Posts Tagged ‘Mondavi’

5 Things to Focus on at 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival

February 23, 2016

Can’t believe it is here again…the 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival!

Italy is the host country this year, and they have pulled out all the stops. But with so many wines available to taste, what should your focus be? Here are 5 ideas (both Italy and beyond):

1. Barolo

I love Piedmont’s biggest wine, but it has become stupidly expensive, with most bottles over $60 (and I mean well over). But the Wine Festival provides a relatively cheap way to taste a dozen or more Barolos! Look for great producers like Damilano, Cesare, Conterno, Vietti. The only caveat — they are all young and will probably be very tannic…so watch out for a bad case of purple tongue!

2. Brunello di Montalcino

Same advice regarding Tuscany’s big red wine! There are numerous producers pouring 10 or more wines, and you can look for wineries like Argiano, Marchesi and San Polino. Brunellos tend to be not quite as tannic, so a little easier to enjoy young!

3. BC Wineries

I can’t leave out my homies…at least a couple of BC wineries warrant some attention, with Averill Creek leading the way! Andy is famous for his Pinot Noirs, but don’t miss his Pinot Gris as well. Burrowing Owl doesn’t have their Syrah, but try their Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc…a bit “Bordeaux like” for me, but nice wines. Finally,
Quails Gate makes nice — if expensive — Cali style Pinot Noir.

4. California

Not a lot of wineries this year, but some of the biggies are here. Mondavi, Beringer, Signorello, Seghesio…all are worth checking out.

5. France

Even fewer from France, but one of my favourite wineries is back…Famille Perrin, which makes Chateau de Beaucastel (which they are pouring, along with their Coudoulet and Vacqueyras). Definitely worth a trip!




January 7, 2016

Happy New Year, everyone!

To kick off the year, I am going to do as series of blogs on the major grape varietals/the wines they make. And to start, the so-called “king of grapes” – Cabernet Sauvignon. Although, for me, you could also call it the “heartbreak grape” (with all due respect to Pinot Noir).

Most people know about “Cabs”…they are probably the first red wines they tried! Initially made famous because of their role in the great Bordeaux wines of France, they became arguably even more popular in the last 30 years because of how they are made in California.

And there-in – at least for me – lies the paradox (and the heartbreak).

I, too, started off on Bordeaux when I “got into wine”. With no other reference points, I though all red wine was supposed to be like the way Cab was made into wine in Bordeaux – cedary, woody, with only hints of fruit (mostly cherries). I enjoyed it…or so I thought!

And then came California! I will never forget the night…I had started to read the Wine Spectator, which favoured California wines, and they were hot on Robert Mondavi’s winery. I had my first real job out of university, so a little money, and bought the 1985 and 1985 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons (for about $23)…and was blown away!

Super pure and ripe blackcurrants exploded on my taste buds, delicately covered by vanilla. Big, rich, not tannic at all…wow! I couldn’t believe it!

From then on, I searched out for those wines, including on a subsequent trip to Napa and Sonoma with my bride to be. It was amazing to find so many wineries making what I would come to call the California style of Cabernet Sauvignon (and Merlot and Pinot Noir, as well, for that matter).

From there, it became hard to go back to Bordeaux, although by then my new cellar was fairly full of it. I kept trying the wines as they aged, but found very few with any semblance of that purity of fruit. By contrast, as I go older, I found that many of the California wines still kept a lot of their fruit even as they aged!

For over thirty years I have been searching for those wines in all kinds of places – Chile, Spain, Australia, Washington State and – more recently – here in BC, but don’t find them as often as I would like. If anything, Australia is the best place for that style now.

Which is where the heartbreak comes in…along with the price I have to pay to find really good ones in California these days.

But sometimes –particularly if there is something to celebrate – it is worth it! Last year, in recognition of my Junior Girls 27 – 6 record, I bought a couple of bottles of the Caymus Vineyards Napa Valley Anniversary bottling (2010, I believe). Highly rated (95+) and over $65 up here…but amazingly ripe! And it reminded me of the first great Mondavi wines I tasted so many years ago.


Oak, oak…and away?!?

April 1, 2015

It only took opening tonight’s wine to give me my blog topic – oak! The most frustrating part of wine – for me – because it can lead to the wines that I like the most, and the ones I just can’t stand!

Tonight was the latter. It was a Syrah from Chile. Not where I usually go for Syrah, but the review said all the right things – cool climate (like northern Rhone), pepper, meat, lean…should be my style, right? But then I saw that it had been aged in oak…A warning sign, but still, many northern Rhones get that, and still end up great (in my opinion).

But as soon as I popped the cork I could tell…not!!!!

It wasn’t bad, or even too woody. It just was devoid of fruit, replace instead by herbs, dirt and…I don’t know what else.

It reminded me of my other related pet peeves – oaked Argentine Malbecs, and most Spanish Garnachas. Same thing! Too many secondary aromas/flavours, and somehow the fruit has disappeared. So frustrating, especially with the Malbecs, which can be full of juicy blackberries! And don’t get me started on most Bordeaux, which you need a toothpick to drink with because of the woodiness.

But then there is the other side of the equation!

For reds, how about California (or some BC) Cabernet Sauvignons? If made in the Cali style, there is that amazing coating of vanilla from the oak barrels – absolutely gorgeous when done well, as the vanilla mixes with the black currants into a liqueur like flavour! The Caymus I had a few weeks ago was mind blowing. And the La Frenz and St. Francis excellent.

Same with Cali Chardonnays! I just had Mondavi’s latest Carneros Reserve and it was stunning, just as good as Beringer’s Private Reserve. Golden yellow, butterscotch, vanilla and ripe citrus – who couldn’t love that!

But what is with the dichotomy? How can I love one so much, and dislike the others just as much?

Deep breath…and opening a half bottle of 1989 Chateau Coutet to salve my wounds…what have I learned yet again?

Accept that wines have different styles, know what you like, and stick to it. Yeah, that’s it…


To oak or not to oak…is that the question?

November 7, 2012

Oak, as even the most casual wine drinker knows, is what most wine is made and/or stored in before it is bottled. But what intrigues – and bugs – me is how the oak can affect different wines in different ways. And how controversial that is!

For whites, the classic example is Chardonnay. California developed a reputation for “big, oaky” Chardonnays, which meant (and often still means) lots of vanilla, butter and even butterscotch overtones to go along with citrus fruit. When you add in high alcohol levels, you have a recipe that drives many people crazy and led to the “ABC” craze of a few years ago (i.e. Anything But Chardonnay).

At the other end of the spectrum are Chardonnays made in stainless steel vats, like they do it for Chablis in Burgundy. With no oak, all you get is the citrus fruit, very dry and crisp, with mineral overtones.

Personally, I like both styles, but have to admit – the big fat Cali Chardonnays are my favourite, as long as they have enough fruit in them to match the oak. My classic example is Beringer’s Private Reserve Chardonnay. It is so rich and lovely in the mouth – wow! I don’t know how anyone wouldn’t like it.

For reds, the three grapes I like to talk about are Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Malbec. Cabernet is the classic oak aged wine, with Bordeaux as the reference point. But, for me, the way it is made there is way to lean, woody and herbal (unless you can afford the $200+ wines). Some call it “complex”; I just call it a mouth full of wood.

But in California – and Australia – they have a different style. With riper fruit, the oak adds a lovely coat of vanilla to the black currant fruit, which I love! My first experience with that was Robert Mondavi’s Napa Valley Cabs back in the mid 1980s. Back then, they were still in the $24 range and what an experience – the essence of ripe fruit and vanilla balanced together. Caymus and Beringer were others I used to be able to afford…and still remember with much fondness!

More recently, I have found that oak can have really different effects on Grenache. In the Cotes du Rhone – where it is the main grape of Chateauneuf du Pape – I can taste little or no impacts from it, even though many wines get oak aging. The same in Australia, where it is riper but still not oaky. But in Spain – where it is called – Garnacha; OMG, what a difference! Many of those wines, including some that are highly rated, just get all herbal and woody on me. It’s to the point that I stay away from it almost completely in Spain, sticking to Tempranillo (which seems to act more like Cali Cab).

And, finally, Argentinian Malbec, where the difference – at least for me – is even more dramatic. Without oak, it is a fabulously rich and fruity wine, a bit like Zinfandel but not quite as dramatic. But add “oak aging” and…well, it really doesn’t work for me, again going all woody.

So, getting back to my original question, it probably isn’t “to oak or not to oak?”. Instead, it should be “what do you oak and what does it taste like?” Then it is up to the individual to decide what tastes best for him or her!