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  1. bills

    Venison Dinner

    Dinner at home with old friends. The raison d’etre of this gathering was some venison – white tail deer from Saskatchewan – donated by a client: 1999 Dom. Les Hautes Noelles Muscadet Cotes de Grand Lieu sur lie – the name wasn’t intentionally chosen to suit Christmas. Salty crisp nose and a very good accompaniment to oysters Rockefeller done with sautéed ham and without white sauce. 1999 Colombo Cornas “Les Mejeans” – I continue to be astounded by how forward this wine has been. I know that Colombo is definitely in the ‘new age’ camp of winemaking, and that one doesn’t expect brutally tannic monsters that need 15 years before becoming approachable, but this one has always been surprisingly friendly. Purple rim, a nose of leather, plum and anise, still lots of tannin, but quite soft. This can be drunk with pleasure now but will hold for many years. Served with risotto con funghi – chanterelles, winter chanterelles, porcini, and morels. 1990 Batasiolo Barolo Vigneto Boscareto – this has been developing more quickly than the 1990 Bofani, so I thought I might show well with the main course, which was roast venison with braised endive wrapped in ham and broiled with emmenthal. Typical Barolo nose with some tar and herbs, and a pleasant sweetness in mid palate that continued into the medium long finish. Soft tannins, and no rush to drink, but I think it is hitting it’s plateau of drinkability (which should be a fairly long one) now. 1998 Accordini Passo – with cheese, this wine showed a ripe, rich, sweet nose, although not a high alcohol. Forward wine, that went very well with the cheese, it is made from Corvina 60%, Rondinella 15%,Cabernet Sauvignon 15%, Merlot 10%, the first two being dried a bit before vinification to concentrate flavours.
  2. December lunch notes: 1994 Witness Tree Chardonnay (Willamette Valley) – prominent oak in nose and palate, but the wine isn’t a flaccid, bloated Calchard or Ozchard – puzzling, and we danced around the globe a couple of time trying to figure out where it could be from. Oregon was NOT our first guess. Not showing its age. 2002 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc – I have to say that this was the best (and most atypical) CB I have tasted! In the nose was a lush passionfruit and mown grass that could have come from the Loire. Clean and long, and showing much more ripeness than usual for this wine. 2002 Girardin Emotion de Terroirs – the story behind this white Burg is that it is blended from grapes from declassified Meursault, Puligny and Chassagne, given this ‘brand’ name and marketed as AOC Bourgogne. In any case, the result, at $20 US is astoundingly good value. I got peach notes in the nose with some spice, and then apples and mineral on palate. Wish they had this here! 1993 Rodet Aloxe-Corton – a mature Pinot nose placed this in Burgundy almost immediately. The bottle was cool, and the wine came across as lean and a tad thin, on palate, with medium long finish. We figured it might open up as it warmed in the glass, so I (and a couple of others) kept it around in the glass for awhile, but I can’t honestly say it changed much. That said, it went well with the food. 1978 Jaboulet Domaine Thalabert Crozes Hermitage – while I tend to give more attention (and cellar space) to Jaboulet’s Hermitage, La Chapelle, I also enjoy their two Crozes, although I tend to ignore their early drinking version, Les Jalets in favour of this cuvee. I suggested that this was a Rhone wine based on the nose, which was cherries and earth, but the surrounding tasters all said I was way off base. I stuck to my guns in spite of the heckling and was pleased that I was right, but also amazed when I heard the vintage, for I’d been suggesting it was about 10 years younger! Smooth and complex on palate with a give-away touch of black pepper at the end, this drinks beautifully now, but should continue to do so for many years. Excellent! 1982 Leoville Barton – excellent mature claret nose with some cedar and mushroom. The wine was amazingly elegant and smooth, with the tannins soft and with good length, all of which surprised me, as the last time I had this it was an unruly brute. I’d never have believed it would come around so far so soon. 1990 Les Forts de Latour – this one was no darker than the Barton, but showed more complexity in the nose, and sweeter fruit in both the nose and on palate. It was perfectly ready to drink, and I doubt it will get any better with further cellaring, but it should hold a long time. It had a nice silky feel on palate. I am not generally a fan of second wines and figure that buying seconds of anything but a top wine like Latour or some of the other first growths (with the exception of Mouton, the second wine of which has never failed to underwhelm me – more like Mouton Cadet Reserve) is a waste of money – you can get a very good first wine from another 3rd or 4th growth for the same money as most of the second wines, so why bother. This one was very good however. 1990 Bourgneuf – in contrast to the refined St. Julien and Pauillac, this Pomerol was a bit of a ruffian. Quite dark, with a slightly hot nose of ripe fruit (I actually was thinking California until the nose opened up a bit), and on palate a more highly extracted wine with big sweet fruit and significant remaining tannins. Our host had the tasting order right – this would have killed either of the previous Bordeaux. 2000 Tormaresca Masseria Maime IGT – OK, this is the discovery of the day – an unknown (to most of us) wine with obvious merit and modest price. Here’s the story – think Negroamaro (if that means anything to you). Think ‘heel of the boot’. Big rich hot nose gives away the hot climate origin, and a sweet entry and well balanced medium long wine follow. Excellent value. A Gambero tre bichierri. 1975 Grahams – while I have enjoyed many 1975 Ports (Noval and Fonseca are among my favourites) while waiting for the 1977s to mature, I haven’t had this one in years. It was so pale and hot I was guessing it could be a 63, and the lack of sweetness prompted me to comment sagely – “Whatever it is, it can’t be Grahams’. Oh well. Not among the better 75s, but nonetheless an enjoyable luncheon Port.
  3. Dinner last night to celebrate an anniversary. Four people, only two real drinkers, so we made 2 bottles last for 4 courses. Well, that and the fact that we had fortified ourselves with a bottle of Gosset Excellence while waiting may have helped limit our later intake. With foie gras terrine and duck rillette (she-who-must-be-obeyed had warm Crottin de Chêvignol goat cheese marinated with olive oil and herbes de Provence, Parma ham and grilled pine nuts) 1983 Ch. La Lagune – dark fruit nose, mature now, with good depth and complexity, and it opened up beautifully over an hour without fading at all to add an almost perfumed element. Very smooth and well integrated on palate, with good length and soft tannins. This wine has never showed better. I am tempted to open a bottle with the very good 82, but I think that there would be no point – the 82 would eclipse the 83 and I wouldn’t enjoy the 83 as much as we did on it‘s own. We finished this bottles with pan seared duck foie gras with fleur de sel on chef's brioche (SWMBO had Saffron risotto with local Honey mussels) Next up - roasted rack of lamb with wild mushrooms, and: 1983 Ch. Gloria. – I opened both bottles and tasted them and this one initially showed better with more interesting nose and better fruit. With time, this fairly dark wine also opened up to show nice cedar. It was very smooth in the mouth and didn’t have the remaining tannins that the La Lagune had exhibited, so it came across as a sort of melt in your mouth wine – an initial hit of flavours which then just gradually faded into the finish without any hills or dips along the way. This will definitely not improve and should be drunk. On this night I gave first prize to the La Lagune. My friend, who had tasted the Gloria from magnum a week before indicated that it had shown a bit more structure and slightly more forward fruit. We finished this wine with cheese (slices of brie anointed with truffle oil, which I agree does interfere with the taste of the wine, but which I am nonetheless powerless to resist), while the women-folk chowed down on a panoply of small desserts (8 of them!), protesting that they were too full yet oddly leaving no remnants behind. I think that this was the perfect way to enjoy mature clarets (and celebrate 27 years of wedded bliss) – a small dinner with good friends, excellent food and no rush to be anywhere else.
  4. 1994 Chateau Ste Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon Weinbau Vineyard– not too dark, and clear with almost no sediment in the bottle. Some sweetish vanilla in the nose, and good fruit, and on the palate there is abundant though softening tannin near the end that give an impression of it being leaner than it really is. The flavours are well defined and the wine will probably not get any better than it is now. I looked at these notes and I thought that I was damning the wine with faint praise – and then I realised why! I do a lot of blind tasting, and I went back and assessed the wine as if I didn’t know what it was – and found that I had been prejudiced by the fact that it was a Washington cabernet and that I had expectations for that sort of wine, and a mental set of benchmarks that I automatically measured such wines against. Going back to the beginning allowed me to judge it simply as a cabernet of indeterminate origin, and I found the wine to be very Bordeaux like outside of the context I’d been forcing it into, and it came off with a much better overall impression than it had the other way. A lesson – to keep an open mind on these things. Wish I had some more – I’d love to put it into a blind tasting of Bordeaux and see what others would do with it in THAT preconceived set of expectations. I expect it would fit right in! I doubt this wine has ever been reviewed – they don’t make much of the reserve single vineyard stuff. We picked this up after tasting in 97 on a trip in our old Jensen.
  5. Notes from a dinner tasting with some wine fanatics from Sydney: 1998 Brick House ‘Les Dijonnais’ Pinot Noir – from the Willamette Valley, this Oregon Pinot was actually quite Burgundian, although the colour was darker than most Burgs. I got mostly black cherry in the nose and the tannins were soft, and the acid a bit higher than usual in an Oregon Pinot. Over all quite a good impression, and it went well with the salmon poached in pinot. 2000 Vino Con Brio Matzin Old Vines Zinfandel (Lodi) – hmm – the nose had the stink of a Burgundy and a bit of volatile acidity. It went on from there to take on a plasticene element – wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Not much tannin despite the young age, and an annoying spritz on the end that wasn’t visible as the usual tiny bubbles (apologies to Don Ho), but was definitely felt on the tongue. The wine had some good points, but I don’t think it would be fair to judge it based on a possibly off bottle. 1997 Turley Old Vines Zinfandel – a much more structured wine still with reasonably firm tannins, but a similar VA thing happening when opened. The rrest of the nose was better – very ripe and jammy, and although the youthful blackberries have abated a bit, the raspberries were still out in full force. A tad hot, I thought (15.2%) and with good length, it presented well but didn’t really knock me out, although I think I like it a bit more than the 96 Old Vines. Served with duck and wild boar ravioli in burnt butter sauce. 1999 Greenock Creek Seven Acre Shiraz (Barossa) – nice sweet nose of blackberry and cocoa and just a bit of mint. Sweet entry, then it tightened up a little. The wine has good structure, excellent length and will age well. 2002 Neyers Hudson Vineyard Syrah (Napa) – a warm spicy inviting nose with a hint of mint, warm and toasty, and in the mouth, big sweet and smooth with soft tannins . Interesting to compare the two styles. While younger, the Napa wine will not have the life that the Barossa wine will experience. With mushroom risotto. 2002 Syncline Reserve Syrah (Columbia Valley) – warm big sweet nose with red fruit and a bit of espresso. Smooth rich feel and a nuttiness on the finish, which had good length. One to watch! Blended with 5% Grenache and 1% Viognier. 2002 Noon Reserve Shiraz (McLaren Vale) – lots of oak on the nose, this wine was big and near black, but surprisingly nimble – it was nowhere near the clumsy awkward oak monsters you get with this much extraction – it was already showing some interesting secondary characteristics and was long and smooth, finishing sweet. I’d love to try this one in 5 years! Very well integrated flavours for this sort of wine at this stage of development. With bison rib (Flintstone special?) 1986 Jim Barry ‘Madeira’ – this was a barrel aged Muscat de Frontignan, and I’d have to admit that it was a bit more like a Madeira than many of the dessert wines I’ve seen, made from this grape. Done up in brandy barrels and aged for 13 years at which point half of the wine has evaporated. A little VA and a little sulphur at first in the nose, which had great intensity and heat and a very long finish. Not a Madeira, but pretty darned interesting in its own right. With cheeses.
  6. 1999 St. Hallet Semillon Select – many people would say that this wine was over the hill. I’d say that they don’t understand Semillon. It had a medium amber colour, a nose of mixed lime juice and wood smoke, had more of a lemon flavour on palate, and was complex, finishing quite crisply. I wouldn’t hold it any longer, but it certainly drinks well now.
  7. bills

    South African Wines

    The Rust en Vrede Estate wine is indeed very good, as is the Kanonkop Paul Sauer. Keep an eye out for both.
  8. bills

    South African Wines

    That characterisation of South African red wines is exactly the OPPOSITE of what they have always been observed to display. In fact until the late 90s, they were always relatively easy to pick out in a blind tasting, as the reds all had fairly high terminal acidity, second only to traditional Italian wines. More recently, both areas have been producing more international styles that are a bit more challenging to pick out blind. I can only assume from your statement that your experience with South African reds is limited to recent lower end wines like Roodeberg, which by the way was not always the South African equivalent of Beaujolais. In the 70s and 80s Roodeberg was an ageworthy red for laying away.
  9. Blind tasting notes for the November lunch: 2001 Ch. Baret – this white Graves was a good starting point for the lunch. I got lanolin and some wax in the nose, and eventually some green apple. There was lots of acidity – I’d even say a bit too much. At $25, this is at the edge of it’s price point, vis a vis quality. 2000 Collet et Fils ‘Montée de Tonnerre’ Chablis Prem. Cru – this had quite a bit of toasty oak in the nose – a ‘new style’ Chablis. There was also a bit of greenness in the nose, and on palate the wine was softer and fuller than the previous wine, as well as having much better balance. It went very well with halibut with artichokes and sun dried tomatoes. 2001 Dom. Cauhapé Jurancon Sec ‘Noblesse’ – this was my hands down winner of the most interesting wine of the lunch award. From the little known (in North America) area near the Pyrenees, and made in this case from petit manseng, the wine showed lots of colour, had a fair bit of Botrytis in the nose (the grapes are picked when starting to shrivel) and a decent aliquot of oak. It was soft in the mouth with well defined and interesting flavours and good length, and although one suspected that it was finished with a bit of residual sugar, the excellent balance made it impossible to be sure. This wine would be a much better pairing with foie gras than any Sauternes I have ever attempted to use in that way. Great with rabbit paté 1996 Jaboulet Cotes du Ventoux blanc – from half bottle and tossed in just because it had come to the surface in someone’s cellar. Maderised nose, hollow middle without any fruit, the length not bad. Best part was the nuttiness in the nose. 1998 Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf du Pape – I haven’t started drinking my stash of this yet, though I get to try other people’s bottles from time to time. This was from a warm cellar and was very forward, with bricky edges, a mature Rhone nose with some violets, and black pepper in the mouth, but not in the nose. It still has lots of tannins, but if you have this wine and it has been cellared at a temperature that is on the high side, take notice – it will now be drinking very well, and will continue to do so for many years. For those with cooler cellars I’d recommend patience. 1986 Ch. Grand Puy Lacoste – when I tasted this wine earlier this year, I had a completely different take on it. This time it had a good Bordeaux nose with a fair bit of earthiness, a smooth entry and a sense of lightness before the tannins clamped down. It has many more years and is just starting to drink well. Compare that with my note from earlier this year: “1986 Grand Puy Lacoste – this wine was not forthcoming at all in the nose, and what you got if you dug about a bit was more rubber than fruit. It is quite tannic, dry, and one wonders if the fruit on palate is quite sufficient to carry it to the time when the tannins have softened sufficiently. It is quite closed right now and it will either become quite good, or will just dry out.” This time around I had no reservations about the fruit level, and it made all the difference with the impression the wine gave. It was well complemented by pork tenderloin stuffed with pheasant confit. 1992 Kenwood Artists Label – dark wine with a pronounced minty component to the nose. This wine has smoothed out and drinks well, with soft tannins. It has time to go, but I think it is on the plateau and will not improve from here. It arguably had just as much interest in the nose and mid-palate as the Bordeaux, but it lacked the length. 1994 Ridge Geyserville – I have been drinking this wine over the last 5 years and anyone that says Zins don’t age well, or in this case, need some age just haven’t tried this one. 68% zin, 28% cab, 8% petite sirah and 4% mataro. When I tried this around 1999, it didn’t show well at all. Now it has developed into something interesting, with a sweet, almost candied, smoky fruit nose. It was soft and sweet in the mouth with good acidity and excellent length. It is perfectly mature, but it should continue to hold awhile. 1999 Barone Ricasole Casalferro – a super Tuscan from this Chianti producer, made with sangiovese, merlot and cabernet. Dark wine, some smokiness in the blueberry and vanilla tinged nose, well balanced with a long sweet finish. No rush here. 1995 Cape Mentelle Shiraz – this Western Australian wine fooled us into thinking it was a cabernet, though we had no trouble choosing its country of origin. It was dark with a warm nose of cassis and vanilla, and it had good weight in the mouth with complexity and refinement. Very pleasurable wine. These were served with cheese.
  10. Notes from a tasting dinner: 1998 Montecillo Rioja Reserva – this was the intermezzo in a malt tasting, and I had put it in wanting to compare it with the 1997, which had been good value. Lots of wood in the nose (hey – it’s Rioja, right? What do you expect?) Mellow and soft on palate with soft tannins, medium length, not flaws, but not quite the quality impression that the 97 left. Close, but it won’t make it into my cellar. The rest of this is notes on single malt whisky, and may be ignored by the wine-only readers. As always, tasted without, then with water added. Invergordon – a single grain, at first all I got was simple alcohol on the nose, hot and nondescript. The water mellowed the bite, but much of the rather limited amount of flavour instantly disappeared. Ends quickly (thank God). Others liked this much more than I did. Grants Black Barrel – another single grain whisky finished in charred oak. A muted medicinal nose, a bit hot, pleasant slightly sweet entry, good length, but a bit sour at the end, perhaps the Bourbon casks? Of the two, my preference, but most of the others liked the Invergordon. Famous Grouse – a blended whisky meant as a segue into the single malts. Salty nose (peanuts?), balanced and round with some fruit. Water improved it marginally. Robbie Burns (Arran) – one of the ‘new’ Scotches created to pander to the sort of person that likes to wear tartan underwear and think of themselves as sons of the heather (their forebears more likely the result of a passing Irishman and an unsuspecting cow on a dark night, but that’s just my opinion). The whisky was nae so bad, however, with a sweet doughy/pastry nose, delicate in the mouth with lemon and smoked meat notes, and water opened it a bit. No age designation, which we have seen on several produced for the US market, which surprises me, as I would have thought that age was a prime selling point in that market. Longmorn 15 – aha – the real thing at last! Light caramel and some floral notes in the nose, filled the mouth, good length, and water just killed it. Lovely dram! Macallan Cask – another non-age designated whisky made for the American market, of whisky generally between 10 and 12 years old. At 57.7% alcohol (105 proof) it was needless to say a tad on the hot side in both nose and mouth. The oddest thing about iot was the orange cast to it, which was emphasized by the orange labelling. A vanilla and treacle nose, hot and intense in the mouth, rich sweet and syrupy. With water, the nose took on a rubbery note, then eventually it started to do a crème brulee thing. You need just a drop as too much water killed it. Bruichladdich 15 – a hot sea breeze nose, almost cognac-like, sweet smooth and frankly wonderful in the mouth, with great length. A little water improved taste, damaged nose. One of my top 3 of the night. Springbank 10 – I guess I just don’t ‘get’ Springbank. A hot wasabi nose that stabs you up the sinus, predictably mellowed by water, but there just wasn’t an awful lot there to like or dislike. Bowmore 17 – high toned fruit nose, smooth but a bit sharp at the end in the mouth. Water smoothed it out nicely, as well as bringing out some nice cocoa and figs in the nose. Good one. Ardbeg 17 – subtle smoky nose, long and smooth in mouth. Mellows with water, though it mutes the nose a bit. Excellent dram. Laphroiag 10 – a reference point for lovers of this style. Tarry seaweed nose, in the mouth more a smoke thing, and water brought out the complexity. Talisker 10 – nutty nose, sweet entry, and water made it sweeter still in the mouth, with a sweet and sour bit at the end. Ardbeg Uigeadail – 54.2%. A very unusual and characterful Scotch. Kippered herring and smoky seaweed in the nose, huge and hot in the mouth – needed water, which transformed the nose to elastoplast and pepper! Very intriguing indeed! Hard to find. Lagavulin 1980 – this was a 20 year old Scotch. double matured in Pedro Jimenez casks and issued as a Distiller’s Edition. Dark, with a sugary sweet nose, mellow in mouth, and after the addition of water, quite creamy. Quite good.
  11. 2002 Conde de Siruela Ribera del Duero (Bodegas Santa Eulalia) – medium garnet colour, some obvious wood apparent in the nose, but also decent fruit. It came across at first as a medium bodied but seemed to pick up weight as it opened in the glass. A smooth, friendly ready to drink wine at a good price ($18.95 Can., probably much less in the US).
  12. Notes from a wine dinner: Started with a bottle of the Segura Viudas Lavit Brut Rosado for the early arrivals, and went on to: 1999 Burrowing Owl Chardonnay – I skipped this vintage as I didn’t like it on release. I would have been disappointed to find that the duck had become a swan, but no problem, as this wine showed little nose, although remaining fresh and inoffensive. Definitely didn’t get in the way of the conversation. 1982 Louis Latour Corton Grancey – from magnum, and in fine shape. Lovely garnet colour with ruby lights, the nose a fruit based Burgundian delight, and on palate smooth and sweet with excellent length. This wine kept getting better with time in the glass. 1970 Ch. Latour (from magnum) – this has to be one of my favourite Bordeaux, and this bottle was in absolutely great shape, as one would expect given the bottle format. A basically perfect Bordeaux nose of mellow mature fruit, some cocoa, some spice, some vanilla…..ahhhhhh. On palate, the fist was still in the velvet glove, for the tannins are prominent if no longer as hard as before, nor at all intrusive. The element that sets this wine apart from the 1970 Montrose, another of my favourites, is that the Montrose is boisterous and a bit rustic, while the Latour has all of the power (and then some) of the Montrose, yet it manages to be polished and elegant at the same time. Superb balance, and the finish was at least a minute long. 1977 Warres Port – this has always drunk better sooner than the other major players in this excellent vintage, but it has also made me wonder whether it was very slightly lacking or possibly peaked – not every time, but just the odd bottle would put such thoughts in my mind. This one was very good, however, a fully mature vintage Port with such well integrated fruit, only a little hot and with a decent length. It may be time for me to start drinking some of my stash.
  13. 2002 Las Rocas de San Alejandro – from Calatayud (Aragon) – bright raspberry nose, sweet concentrated fruit on palate with little tannin but good acidity. Lush drink-now sort of wine at a great price. I’d put this about equal with the Hecula for QPR. A definite buy by the case for every day use.
  14. bills


    Whenever I see a movie on a subject that is filled with obscure ‘in’ knowledge and terminology, I figure that some screenwriter talked to a hobbyist for about 15 minutes before proclaiming himself an expert in the field and plunging ahead to write the screenplay. I worried about this with High Fidelity, but needlessly as that movie did a good job with the record hobby. I was worried about it with the just released Sideways, but a review that was brought to my attention by a wine friend indicates that this too may be a fairly good portrayal of all we hold dear, though not without some of the anticipated clinkers. The review is at http://slate.msn.com/id/2109290/
  15. bills

    1975 Bordeaux . . .

    The Las Cases is finally coming into the drinkable stage and Beychevelle and Branaire have been drinking well for a few years now. The Gruaud is also pretty good.
  16. Notes from a Bordeaux dinner: We started off with 1990 Pol Roger Brut from magnum with demitasse lobster bisque, prosciutto palmiers, scallops with truffle crème fraiche, and Koshi oysters with sea urchin mignonette. Then on into the dinner with a great course of sweetbreads with wild mushroom risotto: 1988 Cheval Blanc – not as forthcoming in the nose as the next wine, and showed a hint of ripeness, but there was some good underlying fruit and in the mouth the tannins were still firm. It is an elegant wine with very good length but didn’t offer the sybaritic pleasure that the next wine did. 1988 Palmer – sweet oak and mint in this forward nose. Silky smooth in the mouth, ending with fruit and soft tannin. I do not think this wine will improve any further, but it should hold well. With roasted guinea fowl in crepinette with Byaldi: 1989 Cos d’Estournel – first bottle (mine, dammit) was corked. We borrowed a taste from another table that happened to have the same wine and found it uninspiring – very little nose, fairly big wine, but a bit green and lean. 1989 Mouton Rothschild – when I last tasted this, earlier this year, it was a middle of the road decent claret but nothing to turn cartwheels over. This bottle was much better; the best I’ve tasted, in fact. Still a bit tight, it was showing cedar and vanilla with red fruit, and just kept opening up in the glass. Excellent wine and much better than the last bottle, which was bested by the 1990 on that occasion. With venison chop: 1982 Grand Puy Lacoste – the nose on this was never quite right to me, having a waxy cedar profile, but it wasn’t too off-putting. The wine showed well otherwise, with a sweet entry and the tannins much softened from what they were even in recent years. This drinks well now, and will continue to do so for many years. 1982 Pichon Lalande – it would be impossible not to love this wine. There was cedar and a pronounced spice component to the nose, and the entry was like a caress from black velvet, slipping effortlessly over the tongue and then blossoming into a big midpalate extravaganza and finishing with class and length, no element out of place. Loved it! We tasted various other wines offered from other tables, and I made brief notes oin some: 1986 Cos d’Estournel – huge wine with anise and smoke in the nose, which made it quite interesting. Needs time. 1989 La Mission Haut Brion – wow! Great nose, almost Rhonish, with some tar, excellent structure – needs a few more years to work out some of the tannins, but what promise! 1983 Margaux – I’ve had mixed experience with this wine. When tasted 5 years ago, it was tight and needed time, showing less well than the 83 Palmer. A year and a half later, the wine showed much better, big yet forward. Last year, briary dark and intense, drying a bit. This time, with lovely clear colour, some spice and cherries in the nose, still tannic, and with ample acidity, long and elegant. I shall attempt to add further data points at every opportunity. Tasted blind: 1997 Lynch Bages from double magnum – we thought that the wine was Bordeaux in the mouth, but the nose made us wonder – sweet butterscotch. Tight tannins in the mid-palate, medium body, and a bit stemmy, finishing a tad short. This left me with no regrets whatsoever that I have cellared no 1997 claret. With pear stuffed with walnuts and Stilton, wrapped in phyllo: 1988 Guiraud – medium light colour, with a nice nose of coconut and lemon, light on the Botrytis, with a hint of cinnamon. The wine was clean with lots of acidity, and came across much more refreshingly than many sweeter wines with lower acidity do. I liked this style a lot, and expect it will age well. Four years ago the 88 Suduiraut whipped it, last year it still didn’t impress me, this time it showed promise. Must taste it again in another few years.
  17. Notes from a dinner last evening. 1995 Henriot Brut – I liked this bubbly a lot. Nice yeasty nose, quite smooth and full in the mouth, almost silky, and good length. With crab soufflé and Mousseline Sabayon 2000 Domaine du Clos St Landelin Tokay Pinot Gris Clos Saint Landelin Vorbourg – I had never heard of this producer before, but I loved the wine! Medium golden colour, with a rich spicy nose of ripe fruit. Soft and rich in the mouth with adequate acidity to balance, and good length. Great match with the food. With wild mushroom Napoleons: 1998 Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf du Pape – it has been awhile since I last tasted this wine, and I have enjoyed watching it slowly evolve. The nose on this bottle was an almost elegant tar and leather with a hint of flowers. On palate, bright fruit and pepper, tannins resolved and good length. No rush on this wine, which I expect to drink well for many years. With a duck confit salad: 1995 Ch. de Gevrey-Chambertin Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru – a small production (25 – 50 cases per year), makes this a producer we don’t see much. This bottle was carried back from France earlier this year. The colour was fairly dark, the nose an amalgam of dark fruit and Burgundian pong. Medium bodied, and the fruit became decidedly strawberry in the mouth. I thought that it fell a little short at first, but with air it seemed to pick up steam and open up, showing adequate length and more acid than tannin at the end. With veal Marengo: 1976 Ch. Mouton Rothschild – always a favourite of mine and a wine I have often felt outperformed expectations. This bottle was not up to the best I’ve had, but cellaring hadn’t been perfect. It still showed a mature claret colour and had a very good nose of plumy vanilla, but it was drying out and was also a tad short. From magnum earlier this year, this was a real winner, so well kept bottles are worth looking for. 1988 Ch. Clerc Milon – I wanted to keep the other wine of this flight ‘in house’, so that included this label or Armailhac/Mouton Baronne Phillipe. We were quite impressed with this wine – dark with a big sweet fruit driven nose with vanilla and currant, good concentration on palate and a smooth feel followed by good length of finish. With cheese: 1959 Huet Vouvray Moelleux – while all agreed that this Vouvray would have been better some years ago, it was nevertheless interesting. There was a lot going on in the nose, especially as it warmed up (it had been lightly chilled). I detected lemon, orange peel, almond, and quince jelly (or maybe it was the Spanish blue we had that made me think of that). The nose was the best feature as the wine has lost considerable sweetness and while it retains a decent balance, I daresay it would have shown much more flavour interest in earlier years. There was a lingering caramel note toward the end.
  18. Yes, I asked for one or two Stelvins (available only at the winery, I understand). I'll let you know if there is any difference around 2012.....
  19. The Segura Viudas wines have always been well made and good value, and I order a case of the vintage cava every year just so that she-who-must-be-obeyed isn't tempted to head for the Champagne when she finds herself in need of a bit of fortifying bubble. In my never-ending search to make SWMBO's life one uninterrupted pleasure, I tasted the Segura Viudas Lavit Brut Rosado - and was duly impressed. You are probably thinking that this is some girly-man talking about pink fizzy wine, and that this sort of perversion might be contagious, but stick with me a few more sentences. I have been known to enjoy a nice glass of rosé Champagne, but have always found that anything with this colour and bubbles from anywhere else has been suspect - often with residual sugar, unbalanced limp wines. This was a very pleasant surprise - finished dry, made from a blend of 60% Trepat (apparently a local grape), 20% Garnacha, and 20% Monastrell, it has an elegant colour, good mousse, with some red fruit in the nose (cherry? raspberry?) and a very smooth decently long finish. I have installed a case of this in the "you-can-drink-this- without-asking" section of the cellar and it should keep SWMBO happy for some time. Recommended.
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    1999 Syrahs

    Notes on a tasting of 1999 American Syrah/Shiraz Hogue Vineyard Selection (Columbia Valley) – purple to the rim, the nose not too sweet, moderate tannins, and a bit of pepper. They add Lemberger to this (their lower end wine) to add pepper and spice. They’d have done better to leave out the Lemberger and add a bit more quality. Average. Seven Hills (Walla Walla) – I have been a fan of their cabs, but had never tasted their Syrah before. There was a cassis nose with good depth, but although there was some sweetness in the mouth, the wine was overall pretty lean – but not bad, so let’s call it elegant instead. Nice little flash of acidity at the end. Kestrel – the last wine from Washington State caused some disagreement and I suspect there was bottle variation. Some had this up among their favourites. My note said that the not unpleasant nose featured old tire rubber and spearmint (but in a nice way), was a bit hot on palate and had lingering sour notes in the finish. Echelon – this was the ‘California’ blend. Simple fruit nosed with an annoying slightly metallic note, on entry a flash of fairly good fruit almost instantly overwhelmed by acidity that stopped about 3 iotas short of searing and went right on to the finish. Uninteresting wine blighted by excessive acidity. Hess Select – another California appellation, mostly from Monterey, I believe, and with 5% cabernet added. Nose a bit sweet with some spice, medium weight wine, with none of the ‘acid blight’ as we were beginning to call it, and a finish that chopped off a bit short. Mundane but decent. Steele (Lake County) – dark wine with a big dry spicy nose, almost more like an Australian Shiraz, but without the overwhelming blackberry fruit that many of the exported Shiraz sport. Instead, we saw sweet oak and vanilla, good body and a long finish with soft tannins. This was the first wine that made me think I wasn’t attending a wake for indifferent bottlings of Syrah. There was hope! Fife Old Yokayo Rancho (Mendocino) – let me start by saying that I like Dennis Fife and his wines. Heck, he is probably the most vocal supporter of Petite Syrah, and I agree with him – I opened my last bottle of 1975 Freemark Abbey York Creek PS this year, and it was almost ready to drink! It was with some disappointment, then that I tasted this wine. It had a lighter colour than most of the others, and a greenness to the nose that put me off right at the start. The wine was lean and mean, with sour cherry flavours and a rustic feel to it. Dennis – say it isn’t so….. Morgan (Monterey) – an earthy ripe nose with a hint of anise, good balance with soft tannins, and a lot of acid, but stopping just short of too much.. This one struck me as rather Rhone-like. Seven Peaks – the fact that until the beginning of this year, this had been owned by Australia’s Southcorp accounts for the fact that this was the only wine labelled as a Shiraz rather than a Syrah (they were purchased by Boisset in February – does this herald a shift Rhone-ward in style?) A simple ripe, sweet cherry nose, medium bodied wine with very soft tannins and again, darned near a surfeit of acidity. Acceptable, but nothing I’d go out of my way to find. Andrew Murray Les Couteaux Vineyard – this was the only wine from ‘down South’ in Santa Barbera, which was too bad, as we could have had Ojai, or Swanson, or even the idiosyncratic Clos Mimi. Murray is a huge Rhone fan, and this wine did him proud. The nose was a bit jammy, but with some bacon fat and smokiness, and the wine was medium bodied and well balanced with a nice long finish. My favourite of the evening – good wine!
  21. Dinner at home last night with 3 guests from afar and some interesting wines: 1989 Lasalle Blanc de Blancs Brut – I like a Champagne with some age – especially with a blanc de blancs if offers some additional complexity in the nose – some nice apple notes in this one, good mousse and clean with Stilton on toasted baguette slices. 2001 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc – this vintage seems to be ever so slightly weak, which doesn’t mean that it is less pleasurable, just that it never seemed to have the searing levels of acidity when released that this wine often does. It was correspondingly smooth and balanced and went well with scallops in fish fumé. Delaforce White Port – I was trying to match a garlic and fennel cream soup and this fairly dry wine, well chilled did a good job. Better with food than the sweeter Taylor’s White Port I’d had earlier in the week. 1979 Shenandoah Amador Special Reserve Zinfandel – this was a shot at matching the chanterelles in whipping cream with sage and sherry. I had a nice Burg pulled, but Ian my guest said that he wanted to experience new and American wines, particularly zinfandels. It had amazingly good colour at the age of 25 years, and the nose still showed good fruit, though not identifiably of a Zin sort. It had an amazing amount of fairly weighty tannin, though very soft now. It went passably well wit the food. This was a modest wine that cost probably $10, and I do not believe that they still make wines in this style any more, nor that the wines produced today would last nearly as long. 1994 Renwood Grandmere Zinfandel – I picked another Amador zin to match with spice rubbed steaks. Warm ripe nose, with some heat (>15% alcohol) good fruit and not too heavy on palate, the ample tannins quite ripe and a good match to the food. (I figured that the Grandpere would have been bigger and more overwhelming at this point). 1970 Burmester Port – my friend from Toronto is a Port hound and I’d promised him a decent bottle. He probably wondered when I pulled out this relatively minor producer, but I have found that Burmester has made very good wines in specific vintages (1963 and 1970 particularly, and the excellent 1955 Burmester Colheita) punctuated by great periods of rather indifferent production. This wine showed at peak – colour good and consistent to the rim, is now mature with excellent length and a lingering nutty finish.
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    October Lunch Notes

    My monthly lunch was an international affair this time, with Andre from Toronto and Ian and Jacquie from France joining us. 2001 Tawse Chardonnay - medium coloured wine with a generic sort of fruit nose with a touch of volatile acidity, which blew off (the VA) and increased in complexity (the nose) with time, taking on an apple note. Nice feel, decent concentration, clean finish. 50 cases made by a new small Ontario winery. 2001 Ch. de Nages Vielles Vignes Blanc - I swear that this had a light petrolly Riesling nose, and didn't resemble anything else in particular, so several of us were surprised to be told that it had no Riesling! This Costieres de Nimes is actually made of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and a bit of Marsanne tossed in for good measure. Light bodied and clean. I'd never have though to have mistaken a Southern French wine with an Alsatian Riesling! Served with scallops and sardine with truffle oil. 1982 Ch. Haut Bailly - this Graves was showing its age in terms of colour, had an excellent mature nose, little tannin but sufficient acidity, and made a very good luncheon claret. It has been damned with faint praise by critics, and is a touch variable, but a good bottle need not make any apologies. 1998 Mission Hill Estate Shiraz - there was an attempt afoot to introduce our guests to the local product. 1998 was a very good vintage here and it was early days for Shiraz. This was the premium version and it showed a purple wine, with no tannin but enough acidity to carry it, no pepper, but what one could call an otherwise typical varietal nose, and medium body. 1995 Qupe Bien Nacido Hillside Estate Syrah - sweeter berry fruit in this nose, but not jammy. In fact the wine bordered on elegant - well balanced and tasty. Served with veal kidneys and chanterelles. 1998 Clos Pegase Cabernet - from a lesser vintage in California, this cab needed to make no excuses as it was very nice - dark with lots of mint and spice in the nose, perhaps a bit heavy on the oak, ready to drink but no rush. 1999 Il Peccato (Jacopo Banti) - this small producer makes a wine in the Val Di Cornia region, of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Ciliegiolo. The name rang a bell - a bell connected to Morellino, but I didn't recall until I checked that the Morellino producer was Erik Banti, possibly no relation. A dark wine with a sweet nose and moderate acidity, it drinks well now. Served with a really good venison osso bucco. 1996 Eileen Hardy Shiraz - the reserve version of this wine, I have enjoyed this huge ooze monster on many occasions. The mint/eucalyptus leaps out of this inky wine, shouting its origin (as if any of us were in doubt). It has great concentration and length and has now become well integrated and smooth. I think it will continue to drink well for many years. I've got some 1995 I should revisit soon. 1983 Dow Port - this one had a peach pit nose and was hot but not sweet, a bit of heat also in the mouth. It was pleasant, and not too sweet in the mouth, but I am not sure it was showing as it normally would as the nose seemed a bit atypical. In any case, just what was called for by the cheese. 1996 L'Excellence du Chateau les Tours des Verdots - a sticky from the Cote de Bergerac region adjacent to Monbazillac, this light amber moelleux wine was delightfully clean and crisp despite what was obviously high residual sugar 1996 Chateau Tirecul La Gravieres Vendange Tardive - I have only tasted the very expensive Cuvee Madame from this producer and while admitting the quality had reservations about whether or not it was a bit 'over the top'. I have no such reservations about this regular cuvee Monbazillac. It was showing a little less in the nose than the Verdots, but was otherwise a better wine - dried apricots and oranges came out as it warmed, and there was great length and intensity of flavour. Our thanks to our guests from that area of France for bringing these with them.
  23. I still do not like the balance of the 01 Larose, although time may prove it a better wine than I presently give it credit for. I tasted the newly released 2001 Oldfield Collection (86% merlot, 13% cab franc and 1% syrah) last night and found it to be the superior wine. We shall see how they both age.
  24. I hate points! They are as easily manipulated as any statistic, and tend to take the place for many people of actually reading a review. The sort of rigged point system we are talking about here reminds me of when you see wines with Gold Medals! You read the fine print and it turns out that the wine in question was the best (and possibly only) Petite Verdot in the 2003 Wagga Wagga Farmer's Fair or something equally meaningless. Best of all is to actually taste the wines. The 2001 Oculus is a very nice wine. It is worth the asking price, IMHO. The 2001 Osoyoos Larose is not as nice a wine, and is overpriced. The 2002, which I have not yet tasted is reputed to be a bit better. I understand that they intend to take the price up to around $70 Can. within a few years. If I think it is overpriced now, imagine my reaction to that! If I had to place them in a point scale as used in the Wine Speculator, I'd have to put the OL in the mid 80s and the Oculus in the high 80s. There are better wines made in BC. Unfortunately they are made by 'winegate' operations, not 'tank farms' (by which I simply mean the large wineries), and are of very limited availability, due both to their low production as well as the fact that the best BC wines tend not to be VQA and so cannot be sold in the VQA wine stores. Those who visit BC may want to search out wines like Black Hills Nota Bene, Poplar Grove Reserve, and a new wine from Jeff Martin at La Frenz called simply Reserve. They are unlikly to be able to find them in Vancouver - many sell out in a couple of weeks from the winery.
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    Wine for White Truffles

    The only one I can think of that would work fairly well with white truffles might be Greco di Tufo.
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