Of Budgets, Bohemian Rhapsody, Intrigue and Curiosity

Saturday March 31, 2012


Search the newswires, blogosphere and the world of internet forums and you will sense, as my friend DL would say, a “guttural sadness” and general discontent. Talking here about comments voiced both in response to the Federal Budget and the latest VINTAGES release. The question as to which laid or hatched the bigger egg with Easter around the corner is oft debated and apparently, debatable. Even more current is the news video of a wasted Karaoke specialist in the back of an Alberta Police cruiser belting out Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. That this and talking dogs on YouTube draw the most interest really tells us that wine and politics remain parochial pursuits. I am actually drawn to the occasion by the March 31st group of wines. Nothing spectacular but several snookered in the curiosity and intrigue sectors.


Domaine De La Janasse Côtes Du Rhône 2009 (705228, $15.95) from a house approbate whose Châteauneuf-du-Papes are exchanged for proverbial left nads. Good vintage ad infinitum bleeds currant clabber through this replica CdP in as many ways as can be defined. Matthew Jukes calls it “an essential member of your everyday drinking armoury.” WS (89), Beppi (88), CT’s (88). Berry good IVR* stuff  88

Janasse CdR 2009


Studert-Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2007 (114777, $17.95) brings it in every way. Spätlese at $18 from a producer paid fealty going back a millennium. Are you kidding me? Just enough late harvest age in its hose to petrol up the tank for a joyride in the here and now. Stimmel (91+) notes “sweet (but balanced)…hedonistic wine for patio sipping.” VanSickle writes “balance of racy mineral-toned acidity.” The Wine Ponce says it best, “…aroma seduces with wildflower honey poured over a wet stone.” At this price six go in the cellar, one IVR* for every year through 2017.  89

Studert Prum WS Spatlese 2007


Terre Nere Brunello di Montalcino 2006(208462, $35.95) gathers CVR** speed with every passing consideration.

Terre Nere Brunello di Montalcino 2006       

“Amply positive” notes from Franco at Vinowire



Richard Jennings on Wine (88+)



Monica Larner at WE (88)



Whine Dharma (96). “Peyton Manning of Brunellos, simply one of the best, most gifted, fiery, tenacious. Manning doesn’t play football, he is football.”

http://winedharma.com/en/dharmag/january-2012/brunello-di-montalcino-2006-draft-great quarterback-and-lot-asian-dishes-everyt


Todd B. Alexander’s Italian Wine report (86) from the guy who rates nothing over 90 and scores 85 for Siro Pacenti! “This is a brunello that will clearly shine with the right substantial fare or from a 5 year stint in the cellar.”



Bruce Sanderson (92) of WS, “complex and flavorful.”




Other Wines Of Note:


Corte Rive Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (089318, $39.95) RP (93+)

Delaforce Corte Vintage Port 1997 (199695, $38.95) WS (95)


IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio

CVR* – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-Value Ratio





Good to go!

Ontario Wines Won’t Break The Federal Budget

March 29, 2012




The first true Harper majority government budget will be unveiled this afternoon while VINTAGES product consultants stock their shelves with the March 31st release. The budget will push Old Age Security benefits back to 67. That’s the bad news. The good news is the VINTAGES debut for three stellar backyard bottles. The Tawse Rosé (Echoes incarnate) and the Fielding Chardonnay are on the list at Barque. All three take leave of Canadian politics, tax season and choose to sing of a soothing Spring and Easter otherness.


Tawse Sketches of Niagara Rosé 2011 (172643, $15.95) lightens the load laid thick by the 2010 vintage characteristic of the family rutaceae and citrus paradisi. Leans and Dreams Côte d‘Azur where strawberry and candy wiz together ripe and bright.  Warm weather friend crafted by a non compromising cropper.  87 

Featherstone Black Sheep Riesling 2011 (080234, $16.95) elevates above the rim to heights scented by citrus and sea salt to dunk over gleaming minerality. All-star game style on the ball, friable, alley-oop. I’ll repeat the refrain. Less zone coverage and grow more Riesling Ontario!  88

Fielding Estate Chardonnay Unoaked 2008 (164491, $13.95) continues to exude freshness three plus years on.  Prevailing squeaky clean and cheap so ”my money flows like wine.” Still whistling Dixie and eating chicken, like Mitt Romney on the Western Swing. More Mutsu than Meyer, more alfalfa than clover.  A golden, herbal remedy.  87




Good to go!

Live Wine Chat on CANADA.COM

March 29, 2012

Join in Thursday at 2:00 pm ET as I chat online about wine. I will be joined by Ruth Dunley (PostMedia), Rod Phillips (Ottawa Citizen), James Nevison (HALFAGLASS) and Gurvinder Bhatia (Vinomania).


We’ll be talking about Easter wines and responding to questions from readers.

Good to go!

Tawse For Thought, A Niagara Summer in March

March 22, 2012










A freakish heat wave smothers Ontario with record temperatures and that does not sit well with Paul Pender. Budding vines followed by frost could spell disaster. “I’ll be looking for a new job” says Pender. Let’s hope not. His first four vintages at Tawse Winery are the stuff of local hero. The wines yet to be bottled from 2010 and 2011 will introduce Mr. Pender to the world.

Paul Pender is a pragmatist. He’s also the most passionate winemaker this side of the 49th. This deadly combination is the proviso towards ensconcing Tawse as the preeminent winery in Ontario. That and the meticulous farming of optimum ripened grapes coddled from top vineyard sites. The land, the fruit and the barrels. Mr. Pender’s Burgundy, Northern Rhône and Bordeaux Right Bank rolled into one dramatic package. He considers himself a farmer above all else and Tawse is on the road to achieving full organic and biodynamic status. Others may fill out forms that declare their outfits “sustainable” but very few practice what they preach.

I spend 90 minutes in the Tawse caves with Moray’s man, tasting through the 2010 and 2011 casks. I emerge energized, head buzzing,  like walking out of a Yorkdale movie theatre as a child in 1980 having just watched Raiders of the Lost Ark. To a batch, the reds show concentration, deep colour, balance and structure. Not a weak or merely acceptable one in the lot. No “iffs” here. Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah for the long haul. White grapes are mined with Burgundy in mind. When I look into the eyes of the Chardonnays, the cut, clarity and brilliance shine of Dresden green. Single Vineyard wines, each its own unique organism, testaments to power and finesse.








Chardonnay David’s 2011 coruscates like the glare of a Koon sculpture, lambient and luminous. Searing tang of citrus and green apple. A crime to show so well, Zen in its persistence and long finish. This vintage and this vineyard may unseat Robyn.  93-95

Chardonnay Quarry Road 2011 resides on the mineral, slate and lime side of the tracks. The calcareous quality imparted by its eponymous SV terrior makes it the antithesis of David. Creamy, 24-karat fruit.  91-93

Chardonnay Robyn’s Block 2011 will put another gold record on the wall. Combines the best of both David’s and Quarry’s world.  Smacking sapor of melons and pears. Seriously folks, life’s been good to Robyn.  92-94










Cabernet Franc Van Bers 2010 will show that 2010 is the new 1998 for Ontario reds. “Our climate is always workable for early ripening Cab Franc” says Pender, “and when the vintage is right, it’s ideal.” Layers of rich fruit here packed like sardines within a protective bubble of tannin. Should go to 2020 and beyond.  91-93

Merlot David’s 2011 fresh to barrel noses reductive and requires ferocious swirling to aerate and be counted. The wine rebounds so Bob’s your peduncle for this round mound of Merlot. For regular days when you’ve “got some money and a case of wine.” Will drink well in the boat’s cuddy and with grilled ground chuck up on deck.  87-89

Merlot David’s 2010 suffers no stenosis and instead flows as a sanguine and savoury riverine expression. Olives and the smokey whiff of yeasty bread on the grill. Not surprising considering the quality of Pender’s lees so often collected and added back to the next generation’s barrels.  89-91

Syrah Redstone 2011 airs reductive fallacy ad absurdum and so beats it out as a funky drummer.  It takes a major swirl to disambiguate the fetor from the fruit but patience is virtuous. A walled Syrah for sure, and mysterious. Opaque, pepper studded trove of treasure peeks out.  88-90

Syrah Redstone 2010 lays bare visually that rarely, if ever, have I seen this kind of colour intensity from Ontario Syrah.  Pulp and skin impart an easily identifiable dark sheen of complexion. A mess of lush fruit, meed of the maker.  Drink this and “the flutes of the chi will sound again, my friend.” Dangerous. May someday have to be weaned off this one.  91-93











Good to go!

Hunger Games and Blind Wine Tasting

Monday, March 19, 2012    


Quince Bistro, 2110 Yonge Street, Toronto 










I play the hunger game all day in anticipation of the big night. Eating little, saving myself for what the chef will throw at me. “Winning means fame and fortune. Losing means certain death.” Five courses and 10 wines later the thrill of victory is sweet. Chef Peter Tompkins takes the group on a Mediterranean wanderlust road trip with stops in no less than five European nations. Our leader generously gifts eight of the ten wines from his cellar. All in all, five continents and 10 countries are represented. A theme runs through the lot and the game is on. We speculate on the grapes, the country of origin and the producer.


  • salt and cod fritters, lemon aioli
  • herb and gruyère cheese profiteroles
  • mushroom and goat cheese arangini

Tarlant Brut Zero NV Champagne races out of the gate, unabashedly revealing all. Brioche, apple skin, lemon meringue and Pomello. She’s easy to like, maybe too easy. “My, my my. Once bitten…twice shy.”   87


Grilled Portuguese Cornbread, chicken liver pâté, pickled apples

Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot 1998 brings the house down. I think it droit de la Gironde. Who would believe a 14-year old Niagara Bordeaux blend and its milk chocolate, oak domination would not only survive but thrive? From Ontario’s long-growing, patio summer.  Best tomatoes too.  89

Viña Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Casa Real 1997 may wander off over the Chilean hill yet shows continence in a continent away, IGT way. Soft, curvy, lovely. Where tobacco, spices and rich vanilla once fused fusible fruit, there now exists a quiet calm. Good show though.  88


Crispy Braised Lamb Shoulder, du puy lentils, lamb jus, mint salsa verde

Odem Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 from the folks who bring us Alfasi out of the Golan revelates in its own way. Oz-like in constitution (Margaret River comes to mind), the vernal persistence is admirable. There is a feeling of disjointedness for some. A summons to Israeli wine guy Rogov (86) to taste again and show some new love.  88

Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (328567, $14.95) the non-ringer, South African VINTAGES essential electrifies blind. I reckon oak/fruit bomb Argentine Cab, a la Michel Rolland but wrong again. Alcohol is very present, green mint and eucalyptus dominate and dark chocolate lingers on. Like Lindsay Lohan86


Grilled New York Strip Loin, celeriac purée, potato rösti, haricots vert, assorted mushroom sauce

Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, the last of Robert’s great wines. Everything changed in 1997  and “…history, like love, is so apt to surround her heroes with an atmosphere of imaginary brightness.” Wex waxes on about “a Tel Aviv Cab” but that roadster was seen flying down Dizengoff in the last flight.  This Napicon has reached high tide and is now a pig in shit, cool, uncoiling  in the mud. AZ announces he is “hanging up his wine shingles.” We have come to the crossroads of the evening and all is good.  93

Château Léoville Barton 1999 is unequivocably the best value, never mind the vintage, in classified growth Bordeaux that some extra cash can buy. Now I’ve done it! MG notes “lead on the right”, as in the right (wrong) hand side of an Aussie road. Common to the Mondavi, a bretty, farmyardy character no longer dominates as a red hot mama. Now smokey berries and if there was thought of fruit not waiting for tannins to evolve, think again. Will rank with the best of ’99. WOTN for most.  94


Assorted Cheese Plate, toasts and chutney, piave, delice de bourgogne, 5-year aged perron cheddar

Antinori Guado al Tasso 1999 is closed down and phasing dumb. Pencil shavings fill the glass but no fruit, herbs or spices. Sink smell too, metallurgic and iodine. I’ve had the 2000 twice recently and both examples were expressive, blood thirsty Tuscan specimens. Could this ’99 be years behind its window with fruit lurking in mountain shadows? I find myself walking away in high dudgeon.  NR

Clarendon Hills Hickinbotham Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 noses funky pork and seafood, gamboge and gammon. Phantom palate of d’Agen plum, prune, fig and raisin. Pitchy black ink, an operatic meteor shower on a moonless sky. MS says “a sipping wine, with cheese, a fireplace and a boar stew.” To me, crazy Mclaren Vale Cabernet, perverse to look at, deadly to consume.  91

Alois Kracher Scheurebe TBA #4 Zwischen den Seen 2004 is dessert all on its own. Fanta orange, quince (of course), marmalade and honey. Lazer acidity by way of AM, sweet and syrupy. Could imagine pouring it on Austrian Palatschinken 92



Good to go!

Would Air Canada Serve These Wines?


March 19, 2012 


Union disputes, factory closures, protests, pilot book-offs, flight delays. Rachel Sa was grounded. Did Air Canada spoil your March break party? More importantly, if you did manage to fly on time, did they pour you stellar wines? Not likely. My March break concluded with a defrosting lake and a growing fort. Also with a little help from friends, family, food, sunshine and of course, fine wine.


Cline Zinfandel Live Oak Vineyard 2000 ($30) was the price I paid through VINTAGES Classics a decade ago. Intuition (and 15.5% alcohol) at the time suggested a lengthy cellar slumber. Good thinking. Heavens to murgatroyd! Ten years on the power of this Zin sets a land mine off in the mouth. Imbued of chewy caliginous thew, berries super concentrated still while tannin and acidity proliferate. Milk Chocolate character acts out the vineyard’s name. Fruit could last at least five more years.  91











Beni di Batasiolo Barola Vigneto Corda della Briccolina 1998 may not be a wine to blow my mind yet there remains enough ro, ro rosey to be the apple in my cherry pie. Faintly herbal, sweet as fiori d’arancio. Expertly evolved tone, sound down low and baked of a colour as if weathered bricks that fashioned the backyard oven.  91














Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 (512384, $29.95) posolutely states its case as spokesperson for modern CCR. User-friendly, ruber-rich tree fruit cup runneth over. Chroma of pigeon’s blood corundum. Molto crema; gelato, cassis and anglaise89














And the fort is really taking shape.












Good to go!

Seeing Red on a Green Day


Friday March 16, 2012




A link to the March 17, 2012 VINTAGES release:



If only it were just the reds of Spain falling mainly on these VINTAGES pages. Kudos to our very own Friendly Wine Giant David Lawrason for calling out the LCBO by noting that something is amiss in the land of the monopoly. The catalogue does indeed look like a Food and Drink issue, minus Lucy and Nancy’s journalistic integrity. Perhaps it’s the social responsibility stance that drives the heavy food component but this is the business of wine promotion and selling. So the question begs. Who’s penning this plane crash with no survivors? Poor Bob Homme must be rolling in his grave. That said, four big picks for Pattys everywhere.


Bodega del Abad Dom Bueno Crianza 2001 (244699, $14.95) the red is my 2nd Abad reco and Godello abides. My favourite Wine Ponce exclaims “…most $15 wines are not built to last, but this red still has the good stuff.” From Bierzo, a Mencia munificent spice box of aromas and flavours, savoury, herbal, smoothed out by its age. Great IVR* I say.  mjg 88










San Filippo Le Lucere Brunello di Montalcino 2006 (146175, $49.95) is the better of the two ISD Brunelli. Suckling (95) calls it “…refined and gorgeous.” Sanderson of WS (93) says “…dense and tannic, with a long spicy finish.” Kyle Phillips-IWR (2 stars) writes “…it’s an austere wine, in a traditional key, and very young.” Biggest shout out comes by way of Jonathan of the Grape Life (97), “…excellent finesse. Balanced fruit, acidity, tannins…rather moreish.” Entrenches me in that recurring dream, the one inside Enotecca La Fortezza, tasting through an endless sea of Brunelli.

Lucere Brunello 2006


St. Hallett Blackwell Shiraz 2009 (535104, $29.95) bests Barossa at this price point and on that limb for matter, anywhere in the land of Oz. From lands Ebenezer, Seppeltsfield and Greenock, receives extended elevage (20 months) in American Oak and shows off like a multi-coloured bruise. A favourite of Aussie writers from Perth to Sydney. RJ (96), JH (96), GW (94), JL (94), KG (93) and Sarah the Wine Detective, “…well-defined and bright, it’s a thoroughly modern Barossa bruiser!”

Hallet Blackwell Shiraz 2009



Other Wines Of Note:

Opus One 2008 (158063, $364.95) is what? 

Quintarelli Valpolicella Superiore 2002 (986117, $79.95) price is spot on

Concha Y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (315176, $79.95) tag has burst through the roof. I paid $42 for the 2001!




IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio





Good to go!