Super Bowl wine prediction: Red 49ers over black Ravens

San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick (7) celebrates with Leonard Davis and Daniel Kilgore (67) after the NFL football NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, in Atlanta.
PHOTO: AP PHOTO/DAVE MARTIN

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Three more sleeps before the much anticipated “Harbowl,” a brother versus brother, mano a mano American football war set to play out in New Orleans at Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVII. Forget about the risqué ads, the hype and the hoopla. Break it down to Raven black against 49er red. A wine analogy emerges.

Wine grapes are considered as either white or red. Though many dark-skinned varietals pitch purple, black and blue hues, by definition they are all reds. But we’re talking about football here and the foods that accompany America’s most amplified sports spectacle. Nachos, chicken wings, chili, pizza, hamburgers, and ribs. The purples and the blues don’t cut it. It’s got to be red and black.

My Super Bowl recommendations do not discriminate against any wines of colour but in this case the earth, spice and verve of the reds are a better match to traditional big game fare. They will ultimately triumph over their black opponents. Sorry John and your Baltimore Ravenation, younger brother Jim and his talented San Francisco Red and Gold have got your number. Here are five black and red wines to drink on Super Bowl Sunday.

The Raven

The grapes: Carmenère and Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: Organic and Biodynamic Chilean outfit in the Colchagua Valley

The lowdown: Central Valley grapes, aged for 6 months, 50% in french oak

The food match: Nachos, jack and cheddar cheese, jalapeno, guajillo salsa

Emiliana Novas Gran Reserva Carmenère/Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (66746, $14.95, NLC, 12168, $16.98) serves up Bordeaux-like tobacco, tar and smoke with roasted espresso-bean modernity. Carmenère as a taut, tight and tough duppy conquerer but softened by Cabernet Sauvignon’s rub-a-dub style. Hits you like a bombastic, Cossellian linebacker then offers a helping hand to get you back on your feet. “Yes, me friend.”  88  @VinosEmiliana

The Reds

The grapes: Sangiovese, Colorino and Canaiolo

The history: From Castellina in Chianti, between Colle Val d’Elsa and Monteriggioni

The lowdown: Exemplary CC, friendly and inviting in every way

The food match: Smoked BBQ Chicken Wings

Tenuta Di Capraia Chianti Classico 2010 (135277, $19.95) puts its best cocoa and red berry fruit foot forward, stepping tenaciously yet gracefully out of its dusty, tufaceous sands. Hints at game, like roasted goat or local, medieval buzzard and is also a touch funky without going off. It’s the red, clay earth soil talking. Classic example.  90  @ProfileWineGrp

The grapes: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinto Cão

The history: From Portugal’s Sobredos out of the Douro, based in Alijo. Francisco Montenegro of Quinta Nova is the winemaker

The lowdown: Terroir-driven red from the sub-sect Tua Valley, spends 12 months in new and used oak barrels

The food match: Individual Smoked Beef Sheppard’s Pies

Aneto Red 2009 (314930, $19.95) reminds me of the deepest, earthbound southern French reds, like Minervois or La Clape. Stygian and shadowy, the Aneto’s rusticity is borne of xistous terra, baking spice and dried fruit. Puts on her make up for prevailing balance in a show of hydrated, in vogue, darling pretty maturity. She can “heal my aching heart and soul.”  91  @liffordwine

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: From Marimar Torres, named after her father, Don Miguel

The lowdown: Rare alcohol/fruit/acidity balance for California Pinot Noir. European temperament, California style

The food match: Mini Hamburger Appetizers

Marimar Estate La Masía Pinot Noir 2007 (303974, $34.95, B.C. 711333, $37.99) is downright verdant what with its dry cherry and wilting rose nose and spicy, splintering palate. A smoldering whiff penetrates the maroon fruit, bricking with gold. This is 49’er country, led by a balanced attack and a leader capable of peeling off a Kaepernickian 50-yard run. Victorious Pinot.  90  @MarimarTorres

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Beamsville Bench winery and meadery specializes in Pinot, Chardonnay, Riesling and excellent Semillon. Mead wines are out of this world

The lowdown: Rosewood is old-school; the Niagara equivalent to the Italian Azienda Agricola or the German Erzeugerabfüllung.

The food match: Goat Cheese Arancini

Rosewood Estates Natural Fermentation Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 (318345, $39.95) is ageing gracefully with nary a bitter edge. Cranberry, pomegranate, cherry, plum and vanilla all combine to gather and linger in freshness.  My earlier review. “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  @Rosewoodwine

Good to go!

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday wines

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A day or two of anomalous warm temperatures aside, the dead of winter engulfs and conjoins 35 million Canadians in communal countenance. A weekend invite or beckoning may extract and cull us out of our homes to tempt fate for a visit, to dinner, or to the bar. Many will fill their time by travelling to hockey tournament towns. It’s those mid-week winter nights at this time of year where social activity dwindles, grinds to the proverbial halt and hibernation takes over.

Thankfully there is no shortage of food and wine events to help whiten the winter blues. Niagara’s 18th annual Ice Wine Festival just called it a wrap. Ottawa’s Winterlude is set to begin this weekend in the nation’s capital, as is the Brrrr! Winter Music Festival in Toronto, complete with the promise of Smoked Tacos. The Vancouver International Wine Festival begins next month. You can check out Ontario’s food and wine culinary calendar at Ontario Culinary Festivals and Events. Both Toronto (Winterliscious) and Vancouver (Dine Out Vancouver) have their own culinary event schedules and prix fixe dinner possibilities.

But it’s the middle of the week and you’re at home. You’re tired and not feeling particularly social. You want a glass of wine but you don’t want to open anything expensive. Some may call them daily drinkers, others refer to them as cellar defenders. Here are three more than affordable current release wines, a sparkler, a white and a red for those Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday winter nights.

The Sparkling

The grape: Riesling

The history: From Germany’s Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, inexpensive Riesling specialist Ernst Loosen

The lowdown: Loosen has always placed an emphasis on terroir over technology. This sparkler echoes the unbeatable value of the still, “Dr. L.” Riesling

The food match: Smoked Salmon Potato Blini, creme fraiche, caviar

Loosen Bros. Dr. L. Sparkling Riesling (296095, $13.95, B.C. 158501, $17.99) flaunts a Canada Dry attitude void of an alchemic or synthetic overtone that plagues so many a cheap sparkler. Citrus, notably lime, meets honey in atmosphere and replays in appetency. Not necessarily exciting but flattering and offers so much more than the average $15-20 fizz.  88  @drloosenwines

The White

The grapes: Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc and Gros Manseng

The history: From Côtes de Gascogne in southwest France

The lowdown: Ninety per cent of the estate’s production is white wine, out of the Bas Armagnac appellation

The food match: Poached Shrimp Salad, avocado, grapefruit, golden beet, mache, cilantro, tarragon oil

Domaine De Ménard Cuvee Marine 2011 (310201, $14.95) is a lean, mean, light, dry, aromatic, expressive and inexpensive fighting machine. Tarragon, pear, gros sel and orange blossom offer a glimpse into Gascony’s douceur de vie. Brebis buoyed by limestone and clay but also honeyed by a touch of Gros Manseng, this balanced Colombard and friends is a terrific Sauvignon Blanc substitute. Ménard has earned its stripes as an example to abide by.  89

The Red

The grapes: Grenache, Carignan and Mourvedre

The history: A negociant project out of the Costières de Nîmes from Michel Gassier of Château de Nages and oenologist Phillipe Cambie

The lowdown: I tasted through the portfolio in February 2012, minus this best G (70%), C (20%) and M (10%) value

The food match: Smoked Beef Tacos

Les Halos De Jupiter 2010 (309153, $14.95) is massively structured and modern for the appellation, packing a punch of black fruit into this stratospheric, southern French earth meets gas monster red. Bright, tight celestial hugging, Jupiter meets the moon conjunction junction. A Grenache-based beauty to allow you to “finally get the chance to dance along the light of day.” Get aboard this train. Very serious and straightforward juice for $15.  89  @MichelGassier @philippecambie

Good to go!

A wine’s a wine for Robbie Burns

A glass of Scotch whisky is pictured on a portrait of Robbie Burns.
PHOTO: PAT MCGRATH/POSTMEDIA NEWS

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“Go fetch to me a pint o wine,
And fill it in a silver tassie.”

He was lionized as the Ploughman’s Poet, the Bard of Ayrshire, writer, lyricist and favourite son of Scotland. Robert “Rabbie” Burns, Robden of Solway Firth, is the most famous Scot ever, no matter how many times Braveheart replays on TV. William Wallace got nothin’ on Robbie, who penned “Scots Wha Hae” and “Auld Lang Syne.” And yes, the bard liked his wine.

Robbie Burns day falls on Friday, January 25th, commemorating the writer’s birth date in 1759. Revelers will listen to pipers, sip wee drams of Scotch and scarf down balloons of Haggis. The Irish will join the party, if only for a day, donning the plaid and pouring a stout or two. This is the Scottish beer I plan to crack open on Friday.

Innis & Gunn Rum Finish (224881, $3.35) offers the thought of dried apricots, soaked and swelling, drizzled with agave and then stewed with black licorice and carob. Bold Scot this Innis, “well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand like a lizard on a window pane.” Holy malted milk Batman! Just slightly chilled, this Edinburgh elixir hints at sweet and stout. Happiness is a warm Gunn.  90

If it must be Scotch for you on Friday, look to Margaret Swaine for advice. The Robert Burns World Federation noted that Rabbie “would be astonished at his fame today,” and I would add that he might be rolling about in his proverbial grave at the thought of pairing fine wine with his countrymen’s modern-day celebrations. Let’s be honest here. Scotch and beer don’t speak to every Scot on the planet and certainly not to the rest of us who want to partake in the festivities. So, out on another limb I go. Failing the sudden import of Campbells Bobbie Burns Shiraz, here are four wines to raise a glass to the poet on January 25th.

Raise a glass to Robbie Burns

The grapes: Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, Nerello Cappuccio, Magliocco and Sangiovese

The history: Mostly indigenous varietal blend from Calabria at the toe of the Italian peninsula

The lowdown: Exotic and unusual, a red wine unlike anything you will have ever tried

The food match: Traditional Haggis

Odoardi Savuto 2006 (303057, $13.95) is something I have never nosed before. Truffles, mushroom, soy sauce, balsamic, caramelized onion and an Arran-esque sherry cask note to boot. Juicy toffee candy apple, coffee, earth, tobacco and fruit leather. So unusual and absolutely worth the $14 flyer.  87

The grape: Moscato Bianco

The history: A versatile varietal that produces a number of wine styles and sweetness levels. In Piedmont it is light, sparkling and sweet

The lowdown: Weighs in at a mere 5.5% abv, like beer, perfect for a Burnsian night

The food match: Champit Tatties

Ricossa Antica Casa Moscato D’Asti 2011 (72272, $15.95) effervesces ever so slightly and whiffs white flowers. Sweet and honeyed, nearing a golden amber reminiscent of a Highland Whisky. Marmalade, waxy lemon and candied ginger are present and the wine is never cloying. Studious prototype.  89  @SelectWines_BC

The grape: Merlot

The history: Kitschy label originated in St. Helena, California. Often donated to charity auctions

The lowdown: A wine you might want to hate but it’s astonishingly beautiful and complex

The food match: Lamb, Barley, Wilted Greens and Roast Roots

Marilyn 25 Anniversary Merlot 2009 (306738, $39.95, B.C. 491357, $41.99)  may be to some a “wee, sleekit, cow’rin’, tim’rous beastie” but it’s really more man than a mouse. Firm and taut yet rounded and full-bodied, this is voluptuous and irresistible stuff. Hang out with Marilyn and you might get to meet the kind of people Maf met. Some do like it hot and with a noticeable smokey peat, alcohol note, hot is what you get. A bombshell.  90  @MarilynWines

The grape: Riesling

The history: From John Howard on the Niagara Peninsula

The lowdown: Deeper than many of its peers, probably because “we kept them outdoors for a few days longer”

The food match: Cranachan

Megalomaniac Coldhearted Riesling Icewine 2008 (243519, 200 mL, $29.95) is a wonderful rendition of winter harvest Ontario Riesling. Candied peach, succulent orange marmalade and vanilla conjoin with Speyside-like lavender and a red, red rose. Grape as barley, wine as deep elixir. A fascinating conundrum. Icewine possessed of a Riesling riddle, wrapped in a brave mystery, inside a coldhearted enigma, “that’s sweetly played in tune.”  92  @megalomaniacwns @ProfileWineGrp

Good to go!

A wine list of twenty-somethings

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They are white-collar students of a history and culture bound by their sectarian world. They are modern, hip, expatriate citizens of their diaspora. They toil in brick lofts, go to lunch, work out and dine. Here in Canada they can play hockey without a puck. They are the twenty-somethings, bottles of wine voiced of a specific roundelay. They dwell in an important niche, to serve the upwardly mobile, the progressive, the blue.

In need a good bottle of wine to bring to dinner? From Quebec to Alberta, from Ontario to British Columbia, here is a list of twenty-somethings certain to act as a gambit for your most discriminating host.

The grape: Garnacha

The history: The Cooperative of Borja was founded in 1958 but winemaking here dates back to 1203 with the monks at the Monastery of Veruela

The lowdown: The Spanish (Zaragoza) equivalent to Piedmont’s Produttori del Barbaresco. Grapes come from 620 member growers covering 2,500 hectares

The food match: Chicken, Pork and Pistachio Terrine

Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha 2010 (273748, $19.95, B.C. $27.99 SAQ $22.15) has more wood, char and toast than a forest fire but the wild boar and ciervo roasting on that fire is intoxicating. Black licorice and Herbero cause insentience in the mouth, not so typical for juicy Spanish Garnacha. Mineral-driven and dark, Parkerish even.  89  @AuthenticWine

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: From a Chilean Sparkling wine outfit dating back to 1879

The lowdown: A big oak red out of the Maipo Valley

The food match: Spaghetti with Beef and Veal Meatballs, preserved roma tomato sauce

Valdivieso Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (312769, $19.95, $27.96 Alta.) engages straight out with a purple allure and a waft of lit cedar. Violaceous perfume, herbal without being balmy, dusted by spicy wood while shying away from mocha and chocolate. Excellent redolent berry persistence, pretty yet strong.  89  @ValdiviesoChile

The grapes: Carinena, Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah

The history: Ultra-modern Priorat, from the team of vine grower Juan José (Jou) Escoda and winemaker Toni Coca

The lowdown: 21st century blending of indigenous and international varietals grown out of stony soils, poor in organic material and helped little by rainfall

The food match: Braised Chicken Thighs, caramelized onion, plum tomato, brisket-sherry gravy

Planets De Prior Pons 2008 (314559, $22.95) carries a dolor quarry of licorella, the black slate and quartz of Priorat so present in avant-garde yet rustic wines like the Pons. Most ruby-red, embattled by Spanish garriga, a kiss of the salty sea and mountain air. Peppery, red licorice balanced on an eave of canted length.   91  @clickvinus

The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc

The history: From Fattoria Vitticio (Greve in Chianti), owned and managed by Alessandro Landini

The lowdown: Joint venture with the Cancellieri-Scaramuzzi family in Bolgheri”s Castagneto Carducci

The food match: Prosciutto and Bresaola, beemster, crostini

I Greppi Greppicante Bolgheri 2009 (170381, $23.95, SAQ $23.60spoons out Bolgheri typicality with dry espresso bean sharpness, Tuscan coast silicon and a bit of funk. All this and a very respectable 13% abv. The minerals never cease their whorl and I wonder how this can possibly linger for months on LCBO shelves. So very Italian this Greppicante. “I have your blood inside my heart.”  90

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: From British Columbia’s Similkameen Valley, a unique appellation proximate to but not to be confused as being a part of the Okanagan Valley

The lowdown: This terrific ’08 will be followed up by the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in British Columbia Wines 2009 winner

The food match: Homemade Ricotta, toasted bread, extra virgin olive oil

Eau Vivre Pinot Noir 2008 (308353, $24.95, $19.00 B.C.) is blessed with a lightness of being, a Ruby Port, redden voile sheen and a firm anatomy. Cranberry and pomegranate meet a Marlborough, cloisonné, mineral veneer. This is a Pinot lover’s Pinot, specific, cerebral, incomplete in its forgiveness.  88  @EauVivre

Good to go!

Curl up with a good red

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Canadians were warned that we would see some “harsh bites” this winter and while the attack has thus far been quite benign, there are signs that the worst is yet to come. The predictions were kind to Western Canada but not so for the east. The Atlantic provinces have already been subject to some harsh conditions and Ontario, well, no big deal thus far.

Earlier this week my lighthearted attempt to cheer up a few million cold and flu stricken Canadians certainly struck a chord. Thank you all for sharing. For those of you that prefer red wine to cozy up to on these bone-chilling nights, this one’s for you.

Here are six warm-bodied reds to look for this coming weekend.

Six warm-bodied red wines

The grape: Dolcetto

The history: The Gamay of Italy, from Piedmont in the Northwest

The lowdown: Boasso turns out a Dolcetto serious to its appellation not unlike how great examples from Morgon or Côte De Puy are to Beaujolais

The food match: Mexican beef brisket and winter squash chili

Boasso Meriame Dolcetto D’Alba 2011 (303461, $15.95) also reminds me of young Tempranillo from Montsant. This one acts like jam-dusty confiture, not sweet but fruit forward. Not typically plum and sour cherry searing and even a touch funky.  Like Cru Beaujolais there is further extraction and earth-resonant, secondary characteristics.  88

The grape: Malbec

The history: Cahors in the south of France makes the most pitchy Malbec on the planet

The lowdown: New world Malbec from an old world setting

The food match: Roast Sirloin Tip Roast Sliders, ciabatta roll, horseradish mustard

Clos Troteligotte Kor Malbec (299982, $16.95) is indeed a troglodyte, at least in colour and its’ caveman, musty odour, in an alpha male kind of way. Smoking cedar boughs, mint splinters, sweet, CDP Kirsch and blackberry smells lead to a very ripe, then dusty and chalky totality. Good bones, fine lines, great label.  89

The grape: Shiraz

The history: From the winery of founders Allan Jackson and Don Triggs, who established the winery in 1993

The lowdown: Winemaker Marco Piccoli embraces the generous ’10 vintage to craft a serious Shiraz

The food match: Smoked Lamb Sausages, roast garlic smashed potatoes

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Grand Reserve Shiraz 2010 (317941, $19.95) impresses in pitch, kick and fleetness of foot. A middle of a moonless night depth allows for a keen sense of smell, of charred and roasted meat. Plays as much by Aussie rules as by a Canadian 110 yard thing and is very much Shiraz, as opposed to Syrah. Runs deep routes into red zones down under.  89

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: From the “House of Momi,” legend Momi dea Bionda and the three Italians, including winemaker Dario de Conti, who is also in-house chef

The lowdown: Who isn’t weary of inexpensive Napa Cabernet? This one avoids cliché; the winemaking is honest, unencumbered and not masked by heavy oak

The food match: Grilled Beef Tenderloin Medallions, caramelized onion, brussels sprouts leaves

Ca’Momi Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (315002, $22.95)  over does nothing, accomplishes everything. Napa berries lean blue out of a dry and dusty entry. The film is vanilla, not chocolate, the middle earth a bit rusty and rustic. At 13.9% abv the heat is so acceptable, the edges rounded and soft. The length lingers on. Perhaps you’re on one of those no-Cab diets? If you have balance in your life, why wouldn’t you buy this?  90

The grape: Tempranillo

The history: A re-release of a wine I referred to last April as “Titanic Rioja

The lowdown: A blend of 80% Tempranillo, 16% Grenache, 2% Mazuelo and 2% Graciano. Aged in American oak for 36 months. 13.5% abv.

The food match: Chicken Hashweh with Vegetable Stuffing

Bodegas Franco-Españolas Rioja Bordón Gran Reserva 2004 (114454, $22.95) is still classic Rioja. Smouldering cherry smoke now, deft wood touch. handled with care. Old school but user-friendly. My previous note: “Whiffs salve-scented snuff, “gets you hooked and trifles with your mind.” The spicy cereza blossoms and heads straight south to the heart, followed by a sexy, brown sugar, saxy, Bobby Keyes note. “I’m no schoolboy but I know what I like.” I wouldn’t hesitate to visit this every couple of years up to the age of 15.”  $22.75 at the SAQ.  90

The Splurge

The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot

The history: Marc Pages and son control this estate that dates back to the 16th Century

The lowdown: This is as good a “tier-two” level Left Banker as you are likely to find to peek into the mysterious world of top-vintage, look 10 years into the future Bordeaux

The food match: Butternut Squash Agnolotti w/ Brown Butter, Sage & Pecorino

Château La Tour De By 2009 (189233, $28.85) is firm, taut and gripped by grainy, chalky tannin. Quite pitchy and stormy for Médoc. Not offering much at this stage but it is structured from top to bottom and shows tons of potential. Awaiting the emergence of the fruit will require patience, but I think it’s there.  90

Good to go!

A wine prescription for cold and flu

Resveratrol molecule
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A glass or two of wine might just be the thing to help ward off the common cold and the flu. OK, 15 minutes of daily exercise will help too. And Vitamin C, Echinacea, lemon ginger tea, chicken soup and washing your hands… and did I mention wine? Research indicates that it interferes with viral replication. Very personal hermeneutic public service announcement? Maybe. Perverse mantra of belief? Perhaps.

There are researchers and doctors who believe that certain chemical compounds in wine can help immunize the body against 100’s of common viruses. The antioxidant properties, called flavonoids, lower blood pressure and absorb harmful toxins in the body, including the nasty stuff in nasal passages. Though red wine generally contains more positive attributes like resveratrol and polyphenols (compounds that also attack bacteria), it’s effectiveness may be negated because, not unlike dairy, it can increase the production of mucus. The solution? Go white, but don’t mix it with medication.

But it’s cold outside, you say, and you don’t want to drink benumbed white wine on a frigid winter night. The esteemed NY Times wine critic once wrote, “Not so cold…doctor’s order. Good white wine shouldn’t be too cold.” The question is, what kind of white wine serves well, not so chilled. The answer lies in body, balm and colour, in opulent, canorous and warmer-hued wines. But mostly it’s about the aromatics. Look for clement whites with hyperbolic, expressive aromas. Seek out varietals such as Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Altesse, Colombard, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Scheurebe, Riesling and Chardonnay. Whites made from grapes endowed with the most exaggerated scents; of spring flowers, citrus, tropical and stone fruit.

Here are five mellow whites to seek out this week for when the mercury falls on a frosty winter’s night.

Five mellow white wines

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Formerly Macon-Farges Paul Talmard, now produced by Mr. Talmard’s daughter Mallory and son-in-law Benjamin

The lowdown: The Mâconnais may be lower down on the Burgundy totem pole but quality is at an all-time high

The food match: Roasted Butternut Squash, maple syrup, toasted pistachios

Mallory & Benjamin Talmard Mâcon-Uchizy 2010 (733956, $14.95) forsakes oak for crystalline lucidity, green apple mineral punch and a late-night pistachio snack. Considered a lamb to some by Burgundian standards, but “as the neons dim,” this Chardonnay turns “to the coat of white.” A Genesis of great #ffffff value.  88  @TalmardMallory

The grape: Roussanne

The history: 100% Stainless Steel fermented Rhône ranger out of Mendocino by way of the Parducci family

The lowdown: The rarest of VINTAGES California sightings for this Southern Rhône varietal and only 225 cases produced

The food match: Roast Halibut, tabbouleh, beet hummus,

McNab Ridge Shadow Brook Farms Roussanne 2009 (312892, $18.95) waves the elderflower wand and casts a code white spell. Florally over the top, almost violent or even combative but what’s wrong with that? Balanced by a sweet shadowfall of peach marmalade. For something other, range to this Mendocino Rhône.  89  @McNabWines

The grape: Gewürztraminer

The history: A signature bottling for founder George Weiss

The lowdown: From Okanagan vineyards in both Kelowna and Kaleden at an average of 21 Brix. Their ’11 Pinot Gris and Unwooded Chardonnay were also terrific

The food match: Za’atar Crusted Roast Chicken, saffron rice, peach preserve

Gray Monk Gewürztraminer 2011 (321588, $19.95) articulates stone fruit from white peach to nectarine and citrus from clementine to mandarin. Does lychee, rose and pink grapefruit on a quieter note. White pepper and spice (cardamom, coriander) dust this dry yet profuse specimen. If only we would see their Siegerrebe here in Ontario.  88  @GrayMonkWinery

The grape: Pinot Grigio

The history: Three generations, forty years, from Tauriano di Spilimbergo within Friuli

The lowdown: This PG comes from Collio grapes near the Slovenian border

The food match: Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Toasted Almonds and Pomegranate Seeds

Fantinel Sant’Helena Pinot Grigio 2011 (310144, $19.95) shines copper in humid hue and is both herbal and cerebral for Pinot Grigio. A dashboard confessional suggesting tarragon, sage, capers, Acacia Flower and Adriatic salinity. A portrait for “cold nights and fires and white wine,” the only gift I need, though it may not strike the faint of PG hearts.  90  @ProfileWineGrp

The Splurge

The grape: Riesling

The history: The Berres family has lived and worked in Ürzig’s vineyards since 1510

The lowdown: Late harvest Riesling at its best, in vintage, quality and price. This vineyard is the “spice garden” of Ürzig, an amphitheater formed by a dramatic bend in the river Mosel. Loved the Kabinett too.

The food match: Panko Fried Shrimp, sweet, sour and spicy glaze

C.H. Berres Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 2010 (301952, $24.95) casts a whiter shade of pale, and trips the shining, soda light fantastic. Dances the spicy fandango perversely across the tongue and after just one sip that tongue has “turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor.” Dry, saline, seltzer up the nasal passage, sweet, exotic tropical fruit past the taste buds and a lengthy held note plays on.  91  @imbibersreport

Good to go!

Video and selling wine online

PHOTO: STRIXCODE/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

When Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan announced on New Year’s Eve the government plans to open 10 wine/liquor stores in select supermarkets, the Twitter chiming and column-riling was heard loud and clear. My take was a relatively benign one, having visited many a supermarket and trailer hitch “LCBO” in the smallest of Ontario’s northern hamlets. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

The proposal is misleading and really has little to do with Tim Hudak’s variety store beer and wine plan. The NP’s Chris Selley was clear in noting that LCBO, small town “Agency” stores have been employing private citizens in the business of peddling alcohol for decades. If Mindemoya, Ontario adds a few mass market wines and VINTAGES Essentials to its roped-off cubby within the local Foodland, how does that change anything?

The announcement that the VINTAGES cache of wine will soon be available for purchase online, now that would be something. Even I would have to be a fool today to argue against private wine stores, an issue the Wine Council of Ontario has addressed with mywineshop.ca. That movement continues to generate interest and support and needs to be taken to the next level. But what about wine online? The VINTAGES model has seen very little to modest success. There have been some very good wines available (though few and far between) but other than a few thousand (maybe) wine geeks, who even knows how and when they are released? This gorgeous Spanish red from Priorat is available right now through the VINTAGES Online website’s January 10th, 2013 release.

VINTAGES release
Cesca Vicent Lo Piot 2006; Nigl Grüner Veltliner Gärtling 2011; Bodegas Briego Reserva 2004

Cesca Vicent Lo Piot 2006 (243493, $29) is sweet, sweet Garnacha. Hugely concentrated but hangs on to a thread of mineral decency and resists going over the top. That rocky earth will extend its life by two to three years but the quarry of recklessness means drink up. Modernity thy name is Priorat.  91

Many have argued against slaughtering trees and think the VINTAGES Classics Catalogue should become an exclusive, online only direct sale. I would agree but this too misses the big point. If nothing else, why shouldn’t Ontario consumers be able to buy all available VINTAGES wines online? Simply set a realistic minimum order and charge for delivery. Social responsibility being compromised I imagine would be the argument put forth by the Hudsucker Proxy. All those under age teenagers signing for UPS delivered $75 Napa Cabernets would surely lead to anarchy.

A good number of Ontario wine agents and some specialist online e-tailers sell by the case, which they have to, but that niche is directed at wines not available for purchase at the LCBO. Dial-A-Bottle outfits can deliver single bottles but the strict rules and delivery charges make it cost prohibitive. Bordeaux Futures must be purchased in minimum sets of three. It’s time to change the playing field. Consumers want to shop online. We’re not talking about a non-starter here. VINTAGES, I have an idea for you. Put up some video to increase interest in the wines you sell. I recently filmed such a video:

Here are my tasting notes on the two wines:

Nigl Grüner Veltliner Gärtling 2011 ($22.54) is a strange animal to many, mistakenly considered a Riesling follower but, “something inside reveals you’re magical.” This one goes Niederösterreich green apple and even more parochial with Kremstal’s, micro-climate mineral and floral salinity. Built of solid weight and body but Grüner’s subtlety is certainly the fulcrum of its appeal. Please don’t let it be misunderstood. On the card at Barque.  88

Bodegas Briego Reserva 2004 ($32.95) the gregarious Ribera Del Duero trips the purple light fantastic. Rigorous, vibrant fruit for a Tempranillo caged four years in barrel and a further four in bottle. Currently dances in a cool, complex, mineral-rich, vanilla and plum wheelhouse of optimum fruit excellence. Modern for Ribera and very young at heart.  90

Good to go!