Monday, April 25, 2011

Until we see each other again...


Well, here we go again. It's time to get out of Toronto for a bit, see and experience some new things, get drunk in a foreign country. I didn't tell a lot of people I was going away. Yes, not even to most of my friends. I still really like you guys, and it's not like I didn't want to tell you, it's just . . . I didn't want to tell you. You know how little I think of the people who broadcast travel plans on Facebook, countdown and all. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you're not preparing FOR A FUCKING SPACE FLIGHT!!

I'm going to Paris for a while. I've rented an apartment and consulted with a few locals - I'll try my best to blend in, visit some more obscure areas of the city. I've also arranged to spend 3 days in Champagne - Reims, where we'll be visiting several Champagne houses. My first visit to a proper European wine region, where I'll hopefully learn a lot and drink even more.

Excited. Really excited. Can you tell? The past few months have been a bit of a shitstorm, and I'm eager to escape for a bit. Camera, iPad, cigars, and walking boots. I think I'm ready.


2007 Cava


2007 Raventos I Blanc L'Hereu Reserva Brut, DOC Cava

Vintage Cava? Definitely a yes. Very fitting to drink as my last bottle before I leave for . . . well, that's not important. No need to broadcast that, especially on Facebook (for fuck's sake, definitely no T-10 hours bullshit).

A lively wine, fresh with good green apple aromas. Certainly clean and to the point. A good wine, unremarkable, but good to wash down a meal with. And just like that, it's time to pack my bags . . .


2008 Marlborough Pinot Noir


2008 Staete Landt Pinot Noir, Marlborough

Oh look, I haven't drank a New Zealand wine in nearly a full year. And oh look, it's from the same producer. Somehow the name seems South African to me, but the wine sings completely of Marlborough. I was so impressed with the riesling. This bottle, quite expensive, but the Kiwis have certainly not been shy about pricing their pinot noirs, particularly from Otago.

Very pale in colour, a beautifully luminous red. Shows lots of sour red berries, underripe cranberries and strawberries. Fragrant. Some rose petals, spice, a bit of earthiness - I could mistake this for a 2008 Flat Rock pinot noir, both from colour and bouquet. This does show an impressive intensity, an almost churlish turn which follows on the palate. Quite aggressive and extracted acidity. Needs time to settle down a bit, but very intriguing example of a more leaner, racier style of pinot noir.


Los cigarros!



I think we're ready to go. This should occupy me for 2 weeks nicely, no?


She's in full bloom






Sunday, April 24, 2011

2009 Gavi


2009 Michele Chiarlo Le Marne, DOCG Gavi

There's a fairly reliable element to selecting sub-$15 Italian wines, but maybe I don't feel like sharing. Piedmont's always a winner, especially with these white wines they occasionally bring in. From the cortese grape variety.

I was blown away. What a complement to the Paolo Scavino Dolcetto d'Alba we drank earlier. So fragrantly floral, with ripe peaches and apples. Fresh and minerally, but the palate surprises even more. Rich and velvety in texture, completely coats the palate but finishes so fresh. Beautiful.


2009 Dolcetto d'Alba


2009 Paolo Scavino Dolcetto d'Alba, DOC

It just makes sense that a producer of impressive, expensive wines should take the same care in producing humbler wines as well. Doesn't always happen that way, but when you do find such a producer, buy in multiples. Paolo Scavino makes very impressive Barolos, but that quality and care can also be found in its dolcettos. I don't normally care too much about dolcetto - maybe I need to start paying more attention.

A young wine, tasted without decanting. Dark purple, with a slightly confected fruit character, something I find often in young dolcetto. What impresses immediately is the texture on the palate - absolute wool and thick cashmere, creating a full impression on the palate but yet incredibly weightless. Seems very soft, but the finish shows very fine tannins. Extraordinary transition, showing balance and aging potential. Develops savoury aromas, with the fruit remaining fresh and vibrant. A delicious wine, which kept changing character over the 3 days it was open. I could learn to love this.

Vintages is releasing a few Paolo Scavino Barolo 2006's. Judging by price, are they 5 times as good as this one?


Into the dark

I entrust my most prized possessions with my wonderful friend. They give me the most perfect space in their basement to store my treasures. I put a few more boxes away today - some 2009 Niagara riesling, some 2007 Sauternes, 2005 Barolo, among other things. It's really quite tragic that I don't have my own cellar space, but it's even sadder that so much of the wine isn't ready for consumption yet.

We men are nearly perfect, but this whole delayed gratification thing is a severe weakness.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

A vessel

Does tea taste better brewed in a clay teapot? Would wine taste different if stored in an amphora, instead of glass? I like that there's a ritual to brewing tea. It's a little moment of quiet meditation.


2000 Niagara-on-the-Lake


2000 Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake

Look at that, I didn't know you could label a wine as NOTL. In any case, the wine behind the labels pretty special too. And why is this, and the 2005 Marqués de Murrieta, all in the dark? We were celebrating Earth Hour at home - we went all radical with it and turned the lights off the entire night. Couldn't see a damn thing, somewhat taking the charm away from drinking an older Niagara white wine like this. Indulging of the eyes is, after all, a pleasure.

I bought this from the winery. I made my first visit in March, incidentally on a work-related trip to Niagara. Beautiful facility, which should even be more spectacular in the summer when they let the sheep out to graze the vineyards. What I thought to be a somewhat unexceptional producer surprised me with its philosophy towards chardonnay in particular. Everyone knows the owner of Southbrook as the person spearheading the recent Cool Climate Chardonnay tastings, and this summer's I4C event. This isn't just rabble-rousing . . . Southbrook has the wines to back it up.

The producer has a policy of holding vintages back, and releasing it upon maturity. The most recent is this, the 2000 chardonnay from their Triomphe lineup. I wasn't expecting much when we tasted at the winery, but I was instantly taken by this wine. White truffles, creamy chardonnay fruit, mature but still energetic. Delicious in fact, and gives an interesting insight into how Niagara wines can age. It is oaky though, and I have a few bottles put away, to see if the oak will further develop and integrate. A very, very interesting wine.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Election Day, May 2011

Another federal election. I'm going in early, advance polls have been set up for today and tomorrow. I don't know who I'm voting for. Flip a coin? I just want good government. Nah, that's a bit too much to ask.


2005 Rioja Reserva


2005 Marqués de Murrieta Finca Ygay Reserva, DOCa Rioja

Did you know the gentlemen who owns this estate is an actual Marquis? I'd like to be a Marquis. Or a Duke. Or a Count. That's so ridiculously badass I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I had a title.

Rioja needs to wake up and see how valuable their tradition of releasing only mature wines on the market is. They don't need to be Ribera del Duero, they don't need to be Toro. The tempranillo produced here is subtle, and needs significant aging in both barrel and bottle before release - otherwise, what's the point? This is one of those wines that gives a fabulous experience in traditional Rioja. Ripe strawberries, earthy, some spice, slight vanilla from the oak - turns savoury, dense, with sweet fruit on the texture. Ah yes, drinking Rioja in the dark, just like the nobility.


Breakfast of winos

I've had a busy week. Wrapping things up around here, busy huffing and fucking puffing until the last minute in the office. Usually I stay in bed the next morning until noon, but got up just before 10 - still lots of work to be done. And pictured, in this wino's opinion, is the perfect breakfast. Stacks of paperwork to sort out, research to be done, drafts to be written . . . all accompanied by a glass of the most amazing Marlborough pinot noir.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

White radish buns













This is my great-grandmother's dish. With a dash of chili pepper sauce, just absolute perfection on the plate.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

2008 Pfalz


2008 Darting Riesling Kabinett, QbA Pfalz

Shit. Another bad one. 0 for 2 for the weekend.


2009 Baden


2009 Königschaffhausen Steingrüble Pinot Noir Trocken, QbA Baden

This was a disappointing wine. And that's about it. Twice as disappointing, in fact, as I quite enjoyed the 2005. Ooof, just confected, with a disgusting slight sweetness from lingering sugar, and barely drinkable. I finished the bottle, as this was the last of two bottles I had in the house, but this wino was not happy.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Clivia orange in spring


Our flower is in bloom. And look, it's a double stalk this time. I've been told I can get $10,000 for this in China. Really? Let's make it happen then, I could use 10G's in the pocket. So if it's $20 per, $10,000 would translate to . . .


Monday, April 18, 2011

Real old, real simple


I like steaming food. But doing it in a pan, on a raised metal rack doesn't work. Why didn't I think of this earlier? The old, traditional way, invariably, remains the best way. Don't fight tradition. I can't wait to steam.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Duggan's #9 IPA

Duggan #9 IPA

Duggan's #9 India Pale Ale

Is it unthinkable that this wino also loves beer? Shouldn't be. Not when you're talking about one of the finest India Pale Ale's brewed in the new world. I first drank this beer at Le Select Bistro, with a lamb burger. And it's been on my mind ever since - about time the LCBO started stocking proper, Ontario-brewed craft beers.

Simply delicious. Few beers deserve to be served in a proper wine glass, and this is one of them - the bouquet is so amazingly fragrant. Persistent head of foam, beautifully thick like good whipping cream. Bright, bitter, and complex. Is it too much to call this the finest beer I've ever put in my mouth?

I drank loads of it tonight. Bottles and bottles . . . too bad it comes in a smaller 275 mL format. One of our dinner guests said he didn't care too much for it. Asshole. Childish palate. I should have given him a bib so he wouldn't make a mess on his cheap shirt. Asshole.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

2008 Pommard Clos Blanc

2008 Machard de Gramont Pommard Clos Blanc 1er Cru

2008 Machard de Gramont Pommard Clos Blanc, AC Pommard 1st Cru

Burgundy is the dream for winos. Simply the most profound wine experiences humans are capable of. These are wines that I'd like to fill my cellar with . . . imagine that, a cellar full of Chablis, Chambolle-Musigny, and Volnay. Oh, and the odd bottle of DRC and Leroy. Winos, above all, are dreamers.

This wine is a selection from the Nokhrin Wines portfolio. I got the opportunity to taste a few of Machard de Gramont wines - they make a very good white Nuits-Saint-Georges as well. Their Pommard Clos Blanc is an interesting wine. I was very happy with the 2006, the wine I drank for New Year's. Very elegant, very delicious, but also very, very young. And this latest vintage? A bit closed, showing some spice, some rose petals on the bouquet. Young red burgundy, which needs a few more years to open up, unwind.

Pommard is incredible, but very challenging to understand. How, how do you possibly taste a young wine at this point, and determine how long you should put it away, how the aromas/flavours will develop, how the texture will unravel?


Marry a rich (preferably old) heiress, fill up the cellar with Burgundian treasures and drink away.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A girl in Montreal

Oh those char marks

A few years ago I met a girl in Montreal. One of the greatest cities in this country. She was a bit wild, had a few tattoos, strange blond streaks in her hair. Which made perfect sense that she wanted to be a cook, and eventually have her own restaurant. I admire that . . . I could never do it.

The Shanghainese have a funny saying about advising someone you hate to open a restaurant. There's some truth behind that. The restaurant business is deadly - look up the statistics about how many businesses fail within the first 12 months, and you'll get an idea. This is an industry for wolves. Romantic and all to be a restauranteur, but if you're thinking about it, spare yourself - get a real job and eat out every weekend.

I haven't talked to my friend in a while. Should catch up and see how she's doing. I ate asparagus tonight. It's all coming out magnificently like perfume.


Sunday, April 10, 2011



Feeling miserable. Due to certain (foreseen) circumstances, I've had to budget quite heavily, and the first thing to go is wine. I can't justify buying both wine FOR the cellar and for drinking. So I chose to buy the Barolo to put away, in hopes that future consumption will yield more utility. But damn I'm feeling miserable.

A friend was trying to get a group together Saturday night to go out to a bar. Nothing special, just have a few drinks, meet some girls. What kind of gentleman's club doesn't allow gentlemen smoking; cigars or whatever? Clearly, a fake gentleman's club, that's what.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

2003 Toscana Vino Rosso

2003 Azienda Agricola Svoltacarozze di Meoni Sebastiana

2003 Azienda Agricola Svoltacarozze di Meoni Sebastiana Vino Rosso, IGT Toscana

Name is too long. There's no reason to use such a convoluted name for your wine. Honestly. Who the hell is going to remember something like that when they're buying wine? Coming out of Tuscany, should not be so difficult. Producer name, name of appellation, done. Or am I just talking out the ass? I won't start on the label design.

This is not a SuperTuscan. That was a vulgar term propagated by American bluster and Italian greed. That there is the epitome of collusion in wine journalism/wine industry relationships. The Italians needed a way to market a category of (International palate) brand wines more expensive than Bordeaux, and the American wine press needed something to make a name for itself. Is a wine with more cabernet and merlot than sangiovese still an Italian wine, not to mention a Tuscan?

SuperTuscans are nothing more than expensive wines. That's the true meaning of the term. Glorified trophies, really. But sadly, any wine falling under the Toscana IGT is automatically labelled as such. As this wine was being opened and poured, I admit to an initial skepticism as to what it was. From the famed heat-wave vintage, a blend of 90% sangiovese and 10% cabernet sauvignon. Heavy in sediment, nearly cloudy, but that may have been due to the wine not being stood up for a few hours prior to opening.

I have a really hard time enjoying Tuscan wines. Chianti can't be trusted anymore - it's an absolute nightmare to find a proper sangiovese-based wine that actually tastes like sangiovese. This humble vino rosso taught me that there are still protectors of the faith here. Slightly browning colour, which I think a lot of the 2003's are going to have - too many wines got ripe too quick, and are beginning to fall apart. At least that's what I initially thought. Bouquet of dried fruit, slightly raisiny. It however shows a delicate sour red berry character typical of sangiovese. On the palate, dusty texture, lean, but well integrated. Slightly hollow in the transition to the finish, but this wine was getting me excited. Over the three days that I drank it, the wine went through an amazing development, getting better and better. Firms up in texture, beginning more earthy, minerally. Elegant on the palate, very finely structured, and incredibly, shedding its fatigue when it was just opened to become more youthful, energetic.

Amazing, and absolutely authentic of Tuscany, sangiovese, and vintage. While not a perfect wine by any means, a truly authentic one. That's pretty super to me.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

2008 Margaret River

2009 Night Harvest Shiraz

2008 Night Harvest Shiraz, Margaret River

What's happening . . . LCF showing Australian shiraz? What? What??!!

Nothing personal against Australia; I mean I have relatives there. The wines? Not so great. And I'll tell you why. If you like Australian wine, you have to admit that you like fruit in your wine. Lots of it. Overripe, over-macerated, over-alcoholic, over-extracted, over-oaky . . . it doesn't matter, any and all fruit is good.

But that isn't complexity. And that isn't greatness.

Wine tasting of nothing but fruit is simple - it can be good to drink and all, but it will never be a great wine. Australians, like everyone else, abuse the concept of terroir by applying it to their wines. There is no terroir in fruity wines. These are wines that can be replicated anywhere in the world, from any grape variety. Shiraz is a brand wine, not a varietal anymore - and that is not terroir. And that's the issue I had with this wine.

Few wines can elicit an immediate physical reaction. Deep purple in the glass, the bouquet is so intense, so overwhelmingly viscous that I involuntarily recoiled at first smell. Good fruit, surprisingly fresh. The label reads 13.5% alcohol - showing some finesse! The wine doesn't appreciably develop over the three days I had it open. It's simple fruit, drinkable, but ultimately a simple wine.

One more thing. And this is a problem that the producers unfortunately can't control. I'm referring to the odours of reduction that can appear in wines bottled under screwcap. You see, the Australians are religiously fanatic about abolishing natural cork to stop their wines. They can quite convincingly argue that problems with TCA, oxidation, and ageability are all serious considerations to avoid using cork. And while screwcap may solve those issues (good ageability remains to be seen), they've traded one problem for another. You see, screwcap almost closes the wine too well. Sulphur added to the wine can permeate the bouquet, leaving an oily, rubbery aroma that stays in the wine. That's what happened here - hopefully an isolated incident, but instances of reduction are definitely a real problem for screwcaps, and an issue that probably is lost amidst all the foaming at the mouth ranting about the evil cork.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

1983 Vintage Port

1983 Gould Campbell Vintage Port

1983 Gould Campbell Vintage Port

A port to close out this winter's port drinking season.

What can I possibly say in critique of a wine older than I am? All the superlatives somehow seem decidedly inadequate. Limitations of wine writing, or rather, my writing?

I shouldn't be getting strange looks for loving to drink port. Why would that be strange? You know the wines I like - authenticity and singularity above all else, and ports are singular wines. Find me another wine that is as dense and concentrated, yet elegant and fresh, with an immense ability (and necessity) for bottle age. You can't. Which makes it sad that all of sudden, Portugal is trying its hardest to pump out dry red wines. The WA effect? Perhaps. But those wines are completely character-less. Maybe that's why they're doing well (in America)? A shame. Portugal, please return to what you do best.

And what better proof that God shines on ports than this wine. Tannins perfectly integrated, creating a beautifully lush, wooly texture. Minerals and fruits, perfect in aroma and flavour. Just sublime, and all love.


Monday, April 4, 2011


DF bowtie

It's been looking more and more like spring outside, rain and all. Compounding the misery is the fact that I've been having severe budgeting issues. Just really grim in general. My cellar's been empty for the past 6 weeks - I've never had to live (literally) bottle to bottle like this before. Grim.

Anyways. In my limited time with wine, I've been fortunate enough to taste with winery retail staff, marketing staff, winemakers, and owners. I've learned about wine production, about tasting . . . and how to be diplomatic about wine. Because when you taste in front of the people responsible for bringing them to life, how can you be so pretentious as to pass judgement without careful thought to what comes out of your mouth.

All the winemakers I've met have been extremely humble and honest about their wines. That doesn't excuse the people who presume to judge and generalize wines they've spent all of 2 minutes tasting. And the ones who, sin of sins, score wines in front of producers. Awful, and so disrespectful. So what point am I trying to make? It's important, always, for honesty. At the same time, it's more important to place your ego as a taster in your pocket, and reserve judgement on a wine until you have a deeper understanding of what they are. And this is not something that can be achieved in a single tasting.

There are certain people who've taken flimsy wine courses at flimsier institutions who dismiss other (younger) tasters as not understanding wine because you haven't even lived yet. Talking out the ass aside, let's all take a step back from the fake bravado and really think about how deep and meaningful our understanding of wine is. And if I ever meet this tool, I'll shove a bottle of whatever S. American junk he likes so high and tight up his ass he's going to have to open his mouth to pour a glass. With a smile of course. One tries to stay a gentleman.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

1999 Colheita Port

1999 Hutcheson Colheita Port

1999 Hutcheson Colheita Port

I love port, but there's no denying that it's not a particularly sexy wine. No one likes to admit that they enjoy sweet wines. Even scarcer are the people who openly serve it with dinner. I'm not saying I'm special, but yeah, I'm kind of a badass for doing both.

These vintage tawnies are wonderful wines. Round and sweet, with that spiciness you still get in young colheitas. Energetic and lively on the palate. I really like Hutcheson colheitas - I vividly remember the delicious '78 I drank for New Year's. So what's holding people back from embracing these wines? I'll have none of that it's so old-fashioned talk. North Americans are funny - they have no problem downing soda like it's nobody's business, but heaven forbid they admit to drinking sweet wines.

And what did I serve this with? Only the most delicious braised sea cucumber, bien sur.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

2005 Rioja Reserva

2005 Navajas Rioja

2005 Navajas Reserva, DOCa Rioja

It's easy to love Rioja. It's so effortlessly charming, that rare kind of company you wouldn't mind not leaving after you clear the dishes. But I'm worried it's going down the dark road Chianti has fallen victim to, that road which leads to internationally-styled wines that taste neither of place of origin nor time of birth. Some (Italians) might argue that that's a good thing, that their wines are achieving higher scores and corresponding prices. That's a sad sentiment, because it is a forsaking of your heritage and that of your ancestors for commercial gain. Too melodramatic? Perhaps. And many would rightfully argue that Rioja is still holding onto tradition. But as more and more producers are seduced by the international palate, we have a responsibility as wine writers, critics, professionals, and consumers to embrace and laud the beauty of authentic Rioja wine.

This is one of them.

Ripe, fresh fruit, with a kiss of oak. Lean, floral, developing a savoury character on the second day. Minerally as well, following on a gorgeously integrated, harmonious palate. Long. Pure and graceful, the perfect dinner companion.


Friday, April 1, 2011

La Cave de Fang, new domain

DF bowtie

I'm happy to announce that La Cave de Fang will be moving to its own domain. As of today, our new home will be:

Not to worry, everything else stays the same - nothing lost, including all the old links. April's beginning to look up!