Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 8, March 7, 2016 – Every Young Man’s Dream, my tasting at Weingut Reichstrat Von Buhl, Deidesheim, Germany.

In September 1986 several family members and I were lucky enough to travel to France on a wine tasting tour specifically organized by us for us. We had already toured Bordeaux, Cahors and the Alsace regions and we had left one day open in Strasburg before returning to Paris and then London. My wife and I, along with my younger brother and his girlfriend decided it would be nice to do a day trip into Germany, so off we went north east from Strasburg and eventually ended up in the town of Deidesheim, about 100 kilometers away.

On arrival in Deidesheim my brother and his girlfriend went off shopping in one direction, my wife and I went the opposite direction until she found a shoe shop that sold baby shoes. Not wanting to sit around while she spent endless time looking for shoes, we agreed to meet up two hours later in the town square where we had left the car, and off I headed looking for other places to shop.

Reg's Wine blog photo Reichstrat Von Buhl 2

One or two blocks later I came upon the wine shop and tasting room for Weingut Reichstrat Von Buhl. I was familiar with Von Buhl Riesling dessert wines, so like a bee drawn to a flower in bloom, in the door I went. A quick glance at my watch told me it was 9:45 AM so I was due back at the town square to meet my wife by 11:45. Well I figured, better to be tasting wines than looking at baby shoes!

At that hour of course the shop was deserted, but the door was unlocked and a bell on the door announced my entry. As I looked around seconds later the most gorgeous 20 year old blonde girl in a Bavarian style skirt and low cut V neck blue sweater entered the shop from the back and greeted me with a smile. She was beautiful, so much so that I fumbled around like a schoolboy caught off guard by her beauty. It soon became obvious that she spoke no English and I spoke no German. However, through sign language I managed to convey the message to her that I was there to taste her wines, and that lovely girl clearly understood as she went to fridge and got out three bottles to taste.

Reg's Wine blog photo Reichstrat Von Buhl

We, or rather I, started with their basic Riesling table wine, and also a couple of other basic table wines, nothing complex but all very lush, round and fruity. “This is wonderful” I thought to myself as I looked across the bar at these three open bottles of wine and my lovely hostess. Communication became a lot easier, she spoke in German, I spoke in English, neither of us understood a word the other was saying and yet we had no trouble getting along, I just smiled and she smiled back. She went back to the fridge and got out the next flight of four wines and opened those as well. Now we were getting into the better stuff, the QMP and sweeter dessert wines.

I watched as she opened a Kabinett, a Spatlese, an Auslese, and finally a Beerenauslese, and so I proceeded to taste them all in that order. And of course given that I was alone, each taste was a good 3-4 ounces. A quick glance at my watch as I tasted the Auslese told me it was only 11:15, still plenty of time, besides if the shoe shop was any good my dear wife could easily run ½ hour late or more. That was the last thought I had about time.

The Beerenauslese was marvelous, now I was in my element, and by now I was getting a little intoxicated as well. I went on and on about how great the Beerenauslese was, talking with both my mouth and my hands at the same time. She turned back to the fridge and got out another two wines and popped the corks. Another two Beerenauslese wines, like I needed more to taste. As she poured the next two glasses I thought to myself, here I am alone in this wine shop with this very pretty Fraulein, drinking glass after glass of great white wine without a care in the world. Did I ever think that I could get into trouble in this situation, hell no, I was living every man’s dream. Pour me another glass dear, this nectar just keeps getting better and better. I am in heaven I thought, and obviously I must have lost track of the time. Both wines were great, luscious, full and rich, sweet yet nicely balanced with a youthful acidity, from the great 1983 vintage.

Reg's Wine blog photo Reichstrat on Buhl

Suddenly my moment of pure bliss came to a crashing halt, the bell on the door to the wine shop rang and in came my wife. “Hello dear, I thought I might find you in here, did you know it is 12:30 and you are 45 minutes late. Get up, it’s time to go.”

Like a lost puppy suddenly found, I dutifully obeyed. One look at my hostess told me she was just as surprised and disappointed as I was that our magic moments together had abruptly ended. Probably all for the best because I had no idea how much more tasting I could do before getting into trouble. My wife summed it up best by remarking after we left the shop that it was a good thing she scooped me up when she did before the blonde hostess did. She went on to say that my blonde’s big blue eyes were all over me. Funny I thought to myself, I had not noticed, ya right!

So to get out of trouble, I asked her about what was in the heavy shopping bag she now had me carrying. That immediately changed the subject to shoes, which went on long enough to allow me to fall asleep in the car on the drive back to Strasburg. Needless to say, while snoozing in the car I was not dreaming about baby shoes.

Blonde hair, blue eyes, and as much wine as you can drink, all to myself. I have such fond memories of that magic moment at Weingut Reichstrat Von Buhl.

If you ever see Reichstrat Von Buhl wines for sale in your local liquor store  or wine shop by all means you should buy them. I do not see them very often in Quebec and Ontario liquor stores, but they are always reasonably well priced German wines, and I have always found their price/quality ratio to be great – low price for a high quality wine.

Reg

Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 7 February 23, 2016, a recent red wine tasting party, 14 wines reviewed.

On Saturday January 23rd, I attended a red wine tasting of 14 wines from various regions, all commonly available in Quebec liquor stores, priced between $18 and $30 CDN. We were 14 people attending a birthday party celebration, and everyone brought with them an assigned bottle. The idea was that everyone would have a chance to taste and evaluate 14 different wines, and hopefully find 3 or 4 new wines they would enjoy enough to want to buy again.

We tasted in order three Cote Du Rhone wines, followed by one wine from Cahors, three wines from Bordeaux, two from California, two Spanish wines, one Australian, one from Argentina, and one Port.

Reg's Wine Blog photo the tasting lineup Jan 23, 2016

All the wines were quite good, but two did not show well, one because it was too young (the Vacqueyras), and the other  because it was poorly positioned in the tasting after a much fruitier wine (the Monasterio, and the positioning was my fault, I should have placed the fruity Menage a Trois closer to the end just in front of the port). As expected, different wines appealed to different people, so my own wine scores probably differ significantly from some of my fellow tasters. There was however a good consensus on which wines were the top performers.

Reg's Wine blog photo tasting the wine Jan 23, 2016 # 4

I have listed below the 14 wines that we tasted, in the order we tasted them, along with my personal rating score, tasting notes, price, product information, and other relevant information:

  • Cote du Rhone red, E. Guigal / 2011 / $21.05 / SAQ product # 259721 / blend of 50% Syrah, 45% Grenache, 5% Mourvedre / average age of vines 35 years / aged 18 months in oak / 3.5 million bottles produced / taste of plum, black raspberry and wood smoke, tasted young and closed / goes with all red meat / my score 8 on 10.
  • Jaume Reference Vinsobres Cote du Rhone / 2012 / $22.50 / SAQ product # 12125652 / blend of 50% Syrah, 40% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre / annual production 42,000 bottles / rated 87 by Wine Spectator / taste of cherry, leather, toast, spice, and mint, very pleasant and ready to  drink / goes with lamb / my score 8.5 on 10, one of my favorites.
  • Perrin Christens Vacqueyras Cote du Rhone / 2012 / $24.20 / SAQ product # 872937 / blend of 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah / made from 50 year old vines / made by the Perrin family (same producers as Chateau de Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape) / rated 91 by Parker / taste of black cherry and black raspberry, licorice, pepper and herbs / goes with lamb and beef / my score 7.5 on 10, wine was not ready, too young and scored poorly as a result, needs more time in the bottle, at least two more years.
  • Clos de Gamot Jouffreau Cahors / 2011 / $23.55 / SAQ product # 913418 / 100% Malbec / made from very old vines from two separate vineyards – one with vines 40-70 years old, the other 120 years old (this is unique and special) / goes with beef, lamb, pork and duck / tasted chalky, smooth with some spice / my score 8.5 on ten, one of the top wines of the evening.
  • Chateau La Papeterie St. Emilion Montagne, Bordeaux / 2010 / $29.25 / SAQ product # 866400 / blend of 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon / rated 90 on winesearcher.com / won a gold medal in 2013 / goes with all red meat / tasted still young, smooth tannins, good legs, dark fruit, tobacco and spice / my score 8.25 on 10, will get better given time, 6th best wine of the evening.
  • Chateau de Cruzeau Pessac Leognan, Bordeaux / 2012 / $24.95 / SAQ product # 00113381 / made by Andre Lurton family / blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc / rated 16 on 20 by Jancis Robinson / won gold medals in Los Angeles and International Wine Challenge in France, both in 2015 / goes with beef / drink from 2015 to 2027 / tastes of sweet black fruit, spice and pepper, tobacco, thick and rich, ripe and velvety / my score 8.25 on 10, a solid effort with years of good drinking ahead of it, buy this to drink and cellar.
  • Chateau le Puy Emilien, Bordeaux / 2010 / $28.85 / SAQ product # 709469 / blend of 85% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Carmenere / aged 24 months in oak / long aging wines / goes with all red meat / taste of full rich raspberry, balanced, long and rich mouth feel, and just starting to open up / my score 8 on 10, just an average performer on this evening.
  • Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon Yulupa California / 2012 / $20.05 / SAQ product # 862953 / blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot / aged 20 months in oak / goes with pork, beef, lamb, and pasta / tasted plum and cherry, fresh sage, thyme, smooth and approachable tannins, made for early drinking / my score 8.75 on 10, smooth and ready to drink, my second favorite wine on the night, I will definitely buy this wine.
  • Menage a Trois Midnight California / 2013 / $18.75 / SAQ product # 12615264 / blend of 40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Petite Syrah, 7% Petit Verdot (don’t ask me what the remaining 9% is, this info comes directly from the winery’s website and is incomplete) / tasted hot, full of blackberry and spiced plum, mocha, with a long powerful finish, a mini fruit bomb / my score 8 on 10, very forward and ready to drink, reasonable value for the money but lacking the finesse of the others.
  • Monasterio de Las Vinas Gran Reserva, Spain / 2005 / $20.70 / SAQ product # 10359156 / blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Tempranillo, 10% Carinena / rated 91 by Parker / aged in barrel 24 months and another 36 months in bottle before released for sale / taste layers of sweet ripe fruit, plums, blackberry, cedar, tobacco, anise, smoke, leather and cloves / my score 7.5 on 10, I have tasted this wine before and it has performed much better, maybe tasting it after the fruit bomb above left a bad impression, or maybe it was just a bad bottle, nobody else thought that much of the wine either.
  • Dehesa La Granja VDT by Alejandro Fernandez, Spain / 2008 / $22.10 / SAQ product # 928036 / 100% Tempranillo / goes with beef and lamb / made from 17 year old vines / consistent scores from 1998 to 2008 between 89 and 92 by Parker and others / tastes of dark berries, cola, smoked meat, mint, and smoky on the finish / my score was 7.8 on 10, I found it had a typical Spanish tang to the palate, no doubt the tempranillo grape in action, but it just did not perform well against the rest of the lineup.
  • D’Arry’s Original D’Arenberg Australia / 2012 / $21.95 / SAQ product # 10346371 / blend of 50% Shiraz and 50% Grenache / a regular favorite and steady performer / goes with beef and pepper steak / tastes of rich dark berry fruit and toasty oak / my score 8.5 on 10, I have tasted this wine in several vintages and it is a reliable and enjoyable wine.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Gran Lurton Valle de Uco Argentina / 2011 / $24.25 / SAQ product # 11375596 / blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Malbec / rated 90 by Parker / located in the foothills of the Andes mountains at 4,000 feet elevation / tastes of cloves, mint, cedar, vanilla, with a long spicy finish / my score 9 on 10, this was easily my favorite wine of the night, lots of rich and well integrated fruit, a full palate of flavours, long smooth aftertaste, will be a delight for at least the next 5 years, this wine I will buy.
  • Offley’s Late Bottled Vintage Port, Portugal / 2010 / $19.95 / SAQ product # 483024 / tastes of mint and blackberries, sweet and quite young / my score 8 on 10, nothing special, was pleasant but not the best LBV Port available in that price range.

 

There were too many wines, palate fatigue sets in after about 8 wines, especially if they are all red, so our next tasting will likely be all white wines and no more than 8. We also started the event too late with an 8:30 scheduled start time that got delayed to 9:15 while we waited for a couple of latecomers.

Reg's Wine blog photo tasting the wine Jan 23, 2016 #1

 

One of our tasters brought the Chateau Le Puy and claimed before the tasting began that this was his favorite wine. By the end of this tasting our taster announced that his beloved Chateau Le Puy was not even in his top three for the evening, in fact he had found several new wines to enjoy. In my view this is the mark of a successful event.

Reg's Wine Blog photo tasting the wine Jan 23, 2016 # 3

 

 

My  top wines for the evening in order were:

 

  • Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Gran Lurton Valle de Uco 2011
  • Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon Yulupa 2012
  • Clos de Gamot Jouffreau 2011
  • D’Arry’s Original 2012
  • Reference Vinsobres Jaume 2012

Reg's wine blog photo gran lurton cabernet sauvignon valle de ucoReg's wine blog photo kenwood-vineyards-yulupa-cabernet-sauvignonReg's wine blog photo clos de gamot jouffreau cahorsReg's wine blog photo d'arry's originalReg's wine blog domaine jaume vinsobres reference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides having a lot of fun, these kinds of tasting evenings are very informative and educational. Everyone, myself included, tasted new wines they did not already know, and everyone found at least three that they would buy themselves again.

Reg's Wine Blog photo tasting the wine Jan 23, 2016 # 2

 

I think the tasting panel had a good time, next time we’ll do white, probably Chardonnay and Riesling matched with a seafood dinner, and 8 people with an 8:00 PM start time. Anyone want to join us?

By the way, always a good idea not to drive after this kind of event. Those of us left at the end of the evening left in two taxis, one regular cab and the other a Uber taxi. The Uber driver got lost and could not find our address for pickup, go figure!

 

Reg.

Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 6 February 19, 2016 – Hugel’s 1976 Gewurztraminer “Hugel” Vendange Tardive Sélection de Grains Nobles Fut 28, Ringing in the new year with a fabulous 40 year old Hugel wine

I had the good fortune to visit with Jean Hugel at his winery in Riquewihr with my family in September 1986. We tasted many of Hugel’s wines including his famous late harvest dessert wines, and this wine in particular. In 1986 it was superb, rich, unctuous, sweet and incredibly well balanced, and by Jean Hugel’s own words this wine would last at least 50 years and 1976 was probably the best vintage for his SGN wines in the last 100 years. I will be writing another blog in future about that visit with Jean Hugel in 1986, so for now let’s focus on the wine tasting.

Since 1986 I have tasted the 1976 Gewurztraminer “Hugel” Vendange Tardive SGN twice, once in 1995, and again in 2005 to keep track of the wine’s aging process in order to be sure I do not keep my remaining bottles too long. The wine in 1995 was very similar to when I had tasted it in 1986, but it seemed not to be as rich, thick, and sweet. In 2005 there was no real difference from 1995, still every bit as vibrant, showing no signs of aging or breaking down.

On January 2nd 2016 I decided it was time to try the Gewurztraminer again, the wine was now 40 years old and I had not tasted it for almost 11 years. On my previous two tastings in 1995 and 2005 the bottles I had opened were from the Fut 67 vat, this time I opened a bottle of Fut 28. In 1976 Hugel made Gewurztraminer SGN from three different vats, including 28 and 67, and according to Etienne Hugel who I exchanged emails with recently, the Fut 28 is richer than the Fut 67. The label clearly indicates which Fut or vat the wine is from, see the photos below:

Reg's Wine Blog photo 1976 Gewurztraminer Hugel SGN Fut 28Reg's Wine Blog photo 1976 Gewurztraminer Hugel SGN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fut 28 has an 8,800 liter capacity, and is a huge old wooden vat that occupies center stage in the Hugel winery, and dates back 350 years, see the photo below dating to 1986 where Jean Hugel is conducting a guided tour of his winery in front of his beloved Fut 28:

Reg's Wine Blog photo Hugel's Fut 28 Jean gives a tour Sept 1986Reg's Wine Blog photo Hugel's Fut 28 Jean makes a point Sept 1986

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the bottle the fill was excellent, no sign of evaporation or seepage. White tartate crystals lay on the bottom. The cork came out smooth and moist, and carried the first aromas of the wine to my nose, promising great delights to follow. On the first pour into the glass the wine displayed a deep rich orange gold colour, on swirling the wine in the glass the thick viscous legs that trickled down the glass left no doubt that the wine would still be great.

On the nose the wine gave off aromas of orange and chocolate mocha, liquorice, cinnamon and roses. On the palate the gewürztraminer spice was clearly evident, although it had mellowed and settled into a more refined mix with the orange and chocolate flavours since I had last tasted it. When tasting a sweet gewürztraminer wine from Germany or Alsace, you will sometimes find the balance between sweetness and acidity is off a little, maybe even a little clumsy,  because of the spicy nature of the gewürztraminer grape. It can result in an awkward off balance feel on the palate and in the aftertaste. In this case the 1976 Gewurztraminer SGN has superb balance, in fact the wine has indeed lost some of its sweetness since I last tasted it 11 years ago, and if anything this has improved the overall balance of sweetness and acidity. The result is a very fine glass of wine, perfect harmony, balance, not overpowering, finesse, elegance and maturity.

The mouth feel is great, a smooth satin feel indicative of continued great viscosity and richness. The aftertaste must last for a good minute, but that is hard to tell because I found it difficult to resist the next sip. We were five tasting the wine and everyone was enchanted with the wine, and alas it was gone far too quickly. I found myself inhaling the aroma from the empty bottle, which continued to entertain my nose long after the wine was gone. It is five days later when I am writing this blog, I had corked the empty bottle and every time I remove the cork again the bottle continues to give off that same aroma of orange and chocolate mocha, reminding me yet again of that fabulous tasting experience.

The Hugel family have been producing Alsatian wines since 1639, for 377 years 13 generations of the Hugel family have grown and produced some of the finest wine in Alsace, indeed some of the finest wine in France. Their Gewurztraminer 1976  Vendange Tardive Sélection de Grains Nobles Fut 28 was produced from gewürztraminer grapes grown at their Sporen vineyard located southeast of Riquewihr. I am happy to see that this wine has settled comfortably into middle age and shed just a little of its luscious sweetness. This enhances the harmony and balance nicely. Even though this wine may continue to provide memorable tasting experiences for another 20 years, I want to ensure I will be around long enough to enjoy my remaining bottles, so I will schedule my next tastings of this spectacular wine for every 5 years now instead of the usual 10.

Etienne Hugel tells me the winery has no recent tasting notes on the 1976 Gewurztraminer SGN Fut 28 because it is becoming so rare. So if you are passionate about dessert wines, and If you can locate and purchase any of this wine at auction, you should do so, and take comfort in knowing that this wine is still in top condition, a little less sweet than when originally bottled, but still full of fruit and perfectly balanced, showing no sign of decay, aging with style. I would rate this wine 94 on 100, drink now to 2030, but check it every 5 years like I intend to do.

If you want to learn more about Hugel SGN dessert wines go to their website at www.hugel.com , and click on “The Wines”. Then click again on “Famille Hugel Selection de Grains Nobles” and you will be taken to their tasting notes and videos on all their recent vintages of Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Pinot Gris SGN wines. The notes and videos are produced by Serge Dubs, rated World’s Best Sommelier in 1989. You will find no less than 10 recent vintages of Gewurztraminer SGN reviewed, including the SGN “S” vintages of 2000, 2007, and 2010. The SGN “S” designation indicates years of particularly ripe and concentrated grapes, an extra indication of quality and longevity. You will also find tasting notes on no less than 8 vintages of Pinot Gris SGN, including the SGN “S” vintages of 2000 and 2007, and tasting notes on no less than 5 vintages of Riesling SGN, including the SGN “S” vintages of 2000 and 2009. The tasting notes are of great value to a buyer, and motivating enough to make me want to look for some of these more recent vintages.

These are all rare wines and most will last 20 years or longer under good storage conditions. Do not expect to find these in your local wine or liquor store, if you do then you are very lucky and should buy them immediately. If you are a collector, then the best place to find these wines is at wine auctions. I will have more to say on wine auctions in future posts.

Reg.

 

 

Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 5 February 9, 2016 – Decorating the tree with a 1976 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Beerenauslese

Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions are all great times to open that special bottle of wine you have been saving. This blog is going to assume that you have been saving and properly storing your special wine for quite a while and that it is still good to drink. We are also assuming that your wine is a good wine and worth saving.

I had the whole family over for dinner about two weeks before Christmas (December 13th) and after dinner the 11 of us decorated the family Christmas tree. I had an old German dessert wine that I wanted to open. I wanted a family occasion and our family normally makes a big deal out of decorating the tree, and it always launches the Christmas season and Christmas spirit. My 1976 Wehlener Sonnenuhr was now 39 years of age, and my concern was that the wine could be drying out by now and losing its fruit. The fill was still excellent, with white tartrate crystals on the bottom, and no seepage from the cork. Since the bottle was green in color it was hard to tell what color the wine had taken on – yellow, orange or brown.

The wine was estate bottled and shipped by Deinhard, and was quite inexpensive when I had bought it 30 years ago. This was going to be a good test of my cellar conditions I thought, as I opened the bottle. On pouring the wine into the glass the color was a deep orange, indicating the wine had oxidized a little as it had aged, but was it still good to drink or all dried out? On the palate to my relief there was still ample fruit, a burnt orange tang with good viscosity, sweet without overwhelming as some German Beerenauslese wines have a tendency to be, and a pleasant aftertaste.

Blog Pic 1976 Wehlener Sonnenuhr

I have tasted German dessert wines many times, and the older ones really go downhill quickly once they start losing their fruit. This wine was still in very good condition, not as sweet as it once was, but still enough fruit and sweetness to hold it together and maintain balance throughout. The burnt orange on the palate was in perfect harmony with the level of sweetness left in the wine. This left the impression that the wine was starting to dry out, but would be good for maybe another 2 years before losing its balance.

The wine happened to go very well with the family evening, and made for a very pleasant time decorating the tree before everyone left for home. Only about 6 of us were drinking the wine, the others were designated drivers, and everyone tasting it thoroughly enjoyed it.

There is a certain satisfaction that comes from cellaring a little gem like this for 30 years, then opening it at or near its peak on the right occasion for that wine. I was very happy, and that is the magic to be found with the right wine at the right moment in time.

I find it is okay to be a long term wine collector as long as you don’t obsess about it, you must drink your fine gems before they fade away on you. There is no joy to be realized from parking on your wine for 30 years and finding it has turned to vinegar when you finally do get around to opening it. In this case I was lucky, because I was pushing the envelope on this one, and probably should have drunk it 2 years ago. If you own a bottle similar to this, you may still be okay for another 2 years, but you have nothing to gain and everything to lose by holding onto it any longer. So think of a suitable excuse and occasion to open that good bottle and get cracking.

Reg.

Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 4 February 3, 2016 – Bad Restaurant Behavior – Refusing the Wine

Several years ago my wife and I had the misfortune to go out to dinner with 3 other couples to a fine Montreal restaurant. Even though each couple were paying for their own dinner, we intended to split the wine bill evenly amongst the 4 couples. One of our friends took it upon himself to order the first wine for everyone without consulting any of us and he promptly proceeded to order up an expensive Spanish red Priorata type wine.

This by itself was a very poor choice and we should have stopped the process before he ordered that wine, but most of us were distracted in conversation and failed to notice he was ordering anything. Having ordered the wine our friend got to taste it first. He tasted it and promptly refused the wine, telling the waiter the wine was defective and to fetch another bottle. The poor waiter did just that and arrived with a second bottle which our friend tasted and rejected again. The flustered waiter summoned the manager to bail him out and a debate ensued between our friend and the manager as to whether the wine was defective or not.

So I quickly intervened, I told the manager to pour me a small glass so I could taste the wine, which I did. The wine was fine, although not a good choice, and I instructed the waiter to serve the wine, which he did. I also took charge of ordering the wine for the rest of the evening, and I immediately ordered a second wine much more appropriate for everyone.

So what just happened, and what went wrong?

  • The wine our friend ordered was completely inappropriate for the occasion. Young Spanish Priorata red is very harsh and needs years in the cellar to soften up the tough tannins. This was a young vintage, typical of what you would expect to get from a restaurant wine list. Most people could not drink the wine.
  • The wine was expensive at about $85 per bottle, and for 8 people you would expect no less than 3 or 4 bottles of that to be consumed. It was completely inappropriate for our friend to assume that he should make such an expensive and eccentric selection for the table without consultation.
  • I learned after this event from other friends in attendance that our wine snob who made this selection regularly made sport out of this and regularly refused perfectly good wines in restaurants to fulfill his own ego needs and possibly to get better service. Needless to say I was horrified. This had been a totally embarrassing situation for all in attendance, it was 30 minutes before we got our first wine, and it certainly ruined the experience for the rest of us.
  • The restaurant clearly made mistakes as well. The waiter should have summoned the manager as soon as the first bottle was rejected. And a substitute should have been insisted upon by the staff instead of serving up a second bottle of the same wine.

There are some important lessons to be taken from this experience:

  1. Don’t go to dinner with someone who has such a high ego fulfillment need that they get their kicks by pulling this kind of stunt to get attention, we never went to dinner with that couple again.
  2. You never order such a full blown, in your face and raw red from a young vintage for 8 people at the beginning of a meal, it just does not work. Even if the wine had been properly aged, which it was not, it would not have tasted good to the majority of people drinking it. Five of eight people did not like the wine, two others were being polite by saying it was okay.
  3. Never presume that all dinner participants want to drink the same thing as an aperitif, and even with the main course do not order an obscure wine, go with something neutral that will appeal to everyone.
  4. Have some consideration for the restaurant staff and don’t play this kind of game at their expense. Realize that someone takes the hit for that bad bottle, either the restaurant itself or in some cases even the waiter, so that wine should really be a bad bottle and not just your poor choice.
  5. When going to dinner as a group, don’t let one person hijack the evening by presuming to order wine for the entire group unless he is paying for it himself, or all have previously agreed to let him take charge of the wine. Our misfit would easily have racked up a wine bill over $100 per person had he not been dismissed from his role in selecting the wine. It also ruined the experience for all of us.
  6. Life is too short to let someone ruin those special moments with good friends, good food, and good wine.

Reg

Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 3 January 27, 2016 – The Wine Tasting Party

If you have never hosted a wine tasting party, consider doing so, you will have lots of fun, and you will usually find at least a couple of good new wines to add to your list of favorites.

The ideal size is 8 to 10 people, or 4 to 5 couples. Each person brings a bottle of wine from a preselected list put together by the host or hostess. Any more or less people means there is either too much or too little wine per person per bottle. Everyone wants a good taste from each bottle, usually 2.5 – 3 ounces per person, which is exactly what 8-10 people get from a 750 ml (26 ounce) bottle.

As the host of the evening you will need a good corkscrew, wine glasses, baguettes or crackers with mild cheese or other finger food, pens and writing paper for everyone, a jug of water to rinse glasses between wines, and an empty jug for the rinse water. You will need to decide on an average price per bottle of wine (I suggest $20, but this could just as easily be $15 or $25). So everyone is expected to pay for one bottle of wine. As host you can now visit the local liquor store and select 8-10 wines for your guests to purchase, averaging $20 per bottle. I suggest a theme evening such as Bordeaux red, or Australian dry whites, California reds, etc. You can choose to either assign one wine to each person and have them all go to the liquor store individually, or you can buy all the wines yourself and charge everyone $20 at the door. Don’t worry about feeling tacky by collecting $20 from everyone upon arrival, they will have a good time, and you have saved them the effort of a special trip to the local liquor store.

Do not select your wines from the specialty section of your local wine shop, select wines that will be available at all local wine stores, even if you are buying all the wine for everyone. You want the wines to be widely available so that your guests can find more of that great wine they tasted at your party at their own local liquor store. When selecting your list of wines, try whenever possible to include one “ringer” or wine from another region, just to spark conversation and controversy.

Serve up one wine at a time, serve it blind (I suggest the label be concealed to remove any bias a guest may have towards a label they know and either like or dislike). Ask everyone to taste then write notes as to whether or not they liked the wine and why, and have them give it a rating on a 1-10 scale. Ask everyone in turn to give their comments and rating on the wine just tasted before proceeding with the next wine. This may sound much too formal and stuffy for a party, but just watch what happens next. On the first wine everyone makes notes and honestly rates the wine, in discussion you quickly realize some people have completely different likes and dislikes. After the discussion is over on that wine, the host reveals the label and price, those who liked the wine will note the name for future purchase. Keep the notes and discussion short, you want to manage your time carefully, you do not want to spend 30 minutes on each wine, otherwise a 10 wine evening will take 5 hours, 15 minutes per wine is your target.

Someone always wants to be the clown, so he decides by the 3rd wine to get extreme in his evaluations, and this gets everyone else going. By the time you get half way through the lineup, the notes become more abrupt, and the discussion becomes more animated, a lot more animated. By the time you get to the last 2 wines almost no one is writing notes, but they make up for it by having lots more to say. Make sure people go home with their notes and before they leave ask them to recap which wines were their favorites and which ones they would buy again for themselves. That will tell you how successful the evening has been, always satisfying for the host to know.

By the end of the evening everyone has tasted up to 10 wines, and everyone has at least 2 or 3 new wines they liked enough to buy again. Also, and just as important, you have 7 or 8 others that you have tasted and would not buy again. If 5 couples each took turns hosting one wine tasting party and the wines are not duplicated, you will have tasted 50 different wines. If a different wine region is featured at each of the 5 parties, you can very quickly acquire a solid tasting background on several different regions. This can be very useful to you in gaining tasting experience in wine regions you do not know very well.

Some regional theme suggestions as follows:

Bordeaux red / Bordeaux white (dry) / Bordeaux white (sweet)

Burgundy red / Burgundy white

Italian red / Italian white / Barolo and Barbaresco

Cote du Rhone red / Cote du Rhone white

California red / California white

Australia and New Zealand red / Australia and New Zealand white

Spain and Portugal red / Spain and Portugal white

Alsace and German whites

Miscellaneous others

You can also consider doing an all red tasting of reds from many different countries, or all all white tasting the same way. You can do a tasting focusing on one grape type, such as a Syrah/Shiraz tasting, or an all dessert wine tasting. The options are numerous.

When planning your wine lineup you should always ask your wine store for help with your selection, their wine expert will have tasted most of the wines already and he will know which ones will be in stock in future and which ones are end of line.  This is a great way to taste many wines from different regions, to fine tune which ones you like, and which ones you do not. This can also give you a lot of information on many wines that you will often encounter on your local restaurant wine lists. And you will enjoy the learning experience with your tasting guests.

Go for it! And if you have any questions just ask me. I will also be posting blogs of some of our own wine tasting parties starting soon, so keep an eye on this site,  Reg.

Reg’s Wine Blog – Post # 2 January 23, 2016, Addendum to Post # 1, ratings

A couple of readers noted that I had failed to rate the wines I reviewed in my first post, my apologies. So please find below my ratings of those great wines tasted, and both storage and purchase recommendations:

Blog Pics the great 4

  1. 1985 Chevalier Montrachet, Jean Chartron – tasted August 2015, rating 89 points on a 100 point scale. Very good but no longer great, it has started to decline. If you still own this wine, drink up before it leaves you behind. You cannot safely buy this wine now, it may no longer be good.
  2. 1952 Chateau Latour – tasted August 2015, rating 90 points. This wine is soft and delicate, still quite pleasant to drink. If you still own this wine, drink now and over the next 2 years. You might get lucky and find the wine still drinks well 5 years from now, but that will depend on how long you have owned it and how well you have stored it. If this wine was available for purchase at auction I would not buy it, that would be too risky.
  3. 1978 Chateau Lafite – tasted August 2015, rating 94 points. This wine is full of life and will deliver a great drinking experience for another 10 years easily. If you want to purchase this wine at auction or privately you can be confident that the wine should still be great, provided it has been properly kept. You will see this wine for sale between $600 and $1,000 CDN, obviously at $600 this wine is a bargain compared to the price of new releases.
  4.  1971 Chateau Y’Quem – tasted August 2015, rating 92 points. The bottle I tasted had a mid shoulder fill and the wine itself was slightly oxidized as a result. The wine was still excellent and showing no other signs of decline, no doubt this vintage will last another 10 years plus easily. Although you could purchase this wine at auction for $1,000 CDN or less, my suggestion would be to purchase the 1975 vintage at a similar price, or buy the 1983 or 1986 vintage at a lower price in the $600 to $750 range.

Buying an older wine at auction can be risky, and this will be the subject of a future post I will make. For now my advice if you cannot attend the auction in person to inspect the bottle personally would be to get as much detail about the wine’s provenance from the auctioneers. You want to know how long the current owner has owned the wine and how well the wine has been kept, in other words are the auctioneers familiar with the seller, have they had previous good experiences dealing with that seller. Avoid buying a wine that has changed hands too often.

Cheers, Reg.

Reg’s Wine Blog – Blog # 1 November 2015 – Great Wines I Have Known

Planning a special evening and a special dinner around a great wine can be complicated. Doing the same with four such wines in the same evening is an even greater challenge. There are so many variables to take into consideration ranging from “will the wine be good” to “what food will compliment the wine best” to “having a suitable backup wine if needed”.

My wife and I recently hosted a dinner for four where the other couple are good friends of ours who know and appreciate fine wine (always important when you go to open a bottle of your best), and they had recently done me a huge favour for which this dinner was to show our gratitude. We had also recently moved and I needed to find a special occasion in order to open some of our older bottles which showed signs of aging.

I selected a bottle of 1985 Chevalier Montrachet by Jean Chartron, a 1952 Chateau Latour, a 1978 Chateau Lafite, and a 1971 Chateau Y’Quem, to be consumed in that order with an entrée, main course and dessert. The Lafite was meant to be a backup in case the Latour was a disappointment. I had a feeling the Montrachet would be tired and dried out, as might be the Latour, since 1952 was  generally a poor year in Bordeaux except for Chateau Latour. The Y’Quem had oxidized, the colour being brown/orange, the bottle fill being only mid shoulder and the cork showing signs of recent seepage. So the evening’s lineup was full of risk with lots of ways that we could have more than one disappointment. It also meant that I had to have more than one backup plan, and that the dinner menu would have to be carefully constructed.

We decided to start the evening with an assortment of paté and a double smoked cheese, accompanied by a very simple and plain 2012 Oyster Bay Chardonnay. That allowed our guests to get comfortable and the all important socializing and “catching up” to take place before the main event was to start. As an entrée my wife served up pan fried scallops on a bed of kale in a lemon dressing. The tart lemon dressing was meant to offset and minimize any sharp or flat weakness in the old Montrachet. The wine was very interesting, it definitely was on its last legs, it had a woody tinge to it that is typical of a once majestic, but now over the hill old Chardonnay. But this was still balanced, and had enough fruit on the palate to be tired but still very pleasant. As the wine warmed up in the glass it improved, and more fruit emerged. Unlike many older wines the nose and palate did not fall apart after 10 or 15 minutes. The food combined very well with the wine, and the tart lemon enhanced the flavours of the wine on the palate. This was both a surprise and a success.

1985 Chevalier Montrachet Domaine Jean Chartron

As we finished the last of the Montrachet I barbequed our filet mignon that my wife had marinated in a thick basil vinaigrette dressing, while my wife tended to the vegetables, very simple boiled baby potatoes and carrots served in a butter sauce. Opening the 1952 Latour was not easy, the cork was disintegrating, even as I delicately used my “Ah-So” two pronged cork remover (this is a necessity for older wines as many corks do not age as well as the wine).

Blog Pics Ah So cork remover

The all important first taste told me the wine was still very good, what a relief. With a medium rare filet mignon topped by a bearnaise sauce, and the boiled baby potatoes and carrots in a light butter sauce, this was a perfect fit with our 52 Latour. The wine was soft and delicate, round but still carrying lots of fruit. There was nothing on the dinner plate to compete with the subtle fruit flavours in the Latour so the combined effect was very complimentary to the wine. Our guests were blown away with the food/wine combination.

Chateau Latour 1952

As we lingered on the last of that wonderful Latour, I debated in my mind whether we should open the 78 Lafite or proceed immediately to dessert, after all the Lafite was there primarily as a backup in case the Latour was a failure. I opted to open it, and boy was that a great decision. In my view the Lafite was the biggest success of the evening. This was a full bodied wine, lots of spicy cedar on the nose and palate, a huge lingering cedar aftertaste and not a hint of fatigue anywhere. This wine will still carry another 10 to 15 years in the bottle without losing a beat, so anyone who thinks the 1978 vintage for Pauillac wines is past its prime (as some wine critics are prone to say) should taste the Lafite. I consider myself fortunate to have another two bottles left in my cellar.

Blog Pic Lafite Rothchild 1978

There was no food to consume while we enjoyed our Lafite, so this allowed us to focus all our attention on the wine. Although it was not planned that way, this worked out very well. We were all mesmerized by the sheer power of this wine, the robust cedar flavours, full bodied palate and aftertaste. Every taste brought new pleasure, and our guests commented “Oh my God, this wine is fabulous” and “I have never tasted anything this good”. Perhaps that was a little exaggerated, or maybe it was the ambiance of the moment, but it really was a special moment in time we will all remember.

Alas it was time for dessert, so we served up a chocolate cake with plenty of icing and chocolate while I uncorked the 71 Y’Quem. The first sip told me this wine was like licorice, an orange blossom fruit bomb with plenty of caramel, slightly oxidized but heavenly nonetheless. The initial flavours gave way to an avalanche of secondary fruit flavours, peach, apricot, mango, melons and more. The wine was sweeter than the poor chocolate cake, completely overpowering it, but then again it is hard to imagine anything that could rival the flavours the Y’Quem was giving off. 1971 was not considered a great year for Sauternes or Chateau Y`Quem, and this bottle itself was not in the best of condition, but it was a total success anyways.

Blog Pics 1971 Chateau Y'Quem

We were stunned, and completely blown away with the sum total of these four memorable wines. And I was quietly breathing a sigh of relief that all had gone off without a hitch. When I look back on the magic of that evening I am amazed at how many things could have gone wrong. But the point is simply that nothing did go wrong. A little bit of careful planning, a lot of tender loving care storing our treasured wine gems, good friends to share that special moment in time, some luck and good fortune, and we all have a memory that will stay with us forever and always bring a smile when reflected upon.

Blog Pics the great 4

 

Good wine, good food, and good friends all combined that night to create great memories. I have many other wine memories and given time I will gladly share these with you. Reg.