Archive for the ‘Everything Wine’ Category

Andeluna Wines

October 6, 2009

Argentina keeps surprising the world of wine. Last week Vancouver hosted the andeluna panoramicWines of Argentina event at the Sutton Place Hotel. Wineries from all over the country of Tango, from the hot, arid high elevation vineyards in Salta to the wind-swept pampas of Patagonia’s Neuquen, were present offering their best Malbec, Torrontes, Cabernet Sauvignon, among other varietals and blends. Andeluna Cellars was present at the event, with Mike Kenter, Vice President and Marketing Officer for the US at the booth. So, let’s leave the Wines of Argentina tasting for a later posting and let’s look at Andeluna’s wines instead.

Mike Kenter has been to Argentina a number of times, both in central, Andean bodega_1Mendoza and also in Patagonia, where he combines his wine enthusiasm with fishing trips. He knows the country and loves the wines. When his friend H. Ward Lay of Frito Lay bought property near Mendoza and started producing outstanding wines, enlisting the services of world renowned Michel Rolland and Argentine winemaker Silvio Alberto, Mike joined him on his quest. I had the opportunity to meet one on one with Mike at the Dream Wines headquarters, in Yaletown, courtesy of David Tremblay, to taste some of the best wines Andeluna has to offer today.

Most wineries claim they are on search of excellence for their wines. In the case of Andeluna, after tasting three reds and a Torrontes, this seems to be true. This 2008 Torrontes was arguably one of the best varietals I have tasted. Although this may seem anathema to many, Torrontes appears to be destined to produce rustic wines, lacking finesse or even proper acidity. This was something that I found interesting in Andeluna’s Torrontes, very good acidity, in a lean, unoaked version of the varietal. Its elegance and lingering spice has earned it 87 Parker points, and it is definitely one I favor when compared to other Torrontes I tasted before. This wine will retail for about 18-20 dollars.

The Winemaker’s Selection 2007 Malbec (already available at LDB and private stores) was the second wine in the flight. I had tried it before, and only confirmed what I found previously. This is a serious competitor in the 18-24 dollar bracket. Winemaker Silvio Alberto checked all the elements that a good Malbec should have; none stands out, none is weak. A low 10 tons of grapes per hectare harvested at 4300 feet, results in improved concentration and flavor. Simple, straightforward in its potency, loaded with pure dark fruit and with a good finish, this is a wine worth every cent you pay. No need to look any further for a solid, inexpensive steak wine.

Andeluna also offers a terrific Limited Reserve Malbec. The 2004 vintage is TN_bottle_R_Malbec2produced from vineyards yielding only 2.5 to 3 tons per hectare. This is Malbec at its best, and talking to colleagues we all agreed that you may pay 20 or 30 dollars more but you will not get a lot more Malbec (retail price in Vancouver is around 45 dollars). Great palate, chewy, meaty, excellent tannic structure… I could keep piling positive adjectives on this Malbec. The 14.7% alcoholic concentration is not noticeable, as this is very well integrated with the fruit and acidity. Knowing well the wine retail industry in Vancouver, I am convinced that this product will fly off the shelves once it hits the “City of Glass’” retail outlets.

After the Limited Reserve Malbec I believed I could not be further impressed by TN_bottle_R_Passthe last wine in the flight, Andeluna’s flagship Pasionado. This is a Bordeaux style blend that has its individual components aged for 12 months prior to an extra six to eight months once blended. I turned out to completely underestimate the winemaking abilities of Andeluna’s Silvio Alberto. The Pasionado 2004 Grand Reserve shows a restrained nose that promises a lot more. Once on my palate I stopped writing notes. I just could not keep going; I had to focus on what my body, my physical body, was experiencing. Tremendo Vino like they say in the Southern latitudes of Latin America. A tremendous wine, indeed. Incredibly powerful and equally incredibly easy to drink. Certainly Andeluna Cellars is on the right track.

These two latter products will be hitting Vancouver wine stores around the third week of November, and there will not be a lot of them. Make sure you grab your bottle.

A Soiree with an Argentinean Winemaker

October 2, 2009

Argentina Tango, the South World Wine Society’s* wine tasting event of Photo-0070September, featured Ms. Celeste Pesce, assistant winemaker of Luca Wines, a small lot production effort led by Laura Catena, scion of the quasi legendary Catena family of Argentina.

When I first arrived at the Sculpture Room of the Listel Hotel, I saw familiar faces, wine lovers who attend the Society’s events with regularity, the members of the exec committee, but couldn’t find the lecturer. I saw a bunch of women, attractive, well dressed, chatting near the bar, but I couldn’t tell if Celeste was one of them. They looked too vancouverite to be her, so I went around the room, not asking my fellow members, so as to guess, just by the looks, who Celeste was.

I figured I should be able to tell. This lady got her degree in enology in Udine at the age of 26. She became assistant winemaker to Laura Catena at 29. Is talent like that written on the face? Which of these women could be her? I also considered her ancestry. Pesce, meaning fish, is an Italian last name. So I figured she would have that mediterranean dark, that voluptous look of the daughters of Botticelli, Garibaldi and Sophia Loren. I placed my eyes on a woman whose dark hair, full and supple, made me think that was Celeste.

I was walking toward her when a red-haired, jeans clad thin girl, with a boyish glint in her blue eyes gave me the amplitude of her smile, with a few strands of hair reaching over her eyes and down to her freckle-covered cheeks. “Tu eres Ivan, el Peruano?”. I could not conceal my amazement. This was Celeste, asking me in Spanish and with a very slight Argentinean accent, if I was who I am. She must’ve heard from other members of the exec committe that there was a Latino on board. She looked decidedly Irish, or at least, she looked as she came from the British Islands. I learned later that her mother side is Swiss. So on we went with our Spanish, animated chat. It’s a great feeling when you can speak your mother tongue. I sat next to Celeste and listened to her as she walked us through the eight La Posta and Luca wines of the night.

Celeste was quite candid about her life. Everyone was surprised to hear that she grew up in a farm in Santa Fe, a town north of Buenos Aires, milking cows and driving tractors. While studying agriculture in Mendoza she discovered her love for wine. “The faculty of agriculture was very wine and viticulture oriented, so it really caught my attention. But what really gave me the final push was to study at the Univessita degli Studi in Udine”. She also had a life-changing experience when she went back to the roots of her family, in Italy. She fell in love with the history of wines, the evolution of winemaking and winedrinking. She could relate to this very well, as in her own home in Argentina they have a lot of immigrants from Italy and Spain, and a vigorous wine culture.

Celeste’s job at Luca is to work with the chief winemaker, Luis Reginato. They work with the growers in the vineyards and then focus on the vinification and blending. The production is rather small, no more than a thousand cases for their Chardonnay and Laborde Syrah, and barely two thousand for their highly esteemed Malbec.

The audience fully enjoyed the night, the wines, the food, and most of all, Celeste’s natural ability to engage people. To tell stories about winemaking, about her childhood, or just anecdotes that happen to those who fly around the world promoting their wines.

When it came the time to vote the favorite three wines of the night, the majority chose the La Posta Pizzella Malbec. Close second came the Luca Malbec followed by the Luca Chardonnay. Celeste’s favorite was the Luca Laborde Syrah, and so was mine. This Syrah is produced from clones selected in France and Argentina. Supple, impressive, deep, this wine left me thinking, wondering, about the sun touching the leaves and bunches day after day, the cold nights, the bunches invisible, hanging on the vines in the dark. It made my mind wander and imagine the winemakers, their labor in the bodega, in the vineyard, their dreams. But enough of my favorite wine. All the wines poured that night score high points with the most prestigious wine critics.

Below the list of wines served at the event:

Catena Chardonnay 2007-88 pts. Wine Spectator**
– La Posta Estela Armando Vineyard Bonarda 2007-89 pts. Wine Advocate
La Posta Cocina Blend 2007-90 pts. Wine Advocate
– La Posta Pizzella Family Vineyard Malbec 2008-89 pts. Wine Advocate.
Luca Chardonnay 2007-92 pts. Wine Advocate
Luca Malbec 2007-92 pts. Wine Advocate
Luca Syrah Labourde Double Select 2007-92 pts. Wine Advocate

*The South World Wine Society will be hosting their popular “Big Reds” event on November 5th. More information and registration at www.southworldwine.com
**The wines in bold are available at Everything Wine, North Vancouver Store.

Liberty School Portfolio

August 27, 2009

Thanks to Altovin International, a British Columbia based wine agency, I had the opportunity to try their Californian Liberty School wines. For the last few years, LS Cabernet Sauvignon has gained notoriety as a good pick in the 20-25 CDN bracket. I enjoyed it and can see why it is so popular. I tried their Syrah as well, but my high mark goes to their 2007 Chardonnay. Here my notes on these three popular wines.

Chardonnay 2007. $23.99. 13.5%. Bright nose with apple, dragon fruit, clarified butter. Nice, creamy texture, medium bodied, good acidity of lemony character. Alcohol well integrated, overall oak is subtle and the finish is long, riding on apple skin. A very good California style Chardonnay for the price.

Syrah 2007. $23.99. 13.5%. Purple legs, young looking wine. Green waft on the nose, pepper, cough syrup. On the palate a tad sour. Medium bodied, tannins angular. I am not ready to pick this Syrah yet.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. $23.99. 13.5%. Purple ruby robe, nice sweet nose with blackcurrant, spice and lavender. Medium body, juicy and soft. Good acidity and nice finish. Easy to understand why it is so popular.

Prazo de Roriz 2004, Portuguese Red Blend

August 11, 2009

Prazo de Roriz, a 2004 blend from Douro Valley in Portugal, is a beautiful wine that did not merit major accolades by the king of noses, mr. Robert Parker. I guess he is more focused on biggies, and this one is not. The character of this blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca resides in its mineral, earthy qualities, rather less robust body and its aromas of red cherries carried by a breeze in a deciduous forest. Wet stone, riverine scents, granit, all these elemental qualities wrap the red fruit. Medium tannins and a long finish with raspberry acidity. I loved it and let’s hope a new style is being ushered to the world of wine’s mainstream, with more personality withouth having to be a full weight champion.
Price (Everything Wine) 23.99, 13.5% alcohol.

Zinfandelis Part One

August 8, 2009

Oh the much ridiculed grape from California. The grape only Californians love. The grape that Vancouverites love to hate. Well, here they were, the Zinfandel ambassadors, those pesky Americans, full of sound and fury, full of grandiloquence, celebrating their beloved Zinfandel, spreading the good news, the word, as if spreading the gospel, perhaps, being Americans, that is the way they know well, fundamentalist Christian style, even when the subject is just wine. When the issue of Primitivo being the same grape was raised, oh yes, oh they reacted like zealous keepers of the faith. It was fun to watch.

Passion, passion, a word that was pronounced again and again by the speakers, winemakers, who came to Vancouver to show us that, yes, Zinfandel can, yes it can, and it certainly does, not to the degree they would like to, but yes, I enjoyed many of the Zins tasted and for sure, I can see it as great food wine.

British Columbians will resist Zinfandel for a while. They are stuck with the image of Zin being a sweet blush cheap wine. Humans resist new things, resist change, like no other species. British Columbian humans oh they love to hate America, they love to hate Americans and things American. Perhaps because there are no discernible differences between the two cultures, the only way to set themselves apart is by negation. Anyway, going back to the subject of interest. I am certain the gospel of Zin will eventually spread, taken by the hand of Vancouver’s cuisine, which is, surprise, Asian. Zinfandel is the perfect red wine to marry the spicy, sweet, tangy, hot dishes that come from Guangdon to Hanoi, from Bangalore to Bangkok, the whole arch of far eastern cultures.

For those who dare to try:

Ironstone 2007 Old Vine. Lodi. 14.5%, 19.99.
Simple, packed with red and dark berries, spice, medium bodied juicy, easy drinking.

Ridge Lytton Springs. 2006. 14.7%. 49.99.
A dash of Syrah and a bit of Carignan make this Zin very interesting, with beau coffeeish red fruit and great acidity plus a subtle vegetal streak. Delicious, but ay, there is the rub, fifty bucks.

Ridge Three Valleys 2007 14.3%. 39.99.
It doesn’t deliver like its older sibling. The acidity sags behind the fruit and the alcohol.

Robert Biale Black Chicken 2006. Napa Valley. 15.8 %. 84.99.
A fantastic Zifandel, with great acidity, beautiful balance and structure, elegant. The price, again, goes against it.

Robert Biale Black Chicken 2007. Napa Valley. 15.8 %. 84.99.
Not as bright as its 2006 partner.

Seghesio Home Ranch. 2007. Alexander Valley. 15.5%. 49.99
Full bodied, fruit forward, velvety Zin. Yes, despite the price.

Seghesio Cortina 2006. Creek Valley, N. Sonoma. 15.2%. 49.99.
A more astringent wine that its stable mate above, a more “Italian” feeling to it. High acidity bordering with unpleasant, but then, just not crossing that line, and making it very interesting, very challenging, with a long finish, one of the stars of the show. Yes, go and get one.

Zinfandel and Food

August 4, 2009

I’ve never been much into Zinfandel, the signature grape of California, now hotly contested by Italy and Croatia, both of which claim the paternity of the variety, as DNA tests show that Zinfandel is closely related -if it is not the same grape- to the Primitivo grape of Southern Italy and Croatia’s Crljenak.

If the grape’s DNA identity is confirmed, hell will be on its way, as many producers in Italy will call their wine Zinfandel if so they wish, putting serious competition to the Golden State’s exports to Europe. The issue makes Californian producers very nervous, and with good reason.

Whatever the case, at the last Everything Wine Zinfandel tasting I enjoyed several California renditions, which I will describe in a future posting. What I wanted to say on this one is that I found Zinfandel tremendously food friendly. We had it paired with a variety of cheeses, charcouterie, even spicy sauces and the deep red, fruity wine came out chin up from all the encounters.

ZAP, Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, an organization from California, claims that their beloved wine is the best red match for Oriental cuisine. After the tasting, I start to believe they may be into something. Although never had a big following in Vancouver, the large influence of Asian food here may well change that, as more wine lovers discover this affinity of Zin wine for Zen food.

Cheers

South African Beauties

July 28, 2009

Bafana, brother, here is the good news. Too many of us avoid South African wines, some because they are header_logotoo exotic. Others heard stories of burned rubber as a prevailing aroma. Well, I must admit I was among those and carefully chose not to pick wines from the land of Mandela, Rugby champions and the great five.

That until Andre Morgental, communications manager of Wines of South Africa, guided us through a flight that went from a bubbly all the way to rich Shiraz and Merlots. The contentious issue of burned rubber was brought up and Andre gave us an insight on the matter. In spite of tremendous efforts to pinpoint the nature of this smell that has created a bad reputation for some of their wines, South African researchers have not been able to determine a single compound responsible for it. Furthermore, studies show that in blind tastings, subjects find the smell in wines from all over the world. It may have a strong psychological component and perhaps, once the consumer knows the wine is South Africa, he “finds” the odour. True or not, we had eleven wines and not a trace of the said stench.

Graham Beck, Chardonnay Pinot Noir, sparkling. A lovely wine with a yeasty, biscuity nose, subtle floral aromas and creamy palate, accentuated by fine fizz. Definitely worth a try. $25

MAN Chenin Blanc 2008. Inexpensive white wine, filled with ripe banana and dry pineapple aromas. Granny apple and mineral flavors, good acidity and overall, a very nice everyday white. $12

Winery of Good Hope Chenin Blanc 2008. Another great value white, lighter than the MAN, with tropical fruit and a nice long finish.

Excelsior Paddock Viognier 2008. This Viognier surely has no low self-esteem issues. Big nose, leesy and tropical, some floral notes and a nutty, lemony medium-bodied palate. $15

Beyerskloof Pinotage 2007. A good rendition of this controversial grape, which seems to be adored in South Africa but does not have the same following overseas. Smoky, medicinal notes on the nose, coffee and honey, juicy palate.

Saxenburg Private Collection Merlot 2005. Gamey aromas and a juicy, fleshy, mineral palate. Soft tannins, rich with good finish.

Stormy Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. This one stole the show. Black currant galore, pepperleaf, game and resin on the nose. Sweet, ripe fruit and soft tannin for an excellent value wine. At 13.99, this is a winner.

MAN Shiraz 2007. Deep purple robe with a minty, diesely nose. Palate peppery, medicinal notes and a bit puckering. Not my favorite but for the price -11.99- does quite well.

Boekenhouskloof The Wolftrap Shiraz 2008. Never had coconut on the nose of a Shiraz before. This one has plenty, plus toasty, gamey notes. Rich palate with tchai spice, lots of ripe red fruit and peppery minerality. A dash of Mourvedre and Viognier makes this Shiraz a serious contender in the price range. 14.99

Leopard Frog Vineyards Midnight Masai Shiraz 2002. A juicy, fruit driven, rich broth. Tannins firm and mouth puckering, in a agreeable way. 24.99

Thelema Reserve Merlot. A Mafuta (BIG) Merlot, with plenty of fruit, velvety texture, flavorful and convincing. Great way to close the tasting. 29.99

I would recommend any of the wines described above. Plus visit the Wines of South Africa website, for information on their very interesting food. Mafuta Bafana!

Bullish Tempranillo by Finca Sobreño

June 16, 2009

finca_sobrenoThe Toro (meaning “bull”) region in northern Spain, produces wines of tremendous concentration that more than a few times can turn off the aficionado, if the drink lacks finesse. Finca Sobreño’s Tempranillo is a good example of what a well made Toro wine can offer. The appealing ruby red color follows with aromas of violets and strawberry marmalade. Full body and dense palate with concentrated red fruit and a vegetal streak. Tannins are massive and a bit raspy, showing best with steak or barbequed meats. The finish is long, ridden with fruit and caramel.

Product: Finca Sobreño Tempranillo

Variety: Tempranillo

Vintage: 2004

Winery: Finca Sobreño

Origin: Toro, Spain

Alcohol: 14.5%

Price: 30.99 (Everything Wine)

Drinking Shiraz Down Annie’s Lane

June 16, 2009

Another delicious Shiraz from the annies laneland of kangaroos, venomous spiders and beer swilling crowds. Deep ruby red garment and a pronounced, sweet nose with vanilla, black pepper and blackberry. Full bodied, rich and with a somewhat medicinal –eucalyptus- streak. Good acidity and soft tannins in the tasty finish, which is smooth and long, packed with red fruit and spice.

Product: Copper Trail Shiraz

Variety: Shiraz

Vintage:2002

Winery: Annie’s Lane

Origin: Clare Valley, Australia

Alcohol: 15.0%

Price: 29.99 (Everything Wine)

Barahonda Monastrell

June 16, 2009

Monastrell is a variety yet to be fully appreciated by Vancouverites. barahondaIn its home, the vineyards of the Levante -the coast of the rising sun, as Spaniards call it- it finds its best expression. This Monastrell, from the Yecla region, exhibits the gamey nose typical of the variety. Ruby red in color, it displays aromas of licorice and plum. The medium body comes with notes of chocolate and graphite. Medium acidity and soft tannins in a good finish that shows red fruit and spice.

Product: Monastrell

Variety: Monastrell

Vintage: 2005

Winery: Barahonda

Origin: Yecla, Spain

Alcohol: 14.5.0%

Price: 16.99 (Everything Wine)