This has been a most excellent week for tasting real wines and high-spirited whisky.
Real wine is made in the vineyard. That refrain plays truer than ever in 2013. Robert Parker and Antonio Galloni have left the Wine Advocate. The pendulum is swinging in the right direction, back to balanced wines that work for food. The winemaker to follow today is a farmer at heart, a commissioner of the soil and a student of geology. Their wines speak of geography defined, connect to specific plots and preach on behalf of precise parcels. They do not winnow away the chaff, nor do they manipulate by adding and subtracting that which is unnatural. They may ferment and blend as a scientist might experiment but when all is said and done, they are the land’s faithful and loyal messenger.
Whisky is another matter altogether. Can any other distilled spirit rise so guilelessly at the hands of the master blender? Manipulation and pedagogue are essential and necessary to the production of great malts. Like wine, Whisky certainly talks terroir but not without tough love intervention. On Wednesday night I hosted a boys’ night out at Barque Smokehouse, poured three Single Malt Scotch Whiskies and one of a Canadian Single Barrel. The next afternoon I tasted the most unique and delicious red to date in 2013, thanks to the generosity of Gerardo Diaz. That was followed up with a cross-section of the Tawse Winery portfolio, poured by the one and only Daniel Beiles. As we head into the Family Day Weekend, here are seven wine and whisky tasting notes.
Girolamo Russo San Lorenzo 2008 from agronomist and oenologist Giuseppe Russo lives a Sicilian dream. Composed of Etna’s indigenous Nerello Mascalese with a small percentage of Nerello Cappuccio, this red is a veritable lava flow of molten magma, volcanic igneous solder and opulent Scoria. Pure, unchained fruit, no disguise, striking. 94
Tawse Gamay Noir 2011 (322545, $18.95) indicates Cru vineyard quality in its mineral character, fresh plum fruit and serious structure. Modern Burgundy meets unlikely Niagara. Akin to Moulin à Vent if you will, though this Paul Pender inaugural bottling is all Niagara Peninsula. Coming to VINTAGES March 2, 2013. 88 @Tawse_Winery
Tawse Chardonnay Quarry Road 2010 (111989, $34.95) continues to belay the warmth of the vintage, having emerged from a green apple shell and into a citrus revolution. Minor oak dawn is gone but not the thrill. Vinemount Ridge appellation limestone living large here with a colour to lead the imagination free to see the patina of its future. From minimum barrel char to maximum VR, as in very racy. So good, so right. You never come back from Quarry Road. 92 @Paul_Pender
Boys’ Night Out
Smoked Maple Glazed Peameal and Slaw Sliders
Duck Tacos with Pickled Radish, Carrots and A-Hoy-Sin Sauce
The Benriach Matured in Sherry Wood 12 Years Old Single Malt (303123, $66.95) from the Gaelic meaning “speckled or gray mountain” hails from Speyside. The Ben-ree-uck is aged in Spanish Oloroso and Pedro Jimenez casks resulting in a rich, caramel colour. Fig, date and Tawny Port like aromas. Sweet anise and faint chocolate. From a house once in disrepute, this SMS is now in full re-peat. 90 @TheBenRiach
Wemyss Malts Caol Ila Islay 1996 Single Malt (273896, $122.95) went to cask in 1996 and was bottled as a 15 year-old in 2011. Incredibly troggish Islay, of sea salts, aesculapian iodine and mephitic peat. Monstrous in odor yet subtle in colour and nectarous in flavour. An exercise in triumvirate Scotch mastery. Wild thing, “you make my heart sing.” 94 @WemyssMalts
Smoked Dry Rub Chicken Wings
Smoked Competition Chicken Thighs
Polenta and Parmigiano-Reggiano Fries
Caribou Crossing Single Barrel Canadian Whisky (205906, $84.95) from the Sazerac Spirit Company in Louisiana is Canadian Whisky bottled in Kentucky. You might think this butterscotch and woodpile in a bottle would suffer from identity crisis but it is actually quite-well adjusted. Smooth and creamy going in, harsh and demanding going down. A rye-raging SB, wholly unique and unlike any other, including its brothers and sisters of the same barrel. 88 @sazeracrye
The Macallan Fine Oak 15 Years Old (620229, $134.95) is a twist on a very familiar favourite friend. From three barrels, American Bourbon, American Sherry and Spanish Sherry Cask. Creamy malted milk, musky barley and turbinado sugar with the faintest whiff of smoke on a Speyside peat frame. Dried orange peel and chocolate, lithe and airy, delicate but sure. Class in a bottle. 92 @
Barque Rack O’bama aka an Alabama Style Rib aka Make Sticky Ribs
Good to go!