Twelve stars align

Star shrouded downtown Toronto

Star shrouded downtown Toronto

Only on the rarest of occasions do I consider the Zodiac. Same goes for the constellations though if you slump my tired body into the comfort fitting contours of a Thermarest on a Killarney campsite I’ll happily, dreamily stare up into a near-northern sky. Or on a dock in cottage country if the Aurora Borealis happens to make a magical appearance.

In September I spent some time scanning a South African, southern hemisphere sky with Ken Forrester. Ever the romantic, Ken offered up a short dissertation on one of the special treats afforded a stay in Stellenbosch. I have seen the Southern Cross several times before and yet standing there at 10:30 pm with the South African vigneron-poet, taking in the twinkling balls of time travel, something struck me anew.

I like to line things up. Wine tasting notes with music; a lyric or an artist. You may have noticed. I also find ways to forge bonds, synaesthetic perceptions and Chaldean correlations, regardless of whether they are there for the connecting. Sometimes you just need to fulfill the urge to divide the ecliptic into 12 equal, 30 degree pieces of a pie. Perhaps it’s just the M.O.T. in me.

This coming weekend VINTAGES rolls out the first major release in preparation for the looming holiday addiction. The headlines of “stars of the season,” and “star-studded” can mean only one thing. Expensive and iconic wines will dominate LCBO shelves from now through Christmas. And most of these high ticket items will sell through. Why is that you ask? Mainly because many of them are really good wines. Mostly because desperate people will buy anything when faced with holiday gift-giving deadlines.

My job is to separate the exciting from the boring, the exceptional from the drab. I’ve chosen 12 bottles, each with their own horoscopic identity, wines that illustrate their own idiosyncratic hook-up with a sign of the zodiac. It’s a stretch to be sure but it’s my stretch, so deal with it. If you connect and agree with just one, it may change your perception too.

From left to right: J. Fritsch Riesling 2014, Closson Chase Chardonnay Closson Chase Vineyard 2013, Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad Cava, La Chablisienne Montmains Chablis 1er Cru 2012, Hidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage 2011 and Stratus White 2012

From left to right: J. Fritsch Riesling 2014, Closson Chase Chardonnay Closson Chase Vineyard 2013, Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad Cava, La Chablisienne Montmains Chablis 1er Cru 2012, Hidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage 2011 and Stratus White 2012

Capricorn (The Goat)

Sure-footed, hard worker, self-disciplined, over-achiever

J. Fritsch Riesling 2014, Ac Alsace, France (430520, $19.95, WineAlign)

Kientzheim Riesling, full, fleshy, opulent but not tropical in style, aromatically fleshy and full of orange rind, lemon zest and tonic. Has that necessary mineral bleed and rock tang. Schlossberg like but not as tannic and certainly ready for prime time at a much younger age. Hints at sweetness but acidity by way of early picked fruit is key. Granite feel. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015  @VinsAlsace  @Alsace_info  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace

Virgo (The Virgin)

Gentle, creative, generous and sympathetic

Closson Chase Chardonnay Closson Chase Vineyard 2013, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $27.95, WineAlign)

This CCV Chardonnay is one of departed winemaker Deborah Paskus’ final acts at Closson Chase. It will forever be noted as a legacy-cementing, swan song of career excellence. Crafted by Paskus and bottled by the next one, current winemaker Keith Tyers, the 2013 CCV is simply a tour de force. No such combination of richness, tropicality and pure grape tannin has ever infiltrated this Chardonnay, from this vineyard. I’m not sure there is a comparison in Ontario, at this level of excellence and at this price. A wine of pure impression, with Montrachet-like structure and Folatières-like precision. Seemingly capacious, its facile legerity is hypnotizing, quantitatively escalating in assembly of aromas, flavours, through texture and finally to longevity. The wine spent 16 months in a mere (17.25 per cent new) oak. That it notes 12.5 per cent alcohol on the label is next to impossible. The substance is just too buttressed to be so tender and effete. Impeccable balance, refinement and mineral finish. This is Chardonnay to confuse the world’s fine white collectors, to wreak havoc at international tastings for five to 10 years. Only 712 cases are available and at $27.95, is down $2 in price from the 2012. Best ever, hands down. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted March 2015  @ClossonChase

Cancer (The Crab)

Sideways, subtle, sensitive and protective

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad Cava, Méthode Traditionnelle, Do, Spain (558825, $29.95, WineAlign)

An intricate and elaborate Reserva elevation of Cava, even a bit skunky in the most endearing of ways, like a 55 day dry-aged steak cooked rare. A waft of yet blown sulphur is managed and tempered by smartly sweet yeast. At once clunky and disjointed, then heavy in citrus and the shells of molluscs. Citrus climbs all over the finish, from lime to lemon and into pomello. Complex Cava with the taste of acquired affection in requiem of a very open mind. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015  @hseguraviudas  @imbibersreport  @cavaswine

Aquarius (The Water Carrier)

Friendly, generous, thoughtful and humanitarian

La Chablisienne Montmains Chablis 1er Cru 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (265090, $32.95, WineAlign)

In a word, yes. Beautiful girl this Montmains, layered of delicate aromas, from flowers through kimmeridgian soil and into fresh forest glade. A child of the cooler, Butteaux sub-climat in which the citrus melds into the soft wooden (228L barriques) notes and all is elevated by such pinpoint-posted acidity. The oak lends cream, the lees fine spun silky texture and the talc a grape tannic ingrained sense of fullness. Terrific wine. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted October 2015  @VinexxCanada  @chablisienne  @BourgogneWines  @BIVBChablis

Aries (The Ram)

Energy, life, vitality and courage

Hidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (505610, $38.20, WineAlign)

There is so much floral presence in 2011, a showy perfume that parades the relative elegance of Niagara’s Bordeaux reds in the vintage. Structure is comparable to 2010, not in beast mode but rather with a delicacy derived from less burning, high-toned fruit. Still here lays a wine so young, of social encumbrance that might be passed off as a mark of impertinence. This faintly embarrassing condition can be suppressed in a dark cellar, in which the foundation can be laid for the beginning of a cure. The Terroir Caché 2011 will show its best between 2017 and 2020, then develop, slow down, suspend animation and age further, effortlessly and exceptionally. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted April 2015  @HiddenBench  @BenchVigneron  @LeSommelierWine

Taurus (The Bull)

Plodding, peaceful and deliberate

Stratus White 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (660704, $44.20, WineAlign)

In magnified aromatic persistence, on and over top of even two months earlier, in such a hyper-grapey way with terrific dry extract chained to tannin and humid minerality. The many months of leave in gentle oak is stating its technically procured, quote unquote de-classified case.

From my earlier note of April 2015:

In 2012 the blend is Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. Viognier was left out because according to winemaker J-L Groux “it did not work in blending trials.” The vintage has laid the foundation for the most density and unctuous fruit for the Stratus White in what must be, ever. At the high aromatic end there is peppery beeswax, reverberating and echoing in scales and arpeggios. Like an open string singing warmly, the vintage, extraction and residuum combine for texture in mottled unction. Sapid lemon, more beeswax and lanolin mark the palate and then the White drifts into spaces occupied by smoky back beats and bites. This has great pitch with a knowledge of the path to pleasure. Drink 2017-2025

Last tasted June 2015  @StratusWines

From left to right: Stratus Red 2012, Bachelder wines Niagara Chardonnay Saunders Vineyard 2012, Ca'marcanda Promis 2013, Versado Malbec Reserva 2011, Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2013 and J. Christopher Bella Vida Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011

From left to right: Stratus Red 2012, Bachelder wines Niagara Chardonnay Saunders Vineyard 2012, Ca’marcanda Promis 2013, Versado Malbec Reserva 2011, Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2013 and J. Christopher Bella Vida Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011

Libra (The Scales)

Indecisive, solicitous, harmonious and balanced

Stratus Red 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (131037, $44.20, WineAlign)

The Stratus Red 2012 resides both in a virtuoso’s hollow and in a pantheon inhabited by some of Niagara’s great reds. The fact that such ripe phenology can anticipate and foretell to balance and freedom in the byplace of the blending process is nothing short of amazing. Sinuous and exact, of berries so indefatigable, layering raspberry over blackberry atop strawberry. Cedar and red citrus compound, without jamming the fluidity, but certainly accentuating the Fragaria vesca. Confident and fluid in movement, the ’12 neither shakes nor stirs and its acidity is flat out terrific. At this early point in its evolution it is showing as well as could be expected, or hoped for. Its core of fraises du bois will always be there. Time will be kind, gentle and patient. Drink 2015-2024.   Tasted April and June 2015

Gemeni (The Twins)

Curious, generous and communicative

Bachelder Wines Niagara Chardonnay Saunders Vineyard 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (324103, $44.95, WineAlign)

From a site 2.5 km’s from the lake, right on the highway at 30 Bench. Derives its plushness from mere proximity so “serve it first,” pleads Thomas. So much lush, more richesse and yet today, Saunders is a bit closed, primary even. Will yet need some time to find its way. Drink 2015-2021.

From my earlier note of May 2014:

Though presently showing a bit inferential, no amount of Bachelder reduction can keep good fruit down nor can it dismantle the mastery of mineral impart. An arras of texture conceals the portal to both vineyard and barrel with streaks of salinity, charcoal and chalk. The 2012 rendition is a canvas laden with pure golden paint, concealing “hidden forms and shifting states.” Thomas has found a rhythm in Saunders through thick brush strokes, full and advancing. This warm vintage is not a receding one, its flavours and its texture do the opposite. They jump out at you in waves. For Thomas, the sublime is now.

Last tasted December 2014  @Bachelder_wines

Leo (The Lion)

Leader, lover, dignified, relaxed and proud

Ca’marcanda Promis 2013, Igt Toscana, Italy (745638, $55.95, WineAlign)

In the only vintage for which such a trial was performed (2003), the chance was had to taste this 2013 under cork side by side with that vintage under screw cap. The difference was vividly palpable, for good or bad, better or worse. Under cork the young wine is like a perfectly shone lump of cool, refulgent coal with so much spice and accent in permeate of an aromatic fruitcake wheel. Under Stelvin the 12 year-old Promis’s freshness is amplified, of early immortality, with the ripest of tannins. The acidity is markedly formidable and yet both wines display a cured nature in undercurrent. Two 10 years separated Promis of spine, spirit and grounded in earth. Leave this 2013 be for two more years, screw cap or not. Drink 2016-2024. Tasted October 2015  @StemWineGroup

Sagittarius (The Centaur)

Adventurous traveller, mythological and experiential

Versado Malbec Reserva 2011, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (316984, $59.95, WineAlign)

Peter Gamble describes the ’11 Reserva as “integrated right out of the gate” and blessed with “a little more fruit component.” That is can show such freshness this early in its life span (especially in consideration of the beasts that are 2009 and 2010) is nothing short of a Malbec miracle. This is a wine that saw spontaneous fermentation, which made for very nervous times in the winemaking hands of Roberto de la Mota. Stems were used and their participation lends a Mediterranean feel, in the aromatic impart of sea salinity and kelp. The oak is scaled back a touch so the chalk push, while present, integrates in finer grain within the gritty, iron structure. This is the softest (hyper-relatively speaking) Reserva to date with a newly defined massive attack. The temperature fluctuations of the vineyard are integral in its structure and the question needs to be asked, “how can you have a day without a night?” In the Versado Reserva 2011 you have both. It is a Malbec of unfinished sympathy. Drink this sooner, starting in 2017 and for longer, to 2030.  Tasted September 2014 and October 2015  @VersadoWine  @winesofarg

Pisces (The Fishes)

Graceful, passionate, religious, daydreamer

Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2013, Sonoma Coast, California (215210, $64.95, WineAlign)

If 2013 is turning out to be the first truly great Chardonnay vintage of the century out of Sonoma, the Flowers SC is categorically up front and centre in that discussion. The epic’s lead paragraph initializes here in a wine that is severely accurate, a blinding and gorgeous expression that brings the flowers in its game. A wield of pulchritude and balance by acidity spot on. Pure flavour extract expands and the components zing on the finish. Could there lurk a Meursault notion in its lace? You know what, forget that. Strike comparisons from the record. The Flowers is extraordinary of Chardonnay, by Chardonnay and for Chardonnay. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted July 2015  @FlowersWinery  @rogcowines  @sonomavintners

Scorpio (The Scorpion)

Secretive, perceptive, intense, insightful, with a strength of will

J. Christopher Bella Vida Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon  (432823, $64.95, WineAlign)

Lithe and extremely pretty Pinot Noir, reeking of that ancient underground, saline Willamette stream and above ground, Dundee Hills fresh summer berries. Has the best tense intentions, readily available sultry, soluble tannins and just pitch perfect, happy helping acidity. This has the svelte cure and the natural tug of positivity. Sanguine, hematic, volcanic. Great stuff. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted October 2015  @BellaVidaWine  @Oregon_Wine  @Select_Wines

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel


The Old Third and older County wines

First press from first pick of 2015 Cabernet Franc

First press from first pick of 2015 Cabernet Franc

“You have to have a fear of God and a fear of mother nature.” These are the words of winemaker Bruno Francois of The Old Third Vineyard on the Closson Road in Prince Edward County. His compact yet profound stretch of The Ridge has the most slope, perhaps more than any vineyard in PEC, situated around a bend in the road at the 3rd Concession. The Old Third.

Bruno Francois in the Cabernet Franc

Bruno Francois in the Cabernet Franc

Related – The ridges of Prince Edward County

Bruno takes me for a walk through the vineyard. He points out the south, southeast slope unique to this part of the ridge. He talks about soil, the Hillier Clay Loam and its 450 million year old friable Ordovician limestone bed. He picks up and kicks around fragments of limestone gravel and fossils, glacial till, granite, sandstone, quartz and marble. The vineyard is a veritable ice age mineral playground. Mostly he plucks and tastes berries. Cabernet Franc. He crushes a cluster as a test. No skin contact but its hue is penetrating, ardent, vivid. The acidity rages. It will be picked in one week’s time.

Tasting The Old Third at White Oaks

Tasting The Old Third at White Oaks

We get down to business in the restored 1860’s cathedral barn over Sparkling wine and a Pinot Noir vertical. This is my second tasting with Bruno. In July he drove like a madman out to Niagara to pour his wines for Wine Spectator’s Matt Kramer, Sommelier Xavier Rousset, Master Sommelier John Szabo, Wine Country Ontario’s Magdalena Kaiser and I. We were at White Oaks Resort in St. Catharines in Old Third anticipation during the i4C Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration.

The Old Third Vineyard, Prince Edward County, Ontario

The Old Third Vineyard, Prince Edward County, Ontario

In Ontario, Chardonnay may be the go to for most Sparkling makers, but Blanc de Blancs be cursed, Bruno’s à la Volée, along with Jonas Newman’s (mixed varietal) Les Étoiles, tell us that Pinot Noir and the County are made for each other. After tasting à la Volée 2011, Matt Kramer said it was the best Sparkling wine ever made in North America. I have not tasted enough North American bubbles to go into heavy hyperbole but I can say this. Bruno Francois takes nothing for granted, has great skill as a winemaker and his best work is yet to come. Here are my thoughts on his wines.

Pinot Noir vertical, The Old Third

Pinot Noir vertical, The Old Third

The Old Third Sparkling Pinot Noir à la Volée 2011, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $59, WineAlign)

“On the fly” is not exactly what comes to mind from this 100 per cent Pinot Noir, first Sparkling wine made by Bruno Francois. Calculated, attention to detail and intensity of ideation more like it. Three years on the lees, no dosage and from a vintage to speak in more than whispered voices, of acidity that announces its arrival with immediacy and a summons to contest. The nose does yeast, toast, citrus and ginger. A first release revelation as ever graced Ontario’s waves, as dry as the desert and lingering with switch back traces of its yeasty, toasty self. A single vineyard can be this way, equally and in opposition of natural and oxidative, with a hue less than Pinot Noir, though unrequited as a triumph when you get a ripe white from such Pinot. The production of 1200 bottles is relatively house high in a stunner that needs no sugar to draw up its flavours. Drink 2015-2023.  Tasted twice, July and October 2015

The Old Third Pinot Noir 2013, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $42, WineAlign)

Rarely do the bitters of high density Pinot Noir plantings infiltrate with such courage layered by the richness of heavy clay and fractured, querulous limestone. Depending on how frequent your Pinot Noir tasting opportunities are you may be swayed with prejudice in one direction or the other because the astringency is a very real, authentic, hyperbole of Pinosity. Could this be more intoxicating? From four of five acres of Old Third Pinot Noir, billowing out liquorice, garrigue, tar, roses and the neverland yield of tonic. Though 100 per cent de-stemmed, adding them to “purify” colour would be a mistake. Others could do wonders with this type of correction leading to intensity. Grows chalky with time though adolescence is a hard nut to crack. Picking began on September 8th and the ripe, primary tannins suggest four years minimum to resolution. The nails in its heart will carry it across the girth of middle age. The seven-year mark will demarcate high water, as per the Old Third valour. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July and October 2015

Cathedral barn of The Old Third

Cathedral barn of The Old Third

The Old Third Pinot Noir 2010, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $42, WineAlign)

In exhibition of its post-punk, nearly new wave, boyish fruit charm. Identifies as Pinot Noir from vines planted in 2005, fruit that saw oak worked in the same way it would do, forward to 2013. Tannins are utterly, wholly resolved in present elegance from a summer swelter in matchable cohorts to young fruit. Ten bears sweetness to a light richness and a lithe energy. Also a vin nature respect, with respect to ’13 that hides its very nature. In ’10 a yeast meets fruit barefaced parity is at this critical mass juncture, five-year stage, an aged picture of parent-child appurtenant appearance. Just a minor missive of hash lumbers on the mid-palate. Finally there is aridity and faux salinity without citrus acidity. Not so much Cabaret Voltaire as much as Woodhead Monroe. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted July 2015

The Old Third Pinot Noir 2008, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $35, WineAlign)

A taste and quickly it feels like an I’m not worthy moment, of respect, in thanks from the wise scribe David Lawrason and with admiration for the winemaker (Bruno Francois) who one and then four months later the other, pull this out of the magic hat. At seven it draws from and commits to memory for him, creates an epiphany for me and suggests the vines, on that slope, were always special. Memories like vampire weekends, epiphanies on County Pinot Noir and vines that were meant to be right from the start. The 2008 has barely moved. Unbelievers? “The world is a cold, cold place to be. Want a little warmth but who’s going to save a little warmth for me?”

The Old Third, Pinot Noir 2008

The Old Third, Pinot Noir 2008

Bruno Francois, Jens Korberg and their Old Third Pinot Noir, that’s who. From 4th leaf fruit, so yes, very young but of vines precociously grown to be of age. Single (not so very big) vineyard still supplying today’s Pinot Noir. This taste offers proof of inherent structure and ability to age. It reinforces the notion of the seven-year Prince Edward County Pinot Noir itch. The wood on this wine has threaded silk into leather, now comfortably worn in like bucket seats in a Thunderbird Convertible ’63. A puff of mushroom and little to no appointed astringency indicates the four or five year window that yet remains. A wine to justify staying up late and catching up during the day. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted June and October 2015

The Old Third Pinot Noir 2015 (Barrel Sample)

Bruno remits a dreamy, murky decant into full sized stems on the tasting bar, a hazy demure from the year’s first September pick. Like all the Old Third wines (save for the odd Sparkler which uses a biodynamic Champagne yeast), the stage is set for the  freshest aspects of Pinot Noir ripeness. Presently carbonic, fresh, natural, funky and primary. From a 23 brix count, sans Mr. Chapital and with some lingering sugar from a cap yet to drop. This to tell you its cloudy. Wild yeast gives texture ahead of the imminent gate passage with zero risk of a warm vintage stuck ferment. Around the bend is a finish with a specific gravity and colour not yet seen. The sugar and yeast compound currently confuses the soothsaying but look past and see a deepening and utter balance. Southeast aspect, Hillier Clay loam, fractured limestone, brought up by tilling. The 11th leaf. All tolled, to 2015, a new charge.

Pizza by Geoff Heinricks at The Old Third Vineyard

Pizza by Geoff Heinricks at The Old Third Vineyard

Related – Meeting of the wines at Treadwell Cuisine

Older County Wines

In June of 2015 the crew at WineAlign convened in Niagara Falls to judge the best Canadian wines at the National Wine Awards of Canada. Each night during the week of NWAC15 we broke bread with Ontario winemakers and tasted their wines.

Bill Zacharkiw, Brad Royale and John Szabo at The Good Earth

Bill Zacharkiw, Brad Royale and John Szabo at The Good Earth

Related – To Trius, by air

During that week we were hosted by Nicolette NovakMike Boland and winemaker Ross Wise and treated to an extraordinary meal by Therese De Grace at The Good Earth Wine Company. Dan Sullivan of Rosehall Run and Norman Hardie joined us and poured their wines.

Sablefish by Therese De Grace at The Good Earth Winery

Sablefish by Therese De Grace at The Good Earth Winery

During the preamble before dinner we gathered in the plenary idyllic evening Beamsville light, munched on olives and sundry bites while David Lawrason uncorked something like 20 older Prince Edward County bottles from his personal stash. Thank you David, if I did not already say it properly and with enough grateful inflection. The delve into history was mind-bending and if you know Godello, the significance waxes with each passing moon.

Pakora and Salad Roll Appetizer by Therese De Grace at The Good Earth Winery

Pakora and Salad Roll Appetizer by Therese De Grace at The Good Earth Winery

It was primarily Pinot Noir that graced the Good Earth table, set in front of the pizza oven in the halcyon vineyard environs. A stray varietal here and there interrupted the Pinot flow with contrasting recreation and to watch a gaggle of geeks contort faces with significant gazes was as much fun as tasting the whereabouts of the wines in relation to PEC and Ontario history. I made notes on 15 wines.

Prince Edward County Retrospective

Prince Edward County Retrospective

Exultet “The Beloved” Pinot Noir 2009, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

An important look back at not so past tense County Pinot Noir. A rich crush of red fruit, piercing in its limestone veneer and stretched, across large slabs of stone, reaching fissure harbouring mineral. This Beloved is “full of incidents and schemes… and sympathetic pharmacies.” Rooted, rustic, running so deep and lingering in flavour. The fruit sweet, the roots bitter, the memory luscious. Red electric honey. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted June 2015  @ExultetEstates

Exultet Pinot Noir 2008, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

A combination of vintage and one extra year’s time conspire to elevate the ’08 to a realm habituated by the callasthetic. Perception dreams up the magnetic, le beau ideal, from red fruit and energy, to defeat the volatile and the hungry. A tart, juicy, highly expressive Pinot Noir bred from a limestone ooze more scintillant than polish. Yet another 2008 County Pinot Noir to hit the seven year mark with an exactitude of response. In the County, well made Pinot planted in the right location will travel a septenary path. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted June 2015

Long Dog Pinot Noir Otto and Top Dog 2009

Long Dog Pinot Noir Otto and Top Dog 2009

Long Dog Pinot Noir ‘ Top Dog ‘ 2009, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Unfiltered Pinot Noir chosen from the best barrels. This ’09 is such a pretty dog, drinking through unseasonably warm temperatures with the top down. All about the pulchritude, prepossessing and with blanketing comfort by barrel. Though persistent in its sylvan, inelastic, smoky constitution, the Top Dog is a sight, smell and sweet suggestion to behold. Will drink and drive this way for a few more years. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted June 2015  @longdogwine

Long Dog Pinot Noir ‘ Top Dog ‘ 2008, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Despite the tougher, cooler vintage, this ’08 is so much prettier than its ’09 successor, in part due to the extra year of settling. There is a sweetness about it and the limestone bleed is less hematic, decreasing in medicinal-honey, silky soft in texture and exfoliating that aforementioned seven-year PEC Pinot Noir wisdom. That in itself is the leading candidate for yet another 2008 to show best in 2015. It’s uncanny really, all these seven-year wines acting in synch as a partisan, best in show troop. Though volatile (aren’t they all) the Top Dog shines well within reason and exudes such enervating, renewable and reusable energy. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted June 2015

Long Dog Pinot Noir ‘The Otto’ Reserve 2009, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $24.00, WineAlign)

A lithe County 12.1 per cent alcohol, clear as a gaze across Wellington Bay on a clear day and like the Top Dog, a cold-soaked and cool fermented Pinot Noir. Also repeats the LD stratagem of 28 months spent in French bilion oak barrels. The Otto shows its wood like a placard with censored fruit, funky etchings and the same terse firmness that expresses the eastern PEC limestone ester of its grounding. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted June 2015

Long Dog Pinot Noir ‘The Otto’ Reserve 2007, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $24.00, WineAlign)

Mercurial to quite a vivid degree with a silky palate. Another entertaining and intriguing window from which to peer into the variable Pinot Noir attempts of Prince Edward County past. Drink 2015.  Tasted June 2015

The Dunes, Sandbanks, Prince Edward County

The Dunes, Sandbanks, Prince Edward County

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir Rosehall Vineyard 2009, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (225748, $21.95, WineAlign)

Influential exhibition for the ’09 double R Pinot Noir, in a sea of peers ranging from 2007 to 2009. Examples displaying more density, power, heavy petting and hue may hover and solicit love, but it is this Rosehall Vineyard that steals the drink me and enjoy show. It is simply less rigid and though some strikes have gone against it in a “tough on you kid” way, it has persevered to hit one out of the park. This is right where it needs to be. Pure, fluid, effortless and smooth. “Such a perfect fusion of expectation, intention, and execution.” Great swing. A splendid splinter. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted June 2015

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir Rosehall Vineyard 2009

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir Rosehall Vineyard 2009

Rosehall Run Cabernet Franc Cold Creek 2005, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

Tight, bracing, cured by its own development and topped with a grating of fine chocolate. Crack acidity adds an estimable, ornate layer. The surcease is held at bay in a 10 year old Cabernet Franc made at a time when it was by no means in varietal fashion. Not just spinning remarkably well but standing on a podium to receive its varietal emeritus professorship. The cool, savoury middle and relevant woody notes carry this through. Wonderful historical gaze, luck or not Dan Sullivan. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted June 2015

Rosehall Run Cabernet Franc Cold Creek 2005

Rosehall Run Cabernet Franc Cold Creek 2005

Norman Hardie Pinot Noir Cuvee “L” Unfiltered 2009, VQA Ontario (Winery, $49.00, WineAlign)

A blend of 60 per cent Niagara and 40 per cent County fruit. Separate ferments were treated to vinifications for 12 months in French oak barrels, blended and put back to oak for a further six months. The L from nine is in beautiful tender demand. Though a firmness persists the future is viewed through this short window of the past. Lucent and lustrous County submits to matted and shadowy Niagara. The play is a one way ticket in 2009 so enjoy this soon and sooner. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted June 2015  @normhardie

Pizza by Norman Hardie Winery

Pizza by Norman Hardie Winery

Trumpour’s Mill Pinot Noir 2008, Estate Bottled, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (230227, $16.95, WineAlign)

From the artist formerly known as, here a peer into the past of The Grange of Prince Edward, a Pinot Noir that ingratiates not because it resembles, imitates or intimates anything, or any derived character from some endemic tradition, but because it has developed. Evolved from light and astringent into something other; something that resembles earthy, vegetal tar spread like confiture on a limestone slab of toast. Pleasure is not the operative but learning is. At $16.95 that would have been a small price to pay to wait seven years and see what’s up. I can promise that the 2022 Trumpour’s Mill Pinot Noir will be better for the education. Drink now.  Tasted June 2015  @grangewinery

Closson Chase Vineyard Pinot Noir CCV 2007, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $20.00, WineAlign)

Most of the 2007 County Pinot Noir I’ve tasted have fallen by the longevity wayside by the age of eight and many of those even before that mark. There was considerable heat in ’07 and the young PEC Pinot industry was not yet equipped to make proper élevage plans for the future. This CCV has lost its lustre, run amok of fruit and is now relegated to the acidity heap of methane exhalation. A current score is kind of meaningless and keep in mind this must be imagined having breathed out bright cherry fruit earlier in life. Drink 2015.  Tasted June 2015  @ClossonChase

Huff Estates Pinot Noir 2007, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery)

Firm, tannic and drying. Early in life there would have been sun on fruit but now, of a yawning, a void come into being, as chaos. Drink 2015.  Tasted June 2015

Huff Estates Pinot Noir 2007

Huff Estates Pinot Noir 2007

Keint He St. Laurent 2007, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery)

Very pretty. Think about the prearrangement, talk about the passion. St. Laurent planted in PEC, forwarded eight years in pro tempore for Pinot Noir or whatever other varieties have already left the building. Are you kidding me? Like adult candy. Firm but soft and sweet to the touch. Like tart raspberries and demystified currants. Amazing. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted June 2015  @KeintheWinery

Keint He Pinot Noir Little Creek 2007, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

A wine made by Geoff Heinricks from a time when everyone wanted and expected to make great Pinot Noir. A retrospective in 2015 shows that few actually succeeded but this, this is something other. A sweet, lithe and focused piece of history. The smoky hue and character rouses in vaporous waves. Getting high off this Pinot Noir seems not entirely out of the question. From stone roses to fully solarized, the browning is but a natural evolution, amazing, with dillling to dialled in raspberry moments. Little Creek sings “I could astound you if I wanted, I wouldn’t even have to try.” A moment of County found by the viticulture founder of the County. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted June 2015.

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel


The ridges of Prince Edward County

Anagogic #pec morning begins here #carryingplace #princedwardcounty

Anagogic #pec morning begins here #carryingplace #princedwardcounty

The mission is to gain a yet ascertained understanding. The intendments of geology and geography in Prince Edward County are already laid clear and discussed globally, at least by the wine interested, but what of a deeper, more detailed look? What about the moraines? What I really need to know is how a scant fraction of producers are able to produce so much promise? It must be the ridges.

On the Niagara Peninsula The Vinemount Ridge lies just above and south of the brow of the Niagara Escarpment. Its unique aspects play a vital role in determining some of the most complex Riesling and Cabernet Franc in the world. While not visually as dramatic in PEC, the ridges are no less important to viticulture. Driving the corrugations of Prince Edward County, along the Greer, Danforth, Closson and Lighthall roads, I follow the sight lines. With subtle aspects emanating from the northwest or northeast, the ridges along these roads angle east and west, each with their own gentle but effective slope falling ever so gracefully down to Lake Ontario. The significance is not lost on my mission.

Glenn Symons of Lighthall Vineyards tells me that certain parts of his vineyards can reach temperatures that are eight degrees higher than others. The shallow soils are a result of the stratified ice-contact deposits of sand and gravel that occur in this, one of three Prince Edward County esker ridges, trending northeast to southwest in the Cherry Valley area. Battista Calvieri of Hubbs Creek Vineyard notes that his (Lindsay formation from the middle Ordovician period) Danforth Ridge property provides 20 of 40 plantable acres ideally suited to Burgundian grape varieties. Plant at high density and the ridge takes care of the rest. At the Old Third, Bruno Francois walks me through his Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc vineyards on the Closson Road. Here the ridge falls more dramatically down towards a forest below.

The quaternary geology of the County accounts for glacial, till, glaciofluvial, glaciolacustrine and eolian deposits. The soils are “composed mainly of fine-to medium-crystalline limestone with shaly partings and sublithographic to finely crystalline no dular and shaly limestone. These bedrock formations are the main topographic control, being at, or very near (within 1 m), the surface throughout most of the map-area.” It all adds up to minerality in the wines and nowhere does the geology matter more than on the ridges.

Related – I’m a little bit County

To habituate a time and be privy to the transformation of a people and a place into something special is a rare form of curious, mysterious and spiritual entertainment. How neat it truly is to be witness to a generation awash in tempo collective, in watershed historical. There are many reasons why folks are making the move to Prince Edward County, why grapes are being cultivated, nurtured and paid conspicuous attention. The rise of the County is happening.

My friends and neighbours John and Amy moved out five years ago. They left the big smoke behind, settled  in a beautiful house with acreage to die for on the water. They walk and they breath. Long ago an old Montreal family friend opened one of the first wineries in the County. Thanks to David Lawrason I was able to taste through some old vintages of Long Dog last summer. What a peek back to better understand today. A long time friend of my wife recently moved out and opened a restaurant in Bloomfield. Kin Cafe makes a terrific sandwich. Two more friends have put their house up for sale in Toronto and are heading to the County. Is there room?

A #wellington Saturday night @DrakeDevinn quickie #drakedevonshireinn #pec

A #wellington Saturday night @DrakeDevinn quickie #drakedevonshireinn #pec

The answer is yes. Drive in from points north, from Brighton and down the Loyalist Parkway or from Belleville down Highway 62 and the wide open space will hypnotize you. Suddenly you find yourself in Hillier, Wellington, Bloomfield, or Milford. Then, moments later, once again farmland and the gaping sprawl of agrarian living. Truth be told, elevated levels of civilization, hipster happenings, fine gastronomy and modish behaviour have infiltrated the County. That said, the real story is in the ground.

Related – Take them home, County wines

Artists discovered PEC long ago. Ontario’s most thriving community dots the towns, barns and houses on the hills all over the County. Winemakers have followed. A Burgundian climate and geology were the original draw, and still are. The winter of 2015 and a devastating May frost conspire to be the kill of many hopes, but all is not lost and to persevere is to believe in the dream. Climate change and an undiscovered global truth about the County’s greatness are not just stuffing in a piped future. Bests are happening now. Great men and women are putting passion and acumen to work. Prince Edward County’s time is upon us.


Can it be such a coincidence why visiting foreign journalists of humanistic luminosity and their hyperboles of rumination have anointed Prince Edward County with what are effectively statements and essays of religious zeal? No, it is not. The soil, ridges, choice of plantings, winemaking and finally, the 21st century climate are the storm towards which perfection is aimed and eventually heading.

Related – You can lead a county to the city

Comity in the County is no joke. A harmonious thread weaves through and ties an inherent commonality together. Stylistically diverse yet magically aligned, up on the slopes of ridges or down in the valleys. This is how I would describe the wines of Prince Edward County. Walk along the Closson, Greer and Danforth roads or down in the Cherry Valley and see what the fuss is about. On an early October weekend I visited eight properties and while that was certainly 10 less than what I would have liked, the cross-section provided ample understanding, plenty of fodder and more than a tease for the next visit.

It's decorative gourd season mother... #cherryvalley #pec #colinnissan

It’s decorative gourd season mother… #cherryvalley #pec #clinician

This first part report on the County focuses on six properties. Part two will cover the wines of The Old Third tasted with winemaker Bruno Francois at the Cool Climate Chardonnay conference in July and at the winery on this trip. I will also offer notes on the various older vintages I tasted back in June.

Lacey Estates

Lacey Estates Line-Up

Lacey Estates Line-Up

Lacey Estates Riesling 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

With fruit culled from Bench lands on the Niagara Peninsula, the Lacey take on Twenty Mile Bench Riesling is on the light, piercing and linear track of typical. Like a younger, more naive and slightly jittery version of Flat Rock’s Estate take, this is a very tightly wound white, citrus-shaken from head to toe and full-on arid. As direct an example of pick, transport, crush and let sleeping dogs lie as is ever witnessed. A mess of butter chicken would help batten down its hatches. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted October 2015

Lacey Estates Gewürztraminer 2014, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

Lacey has prepared a dry Gewürztraminer with classic varietal tendencies, from rose to lychee by way of nuts and bitter pith. The sapidity is derived from the Closson Road Hillier clay-loam, blanketing the texture and the aromatics with a fuzz, like tiny hairs on a peach. Though still languishing in a proleptic state, the length on this wine indicates a good five years of pleasure ahead. Drink 20160-2020.  Tasted October 2015

One more prime #pec Pinot site. Lithe @LaceyEstates804 '11 with the seven-year itch. '13 from barrel progessing and professing further #PECwine #clossonridge

One more prime #pec Pinot site. Lithe @LaceyEstates804 ’11 with the seven-year itch. ’13 from barrel progessing and professing further #PECwine #clossonridge

Lacey Estates Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $22.00, WineAlign)

From a County Pinot Noir block on a plateau of the ridge set aloft the Closson Road, Kimball Lacey’s fruit is a prized commodity, albeit still very young. This vintage is not a weight-bearing one but it offers incite and prognostication. A lovely litheness is embattled by a talkative bitterness and a spectrum of red fruit whorls in circumfuse; cranberry, raspberry, strawberry and pomegranate. All are dispersed and interspersed by citrus. A primary Pinot Noir, with silken dreams and a softening when it may come together. Two to three years should bequeath good behaviour on the 1200 some odd bottles. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2015

Lacey Estates Chardonnay 2013, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $22.00, WineAlign)

It may strike as a derivative Greer-Closson County Chardonnay with Closson Chase and Norman Hardie as precursors but if Lacey’s 2013 is Fairport Convention to Chuck Berry, The Beatles and Bob Dylan, so be it. Older (4th, French) seasoned barrels bring pique, texture and balance. This is Chardonnay of spine and a touch of limestone funk. Very much a wine positioned on the stony tang of Prince Edward County and possessive of solid, three minute pop-song length. Kimball Lacey is on to something and the ’13 vintage coupled with the Closson Ridge is the right studio to make his music. Before too long the cries will say “why Mr Lacey, why d’you do the things you do? It’s true no one here understands now, but maybe someday they’ll catch up with you.” Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015

Grange Of Prince Edward

Grange Pinot Gris Select 2013, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

Where there’s smoke there’s hue and with impart by 15 hours skin contact prior to pressing, that colour and those aromatics are the result. Four weeks on the lees followed by four months in neutral oak bring distinct Caroline Granger character, in Pinot Gris unction and a mineral mile. Also on the naturally oxidative side of the Closson Road and Hillier clay-loam. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted at Agrarian Restaurant, October 2015

Grange Pinot Gris

Grange Of Prince Edward Lot 3 Traditional Method Brut, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

The Lot 2 Traditional Method Brut was aged 18 months sur lie and here in the third trimester the complexities are taken months further, to a moment in largely uncharted Prince Edward County territory. This tempo-lapse methodology is highly intriguing, especially in consideration of the occurring happenstance breach of the autolytic-oxidative continuum. In three there is liquorice and scraped orange skin breaths inhaling and exhaling through sensations of tart and in tin. The yet young oxygenation seems to disregard the yeast at this stage, leaving behind a vapour trail of Closson exhaust. It’s both exhilarating and wearying. Absorbed to say the least, still, “I’m wonderin’, I’m wonderin’,” where this will go. Were it a blush Brut it would surely be a shocking pink. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015

Grange Of Prince Edward Sparkling Riesling 2010, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

The reasons for re-tasting wines are multi-fold but none are more important than learning what you did not know. The batch may be different and any additional lees-affected time would certainly bring about a new wave of complexity. Though assiduously more Riesling than Sparkling, the age has amplified the Mosel temper and yet as bubbles it seems so very primary, with terpene and flint in mid-strike fashion. Stones, stone fruit, lemon pith and peach subdue the sugar and the commonality with the Lot 3 Brut narrates a house style story. “Like leaves, when autumn falls, turn gold, then they hit the ground.” The thrill of it all, in the county, of country life. Sparkling Riesling playing roxy music. Just a bit more balance to the bitters would eventuate bucolic living. Drink 2015-2020.

From my earlier note of December 2012:

Seems more late harvest, Spätlese over Sparkling. Nectarous juice with a squeeze of suspended honey and a light citrus spritz. Waited for the sear but it didn’t arrive. Good Riesling though.

Last tasted October 2015

Grange Of Prince Edward Pinot Noir Diana Block, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

Ripe and bright to a major degree with tannin at the controls. Still in two meanings, unmoving and perpetual. Acidity circulates, percolates, invigorates. Pinot Noir with a slight fever and an even bigger temper, stuck in primary, yet ready to relent. Remarkable and confidently not yet entered stage two of life but the silky texture is caressing and the forbidden fruit is ripe for the picking. So close to approachability, with just the liquorice and the volatility needing to step aside. The methodology of a 28-day primary fermentation, followed by 30 months in neutral French oak is the culprit. Structure can be a bitch. Diana will be worth the wait. Few Ontario Pinot Noir have ever shown such rural planning, architecture and potential. Count them on two hands. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted October 2015

My kingdom for her majestic lees @grangewinery #carolinegranger #pecwine

My kingdom for her majestic lees @grangewinery #carolinegranger #pecwine

Grange Of Prince Edward Cabernet Franc Northfield, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

Caroline Granger’s approach to Cabernet Franc is a natural ferment, earthy cure, holistically organic and eco-rich consanguinity. No other varietal hook-up happens like it does with the expatriate Loire currant clipper. Granger’s affinity with the grape is on intensate display with Northfield, especially in the cured, soil funky heat of 2010. Like the Diana Pinot Noir, primary fermentation occurred in stainless steel for 28-days and it was then aged 24 (as opposed to 30) months in neutral French barriques. The extreme unction, steroidal liquorice and streaky garrigue talk about the past and open up windows to the future of this wine. They are one in the same, spoken on behalf of longevity. This is essential for great Cabernet Franc, even in the midst of hyper tones and acquired tastes. Well done. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted October 2015

Lighthall Vineyards

Leave the @lighthallvyard on for 2014's Chard & Pinot. Rooms of their own #vintageofthedecade #aheadbyacentury

Leave the @lighthallvyard on for 2014’s Chard & Pinot. Rooms of their own #vintageofthedecade #aheadbyacentury

Lighthall Progression Sparkling Vidal 2013, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $20.00, WineAlign)

Progression is 100 per cent Sparkling Vidal by Glenn Symons, a.k.a. “Ward 5 Brut.” It brings stonk and soul together. Re-fermented in April and tasted in October, Progression marches forward and retreats, in re-emerging aromatics and of a deconstructed narrative. Singular in its fretting, of nervous energy and in keys altered by capo restrictions, Vidal has never played a tune like this before. Better growing periods and PEC areas are the sheet music, wi nemaking with atmosphere the arrangement. Progression is progressive, it celebrates musicality and it sells records. It also sells out, literally, not figuratively. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted October 2015

Lighthall Sparkling Rosé ‘The Fence’ 2014, VQA Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

This is Glen Symon’s first Sparkling Rosé, a 100 per cent Pinot Noir from estate vineyards, refermented using the Charmat method. Intensely fizzy, in toto fruity and actually gives off a Pinot Noir vibe. Something racy, spicy and wild runs rampant, rendering this blush bubble in an Ontario class of its own. It’s like 1980’s alt-dance fizz, with a New Order or B-52 thing going on. It just seems to do the “she-ga-loo, shy tuna, camel walk, hip-o-crit, coo-ca-choo, aqua velva, dirty dog and escalator.” Has the direct beat, retro and futuristic at the same time. Dance this mess around, in sweet and savoury tones, warm, day-glo, slow and gyrating. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted April and October 2015

Lighthall Chardonnay 2014 (tank sample)

The child of a fortuitous vintage and magical ferment. The wine hit 25 degrees and finished malolactic fermentation in two weeks. One third barrel, one third tank and one third a combination thereof. A perfect trilogy, same limestone pierce as always but with a new order texture and aromatics filling the room. Like 1987, of substance, in transitions, from ceremony to everything gone green. A storm of amalgamation. Really a new benchmark for Glenn, Lighthall, Cherry Valley and Prince Edward County.  Tasted October 2015

Lighthall Pinot Noir 2014 (barrel sample)

Best fruit ever. Malo done, only one year in (20 per cent new) oak and yet to feel the preservation effect of sulphur. Living a rich aromatic lifestyle with pollen in the air. Has the tannin to support its excesses (it spent one week plus three on the skins). Should lead to 400 cases and should retail for $35, though Glenn will probably charge $30.

Lighthall Pinot Gris South Bay 2014 (tank sample)

From Huff vineyard fruit, a rich, unguent emanation that shows slightly oxidative (pre-sulphuring). Has a chèvre-Chenin Blanc attitude that will turn to mellifluous honey with time.

Lighthall Muté 2011

Lighthall Muté 2011

Lighthall Muté 2014 (tank sample)

Here is unfermented Vidal, a vin liquoreux that wants to draw comparisons to sherry, straw wine, Rancio, Vin de Paille, you name it but with apologies back and forth, this is in a league of its own. A fortified wine with a distillate added to bring it up to 17-18 per cent alcohol. Distinctly orange in flavour, oxidative and yet religiously addicted to site. There will be 100 cases produced at $30 for a 500 mL bottle.

Hubbs Creek Vineyard

A library browse with Battista @HubbsCreek #sevenyears #PECwine

A library browse with Battista @HubbsCreek #sevenyears #PECwine

Hubbs Creek Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $27.95, WineAlign)

This is Battista Calvieri’s first County Chardonnay from his estate’s seven year-old vines. A minor barrel ferment (15-20 per cent) in French oak and the remainder in stainless steel seeks and finds Chablis. The wood needs two more years to dissipate, find inner-vision and expand in the mouth. The length is already outstanding, before which burst forth exploding pockets of spiced, warm drawn butter with nary an oleaginous feel. The HCV inaugural release is emulsified Chardonnay of silken protein, with pretty drops of vanilla and purity out of a Danforth Ridge vineyard ear-marked for quality varietal pleasure. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted October 2015

Hubbs Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir Unfiltered 2010, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $28.95, WineAlign)

Now in bottle four years, this sophmore Pinot Noir shines bright as the day it first passed into glass. From fruit really carefully nurtured off nine to ten year old vines, there is no sign of oxidation or advancing maturity. That is nothing short of incredible. Goes from fresh strength to strength in and by tannin. There is great spice (white pepper and dried red peppercorn) and two additional years should bring this to fruition. A minor note of late fall boletus mushroom talks up Burgundy. The HCV Danforth Ridge is clearly a top Pinot site in the County (along with slopes on the Greer and Closson roads). Planted to high density the results are proven in wines like this 2010. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015

Closson Chase

Quick crush of Le Clos '13 @ClossonChase Purple barn but Pinot all gone #chardonnay #pinotnoir #ccv #clossonchasewinery #clossonchasevineyard

Quick crush of Le Clos ’13 @ClossonChase Purple barn but Pinot all gone #chardonnay #pinotnoir #ccv #clossonchasewinery #clossonchasevineyard

Though I did not taste this in the County, I have been pouring it at Barque Smokehouse since early summer. I am including my March review of the CCV Chardonnay 2103 for perspective.

Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay Closson Chase Vineyard 2013, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (148866, $27.95, WineAlign)

This CCV Chardonnay is one of departed winemaker Deborah Paskus’ final acts at Closson Chase. It will forever be noted as a legacy-cementing, swan song of career excellence. Crafted by Paskus and bottled by the next one, current winemaker Keith Tyers, the 2013 CCV is simply a tour de force. No such combination of richness, tropicality and pure grape tannin has ever infiltrated this Chardonnay, from this vineyard. I’m not sure there is a comparison in Ontario, at this level of excellence and at this price. A wine of pure impression, with Montrachet-like structure and Folatières-like precision. Seemingly capacious, its facile legerity is hypnotizing, quantitatively escalating in assembly of aromas, flavours, through texture and finally to longevity. The wine spent 16 months in a mere (17.25 per cent new) oak. That it notes 12.5 per cent alcohol on the label is next to impossible. The substance is just too buttressed to be so tender and effete. Impeccable balance, refinement and mineral finish. This is Chardonnay to confuse the world’s fine white collectors, to wreak havoc at international tastings for five to 10 years. Only 712 cases are available and at $27.95, is down $2 in price from the 2012. Best ever, hands down. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted March 2015

Closson Chase South Clos Chardonnay 2013, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $39.95, WineAlign)

The South Clos is a richer wine in so many ways, detains the barrel with utmost retention and exaggerates the notion of peaches and their stones. Fully opulent, fleshy to the nth degree and marked by a peppy, peppery bite. This flagshig Chardonnay in the CCV stratum should, by all accounts be the unparalleled success story from the 2013 vintage. The specific southern most portion of the vineyard and barrel select accumulation provide it with the tools and the ammunition. So, as good a Chardonnay as it is, why does it recoil from a winemaker’s legacy defining moment? It is because a final act succeeds as the sum of great parts. The CCV Chardonnay is that summation. Le Clos, without team support, howls alone. If the expertly reasoned and balanced CCV was the last great work of Deborah Paskus, the South Clos is her last stand. It is loaded with and weighted down by excess, in orchard fruit, by blanched nuts and in kernel skin. It is very much a Chardonnay of heavy contact. It is a night scene filmed in daylight, a clichéd melodrama, day for night. It should best be enjoyed while the sun still shines. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted October 2015

Hinterland Wine Company


Hinterland Les Etoiles 2012, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $39.00, WineAlign)

An axial split between Pinot Noir and Chardonnay balances this traditional method Sparkling wine, specific to and what can only, obviously be from Prince Edward County. Acidity defines its existence in every facet of its being. A rich star to be sure, from a warm vintage, free from frost and more importantly, immune to mould. Jonas Newman talks of the methodology, in growing low to the ground. As the sun goes down, the canopy shades the fruit, slowing down the ripening, extending the season, developing the sugars, the complexities and preserving the acidity. At 6 g/L RS, with limestone communication and that sassy acidity, Les Etoiles in ’12 is pure County Sparkling. It exudes untamed apple and unnamed acidity. The Hinterland acidity. It strikes early and often. Just add warmth, stir and voila. Terrific year. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted October 2015

Hinterland Les Etoiles 2009, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $39.00, WineAlign)

The effect of three additional years on the lees (this bottle was disgorged on July 7, 2015) can’t be overestimated. In fact, tasting this ’09 Etoiles is like coming upon a new wine altogether. Its assessment is approached with only a present state in mind. The level of fine accumulation after (five years) is like stumbling upon a most convenient truth. Aromatic intricacy is the product of settling ramification. Think baking biscuits, early morning roses, cake yeast, oxidative orchard fruit skins, anise Taralli, ginger and preserved lemon. The ’09 remains opulent and yet nothing means nothing without first knowing that acidity persists as everything. This is Sparkling with an expansive mouthfeel and a burst of helium. Though in the autumn of its life it falls under the category of wow. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted October 2015

Hinterland Blanc de Blancs 2011, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $39.00, WineAlign)

If Les Etoiles is Hinterland’s Message in a Bottle and the easy drinking, baby maker Ancestral is alright for you, then the Blanc de Blancs could rightfully be the band’s instrumental Reggatta de Blanc. As a Sparkling antithesis to Les Etoiles it exudes much more limestone, in its lactic bleed, its piercing ooze and through the outright white lightning strike that pops in the mouth. Take away the Pinot Noir and a certain level of earthy tension seems to disappear, replaced by a different set of nervy parameters that County Chardonnay protracts in Sparkling wine. Picked on September 18th and 19th, i.e., a normal year, the B de B helps to transition the epistle spoken by the star towards the accessibility of the softer ballads and hits. It’s a bit of a middle child bottle of bubbles and though it sings without words, its meaning is clearly heard. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted October 2015

Notes on #Gamay in shape like Will, shaped by Jonas @northshoreproj #sandstonevineyard #wilms

Notes on #Gamay in shape like Will, shaped by Jonas @northshoreproj #sandstonevineyard #wilms

Jonas Newman is crafting wines for Hockley Valley’s Mario Adamo under the Adamo Estates Winery label. The first releases are borne of fruit out of some of Niagara’s great vineyards; Wismer-Foxcroft, Château des Charmes-St. David’s Bench and 13th Street-Sandstone.

Adamo Estate

Adamo Estate Riesling Wismer-Foxcroft Vineyard 2014 , VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

Part of the Adamo Grower’s Series wines, of big, juicy fruit and deliberately sweet at 27 g/L RS. A Kabinett Mosel styled Riesling not just for show but because “this is where the ferment wanted to stop,” says Newman. Fruit is culled from the part of the vineyard that determines such a style and direction. This is classic Twenty Mile Bench Riesling (one step removed from the W-F made by Ilya Senchuk at Leaning Post) that acts neither dry nor sweet but rather feigns aridity in toothsome clothing. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted October 2015

Adamo Estate Gamay Noir 2014, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

Jonas Newman’s first kick at the St. David’s Bench Gamay gutbucket is just that, raw and spirited in style. The clay and inherent ferric, metal sear resonates from the Château des Charmes vineyard. Considering CdC’s Gamay is as good as it gets for the money and from such farming in Ontario, what a fortuitous and gracious place to start for the Adamo family. Early energy, funky fruit and punchy acidity trill up the amplification. This is punch drunk fun Gamay, very Cru is style and pump per up in volume. It’s no Gamay Muzak, “pump it up, until you can feel it.” Gotta believe Elvis would have liked this Gamay. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted October 2015

Adamo Estate Pinot Noir Lowrey Vineyard 2013, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

Jonas Newman walks out onto hallowed Ontario Pinot Noir ground and offers his two Lowrey Vineyard cents. From the Grand Cru site where Thomas Bachelder, Ilya Senchuk and Wes Lowrey make three of the province’s most important Pinot Noirs, a fourth camarade has entered as the new kid on the block. This is no ordinary plot and the direction of the rows, the angle of the slopes and the venn diagram of overlapping St. David’s Bench and Niagara Peninsula appellative lines may be blurred. Make no mistake. Lowrey fruit is Lowrey fruit and in the hands of a winemaker like Newman, expect more excellence. The fruit is very young in here (three years in this 2013) so the level of inherent virtue is tempered as if by grains of salt. Jonas made this in a “deliberately big, unctuous style,” barrel aged for 10 months in 50 per cent new French Oak, “not built to last.” Big it is and yet pretty, with heaps of Bing cherry equally opposed by till, gravel and heavy clay. A two to three year structure is appropriate considering the age of the fruit. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted October 2015

Adamo Pinot Noir Lowrey Vineyard 2013

Adamo Pinot Noir Lowrey Vineyard 2013

North Shore Project

North Shore Project Gamay Willms Vineyard 2014 (Winery, $24, WineAlign)

This is Will Predhomme’s extended foray into crafting cool climate Ontario wines with Jonas Newman, a project that began with Syrah and Rosé from Lake Erie North Shore vineyards. The fruit for this Gamay is sourced from the Sandstone Vineyard in the Four Mile Creek sub-appellation of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Planted in 1983, it is owned and farmed by friends of 13th Street winery, Erv, Esther and Eric Willms. This Gamay is so Will, bright, energetic, positive, right there with you, all the way. Jonas gave it a bit of debunging for a hint of oxidation, a good move on his part to counteract the high level of excitement and anxiety it currently displays. Should be released in time for Christmas. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015  @northshoreproj  @WillPredhomme

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel


Four times ten reasons to drink wine on Halloween

Smurfette does Halloween

Smurfette does Halloween

October 31st is a date empowered. Each year I fall victim to its commercial holiday, Soma-coma induced temptations. I eat candy on Halloween (I never eat candy) and I write about what to drink with in compliment and in conjunction with its tasting menu confection. It’s all so very wrong on so many levels and yet I’m drawn to it like a moth to a flame? Why? What is it about this impossibly sappy and gagged up day that sucks me into its vortex of plastic, vinyl, crinkle and excess?

Related – Yet another 10 reasons to pour a glass of wine on Halloween

I blame it on childhood, on a time when innocence, naiveté and gullibility ruled my universe. When running with friends and getting sick on candy was both joyous and  an exercise in self-flaggelent stupid. When two hours meant freedom, rebellion and independence. Halloween is a kids’ version of travelling through Europe with a back pack. It’s like quitting a job, like going to Vegas on a stag (I hate the idea of going to Vegas on a stag).

Related – Ten more reasons to pour a glass of wine on Halloween

Well, that explains it. As adults, we try to justify the ingenuousness, callousness and asinine holiday, to make sure our kids find happiness in its bent farcicality. We try to grin and bear it. We attempt to embrace its forced beauty and its urban chaos. And we drink wine.

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

Looking back at those lists from 2012-2014 and the thirty reasons given for drinking wine on Halloween, the best ten can be culled and reformatted into the following quaternary list:

  1. Because sometimes adults need travelling sippy cups too
  2. The polyphenols in red wine can help offset the horrible effects of eating a pound of refined white sugar
  3. Who doesn’t drop their pants for a Ghostly White Wine Spritzer?
  4. Wine makes you forget Halloween ever happened
  5. A person with a candy bag full of vodka is an alcoholic. A person with a candy bag full of wine is classy
  6. To reduce the chances of having a heart attack or stroke at the sudden comeuppance of the neighbour’s $10,000 Halloween movie set
  7. Why should this night be different from any other?
  8. The doorbell rings every few seconds and beer takes much longer to pour
  9. It rhymes with Frankenstein

For the sake of keeping things new, I’ll add the final new reason to the list:

10.  A few glasses of Pinot Noir will make you smile as you remember how much money you saved by staying true to fun-sized candy

Be the life of the neighbourhood and fill those travellers with any of these 10 Halloween wines, subject to budget and chosen from the VINTAGES October 31st release. I promise not to suggest any candy pairings.

Fielding Estate Riesling 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (251439, $18.95, WineAlign)

The Richie Roberts take on Riesling brings Beamsville to the populace, combining the natural acidity of the variety with the micro-saddle-plot-climat ipseity that the sub-appellation provides. This early to market ’14 is quite tropical, offering an en primeur portal into what invariably will follow. Fresh, juicy, accessible and in near-perfect balance. Slate, calcareous bleed and fruit generosity make for one tidy, markedly gratifying Riesling.  Tasted March 2015  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine

Fielding Estate Riesling 2014

Bodegas Muriel Reserva Vendimia Seleccionada 2008, Doca Rioja, Spain (276030, $18.95, WineAlign)

Carries with it the efforts and old barrel trials of generations in its classic aromas. Cedar, dried plum, bitumen, dried anise, wood soaking in natural sugar syrup. Really seamless, flourless and austere in a running wild kind of way. Possessive of length and deserving of that oddest of wine descriptions; supple. This will age for 10-12 years with ease. A great wine for the money, right up there with the Montecillo 1991, but cleaner, juicier and with more sex appeal. A red head, a ginger, Rita Hayworth, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone.  Tasted March 2015  @bodegasmuriel  @RiojaWine

Muriel Reserva Vendimia Seleccionada 2008

Creekside Estates Laura’s Red 2012, Queenston Road Vineyard, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (117906, $19.95, WineAlign)

The richest, wealthiest and most lush Laura’s red to date. Constructed in high tones, big fruit and the most oak it has absorbed. Structurally speaking this climbs to play at the top of the Creekside regime game, with tannins formidable to demanding and a texture filled with spirited matter. Behind the scene and to a certain extent the veil there is Niagara, painted and dressed. Laura’s ’12 bites chocolate and picks at buds with impunity. This much plum and berry fruit will find a way to improve then strut in tastings years from now.  Drink 2016-2020. Tasted twice, June and July 2015  @CreeksideWine   @hobbsandco

Creekside Estate Laura's Red 2012

Château Pey La Tour Réserve Du Château 2010, Ac Bordeaux Supérieur, Bordeaux, France (349308, $19.95, WineAlign)

Here’s a well-organized, thought out and structured bit of tidy Merlot from the house of Dourthe. Bits of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec reinforce the pretty, dusty, deep blue fruit from between Bordeaux and St. Emilion. I wouldn’t call it rustic or old-school but I would mention its wise charm and traditional handling. Just a bit of astringency in the tannic composition will take this five years down the road. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted October 2015  @La_Cave_Dourthe  @Dandurandwines

Château Pey La Tour Réserve Du Château 2010

Wolf Blass Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Coonawarra, South Australia (606939, $23.95, WineAlign)

Prodigious Cabernet of and for protein. Melds flavours of salted caramel and real hot chocolate with melting berries like Churros filled with oozing centres, without sweetness. Has expansiveness and connectivity, with acids and direct displays of tannin. The real deal down in the depths of warm climate Cabernet Sauvignon. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted blind at WWAC15, August 2015  @WolfBlassWines

Wolf Blass Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Lavau Vacqueyras 2012, Ac Rhone, France (104927, $24.95, WineAlign)

Rich and very perfumed Vacqueyras composed of Grenache (50 per cent), Syrah (40) and Mourvedre (10). A wine with every intention to seek out a standing rib roast or duck confit to meet its every move. Charges that mix depth of fruit with grain of wood. Stratagem that marks violets moved to red berry fruit and reasonable acidity melded into a fine grain of tannin. There is just enough restraint in the process to consider this a finessed wine of gastronomy. It’s chewy but easy to digest, crusted and built of simple pleasures. Really well-made. No pretension, no attention drawn to itself and just plain affordable. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015  @oenophilia1  @RhoneWine  @VINSRHONE

Lavau Vacqueyras 2012

Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2013, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (1560, $29.95, WineAlign)

Flat Rock’s ever involving vines (on 33 hectares planted in 2001 and 2002) enter a new phase with indicators blinking and refreshing in this 2013 Gravity Pinot Noir. Youthful adolescence and gregarious fruit expression initiated in 2010 and carried through the 2012 vintage. Those years saw to a world of astringency and tension relegated to mites in the rear-view mirror. The wine is now in a nexus cross-roaded with exigency holding pattern. To understand its confusion and survey fast forward to its future is not easy. Gravity is a bit large right now, seemingly advanced, but to me the fight is between that fruit abundant state and the return of, though eased by meditative Jedi tension. Gravity just needs a parachute to bring it back down to earth. That lifeline may not materialize in this 2013 but that does not take anything away from its discriminating and diagnostic tones. Brightness, astatic inflection and succulence. This vintage may suffer from some level of snafu but it will age, evolve and breath. That much fruit has to have some level of expectation. The follow up ’14 and ’15 will win the hearts of horses and men. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted October 2015  @Winemakersboots  @UnfilteredEd  @brightlighter1

Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (208694, $34.95, WineAlign)

Showing reduction and barrel youth in its veins, pores, gutters and buffers. Smells just like a young Chardonnay after spending 12-18 months in a combination of toasts and forests should smell. A changeling constantly shifting, grooving, picking up steps and notes. Spice, prick and pierce with the gems of proper acidity. Of emeralds and pepper grinds. The piquant nature begs for time. A stab in the Chardonnay dark says Okanagan as distant cousin to Beamsville Bench or Vinemount Ridge. In the end winemaking steals the show. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC, June 2015  @BurrowingOwlBC  @LeSommelierWine

Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2013

2027 Cellars Pinot Noir Queenston Road Vineyard 2012, St Davids Bench, Niagara Peninsula (421370, $35.00, WineAlign)

A highly perfumed Pinot Noir from winemaker Kevin Panagapka in 2012, complete with an exotic spice box of aromatics; potpourri, roses, cassia, clove and aamchur. The profile hydrates to a mulled simmer as the wine is once again warmed by the vineyard’s ability to ripen, exaggerated in ’12 but with more grace, bringing its personality in line with its modest (13 per cent) alcohol. The cherry flavour veers black with a paste of tar and charcoal, but again, the psyche is smooth and elongated. Long finish to this Queenston which should see it sing to 2018 and beyond. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2014  @2027cellars

Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac 2008, Ac Saint Émilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France (425546, $39.95, WineAlign)

Showing a twinge of age at seven years, in rim and out of the natural whiffing forest aromas escaping with ease. The absolute right kind of earthy and barrel-influenced funk emanates, like experienced Bordeaux should, as would Rioja in similar approach to climacteric transition. A bit of leather, licquorice and aged beef join the gritty fray, mixed with aromatic citrus and grainy tannin to seal the destined way. This is ready to drink and yet two more years would not hurt its cause. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015  @Dandurandwines

Château Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac 2008

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel


$21.95 is the new $19.95

October fruit

October fruit

It has finally happened. It has come to this. Inflation has hit the LCBO. The old Mason-Dixon line for finer wine has left the building. We are finally rid of the oppressive bar of redundancy and free from the high water mark. First it was the penny, now it’s the $20 dollar bill. The over-under threshold of $21.95 is the new $19.95.

The wines I have chosen to recommend speak to the change, beginning with, going forth and prospering from the VINTAGES October 17th, 2015 release. One lonely bottle from the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia’s west coast stands to keep the frontier from moving north but the tide has risen and prices are no longer safe. Mark my words. Beginning in the fall of 2015, a twenty and a toonie in your pocket is the new requiem to make purchase for the common denominator in competent and felicitous dinner companions. On that note, everyone should be given a 20 per cent raise. Surely we don’t want any drinking of less than stellar LCBO issued wines.

Here are the picks.

From left to right: San Raffaele Monte Tabor Pinot Grigio 2014, Dirty Laundry Gewurztraminer Madames 2013, Palacios Remondo La Montesa 2012, Trimbach Riesling 2012, Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2013, and Red Hill Estate Pinot Noir 2013 and Hinterland Borealis Method Charmat Rosé 2014

From left to right: San Raffaele Monte Tabor Pinot Grigio 2014, Dirty Laundry Gewurztraminer Madames 2013, Palacios Remondo La Montesa 2012, Trimbach Riesling 2012, Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2013, and Red Hill Estate Pinot Noir 2013 and Hinterland Borealis Method Charmat Rosé 2014

San Raffaele Monte Tabor Pinot Grigio 2014, Igt Veronese, Italy (204768, $14.95, WineAlign)

Ripeness extended out of extraction leads to slight distraction in 2014, with mineral notes falling off the charts. The vintage is one of hyperbole for this particular Pinot Grigio abstraction, fruit compressed, stones crushed and dry extract seared by arid ice. Salinity and brine are magnified too though the overall impression in ’14 is one of weight, like the elements are being sent substrata, as opposed to the typically aerified course. Still there can be no denying the complexity such a $14 white affords, even if the line here is a bit right of centre. Drink now for hedonistic pleasure, with any savoury sea creature and alongside the next 60 days of increasingly cooler nights. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted September 2015  @oenophilia1

Dirty Laundry Gewurztraminer Madames 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley (423228, $21.95, WineAlign)

Illustrated Gewürztraminer of appreciably pointed attributes, on the off-dry side of town but with enough acidity to float on. Les Madames offers up the most sweet and inviting set of vinous virtues for the triple-threat DL schematic. The Summerland vines and warmth make for a fully expected and dramatized aromatic wine with the most unctuous behaviour. Were the pH and the grape tannin of a higher combined force this would also be a wine to lay down, to wait and watch for the sugars to slowly develop into things tertiary. As it is, find some flavourful and spicy fare to seek succulence through osmosis. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted October 2015  @DirtyLaundryVin  @winebcdotcom  @bottleneckdrive

Palacios Remondo La Montesa 2012, Doca Rioja, Spain (674572, $21.95, WineAlign)

This perennial confluence of the left and the right, of two oceans, grapes and barrels is the red wine portal into the Álvaro Palacios idiom. The modern polish and sanctity of Rioja conjoin for the most representative first pass at Tempranillo-Garnacha you will and should encounter. The vintage is not a rigid one, the wine a downy entry into the style and the equation. The fruit dominates calcareous longing and leaning but for the time being and the audience reached out to, there are no questions or complaints. Red plum and subtle liquorice meander into clay, get a sprinkle of white rock and distill into a seasoned, approachable liquid. Cracks are filled, bonds are cemented and dinner is properly accompanied. What won’t this work with and for? Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015  @WoodmanWS  @RiojaWine

Trimbach Riesling 2012, Ac Alsace, France (734517, $21.95, WineAlign)

“Six plus months will do wonders” is a statement of probability for well-made Riesling and for Trimbach, of the obvious. Coequality between fruit and mineral bobs on the surface of the vineyard and the rim of pale platinum beauty. Illustrative Alsace. Drink 2015-2022.

From my earlier note of March 2015:

To Jean and Anne Trimbach and most Alsatians, this Riesling from their ‘Classic’ range may represent the best that basic can be but when it travels oversees it gains a stature well beyond its humble roots. Here is another one of the those dictionary entry wines meant to depict and define. Quite simply emblematic Alsace. Built with acidity to envelop sweetness, marked by herbiage that is alive and fresh. Weight and density draw from Ribeauvillé rocks. Parity is realized in osmosis by fruit and mineral. As always, there is the tannic underlay, the length and the purposed bitter finish.

Last tasted October 2015  @trimbach  @WoodmanWS

Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (275958, $21.95, WineAlign)

Six months have amplified the current, running in a direct aromatic-flavour line from strawberry to black currant. Such healthy up front fruit with nary a moment of humidity shines while the wine remains just grounded enough to call it Niagara.

From my earlier note of December 2014:

Still organic through and through, despite only a small portion of estate fruit contributing to the overall design of the Triomphe Cabernet Franc ’13. Contracted growers fuel and fulfill the Southbrook ideology, to seek purity in healthy berries. The red fruit here shines on with Daliesque impunity. Its agglomeration makes a juicy, gregarious offer to sip. The vanilla-lavender streak brings elegance, more so than in ’12, along with an elevated sense of savour and really compounded red, red fruit. A natural sweetness and long finish are easy on the gustatory senses. Will be available at VINTAGES in February 2015, when the ’12 runs dry.

Last tasted June and September 2015  @SouthbrookWine  @AnnSperling

Red Hill Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia (58073, $21.95, WineAlign)

The Mornington perfume, distinct, ethereal, lifted, elevated, fresh with a bit sauvage, not of musk, but of a wild road less trodden. A step beyond fresh, into learned territory and also above crisp, into crunchy. Very interesting and complex Pinot Noir, so obvious as anything but, yet unique, tart, striking and long. This should have many consumer fans and expand horizons for broad appeal, but also be a friend to the discerning taster. Most impressive.  Tasted November 2014  @RedHillEstate  @Noble_Estates

Hinterland Borealis Method Charmat Rosé 2014, VQA Ontario (431817, $22.00, WineAlign)

The Ancestral cousin continues its arid ways in 2014, ostensibly a better vintage for the sparkling tank methodology. The fruit, acidity, volatility and tension all elevate and there is nothing surprising about that but where this sophomore succeeds is in the dry take on Gamay bubbles. So many winemakers would be tempted into higher dosage and the soft allure of enticing a younger audience with sweetness. Jonas Newman won’t go there. This is fun and simple but its aridity and dry extract keep it real. Like a September Algonquin campsite gaze upwards at the Aurora Borealis. “The icy sky at night.” Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted October 2015  @hinterlandwine

From left to right: Creekside Estate Reserve Viognier Queenston Road Vineyard 2013, Dominio De Tares Cepas Viejas Mencia 2011, Tenuta Rocca Barolo 2010, Cvne Imperial Reserva 2009, Prunotto Barolo 2010, Tawse Pinot Noir Lauritzen Vineyard 2012, Duckhorn Merlot 2012 and Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Brunello Di Montalcino 2010

From left to right: Creekside Estate Reserve Viognier Queenston Road Vineyard 2013, Dominio De Tares Cepas Viejas Mencia 2011, Tenuta Rocca Barolo 2010, Cvne Imperial Reserva 2009, Prunotto Barolo 2010, Tawse Pinot Noir Lauritzen Vineyard 2012, Duckhorn Merlot 2012 and Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Brunello Di Montalcino 2010

Creekside Estate Reserve Viognier Queenston Road Vineyard 2013, St. David’s Bench, Ontario (264168, $26.95, WineAlign)

Exceedingly mineral in 2013, decidedly varietal and power prepositioned for the purpose of small lot, attention to detail Creekside adjudication. Though Syrah and Cabernet Franc would seem to define the winery’s signature strokes, it is this small production Queenston Road Vineyard labour of love that crawls beneath the radar. The ’13 is outright juicy, unctuous, feathered in weight and warm-pitched to verdant greens. The vintage doles out more warmth than expected but acidity carries the weight, over the water and onto the dance floor. I’d wait a couple of years for some more floral and honeyed notes to develop. Drink 2017- 2022.  Tasted October 2015  @CreeksideWine  @hobbsandco

Dominio De Tares Cepas Viejas Mencia 2011, Bierzo, Spain (379891, $26.95, WineAlign)

This is rich and powerful Mencia, even for itself, sheathed and layered by the alternating variegation of French and American oak. From Alliers to Missouri there is comfort to be found in its warm blanket, alcohol (14.5 degrees) and depth of fruit. It might come across as figgy and raisined and indeed those aromas and flavours are imagined, but they are fresh, not dried. Acidity and tannin envelop fruit. Old vines offer substantial heft, concentration and brambly fruit like Zinfandel and Primitivo, but here there is a citrus lift to carry the weight. Emblematic Bierzo that has and will be more exciting with just that much more freshness and tension. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted October 2015  @DominiodeTares  @oenophilia1  @dobierzo

Tenuta Rocca Barolo 2010, Docg Piedmont, Italy (395103, $36.95, WineAlign)

Modern speak and safely on the pleasurable side of volatile. A real deal for Nebbiolo, ready and willing in afford of whatever’s in your pocket. Framework is well-delineated, wood properly judged, the view clearly visible from multiple correct vantage points. Not earth shattering but at the price reaches more than appropriate goals. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @regionepiemonte

Cvne Imperial Reserva 2009, Doca Rioja, Spain (424390, $38.95, WineAlign)

Another impressive, formidable and structured Tempranillo from the Cvne stable, from old vineyards and the comforts of both French and American oak. Such a rich and deep exhalant, as much fruit as tannin, mineral as acidity. There are many moving parts but one day they will align. Like a jigsaw falling into place, “the beat goes round and round,” swirling with tannic noise and plum fruit aromas, with earthy and botanical flavours. This begins with a murmur and ends with thunder. It rocks and wails in between. Rioja made only in the best vintages and the kind of $39 wine to lay down for 15 plus years. It will play on the radio and in your head for at least that long. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted October 2015  @Cvne  @vonterrabev  @RiojaWine

Prunotto Barolo 2010, Docg Piedmont, Italy (928721, $40.95, WineAlign)

The faintest hue. The rusty pilgrim. Such a pretty scent. Fresh roses and the beginnings of osseous imagination, to seek a classic pairing, with osso bucco. The real deal in normale Barolo. The righteous Nebbiolo beginning. The jumping off point with no sharks in the water. The effortless offering. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2015  @HalpernWine

Tawse Pinot Noir Lauritzen Vineyard 2012, Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (431601, $44.95, WineAlign)

Typically Tawse and exemplary of Lauritzen. The highest of the vineyard tones and a plot up on a ridge (now 11 years of age) growing up before our eyes. The fruit is not shy in any way. Possessive of earth alternating with min real neither Cherry nor Quarry nor Laidlaw can lay claim. This is a Pender Pinot that seethes, oozes and owns its vineyard’s fruit, rocks and clay, earth and elements. Upwards and drying, with tannins that shriek. Ripping and yet at once, a few years down the road to be, elegant Pinot Noir. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @Tawse_Winery  @Paul_Pender  @DanielatTawse

Duckhorn Merlot 2012, Napa Valley, California (992529, $59.95, WineAlign)

Always rich and flavourful, the champion vintage here elicits a nearly massive Merlot in benchmark Napa ideal. This has strength in situation and there is something you can’t quite put a finger on, but it emanates from a special brand of umami. Strength, poise and sweetness that never cloys. There grades a balanced capability and pure, grainy, sweet, supple tannin. Alcohol travels a really grand yet gracious line. It’s not hot at all. This is a Merlot steal, with fruit to match a long, meandering road. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted September 2015  @duckhornwine  @rogcowines  @NapaVintners

Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Brunello Di Montalcino 2010, Tuscany, Italy (372250, $69.95, WineAlign)

Arguably the most modern and stylishly put together Brunello on the market today yet without an overdoing of oak hinderance. Like the deliciously devilish 2007 this has a wealth of beauty and gregarious aromatics but unlike that precocious vintage there is weight and brooding behaviour as well. The depth of fruit and earth are not weighted down by excessive alcohol (a very good thing) though there is a bit of dried fruit and flowers mixed in to the cure. There is also a bitter almond pith note ties into the aggressive but starry-eyed tannins. This needs three to five years to come together. The hope is for that slight bit of green tannin to find its integrated way with the fruit. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted October 2015  @CastelloBanfi  @AuthenticWineON

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign: Michael Godel


East coast swing 2015: Time, tides and wine

Oysters and Double Duck Fries at Le Caveau Restaurant, Domaine De Grand Pré Vineyards

Foot bridge to grand L’Acadie

as seen on WineAlign

Time, tides and wine. In a place like the Bay of Fundy, the three intertwine with nearly inexplicable lightness of being. The traveler covets these things in wistful retrospection. East coast movement, water and the new frontier for viniculture. “Each day the tides carried us to promulgate layovers, to begin flowing again each seriate day, at the hour of its reversal.”

Related – The tides that bind: East Coast swing

The wineries of the Annapolis Valley are few and yet not very far between. It feels as though you could tread, sans automobile, to Lightfoot & Wolfville, over Benjamin Bridge, back to Domaine De Grand Pré Vineyards and up the hill to L’Acadie Vineyards. Foot bridge to grand L’Acadie. All in a day’s walk.

While the exercise of a vinous walking tour would seem to fitly tread the boards of Nova Scotia’s watery ways, even more so for stations achieved by bicycle, a car makes possible the desire to learn more in less time. The roads in Nova Scotia wine country lay out as an inferential and navigable labyrinth, in the Gaspereau Valley and along the shores of the Minas Basin, from Wolfville to Grand-Pré of King’s County. There, unbeknownst to who knows how many zonked global winos, the wines of Nova Scotia not so much hide as crouch. They are a real, new deal, fervidly expensive to those who don’t yet understand them, free to those who do. They are poised to join the ranks along with Canada’s best.

Related – Consider the Gaspereau Valley

Peter Gamble has reached out a major hand to three essential facets for Nova Scotia’s wine renaissance. His consultancy has raised the profile and the bar for Sparkling wine from Benjamin Bridge Vineyards. He has been instrumental in the creation of the provincial appellative blend Tidal Bay, a regionally defining and commercially essential white wine. Ontario has fallen behind in not seeking out to create the same. Gamble’s work with the vinifera producing wines of Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards is the single most important revolution to happen in the Canadian wine industry in 20 years. I wrote this last summer. “What he will touch in his new appointment at Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards will make Nova Scotia history.”

Courtyard of Le Caveau at Domaine de Grand Pré Vineyards

Courtyard of Le Caveau at Domaine de Grand Pré Vineyards

Over the course of two days in late July I foraged through a second annual investigation into the Wines of Nova Scotia. It began with a tasting through the Domaine De Grand Pré Vineyards portfolio led by Hanspeter Stutz. The estate’s Vintner’s Reserve Riesling 2013 was recently awarded one of three Awards for Excellence in Nova Scotia Wines at the recent Lieutenant Governor’s Vice-Regal Wine Awards. The other two winners were Blomidon Estate Winery Cuvée L’Acadie 2010 and Avondale Sky Winery Martock 2012. Blomidon and Avondale Sky are two estates at the top of my WONS bucket list I have yet to visit.

Post anything but haste tasting with HansPeter dinner then followed at the estate’s incomparable Le Caveau Restaurant, in the company of L & W’s Mike, Jocelyn and Rachel Lightfoot, with Chef Jason Lynch manning the stoves.

Le Caveau's Beef Two Ways, grilled AAA hanger steak, beef shank galette, seasonal vegetables, barley

Le Caveau’s Beef Two Ways, grilled AAA hanger steak, beef shank galette, seasonal vegetables, barley

The following morning I sat down with Rachel and winemaker Josh Horton at Lightfoot, then travelled shotgun with Mike to taste at Bruce Ewart’s L’Acadie Vineyards. The estate’s Cuvée Rosé 2011 was awarded a Silver medal and the Vintage Cuvée 2012 a Bronze at the 2015 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC15). We then paid a visit to Benjamin Bridge to peruse a Sparkling meets still appraisal with head winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers and vineyard manager Scott Savoy.

Smell the slate and taste the natatory saliva, like liquid shells from the grape that transmits nascent maritime theology. Consider this variety that accentuates the terroir and reaches beneath the mud, to imagined aquifers for deep-rooted flavour

L’Acadie the grape variety harbours one of the great acidity secrets on the planet. Sparkling wine is possessive of dramatic excellence in Nova Scotia. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are moments away from certain greatness.

Le Caveau's Charcuterie Plate, house-made and locally sourced, served with chutney, shallot compote and spiced bread

Le Caveau’s Charcuterie Plate, house-made and locally sourced, served with chutney, shallot compote and spiced bread

Domaine De Grand Pré Vineyards

“The wines of Nova Scotia could not be drunk in the 1990’s. None of them.” These are the words of a now very proud Hanspeter Stutz, who in 1993 purchased the estate and re-planted 30 acres. The doors opened in 2000. In can be argued that no one in Nova Scotia has accomplished more and furthered the credibility of hybrid-produced wines than Hanspeter and (winemaker-son) Jürg Stutz.

Godello and Hanspeter Stutz at Domaine de Grand Pré Vineyards

Godello and Hanspeter Stutz at Domaine de Grand Pré Vineyards

Domaine de Grand Pré Riesling Vintner’s Reserve 2013, Nova Scotia (Winery, $20, WineAlign)

Imagine lime as a tide, ripening in extreme oscillating waves and layers like the highs and lows of Fundy’s Minas Basin. Only a dike could stop the citrus from rising and falling twice at normal sipping speed within the time it takes to assess through a glass. Lactic and piercing with a finish that pops, like no other Riesling in the world. Such a lingering finish. Healthy in correct perspective at 11 per cent alcohol. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted July 2015

Domaine de Grand Pré Tidal Bay 2014 and Riesling Reserve 2013

Domaine de Grand Pré Tidal Bay 2014 and Riesling Reserve 2013

Domaine de Grand Pré Tidal Bay 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, $20, WineAlign)

Hanspeter’s favourite wine is this blend of L’Acadie Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Ortega, Muscat and Vidal Blanc. Using the maximum allowable 15 per cent Muscat Hanspeter explains the choice to “do fruity, with our strength and to a dry finish.” Muscat acts as the catalyst to achieve this end. At 11 per cent abv it is not overdone, remains in balance and leads the Tidal Bay armada. Defines terroir within a properly determined fragrant framework specific to the Nova Scotia appellative intention. Rocks no boats and expresses more character than a rhyme with bucket or most. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted July 2015

Domaine de Grand Pré Seyval Blanc 2013, Nova Scotia (Winery, $17, WineAlign)

The DGP equivalent of Chasselas along the Lake Geneva shoreline, straightforward, 12 per cent alcohol juicy, pure white simplicity. For those who would pin this hybrid to “empty cold and bare,” open your mind and conceptualize Seyval to be fish friendly to a Swiss degree. Terrific lemon acidity and smoke on the water bitters put this in perfect mind of place, with good length. White flames to deep purple. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Domaine de Grand Pré Baco Noir 2013, Nova Scotia (Winery, $18, WineAlign)

A smoky, unambiguous tobacco kiln and blueberry Baco. Sour cherry, salumi and pepper infuse the vina da tavola feel and like Syrah goes as meaty as can be. Refreshing because it smacks of Baco Noir, not oak. Rad sour finish. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted July 2015

Domaine de Grand Pré Castel Vintner’s Reserve 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, $19.50, WineAlign)

The crossroads varietal happening is on display here with Cinsault and a member of the native North American Vitis ruprestis family (by Pierre Castel). Four to five thousand bottles of peppery black run off convey a taste of pickled black raspberries, cut by major chalk and minor tannin. Juicy and ready for roast game. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted July 2015

The reds of Domaine de Grand Pré Vineyards

The reds of Domaine de Grand Pré Vineyards

Domaine de Grand Pré Cabernet Foch 2012, Nova Scotia (Winery, $25, WineAlign)

Only made in top vintages (when Cabernet Sauvignon ripens) and in those years the Foch welcomes the bones and body, for ageability in accord with agreeability. Travels from Cassis to tar, chocolate to sour cherry. Chalk again, this time in grains of liquid sand and a pepper-laced finale. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015

Domaine de Grand Pré Foch Vintner’s Reserve 2012, Nova Scotia (Winery, $25, WineAlign)

Without the parenting role performed by Cabernet Sauvignon the Foch abandons the homestead and goes it alone. Kind of ironic considering the vinifera is the guest but old world pedigree and custom is hard to replicate. A mix of lead pencil, a curtailment of fruit and fermentation by attrition. A wild ride of savoire verte, tar and resilient verity. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Domaine de Grand Pré Tom Tom NV, Nova Scotia (Winery, $25, WineAlign)

And I quote. “This blended red wine was created in honour of Tom Preston. Tom was probably the longest-serving field hand in the Nova Scotia wine industry. His career at Grand Pré placed him near the center of its remarkable growth; as witness, contributor and mentor to those who tend the vineyards today. Tom passed away in 2014 only two years after his retirement from the vineyards.” This 1300 bottle debut tribute consolidates 60 per cent Marquette from two vintages with Baco Noir and Cabernet Foch. The second encomium will go under another moniker. A blend that softens in simpatico, ripens with one another and pitches in together. There is cure in its depth with red plum on the road to palate. Quite the coat of veneer. All red fruit, incumbent acidity and red lactic citrus circulating throughout. To Tom. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015

Domaine de Grand Pré Riesling Icewine 2013, Nova Scotia (Winery, $54.50, WineAlign)

From Warner Vineyards in Lakeville, Nova Scotia. Barrel fermented and aged in American oak for 10 months. Incredible acidity on top of pure fruit that indicates pear and white fleshed peach. The yield comes from an orchard’s northern clime stone groove with nary an apricot in mind. This wine, as with the table whites and reds, never takes itself too seriously. In the words of Hanspeter “just have fun and work on it. That’s a start.” Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted July 2015

L’Acadie Vineyards

“Tirage and terroir,” asserts Bruce Ewart, a pile of vineyard rocks and stones separating he and I on the tasting counter between us. The rocks are quarried out of slopes in the Gaspereau Valley spilling down towards the Bay of Fundy, from vineyards built of glacial till in the soil mixed with clay and loam. “Mineral flavours from mineral soils,” adds Ewart. Then we taste.

Godello and Bruce Ewart of L'Acadie Vineyards

Godello and Bruce Ewart of L’Acadie Vineyards

L’Acadie is the signature grape of the L’AV command. When sourced from clay-loam it produces fruitier wines, from still to sparkling. The mineral increases from out of the glacial till. L’Acadie is certified organic and all of their wines are made with 100 per cent Nova Scotia grapes.

Glacial till stones of L'Acadie Vineyards

Glacial till stones of L’Acadie Vineyards

Bruce goes straight for the critical jugular and pulls out the best Sparklers in his portfolio. Make no mistake, no matter the hybrid content, the wines are cogent sticks of Nova Scotian dynamite with unprecedented levels of balance. They are as unheralded as any in North America. The only other house with less attention yet paid to its méthode traditionnelle programme that I have encountered is Sparkling Pointe on the North Fork of Long Island. Yet another example for a cool-climate region’s reason to make bubbles.

Sparkling wines of L'Acadie Vineyards, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia

Sparkling wines of L’Acadie Vineyards, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia

L’Acadie Vineyards Prestige Brut Estate 2009, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (Winery, $45, WineAlign)

From the second harvest (following the 2008 vintage was from 2005 fruit) of the certified organic vineyard, a south facing Gaspereau Valley rocky plot blessed of ancient geology, like crushed pills of polar pottery and with perfect natural low vigour conditions. That first vintage of some 100 odd bottles still rests and will do so for likely up to seven or eight years. The 2009 is made in the traditional method and aged for five years on the lees. All estate fruit and that 60 months is needed to bring about harmony. Toasty, part cruller, part panettone and brut to the point of profundity (was six and is now 3 g/L of residual sugar). Bitters melt into length with alcohol set at 11.6 per cent. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted July 2015

L’Acadie Vineyards Vintage Cuvée 2012, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (Winery, $26, WineAlign)

A Cuvée cut with a bowie from grower’s fruit on clay-loam soils with less triage (24 months) than the other sparklers in the L’Acadie oeuvre. A fruit forward expression, persistent in biscuit baking but the result is more cookie than croissant. Reads like an eight line poem, the higher dosage (8 g/L) in drama of orchard fruit and lime zest. Hunky dory bubbles, “the key to the city, is in the sun that pins the branches to the sky, oh, oh, oh.” Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted July 2015

L’Acadie Vineyards Cuvée Rosé 2011, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (Winery, $26, WineAlign)

Blends dramatically early-picked Marechal Foch (40 per cent) with less antecedent specific to bubbly-grown L’Acadie (60) grapes. The Foch brings can/rasp/strawberry to the system of sparkling reckoning, in subject meaning for the latter to chastise with acidity. Comes to light like a new sparkling day, an awakening of bubbles senses, with a balanced attack of fruit flavours ushered within the pressured caisson of L’Acadie’s mineral chamber. Salinity, brine, sapidity and red citrus roll on. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015

L’Acadie Vineyards Rosé 2014, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (Winery, $20, WineAlign)

An early picked Marechal Foch, lithe 11.6 per cent alcohol, crushed berry beauty. Terrific aridity, aromatic allure and redundant in nix of residual sugar. Another nerdy, essential example of what can be done with Rosé in Nova Scotia. Cranberry and strawberry expressed through citrus with the always necessary mineral balance provided by L’Acadie, in every reason, for harmony. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted July 2015

L’Acadie Vineyards Estate L’Acadie 2013, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (Winery, $20, WineAlign)

Here the mineral and bone in till from the strong, outstretched arm of the sea lends sentient clarity, joined by the earth it bares. Smell the slate and taste the natatory saliva, like liquid shells from the grape that transmits nascent maritime theology. Consider this variety that accentuates the terroir and reaches beneath the mud, to imagined aquifers for deep rooted flavour. Think about vines that delve into the glacial recesses to divine subaqueous locution.  As a hybrid L’Acadie may seem obtuse but as a Nova Scotian reality it may as well be Muscadet, or even Chablis. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015

L’Acadie Vineyards Passito 2012, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (Winery, $23, WineAlign)

A Ripasso-style red made from 30 per cent dried grapes. An intriguing approach for hybrids and cool climate viticulture. Marechal Foch and Leon Millot are aged in American oak. The discerning is of dried figs and prunes, foxy and slick. Characterful, like duck prosciutto and dried, sour cherry liquorice, spiked by fennel seed and dipped into a pool of savoury syrup. Very interesting. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

L’Acadie Vineyards Alchemy 2010, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (Winery, $43, WineAlign)

Here the Ripasso steps up to Appassimento. In 2009 the work was performed with 75 per cent Leon Millot and 25 Luci Kuhlmann aged for 24 months in American oak. The 100 per cent methodology in 2012 in the 500 mL bottle is all Foch and nothing but. Leads to a deeper brood, of rich, chocolate flavour melted and hardened over blackberry and a wild hit of sauvage. Intense red smouldering with tobacco and finishing in pulsating fashion, like currants on steroids. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015

Benjamin Bridge

Jean Benoit Deslauriers, along with viticulturalist Scott Savoy leads Mike Lightfoot and I through a transaction of Sparkling and still wines in the BB portfolio. Deslauriers offers a concise dissertation on phenolic maturity as a journey incarnate, out of the Gaspereau Valley’s long growing season, mitigated by the east west corridor. He talks on moisture vs heat and the dichotomy of swelling berries. “Its not California here” he says with a wry smile and I can tell he’s pleased with his winemaking lot in life. Here it’s real, tapping into hang time, phenolics and utterly eccentric levels of dry extract.

Tasting at Benjamin Bridge, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia

Tasting at Benjamin Bridge, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia

Benjamin Bridge Nova Scotia Brut 2008, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (381533, $49.95, WineAlign)

Even if it’s not the first Bridge record, a milestone moment is here in this the last wine with hybrid contents (within this particular BB program). Though it houses 10 per cent Chardonnay and 10 per cent Pinot Noir, the remainder (80) is Seyval Blanc, L’Acadie Blanc and Vidal. At this Brut level it’s so very bluesy and deceptive in consideration that it is a hybrid based wine, but at the sensory level, miles beyond and a whole other matter. The tempo is furious, the muscularity of tone like bebop in chorus. It has citrus fleshed, aromatically autolytic patisserie and caramelizing onion richness. It’s a searing, raging scintillant, still throbbing and thriving. There is so much grapefruit here in crazy intensity. Work with it and the toast, the brioche and the baking spices come out, come clean and linger. Drink 2015-2023.  Tasted July 2015

Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve Methode Classique 2004, Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia (275396, $95.00, WineAlign)

The ’04 is hanging in beautifully, on a wire of impossible balance, at 11 years old not yet really transitioning. There is simply too much brightness for it to give up its youth. You have to strain your ears, nose and throat to assuage just a hint at oxygen, life affirming breaths and then a keener sense of toast and yeast. Still behold the grapefruit, a sign of remarkable adolescence, the hang time amplified and in mass hyperbole here, in this current appraisal, address and time. How can richness act and display with such alpha freshness? How can an aging body not shed baby weight, turn lanky, lean and awkward? How is it neither the bitter pill of juvenility or senility has been swallowed? That is not the case here in a Blanc de Blancs which still has five to seven years of very active life ahead. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted July 2015

Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve 2008, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (275396, $74.95, WineAlign)

From dry extracts that were off the charts, the ’08 comes to play with massive intensity. A unique Co2 effervescence, expansive instead of contracting. A wine of palate sensory driven speculation and assessment. Unrelenting mousse, exploding outwards, persisting straight through to the finish. Richness matches the foundation of freshness, with a full citrus fruit palate. Density from super low yields (a decadent tonne per acre, 1/6th of champagne) in another cool year, or in other words, “a vintage of opportunity.”

From my earlier note of July 2014:

The 2008 Brut Reserve is composed of 61 per cent Chardonnay and 39 Pinot Noir. If any wine in the Benjamin Bridge continuum defines the legacy left behind by Raphaël Brisebois and passes the sparkling torch to Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, this ’08 is it. Here is the vintage that begins to emulate the grower’s Champagne of the motherland, in deeper learning, understanding and connection to the estate’s vineyards. At present this is such an infant, reductive and with a blowzy palate that suggests a fidgety, elemental state. The attack is in burgeoning mousse. After spitting, the wine persists, as if there remains a mouthful, causing the cheeks to expand. The citrus is weighty in texture and this ’08 goes deeper than the previous Brut reserves. Three years will be required to allow for a settling and 20 years lay further ahead for secondary, tertiary and quaternary development.

Last tasted, at the winery, July 2015

Benjamin Bridge Vēro 2013 and 2014

Benjamin Bridge Vēro 2013 and 2014

Benjamin Bridge Vēro 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, $22, WineAlign)

Derived from veritas, the Latin word for truth. If Tidal Bay is an appellative Nova Scotia blend that walks from the sea, Vēro is the Bridge’s worthy adversary that emerges from the land. This vintage is composed of 35 per cent Chardonnay, 10 Sauvignon Blanc, 15 Riesling, 20 Ortega and 20 Vidal. It appeals with an increase of ore and aridity, despite and in spite of 17 g/L of residual sugar. It is a formidable, linear, focused, 11 per cent alcohol straight shooter. Hybrids speak in foxy white linen and lace. A striking and popping white blend. Quite wild, really. 500 cases made. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Benjamin Bridge Vēro 2013, Nova Scotia (Winery, $22, WineAlign)

As in the forward ’14, this ’13 is again built on the foundation of freshness and the highest of aromatic components. Percentages are (60) Chardonnay, (30) L’Acadie and (10) Riesling, the latter of which is noticeable, adding petrol and terpene to the still beating, vibrant palate. Compounded by full flesh on viscous mouthfeel. Has a natural, nearly oxidative feel just beginning to happen so it behooves to ask if these are the wines that define idealism as adversary to the stylistic Tidal Bay way? Finishes with terrific bitters and a L’Acadie oyster shell coarseness. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted July 2015

Benjamin Bridge Cabernet Franc Rosé 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, $22.95, WineAlign)

A Nova Scotia first, this blush made from 100 per cent Cabernet Franc. The minerality comes straight from stone, sans flint, and the epigrammatic aromatic notion is saucissons and rillettes, not wild berry. Simulacrum to a Loire Valley format, like Chèvre on a log after a forest rainstorm. Stone age Breton on exhibit. Salinity and aridity in spite of its meagre 7 g/L RS. Bright, fresh and vivid tones are wrapped up in the enigma of very cool climate grown Cabernet Franc. Sea and brine entrammel the flavours. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

There is really no vintage in, vintage out agenda on a journey to categorical dryness for Nova 7, so it is thrown like caution to the Fundy wind and fermented at lower temperatures. The risk road taken preserves the Co2, which stays in the solution instead of leaving, thanks to the cool temperatures. Terpenes, phenols and esters remain. Low alcohol (8 per cent), elevated (80 g/L) RS, aromatics and effervescence are the amalgamated result. A unique wine out of an extreme environment, this is a plainly, nearly painfully mother humming cliffhanger from Benjamin Bridge. Beautifully waxy, of a pink aridity, brightness, fresh acidity with a dry finish, in as much as such a level of sweetness can allow. Will stay fresh, age and linger for five to seven years, easy. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted July 2015

Lightfoot & Wolfville

Natural challenges, winter temperatures in the -20 range, late frosts, hurricanes. Welcome to growing grapes in Nova Scotia. And yet Lightfoot & Wolfville is producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Mike Lightfoot attributes vine survival to nutritional balance in the natural systems through organic and biodynamic viticulture.

Ancienne Chardonnay and Pinot Noir 2013 with a glass of soon to be released Rosé

Ancienne Chardonnay and Pinot Noir 2013 with a glass of soon to be released Rosé

The pioneering activities do not end there. L & W has also added 4.5 acres of rare and classic vinifera to their “Corton” Oak Island vineyard. Chenin Blanc, Scheurabe, Sauvignon Blanc, Kékfrankos just to name a few. “These grapes were chosen based on climate and soil chemistry,” with the future in mind, for sparkling, still, and sweet wines.

These are the wines I tasted (from bottle and tank/barrel samples) in July with winemakers Josh Horton and Rachel Lightfoot.

A sneak peak at Lightfoot and Wolfville's Tidal Bay

A sneak peak at Lightfoot and Wolfville’s Tidal Bay

Lightfoot & Wolfville Tidal Bay 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, Approx. $21-22, WineAlign)

A Muscat-less blend of Geisenheim, L’Acadie Blanc, Chardonnay and Chasselas with a directive to drive by aromatics if easy on the turns. A Tidal Bay borne on the architecture of spine, a step shy of sacra perfume. A white to pair with local necessity, a seafood marker, a buoy to the stock pot and the grill. Its release is imminent (the intention was between August 17th to 27th). Represents pure citrus distillate, in lemon and lime, with a median balancing action in 12 g/L of residual sugar, which really doesn’t show, no, not even close, though certainly the acidity balance helps (9 g/L of TA). Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted July 2015

Lightfoot & Wolfville Rosé 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, Approx. $18-20, WineAlign)

Pinot-driven, of Noir and Pinot Meunier with tiny amounts of Geisenheim and Frontenac Rouge. Arid, rusty, simply and purposefuly pale red that emerges straight from the earth. Has a plasma sensation, with lemon and dry red earth. Natural feel. A cure of veal. More structured than even its makers are giving early credit for. A portal to the more ”serious” solo, mano a mano Pinot/Pinot to come. A hue and style originated and heading in the right direction. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted July 2015

Lightfoot & Wolfville Chardonnay Ancienne 2013, Nova Scotia (Winery, $40, WineAlign)

Welcome to the new Chardonnay ethos, an east coast compages for la belle nouvelle écosse, the new borderland for Canadian vinifera. The respite found in Lightfoot & Wolfville’s first release is like breathing for the first time. As I noted a year ago while tasting through (mostly older) barrel trials, I have unearthed a Canadian winery animated in the architectural rendering of Premier Cru Chablis. Full textured, creamy aromatics, layers of lace and luxe, popping acidity and with length stretched to service now and later. Approximately 135 cases made. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted July 2015

I see the light. Innaugaural releases of Lightfoot and Wolfville's Ancienne Chardonnay and Pinot Noir 2013

I see the light. Innaugaural releases of Lightfoot and Wolfville’s Ancienne Chardonnay and Pinot Noir 2013

Lightfoot & Wolfville Pinot Noir Ancienne 2013, Nova Scotia (Winery, $40, WineAlign)

If de novo for Pinot Noir is to be found in Nova Scotia then count me in because the inaugural release from Lightfoot & Wolfville is the trailblazer for and from the extrinsic frontier. Tasting the painstakingly measured yet barely handled 2013 for the first time (from bottle) is like falling into a glass of Nova Scotia cherries. Somehow there is this simultaneous and virtual voyage abroad to imagine a comparison with Nuits-Saint-Georges, in its earth crusted, sanguine, welled up tension that begs questions and belies answers. A year yonder the taste from barrel and what can be said? Pinot Noir adjudicated, into a cortex of recognizable consciousness and thus into the natural Nova Scotia mystic. Ignore and forgive the dope of first returns, for no one could have imagined such ripeness and immediate gratification. Future releases will dial back in the name of structure. That said, in 2013 there is a red citrus, ferric debate that will send this to an exordium seven years down the road. Impossible inaugural release. Approximately 50 cases made. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted July 2015

Lightfoot & Wolfville Sparkling Blanc de Blancs 2012 (Sample)

Not yet disgorged with a plan for leaving them for five to seven years on the lees. From estate fruit (five year-old vines at the time) tanking in stainless, with no dosage. Full input charged citrus reminds of Brut Zero (i.e. Tarlant) in its classic, linear, straight pierce, dart to the heart. Needs lees texture for body which time will accord. Really classically styled.

Lightfoot & Wolfville Sparkling Blanc de Blancs 2012 (Second Sample)

Here the use of a small amount of oak. A slight bit of reductiveness (being employed as an idea going forward in defining a house style) shows up as smoke and flint. The triage leads to green apple and a different kind of citrus, with more body and warmth, partly in alcohol but more so elegance and a linger  in this not so fleeting fizz.

Lightfoot & Wolfville Chardonnay 2014 (Barrel sample)

Ripeness, of phenolic targets hit for the second year on a row. In 2014, marked a reduction experiment, from a brand new demi-barrel, seeking a covering up of the reductive qualities. An approach to amalgamate the best of both worlds.

Lightfoot & Wolfville Rosé 2014 (Tank Sample)

Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. An hour or two quick breaking of the skins on the press. Incredible aromatics, chewy, with a pepper kick, of an edge that will be smoothed over by a bit of residual in the finished wine. Just the right proper citrus ands a touch of animale. So special. Potential release is late September/Early October.

The recent releases of Lightfoot & Wolfville’s Tidal Bay and Rosé 2014 were met with much ado in the Halifax wine bars, just like the reception given the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay one month before. Naysayers (including some critics who have tasted these wines) want to burst the bubble, not because of truth but out of a closed mind set that will not allow for change, or evolution. The treatment in contempt of possibility is born of narrow, jaded vision. Despite the exceptional and opprobrious hurdles that climate places on vinifera and its attempted journey to phenolic ripeness, L & W, Benjamin Bridge, Domaine de Grand Pré and L’Acadie Vineyards are ripening grapes, beyond and along with winter-resistant hybrids. Advanced viticulture and winemaking prowess are primed for the new Nova Scotia millennium, on the new frontier. Pay a visit and see for yourself. Then get ready for a policy change of the mind.

Good to go!

Once upon a time in the Western Cape

Cape Wine 2015

Cape Wine 2015

Independents, rebels, rogues, zoo biscuits, risk takers, revolution. Buzz words, gathered sects and constituents of rebellion. Clusters of assemblage ruminating, circulating and percolating at the latest edition of organized wine in South Africa.

Who among us might have foretold in dramatic foreshadowing the story of September’s Cape Wine 2015? Who could have known that the southern hemisphere’s largest gathering of producers, marketers, buyers, sellers, sommeliers and journalists would do more to quell preconceived notions and stereotypes for any wine producing country than any trade show that has come before? Total, utter energy.



Centuries ago, when the fishing and trading boats would return west to the Cape they would mistakenly enter the wrong basin. “There’s that confounded bay again,” they would curse. False Bay. During the week preceding and following Cape Wine we climbed aboard cars and vans headed out from Cape Town or Stellenbosch. En route to a farm, estate or winery, more often than not, out the window, there was False Bay, like a magnet, drawing attention, setting and re-setting the excursion compass. As we watched the bay ache into and fade out of view each jaunt-acquiesced day, it just seemed as though we were always heading north and gaining altitude. Not really.

Cape wine country meanderings exist in requiem well beyond points A to B. Directional challenges are inclusive of L-shapes, U-turns and rotations. Lines draw as much east, southeast and northeast as they do falsely north. Journeys always conclude in a valley, at the base of a mountain or in an amphitheatre bound by geological reality. The getting there is often hazy but the arrival always comfortable.

Maybe I’ve a reason to believe 
We all will be received 
In Graceland

South African wine is not what we thought it was. This mantra can’t be repeated often enough. Ventures into the wine lands compounded the about-face turn of mind. Tastings, tours and zealous immersion into Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Swartland and Hemel-En-Aarde saw to that. South Africa is not what you thought folks, but it just might be what you dare to dream. If you’ve not visited you can’t possibly know what revelations lurk.

The frontier is inhabited by cowboys and their multifarious varietal schemes. It’s surfeited by demi-century established Chenin Blanc bush vines, painted pell-mell with expatriate rootstock and cuttings outside the Bordeaux and Burgundy box; Nebbiolo, Barbera, Tinta Barocca, Albarino, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Tempranillo and Tannat. Nothing is sacred and everything is fair game. Rhône blends are the current rage and Cinsault is going it alone with nothing short of remarkable results.

The Zoo Biscuits

The Zoo Biscuits

Natural fermentation, skin contact and carbonic maceration have infiltrated the winemaker’s psyche. The eco-bio movement has challenged the fundamentalist incumbency and forced sweeping reforms. Fresh, natural, orange, caliginous and tenebrous have taken the Cape by storm. Praetorian makers are changing their ways. Pinotage has abandoned decades of Bordeaux wannabe style to once again don bell bottoms and retro suede. In 2015 South Africa, cats and dogs are living together.

Zoo Biscuits poster

Zoo Biscuits poster

Introduce me to a winemaker who is not in tune with his or her terroir and I’ll show you a winemaker who is either faking it or blindly towing a company line. That breed is few and far between. In South Africa I met exactly none of that ilk. So what? What’s so special about a nation of winemakers who work as one with their soil, their meso-climate and their geology? You’re supposed to intuit those abstracts to make great wine. “You’re supposed to take care of your kids!”

No, what separates South African vignerons from the rest of the world is the playground mentality and the execution in consummation of those ideals. The soils and the weather are nothing short of perfect in the vast growing region known as the Western Cape, or in the local vernacular, the Cape Winelands. Any varietal of choice can find its way to achieve perfect phenolic ripeness virtually anywhere the grapes are planted. The mitigating effect of Cape winds eradicates all disease. The place is a veritable garden of viticulture eden. Or, as in the case of the Hemel-En-Aarde Valley, a verdant, fertile valley known as “heaven on earth,” the adage takes on the paradisiacal guise of the sublime. South Africa is the wine collective equivalent of the wild west. In the Western Cape, anything goes.

Heap big trouble in the land of plenty
Tell me how we’re gonna do what’s best
You guess once upon a time in the west

I will expand, in due course, on all the wines tasted during the eight days I spent in South Africa. A list of top wines and a preponderant unfurling are sure to follow in the form of fifty odd tasting notes. For now I will concentrate, in the name of lede consistency, on the varietal and stylistic revolution taking place.

Swartland Independents

Swartland Independents

The following notes will unquestionably focus on three platoons, Premium Independent Wineries of South Africa (PIWOSA), the Swartland Independents and the Zoo Biscuits. The first is a collective of straight-shooting, accordant, premium, independent wine producers from across the diverse wine regions of South Africa’s Western Cape. The second comprises 25 (give or take) cricket playing, indigenous fermenting, Anglikaans-gabbing grape shepherds. The third may draw their name from beloved childhood memories of packaged iced silhouettes of animals on cookies when in actuality they are a gaggle of like-minded, boundary-pushing, fun-loving, serious winemakers.

Suzaan and Chris Alheit

Suzaan and Chris Alheit

Cape Wine 2015 may have seen 300 presenters toting thousands of South African bottles but the swagger of 40 young vignerons stole the proverbial show. They did it with passion, innocence, acumen beyond years and attention to history. They go it alone and with a pack mentality. They care about old vines, tradition and respect for the land but they also have chutzpah. They don’t really give a fuck what the establishment thinks about their winemaking.

Jamie Goode and Godello, CapeWine2015

Jamie Goode and Godello, CapeWine2015

Three days at the Cape Town International Convention Centre allowed for extensive coverage of the South African wine scene. It was a perfectly organized show. Credit begins with the vignerons. Their work is tireless, especially when all must be dropped to focus on all-in, three relentless days of pouring while offering elaborate dissertations about their wines and their place in the South African scene.

At the lead there is Wines of South Africa, headed by Michael Jordaan and Siobhan Thompson, chair and CEO, respectively. André Morgenthal and Laurel Keenan head up communications, marketing, events and PR for WOSA, in South Africa and in Canada. The show and the excursions around the Cape Winelands were made possible by their collective efforts. Their immense efforts and impeccable work can’t ever be overestimated

Chenin Blanc

No discourse on new versus old in South Africa can be addressed without first looking at the modish dialectal of Chenin Blanc. The combination of bush and old vines, coupled with indigenous ferments and skin contact addresses has elevated the stalwart, signature grape to its current reality.

Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Chenin Blanc Skin Contact 2013, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

It begins with viticulturist Rosa Kruger and the cleanest fruit this side of Matroosberg Mountain. Vigneron and winemaker Chris and Andrea Mullineux use egg inversion to press and skin contact lasts for three months. This plus old barrels hyper-intensify umami; part bread dough, some pine forest, all wild yeast and a hint of Matsutake mushroom. The meld into acidity is a wild carpeted Chenin ride. Exhibits layers of Greekdom, in spice and complexity. The long inosinate to guanylate finish arrives and lingers in thanks to the scraped skins of many citrus fruits. They strip, stripe and spank the mouth. The spirited lashing and accumulated bejewelling is a sign of spiritual and plentiful life. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted September 2015  @MullineuxWines @MullineuxChris  @SwartlandRev

A A Badenhorst Wines

A A Badenhorst Wines

A. A. Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2015, Swartland, South Africa (Winery, SAQ 12135092 $18.05, BC $23.00, WineAlign)

From Adi Badenhorst, old bushvines planted in the 1950’s and 1960’s and whole bunch handled with no crushing or de-stemming. Fruit is transferred to concrete and 500l old foudres. The simple, minimalist approach and lots of less stirring, leading to great texture, right up there with the most complex Chenin. Also possessive of the righteous level in bitters, intense citrus and bookworm herbology. Lucent, lambent, capable Chenin Blanc. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @AABadenhorst  @SwartlandRev


Not exactly household or predominant by any stretch of the imagination, Riesling does play a bit part in the white idiomatic presentation of South African wine. With the emergence of Elgin as a cool climate growing area capable of expertly ripening both aromatic and aerified varieties, the future will crystallize with more Riesling, Gewürztraminer and offshoot concepts.

Paul Cluver Riesling Close Encounter 2013, Elgin, South Africa (Winery, LCBO 500396, $23.00  WineAlign)

A more serious effort than the sibling ‘Dry Encounter’ because this Riesling knows what it wants to be. On its left may be Alsace and on its right the Mosel but in truth this speaks to a Kabinett reasoning, with Elgin layering. At nine per cent alcohol, 36 g/L RS and 8.2 g/L TA it knows the difference and speaks the truth about off-dry Riesling, with elevated and yet balancing acidity. It pretends to be nothing but what is of and for itself. Flint and an attainable stratosphere (between 300-500m above sea level) accept the airy drifts of oceans and the gathering returns to earth with the weight of wax and glade. If you think South African Riesling is “a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land,” taste Elgin and think again. The skeptical Nowhere man is ignorant to the new frontier for Riesling and to him I say “please listen, you don’t know what you’re missing.” Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @paulcluverwines  @PIWOSA

White Blends

A category not to be taken lightly, what with so many varieties available to work together and with the idea of appellative blends not necessarily so far off or far-fetched. Chenin Blanc is most certainly the pillar and the rock with support ready, willing and applicable from Clairette Blanc, Verdelho, Chardonnay, Viognier, Gewürztraminer, Semillon, Roussane, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc and Colombard.

Duncan Rall

Donovan Rall

Rall Wines White Coastal Region 2014 (Winery)

A contiguous king blend of Chenin Blanc with Verdelho, Chardonnay and Viognier from vineyards allowing for increased production year after year. Natural fermentations acquiesce varying degrees and species of spiced dipped flowers set upon expressions of lees. The Chenin is 41 year-old Swartland (Paardeberg) fruit with Stellenbosch (Bottelary and Helderberg) quartz soil Chardonnay and Verdelho. Anise, star anise and pure white stone groove me in a gather of complimentary and controvertible Chenin (and friends) complexity. “Uhh! Awww, sookie sookie now!”  @SwartlandRev

Other White

What obscure or less heralded white grape variety would you like to play with? Ask the Cape winemaker that question and he or she might keep you awhile. The rules again need not apply. Spin the wheel and work your magic. Odds are at even that a handful of least employed Châteauneuf and/or Gemischter Satz varietal wines show up at a CapeWine Fair sometime soon.

Cederberg Bukettraube 2014, Cederberg Mountains, South Africa (Winery)

David Nieuwoudt’s Dwarsrivier rare take on the cultivar (less than 77 hectares of vines remain planted worldwide) is a wine with altitude and attitude. Cederberg is one of only three South African farms in kind of these vines in Glenrosa and sandstone soils on the escarpment atop the Cederberg Mountains. Natural sugar of 25 g/L from the arrested ferment is toothsome in a next to Spätlese way, though the citrus and herbal crasis separates this from Riesling. What brings it circling again is the formidable acidity, circulating and rounding up, culminating in a viscosity and a palate coating that ends with none word. Delicious. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @Cederseun  @imbibersreport  @PIWOSA


There was a time when all South African Rhône varietal wines needed to be compared to the mother land and many continue to encourage the adage “you can take the varieties out of the Rhône but you can’t take the Rhône out of the varieties.” The modern Cinsault maker has turned expatriate exploits on its axiomatic head. You’ve not likely had your way with these versions of Cinsault and like me, once you have, you may never go back.

Radford Dale 'Thirst' Cinsault and Gamay Noir

Radford Dale ‘Thirst’ Cinsault and Gamay Noir

The Winery of Good Hope Radford Dale Cinsault ‘Thirst’ 2015, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery)

If the Thirst Gamay from vignerons Alex Dale and Jacques De Klerk is “a live rock concert rather than a manufactured, boyband studio album,” the carbonically macerated Cinsault is weekend long palooza replete with music, clowns, acrobats and roaming minstrels. The wonders of natural, nouveau Gamay are well known but the natural fermentation application on Cinsault goes funky, wild and complex in a whole other attitude. Chilled properly this Thirst adds a Mad max factor to the circus, tannins even and most certainly an explosive grit. If the Gamay is smashable, the Cinsault is obliterateable. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted September 2015  @Radforddale  @WineryGoodHope  @Noble_Estates  @PIWOSA


The globe trekking grape has been backed into a corner, with blood primarily spilled at the hands of big box Australian producers but some blame has also circulated South Africa’s way. Heavy petting, elevated heat and alcohol, street tar and vulcanized rubber have combined in resolute, culprit fashion to maim the great variety. As with Cinsault, but in an entirely more mainstream way, the fortunes of Syrah are wafting in the winds of change. Natural fermentations, some carbonic maceration and especially prudent picking from essential Syrah sites are turning the jammy heavy into the genteel and dignified wine it needs to be.

Journey's End

Journey’s End

Journey’s End Syrah ‘The Griffin’ 2012, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery)

The ’12 signifies a departure and a new style for the winery and for Syrah in the Cape. Some (three weeks) of carbonic maceration leads to a dichotomous passion play in which the middle romance is acted out in seven barrels for 18 months of (70 per cent American and 30 per cent French) oak. It’s as if the grapes are shocked into an awakening and then slowly brought down to calm. As if the fruit develops a protective shell, protected from and coerced by and with ushering along by slow motion micro-oxidation. This is Syrah void of cracked nut, pepper, veneer and big league chew. It’s a terribly beautiful experiment, the Syrah equivalent of similar function world’s away, done with Chardonnay, in Orange and all the while with natural yeast that sling the fruit to destinations previously unknown. At least around here. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2015  @JourneysEndWine  @colyntruter  @vonterrabev  @PIWOSA

Callie Louw's smoker

Callie Louw’s smoker

Porseleinberg Syrah 2013, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

They call Callie Louw a lekker ou. Having played on his side and under his tutelage for a bowl and a bat or two, I can concur. He is a nice guy. Having eaten his smoked pork shoulder, brisket and wings, I can tell you that he is a master smoker. Having tasted his ’13 Syrah twice, I can also say he is a great winemaker. Louw is proficient at many things, including cricket and smoking Swartland’s best BBQ. Making Syrah from the schist soils of Riebeek Kasteel is his true calling and with thanks to Marc Kent (of Boekenhoutskloof) he is able to work with some of South Africa’s best fruit out of one of its harshest climats. Picked fruit is left to its own devices, 40 per cent in concrete eggs and 60 in larger foudres. I’d hate to smack a natural sticker on this one because it resides outside the realm of labels, generalizations and uneventful stipulations. It has killer tannins and the legs to walk the earth. What else do you need to know? Drink 2017-2030.  Tasted September 2015  @SwartlandRev

Porseleinberg Syrah 2013

Porseleinberg Syrah 2013

Pinot Noir

The future for Pinot Noir is bright beyond the pale, with certain exceptional growing sites producing varietal fruit so pure and of ripe phenolics as profound as anywhere on the planet. A few producers have found their way. More will follow and when they do, South Africa will begin to tear away at the market share enjoyed by the likes of New Zealand and California.

Blackwater Wines

Blackwater Wines

Blackwater Wines Pinot Noir Cuvée Terra Lux MMXI 2013 (Winery)

Winemaker Francois Haasbroek is not merely on to something. He has it figured out. The elegance of his wines (sourced from vineyards across the Western Cape) share a strong affinity with one another. In a consistently distinguished line-up this Pinot Noir may not be his most accomplished but it is his most definitive bottle. From three Elgin Vineyards this spent 18 months in older 225L barrels and help me if this does not purely express the humanity of Pinot Noir. Oh, the natural funk of Elgin, where Pinot Noir need be embraced and fostered. Not unlike Haasbroek’s Syrah, the sweetness is impossible, the imagined imaging haunting and asomatous. With time the true luxe will emerge, in the form of mushroom, truffle and candied cherry. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2015  @Blackwaterwine  @ZooBiscuitsWine


For so long we ignorant, pathetic and far away people knew not from Pinotage. We imagined its machinations through, by way of and expressed like espresso, forced and pressed with nothing but wood in mind. That the grape variety could have a personality bright and friendly was something we had no reference from which to begin. A visit to the Cape Winelands re-charts the compass and the rebirth is nothing short of born again oenophilia. The new Pinotage may be what it once was but it is also what it can never be again.

David and Nadia Sadie Wines Pardelbosch Pinotage 2014

David and Nadia Sadie Wines Pardelbosch Pinotage 2014

David and Nadia Sadie Wines Pardelbosch Pinotage 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

From parcels of the highest possible elevation and black rock that imparts swarthy tannin on a frame of alcohol sharpened at 12.5 per cent. Nothing short of stunning aromatics. Whole bunch fermentation, three weeks of skin contact and minimal punch downs are directed with pinpoint precision to what Pinotage should and simply must be. Fresh, lithe and promising. Good-bye Pinotage being Pinotage. Hello Pinotage in pure, honest perfume. Older oak barrels (4th, 5th and 6th fill) round out the texture, amplify the arroyo seco and excellence washes through, with simple acidity and riverine length. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted September 2015  @DavidNadiaSadie  @SwartlandRev

Red Blends

The sky is the limit for what can be attempted and achieved with the varietal kitchen sink of availability. In consideration that any red variety can scour the Cape Winelands in a journeyed search for phenolic ripeness, a prudent pick, ferment (or co-ferment) will certainly, invariably conjoin towards assemblage nirvana. Rhône styling is most often mimicked, from both north and south but OZ indicators and even California flower child prodigies are both seen and heard. There is no tried and true in this outpost of red democracy. In the case of Cape wine, anarchy rules and there is really nothing wrong with that.

Sheree Nothnagel, Wildenhurst Wines

Sheree Nothnagel, Wildenhurst Wines

Wildenhurst Red 2012, Swartland, South Africa (Winery)

Shiraz (62 per cent) co-fermented with Viognier (5) is joined in rank by Mourvèdre (33, though is some years it’s Cinsault) in an unembellished red that not only lies back but rises in free spirit. A red to express the personality of its maker, Sheree Nothnagel. Silk and lace, cure and mace, spice and so many things nice are the aspect ratios of a very natal wine, like a prevailing wind. A real stretch in tannin, sweet and smooth of grain leads to length, from Koringberg to the slopes of the Picketberg and Paardeberg mountains. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @WildehurstW  @ShereeNothnagel  @SwartlandRev

The wines of Duncan Savage

The wines of Duncan Savage

Savage Wines Follow the Line 2014 (Winery)

The Western Cape has likely never seen such polish and precocious affinity with its varied soils as it has or likely soon will when Duncan Savage is making wine. The blend of Cinsault (58 per cent), Grenache (21) and Syrah (21) is predominantly Darling grapes and shows a deeper, funkier understanding of Cape soil. Bright red cherry fruit supports life on this brooding planet and propagation is furthered with cinnamon-like spice and a purity for supplementary red fruit so direct and so very pure. The wine’s moniker comes from the farming expression “follow the line.” All rows lead to the farmhouse, eventually.  All winemaking roads in the Cape will lead to the name Duncan Savage or at least involve him in the conversation. He is the farmhouse. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @ZooBiscuitsWine

Alheit Vineyards Flotsam & Jetsam and Cartology

Alheit Vineyards Flotsam & Jetsam and Cartology

Alheit Vineyards Flotsam & Jetsam Days of Yore 2014 (Winery)

Chris Alheit’s brand might allude to a chapter in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers but Days of Yore must pay some homage to the 80’s thrash metal band and with great irony. This Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsault blend is no Doomsday for the Receiver and certainly No Place for Disgrace. What it is instead is pure liquid brilliance. Old 1960 Cabernet Sauvignon bush vines are (even if unintentionally) farmed the way they used to be, back in the days of yore. Now cropped, tended and produced in pitch perfect cure, the resulting wine (when Cabernet is blended with Albeit’s dry-farmed, stomped and tonic-singular Cinsault) shows smoky depth and musicality. Sour-edged or tart can’t begin to describe the tang. It’s something other, unnameable, sapid, fluid and beautiful. It brings South Africa from out of the heart of its wayfinding darkness. Drink 2015-2025.  Tasted September 2015  @ChrisAlheit  @ZooBiscuitsWine

Other Red

Momento Wines

Momento Wines

Momento Wines Tinta Barocca 2013, Bot River, South Africa (Winery)

From a south-facing, 40 year-old, one and a half hectare vineyard in Bot River that Marlise Niemann convinced the farmer not to rip out so that she may continue to produce some 2,000 bottles of a variety you can’t really find or are want to grow anywhere else. This has been a small love affair since 2007 with this block. “My child, my charity case,” she admits.  I am not sure I tasted any other wine in South Africa with such fresh, pure, unspoiled innocence as this Tinta Barocca. “You have to have a connection to the vineyard. To guide it.” The underlay of perspicuity is a streak provided by Bokkeveld shale. The clarity of red fruit and deferential tannin is too sacred to spit, too beautiful to spill and too genteel to waste. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015  @ZooBiscuitsWine

Godello and Marelise Niemann, Momento Wines

Godello and Marelise Niemann, Momento Wines

Good to go!