Archive for the 'Aussie Wine' Category

Best Damn Tasting Ever! presented by the Seacove Group and New World Wines

OK, so I’ve been really bad with posting lately… and rightfully so. I’ve got a life and a full-time, outside wine job. I’ve been feeling badly about the lack of posts, so I’ve resolved to writing at least a few of ’em a week for the next while. Not only does that accomplish the more-posts-in-a-month goal, but it also makes me document the wine I drink, which was the original idea behind this site.

Well, now that that’s out there, I’ll get down to the task at hand. A few weeks ago, I received an invite from my friend Paul Watkin, who works with the Seacove Group, a wine agency in town for a tempting-sounding trade tasting being held at the Metropolitan Hotel.

The tasting was put on by the Seacove Group and the New World Wines agencies – and featured a diverse selection of wines from pretty much everywhere. There were wines from Italy, France, Spain, New Zealand, Portugal and the USA. Graham and I made our way around the room and I can honestly say there wasn’t a single wine we didn’t enjoy. Both agencies have some stunners, so I’m just going to give you our top 5’s from each.

Graham’s picks from Seacove:

  • Champagne de Venoge Brut Milliesime 1995 – Stunning length with beautiful citrus and lees.
  • Livon Braide Alte 2006 – Loved this wine.  Superbly crisp with nice pear and lime and solid mineral finish.  I imagined this with mussels or clams.  Mmmmm….
  • Egelhoff Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 – A gorgeous Napa Cab with great black fruit.  This wine was like someone ground a pepper mill over the glass.  Excellent stuff.
  • Chateau des Graviers AOC Margaux “Quintessence” 2001 – Delicious.  Great nose of tea, marker and ground coffee.  Finishes up with some nice graphite and green leaf.
  • Moncellior Pinot Noir 2008 – I really liked this one.  Nice full raspberry nose with great acidity and some nice green stalk on the finish.  This is a great value in the Otago Pinots for $35.

My picks from Seacove:

  • 1995 Champagne de Venoge Brut Millesièmme -Wow. Just wow. So graceful and tasty.
  • 2006 Signorello Winery Padrone – OK, it’s expensive, but it’s also really bloody tasty. Massive black fruit and pepper are followed by equally massive tannins. This one needs time.
  • 2005 Van Zeller Douro CV “Curriculum Vitae” – Elegant dark plum and berry fruit lead to a loooong finish. Pretty wonderful stuff.
  • 2003 Egelhoff Wines Cabernet Sauvignon – Great dark fruit and black pepper flavours made me want to go back for more.
  • 2006 Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional – Dark fruit and chocolate with a finish that lasted minutes. I love this wine.

Graham’s picks from New World Wines:

  • Barnett Vineyards Merlot Spring Mountain 2006 – Amazing spice on this wine.  Anise and Cinnamon with gorgeous red fruit.  Loved it.
  • Darioush Winery Signature Series Shiraz 2005 – Deep intense black fruit with nice black pepper and firm tannins.
  • DeLille Cellars D2 2006 – This was soft and sexy goodness.  Gorgeous red fruit and silky finish.
  • Betz Family Winery Clos de Betz 2006 – Beautiful dark chocolate, black fruit and some nice mint on the finish. – Loved it.
  • Flowers Vineyard & Winery  Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006 – Elegant, with beautiful cranberry and currant.  Great length with a bit a brown sugar on the finish.

My picks from New World Wines:

  • 2005 Darioush Winery Signature Series Shiraz – So good! Immense dark fruit, dark chocolate and black tea flavours lead out to a long-long finish.
  • 2006 Barnett Vineyards Merlot Spring Mountain – Dark chocolate and plum fruit with a toasty edge. So good.
  • 2006 Betz Family Clos de Betz – It may be starting to sound like a record on repeat, but dark chocolate and blackberry flavours made me want more.
  • 2006 DeLille Cellars D2 – Mouth-filling dark fruit. Yum.
  • 2004 Lail Vineyards Blue Print – This had a hint of bell pepper to its dark fruit and spice. Bloody good.

2007 Henry’s Drive Pillar Box Red, Padthaway

01202009So, my friend Eric phoned me earlier tonight while in his local LDB store asking what to buy. We ran through a few choices (finding none – it WAS over the phone) before he mentioned that while they didn’t have the Pillar Box Shiraz, the Red was in stock. I told him to go with it… and because I like to taste what I recommend, I went out and picked one up myself.

I opened this after dinner while watching the Canucks game against San Jose (loss, dammit)… and what can I say? I really like it. It definitely stands firmly on the “slutty” side of the fence, but also offers up enough depth of flavour that it’s an interesting quaff.

The nose shows ripe, stewed black cherry, along with black currant and berries with a bit of earth. A sip leads to an explosion of dark fruit (think black cherry, blackberry, blueberry, etc.) and a long-lasting, slightly boozy (it weighs in at 15% alcohol) finish.

Do I like it? Yep. But, you have to be in the mood for a Robert Parker-styled fruit bomb to love it. I was in the mood for that… and it’s a great value at under $20 CDN.

$19.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

No comments

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):


1996 E&E Black Pepper Shiraz, Barossa Valley

With a big birthday comes a big bottle of vino.   After much debate I decided to celebrate my departure from the “thirtysomethings” with this beauty.  I’ve had it in the cellar for in the neighbourhood of ten years and decided it was time.  The minute it headed into the decanter, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed – dark chocolate, cinnamon and dark berry were immediately evident as I carefully avoid the thick and chunky sediment in the bottle.

With kids in bed, it was time.  Into the shiraz glass, and “oh-my” in a word or two.  Some nice ruddy bricking into a deep ruby purple in the glass, I had to resist finding somewhere to hide in the house and hoard the bottle.  A few swirls, and there was more cinnamon with intense black currant that was accompanied by a bit of mint and some fresh pepper as the evening went on.  From there it was juicy red currant, raspberry and ripe plum with a nice viscous and juicy feel in the mouth.  The finish was all about length… bitter chocolate, nettle, herbs and some almost floral bits (violets?) as I sat and savoured.

Happy birthday to me indeed!

Current release $95 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 1/2 stars
and some very happy dark purple teeth.


2006 Henry’s Drive Pillar Box Reserve Shiraz, Padthaway

I tried this wine last weekend at one of my favourite spots in Vancouver to grab a glass of wine, Salt Tasting Room and had been keeping an eye out for it since then. Well, while I was at BC’s main LDB store tonight, I happened to spot it in an aisle display… and immediately grabbed a few bottles.

When I tasted it at Salt, what struck me was the way the wine’s flavours exploded in my mouth after the initial taste. I was out to see if my taste buds had somehow fooled me, or if this was the real deal – a wine under $30 CDN that really rocked my world. Well folks, it really does rock my world.

I haven’t been drinking many Aussie Shirazes lately. Not because I don’t like them (hell, they’re some of the best wines I’ve ever had), but there’s so many wines out there to try and I had really gone whole hog on the Shiraz in the past.

This one hails from the cooler Padthaway region and its terra rossa soil. All I can say is that it’s a helluva’ wine for the money and has me thinking Shiraz again.

The nose is full of dark cherry syrup and brown sugar along with some felt tip marker, earth and heat (the wine is an astoundingly balanced 16% booze). The flavours are initially all about the leathery dark cherries, but then that explodes in a way that you have to try to know what I’m writing about. Suddenly a burst of dark cherry, licorice and pepper take over the mouth and last for a long and lingering minute before leaving you wanting another sip.

This is my deal wine of the moment. Maybe I just needed a taste of a good and reasonable Shiraz, but this is totally doing it for me right now.

$24.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 1/2 stars

1 comment

2006 d’Arenberg Hermit Crab Viognier-Marsanne, McLaren Vale

I picked this up on a whim on the way home from work today to pair with some grilled sockeye salmon…. and “Yum”.

It really delivers all I thought it might offer up. There’s a mouthful of rich pear, orange and mineral flavours packed in there along with the pear and marmalade nose. The finish (at room temperature) has a slightly sweet fruit edge, which is delicious.

This is a heckuva’ white value, folks. I can’t say there’s a white Rhone-style blend out there that I like better, especially for the moolah.

$24.99 at Liberty Wine Merchants.

4 stars

No comments

Step Rd. Blackwing Pinot Noir-Chardonnay, NV

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

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

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

~$26 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 stars


2007 See Saw Wine Company See Saw Semillon – Sauvignon

To be shamelessly cliché, when I found this wine I thought the old Reese’s peanut butter cup commercial where the guy with the peanut butter rounds the corner and collides with the guy eating the chocolate. Bliss ensues. This wine combines two of my favourite things in the world of white wine: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Australian Semillon. How could this possibly fail?

Well the meeting is a positive one as the wine highlights the best traits of both wines. An 85 / 15 split, the first few sniffs are full of grass and lime, followed up by tasty tropical fruit, some guava and a bit of passion fruit/grapefruit on the tongue. The finish has mineral and more of the Semillon’s grassy goodness.

I had this with some light cheese and veg, and also on its own and either way this is a good value find. As it’s in the price range of the Kim Crawford, it’s a reasonable choice if you want a little less “power” on the Sauv Blanc traits and a little more on the green end of things.

4 stars

$19.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

No comments

2002 Dowie Doole Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale

Wine review as haiku:

Aussie Cabernet
Sexy currant goodness, yum
Long juicy finish.

‘Nuff said

$25 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 stars

No comments

2001 Yalumba The Octavius, Barossa Old Vine Shiraz

03252008.jpgMarch 25th is my Birthday, so you know that means a good bottle of wine… Last night I headed to Kitsilano Wine Cellars to see what might fit the bill I wanted a wine that was drinkable now and would match the Canada prime New York steak I had picked up at Armando’s in the Granville Island Public Market (if you live in Vancouver, you have to go check them out).

As usual, I was checking out the Italian wines when I went in… but pretty much all of the higher-end ones were just too damned young to drink. Next up were the French (I was really looking for a good Bordeaux). Again, nothing really grabbed my eye. So, it was onto the New World.. All the Napa wines (the oldest was a 2002) would have been tighter than a… well, let’s leave it at that. Onto the Aussies.

I know. Anyone who has read this site knows I’m a bit down on the Aussie wines as of late. This choice may surprise you, but when they do it right they can make a bloody good wine. They make Grange and all… and they make this one. Robert Parker gave it a healthy 98 points, and although I don’t pay that too much credit, I have to admit that it helped make up my mind.

Kits Wine’s ever-patient Kirk and I perused their choices and after much humming hah-ing, settled on the wine you see up in the title. It’s a bit of a cult wine from the Land Down Under… and after tasting it last night, I’d say rightly so. It was just what I needed.

To call this tasty would be like calling Tiger a decent golfer. I’d go on and on about how much I liked this wine, but I’ll just sum it up; this was one of the best wines I’ve had in the last 5 years. Period. It’s a bit of a cult wine and I now understand why.

It’s made from old vines – most 70 – 100 years in age – and has a nose that has layers of black cherry, plum, licorice and floral violet. Amazing sip after sip exploded with dark chocolate, plum, vanilla, oppulent dark cherry and a meaty edge (which definitely helped it pair with the steak).

The finish is what really helped it stand out for me. It went on for minutes. Wow, this is what wine is about for me – love in a glass. This is a fantastic wine. It’s polished, balanced and left me wanting more. What more could I ask?

~$130 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars


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