Archive for the 'over $50' Category

2003 Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley Oak Knoll District

Napa Valley Cabernet is pricey, but let’s face it – it can be bloody tasty stuff. At its best, it’s unbelievably good and complex, with flavours that build in layers and challenge your wine brain… At its worst, it’s slutty, has too much booze and dies half-way through the flavours you expect to build – like premature wine-aculation (a New World trend of the last bunch of years).

This wine is not unbelievable, but leans toward the better side of Napa Cab. I had it with a nice steak tonight and it made me a happy boy. The nose is a full dose of dark berry, plum, cassis, vanilla and spice. A sip gives up jammy dark berry fruit, blueberry and a long oak-edged vanilla finish.

This is pretty good stuff, folks. I visited the winery years ago and was an instant fan. This didn’t quite live up to my memories, but it’s a bottle of Cabernet goodness.

It’s a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot to add some colour and depth, carrying 14.1% booze.

$60 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars


2003 Russell Creek Winemakers Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley

I’ve had a good week – I started it off by finding a new apartment and that was followed by weather that allowed me to get out on my road bike 3 times after work. The way the weather has been in Vancouver, that was a total treat.

So, in my “once a day, every day, give yourself a treat” frame of mind, I decided to open this bottle that had been in my cellar since my trip to Walla Walla last year.

What can I say? It’s a great bottle of wine. It’s deep and dark… has a nose that offers up spice, candied dark berries and plum, with a mouthful of dark fruit that is like velvet on the tongue. It has a finish that lasts until the next sip.

I know I over-use it sometimes, but this, folks, is a sexy bottle of wine. I picked it up in the winemaker’s odd “winery” at the edge of the old airport in Walla Walla. I really liked the winemaker, Larry Krivoshien.. and obviously he’s turning out some bloody tasty stuff.

Wow. Yum. Try it if you can find it.

~$50 USD at the winery.

4 1/2 stars

1 comment

2005 Thibault Liger-Belair, Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, Le Clos de Prieuré

I picked this wine up a while back and recently cracked it open. Did I like it? Yep… a lot. This wine is a gorgeous Pinot Noir from the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits in Burgundy.

The nose shows ripe berry and cherry fruit as well as 5-spice and cranberry tartness. A juicy sip gives up a bunch of ripe berry fruit, gorgeous layers of vanilla, cherry, licorice spice, minerality and a finish that lasts into the minutes. Wow. I loved this wine.

As an aside, it made a heck of a food-wine match with grilled salmon. Red wine and fish do work… especially if the fish is a fattier type (like salmon). Yum.

If you feel like a really tasty bottle of PInot and have an Old World bent, try it. Heck, even if you’re a New World fan, this wine tosses enough fruit against the tongue to keep you happy as well. It’s bloody good.

~$60 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars

No comments

2000 Paitin Barbaresco, Sori Paitin

Big pillowy drifting flakes fill the sky here in Vancouver tonight. Winter may technically be over, but someone forgot to tell the Big Guy up there… I was just starting to get into the idea of road cycling a few times a week and now I’m looking out on white streets. Spring turned into Winter in a matter of hours. I really need to move somewhere warmer. What happened to global warming dammit?

OK, so what better thing to do tonight than write up a great red wine (OK, I could think of a few things)… We drank this the night before I left Italy and it was one of the better wines I had while was there. I bought it on a suggestion from Paolo at the Banco de Vino in Pollenzo. God bless him.

What else can I say, but holy crap? This wine was pretty much everything I want in a Barbaresco (or a wine, for that matter). The nose was all berries, cherry liqueur, violets and tar. The flavours were amazing – open berry fruit, with the sexy cherry liqueur and an insanely long finish that led to the next sip (and with this, how long could I wait, really?). This wine is the shit, frankly. It just drank so well. I’m sure it could age, but wow… I want to drink it every night.

If you can find it, give it a go. I’d be surprised if you don’t love it.

~ 30 Euros, if you can find it.

4 1/2 stars

1 comment

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


2003 McKinlay Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Special Selection

03222008.jpgOld World… New World – if it’s good I love it. It’s my birthday week and I had the Vincent Girardin Volnay the other night – this wine represents the flip side. They are so different, but have so much in common. Pinot Noir is called the “heart-break grape”, but when it’s done well, it reminds wine-makers why they chase the Pinot dragon.

While 2005 was an overall great vintage in Burgundy, 2003 was a bit more of a challenge in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Some folks made overripe wines from the warm weather of that summer. Not so much with George Angus McKinlay. He seems to have pretty much hit a triple, if not a home run with this wine.

It’s a beautifully balanced 14.3% bottle of Willamette goodness from one of the area’s smallest, yet most beloved wineries (there were only 330 cases made). The colour is a beautiful medium-dark Pinot red… with the nose giving off a bunch of blackberry and cherry syrup with a hint of Coca-Cola and flowers…It sounds like a high-school date, but is so much more fulfilling (OK, maybe compared to my high-school dates). A sip gives up berry and cherry juice, licorice and a bunch of earthy fine tannins on the long juicy finish.

This wine reminds me that I should head down to Portland and the Willamette Valley area sometime this summer. I love this style of Pinot.

$60 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars

No comments

2005 Vincent Girardin Volnay, Vieilles Vignes

03202008.jpgIt’s been a heck of a week. I started it getting over a cold, then got bloody busy… hence the lack of wine writing. I’m thinking I’ll remedy that this weekend.

Well, that’s going to start with this wine… In the midst of a craving for a good Pinot Noir, I paid Kitsilano Wine Cellars a visit tonight and picked up a couple of wines from France’s Cote d’Or in Burgundy. Both are from 2005, which was a great vintage in the region, producing wines of ripeness and structure.

First up is the Volnay from Vincent Girardin. It’s pretty much exactly what I was looking for… not a perfect wine, but it’s bloody good.

The nose is a mix of black tea, dark cherry and earth. An eager sip gives up a round mouthful of cherry juice laced with tea, citrus and earthy minerality. It’s got a smoothly tannic finish that leads into the next sip.

It’s bloody tasty stuff folks. This is the wine equivalent of the sultry dark-haired French girl sitting outside a café in a red dress playing hard to get, but not too much so. In the end, you go home happy.

$65 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars


2008 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival – Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella vertical tasting

02262008.jpgI’m pretty excited about some of the tastings I’ll be attending at this year’s Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival… most of all the one I participated in today, the Bertani Amarone Vertical. I’ll let their words do the talking:

Carefully selected grape bunches are hand-harvested in Bertani’s best Valpolicella vineyards in Fumane, Marano and the Novare Valley. Unlike most leading Amarone producers, who buy grapes from outside growers, Bertani’s harvest originates entirely in the firm’s own vineyards. With their marly-calcerous soil sheltered by surrounding woodland, these vineyards offer the ideal terroir for nurturing the quality of grapes necessary for producing a world-class Amarone. Light appetizers will be served at the end of the tasting, which takes guests all the way back to the 1964 vintage.

That’s 1964 people… I can’t say I’ve ever had a wine older than me, so I was pretty worked up over the chance to taste these wines. What can I say? They lived up to my expectations.

Bertani has been around in the Verona area of Italy since 1857 and started making Amarone somewhere back around 1957 (the presentation at the tasting mentioned 1957, ’58 and ’59). I knew that Amarone is made from choice grapes (for Bertani this is usually a blend of 80% Corvina Veronese and 20% Rondinella) dried on mats for up to 4 months, but I didn’t know that after a 50-day fermentation in glass-lined cement vats, they spend 6 years – many of the older wines spent 10 years or more – in large (5,000 litre) Slovenian oak barrels before being bottled and spending another year aging at the winery before release.

02272008.jpgToday, Lorenzo from the winery took us through wines from the 2000, 1990, 1983, 1975, 1973, 1967 and 1964 vintages. All of them had a still-vibrant red colour with a slight brick-ish orange edge to the older ones. Here are my quick notes:

2000 vintage: The youngest of the bunch and still tight. The nose was all spicy violets, raisins and cherry. The tasty flavours showed intense spicy cherry candy along with licorice spice leading into a firm tannic finish. (4 – 4.5 stars)

1990 vintage: The nose was a sexy mix of dark plum, ripe cherry and spice. The flavours were spicy dark cherry, leather and dark chocolate-coated raisins, which lead into a cherry brandy finish. Tasty stuff! (4.5 stars)

1983 vintage: An intense and perfectly-aged nose of dark chocolate, raisin and licorice-edged dark cherry cola. The flavours were soft dark cherry fruit with leather and spice. Complex stuff. (4.5 stars)

1975 vintage: Pretty different from the ’83… it actually seemed younger. Its nose was a fresh and intense mix of plum, raisin, walnut/cherry liqueur and spice. At this point I was thinking, “Jesus, I love Amarone!“. The flavours pretty much mirrored the nose with walnuts, cherry liqueur and bitter chocolate with a finish that went on for minutes. (4.5 stars)

1973 vintage: This actually seemed younger than the ’75… Its nose had a schwack of cherry brandy, prune and a meaty edge to its spice. Wow. Still young! Complex and sexy. (4.5 stars)

1967 vintage: The wine seemed to really change with the next 2… there were new layers of flavours and aromas. The fruit started to disappear a bit, being replaced with the leather, nut, spice and herbs. This was one gorgeous bunch of grape juice! There was a distinct walnut edge to the cherry brandy and the long luxurious finish. I want to drink this every day. (4.5 – 5 stars)

1964 vintage: This one was really interesting. I got a bit of burnt rubber on the nose… of course it also had the cherry brandy/raisin thing going on, but the nuts, tobacco, leather and spice were really evident. I loved it.

In order, here are my picks:

  1. 1967
  2. 1964
  3. 1973
  4. 1983
  5. 1990
  6. 1975
  7. 2000

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to visit the folks at Bertani when I’m in the Verona area at the beginning of April. I’d love to see what else they have stored away. I’ll say it again. I love Amarone.

The wines are available in Vancouver through Select Wine Merchants Ltd. ( The prices for these ones? Well, let’s just say that if you have to ask…


1996 Ridge California Zinfandel, Nervo Vineyard ATP

02062008.jpgI’m sitting here organizing my notes on the 2008 ZAP Festival that Graham and I were all over last weekend… I think I’ll hold off until Saturday so I have enough time to get it all down here on the site. What I will do is write up one of the highlights of last week. When we visited the Ridge Lytton Springs Winery, we picked up this bottle to quaff in SF.

Ridge’s Advance Tasting Program (ATP) is a winery-only program based on limited production wines in quantities ranging from 5 to 55 barrels. I forgot to take note of the amount of the Nervo they produced, but this blend of 88% Zinfandel, 8% Petite Sirah, 4% Carignane has 14.3% booze and was bloody tasty.

Wow… Who says Zinfandel can’t age?? Well, if anyone can do it, that would be Ridge. It’s still got medium-dark red colour, with a slight orange edge from the 12 years of age. The nose is a sexy mix of cool stewed cherries, plums and Chinese 5 spice. Sip after sip gave up layers of dark chocolate, cherries, light berry, spice and pepper. The finish lasted for minutes.

If you can find this wine and you have a curious palate, grab it. Unless you’ve had a great Zin with some age, it’ll be unlike anything you’ve tasted.

$40 USD at the winery.

4 1/2 stars

No comments

1997 Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico

01072008.jpgOK, so I’ve been a bit slack about posting over the holidays, so it’s time to get back to business here. Rachel brought this one back from Italy in her luggage… God bless her!

It’s a type of wine I LOVE, Amarone. If you’re not familiar with it, Amarone is made by harvesting ripe grapes and allowing them to dry (traditionally on straw mats). This concentrates the remaining sugars and flavors, giving the wine a sexy raisin and fig edge to its flavours.

What was this one like? Red. GOOD. ‘Nuff said… OK, maybe not. It deserves more than that. This was one of those wines that you want to last; I ended up taking tiny sips and sniffing it again and again. It was seductive. A while back, the Gambero Rosso awarded it their prestigious Tre Bicchieri designation.

It was a medium red in the glass with a slightly orange-ish edge (10 years will do that). What really made me love this wine was its nose. There were raisins, plums, cherries and spice. Each sip revealed all that, with a spicy-smoky edge to its long finish.

Man, I like this wine stuff!

* Price unknown… bought in Italy.

4 1/2 stars


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