Tasting Notes for mjwstickings

(697 notes on 676 wines)

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Red
4/15/2022 - mjwstickings wrote:
85 points
Is this a table wine or a port wine? That is, is it a "normal" dinner / food wine or a dessert / after-dinner wine? Well, it's both, sort of, and yet neither. Whatever the case, it's a ridiculous, over-the-top wine that is way too much to be a suitable table wine yet not nearly rich and deep enough to be a serious port. A blend of mostly Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Zinfandel, it brings an ABV of 15.5%, part of the ridiculousness, dominant notes of baking spice (clove, cinnamon), sweet dried fruit (raisin, date, prune), and oak-derived vanilla caramel, and a soft, jammy texture with almost no tannic structure (except for a somewhat dusty finish) and acidity. There are also background dark berry fruit notes, but the fruit just seems overly ripe, sweet, and over-cooked. Wines like this are often described as "sexy," even "hedonistic," but I find such descriptors as ridiculous (and stupid) as the wines, as if it's somehow sexy to be a puddle of goo. Plus, there's absolutely no sense of place here -- no terroir. It could be from anywhere, even if the "style" is certainly Californian, in a bad way. Okay, if I'm being generous, this is fine for what it is, if you like this sort of thing. I'd much rather have a wine that has a sense of balance and expresses terroir, especially for the price (a stupid and ridiculous $28 in Ontario), or a real dessert wine. This, again, is neither. 85-86.
White
4/9/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
90 points
This may not be quite at the level of Margreid's "Punggl," which may the best Pinot Grigio I've ever tasted, but it's wonderful nonetheless (and a superb value at $20 in Ontario, compared to $32 for the Punggl, which, to be fair, is also superb value). Showing white flowers immediately on the nose, it's a complex white with aromas of lemon, nuts, white pepper, herbs and Asian spice (especially ginger), all nicely replayed on the palate, where peach, apricot, apple, and pear add to the fruit mix and the texture becomes almost creamy, a certain fruity fleshiness combining with the zesty, acidic citrus, and it really does seem like sweet-sour fruit bathed in, and almost baked with, a balanced array of spicy, savoury flavours. Pinot Grigio doesn't exactly have a great reputation as a varietal for serious wines, as so many are crisp, light, and simply forgettable, but Margreid once again proves otherwise.
Red
4/8/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
91 points
I first tasted this exceptional wine -- a blend of 42% Shiraz, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot -- in November 2015. Back then, it was a 91, "a tightrope 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," "supported by impressive structure and enlivening acidity, the intensity building throughout," with impressive depth and length." Seven years later, it's still fantastic. (And still an amazing value at just $20 in Ontario.) The structure is softer but still holding up nicely, while the aromas and flavours have shifted towards the savoury, with more prominent notes of smoked and roasted meat along with some dried and baked fruit character, though the other notes are still there, including tobacco and ripe dark berries and currants. It's still walking that tightrope, and it still has quite a few years left of its prime.
Red
4/3/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
At 10 years of age, this old vines Garnacha is right about at its peak. It's not terribly complex, but the balance and integration are both excellent, the structure holding up with fine-grained tannins that are still fairly firm and lingering acidity that cuts through the ripe fruit, plus a solid core of minerality that, along with some pepper spice and herbal character, provides a nice savoury core and counterfoil to the dark cherry and berries. Aged for six months in American and French oak, it's seemingly both rich/deep and lightly vibrant, as well as both mature and youthful, and it probably has another 3-5 years of development left within its peak for the tannins to soften a bit more. It's a solid, serious Garnacha from Navarra, a decent value at $24 in Ontario, and just a really nice red entering its maturity. 88-89.
Red
3/29/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
89 points
Cabernet Franc is one of my favourite varietals, if not my favourite red one, and I generally really like wines from the Loire, but here's one that's just not ready yet. Not even close. Still so tight and wound up, the tannins are puckeringly firm, utterly dominating the highly astringent late palate and finish, while the acids are cuttingly sharp. Even by the third day, the acidity softening a bit, the tannins, with a certain woody character, remain unrelenting. That said, I would tend to give wines from Chinon, from a top producer, the benefit of the doubt, and I'd give this 3-5 years, and it may well be at or near its peak through the end of the decade. I say this because there's a lot to like even now, and a lot for which to be hopeful. It's authentic, to be sure, though rather powerful at 14.5% ABV. Notes of blackberry, black pepper, green pepper, herbs, earth, and graphite, along with a hint of tobacco that may develop over time, express both region and varietal in a deeply savoury way, and certainly with patience now it's possible to get a sense of what may be coming once it unwinds. It's hard to score it, but it could end up between 88 and 91, I'd say, as even if not hugely appealing now it still shows enough to warrant an 89 with significant upside if all goes well.
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Red
3/17/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
From my experience, Mastroberardino is a benchmark producer of benchmark wines in Campania, a producer of authentic expressions of both red and white local varietals. This Aglianico, the key red varietal grown in Irpinia, a region directly east of Naples and south of Sannio, is no exception. At this youthful stage, however, it clearly needs more time. Even by the second day, after significant aeration, it hasn't come together. The tannins are still quite firm and bitter (dominating the finish), the acidity still quite sharp (dominating the palate), and the combination overwhelms the rest, even though the rest suggests quality and authenticity with notes of dark berries, dried fruit / pot pourri, brown spice, earth, and minerals, all quite dense and rough but still very much in line with Aglianico. These notes are apparent on the really nice nose, along with a buttery quality, but they disperse pretty much right away on the palate. So what is it? There's a lot of potential here, clearly, but that means 88 at this point, with upside to 90, still a benchmark wine but not there yet, and with hope and assumption that such a lofty level is attainable, maybe in 2-3 years, maybe as many as five.
Red
3/6/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
89 points
I tend to recoil from wines made in the general Bordeaux appellation, as they tend to be cheap, generic, and created for the broad international market, but this blend of 80% Merlot and 10% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, made by a team that includes (as the label says, no doubt to emphasize the credibility of this "Bordeaux") the co-owner of Château Angélus (a Saint-Émilion grand cru classé), is a counterpoint to any such stereotype. To be sure, it lacks anything like sub-regional distinction. It's a solid, general Merlot-dominant red, if still, to its credit, distinctively Bordeaux -- and for $20, that's pretty good. From one of the best vintages of the century so far, it's now somewhat past its prime but still a nicely aged expression of the broader region, certainly still holding together with its soft tannins and still-puckering acidity, and it's also surprisingly juicy and round (even a bit syrupy), even if the juice is now about super-ripe, stewed, and dried fruit, a combination of dark berries, cherries, plums, raisins, and prunes. There's also some earth and general umami character, as well as mild forest floor, purple flower, and licorice / herbal notes, all of which are regionally authentic and contribute to the overall complexity. It still seems too... general/generic, but it's pretty impressive for "Bordeaux."
Red
4/18/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
87 points
Back when I reviewed the 2011, I called this wine "a bit odd," and "hardly distinct either regionally or varietally." "With all the heavy, sweet oak here, coming through in notes of caramel, vanilla, and spice, you wouldn't really think this is Tuscan wine... t's an untraditional wine from the start, a sort of inexpensive... 'Super Tuscan.' And yet it works pretty well, with notes of blackberry, blackcurrant, blueberry, and dark cherry, as well as an earthy-meaty-leathery-bretty quality, to balance the oakiness, along with enlivening acidity to counter the general heaviness." It's very much the same with the 2017, which showcases a tobacco note, has a lot of funky brett, and, with food, is fine overall.
White
2/28/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
90 points
Uruguay. Albariño. It works. It more than works. This is an excellent expression of a traditionally Spanish varietal, very much in a characteristic idiom for the varietal, from 18 miles away from the Atlantic, just the other side. It's impressively complex, minerally / salty and floral, with a range of citrus, stone, and tropical fruit including lime, orange, peach, apple, and mango, plus savoury notes including hay and pepper. Like proper Spanish Albariño, it's zesty and acidic, a refreshing complement to seafood, but with 13.5% ABV it's also full and round on the palate, showing significant body around the citrus-mineral core. It's a bit reticent overall, but the full experience comes out with time and coaxing. It's the best Uruguayan wine I've had to date, solidly in the 90-91 range, a big step up from the fairly rough reds.
White
2/27/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
87 points
As expected, this is a fine wine from a fine producer, one of Niagara's best and most consistent, a fresh, cool-climate Chardonnay with zesty lemon leading the somewhat sharp acidic way, notes of green apple, pear, and lemon-lime, touches of light honey and vanilla, some decent minerality (even a sense of saltiness), soft tannins, and a very dry finish. It seems quite basic overall, but it's quite good for what it is, which is as good of a basic, cool-climate Chardonnay as it gets.
Red
2/27/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
87 points
A superb value at about $13 in Ontario, this is a solid, approachable Merlot from the Western Cape that's decently structured but also quite soft, as one expects from more basic Merlot, showcasing red and darker berry fruit, cherry, cranberry, earth, mint, black pepper, and vague herbal and mineral notes, along with hints of brown spice, dark chocolate, caramel, and vanilla. It's a bit richer overall than one expects from the varietal, but thankfully the manipulation (e.g., from oak) seems limited, and so overall this is a fairly authentic expression of one of the more uncommon French varietals in South Africa.
Red
2/26/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
This is a nicely soft Cabernet-Merlot blend from Western Australia, including the Margaret River area, showing some but not hugely prominent Australian Cab mint-menthol character, the softness coming from well-integrated structure and ripe dark berries and cassis, along with earthy-dusty (including a touch of umami), forest floor, brown spice, and herbal notes. It seems quite simple and basic at first, but with time this complexity comes out, the savoury elements and acidity (with some tart pomegranate) not just cutting through the soft fruit but deepening and enriching the whole package. It even comes to seem as much like French Syrah as like any sort of Aussie blend, but that also speaks to the complexity and elegance here. It doesn't all hold together, the fruit giving out and a sort of earthy funk emerging, but it's still a really good wine and a superb value at just $18 in Ontario, another great find from just off the usual beaten track of Aussie wine.
Red
2/24/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
91 points
From one of the key sub-regions of the northern Rhône, and from a key Rhône producer, this is an excellent expression of pure Syrah without the funky, meaty quantities that tend to define Syrah, and GSM blends, from further south. There's lovely dark fruit here, mostly blackberry, as well as a smoky nose and a fair bit of zesty acidity on the palate, but what really stands out is the minerality, led by iodine, that forms the firm core around which the fruit swirls, accented by characteristic black pepper that builds towards the finish, along with a touch of olive brine that contributes to the acidity and adds a sense of saltiness to the minerality. And, yes, there's a hint of smoked and cured meat as well. This is pretty much what a genuine old world Syrah should be, and it seems to be right at its peak here at eight years.
Red
2/21/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
90 points
What an expression of Syrah this is, a single-varietal from Minervois that is all, or mostly at least, about the minerality derived from the lacustrine limestone (as indicated on the label) terroir. And that minerality is complex and truly excellent, crushed rock and so much else in the mix, a characteristic reflection of the broader terroir of this rough and rugged region, just like the sun-baked dark berries that linger in the background and provide a sense of fullness, and zestiness, around the mineral core. And it's also very much about the varietal, with typical Syrah notes of violet, black pepper, and local garrigue (including licorice) along with the dark berries, as well as a touch of barnyardy funk that emerges after some time in the open (and becomes too much of a distraction, swamping the freshness). Overall, this is very much what I think of when it comes to wine from Minervois, just with excess minerals, and for just $16 it's a superb value, also characteristic of great wine from the Languedoc -- in more famous French regions a wine of this quality would be two or three times the price. It's not a fruity wine, to be sure, but it's a great expression of savoury Syrah.
Red
2/19/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
91 points
Here's a suberb Shiraz (Syrah) that seems neither purely French (Rhône) nor purely Australian (Barossa) but rather seems to exist in some region between the two, that is, a different sort of Australian Shiraz altogether, one that challenges the stereotype of the overblown. The French part of it comes through in the highly expressive black pepper, herbs (garrigue), and dark berry notes, while the Australian part comes through in the ripe, fleshy, highly extracted plum and cherry, as well as in the noticeable high alcohol (14.5%) and relatively heavy use of oak (bringing notes of vanilla, caramel, and chocolate). The combination works really well, with intensity on the nose and a full, round texture on the palate. And yet, the truly distinctive element here is a dominant aroma of (really good) Scotch, vaguely smoky with notes of mild brown spice, butterscotch, and burnt orange. This is really good in the one hand but also quite distracting on the other, making this a Shiraz that is neither here nor there nor anywhere. The depth, complexity, and structure (the cherry-pomegranate acidity is too forceful initially but recedes over time) are all excellent, but the Scotchness while also excellent and characterful in and of itself, interferes with any sense of place, especially for a single-vineyard wine like this). So it's somewhere in the broad 89-92 range, with upside (2-3 more years might help).
Red
2/7/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
90 points
From the oldest winery (according to the label) in Western Australia's Great Southern region (the country's largest wine region), this is a new world Shiraz that's way more old than new, way more like a Rhône Syrah than a characteristically, stereotypically overblown Aussie Shiraz. In fact, this is yet more proof that the old stereotype doesn't match reality in the interesting world of Aussie Shiraz. It shows lovely fruit notes of red and black berries, carried along by a wave of fresh, zesty acidity, but, like characteristic Rhône Syrah, there's also an abundance of black pepper, leading the way right upon opening and providing a strong spicy character throughout, as well as ample herbal, garrigue notes, including licorice and lavender, then a touch of bitterness with mildly drying tannins on the finish. Solidly in its prime now, it's a superb value at $20 in Ontario and an excellent varietal expression, if just a bit thin and lacking depth overall. 89-90.
White
1/29/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
It should come as no surprise than a wine called "Grand Minéral" is heavily mineral, but this really good Chardonnay from Jura, hardly a common find in Ontario, is indeed just that, with minerality led by crushed rocks and a touch of slate dominating the nose and driving the flavour profile. But it's not just that. There are also aromas of lemon, white flowers, and white pepper, then both citrus and tropical (pineapple, mango) fruit on the palate, and early on, before it opens up, there's also a briny olive note reminiscent of a northeastern Spanish white or even a fino sherry, a suggestion of oxidation that provides intriguing complexity. It doesn't have a ton of depth or length, but it's still a very interesting, and certainly very enjoyable expression of the varietal. 88-89.
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Red
1/27/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
90 points
Despite being over six years old, upon opening this blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah seems dusty, stale, and off-kilter, somehow both too young and too old, pretty good but nothing special. But with time everything comes together, and it reveals itself as top-notch Vacqueyras, the sort of regionally (and sub-regionally) authentic wine that Amadieu, one of the best of the southern Rhône, does so well. It's a fairly dense and powerful red, with 14.5% ABV, led by ripe, baked, and dried fruit, mostly blackberry and cherry, and yet there's a certain freshness brought in by the acidity, which at this point, like the tannins, is nicely integrated and balanced. To this are added notes of butterscotch, vanilla, and garrigue, with minerals (iron especially) and black pepper taking hold on the palate and leading the way through the long finish. This all highlights the balanced softness that the wine has achieved (far from off-kilter it really is in its unified prime, though some excess bitterness on the finish suggests it could still use a year or two more) and reflects the careful aging process (the blend is "aged in our Gigondas cellar: one third is aged 6 months in barrels, while the rest is kept in foudres to soften the tannins," says the website) that this great producer used to allow the wine to express the terroir. And all for just $23 -- it's yet another great value from a great, if overshadowed, appellation. 90-91.
Red
1/16/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
89 points
Made from the Piedirosso grape, an ancient varietal that thrives on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, this is a dark, inky, medium-bodied red that, characteristic for the varietal, is high on acids and low on tannins, and so quite zesty and soft. I can't say I'm terribly familiar with Piedirosso, but that colour and structure, a fruity core of dark berry notes, and earthy/umami, minerally elements point to genuine authenticity here, not surprising coming from a fine Campanian producer like Terredora. On top of this, notes of tar, rose, pot pourri, and cherry provide nice complexity and are also quite reminiscent of Piedmontese Nebbiolo (this doesn't have the power of a Barolo, to be sure, but it's sort of akin to a Barbaresco), and there's also a hint of citrusy orange within the zestiness. It's such a pleasure tasting these indigenous Italian varietals, and this is another fine example.
White
1/15/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
90 points
A superb value at just $18 in Ontario, this is yet another example of one of the finest matches of varietal and location in the entire wine world. Simply put, South Africa makes exceptional Chenin Blanc wines, and this is a great value even by the standards of high-value South African wine, showing notes of apple-pear, lemon-lime, tropical fruit like pineapple, minerals, nuts, white flowers, and white pepper. It really is that complex, even as the orchard and citrus fruit leads the way. There are just so many secondary and background notes. The zesty acidity and drying tannins, the latter of which come late on the palate, suggest it may still be a year or two away from its peak, but even now it's admirably balanced, rounding into form with some aeration. It's hard to find better value than this, but, price aside, it's excellent wine.
Red
1/11/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
89 points
This is quite the earthy, dense, relatively full-bodied Gamay, as one expects from Juliénas, a cru in the north of Beaujolais. With an almost creamy texture (contrasting with the earthiness), it comes across initially like a blend of Pinot Noir and Sangiovese, with notes of cherry, raspberry, beetroot, black and brown spice, and, particularly on the palate, ferrous minerality. The fruit, while in the darker side, is quite fresh and lively, and the acidity is also a nice foil to that general earthy character. Still quite tannic, though, firm on the palate and notably dry on the finish, it's still probably about 2-3 years away from its peak, even if it's drinking well now with food, benefiting from significant aeration. A light and easy Beaujolais this is not, but that's what makes it all the more appealing.
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White - Sparkling
1/8/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
This is such a lovely crémant, a blend of Chardonnay and Aligoté (and a blend of north and south Burgundy) very much at the level of quality of Bouillot's Perle D'aurore rosé (if a slight notch below), and yet another example of how regional French bubblies are just as good as, and way better values than, top-notch Champagne. At just $20 in Ontario, it could easily compete with Champagnes at two or three times the price. To be fair, it doesn't have much in the way of depth or power. But, that said, it offers decent complexity, a nice array of fruit notes -- apple, pear, peach, lemon -- along with buttery brioche, light minerals, and a hint of white flowers, all within an elegant package of fine mousse and just enough acidity to offset the fruity sweetness, with some dryness coming through on the finish. Just an enjoyable, versatile bubbly.
White - Sparkling
2013 L'Ormarins Blanc de Blancs Elandskloof Chardonnay Blend, Chardonnay (view label images)
1/2/2022 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
91 points
When I taste a superb bubbly like this one from a famed South African producer, I'm reminded just how silly the whole "Champagne" thing is. It's not that Champagne is bad -- far from it. It's that most Champagne is bad (if not worse) value. You pay for the region, and even more for the brand on the label. You pay for prestige. And that's silly. Because you can find outstanding Champagne-style "traditional method" bubbly from other French regions (as crémant) and from other parts of the world at prices that are well below what you pay for comparable Champagne. And that includes this Blanc de Blancs Chardonnay, which at $25 in Ontario is as good as, if not better than, $75+ Champagne. And that may be a low bar. This is a delicious, complex, refined bubbly, with elegant mousse and notes of apple, pear, lemon, lime, white flowers, white pepper, biscuit, and nuts, rather restrained on the nose but bursting on the palate, showcasing balance throughout, sweet and tart with a touch of bitterness rounding out the finish. 91-92.
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Rosé - Sparkling
12/31/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
There is such great value to be found in Cava, and this Pinot sparkler is no exception at $25 in Ontario. It isn't terribly complex, to be sure, but there's really nice cherry and berry fruit leading the way (mostly raspberry for the latter, but also some strawberry), followed by light minerality, raspberry leaf, orange, and a touch of the olive brine so essential to Cava. With a dark, vibrant red colour reminiscent of raspberry juice and a pleasant mousse, it's juicy and refreshing, sweet at first but then fairly dry from the mid-palate onwards through the finish. It's very good overall but lacks depth and complexity.
White - Sparkling
12/31/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
This is obviously a very famous Champagne, and it's quite good, if not nearly as good as one should expect from a $75+ sparkler. It's fruit-forward, with heavy emphasis on orchard fruit like apples and pears, but there's also an intriguing smoky note, as well as some salty brine that enters on the mid-palate and leads to a dry finish with decent length, while the mousse is very elegant. There's also a bit of toasty character, reflected in the general smokiness, but unfortunately the sweet fruit really does dominate. There's just a lot better to be found at the price, and I find many regional crémants to be better at just a third of the price. It's the name here that sells, but the product doesn't live up to the hype.
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Rosé - Sparkling
12/25/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
89 points
Champagne may have the prestige, not to mention the high prices required to access said prestige, but for excellence at the nexus of quality and value there are the various regional crémants made by the same traditional method. And this Crémant de Bourgogne, from sparkling wine expert Louis Bouillot in Nuits-St-Georges, is just that, a superb value at just around $20 in Ontario. A blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay, aged for just 12 months, it shows a medium orange-tinted pink hue, an elegant mousse, and notes of cherry, raspberry, strawberry, orange, rose (and generally vague florality), and minerals (including Cava-like olive brine), along with light yeasty, biscuity elements. Overall, there's a nice combination of sweet and tart fruit, and there's a savoury quality that nicely keeps the sweetness in check, but there's a bit too much sour and then bitter (citrus pith) character on the palate, the latter dominating the finish. It's solidly in the 88-89 range, a worthy expression of crémant rosé.
Red
12/14/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
When I first reviewed this great value ($17 in Ontario), way back in March 2017, I was effusive in my praise, giving it a 90. "It is, truly, a wondrous thing," I wrote, "honest and unpretentious, with a dense, somewhat grainy texture, yet complex and, well, rustic in a way that defies the dichotomous rustic-or-elegant stereotyping." Now on the downside of its prime, it is still very much that, with many of the same notes of dark berries, cherry, minerals, meat, and black pepper, if with less of the herb and olive found then. It's just not as fresh now, as expected. It's softer and less complex (there was also fig back then), denser and somehow rougher, and there's much more of a meaty, funky element. Maybe my taste has changed, but maybe this is just how the wine, in this different bottle of course, has evolved over the years. All that said, it's still very good, still superb value, still a fine expression of the region.
Rosé
12/13/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
91 points
We don't see a lot of Sancerre rosé in Ontario, but this one from Jean-Max Roger, one of the region's finest names, shows just how good it can be. It's so elegant and refined, the usual rosé sweetness held on check -- this is more dry and savoury, with a fine sweet-sour balance. The nose is superb, offering complex notes of cherry, red berries and currants, orange citrus, dried flowers (with a hint of rose), minerals, white pepper, and candlewax, leading to that sweet-sour palate along with black tea complementing the ongoing array of fruity-floral-minerally elements, and then bitter citrus pith on the finish. There's too much of the sour (firm acidity) and bitter/tannic (like oversteeped tea) character at this point, but it's still only a 2020. I'd say 2-3 mote years would really pull everything together, and even just an hour or two of aeration points to the full potential here. I'll give it a 91, but there's upside even from there. A superb value at $27 (in Ontario), this is about as good a rosé as I've ever tasted.
Red
12/12/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
The label describes this Beaujolais cru as "a masculine dark wine," which I suppose is true based on the (silly, if not offensive) masculine-feminine stereotypes for wine. Certainly it has "thick and silky tannins," as also per the label, though it also has vibrant acidity, and at just two years old it's still quite young -- 2-3 more years would help, not least with the currently excessive pithy bitterness on the finish. That said, it's still very good, showing rich, deep Gamay character, with notes of cherry, raspberry, earth, black pepper, and herbs, with some minerality and a hint of licorice. I don't often connect a tasting note directly to food, but this was really good in and alongside both coq au vin and beef stew, adding both fruity and savoury qualities, the structure just soft enough to melt into the sauce.
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Red
12/11/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
87 points
This has long been one of my favourite "value" reds, a really good wine at around $15 in Ontario (this latest vintage is $17). A warmer-climate Syrah from Swartland, a large region north of Cape Town, it has authentic varietal notes of blackberry, black pepper, herbs, and general cured / smoked meatiness (if without much of the funk one often finds in French Syrah from the southern Rhône -- this is more of a northern Rhône-style Syrah), along with mild oak-derived brown spice. It's still quite acidic and could benefit from a couple of years of aging, but overall it's an approachable varietal / regional expression, as it's no doubt intended to be. And like my scores of previous vintages, it sits nicely in the 87-88 range.
Red
2018 Château de Nages Heritage Rouge Costières-de-Nîmes Red Rhone Blend (view label images)
12/5/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
A blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre, and 10% Syrah, this organic old-vine wine from Gassier is too soft and too jammy, showing too much ripe fruit extraction, and yet is also, for what it is, very good, not surprising as it comes from one of the most reputable names of Costières de Nîmes. While thicker and plusher than one might expect from the region, the notes of blackberry, cherry, black pepper (it's a rather peppery wine, suggesting a disproportionate Syrah influence), herbs (the garrigue, including licorice, is also quite prominent), and minerals, are quite authentic, the sun-baked elements of the Midi channeled through a rich package. That said, when chilled a bit that richness is reduced, and regardless the depth and length are both quite impressive, even if the tannic and acidic structure could be a touch more firm. Certainly a good value at just over $20 in Ontario -- it's hard to find this much wine at the price.
Red
11/28/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
Perrin's wines are essentially benchmarks for the southern Rhône, and this one from Vinsobres, the most northern village "cru" of the southern Rhône, is no exception. From a terraced vineyard at an altitude of 300m, it's a blend of Syrah (oak) and Grenache (stainless steel), but clearly Syrah-driven, and while it lacks the power and depth of Perrin wines from, say, Gigondas, it still offers complex notes of fresh ripe fruit, notably blackberry and raspberry, violet (the nose is especially floral), garrigue, minerals, and mild black pepper, a touch jammy but offset by the minerality and vibrant acidity, with enough underlying structure to suggest 2-3 more years of aging to pull everything together. And while the palate is a bit unfocused from the midpoint on, turning bitter, it's just such a balanced, elegant wine overall.
White
11/13/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
87 points
At just $13 in Ontario, this Catalunya white from Torres, a blend of Grenache Blanc and Parellada, the latter a fairly rare local varietal, certainly punches above its weight, as one expects from such a great producer -- one dedicated to reducing its GHG emissions, as the label stresses. It's hardly deep or complex, but it offers a fine combination of apple, pear, lemon-lime, white flowers, and almond, with decent body and acidity, sort of like unoaked Chardonnay. Basic but not simple, it's just a good, solid food wine.
White
10/30/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
87 points
This is a pretty solid Niagara Riesling that ticks a lot of varietal boxes but isn't any better than the sum of its parts. In fact, it's less. Just slightly off-dry and with a touch of spritz, it shows a nose heavy on petrol and honey, along with peach and lemon-lime, notes replayed on the palate along with mild white pepper. While the various elements show authenticity, the balance of acidity and sweetness is fine, and the combination of citrus and orchard fruit plays well alongside the savoury notes, there's just something a tad discombobulated with how it all holds together, especially on the palate. Right now, it could be that there's just too much bitterness, which enters mid-palate and leads through the finish, and a couple more years might help. All that said, it's still a solid Riesling and a great value at under $15 (in Ontario).
Red
2017 Castello di Querceto / Querceto Chianti Classico Chianti Classico DOCG Sangiovese Blend, Sangiovese (view label images)
10/21/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
While there's some nice fresh fruit here, notably blackberry and raspberry and dark cherry, this is a Chianti that focuses more on a distinctly floral character, similar to, say, Piedmontese reds, with fresh purple flowers mingling with vaguely funky dried flowers and pot pourri, along with herbs, mushrooms, and an overall earthy, dusty character. This makes it quite savoury, more so than one finds with Sangiovese generally, though the fruit does provide some balance and the still fairly sharp acidity enlivens all that earthy-floral-umami savouriness.
White
10/9/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
A nice value at just $20 in Ontario, this blend of 60% Semillon and 40% Chenin Blanc starts quite lean with dominant citrus and mineral notes but turns fuller and more complex with time, a pleasant expression of the two French varietals from high-altitude Argentina, if also reminiscent of a fleshy Campanian white. It remains citrusy (lemony) and minerally, with a solid backbone and a dry finish, but the aromas and flavours bring additional notes of apple, peach, white pepper, nuts, and biscuit (the last of these suggestive of a yeasty bubbly), while the early lean, tart aspect early fills out into a silkier mouthfeel given the emergence of orchard and stone fruit. You don't often see these two varietals together, and I'm not sure either really stands out here, but the combination certainly works.
Rosé - Sparkling
10/10/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
We don't see much wine from Luxembourg here in Ontario, and, judging by this nice bubbly, a 100% Pinot Noir rosé, that's a shame. There isn't a ton of depth or complexity here, but there's impressive sophistication with a fine mousse, limited sweetness offset by refreshing acidity and mild bitterness on the palate, and food-friendly elements that emphasize a savoury mineral quality, with cut grass greenery, alongside the acidity. There's fruit as well, cherry and red berries, plus some orange and grapefruit through the bitter, drying finish, but it's quite subtle, as this really is more of a minerally rosé.
Red
10/7/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
This is an intriguing wine for sure, my first taste of Lacrima di Morro d'Alba, an indigenous varietal from Marche, a region in eastern central Italy along the coast between Emilia-Romagna and Abruzzo -- both the region and especially this varietal aren't exactly common finds in Ontario. Drinking well now, the highlight is a distinct floral element, notes of rose, rosewater, and dried flowers / pot pourri, though there's also black cherry and dark berries, maybe a touch of dried fruit. There's also brett, a funky note that melds well with the dried fruit in the palate but it's also just a bit too strong, overwhelming any sense of freshness here. But with soft, fine tannins, just enough acidity, and those intriguing floral elements, it's still more than just a curiosity. It's a fine expression of a rarely seen Italian varietal and certainly a very distinctive one at that.
Red
10/5/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
90 points
From the heights of Ventoux, one of the sources of great value in the southern Rhône, this Grenache-led blend (with Syrah) features a balance of plush and lean elements, ripe dark fruit (cherry, blackberry), creamy vanilla, and high 14.5% ABV (notable on the palate) on one side balanced by iron minerality, herbal garrigue (including licorice), mild black pepper, and citrusy acidity (including a light orange note) on the other. The aromas and flavours are quite complex, the more subdued nose leading to a full, voluptuous mouthfeel (aided by the high ABV), then a long finish featuring soft, fine-grained tannins and a touch of concluding bitterness. At just $19 (in Ontario), this is indeed a superb value, an authentic and highly enjoyable expression of the region.
White
10/2/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
89 points
This is a very good, if just short of 90-level excellence, expression of one of Campania's ancient white varietals, from Sannio, just north of Naples. It has a full, complex nose of melon, peach, pineapple, lemon-lime, apple, minerals, and nuts, and while some of the fruit aromas translate into flavour, the palate shows the leaner characteristics of the varietal, with salty minerality, almond nuttiness, and tart citrus acidity, all quite dry and, at this stage, relatively tannic. I'd say it's just now entering its prime, which seems like it could be quite long -- maybe a year or two could push it to 90 with some softening, though of course it's the interplay of sour and mineral notes, the core around which the fleshier fruit and savoury nutty elements orbit, that really makes Campania whites what they are. From one of the region's best and most reputable producers, this hits the mark.
Red
9/26/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
87 points
This is all about potential -- for the varietal (a hybrid grandchild of Pinot Noir developed for cold climates), for the region (Nova Scotia makes good whites and sparklers, the reds somewhat less), and for this wine itself (it likely needs 2-3 more years). As for what it is now, it's a curious mix of sour, earthy, and funky, and it's quite a good mix at that, especially on the nose -- sour with notes of raspberry, cherry, cranberry, and pomegranate; earthy (like Pinot) with notes of beetroot, herbs, and, yes, earth; funky with a light touch of brett -- all like a combination of Burgundy and the southern Rhône, like a blend of Pinot and Syrah, maybe also a touch of Sangiovese. The main problem comes on the palate, where the acidity is just too sharp, overwhelming everything else. Even time in the open doesn't help. Even two days after opening, the acidity holds up. So while there really aren't the tannins to hold up for extensive aging, a couple of years might soften the acidity enough to achieve at least a semblance of balance. All that said, the complexity, depth, and length are all very good, hence the potential. There's a lot to like here, a promising expression of the varietal, and that puts it at an 87 with upside.
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Red
9/19/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
89 points
I find myself increasingly gravitating to oak-free wines, and this Grenache-based blend (with 20% Syrah and 10% Carignan) from Cairanne, a source of some of the best values from any of the southern Rhône villages (this is decent value at $26 in Ontario), nicely (if more powerfully than elegantly) shows off both region and varietals. Aged in concrete, it's certainly still on the heavy side, with deep extraction (expressed in both colour and flavour) and high alcohol (14.5% ABV). The power dominates, and comes through in notes of ripe cherry and dark berries, baked plum, and caramel (even without oak aging), but there's also just enough tartness (pomegranate and cherry) to keep the whole thing from turning overly gloopy, and indeed it's the sweet-sour combination that really stands out here, along with garrigue and a strong note of blood-like iron minerality, with additional complexity coming from notes of pepper spice, all what one would expect from a really good wine from the region, just with that extra oomph. It's in the 89-90 range, now an 89 with a bit of room for improvement with another year or two.
Red
8/27/2021 - mjwstickings wrote:
86 points
A German Pinot Noir from Rheinhessen, roughly halfway between Mainz and Mannheim, this shows an odd funky note on the nose, a mild barnyard scent reminiscent of a southern Rhône blend (I might have guessed this was a Mourvèdre), though it improves slightly with time and is better on the palate with notes of raspberry, cherry, earth, and black pepper, with a touch of beetroot.
White
8/27/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
There can't be much better value than this, an authentic white (a blend of a variety of local varietals: Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Macabeu) from a renowned producer (Chapoutier) for well under $20 -- just $16 in Ontario. There isn't great depth, and the complexity relies on vague notions, but what's here truly expresses the sun-drenched Roussillon, including notes of lemon, grapefruit, peach, rocky minerality, white flowers, white pepper, and a hint of smoke, all riding a wave of tart acidity but with nicely fleshy fruit to keep things balanced.
White
8/26/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
89 points
Cave Spring makes really good Riesling. It's as simple as that. This is the basic, entry-level version, but it's still excellent (89 but very much on the cusp of 90), dry but with the perception of off-dry sweetness, petrol and honey on the nose followed by notes of slate, providing a mineral backbone, more of that acacia honey, providing lusciousness, more of that petrol, lemon-lime, and apple. And like all good Riesling, there's impressive balance, the sweetness offset by the tart acidity and core minerality, the various flavours complementing each other so well.
White
8/26/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
88 points
Very young but nonetheless nicely balanced, this is, unsurprisingly, a solid Chardonnay from one of the more famous Australian wine names. It's rich but also zesty, creamy but also crisp, a touch buttery but in between overdone Californian Chardonnay and more vigorous cool-climate expressions, featuring complex fruit notes of yellow plum, lemon-lime, apple, melon, and pineapple, along with some nuts and mild oak spice. The depth and length are very good, and overall it continues to be thoroughly impressive how Wolf Blass turns out such good wine year after year for the international market.
White
8/24/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
91 points
This aged Sauvignon Blanc (65% French, about a quarter new and the rest neutral; 35% stainless steel) is one is the very best Ontario whites I've tasted, a deep and complex expression from one of the province's finest producers. The nose is fruity and buttery, with lemon-lime and other citrus fruit notes, pineapple, guava, and other tropical fruit notes, apricot, butterscotch, and almond, with nice replays on the palate, where a certain mineral element also takes a prominent place. It's all so well integrated and balanced, the acidity and minerality forming the backbone, the sweet fruit and general creaminess providing body, all within a dry package that shows soft tannins through the long finish.
Red - Fortified
8/19/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
87 points
There's no denying the value here. This is a pretty good South African dessert wine, a port, from the Western Cape, from a highly reputable producer of approachable, if often basic, South African wine. And for less than $15. It looks like a tawny with its dark orange hue flecked with red, and it smells like a (very) young tawny with notes of burnt orange, raspberry, raisin, prune, and vanilla-caramel, though it's more like an LBV port than a tawny. It's quite a bit better on the nose than on the palate, where the flavours don't hold together all that well, where a certain bitterness persists, and where, simply, there's a lack of depth, but even there, it's decent overall, and overall it works better with dessert than as a sipper on its own.
Red
8/19/2021 - mjwstickings Likes this wine:
87 points
This is a good Marlborough Pinot, honest and genuine if also fairly basic. Certainly on the light side, both in terms of colour and flavour, it shows nice cherry and raspberry fruit, plus some tart pomegranate, and there's just enough acidity to balance the overall perception of sweetness, coming through not just from the fruit but also from the earthy-sweet beetroot note. There's also mild oak, a sense of light caramel, even a touch of chocolate.
White
8/15/2021 - mjwstickings wrote:
86 points
This is a pretty basic, fairly dry Riesling from Prince Edward County, coming across mostly like a funky, Brett-inflected English-style apple cider. It's fine as such, and there are additional notes of pear and lime, along with vague minerality, but that's about it. It needs some air for the funk to blow off a bit, and with time some complexity hits the palate, including mango and general tropical fruit notes, and the structure is decent with fresh acidity and lightly drying tannins, but it never develops into anything beyond a middling expression of the varietal. And it was a ridiculously expensive $28 at the winery.
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