September 29, 2021

Quinta do Noval Silval Vintage Port, 2007

From the cellar: Here’s a bottle that got shoved to the back in the cellar.  We pulled it out almost by accident.  The Wine Spectator had given it 90 points and recommended it be drunk by 2016.

Based solely on that professional intel we anticipated it to be fully past, an accident waiting to be uncorked.  But the reverse was of course true and the rewards myriad; take that WS.  If Puff was a metaphor for childhood imagination then this port is a metaphor for adult reality.  It sang on the palate, to extend a lazy construction.

Online you will see, ad nauseum, “open and accessible” but in fact it was a little cryptic, and it crept up on you.  It was no open book.

But, as with all things magical, the thing about port is you never drink it at the start.  (Well, except for white port, and perhaps except for the French French who, you know, do Pineau des Charentes before a salad.)  As a rule, you never just drink port, as a person, as a person enjoying a drink; or maybe some people do, some very unusual people.  Sherry?  Yes.  Sherry, yes, yes, yes.  Port? No.  No, no, no.  If you go all out, an aperitif, white and red wine over dinner, then some port, you are toast.  So port is just something hard to reckon with.  Is it delicious?  Absolutely.  Is it necessary?  No, it goes beyond the “know your limit drink within it” mantra when, hic, you go beyond the limit.

I had this issue with a 1963 Rivesaltes.  It was unusual but lovely, fifty years old, and of course we opened it at a 50th, after the champagne, after the wine.  I mean it was the cheese course, we were well stuck in: Pull out the stretcher, wheel me off on a backboard.  And yet, if we’d opened it up at the start, if we’d only opened up the Rivesaltes, it sort of wouldn’t have made sense.  How can you watch the Wimbledon final without witnessing the path to glory?

I’m not sure anyone noticed how special this bottle was, that it was in fact 14 years old, lovingly cared for all this time in the crawl space wine cellar.  But it was a gorgeous sipper all the same.  Golden raisins, stewed prunes, the sweet liquor of canned cherries.  A long, long, lasting finish.  Matte black.

Price: On sale at BC Liquor in March, 2012 for $56, regularly priced $75. 

Market Liquidity: Karston Warholm takes home gold, we drink it in.

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

September 14, 2021

Montevertine Toscana, 2005

From the cellar: Well, from someone else’s cellar.

Let’s just say you knew someone who collected wine but ended up drinking too much wine and that led them to AA and when they went dry they started giving away their cellar.  Let’s just pretend that happened to me.  But, you know, even people who go dry hang on to their past.

Robert Parker said this wine had not much room to improve and recommended it be drunk at least four years ago.  On the one hand, it’s true; the wine is past it’s peak.  But it’s definitely not past.

The red colour, light, cardinal as opposed to carmine; it drank soft on the palate, ethereal.  It had lost all of the boldness it probably boasted five years ago.  Prune and dried apricot and a little loamy earth, not much on the nose but a stupendous, lingering, luscious finish and a glorious 13% to boot.  Honestly, we opened it expecting a bomb, and were thrillingly surprised.

Price: Gifted, but Tuscan heavyweights in Vancouver start at $50.

Market Liquidity: No market left on this puppy, just after market satisfaction.

August 13, 2021

Lunessence Brut Riesling 2020

Bar none the sparkling wine of summer 2021.  We drank it, we sipped it, we had it as an aperitif, sometimes with a dash of Amaro or Campari; one guest even asked for an Aperol spritz (it takes all types…). 

It’s dry.  Gorgeously tart and citrus forward with a toasty, chewy note on the palate and a Granny Smith finish.  No Prosecco sugar rush; bless us.  It’s food friendly, flexible, low in alcohol, local, and a just plain workhorse cheap and cheerful bubbly.  This is an all around no complaints how lucky to find it deeply appealing basic fizz.  Thank you Lunessence.

And the kicker? The proverbial cherry on the cake? Gismondi gave it 88, the kiss of death.  Oh lord we thank Gismondi for lowering the profile, disincentivizing it for the masses.  Let the masses, the wine cognoscenti and the points focussed fight over Bella, or Blue Mountain or whatever bubbles landed a 90 plus.  We drank bottle after bottle of the Lunessence, through the heat dome and after, we never failed to keep a bottle in the fridge, we shared it on the patio, we kept it on ice at picnics, we trotted it out during hot summer nights for cold supper evenings, and it never burned a hole in our pocketbooks.

Price: We scored it in Victoria at $22.52 a bottle which, with tax, is about the same price as the vineyard and, I would editorialize, a sensational price given the cost of drinkable BC sparkling.

Market Liquidity: Common sense in a bottle.

August 13, 2021

Duca di Saragnano Nero di Troia, 2019

The neck of this bottle has a sticker (not shown in the pic) that it scored 97 points.  97 points!  On a scale of what? 113?  Then yes darling, this is up there.  Up there in the points.

As for the wine.  What is the wine?  Red.  It’s red.  It’s identifiably red. It’s drinkable.  I would be happy to be offered a glass at a BBQ, offered a glass at a party (for 100), offered a glass of this as opposed to Lindemans.  But 97 points?  Fruit forward, generous on the palate, smooth with a hot-peppery finish, it is in a nutshell eminently drinkable and easy on the pocketbook. This is a workhorse table wine typical of the Italian toe but gosh, points gone bananas.

We give this two thumbs up street cred.  We just don’t give it points. And having spent an extended period in Puglia in 2019, we would put this as a minor offering given the region’s options. Such is living in BC. Sigh.

Price: Mid-20s, 27 I think, didn’t save the receipt, from a private store in Saanich.

Market Liquidity: An open and honest red. Just not a knight in shining armour.

August 13, 2021

Blue Mountain Reserve Pinot Noir, 2018

Liked it a lot, did not love it. 

It’s potent, it’s a gut punch, it has none of the ethereal lightness of Burgundy.  There is tar, yeast, and very sharp pepper notes, cranberry on the finish.  The professional reviews said smooth and silky; we definitely totally, unequivocally got nothing smooth.  In fact, it could do with a spin on the lathe.  Having said that it was still delectable, and I would say we opened it too early.

[Jeepers: Look at the spots on that wine glass!]

Price: From the vineyard back in the day, $44.

Market Liquidity: Wine evolves; this one just not quite enough.

June 18, 2021

Bizou + Yukon BEE-zoo Bubbles, 2018

This is an easy-off flip cap and easy on the pocket-book super effervescent, no buoyantly effervescent sweet—but not too sweet, not cloyingly sweet—decently fruity if in a faux fruit sort of fashion, bubble gum fruit flavour, perfectly sippable patio style (not so much celebratory style) lively and colourful as in literally colourful Okanagan fizzy that for the product has an exceptionally long finish like this overwritten sentence.

Price: An extremely reasonable $23 at Jak’s.

Market Liquidity: Better than Prosecco.  Repeat: Better than Prosecco.

June 18, 2021

CVNE Gran Reserva Rioja, 2013

From the cellar: Is this the best kept secret in Vancouver?  In the middle of a pandemic we walked into a private wine store and bought a seven year old bottle of Rioja.  As part of a mixed half case they gave us a 10% discount.  And a year later, when we got around to popping the cork, it was fireworks.

Now for the savvy, 2013 was not a good year, if years are your primary concern.  It’s not a bottle to hold, it’s a drink now (the 2015 to current vintages are your cellar picks).  And yet it rolled onto the tongue like Diana’s silk-taffeta train in St. Paul’s, lingering, impressive, gorgeous.  Robert Parker thought it light and I would agree that comparatively, back to back Tempranillos, yes.  But somehow it was light in an invigorating and inviting way.  It drank with a mellow oak, a clove slash star anise undercurrent, and restrained fruits.

Price: $40 after the discount in May, 2020.

Market Liquidity: A whole lotta satisfaction.

June 18, 2021

Domaine Brusset Gigondas Les Hauts de Montmirail, 2010

From the cellar: 2010?  Well, first of all, here’s a forgotten bottle.  It happens.  Purchased 2012!  Obama was President!  Survivor was in Samoa!

We fully expected this to be past; it was novelty only, zero expectations.  And with zero expectations we were pleasantly rewarded.  Gobs of fruit, mixed berry compote, almond, a zingy, fruity, chewy dark cherry.  On our first glass if was shockingly tart on the nose but creamy on the palate.  An hour later, a complete transition; nothing tart of any note, Ribena, raspberry, velvet.

Price: Not sure, it was in ink and the ink had run.

Market Liquidity: To borrow from the Dr. S, how did it get so late so soon?

May 14, 2021

Hester Creek Trebbiano, 2019

Trebbiano in the Canadian Okanagan.  Who knew? And old vines at that.

To be fair, we knew; during the stay at home C19 days of stir crazy stillness.  And we knew where to score it at the vineyard price, in Vancouver, at $23, rather than, say, Marquis, at $29.  So why bother blogging about that little secret?

During the darkest days of the pandemic winter, a glass of this was transformative; it could truly evoke a stinking hot day on a vine draped pergola over a long Italian lunch.  The 2018 was fruity, rippled with a honey sweetness, and sat on the tongue like Sun-Rype Apple-Cot nectar from back in the day.  A gem.  A real surprising I can’t believe this came from BC gem.  The 2019? Well, err, you know, good I guess.

The 2019 and 2020, both available from private stores in YVR, are just as a bottle to bottle comparison, a tad less thrilling than 2018.  Either the wine is the same but the world is different or the vintages just don’t have the same pop as 2018.  Gismondi called this a highly affordable treasure; that it is, and at the vineyard price it’s a summer slam dunk.  And to think no one else is growing this ebullient treasure.

Price:  $23 at a store that got the price wrong.

Market Liquidity: Travelogue in a bottle.