Monthly Archives: March 2013

Beronia Rioja Reserva 2008

Ricossa Barbaresco 2009Spain, $25

Rioja (REE-hoe-Ha!) is a state of flux these days. You have a raft of producers sticking to their old ways, another raft (can you have 2 rafts?) modernizing and making wine in the international style, and outside the border, there’s a slew of new Spanish regions like Toro or Jumilla, which have consumers excited. But Beronia seems to skirt all these issues and make great wine at a good value year after year. They’re neither classic nor new, producing a wine that definitely has seen some oak but remains fresh and vibrant in the mouth. If you’re new to rioja, this is a great place to start—with the proviso that as you progress you’ll often run into more expensive bottles that aren’t quite as good. The 2005 vintage of this wine was sublime, but the current offering—2008—is also a winner.

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Ricossa Barbaresco 2009

Ricossa Barbaresco 2009

Italy, $22

In wine as in life, things that are usually too good to be true should be avoided. (That 75-percent-off beef tenderloin comes to mind.) So when I saw a $22 bottle of Barbaresco, I was wary. The famed Piedmont wine normally starts at about $50, and sublime expressions are regularly triple that. The noble nebbiolo grape just doesn’t do well when grown in the quantities needed to make a $22 of wine. But damned if this bottle wasn’t half bad, and frankly a lot more interesting that many bottles at the same price range. You have some of the lovely supple leather and dried herb and fruit notes of a classic barbaresco, and if the concentration is a little lacking, well, think about those extra $20s in your wallet.

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Ca Du Rabaja Barbera D’Alba 2009

Ca Du Rabaja Barbera D'Alba 2009

 Italy, $26

There are two types of wine lists out there: the ones that trot out all the usual suspects and welcome you with a list of old faves (Caymus Conundrum—hooray!). Then there are the kinds where you wonder where the heck they get their wines, because you don’t recognize half the names. It’s this latter category that are often in the hands of a passionate, sommelier—like Lucais Syme at La Quercia, L’Officio and La Pentola de la Quercia in Vancouver. Last week, the last thing I thought wanted to order was $50 barbera, even from a great producer like Ca Du Rabaja, but after one sip I realized that, in fact, this was exactly the wine I wanted. It was concentrated and with a strawberry, balsamic and pepper profile that I loved. And it proved the adage you’re better buying a great expression of mid-level wine (like barbera) than a weak expression of a great wine (like nebbiolo). (Yew in the Four Season’s also has this wine on their list (for a bit more $$$).

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Ridge Lytton Springd 2010

Ridge Lytton Springs 2010

California, $50

Is there a better winery in California than Ridge? There are flashier ones, older ones, ones with longer wait-list, but taken as a whole, Ridge may be my favourite—and that’s saying a lot, because I often don’t love Zinfandel, one of their signature grapes. A lot of the credit goes to the legendary Paul Draper, one of the wine world’s greats, and the man who had guided Ridge for the past 40 years. He poured some aged examples this past week of the winery’s Zinfandel blends, Geyserville and Lytton Springs, and even the 1987s were still alive, kicking and wonderful. He also poured the estate’s flagship wine, Montebello, and it proved that it is the better of many johnny-come-lately “cult” wines (ahem, Hundred Acre) that charge double, triple or quintuple. The crazy thing is you can stroll to your local store, grab a bottle of Lytton Springs for $50 without any fuss. Drink now, age it 10 years or age it 20—it, like the winery, will never disappoint.

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