Muscat Ottonel, Hillside Winery, Okanagan Valley VQA, BC,13.2% abv, 2014

I’ve never been there, but it’s not for lack of trying.  It hasimg_7738 just never worked out – yet.

But others I know have been and have enjoyed the award-winning restaurant, in addition to the wines made there on the Naramata Bench just up the hill from Penticton.

Muscat Ottonel was the first variety planted at Hillside, so they’ve been making wine from it for 25 years.  This grape is grown widely throughout Europe, but especially in Alsace, Germany and Hungary and produces both dry and sweet wines; this version is lightly off dry.

On the eyes, it’s a pale gold with perfumed aromas of spring blossoms, peach and apricot.

The off dry palate is not cloying at all with medium plus juicy acidity and flavours of more white flowers, nectarine, crushed rock and lightly bitter peach kernel.

With its solid finish, this is a lovely and delicately balanced WSET Good plus wine.  Pair with spicy food, noodles, stir fry with ginger, sushi and wasabi or a spicy seafood salad, as I did.

Posted in British Columbia, Muscat Ottonel / Lunel / Muscatoly, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Viña Tondonia, White Reserva, López de Heredia, Rioja DOC, Rioja Alta, Spain, 1999, 12.5% abv, C$50++

It’s hard to share a bottle of López de Heredia.  Firstly, I would be quite happy to keep it all to myself.  So, selfishness ranks high.  But the other reason is that it’s often hard to find someone to drink it with who actually gets what this wine is all about.  img_7778

Let’s be honest, this is wacky, textured stuff and challenging for an unadventurous palate.

I’ve enjoyed several of these – reds, whites and rosés – all made by the same family that has owned this bodega since 1877.  Each review is searchable on the right hand side of this blog page by punching in López de Heredia.

These are unique wines – the current owners, the fourth generation, maintain most of the same practices established by their great grandparents.  They own every inch of every vineyard where their grapes are grown, only use indigenous yeasts, don’t filter their wines, age them for 6-8 years prior to release, and even make their own barrels.

These practices have made them a benchmark winery – and their wines are sought after from around the world.  They’re certainly on my wine bucket list – and one day, I will go there.  But for now, I found some winos willing to try this with me; I’ll make do with drinking them on this side of the ocean.

This is a white Rioja made with 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia grapes from the Tondonia vineyard.  On the eyes, it’s medium gold with strong legs and sherry-like aromas showing super ripe, yellow, just-picked-in-the-orchard apples.  Honey, brine, wool and mandarin oil are all present.

The palate is dry with a beautifully medium body, juicy acidity and flavours of compost-ready apples, dried apricot, more honey and beeswax.  Lightly bitter almonds show at the back of the palate alongside significant sherry-like brine.

The finish is enormously long – we clocked it in at 20, 26 and 31 seconds – on this complex and layered concoction.

WSET Outstanding


Posted in Malvasia, OTHER, Spain, Viura / White Rioja, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cairanne, Peyre Blanche, Famille Perrin, Côtes du Rhône Villages AC, France, 2012, 14.5% abv, C$24++

IMG_1208Today I ran into a friend who also reads this blog and made my day by saying she loves it!

Usually I get, “Yes, well, ummm, I’m kinda busy.  Isn’t it good enough that I subscribed?  You mean I have to read it too?”

So, in celebration of the fact that at least one person reads this blog apart from my mother (and sometimes I wonder even about that), here is a #WineWednesday post for you, faithful reader.

They’ve been making wine in and around the village of Cairanne since the 18th century.  As a ‘Villages’, this 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah blend is a step up from the lower level Côtes du Rhône AOC.

Deep purple turning garnet with deep and even legs, this is a full bodied drink perfumed by violets with tarred blackberry and cassis, glove leather and garrigue.

The palate is dry with softly strained tannins that love steak and flavours showing more violets, blackberries and cassis with black pepper, baking spices, leather and dried tarragon.

WSET Good plus – The Syrah grapes were aged in barrels while the remaining Grenache was aged in tanks.  Famille Perrin is almost always a great deal and this one follows through on that provenance.



Posted in France, Grenache / Garnacha, OTHER, RED, Shiraz / Syrah | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Merlot, Charles Shaw, California, 2012, 12.5% abv, US$2.98

The Two Buck Chuck nickname is a bit of a misnomer in this day and age of inflation.  Still, that’s about all this is worth – with its watered down body and astringent flavours and aromas.   But let’s be honest – what was I expecting?image

Actually, I was expecting that by now this would be vinegar.  So, the mere fact it wasn’t is amazing.  I was looking in the basement archives for a bottle of something to make sangria with and found this in a corner.

Really, I should pay better attention to my cataloging system.

For those who don’t know, this is a bottle of the famed Two Buck Californian Chuck.  You can read here for the background on this brand and all the intrigue and controversy surrounding it – and the MOG that’s in it (Material Other than Grapes).

A LOT of people buy Charles Shaw.  Motivated by price and perhaps needing a wine for their spaghetti sauce or chili, or whatever, they buy it.  Tons of it – like, about 5 million bottles a year of it.

That said, artisanal it is not.  Nor will it ever be. And it doesn’t taste anything like Merlot should taste.

On the eyes, it’s a thin shade of garnet. The aromas show red cherry and medicinal alcohol, which is surprising as it’s only 12.5% abv.

The palate is dry with surprisingly medium plus acidity, but it has an extremely light body as if its been watered down. Flavours show cherry juice with a whiff of cardboard.

WSET Acceptable / Faulty.   It depends how badly you want to make sangria as to whether or not this should be tossed or recycled with fruit juice and brandy.

Posted in California, Merlot, OTHER, RED | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Faro, Bonavita, Superiore, Faro DOC, Messina, Italia, 14.5% abv, 2012, US$38

IMG_7218Bonavita is located on only 2.5 ha of land in northeastern Sicily near Messina and owned by Giovanni Scarfone – one winemaker determined to bring back the use of local grapes that have almost become extinct.

This wine is comprised of local grapes Nerello Mascalese (60%), Nerello Capuccio (30%), and Nocera (10%) grapes, although some sites claim the blend is 70-20-10.

Nocera is a late ripener and adds a little zing to the blend.   Only about 4,000 bottles were made – fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged in barriques and puncheons.

This beauty is a medium garnet colour with fragrant aromas of red berries, red plums, violets and good nose-tingling menthol tinged, herbal minerality.

The palate is dry and slightly more expressive than the nose with elegant tannins and a svelte body.  Flavours show raspberry and cherry with scrapings of black licorice and tar with dried herbal character.

The wine evolves as it stays open and a lengthy finish complements it – WSET Very Good plus.  Would be great lightly chilled too for summertime drinking, but don’t dare waste it in sangria!

Posted in Nerello Capuccio, Nerello Mascalese, Nocera, OTHER, RED, red wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cabernet Sauvignon, Bosché Vineyard, Freemark Abbey, Rutherford, Napa Valley, California, 13.8% abv, 2004, US$120

bosche FAIt’s possible I may have a bit of a bucket list for wine-related things, just sayin’.

I’ve enjoyed fresh oysters in Cancale spurrierbuttressed by glasses of Muscadet, had a private tasting with the Queen of Priorat, and in summer 2015, got Steven Spurrier to sign my copy of The Judgement of Paris.  While he didn’t author it, he was the protagonist.

Another of my wine bucket list goals is to make it, eventually, to all of the wineries that participated in that event – the Judgement of Paris.  This famous double blind tasting organized in 1976 by the above-mentioned Spurrier introduced Californian wines to a very skeptical France.

Freemark Abbey, whose FA 2 1969 Cabernet Sauvignon and 1972 Chardonnay were part of that storied tasting, can now come off my list.

Logan – who has a Canadian fiancée pastry chef studying at the nearby Culinary Institute of America – was our guide.  IMG_7732Their first sampling room opened in 1946 and is resplendent with its original stone and old growth, California red wood.   Home to Napa’s first female vintner and now to the same winemaker for the past 36 years, the stunning facility was retrofitted 2 years ago and boasts an incredible, live edge, red wood tasting table.IMG_7733

I tasted the 2014 Viognier, Oak Knoll – super peachy and nectarine with honeysuckle, the 2013 Riesling, Los Carneros, Napa Valley – with its whiff of petrol and light lemon – and the 2014 Chardonnay – 20% oak, no malo, pineapple and mango, tons of citrus, minus the butter – to start with.

IMG_7734The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon – 75%, 5% Petit Verdot and the rest Merlot, a nice snapshot of valley and mountain fruit, the 2012 Bootleg Cabernet Sauvignon – more valley dynamics from different vineyards, fruit forward with boysenberry pie and big tannins – and the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain – with its purple fruit and heavy tannins – followed.

I also tried the 2012 Ted’s Blend – a Cabernet Sauvignon of all three Rutherford vineyards – and the 2012 Cabernet, Bosché from the vineyard that produced the valley’s best grapes in the 60s.  This 2012 version was awarded 97 Robert Parker points.

I left Freemark Abbey with a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bosché.  Ready to drink, we enjoyed it recently.  Deep, deep garnet with a slight browning on the rim, it was loaded with aromas of dried strawberry, sagebrush, saddle soap and a touch of fern.  Initially there was tobacco which faded as it opened in the decanter.FA Tasting Room

On the palate, it is dry with medium acidity and softly strained tannins that melted with our steaks.  Flavours include bramble berry with tobacco, leather and a solid finish. Initially restrained, after breathing, it opened up.

If you’re holding a bottle, drink now and don’t wait on this WSET Very Good version of the famed Bosché vineyard.



Posted in cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet Sauvignon / Blends, California, OTHER, RED | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bobal, Corazón Loco, Rosé , DO Manchuela, Spain, 13% abv, C$20

From a landlocked DO west of Valencia and Utiel-Requena off the southwest coast of Spain comes the Corazón Loco – the crazy heart – a rosé made from Spanish varietal Bobal. IMG_7195

Named after the Latin bovale for its (apparent) similarity to the shape of a bull’s head (I just don’t see it), Bobal has traditionally been used as a blender – adding acidity and colour to other red wines.

More recently, Manchuela has had a wine renaissance and this is the traditional home of Bobal.  New Bobal-based wines – some rosé , some red and even some sparkling – have been produced and gained a following worldwide.

Manchuela used to be part of the very large wine region Castilla La Mancha but in 2000, it received permission to become its own DO.  Many of the bodegas felt the bulk wine reputation of the larger region was holding them back in their marketing efforts.

Most of the terrain is flat, but vineyards are at 600-700m and valleys and rivers create a very mild climate that the grapes do well in.  Bobal loves it especially because of the clay and limestone soils.

The Corazón Loco is the colour of salmon with an alcoholic nose of green strawberry, watermelon and moss.  The palate is dry with good acidity and flavours that mimic the nose – with more under ripe berry and melon rind.

While Manchuela’s Bobals may be some of the best around, the one is uncomplicated, bitter and a little off balance.  A simple WSET Acceptable, drink it only when you don’t want or need to pay attention.


Posted in Bobal, RED, ROSE, Spain | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment