Posts tagged ‘Wine Spectator’

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 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.

February 3, 2021

Champagne Tribaut Brut

We never got to a celebratory bottle of champers at New Year’s.  My recollection is I was asleep before midnight!  The joys of being old.

On the flip side we had champagne in January.  What did Ricky Gervais say in 2012 to the NYT journalist who contacted him at home on a weekday and saw him sipping champagne?  “Happy 6 o’clock-mas.”  (He’s since repeated that a few times, including Twitter, and sometimes modified with the f-bomb…)

Well.  93 points.  Gosh, Wine Spectator.  There was nothing much 90 points in this let alone 93.

The fizz faded; it was flaccid and unexciting on the pour and went downhill from there.  The toastiness and texture of the wine was uninspired.  Sure, on the one hand it was spectacular sparkling wine, and on the other it was forgettable champers.  I know it’s a dedicated family run operation, and I want to jump up and down for their sincerity and dedication, but this bottle lacked the liveliness and pep of its competitors.

Meanwhile, in January, BC Liquor put half bottles of Piper-Heidsieck on sale for $7 off.  That made two half bottles cheaper than a full bottle.  Of course it was virtually out of stock from the get go, I found a few in West Van, bin ends, but basically the Lower Mainland was out of luck.  How very BC Liquor.  As if none of the nearly three million people in and around Vancouver matter, market wise.  Anyway, long way to say how satisfying the PH is, nutty, toasty, an invigorating acidity.  From the spritz in a flute to the splash on your palate, Piper has an undeniable liveliness.  It’s not the best you can by, not by a long shot, but it oozes “Champagne!” if you know what I mean.  I wish we could have said the same of the Tribaut.

Price: The label said $50 all in but Champagne in BC is never $50 all in, even at $14 off for two splits.

Market Liquidity: Fleeting, like a winter sunset.

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).

August 13, 2020

Il Margone Chianti Classico, Gran Selezione, 2013

Can you guess how many points the Wine Spectator scored this vintage? 

As part of a minor celebration we splurged on some rather pricey Chianti (not much to get too excited about in 2020…).  Even with seven years under its belt, we felt it had some place to go, still.

Gobs of acidity and light tannins with deeply nuanced fruit.  If you’ve ever had an orchard pie (it’s a dessert of plums, apricots, peaches and cherries, and really only should be made during those magical two weeks in the summer when each of those is ripe at the same time), this wine could be that pie in a bottle, a really bold and assertive pie. 

I will add this though: Just for sheer enjoyment, just for having wine with friends and enjoying food, the Vajra Barbera, which we rarely go a month without downing at least one bottle, trumps this heavyweight.  I mean not over at the Wine Advocate, obviously, but maybe in your living room.

Price: $60 at BC Liquor but, for what it’s worth, over $40 USD south of the border.

Market Liquidity:  Very timpani in a requiem.

January 4, 2020

Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz, 2017

Torbreck Woodcutter's Shiraz, 2017

Another gift from Santa.  I must have been a very good boy in 2019.

 

We are doubly familiar with the less expensive Grenache-Shiraz, easy to source, easy to drink, although have never bothered to post a review.  The Woodcutter’s Shiraz, a top 100 2019 wine over at the Wine Spectator (with the 93 point bottle neck seal to prove it…) is harder to find, more expensive, and like our recent post on vintage Rioja, worth every last penny vis-a-vis the prohibitive cost of BC “flagship” reds.

 

The colour is charcoal, the flavour notes teeter on a broad spectrum, between tar (meaning dark and mysterious, woodsy) and cherry jubilee (meaning fruity and rich, creamy, velvet).  The 15% alcohol is I suppose par for the course, certainly over at the Spectator, but this lovely sipper is not top heavy.  There is a faint whisker of syrup in the richness, however the layered flavour notes never cease to surprise.  Halfway though you may come across a palate tangent of cedar frond.  A most impressive gift wine.

 

Price: Gifted, but around $38 at BC Liquor, here and there.

 

Market Liquidity: Delectable, if a tad decadent for us.

November 1, 2018

Evel Real Companhia Velha, Douro, 2014

Wine Spectator put it in their top 100 in 2016 and, thus, the bottle comes with a neck ribbon.  Somehow it wasn’t 89 points but 90 points and this is where we loathe the pointsters.  Yes, it’s good value, there is as the critics say juicy acidity, it’s warming on the tongue in that way red blends (masterfully crafted) can be, and this (dominated by Touriga Franca) has a lovely although not hugely memorable classic Portuguese style.  I would be hard pressed to remember it in a blind test a week after the fact though.

 

Price: Low 20s at private wine stores.

 

Market Liquidity: Good value but not great value.

February 27, 2018

Rioja Conde Valdemar, Finca Alto Cantabria 2015

Unique, unusual and yet delectable.  Not sure there is any other way to put it.  Viura, mainly, and some Verdejo.

 

A golden nectar, not as weighty as it appears, flinty on the nose but tropical on the tongue, a strong punch of coconut (think Hawaiian Tropic suntan oil) with other herbaceous flavours, light but identifiable oak, and a palate cleansing finish.

 

Ludicrously food friendly.  Wash down shellfish, drink alongside mixed tapas, sip with snacks, it can even battle pasta in a tomato sauce.

 

Despite the 91 point WS seal on the label you can see online it is not without many detractors.  Many detractors.  Is that because it’s different than you might anticipate, unlike common varietals, heavy when it should be light and light when it should be heavy?  Or is it because white Rioja is such a hard sell? It’s like the pit-bull of varietals, much maligned and misunderstood.  There is definitely an oxymoronic quality to this bottle, but I would say charismatic in its complexity, and appealing because of that.  If you can bravely face the Saturday NYT crossword, then this white is for you.  If you are still stuck in the black hole of innocuous Pinot Grigio, stay clear.

 

Price: $32 at Kits Wine Cellar.

 

Market Liquidity: Like Escher’s impossible staircase, a little hard to define.

January 8, 2018

Domaines Dominique Piron Morgon, La Chanaise, 2015

Plummy with a floral finish.  This is a young Gamay with gobs of acidity but somehow it all just works.  A little slight with red meat but full and delectable with cheesy pasta.  It drinks lighter and livelier than you might expect a Morgon, usually what I feel is the heaviest of Cru Beaujolais.  Put a blind fold on Mr. Parker and maybe he’d mistake it for Fleurie?  Apparently a Top 100 over at the WS.

 

Price: $26 at BC Liquor.  Very good value.

 

Market Liquidity: Jam sponge in a bottle.

August 21, 2017

Raats Original Chenin Blanc, 2014

Depending on whom you rely on for points accountability, this is anywhere between an 88 and 92 pointer, with the Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator at opposite ends of the spectrum and Tanzer in between.  Which underscores more about how people think of Chenin Blanc than perhaps the subjective nature of wine scores.

 

It is indeed good, a refreshing and zesty lightly acidic Chenin with a dry forest floor note and some gobs of summer stone fruit.  We got the lime but not the pineapple.  It’s a patio sipper par excellence but a little weak at keeping up with rich foods (and I’m including creamy cheeses).  At the price point we are much more likely to spend less on the Mulderbosch and enjoy it more or spend more on the D’Orrance and wish we’d won the lottery.  It would be hard to weigh in on this as enthusiastically as some pros have.

 

Price: $21.85 in Saskatchewan but, wait for it, $33.50 before taxes at private wine stores in Vancouver.  Seriously.  When the mayor proclaims that Vancouver is on schedule to be the greenest city on the planet all I can think of is the greenback, not the solar panels, bike lanes, and lack of access to natural gas.

 

Market Liquidity: It’s a 92 pointer at $22 and an 88 pointer at $34.