Archive for December, 2021

December 23, 2021

Penfolds Bin 29 Kalimna Shiraz, 2018

Christmas card from 1972. Seriously.

And so it goes, another year unfolds.

From the cellar: A Wine Spectator top 100 from 2020 (#41 in fact), gifted under the tree last Christmas, this lay in our own cellar an additional year. I mean not since 1972, but still.

2021, the year so many of us gave up (on travel, on shopping, on eating out, on socialization) left us (as in the us writing this blog) spending too much on wine.  I am not going to write that with any passion except to say if there was a simple positive in 2021 it was drinking well.

The best meal out last year, Pluvio in Ucluelet, offered both Puy and a Jura white by the glass; I think a reflective kudos for having such iconic and food friendly bottles on the pour.  And although Wine Spectator lauds the 38 page wine list at the Pointe/Wickanninish down the way, the Wick has a woefully inadequate by the glass listing.  I write that only in passing; wine in restaurants is exceedingly grotesque: entry level plonk at $40 a bottle.

We devoured the Bin 28. It actually drank better with food than as a sipper. It’s an elegant and perhaps restrained Shiraz, on the one hand typical of Oz Shiraz, and on the other hand reinvented.  Some of the crude, crash and burn (pepper and smoke and heat) of the varietal are cooled off like chocolate ganache oozing over a black forest cake.  We simply couldn’t get all the notes of critical acclaim (cola, hazelnut brittle, cannoli with vanilla custard—I mean perhaps, but gosh, it’s a great bottle of wine but sweet cannoli?  I mean give it a rest precious…). Yes. We are heathens. But we drink well. Cheers, Happy Holidays.

Price: Gifted.  But the 2019 is available for $50.

Market Liquidity: An exquisite wine.  But, you know, #41 in our top 100.  Just joking.  Just half joking.

To close the year on a positive note, non-wine related, without sarcasm, I recommend the (gone viral and much replicated) Drukair or Bhutan airlines version of Jerusalema.  (Yes, everyone and their dog has done it, including Air Transat [!], but Bhutan knocked it out of the park.)  It will put a smile on your face, no “cup of cheer” required.

My 90 year old mother’s Christmas tree, 2021. What a sight!
December 20, 2021

Battle of the Vintage Riojas: Sierra Cantabria San Vicente 2008 vs. CVNE Reserva, 2012

From the cellar: This time of year, the “season” if you will, is a good excuse to dig up some gems.

The 2008 San Vicente was a “significant birthday” birthday gift, and a great gift at that.  What a wine (despite the dry cork: Hey BC wine sellers, how about some lie down?!!).  Each sip delectable. I heard a background soundtrack of oohs and aahs and very contented sighs Wimbledon-esque, the quiet at the dinner table when everyone digs into a satisfying spread, Terrence Malick-ian lyrical.

Dark, dark, dark; squid ink.  Prune, prominent prune and plum and a few other dried stone fruits on the attack.  There are points on the palate like mince tart (not the UK mince, lest a UK reader mistake me), but sweet and lingering and as if topped with a dollop of thick rich cream.  A deep earthiness on the finish.  Very hard to place this.  Just plain wowza.

We didn’t drink it all in one go and I would say that the second day (although properly “vacu-sealed”) it lost a little glamour.

The CVNE Reserva (not the Gran Reserva, which on occasion we’ve posted about) as expected was admiral.  But it drank like Tempranillo.  I think even the modestly knowledgeable wine afficionado could blind it as Rioja and be much less likely to do so with the San Vicente.  It was good in the typical sense; take the varietal, make an excellent wine, and then bottle it.  A most magnificent sipper, velvet, bouquets of violet, full on the palate.  In 2017, when we first posted about this wine, we paraphrased Hugh Johnson’s quote about wine as a marriage of nature and aesthetics.  True to form this vintage has softened over the last few years and warranted a lot of drinking pleasure.

I am not sure we’ve ever drunk a dud from CVNE/CUNE.

In brief: End of year score.

Price: The 2012 we purchased from Marquis in 2017 for $31.21 before tax, so obviously a score, likely part of a mixed case.  The San Vicente, although gifted, can be found at Kits Wine Cellar for nearly $80.

Market Liquidity: To be absolutely, unequivocally a broken record, we will say it yet again: There is no better red wine value in BC than Spanish Rioja.  Your dollar just goes way, way further, vintage or not.

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December 6, 2021

La Frenz 2018 Malbec and La Frenz 2018 Merlot

La Frenz is having a moment.  Awards and glory.  Good on them.  We’ve been getting a mixed case, annually, for over a decade; they deserve some acclaim.  Somewhere along the line we went “off” Burrowing Owl Chardonnay and transitioned to La Frenz.  But here’s the rub: We got a bit put off by the rise in prices.  And now LF, like most of the BC Okanagan is, well, you know, expensive if you’re not there on the day of release.

Here are two worthy reds.  You won’t be able to get them from the vineyard directly, and if you source them at private stores you will pay in the high 30s before tax.

On the Malbec, which scored a silver at the Canadian Wine Championships in 2021, I will say it’s gloriously good.  If this doesn’t encapsulate Malbec, nothing does.  It’s berry forward, very berry forward, with that dark, smokiness characteristic of the varietal.  A big whopping joy of red.  If you bought it at $26 from LF you scored big time.  If you bought it at a wine store for $36 you thought “Why?”  Comparative South American Malbecs litter the BC Liquor shelves at $10 and $15 cheaper; and are equally if not more satisfying. (The last time we loved their Malbec this much was the 2016, which we blogged about here.)

The Merlot is something of an enigma.  It definitely is lacking charm or curb appeal or whatever the average Merlot drinker wants when they screw off the top.  This seems rough around the edges, cedar shavings and earthy pith, very sharp on the palate, and the professional reviewer phrase “gorgeous tannins” just doesn’t apply.

So you have the little winery that could and then did, sold out inventory, amped up prices for what’s left on private shelves, and in our minds too much hoopla.  Here’s a big hats off salute to success at LF.  Full stop.

Prices: $36 at Marquis for the Malbec and $38 at Liberty for the Merlot. Gosh, that 2016 Malbec was $24!!!

Market Liquidity: Join their wine club, or take a pass.