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bills

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Everything posted by bills

  1. Monthly blind tasting notes: 1997 Tyrells Vat 1 Semillon (Hunter Valley) – much better bottle than the last one I had. Some vanilla in the nose, and some coconut and citrus, smooth on palate and quite crisp. Hold or drink. 2002 Chaddsford Chambourcin Seven Valleys Vineyard – absolutely no clues as to the non-vinifera hybrid nature of the grape. Made in Pennsylvania, this wine had the colour of a pinot, the nose of a syrah (bit spicy), and was very presentable if a bit puzzling when tasted blind. 1994 Chapoutier Cornas – while I have some of the slightly better 1995 (and I mean that in terms of structure and ageability), this 1994 was a very pleasant surprise. We narrowed down to Cornas pretty quickly. The blood and green olive nose and dark colour along with a slightly rustic feel sent us in that direction. Now fully mature but no rush. 2000 Quinta do Crasto Reserve – it took a little floundering to get to Portugal. I am delighted to have tasted this as I have a case waiting for prime time use. Purple with a sweetish ripe nose, featuring berry scents, smooth on palate and medium long. Very nice and will hold – just hitting prime time. 2004 Quinta do Vallado – also a Douro wine, this was simpler with a fresh youthful nose, and sweeter with spice on palate. At a quite low price it is one to buy by the case. 1984 Shafer Hillside Select – the owner was worried about how this would have held up but there was no problem. Pale edges, lovely mature nose, lots of acidity, and the tannins were still there but well resolved. Fully mature, enjoyable and the acidity not quite high enough to be a problem. 1994 Leonetti Merlot – sweet vanilla and cocoa nose lead the tasters (it was my wine) to merlot pretty quick and the structure headed some toward Washington. Very good flavour intensity, good length, the tannins well resolved and a significantly better showing than the 1993 has been. 1997 Tenuta la Palazza Graf Noir – a new one on all of us from Italy. 55% sangiovese, 15% cab franc, and 30% uva longanesi (never heard of this one). fairly young with tannins and acidity about equal, dry finish, bit of chocolate. Nice but nothing special. 1998 Fox Creek JSM – named after the owners’ kids, the blend is shiraz, cab sauv and cab franc. Still dark, with a nice mint and raspberry nose, lots of concentration and sweet and hot in the finish, which had good length. I keep saying I must find mine in the cellar (I have a case and a half) and now I really MUST find it as this wine is drinking so well right now! 2001 RBJ Vox Populi – an Oz wine made mostly from Grenache, this was showing surprising age in both colour and in the mouth. A couple of people swore it was corked yet failed to detect any hint of TCA. Smoky, oily nose, medium weight, lots of wood. 1991 Grahams Port – this one fooled me – I thought it was showing the maturity to be a 1985 and I swore it wasn’t a Grahams as it lacked the typical sweetness. Dark with a sweet hot nose that didn’t show any particular fruit, and pretty well integrated, especially for this vintage. I find I have a half case of this as well and will make a mental note (sop easily misplaced) to consider it for drinking. Scholtz Hermanos Malaga ‘Lagrima’ 10 year old – my experience with Malagas has been limited and unfavourable – simple cloying wines made from PX and Moscadelo. This one was definitely fun, though. Can’t recall a wine that was brown with green edges before! he colour and consistency of treacle, it was luscious rather than cloying and had a finish that had sufficient acidity to balance out the no doubt high residual sugar.
  2. bills

    Penfolds Bin 707

    Notes from a tasting of Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet. This wine, like Grange, is made from fruit sourced at the pleasure of the winemaker rather than from a distinct geographic area, so terroir is not applicable and consistency is the watchword. In fact the results in 1981, 1995 and (I believe) 2000 were deemed different enough from the paradigm that 707 was not sold in those vintages. The fruit comes mostly from Coonawara and Barossa. We tasted the wine blind and it is instructive that some tarried over whether it was Syrah based, possibly French, or cabernet. I thought it was cab from the start, and narrowed it down to either California, or as a second possibility Australia, with Chile a maybe. 1995 Duval-Leroy Femme de Champagne – I had never tasted this wine before – 76% C, 24% PN. Pleasing nose of espresso bean and citrus, nice creamy feel, not high acidity, smooth and pleasant. Ready now. I shall give the menu first. The wines were served at the same time and we worked on them through the various courses (some interesting matches) until toward the end the identity was disclosed. Sicilian style octopus spaghettini in red wine New Zealand red fallow deer with 3 che3ese brioche bread pudding, pine mushrooms, veal reduction Grilled bison ribeye, glazed butternut squash pearls Roasted squab breast, cauliflower and broccoli puree, carrot cinnamon reduction 2002 – really dark purple with an interesting nose – not really hot (if it were, we’d have headed to Oz much more directly) with anise, cocoa and intense fruit. Excellent sweet fruit on palate, lots of tannins but sweet and soft, and a long finish. 2001 – less heat and a bit smoother in the nose, again with excellent sweet fruit on palate and a slight hotness, less obvious tannin and good length and balance. 1999 – the noses just kept getting better, at least in terms of complexity, although there was something very attractive about that powerful 2002….The 99 showed a marked chocolate element in the nose and significantly higher terminal acidity that went well with food but made it seem a bit leaner without. 1998 – a great vintage in Australia, but this wine had a subdued nose, although showing good fruit on palate and nice development and length. I’ll need another tatsing before drawing conclusions about it. 1997 – lots of currant in this nose and a very well balanced wine with excellent length. In a lot of cases I have found that I like the structure of 1997 better than the sometimes over fruited 98s. 1996 – mature toasty nose with vanilla and plum. A bigger wine than the 1997 but very similar flavour profile. 1994 – lovely smooth mature nose with some oak and cassis, and a smooth drinkable wine that has many years left 1993 – I really liked the nose on this wine, one of the best, with a spicy component not yet evident in the others, but in the end, although very pleasurable to drink, it was perhaps the weakest wine and showed some signs of fading in the glass after an hour or two. Not a bad showing, mind you, but an indicator to drink sooner rather than later. Quite a dry finish with tannins evident but not obtrusive. I think that in decent vintages this wine shows a clear ability to age a decade and in good vintages, anywhere from 15 to 25 years. Whether the development the wine shows as they mature are ultimately as satisfying as one sees in Bordeaux will depend on the individual taster. 1990 Ch. Rieussec – now showing a fair bit of colour, this wine was lightly botrycized in the nose and showed a lightly vanilla character. Medium sweet and the vanilla came through on palate as well. Good length and should last many years. Very decent showing.
  3. bills

    Italian Notes

    Notes from an Italian tasting 2004 Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo Nova Serra – this wine was now showing a bit of colour, had a nicely developed nose with almost none of the typical cheesiness of the varietal, and was soft, full flavoured and had good length. 2002 Jermann ‘Were Dreams, Now its Just Wine’ Bianco Venezia Giulia – also putting on colour, with a waxy floral nose, decent but not great. 90% chard, 10% pinot bianco 1995 Torracio (Cantine Colli Amerini) – Umbrian Sangiovese. Showing some age in the colour and nose, which was a bit rubbery, a whack of acidity and still pretty evident tannins. Not sure where (or if) this one is going. 1996 Virna Barolo Riserva (Lodovico Borgogno) – mellow primarily fruit nose, mature and elegant, drinking well now but will hold. To me, this was surprisingly forward. 1990 Lungarotti San Giorgio – another Umbrian wine, about half cabernet blended with sangio and canaiolo and released in 2000. A nutmeg, cocoa and cheese nose, full bodied and tasty with a long crisp finish. IMO this wine has peaked and will hold but not improve. 1997 Frescobaldi Mormoreto - a cab sauv can franc blend, but the franc didn’t come through too much in this vintage so none of the greenness one sometimes detects. Ripe fruit nose, simple and sweet on palate with lots of pepper and tannin 1999 Poliziano Asinone Vino Nobile – big fruit, and sweet, but needs more time to come together. 1993 Azelia Brico Fiasco Barolo – mature tar and rubber nose sweet entry, some tannin, good length, no tar in mouth. Drinks well now. I’ve been getting a lot of enjoyment from 1993 and 1994 Barolos. 2000 Piaggia Carmignano – the Incredible Hulk of Carmignanos. Like a Californian wine, international style very weighty with gobs of sweet fruit. 1997 Pio Cesare Barbaresco Il Bricco – mellow nose of cherries, carrying more acid than tannin but could use about 3 more years. Quite nice. 1998 Le Macchiole Paleo - this cab and cab franc blend has been getting good reviews and big prices in recent years. Dark wine with nice depth in the nose, cedar and fruit, sweet and elegant on palate, a modern style wine. 2003 Donna Fugatta Ben Rye – wonderful Sicilian Passito di Pantelleria. Muscat nose, not too sweet in the mouth – a very pleasant dessert wine.
  4. Notes from a dinner tasting featuring Californian wines. 1995 Merryvale Starmont Chardonnay – not showing too much colour, fermented in small French oak, but by now all that has melded into the wine, which had good acidity and a pleasant toasty impression. Nice whistle wetter before the main wines. 1991 Shafer Napa Cabernet – a lovely mature nose with fruit and vanilla, and a very tasty wine, smooth with resolved tannins, ready to drink now and will hold a few more years. The next four wines were Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour Cabernet. I’ve always found these wines interesting as they use American oak, but it doesn’t seem to come across that way in the wines. Some of these were bought on release at the winery when I used to travel to Monterey (Laguna Seca) to race old sports cars and would come back through Napa on the way back to Canada. 1977 - still quite a dark wine with lightening only at the edges. A warm ripe nose of some intensity, and warm and smooth in the mouth, much more open than the last time I tasted this several years ago. Excellent length. 1980 – dark also, this time with a slight hint of mint in the nose, and neither as ripe nor as hot as the 1977, but otherwise quite similar. 1982 – vanilla and spice nose and good fruit on palate with some tannins still evident. I liked this, but not as much as the previous two. 1984 – such a wonderful vintage, but BV wasn’t among the top wineries in terms of what they made of it. Hint or rubber in the nose, some tannin on palate, and adequate fruit. This one was OK but just wasn’t in the same league as the others. We left the main course BBQ lamb for cheese and opened some Zin with it. 1995 Ravenswood Old Vines Zinfandel – 14.5% alcohol and a warm fruit based nose but at this age it no longer showed the black cherries or blackberries that tip you to this varietal. Fairly ripe and a little simple. 1994 Renwood Grandpere Zinfandel – a notch or two up with this one (15.2%). Black pepper, spice and tea in the nose, berries and vanilla in the mouth, very good body and rich long finish. Probably won’t improve from here but should hold. An example of why I take the chance of aging Zinfandels.
  5. Blind tasting lunch notes: 11 people and 14 wines! This one took a little longer than normal. 2003 Les Brottiers Cote du Rhone Rosé – nice pink wine with a dry, clean pleasant finish. Nice way to start! 2006 Dunham and Froese ‘Night Hawk’ Pinot Blanc – a new BC winery obviously unaware of the existence of the classic ‘Night Train’ when they chose this name. Light in colour, a soft wine without pretension, nice feel for a summer sipper. 2003 Zind Humbrecht Rotenberg Pinot Gris – I guessed this as an Alsatian Tokay right off the bat but was mendaciously told it wasn’t just because the label said it was PG not Tokay! Hmmph! Good colour, hint of spice an a smooth slightly warm mouth feel . An uncharacteristic 15.5% alcohol! 2003 Moss Wood Margaret River Chardonnay – an excellent toasty nose with a hint of coconut and mace, lots of acidity (which sent us away from Australia). Tons of interest in the nose and on palate. Excellent wine! 1970 Haut Brion – pale rim, obvious aged mature Bordeaux nose, faint hints of tannin remaining, starting to lose fruit but the balance was still good – an elegant mature Bordeaux. Delightful. 2002 Coche-Dury Meursault Cote de Beaune Rouge – a Burg from out in left field. Nice sweet fruit in the nose, an uplifting surge on palate and a silky smooth slightly sweet finish. What a pleasant surprise! 2003 Annick Parent Volnay 1 Cru Fremiets – another wine that performed above expectation. Darker colour, with more depth to the nose, a spicy cherry melange, no funkiness at all – completely fruit driven. Drinks exceptionally well now and no reason to hold it although it is still on the upswing. 1983 Ch. d’Issan – a house we don’t see much of here. Nice obviously mature nose with tobacco and berries plus medium tannin and good but not effusive fruit led me correctly to the vintage but I couldn’t go further. Enjoyable wine. 1990 La Poderina Brunello – corked 2005 Quinta Ferreira Malbec – a wine that showed no hint of varietal character from a BC producer I had never heard of (a grower recently turned winery) yet quite decent . Dark purple, grapey sweet ripe nose, pleasant finish. 1997 Castello Banfi Summus – the nose was very much like a Bordeaux with fresh currant, a fairly international sort of wine with the only hint of origin being the slightly high terminal acidity. Once we located it in Italy, the vintage came easily. Could use some more time. 1995 Pertimali Brunello – a favourite producer for me ( I still have a few of the wonderful 1988). Thick legs, fairly dark, still lots of tannin, good fruit and a dry fi9nish featuring – yes, more tannin. Drinks fairly well now but should improve. 1995 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva – big time cherries and vanilla with a hint of coconut in the nose, and while it drinks nicely now there is absolutely no rush. Very enjoyable. 1991 Quinta do Vesuvio Port – while I have this wine (and the 1992) in my cellar and while some reviewers (Parker) have suggested that it will drink well young, to me this is barely coming together and needs time. Hot sweet nose beginning to meld, and smell like Port rather than fruit and spirit, and on palate the unresolved alcohol and youthful flavours nonetheless indicate a promising future.
  6. bills

    Terrines and Wines

    For those that haven’t come across notes of these terrine events before, a few words of introduction. A few years ago I decided that I wanted to create a wine and food event to be held in my garden. I wanted the ease created by a potluck rather than having the host prepare everything. I wanted a theme dish or type of dish that could preferably be prepared mostly ahead of time, and I wanted something with enough variability and scope to allow people to experiment with ingredients and wine matching. I ended up choosing the general theme of terrines, and made it clear to all that allied dishes like galantines, pâtés and ballotines were more than welcome within the theme. I have a hard core group of 12 people that prepare 6 terrines to make a meal, and it has worked out better than I’d ever have hoped. This year, for the first time, some unseasonably inclement weather relegated us to the dining room rather than the garden, although that did save on travel time between kitchen and table. We started off with a seafood terrine made with an avocado and shrimp centre, a halibut based outer, wrapped with smoked salmon and garnished with cucumber, green wasabi caviar and a shrimp. I took a picture of the whole terrine as the owner wanted to document it in case it fell apart when he went to serve it! 2002 La Chablisienne Chablis Prem. Cru Cote de Lechat – clean stony nose, light and well balanced and it worked very well with the food. Picked up some additional complexity as it warmed a little. Next up was a vegetable and foie gras terrine, offered with a dry white and a couple of half bottles of Barsac. 1998 Pascal Jolibert Pouilly Fumé La Grande Cuvée – good fruit and minerality in the nose, full in mid-palate and a nice long peach tinged finish. 1988 Ch. Doisy Daene Barsac – slightly the lightest colour of the two, with a botrytis nose nicely coupled with a floral note. Not too sweet, long and well defined - the better wine of the two. 1988 Ch. Coutet Barsac – bit darker with a sweeter nose and more weight in mid palate but lower acid made it a less bright wine than the Doisy and a tad clumsy. A very pretty mushroom terrine was up next, incorporating several different mushrooms and garnished with Phyllo covered Boursin cheese. It had replaced (at the last minute) the avocado terrine that had defied three attempts to produce anything other than guacamole. 2004 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc – Roussanne 65%, Grenache Blanc 30% and Picpoul 5% (unusual that last one). Good white Rhone nose, full flavoured and mellow. 2001 Arcadian Pinot Noir Gary’s Vineyard – medium colour for a Californian PN, excellent nose, more Burgundian (although sweeter fruit than a Burg would have) than the Arcadian also brought by the next person. Sweet entry, good acidity and length and a sweet finish as well. I thought this wine went better with food than the next Arcadian. The next dish was a rabbit with pistachios and olives. 2001 Arcadian Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow Vineyard – a lighter colour and higher acid distinguished this wine as well as a less Burgundian more fruit driven nose. It was a little sweeter and less earthy than the Gary’s and didn’t work quite as well with food. 1999 Jacques Prieur Beaune Champs Pimont – the stand out among the Pinots with excellent Burgundian nose of cherry and a hint of blackberry, clean and silky with nice acidity at the end. Great food wine and an excellent value. Next up was an eggplant and lamb terrine with a tomato based sauce: 2003 Jaboulet Chevalier de Sterimberg Hermitage Blanc – I must say that this wine was one of the real stand outs of the evening. Best I could find out was that they use Roussanne and Marsanne in approximately equal amounts. It had a lovely waxy nose of cashew and honey, a nice oily mouth feel, and despite reports of this vintage, entirely adequate levels of acidity. Best match! 1998 Dom. du Caillou Chateauneuf du Pape – I am surprised we don’t see more of Bruno Gaspards work – these wines can be delightful and I was myself delighted to later check my cellar list and see that I had a full case (somewhere!) unopened. (as well as a little of the Le Clos reserve wine). Excellent funky Rhone nose quite sweet in the mouth, but with tons of offsetting acidity. A big, dark, very good wine that there is no hurry to drink (or in my case, find). My course was last – a terrine made of strips of ham and chicken breast rolled in herbs in a forcemeat of veal, chicken, ham, Armagnac and cream. The accompaniment was pickled grapes (I used Jalapeno as an ingredient and was trying to remember not to rub my eyes for the rest of the day!) The background is different as I wanted to present my wines blind and I couldn’t quite trust the crew not to peek, so I took the picture in the kitchen. 2000 Montes Alpha Syrah – this wine always shows mint, yet it definitely doesn’t come across as Australian so it is a good ringer. It has some sweetness on entry but not much in the mouth and wasn’t really varietally correct in terms of nose and profile, unlike the following wine. 2003 Renard Syrah Truchard Vineyard – right away the white pepper in the nose was heading people to the old world, and cassis didn’t give this Napa wine away as New World. Fairly big wine, long finish and amazingly Rhonish for a Napa wine, and the best match with food. We had now finished the main event and decided to have a bit of cheese and of course also needed wine to go with it, so we took one person’s back-up and I headed for the cellar for a second wine. 1995 Biondi Santi Schidione – an IGT with cab and merlot mixed in with the sangiovese gave a wine with decent fruit in the nose, and lots of clean acidity. Interesting but not paradigm altering. 1990 Lungarotti San Giorgio – tar and currant and some tomato in the nose, medium body, smooth ending with little tannin but clean acid. Time to drink. A short discussion revealed that the attendees in no way felt that we have exhausted this theme and there will therefore be a T5 in 2008! Next year we will be back in the garden!!
  7. bills

    BC Syrah

    So I decided to do a reasonably large BC Syrah comparative tasting because most of these wines are small production and hard to get hold of. Started out with a couple of whistle wetters: 2006 Township 7 Gewurz – well, it was better than the last one I tasted in that it had some varietal character, but I found it lean and acidic and lacking sufficient fruit on palate to balance they acidity. Hope they do better in other vintages. 2006 Thornhaven Gewurz – luscious nose, varietally correct, and while obviously having more RS than the T7, it was also well balanced. Excellent effort and my best Gewurz of this vintage so far. The main event: 2002 Kettle Valley Syrah – 95% syrah 5% Viognier. Hot nose, lots of pepper and spice, good length in the mouth but also a bit hot (14.5%). Nose is the best thing here. 2002 Kettle Valley Shiraz – they used 100 % syrah, in American oak with this one – you get a smoother vanilla based nose, and smooth on palate with less heat. Decent wine – the Syrah nose with this wine would have been a great amalgam. 2002 Burrowing Owl Syrah – warm syrah nose with some barnyard. Good weight but a bit of a gap in midpalate. 2003 Burrowing Owl Syrah – lovely pepper nose, sweeter and longer, my preferred wine so far. 2003 Sandhill Small Lots Phantom Creek Vineyard – pepper in nose and mouth, a big wine with great balance, concentrated and long. Sadly very highly allocated and hard to get. 2005 Sandhill Small Lots Phantom Creek Vineyard – a lot of similarity but a lighter weight version with a very pretty nose. This vintage won’t last as long as the 2003. 2002 Nichol – decent nose but then lean and acidic. 2002 Mission Hills Select Lot Collection Family Estate – from a large winery and very forgettable. Heavily oaked middle weight, very cabernet like, no middle, atypical. 2004 Desert Hills Syrah – had hopes for this dark wine, but the dry cardboard (not corkiness, mind you, a paper bag sort of thing, quite odd) killed it for me despite the nice sweet fruit on palate. 2003 La Frenz – another one I had hopes for, being the product of an Australian winemaker, but in the end it was just decent. Minty nose (must ask him where he planted the Eucalyptus), decent concentration decent length and good balance but it wasn’t up there with the Sandhill. 2005 Golden Mile Black Arts Syrah – dark with a full sweet nose, long finish and will improve with age. Watch this winery – they are doing good things! 2005 Church and State – made by Bill Dyer, formerly consultant to Burrowing Owl (whose products seem to have become less interesting after he left). Some spice in the fairly ripe nose, a big, sweet soft friendly wine that is ready to drink now. 2000 Glen Fiona Yakima Syrah – cheesy funky nose, decent fruit and balance. 2001 Glen Fiona Bacchus Vd. – the gold label, soft and spicy in the mouth, smooth ans pleasant. The equal of all the BC wines except the 2003 Sandhill. 2004 Petales d’Osoyoos – after this point it turned into a leisurely tasting as we had finished the main event and people brought out some other wines, This was fairly good a hint green and green pepper on the nose. Good value. I brought out various BC whites to show those unfamiliar with them until the designated drivers showed up. We counted 23 bottles in the garden next day (a couple under bushes). We were, I think, 12 or 13 people, so the designated drivers were a necessity. Hopefully Jenise kept notes on the late wines.
  8. Monthly blind tasting lunch notes Carles Andreu Cava Brut (nv) – excellent persistent mousse, lots of green apple in the nose, finishes just very slightly off dry with good acidity. Nice Cava. 1998 Champagne Lenoble Brut Rose– a pinkie made from 80% chard 20% PN. No apples in the nose here – it was all strawberry ( or some thought raspberry). Nice. 2000 Louis Michel Chablis Prem. Cru Montee de Tonnerre – dry mineral nose, soft, pleasant and possibly overly subtle in terms of flavour…. 2004 Petales d’Osoyoos – BC Bordeaux blend made by affiliate of Gruaud. Medium dark colour, a nose of ripe sweet fruit amply laced with dill and a hefty whack of pepper which instantly lets it out of being mistaken as Bordeaux.. Decent wine at $25 Can. 1989 Ch. Haut Batailley – I’d had this wine young when it was all about fruit, but hadn’t tried it for some years. This time around it showed a slightly perfumed nose otherwise typical fruit and a bit of oak, and on palate, while it still had sufficient fruit it was no longer lavish, ending with good length, quite dry. Quite a change but still a nice claret. 2000 Ch. Lanessan – this usually modest Haut Medoc showed quite well. Dark, with a sweet ripe fruit nose, and low acidity iot is ready to roll – and that means I better start hunting my cellar for mine (I also see I am supposed to have some 95 and a solitary, and probably deceased 1978!) 1990 Ch. Montrose – I don’t think I can recall a nose with as much animal or Burgundian funk from a Bordeaux – a real barnyard performance, but not off-putting at all, at least for me. While the tannins seemed almost resolved on initial tasting, it was clear as that perception changed with airing that there was still a strong backbone to this wine – it stiffened up as you looked at it. Drinkable now, it has a long life ahead. Should be about ready to drink by the time I find mine in the cellar… 2000 Alban Grenache Eden Valley – this one had us all over the place as we just couldn’t’ nail the varietal. Purple wine with a sweet nose, and pretty good fruit, a tad flat in the middle, but ending well. 2001 Alban Reva Syrah – similar, but a step up in terms of nose – sweeter, with the telltale black pepper, much more Rhonish and with better length. 1999 Castello Banfi Brunello – good showing from the regular bottling – dark with still firm tannins, but good fruit and excellent with food at this point. 2000 Sette Ponti Oreno – ended with a Super Tuscan (cab, merlot and sangio). Dark, with thick legs, a bit warm in the mouth and a marked bitterness in the dry finish, this wine was relegated to last serving position simply because the restaurant hadn’t tasted it before, but it worked out well as a cheese wine.
  9. Notes from a blind Cascadia (WA, OR,BC) tasting Osake Granville Island Junmai Nama Genshu – brought as a curiosity and an example of local artisanal sake production. Now I do enjoy sake on occasion, but this had a rotting pear and acetone nose, and was hot and sour in the mouth. Think I’ll leave this for those who like it (assuming that any such exist). 2003 Nk’mp Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay – run by local Indians, who seem to share the annoying (to me, anyway) habit of insisting on unpronounceable Indian spelling. Particularly annoying as in the case of the local band, the Squamish. In a fir of native pride they erected a new sign to herald your entry to their lands (my office is situated there, so I get to see such things – repeatedly). The sign had a name starting with an S and running for about 25 symbols that looked totally irreproducible by the human throat/tongue. I asked a native client how they pronounced it, and he said “Oh, same as always – ‘Squamish’. The point was rather lost on me then and it still is in regard to this wine. In terms of marketing, I could see a New World wine having, say, a French sounding name as an attempt to sell more product, since selling product is the whole driving force behind a commercial enterprise. I guess no one has explained to the local bands that using an unpronounceable (looking, anyway) name might be counter productive, or else they are more interested in waving their ‘Indian-ness’ about than they are in selling wine and making money? In any case, the wine itself was showing a nondescript fruit nose, and it was decently balanced with medium length. Forgettable. 2000 Sumac Ridge Black Sage Meritage – a 50% cab sauv, 25% merlot, 25% cab franc blend. Medium colour, showing a little age, with a slightly green nose (likely the franc), smooth, ready, a tad lean and little tannin. 1990 Blackwood Canyon Red Hills Cabernet Sauvignon – this winery is (was? I’d heard he was shut down but couldn’t confirm it) run by Mike Moore, a highly idiosyncratic chap who made wine kept in barrels for years – oxidised chards and other curiosities that he charged a whack of dough for. When I visited him many years ago when down in WA in an old car event (I thankfully positioned my car in the lead on the long dirt road to his winery) he was dancing about the barrel room with a pipette pulling samples from hither and yon as well as handing us bits of unpasteurised local cheese, some of it scary. My friend always said that he had been poisoned there and endured a week of stomach ills as a result. This wine was picked up on that tour at a cost of $50 back in the early 90s, a hefty price for a Washington wine at the time. It had a hot cherry and raspberry nose, and was quite light in colour, almost like a pinot. Hot and lean in the mouth until a blast of sweetness at the end together with considerable terminal acidity woke the whole thing up. Very – unusual – wine. 1995 Ch. St. Michelle Merlot Columbia Valley – nice to have a mature merlot – cocoa and vanilla nose, good mouth feel, could almost pass as a Bordeaux petit chateau offering. 1998 Wineglass Cellars Elerding Cab Sauv – small WA producer that seems to always do a good job. Sweet and very smooth, with some white pepper and mint, and a tad of heat (14.5%). Sweet at end. 2000 Black Hills Nota Bene – dill in the nose, warm and soft on palate, the tannins resolved and ready to drink. As I taste this BC wine in various vintages, I am coming to the conclusion that the peak drinking plateau seems to be age 5-8 years. 2000 Pepper Bridge Walla Walla Cabernet – Bordeaux nose, nice flavour concentration, smooth, elegant and ready, if with slightly short finish. 1996 Leonetti Cabernet – slightly ripe nose, with excellent plumy fruit, slight heat on palate with some spice and less fruit than you’d have been lead to believe from the nose. 2002 Burrowing Owl Meritage – CF 45%, CS 25%, M 25% - leaner style than the Leonetti, dark wine with good concentration, and a long sweet finish, if a little on the simple side. Slight terminal bitter note was nice. 2002 Burrowing Owl Cab Franc – bell pepper and coffee nose, sweet entry, smooth and ready with a slightly high terminal acidity that makes it better with food than without. 1988 Ch. d’Arche Sauternes - obviously the ending wine wasn’t in theme. Good colour and a very good Botrytis nose and a good balance with enough offsetting acidity to make it all work. I can’t recall a better d’Arche!
  10. Notes from a small wine dinner: With giant scallops and prawns in sherry-tarragon cream sauce: 2002 Drouhin Puligny Montrachet Folatieres – light straw colour, delicate lemon/vanilla nose, smooth with medium body and decent length. With seared foie gras on brioche slice: 1999 Ch. Suduiraut – nose of peach and botrytis, seemed slightly high in alcohol, full, rich and fairly sweet with good length. The acidity was only barely sufficient to balance the wine and I’d have liked a bit more. Come to think of it, a drier wine would have complemented the foie gras better. With duck breast and mushroom crepes: 1989 Drouhin Chambolle Musigny Les Charmes – this wine has drunk well for years and it was a nice garnet red colour with an earthy, truffle nose that developed in the glass. It still shows good fruit and finishes well. Food enhanced the sweetness in the wine and it became even more enjoyable. Should be drunk in the near term. With sautéed veal and pasta: 1986 Ch. Haut Bages Liberal – nice little Pauillac that showed medium colour, nice mature nose and high acidity.. With food it bloomed as the acidity was tamed. With rare lamb chops: 1982 Ch. Mouton Rothschild - a swirl gets you a very nice plumy nose with a hint of mint and a bit of sweet pudding. Good balance and acidity, nicely rounded wine with great depth of flavour and very good length Opened nicely with some time in the glass. It is a hard call between this and the monumental 1986, but I think I’d hold out for the latter, though it won’t be ready for years yet. With cheese: 1985 Rocha Port – a special wine made for the Barros family and more like an LBV in some ways. tawny edges, nose like a vintage Port, palate like a young tawny. Pleasant.
  11. June 2007 lunch notes: 2004 Black Hills Alibi – I caught Semillon in the nose on this but was otherwise unable to peg it as a BC wine that I know fairly well. Steely with lots of acidity, it will work best with food. 2004 Quinta das Bageiras Branco Garafeirra – a Portuguese white made from Maria Gomes and Bical grapes, this one had a lemon-lime nose, clean finish and better balance than the previous wine. Only the high price would stop this one being popular. 2000 Dugat-Py Bourgogne – corked – we were blighted with no less than 3 corked wines when we usually don’t see that many in a year. Might as well list all of them now. 1996 Isole e Olena Ceparello – corked 2000 Mastroberardino Taurasi I Radici – a 3 glasser down the drain – sad. On to better things! 1978 Guigal Hermitage – pale edges with an obvious mature Rhone nose was a give away, and we honed in on the year and the fact that it was Hermitage fairly quickly. Elegant, with more acid than tannin. Delightful. 2000 Mt. Redon Chateauneuf du Pape – one of our members was hot and nailed the wine right down to vintage and house! Slight sweetness in the nose, with an undercurrent of leather and cherry, this wine is ready to go ad will not benefit from cellaring. 1981 Sassicaia – this slowed them down a bit as it didn’t cry out any particular region, just cabernet a bit pruny in the nose, dark with browning edges, mellow wood and old fruit, this wine rides on acidity, not tannin. Interesting, the slightly astringent finish indicating it should be drunk up rather than held any longer. 1997 Feyles Barbaresco Riserva – never heard of this producer before. Maturing colour, smoky nose with some alcohol, but not manifested as being hot at all. Amazed that this was so young –it seemed a decade older. 1997 Azelia Barolo (Luigi Scavino) – new style forward wine with medium colour and rather perfumed cedary nose with some tea. Elegant and supple with good fruit and length. 2004 Alto Moncayo Veraton – this Garnacha was hot (16%), had huge sweet fruit in the nose, was similarly huge in the mouth and had good length. Still a bit tannic, it could use some time. Good for serving to friends that need the sort of whack upside the head that some Aussie wines give, when they want a change. Not a wine you can ignore! Nice with cheese. 2000 Conch y Toro Don Melchor – this premium cab was excellent with a warm mellow nose of earth and mint/eucalyptus, good weight, nice berry flavour and good length. Has lots of time to go. 1989 Quady Starboard ‘Franks Vineyard’ – our resident Port purveyor decided to fool us and did a good job. This was a ringer for a vintage Port with a maturing lightening colour, warm but not hot nose, and smooth feel. 1988 Blackwood Canyon Penumbra – this dessert wine from a highly idiosyncratic producer (no longer with us) was actually quite good – brown with sweet Maderised nose (this description would also cover some of his old chards….) was akin to a decent Madeira.
  12. Blind tasting lunch notes for May: 2004 Brda Movia Pinot Grigio (Slovenia) – with vines on both sides of the Italian border, but the winery in Slovenia. Hint of lime in the nose, and some pettilance. Tapers off and a bit simple. 1962 Dom. Charles Noellat Nuits St. Georges – so what would you expect from a village wine from a producer that no longer exists (bought out in 1987 by Leroy)? It was quite pale in colour and had a lovely complex mature nose, - so much so that I was almost reluctant to taste it for fear that the palate would let the wonderful old nose down. The wine was silky smooth, with all tannin resolved, good length, just a total delight to taste. It stood up well in the glass, not fading as many would. What an over-achieving village wine! 1983 Ch. Cantemerle – good colour, fairly dark, actually, with a decidedly cabernet nose and light tannins, this wine drinks very well now with good levels of fruit. 1998 Ch. Rochemorin – this little Graves was very pleasant with a slightly ripe nose, good colour, soft and mellow on palate. Drink now. 2000 Dom. de la Solitude Chateauneuf du Pape – not a producer we often see. chalky fruit nose, sweet entry, mellow in the mouth, low acid and ready to drink. I don’t see this precocious wine as going anywhere in particular but it should hold. 2002 Planeta Syrah – an Italian Syrah threw us a bit. It was a big purple wine with ripe fruit, sweet nose, almost Australian in size, but not as sweet on palate, decent finish. Great ringer! I don’t always mention the food, but we had one course that was just perfect – a truffle flan with smoked duck – light and so well matched to the wines! 2002 Van Loveren Limited Release Syrah – off to the Cape – a wine with good levels of fruit, dark, velvety smooth in the mouth, with slight pepper. A small lots item bought at Neiderberg Auction. 1995 Ridge Zinfandel Lytton Springs – I like Zins with age, the downside being that a significant percentage will fade out on you, with no staying power. This one was good, though, the colour a bit lighter than the last few, also with a somewhat ripe nose, a fair load of soft tannin, and very decent fruit, with good acid on palate and a somewhat sweet end. 2000 Vina Alberdi Reserve (La Rioja Alta) – a Rioja made a change of pace, with lighter colour (looked more like a Burg), a faint whiff of pepper and smooth texture. 1998 Vina Tondonia Reserva (Lopez de Heredia) – limpid medium red colour, quite attractive, and smooth and harmonious on palate, perfectly ready to drink. Unusual that we’d get two Riojas in one lunch! 1994 Mount Veeder Cabernet Reserve – nice way to end – a wine that showed a real fruit driven nose, the oak an omnipresent undertone, not obtrusive, full bodied and with lots of terminal acidity. No rush at all on this wine, which should continue to improve.
  13. 1992 Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – this was one of the first years to be bottled in those stupid bottles with a flat glass rim at the top. This apparently accomplished two things – made the winery stand out from all the others (except, of course, the ones that also used this bottle) and also made it impossible to use various types of common corkscrew on this bottle. The wine is a blend of 81% cab sauv, 10% cab franc and 9% merlot. The 24 months in French oak imparted the usual heavy handed Mondavi telltale trademark to this wine when it was young, but now, at 15 years of age, all that has come into balance. As for the 90% of this wine that has been drunk much earlier, well tough, I guess, at least the impatient ones got what they were expecting – big vanilla oak and tannin. In fact the tannins are still present, only partially muted or softened, and the nose has added some plum to the ubiquitous vanilla, and the mid-palate is a juicy tasty melange with good fruit in the mouth. It finishes well, in a medium length organised fashion, and I’m not sure it will improve much from here, although it will certainly hold, probably for quite awhile. Quite pleasant now, and for those with the self control to have cellared this, go pop a cork and pat yourself on the back for having restrained yourselves – you have a very nice mature California Cabernet on the plateau of development.
  14. A (very) mixed Pinot Noir blind tasting. Many people do not cellar Burgundies – one of the biggest crap shoots in winedom, unless you can taste before you buy, often impractical and/or expensive. This tasting showed more new world Pinots than in previous events. Cipes Pinot Noir Brut – a BC bubbly with a reasonably dark colour, good entry, bit light in the mid-palate, but improving in the end with decent length. With pricing above the good Cavas, not likely to appeal to many. 2003 Zanatta Allegria Brut Rose – yeah, I know, it sounds like a Police retrospective, but this wine comes from the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver island. It was a pink, with a nose of yeast, an unfinished wine. Which is why I taste but do not buy wines from the Island, at least not until they get their act together. 2006 Lang Blanc de Noir – BC pink with a red tone, made from Pinot and Gamay. Not worth putting in your mouth. I know – I did….. 1999 Burrowing Owl PN – fairly light in colour (in context of new world, not Burgs) with browning edges. Interesting on palate – the only tip off that it isn’t French was the slight heat detectable in the nose. Not bad. 2004 Burrowing Owl PN – another “Tunneling Hooter” wine, yet so different. Cherry and cocoa nose, medium colour, fruit level OK, tannin and astringency6 make this one to hold and cross your fingers. Not sure how it will turn out. 1998 Kettle Valley Hayman PN – this single vineyard offering was the first nature wine. Dark colour, slightly funky nose, with some herbs, decent middle and still with soft tannin at the end. 2005 Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Vineyard PN – a Wagner wine from California, there was good sweet pinot fruit in this, a slightly antiseptic sweet nose, and a nice sweet spicy finish.. Oddly enough this died rather quickly in the glass, especially for such a young wine, which usually doesn’t bode well for the ageability. 1999 Jacques Prieur Beaune Champs Pimont – lovely elegant nose that said Burgundy, medium body, pleasant sweet wine with good length. No rush. 2002 King Estate Domaine PN – a primary sort of cherry nose, sweet entry, simple pleasant wine. 2004 Maysara PN Delara – finally an Oregon entry, but sadly not a typical one. Warm caramel and cherry nose, completely unlike a Pinot Noir. So-so on palate – a pass on this one. 2004 Yering Station Yara Valley PN – good red fruit in the nose of this Oz wine, great intensity of flavour and good length. If you like the brasher style, this was a good example, unmistakably from Down Under. 2002 Cedar Creek Platinum PN – usually a reliable wine, this one showed an atypical burnt nose, sour cherries in the mouth and was bland – avoid. 1990 Laurent Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru – there was funkiness but little in the way of fruit in the nose on this one. Better news on palate, with sweet cherry flavours, finishing astringent and a bit sour. If I’d paid for and cellared this wine, I’d be a bit choked. 1985 Remoissenet Savigny les Beaunes Les Gravains Tete de Cuvee – DOA, which I suppose is predictable, or at least a risk with a 22 year old Savigny. 2002 Mission Hill Late Harvest Vidal – never a big fan of Canadian sweet wines, this was no surprise – sweet simple fruit nose, it had sufficient acidity to give it balance but not interest. Forgettable. 2003 Peller Estates Reserve Trinity Ice Wine – much better balance and an improved nose on this rather expensive ($55/375 ml.) wine, far better than the previous vapid example. A blend of Vidal, Ehrenfelser and Riesling. Think I’ll stick (pun intended) to my German BA and TBAs, thanks. This tasting reminds me of why I like cabernets so much…..they are so much more reliable! Sure, a really good Pinot Noir is a true delight, but crawling over figurative broken glass to find them is a pastime for those more masochistic than I am. Do I still collect them? Sure, but only after tasting them. My wine was the 1998 Kettle, and I had a back up of a 1993 Bichot Vosne Romanee Les Malconsorts in my bag.
  15. April lunch notes: 1995 Stony Hill Napa Riesling – a surprise! Obvious Riesling nose, a bit flat on palate, ends softly but with enough acidity. I wondered if it might be an Oz wine. 2000 Albert Mann Gewurztraminer Steingrubler – excellent aromatics, not a dry finish but a bit off dry, with good balance – very nice wine that I am sad to note is now exhausted in my own cellar 1997 Kanonkop Paul Sauer – the flagship wine of this Cape producer. Showed a dark cocoa nose, a little ripe, but with time in glass it became more European with good clean acidity in the finish. Needs time. 2004 Black Widow Reserve – a BC wine (60 cases made) with 85% merlot, 15% cab. Unusual nose – smoked oysters and cinnamon! Sweet finish with a smoky custardy thing happening with a hint of licorice. 1997 Valdivieso Reserve Malbec – sweet nutty nose, middle weight, still fairly tannic and could use a little more time to take the remaining edges off. 1992 Sterling Diamond Mountain Ranch – a 76% Cab 16% cab franc, 8% merlot bledn made by Bill Dyer. This wine is only now starting to come into drinking range as the tannins have been pretty standoffish in youth. Slightly dusty cab nose, dark wine, quite dry finish. 1994 DeLille Chaleur – always a fave of mine, this wine had a voluptuous nose of fruit and spice, was rich and sweet on palate, with soft tannin. Drinking very nicely now. 1999 Colombo Cornas Les Myjeans – the earlier drinking brother to Les Ruchets, I’ve had this many times but was thrown on this occasion by the stinky nose. It was well developed, fairly smooth and ready to drink. 1997 Eileen Hardy Shiraz Mclaren Vale – the ripe minty nose was a giveaway to origin, obvious Oz. Nice weight, not too heavy and with nice clean acidity. A good vintage. Guess I better get stuck into my 1995. 2002 St. Hallets Blackwell Shiraz – we were detecting a theme by this time. Inky black-purple, sweet ripe wine but actually quite pleasant drinking now. 2003 Kirkland Pauillac – we ended on an unusual note with this Bordeaux shipped by a large US firm – bit of fruit in the nose but fell flat with a watery midpalate. Has tannin but low acid. Very forgettable wine. Well at least I am trying to forget it…..
  16. These are notes from a delightful dinner arranged and hosted at a local restaurant by a wine friend whose axis is located for the most part straight through Burgundy and Bordeaux. We were told only that the seven wines were from one property and that the tasting was a vertical. That was the full extent of our knowledge going in! A definite challenge. I found that the wines naturally arranged themselves into two groups, a young segment, characterised by riper noses, and an older group characterised by slightly assertive terminal acidity and a quite different aromatic profile, much more French in style. Very perplexing. They were announced toward the end of the meal as being Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon. All of the food courses were calculated to complement red wines and I shall recite the food as well, as these choices merit recognition. Lamb Carpaccio, roasted garlic, capers, Dijon aioli, Manchego cheese Assuntine (pasta) duck confit, ramps, tomato sauce, parmesan Buffalo tenderloin with wine tip mushrooms and huckleberry sauce Venison chop, fingerling potatoes, red wine sauce Lemon tart and blueberries We started off with a rather fine palate cleanser: 1990 Dom Perignon – showing a little colour, and with a nose of clean lemon scented fruit, showing only slight maturity, with a really creamy smooth mouth feel and a crisp clean elegant finish. You will have to forgive us our thrashing and flopping about trying to decide if it had any Merlot (the nose on some definitely pointed one in that direction), was it a Bordeaux (the last three tempted one to conclude this, yet the first three were clearly riper Southern types), was it perhaps South American or even South African; all came up for discussion. We were left to taste as we wished throughout the meal and I opted to start at the oldest, as is my wont, lest I miss any nuance by beginning at the other end with more powerful and less subtle wines. 1988 – I got a pretty classic claret cabernet sauvignon nose off this one. There was slight lightening but little browning at the edges, and the tannins are mostly gone, the finish riding instead on acidity which with time became slightly assertive. The thought was later offered that it was the custom to acidify these wines in some vintages and the question was raised as to whether that sort of added acidity melds less well with the wines than does a natural grape acidity. This wine and the next two as well, were of low enough pH to have me casting thoughts in the direction of the Cape of Good Hope. 1988 was a decent but certainly not top vintage, and while this wine had early appeal, it was the next wine that ultimately garnered my vote for best of the early crew. 1990 – a lovely red plummy nose (this started me and another chap off on merlot theorising), showing good complexity, and on palate the wine was more harmonious, the acidity better blending in, with a lively finish of good length. 1991 – quite similar to the 1990, with perhaps a slight green note in the nose and just a hint of mint. Good length, but the acidity was not as well integrated in this wine. 1992 – this was my watershed wine, segueing from one style to the next. I can’t attribute the change to winemaking as the same person made all of these wines, so it must be simple ageing, but the difference was quite striking. The 1992 was immediately remarkable as being an even better wine than the 1991, although I valued the complexity and development on the latter wine enough to make it my favourite. The 1992 had a darker colour, a nose with depth and sweetness, and there was great flavour concentration. It was also the first wine, looking at things from the other end, that I considered to be at prime drinking plateau, the younger vintages needing more time as they do. 1994 – switch back to a lighter sort of nose in this wine, and the oak is noticeable, even a bit to the fore for the first time. It developed with time in the glass (all these were opened an hour before the dinner commenced). The tannins are softer than the younger wines but still meaty and indicate that this vintage needs more time, both for the tannins to further soften and the complexity in nose and on palate to develop. It had excellent balance and has all the signs of being special in a few more years. 1995 – a riper, rounder nose, now with some currants rather than plums, and sweeter, which is what made me think of hotter climes than Bordeaux. The tannins are still quite hard, though certainly ripe. It is a fat wine with good middle and firly good length. Needs time. 1997 – this is the only wine that I hadn’t tasted before, as I stopped buying California wines with the 1996 vintage when they exceeded sensible price levels compared to similar wines from other areas. There wasn’t much happening in the nose at first, but with time it opened up and developed a profile quite similar to the 1995 – ripe, sweet, and full. The entry on palate was also sweet, but the tannins clamped down almost immediately, allowing a taster only a scant moment to enjoy the fruit before it was rudely snatched away, or rather enveloped by the looming tannin. I could detect, I thought, the same good balance that characterised the other wines. So what did I learn from this fascinating tasting? That Caymus stands if not alone, certainly in the minority among the upper ranks of California Cabernet producers, in making a wine that values elegance and style above raw power. You can (and we did) mistake these for Bordeaux once they have a few years on them – I’d say 15 is when a good vintage reaches maturity - something you would never be able to say of most of the brawny fruit bombs that otherwise populate this stratum of California cabs. We learned that acidification is not conducive to harmony, although it doesn’t necessarily rule it out. In fact the perception of terminal acidity is highly food dependent as we observed in this menu in a way that made an impression on us. Most of us had written off the first three wines after an hour or so in the glass as being just a bit too acidic for us to really enjoy them and we concentrated on the younger vintages. Then the venison arrived and the older wines that had stayed too edgy with the other courses including the buffalo, absolutely bloomed, the acidity was transformed and the wines became more enjoyable than they had been all night. We finished up the evening with a special bottle that another attendee had brought along: Tarquinio T. da Camara Lomelino Ltda. 150th Anniversary Madeira Boal 1820 – this is a solera that was begun in 1820 and bottled in 1962, and apparently sold to celebrate the 150th anniversary of this firm (presumably no longer extant) in business in 1970. Great brown wine with an intense hot alcoholic nose, medium body and very, very intense flavour. Imagine that you were drinking vanilla extract (no, the flavours aren’t vanilla, I am just trying to convey the sort of flavour intensity in this wine. Any of you who HAVE drunk vanilla extract need not join in this mental exercise....). The wine ended much more smoothly than it began and had truly exceptional length, lingering for minutes in the mouth. A special experience and a fitting end to a singular tasting. What a wonderful learning experience and opportunity! As I also own the 1990, 91, 92 and 94, it was also a great opportunity to gauge the readiness of my bottles.
  17. Got together last night for a potluck dinner and tasting of some 1978 California Cabernets. 1995 Charles Heidsieck Brut Blanc de Blancs – smooth entry, soft in the middle with lower acid than many, very tasty and with good length. Delightful wine. With various pupus including mushroom tarts, quails eggs, sliced seared Ahi…. 2005 Benton Lane Pinot Gris (Oregon) – nice to see a screwcap wine from this area. Showing some light colour, good fruit on palate, nice fruit based nose, bit hard to nail down, and excellent balance. With seafood medley 1978 Villa Mount Eden Cabernet Reserve – brought this out to accompany a mushroom Napoleon (great freshly made puff pastry) and held it over for the other 5 1978s. Only slight orange at the edges, the colour paler than in year’s past, but still nice medium ruby. Good varietal cab nose with obvious maturity, tons of flavour in the mouth but very little tannin, Ready and delightful, my second best wine of the flight. Made by Nils Venge, who had also done the late 1960s, particularly the memorable 1968 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard. Anyone know where he got to later on? With rotisserie BBQ lamb and fingerling potatoes: 1978 Conn Creek Cab – heavier nose than the Mt Eden and a definite mint component, and even less tannin, juicy end as a result of good acidity – quite a tasty wine. 1978 Stags Leap Cellars Lot 2 – a caramel custard nose, then lovely sweet fruit in the middle and a soft lower acid finish ending sweetly. The most mature of the first three wines. 1978 Chappellet – the nose seemed ever so slightly musty for a minute and the level of fruit was considerably lower here. The wine was a bit hollow, and although it was the most Bordeaux like, I think it was just showing age and was sliding/had slid over the top of the proverbial hill. 1978 Caymus – this predates Special Selection, so whatever fruit they had went into this wine. Dill and eucalyptus nose showing faint tannin and more acidity, but the fruit was also lower. We divided a bit on this one, with me judging it to have slid like the Chappellet and others thinking it just back from the brink and still pleasurable. Let’s compromise and say it was a weak showing and age is affecting the wine. 1978 Duckhorn – this was one of the top two (with the Mt. Eden) of the night and was the youngest seeming wine. Great fruit in nose and palate, juicy and long, this will last quiet a few years yet. With cheese: 1977 Monterey Peninsula Winery Amador Zinfandel Ferrero Ranch – I used to make a point of stopping at this winery when I went to Monterey to race old cars at Laguna Seca in the early 80s – does anyone know where they went to? They always had some idiosyncratic but interesting wines and these old style Zins are among my favourites. The crop in this drought year was only 25% or normal and this wine was intensely tannic when young, but had some interesting elements that I thought might eventually pay off. Opening it 27 years later, it showed a slightly warm nose, deep dark fruit nose, big body and it still has some of the tannin I remember but it is now drinkable and worked fairly well with the cheeses. I also pulled out another wine I had picked up on the way home from the races: 1978 Ch. St. Jean Alexander Valley Johannesburg Riesling IDBS (Individuall dried bunch selected). – this was their TBA, a wine picked at super high sugar levels and fermented to 8.3% alcohol, at which point there was still 28.2% residual sugar! It is now an almost opaque brown colour, but there is no hint of maderisation, rather you get honey with a hint of dill in the nose, and the wine is nectar, hard to describe, with the acidity to still make it lively and interesting. This was a particularly good bottle, and it vies with any sweet wine made in North America. The Canadian Ice Wines are inept jokes compared to this. A very classy wine made by Dick Arrowwood before he left St. Jean to found his own winery.
  18. A tasting of mostly 2004 Chateauneuf du Papes tasted double blind. Vieux Donjon – colour on the lighter end of the spectrum, decent nose with some pepper, nice middle weight and some spice and pepper in the mouth. I thought it pleasant but ultimately a bit weak. Janasse – darker with a hotter sweeter nose – some thought this might be the ringer we were told was lurking in the pack. Sweet entry, long finish with good acidity, but on the simple side. Charbonierre Vielles Vignes – excellent fruit in the nose but not as sweet and heavy as the Janasse, medium body, soft tannin, medium length. Nice but not outstanding. Duclaux – some nice things in this nose, but not very expressive yet and you had to search for them. Starts out OK on palate but the fruit falls off the edge and it ends badly. No cigar here. Charbonierre – this one was $12 less expensive than the VV but scored about the same. Reticent nose, fruit but no pepper, good middle and sweet end, well balanced with sweet well integrated tannins. 2003 Vieux Donjon - thrown in to compare the previous vintage. warm violet and tar nose, not quite over the top for me but too ripe for some. Warm long tannic finish, and the nose was a bit oxidative which made us wonder about the future for this wine, although it was pleasant enough now for those that liked the style. Dom..de l’Oratoire St. Martin Reserve des Seigneurs – a Cairanne from the 2004 vintage, at about half the price of the other wines came up 2nd or 3rd favourite in some pretty tough competition! Dark and peppery, classic garrigue nose, excellent concentration, fine tannins and good length. Great value! Should have seen the high syrah in retrospect. Chante Perdrix – lighter than the last wine, with sweet fruit and leather nose (no Bret in evidence on any of them today), medium body, nice freshness and good length. Good showing. Pegau – clear class of the bunch, very dark with a dark, even heavy ripe nose, quite a bit of tannin, huge wine needing lots of time but with all the elements to be very good. If you have this, don’t drink it now – it will drink pretty well, but you’ll be depriving yourself of a future treat!
  19. Blind tasting lunch notes: 2005 Matua Paratai Sauvignon Blanc – grassy varietal nose, medium full body, soft – almost like there was a touch of RS, then long clean finish. Alianca NV Tinto Bruto – a sparkling red but unlike most Aussies, a dead dry one made from 93% Baga and 7% Touriga Nacional. Fizzy, purple, dry…..that’s about all one can say. 1985 Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches – getting quite pale, elegant nose, smooth and very mature with good fruit at the end. Not for holding. 1975 Ch. Boyd Cantenac – not a big name having had an execrable 80s and 90s, but I have always found this vintage to be very presentable. Cedar and tobacco nose with a medicinal element, colour now getting lighter, and ends with acidity rather than tannin (unlike many of this hard vintage which still have pretty significant tannin, though not always enough fruit to balance it). 1988 Haut Bailly – this little Graves was delightful, showing good fruit in the nose, but lacking the solidity of this vintage, the tannins soft and length good. No rush. 2000 Tolo Asini – a blend of 61% Sangiovese and 39% Zinfandel from Paso Robles. Mint nose, big mouth presence, very long and intense. Interesting. 16.2% alcohol but not notably hot. 2001 Bersano Generala Barbera d’Asti – unlike any other Barbera I have tasted. Caramel and fruit nose, smooth sweet and plump in the mouth with an unusual (for the area) dry extracted finish. Quite good! 1994 Heitz Napa Cabernet – Wood in the nose! Dark with good fruit and acidity but not much tannin, this regular cab is very pleasant and will hold awhile. 1999 St. Cosme Cote Rotie – I headed for the Rhone pretty quickly, and for the Northern Rhone as this seemed a Syrah based wine, but I stopped short of Cote Rotie as I was getting none of the typical violets in the nose, nor for that matter any pepper. Instead it was a mature nose with obvious old wood aromas and blackberry, the colour was fairly youthful, and it was sweet on palate. Very nice now – no rush here. 2002 Hazyblur Baroota Shiraz (Clare Valley) – this 15% alcohol wine was dark with a sweet ripe nose of coffee and cocoa. Smooth and long – no real rush here. 1990 Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet – always a favourite of mine. Fairly clearly cab based with a eucalyptus nose sweet approach but not much tannin remaining. Good acidity and balance. No longer really a blockbuster, this has mellowed to a nice drinking cab with some time left but won’t improve. 2001 Errazuriz Vinedo Chadwick - this cab, cab franc and carmenere blend was very impressive. Dark and young, with a youthful chocolate and black cherry fruit nose, tons of fruit on palate, a big wine, still tannic, finishing dry and very classy. This is the one that has been blind tasted against first growth Bordeaux, blind, and come out on top.
  20. Dinner notes: With seared cumin crusted Ahi Tuna croustandes: 1997 Bollinger Grand Année Champagne – a relatively young wine made from 65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, with 75% of the grapes from Grand Cru vineyards and 25% from Premier Cru. Excellent yeasty nose with crisp well fruited middle, tasty long, a very good wine with a very persistent finish. With oyster timbales with crab sauce: 1999 Zind Humbrecht Brand Riesling – they can’t call this a grand cru because it is a monopole, but the quality is equivalent. Showing some colour now, the nose was more about sweet fruit than petrol, and it had a smooth almost oily texture in the mouth. Very enjoyable. With braised sweetbreads with Madeira sauce: 1995 Roger Sabon Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Prestige – we thought this pair would make an interesting comparison. This wine was made from grapes from a 90 year old vineyard, with 55-60% Grenache, 10-15% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre and a mix of the other allowable varietals. The wine had nice colour, an excellent nose of dark sweet fruit and leather, was smooth and elegant on palate, with some soft tannin, and a good length. I don’t think it will change much, certainly not improve any from the way it is now, though it will hold a considerable time. Nice wine. 1995 Les Cailloux Cuvee Centenaire – another old vines (100+) offering that sees 18 months in new oak, unlike the Sabon. It is 80% Grenache, 16% Syrah, 4% Mourvedre. The colour was similar but the nose was markedly different, being an almost anise hoisin sauce exotic nose. Some acidity and some soft tannins evident, but this wine was also drinking beautifully, and the two of them were in a similar plateau stage of life. No rush, but also no reason to wait. With duck magret and confit: 1983 Gruaud Larose - only slight bricking in the edges, an excellent Bordeaux nose with cedar and dark fruit and that lovely mature sense you get from well aged claret. Well balanced, good length and another waft of fruit at the end that was uplifting and left you with an even better impression of the wine. Perfect now and for a few more years. 1986 Gruaud Larose – a different story here. The nose is what I call a ‘darker’ nose, not yet as expressive as the 83 but allowing one a peek at snatches of interesting developments to come. It wasn’t as expressive in the mouth, and the tannin is a much stronger element, though not so hard that it interfered with assessment as it did when the wine was young. Nice length, but not as long as the 83. Given a few more years this is going to be very interesting. With cheese: 1988 Ch. Guiraud – I have tasted these two Sauternes together several times and it is always interesting. The Guiraud is a nice medium straw colour, with a pleasant coconut nopse, medium sweet, with good length.. It had the best nose and was somewhat the fresher of the two. Still on the way up. 1988 Ch. Suduiraut – considerably more darkening of the colour here, and the nose not as interesting, the wine less sweet, but excellent length and a lingering after taste. This one was best on palate, with more complexity.
  21. bills

    Chateauneuf

    Theme – Southern Rhone Food - Aïoli with fresh Ling Cod, Clams, Escargots and fresh vegetables Pork paté with Provençal herbs, frisee greens salad, croutons, cornichons and onion jam Grilled AAA Alberta New York steak with creamy peppercorn sauce, House French Fries Cheese Plate Other than the first wine, these were all Chateauneuf du Papes so to save my fingers I won’t be typing that in every time. 2005 Dom. de la Bacassonne – nice little white Rhone with a bit of saltiness in the nose, fresh with good acid and decent length but a bit of a flat spot before the end. Worked with the fish. 2000 Cuvee du Vatican Reserve Sixtine – very nice fruit based nose, soft tannins, excellent balance and rinks well now with a future ahead. I had only tasted this onece on rele3ase and it was much harder than this bottle. No rush, certainly, but those who have it might want to try a bottle as it is drinking much better than I’d have believed at this age. 2001 Vieux Donjon – black pepper in evidence, a hint of Bret and herbs, but the fruit was slightly candied. Very smooth and will hold well. 1978 Pere Anselme – Ha! you think – a low end producer and a wine that must have been dead! Not so – this was an unlabelled experimental bottle given to the person who brought it many years ago at the winery where they were playing about with various reserve bottlings, none of which ever saw the market as far as I know. This was lighter in colour (we had a lot of trouble judging colour as the lighting was set for ‘romantic’ level), a nice garnet, with an old mature nose, elegant in the mouth with sweetness and obvious maturity and even some tannin. Too bad they didn’t produce this as their regular wine! Me and another taster jumped in with the fact that it must be 70s and if so it had to be 1978 at the same time. Little doubt there. 2000 Clos de L’Oratoire – dark with warm fruit nose, medium body, good flavour intensity, medium length and the fruit quite fresh. Good showing. Nice old time label. 2001 Beaucastel – this one surprised us. Dark wine, ripe nose, powerful on palate with good length, a tad hot, quite forward and with the sort of international nose that had us wondering if it was a Chateauneuf.. Very forward – not a sign of closing down and I wonder if it ever will. 1989 Bosquet des Papes – a long haul old style wine, dark, ripe, still with significant tannin to the extent that we were thinking it a mid-90s wine. Good flavour concentration and length – an impre3ssive wine that I was delighted to find I still have in my own cellar. Don’t be in a rush with this one! 1998 Dom. de la Charbonniere Cuve Vielles Vignes – I am not familiar with this house.but was impressed by the wine. Lighter in colour than the previous wine, it had a much more elegant floral nose, some tannins, well balanced and a return of the tannin at the end. Not a big wine but a very pleasant wine. 1994 Dom. St. Benoit Cuve de Grand Garde – we finished up with another traditional wine of the ‘firm’ school. Good colour, a nose at first that threw some people (some never got over the barnyard even after some of it blew off), medium to full body, the tannins still lurking but now softening, and good length. Drinking well now and no rush. I liked the spice and dark fruit of this one. Amazingly, one taster nailed the house, which I think of as fairly obscure! Well done sir.
  22. Notes from Bill’s Business Lunch, February episode. 2004 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc – sure didn’t pick this as a CB. nice fruit and kiwi nose, lots of acid but not up to normal CB levels, and none of the minerality one expects. A CB that drinks well much younger than most vintages. 2004 Quinta dos Carvalhos Encruzado – not often you come to lunch and add a varietal to your lifetime varietal rota, but this was the first time I’d ever tasted Encruzado, an old Portuguese varietal no longer in general cultivation. All the minerality the CB lacked and then some, smooth and clean and medium long. Very interesting! with marinated calamari and shrimp 2001 Arcadian Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard – instantly recognizable as a PN but opinions divided on the old world new world decision. Clean cherry nose, refined wine with tannins cutting in at the end. Needs time. 1998 Les Hauts de Montmirail – this Brusset wine was showing a pure fruit nose, slightly warm, middle weight, still fair bit of tannin and a dry, spicy white pepper finish. with wabbit 1989 Ch. d’Armaillhac – elegant wine showing mature colour – I thought it was older. Tannins now very soft, smooth on palate and at a nice stage for drinking. 1999 Pontet Canet – firm tannins on this and dark colour, lots of extract, needs time, the nose still very primary. 1992 Hess Collection Cabernet – this cab based wine has matured nicely. Pure plumy fruit nose, with caramel and vanilla, dark colour, with tannin still evident, good length and a whiff of anise at the end. Has time left. with fig stuffed Guinea fowl 1999 Castello di Gabbiano Alleanza – bitter cherry nose with some soy sauce, good concentration and fruit and a pleasant bitterness at the end. Blend of sangio, cab and merlot. 2001 Plaisir de Merle Cabernet – this Cape wine was showing a ripe nose , good but not prominent acidity, and not too much tannin, very drinkable now. 2000 Meerlust Rubicon – sweet slightly perfumed nose, nice weight, some tannin and more acid. with cheese 1998 Wolf Blass Shiraz Low Yeilding Vineyards (Barossa) – a rare bottle, this had a sweet, ripe, friendly nose with a bit of heat. Supple and sweet fruit in the middle and good length. 2001 Edmunds St John Peay Vd. Syrah – a warm one at 14.9%, but clearly syrah. Medium dark, and a big well rounded well balanced wine. Dom. de Forca Real Hors d’Age Rivesaltes – this Muscat was delightful, with orange peel in the nose, lots of stuffing in the mouth and a long dry finish. Much better than if it had been too sweet! 15% alcohol and a great way to end a lunch.
  23. Notes from a tasting at a local French bistro, on a theme of Bordeaux varietals. 2000 La Louviere blanc – clean pleasant nose with mineral and a hint of kumquat, medium body, decent length. I doubt this will improve. 1986 Potensac – slightly dusty mushroom and plum nose, with a lightly pewrfurmed overtone, this wine was nothing like most of the 86s, being soft in the mouth and medium bodied, ready to go and won’t improve with further cellar time. I took it for a more recent vintage. 1981 Cos d’Estournel – nice pull by the owner of this as 1981 is seldom on the tip of anyone’s tongue. Darker wine with some oriental spice showing in the nose, supple in the mouth with tannin still evident, good balance, still decent fruit. It had nuances of mushroom and later orange peel in the nose, which was the most interesting facet of this wine. I’ve tasted this twice before and think this was the best of the three, which surprised me as I’d have expected it to be heading down by now. 1986 Pontet Canet – I sniffed this and the next wine and for a couple of minutes the noses seemed very similar – until this one closed up and the next one blossomed. Still tight in the mouth with pretty solid underlying tannins, this wasn’t giving much now and I’m not sure where it is headed. 1966 Pontet Canet – the last note Parker has on this is from 1990 when he wrote it off as a hard tannic closed wine starting to lose fruit. Well……not this bottle! A nose of leather, olive and plum, with better fruit showing on palate than the 86 had been able to muster and good length. This seemed much younger than this and kept developing in the glass. I expect Parker hit this when it was in a hard closed stage and he never thought it would turn around (reminds me of the 75s). Nice wine that fooled me into thinking a decade or two later! 1996 Havens Bourriquot – my wine, as I have lots of Bordeaux but always like to test peoples preconceptions about wine. I figured this wine, made from cab franc and merlot would come across as less American and more French.. It was so much younger than the last group and had a purple colour in comparison,. The nose was big and relatively ripe, with dark fruit and cocoa. Lots of concentration and length, it was a pleasurable wine that did have them thinking it was probably Bordeaux, but it might have carried it off better if it had been presented in a flight of 1995/6 Bordeaux. A very good showing by the new world, I thought. 2001 Black Hills Nota Bene – another entry from the new world, this time BC. This wine is made from cab, cab franc and merlot (the blend varies in percentage each year) and is hard to get as it always sells out quickly. Sweeter nose, juicy on palate with good length, and I think it held it’s head up if not having the same polish as the old world wines. It worked quite well with cheese.
  24. bills

    Bookwalter Notes

    Bookwalter notes: A range of wines from this Washington state producer at an event held in Vancouver. 2005 Chardonnay Viognier – intended as a wine to be drunk when young, it showed decent fruit in the nose, fair length, pleasant and forgettable. Lot 19 – these blends are made from young vines fruit taken from 2 or 3 different vintages. This one used 2002, 2003 and 2004. Big sweet fruit nose a tad warm, but certainly with good intensity and pretty good length. The tannins became nmore evident with airing. Cab, merlot, cab franc, syrah, petit verdot….. Lot 20 – produced the next year from 2003, 2004, and 2005 fruit. Simpler sweeter nose featuring more oak, a forward wine but with harder tannins. They used more syrah in this. I don’t think it improved it. I preferred the Lot 19 1997 Cabernet – these are also a blend including just about any of the traditional Bordeaux varietals. Pretty nice mature Bordeaux style nose, skightly lean in mid-palate with lots of terminal acidity. Not a very good vintage. 2004 Cabernet – Coffee and vanilla nose with some caramel, the wine still tight and undifferentiated, but clearly superior to the 1997. 2004 Merlot – sweet nose, sweet on palate, bit tight and a slight terminal bitterness but drinks fairly well. 2003 Merlot – primarily oak in the nose and much more charred than the 2004 showed. Sweet entry, then tightens up a couple of seconds later. Lots of tannin – needs time. 2002 Merlot – drinking best of the three. Slight pong in the nose blows off and you can see more development in both nose and on palate. Softer wine. 2003 Chenin Blanc – intended to be an off dry wine. Almost no nose, and what there was had an unpleasant edge. Showing some acid but in the end an insipid and forgettable wine. Conclusion? Decently made wines with little hope of success in our market at around $59 for the Cab – just too much else out there in that range. The ‘Lot’ wines sell for under $10 at Costco and would be $30 in BC – not much incentive there.
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