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Wine Review: Pinot for the People

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Mark West Pinot Noir 2006 - $24

People’s Pinot

The Mark West Pinot Noir 2006 blew me away for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, the wine is delicious, a true-tasting California Pinot Noir with aromas of juicy plum, dark cherry and damp soil. On the palate, the earthiness continues, along with brighter cherry flavors and oak. The balance is exceptional, allowing the full range to flavors to shine through. You can get all of this for $24 (less in some U.S. states). While the label is fairly subdued, the producer has an interesting back-story – and quite a funny website. Using the catchphrase “Pinot for the People,” the winery had been making bargain Pinot Noirs since 2004 by blending premium grapes from different parts of California. Winemaker Alex Cose, who has previously worked with Montevina and Joseph Phelps, clearly has a good hand (and nose) for harmonizing this difficult-to-control grape. This is a great wine to drink on its own.

Quaffability Rating: 91

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A Wine Review and a Tasting Game

Friday, March 13, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

The Felino Vina Cobos Malbec 2007 ($20) from Mendoza, Argentina has a really nice, crimson color, with aromas of cherries and blackberries and a hint of liquorice. It’s a meaty wine on the palette, bursting with intermingling flavors, each dancing alone briefly before merging with the whole. I taste cherries, white pepper and wild mushroom. There’s a woodsy finish, but it’s not overpowering. This Malbec is intense and complex, but the flavors fit together like a puzzle. It has a nice bitterness that's balanced out by the fruit.

Here's a fun game to play: I like to taste a wine, jot down some notes about the color, aromas, flavors and structure, then google it to find other reviews online and compare. I'm often shocked at how close my assessments agree with others. Sometimes I feel like I'm making stuff up off the top of my head, having no clue if others drinking the same wine will agree with what I'm writing. Give the taste test a shot. Swirl the wine around in the glass, stick your nose right in there and in hale. Think hard about what you just smelled, then write the aromas. Next, take a good swig and roll it over your tongue, open up a little air hole in your mouth and pull a bit of air in, without swallowing the wine. Swish it around in your mouth with the air and write down the flavors you taste. Think about fruits, wood, vegetables, mineral and herbs. And there's no reason to stop there -- sometimes even off-putting flavors can be found it great wines, such as barnyard, petrol and leather. Happy tasting.

Here's one I found after writing my review above: http://www.klwines.com/detail.asp?sku=1041126.

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No Cellar? No Problem

Friday, March 6, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Although I missed this year’s Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Somona, I did make it to a great local event here in Toronto, a tasting hosted by the Lifford Wine Agency for Canadian bloggers.

The tasting was held at the Fine Wine Reserve, a high-tech wine storage facility in the heart of downtown Toronto. After tasting a couple of dozen wines from around the world, including the stellar Joseph Phelps Le Mistral ($66.50 per bottle) Shiraz/Syrah blend from Napa, we took of tour of the storage area. The unmarked underground facility has three-foot-thick walls, double-door passcard entry and temperature- and humidity-controlled storage. It has a distinctly James Bond-like feel to it. Inside, thousands of bottles of wine are stacked in personal lockers that open up automatically when the client’s passcard is swiped upon entry. The Lifford Wine Agency also stores its wine there before shipping it off to clients. It was quite sight to look at millions of dollars of wine sitting in one place – some of it from the best years and the best producers in Bordeaux.

Fine Wine Reserve serves a wide range of customers. Some are condo dwellers who don’t have any cellar space at home, others simply have too much wine to fit into their cellars and need somewhere to store the overflow (wouldn’t I like to have this problem), and there are also small storage lockers for people who have some nice bottles they want to keep safe and sound. This is the only facility of this type in Toronto, and there’s similar one in Montreal. If you’re looking for somewhere dependable to age your wine, check to see if your city has one of these urban cellars. You pay a small fee per case every month.

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Michal Kapral has been enjoying wine at home since way before he was of legal age. The editor-in-chief of Canadian Running magazine runs marathons to burn off all the calories he consumes on wine and cheese. Kapral spent some time living in Italy as a teenager, solidifying his appreciation for all things wine-related. In his days as a journalism student, he was likely one of the youngest – and poorest – subscribers to Wine Spectator magazine. In 1999, Kapral turned down a job at a winery to work at Captivate, where he spent 11 years as a news editor.


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The Quaffer

Highlighting the best new wines from around the world, in the price range of $10-40, Michal "The Quaffer" Kapral reminds viewers some of the finer things in life are most definitely within their reach. This feature focuses on North American wines and includes reviews, food pairings and news from the world of wine.