Archive for December, 2010

Holiday Wine List 2010

December 21, 2010

I know there are only four days ’till Xmas, but some folks out there might still need to stock up on some wine for the holiday season. So here is my Holiday Wine List for 2010 — the best of what’s available in the BC Government Specialty Liquor stores right now.

Best Bargains (less than $15)

2009 Syrah – Finca Los Primos (Argentina/$10.44) – Can’t imagine getting more fruit for your dollar than in this wine; literally exploding with black cherries, along with a touch of oak and herbs.

2010 Sauvignon Blanc – Two Oceans (South Africa/$8.99) – This is just a stupid bargain, all crisp citrus and little or no oak to be found.

 Best of B.C.

2009 Pinot Noir – Nk Mip ($19.95) – This is always a good wine by the First Nations winery in the Okanagan, but something special happened here; really ripe, but not jammy, with a bit of earthiness and full body that reminds me of a $30+ wine.

2008 Chardonnay – Township 7 ($20.01) – This has been the best — and best value — white wine from BC since it landed in the stores earlier this year. Golden yellow, vanilla/butter/citrus on the nose, and so, so lush, with a touch of butterscotch. Reminds me of Beringer’s wines from California for a third of the price.

Best Mid-Price Wines ($15 – $25)

2009 Cotes du Ventoux – Chateau Pesquie (France/$18.99) Year in, year out, this wine is stuffed with earthy Provencal fruit and flavour, making many of its Cotes du Rhone brothers look thin in comparison. I sense a bit more Syrah in the mix this year, with wonderful peppery black fruit and no tannins. 

2009 Conundrum – Caymus (U.S.A./California/$24.99) “Fruit cocktail” were the words the popped into my head after trying the latest vintage of this wine. Literally a smorgasbord of fruit flavours, really ripe, but not sweet at all. And with the price down from $32, it is a great value.

 Best Expensive Wines ($25 – $40)

2007 Chateauneuf du Pape – Vieux Lazaret (France/$38.93) This baby I bought for my cellar based on Parker’s recommendation (91, I believe).  You don’t find many CHPs under $40 anymore, and with this being a classic vintage, it is supposed to keep for 15 – 20 years. I love nothing better than old CHP!

2008 Chablis 1er Cru Montmains – Brocard (France/$39.99) I became a fan of Chablis again this year for two reasons — it can age and, for Burgundy, it offers tremendous value (where many wines are in the $50 + range and, frankly, are pretty insipid). Again, a great vintage and another 90+ Parker wine that will sit in the cellar for 8 years or so before I try it.

Best Splurges (> $40)

2004 Brunello di Montalcino – Castelgiocondo (Italy/$54.99) Hey, I’m part Italian…what can I say? I can’t afford Brunello any more (same with most Barolo and Barbaresco from Piedmonte), but if I could this would be for me. A value by Brunello standards (where most wines are $70 +), it is yet another 90 + Parker wine that will develop for at least 10 years in the cellar. It is also sometimes available in 375 ml bottles, so look for that as well.

2008 Riesling Spatlese Trocken – Muller-Catoir  (Germany/$57.99) I had a lot of trouble finding a “splurge white” this year in the store. Lots of expensive California and Burgundy wines, but the quality didn’t seem to be there.  I settled on this wine, again by a Parker recommendation. Riesling is the “Rodney Dangerfield” of white wines, but this baby will age for years as well.

Best Sparkling & Sweet

NV Cava Brut – Pares Balta (Spain/$19.99) I decided to give the regular Segura Viudas a break this year (although still a great value) and go with this Cava from Spain. Classic green apples, crisp and dry with nice bubbles, it tastes like a wine worth $10 more.  Not champagne, but sure to impress your guests!

2001 Malvedos Vintage Port – Graham’s (Portugal/$31.95 ) Vintage Port — like some many other wines these days — is out of my “snack bracket”, even in half bottles, but these single Quintas can provide amazing value and enjoyment.  This one has been in the stores for a while and gives those wonderful chocolatey raisins  that have picked up complexity from almost ten years of aging.

Well, that’s it for this year. I wish all my readers a Merry Xmas and Happy Holiday season! And lets look forward to more wine in 2011!


Port and Holidays — the perfect combination!

December 14, 2010

Holiday entertaining means having people over for drinks and dinner — a perfect excuse to serve up some Port!

This famous wine from the Duoro Valley in Portugal comes in a range of styles and price ranges, but what all have in common is that they are fortified. That means neutral grape spirit (usually referred to as brandy) being added to the still fermenting grape juice, which stops the fermentation (leading to Port’s sweetness) and also raises the alcohol level. Both of these factors are why some Ports can literally age for decades and decades, gaining amazing complexity over time.

My favourites — Vintage Ports — are the longest lasting but can also be the most challenging. They are only made in what are called “declared” years (when most or all of the producers agree conditions are good enough to “declare” a Vintage Port can be made).  This tends to happen only a couple of times a decade.

That makes Vintage Ports relatively scarce, producing the second challenge — cost. It’s not uncommon for newly released bottles to be $75+ or more, with prices rising as they age.

And aging is the final challenge, because Vintage Ports don’t usually taste all that great for at least 10 – 15 years. That’s how long it takes the alcohol, sweetness and often considerable tannins to settle down and mellow out.  So you either buy them young and cellar them, or wait till they are mature and pay a significant price premium (over 100% of the original price).

With all these challenges, you may be wonder if Vintage Ports are worth the effort? Well, in my opinion, they are. Nowhere else can you find the flavour profile — a mix of chocolate covered grapes and raisins, sweet but not syrupy, with a long, long finish.  Fabulous on their own, they also work well with chocolate and — the classic combination — Stilton cheese and walnuts.

And here is a secret for finding some kind of “value” in Vintage Port.  Look for what are called “single quinta” Vintage Ports.  They are made the same way as Vintage Ports, but usually in non-declared years from specific properties (instead of an overall blend of the best grapes).  These tend to be release after they have been in bottle for 5 – 10 years, so are ready to drink (although can also keep for years like Vintage Ports).  And they often are available in 375 ml bottles, the perfect size for a dinner party.

For those in B.C., there are two great examples available right now in government specialty liquor stores. The 1998 Quinta do Bomfim by Dow’s and the 2001 Malvedos from Graham’s  offer classic old, Vintage Port characteristics for less than $32 a half bottle.  Not cheap, by any means, but good value for Vintage Port.

If you want to surprise your guests this holiday season — or just treat yourself — pick up a bottle or two. If you are like me, there will be no going back!