Wednesday, January 17, 2018

It's chilly, so let's go to Chilé and have some Chili!!

Kidding about the last part. There was no chili served.

Our latest theme night, months ago at this point (I suck on these updates), and it was a success as always. Lots of great food and wine consumed as the country of Chilé was celebrated. Let's get right to it!

Course 1

The wine:

Valdiveso 2013 Sauvignon Blanc ($13.99)

Light, subtle nose but the palate makes up for it. Fruity notes with citrus and yellow fruits. Medium finish. Decent bargain and it paired well with the shrimp.

Course 2

The wine:

Emiliana 2016 Eco Balance Chardonnay ($13.99)
Light buttery notes on the nose, framed by citrus and pear. Citrus dominates the palate, particularly fresh notes of lemon and lime. Balanced and a good deal for the money. Paired nicely with the dish.

Concha Y Tora 2014 Palo Alto Riserva II ($14.99)
Odd blend of Merlot, Shiraz, Tempranillo and Viognier. In-your-face jammy notes reminiscent of a cheap Zinfandel. Lots of pepper. A tiny bit of spice on the finish which was light and short. Just average. In fairness, everyone else at the party enjoyed this more than I did. 

Course 3

The wine:

Concha Y Tora 2015 Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay ($22.99)

Aromas of toasty oak, hazelnut and clove. Big and buttery, lots of citrus fruits mingling with butterscotch and caramel. Lovely finish. An excellent deal and perfect pairing with the meal.

Torreon de Paredes 2014 Reserva Chardonnay ($24.99)
Pineapple and banana aromas are prevalent. High acidity, this one is young and needs to age to fully develop. Tropical fruits and citrus abound. Drinking well now but has potential.

Course 4

The wine:

Vina Montes 2014 Purple Angel ($69.99)

Now we are talking. Aromas of blackberry, black cherry, cassis and blueberry. Fruit forward. The palate is assaulted by fruit as well, cassis, blackberry, black plum and a hint of mint. Finishes so long with dark chocolate showing up at the end. A real treat and an excellent pair with this delicious dish!

Course 5

The wine:

Concha Y Toro 2013 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon ($86.99)
As if the Purple Angel wasn't enough! Cassis, blackberry, black plum, eucalyptus and white pepper on the nose. Bright black fruit, licorice, dark chocolate and tobacco delight the palate. Long and luscious finish. Very, very special. Pricey, I know, but if you like Cabernet Sauvignon, you'd be hard pressed to find a better one at this price point. Seek it out.

Oh, and the steak sandwich was freaking delicious, and paired beautifully.

Course 6

The wine:

Santa Ema 2012 Amplus One ($32.99)
Predominantly Carmenere, with some Syrah and Carignan. Blueberry, cassis, red cherry and tobacco aromas. Blackberry, vanilla and cherry flavors dominate, with notes of violet echoing. Tasty!


Lapostolle 2015 Cuvée Alexandre Carmenere ($24.95)
Intense aromas of black fruit, cassis, bell pepper and vanilla. Black fruit, cedar and dark chocolate on the palate. Lovely finish. Excellent bargain!

I can't actually recall if we intentionally paired that wine with dessert, I think not in fact. My memory is foggy but I think we just drank this between courses and had the dessert with whatever wine was leftover. Anyway, it was good, as was the entire night of food, friends and wine. We are certainly hoping to actually visit Chilé in the not-too-distant future, and this was a nice little preview.

Up next in the blog, time to catch up on a bunch of good stuff we've been drinking recently, AND we are only days away from our next theme night, as we visit PORTUGAL!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Year in Review: Top 10 Wines of 2017!!

A new yearly post, the 10 best wines I enjoyed this past year. Sorted strictly by score, with lowest price breaking ties. Here we go!

First, an honorable mention to one that I was expecting to make this list, but the list got even better than I thought. I had not yet reviewed this one so I will do so here:

La Stella 2008 Maestoso ($110.00)
Intoxicating aromas of black fruit, mushroom, cigar box, leather and a hint of vanilla. The decade in the bottle has soothed this savage beast, bringing intense fruit flavors mixing in with the flavors you might expect in an aged wine; leather, tobacco, earth and mushroom. We enjoyed this on New Year's Eve with a fantastic Beef Wellington and both were just superb. Really special.

So, yeah, if that didn't make the Top 10, it must have been a fantastic year! Let's get right to it, starting with a terrific wine we enjoyed at my huge birthday wine event in November.


Two Hands 2012 Ares Shiraz ($169.99 USD from

Very dark purple in colour, the 2012 Ares is winemaking at it's finest. Intoxicating aromas of blackberry, black currant, black plum, blueberry, dark chocolate, mint and cedar. Black fruits dominate the palate, which is full bodied, juicy and chewy. The finish goes on and on for at least a minute. The tannins are settling but this will probably improve with even more cellar time. It doesn't need to improve.

Next up, a decade-old favorite, enjoyed on our patio one night when we just decided to cook meat and open great wine!

Silver Oak 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($150 USD)
Incredible aromas of sweet blackberry and blueberry, mint, cedar, leather and cigar box. The wine jumps from the glass, attacking your mid-palate with black cherry, coffee, toasty oak and tobacco flavors. Long, luscious finish. Even at a decade old, this has a ton of life left, it could probably improve for another 10-15 years. There isn't much improvement needed. 

From "Italy" night, a real winner that we have enjoyed a few bottles of this year:


Collematoni 2007 Vigna Fontelontano Brunello di Montalcino Reserve ($129.99)

Intoxicating aromas of charred meats, dark berries, cedar, tea leaves and a touch of spice. Incredibly complex. Red fruits abound, as does cedar, leather and a touch of mocha. Tannins are smooth and supple. Finishes very, very long. This is a top-notch Brunello and is drinking incredibly well now. Very special. 

From my very special "birthday night" of great wine, the wines that come in at numbers 7 and 4 on this list. That was a FANTASTIC night of wine, obviously!


Hartford Family Winery 2014 Stone Côte Vineyard Chardonnay ($65.00 USD from winery)
Caramel jumps from the glass and assaults your nose, but if you pay attention, you'll notice some nutmeg, cardamon and cinnamon as well, followed by hints of wet stone and orange blossom. The palate is sublime, with notes of sweet vanilla, caramel, pear, hazelnut and underripe tropical fruit. Just amazing, featuring vibrant acidity. Crisp and refreshing. I need to get some more of these!

Next up on our countdown, the best Zinfandel I have ever tasted, and it's not really close.


Hartford Family Winery 2014 Highwire Vineyard Zinfandel ($60 USD direct from winery)

From a 100+-year-old-vineyard in the Russian River Valley, and aged in 100% French Oak (45% new) for 10 months. Deep and impressive aromas of licorice, blackberry, white pepper and black cherry. Black fruit dances on your palate, joined by some rich, luscious dark chocolate. The finish goes on longer than Pinocchio's nose in that Geico commercial. I honestly can't imagine that Zinfandel gets much better than this. I hope I get to find one even better one day. It won't be easy. 

From our "USA" theme night, a truly special Syrah from Washington State. 


K Vintners 2014 Powerline Syrah ($47.99 USD from

They are making some great Syrah in Washington and this one is near the top of the list. Roasted game, dark plum, blackberry, wet earth and black pepper on the nose. Meaty, almost chewy tannins. Flavors of black licorice, blackberry, black pepper, black plum (notice a pattern?). Finishes forever. This one is already a knockout and some further aging will only enhance. A triumph. 


Marchesi de Frescobaldi 2010 Luce Della Vita ($89.99)

Sweet Sassy Molassy.

55% Merlot, 45% Sangiovese

Dark flowers, nutmeg, blueberry, black currant, mint, cola, blackberry and a hint of delicious funk on the nose. Blueberry, cherry cola, blackberry and chocolate on the palate. A touch of mint shows up on the long, beautiful finish. Undoubtedly the best Luce I have ever experienced.

For our dessert on "Bordeaux" night, this beauty wowed all the guests.


Chateau Rieussec 2013 Sauternes ($80.00)

Feel like having your mind blown? Pick up one of these. Or 10. Closing in on perfection, complex aromas of dried apricot, peach, lemon meringue pie, honey and a touch of mushroom. Full bodied and the perfect amount of sweet to go with the dessert. Finishes forever. FOREVER. A tour-de-force and it might even get better with further time. 

During the summer, we hosted our dear friends for "Big Hunks of Meat" night. Lots of different red meats to pair with a bunch of great Syrah. This one was the best.


Shafer Vineyards 2013 Relentless Syrah ($99.99 USD)

97% Syrah, 3% Petit Sirah

An intense inky purple colour. The aromas jump from the glass and dance seductively across your olfactory senses. Black fruit and BBQ meat, cedar, licorice, mint, lavender and sage all take their intoxicating turn. The palate is as complex as I have experienced. Blackberry, boysenberry, mushroom, cinnamon, nutmeg, blueberry, raspberry. Full-bodied and ridiculously decadent, this is a tour-de-force in winemaking and is nearly flawless. Find one (or more) of these. 

And, at the top of our list, the only "perfect" wine we experienced this year, and only the 2nd one to ever get that notable number (both Icewines....hmm, I notice a pattern).


Tantalus Vineyards 2015 Riesling Icewine ($65.13)

I actually have to take a deep breath while writing this review so I don't get overexcited. It starts off with the most beautiful, exotic aromas of pineapple, red apple, honey, citrus and caramel.

The palate features pineapple flavors all day long. They are not alone, with sweet apple pie, lemon meringue pie and even some peach and nectarine making appearances. It's sweet as you would expect with an Icewine, but not sickingly so; complex and brilliant, with a finish that goes on forever. For only the second time in the history of my wine blog, I can proclaim that this wine has reached the pinnacle of perfection. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Okanagan Trip, Part 7: MAIN EVENT time, Nota Bene vertical tasting!

They say a picture paints a thousand words. This is about 50-thousand.

That's right, true believers, a vertical tasting of every year of Nota Bene that ever existed, including a barrel sample of the 2016.

A fantastic event, attended by such wine luminaries as Anthony Gismondi and "The Wine Diva" Deanna Van Mulligan.

I'll sum up my reviews of each vintage succinctly and sort them into three categories:

Past their peak:

1999: One of only two vintages (2012 the other) where Merlot is the dominate grape. Tons of leather, tobacco leaf, mushroom, forest floor and black licorice. Still finishes very long, and is tasty, but not a ton of fruit left. 88.

2002: Almost port-like in viscosity and mouthfeel. Blackberry liqueur, black currant, and cigar box. Not a very long finish. 88.

2004: Probably could go in either of the top two categories, but the slippage is just beginning with this one. Chocolate, vanilla and cherry aromas will give you the impression that it's still fresh, but the palate is overcome with earthiness and tobacco. Some fruit left for sure, but there probably won't be for much longer. 90.

2008: Prior to this event, the '08 was the oldest vintage I had tasted and reviewed, here, in 2015. At the time I wondered aloud if it would still improve, and the answer is a resounding "no". It's still very good, but time has started to show some flaws. 90.

Drinking beautifully now:

2000: Aromas of mocha, black olive and tobacco leaf. Black cherry, cassis and mint on the palate. This one has lots of fruit left but certainly won't improve at this point; drink it now! 92.

2001: Forest floor, mushroom, mint and leather on the nose. Cherry, tobacco and mushroom on the palate, finishes incredibly long. Another one to open up now if you have some! 92.

2003: From the incredibly hot year that featured the devastating fires in the Okanagan, this one was my favorite of the tasting (and my wife's, too!). A smokiness on the nose, for sure, with leather, black cherry, blackberry, mint and tobacco as well. Juicy and delicious flavors of black cherry, plum and boysenberry. Finishes forever. Brilliant. 95.

2005: The lightest aromas of the entire vertical, some chocolate and sage if you pay attention. The palate is so much better than the nose, dominated by black cherry and a touch of spice on the finish. 91.

2006: Like the 2002, this one has become viscious, almost thick, in time. Aromas of cassis liqueur, blackberry, leather, dark chocolate and plum. Blackberry and blueberry show up on the palate, which is delicious despite the unusual qualities. Long finish. 92.

2007: Aromas of cassic, black raspberry, mint and stewed prunes. Black cherry, plum, vanilla, toasted oak and cedar on the palate. This one, at a decade old, is hitting it's peak but has more time in it. 92.

2013: Brilliant aromas of cherry cola, blackberry and red cherry. Strawberry, raspberry, vanilla and white chocolate on the palate. Lovely, long finish. Hey, another couple years in the bottle will probably improve it even further, but it's drinking so well now! 93-95.

2015: What? The most current vintage ready already? Yes it is! The most approachable vintage yet. I'm just going to link to my review of this from June where I gave it 95 points, because nothing has changed. Delicious!

Needs more time:

2009: I wouldn't wait too long on this one, but it still has closed off tendencies. The nose is light and unimpressive, with sage and chocolate lurking in the background. Bright cherry, raspberry, strawberry and blueberry flavors. Finish is medium at best. 88-90.

2010: This one could probably go in the above category as well, it's "right there".....aromas of cassis, eucalyptus, cherry cola and black tea. Black fruits dominate the palate, with a lovely mouthfeel and long finish. Give it another year, maybe two, and you will not be sorry. 93.

2011: Another one with a light nose that seems closed off and unimpressive. The palate is a little hot, with flavors of red cherry and red raspberry. I'd give this one another 3-4 years and see what it is like when it hits the decade mark. 88-90.

2012: The second Merlot-dominate vintage features aromas of cherry cola, vanilla and mocha. Lots of red fruit up front on the palate, joined by some blackberry. Finishes long. This one is almost ready to go. Open before the 2011 for sure. 92-94.

2014: Light aromas of red cherry and herbs. Cherry and blackberry dominate the palate. This was really popular with a lot of the other tasters but I think it needs another 5-7 years to open up and reveal itself. 91-93.

2016: Well, duh....this was just a barrel sample, but it was already showing well. Black cherry and black tea aromas, with cherry and blackberry flavors. Rich, full mouthfeel. Tons of potential! 92-94.

At the conclusion of the event, we were asked to secretly pick our favorite. As I mentioned, my wife and I both (without knowing the other pick) chose the 2003 in what would have been a close call over the 2015. It was the 2015 that came out on top of the room-wide voting, however. Clearly this group of tasters preferred young, fresh wine, because the 2nd choice was a huge surprise to me.

1st: 2015
2nd: 2014
3rd: 2005

So that's it for this Okanagan trip! Next up, I still have to report on our last theme event (Chile!), have lots of great Holiday wine to report on and, a new annual feature, I'm going to spotlight my Top 10 Wines of 2017! Stay tuned!!