We are all familiar with the cachet that is California Cabernet. Two plus decades have seen the comfortable caste consume Napa Cabs alongside rare beef asado. Oh but times do change. Let me give you the Snoop. Grain eating, methane dispensing bovine suppliers no longer moo as masters of their domain. The elevated vegetable, sustainable fished and farmed sea creatures and especially everything porcine are it in “these times of hate and pain.” Following suit, the once stand alone Cabs are no longer immune and they too are just a piece within the wonted pie. For the same price give me the Rhone, potete portarmi Toscana o Piemonte! Let bygones be bygones and yet icons remain icons. Mailing lists, cult wines? Not in Canada. This VINTAGES release does sport four legends, including Caymus ’09 (sample unfortunately corked), Mondavi Private Reserve ’07 (overpriced) and Dunn ’07 (not the Dunn it once was). At near one hundred bones look to Beaulieu.
BEAULIEU VINEYARD GEORGES DE LATOUR PRIVATE RESERVE 2007 (80218, $89.95) is back. I was high on the ’05 and now the majors are on side. RP (95) says it’s the best since ’68 and ’70. ST (93) notes , “…certainly the best vintage for this wine in recent years.” CT’s (93) speak with overwhelming enthusiasm. An Ontario steal considering it’s $104 US. Here, from Food and Wine:
LA POSTA ANGEL PAULUCCI VINEYARD MALBEC 2008 (75515, $15.95) brings me back to the well for another Laura Catena project. The Pauluccis take budget Malbec out its comfort zone and stretch the thinking to terroirs back in the motherland and beyond. Inky as Dante’s blotter, an inferno of hot rocks, “lava flowing in the farmer’s direction.” Laura, ahead by a century. Maureen C. Petrosky of Food Republic is a fan, as is JR-ST (89), DR. J.-RP (88) and the CT’s (88). A $20 Malbec to lead the IVR*.
M. CHAPOUTIER PETITE RUCHE CROZES-HERMITAGE 2009 (264655, $22.95) has shown marked improvement and a move to integrate modernity over the past five vintages. Shows off “killer graces…soft French cream…and her love could save you from the bitterness.” Better than Guigal and worth the coin. JM-WS (90), ST (89) and JG-WA (91) are three to have reason for belief. Northern Rhone Syrah under $25 is hard to come by so she’s the one.
Other Wines Tasted:
MACMURRAY RANCH CHARDONNAY 2009 (262063, $21.95) goes OTT lock, stock and toasted barrel, saved mercifully by a beam of banana, Tropicana. Like a 3-star Caribbean beach vacation complete with astro-turf corridors and chalky pina colada mix. 85
A TO Z PINOT GRIS 2009 (258145, $19.95) sends scents of masala spiced butter chicken to draught with “a smell of peach blossom and bitter almonde.” A broad melody of sweet undertones subdue the inner amaroidal. 87
GRAN LURTON CORTE FRIULANO 2010 (66829, $19.95) is all tang and torchon, continents away from your nonna’s Friuli. A landed grenade of oak, fruit masked by the slash and burn, fire in the hole! Shaded roasted almandine and in flavour too. 84
MAISON ROCHE DE BELLENE VIEILLES VIGNES MEURSAULT 2009 (241091, $48.95) amalgamates citrus spice, baked brie and potpourri where subtlety is thy name. No mischief from Little Nicky here as Potel’s potential is glimpsed with this groovy white Burgundy. 89
DOMAINE FOUASSIER LES GRANDS SANCERRE 2009 (267948, $24.95) is a honey of a girl and commits a new world order to memory. A motel of gooseberry and grass that causes your teeth “to slightly curl.” Chewy, crushed rock talc add to the party in the mouth. They are all $25 but this one fits the bill. 89
VOLLENWEIDER WOLFER GOLDGRUBE RIESLING KABINETT 2008 (249730, $21.95) is a snort of dried golden kiwi and persimmon yet markedly, chemically wet to taste. Lavender later, the wolf is a lithe moonraker, skirting the surface of the tongue and stealing sensations. Unusual and complex. 87
MISSION HILL RESERVE MERLOT 2008 (553313, $25.95) noses initially as if right bank cru bourgeois but that BC syrah-like je ne sais quois creeps in. Then I take a sip from the freshly opened bottle and there is only sludge. Ahhh! Flawed specimen. NR
FROG’S LEAP CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 (932400, $58.95) carries classic aromas of cassis, black cherry and smokey oak. A whiskey-laced hot chocolate anglaise follows suit. A big Napa Cab, the best FL I’ve tasted to date. Needs three to five for full integration. 91
DECERO REMOLINOS VINEYARD MALBEC 2008 (247304, $22.95) noses smoke, ash, tar and munificent berries if a bit out of joint. To its good humour I acquiesce for here is a Malbec with veins but no vanity. Dense, bulky but hugely shaped. 90
VIÑA COBOS FELINO MERLOT 2010 (248492, $19.95) is a vegetable, spore and mineral knotty balm. Reminiscent of something Italian, or more incidentally mini-Bolgheri, this Merlot feigns milli vanilli boxy constraint. I expected more of Mr. Hobbs considering the recent successes of his Malbec and Cabernet. Despite the glowing reports for 2010 in Argentina I’ll have to blame it on the (lack of) January rain. 85
PLUNKETT FOWLES STONE DWELLERS SHIRAZ 2008 (265967, $19.95) smells divine perhaps because I have nosed so much merde already today. Big, chewy and oak mounted, this Strathbogie seems to have just been pulled from the barbie. Attenuates for a spell then finishes just beyond par. 87
DOMAINE PERRIN NATURE CÔTES DU RHÔNE 2010 (948059, $16.95) is haggis and chitlin con carne washed down with a glass of absinthe. 79
XAVIER CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2009 (244814, $39.95) is non-sectarian in its unusual GMS blend and it shows. Fully attune by CdP standards, the sweet, candied kirsch fruit is easily gulped. Simple for the appellation and unpretentiously delish. 89
KIR-YIANNI RAMNISTA XINOMAVRO 2008 (178020, $18.95) is akin to Nebbiolo but also Loire Cabernet Franc. A cherry core leads to a longing for more. Currants, cherry tomato and mildly brined olives join the fun. “See-NO-ma-vro” sees no evil and hears no complaints. 88
LEONE DE CASTRIS RISERVA SALICE SALENTINO 2007 (597534, $17.95) erupts odiferously with roasted licorice and smoldering tomato leaf. The reduction of red and black fruits are sweet and tangy. 87
CORTE PAVONE BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2005 (237263, $49.95) is spun like a quaffle with a level of velocity and tannin impossible to catch. There is a gamey varnish to the fruit and an oomph of brio that “tingles to the bone.” Wait five years to discover a simple twist of fate. 90
FONTODI CHIANTI CLASSICO 2008 (933317, $28.95) “you’re so fine…it blows my mind.” Pure expression of Sangiovese. Salient in every facet. Oak, fruit, acidity all in harmony. May I call you Mickey? 91
CORTES DE CIMA CHAMINE 2010 (650291, $15.95) is powered by bitter herbs, brackish olives and burnt nut butter. I sense some volatile acidity here. An untamed beast? 83
Other Wines of Note:
DOMDECHANT WERNER HOCHEIMER KIRCHENSTUECK RIESLING AUSLESE 2003 (931386, $27.95) is tremendous value for a German sweety of pedigree and age. Eric H. Litchfield of German Wine Estates noted “the 2003 vintage was a superb one for Domdechant Werner.”
HALL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 (273391, $59.95) and the rest of the entourage (Kathryn and the SV’s) have garnered big time praise. This price is good considering the numbers, RP (95), WS (91), CT’s (91) but the US average is $47.
CAYMUS SPECIAL SELECTION CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 (155734, 3000mL, $541.95) is actually a phenomenal deal. The 750 ml format sells for an average $140 US. WS (94), RP (94), ST (93).
IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio
CVR** – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-Value Ratio
Good to go!