Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Eight Shiraz-ments

52 weeks of drinking and this is all I have to show for it:

Well that and the knowledge I have gained, which I share with you:

The Eight Shiraz-ments*
*At the risk of offending any of my more devout readers, if I have any, this post will likely be irreverent.  Also, I had to google "The Ten Commandments." Surprisingly some didn't correspond appropriately to drinking. Proceed with caution.

Remember the promised land
One of the most important lessons I learned on my blogging and drinking journey was about geography.  The fact is, Australia created Shiraz (sneakily ripping off the French Syrah) and they do it best.  Sure, there are some great bottles from other areas, but it is rare to find a dud in the Australian section.  In fact, exactly half of the bottles I reviewed were from Australia, and only one bottle ended up on the "Do Not Buy" section of the shopping list.  And, four out of five of my "MVP" labels were Australian.  So, when in doubt, remember the promised land.  I know I will if I am ever in the unfamiliar waters of a restaurant wine list.

Honor thy Wolf
It is important to give respect where it's due.  And, in my humble opinion is that Wolf Blass is the father of Shiraz.  It is a label that has yet to fail me at any price-point.  You can get the very reasonably priced Eaglehawk ($13), the mid-range Yellow Label ($18), or splurge on the Premium ($30) and you will not taste a single sip of disappointment on your palate.  In Wolf Blass we trust.

Covet your neighbour's wine
Yeah, you read that right.  Go on and covet that expensive bottle of wine your rich neighbors are sipping while they dine on beluga caviar at their mahogany table.  There are some tasty more expensive labels that are worth their weight in wine.  My faves in the $18-25 range, aside from the Wolf Blass listed above, are Mission Hill, McWilliams, Wakefield, Rosemount and Wyndam Bin 555. 

You shall not steal, but you can get a good deal.
I know I just filled your head with dreams of coveting your neighbour's expensive wines, but you really can get great wine at a reasonable price.  There are plenty of sales at the liquor store that allow to to save a few bucks here and there on mid-priced or expensive brands, but there are some low-priced bottles that should not be overlooked and will not leave you wishing you'd spent more.  The five that will become staples at my house are: Black Swan, the Little Penguin, Jackson Triggs, Copper Moon, and Gato Negro. 

Judge not lest ye be judged
Don't judge a wine by its label.  We've all been there - called to the check-out line by the generic cute animal on a colorful label.  It is hard not to judge based on appearance or cost.  But, I have been disappointed by good looks and high price-tags before.  Similarly, there have been wines I sneered at (hello? Billyrock Station? Wine in a CAN?) only to quickly change my tune after taking a taste. 

Thou shalt not commit wine-icide.
Murder is bad, and what I did to poor Banrock Station was wrong.  I know that now.  Please, don't make the same mistake I did.  When you find a delicious wine, savour it.  There is no need to devour the entire bottle in one sitting by yourself.  Have a couple glasses and then put a cork in it.  Don't kill your desire to ever drink that brand again.  And certainly don't resurrect the wine into the porcelain throne.

Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
Some of you might not have recently researched the Sabbath on Wikipedia so here is the scoop: basically the Jewish people traditionally observe the Sabbath from sundown on Friday until Saturday evening and we all know Saturday goes well with Shiraz.  But, the point isn't really the day, is it?  Sabbath is derived from the Hebrew for "to cease" and that is the message I am trying to deliver.  It doesn't matter what day or time you choose (hey, it's always noon somewhere, right?) but what matters is you give yourself a break once in a while.  Sip and cease.  Repeat.

Love thy neighbour as you love yourself.
What could possibly be more fun than enjoying a good bottle of Shiraz alone in front of the TV on a Saturday night?  Sharing it with friends, of course!  Seriously, although it is tempting to hoard your tasty wine to yourself, it is better enjoyed amongst good company.  And, of greater note, wine can make bad company more tolerable.  So share!

Oh, and vanilla.  Many of the wines I've truly enjoyed had hints of vanilla.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Errazuriz Estate: Week #52

This is it!  Week #52 - a full year of Shiraz.  Next week I will mark my last Saturday Shiraz post with a summative educational review I like to call "The 10 Shiraz-ments." 

Well, Chile has been a solid Shiraz contributor.  I've had two other bottles - one which I thought was good (Casillero del Diablo), and another (Gato Negro) that, due to its combo of price & taste, will be a bottle I buy frequently.

Errazuriz Estate - Chile, 2009
13.5% alc./vol.
A word from the wine:
"Spicy and full bodied with a concentrated black fruits and pepper character.  We pioneered growing Shiraz in Chile"
I have to say that there seems to be quite a few labels claiming to be pioneers or fathers or grandfathers of Shiraz.

This was a nice wine.  It really had that Shiraz pep - almost teetering on jarring or sour, but it weighs more on the side of yummy with a good bite.  So, if you enjoy a bold spicy wine, this may be what you've been looking for.  I know I enjoyed it - even without the richness and fuller body of some of my blogger's pets.

Helpful Husband: "This one is good too."
He really went all out for his last blog tip!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rymill: Week #51

I really love the styling of this label.  That little horse seems so elegant and energetic and the same time.  I hope the wine inside has the same character.

This wine accompanied me on a child-free one-night girls' beach getaway.  My two favorite colleagues helped me polish off the bottle over dinner and hysterics.

Rymill Coonawarra The Yearling - Australia, 2009
14.5% alc./vol.
A word from the wine:
"Fresh from the Rymill Coonawarra stabloe, the Yearling is a gallant one year-old Coonawarra Shiraz.  Made from estate-grown fruit, this spicy and appealing wine is absolutely perfect to enjoy now!"
I like the metaphor connecting the horse to the wine.  And, I really enjoy the exclamation mark!  You don't see a lot of those on wine labels!

This one was really good.  It had a nice hit of pepper, but it still went down nice and smooth.  It was medium bodied and it was soft on the palate.  We each had two glasses and it was gone.

Guest Tester #1: "This horse has galloped into my heart"
Guest Tester #2: "It's like a gentle lover"

(Okay, so I made a voice memo on my phone while we were drinking this, but I somehow didn't save it - or it didn't record in the first place, so I made these up.)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Long Flat Destinations: Week #50

Holy Shit.  Week #50.  Only three more bottles to go, and then of course some sort of final post to sum up my Shiraz-tic journey.  Helpful Husband and I packed up our boys and headed on the highway to travel about 20km in order to select my final three labels at a newish liquor store in the "city."  So, that is that.  All done with blog-driven wine selections.

Just as a side note - Helpful Husband and I enjoyed dinner out on Monday night.  We ordered a half litre of Shiraz - Blackhorn (Australian) and it was absolutely delicious.  If you see this label on your local shelves, you will not be disappointed, and please let me know where you happened to find it!  Maybe on my trip to Ontario in a few weeks I will find the elusive Blackhorn.

Long Flast Destinations Barossa Valley - Australia, 2008
15% alc./vol.
A word from the wine:
"Our 2008 offering sits in the middle of the spectrum with aromas of plum and dark chocolate and berries and spices on the palate imparted by time in American oak"
What is with all the "ands"?  Use a comma people!

I enjoyed this wine well enough.  It was solid - it had a nice flavor and an interesting soft touch.  It had a bit of a spice, not peppery, but just a hint of tang.  The thing with being this far into this journey is that I know there are many good wines that I will never purchase again.  It isn't that there is anything wrong with this wine - its nice - its just that there are others I would prefer for $17 (Rosemount or Wolf Blass Yellow Label for instance).

Helpful Husband Tip: "You're not going to like this one.  It has a weird zing"
Me: "Really? I like it fine.  I don't find there is a jarring aftertaste at all. I'm surprised to hear you don't like it"
HH: "I like it"

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wyndham Estate Bin 555: Week #49

At this point, I do not want to risk drinking bad wine.  The adventure in choosing new things is wearing off - I want to reach for trusted friends (and I have made many!) and know that I will enjoy their company.  Luckily for me, I remembered that while I have tasted this week's selection before, I have yet to review it.  Perfect.

Wyndham Estate Bin 555 (Australia, 2008)
14% alc./vol.
A word from the wine:
"George Wyndham became the father of Australian Shiraz after planting Australia's first commercial Shiraz vineyard.  His dedication to handcrafting intensely flavoured wines is a proud legacy that endures at Wyndham Estate."
If this dude is the father of Australian Shiraz, then I have an official answer to the proverbial question "Who's your Daddy?"

This is a good wine; it is a solid Shiraz.  It has a medium body and lots of flavor.  It is smooth and a very approachable Shiraz.  Wyndham might be a little more fruity and a little less spicy than some of my most favorite brands...or maybe it is just missing that hint of vanilla... but it is still very yummy!

No Helpful Husband Tip available. Sorry.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Misterio Week #48

This was a quick selection - except that my 5 year old needed to pee and "couldn't hold it" until we got home.  So, I asked the cashier if there was a public bathroom he could use and she gave me a lengthy explanation about how there was, but an employee needed to unlock it for me and there wasn't anyone available to do so because there were only two staff members at the store and they both had costumers, but I could wait until there were none.  I'm thinking the bathroom must be on the other side of the store or something and he'll just have to pee up against the building in true wino style, when the other cashier just said "The little guy needs to go?" and walks approximately 3m behind him and unlocks the door. So, thank you liquor-store-cashier-man for your ability to solve complex problems in a quick and efficient manner.  Also, thank you to those fellow customers in line for waiting the extra 4 nanoseconds to ring up their beer.

Misterio- Argentina, 2009
A word from the wine:
"Misterio is the result of years of investigation in our vineyards and winery to achieve a unique type of wine.  Focusing on fruit and softness, we have created this friendly wine."
Well, I will say that the smiling mask on the label does seem friendly.

I think that after years of investigation, you probably just forge ahead even if you're product sucks.  This wine started off with a broken cork, moved to the glass via a knife stuck in the bottle to keep the cork out of the neck, then precisely three sips passed my lips before it ended its life down the drain.  On another day, I might have been able to stomach the glass, but I just had no patience for bad wine on this occasion.

Helpful Husband Tip: "This one is a miss, eh?"

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wakefield: Week #47

This week I was feeling bold, adventurous even.  So I drove 8 minutes to the next closest liquor store to check out the digs.  There were a few labels I haven't yet tasted - and I carried a Spanish and Chilean wine around for a while, thinking that I haven't reviewed many from those fine nations.  But, then I saw the Australian section and I decided that at this point in the blog's history, I should be choosing wines I think I will like.  And, this one had lots of awards on the label and the tasting notes mentioned vanilla - and I always really like the ones with vanilla.

Wakefield - Australia, 2008
14.5% alc./vol.
A word from the wine:
"This Shiraz from our founding range of wines displays seductive ripe berry and plum flavours perfectly balance with enticing mocha, spice and creamy vanillin characters from quality American oak"
Okay, so it said "vanillin" - but that's the same as vanilla.  Right?  In either case, it certainly seduced me.

This wine is what this blog is all about: the search for the perfect Shiraz.  I've found one here.  Wakefield can definitely contend with Wolf Blass Yellow Label and McWilliams with its perfect balance of fruit and spice.  It is full bodied and lingers on the finish.  It is rich and delicious. 

Helpful Husband Tip "Oh, this one is good!"