Wine: It’s a matter of tasting notes

Message in a bottle PHOTO: VIPERAGP/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

There’s a new message in the bottle. A growing, grumbling movement suggests that wine consumers have little use and perhaps even less tolerance for wine tasting notes. The concept of keeping score to endorse a wine’s value is always one that sparks hot debate but trending now is a derision towards what some see as a gross abuse of language, as it pertains to writing about wine. In a sudden and dramatic shift, writers are voicing their strong and in many instances, indignant opinions. Scribes are up in arms, mad, barking, “We’re not going to take it anymore.” Critiquing the critic is the new hot, and bothered. So much for the high road.

So, what’s the big deal? What’s the real problem here? Are we to be convinced that the average wine drinker has really become turned off by a heinous and excess use of speech? Are “thrown nouns” disrupting the ability to experience a more “nuanced understanding” in your wine? Has wine writing gone over the top and into the arena of the absurd? The Wine Diarist wants to know if you Care For A Word Salad With Your Wine? His take, “in general, tasting notes suck.” Have a lesser breed of wine writers confused, ostracized and alienated the wine buying public? Should the notions of professionalism and credibility seriously be brought into question?

Eric Azimov of the New York Times has gone so far as to distill wine into two words, sweet and savoury. He writes, “it’s one or the other.” Azimov feels that tasting notes are turning people off wine. My fellow Postmedia Chats colleague Rod Phillips is one who believes that tasting notes should be void of nouns, such as apples, sedimentary rock or bull’s blood. Phillips is adamant that notes be restricted to the concepts of balance, terroir, intensity, weight, sweetness and tannins. Others cringe at the overuse of adjectives, like supple, scrumptious or generous.

Should tasting notes stick to the direct and simple, like “the wine is flawed,” or “the wine is correct?” Is the sole purpose to describe a wine as light, medium or full-bodied? Is the balance between sweetness and acidity all that really matters? A well-respected writer, David Schildknecht comments, “The ubiquity of the descriptor does not make it inappropriate.” Jamie Goode writes that, “Tasting notes are the stock in trade of wine writers and critics.” So much of it may be crap but you’ve got to write about something. There’s the rub. Writers and critics. Perhaps it’s time to decide who you are, to choose who to follow and who to ignore. Many wine writers have been hurled onto the quadrae like slabs of meat, or cadavers, to be cut, dissected, broken apart. Why the schadenfreude? Why the sudden and furious need to chastise and belittle? It must be those useless, verbose and ridiculous tasting notes. Total bullshit. Utter poppycock.

Michael Godel Photo: Marc Rochette/www.marcrochette.com

Michael Godel
Photo: Marc Rochette/www.marcrochette.com

What about that high road less taken? Decanter Magazine’s Andrew Jefford writes, “Tasting notes are the kerosene of wine criticism: they have powered its ascent, and keep it aloft.” In his article Whither Tasting Notes? he also concedes that “A well-written tasting note has practical worth, in that it communicates a sensual experience via metaphorical and analytical means, and puts that experience in its appropriate context.” And yet, Ron Washam the Hosemaster of Wine so rightly reminds us that “In real life, wine ‘experts’ never ever talk about wine the way tasting notes do. Try describing a wine in (Robert) Parkerese at a wine judging and you’re likely to get waterboarded with Prosecco.” From Alder Yarrow, Is the Wine Writing World Out of Touch?, “Of course, most people writing about wine aren’t writing for the average wine drinker.”

Look, an astronaut can cover and alter the lyrics to David Bowie’s A Space Oddity aboard the International Space Station. Writers have forever been stepping beyond the comfort zone, like Hunter Thompson making a mockery of the Kentucky Derby, or George Plimpton playing Quarterback for the Detroit Lions. A wine writer can’t have a little fun?

I have no pretensions that my tasting notes might move, enlighten or teach and it’s no secret that I do not take myself seriously, especially when I write about wine. My M.O. is a lighthearted one but it is built upon a work ethic of incessant tasting, a burrowing tour of language and a whole a lot of pop culture. Music, especially lyrics that elicit word associations when tasting wine, are infused into my tasting notes. Why bother, you ask? What can anyone learn from that? The answers are simple. Read between the lines. Seek some entertainment value. Appreciate the written word, enjoy the wine. Wine makes me think, my brain forms associations and I put them to paper. I like the exercise, literally. My writing strikes a chord with some, hatred with others. That’s life. The variety helps to add colour and spice to rooms anointed with 100 wines.

Wine Tasting Photo: Michael Godel

Wine Tasting
Photo: Michael Godel

When 33 Ontarians (and two ringers) were poured at the Brock University Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute’s Expert’s Tasting back in March, I wrote, “Right in my wheelhouse and on so many levels.” This was because the tasting was orchestrated alongside the songs and lyrics of music, my music. Everyone enjoyed the cross-cultural referencing that day. The tasting was humbling, educational and a whole lot of fun.

The art of transcribing sensory experiences is natural, base, cathartic and necessary. Writing, whether it be about sculpture, painting, movies, sports or wine, aims to tell a story. I am careful to credit where a wine comes from, its history, its land and its maker. I am always cognizant that it has been given life at the hands of someone who cares deeply about the natural and living process. These necessary and critical points are never taken for granted.

I was fortunate to have been properly and ritually immersed into wine during the summer of 1987. Three weeks ago the Art History department and University of Toronto community lost a great mind and teacher. Prof. Jens T. Wollesen passed away on April 22, 2013. I have Professor Wollesen to thank for introducing me to the world of Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. The 1982 Tuscan vintage was very good, not the classic that was 1985, but I had little to complain about while sipping them in the Enoteca La Fortezza di Montalcino with Prof. Wollesen. Professor’s tutelage laid down a foundation for wine discovery and the dizzying setting overlooking the Val d’Orcia opened up my pen to a world of thoughts. The next 25 years are history.

Good to go!

A Stanley Cup for house league hockey

Former Toronto Maple Leaf Wendel Clark and a happy George Bell Titan

Former Toronto Maple Leaf Wendel Clark and a happy George Bell Titan

This is what hockey is supposed to be about

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They do give back. If your son or daughter was born in 2000 or 2001 and loves playing minor hockey, the 2012-2013 season would more than likely have been a good one.  Regardless of ability or what level they played, kids in the Toronto-area had a chance to experience the competitive thrill of playoff atmosphere, tournament hockey, just like the prodigies and the professionals.

It’s not the way house league players normally get treated.

The 2013 Canadian Tire Cup was held from April 5-7, 2013 at Iceland Arena and The Hershey Centre in Mississauga, ON. The free, three-day tournament was an end-of-season gift resulting out of a partnership between Canadian Tire and the GTHL. Together they provided 103 Peewee-level house league hockey teams in the GTHL with $500 in funding over the course of the 2012/2013 season to help pay for the costs associated with playing hockey.

Canadian Tire Cup Photo: Connie Riga

Canadian Tire Cup
Photo: Connie Riga

The GTHL is the largest minor hockey organization in the world and predates the NHL. Parents invest tens and in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars in their child’s minor hockey career to chase the NHL dream. Only a select few get there. Injuries and especially concussions are rampant and are today the centre of endless controversy. Don Gilmor asked, “is minor hockey worth it?”

On a weekend like this, absolutely. Yes, there were some spirited games, a few mismatched teams and some bruises, but when all is said and done, so many kids benefited from the experience.

Jeff Stewart, GTHL’s manager of membership services and events said 85 of a possible 103 eligible teams participated in the tournament. Those that did not enter did so because of conflicts with their league playoffs.

Candian Tire Cup Photo: Nana Wall

Candian Tire Cup
Photo: Nana Wall

Canadian Tire is the exclusive sweater sponsor of the GTHL but their support goes well beyond the elite levels of AAA, AA, A and Select minor hockey.

“This is really the culmination of their season for these teams,” said Kevin Kloostra, Canadian Tire’s sponsorship and events advisor. “Many of these players have never been to a full tournament before.”

Each participant was given a loot bag with a Canadian Tire baseball cap and toque, NHL hockeycards and mini sticks.

Some NHL alumni – dressed in vintage-style, Canadian Tire hockey jerseys – spent quality time with the kids. They signed autographs, posed for photos and held court inside dressing rooms. The ambassadors (primarily former Toronto Maple Leafs players) included Lanny McDonald, Wendel Clark, Tiger Williams, Curtis Joseph, Brad May, Tom Fergus, Jeff O’Neill, Kris King, Todd Warriner and Bob McGill.

Good to go!

Ultimate cooking for 800 is no E3 Expo or Chelsea Bun party

Ultimate Firsbee Layout. Photo: Nick Cheng

My alter ego cooks for a living.  Every year since 1995, on the first weekend of June in Fergus, Ontario, I assume my position as caterer to upwards of 800 Ultimate Frisbee players. Fergus is a quaint and upscale hamlet in Wellington County on the picturesque Grand River, just upstream from the Elora Gorge.

http://blogs.canada.com/2012/06/05/ultimate-cooking-for-800-is-no-e3-expo-or-chelsea-bun-party/

This past weekend my catering team set up shop in the Fergus Sportsplex Community Centre kitchen to serve two breakfasts, one banquet supper and many snacks to 600. Do you remember two Chelsea FC players engaged in a cook-off this time last year? This cooking is not that. This is no Chelsea bun party. It’s no E3 video game simulation. Ultimate cooking is trench warfare. Good thing I’ve a few War Horses to see me through the barb.

Fergus

The Gender Blender Co-ed Ultimate Frisbee Tournament was realized by two former teammates, Dan Berman and Mark Evans. They brought me on board to feed the masses and coincidentally, one week before that first event back in ’95, I tore my ACL, effectively ending my Ultimate playing days. Let’s hope Chelsea FC’s Mr.’s Barry, Lampard and Cahill will heal better than I did and grace their pitch once again next season. I cooked that first Gender Blender for 125 on crutches. Here is my team from 1997.

Zoydz at Gender Blender 1997

In 2004 Karen Hood, Dilhan Kuru and Giles Deshon took the reigns and we grew the event to 600. In 2008 a man named Blue took the helm with his company, The Ultimate Experience. Two years ago we catered to 800 players. This year the number was 600 because many teams did not return after the rain deluge of 2011. In 2013 we could be cooking for 1000. Blue will soon announce that the 19th Gender Blender will be the last. Great teams from the past will come out of the woodwork to participate. It will be a special weekend.

Gender Blender 2012

This year’s dinner menu:

Warm Barque Smokehouse Brisket and Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
Cole Slaw, two ways
Stuffed, Roasted Peppers, brown rice, chick peas, feta, carrot, oven-dried tomato, greek oregano
Due Penne, italian sausage, chicken/brisket bbq demi-glacé and tomato, caramelized onion
Hearts of Romaine Salad, green beans, broccoli, carrot, cucumber, balsamic vinaigrette
Green and Red Lentil Salad, tofu, corn, peppers, italian parsley

Not unlike that other great Canadian outdoor sports gathering, the Taylor Cup Pond Hockey Championship, Gender Blender is a beer fest. So, what does a caterer pop open after 14 hours at the stoves? Rosé of course!

Delas Frères Saint Esprit Côtes Du Rhône Rosé 2011 (224964, $12.95) shows consistent with last week’s note. “Offers up strawberry, rhubarb and cream with a savoury accent. Subtle pale, pink, see-through hue and warming humidity. Great value here. Rosie you’re all right. “Looks like it’s me and you again tonight.”  88

 

Good to go!

Triassic Tasting at Pangaea

Pangaea Upstairs Dining Room

Pangaea Upstairs Dining Room

 April 24, 2012

http://blogs.canada.com/2012/04/27/triassic-tasting-at-pangaea/

Pangaea Restaurant, 1221 Bay Street, (416) 920-2323

Chef du Cuisine: Derek Bendig, Sommelier and Manager: Benjamin Hardy

 

The group of seven. Sorry. Not THE Group of Seven. This group of seven. Our new format is really taking shape. We no longer each bring wine from cellar to share. Now one leader, one cellar, nine wines. Plenty to share with Mr.’s Hardy, Bendig and crew. Seamless sally forth through five courses. Godspeed to Pangaea for an all out effort in syncopated rhythm. This tasting the high water mark (of the new era) to date, with no disrespect to what came before, but the senescence has reached the early stages of maturity. Laud and applaud to AZ for coordinating food and wine synergy. A coup de foudre from the get go.  

Nine Wine Night

Nine Wine Night

 

Amuse Bouche, radish ‘ravioli’ stuffed with chèvre, tomato, basil

Chef’s Creek (Fanny’s Bay, Vancouver Island) Oysters, on the half shell, horseradish, lemon, shallot mignonette

  1. Peninsula Ridge Fumé Blanc 2008 wants to be 1er Cru Chablis in my universe but sweats heat and spice, “green cardamom pod and roasted salsify,” adds AM. Nutty lemon custard and did someone say Boxwood? Not quite Sauvignon Blanc but PR brings out enough mineral to do this style proud up on the Bench.  88
  2. Domaine De Congy Cuvée Les Galfins Pouilly Fumé 2009 tasted blind is undoubtedly old world but the lack of grass and oak leads me to Muscadet. Wrong! Oh the marl and fossilized oysters of it all! More Sauvignon Blanc to confront my tasting demons. Solid, if not as cursive as the PR.  87

 

Ahi Tuna Tataki, seared tuna, blood orange and fennel salad, avocado pureé

  1. See Ya Later Ranch Brut NV strikes a match from the outset and never wavers. The other MG senses After Eights but for me that possibility is smothered by a leesy, cheesy lard maigre et fromage. Gismondi calls this BC bubbly “a Champagne ringer.” Not so much. Flat finish so s’ya later, “s’alright ma’, i’m only sighing.” Just tasting.  85

 

Intermezzo, grapefruit and tarragon flavoured ice

 

Quebec Duck Breast, pan-roasted, seasonal vegetables, potato rösti, game jus

  1. Fontanabianca Barbaresco Sori Burdin 2004 the blessed and confounded queen Nebbiolo is the totipotent master of the moment. Italianate yet without animale, rosy cheeked and impossibly elegant, it still manages to anesthetize the mouth. So pretty it hurts. Along with the Sori Paitin, easily the best value in Barbaresco. On this night my allegiance is to the queen.  92
  2. Renatto Ratti Barolo Marcenasco 2004 of the famiglie Pola e Ferro is polar as compared to the non of the Burdin. AM and D nose “car exhaust.” I am tricked by its charm and think New World Syrah, but am reminded that the colour lacks gloom. Hugely muscular, girded by plastron and decades ahead of itself. “Leave it open all night and it’ll be amazing” says Dr. C.  91
  3. D’arenberg Ironstone Pressings 2001 holds the title of GSM pop star of the Mclaren Vale. Eponymous iron filings and pressed fruit roll up. A mixed bag of Grenache, Syrah and Mataro, the IP’s warm, berry and balsamwood address is veiled by a touch of oxidation. “Stinky feet” corrects AM. Good integration of fruit, acidity and tannin present proper balance.  90
  4. Mas Doix Salanques 2006 is a revelation. A Pegau-esque perfume aux gasseuse leans Rhône but an amazing (65%) Garnacha sweetness veers Priorat. Iodine (Syrah and Carignan) of black slate soil, tar, smoked meat and bacon. A Parker and Galloni thesaurus of descriptors must be bequeathed on this candied (Merlot) wine loaded with acidity in magnums.  CVR** WOTN.  93

 

House Made Cheeses, goat camembert, blue haze, cloth bound cheddar, truffle tomme

  1. Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape 1998 would be my wine of choice walking a boulder strewn vineyard on a misty morning in the Southern Rhône. Expressions are hurled around the table, “candified Pinot nose” and “tutti frutti.” For Beaucastel? I can’t believe the tripartite fruit freshness, ambient funk immersion and pencil lead sharpness. This ’98 is “light as a feather, heavy as lead.” The Beaucastel will brighten up your tomorrow. WOTN  96
  2. Tablas Creek Espit de Beaucastel 2008 the worthy adversary is just a dude from California. A honey pot of stewed prunes and “Seville oranges” notes the quote machine. A sinkhole of 38% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 26% Syrah and 6% Cunoise, the Esprit does admirable expatriate yeoman’s work and I wouldn’t even think of marking it zero.  88
Tasting Table

Tasting Table

 

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio

CVR** – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-Value Ratio

 

 

Good to go!

Eight Under $28 From The April 28th VINTAGES Release

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 24, 2012

VINTAGES

http://blogs.canada.com/2012/04/24/eight-under-28-from-the-april-28th-vintages-release/

 

Vinea Garganega 2010 (230656, $13.95) sugars great Veronese IVR* promise out of the Veneto. Hyperglycemic green-eyed lady bass line and Hammond organ finger roll plum and honey-dew in a state of barm loaf. Glycerin of Amaretto and snappy Salak. Sour apple martini with candy swizzle stick, “soothing every wave that comes.”  88

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canonica a Cerreto Chianti Classico Reserva 2007 (275867, $17.00) was surely not decanted from a straw flask into this sleek and marketable bottle. A precocious and gregarious ruffle of polish and cask modernity speak of the Cerreto’s new worldliness. Splashes of Cabernet and Merlot lean IGT and yet just enough Chianti brightness remains to keep it honest.  Scales (“never heard of him“) on the label are indicative of this balanced effort. Easy money.  88

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hogue Genesis Syrah 2009 (687822, $19.95) is a steadfast and decent wine so my exegesis begins at its central core. Black colour of a world still unformed. Heady like a stand of old growth forest; black oak, ash and walnut. B’reishit Washington Syrah where the bifurcation of quality and cost collide. Big wall of Syrah sound, perfect for headphones playing “no need to hide. Keep it dark.”  88

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vincent Girardin Vieilles Vignes Mâcon-Fuissé 2009 (264515, $19.95) the vibrant fresh maker, with crisp, apple taut fragrance and void of oak annoyance. Just a touch of baby fat and some mineral too. Well-balanced for under $20. Girardin’s (940825, $39) Santenay on this release is not to be missed.  88

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arnoux & Fils Vacqueyras 2009 (264663, $19.95) is as modern as it gets for the appellation, right down to “The Vac” label. Sweet Kirsch, lifted raspberry jam, soft, fleshy and forward. Has just enough funk to keep it real. Will have broad appeal and represents excellent Dogg value, if you like the plush style. Betcha Snoop drinks it.   89

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leasingham Winemakers Selection Bin 61 Shiraz 2008 (448241, $24.95) the Kitty of Clare Valley is back in town. A loyal and trusted friend, reminiscent of the ’99. Burns no rubber and “goes runnin’ nightly, lightly through the jungle.” Less power, more strength. Less jam, more brakes. This Highway 61 should not be accused of having put its “bleachers out in the sun.”  90

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saltram of Mamre Brook Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (48579, $24.95) may inexplicably enjoy cult status but for the money no other Barossa Cabernet can demand such respect. I would pay $25 for this over almost any $50+ peer within the appellation. Opulent, ruddy, bursting, pickled berries.  88

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isole E Olena Chainti Classico 2008 (704346, $26.95) the beguiler welcomes with cinnamon, cherry spice and award winning roses. Poised, confident, simply phenomenal CC issue. Delicious now and will be perfect in five.  Better than when tasted in November 2011.  91

TN from Nov. 29, 2011,“…a mouthful of black fruit, bourbon cask aromas, dark and stormy. The barque of a ship’s ocean misted, wooden planks and of a smoked beef rib. Hard lines but hard to resist. Bloody good CC but certainly not traditional.  89

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Wines Tasted

Two Rivers of Marlborough Convergence Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (277707, $29.95) carries heavy alcohol bandwidth, tomato leaf pesto and band-aid across a frame of sweet lime concentrate. Hot for SB, over processed and heavy with silicone and collagen. Their will be superficial fans.  86

Chavet & Fils La Dame De Jacques Coeur Menetou-Salon Blanc 2010 (525048, $19.95) offers a rare VINTAGES sighting and would excite were it more Loire and less Marlborough. Salmagundi of pâté, gooseberry and kiwi, swathed by an alkaline grapefruit finish.  85

Torres Viña Esmerelda 2010 (113696, $13.95) zests halitious of ReaLemon and petroleum wax. Can’t help but hear the “smell of wine and cheap perfume” lyric played by a wedding band while the cast of Jersey Shore watch their drapery clad mothers put back the Esmeralda. Like Torrontoes with bad make-up. Won’t be tagging along on this Moscatel journey.  80

Colchester Ridge Crew Meritage 2007 (280990, $19.95) noses Ontario from the get go with burning campfire then wafts exotic towards Masala spice, brown derby dressing and horseradish root. Flavour of earth demi-glace, composted apple and black licorice.  84

Frei Brothers Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (38075, $23.95) the “melody softly soaring through my atmosphere” is cute, sweet, lyrical and precocious. Gallo incarnate in the AlexanderValley. A death Cab for some but what’s not to like?  87

Stag’s Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (996405, $49.95) the model of consistency vintage to vintage and head to foot. Runs black cherry in its veins with nary a cut, scrape or bruise. Napa varietal profiling in its poised, beating heart.  89

Andrew Rich Cuvée B Pinot Noir 2008 (127043, $29.95) carries currant, candied pomegranate and the rocky crush of clove studded juniper berry. Well made, on the elegant side of Pinot life, even Burgundian if that can even be articulated.  88

Mendel Malbec 2009 (108225, $24.95) typifies Mendoza replete with old vines fruit adding canorous body. Infundibular midriff slows the smouldering, swelling berry pleasure. Crucial minerals carry red grape fluid away from the viscera and out of the body.  87

Susana Balbo Signature Malbec 2009 (79798, $21.95) at the outset teases TCA, then VA. Paulliac nez of tabac et peau danimaux. That and a whack of new French Oak where vanilla, chocolate and coffee lambaste and pummel the senses.  NR

Majella Shiraz 2008 (269308, $29.95) is a vitrified, mined vine of depth and power but short on finesse. Heavy extract with a touch of soap and mired in the details of oak. “The wheels are spinning but the car, neutral.”  86

Esprit de Pavie 2008 (244020, $32.95) shows good spirit as it amalgamates 2nd wine fruit from iconic Pavie, Monbousquet, Clos L’eglise and St. Columbe. Spiced coffee cake and soft yet pretty purple fruit. Obdurate push back indicates three years of cellaring will help. Would have been a CVR** steal at $20-25.  89

Brancaia Tre 2009 (164715, $22.95) the SGM speaks of identity theft and lack of spirit. Once upon a Tuscan, now a global commodity playing on MOR radio stations. This bottling recently rushed to great success but there is now “a question of your honesty, yeah your honesty.” Sure it’s delicious but what’s with “all this machinery making modern music?”  Pair not with pasta asciuta normale87

StefanoAccordini Acinatico Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2009 (85159, $19.95) is pitchy for a valpo with splendiferous up front fruit. Cimmerian red plum joined by buff vanillan cocoa and velveteen in the mouth. So far so good but ultimately flaccid and void of oomph.  86

Allende 2006 (954560, $24.95) in extant cantillates oak, oak, oak. What happened to my Rioja? Tempered Tempranillo so no fear that it may seize. Pendulous and potent, well-mannered, ready to please. Go Condado de Haza over this for sure.  87

Perrin Réserve Rosé 2011 (719062, $15.95) is warm and balanced, all strawberry, all the time. Nutty for its ilk.  86

 

 

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio

CVR* – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-Value Ratio

 

 

Good to go!

 

Bodegas Roda – Raven of Rioja

Mideastro Yorkville

Mideastro Yorkville

 April 17, 2012

Mideastro, 27 Yorkville Ave, 416.477.2427, Chef Benny Cohen

http://wp.me/p1N3EI-cvj

The Spanish Wine Society and Halpern Enterprises precipitated a four-course, eight-wine pairing by way of Chef Cohen and Bodegas Roda. Chef”s Italian/Israeli/Mediterranean inspired fusion holds food sacred to stimulate the brain. Plates as Modigliani canvas, sauces of the fruitful earth, proteins enriched deeply by herb and flora. Bodegas Roda matches the culinary caws with wines possessed of stunning clarity, consistency and the subtlest of variance from the lowly Sela through to Roda’s Unico challenger, the Cirison. For Agustín Santolaya, playing winemaker at Roda must be a dream, like Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe. Here his wines one through eight, including two from Ribera del Duero (Corimbo and Corimbo 1), all Malena Costa beauties of viscous, long-legged concentration. Barcelona FC’s Carles Puyol is likely drowning his sorrows in a Roda vertical after this past weekend’s crushing loss to Real Madrid and the fading memories of his one time, raven-haired, Mallorcan model girlfriend.

Loud shout out to Doble B, the Marxist (as in Brothers) Spanish Wine Society maestro Barry Brown for an afternoon tasting at the Yorkville eatery. Roda’s eight great were presented dissertation style by the Bodega’s Export Manager, Gonzalo Lainez. Later that evening by member’s invitation, in flights, as guest to my liege AZ for comida and comedia.

Bodegas Roda at Mideastro

Bodegas Roda at Mideastro

 

Confit Quail, watermelon, spinach, red onion, with a light touch of ruby grapefruit vinaigrette and wild oregano, dauro olive oil

  1. Sela 2009 ($34) the new kid on the Roda of Haro block combines Hibiscus spiced charcoal, tar and roses from 89% Tempranillo with sherry, scented, savoury caramel apples of 11% Graciano. Gracious me.  88
  2. Corimbo, La Horra 2010 ($41) of ever red catholic fruit and pine tar migrates to a spice of an exotic edge. Floral and radiant Riberan of indeterminate florescence. High tide of Caribbean funk and vanillin fudge.  100% Tempranillo.  89 

 

Roasted Veal Sirloin, three colour potato, vermouth porcini jus

  1. Roda Reserva 2006 ($56) aligns velveteen, well-rounded Garnacha with smokey Tempranillo and thoughtfully astringent Graciano. Adds up to a promising future because at present this may be the most backward wine of the lot.  Shut down line built for a long playoff run.  91
  2. Roda Reserva 2007 ($51) the pensieve of reductive tomato and juiced violets has the most tang for the buck. Flirts with the vermouth porcini jus at night and runs away with the veal.  90

 

Tempranillo Braised Lamb Cheek, pomegranate risotto, zucchini papardelle, aubocassa olive oil

  1. Roda 1 Reserva 2005 ($90) is a tale of two bottles. First one slightly oxidized, second absolutely stunning. Mr. Lainez’s commentary, “fruit must play a prominent role and the oak is supporting actor” is evidenced by this ’05. Acidity and freshness incarnate.  93
  2. Roda Reserva 1 2006 ($80) like its ’06 brethren exemplifies the anthropomorphic personification of the vines polymer. Sweeping tannins on the loose, hexagonal, hooked tongue and cheek. A local anaesthetic in the mouth, syrupy, needing carne 92
  3. Cirison 2009 ($292) according to Gonzalo is “the best wine we have ever made.” Impeccable balance, perfect polymer, fruity, smooth. “The ultimate Tempranillo,” says Roda man. Whereas the rest of the portfolio are rotating single vineyard entities, the Cirison is made from the best bunches of grapes from Roda’s holdings. Expensive, refined, delicious.  94

Assortment of Artisan Spanish Cheeses, manchego, picón, mahon

  1. Corimbo 1 2009 ($80) is sweet thistle pie. A cracker jack Tempranillo and nothing but Tempranillo. Candy coated with red licorice and an inexplicable apple flower sensation as if molecular gastronomy of the Ferran Adrià or Heston Blumenthal kind. Exotic and spicy, seeing through me, it “knows my name but calls me ginger.”   95

 

 

Good to go!

Wild Leek Week

Zatar Flank Steak, Wild Leek Pesto, Chard, Yu Choy, Asparagus, Artichoke and Ramps

Zatar Flank Steak, Wild Leek Pesto, Chard, Yu Choy, Asparagus, Artichoke and Ramps

Rampcake

April 20, 2012

http://blogs.canada.com/2012/04/21/wild-leek-week/

 

Leek week. All leeks, all the time. Every dish gets ramped up by the foot soldier, pugilist and grognard of the onion family. “As long as I was in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.” The Mickey Finn allium, orchestrating as purgative, nicitating and aiding the digestive tract. Light yet electric flavour that builds like a fist over a pond. “Gotta strange magic.” A Riesling and a Sauvignon Blanc to match.

Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2010, Niagara Escarpment & Twenty Valley (89029, $17.95) mans fine architectural lines akin the house that Maury built. A nectarine and guava smoothie, creamy, satisfying. a handsomely hatched thirst quencher. The restaurant version “Echoes” is on the card at Barque87

Pascal Jolivet Sauvignon Blanc, Attitude 2010 ($20.95) may not be labeled as Sancerre but that it is. Speaks its mind from the get go, slinging zinging youthful lemon and lime flavours across the tongue like a summer slip and slide. Straightforward Loire SB, unabashed, direct, food-friendly. Premium list at Barque.  88

Ramped Brisket Tacos and Sliders

Ramped Brisket Tacos and Sliders

Roast Chicken, Beans and Wild Leeks

Golden Beets, Avocado, Pomegranate and Ramp Oil

 

 

Good to go!

Live Wine Chat on CANADA.COM

March 29, 2012

Join in Thursday at 2:00 pm ET as I chat online about wine. I will be joined by Ruth Dunley (PostMedia), Rod Phillips (Ottawa Citizen), James Nevison (HALFAGLASS) and Gurvinder Bhatia (Vinomania).

http://www.canada.com/business/Live+Chat+wine+experts/6348994/story.html

We’ll be talking about Easter wines and responding to questions from readers.

Good to go!

Hunger Games and Blind Wine Tasting

Monday, March 19, 2012    

 

Quince Bistro, 2110 Yonge Street, Toronto 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I play the hunger game all day in anticipation of the big night. Eating little, saving myself for what the chef will throw at me. “Winning means fame and fortune. Losing means certain death.” Five courses and 10 wines later the thrill of victory is sweet. Chef Peter Tompkins takes the group on a Mediterranean wanderlust road trip with stops in no less than five European nations. Our leader generously gifts eight of the ten wines from his cellar. All in all, five continents and 10 countries are represented. A theme runs through the lot and the game is on. We speculate on the grapes, the country of origin and the producer.

Canapés

  • salt and cod fritters, lemon aioli
  • herb and gruyère cheese profiteroles
  • mushroom and goat cheese arangini

Tarlant Brut Zero NV Champagne races out of the gate, unabashedly revealing all. Brioche, apple skin, lemon meringue and Pomello. She’s easy to like, maybe too easy. “My, my my. Once bitten…twice shy.”   87

 

Grilled Portuguese Cornbread, chicken liver pâté, pickled apples

Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot 1998 brings the house down. I think it droit de la Gironde. Who would believe a 14-year old Niagara Bordeaux blend and its milk chocolate, oak domination would not only survive but thrive? From Ontario’s long-growing, patio summer.  Best tomatoes too.  89

Viña Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Casa Real 1997 may wander off over the Chilean hill yet shows continence in a continent away, IGT way. Soft, curvy, lovely. Where tobacco, spices and rich vanilla once fused fusible fruit, there now exists a quiet calm. Good show though.  88

 

Crispy Braised Lamb Shoulder, du puy lentils, lamb jus, mint salsa verde

Odem Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 from the folks who bring us Alfasi out of the Golan revelates in its own way. Oz-like in constitution (Margaret River comes to mind), the vernal persistence is admirable. There is a feeling of disjointedness for some. A summons to Israeli wine guy Rogov (86) to taste again and show some new love.  88

Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (328567, $14.95) the non-ringer, South African VINTAGES essential electrifies blind. I reckon oak/fruit bomb Argentine Cab, a la Michel Rolland but wrong again. Alcohol is very present, green mint and eucalyptus dominate and dark chocolate lingers on. Like Lindsay Lohan86

 

Grilled New York Strip Loin, celeriac purée, potato rösti, haricots vert, assorted mushroom sauce

Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, the last of Robert’s great wines. Everything changed in 1997  and “…history, like love, is so apt to surround her heroes with an atmosphere of imaginary brightness.” Wex waxes on about “a Tel Aviv Cab” but that roadster was seen flying down Dizengoff in the last flight.  This Napicon has reached high tide and is now a pig in shit, cool, uncoiling  in the mud. AZ announces he is “hanging up his wine shingles.” We have come to the crossroads of the evening and all is good.  93

Château Léoville Barton 1999 is unequivocably the best value, never mind the vintage, in classified growth Bordeaux that some extra cash can buy. Now I’ve done it! MG notes “lead on the right”, as in the right (wrong) hand side of an Aussie road. Common to the Mondavi, a bretty, farmyardy character no longer dominates as a red hot mama. Now smokey berries and if there was thought of fruit not waiting for tannins to evolve, think again. Will rank with the best of ’99. WOTN for most.  94

 

Assorted Cheese Plate, toasts and chutney, piave, delice de bourgogne, 5-year aged perron cheddar

Antinori Guado al Tasso 1999 is closed down and phasing dumb. Pencil shavings fill the glass but no fruit, herbs or spices. Sink smell too, metallurgic and iodine. I’ve had the 2000 twice recently and both examples were expressive, blood thirsty Tuscan specimens. Could this ’99 be years behind its window with fruit lurking in mountain shadows? I find myself walking away in high dudgeon.  NR

Clarendon Hills Hickinbotham Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 noses funky pork and seafood, gamboge and gammon. Phantom palate of d’Agen plum, prune, fig and raisin. Pitchy black ink, an operatic meteor shower on a moonless sky. MS says “a sipping wine, with cheese, a fireplace and a boar stew.” To me, crazy Mclaren Vale Cabernet, perverse to look at, deadly to consume.  91

Alois Kracher Scheurebe TBA #4 Zwischen den Seen 2004 is dessert all on its own. Fanta orange, quince (of course), marmalade and honey. Lazer acidity by way of AM, sweet and syrupy. Could imagine pouring it on Austrian Palatschinken 92

 

 

Good to go!