonnay. This wine. I was lucky enough to have tasted it a while ago and loved it then. It just blew me away with its layers of flavours and finish that lasted a week. So, when I had the chance to grab a bottle, I was all over it. Graham was there as well and grabbed one of his own (there were only a couple of bottles left).

Well, after Graham opened his a week or so ago, I was thinking it was time to pop the cork on my bottle. Tonight was the night.

Last year, the Wine Dictator named it their #2 wine for 2007 and rated it at 95 points. That’s some pedigree. 100% of the grapes come from Ridge’s vineyards in the mountains near Santa Cruz, South of San Francisco.

It carries 14.6% booze, but couldn’t be much more in tune. There’s no heat to it, just an incredibly balanced bunch of fruit and mineral.

What do I think? Well, it’s just as good, if not better than I remember it being. In the glass, it’s a golden yellow – it looks like apple juice. Initially, the nose is all about the hazelnuts… and then has honey and an earthy minerality to it. Flavours of candied pineapple, figs, almonds, honey and mineral-edged hazelnuts dominate. It’s amazing in its complexity and length. Its finish lasts minutes. If all Chardonnay tasted this good, I’d probably never drink anything else. It’s incredibly sexy in that “I would marry you”, sort of way. This is a wine you want to spend some time with.

This is seriously good stuff. Amazing, actually. Wow.

~$50 when I bought it at a BC LDB store.

4 1/2 stars

2 comments

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