VIŇA CHELA RESERVE (2011)—Kick-ass intensity for those intense days we have sometimes at LBHQ (or just read about in the news)

Not one, not two, but THREE friends posted this on my Facebook wall today.

shepherd kills bear

Which, when you think about it, is actually kind of threatening.

When I first saw it I immediately went looking for my friend Scarybear. Not that he’s been known to venture into Bosnia-Herzegovina—or even off the couch—but I was concerned.

It took a bit of a search, but then, sure enough, there he was under the couch, wearing a dress.

"I will kill you if you post that photo, LB."

“I will kill you if you post that photo, LB.”

Which calls for wine, don’t you think? A palpable threat has been evaded. Oh, come on, just because we don’t always like Scary, it doesn’t mean we want him to be dead. Let’s have some vino.
vina chela

VIŇA CHELA RESERVE (2011) is an organic Argentine Malbec vinified from high-altitude grapes from the foot of the Andes. According to the bottle notes, the grapes were harvested early in the morning, then cold-macerated for three days at temperatures not exceeding 10°C to achieve optimal extraction. Then the wine was aged for seven months in French and American oak.

What the hell does all that mean, my fellow inebriates? Cold maceration, also known as the “cold soak method,” was originally introduced for Pinot Noir in an effort to get the finicky grapes to pony up max flavor instead of delivering half-assed astringent wine. Cold soaking proved successful for Pinot, and winemakers followed suit with other varietals, thereby capturing deeper color and elusive aromatics plus higher-quality tannins.


At the very least, letting your grapes sit around at low temperature for a few days allows you to establish their chemistry and see what kind of sugars they’re going to surrender. The downside is you risk some spoilage and rogue fermentation, but cold soakers still swear by the method. Not that the science is precise—adherents’ reasons for cold soaking vary widely. Perhaps, they argue, certain qualities can be extracted best before the sugar develops into ethanol. Results claimed include increased flavors and aromas; higher complexity; more weighty mouthfeel; more intense color; and a higher-quality tannic profile.

But the jury’s still out on cold maceration. To date, few studies have been done. And although I urged my parents to run out and buy an Argentine Malbec that hadn’t been cold-macerated (as a control), they only commented that my alcohol-seeking ploys were getting more creative. Kudos, but no additional wine.

VIŇA CHELA RESERVE it is, then. Not very scientific of us to drink one bottle only, but oh well. Decanted, it looks like dark purple ink, dense and inviting. Off the top you get intense dark fruits and spice with a little bread yeast and cocoa. Not for the faint of heart (and 14% alcohol), VIŇA CHELA RESERVE coats the palate with a concentrated burst—thick and chewy and ripe. As it sits on the tongue it reveals bittersweet chocolate and herbaceous hints beneath buckets of black fruit. This wine is huge, people. Whatever S.A.E.V. Escorihuela did to extract this much fruit, it worked and then some.

And the best part? The bottle was $14. This Malbec is another great find, my fellow inebriates, so try and get your paws on it. If you are a bear, you will need someone with opposable thumbs to help you, which will put you in their debt, which sucks, but it’s better than being strangled by a Bosnian shepherd.

That's what you get for taking on a bear.

Scarybear says: “You just try coming to Canada.”

Ornery bear? Try an ornery five-year-old. A good reason for URBAN UCO MALBEC TEMPRANILLO (2011)

boris the polar bear root canal2284791-184A0070000005DC-599_964x571He looks a lot like my departed friend Glen Bear, but his name is Boris. He must have been more ornery than usual, because when dentists examined him, they determined that he needed a root canal.

Of course, you don’t just peer into a polar bear’s mouth—dental pain or not. Boris was sedated and tranquillized so medics could perform both the examination and the procedure, which required a 10cm hole to be drilled.

If only Miss V could have been sedated and tranquillized today. Her six-month dental check-up ended prematurely with her wailing and covering her eyes as she permitted the dentist one small glimpse into her noisy mouth. Only when she was invited to select a new toothbrush and toy ring (a prize?? OMG, we deserved a prize for listening to the fussing) did she settle down. Yes, V is a total punk when visiting the dentist (and the doctor, and the shopping-mall Santa for that matter). V is a punk, period.

We all deserve a drink. First, for subjecting ourselves to a sad reminder that Glen Bear is no longer here. And second, for listening to a five-year-old caterwauling because someone is trying to shine a light in her mouth. Holy crap, we deserve a drink. What shall we have?

We need something that packs a wallop: URBAN UCO MALBEC TEMPRANILLO (2011). By wallop I mean 14.5% alcohol carried in an inky, intense wave of oak-aged Argentine red wine. At under $15 you’d expect this to be a bit of a gamble. Tempranillo doesn’t always behave itself (what varietal does?), but it can be less forgiving on the palate when its more expressive notes have full rein. That’s why we chose a 50/50 red, although Malbec couldn’t necessarily be expected to supply enough of a fruit burst to balance the leathery, vegetal tang of its blending partner.

urban uco

Truth be told, my dad has an aversion to Tempranillo, so we bought this one while he was away. But my mother had this idea that we wouldn’t get to it, and opted for 50/50 with Malbec just in case we ended up sharing it with Dad. That, I suppose, is what happens in a good marriage, although it seemed a bit bear-abusive to make me wait five days to enjoy this wine.

URBAN UCO spent three months in oak barrels. Slightly tight upon opening, it begs to be decanted, and if you have the discipline, you’ll be rewarded by letting it breathe for 30-45 minutes. If you don’t, your first glass may seem strident—but still agreeable. The nose is deep and smoky, hinting of dark berries and raisins. The reward for waiting (even if you do have the DTs) is an intense, mouth-filling, plummy wine with a savory, lingering finish. URBAN UCO is bold and baritone if you wait long enough, with Malbec’s characteristic earthiness playing against the Tempranillo bitch-slap nuance. I loved it, people, and for the price, we should buy a case.

V is sleeping soundly now (although she yammered only so heartbreakingly when she discovered that her prize ring from the dentist had been forgotten in a public washroom). Although I’d rather take a polar bear to the dentist than V, I’m glad it’s over, and I’m grateful for the excuse to drink URBAN UCO.

HEITLINGER SMOOTH LEAF PINOT BLANC (2011)—falls short of distracting you from your very worst fears

My Fellow Inebriates,

Last night Fluffy tried to smother me with his fur. This was after my dad tried to smother both of us by falling asleep on the couch with us under him. When he got up, Fluffy stayed lodged on top of me—i.e., he tried to finish me off.

I’d been expecting Fluffy to escalate his sinister behavior so if anything this seemed overdue. Fluffy used to train his mind powers on our townhouse, causing weird creaks and bangs despite the newness of the structure. But the new LBHQ is old, and old houses are supposed to make noises. So when this place started creaking and crashing, I couldn’t be sure it was Fluffy or if the house was just doing its thing.

After all, for all I knew, Fluffy was no longer possessed. The movers could very well have shaken Granny out of him when they put him on the truck, or perhaps she’d remained attached to the townhouse. Maybe her dead spirit had been sleeping when the movers came and she missed the boat/truck.

I wanted to believe these things. But OMG, when this house goes thump, it goes THUMP—how could it be anything other than Fluffy?

I didn’t want to ask my mum again if she thought her dead mother was hanging out in Fluffy; it didn’t seem sensitive. So I asked my dad. I wanted to know if he could detect a paranormal other under his ass while he watched movies on the couch.


“Well, how about me under your ass while you watch movies on the couch? How about that, Dad??”

Clearly my dad has no psychic powers. For someone with the dog-hearing he has for stereo systems, his sixth sense is nonexistent. How could anyone watch an entire movie with two bears wedged under his can, one bear of which presumably has the power to leave the shell called Fluffy and travel right up his rectum? Last night my dad was playing with fire. He was lucky Fluffy tried to kill me instead of him (or maybe Fluffy just wasn’t interested in exploring my dad’s bowels).

I realized last night that Fluffy is at least as evil as Martha Stewart—maybe more so, because he’s never made Bing Cherry Mojitos.

I survived Fluffy’s assault only because I can hold my breath really well—some might say seven years and counting. But last night was an eye opener. Not only is my dad oblivious to the evil around him, but his ass sometimes compounds the evil. No question my dad is generally oblivious.

Case in point: Pinot Blanc. This is a pet varietal that Mum and I tend to break out when Dad goes on a business trip. But at Thanksgiving we had it in the house just in case our guests might like it, and my dad got curious about it. Now, we’ve had some kick-ass PBs before, and we were hoping this would be another. HEITLINGER SMOOTH LEAF (2011) retails for $17.99 at our government booze store where it’s been promoted lately as a staff pick and turkey-dinner match. Assuming my mother’s turkey dinner ended up tasting like turkey, it seemed like a good bet.

German PBs can go either sweet or dry, and HEITLINGER lands on the off-dry mark. The nose is orchardy and citrus with hints of a not-very-influential pineapple having been in the room. On the palate the mouthfeel is reasonably weighty with moderate acidity. The wine lingers on the back palate with a slightly confusing play of flavors, summing up simply and rather forgettably.

If you’re partial to food and you like socializing, HEITLINGER won’t distract you from either. This feature shouldn’t be underestimated, as there’s nothing worse than regaling your captive Thanksgiving dinner audience with one of your best stories, only to have someone break into your narrative to exclaim how freaking awesome the wine is. This won’t happen with HEITLINGER. While not reticent with its display of bright yellow fruit, neither is it wearing a Carmen Miranda get-up. It won’t upstage you, your meal, or that story about your prostate exam.

If, on the other hand, you eschew solid foods like yours truly…well, you might want to add some interest to this wine. You could read a book while sipping, or practice doing a sexy dance. You could think about freaky paranormal happenings or compare Martha Stewart’s evilness with that of other household members. And if your house is free of creepy things like Fluffy, she will certainly win.

Oh, Martha, I can’t believe you’re really evil.