Tag 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


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


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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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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2009 Louis Jadot Moulin a Vent Chateau des Jacques

France, $80

A few years back I went to a very chi-chi house warming party that necessitated arriving with a good bottle of wine. I hemmed and hawed over what to bring, and to be honest, on an occasion such as this, where your bottle may or may not be opened, the presentation of the bottle is almost as important as what is inside. The world’s finest single-vineyard Malbec from Argentina will get trumped by a cru bourgeois from an off year. Ultimately, I landed on a bottle of Cotes du Rhone from Mourchon in magnum. It was about $60 and it was nice wine, but the hosts were blown away by the bottle as if it were a bottle of Lafitte from Thomas Jefferson’s cellar. They passed the heft around, reveled in its boldness and thanked me profusely. Behind me came my friend Sam, who brought a bottle of 2000 Cos D’Etournel, a sublime Bordeaux from an excellent vintage. The 2009 vintage of that bottle is available at the BC liquor stores for $888.00. The host thanked him profusely as well… and went back to pawing the magnum. The moral? When it comes to hostess gifts, bigger is better. The Mourchon isn’t available anymore, but the also excellent 2009 Louis Jadot Moulin a Vent Chateau des Jacques is, and at $80 I can’t fathom a better bang for the buck wine for your next tony party.

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Township 7 Reserve 7

Township 7 Reserve 7

BC, $34.95

I was back in Alberta for the long weekend and I brought a slew of BC wines to try with friends who either don’t have access or have preconceived ideas about BC wines that I’m anxious to disabuse them of. I will say I continue to be disheartened by the prices that wine in AB has climbed to. I remember when privatization first arrived—Veuve Cliquot Le Grande Dame for $65!—but now it seems that the only great deals are in the whisky area (Superstore sells Laphroaig Quarter Cask for $40.50). BC wine in particular is really expensive, prohibitively so, so it was nice to arrive with a few bottles. My fave was a bottle of Township 7 Reserve 7 from 2007. When I first tasted this wine on release, I noted that it was big fairly tannic and needed time, but I didn’t really know—I had no track record of tasting the wine and the entire Okanagan track record is still being written. In any event, by good fortune my educated guess turned out to be right on the money. The wine I had remembered as a beast has morphed into something great, full of rich, juicy flavours—red currant and cherries dominate—with a long, lingering finish. A really nice bottle that I’m sure won over a few more BC wine converts, and a great indication of a winery that’s doing something right. The New 2010 vintage ($34.95) is arriving soon and I expect good things.

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Campo de Borja Garnacha 2009


Spain, $12

The convention in reviewing wine is that if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all. While I see the joy of celebrating the good, sometimes you need a dose of the bad, just so you canappreciate the positives. All of which leads me to this week’s selection—a 89–pointer according to the BC Liquor Board, citing the judges at Wine Access as their source.

The first concern is that a check of Wine Access database shows only an 88 point rating; the bigger concern is trying decipher if they were using the 200 point system. Huge segments of the Spanish wine industry seem to be wanting to join the New World Express in producing extracted and boozy reds that speak of no particular place, and if ever there was a poster child forthis trend it’s this bottle of garnacha—or grenache to you and me.

On the plus side it’s only $12, so they’re keeping it real on the price side. They also don’t bury the wine in oak, another plus. On the downside, it’s the hottest wine I’ve had in ages—the warm, gloopy, tongue–coating liquid seems to be the product of something higher than the 14% alcohol listed on the label. Theresome spice, but it seems out of sync with the thick Fruit Roll–Up–esque swack on the palate. And though this vintage was an award–winner at the Wine Access Value awards in 2011, there’s still plenty on the shelves, which should also tell you something.

I realize cataloguing the shortcoming of a $12 wine isn’t exactly the purview of the fair fighter, but that’s where a lot of consumers try new things—and I hate for someone to think this is what even entry–level Spanish wine is like. Stay tuned for nice things to be said again next week.

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Jose Maria Da Fonseca Periquita 2010


Portugal, $10

I’m pretty skeptical these days about aging estimates that come with wine reviews–mine included, I suppose. In 1970, you could taste the most recent release of Latour and based on past vintages and the tannic structure of the wine, put out a reasonable estimate as to when the wine would hit its peak. But my experience of tasting the 2009 and 2010 vintages(both great) of Bordeaux leave me completely puzzled as to how the wines will age, given that many of them are drinking so well right out of the gate. And by so well, I don’t mean they taste like classic Bordeaux. Many of them taste like new world wine–the very best new world wine–and have alcohol levels that likewise have more in common with Napa than 1970’s Bordeaux. So who knows how they’ll age?

The entire crapshoot of aging hit home last week when I happened upon a bottle of 2005 Periquita that had been overlooked in Vancouver Magazine’s wine room. The label has long been synonymous with bargain wine and so years after years it was passed over for more expensive, frankly classier wines until I came along. And thank God I did because if I’ve had a bigger treat with a under $10 wine in the last decade I don’t remember it. The wine’s signature earthy/gravelly bite had faded, leaving some nice, still vibrant fruit and a smooth medium length finish. So while we try and figure this aging business, do me a favour–plunk down $10 on the most recent vintage of Periquita and hide it away somewhere for a few years. What’s the worst that could happen?

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Spierhead Pinot Noir 2011

Spierhead Pinot Noir 2011

BC, $19.90

We don’t go in for wine scores here at WL so I’m alwayss searching for words to convey the passion (or disdain) I feel for a particular wine in a way that the reader hopefully gets. It occurred to me recently that one of the best signifiers for me is that panicked feeling I get, immediately after I’ve tasted a wine that wows me, that it might sell out before I get my paws on some. I had that feeling at a recent BC Wine Institute tasting, where Master of Wine Rhys Pender had selected 3 BC pinots to be tasted blind with 3 international pinots. One of the BC pinots was the new 2011 vintage of Spierhead—it was vibrant and alive and it felt like it was jumping out of the glass. I immediately fretted that I wouldn’t be able to buy enough of it. Oddly it wasn’t my #1 wine—that turned out be a $65 bottle of Gevrey Chambertin from Burgundy, which didn’t give that panicked feeling in the least. Drinking the Spierhead I felt proud of the wine for some reason, and not just for the pinot but for the winery’s excellent riesling, their muscular Bordeaux-inspired Pursuit and above all their ability to deliver such great wine for such an affordable price. Spierhead is becoming one of the wineries that showing up at a party with one of their bottles has become a signifier of impeccable taste. In an amazingly short time it’s become a winery where I’m anxious to taste everything they make.

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Cabriz Colheita Selecionada 2008

Cabriz Colheita Selecionnada 2008

Portugal, $20

The one question I get most often is “Can you recommend a great red for under $15?” and the difficultly I have in answering is through no fault of serious testing. On a normal Tuesday night, I’m not sipping a Barolo or an aged Bordeaux, but usually looking for something pleasing to go with casual fare that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. The problem with most wine in this price range is that they’re either too sweet and extracted with plenty of fruit all at once and nothing else (hello New World) or too grungy and rustic (hello Old World). But once in a while there comes a wine that brings the sublime mixture of fruit, acidity, long finish and price that immediately has you say “I’ll take a case.” This is that wine.

As is usual with Portuguese wine the grapes are not the usual suspects: the awesomely named Alfocheiro is the base, backed up by Tinto Roriz (that’s Tempranillo to the rest of the world) and Touriga Nacional. The first sip evokes a mason jar of wild raspberry jam, followed by the structure and dryness that lengthens out the finish with more savory notes. It’s a little wild, but in the most enjoyable sense of the word—an amusement park ride more than a car wreck. Had I tasted blind I would have lost a mortgage payment had you bet me it was under $25. At under $15, it’s the best deal I’ve tasted in 2013

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