Top ten reasons to pour a glass of wine on Halloween

Photograph by Sergey Goruppa, Fotolia.com

Photograph by Sergey Goruppa, Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

“A bottle of wine begs to be shared; I have never met a miserly wine lover.”

There is no shortage of top ten lists or funny wine quotes clogging the web and promoting the positive effects of wine consumption. If Halloween is a health risk then the best way to avoid over indulging in mass-produced sugar products is to eat a proper meal and focus (in moderation, of course) on a good glass of wine. The sugar won’t stand a chance at tugging the heartstrings or clogging up the arteries with a good bottle of red staring down at you.

The great food and beverage writer M.F.K Fisher wrote, “I can no more think of my own life without thinking of wine and wines and where they grew for me and why I drank them when I did and why I picked the grapes and where I opened the oldest procurable bottles, and all that, than I can remember living before I breathed.”

Step aside Mr. Letterman, here are my top ten reasons to share a glass this Halloween.

1. You will sound much more intelligent when answering the question, “trick or treat?”

2. Nothing says “thank you neighbour” like a good coffee mug full of red wine

3. It’s the quickest way to erase the memory of #Sandy

4. The weather forecast is for cloudy with a chance of wine

5. A liver transplant sounds far less intimidating than a heart transplant (red wine is supposed to protect your heart, right?)

6. It will really help to make those homemade costumes look like Oscar winning wardrobes

7. Two words: wine gums

8. Why should this night be different from any other?

9. The doorbell rings every few seconds and beer takes much longer to pour

10. It rhymes with Frankenstein

Here is what I will be pouring tonight for Halloween (with tasting notes).

Cordella Rosso Di Montalcino 2009 (251462) puts forth a flavour profile making it a dead ringer for a young Brunello. The initial noisome squall gives way to iron scents and the taste of spicy plums. Very approachable, fresh and vibrant. Great food wine for the here and now.  90

Peique Tinto Mencía 2010 (219204) vanquishes hardship for violet pleasure. Sublunary stones rolling through subterranean tar beds of caramelizing sugars. Roses and red berry fruit rise from the burn.  88

Another option is to transform your wine bottle into a scary libation. Here’s a video to show you how:

Frankenstorm and Hallowine

Photograph by IRC, Fotolia.com

Photograph by IRC, Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

“Come in she said I’ll give you, shelter from the storm.”

Stormy weather is a great time for wine. Hurricane Sandy, a.k.a. Frankenstorm is poised to do some damage. Thousands are heading for the hills and my advice is simple. Gather much-needed provisions, pack up a case of fine wine and short of clearing out for a land down under, “you better run, you better take cover. ” Remember, don’t drink and fly.

© Eat Cake Graphics – Holly Mabutas

It’s going to be a cold and wet Halloween night on Wednesday. Here are three hearty reds to help you weather and take shelter from the storm.

Related – VINTAGES October 27th, 2012 Release

The grape: Vidadillo

The history: Virtually extinct and unknown varietal makes a rare VINTAGES appearance

The lowdown: Cariñena from Aragón in Spain produces bold, gritty wines not unlike Garnacha with tougher edges. Five years of age has helped to soften this example

The food match: Veal Scallopini, dinosaur kale, veal jus

Bodegas Pablo Menguante Vidadillo 2007 (293407, $17.95) will be one of the most unique wines you will discover this year. Umbrage of pencil lead, grilled meat and conifer send smoke signals with alluring animal magnetism. Possessive of a Spanish, almost Castanedan alternative consciousness, a wine of strange hallucination. Will warm the storm-ravaged cockles of the heart.  88

The grapes: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Sousao, Tinta Barroca

The history: The Portuguese Douro equivalent to a Southern Rhône blend

The lowdown: Pulls no punches to put hair on your chest

The food match: Cozido Portuguese Stew

Meandro Do Vale Meão 2009 (244731, $22.95, SAQ 11816574, $22.90) with fist raised in defiance shouts “I’m purple and I’m proud.” Structured like Châteauneuf-Du Pape and floral like Montsant, the Meão is a prevailing fashion statement pronouncement in captivating Douro. The mix of grapes make for a Mr. G- like immense chain of linked events, where the most recent aroma or flavour links back to the very first one noted. The linked notes “bind the totality of the wine in a web of interdependence and connectedness.”  90

The Splurge

The grape: Sangiovese

The history: Known as Sangiovese Grosso in Montalcino, Tuscany

The lowdown: This producer continues to over deliver vintage in, vintage out

The food match: Cured Salame and Prosciutto, hard cheeses

Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino 2007 (33498, $34.95) gives gregariously of cherries smoking in a cedar sweat lodge. Opens its doors at the first knock for a quick peek into its stylish interior then shuts the iron gate tight. The native’s pipe tobacco and roasted game aromas waft out but the wall of tannin is too high to climb. Open the doors hours ahead and the Fattoi will offer up its pleasures.  91

Good to go!

A global Bordeaux six-pack over/under $20

Bordeaux bottles are pictured in a shop in Saint Emilion outside of Bordeaux (photograph by Pascal Le Segretain, Getty Images).

Bordeaux bottles are pictured in a shop in Saint Emilion outside of Bordeaux (photograph by Pascal Le Segretain, Getty Images).

as seen on canada.com

Bordeaux defines wine. To paraphrase the man with the million-dollar palate, “the first duty of wine is to be a Claret, the second is to be a Burgundy.” Bordeaux is the most recognizable ferment on the planet and has become a place of reference for the word château. It’s omnipresence is without parallel in the wine diaspora.

Related – VINTAGES October 27th, 2012 Release

There was a time when a Bordeaux varietal emigration was considered to be a tautological impossibility. The wine world as we know it began to change 40 years ago when inward grapes began to emerge without, having gone mobile, global, in through the out door. In the New World, Bordeaux varietals have been subject to a pop revolution, having been joined by synthesizers, stomping rhythms and heavy, staggered riffs.

Over the past 40 years the grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Carmenère, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc have migrated to all reaches of the earth. Claret, especially, is everywhere.

Here are six Bordeaux-inspired wines to look for this coming weekend.

The grape: Sauvignon Blanc

The history: Though its greatest French success is in the Loire, SB is a workhorse for the dry whites of Bordeaux

The lowdown: Injuries have reduced the Masters champ to a shell of his former golfing self but if his name can pump out under $15 gems like this, success will continue to follow the great lefty

The food match: Crab and Shrimp Cakes, citrus aioli

Mike Weir Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (686972, $14.95) swings from the left side like its brethren on that side of the Gironde. A game built on concentrated gooseberry juice, tangy green fruit and a streak of chippy acidity. Sneaky long and straight down the fairway.  88

The Grapes: Merlot and Cabernet Franc

The history: From the Cotes (Saint Genes) de Castillon on the Right Bank of Bordeaux

The lowdown: Price has remained fixed, despite the hype of the vintage

The food match: Olivada Crostini, fior di latte, roasted peppers

Château De L’Estang 2009 (191551, $18.85) ventures into more expensive Libournais territory with a level of sophistication rarely seen under $20. Crisp, tart berries, licorice without sweetness, pencil and charred meat go to good lengths. Hard to find better value in Bordeaux.  88

The Grapes: Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: From the Médoc on the Left Bank of the Gironde River

The lowdown: Merlot less often dominates the Left Bank blends. This wine will open a window into the second wines of the top château where Merlot percentages often increase

The food match: Corn Meal Tartlettes, fig, caramelized onion, benedictin

Château Lestruelle 2009 (295840, $18.95) may show the slightest level of reduction but it’s a beautiful wine. Tar, pencil, tobacco, earth and smoke rally in balance. Ready for the pop and pour anytime.  90

The grape: Merlot

The history: Right Bank Bordeaux principle most famous in Pomerol and St. Emilion

The lowdown: Winemaker Derek Barnett looks to Bordeaux ahead of California for inspiration

The food match: BBQ Beef Brisket Skewers, honey, garlic, bourbon glaze

Lailey Merlot 2010 (591396, $25.00) is focused and linear, with fruit, acid and tannin set up like dominos.  Blackberries come off a touch jammy and the concentration of the vintage shows in colour too. Green and varnish notes are largely diminished in 2010. I’m clapping loudly because Lailey, “you’ve got me on my knees.”  89

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: The immortal Claret, cornerstone for all Left Bank Bordeaux reds

The lowdown: One of the top Okanagan Cabs at this price point from a vineyard that gets it

The food match: Delmonico Sirloin Skewers, Cabernet reduction glaze

Township 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (303735, $26.95) is no Hotel California milkshake, nor Bordeaux neither, but there is big earth and “colitas rising up through the air.” The style is actually more Italianate, “there’s talk on the street, it sounds so familiar.” More akin to IGT Cabernet with sanguine and iron notes. Eagle-eyed with a vision for excellence and Johnny-come-lately tannins. Please welcome this new kid in town90

The grape: Carmenère

The history: Reserved in Bordeaux for blending, it has found a single varietal home in Chile

The lowdown: This Peumo Carm is the best in its class (under $50) and even above that mark in most cases

The food match: Crispy Parmesan Cups, flank steak, basil, cilantro

Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Block 27 Vineyard Selection Carmenère 2009 (562892, $29.95) is fit for a king, regal, rich and refined. The crown jewel of CYT’s line as far as I am concerned, I would choose this bottling over the (Cabernet dominated) Don Melchor any day of the week. Smokey, high on warm graphite with a conscious, languorous progression to excellence.  91

Good to go!

From honey bees to world class wine

Photo courtesy Rosewood Estates

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Invitations to attend wine events and tastings are so numerous I would have to forgo my day job just to keep up. Not happening. When social bee, marketing stalwart and wine purveyor Krystina Roman asked me to be guest at her family’s Rosewood portfolio tasting, there was no twisting needed of the proverbial arm. Rosewood is old-school; the Beamsville Bench, Niagara equivalent to the Italian Azienda Agricola or the German Erzeugerabfüllung. This may come off as a hallucinatory and inflammatory moment of delirium, but when it comes to Rosewood’s honey (and even fleeting moments in their wine), they’ll be lawyers in heaven before you see something so good again.

It’s a rare occasion when a winery combines their wares with the bursting enthusiasm of a cooking school like George Brown College and offers a pairing as generous as yesterday’s tasting. Thirty some odd guests were treated to five courses prepared by the students at The Chef’s House at GBC. Rosewood poured two mead wines, one mead cocktail, three whites and five reds. Meritorious line-up.

Amuse Bouche

Chicken Tikka with Mango Chutney

Harvest Gold Mead 2011 ($20) is so simple it’s the zen koan of the wine world. Hue as if Riesling or Semillon. Perfume is significant and verdant. Made from a lighter honey as per the vintage, this is “an ode to traditional mead, with a savoury component and cool balance,” notes winemaker Natalie Spytkowsky. Fermented and aged in 100% stainless steel it buzzes out with a tang like late harvest Riesling but finishes remarkably dry. Honey, water, yeast. The whole aviary. Nothing petty about it.  “Peace in the valley with my honey bee.”  88

Tasting Plate #1: The Whites

White Fish Ceviche

Semillon 2011 ($18) may understate its pineapple, Bosc pear and white pepper bequeathal due to the rains of the vintage yet still retains its Viognier like viscosity and floral tide. All quality Semillon needs three to five years to gain weight and Rosewood’s track record tows that line. A mysterious herbal note lies beneath the tropical nuances and Spytkowsky can’t place her nose on it. It’s Rhône-esque garrigue in bloom, not unlike thyme, rosemary or oregano.  90

Mima’s Block Riesling 2011 ($18) from a parcel of land vines named after Krystina’s godmother is, like Barbara in town same day, “smooth and loveable.” Elegance be thy name Riesling but you gotta love the accumulating, racy acidity in this wine. A dove in eagle’s clothing. “Lemon balm, sage, green apple and tobacco,” finds Spytkowsky. The queen bee white of the portfolio, “she got eight arms to hold you.” Could pour it on my blinis, like Jemima’s syrup.  89

Natalie’s Süssreserve Riesling 2010 ($15) is the marriage of (16%) unfermented juice added back into the fermented, finished Riesling. Ultimately adds a “unified, wow factor” and drops the alcohol level by a per cent. Though not as sweet to nose as you would expect, the aromas burst forth of tobacco, apricot and Ida Red apples. The Süss wants to continue fermenting which causes a pain the arse for the winemaker. Arresting fermentation and demanding a doffing is key, but when you choose a pioneering path, you get what you pay for.  88

Tasting Plate #2: Pinot Noir

Crispy Fried Mushroom Arancini

Pinot Noir Reserve 2009 ($40) clocks in at 13.2% abv from 20 Mile Bench, Wismer-Ball’s Falls fruit that is whole cluster pressed under gentle, low pressure. So what? It means low phenolic (bitterness) extraction where seeds and skins are shunned and it’s all about “extracting the good stuff.” Fermented from the grape’s own yeasts, this Pinot has perfectly evolved to this point in time. Mushroom, earth and sweet red fruit will see the ’09 through another five years of joy.  91

Pinot Noir Reserve 2010 ($40) is another animal altogether. Same locale (20 Mile Bench), different (unnamed) grower. Colour of crimson meets annatto. From a much warmer vintage so the dark berry quotient and chocolate (from the barrels) accent leads to a less vibrant Pinot. That Rosewood perfume, the garrigue in bloom, here mixed with Juniper berry gets inside and tingles the nose. Saves the wine from early extinction.   88

Tasting Plate #3: Big, Bold & Beautiful

Braised Lamb Shank Tortellini

Cabernet Franc 2010 ($22) is made in miniscule quantities (four barrels from three acres) and I must concur with Spytkowsky’s assessment that this is a “crazy price point for a wonderful wine.” Hang time is the key here. Let that Cab Franc ripen Ontario! I hate green notes too Natalie and your CF sidesteps their recriminations so contentious and hurtful to composition. Bleeding purple here, a slight oxidative note comes around late, not so much a deterrent as a message to drink up.  89

Merlot 2010 ($22) from Wismer estate vineyards on the 20 Mile Bench is “bright, fresh, dark berries on a warm, broad palate.” Fair enough. Enjoyable if unremarkable.  87

Merlot Reserve 2010 ($40) holds a psyche energy perhaps yet unseen in Niagara Merlot to date. Attributed to what Natalie refers to as “long-chained tannins,” one linked to another, as if a baker’s starter replicating upon itself in perpetual fermentation and aging. The reserve ramps up the acidity and sweet oak notes but what is most striking is the tarry, astringent, dusty and chalky grain of the wine. Breaks many ways before falling safely into the cup. Needs time and lots of it. A black-eyed bee89

Trou Normand

Honey Harvest Moon Mead Cocktail

Tasting Plate #4: Mead

Thunder Oak Aged Gouda

Mead Royale 2008 ($18) files in at 12.5% abv in a vintage where honey outsells water. Well-balanced, this is the dessert wine of the bees’ mile-high club. Whiffs of the flowers they feed upon with a touch of ginger and lavender. The honey comb pool beneath the cheese is worth the price of admission.  88

Good to go!

Rhône like the wind

Rhône Valley, France (photograph by PHB.cz, Fotolia.com)

Rhône Valley, France (photograph by PHB.cz, Fotolia.com)

as seen on canada.com

Related – VINTAGES October 27th Release

Golden October is upon us today like an Indian Summer, but I sense a mistral ready to blow through these parts. That can only mean one thing. This is a week to drink Rhône varietals. A tiger in autumn giving way to masterly winds calls for master grapes made by Rhône rangers around the globe. Here are four wines to look for on the October 27th VINTAGES release.

The Grapes: Syrah, Grenache and Carignan

The history: Minervois is a (primarily) red wine-producing appellation in the Languedoc-Roussillon/Midi region of France

The lowdown: From a négociant house in the South of France with a goal to discover the extraordinary quality and wealth of the region

The food match: Minervois Braised Beef Shanks, fresh tagliatelle, truffle oil

Hecht & Bannier Minervois 2010 (17764, $20.95) is yet another stellar selection from the appellation. Minervois produces piceous and proud Syrah-dominated juice marked by anesthetizing acidity. Van Gogh colour, black, blue and shimmering like a starry night. Mint and tarragon accent fruit surely helpful as an anti-oxidant and delectable to the artibeus obscurus88

The Grape: Shiraz

The history: What once was simply Rhône is now distinctly Australian

The lowdown: Old and bold Barossa vines make the brashest Syrah on the planet, especially these gnarly old ones

The food match: Beef Knuckle Croquettes, fig jam

Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart of the Barossa Shiraz 2009 (0167189, $20.95) is streaked with deep pastels of tropical fruit. At once Aussie licorice, then Sicilian blood orange and finally holy land pomegranate, date and fig. A troubadour, Coeur de Lion traveling the globe in search of adventure. Perhaps wicked for a Shiraz, this Dandelion is deeply rooted.  88

The Grape: Viognier

The history: Signature varietal from Condrieu in the Northern Rhône

The lowdown: Remarkable effort from 1960’s TV Western actor turned Santa Barbara winemaker

The food match: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, caramelized apple, raita foam

Fess Parker Viognier 2010 (297523, $24.95) of bountiful bouquet is both aphrodisiac and sedative. Built like they used to, of  antique wood, nuts and bolts, to last and linger when the “appliances have gone berserk.” Head of its California class so pour a glass, turn up the radio and smell the Last Flowers90

The Splurge

The Grape: Syrah

The history: Pitchy varietal from the Northern Rhône, the region that expresses it most sincerely

The lowdown: Delas has discovered the secret Syrah formula to combine exceptional quality with tremendous value

The food match: Seared Lamb Saddle, fingerling potatoes, mint chutney

Delas Frères Francois De Tournon Saint-Joseph 2009 (17525, $33.00) is both militaristic and the stuff of gushing Renaissance literature. Serious Syrah and foxy, Faerie Queene.  Cardinal colour, striking and dreamy. Augustinian diplomat meets allegorical fantasy. Crushed berries, truffles caked by earth, sol de la foret. Built of elegance and power, “such endlesse richesse, and so sumptuous shew.”  92

Good to go!

Pumpkin pairings from beer to wine

Photograph by HappyAlex, Fotolia.com

Photograph by HappyAlex, Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Winter squash season is in full swing and with Halloween exactly two weeks away, it’s time to begin planning your wine and pumpkin pairings. Your neighbourhood friends will thank you for filling their travellers with the right stuff. Beer is much more commonly considered when it comes to Cucurbita and our local brew masters are running wild with it. Pumpkin Ales have proliferated province-wide. Here are four to look for.

Highballer Pumpkin Ale (132753, 500 mL, $3.95)

Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale (67710, 650 mL, $4.95)

St. Ambroise Pumpkin Ale (90738, 4x341mL, $9.95)

Mill Street Nightmare On Mill Street Harvest Sampler (313916, 6x 355 mL, $13.25)

My non-judgmental, personal mien will note that pumpkin beer should avoid most foods but rather match ceremoniously with decorative gourd season, also in full swing. When it comes to the edible ‘large melon’ and its savoury, sweet flesh my go to is wine, of course. Here are four smashing whites and three alt rock reds to pair with pumpkin seven ways.

The food match: Pumpkin Oatmeal, apples, flax seed, hemp hearts, maple syrup

Jean-Marc Brocard Kimmeridgian Chardonnay 2008 (290049, $17.95) has the tropical fruit quotient of ripe banana meets chalky plantain to match up against an earthy morning porridge. There are lemon and apples sliced over Kimmeridgian, oatmeal soil. Could eat this Kimmer for breakfast, “mummy dear, mummy dear.” This supertramp of a Chardonnay explores new territory for villages Burgundy thanks to the efforts of a top-notch Chablis producer.  89

The food match: Pumpkin Pad Thai

Preiss-Zimmer Vieilles Vignes Riesling 2008 (292193, $18.95) handles spice with atomic soda ease, refreshes with a squirt of lime and garnishes with south Asian herbs. The balanced palate is off-dry and the finish is long, tangy and racy. Sails “through the changing ocean tides.” The wine smiles demurely, like a Pumpkin’s rendition of Landslide, palpitating in an unspoken message of humility and thanks.  88

Bryan Birch/Barque Smokehouse

The food match: Pumpkin Soup, coffee foam

Seresin Chardonnay 2009 (19190, $24.95) goes golden capacious and brims with both marigold and malachite toast. Cashew butter, praline nectar and cantaloupe sweeten the pot. Acidity booms and if you like a Napa style, go Marlborough here at a fraction of the cost.  90

The food match: Pumpkin Ratatouille, zucchini, spicy tomato sauce

Domaine Eden Chardonnay 2009 (296145, $27.95) imparts saffron, mandarin orange, honey and Tiger Orchid in constant waves. The golden mineral hue prickles with feeling and the wine’s fat texture helps unlatch flavours. May not have the depth of Napa or Carneros but no other region does Chardonnay in such a casual elegance like the Santa Cruz Mountains.  91

The food match: Pumpkin and Roast Chicken Paella, manchego, jamón serrano

Senda 66 Tempranillo 2008 (296475, $13.95) of fragrant, smoked blueberry and vanilla bean martini is polished, rich and pure decadence for $14. A shaken, not stirred, bad boy bisexual Tempranillo, a skyfall of purple modernity that could sooth countryman and Bond villain Javier Bardem. Get your kicks on Senda 66.  87

The food match: Pumpkin and Pancetta Risotto, toasted pumpkin seed, reggiano parmesan, basil oil

Delas Frères Saint Esprit Côtes Du Rhône 2010 (729962, $15.95) shares enough black cherry and southern French garrigue to further cement its status as a perpetual good buy. So well made and boasting a puritanical litany of the terroir. Demands satisfaction in its origins of expectations.  88

The Splurge

The food match: Short-Rib and Pumpkin Braise, pearl onion, carrot

Melville Verna’s Estate Pinot Noir 2010 (291021, $34.95) speaks Santa Rita Hills vernacular, that is to say, its native tongue is that of red, very ripe fruit. The smell of baking spices (namely cinnamon and clove) stud a red plum bobbing in a spiked cola toddy. Exemplary Santa Barbara Pinot Noir.  90

Good to go!

Ten best buys from the October 15th LCBO sale

File photograph, National Post

as seen on canada.com

VINTAGES markdowns begin today on more than 240 wines in selected stores across Ontario. This type of warehouse clearance is nothing new for the fine wine and premium spirits division of the LCBO, but when such a vast quantity of product gets tagged with red stickers, even the biggest monopoly cynics are caught smiling and spied shopping.

The sale is a collective blowout of six to 12-month old release items. Much of what is available may be judged as “machine age wine,” to paraphrase William Thorsell, the Zen-like master of demeanor and one day to be  “czar of public space in Toronto.” A vast majority of product sold by the Hudsucker Proxy is the vinous equivalent to “post Bauhaus, architecture of the box.” Still, for all the rotten tomatoes and urban sub-division, ascetic industrialist plonk there are diamonds to be mined in the proverbial wine rough.

It is important to note that sale item inventory is limited. It would be prudent to check online and better yet, call ahead before driving across town to grab a few sale bottles. Many of the wines have been marked down a second time, making them some of the better deals going. Then there are the trophy wines like the Krug ’95 D’Ambonnay which has dropped in price by $1000. Now only $3500 a bottle!

Keep in mind that my tasting notes and scores were cogitated in line with original VINTAGES prices.

Here are my top 10 picks from today’s sale

Cordella Rosso Di Montalcino 2009 (251462, was, $19.95, now $12.90) puts forth a flavour profile making it a dead ringer for a young Brunello. The initial noisome squall gives way to iron scents and the taste of spicy plums. Very approachable, fresh and vibrant. Great food wine for the here and now.  90 (October 2011)

Township 7 Syrah 2007 (263665, was $25.95, now $19.90) limns in glass as a cool, penetrating Pic Island or Canto XVII colour. Peppery spice and unfettered eucalyptus separate the 7′s actions from California’s rangers, remaining unique unto itself.  BC tree fruit exuding from every sip save for a mutinous, shy, hollow and peripatetic middle moment.  More time should smooth and flesh that fruit.  89 (April 2012)

Domaine Drouhin Arthur Chardonnay 2008 (959619, was $27.95, now $19.90) concedes eminence grise; reserved mineral nose, subtle oak, soft, balanced and smooth. Nothing exciting but well made and so easy to drink. Was hoping for a niche superstar but no foul.  87 (October 2011)

Maison Roche De Bellene Vieilles Vignes Meursault 2009 (241091, was $48.95, now $29.90) amalgamates citrus spice, baked brie and potpourri where subtlety is thy name. No mischief from Little Nicky here as Potel’s potential is glimpsed with this groovy white Burgundy.  89 (February 2012)

Domaine De La Bonserine Côte-Rôtie La Sarrasine 2008 (606442, was $49.95, now $29.90) enters my heart on immediate terms of endearment. Superb funk de vache without bretting out. Gunpowder, wet limestone, leather, char and chalk define the wine.  90 (October 2011)

Riglos Gran Corte 2007 (243501, was $37.95, now $29.90) radiates a phenomenal azure/purple colour. A body builder of fermented pleasure, sculpted, ripped, pulsating. Baked pastry, caramelized onion and reduced aged balsamic wax olfactory. What a tart! Delicious stuff to drink now.  91 (October 2011)

Freestone Chardonnay 2008 (249425, was $69.95, now $44.90) trickles melting ice cubes past the gullet, washing it down with searing salty, citrus and cobblestone coolant. A firm Chardonnay, cocksure and concise. I would not turn away a glass of this coolish-climate bonbon.  90 (October 2011)

Take a flyer on

Santa Duc Gigondas Les Garancières 2009 (234989, was $27.95, now $17.90)

Domaine Moillard Beaune Epenottes 1er Cru 2009 (241109, was $31.95, now $19.90)

Ravenswood Single Vineyard Belloni Zinfandel 2008 (672741,was $44.95, now $27.90)

Good to go!

The hunt for red October wine

Photo courtesy Kiowaman

as seen on canada.com

With the ides of October nearly upon us and cold winds blowing stronger out of the great white north, wine thoughts turn simply red. I’ve no plans to re-create the ancient Roman practice of the October Horse but I do intend to sacrifice a few slumbering bottles from the cellar. After all, there’s no point holding back the years.

Caution horses be weary you don’t crack open too many, not quite ready, aging wines. In order to defend that cellar, now is the time to get on the horse and pursue current release, bold bottles to fortify against the chill of impending inclement weather. Here are five rich reds to look for this coming weekend.

Related – VINTAGES October 13th, 2012 Release

redoctwines1 The hunt for red October wine

The grape: Petit Verdot

The history: Used in smallish quantities to round out Bordeaux blends. Has for more than a decade appeared as a single varietal species in Australia and now more recently, here in Chile

The lowdown: Something other varietal by way of Lontué Valley, a wine-producing sub-region of the Curico Valley, in the center of Chile

The food match: Chicken Liver Paté, french baguette, maldon salt

Korta Barrel Selection Reserve Petit Verdot 2010 (296608, $14.95,) like Carmenère pours a glass of tar and toast but here sidesteps green bell pepper and herb stem. In fact, this PV is  so polished the grape needs no blending as it is both the wine’s anchor and sail. Achieves a ripe fruit/briny olive dichotomy, where la figue meets les Lucques and la mûre connects with les Picholines88

The grapes: Carinena, Garnacha and Syrah

The history: Montsant lies in the province of Tarragona, forming a horseshoe around it’s more famous neighbour Priorat

The lowdown: Produced By The Can Blau Estate out of Catalunya, don’t expect a re-working of the wheel, but for the price at the gate, go to the show

The food match: Grilled Lamb Chops, mint, rosemary, garlic, olive oil

Bula 2009 (292094, $17.95, SAQ 11666852, $19.00) trots out of the stable of new wave Montsant blends at a lope. Poised, purposed and purple pretty. Ligneous influence to anodyne effect in coffee liqueur. Smooth and blended until everything has agreed to become red wine. Waves of flavour and makes evident that textural reconsideration can be your best friend.  89

Photo courtesy Kiowaman

The grape: Sangiovese

The history: Tuscany defined, Sangiovese is Chianti to the core

The lowdown: Make no mistake. Castello di Fonterutoli is going full throttle, international styling here and it’s just so damn irresistible

The food match: Braised Beef Short Rib Croquette, sangiovese jus

Mazzei Ser Lapo Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 (288530, $24.95) may cause intellectual and physical moiety due to a bold, morning mug of mocha driven, piazza juice but I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating biscotti. Say what you will but the Lapo displays a striking, Italianate, strada strut. A wine expansive and adorned as if she were the duchessa of an embellished palazzo90

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Burgundy’s heartbreak grape found true love in the Willamette Valley but Umpqua Valley is something other

The lowdown: Not fully tested southern climate for Pinot in Oregon increases the subtlety and  intrigue factors

The food match: Smoked Duck Confit, bliny, fig jam

Brandborg Bench Lands Pinot Noir 2008 (295238, $28.95) is bred from a locale not known for its speed out of the gate but when she spooks, she can pass any horse in the ring. Base and natural like bare hands and feet grazing the pasture. Cinnamon heart candy red and spice meets herbal, licorice twizzler. Perfect libation for the bright lights, social hour. “A festival every week, if this is what you seek.”  90

The hunt for red October wine. Photo courtesy Kiowaman

The Splurge

The grape: Tempranillo

The history: The greatest expression of the grape has to be in Spain’s Ribera Del Duero, bar none

The lowdown: Alejandro Fernández may be the wine world’s greatest unsung hero. His “basic” Crianza wines can age beautifully for 10-15 years. The Reservas? Forget about it

The food match: Braised Beef Brisket, caramelized onion, tempranillo gravy

Tinto Pesquera Reserva 2008 (323345, $39.95) ramps up the garriga tierra quotient. Savoury and spicy, flanked by chalky, grainy tannin and a pulchritudinous, primordial tobacco aroma that tendrils around, as tobacco smell will. Sickle hocked, over at the knee, toes in. Inviolable Tempranillo.  92

Good to go!

Great whites, fall colours

The Road. Photo courtesy Kiowaman

as seen on canada.com

We are distinctly Canadian. In summer we paddle, navigating canoes through marshes, bogs and streams, traversing lakes and meandering down rivers. In the fall we are more likely to pack up the car and drive the road to northern climes, marveling at the changing season, elucidated by fall’s bright oranges, yellows and reds.

Our taste and choice in wine follows suit. When the heat is on we look to sharp, vigorous and thirst quenching white wines. Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, Garganega, Riesling and Chenin Blanc. Jumping forward a month or two there will be the need for full-bodied whites; Chardonnay, Semillon, Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne. In the autumn interim we bridge the gap with Unoaked Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Grenache Blanc.

Here are six great whites for fall and for the early stages of the coming winter cold.

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Take away the oak influence and Chardonnay goes crisp and clean

The lowdown: Winemaker Richie Roberts is without peer for this method, at this price

The food match: Perfumed Chicken Broth , chinese dumplings

Fielding Unoaked Chardonnay 2011 (164491, $13.95) continues to will clear water talent for value. A revivalist po’ boy made of ascetic industrialism; efficient, reasonable and utilitarian. Drinks well down on the corner, with enhanced juicy fruit. All orchard fruit, all the time. Very satisfying for the coin. “Bring a nickel, tap your feet.”  87

The grape: Pinot Gris

The history: A widely planted and signature grape for B.C. due to its ability to ripen in all three of the major regions: Island, Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys.

The lowdown: This Okanagan version may be sweeter and softer than others but winemaker George Heiss Jr. has struck gold with his 2011

The food match: Warm Pulled Soft Chicken Tacos, romaine, candied bacon, caesar dressing

Gray Monk Pinot Gris 2011 (118638, $19.95, B.C. 118638, $16.99) is a purling wind of crisp, sprite Mutsu apple, honey, molasses and castile. Certainly not the pepper and spice of its Alsatian brethren but manages to lift Okanagan prurience into B.C. repartee.  88

The grape: Sauvignon Blanc

The history: The ode to Bordeaux and the Loire is fading. Kiwi SB rocketed to stardom, went through a recession and has emerged a major player

The lowdown: Marlborough at its finest

The food match: Caprese Corn Meal Galette Tart, tomato, fior di latte and basil

Wither Hills Single Vineyard Rarangi Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (288134, $21.95) coagulates sea air above Cloudy Bay, arsenopyrite and carapace to imbue the Rarangi SV with density and intensity. A white grapefruit, lime and sugar syrup sangria void of gooseberry and asparagus. A breath of Marlborough fresh air.  90

The grape: Riesling

The history: Germany’s trademark grape

The lowdown: Spätlese means “late harvest” and as a Prädikatswein it carries with it Germany’s highest quality designation

The food match: Lemon Curd Short-breads

Prinz Von Hessen Johannisberger Klaus Riesling Spätlese 2002 (295659, $21.95) of graceful, gold regal colour is a dessert wine now, for all intents and purposes. The citrus tang of acidity persists and melds into what is now a scintillating, cider apple stage. A big thanks for aging this one for us, it’s now ready to go.  90

Fall Colours. Photo courtesy Kiowaman

The Splurges

The grape: Sauvignon Blanc

The history: From its true home in the Loire where the ancient refuse of the varietal is traced in the soil

The lowdown: Jolivet is king and this bottling is one of his finest made to date

The food match: Smoked shrimp, chive crème fraîche, garlic chips

Pascal Jolivet Les Caillotes Sancerre 2010 (287086, $31.95) starts out with subtle herbs and spice. Drifts to flint, pericarp and chalk then builds and lifts to edgy crystalline and jeweled gem. Accomplishes all its aromas and tastes with refinement. Flies away with the barrel on the longest flight imaginable for a Sauvignon Blanc.  91

The grapes: Marsanne, Viognier, Bourboulenc and Clairette

The history: Southern Rhône white blend from a house that makes some of the greatest white wine on the planet

The lowdown: Beaucastel’s “second” wine is at it’s very best in 2011.

The food match: Fresh Ravioli, sage butter, extra-virgin olive oil, reggiano parmesan

Château Beaucastel Coudoulet De Beaucastel Blanc 2011 (48892, $33.95, SAQ 449983, $30.25) may just be the lowly, new ‘second’ home of the pope (papal coach house if you will) but ahhhh…white Rhône blossoms, so many varietals, so little opportunity to taste them. This is faintly nutty like Oloroso, fragrant, and annotated for interpolations. “Smells divine,” “gorgeous colour” and “tastes great.”  90

Good to go!

The wine diaries: Italian masters

Photograph by bartuchna, Fotolia.com

Importers Robert Tomé and Tony Macchione are serious about wine, especially of the Italian variety. Who wouldn’t be bound and determined to taste through a portfolio that includes Siro Pacenti, Valdicava, Collemattoni, Argiolas, Masciarelli and their most recent addition, Gaja.

as seen on canada.com

On Monday, October 1st I joined the throng of thrill seekers at the Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto, to engage in some grape stem cell therapy. Here are my notes on 20 wines from seven noble Italian producers at the Stem Wine Group 7th Annual Family of Wines Gala Tasting 2012.

Azienda Agricola Masciarelli, Abruzzo

Trebbiano D’Abruzzo 2011 ($14.99) resounds fruit forward and redolent as grape must, more treble than bass, a chiave di violino. The ‘G’ clef is music to my sense of smell, straightforward and honest to taste. A snapshot to winemaker Marina Cvetic on a Sunday afternoon, relaxed, on the terrace, with a view of the sea to the east.  87

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2011 ($14.99, $14.80 in Quebec) of aromatics pointing to volcanic ash, smoke, tar and lead feels like ancient wine yet goes vanilla cool and silky down the hatch. Made in the shadow of the Apennines, “even when mountains crumble to the sea,” there would still be Marina and me. Thank you Abruzzo.  88

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo ‘Marina Cvetic’ 2007 ($28.99, $27.35 in Quebec) shows more evolution since my previous tasting note, “long, harmonious expression of a much maligned grape. Jumping aromas as if an opened jar of raspberry jam on a winter’s morning. Great value from this winemaker mother of three’s (22, 13 and 3) namesake bottling.” Now in peak form, some splinters, nearing the plank.  90

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo ‘Villa Gemma’ 2005 ($74.99) of grace and flawless visage is, as I mentioned previously built of “major league fruit and ferocious grip but in danger of creeping over the edge. Time may be the factor but why wait. The MC is $40 cheaper and offers everything you could ask for in an MD’A.  91

Argiolas, Sardegna

Vermentino ‘Costamolino’ 2011 ($16.99, $21.99 in British Columbia) lives by the sea which makes Sardegna a bit like  “a land called Honah Lee.” There is tangy, tropical fruit and a puff of mineral salts, unquestionably typical of the Argiolas style. Pure Mediterranean white magic.  88

Cannonau “Is Solinas” 2009 ($24.95) from vines on the beach is still so young so “those seagulls are still out of reach.” The crystal salinity of the sea clings to the grape leaves, says Export Manager Beppe Pinna, imparting a minerality to the grapes unlike anywhere else. Made from 95% tough Carignano, the hipster Solinas needs time before it’s ready to face the crowd.  Should be a star.  89

Boroli, Alba, Piedmont

Barbera D’Alba 2008 ($15.99) is, as Mr. C. notes, so underrated, especially at this entry-level. A ripe bowl of cherries dusted with dry, ground cherry powder. Delivers the dry and dusty goods.  88

Barolo 2006 ($49.99) advances with rancorous grit and coarse determination. Tart red fruits prickle with feeling and analeptic assistance from their perch high up on a mountain of tannin. Expect nothing less than time from this gutsy effort.  88

Barolo ‘Cerequio’ 2004 ($87.99) from the prestigious Grand Cru single vineyard seems wise beyond its years. Dried cherries, flowers, orange peel and licorice salmagundi with a weedy dill overtone. The herbaceousness is not off-putting, as can be the case in some austere Nebbiolo or Brunello. Stately effort and not shy.  92

Collemattoni, Montalcino, Tuscany

Rosso Di Montalcino 2009 ($24.99) the teenage princess dai capelli scuri of shoulder length and silky red fruit is irresistible. Full on ripeness and glowing with genetically imprinted joy.  88

Brunello Di Montalcino 2006 ($52.99) is likewise approachable and sets forth to perfume the room with Pelargonium Zonale. But the ‘Mattoni is also bent on perpetuating a dogged determination befitting the dogmatic Sangiovese Grosso. A queen to the Rosso’s princess, confident of red fruit, built of solid brick befitting the house of its ancestry.  90

Siro Pacenti, Montalcino, Tuscany

Brunello Di Montalcino 2007 ($89.99, $87.25 in Quebec) is a closed wall of doom, aroma wise, save for a malinger of merda. Nothing a good swirl can’t aerate. A tactical deployment and early blending of north and south Montalcino grapes will help to harmonize this Brunello within a reasonable amount of time. While difficult to assess so young, speculation as to its future is not so obtuse a concept. Ripe cherries and plums are just a few years away from crawling out of the hoi polloi of leather and game. The wine will shine in 2015.   93

Valdicava, Montalcino, Tuscany

Rosso Di Montalcino 2009 ($33.99, $44.99 in British Columbia) extolls the winery’s virtue that cleanliness is next to godliness, echoing Tony’s story about WErproprietor Vincenzo Abbruzzese’s obsession with a clean cellar. Despite Valdicava’s omnipresent perfume of sheep off the vineyard floor, this Rosso is clean, pure and indicative of great Brunello.  90

Brunello Di Montalcino 2004 ($119.99) is the most benevolent and democratic of Valdicava’s Brunelli. Balanced design of smoky, red fruit, earth, spice, licorice and that unmistakable Valdicava perfume. Expertly crafted, impossible not to like. Like I wrote before, “softer, loaded with licorice, pureed sweet peppers and ruby minerality. Seductive, sensuous and really put together. “If she asks me, do i look alright? I say yes, you look wonderful tonight.”  93

Brunello Di Montalcino 2005 ($104.99) obliges the vineyard’s tenet with great intention and of a congenial nature. The red fruit, spice, panna and terra cotta notes are all in check but the vigor is buried in invisible circumstance. Basic for Valdicava but only because the other vintages are so extraordinary.  88

Brunello di Montalcino 2006 ($104.99, $137 in British Columbia), again, from an earlier note. “Initially softer in the mouth begins rolling furiously then is found going down hard stone lines. Finishes with gritty, chalky tannins. Crack one in ten years and it’s “gonna open up the throttle…bust another bottle.”  94

Brunello Di Montalcino 2007 ($139.99) is a romance of cheese and animale with its dueling scents of Pecorino di Pienza and pecora nera. Damp earth, wool and unwashed rind combine for the most unique set of Sangiovese smells. Sniff on past and note tobacco, licorice, black cherry and the mineral core beneath the hills.  Complexity of complexities.  95

Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva Madonna Del Piano 2005 ($134.99) is intensely concentrated, a dreamy and creamy correlated affair between fruit and oak. The sheep’s redolence returns and combines with the meracious, subterranean earth. The ubiquitous Valdicava perfume can only be brined to this level from the historic single vineyard set in the valley north of Montalcino.  Score is consistent with last year’s note. “Monstrous, hunts down the taste buds and renders them comfortably numb. Feeling down? This Madonna will, years from now, “ease your pain, get you on your feet again.”  95

Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva Madonna Del Piano 2006 ($169.99) is sacred Sangiovese, an inviolable reliquary of immaculacy deep beneath Montalcino’s altar. A vamp of essential Tuscan fruit. If you were to stand on a hill in Montalcino in winter time and listen carefully, you would hear a low sipping sound. That is the sound of the entire town drinking of the Madonna Del Piano.  97

Gaja, Barbaresco, Piedmont

Barbaresco 2008 ($218.95, $199 in British Columbia, $199 in Quebec) has not yet unfurled from earthly slumber. Subtle yet discernible greatness as previously noted. “Whiffs smoked beef tongue from the great merchant delicatessen in the sky. A maze of flavours complex like a Venetian neighborhood with interlocking canals and bridges set to and fro. Not your queen’s Barbaresco, nor Bardolino neither. More Shylock than Antonio. Currently a villain with its tongue lashing tannin. Fast forward 15 years to to act four when the integration of fruit causes the wine to become a victim of happy imbibers.”  94

Good to go!