Testarossa Pinot Noir Cuvee 107 2015

Contrasting Burgundian pinot noir with its cousin from California is akin to matching a billiards professional against a pool shark. The tools of the trade and the thought process is the same in both spheres is the same, but the way around the table is completely different.

That’s not a bad analogy. Making wine is making wine. Using a cue to punt an ivory ball is just that; calculate the angle, figure out where you want the shot to end, and execute. In the wine business, the goal is sales, pushed along by popularity and reputation, so winemaking cannot help but be influenced by those considerations.

This glass reflects much about where it’s made (Los Gatos) and the provenance of the fruit (Santa Lucia Highlands). Let’s think about this. The closest market is Silicon Valley. Who lives there? Right: Rich people used to achievement. Powerful people.

Which might explain the rich, powerful nature of this glass. Straight up, the nose is enticing, enveloping and altogether involving. There’s no doubt about the grape type, nor what the winemaking sought what to achieve. In the mouth, it’s a plain delight in the fruity, loud, indulgent way of Californian wine.

“Dark red color.  Dense aromas of orange zest, cherry, strawberry, nutmeg, vanilla bean, along with notes of boysenberry, anise and pomegranate catch your attention right away.  This pleasure-filled aroma profile only gets better and enjoyable on the palate.  With zesty acidity and full tannins, this Pinot Noir over-delivers, especially on the fresh, bright, and hedonistic finish.  Enjoy now through 2025.” ~Director of Winemaking, Bill Brosseau

Yep, pretty right, from the chief pool shark’s mouth. Put up your money and enjoy the game.

$19.99

Cardinal

Misunderstand me if you choose.

The cop procedural is a well-worn and perennial path to success. Malevolence and violence are as much a part of good people as bad. Exploring the line between those of us who choose not to indulge in those menu items and those who do is the ultimate hook; our dark side is mysterious, and all the more so for being a readily harvested forbidden fruit.

Writers and their subsidiary backers know the universal appeal of easily digestible television death. Fascination with dark motives and the worst side of our nature will never subside. An animal capable of species destruction and introspection about such an event will survive only if constantly faced with the horror of which we’re all capable.

Canadian television shows follow the predictable path of most nationally-based productions. They are held hostage to a political context – in the border-defined sense – with story falling to secondary rank. They’re Canadian detectives, investigating a Canadian murder, in Canada.

Fair enough. If you’re a state-run place like Ontario or Quebec, or Australia or the UK, government power speaks. Promoting statist values comes as a condition of access to the money.

Contrast that old-style tv-making philosophy with the first season of Cardinal on Hulu. Different from other Canuck cop dramas from the off, there’s no little magic running as a thread through this show. Who cares about the plot? Watching Billy Campbell whisper his way around ever more horrific violence he cannot control could be a simple case of excellent acting. But it’s not. Something special is at work here.

Also at play are the peripheral elements of quality tv. Introductory scenes, introductory and incidental music, lighting, photography, direction; every little thing adds up to something. Oh, and the story.

Horror emanates from the association we viewers can make with the psychopath murderer and his betwixt cipher. The awfulness is portrayed as being far too close to reasonableness.

Let’s not bypass the power of Karine Vanasse. A stillness in the malestrom of horror, she has lines from the gritty god of realism, but delivers them with silky ethereality.

Cardinal, on Hulu.

Atrevida Chardonnay Unoaked 2016

Chardonnay,  how I’ve missed  you. Unoaked chardonnay, like a girlfriend who morphed into a friendgirl,  it’s like we’ve taken up where we left off.

Yes, I’ve been dating some Spanish ladies. Okay, and there have been a few trysts with a couple of dark beauties from northern Italy. But you are so reliable, so welcoming whenever I return, that reuniting is all the sweeter for the travel.

White flower, golden delicious apple and something tropical but short of pineapple on the nose. Polished winemaking here, aided by compliant fruit, fresh and enough to wake you up; lean and still powerful. Ripe fruit, I’d say, given the edge towards the pineapple rather than the citrus end of things.

In the mouth there’s that creamy tartness that I notice especially in Argentinian chardonnays. It’s wonderful. Acid base and beautifully balanced, but still, astonishingly, creamy. Wither your oak barrels now?

In other words, why would we sully the taste of grapes like this with wood? Riddle me that.

$12.49

Santa Lucia Pinot Grigio Collio 2015

People in the know tell me this is a quality pinot grigio. I trust them.

Of special interest here is the distinctive color, much deeper than the run o’ the mill pinot grigio. That tells us about the winemaker’s goal, which is to move into the realms of complexity and fruit, rather than low cost and acid.

Clearly of bigger body than most, here’s a glass that I want to wow me, and still fails to do so. Sure, it’s completely competent and of sufficient complexity to be of interest, but it’s not anything that will make you take a deep breath and think big thoughts about life.

Sure, the solid characteristics are all there in style and substance, to wit: pears and ripe apples on the nose, smooth fruit and almond meat-like feel in the mouth, along with a lingering finish. So far, so much better than a (big) majority of her brethren, and by a decent margin.

Which leads me to think we’re running smack bang into the limits of the grape. The slightly waxy mouthfeel of a quality pinot grigio is certainly there, balanced by the roundness that is the distinctive edge of this specific glass. Acids, sure, but here they are only bit-players.

Conclusion: close to best of breed. Which means that the average pinot grigio drinker will either love or hate this thing.

$14.99

Terra Barossa Shiraz 2016

The history of shiraz is a potted history of wine. Begat from two obscure breeds –  dureza and mondeuse blanche – syrah has a spotty history, with rap sheet to match. Sometime blending grape, partial highwayman, gigging food critic; wait, that can’t be right.

Ah, but the history part isn’t finished. Syrah found a home in the Rhône Valley, specifically on hot hilltops. Then, as if its adventures hadn’t fulfilled ten lives, syrah ended up on a vacation to a strange southern land. That land was Australia, where it took up an alias and began a new life as a marketing darling and public icon.

Shiraz is identified with the southern hemisphere’s big brown land, with good reason. The German-created Barossa Valley, north of South Australia’s capital, Adelaide nicely reflects syrah’s journey. From the 1840s, religious and political immigrants arrived in South Australia, bringing wine skill and culture. That was enough.

In 2017, this is the result. An entirely competent, drinking-ready, quality glass of wine. With its thick skin and specific terroir preference, shiraz thrives in many places, but becomes sublime in only a few. Hermitage, obvs. And in this distant, difficult and completely surprisingly land of drought, flood and difficulty.

Classic Barossa shiraz. Blueberry cobbler nose,  full body, front-loaded taste, and yet after some air, the whole enterprise settles to deep fruit and spice wonderment plus acids and tannins. All in balance.

$14.99

Montecillo Rioja Crianza 2013

Mmmmmm, that seductive mistress, temperanillo fills our glass here. I invited her on a date which, given her Spanish heritage, began late. Later than my usual Anglo bedtime; sacrifices can be worth it.

A warm, almost sumptuous nose of rich cherry and complex vinous notes began our night out. She’d dressed beautifully, coiffed carefully and applied the most wonderful perfume. Perhaps it was her own scent.

In the mouth, ahem, she was lighter in feel than first impressions implied. That wasn’t a shortcoming, because the depth of fruit remained, complemented by dry vanilla and oak threads and soft tannins – like a woman who celebrates her sex with strength and suppleness. Smooth and sexy.

An astonishingly inexpensive and memorable date.

$9.99

GameFace

Hulu is the distant-third online video drug dealer, and deserving of that spot.

The big dogs are Amazon Prime and Netflix. Although a dispassionate observer would only separate them slightly by quality, consumers aren’t so discriminating. Which explains the recent publishing – on Hulu – of GameFace.

Presumably, the Brits chose Hulu because they were turned away by the first two: either that or Fox or a Fox friend had some part in the production. In any case, here’s an astonishingly recent UK production on American devices, a turn of events worthy of applause under any circumstances.

For those with an edge blunted by US bland-oh, anything that salts-up our viewing is welcome. Think of it as a vindaloo secreted in a menu of burgers; sometimes the change is enough.

Which is a very long way around to thanking Roisin Conaty for her show. Without hesitation, and with some surprise, the charm of her show is worthy of more approbation. The American version of this conceit is Difficult People, an almost unwatchable homo-correct and yet borderline brilliant show. GameFace channels the Pommy self-effacement part of our nature, an altogether more warm quality. For a first-timer, the imagination and inherent polish of the production is a treat.

Conaty’s unfiltered writing from the POV of a vulnerable ladette lost in red wine and lack of goals is a heartfelt antidote to overly-smooth scriptedness.

A warning for Roisin: less politics. Resisting the temptation to criticize current US politics might be difficult, but will lead only to good places.

GameFace, on Hulu.

Amadieu Cotes du Rhone Roulepierre 2015

Bootleather. Spiced blackberry. Vanilla. Warm dry fruit potpourri.

The nose on this glass was crackerjack right from the off. Simple big elements of ripe dark fruits, alcohol and a wake-you-up alarm. HEY! HERE I AM!

Even without tasting she’s utterly lovable. This is wine. Dry. Musty. Big. Slightly challenging, but in the way of a close friend. She wants  you to like her, putting her best…shall we say assets forward.

A little spice, a little earth, a little dryness, a little lingering acid, some seductive bordering on soft (but not really) tannins, there’s a wonderful mystery here. What’s next? What will she show us. Yes, it’s a kind of burlesque show, at once comfortable and titillating.

 

$13.49

 

Vecordia Ribera del Duero Joven 2016

Wine is chock full of granular knowledge. For instance, what the heck is Joven? And did you know that winemaking in Ribera del Duero proceeded forward from at least 2000 years ago?

Joven is, apparently, a reference to the age of the wine. Actually, I can’t find a definitive age range or quality classification. This is about as much as I can nail it down:

A term potentially applied to any DO or DOC wine; typically the wine spends little or no time in oak and is sold as a fresh and fruity wine.

Well alright then. Just for fun, alongside the Ribera Del Duero DOC certification is the “Cosecha 2016” attachment. Okay, so it’s the cheapest, least aged version of the 2016 vintage. I get it.

Not really, but, like I said, wine is cheeky with facts sometimes.

Fresh and fruity I don’t know about, but the beguiling nature of tinto fino clear; intense red fruit, medium body and notable tannins, together with a latent penchant for food. Daily wine, for sure, but so much more.

$9.99

Porta Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2016

Sauvignon blanc is pretty much the great-grandmother of grape varieties. In that wonderful way that wine has of obfuscating even the most important facts, who would know? Retail customers are besotted with Kiwi sauvignon blancs like they discovered the damn thing, which is both dispiriting and an opportunity.

It’s an opportunity because while the clamour for southern hemisphere sauvignon blancs is almost entirely focussed on New Zealand, you and I can look elsewhere. If you’re not impressed by the blow-your-sinuses-out overdone citrus of those wines, may I suggest a few thousand mile journey east across the Pacific to South Amurrica.

Ah, Chile and Argentina. Literally and in the glass, these countries are half-way houses between Old and (the most disant) New Worlds. And yes, that does by some measures make them the best of both – not to purists, and probably not to wine industry competitors, but for the average punter, for sure.

In summary: this Chilean sauvignon blanc shows excellent qualities of cool-climate versions of the wine. Enticing zesty citrus and herbal with a palate of mid-ripe passionfruit meat, tangy minerals and a citrus thread pretty much says it all. Oh, and a lasting, more-ish finish. Darn good acids.

9.99