September 14, 2018

Marques de Caceres Rioja Reserva, 2011

Probably the first bottle of Rioja I ever drank was MdC; a Crianza of course.  I would hazard a guess, based on the volume and availability, many North Americans and not too few British would echo the sentiment.  Marques de Caceres is an omnipresent red which usually comes on strong and tannic and decent in a bistro but nothing of note.  I’ve always thought of MdC as the Casio watch brand of wine labels.

 

The Reserva is less available, at least in Western Canada; the BCL has the Gran Reserva.  We’re not going to shell out another $40 to compare, but I’m going to suggest that if you love the oak of Rioja get the GR but if you just have a hankering for fine Tempranillo go the Reserva route, with less time on the cask but still a fine selection off the vine and some love and care in the aging.

 

At seven years this vintage is a blast of candy store licorice, followed by a heady, alcoholic, tannic bomb of cherry, plum, charcoal, moist earth then followed on the finish with traces of oak and vanilla.  Although top heavy it’s ludicrously food friendly (which we drank with a New York Times beef stew braised in Dijon, cognac, wine and beef stock).  Assertive, not terribly acidic, very masculine.

 

Price: $40 at Kits Wine Cellar (but with a half case purchase, reduced by 10%; no such luck at BCL).

 

Market Liquidity: Like running with the bulls in Pamplona, this wine cannot be held back.

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September 14, 2018

Leeuwin Estate Siblings Shiraz, 2012

Entry level LE is expensive.  Even in Western Australia.  Even at the vineyard in Margaret River.  It’s just how it goes.  And it’s not always brilliant (witness our rather uninspired taste of the Art Series Riesling).  But most of the time it is brilliant.  It has a modesty and restraint, across most varietals, something you don’t normally get in Oz (home of Punch in the Face Shiraz); this isn’t punching bag red.

 

The entry level Siblings Shiraz has (we think) everything going for it.  Smooth and sweet(ish) like melba sauce, meaning berry forward, palate delightful and deeply nuanced but without the flair of a truly magnificent red.  You can just imagine staff tasting from the barrel and knowing it wouldn’t cut the mustard for an Art Series label but how eloquent and measured nonetheless.  We drank it against an Ottolenghi recipe of braised leeks (with edamame, buffalo mozzarella, lemon zest and a sprinkling of Gran Padano) and it shone.  As a sipper it became instantly addictive.

 

There is something missing, something you find in those towering Penfolds that cost a fortune but you are, of course, at entry level.  $40 entry level.  But still.  A good fit, off the rack.  Thank you Leeuwin.

 

Warm, pleasant, pleasing and delectable.

 

Price: $40 at Kits Wine Cellar (but with a half case take 10% off).

 

Market Liquidity: Like an earworm there’s a repetitive riff and you’re hooked.

August 24, 2018

Il Grigio da San Felice, Chianti Classico, Riserva 2009

From the cellar: The Wine Advocate came out with a 93+ points rating for the 2009 Il Grigio (in 2013).  We bought six bottles.  I have rarely been more in accord with (what I call) The Robert Parkers.  The only regret is that six was far too few.

 

We drank our next to last bottle this week and nearly wept.  It was like velvet, slathered with cream, topped with faux fur resting on a water bed; it was like Ellington and Coltrane In a Sentimental Mood; it was like Frank singing Nice ‘N’ Easy crossed by Ella singing It Never Entered My Mind; it was like a zero gravity chair on a Quaalude.  It really was.

 

Last time we got around to reviewing this Chianti, proper content review, the layers of floral flavour, the muted tannins braced against a woodsy tang, the gorgeous lip smacking fruit bomb of it all, we were in similar awe.  This just keeps getting Wow and more Wow.  But the strange thing is of all the Il Grigio we’d drunk since the 09, nothing has measured up.  It’s like a good standby, an old reliable, but the 09, as I say it’s pure Wow: This is what it’s all about when it comes to lying down wine.  Buried treasure.  Sangiovese rocks.

 

Price: $18.60 USD in 2013; around $30 CDN for the current vintage.  Stellar value.

 

Market Liquidity: Manna from heaven.

August 22, 2018

Penfolds Max’s Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015

(I left the flashy red label on; we are over and through with glam labels, but you can always tear it off and still have a reasonable presentation at the dinner table.)

 

It’s been a while since we corked a wine this forward, assertive and confident.  Less like a Wimbledon semi this is a Davis Cup final; it clamors to be heard and in so doing you can barely hear yourself.  On a scale of one to 10 in subtlety we score this Liberace in concert crossed with Cher at the Oscars.  While it has legs, Usain Bolt legs, we opened our 2015 in 2018 as a sort of witness to things that may.  It may.  Just, do you have the patience?

 

While still (much too) young, and worthy of at least another five years on the down low, it is eminently drinkable in that forward Cab Sauv way.  If this is your thing, rock solid granite determined super masculine Cab Sauvs, then this is really your thing.  Reviews talk about the nuance and balance which to us were not predominant; more like static and assured but monochrome, with mere echoes of oak.  An astringent dark cherry crossed with licorice root on the palate and an earthy finish give it fullness; it has a lot of heft and I guess is “mouth delicious” and delightful but not as a sipper.  A whole bottle over dinner in one sitting feels a bit like a whole movie of just the car chase in The French Connection, no plot.  Yet who in YVR would be serving this by the glass?

 

Dry and red meat friendly and decent value from one of the most prestigious Oz vineyards but for better or worse not our cup of tea.

 

Price: $32 at BC Liquor.

 

Market Liquidity: In the alternative, may I suggest a shot of testosterone.

August 11, 2018

Bodegas Ateca Atteca, 2014

A juicy, plummy, full-bodied red with none of the weight.  Smooth as a baby’s bottom.  Delicious and approachable if top heavy (15% alcohol).

 

I don’t know how we ended up gravitating to so many Grenache/Garnacha wines, but we have.  Last week we were drinking a white Grenache from France, the entry level Jaboulet (white Grenache: which can be lively and layered but was in this case flat and sterile; at least Marquis put it on sale).

 

This Spanish red is pretty much what you wouldn’t expect in Spain (and I speak from some experience).  It’s so well crafted, and honed to within an inch of its life I can only think of an export market expert, a list of check boxes, and crafting each barrel to tick the Robert Parker predilections.

 

But it is enjoyable.  Rich and open hearted and lush.  Very food friendly.  Not expensive in many US markets but hitting $40 with taxes in BC.  Shame.

 

(NB: Ateca Atteca.  What’s next?  Bogle Boggle?  Ravenswood Ravenwood?  Cheval Blanc Blancc?)

 

Price: $34.99 at private wine shops (select those that give half and full case discounts).

 

Market Liquidity: It’s a bit like the pride some have with a logo on the chest of their shirts (meaning was it really worth all the money, even if you do look sharp).

August 10, 2018

Unsworth Vineyards Allegro, 2017

Young and fresh but dull and forgettable which is a) surprising and b) a letdown because flip the bottle around and see what’s inside, a blend of two obscure hybrids, Sauvignette and Petit Milo which, you might assume based simply on their obscurity, that Unsworth is onto something pretty special.  They are not.

 

Gismondi compared this to Muscadet (trust me: Buy Muscadet) and gave it an eye-popping 90 points but on what scale who knows.  Maybe that’s like when you make Celsius Fahrenheit “on the fly” (i.e., double it and add thirty).

 

Price: A very reasonable $20 give or take.

 

Market Liquidity: Cold water is also refreshing.

August 9, 2018

Domaine Franck Millet, Sancerre Rouge, 2016

The white is available at a much higher price in private stores and, generally, if you live in BC and are looking at Sancerre you are looking at whites.  So, let’s start with praising BCL for having a lovely red Sancerre, at a price point under $30 (although just), and giving pause to the much higher priced Pinot Noir churned out in BC that can’t compare.  Its lightness speaks to rosé.  Look at that glorious ruby red in the picture, light as a feather.  Gismondi quite liked it, more than us I would say, silky I think was his term, and it does have a perfumed freshness, rose and lavender, with a musky finish.  There is a whole red currant grape jelly “thing” on the palate that dissipates into air which makes you take another sip and another.  I couldn’t quite wrap my loving arms around it and give it the props the pros have but it is a lovely summer read, er red, a refreshing 12.5% alcohol, dreamy with a Cobb salad, but it was also a one off; not for us.

 

Price: Around $30 at BCL.

 

Market Liquidity: Like age appropriate clothing, it has its place.

 

August 8, 2018

La Condamine Paulignan, 2013

A wonderful, thoughtful and approachable red blend, with a hearty depth and pleasing musky notes.  Most of it drank, for us, like the proverbial cigar shop, laden with smoke and tobacco leaf and nuanced edges of charcoal.  Sometimes top heavy.  Always enjoyable.  Gismondi loved it and BCL in response reduce it by one dollar so small mercies.

 

Price: $23 before taxes at BCL, $18 including taxes in Ontario.  Go figger.

 

Market Liquidity: Like drinking beyond your means.

 

I will add a footnote though.  The next day we drank the Miss Molly in My Bed, 2010.  Eight year old South African red blend (Cab Sauv, Merlot) same price as the Condamine.  Mystery purchase.  Last bottle on the shelf.  Attica in Victoria (probably the best curated wine shop in Victoria) all alone between the lovely if overpriced Secateurs and lower priced and less drinkable SA reds.  Score.  Absolutely beautiful.  What a sipper; smooth with spice, rich dark smoky flavours on the palate with a light, modestly acidic cherry finish.  Screw top to boot.  Miracles do happen.

July 20, 2018

Haywire Secrest Mountain Chardonnay, 2016

Just enough Chardonnay.  That’s how we refer to the Haywire gray label Crush Pad that vats its plonk in concrete.  Just enough.  Gismondi was very kind, “streamlined and textural” but he could have just as easily said “simple and straightforward.”

 

 

But on a blind test down at, say, Far Niente, what would they say?  Maybe “ribbon for participation.”  And at Grgich Hills?  Snarky, “go for broke, but don’t go broke tryin’.”  Liberty might even be pleasant, “you’re on the right track.”  Over at Kistler, well they might say something I couldn’t print in the blog.  And Ridge?  Just bug eyes and a “get your act together” face.  How embarrassing for Ridge.  You really feel for them having to blind taste BC whites.  So it takes all types.  All types of Chardonnays.  And this is one type.  It ain’t no heavy hitter, but it is, just enough, just enough Chardonnay.

 

Price: Around $28 before taxes at most private shops.

 

Market Liquidity: It’s no Rockette but it can do backup.

July 20, 2018

Fort Berens Dry Riesling, 2016

Wine from Lillooet?  What’s next: Wine from Graaff-Reinet?  I suppose.  If one of the myriad Lillooet forest fires common to the region, regularly, consistently, doesn’t wipe out the vineyard.  And lord knows there’s heat up there.

 

Tangy, tart, zesty and refreshing.  Decent with frittata.  But it’s no stellar Riesling and most will, at best, find it inoffensive, in the middle nonplussed, but us we could leave it be.  Quite forgettable.  (92 points over at John Schreiner.  Wow.  God bless him.  But that is just way, way beyond the quality and texture and depth of this very simple table white.)

 

Price: Less than $20.  So four stars on that.

 

Market Liquidity: Turns out only some of the grapes were from Lillooet.  Just one more let down on the last glass.