Why drink that?

Eat this, drink that

Eat this, drink that

We’re really just like moths, we seekers of wine, slaves to a fiery obsession, stopping occasionally to smell the adjectives, taking unnecessary financial risks and with any luck, happening into and finding enchantment. To remember generations. Is this why we drink wine?

We are looking for heroic entablature and architectural wonder in bottles of wine. We see them as DNA and in their liquids we can read their entire future. We sip them again and again until we taste them for the first time. We derive textures and flavours so solid, so tangible, it seems we can reach into the glass and grab handfuls of it. The glass itself has become the varietal, the engineering having expanded the notes and completed them, amplified and contained them. Is this why we drink that?

Not really. Sure we are looking for relevant encounters but what we really want is pleasure. Pleasure and escape. What we seek is value for our money. When we hit the stores and open or wallets we want honest juice at the lowest price. Bullshit aside, here are seven great values, in stores, by agents and down the road in our Niagara backyard.

From left to right: Stoney Ridge Pinot Noir 2011, Maipe Malbec 2013, Henry Of Pelham Family Tree Red 2012, Costa Mediana Valpolicella Ripasso 2011, Nai E Senora Albariño 2013, CedarCreek Merlot 2012, Markus Molitor Haus Klosterberg Riesling 2013

From left to right: Stoney Ridge Pinot Noir 2011, Maipe Malbec 2013, Henry Of Pelham Family Tree Red 2012, Costa Mediana Valpolicella Ripasso 2011, Nai E Senora Albariño 2013, CedarCreek Merlot 2012, Markus Molitor Haus Klosterberg Riesling 2013

Stoney Ridge Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (156125, $13.95, WineAlign)

Classic Niagara Peninsula aromas, of tart berries, pomegranate, cherries and wet clay exude and display. Stoney Ridge is simply giving this Pinot Noir away. Vinified bone dry (1.9 g/L residual sugar), pricked with acidity (7.2 g/L) and kissed by (eight months) of oak, this acuminates, as opposed to dials, in. The honing is crystalline, in bright and vibrant tones. There is a refined sugar aspect to its ratio but it’s really quite clean and nervy. The length impresses and sweeps to seal the $14 deal.  Tasted February 2015  @stoneyridgewine

Maipe Malbec 2013, Mendoza, Argentina (93823, $14.95, WineAlign)

Quite intense, juicy and peppery for a $15 Malbec. A mix of red and black berries is accented by liquorice. Some chalky overlay, which goes short on integration, would do well to play nicer were it an underlay. A bit musky with cool savoury reserve and a very effective use of high (3000m) altitude fruit.  Tasted February 2015  @chakanawines  @oenophilia1  @Chakana and Maipe: wines with an andean spirit​

Henry Of Pelham Family Tree Red 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (247882, $15.75, WineAlign)

Only 945 cases were made of this Shiraz (48 per cent), Cabernet Franc (23), Cabernet Sauvignon (20) and Merlot (9) blend. And that’s a shame. Some further bottle time has brought out the best in show. There is as much clear class and enjoyable drinking as a Niagara red blend is likely to earn by wing. The concept is quite OZ, the coalescence very Niagara and the sensibility so sly, Speck family. The brightness, oak influence and acidity linger as one to stretch and bound about in elastic joyeuse. Crosses Charlemagne-like stone swords of accessibility and put me aside confidence with vintage gain and restraint. Keen winemaking decisions by outgoing winemaker Ron Giesbrecht have produced great results. Made for everyday people, were the Family Tree Red pouring from keg it would fill my glass on a daily basis.”And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo.”  Tasted February 2015  @HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros

Costa Mediana Valpolicella Ripasso 2011, Veneto, Italy (377648, $16.95, WineAlign)

Re-taste. Beautiful red fruit, in density. clarity and showy Valpolicella dress. Thinks good clean fun and thoughts, open-knit and its tannins mingle with multiplying acidity. Would benefit from two to three years more time in bottle. It will then drink as it was intended and as it should. From my earlier, September 2014 note: “Solid if newfangled Veneto that swivels from sulphur to sweetness. Has a Niagara Peninsula varnished quality, not so typical for the homeland. Also presses from both vineyard earthy and barrel stinky notes. Somewhat this and insipid but the late influx of fresh cherry brings it back and stretches its length.”  Last tasted February 2015  @Select_Wines  @C_Valpolicella  @MGMMondodelVino​

Nai E Senora Albariño 2013, Rias Baixas, Spain (Agent, $16.95, WineAlign)

A very mineral driven Albariño with little fruit expression to ascertain. Though the grapes give way to fine-grained chalky salinity, is that not coequality from and for the quarry? Soil and stone lead a path to cool and collected acidity, not one so linear but more extrapolated, as if from lime in pith, not zest. A very composed Rias Baixas but not overly accessible. Rich broth with small bits of fresh fish would pair delectably and foil perfectly; keep it from doing the “rise up, rise up,” into aerified, out of this world, parachute club territory. A nip of this and “spirits time has come.”  Tasted February 2015  @LeSommelierWine  @RiasBaixasWines

CedarCreek Merlot 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (BCLDB and BCVQA 408666 $19.95, WineAlign)

Quite the glass of liqueur, with fully ripe, rich and dense fruit. Admittedly on the twiggy and good green side of the varietal, in the right ways, with Merlot bells of chalk, grain and tannin in whistling interplay. A correct correlation and in certain kinship with St. Emilion but with Okanagan footprints. Handles its 14.5 per cent alcohol quite easily and transfers its weight through a cool centre and into an even cooler finish. Along that route are notes of mint, eucalyptus and graphite, not unlike Coonawarra or Stellenbosch. Fun Merlot at an attractive price. Another gem from CedarCreek.  Tasted February 2015

Markus Molitor Haus Klosterberg Riesling 2013, Mosel Valley, Germany (Agent, Approx. $25.00, WineAlign)

Architecturally precise, of cleanly drawn lines, like the Mosel Vinothek acquired and restored by Molitor in 1984 and winner of the “Architekturpreis Wein 2013.” The Riesling mimics the juxtaposition of historical and modern, seemingly steeped in the past and transposed to the present by state-of-the-art winemaking. This has slate, steep steppes rising from subterreanean acquired salinity and ingrained aridity. There is no way to hide from the scree of the past, avoid the incline towards the future, nor can it exist without the run-off of mineral left behind. Brilliant hue, matched density, matchstick wisp and wild tang. Honeyed and suckling porcine in an early roasting stage, with terrific texture. The beautiful arid length is purposed and linear, with much oomph in its gait. Will linger for five to 10 years easy.  Tasted February 2015  @TrialtoON

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Have wine forget winter

Plantain, strawberry and blueberry

Plantain, strawberry and blueberry

Now for a few argumentative words on logomachy, interpretive synergies and general rambling. Lets talk about wine and how it can make us forget about being chilled to the bone. Lets discuss the ways in which wine can bring forth a future being remembered with each passing sip.

Like stones as heavy, some winters are so stinging only silence helps you portage them, or soldier on through them. That and wine. When winter pisses and moans with a cold, cold heart, the purity and silence of wine can ease the pain. Fruit of the vine that remembers the eskers of the earth, minerals that have not forgotten magma, wine that gives an ancient, suspenseful feeling. Cold forgotten.

In July of 2012 the suggestion was to chill red wines for another hot weekend to ease the suffering in the throes of a sweltering, Ontario summer. A year on the thematic was pursued once again.

Related – A midsummer night’s chill red wine

“Just a slight frost mind you, like clipped diction, for warm, not hot weather.” Here we find ourselves in the opposite chasm, the anti-Hades, a seemingly endless void of polar hell. Perpetually stuck inside a frozen hadron collider. So history is the gradual intent. What to do? Drink wine.

February can be displaced with wine because the ferment has no beginning and no end. No sense of horizontal progression of time. Wine is set in a fractal globe, in which no facet of its character has a life of its own. Scale succumbs to intention.

Related – Feb. 21 wine and song salute

Tomorrow brings another VINTAGES release, a February 21st agglomeration with wines I suggest have discovered a remarkable balance achieved. Open them in a room and their blood will posit a similar temperature, one of warmth, so that soon, you will neither notice the alcohol or the heat, nor the deep freeze of winter. Here are eight more values to kick winter upside its proverbial ass.

From left to right: Gayda Viognier 2013, Esser Chardonnay 2012, Fowles Stone Dwellers Shiraz 2012, Domaine Des Huards Romo Cour Cheverny 2010, Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Dry Riesling 2012, Leasingham Winemakers Selection Bin 61 Shiraz 2012, Hedges Family Estate Three Vineyards Red 2011 and Domaine Du Grapillon D'or Gigondas 2012

From left to right: Gayda Viognier 2013, Esser Chardonnay 2012, Fowles Stone Dwellers Shiraz 2012, Domaine Des Huards Romo Cour Cheverny 2010, Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Dry Riesling 2012, Leasingham Winemakers Selection Bin 61 Shiraz 2012, Hedges Family Estate Three Vineyards Red 2011 and Domaine Du Grapillon D’or Gigondas 2012

Gayda Viognier 2013, Igp Pays D’oc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (395129, $13.95, WineAlign)

Simple, proper, sturdy and in certain respects, essential Viognier. Three sites each purpose a layer; chalk from limestone La Livinière, grain by clay-limestone Côteaux du Languedoc and metal tang through slate Roussillon. Florals are southern French Viognier obvious and spice adds a global touch. Quite versatile, well-made and complex beyond its simple roots. A nutty note rounds out the lean with a touch of fat. Good length takes it beneath the surface.  Tasted February 2015  @DomaineGayda  @TandemSelection

Esser Chardonnay 2012, Monterey County, California (675017, $18.95, WineAlign)

The musky and musty aromas in this off-chance gem from cooler Monterey draws fruit from the Riverview and Viento Vineyards in the north of Salinas Valley. The bottled up compression is relieved shortly after the cap is unscrewed, melting into a creamy textured Chardonnay and into the wind gaps of tall redwoods and pines. Round, sweet unctuous, easy to consume sips are both tropical and anything but buttery, heavy mouthfuls. Quite cool-classic actually, persistent, whiffing Monterey cone and framed by mineral adjunct meaning. More than impressive for the cost involved.  Tasted February 2015  @EsserVineyards  @DionysusWines

Fowles Stone Dwellers Shiraz 2012, Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria, Australia (265967, $19.95, WineAlign)

In Victoria’s Strathbogie Ranges cooler temperatures and heads prevail in this savoury, meaty, cured, grounded and earthy Shiraz. Dried flowers, caper berry and a bitterish angst are the Mediterranean accents from a low-yielding vine proviso. Though the wine is quite concentrated as a result of the peanut produce, the fruit is anything but baked. It may be a dweller on the threshold but it has lift, a natural acidity that emphasizes the freshness. The stone turned, this has “the music of the spheres,” a gaining in gathering momentum, beautiful vision and a background of accompanying voices.  Tasted February 2015  @FowlesWine  @vonterrabev

Domaine Des Huards Romo Cour Cheverny 2010, Ac, Loire, France (401257, $21.95, WineAlign)

A wildly original, not quite Loire white made from 100 per cent Romorantin, of a brilliant golden yellow colour and great metallic expression. Like sweating rocks, all sorts of soft and precious metals, a cool medallion around the neck. A tang that gets beneath the surface, though oxidative, remains fixed, in suspended animation. The length cements the fixation, with white flowers, their petals strewn about. A most uncomfortable pungency might frighten some olfaction, though the reek is just a by-product of calcareous clay with a lime reaction, not necessarily chalky but more like a lick of Blaisois loam on metal. Nutty, drying out on the finish but with acids stringing along in ability and pride.  Tasted February 2015  @MarkCuff    @TheLivingVine

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Dry Riesling 2012, Clare Valley, South Australia, Australia (262469, $25.95, WineAlign)

Clare Valley Riesling is one of those caché varietal in locale entities revered by so many. Fact is not all CVRs are sensational but when one is made like the 2012 Lodge Hill, the grape in place is nothing short of spectacular. A rather flinty meets petrol continuum vintage is massively forward and upward, getting right down to back of the skull business. Herbal yet stony, so arid, so much citrus and a tang of salinity bled from metal. Highly complex and blessedly dangerous length. But flack is cut because despite the anxiety the Lodge Hill “sang as if he knew me…singing clear and strong.” Riesling that soothes and delights, killing me softly with Riesling kindness and his song.  Tasted February 2015  @Jimbarrywines  @MikeAikins1  @ChartonHobbs  @Wine_Australia

Leasingham Winemakers Selection Bin 61 Shiraz 2012, Clare Valley, South Australia, Australia (448241, $25.95, WineAlign)

The history of the Bin 61 is a long, storied and reliable one to hang a perennial Shiraz hat on. In the late nineties and early 2000’s the fruit was darker, more extracted, the wines tannic and needing a dozen years to reach nirvana. Times have gradually shifted the fruit paradigm to red, fresh and vibrant. In 2012, immediate gratification increases, though the tempering vintage has not advanced the progression like in the most recent years. Here the stretched, busy and cake Leasingham persists, so five to seven years of justified evolution should be expected. Tightness grips with further sips so despite the current requiem for red fruit and acidity, this will need a brief taming. Not a Bin 61 for the ages but another winner to be sure.  Tasted February 2015  #Clarevalley

Hedges Family Estate Three Vineyards Red 2011, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Washington (1594, $32.95, WineAlign)

A year later this Yakima Valley red has concentrated further, like sweet cherry tree gum resin and sap. Desert climate and high pH loess in coarse flood debris, once entirely gritty in the blend, are now beginning to integrate. Acidity remains on high amid diplomatic balance. From my earlier, February 2014 note: “A most interesting Washington blend out of a vintage worth seeking out. Abstruse fruit package in five varieties, conjoined like a semi-sweet chocolate dessert of flourless proportions and marked by a grain and an exceptional, altitudinous presence that can’t be denied. Berries of all colours and levels of sweet/tart, evergreen verdigris, velvety texture, richesse, luxury magic mountain air. “Walk in the sun, up on Magic Mountain, Red mountain wine, everybody laughs.” This Hedges has that effect. A more than sensible price for all that’s going on and anything but a burden.  Last tasted February 2015  @hedgeswine

Domaine Du Grapillon D’or Gigondas 2012, Southern Rhône, France (981787, $32.95, WineAlign)

Grenache dominant Rhône such as this from the Chauvet family goes deep into the ripest territory, with gorgeous aromatics that burst of red fruit incarnate. The large ancient barrels bring a subtle oak spice and a funk du cave unique and necessary to the Gigondas application. Alcohol is checked at the mid-palate, stepping aside for the vermillion fruit layering while so many spice accents, so Rhône, old and new, spike the zesty orange skin. The leathery hide will see to a decade of age, at the very least.  Tasted February 2015  @grapillondor

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Snow whites and the seven reds

The seven reds from left to right: Resta Salice Salentino 2011, Mocali Morellino Di Scansano 2012, Rustenberg Shiraz 2011, Coyote's Run Red Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Salcheto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011, Beni Di Batasiolo Riserva Barolo 2006, Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino 2009

The seven reds from left to right: Resta Salice Salentino 2011, Mocali Morellino Di Scansano 2012, Rustenberg Shiraz 2011, Coyote’s Run Red Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Salcheto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011, Beni Di Batasiolo Riserva Barolo 2006, Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino 2009

Just as a child will willfully accept the naive and basic truth in a fairy tale, most of us will search for wines deeply buried within their simplicity. Then we have a sip. When we begin to think about that sip we delve deeper into the story and the mythology of the wine. This is where things begin to get complicated.

Maybe we invent comparative mythologies from tales and into wine just to play with the unconscious expressions of ourselves, or perhaps we just need to have some fun. Wine is not our yesteryear’s religion, nor is it something, once consumed, that can be held onto. It is fleeting and ever-changing. It is conceivable to think that wine drinkers of past eras were more childlike and held wine in more fairy-tale like hands. Today we act as though modern wines speak religiously, as if they each belong to one sect or another. Strange, but true.

On Saturday VINTAGES will roll out another lengthy tale of new releases, with a major focus on Italian reds. Like the analysis of the most famous of fairy tales, meaning is derived, not unlike an assessment of Italians and their wines, imagined as a desperate need to rule their own kingdom. The ferric, mineral and tannic nature of the group require that their rage be danced away with time, to re-gain control of their beauty and their lives.

For more recommendations from the VINTAGES February 7th, 2015 release:

Related – Is writing making a mess of wine

Here are the winter snow whites and seven Italian reds to look for, in stores now.

The snow whites from left to right: Poulet Et Fils Brut Crémant De Die, Simonsig Chenin Avec Chêne Chenin Blanc 2012, Domaine De Saint Pierre Sancerre 2013, Girard Chardonnay 2012, Poplar Grove Chardonnay 2012, Taittinger Prestige Brut Rosé Champagne

The snow whites from left to right: Poulet Et Fils Brut Crémant De Die, Simonsig Chenin Avec Chêne Chenin Blanc 2012, Domaine De Saint Pierre Sancerre 2013, Girard Chardonnay 2012, Poplar Grove Chardonnay 2012, Taittinger Prestige Brut Rosé Champagne

Resta Salice Salentino 2011, Doc Puglia, Italy (324731, $15.95, WineAlign)

Negroamaro (80 per cent) and Malvasia Nero combine for a mess of tar, composted earth, density in chewy dates, figs and ground funk drawn from dark, dank places. A Salice suspended, after the bruise of fermentation, like a charcoal tracing, like shadow with just an osculant of faint light. A cheesy note hangs, of a salinity out of cultures and wet vats. This may not be everyman’s cup of spume, peat and sedge, with its rough tannin too, but its value lies in complexity and value under $16.  Tasted January 2015  @winesofpuglia  @puglia

Mocali Morellino Di Scansano 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (317115, $16.95, WineAlign)

Morellino that is briery, earthy and with a soaked, cedar chip overlay on dark fruit. Brambly, purple pitchy and almost but not quite flamboyant. Slow as geology seeping, tile weeping, liqueur steeping then turning gritty with drying tannins. Good persistence and a bitter finish. Good value.  Tasted January 2015  @InfoMorellino  @liffordwine

Poulet Et Fils Brut Crémant De Die, Rhône, France (392555, $17.95, WineAlign)

The unique sparklers from the Die, made from (mostly) Clairette are somewhat of a rarity in Ontario waters. The bitter pith nose, ranging tangy palate and slightly oxidative style is a bit touchy but the length is nearly exceptional for the Euro. In the realm of Crémants, this Rhône dips pear slices past cracker nasturtium pods bobbing in a bowl of beneficial bitters. With a Mediterranean climate and altitude-influenced elemental aroma as if burnished pewter, the bird is anything but fowl. The case is made for these bubbles.  Tasted January 2015  @VINSRHONE  @WineandFood_RA  @TheCaseForWine

Rustenberg Shiraz 2011, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (399246, $19.95, WineAlign)

As per the Stellenbosch Shiraz stratagem, this may lean to sweetness but it’s all about rich, ripe fruit running wild and free. Savoury support comes from green tea, smoking branches and fulminating esters. Neither heavy nor burning, the ’11 is warm, clean and highly accessible. Impressive density and at 14.5 degrees alcohol, really quite soft, unwavering in its ability to suppress the demands of the octane push. Drink in the near term.  Tasted January 2015  @RustenbergWines  @StellWineRoute

Coyote’s Run Red Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (79228, $24.95, WineAlign)

This is an intense and vexing vintage for the Red Paw, a Pinot Noir of delicacy in constant search for the right dancing partner. In 2012 the soil seems to have been magnetized with a gravity of ferric density, causing juicy and spontaneous fits of revelry and a painting of the Paw red. Cherries, stones and figs are in, along with ether, earth and peat. The longevity quotient comes into question as the tenure already seems quite evolved but in its current state it is quite fun to drink.  Tasted January 2015  @coyotesrun

Simonsig Chenin Avec Chêne Chenin Blanc 2012, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (282772, $25.95, WineAlign)

This barrel-aged Chenin Blanc is toasty, reductive and stratified, scaling heights few whites reach for, to seek other worldly atmospheres. I don’t find anything remotely tropical about it, on the contrary, it’s way out of the equatorial zone and into the upper reaches of the ozone. This has the Loire imprint of longing and distance. It will need time to come back down to earth, what with its hyper fruit meet mineral nuances. When it does it will walk through rain forests and dry flood plains with those extreme noisome notes in tow, to settle amongst the stones by the river. For some, this will be a rare find.  Tasted January 2015  @Simonsig_Estate  @WOSACanada  @WoSA_USA  @StellWineRoute

Domaine De Saint Pierre Sancerre 2013, Loire Valley, France (170258, $26.95, WineAlign)

A most promising and textured Sauvignon Blanc, full of chalky fruit and a lamina of minerality, like a strudel of stone fruit spread between layers of Phyllo pastry greased by pulverulant butter. Though this Sancerre does not and will not travel the longest route for the Loire, it is a seamless wine and one that is well-designed. Has a modernity about it while yet keeping a finger on and an ear to the radiocarbon chronometer.  Tasted January 2015  @LoireValleyWine

Girard Chardonnay 2012, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California (338434, $26.95, WineAlign)

Quite a different sort of California Chardonnay, cooler and in avoidance of the sub-equatorial fruit of the tropics. With a wisp of woodsmoke and a toothpick poke or two of smokey spice, this RRV bottling puts foggy Sonoma first in line, ahead of warm Cali sunshine. The one warm aspect is a vanilla overlay on creamy mango, a texture that is present but not over the top. The ripeness gathers moss and little stones, gets going, gains steam and fleshes out across a length that steers forward towards a future of nice value.  Tasted January 2015  @GirardWinery  @imbibersrepotr  @sonomavintners

Salcheto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2011, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (685180, $29.95, WineAlign)

Here a most modern Vino Nobile from Salcheto, through its forward and public fruit to its fine designed label. Retains a sensible and loyal texture, wearing its coat of arms in reverence of its past. Argumentative tannin and acidity speak loud, over the voices of tar, ferrous vernacular, black and blue bruises and rolling stones. Like rusty blood seeping into the cracked earth of a water-starved forest, this Sangiovese gets inside and under the skin. “Come si chiama, what’s your game?” She will answer, Vino Nobile, that’s my name.  Tasted January 2015  @SalchetoWinery  @AMH_hobbsandco

Poplar Grove Chardonnay 2012, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (276675, $29.95, WineAlign)

The vintage does not strike so much a new direction for the Poplar Grove Chardonnay as much as a blip on the cool climate radar. Before extrapolating on that comment it must be said that this is a well-made wine. It’s riper, with more gregarious character, an increase in topicality and into a nearly candied buttercup feel. Rich in glück and circumstance. Where in ’11 there were many notes in ripe coconut and green tones, they are a merely a suggestion in ’12, not a composition. A brûlée of lemon and ginger with a sprinkle of cinnamon finds the palate in think mode moving forwards in slurry strides towards a cemented and fixed positional finish. This is for the here and now.  Tasted January 2015  @poplargrovewine

Beni Di Batasiolo Riserva Barolo 2006, Doc Piedmont, Italy (330704, $39.95, WineAlign)

Time yet remains on the diminishing side of this Barolo of necessity, regaling and expressive of tea, tannin and flowers, dried and crumbled over fine earth. A modern and high-toned La Morra that is representative of very good value. The tannins persist in clenched chops and will need up to five years to resolve. The BdB Riserva ’06 may not be the Nebbiolo to mortgage the cellar on, but it does have the ability to be a wine to arouse the longing of one who waits.  Tasted January 2015  @ChartonHobbs  @MikeAikins1

Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino 2009, Tuscany, Italy (33498, $39.95, WineAlign)

The porcine cure of a Fattoi Brunello is a thing of mesmerism, here alongside a gamey note of soft, braised heart of beef. In ’09 the aromatics are a bit closed at present, atypical for the vintage but likely more a product of the curated, house style. Leather and some judicious oak spice offer up characteristic Grosso sentiments, dug into sweet earth and a feign of candied fruits and flowers. Sumptuous and terrific stuff. Here Brunello that effects the blinding potency of vines screaming of their fruit.  Tasted January 2015  @BrunelloImports  @ConsBrunello

Taittinger Prestige Brut Rosé Champagne, Ac Champagne, France (993113, $67.95, WineAlign)

A sweeping scopic range of bitters, soft tonics and savoury Polygonaceae circulate in the vacuum of this point beleaguering Champagne. She plies a rough trade, with a flinty, smouldering gun effect that simulates a toasted barrel blowing smoke upwards a riotous Rosé’s crystal glass. With citrus acidity off the charts, a pampered and churned pamplemousse ever expanding, the Taittinger excites and jointly strikes the heart with elegance and beauty. Her style is both chic and confidential, “she’s a combination Anita Eckberg, Mamie van Doren.” A Champagne that avoids freud and “drives a candy pink Cadillac,” that will “make you want to give up high school.”  For immediate pleasure and years of future memories.  Tasted January 2015  @Taittinger_News  @TaittingerUSA

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If it’s value you want, it’s South Africa you need

From left to right: Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2013, Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2013, The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2013, Café Culture Coffee Mocha Pinotage 2014, Thelema Mountain Red 2012

From left to right: Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2013, Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2013, The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2013, Café Culture Coffee Mocha Pinotage 2014, Thelema Mountain Red 2012

I sat down a few weeks back to taste 20 South African wines, all value-based, consumer-friendly and market-driven. With WineAlign colleagues David Lawrason, John Szabo M.S., Margaret Swaine, Steve Thurlow and Sara d’Amato on hand, the general consensus at the tasting was positive and only worked to re-enforce how competitive South African wines can be in the sub-$15 market.

While certainly not immune to flaws, some South African reds and whites can sometimes get right in your face and yet others show remarkable elegance and complexity at entry-level prices. When I taste wines such as these I imagine the catastrophe of grace. They are wines that move through history with the fluency of a spirit. Some make a house cleaning of belief, others are solid senders. The South African tasting was more than just a group of cheap wines with something to say, more than a pleasant surprise, it was in fact, a pleasure.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2013, Swartland, South Africa (595280, $14.95, WineAlign)

Deep dish Syrah, with meaty and cured toppings and the mordant pitch of Swartland. Tarry, olivine rampant and filled with the late summer, sorrowful berries; blackberry and black raspberry. Naturally sweet, viscous, grainy and tannic mess of texture overlaying fruit. Tons of wine for the buck and a very promising vintage to lay down. Aridity takes over on the briery finish. Wow.  Tasted January 2015  @PorcupineWines

Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (367698, $14.85, WineAlign)

Here is a buttery and toasty Western Cape Chardonnay, slightly dirty and reductive. Confused, seemingly high residual avoirdupois restricts the opening notes, though they surely begin to play. The aromatics are heavy with the soaking skins of pear, apple and quince in crumbled amaretto cookie and flaky pastry boozy waters. Give this three plus years to shed its nerdy phase and integrate its tangy persistence.  Tasted January 2015  @BoschendalWines  @liffordwine

The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (292557, $13.95, WineAlign)

Referring to Marc Kent’s blend as traditionally Rhône may seem at odds in consideration of the north-south, modish chaos, the price and the locale, but folky it is. The blend is unvarying Boekenhoutskloof, grounded by Syrah with support from Mourvèdre and Viognier. The latter, aromatic white grape variety lifts and brightens the brooding load. This is quite sweet and sour, of high-toned red and black fruits meeting a reduction of Champagne vinegar. A tannic and mineral streak divides, circles and conquers all. This will drink better in a year and for a few more after that.  Tasted January 2015  

Café Culture Coffee Mocha Pinotage 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (292466, $12.95, WineAlign)

From the KWV stable, the triad of outwardly and rhetorically spoken culture is right there on the label, in all its java glory. Café, Coffee, Mocha. The charm here is that perhaps in 2014 it has actually been scaled back a touch, the wood suffusion, to add least reveal a modicum of red fruits. Nonetheless it is the notes of smoke, tar, rubber and of course coffee that dominate. “Cause it’s the new Mother Nature takin’ over.” There are also at least two spoonfuls too many of sugar. Like the annoying Guess Who song, this can only be taken in very small doses. “Find a corner where I can hide.”  Tasted January 2015  @TheCafeCult  @Diageo_News

Thelema Mountain Red 2012, Western Cape, South Africa (222570, $12.95, WineAlign)

From fruit up on the slopes of the Simonsig Mountains, this has real, natural cherry brightness, not to mention a kitchen sink of varietal interplay. Shiraz (37 per cent), Petit Verdot (25), Cabernet Sauvignon (23), Merlot (10), Grenache (4) and Cabernet Franc (1) are coalesced by a lighter hand and the effect is less frightening than might be expected. Like similar California action (save for Zinfandel and/or Petite Sirah), this comes together nicely, even coherently, with just a few wrinkles. Represents very good value for a multitude of purposes; BBQ and barbecue being two of them.  Tasted January 2015  @ThelemaWines  @EpicW_S

From left to right: Cape Heritage Inception Deep Layered Red 2012, Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Flat Roof Manor Pinot Grigio 2014, Flat Roof Manor Merlot 2013, Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2014

From left to right: Cape Heritage Inception Deep Layered Red 2012, Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Flat Roof Manor Pinot Grigio 2014, Flat Roof Manor Merlot 2013, Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2014

Cape Heritage Inception Deep Layered Red 2012, Western Cape, South Africa (369967, $12.95, WineAlign)

If 2011 was sweet, this next vintage is like Carabao mango, Luohan duo and Deglet noor dates all cooked down together into a mawkish, sappy jam. Or maybe it’s much simpler than that; just deeply layered refined sugar and red dye number 40. There is almost no aromatic discernment beyond the crystalline layers. No fruit, no soil, no acidity, no tannin. Just sweetness.  Tasted January 2015

Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (129874, $11.30, WineAlign)

The simple drawn label indicates honest design and intent. The alcohol (14.5 per cent) seems spot on and in sweetness, honestly declared. Stones of fruit, full on Cassis, vanilla and wood spice are in the glass and obviously so. Scales greater heights than most generic California counterparts and comes across as Cabernet Sauvignon, with savoury Western Cape scents closer to Sonoma than say, Central Coast. Some coal and tar come in play with a good, persistent finish.  Tasted January 2015  @liffordretail

Flat Roof Manor Pinot Grigio 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (27128, $11.25, WineAlign)

With the simple aroma of vanilla drops on cut pears and refined sugar, this is clean, crystalline and simple Pinot Grigio. Inoffensive, for a large gathering it will not hurt any feelings. The production is mindlessly prepared and contrived, until a warm cookie dough nuance takes it to another level. Nothing shocking here.  Tasted January 2015  @FlatRoofManor

Flat Roof Manor Merlot 2013, Stellenbosch, South Africa (27128, $11.25, WineAlign)

A taut and toned Merlot, varietally correct and though the label reads 13.5 per cent alcohol, shows considerable heat. Very Merlot, dusty, mulberry scented, syrupy and familiar as a Cape red. Fully garnished, varnished and a rubber stamp this side of tarnished, the thick smoke does distort the clarity. Somewhat seamless in its heavy charms and structured, if quick to finish. Tasted January 2015  @FlatRoofManor

Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (365353, $10.95, WineAlign)

Though the label has forsaken the partnership with (15 per cent) Viognier, the aromatic floral lilt persists, lifts and buoys the stoic and stark Chenin to impossible heights in a sub-$11 wine. The Chenin’s sharp reserve is inwardly atomic and the relationship with the 15 percenter strictly platonic. Together they create honeyed matter, walk hand in hand and handsomely forward. The residual sugar drip may be a touch heavy-handed but laying a bottle or two down for a few years is entirely possible and save for the price, even longer than that. The acidity circulates to the end, framed by a fine tannic texture.  Tasted January 2015  @BoschendalWines  @liffordwine

From left to right: Goats Do Roam White 2013, Flagstone Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc Extra Dry Sparkling Wine 2013, Bellingham Big Oak Red 2013

From left to right: Goats Do Roam White 2013, Flagstone Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc Extra Dry Sparkling Wine 2013, Bellingham Big Oak Red 2013

Goats Do Roam White 2013, Coastal Region, South Africa (237313, $10.95, WineAlign)

The popular and successful Rhône-ish north-south blend in 2013 is Viognier (67 per cent), Roussane (19) and Grenache Blanc (14). In memory, mimic and polar fellowship of the mother land, the GdR is spic and span clean if slightly saccharine and sentimental. I find this to be a typically commercial and derivative South African white wine, with an aromatic and palate profile of sugary, viscous appliqué and rubber tree sap. Has that awkward, gummy resin sensation, along with tropical notes. It’s the pineapple expression that saves the day and makes it more fun to drink.  Tasted January 2015  @DonGoatti  @FairviewWine

Flagstone Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Western Cape, South Africa (358754, $10.95, WineAlign)

Like flavoured, warmed to dripping chocolate, with splinters. Like overripe blackberries seeping in warm rainwater. There is some formidable tannin and acidity which could use some air time to resolve. Quite unique and fun for an inexpensive South African red with only a minute level of rubbery, volatile acidity. Some earth and plenty of spice, much of it from wood. Quite bright actually and well made.  Tasted January 2015  @flagstonewines  @CBrandsCareers

Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Durbanville, South Africa (22251, $10.95, WineAlign)

Extreme savour and notes for green vegetables are sprinkled with capsicum and dried caper dust in this piquant Sauvignon Blanc. Windswept tops of or cliff edges can be conjured at a sip, along with he dust of desert brush and spots of European gorse. Ocean mists join the notes of Ulex, contributing further green aromas and salty-based flavours. Acidity brings it all in focus. There is complexity in this SB’s drive.  Tasted January 2015  @dhillswine

Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc Extra Dry Sparkling Wine 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (281311, $10.95, WineAlign)

Quite oxidized and based on the saccharine sugar aspect, “Extra-Dry” must be a translation from the local winemaker’s dialect. While it has some fining aridity on the back end, the early palate is coated with not so unpleasant sweetness. The capsicum captures the effectualness of the varietal, as do green vegetables and grasses. Intensity comes through in lemon curd and the finish is quite bitter.  Tasted January 2015

Bellingham Big Oak Red 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (350595, $10.80, WineAlign)

A Shiraz-Cabernet blend that’s all about the tree, the barrel and a winemaker’s loud and clear pronouncement of the way jammy Western Cape fruit should be treated. Tire tread and sappy tensor bandage smother along with all kinds of chocolate. Plenty of red fruit, grainy tannin and condensed acidity, straight out of the can. Big wine for so little.  Tasted January 2015  @DionysusWines

From left to right: Frisky Zebras From left to right: Nederburg Winemaster's Reserve Shiraz 2013, Douglas Green Sauvignon Blanc 2014, K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014, Obikwa Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Frisky Zebras Sensuous Sauvignon Blanc Sauvignon Blanc

From left to right: Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Shiraz 2013, Douglas Green Sauvignon Blanc 2014, K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014, Obikwa Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Frisky Zebras Sensuous Sauvignon Blanc

Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Shiraz 2013, Western Cape, South Africa (527457, $9.95, WineAlign)

Have always had a soft spot for this hard-nosed, high-alcohol (pushing the 15 per cent limit, despite the declared 14.5 on the bottle) heavy lead and plush red berry Shiraz. Especially at under $10. Graphite and mephitic barks, ferrous bits and cool bites keep it dancing under ground. It’s sweet and sour, with soy and balsamic swirls. Covers a wide ranging set of Western Cape parameters. Runs the flavour gamut and represents more than solid value. It’s the style, love it or not.  Tasted January 2015  @Nederburg  @ImportWineMAFWM

Douglas Green Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (367821, $9.80, WineAlign)

Mr. Green Jr. has fashioned the goods, following in the footsteps of his father. This is a cheeky little Sauvignon Blanc. Slightly oxidized, certainly pumped up by a touch of effervescent CO2 and tempered by Western Cape sentiments. Has hallmark South African flaw-ish white wine tendencies but also plenty of back-end bite meets verve. Like Scatterlings in a bottle, “in their hearts a burning hunger, beneath the copper sun,” this SB has tons of tropical flavour. Also possesses a green apple crunch and a Cleggy, cool, minty middle. Most excellent and affordable juice.  Tasted January 2015  @DionysusWines

K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (18689, $9.45, WineAlign)

Despite the obvious base, elemental and flinty suggestions, it would take some yoga like stretching to pull a Chenin Blanc muscle out of the overall aromatics in a blind tasting. Yet somehow it screams Western Cape and South Africa. Reeks of gauze, sacchariferous density and homeopathic remedy. Saps moisture with anti-vivid aridity. Must overs are in vegetative tones. And, it’s all in.  Tasted January 2015  @KWVwines  @DiamondEstates

Obikwa Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Western Cape, South Africa (527465, $9.45, WineAlign)

Struts slowly out, the aromatic neck in craning position, the rotund body slightly awkward and stuck in one dimension. The sweet perfume is animal musky, in a medicinal way. The big bird is a perfectly planar white that is just and only that, hardly recognizable as Sauvignon Blanc, with no ties to any defined terroir. The ostrich abides for simple and ordinary quaffing.  Tasted January 2015  @ObikwaWines  @ImportWineMAFWM

Frisky Zebras Sensuous Sauvignon Blanc NV, Western Cape, South Africa (237685, $8.95, WineAlign)

From purchased fair-trade fruit, this non-vintage white wine is nondescript. Here brews honeydew in a bottle. Tinny, oxidized and briny, bronzing smells are also sunburnt. The mouth is the recipient of a greasy, reductive, effervescent and prickling salve. Non-Maleficence in Sauvignon Blanc.  Tasted January 2015

Good to go!

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Let the gems begin

Wine review at VINTAGES of Norman Hardie Chardonnay Niagara Unfiltered 2012 by Godello

Wine review at VINTAGES of Norman Hardie Chardonnay County Unfiltered 2012 by Godello

If the premature lashing of cold, snow and ice weren’t enough to get you thinking about holiday shopping, get thee to a Liquor Control Board Ontario store on the weekend. Same time, every year. The LCBO stocks the shelves, isles and pyramid displays with more booze than anyone should ever be faced with in one visitation.

Related – Holiday wine gems hit November shelves

The bi-weekly VINTAGES release calendar whirs, undulates and clutters in rataplan overload at just this very juncture in preparation of the Christmas rush. Shoppers will tear down the walls of wine, beer and spirits, only to hear the burloque fall silent when the clock strikes closing time on the evening of December 24th.

There are exactly 35 days left in 2014 to do the right wine thing for that father, cousin, colleague, mentor or loyal, long-time suffering employee. Please heed the warnings and do not buy crap for the one you love or think you should. No matter who you are picking up a bottle for, treat them well and with fermented grape respect.

There are three category of wines to look for, at least within the context of this buying guide. First there are the values under $20, wines made so properly they should cost double or triple what they do. Second are the expensive but honest wines. These are the true gems that make most $100 bottles look bad. Last are the $100 examples that are truly iconic, despite their cost. Though priced beyond the means of most, they are not a mistake to take a flyer and give as a gift. After the hand off is complete, the all-knowing, unspoken nod will follow.

Here are 22 picks from the VINTAGES November 22, 2014 release, in stores now.

From left to right: Cavino Grande Reserve Nemea 2008, Frescobaldi Castello Di Pomino Pomino Bianco 2013, Moris Morellino Di Scansano 2012, Louis Bouillot Perle D'aurore Brut Rosé Crémant De Bourgogne, McWilliam's Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Sémillon 2007, Josef Chromy Pepik Pinot Noir 2012

From left to right: Cavino Grande Reserve Nemea 2008, Frescobaldi Castello Di Pomino Pomino Bianco 2013, Moris Morellino Di Scansano 2012, Louis Bouillot Perle D’aurore Brut Rosé Crémant De Bourgogne, McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Sémillon 2007, Josef Chromy Pepik Pinot Noir 2012

Cavino Grande Reserve Nemea 2008, Pdo Nemea, Greece (295618, $17.95, WineAlign)

Nemea strikes again. Dark rust, earth juiced on and of the rocks. Like Sangiovese with attitude, made by Romans, like Syrah the way it was made in mythological times, by Greeks. A classical garden. This is actually quite modern and expressive for Agiorgitiko. Acts as if it were a touch clay (or amphora) baked but it’s really just a Peloponnese take on oak aging (18 months) and further bottle rest (12 months). This is right in its window and will be friendly for three to five years more. What a steal.  Tasted November 2014  @DrinkGreekWine

Frescobaldi Castello Di Pomino Pomino Bianco 2013, Doc Pomino Bianco, Tuscany, Italy (65086, $19.95, WineAlign)

With thanks to Chardonnay, the Castello di Pomino 2013 elevates Pinot Blanc to a level not really found anywhere, save perhaps for one or two examples out of B.C. This one really leaves a tannic impression, not unlike some impossibly off-dry Pinot Gris from Alsace. There is a really sophisticated level of ambiance and a semblance of a distinctly rocky intent. Like high quality Sancerre or Chenin from Silex soils, the grain and veins running through the palate and the texture are coarse and cursive. This one writes a new script for Frescobaldi’s Florentine, Apennine mountain estate. Fresh, ventilated and airy as if breathing from blue skies at high altitudes. I can’t recall tasting this level of excellence before and would look forward to no less than five years of enjoying what it brings to the Tuscan table.  Tasted November 2014  @FrescobaldiVini  @liffordretail

Moris Morellino Di Scansano 2012, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (992560, $19.95, WineAlign)

A primarily (90 per cent) Sangiovese with smatterings, though not inconsequential, of Merlot and Syrah. From (non-estate) vineyards in Poggio La Mozza (Grosseto). Morellino Di Scansano, to a wine and exemplified here, sports a firm jaw and an air of tragic nobility. The question is why should it only find occasional psychic prominence as a Sangiovese go to. Moris Farms makes the lesser-known accessible, with a (sees no oak) modern accent of dark fruit and spice atop simple, pleasurable Sangiovese. Pleasantries exchanged, the 2012 MdS will work dinner, inside a Tuscan vernacular and out.  Tasted October 2014  @Morisfarms  @oenophilia1

Louis Bouillot Perle D’aurore Brut Rosé Crémant De Bourgogne, Ac Burgundy, France (48793, $19.95, WineAlign)

The Bouillot Rosé, for my $20 is the most impressive of their line-up, always tender and ripe as if just picked fruit, namely strawberry and raspberry. The Perle D’aurore is a faintly hued and lighthearted take but not light on effort. Elegance defined in Bourgogne bubbles with a savoury edge to give it strength.  Tasted November 2014  @JCB_Wines  @ChartonHobbs

McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Sémillon 2007, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia (724492, $19.95, WineAlign)

The 2007 is another fascinating study in Hunter Valley Sémillon. Like the ’06, egressing secondary notes have emerged, in equatorial garrigue and fruit having already met its aurulent stenosis. A honey note persists though less so in ’07, as does the level of tempering acidity. This vintage brings out the calm and the clam, though the petrol and the mineral are omnipresent, perhaps elevated. Must keep in mind it’s only $20 but it does fall a bit short in texture and acidity. There is lemon drop and the essential atomic Sémillon stoicism from the Hunter Valley, but it’s a bit thin and hollow up the middle. All that acknowledged, not having a look or two would be a shame. Tasted November 2014  @MtPleasantWines  @PRAXISpr

Josef Chromy Pepik Pinot Noir 2012, Tasmania, Australia (162990, $22.95, WineAlign)

Pepik has elevated aromatic tones and though it appears lithe it reads like a weighty tome. Unique and of its Tasmanian self. Plums come to mind, as does red earth. The phenolic ripeness and varietal indications are ushered in with managed exceptions and are simply spot on. This does not strike as a Pinot Noir that will be long-lived because its black cherry and spice are riper than many contemporary editions in a similar price range, but it will offer great pleasure for two to three years.  Tasted November 2014  @JosefChromy  @bwwines

From left to right: Klumpp Pinot Gris 2013, Creekside Estates The Trad Reserve 2011, Meerlust Rubicon 2008, Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo 2011, Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001, Cvne Gran Reserva 2008

From left to right: Klumpp Pinot Gris 2013, Creekside Estates The Trad Reserve 2011, Meerlust Rubicon 2008, Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo 2011, Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001, Cvne Gran Reserva 2008

Klumpp Pinot Gris 2013, Qualitätswein, Baden, Germany (394155, $23.95, WineAlign)

Thoroughly interesting study in German Pinot Gris despite the timid and reserved tonal nature. Aridity in as much as the variety can muster and in the largest, atmospheric sense. Though the palate has some fine-grained texture and feigned sweetness, it’s as if Baden can only do Pinots this way, in Gris and in Noir. Acidity is tempered and a willing accomplice to the diminished components of sugar and pH. A well designed Pinot Gris.  Tasted November 2014  @TheLivingVine  @WinesofGermany

Creekside Estates The Trad Reserve 2011, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (390336, $28.95, WineAlign)

The Trad ’11 has a classic toast and yeast aromatic waft and so it goes that everything that follows is embraced with curiosity and an open mind. Ginger, citrus, bronze and the sweet scents of the inside of a candy machine, its candy long gone. Creekside’s winemaker Rob Power will never be accused of dialing this sparkler in. Tasting trials help determine the necessary, final blend. The single, Queenston Road Vineyard puts 56 per cent Pinot Noir and (44) Chardonnay, aged 2 years in bottle, together for a highly effective, expansive but not explosive fizz. At 8.7 g/L of residual its dry but not quite falling off the bone. The sweetness is tempered by elevated (9.98 g/L) acidity and tension. Spent 24 months on the lees and was bottled back in February. There is balance and pleasure and a good, stretchy finish. No band-aid. Clean, precise, fizz of the day.  Tasted October 2014  @CreeksideWine

Meerlust Rubicon 2008, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (64329, $34.95, WineAlign)

Rubber dust, road macadam and strawberry jam. Fierce Bordeaux Blend home from a hot climate. This has gritty obduracy and doggedness. Like a red blend with a gun, walking the mean streets. Acidity shot through the roof. Bordeaux meets South Africa in every shared, resplendent and promising way. Rasping tannins contain bursting dark fruit, the grain running in multiple directions. Respect. Wait two more years on this and drink comfortably to 2020.  Tasted November 2014  @TrialtoON  @WOSACanada

Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo 2011, Igt Toscana, Italy (727636, $34.95, WineAlign)

This is not the modern Crognolo as witnessed in the previous five vintages. In 2011 we have been granted the complex Crognolo. This has must and earth. It has grit and girth. Best Crognolo I have tasted. Tangy Sangiovese, with some chalk in tannin. Will live longer and offer unrequited love seven to 10 years down the road, to the patient and the faithful. Tasted November 2014  @TenSettePonti  @TrialtoON

Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001, Doca Rioja, Spain (976662, $35.95, WineAlign)

It amazes me how kept wines from Rioja keep appearing as if they were just bottled yesterday but not this famous Gran Reserva. Syrupy and caramelized, bright and earthy. Mulled plum and clove with citrus accents. Bretty like a barn’s floor. Cedar and leather, big oak doors. Real mutton Rioja, still tannic, energetic and searing. Kicking it old school but wild and alive. From my earlier, April 2014 note: “Were a full-term lecture taught on the pros and cons of the Brettanomyces brannigan, this Rioja might be exhibit A. Absolutely manifest fruit meets earth, meets game perfume compendium. Call it funky yeast if you must but here is a wine that can be approached by nose only and if the relationship were to end there, novels might be written. Lives on a fermented, catalytic and plucky edge but never submits to the bacterial spindrift. Leaden fruit, red and black, smooth and layered with a tension in tang that is paralyzing to the mouth. Thirteen years old and just hitting a secondary stride, with the oak slowly dissolving and not a hint of coffee or chocolate to be found. Sexy and down to earth at the same time.” Last tasted November 2014  @bodegasfaustino  @Select_Wines

Cune Gran Reserva 2008, Doca Rioja, Spain (393553, $38.95, WineAlign)

Old school. Smells like Rioja. Smells like Spanish spirit and weeds, sinew, gristle and braising pig, all parts in. Smells like cedar, like American oak and a soak in a tub of spa earth and mineral salts. Like “Spanish boots of Spanish leather.” This has already done the evolutionary dance so if you are looking for something to float your natural, honest boat, go here now. In a Rioja world where the times they are a changin‘, it will sail you back in time and away into a Mediterranean sunset.  Tasted November 2014  @Cvne  @vonterrabev

From left to right: Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Dutton Goldfield Dutton Ranch Chardonnay 2012, Vincent Sauvestre Clos De La Platière Pommard 2012, Versado Malbec Reserva 2010, Laurent Perrier Millésimé Vintage Brut Champagne 2004

From left to right: Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Dutton Goldfield Dutton Ranch Chardonnay 2012, Vincent Sauvestre Clos De La Platière Pommard 2012, Versado Malbec Reserva 2010, Laurent Perrier Millésimé Vintage Brut Champagne 2004

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Tuscany, Italy (928028$49.95, WineAlign)

Firm and in a rustic vein, as per the Barbi dole, this one a bit funkier at the outset than many. Welcome to the classic firmness of 2008, antithesis of the flamboyant ’07’s but plan for 20 plus years of slow food elegance emission. Classic rose petal, tea leaves, dates and earth caked metal in this guy. From my earlier, March 2014 note: “As expected, this is a gritty effort from Barbi, in part the impart of a testosterone-laden vintage, along with the dryer and cooler climate from Barbi’s southeastern Montalcino vineyards. A low and slow ripening will surely translate to extended longevity, but the rusticity and leather/cherry continuum will never disappear. No doubt a classic example and very well-priced for such authenticity, still it can’t be helped to see Barbi’s ’08 as entrenched in an earlier period of time. The wine will need 10 years to soften its edges and reveal the refinement and elegance of a well-documented Brunello.”  Last tasted November 2014  @FATTORIABARBI  @Noble_Estates

Dutton Goldfield Dutton Ranch Chardonnay 2012, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California (287854, $58.95, WineAlign)

A study in precision, exceptional quality and poise. Golden rays mixed with misty wisps, cool nights tempering warm days. Just a touch of wood spice pricks the finish. So much flavour.  Tasted November 2014  @DuttonGoldfield  @TheVine_RobGroh

Vincent Sauvestre Clos De La Platière Pommard 2012, Burgundy, France (390534, $59.95, WineAlign)

This Pinot Noir speaks for the two sides of every Burgundy argument, especially considering it comes from the gritty nook of Pommard. First impressions are floral and pretty, with spice and some sort of tropical flora whispering in cooing scents. The hill offers a buoyancy, a lifted spirit and a view of its own sweet regard. Travels through a mid-village weightless hover, then returns to terroir in prime time acidity and tannin to keep time. There is a sweet tart medicinal aspect ratio on the finish and overall this does things correctly. Does not finish with the same suave seduction that it teased at the start but it does continue to impress.  Tasted November 2014  @Select_Wines  @BourgogneWines

Versado Malbec Reserva 2010, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (316984, $60.95, WineAlign)

Aromatics are racing and rising from the glass. A red rain pouring in and out. Has yet to change course. From my earlier, September 2014 note: “The floral emergence is a lodestar as periscope just now peering up from the seamless cake layering in Versado’s most liberally applied oak-imbued Malbec. The 2010 adheres in sticky savour though it remains two to three years away from finding its true gliding form. From my earlier notes through tastings on Oct. 25 and Nov. 14, 2013. “This ultra-premium Mendozan from the Canadian winemaking team of Peter Gamble and Ann Sperling boasts fruit from “the finest barrels from the finest blocks.” While certainly riding a splintered and jammy horse (what fully extracted Mendozan does not), this reserve Malbec has so much else happening, I owe it my time and focus. Dances to a triple jump height in oozing berry, compacted, brick wall infrastructure and overlapping delineation. Really like the consistency here, with no hollow middle, no umlaut, no pregnant pause. Very well made.” Last tasted November 2014  @VersadoWine

Laurent Perrier Millésimé Vintage Brut Champagne 2004, Champagne, France (983874, $84.95, WineAlign)

The reappraised vintage that was once considered good, now revealing itself as better than good uses examples like the Laurent Perrier Millésimé to drive the point. This is a classically symmetrical blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir possessive of much chaste class, incredible balance and held lotus posture. Through its waves of idiosyncratic brioche and linear citrus lines drawn in tactile angles this Champagne is unbent and unbroken. Its seamless transitions glide from delicate aromas, through a textured palate and groove forward in elastic length. Additionally graceful with an ever so slightly advanced and mature style from a mature world in vintage-dated Champagne.  Tasted November 2014  @ChampagneLPUSA  @Noble_Estates

From left to right: Mollydooker Carnival Of Love Shiraz 2010, Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Château Malescot St. Exupéry 2010, Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Sassicaia 2011

From left to right: Mollydooker Carnival Of Love Shiraz 2010, Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Château Malescot St. Exupéry 2010, Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Sassicaia 2011

Mollydooker Carnival Of Love Shiraz 2010, Mclaren Vale, Australia (242732, $114.95, WineAlign)

While the price is just about as absurd as a “yoga class for cats” or Raine Maida’s voice, it seems logical to wonder aloud how one could question this Carnival as not being one of the biggest and baddest Shiraz you will ever encounter. It’s a veritable run on sentence of Shiraz adjectives, adverbs and hyperbole. If your hankering remains entrenched in elevated alcohol, enormity of fruit, condensed and compressed mineral, lest to be forgetting the viscous ooze of Mclaren Vale syrup, well, then this jester should fill your stocking along with those of the rest of your circle of fortifying friends. From the maw of the beast here – blood gore and fruit guts. Holy crap is this extracted, tannic, mired in impropriety, full conceit and in zero jealousy of other Shiraz. It doth joust. Certainly no lady of peace. Wow.  Tasted November 2014  @MollydookerWine  @bwwines

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Napa Valley, California (936039, $139.95, WineAlign)

Magnificent and munificent wine. Really special, magnanimous in every way, ultra-luxurious but not over the top. Alcohol, oak and extraction judged and held in check, equity and in balance. The fruit is pure and delicate, marked by plum, blackberry and hovering licorice, anise and spices. Long in chain and really sweet tannins. Like gazing into a pool of real nineties Napa and across the pond to an older school of reasoning. Tasted November 2014  @SilverOak  @HalpernWine

Château Malescot St. Exupéry 2010, Ac Margaux, 3e Cru, Bordeaux, France (261552, $167.95, WineAlign)

A heightened sense of Margaux reality in 2010 comes from the château with the hybrid name; first from Simon Malescot, King’s Counsel to Louis XIV at the Parliament of Bordeaux. Second, from the post French Revolution château purchaser, Count Jean Baptiste St Exupéry, grandfather of the aviator and writer Antoine de St Exupéry. This has to be the most hedonism ever bottled in a Malescot, within reason of course. The house does not know from over the top, save perhaps for the cost of this 2010. Cassis is certainly here, as is a medicinal tension, firm acidity and the most formidable tannins known to Margaux. The grain, chalk and tincture combine for full effect. This will need 10 years to chill, then go 10 plus 10 more to much applause and the request for a final curtain call. Tasted November 2014  @VinsdeBordeaux

Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Napa Valley, California (399592, $167.95, WineAlign)

Wow. Aromatics are off the charts. Pine forest, leather, chestnut and cedar, savoury in every wild and sauvage way, but also pure. Berries, tobacco leaf, classical logic, structures and axioms lead me to imagine mid-nineties Paulliac. Seamless texture, ripe but not overripe, rich but never overly grainy. This is super fine and dialed back (with exotic spices and wood spice filling in the holes) in the cooler 2011 vintage. A Cabernet Sauvignon of the most savour and the most class. A ten to twenty year Spottswoode.  Tasted November 2014   @Spottswoode  @Smallwinemakers

Sassicaia 2011, Doc Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy (480533, $199.95, WineAlign)

Certainly a Sassicaia borne of the earth and the vintage. Cooler, with increased sapidity and elevated aromatics. While not volatile there is certainly an intimation at acetic behaviour. Though supportive in only 15 per cent of the two Cabs blend, Cabernet Franc stands firm in its concentration of tobacco, peppercorns a-popping in the pan and a smoldering of currants over an open fire. This will age for decades and return to its beautiful natural state with time-weathered, rugged facial lines. A leathery Sassicaia this, with tight, drying tannins and in need of two decades to show off its birthright. The 2011 Sassicaia is a loyal, aristocratic example to the Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta’s dream of creating a ‘thoroughbred’ wine where the ideal was Bordeaux.  Tasted November 2014  @Smarent

Good to go!

https://twitter.com/mgodello

Rocking out with the 2014 WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada

WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada 2014

WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada 2014

The results are in. Closure has come. Category champions and Judge’s picks are now live.

The highly regarded WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada is categorized and justified as a “must enter” for winemakers and vintners who want to be a part of a genuine, above-board wine competition. For consumers in Canada it is a place to discover the best value wines available on the market today. Say what you will about the concours concept. The straightforward WineAlign offer implements an expertly designed bracket to ultimately crown a covey of thoroughly deserving champions. Wines are carefully scrutinized, judged with fair play and at times, brutal honesty. Each wine must impress the judges more than once. “Up to the task” is never in question. At “The Worlds,” the best minds are on the job.

Related – He spits, he scores: 2013 World Wine Awards of Canada results

Panorama of judging and wines at WWAC14 Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

Panorama of judging and wines at WWAC14
Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

It was the week of August 18 to 22. Eighteen critics, two czars, a tech guy, a database custodian, a logistics steward, “her bitch” (sic) and a dedicated team of volunteers gathered to administer vinous justice for 1000 (give or take) hopeful wines. The tasting road was long yet filled with much success. Never have so many wines with the intention of offering value and simple pleasure shown so well and with so much grace.

Head judge Anthony Gismondi talks with Rhys Pender MW, Steve Thurlow, DJ Kearney and Godello Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

Head judge Anthony Gismondi talks with Rhys Pender MW, Steve Thurlow, DJ Kearney and Godello
Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

In today’s WineAlign WWAC14 results dissertation, Anthony Gismondi tells us that “nothing has value unless you give it some.” The awards are about assessing daily drinkers, wines that the repeat consumer look for often, especially the bargains. They are for consumers first, of and for the common people. For the wineries, agents and writers, the competition is effectuated without bias. “The tastings are computerized from start to finish allowing wineries, agents or retailers to enter, pay, and eventually track their results online.” 

In 2014 my position is this. Oak and cheap tricks are on the way out, at least when it comes to wines submitted to the WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada. Sugar, wood chips, agar agar, artificial colour, manipulated flavour, reverse osmosis and added acidity are trade practices reserved for wines out there in the fast food stratosphere. The judges at the WWAC14 were fortunate to be granted immunity from having to taste and assess such a most unnatural lot. These awards represent and foster an altruistic commonality between vigneron and critic. Make an honest wine and it will be judged with honourable intent.

WWAC14 Judging Panel

WWAC14 Judging Panel

The writers and judges that make up the panels evaluate wines under $50 that are sold somewhere in Canada in the year of the competition. Entries are judged in flights along with similar varietal wines in three price categories; under $15, $15 to $25 and over $25. Starting with the 2014 awards all wines entered will not only be posted on WineAlign with bottle images, but reviews will be included as well (many in both French and English). Again in 2014, orchestration was overseen by one of North America’s most respected wine critics, Vancouver Sun columnist and WineAlign Partner Anthony Gismondi, aka The Spitter.

Panel of judges DJ Kearney, Godello and Rhys Pender MW Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

Panel of judges DJ Kearney, Godello and Rhys Pender MW
Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

Some startling results came out of this year’s tastings. Who would have ever put money on Carménère under $15 not only showing well, but blowing the collective minds of no less than five critics? Should Malbec in the $15-25 range, half of which are made by large and recognizable houses, have impressed with so much structure and restraint? A group of eight red blends under $15 were all good, five of them garnering very good scores. That same concept group of $15-25 were nearly all exceptional. Southern Italy fared with top value results in the under $15 category. Syrah/Shiraz $15-25 really surprised, as did Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the same range. Not to mention a flight of five fruit wines, four of which scored between 85 and 88. Not bad. All this can be attributed to one basic premise. WineAlign does not attract more producers than other concours. It attracts better ones.

WWAC14 judges Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

WWAC14 judges
Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

As in 2013, this year I was invited to join the other 17 judges in Mississauga, Ontario. Fortune is measured by the company one keeps. The 2014 judges were David LawrasonSteve Thurlow, Sara d’Amato, Bill Zacharkiw, Dr. Janet Dorozynski, Rémy Charest, Craig Pinhey, Rhys Pender, MWDJ Kearney, Treve Ring, Brad RoyaleJulian Hitner, Evan SaviolidisBruce Wallner, MSMichelle Bouffard, Emily Maclean, Adam Hijazi and Jake Lewis.

Released today, here are the results from #WWAC14, presented by WineAlign. Wines were awarded for the categories of Top Value WinesBest of CountryCategory Champions and Judges’ Choice. In addition to the work of the judges, the Worlds were really made possible by Head Wineaux Bryan McCaw, along with Earl Paxton, Jason Dziver (Photography), Carol Ann Jessiman, Sarah GoddardMiho Yamomoto and the volunteers.

2014 World Wine Awards of Canada Results

WWAC14

WWAC14

Each judge was asked to write reviews on a specific cross-section of wines they were a part of assessing during the competition. Here are my notes on 30 wines tasted blind, across a wide range of categories, in August of 2014 at #WWAC14 and the songs they inspired.

Category champion wines from left to right: Villa Wolf Riesling 2013, Castillo De Molina Reserva Carmenère 2012, Church & State Coyote Bowl Series Chardonnay 2012, Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block No. 21 Viento Mar Pinot Noir 2012, Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2012, Buena Vista Pinot Noir 2011

Category champion wines from left to right: Villa Wolf Riesling 2013, Castillo De Molina Reserva Carmenère 2012, Church & State Coyote Bowl Series Chardonnay 2012, Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block No. 21 Viento Mar Pinot Noir 2012, Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2012, Buena Vista Pinot Noir 2011

Cabernet Sauvignon $15-25

Wolf Blass Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra, South Australia, Australia (606939, $24.95, WineAlign)

Funny thing about Cabernet Sauvignon, “sometimes they rock and roll, sometimes they stay at home and it’s just fine,” Wolf Blass makes all kinds. This Coonawarra GL seems to do both. It’s ripe and presumptuous, rocks in the glass but also has good, homebody, varietal tendency. It has a heart that’s on fire, a wolf parade of iron, sanguine tension and tannin, but also hung walls of home woven tapestry texture. The core of fruit, earth and tar cries out for prey. The finish is long and returns, back to base Blass.

Icewine – Riesling-Gewurz-Apple

La Face Cachée de la Pomme 2011 Neige Première Ice Pink Cider, Quebec (39305, 375ml, $22.95, WineAlign)

“Breathe, breathe in the air” of intensity, in apples. One hundred squared apples on top of one another. Never mind the few bruised and oxidative ones because the fresh and concentrated mass smothers those minor notes. Pink and ambient, the major sweetness and top-notch acidity speak to me in waves of demonstrative, Floydian verse. Here you will find a Québécois response to “there is no dark side in the moon, really. As a matter of fact it’s all dark.” There is Icewine on the bright side and then there is Iced Cider on la face cachée, “balanced on the biggest wave.”

Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Riesling Icewine 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (winery, 375ml, $59.95, WineAlign)

A vanimated astral week’s of emotion is met by an animal musk, both hard to define. There is a high quotient of lemon, in curd, zest and pith. The sweetness is tempered by nudging acidity though it lingers long. All Riesling Icewine has to do “is ring a bell and step right up” so despite the electric Kool-Aid sugar syrup moments, this one spins and twirls, as Riesling does, just like a ballerina.

Inniskillin Niagara Estate Riesling Icewine 2012, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (601021, 375ml, $69.95, WineAlign)

Here sweetness, acerbity and a slightly advanced character are brought into balance by high grape sugar intensity and real linear acidity. Long and elastic, medicinally pretty and sacrosanct with seasoned complexity. Tasted this one and “felt a spark.” Tasted it twice and it tingled to the bone. What begun as a bob between evaluations ended with a simple twist of fate.  WWAC 2014 Category Champion

Pinot Noir $15-25

Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2011, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (146548, $21.95, WineAlign)

Deep earth and black cherry combine for the most extraction in the $15-25 Pinot Noir flight. There’s dust in them hills as the wine acts as if it were borne of the mountains. Has attitude in altitude. All things considered, the fruit is clean and crisp, perhaps a hair over the overripe line. The cool temperament and temperature in the cold room aid in giving it some love. From my earlier, January 2014 note: “That Villa Maria can make 80,000 cases of Pinot Noir this proper is nothing short of remarkable. Aged in French oak for 8-10 months. As Pinot like as could be hoped for considering the case amount. Every drop must go through Malolactic fermentation. Winemaker Josh Hammond and crew insist upon it, though it’s nothing but painstaking cellar/lab work. The Pinot character initially shines, with loads of plum and black cherry, but there is a momentary lapse. But, “if you’re standing in the middle, ain’t no way you’re gonna stop.” So, the definitive Marlborough ectodermal line painted through the in door speaks quickly and leaves by the out door. From a smoking gun, rising like a Zeppelin. Large volume, big production, drinkable in the evening Pinot Noir.”  Last tasted August 2014  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Unsworth Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012, Vancouver Island, British Columbia (winery, $$23.90, WineAlign)

Now here we’re talking about a Pinot Noir from a another mother. It heads generously into fragrances not yet nosed in this flight of $15-25 Pinot Noir. Exotic byrne of a perfume on high alert; jasmine, violets, roses and Summer ‘David’ Phlox. Exquisite, fresh and bright. There is tang and tannin. Vibrancy to raise eyebrows. Also wild sage, wild fruit, an animal on a walk in a virgin forest. So much Pinot Noir is hairy, this one is “living on nuts and berries.”  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Malbec $15-25

Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Mendoza, Argentina (agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

This Golden Reserve Malbec by Trivento is a juicy, dusty, fruit tree addition to the #WWAC14 flight and arrives just in the nick of time. Despite the dark fruit, it has no Drake spoken word conceit. It sings in classic Drake lullaby, with beefy meet pine forest aromas and so “you find that darkness can give the brightest light.” Tender refrains soften chalky, stalky wood and corresponding bitter chocolate. Big tannins on this balladeer. Has impressive stuffing.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Red Blends over $25

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2 Bench Red 2011, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

Wonderful, tangy red fruits define this well-structured Bordeaux blend. Cool and concise, it plays a tight riff and bangs a drum slowly. Comfortable on a big stage, it charges into a funky break and whips a crowd into a frenzy. So much energy from a band of five varietal friends, complimenting each other’s playing with mutual respect. Does the two Bench two-step and steals the show. “Celebrate we will because life is short but sweet for certain. We’re climbing two by two, to be sure these days continue.”

Vin Parfait Red 2012, Adelaide Hills, South Australia, Australia (350512, $29.95, WineAlign)

Circuitous mounds of round, stone ground aromas in coffee, Goji berry, red licorice and red ochre. A Jackson Pollock Expressionist splatter of notion and motion, flirtations and tension. Tempranillo, Shiraz and Grenache in does it, or will it come together beyond the abstract? Number 8 did. This one s’got to too.

Number 8, 1949 by Jackson Pollock www.jackson-pollock.org

Number 8, 1949 by Jackson Pollock
http://www.jackson-pollock.org

Grenache $10-20

Castillo de Monseran Garnacha 2013, Cariñena, Aragon, Spain (73395, $9.95, WineAlign)

A slightly cooked character is evident but within reason. Despite the heat it’s a bit of an arctic monkey, with tomato and cherry sprinkled over by Queso Fresco and followed up with a slice of blueberry pie. Simple yet effective, pleasant palate. There is some heat and tension from the tannins and “I’d like to poke them in their prying eyes,” but they do relent. The length is more than appropriate, given the tag. Only question is, “will the teasing of the fire be followed by the thud?” At $10, who really cares. Represents excellent value.

Artadi Artazuri Garnacha 2013, Navarra and Basque Country, Spain ($19.50, WineAlign)

Garnacha from the old world west with incredible citrus bursts, like orange blossoms and the spirit of the zest. A spritz from a lemon too. A smoulder of burning charcoal with a spit-roasting goat adds to the roadside attraction. Palm branches help to create the smoke. This is exotic and creative stuff. Finishes with a dessert note of bitter plum. Velada, “you got yourself a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 star reaction.” Really unique red.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/Roadside+Attraction/33YBUM?src=5

Sauvignon Blanc Under $15

Caliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Leyda Valley, Region de Aconcagua, Chile (283648, $14.95, WineAlign)

A step up from multi-site, southern hemisphere Sauvignon Blanc with direct intentions, all the right moves and in all the right places. So much going on in both its aromatic and textural world. Wax, lanolin and Bordeaux-like temperance and consistent with the growing SB trend, “the grass is getting greener each day.” Decent one republic attack on the palate though nothing fantastic. Has heart and Sauvignon Blanc soul.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Southern Italy Under $15

Grandi Muri Primitivo Promovi Salento 2013, Puglia, Italy (agent, $13.50, WineAlign)

A red-veined Primitivo, with the savoury blood of Swiss Chard and hoisin and red bean paste coarsing through it. Smells like spicy and sweet Hunan dishes, sweet sweat and sour, but it is not a matter of oxidation. It’s a caramelized soy sensation but written in reverse. Spoon this over cereal, ice cream, charred beef, anything. It’s got Chinese five-spice powder and coriander. Like a bowl of most excellent Pho. Fantastic exotics. “We’re gettin’ you raw and it feels real good.” Rocking Primitivo.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Shiraz/Syrah $15-25

Layer Cake Shiraz 2012, South Australia, Australia ($24.99, WineAlign)

Unquestionably warm but with restraint. That may be perceived as a bad, obvious and reprehensible dichotomous comment but in transparency it speaks truths. Shows good savour and sapidity. It’s an aurulent burnt orange and smoked pineapple offering, blanketed in dusty chocolate and syrupy to a certain extreme. It’s long, creamy, silken and covered further in darker chocolate. “True colors fly in blue and black, bruised silken sky and burning flag.” Warm but you too will indubitably see the pleasures in its layer cake.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

White Blends Under $15

Pelee Gewurztraminer Riesling 2012, Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario (109991, $10.95, WineAlign)

A ray of golden sunshine. The glade and the classic Gewurz attributes are here and highly floral. Rose petals soaking in good medicine. This could be my beloved monster. Such a dry example. She wears “a raincoat that has four sleeves, gets us through all kinds of weather.” Match with BBQ’s eels. Not for everyone but it works.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Shiraz/Syrah Over $25

Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2012, McLaren Vale, South Australia, Australia (390872, $29.95, WineAlign)

This is the most accomplished and wise drop of Shiraz tasted at the WineAlign #WWAC14. A hit of snowy sulphur shows just how much growing up it needs. Such a precocious and heady example. A thick, gluey mess of fruit, unsettled and in rapture within its tannic walls. The voilets and the rest of the garden rules really tie the room together. Shiraz entrenched, grown and raised, “where the nettle met the rose.” For five years later and on patrol for ten more after that. Wow.  WWAC 2014 Category Champion  WWAC 2014 Best of Country

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Delaine Syrah 2011, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (86553, $32.95, WineAlign)

Here blows a fine, exuberant and expresive muzzle with ambrosial flavours. A garrigue and olive dirty martini with sweet drops pf berry syrup. Juniper and conifer verdure meet inklings of berries. There is a sense of mushroom and truffle which can go either way, but here it brings paradigmatic character. Like words added to an intense Billy Preston instrumental. This may “take your brain to another dimension. Pay close attention.” Dark, brooding and out of space. A prodigy and a real deal in cool climate Syrah.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice  WWAC 2014 Best of Country

Cabernet Sauvignon $15-25

Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina (135202, $19.95, WineAlign)

A genesis in clean fruit of high extract order is linear, direct, forceful and in Cab conceit. A narcissistic brooder with ripples of underbrush and underworld scents. Thinks highly of itself, demands attention, seeks followers, stares into a pool. “The face in the water looks up and she shakes her head as if to say, that it’s the last time you’ll look like today.” With a few more reflecting and reflective refrains this Cabernet will realize a softness, turn away from the mirror and settle into its skin.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Lake Sonoma Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa – Sonoma – Mendocino, California, United States (Agent, $26.99, WineAlign)

From the outset this engages the imbiber simple because it acts as though its one time tension has been massaged and released. The flat feeling is there, though not detracting, because of an inherent notion that there was and still can be beautiful fruit. It just needs “that spark to get psyched back up.” A rapping modern facade is the cover page for earth savoury meets candied M & M flavour, docile, downy glycerin Cabernet texture, with acidity and tannin waning. Was serious, now friendly and will be late leaving the party.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Chardonnay $15-25

Kendall Jackson Avant Chardonnay 2013, Mendocino County, California, United States ($19.00, WineAlign)

This may be a winner. I love the immediacy of its fruit, the antebellum tension and just a kiss from the barrel. You know its there but in subtlety, class and as background noise. The aromas of citrus, beeswax and honey and all accents to clean orchard fruit. This has the most balance in a flight of eleven verry tidy Chardonnay in a consumer-driven $15-25 price bracket. Lady spirited and at times a bit anxious, or perhaps not yet entirely comfortable in its skin, this is nonetheless best in show.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Carmenère Under $15

Castillo De Molina Reserva Carmenère 2012, Valle del Maule, Region del Valle Central, Chile (Agent, $14.95, WineAlign)

The first thought on this Carmenère is the scaling back of new oak, lifting it above the crowd in an under $15 flight. The freshness factor makes for a whole new animal, or botanical rather. This has candied jasmine, pansy, bergamot and nasturtium. It’s a veritable salad of candied edibles. The middle palate is marked by Mentholatum and the finale is persistent in acidulated action. What a warm, mazzy gift of a Carmenère, a star of a Chilean red that would be welcome, just like flowers in December. “Send me a flower of your December. Save me a drink of your candy wine.”  WWAC 2014 Category Champion

Chardonnay Over $25

Church & State Coyote Bowl Series Chardonnay 2012, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (winery, $26.90, WineAlign)

Quiet, muted, beautiful and reserved. This is the “iconoclastic and restlessly innovative” style of a wine that bravely explores other territories of pop Chardonnay. Anything but fashioned in an in your face style, this one is in it for the Hejira, the journey and the time. Ripe yellow apples and pears and then come the lees. Could pass for unoaked Chablis. The appreciation and gathering are a style that should be used more.  “No regrets coyote,” you just come “from such different sets of circumstance.”  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice  WWAC 2014 Top Value Wines

Stags’ Leap Winery Chardonnay 2012, Napa Valley, California, United States (655381, $34.95, WineAlign)

Has hallmarks of essential fruit from a top notch vintage, the most complexity and schooling. The reduction is pure essence of grape must, with no fault to either the vine or the maker. Every wine’s “screwed up in their own special way.” A rmineral tannin gets on top early like a Ramones riff, stays for dinner and repeats in refrain. The crisp and mister punchy orchard fruit is kissed by wood. Sucks face. The texture is seamless and verve excellent, by acidity and forward to pronounced length.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Sparkling

Delouvin Bagnost N/V Brut, Champagne, France (agent, $42.75, WineAlign)

Tends to a trend in sweet aromatic beginnings which is nothing but endearing. A leesy pear and ris de veau nose split by a bowie and filled with pearls of sugary syrup. To taste there is the metallic gaminess of uncooked other white meat. Sweet meat, sweet thing. The gathering sensation is an elemental display of ethereal, aerified climatic conditions. Though made in an oxidized style, the complexity of character is not to be denied.  “Runs to the center of things where the knowing one says, boys, boys, its a sweet thing.” In the end the burst of energy is invigorating and heart piercing.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Pinot Noir Over $25

Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block No. 21 Viento Mar Pinot Noir 2012, Valle de San Antonio, Region de Aconcagua, Chile (agent, $19.99, WineAlign)

You can always pick out the wines made from unique, little feat sites, wherever in the world they may have been raised. Even when they stink up the joint, smell like a 16 year-old hockey change room or like candied paint poured over fresh cedar planks, they stand out like beacons of Pinot amon din. Lord of the Pinot rings here that’s “been kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet…baked by the sun,” fire lit, rosemary branches and oxtail smoldering and simmering over fresh cut ash from a deciduous forest. Cool mint and pine. The most savoury things of fantasy imagined. Wild ride in and most willin’ Pinot Noir.  WWAC 2014 Category Champion

Buena Vista Pinot Noir, Carneros 2011, Napa Valley, California, United States (304105, $24.95, WineAlign)

This is really quite impressive Pinot Noir. Fastidiously judged if bullish fruit having way too much fun, causing varietal envy amongst other price category peers. Clearly fashioned from stocks of quality fruit, providing an environment for the coming together of many red berries and the earth of contigious vines. All roads lead to a grand palate marked by exotic, spicy and righteous fleet of wood tones. I wonder if I’m in over my head and tell it “your mood is like a circus wheel, you’re changing all the time.” Quite something this MacPinot specimen and though I wonder if it’s a bit too much, it always seems to have an answer and it sure feels fine.  WWAC 2013 Category Champion  WWAC 2013 Best of Variety $15 – $25  WWAC 2014 Category Champion  WWAC 2014 Top Value Wines

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Pinot Noir 2010, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (winery, $29.99, WineAlign)

The grace of time has ladled felicity upon this left coast Pinot Noir. What once were harsh and mephitic stuck in a cola can kind of smells have been released and are just a faint memory of their once formidable, terrible teeth gnashing remains. Twas root beer that fouled the air but now the saline sea and verdure of hills speaks in clear vernacular. The sailor has “sailed across weeks and through a year,” met with wild things, to now return home and offer up her Pinot Noir, to be enjoyed with supper that is still warm.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Riesling Under $15

Villa Wolf Riesling 2013, Pfalz, Germany (agent, $14.95, WineAlign)

This has a lovely, head of its class, nearly value-driven exquisite nature and aromatic richness. In consideration of the price bracket, the sulphur is trumped by that radio dialed in richesse. Exotic Riesling specific fruit. A crisp apple meets a ripe pineapple. A wolf at the door, “out pops the cracker, smacks you in the head.” Decent acidity, better length, good bitters.  WWAC 2014 Category Champion

Red Blends Under $15

Miguel Torres Sangre de Toro 2012, Cataluña, Spain (6585, $12.95, WineAlign)

This Garnacha and Carignan blend works a stoned immaculate contrivance as well as any red blend under $15 you are ever likely to upend. “Soft driven slow and mad, like some new language.” The action is effective, properly conceived and opens the doors to value-based perception. Perhaps a bit thin but the lack of wood and sweetener is a breath of fresh air. What it lacks in girth it makes up for with complexity, in notes of graphite, fennel and sea air. Lovely little Mediterranean red.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Good to go!

https://twitter.com/mgodello

Three-chord wines, hold the rants

Wine on the rocks

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

as seen on canada.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go!