Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Farnese Primitivo 2006

And it's peanutman to the rescue! A reply to yesterday's call for help!

--- peanutman's review ---

I got a bottle of Farnese Primitivo last week from a neighbour. I knew this wasn't one of those big Italian monsters, but my wife and I were pleasantly surprised. Norman informed me that this was the same grape as Zinfandel which I have also never tried. I thought the Primitivo was a little spicy and probably also a little sweet as it decanted. The second day we had it with Roast Beef and we both thought it was a good match. Warning: we are not wine and food matchers and usually prefer our wine after or before supper therefore we could be way off on the match. There was just enough fruit taste and character that it wasn't bland. For some reason, and while they are not similar, this wine reminded me of the Cono Sur Pinot Noir. A bottle of wine that is not expensive but that has enough character that you would probably want to buy it again. For $11.49, we both thought it was a very good deal, 4.5 on 5 and I would give it an 87.

Retail Price: $11.49
Score: 87
Value: 4.5/5
Region: Italy
Grape: Primitivo
UPC: 8019873924100

Monday, February 23, 2009

This blog needs YOU

I've been posting wine reviews every other day - or more often - for the last six months. At first it was mostly reviews by me and Kelly, but lately a few others - Iron Chef, Michelle (and what happened to Luke?) have also been contributing a lot. But now the pipeline from the regular contributors is dry.

That's not a bad thing. The concept behind this blog was never to have just a few people telling everyone else what wines are good or bad. My opinion isn't worth any more than yours - I don't know anything about wine except what I like or don't like (and even that seems to change day to day). The point of this blog was to share opinions, not to give me a pedestal to be a wine wanker. My goal was to start a CellarTracker for New Brunswick.

So how about it? What have you tried lately? What did you think? Post a review in the Make a Suggestion thread, or send it directly to me at NBwines /at/ gmail /dot/ com. It doesn't have to be elaborate. For example: "I tried Wine X. It tasted like wine. That's great value for $10.49." Or "I tried Wine Y. It tasted like Dr. Pepper. Dr. Pepper is cheaper."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Barefoot Zinfandel- NV

After a few days back in the upper price ranges, here we are with another value wine.

--- Review by Iron Chef ---

This is one of the first Zins that I remember really liking maybe 6 years ago. And for a while I sought out Zins wherever possible. I began to gravitate towards the expressions that were higher and higher in alcohol %, topping out at 16.5% for one of the Montevina Zins. These Port-like monsters hid the subtle qualities of the grape that I really enjoyed and I lost my taste for these wines. In a moment of nostalgia I bought the Barefoot and was happily reminded of the fun nuances of Zinfandel. The colour of the wine was bight cherry red and the nose had dried tobacco leaf- Players Light I think. Also the fruit on the wine was vibrant with some nice tannins. This was not syrupy or heavily extracted- balanced and fresh. Raspberry was the dominant fruit characteristic and there was some peachy flavors also. Very enjoyable.

Retail Price: $11.99
Score: 87
Value: 4/5
Region: California- Lodi
Grape: Zinfandel
Alcohol: 13.5%
UPC: 018341751093

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Antinori Guado al Tasso DOC 2000

Well, we had a week of sub $20 wines, so today we'll jump to the other end of the price range. Here is Iron's Chef's review of one of the prestige wines available at ANBL.

--- Iron Chef's Review ---

Brought this to a tasting that featured Chateau Montelena 1994, Cos D'Estrournel 1998, Ornellaia Masseto 2002, Vega Sicilia 1998 and it was not out of place. There is only 9 bottles of this left in ANBL- run don't walk. WS rated this 93 pts, sandwiched between 95 pt vintages of 1999 and 2001. The Guado was served before a 2001 Solaia btw.

The Palate had menthol, cloves, dries bay leaves, Dulce and smoked bacon, slathered with oaky vanilla. The usual Leather, earthy notes, mushrooms and pencil shavings. The Palate was Meaty- Gamey and really really smooth. Velvety texture. The fruit was still front and centre- strewed cherries and prunes. The full cassis treatment. The wine showed some age, but the fruit was still powerful for a wine from 2000. The term integrated tannins is often used in WS, but I truly tasted what that mean- a fine smooth texture of the wine- it has weight and distinction, but isn't a bully. A beautiful wine.

Price: $77.56
Score: 96- the Solaia was even better.
Value: 4/5
Region: Bolgheri, Italy (Super Tuscan)
Grape: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Syrah
Tasted: Feb 2009
Alcohol 14%
UPC #400009312379

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Matter of Taste

I'm posting this comment from Michelle on a very interesting question - taste. Do you have a taste for old world or new world? Has it changed over the years? Or even from day to day - I've discovered in recent months as my scores for the same wine vary depending on my mood. Do tastes vary from person to person, and is it just preferences, or do we each actually taste something different? Let's get the ball rolling on these questions with Michelle's comments:

--- Michelle's Comment --

It seems lately I have been reading more about the debate of "taste" and how its established. Some believe its something you develop. Others think its what you are exposed to. Or is it genetics. Regardless, each side has its merits I think.

The first wine I can remember trying was a Mouton Cadet white Bordeaux. In hindsight that was probably a bold one to begin with. I can remember thinking it was a bit tart, almost sour tasting. Which now, using my expanded wine vocabulary, would today say was citrusy. But I didn't stop there.

In the development side of things, I cannot say I have been exposed to a lot of different wines. In the early days starting with whites, experimenting with light reds and moving up in the scale to bold Shiraz etc. was typically what everyone did. Is that palate development? Another influence on taste could be that my wine mentors were somewhat limited in their exposure to different wines too. They usually drank mid priced wines, mostly Australian. French or American wines were not the rage then. They were so metro. Another point, my family does not drink wine so influences from what I grew up with is out of the equation. I was however, raised in the country surrounded by gardens, farms, earth. Maybe I associate that smell with home and comfort. Its definitely where my palette has gone. Oaky, earthy wines with ripe berries. Interesting thoughts.

A hotly debated subject today seems to be about the American palette and how they typically like fruit forward wines. Or an "international" style. Some of the smaller producers feel that the larger ones are selling out to produce wine for the masses. This debate even goes so far as saying the French and Italians are moving in that direction too! This would mean losing their terroir. Sacre bleu! Losing terroir! In a nutshell that means wine producers are fudging their wines to make them more palatable to the largest market in the world, the United States. So if you pick up a bottle of Bordeaux and it tastes like bubble gum, you know what happened!! On the question of terroir, how about this, perhaps that the process of wine making has become SO refined, that all of the "flaws' in certain wines have been eradicated? The characteristics that made a Bordeaux are flushed out. Gone because the process is so developed. Therefore its more appealing to the American market. Its not losing terroir at all. I love my oaky, dirt and violets of Chianti Classico. So hopefully that won't change anytime soon. Pretty sure since the CC region is under strict DOC regulation, I will be saved from the bubble gum nation. I shudder to think that Chianti Classico could taste like Boones Snowberry someday.

In my humble opinion, there is nothing wrong with appealing to the largest market in the world. It's a business, like any other. You move to what the market dictates. I know the purists think that the wines are suffering. But who's to say who is wrong and who is right? Buy and drink what you like. Don't be afraid to experiment. It is a matter of taste, and that is something that is as individual as a finger print.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2003

My feelings about this wine have fluctuated wildly. I had it when it was released and I loved it - so much that I went out and bought two six-bottle cases. The next time I tried it, maybe a year or so ago, I was very disappointed - I scored it an 86. Not a bad wine, by any means, but not what you want for $35. We opened another bottle last week, and my first impression was good. Right now we’re sitting here drinking the second half of the bottle, and it’s delicious. It reminds me of one of my favourite styles of Italian wine. It’s a bit reserved on the nose, though with a distinct menthol note. The mouthfeel is great - soft but with good underlying structure. The fruit doesn’t jump out at me - it’s more along the lines of dark fruit, smoke and leather. I think of it as the bass end of the spectrum.

John Schreiner gave the 2003 an 88 when he tasted it in late ‘05 “with potential to move to 90+ with a few years of bottle age.” I think he was right and it has improved.

The ‘05 is available now. The blend has changed slightly with 2005 - a bit less Merlot, a bit more Cab and Malbec. Schreiner liked the ‘05 a bit better than the ‘03, but on the other hand the price has gone up. I’d love to hear from anyone who has tried the ‘05.

At the current price of $45 I don’t think I can give it more than 3/5 for value; which is to say that I think $45 is a fair price to pay for a wine of this quality, but not a steal.

Retail Price: $35 (2003 vintage); $44.99 (currently available 2005)
Score: 90
Value: 3/5
Region: Canada, Okanagan
Grape: (2003) Merlot (75%), Cabernet Sauvignon (11%), Malbec (6%), Petit Verdot (5%), Cabernet Franc (3%)
Tasted: Feb 2009
UPC: 871610001554

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Brumont Tannat Merlot 2006

Our run of modestly priced wine continues, but this time with one to avoid. Good to know, as I might have been tempted if I'd come across this wine - like Iron Chef, I've had good luck with wines from Alain Brumont in the past, and the Tannat grape is something different. Too bad this one didn't work out. Here is a review from Iron Chef.

--- Iron Chef's Review ---

After all the success I have had with the Brumont wines from Madiran, I was shock to realize there was one I had yet to try. I had it in the cellar for a while and was excited to find it buried.
The nose was oaky, spearmint gum, Leafy Green and a familiar smell of a dusty gravel road on a hot day. It smelled very young with a bunch of unripened grapes.

The palate confirmed the nose. Very Grippy front cheeks and jaw felt the sting of the tannins. Sharp biting acidity. Aromas of Allspice and nutmeg probably from the oak. The fruit was unripened cherries and cheap coffee. The palate was hollow in the middle- where the fruit should be and overall very chalky in the mouth. My wife called it harsh, I called it immature. I still expect at this price point some balance between fruit, acidity and tannins, I can’t even imagine what this would taste like without 50% Merlot. This was after 45 minutes in the decanter.

Price: $14.79
Score 70
Value 2/5
Region: Southwest France- Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne
Grape: Tannat, Merlot
Alcohol: 13%
UPC: 3372220000236

Friday, February 13, 2009

Novecento Malbec 2007

We're having a good run with reasonably priced value wines this week. In keeping with that theme, here's a review from Michelle.

--- Michelle's Review ---

While perusing the selection at ANBL recently, I came across the Value Table at the Dieppe location. Now usually I overlook the value wines, because GASP, they aren’t usually that good. I know, I know. I should be more open minded. But alas on this day, I was. So I picked up a bottle. Much to my surprise, this wine was actually good. Lots of lively fruit with a smooth finish. It’s a very pleasant wine. Nothing offensive or really anything you have to think about while drinking it. Makes you go “hhmmmm, $9.99, eh?” That’s about it. So for a 5/5 value rating and about an 85 on the taste scale for me, I really recommend you pick up a bottle or two or three.

Retail Price: $9.99
Score 85
Value 5/5
Region: Argentina
Grape: Malbec
Tasted: Feb 2009
UPC: 7790717152002

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Patriarche Pére & Fils Pinot Noir Reserve 2005

The grape that made Burgundy famous, Pinot Noir has long been one of my favourites. It has a reputation for being difficult to cultivate, but excellent when successfully managed. I've no idea whether that's true, but I do find it less reliable than some other grapes, particularly if price is factored into the equation. So, this wine is a particularly excellent find.

Its nose is lush and perfumed, mostly of violets, spices, fruit, and menthol. It is light and full on the palate, and moderately long. I guessed it was an Oregon Pinot, from which I conclude that it exhibits significant New World character. It is much more perfumed than fruity or earthy.

Price: $15.49
Score 86
Value 4.5/5
Region: Pays d'Oc, France
Grape: Pinot Noir
Tasted: Feb 2009
Alcohol: 12.5%
UPC: 3040072153034

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Santa Rita 120 Chardonnay 2007

Yesterday Anon posted a comment to the effect that fancy wine is all well and good, but what most people want most of the time is something quaffable at a reasonable price. I couldn't agree more, so here's a review from Iron Chef of a reasonably priced winner. Kelly will have a review of a bargain red coming up next.

But remember, THIS IS NOT AN EXCLUSIVE CLUB. Anyone who drinks wine from ANBL and has an opinion is welcome to post a review in the "Make a Suggestion" thread (or comment on a wine that has already been reviewed). This is all about getting the conversation going.

--- Iron Chef's Review ---

Tropical Friuts of Pineapple, mango, kiwi and caramilk bars greet the nose- faint oaky aromas of vanilla. Palate was complex- lots going on. Velvety Creme- creme brulee. Mango gelato, tonnes of vanilla but without that mouth scratching woody popsicle stick stuff that sometimes goes hand in hand. The fruit was vibrant and fresh. One drawback was a touch of Anti-acid mouth finish like Tums. Liked it more than the Aresti but not as much as the Medalla.

Retail Price: $12.99
Score 89.5
Value 4.5/5
Region: chile, Maule Valley
Grape: Chardonnay
Tasted: Jan 2009
Alcohol: 14%
UPC: 089419007183

PS- Thinking about Santa Rita- I do not think there is a line-up of wines that is more solid than the Santa Rita at ANBL at this time. Of the wines that I have had, Santa Rita 120 Sauv Blanc and Chardonnay, Reserva Line of Sauv Blanc, Cabernet, Medalla level Cab and Chardonnay, and the Florestas Sauv Blanc and the Petite Syrah they have all been highly impressive. I would recommend this group of wines over any other at the appropriate price points.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Royal Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos / Blue Label 1996

Tokaj is a town in northern Hungary, and Tokaji its sweet, white, botrytised wine. Produced beginning in the 16th century and famously prized by nobility of many countries, Tokaji was apparently so valuable to the tsars of Russia that an entire detachment of Cossacks was maintained for the purpose of escorting convoys of it from Hungary to St Petersburg. It declined in the 20th century through a combination of phylloxera epidemics and neglect during two world wars and Soviet rule. In the 1980s international investment and production resurged.

Tokaji is made primarily from the grape varieties Furmint and Hárslevelû, although four others are permitted. It is made from aszú, which are dry grapes affected with botrytis fungus (a.k.a. the "noble rot"). The grapes are placed in a wooden hod called a puttony, from which the sweet, concentrated juice drains. "5 Puttonyos" indicates how many hods of grapes go into a unit of wine, and therefore its sweetness. 5 Puttonyos is midway between the driest and sweetest types of Tokaji.

Norman picked this Tokaji up on sale for $9/bottle after the Expo in 2003 or so. It is viscous, with the rich topaz colour characteristic of Tokaji. The nose is an intense mix of raisins, spice, candied orange rind, and floral notes. On the palate, sweetness is nicely balanced with a sharp acidity. It is best served cold. We found it to be interesting for a change, and also excellent in itself. I enjoyed a small glass in lieu of dessert and felt like royalty.

250 ml
Price: This was bought at ANBL on clearance sale for approx $10. Price for the current vintage in the US is about $40 for 500ml
Score: 91
Value: 4/5
Region: Tokaj, Hungary
Grape: Furmint, Hárslevelû
UPC: no longer listed

Friday, February 6, 2009

Rymill MC2 2003

I’m all about Bordeaux blends lately. I find that new world versions of this old world classic tend to offer a great combination of “oomph” and elegance. In this case, the blend is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, and 12% Cabernet Franc. It’s not the fruity, oaky wine that I usually expect from Australia at this price. Peppery, on the nose, with notes of capers, ripe blackberries, and maybe leather and spice, it’s approachable and well balanced, clear and smooth on the palate with firm but fine tannins and good intensity and length. It’s good value at the price.

Norman really liked the Rymill booth at the Expo. While I wasn’t so keen then, after many hours of tasting, I’ve got to agree with him now. Their 2004 Shiraz is also a winner.

The only small negative is that the MC2 has a bit of the unpleasant capers/capsicum/peppers quality that some people detect in some Cabernet Sauvignons. (Remember the high school science experiment in which PTC-infused paper rates from unremarkable to untasty to stupendously revolting, according to the taster’s genotype? I think it’s like that, except maybe it has to do with underripe grapes.) I can’t detect that flavour, so it didn’t affect my enjoyment.

Price: $19.99
Score: 88
Value: 4/5
Region: Coonawarra, Australia
Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc
Tasted: Jan 2009
UPC: 9315128981089

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dona Paula Los Cardos Syrah 2007

Here's another review from Iron Chef. It doesn't make me want to try the Los Cardos . . . but the Palo Alto is another question. I had that on my "to try" list and never got around to it - sounds like I should.

--- Iron Chef's Review ---

Dark to Purple-ish colour. Smells of Meat Pies from Northern NB- Gamey, wild aromas- Deer Meat. Black Ground Pepper. Warm Blueberry Pie with vanilla ice cream. Some stemmy notes. Very similar to the Palo Alto from Chile- less extracted but more fragment. Good tannins and surpringly good acidity. Mahogany Wood favours. Looking back, I should have rated the Palo Alto higher – 87-89 – that’s what you get from perspective. Finish is shorter than I would have guessed from the Nose- more woody and tannic as it sits opening up. First glass was much better than 1 hour in. Overall not the wine that the Palo Alto is …but good. I find “New world’ syrahs to be fun glasses of wine- this is fun- but there is better for cheaper at ANBL.

Price: $17.49
Score: 85
Value: 3.4/5
Region: Lujan De Cuyo – Mendoza – Argentina
Grape: Syrah
Alcool: 14%
UPC: 836950000032

Monday, February 2, 2009

Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz 2001

For a few years this was one of my favourite reasonably priced Aussie Shiraz' so I have a number of vintages in the cellar. We've tried the '98 and '03 within the past few months, and a few nights ago I pulled out an '01.

I served it blind to Kelly, as always and she immediately guessed it was an Aus Shiraz from about 2000 - bang on. But I never confirm until she agrees that she has made an "official guess." So then she changed her mind and "officially" guessed it was Italian (wrong), Chilean (wrong!) or Argentinean (wrong!!). This was great, because I mocked her a lot then and I get to mock her some more now. The best thing about being the cellar master is that no one ever tests me on a blind tasting - (except tancred, but he always brings Australian Shiraz) - so I get to be really smug and mock everyone else.

Anyway, I think that speaks really well for the wine - distinctly Australian, but with enough elegance that it could be mistaken for Italian.

Here are Kelly's tasting notes: "Reserved nose of vanilla up front, and also licorice and blackberries and a hint of spruce. Dark and chewy on the palate, with very firm tannins throughout. Long."

Another interesting thing about this wine is that lately I've been losing my taste for Australian wine, and Australian Shiraz in particular. It's hard to say whether it's my tastes that are changing or the Aussie style. This makes me think that maybe it's Aussie wine itself that is changing. It seems to me that a lot of recent vintage Aus Shiraz that I've had is a caricature of Aus Shiraz, with the fruit and oak taken over the top. This Jacob's Creek reminded me of how Australia made it's reputation.

Price: Approx $27
Score: 91
Value: 4/5
Region: Australia
Grape: Shiraz
Tasted: Jan 2009
UPC: No longer available.