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.