Wine Review: 2013 Kung Fu Girl Riesling

24 02 2015
Third time's the charm?

Third time’s the charm?

This is the first review that I’ve written in a long time just because I want to – no tastings on which to report or samples to analyze, no obligations or deadlines, just me and a good bottle from the cellar.  If you know me at all, you would probably think that this would lead to a write-up about Riesling or about Washington State.  So…Washington State Riesling, anyone?

But not just any Washington State Riesling – THE Washington State Riesling.  This bottle is as close to a sure thing as you can find in the world of wine, especially the portion of that world that you can find at Costco or Superstore.  I have been buying (and gulping down) Kung Fu Girl Riesling for years and singing its praises for almost as long; it’s no coincidence that this wine now becomes the very first bottle to be reviewed on Pop & Pour in THREE different vintages, following the 2010 in April 2011 and the 2011 in July 2012.  Like its predecessors, the ’13 Kung Fu Girl is produced by Washington wine visionary (and Sammy Hagar lookalike) Charles Smith from one of Washington State’s northernmost vineyard sites, the Evergreen Vineyard.  This is one of North America’s top sites for Riesling, a large, cool climate and elevated vineyard in a zone that is in the process of becoming its very own brand new AVA, the Ancient Lakes region.  Unlike the desert that forms the bulk of Washington State’s wine scene, Evergreen and the Ancient Lakes are a perfect spot for growing crisp, balanced Riesling. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2012 Miguel Torres Santa Digna Brut Estelado Rose

9 02 2015

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

From Chile, with love.

From Chile, with love.

Whatever your opinion is on Valentine’s Day, it has had a highly valuable (and surely unintended) side effect on the wine industry:  for one lone day a year, it has shone the spotlight brightly on pink wine.  Rose wines continue to be misunderstood, undervalued, unfairly derided and almost absurdly underrated, so I will happily sing the praises of any day that brings the world’s attention to them ever so briefly, even if it’s a Hallmark-created one.  And if you’re going to grab a pink wine to celebrate February 14th with your true love (and after all the effort I put into the last two sentences, you’d better), I humbly suggest it should be this one, whose flavours are matched equally by its story…and its price.

Miguel Torres is one of Spain’s largest and best regarded wine empires, still entirely family-run after 5 generations.  Torres brands show up in all of Spain’s top wine regions, but the family is also highly prevalent in Chile, where current CEO Miguel Torres Maczassek lived for three years starting in 2009 to head up operations.  Despite being a European, international company, Torres is passionately devoted to telling a local story with each of its labels, and Torres Maczassek himself has a clear love for Chile that shows through when you talk to him and is reflected in his wines.

Read the rest of this entry »





Crowdsourced Wine Review: 2012 Famille Perrin Vacqueyras

27 01 2015

I’m trying something new today – submitting to the will of the people:

Your wish is my command, Twitter followers!  The online community has been nice enough to read and follow this blog for over three years now, and I’ve thought off and on about ways to make Pop & Pour a little more interactive, so consider this a trial balloon for a blog responsiveness initiative.  Thanks to reader @JimSueMaddocks for the excellent review suggestion — I hope this is one of many that roll in going forward!  If you have a wine in mind that you’ve always loved, or on which you’ve always wanted a second opinion, and if it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, drop me a line or a tweet and you might see it up on here sooner rather than later.

Proof positive:  the people will not lead you astray.

Proof positive: the people will not lead you astray.

I found this wine at Highlander Wine & Spirits in town for $23.95 retail.  The review request I received was for the Perrin Gigondas or Vacqueyras, but I went for the Vacqueyras partly because it was immediately available and partly because everyone always seems to opt for the Gigondas in this situation, making Vacqueyras the perpetual ugly stepsister in the CNDP Alternative category.  I think it’s high time that changed.

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.  In France’s Southern Rhone Valley, it’s pretty much established that Chateauneuf-de-Pape is wine royalty.  It’s the most famous and most critically acclaimed region in the area, and its red blends focused around Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (among others) have been copied worldwide, but all of this attention also makes it the most expensive, by a wide margin.  Consumers are slowly coming around to the fact that other Southern Rhone regions, practically adjacent to King Chateauneuf, are almost its equal in quality at vastly superior pricing; this value renaissance has been helped in part by a surge of top-end production in these overshadowed areas.

The two best known Chateauneuf-de-Pape understudy regions are probably Gigondas and Vacqueyras, both located just northeast of the heart of CNDP (Vacqueyras is just 5 kilometres away), both using the same principal grapes, both the source of a number of monstrous values.  I’ve noticed Gigondas start to get a lot of critical attention in recent years, to the point where calling it underrated is starting to ring a bit hollow.  But Vacqueyras has largely stayed in the background, despite being Gigondas’ immediate neighbour and quality equal.  The region has a great story to tell, and wines like this one will help tell it. Read the rest of this entry »





FEL Wines: Pinot Showdown

11 01 2015

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

Happy New Year!  I took a bit of a holiday blogging break after 24 straight days of whisky-induced Advent madness in December, but I always had it in my mind to start up 2015 (and return to actually producing wine-related content on this wine blog) with these two bottles of California glory.  Although they come from what might technically be considered a new producer, their roots and history are inextricably linked to a California stalwart…and, as it turns out, to my home province of Alberta too.

Great wines, plus new wine glasses - to be the subject of a separate post.

Great wines, plus new wine glasses – to be the subject of a separate post.

FEL Wines came into being less than a year ago, in March 2014.  It is the brainchild of Cliff Lede, whose eponymous Napa Sauvignon Blanc helped renew my faith in the grape a month ago.  Lede is well known for creating those rarest of beasts, Napa Valley value wines, and he’s also a born-and-raised Albertan who is well known outside of the wine world as one of the owners and senior executives of the Ledcor Group, which was founded by his father (how the construction lawyer in me failed to mention that in the last review is beyond me).  FEL represents Lede’s foray outside of Napa’s welcoming confines and into the cooler climate areas of California, and it also seems to be underlaid by a personal passion:  FEL is so named for Cliff’s mother Francis Elsie Lede, who helped kindle his love of wine as a child. Read the rest of this entry »





Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 24

24 12 2014

Well, the stockings have been hung by the natural gas fireplace with care, and I have officially completed whisky Advent.  Thanks to all those of you who have read along to date – I can quite confidently say that you will not be seeing a post on PnP tomorrow, so enjoy this one!  The KWM Whisky Advent Calendar comes to a close with a bang, delivering the promised 40 year old dram in the form of Glenfarclas’ 40 Year Highland Single Malt.  This scotch comes with a $720 price tag (actually a strong value for the age of the whisky involved) and with a number of critical accolades, having been hailed Whisky of the Year by Malt Advocate.  It’s Glenfarclas’ second appearance in the calendar; it previously tried to destroy your mind with its 60% abv bottling Glenfarclas 105 on Day 6.

The one you've been waiting for.  First calendar whisky older than me.

The one you’ve been waiting for. First calendar whisky older than me.

The GF 40 certainly delivers, albeit not in a way that will embed itself on your psyche for years (or even weeks) afterward.  It is a deep amber in colour, although not deep enough to immediately give away that it has spent four decades in a barrel.  The aromas are mellow and meandering, maple syrup and marzipan, smoke, apple cider and Meyer lemon.  It is soft and warming on the palate, opening up discernibly with a couple drops of water and featuring a complex yet subtle array of flavours:  honey, vanilla and florals, orange zest, green grapes, dark rum and a dry heated wood note I can best describe as “sauna”.  It isn’t life-changing, but it’s extremely well put-together, an experience to drink if not a lasting memory. Read the rest of this entry »





Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 23

23 12 2014

Three posts in less than 24 hours?  I’m officially on Christmas holidays, so why not?  Kensington Wine Market’s Whisky Advent Calendar advertises on the box that one of the included whiskies is more than 40 years old; I haven’t seen it yet and it wasn’t behind door #23 tonight, so I know what awaits on Christmas Eve!  Unfortunately, the penultimate whisky in the calendar is nowhere near as exciting, and it kills any buzz that might have been built up by the incredible GlenDronach Parliament yesterday.  Not that it’s horrible or anything; it just…is.  It’s a Day 6 whisky instead of a Day 23 whisky.

Not necessarily the way to bring it home.

Not necessarily the way to bring it home.

“It” is the Auchentoshan 18 Year Single Malt, matured entirely in American oak bourbon casks.  This is Auchentoshan’s second appearance on the calendar, having previously underwhelmed with the triple-distilled, triple-matured 3 Wood on three-saturated Day 3.  The 18 Year isn’t going to make me run out and buy Auchentoshan anytime soon, but I will say that they have the absolute best website of any scotch producer I’ve come across this month.  Check out their stellar graphic (scroll down) explaining the ins and outs behind their unique triple distillation process (they are the only scotch producer to triple distill full-time) – that’s more info on distillation than my WSET textbook had.  Good stuff. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: Taittinger Nocturne Champagne (N.V.)

23 12 2014

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

You just can't look away.

You just can’t look away.

First things first:  this is a bit of a milestone occasion for this blog, as it marks the very first sparkling wine review in the near-250 published posts on Pop & Pour.  Actually, no — first things first:  would you take a look at this bottle!!  This thing is bling squared.  With New Year’s Eve on the horizon, Taittinger has released special “Disco” packaging of its normally slightly more sedate-looking Nocturne Champagne, and it’s about as celebratory as you can get…mine actually came with little disco ball ornaments attached.  Awesome, and totally fitting for this blog’s inaugural sparkler write-up festivities.

The Nocturne, as you may have guessed by its appearance, is a party Champagne.  It is built to be easily (and happily) consumed and shared in groups to round out an evening in style.  This is not at all to say that it’s lacking in substance, however, as the classic craftsmanship of the Taittinger name is still readily apparent.  Part of the Nocturne’s universal appeal is rooted in the fact that it receives a fairly hefty dosage (added liquid cane sugar after disgorgement), leaving some residual sweetness to lend heft and approachability to the wine’s complex flavours.  This may be the part of the review where you look at the bottle and say:  “Residual sugar?  Sweetness?  But doesn’t it say ‘Sec’ on the label?”  Um, yes…about that. Read the rest of this entry »








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