Wine Reviews: Red ShowDownUnder

13 06 2017

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

FullSizeRender-646I first got seriously into wine about 10 years ago, when the Australia Phenomenon was in its heyday and Argentinian Malbec was just a glint in some clever investor’s eye in Mendoza.  Yellow Tail Shiraz was my gateway drug, a fact that is assuredly true of more than one of you currently reading this as well.  Looking back now on the Australian wine scene then, there are still tons of similarities.  Critter wines, like it or not, are still a thing. On the quality pinnacle, the high-end wines from Down Under rocking people’s worlds in 2017 aren’t that different from those doing so in 2007.  But I’ve noticed a couple clear differences in the imports from Australia that have evolved over the last decade:  first, a welcome explosion of site-driven elegance from the cooler areas of the country, be it Pinot from Yarra or Mornington or bubbles from Tasmania or the laser purity of some of the post-modern wines coming out of the Adelaide Hills.  Second, a new focus on bottles like the ones below, step-up bottlings, a shade above entry-level in price and a world above the critters in authenticity and quality.  The $20-$30 tier of wines has never had stronger representation on our shelves from Australia than it does currently, as more and more producers zone in on these bottles as the best way to build a lasting relationship of trust with consumers as opposed to an $11 fling.

So what better way to celebrate how far Australia has come as a mature wine producer, and how far I’ve come in my 10 years of Yellow Tail-catalyzed oenophilia, than by lining up two step-up bottles, each from highly respected multi-generational family wineries and legendary regions, and tasting them side-by-side?  It’s not about picking a winner — the mere fact that the exercise is possible is a win in and of itself — but I’m sure that won’t stop Jim Barry and Yalumba from exerting full effort in this battle of reds under screwcap.  Let the showdown from Down Under begin. Read the rest of this entry »

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Calgary Wine Life: Weingut Thörle Tasting @ Vine Arts

2 06 2017
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Christoph Thörle

It’s been a bit of a banner wine week, seven days tailored to the precise preferences of my palate.  My personal favourite types of red and white wine are Washington Syrah and German Riesling respectively, and late May has seen visionary producers specializing in each of these areas visit our fair city.  My Washington wine prayers were answered last week when Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars put on a remarkable Master Class in Calgary; this week it was Germany’s turn, thanks to an eye-opening portfolio tasting put on by the dynamic Christoph Thörle of the eponymous Weingut Thörle, from the global home of Riesling’s Rheinhessen region.  Through four different earth-shattering Rieslings and seven total wines, Thörle took us through what must be some of the world’s best expressions of my first vinous love.

If you say the word “Rheinhessen” to a wine person, the tenor of their reaction might be a generational one.  The region, located in west-central Germany, due south of Rheingau and southwest of Frankfurt, is the largest in the country in terms of planted acres and is tailor-made for grape-growing:  it’s dry, sunny and relatively warm, with limestone-based soils overlaid by a variety of alluvial deposits, as long ago it was largely part of an underwater seabed.  Rheinhessen once had a reputation to match its physical advantages, and was long considered one of the pinnacle areas of German viniculture.  But a mid-20th-century flirtation with new lab-crossing grape varieties and mass-market, quantity-focused bottlings turned into a 1970s and 80s Liebfraumilch obsession that saw lesser varietals dominate much of the vineyard area and Blue Nun and Black Tower nearly obliterate the world’s prior impressions of German wine.  If you stopped paying attention to Rheinhessen then (as many did), you will have missed out on what’s going there now:  a quiet quality renaissance, and a return to the right grapes properly planted and tended on the right sites, perhaps not better personified than by Christoph Thörle and his brother Johannes.

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They took over the operation of the Thörle family winery in 2006, when Christoph was just 22 and Johannes 24.  Together they have overseen an expansion of the estate’s vineyard holdings and a corresponding increase in annual production, paired with a return to simple, hands-off viticulture and winemaking practices:  no pesticides or herbicides in the vineyards, multiple-pass harvests, all natural yeasts and no additives in the cellar, minimal sulphur at bottling.  Weingut Thörle now has 80 acres of vine holdings, remarkably spread over 100+ different vineyard parcels but largely centered around the town of Saulheim in north-central Rheinhessen.  The area features a wide array of different slopes, soils and sun exposures, allowing for the production of multiple different varietals, and Saulheim itself is surrounded by Thörle’s three crown-jewel vineyards:  Probstey, Schlossberg and Hölle.

Thörle has been generating increasing acclaim for both its white (Riesling, Silvaner, Chardonnay and more) and red (Pinot Noir, known Germanically as Spätburgunder) wines and made its glorious entrance into the Alberta market last year.  Now some new offerings are on their way to the province, and we were fortunate enough to have Christoph talk us through most of them, including a few bottles that might change your perspective on, well, everything. Read the rest of this entry »





Burrowing Owl Spring Releases

16 05 2017

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

Some people chart the seasons using a calendar; others look to the melting snow and the first robins to mark the start of spring.  For me and this blog, the new season only arrives when the box of new releases from Burrowing Owl is delivered and tasted.  I can now happily announce:  spring is here.

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OK, yes, I had a glass of the Chardonnay before the tasting started.  I regret nothing.

Burrowing Owl is one of the few Canadian wineries that has been consistently able to juggle both quantity and quality, producing 35,000 cases annually from 16 different varietals grown across 170 acres and three different estate vineyard sites encircling the scorching southern Okanagan hubs of Oliver and Osoyoos.  It is likely best known for its Bordeaux varietals, but also makes room in its vineyard sites for less expected offerings like Tempranillo and Viognier, not to mention a killer Syrah that is proof of concept of the region’s suitability for the grape.  Burrowing Owl’s two largest vineyards are scant minutes away from the US border, on western-facing slopes angling down towards the temperature-modulating Lake Osoyoos, which both restrains the Okanagan desert heat during the day and extends it at night.  The third is due west of Oliver, in the neighbouring Similkameen Valley, using its proximity to Keremeos Mountain to help grow Bordeaux whites Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, where 2017’s spring releases conveniently start. Read the rest of this entry »





International Sauvignon Blanc Day: 2016 Adobe Reserva Sauvignon Blanc

5 05 2017

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

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International SB Day 2017!

I swear that not every future entry on this blog will begin with “Happy [Varietal-Specific Holiday] Day!”, but…Happy International Sauvignon Blanc Day!  Yes, there is an entire calendar of world wine days now, each concocted by various marketing geniuses, and as it turns out, a couple weeks after World Malbec Day and a scant four days before World Moscato Day comes a designated day to celebrate the safest grape to pick out of a strange new liquor store and the varietal that first introduced the vinous world to New Zealand, the consistent and omnipresent Sauvignon Blanc.  Unlike today’s grape of honour, I am not omnipresent, and as this piece posts I am actually going to be hanging out in Walla Walla drinking world-class Syrah; International SB Day falls on my birthday this year, and I am spending this spin-around-the-sun in my personal wine Mecca.  So the blog and I will celebrate simultaneously this year, albeit in different places and for different occasions. Read the rest of this entry »





PnP Ratings Database Update — March 2012

7 03 2012

This has nothing to do with the ratings DB...but it is cool.

I decided to hold off on this update until I had accumulated enough new reviews to make a revised spreadsheet worthwhile, and that time has come with PnP poised to reach a couple of major milestones.  First, I’m 4 wine reviews away from 100, a mark I should attain sometime this month.  Second, this Friday, March 9th, is the one-year anniversary of Pop & Pour (so yes, if you do the math, I’ve drunk almost a hundred bottles of wine in a calendar year…but at least my vinous consumption has made some contribution to online society).  Holy crap.  I’m excited (and amazed) about both events…but I need some filler material until they get here and can’t drink wine this week (lead-in to a new diet), so in the meantime I’ll aim to be equally excited about this routine ratings database update.  The March 2012 instalment of the ratings spreadsheet reveals a new member of my top ten QPR wines (my rendition of the Quality/Price Ratio score shows you how many dollars you have to spend on a bottle for every PnP ratings point about 75), the Beso de Vino Seleccion…a.k.a. the bull testicle wine.  This bottle makes the cut not because of its impressive score (84+), but because of its bargain-basement price ($12), though the argument can be made that generally-acceptable wine for $12 is still a bargain.  Download the updated ratings database here (new Excel file first, then old Excel file):

Pop & Pour Ratings Database Mar 2012

Pop & Pour Ratings DB Mar 2012 Old Excel

New wine reviews coming next week once I can drink again!





PnP Ratings Database Update — December 2011

21 12 2011

My plan is to find a different picture for the DB update post every month. On month 2, it's already hard.

Merry Christmas (or non-denominational secular equivalent) everyone!!  With the big day fast approaching, I hope this finds you gearing up for some well-deserved time off with friends and family.  That’s certainly the case for me:  after tonight I will be taking a brief blogging break for a week or so, if only to avoid annoying people by whipping out my tasting notepad in the middle of Christmas dinner (not to say that that won’t happen anyway…).  However, I thought I would leave you with December’s update to the Pop & Pour Ratings Database spreadsheet, which now includes all of the wines I’ve ever tasted and reviewed on this site up to this week.  If you’re looking for a last-minute XMas gift that delivers bang for the buck, just download the Excel spreadsheet by clicking on the links below and look for a wine with a high (0.65 and above) QPR rating, which is a rough guide to sniffing out bargains:  it tells you how many PnP ratings points above a baseline of 75 each wine-buying dollar gets you with respect to a particular bottle.  The top 10 highest-scoring QPR wines all cost $22 or less, so find them if you can!  Download the spreadsheets here (new Excel file first, then old Excel):

Pop & Pour Ratings Database Dec 2011

Pop & Pour Ratings DB Dec 2011 Old Excel

Have a safe a happy holiday season — may your glasses never be empty and your wine never be corked!





Introducing the PnP All-Time Ratings Archive Spreadsheet

25 11 2011

PnP's complied Ratings Database spreadsheet: like this, but for wine.

Now that I’ve pounded out nearly 80 reviews over 9 months on this site, I thought it was about time to try and make the content on Pop & Pour a little more accessible.  The Search box at the top right of the page can help you if you’re looking for something specific, but until now there was no easy way to find out at a glance which wines have had the (mis)fortune of being featured on PnP over the course of the year.  Thankfully, my friend Microsoft Excel has helped me solve that problem; I have now compiled all of the names, vintages, scores, prices and review links for each of the wines I’ve written up and put them into a sortable spreadsheet that’s available for download by clicking on one these links (new Excel first, then older Excel):

Pop & Pour Ratings Database Nov 2011

Pop & Pour Ratings DB Nov 2011 Old Excel

My plan is to update this Ratings Archive spreadsheet once a month so that you will always have a fairly current list of PnP’s wines, and so that any particular review that interests you will only be a click away.  The spreadsheet also has one new piece of info for each reviewed wine that isn’t found anywhere on the blog:  a (very) rudimentary calculation of QPR (Quality Price Ratio) that gives you a general idea at a glance how much bang you get for your buck with every bottle. Read the rest of this entry »