Archive for April, 2010

How do you approach a “100 point” wine?

April 27, 2010

Quite an experience on Saturday night…I went to a “mix and match” tasting at the Vancouver International Wine Festival and had the opportunity to taste a wine Parker gave 100 points to.

I will give you the results of that in a second, but first a bigger issue…how do you prepare for that kind of experience?

As a “wino”, I wanted to try and  be unbiased prior to the tasting. But a voice inside me said “forget about it!”. It was a triple whammy working against me…the rating itself, which is obviously intimidating. But also the wine was a Chateauneuf du Pape (my favourite kind), a legend (the Hommage a Jacques Perrin) and the producer Chateau de Beaucastel (one of my favourites, and makers of the best red wine I have ever had — the 1981).

The only thing working in my favour was that with all the hype, I was bound to be disappointed, right? It couldn’t possibly live up to all of these expectations.

So the result? It was unbelievable! From the amazing 2007 vintage, it was actually different than I expected. Deep purple/black in colour — a young wine, after all — and the nose a classic mix of Provencal herbs, pepper and black cherries; all that was par for the course. 

But once in my mouth? OMG….so ripe, so much fruit — not jammy or sweet — and so concentrated I couldn’t even taste any tannin.  The finish just went on and on…a truly amazing experience.  It was the one wine I just couldn’t spit out…it was too good.

So I don’t know if I learned anything here…but because the wine was so good, I don’t think I care! Seriously, though, the lesson was you probably can’t be objective in these kind of situations. So try your best, but enjoy greatness!


Musings from the 2010 Vancouver International Wine Festival

April 23, 2010

I made my annual pilgrimage to the VIWF last night and came away as impressed as usual by the event. It is a tremendous opportunity for “winos” of all stages to enjoy an incredible range of wines — all for $80!

Here are some specific thoughts and comments on this year’s festival:

1) Separation of the room into “International, Argentina and New Zealand” (the latter two this year’s theme) worked well. Lots of space, too, give use of new convention centre

2) BC wine highlights were the 2007 Coyote Bowl Cabernet Sauvignon from Church and State (a gorgeous California Cab look alike with some serious structure for $35) and two Averill Creek Wines – the ’07 Pinot Noir (just a fabulous Burgundian style wine with ripe but not jammy fruit and great structure for $28) and the ’07 Pinot Gris (follow up to the award winning ’06 was stunningly ripe and fruity and only $18!)

3) What I bought:

  • ’07 Coyote Bowl Cabernet Sauvignon – Church & State (see above)
  • ’07 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – MacMurray Vineyards ($35): This California producer makes great value wines and this was one of them; tasted like a $50 – $60 wine, with great fruit/structure
  • ’07 Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon – Chateau St. Michelle ($28): From Washington State, a great value Cabernet with very ripe cassis fruit and just a touch of oak
  • ’08 Uncut Shiraz – Gemtree Vineyards ($24): Mind-bogglingly ripe Shiraz, almost like blackberry liqueur with a streak of licorice through it; a 91+ point wine from Parker and I can see why!
  • ’09 Savigny-Les-Beaune Aux Petits Liards Vieille Vignes – Domaine Doudet ($40): Red Burgundy under $40 is unheard of, but this is amazing from a producer I have been following for years now.  Incredibly ripe Pinot fruit backed by some pretty powerful tannins; at least 10 years in the cellar for this baby!
  • ’07 Bramare Cabernet Sauvignon Lujan de Cuyo – Vina Cobos ($40): This is famous California vintner Paul Hobbs’ winery in Argentina, and all I could say was…wow!!! This literally tasted like the few $100 California cabs I have tasted in the past…unbelievable, and maybe the wine of the night!

4) Biggest disappointment: the ’07 Gigondas le Gille by Perrin (the makers of Chateau de Beaucastel) was already sold out by the time the event started!!! At $34.95 and rated 92+ by Parker, this was the killer value of the night…I tasted it with the proprietor and it is so ripe and approachable, but capable of aging. Rats!!!!

That’s it for now, but stay tuned….I am going to an event on Saturday that will feature the ’07 Chateau de Beaucastel Hommage de Jacques Perrin.  This legendary, cult Chateauneuf du Pape is over $300 a bottle and this year earned a 100 point, perfect score from Parker…I will blog on that on Sunday!


“It’s meant to go with food”

April 12, 2010

One of the biggest wine rip-offs is the expression “it’s a food wine” or ” it’s meant to go with food”.  I almost couldn’t believe it when I heard it the other day in a wine store; a wine rep was pouring samples (I can’t remember what the wine was) and somebody tried the red and kind of made a face.  Immediately, the rep jumped in and said “oh, it is meant to go with food…”.  The guy — obviously not a wino like me — just kind of nodded and moved on.

I actually had to  bite my lip not to say anything to her (and to tell him not to buy the wine if it had that kind of a taste).

Now don’t get me wrong; there are some wines that do taste better with certain foods and vice versa (just like there are some that don’t work either way).

But lets face it — if you put wine (or anything else, for that matter) in your mouth and it doesn’t taste good, that is a problem! Wine is supposed to be pleasurable…even the most ageworthy of wines should have enough fruit in them when very young to at least balance the strongest of tannins.

Because if it doesn’t, why drink it? Life is too short — and there are way too many wines that taste good — to put up with a wine that just doesn’t have a good taste to it.

So there you go…I haven’t ranted for a while, but this seemed like a good excuse.

And the next time you hear (or read) the line “it’s a food wine”, take it from a PR professional like me. What they are really telling you is that it doesn’t taste very good and the food will cover that up. Go buy a different bottle instead so you can enjoy what you are drinking!


Wine apps for your IPhone or Blackberry

April 6, 2010

No surprise, really, that you can now get “wine apps” for you smart phone.  There was an article comparing a couple in the Globe and Mail a couple of weeks back, so I did a little research and found one that actually seems to fit with some of the things that I feel are important when it comes to finding wines you like.

It is called “Hello Vino” and can be found (and downloaded for free!) at HELLOVINO.COM.  What I liked about this application was that one of the categories you could search by was labelled “Wine by Taste/Style”.  The word “style” caught my eye, so I checked it out.

And you know what; it actually works quite logically. After first moving to a selection of “red, white and rose”, the next level of search is by style — in this case fruity, spicy (peppers and herbs), light and mild, earthy, dry and sweet. From there, it gets even more specific to different berry flavours and spices, leading eventually to a grape recommendation and then actual potential wine picks, complete with descriptions and even the option to buy them on-line.

You can also find a wine in the “reverse” fashion simply if you know where it came from (country and/or region).  The benefit there is that if you know a wine you had and/or liked but don’t see it on the wine list or in the liquor stores, it provides you with other options. It even offers you alternate grape varieties you might like that would provide similar styles (although it unfortunately doesn’t provide specific wine recommendations for directly from these).

So if you are in need of wine help on a regular basis in restaurants or wine stores — and don’t have friends like me to call! — check on the new wine app from Hello Vino. It could take some of the guess-work out of buying wine, because it will help make sure you find the style you know you like!