Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wines of Burgundy, in review


The Wines of Burgundy tasting was a wonderful event. Venue was great - who knew hosting a wine event at the Art Gallery of Ontario would turn out even better than at the Four Seasons?

The wines. Yes, let's talk about the wines. The tasting was organized by producer, with each showing a range of their '07, '08 and '09's. If I were to make a general comment . . . I really loved the 2007's. High acid vintage, linear, and showing great terroir imprint. The whites showing particularly well for this vintage, really looking forward to seeing how these wines are going to age. Virtually the entire 2007 Chablis lineup was delicious. The 2009's also showed well, with lots of ripe character. Reds more successful in this case.

One thing I found a bit unfortunate with the tasting was how many of the white wines were showing, particularly Meursault. These wines show so much new oak aromas when they're young that attempting to taste them at this stage is pointless. A few of the representatives pouring agreed with me - a refreshingly candid observation, but I was warned not to publish any names. A shame. Why would you pay over $70 for a bottle of white Burgundy tasting of nothing but creamy oak, and why, for that matter, would you allow people to taste them at this stage? Of course, this is all pre-supposing that such a massive use of new oak is appropriate, but that's an entirely different issue now is it.

Another problem? So many of the red wines showed a macerated, candied fruit character. A bit issue for pinot noir especially - fruit that's softened into submission like this reeks of the producer taking shortcuts. Aromas more closely associated with cheap Beaujolais have no place in fine Burgundy of this calibre (and price). A shame that no Chambolle-Musigny was poured. As well, only two Volnay wines were shown - for some inexplicable reason, I missed the second one, but the one I did get to taste, the 2008 Bouchard Volnay Caillerets Carnots was simply sublime and my favourite wine of the tasting.

A very interesting tasting all around, ran into some familiar faces, and met a few new ones as well. Connecting over fabulous Burgundy, nothing better.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wines of Burgundy - An epic finish


Let's review the epicness of the Wines of Burgundy tasting.


Blame it on the juice . . .


. . . got you feeling loose . . .


. . . blame it on Patron . . .


. . . got you in the zone . . .


. . . blame it on the . . .


. . . a a a . . .


. . . a a alcohol . . .

DSC_8204 (1)

. . . blame it on the a a a a a alcohol.


Wines of Burgundy - Table 16:24


Domaine Taupenot-Merme

2008 Gevrey-Chambertin: pure pinot noir fruit, great depth, very good
2007 Morey-Saint-Denis La Riotte 1er Cru: earthy nose, lots of rose petals, ripe and structured
2008 Saint-Romain Rouge: candied fruit, concentrated but coarse, simple

Domaine Vincent Girardin

2008 Chassagne-Montrachet Clos du Cailleret 1er Cru: oaky nose, good fruit, actually well integrated on the palate

Maison François Labet

2009 Clos-Vougeot Château de la Tour Grand Cru: macerated fruit, soft, so candied, virtually undrinkable; $149 (!!!!!!!)
2009 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes: slightly candied, soft palate, the winemaker apparently drinks wine out of a straw; I wrote ughhh in my notes

Maison Joseph Drouhin

2008 Beaune Blanc Clos des Mouches: spicy rose petals, sour red fruit, linear and very finely structured
2008 Puligny-Montrachet: some oak, lemon on the nose, very fresh; oaky on the palate, linear acidity
2008 Vosne-Romanée: spicy lean fruit, linear; palate quite coarse

Maison Louis Jadot

2007 Meursault Les Charmes 1er Cru: fresh ripe fruit, tropical notes, high acid; oaky palate
1999 Pommard Bertins 1er Cru: green nose, herbal; silky on the palate, lots of brett too; possibly the most disappointing wine of the tasting, very little breed or character to show for its 12 years
2008 Savigny-lès-Beaune La Dominode 1er Cru: slightly candied, macerated nose, hard structure

Domaine Ferret

2009 Autour de Fuissé: oaky nose, citrus, simple
2008 Pouilly Fuissé Hors Classe Les Ménétrières: oaky buttery on the nose, more the same on the palate
2007 Pouilly Fuissé Hors Classe Tournant de Pouilly: fresher, but oak lingers; spicy, cream and wood on the palate

Maison Louis Latour

2008 Chassagne-Montrachet Cailleret 1er Cru: slightly oaky, citrus fruit, very oaky palate
2008 Meursault Château de Blagny 1er Cru: fresh lemon fruit on the nose, energetic, some oak on the palate, viscous finish
2008 Puligny-Montrachet La Garenne 1er Cru: lemon and oak bouquet, slightly muted palate, fruit but oaky finish


Wines of Burgundy - Table 6:15


Daniel Rion & Fils

2008 Côte de Nuits-Villages: candied fruit, unremarkable; a lot of wines showing over-enthusiastic, macerated character
2008 Vosne-Romanée Les Beaux-Monts 1er Cru: spicy, earthy nose, fresh rose petals, elegant spicy finish, tightly structures; this is going to be a good one with bottle age
2008 Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Grandes Vignes: deep earthiness, density and concentration; just beautiful juicy fruit on the palate, refined tannins; shows rusticity of Nuits-St-Georges, needs a good 10 years

Domaine de Suremain

2008 Mercurey Clos L'Évêque 1er Cru: a bit macerated on the nose, which follows on the palate
2008 Mercurey En Sazenay 1er Cru: candied, airy wine, without distinction
2008 Mercurey: ripe, upfront fruit, ripe palate, a good simple village wine

Domaine Marchand-Grillot

2008 Petite Chapelle Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru: slightly candied, simple; these one-dimensional wines have no business charging such steep prices

Domaine Coste-Caumartin

2009 Saint-Romain Blanc: lean, green citrus, unremarkable palate, thin and slightly weedy
2009 Pommard Les Boucherottes: spicy nose, ripe, almost jammy; follows on palate, coarsely structured
2009 Pommard Les Vignots: ripe, slightly jammy, tightly wound up, very primary at this stage

Domaine Jacques Prieur

2007 Meursault Clos de Mazeray: oaky, buttery cream, very sweet on the palate, crispy finish; desperately needs time for the wood to integrate
2007 Puligny-Montrachet Les Combettes 1er Cru: sweet oak, oily and viscous texture; has this potential to be a monster in 10-15 years?
2007 Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru: coffee-like oak, spicy, deep fruit, again showing a slightly candied character on the palate

Domaine Laroche

2007 Chablis Les Blanchots Grand Cru: minerally and lean fruit, high acid, creamy oak; needs time, but this will be a good one
2009 Chablis Saint-Martin: oaky nose, fresh floral fruit, fresh palate, very lean
2007 Chablis Vaillons Vieilles Vignes 1er Cru: oaky citrus nose, tense palate, clean but austere

Domaine Parent

2008 Pommard Les Chaponnières 1er Cru: spicy rose petals, lean red fruit, fine palate, rich and very, very good
2008 Beaune Les Epenottes 1er Cru: spicy earthy nose, pure pinot noir character, rose petals singing; structured on the palate, but very silky, would like to put this in my cellar


Friday, March 25, 2011

Wines of Burgundy - Table 1:5


The Wines of Burgundy tasting in Toronto this past Tuesday was, as written earlier, a fantastic look at a wide range of producers. What I found a bit confusing was the emphasis on producer - tables were separated by each Domaine showing a range of their wines. As I always attempt to navigate these tastings on an appellation basis, I was a bit thrown off by this arrangement. Therefore, I began by hopping tables and tasting Chablis first - the tasting was so crowded that selective tasting was almost impossible, and I was forced to go table to table. Wines were tasted according to producer, important to keep in mind as you go through my notes. To keep things easier for myself, I'm going to compile my notes the same way - by producer. Allons-y

Bouchard Père & Fils

2008 Meursault: oaky nose, minerals, lean fruit; sweet on the palate, lots of primary oak
2008 Volnay Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot 1er Cru: rose petals, earth and sour fruit bouquet; elegant and very silky in texture, showing the beauty of Volnay; my favourite wine of the tasting
2008 Monthélie: earth and spicy fruit, smoky red fruit; lean and slightly coarse in texture, structured

Domaine William Fèvre

2009 Chablis: ripe and floral fruit, almost tropical with creamy oak; ripe palate, crunchy texture, great acid; drinking great now, exuberant
2008 Chablis Les Lys 1er Cru: greenish nose, minerals, lean fruit; high acid, slightly creamy oak on the palate

La Chablisienne

2009 Pas Si Petit Petit Chablis: ripe, oaky, forward nose; structured palate, alcohol showing on finish
Vieilles Vignes Chablis Les Vénérables: floral, woodsy oak, clean fruit

Chanson Père & Fils

2008 Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chenevottes 1er Cru: slight oak on the nose, clean fruit, but palate is showing lots of primary oak; needs lots of time
2007 Beaune Clos des Fèves Monopole 1er Cru: very ripe fruit, slightly jammy; palate is a bit macerated, lean structure
2007 Pernand-Vergelesses Les Vergelesses 1er Cru: oaky, creamy, lean palate; less than exciting

Chartron & Trébuchet

2008 Pouilly-Fuissé La Chapelle: well balanced fruit, lean citrus, great chardonnay character; creamy texture, needs a few years but this is very good
2008 Meursault: caramel candy type aroma from the oak, which follows on the palate; is this wine or candy?!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

(Tasting) the power of suggestion


The Wines of Burgundy tasting in Toronto this past Tuesday, hosted at the Art Gallery of Ontario, was fantastic. What was more fantastic than the actual tasting, however, was the epicness that ensued afterwards. Ah yes, the string of events over the three and a half hours or so it took us to take the subway back up north from downtown will forever be seared into my memory of the evening. Who knew a night of tasting fine Burgundy with the boys would turn out so?

Out of respect for the parties involved, I won't divulge specifics. Yet.

I'm working on consolidating my full tasting notes, and they should be up by the end of this week. Please stay tuned - this was a great tasting. Highlights included the Bouchard Père et Fils and William Fèvre tables. In the meantime, I wanted to address something that's been bugging me, something that became even more obvious during this event. I'm referring to the power of suggestion.

That is to say, when you taste wine, opinions of the people around you have a tangible influence on what you actually taste. Yesterday's tasting was fairly crowded, and I couldn't help but overhear some of the other attendees talking, not to mention the Domaine representatives present who try to give you a tasting note before they even finish pouring. An errant comment about fruit, oak, whatever, and suddenly my tasting notes are altered. I should know better. But how come I'm still susceptible, if even for the slightest instant, to tasting remarks from people who should have no place in informing my palate? Maybe I need to start wearing ear plugs to these things.

In the end, I completely drowned out all ambient noise. I even started ignoring what my friends were saying to me. And the result is that I'm more confident about these tasting notes than ones from any other tasting I've attended. Now, if only the rest of our night had gone as well . . .

Photo courtesy of ROKChoi.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2005 Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux


Château du Grand Mouëys, AC Premières Côtes de Bordeaux

The classified growths of Bordeaux are referred to as the locomotive that drives the local industry. It's important to place this into context - while these wines are arguably the most famous and heralded wines in the world, they make up just a small percentage of total production in Bordeaux. Why then, does it seem like such a lottery when you're buying Bordeaux under $30? Of course there are gems . . . but exciting claret in the 20's is far and few between.

Grand Mouëys is not bad, just not particularly exciting. Young at this point, but the brettanomyces is a bit shocking. Even three days of air didn't entirely soften its rusticity. Aromas of brett is fine, so long as it develops into savoury, leathery tones. Stinky wines, on the other hand, are just that . . . stinky wines. Being a 2005, I also expected a bit more exuberance, a bit more fleshiness, characters missing from this wine.

With the Barolo I've been drinking, maybe it is time to rethink putting more Bordeaux into my cellar. My tasting notes aren't meant to be harsh so much as express a disappointment at finding truly exciting yet humble Bordeaux.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Wines of Burgundy


Burgundy tasting tomorrow, very excited! At the Art Gallery of Ontario as well. Full tasting notes and event photos will follow.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

2009 Limarí Valley


2009 Concha Y Toro Maycas de Limarí Reserva Syrah, Limarí Valley

I think it was Decanter magazine that proclaimed syrah to be the next big thing coming out of Chile. When you make a claim like that, it's helpful to keep in mind that the next big thing is determined not by a region's most expensive wines, but by its most humble.

And judging by this sample, one of the increasing number of wines defined by its obscure geography, Chile has a bit of work to do to understand syrah. Follows the trend of New World type syrah, showcasing fruit, fruit, and more overripe fruit. Macerated until it's unrecognizable varietally. I tried to give this wine a chance, I really did. It's just not any good.

One wine is hardly sufficient to form an opinion about an entire category. But syrah has such potential to be more than the monstrosities the Australians have been trying to sell North American palates for more than a decade now. They can be subtle, savoury, and incredibly linear wines of great finesse. Hopefully, Chile goes down this path - if the Limarí claims to be cool-climate, then let's see some true cool-climate wines being produced.


You're a phony, a big fat phony!

DF bowtie

This is an unbelievable story: Fake wine discovered at LCBO prompts police probe

But so many unanswered (or rather, unreported) details. Who were the people trying to return the wines? Who supplied the labels and certificate numbers? And what kind of moron makes counterfeit Amarone selling for an amateurish $34.95 a bottle?

A round of applause to the sharp eyed LCBO staff who identified the funny bottles.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

2008 Dogliani


2008 Marziano Abbona Papà Celso, DOCG Dogliani

Simplicity and authenticity. So difficult to put into words what exactly they mean in wine, so difficult to qualify when you taste. Yet we search for it, obsessively even. And when we (winos) find it, we want to shout as loud as we can about these gems. True wine transcends all nationalities, ethnicities, or chauvinistic tendencies.

This is my first bottle of dolcetto. I still think the French make better farmer's wines, but this wine proves how brilliant this estate is. Patience, the highest of virtues, required. Still very young, and when you taste, you understand that this wine is structured for bottle age. Not typical of most dolcettos, but Abbona is not most producers. Dark purple with a red core, lots of forward and lean fruit. Aggressive even, something I love about Italian wines. After 2 hours of air, a roasted, savoury aroma wafts out, with minerals on the palate. Spicy finish. And then the tannins show why drinking this wine now is tantamount to infanticide. A few more hours in and the wine completely shuts down in bouquet and palate. Patience, right?

So, simplicity and authenticity. Yes, on both counts. This is a farmer's wine, no doubt. Unpretentious, pure, and absolutely demands to be served with food. A good, proper Italian wine, aggressive at first, becoming very warm with time. Something we all need to be drinking more of.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hold tight


This is a friend's daughter. Still too young to understand that she only has a short window of life without responsibilities left. Who was it that said youth was wasted on the young?

There's an elder at my mother's church who did something quite strange. Apparently, she decided on a whim to appoint herself godmother to another member of this church. Except this goddaughter-to-be was a woman in her 50's, with children herself. They work closely together - shrewd church politics at work? As I understand, being someone's godparent isn't just lip service - there are actual responsibilities you have to honour.

I mean, Don Corleone killed a studio head's $750,000 prize stud horse to get a film role for his godson. You don't have someone kiss your hand and call you godfather for nothing.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In wine we trust

DF bowtie

I occasionally have crippling episodes of insecurity/depression. Not often, but when it happens, it's severe enough to knock me out for a few days. I have this vision of myself bobbing around with no direction. So many of my peers apparently have it all figured out, this 40 year life plan that'll allow for early retirement, sports car and cottage. How are you so certain what you want to do with your life? So you're set as an accountant/architect/computer engineer? As if things just settle nicely into the lap.

I don't get along with most people. Especially people in my age group. It's like they following a script, this graduation, corporate job, fancy Christmas parties, kitschy cruises with the significant other . . . I don't identify with that. I'm just the cranky old soul wino I suppose. But a rudderless wino? That leads to the path of an alcoholic.

In vino veritas.


Monday, March 14, 2011

2006 Niagara Peninsula


2006 Alvento Aria, VQA Niagara Peninsula

It's been a while, this piece has been sitting as a draft for a few days. I'm becoming increasingly worried about the situation in Japan, and while my aunt assures us that they are ok, Naoto Kan's government is hardly inspiring confidence. Absolute incompetence, just a roomful of inept bureaucrats.

I picked this wine out of the sale bin. Vintages locations occasionally mark down a few bottles they desperately need to get rid of . . . usually not by much. Sales from the LCBO are hard to come by, like squeezing water out of a rock. But a very interesting proposition. A 100% nebbiolo wine from Niagara, and very courageous of Alvento to work on a grape that is virtually unheard of outside Italy. But do they succeed? Depends on your definition of success, as always. Is it just to make a good tasting wine, or is it to make an authentic, Niagara wine?

An interesting wine in any case. Very pale red in colour, almost turning slightly tawny on the rim. What I don't understand is the synthetic corks the producer chooses to close their bottles with. Somewhat counterintuitive to their ethos that they don't bottle wines if the quality isn't there. Bouquet is textbook nebbiolo, rose petals, fungal earth aromas, and sour red berries - quite delicate, flitting even. Palate is very lean, and does lack concentration. And therein lies the great debate about wines coming out of Niagara.

The climate is unequivocally cool climate. The question is whether wines made out of cool-climate vineyards express the authentic character of that varietal more than warmer climates. In many Niagara wines, this nebbiolo being the latest example, I find this to be true. It has all the aromatic components that are instantly recognizable - what it lacks is the intensity of true Barolo. But should this stop producers from attempting to make these wines? They will always be compared to the original, and they will always pale in comparison.

Can Niagara's cool climate ever produce wines of great distinction, not just cheap imitations? And what exactly defines a wine's authenticity?

Oh, and if you're interested in what we ate this with . . . it was beautiful with hotpot. High acid and lean body helps.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Somewhere out there

I think the word would be shocked. I didn't know about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami situation until about 9 on Friday. We immediately called my aunt in Tokyo to check up. Lines were beyond dead - no clicking, no busy tone, just silence. After an hour or so of trying, my mother got through to her. Safe, thank goodness, but scared out of her mind. Aftershocks every 2 hours or so, the last one happening as we talked about an hour ago. Hardest one measured 7.2.

Shocked. Even in a country as well prepared for these things as anyone can possibly be . . . it's shocking. We can't do much here, just want you to know that we're thinking of you.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Pesto alla Genovese

Pesto alla Genovese

A friend gave me a bottle of pesto for Christmas. It's been sitting in my fridge since, because I don't know what to do with it. Looks green and expensive. She bought it at Holt Renfrew - apparently they sell food there too. Finally, I grabbed a spoon last weekend and scooped some out to spread on some bread, fresh from the bakery.

And it was delicious.

The olives, the basil, the vivid green-ness. Now I want to go to Holt's and take a look in their pantry.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Trail to my heart


As I drank the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs, I was thoroughly mesmerized by the bubbles. Look how fine they are, how precise that mousse line is. Amazing. I've seen few bottles of Champagne do that. And these aren't even those Champagne glasses with a slit cut into the bottom of the bowl. They kept going too, over the 3 hours or so that I finished the bottle. Amazing.

They say size matters in sparkling wine. For aromatics, for palate, definitely. But maybe also for looks too.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

2002 Rioja


2002 Bodegas Olarra Cerro Añon Gran Reserva, DOCa Rioja

I don't follow my own advice. All this talk about global drinking is useless because I always end up going back to true wines, not good tasting wines. I could devote pages and pages to what I feel is true wine, but simply put, they're wines that are authentic to place and time of origin, history and tradition. And you just cannot find these wines in the New World. Not yet at least.

2002 was an odd vintage in Rioja. Difficult weather, uneven ripening particularly for tempranillo - to make a gran reserva in 2002 was a confident move. This wine proved my skepticism wrong. Dark in colour, elegant, with minerals and floral notes. Has those soft, very textural tannins, finishing long. Excellent integration, and drinking very well.

What was I saying about global drinking? Right. Until New World vineyards have 50 or so vintages on the shelf, nothing comes close to the personality European wines have. As a partisan of Niagara wines, I hope, in my old age, to see their character blossom. Until then . . .


Black tank, brown hair, hazel eyes

After the storm

Few weeks ago, Toronto had another one of those close but not quite snowstorms. And in typical Greater Toronto Area fashion, everyone panicked.

I was at a bar watching the NBA All-Star Game with a friend. I had a few beers, and with the wine I drank for dinner, came home a bit wobbly. It was beautiful outside, peaceful at 1am when the snow was still gently falling, no wind, red sky. So I started shovelling the driveway. I was so drunk that I had to lay down on my stomach to get this shot.

And in the morning, the cleared driveway was covered again. Like last night never happened.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011




We're spoiled, with tea at least. We have many wonderful friends who continue to bring us some very special teas from their travels in China. This is one of them, a varietal that was renowned from the Ming Dynasty. From AnHui Province, 涌溪火青.

The leaves are rolled into balls, and have an almost oily sheen to them. Wonderfully fragrant before they ever touch water, I'm careful to ensure that the water used to steep them isn't too hot. As you can see from the steeped leaves, this particular sample is very fine. Tender, whole shoots, just an incredible quality.

The tea is so fragrant, herbal and slightly green. Rich in the mouth, well-structured and tannic. Develops a lovely sweetness with continued brewing. Delicious, a very special tea indeed.


2005 Carneros

2005 Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs

2005 Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs, Carneros

I don't drink much Californian wine. Maybe I need to pay more attention, at least to the sparkling wines. The climate works, right? They have no problem with ripeness, no problem with how to do it . . . so why aren't more people making Californian sparkling wine?

This particular one, a vintage blanc de blancs, is a fantastic example of that potential. Pale colour with a very fine bead. Very, very fine indeed, just a nonstop stream of almost imperceptibly tiny bubbles. Ripe fruit, punchy extract on the palate, very well integrated. Fine and elegant, very long - just a lovely wine all around.

So lovely in fact, that I finished the entire bottle. How can the Californians manage to make delicious sparkling wines in the mid-$20's, while Niagara doesn't seem to be able to do it under $30. Lots of potential for these types of wines in the New World. Maybe it's the costs associated, maybe consumer perception about bubbly, but people need to be drinking more sparkling wine, and appreciating the producers who are making them.


Monday, March 7, 2011


Decanter stand

Another new toy, this one decidedly less satisfying than the last. A decanter stand, made by Freiling or something like that. The steel stand is surprisingly sturdy, but therein lies the danger, the false sense of security. I set my wide bottom decanter to dry yesterday, failing to carefully center it on the rubber knob. The slick wetness caused it to slip, to crack, to shatter.

The decanter, and my heart, in pieces. Oh, and the bright red bow on top? The week started off with a horrific day of trading, which saw my RIM stock plummet $1.52 a share (-2.36%), plunging my portfolio down 2.21%.

But we won't get into that.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

2005 Late Bottled Vintage Port

2005 Delaforce LBV

2005 Delaforce Late Bottled Vintage Port

You know, we never do see enough of these types of wines. Simple, rich, pure, and direct. Delaforce's LBV satisfies all those tingles you have on a cold winter night, when all you need is a wine to pick up your spirits.

Oh, and under $18 too.


The Forbidden Game


So this is what it's come to. DF, depressed and down, resorting to cheap scotch. Five to seven shots in, I don't know, still not feeling better. The fumes off the candles seem to be helping though. The Erlkönig can come take me.

This is how people become alcoholics.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

2009 Saumur

2009 Domaine de Peyanne Saumur

2009 Domaine de Peyanne, AC Saumur

Don't get the wrong idea; just because I disagree with John Szabo MS about a certain wine, he's still one of my favourite wine critics to follow. I like his taste in wine and I trust his judgement, something exemplified in this humble bottle of Loire red that he gave the thumbs up to in the same WineAlign newsletter.

Simple Saumur, perfect cabernet franc fruit, all herbal and green, but perfectly ripe in the dark berries on the palate. Minerals shine, as does the freshness. Good, honest, authentic wine, all we can ask for.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Flowers in the tea


The last of the dried flowers we found on our last visit to 周庄, a little village about 120 km or so southeast of Shanghai. What a beautiful place. The village's defining feature are the canals that the houses are built on. Shades of Venice, but much more beautiful. For poets and dreamers.

I stumbled across an old lady selling herbs for tea. And she showed me these flowers. I have no idea what they are, but they have the most exquisite aroma. Delicate and sweet, and brewed with a handful of 铁观音 leaves, a stunning example of how complex Chinese tea can be. A sip and somehow I'm back in 周庄, faintly hearing the rower's song echoing in the canals.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

2007 Crozes-Hermitage

2007 Domaine Belle Les Pierreles Crozes-Hermitage

2007 Domaine Belle Les Pierrelles, AC Crozes-Hermitage

You see, this is a perfect example of how your perception of a wine can be wildly divergent from wine professionals. With all due respect, because I actually do agree with his tastes more often than not, John Szabo MS was way off on this Crozes-Hermitage. Way off. John wrote in his January 28th WineAlign newsletter:

There was more than a subtle murmur of excitement in the LCBO tasting lab as the writers came upon the Crozes-Hermitage, made from pure syrah. The appellation is not as highly regarded as the neighboring hill of Hermitage to the south, nor Côte-Rôtie across on the west banks of the Rhône River and further up-stream, nor even Cornas opposite. It’s more variable in style and quality, with some Crozes made using the technique of carbonic maceration to yield soft, simple, fruity reds for early enjoyment, while others are just simply lighter and less complex versions of more ‘serious’ northern Rhône syrahs. Yet there are a few producers with privileged sites whose exceptions prove the rules. Alain Graillot comes to mind, as does Jaboulet’s Domaine du Thalabert. Domaine Belle, on the other hand, is a new discovery for me, and it seems, is under the radar for many.


Domaine Belle is a modest-sized family-run estate located in the village of Larnage, just a few kilometers north of the Hermitage AOC. Former member of the very good co-op in Tain-Hermitage, Philippe struck out on his own in 1988 after he had completed his winemaking education in Montpellier. The LES PIERRELLES CROZES-HERMITAGE is made from vines in the vineyard of the same name. It has classic spicy, peppery, leathery, unmistakable northern Rhône-styling, with character and class well above the asking price, and the depth and complexity of many Côte-Rôties and Hermitages. It also has the potential to improve with age over the next 2-3 years. In the US this sells regularly for about $30/bottle, so at $22.95, I’d consider it top value.

Pretty words, but in my opinion, the wine was anything but authentic, regional, or worth drinking. Bottle variation, tasting conditions aside, the wine tasted nothing like the above description. Nothing alike. It was overly macerated, confected, with a limp, flabby body. Cheap. Difficult to find any redeeming values - perhaps if it was $12.95, it wouldn't sting as much, but for $23, this is an incredibly limp-dicked wine.

I like syrah, especially from the northern Rhône. This should have been a quality wine, implied by both price and the labelling of a lieu-dit. So what's going on? Was this a bad bottle? Is my tasting ability suspect? Or is it the simple fact that everyone has different tastes and as much as you would like to, you can't always trust what a wine writer lays down in print.

Just don't tell me this is what a good syrah tastes like. It's not.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

So calm so quiet

Winter storm

March is here. In all honesty, this year's winter was amateurish. All the fuss about snowstorms has been for naught - the weather's been shooting blanks all season long.

But I have been looking forward to spring. The calm after a snowfall is beautiful, but I miss the sun and drinking mojitos.