Monday, October 29, 2007

The Week in Alcohol

That's about 220ml more than you need The LCBO in Ontario announced that they would start selling French Rabbit in 250ml tetra-pacs

But that's pretty much average for a night out in Cardif Journalists came upon the New Zealand All-Blacks rugby coach passed out in a washroom before the World Cup quarter-finals in Cardif, Wales. In related news, Australian Rugby Union chair Peter McGrath was forced to resign his position when "one of Australian rugby's major sponsor complained in writing that McGrath was so affected by alcohol he could hardly speak at a function on the eve of Australia's quarter-final defeat by England in Marseille, France"

Those Parisians sure know how to put on a party English fans were surprised to discover that the 250,000 pints of beer sold at the Stade de France during the Rugby World Cup contained no alcohol---despite costing more than six pounds apiece

He fruitlessly claimed he'd just come from the Rugby World Cup in Paris Police at Heathrow airport swarmed onto a Virgin Airlaines Airbus A340 and arrested the co-pilot for being drunk.

Gee, expectation really is the source of all misery According to, "underground alternative star Paul Raven from Ministry and Killing Joke died expectedly [sic] this week. Though numerous blogs immediately speculated that drugs might have been involved, no mentions of drugs except alcohol have emerged in subsequent press reports"

In a tell-all biography, Wine Critic and demigod Robert Parker's former assistant Hannah Agostini reveals that the palate-that- walks-like-a-man would frequently recycle his writing; write about wines he hadn't tasted; and was far too cozy with the winemakers he was supposedly a critic of. In a related story, Bordeaux gros frommage Alain Renaud unsuccessfully sued to have all passages concerning him removed from Agostini's book, entitled Robert Parker: the Anatomy of a Myth

Monday, October 22, 2007

RSVP Tasting: "Absolutely Terrifying"

Wine Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2005
From Okanagan, BC
Price $17.95 (MSL)
Alcohol Content 13.0%
It's the first wine of the evening and everybody is receptive: "Beautiful nose---like a Pinot Gris" says the Boss, and heads nod around the table: Yes indeed; it has a nice, fruity nose of honey and apples, tart acid on the palate, and an aftertaste of apple peels. "I could drink this," the Boss gravely concludes. "And I will." Everybody bows their heads.

Wine La Franz Sauvignon Blanc “Small Lots” 2006
From Okanagan, BC
Price $22 (MSL)
Big, goofy nose---it certainly doesn't smell like a Sauvignon Blanc. Palate is mushy and indecisive: "Too much sugar---no finish" is the way one taster puts it, and the philosopher of the group goes him one better, complaining of an icky aftertaste. This sets on edge the teeth of the taster from the wrong hemisphere: he declares it superior to the Blue Mountain above. He is of course deluded, but the rest get the point: it's the new-world style with plenty of oomph, and for a lot of consumers, that's plenty.

Wine Santa Carolina Chardonnay 2006
From Chile
Price $8.35 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 13.5%
For what turns out to be merely the first time this evening, Fearless Leader is thunderstruck by his first sniff: "Terrifying!" Cooler heads and palates detect something both green (as in stemmy and herbacious) and oaky (as in "they used the big tea bag---it ain't barrels.") Nobody says "I like it", but there's some grudging backpedalling on the lead taster's initial judgment: "This isn't so bad," says the boss. "It's OK for the price," says his side-kick, praising with faint damnation.

Wine Summerhill Galaxy White
From Okanagan, BC
Price $12.95 (BC Liquor Stores)
Alcohol Content 11.5%
The lead taster is feeling magnanimous in his criticism: "there is a place for a wine like this... just not at my table." Point is well taken, though---with its big, goofy fruit this is a patio sipper, not a table wine. (Although the actual restaurant foot-soldiers at the table both like it.) "This would be good for sitting on a log at the beach," is the way the philosophical taster puts it, and everybody nods sagely.

Wine Summerhill Ehrenfelser 2006
From Okanagan, BC
Price $21.32 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 13.2%
Some ohhs and ahhs from the peanut gallery ("Spicy!" "Big fruit!") betray a crowd-pleaser that stuns the snobs at the table into disrespectful silence. There is a bit of the wine-for-dummies feel to it: there's not much acid and it's over-ripe and a bit cloying; but nevertheless, Steven Cipes sells this by the case to the busloads of tourists who visit his winery. It's sweet enough to seem tailor-made for a spicy Asian meal, which is probably just what those busloads of tourists have in mind.

Wine Runaway Bay Chardonnay 2006
From Australia
Price $12.03 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 13.5%
Either tasters are getting shell-shocked, or we're going through a particularly bad patch: "Oh my God" moans Fearless Leader. "Absolutely terrifying!" For running that catchphrase into the ground, he will be mocked for the rest of the evening---because frankly, the Runaway Bay's not that bad; it's chief sin is tasting more like a Semillon than a Chard, and being on the whole no better than the Santa Carolina, which is three bucks cheaper. But the damage is done, and the insults cascade down from all the yes-men in the bleachers---the most gentle of them calling the wine "a suicide note." Oh, the humanity.

Wine Alamos Chardonnay 2006
From Argentina
Price $18.40 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 13.5%
Starts rough, but gets better as it goes, finally snapping into new-world-big focus after a few minutes. The blond taster at the table likes it ("I wouldn't pay $18 for it, though"), but the voice that counts is the boss's: "I like this wine."

Wine Catena Chardonnay 2005
From Argentina
Price $25.00 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 13.5%
This was made by the same producer as the Alamos above, and everybody notices at least a change in the nose; "not as obvious---more European" in the words of one taster. The latitudinally-challenged comrade (who shares a hemisphere with the producer) claims that he can taste a big difference between the two bottles, but he is pooh-poohed by the philosophical type: "It's got more finesse, but it's still a big, new-world chard.". The remaining conversation comes down to dollars, which the lead taster and his hangers-on figure would be better spent on the Jadot they tried the week before. It's tough being from the wrong side of the equator.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Week in Alcohol

You want that bottle in paper or plastic, you drunken scumbag BC Liquor Stores announced a campaign to encourage alcohol consumption in moderation by making “those who abuse alcohol feel rejected/marginalized.”

But on the plus side, all those boozed-up male freshman students from the Aberdeen suburbs will look a lot better to you
A “Boozy Betty” P.R. campaign directed at female first-year students at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland aims to discourage binge drinking by telling girls that it will give them bad skin, make them fat, and lead to unsafe sex and missed essay deadlines

No, I’m stupid like Mickey Rourke, Robert Downy Jr. and Courtney Love In an interview with FHM Magazine, failed television host, notorious party animal and Paris Hilton satellite Tara Reid distanced herself from celebrity last-days- of-Pompeii culture by claiming not to be as “stupid” as Hilton, Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan

We’re gonna do it by catering to overweight first-year university students with bad skin
Johnny Walker’s parent company recently told its wholesalers that they intended to increase sales over the next three years by an unheard-of 400%

She had Tara Reid as a reference on her CV
Britney Spears applied for a job as a barmaid at Santa Monica’s Viceroy Hotel

Saturday, October 13, 2007

RSVP Tasting: Belle des Jacobins

Wine Jadot Couvent Des Jacobins 2004
From Burgundy, France
Price $24.99 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 13.0%
The Boss is on this one like a limpet right from sniff one: "How much is this one?!" He makes his point---this is one nice Chard for the dollars: crisp, intelligent, more old-world than new (Catherine Deneuve rather than Madonna); balanced with an aftertaste of lingering fruit. Nothing out of place; nothing huge. C'est logique ca: You merely have to get used ot the idea that bang is not what you always want for your buck.

Wine Seven Hills Riesling 2004
From Washington, USA
Price $27.83 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 12.0%
Lead taster once again articulately throws his weight around: "I like this one!" Nods from the Mosel fans scattered about the table---this goes in a more Germanic direction with some subtle sweetness up front and a lingering, fruity aftertaste. As an American immitating a German inevitably does, this one skates very close to the edge of goofyness... but pulls back from the abyss.

Wine Henschke Julius Riesling 2003
From Eden Valley, Australia
Price $37.50 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 12.5%
Sharp and angular, rather than posh like the Seven Hills above; potent but divisive---a couple of tasters find it big but generic; others admire its guts and expressiveness. A minor controversy erupts: one taster is quite over the moon in his priaise; he gains some deciples until everybody remembers that he's the rep for the brand. At that point people start to notice the price and his support crumbles like the ice on the Thompson River in February.

Wine Church & State Church Mouse Sauvignon Blanc/Semillion 2006
From Saanich, BC
Price $16.90 (MSL)
Alcohol Content 13.2%
A close look at the text on the back label leaves you prepared to taste lemon-lime grass-melon cantaloupes. Fortunatly, the label's claims are inflated---what you have is a white Bordeaux combination done up to taste mildly German. Nobody in the peanut gallery finds anything much on the nose; palate is sweet, easygoing... and faceless. A definite step up from Blue Nun, but they're chasing a pretty crowded market in that kind of field.

Wine Stag’s Hollow Simply Pink 2005
From Okanagan, BC
Price $13.91 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 12.9%
Gamay, Pinot, Cab and Merlot went into the vat; what came out was mixed with Chard. Eyebrows raised around the table: this is a Rose that actually smells like something! Skins were kept in the vat for only a day, so the palate is all fruit-driven; acid is nicely under control---tart without being sour. Feels like a Gamay, only more fun; a Rose that doesn't feel like an accident or a rabbit the winemaker pulled out of a lousy harvest hat.

Wine Staete Landt Sauvignon Blanc 2005
From New Zealand
Price $31.52 (Spinnakers, BC)
Alcohol Content 14.0%
Ho, hum; another New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. While the palate was thankfully free of tall grass and the like, bottle claims of passionfruit and gooseberries were not hugely in evidence to many tasters. Wears its alcohol pretty well, actually; most comments have it tasting big, pleasant and grapey; although there's some muttering about the price---especially in the face of a half-a-dozen other NZSB's with as many virtues.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Week in AAlcohol

But Bullwinkle, that trick never works
Lindsay Lohan emerged this week from two months in rehab. It was her third crack at alcohol treatment this year

Clean water was too hard
to find an investigation by Labatt Brewery discovered that bottles of Stella Artois with high concentrations of ethyl alcohol had been taken from displays and sold to the public. Their explanation for the adulterated bottles: “It was to keep the beer from getting cloudy.”

No, it’s not about former Ontario Solicitor-General Ken Keyes
Students at The University of Calgary introduced a video game called "Booze Cruise", which aims to simulate the experience of driving while at up to three times the legal blood-alcohol limit

will kill this beer Ford of Canada announced that 24 star Kiefer Sutherland’s recent drunk driving charge will not alter his position as voice-over spokesman for Ford products in Canadian TV commercials

So that’s what killed him England’s Prince Harry, soon to be publicly immortalized in marble as a dead soldier in a tribute to servicemen not allowed to participate in the gulf war, was photographed this week snorting vodka

OK, that’s it---Mugabe’s gotta go
The price of beer in Zimbabwe was doubled by Government fiat

We don't like that she's calling her latest album
Blackout, either People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are calling for noted---and now childless---alcohol abuser Britney Spears to have her dogs taken away from her

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

RSVP Tasting: I'm dreaming of a red Thanksgiving

Wine Chateau Grossombre 2003
From Bordeaux AC, France
Price $17.95 (LCBO, Ontario)
Alcohol Content 12.5%
A Lurton wine with a mix of 67% Cab and 33% Merlot that spent one year in oak. Smells and tastes like a Cab-driven Bordeaux, at least; tannins still a bit green on the finish, so this could possibly wait for a year. Middle drops out, which indicates too many grapes to the acre---or too few to the bottle. Those who stuck around for a second glass noticed that the nose had picked up some meaty complexity and the palate had stabilized a bit. Pleasant, but no big deal---another case where price rules: If it costs you no more than a bottle of Ol’ Yeller Tail, it’s a steal. (Unfortunatly, Ol Yeller Tail doesn't reach this price even in the Yukon.)

Wine Chateau Cabaron 2003
From Bordeaux AC, France
Price $22.95 (LCBO, Ontario)
Alcohol Content 14.0%
Wine is a mix of 90% Merlot and 10% Cab, which with the high alcohol content (high for Bordeaux AC, that is) makes a couple of tasters nervous: Is this going to be new-world goofy? A nose in the glass allays some fears by finding a rich, classically Bordeaux scent---bold but not dopey. Major tannin on the palate, but not offensive; fruit is there to smooth it out. Lovely finish induces even the cranky taster to declare it “a winner”. The rest of the conversation dances fitfully and inconclusively around: Is the alcohol too hot; too present? Is this wine too Parkerish? Could it have used a bit more Cabernet Backbone? But mostly, how many more bottles of this should we buy?

Wine Flagstone “Dragon Tree” 2005
From South Africa
Price $15.95 (LCBO, Ontario)
Alcohol Content 14.5%
A mighty, wild mix of Cab, Merlot, Shiraz, Petit Verdot and Pinotage gives a big, assertive Bordeaux-on-steroids nose. A pretty complicated fruit-bomb, actually, with good big tannins, and every note appearing in the right order---which usually indicates that the winemakers have done their vineyard work honestly and have resisted the urge to meddle in the process too obviously. Too huge for food, really; and as it goes along, the high alcohol fries your taste buds, making it taste less multi-dimensional as it was right after the bottle was opened. But that’s the only problem, really---spread this out among more than ten guests and everybody will feel as if they’ve died and gone to Cape Town.

Wine Torrederos Crianza
From Ribera del Duero, Spain
Price $18.95 (LCBO, Ontario)
Alcohol Content 14.0%
Subtle Tempranillo nose leads to a big (too big?) but sweet, oaky attack. Still, no complaints from the peanut gallery about what is a nice, single-minded statement. Tannins are present and still pretty green, which means that this should also improve---and it’s pretty nice already. It also worked with food much better than the wine above.

Wine Cline Zinfandel 2005
From California
Price $19.99 (BC Liquor Stores)
Alcohol Content 14.0%
Biggish, but anonymous nose. On the palate… what the…? Candy floss! Strange faces made around the table: This is actively unpleasant---is there any such thing as over-blandness? The distilled essence of every Scooby-Do cartoon ever made squeezed into every gulp, perhaps? A desperate attempt to be analytical produces the following notes: Fruity, callow, youthful nose; stemmy undertaste on the opening with a kool-aid-fruity attack. Smoky aftertaste, but no tannin---so age is going to offer no improvement. Cline’s Zins didn’t always taste like this, so it looks like they’ve unfortunately made a conscious decision to go with the nutrasweet effect at this grade, and transferred any profundity they might achieve to their Ancient Vines collection. In short, they’ve just priced themselves out of the field.

Wine Chateau la Freynelle 2005
From Bordeaux AC, France
Price $14.49 (Kensington Wines, Calgary)
Alcohol Content 12.5%
60% Cabernet-40% Merlot blend from Entre-Deux-Mers in Bordeaux is from a single vinyard but doesn't seem to give much of a sense of any borders more specific than those around Bordeaux itself. Yet people finish what's in their glasses before moving on: Balance, depth and plain ol' high standards make up for what this lacks of that terrior thing. Or in the words of the lead taster, "all faceless Bordeaux's should taste this good." Better value than the Grossombre above; its makers also have the guts to use a screw cap. But we'll see what they do outside a fabulous year like 2005.