Sunday, January 31, 2010

2006 Mendocino County


2006 The San Francisco Wine Press Syrah, Mendocino County

Can we expect drinkability from a Californian wine under $20? Who knows. Still looking. Syrah, from (reputedly) organically grown grapes, from Mendocino. Bottled under Stelvin. Dark colour, but it does have ruby edges. Candied, confected nose. Mistake right there. So sweet on the palate - there has to be residual sugar in here, no? Candied, and just.........why? Really, guys, why? Why can't you just go for a simple wine with good varietal character? This wine has no personality, has no resemblance at all to syrah, and just has.................nothing to offer. My goodness, what the hell were you thinking??!!!


Other things


I had a good chuckle when I read this off Gadget Lab. Apparently, since Apple's new iPad doesn't support Flash, this is what you'll see when you try to view certain multimedia. Yes, if you want to visit can't. No porn for you!

Anyways, I need a bit of a break from Bordeaux. Still collecting my thoughts and all my notes about it all - I promise I'll write more later. Still recovering from a bad case of food poisoning and now a cold as well. Damn. I'm getting hammered like there's no tomorrow.

Right. And I got a haircut today. Trim and proper.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

UGC Bordeaux - 2007 In Review


So, after 67 wines tasted, what have we learned about Bordeaux 2007? As I was discussing with Comtes Stephan von Neipperg above, the vintage was not without its successes. But they were far and few between, in my opinion. I understand we're all being far too premature in passing judgement on this vintage, but there were clearly star appellations who were more successful than others. The dry white wines were a revelation - all the producers did well. I can't see anyone being disappointed, if they bought any of these wines. They need at least 7 years of age, but are all very, very delicious. I can't wait to start drinking these wines.

The Sauternes were showing only primary characters, and need time. The best ones show good botrytis, but again, not as successful across the board as I had thought. I'm uncertain about how these wines will evolve. We'll see, but these wines need many years of bottle age.

The red wines are another matter. Maybe it's an indication of Bordeaux as a whole, but I just could not distinguish difference in appellation. There were no clear markers that we had moved on to a different appellation - maybe that's because of the infancy of the wines, but more cynically, that may be due to the intense enology applied to the wines. Merlot was awful across all producers. Many wines were so tannic...over-extraction was an issue, even in a vintage such as this. The problem isn't so much the austerity of the wines - on the contrary, Bordeaux is supposed to be well-structured. The issue is whether there's anything behind the wall of tannins that so many of the wines had. I doubt many of the wines have any complexity able to emerge after the tannins have softened. Overall, I don't see these wines evolving and improving beyond 10 years. Not that these are bad wines. Just don't expect too much out of them. If the prices were reasonably low, would we even be debating the issue of value?

Having said that, I enjoyed the tasting very much. Attending these huge tastings is an exercise in endurance. I was hit by palate fatigue about 1/3 of the way through. I need to be honest with that. My tasting notes began becoming more elementary as we kept tasting. It took about 2 1/2 hours to get through all the wines, and I'm very happy that we got through the wines we planned for. Towards the end, my mouth and palate was a mess of stained tannins and acidity. Good thing I wasn't there with my beloved.

My tasting notes, by region:

Pessac-Léognan Blanc
Pessac-Léognan Rouge
Saint-Émilion Grand Cru


UGC Bordeaux - 2007 Sauternes/Barsac


Tasting 2007 Sauternes and Barsac

This was actually the second place we focused on, after the dry white wines. I bought heavily into 2007 sweet white wines, and I wanted to make sure that I was getting good ones. These wines often remain primary for many years before yielding any complexities, and I wanted to be mindful of that. Indeed, many of the wines showed simple fruit, and the residual sugar was often cloying. The overall quality was not as high as I expected - good concentration, yes, but only a few showing botrytis character. Which is why you buy Sauternes, no? But we should keep in mind, these wines need a lot of age - 10+ years - before they get interesting. Open them any sooner, and you're getting alcoholic marmalade.

Château Bastor Lamontagne - fresh, lean, dried apricots, balanced...this $24 bottle showed very well, as it lacks the concentration and syrupy quality of many more expensive wines which require age
Château Climens - spicy botrytis, elegant, noticeably thick texture, very concentrated...$279 (!) a bottle
Château Coutet - rustic nose, very viscous, sweet and a bit cloying, needs some age
Château de Fargues - botrytis on the nose, round, elegant, sweet but with balance, great potential
Château de Rayne-Vigneau - alcohol very prominent, very sweet, one-dimensional at the moment
Château Doisy-Daëne - botrytis singing on the nose, sweet, balanced, a great success
Château La Tour Blanche - fresh fruit, sweet, good balance
Château Guiraud - spicy nose, botrytis quite evident, very linear and pure palate, wonderful balance
Château Sigalas Rabaud - apricot, peaches on the nose, very sweet, almost cloying on the palate

Photo, courtesy of ROKChoi.


UGC Bordeaux - 2007 Pauillac/Saint-Estèphe


Tasting 2007 Pauillac

These wines were ok. But when you charge these prices, your wines can't just be ok. Tannic and heavily structured as expected, but I just don't see any complexity emerging. Just seems overdone, again, with the oak and extraction. But as in all the appellations, you have to be careful, and it's usually the relatively unsought after producers that produce the truest wine. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to taste Pontet-Canet.

Château Batailley - open, lots of oak
Château Lunch-Moussas - dry, tannic, some fruit, slightly green
Château Clerc Milon - lead graphite on nose, fruit hidden, structured
Château D’Armailhac - clunky texture, rustic brettanomyces on the nose
Château Grand-Puy Ducasse - so tannic, one-dimensional
Château Lynch-Bages - oak, high tannins, fruit peeking through, needs age but this is a powerhouse

Tasting 2007 Saint-Estèphe

Only one Saint-Estèphe attended. Too bad. Would have liked to see a wider range.

Château Lafon-Rochet - good crunchy fruit, oaky nose, velvet texture

Photo courtesy of ROKChoi.


UGC Bordeaux - 2007 Saint-Julien


Tasting 2007 Saint-Julien

Again, these wines underwhelmed. A surprising number of wines with brettanomyces. Also, so many of the wines were intensely structured, with hard tannins - I question if they have the fruit and complexity behind it.

Château Branaire Ducru - mocha nose, oak nicely done, good fruit, balanced, well-structured...a good one
Château Gruaud Larose - tight, sweet fruit, good ripeness, very austere
Château Lagrange - spicy oak, tannic, some sweet fruit lurking under there
Château Léoville Poyferré - ungainly, brettanomyces showing, tannic, harsh palate
Château Saint-Pierre - candied, overdone fruit
Château Talbot - rustic oak, lots of hard tannins

Photo courtesy of ROKChoi.


UGC Bordeaux - 2007 Margaux


Tasting 2007 Margaux

I expected the elegant, feminine wines of Margaux to do well in this kind of vintage. As always, isn't the key often to manage against over-extraction and over-oaking? How come it seems so hard for people to understand that you can't claim to represent terroir if you try to make wine to fit a certain style??!! I was underwhelmed, to say the least, by Margaux. I mean, why not work within the confines of the vintage? So many of these wines were just so stylized, so overdone that there was little substance.

Château D’Angludet - good fruit, strucutred, spicy, very bold
Château Dauzac - tannic, earthy, good fruit
Château Giscours - oaky, mustry, damp brettanomyces, underwhelming
Château Kirwan - forward oak, finely structured, elegant
Château Labégorce - very structured, fruit is hiding, bitter
Château Lascombes - oaky, bit clunkily tannic
Château Marquis de Terme - good fruit, round, structured
Château Ferrière - soft, round, unremarkable
Château Haut-Bages Libéral - good sweet fruit, round, candied

Photo courtesy of ROKChoi.


UGC Bordeaux - 2007 Listrac/Moulis/Haut-Médoc


Tasting 2007 Listrac, Moulis, and Haut-Médoc

Of the wines presented from this region, I was most interested in two wines, the stars of Moulis: Poujeaux and Chasse-Spleen. I've bought heavily into these wines the past few years, and I want to feel justified in spending my money here. Unfortunatly, La Lagune was not participating in the tasting. Too bad. I'd have liked to meet Caroline Frey. Overall, I was impressed with Poujeaux and Chasse-Spleen. Both showing good structure and potential. The rest...just not that interesting.

Château Fourcas Hosten - structured and dense, very dry, rustic nose, very good
Château Poujeaux - ripe berries, round fruit, touch of brettanomyces, high structure, needs some age
Château Chasse-Spleen - elegant, oak nose, beautiful dark fruits
Château Camensac - round, structured but accessible, finish drops off
Château Cantenac Brown - quite elegant, stiff tannins

Photo courtesy of ROKChoi.


UGC Bordeaux - 2007 Pomerol


Tasting 2007 Pomerol

Continuing along the Right Bank, I was a bit disappointed with Pomerol. These wines need good sun, and many of the wines showed the difficulties of the vintage. Yes, we're being premature, maybe the wines will fill out a bit. None of them really showed well. I was hoping for approachable wines with bright fruit and balance, and none of them really showed merlot in a good way. Maybe that's why so few showed up.

Château Clinet - fruit pales, thin body, low structure.........something is wrong here
Château Gazin - elegant, structured, fruit is hidden but present, definitely needs time
Château La Cabanne - round nose, ripe fruit, tight palate
Château La Conseillante - rustic, oaky nose, sweet fruit, reedy finish though

Photo courtesy of ROKChoi.

UGC Bordeaux - 2007 Saint- Émilion Grand Cru


Tasting 2007 Saint- Émilion Grand Cru

Above is the one and only Comtes Stephan von Neipperg. Clearly the most interesting man in the room. Yeah, he's kind of a big deal. You don't just stumble upon a title like that by accident. Anyways, the wines showed some surprises. The ones who didn't over-handle the vintage created charming, approachable wines. Angélus, Canon-la-Gaffelière, and Figeac all created lovely wines for early drinking (5-7 years), while others like Troplong Mondot somehow gave the impression that they were products of intense enology. A lot of the wines showed massive amounts of remains to be seen if there's any substance behind it when the dissolve with age. Oak management was an issue here - some put a good hold on new oak, others...not so much.

Château Angélus - very elegant, soft, with some green on the finish...I like this, not overhandled, good vintage character
Château Canon - oaky, soft palate, spicy
Château Canon-la-Gaffelière - beautiful use of oak, ripe fruit, balanced, very elegant, a success for the vintage
Château Figeac - red fruits, very elegant, fine tannins, very balanced, well-handled
Château Grand Mayne - dense, tannic, unyielding
Château La Couspaude - nutty oak, warm nose, ripe red fruit, soft, easy, plushy
Château La Dominique - oaky, nutty nose, well structured, wall of tannin
Château La Gaffelière - sweet dark fruits, dense impenetrable tannin
Château La Tour Figeac - ripe fruit, high tannin, becomes candied
Château Troplong Mondot - complex, nutty nose, very pure fruit, linear palate, well structured, crunchy finish, blockbuster styled wine
Château Trotte Vielle - pure red fruit, structured

Photo courtesy of ROKChoi.


UGC Bordeaux - 2007 Pessac-Léognan Rouge


Tasting 2007 Pessac-Léognan Rouge

Going through the red wines of this region was a bit of a different experience. I thought this region fared well, overall. Quite balanced, with a bit more approachable fruit. To me, these are wines that require some age, but should be drinkable in 5-7 years. If oak was managed well, and the fruit was not over-extracted, the wines were pleasant.

Château Carbonnieux - balanced ripe fruits, well structured, balanced, good
Domaine de Chevalier - tempered oak, ripe fruit, quite a big body with a matching structure
Château Haut-Bailly - chunky oak, reedy body, no fruit
Château Haut-Bergey - stylish fruit, structured, racy acidity
Château Larrivet-Haut-Brion - very elegant, ripe fruits, balanced, structured but approachable
Château Latour-Martillac - balanced, racy fruit, good effort
Château Malartic-Lagravière - sweet fruit, nicely textured, dry finish
Château Smith-Haut Lafitte - rustic, earthy and nutty on the nose, good oak, dark sour fruits, finely structured, elegant

Photo courtesy of ROKChoi.


UGC Bordeaux - 2007 Pessac-Léognan Blanc


Tasting 2007 Pessac-Léognan Blanc

From the beginning, the critics have been praising the quality of the dry white wines from 2007 Bordeaux. And for once, it was true. These wines have all the freshness, the intensity, and the purity of a great wine. These wines, however, demand age. At this point, the sauvignon blanc is dominating the blends of the wines that use a large proportion of it - further aging is needed for the semillon to build some weight and texture. Also, the primary flavours are shining, with further complexity still hidden. A great success, across all the producers tasted. If you're still deciding on what wines to buy from 2007 Bordeaux, this is it - you won't be disappointed.

Château Carbonnieux Blanc - tropical fruits, spicy, very long finish, needs time
Domaine de Chevalier Blanc - waxy fruit, great extract, intense, very fresh, great presence
Château de Fieuzal Blanc - oaky, bit reticent now, long finish
Château Larrivet-Haut-Brion Blanc - leaner bouquet, soft in the mouth though, showing a bit awkward
Château Latour-Martillac Blanc - sauvignon is booming, crisp high acid, very spicy finish
Château Malartic-Lagravière Blanc - lots of citrus, high acidity, tart but pure fruit, long finish, a great success
Château Olivier Blanc - tropical fruits, high acidity, fresh, lean, needs time
Château Smith-Haut Lafitte Blanc - creamy oak, fruit a bit reticent, oaky palate, but very refined and polished, spicy finish...oak needs to integrate

Photo courtesy of ROKChoi.


UGC Bordeaux in Toronto

Layout 1

As I've written about over the past few weeks, The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux hosted a tasting of the 2007 vintage in Bordeaux this past Sunday, January 24. It was a great event, as it was my first opportunity to taste this vintage. I've been following it since before the En Primeur campaign began, and even though it's been panned by a few critics as a weak vintage, I tried to keep an open mind and taste for myself. And, like an idiot, I had bought a lot of the wines, in particular white wines (dry and sweet).

I wanted to focus on the white wines. And they didn't disappoint. The dry white wines were just incredible. Fresh, focused, with an extraordinary length and intensity. The sweet white wines weren't as impressive, but we were tasting them at a very premature stage. Red wines were unimpressive. However, it should be understood that these wines don't really show their character until after a few years in the bottle. Any attempts to judge them now are extremely premature and misguided.

It was a good crowd there. Really excited to see a lot of the Bordelais and directors from the châteaux pour their wines. We had to hustle a bit, but we managed to taste through nearly all the 120+ wines. Unfortunately, Pontet Canet and Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande was gone by the time we reached their tables. Nevertheless, I came away with a much greater idea of what the vintage was (at 2 years age), and what I can expect when I begin taking delivery of my order this spring.

The following pieces will compile all my tasting notes, by region. As I wasn't able to spend a lot of time with each wine, my notes are short and quite clipped. Nevertheless, I think they portray what the overall impression was from each region.


Nantucket Reds


This is, of course, a pair of Nantucket Reds. Worn by a gentleman who I admire so much. After seeing this flash of sartorial brilliance...I was left speechless. And look at the brown suede cap-toe loafers! Truly, a man of taste. Who is he? I'll write about him a bit later - but I will say that he was at the UGC Bordeaux 2007 tasting I attended last Sunday.

Nantucket Reds were originally made by Murray's Toggery Shop in, yes, Nantucket. They were originally adapted from the uniforms of the New York Yacht Club, and now are a staple of the rich and preppy. The video below explains the history of these pants more in detail. I admit, I don't have what it takes to wear a pair. I'd like to, but I just can't. You need a certain flamboyance to pull it off...maybe in 20 years.

Oh, by the way...the photo above is of Comte Stephan von Neipperg. That's right. The man is a Count of the Holy Roman Empire. And I love his pants.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Another look in charcoal


Charcoal wool MTM, two button, single vent suit. Checked cotton shirt, Façonnable. Silk tie, Ralph Lauren, Tie bar, Pierre Cardin. Belt, Coach.

So this is a change in details, but maintaining the same idea as the previous ensemble. Same suit, but notice how a different shirt and tie can radically alter how you look. A brighter checked shirt, with a wider spread collar. I love the fit of Façonnable shirts - fits perfectly around the neck and chest, so when you tighten the tie, the shirt front stays pressed. With a shirt that has a bit of pattern, I wanted to tone down the tie. Solid colour, matching the colour in the shirt pattern. Understated and subtle, remember? Of course, a tie bar and white linen handkerchief. Little details to keep it interesting, and really bring a professional look to the outfit.

The top photo shows the fit of the jacket quite nicely, when it's buttoned. As you can see, a two-button suit shows a modern silhouette, and makes you look taller. More shirt revealed, you see. Tucked in slightly at the waist, to avoid being baggy, and to bring out the chest and shoulders. Tie - 4 in hand knot, with a nice dimple. This is so you tie a tie. Good length, good shape, and a bit askew. Because I don't need to be stiff and properly adjusted all the time. One last thing - notice how high the collar rides. I like to show at least an inch of collar, with the lapel of the suit falling gently and covering up the edges only. Elongates the neck, and adds a flash of colour. Doesn't have to be Victorian in proportion, but we need to see the collar and the shirt cuffs.

Sharp, as a knife. Inimitable swagger, a must.



Wearing a suit, in charcoal


Charcoal wool MTM, two button, single vent suit. Cotton shirt, Canali. Silk tie, Canali. Tie bar, Pierre Cardin. Belt, Coach.

About menswear, only one thing matters - the ability to be discrete. A gentleman is discrete with all things, wardrobe included. No need to flash shiny, oversized jewelry, watches. No need to strut and prance with garish colours or exaggerated cuts. A man of taste doesn't need these things - he just is.

I try to follow these principles. Am I a gentleman? I'd like to be, someday. I try to be. And being a gentleman starts with so much more than clothes. But you can't photograph morals and values, wit and intelligence. So I'll try, in the meantime,with this.

Suits are anything but a uniform. They are opportunities to send a message, no matter the setting or context in which they are worn. Material and cut, above all. I like my suits cut sharply, as I'm fairly lean. Shoulders have to fit, just so. Sleeves ending about 1 3/4 inch above the wrist - I like to see a lot of shirt cuff. Adds a touch of colour, and tightens the proportions. Too many men walk around with sleeves hanging around the middle of the palm...the jacket begins to look borrowed. Of course, 2 buttons to show more shirt, and elongate the torso. Vents for comfort.

In terms of colour, I keep it simple. Sharp contrasts, but everything has to be subtle. Light pink shirt, offset by a deep navy tie with just tiny dots to bring out the blue. Brown belt to bring out the charcoal colour of the suit. Brown shoes to match. Pressed, white linen handkerchief. I rarely, rarely, use a silk handkerchief. Gives too much of a peacock effect. White linen is sharp, clean, understated. It means that you mean business.

Did I mention being discrete? The little tie bar to keep everything in place. That's as much jewelry as you'll ever see on me. Also, pick one or the other - tie bar or lapel pin - never both.

Adjust the appropriate snarl, and you're all set.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

2007 Hawke's Bay


2007 Sileni Cellar Selections Syrah, Hawke's Bay, North Island

I really didn't expect this wine to be so satisfying. Just curious, and really wanted a syrah - my first bottle of this varietal from New Zealand. A beautiful colour, rich, pure fruit with enough earthiness to remind you of what it is. And most important, balance! My goodness, it must be a miracle. A New World syrah without a whiff of searing alcohol!


Crystal clear


I'm thoroughly convinced that to appreciate wine at its fullest, your choice of stemware is crucial. The stems you see, smell, and taste wine in has an incredible influence on how you perceive the wine. I'm absolutely convinced. Absolutely.

I've written about stems in the past, but it's an idea worth repeating. You don't need a different glass for each different wine - I don't believe that nonsense for an instant. Material-wise, crystal is a must, for thin rims and a distortion-free bowl. You want to see the shade and sheen of the wine clearly, and thin rims allow the wine to enter the mouth smoothly. Thick glass 'catches' the wine as it rolls into your mouth, and affects palate perception. And of course, shape of the bowl is the most important. You need a tulip shaped bowl, to be able to properly aerate and swirl the wine. Stem length is up to personal preference - I happen to like my stems to be shorter, like these ones, but it's all about how the stem feels in your hand.

Do you need to buy expensive stems? Maybe. It's certainly no coincidence that the best ones are always expensive. Riedel is a safe choice. My wishlist - I'd like a few Zalto Champagne glasses, and a set (or 3) of Ravenscroft Burgundy stems.

Just please...don't buy Ikea.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Guess the oyster, Part III


Damn, look how bad I mangled the shucking.

Which variety of oyster is this? Click to find out.


Guess the oyster, Part II


Which variety of oyster is this? Click to find out.


Guess the oyster, Part I


Oyster presentation. A more elegant way. Because not everyone has a steady supply of neatly crushed ice at home.

Which variety of oyster is this? Click to find out.


Scottish Oak Aged Beer


Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer

This Scottish brewer is quite well known, especially for this product - a beer aged in used bourbon casks. I wanted a taste, out of curiousity. It's not for me - this is certainly more so a novelty beer than one of taste. Let's be honest, yes? The oak use is hideous. Completely obliterates what flavour the beer had, if it had any to begin with. Caramel and vanilla on the palate, sickeningly sweet from the oak. Sticky and viscous, just undrinkable.


English Premium Ale


Wells Bombardier English Premium Ale

I love beer. Proper beer. The kind that's never seen in the hands of the callow and infantile. True beer lovers understand that beer can be incredibly complex and food friendly, with as much historical and cultural significance as any wine.

Look at the colour - so red, vigorous. Sweet nose, elegant palate, not as hoppy as I'd hoped, but delicious nevertheless. A good one for gulping.


Fines de Claires


Fines de Claires No. 3, France

I was so happy to see these - a taste I remember so vividly from my time in Nice! Has the brininess, has the minerality, and has all the punchy flavour you expect, but also possesses an absolutely delicious weight and creamy texture. So delicious, in fact, that I ignored my now bloody left hand, and continued shucking through all dozen of them. This oyster has an unbelievably long finish, and simply coats your palate in a glossy, savoury flavour.

With the wines: the Rueda was a failure. My goodness, even with this one, the most assertive of the 3 oyster varieties, it still refuses to let the food shine. What a tragedy - utterly undrinkable with any of the oysters. The bottle of Mantinia fared a bit better, but just lacks the complexity for the pairing to be interesting.

None of the wines worked. I'm sticking to basics next time - with such delicious oysters, only the best Loire and Muscadet will do. Idiot. Should have taken my own advice and kept it simple, and elegant.




Noank Oysters, Connecticut

There were a few varieties of oysters from Connecticut available, but I was intrigued by two: Noank and Bluepoint. I asked the very helpful, knowledgable staff at Diana's Seafood what the difference was, and was told that Bluepoint was milder. Guess which one I went for...

As you can see, much bigger than Kumamoto, about 3-4 inches in length. Not as deep of a bowl, with a thicker shell. A lot of brine and minerality on the palate, lots of flavour. Thick texture, very assertive in the mouth. Delicious.

With the wines: went well with the Mantinia. The fruit carries over nicely, as the wine is quite dry. With the Rueda, this oyster is surprisingly overshadowed by the absolute grassiness of the wine. Of all the oysters, I expected the brine in this one to carry it through, but the wine just sashays right over it.




Kumamoto Oysters, Washington

Right, so I said I'd write about the oysters I bought from Diana's Seafood Delight. Shucked and sucked through 2 dozen, and tasted them with 2 wines.

Instantly recognizable for their small, deep bowl, these oysters are milder, and less briny. A bit creamier as well, making them perfect for people who are a bit squeamish about eating oysters (raw or otherwise). My mother was one of these people, so to gently coax her to give it a try, I picked up a dozen Kumamoto.

Opened with a satisfying pull, these oysters have a touch of brininess, but are quite clean on the palate. Smooth, silky flesh. Very delicate in flavour. And it was the right choice. My mother really liked these - has all the savoury qualities she looks for in seafood.

With the wines: the Rueda clearly is too pungent for this oyster. Obliterates any flavour from the Kumamoto. The Mantinia did better, but the fruit is a bit too easy, and lacks a minerality to play up the milder taste of the oyster. Not a success for either one.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

2008 Rueda


2008 Real Sitio de Ventosilla Prado Rey Verdejo, DO Rueda

A wine from the Spanish appellation of Rueda, made with the verdejo grape. Good. Another white wine.

This blows your head off a bit, like an untamed, wild New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Lots of green, lots of grassiness, with an underlying citrus on the nose. Sharp acidity, very assertive palate. Overpowers and blows everything else out of the water. I was drinking this with very briny, salty oysters and I couldn't taste the oysters after. Maybe it'll settle down with age, who knows. But they cork under rubber. This one's out of control.


2008 Mantinia


2008 Semeli Nasiakos, ACQS Mantinia

It's the summer of drinking so much white wine that's causing me to search for whites, even in the middle of winter. And Greek wines are definitely bottles that everyone should look out for. A wine from the Greek island of Peloponessos, of the Mantinia region. This area produces white wines from an indigenous varietal, Moschofilero, that I went crazy for a few months ago.

This wine has all the fresh bright fruit I look for, with a weight and texture that I think makes it perfect for food, and winter. High acidity balances it all out, and tames the overt fruit characters that this variety has. Tropical, but with a presence - does that make sense? Very drinkable indeed.


Diana's Seafood Delight


This past Saturday, I found a wonderful new place to buy seafood in Toronto. Diana's Seafood Delight, on Lawrence and Warden. Tidy little place, very fresh seafood, amazing selection of oysters - a shellfish lover's paradise. I bought a few oysters, but will definitely return to try the other varieties, as well as the sea urchin and razor clams.

More on the oysters I bought, later.


Uh oh...

Dammit, I may have a bad case of food poisoning. Coming out of both ends. I'm not sure the cause - it may be the bug that's been flying around lately. Not so much anything particular that I ate. Maybe it was the stuffy, pompous, wine-ego crowd at the Four Seasons on Sunday.

I'm trying to sleep this off. Went to bed at 6 last night, without eating. Explains my inexcusable absence. I'm going to keep the posts chronological, so it looks like I'll get to writing about the UBC Bordeaux 2007 tasting sometime around the weekend. I promise I'll get working on it - breakdown by region, with notes for each producer - all that good stuff.

In the meantime, stay away from crowded places and questionable shellfish.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

In front

Picture 011Picture 010

In case you're wondering what I do when I sit in front of my computer...this is it.

Attended the UGC Bordeaux tasting today, featuring the 2007 vintage. Great tasting. Really got a good sense of these wines at about 2 years of age. Only hope that I had this tasting before I paid so much for all those wines.

Let me get my notes together, I'll give my tasting impressions region by region soon. And I got to have my picture taken with someone I very much admire. Good stuff, stay tuned!


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Out my mind

A little buzzed, a little gassed. I don't know why I'm blogging right now. Come on man, no need to be on right now. But I just had a wonderful 4 hour meal. Started with oysters, ended with rabbit, lots and lots of wine in between. A bit hosed out of my mind. Will begin posting seriously tomorrow.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Hard at work

This may be the hardest I've ever worked to pick up wines on release, in a long, long time. I visited 4 different LCBO locations around Toronto today, to get the wines I wanted. And I still missed one. Oh well.

Visited the Avenue LCBO for the first time. The new store, with a second floor devoted to wines and Vintages products. Flashy, shiny, brand new is all good. But I still prefer where I normally go. Bagpipes and all.

Remember how I said that this year, I'd focus on buying wines to drink, between $12-20? Well, sometimes things don't always turn out like you'd hope. Fantastic, can't-miss wines show up unexpectedly, so what are you to do, but to tighten up that sphincter and go for it? As in all things, life included, shit happens, budgets get wasted. As long as I'm happy, right?


R. Burns at the LCBO!

Just came back home from the LCBO, where they're celebrating Robbie Burns Day. I think. There was a tall, distinguished looking gentleman wailing away on bagpipes, while 2 comely chicks were strutting behind. In full Scottish gear as well. The chicks looked good in argyle. Dammit, should have taken a picture. Spent too much time staring and before I knew it, they were gone.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brandy and a smoke


With my cigar, a glass of XO Brandy, from Japan of all places. Suntory Super Deluxe XO Brandy. This is why the pairing works - both elements complement each other so well. The brandy considerably softens the astringent qualities of the cigar, while all the smoking significantly sweetens the brandy.

A warm, but lethal combo. Not for the faint-hearted - this goes straight to your head.


Villager Cigar

Villager Premium Tubo

Villager Premium Tubo

I bought this cigar, of all places, when I was in Nice. December 2007. I had wanted a cigar at the time, and they came in a pack of 2. Finished one, and here we are. Also, I discovered that D90 shoots directly in B/W. I think I'm gonna play around with this for a bit - be prepared not to see any colour for a while.

This cigar was inexpensive because among other things, only the centre is Cuban tobacco. The wrapper is another type. But, a cigar is a cigar - let's be honest, just being able to smoke one is a treat.

Starts nicely, but soon shows its lacklustre pedigree. Ash breaks off, and burns unevenly. At least it's not as harsh as I had feared. Pairing it with brandy made it better, as you can read about later. Towards the end, the cigar begins getting more oily, the smoke is just a bit sharper, and I stopped smoking at about 1.5 inches.


February Classics Catalogue


Here we go again, the first Classics Catalogue release of 2010. A surprise to me - I wasn't expecting there to be one until at least May. A focus on 2004 Brunello, although as my last post suggested, I'm far from eagar to put more Tuscan wines in my cellar. Especially since the prices are quite ludicrous, and the cloud over Brunello di Montalcino has yet to be lifted.

Besides the usual overpriced Bordeaux (2006 Cheval Blanc for $1099? 2006 Ausone for $1299???!!!), there's also an impressive range of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti being offered. Prices are extravagant, bottle count is low. 2006 Échézeaux is $310, 2006 Grands Échézeaux is $500, 2006 La Tâche is $800, Richebourg is $765, 2006 Romanée-St-Vivant is $780, and Vosne-Romanée is at $780. Mind-numbing prices, all. I have no doubt that these wines are once-in-a-lifetime special, but you have to question the sanity of whoever buys a $700 bottle. You understand that you drink wine, and then piss it, right?

I'm really interested in finding out who buys these wines. The bottles being offered are miniscule - 71 bottles of La Tâche, 35 for all the others.

Really, you've got to ask yourself - is any wine worth that much? Wine is meant to be drunk and to be shared, but is it even possible with DRC anymore? Are you really going to just bring out a bottle over dinner with friends? I try my best not to be precious about my wines, but if I had a $700+ bottle, I'm not going to be sharing. You'd have to prove your worth (palate and knowledge-wise) to me first. And that goes against everything that wine stands for. And that's very sad.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2007 Emilia Romagna

2007 Podari dal Nespoli

2007 Podari dal Nespoli Sangiovese di Romagna di Prugneto, DOC Emilia Romagna

This is the wine from dinner - On the plate and In the sink. It was a spectacular bottle, which is a miracle considering how the Italians have perverted sangiovese in the past few years. I've just about given up with Chianti and Montalcino for sangiovese-based wines. Too much of a minefield of Internationally-styled wines masquerading as authentic Tuscans. For such a noble variety, it's an absolute travesty that this is happening.

The only alternative is obscure regions like Emilia Romagna, which are not as well known. Hopefully, the fact that these areas don't do as well commercially means that they use less new oak, adhere to more traditional methods, and are more authentic. This bottle fulfills all of that, and was the most emotion-inducing Italian wine I've ever drunk.

Pale, and absolutely full of the dusty fruit I love in sangiovese. Elegant, slightly gritty tannins, with a wonderful bitterness on the finish. As I drank this over 6 hours, the wine opens up dramatically, becoming more friendly, more charming. The wine just draws so much emotion. It takes some attention, but it's just so charming, with all its flaws. Complex, delicious.

I still believe in sangiovese. Come on guys, stay true to yourselves, please don't be swayed by fashion.


Mr. Asimov on Bordeaux

See, I knew I liked this guy. Please read Eric Asimov's piece, How Do You Feel About Bordeaux?on his very entertaining blog, The Pour.

Mr. Asimov questions whether you can still find value in Bordeaux. I was very happy to see someone write on this topic. It's getting a bit fashionable for people in wine to bash on Bordeaux. To drinkers, it seems that we can do no longer find examples of true claret anymore - as if the entire region's been overrun with Parkerized/Rollandized bastards.

This article couldn't have come at a better time. I'm seriously considering that I should give up on Bordeaux. I'm weighing my options with respect to En Primeur, and I'm pretty close to never participating in it again. As a blogger who professes to want to gain an understanding of terroir, I'm contradicting myself by continually paying $80+ for wines that just don't give me any emotion. Reading through the comments for Mr. Asimov's, I'm getting a sense that old claret drinkers definitely see a change in style in the wines today compared to the wines of the 50's, 60's, 70's. There is no doubt that Parker/Rolland has had a huge impact on Bordeaux, whether it's good or bad.

What I didn't expect was to see so many people who are clearly passionate about Bordeaux wines. Interesting to see, because none of them seem like speculators. They all seem like true wine lovers, which makes their perspective on claret all that more interesting.

Hmmm. I'm still undecided. After this UGC tasting, I'll let everyone know what my final decision is. Can I really completely step away from Bordeaux?


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

2007 Saint-Chinian

2007 Château Combebelle

2007 Domaine Combebelle, AC Saint-Chinian

It was a dark and cold winter night, and I needed something to warm me up a little. A simple country wine, rustic and full of life. As well, it was a Thursday, so high alcohol was out of the question.

I don't know why I don't drink Languedoc wines more often. Last February, I drank a bottle of Corbieres that was nothing short of revelatory. Malheuresement, I have not had a bottle since. Time to drink up. A wine of Saint-Chinian, which I drank over 2 days. I often find that with these rustic wines, patience is rewarded. It's too easy to dismiss them because they have slightly peculiar personalities, but therein lies their charm.

While quite pale (relatively), it holds a bright red colour, and all the sweaty rusticity that I love about the Languedoc. An assemblage of equal parts syrah and grenache. Herbally, bright fruit character, seamless in the mouth. Impeccably balanced, and only becoming more elegant and charming on the second day. A delicious wine, that I greedily slurped down in small glass tumblers. This was no time to use stems.


Toys for big boys



I'm looking to buy myself some new toys. My wallet was clamped for Christmas this year, and I kind of owe myself. When travelling, battery charging is an issue. Battery grips (at least for the D90), don't offer significant boosts in performance, but at least with the AA battery inserts, solves any power issues. As for the flash, what's the point of buying a D90 without maximizing all its flash functions? An expensive proposition, but if I wasn't committed, I'd have stuck with a point and shoot. The lens will have to wait, but we'll get there.


Monday, January 18, 2010

To look forward to

Layout 1

The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting is coming up soon. Finally, a wine event to look forward to. It's mind-boggling that LCBO still sent me a promo card for this event a month after I had bought and received 4 tickets. Anyone still think that monopolies are the best way to do things?

I am planning to get soooo drunk on Sunday.


Down one

My goodness, my idol just lost a Michelin Star at his Claridges restaurant. But at least his tv career is booming.


Blue Monday

In TIME: The Most Depressing Day of the Year

So apparently, today's the most depressing day of the year. Everyone's still trying to recover financially from the holidays, there seems no end to winter, and life in general sucks. Speaking for myself, of course.

Yeah, I need to find some excitement. Man. Working out seemed like a good idea to get the endorphins going. Running was painful, but I did feel a lot better after. Smashed my core circuits as well.

Oh, what the hell am I talking about, all you need to get out of the blues is a good bottle of pinot noir. Duh!!!


XO Brandy

Suntory XO Brandy

Suntory Super Deluxe XO Brandy

I have a few of these Japanese brandies lying around. All gifts, that we've received over the years from my one Japanese friend. A man who gets me. Just keep sending the alcohol over, 0-nii-san.

Beautiful colour. Lots of complexity - caramel, sugars, dried fruits. Amazingly parallel to Colheita Port. Alcohol well hidden, very elegant on the palate. A drink that's perfect for actual sipping, one that won't burn a hole in you. Who knew the Japanese were so good at outclassing big brand cognac at this stuff?

My question now - what do you drink this with? Cheese? Cake? Cigars? On its own?


Washing her down


We had a relatively mild day this Saturday in Toronto, so I took the opportunity to wash all the salt off Gojira. Winters here are notoriously hard on cars - not so much the snow and ice, but the salt and grime that accumulates. Especially on black.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

In the sink


This is the aftermath of a good meal. Lots of pans, plates, utensils to clean up, but it was worth it. Now, if I had a maid, things would be a bit different, but...............

Ok, to avoid any confusion, the meal from start to finish. Because I hate being the stupid random blogger who doesn't make any sense.

Play time!



On the heat

On the side

On ice

Simmered down

On the plate

In the sink


On the plate


Plated. Lots of tomato, the most amazing ground beef, and lots of olive oil. Very, very filling, and just so satisfying. Paired with the Sangiovese di Romagna, just spectacular. The richness of the dish is nicely contrasted by the leaner wine. A great meal to combat the cold of winter.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Simmered down


The tomato sauce, properly reduced. Compare with the earlier photo - we've lost nearly an inch of liquid. I like to season at the very end. Seasoning at the very beginning may be dangerous, as it may become over-seasoned once everything concentrates. Smells wonderful. Spaghetti cooked al dente, of course. Timing, at this point, is crucial.


On ice


While the stoves are going, a wine decanted. To pair with a dish that focuses on tomato, what better than a Sangiovese di Romagna, from Emilia Romagna? I love Sangiovese when it's done in an authentic way, instead of those Internationally-styled whorish wines that the Italians are curiously in love with. I just don't get it. You have a jewel of a grape variety, and you're fucking ruining it!!

But I think this bottle is going to be delicious. In detail, later.


On the side


As a fun thing on the side, butter potatoes. Fresh Ontario potato, thinly sliced with the skin. It's a bit tricky, but I managed to evenly slice with my chef's knife. Part olive oil, part butter, lightly fried and basted. A bit of paper towel to drain any excess oil, seasoned, then finished in the oven.


On the heat


Right. So everything's in the pot, simmering. Hot pan, olive oil, sweat down your garlic and onions. Tomatoes and mushroom in, with butter. Fresh chicken stock. To make good sauce, never, ever, ever use packaged chicken stock. The only way is to buy fresh, whole chicken, and make your own broth. No shortcuts.

Just started to cook, and this will need to reduce and concentrate for at least 45 minutes. Don't be tempted to crank up the heat - your patience will be rewarded.




Ok, this is the part that everyone hates. Prepping. Because no one thinks of this as actually cooking. You see, if you take care with this step of cooking, then there is no doubt that the rest will take care of itself. Cooking is simply the correct application of heat, no?

You have to realize that the way you prep your ingredients completely influences how it will react in heat. Onions sliced, diced, or roughly chopped will cook very differently. So, onions thinly sliced in rings, garlic crushed to keep it moist, tomatoes thinly sliced, as were mushrooms. As a finishing touch, 2 dried peppers, chopped with the seeds. Heat!