November 15, 2011

Coyote's Run Meritage 2008

When we travelled to Ontario this summer, we knew we'd be driving around both the Niagara and Prince Edward County regions so we brought a wine shipping box. However, the trip turned out to be mainly about visiting family, so we didn't actually find the time to visit any wineries. We did haul a few bottles back, but these were some last-minute selections hastily chosen from what may be the best liquor store in the world, the Summerhill LCBO in Toronto. I don't regret how we chose to spend our time in Ontario for a minute, but on the other hand we did pass up an opportunity to visit two of Canada's three main wine regions in person.

So, I feel like we owe one to eastern Canadian wines. Coyote's Run is a fairly well-known winery from Niagara-in-the-Lake, but not one I have ever tried. So on a whim I picked up the Meritage from the Superstore Liquorstore a couple of days ago. Let's dive in....

The Coyote's Run Meritage is dark purple and has a very compelling bouquet which I had a hard time putting my finger on but the back label correctly identifies as violet. The wine is a spicy blueberry concoction that would more than compliment any red meat or tomato pasta dish. I think there are hints of chocolate, leather and tobacco, but subtle enough to give this floral wine some depth without overpowering. I think this would be a killer if matched with the right food, maybe steak tartare. Very impressive. The next time there is rare meat on the menu I will look for this one.

91 points. $19 at Superstore.

July 9, 2011

Henkell Trocken Sekt

About four or five times a year I wonder out loud to anyone in earshot, "Why do we only drink champagne to celebrate something? Why can't we have it as an everyday house wine?" But do I ever do anything about it? No. At least, not until now. The Henkell was the only cold wine I could find in the house, and none of the reds had screwtops, so I quietly popped the cork (kids just went to bed) and had some sparkling wine for no reason.

To be honest this has been a favorite of mine for a long time, pretty much since I started drinking wine. I'm sure a lot of it is the association with hundreds of memories experienced while holding a glass of Henkell Trocken. Hey, it was a fine day today so let's celebrate. Somebody famous, a writer but I can't remember who, once said he has a glass of champagne every morning to start the day, just because he can.

In case you didn't know: "champagne" refers to sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France only. Apparently everything else is properly called "sparkling wine" or some local variation. Even sparkling wines from elsewhere in France can't be called champagne.

Henkell Trocken is amazingly consistent: I don't remember ever having a bottle that tasted different from what it tastes like now. Medium bubbles, dry but with a very little honey sweetness and a creamy finish. Nicely acidic, this can be sampled on its own or with any cheese, seafood or curry dish. Once in a while I get to try some more expensive champagnes, and while I do appreciate them I think I like good old Henkell as much as any of them.

89 points. Usually around $11-12 at Superstore.

June 17, 2011

Carmen Shiraz 2008

Not much background on this wine. I have no idea how it landed in our wine rack. I can't find an image of the label on the internet. The winery website doesn't even list it. So we're flying blind here. All I know is it's a shiraz from Maipo valley in Chile.

A little acidic right out of the bottle, but not too shabby. A very nice inky purple colour, with a fairly hot alcoholey nose. Now that it's been out to play for a few minutes the wine is rounding out a bit and mellowing nicely. I'm getting some plum and leather smells/tastes. The back label mentions blueberry, and I'll agree with that. Good structure if a bit astringent, this would probably match with sweet Italian sausage, or rich chocolate cake, or the usual suspects. If it's in the price range I think it is, this is not a bad value at all. A good, solid, balanced shiraz that's not too "big" but is quite drinkable with food or on its own.

88 points. Guessing this is about $12 somewhere.

May 14, 2011

Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2009

We've come to rely on these grapefruity New Zealand sauvignon blancs like Oyster Bay and Kim Crawford as our go-to whites when we want something tasty and not overly expensive. There are a few that are on the cheaper end like Stoneleigh that are noticeably a point or two below the bar - still very drinkable, but it feels like a compromise instead of a treat.

Monkey Bay might be the least expensive of the Oyster Bay middle tier. It is tart but balanced, having the signature taste of the kiwi Malborough region of grapefruit and gooseberry. But it's acidity is not overpowering, even after a couple of glasses without food (trust me). It would pair well with shellfish, pasta in white sauce, or dubliner cheese (a sharp old white cheddar flavour).

We now buy Barefoot pinot grigio as our cheap quaffable house wine, and Monkey Bay as our standby when we want something a little nicer. And it keeps us from tearing through our Okanagan stash we just hauled back last week. A very good wine at a very reasonable price.

89 points. $12 at Superstore.

April 8, 2011

Alpha Zeta Ripasso Valpolicella 2008

Discovered at a tasting event at deVine. Usually I find Valpolicella on the thin side, like Pinot Noir but without the character. Maybe I've only ever tasted mediocre Valpolicellas. The one - Alpha Zeta - is very robust, more like a meaty Zinfandel. At first it blew me away: I was thinking 91 points. But as I keep tasting it, the wine doesn't hold up. It's still very good, but usually a fine wine will start tasting better as you get further into the glass. Not this one for some reason.

My initial reaction was that it engaged all of the palate, especially a slight sweetness that balanced the sour acidity nicely. But as I keep going, the sweet just seems to take over. A little pruney, to be honest. I am impressed that it has such a full body and mouthfeel, and I think this would be excellent paired with any good pasta (especially a tomato vodka sauce), veal or chicken.

From the winery website:
This wine is made using a traditional Veronese practice known as "ripasso". Traditonally, the young Valpolicella wine was re-fermented on the skins of the Amarone grapes once they had finished fermenting in March. The new, more expensive approach is to ferment the young wine together with dried grapes in the January following the vintage, giving the wine more body and depth. This blend of modern and traditional winemaking produces a wine with a combination of freshness, structure and depth that is fairly unique among Ripasso wines.
A great value, and something a little different that I wouldn't have otherwise tried.

89 points. $19.99 at deVine

April 1, 2011

Sumac Ridge 2006 Cabernet Franc

To set the scene: we've had an usually long and brutal winter here in Edmonton. Our winters are usually several months long and, yes, cold. But this one was exceptional, with tons of snow, and people have reached their limits. Now, yesterday and today, the temperature has finally climbed a few degrees above zero, the snow is melting with a vengeance, and the sun is out. Winter is over.

All of which reminds me, we are about a month away from our annual Okanagan wine pilgrimage. Each year, for no deliberate reason, we start the wine fest off at Sumac Ridge, probably because it's open early and on the way to our accommodations. One year our friend Paul worked there and he overserved us greatly, but we survived his generosity.

Cab franc is becoming one of my favorite BC varietals; in the past couple of years I've been impressed with cab francs from various wineries in the Okanagan. The Sumac Ridge Black Sage line is their Cadillac grapes from near Osoyoos, and I've never had one that wasn't excellent. And this one is too.

Probably my imagination, but I smell some of the wild sage that grows in the very southern part of the valley - you have to get out of Kelowna to see it. I almost detect a blueberry aroma as well. The bouquet is full and pungent and promising.

The taste is robust and delicious - not the body-slam of a shiraz but much more heft than a pinot noir or a merlot. Sublime and surprising with a little muscle - a Taylor Hall wine. There's a definite acidity to the wine, but it's balanced by some sweet flavours like vanilla and dark fruits. The winery notes plum, cherry and cedar as well. Yup - a dee-licious wine. I won't even suggest a food pairing - drink it by itself.

91 points. $20 from the winery.

January 24, 2011

Luigi Bosca Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Never tried this wine before, so I'm opening the bottle and writing as I drink. No vague recollections: these are my immediate reactions.

Nice ruby colour. Plum and a little lavender bouquet. A bit of an edge, maybe this needs to breathe/aerate a little to soften. Tastes jammy. But firm and not too tannic. This cab would be great with beef stroganoff or spaghetti and meatballs topped with chilis. Very drinkable.

Now that's it's been out of the bottle a few minutes I'm starting to taste the chocolate notes as advertised on the back label. Not bad at all, very versatile and a good value wine.

89 points. About $16 from Costco.