Vin-terra Incognita, The Wines of Celler Piñol

21st Century Wines from Inveterate Vines in Terra Alta

February 23, 2012


If Bordeaux, Napa and even Malbec have your nose wedged in the close-minded glass of life then Terra Alta is certainly not on your radar. Just a stone’s throw away, as the crow flies, a singular and estimable cradle of wine civilization promulgates in the commingling regions of Montsant and Priorat. Stretching its legs from out of the shadow of proximate antediluvian cellars, Celler Piñol aims to broaden horizons, roll over stones, reset the compass. Organically motivated, Piñol is a vintner for the New World. Here nine wines tasted at Barque Smokehouse with partner in wine Jascha Baraness, the indubitable Juanjo Galcerá Piñol and markedly too legit to quit, Spirit Tasting Challenge Winner Mark Coster of Profile Wine Group.

Juanjo Galcera Pinol

L’AVI ARRUFI 2009 ($32) the Garnacha Blanco immortalizes Piñol’s patriarch abuelo. A bold (14.5% alcohol) statement and in tune with the old vine style (Beaucastel) of the Southern Rhône. Composed in peachy, tree-fruit floral tones, the Arrufi tastes like almonds soaked in cider and mel de romani. Essence of white Mediterranean wine. Ancient. Sephardic. Biblical.  91

LUDOVICUS TERRA ALTA 2010 ($14.95) molds Cariñena, Merlot and Syrah around a 50% frame of Garnacha. Grizzled vines for this entry level beauty claw, scratch and rope-a-dope their way through arid and unforgiving limestone soils. A fighter this Ludovicus. Dusty, rocky, bearded and sharp-dressed for the neoteric world. Climbs to the top of the hill and rips off a riff.  87

RAIG DE RAÏM 2010 ($14.95) with increased Cariñena in the mix is a deeper, darker, hemic descendant and displays more bullish animal. Cabernet Sauvignon here too joins Merlot for a cigar note. Begs to be paired with fatty meat, drippings and seared on spice.  88

PORTAL 2009 ($20.95) while not defined, is essentially a Reserva, composed of 50% Garnacha, 20% Cariñena and the remainder Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah. Jascha says “feral” so I think of the King of Limbs, “…abstract, loopy, throbbing.” Foggy, hat wearing portal to the brain of a braised landscape, demanding short rib, rich broth, slow wine. “Take it easy.”  91

Portal 2009


SA NATURA 2009 ($21.95) is a blend of 50% Cariñena with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Tempranillo. The qualities imparted by geomorphic wacke, anticline crag and orogenic Keuper translate to a natural wine, down to earth. Another Piñol made in the vineyard despite the varietal bag.  90

L’AVI ARRUFI VI DE GUARDA 2007 ($39.95) spends 16 months in French oak so the power of 60% Cariñena is unleashed. Combined with 30% Garnacha and 10% Syrah, the Guarda is an architecturally driven, linear and precise specimen. Menthol, eucalyptus and chewy, resinous berries swim out from the arid, desert soils where little rain falls, the days are hot and the nights cold92

MATHER TERESINA 2006/2007 ($49.95) is indeed a blended vintage bottling, now a lost art and set to disappear. 40% Cariñena and 30% Garnacha are joined by indigenous Morenillo and the combined effect is an early Cubist smoke, ash and tar affair. Cocoa and cream too.  90

FINCA MORENILLO 2009 ($64.95) is the diamond in the rough. No other wine in the line up buzzes as much with the warmth from humidity that is maintained in Terra Alta’s Mesozoic soils. Made from 100% Morenillo, this Pinot Noir like, thick-skinned, late-maturing grape here shows as a wine of distinct clarity. Very cherry, reminiscent of Bierzo but precisely concentrated and elegant. Here the Canaletas flowing gracefully to the Fontcalda Spa93

Finca Morenillo 2009

JOSEFINA VI DOLC 2009 (500 mL, $29.95) is black cherry pie, orange peel scented, late harvest dessert anti-syrup. While the pecan pie match is certainly viable, 76% chocolate would do just fine. That and a Persian Princess.  91
Good to go!

Academy Awards Wines


Oscar Night

February 26, 2012


The Oscars. Ritual television rivaled only by the Super Bowl. The AA’s speak to a wine crowd while the SB leans Wings and Beer fest. Here some recent tastings from VINTAGES to help transition from cliché opening number through three hours of pomp and pride.



ALOIS LAGEDER BENEFIZIUM PORER PINOT GRIGIO 2008 (231274, $16.75) dumbs down in a most descendant,  positive way and explains why one wine is an open book and another a deep well. PG so often a Limp Biscuit, insipid, pale, lifeless. This more of an every day Sexsmith crooning Costello, writing the book. From Alto Adige and punched up, acting more like Gris, or even Kabinett from a closer neighbour across the Alps. Watercolour of pomade and propellant. Wheat grassy, honey nut, marzipan cheery. Some evolution on it, as if almost oxidized Chardonnay but fresh still. On the card at Barque  88


TOMASSI RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2009 (9014304, $19.95) is Tony Calabria’s tipple of choice for Oscar night. Sibilated sweet, reductive treacle and red licorice Lola in a bottle. Kinky, tangy and tasty like cherry cola, “C.O.L.A. Cola.” Will flatter the best available Pizza on Award’s night, like the one at Mama’s at Yorkdale, circa 1978. “This is this.”  87


NOTTOLA VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2006 (184960, $15.95) seeps searing Sangiovese, Earl Grey Tea at the seams so drink up. A whiff of Brett huffs and puffs but the artist‘s house is all Siena brick and no straw. A sophisticated palate tears the roof of the sucker so this VNM Gives Up The Funk. Calcium Carbonate, cherry, licorice and umbrella pine dominate the wafts from this actualized, mellow member of the noble Tuscan wine parliament89





Good to go!

Family Day, Snow Forts and Sangiovese

It appears frozen but the lake likewise tempts as a precarious proposition. Look out and note just one (who is that guy?) ice hut, a solitary walking man and (thankfully) no snowmobiles.  Chewing repeatedly on the cud of weary winter thoughts has become this coming vintage’s obsession. Yet for one glorious weekend a foot of snow falls, the temperature hovers around a degree of perfection and the sun cozily kisses rosy-cheeked faces.  The family fortifies the wood garrison with brandy spirits. Pardon me, that was the Port. The fort is buttressed with more fallen branches. Best of all, packing snow is available so we fashion a brick house. “Mighty mighty, just lettin’ it all hang out.”

CASTELLARE DI CASTELLINA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2006 (508507, $26.95) was released through VINTAGES back on June 12, 2010. A CC Riserva that resides in my wheelhouse and rings my bottiglia bell. This unassuming yet infamous winery first entered my Sangiovese psyche when I tasted the ’90 Riservas (including the wonderful SV Il Poggiale) with the proprietors’ daughter in their tasting room back in the summer of ’95. The price here is perfect; it’s over $30 US in Europe and very little is shipped to the States. Now fully resolved, suspended in mellow sanguis Jovis animation, plums floating in a cloud of vanilla hinted cream foam. The afternoon sun lighting up the face of an exhausted and content child laying down in the snow after a day of  igloo construction.  90

BODEGAS ALEJANDRO FERNANDEZ TINTO PESQUERA CRIANZA 2007 (341461, $27.95) sold through at VINTAGES beginning on November 13, 2010. Fernandez does Tempranillo in the Ribera del Duero like no one else. While Parker’s Pesquera moniker from 1985 “the Petrus of Spain” may have been hyperbole, the lively and silky quality of this campesino Crianza never disappoints. My vertical goes back to 2001 and I find myself pining for a Pesquera on every visit to the cellar. Baking spices are a common aroma denominator and like Ridge‘s noticeable Draper “perfume” there is always a distinct Pesquera “bouquet.”  The wine is now showing Crimson and Clover, “over and over.” It is beginning to change colour, like maples in October. Also sugaring, as after a few hours in the kettle in March.   91

PETRA ZINGARI TOSCANA IGT 2008 (224228, $13.95) from the VINTAGES August 6, 2011 release deals value in quarto from varietals Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot. An unusual blend from the Maremma coast for sure but throw me down in the snow if it isn’t unmistakably Tuscan. Iron, leather, pure snappy, fennel fruit and tannic tang are all there. Primary yes, but what more can you ask from $14? Held up 24 hours later for a second go round.  88



Good to go!


VINTAGES February 18th Release, Wines Tasted

13th STREET OLD VINES RIESLING 2010 (272617, $23.95) carries on in the tradition of the house style. Eerily similar to the Palette, reeking of Viognier and Gewurztraminer. It’s round, easy to like, if negligent of grip.  85

DOMANE WACHAU TERRASSEN FEDERSPIEL GRÜNER VELTLINER 2010 (31534, $17.95) shows a playful, youthful exuberance. Simple broth here, properly seasoned and will work well as a base when combined with more mosaic ingredients. Adds touches of water spinach, mossy root vegetable and a faint hint of sweet pepper.  87

TOWNSHIP 7 SYRAH 2007 (263665, $24.95) gives off a stickum smell so much so VA comes to mind. Hard and brutish, the township ungroomed, full of moody character, barely penetrable. Hold a feather over the glass to see if it’s alive. Hard to assess.  85

CLOS DU VAL ZINFANDEL 2009 (590216, $23.95) though muted, noses mezzogiorno Primitivo so I question its origin. Primitive for Napa Valley Zinfandel, the CdV is silver-tongued and toothsome.  86

KENDALL-JACKSON VINTNER’S RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 (331603, $22.95) simplifies Sonoma CS. Compartmentalized by its oak; cocoa dust, black cherry and empletre olive. Cherry pie recipe for plain sailing consumption.  85 

CHAMPY SIGNATURE PINOT NOIR BOURGOGNE 2009 (1149, $20.95) is palatable if unrecognizable as French Pinot. Nothing wrong with it aside from its ambiguity. Sweet, tart, savoury, floral and smokey but could easily be Niagara, Oregon or NZ.  86

DONNAFUGATA TANCREDI CONTESSA ENTELLINA 2007 (990424, $25.95) is housed by a hard to crack tough shell. Puckers the mouth with a caramelized, ozbek orange Sicilian sun-kiss. Scented by eucalyptus, wild strawberry and corbezzolo87

CASTELGIOCONDO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2006 (35295, 375 mL, $26.95) is made impassable by a mountain of oak but breaking off bits of chocolate will open it up to the world. Mouthfilling for sure and Paulliac-like with cedar, cigar box and coffee. Potentially great.  90

ALLEGRINI PALAZZO DELLA TORRE 2008 (672931, $24.95) the ‘Customer Favourite’ and WS (90 and #60, Top 100, 2011) is indeed a gritty performer, raging bull, Chianina nero. Flavours of vanilla, root beer, chocolate syrup, whipped cream and Maraschino cherry. “Drink your big black cow and get out of here.” Points for staying power. Will drink well in five to seven.  89

MASI BROLO DI CAMPOFIORIN 2007 (976092, $24.95) also a ‘Customer Favourite’ and another Tybalt, dark lord, villainous. Rich, concentrated, black almandine, bruising yet freshly acidic.  88

BODEGAS LAN CRIANZA 2007 (166538, $15.95) noses low tones of game, bitter herbs and dried roses but wears it well. Colli Senesi comes to mind. Traditional Rioja here, pueblo issue, arid, yet pretty. “A little old fashioned but that’s all right.86


Good to go!

VINTAGES February 18th Release, Thomas Bachelder

BACHELDER NIAGARA CHARDONNAY 2009 (271841, $31.95) goes it alone, leaving LCJ in the dust. Bachelder the Chardcentric man of triple terrior is singularly obsessed and he’s aiming for market snare. This tight knit effort is frenetic like a Muppets Buddy Rich vs. Animal duel.  mjg 89

BACHELDER OREGON CHARDONNAY 2009 (273334, $36.95) is chock full of nuts, spice and ghee on Chapati-lized talc. A capacious bonny whale over an ocean of Willamette Valley Chards.  mjg 88 

BACHELDER BOURGOGNE CHARDONNAY 2009 (272005, $34.95) is an admirable if not exquisite first Burgundian effort. A generation away from making a statement, this is well-defined tree fruit, Uchizy-like, wannabe Bret Brothers  juice, still on the wishful side of greatness.  mjg 87




Good to go!

In Dominus We Invest

From Saturday’s February 18th, 2012 VINTAGES release, the great Napicon, conspicuous with a Parker (99) to boast its already inflated position. I tasted it and it truly is da bomb. Is it worth the asking price? That depends on what question you are actually asking.

DOMINUS 2008 (212381, $145.95) solicits riposte for parry, to buy or not to buy. The omnipotently voluptuous one resides in a tramontane locale, beyond reach and also the pale. A shocking parade of profound, hyper-purple personality. Even if it suffers “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune“, a lucky man this Dominus, “all dressed in satin,” “nor woman neither.” Colour field shockingly crimson and amarinthine, textured with rich and layered brush stroke, as if Red on Maroon. A Lama, “the flowing robes, the grace, bald…striking.” To me this ’08 leans more Ornellaia than Pétrus.   mjg 97

Dominus 2008


Good to go!

Judgement at Barberian’s, Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Now to share with you one taster’s fascination of experience,  his infectious enthusiasm and his awe in the presence of greatness.


by featured writer Jascha Baraness

Last week, I was fortunate enough to get invited to an epic BYOW Burgundy dinner in the wine cellar at Barberian’s Steakhouse. First we sipped Champagne, paired with oysters and shrimp so big they would make lobsters blush. Everyone mingled until the bubbles had dissipated.  The host then led the way further down into the main cellar, set with a long table for the party. Here we were all able to look at what our dining partners had chosen to bring.  This two tiered room is a glorious cathedral of wine, with every last square inch of wall space adorned with cubbies filled to the brim with the world’s greatest titles.  If you’ve never seen it, it’s definitely worth the visit on your next trip to the Toronto institution.
The wines came out in flights each with great contrast of styles and age.
Whites came first and through all the flights the highlight was the ’96 1er cru Butteaux from the master of Chablis, Francois Raveneau.  He makes wines that are so focused you feel like you’re walking on a tightrope negotiating this searing acidity on one side, and pure, concentrated Chardonnay tree fruit and citrus on the other – phenomenal.  Comte Lafon’s ’06 Meursault Clos de la Barre shone, showing restrained power backed by just the right amount of oak.  Also to be noted was the Tawse-Marchand ’09 Corton showing wisdom beyond it’s youth – will be a gem a few years down the road.
There were too many reds to recount, but as always in Burgundy the cream rises to the top.  In order of consumption; a ’95 Volnay Taillpieds from Marquis D’Angerville still youthful.  A ’90 Chateau de La Tour Clos de Vougeot still caressing through flexed muscles.  The ’89 DRC Romanee St. Vivant with the ethereal quality that the legendary house is famous for. Two Ruchottes Chambertin from Leroy and Rousseau, the ’85 and ’05 respectively, giving insight into a glorious vineyard a generation apart.  A close friend of mine and I measure wine by the ‘magic’ content in bottles from the Cote D’or which on this particular evening earned it’s name.
Our hosts were kind enough to provide us with a magnum of Hermitage from Chave to wash it all down with as well as an ’83 d’Yquem with cheese that made me close my eyes hope that the moment would never end. It was an evening of palette pampering that I won’t soon forget.   JB
Wines in each flight are listed in order of favourites.

Flight #1

  1. Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rosé  NV
  2. Charlie Burger Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Classé Champagne NV

Flight #2

  1. François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux 1996
  2. Domaine Servin Les Clos, Chablis Grand Cru 2002
  3. Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2005
  4. Vincent Girardin Bâtard-Montrachet 1999 Grand Cru (oxidized)

Flight #3

  1. Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre 2006
  2. Domaine Matrot Meursault-Blagny 1er Cru 2007
  3. Domaine Roulot Meursault “Les Luchets” 2002
  4. Domaine Latour-Giraud Les Genevrieres, Meursault Premier Cru 2007

Flight #4

  1. Marc Colin et Fils Corton-Charlemagne 2005
  2. Marchand-Tawse Corton Grand Gru 2009
  3. Domaine Dublere Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2007

Flight #5

  1. Domaine Marquis d’Angerville Taille Pieds, Volnay Premier Cru 1995
  2. Alain Hudelot-Noellat Chambolle-Musigny 2002

Flight #6

  1. Château de la Tour Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 1990
  2. Louis Jadot Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 2006
  3. Mommessin Clos de Tart Grand Cru Monopole 2001

Flight #7

  1. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée Saint-Vivant Grand Cru 1989
  2. Domaine George Roumier Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru 2000
  3. Merry Edwards Pinot Noir ’30’ Russian River Valley 2003
  4. Domaine Rene Engel Grands-Echezeaux Grand Cru 1999 (corked)

Flight #8

  1. Domaine Arlaud Aux Combottes, Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru 1999
  2. Remoissenet Père et Fils, Gevrey-Chambertin Cazetiers 1er Cru 2007

Flight #9

  1. Domaine Leroy Ruchottes-Chambertin Grand Cru 1985
  2. Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Ruchottes-Chambertin Clos des Ruchottes Grand Cru 2005
  3. Domaine Ponsot Charmes-Chambertin Cuvee des Merles Grand Cru 1996
  4. Champy Hospices de Beaune Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru 2007
  5. Faiveley Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru 1996

Flight #10

  1. Domaine Henri Boillot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Mouchère Premier Cru 2007
  2. Peter Michael Chardonnay Point Rouge 2008


















Flight #11

  1. Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Rouge (Magnum) 2000

Flight #12

  1. Château d’Yquem 1983




Good to go!

Canadian Pond Hockey, Beyond Beer

Curious to know what wine to drink with Pond Hockey? On Saturday night of the big tourney we had a pot luck dinner and opened these wines…
KUNDE ZINFANDEL 2007 (965921, $16.95). Like waiting for a loved one, gazing hopefully at the overhead screen, patiently anticipating this VINTAGES arrival. Barque BBQ price and personality. Bang the drum slowly while the fat renders and enter Zin city. Jettison of bramble, berry and brawn yet no cloying trail of exhaust.   mjg 89
X WINERY NAPA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 ($29.95) protrudes as a big nose of capsicum and perfumed poppies with a ton of dark fruit. Grainy tannins will require some aeration. Sure value in mid-round Napa draft choices. I’ll buy tickets to the first few seasons and drink up before free agency sets in.  Available through  mjg 90







For seven years I have been playing in the Taylor Cup Pond Hockey Tournament to raise money for Cancer research at Princess Margaret Hospital.  We skate on the frozen ice of Sparrow Lake at Bayview Wildwood Resort.  The weekend was everything we hoped it would be and more. Every game was played on ice and no injuries to report. Shout out to our heroes year after year, hosts Lisa, Brian, Brenda and all the volunteers.
Over $120,000 was raised to support cancer at PMHF. This brings our seven year total to $807,000. My team, VanHooterman raised the second most amount of funds, $13,775. Kudos to my teammates as our seven-year total has now exceeded more than $80,000.
We skated to a 2-2 record, not bad for a bunch of old guys and we kept our string alive. No Sunday games, except for the parents and kids shinny, another Taylor Cup tradition.  

Cooper and Arlo, Taylor Cup 2012
Here is a link to the Taylor Cup page:
Good to go!

VINTAGES, Wines and Valentines

One sparkling, one white and one red because “I ain’t seen my baby since the night before last.” All three are VINTAGES releases, readily available and shot through the heart.

The Sparkling

LOUIS BOUILLOT PERLE D’IVOIRE BRUT BLANC DE BLANCS (48801, $18.95) is Crémant de Bourgogne as understudy but it rolls out all the necessary attributes (yeast, toast, brioche) of quality méthode champenoise for a driblet of damage.  Discussing the two side by side is admittedly like comparing apples to oranges yet this Blanc de Blancs sniffs les deux. It should be noted that Paul and Stevie both appeared at the Grammy’s last night (though not together). The Perle D’ivoire goes together with strawberries “in perfect harmony.”   mjg 90

Find it at VINTAGES








The White

ROSEWOOD NATALIE’S SÜSSRESERVE RIESLING 2009 (258806, $14.95) is down $3 from the ’08, magnetic and resonant of a winemaker’s passion. Crafted with the Deutsches technique of adding reserved, unfermented Riesling juice (must) back before bottling. Candy-coated (technically off-dry), bushy-tailed, brimming with many scents citrus, backed up by a grove of apples and peaches. Pour this and you just might fish your wishmjg 88

Find it at VINTAGES








The Red

SISTER’S RUN SHIRAZ 2009 (222018, $15.95) screams value from big, bruising Barossa. A family run, higher altitude SV (Cavalry Hill) and a subsidiary of the Dandelion commonwealth. Coddled like a quail’s egg by Canadian critics, including Stimmel (90) who notes “…smoky charcoal, mint, cedar and mocha aromas are suffusive.” Grape Guy MP’s (****+) rating eschews restraint and he gushes “big fruit, big flavour, big fun.” Pop and Pour out of Alberta (where the Sister is $20) notes “allspice, dried meat and gingerbread.” NA in the US but in the UK WOW says this “rich and powerful wine wears its 14% alcohol on its sleeve.” Twisted maybe, but “what do you want to do with your life? I wanna rock!”  mjg 88

Find it at VINTAGES










Good to go!

A Selection of Halpern’s Rhône Portfolio

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

One Restaurant at the Hazleton Hotel, 134 Yorkville Avenue

Domaine Du Pegau and Selection Laurance Féraud

Châteauneuf-du-Pape ‘Cuvée Laurence’ 2006 ($135) “is approachable” says Laurence because she does the ageing here for us. Somehow I still foresee an extended bivouac of hibernation. Though emerging due to four years elévage (double the reservée), this is Grenache running on a treadmill of adrenaline, a bear post gym workout, sweat glands pumping out the musk.  That Pegau perfume, unmistakable, omnipresent. Consistent with the ’05.  94

Pegau CL 2006

Châteauneuf-du-Pape ‘Cuvée Réservée’ 2009 ($85) sees higher co2 treatment to counterbalance the heat of the vintage. This is “necessary for ageing,” admits Laurence. Here a return to the Pegau of old, perhaps as far back as 1990 but for sure 1998. The perfume can’t be missed, as are notes of phrygana sprouting up through the crevices of boulders. A very traditional CdP, smokey, herbal and spiced on a berry bed of rubies.  93

Cotes du Rhône 2010 ($14) comprises grapes selected by Féraud and succeeds in ’10 because of the high percentage (80%) of Syrah. A purple slew of black cherry fruit mixed with bocage and earth. Well-made despite its negociant pedigree. The purchase of 38 hectares should result in the production of 20,000-25,000 cases of CdR under the auspices of the Pegau label for 2011.  85

Lot 2009 Selectionne Laurence Féraud Plan Pegau ($16) is non-vintage self-promotional branding, once again well-proportioned, if unexciting. It’s really de-classified, quaff material for undefined table wine. I’d drink it all year round at $5 bucks a shot.  84

Domaine de Cristia

Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2009 ($43) displays less funk and more finesse than most. “Oak is used not to oak,” says winemaker Baptiste Grangeon, “it is used to make the wines open.” A glass of strawberry jam in the morning. High in Grenache because “Syrah was too fat in 2009” adds Grangeon, this is benevolent, ‘resto ready’, lush stuff. Very underrated.  91

Châteauneuf-du-Pape ‘Renaissance’ 2009  ($85) is made from 100-year old vines in sandy soils and aged in 100% new oak. Grenache (60%) and high in Mourvedre (40%) because the latter “worked so well in 2009” says the man. Found to be tight, biting and beastly, but shows signs of a meaty future with thyme on its side.   92

Cristia CdP 'Renaissance' 2009

Cotes du Rhône ‘Les Garrigues Vielles Vignes’ 2010 ($20) personifies old Grenache, as the name would suggest. High toned, ethereal, subaqueous, stygian and complex.  90

Grenache Vielles Vignes 2010 ($17) is an excellent Vin De P’ays, full of red cherries, strawberries and petiole. A well-orchestrated one-grape symphony. 88

Paul Jaboulet Aine

Châteauneuf-du-Pape ‘Les Cedres’ 2007 ($52) shines purple and blue like a Van Gogh starry night over the Rhône. The colour of heuchera growing out of tanzanite, the ‘cedars’ offers the sensation of chewing on a wooden bat smothered in pine tar and sugary plum pudding. Thumbs want to go two up but the bitumin is in need of a snooze. 88

Crozes-Hermitage ‘Les Jalets’ Blanc 2010 ($29) faces antipodal to a promise of a shaped stone. Ore is subdued in favour of fun, cheery, soft fruit in a flocculent, alabaster frame. Nectarine blossom and fresh shucked peaches and cream corn give way to the finishing purity of Marsanne. 89

Crozes-Hermitage ‘Domaine de Thalabert’ 2007 ($49) with its caper and black pepper infused black cherry cordial cries kush with its powerful, purple crush. 100% Syrah and nothing but Syrah. Defines the appellation. 90

Jaboulet Thalabert CH 2007
Hermitage ‘La Petite Chapelle’ 2007 ($109) hails from six granite hillside vineyards known as ‘Hermitage Hill’ and the ‘Sunshine Slope.’ “Now somewhere in the black mountain hills” there lived a pretty baby composed of 100% Syrah. This little raccoon is warm, fuzzy and ready. Too soft for long life. 89
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Grand Vin 2010 ($38) is gentle and unpretentious. Higher on botany, quieter in depth of power fruit, but still early in its evolution. A sound composition if quiet on the back beat. 88

Luberon Vin Gourmand 2010 ($13) is the sweetest thing, “blue-eyed boy meets brown eyed-girl.” You two can enjoy life as a bowl of cherries, fresh, light and lithe. 86

St. Joseph Vin Rare ($32) mismatches expressions, sits cumbersome, heavy and noses disjointedly. Dendritic forget-mineral-me-nots burst in vacillating waves and the concentration wavers erratically. 86

Vacqueyras 2009 ($25.95) is restricted, opening with benign notes, sleeping hollowly in mid stride and closing tight in the end. Pithy Kirsch wants to appear but only time will let it act. 87


Vignobles Michel Gassier and Les Halos de Jupiter

Halos de Jupiter Cotes du Rhone 2010 ($17.95) is no orphan of the storm. It strides in angelic and sweet talking. Just plain smooth, cream filled and easy to drink. This CdR gives up copious Grenache from a velvet glove, ready to perform miracles88

Halos Jupiter CdR 2010

Halos de Jupiter ‘Phillipe Cambie’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2009 ($67) may currently be more beast than beauty but the concentrated levels of cassis and raspberry cuddle and spoon. Six months in bottle will soften the edges and it too will be a woo monster. Shares a La Crau locale with Vieux-Telegraphe.  89

Halos de Jupiter ‘Phillipe Cambie’ Gigondas 2009 ($34) battles harder to win adoration with its sharp lines and deep cutting acidity. Cooling menthol and eucalyptus strays from its homeland to distant heights and locales. There is a permanent drip and dampness here and an odour of mossy rocks. Unconventional.  87

Halos de Jupiter ‘Phillipe Cambie’ Vacqueyras 2009 ($30) would champion this flight if only it were priced as a Vacqueyras. The first Halo to show garrigue and spice, it also flaunts ethereal hydrogen, helium, and methane gasses.  A wine of luxury living beyond its means.  88

Michel Gassier ‘Lou Coucardie’ Costieres de Nimes 2007 ($34) speaks volumes in alcohol. Here Kirsch and crunchy raspberries are on steroids. Chewing off both arms may be necessary to get away from the Couc’s bed.  89

Michel Gassier ‘Notre Pais’ Costieres de Nimes 2009 ($19) travels a spice route from Asia Minor to Indonesia. Notes of peppermint tea and Kretek cigarettes are joined by aromatic bitters and dark, nutty ale.  87





Good to go!