Tasting Ontario Part Six: Pinot Noir

Gather your thoughts about pinot noir. Begin with Bourgogne and it’s really quite easy to articulate an opinion. Smells like cherries, shows earth and mineral notes of/from clay and limestone. Texture is specific to the village where it is grown. New Zealand? There’s a recognition regardless, save for a special and singular red fruit that is specific to Central Otago. What about California and Oregon? Any wine geek who knows who they think they are could surely pick them out of a blind tasting with great certainty? Now what about Canadian pinot noir? That’s a totally different story.

Related – Results of the 2018 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (The Nationals): Pinot NoirNational Wine Awards of Canada 2018

If it were just a simple matter of Ontario versus British Columbia that would be one thing but there is Nova Scotia to consider and within the provinces so many sites of origin and stylistic variegation making it really difficult to identify the source. It may be a challenging and oft-times heartbreaking grape but in Canada it increasingly finds a way to ripen from coast to coast. Even if that were less true just five years ago the tenets of experience, acumen and passion have taken pinot noir to heights few believed it was capable of going. That winemakers can now produce so many varied examples tells us it’s here to stay.

Bourgogne uses the word Climat to define vineyards or rather the DNA of the vineyards and the official term is specific to wine while the reference lieux-dits is an administrative one. Many would argue that while dirt makes an impact it is climate that inflicts the most drama on a wine but even more important than climate and soil, it’s the people who give the terroir its cultural identity. In Canada these notions of accumulate knowledge that can be transmuted from generation to generation are developing so that each appellation or sub-appellation is managing to produce a specific style of wine from vintage to vintage.

Related – Tasting Ontario Part Five: Varietal Whites and Appellative Blends

In Ontario there are pinot noir crus few would ague against the probability that in most vintages quality will be a guarantee. Crus like Lowrey Vineyard on the St. David’s Bench, top blocks in Prince Edward County, several vineyards up on the Beamsville Bench, Wismer-Foxcroft and many plots on the Twenty Mile Bench. In the Okanagan Valley there are many premier growing sites; East Kelowna, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Falls, Summerland, Lake Country, the Similkameen Valley and increasingly on Vancouver Island.

Producers in British Columbia may have more merlot planted than they can or want to have to deal with but in red grape terms, pinot noir is it. There are more single-vineyard, name-assigned, block-designate, terroir collection, (x) series and (Y) cuvées attributed to the grape than any other. Granted some passion projects are giving some love to gamay and cabernet franc but the attention doted upon pinot noir is unequaled and unprecedented. Proof is in the tabulated pudding, so to speak, with the final results at NWAC2018 showing what’s what.

There were 73 medals awarded to pinot noir, a staggering number that represents just less than half of the wines submitted and four per cent of all wines entered into the competition. Only red blends (93) and chardonnay (79) received more total medals but most impressive were the 28 Gold Medals in this category, plus 18 Silver and 27 Bronze. The naysayers who continue to doubt whether pinot noir is a viable signature grape in this country are not paying close enough attention to the signs, portents and in conclusion, results. Here are 30 tasting notes for pinot noir made in Ontario.

Vieni Estates Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (550608, $16.95, WineAlign)

Vieni’s pinot noir shows off some pretty impressive fruit, certainly veering towards the sweet and dried fruit spectrum but hanging around with some good acidity, firm grip and proper 2015 structure. It’s more than a pleasant surprise and it’s only $16.95. Good fruit meets equally good acumen in a must try Vinemount Ridge buy. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2018  vieniestates  @VieniEstatesInc  Vieni Estates Wine and Spirits

Château Des Charmes Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara On-The-Lake, Ontario (454967, $16.95, WineAlign)

The warm sites can’t help but develop dark fruit and vintage variation seems to be in a current state of suspension. The string is alive with the ’16 pinot noir, always a matter of value for Ontario. Still just as ripe as 2015, perhaps not quite as charming but certainly generous. It holds back from cooking at a level of stovetop heat unnecessary to the execution of the dish. Gentle, resilient and restrained, far from a pressed or pressing matter and just ideal for weekdays and weekends alike. Pair this wine with everything but I recently discovered that long pasta noodles with prawns in a spicy garlic, chile and tomato sauce worked quite well, thank you very much. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Château Des Charmes Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Niagara On-The-Lake, Ontario (454967, $16.95, WineAlign)

This remains one of the better values for pinot noir out of Ontario with generous thanks to some of the warmest growing sites in the province. It’s also worthy for what it does not try to do, which is too much. The Château des Charmes pinot noir is just what it needs to be from 2015; ripe, charming and generous. It shows lovely restraint and balance, finishing with some gentle spice after the reign of fruit. It’s also really easy to crush so cook up at least three courses to make it last. It will pair with just about everything. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted November 2017 and February 2018  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Coyote’s Run Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (53090, $19.95, WineAlign)

Two blocks, two soil types and two proximate meets apposite pieces of the Niagara Peninsula raise a pinot noir in get together fashion for a consistent estate style. The tonality is elevated like few other and the fruit on the nether side of fresh. It’s energy and vitality is a combination of acidity and dried or even scorched earth-derived savour. Tang and sapidity are not the result but smoulder and spice surely are. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted March 2018  coyotes run  @coyotesrun  Coyote’s Run Estate Winery

Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (1545, $20.95, WineAlign)

In true essential Flat Rock style this 2016 pinot noir deals in rusty, ropey, ripe and flattering red fruit with its always balancing note of tension. The vintage is certainly prettier, easier and friendlier than most so the fans should pile up and add to the overall success of Flat Rock representing Ontario pinot noir on the map. This is nothing but fine and enjoyable work from a true varietal leader. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

Kew Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $23.95, WineAlign)

More high tines, dialled back a touch, lithe, again some effusive character, tart, so very tart, a whack of wound tight intent, dry tannins, so much tea. Cranberry, earthy, lots of tone and structure. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  @kewvineyards  @kewvineyard

2027 Cellars Pinot Noir Edgerock Vineyard 2016, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Edgerock is Twenty Mile Bench fruit with expected 2016 ripeness and just an edgy twitch like quick lightning strikes on that fruit. There is some chewiness to the fruit laced by acidity and some drying tannin that is a bit deferential for the vintage and for Peninsula pinot noir. Not sure that pinot noir can get much riper than this in Ontario and so the perfect storm of vineyard, vintage and execution is met. The nose is so very ripe to almost advanced, with strawberries macerating and flavours so well to far developed. Not as fleshy as some as a result but will soon begin to develop some nice secondary character. Good summer wine, for this summer and hopefully an indigenous one for the fall. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  2027cellars  @2027cellars  2027 Cellars

Meldville Wines Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $27.20, WineAlign)

Derek Barnett’s is a sweetly perfumed pinot noir, fully expressive of ripe 2016 fruit and with a tannic drying edge. It’s a bit lactic to be sure, seemingly argilo-calcareous in nature and really reminds me of some far away sangiovese or corvina grown on white limestone soils. Really unique, lithe and elegant for Barnett if also tangy, sweet and sour. Not sugar sweet but aromatically so. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted February 2018  meldvillewines  @meldvillewines  Meldville Wines

Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $28.95, WineAlign)

Bright and effusive, eye and olfactory opening, citrus, steeped herbal tea, with fruity accents. “All around the blooming heather,” purple fruit flavours, fiddle background and thoughts of rolling thyme hills. Good bass line, baritone underneath, full of structure, real structure. Time has had an effect. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

The tones are elevated and the fruit is really ripe though the acidity is quite calm in this extreme small lot pinot noir. You can get a true sense of the culture and the micro-managed terroir that separates this from some less expensive and certainly more rustic Niagara cousins so the cost is quite understandable. The fruit is the thing, given all the attention and the credit. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted February 2018  thirtybench  pellerwines  @ThirtyBench  @PellerVQA  @ThirtyBench  Andrew Peller(Andrew Peller Import)  Emma Garner

Leaning Post Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

Ilya Senchuk’s small lot (220 case) 2015 pinot noir is actually a new wine set to be released this spring. It’s a blend of fruit drawn from both McNally and Lowrey vineyards, two exceptional cru that have been the focus of previous Leaning Post single-vineyard pinot noir. The most notable difference here is how all the tension and vaporous tones melt away to create this fluid, fleecy and ductile wine. The fruit selection seems clearly developed to gain easier access with downsized structure or perhaps it just happened this way. It is here that the house style reads as a lithe Peninsula pinot noir manifesto with clarity and transparency to set up and introduce the estate’s next vintage, recently planted young vine pinot noir. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Redstone Pinot Noir Limestone Vineyard 2013, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

The Redstone Vineyard pinot noir comes off of the ridge that is all Redstone estate fruit expect for the 40 acres riesling block (of 60 in total). There is a ferric gaminess to this pinot with its tension and dusty, tart rusticity. Intense in its litheness, like light and bright strawberry on steroids. Really lingers. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted November 2017  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Tradition 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (392738, $29.95, WineAlign)

From 2015 comes a fully ripened, full advantage press taken and fleshy warm pinot noir on the dark cherry end of the fruit spectrum. The wood is fully supportive of that wealth of fruit and tension is really nowhere to be found. The tannins are sweet and also do little to distract from the fruit. What it manages to elevate in terms of energy and vitality is this lovely elegant tang from both soil and wood, short of spicy and in gentle drift. The pleasure is all now do enjoy this before the decade strikes midnight. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  queylus  @Queylus  Domaine Queylus Winery

Trail Estate Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The Peninsula ’16 pinot noir is a joint Wertsch and Wismer blend, six barrels Between the Lines and two Foxcroft. The goal is not fully in focus, even if it’s just too early to call. Niagara pinot noir from these parts is want to be rusty, red fruit volatile and so bright you gotta wear shades and this ’16’s profile reads from such a script. It’s so very different from the lemon-citronella note that County pinot often surveys. So what does Trail Estate have, at least in here? Lightness for one thing, ease of drinkability and sweet tannin. Wild ferment and no new oak got this here, plus some neutral, second and third fill. It’s got candied floral and cinnamon heart, is quite tangy but honestly quite delicate. Simple yes, quite OK and at times, volatile too. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Pork Tenderloin and Flat-Iron Steak marinated in black raspberry lees grilled with black raspberry sauce.

Westcott Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The Westcotts have to be so very pleased with the result of their 2015 estate pinot noir, a wine of great farming in loyal custodial work across an exceptional rolling terroir. This Vinemount Ridge locale is the perfect love-hate relationship builder but when sacrifices are met and zero corners are cut it will produce some very fine, albeit fortune abetting fruit. This ’15 interprets ripeness with an edge of tension by way of a gentle rusticity and mild barrel spice. A second taste weeks later also gives salumi, natural funk, cèpes, dusty balsamic earth and the angled torture or the ridge. It’s all there, wonderfully integrated and already hinting at a truffled secondary stage. Not yet mind you, but not so far away. Would it perhaps benefit from one less day or two of phenolic ripeness in exchange for half a point higher acidity? Perhaps but ultimately the vintage decides, as do the handlers who listen to the wind. A greater pinot noir vintage likely lies ahead and for this wine, further understanding. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February and March 2018  westcottvineyards  @WestcottWines  @westcottwines

Trail Estate Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The Peninsula ’16 pinot noir is a joint Wertsch and Wismer blend, six barrels Between the Lines and two Foxcroft. The goal is not fully in focus, even if it’s just too early to call. Niagara pinot noir from these parts is want to be rusty, red fruit volatile and so bright you gotta wear shades and this ’16’s profile reads from such a script. It’s so very different from the lemon-citronella note that County pinot often surveys. So what does Trail Estate have, at least in here? Lightness for one thing, ease of drinkability and sweet tannin. Wild ferment and no new oak got this here, plus some neutral, second and third fill. It’s got candied floral and cinnamon heart, is quite tangy but honestly quite delicate. Simple yes, quite OK and at times, volatile too. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Hidden Bench Estate Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $31.95, WineAlign)

Really high-toned in which volatility may be in charge if checked by ballads of bright, currant-berry fruit. Cranberry, pomegranate, has got it all, but also a lovely earthy grounding. Rays of light on the mountain, “such a simple thing.” Has to be an example of a concentrated house style by a great pinot noir maker from great pinot noir terroir. Like a bench somewhere special where pinot can get through chains, “some how, some how.” Really tannic so all should be good and structure laid out cool. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   hiddenbench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Cornerstone Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $32.00, WineAlign)

Big and verging into oxidative, a raisin and fig note, almost appassimento. Could very well be or at least made in a ripe, concentrated and mimicking style. Glycerin, strawberry, leafy savour, jammy and quick to reveal itself. Immediate gratification in a really big pinot noir. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  cornerstonewine  @cornerstonevino  @cornerstonewinery

Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir Gravity 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (1560, $34.95, WineAlign)

Gravity is the focus of Flat Rock’s pinot noir exploration and with a whole bunch addendum it changes gears in 2014. This is a very important vintage for Gravity, to leave behind and move forward into a new world. That it does with more ripeness, structure and less intimidating consternation than past vintages have shown and with a freshness also not before seen or tasted. The balance between ripe black cherry, linear and focused acidity, neo-classical structure, followed by an intense drive to please delivers the whole package. Well done on the first of two Gravity swan songs from outgoing winemaker Jay Johnstone. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

Closson Chase Pinot Noir K.J. Watson Vineyard 2015, VQA Niagara River, Ontario (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

From Kevin Watson’s Niagara River vineyard, a place that warms quickly and leads to very early harvests, in this case September 15th. Deals a pinot noir of whole clusters that when they come in smell like blueberry and clove but take little time to move out of that realm and into one occupied by cedar, mushroom and artificial strawberry candy. It’s a complex situation that requires opening several bottles over a few year period to really gain an evolutionary understanding of regional pinot noir, this particular Niagara fruit and Closson Chase winemaking in the hands of Keith Tyers. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted April 2018  clossonchasevineyardsClosson Chase  @ClossonChase  Closson Chase Vineyards

Tawse Pinot Noir Unfiltered Quarry Road Vineyard 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

Unfiltered elevates and lifts Quarry Road fruit up to a forthright plateau where it generously gifts at its purest and most impulsive best. This is seriously juicy, sexy, fleshy and ripe pinot noir from the Vinemount Ridge, a windswept variegated set of rolling hills that plays hosts to the larger Quarry Road set of blocks. It is this gathering of fruit from here and there that allows winemaker Paul Pender to have a better representation of the appellation and ultimately a better balance. And so this ’16 is a wonderful example of the beautiful relationship between producer, appellation and vineyard. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted December 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Stanners Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

From County fruit, again in 2016 not so much a great quantity thing but for the median kind of vintage, not bad either. The fruit is exceptional, bright cherry effulgent and County radiant. Just a hint of meaty cure, salmagundi and analogously speaking, quite layered. Such a wine is poignant, with energy and drive, holding on to the past, but with a deeper understanding and thinking about the future. “When you talk about the past, what are we talking of?” In a family Stanners pinot noir we’re talking about moving from strength to strength and really the sky is the limit for what this wine can become. It’s a more complete and better structured song than before. If I feed Colin Stanners a War on Drugs lyric he’d sing “and I’m moving on a cast, shadows on my seam, I keep moving to changes, yeah, ooh.” His ’16 pinot noir is just a child right now and like the song, it will gain flesh in a year’s time, be timeless, then last a very long time. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted April 2018  stannerswines  @StannersWines  Stanners Vineyard

Thirty Bench Pinot Noir Small Lot 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (461566, $35.20, WineAlign)

The tones are elevated and the fruit is really ripe though the acidity is quite calm in this extreme small lot pinot noir. You can get a true sense of the culture and the micro-managed terroir that separates this from some less expensive and certainly more rustic Niagara cousins so the cost is quite understandable. The fruit is the thing, given all the attention and the credit. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  thirty bench  pellerwines  @ThirtyBench  @PellerVQA  Thirty Bench Wine Makers  Peller Estates Winery & Restaurant

Tawse Pinot Noir Quarry Road Vineyard 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $35.95, WineAlign)

It would not be a Paul Pender raised pinot noir without the triple threat of dustiness, meatiness and tension all working in a circle of Niagara Bench lands love. In Quarry Road’s case it is a very specific Vinemount Ridge condition, from a place of wind, rolling hills and variegated clay and limestone soils that deal directly with and into these vines. They are at seven years of age by this point, just long enough to speak the truth and turn this pinot noir into a wiser and more experienced wine. The fruit is remarkably delicate when you consider the grip and purpose exercised by the tannin and yet it’s all coming together nicely. I for one am really looking forward to what eight and nine years of age will mean for 2015 and 2016. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Agent, $39.00, WineAlign)

Though statements of monadical hyperbole should very much be avoided, a taste of Dan Sullivan’s ’16 JCR makes one think it has all come to this. The glycerin fruit endowed with so much natural sweetness and magnificently low alcohol feels like an impossibility. In a way it is but it’s also a County reality. This may just be the least astringent PEC pinot noir ever produced and at the same time seems entirely void of tension. Yet there is structure and cohesion, two functors so very necessary to see it drink well for 10 years, with great charm and further curiosity for five more after that. Drink 2018-2028.  Last tasted July 2018

Bright, red raspberry, light and effusive with a simple, liquid chalky feel. Really drinkable. The tart is part of a delight in composition. A good chew.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   Rosehall_run profilewinegroup  @Rosehall_Run  @ProfileWineGrp  Rosehall Run Vineyards  Profile Wine Group

Meritorious match alert @leaningpostwine #lowreyvineyard pinot noir with #goulash and #spaetzle

Leaning Post Pinot Noir Lowrey Vineyard 2014, St. David’s Bench, Ontario (Agent, $42.00, WineAlign)

It was a very good pinot noir vintage across the peninsula board and so not necessarily one to separate with megaphone announcement the Grand-ish Cru St. David’s Bench Lowrey Vineyard from the lower flats and the upper benches. Even though many a winemaker were opting for some percentage of whole cluster fermentation the vintage combined with this block was not such an animal. What Lowrey, Leaning Post and the vintage were meant for was a module that included grapes hand-picked, hand-sorted, de-stemmed, partially crushed and soaked on skins prior to fermentation. Three days later a spontaneous fermentation in small open-top fermenters would be followed by a transfer to French oak barrels (35 percent new, 30 one-year-old and 35 older) for 15 months. The result is another exemplar of pinot noir lithe excellence in this, the final chapter ahead of Ilya Senchuk’s newly planted pinot noir story ready to unfold out of the home (Winona) vineyard. The 2014 Lowrey is a wine that elevates a goulash game (which I can attest to because of an out of mind and body experience), but it’s also magically understated and subtly complex. It’s almost unmovable, resistant to early development all the while a joy to drink. Open it, store it, age it, wait on it. It’s all good. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted March 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Tawse Pinot Noir Laidlaw Vineyard 2012, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

Juicy straight up, red cherries in their ripest state, a bit dusty and lifted. Tart, dry, herbal, savoury, so interesting. Really tannic and remains to be seen if this structure will deem that fruit to drift into some elegance. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018 tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

The Farm White Label (Mason Vineyard) Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $50.00, WineAlign)

A high-toned, effusively bright and perhaps edging into volatile pinot noir. Flavours are rusty deep, quite orange-zest scraped and scented, like Irancy. If it’s really that simple then there may not be much tension later on, so think about pairing its coolness now. Lean and verdant with shading into crimson is a very specific beneath bench Niagara speciality, replete with firm if tender emotions. This example is for the here and now. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  thefarmwines

Tawse Pinot Noir Cherry Avenue 2013, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $59.95, WineAlign)

The Tawse Cherry Avenue ’13 is hotter than July, classic soul Twenty Mile Bench pinot noir that has hit its stride because of solid winemaking, varietal-musicianship and über professional production. Five years forward is the right time to take in the firm and founded cherry fruit, aged in oak for 18 months in 40 per cent new French oak. Filled with feeling and wonder, Cherry avoids the temptations of disco and new wave to stay focused on the old world prize and can’t help but “put me in the right direction, with tender love and affection.” It’s a wine from an estate holding the Midas touch and from a time when it could be argued it was pausing at the crossroads of an illustrious career, looking in all four directions. The pinot noir exploration has fortunately continued, justified and vindicated by such a retrospective look. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted May 2018  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Karlo Estates Pinot Noir Estate Grown Wild Ferment 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $65.00, WineAlign)

As with the Estate chardonnay the elévage from winemaker Derek Barnett for the second Karlo home-front pinot noir is wild ferment, barrel ferment and barrel aging. Oh if this isn’t so Prince Edward County; wild, wooly, bright and engaging, reeking of red cherry and plum. It’s also quite cedar savoury but also salumi-cured, naturally and necessarily so. The accrual is complex and driven by a devoted purpose to make something small really effin’ matters. This is fine-grained pinot noir with a sense of condiment, a relish that supports the fruit to make it tangy, juicy and real. And it’s been done without any excessive intervention or wasted notes played. Terrific origins, sense of place and quality. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2018  karloestateswinery  @KarloEstates  Karlo Estates

Good to Go!

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WineAlign

Tasting Ontario Part Five: Varietal Whites and Appellative Blends

There were 33 medals handed out to White Blends at the 2018 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada; seven Golds, 17 Silvers and nine Bronze. Quietly, stealthily and without great fanfare the strength of the white blend category has taken NWAC18 by storm. The quality of the wines entered has never been higher, visibly and notably spread across the country. The time has come to establish party lines, to create truly parochial white appellative blends under appropriately chosen names. Nova Scotia has long been there with their apt-scripted Tidal Bay. Ontario and British Columbia should heed the economic and marketing success enjoyed by their maritime cousins and join the appellative party.

Related – Results of the 2018 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (The Nationals): Best of Blends: Red, White and Tidal Bay

The French regions of Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley are clearly the benchmarks and the inspiration for Canadian-made emulative examples, first from a sauvignon blanc-sémillon connection and then with blends that make use of marsanne, roussanne and viognier. A testament to expatriate excellence is noted in the seven overall Gold Medals in this year’s judging and no less than six others finishing at high Silver status on the cusp of Gold. I for one awarded five 90-plus scores to wines I clearly deemed worthy of such accolade and esteem.

It is interesting to note that White Blends centred by sauvignon blanc in the Okanagan Valley rely on much higher percentages of sémillon than their counterparts in Ontario. The simplest explanation tells us that the grape variety has trouble surviving harsh Ontario winters, especially when we look back at 2015 and 2016 when much of the province’s vines were killed by sub-25 degree temperatures. But it’s more than that. In B.C. sauvignon blanc can get pretty ripe, tropical and zaftig so it is sémillon that helps to mitigate, temper, inject a flinty-smoky-mineral streak and ultimately bring balance to the relationship.

There was a time not too long ago when after the best juice was chosen for varietal wines producers then needed to find a way to use up the dregs of their white ferments. White blends came about out of economic necessity, but like Rosé production in this country so many are now produced with a purpose. As a farmer, if you know specific blocks of sauvignon blanc are destined to join with other plots of sémillon you’re going to prune, pluck, green harvest and ultimately pick in very specific ways. Appellative blends have become a year round occupation. That much is clear.

Related – Tasting Ontario Part Four: Gamay

The top scorers at this year’s Nationals have been awarded to seriously and thoughtfully crafted wines. The winners are not entry-level, introductory products at the lower or lowest common denominational levels. They are not simple aromatic blends of vague fruit and sweet impression, in fact many are graced by beneficial and forward thinking structure. The future certainly looks white blend bright. Here are 36 recently tasted Ontario varietal whites and appellative white blends.

Summer spread

Sprucewood Shores Pinot Grigio 2017, VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario (426577, $14.95, WineAlign)

Just a hint of contact it would seem, leading to a not so obvious result in platinum gold hue but more so into the floral nature of its aromatics. Some sweet melon and pear fruit with good concentration and equal if necessary acidity. Can certainly drink a glass of this. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  sprucewoodshores  @SprucewoodWine  @SprucewoodShores

Château Des Charmes Aligoté 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (296848, $15.95, WineAlign)

The Château des Charmes self-proclaimed “pinot grigio” alternative was never more truthfully written than in reference to this 2017 aligoté. Screwy wet summer merging into crazy hot autumn weather made for one of the latest harvest dates in the estate on the York Road in St. Davids storied history. The rare Niagara Peninsula varietal vines are planted primarily at St. David’s Bench and Paul Bosc Estate vineyards but more are going in, surely out of testimony to the sales of this more than apropos local grape. Surely no one knows aligoté like the Bosc family and yet even they could not have seen this peachy, melony, fleshy and ripe one coming. It’s like a hyperbole of Val do Salnés in Rias Baixas albariño, crisp, aromatic and marched along by natural acidity. It seems sweet but trust me it’s not. It’s the long-hung, fully phenolic fruit and higher pH talking. This is not your average Bourgogne aligoté, searing, taut and intense. It’s a departure for the house but if it could always be made this way I think they would gladly go for the style. Waxy finish too, bringing an added note of complexity. Very cool. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted July 2018  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Nyarai Cellars Pinot Gris 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $20.95, WineAlign)

This is quite a striking, rich, creamy and yogurt-leesy, a.k.a. Loire chenin blanc, fixedly in the guise of pinot gris. More skin contact then some plus so much yeasty texture combine to make for the fullest of an Ontario gris expression. This is the sort of feeling that normally comes from multi-varietal, dry white appellative Niagara blends but in a solo pinot gris it’s nothing short of remarkable. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  #nyaraicellars  @NyaraiCellars  Nyarai Cellars

Tawse Winery Pinot Gris Redfoot Vineyard 2017, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

From out of the dense Lincoln Lakeshore clay comes this flush and luxurious pinot gris, literally rolling in it. It makes for a highly aromatic take on the grape, all in for gris and not to be confused with lighter, less meaningful grigio. The Redfoot Vineyard is clearly earmarked for such a purposed way of interpretation and though the clays of the double L sub-appellation are best with syrah and cabernet franc there can’t be any reason not to allot 10-15 per cent of acreage to white plantings. In the hands of Paul Pender it seems obvious that pinot gris is the one. This dry take is just about perfectly right, with citrus and wet stone hanging around the fruit. Leaner might be more suitable but ultimately it’s balance that is most important for this rich fruit raised by the pottery soil. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted June 2018  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

G.Marquis Sauvignon Blanc The Red Line 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $13.95, WineAlign)

Big love, big fruit, all about texture and juicy fruit on the palate but with some fine, wound acidity. Excellent. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   g.marquisvineyards  @GMarquisWines  @G.MarquisVineyards

North 42 Degrees Estate Winery Sauvignon Blanc North 43 2017, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (547836, $14.95, WineAlign)

Quite the character this North 43/North 42 degrees sauvignon blanc, fruit amassed on the nose, from canteloupe to underripe passion fruit with a wet, coppery alloy build that translates across latitudinal lines onto the palate. The metallic flavours are undercut by an herbal tonic with a spoonful of tinned fruit cup. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  north42wines  @StratusWines  North 42 Degrees Estate Winery & Bistro 42  @north42degrees

Château Des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (296848, $15.95, WineAlign)

Interesting take, quite a mineral salt wiring through the green apple fruit, here some feel of barrel but not the malo-creamy effect created. Goes quite juicy and crunchy without resorting to tart. A bit more acid intensity would have sealed the deal. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018    chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Lakeview Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (483958, $17.95, WineAlign)

An interesting sauvignon blanc for the Peninsula because the pungency is quite Marlborough but the relaxed state and relative weight is all Niagara. Very easy drinking as far as SB is concerned with notable extraction and a green streak, herbal mostly, running through. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  lakeviewwineco  @LakeviewWineCo  @LakeviewWineCo

Kacaba Susan’s Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $17.95, WineAlign)

Quietude in such a lovely way, mineral meets orange blossom, soft and amenable through the middle, quiet and mellow, fades off slowly, into the sauvignon blanc sunset. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  kacabavineyards  @KacabaVineyards  Kacaba Vineyards and Winery

Stratus Wildass Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (376814, $18.95, WineAlign)

t’s more Stratus than sauvignon blanc, even by regional varietal standards, whatever that is, due to the ripe flavours and long-developed phenolic ripeness. Ultimately it is the quotient of a cup of fruit cocktail and an energy level that serves to encourage a sitting back with a glass in meditative state more than a mind stimulated to invigorate. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

Organized Crime Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (396275, $18.95, WineAlign)

Sometimes sauvignon blanc goes tropical and green at the same time, or at least it is the two poles by picked grapes that combine for such a layering. Citrus and bitters mix into the two sides and all the components walk along, separate and alone together, without making any real contact. Maybe a year will tie the room but the acidity is low so waiting is a counterintuitive idea. Drink 2018.  Tasted April 2018  organizedcrimewinery  Organized Crime Winery

Henry Of Pelham Fumé Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Short Hills Bench, Ontario (444268, $19.95, WineAlign)

With a wink and a nod to Mondavi this lays the lumber in smoulder upon sauvignon blanc with just a wisp, like cold smoking salmon so that it breathes cool and mentholated, without char and a real smoky feeling. The fruit is light and even a bit precious, the weight quite lithe and the overall notation one of gentle demure. You have to appreciate the deft, slight of winemaking hand approach. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  henryofpelham  @HenryofPelham  Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery

Meldville Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $20.20, WineAlign)

Derek Barnett’s sauvignon blanc may be the fleshiest of the Ontario lot, ripe, tropical and impressively coaxed from off the vine. The phenolic aggregate is a 2016 triumph even while it dances a funky step into botrytis-like rhythms. Notes here and there of herbs and tonics add to the mystique and the rapport. So bloody interesting, singular and meditative for the grape. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  meldvillewines  @meldvillewines  Meldville Wines

Peller Estates Private Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $20.20, WineAlign)

Massively fruit aromatic sauvignon blanc, all gathered in a tin cup found in the exotics isle. Juicy melon meets passion fruit and so much more in between, then with a side of metalloid. Raps so commercially viable and succesful it hurts my ears and my eyes. “Any awards show or party I’ll get fly for it, I know that it’s coming I just hope I’m alive for it…I just wanna be, I just wanna be.” Remarkable success for sauvignon blanc, in Ontario. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   pellerwines  @PellerVQA  @PellerEstates

Redstone Sauvignon Blanc Limestone Vineyard 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $23.15, WineAlign)

There isn’t a ton of sauvignon blanc grown up on the Limestone Ridge but as a top level Twenty Mile Bench riesling terroir it changes the varietal course with considerable concern. As far as it goes this is quite an alloy challenged, mineralized expression, not quite flinty but certainly feeling like a mouthful of richly compressed, calcareous stones. The fruit is so anti-tropical it’s almost reductive and most certainly draws its tang from the soil. Such a curious sauvignon blanc with almost no frame of reference, save for a moment to consider Sancerre, but yet another successful effort from winemaker Rene Van Ede. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

Traynor Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

Reductive, not flinty or smoky, but reductive. This carries the gooseberry-passion fruit suitcase of fruit. I like the fruit-acid balance and the way it delivers semblances of tart and tangy. Really nicely judged wine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   traynorvineyard  @TraynorVineyard  @traynorfamilyvineyard

Hidden Bench Fumé Blanc Rosomel Vineyard 2016, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (68825, $29.95, WineAlign)

The vineyard gains another year, the farming and winemaking too and so fumé blanc out of Rosomel gets better, as things often do with age and wisdom. ’Twas a great year for growing grapes on this amphitheatre of a vineyard block up on the Bench and no love lost for sauvignon blanc neither. There is tension, wound intensity and fierce competitiveness in the ’16, perhaps the most Sancerre and least Pouilly-Fumé it has ever been and so the declaration leans to saying it is “a mineral year.” Nothing against the fruit because the personality cult of lean, crisp and crunchy is in full order, though each sip after sip speaks in those Sancerre or Chablis by way of Saint Bris terms. Stellar, as always, in continuance, moving towards the best it can be. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  hidden bench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Trius Showcase Clean Slate Sauvignon Blanc Wild Ferment 2016, Niagara-on-the Lake, Ontario (Winery, $31.95, WineAlign)

Quite flinty, barrel-aged sauvignon blanc, buttery nearly, banana and cantaloupe. So much fruit along with the toasty-creamy barrel. Almost perfectly in balance but it’s wildness and sweet-yeasty lees cumulative turns to a bit of caramel and only accentuates the vanilla. A really cool take on the grape with exceptionally developed flavours. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   triuswines  @TriusWines  @TriusWines

Not all screw cap closures are created equal

Two Sisters Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $34.00, WineAlign)

Excessive tightness of screw caps does not allow any kept reduction to blow off so winemaker Adam Pearce closed here with a screw cap threading just a bit less rigid. A fine detail but an important one and the only wine to receive this attention, so just a minute amount of oxygen transfer can occur. Just released 11 days ago. The big change is now a fruit vineyard blend that is 70 per cent Four Mile Creek and (30) Twenty Mile Bench. From a cool, wet and rainy season so really it’s all about the grower in a vintage where the varietal struggled with mould and mildew. Eight per cent barrel ferment was used to augment the leanness, for body and peace of mind. A bit reductive and tight with good acid structure to the peach-yellow-plum-kumquat fruit. Good linger. Delicious. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted July 2018    twosisters_vineyards  @TwoSisters_wine  Two Sisters Vineyards

Fielding Estate Gewürztraminer 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (146753, $19.95, WineAlign)

Fielding’s pays respect to how gewürztraminer has to be made in Ontario with a fleshy, off-dry style though making sure to counterbalance with a fine dose of acidity. From dosage to dose it dances the do-si-so with high quality peach-litchi fruit and grapefruit acidity. If you’re in need of a white to compliment some high-octane, multi-seasoned and possibly spicy food, Fielding’s is textbook and will do the work. It’s a gewürztraminer you can trust. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted January 2018  fielding winery  richiewine  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  Fielding Estate Winery

Redstone Gewürztraminer 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $21.95, WineAlign)

A sip sends a warm shiver through from a simple off-dry gewüztraminer attack more flat than round earth, trying hard to stay on the dry though the bitters and creamy fruit deliver more sweetness than what might have been intended. Some skin contact deals peach skin and those bitters while the acidity quietly abides. It’s nearly, almost and close to cloying by honey mixed in concentrate with a note of alkali. Everything lingers. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

@mackbrisbois brought the past, the present and the future @trailestatewine to taste. Thanks Mack! Indeed, to my pleasure and my education.

Trail Estate Gewürztraminer 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Few winemakers in Ontario are as curious, aloof and serious about making gewürztraminer like this,”looking through that window, into the delicate place.” The changing of mind is so important during the process because it shows an understanding of both mistake and possibility. Mackenzie Brisbois takes a spoon of Niagara Lakeview fruit (Glen Elgin/Wismer farmed), puts it through a whole cluster press, a fermentation in old oak and then wait a minute. An about face transfer to stainless steel tank (just after a few days) because it is too reductive, but then sends it back to old wood where it remains for about nine months. Bottles back in September of 2017. The result is a gewürz that finishes dry (under 3 g/L) so delicate for a customer’s palate, with lots of lemon and lime but never searing, perfect for cold smoked or tataki prepared salmon. Bitter pith note but it dissipates, as does the acidity so keep in mind this is floral and fine. “The delicate place. The questions it raise. The delicate place yeah.” Enjoy it now and gimme fiction. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Trail Estate Skin Contact Gewürztraminer 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

The 2016 gewürztraminer fruit is from the Werscht’s (Between the Lines) Niagara farm, super ripe at 24 brix and aromatics on steroids. It clocks in at a healthy 13.5 alcohol, after 13 days on skins and beyond. Close your eyes and the warm pungency will simulate a sensory experience, like standing inside the butterfly conservatory, with all the dessicating fruit, secretions and balmy, humid aromas wafting around. Or maybe even more exotic, like walking past stalls in a south asian market, with fruits cut open so you can see what they are, mangoseteen, marquesa, jackfruit and durian. There is great fun to be had in acidity and spice. Lush, floral and nicely funky. By now an understanding and a level of maturity to think on is as a classic Brisbois white. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Malivoire Viognier Stouck Vineyard 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Agent, $24.25, WineAlign)

From vines planted in 2010 the magic of excitable youth with just a hint of maturity has brought this block of the terrific Lincoln Lakeshore vineyard to this vintage. Warmth and ultimately ripeness have released the aromatic blessedness of viognier, which along with an unpurposed number of residual sugar will allow this to gain some further complexity with age. May just be the most varietal viognier ever produced out of Niagara but it’s obviousness as a regional example can’t be denied. It exudes confidence without even trying, is naturally oily and grippy because its acidity matches the high notes. It’s a touch boozy at 13.5 alcohol, at times metallic and at others, tropical, because that’s what viognier wants to be. It’s just a terrific effort from winemakers Shiraz Mottiar and Dan Stouck. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Lakeview Cellars Viognier 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Pretty tart stuff from the get go, full of tangerine and beautifully dry. Gently pressed and kept in spirit high through the use of stainless steel tanks. Quite floral, not potpourri mind you but a fresh blossoming breath of a bouquet. Simple viognier, effectively executed and perfectly correct. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  lakeviewwineco  @LakeviewWineCo  @LakeviewWineCo

Redstone Viognier Redfoot Vineyard 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $28.95, WineAlign)

The barrel is a big time influence here, offering a combination of creamy vanilla and yet some reduction. There must be some lush viognier fruit back there somewhere but the wood is really in control. Subtle hints of varietal florals, far eastern fruit and spice linger behind the veil. Tasted blind it is the creamy texture and vanilla that makes cause for it to be considered so much like California chardonnay. Good acidity however rescues and thinks about the future. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted twice, June 2018 and then blind at NWAC18, June 2018  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

Calamus Estate Winery White Night 2014, VQA Ontario (484014, $13.95, WineAlign)

A very good use of vidal (85 per cent) gets an apple jolt from chardonnay in this very peach and grapefruit oriented white. It’s like fruit cocktail in a glass but drier than off-dry and quite savoury. Stage right spicy too, like clove and capsicum, in a way akin to Kiwi sauvignon blanc but in the end it’s white appellative blend in hybrid dominance, running all the way. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted January 2017  #calamuswinery  @calamuswinery  Calamus Estate Winery

Featherstone Four Feathers 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (341586, $14.95, WineAlign)

Varietal birds of four feathers (riesling, chardonnay, gewürztraminer and sauvignon blanc) flock together for a wild ride in aromatics, texture, tang and acidity. Here a notable waxiness from the gewürztraminer does oily, glück potpourri with outgoing nature and a sweet meets sour set of flavours. Runs from orchard fruit with bite into the tropical and then some bitters. Nothing simple and quite stirred. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  #featherstonewinery  @featherstonewne  Featherstone Estate Winery

13th Street White Palette 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (207340, $15.95, WineAlign)

White Palette is at the top of its hyperbole game in 2016 with a light’s glare flooding a room of high aromatic and flavour intensity. Glade, polish, wax and major citrus all max factor the scents and smells. Lemon and caramel well through the palate and funky emissions deal in Peninsula clay with obvious earth. It’s a case of the curious and not fully expected in 2016. Worth a look nevertheless, with fresh seafood off the coals. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  13thstreetwinery  @13thStreetWines  13th Street Winery

Rockway Vineyards Chardonnay/Riesling 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (545905, $16.95, WineAlign)

The varietal get together is both convenient and seamless, in delivery of a cool climate nose and a ripeness to imagine a warmer climate palate. It’s layering is one stacked by alternating textures and walks straight ahead, simple and for the sake of nothing, but for to enjoy.  Drink 2018-2020. Tasted April 2018  rockwayvineyards  @RockwayVineyard  Rockway Vineyards

The Hare Wine Company Crown Land White 2016, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

The blend of 60 per cent gewürztraminer and (40) riesling is a lovely mix of lemon, apricot and mild barrel notes. It’s a pithy affair, mildly battered and of a soft demeanour. Fresh with fruit skin scents, a passion fruit tang and acidity that’s pretty darn close to spot on. Chewy texture, finishing strong and long. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  theharewineco  @TheHareWineCo  The Hare Wine Co.

Kew Vineyard Estate Marsanne 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

The dominant marsanne (90 per cent) is joined seamlessly by viognier in a white blend rich with barrel notes, nutty and toasty. Perhaps a touch less interesting on the palate but it’s welling with presence and persistence. Metallic and effective, with great finishing bitters. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  kewvineyards  @kewvineyards  @kewvineyard

Tasting at Pearl Morissette, July 2017

Pearl Morissette Cuvée Blu 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

Cuvée Blu is an appellative blend like no other, amphora fermented, 100 per cent whole cluster chardonnay, with pinot gris, riesling and sauvignon blanc. The group spent three and a half (no, not a typo) months on skins, pressed and aged in foudres. I taste this and self-reflected that I would need to taste this once a day for two weeks to wrap brain, heart and imagination around its mythology. I’d also need to understand how it pushed further then just about anything and to see what would happpen, over and over, again and again, each time anew. You can drink this immediately or anytime over the next six years. What’s the difference? How can you know what to do? Self-described by the PM team as “a chameleon charmer and a poem built from the taste of colours.” Memories of a 2017 summer recall the whimsy of hues. “Yellow, orange,” smiled Svetlana Atcheva, “it might as well be blue!” Drink 2018-2024. Tasted July 2017  pearlmorissette  @PearlMorissette  Pearl Morissette

Southbrook Vidal Skin Fermented White 2016, Small Lot Natural Wine, VQA Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

The first time I tasted this blind (at Terroir Symposium) I noted it to be “vidal-like,” a touch oxidative, of this elegant paste or salve, with notes of green plum and just a touch of grapefruit. The second pass confirms it to be a fine vidal orange wine, with more texture than should or would be expected. It delivers lemon and tannin, plus a calculated layering of ample and enough acidity to carry it along. A fine example. Really mouth coating and so tannic. Takes what was learned from 2014 and 2015 experiments and with VQA category approval in its back pocket, begins the true journey forward. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted blind at NWAC17, June 2017 and February 2018 southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @SouthbrookWine  @TheLivingVine  Southbrook Vineyards  The Living Vine inc.

Stratus Vineyards Stratus White 2014, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (660704, $38.20, WineAlign)

White assemblage under the Stratus label is not like spinning a single record, it’s like Rock ‘n Roll radio. Opening a bottle brings great excitement and anticipation, with a sense of wonder. What songs am I going to hear or more to the point, which grape varieties am I going to taste, in which percentages and in what order? In 2014 it’s a medley of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier, sémillon and gewürztraminer. The blend spent 21 months in (15 per cent) new oak. The fruits are varied and each one (or mélange of several) represented a hit in their own right. Tutti frutti, orange blossom special, little green apples, the lemon song, kiwi, peach, tangerine and forbidden fruit. In the end I heard it through the grapevine, by way of a conduit provided by great and necessary acidity. A top quality Stratus White, worthy of repeat plays. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted twice, May and June 2018    stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

Hidden Bench Nuit Blanche Rosomel Vineyard 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

It’s primarily sauvignon blanc (94 per cent) but don’t discount the effect created by sémillon. This is a really lovely barrel fermented stroll through a fresh morning glade, with ripe fruit everywhere and a perfectly pointed and lifted flinty nose. A bit reductive and fresh, as it should and absolutely must be, with hints of vanilla and caramel. Quite ambitious and serious with a focus and a precision that speaks to the acumen of a specific cru that in the end, instructs for sauvignon blanc meets sémillon education. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018    hiddenbench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Good to Go!

Godello

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Tasting Ontario Part Four: Gamay

g’day and welcome to #NWAC18 day four ~ #playoffs #playoffbeard #upthegame

#GoGamayGo is the cry, a hashtag extraordinaire created by the one, the only Janet Dorozynski, JDo to everyone at WineAlign. I could expound upon and extoll the virtues of Canada’s great bright red varietal light but what might I be able to say that hasn’t already been sung by Treve Ring? Head over to WineAlign for a look at Treve’s succinct and exacted Gamay dissertation and the results of the Gamay flights/Medal winners at this year’s National Wine Awards of Canada.

Related – Results of the 2018 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (The Nationals): Gamay

In the spirit of the winners, competitors and Ontario growers who champion this most important and essential grape, here are 12 recently tasted local examples, including five tasted blind at NWAC18.

Adamo Gamay Noir Unoaked Huebel Grape Estates 2017, Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $17.25, WineAlign)

A bit muted and sleepy-musty but opens up into a rich and tangy, deep-fruited wine with zip and zest on the palate. Would like to know the fruit source. Means so well… so perhaps in a few months time it will shed a layer of lift and become something approaching the gamay ethereal. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  adamoestatewinery  @AdamoEstateWine  @adamoestatewinery

Malivoire Gamay 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (591313, $17.95, WineAlign)

Straight up juicy gamay, of blessed red cherries, tart, crunchy and if nothing more, it really doesn’t matter. This is exactly what you want from the grape. Fresh and bright, so bloody drinkable. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Malivoire Gamay 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (591313, $17.95, WineAlign)

In every ostensible way the rule of gamay goings are perpetuated on and on from Malivoire’s entry level effort in 2016. The fruit is full to welling over the pressed edge, the acidity sharp and contrastive and the sense of place firmly etched in your face. This is Niagara gamay though I find it possessing a position one rung down on the bright and lifted ladder. It’s nothing if not a parochially produced, exemplary pleasure to drink. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Peller Estates Private Reserve Gamay Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

Savoury and reductive gamay, turns a varietal phrase as it should with fruit and brass in pocket. Juicy and Ontario intense. Delicious stuff, full of fruit in and out complexities, crunchy and beefy layering. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  pellerwines  @PellerVQA  @PellerEstates

Château Des Charmes Gamay Noir Droit St. David’s Bench Vineyard 2016, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (346742, $18.95, WineAlign)

Unusually reductive for the always charming CdC gamay a little bit of agitation will go along way to revealing that great gamay smile. Still it’s a game you need to play because this warm and layered 2016 is locked tight, ante-fresh and yet reeling from the air outside. The palate is deeply forged with ferric, hematic and Cru-Bojo meets nebbiolo tarry structure. The greatest of gamay tannins are sold into capture around this fruit like grains of chains surrounding un-popped plum and wild berry bubbles. While admittedly a bit heavy for gamay just wait for this to burst and give away what it’s got hidden away. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted December 2017  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Malivoire Gamay Small Lot 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Malivoire’s most important and benchmark Ontario Rosé is one of the first to the table from the 2017 vintage and why not because its quick soak and lightness of being takes no time at all to get ready. This is the antithetical beauty of Rosé and how it must be approached for best results. Malivoire does not take a step forward from the most perfect ’15 and ’16 wines but there is more fruit in this ’17. You can actually nose and taste strawberry plus a hint of tart raspberry. This will appeal to more of the general Rosé loving populace without any compromise for the provincial, provençal geeks everywhere else. It’s ostensibly a better wine in 2017 because it will attract that growing audience without having made any concessions or dis to authenticity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

13th Street Gamay Noir 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (177824, $19.95, WineAlign)

Here is what 13th Street does best in bring it with honesty style from their wide ranging stable of wines. The essence of Peninsula gamay is captured and with dusty, arid help from the dehydrated vintage. The fruit is ripe, dark and tangy, amalgamating blueberry, mulberry and black purple currants in just the right amount of sapid ways. This is the clean and clear gamay from 13th Street and winemaker J.P. Colas. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted October 2017 and February 2018  13thstreetwinery  @13thStreetWines  13th Street Winery

Southbrook Gamay Triomphe Laundry Vineyard 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $21.75, WineAlign)

Southbrook’s take on Escarpment gamay is more floral than savoury, heightened in timbre and lifted with a bit of awe, like flipping a coin,”heads for her, tails for me.” Not that such a sweetly scented and easily understood wine should invoke Dickens or any other literary distraction but life does seem to slow down with this in hand. It celebrates what gamay can be in Ontario; lithe, fresh, crystalline and balanced. For a brief respite from “the great crises of our laborious human lives,” try a glass of this effortless and inspiring gamay, to be “settled by the idle inspiration of a moment.” Alluring juice from Heather Laundry’s organic Vinemount Ridge vineyard. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted January 2018 southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @SouthbrookWine  @TheLivingVine  Southbrook Vineyards  The Living Vine inc.

13th Street Gamay Whitty Vineyard 2016, VQA Creek Shores, Ontario (Winery, $23.95, WineAlign)

Pressed, with roll-up dried and leathery deep cherry. Also savoury, indelibly caked by a clay funk and then at the finish just a bit of astringency. Cru-esque to be sure but right now a bit nervy and bitter. Let it settle, amalgamate, stretch its gamay legs and ultimately deliver some much solicited and due pleasure. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   13thstreetwinery  @13thStreetWines  13th Street Winery

Leaning Post Gamay Wismer Armbrust Vineyard 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

Something has really changed. Call it wisdom, call it experience, call it Wismer but gamay by Leaning Post has morphed and moved into a new place. Just as cured salumi meaty as before and reeking, part fresh flower bouquet and part bouquet garni. Still firm, grippy even, but now with structure, at cru level so to know that probability’s best is yet to come. Impossibly easy to drink however, with a subdue in near absence of the Bretty attitude and then the kicker, a feeling you could very well be drinking pinot noir. Not because of density, extraction or pressing but from the bones and the delicate flesh inextricably woven through the corporeal body. That this juice spent approximately 25 days on its skins and came out this lithe, fine-grained and so very focused is a Wismer-Senchuk reality. “We like our gamay to taste like gamay but act like pinot and this wine definitely delivers” is truth self-spoken. To date this is one of Ontario’s greatest gamays. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Tawse Gamay Noir Cherry Avenue Vineyard 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $28.95, WineAlign)

Good gamay. Fruit and just a hint of cru tension. A bit of hue and hewed addendum. Real fruit. Proper fruit. Really tight. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Leaning Post Gamay The Natural Unfiltered 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Agent, $35.00, WineAlign)

The Natural comes dancing in, with no obvious Ontario gamay precedence and in waves of WTF as part of the Leaning Post Antique Series. It’s neither Geek (riesling) nor Freak (pinot noir) but its exotic scents and wax-resist texture make me think of Javanese batik. In the habitual way of natural wines the cloudy demure and silky tannic salve are pretty much a given but it’s almost as if there is a shell or sour candied beet glaze that locks something in, a flavour profile undefined and in terms of texture, is quite waxy. Like patterned areas on a cloth protected so they won’t receive the colour that other parts will, this gamay hides away part of its charm and winemaker Ilya Senchuck’s self-professed idiom of “can’t quite put my finger on it” runs particularly true. Fresh and light gamay it is not, nor is it the deep cru suspect of Senchuk’s magnificent Wismer Armbrust Vineyard 2016. It’s an endangered animal, fascinating, almost prehistoric, vital to varietal knowledge and with respect to gamay, very crushable. Low in alcohol, high in acidity but thanks to the whole-cluster, incessant punchdown and gentle pressing/racking elévage it turned out smoky and dreamy instead of bright and volatile. It’s the new antediluvian gamay, confounding but true. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Tasting Ontario Part Three: Rosé

Do not adjust your set. Magnums of Rosé by @scottzebarth and godello ~ #aldé #cabernetfranc @ravinevineyard #vqa #niagaraonthelake

The first of the 2018 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada results are now live on site with the announcement of winners in the Rosé category. The global blush explosion has not passed Canada by as witnessed through the record number of entries at this year’s Nationals held in June at the Penticton Trade & Convention Centre.

Related – Tasting Ontario Part One: Riesling 

The Rosé romance is still in the honeymoon phase as sales have seemingly been rapidly rising every year for at least the last three and show no signs of slowing down. In the early part of 2018 my partner Scott Zebarth and I made 599 (sold out) magnums of 100 per cent cabernet franc with Marty Werner and Ben Minaker at Ravine Vineyard. We are officially part of the problem, I mean program.

Related – Tasting Ontario Part Two: Chardonnay

As part of an ongoing series in which I am publishing my most recent tasting notes of Ontario wines in any and all categories, here are 20 Rosés of local origin, including a half dozen tasted blind at NWAC18 last month.

Day 3 #nwac18 shades with Rosé nails by @heatherriley29 and a 50 for the judge from Nova Scotia.

Fielding Estate Rosé 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (53421, $15.95, WineAlign)

Fielding’s latest Rosé is not only unlike the others but also unrecognizable from itself and the curiosity level is set real high. The sweetness is different, almost late harvest so perhaps Richie Roberts has taken a turn by adding a twist into experimentation and it really works. No compromise to sapidity or energy is noted and in the context of rich and ripe there is great pleasure. Nice departure here. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  fielding winery  richiewine  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  Fielding Estate Winery

13th Street Pink Palette Rosé 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (275834, $15.95, WineAlign)

Pink palette is exactly as the nomenclature suggests, a painter’s tray with colours blending and layering in and out of one another. All the pink, red and orange fruits are represented here in aromas and flavours. It’s a bit of an abstract mess but it finds a way to work. Goes every way and returns to the starting point, then sets out again. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  13thstreetwinery  @13thStreetWines  13th Street Winery

Malivoire Wine Ladybug Rosé 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (559088, $15.95, WineAlign)

The blend is cabernet franc (65 per cent), pinot noir (24) and gamay (11) for the most Malivoire forward, all fruit all the time, simply rosy Rosé. Name those red fruits in their collected bunches but don’t plan to come looking for citrus. As I said, it’s all about the red fruit. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted twice, blind at NWAC18 and July 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Tawse Rosé Sketches 2017, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (172643, $16.35, WineAlign)

Now that Tawse is making a 100 per cent pinot noir Rosé from the Quarry Road Vineyard it puts the Sketches into clearer perspective as a provident and judicious bet for easy and easier drinking. I’d say there is a good amount of gamay in this Rosé because it delivers softer, less rusty and coppery, more wild berry-scented and leafy savoury-accented fruit. It nicely straddles the line between fruity-candied and sapid-dry for maximum amenability. You can’t go wrong here with a warm day and a big chill. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted June 2018  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Westcott Vineyards Delphine Rosé 2017, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (498527, $16.95, WineAlign)

Delphine does not shy away from expressiveness, with a high level of Rosé complexity by Vinemount Ridge pinot noir. Sugar, tang and washed rind cheese get together with high tonality and quite the fleshy tang. Good food Rosé, especially with a vegetables accented by a smoky edge. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  westcottvineyards  @WestcottWines  @westcottwines

Kacaba Summer Series Rebecca Rosé 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (227025, $17.95, WineAlign)

From gamay and an immediate response of that’s more like it. Smells just like gamay with a salt lick running through cranberry and raspberry fruit. Just enough pressing, good acidity and great persistence. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   kacabavineyards  @KacabaVineyards  Kacaba Vineyards and Winery

Wildass Rosé 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (71712, $18.95, WineAlign)

As per the plan Stratus will change direction and for the first time chooses the saignée method for varietal cabernet franc. As for Wildass it is a blend of sauvignon blanc, riesling, tempranillo and cabernet franc. It hints at the present and the future of Niagara Peninsula Rosé in a nutshell albeit with full-bled coverage, high level fruit phenolics and a little bump up in residual sugar. If the ’16 Wildass hovered in the five to six range this seems to be upwards of nine or ten. The fruit here is fantastic and the warmth of the vintage can be thanked, especially from the extended fall and the later picking hands of a Stratus managed wine. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018   stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

The Roost Rosé 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

From pinot noir, rich, very pressed and quite tannic. Fleshy, full and a bit funky. Rhubarb leads the fruit in a two-dimensional, flat-patterned, if unusual texture. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  theroostwineco  @TheRoostWineCo  @theroostwineco

Peller Estates Private Reserve Rosé 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

A blend of pinot noir (88 per cent) with gamay and pinot meunier. Lovely in litheness, light, bright and briny blush, saline all the way through. Does the trick with fineness, tart and tight inner-vision Really lovely. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

Huff Estates Rosé 2017, VQA Ontario (Winery, $19.00, WineAlign)

From cabernet franc, some florals, with agitative acidity and a good tartness in composure. Fruit meets salinity and a touch of currants in brine. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  huffestateswine  @HuffEstatesWine  @HuffEstates

80x Wine Company When Pigs Fly Pinot Noir Rosé Ridgepoint Vineyard 2017, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

It’s a comedy moment reminder and also a temptation to invoke the Smithers question “will you be donating that million dollars now, sir?” The cheeky name “When Pigs Fly” is actually Rosé by pinot noir from André Proulx and (Kacaba winemaker) Vadim Chelekhov made with the help of David Stasiuk at Rockway Winery. It ain’t no big thing, nor adynaton, idiom of improbability, impractical nor rhetorical device as extreme exaggeration. And so When Pigs Fly is summer in September, harbinger of spring and varietal Twenty Mile Bench, single Ridgepoint Vineyard hyperbole captured with healthy, fresh, brackish and earthy estuary goodness. As promised, its verdant, crisp, delicate, sweet rose petal floral and rusty fruit gone down easy, on a deck, in the sun. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted March 2018  andrewinereview  vadimwineguy  @andrewinereview  @Vadim_Chelekhov  André J Proulx  Vadim Chelekhov

Henry Of Pelham Rosé Three of Hearts 2017, VQA Ontario (552562, $19.95, WineAlign)

It’s a good card the three of hearts, played out in Rosé form though admittedly in sweet and sour ways. A salty cheese rind note filters in to the ubiquity of Rosé strawberry and grapefruit, that and some blanched, sweet herbs. This is a snazzy meets chic new label from the Speck brothers at Henry of Pelham and there is little doubt that the lithe and lean style is the right one to choose. From this particular bottle an overly aggressive mix of sugar and sulphur detracts from the overall impression and pleasure. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  henryofpelham  @HenryofPelham  Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery

Southbrook Vineyards Organic Triomphe Cabernet Franc Rosé 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (279117, $19.95, WineAlign)

Mostly cabernet franc (85 per cent) with merlot in this tart and rich blush. Currants and blackberries, good flow and integration, very solid if typical and correct, highly market saturate and soluble commercial Rosé. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @SouthbrookWine  @TheLivingVine  Southbrook Vineyards  The Living Vine inc.

Malivoire Rosé Bon Vivant 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (498535, $19.95, WineAlign)

C’est bon this Maliviore, from what is just the most perfect, antithetical, apposite Rosé vintage Niagara has perhaps ever seen. After the coolest of summers the great resurgent warmth of September delivered great ripeness into this Beamsville Bench fruit, even when picking for Rosé is completed before the full monty is reached. The result is nothing short of bring it on. Salt, brine, stone fruit, citrus and sonic, tonic injections had never gathered so collectively in synch at this price, from this place. This is brilliant Ontario blush and all should be so lucky to emulate and live as cohabitant with the Vivant. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted April 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Southbrook Syrah Rosé 2017, VQA Four Mile Creek, Ontario (Winery, $22.25, WineAlign)

Ann Sperling’s small lot, organic and biodynamic syrah shows what the vintage is for Rosé, that being stellar and why did Ann make such a varietal Rosé? “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” It’s still a good idea. Great acidity, faint white peppery red fruit, namely raspberry and then that blush catalyst called texture. Salty, fruity, energetic and well-commanded. Proper. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018 southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @SouthbrookWine  @TheLivingVine  Southbrook Vineyards  The Living Vine inc.

Malivoire Rosé Moira 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Malivoire’s most important and benchmark Ontario Rosé is one of the first to the table from the 2017 vintage and why not because its quick soak and lightness of being takes no time at all to get ready. This is the antithetical beauty of Rosé and how it must be approached for best results. Malivoire does not take a step forward from the most perfect ’15 and ’16 wines but there is more fruit in this ’17. You can actually nose and taste strawberry plus a hint of tart raspberry. This will appeal to more of the general Rosé loving populace without any compromise for the provincial, provençal geeks everywhere else. It’s ostensibly a better wine in 2017 because it will attract that growing audience without having made any concessions or dis to authenticity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Hidden Bench Locust Lane Rosé 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (68833, $22.95, WineAlign)

Locust Lane is always in the echelon of premier Ontario Rosé and from a prized piece of real estate on the Beamsville Bench. This takes autumn warmth and bottles it as blush sunshine with zippy fraise cocktail essence and ever-berry flavour that goes on forever with an added good shake or two of maldon salt. Great quality right here and well worth the price of admission. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  hidden bench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Rosé 2017, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $27.95, WineAlign)

The inaugural Tawse single-vineyard Rosé launches with a whisper, as Rosé should, from a saignée methodology in search of layering and structure. The way this pinot noir of Vinemount Ridge Quarry Road grapes lightly treads into this world means that it can build, layer and ultimately capture our attention. It’s decidedly dry and brings many fruit thoughts to the bowl but more than anything it’s lime-doused cherries, a shot of ginger bitters and the ever-proper feign of sweetness that really isn’t there. This is terrific varietal pinot noir in blush clothing, properly sour and briny to keep pace with similar renderings by cabernet franc. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted June 2018   tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  Tawse Winery

Thirty Bench Small Lot Rosé 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (414227, $29.95, WineAlign)

“I am not in love, but I’m open to persuasion.” So tell me what a $30 Ontario Rosé can be. Here presents a next level of expectation from the Thirty Bench Small Lot and yes it obliges with a profile that begins in flavour bursts to supersedes its regional and price category. With open armed, elevated and trading hands this Small Lot at first offers pressed juicy fruit, then fresh picked strawberry and finally packets of fruity umami. The triumvirate workings of saignée cabernet sauvignon, cold-soaked pinot noir/pinot meunier and direct-pressed cabernet franc mean business. Rosé is meant to gift wrap an equation executed through chill, quaff and relax, which you can do with this example but it requires a little bit more attention. Give it that love if you’ve got the mind and the meditation, “but this time with a little dedication.” Sing it, sing it. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted May 2018  hirtybench  pellerwines  @ThirtyBench  @PellerVQA  @ThirtyBench  Andrew Peller(Andrew Peller Import)  Emma Garner

Pearl Morissette’s Svetlana Atcheva with Cuvée Roselana

Pearl Morissette Rosé Cuvée Roselana 2016, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Roselana is a gamay-pinot noir saignée blend that pulls no pleasure punches. “We like Rosé of colour, like Tavel,” notes Svetlana Atcheva, “but in a more accessible style.” Her name folds into a Rosé that was sold out as it was bottled, a blush of so much gifting flavour and unlimited pleasure. The specifics of aromatics, berry, citrus or otherwise defined tastes is not important. Just drink it. Next vintage. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted July 2017  pearlmorissette  @PearlMorissette  Pearl Morissette

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Stoked for Cool Chardonnay

This time next week I’ll be parked front and centre at White Oaks Resort in Niagara for the i4C 2018 School of Cool, presented by VQA Wines of Ontario, The Wine Marketing Association of Ontario, the Grape Growers of Ontario and Wines of Chablis.  You can to if you manage to grab one of the few remaining tickets.

Related – International Cool Climate Celebration

Session One, The Perception of Chardonnay will be moderated by Dr. Jamie Goode, Session Two, Desert Island Combo – Chardonnay and Cheese by Peter Rod and Session Three, Raising Chardonnay by John Szabo, MS. I’ll continue on to join in the cool festivities all weekend long. Friday evening’s Flights of Chardonnay event will be held once again at the Niagara District Airport and the Saturday night Cool Chardonnay World Tour Tasting & Dinner will take place at Ridley College, St. Catharines, Ontario. On Sunday morning Ravine Vineyard will play host to the Moveable Feast Brunch.

Related – Tasting Ontario Part Two: Chardonnay

This year, 63 winemakers from ten countries will be pouring 165 wines in Niagara from Friday, July 20th to Sunday July 22nd. Let’s get into the spirit and check out 11 of my most recently tasted chardonnays.

Westcott Chardonnay Lillias Unoaked 2017, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (425322, $12.25, WineAlign)

Lillias is petit chardonnay, unoaked, made in a decidedly Petit Chablis style, slightly lactic and fresh as picked calla lilies without too much scent. The texture and palate feel on Westcott’s 2017 is richer than it was before, with thanks to a hot September and so weight meets alcohol are up there with some barrel-aged cousins. Minus the vanilla and butterscotch of course. Easy drinking to be sure and just might lead to a good time. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted July 2018  westcottvineyards  @WestcottWines  @westcottwines

Cave Spring Chardonnay Musqué Estate Bottled 2016, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (246579, $17.95, WineAlign)

Very floral, of course, a potpourri that includes roses, orange peel, geranium and south asian fruit. It’s almost tropical like viognier or even gewürztraminer so you could wonder if this is 100 per cent musqué but really it’s just a matter of a warm year making for soft chardonnay. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted July 2018  cavespringcellars  thevineagency  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh  Cave Spring Cellars  The Vine

Malivoire Chardonnay 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (573147, $17.95, WineAlign)

It almost seems a guilty pleasure or even a shame to be this taken by Malivoire’s entry-level chardonnay because it seems as though it will steal the lime, spot and ultra-violet light away from the serious and essential Mottiar and Moira chardonnays. Winemaker Shiraz Mottiar has really taken the varietal by the horns but the thanks has to begin and be granted the excellence of viticulture in these Beamsville Bench vineyards. How at this price you can strike such a mutually beneficial accord between fruit and wood is beyond me, first with so many thoughts of apples, pears, peaches and nectarines, then the verdant sweetness of lime-caramel and spiced vanilla. It;s all very subtle but also generous. Regional level chardonnay in Ontario at its finest. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted July 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Cave Spring Chardonnay Estate Bottled 2016, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (256552, $18.95, WineAlign)

High quality fruit with the creaminess of apple purée keeps its bite with thanks to proper barrel use though I can’t help but think this almost feels unoaked, relatively speaking. This might also be a result of the floral perfume, perhaps by musqué but also a vintage feel. The wood comes through late with a white peppery pique of spice. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2018  cavespringcellars  thevineagency  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh  Cave Spring Cellars  The Vine

Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Chardonnay 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (547877, $19.95, WineAlign)

In many ways there is more richness and warmth from the Winemaker’s Blend, a multi-vineyard broad expression that could also be called “Signature,” as in typical of the estate style but not necessarily something that defines the winemaker. It’s a boozy chardonnay by regional standards, with full advantage taken from sun and wood. Notes of caramel, vanilla and spice form a malleable shell around creamy orchard fruit. Calls for whole grilled fish, sweet herbs and citrus. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  thirtybench  pellerwines  @ThirtyBench  @PellerVQA  @ThirtyBench  Andrew Peller(Andrew Peller Import)  Emma Garner

3XP Chardonnay 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, $20.95, WineAlign)

 3XP is the triumvirate styling of Tawse winemaker Paul Pender, Ontario wine importer Nicholas Pearce and Sommelier Will Predhomme. It’s the latest song release in the epic Pearce-Predhomme négoce journey, a progressive-art-album rock venture replete with eleven-minute opus material, but this one is the hit with a recognizable and catchy hook. It’s Hungry Heart, I Will Get by and Lucky Man wrapped up into one three-minute chardonnay play. The sip-swirl-swallow trilogy is like verse-chorus-verse and repeat. It’s straightforward sharp, tart and flavourful chardonnay that only Paul Pender could make and it’s consume-ability factor is one of threefold manifest destiny. The number three is a very important number in biblical and mythological study. It “is the first number to which the meaning “all” was given. It is The Triad, being the number of the whole as it contains the beginning, a middle and an end. The power of three is universal and is the tripartide nature of the world as heaven, earth, and waters. It is human as body, soul and spirit.” As for this PPP chardonnay, just drink it up and enjoy. For the next three years. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted July 2018  pearcepredhomme  nicholaspearcewines  tawsewinery  @PearcePredhomme  @Nicholaspearce  @Tawse_Winery  Nicholas Pearce  @tawsewines

Jackson Triggs Niagara Estate Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $20.95, WineAlign)

A classic Marco Piccoli composition, optimum ripeness of orchard phenolics-developed fruit and plenty of generosity from aging in barrels. Yes chardonnay is different to everyone and Piccoli takes full advantage of the chameleon, even simplifying with that unblemished fruit and lots of wood. It’s like perfect apples in the top-end market from which you may not get that organic fuzzy feeling but you will get the perfectly modern and scientifically successful bite of life. Then take the fruit and make it richer, brown buttery and soft. All good if only there was less wishful thinking for more synchronicity and length. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted twice, first blind at NWAC18, June 2018 and then July 2018  jacksontriggsniagara  #ArterraWines  @Jackson_Triggs   @JacksonTriggs

Tawse Chardonnay Sketches 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (89037, $21.95, WineAlign)

At this point in time Sketches represents terrific value in Ontario-bred chardonnay because with an extra year or two in the rear-view mirror it has settled into a lovely place where nuts, caramel and baked goods are all beginning to show. It was a lean chardonnay to begin with so don’t expect any overtly creamy textural notes, least of which might be creamed corn. Bigger oaked versions in vintages like 2014 might go to such a comfort zone but this Sketches stays the green apple and piqued spice course. There are some lingering notes of melon and flowers at dusk so just enough freshness persists to carry this through another year or so of open window drinking. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted June 2018  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay The Rusty Shed 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (1552, $26.95, WineAlign)

The 2016 is less a matter of chardonnay spirit and more falling along rich, buttery and vanilla-caramel lines. Might be the most zaftig Rusty Shed tasted in quite some time. Go after this FRC chardonnay with immediate and desperate intentions. It will really satisfy for a year or two. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted July 2018  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

Rosehall Run Chardonnay JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

First and foremost there is so much charm here, from great fruit, mostly orchards of apple and citrus, then just a hint towards tropical. All impressive from a pottery vineyard coming of age into its later teens and capable of retaining soluble nutrients during stressed times. An elemental and kissed wet stone design runs through like veins carrying white blood cells to the fruit’s organs and extremities and so the drought vintage was no worthy adversary to the JCR. Dan Sullivan’s top chardonnay comes replete with high level, quality and pointed fineness of acidity. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted twice, blind at NWAC18 and July 2018  rosehall_run  @Rosehall_Run  Rosehall Run Vineyards

Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (148866, $29.95, WineAlign)

A terrific vintage for the Closson Chase fruit, easily ripened and developed of phenolics all in and more glycerin than might ever be expected. It’s punchy and reductive chardonnay with a savoury candy shell protecting real, honest to goodness PEC fruit. There is a decided level of vanilla and caramel folded into fruit like great batter at the rippled stage just before its poured into the pan. Makes for wonderful expectation to see how it might taste once the baking is done. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted July 2018  clossonchasevineyards  @ClossonChase  @ClossonChase

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Alternative and unexpected California

Pop goes @california.wines unexpected whites with phenomenal insight by @hawk_wakawaka ~ Thank you Elaine, Paula @CalifWines_CA

Elaine Chukan Brown came to town and if you’ve never heard her speak on the subject of California wines then you have yet lived. The California Wine Fair has been rolling through Canada for coming upon forty years running and this past April she and the show stopped in Toronto. It has continued to exist as the largest Canadian gathering of that state’s wines under one roof you are ever going to find. The American specialist at JancisRobinson.com, contributing writer with Wine & Spirits Magazine and eloquent meets erudite penner of Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews was the keynote speaker at the trade luncheon but it was her morning presentation of California’s unexpected white varietals that got me thinking. Thinking about California wine.

Elaine Chukan Brown

Unexpected might also mean alternative though when talking about grape varieties grown in a place where nothing is truly endemic and everything is expatriate, is there truly such an animal? I could digress into commentary about immigration policies but I’ll stay the course and stick to wine. Brown’s seminar was appropriately referenced with more than one headline because it wasn’t just about varietals. The lecture indeed touched upon malvasia bianca, vermentino and chenin blanc but it also spoke of sparkling, Rosé and iconic blends made by archetypal producers. Not a singular notion by any means of conferral and so ultimately necessary to be expressed in diversified terms. Alternative and unexpected but not without a hit of developed orthodoxy and a whack of doctrinal emigration.

The cross-Canada celebration of California’s wine community began as a single-city event in Ottawa in 1980 and is now the largest annual wine tour across Canada. The California Wine Fair is is the hands of Praxis PR’s Paula Oreskovich and I would be shocked if there is a more successful regional tour, especially at this scale. The 2018 edition was no exception and adding Elaine Chukan Brown to the bill was both a coup and a stroke of brilliant thinking.

There were 10 wines involved in the determinate and evaluative discourse. I could kudize the selections and the seamless flow from reception wine Rosé through epiphanic Brut and across a swath of right proper showing white wines. I could but I’d rather concentrate on Brown’s photographic mind and ability to convey California wine growing region geography, topography and climatic influences. To present these things to a Toronto wine body politic eager for information. This presentation was science incarnate, pure and motivating. It dispatched the essence of the California dialectic and if you understand varietals, growing conditions and economics, what you soak in may actually allow you to write down what will happen in the future, much like you might write down the history of the past. A California history that speaks of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and pinot noir. A California future that is alternative, unexpected and wide open.

Folded Hills Lilly Rosé 2017, Santa Inez Valley, California (Winery, WineAlign)

From the Bush family, Rhône varietals are the impetus with this second fruit from a Rosé vineyard set situated in proximation of Ballard Canyon, where things ripen quite formidably. It’s a top location for pinot noir but here an even better place for grenache and syrah. The wine spent 24 hours on skins, was fermented and aged in neutral oak. Crisp acidity speaks to the area’s growing conditions and in its way acts as grenache vin gris, of tart pink to red currants in a glass. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  folded hills  @foldedhills  Folded Hills

Caraccioli Brut Cuvée 2010, Santa Lucia Highlands, California (Winery, WineAlign)

Caraccioli Brut Cuvée 2010 is a pinot noir speciality transferred to sparkling for flinty, smoky, salty and briny sea fresh character from out of a cold Alaskan bred Pacific current. Top, absolute upper end of Brut with 12 g/L sugar and high natural acidity, which is essential. Four years on lees, but that burgeoning acidity works more magic than the yeasts do for texture. As tart as sparkling wine gets and it’s from California. A journey that began in 2010 for only 96 cases made. Price is $52 at the winery. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2018  caracciolicellars  @caraccioliwines  Caraccioli Cellars

Palmina Malvasia Bianca 2016, Santa Ynez Valley, California (Agent, WineAlign)

East of centre in the valley, just crossing into Ballard Canyon, from sand over chalk. These are soils that warm up fast, ripening a variety that wants to be bitterly phenolic but finds a way to make use of fog from coastal influences in a nook where the mountains run west to east. The limestone in turn acts as the conduit in delivery of great acidity. From green apple to south asian tropical fruit but I can’t say I’ve ever tasted anything like it before. Yes, the acidity is grand and yes, there is a bitter phenolic note though it’s like great gin. A wildly aromatic wine. There are 62 cases made. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  palminawines  barrelselect  @palminawines  @BarrelSelect  Palmina Winery  @barrelselect

Ryme Cellars Hers Vermentino 2016, Carneros, Sonoma County, California (Winery, WineAlign)

From just over on the Sonoma side of Carneros, the last vineyard before you hit marshlands in San Pablo Bay. Alto, musky and floral notes on the nose, a deep sax, A Love Supreme. What’s curious and high level is the texture, which speaks to place, soil and I suppose, winemaking. It’s part malolactic from neutral oak to further explain, with a mix of stainless steel to keep it Trane chord change airy, elevated, ante-flat earth society vermentino. Approximately $25-29 US. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  ryme_cellars  @RymeCellars  Ryme Cellars

Matthiasson White Blend 2015, Napa Valley, California (Winery, WineAlign)

Ostensibly an example of a ribolla gialla led, Friuli styled blend by Steve Matthiasson. It’s a grouping of sauvignon blanc, sémillon, ribolla gialia and tokai friuli (friulano) as the components, turning the Friuli a bit on its head but its more about fruit than pyrazine with a ribolla lick off the ground. There is a nutty note, namely almond from tokai and a flinty strike by sémillon. Unilaterally fermented in neutral barrels and then eventually transferred back in. Great balance, complex and long as the coastal range. Come back to it and it has a wonderful savoury, candied childhood memory feeling. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  matthiasson_wine  @matthiassonwine  Matthiasson Wines

J Vineyards And Winery Pinot Gris 2016, Russian River Valley, California (Agent, WineAlign)

Introduced by Elaine Brown as “a testament to the notion that pinot gris is a noble grape, that expresses its place and adaptation from place to place.” A wine as child of western Sonoma County daily fog incursion, absorbed by the clay, a gift of natural refrigeration, non-pushed sugar development, working for gris, not just noir. Semi-mouth watering freshness, unctuousness and notable sweetness.”Round and hovering,” full and tart, mid-range in the mouth. Minor barrel fermented plus 15 per cent new, as kisses for a nutty depth and orange marmalade flavour. Quite delicious, full of texture and flavour. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  #jvineyardsandwinery  gallocareers  @JWinery  @gallocareers  J Vineyards & Winery  Gallo Family Vineyards  E. & J. Gallo Winery

Birichino Chenin Blanc Jurassic Park Old Vines 2016, Santa Ynez Valley, California (Winery, WineAlign)

From a site protected from wind, a diurnal temperature shift with more of a breeze effect, above the fog line at a high (1100 ft.) elevation. All this to say that you’ll end up with increased aromatics, from own-rooted vines planted in the 70s on sandy soils. Chèvre funky, tangy on the acid notes, with layers of ripeness, but with no developed botrytis and then some fruit picked in December mixed right in. It’s green, white, pink and yellow. It’s all in, not overly punchy but very expressive. From apple to brine and back again. This may be the vintage that has it all. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  birichino_official    Birichino

Chateau Montelena Riesling Potter Valley 2016, Mendocino, California (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

The first wine Montelena ever released was in fact riesling, a Bo Barrett obsession, slightly inland in the far north on Mendocino. It’s a high elevation at 900 ft., on highly oxygenated, well-draining, gravelly-loam soils with a touch of clay. Made in a combination of stainless steel and neutral oak. The lullaby phenolic and dreamy glycerin fruit content is high, with help from minor (4 g/L) of RS and what is essentially an arrested acidity. A very underdeveloped riesling, youthful and rich, just bloody delicious. Lime, snappy green apple and gravel stone bleed. Riesling as good as it gets in California, from Mendocino all the way down. Perfect for this desert life. “If dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts. You can never escape, you can only move south down the coast…Hey Mrs. Potter won’t you talk to me.” Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2018  chmontelena  rogersandcompanywines  @ChMontelena  @rogcowines  Chateau Montelena Winery  Rogers & Company

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc To Kalon Reserve 2014, Oakville, Napa Valley, California (Agent, $44.95, WineAlign)

The Reserve is the top level for fumé blanc (aside from the I-Block) and a wine made since 1966. There must be more sémillon in 2014 because it’s as smoky and flinty as it ever has been. A portion of the 1945 I-Block vines generously add sauvignon blanc in this wine. This is the original, the history of California wine, the alternate varietal spoken ahead of all the others. Reduced vigour vines from volcanic, well-draining soils for purity and decades long honesty. Always absurdly fresh, integrated, with an ability to age low and slow. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted April 2018  robertmondavi  #constellationbrands  @RobertMondavi  @cbrands  Robert Mondavi Winery  Constellation Brands

Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit De Tablas Blanc 2015, Paso Robles, California (Agent, 735506, $44.95, WineAlign)

From the far western side’s folded, undulated hills on the western range that bring in cold air through its streams. A place of cold night and even some persistent cool air during the day. It’s roussanne based, but this ulterior vintage means an elongated ripening so the roussanne was low in acidity, therefore more picpoul was employed for acid. It’s fleshy, creamy toffee, candied floral and candied citrus plus orchard fruit and mango. Should turn waxy and seem more mineral as the alloys emerge and the fruit dissolves. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  tablascreek  @TablasCreek  @ChartonHobbs  Tablas Creek Vineyard  CHARTON-HOBBS QUEBEC

Pop goes @california.wines unexpected whites with phenomenal insight by @hawk_wakawaka ~ Thank you Elaine, Paula @CalifWines_CA

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Chianti Classico: Nine communes deep

Radda in Chianti

In February I travelled to Tuscany for the 2018 Anteprime. In Florence I spent two days tasting sangiovese at the Chianti Classico Collection held at Stazione Leopolda. My WineAlign colleague John Szabo M.S. and I then paid visits over the next two and a half days at Poggio di Guardia, Castello di Volpaia, Rocca di Montegrossi, Rocca di Castagnoli, Castello di Ama, Isole E Olena, Podere Poggio Scalette, San Giusto A Rentennano and Valiano. Once again I am proud to be a messenger on a subject that continues to write itself. Chianti Classico. Where the slow pace is grounded in grace and nature slowly renders an intoxication of faith. Where the exceptionality of place, experience and innovation can’t be underestimated.

Related – All in with Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico and the Gallo Nero, a symbol not only designed and enshrined to classify the wines, but to ingrain something deeper, meaningful and soulful. The Gallo Nero stamps each bottle of sangiovese with a seal of approval, for a conceit of quality.

Godello and #gallonero ~ #chianticlassico

Two years ago the Gallo Nero celebrated its 300 year anniversary. At that time the appellation’s newest and noblest expression at the top of the quality pyramid was introduced in Toronto, the Gran Selezione. In 2017 the focus was on sangiovese, the grape at the heart and centre of the Chianti Classico universe. This year the greater whole is broken down, to give due to the nine pieces of the territory’s puzzle and the villages at their core.

Chianti Classico goes nine communes deep: Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti, Poggibonsi, Radda in Chianti, San Casciano Val di Pesa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. Digging into these sub-zones of the territory is done with thanks to the generous work and spirit of Chianti Classico’s producers and with unwavering guidance from the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico: President Sergio Zingarelli, Vice-Presidents Sebastiano Capponi and Giovanni Manneti, Director Carlotta Gori, who I’d like to point out is the first woman to take the helm of the Consorzio Chianti Classico, PR & Communications Manager Silvia Fiorentini and Event Manager Christine Lechner.

Il Signore del Chianti Classico

Every wine region needs ambassadors to educate in the diaspora and as you can see in this picture, the first five were chosen this past February in Firenze. This was indeed one of the great honours of my life. I’m quite sure Jeffrey Porter, Michaela Morris, Massimo Castellani and Isao Miyajima felt the same.

Chianti Classico farmers and producers have spent three hundred organized years studying their soils to arrive at an understanding that this territory is better for growing sangiovese than all of the lands beyond its borders. This is very important. We break the territory down by commune. Chianti Classico will always come first but in all of Toscana only it is possessive of such distinct communes.

The first question to raise is why do we need to discuss Chianti Classico as composed of nine communes and why are many of them (along with smaller micro-territories or sub-sub zones) establishing associations to promote their wines? To communicate who they are and what kind of wine comes out of their section of the territory. These are things we need to recognize and talk about, not necessarily along lines of geology but rather in terms of community and especially styles and characteristics of the wines. Over the past two years I’ve made four visits to Chianti Classico and tasted more than six hundred wines. I truly believe that the sangiovese changes from commune to commune. While it may be far too difficult to say that each commune has a specific set of characteristics, the sangiovese made by each producer are in fact singular and surely related to the soil within the boundaries of their commune. We tried a very interesting exercise in Florence back in February, a blind tasting called La Prova dei Nove, or “The Proof of the Nine,” to see if 100-plus journalists and sommeliers could taste the commune through the sangiovese. I was 3 for 9 and quite pleased with myself. I sat with two prominent winemakers and one of them was 1 for 9.  The conclusion? It’s really hard to taste the commune. But I’ll tell you why it’s still very important to discuss Chianti Classico as a sum of these essential parts.

ine wines, nine communes, this will be easy…not so much #blindtasting @chianticlassico #laprovadeinove so thanks @drinkeatlove now I’ll have to think about and pen another 100,000 word

Let’s create a hypothetical situation. Imagine you are the average wine consumer in Ontario. You come into the LCBO looking for an Italian red wine, a Tuscan red. You see nine bottles of Chianti Classico. Five just say that on the bottle, two add the word Riserva and two Gran Selezione. These additional label notations and the prices tell you about the difference in probable quality but the bottles are still all the same, from the same place. How do you choose? Well, if each were labeled with the nine different communes you might be curious and pick one, let’s say from Gaiole. Then after tasting it you might think to yourself, I really like the Chianti Classico from Gaiole. Now you’ve entered a whole new world of discovery, of comparisons. Some of you might say “but the consumer doesn’t even know the difference between Chianti and Chianti Classico. This just makes it harder.” The devil’s advocate would say, on the contrary, adding the commune to the label does not add confusion, it adds intrigue and raises the profile of all the communes and the wines. Like Volnay, like Pommard, like Marsannay. But Bourgogne has 84 AOCs. Chianti Classico are only nine and surely their names all refer to quality. All of them. Chianti Classico means quality. It means sangiovese. Discussing the wines in new terms like communes does not say that one is better than another or that the wines from any one are of higher quality. It simply updates the profile and raises the bar for all. Hypothetically speaking.

A coupla @chianticlassico ambassadors enjoying the moment. With Jeffrey Porter, a.k.a. @drinkeatlove

Many wine regions are defined by their soils and the fine lines that separate greatness from mediocrity. The two soil epochs of Barolo are divided by a diagonal line that runs from the northeast down to the southwest. On one side Tortonian and the other, Serravallian, both formed millions of years ago and each capable for producing different styles of nebbiolo. In Bordeaux one bank celebrates cabernet sauvignon while the other merlot and cabernet franc. In Chablis the Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards are specifically drawn while in greater Bourgogne the composition of the soil gradates from north to south and so that we know where pinot noir and chardonnay must be planted and for best probable results. In Montalcino we understand the differences between northern and southern vineyards but also know where you are relative to the hill of Montalcino and from which micro-climate will have a great effect on the wines.

So what about Chianti Classico? Comparing or thinking about Chianti Classico as needing to be understood like Bourgogne, Piemonte or Montalcino is not the answer. It’s not the same and never will be. Considering the communes as adding up to the whole is a step in the right direction.

The cartologist Alessandro Masnaghetti has concentrated on the parameters of each commune and drawn precise topographical maps. They are great resources for understanding where but still they don’t tell us why. Why do wines typically turn out the way they do? Remember that the crus of Chianti Classico are not farmed by multiple producers. So consider that the approach might best begin with the producer so that we don’t say this Chianti Classico from Castellina made by Rocca delle Macie tastes like this but rather, this Rocca delle Macie tastes this way and it is from Castellina, in Chianti Classico. It’s a subtle rearrangement but it must always begin with the producer.

Before we move on to the wines, one commune at a time, it should be noted that the 2017 vintage presented one of the greater challenges in recent Chianti Classico times. After the intense heat of the driest of summers it was essential that growers waited out the early September rains, followed by the beautiful and phenolic ripeness ensuring warmth of the next three weeks. “I noticed that most producers had already, inconceivably, finished harvesting by the 15th of September!!! A haste that can’t be positive.” These are the wisest of words from Rocca di Montegrossi’s Marco Ricasoli. It remains to be seen but we’ll see if Marco’s prophecy will ring true and be confirmed at Anteprime’s Chianti Classico Collection in February 2019.

These 112 reviews cover the wines I tasted at the February Chianti Classico Collection 2018 in Firenze and three subsequent days of touring through Chianti Classico.

Castellina in Chianti

Related – Castellina in golden light

Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (168286, $23.95, WineAlign)

Ripeness is the deeper virtu and virtue in Bibbiano’s ’16 and as always there is this push-pull of two terroirs. One is of fruit the other rock but both layer intersectional and complimentary. This is a breakthrough, if it may be said, an aha moment for a Bibbiano Annata, educational and exemplary. More reward will come from subsequent vintages. The block here is some firm Castellina tannin but even more so one specific to the Bibbiano plateau and angles. It’s important to wait at least a year for the pressed intensity to subside. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Montornello DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Yet another Gran Selezione that tells us how the producers intuit the difference between the category and Riserva even while the consumer is still not quite in the know. GS is deeper and represents a place or a gathering of the best fruit, not a step up in aging only, but all things gathered and put into place. This from the northern side of the estate, opposite Capannino. Montornello is the sweet and savoury, even salty of the Bibbiano GS but also the one of great strength. But it too takes the vintage and gives a little bit more, not quite a hug (sic) but certainly some earlier pleasure. All things are relative. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna del Capannino 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

It should be expected that out of 2015 the Bibbiano Gran Selezione would show more fruit, less brood and for sure not near the abstruse consternation that young, more demanding vintages have shown. At least from Capannino. This is the truth in 2015 though the nature of this slope demands at least a few raises of the eyebrow and tension rising of the shoulders. Thinking about Capannino can’t happen without remembering that the fruit comes from ’58 and ’62 sangiovese grosso vines put in by Giulio Gambelli, then grafts from that material for masale propogation in 1999 and the 2000s. Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi will figure out the nuances of these tracts of specific Castellina terroir before too long and this flat out chewy mouthful of sangiovese is the next step there. Needs three years though. Didn’t you know that already? Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Buondonno Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Gabriele Buondonno and Valeria Sodano bought the Castellina in Chianti farm known as Casavecchia alla Piazza in 1988, a plot that clearly appeared on the maps of the Capitani di Parte Guelfa in 1549 and is marked as the “place of Lionardo Buonarroti,” nephew to Michelangelo. Their Chianti Classico is 90 per cent sangiovese, plus merlot and syrah from a place Michelangelo once wrote to his uncle “I would rather have two barrels of Trebbiano than eight shirts.” Clearly pulled of of a special terroir, Buondonno’s organic Annata is pretty and purposed, with fresh tart strawberry and an intensity of acidity. It’s very long, unrelenting, showing some focus above and beyond. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  #buondonno  #buondonno

Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (970095, $24.95, WineAlign)

The Castellina ideal is furthered by Castelllare’s ’16, the one concerning purity and honesty from sangiovese. There is a beauty to this one, mildly mineral, tangy and tart but silky smooth without any unnecessary welling of syrupy liqueur. Lovely Annnata. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  #castellaredicastellina  dionysuswines  @CastellareWines  @DionysusWines  @CastellarediCastellina   @DionysusWinesTO  

Gagliole Chianti Classico DOCG Rubiolo 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

As the name might suggest, it seems this Rubiolo is a redhead and means some serious sangiovese business, with pressed, rolled and laid out red fruit, mostly berry but with an accent of (merlot dished) plum and pomegranate. The limestone here strikes as Galestro though there too is this cakey weight that only Castellina in Chianti argilo would deal. The architecture for Rubiolo is one of houses built to last. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  anticopoderegagliole  @Gagliolewines  @Gagliole

Lornano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (211599, $17.95, WineAlign)

Lornano comes out of Castellina in Chianti with such prominent perfume, grit and surprising intensity. It’s a much bigger wine than many 15s but perhaps not surprising from a Chianti Classico crafted by the agronomist and oenologist hands of Silvio Campatelli, Franco and Matteo Bernabei. Also when Nicolò Pozzoli tells you “sangiovese needs the bottle” you listen and make a note to self saying “he is correct.” This is a very early point in time to taste such a youthful and walled in Lornano. Will begin to soften in the later months of this year. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  @LornanoWines  Frontier Wine Merchants  lornano  @lornanochianticlassico

Gallo Nero

Lornano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Bandite 2013, Tuscany, Italy (230672, $19.95, WineAlign)

Le Bandite just recently went to bottle at the same time as the Annata Classico 2015 and so the window is open just a crack. Once again it is this team of vitculturalist Silvio Campatelli with oenologists Franco and Matteo Bernabei that deliver true sangiovese value to our Ontario market. The field and cellar work offer generosity above and beyond, not to mention the patience to hold back a wine such as this for at least an extra year so that it is ready upon release. That said the structure of Lornano is sneaky firm, grippy and long, so another year (plus) in bottle will add to the gift. By now we know about the exceptionality of 2013, especially at the (extra time in wood) Riserva level, here from Castellina with spice, frutta di bosco and terra selvaggia. The wood is very much in, from a 50-50 split between barriques and botti grandi that brings layering, balance and again, so much spice. Don’t be in a rush to drink this. Savour it next decade. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  lornano  @LornanoWines  @lornanochianticlassico

Mazzei Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Ser Lapo 2015, Tuscany, Italy (288530, $22.95, WineAlign)

Ser Lapo is a generous, gregarious and wealthy fruit spilling Riserva full of ripe and ropey 2015 fruit. It’s quite the chewy mouthful of sangiovese and merlot that takes no overly traditional or rustic chances. Modern, plush and international. Methinks Signore Lapo would approve. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  marchesimazzei  profilewinegroup  @MarchesiMazzei  @ProfileWineGrp  Marchesi Mazzei – Castello di Fonterutoli  Profile Wine Group

Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Famiglia Zingarelli 2015, Tuscany, Italy (930966, $23.95, WineAlign)

Takes the warmth of the vintage and turns its Famiglia Zingarelli beauty into power. Vineyards delivering higher quality fruit then ever before bring the gold out of Castellina and provide great presence and firm disposition. There is a savoury note under the liquor but all in all this is most pleasing sangiovese. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2018  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

It would not be a stretch to assume and acknowledge how the powers that be at Villa Trasqua are almost certainly and perfectly happy and proud of this effort from 2015. Fruit from Nerento and surrounding rolling Castellina in Chianti hills came out as ripe, crisp and clean as it ever has. The level of quality runs high and while the stylistic is certainly a come and get me one, the sneaky level of structure will get you in the end. A coup of an Annata here from the brothers Hulsbergen. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2018     @tenutavillatrasqua  @HULSI_II  Frontier Wine Merchants  villatrasqua

Cena @chianticlassico #ccc2018 @stazione_leopolda

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Related – Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

Cantine Bonacchi Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Deeply pressed full fruit, dark black cherry sangiovese with high level acidity and plenty of minty savour. A many and all things going on Annata from Castelnuovo Berardenga with a heat streak running in early and lingering. Might settle in a year. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2018   #cantinebonacchi  @TheCaseForWine  Cantine Bonacchi

Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (23325, $16.95, WineAlign)

The early and often persistence of pressed ripe and ready fruit sits floating at the fore of this glass. Value is acquiesced with great immediacy so look to see this on the market as soon as any from Castelnuovo Berardenga and indeed in the entire territory. No time is wasted nor fruit held back with quick to chime acidity and a dusty, slightly chalky finish. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  borgoscopetorelais  @BorgoScopeto  @rubenelmer  Borgo Scopeto  Ruben Elmer

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ, 908228, $21.80, WineAlign)

Castell’In Villa’s is a beautifully rendered and now beginning to evolve Castelnuovo Berardenga sangiovese from the vintage that increasingly generates an opinion that 2013 is indeed a highly enjoyable vintage. Sweet developed fruit and spice, a bit of smoulder and a long, elastic, stretched like fior di latte finish. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2018  Castell In Villa  Les Importations Olea inc.  marino_castellinvillarestauran

Castello Di Bossi C. Berardenga Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (994608, $22.95, WineAlign)

Once again the concept of the single-monlithic sangiovese sensation is squashed and trashed by yet another twisting turn and dart into something completely other. Bossi’s carries an aroma new and exotic, of incense and peppermint, cola and coffee bean. Its texture is quite exquisite, the flavours into a purée, spiked by laurel and its bay. As smooth on its exit as it was on the way in. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  #castellodibossi  oeno2  #CastellodiBossi  @oenophilia1  @CastellodiBossi  Connexion Oenophilia

Dievole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (283101, $23.95, WineAlign)

The Dievole Annata stands out for 2016 with the sweetest noted fruit, bright, ripe and pulsating. Wow and oh my has this got a bounce in its step. While certainly tart and intense it’s possessive of more pure joy than many, easily avoiding the trappings of over-extraction and over-pressing. Some may find this too electric but what reason could there be not to get excited by such an abundance of sangiovese energy? Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  @dievole  profilewinegroup  @Dievole  @ProfileWineGrp  dievole  Profile Wine Group

Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (730788, $36.99, WineAlign)

From the great wide Berardenga open Fèlsina’s is just the Annata to tell us how these snowflakes are all just a bit different from one another, each with a new vintage, redefined temper, starting from singular points of soil interest. The greatest purity and unbridled joy in Chianti Classico sangiovese is found in the young Annata and it is Fèlsina’s that tells a full story. The curative wisdom and variegated stratum as told by thick as thieves though stretched and elastic fruit is just amazing. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  felsina_wines  liffordgram  @felsinawines  @LiffordON  Felsina  Lifford Wine and Spirits

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Though Querciavalle holds their Annata back longer than almost any this ’13 remains or should say persists so taut and coiled reductive, though it is so close to opening up. The earth runs through, now composted and integrated with juicy fruit. There is a special liquidity vis a vis this gathering of fruit, soil and acidity though now the tannins have melted and joined the mix. It may as well be Riserva, not technically, but certainly in spirit. Concentrate on the texture and you will feel the generational pull, thread and wisdom in the Losi sangiovese. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  valerialosi  @Valerialosi  @NaturalVines  @marzia_gallo   @famiglialosi  Valeria Losi  Marzia Gallo

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Were you to Google traditional + Chianti Classico + Castelnuovo Berardenga you would likely land on a Losi Querciavalle page. Family values and the sharing forward of generational knowledge happens at this estate with the greatest of innate and intuitive possibility. In a world of climate change and extremes it becomes increasingly difficult to fashion consistency from sangiovese. The winter of 2012 was followed by the dry heat of summer oft times leading to dehydrated and concentrated fruit. And yet Losi’s strong and firm Riserva has found the beauty in this well of sangiovese liquor, first with “benevolenza” and then by “graziosità.” The fruit is sweet against the wall of acidity and tannin so with thanks to the family’s patience is now in synch together. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2018  valerialosi  @Valerialosi  @NaturalVines  @marzia_gallo   @famiglialosi  Valeria Losi  Marzia Gallo

Fattoria Di Petroio Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From Quercegrossa, carries some baggage, weighted down in reductive tendency so that structure can develop for longer than other sangiovese Annata. Dark raven-streaked fruit commits to the density and the corporeal purpose. A microbe or three of volatile acidity props and distributes tension so balance has its parts if just a hair or two in asymmetrical stride. Not the most definitive Chianti Classico for Castelnuovo Berardenga. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2018  fattoriapetroio  @diana_petroio  Fattoria di Petroio

San Felice Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (282996, $19.95, WineAlign)

Particularly standard and middle road taken sangiovese, expressive of ripe annata 2016 fruit, tart and pressed to weight. Filled in and ready for the earliest enjoyment is clearly the intent, from fruit taken full advantage and tannin kept to a minimum. Just a touch of verdant berry intertwine is noted. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  borgosanfelice  #BorgoSanFelice  Borgo San Felice

San Felice Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Grigio 2015, Tuscany, Italy (403477, $48.95, WineAlign)

Il Grigio di San Felice shows terrific red and black fruit marking the aromatic entry in a Gran Selezione of power and beauty. Very distinguished vintage with chalky tannins though not the acidity of some, it works the balance of this particular Castelnuovo Berardenga room. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2018  borgosanfelice  #BorgoSanFelice  Borgo San Felice

Tolaini Chianti Classico DOCG Vallenuova 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Vallenuova is crunchy sangiovese, closed and airtight. Dusty wild cherry nose but not much else save for a brush past a rosemary bush. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  tolainiwine  breakthrubevcanada  @TolainiWines  @BreakthruBevCAN  Tolaini Wine  Breakthru Beverage: Canada

My beloved Sommelier and me #CCC2018

Valiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (354019, $19.95, WineAlign)

From the Piccini family this Valiano Chianti Classico is give or take 90 per cent sangiovese and 10 per cent merlot, from rolling Castelnuovo Berardenga terroir, in the spot just west of the Gaiole peinsula and just below Radda. The soils are argilo, calcareous clay with 70 hectares in over 30 plots of (now organic) total production. An aromatic profile that is perfumed, not exactly floral but more an extract of eau de vivre and then a seriously polished texture and flavour. The wood is very much involved, in spicy notes up front and deep set in the back. A really solid and in its finest moments, sexy Annata. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  picciniwines  @PicciniWinesUK  PICCINI WINES

Valiano Chianti Classico DOCG Poggio Teo 2013, Tuscany, Italy (354019, $19.95, WineAlign)

Poggio Teo is a Castelnouvo Berardenga cru up on the hill and a selection of grapes are made for this separate Annata wine. A very similar profile, especially in perfume, with an essential oiliness adding to the eau di vive, pretty, pulchritudinous and concentrated. Another rich rendition, as modern and forthright as it gets, with tart and spicy acidity and easy going tannins. Chewy and longer finish, deep, dark and handsome for 2013. Much more Tuscan, territorial and parochial. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  picciniwines  @PicciniWinesUK  PICCINI WINES

Valiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 6.38 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Valiano’s is a single-vineyard Gran Selezione with 6.38 a reference to the coordinates of that vineyard, not the hour the workers wake up to prune, pluck and pick in the vineyards. An extension in hyperbole from and connected to the lineage of the Annata, but more like a 2013 than the Teo, with salumi and ropey, red citrus edging on the dark fruit. Smoky and it is the merlot always bringing the fat round curves but also spice and cake, especially when small barriques are involved. Would not refer to this as elegant in terms of Gran Selezione but the fruit carries more than a full amount of purpose. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  picciniwines  @PicciniWinesUK  PICCINI WINES

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $35.95, WineAlign)

Geggiano’s particular corner of Castelnuovo Berardenga delivers the gift of calm and collected, deeply fruity and sneaky, streaky, stony sangiovese. It gets neither more subtle nor more appreciable than these wines and in 2015 there is warmth indeed but also a cool sliver of mineral truth. This Chianti Classico does not guess at its ways and intentions, it commits to them with implicit and intuitive, life affirming strength. Great length, really great length. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  villa_di_geggiano  andreaboscu  barrelselect  @VilladiGeggiano  @BarrelSelect  @VilladiGeggiano  @barrelselectinc

Monti in Chianti

Gaiole in Chianti

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Docg Brolio Bettino 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

This second CC Brolio label carries the name of Bettino Ricasoli, inventor of the Chianti formula in 1872. The 2015 edition of the Iron Baron’s Chianti Classico is indubitably vintage driven with far softer feelings and expressions than we last saw in the grippy 2013. After tasting through a pile of such fresh, firm and intense ‘16s this first nose of ’15 is almost an apposite shock. So bloody different in fact the first thought is hematic as opposed to the ferric nature of the ’16s. The 2015 sangiovese are the blood of the decade, the lifeline, life-affirming and life giving Chianti Classico. Brolio’s Bettino is a pure and exemplary one to talk of such things. It delivers fruit and the defined nature of acidity that is a multi-purposed Annata drawn from a gathering off of multiple and variegated types of aisle in Chianti soils. Perfectly ready and in the zone. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  francescoricasoli  churchillcellars  @barone_ricasoli  @imbibersreport   Ricasoli 1141  Churchill Cellars Ltd.

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Riserva Docg Rocca Guicciarda 2015, Tuscany, Italy (943613, $24.95, WineAlign)

Not that recent vintages were not appealing for the Rocca Guicciarda Riserva but why would 2015 not be the bomb for this ready to go edition? The fruit is at its selected best, with no shortage of phenolic ripeness and flavour compounds. It’s a multitude of berries that make this drink with such early pleasure so make use of this Gaiole in Chianti sangiovese while the more curious and challenging ’13s and ‘14s take their time in getting where they need to go. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted May 2018  francescoricasoli  churchillcellars  @barone_ricasoli  @imbibersreport   Ricasoli 1141  Churchill Cellars Ltd.

Cantalici Chianti Classico DOCG Baruffo 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Here comes the sort of Chianti Classico of swagger and charming, parochial Gaiole in Chianti character. It’s tacky, meaning it zigs and zags with travels from aromas through flavours. It’s also extremely bright like being blinded by too much sun on a beach day. There is great fruit in this Barrufo 2015, perhaps a shade too deep into adornment but who can deny the utter deliciousness? Really chewy and gastronomic sangiovese at the end of the day. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  __cantalici_winery__  @wineCantalici  Cantalici  Carlo Cantalici  Angela Butini  

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

In this new era where modern parlance includes Gran Selezione this next stop on the road for Ama continues with the seventh vintage of the Château-expressionist bottling. Ama is, as it is known, like Prince or Bono, a really rich and full ’16, a brick house of sangiovese, liquid clay streaked by chalky liquidity. It’s might is mighty borne and bred, taking the season’s gifts and letting it all hang out. Quite substantial for 2016 and for Annata CC as a category. Impressive for its concentration and the balance managed considering the collected ambition. Acumen is to be lauded. Tells us that these Gaiole vineyards are some of the finest in the territory. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  castellodiama  halpernwine  @CastellodiAma  @HalpernWine  @castellodiama  @halpernwine

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG San Lorenzo 2015, Tuscany, Italy (418897, $48.95, WineAlign)

Though not technically a single-vineyard wine the fruit source depends highly on this portion of the Gaiole in Chianti estate. As a blend of all the best plots of the property from a vintage with both La Casuccia or Bellavista having been produced it is truly fortunate that nature gifted so much promising fruit so that the right stuff could find its way into San Lorenzo. It is Gran Selezione of great history and no vintage has been as generous as this ’15. It’s accessibility above and beyond the category is astounding, probably because it shares the finest and sweetest acidities plus tannins. The plural is employed because the complexities are varied and variegated. Wonderful red fruit and seamless integration. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  castellodiama  halpernwine  @CastellodiAma  @HalpernWine  @castellodiama  @halpernwine

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto Bellavista 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $242.59, WineAlign)

There was no Vigneto Bellavista produced in 2014 and while the über-specific Bellavista Vineyard Gran Selezione is polar-antithetical to San Lorenzo you can’t help but feel the tiro di famiglia and shared connection to the past. What is contrapositive is the Bellavista modern twist, I suppose, less about acidities and tannin, more about fruit and barrel. Spices, baking scents and bricks combine with black fruit for a hematic and ferric take on Gran Selezione. It’s a big wine with firm grip to be sure and it feels like we don’t yet belong in its space. At this stage we are like The Observer, with a telescopic lens into the vineyard as per the Ilya & Emilia Kabakov installation at Ama. We and Bellavista will need five years to get comfortable and to incorporate the integration of weight and charm. Drink 2022-2031. Tasted February 2018  castellodiama  halpernwine  @CastellodiAma  @HalpernWine  @castellodiama  @halpernwine

I Sodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 435123, WineAlign)

I Sodi is dusty, high-toned, bright acid covered and tart red fruit sangiovese, more house-styled than either Gaiole or vintage, or so it would seem. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2018  Agriturismo Le Trappoline – Azienda Agricola I Sodi

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico Riserva Docg Poggio A Frati 2013, Tuscany, Italy (23358, $32.95, WineAlign)

Poggio A Frati ’13 is 95 per cent sangiovese plus canaiolo, “just to keep the traditional blend, but without any true impact,” says Angelo Dalbello. The Riserva comes from schisty Alberese soil at Poggio Fratti, the hills of the friars. A 12-hectare plot that shines in 2013, a Riserva vintage through and through, in how you may think it rustic though it’s clearly more complex than the Annata in every way and ultimately spinning the Gaiole sapidity. Aged for one year in tonneaux plus an extra year in bottle. No barriques. I repeat, no barriques. The aroma dominance is wild strawberry and then it gives woods, wind and air. The spice is red citrus piqued and the tart edging like a fence around the fruit. A pure and honest, ode to all that led to this moment Riserva for Gaiole. Truly a sangiovese expression of terroir. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  roccadicastagnoli  profilewinegroup  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp  Rocca di Castagnoli  Profile Wine Group

Tomorrow I’ll be presenting @chianticlassico to trade and media in Toronto so naturally I went to Barrie and bought the last two @roccadicastagnoli Stielle left in the province ~ #gaiole

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Stielle 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (459529, $45.95, WineAlign)

From a vineyard that records indicate was planted as far back as 970, Stielle is built upon a foundation of more Galestro soil. Why? As a factor of that soil and probably because it could ripen. This ’13 was fermented by 100 per cent whole bunch, not common for sangiovese, but the high acidity, from high elevation and this soil, led to making such a decision. Not as rich and smooth (or perhaps firm and brooding) in youth as compared to let’s say Chianti Classico in Castellina or Castelnuovo Berardenga but the acidity and sapidity will deliver the velvet with the passage of time, in a way, more like Radda.  Last tasted February 2018

Le Stielle in 2013 and its just faint hint of high acidity mixed and boxed with volatility is just on the most correct side of ripe meets structured life. When Gran Selzione gains such a cherry and fine salty mineral meeting of the structured minds it’s a special thing indeed. This is a fine GS with precision and understated, refined and capable power. Really fine, even just firm enough to deliver 10-15 years of slow developed 100 per cent sangiovese expression. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2017  roccadicastagnoli  profilewinegroup  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp  Rocca di Castagnoli  Profile Wine Group

San Marcellino texture and acidity in the #roccadimontegrossi clay and Galestro of Monti in Chianti.

Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany Italy (Agent, $29.99, WineAlign)

The Chianti Classico 2016 was bottled just three months ago (in November) and is quite consistent to 2015 though at this stage not as gentle and in a way, deeper hued and fruit compressed. The structure follows the thread, always carrying the colour and depth of these Gaiole vineyards, from great thick clay and fantastic, friable Galestro. It’s a very specific grain of texture and tannin, chalky but chewy. This has just a great kick, swagger and confidence, mainly due to the exceptional fineness of acidity. It challenges, tempers and is quicker to integrate that grainy tannin so that more elegance is derived. Such a cool, sapid and structured mouthful. Fantastic Chianti Classico. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2018  #roccadimontegrossi  vinoallegrobc  devonmasciangelo  #roccadimontegrossi  @VinoAllegro @VinoAllegroBC  @RoccadiMontegrossi  Vino Allegro BC  Devon Masciangelo

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto San Marcellino 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $63.49, WineAlign)

The first vintage as a Gran Selezione was 2010, before having been labeled as Chianti Classico Vigneto San Marcellino. It was never referred to as a Riserva and so the switch to GS was a matter of celebrating vineyard and especially a pronouncement of aging (minimum 50 months barrel plus bottle). Even now six more months in bottle has altered the texture, integrated the grain and added to the cool sapidity. Great acidity from the vintage in my opinion that makes the greatest strides with the longer aging period.  Last tasted February 2018

Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi’s Gran Selezione boasts more than its share of Chianti Classico history and epochal location in its DNA. Legend dates back to 1039 for Azzi di Geremia Ricasoli and just as far back for the 1000 year-old Pieve San Marcellino. The vineyard gains more archetypal status with each turn of the calendar and the use of just a little bit of endemic pugnitello is awarded the singular varietal assist for Gaiole. With the 2013 vintage well tucked into the back pocket of this iconic Gran Selezione there is this sense of calm and refined, controlled intensity that just begs to get out, but the tannin and rigid structure have it well sealed in. This is what happens when the best fruit and a near perfect vintage come together. It’s fineness of tannin takes on great responsibility and it can do nothing but be a match to the task. Rocca di Montegrossi’s single entity Vigneto San Marcellino is sangiovese of density, intensity and power. It is assuredly one of the finest examples of the vintage. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2017  #roccadimontegrossi  vinoallegrobc  devonmasciangelo  #roccadimontegrossi  @VinoAllegro @VinoAllegroBC  @RoccadiMontegrossi  Vino Allegro BC  Devon Masciangelo

John Szabo and Luca Martini di Cigala

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico DOCG 2005, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Age is apparent on the nose of Luca Martini di Cigala’s Chianti Classico 2005, if hardly whatsoever in the comparative hues of a showing side by side with 2015. This Annata wisps with a smoulder while fruit remains fresh and alive, as if released only yesterday, not 13 years ago. Was a warm year 2005 so this is even more remarkable. A suggestion of truffle and balsamic may be there but you have to concentrate hard to notice so it’s more conceptual than a verified reality. Liquid chalk from what should have been a perfect vintage though rains at harvest diminished the hope and yet how great is this? Seems more Alberese affected than the 2015, that and the hanging tree fruit flavours of dried carob and bokser. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  #sangiustoarentennano    #sangiustoarentennano

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico Riserva Le Baròncole 2004, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Luca Martini di Cigala pours ’04 side by side with the next grossly undervalued vintage. First a re-taste of the very perfumed La Baròncole 2014, from the underestimated vintage that should not be so. With a texture that is San Giusto, if possibly also Gaiole meets a border with Castelnuovo. Then onto Chianti Classico Riserva 2004, from a late harvest, finishing the pick on the 15th or 16th of October, really late for the area. Great acidity is so persistent even if there seems to be some more complex progression as compared to the ’05 Annata, but that is the nature of Riserva, with more dried fruit and savoury-liquorice secondary notes. More spice too, both baking and tobacco and so it is a deeply hematic and plush hyperbole of the younger versions of itself. I imagine this to be in the waning years of its life and soon, perhaps two years from now will mellow and soften into the downy moments it will seek and find. In the meantime, just like its ten years forward sibling, tart never had it this good and linger it does for a decade in your mouth. Do you have to let it linger? The cranberry acidity won’t give you a choice and even if you feel used, it may just hang around there forever. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted May 2018  #sangiustoarentennano    #sangiustoarentennano

Greve in Chianti

Related – A river runs through Greve

Carpineto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (356048, $19.95, WineAlign)

Much further along the road to expression is the way I’d have to announce the immediacy from Carpineto’s quick to gratify Annata ’16. The fruit aches to be pounced upon and used as quickly as you can make this happen. And yet there is a moment of microbial grounding to keep it honest and traditional. In the end it’s a really full and gregarious expression for sangiovese with true red limestone liquidity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  carpinetowines  univinscanada  @CarpinetoWines  @UNIVINS  Carpineto Wines  @agence.UNIVINS  

Castello di Querceto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (680496, $24.95, WineAlign)

Castello di Querceto’s Greve in Chianti 2016 is perfumed by just a lovely fresh fruit nose, a mixed bowl of berries, juices yet running, plump, swelling, dusty and sanguine. Certainly on the riper end of the spectrum and with a finishing moment of bitters. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  castellodiquerceto  profilewinegroup  @CastQuerceto  @ProfileWineGrp  Castello di Querceto  Profile Wine Group

Castello di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (650754, $28.95, WineAlign)

Still reluctant at this three-plus year mark it is the challenging vintage that really speaks and tells us that patience is needed for longevity and understanding. A depth of dark, liquorice-black cherry meets Cassis gathering suggests cabernet sauvignon adds strength in fruit to savoury 2014 sangiovese dominance. Time will tell just what will come from this formidable Riserva. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  castellodiquerceto  profilewinegroup  @CastQuerceto  @ProfileWineGrp  Castello di Querceto  Profile Wine Group

Tenuta di Nozzole Chianti Classico DOCG Nozzole 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From the Greve in Chianti project of Ambrogio Folonari and son Giovanni, Nozzole’s Chianti Classico is immediately wild strawberry noted, a pretty, pretty wine, ripe and balanced. Such a persistent sangiovese with nice focus, knows what it needs and wants to be. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  folonaritenute  @FolonariTenute  Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG San Jacopo 2016, Tuscany, Italy (710194, $19.95, WineAlign)

A syrup quells and wells on the nose in Vicchiomaggio’s Greve drawn San Jacopo, like an anaesthetic offering temporary numbing before the scents of fennel and baking spices shake you clear. Here the vintage is spoken early and with weight, density and deep impression. Everything fires on quick cylinders; fruit, wood spice, smoulder and verdant savour. It’s all in and immediate. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February 2018  castellovicchiomaggio  @vicchiomaggio  @SignatureWS1  Castello Vicchiomaggio

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Agostino Petri 2015, Tuscany, Italy (993360, $29.95, WineAlign)

Agostino Peri is an expressly and explicitly written Riserva from Vicchiomaggio, dusty, high in acidity and ultimately, ostensibly wholly, traditional. Sits on a perch above Greve in Chianti lands to tell the world. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  castellovicchiomaggio  @vicchiomaggio  @SignatureWS1  Castello Vicchiomaggio

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Terre di Prenzano 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The single block Terre di Prenzano out of Greve is a particularly expressive aromatic ocean, with a tidal flow of dusty, edgy florals and fruit replete with waves of sweet acidity and candied tannin. This is a departure, welcome and exciting. Few Chianti Classico pulse with such activity and locomotion this early, especially for the vintage. So much promise avows and abounds. Really like the direction Vignamaggio is heading. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  vignamaggio  #hhdimports  @vignamaggio  @HHDImports_Wine  Vignamaggio  vignamaggio

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Gherardino 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Gherardino is Greve in Chianti old school, in a way, with dried fruit, potpourri and a wealth of fennel-liquorice savour. Spice notes are very prevalent, as is the idea that in three years or so this will turn over into balsamico, porcini and tartufo. Wise and traditional Riserva. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2018  vignamaggio  #hhdimports  @vignamaggio  @HHDImports_Wine  Vignamaggio  vignamaggio

Chianti Classico Collection 2018

Lamole

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG Filetta di Lamole 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

Lamole, though still wild west and yet underdeveloped is clearly the next important Chianti Classico sub-sub-zone terroir. With so much untapped potential it is Giovanni Manetti’s of Fontodi that speaks the earliest, clearest truth about such capabilities. Not that we want to see too quick an exploit of this unique micro-climate and geological wonder but the insatiable thirst of curiosity begs to know. What earth gets into, inside and beneath this sub-strata is dramatic and so bloody personal. It’s a thing of forest floor, rock interface, space and sky, all encompassing, with the filtered, dappled light of sangiovese all pervasive and ethereal. Great chalk and dust particles visible to the naked eye in those streaks of lightning acidity and fine tannin swirl to lightness of being. Though 2014 is a sangiovese of great brood, flavour and commercial appeal, now there is greater potential. This ’15 is perhaps the first Fontodi of Lamole that has crossed into the true reality of the territory. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  #Fontodi  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Az. Agr. Fontodi  #fontodi

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Terra di Lamole 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Lamole in Greve is the source for this high toned, stone-tined and savoury aromatic young Annata, traditional, mildly volatile in its wise rusticity and surprisingly tannic. This is the sort of pressed sangiovese you’d find over the decades, from information and technique passed down and upheld by the current generation. Continues the thread with more microbes and real live tart notes to taste. Builds and builds upon its old-school foundation. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  ifabbriclassico  @IFabbriLamole  I Fabbri

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Terra di Lamole 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Into the Lamole lair we delve from I Fabbri with 90 per cent sangiovese (grosso) plus canaiolo nero of great potential and it should also be said, probability, if not right now then soon, very soon. This terroir is different and if we are not quite sure exactly how or why then perhaps the producers are not quite sure either. The fruit is 98 per cent ripe but I can’t help but wonder how greatness could have been were the number perfect. That may be asking too much but something is amiss, even while the dusty excesses and fine acidity support of wild red fruit is there to see, sense, feel and enjoy. That is the end game after all. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  ifabbriclassico  @IFabbriLamole  I Fabbri

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG Blue Label 2015, Tuscany, Italy, (476317, $23.95, WineAlign)

From the Lamole sub-section of Greve in Chianti this is 80 per cent sangiovese plus 10 each cabernet and merlot, the latter raised in barriques. A minimum of 22 months is total, this is found to be quite the jammy Annata, surely vintage driven from out of the higher altitude diurnal temperature swings in Lamole. A wine of typicality for the territory and certainly pressed and expressed for immediate gratification. Really plum-fruit fleshy with notable wood spice, especially on the international varieties. Moves into and finishes with dark and stormy tannins in a controlled weather pattern. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  lamoledilamole  philippedandurandwines  @LamoleDiLamole  @lamolewines  @Dandurandwines  Lamole di Lamole  Vins Philippe Dandurand Wines

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG Etichetta Bianco 2015, Tuscany, Italy, (Agent, $23.95, WineAlign)

The second of two Chianti Classico Annata is the Etichetta Bianca, which unlike the Blue Label bottle spends six months in steel, followed by six in big oak casks. Once again offers the Lamole perspective with a glimpse into the limestone, schist and altitude potential of the zone. The absence of barrique aging means the (80 per cent) sangiovese stands out and works with the earth, though here in more ochre, lower hanging, warmer tones. There would seem to be a high percentage of clay from lower hill sites on this fruit because the acidity is subdued and the fruit darker in flavour, though not because of wood. It is a delicious glass of sangiovese regardless and presents yet another moment to talk about sub-sub-zone potential. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  lamoledilamole  philippedandurandwines  @LamoleDiLamole  @lamolewines  @Dandurandwines  Lamole di Lamole  Vins Philippe Dandurand

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Etichetta Grigia 2014, Tuscany, Italy, (280651, $28.95, WineAlign)

Winemaker Andrea Daldin is very proud of his work in 2014, the challenge as great as ever, but he’s sure he’s done great work. A vendemmia ultra-selezionale. Andrea came back from holiday in late August and removed all the foliage to open up the bunches to whatever sun might come and in September it did. Three passages were performed to seek out stages of phenolic ripeness and the sorting table really came in handy on this work. It’s 85 per cent sangiovese and 15 per cent canaiolo, “to bring more typicity for the area.” Here is a deep and rich, generous and extremely carefully curated (grey label) Riserva, OCD style, with no albarese, galestro or macigno stone left unturned. It’s a very pretty nose, elevation and all angles curved, holes filled and everything made whole in Riserva style. Quite ferric and serious, there is some tart astringency at the finish, a sign of vintage and youth but this too shall pass. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  lamoledilamole  philippedandurandwines  @LamoleDiLamole  @lamolewines  @Dandurandwines  Lamole di Lamole  Vins Philippe Dandurand

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vignetto di Campolungo 2014, Tuscany, Italy, (231241, $37.95, WineAlign)

The Vigneto di Campolungo 2014 spent an extra few years in bottle after élevage for what directs this Gran Selezione to market, developing its flavours, integrated into a fine chain of tannin command. This reminds more of let’s say Bibianno’s Montornello than Lamole though it does have that Lamole acidity. Very composed, very directed, very serious. Full barrel advantage, phenolic ripeness, glycerin and tannin. In the big time. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  lamoledilamole  philippedandurandwines  @LamoleDiLamole  @lamolewines  @Dandurandwines  Lamole di Lamole  Vins Philippe Dandurand

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG 1993, Tuscany, Italy, (WineryWineAlign)

In quite good standing, this ’93 has held up beautifully and was Andrea Daldin’s first vintage. The wild strawberry and balasmico are now combining in fine secondary character. The Lamole acidity is fading but hanging in while tannins are long gone. Changes to fade in dappled light tones after minutes in the glass while always remaining a brilliant claret. Still a solid salumi wine, in mimic and support. A pleasure to taste from a terrific, storied and meticulously sheltered, worked and kept Lamole terroir. Shades of stone are everywhere; from Macigno to Alberese, Albarese with Calcium Carbonate and Galestro. Returns for a little bite of toffee and sip of coffee, before riding off into the sunset Drink 2018.  Tasted February 2018  lamoledilamole  philippedandurandwines  @LamoleDiLamole  @lamolewines  @Dandurandwines  Lamole di Lamole  Vins Philippe Dandurand

Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico DOCG Lamole Nonloso 2015, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Nonloso is a new label for Jurji Fiore with his daughter from a one point eight hectare vineyard across the valley on the Lamole hill, from 25-year old terraced sangiovese (mostly) and this may just be the most elegant sangiovese you are ever likely to taste. If the comparison is even possible it might be said that this sangiovese is made in a Côtes de Nuits style, in one 500L old and one new 228L barrel. The fruit comes from altitude up at 500m, same sandy soil as Ruffoli but less Arenaria stone in Lamole. The biggest difference is the water, in Lamole you drive up through forest while in Ruffoli you climb through rock up to the moon. Perfumed like Volnay and with distinct bright acids but unmistakable as Lamole, perhaps just a hill, valley or river bend away from so many other Greve terroirs but so singular. Very special parochial piece of the territory right here for a Chianti Classico that along with Fontodi begins to tell a sub-zone within a commune story. I don’t know. Seems pretty clear to me. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2018  Podere Poggio Scalette  profilewinegroup     @ProfileWineGrp  Podere Poggio Scalette  Profile Wine Group

Montefioralle

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Perhaps this vintage is necessary to gain an understanding of Montefioralle or perhaps it was always there and a connection just needed to be found. The inhalant of elemental abstraction is remarkable and singular so let us open the discussion about the interest and in fact the necessity for Montefioralle. Just gorgeous from a fruit perspective, dusty and rising in tone with breaches considered and levels touched but never crossed. The risks are many with the rewards justified, palpable and great potential comes as a result. Check out Montefioralle. This tells you why. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  montefioralle  Castello Di Montefioralle    Montefioralle Winery

Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Montefioralle is a deeply felt sensation of sangiovese preservation bringing everything that is Montefioralle within Greve with power and grace. Such fruit wealth is remarkable for 2014, distinct from its geological birthing and powerful to the end. Oh how this celebrates a zone within a zone. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  montefioralle  Castello Di Montefioralle    Montefioralle Winery

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $30.25, WineAlign)

From the sub-zone of Montefioralle this very ready and welling fruit is willing to please, if not at this very moment then just around the corner, where spring lies in wait. Here is yet another quick and painless example of that ’15 acidity, ripe and burgeoning. This will develop its charm by late 2018 and deliver copacetic Greve in Chianti sangiovese for a good two to three year run. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  verrazzanopeople   @StaffVerrazzano  @Smallwinemakers  Castello di Verrazzano  The Small Winemakers Collection

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $43.95, WineAlign)

Calcinaia’s is firm and direct, drawn from the Greve rise above and west of the river to mark a Montefioralle concern off of its southeastern quadrant. If ever a Greve Riserva continues the stylistic and prevalent hematic ooze of its Annata predecessor this would be the one. Torbido and seminal stuff from Sebastiani Capponi. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Contessa Luisa and Monty Waldin

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Contessa Luisa 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Vigna Contessa Luisa was planted by Ferrante Capponi in 1959, dedicated to his mother Luisa Vonwiller and it is the oldest vineyard still in production at Villa Calcinaia. It’s also responsible for Sebastiano Capponi’s newest Calcinaia Gran Selezione and it is not surprisingly the most elegant of the three (along with La Fornace and Bastignano). The most poignant and concentrated liqueur but also because it comes to market a year after the other two, so it has had a chance to settle and shed its cracked outer earthy layer. Now spicy and taut still it’s got so much wonderful fruit, dark, stormy, spicy and long. It’s almost ghostly. Will live in infamy. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2018  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Viticcio Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (283580, $19.25, WineAlign)

A high-toned Monetfioralle affair in 2015 from Viticcio brings very bright red Greve in Chianti fruit and a zing of zesty acidity. This may not be as warm as some ‘15s, which in its singular way is a good thing but there is no compromise to classicism and intensity. You must appreciate the waves of rusticity and tradition but also the high acid style in the face of a vintage that wants to talk about other things. Stands out for this but also for its use of barrel, at least in this early woody stage. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  viticciowinery  majesticwinesinc  @viticciowinery  @MajesticWineInc  Viticcio Winery  Majestic Wine Cellars

JSz in the February #concadoro

Panzano

Related – The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (933317, $36.95, WineAlign)

If balance were the ultimate end to all sangiovese means then one nose into this Annata 2015 tells us most of what we need to know. When Giovanni Manetti talks of 2015’s great acidity we may not have been able to inuit or ultimately know what he meant, at least as far as the peer into the collective lens of other wines. Through Manetti’s Panzano focus we now understand. The integration, inclusion and open-armed grande abbraccio of Fontodi’s 2015 talks of fineness, precision, elegance and soft-spoken power. There is the finest of sangiovese dust and the circling of tannic wagons enveloping optimized fruit and bringing the entire family in this wine together. It’s a great vintage for Fontodi. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  #Fontodi  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Az. Agr. Fontodi  #fontodi

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico DOCG 2015 SoloSangiovese, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

It’s a statement to be sure, adding the moniker of “SoloSangiovese” to the label of a Chianti Classico. It’s not just a matter of making comment with regards to varietal purity but the way in which Il Molino di Grace skirts party lines with an explicit display of the grape variety, just a shade smaller then the territory on the bottle. We may be expected to know what comprises (or should be inside) a Chianti Classico but how many really do? So here we are, where we’ve never been before, but have always been. Same deep and intense cimmerian Molino hue, big barrel spice and pure sangiovese grace. There is a connected energy that pulses, to the rest of the portfolio, with or without merlot and found here in a cleanest of Annatas, through clarity and with focus. Solo and proud, wrapped in the varietal flag. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  ilmolinodigrace  @Ilmolinodigrace  Il Molino di Grace

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

You should know that the Chianti Classico of Il Molino di Grace are always deep, dark as night sangiovese but they begin as juice so beautifully opaque red that the transformations are always a thing of great wizardry. It’s more than the barrels, the Slavonian slumbers and the effect of wood. It’s the Galestro soil, parochial Panzano and it is, as mentioned, pure magic. This 2015 Riserva is huge, a wine to launch a thousand ships and faces. I am afraid of and mesmerized by the power. Fortunately this vintage gifts more fruit than many and so the ambition is tempered with juicy restraint and integration. This is ultimately where balance is found despite such high acidity and pitchy macchiò, buio offuscato or oscurità. We’ll see where this lands in a few years time. The plan is to wake up, nose the Galestro and go on with the day. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018  ilmolinodigrace  @Ilmolinodigrace  Il Molino di Grace

Il Palagio di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Very ripe, rich and deeply felt Annata, pressed for the here, now and yet not forever. Very rich and to be enjoyed in the present tense. Consumers can get a sense of vintage but more to the point, drink this with a steak today. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  @palagiodipanzano  palagiopanzano

Le Fonti di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (282848, $31.95, WineAlign)

Le Fonti is the life work of Vicky Schmitt-Vitali, organic, sustainable and Europe’s first Bio-Distretto di Viticultura, leading their Panzano-Greve community in the charge of “attractive territories for a sustainable world.” Her 2015 Chianti Classico was bottled in September of 2017 so it has had time to settle in. This is where sangiovese captures the warmth and relative ease of a vintage, like bottling sun, gravel, schist, limestone, sand and clay for better days ahead. Sangiovese may be young and restless but here in its unadulterated state it renders spice and extends a hand with a firm shake for mutual accord. At some point next year it will bloom with perfume and then prepare to smell the Galestro, along with the flowers, for several more after that. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  poderelefonti  thevineagency  @LeFontiPanzano  @TheVine_RobGroh  Fattoria Le Fonti – Panzano   @thevineto

Le Fonti di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (282921, $44.95, WineAlign)

From the village of Panzano set in an amphitheatre in a southern nook of Greve, this 2014 is lithe, whimsical and understated for Riserva. Cinnamon spice and roses just picked, fresh and fragrant emit an elegant perfume for sangiovese, challenged by a vintage that asked alot from these producers. It’s a bit closed down, more than the average vintage and according to Vicky Schmitt-Vitali this is to be expected. It’s also sangiovese which plays hard to get at the best of times so be prepared to aerate and act with the same light-hearted patience. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  poderelefonti  thevineagency  @LeFontiPanzano  @TheVine_RobGroh  Fattoria Le Fonti – Panzano   @thevineto

Le Fonti di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (282921, WineAlign)

Time has had an impact on the development of texture and this Panzano Riserva is now a rich, viscous and dense liqueur. It’s just amazing when you consider how it’s a child from the freeze-dried soil out of the vintage where winter saw so much wind and snow. Then came a dry heat like no other so as with all vintages there could really be no idea what might happen and like every other one, the challenge was new again. There is more than the usual spice in 2012 to augment the richness and the intensity of the fruit. Perhaps it’s atypical but at five and a half years of age this sangiovese is coming around very nice. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  poderelefonti  thevineagency  @LeFontiPanzano  @TheVine_RobGroh  Fattoria Le Fonti – Panzano   @thevineto

Panzanello Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Panzanello’s sangiovese is augmented with a small amount of merlot. Lots of pressing, bringing out oozing fruit, plenty of early acidity and dusty tannin all combining for a quick entry into the 2015 vintage. It’s all here, right here, right now, in an already fully committed Panzano CC, with drying fruit and an herbal, arid finish. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  panzanello_1427  @Panzanello  @Panzanello1427

Jurji Fiore of #PoggioScalette on the top of the #rufoli hill in #greveinchianti one of the great cru of #chianticlassico

Ruffoli

Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Alta Valle delle Greve is one of Chianti Classico’s highest vineyard sites in Greve on a perch at the top of the Ruffoli hill. Poggio Scalette’s is fermented in concrete, in part because all the sangiovese comes in together and the decision for what to use for Il Carbonaione is not made until later on. Then the Chianti Classico is separated and works further with the concrete, maintaining the highest level of fresh fruit character. Pure sangiovese from younger vineyards, this is so direct, of pure acidity that alights the fruit and delivers honest, unadulterated delight.  Last tasted February 2018

The seventh vintage for the cement-aged Annata is a firm one, especially for 2015, of quick aromatic demand, already thinking ahead, not necessarily for the here and now. Like the other sangiovese (di Lamole) from decent Greve in Chianti altitude (450m) also delivers some hillside (mountain-ish) herbs and fennel, with chicory too. To the palate comes a char on cinghiale roasting over the fire. Top quality acidity rounds out this traditional, fiery red sangiovese with grip and persistence. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2017  Podere Poggio Scalette  profilewinegroup     @ProfileWineGrp  Podere Poggio Scalette  Profile Wine Group

Chianti Classico Collection 2018

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (728816, $30.25, WineAlign)

Digging deeper, or in this case higher as fruit from this eastern section of Greve comes in part from vineyards up on the Ruffoli hill. For 2014 winemaker Manfred Ing pointed out how they used a lot less Radda fruit in the mix due to pest problems and so much of that fruit was dropped. This 2015 is a different story, of Ruffoli meets Radda for a regional Annata, a true territorial Chianti Classico. The hill’s spice and high tonality weaves into Radda’s depth and richness is the quotient, even for a ’15 but not unusual for a Querciabella. It’s a fourth in a row (100 per cent) varietal wine, a sangiovese gelée if you will and really pure. The most purity, with back bite spice but rendered and creatively displaced. Impeccable farming, meticulous sorting and precise winemaking add up to the cleanest of Chianti Classico. I’ll have my sangiovese neat, thank you very much. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2018  querciabella  grape_brands  @Querciabella  @querciabella

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

This young and impressionable Riserva has been a year in bottle and with more (to mostly) Ruffoli fruit than normal it can’t help but speak a very specific language. Ad with the Annata from the same vintage there were problems with the Radda fruit and so the near-solo journey means less rounded edges and higher tones. The best fruit came from Greve, followed by Radda and then Gaiole. What you notice from this ’14 is its depth of beautiful cherry liqueur with earth tones and musky leather. The acidity is the constant, so very Ruffoli and the tannins are surprisingly sweet. Should all come together in another year or so. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  querciabella  grape_brands  @Querciabella  @querciabella

Poggibonsi

Tenuta Cinciano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Cinciano is 100 sangiovese from chalky Poggibonsi vineyards at 250-350m of elevation. Youthfully speaking this ’16 sits en retard, reductive and only seems to want to breathe as a deep inhalant of argilo sangiovese. This CC is an even bigger than the average, broader and scope encompassing expression to taste with an impressive ferric intensity. The potential is great. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2018  fattoriacinciano  @InfoCinciano  @fattoriadicinciano

San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $23.95, WineAlign)

If you are looking for a flat-out juicy, chewy and full-flavoured example of Chianti Classico with unbridled 2015 warmth then look no further. SFC’s Poggibonsi annata delivers drinkable fantasy in sangiovese and that is all there is to that. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018 sanfabianocalcinaiasrl  gsoleil123  @SanFabiano  @GroupeSoleilTO  Società Agricola “San Fabiano Calcinaia”  Groupe Soleil Fine Wines

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (704346, $29.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico 2016 is composed of 80 per cent sangiovese, (15) canaiolo and (5) syrah, which since the 1980s has always held a spot, in fact it may have been as much as 10 two plus decades ago. Paolo de Marchi explains.”Syrah in my opinion, was really about thinking, about blending in an earlier ripening variety.” It also added colour, not for quality necessarily, but for pleasure. “If I were a consultant I don’t think I would recommend to plant it anymore.” But Paolo loves it, its bright acidity and lower pH, and loves the warmth. You can feel the liquid peppery hug from the combination of canaiolo and syrah in the constitution of this CC and now a new texture evolved from a traditional one, clearly passed on through generations. It is spoken in the clarity of this 2016, but it has taken decades to arrive here. Finessed, soft tannins and an effulgent acidity wrap fruit chewy and yet very crisp. Singular again and alone but quicker to please, at least for now. Perhaps it too will shut down in 2019. Perhaps not. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2018.

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (704346, $29.95, WineAlign)

Paolo de Marchi’s Annata is not exactly the most typical ’15 because of its unabashed sapidity, still a bit reductive out of origins in freshness incarnate, with acids burgeoning and expanding in the mouth. Liquorice and carob flavours climb on top of the lingering smell of balsam wood. Full and expansive, intense and bigger than many though a right-proper texture it most certainly delivers. “This is only one-third of the potential of the vintage,” says Demarchi about how it is showing a year and a half in, now imploding and beginning to shut down. This seems to be the trend in Paolo’s wines, fresh and vibrant just when and after being bottled, then protective of themselves before turning into something beautiful once again. This will develop into a decades long lived Chianti Classico. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted February 2018  #isoleeolena  @HalpernWine    halpernwine  Isole e Olena  @halpernwine

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

“Chianti is not a territory that gives minerality in wines. The low pH and high acidity are the factors that matter most. Here the back palate has bite, but it’s not salinity.” So says Paolo de Marchi as he introduces a series of Gran Selezione. In 2015 the difference between this GS and the Cepparello is not an enigmatic one, nor is it a mystery that de Marchi was not in favour of creating a new category. Still he foresaw and excepted the outcome, so  decided to make something special. “In time, after me, it will be a single-vineyard.” Barrel selected from the Cepparello selection, this is not a 100 per cent sangiovese but rather something still in transit, even moving. So tight and tannic, fine-grained, with a new fineness of acidity, but just missing something. Like cabernet franc it is quipped, but no, it wouldn’t have worked anyway. So what then? Time, that is all. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2018

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

When the Gran Selezione 2013 was in the conception stage there was “the search to integrate the experience of Super-Tuscan into the research of sangiovese.” The acidity is even higher in this ’13 than the same vintage Cepparello, because of 90 per cent sangiovese. Something textural is ganache oozing, connected to an espresso-noted and tobacco waft, followed by such spice. This is a moist intense expression of GS, likely needing 10 years to settle in. Long and exciting, plugged in and pulsating. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2018

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2010, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Isole E Olena Gran Selezione 2010 graces a factor in which “the blend lifts up the quality,” a noble venture or undertaking that balances the angles and trips into light. The reductive one is, as per the firm and grippy vintage, tannic and taut, wound still in the present, with the carob and the savour. The minty one, in a way, and with graphite and creosote. Very sapid, tight and intense. The most brooding of the four (’15, ’13 this and ’06). Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2018

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2006, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Gran Selezione 2006 is the very first. “It is a wine I decided to make for the family, on the 50th anniversarry of my father buying the estate,” tells Paolo de Marchi. “Before Gran Selezione it was already a wine that was in my head. A wine that is the experience of a Super Tuscan with the experience and character of Chianti Classico.” It’s 80 per cent sangiovese with syrah and cabernet franc, plus a touch of merlot. Worked, re-adjusted, working for complexity. This was the first year of GS and even though it had already been bottled, it qualified because Paolo has made a special selection of barrels for a specific wine.  It may just be the biggest of them all, a ground breaker, and it made great use of cabernet franc. Nothing if not big and bright, effulgent, massive and balanced. It’s still so fresh and alive. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted February 2018

Serious #sangiovese showing @chianticlassico Masterclass @agotoronto ~ #castellodigabbiano #castellodimonsanto #castellodialbola #carobbio #vallepicciola #querciabella #roccadicastagnoli

Radda in Chianti

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

A variegation of soils prepositioned by slopes higher than many make the sangiovese from Radda in Chianti both unique and fascinating. Borgo La Stella invokes the dramatic use of Alberese and Macigno rock, sand and stone to rise up and tell a story of purposed cool climate Chianti Classico curiosity. The ’15 is amenable sangiovese with classic high scope, tonality, soil tang and acidity. The apex at which fruit and drama connect is both exciting and new. This house and its young vines are just getting started and 2015 is the meeting point to join the journey. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  borgolastella  devonmasciangelo  #BorgoLaStella  Borgo la Stella  Devon Masciangelo

Brancaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (519173, $24.95, WineAlign)

Brancaia’s tone is dialled high in these earliest of days, bright, effusive and expressive. Tart cherry fruit prescribed and duly described exactly as this is doted on by equal and uplifting acidity. You just feel like chewing on this glass of effulgent fruit, in rumination and for an easy route through the complacency of sangiovese digestion. That acidity is notable though it too is easy to assimilate and so upon return the fruit feels the same. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  brancaia_com  noble_estates  @CasaBrancaia  @Noble_Estates  @Brancaia  @NobleEstates

Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (260802, $36.95, WineAlign)

The vintage is the succulent one for Brancaia’s Riserva, an (80 per cent) sangiovese, (20) merlot Radda in Chianti beauty that saw 16 months in a combination of barriques and tonneaux. Here we feel the point where 2013 and 2014 intercede, propagate and deliver a child that is observed to grow up so fast. While so tart, it’s primary concern is to deliver pleasure with a substantive and toothsome payoff. The wood is still a bit heavy but necessary to carry the ecumenical fruit forward three to five years. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  brancaia_com  noble_estates  @CasaBrancaia  @Noble_Estates  @Brancaia  @NobleEstates

Time travel through the generoso @volpaia back pages with Giovannella Stianti and Federica Mascheroni #coltassala #chianticlassico #1987 #1988 #1993 #1999 #castellodivolpaia

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (705335, $41.95, WineAlign)

The Riserva is now sourced from a different vineyard than the Annata, with the single vineyard now in delivery of the fruit for the Gran Selezione from 2015 moving forward. The nose here is firmly demanding, savoury, mentholated, with metal magic, creosote and graphite. Now 100 per cent sangiovese, this silky Riserva is frankly silly-stupid young and yet you just know it is a wine that has adjusted to a climate that was once something other and in fact the evolutionary adjustment in time won’t begin to happen for this ’15 until another two or three years. That will be followed by two or three more to ready the open window and offer an aromatic sense of the decomposing sandstone and lime in earth underfoot. Then two or three more for some real change to happen. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2018  castellodivolpaia  rogersandcompanywines  @volpaia  @rogcowines  @volpaia  Rogers & Company

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1987, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Chianti Classico Riserva 1987 is habituated and living life to the fullest in a state of complete and utter sound body and mind. It is sangiovese made at a time when it could it not have been known how impressive it would show 30 years later. Volpaia ’87 is from way back in the cold, pre-climate change days, the acid-washed, roaring 80s, now umami-earthy, cherry-plum fruit with some celery and a real salty-sandstone vein. Still blessed by a healthy, rhythmic pulse of acidity and finally, pure pleasure. Chalk it to bottle luck or a vintage that just had an inkling of greatness that would surely come but this is truly a special and memorable moment to taste. It needs saying with a thank you in words to Giovanella Stianti for sharing, but that will never be enough. Grazie infinite. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  castellodivolpaia  rogersandcompanywines  @volpaia  @rogcowines  @volpaia  Rogers & Company

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Coltasalla 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Welcome to the new age for Chianti Classico Gran Selezione aging, meaning this is one to go longer, deeper, well into the Radda in Chianti night. In answer to the question of category content, Coltassala was a Riserva (labeled as IGT) until the ’14 vintage (and there is no ’14 GS), always with five per cent mammolo, from the plot co-planted at the end of the 1960s. Then the vineyard was grafted in the late 70s (before Coltassala was created) in the early 80s. “Coltasalla is a question of what was in this vineyard” notes Giovannella Stianti Mascheroni. Most interesting is how this Chianti Classico carries 10 times the acidity of the Annata and the Riserva, in great tension and demand, dominating and to be honest, is quite distracting. It’s nearly an impossible proposition of structure but from a night when a 1987 Riserva showed zero signs of decline, anything is to be believed. Coltasalla is truly a body of work to represent this 500m vineyard and Volpaia with the highest nobility. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2018  castellodivolpaia  rogersandcompanywines  @volpaia  @rogcowines  @volpaia  Rogers & Company

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign)

Colle Bereto’s is a Radda in Chianti single-vineyard expression from La Vigna del Convento which lies at the foot of the former Il Convento di Radda, now Casa Chianti Classico. The Galestro soil is surely the catalyst for this 23 year-old block. There is no substitute for the acumen and the hard work that develops such a wise and mature Gran Selezione. Firm, no shortage of virility, fine acidity, finer tannin and exceptional length. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2018  colleberetowinery   @NokhrinWines  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (383604, $19.95, WineAlign)

No other sangiovese yet and perhaps won’t again brings the smell of anise like Monterinaldi’s. Though this ’15 Annata is not the single-vineyard Boscone it truly is a Radda in Chianti terroir based wine. After the fennochio love-in the flavours turn to tart cherry and chalky soil. This is real savoury sangiovese, like chewing on soil, leaves and frutta di bosco. Traditional but not necessarily rustic, this is simply a matter of the earth. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted February 2018  #monterinaldi  @monterinaldi  C & E Worldfinds  @monterinaldi  

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Vigneto Boscone 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The single-block expression from Vigneto Boscone is really quite different from the fennel uncanny purposed Monterinaldi Annata, here with sweeter scented and less savoury, brushy and bushy fruit. This is a much broader brushstroke of sangiovese, or rather a swath of fruit, rich, layered and developed. The herbal, amaro component is there but clearly secondary to the fruit. This is very composed, clearly arranged and doted upon Chianti Classico with a lot of purpose. The palate is chewy and persistent. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  #monterinaldi  @monterinaldi  C & E Worldfinds  @monterinaldi 

 

Istine Chianti Classico Docg Vigna Cavarchione 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Angela Fronti produces three single-vineyard Chianti Classico, this being the one from Vertine in Gaiole. She began vinifying her three parcels separately in 2012 but also makes a general Annata and a Riserva that combines the three. The real passion comes through in these single expressions and Cavarchione might just be the the most impressive, at least in this vintage, even if it happens to be the outlier so far from the Istine estate. Precocious wisdom born of age-old dispensation is what drives this sangiovese, just as it does in the Vigna Istine (between Radda and Castellina) and the Vigna Casanova dell’Aia (near Radda). Cavarchione shows deep wisdom, perfect impression and with an eye looking forward for a terroir reveal. It’s an intensely calm sangiovese and while this is not as immediately drinkable as the Annata ‘normale’ it is not far from warming up and bringing the heat. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  istine_raddainchianti  angela_fronti    @angelafronti  Istine  Angela Fronti

Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 878777, $25.95, WineAlign)

This next Annata from Radda in Chianti is impressive for its delivered impression of simulated Riserva quality and with a bit of reserve on the nose. Poggerino’s stands apart in this respect. There are many layers in the variegated red fruit, at times really dusty and often liquified of a chalky strength. It is this presence that says all the best fruit is right here. It will be very interesting to taste the Riserva Bugialla to compare, contrast and quite likely re-think. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  fattoriapoggerino  vins.balthazard   @vinsbalthazard  @poggerino  @VinsBalthazard

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

Now the interest in the Poggerino house and the quest for Bugialla gains momentum in a Riserva that picks up right where the Annata left off and somehow manages to raise the essence of sweet perfume and beautiful liqueur. The elevation is in a hyperbole of fineness, from fruit, by acidity and in developing notable structure. Bugialla out of Radda in Chianti is just a velvety, sumptuous, viscous and elegant Riserva. Amazing nobility, gentle touch and restrained power. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018    fattoriapoggerino  vins.balthazard   @vinsbalthazard  @poggerino  @VinsBalthazard

Vignavecchia Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Sometimes there comes along a sangiovese of seriousness and classic nature to explain some things, particularly about the commune and the ground underfoot. Vignavecchia’s is such a Radda in Chianti animal, rooted in mineral traced earth, fruit seeping in its own bled liqueur and the chains of acidity and tannin strung together with inexplicable seamlessness. The fine exquisite character of this sangiovese is a testament to honesty, purity and clarity. This house just travels from strength to strength, with no break in the accord. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  vignavecchiafattoria    @VignaVecchia

Vignavecchia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Odoardo Beccari 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Vignavecchia’s Odoardo Beccari is the obstinate one showing the first major number of reduction or at least it acts this way relative to nine other examples. Perhaps an opinion is skewed by having been in awe of recent examples or maybe its just a hunch or a feeling but this is stylistically found to be closer to Riserva and further from Gran Selezione. That is said in the most positive way. Still the soil is everything and the fruit abides. Crazy tannin here overtop serious acidity. Remains six years away, at least, from opening to charm and enjoyment. The structure is founded in deep classicism. Just remarkable sangiovese. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2018  vignavecchiafattoria    @VignaVecchia

San Casciano in Val di Pesa

Related – If you’re going to San Casciano

Mercatale Val di Pesa

Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (512384, $42.95, WineAlign)

Antinori’s is a deep and satisfying Riserva with dark fruit taken from Mercatale Val di Pesa vineyards at the estate’s Tenuta Tignanello. It’s very juicy and forthright, readier than many though the acidity is quite strong. This is heavily influenced by wood spice and there is no turning away from its spikes and charms. Quite dark and intense, no doubt due to the vineyard location between the Greve and Pesa river valleys and between the two villages of Montefiridolfi and Santa Maria a Macerata. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  marchesiantinori  halpernwine  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWine  @MarchesiAntinori  @halpernwine

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (219808, $19.10, WineAlign)

Castello di Gabbiano’s Chianti Clsssico may repeat itself and act the obvious one, but once again in 2016 it is full and ripe, filled in at every turn, deep, dark and handsome. The ability to deal in pleasure is immense from gathered quality fruit and as always this Annata finds the quickest line for us to appreciate the unwavering sense of equilibrium. Simply put it is Gabbiano and winemaker Federico Cerelli who offer a quality guarantee at the most attractive price. Leaves no reason to doubt. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  castellodigabbiano  markanthonyon  @castgabbiano  @MarkAnthonyWine  @castellogabbiano  Ivano Reali (Castello Di Gabbiano)  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Carus Vini Chianti Classico DOCG Baldéro 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Baldéro the name might be a character reference from the 1858 Firenze published “Le Poesi Originali di Ippolito Pindemonte,” enemy to Arminio. As a wine this is sangiovese and a small addition of merlot from a plot of land straddling San Casciano and Mercatale in Val di Pesa. Technically belonging to the former, the appellative personality is ingrained, first as quite reductive sangiovese, especially for 2015. Baldéro is still locked tight, shut, door closed. Mountain tea and brushy herbs, rosemary and fennel are the most notable aromas so if not altitude it is the locality of smooth hills and moderate clay that must be the key players. The fruit behind the curtain seems dark and black cherry stormy but it’s not yet at the surface. Structure is the thing, time the factor. This may turn into one exceptional Chianti Classico. “Io tuo nemico?” Not this Baldéro. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  carusvini  @carus_vini  @Carusvini

Cigliano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 189803, $19.95, WineAlign)

Cigliano’s is high-toned and potentially so lovely, with fruit that speaks as if to say “we the berries were picked at exactly the correct time, each and every one of us.” These berries have co-conspired, commingle and have coagulated into a terrific mess of multiplicity within one young and impressionable Chianti Classico through the specific geological lens of San Casciano in Val di Pesa. Great work here via the hands of Niccolò Montecchi. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  Villa del Cigliano  dbwineandspirits    @VilladelCigliano  @dbwineandspirits

La Querce Seconda Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Just a stone’s throw from Florence is where La Querce Seconda produces this 100 per cent organic sangiovese from San Casciano in Val di Pesa. There is something about the affinity between the commune and the 2015 vintage, connecting cooler sites with a beautifully warm and engaging season so that fruit moves from firm to fruity. This is of course a relative and generalized ideal but in the case of the LQS Annata it speaks clearly to the point. Talk about the passion, this is implosive, intense and structured Chianti Classico of sweet fruit meeting at chalky intercession. It’s amorous, modern and spicy. So open and ready with plenty of life ahead. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  laquerceseconda  #laquerceseconda  La Querce Seconda

La Sala Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

La Sala’s Annata 2015 is a bambino, a San Casciano in Val di Pesa sangiovese with 10 per cent merlot to speak for sites at 300m, seemingly more instructed by Galestro from out of the Argilla Rossa in 2015. It was raised in grande (45 hL) botti and has now only been in bottle for five months. It’s tart and firm, strong with doppio shots of espresso and very structured for the vintage. Tells a tale about the sort of sangiovese that comes from San Casciano. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  cantinalasala  @LaSalaVini  @toohotrightnow  La Sala  Stefano Pirondi

La Sala Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Much like the Annata the use of grande (45 hL) botti is key to structure but the Riserva also sees some time in third and fourth passage barriques, if only for a few months. This just smooths, cultures and adds some grace to some of the firmer sangiovese in not just San Casciano, but in all of Chianti Classico. Galestro makes a greater case in the Riserva so that the sapid-savoury streak will begin to come into emanation earlier but also because of the 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon picked from 45 year-old vines on Galestro soil. There is incredible purity in this CCR but also richness and presence. The perfume suggests Cassis, black cherry and black currant leaf but that youthful modernity will submit to the limestone before you can say Val di Pesa. Very polished and impressive wine. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2018  cantinalasala  @LaSalaVini  @toohotrightnow  La Sala  Stefano Pirondi

Luiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.50, WineAlign)

While 2014 showed a winemaker’s ability to survive and ultimately thrive in spite of a great challenge and 2015 proved a different sort of sangiovese mettle, 2016 is more accented and accentuated. The tobacco mid-point on a crunchy mid-palate moves away from gelée and into gravelly pronouncements. Though only in bottle a few days you can’t help but feel the power, grit and structure from this youthful 2016. It’s so very primary and needs to be heard but I’ve asked for a rain-check, looking forward to a re-visit in late ’18 or early ’19. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  luianowine ale_luiano  tre.amici.imports  @LuiLuiano  @treamiciwines  Luiano®  Alessandro Palombo  Tre Amici Wines

Luiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.50, WineAlign)

As if a-ha moment notable as a San Casciano Val di Pesa reality, it’s hard to fathom such qualitative smooth consistency and parochial existence from sangiovese. That is what might be referred to as a 2015 epiphany in the soil, hands and mind of Alessandro Palombo. The place lifts his benevolent Chianti Classico into a form almost gelée in savoury consistency, insistent with resolve to please and evolve. It’s sangiovese candy without sweetness but is a matter of just desserts. It might be compared to a fresh picked tomato at optimum ripeness and flavour, leafy, herbal and rife with acidity. San Casciano acidity. Have you ever been faced with such a thing? It’s like the sun. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  luianowine ale_luiano  tre.amici.imports  @LuiLuiano  @treamiciwines  Luiano®  Alessandro Palombo  Tre Amici Wines

Poggiopiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Poggiopiano is the work of Stefano Bartoli out of San Casciano in Val di Pesa. Here a highly likeable, sweet scenting black raspberry hug of fruit with mild acidity and even milder tannin. Drink now, early and often sangiovese while the ones with the greater 2015 acidity take their time. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  poggiopiano.galardi  @PoggiopianoFI  @FattoriadiPoggiopiano

Poggiopiano Chianti Classico DOCG Terre di Cresci 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Terre di Cresci’s more specific San Casciano in Val di Pesa terroir brings a broad waft of the same upfront dark fruit but with a more muted delivery and notable increase in acidity. Really full, savoury and satisfying Chianti Classico. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  poggiopiano.galardi  @PoggiopianoFI  @FattoriadiPoggiopiano

Principe Corsini Chianti Classico DOCG Le Corti 2015, Tuscany, Italy (400861, $29.95, WineAlign)

Duccio Corsini’s sangiovese is the amenable one in the name of Villa Le Corti 2015, rich and fully developed, chalky and chewy as only San Casciano can be, There is extraction with a purpose towards a rendering of the most modern expression leading to great appeal. The fine-grain in the structure will help to lead this down an even and timely developing path. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  principecorsini  artisanal_wine_imports  @PrincipeCorsini  @ArtWineGuru  Principe Corsini  Artisanal Wine Imports

Tavarnelle Val di Pesa

Il Poggiolino Chianti Classico DOCG Il Classico 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Il Classico some with lovely floral, spiced and released to sell character. Sometimes sangiovese just gets bright-eyed for the present Annata, here acting out ’15 with clarity and purity. Just a bit of earthy funk tempers the beauty, or doubles down on it, depending on your perspective. Nice touch from Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  @IlPoggiolino 

Stay-tuned for the amphora and half-magnum story of @FattMontecchio with Francesca Semplici and Stefano di Blasi

Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Montecchio’s new look is a curved Bordolese bottle that brings to mind a half magnum. Proprietor Riccardo Nuti’s ’15 is 90 per cent sangiovese with small additions of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and a touch of alicante. It’s soft and spicy, charming in texture and of a new sort of Annata tannin with thanks to amphora aging. The fruit is wrapped taut in a spinning wheel of acidity, round and blanketing. It does not so much rage against as circles around the machine and certainly gains our full attention. Good Chianti Classico will do that. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  fattoriamontecchio  @FattMontecchio  Fattoria Montecchio

Montecchio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The 2013 vintage just gets better and better and I am a fan of estates showing off their Riservas at this four and a half year stage. The Montecchio half magnum, stubby bottle 2013 is 90 per cent sangiovese with cabernet sauvignon and alicante that spent 26 months in Grandi Botti of 25 hL. It may be a product of Tavernelle Val di Pesa but it’s savour is pure San Donato in Poggio. It is no wonder that owner Riccardo Nuti is the first President of the just recently formed L’Associazione di Viticoltori San Donato in Poggio. There is more richness and spice than your average Annata and with a Gran Selezione on the horizon this Riserva really works the room. It’s time is soon, perhaps even now. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted February 2018  fattoriamontecchio  @FattMontecchio  Fattoria Montecchio

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

Only San Poggio in Donato delves into this kind of specific calcaire, the Colombino in lieu of most other’s Galestro. The coolest of notes are broken down and fragmented in mimic of the soil and run like a river of savoury stone through stratified fruit. There is a perception of sweetness, imagined as perfectly ripe, low-lying fruit in early summer. But the sweetness is just a dream because with such a level of mineral, not salty but sapid, it is impression that supersedes expression. The young vines are growing up before our noses and eyes, lending impeccable balance in the here and now, with appreciable development laid out ahead. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  #poderelacappella  #poderelacappella  Natascia Rossini

The view at 630m from Poggio di Guardia where Federico Cerelli and Stefano di Blasi tend their vines in #raddainchianti

Good to go!

Godello

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