Marquis Wine Cellars’ New Product Salon
A seasonal event for Marquis, I always appreciate the opportunity to taste a couple dozen wines for free. Why more stores don’t do this is beyond me. Generally Marquis sets up these tastings in the back of its store, with one table for whites and one for reds. The staff are always around to chat about the wines. This particular tasting took place on a very sunny day and I think a lot of passers by dropped in for a taste – some of which I am sure were there just for a quick quaff without caring too much about what it was.
My favourite individual grabbed a glass of wine, proceeded to down it without taking a breath, and walked away in the middle of Cole’s, one of Marquis’ staff, explanation of the wine and the region. Now that’s passion.
Of course there were also many appreciators amongst the crowd, and it always impresses me how convivial wine lovers are and how much they want to create bonds and share with each other. We need more of this type of wine culture in Vancouver.
Here are my notes on the wines I tasted:
Pierre Huet NV Cidre Pays d’Auge, Normandy, France: Smoky, woody apple at 3% ABV. This is awesome stuff and a great price at $13. Very Good.
Bellingham 2006 Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay, Western Cape, South Africa: a nose of fat orchard fruit. The palate was bright and sharp while also having lots of fat chard-like fruit. There are also notes of minerals, slate and lemon. An interesting wine. Very Good. $16.
Domaine Pellé 2007 Menetout-Salon Blanc “Les Bornés”, Loire Valley, France: pear, lime and light minerals on the nose, this resembles Sancerre, perhaps because it is grown so close by. The palate had lots of apple, sharp acidity, lemon/lime citrus, and some slate on the finish. This, in my opinion, needs food to cut the acidity. But, it is certainly a tasty wine. Very Good to Very Good+. $28
Westrey 2008 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon: Oregon’s other ‘pinot’. The nose was ripe and creamy and dominated by pear. The palate again had pear and added apple and some stone. This is bright and clean and keeps the fatness and richness in check. Perhaps a bit pricey, though. Very Good. $28.
J. Christopher 2007 Riesling, Willamette Valley, Oregon: Riesling from Oregon? That doesn’t suck? Yep. This is a lot like Grosset rieslings from the Clare Valley in Australia. A nose of petrol, sweet apple, and candied citrus rind. The palate is quite large – a citrus cocktail – very similar to the explosive Grosset rieslings but perhaps a bit more reserved. While I enjoyed this, you can get the Watervale riesling from Grosset right now for $30, and it is a far superior wine. Very Good to Very Good+. $32.
Cantele 2008 Fiano, Salento, Italy: I really enjoy reds from Salento, but this was the first white I had from the region. The nose again had orchard fruit (a common theme), and the palate was appley, and stoney. A nice balance and persistence in the mouth. Very Good. $25.
Misiones de Rengo 2007 Cuvée Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile: A toasty caramel nose, but not super massive. The wood comes through more than the fruit, but there is some grapeyness to the wine. The palate has decent acidity and some apple flavours, but this is still, for me, driven too much by wood. However, it is not a hugely oaked butter bomb, and is a really good value chard for the price. It’s just not my style. Very Good. $20.
Joie Farm 2007 Reserve Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia: I got in trouble for dissing this wine in front of someone who was enjoying it :). I love the diversity of palates and think everyone should like what they like, but that doesn’t stop me from expressing my opinion (obliviously). Tact – you think I’d have learned that by now being in law. Anyhow, the nose on this had big orchard fruit and caramel. This is your butter bomb chard and is completely devoid of noticeable chardonnay fruit. Coconut oil, suntan lotion texture, some nuttyness. Yek. And so overpriced. But I know some will like this anyway. Good. $34.
Chateau de la Negly 2007 La Brise Marine Blanc, Coteau du Languedoc, France: Made in a a region known for reds, this was a pretty weird white wine. The nose had cheddar chese, yes, distinctly so, and I was not the only candidate claiming this, and rich citrus fruit. The nose was very chedder driven, which was pretty strange. I also got citrus and some stone on the finish. [Forgot to rate this]. $27.
Domaine Cailbourdin 2006 Pouilly-Fumé “Triptyque”, Loire Valley, France: Jon Ellison, Marquis’ Loire buyer, really does a fantastic job bringing in unique and great value wines from the region. This is one of those wines, even given its higher price point. Made in a Dagueneau-like style, this had a huge nose of cat’s pee, citrus, flowers and clay. The palate was very floral, had a hint of caramel, white pepper, clay, and a nice long finish. This has great aromatics, weight, and texture and far exceeds most wines from Pouilly-Fumé. Very Good+. $49.
Domaine Pierre Chauvin 2007 Coteaux du Layon, Loire Valley, France: This was my favourite wine of the whites, and it was off-dry – not a common occurrence for someone who loves dry and acidic whites. This, however, had acidity – plenty of it. That’s really why I love the wines of the Loire, they all understand the importance of acid. The nose had apple, pear, grapefruit, and quince. The palate was very balanced and also had grapefruit, quince and a bit of grass. This is a superb value. Very Good+ and Highly Recommended Value. $27.
Sur de los Andes 2007 Bonarda, Mendoza, Argentina: Bonarda? Wha? After some research we found that it’s not exactly clear what Bonarda is in Argentina. Originating in France under the name Corbeau, it is also known in Italy as Dolce Nero (“Sweet Black”). Well, this wasn’t sweet at all: a nose of salami, game, and some cedar. The palate was very gamey and woody, with blackberry and brett-like manure. This is not my style, but it is a decent wine that tastes fairly old world. Good+. $17.
Gladium 2006 Tempranillo Crianza, La Mancha, Spain: a nose of mint, plum, and black fruit with a hint of cedar. The palate is quite woody – in an ‘it gave me splinters’ kind of way. Some dark fruits on the palate again. Simple. Good+. $16.
Chateau de Campuget 2006 “1753” Costieres de Nimes, France: A nose of spice, pepper and blackberry. The palate again had blackberry and pepper with high extract and tannins. Very Good. $22.
Joie Farm 2007 PTG, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia: Better than the chard. But still, this smelled like poop and nuts. Not the greatest pairing. The palate was a lot better, though, with pepper, cherry, manure, and some earth. This lacked balance and is so overpriced it’s not funny. Good+. $35.
Tardieu-laurent 2007 Les Grands Augustins, Pays d’Oc, France: I was honestly hoping for a lot more from this wine as I love Tardieu-Laurents Chateauneufs and other higher end Rhone bottlings. This, however, was just basic southern rhone blended table wine. The palate had pepper and some blackberry. Again the palate is driven by pepper, which is classic for the southern rhone, blackberry, and game. Tastes a little oaky too. Good+ to Very Good. $22.
Domaine Parent 2006 Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Burgundy, France: A cherry and strawberry nose. This was acidic and bright on the palate with some earth. Very simple and a bit overly-sour. This didn’t work for me. Good+. $27.
Misiones de Rengo 2006 Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon, Rapel Valley, Chile: This is a standard, but good, Chilean cab. It’s not exciting, but it’s solid. The palate had the classic Chilean funk, and some cedar, almost like cedar soup to me (common amongst low-end Chilean cabs). The palate had eucalyptus, cedar, black fruits and chocolate. For me, Cabernet Sauvignon is the kind of grape that really only tastes right when meticulous effort is put into growing and vinifying it. I rarely think lower-end cabs are that great or worth the money. Instead, for easy drinking but fruity reds I prefer cool climate Australian Shiraz, Argentinian Malbec and reds from southern France, particularly Cotes du Rhone villages or the Languedoc. Very Good. $20.
DuNah Vineyards 2003 Tre Cuvée, Mendocino, California: A strange trio of grapes, including sangiovese, this still just tastes like a random red blend from California. A nose of coffee, dusty black fruit, chocolate and mint. The palate had cedar, oak, dill, chocolate, and black fruits. Tasty but too expensive for what you get. Very Good to Very Good+. $50.
In the end, a nice collection of wines, with the whites winning out over the reds for me, confirming my suspicions that it is much easier to get high quality whites for under $30 than high quality reds, keeping in mind our gross 117% duty markup. If it weren’t for the highest wine taxes in North America, we would have no trouble getting great reds and great whites under $20. As it is, we must seek out the gems and suffer many a bad bottle. All the more reason why tastings like this are great.