Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Moving on up!

Hey everyone!

You can now follow the Four Eyed Wine Guy through my new website!


Monday, June 24, 2013

Big Cali Pinot: Belle Glos Pinot Noir Clark&Telephone 2010

Burgundy lovers may want to stop reading. This Cali Pinot is the complete opposite of what can be found in the Cote-d'Or. It was tasty, but a little too big for my liking of Pinot Noirs.

Belle Glos Pinot Noir Clark & Telephone 2010 (Santa Maria Valley, California) 
Dark ruby in colour. Very expressive on the nose. Aromas of bright red cherries, raspberries, cinnamon, all spice, and licorice. On the palate, loads of red fruit and spice. Good length and acidity, but a bit alcoholic on the finish (14.3%). Full bodied Cali Pinot! Hold on for the ride! Warning: Not for Burgundy lovers. 
88 points

Syrah/Shiraz Wine Tasting Event

* If you would like me to run a structured wine tasting for you and your friends, leave me a message. (Golden Horseshoe, GTA, and Muskoka).

About a year ago I started my WSET level 2 course during the month of July. While attending this course, friends of my parents approached me and were interested in having me run a sit down wine tasting event at their house. I was really excited when they asked me and looked forward to booking a date. Due to busy schedules and conflicting dates, it took a while for us to solidify a date. Thankfully during the month of May we came to the conclusion that June 22, 2013 would work! Once we had the date set in stone, it was time to go to work!

In the past I have been to many structured wine tasting events. I knew what tools and knowledge is needed to run a fun and educational tasting. What I did not know was what theme to do? Or should I bother with a theme? Through much debate in my head I ended up choosing to do a tasting around Syrah/Shiraz from different places.

I felt very confident with this theme because two years ago I visited the Mecca of Syrah in Tain-l’Hermitage, in the Northern Rhone. As well, I drink this grape on a regular basis and understand the different expressions that can be shown. This thick sink, dark grape can be both elegant and powerful. In the past this grape has been know to be a bit over the top (Aussie Shiraz), but thankfully producers are starting to calm down that style and are emulate the Northern Rhone style.

My next step was to find the wines that I would want to showcase. A very enjoyable stage as I get great satisfaction in the “hunt”. I also needed to set a budget for each wine ($25-$30).This allowed me to specify my search even more. So, what to choose??? A Syrah from the N. Rhone is a given. Crozes-Hermitage or Saint Joseph would work under my budget. I also wanted to showcase a Shiraz from Barossa, but didn’t want to have a jammy, candy-land wine. Extensive research was needed in order to refine my search. The final 5 were as followed (Shown in order of tasting):

Delas Freres Crozes-Hermitage Domaine des Grands Chemins 2010 (N.Rhone, France)
- Northern Rhone representation. ($31)

Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz/Viognier 2011 (Victoria, Australia)
- Showing how Syrah/Shiraz can be blended with white Rhone varietals. As well this wine shows how drastically different it can be from a Barossa Shiraz. ($25)

Cusumano Syrah 2012 (Sicily, Italy)
- This was the “value” pick of then bunch. I wanted to show that good, tasty wine can be found under the $15 range. People were pleasantly surprised with this wine. I cannot take full credit of finding this valued gem, as I constantly checked Steve Thurlow’s  Top 50 wine value picks. Which can be viewed here  ($11)

Reininger Syrah 2007 (Walla Walla, Washington)
- I really wanted to find an American Syrah. I was happy to have found this Washington state Syrah because I really enjoy wines from the Pacific North West. I was also considering a Niagara Syrah, but was not able to find one that would suffice. ($31)

Spinifex Bete Noir 2010 (Barossa/Eden Valley, Australia)
- This was the big Aussie that I was looking for. This was a very bold wine that was not too over the top. ($35)

Now that the wines were bought and put away in the cellar until show time, it was time to think about the finer details. Leading up to the tasting I made the decision to rent ISO tasting glasses for the event. I felt renting glasses would be an easier clean up. I would definitely rent again.

A couple days before the tasting I thought that it would be very educational and fun to have a platter of Syrah/Shiraz aromas/flavour profiles for the group to experience. The group really enjoyed honing their nose and palate. I had the following aroma/flavour profiles out for my group:

- Mixed Berries (Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries)
- Black Pepper
- Cloves
- Rosemary
- Tobacco (cigar)
- Bacon
- Orange zest
- Dark Chocolate

The group of ten had a wonderful time and learned a lot form this unknown grape. Many of them have had/herd of Shiraz, but a majority have never tasted Syrah before. Great questions were asked and I believe I changed some people’s views on this thick skinned grape. At the end I had the group rate their wines to see what the WOTN (Wine Of The Night) was. Their rankings and my own rankings/tasting notes can be found below.

Delas Freres Crozes-Hermitage Domaine des Grands Chemins 2010
(N.Rhone, France)
A great old world Syrah. It's not going to please new world fans, but I really liked it. Dark colour. Aromas of black fruit, orange zest, olive, pepper, and leather. Very enjoyable mouthfeel. Dark fruit, pepper, and earth dominates the palate. Enjoyable now, but will reward 5-7 years in the cellar. My #1, Groups #4. 91 Points

Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz/Viognier 2011 (Victoria, Australia)
Lighter in colour than the rest of the Syrah/Shiraz tasted, due to cooler climate of Victoria. The 5% Viognier really helps the aromas (really nice floral). Other aromas of raspberries, blueberries, pepper, meat. Great mouth feel. Not a burly Shiraz. Dark fruit on the finish. A great summer time Shiraz. My #3, Groups #3. 
90 Points

Cusumano Syrah 2012 (Sicily, Italy)
Great value Syrah. Aromas of light red fruit, pepper, and orange zest. Nice palate of red fruit. Nothing amazing, but a good wine for the price ($11). Surprisingly, this was my mom’s favourite. She normally does not favour the value wines!  My #5, Groups #5.
86 Points

Reininger Syrah 2007 (Walla Walla, Washington)
A blend of 3 vineyards ( Ash Hollow, Pepper Bridge & Seven Hills). Dark purple in colour. This wine gave off aromas of blueberries, smoke, pomegranate, and pepper. Rich mouth feel. The dark fruit dominate the palate. Alcohol is prevalent on the finish, which was off putting. I found the single vineyard 2006 Ash Hollow Syrah more enjoyable. I tried this last fall. My #4, Groups #2. 88 Points

Spinifex Bete Noir 2010 (Barossa/Eden Valley, Australia)
Rich dark purple. Aromas of blueberries, pepper, and cloves. Very powerful on the palate. Dark fruit dominates the pepper and other secondary flavors. Great length. This is a new breed of refined Australian Shiraz. WOTN for the group. I am very happy with the progress happening with regards to Australian Shiraz. My #2, Groups #1. Very close between this and the Delas. 91 Points

I would like to thank Roland and Carol for allowing me to run this tasting. I had a blast and I hope to do it again soon!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Private Wine Stores: Ontario needs to wake up! (Vancouver Part I)

Last week I traveled to Vancouver with my wife to attend my sister-in-laws graduation from UBC. What a beautiful part of the country! Vancouver had such a different feeling than Toronto, people seem more relax and I hardly heard any car horns while staying in Kitsilano (a neighbourhood in Vancouver). I really enjoyed my time exploring Vancouver and getting a feel for the west coast.

While attending my sister-in-laws graduation on the spectacular UBC campus, I realized two things. 1) UBC knows how to graduate in style as the PAC gymnasium at the University of Waterloo does not have the grandeur of the Chan Centre at UBC. 2) I wished I went to UBC!

Chan Centre UBC

After the graduation we went out to an amazing dinner at Bishops (see Vancouver Part 2). After the meal I began to think about which private wine stores I would visit in the next few days. It would be a brand new experience!  

For those who are not aware, there are two sources in which you can buy wine in BC. You can either go to their government run store (BC Liquor) or buy from their many private stores. Sadly, Ontario does not have the option of private stores to purchase wine. We only have one choice, the LCBO! I was very interested to see how these private stores were run, the type of wines they offered, and the overall vibe of the private scene.

During my stay in Vancouver, I visited three private wine stores and was very impressed with the overall quality of the wine that they had and the friendly and knowledgeable staff. I really enjoyed viewing different wines that are not available back home in Ontario. Thanks to the great selection at Marquis, I decided to purchase a bottle of Domaine Tempier La Tourtine 2008 which is mainly Mourvedre, from the Bandol region. I’m really looking forward to opening that in the future! Wait, I’m getting off topic! Time to get back to talking about private wine stores…

I visited the following private stores in Vancouver:
- Marquis Wine
- Liberty Wine (Granville Island)
- Kitsilano Wine

Kitsilano Wine (Home of the DRC!)
I was very impressed, as each store had a great selection of wines at different price points. I was especially excited to be able to view several bottles of Domain de la RomanĂ©e Conti (DRC) and many First Growths up cloBurgundy at Marquis and many different labels and regions that are not represented in Ontario. I really enjoyed seeing the representation of the American Pacific Northwest (Washington & Oregon) at these stores. I’ve come to really enjoy wines from that region, but they are hard to acquire and I feel this is an area that is very limited at the LCBO.
se at Kitsilano Wine. Sadly these wines were in a glass case, so I was not able to touch greatness (Many of the DRC were in the $4,000 range!) I also enjoyed seeing the great selection of

My only complaint about these private stores is their pricing. More often than not, the prices at these private stores are a lot more expensive than LCBO prices. I’m not sure why this is the Vancouver as a whole is pretty pricey (gas is 1.40 a litre!). So maybe that is the reason…
case. The only answer I could think of is that
Marquis Wine
I was extremely impressed with the private wine stores in Vancouver. While walking down the aisle I kept on thinking to myself “this be nice to have in Ontario”. I would love to know my local wine store owner by name, to buy from someone who is passionate & educated, and to not have to deal with a government monopoly when it comes to wine. That would be amazing! I would love to see private stores open in Ontario, but I am not even sure if it will happen in my lifetime.

Kudos to B.C. and their private wine stores. Keep up the passion!

Liberty Wines Granville Island

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Red Wine Long Weekend: Washington State and a Value Primitivo

This past weekend I had two red wines that were worth reviewing. One is from Washington State, a region that is poorly represented in Ontario. The other was a killer QPR (Quality Price Ratio) Primitivo from Southern Italy.

Before the review, just a little rant on poor representation at the LCBO. Two American regions that are really unappreciated are the wines from the North West (Washington State & Oregon). These two regions are making some spectacular wines, yet we are unable to buy them. There are some world class Pinot Noir being made in Oregon, as well as Chardonnay and even Syrah is making a push. In Washington, many red varietals are thriving like Cabernet, Merlot, Cab Franc and Syrah. The wines from the Pacific North West are also well priced compared to the same varietal in California. I hope in the near future that I will see more wines from these two regions in the LCBO.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $19.95
- Dark ruby in colour. This Columbia Valley Cabernet had profound aromas of casiss, all spice, vanilla, and ripe dark fruit. Very oak dominate on the palate. Creamy texture and full body. Dark blackberries and plums try to escape, but oak dominates the finish. 87 Points

Oggi Primitivo 2011 $8.98
- My wife enjoys the Pinot Grigio and the price of this red is right for a summer time sipper! Primitivo is a close relative to Zinfandel, but this wine is more elegant and less jammy than it's California counterparts. Medium ruby in colour. A very inviting nose of red cherries, cedar, and raspberry. Great fruit on the palate with a pleasant and not "cheap" finish that you expect at this price point. Light and fresh with good tannin/acidity integration. Shows like a $15-18 wine. Great QPR for the summer. 88 Points 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Five Rows Craft Wine 2013 release

Last year in April, on a cold windy day I took my sister and mother wine tasting in NOTL. That day we discovered Five Rows in St. Davids. A lovely small production winery. Fast forward one year later, we made another trek to Five Rows. This time my wife came with us and it was just as cold!

I have come to really respect what Wes Lowrey and Five Rows is doing. When they started the winery back in 2001 they were focused on small production. Today their production may be a bit larger, but they are aware of not getting too big. As they feel that it will effect the quality of their wines.  

This trip to Five Rows was my first time to try their whites. Small production also means selling out quickly, so I was happy to see what the whites were like. Five Rows produces three white varietals, Sauvignon Blan, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. We also tried their three reds as well Pinot Noir, Shiraz (Shiraz clone, but more Syrah like in character), and Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Here is the low down and tasting notes.

Five Rows Sauvignon Blanc 2012
- It was light straw in colour. This was by far the most aromatic white of the tasting. Aromas of peach, citrus, and an interesting flinty note. The citrus and stone fruit continued on the palate. Really nice acidity (something that I found in all of the whites). A great palate cleanser! Reminded me of a Sancerre or Touraine Sauv Blanc. 88 points

Five Rows Pinot Gris 2012
- Light straw in colour. Had to really get my nose in the glass to get at the aromatics. Pear, apples, and almond came through. Apple and melon strike the palate. Good acidity with good length. A clear favourite with the ladies. 87 points

Five Rows Riesling 2012
- Pale straw. Strong aromas of citrus peal (lemon & lime) and floral notes. The citrus wave continues on the palate with crisp acidity that makes you want to come back for more. The Riesling haters in the group enjoyed this wine! Riesling is certainly a strength in Niagara! 88 points

Five Rows Pinot Noir 2010
- Pale ruby in colour. Aromas of fresh red fruit, cranberry, and coffee. This was quite a young wine and was tight on the palate. Red fruit and cedar on the palate. Good acidity with strong tannin's  One of the better 2010 Niagara Pinot's that I have tasted. I tend to favour the 2009 style of Niagara Pinot over the recent 2010 releases. It will be interesting to taste this wine in a few years and see how it integrates. 90 points

Five Rows Shiraz 2010
- Deep ruby in colour. Dark fruity, pepper spice, and game notes dominate the palate. Very elegant and great balance to this wine. A well structured wine that will develop into an interesting red in the future. I am really liking the N.Rhone Syrah play that is starting to take place in Niagara. 91 points

Five Rows Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
- Deep ruby in colour. Dark fruit, hint of green pepper and all spice. A constant theme of the reds was "tight". All wines could benefit from decanting or cellaring for a year or two. Strong & fresh acidity on this Cabernet. Good acidity is a great indicator of a cellar worthy wine. 89 points 

Yet another great tasting at Five Rows. I tried to find out if they will ever expand and make a Cab Franc, all I got was that they have thought of making one. I'll look forward to that! 

Keep up the good work Wes and Lowrey family.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2011

As the weather gets warmer, it spurs us to buy/drink more white wine. One of my go-to white wines of recent has been a very unusual grape varietal. When you think of summer whites you tend to think about fruity Sauvignon Blanc, crisp Riesling, or a full bodied Chardonnay. I enjoy all three of these varieties, but one grape that has had my attention of late is Viognier. This white grape is usually found in the South of France, but I am focusing my attention away from Viognier’s home and looking towards Chile.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2011

Price: $8.95 (on sale till the end of the month)

This Chilean white is pale straw in colour. A very aromatic white. Tropical and stone fruits dominate the nose (pineapple & peaches) with a hind of floral notes, which are typical of Viognier. The tropical and stone fruits continue on the palate with fresh acidity and great length. A very enjoyable summer white! 88 points