Category Archives: Red Wine

Vinos De Finca Losada Bierzo 2009

 

vinos-de-finca-losada-bierzo-2009Spain, $25

 

I’m writing this from spring break in Kauai and amid the swell weather, bathwater warm water and soring peaks exists the depressing reality that even here, 4000 kilometers from the nearest wine-producing region, wine is cheaper than it is in Western Canada. On the plus side, I’m here and enjoying it—on behalf of all of us, I like to think. Last night at the surprisingly sophisticated Bar Acuda in the chill little village of Hanalei, they had wine from the very up-and-coming Bierzo region of Spain by the glass and it seemed like an oasis in a sea of the mass market California Cabs that dominate the wine lists on the Islands. Bierzo reds normally use the relatively obscure Mencia grape (the Portuguese call it Jaen), which is a little like Cabernet Franc (in the nose) and a little like Barbera (in the body). They’re tough to find in Western Canada but this week’s wine is a nice (if a tiny bit pricey) entry into the region and the grape. Expect some really zippy acidity and great freshness with some wild strawberry notes.

 

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Bartier Scholefield Red 2011

bartier-scholefield-red

BC, $20

“Respect for tradition.” It’s a line on the back of this bottle of wine and it’s by all means an admirable sentiment in the wine world—I just don’t have any idea how it found itself on the back of a wine that blends Merlot with Syrah (a little odd), Gamay (supremely odd) and Pinot Noir (Zelda Fitzgerald crazy). Thankfully, when you know the rules, then you can break them and there are few teams more aware of how unorthodox this blend is than winemaker Michael Bartier and partner David Scholefield. And what they’ve created is a wine that by defying convention has become one of the more memorable BC wines out there. If the Loire made Merlot it would taste like this—light and supremely fresh—but I find that there’s a not-subtle undercurrent of pepper and spice that keeps the wine from being more than “summer sipper”. It’s a wine that I can see Jon Rimmerman, the globetrotting wine merchant behind garagiste, raving about. It’s unique, it’s handcrafted and speaks to a place. Oh, and it’s $20. Not bad for a vanguard.

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Periquita 2011

periquita

Portugal, $10
A group of esteemed restaurant judges were in the offices last week and choosing wine for them is always a trick—their palates are pampered and they’re used to a pretty rarified level of imbibing. To make matters worse, the wine room at the office was at a near all time low in terms of variety. And then I found it, tucked away and forgotten at the bottom of one shelf was this bottle—a 2005 Periquita with the foil removed. For those of you who don’t know Periquita, it’s a workhouse value Portuguese red that’s been over-delivering to the under $10 crowd for years. It’s a blend of castelao (a grape few outside of Portugal have ever heard of), trincadeira (a grape that sounds like a deadly bacteria) and aragonez (actually tempranillo but the Portuguese like to call it something else just to complicate matters) and it’s decidedly not modern—it delivers a rustic idea of red fruit—and it’s not meant for aging. It’s own tasting notes say it has a shelf life of 6 years after bottling and the bottle I had was already on year 9.

And it was great. It was a little tired and most of its freshness had long gone, but it retained an earthy elegance and the years had rubbed all its elbows smooth. It was like a little Hobbit who had made an incredible journey and I couldn’t help but be impressed by it. I weekly drink scores of $20+ wine that wouldn’t make this journey with the same grace that this under $10 had done.

 

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Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera

fontanafredda-briccotondo

Italy, $15

It took me a little while to come around to Piedmont. The wines were difficult to understand, generally pricey and didn’t seem to care one bit whether I liked them or not. But like the cute loner in physics class, the truth is once I took the time to get to know them they were infinitely more interesting than the bland, popular wines/kids. For starters, while nebbiolo-based big boys—Barolo and Barbaresco—are pricey, the area serves up some other grapes that are easier on the pocketbook but heavy on the personality. There’s the wonderful Dolcetto and the even better Barbera. Barbera has the high acid of nebbiolo but very few of its tannins, which means it goes well with food (it would be amazing with the ragu recipe we’re running this week) but doesn’t need much in the way of aging. I feel I always get the subtle nod of approval from somms when I order Barbera, probably because they don’t have the money to drink Barolo on Wednesdays either. All of these attributes are present in this week’s wine, a well-made and well-priced bottle from the behemoth producer Fontanafredda. I was turned onto this wine from Sebastien Le Goff who is not only the director of service at Cactus Club but in possession of one of the scariest, most astute palettes I know. He probably does drink Barolo on Wednesday—but he also drinks this Barbera.

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Perseus Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

perseus

BC, $50

Perseus is a relatively new operation right on the border of Penticton (you can walk from downtown) and the Naramata Bench, and I love that they do things just a little but differently. They do a really cool Pinot Blanc in a box, which is 3.0L for the smoking deal of $42; they have kooky lightly-oaked—which is not common— Sauvignon Blanc for $17 that I find sort of enduring; and then they have this $50 Cabernet, which looks almost identical to the $20 Cab/Shiraz and has no vineyard designation (other than it’s from Oliver) which is something I’d generally like in my $50 Okanagan Cabs. But that aside, it’s a pretty impressive wine with waves of spicy black fruits with some spice coming through in a long finish. I’m pretty sure this was made by the excellent winemaker Lawrence Herder (he’s since been replaced by the also excellent Tom DiBello) and I can maybe see this big wine (15.1% alcohol) maybe coming from Herder’s former stomping grounds of Paso Robles.

1998 Silver Oak Alexander Valley

silver-oak-98

California, $84

I was at a Halloween party a few months back with an open bar, but a particularly uncouth guest had brought a few bottles of his own “special” wine that he tucked around the corner for him and his pals to partake. He asked me if I wanted some and winked “It’s Silver Oak” and it was all I could do a stifle a small laugh. Silver Oak was one of the great CaliforniaCabernet stars back in the day but has had a much tougher time finding its place in the world of California Cult Cabs like Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate; not only did this guy have poor manners, but he used a 1991 copy ofThe Wine Spectator to help him buy his fancy wine.

This incident was on my mind last night when a group of friends got together to drink a few cabs side-by-side in the name of science. (And drinking.) There was a 2005 Bordeaux from Chateau Cantemerle (nice, but oddly subdued), an insanely muscular wine from Washington’s Doubleback (owned by Drew Bledsoe, and big and pricey) and Burrowing Owl, which held up not badly against wines that were twice the price. And then there was my bottle, a 1998 Silver Oak that had been in my cellar forever. I only had one, and my expectations were that, given the vintage, it might be less than stellar. Boy was I wrong—it was still dark and full with great classic cabernet notes of cassis and bitter cherry and an integrated long finish. What a great wine. The weird thing is I think I paid $60 for it all those years ago, and the current vintage is only $84, making it a pretty great deal.

So I was wrong about the Silver Oak. But that guy at the party was still a horse’s ass.

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2008 Produttori Del Barbaresco

produttori-del-barbarescoItaly, $43

I was in Trader Joe’s in Southern California just before Christmas and I saw a bottle of Barbaresco for $9.99. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Barbaresco for less than $20 and even though I had never heard of the producer and the foil on the cap looked super cheap I bought it. It was both the worst Barbaresco I’ve had and still a pretty awesome deal—I’d totally buy it again because the confluence of the Nebbiolo grape and the soil of Piedmont is one of the great duo in all of wineopolis. If you want a good laugh roll into your local liquor store and state your looking for a Barbaresco for under $10 and look at their reaction. But just because we don’t get the bottom of the barrel doesn’t mean we don’t have some relatively good deals. Over the holidays I had two bottles from the rock solid producer Produttori del Barbaresco, which is actually a large winegrowers co-operative that cranks out about half a million bottles a year. That’s nothing compared to Yellowtail but that’s massive by Piedmont standards and that level helps keep the price low. For $43 you get some really classic Nebbiolo— an earthy wine with some tar and black cherries and what can only be called a seductive, sexy nose. It’s too young by a solid measure— I decanted for 3-4 hours before consuming and the wine opened up nicely

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Black Sage Merlot

BC, $110

A few months back I gushed a bit (ok, a lot) over the amazing deal that is the magnum of Jadot Moulin a Vent Cru Beaujolais—at $80 one of my favourite deals out there. Magnums are festive, celebratory but serious. Double magnums (or the Jeroboam if we’re using Christian names) are all that and then some. The corks are tough to get out and they’re really difficult to pour but I guarantee that every one of your guests will remember this bottle long after thousands of others have faded from their memories. The downside is that they are usually ungodly expensive— bottle of Cristal in this format is $2,730 at the BCLDB. But what I did run across the other day strolling the aisles is this behemoth from relative newcomer (who owns some seriously old vines) Black Sage. A giant with a gentle $110 price, it’s a merlot which seems like it sees a fair bit of oak, which adds some structure to it’s juicy dark fruit palate, and it’s drinking well right now. This isn’t the stuff Miles hated in Sideways, and Lord knows he would appreciate someone arriving at his place this Christmas with a Jeroboam tucked under their arm.

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Bodega Norton Malbec Reserva 2010

Argentina, $18

Every year the Wine Spectator announces their Top 100 about this time, and every year I vow I’m not going to get sucked on go on some wild goose chase trying to track down the named bottles—and every year I get sucked into doing it notwithstanding. In my defense, I was in Oregon at Domaine Serene (whose Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir was #3) when the list was announced so I’d have to truly have been a man of principle to not buy a bottle. Back across the border in a less liberal wine-buying climate, the story is usually a bit more bleak—the wine is harder to find and when you do, it’s double the price that’s listed in the magazine. I say usually because #36 is the Bodega Norton Malbec Reserve 2010—and it’s listed as $2 more expensive than it is here. Admittedly, it’s for the newer vintage (we’re still mostly on the 2010) but look at this way: you get a free year of bottle age and Norton isn’t exactly the type of winery with discernible quality swings between vintages, so load up. The WS folks say it taste like raspberry ganache, which I suppose it does, but there’s some nice structure to go with the sweet fruit and even some nice smoky notes.

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2011 Romain Duverny Vacqueyras

France, $26

I hate how much we have to pay for wine in Canada—we call a bottle under $15 a “bargain” wine. But it’s not all hopeless. In the midst of our rough misery there diamonds, like this week’s wine. It sort of has everything you want. For starters, it’s priced less here than it is in most states. If you’re the type who loves high scores (which, if we’re being honest, is 98% of us) Parker has given the last two vintages 93 & 91 pts respectively. And it looks great—a beautifully understated label married to a substantial bottle. And I’m not sure there’s a wine I like ordering more, by which I mean actually saying the name than Vacqueyras. “I’ll have the Vah keh rahs.” Only its neighbor, Gigondas, holds a candle to it, linguistically speaking.

And then finally, there’s the wine, a Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre joint venture. It’s heavy duty. Big and brawny, with dark licorice and black cherries. It’s juicy without being sweet and could handle being open for three days without wilting.

In short it’s a bottle that says all is not lost BC and Alberta wine lovers.

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