Archive for the '4.0 stars' Category

2006 EIEIO Cuvee I Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

My recent trip to Esquin Wine Merchants in Seattle enabled me to stock up on my supply of Oregon Pinots among other treasures. Our ongoing discussion of value Pinot Noir is here in spades.

The first one I picked up is EiEiO’s 2006 Cuvee I. On sale for $19.99, it fit nicely into the budget. EiEiO is a small winery located near Carlton, Oregon producing Pinot and Chardonnay to a total of about 1800 cases. Based on previous tastes of their wines, I was really looking forward to sipping and savoring it. I was not disappointed at all.

It may be purely anecdotal, or my shopping habits, but it seems that Oregon Pinots are moving towards a more finessed and elegant style from the bold boozy fruit bombs I remember from a few years back. A few swirls brought some barnyard and red fruit with some meaty and clay elements. It reminded me of a hybrid of some the things I like about some Burgundian and Russian River Pinots.

I gave it a little time and as we sipped, it just got better and better. I loved the rhubarb with some red currant and cherry notes backed up by a nice chalky transition into the firm acidity in a medium long finish. The currant and lingered and it balanced the nice tart finish from the acidity.

This is a really tasty treat and a great value to boot. (Some catchy packaging as well, with the notes to “Old Macdonald” scribed on the cork). This is the kind of offering I long for up here!  More Pinots to follow…

$19.99 at Esquin Wine Merchants in Seattle.

4 stars

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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.

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Napa/Sonoma trip – Day 1 in Napa Valley

Candace and I headed into the Napa Valley last Friday and I was really looking forward to the appointments I had set up. The weather was spring-warm perfect, the traffic was light and I was looking forward to tasting some of Napa’s Cabernet. First in line was the venerable Beaulieu Vineyard, located in Rutherford. The second appointment was set for 2pm at Whitehall Lane Winery and we were penciled in at Cuvaison Estate Wines in Calistoga for 4pm. It was going to be an afternoon full of (hopefully) good wine.

Beaulieu Vineyard:
I had only visited Beaulieu once before – way back in 1991. That was also my first visit to Napa Valley. What I really remember about the visit was that, back then, like many guys in their early 20’s I was into the whole Seattle music scene and had the hair to match. It was halfway down my back. I know… I know, but hey – it was the early 90’s. The point of mentioning this was that many of the wineries, upon seeing 4 long-haired musician-looking types headed their way, lived up to the much-feared wine snob stereotype – they treated us like crap. We were there to learn, sample and buy. They made that much less pleasant than it should have been.

Not Beaulieu. To this day, I have a soft spot for them because of the open and friendly way we were greeted and led through a wine sampling education. It was what a visit to a winery should be – FUN. They helped send me down the road to being the wine geek I am today. I don’t remember the names of the nice folks from that visit, but will fondly remember our tasting with Robert last Friday.

We were greeted at the door with a sample of their 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and then made our way to their tasting bar and through their Maestro Collection and their Napa Valley Cabernets. Here’s a list and quick rating of what we tasted:

  • 2006 Maestro Petite Sirah ($32) – 3.5 – 4 stars
  • 2005 Maestro Ensemble Red ($27) – 4 stars
  • 2006 Maestro Zinfandel ($30) – 4 stars
  • (Unsure of the vintage) Tempranillo ($?) – 4 stars

The Cabernets:

  • 2006 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) – 4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2005 Reserve Maestro Cabernet No. 1 ($65) – 4.5 stars
  • 2005 Reserve Maestro Cabernet No. 2 ($65) – 4.5 stars (my favourite of this flight)
  • 2006 Reserve Maestro Cabernet No. 2 ($65) – 4.5 stars

After tasting these, Robert took us down to the members’ tasting lounge and seated us in front of 4 glasses. Into those he poured:

  • 2006 Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir ($45)
    Beautiful colour with elegant ripe plum and cherry flavours.
    4 stars
  • 2003 Tapestry Reserve ($? – a classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec)
    Balanced ripe fruit with firm yet silky mineral-laced tannins.
    4 stars
  • 2006 Tapestry Reserve ($60)
    Bigger and earthier with a toasty edge to the dark cherry, black currant and dark chocolate flavours. Lots of tannin. Very tasty.
    4.5 stars
  • 2006 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($115)
    Really good. Lots of complexity. I got licorice, blackberry, black currant and vanilla spice on the nose. The flavours showed all that along with some coffee. The finish lasted minutes and was very firm. It has the structure to last for quite a while and will be best in a few years.
    4.5 stars

Whitehall Lane Winery:
Next up was our 2pm appointment with Katie. This is a much smaller family operation compared to Beaulieu. It was bought by Tom Leonardini Sr. in 1993 and has seen extensive changes to the winery and the equipment since that time. The winery owns roughly 110 acres of vineyards in the Napa Valley including the Leonardini Vineyard in St. Helena and the Rutherford West Vineyard in, you guessed it, Rutherford.

Katie poured us a sample of their Chardonnay and led us out of the tasting room and into the winery. We watched them bottling their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and had a quick tour of the member’s lounge and a beautiful view of the surrounding vineyards from its deck. We then headed back to the tasting room to sample their wines. Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley ($16)
    Crisp acidity and nice citrus and melon fruit.
    3.5 – 4 stars
  • 2007 Chardonnay, Carneros ($28)
    Again – nice and crisp with pear and citrus with some vanilla from the oak.
    3.5 – 4 stars
  • 2007 Pinot Noir, Carneros ($28)
    Very light with nice red cherry and a bit of citrus and spice.
    3.5 stars
  • 2006 Merlot, Napa Valley ($28)
    Black cherry and berry with a floral edge lead to nice vanilla and spice on the finish.
    4 stars
  • 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($40)
    Nice tannins edge the ripe blackberry and black currant fruit with earth and spice on the finish.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($60)
    This is a blend of fruit from both of their Cabernet vineyard sites in the Napa Valley. It really grabbed my taste buds with its ripe fruit and elegant balance. Flavours of black currant, dark cherry and berry led to a spicy vanilla-tinged finish from the oak. It’s still quite young and will be best in a year or so (or more).
    4.5 stars
  • 2006 St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($60)
    This was Candace’s favourite wine of the day, with a really nice nose that hinted at the ripe fruit to come. A sip literally explodes in the mouth with jammy back currant and berry fruit, followed by a long and elegant finish with very firm tannins.
    4.5 stars
  • 2006 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($60)
    This wine was a very interesting counterpart to the St. Helena Cab. It tasted of the “Rutherford Dust” the area is known for. This also had really elegant fruit and a long spicy finish. I really liked this one.
    4.5 stars

All in all, I’d have to say that I really liked the Cabs we tasted. As a matter of fact, I liked them enough that I took a few with me when we left.

Cuvaison Estate Wines:
Last July when I was down in Napa and Sonoma for the Wine Blogger’s Conference, a mix-up left Graham, Shea and I standing in Cuvaison’s Calistoga parking lot wondering where the rest of the crew had disappeared to… only to realize that they had been bused down to Cuvaison’s newer Carneros facility. Well, I made a mental note to return to the cozy Calistoga tasting room the next time I was in the area – so with an appointment set up by my friend Paul Watkin of Seacove Wines (who represent Cuvaison in BC), here we were.

After a recent re-vamp, the room was not only cozy, but modern as well. We settled in at one of the tables and Gabe brought around the samples and filled us in on the geographical and winemaking facts for each wine. I was really impressed with what he poured:

  • 2007 S Block Chardonnay ($38)
    This had really gorgeous fruit – orange peel, melon and pineapple that led to a balanced and crisp finish. Very tasty.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 ATS Chardonnay ($54)
    Wow. There was an explosion of flavour on the finish of this wine – crème brulée, nut, apple and mineral-edged lemon. Initially, a sip gave peach, and citrus flavours, but man… that finish. Very good.
    4.5 stars
  • 2008 Mariafield Pinot Noir ($32)
    This Swiss clone gives bright purple cherry and cola flavours, with tonnes of spice and cherry cola on the finish.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2007 Block F5 Pinot Noir ($45)
    I really liked this wine. It was darker in colour than the Mariafield and struck me as having more going on. On the nose, there was blackberry and ripe red cherry. A sip gave me silky tannins that edged the black cherry cola, spice and floral flavours.
    4.5 stars
  • 2007 Zinfandel, Bald Mountain ($35)
    This wine surprised me. I know Cuvaison is known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but they also turn out a tasty Zinfandel. It had nice dark plum and berry on the nose. Flavours of ripe plum, dark berry led out to bramble spice and cracked pepper on the finish.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder ($45)
    Black pepper and ripe currant on the nose led to black pepper, currant and licorice flavours and a long finish.
    4 – 4.5 stars
  • 2006 Brandlin Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder ($85)
    This really caught me off guard. Its’ delicious! The nose showed purple berry, vanilla and licorice spice. The flavours were big and balanced – ripe dark berry, black currant, licorice and spice on the long, long finish. Wow.
    4.5 stars

I have to say that this is the way to spend a day in Napa Valley. Make a few appointments and really spend the time going through each winery’s wines. There are a lot of great wineries in the valley, so take some time to check them out.

8 comments

2005 Di Majo Norante Contado Aglianico, IGT

I paid a visit to the LDB Specialty Store in Surrey/Delta near my Mom’s place a couple of weekends ago and their product consultant, Jo-Ann suggested this wine. Being the Aglianico fan that I am, I thought I’d give it a try. For $20, what was there to lose?

Well, here’s where I give a big shout-out to Jo-Ann. This is a helluva’ value for the money. Since I’ve had it, I’ve been trying to find more. Graham grabbed me a few bottles out in the ‘burbs, but you’ll have to either have a search on the BC LDB site or ask your local retailers.

This wine comes from Italy’s small Molise wine region, which is sandwiched between Abruzzo to the north and Puglia and Campania to the south. The nose is really beautiful. It has licorice, pepper, violet and smokey dark cherry. A taste gave me a complex mix of everything the nose hinted at along with a brown sugar edge to the dark cherry fruit and a long nicely tannic and mineral-laced finish.

It’s dark, complex and well-made… and is a gold medal value find (if you can get your hands on it).

$19.90 here in BC at LDB stores.

4 stars

3 comments

2008 Calafate Pinot Noir Gran Reserva Bodegas Universo Austral – Patagonia, Argentina

With the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival nearing, we are seeing more wines from the feature nations (Argentina and New Zealand) arriving. This is a trend that meshes nicely with under $30 challenge with some good value Malbecs and blends arriving. (From what I’ve seen however there is a decided void in any Argentine whites arriving thus far).

Oddly enough, the first wine of this series I tried was this Pinot Noir. I am recognizing that my quest for a value Pinot under $20 is a bit of a Willy Loman pipe dream, but this one is a surprise in the right direction.

Hailing from Patagonia in Southern Argentina, this wine is a full and balanced offering that is really enjoyable. The nose has some nice spice – cloves and peppercorns with green pepper hints and some plum. On the palate is where the surprise really came home. A bright balance of nice tart cranberry balanced well by some plum and a bit of orange zest toward the back had me wanting more. The finish had some nice floral hints with some veggie/rhubarb and some cracked pepper. Nicely balanced and a decent length for the money.   All in all, you’ve got a tasty sip with this one.

Given the price and flavor value, it reminded me of the Casa Viva Pinot we had a few years ago during our WSET course that stood up against a Domaine Drouhin that was four times the price. Palate shift and experience might change that now, but that said, this is still darn tasty.

This is nice effort that for $17.99 I will definitely try again. Perhaps also to give a second go around to confirm, but also because I found it to pair really well with mushroom risotto.

I like surprises.

$17.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

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2007 Château de Paraza Minervois Cuvée Spéciale

Holy value alert! Along with a 2005 Di Majo Norante Contado Aglianico (review coming soon) I had a week ago, this is the best red wine value I’ve come across since I started the under-$30 challenge a while back.

This wine from Minervois, in the heart of France’s Languedoc region, is  just plain tasty. It’s a blend of Syrah (40%), Grenache (40%) and Mourvèdre (20%).

A sniff gives up some vanilla from the oak along with ripe red cherry and black pepper. A big ‘ol sip of this medium-coloured red shows juicy ripe blackberry, red cherry and plum fruit, licorice, black pepper and a nice minerality on the medium finish. It just feels good and rich in the mouth, unlike many reds in this price range.

It’s a heckuva’ value, folks. It may not blow you away, but I’m thinking it will make you raise your eyebrows and go, “Mmmm.” Not many red wines under $20 will do that these days.

$17.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

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2007 Paolo Scavino Rosso Vino da Tavola

Paolo Scavino is known as a producer of great Piemontese single vineyard Barolos. What we don’t often see over on this side of the pond are the other, more everyday wines he produces such as this Vino da Tavola. The reason for the generic name is that it’s a blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto and  Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m not 100% sure of the percentages of each, but it all adds up to a pretty tasty bottle of the juice.

It’s deep ruby-red in colour and its nose gives up dark cherry, mocha, violets and earth. The flavours? Well, I got black cherry,  black pepper and a rustic earthiness. That leads out to a medium-length finish showing ripe dark fruit with smooth tannins. Nice stuff.

All in all, it’s not the best $35 bottle of wine I’ve had recently, but I did really enjoy it (enough that I bought a second bottle to have sometime soon).

$35 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 stars

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2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle Horse Heaven Hills Sauvignon Blanc with D3TV

Yesterday, I headed over to the offices of D3 Security Management Systems to sit down with Clinton Kabler and taste a couple of wines. First up is this delicious Sauvignon Blanc.

$29 at Marquis Wine Cellars.

4 stars
(maybe even 4.5 – buy a bottle and decide for yourself)

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2008 Tantalus Vineyards Riesling, Okanagan Valley

After Taste BC 2010, I was determined to try to taste more of my home province’s wine over the next while. While there, we tasted a few wines in the under-$30 range that I figured needed a closer look. So, yesterday on my way home I dropped by Taylorwood Wines in Yaletown and grabbed this one, Tantalus’ 2007 Old Vines Riesling and the 2008 8th Generation Dry Riesling. They’re next in the series, but for now, let’s get down to this wine.

It’s worth noting that according to Tantalus’ web site, the 2008 growing season saw Tantalus Vineyards transition to organic vineyard practices. As a result, you can feel better about what you’re drinking from them and how they’re making their wines.

The nose was a zesty mix of lime, honey and stone, with a touch of petrol. A sip gave a burst of zingy lime, peach and a medium-long finish of stone and a bit of that petrol I mentioned. This is a heckuva’ Riesling for BC. I’m not sure I would have guessed that it was from here if I had tasted it blind. That’s not a bad thing.

If you’re a Riesling fan and are looking to try more of what BC has to offer, you really should give this wine a try. It’s delicious.

$22.90 at Taylorwood Wines.

4 stars

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2008 Fred Loimer Lenz Riesling

I picked this up the other night when I was in the mood for a crisp Riesling… something that happens fairly often. :)

The nose showed a tonne of zesty grapefruit, lime and dusty-flinty stone. I love Riesling. A sip gave a refreshing squirt of fresh grapefruit and lime and finished off with that I-just-licked-a-rock flinty minerality that stays around for a bit. It really hit my taste buds in the right way.

This wine really hit the spot, especially if you’re not in the mood for, say a Spätlese with its hint of sweetness – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Its crisp minerality is just right in that tangy kinda’ way. It’s a perfect aperitif wine (sitting around sipping on its own) and its crisp acidity means it would also pair very well with foods like sushi, squash soup or even a salad.

Tasty stuff… and oh yeah, drink more Riesling!

$22.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

No comments

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