It was to be my first visit to the interior Province of Alberta Canada, having spent lots of time in Toronto, Quebec and Montreal on the East coast and Vancouver just a short distance up North. I flew up in mid-November of 2005 and I was hoping for freezing cold weather and lots of snow, but that was not to be.
My friend Richard Beeken had planned a decadent, wild and wooly weekend retreat of great food and wine and it was impossible to resist his offer to stay at his home, spending time with him and his charming wife, son and furry menagerie of pets.
In addition to a fantastic birthday wine dinner celebration at Richard’s home, he had coordinated a Dow’s vertical tasting with the owner and manager of Edmonton’s deVine Wines and Spirits shop, just off Jasper Ave. in the historical district of downtown Edmonton. I must say that this was one of the most beautiful wine shops I have ever entered. It looked like the shop had a makeover by a group of interior designers with a penchant for wine accoutrements. In reality, the appearance was stunning and I wish I could locate more of my photos. Additionally, the wine shop itself had one of the most diverse selections of wine, I have seen in any Canadian store. Before I continue, I’d like to thank Ed Fong and Annabelle from Portugal (two of the original five partners) for their warm welcome during my visit.
Your humble narrator was invited to provide insight and guide a vertical tasting of Dow’s Vintage Port for about 18 guests of the shop. What could be better than drinking a bunch of great Ports, meeting some wonderful folks from Canada and getting to speak with them about my favorite topic? Snow? Well, I guess I’ll have to go back for that! Before I start my tasting notes on this tantalizing tasting, I should mention that I am looking forward to seeing these folks again this year, as Richard has arranged another weekend of wine depravity and yet another Port tasting … all under the guise of a “birthday celebration.” Actually, I believe he was born in July, but who knows. We’ve collaborated on a theme, comparing horizontals from 1983 and 2003, featuring the same producer’s VPs from vintages 2 decades apart. All I can hope for is that like last year, after the last Port has been slurped, we wind up in that that same denizen of hedonism, the local pizza shop downtown sipping some outstanding wine and recounting tales tall and true.
deVine Dow’s Vertical Tasting Notes
1989 Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim Vintage Port – Light ruby centered with a pink/tawny rim. This Bomfim brings back fond memories of my first Quinta visit in 1994, as it was one of the Vintage Ports I tried while staying there for a couple of days. This bottle is showing some candied hazelnut and prune aromas along with a touch of alcohol. Light-bodied and elegant, the ’89 delivers a sublime texture and a smooth nutty medium length on the aftertaste. A gentle Port with finesse and it’s seemingly just past peak. Drink up over the next few years if this bottle is typical. 2,785 cases produced 89 points (11/11/05)
1966 Dow’s Vintage Port – Medium ruby with slight bricking on the edge. I could not show up empty handed, so I decanted this prior to boarding the plane earlier in the afternoon. This was back when you could bring a darn bottle on board! Anyway, this ’66 anted up an intriguing nose of licorice, pine, and treacle with an earthy woodsy nuance that added an extra layer of complexity. Medium to full-bodied and a silky, viscous mouthfeel that I love in really fine older Dow bottlings. This is a refined VP with superfine tannins that meld beautifully on the voluptuous finish. Always a pleasure, although I have had better bottles. 93 points (11/11/05)
1970 Dow’s Vintage Port – One of my favorite Dow VPs and also one of my true loves from 1970. Advanced color that took me by surprise. The scents of chocolate and strawberry are supported by cherry pipe tobacco and a touch of spirit. Medium-bodied and smooth sailing with an absolutely gorgeous cherry-centric profile and harmonious long finish. Normally this drinks younger, but this bottle was still very tasty indeed. 94 points (11/11/05)
1977 Dow’s Vintage Port – There was something dramatically wrong with this bottle. What a darn shame as the ’77 is in my top 3 Ports of the vintage. not rated (11/11/05)
1980 Dow’s Vintage Port – I have had this particular Dow early and often having opened nearly two cases of my own bottles. Whenever possible, I buy more as this is the finest 1980 produced in my opinion and this bottle was no exception. Vibrant blood orange color and overall this bottle is showing very young. Floral notes with blackberry and tobacco leaf. Typically dry and offering ripe raspberry and pomegranate juicy juice which is perfectly balanced and ready to drink, though not yet at peak. Bottles this good will easily drink well for another decade. Fab finish, I love it! 92+ points (11/11/05)
1991 Dow’s Vintage Port – It is fun to revisit this wine as it has been a few years since I have had it. Medium ruby in color. This seems like it is still emerging from its “dumb phase” as it was a bit tighter than any previous bottle. Anise, and strawberry aromas took much coaxing to come out and play, with a solid dose of alcohol protruding. The palate is better than the nose but not offering a lot either with red berry fruit, smooth mouth feel and a medium finish showing ripe tannins. Maybe this needed longer decanting? 88 points (11/11/05)
1994 Dow’s Vintage Port – Inky purplish-ruby color and fully opaque. Offering violets and grape fragrances that are intense and vibrant. I like to think that my presence at Bomfim during the growing season had something to do with the greatness of this VP. My own delusions of grandeur. A powerful young wine with gripping ripe tannins and crisp acidity that provides the symmetrical backdrop for the bright blackberry and plum fruit. An iconic Dow VP that will be best somewhere in around 2025. Earlier estimates by some pundits are merely a fantasy. 13,000 cases produced 95+ points (11/11/05)
2000 Dow’s Vintage Port – This will certainly rival the 1970 and 1977 Dow VPs. The 25th Dow declaration since 1900, it is a stunning big and bold, massive Port. Deeply extracted and concentrated with blackberry and dark cherry aromas with a hint of mocha. Bright primary plum and cassis fruit supported by tannins which are in your face and chewy. The best finish of any Dow’s in the lineup. Cellar for 2 decades if you like to drink ‘em young and this will be a great Port in 2050 too when my daughter finishes the rest of my stash. 94+ points (11/11/05)
2003 Dow’s Vintage Port – A cask sample was flown in for this event. Impressive, although I already have some bottles in the cellar. Black Beauty is an apt moniker for this VP. An expansive and enticing aromatic profile of black cherry, fennel and cedar. This Port pulls no punches and shows sweeter than usual in ’03 with lush and intense dark berry flavors and a grapey note. The tannins seem to be hidden beneath layers of fruit that provide a sumptuous and enduring finish. 9,000 cases produced 95+ points (11/11/05)
What a wonderful experience. I love doing verticals from various Port producers as there is so much to learn about the nuances of “house style” and the variants of vintage. The guests at this tasting asked many intelligent and thought provoking questions, which made the time fly by. Had I known, that there would not be bottles of 1983 or 1985, I would have brought them with me. Thanks to deVine for hosting this excellent tasting and also to Richard for his friendship and generosity which made it all possible.