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 »





Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 22

22 12 2014

With a scant two days left in Advent after this, I feel like we’re finally hitting our stride scotch name-wise.  Three days ago I drank The Antiquary.  Yesterday I feasted on the gladiatorial glory of SEPTENDECIM!!!  And tonight it’s back to aristocratic class with GlenDronach’s 21 Year Highland single malt, simply called Parliament.  If you’re not going Latin, go governmental – I approve.  I hope GlenDronach has a Senate, Cabinet and Supreme Court in the lineup somewhere.

Just look at that colour.  #nofilter

Just look at that colour. #nofilter

This is the second GlenDronach whisky in the KWM Advent Calendar, following up Day 9’s disappointing (and disappointingly named) Allardice.  Believe me, after tonight, all is forgiven.  This is a top 3 calendar whisky for sure, maybe even higher.  It’s sherry-based and I don’t even care.  It’s fantastic.  And at $130, it is an absurdly smoking deal.  If any of you are my Secret Santa this year, I know what you can get me.  (Quick tip:  add a bit of water to your dram – at 48%, it’s a little much to have on its own.) Read the rest of this entry »





Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 21

21 12 2014

Last night I delicately expressed some annoyance at the third appearance of a distillery (Springbank) in a 24-day Advent calendar.  Consider that foreshadowing for tonight, when it happened again.  At least the Springbank whiskies were split between three different sub-labels, but tonight’s whisky completed a one-label BenRiach trilogy:  first there was BenRiach 16 back on Day 2, then there was BenRiach 20 on Day 11, and now there’s the hilariously named BenRiach Septendecim, a 17 Year Single Malt from Speyside.  “Septendecim” is Latin for “17” and continues a calendar tradition of whiskies being given extraordinarily wordy and complex names for no particular reason.  It certainly got my attention.

Everything looks more impressive in Latin.

Everything looks more impressive in Latin.

The coolest thing about the Septendecim (which feels like it should be written in capital letters at all times – SEPTENDECIM!!) is that its a (heavily) peated whisky from Scotland’s Speyside region, an area that is almost never known for peat.  The other two BenRiachs in the calendar are much more typical Speyside, light and sweet and clean as a whistle.  This one is flat out dirty:  you can smell the peat even as you’re pouring the first glass.  It also has my eternal gratitude for not letting a single drop of whisky touch a sherry cask — this is all ex-Bourbon barrels all the way.  Finally. Read the rest of this entry »





Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 20

20 12 2014

Well, whisky friends (and long-suffering wine readers who are just dying for Advent to be over – hang in there), we’ve reached Day 20 of the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar.  Only 4 more whiskies left until Christmas, which means we’re on the home stretch, gaining momentum to go out with a bang…right?  Maybe not so fast.  When I opened tonight’s calendar window and saw a familiar black cardboard box staring back at me, my thoughts could entirely be summed up with:  “Again?”

Not the little black box again.  (Sorry Campbeltown.)

Not the little black box again. (Sorry Campbeltown.)

Yep, it’s scotch #3 from the Springbank distillery in Campbeltown, completing the collector’s set of whiskies from the producer’s 3 sub-labels:  first came the Hazelburn 12 on Day 13, then came the Springbank 10 two freaking days ago, and now we get the Longrow N.V. Peated Single Malt, a whisky with no age designation at all (meaning that at least a chunk of it was made from quite young malts).  If you’re wondering how many whiskies from one producer is too many in a 24-day calendar, the answer is 3.  The Longrow retails for $64 and is a solid value for that price, but I can’t see myself coming back to it. Read the rest of this entry »








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