Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A year of wine

I guess it's that time of the year, when we look back at some of the amazing wine experiences of 2008. I've had a lot of fantastic wines, a lot due to the kindness and generosity of friends, and many just of sheer luck. Whatever their provenance, I'm extremely grateful for these experiences - I've learned a lot, improved my tasting abilities, and began writing more in earnest. Thanks for reading, I feel like I've shared these wines with you as well. A year in wine...


Wines of Provence: Drank many humble, local wines in Nice, and they were perfect in that setting. Simple wines to go with rustic dishes, what could be more fitting? And yes, I drank a fair share of Provencal rosé. Best memory was the red wine I had with my entrecote. The name of the wine? Un verre de vin rouge.

2005 Chateau Morin, AC St-Estephe: My introduction to the 2005 Bordeaux vintage. One of the first 2005's released by LCBO at the time. More importantly, shared it over dinner with a lovely girl. Alas, the affection was one-sided.

2001 Chateau de Monbazillac: Another new region tasted, of the same namesake. An intensely, minerally sweet wine, a reminder that good desert wines don't necessarily have to be from Sauternes.

NV Champagne Drappier Brut, Carte D'Or: We opened this bottle for my mother's birthday. Who says rich and creamy Champagne has to cost over $50?

2006 Flat Rock Pinot Noir, VQA Twenty Mile Bench: What a revelation for me, perception-wise, about Niagara red wines! Earthy, intense, balanced wine that bowled me over.

2002 Marynissen Cabernet/Merlot, VQA Niagara: Likewise, this proves that Niagara can produce wines of density, purity, and longevity. Too bad no one else has figured it out yet.

2001 Beronia, DOC Rioja Reserva: Enjoyed over dinner at a friend's place, with lots of food and laughter. Earthy, complex - the wine that made me pause for a minute amidst all the mirth, in contemplation.

2005 Chateau La Gasparde, AC Cotes de Castillon: What more can I say about this wine, and the Cotes de Castillon. Absolutely my favourite wine of the year. So intense, so rich, so dense, so complex. Inky dark, floral and fresh. Immense aging potential. It blows my mind that this wine is $15. Cotes de Castillon needs to be recognized for the amazing merlot-dominated wines it produces. What a wine!

2003 Couly-Dutheil "La Baronnie Madeleine", AC Chinon: After a few disappoints from the Loire, this was the wine that got me hooked on the region, and restored my faith. Unabashedly green and vegetal, but so complex and interesting. Lots of regional typicity, this is undeniably Chinon.

2003 Marques de Riscal, DOC Rioja Reserva: Wrapped in a net, I was afraid of a gimicky wine, but this was anything but. Rustic, rich, with subtle oak - this is a wine only Rioja can produce!

2004 Castellani Burchina Antiche Tenute, DOC Chianti Superiore: With all the controversy in Tuscany, can we trust sangiovese wines anymore? I'm willing to, based on how this wine drank. Dusty tannins, earthy cherries, the archetype of fine sangiovese.

2005 Cantine Grotta Del Sole, DOC Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio: Of all the places to find a Lacryma Christi, I find this in Yokohama. In Japan, for goodness! So fragrant, high acidity, earthy wines that speak of the hot clay, high altitude, and the rustic Italian countryside.

2006 Thirty Bench Wine Maker's Riesling, VQA Beamsville Bench: My first wine from this estate, instantly mesmerized. Racy acidity, almost aggressive - who else but a visionary could craft such a wine? The saviour of Niagara.

2004 Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Pinot Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula: After some bottle age, what complexities you have developed! Unmistakable Niagara nose of hot clay and cherries, perfectly balanced. I piss on this estate all the time, but this is the one wine they make I absolutely love.

NV Champagne Gardet, Cuvée Foudres Selected Reserve, AC Chigny-Les-Roses: With all the extended time on the lees before disgorging, this wine is like reduced nose of Champagne. So yeasty, so minerally, so.......incredibly unique. Bread, anyone?

1999 Bodegas Lan, DOC Rioja Reserva: Anyone who thinks these wines can't age in the bottle can shove one up their................Absolutely delicious red berries and floral notes, dusty tannins, fine texture. So much life let, this is barely adolescent.

2007 Lailey Pinot Noir, barrel sample: We had good fortune to taste this wine out of barrel in the Lailey cellars. A wine for Niagara history, in the best vintage ever seen. Intense, tannic, but with beautiful balance and fruit. The Lailey style, but speaks so much of Niagara. Thank you for the taste, and for the insight.

1991 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, AC Pauillac: How many times in your life can you say that you've tasted a Premier Grand Cru Classe? This is one of those times. Even in a weak vintage, great Bordeaux always shows its pedigree. It just builds and builds in an arcing crescendo of hot clay, mocha, and dried fruits. So complex, so warm - a wine that entrances you and leaves you with a hauntingly long finish. I'll never forget this wine.

1980 Kopke Colheita Port: Drinking wine older than you should be a mandatory experience for everyone who denies the spirituality of wine. Such a complex wine: caramel, toffee, with a crunch wafer finish. Heady.

2006 Shalestone Cabernet Franc, Finger Lakes: What a surprise - great red wine from the Finger Lakes. A surprise, given all the shit we tasted our whole time there. Shit, that the Americans attempted to pass off as wine. But this cabernet franc, well........amazing. Great density, that tightness. Wow! Thank you Rob, you never really know what treasures you'll find when you keep an open mind.

2002 Forstmeister Geltz Zilliken, Ockfener Bockstein, QmP Riesling Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer: I love these grand statements that white wine can't age, and shouldn't be aged. True Wine Drinkers know better. Intense minerality, great riesling characters, an age-worthy wine that was opened 10 years too soon.

NV Champagne Chapuy, Brut Reserve Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru: To celebrate the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. So untrue, that Grand Cru, 100% chardonnay Champagne has to be expensive. A lovely wine for a momentous occasion.

1994 Schloss Schonborn Riesling, QbA Rheingau: With this wine, my love for German rieslings is official. So rich, so complex, but yet, this wine is so alive! And still quite young. Perfect balance in the minerality, citrus notes, acidity, and slight sweetness.

1998 Bolla ''Le Origini'', DOC Amarone Della Valpolicella: Saved for sentimental reasons. Amarone can be too much when young - this is perfect. Dried prunes and currants, great acidity, what a wonderful accompaniment to dinner!

1999 Domaine Huet Brut, AC Vouvray: France produces so many excellent sparkling wines besides Champagne, and I'm going to try them all. This one's been kept for some time. Deep golden, buttery, with lots of citrus zest. Fine mousse, to compete with the best of Champagne.

2005 Lailey Pinot Noir, VQA Niagara Peninsula: The greatness of Niagara, exemplified. Still tight, still tannic. Great intensity of colour, with brambly complexity. A wine for the cellar, and a great success.

2000 Chateau Franc-Maillet, AC Pomerol: When the esteemed J&PC come over for dinner, what else but the finest Bordeaux will do? An old-fashioned, sensible wine. Lots of vegetal complexities, but with great fruit holding it up. Still tight, but very ripe tannins from a great year.

1999 Chateau Potensac, AC Medoc: A wine from my first serious Bordeaux purchase. Close to my heart. Elegant, classic claret.

1981 Kopke Colheita Port: I have the great fortune to taste not one, but two old ports. A bit tougher than the 1980, but still interesting nonetheless. The finish on these wines......................

2002 Marynissen Cabernet, VQA Niagara: These people should be commended on their ability to coax the most out of their cabernet, in such difficult climates. Rich and fully ripe, but with fantastic green flavours that you find only in the best clarets. The 50% cabernet franc does marvelous work. A wine, again, to cellar away for 7-15.

2005 Thirty Bench ''Triangle Vineyard'' Riesling: Is this a German riesling I'm tasting? Niagara needs to build its reputation on these wines - complex, intense rieslings, with lots of minerality and substance. I will pay any amount of money for these wines. Ageworthy as well.

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