Are you getting your daily serving of wine?

Wine tasting

Here are 10 current releases to help keep the wolves of virus and disease at bay.
Photo: chiyacat/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

I know you are about to scream at your screen. Not another column about the health benefits of drinking wine. Delete. Wait, hear me out.

Related: A wine prescription for cold and flu and Feeling under the weather? Drink wine

In a recent joint study between the Health Sciences Department, Brock University and the Oncology Department, McMaster University, scientists set out to prove the Inhibition of human lung cancer cell proliferation and survival by wine. Published a month ago, here is the paper’s conclusion: “Red wine inhibits proliferation of lung cancer cells and blocks clonogenic survival at low concentrations.” Nice.

The study was prefaced through the idea that “compounds of plant origin and food components have attracted scientific attention for use as agents for cancer prevention and treatment. Wine contains polyphenols that were shown to have anti-cancer and other health benefits.” Put two and two together and voilà. The group investigated the “effect of wine on proliferation and survival of human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells and its effects on signaling events.” The findings are nothing short of astonishing.

The operative observation here is that low doses (read: moderate consumption) of wine may have anti-cancer and chemo-preventive properties.” White wine’s cancer fighting properties exist (at two per cent concentration) though they are not in the same league as Red wine (five per cent). Or, you need to (very rough math) drink 250 per cent more white wine to reap similar benefits. Such a quagmire.

Evangelia Litsa Tsiani, associate professor of community health sciences at Brock University added “our next step is to use doses of wine that correspond to moderate wine consumption in humans – one to two glasses per day – and examine the effect on tumor growth in mice.”

We already know that the Brock University Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute’s lecture series (now in its seventh season) has had a major impact on the global grape industry. Dr. Belinda Kemp, CCOVI Scientist, Oenology noted that “they’re a great resource for the wine industry and wine researchers anywhere in the world.” I wonder if the department has plans for a wine and health benefits lecture during its eight season. Hint, hint.

The ancients, or late Bronze Age people’s such as the Egyptians, Arameans, Assyrians and Babylonians used the natural world to prevent sickness and disease. Archaeologists recently discovered wine in an Israeli wine cellar, dating back to 1700 BCE. Think the Greeks invented wine? This discovery is 1,262 years older than the Parthenon. That’s nearly as old as the Pyramids. Wine and health relations go back to a time when a woolly mammoth still walked the earth, a time when The Hammurabi code was written. The premise? A commitment to protection of the weak from being brutalized by the strong. Just like wine.

In an attempt to justify what may be construed as profligate connections, the fact of the matter remains. With each passing study conjured up and proven by internationally recognized educational institutions, the health benefits of wine continues to develop as a thing of undeniable valence. Take honest wine with food, take it regularly and live longer. Here are 10 current releases to help keep the wolves of virus and disease at bay.

From left: Dante Robino Bonarda 2011, Domaine Des Amadieu Cuvée Vieilles Vignes Cairanne Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2011, Bodegas Olarra Anares Reserva 2006, Fantinel Sant’helena Pinot Grigio 2012, and Mike Weir Limited Edition Riesling 2012

From left: Dante Robino Bonarda 2011, Domaine Des Amadieu Cuvée Vieilles Vignes Cairanne Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2011, Bodegas Olarra Anares Reserva 2006, Fantinel Sant’helena Pinot Grigio 2012, and Mike Weir Limited Edition Riesling 2012

Dante Robino Bonarda 2011, Mendoza, Argentina (277640, $14.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

Sourced from the Santa Rosa sub region of Mendoza. From sandy soils and built upon a brooding, musty set of wood-influenced aromatics that put the lurking fruit to test. Painfully dry with pronounced flavours of red licorice, sour black cherry, spice and baked figs. Gains richness as it breathes and then the drying tannins take over. Quite an effort for $15. Worth a look for something different and in spite of the idiomatic value it speaks.  88  Tasted February 2014  @DanteRobino

Provenant de la sous-région de Santa Rosa de Mendoza. De sols sableux et construit sur un ensemble de moisi couvaison des composés aromatiques du bois d’influence qui mettent le fruit qui se cache à l’épreuve. Péniblement sec aux saveurs prononcées de réglisse rouge, griotte, d’épices et de figues cuites. Les gains richesse comme il respire, puis les tanins de séchage prendre le dessus. Tout un effort pour 15 $. Cela vaut le coup pour quelque chose de différent et en dépit de la valeur idiomatique elle parle.  88   Dégusté Février 2014

Domaine Des Amadieu Cuvée Vieilles Vignes Cairanne Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2011, Rhone, France (354233, $18.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

Paying a bit of extra attention to lower-priced, high alcohol Rhônes can offer rewards. There is much metal and merit in this Cairanne. At the price it imitates the grandeur of more expensive villages, like Châteauneuf-du-Pape and to a more realistic extent, Vacqueyras. Hued in drupe, holly berry pitch, saturated in berries, spiked by berry liqueur and seeping along with spices and extracts. Outwardly generous in flavour, knowing well that “while we’re on the way to there, why not share.” All in all he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother89  Tasted February 2014  @Amadieu_G

Payer un peu d’attention supplémentaire à bas prix, Rhônes forte teneur en alcool peut offrir des récompenses. Il ya beaucoup de métal et de mérite dans cette Cairanne. Au prix il imite la grandeur de villages plus chers, comme Châteauneuf-du-Pape et dans une mesure plus réaliste, Vacqueyras. Hued en drupe, houx hauteur de baie, saturé dans les baies, dopés par baie liqueur et infiltration avec des épices et des extraits. Extérieurement généreux en saveurs, sachant bien que “pendant que nous sommes sur le chemin de là, pourquoi ne pas partager.” Dans l’ensemble, il n’est pas lourd, il ya mon frère.  89   Dégusté Février 2014

Bodegas Olarra Anares Reserva 2006, Rioja, Spain (244723, $19.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

Perhaps it’s just as a comparison to the rest of this Spanish armada fiasco I am in the throes of tasting but this Tempranillo with minor support from two G’s, Garnacha and Graciano, really has got a hold on me. I grant that it’s a bit faded and heading to melted toffee but at $20 and with the idea to enjoy it now, the wild raspberries, gariga and spicy wood notes are a treat. Savoury, licorice, roast tomato and grilling baby veal flavours will help with a slow braise of the animal’s tougher cut.  90  Tasted February 2014

Peut-être c’est juste que la comparaison avec le reste de cette armada fiasco espagnol je suis dans les affres de la dégustation mais ce Tempranillo avec le soutien mineur de deux G, Garnacha et Graciano, vraiment a obtenu une prise sur moi. Je reconnais que c’est un peu défraîchi et la position de caramel fondu mais à 20 $ et avec l’idée de profiter de ce moment, les framboises sauvages, gariga et des notes de bois épicés sont un régal. Salés, réglisse, rôti de tomate et griller saveurs bébé de veau aideront avec un lent braise de coupe plus difficile de l’animal.  90   Dégusté Février 2014

Fantinel Sant’helena Pinot Grigio 2012, Collio, Friuli, Italy (310144, $19.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

High quality Pinot Grigio from Friuli, with an Alps to Adriatic micro-climate ideally suited to both warm and cool the needs of the variety. You might ask, what difference does that make? Plenty. So much more distinct than reputation would hold and anything but just a Northern Italian white. Lit candle waxy and spiced in Sandalwood, with a lemon peel feel, cool climate salinity and gravelly, silt-inflected Spring run-off. The world’s fleet of Pinot Grigio “have been through hell and high tide,” but thanks to Friuli, the grape keeps its respect. Full flavoured, with smithy verve, punchy, more than practical.  90  Tasted February 2014  @ProfileWineGrp

Mike Weir Limited Edition Riesling 2012, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (229286, $22.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

The off-dry nose is an anomaly and I’m very curious to see where this goes. Persists very sweet to taste, without enough acidity, unfortunately, though the tropical flavours are boisterous and plentiful. This is a more than admirable attempt at a Kabinett style done right by a Mosel intimacy and attitude, though it’s lacking in body and structure. Still, it will age longer and develop more secondary characteristics than many a Niagara Peninsula Riesling, especially for the price. Worth tracking a case of 12 for five to 10 years.  89  Tasted February 2014  @WeirWine

Le nez de demi-sec est une anomalie et je suis très curieux de voir où cela va. Persiste très doux au goût, sans suffisamment d’acidité, malheureusement, bien que les saveurs tropicales sont bruyants et copieux. Il s’agit d’une tentative plus admirable à un style Kabinett bien fait par une intimité Moselle et de l’attitude, si elle fait défaut dans le corps et la structure. Pourtant, il va vieillir plus longtemps et développer des caractéristiques plus secondaires que beaucoup de Niagara Peninsula Riesling, surtout pour le prix. Suivi d’un cas de 12 pour cinq à 10 ans la peine.  89  Dégusté Février 2014

From left: Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Trimbach Réserve Riesling 2010, Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, Marchand Tawse Meursault 2011, and Kistler Mccrea Vineyard Chardonnay 2011

From left: Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Trimbach Réserve Riesling 2010, Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, Marchand Tawse Meursault 2011, and Kistler Mccrea Vineyard Chardonnay 2011

Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (193573, $22.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

Southbrook’s seminal Cabernet has become that kind of go to, reliably delicious and affordable red, not unlike Sterling’s Napa bottling that emerged in the late 1990’s. That this can happen in any vintage out of the Niagara Peninsula is really quite amazing. Even more incredible is that here in 2012, it’s almost too much of a good thing, too hot, too sweet. Still, only Triomphe smells like this and on that note I must give it my thumbs up. The Peninsula’s earth, the purity of that warm, rich ’12 fruit, a touch of disco, that Sperling perfume. The palate is explicitly sweet, on that I’m sure most would agree but the wood is an afterthought. Alcohol is in check, berries are ripe, tannins are refined, ready to resolve slowly, efficiently and with pleasure. Direct, solid and righteous, despite the sugar high.  89  Tasted February 2014  @SouthbrookWine  @TrialtoON

Trimbach Réserve Riesling 2010, Alsace, France (995316, $27.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

Such a dry and powerful Alsatian example. Tight, angular, typically piercing and even more citrus-driven than ever. Jacked up, better than your average Joe Riesling. As a textbook example from a place where the variety rules, it tells “me that this world is no place for the weak.” Still, I find the Reserve bottling a bit overpriced, not having as much personality such as the cost-equivalent Zind-Humbrecht Herrenweg de Turckheim. Another Trimbach that’s just “gotta have no illusions” and look sharp90  Tasted February 2014  @trimbach  @WoodmanWines

Un tel exemple alsacien sec et puissant. Tight, angulaire, généralement perçant et même plus agrumes axée que jamais. Mis sur cric, mieux que votre moyenne Joe Riesling. Comme un exemple classique d’un endroit où les règles de la variété, il dit “moi que ce monde n’est pas un endroit pour les faibles.” Pourtant, je trouve la Réserve embouteillage un peu trop cher, ne pas avoir autant de personnalité tels que le coût équivalent Zind Humbrecht Herrenweg de Turckheim. Un autre Trimbach qui est juste “Gotta Have pas d’illusions” et regardez pointu.  90   Dégusté Février 2014

Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (33894, $30.00, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

Something’s missing, or rather something is happening here. The LCJ omnipresent warm Pinot coat of harm is conspicuous in its absence, or has it been reigned in? This 2011 is so much more friendly, more soft-spoken, expertly judged and picked ripe fruit richer than before. Plenty of tang and tannin but the pronouncement is in a savoury basil/chervil kind of way. Not just another high made by just another crazy guy. A most excellent, bright, Roxy Village Reserve, full of atmosphere and ambient music.  91  Tasted February 2014  @LeClosJordanne

Il manque quelque chose, ou plutôt quelque chose qui se passe ici. Le manteau chaud omniprésent LCJ de Pinot de préjudice brille par son absence, ou at-il été régné en? Ce 2011 est beaucoup plus convivial, plus à la voix douce, experte jugé et ramassé des fruits mûrs plus riche qu’avant. Beaucoup de saveur et de tanin mais la déclaration est dans un savoureux basilic / cerfeuil sorte de façon. Pas seulement un autre haut fait par juste un autre gars fou. Un excellent, clair, roxy Village Reserve, plein d’atmosphère et musique d’ambiance.  91  Dégusté Février 2014

Marchand Tawse Meursault 2011, Burgundy, France (285866, $66.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

Winemaker Pascal Marchand possesses post-modern abilities to coax the most richesse from out of the basic of basic appellations in the Burgundian universe. This ’11 elevates an umbilical villages to exalted heights and it has really settled into its skin since I last tasted it in May of 2013.  The land is speaking and oozing in a primordial drenching. The tang and verve melts in the mouth, like foie gras cotton candy. What sets it apart is the end game mellow melding of pronounced flavours left to free fall effortlessly into a black hole of critical mass.  92  Tasted May 2013 and February 2014

Vigneron Pascal Marchand possède des capacités post-modernes pour amadouer le plus Richesse de l’extérieur de la base des appellations de base de l’univers bourguignon. Cette ’11 élève un villages ombilical à des hauteurs exaltées et il a vraiment installé dans sa peau depuis que j’ai goûté en mai 2013. La terre parle et suintant dans un trempage primordial. La soie et la verve fond dans la bouche, comme le foie gras de barbe à papa. Ce qui le distingue est la fin du jeu fusion douce de saveurs prononcées de gauche à la chute libre sans effort dans un trou noir de masse critique.  92  Dégusté mai 2013 et Février 2014

Kistler Mccrea Vineyard Chardonnay 2011, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County, California (353706, $92.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

The vineyard speaks first, has the microphone, tells of its volcanic, limestone story going back to 1988. Talks in a Chablis whisper which may come across as narcissistic or somehow simple, but surely deserving to receive the benefit of the doubt. The kind of toast that has you reaching for the last jar of homemade berry jam. Lemon/lime reduction, as a gelée, consommé or demi-glace of fine Chardonnay whiffed by subtle smoke and non-discernible fat. The most subtle of all the Kistlers.  93  Tasted February 2014  @TheVine_RobGroh

Le vignoble parle d’abord, a le microphone, raconte sa volcanique, calcaire histoire remontant à 1988. Pourparlers dans un murmure Chablis qui peut apparaître comme narcissique ou en quelque sorte simple, mais sûrement digne de recevoir le bénéfice du doute. Le type de pain que vous a atteint pour la dernière pot de confiture de petits fruits maison. Citron / réduction de la chaux, comme une gelée, consommé ou demi-glace de fin Chardonnay whiffed par la fumée subtile et graisse indiscernable. Le plus subtil de tous les Kistlers.  93  Dégusté Février 2014

Good to go!

Grapes of dreams: Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay

Vineyard

Today’s world of wine is mind-scrambling complex, in a state of sensory overload and full of patent argumentation.
Photo: Artur Synenko/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Sometimes you can go home again. Too often we forget to do just that. As wine agitators we yearn to be blown by a birr to scour the world’s rarely visited vineyards for pearls of indigenous excellence. We are desperate to be curious, to be the first in and we do it for sport. We want to extol the virtues and the natural wonderment of Etna’s Nerello Mascalese and Santorini’s Assyrtiko. We champion the esoteric and the cool.

In the 1970′s American winemakers bottled white wine, including Chardonnay and called it ‘Chablis‘. The same New World daredevils were of the first to put ‘Cabernet Sauvignon’ on the labels of their wines, as opposed to ‘Graves’ or ‘Médoc’. Those were innocently sweet times. The early days of wine as comfort food, wines that reached a consumer comfort zone. The wines themselves were not the attraction, but rather the idea they represented. Cabernet Sauvignon has never looked back and now stands accused as being a ’colonizer’ at the expense of autochthonous varieties. Is the criticism warranted? Should a champion at the top of its game be castigated for its hard-earned, commercial success?

Today’s world of wine is mind-scrambling complex, in a state of sensory overload and full of patent argumentation. Writers, critics and sommeliers agree to disagree about a wealth of topics. They rant about inaccessible restaurant wine lists, feckless wine columns and shoddy blog posts. What grapes to promote heads the heated discussion. There is a constant ebb and flow of complaint, especially with regards to a too cool for school ravenous appetite for the most obscure grapes.

In the name of balance, a return to what got us here is both necessary and welcome. Bordeaux and Burgundy are original and safe terms of endearment. Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are the grapes of dreams. If you produce them, people will come. They will pull the bottles off the shelves, “not knowing for sure why they’re doing it.” They’ll arrive at the wine store, “as innocent as children, longing for the past. The one constant through all the years” has been Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. “It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again” in the world of wine.

Here are eight renditions of the world’s most planted and famous of varieties, coming soon to a store near you.

From left: Cicchitti Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Dry Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Hedges Family Estate Three Vineyards Red 2011, and Maison Roche De Bellene Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Chardonnay 2011

From left: Cicchitti Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Dry Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Hedges Family Estate Three Vineyards Red 2011, and Maison Roche De Bellene Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Chardonnay 2011

Cicchitti Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Mendoza, Argentina  (301465, $21.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

Sing-song, spongy sweet Cabernet Sauvignon with not much beyond rich, splintered fruit. Gets behind the wheel, drives over pavement tar, cooks with gas and nine years on it’s conspicuously copacetic. Is what was and will be should it avoid the mouth of the desert as we “watch a yarn of twine unravel.”  87  Tasted February 2014  @winesofarg

Chantante, spongieux doux Cabernet Sauvignon avec pas beaucoup au-delà de riche, fruit éclaté. Obtient le volant, peasily ousse sur le goudron de la chaussée, cuisine avec gaz et neuf ans c’est visiblement copacetic. Est-ce qu’il y avait et il sera devrait éviter l’embouchure du désert comme nous “regardons un fil de ficelle démêler.” 87  Dégusté Février 2014

Dry Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA  (642207, $25.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon often walks a tightrope between ripe extraction and savoury pepper. When it holds ground and refuses to bite in either direction the result is increased complexity. Compare and contrast this DCV idea to the Ridge Lytton Springs blends of Paul Draper and then see even greater value from Dry Creek Vineyard. Proper, anaesthetizing alcohol gives gingerly away to winter savory, currant, red pepper flakes and Cab Franc-ish coolness. Creeping tannins, gathering and sucking the daylights out of the fruit will allow for future ever-berry resilience and shine. “That’s the magical kind ’cause it’s flowin’ all of the time.” Let this DCV play its slow hand, settle and enjoy it five-10 years further on down the road.  91  Tasted February 2014  @DryCreekVnyd

Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon marche souvent sur une corde raide entre l’extraction mûre et de poivre savoureux. Quand il détient sol et refuse de mordre dans les deux sens, le résultat est une complexité accrue, comme le Ridge cabines de Paul Draper et encore plus les valeurs de Dry Creek Vineyard. Bon, anesthésier l’alcool donne précaution loin de sarriette, de cassis, de flocons de piment rouge et de sang-froid Cab Franc-ish. Creeping tanins, la collecte et sucer les Daylights des fruits permettra avenir résilience jamais-berry et brillance. “C’est le genre magique parce que c’est flowin ’tout le temps.” Que ce DCV jouer son lent main, à s’installer et profiter de cinq-dix années plus loin sur la route.  91  Dégusté Février 2014

Hedges Family Estate Three Vineyards Red 2011, Red Mountain, Yakima Valley, Washington, USA  (1594, $32.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

A most interesting Washington blend out of a vintage worth seeking out. Abstruse fruit package in five varieties, conjoined like a semi-sweet chocolate dessert of flourless proportions and marked by a grain and an exceptional, altitudinous presence that can’t be denied. Berries of all colours and levels of sweet/tart, evergreen verdigris, velvety texture, richesse, luxury magic mountain air. “Walk in the sun, up on Magic Mountain, Red mountain wine, everybody laughs.” This Hedges has that effect. A more than sensible price for all that’s going on and anything but a burden.  92  Tasted February 2014  @hedgeswine

Un mélange de Washington le plus intéressant sur un millésime vaut vraiment le détour. Paquet de fruits abscons en cinq variétés, uni comme un dessert de chocolat mi-sucré de proportions sans farine et marquées par un grain et une présence altitudinous exceptionnelle qui ne peut être niée. Baies de toutes les couleurs et des niveaux de sucré / acidulé, à feuilles persistantes vert de gris, texture veloutée, Richesse, luxe magie air de la montagne. “Promenade au soleil, sur Magic Mountain, le vin rouge de la montagne, tout le monde rit.” Cette Hedges a cet effet. Un prix plus que raisonnable pour tout ce qui se passe et tout, mais un fardeau.  92   Dégusté Février 2014

Maison Roche De Bellene Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Chardonnay 2011, Burgundy, France (299867, $18.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

Technical information overload on the back label indicates attention to detail and something special this way comes. Flamboyance for $19, unabashed, buttery Chardonnay, soft and very, very generous. The expansive palate parches, draws moisture, making for wanting more. As a harbinger for what will be a classic vintage, this RdB offers a gratuitous entry, greater value and likely as much complexity as compared to many wines at twice the price. A bit herbal and vegetal on the back-end, but not out of control.  88  Tasted February 2014  @Rochedebellene

Informations techniques surcharge sur l’étiquette arrière indique l’attention au détail et quelque chose de spécial cette manière vient. Flamboyance pour 19 $, éhontée, beurre Chardonnay, doux et très, très généreux. La bouche large de la dessèche attire l’humidité, ce qui pour vouloir plus. Comme un signe avant-coureur de ce qui sera un millésime classique, ce RdB offre une entrée gratuite, une plus grande valeur et probablement autant complexité par rapport à de nombreux vins à deux fois le prix. Un peu de fines herbes et végétaux sur l’arrière, mais pas hors de contrôle.  88  Dégusté Février 2014

From left: Rustenberg Chardonnay 2012, Keint He Portage Chardonnay 2012, Keint He Chardonnay FoxCroft Vineyard 2012, and Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay 2010

From left: Rustenberg Chardonnay 2012, Keint He Portage Chardonnay 2012, Keint He Chardonnay FoxCroft Vineyard 2012, and Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay 2010

Rustenberg Chardonnay 2012, Stellenbosch, South Africa (598631, $19.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

Subtle and reserved for Stellenbosch Chardonnay, in its own dépêche mode, not in any hurry or trapped by fashion. Speaks in the dialect of the green apple orchard and subtle spice helps to render its baby fat. Amenable and approachable, chanting, building power as it goes, restoring faith in the variety. Your own personal Chardonnay Jesus. Would reach out to touch so many imbibing ways. To sip with small bites, with the fish of the day and with a sweet lemon dessert.  90  Tasted February 2014  @RustenbergWines @WoodmanWines

Subtil et réservé à Stellenbosch Chardonnay, dans son propre mode de dépêche, pas pressé ou piégé par la mode. Parle dans le dialecte du verger de pomme verte et d’épices subtiles contribue à rendre sa graisse de bébé. Prête et accessible, le chant, renforcer le pouvoir comme il va, rétablir la confiance dans la variété. Votre propre Jésus de Chardonnay personnelle. Devrait atteindre pour toucher tellement de façons de imbibition. Pour siroter avec de petites bouchées, avec le poisson du jour et un dessert au citron doux.  90  Dégusté Février 2014

Keint He Portage Chardonnay 2012, Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $20.00, WineAlign)

Made from estate County fruit augmented by some bunches from Lighthall Vineyards. Same 12-month oak treatment (as the Voyageur) though typically more wood-spice pronounced on County fruit. Same goes for the feeling of minerality and a warm note of creamed wheat. The spice is one of peppercorn, the angles in lemon and green apple, the often tragically hipster terpenes not overwhelming and the opulence of the vintage remains king. There is a kinship here to the Niagara Vinemount Ridge’s Quarry Vineyard. Bury this 2012 treasure for three years and “let’s just see what tomorrow brings.”  89  Tasted February 2014  @KeintHeWinery

Fabriqué à partir de comté immobilier fruits augmentée par quelques grappes de Lighthall Vineyards. Même traitement de chêne 12 mois (comme le Voyageur) mais en général plus de bois épices prononcé sur le comté de fruits. En va de même pour le sentiment de minéralité et une note chaude de blé à la crème. L’épice est l’un des grains de poivre, les angles de citron et de pomme verte, les terpènes souvent tragiquement hippie pas écrasante et l’opulence du millésime reste roi. Il ya une parenté ici pour Quarry Vignoble du Niagara Vinemount Ridge. Enterrer ce trésor 2012 pour trois ans et “nous allons voir exactement ce que l’avenir nous réserve.” 89  Dégusté Février 2014

Keint He Chardonnay FoxCroft Vineyard 2012, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $28.00 )

Fruit sourced from a single Niagara block. Despite having made the yeomans voyageur trek out to the County for vinification, integrity of the Foxcroft vibe has been maintained. Freshly cored Kenyan pineapple juice poured atop oat grain in a limestone molcajete. Bottled on Sept. 15th, like all the ‘12’s. Fullish, bullish extraction and at 13.5 percent abv, this Foxcroft has been handled with Wise acumen, with more rich texture than the others. A chew of nutty, non-acidic hard pineapple comes later and this finishes with a mild-mannered, even keel feel to it, like the winemaker and the estate’s keeper.  90  Tasted February 2014

Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada  (33936, $30.00, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 1, 2014 Release

Here’s a Niagara Chardonnay that provides a sense of oneness or connectedness to place and community. Big atomics in ecstasy and a warm set of opulent accessories that steal the visual and aromatic show. The tinges are gold, platinum and patina all layered into one. Smells of a well thought out barrel program and of the land. Tastes earthy, sweet and racy. Huge NP expression “and I can see, hear, smell, touch, taste. And I’ve got one, two, three, four, five senses working overtime.” There may be too much going on but this is a wine that will run on high energy for 10 years. Winemaker Sébastien Jacquey waited patiently, honed and reigned in his golden vintage. Take note from here on out.  91  Tasted February 2014  @LeClosJordanne

Voici un chardonnay du Niagara qui fournit un sens de l’unité ou la connectivité de lieu et de la communauté. Big atomiques en extase et un ensemble chaleureux d’accessoires opulents qui volent le spectacle visuel et aromatique. Les reflets sont l’or, le platine et patine tous posés en une seule. Les odeurs d’un programme de canon bien pensé et de la terre. Goûts terreux, doux et racé. Expression de NP énorme ”et je peux voir, entendre, sentir, toucher, goûter. Et j’ai eu un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq sens des heures supplémentaires.” Il peut y avoir trop de choses, mais c’est un vin qui se déroulera sur une grande énergie pendant 10 ans. Oenologue Sébastien Jacquey attendit patiemment, poli et régna à sa cru d’or. Prenez note à partir de maintenant.  91  Dégusté Février 2014

Good to go!

From Cinquante to wine with Canada-U.S. hockey

Canada\'s Marie-Philip Poulin (L) celebrates with Canada\'s Meghan Agosta-Marciano.

Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin (L) celebrates with Canada’s Meghan Agosta-Marciano.
Photo: ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images

as seen on canada.com

I hope the Canadian men’s hockey team watched the women this afternoon. Lesson number one: Play to the last friggin’ millisecond. Canada versus the United States is hockey incarnate. The games are always exciting.

When we gathered for that first historic Salt Lake City Gold Medal game in 2002, we drank cinquante. Mario would have wanted it that way. For the 2010 Vancouver golden goal win we convened with Steam Whistle. That historic Sunday in February was my first time out of the house after a right AC (acromioclavicular) joint shoulder rebuild. Hockey injury, of course. Wine did not factor into those generation defining Olympic hockey games. Back in 2002 names like Lemieux, Sakic, Fleury, Brodeur, Hull, Leetch, Modano and Roenick were toasted with beer, though back then the brands were not so craft related. In 2010 it was all Sidney Crosby and had I been acquainted at the time with the wonders of Sparkling wine from Nova Scotia, Benjamin Bridge would surely have been flowing.

Meanwhile, Super Mario turned out to be a serious wine collector so I wonder what Le Magnifique will be opening this Friday at noon. Team Canada architect Steve Yzerman is also known to follow the way of the grape and though he won’t be sipping Napa Cabernet with the other brass during the game, I’ve a feeling there’s a ’97 waiting in his hotel room should Canada prevail over their arch rivals.

Hockey stick and wine bottles

Hockey stick and wine bottles

The great Rhône wine scribe George Heretier posed the all-important debate, ”who says wine and hockey don’t make a good match?” If you want to exercise the powers of superstition, pulling out those two winning vintages will call upon the hockey gods to carry our Canadian men to gold. That and a Loonie buried beneath the surface at centre ice.

Here are eight great Canadian 2002 and 2010 wines to crack open and sip along with another Canada-U.S. classic hockey meeting.

Clockwise from left: Southbrook Vineyards Cabernet Franc ‘Watson Vineyard’ 2002, Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Speck Family Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2002, Rosewood Estates Winery Sémillon 2010, Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Burrowing Owl Syrah 2010, Huff Estates Cuvée Janine Sparkling Rosé 2010, and Stratus White 2010

Clockwise from left: Southbrook Vineyards Cabernet Franc ‘Watson Vineyard’ 2002, Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Speck Family Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2002, Rosewood Estates Winery Sémillon 2010, Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Burrowing Owl Syrah 2010, Huff Estates Cuvée Janine Sparkling Rosé 2010, and Stratus White 2010

Southbrook Vineyards Cabernet Franc ‘Watson Vineyard’ 2002 ($30, winery) From A long and ‘wine-ding’ tasting road

Shows amazing longevity and freshness. Proof of the Peninsula’s magic to state ”you will never never never know me.” Simply solid red.  91  Tasted March 2013  @SouthbrookWine

Stratus White 2002, VQA Niagara Peninsula (660704, $44.20, WineAlign)  From Select tasting through years of the Stratus Red and White

Performs a demi-sec act which is not such a stretch, considering the late harvest actualities of the Gewürztraminer and the Riesling within. Could pass for dessert-like, cool-climate French (Jura) though after the chimerical declension it’s still nothing but a Chardonnay-galvanized meritage. Like warm honeycomb buttering steamed crustaceous matter. That Stratus White medicine, in rose potpourri and honey completes the classic scene within the portal.  93  Tasted September 2013  @Stratuswines

Stratus White 2002

PHOTO: Michael Godel
Stratus White 2002

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Speck Family Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2002 ($50, wineryWineAlign) From A long and ‘wine-ding’ tasting road

From the Niagara Peninsula shows toffee and concentrated, oxidized fruit. That said, it has aged well and still offers intellectual spirit in dried fruit and potpourri. Great old tune to Dance, Dance, Dance along to.  89  Tasted March 2013  @SpeckBros

Rosewood Estates Winery Sémillon 2010 (177758, $17.95, WineAlign) From Showcase Showdown: Rosewood Sémillon

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  Tasted October 2012 and May 2013  @RosewoodWine

Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (ON, VINTAGES Essential, 193573, $22.95, WineAlign) From: Good Look Ahead at Canadian Wines For Thanksgiving

Drifts effortlessly along in an extreme brightness and lightness of being. A perfumed exotic beauty that displays definitive Cabernet Sauvignon character. Tea, tobacco, Cassis, vanilla, dark berries, proper acidity, good grip and length. Dictionary entry for the vintage, the Niagara-on-the-Lake appellation and the genre. No other sub-$25 Ontario Cab does the warm vintages (’02. ’05, ’07 and ’10) with this kind of grace and power. From and kudos to winemaker Ann Sperling.  91  Tasted September 2013  @SouthbrookWine

Burrowing Owl Syrah 2010 (73072, $41.95, B.C. $39.99, Alberta $44.99, WineAlign) From: Nine big November best buy wines

This Syrah will cure so many ails. Vouchsafe for a pepper-laced, plasmic mouthfeel, a maroon liquid pewter party of rocks and stones in the mouth. Playful and childlike, digs a pony, playing and offering really good fun. Does its own Okanagan thing becuase “ev’rything has got to be just like you want it to.”  92  Tasted October 2013  @BurrowingOwlBC

Huff Estates Cuvée Janine Sparkling Rosé 2010 ($29.95, winery only, WineAlign) From: You can lead a county to the city

100 per cent Pinot Noir grapes is a phenomenal, inaugural genesis effort. More sanguine in colour than one would imagine, this sparkler is wonderfully sweet but also ”turns sweat, turns sour.” Pinot Noir is always potentially so dramatic but who knew it could be like this, like blood swirling in the glass. “Bottled in a strong compression,” with black raspberry, noticeable yeast and impressive finesse.  Out of the cage.  91  Tasted May 2013  @HuffEstatesWine

Stratus White 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula (660704, $44.20, WineAlign)  From Select tasting through years of the Stratus Red and White

sends me immediately towards Bordeaux, in neo-marmalade, but also buoyed in perfume and body by 25 percent Viognier. “This variety worked so well in the vineyard in 2010,” notes Groux. Niagara honey and near-botrytis via Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc void of grass, full of vigor. A sharp note, neither metallic nor mineral, but a combination of the two is present in this so very concentrated ’10. Of a warm vintage (self-explanatory) fully picked by October 23. Though loaded with early Spring maple sap, foie gras and appley terpines, its sharp and framed by “tannic” tang and protracted length.  92  Tasted September 2013

Good to go!

Three-chord wines, hold the rants

Wine on the rocks

Here are six rock ‘n’ roll wines, in four-four time, ready and willing to ease your mind.
Photo: Pavel Drozda/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

The world’s most famous wine critic is not happy. His claim of “wannabe” scribes hell-bent to focus on obscure wines most consumers can never find has raised a maelstrom of retort. Robert Parker published a diatribe last month about “a vociferous minority” of “euro-elitists” vying for journalistic market share “perpetrating nothing short of absolute sham on wine consumers.”

Them’s fightin’ words. No, not that rant by Robert Parker about Robert Griffin III. Wine critic Robert Parker Jr. railed against a bevy of unnamed bloggers on the natural, honest and low-alcohol wine supporting bandwagon. His claim? Natural wines will be exposed as fraud. Parker’s would-be assailants are an outspoken generation who would seek to bring down those classic grapes capable of ripe extraction and elevated levels of sugar and alcohol, namely Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The intensity-loving reviewer has positioned himself as the establishment, a victim agonizing over the sanctification of “godforsaken grapes,” like Blaufränkisch and Trousseau.

Alder Yarrow of Vinography took exception and proposed a cage match. His column: Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation. Rebecca Gibb’s take: Should Robert Parker Have Listened to Disraeli? Jamie Goode put in his ever-wry two cents: Novelty at the expense of quality? This after Jancis Robinson chimed in with Bottle fight: Novelty v classic wines. Talia Baiocchi had this to say: The Robert Parker Tirade, Continued. Eric Asimov brought it down to a New York state of mind with Why Can’t You Find That Wine? Meanwhile, Steve Heimoff took the other side: There are some kinds of blogs we just don’t need.

There isn’t a writer in the bunch I wouldn’t read, can’t learn from or don’t find funny, but the need to chime in on what is obvious and already understood leaves me dumbfounded. In wine, as in life, there are some things that just are what they are, like them or not. Mr. Parker, you carved your niche. Those who lay with you ate cake. The model worked. It held water and was extremely successful for a long time. You are this week’s Napa Wine Writers Symposium keynote speaker, where you will feel the love. No one will ask, what have you done for me lately? You created the establishment and are of course trying to protect the status quo. You’ve been ridiculously prolific. Integral to the high-frequency, high-end wine buyer. And you are just a writer. Really. So what if the dogs are seeing signs of Queegish dotage. You named no names in your rant, so who exactly did you mean to insult? The world is your oyster. What’s with the bitching?

Perhaps Parker touched an insecure spot, the one where self-doubt creeps in. The one that drives writers to defend themselves, even if the attack is not a personal one. The need to tear him down is strange at best. It smells of poli-campaign slander. If he’s no longer relevant, as a vehement bunch seem to scream and shout, why bother? Why is the wine writing community one where sides desperately need to be taken? To both sides I caution the high road. Let writers write and if you think they are wrong or have nothing to say, ignore them. Like a tree falling in the forest, is an unread writer ever really heard?

It’s understood that controversy sells and lively discourse is healthy. In this case it has produced more than a novella of interesting reads. The current generation of critics, bloggers and reviewers is replete with some stupidly smart writers who have chosen wine as their raison d’écrire. That they chime in and offer their take on everything from varietal obsessions to tasting bans and producer/journalist relationships is certainly fascinating. Arguing the merits of varietal worthiness is fine. Discussing the pros and cons of esoteric versus classic wines on restaurant cards is relevant. Throwing sticks onto the ice, choosing teams and starting fights simultaneous to the debate loses sight of the original topic. I am not suggesting a wine writer’s love in but would more levity and space not foster an environment where the wines themselves matter more than the people who talk about them?

Tasting, talking about and writing up wines seems the course to stay, whether it be reviews on varieties never heard of or an obnoxiously fat glass of buttery Chardonnay. Richard Auffrey fights the good fight but still takes a stab at the beast. The always dry W. Blake Gray floats on in his singular, ethereal way, and by doing so, gets it right. He wants you to know I’ll have some Roussillon, hold the Rivesaltes. With Tuba and Alto Sax. Perhaps Gray would agree with me. If I need a dose of scathing criticism or irony I’ll turn on Bill Maher, or put on a Bill Hicks Rant in E-Minor.

Music and wine can work magic when paired together. Jamie Goode has been exploring the possibilities. Sometimes it’s just a matter of breaking wine down to the base, choosing grapes from places where they are made in straightforward and simply powerful ways. Likewise, clicking an uncomplicated, three-chord arrangement on YouTube or the I-pod can really change the outlook of a day. Here are six rock ‘n’ roll wines, in four-four time, ready and willing to ease your mind.

Clockwise from left: Alamos Torrontés 2013, Lar De Paula Crianza Tempranillo 2008, Sophora Sparkling Cuvée, Grant Burge 5th Generation Shiraz 2012, Thorn Clarke William Randell Shiraz 2010, and Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia Barolo 2008

Clockwise from left: Alamos Torrontés 2013, Lar De Paula Crianza Tempranillo 2008, Sophora Sparkling Cuvée, Grant Burge 5th Generation Shiraz 2012, Thorn Clarke William Randell Shiraz 2010, and Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia Barolo 2008

Alamos Torrontés 2013, Salta, Argentina (81539, $13.95, WineAlign)

From Salta in north west Argentina, what is so appealing about this well-priced bottling is the salinity and outright humidity it always displays. Torrontés gives so much away aromatically, by way of flowers and the verdigris of mountain ferns. This Catena entry-level wine achieves all of the above and for a song. This Alamos is medicinal, reeks of orchids sweating in a greenhouse and teases with white pepper. It’s short and quick but efficient. Excellent value.  88  Tasted January 2014  @CatenaMalbec  @MalbecLife

Lar De Paula Crianza Tempranillo 2008, Rioja, Spain (358770, $16.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Entry-level Rioja was nothing but a house party. Was surely rocking a year ago but now a fading, dry cake of rusticity, with the slightest hydration of charred sour cherry. Solid Crianza, though short-lived, with some bitter notes and good acidity in tight corners. Where once it “said move it, groove it,” now it laments “baby, don’t you lose it.”  87  Tasted February 2014  @HHDImports_Wine

Sophora Sparkling Cuvée, New Zealand (353656, $19.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Frothy, gregarious sparkler from New Zealand with extraordinarily large bubbles, a soft downy texture and a cottony nose. Gentle spice, sweet easy bake brioche and juicy grapefruit is inviting, if advanced by mechanical means. Mellow, smooth, pure and clean with no obvious toast, soap or bitters. Well-priced, drink now fizz.  89  Tasted February 2014  @Select_Wines

Grant Burge 5th Generation Shiraz 2012, Barossa, South Australia, Australia (Agent, $20.00, WineAlign)

High powered, ocean size aromas here, expressing the power and pomp inflection of the Barossan attitude. Very berry and not alcohol shy though it’s a gathered heat and nothing shocking. Swirl this wave of big juice for long enough and though it will feel “like a tooth aching a jawbone,” it’s fleeting and releases to a softer finish. Still, a Shiraz more John than Jane.  88  Tasted January 2014  @GrantBurgeWines  @TrialtoON

Thorn Clarke William Randell Shiraz 2010, Barossa, South Australia, Australia (922773, $43.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Surreal, impossibly dense and terrifically complex Barossa Shiraz, full of dark fruit blues and hard-rocking rhythms. Metallic zinc tincture, causing heavy breathing, steaming like a locomotive with “no way to slow down.” Steals words and all sensitivity from teeth and gums. Such a big expression but certainly not one of the all-time one-dimensional losers. So much more than jammy fruit. To put aside and revisit in 20 years.  91  Tasted February 2014  @pontewine

Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia Barolo 2008, Piedmont, Italy (596890, $49.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Pure Nebbiolo currency, bankable Barolo. This ’08 confirms the old-school austerity of the Colla caste and genre. Parlous handsome perfume, stark, raving Barolo, exact and definitive in angular tannin. Racy, deep and unctuous, nowhere even close to settled or responsive.  There is a lurking depth of flavour not yet willing to cooperate. My kingdom for your Bussia graces.  92  Tasted February 2014  @glencairnwines

Good to go!

Synchronicity in three terroirs

Grapes

On Bachelder’s choice of grapes: “The great thing about making Pinot and Chardonnay is they take 16 months so you have to leave them alone, go away and let them be.”
Photo: PAO joke/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Thomas Bachelder is a quote sprinkler. Like this: “It’s not because you can’t tell something blind that it doesn’t exist.” On Monday, February 10th, the Quebec native courted and mesmerized a room of 50 Ontario Wine Society members, guests and wine writers at the University of Toronto’s Faculty Club. If there is another winemaker’s brain that can dish out dissertations with gifted, hypnotic babble like Bachelder, I’ve yet to hear it. All so unbelievable and believable at the same time. Whatever the former Le Clos Jordanne and Lemelson winemaker is selling, I’m buying.

I would crawl up any staircase, rearrange busy schedules and mobilize the troops to taste the wines of Thomas Bachelder. So, when the call came from OWS President Ken Burford to join Bachelder and partner Mary Delaney for another tasting of the Bachelder Project, mobilize I did.

For a brief history on the Burgundy, Oregon and Niagara terroirist, check out my November 2013 tasting report, with thanks again to Tony Aspler.

Related – Vineyards, winemakers and their sense of place: Bachelder and Leaning Post

The nine-deep tasting focused on the 2011 vintage, with one (2010) exception. While it was not a perfect storm of the entire (15 wine) Bachelder portfolio, it was a pretty damn good attempt. It’s hard to believe that a Canadian citizen who happens to make wine in three countries is forbidden to hoard enough of his own wines to conduct tastings at his leisure. Canadian cross-border restrictions meant Bachelder had to deliver his Oregons to a New York post office box and then carry them across at Fort Erie. Imagine the scenario. Customs officer: “What are the wines for?” Bachelder: “I am the winemaker and they are for a tasting in Toronto and for my cellar.” Beyond absurd. The rest were sourced from SAQ and LCBO stores scattered about the two provinces.

The serendipity and synchronicity of the three winemaking regions has meant the stars have aligned in Bachelder’s favour. These tastings simply write themselves. The year 2010 was warm in Burgundy, Oregon and Niagara, classic in 2011 and in 2012 warm again. The 2013 vintage looks to be another trifecta classic. “If the wines are all of a similar weight, you can really see each country’s terroir for what it is.”

Ontario Wine Society Bachelder Tasting

Ontario Wine Society Bachelder Tasting

“Burgundy is my favourite place to make wine,” admits the flying vintner. ”I’m not ashamed to say that (in a room full of Ontario Wine Society members) it’s exciting to be tasting wines from other places.”

On Pinot Noir: “If you push too hard and try to make that darker Pinot, you lose elegance.  You can’t try to make a hot vintage an elegant one. You have to live with it.”

On Niagara: “Are we still prejudiced against Ontario wines? If you are standing in a store with Oregon, Niagara and Burgundy in front of you and $50 in your pocket, what are you going to choose? No one ever passes a $50 Burgundy my way because I look like a nice guy.”

On barrel aging: “It’s not about the oak flavour, it’s about the texture. That’s aging Chardonnay in oak. What’s happening in the barrel is a reduction sauce, a demi-glace, sucking the moisture out of the wine. Humidity leaves the wine and the alcohol stays. It’s a permeability stage, in the fight against residual sugar and low acids, which are poison to balance.”

On his choice of grapes: “The great thing about making Pinot and Chardonnay is they take 16 months so you have to leave them alone, go away and let them be.”

On Stelvin (screwcap) vs cork, he avoids the question and says it’s the bottle with the thick neck he wants, the one that pours with ceremony.

1,500 cases is just about the maximum Bachelder intends to make in each of the three regions. On expansion: “There’s only so much you can do in a person’s cellar without them saying what the hell are you doing here.” These refreshed tasting notes are transcribed in the prescribed order poured by Bachelder and though I’m still not sure of the method behind the line-up’s madness, call me crazy if I wasn’t transfixed.

From left: Chardonnay Classique Niagara 2011, Pinot Noir Oregon 2011, and Chardonnay Oregon 2011

Chardonnay Classique Niagara 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (302083, $29.95, SAQ 11873721, $29.95, WineAlign)

From three blocks, Wismer, Saunders and Wismer-Foxcroft. Has gained fleshy weight and waxy polish in three short months, despite the tightness of the vintage. Juicier now, with zest akin to Clementine. Should this upward trend continue, cool down often and always with this exemplary Niagara Chardonnay. From my earlier November 2013 note: “Lean and mean Niagaran, in a hue and a style that brings Burgundy to mind. Comblanchien layers of limestone salinity, like a villages from Côte de Beaune. Tang, pine forest, Warheads sour candy and just a hint of the barrel but you know it’s there. A simple, Chuck Berry three chord arrangement. “I was anxious to tell her the way I feel,” even if I had no particular place to go.”  90

Pinot Noir Oregon 2011, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA  (333278, $34.95, WineAlign)

On a night like this Bachelder’s recently gravelly Oregon Pinot ’11 seems to have shed its tough outer layer. Signals the evolutionary advance with a Parliament Cordell Boogie Mosson space bass note, which then blows quickly away. The wine exudes spirited cherries, Barbarescish tar and duly scented rose. Thomas notes that Burgundy should be the reference point though it does not specifically emulate Chambolle-Musigny. Built of a specific Oregon mindset but with a broad inter-connectivity to Bachelder’s other terroirs, especially considering the 2011 vintage kismet between the mothership convention of Niagara, Oregon and Burgundy. Thomas describes this Pinot as, “just shy of perfect ripeness, but not green, which is a perfect indicator of terroir.” She is perhaps advancing quickly. Is she too beautiful.? From my earlier September 2013 note:  “Bleeds Willamette terroir. Punctiliously phenolic from marine sediment and seemingly obvious early-ripening. Provocative in ruby, sugar-sour cranberry meets redolent raspberry. Chalky, tannic and serious. It’s tough on me right now. Come on Thomas, would ya please lighten up? I don’t want to have to wait to drink the first case.” 90

Pernand Vergelesses 1er Cru ‘La Creux De La Net’ 2011, Burgundy, France (SAQ 12089524, $38.50, WineAlign)

A metallurgical slant this time around and iodine, though sweet, like a geologist’s preferred cocktail. The palette is Rothko maroon and in cohorts with what is ascertained by the palate, scheme fruits and hearts both red and black.  From my earlier November 2013 note: “Has the sense to be subtle, effortless and akin to Chambolle. Not so much openly ripe fruit but more the flowers that come before. Cherries dabbed by a citrus fragrance, or the spritz of squeezed zest and an unusually smoky musk. Insinuates new world (think Oregon) though it tells a rubble tale of its limestone slope climat.” 90 

Pinot Noir Lowrey Vineyard 2011, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (361816, $44.95, WineAlign)

Legerdemain from what must be posited as a parcel capable of proliferating the richest and most structured Niagara Pinot Noir. Remarkable purity out of this magic vineyard, lissome tannins and an unmistakeable blooming rose note here now, fragrant like never before. Yet unknown but very known vineyard, especially if you have also made the acquaintance of Five Rows and Leaning Post. Peerless local Valentine’s Pinot. From my earlier October 2013 note: ”Springs eternal from an ocean of cranberry and an island of spice. The somewhereness of this St. David’s vineyard can’t be denied, and in the hands of Thomas Bachelder the extraordinary happens. I am simply blinded by the light, by the weight and the weightless gravity. By a sweetness that just isn’t sweet, like exotic red fruit that knocks you sideways upside the cerebral cortex. Not to mention an iron madness that “plays that song with the funky break.”  94

Pinot Noir Johnson Vineyard 2011, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA (SAQ, 12065338, $44.25, WineAlign)

Devastating underestimation on my part when first sampled back in November. How could I have been so blind to the depth, density and irresistible pastry chef layering. The Bachelder Chardonnay may be the stuff of demi-glace but the Pinot is so much more a thing of chemistry. A wall of sound, of no moving parts, with no separation and if an astringency was ever there, it has since departed.  Since November, this has improved more than any other wine in the room. From my earlier November 2013 note: “Here there wafts an increased “blister in the sun,” more terroir from a tight vintage full of pumped over tannins. An accented aromatic membrane envelops this Johnson, of orange zest and studded rind, in violet tendency, with more flesh. Even if she speaks in Frainc-Comtou dialect when she walks through the door, she walks out distinctly Oregonian singing as a Violent Femme. Pure and clean up front, she builds, then leaves a trail of tangy fruit behind. Tangled web of Pinot.  93 

Chardonnay Oregon 2011, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA (273334, $29.95,  SAQ, 11845359, $29.95, WineAlign)

Yet another three months later re-taste to show Bachelder’s Oregon terroir may be the most difficult to assess in its infancy. This short slumber has changed everything. Oregon distinction, smell it, commit it to memory and you’ll never forget it. “Picture yourself staring at a loved one in a restaurant,” says Thomas. “Would you be able to pick this out as Chardonnay?” Some ciderish activity, from sedimentary and volcanic soils that used to mingle with ocean waters, give this a sea salt and fossilized lava stillness. More buttery (dare I say, popcorn) goodness than the rest. And restrained tang. And length. Wow.  From my earlier November 2013 note: While Burgundian in hopes and dreams, this is very much a $29 Oregon white.  No mask, no hidden altruism, simply the right Chardonnay for the right price. Bone dry, orchard driven, high acid, void of harmful terpenes. There is a salinity and piquancy not influenced by PH, perhaps by the ocean, by sandstone, but regardless it’s unique to place, unlike Niagara, Prince Edward County, or for that matter Burgundy.”  91

 From left: Chardonnay Saunders Vineyard 2011, Chardonnay Wismer Vineyard 2011, and Bourgogne Chardonnay 2010

Chardonnay Saunders Vineyard 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario  (324103, $44.95, WineAlign)

Saunders is quiet right now, in cool waiting and in display of the most elegance I’ve encountered from any Bachelder Chard, at anytime, anywhere. Background spice, backing vocals are in the isolated spotlight. This I am keying on as much as any note, in any wine here tonight. Not giving it up as easy as before. Extra swirl time required. Will re-visit in the summer. Right, Thomas? From my earlier July and November 2013 notes: “From Beamsville, right beside 30 bench, has a texture, a depth and a mouth feel  in ’11 that bounds and leaps towards the ethereal. A dancing stag, displaying, performing a mating ritual dance.  Melons, ripe and fleshy are in this Saunders. “What’s carrying this wine is site, site and site.” A great clay slice of the Beamsville Bench. From my earlier note: ”Takes the baton from Wismer ’10 in a transfer of power, tension and excitement. Clarity of textural fruit is driven by Beamsville Bench clay-silt soil. Highly dependent on yeast chains, sticking, spreading and expanding. Savoury, buttered stones show negligible encumbrance due to vines that will not carry an excess of new oak.”  93

Chardonnay Wismer Vineyard 2011, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (345819, $44.95, SAQ 12089591, $44.95, WineAlign)

Increased richesse and oomph and though I continue to hesitate to admit it, Saunders is the (Jackson Browne) elegant bottling in ’11. Wismer the (Warren Zevon) gregarious, mineral character werewolf of Niagara, what with its a touch of anxiety, fuller texture and “bite down…draw blood!” From my earlier November 2013 note: “From the Wingfield Block within the 20 Mile Bench grand cru vineyard, ’11 Wismer is greener, in apple and sapid behaviour. The tension is palpable, quarryful, querulous, more calciferous. Fruit here is picked at an altitude as high as the lowest part of Flat Rock’s vineyard. Can a spot be pinpointed, anywhere on the peninsula that produces more piercing Chardonnay in 2011 as this Wismer micro-block?”  91 

Bourgogne Chardonnay 2010, Burgundy, France (272005, $29.95, WineAlign)

Bathed in medicinal permeate, a white rose mingling with marigold floral tone. Waves the hot flag of the vintage draped like a humid blanket over the wholly palatable, imbued netherweave, mineral tang. Still the omnipresent Bachelder acidity tempers the heat. It’s not oxygen on the nose, it’s more carbonic, oleaginous too, with a solar aromatic, malolactic presentation that gives this Chardonnay soft, stable, holistic age. Qualities unique to Puligny and Mâconnais.  90  

Good to go!

You can kiss my sweet pink wine, Valentine

Pink lipstick

Here are five wines that say “you can kiss my sweet pink wine, Valentine.”
Photo: VILevi/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Friday is Valentine’s Day, again. May as well be Groundhog Day, only the movies aren’t as good. You do know that songs about Valentine’s Day rarely look at the bright side of life. Case in point David Bowie, Linkin Park, Marilyn Manson and even JewelLast year I played the cruel card against a worthy Valentine’s adversary, the wine in the pink pajamas, Rosé. Like it or not, I’m sticking to the 2013 pronouncement, “just say no to pink wine for Valentine’s.”

I can and will pick wines for any and every occasion, from the Ice Storm to the Super Bowl, from Halloween to sipping along with Rock and Roll. Valentine’s Day receives no exemption but there can be no sugar coating cupid’s get in the mood juice by way of the pink stuff. Blush and bride do not connect as the greatest Valentine’s Day pairing.  A real man will drink Rosé any day of the year, just not tomorrow. February 14th is so hyper-candied that ingredients like salinity, minerality, positive bitterness, animale and tannin are essential in the name of balance. Just don’t pair your dry red wine with chocolate.

The wines I’ve picked out for her, for him and for each other all exhibit at least a few complex characteristics. They also hail from nooks in the world a patron saint of lovers might find a respite away from the demands on his match-making time. Here are five wines that say “you can kiss my sweet pink wine, Valentine.”

From left: Terres Blanches Muscat Sec 2012, Boutari Santorini 2012, Domaine Lambrusques Esprit Sauvage 2011, The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy 2012, and Verbena Brunello Di Montalcino 2008

From left: Terres Blanches Muscat Sec 2012, Boutari Santorini 2012, Domaine Lambrusques Esprit Sauvage 2011, The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy 2012, and Verbena Brunello Di Montalcino 2008

White for her

Terres Blanches Muscat Sec 2012, Pays D’oc, Languedoc-Roussillon (Midi), France (653188, $13.95 WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Dry Muscat can be dull as paint drying and though this entry-level rarity (for Canada) is a bit aromatically quiet for the species, the palate really shines. This must be the place to explore the dry example of the variety. A naïve melody with “feet on the ground, head in the sky.” Will appeal to fans of Unoaked Chardonnay and white Rhône blend rangers. Tasty bits of clementine, nougat and anise. The good bitters of a cocktail coming up to room temperature. Good tangy finish that goes on for quite some time. We’re talking head of the class.  88  Tasted February 2014

White for him

Boutari Santorini 2012, Santorini, Greece  (47985, $15.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

The soda, stones and salinity of Assyrtiko from Santorini can be a trifecta of allegorical wonderment. This one has all that but it is the lemon drop nose that leads so in that sense it’s more basic than others. That said it is a perfect pale-bronzing entry into Thira’s Cycladic, Aegean world. At this price there is more pith and bitter nut oils but the wine remains lively. Add to that the savoury garrigue of the island’s low-bush vineyards and a slow-flowing note of warm lava. Not surprising given the above average temperatures of 2012, leading to a reductive note. Still, Assyrtiko always thrills.  89  Tasted February 2014  @Boutari  @DrinkGreekWine

Red for her

Domaine Lambrusques Esprit Sauvage 2011, Pic Saint Loup, Languedoc-Roussillon (Midi), France (354142, $17.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

This Languedoc-Roussillon red blend wheels out a quirky beat but is so generous of flavour it will have great appeal, if not to the masses. Unmasked by wood or cane, it almost seems to apologize for being so tasty. Pic St. Loup may not be a household name and though it “started off with nothing,” this village might tell the Esprit Sauvage  “you’re proud that you’re a self-made man.” Confident in bracing tannin and acidity though they steal away like a Xeroxed, three-minute George Harrison pop song. At the end of the day I’m happy to be stuck in Midi with a Pic St. Loup.  89  Tasted February 2014

Red for him

The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (149237, $19.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Quickly reminiscent of its 2011 predecessor but also different, in a basking, vintage-related warmth and reductive currency. This could not have been an easy wine to temper in 2012 considering the ripasso methodology. Just softened plum is painted all over its sheen with the poaching aromas steaming away. Grilled, melting licorice, caramelizing and disapparating before your eyes. Not to mention a French vanilla creamy garagiste waft, like nuts and bolts ice cream. But I will admit the tang, acidity and tenacity increases with each sip and swirl. Such a unique bottling to Ontario. Is there anything else like it not from Lake Erie North Shore?  89  @wineaffair  Tasted February 2014

Red for each other

Verbena Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Tuscany, Italy (165126, $39.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

A conundrum here. On one hand this Verbena is ready to take up residence in the modern world. On the other, there are hallmark ancient Sangiovese Grosso varietal and Montalcino cellar smells. Leather, game, seeping, weeping cherries, dried flowers, cave must and animale. The game really stands out and though it’s neither mutton nor bretty funk, it’s got musk. Angular yet sweet tannins envelop flavours of roasted plum and licorice. Copiously endowed with intense, dense, chewy fruit so expect this to last for 10-15 years. Makes for great value in Brunello out of a trying but thankfully not flamboyant vintage.  92  Tasted February 2014  @ConsBrunello

Good to Go!

Big houses, bigger wines, big-ish prices

Canadian money

The earnest call across the country to free my grapes continues though regrettably, stiff resistance stifles the cause.
Photo: ulga/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

If you live in Canada, purchasing wine ties you directly to a monopoly. There are exceptions, though still imperfect ones, like the free market culture of Alberta and the developing tiered system in British Columbia. The earnest call across the country to free my grapes continues though regrettably, stiff resistance stifles the cause.

Manitoba and BC allow direct to consumer inter-provincial wine imports. Consumers can order from out of province and receive direct shipments so long as the wine  is 100 per cent Canadian. Nova Scotia has passed enabling legislation that will follow a similar path. If you reside in Quebec or a fortiori, in Ontario, having wine shipped to you remains taboo. The alternate recourse of consignment wines available for purchase through local importers is an irregular option and having to buy by the case designs no compass of mass appeal.

Spend even a fraction of the time I do in trying to seek out the best values, at the best prices and in the categories that cater specifically to personal tastes and you will understand how difficult it is to be satiated in such a constricting climate. I am not the only one seeking out red wines made in the vineyard, through minimalist oak intervention, unhindered by residual sugar, produced by passionate and honest winemakers who are vigilant with the softest of hands.

Who does not want their wine to have mass in it, as in life? Who would reject an elixir drawn from iron-rich earth, boiled through limestone and warmed to a rosy madder? Who can deny the pure joy culled from a wine that might steal the words from the mouths of poets?

In Canada, unearthing such gems requires intestinal fortitude, especially considering the search is mapped out in government-controlled stores. Stock norms do not include wines made from lesser-known grapes, from regions and appellations less frequented. It takes time, effort and most of all, patience. Life can get in the way of the endless and unavailing chase; work that pays, kids, weather, fatigue. Sometimes it just makes sense to abide and even embrace the easier, well-worn path. This is where the bigger wineries step in, toting larger case loads and a middle-of-the-road, radio bathos experience.

There are varietal vicissitudes to ferret out from varieties you might have chosen to avoid. New World Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Zinfandel. Rhône blends. Sangiovese blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. Tempranillo. All these grapes are often mistreated, modernized, smothered in oak and homogenized so that their indigenous origins are blurred into a bar of mass-produced chocolate. Occasionally they are done right by their makers.

In what has been such relentless cold, snow and ice, now into the oppressive dog days of winter, don’t think of drinking commercial wine as copping out. The big houses can be your friend, so loosen up and trust me when I tell you I’ve worked very hard to weed out the chaff and promise only to recommend the whole wheat. Here are seven current releases that made the pecuniary cut.

From left: Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, Clos Du Val Zinfandel 2011, and Robert Mondavi Chardonnay 2011

From left: Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, Clos Du Val Zinfandel 2011, and Robert Mondavi Chardonnay 2011

Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Okanagan Valley British Columbia (545012, $24.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Here’s a juicy plum wine with noticeable warm alcohol that goes subterranean and won’t make you homesick for alien Pinot Noir. Athletic red with a quick first step and nerve, running a west coast offence, scoring points.  Char in licorice and a grid-iron, “uptight, uptight” bitter tendency but is a most saucy rendition. Extra point from clean, easy sweet tannins. Good length. Pinot on the radio. Really attractive price puts it at the head of its class.  90  Tasted February 2014  @MissionHillWine

Clos Du Val Zinfandel 2011, Napa Valley California, USA (590216, $24.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Every so often a grape variety confounds and astounds, like this pretty in zinc Zinfandel. Almost mute as far as Zin goes, this CdV ”set out on the heels of the unknown.” Times like these normally produce lumbering, high-octane interpretations but this radical face is the Simon and Garfunkel of the variety. Singing with soft harmonies and composed as if by a deft balladeer. Flair comes from Spanish-like modernity – a good thing for Zin. Less bramble, more Ribera. Less reduction, more Montsant. Smooth as silk, reeking in vanilla, raspberry and symptomatic by a kiss of mineral. If but for one hollow mid-verse this would truly sing but that really is no big thing.  90  Tasted February 2014  @ClosDuValNapa

Robert Mondavi Chardonnay 2011, Napa Valley, California, USA (310409, $25.95, WineAlign)

One of the more quintessential, mid-range, rich and opulent Napa Chardonnays that steps out of the lobster butter dish in 2011. Apple-tinged terpenes show their presence, along with tarragon and a bag of just opened good and plenty. Piquant, poignant vintage, peppery and acting cooler than I ever remember it to be. Whether by chance or by choice, this is a welcome direction though I doubt its kind will soon be seen again.  89  Tasted January 2014  @RobertMondavi

From left: Umberto Cesari Liano Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Wairau River Reserve Pinot Noir 2010, Grant Burge The Holy Trinity Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvédre 2011, and Beronia Viñas Viejas 2010

From left: Umberto Cesari Liano Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Wairau River Reserve Pinot Noir 2010, Grant Burge The Holy Trinity Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvédre 2011, and Beronia Viñas Viejas 2010

Umberto Cesari Liano Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Igt Rubicone Emilia-Romagna, Italy (225086, $29.95)

Decidedly modern in many ways; oak impart, varietal alliance and braggadocio. The nose speaks highly of unsettled alcohol and alchemy. Big on black cherry and earthy with a welcoming and necessary roasted rare and still kicking game component. The mellow support of Cabernet Sauvignon is kicked upside the head by full throttle, oak-laden Sangiovese. Though hot and bothered, there is a keen sense of acumen on display by the Emilia-Romagna team at Umberto Cesari.  89   Tasted January 2014  @UmbertoCesari

Wairau River Reserve Pinot Noir 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand (361253, $29.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES Feb. 15, 2014 Release

Wonderful value in premium Marlborough Pinot Noir. Alluring sylvan aromatics, in a potpourri of violet, rose, plum and strawberry. Sharp, cranberry-pomegranate-cherry fruit flavours, the grain of red fife, and eye-popping acidity. An earthy terroirist, layered and delicious. Warm but not alcohol driven, touched by oak but not shaken and with just one coat of paint.  91  Tasted February 2014  @wairauriver

Grant Burge The Holy Trinity Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvédre 2011, Barossa, South Australia (Agent, 236257, $29.95, WineAlign)

The right Rhône immediacy of the 2011 Barossa vintage gets its hooks right in. Snapping with a direct blow uppercut to the jaw, this Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvédre blend goes right for the jugular with passion, not sugar. It’s a tricky mix, angular yet smooth, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. Terrific charred, meaty flavours mixed with juniper and black raspberry, savoury spice and a chain of tannic length. Will age with metronome precision over a period of 10-15 years.  91  Tasted January 2014  @GrantBurgeWines

Beronia Viñas Viejas 2010, Rioja, Spain  (Agent, $30.00, WineAlign)

This 100% Tempranillo is Beronia’s enigma. Sourced from 40-plus year-old vines and housed for 14 months in new French oak. The Van Morrison bottling, if you will. Forget thoughts of a gnarly, tar and brambly red. This one is compliant and inviting. Cherry cheesecake gives it a dessert-like funk, with a baking spice and savoury plum pudding chaser. Vanilla is the unifying factor, the glaze, the icing on the cake, thanks to those new barrels. “You say “France” and I’ll whistle.” This is a pleasure to taste and ready for consumption.  90  Tasted January 2014  @BodegasBeronia

Good to go!