Calgary Wine Life: Cakebread Tasting with Dennis Cakebread

15 04 2015

I have long held a soft spot for Cakebread Cellars wines, dating back to when my knowledge and interest in wine were in their infancy.  At the end of my articling year a decade ago, my co-workers and I were out at a nice dinner courteously paid for by our firm the night before we were to find out who would be hired back after articles.  There was suitably fancy wine to go with the upscale meal at our group’s aptly named Last Supper, but the only bottle I remember from that night came after dessert, when a couple wine-loving fellow students ordered a bottle of Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc to the table.  I know (now) that this isn’t Cakebread’s go-to grape or claim to fame, but it stopped me in my tracks.  I had never had a wine like it.  It was instantly memorable and made me understand how people could invest so much time, attention and money in the enjoyment of fine wine, which I have now spent the last ten years doing myself.  When I was in Napa a few years ago I made sure to stop by Cakebread (and have matching wine glasses at home to prove it), all because of that one bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.  So when I got invited a few weeks back to taste through a lineup of Cakebread’s wines with its VP and second-generation owner Dennis Cakebread, my wine life flashed in front of my eyes a little bit.  It was like coming full circle.

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Wine Review: 2013 Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc

4 12 2014

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

Sauv Blanc:  my reawakening continues.

Sauv Blanc: my reawakening continues.

I’ve been experiencing a sort of Sauvignon Blanc renaissance lately.  For the longest time I all but ignored the grape:  I had tried and was clinically impressed but not emotionally roused by many of the SBs and blends of Bordeaux and the Loire; I had lapsed firmly into the camp of “if you’ve tried one New Zealand Sauv Blanc you’ve tried them all”; and I did not hold out much faith that California (too hot) or Canada (too nondescript) could work any magic with the varietal.  But wine, if you let it, has a funny way of pointing out the absurdity in rigidity and making sure your horizons are always boundless.  In the past few months I’ve been blown away by the remarkable and wildly original Greywacke Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough and equally amazed by the textural magic of the Alice May Pathfinder Sauvignon Blanc from Cali.  Now add a third one to the list:  the Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc, from Napa Valley of all places, not only offers a dynamite sensory experience but also seamlessly exudes a sense of place while doing so. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2010 Kirkland Rutherford Meritage

15 08 2012

Not just wine FROM Costco, wine BY Costco. Too weird.

I had to.  Every time I’ve gone into Costco to grab a bottle or two, my eyes always linger for a moment with morbid curiosity on the various Kirkland bottles for sale.  I can wrap my head around Costco-brand ketchup or Costco-brand paper towel, but I have no idea what to make of Costco-brand wine, particularly since Kirkland (Costco’s proprietary label) keeps spitting out offerings from a vast array of well-to-do regions like Chateauneuf-de-Pape, Champagne, and, as seen here, Napa Valley.  These areas have an established pedigree in the wine world:  this particular bottle comes from Rutherford, arguably Napa’s most prestigious, highest-quality and most expensive sub-region.  Rutherford is a tiny area in the heart of the Valley — when I went to Napa it took about 3 minutes for us to drive from one end of it to the other — and is one of the best places in the world to grow the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, and its name on a label usually signifies that you’re going to be shelling out at least $50-$60 (and often much more) for the privilege of the bottle.  This bottle was $17.  The utter dichotomy in my head between “Rutherford wine” and “produced by Costco” made me have to see what was inside.  One disturbingly inexpensive Napa Cab later, I cracked the Kirkland tonight feeling equal parts anticipation and dread. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2007 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon

28 11 2011

Can a flower vase be an appropriate decanter? I say yes.

If the name of this wine sounds familiar, it should:  the ’07 Freemark Abbey Cab from the Napa Valley was my ultimate victor in the modern-day Judgment of Paris blind tasting I took part in at Co-op Wine & Spirits a month ago.  Matched up against 9 other top Cabernets including a couple of First Growth Bordeaux (2002 Chateau Haut Brion and 2007 Chateau Mouton Rothschild) and some iconic Napa Cabs (2007 Ridge Monte Bello and 2002 Heitz “Martha’s Vineyard”), by far the cheapest wine of the bunch (average bottle price of the 10 reds:  $277), this $47 little wine that could knocked both my tasting companion and I over and emerged the clear cut JoP winner for each of us.  As soon as the identities of the various wines were unveiled, I knew I had to get my hands on some — a reaction that probably would have been more subdued had the $928 Mouton Rothschild taken the title.  Thankfully for me (and all of you), the Freemark Abbey Cab is currently on sale at Highlander Wine & Spirits for just over $40, which is absolute robbery for a bottle of this quality from a premium region.  If you’re a Cali Cabernet fan, or if you’re not yet done your Christmas shopping, this is your winner.  Thank me later.

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Wine Review: Cameron Hughes Lot 136 Cabernet Sauvignon (2007)

25 09 2011

Could've been a contender.

This is the second time that a Cameron Hughes wine has graced the electronic pages of this blog, and since the first time was a review of one of my all-time favourite value wines, I had both high hopes and high expectations going into this review.  If you don’t know the story about Cameron Hughes and how they source and create wines, it’s covered in some detail here; the Reader’s Digest version is that CH doesn’t grow any of its own grapes but instead buys either grapes, juice, finished wine or fully-bottled wine, usually from established wineries selling excess inventory, and repackages it under its own label at substantially discounted prices.  That’s how it should work, anyway…the price equation gets skewed somewhat once the wine leaves CH’s American home market.  On the Cameron Hughes website, this particular wine is described as being for sale at the CH online store for $15US.  It was also available at Costco in the US at a similar price point.  I bought this bottle last year from Aspen Wine & Spirits in Calgary for $33CDN — 2.2 times the price.  I feel like NAFTA should have something to say about this. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2006 Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon

6 05 2011

Happy birthday to me!

OK, time to get serious and prepare yourself for the most expensive wine in PnP’s young history!  It was my birthday yesterday, which automatically meant a bottle out of the “good” wine fridge.  That turned out to be the 2006 Cakebread Cab, which I got for Christmas a couple years ago from my wonderful in-laws (did your in-laws ever give you high-end wine for Christmas?  I didn’t think so).  Cakebread is a renowned producer from Napa Valley, the vinicultural heart of California, and I’ve been a big fan of theirs for a long time.  One of my first ever epiphany wine experiences that opened my eyes to the world of fine wine involved a Cakebread, and since then I’ve tried a number of their offerings and have even been to visit the winery and taken part in a tasting there (highly recommended if you’re ever in the area).  Like many Napa producers, Cakebread makes a lot of different wines but hangs its hat on its Cabernet Sauvignon; this Cab was made from grapes sourced from a variety of locations within Napa Valley and retails for close to $100 CDN, so I was very interested to see how it fared. Read the rest of this entry »








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