Sunday, July 31, 2011

learn to cook

DF Profile

Love to cook. And I haven't been feeling inspired for many months now. That's a problem.

It's not so much that I don't have the equipment or whatever - it's more this lack of interest/motivation/inspiration to go out in search of fresh ingredients to cook with. You know I haven't been to a farmer's market yet this year. Not that I was ever really big into that whole thing, but it was nice when I was at least excited to go out on weekends to shop for food. Some good news coming up though . . . my aunt and cousin will be visiting from Tokyo in 10 days. And they're going to be bringing me some interesting things to cook. Yes, not just to eat, but to cook. Until they pass through customs intact, I think it'd be prudent to keep my mouth shut.

This is probably something really petty, but I can't stand when people call themselves/others chef. You're not a fucking chef. Neither is your friend. The word chef means chief/leader/boss, and in a kitchen, there is only one chef, who incidentally does very little cooking. Conceptualizing and creating the menu, yes. Leading the different stations, definitely. And giving each dish a final inspection, most certainly. So take a long, hard look at yourself if you call any idiot who picks up a spatula a chef.

If I was rich. I'd do culinary tour through Spain. Start in the north with the shellfish and squid and continue south with all the jamón ibérico of my fantasies. I'd come out with bad cholesterol and a fucking macerated liver but I'd be happy. And ready to die. One can dream.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

2005 Tokaji Aszú 3 Puttonyos

2005 St. Stephen's Crown 3 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszu

2005 St. Stephen's Crown 3 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszú

Can there be a more singular wine than Tokaji? They can be so breathtaking, more complex and interesting than you could ever imagine a sweet wine to be. The second wine of our evening, and in fact, my favourite. This wine married even better with dinner, fish and various greens sautéed simply over hot oil.

Double decanted as well, and chilled in ice. This is showing a stunning amber colour, with an earthy nose of dried apricots and dates. Mineral, with mature characters. Following on the palate, with just a touch of sweetness, very bright acidity, and impeccably balanced. Long, dried fruits on an elegant finish. A wine of great breeding.

It's that incredible combination of botrytis character and minerality, all beginning to mature that makes the wine work so well with food. Just everything I want in a vin de terroir.


2007 Sauternes

2007 Chateau Liot, Barsac

2007 Château Liot, AC Sauternes

We've been cooking and eating outdoors every week this summer and for one of those meals, I wanted to do a pair of sweet wines. I don't know anyone else who drinks sweet wines at all, much less with dinner, but as long as the wines have good amounts of acid, simple Chinese food and sweet wines go beautifully together. It's that juxtaposition of contrasting flavours, that spicy/sweet/acidic/savoury combination that somehow just manages to come together on the palate.

The first wine, a simple Sauternes from a vintage I'm very excited about. 2007 has all the sweetness and botrytis character, yet with an acidity and structure that will allow them to age wonderfully. Slightly chilled, this is already a deep golden colour, throwing off the slightest hints of orange. Bright nose of fresh ripe fruit, apricots and honey. Thick and lusciously sweet on the palate, with the high acid rushing in on the finish. Balanced and long, absolutely delicious. Very exciting indeed.


prepping the sweet

the sweet                  the sweet

the sweet

the sweet

It's an absolute thing of beauty. A bottle of Sauternes, a bottle of Tokaji. Two kings of the wine world, and we were going to drink them over dinner. Yes, where these sweet wines belong. Just look at that colour, those bottles, those corks. Double decanted, put on ice . . .


Friday, July 29, 2011

2008 Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett

2008 Dr. H. Thanisch Riesling Kabinett

2008 Dr. H. Thanisch Riesling Kabinett, QmP Bernkasteler Badstube, Mosel

Why do so many riesling producers reference Dr. in the name? Are they really all doctors, or is this some sort of regional affectation?

It was so naughty watching the label slowly peel itself off the bottle in the ice bath. I liked that a lot. As the great Michael Scott would say, Lets face it, most guys are from the dark ages. They're cavemen, and they like a woman to be showing her cleavage and to be wearing 8 inch heels, and to be wearing see-through under-pants. But for me, a woman looks best when she is just absolutely naked.

The wine was actually bottled under Stelvin, funny considering the labels seem to be hand-glued. Pale colour, pure minerals and lanolin cream. A lovely sort of herbal aroma, very subtle. Pure fruit and elegantly texture on the palate, good dry extract. Acidity lifts up on the finish. These wines, heavily chilled, are the best. Just the best.


Guantanamera Habana

Guantanamera Habana

How do you milk even more out of a song that really has lost of all its original meaning? By putting it on a cigar of course. It's a nice smoke; simple, but nice. Just make sure your fingers are clamping down over the label.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

1998 Hattenheim Nussbrunnen Riesling Spätlese

1998 Balthasar Ress Riesling Spatlese, Hattenheim Nussbrunnen

1998 Balthasar Ress Riesling Spätlese, QmP Hattenheim Nussbrunnen, Rheingau

Real riesling fanboys know better than to look down at Balthasar Ress. Yes it's a huge producer and all, but that's like refusing to drink Louis Jadot or Bouchard Père et Fils. There are always gems in the portfolio.

We see a lot of old Balthasar Ress being released in Toronto. Whether it's from their cellars or not, these wines are a fabulous (and inexpensive) way to learn how rieslings do with bottle age. Will they be transcendent experiences? Maybe that's asking for too much, but the wines are delicious and no true riesling lover should ever turn down the opportunity to taste 10+ year old wines. This one, a deep, gold spätlesen, is beautiful. Minerals and oil honey, baked apples. Quite sweet, but the acidity breaks it down on the finish. Mature, slightly irregular in texture. It's a delicious wine for what it is, and if you're thinking too hard about these things, you're missing that point.


Quebec Crackling Cider

Cidrerie St-Nicolas Pom'Or Tradition Crackling Cider

Cidrerie St-Nicolas Pom'Or Tradition Crackling Cider, Quebec

So interesting for me to try something totally new and different. I don't drink much cider, I don't know much about cider. When we were still in school, my friend used to buy cans of Strongbow - I remember it as being little more than fizzy and fruity. This should be a proper one. From La belle province, bottled with an exposed mushroom cork. Very pale colour, with a waxy, apple-y nose. Some pear too, soft and slightly muted. Some sweetness on the palate, a refreshing though simply style. Very interesting indeed. And now I know a little bit more about cider.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011


grilling squid           mojito

I'm slowly learning how to grill seafood. Fish and tentacles and shellfish on hot coal is infinitely more interesting than meat. How is it that whenever people do bbq, it's all shitty burgers and chicken, dry and tasteless? I did squid a few weeks ago. Seasoned very simply, finished with the most amazing raw olive oil. Flavour, aroma, texture . . . it was all there. With mojitos in the other hand, just beautiful.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

magret de canard

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magrets de canard magrets de canard

magrets de canard

The most amazing magret de canards, done in its own fat, finished with some cognac mushrooms. That crispy skin, that richly rustic flavour of the duck. There's a sexual innuendo deep in there somewhere, but it'd be inappropriate to, you know, let it out in the open. If it wasn't so damn expensive (it's just a duck breast!!!), I'd eat duck every day.


Monday, July 25, 2011

1998 Rioja Gran Reserva

1998 Hermanos Laredo Senorio de Laredo Gran Reserva

1998 Bodegas Hermanos Laredo Senorio de Laredo Gran Reserva, DOCa Rioja

Rioja over 10 years old is straight magic. Being a Gran Reserva doesn't necessarily have to be in reference to the amount of time spent in oak. This wine has all the purity, all the magic of old Rioja. And only 24 months of oak - a fair amount of time, relatively speaking, but just over the minimum oak aging requirement of 18 months for Gran Reservas. And depending on where in Rioja, that minimum can rise to 24 months, with the majority of producers exceeding that amount for their best wines.

This wine is fabulous. All crystalline minerality and dried red fruits, with that subtle vanilla perfume of old Rioja. Develops a roasted mocha aroma as well, with beautifully integrated oak. Fine and elegant, very long. Even shows more floral, more sweetness on the second day.

We'll end on a high note. No more Rioja until at least the fall.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Finally reaching into the cellar

DF Profile

It's been blazingly hot these past few days in Toronto, but I'm not complaining. After months and months of cold and snow, I'm not about to start moaning about some sun and heat. Except when it comes to my wine in storage of course. I owe my friend and her family endless thanks for giving me a wonderful space to store my wines. Every few months or so, I'm reminded that I buy too much wine, and it'll probably all go to shit when I finally decide to drink them. Good. So of course, in line with how the rest of my life's going, Vintages did its best to fuck with me and not bring in my 2008 Bordeaux Futures until this week. Because it's always fun and appropriate to ship and store Bordeaux in the dead heat of summer.

I had a few other boxes of wine I needed to put away, some 2009 Niagara wines. Just as important, there were a few bottles I wanted to pull out of the cellar, namely a few bottles of 2006 Le Clos Jordanne. I had bought bottles of nearly every cuvée they made that year, and as this vintage is aging quite rapidly in bottle, I wanted to drink them. The heat was roaring, but I managed. Seven bottles of 2006 Le Clos Jordanne, with a few Champagnes and old rieslings. Everytime I go I say to myself that I won't buy anymore wine. Running out of space, definitely running out of budget. You know that scene in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps when Louis Zabel calmly finishes eating his chips and then steps in front of the train? Maybe a bit too messy and attention-seeking for me. And it's such a shame to off yourself with a (gifted) bottle of Lafite in the cellar. End of August, it'll come soon enough.

Stay tuned, planning a dinner to show off the range of 2006 Le Clos Jordanne chardonnays and pinot noirs. Sort of like a last hurrah.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

2002 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

2002 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon

2002 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

First, I must address these somewhat ridiculous past 3 months or so. Haven't been feeling well, or myself, in a long time, and it's affecting everything. Who was it that said When the mind suffers, the body cries out. This will hopefully eventually sort itself out, but in the meantime . . . please bear with the inconsistent writing and posting schedule.

I believe this is the first bottle of Napa cabernet that I've ever bought myself. Probably more indicative of my Eurocentric tendencies, but I don't buy these wines not because I dislike them - rather, I don't buy because I refuse to pay over $50 for the hype associated with Napa. So when I see a bottle of Napa wine with a bit of bottle age, pedigree, and at relatively inexpensive prices, I go for it. Hard.

This is 85% varietal, blended with merlot and petit verdot, making it one of the closer approximates to the Médoc coming out of California. Dark still, looking very youthful. Spice and oak and all that, but the fruit remains fresh and vibrant. Young all around, showing lots of oak spice on the palate. Despite that, this still remains balanced, and dare I say, more European in personality. But just. Still young, still quite structured, has yet to unwind . . . but will these wines ever shed that primary fruit? And will the oak ever truly integrate?


Friday, July 22, 2011

2006 Haut-Médoc

2006 Chateau Belle-Vue, Haut-Medoc

2006 Château Belle-Vue, AC Haut-Médoc

It's probably really idiotic and will likely bring me to financial ruin, but most of my cellar is still classified-growth Bordeaux. And truthfully, I hardly drink any Bordeaux. So stupid, truly a what the fuck were you thinking kind of situation. But, things are what they are, and I guess I have to begin learning to enjoy cabernet while I slowly switch it all out for Barolo.

Not so highly regarded, but Belle-Vue is a good one. Right next door to Château Giscours in fact, this property lies nearly adjacent to the boundaries of the Haut-Médoc and Margaux appellations. Mainly cabernet sauvignon of course, but this has quite a high percentage of petit verdot, around 15% I believe. I buy a bit every year because it's relatively inexpensive and I just love the creamy red berries and underlying rusticity.

Didn't show well this time. Strange, but I had mild suspicions that it was corked. Maybe not the best bottle, but this feels a bit awkward, as if the wood just doesn't fit into the wine. Very strange indeed - hopefully a bit more time in bottle will help it all settle down, but for now, slightly disappointing.

I just picked up a few bottles from my 2008 Bordeaux Futures order today. Anyone want to take some 2008 Clinet, Figeac, and Gazin off my hands?


Thursday, July 21, 2011

2004 Rioja Reserva

2004 Conde de Valdemar Reserva

2004 Conde de Valdemar Reserva, DOCa Rioja

A lot of wine classifications are meaningless - just look at the mess in Saint-Émilion. They can be a helpful guide to consumers, but that should hardly be the deciding factor when making a purchase. This, however, is becoming a bit clearer to me. Rioja wines with the Denominación de Origen Calificada classification always seem to show great consistency.

This one is no exception. Classic Rioja character, that vanilla, red berries and spice. I need to start drinking other wines because Rioja is always the safe choice. Great stuff.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Cuban blend

the Cuban blend

I'm (somewhat) an adult so I can do stuff like this without having to be sneaky. My local tobacco shop sells these cigars that are actually their own blends, made in Cuba for them. Wrapped to the store owner's tastes I suppose. A torpedo, this is quite dark. Very strong, with a nice draw. Round smoke, but I feel like this would knock me out if I tried to finish it in one go.

Getting back into it, getting back into it. The hot weather is giving me more opportunities to sit outside and enjoy a smoke. It's going to take a while though - the nicotine still gets to me if I'm not careful. More to come, smoking my way through the man shop's Cuban selection!


Monday, July 18, 2011

Montreal in the summer

Photo on 2011-07-18 at 19.35

Back from Montreal after a successful day of presentations. Straight on, back to back, but quite enjoyable actually. So humid, making all the walking around in a full suit somewhat of an ordeal. Airport security a nightmare, as usual. Dinner at P.E. Trudeau airport, back in Toronto just before 8:30. At least I looked calm. An hour long flight is hardly worth going into hysterics over - what is it with Canadian hicks who make such a big deal over these things?


Sunday, July 17, 2011

In Montreal again

Clos des Goisses, Philipponnat

I've arrived in Montreal, staying for a night. I don't know if it's the flight or something else but I have a raging headache. Heading out later to meet with a friend. It's so humid here. But Montreal is always fun.

Another look at Clos des Goisses. I miss the French countryside. French people too. Real French people.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

2005 Serralunga d'Alba Barolo

2005 Fontanafredda Serralunga d'Alba Barolo

2005 Fontanafredda Serralunga d'Alba, DOCG Barolo

Nebbiolo is just fabulous all day, any day. Love it. And on a somewhat chilly night, I wanted to drink a Barolo. A more simple wine from Serralunga, this fulfilled all those urges. Earthy red berries, spice. While lacking the viscosity and density of great Barolo, this wine shows good typicity.

We drank this after (strong) coffee and chocolate. Sea salt chocolate, no less. Wrong for a lesser wine, but I'm amazed at how consistent the Barolos I've been drinking are. Expensive, yes, but actually worth every penny.


Friday, July 15, 2011

2001 Rioja Gran Reserva

2001 Leza Garcia Gran Reserva

2001 Leza García Gran Reserva, DOCa Rioja

Some redemption is in order. I'm paying for this shit, and I'm so fed up with uncorking bottle after bottle of jammy, confected nukes. I mean come on, please, people can't possibly enjoy these disgusting modern wines. No way, try drinking these over-alcoholic, jammy, and completely obese wines over an evening and get back to me. You won't be able to get through a bottle I can guarantee it.

I like these old(er) Riojas. They have that delicacy and more importantly, energy that makes them so unique. This is already showing a slightly orange/brick red hue on the rim. What a gorgeous nose of creamy, integrated vanilla and stewed red berries, classic tempranillo at its finest. Strawberries and all that. Elegant, mature palate, finely structured on a long, spicy finish. Delicious.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

2003 Cariñena Gran Reserva

2003 Monasterio de las Vinas Gran Reserva

2003 Monasterio De Las Viñas Gran Reserva, Do Cariñena

It's funny, if Vintages can't find international (ie. American) tasting notes for a certain wine, they'll either scrounge up some local nitwit to come up with a few lines, or better yet, publish notes under the Vintages panel moniker. But then again, I want to be one of those nitwits. Can't possibly be that hard right? Anyways, here's the tasting note they used for this wine:

Deep garnet. Aromas of plums, coconut wax and lipstick follow through on a soft, brisk entry to a dryish light-to-medium body with cranberry and roasted pepper notes. Finishes with a dusty, tangy tannin fade. Needs a good flank steak. Highly recommended. Score - 88.

Promising, no? If only. That bit about aromas of coconut wax and lipstick is laughable, but just downright sinister if they were being serious. And we all know how seriously wine people take themselves. I don't know who's tasting these wines and writing the words, but that is not that wine. No chance in hell. As a 90% tempranillo, 10% garnacha wine, the Spanish should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. And to have the fucking audacity to label this as a Gran Reserva? Unbelievable. A modern wine in every sense, with loads of oak that doesn't really go away and will never truly integrate. Jammy sweet fruit to complete it all. Interestingly enough, I included the phrase Undignified but not undrinkable - the bottle age has oddly helped settle the wine down a bit.

So what have we learned from all this? That the Spanish are willing to sell their souls to create wines fitting an international ideal of what sells? Or that most self-proclaimed critics are full of shit? In any case, no help to the consumer, and worse, a slap in the face to true winos.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Being a smartass

iced grape

iced grape

iced grape

I'm not a partisan of ice wines. Labour-intensive, if made in the right way, definitely. But the wines are chronically boring, just a confected mass of sugar and alcohol with little complexity and no finesse. As more than a few ice wine producers have told me, it's just concentration isn't it, chuck it in a freezer and you'll get the same result.

Let's put that to the test.

I learned to freeze grapes from my university roommate. We were in school for a summer term, stuck in a residence with no air conditioning. As these things go, southern Ontario experienced one of the hottest summers that year. We had to get creative to avoid heat stroke. Frozen grapes came out sweeter, with the added bonus of being like little ice pellets. So I tried to recreate something similar here, except to make it into a drink. Muddle the frozen grapes, strain out the juice, rum and soda water.

I failed miserably. It tasted awful. They say it takes the fruit of an entire grape vine to make a single glass of ice wine. It only took a handful this time to make this smartass look dumb.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Simply charcoal


I try to cook like a man, and there's nothing more manly and barbaric than cooking on an open flame. We tossed out our stupid gas grill and replaced it with this beauty. They say you need to season the grill before putting food on it. I burned my old school notes because I though it'd be therapeutic and I wanted to kill two birds with one stone. Flames leapt high. Neighbours were frightened.

There's nothing more pathetic than seeing grown ass men trying to be all fancy and grilling shit like prosciutto wrapped scallops. That combination is a crime to proper grilling. Unless you buy shit ingredients, you cook the scallops the best way you can, and you enjoy the prosciutto as is, with a nice Manzanilla. Doing them together serves no purpose other than some perceived <I know food>ness. Daintiness is not cooking, especially when you've got sausage fingers.


soleil d'hiver


Madame Benezit described this as so poetic. Christine Thouzeau's soleil d'hiver was displayed in the window of the gallery - love at first sight. It belongs to the collection Les saisons. And it is full of whimsy, of poetry, and of French-ness. Somehow, it looks better sitting on a table than it does hanging up. Or maybe it's just the house.

I know what I want next time I'm in Paris . . .


2009 Vinemount Ridge Riesling

2009 Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling

2009 Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling, Vinemount Ridge

All love.

There's certainly lots of chauvinism about wines I think of as my own - that is, Niagara grown and Niagara produced, wines that I have somewhat of an understanding. Having met with Charles Baker a few times and getting to know the story behind these single vineyard rieslings, I feel an obligation to urge people to support these wines, because if we don't, who will? There's a fine line between being justified and being straight delusional about Niagara wines, but if you have any love at all for DF and what I've been doing for the past 4 years, you'll know that when I'm enthusiastic about a wine, it's because the wine genuinely excites me.

2009 is a very interesting vintage. It's not surprising that worldwide, references to great vintages are always based on the quality of red wines. Why no love for white wines? Why is there a lack of understanding, or respect, to vintage conditions that favour white wines? In Niagara, 2009 is one of those vintages. I remember late that year when a few self-promoting, self-proclaimed critics were already commenting on the mediocrity of the wines. Keep in mind, that what you taste from tank or barrel is just a sample - it can hardly be considered wine. And that's assuming that any one of these twats actually tasted anything. Supremely disappointing, but now that the wines have been bottled and are on the market, it's becoming quite clear; while the reds don't have the concentration of the 2007's, they do show great typicity and elegance. And the whites are just glorious. A difficult vintage, yes, but the best rieslings and chardonnays show a purity and focus that I have never tasted from Niagara.

Picone Vineyard seems to be great at producing extracted rieslings, although CB always ensures it stays balanced. This vintage shows a bit more depth, more extract of the acidity compared to 2008, especially on the finish. Well structured and needing some age, but very promising.

Exciting. Very exciting indeed. Let's get it going, we need to support CB and we need to support our Niagara producers who are the real deal. The production of the 2009 was almost half that of 2008 - hurry and you might still be able to secure a 6-pack. And if this bottle doesn't convince you of what's going on here, straight up and down, you shouldn't be drinking wine you dumbass.


2008 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett


2008 Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett, QmP Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Mosel

Mystery wine? Hardly. The bottle was sitting in an ice bath for 3 hours or so and the labels just slid right off. Must have been hand glued on, so charming. Can't you just picture it, a little German in lederhosen and feathered hat, patiently gluing on thousands upon thousands of labels. I like Germans. They're good tourists. Unlike, say, pratt English folk, the Germans at the very least attempt to speak and understand the local culture. I've seen Germans both in Shanghai and in Paris now, with the same result. And the wines they produce . . . the glorious, glorious wines.

The Sonnenuhr (Sundial) vineyard needs no introduction. It's one of my favourite wines, whether it's from the villages of Zeltingen or Wehlen. And in the hands of Selbach-Oster, just magic. Few wines give a true pleasure, a true euphoria, while at the same time remaining honest to terroir. And the low alcohol means I can keep drinking and drinking and drinking. This bottle is just electric, all minerals and energy and pure fruit. Delicious like nothing else, and if you still refuse to drink these wines because they're sweet, I don't care for you as a person.

Long live the Mosel.


Monday, July 11, 2011

2009 Detzemer Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett Trocken

2009 Familie Rauen Riesling Kabinett Trocken

2009 Weingut Familie Rauen Riesling Kabinett Trocken, QmP Detzemer Würzgarten, Mosel

I don't have much faith in dry riesling. Or rather, this style of dry riesling we always seem to be seeing come out of Alsace, that heavy, alcoholic headiness they seem to equate with typicity. So all this news about these magnificent trocken rieslings coming out of Germany leaves me intrigued, although still a bit skeptical. But what's the worst that can happen . . . I have to force myself to finish a bottle of wine?!

This was part of a tasting of three other rieslings, a throw-down of two Mosel wines and one Niagara. It was finally the first hot weekend of the summer in Toronto, and I had the charcoal ready to go. Getting all the stemware out to the backyard was a bit nerve-wracking, but managed it without disaster. Ice bath out, grilled seafood and greens on the table. Time to drink.

And this wine was great. Low alcohol makes all the difference in dry riesling, I'm so convinced. Steely minerals and citrus, citrus. A fabulous amount of freshness, with a wonderful amount of roundness and elegance on the palate. Develops honey, finishes long, and just absolutely delicious. Am I convinced about trocken rieslings? I should probably drink a few more, but this bottle is a nudge to skipping past Alsace.


Sunday, July 10, 2011



You recall the beautiful piece I bought in Paris, my little angel. I found this one in the same gallery, produced by an arguably more well-known artist by the name of Christine Thouzeau. The gallery owner showed us some of her commercial work - she's apparently huge in Japan. I'm willing to take her word for it, because I fell in love with these pieces.

This one, titled pianissimo, is from the same collection as petit ange pianiste . . . they both are part of the La Musique exhibit. And from this print, I learned a bit more about how beautiful the French language can be. Madame Benezit described this particular work as being full of lovée. Or at least that's what I think she said. Far too subtle and far too French to translate, she described it as a sense of not only hearing the music, but being in it.

As a piano teacher, I get it. Sort of.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

2008 Hochheimer Hölle Riesling Kabinett

2008 Domdechant Werner'sches Riesling Kabinett

2008 Domdechant Werner'shes Riesling Kabinett, QmP Hochheimer Hölle, Rheingau

Riesling is a wine you drink, not taste. The low alcohol helps, but on a hot day, with the minerals and acid, nothing satisfies like a big gulp of young Rheingau riesling. I'm a seasonal wine drinker, and these wines in the summer are just all love. With fish, with greens, with anything. All love.

These young kabinetts tend to be a bit reductive, which this one is. Domdechant Werner'sches tends to produce bigger, richer wines with quite a bit of sweetness. This particular wine, from Hölle, has a good degree of residual sugar in it, remaining balanced. Minerals and citrus and all that. Acid lacks a certain energy, but this is very satisfying.

Everyone needs to drink more riesling. Actually scratch that, you should drink less riesling, let's keep prices low.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Thanks Yao


According to sources, Yao Ming has retired from the NBA.

I'm sad. I'm very sad. I still remember so clearly all the hype surrounding him the summer before the Houston Rockets made him the number one pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. In the months prior, I remember getting yelled at in my Grade 10 computer class for using the computers to search online for his stats, his CBA games, and anything else Yao related I could find. It was all so utterly compelling - the first true star player from China. Wang ZhiZhi and Mengke Bateer paved the way, but they were no stars. And the fact that he was a fellow Shanghainese? I've been a diehard fan from the start, and even more so as I watched his NBA career unfold.

The 2008 Olympics was a dream come true, but he clearly rushed his way back far too soon. The national team is notorious for grinding its star players to the bone, but with Yao, the pressure was inhumane. Watching this giant of man carry our flag into the stadium was so appropriate. There simply is no better representative for our people.

So his career is over. Hall of Fame? Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated thinks so. But for now, I think it's important to remember everything this wonderful person did. Tonight, every Chinese person needs to raise a toast for our compatriot, the greatest Chinese athlete ever to lace up.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tasting at Lailey


Could I possibly be any more enthusiastic about Lailey? Could I possibly find another superlative to describe how I feel about these wines? Search for all my pieces about Lailey and all the hyperventilating will make sense. These wines fulfill all the criteria for what a great wine should be - typicity (of varietal), singularity (of time and place), and ageability.

I try to schedule my tasting with Derek as my last stop. I generally spend the most time here, as Derek is always very generous with his wines and his knowledge. My last visit was sadly a year ago, to taste the 2008's. I was eager to taste the 2009's now that they were in bottle, as well as to get a first look at the embryonic 2010's, focusing as always on pinot noir and syrah.

2009 Lailey Pinot Noir: floral rose petals and red fruits on the nose, so elegant on the palate; roses follow, spice on the finish; 660 cases production

2009 Lailey Brickyard Pinot Noir: brushy rose petals, elegant, acid lifts on the palate; clearly needs time; perfumed and lean, so delicious; bottled January 24, 130-140 cases production

2009 Lailey Old Vines Pinot Noir: bit reticent now, roses on an elegant palate; high toned acid, spices on the long finish; bottled end of January, only 90 cases production

2009 Lailey Canadian Oak Pinot Noir: oaky initially, giving way to rose petals and cranberries; oak needs to integrate on palate, good concentration and fine structure; a lean wine, but very elegant; 70 cases production

2009 Lailey Lot 48 Pinot Noir: initial whiff of white pepper, very elegant fruit, showing slightly more colour; ends near jammy in fruit on finish, fine acid lifts on finish, needs time for alcohol to settle; 100% from Doug Woody property, made only in 2004 and 2009 vintages, 50% new French oak

2008 Lailey Canadian Oak Pinot Noir: creamy oak, rich in depth, creamy ripe fruit; sweet but so elegant and round on the palate, soft finishing on long ripe strawberries; seductive and very approachable

2008 Lailey Old Vines Pinot Noir: bright lively ruby colour; sweet ripe fruit, almost candied but fresh; lean and elegant palate, fresh and long; absolutely delicious, acid provides great structure

2008 Lailey Syrah: spicy bouquet, high acid, lean and very linear on the finish

2009 Lailey Syrah (cask sample): oak on nose, sweet fruit, shows a degree of jamminess on the palate; rich, round, so balanced, absolutely delicious; 3 weeks from bottling

2010 Lailey Syrah (cask sample): dark in colour, lots of black pepper, dense fruit on palate; crushy, very ripe, spicy on finish; a big wine, very concentrated, will be interesting to see how this develops; put into cask on November 4, will spend about another 12 months in oak

As can be seen, all the wines reflect time, place of origin, and to a lesser degree, oak treatment. 2008 and 2009 were relatively cooler vintages, with 2009 being the slightly more concentrated wine. 2010 is looking like a monster right now, but in the right hands, should remain balanced and elegant.

More than anything, this tasting confirmed what I've been feeling for quite some time - that syrah can be done very well in Niagara. These wines show what I feel are the true characteristics of syrah, a peppery, savoury personality that is completely opposite of what most New World syrah wines are like. This is a wine to keep an eye out for.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Visiting Stratus


In May, I went to Niagara on my first tasting trip of the year. I was eager to taste through some of the 2009's, and get a first impression of the 2010's. I was fighting a head cold, but the palate was functioning sufficiently well. My first stop was at Stratus, to meet up with Charles Baker and taste his riesling. I knew it was going to be a good tasting - what I hadn't counted on was how good Stratus' 2007 red wines were showing, across the board. All ripe but balanced, showing great varietal character yet dense and concentrated, clearly built for aging.

2007 Stratus Sauvignon Blanc: grassy, herbal nose, deep colour; the 100% new oak shows on the creamy palate, very round and weighty; could mistake this for a (good) dry white Bordeaux

2007 Stratus Cabernet Franc: nice dark colour, graphite minerality, round and elegant palate; soft, fine tannins, good length; a beautiful wine

2007 Stratus Red: ripe fruit, round, structured with good balance

2007 Stratus Cabernet Sauvignon: dark, smoky bouquet, round and fruit forward; soft but linear structure

2007 Stratus Petit Verdot: lots of graphite minerality, slightly green, tense and almost hard; acidity provides great structure on the finish; very interesting interpretation of this varietal

2009 Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling: what I came here for; well chilled, absolutely steel on the nose, minerals and all that; so pure and fresh, acid rises so angular on the finish; extraordinarily complex yet with a transparency on the palate that articulates how stunningly beautiful riesling is; long, extracted acidity on the finish

What a great tasting. The CB riesling is magnificent. He's made wine from another vineyard, to be released in a few months - look out for it. Before they run out, as production of the 2009 was almost half of the already miniscule 2008 . . . order a case. I'm so sick of this bullshit about people complaining how Niagara doesn't make real wine. Or even worse, people who get so turned on by a trip to wine country that they claim any $8 plonk is great. When true great wine like CB Picone Riesling is being produced, you have to support it. No excuses.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

2009 Rías Baixas

2009 Fillaboa Albarino

2009 Fillaboa Albariño, DO Rías Baixas

I want to say that white Spanish wines are treasures, but they really aren't. They are, however, very satisfying - just never particularly interesting. Like this one. Clean and bright and all, but lacks a certain energy I want in young wines. Albariño can be a fascinating grape, but it seems that no one's really pushing to make it stand out. And dry! It has to be dry to work, with a certain amount of extract.

This run of Spanish wines has been a bit forgettable.


Monday, July 4, 2011

2004 Rioja Reserva

2004 Lar de Paula Reserva

2004 Lar de Paula Reserva, DOCa Rioja

My tasting note for this wine ran all of two lines. Simple, pure, solidly structured Rioja, showing dark fruits and vanilla. Not that it was bad or anything. Being unspectacular is hardly a crime, but charging $20+ for it is.

Does anyone still drink Spanish wine anymore? Like really drink it, I'm interested in knowing. Because we do lots of Chinese home cooking with it, all sorts of meats. When they have some bottle age and develop that real nice elegance . . . that's when it gets real delicious. Just not this bottle.


2007 Ribera del Júcar


2007 Vega Moragana Viñas Viejas, DO Ribera del Júcar

It's time to get back to what DF does (or should do) best. I love my iPad but the camera is atrocious and can only do so much. After I returned from Paris, it just seemed that the most interesting wines in Vintages releases were all Spanish. Tempranillo, with bottle age, is one of the great treasures of the old world.

So many smaller regions of Spain breaking out and becoming more ambitious with what should be no more than simple country wines. But install some flashy marketing and what do you get? A typically overripe, over-macerated, and absolutely confected nightmare of a wine. Such a shame, that you lose the inherent quality and personality of a wine when all the while you're trying to make a name for yourself.

But I should have known better, what with Jay Miller raving about these wines. Should have known.