The VINTAGES release program certainly lends structure and a targeted faculty of morphology to the selling and buying of courtly wine in Ontario. It’s a part of the LCBO juggernaut that deserves to be celebrated, particularly when it offers glimpses of hope and excitement. Optimism does exist and persist within the confines of an otherwise habitually oppressive system. A system that tends to function with coordinate construction, of paratactic verse that heavily promotes wines of narrative brunt.
On the other hand, VINTAGES is a mimetic project, which is a few projects too many. We wine trackers and writers are akin to Cricetinae, perpetually running in a wheel or like Sisyphus, forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down. We read the bi-weekly catalogue, pre-taste the newest offerings, make our lists and check them twice. In every batch there are 10-15 wines that stand out, as much about bell curve positioning as absence of singularity.
We don’t want to waste time drinking shite. There can be no good reason to swill sugar, contrived acidity or fast drink laboratory concoctions. Bring us wine of humility and humanity. Pour us truth and honesty. Separate the wheat from the chaff and don’t waste our time or insult our character. Give us wine from people, with roots and a sense of place. VINTAGES abides with a class of red shirt freshmen each and every release. That much I can concede.
Related – California stars in VINTAGES March 5th
From what I have tasted in advance of the VINTAGES March 5th release, what has excited me most is perhaps more a reaction to the unseasonably warm weather or maybe it’s just that I am presently satiated by tannic and acidity-molifiying white wines during winter. Last week I reported on the California stars as a follow-up to my recent Napa/Sonoma trip and in advance of April’s California wine fair. Brunello di Montalcino is in the spotlight what with Benvenuto Brunello coming next week. The Sangiovese Grosso line-up for March 5th is solid if underwhelming. My consensus pick of one is potentially polarizing. It will seem tired to some palates and precociously wise and cultured to others. The difference of critical opinion keeps the VINTAGES wheel turning and I am of sound mind to believe that’s a good thing.
Wine Country Ontario comes to the Royal Ontario Museum today for Taste Ontario in Toronto, the annual gathering of winemakers from The Niagara Peninsula, Prince Edward County and Lake Erie North Shore. On Saturday four peninsula whites will be released, three of which are typicity poster children for VQA good sportsmanship awards. Felicitous and regionally befitting Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewürztraminer that succeed as they should even while they bypass the idea that creative voices should be heard. Are we witnessing the dearth crumbling of stylistic freedom or is change coming, necessary and inevitable? The fourth white on offer is a shining example of the Ontario appellative blend, a category ever elusive, uncapitalized upon and necessary to the industry’s future success.
Superior South Africa, Vinho Verde Portugal not allowed to be labeled as such and Spanish Garnacha, white and red, grace this list. I also recommend an Ann Sperling Okanagan from the B.C. homestead and one freaking, awesome Sancerre. Here are 11 picks on March 5th in the year 2016. Enjoy.
Excelsior Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Wo Robertson, South Africa (382085, $13.95, WineAlign)
Warm climate conditions, a thunderstorm-inflicted harvest and prudent, hasty picking are what winemaker Johan Stemmet had to contend with in 2014. Kudos as a little something for the effort. Quiet and subdued aromatics are levied and bolstered by extreme fruit sensations exhibited on the palate. Crunchy green apple and green mango spritzed by lime forge a tight, angular and nearly tense relationship with linear and direct acidity. Sauvignon Blanc of meaning, unencumbered by the tenets of global style. A certain kind to be sure. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted February 2016 @Excelsior_Wines @WOSACanada @WOSA_ZA
Casa Do Arrabalde Avesso/Alvarinho/Arinto 2014, Vinho Regional Minho, Portugal (429324, $14.95, WineAlign)
Here $15 of pure Minho beauty, ripe and rich, regionally representative, if generalized in name because Alvarinho alights in the varietal mix. Smells and tastes just like a tart Mutsu apple picked post fully completed phenolics. The minor spritz on the tongue screams Vinho Verde, as does the stony eligibility. Well-chilled, warm day, grilled fish. Yes, please. Drink 2016-20218. Tasted February 2016
Flat Rock Riesling 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (43281, $16.95, WineAlign)
Talk about bottled up compression. Twist the screwcap and thwop! The cap nearly popped like a Champagne cork. This baby has energy and drive. The vintage is compressed and pile-driven as nosed by the density opposed by reticulated 9.5 per cent alcohol. This has Mosel tattooed on its being, from neck to bottom. A dead ringer for fine Kabinett, the tropical fruit in apricot and dragon reaching back to join Ontario, in apple and pear. A good flinty stone and raging acidity combine forces to exaggerate a Riesling reticulum in what is not the missive’s greatest ever vintage. Will live five to seven easy and just go for soda. Go ahead and quaff the hell out of this one, from 2015-2020, from bottles one through twelve. Tasted March 2015 and February 2016 @Winemakersboots @brightlighter1 @UnfilteredEd
Henry Of Pelham Family Tree White 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (251116, $17.95, WineAlign)
Very accessible and balanced white rabbet with tree fruit aromas and flavours, from yellow plum to white peach and back again. Straight up juicy circulation with a limestone tang amidst the weight of clay. Good value from the Peninsula to drink in the short term. An appellative blend to feed the category concept and perfect for sipping high in the skies. Pour this on your airplanes Air Canada. “Feed your head, feed your head.” Drink 2016-2018. Tasted February 2016 @HenryofPelham @SpeckBros
Fielding Gewürztraminer 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (146753, $18.95, WineAlign)
Residing on the correct side of off-dry with a waxy, lemon-honey drop secession from smell to taste. Brings proverbial lychee and rosewater into play, stirring the lees and pressing upon the palate in a faint, yeasty way. Ostensibly Fielding in conception to work with Vietnamese, Japanese and Thai. Food that is. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted February 2016 @FieldingWinery @RichieWine
Kew Vineyard Old Vines Chardonnay 2012, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (438374, $18.95, WineAlign)
Time has befriended Philip Dowell’s organic and creamery fresh-churned Chardonnay. The Kew is Bench defined and not shy in embrace of its wood. Abiding Chardonnay denuded in a healthy symbiotic relationship with ripe and recessive fruit. More mineral than before from Beamsville soil lands this somewhere along the pantheistic line featuring such stalwarts as Fielding and Hidden Bench. Will follow a casual down-to-earth grounding over the next five years. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted February 2016 @kewvineyards
Jaspi Blanc 2014, Do Terra Alta, Spain (439570, $23.95, WineAlign)
Such a culturally gregarious, aromatically generous and varietally gracious white blend from Terra Alta should be received with the most open of arms. This rare sighting in Ontario is mostly Garnatxa Blanca, with a minor (kept alive) amount of Macabeo, a grape of sweet realization and rainbow veraison. This is a classic indication of the subtlety that is derived from the soft, cuddly and rock-free panal soils in Terra Alta. A terraced white wine, cascading like lemon and bubbles, as if it were an ethereal, tart, savoury sabayon. Will be a pleasure to drink for the the next two to three years. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted February 2016 @cocaifito @doterraalta
Jardín De Lúculo 2012, Do Navarra, Spain (438655, $23.95, WineAlign)
Lovely, tidy Navarra with perfectly ripe cherries and an underlay of tension to give it real vitality. Oak (if any) bothers with nary an intrusive beat. Though there is a dried herb and drying savoury-minty ending it lingers, long after the paint has dried. Really necessary Navarra, a region portrayed in such a wine on the qui vive for exotic adventure. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted February 2016 @louisgeirnaerdt @vinosnavarra @navarrawines @navarrawine @hobbsandco @AMH_hobbsandco
Sperling Vineyards Pinot Noir 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (382283, $27.95, WineAlign)
Here a vintage cementing a Sperling Pinot Noir into altruistic west coast territory occupied by the ripe and famous. Were I able to recall so much warmth, elevated tones and ripping aromatics while the wheels are spinning, still the memories remain in neutral. The gravelly grit and fine lined elucidation is in, but here things turn tropical, with far eastern spice and melted, oozing liquorice. Flavour coaxing is at an all time high but the question begs. Can you handle this hyperbole of efficiently convenient Okanagan truth? Drink 2016-2019. Tasted February 2016 @SperlingVyds @AnnSperling @CRUOntario @StratusWines
Jean Max Roger Cuvée Les Caillottes Sancerre 2014, Ac Loire, France (65573, $27.95, WineAlign)
Were all Sancerre this floral we might be forced to re-learn the typicity and the vernacular. Les Caillottes stands alone, if only for a few whiffs, before retreating back to the Sauvignon Blanc norm of mineral and white berry. Here Sancerre seems to take chances, steps out of the box and ventures into wild sage and thyme territory. Ends with lemon and lime, echoing the florally of tiny flowers on the tips of that thyme. I can imagine honey flowing in five years time, still gaining on the oxidative effects of time. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted February 2016 @oenophilia1 @LoireValleyWine
Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona Brunello Di Montalcino 2010, Tuscany, Italy (1065, $72.95, WineAlign)
More than a classic vintage for this seminal bottle of Sangiovese. The liqueur is so comfortably and rigorously distilled, the floral aspects fresh in their potpourri disguise. The aromatics, like eclipses, arrive early, but tend to exact themselves profoundly. Balance is everything with wine and transparently so for Brunello because if the tannins are overdone than pleasure can’t ever be truly discerned. Here they are like rhythmic, venting spasms at the end of a sentence. This offers early accessibility in spite of its ferocity. Drink 2019-2030. Tasted February 2016 @TrialtoON @ConsBrunello
Good to go!
WineAlign: Michael Godel