Vin-terra Incognita, The Wines of Celler Piñol

21st Century Wines from Inveterate Vines in Terra Alta

http://blogs.canada.com/2012/02/28/vin-terra-incognita-the-wines-of-celler-pinol/

February 23, 2012

 

If Bordeaux, Napa and even Malbec have your nose wedged in the close-minded glass of life then Terra Alta is certainly not on your radar. Just a stone’s throw away, as the crow flies, a singular and estimable cradle of wine civilization promulgates in the commingling regions of Montsant and Priorat. Stretching its legs from out of the shadow of proximate antediluvian cellars, Celler Piñol aims to broaden horizons, roll over stones, reset the compass. Organically motivated, Piñol is a vintner for the New World. Here nine wines tasted at Barque Smokehouse with partner in wine Jascha Baraness, the indubitable Juanjo Galcerá Piñol and markedly too legit to quit, Spirit Tasting Challenge Winner Mark Coster of Profile Wine Group.

Juanjo Galcera Pinol

L’AVI ARRUFI 2009 ($32) the Garnacha Blanco immortalizes Piñol’s patriarch abuelo. A bold (14.5% alcohol) statement and in tune with the old vine style (Beaucastel) of the Southern Rhône. Composed in peachy, tree-fruit floral tones, the Arrufi tastes like almonds soaked in cider and mel de romani. Essence of white Mediterranean wine. Ancient. Sephardic. Biblical.  91

LUDOVICUS TERRA ALTA 2010 ($14.95) molds Cariñena, Merlot and Syrah around a 50% frame of Garnacha. Grizzled vines for this entry level beauty claw, scratch and rope-a-dope their way through arid and unforgiving limestone soils. A fighter this Ludovicus. Dusty, rocky, bearded and sharp-dressed for the neoteric world. Climbs to the top of the hill and rips off a riff.  87

RAIG DE RAÏM 2010 ($14.95) with increased Cariñena in the mix is a deeper, darker, hemic descendant and displays more bullish animal. Cabernet Sauvignon here too joins Merlot for a cigar note. Begs to be paired with fatty meat, drippings and seared on spice.  88

PORTAL 2009 ($20.95) while not defined, is essentially a Reserva, composed of 50% Garnacha, 20% Cariñena and the remainder Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah. Jascha says “feral” so I think of the King of Limbs, “…abstract, loopy, throbbing.” Foggy, hat wearing portal to the brain of a braised landscape, demanding short rib, rich broth, slow wine. “Take it easy.”  91

Portal 2009

 

SA NATURA 2009 ($21.95) is a blend of 50% Cariñena with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Tempranillo. The qualities imparted by geomorphic wacke, anticline crag and orogenic Keuper translate to a natural wine, down to earth. Another Piñol made in the vineyard despite the varietal bag.  90

L’AVI ARRUFI VI DE GUARDA 2007 ($39.95) spends 16 months in French oak so the power of 60% Cariñena is unleashed. Combined with 30% Garnacha and 10% Syrah, the Guarda is an architecturally driven, linear and precise specimen. Menthol, eucalyptus and chewy, resinous berries swim out from the arid, desert soils where little rain falls, the days are hot and the nights cold92

MATHER TERESINA 2006/2007 ($49.95) is indeed a blended vintage bottling, now a lost art and set to disappear. 40% Cariñena and 30% Garnacha are joined by indigenous Morenillo and the combined effect is an early Cubist smoke, ash and tar affair. Cocoa and cream too.  90

FINCA MORENILLO 2009 ($64.95) is the diamond in the rough. No other wine in the line up buzzes as much with the warmth from humidity that is maintained in Terra Alta’s Mesozoic soils. Made from 100% Morenillo, this Pinot Noir like, thick-skinned, late-maturing grape here shows as a wine of distinct clarity. Very cherry, reminiscent of Bierzo but precisely concentrated and elegant. Here the Canaletas flowing gracefully to the Fontcalda Spa93

Finca Morenillo 2009

JOSEFINA VI DOLC 2009 (500 mL, $29.95) is black cherry pie, orange peel scented, late harvest dessert anti-syrup. While the pecan pie match is certainly viable, 76% chocolate would do just fine. That and a Persian Princess.  91
 
 
 
 
Good to go!

Academy Awards Wines

 

Oscar Night

February 26, 2012

 

The Oscars. Ritual television rivaled only by the Super Bowl. The AA’s speak to a wine crowd while the SB leans Wings and Beer fest. Here some recent tastings from VINTAGES to help transition from cliché opening number through three hours of pomp and pride.

 

 

ALOIS LAGEDER BENEFIZIUM PORER PINOT GRIGIO 2008 (231274, $16.75) dumbs down in a most descendant,  positive way and explains why one wine is an open book and another a deep well. PG so often a Limp Biscuit, insipid, pale, lifeless. This more of an every day Sexsmith crooning Costello, writing the book. From Alto Adige and punched up, acting more like Gris, or even Kabinett from a closer neighbour across the Alps. Watercolour of pomade and propellant. Wheat grassy, honey nut, marzipan cheery. Some evolution on it, as if almost oxidized Chardonnay but fresh still. On the card at Barque  88

ALOIS LAGEDER BENEFIZIUM PORER PINOT GRIGIO 2008
  

TOMASSI RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2009 (9014304, $19.95) is Tony Calabria’s tipple of choice for Oscar night. Sibilated sweet, reductive treacle and red licorice Lola in a bottle. Kinky, tangy and tasty like cherry cola, “C.O.L.A. Cola.” Will flatter the best available Pizza on Award’s night, like the one at Mama’s at Yorkdale, circa 1978. “This is this.”  87

TOMASSI RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2009

NOTTOLA VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2006 (184960, $15.95) seeps searing Sangiovese, Earl Grey Tea at the seams so drink up. A whiff of Brett huffs and puffs but the artist‘s house is all Siena brick and no straw. A sophisticated palate tears the roof of the sucker so this VNM Gives Up The Funk. Calcium Carbonate, cherry, licorice and umbrella pine dominate the wafts from this actualized, mellow member of the noble Tuscan wine parliament89

 NOTTOLA VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2006

 

 

 

Good to go!

Family Day, Snow Forts and Sangiovese

It appears frozen but the lake likewise tempts as a precarious proposition. Look out and note just one (who is that guy?) ice hut, a solitary walking man and (thankfully) no snowmobiles.  Chewing repeatedly on the cud of weary winter thoughts has become this coming vintage’s obsession. Yet for one glorious weekend a foot of snow falls, the temperature hovers around a degree of perfection and the sun cozily kisses rosy-cheeked faces.  The family fortifies the wood garrison with brandy spirits. Pardon me, that was the Port. The fort is buttressed with more fallen branches. Best of all, packing snow is available so we fashion a brick house. “Mighty mighty, just lettin’ it all hang out.”

CASTELLARE DI CASTELLINA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2006 (508507, $26.95) was released through VINTAGES back on June 12, 2010. A CC Riserva that resides in my wheelhouse and rings my bottiglia bell. This unassuming yet infamous winery first entered my Sangiovese psyche when I tasted the ’90 Riservas (including the wonderful SV Il Poggiale) with the proprietors’ daughter in their tasting room back in the summer of ’95. The price here is perfect; it’s over $30 US in Europe and very little is shipped to the States. Now fully resolved, suspended in mellow sanguis Jovis animation, plums floating in a cloud of vanilla hinted cream foam. The afternoon sun lighting up the face of an exhausted and content child laying down in the snow after a day of  igloo construction.  90

BODEGAS ALEJANDRO FERNANDEZ TINTO PESQUERA CRIANZA 2007 (341461, $27.95) sold through at VINTAGES beginning on November 13, 2010. Fernandez does Tempranillo in the Ribera del Duero like no one else. While Parker’s Pesquera moniker from 1985 “the Petrus of Spain” may have been hyperbole, the lively and silky quality of this campesino Crianza never disappoints. My vertical goes back to 2001 and I find myself pining for a Pesquera on every visit to the cellar. Baking spices are a common aroma denominator and like Ridge‘s noticeable Draper “perfume” there is always a distinct Pesquera “bouquet.”  The wine is now showing Crimson and Clover, “over and over.” It is beginning to change colour, like maples in October. Also sugaring, as after a few hours in the kettle in March.   91

PETRA ZINGARI TOSCANA IGT 2008 (224228, $13.95) from the VINTAGES August 6, 2011 release deals value in quarto from varietals Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot. An unusual blend from the Maremma coast for sure but throw me down in the snow if it isn’t unmistakably Tuscan. Iron, leather, pure snappy, fennel fruit and tannic tang are all there. Primary yes, but what more can you ask from $14? Held up 24 hours later for a second go round.  88

 

 

Good to go!

 

VINTAGES February 18th Release, Wines Tasted

13th STREET OLD VINES RIESLING 2010 (272617, $23.95) carries on in the tradition of the house style. Eerily similar to the Palette, reeking of Viognier and Gewurztraminer. It’s round, easy to like, if negligent of grip.  85

DOMANE WACHAU TERRASSEN FEDERSPIEL GRÜNER VELTLINER 2010 (31534, $17.95) shows a playful, youthful exuberance. Simple broth here, properly seasoned and will work well as a base when combined with more mosaic ingredients. Adds touches of water spinach, mossy root vegetable and a faint hint of sweet pepper.  87

TOWNSHIP 7 SYRAH 2007 (263665, $24.95) gives off a stickum smell so much so VA comes to mind. Hard and brutish, the township ungroomed, full of moody character, barely penetrable. Hold a feather over the glass to see if it’s alive. Hard to assess.  85

CLOS DU VAL ZINFANDEL 2009 (590216, $23.95) though muted, noses mezzogiorno Primitivo so I question its origin. Primitive for Napa Valley Zinfandel, the CdV is silver-tongued and toothsome.  86

KENDALL-JACKSON VINTNER’S RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 (331603, $22.95) simplifies Sonoma CS. Compartmentalized by its oak; cocoa dust, black cherry and empletre olive. Cherry pie recipe for plain sailing consumption.  85 

CHAMPY SIGNATURE PINOT NOIR BOURGOGNE 2009 (1149, $20.95) is palatable if unrecognizable as French Pinot. Nothing wrong with it aside from its ambiguity. Sweet, tart, savoury, floral and smokey but could easily be Niagara, Oregon or NZ.  86

DONNAFUGATA TANCREDI CONTESSA ENTELLINA 2007 (990424, $25.95) is housed by a hard to crack tough shell. Puckers the mouth with a caramelized, ozbek orange Sicilian sun-kiss. Scented by eucalyptus, wild strawberry and corbezzolo87

CASTELGIOCONDO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2006 (35295, 375 mL, $26.95) is made impassable by a mountain of oak but breaking off bits of chocolate will open it up to the world. Mouthfilling for sure and Paulliac-like with cedar, cigar box and coffee. Potentially great.  90

ALLEGRINI PALAZZO DELLA TORRE 2008 (672931, $24.95) the ‘Customer Favourite’ and WS (90 and #60, Top 100, 2011) is indeed a gritty performer, raging bull, Chianina nero. Flavours of vanilla, root beer, chocolate syrup, whipped cream and Maraschino cherry. “Drink your big black cow and get out of here.” Points for staying power. Will drink well in five to seven.  89

MASI BROLO DI CAMPOFIORIN 2007 (976092, $24.95) also a ‘Customer Favourite’ and another Tybalt, dark lord, villainous. Rich, concentrated, black almandine, bruising yet freshly acidic.  88

BODEGAS LAN CRIANZA 2007 (166538, $15.95) noses low tones of game, bitter herbs and dried roses but wears it well. Colli Senesi comes to mind. Traditional Rioja here, pueblo issue, arid, yet pretty. “A little old fashioned but that’s all right.86

 

Good to go!

VINTAGES February 18th Release, Thomas Bachelder

BACHELDER NIAGARA CHARDONNAY 2009 (271841, $31.95) goes it alone, leaving LCJ in the dust. Bachelder the Chardcentric man of triple terrior is singularly obsessed and he’s aiming for market snare. This tight knit effort is frenetic like a Muppets Buddy Rich vs. Animal duel.  mjg 89

BACHELDER OREGON CHARDONNAY 2009 (273334, $36.95) is chock full of nuts, spice and ghee on Chapati-lized talc. A capacious bonny whale over an ocean of Willamette Valley Chards.  mjg 88 

BACHELDER BOURGOGNE CHARDONNAY 2009 (272005, $34.95) is an admirable if not exquisite first Burgundian effort. A generation away from making a statement, this is well-defined tree fruit, Uchizy-like, wannabe Bret Brothers  juice, still on the wishful side of greatness.  mjg 87

 

 

 

Good to go!

In Dominus We Invest

From Saturday’s February 18th, 2012 VINTAGES release, the great Napicon, conspicuous with a Parker (99) to boast its already inflated position. I tasted it and it truly is da bomb. Is it worth the asking price? That depends on what question you are actually asking.

DOMINUS 2008 (212381, $145.95) solicits riposte for parry, to buy or not to buy. The omnipotently voluptuous one resides in a tramontane locale, beyond reach and also the pale. A shocking parade of profound, hyper-purple personality. Even if it suffers “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune“, a lucky man this Dominus, “all dressed in satin,” “nor woman neither.” Colour field shockingly crimson and amarinthine, textured with rich and layered brush stroke, as if Red on Maroon. A Lama, “the flowing robes, the grace, bald…striking.” To me this ’08 leans more Ornellaia than Pétrus.   mjg 97

Dominus 2008

 

Good to go!

Judgement at Barberian’s, Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Now to share with you one taster’s fascination of experience,  his infectious enthusiasm and his awe in the presence of greatness.

 

by featured writer Jascha Baraness

Last week, I was fortunate enough to get invited to an epic BYOW Burgundy dinner in the wine cellar at Barberian’s Steakhouse. First we sipped Champagne, paired with oysters and shrimp so big they would make lobsters blush. Everyone mingled until the bubbles had dissipated.  The host then led the way further down into the main cellar, set with a long table for the party. Here we were all able to look at what our dining partners had chosen to bring.  This two tiered room is a glorious cathedral of wine, with every last square inch of wall space adorned with cubbies filled to the brim with the world’s greatest titles.  If you’ve never seen it, it’s definitely worth the visit on your next trip to the Toronto institution.
 
The wines came out in flights each with great contrast of styles and age.
Whites came first and through all the flights the highlight was the ’96 1er cru Butteaux from the master of Chablis, Francois Raveneau.  He makes wines that are so focused you feel like you’re walking on a tightrope negotiating this searing acidity on one side, and pure, concentrated Chardonnay tree fruit and citrus on the other – phenomenal.  Comte Lafon’s ’06 Meursault Clos de la Barre shone, showing restrained power backed by just the right amount of oak.  Also to be noted was the Tawse-Marchand ’09 Corton showing wisdom beyond it’s youth – will be a gem a few years down the road.
 
There were too many reds to recount, but as always in Burgundy the cream rises to the top.  In order of consumption; a ’95 Volnay Taillpieds from Marquis D’Angerville still youthful.  A ’90 Chateau de La Tour Clos de Vougeot still caressing through flexed muscles.  The ’89 DRC Romanee St. Vivant with the ethereal quality that the legendary house is famous for. Two Ruchottes Chambertin from Leroy and Rousseau, the ’85 and ’05 respectively, giving insight into a glorious vineyard a generation apart.  A close friend of mine and I measure wine by the ‘magic’ content in bottles from the Cote D’or which on this particular evening earned it’s name.
 
Our hosts were kind enough to provide us with a magnum of Hermitage from Chave to wash it all down with as well as an ’83 d’Yquem with cheese that made me close my eyes hope that the moment would never end. It was an evening of palette pampering that I won’t soon forget.   JB
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Wines in each flight are listed in order of favourites.

Flight #1

  1. Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rosé  NV
  2. Charlie Burger Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Classé Champagne NV

Flight #2

  1. François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux 1996
  2. Domaine Servin Les Clos, Chablis Grand Cru 2002
  3. Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2005
  4. Vincent Girardin Bâtard-Montrachet 1999 Grand Cru (oxidized)

Flight #3

  1. Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre 2006
  2. Domaine Matrot Meursault-Blagny 1er Cru 2007
  3. Domaine Roulot Meursault “Les Luchets” 2002
  4. Domaine Latour-Giraud Les Genevrieres, Meursault Premier Cru 2007

Flight #4

  1. Marc Colin et Fils Corton-Charlemagne 2005
  2. Marchand-Tawse Corton Grand Gru 2009
  3. Domaine Dublere Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2007

Flight #5

  1. Domaine Marquis d’Angerville Taille Pieds, Volnay Premier Cru 1995
  2. Alain Hudelot-Noellat Chambolle-Musigny 2002

Flight #6

  1. Château de la Tour Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 1990
  2. Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 2006
  3. Mommessin Clos de Tart Grand Cru Monopole 2001

Flight #7

  1. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée Saint-Vivant Grand Cru 1989
  2. Domaine George Roumier Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru 2000
  3. Merry Edwards Pinot Noir ’30′ Russian River Valley 2003
  4. Domaine Rene Engel Grands-Echezeaux Grand Cru 1999 (corked)

Flight #8

  1. Domaine Arlaud Aux Combottes, Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru 1999
  2. Remoissenet Père et Fils, Gevrey-Chambertin Cazetiers 1er Cru 2007

Flight #9

  1. Domaine Leroy Ruchottes-Chambertin Grand Cru 1985
  2. Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Ruchottes-Chambertin Clos des Ruchottes Grand Cru 2005
  3. Domaine Ponsot Charmes-Chambertin Cuvee des Merles Grand Cru 1996
  4. Champy Hospices de Beaune Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru 2007
  5. Faiveley Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru 1996

Flight #10

  1. Domaine Henri Boillot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Mouchère Premier Cru 2007
  2. Peter Michael Chardonnay Point Rouge 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flight #11

  1. Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Rouge (Magnum) 2000

Flight #12

  1. Château d’Yquem 1983

 

 

 

Good to go!