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Category Archives: Region

Where in the world is the Côtes de Gascogne?

2008 Domaine des Persenades, Cotes de Gascogne, France LCBO# 175695 $11.95

So…who amongst you have heard of the wine making region Côtes de Gascogne? If you answered “yes”, good for you. You graduate “top of the class” and will probably get beaten up at recess. For the rest of us, Côtes de Gascogne is a large (but rather obscure) wine making region in the southwest of France. Think of it as the “no man’s land” between Bordeaux and the regions of the Languedoc and Roussillon. Yet out of this black hole comes a hidden world of fantastic wine values waiting to be discovered.

I often wonder why these inexpensive French wines are so readily passed over by consumers. We all know that the French make some incredible wine. So why (and I am generalizing here) would the average consumer choose an Australian or Chilean wine over a French wine at the same price point? Is it that the French have effectively screwed themselves by hanging their hat on the ultra-premium brands from Bordeaux and Burgundy to the demise of value producers from lesser know regions? Or is it an issue of the consumer getting past the boggy swamp that is the typical French wine label. Either way, these wines are often lost among the “fuzzy bunny” wines that litter the shelves of the LCBO.

So, in defence of the “non” fuzzy bunny wines out there, I introduce the 2008 Domaine des Persenades. Made from a blend of the Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Petit Manseng grapes, this has beautifully balanced flavours of grapefruit, peach, lemon zest and honey. This is a really fresh wine with great acidity and a silky mouth feel. I would recommend pairing it with mussels or a light fish. As for cheese, I would try this wine with Brie or another soft cheese.

At $11.95, 2008 Domaine des Persenades is definitely punching WAY above its weight. I would highly recommend searching out this wine for the upcoming holidays…but that’s just my opinion. Let me know what you think by commenting below.

If you’re not following me yet on Twitter, you can find me at @adamsWOTW. Also, never miss an Adam’s Wine of the Week by clicking the “subscribe” button to receive an email notifying you when I post a new wine review.

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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Colombard, France, White Wine

 

The Sweet Nectar of the Gods

2007 Château de Rayne-Vigneau, Sauternes, France LCBO# 98236 $31.00 (375ml btl)

The sweet wines of Sauternes are probably one of the most difficult wines to make. The growing conditions need to have the perfect combination of moist morning fogs and hot afternoon sun to allow for the onset of that magical fungus call botrytis. Botrytis, otherwise know as “noble rot” is what gives Sauternes its intense sweetness. The botrytis fungus literally feasts on the grape’s water content leaving a slightly shrivelled but insanely sweet grape. The winemakers then hand pick each individual berry in successive passes through the vineyard so each grape is at its optimal ripeness. To say that this is a labour intensive wine to make is a bit of an understatement, but the results can be earth-shattering. I have seen grown men cry…seriously…weep like small children. Sauternes is that good.

The question most people have about Sauternes is when would I ever drink such a sweet wine? The most immediate answer has always been with dessert. While this is obviously correct, there are so many other ways to enjoy Sauternes. Sauternes has been traditionally paired with foie gras, but frankly too much foie gras is just gross. Plus, I think it’s just a matter of time before foie gras is banned everywhere. Some exotic pairing for a Sauternes are with cured ham, steamed lobster, oysters or even spicy dishes like pad thai or jerk chicken. It’s Sauternes balance of sweetness and high acidity that allows for such food versatility.

This week’s wine gives you all that versatility plus is a great value. The 2007 Château de Rayne-Vigneau has beautifully integrated flavours of honeycomb, apricot, mushroom and a slight earthiness. This wine’s high acidity gives it a beautiful balance and a long finish. Beyond the above mentioned food matches, I would recommend pairing it with a Roquefort or another strong blue cheese. The smellier the better.

At $31.00, 2007 Château de Rayne-Vigneau is not an inexpensive wine, but for Sauternes, it is a definite value. I would highly recommend picking up this wine for the upcoming holidays…but that’s just my opinion. Let me know what you think by commenting below.

If you’re not following me yet on Twitter, you can find me at @adamsWOTW. Also, never miss an Adam’s Wine of the Week by clicking the “subscribe” button to receive an email notifying you when I post a new wine review.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2011 in France, Semillon, Sweet Wine

 

Dinner with Faugères

2007 Château St. Roch de Laurens , Faugères, France LCBO# 223865 $18.95

Autumn is the season for the rarest of wine snob events…the wine tasting dinner. You know, the dinners you see advertised on the LCBO’s Vintages website touting amazing wine paired with incredible food for what many consider too high a price. Too many times we have passed up these events as been the bastion of the über wine snob. I say enough! We, the wine drinking masses, must invade this last outpost of the snobby elite for the simple reason that these tasting dinners are the best way to taste some pretty incredible wines at a fraction of the price of buying the wine yourself.

Think about it. The average wine dinner might cost you $250 per person. I agree, that’s a pretty high price for just a dinner, but if you factor in that many of these dinner feature super-premium wine that cost upwards of $100 a bottle at retail (or $200 off the average restaurant wine list) how could you not see this as a deal.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not advocating that attending a wine dinner as a regular event, but going to one that features a producer or region that interests you is well worth it. Often these dinners are attended by either the winemaker or the winery owner, which is always educational and frequently entertaining. I guarantee that not only will you come away with a new appreciation of the wines that you have tasted (plus a full belly), but you will undoubted meet people at these events who share your interest in wine…and drinking wine with friends is never a bad thing.

Ok…now I can get off my “wine box” and get to this week’s wine. The 2007 Château St. Roch de Laurens hails from a warm pocket of the Languedoc called Faugères. This is a rustic blend of the three grapes Syrah, Mouvèdre and Grenache. It has big flavours of red berries, prunes, red cherries and classic notes of dried sage. I would recommend pairing it with grilled meat or even meat lasagna. As for cheese, you can try it with Manchego or any other sharp hard cheese.

At $18.95, 2007 Château St. Roch de Laurens is a great wine so share at your own “home-cooked” wine dinner. This is definitely not a snob wine…but that’s just my opinion. Let me know what you think by commenting below.

If you’re not following me yet on Twitter, you can find me at @adamsWOTW. Also, never miss an Adam’s Wine of the Week by clicking the “subscribe” button to receive an email notifying you when I post a new wine review.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2011 in France, Grenache, Mourvedre, Red Wine, Syrah

 

The “edu-ma-ction” of white Bordeaux

2007 Château Ferran Blanc, Pessac-Léognan, France LCBO# 100867 $21.00

Mark October 17th, 2011 in your calendars! This was the day that I drank the Kool-aid. That date marks the first day of the final unit of my Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Diploma, aptly named “Still Wines of the World”…also known to my wife as the “widow maker”. For the next eight months I will be immersed (nay…drowning) is a sea of wine and wine knowledge. If you have ever wanted to know all about how Ratafia is made (picture grapes from Champagne and Sherry having dirty sex and making a baby) or who the best producers from Romania are (beats the hell out of me!), then strap in baby…this is going to be a ride.

All this “edu-ma-cation” culminates in June will a winner-take-all tasting and written exam that constitutes 100% of my mark. Sounds like fun…doesn’t it! I have been warned from those who have gone before me that I won’t be able to look at wine for six months after I’m done.

So why do this? It’s simple. To help me develop the skills to find great wines without buying into the hype that blankets the wine world like a thick layer of bullshit. As they say, a little education goes a long way. It was a little education that brought me to this week’s wine.

The 2007 Château Ferran Blanc is an elegant white wine from Bordeaux’s Pessac-Léognan region. While Bordeaux is most well known for its reds, there are some devastatingly good whites being produced at incredible values. This wine, made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape, has well balanced flavours of lemon, lime, white peach, grapefruit pith and a hint of herbaceousness. This wine has definitely seen some oak giving it well-integrated notes of spice, butter and a hint of smoke. I would recommend pairing it with fresh fish in a rich sauce, lobster or lemon chicken. As for cheese, you can try it with brie or any other semi-soft cheese.

At $21.00, the 2007 Château Ferran Blanc is a great deal from a very competent producer. Best of all, it is ready to drink now. I recommend you educate yourself by giving it a try today…but that’s just my opinion. Let me know what you think by commenting below.

If you’re not following me yet on Twitter, you can find me at @adamsWOTW. Also, never miss an Adam’s Wine of the Week by clicking the “subscribe” button to receive an email notifying you when I post a new wine review.

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2011 in France, Sauvignon Blanc, White Wine

 

Drink F#@king Merlot

2007 Peter Franus Merlot, Napa Valley, California, USA LCBO# 235952 $34.95

Maybe it’s the movie Sideways’ fault. Maybe it’s my own childhood issues, but I don’t drink enough Merlot…and that’s a mistake. Merlot has (for some reason) been an often maligned and misunderstood grape. The truth is Merlot forms the base of some of the greatest wines in the world! (Have you ever heard of a little wine called Château Petrus?) Merlot not only imparts a variety of black fruits to a wine, it also brings a softness and elegance to its body. In homage to my main man Justin Timberlake, Merlot brings the “sexy” to the world of wine.

The 2007 Peter Franus Merlot is a beautiful example of an elegant Merlot from the Napa Valley. This wine has well defined flavours of dark chocolate, blackcurrants, black cherries, baked plum, white pepper, leather and molasses. There is a lot going on in this wine, but it keeps its balance. Its silky tannins are a pleasure and helps hold everything together. I would recommend pairing this wine with lamb chops, roasted chicken or even turkey. As for cheese, you can try it with everything from a mild Swiss cheese to a savoury cheddar.

At $34.95, the 2007 Peter Franus Merlot is a bit on the high side of the value meter, but an excellent wine none the less. If you are looking for a great Merlot to enjoy now or over the next few years you should definitely check this wine out…but that’s just my opinion. Let me know what you think by commenting below.

If you’re not following me yet on Twitter, you can find me at @adamsWOTW. Also, never miss an Adam’s Wine of the Week by clicking the “subscribe” button to receive an email notifying you when I post a new wine review.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in California, Merlot, Red Wine

 

The giant killer from Napa Valley

2007 First Press Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA LCBO# 188110 $19.95

I always love it when an inexpensive wine shows up its more expensive brothers and sisters. It justifies everything that I believe in when in come to wine. What I don’t like is when I am the sucker who brought one of the more expensive wines only to be reminded of what humility tastes like. The forum was a tasting of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons. My entry was a 2005 Frog’s Leap Napa Valley. It was a $60 wine when I bought it on release. With a little bit of age and its pedigree, I was sure that it would be the best wine in the tasting. When the dust settled, my Frog got crushed by a wine a third the price!

The giant killer was the 2007 First Press Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. This incredible value has well integrated flavours of black fruit, leather, mocha and cedar. It is very well balanced and has smooth tannins that coat your mouth. This is a great steak wine. Alternatively, I would recommend pairing it with BBQ pork ribs, osso buco or rabbit stew. As for cheese, I would recommend trying it with a hardy cheese like a manchego or a parmigiano.

At $19.95, the 2007 First Press Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is the best deal coming out of Napa Valley I have seen in a long time. Go get this wine as fast as you can…but that’s just my opinion. Let me know what you think by commenting below.

If you’re not following me yet on Twitter, you can find me at @adamsWOTW. Also, never miss an Adam’s Wine of the Week by clicking the “subscribe” button to receive an email notifying you when I post a new wine review.

 
 

At play in the Baron’s nursery

I guess it is somewhat ironic that my last post from France is about the first Grand Cru that I ever tasted…Château Mouton Rothschild. Like all firsts in life, I remember it well. I was 26 years old visiting my uncle at his fishing camp in rural New Brunswick. I remember him coming up the stairs from the basement with a big smile on his face and announcing to me that we were going drink a spectacular wine tonight. It was the 1986 Mouton Rothschild. I remember everything about it. I remember the foil, the dust on the label from years of aging, the wine soaked cork and the sound it made when I pulled it out of the bottle. Most of all I remember the smell; the black inky graphite aroma wrapped in black fruit, leather, spice and cedar. I savoured every minute of it.

Maybe it was because of this experience or maybe it was the stories surrounding the Baron Philippe and his triumph of promoting Mouton from a 2nd growth to a Premier Cru that fascinated me, but when it came time to plan my trip to Bordeaux, visiting Château Mouton Rothschild was at the top of my list. Unfortunately, all the romance and dreaminess got beaten out of me pretty quick when I found out that the Château was undergoing a full-scale renovation and was closed to visitors. Normally this would be the end of the story, but a chance meeting with Todd Halpern (Mouton’s long time agent in Canada) provided the needed clout to get an invitation to (at the very least) have the opportunity to taste the most recent vintages of their Grand Vin and 2nd wine. What actually happened went way way way beyond any of my expectations.

Upon arriving at Mouton (yes I got lost on the way…stupid GPS) I was quickly ushered into the “temporary” tasting room. Standing before me were three bottles of wine with very odd looking labels; the first from Château d’Armailhac, the second from Château Clerc Milon and the third from Château Mouton Rothschild. It took me a second, but when I finally gave my head a shake I realized that I was looking at barrel samples of the 2010 vintage from all three of Baron Philippe de Rothschild’s premium properties. I had never tasted any wine straight from the barrel before, so getting to break into the big leagues by tasting these wines was well beyond my rookie dreams.

The first of the wines was the Château d’Armailhac. It was a dark purple/ruby colour and smelled of fresh blackberries, black plum, sage, leather and cedar. The palette carried a lot of the same flavours, but the tannins were unmistakable. They were definitely not the smooth silky version that you come to expect from premium Bordeaux with a bit of age on it. Even with my inexperience in tasting barrel samples you could tell that this wine was going to be very very good in a few years.

The second was the Château Clerc Milon. Of course the same pungent aromas of black fruit, spice and cedar where there, but the thing that blew me away was the intense acidity that this wine showed. I guess there is something in the theory that a wine with good acidity will keep the fruit fresh for a long long time. The tannins were young and aggressive, but without the greenness that affects lesser wine. Tasting this wine in its infancy really does give you a view into the elements that make up a good wine…fruit, acidity and tannins. It was actually a bit funny to see these three elements fighting with each other in the glass, like three toddlers fighting over a toy. Eventually they would grow up and share.

Finally it was time to taste the Château Mouton Rothschild. I am the first to admit that I am no expert on Mouton, but I have had the chance to taste a number of vintages and know its unique signature. This very young Mouton was very much part of the family already, but the intensity of the tannins and acidity were almost too much to deal with. The tannins literally muffled the black fruit, herbal notes, and smoked wood. This wine was a monster! Now I understand when critics like Parker, Suckling and Robinson can profess that a wine like this can last for 50 years. This was truly a treat to taste.

So here ends my French adventure. I know that there is much more to French wine that just Bordeaux, but as I have said you always remember your first. Bordeaux was my first and will always hold a special place for me. I look forward to returning to France soon and exploring all that France and French wine have to offer. Who knows…maybe some day I will move there permanently. France already has my heart; I guess it’s just a matter of time until it gets the rest of me.

Next week I am back to recommending great wines under $30. If you’re not following me yet on Twitter, you can find me at @adamsWOTW. Also, never miss an Adam’s Wine of the Week by clicking the “subscribe” button to receive an email notifying you when I post a new wine review.

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2011 in France

 
 
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