Wine on company time

Algonquin Park, October 2014

Algonquin Park, October 2014

From the Middle English octobre and the Latin October, meaning “eight,” just how the month of October became the Julian and Gregorian 10th is a matter of bad juju. The corporate bumbling by way of the insertion of January and February into the Roman calendar screwed up all available etymological kismet. Perhaps in abbreviation or acronym, October, shortened to OCT, means “On Company Time.” That might explain its delay and parlay to 10th month status.

October has made its sad and beautiful way into song, rarely in joy or rebirth, almost always in tragedy and death. What’s up with that? With leaves turning to every shade of a Tom Thomson watercolour amid Ontario’s landscape that is all pan and even more orama, why the long faces? James Mercer writes, “to hell again and back,” and Amy Winehouse “today my bird flew away.” The lyrics in these songs are anything but uplifting but the tunes themselves are scrappy.

Then there is the October as envisioned by U2, well, there’s an entire album of oppression, repression and depression. “And the trees are stripped bare, of all they wear, What do I care.” 

The good news, through tough times and innocence lost, is the availability of wine. VINTAGES is our facilitator and we are the benefactors, to concentrate on seeking solace in the living, breathing and most complex organism that genies into great bottles of grape ferment. This coming weekend one of my favourite releases on the perennial calender rolls out more value and less plonk than usual. On the heels of anything will sell for Thanksgiving and predating the shelves emptying free for all that is Christmas, October 25th is ideal and satiating. Here are 16 new releases, guaranteed to restore faith in this most troubled month.

From left to right: Andreza Reserva 2011, Flat Rock Unplugged Chardonnay 2013, Morandé Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Château Rigaud 2012, Loimer Grüner Veltliner 2013

From left to right: Andreza Reserva 2011, Flat Rock Unplugged Chardonnay 2013, Morandé Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Château Rigaud 2012, Loimer Grüner Veltliner 2013

Andreza Reserva 2011, Do Douro, Portugal (385849, $16.95, WineAlign)

This blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz (Aragonez) from Lua Cheia em Vinhas Velhas is certainly funky and vineyard driven so that’s a bit of all right, isn’t it? Its phrasing is indelicate and slightly hot but its message is quite clear. Former winemaker for Offley Port and Technical Director for all the Sogrape Vineyards in Portugal João Silva e Sousa and consultant winemaker Francisco Baptista bring forth honest Douro red fruit, along with some mineral and righteous wood spice. Dark, deep and with a wonderful level of anxiety and tension. Gives purpose to modernity.  Tasted October 2014  @FreeHouseWine  @wines_portugal

Flat Rock Unplugged Chardonnay 2013, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (68015, $16.95, WineAlign)

A stoic and fruit aplenty Unplugged, less aromatic than some, equally magnanimous as others. Juicy, orchard fruit that is ripe and then elongated, with just enough acidity to keep it honest through the middle acts of savoury balm. Late tonic pungency lines the output. A very good, if not the finest ever unoaked Chardonnay at the hands of Jay Johnston and Ed Madronich. Then again, the ’07 tasted in February 2014 was a revelation. Who knows what the future may hold for this aloof ’13.  Tasted October 2014  @brightlighter1  @Winemakersboots

Morandé Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Maipo Valley, Chile (389254, $17.00, WineAlign)

Despite the 14.5 per cent alcohol this is beautifully bright, fresh, red cherry fruity and with nary a sign of abstruse chocolate or coffee. The southern hemisphere pulsates in here like a chromosphere of massive, meaty fruit. There is a funk per se but in earth, not wood. Good grain, honest grain, de facto grain. Spice from wood but just as an accent. A romantic one. Admittedly more Maipo than Cabernet but well thought on with the texture of haptic contours. Will satisfy a hunt for October reds to drink right now.  Tasted October 2014  @MajesticWineInc

Château Rigaud 2012, Ap Faugères, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (393561, $17.95, WineAlign)

A bold and beautiful southern French rapport of 55 per cent Syrah, 26 Mourvèdre and 19 Grenache, so very modern and explicitly floral. A veritable Midi garden salad lives in the glass; chicory, acacia, iris, black cherry and lemon. Brassy blend from Languedoc-Roussillon, tangy and of the earth in cohorts for simple, if semi-hedonistic pleasure. Nothing about this screams oak and if the shed was open for a lay down it kept its splintered mits buried within the pockets of its staves. The ’12 Rigaud is meant for near-term luxury, alone or with sundry kinds of protein.  Tasted October 2014  @oenophilia1  @VinsAOPFaugeres

Loimer Grüner Veltliner 2013, Dac Kamptal, Austria (142240, $19.95, WineAlign)

Can any entry level (used with latitude) Grüner speak more clearly of varietal truth than Fred Loimer’s Kamptal? Saline, herbal, juicy and mineral all roll off the golden carpeted tongue. A ripe merging to oxidative line is straddled but acidity keeps reeling in the fruit so no harm, no foul. Flavours of citrus and white peach. Heads medicinally sweet on the finish and lasts longer than could ever be expected. From my earlier April 2014 note: “Increased hang time has put this Kamptal in a deeper state of focus and understanding concerning the intricacies of Langenlois Grüner Veltliner. Continues the pure, clean and crisp axiom of the basic Lois but here the aromatics are spoken in acroamatic terms, obvious to disciples and yet available for all to comprehend. Though five per cent big wood barrel aging does not seem significant, that practice along with four months of aging on the fine lees has had a textural impact. The added weight is a questionable thing, though arguably just splitting hairs. Will help carry this vintage through five to seven years of graceful settling. Last tasted October 2014  @FredLoimer  @LeSommelierWine

From left to right: Bordón Gran Reserva 2005, Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Domaine Hamelin Beauroy Chablis 1er Cru 2011, Giacosa Fratelli Bussia Barolo 2009, Giacosa Fratelli Bussia Barolo 2009, Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Chardonnay 2011, Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Pinot Noir 2011

From left to right: Bordón Gran Reserva 2005, Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Domaine Hamelin Beauroy Chablis 1er Cru 2011, Giacosa Fratelli Bussia Barolo 2009, Giacosa Fratelli Bussia Barolo 2009, Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Chardonnay 2011, Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Pinot Noir 2011

Bordón Gran Reserva 2005, Doca Rioja, Spain (114454, $22.95, WineAlign)

If it were so because of cryogenic preserved must or an accidental tipping and topping up into an unused barrel by recent vintage juice I would not be left hanging with mouth fully agape. Considering the amount of time this flat out delicious Gran Reserva saw in barrel, the mystery must somehow be explained, how it came to be so surprisingly modern and bright (for its age), especially at $23. But it has been seen many times before, with no greater example than the Montecillo 1991 GR that drank fortuitously well into the last years of the previous decade. This is the magic of Rioja. That said, there is some sinew and some raw character here as well – that’s the old school treatment and style talking. Red cherry fruit. Ripe fruit roasted, rested and now sliced, showing its perfectly cooked rare cut. Juicy and with sanguine notes still running through its grain. Wonderful old school yet bright Rioja. Riotous red wine with a calming aura of quietude.  Tasted October 2014  @RiojaBordon  @Eurovintage  @RiojaWine

Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (677450, $24.95, WineAlign)

Dog Point’s principals Ivan Sutherland and James Healy know the innuendo of that ever present Marlborough SB subtlety by allowing the vineyard to show up in the glass. That sussuration is the hallmark of this most righteous bottle. The VINTAGES October 25th release indicates a 2014 debut when in fact it is the ’13 that was presented for tasting and likely that vintage will show up on shelves. This ’13 bring elegance, less weight and more fruit. Round and rippling, spiced but in spicy check. Not the finest but persistent in class and crowing achievement for the stomping ground.  Tasted October 2014  @DogPointWines  @TrialtoON

Domaine Hamelin Beauroy Chablis 1er Cru 2011, Burgundy, France (391805, $29.95, WineAlign)

Thierry Hamelin and his son Charles (no, not the Olympic Speed Skating gold medalist) are eighth generation family winemakers and their 2011 Beauroy, one of the most underrated vineyards in Chablis, or anywhere Chardonnay is made, is both an ode to tradition and an immaculately clean look at the future. Prototypical steely Chablis in every nook of its lithified being and befitting of a 1er Cru designation. Fruit comes by way of some pretty wizened vines (30-plus years) and steep, south-facing slopes. The exposition is both fresh and flinty, the logic sound and spotless. If a creamy, leesy note is felt it’s just a case of genes. In every other respect this is Chablis as both a child of the present and the future. Quality vineyard, vines and fruit given the gift of no mask. This will drink well for five plus years.  Tasted October 2014  @BIVBChablis

Giacosa Fratelli Bussia Barolo 2009, Piedmont, Italy (344721, $39.95, WineAlign)

From the hills of Monforte d’Alba in Piemonte, Bussia is laid out like an amphitheater, the soil is all clay and the Nebbiolo is rich and often austere. Now, here is what temperance and a reliability in attention to classicism is all about. Cherries and ferric earth. Roses and funky beet beats. Tannins stuck on 10, winding and unwinding, but mostly winding. Wild herbs, sweet candied flowers, tight angles, tough and beautiful. Needs many years to wind down. Exceptional value for the real deal in Nebbiolo.  Tasted October 2014  @stradadelbarolo

Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Chardonnay 2011, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (56929, $40.00, WineAlign)

The Claystone 2005 made by Thomas Bachelder was the single-vineyard ringer that shocked the Chardonnay world when it trumped international competitors in a Montreal grand tasting. The 2011 made by Sébastien Jacquey recently won a Silver Medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards. This Jordan, Ontario vineyard is a key clay-limestone foundation for both the Claystone and Village Reserve botttlings. Yet another exemplary ’11 Chardonnay with the omnipresent Jacquey handling for aromatic freshness and layering; candied flower, fresh morning glade and lemon drop, amplified to 11 in ’11. Moreover there is a level of honey not previously witnessed. It smells like natural sugars and like a bloom of sunflower lollipops. Very little (15 per cent new) oak was used so the texture is fluid and palpable, with just a touch of stone/toast/wood spice, but ultimately it’s the top quality fruit allowed to speak its own language.  Tasted October 2014  @LeClosJordanne  @20ValleyWine

Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (33951, $40.00, WineAlign)

Oh so pretty Claystone. Like a butterfly, delicate and gossamer. How can you not mark the change in direction to a most inviting and positive way for the Pinot program with Sébastien at the helm? The paint fumes are dissipating with each passing vintage. These vines belong in Jacquey’s hands – they were made for his touch. He understands them and they are now speaking so clearly, sweetly, with texture that underscores their elegance. When fruit is this subtle, acidity magnified and tannins feigning dry in the early stages of development, a wine can confound and sometimes even seem to be failing. In my view, it is the obtuse that are perhaps guilty of being under appreciative of the Pinot Noir paradox. Like the rest of the ’11’s in the LCJ stable, this is a terrific Claystone with 10 years ahead in sublimity.  Tasted October 2014

From left to right: Ramey Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2012, Besserat De Bellefon Cuvée Des Moines Brut Champagne, Jean Gagnerot Meursault 2011, Château Cantenac Brown 2010, Ornellaia 2011

From left to right: Ramey Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2012, Besserat De Bellefon Cuvée Des Moines Brut Champagne, Jean Gagnerot Meursault 2011, Château Cantenac Brown 2010, Ornellaia 2011

Ramey Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2012, Sonoma County, California (288035, $45.95, WineAlign)

Buttered toast and lemon meringue are clear and concise in this inner-coastal, altitudinous Chardonnay. You just know there is a pent up, wound intensity lurking. Somewhat slow to start, it not being a jump to the front of the pack, first furlong leader. Then it gathers horsepower from texture and power from acidity. While the fruit remains unreleased beneath the moving parts, it’s the spice, lime tang and bitters that propel this Sonoman from sheer wildness in complexity. Impeccable equine balance. Likes the longer track to make the most out of its endurance. Will show its best down the stretch, at the end of the decade.  Tasted twice, October 2014  @RameyWineCellar  @BarrelSelect

Besserat De Bellefon Cuvée Des Moines Brut Champagne, France (724955, $54.95, WineAlign)

This Cuvée Des Moines Brut is fashioned in a decidedly aerified yet grappling crémant style, of firm jaw and air of tragic nobility. Low pressure and dosage in this Chardonnay (35 per cent) , Pinot Noir (20) and Pinot Meunier (45) mix make cause for a new Champagne slang. More than a pinch of ginger burrows into the waft of baking apple scones, marked by sody saleratus and more (two and a half years) leesy tang than you can dip a canoe paddle into. The flavours continue with something akin to pickled apples and sweet pork, if there were such a souse. Really tangy and overtly complex, with a long, long finish, if just a shade on the oxidative side of town.  Tasted October 2014  @BesseratB  @DionysusWines

Jean Gagnerot Meursault 2011, Burgundy, France (390369, $57.95, WineAlign)

Gorgeous and subtle yet clearly spoken aromatics; just a hint of tonic piques some ripe orchard fruit, along with a crisp spike of very little citrus. Round, moving, enveloping and circling, parts unified and oscillating. Great round acidity as a membrane to a full, fleshy Chardonnay that returns again and again, to strength and from strength. The length goes on and snaps back to the beginning. Most excellent Meursault.  Tasted October 2014  @grapewines  @BourgogneWines

Château Cantenac Brown 2010, Ac Margaux, 3e Cru, Bordeaux, France (259424, $89.00, WineAlign)

Whether or not you have left the modern Bordeaux market, attention needs to be paid when an incredible wine at a fair price is made available. Not to be found for any less cash south of the border or across seas, the 2010, 3rd Growth, Margaux Cantenac Brown is the best $50-100 Bordeaux buy of the vintage. Composed of 66 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 34 per cent Merlot, the wine saw its fair share soak in 60 percent new oak. This classic beauty is the epitome of lush and welcoming Bordeaux from a vintage with more sun than 2005. It will make you stop to smell the adjectives. Rich red and black fruit, so very floral and void of any harsh moments about it. I don’t imagine this is to be the longest lived because of its inviting immediacy but it is no shrinking violet. The fruit is in charge and will give it five to 10 years of that parsimonious pleasure. Great late spice and line dancing energy.  Tasted October 2014  @Cantenac_Brown

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 2011, Doc Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy (722470, $189.95, WineAlign)

Hasn’t lost a moment of time through six months in bottle. This should give an indication as to its near-unprecedented longevity. Six years will cast a moment’s advancement, sixteen a fortnight. Not saying it can go 60 but half of that is in the realm of the serious and for certain. Candied yet tempered violets, rocks crushed and sprinkled on cryogenic frozen and restored heirloom berries of yesteryear. Huge tannins. From my earlier, June 2014 note: “The blend of the 2011 Rosso Superiore is Cabernet Sauvignon (51 per cent), Merlot (32), Cabernet Franc (11) and Petit Verdot (6). From a near-sweltering vintage, tempered by a cooling spell in June and July. The late August heat spike brought on early ripening which explains the intense aromatic waft that fills the AGO’s tasting room air. Though following the same (post 12-month) assemblage and return to barriques for a further six months, the richesse in fruit quality and 70 per cent new oak envelopes this ’11 with so many structured layers there remains many years to see where it will go. The rose petal meets violet florality can elicit no parochial parallel, the anxiety in hematological ooze neither. A consideration of the phenolic exceptionality follows suit. Chalky tannins follow chains in a world spinning ’round in lush circles. This is the reference point for such assemblage in Bolgheri. The breakdown will not begin for a minimum 10 years and evolution will continue comfortably, gently and effortlessly for 15-30 after that.”  Last tasted October 2014  @Ornellaia  @sherry_naylor

Good to go!

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September 27th at VINTAGES rolls into October 2nd with Taste Ontario

Taste Local, Love Local Photo (www.lcbo.com)

Taste Local, Love Local
Photo (www.lcbo.com)

This coming weekend’s VINTAGES release will parlay values from around the globe into the meeting place of Ontario stores. Many of the bargains tie directly into a PB and J campaign, a parochial bandwagon advertising juggernaut. The LCBO and Wine Country Ontario‘s #Tastelocal, #Lovelocal and #LCBOGolocal slogans are currently omnipresent, fast forwardly gaining both steam and traction with restos, critics and consumers.

The late, great VINTAGES wine facilitator David Churchill once told me that putting together Taste Ontario was one of the LCBO’s great endeavors. David said the work and time that VINTAGES allotted the event was extraordinary and great care was always afforded the exercise. Next week the chance to taste the most current, largest and impressive cross-section of Ontario wines in one setting will happen with the annual Taste Ontario gala event. When Wine Country Ontario comes to town and joins forces with VINTAGES, it is the writers, sommeliers and restaurant wine junkies who collectively jump trains, catch flames and do what they do. This in the name of getting to know Ontario wines.

On September 27th VINTAGES will release the following 17 wines, though most will already be on shelves before you skim through this tasting note report with all the brevity you can afford. This week’s recommendations come by way of one Sparkling, four Chardonnay, two Riesling, three Pinot Noir, a Sangiovese, a Malbec, a Veneto, a Zinfandel, one Rhône and two Bordeaux blends.

From left to right: Delmas Cuvée Tradition Brut Blanquette De Limoux, Château Des Charmes Paul Bosc Estate Chardonnay 2012, Kistler Chardonnay Les Noisetiers 2012, Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2012, Errázuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2012, Henry Of Pelham Estate Riesling 2012

From left to right: Delmas Cuvée Tradition Brut Blanquette De Limoux, Château Des Charmes Paul Bosc Estate Chardonnay 2012, Kistler Chardonnay Les Noisetiers 2012, Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2012, Errázuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2012, Henry Of Pelham Estate Riesling 2012

Delmas Cuvée Tradition Brut Blanquette De Limoux, Ac, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (179978, $19.95, WineAlign)

Organic and Biodynamic sparkler with a personality all its own. Made primarily from the local grape variety Mauzac (with some Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc), Blanquette is the dry and sylvan style of Limoux. The “little white one” is a lovely little lemon curd Blanquette pulsating in spatially atomic subtlety. Aerified notes hint at sulfur but the breeze is so minor so as not to obstruct the citrus and crucible of candied ginger.  Green apple flavour delights with really good gin and tonic (juniper), lime bitters and a muddle of basil. Pertinent and invigorating example.  Tasted September 2014  @AOCLIMOUX  @RareEarth_Wines

Château Des Charmes Paul Bosc Estate Chardonnay 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (179978, $21.95, WineAlign)

Much oak and buttery crustaceans in this need to relax and settle into a self-induced state of Chardonnay. Quite lactic but that’s not a detractor; it’s a textural overlay that with time will turn lacy, organza even. I would imagine the wrong kind of attitude will not see the acidity for the forest and instead feel that malic is short for malicious behaviour. On the contrary. This is a very good vineyard giving fruit of the right St. David’s kind. With five years it will prove its merit and play matronly with that fresh catch on your plate.  Too big and clunky you say? Put it down. Let it breathe. Take a good inhale/exhale yourself. From my earlier, August 2014 note: “It would be a shame to have missed the found ardor in this tractile, careening Chardonnay. Chances have been taken in 2012, from a vineyard near and dear to a proprietor’s heart and perhaps even his soul. Picked bright and early, vinified bone dry and sent to a Burgundian school, the Paul Bosc Vineyard Chardonnay suffers from ESS (early stricture syndrome) because it (and particularly its shaken lees) have yet to settle. The barrel is confusingly, hardly noticeable and so the ’12’s awkwardness must then be attributed to a milky, marmalade and blues-influenced free-form run. It’s as if the crowd is waiting for one (Garcia-Saunders) song to end and another to begin. The new “anyway you do” slang take on an old blues riff may be misconstrued but, when all is said and done, that’s alright mama, there’s jam and space for your kind too.”  Last tasted September 2014  @Mbosc

Kistler Chardonnay Les Noisetiers 2012, Sonoma Coast, California (251223, $75.95, WineAlign)

Expansive, all over the coast display of Kistler ambition and conceit. Fully ripe and not shy to swim with splinters. Lemon meringue pie, baked Alaska and tarte au citron on one gorging dessert plate. Then the flavours kick in. A lemon Negroni (is there such an animal?) and lemon Hollandaise atop white aspagarus. Decadent, even for Kistler, without the poise and subtlety of the single-vineyard bottlings.  A full on glass of California sunshine. From my earlier, (tasted three times), July 2014 note: “Long distance runner built for endurance, a cool customer able to withstand the heat from a season’s relentless, though moderate, gentle sun, from start to finish. No shortage of ripe fruit and certainly not wanting for the micro-oxygenated slow release of a prized barrel. This might be the two-bit Kistler bottling but it offers up exemplary Sonoma fruit with the temperament and conceit of high caste Burgundy. The style is culled from two poles and pulls in two directions.  At once sharp and piquant, then golden and in mirth. All in all it’s exactly what should be wanted for the buyer who wants what it has to give.”  Last tasted September 2014

Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley (208694, $33.95, WineAlign)

Intimates warm sunshine but can’t hide from its cool nights. An element of periodic surprise wafts straight up and grabs the little nose hairs by the tips, tugs and then let’s go. Hatchoo. Wisps green apple skin, daikon radish and a metal tang. Full on fruit-mineral-earthy expression. Big Chardonnay as ripe as its gets for the Okanagan but carries a hefty (though you might ponder an inordinate exorbitance of 14.5 per cent abv) with relative ease. Goes on at length, about what, I do not yet know, but I’m willing to hang in there for 5-7 years to find out.  Tasted September 2014  @BurrowingOwlBC

Errázuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2012, Casablanca Valley, Chile (738393, $22.95, WineAlign)

The wild ferment Francisco Baettig oeuvre brings into focus a nicely balanced and intimately-integrated-aligned Chardonnay. There is wildness in the form of a toasted bread, rich enzymatic energy and a leather strapping, bullied brawn. The countrified personality is tempered by a roundness, thus limiting its ability to display like an alpha male. Though not delicate or elegant by any stretch, this is Chilean power unleashed and reigned in. It represents really good value.  Tasted September 2014  @errazurizwines  @Dandurandwines

Henry Of Pelham Estate Riesling 2012, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (557165, $17.95, WineAlign)

Classic Short Hills Bench Riesling, magnified by and exemplified in the vintage. Soda enriched fresh juice, bursting berry nose, off-dry palate. Meets all expectations for the realms of juicy and savoury. One of the best yet from H of P at this price. Great value.  Tasted September 2014  @HenryofPelham

From left to right: Wegeler Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett 2012, Kim Crawford Small Parcels Rise & Shine Pinot Noir 2012, Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2012, omaine Marchand Grillot Morey Saint Denis 2012, Viticcio Chianti Classico 2011

From left to right: Wegeler Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett 2012, Kim Crawford Small Parcels Rise & Shine Pinot Noir 2012, Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2012, omaine Marchand Grillot Morey Saint Denis 2012, Viticcio Chianti Classico 2011

Wegeler Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett 2012, Prädikatswein, Rheingau, Germany (378083, $24.95, WineAlign)

From the steepest Rheingau vineyard named after the nearby castle (Schloss) ruin “Ehrenfels” which was built in 1211. The stony terroir for this definitive Riesling is quarzite from the Taunus region with layers of slate. Oh, this has the sultry charm of most excellent Kabinett. Aerified to the stratosphere, dry, toasty and buoyant. The soda blows away into the sky with just a vigorous swirl and the aromas turn to fruit and to stone. Rocking great intensity of many fruits, of trees and of natural grape sugar (in the 80-90 g/L residual range) that is everywhere and nowhere. Acidity is linear and impossibly round at the same time. Typically low in alcohol (around 8 per cent by volume), this rude boy is a crazy Kabinett. It’s like a Barbadian songstress rated “R.” You may ask it “is you big enough?” It will answer, I’m as good as it gets.  Tasted September 2014

Kim Crawford Small Parcels Rise & Shine Pinot Noir 2012, Central Otago, New Zealand (35337, $29.95, WineAlign)

Rich, ripe black cherry and just a hint of earth. Some cola but of the cherry kind. Tart yet sweet, hot and roomy. Built of a scrupulous structure where tannin and astringency bend in many ways.  Does its yoga poses with reluctance then hits the gym. Confounding for Central Otago with what may perhaps be a great future ahead but for now, really wonky. Where is this going? To the dark side, to return in five years and to offer good value in aged CO Pinot Noir.   Tasted September 2014  @kimcrawfordwine  @CBrandsCareers

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2012, Wo Hemel En Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, South Africa (999516, $44.95, WineAlign)

he right and fantastic Pinot Noir stuff from the winemaker with the King Midas (or in this case the Queen Modjadji) touch. The Walker Bay Burgundian specialist fashions some most elegant Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It seems that every vintage is turned to gold, or brings rain when there is drought. The 2012 is marked by bright cherries and really pungent, compressed earth. Fantastically ripe but just before the fall. Pleasure of the incarnate kind. The coat of South African red wine arms is animatedly there but it’s contained, restrained, elegant and yet still powerful. Long, fashionable flow with no visible finish line. This will age for a minimum 10 years and get that smoky glaze and glare.  Tasted September 2014  @TrialtoON

Domaine Marchand Grillot Morey Saint Denis 2012, Ac, Burgundy, France (210906, $54.95, WineAlign)

Here the entry is musty, blows off considerably and leaves the leaf and sweet fruit from strawberry and raspberry. For the spell it’s clean, crisp, pure and inviting. Roses and red fruit, violets and violent rocks careening with a rushing spring river. Those musty notes do persist again, blanketing the dolce, disguising that red fruit. Sharpness stings like Kiwi. Packs a punch of tannin, a bitter, mineral rangy streak that elevates the middle hallows and sends this MSD into really lengthy elasticity. Creamy vanilla comes to the palate with herbal undertones, like Lavender ice cream. This is old school with a modern twist. A really fine example. Tasted twice, September 2014, including blind at the WWAC14  @AmethystWineInc

Viticcio Chianti Classico 2011, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (283580, $24.00, WineAlign)

Big, bad and brooding. Black fruits are intense but surprisingly not overbearing or huge in demanded extract. Chalky, tannic, acidic, long. This is neither average nor to be ignored. It’s in the 13.5 per cent proper Chianti wheelhouse and marches in hipster stride without ever acting obnoxious. Some sanguine activity, along with iron and tension. The real deal. Not the brightest Chianti in the hills but one of a raw, unleashed power.  Tasted September 2014  @chianticlassico   @MajesticWineInc

From left to right: Versado Malbec 2013, Luigi Righetti Campolieti Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2012, Seghesio Zinfandel 2012, Domaine Brusset Tradition Le Grand Montmirail Gigondas 2012, Creekside Laura’s Red 2011, Château Léoville Las Cases 2006

From left to right: Versado Malbec 2013, Luigi Righetti Campolieti Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2012, Seghesio Zinfandel 2012, Domaine Brusset Tradition Le Grand Montmirail Gigondas 2012, Creekside Laura’s Red 2011, Château Léoville Las Cases 2006

Versado Malbec 2013, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (317008, $25.95, WineAlign)

The rocks beneath the earth precede the rich, dark fruit. After the berries and the candy beets and the spices subside the flowers grow and take over the room. The vintage brings more layers than before. Malbec of character and belief, even a touch of good VA, a coat that only the Southern Hemisphere can provide. It is not usually present in Mendozan Malbec so it’s really a breath of fresh paint here in the Versado. Great purity. Protracted length. Most expansive and intriguing vintage to date. The Reserva will be killer. Tasted September 2014  @VersadoWine

Luigi Righetti Campolieti Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2012, Doc, Veneto, Italy (695890, $18.95, WineAlign)

Classic really. Juicy must, musty juiciness. Earth and fruit. Fruity earth. Simple but so effective. Never gets beyond itself or out of its mind. Just the right amount of funk. Maybe the best yet. Great value.  Tasted September 2014  @Smallwinemakers

Seghesio Zinfandel 2012, Sonoma County, California, USA (942151, $29.95, WineAlign)

Rich plum and spicy Zinfandel. Young and tightly wound on a spindle. Needs time to unravel and reveal its charms. In a varietal sense this vintage of the Seghesio has got everything Zin needs and more. More specifically, the definition is out of a cooler vintage, with clear, well-delineated fruit and acidity. Sharp,spicy, focused and full, without ever acting hot, or bothered.  Tasted September 2014  @seghesio

Domaine Brusset Tradition Le Grand Montmirail Gigondas 2012, Ac, Rhône, France (960104, $29.95, WineAlign)

A thick, baking cake of a Gigondas, full of expected dark red Rhône fruitiness, but all in balance. Soapy sandalwood and chalky tannins. Quite grainy. Big, brawny and teeth staining, its “teeth ready, sharpened to bite.” It’s warm but not too hot. Cool centres, some spice and garrigue. Nothing to run away from. Though firm and loyal in the tradition of place, this has rolling stones in its blood so it will age gracefully in a well respected, cool, calm and collected manner. Will grow and grow on you as you work with it. This will age forever as there is just so much fruit. Hedging my bets on 25 years, safe to say.  Tasted September 2014  @rogcowines

Creekside Laura’s Red 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (117960, $19.95, WineAlign)

The most dead red Laura to date, juicy and earthy, like a licorice, plum and pomegranate demi-glace. Really expressive of earth and fruit.  Traditional house blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec and Petit Verdot. A no coat unfastened Niagara, consumer-friendly but also swelling with stuffing. “The light is red. The camera’s on,” the strokes are rich in energy though the tannins dry out a touch. Drink now and for two more years.  Tasted September 2014  @CreeksideWine

Château Léoville Las Cases 2006, Ac St Julien, 2e Cru, Bordeaux, France (566661, $299.00, WineAlign)

The LLC Grand Vin vineyard is very close to the Gironde river, creating a micro-climate that tempers the vines in climate control and matronly comfort. Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc develop here as well as anywhere in the world. Here is an interesting retrospective look at this formidable St. Julien, now having reached the tender and yet developed age of eight. Earthbound distance fruit by way of a chocolate (real dark) truffle and layers of soul stew. Still chalky and tannic, there is enough fruit to keep this going for a decade and a half, or more. Licorice, Cassis and graphite. Wow. Very broad across the late palate, indicating an integration that has begun to realize the potential of this wine. A very good vintage looking back, not one for the ages, but certainly expressive and rich.  Tasted September 2014  @Noble_Estates

Good to go!

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A traditional afternoon with the wines of Carpineto

Carpineto Molin Vecchio 2004

Carpineto Molin Vecchio 2004

Carpineto brings “la Toscana e i suoi vini magliori” to the world. The producer near Greve in Chianti fashions wines from most of the better, best, requisite and constituent locales of Tuscany. The Carpineto library has been laid down from foundations in the DOC and DOCGs of Montereggio, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. Were the Bolgheri on the Maremma coast a part of their portfolio their reputation would surely be further cemented amongst the elite agricole of the region.

What dials Carpineto’s wines in to the natural and honest zone, especially when compared to so many modern peers, is their attention to simple detail. The wines across the board are restrained in alcohol, low in residual sugar and unencumbered by an excess of new oak. The wines are pure Tuscany distilled with seamless though mitigated texture. To a bottle they are a pleasure to taste.

Last Thursday Antonio Michael Zaccheo Jr. of Carpineto came to the WineAlign offices, along with eight of his wines. Together with Tandem Selections, WineAlign principals David Lawrason and Steve Thurlow we tasted through this noteworthy cross section of the Carpineto registry.

From left to right: Rosato 2013, Dogajolo Rosso 2012, Chianti Classico 2012, Chianti Classico Riserva 2008, Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva 2007, Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Molin Vechio 2004

From left to right: Rosato 2013, Dogajolo Rosso 2012, Chianti Classico 2012, Chianti Classico Riserva 2008, Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva 2007, Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Molin Vechio 2004 Photos: Jason Dziver, Photographer (http://www.jasondziver.com/)

Rosato 2013, Tuscany, Italy (699934, $15.95, WineAlign)

The Dogajolo Rosato is a right proper and serviceable Rosé, made from 90 per cent Sangiovese and 10 Canaiolo from holdings in both Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile. Sells quite well at the LCBO and even better at the SAQ where there is a different “attitude towards Rosé.” A gaseous medicine with exceptional salinity. Very dry saigneé, savoury and approachable. The freshly pickled strawberry is a nice touch.

Farnito White 2012, Tuscany, Italy ($24.95, WineAlign)

The Carpineto “White” is made from 100 per cent Chardonnay. Though the intent may be Burgundy, the Tuscan take here is very Italian; tight and forthright in flexure and focus. It is quite amazing how very primary it shows, with its whisper of a kiss by just a chip off the old barrel. Fresh, bone dry and bestowed the angle of Tuscan herbiage. So young that it offers the sensation of just having left the tanks and the wood. Like a leaner and cleaner version of the Cervaro della Sella. Can you say Linguine con le Vongole?

Dogajolo Rosso 2012, Igt Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (361501, $14.95, WineAlign)

Maybe it’s just a marketing term but Carpineto’s Antonio Michael Zaccheo Jr. refers to this as a “baby Super Tuscan,” because that is what it is. To pay $15 for a quarter century of winemaking acumen is anything but a hardship. Lithesome of fruit as opposed to sweet, it’s actually bone-dry (one g/L residual sugar), and artfully crafted for both the primi and secondi piatti. “Now we are in the Sangiovese camp, so good to go.” Well said, Antonio.

Chianti Classico 2012, Tuscany, Italy (356048, $21.95, WineAlign)

For Chianti Classico, 2012 was a good year, not too warm yet ripening occurred early, with the quality set to high, but the quantities were low. A winemaker’s vintage. Carpineto’s CC comes from the northern aspect of the appellation, from a conca (amphitheater) seven km’s east of Greve, by the piccolo hamlet of Dudda. It’s cooler in this part of Chianti, with more rock imparting flavour and textured sensations into the reds. The ’12 is essentially 90 percent Sangiovese and 10 per cent Canaiolo, give or take 10 per cent. Aromas of roses and wet rocks, fresh ripe plums mashed into tomatoes, herbs and a spicy side note. Old school and precisely what CC should be, minus the funk (which it does not have or need). Ultimate pasta wine right here. Traditional style in an up to date way with temperature control and all the tools of a modern facility. No VA, no barnyard, but really natural. This explains the axiom of maintaining tradition. With so many story lines already spoken for in sectarian Chianti, maybe that is the only thing Carpineto has left to hang their Zuccotto on. David Lawrason hits the nail head on. A Chianti that “resets the compass.”  Coming to VINTAGES April 18, 2015

Chianti Classico Riserva 2008, Tuscany, Italy (47118, $29.95, WineAlign)

A wine that is “already performing at purchase time,” like the Chianti Classico but turned up to 11. This has a more than a touch of funk, not exactly barnyard, but surely an earthy forest carpeting. Attribute this to the extra concentration and the élevage – time spent soaking up the barrel. The added marinade works to opposite effect as compared to the CC normale and in my opinion it’s an adverse one. Lost is the freshness and spirit. Still a wine of great Tuscan antiquity, in maintenance of its acidity and full of dark, iron and sanguine pulsing fruit.

Carpineto line-up at www.winealign.com

Carpineto line-up at http://www.winealign.com

Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva 2007, Tuscany, Italy (368910, $29.95, WineAlign)

Carpineto’s Vino Nobile hails from further inland, where the climate is more continental and the dry-farmed clay soils help carry the grapes through warm summers like 2007. Has an intense grapey, raisin and resin character. Really big fruit yet still old school enough to remind us all of the Carpineto oeuvre. This has stuffing, with nary an advancing moment towards a premature future. Blessed with a seamless nose to palate to tannins structure. This is really fine Vino Nobile, “scelto,” a chosen mocker. It’s thick and full but not from oak in any shaken or splintered way. This Prugnolo Gentile comes by its substance naturally, with minimal effort or need of applause.

Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Igt Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (996553, $29.95 WineAlign)

Cabernet planted as 8,000 vines per hectare in Montepulciano resulting in the production of one bottle per vine. Love that equation. Eight tons per hectare is low but not an economically impossible yield. Antonio Michael Zaccheo Jr. insists the single vineyard plot is the largest contiguous vineyard in all of Italy. The vineyard was 15 years old at the time this wine was made, so we’re talking prime time for making world class wine. Spent one year in one third new French and American oak and then a few years in bottle. Not quite as ready to pop and pour like the CCR, this has beast mode written all over its expatriate face. Juicy, chalky and dusty which puts it in contrast to the Sangiovese. This is much more internationally styled and “needs cholesterol of any kind, “ says Antonio Michael. It’s more floral than the Chiantis and the Vino Nobile. Ripe but not overripe, international but unmistakably Tuscany.

Molin Vechio 2004, I.G.T. Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (995308, $59.00, WineAlign)

This vintage is from a single, five hectare vineyard (the wine moves around through vineyards, depending on an assessment of which shows best from year to year). Spent one year in new oak and was bottled in spring 2006. The “Old Mill” is a Tuscan-Bordeaux-Rhône gathering of Sangiovese (70 per cent), Cabernet Sauvignon (20) and Syrah (10). This has a Boschetto al Tartufo (shaved white truffles in cheese) note that is intoxicating. From sandy clay soils, southerly facing with marine sediments planted in the early nineties so the marine impart is just starting to show. Recent vintages should give increased salinity and minerality. Has the aroma of roasting game and savoury, Mediterranean bushes – this is akin to some southern Rhône big wines but the texture is stretched and seamless, not cake-baked and chalky. Great acidity and length. Still quite edgy. Needs at least five more years to come around. Released as part of the VINTAGES September Classics.

Good to go!

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Down on the Ornellaia

Ornellaia 2011 PHOTO: http://www.ornellaia.com/

Ornellaia 2011
PHOTO: http://www.ornellaia.com/

It’s no secret the heart’s soft spot will gladly make room for fine and expensive wine, but not all will walk through that open door. Much Bordeaux intimidation vicariously hectors by way of outlandish collusion in en primeur dictation and so hardens the arteries. Though less so, the Burgundy intimidation relegates the lesser earthling to hide, cower and tense up in circulatory distress. Champagne can be quite kind. Even more so is the Bolgheri.

Tenuta Dell’ornellaia is the benchmark for Super Tuscan solicitude. It pours with pleasure. It reminds us of what was once good and approachable in the pretentious and obnoxious world of expensive wine. It resembles its patriarch, a man who comes to Toronto as a patron of the arts and as a steward of his wine’s goodness.

After tasting through mind-altering back vintages of Ornellaia I am typing away on my laptop in the Art Gallery of Ontario where the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi and winemaker Axel Heinz are generously sharing their wares with a group of journalists, sommeliers and restaurateurs. Ferdinando leans over on a knee, like Brando in the garden of the grand film and smiles at me. “Perché non mangi?” he asks. “Si accende, anche una piastra. Si prega, si mangia.” I may as well be in his home, in Tuscany, in his kitchen, snacking on formaggi. But I am in Toronto and contemplating $1000 worth of exceptional red wine.

One of the softest spots is for Ornellaia. It’s a gorgeously perfumed principessa. Both the previously tasted and reviewed 2010 and 2009 perpetuate the notion.

Related – Holiday wine gems hit November shelves and The Best Wine Releases of 2012

Facilitated by Authentic Wines and Spirits and Sherry Naylor and Associates, the Marchese Ferdinando Frescobaldi and Mr. Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja came to represent Ornellaia for a vertical tasting presented by Axel Heinz. The visit coincided with the 2011 vintage and its association with “Vendemmia d’Artista.” Beginning with the 2006 vintage, the Estate launched the special art project, purposed to celebrate the unique character of each new vintage matched by an artist’s interpretation of that vintage.

Vendemmia d'Artista

Vendemmia d’Artista

For 2011, the “Infinity” character or “L’Infinito” was interpreted by Canadian born artist Rodney Graham. Graham created a work of art and a series of exclusive labels for large format bottles. Each one individually signed and numbered and adorned 100 3-litre Double Magnums, 10 6-litre Imperials and a unique 9-litre Salmanazar. An auction was held at the AGO and raised $126,000 for the institution.

There are vertical tastings and then there are vertical tastings that bring you up. One such as this makes just cause to say I am down on Ornellaia. “People come from all around to watch the magic boy…Bring a nickel, tap your feet.” Here are my notes on the Ornellaia wines tasted at the AGO.

Ornellaia Vertical

Ornellaia Vertical

Le Serre Nuove Dell’ornellaia 2011, Doc Bolgheri Rosso, Tuscany, Italy (606194, $59.95, WineAlign)

Produced since the 1997 vintage, from younger vines and with the intent to produce a ripe and approachable wine. Agefd in barriques (25 per cent new and 75 per cent one year-old). Left for 15 months though assembled after 12 and returned for the last three. The practice induces settling and approachability. Cleary focused with an Ornellaia intent, with the goings on of deep, dark fruit and dusty hedonistic, mulberry fruit. Not quite the Da Vinci muscled cherub that is the big brother renaissance wine, but still the Serre Nuove can’t help show an uncanny resemblance as a younger sibling to Ornellaia. Rich, vanilla mocha, thick and mildly tannic. A three to five-year full-on gamut of pleasure awaits.  Tasted twice, October 2013 and June 2014

Ornellaia 2011, Doc Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ, 11973238, $189.25, LCBO, 722470 (2010), $189.95, WineAlign)

The blend of the 2011 Rosso Superiore is Cabernet Sauvignon (51 per cent), Merlot (32), Cabernet Franc (11) and Petit Verdot (6). From a near-sweltering vintage, tempered by a cooling spell in June and July. The late August heat spike brought on early ripening which explains the intense aromatic waft that fills the AGO’s tasting room air. Though following the same (post 12-month) assemblage and return to barriques for a further six months, the richesse in fruit quality and 70 per cent new oak envelopes this ’11 with so many structured layers there remains many years to see where it will go. The rose petal meets violet florality can elicit no parochial parallel, the anxiety in hematological ooze neither. A consideration of the phenolic exceptionality follows suit. Chalky tannins follow chains in a world spinning ’round in lush circles. This is the reference point for such assemblage in Bolgheri. The breakdown will not begin for a minimum 10 years and evolution will continue comfortably, gently and effortlessly for 15-30 after that.  Tasted June 2014

Ornellaia 2006, Doc Bolgheri Superiore (722470, $189.95, WineAlign)

The blend of the 2006 Rosso Superiore is Cabernet Sauvignon (56 per cent), Merlot (27), Cabernet Franc (12) and Petit Verdot (5). Tasting its not yet developed charms, what is most clear is its strength and vigor. A different Ornellaia, with perfect conditions to ripen Merlot and Cabernet Franc so that their characters have combined to speak their peace. Rolling huge but cool, mint-spiked, black currant and stone emotions come across the aromatic profile. Those right side of the river brain varieties and the Cabernet Sauvignon dominant fruit were clearly all picked at such levels of ripeness as to put the ’06 at harmonious level of sugar, alcohol and rich fruit likely never before seen from this grand vin. The ’06 was fashioned with each vineyard block fermented separately, for a total of 66 different base wines. “So stealthy, so animal quiet,” give this Ornellaia 15 more years of time and it will come to your emotional rescue. It will whisper in a falsetto voice, “I’ll be your savior, steadfast and true.”  Tasted June 2014

Ornellaia 2001, Doc Bolgheri Superiore (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign)

The blend of the 2001 Rosso Superiore is Cabernet Sauvignon (65 per cent), Merlot (30) and Cabernet Franc (5). Though strange to say and admittedly a retrospective comment, the minute quantity of Cabernet Franc and not yet inclusion of Petit Verdot result in a more straightforward and not as heavily layered Ornellaia. The structure is more linear and understandable, the fruit not as variegated. Complexity and Tuscan spiritualism are not compromised by the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot dominant line, in fact, assessing the evolution at 13 years on reveals the Bolgheri terroir in ways the magnanimous and opulent more recent vintages just don’t reach. There is a refreshing acidity in this young and developing ’01 in a streak that again, the baby Superiore do not seem to possess. This is a striking Ornellaia, a wine that would work with exceptional cuisine of varied cultures. It can be enjoyed now and will respond with grace and thanks for 30 plus years more. Tasted June 2014

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When Sangiovese comes to town

Caprili Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2008

From left to right: Argiano Rosso Di Montalcino 2011, Banfi Poggio All’oro Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2007, Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Capanne Ricci Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Caprili Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2008, Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino 1997, La Fiorita Brunello Di Montalcino 2007, Paradisone Brunello Di Montalcino 2007

Love comes to town I’m gonna jump that train
When love comes to town I’m gonna catch that plane

The Consortium of the Brunello of Montalcino is an “association between winemakers bent on safeguarding their wine and on accentuating its qualities.” The group organizes events in Italy and abroad, including trade fairs such as the Benvenuto Brunello. After 47 years of honing their description about one of Italy’s most famous wines, this is Brunello in the Consortium’s nutshell. “A visibly limpid, brilliant wine, with a bright garnet colour. It has an intense perfume, persistent, ample and ethereal. One can recognize scents of undergrowth, aromatic wood, berries, light vanilla and jam. To the taste the wine has an elegant harmonious body, vigorous and racy, it is dry with a lengthy aromatic persistence.”

On March 10, 2014, VINTAGES and the Conzorzio Del Vino Brunello Di Montalcino brought an impressive range of Rosso and Brunello to the Art Gallery of Ontario. Infatuation renewed. VINTAGES Shop Online added nearly 100 wines for sale on their website, many of which have no Ontario importer. For fans of Brunello, this offer is the Tuscan equivalent of the kid being given the keys to the candy store.

It was twenty years ago that B.B. King brought love to town and taught a band to play. It has also been twenty years since I last visited Montalcino. The next visit is high on the bucket list. Imagine the room full of happy tasters when Sangiovese came to town by way of Benvenuto Brunello 2014. The Grosso from Montalcino is loved by many.

Many cellars brim with Brunelli from 1997, 1999 and 2001. More than a handful from 2000, 2003 and 2004. The houses most represented chez Godello are Fuligni, Poggio Salvi, Poggio Antico, Agostini Pieri, Ciacci Piccolomini, Poggio Sotto, Siro Pacenti and Lisini. Like salting your food before knowing what it tastes like, there was a time when purchasing was done as much by habit as by probability. From the 2005 vintage forward there has been an apprehension to spend frivolously and without consent by way of tasting, assessing and determining value.

They’ve been going in and out of style
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile

The 2006 vintage is both distressing and exciting. Simply speaking, it’s just not showing well right now and yet it may turn out to be great. Taking a flyer on the 06’s is a leap of faith. Power to those who do and win. The 2007’s are exquisite and in my mind, a short term gain. Some 2008’s are brilliant, others not so much. Picking was crucial, cliché to say, but crucial. The jury is still out on the difficult 2009’s.

So may I introduce to you 25 notes on Rosso and Brunello tasted @ConsBrunello Benvenuto Brunello.

Argiano Rosso Di Montalcino 2011, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 10252869 $24.10, WineAlign)

When a Montalcino vintage such as 2011 offers up prolonged heat and hang time, typicity can be challenged. Enter Argiano, Sangiovese specialist in adherence to what is base and necessary. Even in such a vintage, Rosso can never be confused with Brunello, the oak just doesn’t have the time to stake its claim. So here there is sour cherry, leather, currants, licorice, anise and especially spice. In 2011 the spice is royal and ancient. The alcohol is hot but the flavours are resplendent. The cherry is tempered by chalky tannin so as a Rosso, this ’11 will give a little bit. A masculine Rosso, “take his hand, you’ll be surprised.”

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Tuscany, Italy (Agent $60.00, WineAlign)

A purposed, perennial powerhouse of consistency, the 2008 incarnation of Argiano keeps the streak alive in a not so perfectly certain vintage. A mess of mineral in polarizing magnetism connects red tree fruit to tilled crop soil. Tannins are not noticeably biting so long-term potential appears to be somewhat stifled. Though only one year into its young history, this Sangiovese Grosso already begs to be enjoyed, if admittedly just a few years young to be the life of the party.

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino 2009, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0154609 $53.00, WineAlign)

If Argiano’s treatment of the 2009 vintage is any harbinger for the community as a whole, sparks will surely fly. Like 2007 there is a sense of flamboyance but unlike ’07 the flirting and cajoling is less about desire and more about sodden, succulent Sangiovese. A rampart of medieval, marching tannin and a keen acidity mark the territory and the terroir. A beautiful vintage, in rejection of rusticity and sure to live for a decade and a half.

Banfi Rosso Di Montalcino 2012, Tuscany, Italy (BCLDB 557967 $26.97, SAQ 864900 $25.00) Such a sneak preview at a precocious young wine can rarely do any true justice in the written assessment but Banfi’s ’12 offers more invitation than most. A wide-reaching, consumer-friendly cherry bomb this Rosso, ergo sumptuous, from a sweet fruit core to the uncritical fringes. Rosso vernacular, for the Hic et nunc.

Banfi Rosso Di Montalcino 2011, Tuscany, Italy (BCLDB 557967 $26.97, SAQ 864900 $25.00, WineAlign)

From estate vineyards in the southern part of Montalcino, clonal selection of the local Sangiovese always plays a focused and pivotal role in Banfi’s Rosso. In 2011 no single-vineyard Brunello wines were made (Poggio alle Mura and Poggio all’Oro) so this Rosso reeks of all the hallmarks of those iconic Brunelli; black fruit, violets, tobacco and the aridty of earth and spice. Most obvious is the sanguine scorched, iron fist that calls for time and as much patience as a Rosso can be afforded. Five years would be nice.

Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 378257 $59.95, BCLDB 127183 $69.95, SAQ 701920 $70.00, WineAlign)

Every bit of obdurate soil and the vintage’s inflexible impart have made their way into Banfi’s extreme games ’08. The pitch is black as night, the aroma dank, expressed espresso and the texture thick as tar. Perhaps it’s the southern Montalcino hills that work severe fruit towards this kind of complex end or maybe it’s just a Banfi thing. Regardless, I can’t think of a recent Banfi normale with such verve, length and attitude. Will settle eventually, to drift off into middle age as a classic Brunello.

Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura 2007, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, BCLDB 127183 $69.95, SAQ 701920 $70.00, WineAlign)

Beginning with this 2007, Banfi beamed the 15 year-old single-vineyard Poggio alle Mura fruit into state of the art, Horizon hybrid stainless steel and wood tanks. The double whammy effect of a most extraordinary gregarious and flamboyant vintage coupled with the new production style fast trekked this Sangiovese to yet seen, nosed or tasted heights. An elixir of satin sheen and glycerin texture, the Mura walks with a firm iron gait and bleeds a mineral rich, hematic ooze. Fierce and delicious at the same time, it’s almost too hot to handle now. Give it five years to settle and enjoy it for five more.

Banfi Poggio All’oro Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2007, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0354571 $95.00, BCLDB 439810 $144.00, WineAlign)

The single “Poggio all’Oro” (golden knoll) vineyard released in the 6th year after harvest needed every minute of its slumber before giving away any idea of itself. An absolute brut of a Brunello at this stage and this in a very forward vintage. Risible to think you understand him, this growling animale, this swelling bruise of pure, raging Sangiovese. Earthy red, rich, reactive, forceful and 20 years from ready.

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0372938 $49.95, WineAlign)

As expected, this is a gritty effort from Barbi, in part the impart of a testosterone-laden vintage, along with the drier and cooler climate from Barbi’s southeastern Montalcino vineyards. A low and slow ripening will surely translate to extended longevity, but the rusticity and leather/cherry continuum will never disappear. No doubt a classic example and very well-priced for such authenticity, still it can’t be helped to see Barbi’s ’08 as entrenched in an earlier period of time. The wine will need 10 years to soften its edges and reveal the refinement and elegance of a well-documented Brunello.

Capanne Ricci Rosso Di Montalcino 2012, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0375170, $27.00)

Sangiovese in such a primary state, A steaming, ferric soup of oxhide flavoured with wood spice. The kiss of chalk and grain confirms an aged intent that succeeds here, even if the practice is not normally recommended for the fresh and juicy Rosso and less so for the vintage. No matter, just wait a year and indulge.

Capanne Ricci Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0375162 $57.00)

An ultra modern Brunello from a vintage seeing more grit than gift. The fresh fruit fragrances and flavours, notably plum and black cherry, are hallmarks of innovation. This under 20 year-old producer dishes out gettable Brunello and this ’08 makes a clean accouch of the practice. Short term gains are on the plate so do no wait.

Caprili Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 11334065 $45.00, WineAlign)

Any Brunello pushing the 15 percent alcohol by volume threshold could never be accused of resisting forward thinking. The Caprili ’08 revs its engine at the start line while the exhaust performs in a state of cathartic extravasation. Sangiovese Grosso aromas of old spew forth, like leather, tobacco smoke, salty cherry and the mineral grit of mean tannins. The car screeches forth in extravagation, leaves the old character behind and races towards a prodigal future. The zoom forward means a profile more akin to representing a superior clone’s expert ripening ability. Thankfully this Caprili resists homogeneity and sets a fine example for the new Brunello.

Caprili Brunello Di Montalcino 2009, Tuscany, Italy (LCBOQ 0305888 $55.00, WineAlign)

From estate grapes grown on the hillside which slopes down towards the Orcia and Ombrone rivers. The Bartolommei family needed a summons of their winemaker’s acumen to reign in advanced fruit from a vintage that saw soaring summer temperatures. This ’09 runs on full throttle, high-octane Grosso and yet is a remarkably, obiter dicta fresh flood of sanguine, berry chalky juice. All that and more actually and while it’s flat out fun to taste at such a young age, its ability to go long is not a sure thing. Plan to enjoy now and for three to five big years.

Caprili Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2008, Tuscany, Italy (LCBOQ 0372755 $65.00, WineAlign)

Caprili’s 2008 Riserva will stand as one of the success stories from a vintage that thrives as a result of where the grapes are planted, a Montalcino truth that is undeniable for all involved. While others sing the blues because of the weather (rain) the Caprili whistles in pentose-underscored Anthocyanin reds, like rooibos and cherry. A leathery Riserva in confident control, marked by great acidity and formidable tannins.

Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino 1997, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0961714 $145.00, WineAlign)

From a golden vintage, this ’97 is crazy good. A fixed, double-edged blade fighting knife dipped into a warm pool of developed liqueur-like sweetness. Seventeen years of languorous modulation and wood-fruit integration had resulted in a gracious Brunello, intrinsically delicious and living large in senescence. Life for the Col D’orcia ’97 is a bowl of cherries. Open one now and for the next three to five years and you’ll know exactly what you’re going to get. Me, “I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years. Nothing’s gonna touch you in these golden years.”

Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino 2006, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 403642 $46.50, WineAlign)

The Montalcino Sangiovese from 2006 will be long-lived and Col D’orcia’s normale bottling is a poster child for the notion. This wine exhibits everything you would expect from an adolescent Brunello of that vintage. Serious and contemplative, the typicity is patent; leather, cherry, smoke and hemic in texture, this is tightly wound and very real. Like so many renditions of 2006, the Col D’orcia showed well in its first year, stepped back to a gritty state and will show its best beginning in 2016. It will age gracefully for 10 more after that.

Col D’orcia Poggio Al Vento Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2004, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0965525 $129.00, WineAlign)

The juxtaposition of vintages (2004 and 2006) is both evident and stupefying. The latter is certainly one to look at in terms of 15-20 years, while the former is one of post-immediate gratification. Two extra years of age has done wonders for this Riserva’s evolution and desire to please. Lush, irresistibly delicious fruit strutting down the catwalk in smooth, leggy, creamy and linear fashion. Brunello rarely pleases in taste and refinement with modern clarity like this ’04. Enjoy now and for 10 more enchanting years.

Col D’orcia Poggio Al Vento Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2006, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0316158 $121.00, WineAlign)

Everything the ’06 Col D’orcia Brunello is, the Riserva is that and more. Densely concentrated, all is amplified; the leather, the cherry and the grit in savoury tannins. The weathered hand of rusticity and blue-collar Sangiovese ethic has a vice-tight grip on the suppressed fruit. It will take a minimum five years to see any type of true release from the natural fortifying acidity of the iron gate prison. Put this Brunello aside and forget about it. Revisit in 2020 and again five to 15 years after that.

La Fiorita Brunello Di Montalcino 2007, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0998195 $75.00, WineAlign)

If La Fiorita’s 2008 Brunello is thatched of pure silk then this 2007 is a metaphorical pillow quilted and dripping of the finest velvet. Pure strung Sangiovese on the softest rope from a duo of Montalcino vineyards and carried ethereally on a Tuscan wind through Slavonian casks and into bottle five plus years later. All this and still remarkably tannic for a Brunello from 2007. A reversal of vintages in aperture, aroma and taste, the ’08 acting out the convivial philandering of its mates, this ’07 metagrobolizing the notion of a repeat performance but asking for more time.

La Fiorita Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0998195 $75.00, WineAlign)

A stunning example of modern Brunello and the closest to pure silk as any at the Benvenuto. From two estate vineyards, Poggio al Sole and Pian Bossolino, one conveying strength, the other delicata. A “white” Brunello this Fiora, so fine, so fair, so beautiful. The fabric is so stylishly woven, it will never be easy to keep down in the cellar. So enjoy it if you can swing it, now and for five pleasurable years.

La Fiorita Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2007, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0372557 $129.00, WineAlign)

La Fiorita’s Riserva is full of wildflower fragrance, deeply concentrated and very much a child of a best fruit forward vintage. Precociously evolved tannins and wizened tree fruit play the a modernity card in a rustic suit. A Brunello with sweet talent, all in for pleasure. A familiar and representative ’07.

Paradisone Rosso Di Montalcino 2008, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0374223 $40.00, WineAlign)

Colle degli Angeli’s 2008 Rosso is a pillar of Sangiovese strength with more structure than most, in girth, density and anxiety. The debate may rage on the merits, yay or nay of such seriousness but knowing what you’re getting is half the battle. Not that this is anti-fresh (there is plenty of cherry extract and rosehip), but the layers of fruit, acidity and tannin go deeper, if a bit towards the earth’s crust. Now six years on, a full settling is not entirely likely, but kudos for the effort. Will drink best in 2015 and for two to three years after that.

Paradisone Rosso Di Montalcino 2009, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0374223 $40.00, WineAlign) The success of Colle degli Angeli’s Rosso 2009 lies in its attention to the details of territory. Like the 2008, it sweats the larger things, namely the tensions between soil, vine vigor and the carbolic acid activity by way of the grape’s extract. Breaking down cherry is the obvious aroma and by natural extension, the flavour. In ’09, a splintered and sinewy rusticity dominates the proportion so match it to a sauce, be it dressing up pasta or smothering a stew. The wine will benefit from the companionship.

Paradisone Brunello Di Montalcino 2007, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0374215 $69.00, WineAlign) Colle degli Angeli’s 2007 Brunello goes against the vintage’s grain by exerting a testosterone attitude in a chapter of predominantly feminine inclination. Butch‘s horse kicks up 15 per cent abv dust, in well-performed aggregate of high alcohol and a sugar quotient of only 1.8 g/L of rose perfumed fruit. Grips the tannic gun tight and outrides Brunello’s sacred laws of palturition. In other words, despite the grit, this ’07 gives birth to a young wine that is quite approachable. The kid performs a sun dance as per the warm vintage. New to Ontario’s market, it might be asked, “who are those guys?”

Paradisone Brunello Di Montalcino 2009, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0374215 $69.00, WineAlign)

Colle degli Angeli’s 2009 Brunello forges a dramatic relationship between grapes, climate and territory. When considered in relative terms to the ’07, the sugar is up a touch (2.3 g/L) and the alcohol down (14.5 per cent). Negligible numbers really but the phenolic make up results in a Sangiovese whose sink is full of funk, alcohol, suede and creamy glycerin. Like the ’07, the grapes come from young, self-willed and boisterous vines ready and willing to tackle both a modern age in Montalcino and the rigors of climate variation. While the azienda agricola may not yet be a household name, the wines are indicative of the goût du terroir as expressed in this rendition.

Good to go!

 

https://twitter.com/mgodello

The death of wine scores?

 

Is the rating simply a tool understood within the context of marketing? Photo: Maria Vazquez/Fotolia.com

Is the rating simply a tool understood within the context of marketing?
Photo: Maria Vazquez/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Not so fast.

As time goes by, I am hearing less comments like, “well that one got a 95,” and “that one is better value because it got a 90.” Wine ratings may increasingly becoming maligned and less frequently employed but that does not mean they don’t have their place. Scores continue to be necessary as a way to evaluate wines that lack a certain level of honesty. Wines on the edge of being dodgily made, encumbered by heavy-handed, industry-fed, mass marketing machines. Scores separate and differentiate the wheat from the chaff when dealing with over the top residual sugar, hyper-acidification, bloated alcohol and (lack of fruit) masking. Embrocating one Malbec an 85 over another’s 84 makes a comment on the relative validities of those two sweetened confections.

Attaching a rating to a tasting note is not a question of right versus wrong. Ratings measure a bottle of wine against its peers. That is the simple answer. The problem is that the tasting experience is a subjective one and each reviewer has personal preferences, so in order to align with one (or more), the consumer must self-calibrate alongside a critic whose palate they’ve figured out. Very difficult to do, so relying on scores has always been the easiest road to travel.

Part of the problem is that tasting notes, on their own, are often fleeting and impossible to grasp. Guilty as charged. Fred Swan put this is the most eloquent terms. “Tasting notes are like photographs, portraying a subject at one brief moment in time and without a back story.” If tasting notes are just snapshots, is that not compelling testimony as to the need for an accompanying score? Or is the rating simply a tool understood within the context of marketing?

Jamie Goode’s take. “I find myself in a tricky position: I use points even though I don’t like to because readers find them useful. And I have to calibrate my scale with the major critics. This pushes me into a corner.”

Still the debate is growing and for good reason. The wine community is tiring of seeing scores, especially those tabulated using the Robert Parker Jr. anointed 100-point scale, attached to a critic’s wine tasting note. The question has always been this. Why would you need scores to sell wine?

Mr. Parker feels so strongly about the entrenched longevity of his system that he’s announced the launch of a new lifestyle magazine called “100 Points by Robert Parker.” Does this sound like a last gasp fling from a captain going down with his ship? Bill Zacharkiw seems to intimate the idea, but the Montreal Gazette wine critic is smarter than to lash out and drag anyone through the mud. Taking a high road, Zacharkiw writes, “from grapes to wine styles, there is truly a wine for everyone. I have my taste, you have yours, and Parker has his.” No, nor scores neither. Nor scores neither.

The fervor and sometimes rage in the argument reminds me of the (second) most famous of Hamlet soliloquys. “Why it appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man!” Most of the voices chiming in on this hot topic only see the ratings world in black and white. There are more shades of grey than many would freely admit. Scores have their place.

Meanwhile, Decanter is reporting that Château Pontet-Canet made a bold decision to test (more than 20 years) of uncharted waters by setting their en Primeur pricing in advance of the taste and ratings levies by the major critics. Since the nineties the likes of Parker, Decanter and Wine Spectator have all but determined Bordeaux Futures pricing. Pontet-Canet’s move is being seen as another nail in the 100-point coffin. One Bordeaux négociant commented, “If other chateaux follow this same pricing model, we might as well go home now.”

The real issue is the bottle itself. In the new world of wine, who has not thrown new stock and a vested interest into wines made naturally, in sustainable, biodynamic or organic ways? Who has not made a resolution to drink more honest wine? Producing good wine still trumps the natural theatre of viticulture and viniculture but honesty is the new order. Honest wines should go forth and be free of wine ratings.

Wine scores can be ignored if we concentrate on what matters. Like apiculate yeast, fermentative vigor, microflora, clonal selection and soil. We also need to talk more about and mention flaws, like chlorinated compounds, hydrogen sulphide and volatile acidity. These are things that are too often brushed under the rug.

I will continue to post ratings of the wines I review on WineAlign because as a community of critics we offer a round table of opinions that allow the wine buyer to make gathered, educated and informed decisions. In consideration that this forum is a singular expression of opinions, this column will no longer attach scores to tasting notes. It’s quite obvious, plain and simple. I only write about honest wines for canada.com. The prose speaks for itself.

With spring beginning this Friday, no joke, here are the last of the great big winter reds. Five wines recently tasted that thrilled by way of their fairness, their honor and their virtue. Wines that need no score.

From left: Mi Terruño Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Pearl Morissette Cabernet Franc Cuvée Madeline 2010, Ruffino Ducale Oro Riserva Chianti Classico 2008, The Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 1990, and Château Calon Ségur 2010, Ac Saint Estèphe

From left: Mi Terruño Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Pearl Morissette Cabernet Franc Cuvée Madeline 2010, Ruffino Ducale Oro Riserva Chianti Classico 2008, The Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 1990, and Château Calon Ségur 2010, Ac Saint Estèphe

Mi Terruño Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Mendoza, Argentina (364133, $15.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 29, 2014 Release

Stands out for its honest fruit, this Mendozan from San Roque district in Maipú county. Qualified by an admirable level of restraint, low in residual sugar and alcohol, straightforward, unencumbered. Winemakers María Eugenia Baigorria and Sergio Giménez have let the fruit speak in clean, level tones, in red berries, licorice red and black, a dusting of spice, red cherry and even strawberry. This is textbook hands off winemaking with nearly exceptional length and simply solid from start to finish. Mi sueno, mi terruño.  Tasted March 2014

Pearl Morissette Cabernet Franc Cuvée Madeline 2010, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula (winery, $38, WineAlign)

Francois Morissette’s 2010 is a pioneering example towards defining Bench appellation Cabernet Franc isomeric reactions. Relationships between grapes of a growing area and their ultimate destination in bottle. An affair of veraison, leaf drop, frost, hand harvesting, whole cluster sorting and berry oak fermenting.  Indigenous yeast, punch downs and overs for phenolic skin extraction and polymerization. Neutral oak and sulfur dioxide to provide antimicrobial and antioxidant protection. An eighteen month somniac’s rest, fine lees and no filtration. The structural arrangement in cohabitation of radicals and ions leads to such a Cabernet Franc. Fully expressive of an endemic, very ripe, vegetal varietal vicissitude that is both inbred and necessary. Currants and peppered berries of power and grit. Dry (2 g/L residual sugar), plump (13.7 per cent alcohol) and scarce (618 cases made). Reflective of the warm 2010 vintage and will always act in stark contrast to the elegant 2011.  Tasted July 2013 and March 2014  @PearlMorissette  On the card at Barque Smokehouse

Ruffino Ducale Oro Riserva Chianti Classico 2008, Tuscany, Italy (353201, $43.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 29, 2014 Release

A re-release showing an exuberance of advanced character. Now acting out the strikingly rich and golden vintage, in Lamé and gilded iron. Speaking a most Tuscan, elite vernacular, already recognizable and evolving into its own skin, with a notion towards herbaceous, dried fruit. A classic pasta and roasted meats red wine. Nonna’s Trattoria kitchen in a glass. Drying just a touch, so drink up. Earlier note: “Slight earthy funk, imparted by the vineyard floor and in part from the wood. Sappy, resinous, distinctively warm-blooded, plummy fruit. Tuscan tang though light on pucker.”  Tasted October 2013 and March 2014

The Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 1990, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, California, USA (662015, $59.00, WineAlign)

A seminal bottling from a game-changing year, for two all important reasons. One, it was a great vintage for Napa reds and two, the Mount Veeder sub-appellation was established. While only 24 years ago, a mere five wineries existed there at the time, including Mayacamas, Mt. Veeder and Hess. No hyperbole to say this is tasting a piece of history. Despite my “shouting all about love,” this splendidly aged Cabernet is not so much about resilience as it is persistence and infinite wisdom. All those years ago there were Napa reds made at a mere 12.5 per cent alcohol, with finesse and a sense of George-like calm. With little aeration there is fig, prune and toffee gently weeping but with air the aged fruit is swept away by a wave of gob stopping Cassis before its time. Preconceived notions of banausic, early days Cabernet are smothered by the magic dust of this Hess religion, a Dharma of licorice, ash and enlightenment. A wine to make you forget where you are. Depth, length and up to a half decade yet of reserved life lay ahead.  Tasted March 2014  @HessCollection 

Château Calon Ségur 2010, Ac Saint Estèphe, Bordeaux, France (259010, $149.85, WineAlign) An In-Store Discovery from the VINTAGES March 29, 2014 Release

A blend that in 2010 is extremely high in Cabernet Sauvignon (86 per cent), with support from Merlot (12) and Petit Verdot (2). Immaculate hue in blue jasmine meets red ochre, echoed by blue and red fruit aromas. A purity of freshness and an exotic perfume distracts from the absurdity of the price, if just long enough to become intoxicated by its qualifications. It really does have it all. Red velvet layer cake made of the finest chocolate, the world’s least refined and highest quality sugar, spices only found in places reached and hand-picked by agile, primate-like humans. So approachable and marked by sweet tannins that will carry this Saint Estèphe for three decades.  Tasted March 2014

Good to go!

Winter white out wine, beer and food conditions

White wine in the snow

The weather will step aside in April. Until then, satiate yourself.
Photo: Sergio Di Giovanni/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

The winter that never ends. White out conditions, snow squalls, wind advisory and chill warnings. Everything just feels heavy. The OPP’s request? Just stay home, Ontario. Prepare for the worst, hunker down and warm the belly with full-bodied wines, strong mocker, beer and hearty winter meals. The weather will step aside in April. Until then, satiate yourself.

Here are six strength fortifying libations to ride the final wave of winter’s brutal conditions.

Clockwise from left: Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Finish, 13th Street White Palette 2011, Ara Single Estate Pinot Noir 2011, Planeta Chardonnay 2010, Bachelder La Petite Charmotte Nuits Saint Georges 2011, and Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino 2008

Clockwise from left: Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Finish, 13th Street White Palette 2011, Ara Single Estate Pinot Noir 2011, Planeta Chardonnay 2010, Bachelder La Petite Charmotte Nuits Saint Georges 2011, and Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino 2008

Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Finish, Scotland, United Kingdom (279349, $3.25)

Stout matured over American Oak Heartwood and infused with Irish Whiskey. A Cimmerian entry in hue and hunger peels back to a curious lightness of being. The wood tends to an Arabian mocha aroma, the whiskey to molasses and gingerbread baking spice. The 7.4 per cent alcohol is integrated though an incendiary smoky magic weighs in to toast biscuits and braise a beefy pot au feu. “The Smoky Life is practiced everywhere,” in the I & G. A beer of good charm, smooth, silky, singing in melodic grace and with confidence.  90  Tasted March 2014  @InnisandGun

The grapes: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay Musqué

The history: Niagara winery founded in 1998. Chablis native Jean-Pierre Colas joined 13th Street as winemaker in 2009. Co-owners of the winery, the Whitty family has been farming fruit in Niagara for well over 100 years

The lowdown: Much of the fruit comes from the estate’s Creek Shores appellation vineyards, sedimentary, well-drained lighter soils on a landscape highly dissected by its many streams.

The food match: Fish Tacos

13th Street White Palette 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula (207340, $15.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 15, 2014 release

JP’s who’s who bottle of white grapes, a mad scientist’s blend, the flask filled with Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay Musque. A re-release and much improved with a year’s extra weight, its “got your body right now.” Fortified by a carapace of grape spirits and purposeful in a white meritage sense of community, plus citrus, pith and a far-reaching, right correct absinthian length. You better you bet.  88  Tasted October 2013  @13thStreetWines

Fish Tacos Photo: Michael Godel

Fish Tacos
Photo: Michael Godel

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: From Marlborough on the western side of the Waihopai Valley. The name is both the indigenous Maori word for “pathway” and Latin for “altar”

The lowdown: “With rugged mountains on either side and two icy rivers cutting through, it’s a pretty extreme place. The very definition of raw, cool climate conditions.”

The food match: Potato Frittata with Feta and Green Onions

Ara Single Estate Pinot Noir 2011, Marlborough, New Zealand (361279, $23.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 15, 2014 release

Immediate impressions are of a user-friendly Pinot Noir in conceit of black cherry, chocolate and blueberry spice. These are surface notes quickly displaced by an adventurous senses of living on the edge. The wine dips into a brine and lithic earth saturated by glacial melt. This is a different sort of Marlborough Pinot that speaks a modern english, if too young to be understood. “I’ve seen some changes but it’s getting better all the time.” Will try the Ara again in a year or two and likely say I melt with you.  89  Tasted February 2014  @AraWine_UK

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Planeta first made this wine 20 years ago in 1994. It has become “the image illustrating the changes taking place in Sicilian wines.”

The lowdown: From Ulmo (calcareous with sections of deep vegetable matter) and Maroccoli (medium clay soil rich in limestone) vineyards in the area of Sambuca di Sicilia. Powerful Chardonnay.

The food match: Taco Night

Planeta Chardonnay 2010, Sicily, Italy (109652, $38.95, SAQ 00855114, $39.15, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 29, 2014 release

Wantonly lavish, heavy and tropically delicious. If ever there were a red wine substitute this is the one for the wishful thinker. Tasting this Sicilian is like liquid breathing sweet and salty, drawn butter. It’s a glass of dessert Chardonnay, dichotomous and oxymoronic in congealed warmth like cold-stabilized, oxygen-rich, perfluorocarbon. The tropical warmth is a combination of honey and lemon-glade, like Savennières with an unexpected aged Jura, oxidized, herbal angle. There can be no arguing the complexity of this Sicilian dream. Extreme humidity, with a bitter middle streak and ground nut flavours.  90  Tasted March 2014  @Noble_Estates  @PlanetaWinery 

Taco Night Photo: Michael Godel

Taco Night
Photo: Michael Godel

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Thomas Bachelder, flying winemaker, architect of the Bachelder Project, of trois terroirs, in Niagara, Oregon and Burgundy

The lowdown: “Burgundy is my favourite place to make wine,” admits Thomas Bachelder. “The large négociant control all (44) 1er cru vineyards so there are not a lot of small growers working with Beaune fruit.” Enter terroirman.

The food match: Roast Chicken, Potatoes, Swiss Chard

Bachelder La Petite Charmotte Nuits Saint Georges 2011, Burgundy, France (357228, $49.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 15, 2014 release

Is so floral, mineral, intense and hypnotic it might be dubbed the Serpent Charmer. Iron and wine indeed, the iron of Nuits, the perfume of Beaune. This provocative bottling represents the third year of production, is conspicuous in Anis de Flavigny and an underlying gate. If montagnes is the harming one, this is the charming one. These are all from the same barrels, so what really affects the wines the most? Land and hand.  93  Tasted November 2013  @Bachelder_wines

Roast Chicken, Potatoes, Swiss Chard Photo: Michael Godel

Roast Chicken, Potatoes, Swiss Chard
Photo: Michael Godel

The grape: Sangiovese Grosso

The history: The family has been in the wine business since Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Florentine Guild of Vintners in 1385. The Antinori estate is responsible for some of Tuscany’s most famous wines; Solaia, Tignanello and Guado al Tasso.

The lowdown: As stalwart a Brunello as any, Pian Delle Vigne is not immune to critical conjecture. Applying kudos to any big house in this polarizing vintage will raise an eyebrow or two. Why not Antinori?

The food match: Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (651141, $59.95, Nova Scotia 1006431, $64.80, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 15, 2014 release

Goes at it older, bolder, tried and truer than had recently been the case, especially in 2007. Leather, cherries, seeping tea and peppery, earthy, funky dates. Purity of fruit, obviousness in Sangiovese Grosso aromatics and it is only when you taste that you are dealt with the full effect of its power and girth. Quite viscous on the palate, tough, gritty chain of tannin and qualified, felicitous bitters on a very long finish.  Best Pian delle Vigne in some time, at least back to 2001.  93  Tasted November 2013  @AntinoriFamily

Good to go!