How to beat the Christmas shopping rush: Dupéré-Barrera Les Terres de Méditerranée 2004

"The more the experts proclaim their approval of great wines, the harder it becomes for the consumer to actually drink them."

dupere barrera five star wine  Post updated 061221 in comments


brandolini Vistorta 2003 sold out Phaneuf acclaimI've never seen so many wine shoppers as I have lately. All these new fellow shoppers... is it camaraderie or is it competition?

It's competition.

Despite the spirit of the season, I definitely see it as competition. HUGE competition at that. Bah humbug buddy, that bottle's mine!

The fact is that getting top-reviewed bottles is harder now than I can ever remember. Typically at this time of the year, winning the sought-after cuvée is tough. This particular year it practically takes a Christmas miracle to get your hands on it. Or so it seems to me.

I have seen what it takes to secure those prized bottles when new shipments trickle in and then immediately start selling like hotcakes. When party supplies need to be stocked up and year-end lists encourage further purchases, buying that bottle can certainly appear to be a lost cause.

In Montreal, the main reason they sell like hotcakes is Michel Phaneuf, famed Quebecois wine writer. In my critical review of his Guide du Vin 2007, I suggested readers met with frustration when then opened the wine-buying guide because the annual survey of wines sold in the province was presented this year in a less user-friendly way than usual. I mostly discussed problems with its layout and ordering but one thing that caused me to meet frustration again and again was something I did not even mention. (I didn't mention it because it's the wine lover's paradox -- no fault of Phaneuf or his publishers.)

I'm talking about the well-known fact that the more the experts proclaim their approval of great wines, the harder it becomes for the consumer to actually drink them. Especially in the midst of a Christmas rush.

Recently Phaneuf has given some extremely affordable wines five-star reviews, a fairly unprecedented thing. As a result, it is impossible to get your hands on. When his wine newsletter let the cat out of the wine bag earlier this year, what short supply there was of the five-star Vistorta Merlot 2003 by Conti Brandolini d'Adda (pictured above) fast depleted from SAQ outlets (click on it and see). When restaurateurs buy up the stuff by the case, what chance does the everyday consumer really have?

Slim to none, but with persistence and discipline you can do like I did and score yourself some. But also please learn from my mistakes. Here's what I did in the course of my five-star pursuit:


Since the SAQ, like many wine agencies and retailers, has an online database of their stock, I made a point of checking in daily for any sign of the five-star wine in the province. Occasionally, results show 1 or 2 bottles. Calling the outlet that reports the stock usually is a dead-end. The outlet will reply that the number is an error or is normally-occurring breakage.

9:30 AM

The other day, I got lucky. It was half-past nine, the time outlets open, and I had just returned a search result indicating 8 bottles. This was a good sign. I called immediately. The employee responding to my query went to check on the actual stock and said he could account for 6 bottles. Two must've just sold, he told me. Fine. I asked for two of what was left to be put aside, saying that I was on my way to pick them up.

9:43 AM

I didn't immediately consider asking for more than two bottles because I didn't have access to a car. But then I thought a trek across the city using public transit with my half-case would be worth the trouble. I called back five minutes later to ask for all six bottles. They said that there were now only five bottles, but that I could have those. I said sure.

9:47 AM

An incoming call on my phone. My call display said it was the SAQ. Not a good omen. I answered and they informed me that only the original two bottles I had requested would be available for me to pick up. The other three bottles had been snapped up before they could reserve them for me. Too bad about that -- unfortunately wine lovers, that's what half-measures and hesitation will get you this Christmas in Quebec -- but I couldn't really complain.


Most common holiday accidents

Yesterday, I received the following message in my email inbox and this was one of the images attached to it. Please don't let this happen to you this holiday season.

From: "Win"
Subject: X'mas feast 2006
To:"Anna Xu", "AM Ferrara", "Vera", "Huy Duong", "David Chang", "Jason Ang", "Elsa", "Saif Husain", "Zeina", "Marcus Gilliam"

Here are some pics from yesterday evening!

Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season...

winnie lai david chang

Notice how the word safe seems to be emphasized in the context of this particular photo. Don't let yourself be a victim. This image could've been prevented. Avoid posing for photos behind foreshortened bottles of wine. It's Christmas folks, but that Château Grand Launay Côtes-de-Bourg 2001 is no toy. Please pose with it carefully!

That forshortened bottle of wine, by the way, was a standard 750-millilitre bottle, not the Methuselah that it looks like from the viewers' perspective. Orient yourself with the wine bottle size scale here.

biblical names of giant bottle sizes
Our Grand Launay must've seemed bigger than it was. Nearing dinner's end we were daunted by the prospects of opening it and didn't end up tasting it. Hopefully next year we will get a second chance at it. Maybe when no one mindlessly lets it wander between a photo-op and the camera lens.


But this dinner was not all tales of disaster and regret. The theme was our favourite wine discoveries of the year. We tasted wines (in standard-sized bottles) from Rodney Strong, Château Cabrières and Taltarni Vineyards, and I thought that they are were really good, near-perfect selections for the occasion.
The Chardonnay had palpable wood, and though my fellow diner thought it was slightly tainted by the cork, I quite enjoyed it.

The Cabrières and Taltarni wines created an amazing transition that I wouldn't have expected. They have similar depth, richness and are made in the same international style with fine tannins and well-integrated oak. You can tell the Cabernet and Merlot grapes were from a cool-climate region though, and next time I would reverse the order and serve the Cabrières second. It's a smoky, savoury Syrah with less perky acid and fruit and it eases you nicely into dessert.

But most importantly, the man pictured above has recovered and will attend holiday to come dinners featuring many more discovery wines.



Marchesi Alfieri La Tota 2004, aka "Big Babs"

la tota marchesi alfieri barbera d'asti
And... Weingolb revealed!

It'll be a strange week in December. There's a chill in the air yet the good ol' standby of this site, of my coterie of friends, of my very own kitchen -- red wine -- is on the backburner. After tomorrow, I will have not opened a bottle of red wine in a week. (Like I said in my post on my favourite new café, my appetite for red wine has all but totally disappeared.)

I'm enjoying white wines in red's place and that adds to my surprise. After all, Christmas is only ten days away. And while there's no rules against a white wine Yuletide season, it does strike me as an odd time to take the vacation I'm taking.

If redlessness describes my drinking these days, why post now about Barbera you ask? The answer is that my wine reviews come from notes lovingly aged in my cave for one full month. There. The truth's out. The wines you see reviewed on this site (not including the wines in WBW events) were uncorked the month prior. I had the wine in today's post on November 14. (Technically I had it on the 13th and 14th. My remarks on it didn't actually change much from the one day to the next. They often do.)


OK, so why, you ask? For the year I've been posting my tasting notes on this site, I've routinely found that the energy required to take accurate and thorough notes didn't bode well for the effort I wanted to put into further research, presentation and style. Yes I put hard work into my wine reviews. Can't you feel the 30 days of polish applied to my posts?

So call me Wait-a-while Weingolb (and while we're at it, Weingolb is "blog" spelled backwards and appended to the German word for wine, in case you were wondering).

Onward to the unveiling of Marchesi Alfieri La Tota Barbera D'Asti 2004, a wine that's known in these parts as Big Babs. Check out Alfieri's online profile of it, which in most years is their top cuvée.

Before I reveal the secrets that lie behind the cork, a penetrating look at the label. "La Tota" means signorina in the Piedmontese dialect, or so say the winemakers. And that in English means miss, as in Miss Congeniality. I know. That was the first (and last) Italian title to a Weingolb wine review.

In any case, this wine is a hit, far from a miss, though I was a bit perplexed in drinking such a serious treatment for Barbera, a grape that usually is rendered into simple, quaffable and frequently cheap expressions.


The colour is a very bright magenta and there is a tad of a green aroma to it when you swirl it around your glass. La Tota would easily age perfectly well if you laid it down for a few years.

My first reaction was that this wine was very acidic, very Barbera. I found no trace of oak (though the profile page strangely alludes to it). An oak presence, I would hazard, is quite a nice thing for a Barbera. It seems to me that Barbera -- a rustic, often abrasive, frequently light-bodied varietal -- stands to gain a lot from oak's softening tannins and smoothing vanilla.

If this wine is missing wood, it is certainly not short on extraction and integration, which are really quite fantastic here. I've never had a Barbera like this one. It has medium body and medium length. It's even got a medium level of fruit, but mostly raspberry that has shades of mocha and spice. Its pucker makes for a less-than-great pairing if you've got hearty grilled foods like I had the night I sampled it.


Instead, try it with cold cuts, white meats, even fish in a fennel-infused relish. I might even like to try it with spice-box dishes like gnocchi made with no shortage of nutmeg or my favourite flourless pasta, a spinach-and-sage malfatti.

Mmmm... Marchesi Alfieri's La Tota Malfatti Night -- sign me up. My appetite for red wine is coming back again as I type this.

San Martino, Alfieri, Italia. 14%.


WBW #28 Festive Sparklers: Monmousseau Cuvée J.M. Mousseux 2002 and Mumm Cuvée Brut Prestige NV

For this month's tasting theme, Brenda from Culinary Fool asked for entries on sparkling wine, i.e. NOT Champagne, since wines bearing the official Champagne appellation was tackled earlier this fall.

wine blogging wednesday 28 sparkling sparklers festiveShe's no fool. In fact, Culinary Fool is replete with great information pertaining to sparkling wine, and Brenda's WBW theme is backed up with a five-part debriefing that's instructive and well-organized. So by all means, spend some time with the many useful directions the links above will take you.

Brenda also asked for specific details on the sparklers that participants open, including a practical categorization she's set up for us called Party Sparkler, Special Sparkler or Dud. Since my participation stemmed from an actual, fairly festive get-together I had on the weekend, hitting the Special category was the aim. To make sure they were Special, my guests and I went with known quantities. We got bottles we knew were worthy of the occasion and they did not disappoint. (They also could fit into another WBW category called "Mmmmm... those yummy cuvées have lots of M's" but I digress...)

The sparkling wines we had were: Monmousseau Cuvée J.M. Touraine Mousseux 2002 and Mumm Cuvée Napa Brut Prestige NV (NV stands for non-vintage though "Napa Valley" would be applicable here). The repetitious M's (I count seven) were incidental, but these bottles sure were yummmmmmmy. Okay, enough word play.

First up was the 2002 J.M. Monmousseau. Not only it is a reliable brand, its affordable price makes it crossover categories from Special to Party. It was packed with fruit and refreshment. One guest gravitated to it because it was so cooling and refreshing. It was great with salmon and spinach mousse.

monmousseau sparkling chenin blanc

A Chenin Blanc sparkling wine from Touraine in the Loire Valley in France.
It was followed by the non-vintage Mumm, which is a Champagne House, but here operating out of California's Napa Valley, far far away from Champagne. It was quite different from the first bottle, thought they both were made using the traditional method. From the moment we poured out the Mumm, we noticed the light salmon colour. And it tasted creamier, yeastier, and generally less fruit-driven but thoroughly delicious.

mumm napa sparkling pinot noir pinot meunier chardonnay
A Pinots-Chardonnay blend sparkling wine from the Napa Valley in California. PHOTOS: CATHY CHAMPAGNE
Obviously grape composition set these sparklers apart and gave them quite different profiles. The Chenin Blanc was dry and citrusy, the Pinot Noir-Pinot Meunier-Chardonnay was rich and nutty. I've never done a blind tasting on sparkling wine before, but I am sure anyone could distinguish these two blind.

Montrichard, Loir & Cher, France. 12%. Rutherford, California, U.S.A. 12.5%.


Another Day Without Wine: C'est café !

caffe artjava montrealcaffe artjava montrealcaffe artjava montreal

I found out today that my favourite café doesn't have a liquor license -- doesn't even plan on getting one for a while. Although I'm obviously a wine blogger, I don't mean for this to sound dramatic. I didn't even bat an eye when I heard the news. This blog and its readers may temporarily disown me but I don't care. I'm drinking coffee that has no qualifier.

The espresso is so good at Caffè ArtJava that my mind doesn't much wander to red wine these days. If you have gone to ArtJava for a macchiato you might think the same thing.

While I admire their latte art and I enjoy a real fine brew, I can't claim to be a real connoisseur of coffee. For instance, I am only beginning to realize the depth of coffee science and the heights of barista expertise. We're talking World Barista Championships.

art java electronic signTo me, what's so alluring about a gourmet coffeeshop like ArtJava is a culture and an attitude that is, well I don't know, fun, for lack of a better word (I did say that this was coffee with no qualifier, right?). Sure it helps that you enjoy coffee but there's just a real great atmosphere inside, largely because the friendly baristas clearly love their job, which is an intriguing blend of craft and art (the entire staff shares this attitude and the lunch plates are very good too I might add). But craft and art -- that brings me back to the wine angle again...

Some people say there's art in making wine, but it's nothing like the art of presentation that baristas put into their coffees. "You drink it in with your eyes" I once heard someone say. That's a memorable way of putting it. And it's something the world of wine appreciation does not openly embrace, though there may be times when assessing the colour of wine, decanting a bottle, or admiring a wine label can be its own reward.

I guess the point that I'm trying to make is that ArtJava's customers are rewarded in returning. And so I do.

And when my favourite café finally gets licensed to serve wine, so much the better. Last summer, when I ordered a glass of Chianti at the original ArtJava location, I requested that they chill it in their fridge for ten minutes. They could've told me no, or to try it first as it is, or that their customers seem like to like it at the temperature it's already at. Instead, they happily obliged. Craft and art and great service.


At the end of last week's gushing restaurant appreciation of ArtJava -- gushing especially because the post gushed out of me without actually taking the time to review the elements unique to the new location -- I made a promise. I did at least take the time to say that I would delve deeper into the unique "surround-sound chill-out room" tucked away in the back of the downtown café. Well, the story behind it is better than I could've guessed.

The room is bank vault. The ambient little setting you sip your lattes in today is a result of necessity more than design. Because the bank vault was built with massively thick walls, it is a structural element of the building. The mezzanine above it which houses offices would basically collapse if the vault was torn out. Talk about a unique element.

The bank that installed it, the National Bank, or la Banque Nationale du Canada, is now directly across the street. In a weird twist, National Bank employees have been said to store the coffee supplies for their office kitchen in their new vault, which is space reclaimed from a long-defunct A. L. Van Houtte.


My experiment in storing opened wine: Etchart Privado Cafayate & Carte D'Or Buzet 2003

The other night I opened a couple of low-end Cabernets. The first one was a Buzet blend from 2003. It was a disappointingly hot cuvée from an otherwise reliable co-operative. I didn't drink too much of it before I turned to open the other Cabernet, also from 2003. This one was Etchart's Cafayate Cab Sauv. It was better -- though not exactly supple either -- but my dinner was practically finished by that point.

And so, as a solo drinker, I faced a major storage issue: the better part of each of the two bottles I had opened for myself remained there in front of me, waiting for another opportunity to be drunk.

I keep several mini bottles of varying sizes specifically for leftover wine purposes. If you've read this blog before you know that I routinely minimize the amount of air and then chill until next serving, usually in following 48 hours (at which point I usually comment on the wine's development/degradation). But I've never attempted to formally prove why this rebottling process is worth the effort. Why bother transferring a half-full bottle of wine at all? Well, here is what I did and what I found out...

I filled a mini bottle to the brim with the Buzet, tightly screwcapped the lid and refrigerated it. I then repeated these steps for the Cafayate. That left roughly 1/3 of the wine in the original bottles. I re-stoppered them both with their respective corks and left them to sit at room temperature -- 18 degrees Celsius. And I waited three days before returning to them.

A bit of background and rationale for you: The effects of oxidation of wine -- basically wine tasting flat -- occurs through a natural process that is stimulated once the bottle is uncorked. But there are many people who say that the pouring of wine from half-full bottles (and into mini bottles) dissolves just as much oxygen in the wine as leaving the wine in a bottle that features a vast expanse of air. (My own educated guess from experience was that the presence of air over time during storage would be a greater oxidizing force than the momentary act of pouring into a mini bottle.)

To this experiment, I added a second variable of storage temperature. I wanted to investigate this because I always chill wine remainders rather than keep them at cellar temperature or room temperature. Yet I rarely or never see restaurants serve red wine by the glass in such a manner, and I have heard that oxidation is slowed at lower temperatures.

Days later, the wines are reopened and tasted. The results were conclusive. The methods of storing wine made for a very detectable difference in a blind taste test. Not only that, but the wines that were stored using my typical method tasted better than the other stored wines. I found this in a blind experiment comparing the Buzet samples and a second participant also found this when comparing the Cafayates blind during a second round. (After my first round, I separated out the two Buzet samples by deduction: since I had isolated and revealed to myself the two Cayafate samples -- which had tasted so radically different that my initial hypothesis was that one was a Buzet and the other was a Cafayate -- I was able to perform a second round of blind tasting for the Buzet. See complete notes below.)


Unfortunately, with this experiment, I cannot say whether it was storage temperature or presence of air that had a greater effect on the stored wine. Likely these variables are intertwined. Regardless, my storage method is better than doing the standard recorking, which is pretty much doing nothing at all.

This experiment looked at oxidation in a somewhat limited sense. It was more or less assumed that the more oxidized a wine became, the less palatable it would be. This should not be taken as a constant rule. In choosing Cabernets and a period of three days, I suspected that some elements of the wine might be more palatable, and I definitely think that the Etchart Privado Cabernet Sauvignon Cafayate 2003 was more fully developed three days after opening than immediately out of the bottle. This adds some interesting "reverse psychology" when creating storage conditions for your leftover wine, and certainly goes against Émile Peynaud's theory that aeration of opened wine is indefensible, something I consider even easier disprove than perceived rates of oxidation. Nevertheless, the Cafayate could've been drinking beautifully after one day or two days -- I cannot speculate on that based on this experiment.

Here are my complete notes:

MINI BOTTLE, CAFAYATE SAMPLE: Lovely bouquet of minerals and spice (Ed: I totally pegged this for French Cabernet -- and a good one at that -- when tasting it blind. Again this raises questions about whether the a little oxidation/aeration isn't such a bad thing).

ORIGINAL BOTTLE, CAFAYATE SAMPLE: Heaps of spice. Obvious oak and vanilla. (Ed: This tasted too round and flabby -- as I often expect oaked New World wine to be after a couple of days. That said, it was surprising to me that it tasted as good as it did considering it was so full of air and at room temperature for so long. Credit to Etchart for an outstanding value Cabernet.)

MINI BOTTLE, BUZET SAMPLE: too hot, quite unpalatable

ORIGINAL BOTTLE, BUZET SAMPLE: totally rounded, thoroughly tasteless

(Ed: These two Buzets were harder to differentiate than the Cafayates, I think because of the fact that this wine, even in its optimum condition, was hot, and rather nasty. The original bottle Buzet sample simply stood out as the nastiest of the nasty, and having seen how the original bottle Cafayate sample played out in round one of my tasting, I was fairly sure how to label these two Buzet samples.)


Tasting: Sirius 2001

sirius serious bordeaux red wine
Eyes: Red brick colour, going from maroon to orange-edged.

Nose: Aroma is inviting, I get orange, marmalade and animal. Juicy and savory stuff. I got lured in too early...

Mouth: On the palate the fruit is fairly closed, yet there's a sense of fine structure. I recorked it and put in aside. The next night I got rounder sensations, deeper and less austere: dusty fruit turns into cassis. Mint notes were elegantly rendered. Medium-full body. The acis was in the right place and proportioned. Nice grip on the finish with tannins that usher in a hint of vanilla for a lovely long finish. A nice wine.
lamb chop grilled salad boiled potatoes red onion black olive lettuce vinaigrette
Food: After uncorking this wine, decant it for about an hour while you prepare a green salad and grill a fresh lamb chop. Then put on a pot of water and boil quartered grelot potatoes. Add them, red onions, black olives and a balsamic-and-herb vinaigrette to your lamb salad, and violà!

A rewarding meal for a bargain-priced Bordeaux that needs only minimal nurturing.

Maison Sichel, Bordeaux, France. 12%.


Les Christins and other fine Christmastime wines

Perrin & sons Les Christin Vacqueyras 2003 wine spectator annual addition to top 100'Tis the season to indulge in special wines and this weekend my friends and I enjoyed something beyond the everyday bottle which usually sustains us for most of the year.

December is definitely feeling festive, and as if on cue, freezy and snowy weather started at the beginning of the month, right on the dot. Now I've been opening my fridge door like I would open the little flaps on an advent calendar. A little goodie is waiting for me each time.

I've got a fair deal of special wines that need drinking (scroll down to the very bottom to see my list). It's occurred to me that using bottles of wine to count down the days of December sounds like a good way to get the stuff uncorked. It also warms you on winter nights and gains you drinking buddies, which is also good.


First up, just in time for Montreal's first snowfall, was something from my wine fridge -- Perrin et Fils Les Christins Vacqueyras 2003. I chose it not because it was nearing a past-peak date but because it was a recent Wine Spectator Top 100 pick.

That was a surprise to me. I bought Les Christins based on its reputable name and bargain price: Perrin of Château de Beaucastel and a 25% discount. It was merely a bonus that it came in at number 98 on the 2005 list. In fact I almost didn't buy it because of its year: 2003, a vintage which all but ruined my everyday favourites from the Rhône by robbing my dinners of an important acidity -- the kind that is a perfect counterbalance to food. My worries here were unnecessary, but more on that later.

In any case, when I discovered that the 2003 Les Christins made the list I soon found out the 2004 Les Christins did as well. Yes, it's true, which means that this cuvée is one of the few to make onto consecutive Top 100 lists (though the 2004 is outshining its preceding "heatwave" vintage of 2003 by reaching number 83 on this year's list). So obviously I wanted to taste it for myself.

Also spurring me on to uncork was Alice Feiring who wrote recently that she would consider drinking only a dozen of the WS 100. If you're not familiar with Alice, you should know that her statement is not exaggeration or sensationalism. She knows what wine she likes -- what type, what's added to it, and especially the method in which it is made. A couple Rhônes from the 2006 list made Alice's list but this one was not one of them.

roast chicken whole organic produce from local montreal marketMe, I'm much more impressionable. But then I'm situated differently than Alice. No vendages for me, or at least not yet. And I drink and appreciate wine from a fairly different stratum too. So this Perrin pleased me, infinitely more than the 2003 Perrin Nature or the 2003 Perrin Réserve. Its structure had much more integrity. And as for enjoying it with food, it turned out this majority Grenache blend held its own with local grain-fed organic chicken (shown roasted at right) which was served with a delicious sauce made of its own juices, red wine and berry preserves. (The lovely Perrin blog suggests a recipe quite similar to roasted chicken -- rabbit 'rouzigue').

Perhaps because it's not that much more expensive than the Réserve and Nature bottles, Wine Spectator has been singling out Perrin's Les Christins. But why spectulate on Wine Spectator? A while back the website for the magazine opened up its vast tasting note database, and me, knowing how many special wines I had on the hand that needed monitoring, made myself a little list.


So here, starting with the Les Christins, are helpful descriptive notes (plus the less useful scores -- but it's all courtesy of the kind folks at Wine Spectator so who can complain) for a bunch of wines I'm considering opening this holiday season. Hmmm... Twenty wines. Twenty Advent Calendars windows left to open. If I uncork one a day I'll wake up and find that it's Christmas. With a hangover too.

Perrin & Fils
Vacqueyras Les Christins 2003

A gorgeous nose of dark fruit confiture and spice cake flavors is followed by a powerful palate of dark fruit, smoke, tar and minerals. Richly layered and densely structured, but with an elegant side as well. Best from 2006 through 2009. 4,165 cases made. –James Molesworth

Score: 91 | Price: $19

Country: France
Region: Southern Rhône

Issue: Aug 5, 2005

Barone Ricasoli
Chianti Classico Brolio 2002

Tasty black fruit, mineral and vanilla character. Medium-bodied, with fine tannins and a tangy mineral finish. Good quality for a 2002 CC. The estate didn't make its top CC, Castello di Brolio, this year, so part of it went into this. Best after 2004. 42,000 cases made.

Score: 87 | Price: $22

Country: Italy
Region: Tuscany

Issue: Oct 31, 2004

Umbria Cervaro della Sala 2002

Meursault gets a suntan. This is a minerally, rich and fruity Chardonnay similar to the great appellation of Burgundy, but then there is a dried fruit, very flashy Italian style to it. Full-bodied, with good acidity and a long, exotic fruit aftertaste. Drink now. 15,830 cases made. –JS

Score: 91 | Price: $42

Country: Italy
Region: Umbria

Issue: Jun 15, 2004

Léon Beyer
Riesling Alsace Les Écaillers 2000

A dry style, showing some maturity with petrol, lanolin, apple and peach aromas and flavors. It has a good structure and full body, followed by a long finish. Should accompany roast pork or chicken nicely. Drink now through 2008. 1,500 cases made. –BS

Score: 90 | Price: $30

Country: France
Region: Alsace

Issue: Jul 31, 2004

Alsace Willm
Gewürztraminer Alsace 2004

Rich and appealing, this offers honey, vanilla and tropical fruit notes in a soft, open structure. Good finish. Drink now. 2,500 cases made. –BS

Score: 85 | Price: $12

Country: France
Region: Alsace

Issue: Oct 15, 2005

Mumm Cuvée Napa
Brut Napa Valley Prestige NV

A smooth, creamy, delicate style, with light cherry and Pinot Noir flavors that echo orange peel and smoky citrus notes. Drink now through 2005. 175,000 cases made. –JL

Score: 87 | Price: $16

Country: California
Region: Napa

Chardonnay Penedès Gran Viña Sol 2004

This oaky white has a rich texture and flavors of sweet vanilla, toast and melon. But it's a bit ponderous. Contains 15 percent Parellada. Drink now. 1,000 cases imported. –TM

Score: 83 | Price: $15

Country: Spain
Region: Spain

Issue: Nov 15, 2005

Christian Moreau Père & Fils
Chablis 2002

Mineral aromas mark this white, whose richness provides a supple coating for the firm underlying structure. It hints at apple and honey before coming back to the mineral theme. Nice length. Drink now. –BS

Score: 87 | Price: $17

Country: France
Region: Burgundy

Issue: Aug 31, 2004

Château St.-Martin de la Garrigue
Coteaux du Languedoc White 2004

Medium-bodied, with grapefruit, ripe apple and rose petal flavors, and ripe spicy notes as well. Forward and fresh-tasting, with mineral elements on the finish. Drink now through 2007. 195 cases imported. –KM

Score: 88 | Price: $14

Country: France
Region: Languedoc-Roussillon

Issue: Nov 15, 2005

Shiraz South Eastern Australia Diamond Label 2004

Ripe and sprightly, with pleasant blackberry and herb flavors. Drink now. 485,000 cases imported. –HS

Score: 85 | Price: $12

Country: Australia
Region: Australia

Issue: Sep 30, 2006

Familia Rutini
Malbec Tupungato Trumpeter 2004

Elegant, floral style with red berry fruit, vanilla and violet notes. Creamy, toasty finish. Drink now. 55,000 cases made. –JM

Score: 86 | Price: $9

Country: Argentina
Region: Mendoza

Issue: Nov 15, 2005

Merlot California Valley Oaks 2003

Straightforward, with berry, currant, toasty oak and pleasant spicy notes. Drink now. 461,000 cases made.

Score: 83 | Price: $9

Country: California
Region: Other California

Issue: Oct 15, 2005

Fattoria dei Barbi
Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1997

Superaromatic, with leather, blackberry and cedar aromas. Very Sangiovese. Full-bodied, yet silky and caressing, with a long and enjoyable finish. Lovely. Best after 2003. 3,330 cases made. –JS

Score: 92 | Price: $95

Country: Italy
Region: Tuscany

Issue: May 31, 2003

Coldstream Hills
Pinot Noir Yarra Valley 2002

Light and crisp, with a leathery edge to the low-volume raspberry and floral flavors. Drink now. 18,000 cases made. –HS

Score: 83 | Price: $18

Country: Australia
Region: Australia

Issue: Web Only (2003)

De Martino
Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Legado Reserva 2003

There's solid black cherry and currant fruit here, but sweetish oak turns a bit cloying in the end. Drink now. 3,000 cases made. –JM

Score: 83 | Price: $15

Country: Chile
Region: Maipo

Issue: Web Only (2005)

Herdade Grande
Alentejo 2003

Fruity, with plum pudding flavors and a finish of hot cinnamon. Drink now. 16,000 cases made. –KM

Score: 83 | Price: $11

Country: Portugal
Region: Portugal

Issue: Web Only (2006)

Verona Capitel San Rocco Ripasso 2003

A flamboyant red, with ripe currant, earth and freshly tanned leather character. Medium- to full-bodied, with fine tannins and a persistent dried fruit and mineral finish. Best after 2006. 4,300 cases made. –JC

Score: 88 | Price: $22

Country: Italy
Region: Veneto

Issue: Aug 31, 2006

Chianti Classico 2003

Smoky and meaty blackberry character, with tight minerals and lightly toasted oak. Medium-bodied, with fine, well-integrated tannins and a balanced finish. Best after 2005. 16,670 cases made.

Score: 87 | Price: $25

Country: Italy
Region: Tuscany

Issue: Oct 31, 2005

Cantina del Taburno
Falanghina Taburno 2005

A bit dull, with apple and lemons. Medium-to-light body. Fresh finish. Drink now. 54,165 cases made. –JS

Score: 84 | Price: $16

Country: Italy
Region: Campania

Issue: Web Only (2006)

Château Lagrézette
Malbec Cahors 2002

Ripe and powerful, with a mature aroma of game and spice, with flavors of dried cherry, plum, nutmeg and boysenberry. Firm, peppery finish. Well-honed and balanced, with plenty of structure. Drink now through 2011. 10,928 cases made. –KM

Score: 89 | Price: $20

Country: France
Region: Southwest France

Issue: May 15, 2006


Caffè ArtJava goes downtown

Wake up and smell the coffee Montreal! Caffè ArtJava has expanded. Starting today, the greatest brew in the city is now available right on the green line, which runs straight through the caffeinated heart of Montreal. Previously ArtJava coffee was only served in the Plateau district, which is on the orange line.

macchiato cafe art java Montreal downtownOrange, green, blue, whatever. This location is gold for yours truly. The café is smack-dab on my corner. As if that were not enough, this morning I discovered that ArtJava is physically connected to my office. If you're not a Montrealer, you may not realize exactly what kind of a coup this is. It's only the first week of December and already there's a thick blanket of snow and ice on the ground. Me, I can now wear my slippers to fetch my favourite macchiato.


In fact, I can leave my jacket in the office and make like I'm going to the bathroom when really I'm going for a latte. And there's an ArtJava chill-out room, a new feature that can best be described as a surround-sound media centre with big upholstered chairs. More to come this, I promise.

Check out the link above for more details on ArtJava (the new location has decided not to serve breakfast plates like French toast but those fantastic pecan biscottis are just the same as on the Plateau). In the meantime, know that when you order a cappuccino or macchiato to-go like I did this morning, the foam art only appears illustrated on the paper cup, not emblazoned on top of the coffee. Which is probably why they were coaxing me to change my order to stay.

Had they known I was already a convert they might not have bothered... Had they known I was ordering a macchiato so I could take pictures, upload them, and then blog about it all, they probably would've just backed away and braced themselves for my impending return.

That's okay. I'm used to it.

macchiato caffe artjava Montreal downtown
Open Now

CAFFÈ ARTJAVA 645 Avenue du Président-Kennedy (corner University), (514) 350-5282; the branch at 837 Avenue du Mont-Royal (corner St-André) remains open.

Note on hours: They're open from around 7 am to unknown (when I asked, they promised to go with the flow -- obviously a mistake promising that level of service to someone with my unrelenting daily onslaught of over-caffeinated enthusiasm)