Working wines for the Canada Day weekend

Barque Breakfast, eggs, pulled pork, potato pancakes, guacamole
Barque Breakfast, eggs, pulled pork, potato pancakes, guacamole
PHOTO: JILL CHEN/FREESTYLEFARM.CA

June has been long, wet, arduous and full of promise. Exhausting too. It began with a cooking ordure show for 1,300 Ultimate athletes. There have been food and wine tastings all over Ontario. The palate may never experience this level of fatigue as it does at the end of June. Think about how the Wine Align team feels!

Last week I attended the Stop Night Market, an unforgettable food and beverage extravaganza that rivals any outdoor gastro-experience you are likely to find, anywhere. The unparalleled $50 all you eat and drink ticket from the best of Toronto’s best aside, the SNM helped to solidify the STOP’s position as a leader in community food programs.  The next night I attended Sip and Savour Ontario in the Fermenting Cellar located within the historic Distillery District. Wine and food pursuers lapped up Ontario wines in every incantation matched by seriously excellent small edibles. Sip & Savour Ontario is dedicated to bringing education, support and accessibility of Ontario’s local wine, culinary and agricultural industries to the public, all in support of Houselink.

This coming Friday, June 28th has been declared #CanadianWineDay (or #CdnWineDay) so get out there and sample whatever you can find out of our wine regions, from coast to coast. Make sure to tweet what you tasted.

Time for a brief respite. Canada’s wine and food industry peeps and tweeps have been working overtime, taking care of business, working for the weekend.  What we all need is an extended rest, out in the air, down by the bay, surrounded by family and friends, with a good glass of wine. Here are 10 current releases, ready and willing to work for your long weekend.

Clockwise from top left: Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2012, Villa Tonino Grillo 2010, Lone Birch Pinot Gris 2012, Rosewood Estates Sémillon 2011, Domaines Schlumberger Kessler Pinot Gris 2008, Caves D’esclans Whispering Angel Rosé 2012, Vineland Estates Pinot Meunier 2011, Jean-Ernest Descombes Morgon 2011, Stratus Tollgate Merlot 2010, and Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010

Clockwise from top left: Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2012, Villa Tonino Grillo 2010, Lone Birch Pinot Gris 2012, Rosewood Estates Sémillon 2011, Domaines Schlumberger Kessler Pinot Gris 2008, Caves D’esclans Whispering Angel Rosé 2012, Vineland Estates Pinot Meunier 2011, Jean-Ernest Descombes Morgon 2011, Stratus Tollgate Merlot 2010, and Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010

The Sparkling

The grapes: Muscat, Perle of Csaba

The history: Traditional Champagne style bubbles from a Nova Scotia pioneer out of the Gaspereau Valley

The lowdown: Think Moscato D’asti from Piedmont mixed with the Hungarian Vinifera derived grape. The remarkably low 6.5 percent alcohol aims to please and refresh every palate on a warm Canada Day weekend

The food match: Barque Breakfast, eggs, pulled pork, potato pancakes, guacamole

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2012 (256289, $25.95, Nova Scotia $24.99) while nowhere near Champagne in proximity nor character holds a perfume immediate in marmalade, candied orange peel, lit wick and melting paraffin. To taste it sweetens up a sun-setting, waning day with a convexity of creamy rhubarb, orange sherbet, strawberry and pink grapefruit. Like a song in 6/4 compound, musical meter. With so much going on this is certainly a bridge to somewhere and it’s “gettin’ there fast.” 90  @Benjamin_Bridge

The Whites

The grape: Grillo

The history: Native and classic Sicilian varietal, dating back to B.C.E times though it now only comprises 3 per cent of the white grapes planted in Sicily

The lowdown: Boundless personality of a white wine from the thick-skinned and bold grape built for the blazing Sicilian sun and arid Mediterranean climate

The food match: Chickpea, Parmesan & Fennel Salad

Villa Tonino Grillo 2010 (289579, $14.95) owns a melon’s ripe musk melding to fermenting aroma, matched by a warm, juicy and mouth-watering texture. Blanched nut, coconut and lime zest party on the beach with steaming decapod crustaceans. Grillo, grilling and the sur beating up the sea wall would do just fine.  89  @RegazziWines

The grape: Pinot Gris

The history: Family owned & operated winery, located in the Yakima Valley of Washington State

The lowdown: Just a bit more than 4,000 cases produced and has only been in bottle for three months

The food match: Pacific Rim Chowder

Lone Birch Pinot Gris 2012 (324905, $15.95) gives away a whole lotta’ love for 16 bones. Rich, ropy mandarin and orange melon acidulated with a shot of white pepper coolant. LB, “you’ve been cooling and baby I’ve been drooling.” Dizzying on the tongue, gone bananas and twiddling on every bud.  90 @WINESofWA

The grape: Sémillon

The history: Beamsville’s Rosewood Estate has been pouring their heart, soul and honey (not literally) into this  varietal’s future

The lowdown: Most often employed in combination with Sauvignon Blanc to forge the dry white wines of Bordeaux and more famously, the dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Rosewood is leading the North American charge. #StandSémillonStand

The food match: The Spoke Club‘s Crab Salad + Braised Pork Belly with spring onion and sea buckthorn

Rosewood Estates Sémillon 2011 (177758, $17.95) is the leader of the pack. The honey is uncanny. From an earlier note: “is frighteningly honeyed and its blatant acidity brings out all the right zest notes in the seafood. Major (three times) cropping from a “disease control vintage” by Orwinski who “knows the vineyard. It really is his home.” He’s still chanting “drop the crop!” in his sleep. The citrus and soda are glaring, exciting and invigorating in ’11, as is the aforementioned honey, the trump card keeping the Sémillon from being confused for Riesling.  Fascinating study.”  91  @RosewoodWine

The grape: Pinot Gris

The history: Alsace family estate winery dates back to 2010.

The lowdown: Grand Cru Pinot Gris. Kessler has been sold under its own name since 1830

The food match: Citrus Smoked Salmon Salad, goat cheese mousse, pickled strawberry, baby frisée

Domaines Schlumberger Kessler Pinot Gris 2008 (249623, $25.95) wants to tell you she’s late harvest but you know better. “You might say you can only fool yourself.” Golden gorgeous, silken pear custard and southern hemisphere, capsicum spiked fruit. Walks on little feat but ultra-marathon runs a sweet to dry crescendoing gamut.  92  @drinkAlsace

The Rosé

The grapes: Grenache, Rolle, Cinsault, Syrah, and Mourvedre

The history: From the Côtes de Provence, the brainchild of Bordeaux royalty Sacha Lichine (Chateau Prieure Lichine) and Patrick Leon (Baron Phillipe de Rothschild)

The lowdown: As classic a southern French Rosé as you are likely to find, gaze upon or taste, anywhere

The food match: Buttermilk Pancakes, bacon

Caves D’esclans Whispering Angel Rosé 2012 (325076, $19.95) of calm, pale arctic char hue and creamy alabaster porcelain skin is a most statuesque and regal RoséWild herbs and country spice walk along a dry road in this most excellent pink drink.  89  @WhisperingAngeI 

The Reds

The grape: Pinot Meunier

The history: This is the third vintage for Vinleand Estates and the rare planted (approximately 1.5 acres) cousin of Pinot Noir

The lowdown: Winemaker Brian Schmidt is exploring the “potential of this unique varietal within the dynamic frame of Niagara. More reliable and consistent that it’s often “psycho” mirror image, Pinot Noir.”

The food match: Steak & Frites, Marinated Skirt Steak, Smoked Pepper Relish

Vineland Estates Pinot Meunier 2011 (225508, $17.95) offers a simple twist of fate from the vinous research control centre in Niagara. Has now gone well beyond experimentation, this 2011 tingles to the bone with pronounced floral waves and a sweet, tangy, concentrated cherry core. Solid focus and structured to please.  Piques a familiar rich scent of leather. Drank it “as the evening sky grew dark.”  88  @benchwineguy

The grape: Gamay

The history: Cru Gamay from Morgon. After Brouilly, Morgon is the largest winemaking area in Beaujolais. From the Georges Duboeuf stable

The lowdown: Straddles a serious and commercial line but the consistency of this Gamay is not to be disputed

The food match: Fried Green Tomatoes, corn salsa, feta

Jean-Ernest Descombes Morgon 2011 (946186, $17.95, SAQ 856898, $19.30, B.C. 866673 $21.99) is simply rich and decadent in raspberry, a bit cakey and jammy for the appellation yet structured and stylish. Barbera-like with tar, roses, fennel and balancing tannin.  89  @Dandurandwines

The grape: Merlot

The history: From master and mad scientist J.L Groux, winemaker at marketing and class organization extraordinaire Stratus Vineyards

The lowdown: When Stratus rolled out the Tollgate line I was skeptical. Where the Wildass group might hit you upside the head (in a good way, of course) the Tollgates earn their stripes with finesse and elegance. Created primarily for the restaurant industry. An ode to agricultural activity of Upper Canada

The food match: Panko-Custed, Pulled Slow-Cooked Beef Chuck, horseradish aioli, charred brussel sprouts

Stratus Tollgate Merlot 2010 (344101, $24.95) is a picture of modernity, warm and a touch oxy. Raspberry jam, dusty mulberry. Indicative of how special 2010 was for Merlot in Niagara. Really well made, built of a confident structure, mindful of an incandescence in finesse. Linear experience, with no breaks or pauses. Solid red.  88  @Stratuswines

The Splurge

The grapes: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault

The history: From the Rhône Valley in Southern France, Château La Nerthe was born in the 12th Century around the time vines were first planted in the stone-strewn soil of Châteauneuf-du-Pape (literally the “Pope’s new castle”)

The lowdown: While the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are anything but cheap, they more often than not offer the best high-end wine values in the world. This is one of the best.

The food match: Braised Duck Leg, duck fat potatoes, ontario cherries

Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 (735407, $43.95) exudes a bigger, bolder cherry and Kirsch liqueur than from memory, indicating both a flamboyance of the vintage and a torrent to a long future. A swirl of black cassock cooling the candied, cherry blossom centre is met by a wall of harsh tannin with a lash of tang pushing back the fruit. Will be stellar in five, or more likely ten years on. Love this house.  92 

Good to go!

Are you wine experienced?

Riesling tattoo

Riesling tattoo
Photo: Michael Godel

as seen on canada.com

Wine knowledge, or gaining an understanding of wine, is like marriage. You have to pay close attention to detail, be open-minded, have patience and persistence, hang in there and endure the long haul. Wine must be a lifelong companion, a soul-mate, a best friend. You may never know everything about your partner but at least you will die trying.

I know everything and nothing about wine. I know more than I did 10 years ago but I could study, read, taste, listen and experience 50 years more and still I would know so little. How great is that? What is so fascinating is the conviction and utter certainty so many professionals in the wine world proclaim what they think and feel about grapes, where they should be grown and how great wine can only be made if cultivated in very specific places. Conviction is admirable and opinions change. Experience is key.

Canadian wine writers seem hell-bent on insisting that specific wine regions and Ontario in particular, must specialize on specific grape varieties. Evan Saviolidis recently wrote this demonstrative headline, “Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the signature varietals of Prince Edward County.” Nothing shocking about that but it insists that all else might best be left alone. Niagara’s Rick VanSickle will find a way to endorse the region’s diverse best but he’s also pragmatic when it comes to vintage variation.  ”Show me a great 2008 red wine from Niagara and I’ll show you someone who lost their shirt making it.” Rick does not wear rose-coloured glasses. Enthusiastic for sure but not an eternal optimist. Mike Di Caro believes in four grapes for Ontario; Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that “consistently produce the best wines that we have to offer.” Now he’s even more adamant that specific growing areas within the region need to micro-specialize. He’s not wrong.

Riesling Experience 2013

Riesling Experience 2013
(Photo: Michael Godel)

Which brings me to Riesling. Last week I was fortunate to be included in the Brock University Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute’s Riesling Experience 2013, an international celebration of style, structure and purity. CCOVIBrockU Manager, Continuing Education and Outreach Barbara Tatarnic and Riesling Chair Angelo Pavan of Cave Spring Vineyard brought together producers, trade, media and wine enthusiasts from Canada, the US and around the world for lectures, tastings and discussion on all things Riesling. Opinions were strong, anti-diffident and full of matter.

Cornell University Sensory Researcher Terry Acree runs a lab concerned with discovering “how stimulant composition is represented in perception.” Acree’s first bold statement: “Olfaction as the most important part of wine is nonsense.” What? Acree insists that taste carries more weight, which will come as a surprise and a relief to the novice wine drinker. The following statement, not so much. “If you can’t tell the difference between Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Gris you have a biological problem.” That’s harsh.

For Riesling, Acree focuses on chemicals that correspond to the strongest identified smells, the most important and prevalent of which is TDN (Trimethyldihydronaphthalene). TDN the chemical or diesel/petrol the sensation as an “odour strength (Damascenone) as related to by human subjects.” In order for the wine taster to “experience” these sensations, two things have to be there. “Memories of different kinds of features and features themselves.” That said, Acree believes you can only smell three things at once, a notion he borrows from M.F.K. Fisher.

Acree sees odour as “an evolutionary human response to history.” If you have never come into contact with a banana, you will never smell banana in Chardonnay. TDN is the dominant aroma and where Riesling grows, more sunlight means more fruit and more TDN. TDN is a precursor but its prevalence does not necessarily increase as a wine ages. A very common theme when nosing an aged Riesling is to comment on the secondary aromatic emergence of a gas or petrol note. Acree believes that identifying increased petrol notes in aged Riesling is a bit of a misnomer. It had to already be there. “I’m just inventing a new, confusing way to discuss minerality,” he concludes. Job well done.

Creekside Estates Winery and Stratus Vineyards winemakers Rob Power and J.L. Groux at Riesling Experience 2013

Creekside Estates Winery and Stratus Vineyards winemakers Rob Power and J.L. Groux at Riesling Experience 2013
(Photo: Archie Hood)

Nik Weis of St. Urbans Hof Family Estate Winery from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer in Germany speaks in superlatives and makes no concessions when it comes to his passion for crafting world-class Riesling. When I asked him if he has considered or would ever consider planting any other grape variety in the Mosel his response was an emphatic, “no, but I will drink plenty of Loire Sauvignon Blanc in the Mosel.”

Weis came to Brock to speak on the ageability of Riesling. Mike Di Caro and I spoke last night at the Stop Night market about Ontario Riesling and we agreed that sugar levels are both arbitrary and unpredictable so Niagara’s best is and should be of the dry variety. This follows the Weis doctrine. “Sugar levels build longer chains as they age and wine achieves more balance, creamy viscosity, savoury sweetness and can be considered dry despite having 25 grams per litre of residual sugar.” Niagara Riesling does not share these luxuries. There are exceptions, most notably from Vineland Estates St. Urban Vineyard (go figure) but the Mosel it is not.

The Mosel’s soil is built for growing Riesling, it is the catalyst that effects the metabolism of the grape and the sugar levels inherent in the wine. “The grape is nothing but the reproductive organ of the vine” and “every bottle is an isotope on its own,” says Weis. He adds “cool climate vines develop flavours, not simply sugars.” So Niagara’s got that going for it, which is nice.

Nik Weis finished off with a cork versus screwcap moment and his candor was very refreshing. “In my opinion, cork does not breath. If it did, wine would leak.” He announced an unequivocal support for cap closures. Concerning corks, “it’s like wearing a tuxedo when you go to the opera. That’s the only difference.”

Two sets of two St. Urbans Hof Rieslings were poured, intended to highlight a ten-year separation of wines from the same vineyard. Here are my (brief) notes:

Riesling Spätlese Laurentiuslay 2011 is precocious in its clearly defined, sugared entry and dry finish for such a young late harvest wine. Ripe peach, peach blossom and a spit of TDN go long and desiccant to bring you back for the next sip.  90-91

Riesling Spätlese Laurentiuslay 2001 has intensified in hue of green/gold patina, aromas of soda and diesel and flavours of orchard fruit. Fine, fine feinherb.  92

Riesling Auslese Bockstein 2009 reverses the sweet/dry continuum by sniffing medicinal and parched, gathering steam from ripe, tangy tree fruit and slowly emerging sweetly sapid. Mortally young to assess.  92-93

Riesling Auslese Bockstein 1999 has released a plethora of aromatics; pungent spice such as caraway and cardamom, ground peppercorn and tempering sweet honeysuckle. Freshness has not been lost and yet the sugars have lengthened to present a baked play of thirsty words.  94

Here are my notes on three of the 14 Niagara Rieslings tasted at lunch:

Stoney Ridge Cellars 2009 (winery, $15.95) resides in a middle ground between TDN and ripe, juicy fruit. Magnetic and luring, even-keeled and oblate like the ground it comes from in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  89

Fielding Estate 2011  (251439, $18.95) today seems wistful and dreamy, leaning Alsace in nut tones. “Well here we go again, steady as she goes,” Richie’s Riesling strikes a power chord and begins to sing like a raconteur with great energy. From my earlier note, “jumps out like a thunder crack with an instant emergence of gassy soda, lime and stone fruit. The citrus remains in attack mode and “her brains they rattle and her bones they shake.” Does the “jump back jack” and dances all around in the mouth, on the tongue and down the hatch. Very long persistence, almost glycerin in texture which for NP Riesling is simply awesome.”  90

Flat Rock Cellars 2012 (43281, $16.95) continues to hit all the right notes. What dry Riesling in Ontario has to be. Sodaliscious and stone cold. Winemaker Jay Johnston got the memo. From my earlier note, “is a single varietal conundrum, intensely dry, dusty yet dripping in grape concentration. Huge soda nose, I mean a crazy proboscis. Love the dry entry and off-dry tangent. Twenty Mile Bench issue reminiscent of Rheinhessen. Admirable length and trebled finish.”  90

The Riesling-friendly luncheon was followed by a presentation from Kathy Cannon, Director, Wines and VINTAGES from the LCBO who discussed the place for Ontario Rieslings on the world’s stage. Ms. Cannon spoke to a room of wine geeks in a nomenclature normally reserved for an unwitting class. There was an unspoken imprecation in the room and fortunately no effrontery or sloughing. The group listened to hopeful if arguable statements like “customers are moving to sweeter wines and Riesling is well-positioned for that growth” and “a great opportunity is there to position Ontario Riesling in VINTAGES. It is well represented.” Back to Nik Weis.

Weis is a walking shelf-talker. He is happy to say that a semi-dry Riesling is all you need for breakfast. The sugar wakes you up, the acidity enervates you and the alcohol makes you feel good, but not drunk. If it’s a young Riesling the CO2 helps send minerals and the “good stuff’ faster through your blood. “Riesling is better than an isotonic sports drink.”

On the subject of organics and biodynamics, Weis noted “if you feed a vine artificial fertilizer, it will get nutrition but it will not be happy. It needs decomposition, deconstructed materials, organics, even dead animals.” On the topic of TDN, “petrol in a strong way in a wine is a fault, like too much wood or alcohol.” Too much TDN is a result of too much dry soil, too much warmth in the climate and possibly too much defoliation. “It’s not a clonal issue,” says Weis, “Riesling takes forever to mutate.” I sure hope the Aussies are not listening.

Good to go!

Wine dividends, medals and twisted corks

Around this time last year the LCBO boasted about record profits, sales increases and an unprecedented $1.55 billion dividend flipped into the provincial government’s coffers. My May 17, 2012 column noted the 4.7 billion reasons to love the LCBO. The 2012 transfer was up 9.9 per cent over 2011.

Amorim and O-I’s HELIX cork PHOTO: O-I

as seen on canada.com

As of this morning, the new statistics are out and while the spin  plays a familiar proselytizer’s refrain, the numbers might seem to tell a different story. According to the LCBO press release,  ”operational efficiency and growth through store network improvements were key factors in LCBO’s 2012-13 financial results. It was LCBO’s 18th straight year of record sales and 19th consecutive record dividend.”

Here are the numbers, though ”these financials have yet to be audited.”

  • Net sales of $4.892 billion, up $182 million (3.9 per cent) from 2011-12.
  • Transfer of an all-time high $1.7 billion dividend, not including taxes, to the Ontario government. $70 million (4.3 per cent) more than in 2011-12.
  • Net income rose $53 million to $1.711 billion, up 3.2 per cent.

Don’t be misled because the beer, wine and spirits superstore is no shrinking violet. There can be little argument that the numbers remain anything but staggering but it can be suggested that growth may be entering a somewhat stymied period. The Ontario government saw their stipend reduced from just about 10 per cent to slightly more than 4 per cent, according to these latest figures. The total sales percentage increase was also slower than the previous year. Could this be an area of concern when considering the health and viability of the provincial liquor monopoly? An upcoming December 2013 auditor general’s report, if it indeed includes the LCBO, may soon shed new light.

Meanwhile, Wine Align this morning began a search for Canada’s top wines at the inaugural National Wine Awards of Canada being held in Niagara. With the support of host partner Wine Country Ontario#NWAC13 is hosting a wide selection of the country’s leading wine writers and tasters, gathered together to evaluate well over 1,000 wines grown in Canada and to award Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in some two dozen categories.  Wines from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia will be assessed using the same 100-point system employed at WineAlign. Full results will be published on Wine Align in September. Here is the official medie release:

http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/-1802537.htm

Anthony Gismondi and David Lawrason, Wine Align National Wine Awards of Canada 2013 Photo: http://www.winealign.com

The winning wines will be showcased in a special feature section of the National Post’s Financial Post Magazine.  A staggering number (1100 wines) are to be poured, swirled, sniffed, tasted and evaluated by 17 wine critics representing six Canadian provinces.

Wine Align has taken the reigns from the competition previously known as the Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards.  Further groundbreaking is taking place across the pond. A New Twist On Cork has been unveiled “with the launch of a twistable and re-sealable version that could do away with the corkscrew.” The Helix cork is being unveiled this week at Vinexpo in Bordeaux. The “new cork and bottle has a thread finish, which allows drinkers to twist the stopper open and closed again, creating on airtight barrier.”

Portuguese cork manufacturer Amorim and US bottle maker O-I have teamed up to create the new technology, aimed at the $10-20 niche in the bargain wine market. The cork is made from agglomerated, or granulated material and is surely meant to take the screw cap industry to task.  The Helix will attempt to gain control of a divided industry. On one side, the wineries and buyers who support cork closures with a die-hard insistence that wine needs to breath and age via a real cork closure. On the other, the proponents of the screw cap, winemakers and consumers who point out that cork taint (TCA) ruins approximately 5% of all wines bottled under cork and also who insist that cork does not actually allow wine to breath.

This according to British wine writer Jamie Goode: “It certainly looks pretty striking. A key issue will be whether or not it is adopted by leading wine brands, which could help launch it in the eyes of consumers (who are traditionally quite cautious about wine packaging), and of course whether it is affordable enough for a tight-margin wine market. Also, will it need a capsule to make it tamper-evident? Without a capsule, it looks really good.” The immediate future certainly looks interesting.

Good to go!

Good time wine and a beer for Father’s Day

Barque Smokehouse Beef Brisket PHOTO: JILL CHEN/FREESTYLEFARM.CA

as seen on canada.com

But we’ll get together then, dad
We’re gonna have a good time then

Father’s Day demands an obvious directive to reconnect but what does dad really want on Sunday? Maybe he wants to watch the U.S. Open down the stretch or just sit in a chair in the garden. Dad might want company while he works on an old car or maybe he’d just like to take a nap: “Some daddies like to camp out with you and the dog.”

The connection between fathers and their kids is immune to the pressures of a marketing-driven day. Dads have it easy. A good father can do no wrong in the eyes of his children. Unconditional love is a beautiful and immaculate thing.

How about this Twitter challenge from @Stratuswines:

So here goes:

Dad 1933 is a fountain of youth at 80-years-old. Kind, gentle and soft-spoken. Never has been heard a disparaging word by anyone who has known or come into contact with him. Structured, balanced, has aged gracefully and still has the legs to offer pleasure for many years to come.  100  @mgodello

Wine is easy, wine is fun. Picking up a special bottle can offer a kid in the candy store experience. Go for two and the opportunity presents to share one and leave the other in dad’s cellar. Here are seven can’t miss choices, to bury a bone for later enjoyment and to raise a glass to dad.

Clockwise from top left: Melville’s Ginger Beer, Donatien Bahuaud Vouvray Les Grands Mortiers 2012, Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Sori’ Paitin Barbaresco 2008, Paolo Conterno Barolo ‘Riva Del Bric’ 2008, and Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay 2011

Melville’s Ginger Beer (334797, 4×275 mL, $9.95) from the Innis & Gunn Brewing Company is just what dad ordered, especially if he’s Scottish, played 18 in the morning and is now watching a good Scot like Martin Laird win the US Open. Or anyone else who fancies a Shandy for that matter. Light in alcohol (4.1 per cent) yet full-bodied and ginger-tinged in a provocative and pungent way. Gingered yet fruit-driven, full of pep, pop and hopping flavour. Late afternoon revivalist beer.  90  @MelvillesLager

Donatien Bahuaud Vouvray Les Grands Mortiers 2012 (140889, $15.95) from the VINTAGES June 8, 2013 release tasted May 3, 2013. Brings on good, clean soda fun. Dry entry, off-dry continuum and great sweet finish. The blind pilot has got classic Loire smells of “paint or pollen, brick in your mortar.” Verve, acidity, tight lemon swath and spirited length.  90  @ProfileWineGrp

Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (186171, $29.95) from the VINTAGES June 8, 2013 release tasted May 3, 2013. Travels that MOR station road, in an Eagles Hotel or John Mayer Queen kind of way, but for uncomplicated dad, that’s OK. Cool, California, “dark desert highway” night scents, like colitas and creosote. A warm, Sonoma Cabernet that will have you “looking for the sun that Neil Young hung.” Vanilla, fresh berries, lit herbs, balancing acidity and moderate (13.9 per cent) alcohol conjoin for extended play.  90  @duckhornwine

Sori’ Paitin Barbaresco 2008 (106591, $32.95) from the VINTAGES June 8, 2013 release tasted May 3, 2013. Always offer great value, even if its modernity pressures an approachability bordering on femme fatale. Classic attributes by way of tar, roses, tannin and musky animal funk meet a fruit embarrassment of riches. Big for Sori, Shirley, surely. Ready and willing to pair with slow-smoked brisket.  91  @MarkJJacoby

Paolo Conterno Barolo ‘Riva Del Bric’ 2008 (172783, $38.95) from the VINTAGES March 16, 2013 release tasted twice, February 8th and April 30th, 2013. From young vines, is rousing and lofty for under $40. Seamless woven tapestry of pheromone and punch. Esculent sweet cinnamon cherry, pipe smoke, orange blossom and rose floral. Succulent, long and leggy.  Piedmont for a psalm.  91  @liffordwine

Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay 2011 ($59.95, Charton Hobbs, 2010, 709717, $57.95) tasted with Dennis Cakebread at Stock Restaurant, Trump Hotel, June 3, 2013. Night harvested, whole cluster pressed and aged in 1,2 and 3 year-old barrels. “We’re not working for big and buttery,” notes Cakebread and it shows. A medium-plus toast that is void of resin and sinew allows for a mineral, acidity and orchard fruit driven Chardonnay, augmented by a far easter, a gust of green mango, lime and capsicum.  Near-kindred spirit to Paul Pender’s Robyn’s Block 2010. Shaken, not stirred on its lees, well-refined and certainly in balance. Will age gracefully.  92  @CakebreadWines

Marchand-Tawse Volnay 1er Cru 2011 ($65, Vinifera) tasted May 6th at Modus Restaurant blends fruit harvested out of a tempestuous growing season from parcels at the lower end of the Villages. “Lots of substance,” notes Marchand and unmistakably Volnay, in brut strength and firm backbone. Just bottled two weeks ago, the Pinot is not so much in shock but more like in hysteria. Wild and unruly, this will abandon the rock and hard place when it settles into its viking skin.  92  @pasmarchand

Good to go!

Showcase Showdown: Rosewood Sémillon

White wine grapes PHOTO: ROSEWOOD ESTATES

as seen on canada.com

Humbled once again. After tasting through five vintages of Rosewood Sémillon, there are two things I now know for certain. It’s impossible to guess the exact value of prizes in the showcase showdown and even harder to predict the tasting future of a Rosewood Sémillon. If only the Price is Right finale included these great prizes. Bright-eyed winemaker (Luke Orwinski) chomping at the bit to share his grape, game show host plans with the world. Queen social bee (Krystina Roman) directing the drones with striking and graceful precision. Lunch courses as dreamy art-rock chord progressions by chef Ren Mercer of Toronto’s Spoke Club.

Rosewood Semillon (Photos: Michael Godel)

#SemillonShowcase

The club’s private dining room offered an intimate and focused setting for a Rosewood Estates Winery Sémillon five vintage retrospective spanning the vintages 2008-2012. Sémillon the amenable white variety is most often employed in combination with Sauvignon Blanc to forge the dry white wines of Bordeaux and more famously, the dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Winemakers on the west coast have used the grape for some grand Late Harvest Botrytis dessert wines. As a stand alone varietal, Mt. Boucherie out of B.C. makes terrific Sémillon and the grape has flourished in Australia’s Hunter Valley but as a dry white it has gained little attention virtually anywhere else. Mark Kent has made some stellar single bottlings at Boekenhoutskloof in South Africa but look elsewhere and its rare solo usage is both confounding and disturbing.

Enter Rosewood Estates. Their Sémillon is magical. Granted, in leaner years it strikes a more than spooky close resemblance to Bench Riesling but in glorious vintages it takes on a level of complexity no other Niagara white can match. I feel compelled to lead the charge. #StandSémillonStand.

Rosewood Estates is located on the Beamsville Bench astride the Niagara Escarpment. Family run, community-centric and driven by people, place and passion. Most of all there are the bees. The Roman family has been in the beekeeping business going back more than 50 years. “With over 40 acres under vine (across two vineyards) and over 350 hives as of 2012, the team is excited to be one of the premium mead producers in Canada.”

Rosewood Wines and Tasting Menu

Sémillon 2012 ($18, part of the Select Series, brand new label, to be released Fall 2013) is their most intense ever. An exceptional growing season amps the honey sounds to 11, speeds up the sugars to 33 and while there is obviously no sign of chapitalization, added acid stabilizes the high tropical nuance. Huge style for Sémillon, mulched in miele, fruit flavours amplified and lengthened by 14.6 per cent alcohol. Une cousine to J.L. Groux’s Stratus SV, if less grapefruit and increased value.  90

Tasting Plate #1 – Crab Salad + Braised Pork Belly with spring onion and sea buckthorn

The Spoke Club Crab Salad and Pork Belly

Sémillon 2011 ($18, June 22nd VINTAGES Release, at the winery) is frighteningly honeyed and its blatant acidity brings out all the right zest notes in the seafood. Major (three times) cropping from a “disease control vintage” by Orwinski who “knows the vineyard. It really is his home.” He’s still chanting “drop the crop!” in his sleep. The citrus and soda are glaring, exciting and invigorating in ’11, as is the aforementioned honey, the trump card keeping the Sémillon from being confused for Riesling.  Fascinating study.  91

Sémillon 2010 ($18, Rosewood Estates Library and @barquebbq) is stoic, the most delicate and understated at the tasting. If ever there was a dumb phase, this would be it. The sea-earthy buckthorn gelée adds prurient and prosaic matter to the clement, crisp and almandine tisane. Unique to ’10, a marigold floral note hovers.  90  Previous note, Oct. 2, 2012: “shows little procrastination with a superfluity of lemon, lime and paraffin but like all great Sémillon, the wine needs time. A block of wax keeps the honey down but look for a mellifluous ooze three years on. Glittering sheen, diamond-like focus and crusted by an accent of lemon zest. Krystina Roman will lead this grape to stardom. “Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!” Top white. Shine on you crazy Sémillon.”  90

Tasting Plate #2 – Raw Ahi Tuna and asparagus with Thai basil + Caramelized Sweetbreads with chamomile

Sémillon 2009 ($18, Rosewood Estates Library) has changed course since last October by way of a portal-scooching entry into secondary life. Digs deep in the vineyard’s dirt, stretches, grasps and reaches limestone. A product of the most natural vintage, picked late (October 16th), bleating and stonking high in spontaneous, innate acidity. Highlight of the tasting, full of the Clint (citrus and flint).  92  Previous note, Oct. 24, 2012: “may understate its pineapple, Bosc pear and white pepper bequeathal due to the rains of the vintage yet still retains its Viognier like viscosity and floral tide. All quality Semillon needs three to five years to gain weight and Rosewood’s track record tows that line. A mysterious herbal note lies beneath the tropical nuances and Spytkowsky can’t place her nose on it. It’s Rhône-esque garrigue in bloom, not unlike thyme, rosemary or oregano.”  90

Sémillon 2008 ($18, Rosewood Estates Library) is well into collateral, ancillary development. Retains a verve in acidity and twang, similar in style to ’09 and ’11 but the petrol has begun. Another sticky Rosewood, a Pooh-magnet, but also with tropical flavours. Unchained Renaceau rocker, with a funky high leg kick, a wild cat’s wail and if you wait for it, lemon citrus blossom comes out in the last refrain. The gift that keeps on giving. ”Yeah ya hit the ground running.”  92

Tasting Plate #3 – Braised oxtail ravioli with brown butter

The Spoke Club Braised Oxtail Ravioli

Lock, Stock & Barrel 2011 ($34, at the winery) offers distinct vocal performances from Cabernet Sauvignon (44 per cent), Merlot (37) and Cabernet Franc (16) while Petit Verdot gives buoyant girth. Clean, juicy fruit, timed to be picked just ahead of the rains. Repeated battonage and cold soaking make for a remarkably velvety and stylish Meritage. Savoury and piquant, seamless and integrated, the tannins are created by the fruit itself. “In 2011 we got brown stems,” notes Orwinski. Translation? Ripe grapes.  91

Tasting Plate #4 – Poached rhubarb

Harvest Gold Mead 2011 ($15, 500 mL, VINTAGES July 20) is dated by the honey’s bi-annual harvest. Tends dry, gingery, dusty and with a candlenut sweetness, like Gewurz. William Roman Senior dreamt to make mead but was denied the license. Well Krystina, you’ve brought home the cup. ”His dream is my life.” Previous note: is so simple it’s the zen koan of the wine world. Hue as if Riesling or Semillon. Perfume is significant and verdant. Made from a lighter honey as per the vintage, this is “an ode to traditional mead, with a savoury component and cool balance,” notes winemaker Natalie Spytkowsky. Fermented and aged in 100 per cent stainless steel it buzzes out with a tang like late harvest Riesling but finishes remarkably dry. Honey, water, yeast. The whole aviary. Nothing petty about it.  “Peace in the valley with my honey bee.” 88

Mead Noir 2012 ($25, VINTAGES June 15th Online Release, 350835) is oh so Rosé. Made in every other vintage, the Noir interchanges with the Blanc (Gewurz). A shout out to Malivoire fro the clear, Burgundy bottle under screwcap to house this singular Beamsville sweety. This is Pyment Mead, from Pinot Noir, 20 per cent Merlot and a touch of Sussreserve Riesling to bring sweet and tang into equilibrium. Aperitif, tonic, refresher, drink to chill. Works in so many ways. 90

Good to go!

Money back guarantee wines

Here are five wines that will present no reason to be looking for a refund or an exchange. PHOTO: ARCADY/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

Ever opened a bottle of wine, had a sip or two and decided you just didn’t like it? Happens all the time, right? The thing is, in most cases you can return that wine, especially if it was purchased at one of the many provincial monopolies in Canada. Here’s a short primer on refund, return and exchange policies across Canada.

Related – more current releases

“The SAQ exchanges or refunds any product purchased in an SAQ outlet less than a year before. You must present the sales receipt when requesting a refund. For exchanges, the sales receipt is optional.” The LCBO used to offer their customers that same level of respect to offset the negative impact a monopoly’s policies can effect upon a helpless consumer (monochromatic and or lack of quality choice, lottery selections for small lot and hard to acquire selections, indifferent deference to local product, hyperbolic inflation on comparable US supermarket wines, archaic laws towards inter-provincial shipping, import agent strong arming, to name a few). As of April of 2012, you now have only 30 days to return a bad bottle and unlike the SAQ, you need the receipt for a direct exchange. For LCBO returns, wines “must be in ‘saleable condition’ and accompanied by the original receipt. Saleable means that the product must be unopened and have the label intact, for example.  Defective product is treated differently.” Manitoba follows suit. Who brought these guys to the party?

The same applies to defective products; wines with perceptible flaws, such as TCA (cork taint) or VA (volatile acidity). The 30-day LCBO rule is a sham, I mean shame. The open-ended return policy made up for so much of the monopoly’s shortcomings. Alas, no more.

British Columbia’s Liquor board is no piece of cake either. You can only “return a product in B.C for a full refund, provided the product is unopened, in saleable condition an official BC Liquor Stores receipt for the product is presented.” At least they’ve thrown a bone to caterers who can now return unopened liquor products. Nova Scotia follows Quebec’s policy. “Defective or broken product may be returned to any NSLC store for full exchange or refund and does not require a receipt. All customers returning defective or broken product must be willing to provide name, address and telephone number to the NSLC store representative.”

In Saskatchewan it appears that only “permittees can return any unopened spirit and wine bottles and sealed, full beer cases that were purchased for the event provided they provide the original sales receipt.” Remind me not to purchase defective wine in that province. As far as New Brunswick is concerned “at the discretion of the Liquor Store Manager, Alcool NB Liquor will accept product returns for full refund. The sales slip should accompany the returned item.”

Newfoundland’s system, at least on paper, is very fair and civilized, though all returns seem to be in the powerful hands of a store manager. “NLC will accept product returns, at the discretion of the Liquor Store Manager. In the case of defective merchandise, NLC will permit product returns or exchange, at the discretion of the Liquor Store Manager for a full refund where the product is no more than half empty and he product was listed by NLC within the last 12 months. Better than the LCBO. Best of all may me Prince Edward Island. “At the discretion of the Liquor Store Manager, the PEILCC will accept product returns for full refund. The sales slip should accompany the returned item. All returns will be on a “bottle-for-bottle” basis.” Civilized.

Alberta’s Gaming and Liquor Board only accepts “refunds for the following types of faulty products; returned due to customer complaint; a sealed bottle(s) which: is partially filled; has a damaged cap or cork; or is contaminated with a foreign material. A claim for a refund for a faulty product must be received by the AGLC Product and Pricing Department within 30 days of receipt of product by the claimant.” Quality retailers in provinces with a private system (like Alberta) will also take back an unwanted bottle, though they might not be so lenient when you try to bring back that bottle of First Growth Bordeaux. Some wines are sold with an unwritten rule. You lay down your money and you takes your chances.

Everybody’s got a hungry heart. “Lay down your money and you play your part.” So, to avoid disappointment and disappointing your local monopoly or retailer, here are five bargain wines, one for each day of the week beginning today, Monday June 10th. Five wines that will present no reason to be looking for a refund or an exchange.

From left: Place In The Sun Shiraz 2012, Fielding Estate Gewürztraminer 2010, Lealtanza Crianza 2009, Flat Rock Cellars Riesling 2012, and A & G Papaioannou Estate Agiorgitiko SV Nemea 2007

The Grape: Shiraz

The history: New range of fair trade and sustainable wines from 321 year-old Stellenbosch winery Zonnenbloem

The lowdown: This is not a cheap bottle of fermented sugar. A breath of restrained, balanced and fresh grapes awaits

The food match: Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks and Local Asparagus

Place In The Sun Shiraz 2012 (286088, $13.10) is a balanced effort “at half the price” of many similar South African wines, here crafted by the Cape’s Zonnenbloem Winery from vineyards cooled by False Bay. Campfire smoke, grilled meat, spice and antipasti char attribute this chewy, biltong red. Characterized by a musical, magical, folk spirituality. A Hoodoo Guru88  @APlaceintheSunSA

The Grape: Gewürztraminer

The history: Grape King Curtis Fielding and winemaker Richie Roberts are swiftly crafting a mid-range, diverse portfolio into the Ontario wine industry, unparalleled in execution and success

The lowdown: This Gewürz leans Alsace in a sweet sense but not in heft or a serious, contemplative way

The food match: Grilled Cumin Salmon

Fielding Estate Gewürztraminer 2010 (146753, $15.95) acts likes lees dessert as almond vanilla pudding with a side of lychee preserve. While I heart more the Riesling and Pinot Gris from winemaker Richie Roberts, this sugarplum Gewürztraminer has earned a rightful place at the table.  88  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine

The Grape: Tempranillo

The history: Tempranillo specialist from Spain, located in Fuenmayor, in the heart of Rioja

The lowdown: Consistent value Tempranillo from a modern facility crafting wine with a foot in the austerity of the past

The food match: Barque Smokehouse Brisket

Lealtanza Crianza 2009 (114835, $16.95) exhibits more heat and caramelization than previous vintages. Vivid Sangria, pumped up by cherries in simple syrup and fleshy plum fruit. Accented by fennel and basil. Good length and even better value.  89  @bodegasaltanza  @ProfileWineGrp

The Grape: Riesling

The history: Founded in 1999 on the Jordan Bench and operated today by Ed Madronich and his father Ed Madronich Sr. Winemaker is Jay Johnston

The lowdown: This just might be the most trocken Ontario Riesling on the market today

The food match: Grilled Veal Chops and Wild Leeks

Flat Rock Cellars Riesling 2012 (43281, $16.95) is a single varietal conundrum, intensely dry, dusty yet dripping in grape concentration. Huge soda nose, I mean a crazy proboscis. Love the dry entry and off-dry tangent. Twenty Mile Bench issue reminiscent of Rheinhessen. Admirable length and trebled finish.  90  @Winemakersboots @UnfilteredEd

The Grape: Agiorgitiko

The history: Main cultivar from a modern winery of the Ancient Nemea, located in the district of Corinth

The lowdown: A 100% indigenous Greek varietal, aged for one year in oak barrel and further matured in the bottle for six months

The food match: Halloumi

A & G Papaioannou Estate Agiorgitiko SV Nemea 2007 (47977, $19.95) has reached a ripe oxy age but this weathered and sensuous, sun-kissed by gods Greek red is still a classic beauty. Quintarelli-like toffee, tobacco acetic reduction and spiced plum seem like high praise I know but the acidity renders it a wash. Look out, buckets of cherries, tart currants and tar join the fun in this very interesting and intriguing Nemean single vineyard stunner.  89  @KolonakiGroup

Good to Go!

‘It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll’ (but I like wine)

The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, centre, Keith Richards, right, Charlie Watts, back, and Ronnie Wood perform during a concert in Toronto as part of the band’s “50 & Counting Tour” on May 25, 2013. PHOTO: THE CANADIAN PRESS/FRANK GUNN

as seen on canada.com

It’s all about the rocks and stones, in music and wine. Witness songs of raw power, laid wide open, where the squeaks of chord changes, the twang of a plucked bass and the bee bop of a snare hang out exposed and naked. Seek relief in the soothing sound of a soulful ballad but nothing eases pain like a raunchy tune that “invites us to dance in the face of its own despair.” Rolling Stone Magazine rock critic Jon Landau‘s 1974 review of the Rolling Stones quintessential “we’re a rock ‘n roll band” album It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll hit the proverbial nail on the head, then and now. Like the title track, “it resonates like the sound of a shotgun.”

There was no It’s Only Rock and Roll Carrie Underwood duet with Mick Jagger last night at the The Rolling Stones 2nd ’50 and Counting’ tour Air Canada Centre show. I did not go. I had my fill of totemic super group, epic rock concerts in the 80′s and 90′s; Stones, Who, Kinks, Grateful Dead, Dire Straits, Genesis, Supertramp, Allman Brothers, Crazy Horse, E Street Band. Now give me shelter in the sounds of Spoon or Divine Fits. The best concerts then were the rock royalty derivative or solo shows; David Byrne, Peter Townshend, Mark Knopfler, Peter Gabriel and Keith Richards with arguably the greatest grape-related band name ever, the Expensive Winos.

The wine analogy qualifies as yet another hermeneutic. Minerals walk the walk and talk the talk. If the wines qualify as natural all the better, especially when the ferment is unafraid to expose its flaws and idiosyncrasies to be ogled and gazed upon. To smell rocks and stones in a swirled glass fulfills a base and necessary need. The fascination for geology can be quenched by so many international varieties and soils. Chenin Blanc in the Silex of the Loire, Nerello Mascalese atop volcanic Etna, Grenache amid the boulders of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Sangiovese from the ultramafic of Tuscany and Chardonnay out of the Kimmeridgian soil of Chablis. To each animates an ownership of terroir. The world’s quarries have accustomed wine geeks with centuries of fine drink but never has an obsession possessed a community with such pleasures ere unknown. Enter the studios of the Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore and Prince Edward County. Electric Lady, Motown and Muscle Shoals all rolled into one.

The collective geological consciousness embraced by the Ontario wine engineer is only rock and roll but everyone is digging it. If Let it Bleed signaled the Rolling Stones’ entry into an affair and infatuation with all things Americana, especially for vocals and guitar with a country music accent and twang, then It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll is the high swagger point. As a record it represents the culmination of a period where the room is eventually tied together by the rug of Some Girls. Ontario winemakers have entered the ‘open G’ tuning period in their careers, now with a few passionate, penetrating records under their belt. A ten year road lays ahead, destined to me mapped out by their greatest works, lithospheric wines to define their legacies, in toto as the supergroup history will remember them by.

Rocks and stones have for millenniums been used to construct homes, pathways, fences and places of worship. They have also been used to build wine. Here are ten current releases, forged from diverse mineral terrains and available now.

Clockwise from top left: Château Des Charmes Chardonnay Musqué 2010, Valdeorras Tempestad Godello 2011, The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy 2011, Coyote’s Run Red Paw Chardonnay 2011, Malivoire Pinot Noir 2010, Laurent Miquel Bardou St.-Chinian 2007, Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, and Grgich Hills Chardonnay Estate Napa Valley 2010

Château Des Charmes Chardonnay Musqué 2010 (318303, $16.95 and at the winery) is the unoaked result of aromatic Clone 809 combed from the heavier clay-based soils from the St. David’s Bench Vineyard and the silty, mineral rich soils from Seven and Seven Vineyard. Tropical, strutting stunner with “a thousand lips I would love to taste.” Tell Ms. Musqué if you can’t rock me, nothing can.  90  @MBosc

Valdeorras Tempestad Godello 2011 (276071, $17.95) from Bodegas Abanico in Valdeorras whiffs the mineral temptation of a weathered, wet copper penny, secondary Riesling-like petrol, ripe peach and jamón wrapped around white date.  Delicious juicy fruit, nutty and just a touch of lees. Late seafood aftertaste, a crab drink to enjoy with a tempest of Spanish tapas. Ain’t Too Proud To Beg for this one.  89  @bodegasabanico

The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy 2011 (149237, $19.95), kissed, re-passed over and threatening to push boundaries as if it were singing “if I could stick a knife in my heart, suicide right on stage.” This Ilya Senchuk beauty may only be ripasso but I like it. Eases my pain and my brain. Excellent verve and honed of a rock star’s capacity to be loved, with tart, red and black fruit in waves, tar and charcoal. Svelte balance in fruit, alcohol, sweet and sour. This is THE vintage for this wine. Ten plus years lay ahead for a long affair and it will be rewarded with praise in future tastings.  92  @wineaffair

Coyote’s Run Red Paw Chardonnay 2011 (336115, $19.95) reminds of the lyric “and I don’t need no fancy food and I don’t need no fancy wine.” Many may not know it but David Sheppard’s Red Paw Chardonnay at $20 is fancy and serious. There is more toast than from memory and four miles of apple butter in the glass. Red Trafalgar clay loam and Queenston shale bedrock give it strength. Warm Chard for a cool climate with green herbs and a late mineral tinge. Apples in replay. Sadly, sister vineyard Black Paw was pulled due to a virus so we’ll savour this Red Paw Till The Next Goodbye.  88  @coyotesrun

Malivoire Pinot Noir 2010 (996777, $24.95) shows great warmth in rusty, bricking hue. High toned glossy fruit not to be mistaken for anything but Pinot. Tons of fruit character,  some tannin getting warmer in the glass. Time Waits For No One, least of all this very solid Pinot, verging on stunning. “Drink in your summer, gather your corn” for the Malivoire ’10′s time is now.  91 @MalivoireWine

Laurent Miquel Bardou St.-Chinian 2007 (328583, $24.95) the Syrah funk monster is heavy on mineral, chewy with currant flavours and a citrus hint. Like sucking on an iron lollipop that lasts and lasts. Luxury Languedoc.  90  @LanguedocWines

Raoul Gautherin Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2010 (159236, $28.95) has the rocks and stones, rolling in orchards, fields and dreams. Dancing Little Sister, bang on mineral, blessed length, wonderful. Full-on nervy and relevant Chablis. With her “we bacchanal, there ain’t no dawn.”   91  @purechablis

Domaine De L’aigle A Deux Tetes Cotes Du Jura Les Clou 2010 (323618, $39.00) is uncanny in apple cider character from ’08 planted Savagnin grapes and only 50 cases produced. Intense honey with just a touch of fromage, piercing mineral. The apples and honey are everywhere. A little Rosh Hashanah for you with tang, verve and length. “Give me the look of love,” says this Jura, If You Really Want To Be My Friend.  92  @JuraWine

Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (89284, $52.95) makes you gotta love the anti-napa concept, attitude and execution. The ’09′s nose is high in tone, accent and richesse but there is no syrup or gratuitous chocolate barrel aging or excessive berry extraction. Great finesse, balance and a sense of crushed rocks is a throwback to better times. Alcohol at a manageable 13.8 per cent so within reason, built on meter in metronome precision. Will be invited to dinner every night of the year. No Short And Curlies problem here.  94  @RidgeVineyards

Grgich Hills Chardonnay Estate Napa Valley 2010 (346304, $54.95) tasted previously continues to thrill in mineral char and length. From the Fingerprint File, my previous note, “glides in so much variety balance I can imagine showering with wine. You will not pigeon-hole this-worldly and structured white because its finesse reaches out across the great mineral vs tropical divide debate. Sure, there is timbered-driven, golden-fleshed apple, green melon and buttered, toasted bread, but there too is a sting of acidity. Stellar year for Napa Chardonnay. Great glass of sunshine93  @GrgichHills

Good to go!