On the Road with the Grape Guy

On the Road with the Grape Guy is a on-going feature that follows me from event to event ... I post my thoughts, feelings and reviews of what happened and what I tasted ... basically it is here that I review the events I attend and the things that thrilled me.

Irish Whisky A Go-Go

02 Oct 2023

With my favourite Irish Whiskey back in the market, I thought it was time to share some of my whiskey reviews with you.

First, what you need to understand about me is that I am not a spirits drinker, especially whiskey (whisky). My cousin tried to get me into Scotch years ago and I just never took to the stuff. In one podcast, my co-host told me I had the “whisky taste of a 15-year-old girl”, after I went gaga over a butterscotch flavoured whisky made by the Sazerac company.

But a couple of years ago, I tasted an Irish whisky that shifted my thinking: maybe I like the Irish stuff over the Scottish stuff. I endeavoured to find out by tasting a number of Irish spirits – these are a handful of my favourites. I’m usually a stars-guy for my reviews, but considering we have whiskey here, let’s try shot glasses out of three.

Bushmills Malt 10 Year Old Irish Whiskey Bushmill
($56.95 - #131870)
The aromas here are reminiscent of summer fruits: raspberry, strawberry, ripe golden plums, floral and golden raspberries - I was surprised as anybody to smell these - it's whiskey after all, the last thing I expected were fruit notes. The palate is creamy, warm, mellow and silky with little to no "burn” - in fact there seems to be a marshmallow-like smoothness: warm and soothing with toasted notes that grab a white peach roasts it, grills it and then pops it in your mouth.
Rating: 3 Shots (out of 3)

Glendalough Double Barrel Irish Whiskey
($49.95 - #516096)
The Whiskey has some routes in Kentucky as it is aged in bourbon barrels. It’s smooth and clean and really a delicious sip. The mid-palate shows some fruit notes, while the finish delves into the range of vanilla, caramel and spice. It leans silky smooth on the finish with a hint of sweetness; but you’ll get over that quick.
Rating: 2 Shots (out of 3)

Jameson Black Barrel
($55.20 - #292615)
Clean and smooth with notes of vanilla, peach and tropical fruit … it fills the mouth with flavour and forgoes the burn for a nice, well-rounded woodsy finish. This is going to be one of my go-to’s on whisky nights.
Rating: 2½ shots (out of 3)

Proper Twelve
($39.50 - #11945)
The nose of the Irish Whiskey was all about fruit, namely peaches: spiced vanilla overripe peaches and some baked fruit ... The first sip brought the alcohol heat, but by sip two there was more to be found: spicy apricot-mango, that upfront "burn" was mellowed on the finish with a creamy linger and some vanilla and cherry blossom ... I could quite easily get into this one on a cold winter's night.
Rating: 2½ shots (out of 3)

BuskerThe Busker Triple Cask Triple Smooth Irish Whiskey
($38.20 - #30645)
It all starts with a great fruity nose, which leads to a smooth palate – they say “triple smooth” on the label, and I tend to agree. Sure, there’s a little heat (burn), but there’s also fruit, smoke and vanilla, which goes all the way to the finish. Notes of yellow plum, lemon zest, grilled peaches and cream on the mid-palate leads to strawberries and cream on the finish. Yowza - delicious. This is only the second time I have truly fallen for the Irish-stuff – the first is below.
Rating: 3 shots (out of 3)

The Dead Rabbit Irish Whisky Dead Rabbit
($59.85 - #631887)
This is the Irish whiskey that kicked off my journey of discovery. It's a complex beverage that doles out both fruit notes as well as "others". The fruit is apricot, peach and dried raisins along with a malty, floral and even a mothball quality (I am told that is a good thing, by one of the persons I tasted this with). The "burn” here is pleasant. It hits upon entry, but then melts into cinnamon candies, spiced-apricot and dried fruits, there's even a booze-soaked fruit cake note; it brings a coziness to the finish and in the pit of your stomach. It’s a real punch in the mouth of flavor and a punch in the gut of warmth.
Rating: 3 shots (out of 3)

The Sexton Single Malt
($49.95 - #541607)
There's some fruit on the nose here, like fig and dried apricot along with some overripe peach skins. The entry is smooth and silky, almost creamy, with little “hurt” (from now on we’ll call that “the burn”). This one has nice warmth, and while there is a hint of a burn on the aftertaste this one proved to be almost cozy and comforting ... The bottle shape is quite unique as well.
Rating: 2 shots (out of 3)


Madiran Here I Come

25 Sep 2023


(MARCH 2023) ... Famed French winemaker / owner Alain Brumont makes his final appearance in foreign markets as Antoine Veiry takes over the winemaking. That would be the above the fold headline and take away from today's tasting of six wines from the Madiran region of France, and now, the rest of the story.

Alain MontageAlain Brumont has two parcels under his watch, his own property, Montus, and his family property, Chateau Boucassé. Montus was purchased some 40 years ago and was basically in ruin when Alain took it over. He made his first vintage in 1982 and sold it for one and a half euros ... Today, he can get upwards of 200 euros per bottle.

The grape of the region, or the one with the biggest buzz in Madiran, is Tannat; there does not seem to be another region in France focusing on that grape; that is probably true for much of the world as well. Though, I do remember, Brazil trying to corner the market on Tannat.

Madiran, while being close to Bordeaux, is situated in the southwest part of the country. In the 18th and 19th centuries the wines from this region were equal in stature to those of its now more famous neighbour, and the AOC of Bordeaux wanted to swallow the lands today known as Madiran. They also wanted to use Tannat for adding the structure it brought to the wines and for the rich color it could impart.

Pouring WineBut suddenly there was a shift, and Bordeaux started to look to Monaco and Algeria for their extra grapes, leaving Madiran growers with a glut of grapes and nothing to do with them. It seems the wines of the region took a hit; but Alain Brumont decided he wanted to raise the level of what was available and raise the level of quality wine in the region. I read two pieces of promotional material about the man – each seemed more effusive than the other. When it gets to his biography, you'd think Christ had come to Madiran and turned water into wine.

One of the many quotes is "what took other's generations, took Brumont 40 years." Brumont was a messiah for Madiran wines and the people around him, his disciples ... All the while, the vigneron and others in the area shunned and ridiculed him ... As the Romans did at the time of the Christ. It’s a story as old as religion.

Is it hyperbole? Not in the minds of the writers who wrote the story... And not to those who drink these wines either. Brumont changed a region and put it on the wine map. Is it deserving of Christ's like adoration? You can decide that. But upon meeting Mr. Brumont and seeing how humble he is, I doubt he'll be nailed to a cross anytime soon.


Brumont Wines ...

During the tasting, we are shown two separate styles from these very different houses: Montus and Chateau Boucassé. But we are also introduced to the new winemaker, or at least the apprentice; but first vintages from Brumont by himself.

La TyreChateau Montus 2008 La Tyre (Red)
This is one of the top tier wines, and single plot cuvee that spends 2 years in barrel, all new. It's 100% Tannat pulled from two hectares, known as La Tyre. The soils are river stones on red and gray clay with a Southwest orientation. Yields run between 6 to 8:00 clusters per plant with 5,500 plants per hectare. Manual harvest takes place at 300 m above sea level. Production is about 8,000 bottles per year.
The note … a soft silky wine that's fresh and fruity despite its age, notice it is already 15 years old. The acidity is on point, it's soft and approachable with good tannin structure with fruit that backs it all up. It is drinking perfectly right now.

Chateau Montus 2015 Sec (White)
Made from an indigenous white grape of the area, Petit Courbu from a five hectare block sitting on soils made of fine. Clay with south-south-east orientation sitting at about 250 m above sea level. The grapes are whole bunch pressed and then selection is made from the juices. Fermentation takes place over 30 days in both 228 L and 600 L vessels, then aged a year in barrel; 50% in the small barrels and 50% in the big barrels on lees. It will then rest 5 years in bottle before release.
The note … Floral and citrus with an earthy smoky and spicy component. The citrus reigns all over this one and the acidity is "crazy good". Best paired with food, which is how it was designed.


Antoine VeiryThe Sorcerer’s Apprentice ...

In 2017, Alain's stepson Antoine Veiry, returned to the fold after internships in Champagne, the south of France (Roussillon), Guigal, Oregon and even Australia (two hands) ... His first vintage is 2018, though his name appears alongside Alain's as "winemaker" for the finishing of the 2017s.

Chateau Boucassé 2017 Les Jardin Philosophique
A white blend made from the indigenous Petit Courbu and Petit Manseng from Boucassé’s 85-hectare vineyard. The vines are 45 years of age and these grapes take up nine hectares of the vineyard, at no more than 110 m above sea level. It is fermented in stainless steel and then aged in same for 12 months, but on fine lees.
The note … Grapefruit peel and pith that plays off of an oxidized sensation on the tongue. Great acidity back stops the wine giving it an exceptional length on the finish. A beauty of a sipper.  (****)

Chateau Boucassé 2017 Grand Vin de MadiranBoucasse 2017
60% Tannat with 20% each Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon ... These grapes take up 45 hectares of the 85-hectare vineyard Boucassé. The soils are "red and yellow clays on limestone" and the vine age ranges from 25 to 100 years. Slow fermentation happens between 8 to 10 days and a long maceration between 30 and 45 days (depending on the vintage) . It spends its first year in barrels, of which 20% to 30% are new, then 24 months in large wood casks. And after the 36 months is over, the wine spends another 2 years in bottle before release.
The note … Stunning nose that lures you into the glass. The fruit is smoky and has notes of blackberry, cassis and floral. Very approachable with a long finish. It's a lovely sipping wine. (**** ½)

Montus 2017Chateau Montus 2017
An 80% Tannat with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon – taking up a 35 hectares of the 37 hectare Montus vineyard. Vine age is about 27 years. Fermentation and maceration follow what happens at Boucassé (see above). Here 50% of the wine sees new oak for 12 months. Then 24 months in 80 hectoliter foudre (large barrels). 36 months of aging the wine rests in bottle 2 years before release.
The note … Weighty wine with lots of smoky, gritty tannin grip. Floral with good acidity; the fruit either lingers or has decided to hide within the oak – each sip holds a different outcome. It'll take time to emerge, but this oak will always be there. It's an intense wine where food needs to be involved. (****)

Chateau Montus 2018 Prestige
The first vintage of this wine was in 1985 and was 100% Tannat . This is also Antoine's first vintage as winemaker. It is made from specially selected vineyards and represents "the Tannat grape at its best". This wine is mostly sold en primeur, before bottling. It spends 14 to 16 months in 100% new oak barrels.
The note … It is very much a food wine with lots of dark fruit and grabby tannins. It paired exceedingly well with the beef served at lunch. It has a long life ahead of it. Live long and prosper little wine.  (****+)


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