Monday, December 28, 2015

Nothing goes with Christmas better than wine!!

And we must have been extra, extra good this year. Santa brought us a bottle or two.....or sixty-five.

Yes I will admit that is a pretty obscene amount of wine for the old fat guy to carry down the chimney. Wait, we don't have a chimney. Mind blown.

A few of the more interesting bottles:

About 1/2 of the wine is already in our offsite storage facility, aging until it reaches it's peak. Of course, when it hits it's peak is far from an exact science, but we'll try to let it sit until it's close.

Lots more good stuff has also been enjoyed during the Holidays. Reviews here:

Blackwood Lane 2008 Alliance ($69.00)

Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Red berries, violets, cassis and cocoa on the nose. Cherry and raspberry dominate the palate, with a long finish featuring loads of cocoa and a touch of spice. Absolutely lovely. 93.

Burrowing Owl 2012 Pinot Noir ($27.00)

Red berries, black cherry, chocolate and earth all show up on the intense nose. Raspberry, herbs, earth, spice and forest floor on the palate. Vanilla comes through on the lovely finish. 91.

Quails' Gate 2009 Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay ($45.00)

Barrell fermented, fully oaked, and buttery as heck. If that is your style of Chardonnay, it's tough to find one in the Okanagan that is consistently, year after year, as good as this. Notes of toasty oak and fruit combine effortlessly on the nose and the palate. A touch of hazelnut joins in on the finish. Sublime. 92.

Quails' Gate 2014 Shannon Pacific Viognier ($25.00)

Their first, and maybe only, attempt at this varietal and oh man did they get it right. Fruity aromas intertwine with a beautiful floral nose. Creamy and rich on the palate with tropical fruit flavors and just a hint of spice. Absolutely lovely. 91.

Time Estates 2013 Cabernet Franc ($19.99)

Strawberry, cherries, herbs and hints of pepper. Plums and blackberries with a touch of spice on the palate. A really good entry-level example of how good this varietal can be when it's done correctly. 89.

Tinhorn Creek 2011 Oldfield Series Pinot Noir ($30.49)

Aromas of strawberries, black cherries, vanilla, herbs and cranberries. Dried cherries, vanilla, dark chocolate and herbs on the palate. Even a touch of orange shows up on the finish. So good. 91.

Santa Rita -  2011 Medalla Real Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon  ($19.95)

Blackberries, blueberries and cigar box notes on the nose. Berries follow through on the palate, with hints of tobacco and earth. Tasty entry-level Cab from Chile. 87.

Château Langlais  2000 Puisseguin Saint-Émilion ($35.00)

Nicely aged Bordeaux is a pleasant introduction to the region. Notes of plum, tobacco and earth on the nose and the palate. Slight caramel notes as well. Despite the age, it improves with decanting and some more time. Finishes long and juicy. 88.

Beringer 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($32.00)

Aromas of blueberry, blackberry and pepper. The palate features blueberry, cassis, licorice and a touch of spice on the silky finish. 88.

I hope that all of you had a terrific Xmas and that you all enjoy your New Year's! Stay safe, and drink great wine!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Wow it seems like forever since I've written a blog post! Tons of computer problems so I apologize for that. Also, is it just me that thinks that December has flown by? It was November 10 seconds ago.

Might as well start this catch-up entry with what I'm drinking right now:

Church & State 2013 Coyote Bowl Chardonnay ($27.00)

Aromas of pear, slate, apple and lemon zest. Intense, rich buttery notes on the palate, with a luscious creamy mouthfeel. Finishes with beautiful hints of butterscotch and caramel. Tough to get much better than this at this price point. 91.

Church & State 2014 Lost Inhibitions White ($20.00)

The wine with the attitudinal labels delivers in the bottle as well. Nectarine, peach and white flowers on the nose. Apricots and peaches deliver on the palate with some acidic citrus as well. 87.

Culmina 2014 Unicus ($38.00)

The Okanagan's first Gruner Veltliner. Fresh and lively with aromas of apricot, peach and citrus. Full-bodied with a powerful mid-palate. Grapefruit, herbs, citrus and a touch of pepper on the palate. Long and dry finish. Very special. 91.

Foxtrot 2010 Chardonnay ($50.00)

Came across this one in a private liquor store and snapped it up. Always wanted to try this wine and finding one that was already 5 years old was a nice bonus. It was well worth the money. Citrus, apple and just a touch of grassy notes on the nose. Really rich and buttery without being overpowering. A winner. 92.

Gray Monk 2014 Kerner ($17.00)

One of our favorite off-dry whites, this vintage is lovely as usual. Lemony, buttery, with notes of pears, peaches and a touch of spice. Serve well-chilled (almost fully fridge-cold) and drink it by itself or with any spicy cuisine. 88.

Quails' Gate 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($26.99)

Aromas of blackberry, cassis and a touch of spice. Berries come through on the palate with an impressive, long finish. This was a very hot year in the Okanagan and this Cab Sauv really benefited from that. 92.

Quails' Gate 2014 Rose ($15.69)

80% Gamay Noir. Very dry with aromas of strawberry, vanilla and black pepper. Strawberry carries through on the palate with a hint of watermelon joining in. If you like very dry, you'll enjoy this one. 86.

Ogier - 2014 Cotes du Rhone Heritages Blanc ($15.59)

White Grenache 30% Clairette 20% Bourbalenc 20% Viognier 10% Roussanne 10% Marsanne 10%

Pear, flowers, almonds and honey on the nose. Fresh and long finish with a slight tinge of mint on the palate. For the price, something interesting to try. 87.

St. Urbans HOF - 2011 Kabinett Riesling ($34.99)

Aromas of pineapple, peach, apple and spice playfully mingle with a touch of minerality and petrol. Off-dry and gorgeous, this one would improve in your cellar for another decade. 92.

Cassini Cellars 2012 Cabernet Franc ($39.99)

Prepare to get punched right in the face by fruit. Cassis, blackberry, raspberry, cedar and vanilla. Lingering notes of mocha and blackberry dominate the palate. A top-notch example of what this varietal can achieve in BC. 92.

That's all for tonight's update, expect lots more as Xmas approaches (rumour has it there is a fair amount of wine under the Xmas tree!!)

Hope everyone is having a great Holiday season and I wish all of you peace, love and a lot of great wine over the Xmas and New Year's seasons.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Tasting of Ex Nihilo, just don't ask me how to pronounce it

OK that's not really true, I believe it's Ex NEH-HEE-LOW. But don't quote me.

Tasted four wines at Sardis Park VQA yesterday. We visited this winery in Lake Country on our Okanagan trip in June, but three of the four wines we were going to taste were different. Here we go.

Ex Nihilo 2014 Pinot Gris

This one was tasted and reported on in June. No change in my opinion.

Ex Nihilo 2013 Riesling ($24.99)

Notes of pear, apple and stone fruit on the nose. Citrus and high acidity dominate the palate. Really high acidity, in fact, and would probably be a lovely pairing with fatty seafood. On it's own at a tasting isn't really the place to try it. 87.

Ex Nihilo 2014 Pinot Noir ($45.99)

We enjoyed the 2013 when we tasted in June and bought a bottle for our cellar. The 2014 might even be better. Just bottled in July, this is already showing terrific. Cherry, strawberry and smoke on the nose and continuing through to the palate. Just a touch of spice on the finish. Very young, and I'm betting it really improves to something special. 91-93.

Ex Nihilo 2012 Merlot ($35.99)

The winery is too far north to grow Merlot grapes, these are brought in from vineyards in Okanagan Falls and Similkameen Valley. We didn't get a chance to taste this in June so I'm glad I got a chance yesterday. Dark chocolate, mocha and vanilla on the nose. Raspberry and blackberry, with a touch of cassis and chocolate on the palate. Tannins are velvetly and it finishes beautifully. Still needs to sit a while to really get "there", but it shows promise. 89-91.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Oh what a night....oh what a birthday.....

This past Monday was my 46th birthday. Wait....46? That can't be right. I was 30, like, yesterday. Wow.

Anyway, on Saturday we celebrated in style.

A full selection of wine, mostly from my cellar, and lots of friends and family. This tasting featured:

A full 6-year vertical tasting of Le Vieux Pin's flagship Rhone-style blend, "Ava"
A California Cabernet Sauvignon blind "price-point" challenge
Syrah/Shiraz of the world
Chardonnay of the world

Full details and reviews of each below; let's start with the Ava

Le Vieux Pin 2009 Viognier/Roussanne ($50)

The pre-curser to Ava, this one without the Marssanne which would join in starting with the 2010 vintage. Aromas of honey, white flowers and stone fruit. Slightly less-dry than it's future cousins. Tropical fruit dominates the palate. This was the first time I had tasted this wine and I loved it, as did most of the guests. 92.

I had previously reviewed the 2010 and 2011 versions here.

While my review of the 2011 remains unchanged, I think I shortchanged the 2010 a bit. When I said it was peaking  I was wrong, and it has improved over the last year.

Le Vieux Pin 2010 Ava ($45)

Tropical fruits, apricots and white flowers on the nose and the palate. Citrus as well. The age has brought some minerality on the finish. Drinking beautifully now. 89.

The 2012 and 2013 were previously reviewed as well and I'm sticking with my reviews of those two (click on the year for the link). The last one was brand new to us, at the time I received it, it had not even been released to the public.

Le Vieux Pin 2014 Ava ($35)

White flowers, tropical fruit and a touch of flint on the nose. Fruit dominates the palate. Has yet to develop the roundness or minerality that a little more time in the bottle should accomplish, but had loads of potential. 88.

Oh and before we get to the next set of reviews, check out the baking. The cookies are incredible. And the cake. Yes, that is a cake! It was, sadly, the only Opus One being served at this event. Man I have some talented friends (these were from two DIFFERENT people!).

OK now onto the Syrah. We chose three different examples of Syrah from three different parts of the world; all around the same price point, all from the same year. Australia, Canada and France were represented.

2012 Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz ($37)

Blueberry, blackberry and dark chocolate on the nose. Beautifully aromatic. Some licorice joins the fruit and chocolate on the palate. Finishes long. This is really drinking well now but could use more time to fully realize it's potential. 91.

Canada's entry came from Black Hills, previously reviewed here.

From France (my first French Syrah, in fact):

2012 Domaine Corbis St. Joseph Rouge ($50)

Earthy and funky nose. Powerful notes of mushrooms on the nose and the palate, overwhelming the fruit. Probably would have improved with more aging but this one didn't overwhelm any of the guests. 85.

For the Chardonnay, I featured a couple of my favorites, one from Canada and one from the USA, and another new one to me, once again going "Old World" with a French Chablis.

2010 La Chablisienne Vaulorent Chablis ($50)

Clean and crisp, with no oak and fresh fruit flavors. Green apple and grapefruit aromas. A fairly standard example of French Chardonnay; it's not my preferred style, normally, but this one was delicious. 89.

From the USA, I went back to the best value I can find in any wine, anywhere, from Mer Soleil. Previously reviewed here. This was by far everyone's favorite in this grouping (and this might have won Best In Show).

To the Okanagan, another favorite, and another great value, being a touch cheaper than the above. Church & State knows how to make Chardonnay. Review is here.

A few more pics from the event.

Now onto the Cabernet Sauvignon; the purpose behind this challenge was to see how everyone would react to tasting 5 wines from the same State, totally different prices. Blind, so nobody would let the price influence them. All from 2011, not a banner year in Napa Valley by any means. The results might surprise you, they certainly surprised me.

I had everyone rank them from best to worst, and assigned a point value for each vote (five points for first place votes, down to 1 point for last place votes).

The "loser" of this challenge, receiving zero first place votes, was this monstrosity:

2011 Main Street Cabernet Sauvignon ($16)

I've always said you get what you pay for. Surprisingly, although this didn't get any first place votes, it didn't finish last overwhelmingly. I didn't like it at all.

There are hints of coffee and caramel on the nose, leading to a sweet, almost jammy palate. It's cheap, it smells cheap, and it tastes cheap. 74.

In fourth place, also receiving zero first place votes:

2011 Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($28)

Aromas of black cherry and blackberry. Some vanilla and a touch of mocha on the palate. This one also didn't do much for me, but at least it tasted somewhat like actual wine. 83.

In third place, this is where the surprises begin. One of my all-time favorites, and while it did receive some first place votes, it also finished last on a few ballots:

2011 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($105)

Black cherry, cedar and dark berries on the nose. Cocoa, lavender and herbs on the palate. Finishes long and smooth. While there is no question it needs to sit for a few more years to reach it's peak, it's drinking lovely already. 92.

In second place, by far the most expensive of the five contestants, and another one that received a few first place votes and also finished at or near the bottom of some ballots!

2011 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($170)

Black cherry, plum, mocha, cloves, leather....everything but the kitchen sink envelops your olfactory senses. This is the first year that this wine is 100% from the exclusive To Kalon vineyard. The palate features some cranberry, cassis, fresh herbs, black cherry and a touch of spice. As with the Silver Oak, this needs more time to reach the heights that it aspires to, but it's already excellent, particularly for the cool 2011 vintage. 93.

And the winner of the challenge, which received a couple first place votes but was near the top of almost everyone's list:

2011 J. Lohr Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon ($50)

Blackberry, mocha, dark chocolate on the nose and the palate. Some black plum and herbs on the palate as well. Smooth and full-bodied with a nice finish. Perfectly tasty wine, but if I had to choose between the Silver Oak and two bottles of this, well, it's not even close. 89.

There you have it, an epic night of food, wine and friends. Everyone had so much fun, this will definitely not be the last time I do something like this. After all, featuring these kinds of tastings with a group of people is a party; doing it at home with just the wife is a problem (which probably leads to an intervention of some kind).

Next up: A big catch-up entry (or three), reviews of everything we've been drinking while I've been posting the Okanagan trip, Disney trip, and birthday evening. Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Disneyland, wine Part Deux!

After flight delay after flight delay, we finally arrived in Disneyland and Catal, one of our favorite restaurants in Downtown Disney. With our dinner, I ordered this bad boy:

Marques de Caceres 2005 Rioja ($90)

Smooth, ripe aromas of blackberry and raspberry come with plenty of vanilla, licorice and tobacco. Black cherry, stewed plum and carob are the lead flavors, while the finish is earthy and chunky. Nice but not spectacular. 86.

Onto our dinner at the Chef's counter at Napa Rose. Lots of great wine experienced here. The prices listed are estimates from the 'net, the wine was all included as part of our dinner so I didn't see the actual restaurant prices.

Zillikin 2014 Riesling ($31.99)

A light and zippy Riesling, this 2014 from Zilliken has bright notes of tangerine and orange zest that explode onto your palate. Delicate notes of honeydew on the finish add rich fruit and texture to the wine giving it a really nice mouthfeel. 87.

Zocker 2013 Gruner Veltliner ($19.99)

Great aromas of peach, green apple and citrus. Dry, acidic finish. Quite lovely. 88.

Far Niente 2013 Chardonnay ($65.00)

Tropical aromas of citrus and melon layered with honeysuckle, perfume and toasted oak. A juicy entry transitions to a vibrant, yet oily, palate, which builds to a clean and refreshing finish. This wine is well-integrated and beautifully concentrated, with lush citrus flavors and hints of minerality. 90.

Domaine Laroche 2013 Chablis ($26.99)

Pale colour. Youthful, pungent nose with mineral nuance. Fresh and harmonious palate with flavours of white fruit and spring blossom. Lacks the big, buttery notes that maloactic fermantaion can give, but lovely nonetheless. 88.

En Route 2013 Pinot Noir ($64.99)

The 2013 EnRoute Pinot Noir, “Les Pommiers,” offers explosive aromatics of pomegranate and cherry with hints of perfume, tobacco leaf, mineral, baking spices and a lovely floral note. 90.

Tablas Creek Vineyard 2012 Cotes de Tablas ($35.00)

60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 10% Counoise, 5% Mouvedre

Licorice and black cherry dominate the nose. Spice lingers in the background. Plum and cherry, with a touch of leather on the palate. Fresh acidity and chalky tannins. 89.

Paraduxx 2011 Proprietary Red Wine ($49.99)

A huge mix of blueberry and cherry aromas, underscored by layers of vanilla, clove, molasses, black pepper and lavender. On the palate, it is velvety and round with lush and lingering berry and cherry flavors supported by well-integrated tannins. Balanced acidity adds brightness and lift of brambly fruit, which carries through to a long, satisfying finish. 89.

Nickel and Nickel 2012 C.C. Ranch ($99.99)

Elegantly perfumed with delicate floral notes mixed with ripe, red raspberries. These characteristics are reflected on the palate with flavors of raspberry and cherry, blended with a hint of licorice and signature Rutherford dust. Vanilla and toast from the French oak add warmth and flavor, while the wine’s lively acidity allows the flavors to linger on the palate. Soft and supple, yet generously rich, this wine is one that pops from start to finish. 93.

And if that wasn't enough great wine, there was this beauty from the Carthay Circle Restaurant:

Robert Mondavi 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($199.99)

Opulent dark fruit notes of cassis, black cherry and berry reflect grapes grown on the deep soils of the Oakville bench. Nuances of spice, minerals, licorice and violet weave through the highly extracted, velvety flavors. Truly spectacular wine. 95.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Everyone goes to Disneyland for wine, right?

Well OK there may be a few other things there as well, but wine lovers certainly don't have to suffer.

First of all, let me introduce you to a new chain of wine stores called Vino Volo. They are in airports around the country, and we stumbled across it while at SeaTac waiting for our flight.

Not only do they sell lots of wine (and you are already through security so no problem getting it on the plane), they have a lovely menu of small bites and lunch-type items...and beautiful charcuterie, which we engaged in. MMM MMM MMM. THIS is how to fly.

We tasted a total of seven wines from Washington and Oregon, all lovely. Prices listed below are the per-bottle price at Vino Volo....remember it's a store and a restaurant, and you are paying restaurant prices. In a wine store, prices are about 50-70% of those listed.

Illahe Vineyards (Willamette Valley, Oregon) 2014 Gruner Veltliner ($36.00)

Crisp, dry and medium-bodied, with notes of citrus, white pepper, lime and hints of baking spices. Intriguing and enjoyable mouth feel. 89.

Rasa Vineyards (Columbia Valley, Washington) 2009 QED ($84.00)

71% Syrah, 14% Grenache, 12% Mouvedre, 3% Viognier

Cherry, roses and spices on the nose. Juicy, spicy and supple, with floral lift to the flavors of red berries, cherries and a touch of spice. Creamy and ripe with a very restrained sweetness. 88.

Leonetti Cellars (Walla Walla, Washington) 2013 Merlot ($119.00)

The nose is assaulted by pure berries; strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Floral notes intertwined. The berries follow through on the palate. Fantastic acid punctuates the long and lovely finish. This is a fabulous Merlot and will only get better with some aging. I'll let you know if I'm ever able to get a bottle from the winery; I just joined the waiting list which estimates a 3-4 year wait. 92-95.

Abeja (Columbia Valley, Washington) 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($76.00)

Black currants, blackberries, earth, smoke and chocolate. Firm tannins, full-bodied and elegant. Lingering finish. Another one that will benefit from some more nap time. 90.

Lange Estate (Willamette Valley, Oregon) 2012 Pinot Noir ($43.00)

Black cherry, raspberry, pomegranate and earth on the nose. Cherries, chocolate, cola and light nuttiness are featured in this bright, soft Pinot. 89.

Willakenzie Estate (Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon) 2012 Gisele Pinot Noir ($55.00)

Aromas of vanilla, cherries, cedar and orange jump from the glass. Rich mouth feel. Ripe red fruits and spice on a long, lingering finish. A beauty. 91.

Stoller Family Estate (Dundee Hills, Oregon) 2012 Pinot Noir ($39.00)

Floral notes mixing in with aromas of raspberries and cherries. Hints of clove and cinnamon. The palate features a host of ripe red fruits, bright acidity and medium tannins. 90.

I'd say that's a pretty decent amount of good wine for a 5-day trip, and we aren't even on the plane yet! We took one of the Willakenzie Estate Pinot with us and thoroughly enjoyed it in our room a couple days later.

Up next: Disney, part 2: the wine we enjoyed at various restaurants during the trip.