A ramp to Austrian wine

Rib Steak and Ramps PHOTO: Michael Godel

Rib Steak and Ramps
PHOTO: Michael Godel

‘Tis the season to partake of two things denied opportunity the rest of the calendar year. Wild leeks and Austrian wine. The first is just a seasonal thing. The second, entirely my fault. The forest and my backyard provide the ramps. Two most excellent wine agents, Bernard Stramswasser of Le Sommelier and Mark Cuff of The Living Vine are the messianic purveyors of the wine.

Mark came to Barque Smokehouse last month to share his wares, talk organics, biodynamics and to teach a staff what honest wine is all about. More on that extensive tasting coming soon. Bernard brought top estates from Austria with Andreas Wickhoff, MW to Toronto’s Fine Wine Reserve on April 16th, 2014 for a special portfolio tasting. The Master of Wine is deeply passionate and terroir obsessed when it comes to the Austrian landscape. The presented set of whites and reds rose up to incline an exemplary ramp to the nature of that country’s fine wine tradition.

The whites, mainly centered around the signature variety Grüner Veltliner, showed the mineral and salinity so necessary to the grape’s success. Reds made from Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch are Austria’s trump card, ready and willing to take on the world’s reds imbued of elegance and finesse. Here are notes on the 12 Austrian wines tasted.

From left: Meinklang Grüner Veltliner 2013, Burgenland, Sattlerhof Sauvignon Blanc Vom Sand 2013, Südsteiermark, Wieninger Gemischter Satz 2013, Vienna, Weingut Heinrich Blaufränkisch 2012, Burgenland, F.X. Pichler Federspiel Loibner Klostersatz Grüner Veltliner 2012, Loimer Spiegel Grüner Veltliner 2012

From left: Meinklang Grüner Veltliner 2013, Burgenland, Sattlerhof Sauvignon Blanc Vom Sand 2013, Südsteiermark, Wieninger Gemischter Satz 2013, Vienna, Weingut Heinrich Blaufränkisch 2012, Burgenland, F.X. Pichler Federspiel Loibner Klostersatz Grüner Veltliner 2012, Loimer Spiegel Grüner Veltliner 2012

Meinklang Grüner Veltliner 2013, Burgenland, (Agent, $15.95, WineAlign)

Meinklang is a passionate, biodynamic (Demeter farming) producer in eastern Austria, south of Vienna. Their practices include abstaining from the pruning of vines, called “graupert” and maturation in concrete egg-shaped containers. The vineyard is their biotope and they make compost from animal dung, pomace, plant cuttings and ground quartz. Their entry-level Grüner is so mineral dominant and saline it’s as if the stones are bleeding. Extreme tang, with that salinity that never lets go and so much lime. Then makes quick work of itself.

Weingut Loimer, Grüner Vetliner ‘Lois’ 2013, Niederösterreich, Austria ($18.95, WineAlign)

From Niederösterreich in the Kamptal region, from soil compositions of bedrock and loess, this is straightforward Grüner Vetliner made in 200,000 bottle loads. That it succeeds in spite of the quantity and the work with contract growers is a testament to Fred Loimer’s sense of quality control. A bit shy aromatically but really tangy on the palate. Clear, crisp, clean and appreciably pure. Lithe in body and with some salinity on the back-end. Versatile mingler.

Sattlerhof Sauvignon Blanc Vom Sand 2013, Südsteiermark, Austria ($19.95, WineAlign)

This is bewusst territory for the Südsteiermark producer, from organically farmed vineyards. An elegant Southern Styrian Sauvignon Blanc made from grapes previously destined to get lost with other traditional varieties. Most striking is the salinity on the nose, often abstruse for Sauvignon Blanc but most obviously explained by the land; sand, gravel and shell limestone. Estimable restraint in the whispered aromas of herbs, green vegetable and tangy tree fruit. Dewy finish that lasts well into the morning.

Wieninger Gemischter Satz 2013, Vienna, Kamptal, Austria ($20.95, WineAlign)

Though Grüner Veltliner, Weissburgunder, Welschriesling and Chardonnay make up most of the formidable aspects of this blend from the Vienna Hills, there are bit but integral parts played by 11 others. From bio-certified Bisamberg and Nussberg vineyard sites, this is antithetically seamless, the varieties drawing all possible logical relations woven by their finite collection. Approachable, gritless, effortless, integrated and bound together by a solid core of juicy acidity. Even if only because it agglomerates 15 grapes, this beats white Châteauneuf-du-Pape (by at least six varieties) at its own game.

Nigl Gartling Grüner Veltliner 2012, Kremstal, Austria ($21.95, WineAlign)

The locus point of Nigl’s single vineyard Grüner Veltliner is sharp and stinging in 2012. Although that chemically reactive laser pinning takes control, it is extremely refreshing to not have to talk about flat and flabby fruit. Mind you the fruit here is under stress so balance needs to be questioned. Ultimately there is a palpable sense of grapefruit, flowers and a finish marked by the scraping of stones.

Loimer Langenlois Grüner Veltliner 2013, Kamptal Dac, Kamptal, Austria ($23.95, WineAlign)

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.

Dirty Ramps

Dirty Ramps

Weingut Heinrich Pinot Noir Dorflagen 2013 (Tank Sample), Burgenland, Austria ($24.95)

From two sites in Gols, one being the gravelly Riede Goldberg on the Parndorf Plateau, the other a sand and loam slope of the Salzburg. Short-ish ferment in large-ish barrels. Marked by bright cherry of the upstanding young fruit kind and only a brushstroke of paint. Very linear in that a Rube-Goldberg Pinot machining ensues, as the dominoes fall into each other. One action creates another, mostly due to a fine-grained chain of tannin. As delicate and approachable as Pinot Noir ever was from this far east.

Weingut Heinrich Blaufränkisch 2012, Burgenland, Austria ($24.95, WineAlign)

From a combination of vineyards on both the eastern and western sides of steppe Lake Neusiedl, situated between the easternmost parts of the Alps and the western part of the Small Hungarian Plain. A Blaufränkisch with so much geological and climatic history behind it, with Alpine, Pannonic, Asian, Mediterranean, and Nordic influences. The inclination is to express this unique, later ripening red with terms of bright endearment but it’s much more serious than that. Deeper, earthier and entrenched in the limestone and slate vineyards on Burgenland’s Leithaberg slopes of the Parndorf Plateau. The terroir amplifies and cloaks the fathomage of what is ostensibly tangy, effulgent fruit. More tannin than one would expect, this is a complex organism from a variegated landscape.

Heinrich Zweigelt 2012, Burgenland, Austria ($24.95, WineAlign)

Though 2011 was the best vintage of the last three and Blaufränkisch is the estate’s signature red, this 2012 is a real charmer. The vines for this Zweigelt lay lower, on the flats east of the alpine, steppe lake. They benefit from gravel Heideboden soils and from a nurturing microclimate. The aromatic profile is of spice and dried fruit; licorice, tar, carob and even more specifically, Bokser. All the right pods. Hydrates to sweet cherry fruit and begs for slow-cooked, smoky protein.

F.X. Pichler Federspiel Loibner Klostersatz Grüner Veltliner 2012, Wachau, Austria ($37.95, WineAlign)

From the Loiben basin where eroding, rocky Danube sands mix with gravel to produce lacey and textured Grüner Veltliner. This Federspiel (classified as wines between 11.5–12.5 per cent with a minimum must-weight of 17 degrees) shows more richness, viscosity and body than many with a pronounced spicy edge on top of the highly floral citrus zest. It gives the strange sensation of chewing spicy gum. A Grüner of good temperament beseeching the imbiber to have more than just one taste.

Loimer Langenlois Terrassen Grüner Veltliner 2012, Kamptal, Austria (149674, $39.95, WineAlign)

Loimer’s Terrassen is a Kamptal four vineyard Premier Cru (“Erste Lage”) schmear that is fermented in big wood barrels. The increased weight and body is helped along by extended time on the lees. The ligneous weave is underscored by wood spice and a waft of buff, calcareous Aeolian sediment. The character is as if this Langenlois is scenting a barrel ferment aura in a Chardonnay vein. Classic Grüner Veltliner that is all about texture. Will last for 10 or more years without shedding its baby fat.

Loimer Spiegel Grüner Veltliner 2012, Kamptal, Austria (agent, $64.95, WineAlign)

A site-specific Grüner Veltliner from the Speigel “Erste Lage” vineyard site, this is exemplary and definitive stuff. The 2012 vintage saw a two-day (May 16 and 17) frost that meant a 30 per cent loss in fruit. Not all vintages are profitable but ’12 is showing what top quality wines it was able to produce. A 12-month lay in Acacia barrels, natural vineyard yeasts and five months of aging on the fine lees have conspired for a climb to great Grüner heights. Blooming flowers, mellifluous honey and the freshest, most natural acidity abounds, elevating the aromatics and the buoyant flavours of just picked and bitten into apples. Tremendously wise and elegant wine.

Good to go!

https://twitter.com/mgodello

Cleaned Ramps

Cleaned Ramps

 

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!

https://twitter.com/mgodello

 

Ten more reasons to pour a glass of wine on Halloween

Top 10 reasons to pour a glass of wine on Halloween
PHOTO: QUAYSIDE/OTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

If you missed or would like to be reminded of last year’s top ten list, care to tempt a fate of Sisyphean dread or comedic retribution, then click here:

Related – Top ten reasons to pour a glass of wine on Halloween

Halloween candidly breaks down continence as the most pagan, gluttonous and sickly-sweet, over indulgent night of the year. Sure, self-restraint takes a baseless plunge into holiday abysses; Christmas, Eid al-Fitr, Easter, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Hari Raya Puasa, Sukkot and the list goes on around the world. But a night of candy? Don’t kid yourself. Your not the only one. One Mars bar for the cute seven year-old in the Smurfette costume, two Oh Henry’s for you.

PHOTO: Michael Godel
Cute seven year-old in a Smurfette costume

A few weeks post liminal to the Halloween hangover of 2012 I penned the entry, A toast to the endangered Twinkie. This Twinkie posturing was not only met with cries of “WTF?” but lambasted in the outright anger of many a hipster and political cognoscente who felt insulted and damaged by the hideous notion. The raillery between the lines in my faux ode to the extinct snack was clearly lost, despite a reference to the “Twinkieapocalypse.” So, I swear on the vinocratic oath and please, no wine and peanut butter cup pairings this year. No bubbles and sour candies, no port and milk chocolate bars. If it were available, I might however, have recommended this wine:

https://twitter.com/eugene_vin/status/395214036880470016

I’m no stranger in being an advocate as to the health benefits that can be enjoyed from a glass or two of wine. My column, A wine prescription for cold and flu was met with much love and even more sniggering. Yet the fact remains that a balanced meal and a glass or two of good quality (read: non-chaptalized, honest, light-handed) wine is good for the mind, body and soul.

My suggestion? Eat that early meal, pour yourself and your better half a glass and keep that bottle open for the neighbours and their begging to be topped up travellers.  Do be careful what you wish for – you might be the popular, go to house. Just don’t forget to stock up on extra treats. Here are another top 10 reasons to pour a glass of wine and the three bottles I plan to open and dole out on Halloween.

  1. So you will consider the phrase “trick or treat, smell my feet” as a compliment
  2. To build up immunity to better brave the cold and show off your sexy Halloween costume.
  3. So you have a proper excuse to turn down a creepy Blood Hemorrhage or Martha Stewart Blood Orange cocktail
  4. To help forget about traffic infuriating October construction, Ford more years, Miley Cyrus, Senate cheques and work for at least for one night
  5. To reduce the chances of having a heart attack or stroke at the sudden comeuppance of the neighbour’s $10,000 Halloween movie set
  6. Nothing says “thank you neighbour” like a good glass of wine on Halloween
  7. If you are not already, you just might become more tolerable of gay and lesbian rights and of children dressed up as Kathleen Wynne
  8. A person with a candy bag full of vodka is an alcoholic. A person with a candy bag full of wine is classy
  9. A good man can make the hot witch costume you are wearing make you feel sexy, wanted, desired…oh, wait… that’s a bottle of wine
  10. Nothing like a glass of wine on Halloween puts you in the mood to have another glass of wine on Halloween

From left: Château Des Charmes Old Vines Cabernet/Merlot 2010, Rosewood Estates Pinot Noir 2011, and Bodegas La Val Orballo Albariño 2011

Château Des Charmes Old Vines Cabernet/Merlot 2010 (222372, $19.95) from two Cabs and Merlot picked out of select estate vineyards, is aged for nine months in French oak. Sanguine, sweat and sweet-smelling, racing, pulsating red. Liquid adult candy, chewy licorice, a walk in the dark weald. Hallow wine, a thriller, “for no mere mortal can resist.”  88  @Mbosc

Rosewood Estates Pinot Noir 2011 (winery, $20) 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  @RosewoodWine

Bodegas La Val Orballo Albariño 2011 (Profile Wine Group, $19.95) from the estate’s Pexegueiro vineyard in Spain’s Rías Baixas region is a brazenly, stony straight, sharpshooting white. Rock star sniper with a retinue of advising. aromatic angles, including citrus and green, tropical tree fruit . “Cold dry stone” granitic smile, nearly discernible effervescence and long, salivating freshness. Albariño in chains. On the card at Barque.  89  @BodegaslaVal  @ProfileWineGrp

Good to go!

A Sancerre Thanksgiving

French vegetable garden
PHOTO: NEIRFY/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

October is a very busy month in the world of fermented grapes. The local harvest will (almost) entirely see to its conclusion and winemakers will breathe a communal and proverbial sigh of collected relief. They will gaze up into the blue sky and engage in salutary acts of gratitude. They will thank mother nature for allowing their babies to hang long enough for the purpose of achieving phenolic ripeness in varietal maturity.

Appreciation will be shown in spades this week when we wine geeks convene to taste recent years’ wares at Taste Ontario. The event is hosted in Ottawa (The Westin Hotel) today and in Toronto (ROM) on Thursday by VINTAGES and Wine Country Ontario. The grand tasting coincides with the LCBO “SHINE {ON}” campaign that runs from September 15 through October 12.

The lead up week to Canadian Thanksgiving also means the Wines of Chile are coming to the ROM. Chilean wines have lately been blowing my mind in ways not previously perceived. Case in point a recent WineAlign session with winemaker Francisco Baettig of Errazuriz. Later this month there will be stupefying opportunities to sample wines from Napa Valley, Champagne and the Loire Valley.

Ah, there’s the rub. The Loire. Can there be a region anywhere in the world with more varied and obvious wines to match the wealth and richness of foods at the Thanksgiving table? Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. A holy trinity of Silex mineral, peppery goodness and piercing acidity to cut through the utterly gluttonous and hoggish Thanksgiving feast. I have already delved into Canadian wines for the coming weekend. Here I add an Argentine Chardonnay, a Nebbiolo from Piedmont, a Pinot Noir from Burgundy and a couple of stupidly good and expensive Cabernets from Napa Valley. Most of all I am so proud to recommend the most altruistic Sauvignon Blanc I’ve tasted in a long time.

So, happy Thanksgiving Canada. I offer up Sancerre thanks, Escondida that emotion and hope to be blessed with a Cabernet on the Corison. Ugh. Sigh.

From left: Finca La Escondida Reserva Chardonnay 2012, Paul Prieur et Fils Sancerre 2011, Pertinace Vigneto Nervo Barbaresco 2009, Aurélien Verdet Moray Saint Denis ‘En La Rue De Vergy’ 2010, Corison Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, and Phillip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: From 100 year-old Bodega La Rosa’s San Juan Andean vineyards, under the much larger ownership of Argentina’s Grupo Peñaflor

The lowdown: This is a phenomenal deal at $15

The food match: Cauliflower Steaks with Tomatoes

Finca La Escondida Reserva Chardonnay 2012 (270207, $14.95) has the Zonda lemon drop I love and look for in Argentinian Chardonnay. Attitude from altitude, the faintest smokey char and terrific restraint. Cool climate rendition and nearly as lovely as Chile’s Le Cordillera. Tight and a bit tingling. There’s a soulful, quiescent component too, if a bit stunted by a stannic cedilla. Never mind the stops and starts. “If you got the notion” buy a boatload of this elegant Chardonnay. Escondida that emotion.  90  @fincalaescondid  @winesofarg

PHOTO: Jill Chen/FreestyleFarm.ca
Barque Smokehouse Baby Back Ribs

The grape: Sauvignon Blanc

The history: Eleven generations have been making Sancerre on this 18-hectare vineyard at the foot of the Monts Damnés

The lowdown: Like I said before, superb

The food match: Barque Smokehouse Baby Back Ribs

Paul Prieur et Fils Sancerre 2011 (350421, $25.95, SAQ, 11953245, $22.95) has that je ne Sancerrais quoi, first in a fountainhead of Verdingy geology and then in plating everything that is Sancerre; verve, attack, the faintest herbiage and rustling, brushing grass. Tittilating and galvanizing in the most golden, autumnal way. To quote the canonical David Lawrason, if I may, “you can always use a good Sancerre.” Damn straight.  92  @LoireValleyWine

The grape: Nebbiolo

The history: A single-vineyard bottling from Cantina Vignaioli (Elvio Pertinace) in Piedmont, Italy

The lowdown: Patience or a good two hour decant is necessary to seek reward from this generously VINTAGES priced red. It’s generally a $50-60 dollar bottle south of the border

The food match: Pasta Al Forno with Pumpkin and Pancetta

Pertinace Vigneto Nervo Barbaresco 2009 (344705, $39.95) is a tight, saliva-sucking, bone dry, ossified, ferric Nebbiolo. Just two sips and my tongue and gums feel like a lorry has run over them. That and the crimson smell of climbing roses. Classic really.  92

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: A storied vineyard just above the very famous Clos Du Tart in the Côte de Nuits

The lowdown: This producer may not be a household name for its holdings in this Burgundy plot but step aside Bruno Clair, Lignier-Michelot and Pascal Marchand. Verdet can handle the terroirof Morey-St.-Denis

The food match: Grilled Arctic Char, za-atar crust, nasturtiums

Aurélien Verdet Morey Saint Denis ‘En La Rue De Vergy’ 2010 (353416, $44.95) noses my kind of MSD aromatics. Soft vanilla, black cherry, smoke and obdurate limestone toughness. Coated in fine, tinny tannin and stretchy length, this represents big value for the appellation.  92  @BadDogWine

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: Cathy Corison holds a Master’s in Enology from U.C. Davis, made wine for Chappellet Vineyard, Staglin Family Vineyard, York Creek Vineyards and Long Meadow Ranch and produced her first Corison in 1987.

The lowdown: From Corison, “time on the vine allowed the development of the full range of flavors that Cabernet can achieve (red and blue fruits grading into the darker, purple and black notes) at moderate alcohol. Cold nights promoted great natural acidity.” Some Napa Cabernet is built upon smoke and mirrors. They cause fires. The honesty of Corison’s wines induce irrigation and germination

The food match: Duck Confit, potato galette, berry jus

Corison Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (333328, $113.95) is certainly in its wheelhouse, offering up sweet, Napa plaisir. Not as fleshy as expected but open-handed and magnanimous in behaviour. Ceanothus, blue and perfumed. Berries, red and ever bearing. A (Geraldine) Brooksian wine that allows you “to fall down a rabbit hole, where the rest of the world disappears.”  93  @cathycorison

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: Napa icon, from a vineyard at 2000 feet, near the top of Spring Mountain

The lowdown: Togni’s Cabernet has oft been compared to the wines of the Medoc, specifically Margaux

The food match: Grilled Beef Tenderloin

Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (31351, $137.95) may brood and bark but it is not over the top, in alcohol or extract. Imbued of mellifluous perfume, great grain and lay of the land. The 2010 is big on elemental design for Napa, cool in the middle, iron and sanguine at the end. This is serious stuff.  94

Good to go!

Red earth, white wine and September sparkling fire

Photo: ASK-Fotografie/Fotolia.co

as seen on canada.com

The weekend brought us autumn. A certain type of exhaustion creeps in when summer turns over, especially after two weeks of early September, hectic activity. So I sipped my weekend wine, let the ghosts come, allowed them to crash my dreams. It was the least I could do. Then, with a sibilant call, I cast out the spirits rattling like a guttering candle, browsed through some tasting notes and found many a wine reason to usher in the fall.

I did so with perfunctory ease. A bottle of red terroir here, a couple of neo-classical Ontario whites and a revelatory British Columbian sparkler there. Don’t let the sun go down on your wine year just because the mercury is falling. A red Mercurey from Burgundy might be all you need to enjoy the fall. That and some Canadian juice.

Canadian wine pilgrims are living in what is arguably the most exciting time in wine’s history. A time when the greatest wines are fetching the highest prices, where revolutionary activities are taking place in almost every realm of vinous endeavour. During this renaissance new world winemakers have had to re-calibrate their wine linguistics, so Bordeaux became “Meritage,” (Red) Bourgogne became “Pinot Noir” and Champagne became “Sparkling Wine.” The world’s data banks for terms and parlance (wine dictionaries) of examples in context is dwarfed by the collection winemakers all carry around subconsciously in their heads. Thus we have “White Palette” (Jean-Pierre Colas), “Sketches” (Paul Pender) and “Methode Classique” (Jason James). Pilgrim extraordinaire Thomas Bachelder gives us Pinot Noir opposite the iconic Domaine Faiveley’s Bourgogne.

Here are five wines of the lexicographical order to look for this coming weekend and to welcome the fall.

Clockwise from left: 13th Street White Palette, Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2012, Domaine Faiveley Mercurey 2010, Bachelder Pinot Noir Oregon 2011, and Sumac Ridge Steller’s Jay Methode Classique Brut 2008.

13th Street White Palette 2011 (207340, $15.95) is 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  @13thStreetWines

Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2012 (89029, $17.95) s’got quite the tropical warmth for Bench Riesling. When considered in terms of the vintage, this is nearly a Riesling in the service of a Pinot Gris. Very juicy fruit, dry but bursting in fricative verve. Extreme quality, low-cost. Now on tap at Barque Smokehouse.  89  @Tawse_Winery

Domaine Faiveley Mercurey 2010 (341925, $22.95, B.C. 486217, $28.99) is really quite nice TYVM. Dug from the pungent autumnal earth, expressing ripe cherry, cranberry and strawberry. Pure, elegant and charming. When first tasted and without knowing the price I made this note: “If it’s under $25 it’s a very, very good buy – assuming it is.” Sold.  90

Bachelder Pinot Noir Oregon 2011 (333278, $34.95) bleeds Willamette terroir. Punctiliously phenolic from marine sediment and seemingly obvious early-ripening. Provocative in ruby, sugar-sour cranberry meets redolent raspberry. Chalky, tannic and serious. It’s tough on me right now. Come on Thomas, would ya please lighten up? I don’t want to have to wait to drink the first case.  90  @Bachelder_wines

Sumac Ridge Steller’s Jay Methode Classique Brut 2008 (264879, $25.95) makes use of B.C.’s future, the necessary signature white variety Pinot Blanc with assistance from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Very fine lees and yeast aromas are followed by a fantastic jumping and grooving party in the mouth. Tart apples, dry and crisp. Sprightly with 3-D sparkling fire texture. Tertiary maturity has nearly arrived.  91  @SumacRidgeWine

Good to go!

Low alcohol wine for the High Holidays

Barque Smokehouse Smoked Chicken Thighs. Serve with Ca’Del Baio, Moscato D’Asti 2011
PHOTO: KEVIN HEWITT AND JILL CHEN/FREESTYLEFARM.CA

as seen on canada.com

A quick bit of Jewish 101. Tomorrow night is a Jew’s big night. There will be a great feast. Apples and honey will grace every table. The big meal will be followed by much sweet indulgence. Rosh Hashanah is marked on the Jewish calendar by the first day of Tishrei, meaning the “head of the year.” This new calendar year beginning is referred to as Yom Hadin, the Day of Judgment, a time to make sincere resolutions for the future. Jews will say, L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem, “may you immediately be inscribed and sealed for a good year.” Rosh Hashanah is a time for renewal, where symbolic pleasantries are shared, exchanged and not surprisingly, Jews make use of food and drink to exercise the festivities.

When it comes to yayin (wine), Shekar, or “strong drink” is not necessarily the obvious, fermented choice. Last November I wrote a rant on the jumboism rampant in so many current wines on the market. “Biblical thought says there was a time when “wine” was simply the juice of pressed fruit, non-fermented, void of alcohol, the “pureblood of the grape.” The post-deluge patriarch (Noah) purportedly discovered that if you let natural yeasts run wild they would turn grape juice and sugar into mocker, “strong drink.” Researches say that ancient barm barely peaked at 12 per cent alcohol by volume.”

Like a pair of brothers in heated debate over ”integrity versus compromise,” choosing wine for the High Holidays is fraught and fought with philosophical and religious intensity. Kosher or conventional? Traditional or modern? Low alcohol or high-octane? Many Jewish tables will be set with Kosher (not Meshuval or, Kosher for Passover) wine. Many will not. For many modern Jews, on holidays not called Passover, Kosher is not a prerequisite when it come to choosing wine. Jews, in general, will daven to that 12 percent abv mark, give or take a percent. When talking wine, the Jew should never be labelled a Mundus Novian. Keep in mind that with all that food going down, heavy-handed winemaking has no place at the Rosh Hashanah banquet.

Related – More from the VINTAGES August 31st, 2013 Release

Then there is the etymology of the expression L’Chaim. At one point the condemned were given wine so that their execution would be less painful. The phrase “to life” was coined to express a sentiment to the contrary. Here are five excellent, low-alcohol wines to look for thisRosh Hashanah, to raise a glass to the new year, to exclaim L’Chaim!

Clockwise from left: Ca’Del Baio, Moscato D’Asti 2012, 13th Street June’s Vineyard Riesling 2011, Jean-Marc Brocard Sainte Claire Vieilles Vignes Chablis 2011, Château Hyot 2010, and Domaine De La Garodière Morgon 2011

Ca’Del Baio, Moscato D’Asti 2012 (Stem Wine Group, $18.99) is so low in alcohol (five per cent) you might think you are drinking cider but fermented apples could never achieve such complexity with such incredibly economical syntactic structure. Slightly sweet and also sparkling, this Moscato makes itself readily accessible to new wine drinkers. I may not be one but how can I not be tempted by its forbidden stone fruits. I’ll drink it with the sups at the RH table. Moscato 101 indeed. On the card at Barque.  90

The food match: Halibut, pan roasted, charred sweet pepper jam, steamed broccoli & heirloom carrots

13th Street June’s Vineyard Riesling 2011 (147512, $19.95) from Niagara’s Creek Shores and built of the classic Alsatian Clone 49 inordinately defines place and time in an agglomerated manner. Maximum floral intensity, zero petrol tolerance and an arid accumulation speak volumes about the appellation. To taste you will note it just barely believes it’s off-dry. Unique and unambiguous, plosive Riesling.  89

The food match: Quinoa Salad, summer corn, peas, cilantro, lime chili vinaigrette

Jean-Marc Brocard Sainte Claire Vieilles Vignes Chablis 2011 (329995, $24.95, SAQ, 2010,11589658, $24.95) marks a return to memories of old vines Brocard I’ve loved before. “The winds of change continue blowing,” so Chablis is sometimes not what it used to be.  This VV is not quite steely but is structured like a good old country ode, with all the correct components. Just a kiss of all things Chablis. Rock, flint, sapid ardor and a racy, new slang, tang thang. As good as it gets from something other than Grand or Premier Cru.  89

The food match: Salmon with tomato & preserved lemon salsa, sautéed baby kale, lemon zest, crushed almonds

Château Hyot 2010 (63537, $16.95) from 70 percent Merlot, 20 Cabernet Franc and 10 Cabernet Sauvignon goes properly and structurally sound into the Côtes de Castillon night. Forty year-old vines capitulate ripe red fruit, tangy accents, zest and just enough bite to keep it lengthy and fresh. A farmer’s Bordeaux, natural in feel, oxygenated low and slow, micro-managed. Solid if prosaic. Kudos to winemaker Amélie Aubert for reigning in the overripe and over extracted tendencies of consultant Michel Rolland.  88

The food match: Smoked Beef Brisket, bbq Jus, rice pilaf, wild and basmati rice, bok choy and ginger

Domaine De La Garodière Morgon 2011 (330126, $17.60, SAQ, 10368204, $18.60) is rich modern Beaujolais but also tight and bound by enough sour acidity to balance the ripe extraction. Hard to believe this clocks in at only 12.5 percent abv. Rock solid Gamay, ready for a fight. Vinous compost with some southern French style Medi-savoury, black olive garrigue. Complex and fortifying.  91

The food match: Duo of Beef: NY Striploin & Braised Beef Cheek, smoked kishka

Good to go!

Alternative wines for the August long weekend

Barque Smokehouse Cuban Corn
PHOTO: JILL CHEN/FREESTYLEFARM.CA

as seen on canada.com

A word of advice if I may. Grab hold of the coming long weekend and put it in your pocket. Take full advantage of the time you have with family and friends. Eat corn. Local ears will never be as tender, sweet and perfect as they are right now. If Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are your go to grapes, by all means, enjoy them. The caveat comes now; just one more whisper of unsolicited wisdom to consider. Try something new.

Canadians will be sharing meals in larger groups so in many cases, a single bottle of wine will not suffice. Why not engage in a grape showdown? Open two wines of the same grape but from different producers or regions. So much can be learned from the comparison, most notably your preference so you will know what to buy next time around. Here are seven alternative wines to look for this coming August holiday long weekend.

Clockwise from left: Marc Bredif Vouvray 2011, Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc Old Vine Reserve 2011, Rolly Gassman Riesling 2009, Greenlane Riesling Old Vines 2011, Featherstone Cabernet Franc 2011, Tawse Cabernet Franc Laundry Vineyard 2010, and Domain Capmartin Pacherenc Du Vic Bilh 2011

The grape: Chenin Blanc

The history: Native to the Loire Valley in France and cultivated world-wide but is most notably and commercially successful in South Africa

The lowdown/showdown: Loire versus Stellenbosch. Two polar opposite and conflicting styles, both representative of place and the versatility of Chenin, especially in dry styles such as these

The food match: Barque Smokehouse Cuban Corn

Marc Bredif Vouvray 2011 (LCBO $19.95, 685362, SAQ $19.55, 10267809) 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  @ProfileWineGrp   @LoireValleyWine

Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc Old Vine Reserve 2011 ($17.95, 231282) has an extended stay on the lees to thank for its impressive level of complexity. Works near-dangerous toasty oak to great advantage. Elevates Chenin to skillfully reckoned, barrel fermented Chardonnay status. Snug and spicy, viscous, charged and rising into a golden stratosphere. A bit furry and furtive in movement. Would be enriched by luxuriant food.  89  @KFwines  @WOSACanada

The grape: Riesling

The history: No longer an idiosyncratic Alsatian or German wine. Whether from Marie-Thérèse, Louis Rolly and Piere Gassmann in Alsace or Dianne Smith in Vineland, Riesling is incredibly versatile

The lowdown/showdown: Aromatic Alsace or Piercing Niagara?

The food match: Summer Corn Chowder

Rolly Gassman Riesling 2009 (328898, $20.95) has entered secondary life which only emphasizes its semi-dry mien. Mineral peach tang and non-taxing, petrol beach buoyancy are met by nectarine pith and ambient nut.  By George, this is quintessential, basal Alsace. “There’s one for you, nineteen for me.” Complex impressions cuz’ he’s the gassman.  90

Greenlane Riesling Old Vines 2011 (351486, $22.95) cracks the mineral whip, froths lime into foam and atomizes stone fruit into sweet and sour heaven. Wants to be semi-dry but never quite goes there. Walks a fine line, a tightrope actually. Up there with Charles Baker and Thirty Bench for sheer madness.  91  @GreenLaneWinery

The grape: Cabernet Franc

The history: Loire Valley reds are the benchmark but tell me this isn’t the most important varietal to grow in Ontario

The lowdown/showdown: Two consumer-friendly versions, both made by farmers working in natural and sustainable ways. One shows off the ambient climate of the Twenty-Mile Bench, the other the long tempered growing season of the Lincoln Lakeshore

The food match: Parlour Yaletown’s The Big Prawn Pizza

Featherstone Cabernet Franc 2011 (64618, $16.95) from David Johnson and Louise Engel is girl-next door pretty, perfumed by violet and mid-summer red berries. American oak lends a whiff of tobacco and spice.  Modern and tarried in capacious extraction yet unencumbered by the oak. Not overly chewy, unctuous or layered but just right.  88  @featherstonewne

Tawse Cabernet Franc Laundry Vineyard 2010 (130997, $31.95) assures us of several things. First, 2010 was a gift for making idiot-proof Cab Franc in Niagara, Second, the Lincoln Lakeshore is one of three obvious and essential CF locales in Niagara. Third and most important, properly adjudicated new oak can elevate CF to the upper reaches of the cool-climate troposphere. While not as masculine or bovine like brother Van Bers, Laundry’s got black cherry, tar, coal, herbs and a peaceful, grilling feeling. Essential CF from winemaker Paul Pender.  92  @Tawse_Winery  @Paul_Pender

PHOTO: Michael Godel
Parlour Yaletown Ahi Lettuce Wraps

The grapes: Gros Manseng, Arrufiac and Petit Courbu

The history: From Maumusson in southwestern France, Domaine Capmartin produces 12 wines, which roughly divide into 65% Madiran reds, 20% Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh whites, and 15% Côtes de Gascogne reds and whites

The lowdown: For something bull and full-bodied, unique and completely different,

The food match: Parlour Yaletown’s Ahi Lettuce Wraps

Domain Capmartin Pacherenc Du Vic Bilh 2011 (328617, $15.95) is built upon 80 per cent Gros Manseng plus 10 each of the other two (Arrufiac and Petit Courbu).  Though 80 per cent of the juice ferments in tanks, the remaining 20 that spends time in oak barrels adds histrionic weight and structure. Philosophically elevated in brix and alcohol yet sweet talks dry. Akin to cool climate Chardonnay made in a restrained oak style. Vivacity, rigor and passion here, dissing the notion of simple sipper. There are notes of lime zest and ginger and the wine is both tight and tingling . Also possessive of an earthy morel-ness. Steal it. Give it a whirl.  90

Good to go!