Dan Aykroyd is coming to Montreal. Does his wine taste funny?

If I was in Montreal, I’d be tempted to go. Dan Aykroyd, the famous Canadian actor of Saturday Night Live fame will be touring Montreal, today and tomorrow (June 25 and 26), to present the line of wines that bear his name. He’ll be visiting three SAQ stores (see the list here) over the two days, to give the drinking public a taste of what’s bottled for him by Diamond Estates Wines and Spirits, the company behind Lakeview Cellar Wines, East Dell and 20 Bees, among other things.

If I could go, I’d certainly ask him what the deal is with all the celebrity wines appearing on the scene, this past couple of years. Like the Madonna, Kiss and Streisand wines from Celebrity Cellars. Or the Mike Weir and Wayne Gretzky wines made by Creekside Wines. Or the icewines and Napa Cab made for the Rolling Stones by Ex Nihilo Vineyards.

I’d ask him if he sees a difference between having a line of wines made by someone else, with your name on it, from various vineyards from here and there (Dan Aykroyd’s wines are sometimes VQA, sometimes not, sometimes from Canada, sometimes from Sonoma…), and actually owning your vineyards. Like Sting’s Il Palagio Sumner Family wines from Tuscany, Gérard Depardieu in the Loire, David and Victoria Beckham in California, Sam Neill in New Zealand, or even Francis Ford Coppola in California – although that last case definitely has more winemaking tradition in it than just celebrity trendiness.

Wine is certainly fashionable, if celebrities enjoy having their names on labels. It equates with luxury, health, pleasure, the good life. A good association if there ever was one. And you can even make a noble statement about biodiversity, the environment, and farming tradition – as the Sumners do in their biodynamic estate in Italy.

Oh, and by the way, I’ve had one of the Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series wines, before. The chardonnay, on a summer trip in Ontario. And no, it didn’t taste funny, despite my attempt at humor in the title. It wasn’t memorable, but it was simple and easy-drinking. In other words, it was fun.

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Canadian Icewine: Quality and Diversity from Coast to Coast

I used to love Canadian Icewine and its less expensive, but often quite as tasty counterpart, the late harvest. And then, for some odd reason, I practically stopped having it.

Over the last few months, however, I drank icewines from Ontario, British Columbia, Québec and Nova Scotia. And baby, I’m back.

Those were fine, fine wines, with all the apricot, honey and floral aromas and flavors you’d want, the acidity needed to balance out the concentrated sweetness. What struck me the most, however, was the diversity of styles – a much greater range than I would have expected.

Let me give you an idea of this range of styles by giving tasting notes from West to East. (more…)

EU regulators give up: rosé will remain rosé.

Now that’s some good news to start my wine week.

The European Union Agriculture Commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, announced today that the EU is giving up on its plan to allow rosés to be made from a blend of white and red wines. This commercially-minded regulation, which I’d written about with dismay in February, was explicitely aimed at making rosés that would be competitive in the Asian markets. Let’s say quality and tradition were not at the heart of that move. 

The rule – or lack thereof – was first supposed to be adopted in April, but the vote had been pushed back to June 19, after vignerons in France started agressively protesting it. A compromise was first proposed to allow the mention “traditional rosé” to be put on labels, thereby signifying that the wines had not been made from a blend of red and white. Fearing that a free-for-all would set in and that their craft would be discredited, vignerons rejected that as well, and the French agriculture minister came on side (although France had originally allowed the project to be put on the table). Italian and Spanish winemakers also came on board to protest, worried that the anything-goes approach would undermine rosé’s freshly acquired respectability. Pressure had been building recently, with columns appearing all over the world questioning the move.

Over the course of the debate, I read and heard from many people in the wine world who wondered what the fuss was about. Some pointed out that rosé Champagne can be made by adding a little red (from pinot noir) to white champagne – a notable exception to the current european ban on blended rosés. Others noted that many New World rosés are actually blended – and doing fine on the market.

Granted, blending white and red wine, besides being the butt of a very old joke, may not be a total horror. I probably drank a New World rosé that was a blend without knowing it. Surely, there are quaffable blended rosés out there.

What I can say, though, is that the best rosés I’ve had, the serious, truly delicious ones, were all made in the traditional way. That’s true in the New World too. A Donkey and Goat’s brilliant Isabel’s Cuvée, made from grenache gris grapes, is a fine example, with bright flavors, minerality and depth. Refreshing, but not just that.  And back in the Old World, try any Tavel, or a Chinon Rosé, or a beautiful rosé from pinot noir like Jean-Marc Brocard’s Bourgogne Rosé, which was our official usher of spring, at home, a few weeks ago, and had all the expansive aromatic qualities of pinot in a sunny, summery mode. I’ll surely raise a glass of something like that tonight, to celebrate.

As I do, I’ll also reflect on the capacity of European vignerons to get a regulation derailed, and to preserve their trade over industrial interests. And I’ll wonder about what would happen if Canadian vignerons got together to fight the awful Cellared in Canada category, where a minority of domestic wine blended with foreign wine of unknown origin and sometimes water is passed of as Canadian wine. And I’ll raise another glass to Seaton MacLean, of Prince Edward County’s excellent Closson Chase vineyards, who decided to fight this “clever con”. Here’s to real wine from real places.

A sommelier on your bedside table

I’ve let a lot of things hanging, in the last, hectic few weeks. Like writing on this blog – which will now pick up its usual pace again. Or renewing my subscription to Sommelier Journal, a very interesting and distinctive magazine aimed at a knowledgeable and/or professional readership.

I’ve found a lot of great content in the magazine, since I subscribed last October. Solid portraits of various colorful winemakers (like Gary Pisoni or Merry Edwards), interesting pieces on wine service and wine pricing in restaurants (this is a sommelier journal, isn’t it), good overviews of wine regions like Alsace and Sicily, and a very good series on wine flaws, like volatile acidity and high alcohol. The simple fact that high alcohol would be adressed as a wine flaw is, to me, reason enough to subscribe.

Of course, this is not a magazine for beginners. Even though the writing is clear and generally avoids jargon and overspecialized discussions, it does require a bit of knowledge about wine to be fully enjoyed. Which makes it an excellent read for someone like me, who’s bean reading and writing and learning about wine for years and years, or for anyone trying to push their wine-thinking skills a little further.

You can check out a selection of free access articles on the web site, by browsing through the archive. Reading back through them, I’m wondering more and more about why I let my subscription lapse. I’ll take care of that right away.

Published in: on May 26, 2009 at 8:26 am  Comments (2)  
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TasteCamp in Long Island: I AM drinking merlot

I can say one thing about last weekend’s TasteCamp East, organized by Lenn Thompson for a group of about 15 bloggers (see the whole list here, with very personal notes from Dale Cruse) who enthusiastically went around the vineyards of Long Island. I’ve never had so much merlot in so little time.

Actually, I can say two things about TasteCamp East: I’ve never had so much merlot, and never before had I enjoyed it that much.

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Bud break on a merlot vine at Shinn Estate Vineyards

It’s not that I’ve never had good merlot – or at least, good merlot-based blends. For instance, I’ve enjoyed many good and some great Pomerols or Saint-Émilions where merlot was playing a leading role. But I tend to find more to please me in the Médoc, with cabernet sauvignon in the forefront. And years of being disappointed again and again by flabby or imprecise or just undistinguished varietal bottlings from the likes of California and Chile just brought my enthusiasm for merlot very close to ground level. 

So what was I doing in Long Island, where merlot is king? (more…)

TasteCamp East: adventures in Long Island wines

Well, here I am at The Greenporter Hotel in Greenport, NY, on the Eastern end of Long Island, for a meeting of wine bloggers called TasteCamp East.

The event is organized by Lenn Thompson, one of the top wine bloggers and an expert on the wines of New York and, more specifically, Long Island, where he lives – and obviously, drinks. (more…)

When Robert Parker can’t get his facts (or his ethical guidelines) straight

I was appalled and incensed, Friday evening, when I read a post by Robert Parker himself on the eRobertParker forum. I don’t often agree with Mr Parker’s taste, but I do have respect for what he’s accomplished and for the energy he’s put into advocating wine.

I’ve lost a lot of that respect, now, after an attack he has made on wine bloggers and on the Wine Bloggers Conference and those who organized it. And it’s not a question of opinion. Even as he accuses wine bloggers of spreading falsehoods, Mr Parker has evidently not even bothered to check any facts on what he states in his forum post.

Let me quote him. (more…)

Tasting notes: Le Clos Jordanne, Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard 2006 chardonnay and pinot noir, Twenty Mile Bench

I’ve been a fan of Le Clos Jordanne wines since their first release, the 2004 vintage, two years ago. Made from young vines, they may not have had the depth of great wines, but they certainly showed the promise. It was terrific to taste pinot noir that from the Niagara that had such a clear sense of place and such a remarkable balance and restraint.

This certainly has a lot to do with…

To read the rest of this review, go to winecase.ca, the new home for The Wine Case blog. New updates are now all on winecase.ca.

Wine Blogging Wednesday 56: a Kosher Wine from Utiel-Requena

It’s always nice when Wine Blogging Wednesdays lead us off the beaten track, and allows us to expand our views on the world of wine. I mean, drink AND learn? How could you go wrong?

WBW 56 is certainly such an opportunity, with the kosher wines theme thought out by the Corkdork, just in time for Passover. 

It allowed me to realize that there are dozens of kosher wines available at the Société des alcools du Québec, our good old State monopoly for wine and spirits. Wines ranging from Concord grape Manischewitz to 100-dollar bottles of Burgundy from a négociant called Roberto Cohen. Lots of wines from Israel, of course, but also from France, California, Italy, Australia, Argentina and Spain.

That’s where I picked my kosher wine from, a wine from the Utiel-Requena appellation, near Valencia, called Makor. Makor is made by by Elvi Wines, a Spanish producer entirely dedicated to making kosher wines from various Spanish regions (Priorat and Rioja, among others) and even from Chile. 

The 2004 vintage, which I tasted for the WBW, is made from 50% bobal, a native grape from Utiel-Requena, along with 20% tempranillo and 30% cabernet sauvignon. And that’s where the label is strangely not quite… kosher, as it only insists on bobal, without mentioning the other grapes.

Whatever’s in there, it sure packs a punch. The wine is dark purple, with intense aromas and flavors of black fruit (blackberry and, especially, plums), smooth tannins and an almost creamy texture. Not a light and subtle wine, but a simple and fun one.

Without knowing that it was a kosher wine, I wouldn’t have guessed. Which is a great thing, really: you wouldn’t want kosher wines to be some sub-class of wine. So it’s all good. And it’s even great with refried-bean enchiladas, as the intensity of the wine competes nicely with the starchy texture of the beans – and the tomato sauce, and the cheese. Not a classic kosher meal. But let’s all be open and enjoy the good things.

Tasting note: Masi Campofiorin 2005, Rosso del Veronese IGT

It’s always interesting – and often fun – to re-taste wines you enjoyed often, a while back, but had somewhat set aside and forgotten.

That’s what happened to me when a good friend of mine brought me a bottle of Masi Campofiorin, a unique wine from the Veneto, in Northern Italy. When I first started drinking wine seriously, in the early 90s…

The rest of this tasting note is now on this blog’s new address, winecase.ca. Click here to read it in its new location.

Published in: on April 12, 2009 at 9:30 am  Comments (5)  
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