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Everything posted by bills

  1. Notes from my monthly blind tasting lunch in Vancouver. 2003 Carles Hours Cuvee Marie Jurancon – here is an oddball – a white from the slopes of the Pyrenees with 14% alcohol and about 6% RS., made from Gros Manseng. The nose was more like a white Rhone than anything else, and there was lots of flavour in the middle. I think the overall Impression would have been better with lower RS. 1998 Ch. Couhins-Lurton (Graves) – although made from sauvignon blanc, this wine lacked the usual clues in the nose – all we could get out of it were wet rocks. Clean refreshing and ending a bit lemony, it was a tough one to guess. Steve Rogstad, the winemaker from Cuvaison, said that it had evident tannins, which I think was correct, although not the first thing you look for in white wines. We had these wines with a shrimp and crab item stuffed into a melon zucchini. 2002 Christian Moreau Chablis Prem. Cru ‘Les Clos’ – clean floral nose, very elegant, with good length. 2002 Cuvaison Pinot Noir Estate – Steve told us that this grape was probably his favourite (some people pick difficult favourites!) A very slight funkiness overlaid the excellent fruit in the nose, but no one would mistake this for a Burgundy. Warm in the mouth (14.5%) and fairly full bodied, with a persistent finish. Good. We moved to rolled guinea fowl breast stuffed with foie gras in a Madeira pear sauce. 1989 Raffault Chinon ‘Les Picasses’ – this cab franc from the Loire has to be about the most full bodied example I recall tasting! The colour betrayed it’s age, and the nose fit a mature Bordeaux exactly, so I (and probably everyone else) were thinking this had to be a decent Bordeaux, maybe a 1985. There was even some remaining tannin. Not your usual somewhat green cab franc! Well done, Jenise, you fooled us! 1976 Mayacamas Cabernet (California designation) – darker than the previous wine (which had been no lightweight) but you knew the minute you smelled it that we were dealing with a mature cabernet. Touch of vinyl in the nose, and losing fruit a bit, but good length and still quite a bit of tannin. This wine must have been undrinkable in it’s early years! Probably better (in terms of fruit) a few years ago. Interestingly the 1974 I had recently showed the same darned vinyl note in the nose, although it did go away, and it had more fruit but the same big tannins – it may be ready some day…… 1986 Cuvaison Cabernet – I decided to bring this in honour of Steve’s presence, even though it predates his involvement with the winery by a considerable margin. As expected, a mellow mature California cabernet, that stood out because of the relatively high acidity, which Steve indicated would likely be from mountain fruit. Still holding up well. We were into the cheeses by this time. 1996 Jean Leon Cabernet – sensual coconut nose (Steve told us what chemical accounts for this aroma, but my note seems to have been engulfed in a wine stain). Dark, tannic and with lots of acidity, this wine needs another 5 years to settle down. Great Penedes wine! 1999 Jean Luc Colombo Cornas ‘Les Myjeans’ – this was a sub-par bottle ( I know this wine fairly well). Ripe nose with some band aid (actual chemical source similarly unreadable in my note) medium to full bodied but lacking clarity of flavour definition. 1995 Isole e Olena Cepparello – warm nose with black cherry fruit and lots of acidity in the wine. Drinks as well as it ever will right now. Decent. 2002 Matua Ararimu – a blend of cabernet and merlot (they sometimes also add a bit of syrah) this wine was an absolutely great stumper – no one expects the Spanish Inquisition…er… I meant expects a red wine like this from New Zealand. Dark, with lavish sweet fruit – mostly lush blackberries, a forward big wine drinking well now. 2003 St. Hallets GST – the clue given to us was that it cost $X and that included ‘GST’. A non-joke for Americans, but Canadians and Brits will understand goods and services tax, and by this time in the meal we didn’t need a REALLY funny joke to set us off. This is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Touriga. In contrast to the previous wine, the abundant fruit in the nose was decidedly blueberry rather than blackberry, and the oak was uncharacteristically restrained, or perhaps simply subdued by the fruit on palate. Interesting curiosity – grab a bottle if you see it. T. Vache & Co.Three Friends Port – a strange wine in a truly odd shaped bottle, brought by Jenise from another prior event. Not much info on this one – a Californian Port made of…?? Nose was a ringer for Madeira, and it was raisiny in the mouth, but medium dry and quite interesting. I have been asked why I don’t set themes for these lunches. This is a good example – a Jurancon white, two older Cal-Cabs, a Bordeaux ringer from the Loire, a Cal-Cab ringer from Penedes, and the Matua. If that doesn’t keep you on your analytical toes trying to figure out what the heck they are, nothing will. We hadn’t a hope in heck on that ‘Port’, of course! I am going to append my note on last evening’s dinner wine as it doesn’t seem worth a separate ‘edition’ 1994 Franus Zinfandel Brandlin Ranch – wax, warm earth and pepper in the nose, full bodied and a bit warm on palate. Still tasty.
  2. bills

    Heitz Notes

    Lovely evening with Kathleen Heitz this week at O’Douls in Vancouver With heirloom tomatoes on puff pastry with crème fraiche and chive oil: 2004 Grignolino (Napa) – a varietal that you don’t see all that often. The distinguishing characteristic seems to be the colour – although it is a rosé, it is a lurid bright pink that I don’t recall seeing on any other rosé. Quite a bit of spiciness in the nose, well balanced and dry in the mouth with a hint of terminal astringency. Only a few hundred cases made. With prawn and scallop agnolotti with tarragon and chervil nage (isn’t ‘agnolotti’ plural? What is the singular form, as this was one big mother single agnolott-us?) 2003 Chardonnay (Napa) – green gold colour, with a fair bit of oak and lime hints in the nose, a tad flat in the middle, a bit better at the end and improved with food. Unexceptional, but it is after all the basic entry level chard. They stuck one of those gustatory monstrosities in here – a sweet grape sorbet – hey wouldn’t want you to go into the serious wines without cloying your palate for you. Why do people that were otherwise doing such an excellent job on the food insist on this sweet interlude? Palate cleanser, not ‘cloyer’ please people (I’ll keep on saying this until they all get it right - an all too common faux pas in even the best restaurants these days). Next up – duck prosciutto with herb risotto. 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa) – bright edges, a hint of cocoa on the nose, medium concentration, a middle of the road well made cab, soft and ready with good acidity and only a bit of tannin. Interesting interplay between the wine and the salty duck and non-salty risotto – fun going back and forth. With beef tenderloin in black truffle sauce: 1997 Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet – there was a very big step here, going from the basic cab to this beast. The wine was quite dark and showed a spirity minty nose with a touch of anise, very concentrated. Not as much of the mintiness as one expects based on other vintages. A sweet entry, some good flavour development in the middle, followed by excellent length. The wine developed a bit more anise in the finish after awhile in the glass. This label carries a commemorative message in honour of Joe Heitz, and a coloured label used only on the 1974, 1985 and 1997. With lamb noisette: 1999 Trailside Cabernet – this wine put on a great show, coming after the Martha’s. There were more cherry notes in the nose, which seemed also a bit riper than the 97, and then a slight astringency on entry with lots of vanilla both in nose and on palate, perhaps as a result of the use of 100% new oak.. Fairly harmonious now, with a long, very slightly bitter finish. Interesting. I liked this one. With berry tarts: Ink Grade Vineyard Port – made from Portuguese Port varietals, although I doubt there would be much risk of mistaking this for a Porto wine. Almost black with purple edges, very sweet nose, not at all hot, and fairly sweet in the mouth with good length. This wine is ready to drink and I doubt it will age the way a vintage Port will, though it resembles that sort of wine more than, say, an LBV or Ruby. Interesting. They also make a ‘Port’ out of Grignolino, which is an interesting idea that I’d love to try some time. Great event with a gracious host. While I have often enjoyed older vintages of Martha’s (1974 in particular, but the 1968 is unforgettable as well), I often prefer the Bella Oaks, which I find to be a less full-bore attack on the senses, a bit more European in style. I think that the Trailside is excellent value, vying with the Martha’s at a much lower price. Thanks again to the Vancouver American Wine Society for arranging this event and to Kathleen Heitz for attending, and for bringing up the 1997 Martha’s!
  3. Dinner in the garden again last night, this time with Rhone wines. With a nice assembly of finger food: Montaudon “Classe M” Brut Champagne – bottled for the year 2000 celebration (you’ll recall that many ill-informed people, blinded by nice round numbers laboured under the misapprehension that this was the turn of the century millennium, rather than a year later). This has now attained a nicely toasty note in the nose, and was clean and bright on palate. Pleasant beginning. 1993 Ch. de Beaucastel Vielles Vignes Roussanne – as has been my recent experience, this is now exhibiting a quite deep amber colour. The nose at first is slightly oxidative and there are some fino sherry notes on palate, but as the wine warmed up (rather swiftly as it was quite warm outside) it transformed into something rather different. The nose was one of beeswax and honeysuckle; it opened very nicely on palate and showed some peach fruit before a lengthy finish. These wines have a small following (they only make 4-500 cases a year and they are getting quite expensive), in which I am glad to include myself. I had to really think about what to serve with this, especially in summer. I came up with something that worked very well (both to may taste and judging by other comments) – a cold Kubocha squash soup (very thick) served in teacups with unsweetened whipped cream piped over it, topped with a grating of nutmeg. We had my wife in attendance, and as she isn’t one of the wine participants, I opened a bottle just for her. She allowed us to taste it: 1995 Jaboulet Parallel 45 Cote du Rhone – (I wanted to have her wine in theme) Dark, with a pronounced aroma of tomatoes and basil! Not bad at all, but now nearing the end of its useful life. The next wine was old enough that I didn’t want to serve it with anything that might interfere with our enjoyment, so I made a grilled quail salad. I had based my deliberations on some recent notes on this wine, but as it turned out I needn’t have worried as it was more than capable of fending for itself. 1979 Jaboulet Hermitage ‘La Chapelle’ – this vintage gets less attention than it might otherwise attract as it came a year after the monumental 1978. The colour has lightened a bit over the years and the edges are now lightening a bit. The nose however, was big and unmistakeably Rhone – it resolved into a blood and tar melange with overtones of smokiness. The wine is now reasonably soft and is quite well balanced with excellent length and a hit of sweet fruit coming in late. The acidity became a bit more noticeable as it opened in the glass. This wine is concentrated and powerful – it is NOT elegant, as I have seen it described elsewhere. It will live on for quiet awhile but I think it is probably drinking as well as it ever will right now. The next course was designed to facilitate comparison of two Gigondas – we had parsleyed new potatoes, grilled mixed peppers, and marinated butterflied leg of lamb grilled on the rare side. 1995 Dom. Santa Duc Gigondas ‘Haut Garrigues’ – made from 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and 15% Mourvedre, with low yields and no filtration, these wines are a real surprise when you first taste them, as one doesn’t normally expect this sort of concentration from Gigondas. Ripe fruit and tons of black pepper in the nose, big in the mouth with soft tannin and a long finish. This wine is just getting into the beginning of its prime drinking plateau and has years to go. 1998 Dom. Santa Duc Gigondas ‘Haut Garrigues’ – the nose was much more restrained here and there was good depth of flavour, softer middle, almost a hint of bitterness right at the end, and actually drank better than the 95 right now. It developed some black pepper as it opened, but the pepper came in on the finish, not in the nose like the 95.The colour of this wine shows ‘older’ than the 95, and while it will continue to improve for a the next few years, I don’t think it will have the longevity of the 1995, which in the end I preferred. With cheese: 1995 Les Cailloux Cuvee Centenaire – the reserve cuvee of this well known property, made of 80% Grenache, 16% Syrah and 4% Mourvedre. The nose was different – pepper, plums and camphor wood, later developing a perfumed quality. Medium bodied, long and mellow, this wine shows some soft tannin, but it is further aloing than I’d have thought it would be, and it should hold for a number of years. 1994 Dom. Font de Michelle Cuvee Etienne Gonnet – I pulled this out of the cellar when we reached the end of the last wine, we still had cheese left, and the assembled crew were looking thirstily at me. I served it blind, straight from the cellar, and they thought it might be younger than the Cailloux. It showed a stinkier peppery sweat sock nose with some black olive. A bit more full bodied than the previous wine, and with good length. Drinking well now.
  4. Bacchus was good to us - I assume it was he, patron of wine appreciators who made the sun come out of a cloudy sky to allow the al fresco tasting of wine yesterday in the garden. 2004 Vergelegen Chardonnay – fair bit of oak, enough to satisfy most oakaholics, but in this wine quite well integrated and it had the typical good acidity of Cape wines. Very good value here. 1997 St. Innocent Seven Springs Pinot Noir. Very Burgundian in colour and framework, yet I doubt anyone would take it for a Burg – they might have a moment’s pause before assigning it to the US, though. There was some nice cherry and a hint of burnt sugar in the nose, medium body and well focussed. 2001 Scherrer Vineyard Alexander Valley Zinfandel Old and Mature Vines – had to ask about this one – can you have old and immature vines? (I KNOW you can have old but immature winetasters….) I liked this quite a bit. Fine raspberry nose, lots of fruit in the middle, soft and long – nice Zin! 1997 Joseph Swan Redwood Ranch Zinfandel – very ripe nose, long finish and a bit hot (high alcohol), and a bit less well integrated than the previous wine. but pleasant nonetheless. 1985 Mugneret-Gouachon Vosne Romanée – a stinky nose that blew off, then some good mature fruit from this amazing little village wine from an excellent vintage. It went on and on, and reminded me why I like mature Burgs so much. 1999 Les Cailloux CNduP – very nice pepper and leather nose and surprisingly forward with sweet fruit – very pleasant now, but I wonder if it will be a long haul wine like the 95 and 98 (both of which admittedly also drink exceptionally well right now). 2002 Vergelegen Mill Race Merlot Cabernet – second time this week I’ve tasted this. Dark wine, rich fruit nose, soft tannin, great QPR 2000 Termes – a wine from the Spanish region of Toro, made from ‘Tinta de Toro’ – I don’t know if this generic term includes the Tempranillo I’d expect to be in this wine. Fairly dark with tobacco and a hint of rubber in the nose, and a nice streak of licorice on palate, slightly warm and good balance. 1994 Pesquera – this crianza was showing well. This time around the nose was distinctly blackcurrant, and while there is still a bit of oak evident, the flavours are now melded together into a mature harmonious whole. It finishes with only moderate acidity and soft tannin. Drink now and for a few years. 1998 Temple Bruer Reserve – produced in South Australia (Langhorn Creek) of 86% cab and 14% petit verdot, this one had a spearmint nose that would have betrayed its origin, had this been a blind tasting. Highly concentrated with lots of extract, lots of tannin and lots of acidity, this needs more time, but worked alright with the cheese. 1983 Dows Port – the nose on this wine has smoothed out since the last time I tried it, but it is still a bit of a baby, somewhat sweet, though not to the extent of a Grahams, and with the flavours just beginning to integrate well. A hint of anise on the nose, and a floral note. Good colour at the rim, and just getting into drinking territory. 2000 Fabiano Recioto della Valpolicella ‘Rugola’ – sweet mellow porty-figgy nose and soft in the mouth, ending with a fair bit of RS. This was pulled when one person came late and qualified in our ‘one bottle per person’ regime. Either that or there was a passing raccoon that looked thirsty or ……..Probably Rondinella and Corvino, mat dried.
  5. 2002 Vergelegen Mill race Merlot Cabernet – this Cape wine shows good fruit and a nice weight ion the mouth, and while it has some soft tannin, it drinks well now. I think it will continue to drink for 3 or 4 years, and the price is a bargain. Second night, no significant change. Why was I trying it over two nights? Well might you ask! Normally a bottle opened is a bottle dedicated to the wine Gods that very night (with yours truly revipient of the libation) – rarely do I taste again the next night, because rarely is there anything left to taste. But in this case, I opened two bottles at once. I was faced with a serious dilemma – either drink both bottles in the same night and have SWMBO label me a p**stank, or spread them over two nights and receive (relative) silence from the distaff side. Come on, you’d have done the same thing! Besides, I wanted to taste them against each other to decide which, if any, I wished to buy. 2003 Morgante Nero d’Avola – 100% varietal from Sicily, and IGT wine. Raspberry, cinnamon and elastoplast in the nose, and quite big in the mouth, full bodied with berries and long and warm. Second night, much the same, although the cinnamon was reduced and the bandage element was absent. Similar time frame for this one. I think both of these wines are QPR winners, at $19 and $22, which means that in the States they are probably about $1.85 a bottle! The decision? Easy – a half case of each!
  6. bills

    Cape Wines

    South African wine notes: Van Loveren Papillon Brut – decent generic bubbly, equivalent to a middle range Cava. 2004 Danie de Wet Chardonnay Sur Lie – I can’t recommend this unoaked chard – it did have some fruit in the nose, but despite a decent balance it managed to be bland and uninteresting, unlike some of the higher priced wines from this producer. 2002 Beyerskloof Pinotage Rosé – in my opinion this is a harmless way to use up Pinotage – much better than adulterating good cabernet with it, for instance. Not much nose, but crisp and inoffensive. Went well with ostrich carpaccio. 2004 Van Loveren Sauvignon Blanc – ah – the first sign of interesting wine! A non-grassy sauv blanc, more fruit driven than many, crisp and refreshing at a bargain price. 2004 Van Loveren Semillon – I gave up on this wine after the first bottle was corked AND the replacement was also corked, although a bit less offensively. Hello, people – have you heard of crown caps or Stelvin? With Piri Piri prawns (hot!) With a very nice mixed Brai of venison tenderloin, lamb chop and South African sausage: 2002 Man Vintners Sénga Merlot Cabernet – this showed a very enjoyable nose with a hint of green and lots of fruit, was full and forward with soft tannins and well balanced. A bargain at $19 C. 2001 Beyerskloof Synergy – this is a Cape blend, which means that they take good wine and add Pinotage to it. And in the process come up with something that shows a bizarre nose of rubber with volatile acidity. Not bad at all in the mouth, big soft and fairly long, but the nose was enough to put me off. The previous vintage was significantly better in that it lacked the flaws in the nose. It may not be the Pinotage causing the problems here, but as you may have gathered I am not a fan of that grape, as I feel that it adds nothing to the blends in which it is used in the name of South African identity. Much the same thing could be said of the over-use of Carmenere in Chile, when its best role is so obviously a supporting one. 1953 KWV Muscadel ‘Jerepigo’ – I’ve had these old dessert wines before, though not from this vintage. Brown with red highlights in the colour, an oxidative Sherry-like nose, with huge fruit on palate and sweet ripe follow through. Interesting in the same sense that Aussie dessert wines are interesting.
  7. Dinner with friends and some nice old wines last night. 1993 Deutz Blanc de Blancs – this Champagne was teetering on the brink of the transition from interesting wine to tired old dog. Lots of colour, decent mousse, yeasty nose, with a hint of impending senility, but not over the hill yet. I have no idea if this bottle was typical or if it had accelerated development due to cellaring conditions. Nonetheless, enjoyable now, but I wouldn’t hold it more than another year unless you are English. 2003 Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris – nice nose, fresh and lemony and soft and showing some complexity. Went well with an artichoke dip – hard to pair with! 2001 Suckfizzle Sauvignon-Semillon – time out for a little Rabelaisian diversion. Nose on this NOT typically Australian, rather a marked wet stone sort of thing, with good bright fruit. Very nice, and would be hard to guess blind. 1983 Ch. La Lagune – a slight bottle stink blew off quickly and this turned out to be quite a decent bottle. The nose showed good fruit, and the wine is now absolutely mature and should be drunk up in the near term. Very pleasant claret, and a good one to drink while the 82 continues to rest. 1983 Ch. Brane Cantenac – the host chose this order, as he wanted to match Margaux with Margaux, but I’d have served this one first as I expected it to be the lesser wine. It had a more immediately attractive nose with some good definition of fruit, very good colour, but showed a bit on the thin side after and initially hopeful entry, soft, decent structure, and then it slid from there with less fruit and shorter finish than the La Lagune. It also faded more quickly and I’d say if you’ve still got any, drink up and don’t decant long before you serve it. 1999 Pavillon Rouge de Margaux – this was a good Pavillon but not an exceptional one. Fairly dark, with some depth and complexity showing in the nose, the fruit is forward but the still firm tannins dictate additional cellaring before enjoying this to the full. I’d rate it better than the 1990 (which somewhat disappointed me) and not quite as good as the 1982. The lack of acidity here didn’t hamper the red as much as it did the Pavillon Blanc in 1999. Zoilo Ruiz-Mateos Don Zoilo Very Old Brown Sherry – couldn’t see through this old wine, but the nose was great old sherry with a touch of wax, and the medium sweet wine showed layers of flavour in the mouth. You either love or hate this sort of wine (many people just don’t ‘get’ them) but I found it fascinating. I am not sure whether this house still carries on business.
  8. Notes from the July blind tasting lunch. 2003 Ch. La Louviere - a clean refreshing nose, citrus flavours, balanced and long with more citrus right at the end. One note of caution – as this warmed in the glass it flattened both in nose and on palate, not a good sign for longevity. 2003 Hartford Court Three Jacks Vineyard Russian River Chardonnay - lots of oak immediately apparent in this one, and a sweet, smooth entry, fair length, not overly complex, but that may change with age. It got much more buttery as it warmed and opened. Served with scallops with 2 kinds of ‘caviar’ (made from seaweed, and pretty good!) 1991 Fiddlehead Pinot Noir (Santa Maria) – some funk in this nose but mostly bright plumy fruit. Medium body, lots of acidity and obviously pinot noir, 1997 Luis Pato Vinha Barrosa – a high end limited production Portuguese wine was very difficult to place. With pasta with braised Kobe beef 1979 Gruaud Larose – I knew at once it was Bordeaux, but started fumbling around trying to place it in the 1980s, not thinking it could be in the 70s. Great mature Bordeaux nose, in the mouth very integrated with excellent acidity and next to no tannins. This was my wine of the tasting, just lovely. Of course I am a soft touch for mature Bordeaux, but this was drinking perfectly now. 1996 Falesco Montiano – a dark merlot from Latio made by Cotarella in small lots. Nice cocoa and blackberry nose, medium weight, some tannin and quite dry at the end. Good, but at the prices these wines bring, I expect just a little more. 2002 Alto Terra Andina Cabernet Reserva – this Chilean Cab from the Maipo Valley is the QPR winner of the day. Quite dark with a big nose of mint and dark fruit, and big in the mouth with lots of extract. Good length, a bit of tannin at the end, and we figured it would drink for 3-4 years. Not subtle, but with a steak on the Barbie, who would care? Served with Saltspring Island lamb 2003 Manon des Vignes ‘Les Filles de Septembre” – a true oddball from Cotes de Thongue, made, oddly enough, from 100% Petit Verdot! Big, black and viscous, with a sweet nose, and young and tannic in the mouth with an astringent finish, this needs time. People either loved it or hated it, which is all fairly academic as my friend brought it himself from the South of France and said they made a couple of barrels and didn’t sell it abroad. Somehow Jenise managed to nail the varietal – maybe she’s been secretly slurping PV while no one watches. 1997 Cavas de Weinert Gran Vino – made from cab, Malbec and merlot, this blend is the top wine from this house and is always reliable and always well priced. A generic sort of fruit nose, mature and balanced in the mouth, at peak. With cheese 2004 Saltspring Island Blackberry Port – this locally made 16% alcohol fruit wine wasn’t all that bad. Not too sweet and essence of blackberries exploding in the mouth. Interesting way to end the meal.
  9. We did a very pleasant garden dinner last afternoon, with some wines blind and others not. We somehow managed to get good weather! With paté, olives and artisanal breads: 1994 Bourillon d’Orleans Vouvray La Coulée d’Argent – a dry Chenin blanc Loire wine, it was showing lots of colour, an orangey nose, smooth texture and ended quite dry. It was better a couple fo years ago, but still quite pleasant. 1983 Hohe Domkirche Scharzhofberger Auslese – we so seldom drink German wines and yet they are so good – this was in far better shape than many cabernets of the same age. Excellent readily identifiable petrol Riesling nose, in the mouth not quite dry, but certainly not sweet, and very well balanced with excellent terminal acidity and a long finish. Completely enjoyable and in great shape. I picked this Mosel to echo the final wine of the night. With Gazpacho (chunky and somewhat spicy) 2002 Thornhaven Gewurztraminer – this sort of soup (more a cold vegetable stew, really) is a very challenging match for wine, especially if you forego the easy Sherry option. I chose a BC Gewurz with some residual sugar to combat that acidity of the tomatoes. Readily identifiable by the nose, the normal perception of sweetness muted by the soup, only a fair match. With Tarte l’oignon with Gruyere: 2000 Clos de St. Landelin Tokay Pinot Gris – an amazing 14% alcohol in this wine from a producer I had never heard of was not evident in the nose or on palate. The nose was slightly Riesling-like, but more typically Pinot Gris, so I called that one right. The wine was soft but had sufficient terminal acidity to match with the tart quite well, I thought. With marinated Mojo Chicken with BBQ’d marinated veggies: 1982 Ch. Gloria – I chose this as an entry to Bordeaux, knowing what the next wine would be. The nose wasn’t what it should have been, which gave concern for what would present to us on palate, but no worries – it was quite full flavoured in the mouth and ended with a slight sweetness. Much better in mouth than in nose. 1982 Ch. Gruaud Larose – wow – what a difference. A big wine, with lots of dark fruit and spice in the nose, big sweet entry, full bodied in the mouth, great concentration and a surprising peppery finish. No rush here! With cheeses: 1993 Tenuta Farneta Bongoverno – I thought I’d switch to something completely different to throw them with this one and it worked as they were still thinking it might be a rustic Bordeaux. The nose was indeed consistent with a Bordeaux, although this dry Tuscan wine is made with Sangiovese – a remarkable imitation indeed. The nose was a bit warm and definitely a bit sweet, and while there was good acidity, it wasn’t of such magnitude as to provide a clue to the national origin of this wine. Finally, served on its own as befits this sort of wine: 1981 Wegeler Deinhard Bernkasteler Doctor Beerenauslese Eiswein – this wine was only 7% alcohol, and at 24 years of age was in fine shape. The colour made you think of apricot juice, and the nose was so complex with hints of caramel, molasses, and pears and honey underneath. Very well balanced, and also very long. I would put this on par with any dessert wine in the world, Sauternes included. The fact that some people don’t know any better than to lump new world icewines into the same category as this, either means that they’ve never tasted a real eiswein, or if they have, that they have flannel instead of taste buds.….this was quite wonderful. Unfortunately they are also seriously expensive, the new vintages usually topping $100 US a half bottle.
  10. Notes from a Sunday brunch. Kir – I suppose the only consolation is that the white wine used here for this sort of drink is not as lean and nasty as some of the stuff used in France, which really requires the addition of something sweet to soften the edge. But given that, the question remains – why not just drink the white wine? Oh well. 2001 Ch. Chantegrive Cuvee Caroline (graves) – 50% semillon, 30% sauvignon blanc, 20% muscadelle. Showing some colour, and a lemony nose, good acid but a little lacking in the middle, finishing a tad short. Ho hum. Served with truffled quail and sweetbread terrine. 2001 Ch. l’Arrivet-Haut Brion – 60% sauv., 35% Semillon, 5% muscadelle. Much nicer, with a grassier nose with ripe melon notes, clean and fresh in the mouth with a hint of anise on the finish. With seared filet of Thai snapper on fennel pureé 1995 Ch. Grand-Mayne (St. Emilion) – there was an interesting difference of opinion on this wine. It showed a ripe sweet fruit nose with some interesting spiciness, and good fruit in the middle. In my opinion the wine is just starting to drink well, but several others thought it was getting tired. Either different bottles or different tastes. With roasted lamb chops with goat cheese panna cotta 1986 Ch. Pichon Lalande (Pauillac) – I was expecting an uncharacteristically big hard unrelenting wine based on past experience wit this a few years ago, so was rather surprised to find that this was presenting much better than I thought it would. Ripe fruit nose with good depth, now starting to show some complexity, smooth and rich in the mouth with obvious but not off-putting tannins. It drinks quite well now, with a pleasant sweetness. This conflicts with other’s recent notes on this wine. With cheese. 1988 Ch. Guiraud – I was really impressed with this Sauternes. Great nose of Botrytis, honey and spice, excellent balance, not coming across as too sweet and with bright acidity, the honey coming in again at the end. Drinking very well now and with years to go! With pear frangipane tart. All in all, not an unpleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon!
  11. 1995 Coudoulet de Beaucastel – as a follow-up to my throwing the 1995 Jaboulet Parallel 45 into a Cotes du Rhone tasting in order to contrast young and old, I decided to open one of these. Still red right out to the rim, with a nose of mature fruit with some leather, the sweet cherry notes of youth having disappeared in maturation. The fruit on palate is quite bright and the wine has a supple smooth feel to it with good length and a gentle hit of pepper at the end. It is fully mature and will hold another few years but will not improve. I found it to be better than the Jaboulet wine by a significant margin – probably the best CduR I recall having from this excellent vintage. I packed quite a few cases of wine from both North and South ‘below stairs’ – maybe it would be interesting to try a bottle of the Ch. de Beaucastel, always assuming I could find it. Anyone opened a bottle lately?
  12. bills

    Recent Rhones

    Notes on some Rhones: 2001 Seguret Dom. de Mourchon CduR Villages – dark wine with a black olive and black pepper nose, warm in the mouth with bright flavour, obviously maturing, and a bit of remaining tannin. Very nice and will keep another 1-2 years. 2001 Visan Cuvee Louise Amelie CduR Villages – this wine was quite a contrast to the first one. Lighter in colour and weight, it showed acidity but virtually no tannin, had a pleasant sweetness at the end and just kept opening up on the nose. A ‘pretty’ wine that would stand in for any Cru Beaujolais – need w red to go with fish? This is it. Need one to go with light summer food? This will do the trick. 1995 Jaboulet Parallel 45 CduR – I tossed this in as a blind ringer and as a comparison with the new kids – which I doubt will age anywhere near as long. Toffee and leather in the nose, medium bodied wine finishing with good acidity and fine tannins, a bit less peppery than it used to be. Drink now – it will not get any better and depending on your cellaring conditions may have already turned the corner. 2003 Chante Perdrix CNduP – a rather nice nose on this wine with light black pepper, green tea, a bit of smokiness….and in the mouth sweet, big and smooth, with good length. It drinks so well now and is so soft that while I think it will last a few years, I doubt it will be a long haul wine and will probably never show better than it is today. It would be hard to resist this one in the cellar. Ten years ago, if you had told me that it would not be uncommon to see CNduP that were serious wines, but that would drink as well at 2 years old as they ever would, I wouldn’t have believed you. But then I still haven’t started on my 1989 and 1990 Beaucastel…….
  13. Interesting and enjoyable dinner/tasting of white wines with Asian fusion food. NV Lingenfelder Satyr – this unusual bubbly is made sand dosage (sorry, that should be in German, but I’m not sure what that would be….) – he uses only grape must to adjust sweetness, and is matured on the lees for 5 years. The result is a wine with some colour, a somewhat coarse spritz, excellent balance, quite dry and with good acidity, and some pear notes in the nose, which although it has Riesling hints, doesn’t shout out it’s varietal like a still wine normally does. 1996 Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne – oddly enough this one was also a bit sparse in the bubble department, though it was easily identifiable as a Champers. The nose was a bit dusty, but the wine was smooth and showed some complexity. With Cucumber dong (don’t ask) salad with chili oil and crystallized ginger 2003 Ch. de Pibarnon Bandol – Clairette, Bourbellenc and other unidentified components gave this wine…..well not much of anything at all, actually. Very closed nose with the odd bit of apple and lemon peaking out, and pretty much a big blank in the middle. No one seemed to know what to make of this. 2002 Pride Viognier – interesting waxy lanolin and coconut nose, smooth with good balance and some honey at the end. With Indian candied salmon crispy wontons with green apple jelly 1996 Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches – no flies on this one (har har). Showing a bit of colour, a nose of wet rock, tons of acidity, interesting wine with some depth and good length. 2002 de Ladoucette Pouilly Fumé – sweet honeysuckle aromas, well balanced acidity. Obviously younger than the previous wine. With Pan roasted pork loin with Szechuan peppered burnt orange pecan glaze 2001 Grange des Peres – Roussanne and chard here, with big oakiness and a bit of lemon in the nose, well balanced and with slight hints of spice. 2001 Mer Soleil Chardonnay – Wagner’s version was unfair competition for the poor Grange – big citrus and mineral notes in the largely oak driven nose, full flavoured and toasty with good ‘heft’ to it. If you are in the mood for a ‘woody’, this is a good one and goes down well with food. With Su dong po wild boar braised in sweet soy 2001 Penfolds Eden Valley Riesling Reserve – got this one fairly quickly as an Aussie Riesling, though I guessed Western Oz rather than Eden Valley. Big varietal nose, the wine very dry, ending with citrus. Good with food. This would have worked better earlier on, but I expect they wanted to pair like varietals with each other. 2001 Jackson Triggs Proprietor’s Reserve Ice Wine – I’ve reviewed this wine before. You are either a fan or you are not. For me, it is a definite ‘not’ – for either the style of wine or the lacklustre commercial tank farm winery. Others will no doubt be better satisfied with it. Give me a good German or Californian sweetie every time and leave this stuff in the designer bottles for the Asian tourist trade. With red bean coconut milk panna cotta And a final treat thanks to one of our attendees: 2003 Black Hills Nota Bene – although this just released local wine is 46% cab, 34% merlot and only 20% cab franc, the latter seemed to dominate the nose, which did its best to emulate a green Graves, with little differentiation at this point. Hopefully some age will tone down some aspects and bring up others. Warm on palate, in fact slightly hot, though ‘only’ 14.5% alcohol, and with a slight bitterness on the end that had me making a mental note to watch this characteristic in future tastings to see if it becomes an objectionable element or merely an interesting one. Nice to taste this so early without having to plunder my own cellar. Thanks to J&B and happy anniversary!
  14. The monthly ‘business’ blind tasting lunch notes: 2002 Guillemot-Michel ‘Quintaine’ – this is a Macon Clessé that impressed us all. The nose was pretty identifiable as a chard, with good fruit and light oak, but the mout-feel was what was exceptional – very full flavoured, long and crisp at the end. Very good. 1994 Robert Pepi Sangiovese Two Heart Canopy – this California Sangiovese is an early example of the American experimentation with Italian varietals. The wine had a nose that did cry out “Italy” with sweet ripe fruit, and the feel was initially quite silky, but the wine was ultimately simple and a little tedious. 2003 Sedlescomb Organic Vineyard Regent – brought back from England as a curiosity, this wine was deep dark purple in colour, and had a nose like odd slightly sweet still fermenting blackberry juice. In the mouth, the most appropriate descriptor was beets…..agghh…….I applaud, however, the intellectual curiosity that inspired this attendee to pick this wine up and bring it - you never know until you try something whether it is any good or not. In this case, ‘not’ won unanimously! 2003 Winchester Sharp Rock Vineyard Pinot Noir – another ‘unusual’ wine, from one of the new BC wineries, made by Ken Winchester. A BC Pinot at 14.3% alcohol, with just about no recognizable Pinot characteristics! A ripe raisiny nose reminiscent of an Amarone, but with a stewed plum element that is thankfully absent in the Italian version. 1999 Doudet Naudin Savigny les Beaune – a little cloudy from the bus ride over to the restaurant, and displaying a non-typical Pinot nose, this wine nonetheless showed good balance, good acidity and is ready to drink. I should add that this is not much like the Doudets of old – back in the 80s and early 90s they were age worthy wines that would just be hitting stride at 5-6 years of age. I believe there was a change of winemaker and possibly a change in style about 15 years ago. 1996 Jaboulet Dom. Thalabert – this Crozes Hermitage showed wonderful black olive tapenade and pepper in the nose and I kept veering toward the southern Rhone in my attempts to nail it. Smooth and very tasty. This was from a warm cellar and typical bottles will probably not be as far along. 2000 Burge Holy Trinity – a ripe sweet GSM from Oz – as one expects, tons of ripeness and sweet fruit, in the end a bit of a one note presentation, but alright if you are in the mood. It’s funny – I took one sniff of this and pronounced it Australian, yet none of the other tasters had the same reaction, and thought it variously American, French etc. Maybe I’ve partaken of too many Oz wines lately….. Thackrey Pleiades XII – I forgive myself for not getting Thackrey’s melange of Italian and Californian varietals – a real test in a blind tasting! Minty nose with all sorts of herbs, leather, earth, then a sweet entry and smooth feel, the wine very tasty and ready to drink. I’ve had this oddball once before – maybe I’ll remember it if there is another time. The Pleiades are the Seven Sisters, yet there seem to be more than seven components to this wine. I don’t know whether there were originally only seven, or perhaps Sean just had a ‘thing’ for nymphs…. 1990 Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino – I’ve been drinking my way through a case of this since release and it changes just about every time I taste it. It went through a lean acidic phase, then miraculously the fruit came back. It has been drinking well for several years, yet this bottle showed much more tannin than recent tastings. I found a little blood/iron in the nose, a bit of browning at the edges, and lots of acidity to go with the surprising tannins, the finish a bit hot and raisiny. Not the best bottle I’ve tasted and I look forward to revisiting this. 1985 Kenwood Cabernet (Sonoma) – I tasted this early in its life and decided that it would age well. While it hasn’t got the legs of the exceptional 1978 (sadly, I have no more of this), it has held up well and drinks nicely now, a feat for a ‘regular’ wine. I suppose you could call this a third label after the Artist’s label and the Jack London. Also showing browning edges, the mature cabernet nose unmistakeable (at least to me), this wine still has sufficient fruit to drink well, and has turned out to show an elegance in old age that was absent in youth. 1978 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill Cabernet – we were musing about what had happened to this legendary, iconic winery. The wines of the 70s were fantastic, then the winery seemed to slide after the early 80s and while I’ve seen the odd good comment on later wines, it just doesn’t seem to be producing at the same level. Showing age only at the edges, this wine had a lovely nose of oak and mellow mature fruit. On palate it was as close to perfection as you’d like to see or taste – still weighty with complex flavours and impeccable balance, it is a wine for thoughtfulness – sure, the wineries in California are making wine of an average quality level much higher than was the case when this wine was made, with fewer failures. But do they attain the heights that some of the 1970s wines did, full of character and individuality, lasting for decades? I have my doubts. Have I had better California Cabs? Probably, on occasion, maybe some of the other 70s vintages would rival this, but with lunch with friends, this was a truly memorable bottle, and my thanks to the one who brought it. My clear vote for best of lunch!! I’ll add one other comment. I’ve been fortunate enough to taste this vintage of Diamond Creek pretty much across the board. The last one I had was a Gravelly Meadow a couple of years ago, and I found it to be much more like a Bordeaux. The Volcanic Hill was somehow (to me) quintessentially American. Sorry to ramble on, but this wine merits discussion!
  15. Notes on a bunch of 2003 Beaujolais we assembled to investigate what some have called the best vintage since 1947. We were going to do this in the garden, but the weather didn't cooperate, so we packed 14 people into my dining room and the corks started popping. Kelowna Vyds. Artist’s Series Blush $13.00 – slightly off dry, some flavour to it. If it had any more residual sugar it would be horrid. Not BC's finest hour, but OK if you had spent a sweaty hour or two au jardin - although water is cheaper and more refreshing. Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais $16.30 – the basic BJ. Sweet fruit in the nose, but not bubblegum as it can sometimes be. Poor value compared to the Villages wine for $0.70 more... Dom du Marquisons – Aujoux Beaujolais $17.00 – no nose, no taste, but this baby does have acidity. What were they thinking? Jean-Paul Brun L’Ancien Beaujolais $17.00 – odd vinyl nose goes away, which is more than you can say for the slightly bitter, drying finish. Ch. du grand Talancé – Bouchacourt Beaujolais Superieur $17.00 – decent cherry nose turn to currants on the palate – I liked this tasty little wine. Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages $17.00 – sweet slightly candied nose, and sweet in the mouth, with fair acidity and even a hint of tannin. Mt. Boucherie Gamay Noir Estate Collection $13.00 – this BC Bojo wannabe wasn’t so bad – an almost Pinot nose, with a tad of stinkiness, decent balance. Nose became candied with time. Domaine Pascal Berthier Saint Amour VV $23.00 – Burgundian nose, medium body, drinks well, and a bit more complexity here. Georges Duboeuf St. Amour $24.00 – sweetness immediately apparent. elegant and simple, also with some tannin Georges Duboeuf Fleurie $26.00 – decent nose, lots of fruit and a bit more complex. Pretty good. Georges Duboeuf Dom.de La Tour de Bief Moulin-a-Vent $25.00 – good nose, lots of fruit and relative tons of tannin – a serious aging candidate Marcel Lapierre Morgon $37.00 – pretty good nose with some spice and pepper on palate, interesting, but very poor value – many Southern French and Rhone wines would kick this one in terms of QPR Domaine Calot Cuvee Unique Vielles Vignes (100 year old vines) Morgon $32.00 – average nose, bit of H2S, tannins up front, good body, a serious wine more like a Pinot, but I thought it lacked sufficient fruit to age gracefully. Conclusion? I’d buy the Talancé and the Tour de Bief, but that’s about it. As for being the best vintage in a half century…..we saw little sign of excellence here – or maybe I expect too much?. (PS - prices are Canadian)
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    Alvaro Palacios

    Notes from a tasting of wines from Alvaro Palacios, in Vancouver for a visit. 2001 Herencia Remondo La Montesa Crianza – in a market where crianzas are usually priced in the $18-24 Can. range, this one comes in at $27 – but it is still excellent value, IMO. Spiced cherry nose makes your mouth water, and the medium bodied wine with good concentration doesn’t disappoint. Nice length. Will hold, but would be hard to resist. 2001 Palacios Remondo Rioja Propiedad – a bit warmer nose, very expressive, with cassis. Silky smooth in the mouth, good flavour and length. At $43 priced very high. 100% new barriques, 80% French, 20% American 2003 Descendientes Palacios Petalos Bierzo – made from the Menzia grape. Black cherry nose, very good concentration in the mouth, good acidity, not much tannin. Drinks well now. $29 C. 2001 Descendientes Palacios Corullon Bierzo – they get about ½ kg of grapes per vine and have to work the vineyard with horses, hence the weighty $70 price tag. A more floral nose and the oak takes a more prominent position. Smooth with a slightly acidic edge at the end. On to Priorat: 2002 Les Terrasses – the nose on this one was pretty closed, with an odd solvent thing happening and some tar, with some heat. It was full flavoured but tailed a bit at the end – a rainy harvest apparently diluted the crop. $45 2001 Finca Dofi – a much better nose with more and riper fruit (raspberry), and more concentration on palate. His modern wine (compared to old high alcohol brutes from Priorat), and it showed a long harmonious finish. $111.00 2002 L’Ermita – top dog from this kennel, at C.$ 597.00! Absolutely delicious nose with vanilla (French oak only here as he said he doesn’t want the additional sweetness of American oak in this almost 100% Grenache wine) and a hint of smoke and violets. Clean wine with well defined fruit, exceptional length (I swear it was at least 2 minutes) and slightly assertive terminal acidity. Lovely, but I’m afraid my cellar will have to live without it.
  17. Notes from an excellent blind tasting dinner event focussing on Australian wine – ‘anything but red Shiraz’. Held at a local bistro and accompanied by 9 creative courses which ranged from sublime to slightly maladroit (in terms of matching sauces with food) but almost always with a signature saltiness that I find tiring to the palate, but then I use very little salt, so others may react differently. 2002 Yalumba Hand Picked Riesling Eden Valley – typical Riesling petrol nose, with a bit of cheese and pear mixed in, and perhaps a bit of flint. Good balance, finishing with lime – very dry, and very good. 1999 Leeuwin Estate Margaret River Riesling Art Series – an embarrassment of riches, not one but two good Australian Rieslings, and they paired exceptionally well with the food. This one was showing an almost Botrytis nose, obviously had more age and was nutty and smooth, well balanced and dry, although not as strikingly so as the previous wine. 1998 Clarendon Hills Blewit Springs Old Vines Grenache – a dark cherry nose with a hint of cheese and a bit of heat, medium weight, soft tannins, sweet at entry, drier at end. 15% 1996 Glaetzer Malbec Cabernet (Barossa) – medium colour, lighter than the others, with a minty raspberry nose, warm sweet entry and good length. Very nice. 1993 Penfolds Bin 707 – I was pleased to find that I have 3 bottles of this (somewhere) in my cellar, as this wine showed well. The nose, which has over the years been very concentrated if a bit simple was now showing some differentiation and smelling it no longer resembles plunging your nose into a dish of black currant jelly. In fact it is a nicely developed nose with some mintiness and mature cabernet character, yet the wine has lost none of its impact on palate, with still huge fruit, exceptionally long finish and relatively low acidity. A very ‘friendly’ wine, only now coming ‘on line’. 1987 Ch. Tahbilk (Victoria) – it was my dubious pleasure to present my modest offering right after Wine-zilla. The oldest wine of the night (I figure it is my duty to attempt to bring a note of maturity to these events. I also bring older wine…..), it had good colour, only showing a bit of browning at the edges. Mature cabernet nose, with a transient hint of rubber, and some lead pencil. Perhaps an initial whiff of volatile acidity, but that was quickly gone. Well built and interesting. 1999 Leeuwin Estate Cabernet Art Series – (86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, and 3% Malbec). Some cedar and dark berry in this somewhat reticent nose, and a bit of heat in the mouth, along with decent fruit on palate and good length. This developed in the glass, but never showed what I’d call a really good nose. 1998 Virgin Hills – with Cabernet Shiraz Malbec Merlot this wine violated the no red Shiraz guideline. Punishment for this transgression was suspended in view of the excellent performance of the wine. The nose was a bit unusual in that along with dark fruit, it evidenced a definite saltiness! Also a hint of VA, and some mint. Again the refrain of heat in the mouth, accompanied by nice flavour definition and decent length. Wonder how the Australians named this winery, given that the subject matter is reputed to be about as common in Oz as leprechauns……. 1996 Henschke Cyril Henschke Cabernet – great nose with soy sauce and cocoa, this big, dark wine was smooth in the mouth and showed good length, marred only by perhaps a little too much terminal acidity. Still lots of soft tannin, and no rush to drink it. I have the 1994 of this and am wondering when to give it a try – anyone had it lately? Campbell’s Rutherglen Muscat (NV) – Reddish colour, ripe overly sweet nose, finishing up very much like tea! Different. No bad wines, no Shiraz (well not much, anyway) and some interesting food and wine combinations.
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    May Lunch Notes

    The monthly blind tasting lunch brought out the usual bunch of interesting wines. With lobster carpaccio and Dungeness crab remoulade: 1990 Paul Blanck Schlossberg Riesling Grand Cru – oily nose, though I had some momentary misgivings about whether or not it could be anything except Riesling. This had some colour to it, and was smooth and well balanced. 1997 Joseph Swan Russian River Chardonnay – from a producer whose whites are all but unknown to me – guess I must have fastened on his reds. Also quite dark in colour with a really nice vanilla honey nose that developed a nice nuttiness. Unctuous feel, nice flavours and a lifting kick of acidity at the end. On into the reds with: 1995 Torres Mas Borres Pinot Noir (Penedes) – while I am a long time fan of Torres wines, we have never seen this Pinot in our market. Warm, mildly funky pinot nose (it was a dog, but the dog wasn’t wet), nice sweet entry, the wine mellow and ready. A surprise. 1998 Fonseca Garrafeira ‘FSF’ – this winery does quite a few special bottlings and they are almost all worth searching out. Dark youthful colour, interesting sweaty sort of nose, with high toned fruit behind, and fairly high terminal acidity. This wine just kept getting better and better in the glass, so if you have any (I was pleased to see that I do), open it well ahead of time. The grapes that went into this are a truly odd combination – Trincadera, Tannat and Syrah! We started in on quail stuffed with wild rice and foie gras, with a Port and truffle sauce. 1998 Les Cailloux CnduP – some browning of the edges, a really nice garrigue and tar nose, medium weight with good acidity and a shot of pepper at the end, with decent fruit in the middle. The only surprise is how forward the wine is. I guess it is time for me to think about starting on my 1995…. 1995 Amiral de Beychevelle – another offering from our friend we nicknamed “King of the Second Labels” Good nose, medium amount of tannin, dry wine, even a bit austere, with a bit of dusty/musty character. Bit perplexing to try to nail the vintage. With lamb chops with roast garlic and rosemary: 1998 Terlan ‘Porphyr’ Lagrein Reserve – most of the group had zero experience with this grape – I know it, as I drank quite a few in the 80s. A varietal that grows in the Dolomites, it is usually used t make either Rosé or light reds, and the few dark versions (which the grape does lend itself to) have been rustic and uninteresting. This was a revelation, however – huge fruit in nose and mouth, and a pleasant sweetness, although the typical acidity was also present. Black cherry at the end. A good wine and an eye-opener as far as something new to keep a watch for. 1999 Rustenburg Cabernet ‘Peter Barlow’ – this single vineyard Cape wine was absolutely wonderful. Dark, with purple edges, lost of oak, and on palate luscious with silky feel and good length. If you ever see this, don’t hesitate. With cheese: 1991 Caymus Cabernet – the regular cab, not the SS. The nose was disappointingly absent, the wine dark and with an unusual amount of sweetness in the mouth. Soft ripe tannins, drinking well now, but where was the nose? Had a bottle last month that was a bit better. 1990 Mondavi Reserve Cabernet – I used to try both regular and Reserve bottlings from Mondavi, and make up my mind if the Reserve was worth the additional cost, because in quite a few vintages, it wasn’t all that much better than the regular. In 1990 I bought regular, and I feel a bit vindicated when I tasted this wine. Pleasant fruit driven nose a bit ripe, with obvious age and development, medium tannin, very Bordeaux like, but ultimately not a great bottle. We ended up tasting two bottles as the first one got kicked over and spilled some (riotous bunch, these lunch tasters) so we opened another and the note is on that second one. When we were a bit disappointed, we went back and tasted the first bottle, and though we found a bit more sweetness and marginally more depth, the two were pretty similar. I went home and thought about the Mondavi, and decided to renew my acquaintance with the regular 1990. My note from the next day: 1990 Mondavi Cabernet – a nice mature nose with just a bit of mustiness at first. The wine was soft and sweet, though without the almost over-ripeness of the reserve wine, and was very drinkable with soft tannins. Elegant, probably was better a couple of years a go. Pleasant but not memorable.
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    Interesting event with Ray Signorello at Gavroche in Vancouver. Ray commutes –lives in Vancouver part of the year and makes wine in Napa the rest of the time. 2002 Edge Cabernet – served as a kick-off wine. 86% cab, 14% merlot. This bottle was showing a bit more tannic than the last one I had, but similar levels of fruit and a 4-5 year life ahead of it, though enjoyable right now. Then into the main event – Ray had very kindly supplied a number of 5 litre bottles – they produce 6 of these in each vintage for each wine, so we were making a serious dent in the winery library. 2003 Seta – 60% Semillon, 40% sauv blanc and it sells much better under a name like this, according to Ray, than it would labelled as a ‘Sem-Sauv’ even if US laws allowed it. Fair bit of oak, on a typical Bordeaux nose, with reasonable length and good acidity. It improved with food. About 600 cases made. 2003 Napa Chardonnay ‘Vielles Vignes’ – (210 cases made) – they like a crisp end product, and so unlike most California wineries, the do not use malo-lactic fermentation. An intriguing nose of passion fruit and vanilla, though the oak was not excessive. Nice balance. Served with Kumamoto oyster, Albacore tuna tartare, and smoked salmon. 1994 Founder’s Reserve Chardonnay (Napa) – 475 cases) – we saw very marked differences in the next two wines. This one showed not much oak, but did have a very odd, but not objectionable nose that I would liken to steamed mussels! A crisp drinkable style, without too much colour, given the age. 1995 Estate Napa Chardonnay – totally different wine, this one with a much more oily nose with lots of oak. Touch hollow in the middle, ending with more oak. I preferred the first by a long shot. With Alaskan scallops (done perfectly al dente) with carrot ginger flan and truffle vinaigrette. 1994 Russian River Pinot Noir – from the Martinelli vineyards. Fairly dark (no confusion with Burgundy here, even before you tasted it) with a rich classy fruit driven nose, some remaining tannin, and to my taste an excess of terminal acidity that was only partially muted by the food. 1995 Las Amigas Carneros Pinot Noir – the nose on this was a darker deeper version of the Martinelli wine, the tannins now quite soft and drinking very well. My favourite. With duck magret with foie grad cromequis (basically a little deep fried FG puff that explodes in your mouth with great FG flavours. If you ever find the bar that serves these instead of salted peanuts, you’ll know where to find me!) We then had inflicted upon us a real gustatory clanger of the magnitude of a cow pat at a tea party – the ubiquitous sweet sorbet! Introducing an ancillary dessert right before tasting the main wines of the evening is just bloody stupid, and I was relieved to see many people push it away, shaking their heads. Come on, people, we know better than this. If you want a palate cleanser, not a ‘palate cloyer’, go for zero sugar and something clean like citrus, or my personal fave, Earl Grey tea. Crikey! 1990 Founder’s Reserve Napa Cabernet – 78% CS, 10% CF, 12% M. A real treat to taste a mature cab from this producer. Big dark wine with chalky sweet fruit, quite intense. It was still big and tannic on palate, but I didn’t see enough fruit to convince me that further ageing will result in anything but slow decline. Long sweet finish. Nice wine. 2001 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa) – what a contrast! 71% cab, 14% CF, 11% M. Dark, the nose one of still simple deep fruit, and the wine still quite tannic, but obviously well made with the fruit lurking just under the tannins. This may eventually be even better than the 1990. With lamb rack with Dijon and rosemary. 2001 Padrone – this is Ray’s tribute to his dad, made from selected batches, unfiltered, all French oak. Very dark wine with a riper nose, lots of up front sweetness on entry, then medium soft tannins, rich and full on palate, with good balance and lingering finish. I liked this a lot. With pear stuffed with Stilton, wrapped in phyllo. An instructive and very enjoyable event, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Vancouver American Wine Society.
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    1995 Bordeaux

    Notes from a dinner-tasting of Bordeaux of the 1995 vintage – my first look at these wines since release. 2001 Ch. La Garde – this white Graves was a bit past its ‘drink-by’ date. Too much toastiness in the nose plus a whiff of maderisation, fair acidity but blunted by slightly oxidised flavours. with whipped black cod with caviar and oyster soup Flight 1 d’Issan (Margaux) – some nice complexity developing in the nose on this wine, with spice and flowers, current and a hint of anise. Lots of soft tannin right to the end, good length and a very slight terminal bitterness, probably from the oak, which needs more time to blend in. d’Angludet (Margaux) – also very good in the nose, and a bit riper but less spice. Forward with a bit less grip, but excellent balance and length. My eventual favourite after a bit of back and forth between these two. La Croix de Gay (Pomerol) – lighter simpler nose with red berries rather than heavier plumier fruit. Immediate acidity, not much tannin, ready now – decent luncheon claret. with polenta and porcini Flight 2 Latour a Pomerol – deep herbal plumy nose, full in the mouth with a fair bit of tannin, good length, slight bitterness at the end. Charred oak in the nose. Certan de May – lighter nose of cedar and toasty olive, tons of unresolved tannins here, but sweet on palate, although with a very slightly candied citrus quality right at the end. Needs time but may be very good. La Grave a Pomerol – cherry vanilla nose, good up front sweetness, not as hard as the Certan and will certainly drink sooner – my best of flight. with agnelloti stuffed with morels, asparagus and veal sweetbreads Flight 3 Magdelaine (St. Emilion) – very sweet red fruit in the nose, and sweet and forward on palate, though backed with a medium amount of ripe tannin. Sweet on finish with good length. This is great now and will improve – my favourite. Larmande (St. Emilion) – herbal slightly burnt nose, pleasant sweet entry, supple wine that drinks well now and has decent length – no rush. Figeac (St. Emilion) – a very hard choice between this and the Magdelaine. This had a nice sweet nutmeg and custard nose, was very slightly lean in the mouth, tannins ample but soft, and good length. Drinks well now but will live many years. Interesting 50th anniversary label noting the vintages they did and did not produce in that period ( 1951, 1956, 1963, 1965, and 1991). with mint risotto with butter poached quail breast – nice on it’s own, but did not do any favours for the wines. Flight 4 Haut Bailly (Pessac Leognan) – smoke and black currant nose with a hint of mint (or was it a last whiff of the last course….)Medium levels of soft tannin, very nicely balanced - a ‘pretty’ wine – elegant. de Fieuzal (Pessac Leognan) – big smoky plumy nose with yet more mint. Sweet on palate, tannins soft, a smooth plush sort of wine with slightly high acidity at the end – this got my vote for best of flight. Pavie Macquin (St. Emilion) – a controversial wine. Darker than the others, with a ripe intense nose, very sweet, quite tannic and with a flash of sweetness right at the end. I felt that it was the sort of wine that would appeal to some people, but was a bit too ripe for me, at least in this company. with lamb with foie gras, black truffles and pineapple The final wine was: 1995 Prinz von Hessen Johannisberger Klaus Riesling Auslese – I applaud the use of German wines in this sort of event rather than the obligatory Port or Sauternes! Nice oily nose, excellent acidity masks the level of sugar and the wine comes off as being almost crisp, with the sense of sweetness returning right at the end. Lingering finish. Very enjoyable wine. An educational event. I look forward to doing the same sort of left bank horizontal tasting, perhaps 4 or 5 years hence. Blind ringer: 1995 Pontet Canet - one of the darkest with a very ripe sweet nose, soft tannins but lots of them, tons of glycerin. Drinks surprisingly well.
  21. Dinner with friends and some delightful wines. 1999 Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris Heimbourg – fair bit of colour to the wine, and with an apple/pear sort of nose. Sweet entry, fair balance, good length, but tasted on its own it had just a bit too little acid to really shine (We always taste without food first). Then with food, the wine just blossomed and took on a richness it hadn’t exhibited before. with seared Quebec foie gras beside croutons spread with goose liver pâté mixed with truffles and thin slices of pear sautéed in balsamic vinegar and Calvados. 1991 Jacques Prieur Beaune Prem Cru Clos de la Feguine – an earthy slightly barnyard nose but with lots of good fruit just under the surface. Lots of acidity here – almost to a fault in my opinion, though others were fine with it, and a good persistent finish. Once again, the food improved this wine, blunting the sharp edge of acidity. Surprised that this one held up so long. with sweetbreads and pine mushrooms in a sherry cream sauce with ‘stained glass’ onions on top 1987 Opus One – I guess I should preface this note by saying that I have never been a big fan of Opus. Touted as the best of two worlds, it raised expectations to a level rarely met by the wines, which to my mind are not vins de garde but rather drink well in relative youth. Interesting then to taste this one from such an excellent vintage against the Dominus, which I have always preferred and found to be much more Bordeaux like. This bottle was out of my cellar. The wine was dark with edges browning slightly, with a very good briary nose, nice entry, some soft tannins, a very slight hollowness in midpalate and a soft mellow lengthy finish with good balance. Unlike the Dominus, a bit of air time did this wine significant good. It developed an even better nose, though not one I’d ever mistake for Bordeaux. It filled in that little hollow bit nicely, and developed a black currant thing in the finish that was most pleasant. 1990 Dominus – natural to compare the other top end Bordeaux lookalike to the Opus. The nose was bigger and plumier, the colour a tad lighter, not quite as brown on the edges. This wine was smoother on palate and elegant, being as expected, more like a Bordeaux. While people will want to know which wine was better, on this night, with this food, I am calling it a tie, which I rarely do. Both were really excellent. Served with tenderloin of beef stuffed with morels, spinach and shallots, with a morel sauce (veal reduction). The servings were suitably sized to give lots of time to compare the wines, that is – large! with cheeses: 1977 Taylors Port – medium colour, showing a slightly hot nose with a bit of date or fig, and warm fruit on palate and very good length. This wine is just getting into prime drinking time and has years to go. One taster commented that it was almost sweet enough to be a Grahams. but I thought it fell a tad short of that (and besides, the 77 Grahams has consistently disappointed me, until most recent tatsings). Definitely on the high sweetness end for Taylors, though.
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    Old Americans

    Notes from a dinner at a French restaurant, with mostly American wines: 1994 Fetzer Valley Oaks Gewurztraminer – modest price, very decent varietal nose, good flavours marred by the usual flaw of too much RS. Shows promise – maybe one of these days they’ll ferment one of these dry. Mumm’s Napa Reserve Brut – this bubbly had a pretty good yeasty, toasty nose, medium body and good follow-through. It seemed pretty darned good, in fact, until we opened: 1990 Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve – about two cuts higher with this one. Much better nose, smooth, well integrated fruit, better length. 1991 Arrowood Sonoma Chardonnay – a well coloured little wine with a bit of citrus and a lot of caramel in the nose. Long and complex, this aged chard held up amazingly well. 1996 Shafer Merlot – good cocoa nose, some obvious age in the colour, this wine is all together now and drinks well. Probably won’t get any better than it is now. 1997 Canoe Ridge Wash. (Columbia) Merlot – warm fruit driven nose, sweet and pleasant, drink now. 1986 Ch. St. Jean Alexander Valley Cabernet – although labelled as cab, this also has merlot and cab franc, but I didn’t have time to track down Dick Arrowood to see how much of what. An initial mustiness blew off quickly and there were tons of sweet concentrated fruit on palate, a fruit bomb yes, but also elegant and showing good length. Only now coming into its drinking window. Excellent. 1986 Mondavi Reserve Cabernet – slightly harder wine with a more Bordeaux like nose balanced, forward, and just lovely, with some great flavour coming in right at the end. Good length. 1989 Arrowood Sonoma Cabernet – a mate to the 91 Chard, both in a box and each signed by Dick. Also a Bordeaux nose, but sweeter, and on palate smooth and long – very good showing. 1987 Dunn Napa Cab – glad this wasn’t the Howell – the regular Napa was big enough! Huge mint nose, silky smooth on palate, and very long. A very pleasurable mouthful of wine, with soft tannins that will carry it for years to come. 1991 Ch. Clerc Milon – not avintage that I have much to do with, but the nose was commendable even if the profile of the wine was predictably lean. 1992 Woodbridge Portocinco – yep, you read it right – Woodbridge! Made from 5 Port varietals it had a hot sweet nose, was hot in the mouth, and the colour was a bit light. Taylors and Grahams need not lose sleep over this one, but it was fun to try a curiosity. Crimean Maccahape Muscat - (don’t hold me to that spelling) – great Muscat nose and sufficient acidity to carry it off. 1990 Zaca Mesa Late Harvest Riesling – at 27% RS this was predictably sweet, but it was also quite well balanced unlike many Californian and Canadian sweeties these days. Great nose! 2001 De Bortoli Nobel One – Very sweet and a bit flabby, especially after the Zaca.
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    Spanish Notes

    Notes from a Spanish off-line. For a normally wild and crazy group, it was interesting to see that most people stuck pretty close to the traditional wines rather than bringing one of the many ‘new’ styles now available. 2001 Valsaero Dioro Rioja – no indication of whether this is a Crianza or not. It showed medium colour, sweet oak in the nose, some soft tannins and lively acidity, and ended with a medium long earthy finish. Some spice developed in the nose with time in the glass. This was a new style wine that I am not familiar with. 1970 Marques de Caceres Gran Reserva – a youthful wine with a nose that was quite rubbery at the start. Relatively pale colour, browning at the edges – the only sign of age, as we all figured this was a wine from the 80s. The nose became more cherry with some air, a little stewy, the fruit was still bright and the length was quite good. I liked this a lot. 1999 Rochioli Russian River Pinot Noir – similar light colour, but with still purple edges. Nice cherry fruit, medium body with good flavour concentration in the middle, and good length. We disagreed about this ‘ringer’, some thinking it would continue to develop and some (myself included) thinking it as good now as it will ever be, though it will certainly continue to coast. 1994 Gaudium Rioja – made by Caceres with Tempranillo and 25% cab, this wine has always shown a funky nose, but this one was definitely slightly corked. You could tell there were some good things – nice fruit etc., but it wasn’t possible to properly evaluate the wine. 1993 Conde de Valdemar Rioja Gran Reserva – nice mellow oak and fruit nose, very silky smooth on palate and nicely balanced with good length. This one just slipped down the throat. 2001 Neo (Ribero del Duero) – OK, we did have a new style wine (the Gaudium was AWOL so doesn’t count). A definitely new age Tempranillo, this product of JC Conde was dark purple with a Bordeaux style nose but a bit sweeter, and was slightly hot in the mouth with some raspberry flavour. In fact the wine was very good, with my only criticism being a slight sourness on the finish.
  24. Recent wines: 2003 Viu Manent Malbec – Colchagua Valley, Chile – dark cherry and cocoa nose, sweet entry, good body, soft tannins, tasty wine now and for the next 2 years or so. At $13 Can., a buy-it-by-the-case winner. 2000 Tommasi Crearo – the usual Venetian Corvino and Oseleta blended with cabernet franc to make an IGT wine. Ripe nose, none of the cab franc character in evidence, Bordeaux-like on palate, good acidity and soft tannins. should improve for another couple of years and then hold for a few more. 1995 Ch. Moulin St. Georges St. Emilion Grand Cru – I’ll be doing a 1995 horizontal soon, so I thought I’d pop a cork on one and see what they have been doing since I lasted looked in. Dark with black raspberry and spice nose, mellow in the middle, with soft tannins coming in at the end. No rush on this one – it has it all together now, but it will continue to improve and will certainly hold for years. Wish I’d bought more!
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    Duckhorn Vineyards

    Notes from a tasting of Duckhorn wines presented by Margaret Duckhorn. They have obviously put a real whack of money into their operation and are sincere about quality. The use of various ‘duck’ names and logos is of an extent that even had me, an unrepentant punster, ‘quailing at some of the material she presented. 2003 Sauvignon Blanc – this is a Bordeaux style blend with 24% Semillon. It sees lots of oak and surprisingly shows the attributes of both varietals. Full and fruity with decent length, it finished quite soft. They use whole cluster pressing. Unfortunately the price in BC is $45 (commonly $19.99 US), which makes it entirely unattractive compared to other (many better) alternatives. For $10-15 more I’d buy a good white Bordeaux every time (Smith Haut Lafite etc.) 2002 Migration Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley) – this was the wine that reminded me why we (in Canada) no longer buy American wines – not if we have any sense, that is). A very pleasant little Pinot that Margaret described as an entry level wine, it showed primary sweet fruit in the nose and was bright, tasty, and not to be taken too seriously. Until we heard the local price, that is. This wine sells for $25 – 29 US. It would sell here for $79 Can., the price of any number of damned fine middle range Burgundies. Would I pay $79 for this, or would I rather spend it on a 99 Jadot Beaune Prem. Cru Clos des Ursules. You guess! (Hint – I was not born yesterday and I have not sustained any serious head injuries). 2002 Goldeneye Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley) – for those of you who are not hunters – yup, a Goldeneye happens to be (wait for it)…..a duck! We have moved up into the $45-50 US range here, or as we call it in Canada, the Clos de Vougeot price bracket. Cherry nose, forward sweet wine but turning a bit watery right at the end. Other than losing it a bit in the finish, it was a pleasant wine. 2002 Decoy Napa Red – this is a blend of 53% cab sauv, 26% merlot and 21% cab franc. It showed a typical nose with a tinge of greenness, forward despite the tannins which were slightly assertive, with medium body and length. I am going to stop talking about comparative pricing as it is bad for my blood pressure. 2002 Merlot Napa – not a heck of a lot happening in the nose (this was oddly common to several of the reds). 87% merlot, 9% cab sauv, 3% cab franc, 1% petit verdot. Harmonious in the mouth, the tannins soft, and with good acidity. Decent now, and no rush. Damn – there went the blood pressure again. Around $45 US, and $100 Can. 2001 Merlot Estate – 83% merlot and 17% cab sauv. Bit more happening in the nose here but nowhere near the banquet of chocolate and cherry that I’d anticipated. Also a hint of green. Obviously a more serious wine and needing some time to tame the slightly harder tannins. 2002 Napa Cabernet – 80% cab sauv, 15% merlot, 4% petit verdot, 1% cab franc. Medium bodied, a bit short in interest in the nose, but well balanced and well made. 2001 Napa Cabernet Estate – 84% cab sauv, 16% merlot. A serious wine with a bit more showing in the noise, firm tannins and decent length – the best wine of the night for me. Will need some considerable time to meld together. 2002 Parraduxx – 72% zinfandel, 25% cab sauv, 3% merlot. Very pleasant wine with full body, nice notes of berries and cocoa in the nose. Sweet at the end, with tannins that need a bit more time, but it should show well with only a bit more cellaring. I liked this a lot, but at $78 I will pass. On the whole the wines struck me as no real improvement over the early 90s vintages, and a significant deterioration in QPR, unfortunately. It was only this sobering conclusion that prevented me from indulging in any duck puns…..
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