Archive for March, 2013

March 27, 2013

San Pedro de Yacochuya Malbec, 2010

002First wine we’ve had from Salta (as opposed to Mendoza).  A most complex and satisfying red.  Smooth and abrasive, but not jarring.  Deep and complex.  Easy to drink but with a little jolt.  Food friendly.  Maybe not as lingering and thoughtful as you’d expect, but very, very good.  One of those surprise reds that takes you aback ( a little, anyway).


Know nothing about this vineyard, little about the wines from Salta (although malaria is prevalent now in the area!), and can’t say for certain I’ve ever even had a glass from the area.  Nice surprise.  We were told it was a joint venture with the esteemed Etchart family.


Price: Expensive, I think, given how reasonable wine is here: $35 in a restaurant (or, what every bottle of everyday plonk costs in a Vancouver restaurant).


Market Liquidity: Depends.  Let’s say you find it in Canada, and let’s say you find it under $30, then it’s a must must must buy.  At under $40 a treat.  At under $50 there are other options.

March 27, 2013

Trumpeter Reserve Malbec, 2009

trumpeterStill in Argentina and, sorry to report, the worst bottle we’ve had so far.  Which, ironically or not, is better than almost all the Malbec readily available under $30 at the BC Liquor back home.  If you travel, and if your travels take you to wine destinations, you might find that a) realistically, there’s a longstanding tradition that most countries keep their best and export the rest, b) you are victim of a wine conspiracy, say a not very picky specialist at BC Liquor is selecting all the Malbec or c) the tax in BC is so high that decent wine here, Argentina, is in the stratosphere back home.  I would hazard a guess that reality is a mix of three.


The Trumpeter wasn’t expensive but, relatively speaking, wasn’t cheap, and although it drank nicely it had a tiny bit of the coarseness, the edge that I associate with lesser Malbec.  It lacked the forward fruit of other wines we’ve been drinking, even by the glass, even the ubiquitous Alamos which is as unavoidable in Buenos Aires as Budweiser at a football game.


Price: $23 Canadian, in a trendy restaurant (maybe it’s the “in” label).


Market Liquidity: Sorry Charley (if you remember the Starkist reference).

charlie tuna

March 25, 2013

Riglos Quinto Malbec, 2011

036We went to a cash only restaurant and had to carefully decide on the wine as we hadn’t stuffed our pocket books with bills.  In the end we chose the Quinto Malbec, a bit of a concern as it was on the young side.  But no problems there:  Smoother than a baby’s bottom.  Drank with both pork shoulder and ravioli as fine as a Pinot.  Shocked us a bit it was so, how would you put it, tender?  Only 87 over at the RP establishment but at the price I would put it much higher on the point scale.  It did not have the levels, depth or maturity of a finer bottle but it served the purpose and was wonderfully satisfying nonetheless.  If you could score this in Canada in the $20 mark it’s a no brainer, buy a case.  Not available, unfortunately, at the BC Liquor stores.


Price: Equivalent to $24 Canadian (in a restaurant!).


Market Liquidity: Simple, but not a simpleton.

March 24, 2013

Zuccardi: Alma 4 Pinot Chardonnay; Series A Chardonnay Viognier 2011; Q Chardonnay 2011; Z Blend 2009; Malamado Viognier 2009

Continuing the week in Buenos Aires…

We took a ten course tasting menu paired with five Zuccardi wines at El Baqueano, a superb restaurant in the (somewhat dodgy) San Telmo neighbourhood.  The courses went Fernando Rivarola, Porteno, representing EB, and Rodrigo Oliveira, Brazilian, from Mocoto in Sao Paulo.  It was a sort of Iron Chef standoff.  First the good news: The food was beyond description.  Now the bad news: The wine was hit and miss.

zuccardi zeta

Zuccardi isn’t well-represented in BC.  The BC liquor stores carry a so-so Tempranillo.  I think there might be a Torrontes in some of the private stores.  Nothing to write a blog about.  Plus, they make too many “labels” with their A series, their Q series, their Z.  Plus other labels.  It feels like the Tom Ford perfume counter.

We started with their sparkling, a pinot noir/chardonnay blend, vintage 2010.  It seemed a bit pretentious to make it a vintage, “the 2010 Alma 4” versus the “2009” etc.  I would call this a very good Prosecco, enjoyable, social, not much more.

Our second wine was a Series A Chardonnay Viognier blend, 2011.  This would definitely have to be well under $20 for me to take an interest again.  It was lacking depth, rather flat, and not hugely food friendly.  It drank like many house wines drink; like innocuous wine.

The third wine was quite good.  Their Q Chardonnay 2011 hit the glass a tad too cold, but as it warmed it opened up and revealed some delicate butterscotch and pear nuances that perfectly suited some vegetarian mains.  Barrel fermented, not uber new world.

Then the heavy hitter came out.  Ooh la la.  This was a hit.  Following the Chardonnay, the Z Blend, a “mostly Malbec” blend with Cabernet and Tempranillo, was paired with two meat courses.  It was hugely appealing, deeply, wonderfully and even spectacularly food friendly, a gorgeous sipper, and although the oak and purple fruits shone through it didn’t linger too long.  This was served with a braised goat on couscous followed by nandu.

nanduNandu, for those not in the know, is a South American three toed flightless bird akin to ostrich.  The chef had created a roast nandu on a house-made chimichurri, a light salsa, and a potato so special I have to explain it: It looked like a chocolate cube.  It was in fact caramel.  If you cracked the caramel with your knife a “yolk” of truffle oil oozed out.  The sweet, starch and tart all combined superbly.  And the wine carried this off with perfection.  Astonishing considering it was only a 2009.  This is a premium wine of the first order which, unfortunately, I have no idea how to source.  I did find it later at a Buenos
Aires private wine store for the equivalent of $60 CDN.  I figure in
BC, with the duties and taxes all factored in, we’re talking Brunello prices.


We wrapped it up with their Malamado fortified Viognier, 2009.  Most appealing.  A great host offering instead of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, say.  A little on the heavy side but not a lot to complain about.  It washed down a mango sorbet with aplomb.

Wine aside: If you’re in BA, check out El Baqueano.  It might be your priciest dinner but you won’t regret it.  Oh, and they were very generous with the pouts.

Price: All in, including tax and tip, $100 per.

Market Liquidity: The Zeta stole the show.

March 24, 2013

Nieto Senetiner Reserva Malbec, 2011

The first in a series during a week in Argentina.


So many Malbecs to choose from, no idea what to do…  For a traditional grilled meat dinner at a typical parrilla in Buenos Aires, we took a bottle of the Nieto, a very old family winery in Mendoza.  This is no heavyweight, it’s more of an everyday Malbec, but lovely nonetheless.


On first taste it glows with flowery notes then the oak kicks in and the finish is a fine hit of pepper.  It was gloriously even, not as nuanced or eloquent as a “better” bottle would be, but perfectly food friendly.  You would be fortunate to find something so pleasant as a house red back home.


Price: Not available in BC, but cheap and cheerful south of the border, $12 USD or thereabouts.  In Argentina, for a song.


Market Liquidity: Good plonk shouldn’t break the bank.


Carnivore’s Delight

March 20, 2013

Louis Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009

005Wow.  I don’t know what I was expecting but for some reason I wasn’t expecting something this good.


Bright, big, pop of flavour without decanting.  Deeply interesting without unnecessary weight.  Gorgeous cassis, cherry, smoky dimensions.  Earthy.  Fruity but not cloying.  Hearty but not heavy.  Big enough for the big guns (think red meat) but subtle enough to sip.  Really a wonderful red if you’re looking for something special that’s not hard to come across (like, say, half the decent BC VQA reds…).  So sad that I had nothing but some prepared meat as a go with.  This belongs with a prime rib.


Price: Gifted, but $30 at BC Liquor which is out of our everyday wheelhouse.


Market Liquidity: It deserves your respect.

March 5, 2013

Evans and Tate Metricup Road Shiraz, 09, Vina Zaco Tempranillo 08, Bodegas Atalaya Laya, 10

Laya.  Be on the lookout.

Laya. Be on the lookout.

Three of the many, many reds Vancouver magazine Wine Awards judges recently gave top honours to.  All three here in the “medium red” best buy category.  My first comment is this: The best red wine under $20 available at BC Liquor, the spectacularly wonderful Hickinbotham, nowhere to be seen on the list?  Shurley shome mishtake Vancouver magazine?  Instead, a raft of wines that, frankly, are OK to good, but pale in comparison to the wine market just 45 minutes south in the US.


Here, a sampling of three reds you can find easily for under $20.  Right up our alley.


Evans and Tate: In my experience the best whites and some of the best reds in Australia come from Margaret River.  Cancel your pilgrimage to Burgundy and go experience the scenic delights and wine treasures of this astonishing region.  Lunch at Leeuwin Estates.  Luscious, creamy, rich and wonderful whites.  This red?  Pale.  Thin.  Smooth but without any dimension.  Like a 2D version of good wine.  It reminded me of an awards show, years ago, where Tori Spelling was approaching the stage, thin to the point of barbed wire, and Scott Thompson (of Kids in the Hall fame) shouted “Eat a muffin!”


Vina Zaco.  Seriously?  Of all the wonderful Spanish reds we are privileged to have access to, of all the decently priced and often spectacular Rioja’s that make their way this far west, this was really deserving top honours?  You know, it’s good.  We might buy it again in a pinch.  But it is just not on our radar.


Laya. Curiously, this is probably the least expensive wine Vancouver magazine gave an award to.  In my view, it should be the house red at half of Vancouver’s eateries.  It’s inoffensive, approachable, very food friendly, and ridiculously good value.  Restaurants could mark it up 100 per cent and we’d still get an under-$30 bottle of very drinkable and satisfying wine.  But, to borrow from a politico past, “read my lips, not gonna happen.”  If you are hosting an event, planning a wedding, or just have friends that drop by and drink all your booze, I would have this on hand.  Tastes great and won’t break the bank.


Methinks some judges didn’t use the spittoon.


Prices: $19.99, $17.99 and $13.99, respectively, all at BC Liquor.


Market Liquidity: Cool, tepid, warm.