Archive for ‘Shiraz’

May 27, 2022

Domaine Grand Nicolet Les Esqueyrons Rasteau, 2016

Screw you Jeb Dunnuck.  Honestly, 94 points with a “thrillingly concentrated vibe on the palate.”  Can I tell you what the vibe is?  It’s fortified wine.  This bottle (lovely, yes, silky, smooth as fabric softener, heady and toxic) is 16.5% alcohol.  This is a silent derringer.  It’s a killer.  A silent effing killer.  And all that weight, all that alcohol, as delicate as it is on the palate it’s tonnage on the brain. It’s like being a spectator at F1 without earplugs.

So glass half full (as full as we recommend), this is about as full bodied as a Grenache Syrah can go without transitioning into vinegar.  It’s rich, billionaire Monopoly fat cat oozing rich.  Blackberries so ripe they stain your fingers as you pull them off the vine rich.  And not as complex as the bottle claimed.

Dunnuck says “don’t miss it” to which we might add, trust us, you won’t miss it, it will come crashing down like hail all around you.

We like us some Rhone but easy does it. Sweet and pretty and just too much sweet and pretty.

Price: At a discount at Marquis $42.

Market Liquidity: You could do shooters with this syrup.

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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!
September 14, 2021

Chateau Villegly Minervois, 2018 & Mitolo Jester Shiraz, 2018

Thud and plunk.  Epic fail of the pointsters.

Let’s start with the Robert Parker 90 pointer, the Oz red.  Heavy as lead.  What a walloping clunk of everyday red.  We were expecting a fruit forward, peppery Shiraz with a touch of black currant.  But it was less than full bodied, rather one-note, and really not complementary (to a not very spicy and lovely chicken chili). 

Then there’s this average, virtually generic red recommended by James Suckling.  If you poke around online you’ll see it was selected for Air France Business Class, but I guess the contract was cancelled due to the pandemic.  Maybe at 39,000 feet it would have the legs to stand up in the stratosphere.  But back here on earth it’s a tad inconsequential.

Let’s be fair: Both are drinkable, truthfully nothing much wrong with either, but there’s nothing much right either.  And both are hugely forgettable.  There is basic red a plenty in the BC government system, it’s unfortunate that the gold seals on a few bottles put a focus on something just not that much better than those without a gold seal.

There’s a spot-on random online review of the Minervois that finishes “…a lingering hint of pepper adds some interest to the fruit-fueled finish.”  Some interest.  Exactly.  Some.  That’s about as generous as I think you can be.  88 points tops.  Although not a direct comparison, we were sipping a young, robust Syrah from Clos de Soleil the same week, and it just delivered so much satisfaction.

There’s very much a “pop song hit” to both these wines, something of the moment, a catchy tune that fades into the backdrop. 

Price: Minervois around $20 (if not discounted on a bulk buy) at private stores, the Mitolo less than $25 in Ontario, over $30 in BC.

Market Liquidity: What were the lyrics to Blurred Lines?  Oh right, I’ve forgotten already.

Boldly Basic. Where Pointsters Fear to Tread

February 3, 2021

Kleinood Tamboerskloof Syrah, 2016

So, you know, we are still drinking off of Christmas gift certificates, and we decided to ante up for a South African Syrah of some note.

The best South African wines seem antique, rooted in a tradition long gone in North America, Australia, South America.  This is strikingly Syrah, brazen, while at the same time unlike most of the Aussie bottles that litter the liquor stores here.  Heartily floral, the perfume pronounced and delicate, velvet tannins, just a soupcon of licorice.  I write licorice but of course one review had “tree bark” and, well, that seems a tad much.  Just a soupcon of tree bark (there, I sound more legit).

Still, despite being something of a stunner, there also seemed to be something a little bit sharp on the spice notes; think of the time you over salted meat or threw in too much nutmeg on winter vegetables and it otherwise ruined a celebratory meal.  Maybe it was the tree bark.

Staff advised us it has long cellaring potential but we wondered what direction it would go.

Price: A steep but probably, for the cellar collector worth it, $47 at Everything Wine.

Market Liquidity: At five years out we’re undecided.

Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible…
December 17, 2020

Naramata Bench Wineries

Last weekend of October we went to the Okanagan for a wine weekend.  It was archetypally fall; cool, crisp, sunny, quiet.  Trees had turned, apples were being harvested in the orchards, and the BC Lieutenant Governor’s wine awards had just been released—the vineyards were well stocked with award winners.  We ate good food, we drank good wine, there should have been a million November wine posts.  There was one, unrelated post.  So, here’s a short, er, wordy summary from October.

Above clockwise: Lunch at Poplar Grove, two views from the Naramata Inn, the view from Poplar Grove, Blue Moon on Halloween, 2020, and dinner at the Naramata Inn.

In this post:

  • Hillside Cabernet Franc, 2017, LG Bronze winner!
  • Van Westen Viscous, 2019, LG Bronze winner!
  • Hillside Syrah, 2017, LG Bronze winner!
  • Therapy Chardonnay, 2018, LG Platinum winner!
  • Ruby Blues Peace Love & Bubbles, not an LG winner!
  • Hillside Estate Old Vines Gamay Noir, 2008 (2008! look at us!)

Where to start?  Something real, like the size of the Okanagan.  It’s a small area (relative to, say, Italy or Spain or the colossus of the US, when it comes to vineyards in production).  That means that there will be less good wine than a bigger region, it’s just math, and that good wine will command a premium, and it does, and that good wine will be in short supply, and it is.

When you hit upon some wine you like, on your tasting tours, you are likely to be reminded that the bottle you’re tasting is a “wine club member” bottling only.  OK, fair enough.  But how many wine clubs can a person join?  BC Okanagan wine clubs demand a kind of brand loyalty.  What happens if you end up with Sunderland or Watford or Ipswich?  I’ll take my chances with Australia and Chile and France.

Let’s go on to something less real, like the BC Lieutenant Governor awards, or LGs.  The judges, heaps and heaps of judges, pile into a hotel, then drink hundred of wines in a sitting.  Sip after sip after sip after sip.  A gazillion Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays and maybe some Cabernet Franc and whatnot.  Word was that the hotel staff couldn’t keep up with clean glasses.  And then after all that intensive volume sipping they select winners, but not first, second and third, oh no, there is platinum, gold, silver and bronze. Do four wines win?  Shurely you jest?

Now, wait for it, there are a lot of winners to take home a prize; it could be junior soccer bootcamp the number of winners. 236 bronze winners alone.  Jeepers, what didn’t make the cut? 119 silver.  You get the picture.  The LG wine awards are a way to highlight the industry and get people to buy more wine; they are like when real estate agents host a banquet and realtors get awarded medallions and then advertise as medallion winners.  The intent might be sincere (or in fact pure commerce) but the outcome is somewhere between exaggeration and Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump.

So there we were, able to taste a number of these winners.  But back to back, repeatedly, award winners at a vineyard were not always as good as an alternative, at the same vineyard.  Which is another weird thing about the LG awards, the vineyards don’t list what they submit, what they don’t.

We stayed at arguably the nicest accommodation in in the south Okanagan, the Naramata Inn (pictured above), which is rustic, and a tad simple, and could use a once over in the bathrooms, and doesn’t have any pool or gym or spa, and even a large room doesn’t have a chair, but it’s beautifully situated and has a sensational restaurant.  Just as a comparison, there is nowhere to stay like we stayed in Western Australia or the South African garden route or ate and drank in Burgundy.  There is nowhere comparable to Healdsburg in California or the Loire.  The Okanagan is lovely, Naramata is quaint and sleepily picturesque, but loathe as I am to say it, a touch of gentrification for visitors would go a long, long ways.

Here’s an unexpected surprise: Ruby Blues sparkling.  It’s nowhere near the better bubbles available across the Okanagan, but it’s lively and fun, it’s not too dear.  Plus it comes in brunch-ready half bottles. When we were tasting a woman walked in and bought a case.  I can think of no better way to Zoom socialize Covid-style and share the love around.  It’s Goldie Hawn on Laugh-in, half naked and adorable and with zero pretense.

Start to finish Hillside wowed (which was a little weird given that what’s available “OTC” if you will, in Vancouver, is rarely their best).  First, their restaurant was just plain satisfying, deeply satisfying, from the bread to the olives to the archived treasures you can purchase on the way out (but be cautious: wines you buy after dinner end up on the restaurant tab and will incur your tip).  We drank an absolutely drop dead 12 year old Gamay Noir at dinner and went home with two very appealing, food friendly reds, a Syrah and a Cab Franc, the former spicy with an acidic nip, the latter, with air, a decent mellow barnyard funk.  The tasting room is a tad robotic, but very well set up and decently diverse.

Over at Van Westen, at 11 a.m. in the morning, their tasting room gave us pours of such generous proportion I was an inch away from a siesta.  I liked, but didn’t love their reds, but the whites were lively, nuanced and felt lovingly crafted.  There are silly names (the V for viscous is a Riesling), and the rustic-ness of it all might not be every wino’s cup of tea (witness the moose head above the bar; remember when Moe opened up a family restaurant and Marg walks in and sees a moose head with sunglasses and proclaims “A moose wearing sunglasses.  Now I’ve seen everything.” Well, it’s a bit like that), but there was nothing shabby chic about the wines.

The outrageously spectacular Poplar Grove restaurant, cliffside, it’s like climbing Mt. Rushmore in North by Northwest.  Zsa Zsa would have adored the view.  The food was good, the tasting corporate, and the wine a tad ho-hum, comparatively. It was the only vineyard we passed on a take away purchase.

Therapy stunned us with their Chardonnay, but even here I’m not going to say it was an award winner better than so many other wonderful Okanagan Chardonnays.  Even the base model Meyer is good, the Blue Mountain lovely, the Burrowing Owl reliable, and of course Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Chardonnay, now we’re talking platinum.

So there you have it.  A lot of good wine, some very good food, great weather, friendly people. Then we came back to Vancouver and spent less money on older Rioja and more refined whites.

August 13, 2020

Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz, 2016

Gosh, for a blog that brags about being anti-pointster, we sure do seem on a point-driven jag.  92 it is.

Is it good wine?  Yes.  Is it good Shiraz? Yes; fruity, licorice, earthy, “all the usuals” if you will.  Truly, a typical and satisfying Oz Shiraz.  But: Is it ludicrously over the top alcoholic?  Yes, oh god yes.  14.9% but with the wine version of a humidex it could be Port.  There is something Hummer-ish about it’s headstrong attack and something equally leaden about the finish.  Demonstrative and then some.  Delicious, just a little weighted down.  It’s a one off for us.

Price: An extremely reasonably $27 at BC Liquor.

Market Liquidity: Think Great Expectations (as opposed to A Christmas Carol; both “92-point stories,” one just able to be bright and light and satisfying without the slog).

May 2, 2020

Cote du Rhone Halos de Jupiter, Vacqueyras

Cote du Rhone Halos de Jupiter, Vacqueyras

This is a Grenache Syrah blend that is a slam dunk.  Just wow and wow and wonderful.

 

BC Liquor sells the entry level Cotes du Rhone; it’s fine in its own way, I recommend it on a wine list because for $40 something you can have a decent bottle of red with dinner out (if we’re ever allowed to eat out again).  BC Liquor also sells an over $70 Chateauneuf du Pape.  In Ontario you can score a most wonderful Gigondas for $40.  All hail Jupiter.  But some of the private wine stores in YVR have the just right porridge, an exquisite red that boasts plums, and jammy dark fruits, light tannins and gobs of deliciousness.  Ludicrously drinkable.

 

Price: Around $35 at Kitsilano Wine, but if you but a mixed case of six and you take the 10% discount, we’re talking better than any BC red in that price zone, period.

 

Market Liquidity:  I could self isolate on a case of this.

April 28, 2020

Cape Mentelle Shiraz Cabernet, 2017

Cape Mentelle Shiraz Cabernet, 2017

Well here’s a blast from the past.  Remember when BC Liquor carried Cape Mentelle?  No, I bet you don’t, because it’s been about a decade.  Their workhorse Sem Sauv Bl blend was one of those relatively inexpensive everyday whites of much utility.  We miss it.

 

This is not their finest moment.  And they do have some fine moments (which of course will cost you).  But it’s a lovely change this perky red from Western Australia, perhaps a little surprising how much sweet and how little mouth feel it has, tending to veer away from the typical leathery Oz Shiraz, despite 60% Shiraz to 40% Cab Sauv.

 

Quite decent, all things considered, screw top, not over the top pricey, pleasantly light even at 14.5% alcohol.

 

Price: $30 at BC Liquor.

 

Market Liquidity: Like a nice find at a garage sale.

February 21, 2020

Tightrope Shiraz, 2016

Tightrope Shiraz 2016

Gismondi liked it.  I think a lot, so we got a bottle. And it was beyond a pass.  Just totally forgettable.  But we bought another bottle a few weeks later.  Props to our local producers, right?  And the second time round it was fine.  You know, a half decent red.  It was easy to drink but unremarkable, flavorful but not pronounced, a tad too flowery for us, for Shiraz/Syrah, without some redeeming finish, by which I don’t mean half baked but I do mean comme ci comme ca.

 

Price: Well if you score it at Save-On, and buy enough for the discount, you can come out around $30 before taxes.

 

Market Liquidity: You know that Oscar Wilde line, If I put on music no one will hear it, if I don’t everyone will?  Sort of like that.

February 21, 2020

Errazuriz Aconagua Costa Syrah, 2016

Errazuriz Aconagua Costa Syrah, 2016

Oh James Suckling.  How mediocre does a wine have to be to score less than 93 points?  Crikey.

 

This perfectly palatable and in many ways lovely red is on the simple side; an authentic 93 point Shiraz is the Torbreck, reviewed here.  This subtle contender is just that, a contender. And not even a Brando On the Waterfront wannabe.

 

Yeast, light maraschino and tart berry, a crisp and inelegant finish, not long on the palate.  It’s certainly no dud but it’s bantam weight at best.  But, hey, like Lizzo says, let’s be body positive.

 

Price: All in at Firefly $35.

 

Market Liquidity: You will drink it, you will probably like it, and you will forget it.  Pffft.