Posts tagged ‘Robert Parker’

July 12, 2017

Pure Mirabeau en Provence Rosé, 2015

Boring and banal.  But Anthony Gismondi gave it 90 points so, yes, I sourced it (at $30 before taxes!) and gave it a go.  And I guess Gismondi was obligated because Robert Parker also found it “excessively” drinkable.  I feel like Charlie Brown when Lucy sets up the football: Each summer Gismondi gives a rosé a high point score and each summer I source it and each summer I’m suckered.  Look at the pic: I bought not one but two!  Who knows how rich I might be if I’d invested in lottery tickets instead?  At least there is the “hope” that comes with a lottery ticket.

 

This wine, in our opinion, is a veritable disaster.  Any thinner and it would be admitted to a medical clinic  for anorexia.  It’s pale to look at, plain on the palate, innocuous on the finish.  And here’s the extra special rub: BC has some of the finest pinot gris (or pinot grigio, our vintners can’t make up their minds) on the planet.  From A to Z.  We’ve reviewed a bunch.  The Sea Star is sensationally interesting, layers of depth.  The La Stella is a crowd favorite, what a mouthful of delight.  The Blue Mountain is ridiculously inexpensive and of especial value.  The Nichol we blow hot and cold on, but this year we really took to it, and even when we don’t it towers over the Mirabeau.  Even the Tinhorn Creek has won us over.  Why with this abundance of patio friendly, light and lovely and diverse PGs should we even bother with rosé?  Beats me.

 

Next.

 

Price: $29.99 before tax at BC Liquor (and hard to source at that).

 

Market Liquidity: This is to a decent bottle of wine what a Christmas panto is to Shakespeare.

January 12, 2017

I love the Wine Spectator. I’ve cancelled my subscription.

Relationships sour.  What can I say?  First, there are so many things to love.  Most imposing is the ridiculously oversized pretension of it.  Some of the feature articles are genuinely spectacular.  The pictures are decent, the reviews OK and the organization of it all is above par.

wine-spectator-covers

Of course you have to accept the whole air of WASP entitlement inherent in the enterprise; of those almost, at, or eventually going to place in the top one per cent being the core readership; of the verging on disdain manner they take when it comes to “value” or the unprecedented way they focus on wine as if it was a precious metal, in exceptionally limited supply, and as rare as beryllium.  Reading the feature articles it’s hard not to think of the De Beer’s diamond monopoly, and their efforts to control stock and prices during the 20th century. I mean you get this narrow wine focus at the exclusion of reality over and over.  And get this: Subscribers don’t get the free points app.  I mean their point system is so esteemed and blessed and on high that they treat it like King Wenceslas crown, a bejeweled prize for the few.  Talk about self-endowed self-importance.

Yes that is the real thing, King Wenceslas' crown.

Yes that is the real thing, King Wenceslas’ crown.

The worst part of it for me is that the regulars write as if they called it in.  Most of the columns are uninspired and dull.  Every second week in the Sunday NYT The Haggler writes a column; his droll wit and mix of ego and self-deprecation bring a whole new slant to consumer advocate.  What could be the dullest of “ombudsman style” columns is always light and often sardonic.  The WS editors tend not to rethink things; there is a format, and the format is repeated; if you find a joke, trust me, it will be incidental.

 

But if you drink wine, and if you’re interested in wine, there are plenty of tidbits that tell you about the wine world, the vintners, craft, and so forth.  To me it’s never as interesting as the old Hugh Johnson videos, but it’s decent.  If you need to know more about Sting and his grapes (and his refreshingly shocking indifference to the prestige of wine) the WS is the place to go.  Their chef issue, with Grant Achatz on the cover, was particularly good.  And perhaps one for the archives was the cheese issue with recipes and matching wines.

 

The most depressing thing about the WS as a Canadian though is that their recommended wines are rarely available in Canada at about (to my diligent guess, by Googling for years to find bottles) 10 per cent tops and in BC, in particular, maybe five per cent tops.  So you will get excited about wine and never drink that wine.  Which puts a huge damper on all their voluminous tasting panels and points and so forth.

 

My favorite regular, though, is Matt Kramer, who always writes as though he enjoys wine.  I know nothing of him, but he comes off on paper as the least possible wine snob imaginable.  And yet, and yet, he is probably why I let the sub lapse.  Here’s what happened.

 

Two totally discrete articles, which highlighted the absolute worst part of the WS and the best part of being a person interested in drinking wine.  One, the NYT ran a glorious piece on natural wine in October 2016 called Bring on da Funk, by Jeff Gordinier.  It was short, succinct, and particularly on the money.  And Matt wrote an article in the WS (in the cheese issue, in fact) called Impeccable Radical Credentials, which basically debunked the natural wine movement as something faddish and maybe even tinged with fraud.  So this is the crux of the problem with the WS; they can be as out-of-touch and irrelevant as career politicians who, around the world, seem somewhat surprised that people are bored and disgruntled with the status quo.

 

The NYT focused on the sensation of wine, the experience of wine; it juxtaposed what we’ve come to accept as wine, good wine, and pitted it against something extraordinarily different.  It talked about how certain types of wine have come to dominate the shelves, and how wine is manipulated.  It quoted a Master of Wine whose mission is to let the world know that when we drink wine we are not drinking fermented grape juice but grape juice “and a bunch of other stuff.”  It noted that top restaurants (Noma, Amass, 108, Relae, etc.) pour almost exclusively natural wines.  The bottom line with the NYT article was that people are passionate about wine and are interested in integrity.

matt-kramer-and-jeff-gordinier

Matt Kramer gave a nod to those of us who would like more transparency in the industry. [Hey WS: Why no editorial on ingredient labels?  I mean if the WS wanted to really come out as relevant, they’d focus on something consumers really, really want…] But in the end he talked about craft (which is synonymous with manipulation, but is the industry way of, wink wink, noting that craft trumps the naturals) and that too many natural wines are unclean.  He is sort of right: Last November I sat in a wine bar in Covent Garden and the bartender poured me over half a dozen natural wines, fresh wines, new wines.  And I didn’t swoon over every taste; some were chillingly exciting and invigorating, but some were so funky as to be crude.  Still, this was SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING THAN ANOTHER ROBERT PARKER 90 POINT 16% RED.  Kramer also addressed the sulfur issue.  Again, cause he’s a pragmatic guy in print, he noted that sulfur isn’t the enemy as long as it’s kept low.  But here, again, why doesn’t the WS take a bold approach and demand sulfur levels end up on labels?  Why don’t they boldly go where the establishment fears to tread?  Is it pure fantasy to ask the wine industry to list how much sulfur in PPM there is?  Christ, my water has a nutritional sheet, what’s with the wine industry?

 

I think the fact that a broad sweep, an unabashed rejection of natural wines as in the majority being unclean is simply incorrect and paternalistic.  And, worse, it misses the true intent of the natural winesters (as I like to call the zealots because, trust me, some of them are): Honesty on the bottle would go a long way to acknowledging wine isn’t simply a WS investment/commodity.  There are actual people who actually drink it and actually enjoy it.

 

Two final notes: Live in BC and want to try some sensational natural wines?  You will unfortunately pay through the nose, but get on the Sedimentary Wine email list and chat with them.  Also, a shout out to Ridge, the first US major player to voluntarily put ingredients on their labels.

 

What’s next? A rant about Decanter.  The most incredible, informative, exciting and relevant wine publication on the planet.

An ad from the very first Wine Spectator.  I am old enough to remember ordering B&G at a restaurant and it was considered "a fine choice."

An ad from the very first Wine Spectator. I am old enough to remember ordering B&G at a restaurant and it was considered “a fine choice.”

October 15, 2016

Seven Stones Standing Rock Meritage, 2010 & Celeste Crianza, 2012

celeste-crianza-2012

We drank the lovely if somewhat forgettable Crianza back to back with a Seven Stones blend.  Not unlike some previous bottles which we’ve never reviewed, the Meritage was enjoyable, imperfect, provocative and spoke of terroir in a way the Similkameen seems to beat out the northern OK year by year.

 

So how did it play out against the highly prized Crianza, from, and I quote, “the world’s most admired wine brand”?  I think if you don your impartial reviewer hat the Crianza is the better wine.  I give it this: It has fewer flaws.  And who doesn’t like a silky Tempranillo on a miserable autumn night?  But like a high end suit tailored versus an off the rack that fits to a tee, the Meritage just holds your interest more, lingers on the tongue longer, and has a depth of flavour that is both captivating and a little frustrating, a few inches away from being a better blend.  Now the Crainza rolls over the palate like toffee, smooth, a tad gristly, but pffft, it’s thin and ephemeral, and thus the disappointment.

 

Pricewise, the Crianza comes in at $27 before taxes and the Meritage $35 with taxes, so only a few dollars separate the two on the budget front.  I guess, again, the Crianza is better value, but purely on a subjective level from a very personalized point of view Seven Stones rules.

 

Market Liquidity: Technically, once you have Robert Parker’s blessing, no market liquidity is required.

seven-stones-standing-rock-meritage-2010

October 15, 2016

Quinta do Cardo Reserva, 2011

quinta-do-cardo-reserva-2011

What we said last year, which you can read here, I would echo again (i.e., the 2011 v. 2010)  but basically, a) not spectacular although interesting and exceptionally drinkable and b) very, very, very good value. (Meaning we still have a few in the cellar to plow through.)

 

Price: Low 20s depending on where you can source it.

 

Market Liquidity: The “Robert Parker” gold seal is off-putting, but the wine isn’t.

September 26, 2016

Zenato Amarone Valpolicella Classico, 2006

a-zenato-amarone-valpolicella-classico-2006

From the cellar: Spectacularly good.  Ludicrously alcoholic.

 

If you are a disciple of the Revered One, aka Mr Parker, then you’ll know how it goes with his points, the higher the points the more alike the wines seem to be.  In fact, so many decades into drinking his selections, it’s as though he has a nose for only one type of red.  And this, you might say, typifies his passion.

 

Fruity fruit fruit, juicy plummy soft and jammy ripe, cedar shavings with a hint of clove and the aroma of your spice cabinet, so smooth it could be fondant, luxurious on the tongue, but with a faint and fading finish, a minor let down.  It drinks so beautifully it was sinful to do anything but sip.  Very, very slowly.

 

What’s brilliant about this wine is that all too often we end up drinking young, inconsequential Valpolicella, with pizza or pasta, but the artistry in this bottle puts the plonk to shame.  Ten years on and I could have left it lying down for another ten.  A real treat.

b-zenato-amarone-valpolicella-classico-2006

Having said all that, there is a catch.  There’s always a catch.  What’s the catch?  It’s a tad alcoholic.  Oh, of course.  With 95 points from the Wine Advocate, it will be at least 14 per cent.  At least.  Is it more?  Yes.  Guess.  14.5 per cent?  More.  15 per cent?  More.  15.5 per cent?  More.  Not 16 per cent?  No. Not 16 per cent.  It is, wait for it, 16.5 per cent.  16.5 friggin’ per cent!

 

Price: When it was purchased or exactly where I don’t know but I did save a blurb noting it was discounted from $60 to $50, and this would have been back when taxes were included.  I might have even picked it up in Toronto as the LCBO carried it; for a wine of this calibre great value, especially for those inclined to get very drunk very quickly.

 

Market Liquidity: So, basically, fortified wine…

c-zenato-amarone-valpolicella-classico-2006

September 7, 2016

Sea Star Prose, 2014

labour-day-wines

There was a lot of wine on offer during the last “official” week of summer.  Most of it neither here nor there.  A 2009 Priorat that Robert Parker claimed could be drunk over the next 15-20 years was corked.  A CdR Sablet that Gismondi had recommended for the cellar through 2020 was mediocre.  A cheap red from the OK crush pad was character-free but enormously quaffable.  The star of the lot for me was a dessert beverage from Pender Island.

sea-star-prose-2014

Sea Star turns out some exceptional, light, aromatic whites.  We’ll review a couple next week.  Hard to find, but inexpensive and easy to drink, they show what can be done in earnest, as opposed to ego.  They sell two dessert wines, one a Riesling paired with apple, the Prose, and another which is Foch, Pinot Noir and berries, which they call Poetry.

 

I’ll be blunt: The Poetry is a disaster like, I hasten to add, so much modern poetry.  There’s an American “conceptual” poet called Kenneth Goldsmith who originated “uncreative” writing including an art installation of every word he said for a week, and who has stated he never suffers from writer’s block because there’s always something to copy.  In other words, insufferable.  Sea Star Poetry drinks like your neighbour’s kit wine club plonk which they bottle at $4 per plus supplies.  Alcoholic, forward, blatantly berry, and not unlike any number of bottled fruit beverages they serve on ice with a cherry instead of ale.

 

Which is to say, that’s too bad, because the Prose is something to be savored.  It sails in the direction of Sauternes, shy of course, but still with that full fruit of apple, stone, kiwi, lingers on the tongue (but not long enough), and is will suited to not just cheese (thank God) but actual honest to god desserts.  Expensive ($21 for the half) but a wonderful BC antidote to the Port wannabes, such as Black Sage’s Pipe, et. al.

 

Price: $21 at the Saturna General Store (!).

 

Market Liquidity: Sometimes good things come in small packages.

August 20, 2016

Blue Mountain Gamay Noir, 2014

Blue Mountain Gamay Noir, 2014

A young, thin, pretty inconsequential red, which (I think) isn’t quite as good as the reviews have been.  But lovely in that likeable and comfortable and relaxing way an outdoor dinner is.  I’d buy a case.  If you could of course, and you can’t, the trade has swooped in and bought BM out.

 

It’s approachable, easy to drink, food versatile, not weighted down by alcohol, is an antidote to the heavy handed Robert Parker reds of 90 plus points, and has an almost elastic finish where it totters between the heavier woodsy notes and a light vanilla floral kick.  It’s like an addictive app, you know it isn’t good for you but you just can’t help yourself.

 

Despite its youth it must, must, must get some air.

 

Price: Sold out at the vineyard, but $23 earlier this year.  Which was, if I might editorialize, spectacular value.

 

Market Liquidity: Hands down the most satisfying Blue Mountain bottle from the 2016 releases.

July 26, 2016

TintoNegro Limestone Block Malbec, 2012

TintoNegro Limestone Block Malbec, 2012

92 points.  Seriously?  Someone is losing their marbles.

 

Price: $32.50 at Everything Wine.

 

Market Liquidity: An easy to drink red.

April 2, 2016

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay, 2013

For Christmas I was gifted with wine related subscriptions; Wine Spectator, Decanter, that sort of thing.  Exceedingly generous, fun to browse.  But, alas, there is a flip side.  The WS, e.g., is a bit of a tease; lauding wines largely not available in BC, labeling some wines as good value, which could only be brought into Canada by paying taxes and levies to make them, effectively, the tip of a Ponzi scheme.  You could never hire the WS to be a consultant on cellar development in BC.  What would they recommend?  Lindeman’s and Cono Sur?  So while the writing can be tantalizing, and exciting, and encourage you to face new varietals and vintages, it’s also distressingly complex to find the wines.

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay, 2013

There are a few, here and there, you can source.  Witness this Rodney Strong (and a couple of others we’ll try this week), a so-so with the WS, a 90 pointer over at Parker.  With an objective view it’s quite palatable: The lemon/grapefruit acid balances well with the standard California root beer float cream oak.  It seems more refined than cheaper cousins, although a glimmer against Grgich or Ridge.  Still, at the price point, quite OK.  Here’s the rub: This will be $60 in a restaurant.  And that is criminal.  Because it’s good, not great, outstanding or brilliant.

 

Price: $24.50 at BCL (just over $28 with taxes).

 

Market Liquidity: Typical, in a good way.

March 20, 2016

Ch. Saint-Roch Cotes du Roussillon Villages, Kerbuccio, 2011

From the cellar: So we found an old bottle of this in the cellar, tucked away.  It’s been two years since we drank most of the allotment, I guess this one just got missed.

Ch. Saint-Roch Cotes du Roussillon Villages, Kerbuccio, 2011

Every word of the original review stands: Stellar wine, over the top impressive at the price point.  Luscious for the lush.

 

Price: $20 USD in 2013.

 

Market Liquidity: Hugh Johnson and Robert Parker join hands and sing Kumbaya.