OMG, our neighbours are so cool

I had no idea where I was the other morning. First I thought I’d been left at the neighbours’. It took me half the day to realize I’d been jammed into a coat pocket and that it wasn’t actually night-time. That’s what comes of a six-hour wine-and–Trivial Pursuit bender.

We drank, among many, many things, a lovely bottle of FINCA LOS PRIMOS MALBEC (2012).

finca los primos malbec

I’ve mentioned this gem before; in the past it was a go-to cheap Malbec for us, but we forgot about it for a while. Then the neighbours invited us over and we found ourselves trawling the liquor store for cheap booze. That day it was $12.98 at our local store; now they have it on sale for a buck off.

OMG, my fellow inebriates, you would totally love FINCA LOS PRIMOS. If you’ve already followed my recommendation about their cheap TORRONTES, you know these guys know how to make a brain-blasting (14%) wine that not only tastes good—it can hang with much more expensive wines and come out ahead. Fruit-forward but not exceedingly so, the Malbec features gorgeous aromas of blackberry and ripe cherries, opaque in the glass with non-stop legs. On the palate it’s enveloping and lush and almost getting out of line—wish we could say that about ourselves the other night. Four a.m. it was when it dawned on my dad to look at his watch, and then it was too late. Thank goodness the kids were at a sleepover and we live next door, otherwise we wouldn’t have made it. And hey—I almost didn’t make it. I was like Schrodinger’s cat for a while…in or out of the coat pocket, nobody knew. Or do I mean dead? Well, at least one of my two neurons was dead. It’s probably still dead. Hey, I’m blogging to you with one neuron!

I love our neighbours.


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.”

1884 RESERVADO MALBEC (2011)—You think you know your kids…

You think you know your kids (I mean, they live at your house) but then you see them in some random elementary school situation and…WTF?

Take five-year-old Miss V. Her last report card said she “continues to be a solitary child,” adding that V often prefers playing alone but will join others if the group dynamics feel right. Monday morning? V insisted there was no one she wanted to play with. Ever. Tuesday? Wouldn’t leave the playground; she was caught up in a group game. This morning? This morning was a WTF.

This coat is awesome in winter.As V entered the schoolyard (wearing a black fur coat from which she won’t be separated despite forecasted highs of 19°C), five boys converged on her, all calling her name. This was delightful; despite having been solitary children themselves, our parents sometimes worry about V’s antisocial streak. “Say hi, V,” Mum encouraged as the boys surrounded her like paparazzi.

But V looked straight ahead and strode through them to her classroom lineup, where she remained, unmoving and expressionless, until the bell rang. WTF?

220px-Buckingham-palace-guard-11279634947G5ruYes, Mum did ask her why she hadn’t acknowledged the boys. But apparently V didn’t feel like acknowledging Mum either. She looked positively military, standing in line staring straight ahead, like a Buckingham Palace Guard whose black fur had morphed out of control.*

Then the door opened and she went inside. Mum stood for a couple of minutes after, looking quizzically into the classroom, unable to see her next interactions.

So we’ll have to observe our little black-furred animal in her environment a little more closely and see what gives.1884Reservado_Malbec

I thought perhaps V’s dust-off would have induced the urge for a drink in our mother, but no luck. Dry weekdays are still in force (and it was 8:30 a.m.). This leaves no choice but to rhapsodize about 1884 RESERVADO MALBEC (2011), a product we shared with company shortly before our mother lost her mind and decided to exhume the women’s temperance movement.

This Argentine red goes for $16.99 at our local booze shop. According to the bottle notes, the grapes are hand-harvested from high-altitude vineyards in the Andean foothills, vinified then aged in fifty/fifty American/French oak for eight months.

As far as liquor store offerings go, this wine is a bit of a sleeper. Parked on the shelf between two other Escorihuela varietals nearly identical labels and prices, you might not notice this one, especially if you’re lurching drunkenly around the store. Escorihuela wines strike me as the straight goods: Old-World techniques brought to the New World with staggering success.

Expectation: a pleasantly fruit-forward bludgeoning. When we did pull the cork, though, the bouquet surprised us. Instead of attacking, the fruit aromas were coy and demure; this Malbec had something to say, but not all at once. The wine exuded black fruit and hints of chocolaty espresso in a way that was somehow disciplined and restrained, like a five-year-old unaccountably marching into class without so much as a glance at her mother. In other words, the aromas amped up our curiosity.

I like decanting suspected fruit bombs so they can off-gas their overexuberance before the first sip, but in this case we had company and I really wanted to get drunk. So into the Reidel glasses it went.

RESERVADO is an inviting rich purple and somewhat leggy. On the palate it’s smooth and dry without being parchingly so. The oak aging imparts a pleasant roundness to the tannins, making for a surprisingly satisfying sipper that’s serious yet thoroughly approachable. There’s a lovely layering of fruit, a sophisticated intensity, and a delectable finish.

“We should probably buy another bottle of 1884 RESERVADO MALBEC and drink it this morning,” I suggested when Mum described V’s behavior. “You know, to make you feel better about being a mother and all.”


 *OMG!!! OMG!!! Holy crap, my fellow inebriates, I just read that those eighteen-inch hats worn by the palace guards are called “Bearskins” and are made from real Canadian (!!!!) bears like my friend Blackie Bear because both the British Ministry of Defence and the British Army have FAILED to find a synthetic alternative to bearskin. OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
"That's not cool, LB."

“That’s not cool, LB.”