Archive for the 'Chenin Blanc' Category

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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2007 Montlouis Sur Loire Sec Cuvée Touche-Mitaine, Le Rocher des Violettes

08282009OK, so a couple of days ago, fresh from loving the Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc, I wandered into Kitsilano Wine Cellars and Kirk told me a had to compare it to a Loire Valley Chenin. Of course I was game for that, so I grabbed this bottle.

It’s got a nose that is a lot like a Chablis – light vanilla, lemon rind and stone. The flavours are loaded with juicy melon, lemon, peach and a finish that’s like licking a rock. The finish lasts for minutes. This is quality stuff.

The Wine Dictator descibes it as, “Round and medium-weight, with peach, almond, fig and mineral notes that linger softly on the finish.” I’m not getting all of that, but I do really like this bottle of wine.

If you can find it, give it a try. This is an under-appreciated varietal and a really tasty bottle of grape juice.

$28 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 stars


2008 Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc

08252009OK, so let’s keep the BC wines posts going for at least one more wine. This is one that came completely out of left field for me. When we visited Quails’ Gate Winery on the weekend and Peter, our very friendly tasting room host offered a taste of this wine, I was thinking, “Yeah, yeah… a BC Chenin Blanc. This’ll suck.” One sip and I was thinking, “Holy crap, this is tasty stuff.”

It’s got a nose that offers up a heap of crisp pear, grapefruit and a slate-like mineral edge. A big sip gives a load of the pear, melon, grapefruit and a long finish. Wow. There is a bit of blending going on here – there’s 92% Chenin Blanc and 8% Sauvignon Blanc in there to add a bit of fresh crispness. It’s a great bottle of wine to sip with a summer salad, fish, shellfish, poultry or even as an aperitif.

It was funny. The secret’s out. When we got back to Candace’s parent’s place her Dad, Robert, wanted me to try a white he liked… he poured me a glass of this wine. Like it? I totally agree. I really like it.

As they proudly point out on their site, “Quails’ Gate 2007 Chenin Blanc was the exclusive British Columbia wine served to US President Barack Obama during his luncheon with Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday in Ottawa.” It accompanied menu selections including Pacific coast yellowfin tuna and maple and miso cured Nunavut wild Arctic char. Mmmm… sounds like a great pairing.

If you’re lucky enough to find this wine in your local shop, grab a few bottles and take it home to enjoy. You’ll be glad you did.

$18.99 at the winery.

4 stars


2006 Antech Blanquette de Limoux Brut Grande Réserve

I’ve been drinking a lot of this wine lately – it’s pretty much my go-to bubbly without being a full-on Champagne (and without their larger price tag). I only recently realized that I hadn’t written up this vintage. The last one I wrote up was the 2004. It comes from the limestone and gravel soil of France’s Limoux region near the sunny Mediterranean  – an area that has been making sparkling wines much longer than the better-known region of Champagne.

Well, like the 2004, it’s a blend of Mauzac, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc that adds up to sip after sip of crisp lemon-zested and honeyed pear and mineral-laced goodness. It’s fantastic on its own, or pairs really well with foods like grilled chicken, turkey burgers, salmon or some goat cheese.

Search it out. It’s well worth a try. You’ll be hooked. I am.

$26 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars here in Vancouver.

4 stars


2005 Champalou Vouvray

I had this tonight with a Porcini, red pepper and garlic pasta… and some good olive oil, of course. Damn, it was a nice pairing.

The nose of this Chenin Blanc-based wine is a slightly mellow mix of lemon, melon and stone. If you dribbled some cantaloupe and lemon juice and a touch of honey on a (clean) stone, you’d get what the flavours of this wine are about. It’s got a slightly round, mineral-laced finish. Yum. That pretty much sums it up.

If you’re in the mood for something different and get a chance to try this, do it. It’s tasty stuff.

~$25 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 stars

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2004 Antech Brut Blanquette de Limoux Grande Réserve

Y’all should know by now that I’m a fan of anything tasty and bubbly. Thanks to the folks at Kitsilano Wine Cellars, I’ve gotten hooked on the Znovin Classic. Recently Matt introduced me to this wine.

The winery has been making Blanquette, the original French bubbly for over 500 years, which predates Dom Perignon’s “discovery” of Champagne by over 150 years. The family’s vineyards are on the slopes surrounding the town of Limoux, near the Mediterranean Sea.

OK, can I just say that this wine is amazing for the money? It’s a blend of Mauzac, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. What it adds up to is sip after sip of crisp honeyed pear and mineral-laced goodness. Its crisp-ness would make it a great pairing for many foods, from seafood (salmon) to Thai or as an aperitif.

It’s more complex than the Znovin… more so than the extra $6 would imply. That’s not to say that the Znovin isn’t a great value. It just speaks volumes as to what a find this wine is. It’s actually tastier than some Champagnes I’ve had recently – at less than half the price.

Wow, tasty.

$23 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars