December 31, 2010

C.R.O.W.N. 3

C.R.O.W.N. (Cheap Red or White Night) 3 was held September 25th. The theme this time was aeration: each bottle would be tasted with and without the benefit of our Vinturi wine aerator (which is supposed to open up red wines, very approximately the equivalent of one hour in the decanter, or one year in the bottle). The idea was to taste the difference between aerated and non-aerated wine from the same bottle.

How we did it: just before we started, I aerated half of each bottle into another clean bottle, and marked both the original and aerated bottles with the same number on a piece of masking tape. Then all ten bottles were bagged, shuffled randomly, and then given a letter A through J. So we had no way of knowing what we were tasting, whether or not they were aerated, or which wines were the same. (In fact, this was part of the fun, trying to guess aerated vs. non, and which were the same wines before and after.) Each couple brought one bottle costing no more than $30.

Now we come to the point where I have to confess that I lost the results. I know the page with the compiled results was in our living room the next morning, so it's not what you're thinking. I do have the list of wines tasted here, in order of overall scoring as I remember it:

1) Whistler The Black Piper GSM 2008 (Barossa, Australia) $30
2) Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc 2008 (Okanagan, Canada) $17.49
3) Seghesio Zinfandel 2008 (Sonoma, USA) $22
4) Renwood Zinfandel 2006 (Sierra Foothills, USA) $22
5) Summerhill Pinot Noir 2006 (Okanagan, Canada) $24.60

Some other notes from memory: the aeration did not always improve the wine's score. I wonder if this would have been different if we had stuck with meatier wines like Shiraz and Malbec, which tend to show the most difference from aeration. Also, in general wine scores did not change dramatically - either up or down - due to aeration. I think the Whistler Black Piper, for example, did well both aerated and not.

I really wish I had the full results, since most of us were quite surprised at the minimal effect the aerator had when tasting blind. We agreed that we might have to try this again to see if the results are the same. All in the name of scientific research, of course.

December 29, 2010

Bleasdale "The Old Press" Cabernet Malbec

I was actually looking for the Bleasdale Second Innings Malbec, which is rated 90 points at about $16. That was sold out at Vines, but in its place they had a sale on this one - normally $39 marked down to $26. I bought two, one to drink and one for a Christmas gift. We gave the gift first without tasting it.

Well, turns out it we had nothing to worry about in giving this gift blind. Bleasdale is from Langhorne Creek, Australia, with 160 years of experience. The Old Press is 76% Cab Sauv and the rest Malbec. I poured a big glass and put it beside a lamp: the reflection of the etching on the glass was perfectly reflected in the inky black wine. Beautiful, dark purple colour. The bouquet has lots of alcohol, and dark berries.

The wine itself is a viruoso. Self-confident and strong. Tannins are balanced but could still use some aging (I didn't aerate this one). Delicious blackberry, plum, violet, cherry flavours would match well with blue or hard cheeses, lamb, pasta, or on its own. A complex, impressive and mature wine.

91 points. $26 (sale price) at Vines.

December 3, 2010

Road 13 "Rockpile" 2008

I was shocked - SHOCKED - to learn that this wine is a blend of eight different grapes: mainly syrah, cab sauv and merlot, with dashes of cab franc, zinfandel, viognier, grenache and mourvedre. And that's not all: the syrah and merlot have three different "clones" each in this blend. Ironic in that the winery's motto is "it's all about the dirt", they have come up with a spectacular blend that is likely more than the sum of its parts. Maybe it's really all about the blend: what you do with the grape afterwards is more important than how you grow it.

And by the way, this wine is fantastic. The first glass was merely very good, but after a little air the second is mind-boggling. I get an earthy cherry and a rich, multi-layered structure (I guess this is to be expected given the number of ingredients) with firm round tannins. The bouquet is like surround-sound. Rockpile is the appetizer, main course and dessert. I don't remember it being so good when we first tasted it at the former Golden Mile winery.

Don't waste your time eating food with this one. But if you must, it would match well with roast lamb, steak tartare, most cheese and I'm sure chocolate as well.

92 points (really). $24.99 at the winery.

May 27, 2010

Pirramimma Petit Verdot 2005

This wine has great "curb appeal": a tall, elegant bottle with a simple, classy label. And once you get inside you're not disappointed. Petit Verdot is usually used in Bordeaux blends but isn't often seen as a single varietal. This wine from the McLaren Vale is deep purple in colour, and has a fantastic, assertive, earthy bouquet. I got tastes of leather, earth and blackberry, strong but it held together nicely and the acids and tannins were balanced. I imagine this would improve with age or aeration. Definitely a match for strong cheeses or meats. Bacon-wrapped filet mignon?

Pirramimma is delicious, and would be impressive to bring to a friend's house for dinner. I can't see any red wine drinker not loving it.

90 points. $27 at deVines, but I think I got it on sale at Sobeys for around $22.

April 22, 2010

Trapiche Reserve Malbec 2008

A solid malbec, doesn't blow you out of the water but above average. A good jammy, astringent wine, not the blockbuster shiraz type but more than a merlot. I should have aerated this one to bring it all out. Lots of cherry, earthy plum and maybe some hints of leather and mineral. This would work with any red meat or tomato based dishes.

88 points. Probably in the $10-$12 range, so a strong value.

February 25, 2010

Doña Paula Shiraz Malbec 2008

P36810.jpgI recall another Doña Paula I wrote about a while back which was tasty, and this one is even better. It is rich and has the usual big Shiraz berry and mouthfeel, and plum from the Malbec, a really successful blend. Some other tasters noted chocolate and white pepper (I agree with the first, not the second). This would be awesome with red meat, which is too bad because I had a leftover steak and baked potato with a Guinness before I decided to open this last night during the Canada-Russia hockey game. Like Team Canada, it's a winner: rich, deep, passionate, and attacks the crease relentlessly (OK, that last one stretched the metaphor a bit too far, but you know what I mean).

And for the price the value is outrageous. We'll probably start buying this by the case.

91 points. $13.29 at Costco.

February 16, 2010

Santa Isabela Sauvignon Blanc

A well-constructed wine; I keep thinking of it in terms of what it is not. It's not very acidic for a sauv blanc, it's not too fruity or perfumy. It is quite drinkable. Maybe some hints of grapefruit/citrus and even mango, but really it's very subtle. Probably good with cheese or chicken dishes. A good wine for $15-18, outstanding at under $10.

88 points. 9.99.

February 5, 2010

Quinta Ferreira Mistura Branca 2008

This is a blend of 35% gewurtztraminer and 65% muscat, which actually works really well. The gewurtz cuts the muscat sweetness and the result is a rich, honey-like wine but not too syrupy like a straight-up muscat. It's a bit perfumed (the result of both grapes in the mix) but works well and I prefer it probably more chilled than it should be. For some reason I keep thinking it would go well with this coriander gouda cheese we used to get from the Strathcona farmers' market, and would definitely be a great and interesting match for a sweet curry and coconut rice.

The winery is also worth a visit if in the Oliver area. A great little family-run operation.

88 points. $20 from the winery.

January 22, 2010

Nugan Estate Riverina Durif 2007

The CROWN 2 winner. I felt like I needed a big red after the last one.

Durif is another term for Petit Syrah. Deep rich colour and a lemony plum bouquet. Actually, once I noticed the lemon it's quite obvious. Some leather and blackberry tastes as well, very interesting. To be honest, not as good as I remember it from cheap wine night, but still a class act. Probably would benefit from an hour in the decanter. I would proudly serve this with a bacon cheeseburger, or duck a l'orange if you want to go to the other end of the culinary scale.

89 points. $14 (as of CROWN 2).

Chateau de Cabriac Corbieres 2007

Some background: I came across the Wine Century Club, which is a website that will give you a certificate if you promise you have tried at least 100 different wine varietals ("the application is entirely on the honor system; should you lie, may the wrath of Bacchus curse your palate!"). Once you get past the first dozen or so, it gets a little obscure. So, we have a new mission.

This French wine is a combination of Syrah (got it), Grenache (got it), Mourvedre (uh, got it), and Carignan (need it!). So, check #42 off the wine century club list, and here we go. I get a dark berry and possibly flinty aroma, and the colour is a nice deep ruby. It's definitely not heavy or chewy, but there's just enough structure and body to keep it from feeling too thin. The acidity is just about right, but it seems to lack - well, flavour, I guess. I don't think this wine would stand up to any sort of rich food. I'm struggling to think what it might pair with (possibly seared ahi tuni?? what a stretch), and it's kind of plain to sip on its own, so I'm not sure where that leaves us. It's not a bad wine, just doesn't really seem to fit in. It's smooth and has some character, but ultimately is kind of unsatisfying.

I just poured another glass, this time with the aerator, and that helps a bit. Acceptable with the leftover popcorn chicken nuggets from tonight. Bump it up a point, but still, something is lacking, I wish it had some game. I'm trying not to blame the carignan.

87 points. About $14.