Rich smokey notes of tar, plum and vanilla make this wine instantly enticing – just what we want in a good Montepulciano. The plum notes follow through on the palate, with notes of blueberry, tea and a hint of cinnamon. Nice balance and structure here, with grippy tanins that soften as it opens. Nothing mind blowing here, but make no mistake this is a solid wine that delivers everything you want to see in a Montepulciano at this price point. The deep purple colour of this wine only helps to draw you in more.
We had this with a spicy bruschetta and burrata – tasty. You’ll be happy with this as your pizza and pasta wine, but it would also be great with a grilled steak served with a squeeze of fresh lemon, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil – it cries out for the flavours of Italy.
Our fondness for Spanish wines has been fairly well documented, so it is not surprising that this well-priced old vine Grarnacha from just outside of Zaragoza caught our attention.
Very concentrated deep ruby colour on this wine. Not a lot going on on the nose on this wine. Aromas of sweet dark fruit dominate with a herbal / floral note and hint of black pepper and spice. Flavours of raspberry, strawberry and under-ripe blackberry give way to a black pepper, carmel and vanilla notes. Good acidity and soft tannins, but a little out of balance. Overall a pleasant and interesting wine, but definitely not a blockbuster.
We had this with a delicious ghormeh sabzi (a Persian dish with lamb and herbs) – which was a great pairing. Lamb is a natural pairing for Grenache, and this wine is no exception.
You don’t often see straight Cabernet Franc from Spain, especially not on North American shelves, so this wine from Fincao Los Aljibes in Albacete province in south eastern Spain immediately intrigued us. It did not disappoint. This non-D.O. wine is exactly the kind of wine you hope to discover when you go venturing outside of Europe’s classified appellation system – something unique, modern and rewarding.
The wine has a beautiful garnet colour and aromas of black cherries, mint and spice. On the palate the Aljibes Cab Franc was incredibly well balanced, with soft tannins, bright acidity and a juicy mouthfeel. Flavours of back current, stewed plums, anise and spice were immediately apparent. As the wine opened up notes of blueberries, black pepper and dark chocolate also appeared. The long, smooth finish nicely displays the smooth tannins and leaves you with that hint of chocolate and spice.
We had this with a delicious penne with a Bolognese sauce using our canned crushed tomatoes (which was excellent), but it would probably be even better paired with with lamb chops and roast vegetables.
We coincidentally had on Gotan Project’s Lunatico during dinner, which really does capture of the mood of the Aljibes Cab Franc very well – a modern interpretation of a classic.
Finding good value Nebiolo blends from Langhe is not an easy task and we are often a little skeptical of some of those that we do come across. So we were especially pleased to find this tasty blend of Piemonte’s three primary red grapes – Nebiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera – at such an attractive price.
On the nose you are immediately hit with the aroma’s you would expect from a Nebiolo or Barbera: big smokey notes of tar, ripe red fruit and a hint of vanilla. This was a very good sign. The Ensema continued to deliver everything we hoped to find, with a nice balance of tannins and acidity and flavours of bright cherry, stewed plum, vanilla, cedar and leather. This is a very food friendly wine that you should definitely keep in mind for the holiday season. This is no replacement for a great Barolo, Barbaresco or one of Angello Gaja’s genius Langhe creations, but at this price point that’s more than OK.
We paired this with a simple steak marinated in olive oil, lemon juice and parsley and homemade pumpkin ravioli in our canned roasted tomato sauce. It was delicious. Throw on some old Enrico Caruso in the background to set just the right tone of rustic elegance.
Pepper and stewed plums on the nose. Flavours of black cherry, cassis, chocolate and just a hint of the bell pepper note you expect from Cab Franc. We thought it the first time we tried this and we stick by it – this is very easily among the best Cab Francs we have ever tried. There have been many that we have enjoyed, many we have thought were pleasant and tasty, but few we would describe as complex, sexy and unique wines – this one easily fits all of those descriptions. Great acidity and just the right amount of tannins. Incredibly well balanced and well structured wine.
We had this with homemade pumkin ravioli and roasted tomato and carmelized onion sauce and highly recommend this with similar rich red sauces. We also had this with chocolate, which works just as well.
There is something warm and comforting about this wine; familiar, yet new and exciting at the same time. Pair it with Richard Hawley’s Cole’s Corner to pull out just the right notes.
This summer when we were in Vigo, Spain a couple of very helpful waiters at a little cafe we stumbled upon got us hooked on Mencía – a red grape varietal that is little known outside of Spain, but makes a wonderful medium bodied, smokey and seductive wine that we find can have a flavour profile that falls somewhere between Pinot Noir and Nebiolo. When we were in Vigo, the stuff we fell in love with all came from Ribiera Sacra DO in Galicia. Prior to gaining our appreciation for this grape in Spain, we had only tried Mencía once prior – a version grown in Bierzo and Valdeorras, the other Spanish regions where this little known varietal is predominantly produced.
While we’ve generally found the best versions from both regions to be equally delicious and fairly similar, we do find ourselves often pining for Ribiera Sacra versions we fell in love with in Vigo.
But enough about us, the Gabo do Xil is produced by Telmo Rodríguez – a Spanish winemaker of unique vision and voice that we have been huge fans of for years. Telmo’s Compañia de Vinos Telmo Rodríguez – essentially a virtual winery that produces largely off-beat Spanish varietals that are intended to capture the essence of the place they are produced. It is from this intention to create unique wines of place that Telmo created the Gabo do Xil.
Now, it pains us to do this being big fans of both Telmo and Mencía, but as much as we wanted to like this wine, it was a little disappointing. While one of the things we normally like about Mencía is its solid backbone of acidity, that much like a good Pinot, makes it a wonderfully versatile food wine, the Gabo do Xil was a little on the thin and acidic side for us. Don’t get us wrong, this was still a nice enough wine, with the nice cherry and tar notes that we’ve found to be characteristic of Mencía, it was came across as a bit of a one dimensional caricature of what this grape is capable. It was frustrating – both Telmo and Mencía are capable of so much more.
If you are looking for a glimpse of what Mencía is capable of, we’d recommend you try a bottle of the Pétalos Bierzo from Descendientes de José Palacios. It is a few bucks more than the Gabo do Xil, but well worth the additional cost as it is an excellent example of the rich, smokey and seductive wine that this grape is capable of.
When you get your hands on a good Mencía, pair it with everything from BBQ salmon to a hearty chorizo or – of course – jamón, which is what we first “discovered” this delicious wine with.
While Oregon is not known for its Cabs, this one is a fine example of what it is capable of when you look past Pinot. The 2006 was the last vintage of the “old vines” for Heydon Road as the original plantings from the 1960s, which were supposedly the oldest in Oregon, had to be removed. A sad loss of a historic vineyard, but the 2006 Cuvee Adam Doerner is a worthy legacy for the winery founded by Mr. Doerner in 1888.
On the nose you get notes of cedar, blackberries, rose petals and vanilla. The blackberries follow on the palate in a big way, complimented by plum, black current flavours, subtle, sweet hints of oak that support gentle tannins, balanced acidity and a long clean finish. This is not an overly complex cab, but man does it hit all the classic cab high points – and do it with a little bit of finess at that. This is a well concentrated cool-climate Cab that is a refreshing change for those used to over-bearing Cabs.
This is a classy wine, and it deserves a class pairing – a roast rack of lamb seasoned with rosemary and lavender would do the trick nicely. We think Cass McCombs’ Catacombs would capture the mood of this wine perfectly – try it, you’ll see what we mean.
La Frenz has long been one of our favourite Naramata wineries (which basically puts it near the very top of our absolute favourite wineries in the Okanagan) and we make no secret of our love of Pinot Noir, so the expectations are quite high for this Reserve Pinot. Impressively, this wine delivered and was able to far exceed expectations.
This is a rich opulent wine that delivers the body and depth you expect from a reserve Pinot. On the nose you get lots of dark berries, earth forest floor notes with a hint of those pretty floral tones that we find are often what haunt you long after a great Pinot has left the glass (and the bottle for that matter). On the palate this goes through the full range from black cherry to bright strawberry flavours. The fruit flavours are complimented by earthy notes and a touch of smoke. Great balance and a finish that lingers and draws you back for more.
We had this with a spinach and cheese stuffed tortellini in a mixed mushroom, herb and goat butter sauce. This combo is so good we would almost never make this dish without this wine. We highly recommend you try the same. This wine needs something smooth, sexy and sophisticated – we recommend Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers Moanin’. This is one of our all time favourite jazz albums – a classic – and will perfectly capture the sleek, powerful, yet contemplative vibe of this beauty of a Pinot from our friends at La Frenz.
A bright, fresh and cheerful organic red from Spain’s Navarra region. A blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon, this is nice medium bodied sipper to keep close by as we head towards warmer weather. Not overly complex or the kind of wine you find yourself thinking about days later, but there is something quite satisfying and enjoyable about it nonetheless. Good acidity, with cherry and blueberry flavours and light floral notes balanced by some nice earthy tones and a bit of spice. This one will be very useful around the BBQ – especially if you are joining friends for a mixed grill as this is a very food friendly wine that is going to pair well with a lot of things. We had it with homemade lamb burgers and it really hit the spot – strangely refreshing for a red wine. Musical accompaniment has to be Memory Tapes smooth and easy Seek Magic - accessible, instantly familiar, yet strangely fresh and uplifting for reasons you can’t quite put your finger on.
One of the best value Pinot Noirs we’ve ever had – there is very little in the Pinot category that competes with this Chilean beauty at this price point. From Chile’s Bio-Bio Valley – with its long growing season, warm days and cools night that are perfect for the fickle Pinot Noir grape – this wine shows a classic Pinot nose: mixed berries, forest floor, tar and a subtle floral note. On the palate you get nice cherry and current notes, a good medium body (rare at this price point), cloves and more of the damp forest floor and tar notes. A bit rough on the finish, but otherwise well balanced and shockingly good for the money. If this is what Bio-Bio is delivering on the low-end we will most certainly be on the look-out from more offerings from this region. Try this with some good company a pan fried Salmon filet and Sonny Rollin’s Saxophone Colussus and see where the night takes you.
The HobbyistsCelebrating hobbies, obsessions, passions and the things that get you through (and distract you from) your work day.
- No public Twitter messages.