Sunday, November 30, 2014

Birthday wine treat....and another treat, and another, and another....

Last Sunday was my 45th birthday; in celebration, we booked a suite at River Rock Resort and had a nice dinner party at Tramonto restaurant with some family and good friends.

But before dinner, we met a friend for lunch at Cactus Club and decided to splurge a little on a special bottle to get the day started right!

2012 Black Hills Nota Bene ($55 at winery; $90 at restaurant)

I previously reviewed this one here, My opinion has not changed. It was terrific then, it's terrific now.

We arrived at our suite a couple of hours early and brought along some beautiful bottles of wine to celebrate with. While it was just my wife and I, we finally decided to find out what a wine that received a perfect score of 100 from renowned critic Robert Parker tasted like!

Turnbull Cellars 2010 Fortuna Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($109)

“The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Fortuna Vineyard is perfection! This extraordinary wine offers up notes of creme de cassis, graphite, truffles, blueberries and blackberries as well as a colossal mouth feel with no sense of heaviness, layer upon layer of fruit and glycerin, astonishing purity and a finish that is at least 50 seconds. A magnificent effort that should turn out to be one of the great modern classics of Napa Valley, it should age effortlessly for two to three decades.”
- Robert Parker

Do I agree with Mr. Parker that this wine is perfect? No; but it's pretty damn great. The fruit just explodes in your mouth, and the finish is so long that I'm pretty sure my palate isn't done with it yet, and we drank it a week ago! It truly is superb; can't even imagine that it would get better with age, but it should. It's already spectacular. It's right up there with the best red wines I've ever had. 96.

Off to dinner where we ordered another beauty that I hadn't seen before:

Aces 2007 Pocket Aces Syrah ($95.00)

Your nose might notice some cold cuts and black cherry. Lots of fruit on the palate, with just enough pepper. Full bodied with moderate acidity. Beautiful. 93.

After dinner we went back up to the suite to continue the party, and we cracked open another one that I had purchased last week.

La Rioja Alta 2004 ViƱa Ardanza Reserve ($40.00)

80% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha (Grenache). A very expressive nose of chocolate, coffee and vanilla. Balanced and well-structured, the Garnacha brings just a tiny bit of juiciness that balances the Tempranillo nicely. Lovely but would have been better to accompany some aged cheese or red meat. 90.

My "birthday weekend" continued on Sunday, when we reached deep into the cellar for this one which we picked up in Napa this past September:

Silver Oak 2003 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($175.00)

Intense and brooding, this is an excellent example of what a nicely aged Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley can be. Blackberries and chocolate with a hint of floral on the nose. Very rich and juicy palate, with some nutmeg joining in with the berries. 93.

My "birthday weekend" morphed in "birthday week" and we've also enjoyed these:

Quails' Gate 2012 Rosemary's Block 25th Anniversary Series Chardonnay ($40.00)

Citrus and apple on the nose and palate. Oaked, but very subtle. Not huge and buttery like this winery's traditional Chardonnays. 89.

And let's not forget this one:

Belle Glos Meiomi 2013 Pinot Noir ($27.00)

From Caymus. Rich garnet in colour. Strawberries hit your nose like a hurricane. A touch of vanilla comes along for the ride. Cherry, plum and a bit of cola on the palate. Lovely and a nice bargain at this price point. 89.

Or this one:

2012 Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chardonnay ($28.99)

Orange, apricots, marzipan and citrus all mingle amongst your senses. Finishes fruity and beautifully. 90.

And a couple of "cheapies" we've enjoyed this week:

Kalala 2012 Aspire ($19.99)

Red blend comes on strong but fades a bit at the end. Juicy with lots of fruit. 83.

Kalala 2013 Harmony White ($13.95)

Much better than the price might indicate. An intriguing blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Auxerrois. Slightly off dry, fruity and refreshing. 86.

And, I might as well give one more review. This is the wine I am enjoying while typing this blog!

2013 Black Hills Chardonnay ($29.90)

An exceptional growing year and this wine has tons of potential. Further aging is necessary to really bring it to it's full potential. Notes of apple and citrus. Not a ton of oak. If you like your Chardonnay on the lighter side, this is for you. Should age gracefully until 2018 or 2019 at least. 88.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lots of great stuff, including some really aged Syrah!

Some really nice stuff enjoyed recently, including one that was recommended to me from a staff member at Liberty Wines in North Van last weekend. We'll start with that one:

White Oak 2002 Syrah ($19.99)

12 year old Syrah from Napa Valley? Yeah you betcha, real good now. Strong aromas of berries quickly give way to chewy, earthy, meaty notes on the palate. Thick and viscous and delicious. Would have been absolutely perfect to pair with a charcuterie board, but it also went very well with the roast beef sandwich I had with it last night. 89.

Black Hills 2011 Chardonnay ($35)

Lightly oaked and less buttery than previous (and later) incarnations. Fruity and bold with apple and citrus notes. Drinking very nicely now. 89.

Cedarcreek 2012 Chardonnay ($18.95)

Some pineapple and lemon on the nose. Strong flavors of citrus and a hint of butterscotch on the palate. Very good at this price point. 88.

Gray Monk 2013 Kerner ($17.99)

Bright lemon in colour with notes of lemon and butter on the nose. Ranges from 'off-dry' to 'sweet' depending on your definition. Drinks very well on it's own and would pair beautifully with vegetables or lobster. 88.

Quails' Gate 2010 Old Vines Foch ($24.99)

Full bodied and rich, with notes of cherries and chocolate on the nose. Some tobacco, cherry and cinnamon on the palate. Gamey as this varietal tends to be. 85.

Tinhorn Creek 2012 Pinot Gris ($18.99)

Pears, apples, tropical fruit and peaches all intermingle on your nose and your palate. Balanced acidity. Lingering notes of green apple and lime on the finish. Beautiful. 91.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Value wines! The best $20 and under wines out there.

Regular readers of my blog know I tend not to gravitate to cheap wines....some would go so far as to call me a "wine snob". I can live with that, it's probably accurate, but I cringe when someone suggests I go out of my way to buy expensive wine. I want GOOD wine. You think I ENJOY spending big bucks on wine? You think I wouldn't love to buy a $9 box of Hochtaler and go to town? Or a case of Apothic? Unfortunately that stuff is crap. Crap with a capital KRAAAAAAAAAAP.

But there are good wines out there at a reasonable price, if you search hard enough. Here are nine of my favorites. I've tried to stick mostly to current or recent vintages so you might actually be able to find some of these in local stores.

Church & State 2012 TreBella Red ($19.99)

The first ever-vintage of this red Meritage and they nailed it right out of the gate. Aromas of black cherry and black currant waft over the nose. Black fruits dominate the palate with just a touch of chocolate on the finish. For a first try, TreBella Red is exceptional. 90.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.99)

An absolute steal at this price point. Immediately jumps to the top of my "cheap wines" list. Big red fruits on the nose and palate, with some coffee, chocolate and vanilla as well. Drinks beautifully but not a traditionally Cab Sauv; almost seems like there should be some Merlot and/or Syrah in there, which there isn't. 89.

Pine Ridge 2013 Chenin Blanc/Viognier ($18.99) 80% Chenin Blanc, 20% Viognier. What a truly unique blend. Notes of melon, lemon and honey on the nose, with some papaya and a hint of grapefruit on the palate. Subtle sweetness and crisp acidity. Lovely, a real bargain at this price. 89.

***This one was $18.99 in Napa; I've recently found it in local stores and it's $26.99, so it is really only on this list on a technicality. Still, even at $27, it's worth the money.

Quails' Gate 2013 Gewurztraminer ($17.99)
I think I've mentioned this before, this wine was "the one" to get me into wine. Subtle notes of rose petals and lychee on the nose. Slight hint of spice on the mid-palate, giving way to a smooth and off-dry finish. 89.

Cedarcreek 2013 Riesling ($17.95)

At only 9.9% alcohol, it's a sure thing you'll want to enjoy two bottles. Maybe three. Slate and fruit on the nose and palate. Citrus joins in on the palate leading to a smooth finish. Beauty. 91.

2011 Quinta Ferreira Viognier ($19.90) Tropical fruits, peach, coconut and a touch of vanilla on the nose and the palate. Pineapple all over the palate as well. Delicately balanced with a finish that is both smooth and spicy. Brilliant. 90.

Renwood 2011 Zinfandel ($17.95)

Excellent complexity on this wine; lots of things going on. Notes of plum and berries, with the jammy feel you often get with Zinfandel, but not overly so. Finishes very smooth and the tannins have softened nicely, this is ready to go right now. Very yummy. 86.

Wolf Blass 2012 Red Label Shiraz/Cabernet ($18.99) The 2011 vintage was recently listed on Natalie McLean's list of the 20 best wines under $20, and I can attest this vintage is just as good. Medium bodied and luscious; berries on the nose and in the glass. The Shiraz adds just a touch of spice to the finish. Pairs great with any big red meat. 87.

Cedarcreek 2010 Cabernet Merlot ($19.95) Cherries and berries galore on the nose and palate. 21% Cabernet Franc brings just a touch of sweetness and mint to the table. Plums shine through on the palate as well. Juicy and terrific. 86.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A dinner party with some SERIOUS wine!

Apologies for the lack of updates lately, lots of other stuff going on. I'll try to get the blog updated more frequently!

Had some friends over for dinner on Saturday for a 5-course meal complete with appropriate wine pairings. First course was Caesar salad paired with:

Cedarcreek 2013 Platinum Reserve Block 3 Riesling

Previously reviewed here.

Course 2 was intended to be Brown Butter Risotto with Lobster....but when I opened up the lobster (that I had bought just the day before) it had a rather foul odour, so I wasn't going to take a chance on killing everyone at dinner (except for my wife who doesn't eat seafood...but she would have had quite a mess to clean up!), so I substituted some tiger prawns for the lobster. It worked just fine. Paired with:

Mer Soleil 2012 Reserve Chardonnay ($35)

Rich and creamy, with tasty notes of pineapple and coconut intermingling with butterscotch and citrus. An absolute steal at this price. 93.

Next up a recipe I had never made before, Stuffed Butternut Squash. Intriguing and this was the suggested pairing:

Caymus 2010 Zinfandel ($45.00)

Dark ruby/purple in colour. Blackberry jam and black currants on the nose and palate. Jammy but not overly so. A touch of chocolate on the finish. Lovely. My favorite Zin to this point. 91.

We took a small break to rest our stomachs before continuing, and while we took a break from food, we did not take one from wine! We opened up our last bottle of a wine we will never see again:

Quails' Gate 2008 Syrah/Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon ($35.00)

A wine I had never heard of until we received one in our latest Club shipment. After tasting it, I ordered the last few bottles from the wine shop. I've never seen this anywhere, not even on the menu at their restaurant, Old Vines, which is where their library wines reside. It's a lovely wine, with berries front and centre accompanied by just a touch of pepper and mint to round it out. I'm going to miss this one. 90.

And, for the main event of the evening, pairing with Filet Mignon in a Mixed Berry Demi glaze:

Mission Hill 2007 Oculus ($80)

50% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. Dark fruits, violets and a touch of smoke on the nose. Raspberry, chocolate, cassis and spice come together on the palate. Seemingly endless finish. A real triumph of winemaking. It's amazing now, but probably has another 5-6 years in it. 95.

And just in case that wasn't enough great wine for one evening, paired with dessert of No-Bake Pineapple Cheesecake, the (still) only 100-point wine I've ever tasted:

2012 N'kmip Cellars Qwam Qwmt Riesling Icewine ($60)

Previously reviewed here.

A terrific night of food and wine, and great friends. It doesn't get much better than that!