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Wine Review: A Malbec to Remember

Friday, June 26, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Everyone has their favorite grape varietals. For my wife, it's Shiraz and Chardonnay. I'm partial to Pinot Noir and Sangiovese. When I see a bottle of Malbec on the shelf at the wine store, it's not the first thing I reach for. It's not that I don't like it - I've just never been that impressed with the grape. But last night, I tried a Malbec that really struck a chord: the Catena 2006 Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina.

Plenty of pleasing aromas of licorice root and sweet plum float easily out of the glass. It's a very smooth, medium-bodied wine, full of brambly berries and oak. The wine trails off into a silky long finish that will have you reaching back for another sip right away.Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate both give this one a 91. I like it, but I’m going to go one lower at 90. Still, the Catena has given me a new appreciation for Malbec. Now, I'll be much more likely to grab a bottle the next time I'm at the wine shop.

Quaffability Rating: 90

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A Wine for Father's Day

Thursday, June 18, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2006 ($20)

This is a beefy, dark-purple, manly wine, perfect for a Father’s Day barbecue. A powerful nose of blueberry jam, violets and cloves begs for immediate imbibing. Intense flavors of blackberries, tobacco and spice are rounded out by teasing floral notes that dance on the taste buds into a long finish. I can’t think of a much better way to celebrate Father’s Day than downing a bottle of Kaiken – with the help of a grilled, medium-rare rib eye, heavily seasoned with coarse salt and cracked black pepper.

Quaffability Rating: 89

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Veuve Clicquot and Chèvre

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

It’s easy to match up a sparking wine with cheese. Just about anything goes, with the possible exception of very stinky cheeses. Since sparking wines are usually served before the main course, a platter of cheese is a simple way to bring out some of the flavors of the brut.

I’ve heard that the Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk triple cream cheese from Berkeley, California is a heavenly accompaniment to sparkling wine, though I haven’t been lucky enough to try it. But I can say that a nice bottle of Veuve Clicquot will go down very well with a rich chèvre. The contrast of the acidity in the wine and the creaminess of the cheese makes both taste better, and the Champagne’s micro-fine bubbles meld with the fat in the chèvre.

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Making Sense of Wine and Cheese

Thursday, June 4, 2009 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

I recently read the classic wine book, Making Sense of Wine, by Matt Kramer. I’ll publish a full review of the book soon, but one of the highlights of it is a section at the end in which Kramer outlines food and wine matches. A short section of this final chapter is dedicated to wine and cheese, and Kramer offers some insights to the oft-misunderstood practice of pairing cheese and wine. There’s tradtion of serving the finest red wine with a meal’s cheese course, but Kramer argues that white wines will often pair better, as many big reds will overwhelm the nuances of delicate cheeses. If you’re like me and prefer red wines, the fact that many whites go well with cheeses will give you a chance to enhance the white wine experience by letting the cheese pairing add an extra element of interest.

Here are a couple of suggestions from Matt Kramer:

Ripe Brie with a flinty Sancerre
Munster with a bold Gewürztraminer

A no-brainer for wine and cheese is to keep the pairing within the same region. If the animals are grazing near where the vines are growing, the theory goes that you’ll get some of the same characteristics. The region’s climate and personality will both shine through in local wines and cheeses, so there’s a much greater chance of finding a better match.

Just like winetasting itself, wine and cheese pairing requires a sense of adventure and risk-taking. You don’t need to stick to the norms. Try something out and see what it does for you. That’s what I’ll be doing for my column next week.

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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.