Archive for the 'over $50' Category

Brown Estate Wine Dinner – 2007 Napa Valley Chardonnay, 2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 Chaos Theory & 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

On Saturday night Shea and I headed out to Graham and Leah’s place in the ‘burbs with our better halves to cook up our much-anticipated Brown Estate wine dinner. When we visited the Browns back in July while we were in Sonoma and Napa for the Wine Bloggers’ Conference, Deneen and Coral by-passed awesome and went straight to best ever by giving the three us a great tour, taking us through a tasting of pretty much every wine they had on the property (paired with Coral’s selection of cheeses), giving us a tour of their cave along with tastes straight from the barrels and then topped it all off by handing us 4 bottles of wine to take along as we were headed out.

We told them we would get together and share the 4 wines over dinner. So, the past couple of weeks saw a flurry of emails go back and forth as we decided what would be served with each wine. We settled on a couple of nice cheeses from Les Amis du Fromage here in Vancouver with the Chardonnay, lamb kebabs with the 2001 Cabernet, freshly made pizzas with the 2006 Chaos Theory and finally some delicious tenderloin steaks with the 2004 Cabernet. I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed food and wine more than I did last Saturday.

OK, so the first wine out of the gate was the 2007 Napa Valley Chardonnay. Shea had brought along a couple of cheeses from Les Amis du Fromage that paired beautifully. They each brought out different flavours in the Chardonnay. If you can find it, buy this wine. It’s a gorgeous bottle of Napa Valley Chardonnay that also shows some of the crispness and complexity of a white Burgundy. Wow. Have a look.

$48 USD at the winery.

4 1/2 stars

The 2001 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (signed by the winemaker, David Brown) was up next. Graham had BBQ’d up some incredibly tasty lamb kebabs to have with the wine. The pairing really worked . The wine had gorgeous round berry and dark cherry fruit that showed a slightly stewed edge to the fruit (very slight) with its age. It was an amazing bottle – and thinking back, possibly my favourite of the night.

Price N/A.

4 1/2 stars

Next up was the 2006 Napa Valley Chaos Theory Cabernet-Zinfandel Blend. I can’t track down the exact percentages in this blend, but WOW, it adds up to a gorgeous bottle of wine. There’s the briary dark fruit from the Zin, with the dark and tannicly fruity edge of the Cab. It’s complex, gorgeous and incredibly fun to sip. It’ simply delicious.

We paired the Chaos Theory with a handmade pizza made up of freshly grilled veggies, a sauce I made when I got out to Graham’s (tomatoes, smoked tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, cracked chilis and freshly ground pepper), mozzarella cheese with a bit of crumbled feta cheese and black pepper.

$45 USD at the winery.

4 1/2 stars

… and finally,  we had the the 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with grilled tenderloin steaks. Wow, this worked. Thanks to Graham’s deft work on the grill, the meat was incredibly tender – cut with a fork tender. It was simply spiced with a brushing of olive oil (from Napa’s Spring Mountain Vineyards – thanks Ted!), freshly ground pepper and coarse salt.

It was incredible with its youthful tannins, cracked pepper sprinkled blackberry and dark currant flavours. It had a finish that went on as long as we wanted and left us longing for more. Like the others, it was a beautiful bottle of wine.

$65 USD at the winery.

4 1/2 stars

The evening was exactly what we wanted it to be, helped along by wines that were simply unforgettable – as much for their quality as our new-found attachment to the place. Brown Estate Winery is a special place, made so by the family that owns and nurtures it. We all felt a special attachment when we visited and can only hope that if you head down to Napa, you give them a call, drop by and have as much fun as we did.


2006 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

06222009This was a wine I picked up thinking I would try it, make my notes and move on. For some reason, I wasn’t expecting to get blown away… and well… I wasn’t. Having said that though – did I like this wine? Hell yeah. It’s just that it was selling up here in booze-pinched BC for ~$90. I grabbed this bottle during an agent’s mark-down sale, which took it down to ~$60. Why? Because I love the Pinot and had had my eye on trying something from the Merry Edwards folks for a while.

So, what’s it like? Well, a big sniff gives up black cherry, raspberry, orange peel and mineral. A juicy sip pretty much shows the same. It’s a refined bunch of the cherry and berry that shows a bit of heat on the finish (it has 14.2% booze) and finishes as smoothly as silk.

It all pretty much adds up to a tasty bottle of wine that still makes me feel pretty gouged – even with the $30 mark-down. I’d love this wine in the $40 range. It was bloody tasty. For the money, I expect more.

~$60 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 stars


2005 Ken Wright Cellars “Angela” Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton District AVA

05022009What can I say about this wine? Well, here we go: Holy crap! This is a bloody tasty bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir. I’ve been looking for a bottle to blow me away lately. I’ve had some good wines… but nothing with that “Wow” factor. This bottle, from 300 cases produced, did that… effortlessly.

I picked it up last year at one of my favourite wine shops, Vinopolis in Portland on sale for ~$45 and brought it home to my little cellar. It’s from the Yamhill-Carlton AVA Ditrict south of Portland – an area that turns out many of the Pinots that have really grabbed my attention over the last few years. It’s also made by Ken Wright Cellars. They’re a winery that’s based in Carlton and have been on my radar for a while now. This is the first wine of theirs that I’ve had in my glass. It won’t be the last.

Wow. This is pure hedonism in  glass. It’s unfined and unfiltered and is a slightly cloudy dark raspberry red in the glass. It has a beautiful nose of ripe raspberry and what I would best describe as a cedar forest earthiness. A sip is when this wine  really lets you know what’s going on. There’s an “I just licked raspberries off a cedar plank” thing going on – it literally smacks your taste buds with a bunch of ripe raspberry juice, a bit of citrus, herbs and an earthy cedar edge.

Is it good? Do you really need to ask? Seriously. OK… YES, it’s bloody wonderful.

Get some if you’re lucky enough to find it.

~$45 at Vinopolis in Portland last year.

4 1/2 stars


2009 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival – Beringer Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Vertical Tasting

beringer_tastingOn Wednesday, I donned a suit and made my way for the first time into the Vancouver Club for the Beringer Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Vertical Tasting. I had really been looking forward to this for 2 reasons. Number 1 was that it seemed like a great way to spend a couple of hours on my birthday. Number 2 would be that I’ve always liked Beringer’s high-end wines, but don’t necessarily feel flush enough to lay out the cash to bring them home. So, a tasting like this lets me fill that desire without killing my wine budget.

Ther Beringer Private Reserve Cabs aren’t what you New World nay-sayers out there may picture. There’s an elegance to their dark fruit. It’s like a regular (insanely tasty) Napa Cab, but put through a stone-laced filter and then wrapped in silk. It’s the more fashionably-dressed cousin to the power-suit wearing Napa Cabs we all know.

Upon entering the room, a rich aroma of Cabernet-produced dark cassis gently embraced my nostrils… I took a seat and was happy to see glasses filled with Beringer’s Private Reserve dating from 1993 – 2004. A few vintages were skipped (due to availability in Canada), but the lineup looked promising. There were 9 in total.

Beringer’s very likeable head winemaker, Laurie Hook took over the room and as well as taking us through the wines, filled us in on stories and the history of the winery and its people.

OK, it’s a busy week, so I’m going to get into the wines.

1993 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: First out of the gates was the oldest wine they brought. The 1993 was still very youthful, with dark cherry, cassis, mint, cedar and a tobacco-like edge to the very tannic finish. It was chewy. I rated it 4.5 (or a 91 for you folks who like things on a 100-point scale – I did that for this tasting because really, was there a lower wine in the bunch?).

1995 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Next up was the 1995. This was again, very youthful, with black cherry, blackberry, nuts, cocoa, herbs, leather and a bit of a floral edge. I rated it 4.5 (or a slightly higher 92).

1997 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: This was a real crowd-pleaser. It had the refinement of the previous 2 with a bit more going on. It came down to whether this or the 2001 was my favourite of the tasting. It was slightly darker in colour and was just plain epic. There was all that dark fruit, cocoa and cherry along with a lasting and balanced finish that reminded me exactly why I love this stuff. Rated 4.5 (or 94).

1998 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: This wine came from what is considered a poor vintage, but drinks incredibly well. It was noticeably more austere and smooth in the mouth. It had fruit that just seemed more “red” as opposed to black. In the mouth, it was silky and complex with a nice herbal edge to the red fruit and mineral. Very elegant. Rated 4.5 (or 91).

1999 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: This one was probably my least favourite of the tasting. On the nose, there was mint and eucalyptus along with cedar and cherry. The flavours were there, but didn’t make me go, “Yum”. It had a bit of a green edge. Rated 4 (88 points).

2000 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Tight. That’s what this wine was… and I’m not 100% convinced it’s going to be one to evolve into a mind-blower. It was good, but right near the 1999 in my mind. There was the dark fruit, along with some cocoa and cherry leading out to a mineral-laced finish. Don’t get me wrong. I’d happily drink it, but it’s not up to some of the other bottles in the tasting. Rated 4 (88 points).

2001 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Yum. According to Laurie, this was a “Christmas morning vintage” – on one of those Christmases you received everything you wanted. They had perfect fruit and great picking conditions, which leads to a great wine. It’s big without being massive and fit my palate to a “T”.  This was a fave of many folks in the room. It had silky licorice-edged cassis and cherry fruit, along with blackberry, cocoa and brambles. Wow. Tasty stuff. Rated 4.5 (or 95 points).

2002 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: After the 2001, I was due for a bit of a coming down, but this held up respectably. The fruit was softer and showed some earthy “red”-ness. The cherry and herbs made for a velvety and elegant wine. Rated 4.5 (or 90 points).

2004 Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: The last wine of the day was quite a bad boy bit of juice. It was dark, chewy and complex. I loved it. It may have been my #3 wine of the day. Ripe blackberry, dark cherry, cocoa, and herbs all came together for a heckuva’ tasty bit of juice. Rated 4.5 (or 93).

Apparently some of these are in stores, so if you see one (and have the cash in pocket) I’d really recommend giving some of these a go.

~$160 in LDB stores here in BC.


2007 Orin Swift Cellars The Prisoner

01172009I’m always up for trying a vintage of The Prisoner. I’ve loved the last 2 vintages (the 2006 made my list for top wines of 2008), so when I came across the 2007 on Friday, I grabbed one to test it out.

One thing I should point out – this is a young wine and really benefits from some time in the decanter. I’ve grabbed a couple to put away for a while (if I can keep my hands off them).

So, I decanted this for a couple of hours last night before taking a sip and that really helped it out. When I first popped the cork, the wine had that bright and youthful fruit thing going on… as the air mellowed it, that evolved into dark jammy blackberry fruit with chocolate.

That really became evident when I took a sip. This blend of 50% Zinfandel, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Syrah, 9% Petite Sirah, 2% Charbono and 1% Grenache made for a concentrated dark fruit explosion with a beautifully balanced chocolate edge to the long finish. Imagine a big handful of ripe blackberries mixed with chocolate covered cherries. Yep, that’s this wine.

Another score for Dave Phinney and the gang down in St. Helena. Tasty stuff.

$52.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 1/2 stars


Duval-Leroy Brut Rosé Champagne de Saignée NV

01012009This was our wine to ring in the new year… and what a way to start 2009. The year has just started, so I’ll keep this short. Y’all know I love the bubbly and I was kinda’ craving the rosé side of the category, so this looked mighty tasty on the shelf.

I popped it open at the crack of the new year and wow… this stuff is good bubbly (thank God, because who wants their new year’s bottle to suck??). The nose gave up berry and lemon. A sip was all about the fresh berry juice (think light strawberry and then a bunch of ripe red raspberry) with a squirt of lemon and a long mineral-edged finish.

Was it something I’d drink again? Hell yeah. This is tasty stuff.

Happy new year!

~$80 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars

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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.


Time for some ZINS! 2005 Seghesio Cortina Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley & 2004 Mazzocco Stone Ranch Zinfandel, Alexander Valley

Approaching the 500th post on, Sean ventured out to the ‘burbs this past weekend to enjoy some slow-smoked ribs and some amazing Zinfandel. The theme for the evening could be summed up with his words “F**k I love Zinfandel.”

After seven plus hours on the grill, the ribs were ready and the zins stood by. The first wine we chose was the 2005 Seghesio Cortina Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley. On our last trip to Sonoma we had a great visit there and tasted the full gamut of their wines. It’s always nice to have a wine along with which you can reminisce about the great people who make ’em.

The Cortina had great mineral and raspberry on the nose with some red plum and a hint of fumes from the booze. A few slurps as we tucked into the ribs brought jammy red fruit that was an amazing match with the spicy rub and light sauce. The finish was really interesting, lots of savory, pepper with medium tannins and a nice refined length. A superb complement to dinner and what a start! 4 Stars ($54.99 at Liberty Wine Cellars).

The second wine was the 2004 Mazzocco Stone Ranch Zinfandel, Alexander Valley. I picked this up when I was in Seattle at Esquin Wine Merchants. They have a great selection and excellent staffers who will help you find some gems. Check ’em out if you’re down there.

We met the winemaker, Antoine Favero at ZAP back in January. He enthusiastically took us through all of his outstanding wines, impressing the hell out of us with each one. We were definitely looking forward to this one.

As this one was poured, it was all deep purple velvet. A few sniffs gave us rich cedar and sweet blackberry that quickly knocked out any spice left over from the ribs. The minute this one hit our tongues; it was blueberry/blackberry goodness that went on and on. After a while, some briar and pepper joined the mix as we sat and slowly savored this gem. So balanced despite the rather intimidating 16.9% booze. Sure it was big, but not over the top at all. 4.5 stars ($25.99 USD).

Plain and simple, some Zinfandel bliss as the sun went down.


1 comment

2005 Walter Hansel Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Cuvée Alyce

I had this wine a couple of weeks ago on the same night we tasted the Montelena Chardonnay. When I first tried it, I wasn’t sure what to think… After the crisp subtlety of the Montelena wine, this one hit me over the head with its flavours in comparison.

The more I tasted of it though, the more it grew on me. It’s an amazingly complex bottle of wine, tossing up more flavours per sip than just about any wine I’ve had in recent memory.

It all starts with the nose… and what a nose it is. It has toasty oak, which gives a big dose of vanilla… and then the fruit. What it made me think of were honey toasted oats with pear slices and hazelnuts.

A thick and juicy sip gives honey, melon, hazelnut, and a lightly lemony mineral-edged finish… and that finish goes on for minutes. It’s a memorably tropical Chardonnay. I really liked it.

This is one for the New World Chard fans. If that’s you, I’m sure you’ll love this wine.

$70 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars

1 comment

2005 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, Napa Valley

Last weekend, I decided to have a New World Chardonnay night. This says 2 things about me:

  1. I haven’t had a much New World Chardonnay lately
  2. I’m a wine geek, jeez…

There were 2 wines chosen and this was the first up. What can I say, but, “Wow”? This was exactly what I wanted. Along with Grgich Hills, Chateau Montelena is a Napa winery that makes wine bridging the gap from Old World to New World. There is some of that sexy tropical fruit, but it also has that crisp citrus acidity that makes it a great wine to pair with food.

The winery was founded back in 1882, making it one of the oldest wineries in the Napa Valley. It was on July 7th, 1976 that they really made their name. They were one of the wineries to take part in the famed Paris tasting (which is being made into a movie, BTW) where their ’73 Chardonnay beat all comers, including many famed White Burgundies. Their winemaker at the time was Mike Grgich so the fact that both wineries still have similar styles is no fluke.

I’ve been there a few times and it’s always a good visit. They’re located near the town of Calistoga, in the Napa Valley and really make some smokin’ wines. The current winemaker, Bo Barrett seems to know what he’s doing.

OK, back to the wine. The nose is an amazing mix of pineapple and honeydew melon, with a flinty citrus edge. The flavours are a perfectly balanced bunch of round melon, apple and citrus… with that lemon on stone finish that goes on for minutes.

It may have been the night, or food that I had eaten, but I enjoyed this wine as much as any white I’ve had in years. It was fantastic.

~$60 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars

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