I spent more than 20 years cooking. It was hard work and it was fulfilling work. When I was 19 a fellow McGill student asked my why I cooked so much. I said that when I was cooking I never thought I should be doing something else. I never felt guilty that I wasn’t studying or considered that I might be wasting time. I started writing about wine in 2005 and really had no plans to make a career out of it. I would have been content occupying my time working as hard as any wine professional, writing tasting notes and developing prose for eight or nine hours a day. I began the wine writing partly to avoid working on harder things but also for the pleasure of it.
Here I am 11 years later, working as a professional in wine. I feel like Dick van Patten, sitting at my desk in a house where kids come and go, typing away, solving life’s problems one wine at a time. Tom Bradford did not have VINTAGES bi-weekly releases to keep him busy but lucky me, I get to review 150-plus wines every month from the endless cycle of offerings.
For April 2nd and in the category of “expensive but affordable because they’re good” I think that eight is enough. Here are my notes.
Alois Cunto Pallagrello Nero 2011, Igp Terre Del Volturno, Campania, Italy (440743, $24.95, WineAlign)
Possibly an ode to the 17th century fairytale “Lo cunto de li cunti,” the tale of tales, or story of stories, now called Pentamerone by seventeenth-century Italian poet and courtier Giambattista Basile. Maximum ripeness, almost into dried fruit but on the naturally cured and curated edge. Pallagrello Nero finds its way into ethereal while living dangerously close to that razor’s edge. Dry tannic finish, firm and ragged. If that collection of tales could influence the form of fairytales in Europe, perhaps the Alois Palagrello Nero can do the same for natural wine. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted March 2016 @ @
Maison Chanzy En Rosey Rully 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (446153, $26.95, WineAlign)
Rusty and firm Pinot Noir from Rully with enough bright fruit and acidity to keep it from hiding in caves and stepping into shadows. Even brighter on the palate with Côte Chalonnaise’s own specific tangy red fruit flavour and really ripe tannins. Terrific Rully, better known for its Chardonnay but this is a stellar example of its Pinot Noir. A poor person’s Burgundy bargoon. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted March 2016 @ @ @
Ruffino Modus 2012, Igt Toscana, Italy (912956, $29.95, WineAlign)
A VINTAGES re-release for the ostensible Tuscan, a perennially accessible Super food with as much mineral feel and ferric substance as it has ever shown. Not so much a showy vintage as it is a production made for best in show. Red stone fruit bounds fleshy and just a touch of properly bitter accents are provided by wood, much appreciated by the weight and pitch. A tight but lyrically measured Modus of restraint and moderation that would do well with a major decant and some char on an aged hunk of flesh on the bone. Walk before you run to find this ode. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted March 2016 @ @
Rocca Di Castagnoli Poggio A’frati Chianti Classico Riserva 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (23358, $29.95, WineAlign)
Chianti Classico Riserva rarely smells like this these days. It’s not as though this harkens back twenty years but it certainly recalls a time from the turn of the century when Sangiovese was Sangiovese and Tuscans were Tuscans. The musk, sour cherry, leather, pannetone, meat and gladiator brawn from honest fruit sent to spend time in big casks sitting like giant buddhas underground. Here CCR does what it once did best, preserving and freezing time, only to emerge unscathed, healed and ready to tell a life-time of stories. Drink 2016-2023. Tasted March 2016 @ @
Sylvain Mosnier Côte De Lechet Chablis 1er Cru 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (318139, $35.95, WineAlign)
Classic Chablis from a very old vineyard (belonged to the Pontigny’s monk) with southeast exposure west of the town of Chablis and just above the small village of Milly. Mosnier’s parcel gifts delicate fruit, just so fortuitous in quantity and quality of lees overtures on stony lime-driven texture. Chardonnay in hands of terroir so flinty, lacy, organza fine. What more could be asked of for this next to nothing 1er Cru Chablis price? Drink 2017-2024. Tasted March 2016 @
Burrowing Owl Syrah 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (73072, $40.95, WineAlign)
More Northern Rhone depth drives a beefy steak through the desert heart of Burrowing Owl’s 2013 Syrah, a wine of smelting liqueur and fierce ooze. The layers are so compressed, like tumbled earth and rock at the bottom of a steep slope. The flavours are covered in a rich ganache for the time being but a gravelly unearthing is already starting to begin excavations. This is a big Syrah with plenty of time on its side. “Let it ride. Let it ride easy down the road. Let it take away all of the darkness.” Drink 2018-2024. Tasted March 2016 @ @ @
Jean Luc Colombo Terres Brûlées Cornas Syrah 2012, Ac Rhone, France (448837, $72.95, WineAlign)
The darkest knight for Colombo full of every crush imaginable. Hematic and welling up with tension. Rich behind the pale and with acidity that scales it back, not elevates it out of reach. Wild berries and some vineyard funk. Quite the mouthful and spicy kick on the back. Wow Cornas, sumptuous Syrah. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted March 2016 @ @ @ @
Groth Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Oakville, Napa Valley, California (606517, $112.95, WineAlign)
Exactement. Exacting 2012 to explain the weather in Napa Valley from a vintage all were thankful for. High brix. Optimum ripeness. Rich and spicy. How does this Groth fall in line with the question to age? Ten years for sure. What about 25? Though it remains to be seen, today’s ripeness quotient in cool, dry, elongated years is not consistent with 1982, 1992 or 2002. This Groth ’12 finds itself poised in balance and answers no skewed questions of structure. It is more accessible than many peers and also as compared to itself, right now, or with the equivalent of a one year decant. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted March 2016 @ @ @
Good to go!
WineAlign: Michael Godel