vancouver wine casual: big reds.

Colin was kind enough to open his home to a merry band of friends and Vancouver Wine Casual folk this past weekend. The theme of this blind wine tasting was “Big Reds” — not my usual style, but as I’ve been warming up to Cabs and Bordeaux blends lately, it seemed a good time as any to broaden my palate. 11 bottles of hidden origin were presented to the group along with a tasting sheet; homemade baguette by Maarten; a bevy of cheese, charcuterie, chocolate, fruit, and crisps; and other yummy homemade treats.

See all photos from this event on Flickr

Below are all the wines we sampled. Following each bottle are Colin’s thoughtful appraisals and my much more uninformed snap judgments =)

A) 2006 MollyDooker – Two Left Feet

Colin: 91 pts. Robert Parker loves this producer. A hard to find wine…very new world fruit forward Australian blend (Merlot, Shiraz, Cab). Lots of ripe plum, cherry, roasted walnut…great to drink alone or with red meat. One of my favourites of the night.

Karen: Drew a sad face under the column called “Score”. It was inky with deep plum notes. Someone said it was reminiscent of cherry vanilla Coke, and I’d have to agree (I hated that drink). What Colin described as roasted walnut came through to me as a quite bitter finish. Not a fan.

B) 2001 Fabiano Amarone Della Valpolicella

Colin: 89 pts. Initially a bit flat on the nose even though we decanted it and worked it hard in the glass…tried it again at the end of the night and its true pedigree came out. Vanilla, dates, caramel with hint of smoke…nice long finish.

Karen: My favourite of the bunch for its soft, supple Old-Worldliness. Impressed enough to rate it near 90 and say that I’d pay more than $40 for it (good, since it is $67 a bottle). When I first put my nose into the glass, I was struck by its unusual bouquet. Couldn’t quite pin it down. Eventually, I realized that it reminded me of the Ash Camembert that I adored at Salt Tasting Room. Savoured every last drop and was sad to only have a smidgeon extra after the bottles were unveiled.

C) 2005 Le Volte Ornelllaia

Colin: 87 pts. A solid drinkable red. An interesting old world/new world flavour composition. Lots of plum/ripe blackberry…a bit weak on the finish.

Karen: Another sad face verdict. It puckered the mouth with its tannins and had less substance in both flavour and nose than the prior tastings. Forgettable.

D) 2005 Quail’s Gate Merlot

Colin: 87 pts. One of my favourite BC producers…this was a solid merlot. Fantastic nose that didn’t quite taste as good as it smelled. Needed a bit more time in the bottle to round itself out.

Karen: Yum! Scored this in the high 80s as well. I’m a Merlot gal so I immediately took to this one. With the closest wine shop being a BC VQA reseller, it was also easy to tell what region this hailed from. Very familiar terroir, with blackberry and cherry notes. Thought it was bold enough to be a cab-merlot blend, like our wedding wine. In fact, try the Cedar Creek Cabernet Merlot if you like this style.

[Side note: Liam, who was involved in the production of this particular vintage when he worked at Quail’s Gate, kept saying during the blind tasting that he’d had this one before…]

E) 2004 Cantina Di Negrar Amarone Della Valpolicella

Colin: 84 pts. Not my cup of tea…although I really do like Amarone. The nose and first hit on the palate was one of “port”. Called this one “Portenteous”. A bit like a watered down port to me…

Karen: The other Amarone of the night got another thumbs up from me. Scored it at 85 (though I really have no idea how one is supposed to rate a wine like Robert Parker or Wine Spectator). Smelled deliciously of molasses and dates. Very port-esque. I was worried about the sweetness of the nose but is was substantially less so in taste. Went fabulously with the blue cheese and dark chocolate that was floating around on the appy table.

F) 2004 Casa Silva Lolol Gran Reserva

Colin: 79 pts. F stood for Funky…and not in a good way. There was a urine smell on the nose, and the flavour profile was musty…imagine sticking your head in bog water…definitely not my cup of tea…

Karen: Oh god. This got two extremely unhappy faces. One was almost in tears. Musky and smoky, in what can only be described as exhaust. The first glass where I was glad to dump the majority of it into the spittoon. I didn’t smell or taste urine, thankfully.

emoticon rating schema

G) 2005 Podere Sapaio Volpolo

Colin: 93 pts. This was my favourite wine of the night. It truly was what I think of when I think “Big Red”. Spicy, bold, explosions of pomagranate and dark chocolate on the palate and a smooth full long finish. This I would love to have with roasted lamb, a prime rib, or rack of lamb that is boldly spiced! Kaboom!! Loved it!

Karen: The first “meh” face makes its rating appearance. While Colin raved about it, I hid myself in the corner along with my feelings of its mediocrity. Lots of berry. Didn’t taste much else. It was much too bold for my palate.

H) 2005 Clos de los Siete Mendoza

Colin: 87 pts. I’m not a big fan of Malbecs…maybe I just haven’t found any great ones yet. This one wasn’t bad…I suspect it may have fallen lower in my mind because of the previous wine. Wonderful dark cherry, violet, sweet grass notes on the first hit…but the finish was underwhelming.

Karen: Meh face number 2. My sheet said “very tart. slightly tannic. blackberry. similar to G. new world”. Keep in mind that by this time, I’m on glass #8 and had hardly made use of the spit jar. Guitar Hero 3 had also been let loose. I think I was too busy trying to rock out to Sabotage than to keep decent notes from this point on.

I) 2005 Rolf Binder “Heinrich”

Colin: 86 pts. An odd sanitized bathroom scent on the nose…in a good way. A bit tight…needed decanting or more time. Like the previous wine, a bit underwhelming all around.

Karen: This was the wine we brought, on the recommendation of a colleague. It got a meh face as well. I may have also been too tipsy to evaluate it properly. Notes say “new world. not memorable. flavours and bouquet are not very complex”. It was here that I got photo happy with Liam and his awesome David Suzuki t-shirt.

he hearts david suzuki too!

J) 2004 Chateau Pesquie “Quintessence”

Colin: 88 pts. My first take on this wine was that it was weak on the nose and lacking complexity…but I was playing Guitar Hero when I first tasted it…a half hour later, it really opened up. This is a solid producer, so I’m not surprised.

Karen: By this point, my resolve to be a proper oenophile vanished into the night. I was completely absorbed in watching the boys play Guitar Hero 3 and yelling out rock anthems when I knew the words. J was gulped down without much note. I did take enough time to draw a meh face for it, so it must not have stuck out much from its neighbours.

K) 2005 Sasyr Sangiovese & Syrah Toscana

Colin: 85 pts. I find Sangiovese can be divine or kind of blah…in this case, it was a bit blah. Very tannin-y, earthy…not in a good way…puckery on the palate. I tried it again in the morning (just a sip…really, I don’t have a drinking problem) when I was cleaning up the carnage from the night before…and even with the extra “air”, it was puckery…

Karen: Surprised to find notes at the bottom of my sheet for this one! K broke the streak of indifferent emoticons: it got a happy face. It smelled sweet and syrupy but made for easy drinking. It wasn’t memorable beyond its bouquet, which was probably only significant because it contrasted so much against the last four bottles.

So there you have it, folks. Thanks to Colin for letting me reprint his excellent analyses. It’ll take a lot more wine education on my part before I am capable of forgoing emoticons in favour of the usual point system!

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