Archive for March, 2012

March 29, 2012

Ghost Pines Chardonnay, 2010

Our review of the Ghost Pines merlot was, in a nutshell, “approachable, rich, tasty, satisfying.”  Bring it on.  That is pretty much the polar opposite of how we found the chardonnay.  This is forward, heavy, assertive to the point of being aggressive, and with many unusual peculiarities.  For example, on the label it states notes of lemon cream which, in the end, you can discern (believe it or not), but not in a good way; rather, in the way of those old Peek Frean’s cookies which looked so tasty and in the end were hard and dry and only approximated a fresh baked product.  Sure there was caramel in the GP but rich in a way some desserts are too sweet.  All around we found this wine cloying.  (But Robert Parker didn’t; he apparently loved the cornucopia fruit salad this displayed with gusto.)  Think the Three Stooges: BANG, chardonnay, THWACK more chardonnay, not enough chardonnay for you?  Step on this pitchfork and take another fruity hit to the bean.  Sorry RP, know you would never stoop to slapstick to describe wine.  Too bad, the loss is to your loyal fans, not the vintners.


Here is our reflection: This is like a product with constituent ingredients masquerading as chardonnay.  Some of the finest whites have hints and depths of flavours developed over time from, e.g., oak or steel or time on the vine or, in wine speak, malolactic fermentation.  This wine is like a blank slate dressed up in fancy clothes, an adornment in the style chardonnay, but it would get a harsh diss from Joan et. al. at  the Fashion Police as faux not finesse.


Price: $22.99 at Everything Wine which, unfortunately, didn’t have the Merlot in stock.


Market Liquidity: Worst dressed list.

March 27, 2012

Chateau St. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Chardonnay, 2008

Too dumb to get this wine.  Just a poor old sap.  In fact it confused me.  It was like the geometry section on my GREs.  I will leave it to the con-no-sirs who have lauded it with plaudits.  Not one for our palates.  For us it was half typical chardonnay, wonderfully sharp balanced with smoothness, sweet and acid, and half Retsina, really just plain undrinkable unless you’re on a beach in Crete.  So on the one hand magnificent, I loved it, but that moment lapsed.  Then, on the other hand it had an unusual finish, a strange nose, and was unpleasant, even to one “sour”.  Both good and bad at once.  Very hard to explain.  Think Rocky.


Keeping in mind this is the same vineyard that makes the spectacular Eroica, reviewed here, it pains me to write how disappointed we were.


Price: Gifted.  No idea.  But in BC their basic chardonnay goes for $19.99 so I would imagine this at $25-35.


Market Liquidity: Conflicted.

March 23, 2012

Kim Crawford Marlborough Pinot Noir, 2010

In a word, crawful.  Harsh.  Decanted, aerated, still a total wreck of a pinot.  You can buy it everywhere so there must be a huge market for a wafer thin red with a chalky undertone and a virtually nonexistent nose.  Thank goodness there was no finish.  Enormously mediocre.  And $22 friggin’ bucks to boot.

In a few more words: There is a series of JC Penny ads with Ellen DeGeneres on TV just now and on one of them, in a Roman market, she goes through the hassle of returning something without a receipt.  The point is that JCP is very generous on its return policy and that when something doesn’t work out or isn’t right or is unsatisfactory or doesn’t live up to expectations you can return it.  Too bad I didn’t buy this bottle at JCP…

Price: $21.99 (!!) at BC Liquor.

Market Liquidity: Shurely shome mishtake?

March 21, 2012

Ridge California Lytton Springs, 2006

From the cellar: Sometime in 2008 I used a gift card to purchase, for $49.99, a bottle of Ridge.  Sitting pretty.


I don’t think I’ve ever read a wine review which remarked on a red wine having an undertone of butter, but there is a soft, sweet, uncultured butter note in this wonderful blend.  Very pleasing soft finish, but not as impressive as it is on the palate.  Not a bad sipper but much better with food.  Worked with cheese and then was superb with a poached chicken breast (thyme, parsley, and half a bottle of Cameron Hughes Lot 212 2009 chardonnay) and steamed chard salad.  Ooh la la, the way wine was meant to be.


Complex but not complicated.  Vanilla, strawberry, rhubarb, some licorice on the nose.  Loved it, although I had higher expectations, especially given the price and the time in the cellar.  Also, not crazy about 14.7 per cent alcohol, but it seems to be par for the California wine course.  It apparently scored higher with the con-no-sir crowd than I might have scored it if scoring was my thing but it was still a remarkable red.  Too bad I could only afford one…


Price: $49.99 at BC Liquor (in 2008).


Market Liquidity: Love, like a good friend, but not true love.

March 20, 2012

Nichol Gewurztraminer, 2010

Lauded two fine Nichol wines, the Cabernet Franc here and Syrah here.  Except for reservations about the steep price they were exceptional, we loved every drop.  If I had the cash I would keep them by the case.  Too bad I can’t say the same thing about the gewrurz.  I think the first signal came in Libations Liquor when I asked the manager about the wine and his response was “it’s a very good gewürztraminer.”  Seriously, that’s what he said, in total.  Not even something just as generic but a little more qualitative such as “unlike the gewurtz you get from Alsace, this is more New World” or “very nice, although a little young and sharp” or a million other positive but realistic comments.


OK, Nichol is pretty flat on this one.  It’s not memorable, it’s 150 per cent not Pierre Sparr which, I might add, sells for less, didn’t sip with much finesse, fruit was suppressed, was not particularly food friendly—only mediocre with Vij’s curry chicken (home made, not the freezer stuff) when it should have been flash, and never warmed to a floral nose you expect in the varietal.  For us this was a big no go.


Price: $23.99


Market Liquidity: Shocking letdown.

March 14, 2012

Morse Code Padthaway Shiraz, 2010

One of those wines in the liquor store with a rave review pasted to the wall beside it which I rarely take to mean it’s as good as the review but the Morse is OK and has a decent if a touch rough shiraz pizazz.  Here is one way to think about this wine: Let’s say you go to a dinner party and are asked to bring a bottle of red.


Dilemma 1: If you bring a really good bottle, a pricey bottle, there’s a good chance the host may not serve it.  Bummer.


Dilemma 2: If you bring a really good bottle, a pricey bottle, and the host does serve it, you may not get any.  Too bad.


Dilemma 3: If you bring a cheap bottle, chances are you’ll get stuck drinking it all night long.


The Morse Code is a good compromise: Thrifty, you won’t miss missing out if you miss out and it’s no hardship to drink if you end up the only one drinking red.


Price: $13.99 at BC Liquor.


Market Liquidity: Good housekeeping.

March 13, 2012

Rutherford Ranch Chardonnay, 2010

Very good balance for an inexpensive chard, and of course unmistakably chardonnay—but not unmistakable.  Went well with sockeye salmon but chardonnay and salmon should be a marriage made in heaven and this was more Jen and Brad than Brad and Angelina.  Has very good online reviews which emphasize the fruit but we found it a little top heavy with apple.  Absolutely no bite (so probably a good palatable restaurant house selection).  I couldn’t help but think of the Paul Simon line “so beautiful/so what.”  Would I buy it again?  Maybe, it’s spectacular value.  Would I recommend it?  Probably not.


Price: Around $14.99 in USD, not available in BC.


Market Liquidity: Nice price.

March 10, 2012

Nichol Cabernet Franc, 2008

A gorgeous Cabernet Franc that comes together with exceptional balance—spice, tannins, fruit.  The 08 is getting hard to find I’m told.  I could drink it by the case.  We had it with a cassoulet and it worked wonders but I think something with less kick than andouille sausage would be a more adept pairing.  A lot of flavour to savour on the flavour profile: The sort of flavour profile so many descriptive labels promise but don’t deliver.  Really can’t fault this gentle red.  For all the attractiveness of the wine it was, surprisingly, quite weak on the nose.  A long, leather finish.  Very long and worth pondering.  It reminded me of a fine Chinon we used to serve as our house red in a French restaurant in South Kensington, London (yes, that’s right, our house red was Chinon.  Hard to believe when you live in BC but it was true…).  And this CF, well hard to beat, unfortunately just out of our everyday price range.


Price: Gifted (nice dinner guest!  come back any time!); sourced at Legacy Liquor for $33.75 or $30 from the vineyard, before shipping.


Market Liquidity: Some good things come at a cost.

March 7, 2012

Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, 2006

From the cellar: We made the pilgrimage to Chateau Montelena on a visit to California in 2011.  CM is pretty hard to come by in BC, even on a wine list in a posh nosh place, so it was high on the priority list when in the region.  But of course we made a pilgrimage to all sorts of Napa / Sonoma spots and although CM has prestige, status, gloriously restful grounds replete with a duck pond reminiscent of Kensington Gardens, they have a “premium” fee for tasting.  I turned tail and, seeing that, the staff interjected that we could share.  So, for one price, two of us shared a tasting flight of some very tasty wines.


Who would say CM doesn’t know chardonnay?  Luxe.  And, to boot, they had opened a 1990 magnum when we were on site.  It was, well, mysterious, certainly not what I was expecting (but, truthfully, having had all sorts of aged whites, including a pitch perfect 40 year old Huet Vouvray, I’ve never had a 21 year old chardonnay, so I had no expectations).  The tasting went well, impressive, nothing to complain about, although (and not to take sides) it wasn’t the best wine we

Duck pond at Chateau M

tasted as we traipsed around from vineyard to vineyard, but it was faultless.


Before that pilgrimage (and, yes, because of “The Movie“) I bought a bottle of the 2006 chardonnay that I came across at Everything Wine in North Vancouver.  $63.99.  I just stood there looking at it for a long, long time, came to that “you only live once” moment and coughed up the dough.  Then I cut back on essentials for two weeks…  For no good reason we pulled it out of the cellar and drank it last weekend.


Was it a good chardonnay?  First, it amazes me how many people have told me over the years they don’t like chardonnay.  What does that mean?  That’s like saying you don’t like vegetables.  Sure, there is dross aplenty, but there is such variety and scope with what I call the Zelig grape it leaves me speechless.  Would they turn down a Grand Cru Chablis or a Chassagne Montrachet?  I doubt it.  God forbid they would decline champagne!


Well, cut to the 06: It was unique.  Steely, melon, pear, a long nutty (hazelnut?) finish.  Opened up nicely as it warmed but decanted didn’t make much difference.  Ultimately, we found it intriguing, more clever than enjoyable, as if it was trying too hard.  And, there was no comparison to the raft of Burgundies we had in Beaune on a recent trip—meaning it was joy upon joy abroad.  (If I was a judge in “The Movie” France would have won out…)  But, and this is the absolute kicker, the 2006 was different than the 1990 we had at the vineyard, but not markedly different.  I mean, wow, they make some heavy hitters down at CM, and what artful consistency.  Still, I might just be too unsophisticated to appreciate the expertise.


Price: $63.99 at Everything Wine, once upon a time, pretty damn hard to find any CM whites in BC.


Market Liquidity: Art is subjective.

March 6, 2012

Lapostolle Casa Sauvignon Blanc, 2010

Sharp minerality, clean, buttery, steely bouquet, melon, no decipherable citrus.  Very pleasant SB.  What we missed, however, was that lovely herbaceous quality we associate with new world SB, especially from New Zealand; not a trace in this and sort of lacking because of it.  But the Lapostolle is good: It has zip, a sort of startling jolt of freshness, decent finish, very good aperitif wine.  Our big hesitation is simply 13.5% alcohol.


Price: Gifted at a dinner party.  But we saw it at Everything Wine for $21.


Market Liquidity: Not bad, but given the competition not brilliant.