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Posts Tagged ‘Washington

Yes and no

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Napa Valley 2014, Propriatary Red, Apriori ($27.65, 12413128)
Cabernet Sauvignon (61%), Malbec (23%), Petite Sirah (10%) and Cabernet Franc (5%). Manually harvested. Fermented in stainless steel tanks for 30 days. Matured in neutral French oak barrels for 11 months. Bottled in July 2015. Reducing sugar: 2.8 g/l. 15% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinifera Séguin et Robillard.
Outgoing nose of sweet, slightly jammy fruit (mainly cassis), sweet spice and menthol. In the mouth, it’s full-bodied, round and soft. The forward ripe fruit and considerable extract are no surprise but it’s not a bomb, due in no small measure to the bright acidity. Fine though gritty tannins texture the mid-palate while notes of cocoa and matcha tea colour the sustained finish. Some vaprous overtoning aside, the alcohol is discreet. For the style, this is unexpectedly balanced and fresh but, then again, other than a grilled hunk of red meat, what could you pair it with? (Buy again? Fans of not-over-the-top California reds should make a beeline. I’ll wave at you from the Old World section.)

USA 2013, Horseshoes & Handgrenades, Mouton Noir Wines (US$18.00 in New Hampshire)
A blend of Syrah (69%), Merlot (19%), Cabernet Sauvignon (9%) and Tempranillo (9%) from various vineyards in southern Oregon and Washington state. Manually harvested. The destemmed grapes were given a short cold soak and fermented in stainless steel tanks. Matured in neutral oak for 10 months. 13.7% ABV.
The nose of chocolate-cherry cookie with hints of meat and plum vinegar set alarm bells ringing. Full-bodied and unnuanced and devolving from the get-go. The fruit – mostly plum and cherry but also showing a vegetal streak – is dominated by chocolate and vanilla. The minerals aim for graphite but end up ash. Low acidity and higher than necessary sugar keep things leaden. The finish is long, much too long. What a fatiguing wine! (Buy again? Life is too short.)

MWG September 8, 2016, tasting: flight 4 of 6

Written by carswell

November 1, 2016 at 15:29

MWG February 19th tasting: Kung Fu fighting

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One evening late last spring, friends and I were downtown and in the mood for good East Asian fare but not for waiting in line. We decided they would drop by Kazu for takeout while I’d hit an SAQ Express for wine. Predictably, the selection of compatible bottles at the store was pitiful. After much dithering, I ended up with a 2012 Kung Fu Girl Riesling and a crémant de Bourgogne. It was our first experience with the KFG and we were not impressed. In fact, I’ve never heard the end of it.

Yet KFG regularly gets rave reviews from local and international critics: “Mid-priced marvel … great job” (Bill Zacharkiw in The Gazette); “91 points … Top 100 Wines … Best Value” (Wine Spectator); “clean, fresh, incredibly pure … rock star effort … 90 points” (Wine Advocate); “flat out delicious … 91 points … Best Buy” (Wine Enthusiast); “shows Riesling’s fun and funky side … 16.75/20 points” (Decanter); etc. Such praise seemed hard to reconcile with our impressions of the 2012.

Obviously a double-blind test was in order. And that was the idea behind this flight.

Okanagan Valley 2012, Riesling, Tantalus ($29.80, 12456726)
100% Riesling from five- to 35-year-old vines grown in several parcels. Fermented in small lots over two months, more or less. Blended and bottled in the spring following harvest. Screwcapped. 15 g/l residual sugar, 10.5 g/l total acidity, 2.85 pH, 12.8% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Fetching nose of creamy lemon-lime, quartz and flint. Smooth, fluid even rainwatery at first though turning richer as it breathed. Sweet-tart and fruity (“green apple Jolly Rancher” noted one taster) with lots of chalk and a long finish with some petrolly retro-nasal action. The sweetest (bordering on off-sweet) and most overtly Riesling of the three. The weightiest too, though not at the expense of liveliness. The exuberant fruit lasts through the finish while the acidity just zings. Minerals are there if you look for them. Initially winsome but coming across as a little slutty by the end. Several around the table said they’d buy it if, like the other wines in the flight, it were priced in the $20-$22 range. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Nahe 2013, Fröhlich Trocken, Weingut Schäfer-Fröhlich ($21.25, 11897159)
In my flu-induced fog, I assumed this, like Schäfer-Fröhlich’s other wines at the SAQ, was a Riesling but it’s actually 100% Rivaner (aka Müller-Thurgau), not that the variety is mentioned anywhere on the bottle or the winery’s website. My bad. The grapes come from several parcels and the wine is made entirely in stainless steel tanks. 7.3 g/l residual sugar, 11% ABV. Quebec agent: Avant-Garde.
A nose more Sauvignon Blanc than Riesling: cat pee with the lime and apple relegated to the background. Definite sulphur aromas too that more or less blew off. In the mouth, it’s light-bodied and as minerally as fruity. While there’s not a lot of depth, a spritzy tingle lends height. The residual sugar is effectively neutralized by the brisk acidity. My initial reaction was meh but the wine grew on me until I quite liked it by the end. Would make a credible aperitif or summer evening deck wine and might accompany Thai food quite well. (Buy again? Sure.)

Washington State 2013, Riesling, Kung Fu Girl, Charles Smith Wines ($20.05, 11629787)
100% Riesling from vines planted in 1998 and now in the new Ancient Lakes AVA bordering the Columbia River. Given a long, cool fermentation. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. Screwcapped. 13 g/l residual sugar, 7.9 g/l total acidity, 3.21 pH, 12% ABV. MSRP: US$12 but can easily be found for $1 or $2 less in the States. Quebec agent: AOC & cie.
Floral, boudoiry nose with pineapple and stone fruit in the background. Off-dry and fruit-forward on the attack but drying and hollowing out as it moves through the mouth. Short on acidity, depth and follow-through. Along with crushed rock, there’s an odd, vaguely chemical edge to the finish – one taster likened it to McDonald’s apple juice. Not awful but nothing to get excited about, especially when you can buy a superior German Riesling for less. Tellingly, this was the only bottle with a glass’s worth of wine remaining in it at the end of the tasting and nobody wanted to take it home. Why do critics constantly rate it so highly? (Buy again? Only if in dire need of a Riesling and nothing better is available.)

(Flight: 1/5)

Written by carswell

February 23, 2015 at 11:22

MWG July 17th tasting: Marsanne shoot-out

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Saint-Joseph 2011, Les Granilites, M. Chapoutier ($39.25, 11873018)
100% Marsanne from organically framed vines. Manually harvested. The whole clusters are pressed, with the must going directly into vats, where it is chilled and clarified by settling for 48 hours. It is then racked into 600-litre fûts and fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured ten months in fûts with stirring of the lees for the first two months. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vins Philippe Dandurand.
Complex nose: honey, white spices, wax, pear, lychee, minerals and a whiff of cheese. On the palate, it’s rich, dry and mouth-filling, weighty but balanced , possessed of a satiny texture. There’s a suggestion of spiced pear and peach though, as with its flightmate, the fruit flavours are elusive. Long and complete. If the wine has a downside, it’s that it’s not particularly refreshing. That said, it might prove the perfect accompaniment to a dish like scallops or langoustines in curry cream. (Buy again? If in the market for a 100% Marsanne, sure.)

Northern White 2011, Washington State, Rôtie Cellars ($33.00, 12115462)
100% Marsanne. Slow, cool (13°C) alcoholic fermentation with indigenous yeasts. Malolactic fermentation is not completed. Sees only stainless steel until bottling. 13.9% ABV. Quebec agent: Insolite.
Inscrutable nose of minerals and ash. Middleweight and balanced but lean and not exactly characterful, the firm acidity notwithstanding. Flavours? Saline with hints of pear and white peach and a faint oxidized honey note. “A lot of surface but doesn’t stick around very long,” noted one taster. The tail-end – tellingly about a quarter of the bottle was left at the end of the tasting – had lost all personality the next day. (Buy again? Probably not.)

Written by carswell

August 1, 2014 at 18:04

And now for something completely different

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So I drop by my neighbourhood SAQ outlet yesterday to pick up a few bottles for this evening’s tasting. After helping me find them, the senior wine advisor says, “Oh! I’ve got something special for you to taste,” and disappears into the staff room.

Now, the last time I heard that line, he came back with a glass of 2009 Sassicaia. The time before, a glass of delicious vin jaune from a bottle that had been open several months. So you might say I’m expecting a treat.

He reappears and places a glass in my hand. Pale red, more like a Burgundy than, say, a Bordeaux. I swirl the glass, take a sniff and stop dead in my tracks. What the…?!

Tasters often find chocolate in the smell of a wine. Cherry, too. Throw in some vanillin (extracted from oak barrels or chips) and you may get chocolate-covered cherries or, in particularly egregious cases, Cherry Blossom. Usually it’s a component but here it’s Cherry Blossom all the way down. It’s like being on the Cherry Blossom production line. Like dying and going to Cherry Blossom heaven (or hell, as the case may be). This isn’t your metaphorical chocolate. Blindfolded, you’d guess someone was holding a bowl grated chocolate and cherry jam under your nose.

I shudder to think what the wine will taste like. I take a sip and… it isn’t disgusting. Medium-bodied, supple, fluid, sweet but not saccharine. There’s a focused fruity core, very little structure and enough acidity to avoid flabbiness. There’s chocolate too, but it’s an added layer, like oak can be on some wines. Totally disconcerting. It’s like drinking ludlab. Is it some sort of strange Banyuls?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by carswell

April 18, 2013 at 16:23

November 4th MWG tasting: report

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Notes on 15 wines from the November 4th Cellier release. Prices are in Canadian dollars and include sales taxes.


Mosel 2008, Riesling, Mönchhof ($17.45, 11334920)
Light breezy nose of white flowers, lime and minerals. Off-dry and a little spritzy. Medium acidity, pure fruit, rainwater finish. Pleasant though more grip would be welcome. Vin terrasse. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Pinot Gris 2008, Acrobat, Oregon, King Estate ($17.95, 11333767)
Wax and pear with dried herb and lactic notes. Fluid but unctuous with just-noticeable residual sugar. A little facile, though a mildly mineral/bitter/astringent substrate hints at deeper things. Enough acidity to keep things fresh. Fair finish. (Buy again? Probably not.)

Columbia Valley 2009, Riesling, Evergreen Vineyard, Efesté Wine ($21.50, 11334760)
7-Up and minerals on the nose. Lemon-lime, minerals and herbs on the palate. Nearly dry and what sugar there is is counterbalanced by acidity. Fruity finish. Requires vigorous chewing to show any depth. (Buy again? Probably not when Germans offer more bang for the buck.)

Central Otago 2009, Riesling, Target Gully, Mt. Difficulty ($25.60, 11334778)
Petrol, lime, tarragon and a hint of BO. A mouthful of minerals and yellow citrus with a dollop of residual sugar. Fair length. Could use more oomph, especially more acid, but clearly the most complete and dimensional wine in the flight. (Buy again? Probably not when Germans offer more bang for the buck.)


Chehalem Mountains 2006, Pinot Noir, Carabella Vineyard ($27.65, 11333791)
Sweet red berries, hints of forest floor. Sweet fruity attack, oaky mid-palate and bitter-edged finish. Bright acid. Lacks depth. Not unpleasant but unexceptional. (Buy again? Not when you can find better Burgundies for the same price.)

Willamette Valley 2007, Pinot Noir, 3 Vineyard, Chehalem Wines ($32.75, 11333783)
Not particularly appealing nose of spice, beet and oak. Medium-bodied. Oak-heavy choco-cherry with some herby mid-palate nuance. Hot finish. Yuk! (Buy again? No way.)

Langhe 2007, Nebbiolo, La Spinetta ($28.90, 11337979)
Ink, raspberry, cherry, minerals, tar, Asian spice. Dense but not heavy fruit, mineral underlay. Tight tannins. Fluid texture. Lingering bitter-edged finish. Needs a few years to knit together and smooth out. (Buy again? If looking for a modern-style Nebbiolo, yep.)

Barolo 2005, Albe, G. D. Vajra ($35.25, 11337944)
Nail polish, shoe leather, dried roses. Fluid but rich. Pure fruit and background oak. Tight tannins and bright acid. Earthy finish. Seems ready to go. Despite the wine’s interesting qualities, several of us wondered whether our bottle wasn’t defective (ethyl acetate), a disappointment as I’d been looking forward to tasting this bottling from a producer whose other wines I’ve often enjoyed. (Buy again? Another bottle to see if ours was off.)


Etna 2006, Rosso di Verzella, Benanti ($20.65, 11348459)
A blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio given about ten months in small casks. Wafting nose of dried black cherry, baked earth, rosemary. Round, smooth and savoury. Medium-bodied. Lively acid gives freshness. Round tannins provide structure. Soft, long finish. A charmer. (Buy again? If only I could…)

Valpolicella Superiore Classico 2007, Ripasso, Pojega, Guerrieri Rizzardi ($22.65, 11331681)
Blend of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella  and Molinara. Roasted red peppers, spice. Sweet plummy fruit enlivened by acid, underpinned by fine tannins. Rich, smooth and harmonious with a long, savoury finish and lingering impression of warmth (not heat).  A winner. (Buy again? Yes.)

Monferrato 2007, Pin, La Spinetta ($49.75, 11337987)
Blend of barrel-aged Nebbiolo (65%) and Barbera (35%). Exuberant nose of spice, leaf mould, wood and black cherry with a floral note. Pure fruit. Dense and plush. Good acid. Quite tannic. Long astringent finish. Needs time. Modern but in a good way. (Buy again? Price is the only thing holding me back.)


Valle de Colchagua 2008, Quatro, MontGras ($17.95, 11331737)
Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (45%), Carmenère (20%), Malbec  (20%) and Syrah (15%). Spent 11 months in casks, 30% new. Nose of bacon, Keds, dried herbs and telltale tomato vine. Smooth on the palate, with ripe fruit and noticeable oak. Cocoa finish. Straightforward, balanced and pleasant if a little facile. Good QPR. (Buy again? Sure, if you like the style.)

Columbia Valley 2007, River’s Red, Three Rivers Winery ($19.90, 11336466)
A dog’s breakfast blend of Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère and Trempranillo. Fresh nose: cassis, herbs, green pepper, spice. Clean if somewhat candied fruit, smooth tannins, oaky finish. Simple but fun. (Buy again? Sure, if you like the style.)

Columbia Valley 2007, Cabernet Sauvignon, L’École N° 41 ($37.75, 10707093)
100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Spent 22 months in oak barrels, a third of them new. Cheese grains, cassis. Rich fruit, touch of residual sugar, oak in background. Good acid, light tannins that become more prominent with aeration. Shorter than expected for a wine in this price bracket. In fact, the wine overall seemed a bit one-dimensional and a little disjointed. Needs time? (Buy again? Only out of curiosity to see how it might develop.)

Yakima Valley 2006, Boushey Vineyard, Fidélitas Wines ($58.75, 11335421)
Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a little Cabernet Franc. Spent 24 months in casks, half of them new. Cassis, black raspberry and fresh dill. Sweet fruit buttressed by rich tannins, freshened by acidity. Plush texture. Layers of flavour. Long. A complete wine. Quite impressive in its style. (Buy again? If in the market for a full-bore West Coast Bordeaux blend, sure.)

Written by carswell

November 28, 2010 at 16:37