Reds for a blood moon

Reds for a blood moon

From left to right: Concha Y Toro Marques De Casa Concha Carmenère 2008, Jim Barry The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, L’ecole No. 41 Red Wine 2011, Blue Mountain Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, Michele Castellani Colle Cristi Collezione Ca’ Del Pipa Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2008, Domaine Des Martinelles Hermitage 2009, Painted Rock Red Icon 2011

That the ‘Blood Moon” tetrad of 2014-2015 fall on Passover and Sukkot should come as no surprise. That it’s snowing again on April 15th while the Moon meets the Earth’s shadow for a total lunar eclipse is a cosmic connection that requires red wine. Big reds.

Last weekend’s VINTAGES April 12th release had some beauties and a recent tasting at WineAlign of B.C. wines showed that power and finesse can co-exist on the Left Coast. Who knew they would come in handy with the mercury again dipping below zero and people everywhere howling at a moon they can’t see. Crazy times.

Thanks to Dave Dickinson, the lunar phenomenon is broken down into laymen’s terms, in shades of red. “Does the eclipsed Moon appear reddish to you? What you’re seeing is the sunlight of a thousand sunsets worldwide, streaming through the Earth’s atmosphere into the shadow. This color can vary considerably from eclipse to eclipse, causing it to appear anywhere from a dark tea-stained color to a bright cherry red. This variation is due to the amount of dust currently in the Earth’s atmosphere, and is measured on what is known as the Danjon scale.”

Here are seven immense red wines, from three continents, each with their own unique style, to match with a blood moon.

Concha Y Toro Marques De Casa Concha Carmenère 2008, Peumo Vineyard, Rapel Valley, Chile (169862, $19.95, WineAlign)

A trifecta of regard makes this worth looking at, the least of which, at first thought, is the effect of some age. The Concha y Toro Carmenère examination, in Carmín de Peumo, in Terrunyo and in Marques de Casa Concha is the Chilean reference point for the variety. The impart of deep, clay soils and the expectation of gentle tannins make for a curiosity call when considering an ’08 specimen. Tough and gritty, on one hand, on the other soapy, sandalwood and waxy. The third hand has smouldering wood, berries and tannins. Very much like its Cab and Merlot brethren, the fruit is just starting to be outrun. Try it now and see what Carmenère can bring.  Tasted March 2014  @conchaytoro

Jim Barry The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Coonawarra, South Australia (677476, $26.95, WineAlign)

Young-ish vines on the site of the old Coonawarra Penola cricket ground receive perpetual hydro-mineral support from porous limestone under rich terra rossa soil. That fruit is then blended with extract from estate vineyards in the Clare Valley. Smashes the cover off the grapes towards a full on gain of flavour. Charred peppers and lush black berries are smothered and splintered by a 50/50 split of French and American oak in no less than a crush of conceit. Tannin, grit, joy, flesh, full on deep fruit and mineral. Obviously over-swung and with too much club (switching sports), like using Driver used when a long iron would have sufficed. But you drive for show and this Barry can putt for dough.  Tasted March 2014  @Jimbarrywines

L’ecole No. 41 Red Wine 2011, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA (366237, $29.95, WineAlign)

A really good, high-octane red blend if blatantly massive. Like the smell of a shiny, varnished, fresh wood cabin glazed by highly aromatic and resinous epoxy extract. That’s the simple tasting note. The more complex version includes a perfume potpourri of Bougainvillea, violet, orange peel, cinnamon, dark chocolate and a lumber factory. The electric, fully plugged in blend is Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Grenache (38, 36, 15, 6, 4 and 1). The quotient seeks learned Nirvana and with a little luck, some power chords, a bit of screaming and historical, retro-cult exoneration, it may just get there. Right now it just feels like High School. Impulsive and uncomfortable. Wouldn’t you believe it, it’s just my luck. No recess.”  Tasted March 2014  @lecole41

Blue Mountain Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada (Winery, $36.00, WineAlign)

The Reserve Pinot is intoxicating to say the list. Some whole clusters in the fermentation process add mouth feel, cure and needed grit but how this can not be viewed overall in the shiniest west coast light would be confounding. The reserve ’11 is both “sky as I kite, sticky as lips” and “as licky as trips.” If there was ever an Okanagan Pinot Noir to get you high, this would be the one. What a boisterous effort out of a less than scorching vintage and considering the modest to riches price, no shame in visiting with flavourful fare, imbued with spice, any day of the week.  Tasted April 2014  @BlueMtnWinery

Michele Castellani Colle Cristi Collezione Ca’ Del Pipa Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2008, Veneto, Italy (222109, $45.95, WineAlign)

The magic of age is a friend to Amarone and funk trumps fruit. In a nutshell the axiom describes the old-school Colle Cristi. A brooding Amarone, cut by zest that’s citrus-like and savoury/earthy in pine needles, juniper and a Venetian forest in autumn. Inviatura and Chiaroscuro. Caravaggio meets Giorgione. The most complex Valpolicella in the April 12th VINTAGES line-up.  Tasted March 2014

Domaine Des Martinelles Hermitage 2009, Rhone, France (112268, $54.95, WineAlign)

Clearly modern and style-heavy though not out-of-place in the world of Hermitage. From steep slopes of stony brown sand, a high level of grit might be expected but this Syrah is refined, lush and smooth as silk. At 14.5 percent it’s no shrinking violet, honest and futuristically traditional. At $55 it’s a mandatory, appellative Northern Rhone steal. Matter-of-fact acidity, verve and mineral content are all in, with elegance and balance. Really fine Syrah with a five to ten-year fruit-tannin power struggle ahead.  Tasted March 2014  @LeSommelierWine

Painted Rock Red Icon 2011, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada (Agent, $55.00, WineAlign)

Painted Rock’s red icon could be considered more black than red, as exemplified by the layering of grapes, their pitchy extracts and the fruit associated with their gathering. If the man should ask, “tell him what we said ’bout ‘Paint It Black.’ Rock ‘n Roll is here to stay.” Yes, the Icon will be a big star someday and perhaps this ’11, despite the cooler vintage, will be the first. Might have to wait 13 years or more to find out because the tannic structure is in beast mode and will remain so for likely that much time. The wine plays memorable chords and its song lingers on the brain.  Tasted April 2014  @liffordwine  @PaintedRockJohn

Good to go!

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Wine experts Brock and roll, Brock on

Wine tasting

The Expert’s Tasting is more than just a study on Niagara wine.
Photo: JEAN-PIERRE MULLER/AFP/Getty Images

as seen on canada.com

Part two: 25th anniversary of the Cuvée 2014 Expert’s Tasting at Brock University

Flights three, four and five: Pinot Noir, Red Blends and Wine Options.

Related – When experts break wine together

The Expert’s Tasting is more than just a study on Niagara wine. It eulogizes what came before, reflects back on what is lost and ultimately asks the questions, “Where do we go from here? Which is the way that’s clear?” Grow grapes, make wine. Rock on.

The Brock University Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute now lays claim to being the central hub of information and guidance for Niagara’s wine industry. In partnership and in sharing expertise with Wine Country Ontario, the Grape Growers of Ontario, the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, VQA Ontario and Niagara Culinary College, Brock’s CCOVI is the go to rock, central to Niagara’s world-class wine growing soil.

In 2015, the annual Cuvée gala weekend, one of the most prestigious celebrations of Ontario wine and food, will now be organized by Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI). The theme will be a look forward to Ontario’s significant wine styles and emerging varieties. Props to that.

The #CCOVI event continued the task of celebrating the annual VQA Promoters awards, handed out to the individuals who supported and promoted the industry through media, the LCBO, at large and over the course of a lifetime.  The 2014 awards were handed out to William Mancini, Lloyd Schmidt, Erik Peacock, Shawn McCormick, David Lawrason and posthumously, care of his wife Rose Lamas-Churchill, to David Churchill.

#CCOVI Expert's Tasting Pinot Noir Flight

PHOTO: Michael Godel
#CCOVI Expert’s Tasting Pinot Noir Flight

At the Expert’s Tasting wines were poured blind. The third and fourth flights (Pinot Noir and Red blends respectively) showcased just how far Niagara has travelled in fashioning quality reds. The Pinot Flight was all about balance and elegance. Bench Pinot stands out like a beacon on the Escarpment’s shelves. Blends centred around Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are excelling with each passing vintage, in kind to the ever-increasing wine acumen of the growers and winemakers. That and the macro-intense studies of Niagara’s micro-terroirs.

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This final flight of five wines (in order, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend) made for a less confounding competitive round, which was not the case in 2013. I clearly found vicarious fortune through the mates at my table. It’s not just who you know, but who’s palate you draft behind.

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Here are my notes on the final 19 wines poured at the Expert’s Tasting 2014.

FLIGHT #3 – YOU’VE BEEN PINOT’D!!

From left: Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir 2012, Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2012, Inniskillin Pinot Noir Reserve 2011, 13th Street Essence Pinot Noir 2010, and Fielding Estate Pinot Noir Jackrabbit Flats Vineyard 2010

From left: Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir 2012, Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2012, Inniskillin Pinot Noir Reserve 2011, 13th Street Essence Pinot Noir 2010, and Fielding Estate Pinot Noir Jackrabbit Flats Vineyard 2010

Presented by Dr. Belinda Kemp, CCOVI Scientist, Oenology. “There is nothing funny about Pinot Noir,” she complains in deadpan humour, “it’s the unfunny grape. Fascinating, but nothing to laugh at. It’s not funny at all.”

Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir 2012, Tamar Ridge, Tasmania, Australia (317966, $23.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

A good fresh start to the flight. At first earthless, weightless, cran-raspberry scented. Feminine, warm, inviting and then turning temperamental, difficult, evolving. Ultimately maternal, clay-influenced, brought down to mother earth. Vanilla ringer.  87  Tasted March 2014  @BrownBrothers

Un bon nouveau départ à la (troisième de l’expert de dégustation) vol. Au début Earthless, en apesanteur, cran-framboise parfumée. Féminine, chaleureuse, accueillante et puis, se tournant capricieux, difficile, en constante évolution. En fin de compte maternelle, argile influencé, ramené à la terre mère. Vanille sonnerie.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula (1560, $29.95, WineAlign)

In a vintage potentially muddled by warmth and a humidor of radio frequency, duplicating berry phenolics, Flat Rock’s Gravity remains a definitive, signature house Pinot Noir. In 2011, the head of the FR class from its most expressive barrels shared the limelight (and top juice) with the Pond, Bruce and Summit one-offs. In ’12, Gravity’s sandbox was its own. The style is surely dark, extracted, black cherry bent, as per the vintage. Yet only the Rock’s soil does earth in this variegate, borne and elevated by the barrel’s grain. There are no fake plastic trees in a Flat Rock Pinot. “Gravity always wins.”  90  Tasted March 2014  @Brighlighter1

Dans un millésime potentiellement confus par la chaleur et une cave de la fréquence de la radio, la duplication des composés phénoliques des baies, la gravité de Flat Rock reste un définitif, maison de signature Pinot Noir. En 2011, la tête de la classe FR de ses barils les plus expressifs partage la vedette (et le jus dessus) avec les mesures ponctuelles Pond, Bruce et Summit. En ’12, bac à sable de gravité était son propre. Le style est certainement foncé, extrait, pliée de cerise noire, selon le millésime. Pourtant, seulement le sol de la roche ne terre dans ce variegata, porté et élevé par le grain du baril. Il n’y a pas d’arbres en plastique faux dans un Flat Rock Pinot. “Gravity gagne toujours.”  Dégusté Mars 2014

Inniskillin Pinot Noir Reserve 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula (winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

A by-product of a rain-heat-rain, cold soak-warm ferment-16 month French barrel childhood. The ’11 Reserve Pinot is impressively floral while simultaneously brooding and serious. The middle palate binds citrus and savoury, gilded, dulcet rose, Langhe-like. Breakdown happens late, in syrupy alcohol and charred pulp. “In that case I’ll have a rum and coca-cola.” Complex Pinot for the common people88  Tasted March 2014  @InniskillinWine

Un sous-produit d’une pluie-chaleur-pluie, le froid tremper-chaud ferment-16 mois baril français enfance. Le ’11 Réserve Pinot est alors impressionnante floral simultanément couvaison et grave. Le milieu de bouche se lie d’agrumes et salé, doré, rose suave, Langhe-comme. Répartition arrive en retard, dans l’alcool sirupeux et pâte carbonisée. “Dans ce cas, je vais avoir un rhum et de coca-cola.” Pinot complexe pour les gens ordinaires.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir ‘Le Grande Reserve’ 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula (winery, $65, WineAlign)

The Thomas Bachelder mentored, two-vineyard assemblage Grande Reserve Pinot Noir grinds more cracked pepper than any predecessor. Every barrel from the Twenty Mile Bench (formerly Le Clos Jordanne’s, Neudorf Family La Petite Colline Vineyard) and Mountainview vineyard were scrutinized to determine the final blend. Bachelder sees black fruit in the early life yet despite the ebullient seasoning, the LGR’s genes are intrinsically feminine. Red cherry, tellus fertility and a mother’s strength hold the family of barrel children together. This is an ambitious and hard to read Pinot Noir. Judgement reserved for five years before the word classic will be used.  92  Tasted March 2014  @QueylusVin

Le Thomas Bachelder mentor, l’assemblage de deux vignoble Grande Réserve Pinot Noir broie poivre craqué plus que ses prédécesseurs. Chaque baril de Lincoln Lakeshore (anciennement Le Clos Jordanne de, Neudorf famille La Petite Colline Vineyard) et le Twenty Mile Bench (Mountainview) appellations ont été examinées attentivement afin de déterminer l’assemblage final. Bachelder voit fruits noirs dans le début de la vie et pourtant, malgré l’assaisonnement bouillante, les gènes de la LGR sont intrinsèquement féminin. Rouge cerise, tellus la fertilité et la force de la mère détiennent la famille des enfants de baril ensemble. Il s’agit d’un Pinot Noir ambitieux et difficile à lire. Jugement réservé pendant cinq ans avant le mot classique sera utilisé.  Dégusté Mars 2014

13th Street Essence Pinot Noir 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (237222, $44.95, WineAlign)

Five months have aged the Essence with more bronzing minerality and core strength. Imagine the old-world chemistry it will enumerate after five more years. Previous note: “Only the second coming of The Essence. Lucid, willing and able Pinot Noir from an assemblage of fruit sourced across the region. Atypical in that sense, speaking to a broader range of terroir and to a wider audience. Breadth and depth much like a Côte de Beaune, earthy of serious dirt layered over top a cherry core. Attention now and for five plus years is needed because though to taste it’s currently confounding, time will see more complexity, development and emerging emotion. It will then solicit a cry of  ”baby, sweet baby, you’re my drug. Come on and let me taste your stuff.”  91  Tasted October 2013 and March 2014  @13thStreetWines

Cinq mois ont vieilli l’essence avec plus de minéralité de bronzage et la force de base. Imaginez la chimie du vieux monde, il va énumérer après cinq années de plus. Note précédente:… “Seule la seconde venue de l’Essence Lucid, désireux et capables Pinot Noir à partir d’un assemblage de fruits provenant de toute la région atypique en ce sens, parler à un plus large éventail de terroir et à un public plus large étendue et la profondeur un peu comme un Côte de Beaune, terreuse de terre grave posés sur le dessus une cerise noyau. attention maintenant et pour cinq ans et est nécessaire parce que le goûter est actuellement confondre, le temps voir plus de complexité, le développement et l’émotion émergents. Elle sera ensuite solliciter un cri de “bébé, bébé doux, tu es ma drogue. Venez et laissez-moi goûter vos trucs.”  Testé Octobre 2013 et Mars 2014

Fielding Estate Pinot Noir Jackrabbit Flats Vineyard 2010, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore (winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Though a recent phenomenon, a Bench area winemaker’s keen interest in the Lincoln Lakeshore as a unicorn Pinot growing locale has come out of the forest’s shadows. From dual-vineyard plots and specific barrel choosing, the JRF expressly microwaves its agminate gathering, that is, 14 months on lees in barrel, a warm vintage and virtually unfiltered ferment. Completely free of its closet, there is coffee, toffee and strong tea overtop rufescent fruit close to its earthly roots. An austere, tough and gritty Pinot Noir, from the Burgundy side of the pond, echoing the presenter’s choice of words. “It’s fascinating but nothing to laugh about.”  89  Tasted March 2014  @RichieWine

Bien que d’un phénomène récent, le vif intérêt d’un vigneron de la zone du Banc de la Lincoln Lakeshore comme un Pinot locale croissante licorne est sorti de l’ombre de la forêt. Des parcelles à double vignoble et choix de canon spécifique, la JRF tout micro-ondes expressément sa collecte de agminate, soit 14 mois sur lies en barriques, un millésime chaud et ferment pratiquement non filtré. Complètement libre de son placard, il ya du café, caramel et thé fort overtop Rufescent fruit proche de ses racines terrestres. Un austère, dur et graveleux Pinot Noir, du côté de l’étang de Bourgogne, en écho le choix du présentateur de mots. «C’est fascinant, mais pas de quoi rire.”  Dégusté Mars 2014

The Foreign Affair Pinot Noir 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula (winery, $43.95, WineAlign)

An ambitious and in retrospect streetwise project now in the golden age of its life. From fruit grown both on the estate’s Crispino Vineyard and at the Vineland Research Centre. Then winemaker Ilya Senchuk dried 40% of the grapes which subsequently spent 15 months in French and Hungarian oak. The modest 13.1 per cent alcohol has realized a resolved, gentle and effortless balance of figgy/raisin-driven fruit and clear spirit. The beaver is not so different from a Tawny meets Reserve Port, Pinot-style. Appassimento, you’ve been Pinot’d.  ‘Ciao’ for hello and goodbye because now is the time to drink.  88  Tasted March 2014  @wineaffair

Un projet ambitieux et débrouillard, rétrospectivement, maintenant dans l’âge d’or de sa vie. De fruits cultivés à la fois sur Crispino Vignoble de la succession et au Centre de recherche de Vineland. Puis vigneron Ilya Senchuk séché 40% des raisins qui a ensuite passé 15 mois en fûts de chêne français et hongrois. Le modeste alcool 13.1 pour cent a réalisé une résolu, équilibre doux et sans effort de figgy / fruités raisins secs et l’esprit clair. Le castor n’est pas si différent d’un Tawny Port répond Réserve Pinot style. Appassimento, vous avez été Pinot’d. «Ciao» pour bonjour et au revoir parce que c’est maintenant le temps de boire.  Dégusté Mars 2014

FLIGHT #4 – RED ROAD TEST – ARE WE ON THE RIGHT TRACK?

From left: Konzelmann Estate Winery Heritage Reserve 2012, Hillebrand Trius Red 2011, Fielding Estate Winery Cabernet Merlot 2010, Trius Grand Red 2010, Stratus Red 2007, Creekside Estates Reserve Meritage 2004, and Henry Of Pelham Estate Cabernet/Merlot 2002

From left: Konzelmann Estate Winery Heritage Reserve 2012, Hillebrand Trius Red 2011, Fielding Estate Winery Cabernet Merlot 2010, Trius Grand Red 2010, Stratus Red 2007, Creekside Estates Reserve Meritage 2004, and Henry Of Pelham Estate Cabernet/Merlot 2002

Presented by Trius Winery at Hillebrand winemaker Craig McDonald. McDonald makes one of Niagara’s now flagship red blends, the Trius Grand Red. He brings red blend experience to the table in spades and hearts, particularly from his work at Penfolds in the Barossa Valley, but McDonald is an ardent voice for the relationship between varietal and land. He wants you to decide for yourself, are red wines working and excelling in Niagara? In this flight, Craig’s advice is “I want you to think about the dominant varietal.” Not as easy as you might think.

Konzelmann Estate Winery Heritage Reserve 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula (149179, $30, WineAlign)

A Merlot-based blend with support from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The dominant varietal is the blend’s soft presence, lifting up an otherwise ground espresso, black pepper, currant and verdigris paste in its 14 per cent frame. Yet so young and unsettled, with Franz drive, chalky extract and hard bite. In this Heritage’s “edges and lines your engine’s alive,” so as a first red road-test, it sets a solid course.  88  Tasted March 2014  @KonzelmannWines

Un mélange à base de Merlot avec le soutien de Cabernet Sauvignon et Cabernet Franc. Le cépage dominant est la présence douce du mélange, soulevant un espresso moulu contraire, de poivre noir, de cassis et vert de gris coller dans son cadre de 14 pour cent. Pourtant, si jeune et instable, avec Franz entraînement, extrait calcaire et morsure dur. Dans ce patrimoine “des bords et des lignes en vie, de votre moteur” de manière un premier rouge route-test, il établit un plan solide.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Hillebrand Trius Red 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula  (303800, $22.95, WineAlign) VINTAGES ESSENTIAL

Most of the 47 per cent Merlot, 40 Cabernet Franc and 13 Cabernet Sauvignon fruit was sourced from the Clark and Carlton Vineyards in Four Mile Creek. From the outset age is the focus point. Is this already showing wear and tear or is the sinewy, cassis, toffee, sweet balsamic and emulous acidity congregation preparing a long road ahead for this Niagara exhibit? Crisis? What crisis? It’s just a normal day and this Meritage will say, “maybe I’ll find my way.”  87  Tasted March 2014  @TriusWines

La plupart des 47 pour cent Merlot, Cabernet Franc 40 et 13 Cabernet Sauvignon fruits provenait de les Clark et Carlton Vignobles à Four Mile Creek. Dès l’âge de départ est le point de mise au point. Est-ce montre déjà l’usure ou est le nerveux, de cassis, de caramel, balsamique doux et jaloux acidité congrégation prépare un long chemin à parcourir pour cette exposition Niagara? Crise? Quelle crise? C’est juste une journée normale et ce Meritage dira, «peut-être que je vais trouver mon chemin.”  Dégusté Mars 2014

Fielding Estate Winery Cabernet Merlot 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula (winery, $35.20, WineAlign)

Does anybody really know what wine this is? Does anybody really care? The experts do, as do I. Chosen for back-to-back Expert’s Tastings by a panel of Niagara’s finest palates? AYFKM? What does that say? Today Richie Robert’s CF (42), Merlot (33) and CS (25) master stroke from Lincoln Lakeshore (warm), Beamsville Bench (warmer) and St. David’s (Lowrey Vineyard – warmest) is singing. Charred cherries, animale game and soft funk like top IGT. Raises its own bar. Previous note: “Alights in lithe tendrils before adding coffee, meritage mid-weight. Currants, nasturtium and red fruit compote buoy this cooler Niagara blend that combines fruit from the Lincoln Lakeshore, St. David’s and Beamsville Benches. A good dancer with “the kind of body that would shame Adonis.” Expertly balanced with the spine to age.”  90  Tasted March 2013 and 2014  @FieldingWinery

Quelqu’un sait-il vraiment ce vin ce que c’est? Est-ce que quelqu’un se soucie vraiment? Les experts font, comme moi Chosen pour Dégustations Expertises dos-à-dos par un panel des meilleurs palais du Niagara? AYFKM? Qu’est-ce que cela veut dire? Aujourd’hui Richie FC Robert (42), Merlot (33) et CS (25) coup de maître de Lincoln Lakeshore (chaud), Beamsville (plus chaud) et Saint-David (Lowrey Vineyard – le plus chaud) chante. Cerises carbonisés, jeu animale et funk doux comme haut IGT. Déclenche son propre bar. Note précédente: “. Descend en vrilles agiles avant d’ajouter le café, meritage mi-poids Groseilles, capucine et compote de fruits rouges bouée ce refroidisseur mélange Niagara qui combine les fruits de la Lincoln Lakeshore, Saint-David et Beamsville Bancs Un bon danseur.” L’ type de corps qui honte Adonis. “experte en balance avec la colonne vertébrale de l’âge.”  Dégusté Mars 2013 et 2014

Trius Grand Red 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula (winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

Roll out the best barrels from the same Four Mile Creek Clark and Carlton Vineyards. Gravity drip freshly-pressed juice directly into barrel, wait 18 months and voilà, the flagship red from winemaker Craig McDonald. The 45/33/22 Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blend radiates of everything under the sun. It’s rich and lush, marked by huge extract and yet it’s also graced by sweet, limber tannins. The middle ground gives faint notes of soy and dill though it can be imagined they will be smothered as the chain lengthens and the flesh becomes more pliable. I’ve one put aside for a visit in 2018.  89  Tasted March 2014

Etaler les meilleurs fûts de les mêmes Four Mile Creek Clark et Carlton Vineyards. goutte à goutte par gravité jus de fruits fraîchement pressés directement dans le cylindre, attendre 18 mois et voilà, le rouge phare de vigneron Craig McDonald. Le 45/33/22 Merlot / Cabernet Franc / Cabernet Sauvignon mélange rayonne de tout sous le soleil. Il est riche et luxuriante, marqué par d’énormes extrait et encore il est également honoré par des tanins doux et souple. Le terrain d’entente donne des notes faibles de soja et aneth si on peut imaginer qu’ils seront étouffées comme la chaîne s’allonge et la chair devient plus souple. J’ai un mets de côté pour une visite en 2018.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Stratus Red 2007, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Niagara Peninsula (winery, $44.20, WineAlign)

On a day like today, the 2007 Stratus Red’s long, long sleep (644 days in mostly new French Oak) seems particularly magnified. Today the moody tincture is a cocktail shaker filled with peat, clay, iodine, strawberry compote, sangria and divaricated tannin. No other red blend today is as complex, shows more road rage or tries to speed off the track. Previous note: “Puts a twinkle in Groux’s eye. “Still very enjoyable, agreeable and ageable,” he smiles and I note it’s not candied like it may have once been perceived.  A healthy and high 88 per cent dose of new oak but it’s not the encumbrance you might expect. Still quite tight, eking strawberry and plum, and indubitably a unique amalgamation. Will offer up five more years of pleasure.”  91  Tasted September 2013 and March 2014  @Stratuswines

En un jour comme aujourd’hui, long, long sommeil de 2007 Stratus Rouge (644 jours dans la plupart neufs de chêne français) semble particulièrement agrandie. Aujourd’hui, la teinture de mauvaise humeur est un shaker rempli de tourbe, de l’argile, de l’iode, compote de fraises, sangria et les tannins divaricated. Aucune autre mélange de rouge aujourd’hui est aussi complexe, montre plus de rage au volant ou tente d’accélérer la piste. Note précédente: “. Met une étincelle dans l’oeil de Groux” Toujours très agréable, agréable et gérable “, il sourit et je constate que ce n’est pas confits comme il peut avoir été une fois perçu une saine et haute 88 par dose cent de chêne neuf, mais il est. pas la charge que vous pourriez vous attendre. toujours très serré, eking fraise et de prune, et sans aucun doute une fusion unique. offrira jusqu’à cinq années de plaisir “.  Dégusté Septembre 2013 et Mars 2014

Creekside Estates Reserve Meritage 2004, VQA Niagara Peninsula (sold out, $45, WineAlign)

A straight up self-starter, 55/45 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Left Bank galvanized blend. Craig McDonald noted that he and Rob Power “had no idea what we were doing.” What they had was a four year-old vineyard on the Queenston Road, St. David’s Bench in Four Mile Creek. They made this Bordeaux in a challenging vintage when there might not have been a sound mind around (who was paying them any attention) for guidance or encouragement. Though it has crossed the threshold into resinous mannerisms and elements of an armamentarium, the two mad scientists found a way to take 12 per cent alcohol and real fruit on a 10-year journey to the museum. Shows what potential there has always been and where the distinction of the 2014 Niagara reds will be in 2024.  89  Tasted March 2014  @CreeksideWine

A vous auto-démarreur droite, 55/45 Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot, Rive Gauche galvanisé mélange. Craig McDonald admis que lui et Rob Power “n’avait aucune idée de ce que nous faisions.” Ce qu’ils ont trouvé un vignoble de quatre ans sur la route de Queenston, la Cour du Banc de Saint-David à Four Mile Creek. Ils ont fait ce Bordeaux dans un millésime difficile quand il pourrait ne pas avoir été un esprit sain autour (qui les paie aucune attention) pour obtenir des conseils ou des encouragements. Bien qu’il a franchi le seuil de tics et éléments d’un arsenal résineux, les deux savants fous ont trouvé un moyen de prendre 12 pour cent d’alcool et de vrais fruits sur un voyage de 10 ans pour le musée. Montre ce potentiel, il a toujours été et où la distinction de 2014 rouges Niagara sera en 2024.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Henry Of Pelham Estate Cabernet/Merlot 2002, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula (winery, $34.95)

A Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot split with 12 per cent support from Cabernet Franc. Right up there with other classic H of P blends, in ’98, ’05 and ’07. All three levels, the basic Cab/Merlot, this Reserve and the Speck Family Reserve have stood the test of time, perhaps better than any other Bordeaux blends from the region. You can tell this was an enormous wine at one time. Has gently and slowly evolved into its comfortable skin yet the tannin and grit are still in working order. He’s a crooner this CM2, with a soulful Roy Orbison voice. There aren’t many like him. “That’s why I sigh and sip my lonely wine.” If anything has been learned and if anyone had been paying attention to Ron Giesbrecht while he made his wines, there should be many more to come.  91  Tasted March 2014  @HenryofPelham

FLIGHT #5 – WINE OPTIONS

From left: Stratus Chardonnay 2009, Rosewood Estates Pinot Noir 2011, North Shore Project Syrah 2012, and The Foreign Affair ‘The Conspiracy’ 2012

From left: Stratus Chardonnay 2009, Rosewood Estates Pinot Noir 2011, North Shore Project Syrah 2012, and The Foreign Affair ‘The Conspiracy’ 2012

Presented by Peter Bodnar Rod Sommelier and member of the Brock WSET Team. After four serious and wind-sapping flights, the ice was again broken by the jocose Bodnar Rod when he made comment to the hand coverings of a wine pourer. “Maybe Jamie and I can go out tonight with black latex gloves?” Not a word in response from Mr. Drummond but if I were a betting man I’d say he just might join in that fun.

Stratus Chardonnay 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula (winery, $55)

Comes off like a white blend, aka Stratus White but this is the outright, unchaste vintage talking. Winemaker J-L Groux crafted three wines with viticulturist Paul Hobbs. Here they split the project 50/50 with Hobbs including wild yeast fermentation and whole bunch pressing and J-L adding short skin contact, controlled yeasts and no whole bunch pressing. From extreme low yields, this one puts on a show after only 10 months in barrel. High on aroma, brazen in texture, ambient in flavour bites. Very Niagara if inexactly Chardonnay.  Tasted March 2014  91  Tasted March 2014

Se détache comme un mélange blanc, aka Stratus Blanc mais c’est la pure et simple, parler cru impudique. Oenologue JL Groux conçu trois vins viticulteur avec Paul Hobbs. Ici, ils partagent le projet 50/50 avec Hobbs y compris sauvage fermentation de la levure et le groupe entier urgent et JL ajoutant un bref contact de la peau, des levures contrôlées et pas toute la bande de pressage. De rendements extrêmement faibles, celui-ci met sur un spectacle après seulement 10 mois en barrique. Haute sur l’arôme, la texture d’airain, ambiant dans les piqûres de saveur. Très Niagara si inexacte Chardonnay.  Dégusté Mars 2014

Rosewood Estates Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench (112177, $21.95)

What an arid specimen, tasted blind so distinctly Bench Pinot though the earthy, cranberry and cherry dust had me leaning Short Hills. The Rosewood reveal reminds of “little lonely eyes open and radiant,” berries from acidity victorious Wismer blocks on the Twenty Mile Bench. Previous note: “…and her libidinous solid core of red fruit habituated by a fencing of skin-tight acidity will see prolonging returns. Will run on like a Dave Matthews jam, in wine years scads longer than the temperate Rosewood ’10. An Escarpment’s native flint rocky note whispers “hey little dreamer’s eyes open and staring up at me…wait until I come I’ll take your soul.” Halloween wine indeed.”  89  Tasted September 2013 and March 2014  @RosewoodWine

Quel spécimen aride, dégustés à l’aveugle Banc si distinctement Pinot bien terrestre, la canneberge et de cerise poussière m’avait appuyé Short Hills. Le Rosewood révéler rappelle “petits yeux solitaires ouverts et rayonnants,” baies de l’acidité victorieux blocs Wismer sur le banc Twenty Mile. Note précédente: “… et son noyau solide libidineux de fruits rouges habitués par une clôture de l’acidité de la peau étanche verront rendements prolongeant sera exécuté sur une confiture comme Dave Matthews, dans les années à vin scads plus long que le tempéré Rosewood ’10.. silex natif notes rocheux chuchotements d’un escarpement “hey les yeux du petit rêveur ouverte et les yeux fixés sur moi … attendre jusqu’à ce que je viens je vais prendre votre âme.” vin de Halloween en effet. ”  Dégusté Septembre 2013 et Mars 2014

North Shore Project Syrah 2012, VQA Lake Erie North Shore (sold out, $22)

A project part Will Predhomme (off the charts Sommelier), Hinterland Wine Company (head of the class Sparkling Wine producer) and Colio Estates (top of the heap Lake Erie North Shore red wine maker). More than impressive first outing with a burst of pretty flowers, varietal perspicuity and articulation. As Predomme notes, this is “pure, naked Syrah.” Farmed at Colio, crushed in LENS and fermented at Hinterland. There is a hint (what can best be described as) carbonic maceration in banana sweetness but it does not linger and the lightness of being meets intensity shows adventure and promise.  87  Tasted March 2014  @northshoreproj

Cave Spring Cellars Riesling ‘CSV’ Estate Bottled 2010, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula (566026, $29.95, WineAlign)

Was not so easy to return to Riesling 25 wines and three hours later but thanks goodness it was this old (35 years give or take) vines CSV. From the east Bench where limestone rules and rocks, there are apples upon apples in this vintage in waves of luxurious fruit. While Bench Riesling can be so tragically austere, racy and piercing, often in a state of hip “melancholy wine-soaked tenderness,” this CSV ’10 is bathed in luxury and pure pleasure. It’s so much more Germanic in an off-dry way and never forgets its limestone roots. Not necessarily classic Beamsville but not to be missed.  90  Tasted March 2014  @CaveSpring

N’était pas si facile de revenir à 25 Riesling vins et trois heures plus tard, mais Dieu merci, c’était ce vieux (35 ans donner ou prendre) vignes CSV. De la magistrature est, où les règles et les roches calcaires, il ya des pommes sur les pommes dans ce millésime dans les vagues de fruits de luxe. Bien Banc Riesling peut être si tragiquement austère, racé et perçant, souvent dans un état de hanche “mélancolique tendresse de vin trempé,” ce CSV ’10 est baigné dans le luxe et le plaisir pur. C’est tellement plus germanique de manière demi-sec et n’oublie jamais ses racines de calcaire. Pas nécessairement classique Beamsville mais à ne pas manquer.  Dégusté Mars 2014

The Foreign Affair ‘The Conspiracy’ 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula (149237, $19.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Young, huge, rich and oozing in oak soaked spice. Currants, pepper, whole grain, berries and chalk. All in for $20. Previous Note: Quickly reminiscent of its 2011 predecessor but also different, in a basking, vintage-related warmth and reductive currency. This could not have been an easy wine to temper in 2012 considering the ripasso methodology. Just softened plum is painted all over its sheen with the poaching aromas steaming away. Grilled, melting licorice, caramelizing and disapparating before your eyes. Not to mention a French vanilla creamy garagiste waft, like nuts and bolts ice cream. But I will admit the tang, acidity and tenacity increases with each sip and swirl. Such a unique bottling to Ontario. Is there anything else like it not from Lake Erie North Shore?  89  @wineaffair  Tasted February and March 2014

Jeune, grand, riche et suintant en chêne imbibé d’épices. Groseilles, poivre, grains entiers, fruits et craie. All-in pour 20 $. Note précédente:. “Vite rappelle de son prédécesseur 2011, mais également différente, dans un pèlerin, de la chaleur vintage liés et monnaie réductrice Cela n’aurait pas été un vin facile à tempérament en 2012 compte tenu de la méthodologie de ripasso prune juste ramolli est peint partout. son lustre avec les arômes de braconnage vapeur loin. grillé, fondant réglisse, caraméliser et disapparating devant vos yeux. Sans oublier une vanille française crémeuse garagiste bouffée, comme les écrous et boulons de la crème glacée. Mais je vais admettre la saveur, l’acidité et la ténacité augmente avec chaque gorgée et remous. telle une bouteille unique à l’Ontario. Y at-il quelque chose de semblable pas du lac Érié Côte-Nord? ”  Dégusté Février et Mars 2014

Good to go!

Three-chord wines, hold the rants

Wine on the rocks

Here are six rock ‘n’ roll wines, in four-four time, ready and willing to ease your mind.
Photo: Pavel Drozda/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

The world’s most famous wine critic is not happy. His claim of “wannabe” scribes hell-bent to focus on obscure wines most consumers can never find has raised a maelstrom of retort. Robert Parker published a diatribe last month about “a vociferous minority” of “euro-elitists” vying for journalistic market share “perpetrating nothing short of absolute sham on wine consumers.”

Them’s fightin’ words. No, not that rant by Robert Parker about Robert Griffin III. Wine critic Robert Parker Jr. railed against a bevy of unnamed bloggers on the natural, honest and low-alcohol wine supporting bandwagon. His claim? Natural wines will be exposed as fraud. Parker’s would-be assailants are an outspoken generation who would seek to bring down those classic grapes capable of ripe extraction and elevated levels of sugar and alcohol, namely Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The intensity-loving reviewer has positioned himself as the establishment, a victim agonizing over the sanctification of “godforsaken grapes,” like Blaufränkisch and Trousseau.

Alder Yarrow of Vinography took exception and proposed a cage match. His column: Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation. Rebecca Gibb’s take: Should Robert Parker Have Listened to Disraeli? Jamie Goode put in his ever-wry two cents: Novelty at the expense of quality? This after Jancis Robinson chimed in with Bottle fight: Novelty v classic wines. Talia Baiocchi had this to say: The Robert Parker Tirade, Continued. Eric Asimov brought it down to a New York state of mind with Why Can’t You Find That Wine? Meanwhile, Steve Heimoff took the other side: There are some kinds of blogs we just don’t need.

There isn’t a writer in the bunch I wouldn’t read, can’t learn from or don’t find funny, but the need to chime in on what is obvious and already understood leaves me dumbfounded. In wine, as in life, there are some things that just are what they are, like them or not. Mr. Parker, you carved your niche. Those who lay with you ate cake. The model worked. It held water and was extremely successful for a long time. You are this week’s Napa Wine Writers Symposium keynote speaker, where you will feel the love. No one will ask, what have you done for me lately? You created the establishment and are of course trying to protect the status quo. You’ve been ridiculously prolific. Integral to the high-frequency, high-end wine buyer. And you are just a writer. Really. So what if the dogs are seeing signs of Queegish dotage. You named no names in your rant, so who exactly did you mean to insult? The world is your oyster. What’s with the bitching?

Perhaps Parker touched an insecure spot, the one where self-doubt creeps in. The one that drives writers to defend themselves, even if the attack is not a personal one. The need to tear him down is strange at best. It smells of poli-campaign slander. If he’s no longer relevant, as a vehement bunch seem to scream and shout, why bother? Why is the wine writing community one where sides desperately need to be taken? To both sides I caution the high road. Let writers write and if you think they are wrong or have nothing to say, ignore them. Like a tree falling in the forest, is an unread writer ever really heard?

It’s understood that controversy sells and lively discourse is healthy. In this case it has produced more than a novella of interesting reads. The current generation of critics, bloggers and reviewers is replete with some stupidly smart writers who have chosen wine as their raison d’écrire. That they chime in and offer their take on everything from varietal obsessions to tasting bans and producer/journalist relationships is certainly fascinating. Arguing the merits of varietal worthiness is fine. Discussing the pros and cons of esoteric versus classic wines on restaurant cards is relevant. Throwing sticks onto the ice, choosing teams and starting fights simultaneous to the debate loses sight of the original topic. I am not suggesting a wine writer’s love in but would more levity and space not foster an environment where the wines themselves matter more than the people who talk about them?

Tasting, talking about and writing up wines seems the course to stay, whether it be reviews on varieties never heard of or an obnoxiously fat glass of buttery Chardonnay. Richard Auffrey fights the good fight but still takes a stab at the beast. The always dry W. Blake Gray floats on in his singular, ethereal way, and by doing so, gets it right. He wants you to know I’ll have some Roussillon, hold the Rivesaltes. With Tuba and Alto Sax. Perhaps Gray would agree with me. If I need a dose of scathing criticism or irony I’ll turn on Bill Maher, or put on a Bill Hicks Rant in E-Minor.

Music and wine can work magic when paired together. Jamie Goode has been exploring the possibilities. Sometimes it’s just a matter of breaking wine down to the base, choosing grapes from places where they are made in straightforward and simply powerful ways. Likewise, clicking an uncomplicated, three-chord arrangement on YouTube or the I-pod can really change the outlook of a day. Here are six rock ‘n’ roll wines, in four-four time, ready and willing to ease your mind.

Clockwise from left: Alamos Torrontés 2013, Lar De Paula Crianza Tempranillo 2008, Sophora Sparkling Cuvée, Grant Burge 5th Generation Shiraz 2012, Thorn Clarke William Randell Shiraz 2010, and Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia Barolo 2008

Clockwise from left: Alamos Torrontés 2013, Lar De Paula Crianza Tempranillo 2008, Sophora Sparkling Cuvée, Grant Burge 5th Generation Shiraz 2012, Thorn Clarke William Randell Shiraz 2010, and Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia Barolo 2008

Alamos Torrontés 2013, Salta, Argentina (81539, $13.95, WineAlign)

From Salta in north west Argentina, what is so appealing about this well-priced bottling is the salinity and outright humidity it always displays. Torrontés gives so much away aromatically, by way of flowers and the verdigris of mountain ferns. This Catena entry-level wine achieves all of the above and for a song. This Alamos is medicinal, reeks of orchids sweating in a greenhouse and teases with white pepper. It’s short and quick but efficient. Excellent value.  88  Tasted January 2014  @CatenaMalbec  @MalbecLife

Lar De Paula Crianza Tempranillo 2008, Rioja, Spain (358770, $16.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Entry-level Rioja was nothing but a house party. Was surely rocking a year ago but now a fading, dry cake of rusticity, with the slightest hydration of charred sour cherry. Solid Crianza, though short-lived, with some bitter notes and good acidity in tight corners. Where once it “said move it, groove it,” now it laments “baby, don’t you lose it.”  87  Tasted February 2014  @HHDImports_Wine

Sophora Sparkling Cuvée, New Zealand (353656, $19.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Frothy, gregarious sparkler from New Zealand with extraordinarily large bubbles, a soft downy texture and a cottony nose. Gentle spice, sweet easy bake brioche and juicy grapefruit is inviting, if advanced by mechanical means. Mellow, smooth, pure and clean with no obvious toast, soap or bitters. Well-priced, drink now fizz.  89  Tasted February 2014  @Select_Wines

Grant Burge 5th Generation Shiraz 2012, Barossa, South Australia, Australia (Agent, $20.00, WineAlign)

High powered, ocean size aromas here, expressing the power and pomp inflection of the Barossan attitude. Very berry and not alcohol shy though it’s a gathered heat and nothing shocking. Swirl this wave of big juice for long enough and though it will feel “like a tooth aching a jawbone,” it’s fleeting and releases to a softer finish. Still, a Shiraz more John than Jane.  88  Tasted January 2014  @GrantBurgeWines  @TrialtoON

Thorn Clarke William Randell Shiraz 2010, Barossa, South Australia, Australia (922773, $43.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Surreal, impossibly dense and terrifically complex Barossa Shiraz, full of dark fruit blues and hard-rocking rhythms. Metallic zinc tincture, causing heavy breathing, steaming like a locomotive with “no way to slow down.” Steals words and all sensitivity from teeth and gums. Such a big expression but certainly not one of the all-time one-dimensional losers. So much more than jammy fruit. To put aside and revisit in 20 years.  91  Tasted February 2014  @pontewine

Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia Barolo 2008, Piedmont, Italy (596890, $49.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Pure Nebbiolo currency, bankable Barolo. This ’08 confirms the old-school austerity of the Colla caste and genre. Parlous handsome perfume, stark, raving Barolo, exact and definitive in angular tannin. Racy, deep and unctuous, nowhere even close to settled or responsive.  There is a lurking depth of flavour not yet willing to cooperate. My kingdom for your Bussia graces.  92  Tasted February 2014  @glencairnwines

Good to go!

Big houses, bigger wines, big-ish prices

Canadian money

The earnest call across the country to free my grapes continues though regrettably, stiff resistance stifles the cause.
Photo: ulga/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

If you live in Canada, purchasing wine ties you directly to a monopoly. There are exceptions, though still imperfect ones, like the free market culture of Alberta and the developing tiered system in British Columbia. The earnest call across the country to free my grapes continues though regrettably, stiff resistance stifles the cause.

Manitoba and BC allow direct to consumer inter-provincial wine imports. Consumers can order from out of province and receive direct shipments so long as the wine  is 100 per cent Canadian. Nova Scotia has passed enabling legislation that will follow a similar path. If you reside in Quebec or a fortiori, in Ontario, having wine shipped to you remains taboo. The alternate recourse of consignment wines available for purchase through local importers is an irregular option and having to buy by the case designs no compass of mass appeal.

Spend even a fraction of the time I do in trying to seek out the best values, at the best prices and in the categories that cater specifically to personal tastes and you will understand how difficult it is to be satiated in such a constricting climate. I am not the only one seeking out red wines made in the vineyard, through minimalist oak intervention, unhindered by residual sugar, produced by passionate and honest winemakers who are vigilant with the softest of hands.

Who does not want their wine to have mass in it, as in life? Who would reject an elixir drawn from iron-rich earth, boiled through limestone and warmed to a rosy madder? Who can deny the pure joy culled from a wine that might steal the words from the mouths of poets?

In Canada, unearthing such gems requires intestinal fortitude, especially considering the search is mapped out in government-controlled stores. Stock norms do not include wines made from lesser-known grapes, from regions and appellations less frequented. It takes time, effort and most of all, patience. Life can get in the way of the endless and unavailing chase; work that pays, kids, weather, fatigue. Sometimes it just makes sense to abide and even embrace the easier, well-worn path. This is where the bigger wineries step in, toting larger case loads and a middle-of-the-road, radio bathos experience.

There are varietal vicissitudes to ferret out from varieties you might have chosen to avoid. New World Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Zinfandel. Rhône blends. Sangiovese blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. Tempranillo. All these grapes are often mistreated, modernized, smothered in oak and homogenized so that their indigenous origins are blurred into a bar of mass-produced chocolate. Occasionally they are done right by their makers.

In what has been such relentless cold, snow and ice, now into the oppressive dog days of winter, don’t think of drinking commercial wine as copping out. The big houses can be your friend, so loosen up and trust me when I tell you I’ve worked very hard to weed out the chaff and promise only to recommend the whole wheat. Here are seven current releases that made the pecuniary cut.

From left: Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, Clos Du Val Zinfandel 2011, and Robert Mondavi Chardonnay 2011

From left: Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, Clos Du Val Zinfandel 2011, and Robert Mondavi Chardonnay 2011

Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Okanagan Valley British Columbia (545012, $24.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Here’s a juicy plum wine with noticeable warm alcohol that goes subterranean and won’t make you homesick for alien Pinot Noir. Athletic red with a quick first step and nerve, running a west coast offence, scoring points.  Char in licorice and a grid-iron, “uptight, uptight” bitter tendency but is a most saucy rendition. Extra point from clean, easy sweet tannins. Good length. Pinot on the radio. Really attractive price puts it at the head of its class.  90  Tasted February 2014  @MissionHillWine

Clos Du Val Zinfandel 2011, Napa Valley California, USA (590216, $24.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Every so often a grape variety confounds and astounds, like this pretty in zinc Zinfandel. Almost mute as far as Zin goes, this CdV ”set out on the heels of the unknown.” Times like these normally produce lumbering, high-octane interpretations but this radical face is the Simon and Garfunkel of the variety. Singing with soft harmonies and composed as if by a deft balladeer. Flair comes from Spanish-like modernity – a good thing for Zin. Less bramble, more Ribera. Less reduction, more Montsant. Smooth as silk, reeking in vanilla, raspberry and symptomatic by a kiss of mineral. If but for one hollow mid-verse this would truly sing but that really is no big thing.  90  Tasted February 2014  @ClosDuValNapa

Robert Mondavi Chardonnay 2011, Napa Valley, California, USA (310409, $25.95, WineAlign)

One of the more quintessential, mid-range, rich and opulent Napa Chardonnays that steps out of the lobster butter dish in 2011. Apple-tinged terpenes show their presence, along with tarragon and a bag of just opened good and plenty. Piquant, poignant vintage, peppery and acting cooler than I ever remember it to be. Whether by chance or by choice, this is a welcome direction though I doubt its kind will soon be seen again.  89  Tasted January 2014  @RobertMondavi

From left: Umberto Cesari Liano Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Wairau River Reserve Pinot Noir 2010, Grant Burge The Holy Trinity Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvédre 2011, and Beronia Viñas Viejas 2010

From left: Umberto Cesari Liano Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Wairau River Reserve Pinot Noir 2010, Grant Burge The Holy Trinity Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvédre 2011, and Beronia Viñas Viejas 2010

Umberto Cesari Liano Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Igt Rubicone Emilia-Romagna, Italy (225086, $29.95)

Decidedly modern in many ways; oak impart, varietal alliance and braggadocio. The nose speaks highly of unsettled alcohol and alchemy. Big on black cherry and earthy with a welcoming and necessary roasted rare and still kicking game component. The mellow support of Cabernet Sauvignon is kicked upside the head by full throttle, oak-laden Sangiovese. Though hot and bothered, there is a keen sense of acumen on display by the Emilia-Romagna team at Umberto Cesari.  89   Tasted January 2014  @UmbertoCesari

Wairau River Reserve Pinot Noir 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand (361253, $29.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Wonderful value in premium Marlborough Pinot Noir. Alluring sylvan aromatics, in a potpourri of violet, rose, plum and strawberry. Sharp, cranberry-pomegranate-cherry fruit flavours, the grain of red fife, and eye-popping acidity. An earthy terroirist, layered and delicious. Warm but not alcohol driven, touched by oak but not shaken and with just one coat of paint.  91  Tasted February 2014  @wairauriver

Grant Burge The Holy Trinity Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvédre 2011, Barossa, South Australia (Agent, 236257, $29.95, WineAlign)

The right Rhône immediacy of the 2011 Barossa vintage gets its hooks right in. Snapping with a direct blow uppercut to the jaw, this Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvédre blend goes right for the jugular with passion, not sugar. It’s a tricky mix, angular yet smooth, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. Terrific charred, meaty flavours mixed with juniper and black raspberry, savoury spice and a chain of tannic length. Will age with metronome precision over a period of 10-15 years.  91  Tasted January 2014  @GrantBurgeWines

Beronia Viñas Viejas 2010, Rioja, Spain  (Agent, $30.00, WineAlign)

This 100% Tempranillo is Beronia’s enigma. Sourced from 40-plus year-old vines and housed for 14 months in new French oak. The Van Morrison bottling, if you will. Forget thoughts of a gnarly, tar and brambly red. This one is compliant and inviting. Cherry cheesecake gives it a dessert-like funk, with a baking spice and savoury plum pudding chaser. Vanilla is the unifying factor, the glaze, the icing on the cake, thanks to those new barrels. “You say “France” and I’ll whistle.” This is a pleasure to taste and ready for consumption.  90  Tasted January 2014  @BodegasBeronia

Good to go!

Super Bowl XLVIII wine odds

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning
Photo: AP Photo

as seen on canada.com

As a Super Bowl libation of choice do you consider wine a foray into the arena of the absurd? If so, you may be right, but you may be wrong. The Super Bowl is absurd. So, what are the odds that wine figures into your Super Bowl gathering? You might just be surprised.

I have participated in the same season-long NFL pool for the past 27 years. It was a “fax” pool in the 90′s and persists as an early days of the internet, send your picks in by e-mail endeavour. I’m still waiting for our administrator to make use of a free internet betting site but then again, there is a certain kind of comfort in the naiveté of low stakes, old-school pool participation. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t watch a single snap without something riding on the games. With apologies to my Peyton Manning-worshipping son, the NFL is just not that interesting and it’s a brutal sport.

Think about it. The game itself is a barbaric testosterone display of gladiator proportions, a war waged by freak of nature behemoths intent on killing one another between the blow of every whistle. Watch an NFL game and you’ll see that a player remains down and hurting after almost every play from scrimmage. When an elite athlete stays down, trust me, he’s hurt. Something has pulled, torn or broken nearly every time you see it.

Then there are the costs; production, hosting, advertising and tickets. According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, “At $4M for Super Bowl ad, it’s ‘almost impossible’ to see return on investment.” The cost to Jersey City for hosting “is a tax on our resources to some degree,” said Mayor Steve Fulop. According to NewJersey.com, “the police presence alone will cost city taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars.” The market for ticket prices opened at $4,000 but now they are just giving them away, with $3,088 being the current average price as of Tuesday afternoon, this according to the Bleacher Report. If you think the prices are too high, you have no business going to the Super Bowl. In 2013 Beyoncé was not paid for performing at the halftime show, though she was awarded $600,000 for “production costs.”

Is this shaping up to be the saddest Super Bowl ever? Joshua M. Brown sure thinks so. “This Sunday, Super Bowl XLVIII (48) will be played in an open-air stadium, built atop a New Jersey swamp, in 2 degree weather, while pretending it’s actually taking place in New York.” So, now does it seem like such a far-fetched idea to drink wine while watching the Super Bowl? Sure, 99 per cent of the American Football hypnotized viewers will have a beer or 12 on Sunday. Hopefully a few thousand will be creative enough to get up from the couch and source something local and craft-related. I will be bringing fine-ish wine to the grid iron festivities. There are well thought out, dedicated and purposed reasons for my choices.

The original elite athletes on this planet were from ancient Greece. Though they may not have tossed around or beat each other silly over an oblong-shaped ball covered in pigskin, they personify the term ‘forbearer’ for real sport. Besides, real men drink Greek red wine.

Wine produced in a region defined by its volcano is also a must. Nowhere does the vinous world bequeath an emphatic lava flow of energy and verve like Etna. Football is a mob mentality game of raw and pure emotion, much like the terroir-driven Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio from Sicily.

Zinfandel is a natural for the Super Bowl. Bold, deep, dark, rich and striking. The brambly flavours scream rough and tough. Zinfandel always lives on the edge. It will also stand up to and support the fatty, greasy and cheesy gamut of flavours on the SB coffee table.

A classic Cabernet-Merlot blend is a must for all the red meat that will be consumed on Sunday. Don’t bother with the modernity or overpricing of soft, voluptuous and velvety Bordeaux or Napa.  This game and your aged beef require some grit. If you live in Canada, go local, as in Okanagan Valley or Niagara Peninsula.

For the sensitive and cerebral man, the Peyton Manning armchair quarterback if you will, look for a well-aged and thoughtful white wine. Hunter Valley Semillon comes to mind. The last time the Seattle Seahawks played in the Super Bowl was 2006. That strikes me as a good vintage to help settle the score.

Here are my five wine picks for Super Bowl 2014 and some music to match.

From left: NICOSIA FONDO FILARA ETNA ROSSO 2010, THYMIOPOULOS VINEYARDS YN KAI OUPAVÓS XINOMAVRO 2010, MCWILLIAM'S MOUNT PLEASANT ELIZABETH SEMILLON 2006, RAVENSWOOD OLD VINE ZINFANDEL 2010, and MALIVOIRE 'STOUCK' CABERNET/MERLOT 2010

From left: NICOSIA FONDO FILARA ETNA ROSSO 2010, THYMIOPOULOS VINEYARDS YN KAI OUPAVÓS XINOMAVRO 2010, MCWILLIAM’S MOUNT PLEASANT ELIZABETH SEMILLON 2006, RAVENSWOOD OLD VINE ZINFANDEL 2010, and MALIVOIRE ‘STOUCK’ CABERNET/MERLOT 2010

NICOSIA FONDO FILARA ETNA ROSSO 2010, Sicily, Italy (362129, $19.95, WineAlign)

Wines from Sicily’s Mt. Etna region and the indigenous variety known as Nerello Cappuccio may seem like a space oddity to many but those who have opened their hearts and minds to the volcanic wonders float “in a most peculiar way.” This Rosso carves a bowie-knife line of lava mineral and Mediterranean salinity right through with bang on acidity and vitality of red fruit. A minor detractor in that it’s a bit saturated, muddled and earthy for Etna, but it brings the mountain down to the tasting room. Licorice, cirasu, plum and the dried grape feeling of zibbibbu. Contagious in spirit.  90  Tasted January 2014

THYMIOPOULOS VINEYARDS YN KAI OUPAVÓS XINOMAVRO 2010, Unfiltered, Naoussa, Greece (360750, $19.95, WineAlign)

Magnificent Macedonian, built upon the unheralded yet stalwart variety Xinomavro. Pure, sweet-smelling gardenia and the refuse of ancient rolling stones express every bit of sun and wind-swept, low bush vines goodness. Purposefully and thankfully unfiltered, so that all the delicious sweet and sour cherry and great biting but sweet tannin are left in. Purity, good sugar/alcohol heights without oak corruption. Earth possessive of mythic undercurrent, sage, wealth of  knowledge, sweet anise and hyssop. Scents of game on the grill. Amazing complexity and length. While tasting this Xinomavro it made me “feel so hypnotized, can’t describe the scene.” Get your rocks off to the Greek 91  Tasted January 2014  @thymiopoulosvin

MCWILLIAM’S MOUNT PLEASANT ELIZABETH SEMILLON 2006, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia  (724492, $19.95, WineAlign)

Such a rare occasion to peer into the portal of aged Hunter Valley Semillon so expectations run high along the lines of gain the ridge and peer out over the great expanse. Emerging classic secondary notes, in tropical low-bush, caramelizing tangy fruit meets sweet hive sticky fashion but, and I take care to be sure, the fruit suffers under a yoke of petrol and a scraping of rocks. The lemon is faint, the fruit disappointingly fading. Listen closely to her voice, “I can’t sing, I ain’t pretty and my legs are thin.” Sure, acidity steals the show but at what cost? Still, a study in Semillon is always a positive so the cellar aging and delayed release must be appreciated. Oh, well89  Tasted January 2014   @McWilliamsWines

RAVENSWOOD OLD VINE ZINFANDEL 2010, Sonoma County, California, U.S.A. (673798, $21.95, WineAlign)

Consistency thy name is Ravenswood in the key of Zinfandel. From typically gnarly old vines scattered around Sonoma County and so young at heart. As solid as a wine can be when blending from so many sites. Vanilla is its calling card, flavouring the pool of berry syrup along with a tobacco-like smokey accent. Good tartness balances the rich fruit. At only 5g/L of residual sugar, this Zinfandel reaches sugar mountain with natural sweetness so, “ain’t it funny how you feel when you’re finding out it’s real.” Bring on the big game chili and beef stew.  89  Tasted January 2014

MALIVOIRE ’STOUCK’ CABERNET/MERLOT 2010, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (321836, was $29.95, now $24.25, WineAlign)

This Niagara Bordeaux-inspired blend comes from a legendary vineyard in the making. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot all ripen and develop phenolic pitch with Findhorn-like, remarkable quality. How and why it ended up on the VINTAGES Bin-End list is beyond explanation. It was a must buy before, now it’s a steal. From A long and ‘wine-ding’ tasting road:  ”From down on the Lincoln Lakeshore is a pitchy rendition with a pronounced roasted espresso note. Seems to me the motherly, Cabernet Franc’s genes have imparted their wisdom into this (63%) Cabernet Sauvignon dominant beauty with big Cassis fruit. Chic, juicy, with a filled in mid-palate and stiff structure. Grab a glass, “leave your cares behind, these are the good times.”  91  Tasted March 2013  @MalivoireWine

Good to go!

Top 20 under-$20 wines of 2013

Top 20 under-$20 wines of 2013

Putting out a top list of wines is not so much an exercise of commendation as it is a look back at an amazing year of tasting and writing about wine.
Photo: michalzak/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Last year I chose to highlight wines that fell into the under $15 niche.  A subsequent column focused on the $30 threshold as the next level to make picks for wines of the year. In retrospect that made it very difficult for wines in the consumer sweet spot, the $15-20 set, to make it onto either list. So, $20 is the over/under this time around.

Ontario is well represented here, taking up five of the 20 spots. If prohibitionist Canada, and especially Ontario would FreeMyGrapes and allow us to taste more than just a handful of Canadian wines produced beyond these borders, I have little doubt that other provinces would have made an appearance here, especially British Columbia.

Countries conspicuously missing are Italy, Argentina and the United States, whereas Portugal, South Africa and Chile are represented twice and Greece once. Value is always found in wines that are good and original, unfortunately the parts that are good are not always original.

Putting out a top list of wines is not so much an exercise of commendation as it is a look back at an amazing year of tasting and writing about wine. It’s a retrospective view, a compilation to sum up the pulling of words like taffy until they become something altogether more pliable and palatable. Just like the swirled, sniffed and tasted wines they describe. While tasting notes are so often chewed and spit out as amphibological waste, the process of formulating them is base and necessary to the culture. Without them we would all just be drinking.

The wine agents that move thousands of diverse wines through our provinces face Herculean tasks to get their wines to the public. It is through their generosity that I am able to taste so many in a calendar year. I’d like to thank Robin Sirutis and Julie Hauser of the Licensee program along with Kelly Taylor, Jim Sheridan, Douglas Webster and team for allowing me into their LCBO home to sample 1000′s more wines from the bi-weekly and shop on-line VINTAGES releases. Not to be forgotten are the many world-class sommeliers who give so much of their time to offer memorable wine experiences, no matter the effort required. So, thanks to all of you, here is my list of top 20, under $20 wines in random order, tasted and reviewed in 2013.

From left: MARÉCHAL BRUT CRÉMANT DE LOIRE, TAWSE ‘SPARK’ RIESLING 2009, CHÂTEAU D'ANGLES LA CLAPE ROSÉ 2012, CALITERRA SAUVIGNON BLANC RESERVA 2013, and ANDRÉ BLANCK ET SES FILS ROSENBOURG PINOT BLANC 2011

From left: MARÉCHAL BRUT CRÉMANT DE LOIRE, TAWSE ‘SPARK’ RIESLING 2009, CHÂTEAU D’ANGLES LA CLAPE ROSÉ 2012, CALITERRA SAUVIGNON BLANC RESERVA 2013, and ANDRÉ BLANCK ET SES FILS ROSENBOURG PINOT BLANC 2011

Sparkling

MARÉCHAL BRUT CRÉMANT DE LOIRE, Loire Valley, France (141077, $15.95, WineAlign)

Foams frothy forth alive and expansive out of a yeasty starter, spins lightly on its A16 axis and revolves tightly wound around a citrus spindle. A working class Marechal, real and made for the people. Perhaps not La Grande Illusion but a wine that will “show the common humanity present across these divisions.” About as good as Méthode Traditionnelle sparkling Loire Chenin Blanc can be and priced to fly.  89  Tasted April 2013  From: See the humanity in real value wine

TAWSE ‘SPARK’ RIESLING 2009, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery only, $18.95)

May just be that bottle of persuasive interrogation and torture to turn even the toughest hold-outs against Sparkling Riesling. A veritable homeland crush of signature grapes, put to a not so traditional test, emerge in piercing, capital dry scintillation. Sparks fly in Beamsville when winemaker Paul Pender and team, “the boy prophets walk it handsome and hot.” This sparkler does the E street shuffle and dances in the dark. The new deal in Ontario bubbles.  “You can’t start a fire without a spark.”  89  Tasted October 2013  From: Top wines shine at Taste Ontario 2013  @Paul_Pender  @Tawse_Winery

Rosé

CHÂTEAU D’ANGLES LA CLAPE ROSÉ 2012, Languedoc Roussillon (Midi), France (323386, $15.95, WineAlign)

Goes classic holy trinity Midi in Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache. Creamy, frosty and savoury in strawberry, rhubarb, balmy tarragon and shrubbery. Finishes with salinity pressed like a salt herring.  91  Tasted June 2013  From: Hot weekend wines and cool Chardonnay  @chateaudangles

White

CALITERRA SAUVIGNON BLANC RESERVA 2013, Casablanca Valley, Chile (275909, $9.95, WineAlign - WWAC 2013 Judges’ Choice)

Great show savvy, really great show. Outright fast flint, white pepper, citrus and fresh herbs. Luscious texture, convincing up the middle and goes deeper than many. Grapey and succulent. Clean, concise winemaking.  90  From: He spits, he scores: World Wine Awards of Canada results  @Caliterra  @imbibersreport

ANDRÉ BLANCK ET SES FILS ROSENBOURG PINOT BLANC 2011, Ac Alsace, France (626606, $14.95, WineAlign)

High on lime citrus and heavy in stones, so much more so than in ’09 and ’10. Green apple in tart tonality, lean and mean.  Much juicier and riper to taste, with the faintest lees note to ground it firmly on Alsatian terrain ferme.  Love this designation. Same vintage release from a year ago.  89  Tasted July 2012  From: A paradox of wine accents  @drinkAlsace

From left: DR. HERMANN ÜRZIGER WÜRZGARTEN RIESLING SPÄTLESE 2007, 2027 CELLARS RIESLING ‘FALLS VINEYARD’ 2012, ROSEWOOD ESTATES SÉMILLON 2011, DE WETSHOF LESCA ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2012, and TE AWA CHARDONNAY 2010

From left: DR. HERMANN ÜRZIGER WÜRZGARTEN RIESLING SPÄTLESE 2007, 2027 CELLARS RIESLING ‘FALLS VINEYARD’ 2012, ROSEWOOD ESTATES SÉMILLON 2011, DE WETSHOF LESCA ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2012, and TE AWA CHARDONNAY 2010

DR. HERMANN ÜRZIGER WÜRZGARTEN RIESLING SPÄTLESE 2007 (313528, $16.95, WineAlign) clocks in at a mere 8 per cent abv and is a nasal microchamber filled with dry ice but taste it and be soothed by its unguent goodness. Minerals, spice and everything nice out of red sandstone, slate soil and just barely beginning to act its age. OK, it may be a touch disjointed but at $17 they are giving it away. I could drink it like wheat grass all summer long.  90  Tasted March 2013  From: Masters wines in purple, yellow and green jackets

2027 CELLARS RIESLING ‘FALLS VINEYARD’ 2012, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (294041, $18.95, WineAlign)

In contrast to brother Foxcroft, this is the more serious vineyard in my estimation. Falls compresses less limestone chalk and instead thunder rolls out glacial boulders. Here there is less grass, herbs, citrus and sea, but rather garrigue blanc, the windswept plain studded with gorse and deeper, sweeter, earthly purity.  91  Tasted October 2013  From: Top wines shine at Taste Ontario 2013   @2027Cellars

ROSEWOOD ESTATES SÉMILLON 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (177758, $17.95, WineAlign)

The leader of the pack. The honey is uncanny. From an earlier note: “is frighteningly honeyed and its blatant acidity brings out all the right zest notes in the seafood. Major (three times) cropping from a “disease control vintage” by Orwinski who “knows the vineyard. It really is his home.” He’s still chanting “drop the crop!” in his sleep. The citrus and soda are glaring, exciting and invigorating in ’11, as is the aforementioned honey, the trump card keeping the Sémillon from being confused for Riesling.  Fascinating study.”  91  Tasted twice, May 2013  From: Showcase Showdown: Rosewood Sémillon  @RosewoodWine

DE WETSHOF LESCA ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2012, Wo Robertson, South Africa (355438, $18.95, WineAlign)

This is exactly what I come to expect and hope for in calcareous, gravel and clay Cape Chardonnay. Robertson study in balance, fortitude and anxiety. Palpable proof of De Westhof’s self-professed attitude towards “site-specific vineyard management and wine-making.” Really pretty white flowers, citrus in C minor and piercing acidity. Proficiently ripe, toasted without tempting caramel and really well-judged. All in for $19. No ifs and or buts.  91  Tasted November 2013  From: Twelve days of wine for Christmas

TE AWA CHARDONNAY 2010, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand (301135, $18.95, WineAlign)

Gives off a good dose of char but in a Penderish way with knowledge that it will dissipate, integrate and elevate this stony ‘River of God’ into a fine, swirling eddy of hard bop goodness. Gorgeous green enamel Ngaruroro meandering to gold. Oleic, alluvial consistency, with a sense of creamed corn, barren straw and built of a gravel verve, taking risks like a Sonny Rollins riff.  91  Tasted February 2013  From: A march of French grapes to dinner  @TeAwaWinery

MARC BRÉDIF VOUVRAY 2011, Ac, Loire, France (685362, $19.95, SAQ $19.55, 10267809, WineAlign)

Indicates grapevines grown of a mineral-rich terroir, like land left after the draining of a lake. Travels into the Loire Valley’s heart of darkness but also shows some increased honey in ’11, fattening the ever-present lemon drop, candied peel, ginger and stony goodness. Chenin as a man in pink pajamas. There is just no worthy value adversary to this tight, racy and wondrous Vouvray.  91  Tasted July 2013  From: Alternative wines for the August long weekend  @ProfileWineGrp   @LoireValleyWine

Reds

BOUTARI NAOUSSA 2008, Pdo Naoussa, Greece (23218, $12.95, WineAlign)

Like other Xinomavro shows that combination of pure fruit and ancient wisdom. Juicy and rustic at the same time, erupting in cherry and a lava flow of hot rocks. There is leather, dry spice and sun-dried fruit. Already bricking like Sangiovese, as if rustic Vino Nobile Rosso. There is simply no earthly reason not to drink this every night for the rest of the summer.  89  Tasted July 2013  From: A midsummer night’s chill red wine  @boutari

QUINTA DOS CARVALHAIS DUQUE DE VISEU RED 2009, Doc Dão, Portugal  (546309, $13.95, WineAlign)

Simple, straight cut, hedonistic Dão pleasure from winemaker Manuel Vieira and the Sogrape Vinhos’ empire. Nothing wrong with that except that at $14 it feels like stealing. An evincive blend of 50 per cent Touriga Nacional, 20 Tinta Roriz and 30 Jaen. Red and black fruit, mineral tension, somewhat gritty but lush in plum, licorice feel and flavour. Really good stuff.  89  Tasted November 2013  From: Twelve days of wine for Christmas  @winePortugalCA

LAILEY VINEYARD WINES CABERNET MERLOT 2011, VQA, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery only, $15)

Speaks the language of vinous accommodation. Abundant very berry fruit if less knotty and peculiar and more accessible than most Niagara Bordeaux blends. No bones about it, languid Lailey in mind of its own wonder. Could drink it straight from the tap.  89  Tasted October 2013  From: Top wines shine at Taste Ontario 2013  @Laileywinemakr

TSCHARKE BAROSSA GOLD MARANANGA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010, Barossa Valley, South Australia (289884, $15.95, WineAlign)

This is really good stuff. Tight attack, bold and tannic, brimming with figgy black fruit, dark chocolate, spirit cake and white pepper. The oldest Barossa Neoproterozoic Schist and Siltstone rocks impart piercing minerality as if the Marananga were blasted out of a cannon.  Tests any Napa Cab under $50.  89  Tasted January 2013  From: Iconic wines, affordable prices  @tscharkewines

VIA CHILCAS SINGLE VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($17.95, 309757, WineAlign)

From the Maule Valley, is graced by amazing freshness and vigorous, new wave energy. With an imagined dragon’s foot securely planted in the ancestry of Chilean wine, this radioactive red is a portal to the industry’s future. Roasted and brewed, in espresso yes but mocha, no. “Welcome to the new age, to the new age.”  91  Tasted September 2013  From: A Chile wind is blowing  @ViaWines

ANETO RED 2009, Doc Douro, Portugal (314930, $19.95, WineAlign)

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  Tasted January 2013  From: Super Bowl wine prediction: Red 49ers over black Ravens  @liffordwine

DOMAINE MANOIR DE CARRA JULIÉNAS 2010, Ac Beaujolais, France (290981, $19.95, WineAlign) The pearl finally puts some funk into “an otherwise empty room.” Dandy, candied peony, cracking good, cinnamon scented and jammy in Rhôneish behaviour. More structure than most.  Beaujolais’ daughter.  91  Tasted May 15, 2013  From: Go Gamay Go

THE FOREIGN AFFAIR THE CONSPIRACY 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (149237, $19.95, WineAlign)

Kissed, re-passed over and threatening to push boundaries as if it were singing “if I could stick a knife in my heart, suicide right on stage.” This Ilya Senchuk beauty may only be ripasso but I like it. Eases my pain and my brain. Excellent verve and honed of a rock star’s capacity to be loved, with tart, red and black fruit in waves, tar and charcoal. Svelte balance in fruit, alcohol, sweet and sour. This is THE vintage for this wine. Ten plus years lay ahead for a long affair and it will be rewarded with praise in future tastings.  92  Tasted April 2013  From: ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll’ (but I like wine)  @wineaffair

JOURNEY’S END SHIRAZ 2007, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (337642, $19.95, WineAlign)

Initiates serious sanguine Stellenbosch intimacy with dusty black cherry and black pepper. Hard to break, like the Northern Rhône, or even Syrah-heavy Châteauneuf-du-Pape but swirl and she will open up. Meaty, gamey, anise, metal-mineral fruit. Hedonistic and certainly clothed in heavy coat but there is an underlying velvet dignity here, though it has not yet shed its bacon baby fat. I would follow this highly complex and intriguing South African for five to 10 years. Already a few years in and not nearly at its peak.  Has ancient experience in its blood.  92  Tasted September 2013  From: Free my Canadian grapes and other love songs  @JourneysEndWine

Good to go!

All I want for Christmas is a big red wine

Red wine

If you have $20 or $40 or $60 to spend on that red wine consumer in your life with a hankering for bold and beautiful, then this list’s for you.
Photo: 7artman/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

The three of you who read my bi/tri-weekly column must have noticed by now that I am diplomatic, almost to a fault, to be as inclusive as possible. I certainly make a point to unearth and make public the best Canadian wines that I can find, especially when they originate so close to home.

Old world, new world, rosé, Sparkling, red wine, and an increasing focus on white wine may have some of you running for the hills but spreading the wealth is the name of the game. Diversity is my keeper but there comes a time when logic and proportion need a break. All I want for Christmas, and for those of you who know me that’s a ridiculous thing to say, is a great big ole’ bottle of red wine.

Who doesn’t? If you have missed the last 25 or so recommendations I’ve laid at your gift giving feet, if you have $20 or $40 or $60 to spend on that red wine consumer in your life with a hankering for bold and beautiful, then this list’s for you. Or, you can buy them all, seven reds for $250 and change. Not too shabby.

From left: ROCCA DELLE MACÌE CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2008, BURIED HOPE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010, and BURIED HOPE TEMPRANILLO 2010

From left: ROCCA DELLE MACÌE CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2008, BURIED HOPE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010, and BURIED HOPE TEMPRANILLO 2010

BURIED HOPE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010, North Coast, California (356113, $19.95, WineAlign)

This 2010 is a new let’s groove label from the somewhat ambiguously defined North Coast appellation of California. An area of three million acres that includes Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties, and portions of Marin and Solano counties. Dusty entry, peppery finish. In between there is distilled cooler red fruit which sweet-heat spikes if only temporarily and ultimately settles into a fine balance of earth, wind and fire. Gifts an admirable sense of wood restraint. Simply “let this groove, set in your shoes” and enjoy its simple pleasures. Available in small quantities for a limited time.  87  Tasted December 2013  @hk_Canada

BURIED HOPE TEMPRANILLO 2010, Ribera del Duero, Spain (350215, $19.95, WineAlign)

The Iberian cousin to the North Coast Cabernet an ocean away likewise enters the fray dusty and flecked by white pepper. What gives it immediate density identity is the juicy, just picked cherry flesh and pencil lead minerality. A sweet blueberry flavour gets lift from edgy tannins so as you ponder this Tempranillo you will note that ”it’s gonna take you years to find out” what it’s all about. But there’s hope, however presently buried, in the descendent nature of its roots.  88  Tasted November 2013

ROCCA DELLE MACÌE CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2008, Docg Tuscany, Italy (930966, $21.95, WineAlign)

One of the most reliable Tuscan houses offers no apology for this CCR’s flamboyance and it works a great vintage for the genre to maximum advantage. There is an intoxicating, exotic soaking of teak, vine stem and bhang counterbalanced by a berry sweetness that cannot be denied. In the end there’s the expected enunciation in modern Italian verse. Like a Tuscan-treated Gaja, gorgeous and tough.  89  Tasted November 2013  @roccadellemacie

From left: SALTRAM MAMRE BROOK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010, WHITE OAK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006, LE VIEUX DONJON CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2011, and BURROWING OWL MERITAGE 2010

From left: SALTRAM MAMRE BROOK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010, WHITE OAK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006, LE VIEUX DONJON CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2011, and BURROWING OWL MERITAGE 2010

SALTRAM MAMRE BROOK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010, Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia (48579, $26.95, WineAlign)

Behold the utter pitchy Barossan, privileged by full-on extraction in as much fruit this amount of money can buy. Tempered by a cool centre, complimented by a tangy finish. The coverall make-up is in high fashion and the big red lives to tell a passionate story after 22 months maturity in oak. Lifted by temperate zest and though it’s more Barossa than Cabernet per se, there is a fortune to be won in the bottle.  89  Tasted November 2013  @SaltramWines

WHITE OAK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006, Napa Valley, Califonia (357723, $49.95, WineAlign)

A curious magnum of this highly underrated Napa Cabernet appeared for tasting. Really delicate and already maturing savoury/sweet florals lengthened by a chain of vanilla grain. Fruit looming large, with a Gershwin summertime grace and Holiday ”unique diction, inimitable phrasing and acute dramatic intensity.”  Cool, soulful, jazzy Cabernet, loaded with pepper and phite. Lady Day Easy Living90  Tasted November 2013  @WhiteOakWinery

LE VIEUX DONJON CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2011, Rhône, France (700922, $57.95, WineAlign)

Following a string of excellent vintages from 2003 to 2010, this clumsy Donjon could be dismissed as not up to par but I beg to differ. Such distinct aromatics can only come from a Donjon. Redolent red berry musk, exotic spices from islands east and west, metal replicate and a brush of vineyard funk. Though it thistle-stings the palate and is presently held back by a tannic core, this CdP has the track record and muscle memory for moving forward. Gathers anise, more funk and so much fruit as it aerates but clearly so much time is needed to settle it down. Look to patience in the requiem realm of 10+ years.  92  Tasted November 2013

BURROWING OWL MERITAGE 2010, British Columbia, Canada (343038, $59.95, WineAlign)

A National Wine Awards of Canada Platinum Medal winner. As massive a corporeal attack as can ever be ascertained from a B.C. Bordeaux blend, of the earth, or any other prodigiously structured Canadian red. Uproariously ripe fruit de rigueur and storming tannins. A boast of plum crushed by an intense, dry, rocky intent. To this Okanagan I say, “you’re the book that I have opened and now I’ve got to know much more.” Crazy stuff for sure, full of unfinished sympathy, with enough fruit to push it to 10 years and beyond. Priced at $45 (winery) and at a premium through VINTAGES.  90  Tasted November 2013  @BurrowingOwlBC

Good to go!

Nine big November best buy wines

The Canadian wine harvest is essentially done. The vines have turned, in cycle as per their natural perforce and in colour.Photo: Phil_Good/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.comLike it or not, the first week of November demands that we begin planning for the holiday season. The wine industry’s senses in Canada are highly acute to the preparations, as witnessed by the unparalleled number of tastings, travel, discussions, wine competitions and awards.

Our provincial liquor boards are especially proactive, wasting no expense to roll out glossy magazines and the proverbial red carpet for a host of high-end, super rich and ripe wines. When the clock strikes Christmas, anything that presents to the consumer that necessary combination of excellence and value will have long been sold through.

The Canadian wine harvest is essentially done. The vines have turned, in cycle as per their natural perforce and in colour. Another signal to seek advice from the wine retinue and to stock up for winter.

To get you headed down the white, yellow, red and black brick road to wine Oz, here are nine serious wines being released this coming weekend, to cellar and to share in these last frantic weeks of 2013.

From left: BELLINGHAM THE BERNARD SERIES OLD VINE CHENIN BLANC 2012, PRINZ VON HESSEN ROYAL RIESLING KABINETT 2011, and HIDDEN BENCH CHARDONNAY 2011

BELLINGHAM THE BERNARD SERIES OLD VINE CHENIN BLANC 2012 (12724, $22.95, SAQ 11154911, $24.75)

Though I was as first confused by the metal guts and bolts of this supertramp of a Chenin Blanc, in a short time I came to understand the greatness of its seasoned ways. From Niël Groenewald’s altitudinous bush vines, I put away the question, “who put Chardonnay in my Chenin Blanc” and replaced it with “don’t criticize, they’re old and wise.” His vines and their wisdom. Lemon drop, candied flower, buttered breakfast apples and apple pie. Can look into the pensieve and smell it in the morning from when I went to school.  91  Tasted October 4, 2013  @BellinghamWines

PRINZ VON HESSEN ROYAL RIESLING KABINETT 2011 (345769, $26.95)

An atomized and candied Kabinett brought into balance by zippy, ranging aromatic peaks. Porcupine tree of atmospheric disturbance, proving yet again that with German Riesling, “the more I get to know the less I find that I understand.” Royal flushed sweet entry, mid-palate plunging cliff jump and in the end a rising launch into the stratosphere of mouth watering acidity.  92  Tasted October 4, 2013

HIDDEN BENCH CHARDONNAY 2011 (68817, $28.95)A study in Beamsville Bench equitable tension, from its wagered ripe fruit in optimum extraction, to a responsible and fundamental barrel absorption. Woody but not wooden, woolly yet not woolen, would be greatness and not what would’ve been. Fine lines, linen and lace. A wine that echoes, acts and appears as an honest product of its makers. Further definitive stuff from Marlize Beyers, Harald Thiel and Hidden Bench.  91  Tasted July 20 and October 4, 2013   @HiddenBench  @BenchVigneron

From left: PEARL MORISSETTE CUVÉE DIX-NEUVIEME CHARDONNAY 2011, NORMAN HARDIE UNFILTERED NIAGARA PINOT NOIR 2010, and BURROWING OWL SYRAH 2010

PEARL MORISSETTE CUVÉE DIX-NEUVIEME CHARDONNAY 2011 303602, $40.00)

A child of a hot and dry summer, a stress-free winter slumber and a non-invasive spring awakening.  Sets out lean, tight and mean, but the dry extract invites spicy, stone fruit and an emergence of tropical lushness. Can there be another specimen that so rightfully defines Pearl Morissette, the top of the Bench or Niagara as a whole in 2011?  93  Tasted July 19, 2013  @PearlMorissette

NORMAN HARDIE UNFILTERED NIAGARA PINOT NOIR 2010 (208702, $39.00, SAQ 11638481, $38.75)

That Norman Hardie can make Pinot Noir in Prince Edward County that could never be confused with any other makes it that much more incredulous to nose this Niagara cousin and know it can only be his. A barb on the very verge of ripe, tart cranberry and as smoky a nose as Hardie’s Pinot wants to be. Strawberry and raspberry red beret. Ashes to ashes but not funk to funky, we know Hardie is a Pinot junkie. Still, this is a warm and melodious Pinot with only one coat of primer. Impressive.  91  Tasted October 4, 2013  @normhardie

BURROWING OWL SYRAH 2010 (73072, $41.95, B.C. $39.99, Alberta $44.99)

This Syrah will cure so many ails. Vouchsafe for a pepper-laced, plasmic mouthfeel, a maroon liquid pewter party of rocks and stones in the mouth. Playful and childlike, digs a pony, playing and offering really good fun. Does its own Okanagan thing becuase “ev’rything has got to be just like you want it to.”  92  Tasted October 4, 2013  @BurrowingOwlBC

From left: CLOSA BATLLET GRATALLOPS 2007, CHÂTEAU LE CAILLOU 2006, and JIM BARRY THE MCRAE WOOD SHIRAZ 2008

CLOSA BATLLET GRATALLOPS 2007 (156398, $49.95)

Stupid gorgeous Priorat and though inaccessible to most of us mere mortals, if you were to shell out $50 in November for one wine, this has to be considered. A blend of 65 per cent Cariñena, 22 per cent Garnacha, with a smattering of Syrah and Merlot. Pure purple pitch, an early summer Catalonian garden in bloom, air warm, breeze light. Wow. Blows high priced Napa and over the top Châteauneuf-du-Pape out of the water. The oak is so beautifully integrated.  94  Tasted October 4, 2013

CHÂTEAU LE CAILLOU 2006 (45682, $49.95)

She’s so very pretty, this righteous and bankable “girl with the right allocations.” She’s a lovely slice of layer cake, alternating in coffee, toffee, vanilla cream and mineral rime. Though her tannins are still grainy, her fruit lingers on. She’s “a girl with a smooth liquidation…a short skirt and a lonnnnng…. lonnng jacket.” Le Caillou continues to bite but she’s not huge, and that’s just right.  92  Tasted October 4, 2013  @VinsdePomerol

JIM BARRY THE MCRAE WOOD SHIRAZ 2008 (737817, $59.95)

So, this 17th vintage tips the brix/alcohol scale in dangerous liaisons but it’s really quite a scorching, gorgeous number. A bomb to be sure, with layers and layers of the most savvy and sygian fruit. A realm of balance is achieved by way of a probing groove. Baking spice, blueberry pie, very peppery, tight, intense, tense, cohesive and righteous.  92  Tasted October 4, 2013  @Jimbarrywines

Good to go!

Free my Canadian grapes and other love songs

People are not just talking about wine law, they’re joining the band.
PHOTO: JARP/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

The discussion is no longer reserved for wine geeks and industry professionals. People are not just talking about wine law, they’re joining the band. The waves of interest may oscillate in the chatter of the public sector and the media, but the time gaps between are narrowing. Talk is no longer cheap. Canadians are speaking up. Restaurant owners are crying out. Farmers are the lead vocalists. Politicians are listening. The cause and the demand is agreed upon. The song remains the same. Free my grapes.

To the uninitiated, the ignorant and the critic, the love-in happening for Canadian wine right now seems slightly counter-culture. The songs may sound a bit Kumbaya-ish or like covers of Lennon and Harrison chants. Make no mistake about it, this is about the business of selling wine and Canadian wineries want a fair deal.

Grape growers and vintners in Canada have a really good thing going save for one small obstacle. Most provinces won’t allow wine lovers to have out of province wine shipped to them. Ontario is not only the largest producer and consumer of wine in Canada, their government is also the most powerful roadblock to free grapes. Will this ever change? I’ve touched on the subject before.

Related - Wine begins to flow across Canadian provinces and Free grapes of colour

The short answer is yes, if the current level of lobbying is any indication. Last night’s Ontario and B.C. Wine chats, the weekly Twitter/Internet discussion boards created and mediated by Shawn McCormick (Ont.) and Sandra Oldfield (B.C.) took the discourse to an entirely new level. There were many new voices on board. The debates centred on Bill 98, the movement of Free My Grapes and liquor review policy, from one government to the next. Bill 98 is a Private Members (MPP Rob Milligan) Bill that could this make it legal for Ontarians to order and have shipped out of province wines. The opposition members bill has PC support and the promising potential for the NDP to follow suit. Bill 98 entitled “An Act Respecting the Importation of Wine, Beer and Spirits from other Provinces” amends the Liquor Control Act to add a provision that permits individuals of legal age to import wine into Ontario from another province as long as it is for personal consumption only.” The bill has passed second reading, following on the heels of MP Dan Albas’ gains in British Columbia.

Last month Sandra Oldfield posted this essential list on her blog. Top 10 reasons to free my grapes. From a local perspective, allowing grapes to flow across the country increases support for farmers, promotes a Canadian wine culture and increases local tourism. Looking at it globally, changing liquor laws and knocking down pre-prohibition provincial walls would drag Canada out of the laughing-stock category in the world of wine-producing countries. There’s the rub. Critics agree that the deregulation of provincial monopolies and the addition of private liquor stores will not cause tax loss suffering. Oldfield goes so far as to suggest the idea of a flat tax should be investigated. She’s not wrong.

What is the truth of the matter? Does the Ontario government lack the courage to effect change over the LCBO? Is tax collection and the billions of dollars annually endowed from the LCBO to the Ontario government coffers the real issue? Are inflated, algorithmic wine and spirits mark-ups at the heart of the matter?

Regardless of the answer, ears are burning, e-mail is buzzing, letters to MPP’s are increasing and petitions are being signed. Kathleen Wynne is at the centre of the storm and her party can no longer avoid the rising tide of change. It’s simply time to get this done and move on to the matter of making and selling great wine. It’s time to focus on terroir, on soil, on somewhereness.

Just yesterday Ontario wine folks tasted through single vineyard blocks of Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir and celebrated the 25th anniversary of winemaking at Henry of Pelham. Why must Canadians continue to waste their time pleading for Canada’s provincial governments to free the grapes?

So, while everyone waits for the inevitable here at home, wine remains a global concern. The greatest redeeming quality of the all-powerful LCBO is in the VINTAGES releases. The coming weekend features some other love songs, six terrific buys highlighted here. There is one lonely, singular offer from British Columbia, the terrific Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2011. Try it and spread the word. Free my grapes.

From left: Fielding Estate Winery Riesling 2012, Featherstone Red Tail Merlot 2011, Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot 2010, Caves Saint Desirat Saint Joseph 2010, Journey’s End Shiraz 2007, and Yabby Lake Vineyard Mornington Peninsula SV Pinot Noir 2010

Fielding Estate Winery Riesling 2012 (251439, $18.95) as per the warm vintage humidifies in increased tropical soupçon. There is a feeling of creamy pineapple and mangosteen, nearly sherbet like, with an expedient and harmonizing lemon/granite boost.  Frothy too and coconut feathery. Finishes pithy but not overly so. Complex Beamsville Riesling.  89  @FieldingWines  @RichieWine

Featherstone Red Tail Merlot 2011 (13150, $19.95) is a carnival of red fruit, sans mask. Raspberry, plum and strawberry, pressed, flattened and rolled.  Blueberry too – it’s a freakin’ berry party. Plum and red licorice sneak in for good measure. That said, why wouldn’t you want your Niagara Peninsula Merlot to smell like this? Very approachable, friendly, with tart acidity to wrap it up in a winning package.  Do not look for anything serious here.  88  @featherstonewne

Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot 2010 (395855, $24.95) is dug in deep, in pedigree, track record and potential. Mysterious, haunting, cave dwelling fruit. Burrows even deeper, with obvious espresso timber assistance. Balanced, structured and long. A classic H of P CM in the making, throwing muses like the ’98, that will show well to 2022. It’s true, it told me. “It tastes like water, but I’m drunk.”  90  @HenryofPelham

Caves Saint Desirat Saint Joseph 2010 (342980, $23.95) in her elegance and grace from the Northern Rhône is the Syrah to quench even the most desperate anadispic thirst. So lithe, so pretty strawberry, so effortless, so drinkable, so food-friendly. Nothing dramatic or overly exceptional here save for a singer-songwriter, Adamsian, heartfelt angst, but this Syrah is crushed with old school desire without being rustic or misunderstood. “With no secrets, no obsession.” Metal felt but not metallic. Just sit back and enjoy.  90

Journey’s End Shiraz 2007 (337642, $19.95) initiates serious sanguine Stellenbosch intimacy with dusty black cherry and black pepper. Hard to break, like the Northern Rhône, or even Syrah-heavy Châteauneuf-du-Pape but swirl and she will open up. Meaty, gamey, anise, metal-mineral fruit. Hedonistic and certainly clothed in heavy coat but there is an underlying velvet dignity here, though it has not yet shed its bacon baby fat. I would follow this highly complex and intriguing South African for five to 10 years. Already a few years in and not nearly at its peak.  Has ancient experience in its blood.  92  @JourneysEndWine

Yabby Lake Vineyard Mornington Peninsula SV Pinot Noir 2010 (262402, $49.95) is imbued with alluring candied morning glory and ginger aromas. Tight, upright and above sweet suspicion. A front-runner for the genre, faintly painted in dawn pastels and flavoured by a puncheon of strawberry and rhubarb. “Tomorrow never knows what it doesn’t know too soon.” Statis Pinot Noir that is the oasis from the peninsula.  93  @YabbyLake

Good to go!

He spits, he scores: World Wine Awards of Canada results

Fresh off the presses, here are the results from World Wine Awards of Canada 2013, presented by WineAlign
Photo: kotoyamagami/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Drinking, by definition, includes consuming and that would obviously be counterproductive to the wine evaluation process. So, wine writers and critics spit for their living. Why would anyone buy a wine on the recommendation from someone who spit it into a bucket? Good question.

Consider another question. How many wine critics does it take to change a light bulb? If the answer were 10, that would be because it would take one to hold the bulb and nine to spin the room. Or the answer might be three. One to decant, taste and spit, and two to take him to the hospital before he bleeds to death. Is the joke and are these responses indicative of how the general public feels about wine criticism? If yes, then the wine consumer’s attitude towards the relevance of wine competitions and the doling out of awards may not exactly be positive and indiscriminate.

A bit of insight for you into the modus vivendi of those who judge wine. Chew over this. A wine is submitted to a concours, tasted several times by a minimum of three critics, all of whom are kept blind as to the clues regarding producer, appellation, region and country. These wine professionals are chosen by and with their peers to judge, sniff, sip, spit and repeat. They consider, contemplate and formulate on the spot tasting notes and then discuss the attributes with a panel before passing final judgement. Seems like a perfectly and indisputably sound and reasonable approach, don’t you think? But what about the spitting part?

Whatever you might think about the use of such an exercise to determine the merit of a bottle of wine, competitions, when run and operated with unbiased integrity, do in fact empower justice to the entrants. Poke fun at the wine critic if you must, felicity knows they can take it, but know their modus operandi is just the same as yours. To seek out the most worthy and best value wines available in their market. The wine critic is self-taught, to internalize the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of a wine without swallowing it. It takes focus and years of practice to figure it out.

WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada 2013

PHOTO: WineAlign.com
WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada 2013

The WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada (WWAC) held in September featured a week-long evaluation process for nearly 1,000 wines (996 to be exact) from around the world. Assembled and organized by an army of volunteers, the Herculean task was orchestrated by one of North America’s most respected wine critics and WineAlign Partner Anthony Gismondi, aka The Spitter. The Vancouver Sun columnist was also responsible for the immeasurable and exacting task of overseeing the pouring and the critical timing of delivery to the judges. Not to mention piles upon piles of tasting notes and scores.

WineAlign WWAC13 Wine Room

WineAlign WWAC13 Wine Room

The WWAC is open to both imported and domestic wines for sale in Canada, provided the wine sells for less than $50 somewhere in the country.  This affords an unparalleled opportunity for all wines sold in Canada to show that they can compete in quality and value with wines from anywhere in the world.  Wines are tasted in three price categories based on the lowest selling price in Canada. Less than $15, from $15 to $25 and from $25 to $50. As a consequence WWAC is really three competitions in one with wines being tasted alongside their peers by price and with awards given by price category.

I was invited to join the other 17 judges for the preliminary rounds. If I were to measure my prosperity by the company I keep, I would indeed be a pecunious wine scribe. I was joined in Mississauga, Ontario by David Lawrason, John Szabo, MS, Steve Thurlow, Sara d’Amato, Bill Zacharkiw, Janet Dorozynski, Rémy Charest, Marc Chapleau, Rhys Pender, MW, Ben Macphee-Sigurdson, DJ Kearney, Treve Ring, Brad RoyaleJulian Hitner, Evan Saviolidis, Anne Martin and Zinta Steprans.

WineAlign WWAC13 judges John Szabo, Julian Hitner and Sara d'Amato

WineAlign WWAC13 judges John Szabo, Julian Hitner and Sara d’Amato

Judges sit three or four together at a table, taste solo through flights of like varieties, procure notes and assign individual scores. Each flight of (three to 12) wines is then discussed, argued, debated and an ultimate meeting of the vinous minds either pushes a wine through to the next round or relegates it to the discard heap. This method of awarding by committee ensures that good wines receive their due blessings and flawed specimens are put in their rightful place.Here’s the kicker. Aside from knowing the price range and specific variety or varieties in a blend, the judges taste all the wines blind. Continent, country, region, appellation and vineyard are not part of the equation. This ensures the most equitable results.

So, fresh off today’s presses, here are the results from WWAC13, presented by WineAlign. Special thanks go out to Head Wineaux, Bryan McCaw, along with Steve Thurlow, Carol Ann Jessiman and Sarah Goddard.

2013 World Wine Awards of Canada Results

Each judge was asked to write reviews on a specific cross-section of wines they were a part of assessing during the competition. Here are my notes on my 28 of them, across a wide range of categories.

From left: Gustave Lorentz Cuvee Amethyste Riesling 2011, Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013, Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2012, and De Vine Vineyards Vrm 2011

Riesling $0-15

Gustave Lorentz Cuvee Amethyste Riesling 2011, Alsace, France $14.95

WWAC 2013 Judges’ Choice WWAC 2013 Best of Variety Under $15

Peppery, perspiring, basal, nasal fruit. Propellant driven with a bite of crisp golden delicious apple and green goddess acidity. At under $15 this achieves Trocken success. Unshakable, abecedarian if not the most formidable Riesling.  88  @AmethystWineInc  @drinkAlsace

Loosen Bros. Dr. L Riesling 2012, Qualitätswein Mosel, Germany $13.95

Pressed and packed with tropical fruit, as if a roll-up, in liquid form. Thoughts head east and south but the textural, angular and vertical intensity peels back that inclination. The extended play and fruit replay is a study in delineated Riesling depth. There must be some history behind the bottle.  87  @drloosenwines  @Select_Wines

Jackson Triggs Reserve Riesling 2012, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, $13.99

Drawn to the off-dry resonance which is both tropical and florid in citrus maxima. That pomello repeats to taste but it falls under a balmy and herbal spell, in a relaxed way. A valley’s elongated attitude, at the foot of a mountain and architecturally sound. Re-mastered, utilitarian Riesling.  85  @Jackson_Triggs

Chardonnay Oaked $15-25

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay 2012, California, USA $16.95

Deft, lissome touch of oak. Subtle, determined orchard fruit, namely pear, barely kissed by a rose and the barrel. Exiguous yet meaningful and pragmatic aromatics. Bright Chardonnay so “a light hits the gloom on the grey.” Seals the deal astir with tang on the snappy finish.  88

PHOTO: Michael Godel White wine flight at the WineAlign WWAC13

Sauvignon Blanc $15-25

Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013, Casablanca Valley, Chile $9.95

WWAC 2013 Judges’ Choice

Great show savvy, really great show. Outright fast flint, white pepper, citrus and fresh herbs. Luscious texture, convincing up the middle and goes deeper than many. Grapey and succulent. Clean, concise winemaking.  90  @Caliterra  @imbibersreport

Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand $15.95

WWAC 2013 Judges’ Choice

Equatorial and profuse but not over the top. Quick, painless slice of jalapeno, a sweet heat capsicum moment. Sauvignon Blanc with a drop of Sriracha, spritz of lime and pinch of salt on ripe tree fruit, like papaya and mango. Add in golden pineapple and kumquat for good salad measure. Nearly great value, if only it were graced with a bit more finesse.  88  @yealands  @TrialtoON

The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand $15.99

Stoic initially, with acute notes of gooseberry, grass and blanched legume. Turns tropical and balmy with a sense of orange marmalade. Confounding in that it could be South Island or Sancerre, but being subjected to such toe tipping is this Sauvignon Blanc’s calling card.  88  @MariscoWine

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand $18.95

Commodious Sauvignon Blanc, candid, candied and calcified. Tropical from what must be an intense vintage, whiffing dewy teak gold plum and prickly pear. Full-bodied and blessed with a long aftertaste. A slice of southern hemisphere confiture on toast.  88  @kimcrawfordwine

White Blends $15-25

De Vine Vineyards Vrm 2011, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $23.00

WWAC 2013 Judges’ Choice WWAC 2013 Best of Variety $15 – $25

A Rhône-ish boy with a tithe of Marsanne in support of equal 45′s of Roussane and Viognier. Mutters in rhyme, beating the drum slowly, in a subtle white flower, pretty print dress. Nothing muddy about the waters this graceful swimmer treads. Sidled by just enough rigor to replay in refrain, “I’m a natural born lovers” wine. Egalitarian revolutions per minute.  90  @deVineVineyards

Road 13 Honest John’s White 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada $25.95

A group of seven grapes, riding on a carousel. A who’s who of white varieties going “round and round and round and round with you. Up, down, up, down, up, down, too.” Elegant and in control, like the stationary horses, this endearing and human blend. Nectarine and longan make appearances in the by committee, ensemble performance.  88  @Road13Vineyards

Pfaffenheim Tete A Tete Pinot Gris Riesling 2012, Alsace, France $15.49

A 50/50 split of Riesling and Pinot Gris, please do not adjust your set, go head to head, mano a mano to duke it out, agree to disagree and ultimately settle to blend and accept the results. Together they procure Époisses and worn socks. On the bright side there is orange zest and fresh squeezed grapefruit. “So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.” Tangy and pithy finish. Abbreviated and horizontal.  85  @AlsaceWines

From left: Jackson Triggs Merlot Gold Series 2008, Road 13 Syrah Malbec 2011, Creation Syrah Grenache 2011, and Cassiano Amarone Della Valpolicella 2008

Syrah $0-15

Fifth Leg Old Dog New Tricks Shiraz 2011, Western Australia, Australia, $15.95

Less calamitous fruit compression in relation to the rest of the flight. Blueberry pie and a concord of baking spices predominate, along with unsettling though bracketing elevated levels of tannin and acidity. Wild and whacking lack of overall integration but possessive of many positive moving parts.  87

Mission Hill Reserve Shiraz 2011, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $19.60

A convection of raspberry jam and forest floor verdant wildness. Notable in not being nearly as wood-driven in relation to peers in adjacent stemware. An inelasticity and diaphanous texture suggests Syrah. Simpatico Shiraz.  87  @MissionHillWine

Red Blends $0-15

Hardys Stamp Series Shiraz/Cabernet 2012, South Eastern Australia, Australia $10.05

Initial thoughts lean towards flattery, in finesse and generosity. Rhône-like rocks and stones trot out the red fruit, spiked by citrus (ripe orange, juiced and reduced). Structured in oxymoronic astringent elegance. Decent to medium length.  87

Sumac Ridge Cabernet Merlot Private Reserve 2011, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $14.99

Stands apart from the under $15 Red Blend flight as an axiomatic, soft conifer in a forest of hardwoods. I was admittedly fooled into thinking Niagara when it really calls the Okanagan Valley home. Semi-hemi-ripe, red stone fruit soused in halogen, spiced by Ween’s seventh album and Korean red pepper. “Even If you don’t” like the alternative character you will be charmed by its friendly production and likable wine/musicianship.  87  @SumacRidgeWine

Louis Bernard Côtes Du Rhône Rouge 2012, Rhone, France $13.00

A copacetic Grenache and Syrah Côtes du Rhône blend that just seems to exist in an Iberian state of mind. It’s the modernity speaking, in deep mauve, lilaceous essence and a palate clotted with poached tomato. Stops adroitly short of cooked or stewed fruit character. Juicy fruit from presumably young vines. Quick yet resplendent.  87  @LouisBernard84  @AuthenticWine

Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2011, Mendoza, Argentina $13.95

Malbec and Venetian Corvina in Ripasso’s Argentinian hands. Raising, hair-triggering, eye-opening aromas in acerbic Daikon intensity. Black bean paste and cedar, earth and char. The flavours echo and further Ripasso’s absorptive ability. Tack on a  snippet of sour mix and an elevated, grizzly bear, altitudinous attitude. This one leaves me “frozen in my tracks.” Certainly not gun-shy85 

Merlot $15-25

Jackson Triggs Merlot Gold Series 2008, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $23.99 WWAC 2013 Judges’ Choice

Like a wine lover’s dessert, this JT Merlot spoons gobs of sun-dried fruit, anise and dried raisin over a compressed and chalky cake of balmy green tea. Youth purloined by developed character, marked by the sauce, not unlike some manic red advance cassettes from Italy’s Mezzogiorno. Now long in the tooth, “how you wound me so tight,” with your unique style, so “don’t say that I’ve lost you.” Its heft will carry it through.  88  @JacksonTriggsBC

Michael Godel, Zinta Steprans and David Lawrason at the WineAlign WWAC13

Red Blends $15-25

Musella Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2009, Verona, Veneto, Italy, $15.95

Soaked and sappy, with braised tree fruit flavours, concentrated and passed over upon itself. Certainly trying very hard to entice and invite hedonistic pleasure. Like an upside down plum and fig cake, dripping in macerated syrup but with enough mineral tension to prorogue another day. Good rehydrated example.  88  @3050Imports

La Fiole Cotes Du Rhone 2010, Rhone, France $15.05

Simultaneously juicy and brooding. Tension from the get go. A depth of dried, fruit leathery plum, soaking in spiked Kefir grain. Bound tight but aching to race free. In Rhône ranger territory, or a Rhône acting on a Hollywood set. Tannic, oaky, manly yes, but I like it too. Admirable length.  88

California Square Paso Robles Red Bland 2012, California, USA $18.95

Downy soft, delicate, cheerful red blend. Pastel watercolour, flower-patterned print as perfume. Warm climate red licorice, plum permeate and cherry saturate, well-integrated acidity and some iron astriction. Would gain weight alongside rich foods.  86  @TrialtoBC

Vignoble Rancourt Meritage 2007, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada $19.80

Chalk dust followed by quality, perceptive, frank and just red fruit. Understated, not overly expressive and walking softly down the road.  85

The Cloof Cellar Blend 2009, Wo Darling, South Africa $20.00

Leaps from the glass with earth expanding aromas. Strapping Pinotage java component shows accommodating restraint in advance of a Turkish viscidity. Red fruit is bright, adhesive and enervetic. Overall a bouncy, tannic and splintered affair.  85  @Cloofwines_ZA

Red Blends $25-50

Road 13 Syrah Malbec 2011, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $25.00

A count five psychedelic strawberry and savoury rhubarb aromatic behemoth. Crazy cherries too. Then, a mind-altering, animal hide moment, not exactly gamey, but something other, enough to cause a psychotic reaction. “(Shouted) And it feels like this!”  90  @Road13Vineyards

Creation Syrah Grenache 2011, Walker Bay, South Africa $32.50

A requiem for an exaggerated swirl, or at least the respect of a decant. Quite a head-smacking whack of mineral-iron-metal, with the tempering lift of a citrus-scented candle. Kirsch, vanillin oak “and my time is a piece of wax fallin’ on a termite, who’s chokin’ on the splinters.” I am the loser, the wine is the winner. Very berry, big and beautiful.  90  @gradwellwines

Cassiano Amarone Della Valpolicella 2008, DocVeneto, Italy $35.25

Quite the animal, this plum juicy and high-octane alcohol, cloying acetone and chocolate-dipped red licorice Venetian red blend. Sounds ridiculously Ripasso and near-Amarone delicious and were it endowed with the balance and structure to walk with the giants I’d sing its praises. Even so, I really believe it’s a “soul who’s intentions are good” so please don’t let it be misunderstood.  87

Masi Costasera Amarone 2008, Veneto, Italy $39.95

A stew of red fruit, prune and fig. Cauterized, steroidal, excessive, welling sensory overload. Leaking car fluids. Certainly a problematic, off-bottle from a reliable, age worthy brand.  80

Pinot Noir $25-50

Leyda Lot 21 Pinot Noir 2012, Leyda Valley, Chile $45.00

Beaucoup de terre, or more likely, mucho suelo. An extreme example of Pinot Noir, a flamboyant king, ostentatious, peacockish and wired by a constriction of spices. There is perhaps too much earthly, saftig body. Though my first impression was admittedly old world, there is no way that theory will hold. A glass in and the thrill is gone, “And now that it’s over, all I can do is wish you well.”  87  @BadDogWine  @WinesofChile

Good to go!