The Wine Log Blog

A blog of my wine tastings and reviews for anybody who likes wine or just wants a good wine recommendation. This site will be especially useful to those in Ontario, Canada shopping at the LCBO. You can search my reviews by using the search bar located at the top of the page. ----Note: Try refreshing the page if you don't see anything new!----

Friday, April 10, 2009

Divergent Styles

It has been bemoaned many a time that wines are becoming more homogenized as the ripe and heavily oaked approach is applied across the globe to make wines that appeal to the majority of consumer demand. This may be partly true, but there are still more interpretations of wine than there is time to drink them all – you just need to look outside the widely available options. Take the following wines for example, they couldn’t be more different.

1981 Gran Reserva Seleccion Especial– Montecillo
Garnet colour hints at the age of this wine. Very elegant perfumed nose and a delicate, nuanced palate. Earthy, light leather and cedar, floral perfume with bright cherry and unripe strawberry notes. There are some burnt and unburnt cigar tobacco notes that are appealing. Very silky mouth feel. Wine Advocate scores this 91: “I was told that Montecillo's cellar master prefers the 1981 Gran Reserva Seleccion to the 1982. I cannot agree although the 1981 is also outstanding…Its stylish spicy, cherry perfume is impressively complex as are the red berry and kirsch-like flavors and there is enough structure to support another 6-8 years of first-class drinking.” Notes on Cellar Tracker read very similarly to mine overall, though my score is on the higher side. $80 94

2004 La Bastide Blanche – Earl Bronzo
This wine is from Bandol, a region in Southern France bordering the Mediterranean. Not a very well known region but one worth getting to know, especially if you’re looking for something different. The Mourvèdre (which has to make up at least half of the blend) is very evident and the Grenache component is coming through too. Lots of pepper and spice with a strong grapefruit rind aroma coming out with a few swirls. Raspberry and mineral/chalk (which I associate with Mourvèdre) coming through on the nose and palate. The finish is sweet and a little flabby. Becomes more monodimensional the more you drink. Reminds me of the 2004 Mas Amiel Vintage Charles DuPuy, but that was better. around $25 91

2002 Oracle Shiraz - Kilikanoon
This wine couldn’t be more different in style from the Montecillo above. Delicate or elegant are not terms I would use to describe this wine. Massive concentration with menthol, vanilla, dark chocolate, black cherry, coffee, and smoke. Long, impactful finish with some spice and kirsch to add complexity. Over-the-top, but I love it for what it is. Most tasters preferred this to the Montecillo, and no doubt all that near confection like concentration is hard not to like. Really, I think it’s more of a preference - the Montecillo is almost as good but just in a different way. around $80, $65 USD 95

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Once in Awhile Wines

One of my favourite things about this wine affliction I’ve developed, and I’m sure I’m not alone on this, is opening that bottle I’ve been saving for a special occasion. Good company, good food, and good wine are a combination that has made for many a memorable evening. To me, great wines always seem better when they are shared. Sure you could drink that Cheval Blanc in a Styrofoam cup at a fast-food joint, but we all know that it would be even better if we shared it with someone we cared about while munching on some tasty grub.

I would never open the following wines on a regular day, not just because I can’t afford to, but because when I bought them I didn’t just think about how good they would be, I thought about the occasion.

2003 Clio – Bodegas El Nido
Right out of the bottle the nose explodes with raspberry jam, plum, spices, some cassis, cured and smoked meat, dark vanilla, and coconut cream. The coconut cream lingers a long time, evidence of the barrel treatment. The substantial oak adds sweetness to the nose and finish, but this wine has the stuffing to carry the oak without being smothered by it. With time in the glass a Port like spice note comes out and a curious freshly squeezed orange juice element. Suave and satisfying. 70% Mourvèdre with the remainder Cabernet Sauvignon. 96 Wine Advocate: “…creme de cassis intermixed with licorice, espresso roast, chocolate, and toasty oak. Its broad, intensely flavored, super-opulent personality offers up great fruit, plenty of glycerin, and a heady, long finish.” $57 95

2006 Amon-Ra Shiraz – Ben Glaetzer
This wine was a stunner. I decanted half the bottle and kept the rest in the bottle which turned out to be a good idea, because some of the delicate aromatics were lost after a few hours – proof that decanting doesn’t necessarily improve a wine. Very deep and engaging, a pure expression of the grape. Savoury soy sauce, Asian spices (cumin, black pepper), fruity chocolate, loads of blackberry. There is something mysterious and dark about this wine that is hard to articulate, like it’s hiding something in its depths. After 4 hours in the decanter medicinal aromas of menthol and an aroma that very strongly reminds me of a topical rub for sore muscles come out. Long finish with well structured fine tannins. 97-100 Wine Advocate: “…smoke, vanilla, pepper, Asian spices, coconut, espresso, blueberry, and chocolate. Thick, rich, layered, and complete, this monumental wine offers extraordinary intensity and length. It requires 10-15 years to fully evolve and should easily last through 2040.” $85 98

2004 Vintage Charles DuPuy – Mas Amiel
And now for something completely different. Ever heard of Maury? Unfortunately I hadn’t heard of this appellation in the region of Roussillon before this wine. It’s made from Grenache in a slightly off-dry style. Strongly reminiscent of Port but with an explosion of spices (black pepper, black tea), nuts, minerals, cured meat, grape skins, and sour cherry jam. The sweetness is balanced out by firm tannins. It becomes more like a nutty Tawny Port with time. This could stand with most Vintage Ports no problem. 93 Wine Advocate: “From Grenache planted in 1914, the 2004 Maury Vintage Charles Dupuy fills the nose and mouth with dried cherries, black raspberry preserves and cocoa, laced with vanilla, walnuts, shaved bitter chocolate, and szechuan peppercorns. This amazingly intense, penetrating, complex wine has a fine-grained tannic backbone yet vibrant forward fruit and viscous, opulent intensity, so enjoy it now or anytime over the next two decades.” $60 94

2005 Château Suduiraut
This comes from the highly touted 2005 vintage this was even better than I expected from the ratings. Amazingly penetrating nose of Sauternes smoke (botrytis), beeswax, caramel, candied pineapple, apricot and honey. Round and mouth coating with a long, long finish. Fresh acidity prevents this from being heavy or cloying. Absolutely love the nose! Not far off from the 2003 Chateau d’Yquem. Noticed some added complexity the next day with Riesling like petrol along with molasses and candied pineapple. Ratings are all over the place with this one: 92 International Wine Cellar “A powerfully fruit-driven Sauternes with superb depth, but it's almost too rich today”, 95-100 Wine Spectator prerelease “Better than 2003”, 93 Wine Spectator after release “…dried pineapple, honey, pear, caramel…”, 96 from Wine and Spirits, 18+/20 Jancis Robinson. $55 for 375mL 96

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Mostly South America

This tasting was based around the theme of South America. Argentina is known for its Malbecs and Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile has been recognized as having the potential for high quality for some time now, so naturally these were the most obvious groupings to structure the tasting around. For good measure a Malbec from Cahors, France was thrown in to compare with the Argentine versions. My ratings were assigned without knowing the Wine Spectator scores to avoid any bias.

Chilean Cabernet

2002 Cabernet Sauvignon – Domus Aurea (Viña Quebrada de Macul)
This was an elegant wine that displayed licorice candy, wine gum, thyme, red plum, and juicy raspberry character. A light barrel toast comes through in just the right proportion. This wine has a sweet edge and fine tannins, not a burly Cabernet. It reminds me of the 2005 Croix de Beaucaillou. Wine Spectator scores this 93 points: loam, mint, dark currant, fig and cigar smoke, plush texture, a beautiful rendition of cool climate Cabernet. My notes read very differently but I do agree that this is a great rendition of cool climate Cabernet. $39.99 USD 91

2005 Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon – Santa Rita
Right away the smoky effects of the barrel toast are apparent here along with green bell pepper herbaceousness which made it easy to distinguish from the Domus Aurea even when the bottles were blinded. The finish is a little tart and tannic but there is some dark fruit in the middle to hold it up. Lots of mulberry and a pure cassis aroma mingled with vanilla and that greenness. More heavy than the Domus Aurea, but the barrel toast and greenness make it less appealing to me. Wine Spectator scores this 91 points: tobacco, currant paste, loam, muscular structure, cedar, roasted vanilla. International Wine Cellar and Wine Enthusiast both score this 90. Now that I know what this costs I have to say it’s a good value. $19.95 90

2003 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon – Concha y Toro
More depth and length than the previous two Cabs. Vanilla, black fruit (blackberry and plum), sweetened cranberry, light coffee and cigar tobacco with mineral tones to keep it interesting. Very suave wine with depth and class. Not every taster was as taken by this wine as I was, in fact a comment was made that the more aggressive style of the Medalla Real was preferable - wine is after all to a large degree about personal taste. Overall though, it was agreed that this was the best Cab of the lot. Wine Spectator’s 96 point scoring also supported the group consensus: currant, cocoa powder, dark fig, blackberry, loam, cedar, tobacco, mineral and coffee, long and authoritative finish that sails on. Reading the Wine Spectator notes now it’s interesting too see how closely they compare to mine. $70 USD 94


2003 Catena Alta Malbec- Catena Zapata
After the Cabs this was a real change of gears. The overtness of this wine appealed to a broader range of tastes. Salty, sour plum, licorice, dark fruits, mineral and a long fruity and salty finish. I’m always reminded of salty licorice candy or preserved salty sour plums when I have a good Argentine Malbec, and those characteristics were certainly evident here. 94 from Wine Spectator: flashy and seductive, blue fruits, exotic mocha and spice notes. Definitely flashy! $50-60 USD, around $60 CDN 91

2004 Le Cedre – Chateau du Cedre
A massive wine! The phrase “It’s punishing, but I like it!” was used frequently, and with good reason. This has immense grip and hefty tannins that need 5-10 years to mellow out. It is mouth puckeringly astringent on the finish but full of tobacco, light floral elements, sandalwood, and cherry cola characteristics that are very entertaining. Only with lots of time in the glass does the sour salty plum I associate with Malbec come out, compared to the Argentine versions which display this right out of the bottle. Frankly, I like this more than the more overt Argentine style because there is more structure and depth. Wine of the Night for Adam and I. 95 from Wine Spectator: “Very elegant, with concentrated flavors of dark cherry, raspberry and cassis. Massively structured, with intense dark chocolate notes and plenty of rich spiciness”. Looks like we agree. $49 95

Also had a 2004 Alta Vista Alto which was flawed. It was not the wine Wine Spectator described as, “Big and bold with tar, loam, and bittersweet cocoa…core of black currant and plum fruit…Flashy, and pulls it off.” 93. Another flop was the 2006 Montes Alpha Syrah which was not up to the 90 Toronto Star rating but not obviously flawed.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

2008 Gourmet Food and Wine Expo

Yet another year at the Expo. Overall I found the wines less exciting than previous years, but there were still some gems. I scored all of these before finding out what the critics’ ratings were, so you can see how my notes and ratings compare.

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon – Clos Pegase
The alcohol came through in the nose along with the barrel toast (vanilla and charred wood). Very ripe plum, cured meat, chocolate, fruity finish, but the heat and dusty wood overwhelm at this point in time. Not as plush as I was hoping. 92 from Wine Enthusiast: ripe currant, cassis, chocolate and licorice flavors, luscious. $50.95 89

2004 Château Le Carillon
At fist whiff there is a dirty diaper like odour that dissipates with some swirling (really not as off-putting as it sounds, honest). Strawberry and cherry, dark stewed fruits, bay leaf, and mineral. Elegant and not too heavy or overdone. 92 from Toronto Life: ripe cherry, plum, leather, mocha, and anise; sweet, elegant and poised, with excellent length. $ 39.95 90

2003 Print Shiraz – Mitchelton
This wine was a nice surprise! The staff who were pouring this one had to convince me to try it, and I wasn’t expecting much as I’d never heard of it before. Rich black fruit laden nose (mulberry, blackberry) with a distinct salty savoury character that reminds me of the 2004 Astralis I had a while back (but this is a fraction of the cost). I find this salty savoury character in a lot of my favourite top end Shirazes, here it reminds me of soy sauce and a sea breeze. Very grippy finish – this will age well. Unbeknownst to me at the time Wine Spectator scored it at the same 92 points. I bought one to cellar for 5 years or so. $44.75 92

2004 Barolo Lazzarito – Vietti
Aromas of faint dried roses, red wine gums, anise, toasted bread. The typical Barolo tar note is here but it seems like a thin, weaker version. Lean and still needs some time, but not something I’ll be adding to the cellar (especially at this price). 93 Wine Advocate: dark fruit, smoke, licorice, tar and sweet toasted oak. 95 International Wine Cellar: minerals, brown spices, Cuban tobacco and menthol. I agree more with the Wine Advocate notes, but not the score based on sample I had. $120 89

2004 Château Climens
This has a nice waxy nose with caramel popcorn, honey, citrus and the mouthfeel is rich and thick with good weight and balance. Good Barsac for sure. 92 from Wine Spectator: “…apricot tart, with hints of candied lemons on the nose. Full-bodied and medium sweet, with lovely concentration and a lemony, spicy, almost flinty aftertaste. Impressive for the vintage.” $129 (750mL) 93

2004 Alion
Alion was started by the legendary Vega Sicilia in Ribera del Duero in 1991. This was more New World than I was expecting with evident oak and the Tempranillo character I like so much was not at the forefront, but will probably become more evident with age. Sweet ripe cherry, cassis, faint cedar and tobacco, and a light floral element lingering in the aftertaste. 96 Wine Advocate. $80.95 91+

2005 Croix de Beaucaillou
This is the second wine of Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, and not a bad one at that. Light and lifted aromas of strawberry cheesecake, raspberry, and light herbs. The wine is pleasantly soft around the edges and finish. It is accessible now and should drink well in the short term. Looks like agree with Robert Parker on this, he scores it 91 as well. $57.95 91

1979 Crême de Tête – Château Gilette
It’s not often that I get to try a Sauternes that is this old, let alone aged in concrete vats. After shelling out $22 for a 1oz sample I was intrigued by what I sipped, but ultimately this is something I would not buy even if it was cheaper. Rich caramel, citrus peel, some smoke. Turns a little sour and oxidized tasting on the finish. There is a definite mineral aspect to it but not the normal vinous kind, more like water that has been stored in a clay vase. Considering how long it is stored in those concrete vats I’m sure it’s more than just suggestion that it smells and tastes of clay pot. Light amber in colour and faint floral and beeswax notes. I think I prefer my Sauternes oak aged. $195 (500ml) 90

1996 Château Calon-Ségur
This came across very green and smoky – I’m having flashbacks of Niagara. Raw bell pepper, cassis and spices, and savoury herbs. A bit lean and tannic. The finish is not that long. The oak is still strong and the amount of astringency this still has suggests that this can still age another 5-8 years. 92 from Wine Access: “The 1996 may not be as profound as I had predicted from cask, but it is an exceptional wine. Dark ruby-colored, with a complex nose of dried herbs, Asian spices, and black cherry jam intermixed with cassis, it possesses outstanding purity, and considerable tannin in the finish. This classic, medium to full-bodied, traditionally made wine improves dramatically with airing, suggesting it will have a very long life”. $167 90

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Niagara Wine Tour 2008

This year I revisited some wineries I’ve been to in the past as well as one winery that I haven’t tried anything from before, Fielding Estate. I was especially interested to try wines from the unusually hot and dry 2007 vintage and see how winemakers had adapted their techniques to it.

Peninsula Ridge
The wines are usually pretty solid here and reasonably priced. They are known for producing one of the better Sauvignon Blancs in Ontario so I wanted to see what they came up with for 2007.

2007 Sauvignon Blanc
Typical gooseberry and light grassy aromas with lemon and grapefruit lending a sour and bitter edge. A little thin on the palate and the sharp on the finish. A blend of three vineyards. $14.75 87

2007 AJ Lepp Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc
This is from one of the three vineyards that goes in to the standard Sauvignon Blanc. The vineyard is located on the lakeshore, not the Bench. Less green and has more weight than the regular bottling, it almost reaches the tropical fruit (pineapple, passion fruit) that you would get in a good New Zealand example, no doubt a sign of the vintage. Mandarin peel and a rich nutty minerality. Slight musty notes. I’m still sticking to NZ and France for my Sauvignon Blanc, but this wasn’t bad. $18.95 89

2006 Fumé Blanc
A light butterscotch bouquet reveals the oak treatment that this Sauvignon Blanc received. There is too much raw oak (plank) in the finish, but there is some balancing done by the ripe fruit (apricot jam). Still not a treatment that I like for the varietal, and certainly not one any fans of clean herbaceous, mineral Sauvignon Blanc will appreciate either. $26.95 87

2007 Shiraz
I’m natural skeptical of using a grape that comes from a warm Mediterranean climate in Ontario. All too often Shiraz/Syrah from Niagara disappoints with under-ripe thin wines, but in 2007 it was possible to almost reach the grape’s potential (but how often will that happen?). This Shiraz had some of the volatile high notes of a cooler climate (raspberry), but surprisingly opened up quickly to show some black pepper, blueberry, and light bacon! Finish was weak, but I was surprised it had some real Shiraz character. Decent value. $14.95 88

2007 Cabernet Franc Icewine
I was surprised to see that they had managed a red icewine with the late arrival of the freeze in 2007. Apparently they had a brief window in January that was just enough. Smells like a Vidal icewine at first, you really have to dig to get any Cabernet Franc character. Strawberry jam finish with faint tobacco noticeable in the empty glass. Not cloying, but not anywhere close to the Cab Franc icewine they have produced before and the price reflects this. $34.95 for 375 mL 89

Angels Gate
The smells of ongoing fermentations were strong enough to make it difficult to really smell the wines well.

2007 Sussreserve Riesling
A little slate and lemon drop with some greenness on the finish. Yeasty (lees) mid-palate with a clean lingering lemony finish. The moderately high acid doesn’t lend itself to sipping without food. Decent value. $13.95 88

2007 Gewürztraminer
Not as floral as I was expecting, mostly spice and lychee nut. Not bitter, but not much in the way of Gewürz to distinguish it. Interesting ginger ale aftertaste. Musty fruit and more lychee nut than fruit. The 2005 was better. $15.75 87

Fielding Estate Winery
Nice eco-barn look with a well lit tasting bar thanks to the large windows. Unpretentious staff and no fermentation smells leaking in from the winery side (though you can see the vats). $2 for 3 tastings, waived with purchase.

2007 Gewürztraminer Reserve
Nice clean floral aromas (white flowers), light lychee and mild citrus. Well delineated flavours mirror the nose. There is some of the thickness you’d expect from a decent Gewürz. Not overdone or bitter; well balanced and clean. $24 90

2007 Riesling
Honey and lemon candy on the nose. This is also very clean and has a good balance of acid and ripeness (off-dry). Light minerality. $16 90

2007 Pinot Gris
This was a winner for sure, so much so that it was the only wine I bought during the outing. Light pink hue from the skin contact. Poached pear and apple skin with a floral must undertone. Not overly complex, but it was silky and mouth filling with just enough acid to offset the residual sugar. Ripe and tasty. $18 91

Some smells of fermentation and fruit flies in the tasting room are irritating. You can have the $5 tasting fee waived if you sign up for the customer list.

2007 Pinot Gris
Apple and light melon with lemon oil on the finish. Good weight to it like the Fielding Pinot Gris, but not as well rounded or crowd pleasing (more acid). $19.80 89

2006 Moira Vineyard Chardonnay
A little too oaky for my taste: butterscotch, with mineral, hazelnut peaking through. Vanilla cream aftertaste. Over priced. $36.80 89

2007 Gewürztraminer
This Gewürztraminer packs a walloping 14% alcohol punch thanks to the vintage and late harvest. 42 hour cold soak on the skins to extract the character from the tiny sun baked berries. Perfect varietal nose, most distinctly Gewürz of the whole day: reeks of roses and ripe lychee. Love the nose! The alcohol does come through on the palate with a little spice. Nice weight of course. Minus points only for the price and alcoholic heat. The price can be justified by the low yields though. $21.90 for 375 mL 92

2006 Pinot Noir
Too much vanilla from the oak with cloves and pine needle notes too. Phenolic, almost aggressive high notes. Astringent finish. Not a fan of this style. $26.80 86

2006 Moira Vineyard Pinot Noir
This has more Pinot character than the regular bottling: earthy beets, cherry, and the oak is more integrated. There is even a little elegance. Potential to age, but still not my idea of Pinot Noir and the price is not reflective of the quality. $42 89

2006 Gamay
Tried this one not expecting much difference from the disappointing 2005, but I was pleasantly surprised. Slight cheesiness (maybe banana skin) that blows off quickly to reveal strawberry/cherry, and some black fruit and floral elements lending depth. The oak, I’m told, was used in a more restrained fashion in 2006 which I think was a good call (this was a fault in the 2005). They also bled off some juice to concentrate flavour (the French term is saignee). There is even a distinct leathery note in the mid-palate that I liked. Reminds me of a good Beaujolais (think Morgon). I can’t believe it, but I actually liked a Gamay from Ontario! And so did the critics: “This is one of Ontario's best Gamays ever, with fragrant bing cherries, coconut and cedar notes, showing lots of depth and endless sweet-edged fruit” 90 Gordon Stimmell, Toronto Star. $16.80 89

2006 Late Harvest Gewürztraminer
What a disaster. They opened two bottles, but both were similar. Sharp oxidized nose of Madeira and apple cider. Good acid and not overly sweet, but this wasn’t even remotely recognizable as Gewürztraminer. And this after the amazing 2007 Gewürztraminer. What happened here? $25.90 for 375 mL (yikes!) 74

Henry of Pelham
Same cozy cottage like, and slightly smelly basement tasting room as always.

2007 Off Dry Reserve Riesling
Nice petrol/slate, mineral and lemon. Clean and simple. Lingering lemon aftertaste. Pretty standard, nothing stands out here. $15.95 89

2006 Cabernet Franc
Barrel toast is obvious with strawberry, tobacco, and a little greenness (within reason though). Bitter finish. Once again nothing special but no real faults. Price is good. $14.25 88

2005 Reserve Baco Noir
Lots of vanilla (new oak), herbaceous, sharp raspberry, slight metallic sourdough character that will put off some tasters for sure. Not particularly interesting. Pelham is known for its Baco, but I’m not terribly fond of this vintage. $24.95 86

Note: It seems to me that Pelham, like a lot of other wineries, is a bit stuck in the past. Their wines are all pretty decent, no real faults, but that isn’t very interesting. As the bar gets raised in Niagara those that don’t push the envelope a bit and keep doing the same are going to get left behind. Their tasting room, though quaint, mirrors the wines – they both need some updating!


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Funky Assemblage - Pinotage

Pinotage is a cross of Cinsault and Pinot Noir that was created in South Africa with the intension of making an easier to grow version of Pinot Noir. South Africa remains the main source of Pinotage globally (although there are some plantings in New Zealand). Pinotage has had its share of criticism, but now that winemakers have learned how to deal with its quirks good wines are being made on a more regular basis.

I remember my first bottle of Pinotage had me so puzzled I opened up a second bottle just to make sure what I was experiencing wasn’t the result of a spoiled bottle. Since then I’ve had a few more bottles and I still find Pinotage to be curiously funky, but not without its appeal. For those who, as I do, find enjoyment in wines that deliver unique gustatory experiences I would recommend at least giving it a try – and since most good Pinotages are decently priced you won’t have to spend a lot to do so.

The character of Pinotage has been described with terms like banana and rusty nails. I would describe the aromas/flavours of Pinotage as having elements of musty earth, funky ripe black fruits, barnyard, and a distinct bloody/ferrous sharpness that seems to dissipate with air. It would be pretty hard to mistake Pinotage for anything else. In a way it’s like the blunter, funkier bastard son of Pinot Noir.

2004 Pinotage – Môreson
I tried this interesting wine a while back with the Clos Malverne below. The nose made me do a double take: aromas of musty earth, beetroot, barnyard, and iron which soften with time in the glass. Additional elements of smoky spice, raspberry, and unripe strawberry unfold after the initial punch in the nose. This wine won Double Gold at Veritas in 2005. $18.95 85

2003 Reserve Pinotage – Clos Malverne
Very similar character to the Môreson up front but with more toasty oak and a sweeter, riper berry depth behind it. Interesting spice notes (clove and cumin would be the closest match) and black cherry. Blood red in colour to match the ferric element. Probably would benefit from some time in the cellar. Gold Medal at the 2006 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles and was also named as one of the top 10 Pinotage wines of the year in 2006 by South Africa's Pinotage Association. So this is obviously a good example of what Pinotage should be, but whether you like it or not is a matter of personal taste. $17.95 86

2007 Café Culture Pinotage - KWV
The price was right so I decided to give it a try after a long break from the funk. As expected the nose is downright funky out of the bottle. The wine is really ripe, maybe overripe with an obvious lingering taste and smell of prune juice. Loads of vanilla from the oak combines with the fruit to give the impression of coffee. Has the Pinotage funk of earth, blood, and some rubber. One way to describe this wine is obscene. I think the overdone oak and ripeness actually moderates the funk here. Not my thing, but I still got a kick out of it. Gold Medal at the 2007 Michelangelo International Wine Awards. $13.95 86

The verdict: I won’t be stocking up on more Pinotage anytime soon, but when I’m I the mood for something peculiar I know what to reach for.


Monday, September 01, 2008

West Coast Cabernet Comparison

There are many locations along the West Coast of North America that are well suited to growing wine grapes. California, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia all have well developed wine regions. For Cabernet Sauvignon the obvious appellation to look to on the West Coast is the Napa Valley.

An interesting Cabernet Sauvignon from B.C. showed up at the table recently and I took the opportunity to crack a bottle of the same varietal from the best Cab region on the West Coast for comparison. Both are in the same price range and from the same vintage.

2005 Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Raymond
My initial impression was that this was higher toned and less dark and plush than I was expecting for Napa (not necessarily a bad thing). Warm oak tones of vanilla and cedar with plum and cassis, but also red fruits like raspberry. Some spice and savoury elements add complexity. Vanilla, mint and fruit on the palate, maybe some spicy leather hidden in there. The heat from the 14.4% alcohol does peak out in the finish. This was quite lively and less heavy than I would expect from the producer, vintage, or region. For comparison, I rated the 2002 vintage of this wine 92 points, it was rich and reminded me of Black Forest Cake. Wine Enthusiast gave the 2002 a 90 and this wine 93: elegantly structured wine, sweet tannins, blackberries, spicy cassis, cherry pie, smoky oak. $34.95 91

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon – Mistral Estate Winery
This wine was crafted a little north of Napa in B.C.’s lush Okanagan Valley. Though I haven’t tried many wines from B.C. I was quite pleased to give this one a gulp. The nose reminds me very strongly of a wine I had in a past Tuscan wine tasting, the 2003 Castello di Fonterutoli Siepi, because of the bizarre sweet tomato nose. A great wine for ribs or wings with a sweet and spicy sauce. Slightly cooked plum. Grippy tannins firm up the finish. This wine handles its 14.5% alcohol a little better than the Raymond. Different, not bad, but the positive Cabernet character is obscured. $35 90

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