Thursday, September 29, 2011

Report from ... The Riesling Experience 2011 - June 9, 2011

Are you experienced?  Jimi Hendrix is famous for asking that simple question on a record album – but he was talking about music, here we’re talking wine – Riesling to be exact.  With all the events this year surrounding one grape or another, be it Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, it seems that Riesling's gotten lost in the shuffle.  Is it because Ontario wineries are trying to foist other grapes into the limelight?  Or is Riesling safe in its position in Ontario?  It would seem that it's the wineries that don't make Riesling are the ones that want to showcase other varieties, but consider this:  Riesling is a variety that is 500 years old and the #1 variety in Niagara.  Commercial planting started in Niagara around 1974.  Riesling makes up 18.8% of all grapes planted in Ontario and 17.3% of all vinifera … and that leads the charge of grapes planted.  And for those interested, the mostly widely planted Riesling clone: 21B, at 70%.

Today Niagara welcomed winemakers and owners from Michigan, Ohio and New York along with Pierre Trimbach from Alsace to speak to the assembled clan of Riesling lovers, and there were a lot.

Pierre Trimbach …
As keynote speaker Pierre had much to say on the topic and we all had much to learn.  Pierre was described as the “Eric Clapton” of Riesling, which brings me back to my musical reference at the beginning of this report, I guess they couldn’t tie everything up in a neat package and call him the Jimi Hendrix of Riesling cause Jimi’s dead (and Pierre is very much alive); but it would have been more apropos at a “Riesling Experience”.  Pierre talked about the make up of his vineyard (11 different grapes / 13 different soil types); he informed us that Alsace (the most northerly region in France) produces 10% of the world’s Riesling and at Trimbach (established in 1626) the grape makes up 48% of their annual production.

Notable Quotes – Pierre Trimbach:
“Petrol is a the noble evolution in a Riesling after 10+ years; in a young wine it’s something else.”  Pierre went on to say a young Riesling with petrol notes is a faulty wine with high reduction.

When describing the ideal conditions needed to make good Riesling Pierre told us: “First condition: balance.  Second condition: balance.  Third condition: balance … and the rest is just blah blah blah.”
The Trimbach wines being poured

Michigan …
Representative: Lee Lutes – Black Star Farms
- Michigan is the 2nd most diversified state for agriculture behind California
- If you stand in the middle of any vineyard in the state you’re only 5-10 miles from the lake.
- First Riesling planted was in the 70’s by Chateau Grand Traverse
- Primary red grapes are Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc

Ohio …
Representative: Nick Ferrantes – Ferrante Wine Farm
- Arnie Esterer planted the first Riesling vines in the Eastern Lake Erie region at Markko Vineyards in 1969
- There are 150 acres grown in Ohio, mostly near Lake Erie (Grand River Valley)
- Quote: “Once you have a Riesling in your mouth you know it, and it stays with you.”

Nick also plugged a Riesling lovers website:

New York …
Representative: Peter Bell – Fox Run Vineyards
- In New York there are two wine industries: fine wine and the other
- Riesling is a consistently good grape for the region, in 21 years they’ve had only two bad vintages of Riesling: 1992 and 2007
- Quote: “Ontario took the secondary grapes [native/lubrusca varieties] out, blindfolded them and shot them; we didn’t do that.”  He made it sound like they should have.

The talks ended with a presentation from the International Riesling Foundation ( – so this is what Nick was talking about.

Lunch was a Riesling lovers paradise created by Chef Erik Peacock of Wellington Court Restaurant in St. Catharines: trout, chicken sausage, beef carpaccio all paired to go with the Rieslings of your choice from any of the 4 lake regions represented: Niagara, Ohio, Michigan, New York; plus a special table with a limited selection of Trimbach wines.

The Wines …
Of the 32 wines available for tasting, 14 were from somewhere other than Ontario.  Ontario reviews can be seen on my website ( as for the wines from out of province, here were my top choices:

Black Star Farms 2010 Arcturos Riesling (Michigan, ~$15.50) - ****+
Bowers Harbor Vineyards 2009 Riesling, BHV Estate (Michigan, ~$15.00) - *** ½
Chateau Grand Traverse 2009 Lot 49 Riesling (Michigan, ~$21.00) - *** ½+
Black Star Farms 2009 Arcturos Riesling (Michigan, ~$15.50) - ****
Klingshirn Winery 2010 White Riesling (Ohio, ~$10.40) - *** ½
Old Firehouse Winery 2010 Lake Erie Riesling (Ohio, ~$11.99) - *** ½
Sheldrake Point Winery 2009 Dry Riesling (New York, ~15.00) - ***+

Report from ... Three Greek Estates Over 1 Lunch - May 11, 2011

In May, the Greeks came to town with their winemakers in tow and a wanton willingness to teach what makes Greek wine so special.

Today, at the Thompson hotel in Toronto, in the confines of their beautiful basement, a group of writers met to taste an assortment of wines from three Greek houses: Domaine Gerovassiliou, Biblia Chora and Domaine Katsaros.

Gerovassiliou …
Established in 1981 by Evangelos Gerovassiliou, located approximately 25km southwest of Thessaloniki (time to get out a map of Greece).  Today the winery has 48 hectares of planted vines with a mix of international and indigenous varieties.

Wines of Gerovassiliou …
Three were tried, a Petite Syrah/Viogner blend, a 50/50 blend of Assyrtiko and Malagousia (white), and a straight 100% Viognier.  The 2008 Viognier was delightfully floral with nice tropicallity on the nose, almost Gewurztraminer-like, with some soapy-spicy nuances.  The palate proved to be very nice indeed with tropical, citrus and good acidity for balance. (*** ½+)

Biblia Chora …
A project of two oenologists Vassilis Tsaktsarlis and Vangelis Gerovassiliou, with a property that covers 15 hectares and grows an interesting blend of international and domestic grapes.

Wines of Biblia Chora …
2009 Ovilos Blanc, a 50/50 blend of Assyrtiko and Semillon that has received plenty of accolades and awards.  The nose is full of tropical fruit with grapefruit/citrus backing.  Palate is a mix of grapefruit sour with kiwi sweet, producing a long lasting and delicious finish … refreshing, clean and tasty. (*** ½+)
The other wine poured was the 2009 Areti, made with 100% Assyrtiko (another white).  Big 14% alcohol is hidden in the folds of pineapple and citrus on the nose with a sweet fruited palate, where you’ll find tropical and citrus along with a touch of vanilla for added depth of flavour.  Good acidity keeps this wine is balance. (*** ½+)

Katsaros …
A small family owned winery started in 1985 in the Mt. Olympus region near the village of Krania, here they grow just three grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.

Wines of Katsaros …
We only tasted the one: 2009 Chardonnay, which was very tight and needs time to come into its own.

Lunch …
Pictures to follow, but check out that dessert, it was almost too pretty to eat … I said almost (and it was delicious), and it was paired with a bottle of 2004 Late Harvest Malagousia, which was exquisite.

Miso and Aji Mirin Marinated Black Cod with Wilted Baby Bok Choy and Enoki and Pearl Barley Risotto

Too Cool Dessert ... Passion Fruit and White Chocolate Parfait

Report from ... Australia’s First Families of Wine – May 5, 2011

I wrongly kept referring to this event as the Five Families of wine, I guess the Godfather is fully ingrained in my brain; but that wasn’t the name of the event at all.  First, this was an Aussie event, not an Italy wine tasting and really what could be feared from the 5 Families of Australia?  Too many shrimp on the Bar-b?  Were they going to drown us with Foster’s?  Or make us watch all of Paul Hogan’s movies, (plus his Subaru commercials)?  I'd say we're pretty safe on all counts. 

Turns out it was far from 5 families in attendance, in actual fact it was 11 (twelve are part of this organization but absent was the Brown Brothers winery, because they have no distribution in Ontario).  According to the "families" mission statement, they got together to “represent 16 Australian Regions across 4 states and between them have more than 1200 years of winemaking experience.”  These families have 5000+ hectares of vineyard land between them, and that’s a lot of growing space, they also claim to be the “Guardians of some of Australia’s finest vineyards, most famous wine names and some irreplaceable history.”

The sit-down portion of the tasting was set up in a speed-dating style: each winery got a chance to pour two of their iconic wines to a small assembled mass of ~10 people per go.  Every 10 minutes or so a bell would sound and we were told to move tables; not my favourite way to try wine, but definitely an innovative method, which, in truth, I hope we never do again.  Anyway, let’s look at the best of these two wines per producer – hopefully you’ll recognize their names.

Campbell’s …
Poured: Muscat & Shiraz
Top Scoring: Rutherglen Muscat (NV) … this is a sweetie made in a solera system (like they make Sherry) with an average of 5-year-old wines.  Lovely flavours and smells, mainly toffee and orange peel, a real delicacy for dessert. (****+)

D’Arenberg …
Poured: Mourvedre & Shiraz/Roussanne
Top Scoring: 2007 The Twenty-Eight Road Mourvedre … these vines were planted in 1983 and are now being produced to make a meaty, dark fruited wine. (*** ½+)

De Bortoli …
Poured: Botrytis Semillon & Blanc de Blancs
Top Scoring: Rococo Blanc de Blancs (NV) … a fresh clean entry with rich vanilla cream across the palate. (*** ½+)

Henschke …
Poured: Euphonium blend & Pinot Noir
Top Scoring: 2008 Keyneton Estate Euphonium … this is a 60% Shiraz based wine with hints of Cabernet and Merlot blended in (the amount differs every year).  The Keyneton vineyard was planted in 1960. A tasty wine with plum and black cherry along with pepper and spice on the finish. (****+)

Howard Park …
Poured: Shiraz & Chardonnay
Top Scoring: 2008 Scotsdale Shiraz … this is the youngest winery in this group, having been established in 1986, but they seem to be making quite a name for themselves, especially having been invited to join this group of old-timers.  Their Shiraz was a tasty blend of dark berries with spicy pepper. (*** ½)

Jim Barry …
Poured: Cabernet Sauvignon & Shiraz
Top Scoring: 2008 The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon … you’ve seen this bottle before with the picture of the golfer on the front, this 42 year old winery makes a mean Cab with dark fruit and spice dripped in chocolate – yum. (****)

McWilliam’s …
Poured: Sauvignon Blanc & Shiraz
Top Scoring: 2010 Mount Pleasant Estate Florence Sauvignon Blanc … This winery has shown consistency of winemaking over its 134 year history, that's because they've had only 4 different winemakers over a 90 year period.  This wine is very New Zealand-like in style, but adds an element of warm climate Savvy B with melon and tropical notes weaved in amongst the grass. (****+)

Tahbilk …
Poured: Cabernet Sauvignon & Shiraz
Top Scoring: 2005 Eric Stevens Purbrick Cabernet Sauvignon … a tough call between these two wines, but this one edged out its competition by a very slim margin.  The dominant vines in this Cab were planted in 1949, while the label was launched three years later to take advantage of the great fruit being grown.  And what great flavours do these old vines produce these days?  Chocolate, red licorice and raspberry dominate with a vanilla-mint finish. (****+)

Tyrrell’s …
Poured: Shiraz & Semillon
Top Scoring: 2010 Lost Block Semillon … this Sem is very fruity with refreshing citrus, floral and melon flavours. (*** ½)

Wakefield …
Poured: Shiraz & Cabernet Sauvignon
Top Scoring: 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon … this company started off as hoteliers and moved into wine.  All those years of dealing with the public has really paid off, cause their Cab delivers just what the people want at a very reasonable price ($16.95).  Mint and plum lead the charge of this juicy and somewhat jammy wine – but in a good way. (****+) 

Yalumba …
Poured: Viognier & Grenache
Top Scoring: 2005 Hand Picked Single Site Habermann Vineyard Grenache … an interesting older wine that has developed peppered raspberry notes with some strawberry thrown in for good measure. (****)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Report from … An Impromptu Tasting of Carmel Road Wines at the MJF - September 17, 2011

It’s time to head out to the Monterey Jazz Festival – the event that brought us to California in the first place (or that’s what brought everybody else to California) … on the bus ride over from the hotel, Jaymz Bee, our illustrious leader and host for the Jazz Safari (thru radio station Jazz FM in Toronto) told me of a wine tasting in the Artist’s Tent, where he has a “in” with the “bouncer / head of security” … so with Joshua Redman and Herbie Hancock on the aural menu this evening, I find myself at an oral tasting of Carmel Road wines at the Monterey Jazz Festival. 

Carmel Road is owned by Kendall Jackson, this winery arm of KJ is a sponsor of the festival.  All the grapes from these wines are grown in Monterey.  Pouring the wine tonight is associate brand manager Jillian Lines and she runs me though the three wines being poured this evening, and all through the festival – please note these wines were tasted out of plastic glasses better suited as water vessels than wine glasses, think a slightly larger Dixie cup:

Carmel Road 2009 Pinot Gris ($16.00) - a fairly simple white sipper with aromas of peach and pear, the palate gives up a little more to get excited about: crisp pear and apple but with a slightly bitter finish. (***+)

Carmel Road 2009 Chardonnay ($18.00) – 80% of this wine see 7 months of barrel treatment as well as being fermented in oak.  Thus 20% is done in stainless steel tokeep an element of freshness.  As mentioned the glass was not of the best quality so the sense of smell revealed little to nothing.  The palate was peach and pineapple along with some delicate vanilla notes, there’s also some green apple that shows up with vanilla on the long, tasty finish. (*** ½+)

Carmel Road 2009 Pinot Noir ($20.00) – the best of the three wines was this Pinot Noir, smooth and easy drinking full of juicy black cherry and strawberry fruit on the palate along with white pepper and some vanillin notes, good acidity keeps it from being jammy. (****)

Addendum:  I was emailed by the folks at KJ and they wanted to set the record straight on a very important piece of information about owner of Carmel Road:
"wanted to make sure that you knew more about our ownership as it's easy to make the assumption that Carmel Road is owned by Kendall-Jackson. Both Carmel Road and Kendall-Jackson are separate wine brands owned by the Jackson family. All of the wineries owned by the Jackson family are marketed under the broader concept, Jackson Family Wines, but each remains an independently run winery. Many folks don't realize that Kendall-Jackson and its sister wineries are still family owned, which as you know is a rarity in the wine industry today."

Report from … A Taste of Monterey - September 17, 2011

Stop the presses, what have we here … I am in a shop completely devoted to the grapes (and wines) of Monterey County.  I’m at a little mall on Cannery Row in Monterey, California (700 Cannery Row, Suite KK) called A Taste of Monterey, and I am staring at bottles and bottles of Monterey County wines, from different producers, all in one store – being from Ontario I can barely believe my eyes.  My guide through the wines and the store is a gentleman by the name of Gray and he explains the concept of the store that I am in:

It’s a retail outlet devoted to wines made using Monterey grapes, the winery that made the wines does not have to be located in Monterey, but if they have an offering that uses 100% Monterey grapes they’re in.  The outlet store represents between 80 and 90 different wineries and offers tasting to visitors of some 18 different wines a week (picked by a committee within the store’s hierarchy) – these wines change from week to week, which means within a month and a half they have tasted through all the wines.  Interesting to note, 3 Monterey winery owners, who were not named to me, are partners in this venture, it is also interesting to note that their wineries were not mentioned to me either.  It turns out that they are very careful not to showcase the wines of the owners often to avoid any favoritism, because the store is all about the love of Monterey wines … what an incredible concept this is.

About Monterey … is a cool climate region comprising some 40,000 acres spread out over 9 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs): Carmel Valley, Arroyo Seco, San Bernabe, Chalone, San Lucas, San Antonio Valley, Hames Valley, Monterey and Santa Lucia Highlands.

The Tasting … I went through the tasting menu with Gray, selected a few wines myself, but in general left the wines I would be tasting in the hands of the man that knew best.  Gray, who poured seven different wines for me wanted to give me good idea of what is being grown and made in Monterey and the styles of wines they produce.  The tasting menu was heavy on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as it seems to be a staple with every Monterey winery (as I learned on my tour the day before).  Highlights of the tasting was Gray’s favourite Chardonnay: Hahn 2009 SLH Estate Chardonnay ($25.00) I was positive that the SLH stood for Select Late Harvest, but Gray corrected me, it stands for Santa Lucia Highlands.  The nose was delightful, full of fruit like peach and pear, wrapped in buttery-vanilla aromas … the palate is so inviting it kept you coming back for more; on the palate it was fresh and crisp with nicely balanced acidity: pear mixed with hints of green apple and yet with a buttery-creaminess in the mouth; it was hard to believe you can keep that nice acidity and still get that great creaminess – welcome to cool climate California Chardonnay … (****+).  Another beauty was the Parsonage Winery 2009 Syrah ($36.00), this winery is known around these parts for their Syrah and I can see (and taste) why.  The nose is red raspberry, white pepper and hints of chocolate; while the palate doles out spice, white pepper, raspberry, black cherry with a real sexy smoothness to the finish (**** ½)  

Other Highlights from the Taste of Monterey Tasting:
Talbott 2009 Kali Hart Pinot Noir ($21.00) - *** ½+
Joyce 2008 Merlot ($20.00) - *** ½+
Tondre 2008 Pinot Noir ($43.00) - ****

Next up: tasting Carmel Road at the Jazz Festival.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Report from … Tasting in Carmel, California (part 2) - September 16, 2011

Bottles of Bernardus wine

Our next stop along the way was to Bernardus, a winery that began because of the owners love for red wines of the Bordeaux region.  The family fortune comes from the owner’s father who became the exclusive importer for German cars (VW, Audi and Porsche) after World War II.  The vineyard area consists of about 300 acres spread over six estates, of which 58 are planted.  Bernardus is not available in Ontario, so you’ll have to live vicariously through these notes.  Stanley, our wine jockey and lexicon about all things Bernardus (and, it seems, Monterey County) took us through a tasting of a dozen or so wines with a real enthusiasm for each and every one, and he was not afraid to point out his favourites along the way and tell us why.  Best White: 2009 Sierra Mar Chardonnay ($40.00) a wine made from grapes in only their third leaf, aged 10 months in a 50/50 blend of new and used French oak.  For a wine made with such young grapes this wine shows some real finesse and delicacy, not overpowered by the wood, there is a real suppleness on the palate and lovely fruit; the piece-de-resistance is the Wurther’s candy finish that just keeps going and going and going (**** ½).  Best Red:  hands down it was the single block, single vineyard 2004 Swan Block Merlot ($125.00), this is a real unique wine for this winery as they do not expect to ever be making such a wine again, but the fruit was just so good this year that the winemaker insisted.  Aged 20 months in a 50/50 blend of oaks (new and used) and then rested 2 years in bottle before release.  Very smooth with blackberry, blueberry, cassis and milk chocolate, still has some nice tannins on the finish (**** ½).  Only 350 cases produced.
Wines Scored – (in Order of Tasting):
Bernardus 2010 Monterey County Sauvignon Blanc ($16.00) - *** ½
Bernardus 2010 Griva Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($20.00) - *** ½
Bernardus 2009 Monterey County Chardonnay ($22.00) - *** ½
Bernardus 2008 Rosella’s Vineyard Chardonnay ($40.00) - *** ½+
Bernardus 2008 Ingrid’s Vineyard Chardonnay ($40.00) - ****+
Bernardus 2009 Sierra Mar Chardonnay ($40.00) - **** ½
Bernardus 2007 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir ($75.00) - *** ½+
Bernardus 2007 Marinus - Cab Sauv/Merlot/Petit Verdot/Cab Franc ($28.00) - ****+
Bernardus 2004 Swan Block Merlot ($125.00) - **** ½
Front of Morgan's tasting room
Inside the Morgan Tasting room

From there we left Carmel Valley Village and made the drive to Morgan’s tasting room that was located in an open-air mall just outside of Carmel (The Crossroads Shopping Village).  Established in 1982 Morgan is another of the Monterey wineries that specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but also has quite a love-fest going with Rhone-style reds too.  The mall tasting room does not have all the wines produced by Morgan but they have a great cross-section of what they are producing. Deborah, the manager at this location, took us on a tasting tour from light to “heavy” starting with the Sauvignon Blanc and ending with the estate Syrah.  Best wine: 2009 Cotes du Crow’s ($18.00) a 50/50 Rhone-like blend of Syrah and Grenache; lovely raspberry fruit dominated this one from start to finish, soft and easy to drink this one also had silky tannins that made it a pleasant sipper for any time of day (****+).
Wines Scored – (in Order of Tasting):
Morgan 2010 Metallico Chardonnay ($20.00) - *** ½
Morgan 2009 Highland Chardonnay ($26.00) - *** ½
Morgan 2009 Double L Chardonnay ($36.00) - ****
Morgan 2009 Twelve Clones Pinot Noir ($32.00) - *** ½+
Morgan 2009 Cotes du Crow’s ($18.00) - ****+
Morgan 2008 Syrah ($20.00) - ****
Morgan 2008 Double L Syrah ($40.00) - ****

Now it was time to head back to Carmel and see if those tasting rooms were finally open … we started at Galante, and for the second time found the door locked (this time for a bank run), so we hightailed it two blocks over and a block up to Wrath, also located in a mall-type setting, right beside a place called the Cheese Shop on the lower level.  Wrath’s original name was San Saba Vineyards, but the son took it over and was looking for a re-branding of the winery and came up with the rather interesting and memorable name of Wrath, I liked the look of the label but I suspect they get that a lot.  They are mainly a Pinot and Chardonnay house with a smattering of Syrah.  We approached Amy with an hour and a half left in her day and perused the wine list … quite long and very interesting, but we lacked the time to try it all, especially since we had one more tasting room to get to that closed at the same time.  I asked Amy to picked the best of the three kinds of wine they made, the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were delightful.  Chardonnay:  2008 San Saba Chardonnay ($49.00) aged in 70% new French, this is the estate vineyard which still keeps the original name; lovely mouthfeel with nice spice on the back palate – tropical fruit, vanilla bean, hazelnut, caramel and lots of sweet buttery notes (****+).  Pinot Noir:  2009 McIntyre Vineyard Pinot Noir ($49.00), a whopping 14.7% alcohol here but it does not show on the nose or the palate.  The nose is blueberry, cherry and cocoa laced with spice and dark fruit on the palate, robust tannin structure and a great long finish seals the deal after every sip (****+).
Wines Scored – (in Order of Tasting):
Wrath 2008 San Saba Chardonnay ($49.00) - ****+
Wrath 2009 McIntyre Vineyard Pinot Noir ($49.00) - ****+
Wrath 2008 Doctor’s Vineyard Syrah – ($39.00) - ****
Wrath 2008 Noble Wrath – late harvest Sauvignon Blanc – ($35.00 / 375ml) - *** ½+

The door to Galante wines
We left Wrath and wondered into the cheese shop for a few minutes to take in the ambiance and try some cheese … imagine if you will a full cheese shop up front with cheeses from around the world, and a well stocked wine shop in the back … the store was equally divided, linking wine and cheese together in the consumer mind.  From there we made the 2 block-1block trek back to Galante for the third time, and this time the door was open.  Here we came in contact with the jovial Ian who already had ‘em lined up at the tasting bar.  He ran us through the Galante history:  J Frank Devendorf, the great great grandfather of the current owners, was the founder of Carmel-by-the-Sea in 1903, their 700 acres was a cattle ranch (and still is to this day) but also grows grapes on 33 of those acres (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir).  We tasted through 6 wines, 2 Pinots, 2 Cabs, a Sauvignon Blanc and the Petite Sirah. Best Wine:  2010 Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($25.00), which sees a little wood action (10% of the wine into new French oak for two months).  This was probably the best Sauvignon Blanc I tried the whole trip.  The nose had just a slight whiff of vanilla amongst the grassy lemonade aromas and the palate kept some nice bite from the retained acidity along with melon, lemon, vanilla and grapefruit (****).  Interesting Wine:  I must also mention the 2008 “Cowpoke” Pinot Noir ($12.00), the grapes for this wine are grown some 1800 feet above sea level and 2008 was the year of the Basin fires, the smoke cloud passed over the vineyard during veraison (where the grapes start to change colour), the grapes and subsequent wine took on that really smoky character to a point that is really all you can taste and smell in this wine, great for bbq.  This unique wine defies a score.

That should have concluded my winery tasting in California, but little did I know my days of tasting in California were far from over.

Next up: A Taste of Monterey, wine store and tasting bar.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Report from … Tasting in Carmel, California (part 1) - September 16, 2011

It started out like “one-of-those-days” but ended much better.  We set our sights on the wineries around the tasting rooms of Carmel and in the Carmel Valley, so we drove into Carmel-by-the-Sea, home to at least five winery tasting rooms.  Unlike back home where the winery’s store has to be attached to their actual winery, here you can have a completely separate store off your property and over the mountains, if you wish.  The rooms recommended by the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association were Galante, Caracciolo Cellars, Figge Cellars and Cima Collina , and the fifth was Wrath, which had just opened last month.  Here’s where the one-of-those-days comes into play: each tasting room did not open till about 1 or 2 in afternoon, we were strolling Carmel at 10am … and Wrath is in a crazy open mall, and I was positive the map had them on the third floor (not the first where I eventually found them later in the day … more on that later).  So with frustration we climbed back into the car and pointed the GSP to an address I had been given: 8940 Carmel Valley Road – Chateau Julien.
Upon entry Chateau Julien

Bottle of Sangiovese
The Chateau was started 30 years ago, with a total acreage of 16, of which 5.5 are planted, with now, 19- year-old Sangiovese vines.  Merlot is their flagship wine, which parallels the St. Julien region of France, which they patterned the winery after.  They were proud to tell me that they were the second winery in the Carmel Valley.  I found them to be a winery that has the winery experience down to a tee, but the wines were lacking … at least the wines that were on for tasting today.  Each day they select 5-7 wines for the public to taste and that is what you can choose from, or you can do all of them.  We went through the line from Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, skipping the sweeties so early in the morning – though it was by now 11.  The two wines that did stand out were their 2008 Estate Sangiovese ($25.00) which had a pretty cherry nose along with sour cherry and good acidity on the palate, this was quite the food friendly offering (*** ½+).  They also had a delicious 2007 La Conviviance ($55.00) red blend.  La Conviviance loosely translates to “living the good life” and it is a blend of Merlot (52.4%), Malbec (39.2%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (8.4%), chocolate-black cherry on the nose that translated in the mouth to chocolate and blackberry, nice weight and some good balancing acidity (****) – which seemed to be the trademark of this winery … good acidity, even in the wines we were not partial to (because they seemed to have too much of the good stuff).  The owners’ son has started his own label PoiZ, which looks modern and fun, but alas we were not able to try his wines.
Entrance to Joullian

Delicious Chardonnay
Moving on down the road (about 16km) we came upon Carmel Valley Village, now this is the hub on your way down to Arroyo Seco… restaurants, shops and lots of winery tasting room, all within a mile – we would have done more walking here if we had had the time, because when people said things were, “just down the road”, they really meant about 2 stores down.  We found Joullian Vineyard without a problem and were lucky enough to have Amy Jo as our guide, not only through the wines but of the area – she knew where everyone was, what they made and what their best stuff was, “I like to learn” she said.  Joullian is a winery established in 1982, and has the distinction, in my mind anyway, of having the first estate grown Zinfandel in the Carmel Valley, interestly enough their property is too hot to grow Chardonnay, so it is the only grape they buy from growers.  Really good wines, and the place we should have started our tasting tour at.  Best wine: 2009 Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay ($33.00), the fruit is purchased from Talbott (our next stop); this wine was really nice on the buttery side but with a sweet kinda smoothness on the palate that had hints of vanilla and sweet fruit … and it’s hallmark was it deliciously long finish. (**** ½).  Most interesting wine: The Retro Rouge, a non-vintage blend that makes use of every grape grown on the property in a field blend, 10 in total including some black muscat and “alicane bouschet”.
Wines Scored – (in Order of Tasting):
Joullian 2008 Monterey Chardonnay ($23.00) – *** ½+
Joullian 2009 Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay ($33.00) - **** ½
Joullian 2007 Sias Cuvee Zinfandel ($26.00) - ****+
Joullian 207 Reserve Cabernet Franc ($35.00) - ****

Talbot Tasting room
The original Sleepy Hollow
From Joullian we went down the road about 200 yards to the Talbott Vineyards tasting room.  Talbott was established in 1982 and they are tenders of the famous Sleepy Hollow vineyard, 565 acres, planted in 1972 to mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Here we had Gabby run us through a tasting of 2 Chardonnays and 2 Pinot Noirs (her choice), although the winery makes many more, she also offered to have us taste one of the reserve wines from each bracket, there really were some spectacular wines here.  Best Chardonnay: 2009 Cuvee Carlotta Chardonnay ($52.00) a ten best barrel blend with all fruit coming from the Sleepy Hollow vineyard, only 250 cases produced and matured in all new French oak for one year; the wine is named after the grandmother of the owner – this wine is super rich, super buttery and super smooth (**** ½).  Best Pinot Noir: 2009 Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir ($40.00), the Sleepy Hollow vines are the oldest owned by the winery at 35 years, this wine is aged 12 months in 30% new oak, all French.  The nose is delicate black cherry, sour cherry with subtle spice; while the palate is juicy with sweet cherry, hints of spice and pepper, the long red fruit finish has a dusting of tannins and the fruit that lingers gives a lovely strawberry sensation on the tongue. (**** ½+)
Wines Scored – (in Order of Tasting):
Talbott 2009 Logan Chardonnay ($22.50) - *** ½
Talbott 2009 Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay ($40.00) - ****+
Talbott 2009 Cuvee Carlotta Chardonnay ($52.00) - **** ½
Talbott 2009 Logan Pinot Noir ($25.00) - ****
Talbott 2009 Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir ($40.00) - **** ½+
Talbott 2009 RFT Pinot Noir ($75.00) - ****+
Talbott 2009 Cuvee Sarah Pinot Noir ($75.00) - ****+

Sign of the Chock Rock

Chalone Syrah
We’ll end this part of the Carmel tour report with a quick trip over Chock Rock Vineyard before we had lunch.  Chock Rock is the project of winemaker Dan Karlsen, winemaker for Talbott (see above), here he specializes in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah … having just poured over a lot of his Chard and Pinot work I wanted to see how he was doing with Syrah.  Dan has an interesting wine philosophy that is written on his back label: “Wine Makers don’t make anything of interest – They just keep it from rolling downhill”.  We were served, in the tasting room, by his wife Kathleen (and partner in winery crime) who poured for us the two Syrahs on offer: the 2007 Arroyo Seco and the 2006 Chalone, both a very reasonable $18.00.  The Arroyo Seco is full of sweet raspberry and plum fruit on the nose, almost port-like in intensity of aroma and flavour, rich, ripe and slightly peppery (*** ½).  The Chalone was the more toned down of the two showing off some real finesse to Syrah making.  Earthy, smoked meat, pepper, strawberry, smoky and cherry (especially on the nose); a nice medium length finish that offered up sweet peppery notes … very classic Syrah qualities (****+).

This ends the first part of our tour, we then had lunch at a place called Will’s Fargo for a burger the size of my head … okay, maybe not that big, but it sure was filling and got us through the rest of the afternoon.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Report from ... California Winery Tour: Wente & Kunde - September 14, 2011

The day started on the bus with a trip to Wente Vineyards in Livermore (south east of San Francisco) … they told us it was a “Napa Wine Tour”, but as it turns out we only traveled through Napa on our way to our second winery in Sonoma, more on that in a moment.

Wente is a 128-year-old family owned (now in its 5th generation) winery with vineyards in both Livermore (2000 acres) and further south in Monterey (1000 acres) … the estate houses a restaurant, a “grill and golf course” (the course was designed by Greg Norman) and caves that date back to the late 1800’s.  They produce about 350,000 cases of wine per year, which, believe it or not, puts them in the California ranking somewhere between 25 to 27 (depending on the year) in production volume – and according to our guide Larry, is precisely where they plan to stay.

We were started off with a Louis Mel 2010 Sauvignon Blanc ($11.99), a melon and grassy nose led to lemon and grass on the palate with a hint of grapefruit … I would say this was a very good starter for the day (*** ½).  We then wondered through to the caves where we were treated to four more wines, but not before we walked by the concert venue where they were setting up for Diana Ross as the last performance of their 25th anniversary year, we had missed Kenny Loggins, who had appeared the night before.

Caves from the late 1800's - minus the chairs of course
Our first wine underground was the Riva Ranch 2009 Chardonnay ($19.99), very typically Californian in style with its buttery, caramel, almond and vanilla nose leading to a creamy palate full of caramel apple with a vanilla finish … of course butter ran its way through the palate too (****).

With the whites under our collective belts they pulled out a small production Nth Degree wine.  These are considered the best of the best of the wines made at Wente and the 2009 Nth Pinot Noir ($55.00) was no exception to the rule.  A nose of black cherry, sweet cranberry and vanilla was the preamble to a juicy black cherry palate with subtle cranberry, nice spice and good acidity.  15 months in all new oak with 15% being American – which is probably where that vanilla came from.  Only 400 cases of this wine were produced (****+).

Star of the Wente tasting
We were then treated to a double shot of Cabernet, the Charles Wetmore 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.99) with its blackberry, black cherry, cassis, plum, vanilla and cinnamon nose followed by a lot of black fruit, cinnamon and vanilla through the mouth and ending with some black raspberry and smoked cherry on the finish.  Wood treatment was 40% second fill and 60% new oak (****+).  But the star of the cave-show was the 2007 Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon ($49.99) … the small lot is a handmade wine, from picking to the double sorting, and it can be made from single rows of grapes from specific blocks of a single vineyard, it equals only about 10% of Wente’s production and of the few Small Lot wines they make the case production is only between 100 to a maximum of 400 cases per.  This Cab really shone with a nose of chocolate, black cherry, plum and spiced vanilla … as it opened in the glass it kept giving off more and more aromas.  The palate was full of rich dark fruit like black raspberry and cinnamon spiced plum, but also with hints of cocoa and some mineral notes, the acidity also made it seem like a great wine to pair some food with … steak or time would have been what this wine needed to make it complete … steak right now, or time to sit in the cellar (**** ½).

Then it was back to the tasting room before lunch to see what other goodies were possible to try:
- Small Lot 2010 Viognier ($21.99) with lovely tropical notes along with some floral and hints of spice. (*** ½+)
- Small Lot 2009 Grenache ($34.99) big raspberry aromas that followed onto the palate, smooth and silky with strawberry tartness on the finish. (*** ½)
- Small Lot 2008 Petite Sirah ($3499) showed some plum and raspberry on the nose, but the palate showed so much more: spice at the front before moving into dark raspberry and chocolate, then finishes with white pepper. (****+)
- Sonata 2009 ($44.99) a blend of 55% Cabernet and 45% Syrah.  White pepper, spiced cherry, plum and raspberry notes kick off in the nose, then gives way to a supple palate with juicy plum, cherry and a white pepper finish. (****+)
Wente: Lunch overlooking the golf course

From there it was time to leave the tasting room and hit the grill for lunch … the grill looks over the golf course and on such a fine sunny day the view of the course and the surrounding hills was spectacular.  Lunch consisted of a Reuben sandwich on multi-grain bread, decent, but the view was what really made it delicious.

We left Wente behind and took the hour-plus bus ride to Sonoma, passing many well-known vineyards along the way including Concannon, Cline and Valley of the Moon.  Being a huge Zinfandel fan I salivated at the marker pointing the direction to Ravenswood, but I am sure I would have been out-voted to go, but we were expected at Kunde, and we were late.

Our arrival at Kunde (established in 1904) was greeted with three lack-luster wines: a Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay and a Gewurztraminer; the hot Sonoma Valley is not conducive to making delicate whites like the Sauv Blanc and the Gewurzt, while the 2009 Chardonnay was typical Cali-Chard with the standard butter and vanilla, the interesting part was the pineapple-vanilla palate (*** ½)

I was wondering if we were going to get to try any of the good stuff as we waited around for the vans to take us up to a mountain-top tasting.  On the way up we learned a bit about the property:  at 1850 acres it is the largest piece of continuous property in the Sonoma Valley, they grow some 20 different varieties of grapes in 5 different micro-climates. They, like Wente, have caves, about 32,00 square feet of them and within those caves there are more than a kilometer of paths.  Their oldest vines are 130 years old and the grapes are put into their Century Vines Zinfandel.  The movie “Bottle Shock” was filmed entirely on their property (at least all the scenes that involved vineyard settings) … we snaked up the mountainside and came to rest at an elevation of about 1400 feet up for a tasting of 4 wines.  The last two were Cabernet Sauvignon – and they were good, but the Zinfandels we started with stole the show, in my opinion they should have led with the Cab and finished with the Zin for the biggest umph … and one in particular, the Century Vine, is a show stopper.

Star of the Kunde tasting
130 year old Zin vine
The 2007 Estate Zinfandel ($18.00) was full of plum and vanilla on the nose with spicy plum and raspberry on the palate … pretty standard fare for a Zinfandel (*** ½) … the 2007 Reserve Century Vines Zinfandel ($30.00) blew me and all the other tasters in my party away.  It was like a night and day comparison of Zins.  The aromas were like a punch in the nose waking you up and making you shake your head to clear your nasal passages and try again, but then it hit again: cherry cola, dark plum, and vanilla: rich, dark and inviting.  The palate was even more so with its rich cherry, vanilla, chocolate, robust plum, and raspberry puree; as it sat in the glass it just got better and better, smoother and smoother, and even more inviting … after the Cabs I had another glass, and it is the wine in my glass throughout the pictures were took, might as well stick with the best to look your best.  An absolutely superb wine (**** ½) to go with the stunning view of the landscape.  We came down out of the mountain stopping to take a picture of the star vines and their gnarly trunks … someone said the big guy looked like Willem Dafoe, I did not see the resemblance, but to each his own.
Kunde: Stunning view from Mountain Top tasting
After that it was hard to think a wine could top it … and in truth there wasn’t, but there were two wines that did stick in my mind and I bought one of them.  The 2007 Syrah ($18.00) was just as juicy as all get out, not your typical Syrah, but one you could sit, sip and enjoy (*** ½).  Then there is the one I bought, it was quite the unique blend of red grapes: the 2008 Red Dirt Red ($28.00) … when described to me the red dirt wine seemed almost like a haphazard field blend made up of 30% each of Syrah, Barbera and Zinfandel thrust together with 10% Sangiovese.  If you think about it that’s one part French, two parts Italian and one part American – a true American Melting Pot.  But the flavours were just so right with a sweetness yet subtle spice on the nose and just the right amount of juicy and spicy on the palate to make it irresistible (****+).  You just have to take a bottle like that home … and I did.

On Friday it’s off to Carmel to see what the wineries of Monterey have to offer:  See Part 1 here

Friday, September 2, 2011

Report from ... Argentina Tasting - July 21, 2011

On what very well could have been the hottest day of the year, with the humidex hitting a close-to record of 47C, the Argentineans staged a tasting of their big, bold wines from their piece of the world.  While they might be used to these high temps, we cool climate Canadians were a little taken aback (and sweaty) ... I joked with the folks at Q-Water (the official water supplier of the event) that they just might be the most popular booth in the building - and by the time I was ready to leave, they were my favourite ... I had more to drink there then at the 20+ producer booths that were in attendance.

Over 50 wines from 20+ producers were poured, sipped and for the most part, savoured (before spitting) and below my list of some of the highlights ... most of these wines are either already in, or are coming soon, to the Ontario market:

Bodegas Catena Zapata ...
- Catena Malbec 2008 ($19.95 - #478727) ... a real beauty for Malbec fans and newbies alike: dark fruit, pepper, raspberry jam, yet with some nice delicacy. (****+)
- Tilia Torrontes 2010 ($12.95 - #186403) - *** 1/2
- Tilia Malbec 2009 ($12.95 - #160945) - *** 1/2

Bodega Luigi Bosca ...
- Reserva Malbec 2008 ($17.95 - #79293) ... good fruit with smoky vanilla notes. (*** 1/2)

Callia ...
Interesting to note this is the only San Juan Valley (average of about 4 inches of rain per year) wine on the general list
Tried two of the same wines from different years: Alta Malbec ($11.00 - #160978)
- 2010 ... great flavours with dark and spicy fruit (****)
- 2009 ... smoother then the '10 but retains the pepper with lovely raspberry fruit (****+)

Chakana ...
- Estate Selection Malbec 2009 ($19.95 - #219261) ... 18 months of oak has made this wine deep, dark, rich and fruity; possesses chocolate, white pepper and good tannins on the finish. (****+)
- Reserve Malbec 2009 ($14.95 - #18671) - *** 1/2+

Domaine Jean Bousquet ...
- Cabernet Sauvignon Organic ($11.95 - #218875) ... black fruited and smooth. (*** 1/2)

Don Cristobal ...
- Cristobal 1492 Chardonnay 2011 (~$12.95) ... peach and banana chip on the nose with plenty of pear flavours in the mouth along with other sweet fruit.  Great refresher on this hot day. (****+)
- Oak Reserve Shiraz 2008 ($13.95 - #236133) - ****+

Familia Zuccardi ...
- Serie A Chardonnay / Viognier 2010 ($14.95 - #262097) ... 75% Chardonnay that`s fruity as hell with sweet vanilla undertones, simply lovely.  In Vintages March 2012. (****)
- Q Tempranillo 2008 ($19.95 - #973503) - *** 1/2+

Finca Martha ...
- Gran Malbec 2009 ($16.95 - Consignment) ... 12 months in new French oak, vanilla and chocolate that`s smooth and creamy with big black fruit that is embedded with a touch of spice; slight hint of oxidation here, but that only adds to the character. (****+)

Finca Flichman ...
- Paiseja de Barrancas 2007 ($17.95 - #17129) ... a blend of Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet; smoky vanilla, white pepper and black raspberry; truly a mouthful (****+)
- Misterio Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($8.00 - #163949) - *** 1/2+
- Misterio Malbec 2010 ($8.20 - #28803) - *** 1/2+

Graffigna ...
- Centenano Reserva Shiraz 2008 ($12.95 - #164731) ... very fruit driven. (*** 1/2)

Humberto Canale ...
- Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($12.99 - Consignment) ... melon and quince dominate with a refreshing long finish, very approachable wine. (*** 1/2+)
- Estate Pinot Noir 2010 ($14.99 - Consignment) - *** 1/2

Kaiken ...
- Reserve Malbec 2009 ($14.95 - #58339) ... continues to be an excellent value, looking to try Malbec, this is a great place to start without breaking the bank on a bottle: spiced black cherry, strawberry and vanilla. (****+)
- Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($19.95 - #135202) - ****

Navarro Correas ...
- Alegoria Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($19.95 - #154583) ... black cherry and mint lead the charge with a chocolate finish, sippable and smooth. (****+)

RJ Vinedos ...
- Joffre E. Hijas Grand Chardonnay 2009 (~$16.95) ... gentle fruit for easy drinking enjoyablilty; hints of pear make it quite pleasurable. (*** 1/2+)

Trapiche ...
- Broquel Malbec 2008 ($14.95 - #234385) ... this one`s BBQ ready with its black cherry and chocolate interlaced with spice, smooth and lush. (****+)

Trivento ...
- Amado Sur Malbec 2009 ($15.00 - #37036) ... a blend of Malbec, Bonarda and Syrah, this is just a beautifully supple red bledn with a little bite on the tongue. In Vintages January 2012. (****+)

Valle de la Puerta ...
- La Puerta Alta Bonarda 2009 ($14.95 - #261990) ... lovely red fruit with a hint of spice and good acidity; get to know the Bonarda grape and you`ll learn to love it, and this is a good place to start. (****+)
- La Puerta Torrontes 2010 ($8.95 - #197970) - *** 1/2

Report from ... New Wines of Greece in Toronto - May 10, 2011

New Wines of Greece has stolen a little of Canada's mojo (see above).  Here's what I mean:  first, their new logo looks like a melting CBC logo (must be all that Mediterranean heat); second, their new slogan is "Yours to Discover" - now where have I heard that before?  That's right, I see it on the back of almost every Ontario car I drive behind on the 401 - and Lord knows I'm close enough to read them quite clearly in all that bumper-to-bumper traffic.

But I'm not here to tell you about the state of the roads in Ontario, what I want to get you familiar with are the wines and grapes of Greece - and the Greeks went on a road trip of their own to promote just that.

The day started with a Greek wine seminar to familiarize us with this historic winemaking country and facts like: there are over 300 indigenous grape varieties in Greece, and it is the 3rd most mountainous country in Europe.  But it wasn't for these factoids that I was in attendance, nor was it the pictures of vineyards, the coastline or the wonderful food (though all had me wishing for a few more shekels in my pocket so that I could hop the next plane out); it was for the wine.

Seminar Wines ...
Ten wines were poured, all made from grapes you may never have heard of, like Roditis, Malagousia, Avgoustiatis, Krassato and Aedani.  All the wines were of interest but here were my top 5 selections:

Oenoforos Asprolith 2010 (Wine: white; Grape: Roditis) - grape is planted throughout central Greece.  Very pretty nose, almost creamy in the mouth, soft, easy and delicate with a nice finish. (*** 1/2)

Biblia Chora Areti 2009 (Wine: white; Grape: Assyrtiko) - this is a grape that has the ability to make fresh whites even in this hot climate.  Soapy aromas yet with nice fresh flavours and decent minerality (a la soapstone), to say the wine is clean is as much a pun as it is true. (*** 1/2)

Alpha Estate Axia 2010 (Wine: white; Grape: Malagousia) - grape was rediscovered in the 70's and grows in central Macedonia, it was on the verge of extinction.  Aromatics are outstanding here, they really jump out of the glass: floral, grapefruit, tangerine and spice which all follow into the mouth and linger. (*** 1/2+)

Tsantali Rapsani Reserve 2007 (Wine: red; Grapes: Xinomavro, Krassato, Stavroto) - Xino is northern grown and is considered to be rough with tannins; the other two grapes add roundness and softness to the more aggressive Xino.  Olive and tea aromas with woody and tea-like tannins, there's also an aggressive array of spices - the wine should evolve nicely with time. (*** 1/2)

Parparoussis Taos 2005 (Wine: red; Grape: Mavrodaphne) - usually made as a sweet wine but this shows what Mavro can do dry.  Aromas are slightly medicinal with herbal, bay leaf and wintergreen mint.  Palate is a tad chalky with herbal, tea leaf and floral nuances.  Very intriguing wine. (*** 1/2+)

Other Wines ...
Quite an array of wines from approximately 36 producers pouring an average of 3 wines each (~108 wines).  My selections below all scored three-and-a-half stars and above - some are available in the Ontario market through their agent (I'll remark on any LCBO connection where possible) - for the rest of you, in a non-communist-style wine selling area of the world, search out some of these wonderful wines, they will not disappoint.

Alpha Estates (one of the most interesting and consistent wine producers I tried today)
- 2007 Estate Red ($29.95 - Nov. 12, 2011 at Vintages) - ****
- 2007 Xinomavro Reserve Old Vines - *** 1/2+
- Xinomavro Single Vineyard "Hedgehog" ($18.95 - Fall 2011 Release at Vintages) - plumy red fruit, a real winner for the priced ... ****+

Antonopoulos 2005 Private Collection (red) - quite juicy - *** 1/2

Boutari 2004 Naoussa Grande Reserve (red) - *** 1/2+

Cavino 2004 Nemea Grande Reserve (red) - dark fruit and spice, really quaffable - ****+

Gaia Wines (another winery showing really good consistency)
- 2009 Agiorgitiko (red) - *** 1/2
- 2006 Estate (red) - *** 1/2+

Domaine Gerovassilou 2009 Viognier (white) - not an often seen grape in Greece, but a really good version that is just so ... yum. ****

Kourtaki NV Mavrodaphne of Patras (sweet red) - I've liked this wine since I tried it several years ago, great after dinner bevvie and an alternative to Port, though somewhat lighter. *** 1/2+

Katogi 2005 Xinomavro (red) ... *** 1/2

Kir Yianni (we have seen their wines in the market before and they are worth picking up)
- 2007 Diaporos (red) - nice dark berry, spice and peppered notes ... ****+
- 2008 Ramnista (red) ... ****

Nico Lazaridi 2006 Magic Mountain (red) - made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, as much as I could get that blend anywhere this one had something worth exploring though still needs time to evolve ... *** 1/2+

Papaiannou Estate 2003 Microclima (red) ... *** 1/2

Pavlidis Estate 2008 Thema Red (red) - very jammy ... *** 1/2+

Skouras 2008 St. George (red) - quite fruit driven ... *** 1/2

As you can see there is plenty of choice and lots of good wines (mostly red) coming from Greece ... next time you're feeling like something new on the table head to the Greek section and grab a bottle - don't be afraid of the amateurish label or daunting grape names - what's in the bottle is what counts.