Comments on my notes

(13 comments on 10 notes)

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Red
2009 Glenelly Estate Grand Vin Stellenbosch Red Blend
11/15/2015 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
91 points
As much as a blend of French varietals, this is a blend of two distinct French styles -- elegant, Cab-based Bordeaux meeting rustic, Syrah-based Midi -- and in that blend it achieves remarkable balance and complexity. Cassis, blackberry, raspberry, tobacco, graphite, smoke, black pepper, roast meat... the aromatic and flavour notes are many, and each sip brings new rewards, supported by impressive structure and enlivening acidity, the intensity building throughout. Depth and length are impressive too, with loads of potential development even six years on. This walks a fine line, to be sure, a tightrope blend that could easily fall apart, but instead it all holds together, far surpassing even the impressive sum of its parts.
  • mjwstickings commented:

    10/12/19, 2:00 PM - Thank you. That's very kind of you to say. It is indeed an excellent wine.

Red
2014 Château Recougne Bordeaux Supérieur Red Bordeaux Blend
3/8/2018 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
87 points
Aromas of plum, raspberry, cherry, smoke, green pepper, brown spice, and minerals drive this nice, value-oriented ($16 in Ontario) blend of 90% Merlot, 2% Carménère, and 8% Cabernet Franc from the generic Bordeaux Supérieur appellation, specifically a right-bank expression in this case, from a producer located directly north of Libourne. As with so much inexpensive Bordeaux, the flavours don't live up to the aromas, but there's still decent red fruit and various earthy, spicy notes on the palate (including a licorice-tarragon herbal quality), with just enough uplifting acidity and grounding tannins to maintain structure. It doesn't really hold up, thinning and drying out through the second day, with more and more acidity taking over -- perhaps a couple of years could help, though it doesn't seem to have a ton of substance behind what's already at the fore. In any event, it's unabashedly, and refreshingly, old-fashioned, a savoury match for everyday cuisine, the sort of wine you imagine flowing freely at every Bordeaux table.
  • mjwstickings commented:

    2/21/19, 12:10 PM - The LCBO here in Ontario identified this blend of brakes, including 2% Carmenere. That may be wrong, but Carmenere is originally a Bordeaux varietal, though it's not widely planted anymore. Apparently it was once grown quite significantly in the Medoc and some winemakers are trying to bring it back.

    Interestingly, I'm finding different reports of what's in the 2015. Jeb Dunnuck says Merlot plus 8% Cab Sauv and 7% Cab Franc, but a website called Vintus says it's 80-10-10.

Red
2014 Rui Roboredo Madeira Beyra Beira Interior Red Blend
1/27/2017 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
87 points
A blend of Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and Jaen (Mencía) aged 12 months in stainless-steel vats, from high-altitude Beira Interior (vineyards averaging ~700 m), this presents aromas of blackberry, grape, crushed rock, and leather within a nebula of smokiness, leading to a fruity combination of dark berries and tart cherry on the palate, with a sweaty, animalistic quality adding complexity in a way that's better than it sounds. It's lean, rough, and discombobulated, and there isn't all that much depth or length, but the star here turns out to be the saltiness at the end of each sip, straight from the soil, riding a streak of electric acidity, building off the mineral aromatics. This isn't "entry-level," some lesser version of the Reserva, but rather a different expression of the blend altogether, a purer version without the oaky coating, muddled but unadorned, even if it lacks the Reserva's weight and complex richness (due in large part to the oak aging). Like the Reserva, though, it's a super value (just $13 in Ontario) from a winemaker, Rui Madeira, who cares deeply about his terroir, and that very much comes through here. (It's an 87-88 for me, a notch below the Reserva.)
  • mjwstickings commented:

    2/7/17, 11:38 AM - Thank you. I appreciate that.

White - Fortified
N.V. Alvear Pedro Ximénez Montilla-Moriles Solera 1927
12/24/2016 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
94 points
This must surely be one of the world's greatest drinks. It is certainly one of the greatest things I have ever tasted. From the Montilla-Moriles DO in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, inland and northeast of famed Spanish sherry-producing region Jerez (and east of Sevilla), this 100% Pedro Ximénez from Alvear offers utterly incredible concentration and intensity, perhaps not surprising given that it's made from a Solera system that dates back to 1927 -- so there are traces of extremely old product in this sherry. And the aromas and flavours are deep and rich, with notes of raisin, prune, dried fig, roasted nuts, baking spices, molasses, buckwheat honey, vanilla, and butterscotch, with faint minerality and oodles of underlying umami character, notably reduced soy sauce / tamari and aged balsamic vinegar. The unctuous texture turns to honey as it warms in the mouth, then it just melts and oozes down. Of course it's very sweet and syrupy, as such a PX must be, but just when it might start cloying a burst of acidity rushes in for balance and refreshment, even if it never loses its richness, like pomegranate molasses. What else is there to say? The length is utterly exceptional -- it seems to go on and on, forever. It's all truly stunning, and such a glorious pleasure to experience, this transformation of grapes in south-central Spain into a luxury of sensuousness and contemplation. (This is also where scores seem to mean little. I would say it's in the 93-94 range, but really it's in a broader 93-97 range. It's not perfect, and nothing is, but it's up there.)
  • mjwstickings commented:

    1/18/17, 7:09 AM - That's a good question. I feel pretty comfortable reviewing things roughly in the 83-93 range, and I have a good sense of what each number within that range means for me (may be different for others, of course). But I'll admit, I don't have enough experience with wines above that range. I haven't tasted enough of the supposedly truly outstanding Bordeaux or Barolo or CDP or what have you. So I don't really know, for myself, the difference between, say, a 94 and a 97. This may well be up there, which is why I mention that broader range. A Robert Parker can give this a 98, which he did, because he can situate it within the truly great wines of the world, based on his vast experience (and personal taste, which of course may not be to everyone's liking). I'm just saying it's above the range I know.

  • mjwstickings commented:

    1/18/17, 8:20 AM - Actually, I don't disagree with your point about it being too much, and, as I think about it now, maybe that's why I thought of it more as a 94 than a 97 or 98. It's amazing, but it's extremely intense, sort of like a great balsamic vinegar where all you need is a drop. That may explain why Parker gave it such a high score, as he tends to like over-the-top wine.

    The great thing is that, at least here in Ontario, it's just $20 for a 375 ml bottle, so it's affordable enough to try in other ways. And having it over ice cream sounds like the way to go. I'll definitely give it a shot.

Red
2001 Baron de Ley Rioja Reserva Tempranillo
7/20/2014 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
89 points
Thirteen years old, but still a lot of life in this brilliantly well-balanced Rioja; bold aromas of olive, leather, and cedar, but also a joyful kick of red currant tang and deeper red fruits, then pleasantly rich on the palette with good, if not great, length; sophisticated without being brooding, old-fashioned with admirable modern touches.
  • mjwstickings commented:

    1/16/17, 10:17 AM - I don't remember what I served it with, but I remember being struck not just by its vivacity but by its flexibility. Like all really good / great Riojas, it stands on its own but also works with a broad range of food. It's hard to know in advance, of course, so I didn't open it to match with whatever I was eating, though one can usually expect Riojas of that age and quality to be mostly savoury. And given its age, I don't think you need to have this one with salty protein, as the tannins were pretty soft. Just off the top of my head, I'd suggest chicken with a robust tomato sauce, but it could just as easily work with polenta or richer vegetarian dishes. The savoury elements complement pretty much anything, while the acidity provides effective balance.

White
2015 Domaine du Tariquet Côtes de Gascogne Classic White Blend
8/27/2016 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
It's hard to find a better value than this, a lovely, refreshing, complex, food-friendly white for less than $15 (in Canada). It's from the rarely seen Cotes de Gascogne, and it's a blend of Sauvignon Blanc with two lesser known (if regionally distinct) varietals, Ugni Blanc and Colombard, and that must explain the value, but good is good. And this is, with SB aromas of passion fruit, guava, and freshly cut grass complemented by pear, nectarine, lemon, and white pepper, nicely replayed on the palate (until, with time, the fruit recedes and is replaced by an overriding nuttiness). With some substantial spritziness and plenty of acidic tartness, it's certainly palate-cleansing, yet it also has a lush mouthfeel, suggesting depth, and there's nice length with a bit of bitterness lurking on the dry finish. This isn't anything profound, to be sure, and it needs to be drunk well-chilled and right away, but it's proof that there's not just great value but also immense quality well off the beaten track.
  • mjwstickings commented:

    11/13/16, 6:17 PM - Sounds great. It's really nice value, and I was certainly impressed overall. Interesting blend of grapes, making for a very easygoing and refreshing but also admirably complex white. And I really like going of the beaten path -- it's not like Gascogne is a world-renowned region for wine.

  • mjwstickings commented:

    11/14/16, 1:04 PM - And as far as whites go, perhaps the ultimate case in point for me are the wines made from local grapes in Campania, Italy. Superb values, because they just don't have international commercial appeal -- i.e., because they're not Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay.

  • mjwstickings commented:

    11/15/16, 7:25 AM - Sure. I'd look for Terredora di Paolo, Donnachiara, or Mastroberardino. They're three of the leading lights in Campania and focus on ancient indigenous varietals like Falanghina, Greco (di Tufo), and Fiano. Prices range, but there's really good stuff in the $20 range (Canadian), so you can start around there. (I haven't had any of the more expensive wines from the region, so I'm not sure if there's a significant quality difference at two or three times the price.) I just love how uncommercial these are. They're throwbacks to an earlier time, before popular whites had to be so oaky and fruity. Needless to say, they go really well with seafood. They're no aromatically strong, but I like the energy, the sharp acids, the citrus, the off-setting savoury, nutty notes. Well worth a detour.

Red
2013 Espelt Garnacha Empordà Old Vines
8/22/2015 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
90 points
You don't see many wines from Empordà in Ontario, but this fabulous old vines Garnacha seems to be very much a product of its Catalonian terroir in northeastern Spain, at the very northeastern tip of the country south of the French border, a union of French Grenache and Spanish Garnacha, the region's moderating Mediterranean climate helping it achieve balance and complexity that are simply astounding at this price ($15). It opens with olives, capers, and brine, adding a sense of herbs growing out of rocks, all quite meaty and minerally. But then the soft Garnacha fruit appears, darker at first, blueberries, plums, and ripe cherries, then lighter and sweeter, raspberry and strawberry, with licorice, cranberry, vanilla, and pepper as well. The flavours are bold, but there isn't the thick soupiness and cloying sweetness you often find in overdone Spanish Garnacha, and the length is excellent. Just a fantastic single-varietal expression, and even better given the value.
  • mjwstickings commented:

    11/14/16, 9:56 AM - Thank you, MPI.

Red
2013 Niepoort Dão Rótulo Red Blend
10/29/2016 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
It's always nice when you find a more value-oriented wine from a famed producer whose wines are generally rather expensive, and this is certainly that, a high-value ($19 in Ontario) blend of three indigenous Portuguese varietals (Touriga Nacional, Jaen, and Alfrocheiro) from Niepoort, most famous for its ports and Douro wines (Niepoort, led by Dirk, is one of the so-called "Douro Boys," a group of five wineries that has sought to elevate dry Douro wine to the level of the more reputed ports of the region). The Rótulo is from Dão, reflecting Niepoort's expansion to other regions in Portugal, and the 2013 is just the second vintage. And while it's not great wine, to be sure, it nonetheless offers a marriage of the rustic and the elegant that points to the loftier possibilities of dry Portuguese wine, with well-integrated notes of blackberry, raspberry, dark cherry, black pepper, pomegranate, earth / forest floor, crushed-rock minerality, and balsamic vinegar (and there is a slight acetic note that detracts from the aromatic complexity). It's also surprisingly juicy at first but then thins out on the palate and turns somewhat severe, driven by ample acidity and a dry, mildly tannic finish, both of which suggest a need for additional aging (it was aged for 22 months in cement vats and so has no distracting oak). Solidly in the 88-89 range, this is certainly great value but also fine quality in its own right.
  • mjwstickings commented:

    11/13/16, 6:08 PM - Thanks. And yes, absolutely, I'd buy it again. There's just such great value in Portugal, and this really shows complexity and elegance well above the norm. It may be "entry-level" Niepoort, but that makes it all the more appealing.

Red
2013 Viña Falernia Syrah Reserva Elqui Valley
9/5/2016 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
From Elqui Valley in northern Chile's Coquimbo region, a valley in the south of the Atacama Desert with high temperatures and low rainfall but benefitting from moderating winds from the Pacific, this reserve Syrah from Viña Falernia, which states that it is the country's "nothernmost winery estate," offers two complementary layers. The first is the lean, rustic, savoury Syrah one finds in southern France, with characteristic meaty (roasted and smoked), earthy, and black peppery notes. The second is the softer, more pillowy, more outwardly fruity Syrah one finds elsewhere in Chile, with blackberry, blueberry, and dark cherry notes. And these work well in harmony, along with electric acidity that cuts through the density and richness and that seems to reflect the intensity of this remote region. It's rough, to be sure, but it's also great value (less than $16 in Ontario), and very much an intriguing expression of Chilean Syrah from one of the country's more extreme regions.
  • mjwstickings commented:

    9/8/16, 12:31 PM - This was my first wine from Elqui, but I'll definitely look for more. I'm a big fan of Chilean Syrah, but I especially liked the balance here. Maybe not as elegant as those from, say, Casablanca, but more, well, out there. And I do like northern Chilean wines generally, especially the whites from Limari.

Red
2010 Bodegas Piqueras Almansa Castillo de Almansa Selección Red Blend
9/2/2016 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
I have long been a fan of the Castillo de Almansa range from Bodegas Piqueras. Year after year, the Reserva is a great value, a deep, rich, complex wine that shows just what this lesser-known appellation can offer. And the old vines "Selección," a blend of Monastrell, Tempranillo, Garnacha Tintorera, and Syrah, is better still. There's plenty of oak, to be sure, but it isn't overused, and the vanilla and brown spice notes (from 12-15 months in French oak) mingle nicely with the blackberry, raspberry, and prune, as well as the additionally savoury black pepper and earth, all wrapped up in a smoky frame. There's certainly some sweetness to it, floating along the satisfyingly rich and luxurious texture, but even at this point in its maturity, where it's drinking so well, there's impressive acidity counter-balancing it (and hence some additional aging potential). For all that, it's still quite rustic, befitting Almansa, and it's both too rough and too meaty/bretty (perhaps from the Syrah), but it's both complex and concentrated, while avoiding the pitfalls of excessive extraction and aging, and the value ($17 in Ontario) is exceptional. Very nicely done.
  • mjwstickings commented:

    9/7/16, 6:56 PM - Thank you. I appreciate that. Yes, definitely worth checking out for bold, rustic, complex Spanish reds at great prices.

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