Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Intense German rieslings

I want to talk about 2 German rieslings that I had over the weekend that left such an impression on me.

I've always loved German wines, rieslings, as well as Austrian wines, gruner veltliner. It's the balance, the acidity, the complexity, and the minerality that just makes them so unique. Been looking forward to get into some of these wines in depth, so very excited to taste these two wines.


The first was a 2006 Furst Lowenstein, Hallgarten Schonhell, QmP Riesling Kabinett, from the Rheingau. Young wine.

Light colour, but intense nose. Citrus and honey. Wonderful acidity and backbone, tempered by the slightest amount of residual sugar. Perfect balance. Tastes a bit tart and tough compared to the 2002 we had later, but definitely will age very well. Long, mineral laced finish. Wow.

The second wine was a 2002 Forstmeister Geltz Zilliken, Ockfener Bockstein, QmP Riesling Kabinett, from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. I don't have a lot of experience with older white wines, so this was exciting. But then again, 2002 is hardly an 'older' vintage.

Deeper colour. What an intense nose! Lots of yeasty aromas, mineral, tropical fruits. A wild, wild wine. So big on the palate, creamy and filling, with the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. And by the way, for a Kabinett, this was much sweeter than I expected. But a gloriously long, minerally/citrus finish. An exceptional wine, very unique, very interesting.

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Looking forward to trying more of these wines. As I've said before, I really believe in Niagara rieslings, so definitely want to experience more of their Old-World influences. Also want to begin buying some of these German rieslings to put away, as clearly, they can age so well.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Post No. 101

Profile - colour

This is my One Hundred and First post here. Looking back on my last 100 posts, it's interesting to see how everything's developed, and everything that's happened. Promise to write more regularly. Wrote more in July than I have in any other month, and I want to keep that up.

Again, I know that outside of my group of friends, no one reads this. And even then, I know that there's only a handful of people that regularly come back, so thanks very much for the support. I'm not out to get a large following. This is personal for me - I just feel like it's good for me to keep a written record, to see how my palate develops and things like that.

Has my palate changed since I started writing here? Definitely, yes. I drank a lot more wine in my 4th year in university, which was a big help. Really broadened my experiences. Also, learned a bit more about the industry. Following Bordeaux and other industry news very closely now. And clearly the most important, started going up to Niagara every couple of months, to visit the properties and engage in dialogue with them. This is an exciting new region, producing quality wines, and I want to witness every single step.

So what's up for the next 100 posts? I don't know. Will definitely be talking about Bordeaux futures when the prices come out, and I start making my buy list. Also, planning on drinking a few interesting things later in the year, during the holiday season. Definitely will visit Niagara again sometime in the fall, and visit some new properties. So, a lot of exciting stuff. Thanks for reading, please visit often.

Contrast in styles and attitude

Lately, I've been drinking a lot of rieslings. Not that I've suddenly fell in love with them - it's just that the weather's inducing me to drink more white wines, and I was really impressed with the quality of Niagara rieslings, so naturally, I want to explore more of them, in particular those from Germany.

Let's start with a comparison of two New World rieslings. One, a Finger Lakes riesling, and one, a Niagara riesling. Both regions claim to produce world class rieslings, so let's see if it's true or just a load of shit. And excuse me once again for the atrocious pictures.


First bottle - a 2006 Hermann J. Wiemer Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, NY. We had this wine at Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine (click to read my post). I was told this producer was the best in the region at producing rieslings, along with Dr. Frank, so I was excited. Also, it was $36, so a reasonable markup.

Let me get straight to it - I was disappointed. Americans like sweet things. Sweet, cloying, obnoxiously simple wines. This was anything BUT a dry riesling. And not that there's anything wrong with that - most German rieslings are slightly sweet. I expected some residual sugar, but to me, this sweetness was unbalanced. Adequate acidity in the wine, but it was more than overshadowed by the sugar. Other than that, some minerality, some tropical fruits, not a lot of complexity, I just don't see how this is the best Finger Lakes riesling. Cloying in the throat.

Don't get me wrong, it's a well made wine. It's just I don't see any regional typicity, not a lot of character. I can think of several rieslings we tasted on our last Niagara trip that easily are more memorable than this one.

The next bottle was a 2006 Flat Rock Cellars Riesling, VQA Twenty Mile Bench. This is their estate riesling, $17.35. As you know, I really love this producer, especially with their pinot noir. I've also tried their unoaked chardonnay, which was interesting. I tasted this riesling at the winery, and came away very impressed. I was hoping that it would show even better in the bottle.

This is still very young, and for me, the acidity levels in Niagara wines make them excellent candidates for aging. Would have loved to taste this wine a few years down the road, but couldn't wait!

On the nose, a lot of varietal characteristics - fragrant, grassy, petrol - everything you'd associate with riesling. So fresh on the palate, but with excellent weight and presence. Nice creaminess, but none of that obnoxious flabby quality you get with over-manipulated white wines. Just delightful. And the finish!! A long, crisp, dry finish, that cleanses your palate so nicely. A subtle sweetness that lingers, definitely makes you reach for another mouthful.
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So, it should be pretty obvious which of the two wines I liked more. Niagara wines are much truer wines - true to their variety, true to the land and climate. There isn't over-manipulation, which I loathe. Just an honest interpretation of the fruit, in a style that isn't designed to be mainstream and bland. A uniquely made wine, that forces you to pay attention.

Of course, the Finger Lakes riesling has its good qualities as well - it's just that it's an ordinary wine. Its the same as any ordinary riesling produced in Australia, California, wherever. The future of New World riesling? Niagara, Ontario, Canada.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Just one more lot

Added one more lot of wines to my 2006 Bordeaux Futures orders. I know, I just can't help it. Damn, it's not even like I actually have any disposable income. Anyways, been looking at this estate for a long time, and very excited to have a couple more bottles coming in.



It was a lot of 2006 Ch. Chasse-Spleen, AC Moulis. Not a very well-known region of Bordeaux, but this estate has a reputation for high quality wines, and that's all that matters. Oh, and I saw a video of the owner somewhere. Very eccentric looking, but he looks like someone who understands fine wines.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Just a little hangover

The moment I cleaned my wine glasses and brushed my teeth last night, I could feel it. Shit, I feel kind of drunk. Not the kind where you want to puke everywhere - not yet. Just tipsy and getting very sleepy. Tried to sleep it off. Still a bit hungover right now. Trying to drink lots of water.

Wow...the wines we had last night were surprising. Great wines - a Mosel Saar Ruwer and a Rheingau. Both riesling kabinetts, and quite light - 8% and 11% alc. So how did I get so pissed? Don't know, maybe just out of practice.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

What a boring life

I am so bored. No money, no action, nothing. I'm even running out of wine! I don't know how things can get any worse.

There's no more red wine in the house. Just one more bottle of 2006 Flat Rock Cellars Nadja's Vineyard Riesling, and a 2007 Ch. d'Aqueria, AC Tavel. And a lot of scotch and cognac. And about 1/4 bottle of that port left. Oh my goodness.

Some things to look forward to though. Next LCBO release has some of that Lailey pinot noir that I really love. And also, the Beijing Olympics are starting soon. I'm opening a Champagne to celebrate - a Chapuy Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs.

Anyways, that still doesn't make my life any more exciting. Oh my goodness, this is getting pathetic. I'm going downstairs to have a sandwich.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Decanter Magazine

I've always loved reading Decanter magazine. In general, I find British wine writers to be of a much higher quality than American. I just like their perspective on things. They never have to prove that they know what they're talking about, unlike Americans. They just write about the wine.

Anyways, subscribed earlier this month - it's pretty expensive, so that's why I was holding off. Maybe because they mail it from the UK? Two years. I bought the June issue, and the July is on newstands. However...I didn't know until today that my first issue won't be until September. So I'm going to have to buy the July and August at Chapters. I don't mind though. Just reading Michael Broadbent's piece is worth the price of the whole thing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wine-drinkers

I plan on drinking every single bottle of wine in my cellar. Every single bottle. I don't collect - I have neither the finances nor the foolishness to do so. To say you collect wine is such a disrespect. You drink wine, not display it as a showpiece.

Wine loses all its value as soon as you open the cork. It's just an agricultural product, after all. And there will always be another vintage, and another vintage after that. I keep wine to track its aging, and experience it in different stages of its maturation. I don't understand people who explicitly buy wine as an investment. Probably the same kind of prick that introduces themselves by their business school degrees.

Enjoy wine! It's for drinking. I love appreciating the colours, the aromas, the complexities of wine. And sometimes, I just love getting hammered off a good bottle. So stop analyzing it like a stock and stop treating it as such. If that's the way things are heading, with more and more people investing in wine instead of drinking, then we're f*cked.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine

I have to talk about this restaurant we ate in at the Finger Lakes. It's called Suzanna Fine Regional Cuisine - country dishes, beautiful farmhouse dining room, friendly staff, and the most important, fresh local, seasonal foods.

I heard about this restaurant from a couple of places. It specializes in regional foods and produce. Whenever I visit a place, I always want to eat local foods. How else are you going to get to know a place until you eat food that's been grown and raised there?

It was an easy drive, and the restaurant looks over Seneca Lake. A beautiful farmhouse. Our server was such a sweetheart. For dinner, we ordered 2 salads and a corn soup - for entrees, a pork tenderloin, duck breast, and cod. For wine, a 2006 Hermann J. Weimer Riesling. Everything we ate was from the region, it was fresh, and it was in season. Perfect. I enjoyed the food. Not inexpensive though. Simple, country dishes, nothing fancy. And I mean, nothing fancy. The food was so fresh, the cuts were top quality. And that's all you can ask out of a restaurant. Very impressed. Really got a taste of the local produce. Interesting experience.

Here's a couple of pictures of the outside and the dining room. If you're in the area, make sure you visit.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Taxes and tasting in an uncivil manner

Writing about Shalestone got me worked up about something. I purchased 2 bottles of Shalestone wine - the Cabernet Franc of course, as well as the Merlot. The merlot was a bit too soft for me - pleasant but a little soft. My father wanted it, so we got it. Definitely would have prefered to get 2 bottles of cabernet franc, but I wasn't paying.

Anyways, I thought that we could bring 2 bottles back to Canada, no problem. Turns out its only duty free if you've been away for at least 48 hours. The wines cost $43 in total, but the customs duties were $28.53. How does that make sense? Punishing honest Canadian citizens just for buying some wine? A really negligible amount, if you think about it. It's not like I was bringing back 20 cases. Just 2 bottles, between 3 people. This is why all this talk about economic closeness between the two countries is absolute bullshit, because everyone just wants to make money, even if its off their own citizens.

What I was a bit disappointed about was that there were so many people visiting the wineries that you never are able to engage in a real dialogue with the staff. Its nothing more than a tasting bar - they pour you the wine, then they have to move on to the next group of people.

Unbelievable. I'm sure it'll be better after the summer tourist season passes, but it's such a different experience than being in Niagara. I'm not plugging for Niagara, but Ontario offers such a better experience. I'm leaving out the commentary about loud, obnoxious, boorish Americans, but you get the idea.

Shalestone Vineyards

When I was researching which wineries in the Finger Lakes I was going to visit, the name Shalestone came up quite a bit. It had the reputation as producing the best red wines in the region, so of course this was going to be my first stop. Quite wary of claims like this, but eager to taste and find out.

The winery is on a stretch of nice road parallel to Seneca Lake, on the east shore. The winemaker, Rob Thomas, was pouring, and he was a very personable guy. Really likes to get to know the people who come into the winery. And the flow of people coming in never stopped.

We tasted through all thes wines. The wine list is below. I can do without all the colourful descriptions, but it shows the personality of the winery.


The wines had a common character to them. They had had lovely, aromatic noses, with lots of character and varietal typicity. The were dense, very focussed wines, with a clean, long finish. Purity and silkiness, but with enough stiff structure to hold its hold up. Wonderfully made wines, really exceptional. I fell in love with the cabernet franc. Really, I don't think I've tasted a better cabernet franc outside of the Loire Valley. So rich, but not over-manipulated. The density and clarity of the texture is amazing. As yet, this is definitely the best cabernet franc in the New World.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to taste the pinot noir. We did taste the pinot noir rose, but I wanted to try the red wine. And also, they didn't have a 100% syrah. Would have been interesting to compare it with the Lailey syrah.

Overall, Rob makes excellent wines. Focussed, honest wines, just like the winemaker. Brave and unapologetic about the fact that this is riesling country, and people don't really expect great red wine to come out of the region. That's why you have to keep an open mind about wine - you never know what to expect. As far as Bordeaux-style blends and cabernet, Shalestone is definitely one of the best. I can't stress that enough, how happy I am to have visited this winery and to have tasted Rob's wines. Just incredible wines. Everyone in Niagara who says they make great cabernets - you need to taste Shalestone wines, because this is the benchmark that EVERYONE should be aiming for.

The winery and production facility entrance:

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Back from the Finger Lakes

Returned from the Finger Lakes today, one day ahead of schedule. Just wasn't really feeling the area, or the wines. No point in staying another night.

Not that I really dislike the place. It's just - something. It doesn't give me anything to be excited about. The place is like the wines - little to no character.

Drove all day today, about 500 km. Very tired. And to make things worse - we got taxed at customs. For the wine we bought back. A grand total of 2 bottles. TWO f*cking bottles! Unbelievable. Judging by how aggressively the Cdn government goes after its own citizens, they do a pretty f*cking shitty job at stopping actual felonies. I mean, if they went after real crimes like they go after taxing petty purchases, we'd be living in an exceptional country.

Anyways, I'm still hurting over the $28.53 in taxes and fines they made us pay. Will post up some pictures tomorrow. Don't plan on getting up until at least noon.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Not impressed...at all

I'm sitting in our hotel, in the Finger Lakes region. We visited a couple of wineries, tasted about 30 wines. Not that many, but enough to get an impression of the region. And I'm not impressed. With the exception of Shalestone Vineyards, the wineries here make flabby wine, for learning disabled drinkers.

Very happy with what I tasted at Shalestone. Not only was Rob friendly and genuine, he was honest. That's the most important thing you can ask for from an owner/winemaker. Honesty. And on top of that, he makes magnificent red wines. The cabernet franc was so impressive. Dense, focussed, tight and hard. Just delicious. As were all his wines, from his Bordeaux blends to his merlot. I had hoped to taste his pinot noir, but it wasn't available. Also, I would have wanted to try his syrah, if he made a 100% varietal. Just for comparison with the Lailey Syrah that we tasted last month.

Americans have a very different idea about wine than Canadians and Niagara winemakers. I don't want to call it flawed, but they just value different things - I think it's not the proper approach, but who am I to pass judgement? And another thing that really pisses me off... They insist on having you pay for tastings! It's so foreign to me, because Niagara wineries never ASK for payment. Even if I don't buy any wines, I feel like there's no obligation. I try to engage the people at the winery in dialogue about their wines, about their philosophy, and I never feel forced to buy wine. You feel that pressure in the Finger Lakes. It's a horrible feeling - especially when this rabid bitch chases you at the door to pay $4 for a tasting of wines, that were genuinely quite f*cking horrible.

I will post some pictures tomorrow. Really surprised by Shalestone, really grew attached to all their wines. Compelling, well-made, honest wines. And I have to post some pictures of the restaurant we had dinner at.

Anyways - at this point - I want to get out of here. This place jsut doesn't hold up to Niagara at all, in any way. No way. Any one of Thirty Bench's wines will knock these so called "top riesling estates" out. You're kidding me right? Feeding me this bullshit about how Finger Lakes makes world quality riesling? Give me a f*cking break.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Finger Lakes

Just finished planning out a route for a road trip. I'm going up to the Finger Lakes, in New York State. Don't really know what to expect - to me, this is just another one of those cookie cutter tourist spots, like a cheap version of Niagara Falls without all the casinos. Wow, I probably offended some people saying that. Sorry.

Visiting some wineries, of course. Going to Shalestone Vineyards, Hermann J. Wiemer, Miles Wine Cellar and Attwater Estate. Don't know any of these places, or what wine they make. This list was made based on recommendations, so I hope they turn out to be nice.

Stuck in middle-aged tourism hell for an entire weekend.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Buying large format bottles

All the bottles of wine I purchase are standard, 75 cL bottles, because of space and financial restrictions. I'd really to start looking into larger format bottles, such as magnums (1.5 L), double magnums (3 L), or maybe even bigger. That's because they look impressive, and I do believe that they age better, under the right circumstances of course. Also, if you're looking to buy wine to commemorate a special occasion, I think large bottles are the way to go.

I was thinking this when I got an offer from LCBO to buy large format from Ch. Pontet Canet. This estate is a Cinquièmes Crus, from Pauillac. What was the only thing stopping me? Money, of course. It's always about money.




Definitely, in the future, I'll purchase large bottles. Just waiting for the right occasion, the right price, and of course, the right cellar conditions. And of course, lots of wine loving friends to share it with. After all - is anyone even physically capable of downing a magnum of wine, no matter how good, and still remember what it tastes like?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Are we alcoholics?

You know the single rationale I've heard the most about why I shouldn't get into wine? The argument that I hear constantly and has been most consistent? That I'll become an alcoholic.

First off, let me say, shut up. Honestly. There's several people who I'll take that kind of criticism from, but most people have this perception of me as some out of control binge drinker. So for those people, don't make judgements on me until you understand exactly what kind of person I am, and what wine really means to me.

It's like someone who's really into collecting stamps. They can spend countless hours and thousands of dollars buying up stamps, and the most people will say about them is, "Oh, they're really dedicated to their hobby. That's great." I spend the same effort on wine and the reaction I get is "David, you're liver is going to rot."

I don't buy that argument. First of all, I appreciate the wine - not the alcohol. Big difference. Alcohol is just a natural part of wine, but I don't derive any pleasure from getting piss drunk. Maybe a little from getting buzzed, but definitely not getting drunk. And come on - alcoholics get drunk off of cheap vodka. If I were going to get drunk off of wine everyday, I'd piss all of my money in 2 weeks.

So don't judge people if you don't really know what they're about. Learn about wine first, and then judge me. I'll tell you right now - the vast majority knows nothing about my hobby. It's like me criticizing a scientific paper. I might hate the guy who wrote it, but the material goes way over my head. What kind of dumbass would take me seriously?

My interest in wine is personal, and no one else's business. I don't go around telling you how you should spend your money or what hobby you should pursue, and I don't appreciate it when I get judged. If wine intimidates you, then stay away. Leave me alone. If I hear this shit again, I swear I'll lose my f*cking mind.

They're coming!

Got an email from LCBO that brightened up my day a little - and then I thought about it in closer detail. LCBO announced today that they're releasing their 2007 Bordeaux Futures catalogue soon. Very very exciting news.


So...that means I'm going to have to start saving up. Spend less. Drink a bit less. I need money!!!!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Breaking shit

My friends will tell you that I buy a lot of wine glasses, as well as break a lot of them. Maybe that's the reason why I buy so many in the first place. It's frustrating to break a glass I really like, but I've learned to accept it as one of the hazards of my hobby.

Crystal is just too damn easy to break. I thought it was because of the stems, so I got a couple of Riedel's "O" series glasses. They're the ones with just the bowl, no stem. But.......my father still managed to shatter one of those, so that argument has been proven wrong.

Just recently, my mother broke one of my favourite glasses. It's a standard size bowl, tulip shaped. I love it because I drink it with everything - red wine, white wine, Champagne, port, eau-de-vie - everything. So now I only have 2 of them left, and no hands or lips but mine are going to touch it.

Is there any way to prevent this? I don't think so. Except maybe I should buy glasses by the dozen. Or I can just drink wine out of a bowl, like we did in 2nd year. We were so desperate.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Flat Rock Clone

When we were in Niagara, we had dinner at a place called On the Winery. It was a great place - simple, rustic foods, very fresh, and in season as well. The wine we ordered was quite interesting. It was the 2004 Flat Rock Cellars Clone 667 Pinot Noir.

I've seen these clone bottles at LCBO before. They were offered in a box of four, with four different clones of pinot noir. That's really interesting - I suppose they were experimenting with which clone worked best and decided to bottle for it, for fun. When you taste them side by side, they're just so different.

I'm quite familiar with Flat Rock's estate pinot noir, so I was looking forward to this wine. It's much more herbaceous, and has an interesting minerality to the wine. But a problem I'm noticing in many of these wines, is that they're quite soft. This doesn't apply to just Flat Rock, I noticed it with a 2004 Malivoire Pinot Noir as well. These aren't very old wines, but are softening up already. Can't say for certain if this is really the case - there's too many variables, like storage conditions, my taste buds........yes, maybe it's just me.


This bottle was interesting. I can imagine this being one of the wines the blend to make their estate pinot noir with. Fascinating.

2007 Bordeaux En Primeur

There's been a lot of industry talk about the 2007 Bordeaux vintage. A lot of American writers have written the vintage off. Even the Asians aren't a sure bet to buy. So hopefully, that'll translate into lower prices, because I feel like we've been spanked around by the 2005 and 2006 prices.

But the power is all up to the Bordeaux estates. We really don't have a say, because I'm sure there'll always be a market for top end Bordeaux, regardless of price. It's getting quite ridiculous - I still can't wrap my head around the idea of a triple digit bottle of wine. I mean...it's a perishable drink!

I will be so happy if prices went down. I'm hoping for at least a decrease of 30%. The vast majority of people are ignorant, and will run away as soon as they read about critics panning the vintage. That's what I'm hoping for. Come on, how many of these people can really distinguish the difference between vintages anyways? Give me a break. You're not going to buy because Wine Spectator says it's been a bad year?

If that's the case, and prices are down, it'll be good - for me. A lot of more reasonably priced wines I can buy. I have a list of wines I want to look at. It'll also be a good time to look at some of the more top level producers. After all, this is a vintage to drink while my 2005 and 2006s mature.

My wish list:

Ch. La Lagune
Ch. L'Arrosee
Ch. Chasse Spleen
Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou
Ch. Canon la Gaffeliere
Ch. Smith Haut Laffite
Ch. Suduiraut

I also want to take a look at some of the dry white wines. But mainly these. So, I'll be watching for the prices very carefully. I'll keep you updated.

Assembling verticals

I have loyalty. It's a trait that I really admire, and one that I really try to adhere to. So it goes without saying that there are several wine producers that I'm loyal to, and whose wines I'll keep trying to buy.

Currently, there are 4 estates whose wines I'm buying with every release. Two are from Bordeaux, the third is from Champagne, and the fourth is a Rioja.

The oldest bottle of claret I've drank is a 1986 Ch. La Lagune, AC Haut Medoc, Troisieme Cru. I've always felt a connection to this estate. So far, I have the 2004, 2005, and 2006 vintages. The 2006 I have yet to receive, as I bought them last year as futures. Regardless of price, I'll be buying the 2007 en primeur. Hopefully, I'll be able to build a nice vertical.

From the right bank, I really love Ch. L'Arrosee. I've drank the 1992 vintage, which was quite spectacular. So elegant. I have in my cellar the 2003, 2005, and 2006 vintages. I'm waiting for LCBO to release the 2004 vintage and I'll also be purchasing the 2007 en primeur.

I've always been trying to pick up every vintage bottle of Pol Roger Champagne. I have the 1996 and 1999. It's something about Champagne that really excites me. Maybe it's the bubbles, but it's also the intensity and focus of the wines. It just embodies pleasure and celebration.

Rioja has always been one of my favourite red wine regions outside of Bordeaux. A producer I've been following is Bodegas Lan. I have the 1999 Reserva, the 2000 Gran Reserva, and the 2001 Reserva. Obviously, it'd be ideal if every vintage was a Gran Reserva, but it's just not the case. They make elegant wines, which I think age wonderfully.

So there you have it. Maybe as I go on, I'll find other producers that I really love, but for now, these are the ones that I'll be working on.

Mojito

I only drink 2 cocktails - one of them being gin-tonic and the other being a mojito. But then again, every man should drink gin-tonic...that just goes without saying.


But mojitos - I just have a weakness for them. Where did this even start? I think I just heard the name randomly, got a little curious, and ordered it the last time we were in Panorama. Wow, that was a while ago. Going on 2 years.

It was delicious. Clean flavours - the acidity of the lime with the crispness and freshness of the mint balances the drink. Of course, you need a good punch in a cocktail, and the rum does a great job at that. The drink is all about balance and complexity of flavours. Everything just works so well together, accentuating each other, instead of trying to outdo one another.

After much experimentation, over the course of last summer, I think I make the best mojito in the Northern Hemisphere. No lie. Here's what I do.

The Tools:




Use a lot of mint. Just use the leaves, about 12 of them.

In a highball glass.

Add fresh-squeezed lime juice. Must be fresh, I can't stress that enough.

Muddle.

Add a full glass of ice, preferably in tiny cubes.

Add Perrier.

Add simple syrup. It's called 'simple' for a reason - just sugar and water.

Add premium, aged rum - not that cheap shit, not that spiced shit, none of that nonsense.

Stir.

No straw.

The Masterpiece:




The key is freshness and quality. The lime juice and mint must be fresh. The ice must be distilled water. The syrup must be made with cane sugar. The sparkling water must be spring water.

And the rum has to be premium, oak aged rum. I use 12 years old Nicaraguan rum. To me, the vanilla and the richness from the oak balances it out so wonderfully. This pictures shows a drink I made with Havana Club Anejo Blanco, a white rum. More herbaceous, more of an alcoholic kick to it. But I definitely prefer the aged rum.

As for proportions, that's up to you. If you like lime, use more lime. More sweetness, then add more syrup. I love a strong drink, so instead of 1 ounce of rum, I use 2 1/4 ounces.

Of course, no straw. You don't want people to think you're a pansy, do you?

Too many people go out and drink cheap shit just for the sake of getting drunk. You're putting this stuff into your body - if you're going to get drunk, do it with quality and style.

Colheita Port

After dinner with the Mouton, I opened a bottle of port that I just bought a few months ago. I've always been fascinated with port, with its history in particular.

This was a 1980 Kopke Colheita Port. From what I understand, Colheita Ports are the rarest of all ports, making up only about 1% of Portugal's total port production. Please correct me if I'm wrong on this. In any case, this wine is rare! This is because of the extraordinary amount of time it spends in barrel. This bottle for instance, wasn't bottled until 2007, making it 27 years in oak. It's been in oak longer than I've been alive.

I also picked up a bottle of the 1981 vintage. Just because.

I'm drinking a glass now, so I can tell you that it's a dark amber, very caramelized, very deep. It just fills the room with warm, toasty aromas of toffee, caramel, butterscotch, chocolate - I can keep going on and on, it's just so complex. It's magic in the mouth. Rich and velvety, the sweetness is just perfect. Not cloying, but teases the mouth just so. The finish is magnificent - crunchy wafers and dried fruits, it's smooth, and stays hauntingly long in the mouth. Glorious.


A Grand Wine


Two weeks ago, on a Saturday, I had one of the great wine experiences that I'll keep looking back fondly on. We cooked a big dinner, lots of fresh local produce, and of course, I opened a very grand wine.

For dinner, a 1991 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, AC Pauillac. Now, I understand 1991 was a horrifically awful year for Bordeaux. But there really aren't many times that I have the opportunity to drink mature claret, much less a Premier Cru, so this is a blessing.

This bottle was a gift from a dear family friend, and quite frankly, my idol. I really respect and look up to him, so you can imagine how excited I was when he presented me with my first Mouton. The bottle was in great shape, which is a testament to his great cellar, and how he cares for his wines.

The cork was fine for its age. Didn't break at all, coming out cleanly. The print was still legible, no rot, nothing. The wine looked remarkably young in the glass. Still a ruby red in the center, with just the slightest brownish orange tint at the outer rim. Just a slight variation in colour saturation.

It was the nose that threw me off. It smelled...oaky, with hints of cabernet character. Just hints. And in the mouth - this overwhelming acidity, no doubt an indication of climate conditions in 1991. Thin, insipid. But it was after an hour that it really started to show why this wasn't just an ordinary claret.

The wine developed this spicy, mocha character that was so warm and inviting. It really gained weight in the mouth, and richness. And the sweetness! My goodness, it became just so sweet and so delicious. The acidity was there, making the finish a bit disjointed. But what a glorious experience. This is truly a Grand Wine - there simply aren't many wines that can develop and change character so dramatically in the glass. And it kept developing throughout the night. When I finished the bottle about 7 hours later, it left this deep, warm, earthy aroma that filled the room and filled, sincerely, my soul.

You really get the character of Mouton in these wines. The warmth and mocha aromas from the soil. The high acidity from the vintage conditions. Such a transcendant experience. I'll be lucky if I ever experience something like this again. Definitely one of my top wine memories.



Update

I understand it's been 2 weeks since I last wrote. I apologize because honestly, it's not like I've been doing anything productive over this period of time. It's probably just because I like binge-blogging. So here we go. Get ready for 5 posts a day.

By the way - I'm drinking a 1980 Kopke Colheita Port while I'm writing this, along with a chunk of nice, rich gouda cheese. I'll talk about the port later...it's just stunning.

Been doing a lot of reading, jogging, drinking. Actually, I've been drinking some pretty interesting things. And I finally, finally subscribed to Decanter magazine! The greatest wine magazine in the world. Hands down.

Reading and beginning to research about the 2007 Bordeaux vintage. Don't know if I'm prepared to buy en primeur this year. Will have to weigh my options, but something tells me that I won't be able to resist getting my hands on Ch. L'Arrosee, Ch. La Lagune, and Ch. Chasse Spleen.