Archive for April, 2013

April 26, 2013

Les Deux Anges Sablet, Côtes du Rhône Villages, 2008

002Gismondi in the Sun gave this a glowing review, recommending it as a cellar pick.  Picked up a bottle based on that recommendation as well as to decide whether I should tuck a few away.  The best thing about this wine is that it isn’t a typical 90 point type wine, or however many points he gave it.  Rather, it has all the character and nuance you want in a blend and it reminded me of so many wonderful reds we’ve had in bistros and restaurants in France.  It doesn’t clobber you over the head with any one flavour; it’s layered with gorgeous subtle notes that are revealed slowly, with air, glass to glass.  Really a wonderful sipper, light like cru Beaujolais but with much more demonstrative varietals.  Gismondi recommended it with rich meat dishes although we tried it with a hearty vegetarian root vegetable stew and it paired a treat.  Nice label to plop on the table too, when guests are around.  If you see it in the US, where it sells at about $16.50 a bottle, geddit.

Price: $26.74 at Burrard Liquor ($23.25 shelf price, plus 5% GST plus 10% liquor tax; a “tax in addition to price” practice not common in liquor stores in BC).

Market Liquidity: Rhone rules.

April 25, 2013

Juan Gil Jumilla Monastrell, 2010

So BC Liquor had a little “Stephen Tanzer loved this wine” type blurb beside this bottle and we decided to give it a try because of that, it’s lovely label, and there is so much good plonk flowing from Espana lately.  Is it good?  Yes.  It’s heavy, heady, alcoholic and mind numbingly defiantly red wine.  But there was also something generic about it, something that left it less a unique wine and more a run of the mill wine.


I realize that mourvedre/monastrell is usually a tad alcoholic and that wasn’t my main gripe; it was that eight out of ten high point wines seem to all taste the same, CA, Spain, Oz, whatever.


If you are a point-hunter, then this is good value I guess.  All the point-critics love it.  But I defy the wine establishment to blind taste this, e.g.,  against any number of heavy, alcoholic California Zinfandels with similar notes of cherry, earthy smoke and vanilla.  It’s like the international ticket to wine review fame these reds.


Price: $24.99 at BC Liquor (which claims online to have the 08 and 09 in stock and doesn’t).


Market Liquidity: Not separate from the pack.

April 23, 2013

Krug Grand Cuvee Champagne

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Superb with a giant shrimp Caesar salad

A wine that sells in Vancouver for $256. So that’s like a new Google Chromebook.  That’s like 80% of an iPad. That’s like half of a monthly mortgage payment for a condo dweller.  That’s like, in Canada, $700 before tax income.  Just joking.  But it’s a lot.  They keep it locked in a cabinet at the liquor store.

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I will never buy this wine.  Ever.  Even if I win the lottery.  Even if I write a book more successful than Harry Potter and it gets made into a stream of movies with Ryan Gosling and Jessica Pare.  Even if I legitimately wine, er, I mean win seven Tour de Frances.  Never, ever.  Which is a huge shame (that I’m so cheap, to the bone), because this is one helluva champagne.

krug grande cuvee

We used points to fly Cathay Pacific from New York to Vancouver in First Class.  They offered us a glass of champagne while boarding.  It was over the top sensational.  Hugh Johnson, my wine idol, has referred to Krug as superlative and legendary and it is that to a tee.  It is a bucket list champers, and thank god I ticked that one off.  I drank it until they stopped serving booze, washed it down with some chamomile tea (served in a porcelain pot, how sweet) and woke up after an airline booze nap ready for more but the bar was closed.  [insert distressed emoticon]  I’ve had many fine champagnes over the years, La Grande Dame, Cristal, vintage Bollinger, and I can’t remember all the rest, which I used to get in London below cost in another lifetime, but never Krug.  Look elsewhere for superlatives and just trust me.  To top it off, CP served it well-chilled and fresh.  In Business on Lan and Air Canada their champagne was uneven, sometimes cold, sometimes lukewarm, sometimes effervescent, sometimes a little flat.  Not CP.

From the outside looking in, at price and availability, I always thought Krug a tad unctious.  How wrong.  Holy crow is it something to be reckoned with.  Maybe George Soros has a case or two he needs to write off for tax purposes.  George: Over here!

Well, I can only say this: Forget the Pauillac and the other heavy reds and I don’t know what whites they have on offer in CP First, and focus on the champers.  One guest in First rejected a glass.  He said, “champagne is a girly drink.”  To that all I can say is I’m ready to sport a vagina and stock up on sanitary napkins.

Price: Did I mention $256?

Market Liquidity: I surrender my manhood.

April 18, 2013

Vincent Girardin Puligny-Montrachet Vieille Vignes, 2008

pulignyA wine beyond my budget but for which we had the good fortune to sample recently.  You can get it easily (unlike so many wonderful Burgundies).  BC Liquor has it for around $60 and Crosarial in the Globe gave the 09 a very good review; it sells in YYZ for just over $50.


For purists I would highly, highly recommend it.  A wonderful wine with a steely repose and a bitter toasty nose with an elegant butterscotch finish.  An ultimate go-with for salmon.  Or, for that matter, anyone with pockets deep enough for the good stuff.


Price: Depends on where you live in Canada, but $59 in BC.


Market Liquidity: On my Christmas list.

April 16, 2013

William Fevre Chile Gran Cuvee Chardonnay, 2010

[Last in a series of reviews from Chile.  Sorry about the crap pic.]

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Outstanding.  Brilliant.  Words fail me.  You don’t need a review; you need to source a bottle.

We had dinner at a quite wonderful restaurant in Santiago’s tony Las Condes neighbourhood called Kilometre 0.  The wine list (on an iPad) was something of a tome to treasure.  So rather than belabor the myriad choices we chose our food and then went white.  The Fevre jumped out at me.  France and Chile?  Let’s try it.  Ooh la la.  It was full on French chardonnay in a Chilean bottling.  Someone, somewhere, knows the exact place to plant grapes, the exact time to pick them, and exactly how to treat them through the maturation process.  This was hands down the most satisfying white I’ve had in a long, long time.  It really could have been picked in Nuits-St-Georges.  We liked it as an aperitif, it worked well with a basic green salad with walnuts, and superb with simple fried fish.  Wow.

Price: $30+ in an expensive Santiago restaurant (but worth every penny).

Market Liquidity: Better balance than Nik Wallenda.

April 10, 2013

Casa Silva Las Lingues Gran Reserva Carmenere, 2010

073Whenever we saw it on a menu we ordered it.  It was just that good.  We didn’t drink as much Carmenere as I expected, but of all the bottles and glasses we tried this was our favorite; maybe not the best, certainly not the cheapest or most expensive, but our favorite.


It was smooth, luscious, extremely food friendly, and big.  It had some spice like a Shiraz but if I was blindfolded and asked what I was drinking I would have guessed a smooth Cab Sauv.  Which seems, in Chile, to be the perfection of Carmenere, or, rather, when Carmenere is perfect: It has all the bigness of a Cab Sauv, some of the edge of a Shiraz, but drinks easier than either, more like Merlot.  We tried glasses of various Carmeneres that didn’t quite hit the mark, but this one was pitch perfect.  And as we tried it several times we saw how flexible it was, pairing with chicken, red meat, stews and braises (as per the ribs above) pasta and even a tapas platter.


Price: In restaurants, the cheapest we came across was $26.


Market Liquidity: Like an old friend.

April 10, 2013

J Bouchon Reserve Especial, Malbec 2010

007Chilean Malbec.  Seriously!  Yet another surprise in our two weeks in Chile.   It started with so much spice we thought of celery seed.  But with air that passed.  It had a deep licorice and dark berry nose.  It opened up beautifully and had notes of what Robert Parker loves, that oaky cherry nuance that sits on your tongue like butter.  It finished with just a whiff of vanilla.  It sipped beautifully.  With food it worked OK, quite well with meat but not so much with vegetables and cheese.


If this is what the Chileans could do with Malbec, en masse, watch out Argentina.  There is a lot of heft in this wine and it could go places Mendoza has only dreamed of.  But then again, try finding a bottle.


Price: Expensive in a restaurant, about $35.  But worth it.


Market Liquidity: The dark horse that takes it by a nose.

April 10, 2013

Montes Alpha Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc, 2012

montesMontes has a number of wines in the government and private stores in BC, all quite fine in their way.  We’d never seen a limited Sauv Bl, and jumped at the chance.  It was crisp, clean, green, very much like a Marlborough SB.  Totally likeable and no complaints.  It didn’t have quite the bite that many NZ bottles do and none of the subtlety of Sancerre, but if this was in the stores back home I’d jump at buying more.  And more.  Can I get a message to the import reps???


Price: In an expensive hotel restaurant $24, so obviously not that much retail.


Market Liquidity: Nice find.

April 10, 2013

Morande Gran Reserva Chardonnay, 2010

595Two weeks in Chile.

We took a spectacular lunch in the Casablanca valley at a restaurant that features numerous local vineyards (as opposed to a vineyard restaurant).  We drank several wines by the glass, and each had its merits, but nothing worked or tasted quite as well as the Morande chard with a lobster prawn risotto.  We bought a bottle and drank it later as a sipper, poolside in the Elqui Valley.


Above: Casa de Vins, Casablanca Valley.  Below: Lobster risotto, drenched in butter.


So, mixed review.  With the risotto, which was rich and laden with butter, it had an exquisite citrus which cut through the oil and was a huge food complement.  It finished with a nice classic chard butterscotch but not blatant or heavy.  A big California chard would have been a disaster; this was lovely.

Then, later, as a hot afternoon sipper, it was simply too acidic.  Yes, it opened up, and with a bit of air and warmth had an easy drinking quality, but it simply didn’t drink at the level as with food.

Price: $12 at a vineyard rep.

Market Liquidity: Just right when just right.

April 7, 2013

Antucara Barrandica 2011 Pinot Noir

004Well, my computer died.  My computer died and my ability to write out notes on what we drank, the glorious, wonderful, exceptional wines we drank, at extremely competitive prices, and often with the most outrageously good food, all over Buenos Aires, that died too.  Dozens of blog entries down the tube!


I have pictures until I’m blue in the face but it seems disingenuous to write the reviews from a memory, not in the moment.  So I won’t.  But there is one wine that was hugely inspirational and a turning point for me: An Argentinian Pinot.


If you’ve read any other reviews on this blog you’ll know I’m not a huge fan of Pinot, particularly the price point and the fawning review for middling wines and the snobbery attached to those who can actually produce it.  Mea culpa: We had this red at a five course tasting menu and it rose to the occasion like no other.  Guests at the table asked to see the bottle only to be amazed they were drinking Pinot.  It was food friendly, a great sipper, and exactly, perfectly what a great Pinot should be, approachable, full of nuance, and just when you get friendly with it, then it reveals another dimension.  And, to top it all off, who would of thunk that Argentina could produce brilliant Pinot?


If travel is about broadening the mind, then thank you Barrandica.


Of course I spent days afterwards trying to find it, and from the sneers of the wine snob vintners I ran across there was much disdain for the house and/or the wine.  But mark my words: This is like the Cornell students advising Enron as a sell 12 years before it tanked.  There is something hot, hot, hot in Argentina, and it’s called Pinot, and before you know it you’ll be crowing too.  Bye bye Malbec.


Price: Don’t know.  Included in a tasting menu.  Couldn’t source it commercially.


Market Liquidity: Like Usain Bolt; out of nowhere and winning with ease.