The most important red wine from Italy

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Chianti Classico

As seen on WineAlign

For three weeks in May my professional life focused entirely on the brave new world of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. It began with a four day gambol through the heart of Toscana between two of the world’s great cities, Siena and Florence. It culminated with a Masterclass on Gran Selezione I guided for the Consorzio of Chianti Classico at Toronto’s Four Season’s Hotel.

The time in Italy brought me to eight estates plus a tasting of Gran Selezione at the former Convento di Santa Maria al Prato located in Radda in Chianti. It is here that the Consorzio has set up its new education and events centre to promote the wines of Chianti Classico. In Radda I tasted 12 selections with Consorzio president Sergio Zingarelli. The Masterclass in Toronto was organized as part of the region’s 300th anniversary celebration and the producers walked a crowd of 75 guests through eight Gran Selezione.

mondays-presentation-of-chianticlassico-granselezione-fstoronto-c-su-su-han

Monday’s presentation of @chianticlassico #granselezione @FSToronto (c) su su han

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

Critics comment and often complain that all Chianti Classico, Riserva and now Gran Selezione adhere to one style. They will say that because of minimum aging requirements that all wines are produced in the same way and towards the same end. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Today #toronto went to masterclass school on @chianticlassico #granselezione No going back now #chianticlassico #300years #300anni #gallonero #blackrooster

Today #toronto went to masterclass school on @chianticlassico #granselezione No going back now #chianticlassico #300years #300anni #gallonero #blackrooster

What Makes it Gran(d)

Gran Selezione must be composed of 80 to 100 per cent sangiovese and may contain up to 20 per cent red grapes (indigenous or international). It is produced from a single-vineyard or from a selection of the estate’s best grapes. The minimum aging requirement is 30 months, including three months in bottle before release. The manifesto portents a wine of new typology “at the summit of a denomination’s quality pyramid.”

“The use of the name ‘Chianti Classico Gran Selezione’ depends on issue of a suitability certificate based on chemical-physical tests conducted by authorized laboratories and approval of the wine’s organoleptic characteristics by special tasting committees as per Italian Ministerial Decree 16/12/2010 concerning batches of wine destined for bottling.” Some applications were granted retroactively for the 2009 vintage.

So, what is Gran Selezione? In the simplest terms, which means everything and yet nothing at all,  it represents a Chianti Classico producer’s finest Riserva expression at the top of the quality pyramid. Yes, it is aged longer, for an additional six months beyond Chianti Classico Riserva. But Gran Selezione is not simply one thing; it comes as a matter of interpretation. Some producers, like Nicolò Pozzoli and Silvio Campatelli of Lornano see it as the same wine already made, from the same vintage, with a new label and of course, a new price. Yet others see it as an opportunity to make a Selezione as a vineyard-designate Riserva, or as cru or climat based. For some it means opportunity, freedom, revelation or, like Pietro and Valeria Losi of Querciavalle, the realization of a dream.

Some quotes from producers:

“It’s a matter of compromise between what is needed for the small producers and the need to express through crus for the larger ones.” – Stefano Capurso, Barone Ricasoli

“It is not a military position.” – Bernardo Bianchi, Colle Bereto

“It is the best block of the estate.”  – Federico Cerelli, Castello di Gabbiano

“It is made in the vineyard,  from the best vines and the best grapes.” – Massimiliano Biagi, Barone Ricasoli

“It is from a mico-territory within a territory, a micro climate and geology, a climat, combined by exposure and soil, together with the work of a man.” – Alessandro Palombo, Luiano

“It is the best selection of barrels. We taste the wine in the cellar and decide the wine that will be, to the end.”– Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace

“Gran Selezione begins in the vineyard, in the barrels is too late.” – Pietro Losi, Querciavalle

“I already make my top wine so I simply now call it Gran Selezione.” – Sergio Zingarelli, Rocca delle Macie

Perhaps you remain skeptical. You may be unclear as to the clarity of the category and perhaps you do not find whole or justifiable insight. I can say this. In Chianti Classico I asked all 10 producers I met with this question. “What is Gran Selezione.” All ten responded immediately, emphatically and with unequivocal determination. All 10 answers were intuitive and no two were exactly the same.

Chianti Classico is not a small wine region by any means. It is home to upwards of 70,000 hectares (177,500 acres), of which a mere 10 per cent are planted to vines. Remarkably, impossibly even, no matter where you are, you can always travel from one estate to another in what seems like 30 minutes or less, using one of multiple routes. On my last day the Consorzio’s Silvia Fiorentini and I left Il Molino di Grace in Panzano and drove southeast to Radda in Chianti. We then travelled from Radda northwest to the Consorzio’s offices in Tavernelle Val di Pesa. Then Christine Lechner drove me north to Castello di Gabbiano in Mercatale Val di Pesa but I swear we passed by Panzano and Greve on route. Chianti Classico has more exposures and angles than any wine region I have been to. It would take many years to understand where you are in relation to where you’ve been and where you are going. The wines share an identical set of diverse parameters. Singularite, diversite, qualite.

A Look to the Past

More time has been spent making dry red wine in Chianti Classico than in Piemonte’s Barolo or Barbaresco, where it was essentially Recioto until the mid 18th century. Thus, more time has been spent understanding the hills and differing terrains of the region than Piedmonte for this purpose. Antinori and Brolio are families that have lived and gained an understanding in the region for centuries. Brunello has figured it out. It can certainly be done in Chianti Classico.

She may be hiding behind the scenes but you all need to know who Christine Lechner is. Christine is events coordinator for the Consorzio and along with Silvia Fiorentini is responsible for bringing Chianti Classico to the world. Silvia’s work with the Consorzio is threaded everywhere throughout the world. It is Giuseppe Liberatore, director of the Chianti Classico Consorzio who directs the troops to showcase the excellence of the region’s wines.

Critics will say that Chianti Classico is living in the past. With three hundred years of beautiful and profound history, from Grand Duke Cosimo Tre de’ Medici to incumbent Consorzio President Sergio Zingarelli, you are damn right they are living in the past. Gran Selezione wines exists in a realm far beyond just a shared fleeting moment with 21 carefully selected Chianti Classico Riservas. If I could name a wine region anywhere in the world with a commensurate kinship of family, lineage, conoscenza, storia and the contiguous passing forward of tradizione I would. But I can’t.

A Look To the Future

Gran Selezione can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on producer. I do not stand alone in my need to ask many questions. Where does one truly understand the region and not just the producer? What ways can the consortium pursue to cherish their name, by not sharing it with many different versions of similar products. Can one of the producers explain the decision to raise the alcohol level requirement of the Gran Selezione? Or is it just a matter of fact, something that happens as part of the winemaking process.

How important is 100 per cent sangiovese to the GS discussion and when other varieties are blended in, does it matter if endemic ones are used, like colorinio and canaiolo, or international ones, like merlot and cabernet sauvignon? What about the decision to grandfather in some approved applications for older vintages to be labeled as Gran Selezione? How has the category progressed from the first vintage to the present one. And has the approach or the style already changed?

Is there any consideration to add subzones to the Gran Selezione label? Either in its simplest form, Siena or Florence, or more parochially, Radda, Gaiole, Castellina, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi, Greve, Barbaerino or San Casciano.

Sleep walking not advised #panzano #ChiantiClassico

Sleep walking not advised #panzano #ChiantiClassico

The Unione Viticoltori di Panzano is a recent development in the Chianti Classico region. Like Chianti Classico, they have their own logo that can be printed on labels that indicate the origin of place. The producers under one village have one common idea. To produce organic and/or biodynamic wine in and around the village just south of Greve. All of the vineyards are from 300-500 meters above sea level and represent the microclimate within the area. Whatever you think about organic, the common goal is something to appreciate.

These are all valid and important discussions going forward but the truth and the fact of the matter is simple. Barolo received DOC status in 1966, and Brunello in 1980. Brunello in 1980. Gran Selezione is a very recent development and growing pains will be a necessary part of its development. Patience and perseverance will see to reward. I would be shocked if Gran Selezione is not the most sought after red wine to come out of Italy by the year 2025. You heard me. Not just sangiovese. The most important red wine from Italy.

I tasted 21 Gran Selezione in Chianti Classico between May 11 and May 15. Here are my notes.

Complex by name, nature and nurture @chianticlassico #granselezione @luiluiano #ottantuno #fattoriadiluiano #alessandropalombo #sangiovese #antoniopalombo #luiano

Complex by name, nature and nurture @chianticlassico #granselezione @luiluiano #ottantuno #fattoriadiluiano #alessandropalombo #sangiovese #antoniopalombo #luiano

Luiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezone Ottontuna 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $72.50, WineAlign)

From Luiano’s premier cru vineyard on white stones from an ancient natural spring that tumbled into a lake. The 85 per cent sangiovese plus (15) merlot are kept separate form the rest of the production. Here berries fold into mineral with wood-delineated spice (truffle, tumeric, saffron, etc.). An amazingly silky wine with that cartology of spice all over its map. The cru is one hectare that executes into 3000-4000 bottles per year. The nomenclature here is not a serious one, the “A” and and the “P” in representation of a signature by Alessandro and his father Antonio that also looks like an “8” and a “1.” It was Alessandro’s grandfather who built Luiano in 1959 and Antonio began working with him 1981. When you dream to make wine, you remember 1981 and when Alessandro was three years old in 1981, he said to his grandfather at lunch, “Ottontuna!” This is an extraordinary Gran Selezione, from a micro-territory within a territory, of a micro-climate and geology, a climat within Luiano. A terroir that combines exposure and soil, together with the work of a man, Antonio, planted in 1999. The merlot was added in 2001. The wine needed to be open for quite some time, to envisage the mineral florals and gain consciousness under the auspices of the spices. Drink 2018-2026. Tasted May 2016

Lornano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

Gran Selezione for Chianti Classico is a matter of interpretation, in this case a selection of the finest few barriques of both sangiovese and merlot. Lornano’s spent 30 months in all new barrels, resulting in the smooth operator that is this Gran Selezione, seductive and inviting within the context of its truth behind a veil of terribilita. This infancy is merely a window into 15 years of what may be, only a split second screen shot of the grand picture. To believe in anything but time would be short-sighted and disrespectful to what this sangiovese is capable of developing towards. Truth from vineyards built on stratified sands, shales, stony alluvials and limestone. History dating back to 1904. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted May 2016

Structured and getable @chianticlassico via @LornanoChiantiC Il piacere è stato mio #NicolòPozzoli #SilvioCampatelli #montereggioni

Structured and getable @chianticlassico via @LornanoChiantiC Il piacere è stato mio #NicolòPozzoli #SilvioCampatelli #montereggioni

Lornano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

Lornano’s interpretation of Gran Selezione for Chianti Classico is a selection of the finest few barriques of both sangiovese and merlot. Thirty months in new barrels takes sangiovese through a fluid and rippleless ride, from the same élevage of 2011, though here showing its tannic teeth with more than just one less year by age. The cherries and the leather are both more extreme but this is a fleeting moment of assessment, from a sangiovese of acute youth, but the tannins are sweet. It is this crux that shows there is genetic lineage to scroll back through Chianti Classico and CC Riserva. More perfume in 2012, of violets and roses, even in the presence of human aromatic intervention. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2016

È vero, a special vineyard #VillaTrasqua @chianticlassico #castellinainchianti #montereggioni #granselezione

È vero, a special vineyard #VillaTrasqua @chianticlassico #castellinainchianti #montereggioni #granselezione

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Nerento 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Single-varietal, single-vineyard, sangiovese-vigna nerento Gran Selezione. From the vantage point of Villa Trasqua’s terrace you can look out and see the demarcation of this special plot, a cru that seems to throw a special light even at dusk and this Gran Selezione offers a changing luminescence as it warms and evolves in the glass. Nerento is a success from the early category days and not all producers were able to find commitment and distinction this early. At six years of age post vintage it drinks as it should, idiomatically fresh and precise in the unequivocal Castellina in Chianti way. Here is post modern Chianti Classico’s preferred exit because Nerento is an example that puts full trust in the grand theory and the ideology of the Selezione. Keep this in the glass for hours and contemplate; the vineyard, the perfectly cooked filet of beef and the quiet Chianti Classico night. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted May 2016

The #alberese of #querciavalle #pontiganello @valerialosi #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione

The #alberese of #querciavalle #pontiganello @valerialosi #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Losi Millenium 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Every great wine dissolves a genre or creates a new one and in the context of Gran Selezione, Pietro Losi and Giorgio Baldi’s Millenium 2010 concludes the latter. In a category where so much changes and yet nothing at all, the choice to pick individual plants, specific vines and particular bunches of grapes as destined for a vision of greatness defines the ideal that wine is indeed made in the vineyard. This Chianti Classico Riserva sees 36 months in 10hL barrels and it is a wine that has essentially been made since since 1997. It went to market again in 1999 and then it was 2000 that prescribed the Millenium, followed by 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009. Subsequent top quality vintages are 2011, 2012 and 2015. The selected vines and particular bunches produce on average and approximately 4800 bottles. Take note of the most perfume and yet not the most savour, forest or truffle but there are hints, with some fennochio and the most grip to lead a sangiovese (with five per cent each canaiolo and malvasia nera) structure. The finest tannic grain runs through, lifted by tang meets sour over tart so round and specific to Gran Selezione. This wine is a highly accomplished specimen and a portal in ode to a great grandfather who started his day with wine and cheese, for energy. He imbibed for everyday consumption, just as water would nourish as it should be with this wine for food and contemplation. A wine with a finish minutes long. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2016

Barone Ricasoli Castello Di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (942607, $59.95, WineAlign)

A Chianti Classcio first borne in 1997 with the plan to create a maximum quality blend as an expression of the estate’s diverse terroir. A meticulous selection is combed from the estate’s vineyards, spread over 230 hectares of land. Though early on the fruit may have emerged out of good but not yet exceptional vineyards, nearly 20 years later the sangiovese (90 per cent) with cabernet Sauvignon and merlot (or perhaps petit verdot) adheres to grand vin excellence. The wood regimen is 18 months in tonneau followed by 18 in bottle. Perhaps you will not find a more accomplished, perfectly judged, matter of factly expressed Gran Selezione. Sangiovese in equality of spicing with fruit, acidity and tannin, perfectly integrated toast, wood impact and textural drive. Stefano Capurso admits this about the transition from Chianti Classico to Gran Selezione.”It’s a matter of compromise between what is needed for the small producers and the need to express through crus for the large ones.” Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted May 2016

Delivering purity with deep respect to exceptional vineyards @barone_ricasoli @chianticlassico #sangiovese #granselezione #merlot

Delivering purity with deep respect to exceptional vineyards @barone_ricasoli @chianticlassico #sangiovese #granselezione #merlot

Barone Ricasoli Castello Di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colledilà 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Colledilà is the Ricasoli Chianti Classico “other side of the hill” cru developed and realized from 15 years of estate terroir sangiovese research. This vintage was cropped at less than six tonnes per hectare so no need for green harvest, out of limestone vineyards with southeast and southwest aspects on seven blocks. Only 15,000 bottles were produced from only the best grapes selected (the rest go into the Brolio GS). This 100 per cent sangiovese is the soil king agronomist Massimiliano Biagi’s favourite and it sees 18-20 months in 2nd fill tonneaux. Biagi is the custodian of the fractured mineral, the white rock, catalyst to this off-roading sangiovese of built in natural, shock absorbing structure. Notes of balsamic, baking spice, vanilla and lavender are antithetical to the Brolio GS. The Colledilà’s first vintage was 2007 and the seventh breadth is here remarkable, the acumen inherent, the result timeless. You should never give up on sangiovese and when I tasted this again upon return after the Casalferro I then came to realize and respect its power. But it is never overpowering. It whiffs the most perfume, in the end, in reverse. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted May 2016

Il Molino Di Grace Il Margone Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)

What is Il Margone? “This is the best selection. We taste the wine in the cellar and decide the wine that will be, to the end,” explains Iacopo Morganti, director of Il Molino di Grace. The name must also refer to the particular construction of the vineyard at Montefili, on Panzano’s west side, of its altitude, slope and the Galèstro within. Il Margone is a kind of wine for the (Molino) windmill, where the water goes over the stone and it is a wine that was always the Gran Selezione, before and after, on the vine and in the barrels. Now it can be called what is has been whereas before it was the second Riserva but the more important one, the best one. It now spends 18 months in barriques, 50 per cent new and 18,000 bottles are made. It runs deeper still, far through the Galèstro and into the pietra forte, for the cementing of strong sangiovese (not just religious buildings). From the hot vintage of 2011 and with the alcohol to prove it (14.5 per cent), there is an inherent sense of yeasty culture, a sheep’s milk pecorino that runs through the warmth. It functions as a cooling centre, then compression, layered spice and tannin. That late attack co-conspires with acidity to freeze the mouthfeel and seek years of patient desire. Really energetic Sangiovese, iron-fisted and demanding but with so much seeping cherry fruit. Wait four years minimum. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2016

At the intersection of @chianticlassico and #singlevineyard there is #granselezione #collebereto

At the intersection of @chianticlassico and #singlevineyard there is #granselezione #collebereto

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign)

A single-vineyard Gran Selezione, as per the house interpretation of the category, from “la vigna del Convento” situated on the slope beneath il convento di Radda in Chianti. So very concentrated, modern, plush but unshaken, of no compression. Noses all the flowers and herbs of Radda in this glass; lavender, rosemary and many varieties of sage. “This is not a military position,” notes Bernardo Bianchi. The block is always in the sun over fully-occupied Galestro soil, 490m above sea level. All together making for a new Riserva of restrained power and elegance. Wow. Such mouthfeel and structure many Gran Selezione would kill for. The single monastery vineyard is very special at 20 years-old and has just entered its prime. Finishes with more mineral in what seems like Amaro bitters, but it’s mineral, all mineral and nothing but mineral. And it’s just a baby, at this time in bottle five months.  This is a very, very grown up wine. It solicits the requiem to be stashed away for future re-connection. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted May 2016

Ambassadors of @chianticlassico to the world. 2013 #castellodigabbiano #granselezione (not pictured) will blow your mind #treasurywineestates #sancascianovaldipesa #ilbellezza #chianticlassicoriserva

Ambassadors of @chianticlassico to the world. 2013 #castellodigabbiano #granselezione (not pictured) will blow your mind #treasurywineestates #sancascianovaldipesa #ilbellezza #chianticlassicoriserva

Castello Di Gabbiano Gran Selezione Bellezza Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Tasted with winemaker Federico Cerelli alongside the new era ushering 2012, a wine with six months further resolve, which is really just a moment in life. Looking at this 2013 it clings to that ’12’s ideal, still firm and in need of down time, stirring still, wasting some time. Here a gear switch, alteration and adjustment. A reduction of new oak, an increase of the mineral cogitation specific to the Albarese soil, with tannins great like in 2012 but finer, more elegant. This is more classic in the sangiovese thought because what also is allowed is the level of dry extract, “over 30 for sure” notes Cerelli. This Bellezza is pure sangiovese, the best Bellezza in years, classic to remind of many years ago but a very modern wine. It is the Gabbiano predicament and the predilection to announce what Gran Selezione means so in a word, bravo. You could actually drink this now and then over 25 years. “What is Bellezza? This is the best block of the estate” is the answer as told by Federico. Great tannins, simply great tannins. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted May 2016

Selection of #granselezione @chianticlassico at the Convento di Santa Maria al Prato #raddainchianti

Selection of #granselezione @chianticlassico at the Convento di Santa Maria al Prato #raddainchianti

Castelli Del Grevepesa Panzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 12626764, $38.00, WineAlign)

Fom San Casciano in Val di Pesa, a cooperative-produced Gran Selezione from vineyards all around the area. Quite barrel-influenced adding extracted layers around steroidal cherries, with aromas recalling shoe leather and polish. A rich and broad mouthfeel of elasticity like a stick of chewing gum with alkalescent flavours of lavender and vanilla. A highly oaked, cakey, middle of the road GS. Dusty as if surely some merlot would be the filler in here but it’s 100 per cent sangiovese. Well made coop Chianti Classico. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2016  @Grevepesa  @SelectFrechette

Mangiacane Z District Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

The big, heavy bottle, echoed in the wine’s tones, from wood and with extract. Very Igt in temper, with international varieties in here for sure, seemingly designed with cabernet sauvignon but perhaps also merlot (it’s actually the opposite). The intent here is a full expression of fruit, wood, acidity and tannin. A beast that requires years to integrate and settle. There is liquorice and fennel pollen in the later stages. It’s very chewy and certainly all in. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2016  @VillaMangiacane  @loyalimportsltd

Fontodi Vigna Del Sorbo Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign)

The plot specific, 100 per cent sangiovese Vigna del Sorbo is from organic vineyards in Panzano, now in its third year for re-branding the single-vineyard Riserva. Remarkably aromatic and in hyper reality of its unique and very own red fruit, high-toned, full bodied and certainly elevated of alcohol. A sangiovese of massive tannins and acidity but the fruit is equal to the task. This leans more to the modern wave of extraction and sun-drenching than any other Gran Selezione I have tasted recently, like 100 per cent grenache of say Chateau Rayas. A Chianti Classico tall, big, muscular and strong, of ample tannins, proportionate acidity, body, structure, all in and all together. A bit more elegance than Châteauneuf-du-Pape but along very similar lines. Also a product of the 2012 vintage. Drink 2018-2036.  Tasted May 2016  @rogcowines  #fontodi

Casaloste Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Don Vincenzo 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy

From Gionanni Battista D’orsi, also from Panzano so organic. The vintner hails from Naples (note the tiny Vesuvius on the label), this is the first to show real acetone but it’s beneath the threshold. There is also wood in droves, woods and thickets with dark blackberry fruit to extreme ripe red plum. This needs years to settle down and play nice. It’s a very formidable GS, not so surprising considering the vintage as it is imagined. A bit less grit, girth and astringency will travel though future vintages although with Casaloste it’s certainly a stylistic choice. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2016  @Casaloste

Castello D’Albola Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Solatio 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent)

From Radda in Chianti and owned by Zonin, this is typically lighter in body for the area. Composed of 100 per cent sangiovese, very much in red fruit and old-school Brunello-ish liqueur. Cherries macerating and gaining acidity in its pool, flavour is a ringer for Japanese omeboshi plum, and then fruit leather/roll-up made with strawberry. Liquid chalky and lactic. Great intensity. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May 2016

Premiata Fattoria di Castelvecchi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione “Madonnino della Pieve” 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy

From Radda in Chianti, rich red to darkening fruit and some acetic dealings,. There is more than just a simple breadth of likeability in the layering and variegation of the red fruits in here.  Plenty of herbiage and more tonality on the second half of the ride. Somewhat old school and very taut, tight, vigorous and vital. Classic, traditional, ripe and attentive sangiovese. This will live quite long,  somewhere in the vicinity of 15-20 years. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2016    @BarrelSelect

Rocca Delle Macìe Gran Selezione Chianti Classico Riserva Di Fizzano Single Vineyard 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (699454, $32.95, WineAlign)

From Castellina in Chianti, another singular, unique and specifically to itself Gran Selezione, with dark red fruit and tones set above though there is nothing remotely acetic about the play. Purity from the Fizzano vineyard is apparent with much mineral (seems to be albarese) throughout. The mid-palate here is full and this strikes as both elegant and traditional. Great length, longer than many or even most. A very accomplished yet classico Classico. Re-branded and worth every bit of that advantage. Perfect transfer from single-vineyard Sangiovese (95 per cent) plus (5) merlot, to SV-GS. Even if you notice the wood in the mid-palate and through the structure, you do not finish with it. There are 26,000 bottles made for a wine first produced in 1986. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2016  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp

Mazzei Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $75.00, WineAlign)

From Castellina in Chianti by the Mazzei family, fashioned from 92 per cent sangiovese. There is so much wisdom in here, out of grace and for elegance with wood rounding out all the angles. Very much a particular and painstakingly precise selective Gran Selezione, from wide and far. Though curious to note that within the pantheon of the genre the Fonterutoli is almost middle of the road in style. This comes as a result of where is lies in the range occupied by the multifarious interpretations. This 2012 is demonstratively integrated with a high level of acidity spurring and embracing generational connectivity. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted May 2016  @MarchesiMazzei  @TrialtoON

Castello di Cacchiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Millenium 2009, Docg Tuscany, Italy

From Gaiole in Chianti and one of the first to jump headfirst into the new category. Showing a bit of age, from a very warm vintage, this has the humid funk (and is consistent with the 2007 tasted earlier in the week). Rich, a bit caky, chalky and yet the acidity winds its way around with room-tying, rug-hooking ability. Older in schooling and traditionally-styled to be sure. Drink 2016-2019  Tasted May 2016

Rocca Di Castagnoli Stielle Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 12489114, $47.00, WineAlign)

From Gaiole, with 20 per cent cabernet sauvignon, this is modish-modern, high-toned, rich and spicy, very wood apparent Gran Selezione. A bit splintered and flinty this early in toddler years but the mineral and high altitude vineyard impart is and will become gainfully employed as a major plus. Long finish. Strikes like a very modern Brunello in style and increasingly international with time in the glass. In some respects it may as well be Igt. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2016  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp

Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigneto San Marcellino 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $59.00, WineAlign)

Supported by nine per cent pugnitello to accentuate hue, aroma and structure, this is organic sangiovese from Gaiole. Produced using the finest grapes from the San Marcellino vineyard that surrounds the namesake Church in Monti in Chianti. Saw 27 months in medium-toast Allier forest French barriques and tonneaux plus an additional 18 months in bottle before release. Yet another rich and high-toned example (pushing 15 per cent alcohol), with lots of liquorice and corporeal feel on the nose. A child of modern and rich styling with good animale tension, as well as ferric and hematic accents to the dark fruit. Very Tuscan Igt mixed with Classico ideals to speak for Gran Selezione through the voice of traditional varieties. Only 7,400 (plus 300 magnum) bottles were produced. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted May 2016  

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

If I could buy only thirteen

Look at all that chicken

Look at all that chicken

Over at WineAlign we recently introduced a new feature in our already comprehensive coverage of the bi-weekly VINTAGES releases.  If I Could Buy Only One offers subscribers a first in line, get inside the minds of four Ontario critics. As part of the overall recap on each release David Lawrason, John Szabo M.S., Sara d’Amato and I are asked the question: “If you could buy only one wine from this release – which one would it be and why?”

When it comes to tasting, assessing and scoring VINTAGES wines there is simply no equal to what WineAlign covers in Ontario. As a group we four are sure to collectively provide at least one tasting note and score for 100 or more wines per release. In most cases there are two and sometimes three or even all four. Where else in print or online can you access such a synoptic scope of sweeping current information?

We are not alone but we are at the head of the game. Our colleague Michael Vaughan is the only critic who tastes every wine on every VINTAGES release. His nearly three decades of utter dedication and encyclopedic memory is nothing short of incredible. Tony Aspler covers the releases and contributes to Vaughan’s newsletter. Tony’s decades of experience are invaluable to both his and Michael’s readership. Beppi Crosariol offers a handful of concise and epigrammatic weekly recommendations in the Globe and Mail, Carolyn Hammond in a Toronto Star nutshell and Rod Phillips meaty and marrowy in the Ottawa Sun.

The LCBO media tasting lab is frequented by many Ontario writers. Most notable is Tim Appelt. Tim sounds off extensively on the releases. Eric Vellend publishes recos in his column “Bottle Shop” for Billy, the Toronto Island Airport’s magazine. André Proulx brings his own ignited take to his website, Andre Wine Review and Michael Pinkus publishes his broad brushstroke on his Wine Review. Erin Henderson does so on The Wine Sister’s website and Dean Tudor at Gothic Epicures World Wine Watch. If you follow what comes through VINTAGES and sequester help and ideas, who do you turn to? The answer is simply WineAlign.

When asked to single out just one I chose another Chablis from the current September 17th release. Look for the stellar Simonnet Febvre & Fils Côte De Lechet Chablis 1er Cru 2013 review in my upcoming report on Chablis in Ontario. Today I’ve got 13 other solid recommendations from a wide range of places.

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Man Family Warrelwind Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico 2014, Dominio Dos Tares Estay Prieto Picudo 2012, Les Darons 2014, Pazo Das Bruxas Albariño 2014, Talley Vineyards Bishop’s Peak Chardonnay 2014

Man Family Warrelwind Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Wo Western Cape, South Africa (461004, $13.95, WineAlign)

Man’s upper reaches sauvignon blanc whirls and winds around open-affable, semi-pungent fruit and churns like citrus juice through a windmill. This multi-purpose white speaks with great acidity and deep tart flavours. Just a touch of sweet peach with lime zest and a spritz keeps it spinning. Lots of bang for just a few bucks. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @MANVintners  @vonterrabev  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (741785, $10.95, 375ml, WineAlign)

Tasted from a half bottle, The Zingarelli Chianti Classico 2014 is as expected, classic. Hits all the appropriate and life-affirming sangiovese notes; cherries, fresh leather, dried figs, old wood walls, bright acidity and fine-grained tannin. When commercial, protective and attention to detail get together in Chianti Classico, this is what comes out. Expectations met and dinner accompanied. Ready to drink now and should be so because of the freshness afforded. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @roccadellemacie  @chianticlassico  @ProfileWineGrp

Dominio Dos Tares Estay Prieto Picudo 2012, Vino De La Tierra De Castilla Y León, Spain (393140, $15.95, WineAlign)

Flat out juicy prieto picudo if you must know is 100 per cent employed out of Castilla Y Leon. Drinkable and gulpable don’t get much better than this, like spicy gamay but with more weight. You can put the truck in reverse and open the back doors wide for this and its sultry sway from French and American oak. The oak does not intrude mind you but it certainly adds texture and punch. Utterly delectable. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  @DominiodeTares  @oenophilia1

Les Darons 2014, Ap Languedoc, France, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (448464, $17.95, WineAlign)

Fresh and dramatic Languedoc with amazing floraility, namely violets but also rose bushes in a mid-summer swelter. Vitality is ensured by the top notch acidity and the tempering here has nothing to do with chocolate. Tart just right and back bite. While some from the warm region seem “toujours le cup entre demux chaises,” this Jeff Carrel red is right where it needs to be, comfortable in its own skin. No Ogres des Barback. Simply Les Darons. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @LanguedocWines

Pazo Das Bruxas Albariño 2014, Do Rias Baixas, Spain (417667, $19.95, WineAlign)

This is a fine example of Albarino bringing miles of rich, ripe fruit into a brew of ripping acidity. Very mineral motive as as well, so with so much stewing in the pot you can expect a whole lot of vigor, revelry and magic. The citrus on the back side is nothing short of scintillant-spurred from lemon and lime. Miles from balmy, this is quite electric Galicia. Witches’ Brew, Bitches Brew in a Spanish Key. May not be a revolutionary bottle but it’s as close to jazz-rock fusion Albarino as you are likely to find. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016     @RiasBaixasWines

Talley Vineyards Bishop’s Peak Chardonnay 2014, Edna Valley, Central Coast, California (318360, $27.95, WineAlign)

Another well-managed, keep it in the cool-climate family entry-level chardonnay from Brian Talley, keeping the faith and the successful streak alive for the idea behind Edna Valley as an important haven for chardonnay. It’s nearly unoaked, with just some neutral barrels to keep it leesy and creamy but acidity and umami are clear to lead the way. Excellent effort if on the lean and mean side. Good length. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @TalleyVineyards  @TheVine_RobGroh

From left to right: Roger & Didier Raimbault Sancerre Rouge 2013, Schiopetto Sauvignon 2013, Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling, Emile Beyer L'hostellerie Gewürztraminer 2012, La Crema Chardonnay 2014, Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf Du Pape Blanc 2014 and Pascal Marchand Gevrey Chambertin 2013

From left to right: Roger & Didier Raimbault Sancerre Rouge 2013, Schiopetto Sauvignon 2013, Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling, Emile Beyer L’hostellerie Gewürztraminer 2012, La Crema Chardonnay 2014, Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf Du Pape Blanc 2014 and Pascal Marchand Gevrey Chambertin 2013

Roger & Didier Raimbault Sancerre Rouge 2013, Ac Loire, France (446401, $28.95, WineAlign)

Cured, natural, direct and experiential red Sancerre. A case of hands-off winemaking if there ever was, leaving exceptional fruit to walk the road and find its own way. Red berries, currants and just a hint of natural smoke. Savoury not even on its radar. Very fresh and alive. Freedom in red Sancerre. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  @LoireValleyWine

Schiopetto Sauvignon 2013, Doc Collio, Friuli, Italy (165027, $32.95, WineAlign)

Ripe, pungent and forthright Collio sauvignon blanc from the regional leader Schiopetto, culled from top level terroir and exercised with great intent. No Aqualung here, no “start away uneasy.” Dives into stony, flinty and mineral tangy waters then emerges to tell a tale of richness and mille-feuille layering. Top level sauvignon blanc for anywhere but from a very specific, agriculturist place. Finishes with a creamy lemon curd and a shot of adrenaline. If any sauvignon blanc could help solve the answer to the distinction between religion and God, Schiopetto’s could very well be the one. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted  September 2016  @schiopetto  @LeSommelierWine

Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (469478, $34.95, WineAlign)

I will stand to be corrected but this first such sparkler from Thirty Bench (it’s my first) and its dry riesling stoicism is a first in its singular way for Ontario. Using a small dosage from Steel Post Vineyard riesling fruit, the quality level in this non-vintage bubble (but I would think that the primary vintage fruit is 2014) is elevated with that world-class juice and yet aridity is not compromised. The subtle, rich, elongated and amalgamated orchard fruit aromatics are pure Beamsville, Thirty Bench and Emma Garner with well-rounded Niagara Peninsula Sparkling couverture. One, Garner wouldn’t waste a thimble-full of her riesling to make less than stellar sparkling wine and two, it’s really good. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted  September 2016  @ThirtyBench  @PellerVQA

Emile Beyer L’hostellerie Gewürztraminer 2012, Ac Alsace, France (462556, $39.95, WineAlign)

The tense and focused aromatics lead the way in this very generous gewürztraminer, classically styled to be off-dry but the sweetness is the furthest thing from your mind. Seeping rose petals and pure lychee syrup are graced with lemon zest, fennel frond and a curious note of rooibos tea. An exemplary vintage for an elixir that never cloys but just touches on something spicy and thinks about the bitterness of nuts though never really goes there. Subtle, refined and Eguisheim cultured from Emile Beyer. So impressive and a steal to drink in its first 10 years. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2016  @EmileBeyer  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @VinsAlsace

La Crema Chardonnay 2014, Los Carneros, Sonoma County, California (184929, $39.95, WineAlign)

Experience, vintage and location will conspire to deliver profundity when the winemaker is attuned to available excellence and in tune with the vines. La Crema’s Elizabeth Grant-Douglas has a large, who’s who and what’s what portfolio to plate. She does so with broad, brushstroke ability and triads. In 2014 she has simply dialled into Los Carneros. The cool, temperature mitigated rolling hills, wind and aspect/exposure of this largest appellation straddling Napa and Sonoma does wonders for Chardonnay. Here in ’14 the third of the drought vintages is cradled with zest, vitality and pure energy. If you like nougat then have a chew of this one. If rich and unctuous Champagne with a bit of age is your thing you may just sit back and sigh. This wine was fatter previously, vegetal and just too easy. Here it sings “cause it fits in well with the chords” its playing. Right in tune. “Getting in tune with the straight and narrow.” The line that runs through Carneros with chardonnay the voice and La Crema the orchestra. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016  @LaCremaWines  @bwwines  @sonomavintners  @thesirengroup

Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf Du Pape Blanc 2014, Ac Rhone, France (704429, $56.95, WineAlign)

This is quite closed for white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, remarkable that way and dramatically caught between the rocks and stones of its upbringing. There is nothing yet fleshy or flashy about it but considering how tightly wound it is you just have to know that revelry is up around the bend. So many stone fruits will reveal during the unravel. At this rigid dry extract and carpeted stage something microbial stands out but this too shall pass. The grip is firm and the focus leering. A structurally imposing La Nerthe with the will to live 15-20 years. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted September 2016    @WoodmanWS  @VINSRHONE

Pascal Marchand Gevrey Chambertin 2013, Burgundy, France (286450, $59.95, WineAlign)

Sweet, expertly extracted and gently pressed fruit provides the bassinet for a subtle, charming and effluent pinot noir from Pascal Marchand. This falls on the lithe and graceful side of pinot noir with well-managed oak and an inherent structure that speaks as softly as the fruit but that does not mean its not capable of stretching this into a second decade. This is really pretty stuff. Would love to see its secondary stage and later fruition next decade. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2016  @pasmarchand  @Burgundy_Direct  @BourgogneWines  @vinsdebourgogne

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

alessandro-your-grandfather-was-a-very-good-winemaker-luiluiano-chianticlassico-fattoriadiluiano-chianticlassicoriserva-1979-sangiovese-alessandropalombo-antoniopalombo-luiano

Alessandro, your grandfather was a very good winemaker @luiluiano @chianticlassico #fattoriadiluiano #chianticlassicoriserva #1979 #sangiovese #alessandropalombo #antoniopalombo #luiano

By the time I landed in Florence and had settled into the Kraft Hotel it was pushing 3:00 pm and I needed to be ready just a few hours later to meet my Chianti Classico hosts for dinner. It had been 21 years since I last wandered aimlessly, holistically and believe me, blissfully through the streets of Cosimo I de’ Medici’s Florence. Greater men than me had walked these narrow strade. Pietro Cimabue, Giotto di Bondone, Dante Alighieri, Arnolfo di Cambio, Desiderio da Settignano, Donatello, Lorenzo “The Magnificent” de’ Medici, Michelangelo Buonarotti, Botticelli, Lorenzo “The Magnificent” de’ Medici, Giovanni Boccacio, Raphael Sanzio, Vincenzo Danti, Leonardo Da Vinci, Francesco Furini and Filippo Brunelleschi. Twenty-one years should distort and disorient one’s sense of direction but I found myself at home, mapless, confident in finding my way from landmark to landmark. Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, Palazzo Pitti, Palazzo Vecchio and Il Duomo. Hours later, wide-eyed and energized, the dinner bell sounded and then forward, for three extensive immersion days, it was all Chianti Classico.

godello-and-brunelleschi-together-at-last-firenze-piazzadelduomo

Godello and #brunelleschi together at last #firenze #piazzadelduomo

I spent some time in Chianti Classico at the beginning of May. I had been to Toscana before, in 1986, 1989 and in 1995. With twenty years having passed, so much had changed and in some ways, nothing at all. What I learned this time around can’t be found in a book, online or in scattered, random tastings here in Toronto. I found people, I found place and I found progression. The wines of Chianti Classico have embarked upon an ascension into their contemporary golden age.

On September the 24th, 1716 the Black Rooster was born. A notice was given by the Grand Duke Cosimo III de ‘Medici who decided to demarcate the territories dedicated to the production of high quality wines. To protect and to safeguard this special place, found in the hills and valleys between Siena and Florence. Chianti Classico. Three hundred years later the Gallo Nero, quintessential symbol synonymous with the Chianti Classico DOCG, is celebrating its birth.

the-sheer-breadth-of-ilduomo-is-just-amazing-firenze-piazzamichelangelo-brunelleschi-toscana

The sheer breadth of #ilduomo is just amazing #firenze #piazzamichelangelo #brunelleschi #toscana

All who serve to ride shotgun as sentinels to the profound history and quality of Chianti Classico are very sensitive and protective of the term, so the use of the full name “Chianti Classico” is essential. In Tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts, as well as press releases, articles and conversation, the omission of “Classico” is akin to liking it to that other lesser wine that shall not be named, and could result in being taken outside and subjected to some dark arts. The two names, as a matter of fact, represent two DOCG with distinct and separate production territories, histories and consortia.

#tranquillo #greveinchianti #ChiantiClassico

#tranquillo #greveinchianti #ChiantiClassico

Chi-anti Classi-co. Two very important words. Classic Chianti. Classical Chianti. Take away the demonstrative qualifier and what do you have. You have Chianti. With no disrespect to some very honest, simple and pleasurable Chianti produced outside of the boundaries that define Chianti Classico, the difference between the two is night and day. When you travel through the verdant, rolling hills, in and out of wine estates and villages of the region, you can’t help but feel the sense of tranquillo. Calm. You are also hyper aware of the singularity, diversity and quality of the produce. This is Chianti Classico. You do not get lazy and say I am in Chianti or I have travelled through Chianti. Per favore, Chianti Classico. In fact, the moment you leave Chianti Classico and pass through the terra-cotta villages just south of Firenze the landscape changes immediately. It’s just not the same.

dropped-in-on-some-old-friends-today-villadigeggiano-barrelselect-bianchibandinelli-castelnuovoberardegna

Dropped in on some old friends today @VilladiGeggiano @BarrelSelect #bianchibandinelli #castelnuovoberardegna

Image, perception and finalmente, reality, these are the truths all who feel the soul of Chianti Classico are in search of today. Today and moving forward, explaining to the world that Chianti Classico is not what you thought or think it to be. In my three full days of exploring the region I visited eight wine estates, and no two were the same. Each have vines growing on different soils, each vinify with varying techniques and all eight treat l’élevage of their wines with surprisingly divergent approaches.

Related  – Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione plan

My visits to these eight estates (plus one 21-year later reunion with Andrea Bianchi Bandinelli at Villa di Geggiano) was made possible and with thanks to the Consorzio di Vino Chianti Classico. In particular President Sergio Zingarelli, Director Giuseppe Liberatore, Christine Lechner and Silvia Fiorentini.  Last week I published links to 21 tasting notes on Chianti Classico Gran Selezione over at WineAlign. The full notes will go live on Godello next week. This week you can read 28 tasting notes on the non-Gran Selezione wines I tasted In Chianti Classico back in May.

Luiano

Luiano as from the Latin, “janus,” where all begins from Jaunary, with an eye to the past and forward to the future. Located in San Casciano in Val di Pesa, through Impruneta due south of Firenze. Passed down from grandfather Alberto, now Alessandro and father Antonio Palombo’s vineyards fan out to an amphitheatre with four distinct (cru) climats. The use of merlot and cabernet sauvignon is employed to achieve roundness with the tannic and tougher sangiovese, to avoid the classic, firm and historically at times infirm and instead go for the amenable. Representation in Ontario is with Tre Amici Wines.

alessandro-luiluiano-palumbo-announces-chianticlassico-quality-luiano-even-before-you-have-ascended-his-drive

Alessandro @luiluiano Palombo announces @chianticlassico quality #luiano even before you have ascended his drive

Luiano Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.50, WineAlign)

From a challenging vintage and winemaker Alessandro Palombo admits readily to much fruit purposefully languished on the vine. Field selection was the sine qua non, inexorable and moral imperative to seek this floral sangiovese from a less than homogeneous vintage. With a father’s wise voice resonating in his ear it was the inborn proclivity to resist temptation and not to over press and to focus on freshness. Some cabernet sauvignon and merlot urges the chamomile, jasmine, black tea and candied orange peel with some healthy contrariety by underbrush (mushroom and forest floor) and truffle shaved over black cherry. A bit iron rich though righteously clean, with no exaggerations, in avoidance of arbitration, greenness or pepper pyrazine. “It’s not the greatest Chianti Classico I’ve ever made but it’s one I’m very proud of.” 60,000 bottles made. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted May 2016

with-alessandro-and-antonio-palumbo

With Alessandro and Antonio Palombo

Luiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

There was some rain and cold at the climax of maturation, so here the sangiovese is grittier, shivered with sweetmeat and somewhat bitter tannins, but otherwise a “normale” vintage. Here we have 100 per cent sangiovese of the best selections and the first vintage not in true French oak. It is in fact larger barriques (French but made in Italy). Still the forest floor and a hint of truffle, albeit slathered with a deeper richness, whiffing some leather and tobacco. The wood is present but respectful to the fruit, as is the verdant streak running through the tremendous San Casciano in Val di Pesa acidity. The bitter and drying tannins will require time to help soften the astringency and relent they will though not completely, but age will certainly help. 13,000 cases made from a vintage with no Grand Selezione. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted May 2016

Luiano Chianti Classico 1979, Tuscany, Italy

Alessandro Palombo is skeptical at first, one eyebrow raised but with the look of possibility on his face. Takes me very little time to acknowledge that this ’79 is very much alive, fruit not predominant (and surely some prune) but neither cooked nor bruised. The brown nose (earth and spice) purports a full concentration of anthocyanins, acidity still full in, dried fraises de bois, black liquorice, dirty leather and worth repeating, still very good acidity. Truffle, forest floor and then black olive tapenade on the palate. This is 70-80 per cent sangiovese with colorino and canaiolo and for 1979 it’s quite incredible. It should not have lasted this long.  Antonio says that up to 10 per cent could have been malvasia blanca and trebbiano because at the time it was a field blend, co-planted with the sangiovese, which could explain some of the variegation in the colour. This is a Chianti Classico to lend credence to the idea of using multiple fruit, vegetal and animale descriptors when assessing an old wine. It’s also the reason why you put them away and open them with friends who’s eyes are wide open. Thank you Alessandro for the opportunity and for the connection to your grandfather Alberto. He was a very good winemaker. Drink 2016.  Tasted May 2016

Lornano

Fattoria Lornano had been a Napoleanic French property taken from the church and re-assigned.  Like many properties in Chianti Classico the 180 hectare estate was originally a church, in Lornano’s case a privilege of Pope Innocent III who was entrusted with the administration of other neighbouring churches and adjacent agricultural lands. The Taddei family-owned Lornano is located on the south west hills of Castellina in Chianti and Monteriggioni, five kilometres from Siena.

Nicolò Pozzoli’s great grandfather bought Lornano in 1904 after making a fortune in matches followed by owning a glass factory in Empoli. This from Nicolò’s mother’s side of the family and it was aunt Katerina who ran the winery, now in the hands of Pozzoli. In 1998 they re-planted six hectares and in 2013, replaced seven hectares of Chianti Classico on the upper hill. Today the team is led by General Director Pozzoli, Agronomist Silvio Campatelli and Enologists Franco and Matteo Bernabei. They are represented in Ontario by Frontier Wine Merchants.

structured-and-getable-chianticlassico-via-lornanochiantic-il-piacere-e-stato-mio-nicolopozzoli-silviocampatelli-montereggioni

Structured and getable @chianticlassico via @LornanoChiantiC Il piacere è stato mio #NicolòPozzoli #SilvioCampatelli #montereggioni

Lornano Chianti Classico 2012, Tuscany, Italy (211599, $17.95, WineAlign)

Lornano’s Chianti Classico benchmark endeavours from lock, stock and barrel sangiovese and is held back from market longer than most, to soften the 100 per cent edges and give the round, plumate feel. The vintage is nothing if not consistent with the Lornano house style, divaricated rich and dishing out some evolution. The fifty-fifty small and large barrel split and 12 months of aging following a 22-day fermentation at 25-28 degrees is more than just a jumpstart and a kicker. The integral technical play celebrates and elevates the elegant vintage of very pure fruit, almost biting, ricercato crack spice and finally, very silky tannins. A seven to 10 years Chianti Classico with significant poise for so little salvo. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted May 2016

Lornano Le Bandite Chianti Classico Riserva 2011, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (230672, $19.95, WineAlign)

Le Bandite, “the banned,” is a cru special for its content of white sand. This is the place “where the hunters went hunting,” notes Direttore generale Nicolò Pozzoli, Monteriggioni territory in which, for public tender are prohibited hunting, fishing or grazing. So what is the significance with respect to Chianti Classico Riserva? Simple. The hunter’s loss is the wine consumer’s gain. Here a wine that spent 21 months in barrels, of wise character, evolved and integrated inherent, thanks to an extra year in bottle before release. Sangiovese from clay, of earthy density settled, on the palate, with three to five years left for prime drinking. When tasted alongside the 2009 Le Bandite, it shows more is less vitality and acidity than when that vintage was last tasted in November 2013. This 2011 will soon revive a pop and a feeling that brings leather and liquorice into the fray. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May 2016

with-thanks-to-nicolo-pozzoli-e-silvio-campatelli-inowfeellikenew-lornanochiantic-chianticlassico-fattorialornano-castellinainchianti

With thanks to Nicolò Pozzoli e Silvio Campatelli #inowfeellikenew @LornanoChiantiC @chianticlassico #fattorialornano #castellinainchianti

Lornano Commendator Enrico 2011, Igt Toscana, Italy (211615, $29.95, WineAlign)

In reference to a time in Lornano’s history when the property was placed in trust as a commendam, “the temporary holding of an ecclesiastical benefice.” The Igt blend is sangiovese (50 per cent), merlot (25) and cabernet sauvignon (25) housed for 20 months in new barrels and large barriques. Nothing but rich and intense with the most spice and also the notion of liquid violets. As an aside to the Chianti Classicos there is here a new texture, the merlot giving dusty brushes, the cabernet blackberry, Cassis and with a savoury side. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2016

Lornano Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico 2008, Docg Tuscany, Italy (244947, 375ml, $29.95, WineAlign)

So very nutty, of almonds and hazelnuts and then marzipan. Succinctly apricot and ripe peach with acidity that hits during the initial shot of fresh fruit into frutta secca and then again at the back end. A dessert wine unique to its own character, perfectly clean and pure. From the oldest plantings of trebbiano and malvasia, one hectare of each, aged for up to six years. Picked in late October, brought in and hung up in a well-ventilated room with humidity and mildew control, then sorted before fermentation. Up to 30 per cent is lost or discarded. Drink 2016-2028.  Tasted May 2016

Villa Trasqua

Located north of Siena in Castellina in Chianti with Monteriggioni rising majestically above the estate, Villa Trasqua is built around the ancient and exceptional vineyard known as Nerento. The estate dates back to 1965 and cultivates its 120 hectares and 10 vineyards in the oldest part of Castellina in Chianti. Trasqua is owned by Swiss brothers Sven and Alan Hulsbergen. Organically farmed vines and the gravity fed winery built on several levels are overseen by oenologist Franco Bernabei and Director Armand Metalla. The estate is represented in Ontario by Frontier Wine Merchants.

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How about this beauty at Villa Trasqua? #berkel #1912 #slicingmachines

Villa Trasqua Trasquanello Rosé 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $13.95, WineAlign)

A 100 per cent sangiovese designed out of a quick bleed for minor colour and the result is great elegance. Saline, savoury and with a bit of sweetness, sexy, easy going Rosé with oomph. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted May 2016

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

From serene Castellina in Chianti wide open spaces vineyards and built upon sangiovese plus (five per cent) colorino and malvasia nera. Leaf savour of and with the tart sweetness of frutti di bosco. Spicy oak and depths plumbed but ultimately fresh elegance with acidity to lift, clean and place this in the new echelon of Chianti Classico. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted May 2016

Losi Querciavalle

If any Chianti Classico estate speaks of family values, tradition and a deeply profound, contiguous lineage it is Losi Querciavalle. Located a stone’s throw across a few valleys southeast towards Siena in the Comune di Castelnuovo Berardenga, the Losi family are the custodians of the purest Albarese soils in the hills of Pontignano. The Albarese here is so pronounced and so defined from plot to plot and vine to vine that Pietro Losi is able to distinguish and differentiate specific vines for the purpose of choosing identified bunches of grapes for each of his wines. Pietro and daughter Valeria take the torch from Cavaliere Tranquillo Losi, mezzadro (cropper) and a man who pioneered farming and winemaking methods to make wines that purely and clearly define the region’s Chianti Classico. Tranquillo’s transference of indispensable Chianti Classico information came from his father Emilio Losi and from Brunello of Montalcino’s Tancredi Biondi Santi.

Pietro continues the work of his forefathers, along with Valeria and brother Riccardo. The Querciavalle farm, acquired in 1954 with the establishment of the company, covers 35 hectares of vineyards while Pontignanello farm, acquired in 1998, bordering on the Querciavalle farm, covers 15 hectares. The estate is represented in Ontario by Natural Vines.

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

Malvasia Nera 2015 (Barrel Sample)

Aged in tonneaux barriques, the blending grape on a possible solo mission gives green vegetal and floral aromatics, violets, like petit verdot in a way, with great acidity. Pietro Losi is considering producing a single-varietal wine, is cloning to try and plant more for such a purpose. Tannins are grainy but sweet, fine and delicate. Three words for you Pietro. Go for it.  Tasted May 2016

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

The historical south-facing “Leccino” family vineyard is situated at 300-350 above sea level, from sandstone in the higher areas and from Galestro and Albarese, so typical from the lower areas of Chianti Classico. Sangiovese (90 per cent) and canaiolo see 18 months in 50 hectolitre barrels and in concrete. Here the natural world and the particular poetry of “old school” dialectical sangiovese speech is heard. It is certainly traditional and pure, clean, crisp, structured, taut and of that wise liqueur. The verbiage is all that plus what feels like dusty ancient mountain brush mixed with albarese soil minerality. In the end it is the canaiolo that brings the perfume. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted May 2016

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico Riserva 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

With five per cent canaiolo instilling just enough potpourri into the fine-grained sangiovese, this could be easily pass for Gran Selezione from an inelastic vintage. The 30 months in 20hL barrels has crafted a structured, elegant, firm and classic Riserva. More than sixty vintages have gathered up the albarese and here, from Querciavalle’s “Vigna del Pino” vineyard. Forest floor, vanilla and berries cull the traditional, resting calm, balanced, noiseless and bitterless. The aftertaste comes out the habits of generations, with a sweet amaro finish, a smooth digestivo. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted May 2016

Losi Querciavalle Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico 2000, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign)

Every drop poured and considered from this ambrosial elixir solicits memories from and for a family’s history and tradition. From trebbiano and malvasia, the grapes picked on the 15th and dried from September to December. The pick has graduated to become earlier over the years, and the new, soft press to fermentation heads directly into the cartelli. Querciavalle’s patience exceeds the the five years (as required by the DOCG), usually waiting eight and making use of stainless steel to lower the natural sediment. “An immortal wine, already in paradise,” smiles Pietro Losi, knowingly, of dried fruit and of course almonds. There also challenges a depth and an aridity amongst this sugar, a depth of intensity through acidity that lines and then rounds without a moment of searing. This is true gran selezione calm, gorgeous and alone, warm and full of love. A dessert wine that takes minutes to finish, stays warm in the belly, helpful, coating and comforting. The best and correct story for Vin Santo is of the black plague when the monks believed it held the power to cure. What’s not to believe? Drink 2016-2040.  Tasted May 2016

Barone Ricasoli – Castello di Brolio

The history of Chianti Classico, Tuscany and for that matter, Italian wine can’t be discussed or put into perspective without mention of Barone Ricasoli. That name has been linked to wine since 1141, when Brolio Castle passed into the hands of the Ricasoli family. The first 700 years of Tuscany’s most famous castle and the family aside, it is the work of Baron Bettino Ricasoli, Prime Minister of Italy, researcher, innovator and first marketing expert for the regions wines.  Bettino is credited with having invented the Chianti formula in 1872. When I visited the Ricasoli family crypt in May I was struck by the fact that the Iron Baron passed away on my wife’s birthday. Then shivers travelled down my spine when I noticed a second Bettino Ricasoli shared a birthday with me.

#castellodibrolio

A video posted by Michael Godel (@mgodello) on

Francesco Ricasoli, 32nd Baron of Brolio has been at the helm of the castle and the family business since 1993. In the past 20 years he has overseen the re-planting of vineyards, isolated exceptional soils, plots and exposures. The five types of soils found on the estate; sandstone, argilliti, montemorello, pliocene and fluvial deposits all play major rolls on vineyard demarcations and which blocks are used for which wines. This research with nearly 1000 years of experience in the current hands of Francesco Ricasoli has transformed an historic estate into a new golden age as one of Chianti Classico’s most important producers. Massimiliano Biagi is now head of winemaking and Commercial Director Stefano Capurso is responsible for bringing Ricasoli’s exceptional wines to the world. Churchill Cellars is the Ontario Agent.

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Delivering purity with deep respect to exceptional vineyards @barone_ricasoli @chianticlassico #sangiovese #granselezione #merlot

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (3962, $23.95, WineAlign)

When you consider that this Chianti Classcio enjoys a production of 8000,000 bottles, you might think it a huge salad of over determination. It’s not but instead gleefully full of coincidence and implausibility. Sangiovese (80 per cent) mingles with merlot and cabernet sauvignon for nine months in barrique and tonneau. The goal is freshness from fruit with Chianti Classico character. The exactitude of resolution is a full expression, of cherries, dusty character and a meeting point from and for all five terroirs across the estate. Carries its full fleshy fruit with some liquorice in a dichotomous combo of exceptional quality and high quantity, incorporating diversity, brought together with simple but highly technological vinification. This is now as much a vision of Toscana, even as it resonates as Chianti Classico, than what it used to be. That is to say internationally stylized, but isn’t this in effect true of all sangiovese, not especially of Chianti Classico? Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted May 2016

Barone Ricasoli Brolio-Bettino Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

This ulterior Chianti Classico label is dedicated to Bettino Ricasoli who invented the formula for the production of Chianti in 1872. The Iron Baron must have been a hard-nosed, get things accomplished kind of Prime Minister-Researcher-Inventor-Marketer because the sangiovese (with a splash or two of colorino) is a gritty effort, firm and taut. Aged in refurbished old casks, this unfiltered and bullish Chianti Classico is built upon a full-frontal fun nation of black cherry fruit. There is a textile texture that is not quite the CC leather of old but something newer, modern, hand-crafted and woven, silky and gentile. This is the elegance of such a form ridable sangiovese, on the tongue, to the touch and the feel. Bettino’s ode is dark and brooding but it is so very sangiovese. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2016

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Fettuccine con #crema di #tartufo #osteriadelcastello @barone_ricasoli #madonnaabrolio #gaioleinchianti

Barone Ricasoli Rocca Guicciarda Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (943613, $24.95, WineAlign)

The blend for the Riserva (first introduced out of the exceptional 1999 vintage) is very similar to the Brolio (beginning with 80 per cent sangiovese), but here the l’élevage sees time in large casks with some canaiolo in the mix. Carries the Brolio gene and the torch, takes the diversity of sangiovese from the cinque terroirs and distills it into a very fresh (especially for CCR) but certainly rich and velvety red. Firm, taut and finishing on its recurring entry note of round acidity and sweet tannin. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted May 2016

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Not all #terroir is created equal. Cinque #cru @barone_ricasoli #granselezione #castellodibrolio #ChiantiClassico #massimilianobiagi #francescoricasoli #stefanocapurso

Barone Ricasoli Casalferro 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (122598, $51.95, WineAlign)

Casalferro is 100 per cent merlot wrought from a southeast exposure, single vineyard cru for a total of 27,000 bottles. New barriques for 18 months are filled from fruit picked in late september (after the rest) and eight or nine further months in bottle before release. Here despite the wood and the varietal, this is as much a study in Chianti Classico as it is merlot, chiantified so to speak, of pure sweet acidity and red cherry like no other Tuscan merlot will espouse to show. This is surely not Redigaffi, Galatrona, Masseto or L’Apparita. None of them. It may not be the richest or silkiest but it is very pure and it has a naturally cured, sandstone and schisty feel. At a modest 14 per cent alcohol it feels light and ethereal. A great vintage for Casalferro. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted May 2016

Il Molino Di Grace

Frank and Judy Grace purchased the vineyards in the mid 1990’s and restored an abandoned 19th century ruin into what is now the cantina of il Molino di Grace, named for the centuries-old historic water-mill. The first vintage out of the new winery was in 1999. MdG became a certified organic winery in 2013, something they and indeed the entire 20 viticultural Panzano-in-Chianti producers are extremely proud of, all together as one. It took 20 years to get this way, with no spraying and even the workers who work the roads will cut, but never spray.

Tim Grace runs Il Molino di Grace along with Director Iacopo Morganti. Their consulting oenologist is none other than Franco Bernabei. To say that Il Molino di Grace is an authentic producer of terroir-driven Chianti Classico would be an understatement. Their vineyards are set upon some of the finest Galèstro soil in all of Chianti Classico. The permeations and permutations from that soil have separated this estate from so many others with a portfolio of wines constructed with power, finesse and yes, grace.

galestro-and-panzano-in-every-pour-with-iacopo-morganti-ilmolinodigrace-chianticlassico-toscana-organic-granselezione-ilmargone-gratius

Galèstro and #panzano in every pour. With Iacopo Morganti @IlMolinodiGrace @chianticlassico #toscana #organic #granselezione #ilmargone #gratius

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Sangiovese running 100 per cent solo, but from a vintage that surrendered 50 per cent of the crop in the spring to frost. The absence of quantity is quality’s coup for a mere 48,000 bottles of Molino di Grace’s normale. Aging happened in Botti (25 hL) for one year. There is a distinct opposition to the other house stylistics, here fresh and fruit massive meets a beautifully dusty, high quality, straight and taut line. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2016

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

The 2013 point blank sangiovese Chianti Classico is a softer, rounder version of its normale self, with less spice and dust and as a matter of course, from double the output. A dreamy downy growing season saw to 100,000 bottles and each are so eminently drinkable. There is a soil in there that seeps through because of the vintage, that combination of marl and limestone known locally as galestro and so while the concentration is wontedly in measure to 2012, it is ultimately just a matter of differing result. One wine’s pale is another one’s edge. This ’13 will present for immediate pleasure while ’12 spends one more year coming into view. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted May 2016

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“Just need a place where I can lay my head.” #panzano #ChiantiClassico

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva 2009, Docg Tuscany, Italy (382945, $23.95, WineAlign)

From a hot vintage you can feel straight away on the nose, augmented corporeal and heavy hued. A perspicuous selection from the vineyard is kept in old tonneaux (2nd and 3rd fill), then tasted through those barrels to decide on the Riserva’s final blend. Another Il Molino di Grace 100 per cent sangiovese and the last vintage produced of the regular Riserva. Here again you note the house-style liqueur, the deep seep of cherry and the indubitable vineyard. The culmination of the calefactive vintage offer, from fruit to strength, inclusive with deep intent and a burrowing into the galestro. This the rooted riserva, firm and stretched to elegant. The spice and the tannin are late arriving, tied up in sapidity, graced by comfort. Still so very young, with chards nicking and drawing blood, in need of three years for the fragments of stone to peel away and dissolve into the liquid. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted May 2016

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Gratius, meaning more pleasing, the author of a poem on hunting, opponent of the poet Archias and a contemporary of Ovid. The other sangiovese from Il Molino di Grace whose first vintage was 1999, of “a nose incredible,” says a wistful Iacopo Morganti and he is not wrong. From the Panzano-Greve in Chianti slopes of Montefili, at 500 meters, a 2.2 hectare single vineyard of old vines (70 years) co-planted with some colorino and canaiolo. So in that sense it’s a field blend but essentially sangiovese. Tuscan climat of rock and poor soil, where the wind blows and grapes whose fate is two weeks later maturation. Aromatics and elegance are in a calm struggle and like two brothers, rolling but not fighting. Such a wine of clean, pristine purity does not exist just anywhere. The inviting perfume solicits readiness and a willingness to be generous. No need to wait. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted May 2016

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2009, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Darker, exuding more heat and vineyard funk with an emphatic oomph. You can’t help but notice it, the Galestro, screaming to be heard. This has that natural cure, that wisdom, the kind of feeling that the wine was always as it is now, borne this way. From the windy Montefili, 500m limestone and marl single-vineyard. Usually late maturing but warmer from 2009 and slightly obscuring but not smothering the Gratius “more pleasing” perfume. Very ready sangiovese field blend intensified in augmentation by canaiolo and colorino. Ready for drinking alongside the enchanting 2010. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted May 2016

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2005, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

The Gratius 2005 shares DNA with 2009 aromatically speaking but in texture and expression the litheness is pinot noir like, with a bit of bretty volatility as an impression that is vineyard funk derived. Just now beginning a drinking window in performance for the art of perfect timing but why not imagine the installation persisting for 10-12 more years? Here the Montefili Galestro vineyard is clearly iterated in a funk-soil-chalk-liquid rubies way. A brilliant peek back because the tart is just so right. Ask the question, “what was the old wine like?” The answer is “it was like old wine, that is to say, like all old wines.” Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted May 2016

Colle Bereto

The Pinzauti family have transformed one of Chianti Classico’s most idyllic settings into an architectural and wine-producing estate of the highest elegance and excellence. Bernardo Bianchi is winemaker and the estate’s total production is 80,000 bottles per year. “The 60 hectares of the estate, of which 15 are devoted to grape growing, are skillfully arranged and tended to obtain excellent quality wines.” Sangiovese, the area’s “noble vine,” is used for Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva, while the Pinot Noir and Merlot grapes give their best in Il Cenno and Il Tocco, respectively.”

The approach is through a very careful selection in the vineyard, stems removed and the thickest skinned sangiovese selected for Riserva. The avoidance of green berries is exercised with extreme prejudice, they do no crushing and only work with gravity fed juice followed by the gentlest fermentation. The Ontario agent is Nokhrin wines.

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At the intersection of @chianticlassico and #singlevineyard there is #granselezione #collebereto

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $31.15, WineAlign)

From a vintage with no Riserva or Gran Selezione, so 50,000 bottles of sangiovese (97 per cent) and colorino (3) were produced. Fermented in botti, finished in stainless steel and bottled the first week of February. Includes fruit from the single-vineyard “la vigna del Convento” that lays beneath il convento di Radda in Chianti, now the restored home of the Consorzio del Vino Chianti Classico. The ’14 CC is possessive of the most liberal import and impart of local mineral. “We are very lucky, it is all Galestro,” says winemaker Bernardo Bianchi. This is Chianti Classico of tradition and progress defined, with the better and best grapes instilling structure, full of the kind of fruit that will last for 10 years. Who needs Riserva when you have this. Liquid concentrated must and dust, mineral and mouthfeel. Great round acidity and finally, blessed bitters. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2016

Castello di Gabbiano

Castello di Gabbiano was built in the 12th century, just south of Florence in the heart of the Chianti Classico region. The estate has been protecting its estate-grown grapes since 1124. The castle remained in the possession of the Florentine banking family Bardi until the early part of the 15th century when it passed to the Soderini family, one of the most politically influential families in Florence. It was the Soderini who were responsible for the conversion of the turreted manor house of Gabbiano in Fattoria, already completed by the late 15th century.

Today the 147 hectare estate is in the hands of Treasury Wine Estates, one of the most progressive wine companies in the world. The vineyards are divided up into DOCG Chianti Classico (109 hectares), IGT (35) and Vin Santo. Winemaker Federico Cerelli has dedicated the best blocks of exceptional aspect and exposure upon the finest clay and limestone rock-filled soils for Gabbiano’s most important cuvées. Cerelli pays painful attention to both his agronomy and his winemaking. He is constantly analyzing the soils, carefully selecting the choice of rootstocks and clones, as well as pruning back in a careful, skillful handling of the vines. In the winery and in the cellars he exercises the balanced epitome of melding a natural approach to traditional methods and technical innovation to both large and small productions.

federico-cirelli-brought-the-castellogabbiano-barquebbq-supplied-the-sampler-treasurywineestates-greatmatch-chianticlassico-sangiovese-granselezione-bellezza-chianti-chianticlassicoriserva

Federico Cirelli brought the @CastelloGabbiano & @barquebbq supplied the sampler #treasurywineestates #greatmatch #chianticlassico #sangiovese #granselezione #bellezza #chianti #chianticlassicoriserva

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (219808, $18.15, WineAlign)

Classic red sauce pasta appendage, for Monday and Tuesday, along with Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Though the varietal and regional specificity floats in the Tuscan wind, the local tension, tang and tannin make for some robust Chianti Classico moments. Fashioned from 90 per cent sangiovese, the rest merlot with some colorino and canaiolo, moist from the fresh maker Branca vintage of deep, fertile soil. Partial carbonic fermentation after five days of cold (15c) maceration. Aging done in 70 per cent (five tonnes) cask and some 3-4 year old barrels plus 30 per cent in cement. The latter gives the exposure of freshness in fruit. Quite pure, clean and soil driven, earthy enough to soak up swimming pools of sugo all’arrabbiata or amatriciana. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted February and May 2016

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

First and foremost it is the wood, or the lack of wood that stands out in the CCR 2013. It may be observed as a different kind of wood, less polished and more natural but what really wins out is the fruit. The cherries are surfeited by impressed tannin and linger with good tonic for a good length of time. Great restraint shown by winemaker Federico Cerelli. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted June 2016

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Really getting to know these guys @CastelloGabbiano #chianticlassico #chianti #granselezione #bellezza

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

Winemaker Federico Cerelli’s 2012 Riserva goes at the ancient ideal with (95 per cent) sangiovese and (5) merlot, of which 70 per cent of all estate grapes are used to produce this wine. From the Mercatale Val di Pesa castle vineyards, the CCR is a work of time, energy and investment spent in the vineyard. The elevated tonality can’t help but be assessed as compared with the ‘normale,’ here fermented in small (10 tonne) tanks, of a wild ferment, a warmer maceration and 20-25 days of skin contact. The new and improved state of the art incarnation of this Gabbiano is a by-product of Cerelli’s major reduction in pump overs (like, zero), a bit extra delestage, sangiovese malolactic in cement and merlot in barrel. Then into wood (20 per cent new French) plus (80) in third and fourth fill. A minor amount sees large cask. The totality is 12 plus 12 months (wood and bottle). Such a smooth operator with spice accents, again that classic rolling hills red fruit, great length, remarkable breadth and quality for the price. It’s amenable to immediate consumption with some air but will benefit from two more years imagined aeration. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted May 2016

Ambassadors of @chianticlassico to the world. 2013 #castellodigabbiano #granselezione (not pictured) will blow your mind #treasurywineestates #sancascianovaldipesa #ilbellezza #chianticlassicoriserva

Ambassadors of @chianticlassico to the world. 2013 #castellodigabbiano #granselezione (not pictured) will blow your mind #treasurywineestates #sancascianovaldipesa #ilbellezza #chianticlassicoriserva

Castello Di Gabbiano Alleanza 2011, Igt Toscana, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

A single block alliance between merlot and cabernet sauvignon, less than 10,000 bottles per year, from low lying vines on clay soil, consummated out of a late harvest. “I like to pick when the vine has lost their leaves,” notes winemaker Federico Cerelli, “that is the right time to pick. It’s not too hot so this is when the phenolics are ripe.” Just a few hectares of cabernet see a separate, mostly wild ferment, mostly in concrete and normally 40-45 days of skin contact. It then spends 14 months in (100 per cent) new French oak. So very, very vanilla, caky but not milk-shaken, urged am biliously forward by crazy acidity, (5.7 tA) and high pH (3.9). The nose wields blackberry and Cassis and then the palate seems to veer wholly Merlot, dusty, silky and sandalwood soft. Just a faint note of dill pickle and it’s quite cool and savoury, of some black olive and brine, no animale, clean, almost anti-super Tuscan. There is no beast here. There is tannin and an edgy level but no brood. There is drinkability and it uses its wood well. A real improvement for this bottle, with thanks to Federico. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2016

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The river #arno beneath a #florentine night @WestinFlorence

Good to go!

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Telmo Rodríguez redux

remelluri

A couple of years ago I tasted godello with Telmo Rodríguez at Archive Wine Bar in Toronto. Godello and godello under the tutelage of the micro-craft-small production Spanish wine magnate. Rodríguez combines “travel, evangelism and conceit, qualities the laser-focused, frank and facund winemaker possesses in spades.” Telmo returned to Toronto last Wednesday, this time to Momofuku’s Nikai. Godello (the grape) was not in tow, but Godello (the writer) was privy to taste some of the wildest field blends on the planet not produced by Marcel Deiss.

Related – Telmo’s Spanish dream

The place of origin is at the epicentre of Telmo’s recurrent dream, a place “lost in the mists of time.” Remelluri. The family farm to which a prodigal son returns, to restore winemaking traditions and bring back greatness. In Telmo’s world, exceptionality from place does not happen without first preaching a very specific gospel in nothing short of modern evangelical tones. Rodríguez doesn’t think much of corporations, commercialization, factories and cooperatives. He has little patience for large production, low-cost, cookie-cutter Rioja passing for traditional values. He is argumentative towards labelling and time spent in oak definitions. To him the Rioja categories of Crianza and Reserva are frustrating, mis-leading and so stupidly broad. He believes that most regional vintners put the most average juice into barrels, adhere to the criteria for aging and boom, release generic Rioja with no sense of place. Telmo is desperate to right this wrong.

Telmo, happy, Godello happy #remelluri #telmorodríguez #rioja

Last time through Rodríguez lamented that “in Canada you have been drinking the worst Riojas, the undrinkable Riojas.” So he makes wines without incessantly resorting to the  suffocating slings and arrows of outrageous, appellative fortune; no Crianza, no Reserva, no Gran Reserva. At Remelluri he follows the designations albeit with experimental designs, even if some consider him to be doing so “illegally.” The field blend concept can’t be found anywhere in Rioja’s published guidelines or conceptual literature. That doesn’t seem to stop Telmo from doing his thing. At Remelluri, the vineyard was filled with a field blend, beyond tempranillo, planted to more than 5,000 plants per hectare. Telmo grafted from these plants to resuscitate the vineyard. Caring nothing about shunned (endemic) grape varieties densities considered too high he simply went about doing his radical work.

Rodríguez explains to a group of Toronto writers and sommeliers what it takes to make great wine in Spain. “Lets fight for those places. In Malaga, in Rioja, vineyards from the 7th century. Top vineyards. Amazing places.” He insists that the best wines from Rioja are not from 150 year-old wineries with big production. They are from places like Artadi’s Viña El Pisón, and the Rodríguez Las Beatas vineyard, small, specific and rich in historical significance. His list might also include R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia’s Viña Cubillo, Viña Bosconia, and Viña Zaconia. Not to mention Tentenublo Wines Las Paredes and Contino’s Viña del Olivo.

Momofuku Nikai's Fried Chicken

Momofuku Nikai’s Fried Chicken

Telmo’s current focus and main goal is changing the hierarchy in Rioja, to re-establish beautiful places at the pinnacle of quality. “The quality of a wine is (derived from) the talent of the vineyard. The place is the talent, not the winemaker.” This is the crux of Telmo Rodríguez. This turns the winemaker-vineyard, artist-canvas concept on its head. There is no canvas. The vineyard as the star makes the winemaker a mere handler, a facilitator, a coach, a manager. The vineyard is the talent.

With thanks to Momofuku’s Beverage Director and Sommelier Steve Sousa and the Noble Estates braintrust of Craig de Blois, Richard Dittmar and too legit to quit Mark Coster, we sat down with four pours by Telmo Rodríguez and a stellar Nikai spread. Here are the notes.

got-me-thinking-writing-anticipating-remelluri-telmorodriguez

Got me thinking, writing, anticipating #remelluri #telmorodriguez

Remelluri Rioja Blanco 2012, Rioja, Spain (Agent, $87.00, WineAlign)

Telmo Rodríguez returned in 2010 with the desperate urge to be a representative for Remelluri, the family property purchased by his parents in the 1960’s, with a lineage and history dating back to the 16th century. “They spent a good part of their life recuperating this estate,” explains Rodríguez. “It is a place never touched by herbicides or pesticides. How many vineyards in Europe can say that?” Remelluri is not just organic now, it has always been this way. The Blanco is a field blend of nine different varieties grown on poor limestone terraces of calcaire variegated into clay and quartenary sandstone/loam. The high altitude slopes and their cool-climate induction from the northwest are driven to drawing an immediate sense of layering, of sub-strata, strata, ground cover, dirt, vine and air. You can’t help but smell the white flowers and the palpability of dry extract. Picked over a long September to October period, fermented with wild abandon and left to smoulder away in a carnival of casks, the Blanco is an onion and its layers will peel away over a decade or more. An artisan white Rhône sensation warms the glass with the only southern aspect to waft from this wine. The rest is cooly northern and while the sense of origin is at the crux and the core, time will be needed to clarify the memories and to look ahead for future vintages articulated with greater experience. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2016

From here the leap is great before assuming a place in history #remelluri #telmorodriguez

Remuelluri Lindes De Remelluri Viñedos De Labastida 2012, Rioja, Spain (392860, $27.95, WineAlign)

Granja Nuestra Señora de Remelluri is the oldest wine estate from Rioja, adjunct two villages, Labastida Alava and San Vicente de la Sonsierra from Rioja Alta. The significance of place was magnified in 2009 when the harvests were separated from each other and from the rest of the greater estate as a whole. The family lineages of farming and pressing those grapes is now expressed in two single-village, non-estate Lindes, meaning “on the boundaries or surroundings.” Tempranillo, garnacha, graciano and viura combine to tell the story of Labastida in Telmo Rodríguez’ entry-level Remelluri in which we don’t talk about oak. “We talk about place, viticulture, about what is important,” not how much time the wine aged in barrel. Rodríguez prizes these growers’ grapes and they are very proud of this project. A wine (60,000 bottles) that is ready to drink. A density of cure, just the slightest mustiness, a demurred, smoky, opaque mustiness, strawberries, cream and more natural yeasts and grapes than might be imagined getting together and making wine. It’s so very Telmo Rodríguez by mouthfeel so the vineyard is procured a time out in the sensory assessment and the winemaker steps in. But then culture, history and things that used to be creep back in on the gently sloping, ups, down and angled overs arrive at the beautiful finish. The length is not just long but lingering and very fresh. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Remuelluri Rioja Reserva 2010, Rioja, Spain (Agent, $59.99, WineAlign)

“My first fight was in Navarra, against cabernet sauvignon,” begins Telmo Rodríguez, el luchador por la libertad, the grape fighter. “My fight today is against trellising.” He continues.” Bush vines, field blends, these things are beautiful. The future of Spain is the past. For me Rioja is the villages, and the (field) blend of grapes. And a culture that has been lost.” And so The Remelluri Reserva, the original Granja Nuestra Señora de Remelluri estate wine has so quickly come to this. The most important fruit from three valleys from an essential Rioja vintage, massive, intense and instructive. All the culture, history and tradition of Telmo’s Rioja is locked tight in this time capsule vault of tempranillo, garnacha, graciano, viura and malvasia. From three valleys, Remelluri , Valdarremelluri and Villaescusa, from Labastida (Rioja Alvesa) and Rivas de Tereso belonging to San Vicente de La Sonsierra (Rioja Alta). These places are so important because of the families who have farmed these vineyards and the villages they are associated with. These lands are the rock stars and Rodríguez brings the Medoc-Bordeaux concept to purpose their Grand Vin potential. This 2010 Reserva is so young it took 20 minutes in the moment and two hours in the present to open the consideration assessment to even begin thinking about what it is. The depth of fruit is currently managed by volatility and tannin. That much is understood. Even acidity took a knee in the present, not in protest but in concession and abstinence. It will take its rightful place when needed, 10 plus years down the road. The fruit is massive, with freshness that will be preserved though it can’t yet speak. Red berries in a coal mine, tart unidentified stone fruits suspended in tree pod syrup animation. More later. Much later. Drink 2020-2032. Tasted September 2016

Granja Remuelluri Rioja Gran Reserva 2009, Rioja, Spain (Agent, $89.99, WineAlign)

“What is Rioja?” asks Telmo Rodríguez. He notes that Lopez-Heredia still manages small vineyards, Grand Cru and Premier Cru plots, but most Rioja houses are industrial. Their wines age in barrels in 100-150 year old wineries but have no sense of place, of origins, of an amazing vineyard. “I want to be radical. I believe it (Rioja) can be one of the most beautiful places in the world but I told my brothers it needed to go in a very particular direction. My brothers agreed.” So costs went up 35 per cent. They bought no grapes. “If you want to work properly in Spain, you have to be a hero.” You have to work the most difficult vineyards, where production costs are five times that of Grand Vin Bordeaux but the price sells for 10 times less. And so Telmo Rodríguez produces this Gran Reserva, a wine that adheres to a Rioja systematic but does so from a blind-eye turned, high density field-blend planting of tempranillo, garnacha, graciano, muscatel, viura and malvasia. A field blend, unlike Bordeaux but a local village farmed gathering of the best fruit. The 2009 is showing no age but the difference between 2010 Reserva and 2009 Gran Reserva is night and day. This makes the ’10 seem fresh, alive, open, almost simple. Here the variegation is distilled down to laser focus, as if the varieties all become one and most people would simply say tempranillo, but who has ever tasted and been dealt such a tempranillo? This is oozing of a liqueur like no other, rich, viscous, natural and dry-extract sweet. An expression of the best microclimates and their vineyard kin. Wait another five years to allow it to remember and tell its tale. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted September 2016

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

September 3rd goes up to eleven

nofilter

There are three times per year when we all disappear into the nether land of family, cottages and getaways, at Christmas, New Years and Labour Day. It’s very easy to miss out on news, world events and VINTAGES releases. The latest VINTAGES release took place over the Labour Day long weekend and I’ve always felt the LCBO should skip this Saturday on the calendar. I’ve been following the release cycle since 2000 and never pay much attention until after the fact. Like now.

While I did taste and review the September 3rd wines in August, I’m only getting around to sharing them with you now because I had better and necessary things to do, like delivering a child to university. This is the one time I don’t consider delivering the VINTAGES news after the fact as being late. Who was paying attention on the weekend anyway? This release goes up to 11 meaning it’s bigger and louder than others. And I’ve made 11 recommendations. Here.

maycas

Maycas Del Limarì Sumaq Chardonnay 2014, Limari Valley, Chile (378471, $14.95, WineAlign)

Cool and crisp chardonnay with a big bite out of a tart, green apple and notes from the barrel that are a good distance away from softening their grip. The fruit is not shy and is coddled so that it will stay strong when its time does come. That should be 12-18 months down the road. The spices will still be hanging around at that time. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted August 2016  @Maycasdellimari  @DrinkChile

Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio 2014, Alto Adige, Italy (95802, $16.95, WineAlign)

A classic grigio style on the fresh, tart and juicy spectrum but with a dense side note of mineral almost as fig pierced by a hypodermic tang. Pears are up front, fennel bulb behind and citrus everywhere in between. No questions asked for what’s in store and how it will offer broad yet refined appeal. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted August 2016    @AltoAdigeWines  @3050imports

westhof

De Wetshof Limestone Hill Unwooded Chardonnay 2015, Wo Robertson, South Africa (419622, $16.95, WineAlign)

No oak but plenty of flavour, vitality, alcohol and spice. Rarely does an unwooded chardonnay achieve such extended parameters but here the breaching is palpable. Sugar has something to do with the achievement, but so does extract, so credit is due. It is the verve of this wine and its utter Robertson-South African character (which is so bloody obvious) that gives it its charm. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted August 2016  @DeWetshofWines  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

Montes Alpha Carmenère 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile (143230, $19.95, WineAlign)

Really smoky, savoury, dense and wildly delicious carménère from Montes in 2013. The fruit is focused and the texture silky with a side of grit. Very persistent in its linger, long after the wine has passed your lips. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted August 2016  @MontesWines  @WinesofChile  @ProfileWineGrp

Poderi Di Luigi Einaudi Dolcetto Di Dogliani 2013, Doc Piedmont, Italy (232454, $19.95, WineAlign)

If modern and rustic can co-exist they would do so in this dogliani, a wine deeply and religiously traditional but executed with current pressed and exercised values. Black currant, liquorice and Cassis get together in a petite sirah meets cabernet sauvignon thinks 21st century nebbiolo way. Could confuse but instead delights with its bright ability within the darkness of its pitchy fruit. Terrific acidity trumps the microbial volatility. Chocolate fills the finish. Really fun wine for red meats, from the hearth, off the grill and in the pot. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted August 2016  @quotidianopiem  @WoodmanWS

grace

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Sangiovese running 100 per cent solo, but from a vintage that surrendered 50 per cent of the crop in the spring to frost. The absence of quantity is quality’s coup for a mere 48,000 bottles of Molino di Grace’s normale. Aging happened in Botti (25 hL) for one year. There is a distinct opposition to the other house stylistics, here fresh and fruit massive meets a beautifully dusty, high quality, straight and taut line. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2016  @Ilmolinodigrace  @chianticlassico

fielding

Fielding Estate Cabernet Franc 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (36194, $21.95, WineAlign)

Fielding’s consistent take on Cabernet Franc might be labeled as boring in proportion to its lack of ego but it is getting better with each passing vintage. Winemaker Richie Roberts is comfortable with the traditional technique that follows the regimen; de-stem, minimal crush, cold soak, rack, return, pumpover, extended maceration, drain, press and 12 months, full malo-achievement in barrel. Dark berries and moments in chocolate are polite and gratifying. The end game is temperance, modesty and goodness. Fielding’s Cabernet Franc is not one of Ontario fiction in requiem of drama, egotism, vanity and venality. The oak is an accent, not a heavy brush stroke. Acidity defines fruit and in turn that fruit bites ripe and ripping. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine

Descendientes De J. Palacios Pétalos 2013, Do Bierzo, Spain (446484, $24.95, WineAlign)

Pétalos del Bierzo is the entry-level Corrullón from Alvaro Palacios and nephew Ricardo Perez and it’s typically Mencía deep and juicy, rich in berries, iron and reeking of fresh sandalwood. The palate is richer still, full of plums and good bitter chocolate. Old vineyards in revival for the purpose of making modern wines is the modus operandi and you would be hard-pressed to find comparable or parallel in Bierzo. The oak here is in full control so let it rest two or three years and allow the seamless structure to submit, abide and oblige. Drink 2018-2022. Pétalos del Bierzo is the entry-level Corrullón from Alvaro Palacios and nephew Ricardo Perez and it’s typically Mencía deep and juicy, rich in berries, iron and reeking of fresh sandalwood. The palate is richer still, full of plums and good bitter chocolate. Old vineyards in revival for the purpose of making modern wines is the modus operandi and you would be hard-pressed to find comparable or parallel in Bierzo. The oak here is in full control so let it rest two or three years and allow the seamless structure to submit, abide and oblige. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted August 2016  @WoodmanWS  

Masi Brolo Campofiorin Oro 2012, Igt Rosso Del Veronese, Italy (976092, $26.95, WineAlign)

Classic appassimento from Masi in this seminal bottling with a great exude of flowers and the most complex, exotically perfumed sugar syrup nose. The texture is silky and elastic, the acidity proper and the finish long and sweet. Though the chocolate is all pervasive (with a shot of espresso brought late, for good measure), this is highly accomplished, value-added Veronese red wine. The Brolo (walled vineyard, or Clos as per the French) has gifted a great appassimento in 2012. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted August 2016  @MrAmaroneMasi  @AuthenticWineON

rua

Akarua Rua Pinot Noir 2015, Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand (295592, $27.95, WineAlign)

Young, bright, vivacious, gregarious and highly flavourful Central Otago for a the price of a duet. The vineyard is 20 years old, perfect for fresh but experienced Bannockburn (sub-region) pinot noir. Ripe red cherries leaning to the darker side and fresh cut cedar two by fours are forest happy and rustic with finely carved edges. The tannins are indeed gentle, slightly caressing and here is a wine for five years of most excellent drinking. Yum. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted August 2016  @AkaruaWine  @vonterrabev  @nzwine

Luigi Scavino Azelia Barolo 2011, Docg Piedmont, Italy (291963, $48.95, WineAlign)

Scavino’s Azelia is a proud and confident nebbiolo, blessed by a calm demeanour and dressed in the finest leather. Roses are its most coveted and obvious aroma, joined in part by wild cherry and brushed young fennel frond. The balance and the structure are poised, erect and firm. There are 15 years easily ahead for this Azelia, ready in two but potentially closed in the four to six range. Try one now for size and then put the other five away until the next decade. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted August 2016    @brixandmortar

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Why you don’t know jack about B.C. wine

Culmina Family Estate Winery, Oliver, B.C.

Culmina Family Estate Winery, Oliver, B.C.

Some folks in Ontario know quite a lot about the B.C. wine industry but they are few and far between. Wine professionals with decades of experience and those who have travelled extensively to the Okanagan Valley and Vancouver Island have their fingers pointed in the right western direction. But most of us living and imbibing here in Ontario are clueless as to the breadth of B.C.’s wine culture. It’s not our fault. Our government is keeping us in the dark.

Ontario still refuses to agree that it should not be illegal to carry or ship wine for personal use across provincial borders. That issue is at the forefront of what keeps Canada’s wine regions isolated from one another. The Canadian Vintners Association (CVA) recently met for their annual AGM in Kelowna, B.C. The CVA is the industry’s governing board that deals with national regulatory issues, standards and policies. The idea of direct to consumer interprovincial shipping was again tabled and discussed with five MP’s from Ontario and B.C. in attendance. WineAlign’s David Lawrason was there.

“The politicians and CVA members were most vocal about getting Canadian wine moving freely and directly across all provincial boundaries in Canada. Alas, there was no breakthrough to announce in terms of more provinces dropping their opposition, but I was surprised by how loud, frequent and public the CVA and its members, as well as the politicians, have become – insisting that action be taken sooner rather than later. There was a mood in the room.” Still Ontario consumers continue to be ignorant about the wines of British Columbia. It remains to be seen if the recent CVA meeting will help constitute a step forward.

Related – B.C. wine: From Vancouver to your table

Back in June we took the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada on the road and hunkered down in Penticton, British Columbia to assess and pick winners from over 1,500 Canadian produced wines. And we did so much more. First we paid a visit with The Wines of British Columbia for the Judgement of B.C. The second annual cage match was hosted by the B.C. Wine Institute and took place on Tuesday, June 21, pitting 12 B.C. Wines against 12 acknowledged global benchmarks. Riesling and Pinot Noir squared off, curated by DJ Kearney and judged by a who’s who of Canadian wine writers, critics and educators, along with international WineAlign Awards judges Dr. Jamie Goode and Elaine Chukan Brown.

Showtime! #judgementBC @WineBCdotcom @djwines #BCWine @WineAlign #nwac16 #bcwineinstitute #bcvqa #bcdna

Showtime! #judgementBC @WineBCdotcom @djwines #BCWine @WineAlign #nwac16 #bcwineinstitute #bcvqa #bcdna

Max Ferd. Richter Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2013 from the Mosel Valley, Germany placed first in the Riesling category, followed by two B.C. entries, CedarCreek Platinum Block 3 Riesling 2014 BC VQA, Okanagan Valley, B.C. and Wild Goose Stoney Slope Riesling 2013 BC VQA, Okanagan Falls, B.C. Three international Pinot Noirs medalled, Bouchard Père Premier Cru Beaune Clos de la Mousse Monopole 2012, Burgundy, France, Bachelder Oregon Pinot Noir 2012, Willamette Valley AVA Oregon, USA and Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2014, Central Otago, New Zealand. B.C. Pinot Noir took the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and (tied for) eighth spots. “What was really interesting when I tasted through those 12 wines blind, I couldn’t pick out the BC Wines which tells me they belong in their peer group which is a ringing endorsement for BC Wine that we’re on the right track,” noted Dr. Jamie Goode.

Faultless evening @OKCrushPad above reproach and the wines beyond #nwac16

Faultless evening @OKCrushPad above reproach and the wines beyond #nwac16

As the week progressed, the WineAlign judges paid visits to Okanagan Crush Pad Winery in Summerland, Culmina Family Estate Winery in Oliver, Tantalus Vineyards in Kelowna, Rustic Roots Winery with the Similkameen Wineries Association and Deep Roots Winery on the Naramata Bench. I tasted more than 100 wines over the course of the five days from the appellations of Okanagan Valley, Okanagan Falls, Oliver-Osoyoos, Golden Mile, Similkameen Valley and Naramata Bench. Whatever I thought I knew and understood about wines coming from B.C.’s diverse and variegated landscapes has been tossed out the window and diapason replaced with an entirely renewed subset of thought. It is even clearer to me now, from an Ontario perspective with limited access to B.C. wines and an even smaller vocabulary that here in this province we really don’t know shit about B.C. wines.

Exceptional eats @CulminaWinery in adroit by @Quintoquorto and @hooydonk_van

Exceptional eats @CulminaWinery in adroit by @Quintoquorto and @hooydonk_van

In talking and reflecting recently with Elaine Brown she told me how “Canada’s Provincial restrictions around wine have created what are essentially isolated sovereignties of wine. There is a lot of good wine made throughout Canada but speaking with wine lovers across the country I am impressed with how little access they have to wines from other provinces.” Brown hits the proverbial screwcap right on the head. In a country where distance makes community so difficult, the only way to seek unity is to tear down trade barriers and that is something our provincial government has outright refused to docket. As a result, the consumer in Ontario has little access to the diversity that the B.C. wine industry has to offer.

So much @WineBCdotcom amour in the @tantaluswine cellar last night #nwac16

So much @WineBCdotcom amour in the @tantaluswine cellar last night #nwac16

One of the great B.C. revelations on the June trip was all about riesling. In his recent WineAlign column, Rhys Pender wrote the following. “It feels to me that the last few years have seen a really strong focus towards quality in BC. Not that good wines weren’t made, but most of the riesling seemed to be aimed at being a low price, broad crowd pleaser. More and more wines are a little pricier but a lot more intense and quality focused. This was evident in the recent judging of the National Wine Awards of Canada. To be honest, Ontario riesling has pretty much always been superior to BC in these competitions and while there were still many great Ontario wines, this year things were different and many of the best rieslings I personally tasted in my flights were from BC. Less simple, fruity wines and more serious, intense and concentrated examples. Seven of the top ten riesling overall were from BC this year including the Gray Monk 2013 Riesling which won a Platinum medal. An impressive showing.”

Related – From coast to coast: Top 40 wines from the 2016 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada

Another adumbrate scoop came outlined in out-of-the-box white varietals, with very interesting results by albariño, grüner veltliner, muscat ottonel and trebbiano. The same quality of wines made from these grape varieties can’t be found in Ontario, nor can the success of red blends from the Similkameen Valley and from single varietal reds in the Okanagan Valley as a whole. When B.C. winemakers begin to dial back the oak and take full advantage of ripe, fresh fruit, the world won’t know what hit them. In his National Wine Awards of Canada report, David Lawrason noted that “two B.C. wineries, Moon Cursor and Stag’s Hollow, are worth watching for their medal winning experiments with grapes like tempranillo, grenache and petit verdot.” Another nod to experimentation.

I liken the Okanagan to South Africa, a varietal playground where just about anything can achieve phenolic ripeness in almost any given vintage. B.C. has one distinct advantage and that is a cooler climate. It should be exploited to the fullest, in the name of balance and quality. Though I tasted many more, in the name of 5,000 words or (slightly more) brevity, here are notes on 40 wines tasted and reviewed in June.

Sincerity @CulminaWinery from Elaine & Don Triggs and a superfluity of @WineBCdotcom pours #ohwhatanight #hospitality #nwac16

Bartier Bros. Cabernet Franc Cerqueira Vineyard 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

A rich, savoury mess of red fruits comes clean if surreptitiously divided by barrel on the nose on this gently intended cabernet franc from the gentle Cerqueira slope. More than a modicum of concentration of dusty raspberry and some new leather jacket. Silky smooth mouthfeel and the condensed tangy extraction really pops up on the finish. Another crunchy, chewy, smoky, serious cabernet franc turning bitter and tough with alcohol and bramble on the finish. More freshness would be ideal so let it rest for two years instead. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted June 2016  @bartierbros

Semillom

Bench 1775 Semillon 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $19.90, WineAlign)

A virtually bone-dry, stainless steel raised semillon that is quintessentially fresh and varietally correct though even more attentive to the Okanagan Valley. There is an abundance of fruit in the green mango/citrus realm and a je ne sais quoi spirit. All in all quite amenable and no reason to seek a future dripping with honey. The sense of anti-austerity, fruit over mineral reaction means drink it young. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016  @bench1775

Black Hills Viognier 2014, BC VQA, British Columbia (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

A very impressive viognier from a mother nature conspired vintage to make it shine. This is so very viognier as much as it is B.C. which is a great thing. White floral, viscous and split between honey suckle and white pepper-edged, green apple bite. Against all odds in a way and certainly a top example for the region. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016  @BlackHillsWine

Nota Bene

Black Hills Nota Bene 2014, BC VQA, British Columbia (Winery, $52.09, WineAlign)

This Nota Bene can be espied as of the Okanagan Valley’s most ambitious reds filled with good notes, in winemaking conditioned real tones, as opposed to pure, simple acoustic ones. The Black Sage Bench blend of cabernet sauvignon (52 per cent), merlot (33) and cabernet franc (15) is pulled from two vineyards, Double Black and Sharp Rock. The proprietary junction is criss-crossed where rich chocolate takes up address at a certain genre of Napa ideology. Black Hills’ premium wine is big and full of brawn, backbone and guts. The three real tones played together express pronounced dissonances between many of their harmonics. Dissonance is related to (barrel developed) spice so I would think that a minimum of five years will be needed to connect and make seamless the overlapping harmonics. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted June 2016

Bordertown

Bordertown Living Desert Red 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

The first vintage of Mohan Gill’s 600 case merlot and cabernet franc blend is one of the more curious and engaging Osoyoos reds that is really worth some study. The 18 months spent in all new French wood should ring the alarms but instead it seems a combination of vaguely engaged and greatly spectatorial. Reduction and volatility strike an accord with the wood and the result is a rich, meaty, full on expression from which fruit emerges virtually unscathed. “It’s the first vintage,” shrugs Gill, “what else could I do?” More of the same Mohan. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted June 2016  @BordertownWine

CedarCreek Amphora Wine Project Desert Ridge Meritage 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $60.00, WineAlign)

Winemaker Alexis Moore inherited the (Chianti sourced) clay amphora from former winemaker Daryl Brooker and this (second vintage) meritage is her first kick at the urn. The co-fermented, all natural, don’t even think about peeking and sneaking a taste blend is cabernet sauvignon (54 per cent), cabernet franc (35) and malbec (11). The hallmark desert notes of rich, caky and dusty are necessarily present but it is the preservation of red earth savour that gives this formidable flagon of magic juice its inimitable personality. Mature rows of fruit are to blame and thank for the just desert reward. Transferred to amphora the fruit is preserved in such a way no B.C. reds have ever really seen and the new territory is not so simple for making quick, on the spot judgements. I have thought about this wine for quite some time and the conclusion is positive for two important reasons. Spice and tannin. Together they combine for an infinite finish. Here is the crux of the vessel’s power, to preserve fruit and slowly release its charms within the structure provided. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted June 2016  @CedarCreekWine

CedarCreek

CedarCreek Platinum Series “The Last Word” 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $77.99, WineAlign)

The “Last Word” is at the pinnacle of CedarCreek’s Platinum Series, single-vineyard wines and only made in “nature conspired,” exceptional vintages. The biggest and baddest red is a “wine that leaves nothing left to say,” thus the moniker. The blend is cabernet sauvignon (34 per cent), merlot (32), cabernet franc (24) and malbec (10) in true Meritage style. Talk about big reds, talk about the passion. Plan on getting extra hours of REM sleep after a glass, after the punch, the ripest fruit, tempered chocolate, grip and after the heavy hitting acidity. Every crevice is filled in with a jangle of notes and few winemakers can find balance with such a wealth of material. There is simply no way not to make a bold, tannic statement. “Not everyone can carry the weight of the world” but CedarCreek has managed to grin and bear it. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted June 2016

Church

Church & State Coyote Bowl Series Syrah 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Reductive, dark, stormy raging and off the charts spicy syrah but there is terrific ripe fruit and cool, cool savour. Edgy but tannic within range. After the violets come sweet purple palate fruit but it’s a feigning sweetness. Long drifts of acidity and tannin but again, like so many Okanagan peers the finish dusts with espresso and not the mocha. The spice lingers well after all else has resolved. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016  @ChurchStateWine

Clos du Soleil

Clos Du Soleil Estate Reserve Red 2012, Similkameen Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $58.90, WineAlign)

The apropos named winery, the “Vineyard of the Sun,” describes British Columbia-Okanagan-Similkameen so well. That and what can happen when Bordeaux varietals are the recipients of proper sun-worshipping phenolic journeys is the crux to understanding and enjoying such a proper and righteous red. Tasting this Michael Clark characteristic fruit handling facture with Spencer Massie sheds enlightened light on the Clos du Soleil passion project and the red ability of the Similkameen Valley. Taken from the Estate Vineyard on the Upper Bench of the Similkameen Valley, the prettiest and most inviting nose pops up here, led by cabernet sauvignon and in usage of all five Bordeaux varietals. The best red fruit, the hint of mineral and sage, the aridity of the land, the restraint from wood. It’s all correct and truth be told. Solid red blend. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted June 2016  @ClosduSoleil  @spencemassie

Corcelletes

Corcelettes Menhir 2014, Similkameen Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $31.90, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

It’s hard not be endeared into the red blend culture of the Similkemeen Valley and the variegation various positions occupy on the slopes of its benches. This ode in OZ style of cabernet Sauvignon (62 per cent) and syrah (38) is pulled from vines set on the rocky soils of the Corcelletes Middle Bench Vineyard. Though the herbal, savoury, currant and tobacco laced cabernet should dominate it does not with witness thanks to a more than peppery edge and black fruit ooze of the syrah. Only the Similkameen can bring such shared duality and find common ground like this in the overall B.C. genre. Like Beamsville in Ontario and with grace in wood usage, here the two varieties co-exist with copacetic simpatico. The ancient monolith believed to date back 2741-2488 BC on the Baessler family farm off the shores of Lac de Neuchatel, Switzerland gives this blend its name. This wine is no monolith, nor does it strike as ancient or antediluvian, but it does stand out as singular for the Similkameen and for B.C. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted June 2016  @corcelettes

Culmina Dilemma 2014, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $35.65, WineAlign)

The road taken for this chardonnay should have led to rich, buttery and fat because the approach mimics a throwback west coast style. Alcohol, pH, new barrel usage are all generous but so is acidity. So this could have emerged huge but it’s impossibly restrained. The cool-climate metal factor sings with austerity and the gemstone crunch folds with richness. The Margaret’s Bench land speaks and gives so all tolled Culmina’s signature chardonnay is a study in heutagogical learning because it teaches knowledge sharing. This is chardonnay and in many ways, this is Burgundy. Chances taken have landed reward, if a bit unexpected, but certainly appreciated. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016  @CulminaWinery  @CulminaSara

Culmina Merlot 2013, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $31.00, WineAlign)

Red over green merlot to substantiate a vintage called better on the Golden Mile (Arise) Bench. Here is bone-dry, full malolactic, high acidity merlot, so very vacuous, inward, implosive and wild. The wood blankets with purpose in lieu of reckless abandon and because the fruit is just ripe enough to defend itself the return is an effusive one. Would love to taste this merlot in a best vintage with 20-25 per cent less new oak and a number close to this healthy 6.4 g/L of acidity. Now we’re talking, in tones red over green. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted June 2016

Unicus

Culmina Unicus 2014, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $31.05, WineAlign)

B.C. is a playground for experimentation, a place not unlike South Africa where phenolic ripeness is almost always accomplished yet it has a distinct advantage. Cooler sites and the availability, if embraced, of equally ripe acidity. So grüner veltliner, along with trebbiano, muscat ottonel, auxerrois, sylvaner and others should be investigated. Culmina’s work with grüner is fought properly, in a combination of concrete amphora, egg and steel, allowing varietal to share equal ground with terroir. A sense of some white-ish rhubarb here is noted in the most complimentary vegetal sense, along with white flowers and a dash or two of white pepper. This is a gustatory and gastronomic grüner with intensity and vitality that good slope Marlborough sauvignon blanc will similarly give. The difference here is the absence of searing citrus which is a good thing, all things considered. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016

Deep Roots Syrah

Deep Roots Syrah 2014, Naramata, British Columbia (Winery, $34.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Tasted twice, first blind at #NWAC16 and then at the winery, this is syrah with a dual northern intent, more Naramata than Rhone though the bent is a soulful repent in the church of St. Joseph. Beautifully savoury and smoky, like a big meat and smoulder sandwich with great fruit and a silken texture. The peppery bite is a sure tell sign of well-made syrah. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016  @DeepRootsWine

Gehringer Auxerrois 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $13.29, WineAlign)

Despite the off-dry (11 g/L RS) directive because that is what auxerrois always wants to do and though the vintage brings much warmth, this persists as a delicate and fresh wine. Auxerrois as a grape variety is set in an imprecise past, shaded by myth, carried forward and planted decades ago in B.C. These old vines could tell stories but today its fruit expresses itself simply, with richness and with plenitude. I wouldn’t tie a cellophane bag around one and leave it in the cellar to revisit in 30 years. I’d rather hook some trout, pan roast it and work in some acidity. The auxerrois will compliment such a move just fine. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @GB_Wines

Haywire Chardonnay Canyonview Vineyard 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $22.90, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

From the Summerland vineyard, raised in concrete and emerged with a semi-unoaked feel. There is a certain sort of sweet condense as if a tank and a barrel had merged. Clearly managed in the slow, micro-oxygenated way, with notes of curd, cream and whey. A chardonnay smoothie with many beneficial enzymes running wild, the yeasts working and munching away. Still retains a cool-climate feel regardless of the vat influence with top notch acidity and tannin to lengthen the chain. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016  @Haywirewine  @OKCrushPad  @brixandmortar

Haywire Pinot Noir 2014, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $27.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

From the steep limestone and granite Waters & Banks Vineyard, this is a limber, lissome and rusty pinot noir, gently pressed, caressed and left to find its own singular way. Reminds me of the salinity graced Willamette Valley, set upright and alert on the bright side of life. Their is a musky lime aroma and a lithe tartness that belies its mineral gifting. Well done. Don’t envision this losing its charm any time soon. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016

Trebbiano

Hester Creek Trebbiano Old Vines Block 16 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $22.95, WineAlign)

From vines planted in 1968 which in itself is a wild and mind-blowing proposition. Trebbiano has well-adapted to the Okanagan Valley, or at least these two acres have and only fools would not try to get their hands on one of the 1100 cases produced. No it’s not Emidio Pepe nor is it your nonno’s trebbiano but it is a singular expression for B.C. Terrific acidity layers over rich and viscous stone-orchard fruit. Something creamy evolves, not like similar styled Okanagan viognier but in another realm. It’s a derivative sensation, like the way children look like their mothers, so the connection to Abruzzo is really there. This is a special proprietary moment and good on Hester Creek for brokering the proviso. I will agree to abide. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016  @HesterCreek

Hillside

Hillside Muscat Ottonel 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $24.99, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Floral, as expected, but in contrast to the globally spoken style, this does orange blossom and mineral mining with equal and opposing ease. Acidity rings round, not overtly meaningful but nonetheless wild. From 30-plus year-old vines (circa 1982), to not find fun, joy and pleasure would be to miss every pertinent point. Hillside presents a provincial comic flick of a muscat phrase and does so with lighthearted resourcefulness and ingenuity. Drink 2016-2018.   Tasted June 2016  @hillsidewines

Fortissimo

La Stella Fortissimo 2014, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

In 2014 Fortissimo is mostly merlot with sangiovese playing a vital role along with a splash of cabernet sauvignon. This is found to be softer, more amenable and structured with bungalow sprawl. Bright, maximum juiced red berry fruit resemblance is anti-savoury, friendly, and ready to roll but still with some smoky spice. The 21 per cent sangiovese is significant (up seven points from 2013) so the Classico factor runs high. This is the alternative world case of Fortissimo where in some years you make Chianti Classico and in others, Gran Selezione. Though she may not consider 2014 to be her most accomplished Fortissimo, winemaker Severine Pinte will have to accept that she has procured a very elegant red blend. A Classico. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016  @LaStellaWinery

LFNG

Laughing Stock Portfolio 2007, Naramata Bench, British Columbia (Winery, $52.95, WineAlign)

Poured from Magnum the LSV ’07 has resolved from cool vintage and micro-oxidation into cool-climate meets right bank stylistic personality. Soy, Chinese five-spice, cassia, balsamic, fig and a caramelization that lists to part vegetal and part demerara sugar. The palate is expressly vital still, carrying a torch that for a cabernet-merlot Okanagan blend is fun to reason with. Magnum is obviously a major plus for this nine-year advancement. Sweet with no noticeable heat finish. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @lfngwine

Maverick

Maverick Syrah 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

Winemaker Bertus Albertyn bottled a meagre 200 cases of this Golden Mile Bench sourced syrah after 18 months in three to four year-old French Oak. If you are a fan of fresh, well-spoken, confident and blessedly transparent syrah then look for the next vintage of this sold out beauty. So gauzy gossamer textured, peppery but of scant bite and driven by a northern, smoky beat. The cure and depth in its make-up nearly adds up to beefy but its form of athleticism is built upon the quiet politesse of its maker’s execution. The comparison must be made to septentrional Rhône and the lack of new oak is so appreciated. This is a wine to watch for. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016  @MaverickWinery

Moraine Gewürztraminer 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $17.90, WineAlign)

Classic Okanagan Valley gewürztraminer with a touch of mute reserve relative to more forward peers. The aromatics pause at traditional exoticism then veer to pear and apricot. The palate concentrates the off-dry varietal tendency with a furthered spin out of the seed orchard and into the pit. Not necessarily a gewürztraminer with extended play acidity but highly pleasurable nonetheless. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @MoraineWinery

Moraine

Moraine Riesling 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $19.90, WineAlign)

Slightly airy and hyper-opiated riesling up to here, of burgeoning talent, suggesting what is yet to come from Moraine with respect to the great varietal Okanagan potential. On the off-dry scale this falls somewhere in the middle, going at it with heavy Mosel fuel. Quite intense with acidity to match. Hip riesling, “addicted to approval, addicted to the air. It was see if you like it or see you up there.” Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016

Moraine Pinot Noir 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $25.95, WineAlign)

Moraine’s Okanagan Falls pinot noir is lambent with great rust and conversely vapid in desert dust. The entire red fruit spectrum is seemingly sung and stung with range and breadth; cranberry-cherry-pomegranate-strawberry-raspberry, from tart all the way to sweet. Taut, tight and bracing. This will work with pairing pride for short to mid-term enjoyment. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016

Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

The fruit hails from both Quails’ Gate Estate and Osoyoos vineyards. Tasted just three months after bottling, the sweet (whole bunch pressed) serenity of chenin blanc has already settled in with equal and opposing acidity in tact. An angle of bitters works the lush fruit (thickened by a small percentage of older wood) and weaves the two as one in this eager and enthusiastic young (albeit early sulphur persistent) white. A splash or two of sauvignon blanc helps in the ushering. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016  @Quails_Gate  @  @hobbsandco

Quails' Gate

Quails’ Gate Connemara 2014, BC VQA Okanagan Valley (Winery, $64.00, WineAlign)

The inaugural vintage and first ever Quails’ Gate Bordeaux-style blend is winemaker Nikki Callaway’s ode to her stage/cellar hand/winemaking time spent in Bordeaux. The cumulative of merlot (55 per cent), cabernet sauvignon (30) and cabernet franc (15) is formidable in its perplexing youth, taut, rigid and so very tannic. The minor’s current approach is virtually unapproachable but look for something to grab for, like perfectly ripe fruit or structure. The beatitude is easily found in these two essential components. You’ll then think “if you were another pretender, oh I’d pass you by,” but in the case of the Connemara, put in the effort and the time. The reward will come later. Drink 2018-2028. Tasted August 2016

Quails’ Gate The Boswell Syrah 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $61.05, WineAlign)

Named in ode to grandparents, The Boswell is a deep, brooding and extreme-bodied syrah that is actually quite floral. Smoky, meaty, chewy fruit mixes with tar and roses in a heightened, variegated state. Rich and piqued by peppery spice and then the chocolate warmth settles in on the finish. Sip again and note that every pass circles back to the beginning. Though it nods to the northern Rhône and wells up like Barossa, you can’t take the Okanagan out of the Boswell. It wins every time. Would prefer to see this again in three years. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted June 2016

Stoneboat

Stoneboat Vineyards Pinot Noir 2013, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (429332, $29.95, WineAlign)

I tasted this blind at #NWAC16 and with Larry Martiniuk that same week and both times was struck by the electric pinosity, density and beneficial volatility. The pre-integration period is apparent so I’d hazard a guess that 18 months more are needed to assimilate the 18 months spent in (20 per cent new) French oak. To whiff it’s like peat moss mixed with a cassia-cassis cocktail. Black cherry sweetish on the palate and quite spicy. This neon pinot is quite volatile and yet closed, but it carries a downy pilosity texture. Very west coast. Though I return to thinking it out of whack, still feeling the alcohol and wondering why it has to be so loud, the texture and the complexity always bring me back. The raindrops are alive. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted June 2016  @stoneboat  @Noble_Estates

Synchromesh Riesling Storm Haven Vineyard 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $31.90, WineAlign)

If this riesling is sweet I couldn’t say. That is the first thought that comes to mind. From Alan Dickinson’s home property, this is his baby, an Okanagan Falls derived riesling that lives an entirely holistic existence. No spraying, none, nada, niente. Not ever. The wine could not get any cleaner. Purity is its cognomen. The vineyard is subject to the highest diurnal temperature swing than just about anywhere in the valley. That might explain the risk-reward probability factor. The technical specs are a triumvirate of implausibility; 46 g/L RS, 11.5 g/L TA and pH below three. What? This is the most impossible wine made in B.C. In its concentrated velocity it wheezes like something ancient. We could almost be drinking Greek debina or 20 year-old Alsatian auxerrois. Dickinson makes three passes over each of the two blocks so even if the hands are off, the meticulous picking breeds asepsis. Citrus such as found in the Storm Haven fruit does not happen very often, if rarely. It’s like citrus soma. Citrus unknowable out of determination unthinkable. Direct misunderstanding by indirect whimsy. And so the vintage offers good fun but not greatness. Imagine the possibilities. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted June 2015  @SynchromeshWine

Synchromesh

Synchromesh Riesling For Shadows Vineyard 2015, BC VQA Naramata Bench , British Columbia (Winery, $23.00, WineAlign)

Like its brethren Storm Haven Vineyard, this Synchromesh draws blood from stone in holistic ways that few Canadian riesling seem to do. The Four Shadows is different in that it chooses wisdom over risk. A clear, clean and precise nose reveals lemon drop and a honey drip. Though the sugar is more noticeable than the SHV, the older world (Germanic) impression is filled with a sense of tradition. The vineyard is in fact of very high elevation on an extremely steep slope (think Mosel) of gravel and clay layered over fractured bedrock and granite. The sugar is also elevated (50.93 g/L) and the acidity lower (8.4 g/L) so what you get may seem to lower the impossibility factor. Don’t be fooled into thinking this a riesling of privilege and lassitude. It does not drip with sleep but rather rages with life. The stones seem to speak. And the riesling listens. Drink 2016-2022. Like its brethren Storm Haven Vineyard, this Synchromesh draws blood from stone in holistic ways that few Canadian riesling seem to do. The Four Shadows is different in that it chooses wisdom over risk. A clear, clean and precise nose reveals lemon drop and a honey drip. Though the sugar is more noticeable than the SHV, the older world (Germanic) impression is filled with a sense of tradition. The vineyard is in fact of very high elevation on an extremely steep slope (think Mosel) of gravel and clay layered over fractured bedrock and granite. The sugar is also elevated (50.93 g/L) and the acidity lower (8.4 g/L) so what you get may seem to lower the impossibility factor. Don’t be fooled into thinking this a riesling of privilege and lassitude. It does not drip with sleep but rather rages with life. The stones seem to speak. And the riesling listens. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted June 2016.Tasted June 2016

Tantalus Brut

Tantalus Blanc De Noir 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $31.90, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Winemaker David Paterson “squeezes it like Champagne” and lets it rest for six months in chardonnay barrels. Two years of triage and boom! Freaking elegant Blanc de Noir. Rusty, rosy, the absolute spot on ripe vernacular spoken, the right tart exposed. It’s curious and foreshadowed thinking to know that 100 cases have been set aside for a five to seven year disgorgement. D’ya think Paterson is high on the vintage? Tasted June 2016  @tantaluswine

A single block of Clone 93 pinot noir planted in 1985 is responsible for this breath of fresh Okanagan Valley Blanc de Noir. Fashioned with the omnipresent Tantalus acidity, this rages out with aridity, salinity and palpable tension. Only pinot noir can act like this, with layers of sous bois and fraises du bois. The age of the vines, the early-picked necessity and the allowance for needful and natural expression has resulted in a wine simply stressed as terroir and boîte. Carries the acidity and the tension across and through the palate. Finishes as dry as it started. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2016

Tantalus Pinot Noir 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $29.90, WineAlign)

The vintage was not shy to gift dark, optimum-achievement in phenolic fruit and along with that ripeness comes even deeper tonal intent. Red hyperbole is elevated by striking acidity, setting this Pinot Noir up for really high expectations. The palate does not disappoint. Flavours range from black cherry to charred meat making for a highly gustatory experience. Chewy and enjoyable describes the time spent with this wine. It will offer great pleasure in the short term. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April and June 2016

Tantalus

Tantalus Riesling 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $23.00, WineAlign)

Two months later things have changed and yet not at all. There are more tricks and inducements (as compared to 2010) but don’t be fooled because with a difficult (sweltering) vintage the wine makes you think you can get close. But you can’t. You are further away than you think mostly due to incredible citrus and wild rhythms swimming through raging riesling waters. Change of plans. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted June 2016

Well with the arena of aridity, salinity and sheer marketability, here is a showy Tantalus with super searing lemon flavours emerging out of great atmosphere and aromatic intensity. Some Riesling taketh away and some are mouth watering, like this. The stone fruit goodness attacks and sticks to the tongue like sap, then glides effortlessly down. Tantalus might make me think of things that are out of reach, “standing in water, but dying of thirst, this is my thanks and this is my curse.” Yet this early to market 2015 Riesling offers an antithetical view, ready, willing and able to please. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016

Tantalus Riesling 2010, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $22.90, WineAlign)

I’m thinking that no other B.C. riesling tries, trips and tricks with intense tribulation like the Tantalus, especially with a look back at this 2010 ripper. Though just now emerging from out of its saline crusted shell, the liquid stone injection will always render this a tantalizing wine so while it seems to open a door a part of it will always remain just out of reach. This 2010 can retrospectively be looked at as a genre defining riesling at the hands of an engaging young winemaker to be.  Tasted June 2016

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2bench Red 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $29.99, WineAlign)

Naturally south Okanagan crunchy, chewy, spicy and taut red blend. From two benches, the Golden Mile (Tinhorn Creek Vineyard) and the Black Sage Bench (Diamondback Vineyard). This is quite a ripper in that magical $30 middle ground with power to impress as much as many peers two times the price. That said it certainly retains its tangy, two-step, red fruit freshness, with cool savour, like two mints in one. Kind of reminds me of Coonawarra, especially the Penfolds Bin 169, so perhaps when brought together there is a Bench similarity with the Terra Rosso soil. Or perhaps just a stab at clouds. Either way this 2012 takes over from the vital 2011 and runs with the baton. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted June 2016  @TinhornCreek @Andrew_Tinhorn  @SandraOldfield

Zweigelt

Upper Bench Zweigelt 2014, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

I’ve not had the opportunity to taste the go between 2013 but progression and evolution are found in the bright red fruit of this 2014 zweigelt from Upper Bench. The aromatics travel east and west, as if coast to coast and on a global trek. I get the foraged berries, baking scents and the felled evergreen mixed with fresh cocoa. I also sense garrigue, as well as jasmine in the early evening. Though the sugar is elevated (an insignificant 0.6 g/L up to 2.9) the wine was picked at lower brix (23.5 as opposed to 24.2) and so the acidity is given the chance to feign higher. The alcohol is hefty (14.4 per cent) but the overall balance is improved. Dialled back a bit but another notch or two would really do justice to the grape. Early consumption is still the order and fresher remains the promise. We’ll see what the warm 2015 vintage will bring. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @upperbench

Wild Goose

Wild Goose Pinot Blanc Mystic River 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $19.00, WineAlign)

A few clicks north of Oliver comes this maximum juice master of a pinot blanc, like a tart gooseberry cake with a warm, yeasty crust. It’s like autolytic sparkling wine without the bubble, foiled by a sauvignon blanc faux botrytis thing going on. The acidity is well suited to match the exuberant fruit. Roland Kruger points a finger to the vineyard (right along the south Okanagan River) to explain the aromatics. The addendum of 20 per cent barrel fermentation is the key that turns the textural screws. As far as pinot blanc goes, “it’s open mike, punk rock, (it’s natural), red, white and blue.” This Wild Goose. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016  @wildgoosewines

Wild Goose Gewürztraminer Mystic River 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $19.00, WineAlign)

Wild Goose is proving to be a gewürztraminer leader in the Okanagan Valley not just for its adherence to rose petal and lychee varietal correctness but also for aromatic elegance. Terrific texture marks the ’15’s territory (a trademark of Wild Goose whites) and here you get drying wax still pliable and malleable. The aura is distinct and the wine so very amenable. Really well made Mystic River output. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016

Good night and many thanks @tantaluswine #kelowna #nwac16

Good night and many thanks @tantaluswine #kelowna #nwac16

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Days of wine and Rosés

Roses

I’m here wandering
what the reasons were

Rosé. It’s meteoric rise to prominence has shaken the foundation of wine consuming thought. Everyone’s doing it. Imbibing is at an all time high and celebrating the merits is exercised with commitment and conviction. This summer’s sweltering season has seen it skyrocket in sales. My restaurant lists are seeing the explosion first hand, up close and personal. The stress of ridicule or having the stuffing kicked out of you for sipping on a glass isn’t even a figment of imagination in the conversation. The reluctance to admit drinking rosé is a thing of the Neanderthal past. What happened? How did the pink stuff gain such traction and find its way into the hearts and minds of everywino?

Quality and diversity. First and foremost we are witnessing an increase in winemakers committed to making rosé from grapes grown specifically for the purpose. Second is the equality in money allotted by the vintners to research, experiment and condition the styles they produce. If you spend the same amount on your rosés as you do your whites and reds, your quality will follow. Third and so very important is diversity, not just stylistically but also regionally. Rosé production is increasing beyond the familiar confines of southern France. So many countries are on board with vested interest; Italy, Spain, Germany, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Greece, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Languedoc shares a rosé story:

I have never seen so many rosés come through VINTAGES as I have in the last four months. The shelves are teeming with the pink stuff and it’s selling like sunscreen. In February I penned ‘Twas the week before Valentine’s but specifically avoided the cliché of recommending rosés for the kissing holiday. The year before I discussed in after the fact hushed tones regarding Post Valentine’s polar vortex wines. I also said this:

“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.”

It’s not that I don’t believe in drinking rosé on Valentine’s but rather that I recommend not limiting as such and also prefer to choose rosés at all times of the year. So I saved up my recos for late summer, just in case you thought the season was already behind us. Two of my favourite critic-colleagues anywhere on this wine writing planet are Treve Ring and Jamie Goode. Both have recently written about rosé because, well, they understand its importance and its pantheonic place.

Canada Thinks Pink, Drinks Pink, by Treve Ring, WineAlign

“While the world rosé wine consumption has increased 20% from 2002-2014, Canada was up 120% in consumption during that same period. When we keener Canucks like something, we really like it. The same study shows that Canadian pink drinkers were pretty evenly split between men and women.”

Provence Rosé: 24 leading examples tasted, by Dr. Jamie Goode

“Quality has improved, and although it’s rare to find an example that stops you in your tracks – it’s not a geek wine – there’s a real consistency to these wines. They are context wines, and in the right context you want the wine to do the job it is chosen for. And Provence rosé does this brilliantly.”

VINTAGES has rolled out more diversity than ever before. The increased number of different rosé wines available this year has climbed by around 30 per cent. The escalation has allowed the LCBO to release some of their most popular SKUs two to three times over the course of the spring and summer. According to Geneviève Tomney, LCBO Media Relations Coordinator, Corporate Communications, for the months of May through early August, VINTAGES sales of rosé wines have risen by 30 per cent year over year. Keep in mind that because the LCBO’s financial data is based on sales periods it fluctuates slightly where periods fall in the month. Sales for that time period in 2016 were $6.6M compared to the same period of time last year ($5.1M).

That’s nothing short of remarkable and sets the stage for some solid long-term category growth. Paul Farrell, VINTAGES Category Manager, European Wines, tells us that rosé wine sales through VINTAGES have exceeded our expectations this summer. We have definitely brought in more rosé this year to support the growth trend in this style of wine.  We also have plans to have more rosé wine available throughout the winter season and to bring in French rosés even earlier next spring to keep up with the incredible demand for these products.”

Here are 18 selections in VINTAGES stores and available direct through agents or Ontario wineries.

VINTAGES August 20, 2016 release

Perrin

Famille Perrin Réserve Rosé 2015, Ac Côtes De Rhône, Rhône, France (719062, $15.95, WineAlign)

A bit more density and compression for 2015 Rosé, in forward demand by grapefruit citrus with plenty of absolute faith inflator flavour. Really fine example for the Rhône, in touch with further south impressions but faithful to more parochial roots. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted August 2016  @Beaucastel  @VINSRHONE

Delas Frères Saint Esprit Côtes Du Rhône Rosé 2015, Ac Rhône, France (224964, $16.95, WineAlign)

Deeper and fuller of pressed flavour than noted in the previous few VINTAGES releases. Density, tart edges and typically savoury. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted August 2016  @UNIVINS

Bertrand Rose

Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2015, Ap Languedoc, France (373985, $18.95, WineAlign)

A grenache, cinsault and syrah amalgamation from Languedoc, perfectly arid, tart and with a tiny bit of effervescence. Strawberry and cranberry waft in faint waves and thoughts. Lingers nicely. Chilled well it’s what you need right now. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted August 2016  @GBvins  @FWMCan  @LanguedocWines

Agent/Private Import/Winery Direct

Nomad Venus Rosé 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $15.95, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Good, well and very nice 100 per cent cabernet franc, rusty and cherry juicy with salinity and brine. Nothing out of this world but so perfectly acceptable and fine. Simple words for simple blush. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @Hinterbrook

Domaine Lafond Roc épine Tavel Rosé 2015, Ac (Jean Pierre Et Pascal Lafond), Rhône, France (950709, $18.95, WineAlign)

From Jean Pierre Et Pascal Lafond the blend in ostensibly classic Tavel; grenache (60 per cent), cinsault (20) and syrah (20). If you have not had the pleasure of sipping on Tavel Rosé from calcareous soils marked by galets and white quartzite than you need to. This is a ripping example, densely layered, highly saline and rich as the sun shines long in the Rhône Valley. Don’t come looking for lithe, pretty and ethereal. This is Tavel with guts but its aridity and piercing salinity makes for a wealthy drop. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted August 2016  @VINSRHONE  @  @hobbsandco

Ciao Bella Pinot Rosé 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $20.75, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Love the early note of minor volatility to check and balance for soft and downy, simple and into pleasure. Smells like unripe pickled strawberry. Though some decent salinity and brine offer up a rosé reality there lacks a bit of ingratiating 100 per cent pinot noir charm. Improves and brings out some pinosity by good bitters, gin and tonic, orange zest and some spice. In the end it’s actually more than quite good. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @ciaobellawinery

In the cellar at Ravine Vineyard

Ravine Vineyard Cabernet Rosé 2015, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (Winery, $22.00, WineAlign)

Ravine’s Rosé spent the most minimal time on skins, from a posterior fruit position left out in the elements long and aided by leaf removal to break down the pyrazine. These were the second last grapes to pick (because the acidity is high in slightly overcropped fruit), on Slingerland Farm between lines five and six halfway up from Ravine to Highway 55. Though seemingly dry, the 6.0 g/L of RS is used “to bring it into balance for the consumer,” notes Marty Werner. This has some strawberry funk, as if it were macerated in a clay-calcaire bath, like balm as if steeped, cooled and poured over ice. It may be imagined as a saline, faintly honeyed berry granita with just the right amount of gelid texture alongside cool and savoury charcuterie. Simply put, what cabernet franc must be in warm niagara country. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @RavineVineyard  @marty_werner  @BMinaker23

Haywire

Haywire Secrest Mountain Vineyard Gamay Noir Rosé 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $22.90, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Really earthy 100 per cent gamay Rosé. Good mineral in here. This was made with a purpose. “Now everybody’s gonna tell you it’s not worth it. Everybody’s gotta show you their own thing.” There is balance and ballad ease. This is just so drinkable. “Is this the past or the future that is calling.” Gamay, I love the times you’ve come. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @Haywirewine  @OKCrushPad

From a concrete (and full malolactic) fermentation and 12 hours left on the skins. A singular expression from the Secrest Mountain Vineyard in the Okanagan Valley. Great amber tang and wonderful extract, not to mention spirit. Tasted at Okanagan Crush Pad, June 2016.

Serendipity

Serendipity Winery Rosé 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $22.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Hello serendipitous salinity in this lithe yet dense Rosé that is somehow denied any real weight. Spicy strawberry on the nose and such strength moving forward in linear motion, all with feminine resolve. A perfect blush expression from the Naramata Bench. Great tart finish with terrific grip. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @Winespiration

Synchromesh

Synchromesh Cabernet Franc Rosé Cachola Family Vineyards 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $23.00, WineAlign)

The cabernet franc came in at 19 brix and the residual sugar is a whopping 0.0 g/L. The impossibility of significance is fraught with amazement and the inspired, touch-less magic whispered in the most inaudible of tones. What drives this fruit to make such bone-dry, pitch balanced blush? It’s hard to say but there are more than just a few moments in whiffs and over sips during which the perception of sweetness is a reality. The subtle onion skin, saline and briny oyster shell confection is oceanic at the least and planetary to the highest level of imagination. Another unthinkable wine from Alan Dickinson. It might even age into its 10th year as if it were riesling. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted June 2016  @SynchromeshWine

Leoube

Château Léoube Rosé De Léoube 2015, Côtes De Provence, Provence, France (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

Organic, artisan Rosé by the sea from grenache, syrah, cinsault and mourvèdre, all harvested simultaneously by a big, local team. Co-pressed, all natural, whole cluster ferment and 90 per cent free run juice. Super aridity meets creamy layers in blush of determinate, crazy focus in average purport of 12.5 per cent alcohol. In spite of the process this sees full malolactic and despite the co-ferment there is blending done before bottling. Round acidity finds denouement in a dry finish but of one that is not drying. Freshness persists. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016  @chateauleoube  @TheLivingVine  

VINTAGES August 6, 2016 release

Akakies

Kir Yianni Akakies Rosé 2015, Ac Amyndeon, Macedonia, Greece (71050, $12.95,  WineAlign)

Savouy rusty and varietally distinguished xinomavro with equal parts aridity and salinity to welcome the sapidity. Slightly bled for posterity and predisposed to Greekdom but from Amyndeon and with xino this finds relish and relishes brightness then finishes from the same straight from which it came. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016        @FlorinaAmyndeon

Bandol

La Cadierenne Cuvée Grande Tradition Bandol Rosé 2015, Ac Provence, France (119453, $20.95, WineAlign)

Boozy (listed at 14 per cent) and beautifully balanced Bandol for the alternatively authentic and alliterative mouthful win. A citric acid, guava and himalayan rock salt spice rub for your mouth that with the level of saliva inducement turns to a slow developed variegation of flavour. Terrific mouthfeel and elongation. Tonic for and to your health. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016     

VINTAGES July 23, 2016 release

Domaines Ott Château De Selle Coeur De Grain Rosé 2015, Ac Côtes De Provence, Provence, France (74617, $46.95, WineAlign)

Few vignerons take their viticulture and viniculture for the production of Rosé so seriously. Château Léoube is the other that comes to mind and here Domaines Ott puts resources aside to drive quality as high as it can go. This is not just delicious Rosé but it is exemplary Rosé. The level of pure aridity, salinity and the requisite faintness of fruit is highly commendable. Everything here is understated and ethereal. It finishes long and persistent. But it’s too bloody expensive. It’s Rosé and it must get over itself. I would never turn it away and conversely I would not spend $46 to assuage its ego. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016       @AuthenticWineON

VINTAGES June 25, 2016 release

Wildass

Wildass Rosé 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (71712, $17.95, WineAlign)

Aromatically off the charts for Niagara Peninsula Rosé, like strawberry mingling with marl. The sweetness on the palate is by extract and finishes dry. Acidity and tang merge at the intersection of soil and press. Wildass strikes ruby in 2015. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @StratusWines

Southbrook

Southbrook Triomphe Organic Cabernet Franc Rosé 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (451773, $19.95, WineAlign)

There is an apical, salient substantiality inherent to Southbrook’s 100 per cent cabernet franc 2015. If it wasn’t for the cool skin soaking, gentle pressing and cool fermentation it might have fretfully ventured into a cloyingly cuspidated tripartite deluge of sweet, savoury and sour. It’s not aromatically gregarious but strawberry and cider do clear afield. This strikes as way more profound, intense and serious, akin to Tavel, in hue, breadth of character and sheer unctuous texture. I’m not sure winemaker Ann Sperling had this stylistic intent in mind and while 2014 hinted at such a Peninsula departure, 2015 cements the consummation. The junction may lead to further or it may sequester a scaling back. Very interested to see where 2016 will take the Triomphe Rosé. Either way, cabernet franc is deserving of the stage. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @SouthbrookWine  @thesirengroup

VINTAGES June 11, 2016 release

Rustenberg Petit Verdot Rosé 2015, Wo Simonsberg Stellenbosch, South Africa (451773, $13.95, WineAlign)

The deferential Rosé from Rustenberg tries petit verdot, as uncommon a varietal play as there is. Such brevity of skin and extraction exchange does little to bring out the firm and direct character of petit verdot so the interest here has little to do with varietal. It does however, present a beautiful and typical exchange between Simonsberg Mountain and Stellenbosch Valley, up and down, when push comes to shove. Chill it down, raise it up. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @RustenbergWines  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

Baden

Winzergenossenschaft Königschaffhausen Pinot Noir Rosé 2015, Qba Königschaffhauser Vulkanfelsen, Baden, Germany (168237, $13.95, WineAlign)

Qualitätswein carried to another sub $14 level, with dry extract, tannin and life as looked at two sides Rhine. There is nothing but pleasure derived from the magic bled faintly, lithely and with quick, cool-pressed restraint. Just enough sweetness to attract a crowd and more than enough savour to get with the geek. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted May 2016  @HHDImports_Wine  @germanwineca

Good to go!

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