Vin de Pays d' Oc Rouge Domaine Beau Thorey "Bogus" 2006

Time for me to make a confession here: I enjoy trying strange wines. I saw this one at K&L in Hollywood, and thought: what the heck? Biodynamically farmed, no idea what grape it is, vin de pays d’Oc usually doesn’t bode well, and this is fifteen bucks? Well… how bad can it be? Let’s try it!First of all, I’ve never seen a plastic cork printed with mis en bouteille au chateau before. In the glass, this is a strangely colored wine – it looks kind of like watered down chocolate syrup or maybe thin soy sauce. Very strange. On the nose, there’s an odd, grapey note, but mostly it just smells like old school inexpensive French wine… to a point. It seems fairly simple: fraises de bois, maybe a little bit of tar or pepper, but not much more than that. With a little time and air, it began to remind me of a nebbiolo more than anything, somehow. In the mouth, it seemed fairly light in body – almost Beaujolais, but not quite. It’s got definite varietal characteristics, but of what exactly? It’s very appetizing, with kind of a woodsy, dark feeling to it that isn’t exactly wood, but more like what it feels like to be drinking in a mountain cabin with good friends in the dead of winter. In fact, the more I think about this wine, the more it reminds me of German digestifs somehow – it feels almost medicinal, tending towards Becherovka rather than Bordeaux. I do like it, though, and it does get full marks for being entirely sui generis. Would I buy it again? Probably not – it is kind of expensive – but I’m glad I did.Domaine Beau Thorey

Price: US $14.99
Closure: Plastic cork
Date tasted: January 2008

Yalumba Y Series Sangiovese Rosé 2006

Straight outta the fridge, opening a bottle of this is going to get you an dark, coppery pink wine, bright and clean in the glass, that smells largely of uncomplicated strawberries. Give it time to warm up a bit, and the smells spread out, becoming a little bit peppery, with something like freshly churned butter as well. Eventually, it all tends more towards fresh Rainier cherries.In the mouth, there’s a very slight spritziness that’s a bit distracting from the actual wine, which is fairly simple, but with an interesting dark downturn on the finish. There seems to be just a bit of residual sugar, which is more than adequately balanced by the wine’s acidity. It finishes broadly, satisfyingly, with notes of rhubarb and mace. It’s all less complicated than the best pink wines from Australia (or California), and far from a Provençal rosé, but it’s a lot of fun and a welcome change from sickly sweet white zinfandel.Yalumba

Price: US $9.99
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: January 2008—Julian and I visited Yalumba last February, and had a fascinating discussion about wine trends with the tasting room staff. Apparently this wine is selling like crazy down there; up here in California, pink wines are still desperately naff and no amount of marketing is going to change that, at least not for the foreseeable future. White zinfandel was the #4 best selling wine in the USA for a long, long time – and that started to change in 2006, when imported pinot grigio began to outsell it (something to do with the ongoing middlebrow fascination with Tuscany, I suppose?). My guess is that it’s going to take time for pink wine to become popular or trendy – we have to shake off that white zin hangover first.FWIW, some excellent California pink wines to try would include Pax (wonderful, but expensive; the winery seems to quickly becoming a Parkerized mail-list-only outfit to boot), Bonny Doon (their Vin Gris de Cigare has gone from strength to strength in the oughts), and JK Carriere Glass (a rosé of Pinot noir; I’ve never actually tasted it but I love their other wines so darn much that I can’t imagine it’s anything other than wonderful).

Château Saint-Georges 2002

This is a Merlot-dominant (60%) blend that also includes some Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) and Cabernet Franc (20%). 2002 isn’t considered an especially stellar vintage for Merlot in Bordeaux, although some consider the vintage generally underrated, producing less fruit forward but classically styled wines. This wine is from the

Dan Aykroyd "Discovery Series" Cabernet-Merlot 2006

At my local LCBO, two shelves below the Wayne Gretzky Unoaked Chardonnay, I found Dan Aykroyd’s wines dangerously close to the salt and snow stained floor.
One thing to be understood about Canadians is that essentially we are Marsha from The Brady Bunch. Just as in our cinema, when it comes to wines Canadians have to be coaxed into believing they’re good enough, smart enough and pretty enough. This means selling Canadian wines to Canadians is probably harder than it needs to be. In comes the recent rash of celebrity wines to lend a solution to that problem.
So I put on my Bill Murray Clothing Shirt and cracked a bottle of Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series Cabernet Merlot 2006. At $16.95 (+$0.05 bottle deposit) this prices it just about in the dead centre for an Ontario produced and cellared wine. Other than an iridescent microphone the label isn’t silly or kitsch. This wine wants you to take it seriously, so I did.
The nose has something in it. I think it’s strawberry? It’s faint. It could be blackberry or other berries. But it’s hardly present. Huge oak flavours and way too much sulphur. It’s retarded how sulphuric this stuff is. Afterwards some mouth feel and residual sulphur remains. And that’s about it. It’s like licking an oak tree while somebody farts in your face. The sulphur is very chemical, industrial even. Reminds me of the treated well water at my uncle’s farm.
I waited an hour for the sulphur to off gas. Eureka. Suddenly this is a different animal. The strawberries are gone and a little more typically berry flavoured. The bottle still smells like strawberries and sulphur. The tannic oaky flavour is still a bit strong for my taste but suddenly this is more like a bottle of cab-merlot that should cost $17, probably less. Not horribly remarkable but not bad at all. What was with the initial sulphur? Weird. It finished like a cheap date with that acidic feel on the teeth and not much of a taste other than, well, acid.
I’m glad Dan Aykroyd is investing in the wineries here on the Niagara Peninsula. But I think the whole idea behind the “Discovery Series” is to introduce people to wines they’ve never tried before. That makes sense. But I’m wondering if people who drink wine and buy $17 bottles at the LCBO have never had a really bold cab-merlot before? I guess that’s where lending a celebrity name comes into the picture.
If it had the Ghostbusters logo on it I’d review it better.
Dan Aykroyd [but really Lakeview]Price: C$16.95Closure: SyntheticDate tasted: January 2008

Cameron Hughes Lot 44 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

On the nose, this smells more like fresh, rich cream than anything else, somehow – it’s not what I would have expected from a red wine. There’s also a sharp, dark strawberry note along with black pepper – nearly a balsamic vinegar note, or perhaps shoyu. There seems to be blackberry there as well, and definitely some super smooth French oak. It smells fantastic.In the mouth, what you get is smooth fruit with gently supporting acidity, and then, suddenly, a surprisingly elegant, fairly high toned blackcurrant and damson plum note, something like Guatemalan coffee towards the finish, and then it slinks off to the corner to regroup for the next mouthful. It’s not easy finding a Californian wine this elegant; I imagine it would work incredibly well with pork loin roast or a mushroom ragout.Cameron Hughes

Price: US $15
Closure: Diam
Date tasted: January 2008

Tyrrell's Fordwich Verdelho 2007

Hunter Valley Verdelho. Perhaps not the most awe-inspiringly fashionable phrase. However, sometimes, one wants to relax with a straightforward, giving sort of wine. I’d argue that Verdelho can be such a wine, ideal for mid-week quaffing or those mythical “afternoons lying by the pool.” Pass the 30+…

Served straight from the fridge, this wine shows exotic, attractive tropical fruit aromas with a hint of herbal astringence. Entry has good impact and delivers flavour very quickly to the tongue. The middle palate is a gush of more tropical fruit, along with the first wave of more astringent bitterness that becomes the primary feature of the after palate. It’s cleansing and fresh, perhaps lacking the textural interest of the Tulloch example tasted recently, but still tasty. Acidity is relatively soft but present enough to provide direction to the palate, and some freshness in mouthfeel. Medium bodied and generous. The finish is quite persistent, reverting to sweet tropical fruit as it fades slowly away.

Tyrrell’s suggests one serve this wine only slightly chilled, but I beg to differ. As the wine warmed, it lost a bit of focus, the fruit flavour becoming a tad broad for my taste. The more bitter flavour notes also jar in the context of a softer wine. I have one other bottle of this wine, and will certainly drink it nice and cool.

Price: $A15
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: January 2008

Tyrrell's Vat 4 Stevens Semillon 2007

I keep most of my wine in storage in Sydney. As I am in Brisbane, this means (embarrassingly) regular shipments to the Sunshine State to replenish local stocks. The upside of this is that I get to put together mixed dozens from cellar stock, a task that generates some excitement whenever I’m called upon to perform it. It’s a bit like online shopping without the bill (of course, this a ridiculous way of looking at it, as I’ve already been slugged for the wine months, perhaps years, prior). Anyway, the point of this rambling is that I haven’t been drinking much Hunter Semillon of late, which is totally uncharacteristic. To remedy this, I made sure to include a couple of recent releases in my latest “aid drop” (as I like to think of my wine shipments), the first of which I am sitting down to this evening.

A forward, expressive nose (for young Hunter Semillon) that shows striking powdery citrus and soapy notes, along with perhaps a hint of tropical sweetness. Well balanced and attractive. Entry is immediate and of good impact due to the wine’s acidity, which sizzles from the very tip of the tongue. From here, the wine softens a little and flows to a generous middle palate of lemon juice and some more of that tropical fruit. There are also some musky notes and a bit of herbal astringency too. Although the fruit is full and relatively gentle, the wine’s acidity is still quite prominent, creating a sherbet-like effect. I can’t decide whether the acid is a bit disjointed or just slightly unbalanced considering the softness of the fruit. Either way, it’s not a huge deal. The after palate tightens and becomes more sourly astringent (I liked it), leading to a clean, dry finish of decent length.

A very slight question mark over the acid, then, but I have to say, I really enjoyed this wine. It’s clean and full, with good complexity for a young Semillon thanks to those tropical notes. A real step up from the Lost Block tasted the other day, and at the price it’s sensational value. I guess you could try and age this one if you wanted, but personally I’d drink it young. Pair with canapes or a club sandwich.

Chateau Puynormond 2004

This wine is from the Montagne Saint-Emilion appellation in Bordeaux, and consists of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. And it’s cheap. Here goes.

The first thing that strikes one on the nose is what appears to be mild brett, but whether this is an issue depends very much on your tolerance for this particular wine fault. Personally, I don’t mind a bit of brett in the right dose (and the right wine). Here, it comes across as a metallic note that actually blends ok with the earthy, gravelly notes of the wine itself. It’s a subtle wine on the nose, dark in profile, but with some sweet black berry fruits peeping out around all the earth and gravel.

The entry is subtle and slips through to a middle palate where flavours start to register with more intensity. It’s predominantly a savoury wine in flavour profile, with earthy notes dominating a subtle but attractive layer of ripe blackberry fruit. Oak is pretty subliminal (I couldn’t detect much, if any, oak influence at all). Gentle acid is well integrated within the medium bodied palate and keeps the wine moving along nicely. The after palate is quite linear and progresses to a finish of fine, ripe tannins. No great length to speak of, but not short either. The overall impression of this wine is one of structure and elegance rather than ripe or juicy flavour.

If you’re a bit tolerant of brett, like I am, you will find this wine to be a reasonably priced Bordeaux that will accompany your mid-week dinner of beef or pork quite nicely.

Update: I left half the bottle overnight and retasted the next day. Marked improvement. The fruit has gained weight and fragrance, especially on the after palate, marginalising the brett influence to almost zero. Nice drop indeed. Might be best in a couple of years’ time.

Price: $A24
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: January 2008