Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Happy Unbirthday To You!

Happy unbirthday! Today may not be your birthday, but here’s an idea for when it comes: the Reverse Birthday! YOU give the gifts.

Mine was Sunday and my lovely wife, Lavell, had the idea.

At our gardening friend Lesley’s Peony Party (no jokes, please) we put out an array of T-shirts and rainbow-hued socks and announced, “These are for you all. Happy birthday to me!”

Huge hit. Someone had brought a homemade Virginia Sponge Cake and it was time to open the vino. Do try this at home. Perhaps at a backyard barbecue.

A good way to start the BBQ party would be Chateau des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc 2017, $16, the perfect Pinot Grigio slayer, as a fresh, crisp (unoaked) aperitif in an easy gooseberry/citrus style. With the salad or with oysters.

Carnivores will love the Chateau’s 2016 Cabernet-Merlot, an elegantly fruity blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Merlot aged 9 months in French oak, also $16. Ageable but why wait?

If you’re craving Pinot Noir, there’s a great 2016 just under the radar, from Angels Gate, truly Burgundian in its finesse and flavors, showing berry fruits, spring flowers, cherry and raspberry notes and gentle tannins. 

All for $18. Crafted by Aussie master winemaker Phil Dowell.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Animal Crackers

 Under the weather? Just sip a Hare of the dog, courtesy of John Hare and his Niagara winery. His 2015 Crown Land Red is a Cabernet Franc-Merlot miracle worker. Fresh raspberries, crushed black peppercorns, fines herbs and a kiss of toasty new oak do the trick, $25.50. Quite Beaujolais-ish.

We're surrounded by the wild creatures in the wine world, as well as mythical beasties. Some new releases on offer include a sea shell, a crazy fish, a brown speckled bird and a dark horse. Or you could simply opt for Temperance.

The bird looks like a thrush bearing a grape on a bottle of Abbotts & Delaunay dry red from France's Deep South, Corbieres in the Languedoc, $18 for a silky smooth, slightly smoky 2015 blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre berries.

The Mad Fish is a 2017 vintage Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon of impeccable breeding from Western Australia, $17, lively, grassy and crisp with a citrus rind perkiness. It's like a white Bordeaux that just got the keys to its first car! 

Huron County's Dark Horse Estate Winery has made a lush Cabernet/Merlot dry red blend that's all black and blue fruit with earth and chocolate highlights, $22. Called One Horse Town Cabernet/Merlot 2015. It's a winner!

The sea shell is a gorgeous Nautilus Chardonnay from Marlborough, New Zealand, $28, with sumptuous pear and tangy melon, vanilla and lemon zest complexity knitted together with a smidge of toasty new oak. Delish. 

If Temperance is your choice, there's a 2018 red of that name from Westcott at Vinemount Ridge, Niagara, a deft blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, the two classic grapes of Burgundy, rarely seen together, $20. Cherry-raspberry elegance.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Buying Some Bordeaux Beauties

There's a European tradition of always offering a little nibbly nosh alongside red or white wine. Nuts or cheese or other tasty treats. One reason they're always welcome with a refreshing glass of red is, probably, Bordeaux wine.

Elegantly fruity, complex and wonderful with patient cellaring, the ancient claret can be tough, tannic and a little hard on the palate in its youth. That's the case with the May 12 crop at the LCBO:

The only exception is the venerable Charles de Sarpe 2000, thanks to it already having clocked up almost 20 years of bottle aging. This right-bank beauty, a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, will set you back $85, but the maturation has already been done for you. The result is a smooth, mouthfilling melange of wild strawberry, plum jam and oaky spice with a core thread of roast beef, old leather and wet earth. Just perfect with a prime rib, slow-roasted lamb shank, charcuterie and blue-veined cheeses. 85% Merlot grapes plus Cabernet Franc (93).

Slightly down in the pecking order, Chateau La Tour de Mons 2008, a Cru Bourgeois from the prestigious Margaux appellation of Bordeaux, tastes still youthful even after 10 years and goes best today with a fine tenderloin, game bird, and a rare steak. Or another few years more in your cellar. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a splash of Petit Verdot. $53 (91).

 A very good value Bordeaux Superieur, Chateau Plaisance 2009, $19, tastes still youthful and brimming with 70% Merlot, Cabernet and 10% Petit Verdot fruitiness and chewy tannins. A blend sourced from anywhere in the entire Bordeaux region, it's stylish with red cherry, earthy, mineral, black licorice and new leather notes (90).

Chateau Pierre de Montignac 2010, $25, is another Cru Bourgeois, this time from the Cabernet Sauvignon-heavy left bank Medoc, elegant, lean and firmly tannic still.  Blackberry, vanilla and oak, gentle tannins and balanced acidity lend themselves to burgers, BLTs and herb-roasted chicken (89).

 Another very good value, Chateau La Brande 2015, $20, from Castillon, is all red berries, cherry-brambly with bright acidity, fresh and appealing (90). Again, another youthful red and that's the nature of what the English called claret -- from the French clairet, light red, perfect for a midweight wine that punches above its weight.

An elegant red that does just that is Chateau Yon-Figeac 2015, a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, $65, from one of the largest single vineyards in the district, with old vines, mostly Merlot, as you'd expect on the right bank. Concentrated and intense, it's full and firm and will benefit from 4-5 years more aging or -- especially if you give it a little time to breathe in a decanter before serving, be great with classic meat dishes and hard cheeses (92).

This decanting trick -- you just need two wide-mouthed jars -- pouring the wine back and forth a few times and giving it 20 minutes or so will benefit any red except really geriatric collector vintages.
classic meat dishes, veal, pork, beef, lamb, duck, game, roast chicken, roasted, braised and grilled dishes.
Read more at:https://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/bordeaux-wine-producer-profiles/bordeaux/st-emilion/chateau-yon-figeac-st-emilion-bordeaux-wine/
veal, pork, beef, lamb, duck, game, roast chicken, roasted, braised and grilled dishes
Read more at:https://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/bordeaux-wine-producer-profiles/bordeaux/st-emilion/chateau-yon-figeac-st-emilion-bordeaux-wine/
veal, pork, beef, lamb, duck, game, roast chicken, roasted, braised and grilled dishes
Read more at:https://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/bordeaux-wine-producer-profiles/bordeaux/st-emilion/chateau-yon-figeac-st-emilion-bordeaux-wine/
veal, pork, beef, lamb, duck, game, roast chicken, roasted, braised and grilled dishes
Read more at:https://www.thewinecellarinsider.com/bordeaux-wine-producer-profiles/bordeaux/st-emilion/chateau-yon-figeac-st-emilion-bordeaux-wine/

Friday, March 30, 2018

Okay, It's Not Spring Yet, But...!!!

I realize it's still effing cold out there and not quite what we're all desperately hoping for weatherwise but...do take heart!

Pink wine is here and now, to cheer you on your chilly way!

Especially, 2016 Rose Cuvee d'Andree from Chateau des Charmes, one of my go-to wineries for taste and value.

Dedicated to the vivacious matriarch of C des C, the lovely Madame Andrée Bosc, wife, Mom and winery goddess. It’s a vibrant beautifully ripe cran-strawb-cherry sipper, sporting a hint of cedar, red berries and white pepper, great with food or alone, made totally from Pinot Noir grapes. Food friendly and versatile. $15.95.

Paul Bosc cut his teeth growing red wines in Burgundy, nuanced, silky, refined, noted for their wild strawberry, violet and truffle aromas. Feathery tannins provide structure and ageability. 

This new Chateau des Charmes offering, the 2016 Pinot Noir Estate Grown & Bottled at $16.95 checks all the right boxes. 

It’s a logical pleasure progression from the 100% Pinot Noir-based Rose. 

Enjoy with Easter rabbit, wild mushroom risotto, duck breast with foie gras, or braised lamb.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Six of the Best

Three of the Best -- Seguret
The wine I'm happily sipping today is Boutinot Les Six Cairanne and the name that sticks out for me is Les Six, The Six -- the newest handle for Toronto, the town where I live.

    Said to be coined by uber-rapper Drake and inspired by our phone codes --- 416 and 647 -- The Six still falls short for those of us who prefer Hogtown. The likeliest origin, however, is the six boroughs that amalgamated into one city in 1998: Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, York, East York and Toronto.

    Meanwhile, Les Six on the Boutinot label recalls the ancient Rhone Valley viticulture tradition of blending six grape varieties -- Grenache Noir, Mourvedre and Syrah together with Carignan Noir, Counoise and Cinsault -- to make intense, spicy and rewarding dry red wines.

    Fermentation in large well-seasoned oak vats before 12 months maturation in wood has allowed the elements to fuse seamlessly with berry-nutty aromas and a savory palate with just a touch of oak. It's an elegant Rhone red with plenty of richness. 

    Les Six is not currently at the LCBO, which, however, does offer another fine Boutinot Rhone-Villages -- Les Coteaux Schisteux, $25, from the nearby village of Seguret, peppery-spicy, plum-raspberry and bay leaf scented, quietly powerful with fine red meats and aged cheeses. 

    More of a Two, this one's mostly old-vine Grenache with a little Syrah, from a rugged, east-facing single vineyard called Les Turcs.

    Both wines are Number One with me!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cool New Grape vs Global Warming

Erbamatta, the cool new super grape, still under the world's radar, may be the future for Italy's superb Franciacorta sparkling wines and for every other region staring down global warming

    Franciacorta is Italy's reply to Champagne, under the radar itself. It’s tiny, just 2,000 hectares in Brescia, Lombardy, almost in Switzerland. 18 million bottles a year vs 350m in Champagne and 500m in Prosecco!

    Traditionally Franciacorta, a sophisticated yet under-priced sparkler, uses the Champagne grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, plus Pinot Blanc, and increasingly Erbamatta.

    The latter's main virtue, says Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, 18th generation owner of his stellar winery, is its super-high acidity. As global temperatures rise, so does grape sugar and therefore alcohol, while natural fruity acidity falls, a huge problem for sparkling wines.

    Straw-colored with a green tinge, Erbamatta is floral, chalky, earthy, lean and low in alcohol. The leading grower is Barone Pizzini with 4,000 vines, and others include Curbastro, Berlucchi, Ca’ del Bosco, Ferghettina, Vezzoli, Castello Bonomi and Ronco Calino have also planted the new variety.

    Granted top-level DOCG status in 1995, Franciacorta is made as painstakingly as Champagne, in the individual bottles. Prosecco, meanwhile, has its simpler second fermentation in steel tanks.

    The Franciacorta categories are: NV, non-vintage, which spends 18 months aging on its lees. Satèn (derived from the word satin) is 50/50 Chardonnay/Pinot Blanc produced at lower pressure for a gentler, crémant-like sparkle, 24 months on its lees. Rosé has 25% Pinot Noir and also spends 24 months on its lees. Millesimato is made from a single vintage, and aged 30 months on its lees. Riserva, top of the quality pyramid, ages 60 months on its lees.


Thought for the day: Charles de Gaulle famously said: How can you govern a country like France with its 365 kinds of (fiercely) local cheeses? Meanwhile, Italy, a long and narrow country, is 70% mountains, making it historically difficult just to travel from village to village, therefore massively local in its agriculture, producing as a result a mind-boggling 400 varieties of beans alone, thousands of wines, cheeses, and delicious cuisines, each fiercely proud and independent. Just sayin'.