Top ten Labour Day long weekend wines

Dry-Rub Ribs. Photo Courtesy of Jill Chen at and Barque Smokehouse

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Long weekends have a built-in preference for the obvious. Get into the water, fire up the BBQ, indulge the palate, imbibe of good drink. Relax, chill, take advantage of the last free stretch before the race begins again. When shopping these next few days, here is your list of weekend wines.

The grape: Pinot Blanc

The history: Consummate Alsatian vin de table varietal

The lowdown: Peaceful, easy, loving and charitable white wine, just like the Knights of Malta order, represented on the label

The food match: Grilled Turkey Breast rubbed with sage, thyme and olive oil

André Blanck et Ses Fils Rosenburg Pinot Blanc 2011 (626606, $13.95) is your weekend summer refresher, your sundowner, your all-purpose white. Oily, mineral-driven, long, acidity at its PB best, full finish. For appetizers, salads and mains. Versatility be thy name.  88

The grape: Malbec

The history: Always and forever Argentina’s red darling

The lowdown: A three vineyard mix brings complexity to an entry level wine

The food match: Sirloin Shish Kebabs in red wine marinade

Monte Quieto Quieto 3 Malbec 2009 (275701, $14.95) is black and blue, slightly reductive and yet pretty for Mendoza. From three vineyard sources, Vista Flores, Ugarteche and Agrelo. Spice rub, orange zest and lit, wooden-scented stick. 87

The grape: Chenin Blanc

The history: Loire white horse, here sparkling and quite dry

The lowdown: Made in the traditional Champagne method at a fraction of the cost

The food match:  Steamed Mussels with fennel, sparkling Chenin Blanc and tomato concassée

Domaine De Vaugondy Brut Vouvray (154567, $16.95) is brimming with orchard scents, of fruit, leaves and earth. A baking pear tarte tatine, with a crumble of chèvre over top. The pears replay to taste, verging into crème caramel. Top example at the price.  88

The grapes: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara

The history: Made with partially dried grape skins that have been left over from fermentation of Amarone or recioto

The lowdown: The best version I’ve tasted in 2012

The food match: Pasta Bolognese

Silvano Piacentini Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2009 (289637, $16.95) combines semi-sweet chocolate with, of all things, ripe peaches. Very pretty, floral, sweet, candied Valpo with biting acidity and even some austerity. Best in a while. Needs a two year wait or a two hour decant.  89

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: H of P has been working this Burgundian grape in so many styles, from so many vineyards

The lowdown: From another up and coming Niagara appellation, the Short Hills Bench

The food match: Grilled Halibut with olive oil, garlic, fresh thyme and lemon emulsion drizzle

Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay 2010 (268342, $19.95) is the best one yet. Some A16 but in a breezy, over the falls, misty wash. Like Riesling in a way, especially considering the Bench minerality. Sweet, creamy palate. Good stuff.  88

The grape: Pinot Gris

The lowdown: Alsace comes to New Zealand in an off-dry suit

The lowdown: Continues a welcoming trend for PG in Marlborough on the South Island

The food match: Grilled Rainbow Trout with mild chile-lime dusting

Momo Pinot Gris 2011 (163535, $19.95) is a freshly opened can of spiced nuts. Like the unavoidable Loire itself, a river of Kiwi off-dry sensibility meets an Aussie Semillon, lemon and paraffin quality. A unique white for food.  88

The grape: Malbec

The history: Argentina’s red horse in fine form

The lowdown: Mendoza at its finest under $20

The food match: Rotisserie Grill Standing Beef Rib Roast

Vistalba Fabre Montmayou Gran Reserva Malbec 2009 (279802, $19.95) shows no shortage of oak, extraction and modern ego. The most purple of Malbec and at 15% abv is remarkably not heavy or liqourfied. Very black cherry in flavour, with whiffs of spice and smoke. Gorgeous Napa-like texture and voluminous velocity.  90

The Semi-Splurge

The grape: Zinfandel

The history: Where once it played last fiddle to virtually all other California varietals, it’s planting and notoriety are speedily increasing

The lowdown: A Shelton Zin from a newer AVA so priced to sell

The food match: Dry-Rub (with extra herbs) Baby Back Ribs glazed with Ancho Chile BBQ Sauce

Carol Shelton Monga Zin Old Vine Zinfandel 2008 (282525, $26.95) of a single (Lopez)  vineyard, “an only pawn in the game of life.” is intensely herbal of the wise-leaved kind. The Cucamonga Valley brings more blazing brush floor, saddle leather and less bramble to Zinfandel. The extraction is of big body and soft heart. Have a cigar. “They’re gonna love you.” 90

Other wines of note:

Château Cesseras Rouge 2008 (590570, $19.95) is a Minervois from the Midi that I return to in every vintage.  A poster child for southern French pastis and sun-kissed abaisser attitude. Chocolate, fruit and tar are all in balanced clarity. Sweet, sweet, Syrah.  89

Riserva Il Falcone 2007 (177295, $21.95) by one of Umbria’s preeminent producers, Castel del Monte is certainly a crowd pleaser. Lush and rich styling, from the region’s own Uva de Troia varietal. Ripe, black olives in every sip. Taut and plummy, unctuous and finishing with a pepper kick.  89

Good to go!

Godel and Gödel: Wine and science

Grilled Cheese, Bacon, Heirloom Tomato and Feta

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The Austrian-born Kurt Gödel arguably came out with the two most important mathematical theories of the 20th century. We share a surname, but the comparisons end right there. I’ve no intention of acting out a Julie and Julia here but I will offer up some reviews that aim to illustrate Mr. Gödel’s P=NP theory and its connection to wine.

Gödel’s proof of his 1929 completeness theorem may be his lasting legacy, including serving as a basis for Calculus taught in higher learning institutions. He later wrote a legendary “lost letter” in 1956 to von Neumann that stated his famous incompleteness theorem, a proposal so complex and far-reaching that it too pertains to wine.

einstein and gc3b6del e1346074626428 Godel and Gödel: Wine and science

Einstein and Gödel, Photo by Oskar Morgenstern, Institute of Advanced Study Archives

Gödel’s theorem states that within any axiomatic mathematical system there are propositions that cannot be proved or disproved on the basis of the axioms within that system; thus, such a system cannot be simultaneously complete and consistent. To simplify, it says that a ‘system’ cannot be understood (or ‘described’) without the ‘rules’ of a ‘higher’ system. Apply this theory to fermented grape juice. Within a bottle of wine there are perceived aromas and tastes. Their presence cannot be proved or disproved. They exist in the eyes, nose, mouth and most importantly, the mind of the taster. Even the perception of colour is subject to debate. Add to that the issue of bottle variation and no critical or amateur rendering of a wine’s quality is complete and consistent. Any object (such as wine) being described is, by definition, a subset of the system in which the description is being offered.

It is true that the more you taste the probability of ability to determine the quality of a wine increases. But to be a successful critic, you have to bring life to the mainstream. Wine critics repeatedly refer to varietal correctness, to specific descriptors (licorice, cassis, graphite, generous, supple) and to terroir, that is, the land which makes the wine come to life.

Winemakers and critics make mistakes, they venture into cul-de-sacs, they hone their craft. The amateur wine drinker may intuit, but even experts sometimes forget, that modern wine with broad appeal can be considered great wine, that ideas that we now see as easy were once unknown. That is why I give all wine a chance, with an open mind. Here are some recent tasting notes:

godelwines Godel and Gödel: Wine and science

La Ferme Du Mont La Truffière 2009 (234716 , $14.30) forgoes a typical and basic Côtes Du Rhône, Grenache Blanc easy manner in exchange for a swagger of acrid punch, pop and pomp. Viognier and Clairette add depth to semi-ripe pear skin and blossom. The ardor of lemon and grapefruit are short-lived. Blanched nuts take over to signal a let up at the finish.  85

Stoneleigh Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (293043, $16.95) has the look of pale Sahara gold, “with the salt and musk of lovers’ rich perfume.” Lip-smacking tart green apple, grapefruit and the unmistakable blanched scent of lowland Marlborough green vegetable. A Jane Austen sensibility “beyond vulgar economy, ” the Stoneleigh is sprawling SB, an Abbey hospitable to all visitors.  86

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay Adelaide Hills 2011 (270017, $14.95) specifies its arid but relatively cool locale by emoting stone fruit, citrus zest and tart verdigris over tropicana. A piquant, riverine expression cutting through russet meets loam terra firma. Versatile, if not ambitious and toasted oak is not its master.  Lunch partner to grilled cheese, bacon, heirloom tomato and feta.  87

I Greppi Bolgheri Greppicante 2007 (170381, $23.95) clambers out of a primeval ooze milkshake composed of brewed coffee, currant syrup and smoked cedar chips. A Bordeaux-blend in Tuscan clothing, born of a French/Gallic avariciousness and living a life of Michelangelo terribilitta. Deep, brooding, mouth-filling, dangerous. Demands flesh.  88

Good to go!

20 August, four plates, seven wines

Wine and food are always on the brain. Twenty-four seven. Produce picked from an Ontario backyard will seek out, then effortlessly accrete with Niagara and Prince Edward County grapes. Meats off the barbecue or out of the smoker are rapt to deeply cut, sub-tropical reds, voices possessive of a pantheistic tenor. Here are seven wines and four food ideas to wend pleasure your way for the last two weeks of summer.

Related – Going Rhône for the dog days of August

The grape: Pinot Gris

The history: Fielding Estate’s top tier, Rock Pile Pinot Gris is a benchmark for Ontario

The lowdown: Winemaker Richie Roberts’ second vintage for his estate bottling of the varietal. Seems to be his Alsatian baby

The food match: Butter Greens, homegrown tomatoes, edible flowers and mustard vinaigrette

Fielding Pinot Gris 2011 (251108, $21.95) casts a copper penny penumbra where sweet lime and simple, prickly pear syrup buffets shake and bake. The catalyst tang of pit fruit would see this developing to honey, spice and Madeira, not unlike last night’s Trimbach 2008. My preference is for fresh PG so drink up, with eggs and sausage. Time waits for no one. “Drink in your summer, gather your corn.”  88

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: First planted vineyard in the Edna Valley of California’s Central Coast

The lowdown: A host of under $20 quality Chablis on the market is proof that unoaked Chardonnay is not only viable, but sustainable. California needs to follow suit

The food match: Pan-Roasted Herb, Lemon and Garlic Marinated Chicken, green beans, piri-piri sauce

Chamisal Unoaked Stainless Chardonnay 2011 (289223, $25.95) is an affidavit of California’s agrestal fruit quality and complexity so why more vineyards can’t lay off the manipulations and bottle this style is beyond me. Animated green apple, lime and orange zest are the spark for clean, resolute Chardonnay. Yum.  90

The grape: Riesling

The history: From Germany’s venerable Mosel Saar Ruwer region

The lowdown: Designated Prädikatswein, the highest level of German quality category

The food match: Blue Plate Special: Veal, pork and beef meatloaf with spicy bbq glaze

Dr. Loosen Blue Slate Riesling Kabinett 2011 (160846, $19.95) noses sweet, red apple, wet granite and Dr. My Eyes see a blue hue, like the shadowy, filtered light on mid-winter ice and snow. Meritorious fruit grown out of Devonian seabeds saturates juice before using. Tight grip of acidity and WASP terroir shows there is nothing loose about the good doctor’s Riesling.  89

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Dorothée, we’re not in Burgundy anymore

The lowdown: Calera has been lauded for some serious, single-vineyard Pinots. This one is sourced  from seven vineyards in San Luis Obispo, San Benito, Santa Clara and Monterey counties

The food match: Grilled Wild B.C. Salmon

Calera Pinot Noir 2009 (933044, $31.95) of wet Pacific clay colour is light and retains a wisp of Central Coast smoke and tar in its profile. No candy factory here, which is a good thing. I’m hopeful the restrained style will help to usher is a new Cal-era for Pinot. Earth shattering bottle? No. Greatest Pinot value? Not so much. Good juice? Absolutely.  89

The grape: Montepulciano

The history: From the Abruzzo region of east-central Italy, not to be confused with the southern Tuscany village of  Montepulciano

The lowdown: Two years ago these wines were not even on the radar. Now some of the best <$15> values on the planet

The food match: Barque’s Smoked Beef Brisket

Caldora Colle Dei Venti Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2009 (289629, $15.95) does not hide the rendering new oak influence to resemble an extra-large cup of Starbucks bold. MD’A of a dichotomous nature, Dominican and birch elegant, arboreal, fruity. Very vanilla.  88

The grape: Aglianico

The history: At its best in Campania but also flourishing in Basilicata and here, in Molise

The lowdown: Arguably the best producer in the newest region in Italy, located on the big toe of Italy’s foot

The food match: Grilled Flank Steak with warm tomato jam

Di Majo Norante Contado Riserva Aglianico Del Molise 2009 (967208, $15.95) is stark, raving modern. A wash of Rothko Black on Maroon colour of “oppressive, almost frightening, grandeur.” Heavily pedimented Aglianico, tasting of black licorice in fiery, Sambuca form.  88

The splurge

The grape: Sangiovese Grosso

The history: Sangiovese of irreverent ilk, from Montalcino in southern Tuscany

The lowdown: Not a sneeze of a price but still of the mortal world. An example for near-immediate enjoyment

The food match: Grilled Lamb Kebabs

Verbena Brunello Di Montalcino 2007 (165126, $37.95) seems at first bewitched by iron and animale but magically gives way to a twinkling, lulu Tabitha nose. A fleeting spell is cast to induce an impulse buy. If you want to experience Brunello, start here, find reverence for its narcissistic beauty and watch it be “turned to a flower.” Supper’s ready and waiting for the Verbena .  90

Good to go!

Going Rhône for the dog days of August

With just a shade over two weeks to go before Labour Day, here are seven wines to see you through the last dog days of summer. Who will argue that 2010 is not the Rhône’s vintage of the decade, no matter which way you flip the calendar. Seriously, no trick daddy. Ripeness, rhythm and a profundity of fruit will allow the 2010 Rhônes to age gracefully. “Mo’ punch than your bowl of juice.” Read on for recommendations on five first-rate Rhônes, a local Riesling and the prettiest little Spanish number to “take it to da house.”

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The grapes: Garnacha, Carinena and Syrah

The history: Spain’s Montsant region is the pioneer for red blends that coalesce French varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah with indigenous grapes

The lowdown: Purple, sugar, water and complexity. A post-profanity Chris Rock “drink” for grown-ups

The food match: Roast Beef Tenderloin, tempura soft-boiled egg, yukon gold bedaub

Celler Besllum Besllum 2008 (283515, $15.95) of Cubist Picassan, “cut up, Maria,” heavenly body struts its stuff as an enchantress with an alluring Spanish, violaceous visage. A black cherry, carboniferous quartzite Popsicle for Mr. Jones.  “We all want something beautiful.”  90

The grape: Riesling

The history: Calamus is one of only two Niagara wineries in this specific locale and their Rieslings are going to be big someday

The lowdown: Against all odds, more neo-noir Germanic than Niagara is how I would describe Riesling grown on the very young Vinemount Ridge appellation that lies just above and south of the brow of the Niagara Escarpment

The food match: Grilled Portuguese Raballo Fish, good olive oil

Calamus Riesling 2010 (158642, $16.95) is locally grown on shallow east- and south-facing slopes yet acts globally dispatched and advanced. Atypically Niagara, hinting at lemon, lime and citrus but veering more into stone peach territory. Notes of sweet sedge rising from hummocky clay, loam, silt and shale. Late grace of highly perfumed, feathery, non-fermented, tart, residual, grape sweetness, wie Süssreserve?  87

The grapes: Grenache and Syrah

The history: Classic Côtes du Rhône made by Philippe Cambie

The lowdown: This CdR is really focused on texture and mouth feel. Modern and delicious

The food match: Julia Child’s Fricassée de Poulet L’Ancienne

Les Halos de Jupiter Côtes du Rhône 2010 (276956, $17.95) of Cassis and fresh mint has changed only in that the (15%) mouth-meeting Syrah seems to be more vocal in making itself heard. A Monahan monk with good habits.  “Acts like summer and walks like rain.” The Jupiter is consistent with an earlier tasting… 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

The grapes: Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre

The history: The appellation of Vacqueyras plays understudy to principals Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The lowdown: When it’s good, Vacqueyras blows Côtes du Rhône away and when it’s only a few dollars more, it’s grand theft vino

The food match: Garlic and Lavender Studded Pork Butt

Domaine Grandy Vacqueyras 2010 (287532, $18.95) has dogs begging from the sidewalk for its boucherie scents of roti de porc et beouf. The Mourvèdre is not shy, brooding over the softer Grenache and inky Syrah all Rihanna, smokey campfire and monstrous-like. The Grandy “tried to be expressive without bein’ aggressive,” but it wasn’t the first time a Vacqueyras was hard to resist.  89

The grape: Sangiovese

The history: Chianti’s greatest gift has yet to sweep across the globe like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah. This too will change

The lowdown: McLaren Vale (pioneered by Coriole) was its first OZ stop and now Barossa, more specifically Mt. Crawford is making a Sangiovese splash

The food match: Ziti, Holy Trinity Ragù and Reggiano Parmesan

Domain Day One Serious Sangiovese 2007 (683243, $21.95) is, as its proprietor Robin Day notes, “savoury, rustic and elegant.” Brick-red like a Sienese piazza, the Day is a bareback rider astride a Palio race horse, a muscle-dense, graceful snow horse and a tough mudder of a cart horse. Five years old and drinking at peak.   90

The Splurges

The grapes: Grenache Blanc, Roussanne

The history:  Can’t recall a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape sold in these parts other than some of the biggest icons (Beaucastel, Vieux-Telegraphe, Beaurenard)

The lowdown: You get everything you pay for and more. Same price as the (2nd wine) Coudoulet de Beaucastel Blanc for the same dough

The food match: Chicken Tagine and Cous Cous

Brotte Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2010 (74203, $29.95) is a veritable museum of Southern Rhône aromas. Bending piperitious lavender and nettles, mighty haughty for Grenache Blanc and chock full of nuts. Rousanne lifts the herbs and spices with blossoms orange and white. CVR** choice to enjoy now and to age five plus years.  90

The grapes: Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Vaccarèse, Cinsault and Counoise

The history: Grenache (75+%) dominates this kitchen sink Châteauneuf-du-Pape red of the Southern Rhône

The lowdown: Very few iconic CdP producers offer this kind of quality for the price. La Nerthe, Vieux Lazaret and Beaurenard are in the same league

The food match: Braised Veal Shoulder Sandwich, sharp mustard, wild leek pickle

Bosquet Des Papes Cuvée Tradition Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 (726687, $42.95) lives on the elegant side of the street. The 2010 CdP’s are simply stunning and while most have the pedal pressed firmly on modern metal, the BdP is grounded and down to earth. Pretty, purple colour, agrarian attitude, pastoral, mistral moulding. Builds to a crescendo of intensity in flavour, indicating 10 years should be granted to unleash the limits of its power.  90

Good to go!

Two forks and New York corks

Palmer Vineyards

The Atlantic coast is flush with dramatic terrain. I have marveled at the Gaspésie, Prince Edward Island, Maine, Cape Breton and Cape Cod. Who can discount the beauty of Chesapeake Bay, Kiawah Island and Myrtle Beach. What confounds is that from Newfoundland to South Florida, one spit of land is not only hospitable, but outright conducive to growing grapes. Risking an avocational hazard of overestimating interest in the topic, in case you hadn’t heard, eastern Long Island produces great wine.

Oysters – South Fork Kitchen

With no disrespect to the manicured Hampton vineyards of the South Fork, it’s the stellar whites and reds of the North Fork that are turning heads. While invisible to most of the planet, they are well-known to the island’s cognoscenti, in Manhattan restaurants and across the boroughs. Locavinous, locavore Bruce Bushel of South Fork Kitchen is a champion of the industry. His Bridgehampton restaurant features seven domestic table wines on tap. An additional five sparkling, nine white, four rosé and five reds are available by the glass. There are a further 37 by the bottle. That’s commitment. I tasted through a few that paired beautifully with oysters and crispy Sardines.

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Clovis Point Vineyard

Clovis Point Vineyards, Jamesport, North Fork

Somewhere around 10,000 years ago there lived a group of Paleolithic Native Americans known as the Clovis people. Their spear tips were found on the land where this 11-year old winery farms and fashions less than 2,000 annual cases of garagiste Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Managing partner Hal Ginsburg arranged for me to meet manager Kelly Bruer for a revelatory tasting of Clovis Point’s portfolio.

Clovis Point Tasting Barn

Bruer is as close to a native son as you will find on the North Fork of Long Island. He began his immersion life as a teenager on a journey for all things wine. He is at one with this spit of land measuring less than six miles between Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay, speaking more of micro-climatology than he does of terroir. Vines here must survive and thrive in sand and gravel soil (if you can call it that), where organic matter comes at a premium. Ocean waters and breezes work their saline ways into the wines, more obvious of note in whites. What is imbued to reds is a fascinating calm that neutralizes harsh varnish lines, resulting in beautifully balanced Merlot and Cabernet Franc. This is the North Fork’s somewhereness, something Niagara reds strive towards with hopeful and exponentially maturing vines, yet still remain in search of.

Clovis Point Chardonnay

Chardonnay 2011 ($18) like vegetable consommé gets a floral lift from the smallest amount of Gewurztraminer. Think summer corn, linden/basswood/sumac blossoms and chamomile. Stainless steel fermenting allows the Sound’s airy salinity to breeze away. Early evening summer shadows in a glass.  87

Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2008 ($25) is aged for 10 months in French oak barrels. Energy and lively current passes through its white-hot incandescence. Accretes past Obsidian flint to a melon patch of flavours and fades dispassionately into a cultured end. Chardonnay for oozing cheese.  89

Merlot 2005 ($21) shares French and Hungarian oak with 19% essential Cabernet Franc in mendicant adulation ça vaut le détour. Cotton to the successful notion of Merlot’s North Fork planting and in turn, chemical certainty as to the outcome of its composition. Pins ’05 as the jumping off point for historical success. Better than the Peconic Bay, with longer lasting ever red fruit, twang and sandy spice.   88

Vintner’s Select Merlot 2006 ($35) will force North Fork disbelievers to eat crow. French oak adds smokey barbacoadevil’s tea, espresso and bittersweet chocolate notes. Gamey yet resolved, Merlot of a quiet avarice, confident, self-assured.  89

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($27.50) nearly goes it alone at 96% Cab. Sauv. capacity and it shows. Cedar and burning, luminescent charcoal smother ruby, red fruit. Time will tell the story of greatness lying in wait due to the heat and dry conditions of the vintage.   87

Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($27.50) incorporates 15% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc. Inaugural vintage hie to success. Salty sea drafts work their way into the crimson fruit, accented by Left Bank smoke and tobacco leaf. Beginner’s luck or oracle to the future? It matters not. Could drink this quotidianly.  88

Cabernet Franc 2008 ($27.50) is outright cerulean in blueberry and Clintonia. Caliginous and mysterious Cab. Franc, like nothing that has come before. Sea air at work once again, sifting with chalky sand, gravel and dulcet espresso. No Loire, no Niagara signal here. Pure North Fork.  91

Archaeology 2007 ($60) the flagship, Merlot based, proprietary blend is not a “Meritage,” insists Bruer, wink, wink, say no more. Laser focused like a Paleolithic spearhead, acidity and tannin are OTT. Sly and muscular, you have to wrestle to exhaustion to uncover a Bordeaux-like belle epoque.  90

Palmer Vineyards

Palmer Vineyards, Aquebogue, North Fork

Considering that the 1961 Palmer is one of the legendary wines of the universe, naming your Long Island winery  as same might seem a bit surreptitious. If your name happens to be Robert Palmer, then all is forgiven. His eponymous vineyard is one of Long Island’s oldest with a wine rep cemented in good standing. In 2006 Miguel Martin was hired as winemaker and the rest is, history.

Martin is a native of Madrid, Spain and has worked around the globe, in his homeland at Gonzalez Byass, in California for Robert Mondavi and in Australia with Yalumba. Family man (three daughters) and Paella master (he promises we’ll cook together next visit), Martin too is obsessed with weather more than soil. While he shares a North Fork ardency for Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, he also has a vision to experiment with European varietals like Albarino and Muscat. I ask him about Tempranillo. He notes that reds out here struggle to achieve maximum ripeness so the great grape of Spain is just not in the cards. Martin guided me through wines from tank, barrel and at the winery’s tasting bar.

Martin is a native of Madrid, Spain and has worked around the globe, in his homeland at Gonzalez Byass, in California for Robert Mondavi and in Australia with Yalumba. Family man (three daughters) and Paella master (he promises we’ll cook together next visit), Martin too is obsessed with weather more than soil. While he shares a North Fork ardent loyalty for Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, he also has a vision to experiment with European varietals like Albarino and Muscat. I ask him about Tempranillo. He notes that reds out here struggle to achieve maximum ripeness so the great grape of Spain is just not in the cards. Martin guided me through wines from tank, barrel and at the winery’s tasting bar.

Pinot Blanc 2011 ($20) is typically round but also intriguing with notes of cashew, white strawberry and vanilla cream. Leesy, pear notes join chalk, biscuit and buff. Lieb may be North Fork’s PB darling but Palmer is simply irresistible.  88

Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($20) is uniquely vegetal and green, at once reminiscent of more famous cousins in Sancerre and Marlborough and then again, not. SB purposely picked early, indicating crab apple, gooseberry, sea grass and akin to a savoury tisane of lemongrass, orange peel and chamomile.  87

Chardonnay Reserve 2010 ($19) is more serious than expected. A Harbor Hill, mineral moraine backbone avers intellectual senescence and wisdom, not unlike Paul Pender’s Quarry Road. Caramel and cream make an appearance but after that it’s all citrus and zest.  89

Albarino 2011 ($25, 500 mL) is the most vivid and sterling white in the portfolio. Rinds of all kinds, Seville orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime join forces with tropically tart punch and white Sangria. Crazy acidity and length.   90

Merlot 2010 ($22) sees four weeks of skin contact for Syrah like, deep colour intensity. You’re a Julia, “a horn section you resemble and your figure makes me tremble.” Absent of reductive aromas out of barrel, this Palmer will be approachable direct from bottle next season. East coast Merlot, there’s the rub. “Julia, you’re a danger, just like giving sweets to stranger.”  89

Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($25) is a robust, earthy, muddy cup of morning coffee alongside rye and wheat germ toast smothered with bumble berry confiture. Another intensified red. Who knew? A bit over-leathered so look to pair with a simmered animal bone reduction and red meat.  87

Cabernet Franc 2010 ($29) wins me over. Cab Franc is the artist of the wine world. Never loved enough, bitter, green, work always unfinished. Martin coaxes the most from the unrequited grape and I’d sneak through the alley with Sally for a sip or two. Licorice, black currant, pine. Bring on the duck confit.  92

Good to go!

Wine or beer on the long weekend? Both

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Wine and food captures most of my imagination and this space is in tune with that straight and narrow path. Diversions are always present, but rarely of Pinterest. This past weekend I came across something new in beer. Not so much in terms of brand or flavour, but in closure. Molson Coors has launched a wide mouth can with a resealable screw cap closure. I am certainly not a behemoth beer company advocate but I do applaud the innovation.

Related story: ‘Beerology’: Mirella Amato’s exploration of beer

Three beers are being bottled, well canned, in this fashion. Coors Light, Molson Canadian and Coors Light Iced T. Coors Light in a can, well, that’s res ipsa loquitur. The MC absolutely resembles its Don Cherry self. The Iced T is quite refreshing, on the acrostic poetry, feminine side of beer and quite frankly, I don’t mind it at all.

Courtesy of Chris Schryer,

Courtesy of Chris Schryer,

The can and closure are the rub. Nothing new here, this beer in a can thing, but they get iced cold faster and hold that cold better than bottles. No light transfer means no skunk, so there is a reduction in spoilage. And while the larger opening certainly means you can drink more and faster, the resealable option means nothing can crawl inside between sips. The light weight can also floats so they are perfect for camping and the cottage dock.

If you want to read more about the new line, check this out and this.

OK. Enough about suds. On to the main event.

The grape: Priero Picudo

The history: Rosé from the Tierra de Léon in the south of Spain

The lowdown: Don’t be frightened by the Dayglo colour. This pinky is perfect for hot weather

The food match: Fluke or Medium-rare Tuna Tacos with Pico de Gallo Salsa

Pardevalles Prieto Picudo Rosado 2011 (274449, $12.95) of huge hue is a veritable candy shoppe of licorice, gum drop, strawberry Lola and Kool-Aid. Funky cheese, currant jam and bracing acidity combine for an odd yet invigorating IVR*, Rosé experience.  87

The grape: Chenin Blanc

The history: Loire varietal has become the signature white of South Africa

The lowdown: MAN Vintners out of Paarl employs the original name “Tormentoso,” meaning storm, for the Cape of Good Hope

The food match: Paad Thai with Chicken and Shrimp

Tormentoso Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2011 (278366, $14.95) is outright Victorian where revivalist Gothic meets modern steel. A dark and stormy cocktail of flint, mineral, Paarl granite and Chakalaka. Tomato leaf, fried-green tomato and dusty chalk round out this perfect tempest of purple prose.  Fomenting and fascinating Chenin.  88

The grape: Moscato D’asti

The history: Italian Muscat from Asti, a northwestern province in Piedmont

The lowdown: Very low in alcohol with a slight effervescence. Ideal served well-chilled on a hot summer’s day

The food match: Grilled Chicken Breast with goat cheese and grilled peaches

Dezzani Morelli Moscato D’asti 2010 (187997, $14.95) with its sacchariferous, honey spritz glides quickly past grapefruit and into everything orange. Fresh squeezed juice, rubbed blossom, pith and rind. Light, refreshing and altogether satisfying quencher.  88

The grape: Sangiovese Grosso

The history: Younger sibling to Brunello, meant for early consumption

The lowdown: Esteemed producer and the lowest possible price for a Rosso. Much better choice than the $18 Vino Nobile by Casetllani in neighbouring Montepulciano, the sample of which happened to be corked anyway

The food match: Fresh Tagliatelle with Wild Boar Ragu

La Velona Rosso Di Montalcino 2009 (285429, $17.95) of medium girth is sturdy, taut, spot on. Tar, rose petal and cherry stand out. “My little pretty one” has got the knack just like good Brunello for bringing me back to Montalcino’s intoxicating reds, again and again. My Velona.  89

The grapes: Muscat, Perle of Csaba

The history: As in Moscato D’asti from Piedmont mixed with a smaller amount of the Hungarian Vinifera derived grape

The lowdown: Nova Scotian sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne style and at a remarkably low 6.5 % alcohol by volume

The food match: Salmon Tartare, salmon roe, crème fraîche and homemade crackerbread

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2011 (256289, $25.95) the sweet-smelling starlet is seductive and wholly unique to the world of bubbles. The aleatory contract between unknown sparkling wine and imbiber turns to stone after just one sip. Causes me to react with a start and a coup d’oeuil.  I have been here before; in Champagne, in Moscato D’asti. “Here’s a little agit for the never-believer.” In Nova Scotia they can put a man on the moon. They can make great, if unusual sparkling wine.  89

The tease

The grape: Nebbiolo

The history: Royal red grape of Piedmont

The lowdown: The cheapest Barolo at VINTAGES since the 1990’s seems too good to be true. That’s because it is

The food match: Low and Slow Veal Roast with Nebbiolo, black currant sauce

Patrizi Barolo 2008 (653527, $23.95) is not the weekend wine you might hope it to be. Already bricking like a rural Woodbridge faux-mansion, the Patrizi would have best been consumed in its first year of business. An LCBO buy up for teasing purposes, this Nebbiolo carries a Jarrian curse. “Clichés are the armature of the absolute.” Typically and varietally correct but with fruit already fading. You get what you pay for.  86

The splurge

The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot

The history: Bordeaux blend in true Napa Valley Meritage form

The lowdown: Though more than just a Cab, it’s essentially a “second” wine to Beaulieu’s Georges Latour Reserve. A loyal servant to the 1980’s heyday of California red wine

The food match: Grilled New York Strip finished with olive oil and a baked potato

Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve 2008 (50393, $34.95) is an elegant and masterful blend unmasked and unblinded by oak. There is rusticity, antiquity and servitude to history. A woven carpet of cherries, forest scents and morning coffee. Makes me “feel the earth move under my feet.” You’ve got a friend in Beaulieu.  90

IVR* – Vintage Direct intrigue-to-value ratio

CVR** – Vintage Direct curiosity-to-value ratio

Good to go!

Lobster rolls and a Long Island dream

Paddle Boarding in Sag Pond, Accabonac Harbor

From Riverhead to Montauk, Jamesport to Southampton, the eastern edge of Long Island is a land of reverie. Imagine the fertile plateau of the Niagara Peninsula, the rugged beauty of Muskoka and the serenity of Prince Edward Island rolled into one magnificent package. A burgeoning wine route complimented by rolling farmland full of summer crops. Abounding tide pools, ponds, lakes, bays and rivers dominating the landscape, swarming with life. Secluded coves, inlets, marshes of scraggly grass and rushes around every turn at the end of long and winding country roads. “Don’t it feel like something from a dream.” I really like this place.

Georgica Pond Blue Crab

As a foil to the frenetic pace of Manhattan, the eastern island presents as a modal, perfect, progressive and passive area of unlimited exploration. An effortless paddle by long board or kayak through Sag Pond. Baiting, netting and steaming the fresh catch of Blue Crabs out of Georgica Pond. Filling oneself with the ocean’s bounty and tasting through North Fork’s future stars wines.

Clam Bar

Lobster maintains its status at the gastronomic epicentre of the east coast. Clams are everywhere, crabs too. The quintessential lunch snack is the Lobster Roll. Made from the simplest preparation, the fresh pulled meat is crammed to overflowing in its whitest of soft bread, hot dog like roll. A deliquescent treat without parallel.

Lobster Roll and Fried Clams

Long Island Lobster Roll


1 and 1/2 lb lobster
2 soft, white “lobster” rolls (hot dog rolls will work)

Homemade Mayonnaise:
1 tsp Dijon mustard
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 ribs of celery, finely diced
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley


Add 6 cups of water to a large stock pot, fit with a colander. Bring to a boil, than lower to simmer.

Put in lobster and steam for eight minutes. Remove and cool.

Make the mayo. Mix Dijon with lemon juice. Slowly drizzle oil while whisking until fully emulsified. Chop celery into fine dice and mix in to mayo. Add parsley. Season with salt & pepper.

Crack and remove all lobster meat. Roughly chop the large pieces and stir into mayo.

Scoop lobster mixture into two buttery, soft, white rolls.

Raphael North Fork Riesling 2010 ($18) makes yeoman’s work is its second vintage, more dry than off-dry, less grapefruit than one would expect and certainly high on the citrus zest scale. Works lobster, crab and shrimp   in blue-collar fashion and speaks in a gravelly, Peconic voice.  87

Galliuccio Family Wineries Meritage 2001 when bottled may have simply been working on a dream but this “library” wine was a near revelatory, posthumous Surprise, Surprise. Now owned by Macari Vineyards, the ’01 Galluccio Merlot with supporting cast let it’s unguarded love shine down with elegant, blueberry fruit and resolved red peppercorn spice. A historical look at what ’04, ’07, ’10 would become and what will surely be in North Fork’s future.  90

Peconic Bay Merlot 2005 ($21) pencils liquorice in a shade of candied, Sonoma Pinot-like matte against a salty Atlantic backdrop. Light, airy, breezy and pleasing Merlot. Void of resin, currant and bell pepper. Strawberries in cream actually. Nothing earth shattering here, just good and plenty.  87

Good to go!