Valentine’s Day came and went yet again. The 2015 edition of the polar vortex coincided with Cupid’s annual marketing juggernaut, bursting pipes, freezing the tails off brass monkeys everywhere and making life especially hell for those left out in the cold. Hearts were broken, mended and hopefully in more cases, joined as one.
I was under the assumption you did not need my recommendations this year so I didn’t provide a pre-VD column to parade out a list of painfully obvious pink and sparkling wines. In the past I messed with the gratuitous holiday, first with just say no to pink wine for Valentine’s:
My advice is to just say no to pink. This year, you gotta be cruel to be wine for Valentine’s.
I followed that up by stating your man wants these wines for Valentine’s:
If you ask me, all I really want this Thursday, like any other day of the year, is a decent bottle of wine.
Last year I said You can kiss my sweet pink wine, Valentine:
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.
In early retrospect, my take on 2015 remains frozen like the crust of precipitation on my windows and my copper pipes. Nothing much to say but wait for the thaw. There were of course the proverbial dinners, chocolates, desserts and all you need is love; enough to go around for the whole family. And there was wine. The family day weekend offered ample opportunity to sample and take note of a dozen bottles, none earth shattering or iconic but most aimed to please. Here are some notes.
Château De La Grange Barbastre Muscadet Sur Lie 2013, Cotes De Grand Lieu, Loire, France (Agent, $14.00, WineAlign)
Little in the way of aromatics here. Were Honeydew Melon dried like mango, this Melon de Bourgogne might be its simple sweet candied flavour. That and a chalky, thin leesy residue. The texture improves as a by-product of the tangy finish on that palate that turns musky melon funky, like whiskey in the jar. Like an ole’ Irish ballad singing “musha ring dumb a do dumb a da,” this Muscadet is characterful if nothing else and good value at $14. Tasted February 2015 @LoireValleyWine
Domaine De La Grange Barbastre Sauvignon 2013, Igp Loire, France (Agent, $14.00, WineAlign)
Here is a very effective, oleaginous tank simple Sauvignon Blanc with a white flower and candied salt dominant nose. The candy replays on the palate though in a more medicinal and saccharine way. The sweetness is one that drowns, submerges, without a sound. More salinity and blanched nuts round out the smooth finish. Succulent if one dimensional Loire specimen. Tasted February 2015
Domaine De La Grange Barbastre Pinot Gris Sauvignon 2013, Igp Loire, France (Agent, $14.00, WineAlign)
This 50/50 split between Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris is a rare sighting indeed from out of the Loire Valley. In this instance the Alsatian elevates the Loire game with its ability to draw mineral and salinity from the earth, not to mention extract and the achievement in balance. Here the fruit leaves the salty stones in the dirt and then reaches higher, into the branches of the orchard, for zest and flesh, of pear and lemon. A gradated layering and roundness prevails. Sweet without being sweet, salty without being salty, in the end, all about flesh and bone. Good length. Tasted February 2015
Lanciola Chianti Colli Fiorentini 2012, Tuscany, Italy (330761, $16.95, WineAlign)
Entry level pricing rarely affords complexity and here, in this glycerin, shimmering Colli Fiorentini is an intoxicant of red fruit Sangiovese. Smells like warm celluloid and lamb. The “wool is soft and warm, gives off some kind of heat.” The plums within are charred, fleshy, clement and battered by a bretty funk. The carpet of texture is crawling with cellar micro-nutrients and gamey notes. There is nothing simple in the lamb’s coat and braised shank character. Wood splinters in the glass and the somewhat acquired flavours spread ambience through its broadway Florentine grooves. Another genesis Chianti Docg provides fodder for the further breaking down of appellations and designations of denominazione. Tasted February 2015 @Collifiorentini @LeSommelierWine
Boutari Grande Reserve Naoussa 2008, Naoussa, Greece (140111, $17.95, WineAlign) A VINTAGES March 21, 2015 release
In this Xinomavro there is beauty and bog consistence, like wild calla palustris. Imagine a wine thick as consonants, dense and defined by solid rock bubbling like stew, from out of a marsh. Wood adds intricate layers and a mothering of leather hiding and protecting dried cherries. Game, spice, liquorice, funk and things that heal flavour the wine’s liqueur. Silky smooth with a run of grain and the salinity of ancient longing. Racy acidity intrudes, puts in a charge and takes care to see six to eight years more life will be a guarantee. Easily and possibly 10 will pass before it sheds the chalky loops. Terrific vintage with impressive depth and range of flavour. Tasted February 2015 @boutari @KolonakiGroup @DrinkGreekWine @winesofnaoussa
Liberty School Chardonnay 2013, Central Coast, California (960120, $18.95, WineAlign)
A perfectly well-made, crowd-pleasing and sufficiently balanced Chardonnay with tree fruit notes in many shapes and sizes. The forward aromatics and restrained PG flavours are made for MOR, broad appeal. Though the texture and length are unexceptional, there is a spicy bite that slips more sips into the cards. A move along and return to again and again Chardonnay. Tasted February 2015 @TrialtoON @hopefamilywines
Eos Estate Petite Sirah 2012, Paso Robles, California (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)
Petite Sirah is so often inelegant and black as night so the Eos take is refreshing and relatively tame in comparison. Here defined by a multitude of red fruits and a varietally timid 14.3 per cent alcohol declaration that is more than believable. Has a large stone flecking earth character that reminds of Vacqueyras, amplified by liquorice, bramble and pseudo-garrigue. Fine-grained acidity and tannin add depth and linear, progressive attitude. The inherent hunches of ferric and sanguine seem Tuscan, when considered by way of comparative mythologies. The sole glaring detractor is folksy oak that will not fully integrate before fruit decline. Leans sweet without veering to cloying and all tolled, adds up to complexity for value at under $20. Tasted February 2015 @EOSwinery @LeSommelierWine
Henri Ehrhart Gewürztraminer 2012, Alsace, France (392118, $19.95, WineAlign)
From Klevener de Heiligenstein, this is surely a step up in the Alsace Gewurz take. Some reserve in the nose, holding back the far east florals and the sugar. There’s an aerified feel to this, an ethereal complement, a savoury edge. Really interesting and surely more than versatile aromatic white. Good texture with creamy mangosteen and vanilla pod and then tight, even spicy, bracing acidity. Great deal here. Will live for a decade. Tasted November 2014 @AlsaceWines @drinkAlsace
Dei Rosso Di Montepulciano 2013, Tuscany, Italy (919430, $19.95, WineAlign)
Caterina Dei’s red fruit Rosso di Montepulciano is a noble seductress of necessity, younger and approachable, engaging for its purity and for its freshness. When compared to the Prugnolo Gentile that frames a Vino Nobile, it falls short, obviously, but its immediate appeal is what matters. Clean, clear and pristine juice is dropped with a tincture of beneficial medicine notes, for good sense, in place, measure and thought. A maquillage smear of sweet anise liqueure adds a dense streak in herbiage. The rehydrated fruit of tree pods is imagined, along with a vestige of Val D’Orcia garden shrub excretions. A malleable, permeating and nearly intoxicating Rosso. Drink now, now and again. Tasted February 2015 @LeSommelierWine
Tawse Unoaked Chardonnay 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)
The Tawse take on Unoaked Chardonnay is definitive, exemplary, righteous stuff. It does not clock you over the back of the head, nor does it beg for attention. Its stainless steel raising causes a dichotomous sensation, merging fruit seemingly drawn directly from the apple and pear orchards to melt into a mineral bath. It’s like a collision of hot and cold, like lightning. One taste of this pale, pure Gegenschein elicits the idea of a relevant encounter and one willing to be experienced again and again. Tasted February 2015 @Tawse_Winery
Waterbrook Pinot Gris 2013, Columbia Valley, Washington (918242, $22.95, WineAlign)
Very Gris (as opposed to Grigio), pure as Walla Walla running spring water, with mineral salts on the nose, juicy stone fruit on the palate and some tonic on the surprisingly long finish. Sweetness spoons over and lingers, perhaps trying just a bit too hard but “she brings the sunshine to a rainy afternoon.” Waterbrook’s PG is a yes wine, with components that are all expressive, if a bit scattered and not always in synch. If Washington Pinot Gris were progressive art rock, this Columbia Valley specimen might sing its song, with length to last out an album side. Tasted February 2015 @WaterbrookWine @LeSommelierWine
Boxwood Estate Trellis 2012, Middleburg, Virginia (Agent, $39.00, WineAlign)
A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc produced at John Kent Cooke’s historic estate, the Trellis spent 12 months in one to three year-old French oak. Classic nor-eastern aromatics share a kinship with North Fork clarets, but here warmer, riper and fuller of flesh. The advance comes by way of the 2012 heat day quotient and the latitude. The swath is a fresh coat, not sublimated from dried fruit. The plumpness is in fig, prune and plum, hydrated, dense and twisted with ties of tannin and acidity. The unmistakeable feel of cool-climate, new world expatriate Bordeaux-styled reds is explicitly fresh and clean. If it were $20 instead of $40 it would be an absolute no-brainer. As it stands, it’s worth a look though at the price its audience will not be large. Tasted February 2015 @boxwoodwinery @TrialtoON
Good to go!