Tag Archives: california

W(h)ining: Aromatic Whites and a Toast to the Spring Season

25 Mar

I was delighted to pour a flight of three aromatic white wines on Sunday to celebrate the first day of spring.  I was a bit apprehensive, though, that many of my tasting-bar customers would be less than excited by the offering of all white, off-dry wines.  But the intense fragrance and vibrant, mouthwatering, palate of wines poured from unassuming, Alsatian bottles, pleasantly surprised many folks who might normally shy away from this style of wine.

I’ve noticed that a majority of consumers drink only red, or very little white, and almost everyone, it seems, is afraid of a touch of sweetness in their wine.  I’m not sure if it’s the memory of sugary, flavourless, mass-produced American White Zinfandel circa 1980, or the surprisingly explosive sweetness of that first sip of quality icewine, but it seems to me there is a general reluctance to try off-dry, or, as many people mistakenly call them, ‘sweet’ wines.  An off-dry wine, unlike a sweet wine such icewine, late harvest wine, or port, has just a touch of residual sugar, and, if made to my liking, a good amount of mouthwatering  acidity to balance the sweetness; indeed, this is precisely the difference between an exquisite off-dry Gewürztraminer, and an unpalatably cloying wine of the 80s blush variety.  Acidity in off-dry wine is kind of like a squeeze of lemon in a recipe; it brightens the flavours of the wine, adds a bit of tartness to balance the sweetness, and provides a clean finish to a round palate.

Now, to answer the obvious question I’ve neglected thus far:  What is an aromatic wine?  Wines that are considered ‘aromatic’ exhibit an intense nose, or fragrance, of flowers, fruit, and spices that come from the grape itself, Vinification, by contrast, or the winemaker’s tinkering, produces what we call the bouquet rather than the aroma of the wine.  The bouquet of a Syrah might exhibit characteristics of vanilla and smoke from the oak barrels it is aged in, for example, and its aroma might show luscious black fruit and white pepper.

Some wine varieties (or grapes) considered aromatic are Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat, and Pinot Blanc, although wines from these grapes do not always exhibit the intense nose characteristic of an aromatic wine, and sometimes wines can be aromatic even if they’re not made from grapes that are typically considered ‘aromatic.’

The wines I poured on Sunday, however, were all exceptional examples of aromatic wines, and perfect for welcoming the spring season, with their bright aromas of fresh fruit and flowers. Continue reading


An $1,100 Flight to Flavour Country

19 Nov

my first Grange!

While I wasn’t lucky enough to enjoy the wisdom of host Chris Sharpe, working late last night did result in the reward of sampling the heels of the wines from his Ultra Premium Tasting.  If you happen to have $1,100 you need to dispose of, these five wines will do the trick nicely. All are available at Everything Wine and prices listed are current retail.

Quinta do Vale Meao 2005
Douro, Portugal

Touriga Nacional (40%), Touriga Franca (25%), Tinta Roriz (25%)

This wine’s nose is charming and gorgeous, with concentrated ripe red berries, pretty floral notes, earth and tar.  The palate is bright and lush, with red raspberry, sweet cherry and peppery spice. Complex, exotic and hugely appealing, I would gladly drink this wine daily – and with just about any fare. This doesn’t strike me as a wine that would fare well in the cellar, but with luscious fruit like this, who wants to wait anyway? $109.99


Achaval Ferrer Finca Mirador 2006
Medrano, Mendoza, Argentina
Malbec (100%)

From a 12 acre vineyard at 2400′ asl harvested to 0.75 tons per acre. The colour and aroma seemed to indicate a wine with some maturity, with it’s slightly brick-hued rim and subtle earth scents.  That illusion was soon shattered, as the palate bursted with bright red and black fruits, fresh and ripe with mouthwatering acidity.  Suprising, but delicious nonetheless.  I’d definitely leave this one in the cellar another half-dozen years. $119.99


Numanthia Termanthia 2005
Toro, Spain
Tinto de Toro (100%)

From an 11 acre plot, 2600 feet above sea level, planted with 100+ year old ungrafted vines, the yields were well under 1 ton of fruit per acre. The wine was barrel fermented and received the ‘200% new oak’ treatment for 20 months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. It is big, tannic and extremely ageworthy. ~ erobertparker.com

A wonderfully complex nose, with layers of black cherry, sweet cassis, blackberry, caramel, licorice, mineral, toast and tar.  I went back two or three times to take it all in before taking a sip.  When I did, I received a powerul mouthful of rich black fruits, baking spices and a mess of fine tannins. Structured enough for a decade or more of cellaring, but a wonderfully unique and enjoyable wine now. Maybe the best Tempranillo I have tasted. Fantastic. $259.99


Shafer Hillside Select 2004
Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, California
Cabernet Sauvignon (100%)

Incredibly rich, from the sweet cassis and vanilla-oak nose to the silky mouthfeel and super-long and textured finish.  The Hillside exhibits opulent black cherry, chocolate, graphite and oak.  32 months in 100% new French oak lends a silky, sexy, layered palate and a flawless finish. This wine is beautifully intense – one of the most pleasurable sips I’ve had in a long, long while. $325.99


Penfolds Grange Bin 95 2004
South Australia
Shiraz (96%), Cabernet Sauvignon (4%)

…grown to very special vineyards in the Barossa and McLaren Vale, with a component from the distinguished Magill Estate site in the Adealide Hills. Grange remains as Australia’s most famous wine, a peerless wine of historical significance, officially listed as a Heritage Icon of South Australia. Above-average winter rainfall led into a promising vintage, characterised by mild conditions up until February, followed by warmer weather conditions throughout March and April. Penfolds South Australian vineyards fared well, producing wines of elegance and intensity. Matured for sixteen months in exclusively new American oak hogsheads. Alcohol 14.3% ~ PenfoldsGrangeForSale.com

My first Grange!  Tauted as one of the greatest vintages of Australia’s most prestigious wine, the 2004 Grange might never have had a chance at living up to its $600AUD pre-release price. Concentrated ripe black fruits, cherry cola, smoked meat. The palate is very concentrated, but still bright.  I expected more – more tannin, more acid, more fruit, more alcohol.  But this wine is not for drinking now – it is all about 10 years from now. $424.99

Wine and Food Pairing: Sushi

9 Jun

from: http://www.everythingwine.ca/blog

Three words best describe summer dining: light, fresh, and delicious. For me, nothing satisfies these criteria better than a casual lunch on the patio of my favourite local sushi joint. After a quick glance at the menu, I’ve decided on an assortment of nigiri sushi and cucumber rolls. But the question remains: what to wash it down with?

read more of my first blog post for EW!

Fred Franzia: Champion of Cheap

15 May
Fred "Two Buck Chuck" Franzia, admiring his work.

Fred "Two Buck Chuck" Franzia, admiring his work.

Fred Franzia, the owner of Charles “Two Buck Chuck” Shaw just sold his 400 millionth bottle of wine. Mr. Franzia and his “super-value” wine segment is outlined in this great article, courtesy The New Yorker:

Fred Franzia owns forty thousand acres of vineyards, more than anyone in the country; crushes three hundred and fifty thousand tons of grapes a year; and his company, Bronco, has annual revenue of more than five hundred million dollars. Recently, Franzia celebrated the sale of the four-hundred-millionth bottle of Charles Shaw, known as Two Buck Chuck, which is sold for $1.99 at Trader Joe’s.

Franzia’s objective is to sell as much wine as possible—he sells twenty million cases a year now, making Bronco the fourth-largest winery in the U.S., and would like to reach a hundred million. He believes that no bottle of wine should cost more than ten dollars. Franzia is sixty-five and twice divorced. He is both a major seller and a major buyer on the bulk market. He owns several wineries, including one in Sonoma, and he acts as a custom winemaker for wineries without his capacity. In 2000, he opened a ninety-two-thousand-square-foot bottling plant near the Napa airport.

Talking about his wine, Franzia can sound like an old-fashioned Democratic populist, though personally he’s more of a Darwinian capitalist. With Two Buck Chuck, Franzia invented a category, now a significant segment of the marketplace, which is known as “super-value” wine. His idea was to make cheap wine that yuppies would feel comfortable drinking.

how did he do it? read more at http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/18/090518fa_fact_goodyear

see also: Two Buck Chuck founder defends cheap wine at examiner.com

and: His Two Bucks Worth from The New York Times

and: Charles Shaw Wine on Wikipedia

Yes, it's really $2

Yes, it's really $2

Soaring Eagle Pinot Noir (2005)

11 May


Holman Lang Wineries
Soaring Eagle Estate Winery
Pinot Noir 2005
VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
$21.90 Winery Direct (current release: 2007 vintage)

Suprisingly saturated colour for a Pinot Noir with a warm, dark cherry-red hue. The nose is richer than expected, too, with spicy plum, black cherry, and earth notes. The palate is reminiscent of a recently-tasted Sonoma Pinot: rich and warm with dried berry, cherry preserve, fruitcake, chocolate and coffee. Still, the fruit and acid are unmistakably BC, and are nicely complemented by soft tannins and creamy vanilla oak. An unusually full and round Pinot that will satisfy the red drinker who usually favours BC Merlot, Chilean Carmenere or even an Argentine Malbec. 89 points

Best Pinot Noir
Okanagan Wine Festival 22
nd Annual Peoples Choice Awards, 2006.

Day 2: the wine developed mature aromas of mineral and herbs. The palate became richer and reminiscent of mature Aussie Shiraz, with chocolate, black fruits, smoke and mint. I must re-state the suprising richness of this humble BC Pinot Noir. Stellar value. I truly hope that future vintages offer similar quality.

Soaring Eagle wines are produced from hand selected bunches of grapes grown on the Naramata Bench. This is truly single-vineyard, low-yield production, ensuring the best possible quality in the bottle. Soaring Eagle resides in one of the most picturesque locations on the Naramata Bench and will certainly become known for the rare scenic beauty of its surroundings.

Winemaker Bernhard Schirrmeister has created a riper, fuller style of wine using later harvesting, barrel ageing and lees contact to enhance but not to interfere with what nature provides.


V I N O | V A L O R E {issue 5}

6 Mar
joe attended the california wine fair march 3 in vancouver

joe attended the california wine fair march 3 in vancouver

download issue 5.pdf

Issue five of vino valore has a double-focus: the great-value wines of Chile and the premium offerings of California. I’ve assembled some recent tasting notes from some standout Chilean reds under $20 and summed up highlights of the California Wine Fair, held March 3rd in Vancouver. Cheers!

~Joe Corkscrew

download issue 5.pdf

please note, issue five is extra long!  print on legal sheet.

Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir (2006)

23 Feb


Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir 2006
Sonoma Coast, California
$33.99 BC Liquor Stores, Everything Wine
Intense nose of wild strawberry, red currant and earth with floral, licorice and spice notes. The palate is medium-bodied, with ripe black cherry, cranberry, tea, molasses and smoke. This is one of those wines that gets better and better with every sip. A soft, silky, and very drinkable Pinot Noir with good concentration and complexity. 90 points – Excellent

Magito Cabernet Blend (2006)

16 Feb


Magito Wines
Highlands Cabernet Sauvignon Blend 2006
Sonoma County, California
$33 (approx.) Private stores

Magito Wines’ Cabernet blend is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc and 20% Merlot. This wine is pure California, with intense blackberry and cassis, vanilla spice and cherry cola. Well-structured, but still rich and chocolately, the tannins are firm but elegant.  I wish I could tell you where to get this wine – it is available in BC, but not at government stores.  Check your local private bottle shop, but try not to pay more than $35. 91 points – Excellent

*Magito Wines Zinfandel (not yet rated) is available at BC Liquor Stores and Everything Wine for $26.99

Ugly Label Files I: Dynamite Vineyards

5 Feb


With labels that look like they were painted by, well, ME, it’s a wonder the folks at Dynamite sell any wine at all.  But the Ugly Label Files are about getting behind the label to discover ugly-labelled-wines’ inner beauty.

Dynamite Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Red Hills – Lake County, California

Nose is rich and warm, with cassis, blackberry jam, vanilla and oak. Palate is full-bodied and pleasant, with more blackberry, chocolate and cherry cola. Good varietal character and typical California concentration. Probably drinking at its peak, after two years in the bottle. Not available in BC yet, but if it comes in under $20 (and it should), it’s a good value. 86 points – Good Value

Check out the entire portfolio of unfortunately-labelled wines from Dynamite Vineyards.

Libation of Liberty III: Tasting Notes

20 Jan

My participation in US President Obama’s inauguration involved tasting two of the wines that were poured at today’s inaugural luncheon (see my previous post for more).  Here are my notes:

Duckhorn Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Napa Valley, California $43.99 Everything Wine
Duckhorn likes to blend a bit of Semillon into its Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux-style, and this vint07-sauvignon-blancage has 25% Semillon in the mix, adding to the richness and complexity.  The nose is moderately intense, with ripe tropical fruit, lemon, cut grass, and cream soda.  The palate is rich and full, displaying excellent balance between crisp citrus, fruit cocktail and sweet cream.  Decent length with a touch of toast on the finish. Best through 2010. 91 points – Excellent

Duckhorn Vineyards
Goldeneye Pinot Noir 2005
Anderson Valley, California $89.99
Everything Wine
The premium Pinot from Goldeneye has a pretty ruby-brick colour and a prettier strawberry-cherry nose. Deeper into the bouquet are more classic Pinot characters such as earth, clove spice and rich caramel. The mouthfeel is rich, yet bright, with red berries, sugarplums, black pepper and creamy vanilla-oak.  Good acid and tannin structure on the finish, indicating a few years in the cellar is a good option.  A very good Pinot – and it should be for the price. 90 points – Excellent