Archive for the 'Unusual grapes' Category

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

The new lineup from Averill Creek Winery

Back in June of 2010, I tasted my way through Averill Creek Winery‘s lineup, so when they sent me samples from their current vintage I was looking forward to giving them a try. I was also looking forward to getting Graham’s take on the wines, so I set aside a couple of them for him.

I won’t get into the winery’s story. I did that in my last write-up of their wines, so you can always give it a read there. So, onto the wines we go.

apg2008 Pinot Gris: I really like this wine’s acidity… its crispness. Right now I’m sipping it with a bit of soft Gourmelin cheese (French) and it’s a great match. On the nose, the wine has crisp apple, citrus and a bit of flinty rock. A sip gives a rush of the crisp apple-driven acidity followed by some lush pineapple and lemon. The finish is capped with flinty stone and citrus. It’s quite a nice wine, that’ll go with a lot of food. $20 from the winery and at wine shops here in BC. 3.5 stars

Graham sampled the other 2 wines – the 2009 Pinot Grigio and the Marechal Foch-based 2008 Prevost. Here’s what he had to say:

Things have been looking up on some of the wines coming off the island, and I was really interested to give these two a go when we received these samples.

Right off the bat, I liked both of these wines.  They are lean with firm acidity and perhaps best of all food friendly and not trying to be something they’re not.  Not pumped up, over extracted or over-oaked – just nice clean fruit.

pglabelThe 2009 Pinot Grigio is reminiscent of an Italian Grigio.  It begs for some seafood or grilled chicken.  Light citrus and mineral on the nose.  It’s bursting with zingy acidity on the palate. I liked the tart green apple and lime, but wanted a little more before the tight mineral came back in the finish.  I had this with some grilled prawns and the clean style was a great match. $18 from the winery and at wine shops here in BC. 3.5 stars

Prevost-2008The 2008 Prevost was a pleasant surprise for me.  Built around Marechal Foch, which I have found it to be a bit hit and miss in the attempt to be bigger and bolder than it needs to be.  This is no such wine for certain.  The choice to blend as they have with some cab, leads to a different and enjoyable glass of red.

The nose has some cranberry and currant, backed up by a some earthy hints.  A few sips brings some rhubarb and more red currants.  Like the grigio, the Prevost has a prominent acidity that again – I liked.  It paired well with some grilled vegetable pasta.  Again, this is a well-priced choice. $20 from the winery and at wine shops here in BC. 3.5 stars

I would certainly give both of these a go again, particularly as the patio and grill time will soon be increasing.   (What can I say I’m meteorological optimist!)

Give’em a go.

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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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2009 Road 13 Winery + Vineyard Honest John’s White, Okanagan Valley

It’s been so long between posts… Well, it’s not like I haven’t been drinking wine. It’s just that I’ve just been too busy to sit down and write about them. Hi there. I received this wine as a sample this week, so that’s enough to prompt me back into the blog. Off we go.

Road 13 Winery + Vineyard – this winery dates back to 1998, when it was originally Golden Mile Cellars. I was a closet fan of their wines for years and after the name change and re-focusing on varietals, I’ve been curious to see how things would shape up.

Owners Mick & Pam Luckhurst took over the winery in 2003. Knowing that the “Golden Mile Bench” could be soon BC’s newest viticultural area, they wisely changed the name of the winery a *couple of years ago (*I could be a little off here, but visited them back in 2008 just before the change). According to the winery, the name Road 13 was chosen because, “Road 13 is the location of our winery and two of our vineyard sites: the Home and the Castle.

The blend is, as they say on the label, “Riesling heavy, which is always a good thing…“, and it is. I see this as a patio aperitif sipper that would also pair really well with salads and Asian foods.

What’s it like? Well, a big sniff gives up a floral (that’s the Gewurztraminer peeking through), tangerine citrus and ripe peach nose (from the botrytis-affected Riesling grapes). A sip shows the ripe peach/tangerine thing going on as well as some honeysuckle and mineral. There’s a bracing acidity on the finish that shows the promise of a food-friendly wine.

It’s good. Heck, for the money ($16.99 CDN), it’s really nice. I’ll be pointing folks to it when they ask for something local, good and patio-friendly over the next month or so (hopefully) of our sunny season.

$16.99 winery direct, BCLDB, VQA stores and select private retail and restaurant accounts in BC and Alberta.

3 1/2 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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Tasting the Averill Creek Vineyards Line-up

While I was at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival last month, I stopped by Averill Creek‘s table to say, “Hi” to Denis Chen, who I know from Kitsilano Wine Cellars. Well, it turned out he was also the VP Sales and Marketing for the winery and was at the festival pouring their wines. I had a taste and came away impressed. After my chat with Denis, he promised to set up a sample pack for me to review, so here we are.

Let’s get you some information about the winery. Its owner, Andy Johnston is a British-born doctor who had a practice in Alberta for around 30 years. He prepared for his gig as a winery owner and winemaker by apprenticing in the vineyards of Italy, France, Australia, and New Zealand. After retirement he bought his Cowichan Valley property in 2001.

Averill Creek is definitely an estate producer only. They have roughly 30,000 vines on a 30-acre vineyard in the Cowichan Valley north of Duncan on Vancouver Island. All of Averill Creek’s wines are estate grown and come from this vineyard.

I was supplied with what turned out to be most of their current line-up and have tasted them over the last week or so. Here are my thoughts:

  • 2007 Pinot Gris: A sniff gave up lemon and ripe peach juice drizzled on a rock. The flavours showed some really nice lip-smackingly crisp acidity along with mouth-filling lemon-peach flavours. This, folks, is a really nice food wine, but would also make for a great aperitif on a sunny patio. It’s a solid value ($18). 4 stars
  • 2009 Pinot Grigio: This 100% stainless-steel fermented version is the crisp, quaff-able wine of the portfolio. It’s got a schwack of bracing acidity along with the nice fruit and flinty minerality. You know when you buy a really nice bunch of green grapes, take them home and really enjoy stuffing one after another into your mouth? This is the vinous equivalent ($18). 3.5 stars
  • 2009 Gewurztraminer: This was a very pleasing light and crisp Gewurz. It had soft rose petal and lychee flavours followed up by a honey-edged citrus acidity and a nice mineral edge to the finish. Very nice and another really solid value ($18). 4 stars
  • 2007 Pinot Noir: This is really nice, in that ripe kinda’ way. Think blackberry tea with Chinese all-spice on the finish. The tannins are medium-soft, so this is a bit more of a quaffer than a food-pairing wine. I really enjoyed it though, especially for the price ($28). 4 stars
  • 2007 Prevost: On the nose, I got smoked bacon with a sour cherry edge. That pretty much followed up in the flavours that finished with a peppery edge ($18). 3 stars
  • 2009 Foch’eh: This wine was made using carbonic maceration, which kept the fruit cool and fresh and makes for a very Gamay-like wine, with its really nice bright cherry and strawberry fruit. A very nice simple sipper for summer. Cool it down a touch and enjoy on the patio. Again, another solid value ($18). 3.5 stars
  • 2008 Cowichan Black: This is made from 100% Vancouver Island blackberries and comes in at 16% booze. All in all, it was a bit puzzling to me. A sniff gave me sour, yeasty light berry fruit, but a sip showed some of the ripe blackberry flavours I was expecting… with a bit of a green edge to the finish. It’s decent, but a bit of a novelty wine in an otherwise solid lineup ($18 for 375 ml). 2.5 stars

Overall, I was fairly impressed. If anything, the wines pleasantly surprised me. The line-up is definitely geared towards providing value and they’re really hitting the mark, especially with the Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir. Would I buy them? Yes, I would.

If you’ve never tried wines from Vancouver Island and you want to support the BC wine industry, you should give them a try. They can be found at various wine shops around Vancouver (and the province of BC).

3 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

2007 Tenuta del Portale Starsa Aglianico, Basilicata IGT

blankI’m a big fan of Southern Italy’s native Aglianico grape. One of the more enjoyable wines in recent memory for me was an Aglianico from Mastroberardino. This is a rustic grape, that when done up right, can make everything from a decent table wine to a truly memorable bottle of juice with dark fruit and grippy tannins.

This falls closer to the former in that category, but is a tasty bottle of juice nonetheless. On the nose, there’s dusty cherry, dark plum and licorice spice. The silky tannins accompany full flavours of dark plum and cherry with a distinctly rustic and earthy edge. The medium finish has a nice plummy thing going on.

I know I have an Italian fixation, but this is a value wine with a capital “V”. At $22 CDN here in Vancouver, I can’t think of many reds at or below this price I’d rather drink. If you come across it, give it a go.

I couldn’t find an updated image of this wine’s new label, so the bottle you see to the right is just a blank placeholder. If you come across (or take) an updated pic of the bottle feel free to let me know.

* Full disclosure – I received this bottle as a sample from the Seacove Group.

$22.00 specialty listing here in BC.

3 1/2 stars

3 comments

2007 Domaine André et Mireille Tissot Trousseau “Singulier”, Jura

11201009Wow, what a cool bottle of grape juice. First off, let’s talk about the grape. Along with Poulsard, Trousseau is the principle red wine grape of France’s Jura region. From what I can find, it’s also known as the Bastardo grape and makes a red wine fairly light in colour with a lot of fruit on the nose and definite complexity on the palate.

Now onto the wine. The grapes for it are grown in low-yielding vineyards in Jura’s Montigny-Les-Arsures and are taken through a bio-dynamic vineyard-to-bottle process by winemaker Stéphane Tissot, using no chemicals or synthetic pesticides.

I tasted it at Kitsilano Wine Cellars yesterday night and immediately grabbed a bottle to bring home. It didn’t last long. Like many of the unique bottles I buy, it was on my mind and I couldn’t resist for long. I popped it open tonight to sip while we made a 4 cheese macaroni.

In the glass it’s a light, but kinda’ rich red in colour – as if a young Cab had been watered down. You’d almost mistake it for a Burgundy – though for me, it’s more along the lines of a good Gamay from Beaujolais.

The nose gives a big whiff of ripe red berry fruit, along with black pepper and an earthy edge. Wow, it really comes alive with a sip. The flavours are a juicy mix of that almost candied ripe red berry fruit along with pepper and a rustic earthy edge. It finishes with nice acidity and fine tannins. It’s ready to drink now, though I’d be interested to see how it ages.

I loved it… and if you have a bit of the wine gee in you, I’m sure you will as well. To quote Shea from JustGrapesWine.com, “Man it’s so good – I could drink a case of this stuff.” I agree. Completely.

$58 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars

2 comments

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.
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