High times in Bourgogne

Château du Clos de Vougeot, Côtes de Nuits

 

“Bourgogne vs. Burgundy: A critic’s take on the “plus” side of Bourgogne – the Best Places for Value”

Please join me on Tuesday, June 30th via Instagram for a Bourgogne video in which I talk about Les Hautes, “the plus side of Bourgogne,” where vineyards and producers of quality can be found. Bourgogne du Haut, “The Upper Bourgogne.”

I will also make a case for “Bourgogne against Burgundy: A critic’s take on why language is so essential to messaging, for preserving identity and tradition. Finally I will pose the question, What is Climat?

Then, on Monday, July 13th, from 10:30 to 11:15 am I will be hosting a Bourgogne webinar on Regional Appellations. The 45 minute seminar will be directed at sommeliers and the trade industry.

Searching for Bourgogne-Plus

Bourgogne holds many secrets yet discovered and that is why in November of 2019 my colleague and friend John Szabo M.S. and I travelled to France’s most revered wine region. The Bourgogne Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) was authorized in 1937, for white wines extending to the three departments of Yonne, Côte-d’Or and Saône-et-Loire and for reds, to pinot noir from 299 communes throughout wine-growing Bourgogne. Designations have been immovable since the year dot for Bourgogne’s five wine-producing regions; Chablis and Grand Auxerrois, Côtes de Nuits, Côtes de Beaune, Côtes Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais. Opinion has come to expect a certain fixed and comprehensible understanding of the hierarchy of appellations; Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Village, Appellation Régionale Bourgogne. The latter to many simply translates as the ubiquitous Bourgogne AOC, though it is but one of six that fall within the category of La Région Bourgogne, the others being Coteaux Bourguignons, Bourgogne Aligoté, Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains, Bourgogne Mousseux and Crémant de Bourgogne. The deeper delve is all about the multiplicity of Les Appellations Régionales in the study of what collects beneath the larger umbrella referred to as les dénominations géographiques.

It’s 8:46 am, we’re at #latâche and that’s not our dog #canadiansinbourgogne #vindebourgogne #vosneeromanee #domainedelaromaneeconti

They the outliers have not been truly considered, at least not until recent times. At the head are Les Hautes, the parts of Bourgogne thought to exist in the nether realms and so previously passed over. “The heights,” out of sight fringe locations, places unseeable, host to wines untenable and from vines unsubstantiated. Or with some investigation, perhaps something else? There too are the siblings, Côte Chalonnaise, Côtes d’Auxerre, Côtes du Couchois, Chitry, Coulanges-la-Vineuse, Epineuil, Vézelay, Tonnerre, Le Châpitre, La Chapelle Notre-Dame, Montrecul and Côte Saint-Jacques. In the latterly days of November 2019 the opportunity was presented to visit these shadowy appellative entities, perchance to uncover their truths, they by vineyards and producers of Bourgogne-plus quality. Bourgogne du Haut, “The Upper Bourgogne.” High times in Bourgogne indeed.

 

Related – Bourgogne in a word: Climat

I penned that 2017 article in the last days of November, two years ahead of the trip that would rework my internal vision of a Bourgogne world order. At the time a choice was made to focus on the central theme that ties the Bourgogne room together. Climat. I asked the 50,000 euro question. What is Climat? Please read that post for the 10,000 word answer but the irony of my conclusion went like this. “The only true intrinsic reality gained through a discussion about Climat is accessed by the tasting and assessment of examples that represent a full cross-section of Bourgogne. The appellations of Chablis et du Grand Auxerrois, Côtes de Nuits and Hautes Côtes de Nuits, Côtes de Beaune and Hautes Côtes de Beaune, Côtes Chalonnaise and Couchois, the Macônnais and the Châtillonnais are best understood by comparative studies of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. With more than 100 appellations (84 officially recognized) it would take a lifetime and then some to cover them all and several more to come to grips with the very specific meanings and interpretations of their personalized Climats. By that time the moving target would change so much that starting again would be the only option. Make the most of the time there is, which is the way of the Bourguignons.” Ironic because exactly two years later I returned to Bourgogne to begin my education anew in the light of a trip gone deep into the Hautes Côtes and satellite appellative explorations. The findings are remarkable, as I will elucidate in due course.

Beaune

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

Bourgogne, now there’s the rub. In this case the party line and profound argument emphatically says no. Pause to consider the infallible cogency of the nuanced word. Then cringe at the platitude of an overused and confusingly perpetuated Brittanica translation that need not be named. Never could or should have but it must now be stressed that the imposter can no longer be considered a viable alternative for it changes meaning and even more importantly, emotion. If we must say it aloud then we may as well point the culprit out in matters point of fact. Burgundy takes its name from the Burgundians, an East Germanic people who moved westwards beyond the Rhine during the late Roman period and settled in Bourgogne. The seat of the Duc de Bourgogne was to be found west of the Saône along the narrow spit of land between Dijon to the north and the area just south of Mâcon. The reference “Duke of Burgundy” is but a translation. The first Google result that answers the query “Is Burgundy the same as Bourgogne” goes like this. “Burgundy is wine made in the Burgundy region in eastern France, in the valleys and slopes west of the Saône, a tributary of the Rhône.” The proper response to that would be to scream, to shout “answer the bloody $&**!!??&$@ question!” And to offer a strict reminder not to believe everything you read. The first recorded use of “burgundy” as a colour in English was in 1881. Making the argument that the word Burgundy dates back 300 years? Puh-lease. Who but the blind believer and the colonialist heeds this fallacy. These are the eyes of the old. They have seen things that you will never see. Leave it to memory. Dare the Bourguignons to breathe.

At Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s La Tâche Vineyard, In the heart of Bourgogne

Plus grand est l’obstacle, et plus grande est la gloire de le surmonter

Just a little bit more than a year ago the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB) made the plea, on behalf of and at the behest of le vraiment Bourguignon, for a firm and clear pronouncement to take back their name, as is their right to do. “To re-affirm its identity as one of the most iconic vineyards of France, the region and its producers are reverting back to the original French iteration of its name: Bourgogne. Historically Bourgogne is the only French appellation that adopted an alternate identity for export markets with the use of the ‘Burgundy’ designation for the English speaking markets, or Burgund for the German speaking and many other translations according to the country. Today, this traditional ‘Bourgogne’ designation has already been adopted by nearly all the wines produced here – either via appellation designation or wine region labeling. By maintaining this one true identity, Bourgogne returns to its historical roots as the consummate vineyard treasured by consumers the world over.”

The devil might advocate for inclusion, to allow for levity and to argue against a parochialist stance. The contrarian might say, “why exclude a greater population when it might be to the detriment of market share. Tell the people they have to speak the language and they may feel alienated or worse, choose not to participate because it’s harder work, or just too much to ask.” They will say that language is merely colloquial, a matter of repetitive utterance, developed slang and simply a matter of evolution. Why fight it? Would it not make most sense to worry about making good wine and concentrating on selling the product?

“Plus grand est l’obstacle, et plus grande est la gloire de le surmonter. “The greater the obstacle, the greater the glory of overcoming it.” Indeed were Molière here today he would abide in support of the usage. Besides, un savant imbécile est plus un imbécile qu’un imbécile ignorant, “a learned fool is more a fool than an ignorant fool.” Bourgogne, name of the territory and also the name gracing each and every bottle conjoining all its appellative wines. Practice your pronunciation and become comfortable with using it. Do so with unequivocal conviction, daily, written, typed and in the vernacular of spoken word. Glad we got that out of the way.

Iconic Bourgogne

Related – Les Grands Jours de Bourgogne 2020 are suspended

Uncertain times

Things were going so well. Sales were up, wine importers and consumers the world over were beginning to embrace the affordable Bourgogne, these partisan orbiters in surround of their better established kin, these fine pinot noir, chardonnay, aligoté, sauvignon blanc and gamay blends of qualities and quality not seen before. No one ever really worries about the rising prices of the established and their place within the establishment. The new work concentrates on the new world and upwardly mobile millennial spending. Get the regional appellative wines of geographical designation to these new buyers, they of dollars aimlessly doling away to Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Australia, to the cheap and cheerful Italian and Spanish wines. Teleport these varietal outliers into their minds and the golden era will usher in. Then COVID-19 rears its ugly viral head.

Fear not for this will pass and while trade shows are an essential aspect of selling wine, they can be circumvented. Education is the key. There are educators around the world aching to tell a Bourgogne story and fill cups with the wines. The Bourgogne tome is a magnificent one, filled with centuries of great reality, overflowing with heartbreak, victory and desire. The viral hiccup is indeed dangerous, surely dramatic and as great a mortal nuisance as there is but it will leave as fiercely as it came. A trail of debris and sorrow will be left behind but the Bourguignons are a resilient people to get past and move on.

Dinner at Le Bistro des Cocottes in Beaune

Dovetailing and Denominations

In algorithm design, dovetailing is a technique that interweaves different computations, simultaneously performing essential tenets. Bourgogne moves in such rhythm, not only from Côtes de Nuits north to Maçonnais south but also in vortex web design that incorporates Les Appellations Régionales. In Bourgogne the greater territory is tied together by threading all its constituent appellative parts through a mortise, designed to receive corresponding appellations on another part so as to join or lock the parts together. The chardonnay and pinot noir of Les Hautes-Côtes are tenoned through Côtes de Beaune and Côtes de Nuits, just as the reds of Irancy and Bourgogne Epineuil are threaded through the whites of Chablis to define a northerly Yonne-Serein section of Bourgogne. The same applies to the Côtes de Couchois with the Côtes Chalonnaise.

Jump to:

Chablis and Grand Auxerrois
Côtes de Beaune
Côte Chalonnaise
Côte de Nuits
Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse
Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre, Saint-Bris and Irancy
Bourgogne Epineuil, Chablis and Bourgogne Tonnere
Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune
Bourgogne Côtes du Couchois
Bourgogne Côte d’Or
Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits

Producers:

Domaine Jean Claude Courtault and Stéphanie & Vincent Michelet

Domaine du Clos du Roi
Goisot Guilhem et Jean-Hugues
Domaine Gruhier (Domaine de L’Abbaye du Petit Quincy)
Domaine Alexandre Parigot
Maison Roche de Bellene
Maison Bertrand Ambroise
Cave de Mazenay
Domaine Theulot-Juillot
Domaine de L’Évêché Quentin & Vincent Viticulteurs
Cave des Vignerons de Buxy
Domaine Bart (Pierre)
Domaine David Duband
Domaine Cruchandeau

Quai de l’Yonne, Auxerre


Grand Auxerrois

The Grand Auxerrois covers a multitude of very old small plots which are today sorted into four terroirs:
• The Auxerrois covers around a dozen communes to the south and southeast of Auxerre
• Farther to the east, beyond Chablis, the vines of the Tonnerrois are found in the valley of the Armançon, the river that runs through the little town of Tonnerre.
• In the south of the Grand Auxerrois region is the Vézelien, which covers Vézelay, Asquins, Saint-Père and Tharoiseau
• The slopes of the Jovinien look down over the town of Joigny, to the north of Auxerre

On these limestone soils, the wines are mainly produced from the traditional Bourgogne varietals of chardonnay and aligoté for whites, and pinot noir and gamay for the reds. Smaller quantities of césar for reds, and sacy or melon for whites are used, while the very old Bourgogne varietal césar sometimes makes a minor appearance in certain Irancy wines. There is an exception in Saint-Bris, where the winemakers produce very aromatic whites from the sauvignon grape.

The Grand Auxerrois brings a wide palette of appellations to the Bourgogne winegrowing region, mainly specific appellations Régionales:

  • Appellations Villages: Irancy, Saint-Bris, Vézelay
  • Appellations Régionales specific to Grand Auxerrois: Bourgogne Chitry, Bourgogne Côte Saint-Jacques, Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre, Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse, Bourgogne Epineuil, Bourgogne Tonnerre



Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse

The education begins in Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse, south of Auxerre in northwestern Bourgogne at the hamlet of the same name surrounded by five valleys; les vallées de Chanvan, de Douzotte, des Champs, de Chamoux, de Droit à Vente and de Magny. There are just over 135 total planted hectares, only 18 of which are chardonnay, with seven producers in the village and 15 overall in the appellation. Unlike virtually all other appellations in Bourgogne the wines produced here all come from the regional appellation, save for a small amount of Côteaux Bourguignons.

Exploring the @vinsdebourgogne of #coulangeslavineuse with great curiosity, emerging engaged, engrossed and charmed. Instructive tasting at Domaine du Clos du Roi.


Domaine du Clos du Roi

Red, White and Rosé are produced at Domaine du Clos du Roi from 16 hectares of chardonnay, pinot noit and césar. Founded in 1969 by Michel and Denise Bernard the domaine has been run by Magali Bernard and her husband Arnaud Hennoque since 2005. Magali is in charge of winemaking and sales while Arnaud the business and the vines. Chardonnay are gifted by generous bâtonnage and raised in demi-muid. The pinot noir purports to be the most typical from these lands, somewhat glycerin rich and clay-chalky with relatively soft and easy tannin. Raised in foudres de chènes (44 hL), the barrels introduced by Ludovin’s father and made in the traditional and historic way of the domain. César is the varietal wild card as noted by the 15 per cent whole cluster worked into pinot noir for the Clos du Roi “Coline” Nos Origines. 

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Clos du Roi Cuvée Charly Nos Origines 2015, Coulanges La Vineuse AOC

From viticulturist Bernard Magali Nos Origines ia a wine of generous bâtonnage a much easier vintage required less stirring and more accounting from naturally fortifying lees. This exceptional child must have loved its comforting and nurturing stay in demi-muids so now the imagination runs wild with gently rolling spice and thoughts of well-deserved aperitíf moments, especially with a semi-soft, almost firm Epoisses. Has lost little energy at this point in fact it’s still fresh as can be. Tells us something about the future for the ’18 though ’16 and ’17 will outrun the latter. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019.

Clos du Roi “Coline” Nos Origines 2017, Coulanges La Vineuse AOC

The only cuvée in the portfolio that contains some cézar, at 15 per cent mixed into the pinot noir. Coline, Magali’s daughter. Carries a foot-treading tradition, perhaps more Portuguese than Bourgignons but this is the playful wine, not necessarily the serious one. More floral and quite full of citrus, namely pomegranate and especially blood orange. Falls somewhere in the middle, not between red and white but within a red spectrum of its own. Can see this as the correct one to drink with charcuterie. That’s the sort of structure it considers, especially because of the whole bunch workings inside. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2019

Saint-Bris and Côtes d’Auxerre


Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre, Saint-Bris and Irancy

The Auxerre vineyards (pronounced “Ausserre”), lying on either side of the river Yonne, boast ancient lineage, thanks to the abbey of Saint-Germain and a proximity to Paris. Today they are very much alive. In 1993, wines from the communes of Auxerre, Vaux, Champs-sur-Yonne, Augy, Quenne, Saint-Brisle- Vineux and Vincelottes were granted the right to add a local identifier to the appellation Régionale Bourgogne.

Lying alongside the river Yonne in the heart of the Auxerrois region, Saint-Bris-le-Vineux is an old stone-built village beneath which are extraordinary medieval cellars, running everywhere, the most astonishing examples of their kind in Bourgogne. They cover 3.5 ha, 60 metres underground. The quarries at nearby Bailly supplied the building stone for the Pantheon in Paris.

Irancy, in the Grand Auxerrois region, stands on the right bank of the Yonne river, some fifteen kilometres South of Auxerre and South-West of Chablis. It is typical of the wine-growing villages of the district. It boasts a majestic church, as well as the house where G. Soufflot, architect of the Paris Panthéon, was born. The handsome winemaker’s houses make a fitting setting for a red wine with such a long-established reputation. It was raised to the status of an appellation Village, which it shares with the neighboring villages of Cravant and Vincelottes, in 1999.

Guilhem Goisot


Goisot Guilhem et Jean-Hugues 

The family tree of the Domaine Guilhem & Jean-Hughes Goisot traces roots back to the 14th century and today the estate raises vines biodynamically in the communes of Saint-Bris-Le-Vineux and Irancy. They are unique on a hill position that straddles both the Saint-Bris and Côtes d’Auxerre appellations enabling production of both sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. Irancy is the source for pinot noir. Their cellar lays beneath the 11th-12th century village. Guilhem’s parents Ghislaine and Jean-Hughes took over production in 1979 while he and his wife Marie assumed the lead in 2005. Guilhem’s collection of calcareous rocks and especially ancient seabed shells and fossils is perhaps the most incredible in Bourgogne. His translation of three terroirs is concise and exacting. These are some of Bourgogne’s most focused wines that elevate the power, precision and status of these three furthermore there appellations.

The precise, focused and compact pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc of @guilhemgoisot from out of the @vinsdebourgogne proximate terroirs of #cotesdauxerre and #saintbris ~ Plus some of the great rocks anywhere.

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Goisot Guilhem et Jean-Hugues Les Mazelots 2017, Irancy AOC

A Villages wine from and for Irancy from 100 per cent pinot noir. Aromatically quiet, not unusual for the appellation and especially without any of the allowable 15 per cent cézar in the mix. Quite pure and similarly structured to the Côtes d’Auxerre in that it’s not full-bodied but is in fact tightly compact. More implosive intensity and idiosyncrasy with a chalky underlay from white to grey soil high in calcaire and layered with arglieux. Yet another very refined wine. This man knows how to use his sulphur properly. Clean, focused and very precise. Benchmark for Irancy. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted November 2019

Goisot Guilhem et Jean-Hugues La Ronce 2017, Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre AOC

The next Climat behooves the already pronounced adage that these wines increase upwards from one to the next in delicasse, precision and possibility. There is an earthy grounding in La Ronce that seems absent in Le Court Vit and here makes for a new structure, or rather a more complex one. Now taking another step into variegated terroir replete with all the fossils, shells and epochs of clay, limestone and multi-hued soils all filling up the elemental well. These vines draw from it all and it shows with precise sapidity, aridity, salinity and validity in the aromatic character and flavour profile. A conditioning that is sweet because the fruit is pure and savoury with thanks to the acid-tannin structure that makes this sing. Amazing purity, grace and possibility. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted November 2019

Goisot Guilhem et Jean-Hugues Gondonne 2017, Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre AOC

A soil of kimmeridgian and marl of white and blue, with great layering of fruit and that is in fact what you feel from Gondonne. There is something rich and overtly expressive here and while it’s anything but simple it could be imagined that so many consumers would understand this chardonnay, love it and want to drink it with abandon. That said the structure, gout de terroir and de vivre are just exceptional. The wood and the land just melt right in. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted November 2019

Goisot Guilhem et Jean-Hugues La Ronce 2017, Saint-Bris AOC

Usually this is a Climat reserved for holdings in Côtes d’Auxerre but in this case the northwest exposure is indeed within the appellation of Saint-Bris. In fact there’s more affinity with chardonnay here and also conversely more terpenes in the notes. Also pyrazines which is more than curious. Ripe too and ultimately a most curious expression of sauvignon blanc. It’s got everything in here, in hyperbole and more. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted November 2019



Bourgogne Epineuil, Chablis and Bourgogne Tonnere

The Tonnerrois region lies in the southern Yonne not far from Chablis. Épineuil the commune won the official right to identify its wines by name within the general appellation Bourgogne in 1993. The word Épineuil may only be appended to the word Bourgogne in the case of red or rosé wines produced within the defined area of the appellation. On the label, the word Épineuil must follow the word Bourgogne. The soils, full of white pebbles, resemble those of the nearby Chablis region (Kimmeridgian or associated limestones) and have definable qualities. Where the vineyard district is broken up into valleys, the vines are sheltered from the cold winds of the Langres plateau and reap the benefit of a favourable microclimate.

I’ve considered Chablis many times before. “There is little about Chablis that is not drawn up in contrasts. It begins with Left Bank versus Right Bank, the Serein River and the village of Chablis acting as the interface between. Petit Chablis giving way to the more important Chablis and then Premier Cru the varied and always impressive interloper separating the villages wines from the Grand Cru. Chablis as a varietal concept, as opposed to and unlike anywhere else in the world, seemingly unrelated to chardonnay.”

Related – Paradox in Chablis

“The greatest paradox of all is written in stone along a few ridges and across the most important set of hills above the river. Deep-rooted, inveterate purlieu of geology in eight names; Les Preuses, Bougros, Vaudésir, Grenouille, Valmur, Les Clos, Blanchot and unofficially (depending on political affiliations), La Moutonne. Les Grand Crus of Chablis are singled out not only for their exceptional terroir and climat but also for the impossibility of what happens when fruit is pulled from their chardonnay vines. The Grand Cru are oracles in complex riddles, transcendent mysteries and the most enigmatic of all Chablis. I suppose it’s because the rich fruit versus exigent stone is the epitome of Chablis paradox.”

Domaine Jean-Claude Courtault, Lignorelles


Domaine Jean Claude Courtault and Stéphanie & Vincent Michelet

Stéphanie Courtault-Michelet is the daughter of Jean-Claude and Marie-Chantal Courtault. She and her husband Vincent Michelet farm 20 hectares in the appellations of Bourgogne Epineuil and the four that comprise Chablis. The business dates back to 1984 and today both Domaine Jean-Claude Courtault and Stéphanie & Vincent Michelet produce Chablis from vineyards in Beines and Lignorelles, at a windy and cool spot on the top of the hill above the Vau Ligneau. Their Bourgogne Epineuil Climat is the Côte de Grisey from a valley and off of vines that face west.

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Stéphanie & Vincent Michelet Chablis AOC 2018

From only one hectare of vineyards right on the line between Lignorelles and Villy and much of the vines are in and about 60 years of age. A very concentrated yet somehow delicate and quite precise Chablis that weighs in above it’s appellative status, if only because it’s not considered one of the more coveted terroirs. Here at the limits of Chablis there is a micro-climate that speaks a Premier Cru vernacular, categorized or not. Very much a calcareous child, fresh, darting, never tiring and innocent. That means it’s focused and pure. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted November 2019

Domaine Jean Claude Courtault Chablis Premier Cru AOC Mont De Milieu 2017

From young vines and certainly quality fruit that comes across as simple, sweet and charming. From a valley and vines that face west with a darkening cherry profile, mainly clay induced with just a little stoniness from the limestone. Finishes with just a touch of tannin in a notably dried herbs and arid way. Find your food match, like a little pot au feu of tête de veau. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted November 2019

Dominique Gruhier


Domaine Gruhier (Domaine de L’Abbaye du Petit Quincy)

More often than not it should be a conscionable imperative to trust a man with a great hat. Dominique Gruhier in Epineuil walks around the Abbey of Quincy in a characteristic, dashing calibre lid. The Abbey was founded in 1212 by Cistercian monks, sold in 1792 as a natinal asset ands was preserved in pastoral and viticultural terms through 1914. Though it fell to Phylloxera and disrepute there was activity through 1970. Twenty years later The Gruhier family began the resurrection and today create Bourgogne Epineuil and Tonnerre wines that lead for the appellations. Dominique’s Sparkling Wine program is at the head of Bourgogne’s new world order for classic method Crémant de Bourgogne AOC preparations.

 

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Domaine Gruhier (Domaine de L’Abbaye du Petit Quincy) Cuvée Juliette 2017, Bourgogne Epineuil AOC

Named for Dominique Gruhier’s eldest daughter Juliette. A lighter, more delicate and refined Tonnerrois with floral cherry and cherry blossom aromatics, moving away from the darker ultra-violet notes of the following vintage and also two forward based on what’s in barrel. The tannins are fine like those 2019s but the wine has more tension than 2018. Righteous structure in a wine to last well past the namesake’s 21 birthday.  Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted November 2019

Domaine Gruhier (Domaine de L’Abbaye du Petit Quincy) Grande Cuvée Pur Chardonnay Brut Nature, Crémant de Bourgogne AOC

The eminent one or rather the grand eminent. His eminence is a zero dosage, 100 per cent Crémant of zero put on. From an accumulated amount of solare the make up is 85 per cent 2015 and the other 15 a sparkling wine with everything up front, on its sleeve and one that just screams “won’t you come and join the party, dressed to kill.” A second, just opened bottle reveals the great strike, right from the opening keyboard whirl to the final shout. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted November 2019



Côtes de Beaune

The Côte de Beaune vineyards lie on the upper slopes of the Montagne de Beaune just above the Premier Cru plots at heights of 300 to 370 metres and on brown limestone and calcium-rich soils, Oolitic and Rauracian (Jurassic) in origin. The special value of these vineyards is attested by the fact that one of the Climats belonging to this appellation, located on Mont Battois, is a dedicated part of Bourgogne’s vine-science research program. When Beaune’s twins AOCs were instituted in 1936, it was the higher altitude vineyards which became the Côte de Beaune appellation. Unlike the appellation Côte de Beaune-Village, with which it must not be confused, it refers to one commune only – Beaune. Within this relatively restricted area, the appellation Côte de Beaune produces one third white wines (chardonnay) to two-thirds red (pinot noir).

A night in Beaune. Thank you Nico. Je me souviendrai toujours.


Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune

The Bourgogne Hautes Côtes De Beaune Régionale appellation covers still red, white, and rosé wines produced in an area covering 29 villages that was defined in 1961. The vines are located at the foot of the limestone cliff on the sunny slopes of a ribbon of valleys perpendicular to the Côte de Beaune, from Les Maranges to Ladoix-Serrigny heading west. Wine from the Hautes Côtes de Beaune was drunk at the coronation of Philippe Auguste in 1180. The vines underwent a period of expansion, linked to economic growth throughout the 19th century, until phylloxera struck. Between 1910 and 1936, almost half of the vineyard disappeared. Its renaissance stemmed from the reestablishment of the winegrowers union of the Hautes Côtes de Beaune in 1945, which was responsible for the creation of the appellation on 4 August 1961.


Domaine Alexandre Parigot

Marie et Régis Parigot have handed the reigns to Domaine Parigot to their son Alexandre who is clearly poised to become a star for pinot noir threaded from Hautes-Côtes de Beaune through Savigny, Volnay and Pommard. Today Domaine Alexandre Parigot cultivates 18 hectares in total, 15 of which are pinot noir. The Hautes-Côtes de Beaune vines are of south, southwest expositions on very fine argileux-calcaire, quite sandy and causing wines of elegance and finesse. Le Clos de la Perrière is a benchmark for the appellation. Two to three weeks of classic remontage from which the closing of the tanks and raising of temperature to 32 degrees post fermentation brings this and these pumped over Parigot pinot noir into their silky and seductive state.

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Domaine Alexandre Parigot Clos de la Perrière 2017, Hautes Côtes de Beaune AOC

The Domaine cultivates 18 hectares in total. The Hautes-Côtes de Beaune vines are of south, southwest expositions on very fine argileux-calcaire, quite sandy and causing wines of elegance and finesse. A fresh and silky pinot noir with 2017’s great purity and transparency of fruit. Transparency but subtle glycerin texture which is truly an extension of the sweet aromatic profile. A perfectly enlivening nine o’clock in the morning Haut-Côtes. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted November 2019

Domaine Alexandre Parigot Pommard-Charmots Premier Cru AOC 2017

From the plot just beneath the village at the height of Pommard. The particularity of 2017 grapes is their fineness of skins and perfectly phenolic gifts donated with great philanthropy by the perfectly ripened seeds. But in this case the laces are once again pulled tight, with great power in even greater finesse. There’s an elegance opposed by a controlled tension that puts this in a position of posit and positive tug, though always charged with something higher and opposing. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted November 2019

Domaine Alexandre Parigot Clos de la Perrière 2010, Hautes Côtes de Beaune AOC

The 2010 is incredibly fresh, showing negligible evolution, with no advancement into mushroom or truffled territory. Certainly no blood orange and still welling with cherries. No desiccation, only fresh fruit and high acidity. Very impressive showing for a nine year-old Hautes-Côtes de Beaune. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted November 2019

And of course in Beaune we tasted 30 Bourgogne with Nico @johnszaboms @nicholaspearce_ @domaine_de_bellene


Beaune to be wild – Maison Roche de Bellene

There really is nothing Nicolas Potel can’t do, does not touch or lacks kinship with all things Beaune. Potel’s father Gérard was larger than life, local hero and legend, one of Bourgogne’s most cherished and beloved, the King of Volnay and who’s legacy can’t ever be forgotten. While at dinner in Beaune in November Nico suddenly disapparated to teleport 20 minutes home and back, to retrieve and then share his dad’s 1964 Domaine de la Pousse d’Or Pommard Premier Cru Les Jarollières. Why? It was suddenly the right time and it was sublime. In fact the city of Beaune was called Bellene back in the Middle Ages and this is the reason Potel chose the name for his brand/wine merchant/négoce domaine. Maison Roche de Bellene is a force to be reckoned with, a seer of all things and provider of a cross-section of many terroir to educate us all on the power of Bourgogne multitude and multiplicity. Nicolas does have a reputation for being the wild child of Beaune and yet he is also known for his generosity, mainly of spirit. One never forgets a night in Beaune with the infamous Nicolas Potel.

Tasting with Nicolas Potel at Maison Roche de Bellene

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Maison Roche de Bellene Beaujolais Côte de Brouilly 2015

Larger than life, at least by normal Brouilly standards, here from Stéphane Aviron’s hands transferred into Nicolas Potel’s arms. There’s a blowsy, boisterous and open-handed handle in this gamay, ready for anything. Was ready, remains ready and will always be ready. Rich, fatter and appealing. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2019

Maison Tastelune Monthelie AOC 2017

Tastelune is a play on Tastevin in ode to how labels of Nuits-Saint-Georges Bourgogne were brought on an Apollo mission to the moon. Quite firm, grippy and near glycerin in texture, quite rich for 2017. Generally speaking the winemaker makes use of 30-40 per cent whole bunch, no punchdowns and just pump-overs. The result is a true sense of grip and grit. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted November 2019

Maison Roche de Bellene Volnay AOC Vieilles Vignes 2016

A high quality fruit year means one major thing in Nicolas Potel’s hands and that’s 100 per cent whole bunch in the fermentation. These lignified brown stems add the sort of complexity that great Bourgogne just has to have. Plenty of fine tannin, grip for the future and real swagger. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted November 2019

Maison Roche de Bellene Bourgogne AOC Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes 2017

The old vines chardonnay, just as Nicolas Potel has managed to effect with the pinot noir is a matter of bringing Bourgogne to the market. The old vines carries a purpose and an intendment to speak as a by the glass matter with a classic regional styling, clean, crunchy and white cherry fruit designed. Made reductively and for freshness to consume with great immediacy. That’s exactly what it does. Buy into the program. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Maison Roche de Bellene Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru AOC Trés Vieilles-Vignes 2016

Why Trés? Because they are. They meaning the vines which are more than 80 years old. Wisdom, acumen and inbred understanding translated and transported into this Bourgogne of chic stature and the sort of class only Nicolas Potel can gift. Balance is spot on. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted November 2019

Ludovine Ambroise, Maison Ambroise


Maison Bertrand Ambroise

Maison Ambroise dates its origins to the 18th century and 1960 is about the time the family begins making a life around the vineyard after two and a half centuries of unsettled times. The location is Premeaux-Prissey, across the road and proximate to Nuits-Saint-Georges on a dividing line that separates the two Côtes, de Beaune and de Nuits. In 1987 Bertrand Ambroise takes over management of the 17 hectare domaine which he now runs with his family; Martine, Ludovine and Françoise. These are chardonnay and pinot noir in the space between, dualistic, generous and austere, bold and forgiving, demanding and generous. Truly Bourgogne.

 

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Maison Bertrand Ambroise Bourgogne Chardonnay Haut-Côtes de Nuits AOC 2018

A step up in height and tension for a reductive one that may not speak in the same fruit terms as the regional chardonnay of higher calling, but welcome to the new and exciting Hauts denomination. This is crackerjack Bourgogne, with real strength in tension. So much fun, joy, excitement and delight. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted November 2019

Maison Bertrand Ambroise Bourgogne Pinot Noir Haut-Côtes de Nuits AOC 2018

From near the village of Villers there’s a refinement about this pinot noir that speaks to the chic abilities of the Haut-Côtes de Nuits. Black cherry and high acidity all oozing, welling and pulsing out of concentration. If the whites are crunchy then the reds are chewy and this sits at the top of the spectrum. The top pinot noir for sure and equipped with the finest tannins. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted November 2019

Maison Bertrand Ambroise Nuits-Saint-Georges AOC 2017

A Villages Nuits-St.-Georges (sans Climat) with a peppery reduction that will blow off with time, just not in these few minutes of dating. In fact some hand-covered agitation does the trick and releases the florals you’d imagine would be present. The firm grip is just outstanding, as is the liquid velvet mouthfeel with true argiluex underlay. From fruit just north of the village and clearly a spot that delivers some of the appellation’s great finesse. Terrific pace and compact structure while also rich for 2017 but not so unexpected from the place. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted November 2019

Côte Chalonnaise


Côte Chalonnaise

The appellation Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise dates from 1990 and recognizes the distinct personality of wines from the 44 communes in the northern part of the department of Saône-et-Loire, an area some 40 km long and between 5 and 8 km in width. Lying between the valleys of the Dheune and Grosne and open towards the South, the Côte Chalonnaise offers a less rugged landscape than those of the Côte de Nuits to the North. These gentle hills are outcrops of the Massif Central thrown up by the creation of the rift valley known as the Bresse Trench. In the North, limestone forms the East-facing slopes and there are outcrops of lias and trias formations (Saint-Denis, Jambles, Moroges). South of the granitic block formation at Bissey, the hillsides slope either to the East or the West until they reach the hills of the Mâconnais. The soils below the Bajocian limestone corniche are marly, with sands and shaly or flinty clays at the foot of the slopes where there are also some gravel outcrops. Altitudes vary from 250 to 350 metres.

Pruning in the Côte de Couchois


Bourgogne Côtes du Couchois

The Bourgogne Côtes du Couchois Régionale appellation covers still red wines produced in an area covering six villages that was defined in 2000. An application for AOC-status for the white wines is currently ongoing. The vines of Bourgogne Côtes du Couchois are located to the south of the Côte de Beaune and the Hautes Côtes de Beaune, on the left bank of the River Dheune, which separates it from the Côte Chalonnaise to the east. They grow on the best slopes in this rolling landscape, offering some remarkable viewpoints. The vines are divided up across south- and southeast-facing slopes at between 280-420m above sea level, with a climate marked by continental influences that leads to relatively late ripening. The soil is characterized by granite from the Primary period, clay sandstone and clay from the Trias, and limestone from the Lower Jurassic. Most of the vines in the Bourgogne Côtes du Couchois appellation sit atop versicoloured clay from the Trias.

Château de Couches, a.k.a Marguerite de Bourgogne, Chagny


Cave de Mazenay

Jean-Christophe Pascaud is the Directeur of the Cave de Mazenay, Union des Producteurs at Négociants de l’AOC Côtes du Couchois, located in Saint-Sernin-du-Plain in Saône-et-Loire. Their most particular wine is the Blason de Vair from the Château de Couches vineyards. Although located since its creation in the very heart of the Couchois appellation, the cellar’s approach is not limited to the work of a single PDO. But also to the production of a complete range of Bourgogne wines, mainly from Côtes de Nuits to Côtes Chalonaises, and of course also including Côtes de Beaune. Their range is extensive and includes the sale of bulk wines. Production includes Bourgogne Pinot Noir et Hautes-Côtes, Maranges et Santenay, Savigny les Beaune, Pommard et Meursault, Gevrey Chambertin, Vin des Hospices de Beaune, Bourgogne Aligoté, Viré-Clessé, Rully, Givry et Mercurey, Crémant de Bourgogne.

The Cave is intrinsically tied to one of Bourgogne’s most famous castles and medieval fortification, the Château de Couches, known as Marguerite de Bourgogne, near Chagny and classified as a historic monument. The château is a former fortress of the Dukes of Bourgogne dating back to the 11th century, with a dungeon, underground, garden and of architecture designed between the end of the 11th and the 19th century. Acting as a form of protection for the route between Paris and Chalon-sur-Saône, over the centuries, the château underwent many changes, but its defensive character remains intact. This fortress dominates the road and the surrounding countryside from the top of its crenellated towers and its keep.

Marguerite of Bourgogne was the granddaughter of King Saint Louis and daughter of the Duke of Bourgogne. She spent part of her youth in this place. Her marriage to the future Louis X le Hutin made her a queen of France but, convicted of adultery, she was locked away in the fortress of Château Gaillard in Normandy. Legend claims that after the death of her royal husband, secret negotiations between the crown and the powerful Duchy of Bourgogne would have enabled her to end her days in Château de Couches.

 

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Cave de Mazenay Château de Couches Blason de Vair Clin d’Oeil 2016, Côtes du Couchois AOC

The fruit meeting acidity seam is woven properly in this right proper grippy pinot noir with less wood notice and more up front terroir in the transparency of this wine. These are the Bourgogne cherries and sense of terroir piques we’ve come to expect and translate to our own language of understanding. Tightly wound with much finer tannins than the other wines. A much better vintage in this particular case. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted November 2019

Cave de Mazenay Château de Couches Chardonnay Clos Marguerite Passonnément 2018, Côtes du Couchois AOC

A wood at the forefront chardonnay for now with a greater reductive freshness than the ’17. A similar ripe, sun-worshiped quality though more structure and integration it would seem. The winemaking is better in this second incarnation of the company’s top chazrdonnay. This would impress the Bourgogne seeker of higher end chardonnay. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted November 2019

Nathalie and Jean-Claude Theulot, Domaine Theulot-Juillot


Domaine Theulot-Juillot

Few producers in Bourgogne will offer a more profound, deep, philosophical and über historical delve into the triumvirate of terroir, lieu-dit and Climat as Jean-Claude and Nathalie Theulot. Their Mercurey estate is one of the regions great sleepers, founded more than 100 years ago by Émile Juillot. Granddaughter Nathalie and her husband Jean-Claude run the 12 hectare farm of Mercurey Villages and sense of place pinot noir that can age 20-25 years.

 

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Vignobles Nathalie Theulot Côte Chalonnaise AOC 2018

From Nathalie and Jean-Claude Theulot, their négoce part of the estate’s production, here a transparent and simple expression of chardonnay. Drawn from Mercurey vineyards though outside of the limit to name this Mercurey AOC, this is fruit grown specifically for basic consumption. The richesse and finesse take it further than many with traditional and classic touching great modernity. Just a bloody delicious and balanced chardonnay. That’s the proper stuff. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2019

Domaine Theulot-Juillot Mercurey Premier Cru AOC Les Saumonts 2018

A red terroir planted to white now 35 years ago, then and now, without fear. Clearly a more mineral, saline and fine brine inducing plot of Mercurey for chardonnay. Truly rich and developed with ideal, precise and extract sidling phenolics. Ripeness is truly a virtue and exclamation exercised with confidence and also restraint. The wood is necessary and invited, always present while finding a balance between thermal amplitude and cooling comfort. Very young, in structure and at heart. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted November 2019

Domaine Theulot-Juillot Mercurey AOC Lieu-Dit Château Mipont 2018

From two words, “Mi” and “Pont,” meaning a milestone or military marker at the bridge on the ancient Roman road from Chalon to Autun. The house or fort would have been a dwelling on the plot where the stone was set and now the lieu-dit carries the name. This is still Villages appellation and yet there’s a climb above in quality, from texture for sure but also calcareous excitement. It’s a complicated spot to define but there is more limestone because the soil washes away in a section due to the exposition and the “plunge” of that part. There’s a tension but not an anxious one, no rather the lift is simply of joy in a rapid heartbeat, from love, not consternation. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted November 2019

Domaine Theulot-Juillot Mercurey AOC Premier Cru La Cailloute 1999

A blind pour without knowledge of Climat, lieu-dit or vintage. Certainly older than 2010, now with mushroom and truffle involved but still high in acidity. There is also the ferric quality that was noted in the Cailloute. The tannins are so limestone driven with a red earthiness that converts sugars to savouriness and fruit to umami, Life affirming, longevity defying and quality of all its constituent parts. This is why Jean-Claude and Nathalie do what they do and share it with people like us. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted November 2019

The Côte Chalonnaise from Domaine de L’Évêché Quentin & Vincent Viticulteurs


Domaine de L’Évêché Quentin & Vincent Viticulteurs

In the 17th century the Clos de L’Évêché was part of a larger property owned by the Bishop of Autun. Vincent Joussier purchased Domaine de L’Évêché in 1985 and runs the estate today with his wife Sylvie and son Quentin. The Côte Chalonnaise vineyards cover 14 hectares across several appellations: Mercurey, Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise, Crémant de Bourgogne, Coteaux Bourguignons and Bourgogne Aligoté. Most of the production comes from pinot noir (80 per cent) and chardonnay (15) but also small amounts of aligoté and gamay.

 

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Domaine de L’Évêché Quentin & Vincent Viticulteurs Mercurey AOC Les Ormeaux 2017

Just the terroir makes the difference,” explains Vincent Joussier, “and the age of the vines.” They are in fact 10 years older and handle their wood compliment with greater acceptance and ease. Still quite a creamy chardonnay but this time with lemon curd, dreamy demure and finer spice. A much more refined and defined wine with much greater sense of place. Certainly the Premier Cru of Vincent’s blancs. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted November 2019

Domaine de L’Évêché Quentin & Vincent Viticulteurs Mercurey AOC Les Murgers 2017

Now into a pinot noir with some tension as purposed by a calcaire Mercurey terroir, as opposed to the simpler argile in the Côte Chalonnaise. Not just grip, tension and tannin but a fineness in those chains to extend the future’s possibilities. Fruit is relatively dark but there is a persimmon flavour and texture mixed with something citrus undefined. Maybe pomegranate but also wooly-earthy, like red Sancerre. Quite a complex wine with a sour complexion. Needs time to integrate to be sure. Returns to earth and fineness at the finish. The length is outstanding. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted November 2019



Cave des Vignerons de Buxy

Bourgogne’s most impressive cooperative producer is none other than Cave des Vignerons de Buxy, established in 1931 and easily the largest in the Côte Chalonnaise. Located in the North of the Mâconnais, the “cave” groups together fifty or so family producers associated with the Cave des Vignerons de Buxy since 1976. The range of wines from the Mâconnais and the Côte Chalonnaise is nothing less than extensive. At least 20 white, red and rosé appellations are bottled and represented. At the forefront of it all is the passionate Rémi Marlin, he of knowledge encompassing all things Mâconnais and especially Côte Chalonnaise.

 

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Cave des Buxy Millebuis Côte Chalonnaise AOC 2017

A very different vintage but more backbone in 2017. Even fresher and even now than the 2018 with more than 90 per cent of the growers’ fruit the same. Less than 10 per cent fermented in barrel because the vintage served up the possibility and the chance taken was a prudent and ambitious one. Fresh and snappy, really and truly perfectly Côte Chalonnaise. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Cave des Buxy Millebuis Côte Chalonnaise AOC Champ Cardin 2018

On the plateau up to the village of Culles (des Roches) only seven kilometres from the Cave. Champ Cardin makes use of its higher elevation at 300-plus metres above sea level. There is more fruit and acid attack along with a longer chain of extract  giving sharp mineral notes that also come through caused by less topsoil and more exposed rock in the upper reaches of the vineyards. Well-balanced chardonnay from a solid lieu-dit. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted November 2019

Cave des Buxy Millebuis Montagny AOC Premier Cru Montcuchot 2017

Located at the entrance of “the circus,” in front of the amphitheatre, oriented south and southeast. At 350m and with the aspect it’s an early maturing Climat, of 12.3 hectares on steep hillsides with the vines are planted at the top of the slopes. Quite “clayeux,” as in chalky with that great Montagny richesse. You feel like you’re chewing this chardonnay long after it has left your mouth. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted November 2019

Cave des Buxy Millebuis Côte Chalonnaise AOC 2016

The vintage for pinot noir to deliver and express the best of both worlds it is the sense of piquing spice that separates this Côte Chalonnaise from the pack. There’s also an earthy volatility that grounds, elevates and keeps it real. Chalky finish as expected in a pinot of really solid architecture. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted November 2019

 

Cave des Buxy Millebuis Givry AOC Cur Clos Jus 2016

A high level of iron-oxide is contained withy the clay of Cur Clos Jus, just below the road from Givry to Mercurey. It’s a seven hectare plot re-planted in the late 70s early 80s and farmed by only five growers. Two years of age (more than the ’16) is finally showing some advancement and even a moment of relenting behaviour. A few portents for the future are hidden and then released in this bloody, meaty and piquillo-paprikas of a Givry. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted November 2019


Côte de Nuits

The Côte de Nuits and Hautes Côtes is predominately cultivated with pinot noir and holds most of the region’s Grands Crus. Much of the small production of white wine is chardonnay though aligoté is also grown. The reputation of the appellations of the Côte de Nuits is firmly established. Some have even gone so far as to name this exceptional terroir the Champs-Elysées of the Bourgogne winegrowing region. This sophisticated pseudonym also explains the reality of the terrain. Between Dijon and Corgoloin, the wines grow along a narrow strip of hillside that is around 20km long and in parts, just 200 meters wide.

Andouillette


Bourgogne Côte d’Or

The vines of the Bourgogne Côte d’Or appellation extend across an area 65km long and between 1-2km wide, from Dijon to the Maranges. Geographically speaking, the Côte d’Or (golden slope) covers the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits. The reputation of the wines grown here is such that the department was named after the area during the Revolution. Vines have been grown here since antiquity, and were subsequently expanded by religious orders, the Dukes of Bourgogne, the wine merchants.

In the 19th century, new means of transportation facilitated and modernized the sale. The establishment of the AOC system led winegrowers to build a hierarchy of terroir on the Côte, thus marking out specific areas and protecting their Crus. In 2017, producers of the Régionale appellation Bourgogne from Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune were granted the extended name of “Bourgogne Côte d’Or”, their wines thus becoming Bourgogne Identifiés within the Régionale Bourgogne AOC, limited to specific geographical areas within the Bourgogne appellation.

If you ever find yourself in Bourgogne, Côte-d’Or, Nuits-Saint-Georges and Curtil-Vergy do not miss the cuisine and the playlist of Olivier Lebail. Grand jour! ~ #aupetitbonheur #aubergebourguignonne


Domaine Bart (Pierre)

Fifty years after André Bart was farming only six hectares of vines, sixth generation Pierre Bart is now the custodian in Marsannay-la-Côte, working 22 hectares of vines.  After André’s children Martin and Odile arrived in 1982 they founded a farming association for combined operations in 1987, to continue operating as the GAEC.  Pierre Bart is a community leader in the process to recognize the more important vineyards of the Marsannay appellation as Premier Cru. Approximately one in four identified blocks in separated bottlings of the appellation are up for Premier Cru status consideration and while his intention is to highlight these Climats, he is also pragmatic about which ones should remain in the Village appellation. The most likely to suceed are Champs Perdrix, Champ Salomon, Clos du Roi, Longeroies and Montagne.

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Domaine Bart (Pierre) Bourgogne Côte d’Or AOC 2018

Bourgogne Côte d’Or AOC began in 2018 after years of incremental appellative movement. There was Bourgogne AOC in 1965, followed by Marsannay AOC in 1987. The entire cuvée comes from fruit grown in Marsannay, mostly on sandy soils created by washes coming down from the hills. In this case Combe Grand Vaux and Combe Semetot. If 2018 seemed open than ’17 is fully un-shuttered and doing great business. Interesting how on the calcareous soils you always get a chalky feel but here just smooth, silky and immensely amenable. What a great pour by the glass right here in so many ways to justify this from Marsannay in Bourgogne Côte d’Or AOC clothing. Fine and delicate.. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted November 2019

Domaine Bart (Pierre) Marsannay Rosé AOC 2018

Marsannay Rosé AOC began in 1987 after years of incremental appellative movement. There was Bourgogne AOC in 1965, followed by Marsannay AOC in 1987. It can be drawn from both the Villages and the Bourgogne appellations, a particularity specific to labelling it Marsannay Rosé. The fruit is drawn from sandy soils and made from the Marsannay pinot noir. Two thirds direct press and one third (48 hour ) maceration. Not a huge quantity made in the appellation and here with plenty of fruit undercut by a current or streak of sweet salinity. Tons of flavour and unlimited drinkability. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted November 2019

Domaine Bart (Pierre) Marsannay AOC La Montagne 2017

From a very small, seven barrel cuvée and a tiny parcel near the northern limit closest to the hill. There is some primary calcaire mixed into the white oolite dominated soil. Twenty per cent whole bunch fermentation and 20 per cent new oak with the accumulation result being a notable raise and rise in this Marsannay Villages Climat’s fine acidity-tannin relationship. There’s a study in here in consideration of Premier Cru though one that sits on the fence. A little too amenable and subtle of appellative grip to be in the running. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted November 2019

Domaine Bart (Pierre) Marsannay AOC Au Champ Salomon 2017

From near the mountain and the place (Champ) where people were killed. Here is the Marsannay that I personaly have come to know and expect, laced pulled so tight but there is a quality to Bart’s fruit that is consistently woven through the Climats. Clearly a matter of hands off/hands on winemaking playful of whole bunch, new wood, temperature adjustment and easy movement work. These are wines of great pleasure and while the structure here moves the needle to a 10-15 year aging potential there is no question the pleasure is early and almost instant. There’s something very special about that. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted November 2019

Signs and portents. First an afternoon Chevannes rainbow and then more examples of on-a-want-to-know-basis #hautscotesdenuits @vinsdebourgogne ~ Oh, some pretty stylish Climat and Grand Cru as well from Domaine #DavidDuband


Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits

At one time apparently doomed to disappear the vineyards of the Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits have since the 1950s undergone a patient, courageous, and ultimately successful restoration. They are situated overlooking the slopes of Gevrey-Chambertin and extending as far as the wood of Corton, the Hautes Côtes de Nuits. Little villages nested in the forest fringes lay waiting to be discovered. The vineyards located on a plateau behind the famous Côte de Nuits  and village of Nuits-Saint-Georges at altitudes of 300 to 400 metres cover all these slopes which enjoy favourable exposures and proudly preserve their proof of nobility going back to Vergy and the abbey of Saint-Vivant.

High-level discussion at Domaine David Duband


Domaine David Duband

The domaine was created in 1991 in the footsteps of David’s father Pierre who first started in 1965. From 1995 on and after his father’s departure the estate made several purchases and extended to making wines off of 17 hectares of vineyards. No less then 23 prestigious appellations are employed, including important Côtes de Nuits Premier and Grand Cru. The wines cover the Grand Cru of Echezeaux, Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin and Clos de la Roche; the Premier Cru of Chambolle-Musigny Les Sentiers, Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Procès, Aux Thorey and Les Pruliers, Morey-Saint-Denis Clos Sorbè; Villages from Vosne-Romanée, Gevrey-Chambertin; Hautes Côtes de Nuits. The farming is organic since 2004.

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Domaine David Duband Pinot Noir Louis Auguste Bourgogne Haut-Côtes de Nuits AOC 2017

Tasting with Laurent Berger. Located in the village of Chevannes, next to the Côte de Nuits with some vineyards in Nuits-Saint-Georges and some in Savigny. A négoce of most of the important Côte d’Or and Côtes de Nuits appellations. Here from the Hauts-Côtes at the top the south facing hill off of 35 year-old vines growing on full calcaire slopes. Mixes a wealth of fruit and tart acidity sent straight to the cerebral cortex, crux and cross of the heart. Well made, clean and ideally balanced. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted November 2019

Domaine David Duband Morey-Saint-Denis AOC Premier Cru Clos Sorbè 2018

Clos Sorbè the Climat is located right in heart of Morey’s interior, right next to the cemetery. Now the rose’s petals are macerating with the cherries in a pinot noir of classic Bourgogne depth and understanding. The structure is quite elegant in a focused and rich way while weight seems developed by vine age in the 50-55 year range. An impressive Premier Cru of true blue cause, personality and effect. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted November 2019

Domaine David Duband Grand Cru Chambertin AOC 2018

Taking a side step from Chames-Chambertin is the more transparent and seemingly lighter and more delicate Chambertin. Looks and first impressions are deceiving for the power lies in the aromatic complexity, garden and wild field floral plus a gastronomy that incites memories but also machinations of the great demi-glacés imaginable, The fruit pectin and sweet cerebral enhancements are at the top of this portfolio so if others were seductive and enticing this Chambertin is off the charts. Seamless, endless and utterly fine. Structure just at the precipice of pinot noir. Drink 2023-2036.  Tasted November 2019

Domaine David Duband Grand Cru Charmes-Chambertin AOC 2018

Wholly antithetical to the 2018 with much more Bourgogne, Duband and Charmes fruit in the delicate vein of great and sheer transparency. This takes an organza line along a finely threaded and woven seam. There can be no mistaking the understatement of the vintage and while it may not strike an arrow into the hearts of the deducted and seduced there can be no mistake found here. This is the pinnacle of this appellation in fine dress and perfectly classic vernacular. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted November 2019

Julien Cruchandeau and his Pinot Noir


Domaine Cruchandeau

The estate was established in 2003 by Julien Cruchandeau and his first vines were purchased in Bouzeron. In 2007 expansion saw to the buying of a house in the village of Chaux, located in the Hautes Côtes de Nuits, with large cellars and an extensive vat room. In 2009 and 2010 investment helped to establish an agricultural land group (GFA) “Aux Saint Jacques,” thus extending the estate from Nuit-Saint-Georges to Savigny-les-Beaune. Julien grows chardonnay, pinot noir and some pinot blanc in the Hautes Côtes de Nuits, with four and a half hectares in the appellation that includes two parcels in the Villa Fontaine, a.k.a the mini Corton. Red parcels are Les Cabottes and Les Valançons, the latter being one you can see straight from the tasting room window at the estate of David Duband. Whites are made from Bourgogne Aligoté, Bouzeron and Puligny-Montrachet. In addition to the Hautes Côtes de Nuits other reds produced are from Savigny-Les-Beaune, Ladoix and Nuits-Saint-Georges.

 

Click here to see all reviews for the wines of Julien Cruchandeau

Julien Cruchandeau Haut-Côtes de Nuits AOC Vieilles Vignes 2018

From four and a half hectares in the appellation, including two parcels in the Villa Fontaine, a.k.a the mini Corton. Villa Fontaine plus if you will. It’s a top essence soliciting exposition that makes for a great floral chardonnay and one of pretty impressive finesse. Takes care of the vintage with great care and no ambition to overdue or over-exaggerate. Wood is in the background and at the finish, spices are very far eastern. Reminds of Indonesian sasak fruit as only a few chardonnay can and do. Different and exotic stuff. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2019

Julien Cruchandeau Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru AOC Hameau de Blagny 2018

Very close to Meursault in every way and the smoulder is so very Puligny, as it should be with Julien’s exotic twist and turn of the storied fruit. A parcel like this does not come along every day so the coup is in Julien’s hands and the wine celebrates the possibilities. Takes your breath away for a fleeting moment but stays with you for minutes. Just 900 bottles were made and there are notes of toasted kernel or nut plus a recently extinguished candle. The suggestion says that the future may hold out for the possibility of a touch of honey. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted November 2019

Julien Cruchandeau Haut-Côtes de Nuits AOC Les Valançons 2018

You can see Les Valançons straight from the tasting room window at the estate of David Duband. Here you find one of Bourgogne’s great terroirs deemed a satellite and not considered worthy of others fetching 10 times the price. Thirty to 40 year-old vines equate to exquisite south facing slope fruit to this glass and the mineral streak running through violets is just what you want and what you can drink for 10 plus years. Pay attention to the threefold relationship between Haut-Côtes de Nuits, Cruchandeau and Valançons. Superb. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted November 2019

Julien Cruchandeau Nuits-Saint-Georges AOC Aux Saint Jacques 2018

Th Climat is next to Vosne-Romanée at the northern limit of Nuits-Saint-Georges and clearly raised on great promises. Julien has taken the exceptional ripenesses of the vintage and turned those promises into possibilities with pinot noir that effects juicy behaviour without maximum effort. And so probable is quickly becoming a reality. Very primary however and almost like it’s still in barrel. Just has that feel, like it’s not finished yet, still working, just a child. Speaks to the structure and what the future more than very likely holds. Just need the wood to begin a settling for the next phase to begin. Welcome to modern Bourgogne with one foot always entrenched in the past. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted November 2019

With John Szabo at La Tâche

Good to go!

Godello

Château du Clos de Vougeot, Côtes de Nuits

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In VINTAGES May 14th

Villa di Geggiano, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Siena, Italy, http://www.villadigeggiano.com

Villa di Geggiano, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Siena, Italy, http://www.villadigeggiano.com

Current travels in Chianti Classico leave almost no time to scribble out more than paragraph let alone 10 but there is a VINTAGES release coming Saturday. The New Zealand Wine Fair rolls through Toronto today (which I will sadly miss) and I have some recommendations of excellence from that country. Canada (Ontario), France, Germany and Hungary round out my picks.

See you next week…Godello

Te Pā Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough, New Zealand (450668, $19.95, WineAlign)

After tasting the winery’s Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc back in 2014 I wrote “If Te Pa can find a way to get their wines into VINTAGES stores, I will buy them by the case and hand them out on Halloween as adult treats.” The day has come with the release of this rocks off Sauvignon Blanc. The open G tuning is perfect for balance with the cumulative notes it plays, deep cuts of bluesy rock ’n roll from Marlborough soils. We’ve seen so many SB’s come through these parts but so few at this price deliver such a deft hook with exile on main street flavours. Singular, unctuous stuff and well worth finding a way to bring a deferent side of Marlborough and Sauvignon Blanc back into your heart. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2016  @tePaWines  @FWMCan  @nzwine

Villa Maria and Te Pa

Villa Maria Southern Clays Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand (447474, $29.95, WineAlign)

The single-vineyard Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc is a highly concentrated, aroma-centric, splendored thing with inherent vegetal notes both smoky and subtle. The flavours are all white berry dusted with white pepper. The bite, the lees and the tart accents layer like a savoury dessert. This is formidable Sauvignon Blanc with high aspirations. I for one would like to see it settle and develop a secondary level of show. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted April 2016  @villamaria_wine  @Dandurandwines

Crawford

Kim Crawford Small Parcels Rise & Shine Pinot Noir 2013, Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand (35337, $29.95, WineAlign)

This is a characterful, high-toned and slightly rustic Pinot Noir from Kim Crawford’s Small Parcels program in Central Otago. It’s all strawberry on the nose and black raspberry (with a lash of liquorice) on the palate. There is great grit and true breadth of texture, not to mention sweetness, forgiven with so much else going on. Love the tart finish and bitters linger. Tells me its best is just around the bend. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted April 2016  @kimcrawfordwine  @CBrandsCareers

The Stopper White Blend 2014, VQA Ontario (452235, $14.95, WineAlign)

Fun blend of Riesling and Vidal, put to good use in a variation of theme on the Ontario white appellative blend. The Riesling dominates with that atomic push and arid, saline sensibility. The vidal adds a squeeze of citrus (white grapefruit) and skin contact au naturale feel. A bit of unoaked Chardonnay or even some Musqué might not be such a stretch to fill in with some cool-climate tempering and hole filling assistance. A follow-up bit of research finds five per cent, along with Gewürztraminer. Depending on the vintage, it would be nice to see the Chardonnay increased.  Easy and tangy on the palate. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016  @AdamoEstateWine  @JohnPaulAdamo  @ProfileWineGrp

Tuzko

Tuzko Cabernet Franc 2012, Tolna, Hungary (438291, $14.95, WineAlign)

True cool climate cabernet franc from Hungary, savoury, full of leather, cedar and spice. A veritable forest of wild berries in a glass. Really unique find and very Lincoln Lakeshore for you that understand and prefer to compare within the context of an Ontario vernacular. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted May 2016  @ImportWineMAFWM  @MarkAnthonyWine  @WinesofHungary  @WineofHungary

Fielding

Fielding Rosé 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (53421, $15.95, WineAlign)

The Rosé category can be fascinating and also slightly repellant. Whether it be the choice of varieties or the uncontrolled bleed hot off the press, it’s really hard to say, some Rosé just rubs the wrong way. At first sniff and sip you just know this Fielding ’15 is not one of those. It’s coolness is graced with restraint and it is nothing but a pleasure to drink. There certainly is candy floss and cut strawberry in the air. There is sweetness on the edge and cream floating around the rim. Separately pressed and vinified Gamay and Cabernet Franc are the key fixings though a minor sense of white percentages (like Riesling, Viognier and Vidal) would not be out of the supporting question. Sugar meets acid in equal and opposing fashion. Balance and humility are cut from the same cloth as pride. Nothing dominates and all components work seamlessly together. In its fresh and spritely youth this is one of the most pleasurable Rosés from Ontario. Drink it young. Drink 2016-2017. Tasted March and May 2016  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine

Bressades

Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Tradition Blanc 2015, Ap Costières De Nîmes, France (701094, $17.95, WineAlign)

Really floral white blend from the Costières de Nîmes in which tropical blossoming Viognier really tends to gardening at night scents to lift the mistral rhythms of Grenache Blanc, Marssanne and Roussanne. Unctuous and the most ethereal character this wine has ever shown. Really special vintage from Mr. Marès. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2016    @Vinexxperts  

Thorle

Thorle Riesling Trocken 2014, Rheinhesen, Germany (445817, $19.95, WineAlign)

From the Thörle brothers Johannes and Christoph, a dry, vivid Riesling with a vitality of spirit and a presence that comes from the heart. Lime juice and zest mark the territory, skin contact leaves its trace in hue and a natural ferment keeps it more than real. A minor residual (Co2) spritz still tickles on the palate while grape tannin strikes a dagger into the finish. Exemplary modern take on Trocken Riesling in a style that should appeal to a wide ranging audience. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted three times, May and November 2015, April 2016  @thoerle  @UNIVINS  @germanwineca  @gen_riesling

Bailly

Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant De Bourgogne, Méthode Traditionnelle, Ac Burgundy, France (991562, $19.95, WineAlign)

This 100 per cent Pinot Noir may initiate with simple and eager fruit, of lemon and pink grapefruit but its subtle ability and mineral wager is a condition of its commitment. It will not shock, dream in multi-dimensional preoccupation or revamp the traditional methodology but it is nothing if not lovely. It takes you on a holiday. Lemon repeats in many ways, acidity survives without kindle or foment and the flavours linger like a haunting refrain. “Like the bubbles in a glass of Champagne, you go to my head.” Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted blind at WWAC15, August 2015 and April 2016  @bourgognespress  @BourgogneWines  @Vinexxperts

Nyarai Cellars Cadence 2011, VQ Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (451781, $21.95, WineAlign)

Steve Byfield’s crimson blend of Cabernet Franc (42 per cent), Merlot (33), Cabernet Sauvignon (20) and Syrah (5) is at once so very Niagara while acting out anomalously in the 2011 vintage. Ripe, extracted fruit appears warm-vintage drawn, with its coated layers of primer, brushstroke and plummy stone fruit. The warmth is tempered by savour, oranges, figs and psalms. Its ability to find cadence and cascade keeps it “cool in the shade.” The varietal combining is delineated in balance, “sliding mystify, on the wine of the tide.” This effort, with its new name, could become one of the king’s amongst Ontario blends.  Tasted January 2015  @NyaraiCellars

viewpointe

Viewpointe Focal Pointe Cabernet Franc 2010, VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario (450916, $24.95, WineAlign)

Wine Country Ontario’s Lake Erie North Shore appellation flashes onto the radar here with Viewpointe’s very youthful and soulful 2010 Cabernet Franc. It’s not spicy but there is a veritable pantry sprinkled into a simmering reduction sauce, breathing and exuding aromatics, of juniper, liquorice, Montreal smoked meat spices, cassia, star anise and chicory. It is utterly Cabernet Franc with righteously integrated barrel notes swirling in that demi-glace. The tannin and acidity persist strong and complimentary with nary a moment of raisin treason. So very well done. A huge accomplishment. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016  @viewpointewines  @WineCountryOnt

Pouilly

Ernest Meurgey Perron Pouilly Fuissé 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (448852, $31.95, WineAlign)

Rich and buttery Chardonnay that is the membrane holding and supporting the coolest contents, in limbo and needing two years to flesh, burst and break through. The tart, tight and angled shfits are the drive and the direction for the short term development. In 2018 this will be a humdinger to pour alongside butter-seared and caramelized scallops. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted April 2016  @BourgogneWines  @BourgogneWines

Good to go!

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Catch 22 wines

Godello's garden meets Greek Horaitiki

Godello’s garden meets Greek Horaitiki

Twenty two wines I tasted from the August 22nd release. Some are really good. So what’s the catch? Some not so much. As always, take a grain of salt and judge for yourself. Godello is not traditionally a site to explore the good, the bad and the ugly. The good news is that the worst of these 22 are actually quite well-made. The bad news is that each will only satisfy a certain kind of palate and a specific sort of temperament.

Something for everyone. LCBO 101. I hope you find something you like.

From left to right: Koncho and Co. Tsinandali 2012, Man Vintners Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, Featherstone Four Feathers 2014, Grace Lane Riesling 2013, Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Perrin Réserve Rosé 2014, Vineland Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and The Crusher Viognier 2013

From left to right: Koncho and Co. Tsinandali 2012, Man Vintners Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, Featherstone Four Feathers 2014, Grace Lane Riesling 2013, Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Perrin Réserve Rosé 2014, Vineland Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and The Crusher Viognier 2013

Koncho & Co. Tsinandali 2012, Kakheti, Georgia (412981, $12.95, WineAlign)

Boxy, foxy, contained, constrained, aromatics waiting to burst, in big timbre and quite spicy. A bit reductive and very juicy. Boisterous, wild-eyed expression. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @GeorgianWineSoc

Man Vintners Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, Wo Coastal Region, South Africa (126847, $13.95, WineAlign)

Good texture and mouthfeel in this Chenin, dry but unctuous, direct and filling. Works coastal wonders in many ways. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @MANVintners  @vonterrabev  @WOSACanada

Featherstone Four Feathers 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (341586, $14.95, WineAlign)

Though Riesling dominant this is a shared experience, with cool climate Chardonnay and richly aromatic Gewurztraminer lifting spirits and exhaling breaths. The Sauvignon Blanc seems to add ripeness and juicy palate flow. A mouthful of ripe fruit to be certain and amenable beyond its pragmatic ways. One of the better value white blends and one to look at for Niagara Peninsula propensity within the context of designing an appellative blend. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted August 2015  @featherstonewne

Grace Lane Riesling 2013, Yakima Valley, Washington (420737, $14.95, WineAlign)

Simple, straightforward, slightly spritzy Riesling with a full-blown lemon lime palate and a finishing set of bitter piths. Good length gives it life. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Igp Vins De Pays Du Val De Loire, France (672345, $15.95, WineAlign)

A lithe and petite Sauvignon Blanc, balmy, touched by spice accents and a whisper of lemon/lime. Tart but not really striking or biting. Soft Sauvignon Blanc, quick and effortless. Drink 2015-2016. Tasted August 2015  @ChartonHobbs

Perrin Réserve Rosé 2014, Ac Côtes Du Rhone, France (719062, $15.95, WineAlign)

Pretty Rosé, arid enough though really juicy and presentable to a wide army of followers. Some tonic and even more brine. A late feeling of pickles and preserves. Better than many. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @Beaucastel  @ChartonHobbs  @RhoneWine  @VINSRHONE

Vineland Sauvignon Blanc 2013, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (551168, $16.95, WineAlign)

Spicy vintage for the Escarpment, concentrated in many ways, for juicy fruit, capsicum and savoury herbs. A touch effervescent which does not detract, but rather adds a buoyant lifeline because the tart acidity is really something else. Fun with Sauvignon Blanc from up on the shelf. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted August 2015  @VinelandEstates  @benchwineguy

The Crusher Viognier 2013, Wilson Vineyard, Clarksburg, California (361964, $16.95, WineAlign)

Reductive Viognier, nice and fresh for a change, cool Clarksburg fruit thankfully kept shy and in absence of high alcohol, overly heated sunshine gluck. A bit of a mouth breather, tropical in a longan way and of enough though not striking acidity. Finishes overly bitter, in lime pith and a kind of nettle. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @SebastianiWines  @Select_Wines

From left to right: Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Paco & Lola Albariño 2013, Herdade Do Rocim Red 2011,S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014 and Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2013

From left to right: Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Paco & Lola Albariño 2013, Herdade Do Rocim Red 2011,S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014 and Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2013

S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014, Doc Lombardy, Italy (200097, $17.95, WineAlign)

Tanky and metallic, coastal and postal for Trebbiano di Lugana. Quite herbal, reminiscent of Sancerre, with spice, nettle and linear length. Layered and structured white with a seriousness in its expression. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015

Herdade Do Rocim Red 2011, Alentejo, Portugal (423574, $17.95, WineAlign)

A regional blend of Antao Vaz, Arinto and Roupeiro. Very cimmerian, rich and dense Alentejano, wildly berry delicious and yet fierce. Lots of oak, lots of optimism and plenty of swagger. Very spicy and toasty finish. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted August 2015  @winesportugalCA

Paco & Lola Albariño 2013, Do Rías Baixas, Spain (350041, $18.95, WineAlign)

Concrete and tank Albarino, steely and mineral, cool and bristling. Turns to stone fruit on the palate, gets down to juicy and then ricochets off the walls, drawing salinity and pulverized limestone into the very linear finish. Such a calcareous, wound white wine, on a spindle, in a vacuous void of aggregate and steel. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015  @pacolola  @azureau

Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Ap Languedoc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (373985, $18.95, WineAlign)

Dry, floral, medicinal, quite tight and angled, not angular Rosé. The sea salinity and briny strawberry confluence is quite striking. Doesn’t really linger so in the end it’s a bit of a simple quaffing Rosé but what of it? That’s right. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted August 2015  @GBvins  @LanguedocWines  @FwmWine

Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Loire, France (971887, $19.95, WineAlign)

A neat feat to stretch Sauvignon Blanc like this, in phyllo layers and like bitter greens braised to sweet tenderness. Savoury though the herbs are not the most recognizably cultivated, used or considered. Like winter savoury, or Spruce tip, edible seaweed even. All tossed lightly, gingerly in a citrus vinaigrette. Playful SB, at times tight and bracing and then generous, giving, forthcoming. Previous vintages have had more shine. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015  @HalpernWine  @LoireValleyWine

Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (588731, $19.95, WineAlign)

Heavy handed, much wood and chalky, full on bloody Malbec. Has Oz strength and gumption. Good lengthy finish. Drink 2015-2019.

From my earlier note of August 2014:

This Golden Reserve Malbec by Trivento is a juicy, dusty, fruit tree addition to the #WWAC14 flight and arrives just in the nick of time. Despite the dark fruit, it has no Drake spoken word conceit. It sings in classic Drake lullaby, with beefy meet pine forest aromas and so “you find that darkness can give the brightest light.” Tender refrains soften chalky, stalky wood and corresponding bitter chocolate. Big tannins on this balladeer. Has impressive stuffing.  @TriventoArg  @Select_Wines  @winesofarg

Last tasted August 2015

Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (321612, $20.95, WineAlign)

Into another cool climate Pinot Blanc poster from Gray Monk, the standard bearer for the variety, in this price and stylistic niche, for anyone who cares or dares to join the bandwagon. Juicy stone fruit of a peach, yellow plum and nectarine fold, circular bites of acidity and mineral bleed and just a touch of tonic to tie it all together. Always great stuff. Length even better than in 2012. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted August 2015  @GrayMonkWinery

From left to right: Domaine De Rochebin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013, Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013, Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Featherstone Onyx 2010, King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir 2013, Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012 and Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010,

From left to right: Domaine De Rochebin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013, Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013, Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Featherstone Onyx 2010, King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir 2013, Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012 and Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010,

Domaine De Rochebin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013, Ac Bourgogne, Burgundy, France (424275, $22.95, WineAlign)

Such a pretty red cherry, fine earth and cinnamon heart confluence on the aromatic front, with no palate or late tannin affront. The acidity seems particularly natural and fitting, the finish quick and efficient. Very good old world look at the world of Bourgogne. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @BourgogneWines

Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013, Carneros, Sonoma County, California (67405, $23.95, WineAlign)

Cream in your coffee, sui generis housed and reductive Chardonnay with a chip on its shoulder. Aromatic rhythms are modulated by the barrel’s influence while flavours are pleasant though not wholly distinctive or full of character. Very directed Chardonnay and an exemplary regional example for the price. Will show better a year on. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted August 2015  @BuenaVistaWines  @TandemSelection

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (256289, $24.95, WineAlign)

Down $1 in price from this time last year.

From a bumper crop, there came to market 11,000 cases of this Nova Scotian feel good, faux-sparkling story. Winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers’ Nova 7 dissimulation in bubbles is a true trick of the trade and though this white wine strikes as if it were a child of a warm vintage, there is a classic lightness of Rosé fizz being in its ever so slight effervescence. A singular wine in many hybrid incarnations, in Muscat ways, of pink Perle de Csaba, segmented and pressed for a sweet burst of grapefruit. It’s low (7 per cent) in alcohol, excellent in acidity, sweet and sour, citrus zesty, juicy and dry at the same time. Batch delineated and loyal to continence, though if the quantity creeps much higher that may come in to question. Grown up pink lemonade and so easy to consume.  Tasted June and July 2014, July 2015  @Benjamin_Bridge  @jbdeslauriers

Featherstone Onyx 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (372433, $29.95, WineAlign)

Strikes as Cabernet Franc dominant and quite savoury so, slightly cured and richly layered. Merlot appeals and appears with its own distinct clarity, gift-wrapped with tidy flavours in refrain of Franc that acts like fruity Cabernet Sauvignon. The vintage is very in and though it’s warmer and coated with more wood than would best service its needs, this has settled into a really nice glass of red berry and plum red wine. Kudos to the blender and the patience afforded the result. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @featherstonewne

King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir 2013, Oregon (984005, $34.95, WineAlign)

High quotient of ripeness, astringency below, earth above sprinkled and saturating. Quite an effusive design and rambunctious effort. All over the map. Big, bouncy and biting. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @KingEstate

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (241182, $35.00, WineAlign)

This ripe Picone in 2012, not a surprise and ripping at the same time. The orchard stands out, the texture overlaid and the length outstanding. Picone in ’12 has presence of more immediate notice, standing firm and tall to be counted early and then, for years to come, often. Like juice bled from escarpment cragges, a speciality that is singularly Picone. Drink 2016-2022.

From my earlier note of June 2014:

A vintage that begged to be protected in the vineyard, meaning no leaf plucking and no thinning. A most excellent goal of (0.691895068 kg / m2), or 2.8 tons an acre was realized, as opposed to one in 2010. Heavy vigor slowed down the ripening (leaving that kind of tonnage on the vine), to an elongated balance. Comes from terroir Baker nods to as “a barren tundra,” which you don’t get down the hill. In 2012 there was no waste, no rot, no problems. Its residual climbs to 15 g/L but you’d never know it. There is a confit of citrus, a mellifluous sensation of preserved lemon. Total count is 600 cases.

From my earlier note of March 2014:

“Baker’s iconic child yet breathes in unsettled, spumous emission from out of a warm vintage. So primary and such a hard act to follow. Vanguard Vinemount Ridge, arid as the desert and citrus, carbonic tight. Treated with cool, cooler and colder methods to seek result and strike balance in an opulent, lees-appertained, tangy finish. A Picone that says I don’t live today, so it is told and canvassed, “uh, get experienced, are you experienced?”  Last tasted June 2014  @cbriesling

Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010, Docg Piedmont, Italy (922880, $37.95, WineAlign)

Nebbiolo of intonation, modulation and stress, with a noticeable mid-life moment in volatility, in contrast to an enamoured aromatic loveliness in rose petal and candied flower. Dusty swirls and tight red fruit meets stark acidity. A Barbaresco such as this has historical advantage on its side but scares a bit in the present. A very fair price for a wine that has to be stashed away for at least three years for the angst to subside. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @LeSommelierWine  @piemonte_italia

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Let the gems begin

Wine review at VINTAGES of Norman Hardie Chardonnay Niagara Unfiltered 2012 by Godello

Wine review at VINTAGES of Norman Hardie Chardonnay County Unfiltered 2012 by Godello

If the premature lashing of cold, snow and ice weren’t enough to get you thinking about holiday shopping, get thee to a Liquor Control Board Ontario store on the weekend. Same time, every year. The LCBO stocks the shelves, isles and pyramid displays with more booze than anyone should ever be faced with in one visitation.

Related – Holiday wine gems hit November shelves

The bi-weekly VINTAGES release calendar whirs, undulates and clutters in rataplan overload at just this very juncture in preparation of the Christmas rush. Shoppers will tear down the walls of wine, beer and spirits, only to hear the burloque fall silent when the clock strikes closing time on the evening of December 24th.

There are exactly 35 days left in 2014 to do the right wine thing for that father, cousin, colleague, mentor or loyal, long-time suffering employee. Please heed the warnings and do not buy crap for the one you love or think you should. No matter who you are picking up a bottle for, treat them well and with fermented grape respect.

There are three category of wines to look for, at least within the context of this buying guide. First there are the values under $20, wines made so properly they should cost double or triple what they do. Second are the expensive but honest wines. These are the true gems that make most $100 bottles look bad. Last are the $100 examples that are truly iconic, despite their cost. Though priced beyond the means of most, they are not a mistake to take a flyer and give as a gift. After the hand off is complete, the all-knowing, unspoken nod will follow.

Here are 22 picks from the VINTAGES November 22, 2014 release, in stores now.

From left to right: Cavino Grande Reserve Nemea 2008, Frescobaldi Castello Di Pomino Pomino Bianco 2013, Moris Morellino Di Scansano 2012, Louis Bouillot Perle D'aurore Brut Rosé Crémant De Bourgogne, McWilliam's Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Sémillon 2007, Josef Chromy Pepik Pinot Noir 2012

From left to right: Cavino Grande Reserve Nemea 2008, Frescobaldi Castello Di Pomino Pomino Bianco 2013, Moris Morellino Di Scansano 2012, Louis Bouillot Perle D’aurore Brut Rosé Crémant De Bourgogne, McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Sémillon 2007, Josef Chromy Pepik Pinot Noir 2012

Cavino Grande Reserve Nemea 2008, Pdo Nemea, Greece (295618, $17.95, WineAlign)

Nemea strikes again. Dark rust, earth juiced on and of the rocks. Like Sangiovese with attitude, made by Romans, like Syrah the way it was made in mythological times, by Greeks. A classical garden. This is actually quite modern and expressive for Agiorgitiko. Acts as if it were a touch clay (or amphora) baked but it’s really just a Peloponnese take on oak aging (18 months) and further bottle rest (12 months). This is right in its window and will be friendly for three to five years more. What a steal.  Tasted November 2014  @DrinkGreekWine

Frescobaldi Castello Di Pomino Pomino Bianco 2013, Doc Pomino Bianco, Tuscany, Italy (65086, $19.95, WineAlign)

With thanks to Chardonnay, the Castello di Pomino 2013 elevates Pinot Blanc to a level not really found anywhere, save perhaps for one or two examples out of B.C. This one really leaves a tannic impression, not unlike some impossibly off-dry Pinot Gris from Alsace. There is a really sophisticated level of ambiance and a semblance of a distinctly rocky intent. Like high quality Sancerre or Chenin from Silex soils, the grain and veins running through the palate and the texture are coarse and cursive. This one writes a new script for Frescobaldi’s Florentine, Apennine mountain estate. Fresh, ventilated and airy as if breathing from blue skies at high altitudes. I can’t recall tasting this level of excellence before and would look forward to no less than five years of enjoying what it brings to the Tuscan table.  Tasted November 2014  @FrescobaldiVini  @liffordretail

Moris Morellino Di Scansano 2012, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (992560, $19.95, WineAlign)

A primarily (90 per cent) Sangiovese with smatterings, though not inconsequential, of Merlot and Syrah. From (non-estate) vineyards in Poggio La Mozza (Grosseto). Morellino Di Scansano, to a wine and exemplified here, sports a firm jaw and an air of tragic nobility. The question is why should it only find occasional psychic prominence as a Sangiovese go to. Moris Farms makes the lesser-known accessible, with a (sees no oak) modern accent of dark fruit and spice atop simple, pleasurable Sangiovese. Pleasantries exchanged, the 2012 MdS will work dinner, inside a Tuscan vernacular and out.  Tasted October 2014  @Morisfarms  @oenophilia1

Louis Bouillot Perle D’aurore Brut Rosé Crémant De Bourgogne, Ac Burgundy, France (48793, $19.95, WineAlign)

The Bouillot Rosé, for my $20 is the most impressive of their line-up, always tender and ripe as if just picked fruit, namely strawberry and raspberry. The Perle D’aurore is a faintly hued and lighthearted take but not light on effort. Elegance defined in Bourgogne bubbles with a savoury edge to give it strength.  Tasted November 2014  @JCB_Wines  @ChartonHobbs

McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Sémillon 2007, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia (724492, $19.95, WineAlign)

The 2007 is another fascinating study in Hunter Valley Sémillon. Like the ’06, egressing secondary notes have emerged, in equatorial garrigue and fruit having already met its aurulent stenosis. A honey note persists though less so in ’07, as does the level of tempering acidity. This vintage brings out the calm and the clam, though the petrol and the mineral are omnipresent, perhaps elevated. Must keep in mind it’s only $20 but it does fall a bit short in texture and acidity. There is lemon drop and the essential atomic Sémillon stoicism from the Hunter Valley, but it’s a bit thin and hollow up the middle. All that acknowledged, not having a look or two would be a shame. Tasted November 2014  @MtPleasantWines  @PRAXISpr

Josef Chromy Pepik Pinot Noir 2012, Tasmania, Australia (162990, $22.95, WineAlign)

Pepik has elevated aromatic tones and though it appears lithe it reads like a weighty tome. Unique and of its Tasmanian self. Plums come to mind, as does red earth. The phenolic ripeness and varietal indications are ushered in with managed exceptions and are simply spot on. This does not strike as a Pinot Noir that will be long-lived because its black cherry and spice are riper than many contemporary editions in a similar price range, but it will offer great pleasure for two to three years.  Tasted November 2014  @JosefChromy  @bwwines

From left to right: Klumpp Pinot Gris 2013, Creekside Estates The Trad Reserve 2011, Meerlust Rubicon 2008, Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo 2011, Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001, Cvne Gran Reserva 2008

From left to right: Klumpp Pinot Gris 2013, Creekside Estates The Trad Reserve 2011, Meerlust Rubicon 2008, Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo 2011, Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001, Cvne Gran Reserva 2008

Klumpp Pinot Gris 2013, Qualitätswein, Baden, Germany (394155, $23.95, WineAlign)

Thoroughly interesting study in German Pinot Gris despite the timid and reserved tonal nature. Aridity in as much as the variety can muster and in the largest, atmospheric sense. Though the palate has some fine-grained texture and feigned sweetness, it’s as if Baden can only do Pinots this way, in Gris and in Noir. Acidity is tempered and a willing accomplice to the diminished components of sugar and pH. A well designed Pinot Gris.  Tasted November 2014  @TheLivingVine  @WinesofGermany

Creekside Estates The Trad Reserve 2011, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (390336, $28.95, WineAlign)

The Trad ’11 has a classic toast and yeast aromatic waft and so it goes that everything that follows is embraced with curiosity and an open mind. Ginger, citrus, bronze and the sweet scents of the inside of a candy machine, its candy long gone. Creekside’s winemaker Rob Power will never be accused of dialing this sparkler in. Tasting trials help determine the necessary, final blend. The single, Queenston Road Vineyard puts 56 per cent Pinot Noir and (44) Chardonnay, aged 2 years in bottle, together for a highly effective, expansive but not explosive fizz. At 8.7 g/L of residual its dry but not quite falling off the bone. The sweetness is tempered by elevated (9.98 g/L) acidity and tension. Spent 24 months on the lees and was bottled back in February. There is balance and pleasure and a good, stretchy finish. No band-aid. Clean, precise, fizz of the day.  Tasted October 2014  @CreeksideWine

Meerlust Rubicon 2008, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (64329, $34.95, WineAlign)

Rubber dust, road macadam and strawberry jam. Fierce Bordeaux Blend home from a hot climate. This has gritty obduracy and doggedness. Like a red blend with a gun, walking the mean streets. Acidity shot through the roof. Bordeaux meets South Africa in every shared, resplendent and promising way. Rasping tannins contain bursting dark fruit, the grain running in multiple directions. Respect. Wait two more years on this and drink comfortably to 2020.  Tasted November 2014  @TrialtoON  @WOSACanada

Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo 2011, Igt Toscana, Italy (727636, $34.95, WineAlign)

This is not the modern Crognolo as witnessed in the previous five vintages. In 2011 we have been granted the complex Crognolo. This has must and earth. It has grit and girth. Best Crognolo I have tasted. Tangy Sangiovese, with some chalk in tannin. Will live longer and offer unrequited love seven to 10 years down the road, to the patient and the faithful. Tasted November 2014  @TenSettePonti  @TrialtoON

Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001, Doca Rioja, Spain (976662, $35.95, WineAlign)

It amazes me how kept wines from Rioja keep appearing as if they were just bottled yesterday but not this famous Gran Reserva. Syrupy and caramelized, bright and earthy. Mulled plum and clove with citrus accents. Bretty like a barn’s floor. Cedar and leather, big oak doors. Real mutton Rioja, still tannic, energetic and searing. Kicking it old school but wild and alive. From my earlier, April 2014 note: “Were a full-term lecture taught on the pros and cons of the Brettanomyces brannigan, this Rioja might be exhibit A. Absolutely manifest fruit meets earth, meets game perfume compendium. Call it funky yeast if you must but here is a wine that can be approached by nose only and if the relationship were to end there, novels might be written. Lives on a fermented, catalytic and plucky edge but never submits to the bacterial spindrift. Leaden fruit, red and black, smooth and layered with a tension in tang that is paralyzing to the mouth. Thirteen years old and just hitting a secondary stride, with the oak slowly dissolving and not a hint of coffee or chocolate to be found. Sexy and down to earth at the same time.” Last tasted November 2014  @bodegasfaustino  @Select_Wines

Cune Gran Reserva 2008, Doca Rioja, Spain (393553, $38.95, WineAlign)

Old school. Smells like Rioja. Smells like Spanish spirit and weeds, sinew, gristle and braising pig, all parts in. Smells like cedar, like American oak and a soak in a tub of spa earth and mineral salts. Like “Spanish boots of Spanish leather.” This has already done the evolutionary dance so if you are looking for something to float your natural, honest boat, go here now. In a Rioja world where the times they are a changin‘, it will sail you back in time and away into a Mediterranean sunset.  Tasted November 2014  @Cvne  @vonterrabev

From left to right: Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Dutton Goldfield Dutton Ranch Chardonnay 2012, Vincent Sauvestre Clos De La Platière Pommard 2012, Versado Malbec Reserva 2010, Laurent Perrier Millésimé Vintage Brut Champagne 2004

From left to right: Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Dutton Goldfield Dutton Ranch Chardonnay 2012, Vincent Sauvestre Clos De La Platière Pommard 2012, Versado Malbec Reserva 2010, Laurent Perrier Millésimé Vintage Brut Champagne 2004

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Tuscany, Italy (928028$49.95, WineAlign)

Firm and in a rustic vein, as per the Barbi dole, this one a bit funkier at the outset than many. Welcome to the classic firmness of 2008, antithesis of the flamboyant ’07’s but plan for 20 plus years of slow food elegance emission. Classic rose petal, tea leaves, dates and earth caked metal in this guy. From my earlier, March 2014 note: “As expected, this is a gritty effort from Barbi, in part the impart of a testosterone-laden vintage, along with the dryer and cooler climate from Barbi’s southeastern Montalcino vineyards. A low and slow ripening will surely translate to extended longevity, but the rusticity and leather/cherry continuum will never disappear. No doubt a classic example and very well-priced for such authenticity, still it can’t be helped to see Barbi’s ’08 as entrenched in an earlier period of time. The wine will need 10 years to soften its edges and reveal the refinement and elegance of a well-documented Brunello.”  Last tasted November 2014  @FATTORIABARBI  @Noble_Estates

Dutton Goldfield Dutton Ranch Chardonnay 2012, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California (287854, $58.95, WineAlign)

A study in precision, exceptional quality and poise. Golden rays mixed with misty wisps, cool nights tempering warm days. Just a touch of wood spice pricks the finish. So much flavour.  Tasted November 2014  @DuttonGoldfield  @TheVine_RobGroh

Vincent Sauvestre Clos De La Platière Pommard 2012, Burgundy, France (390534, $59.95, WineAlign)

This Pinot Noir speaks for the two sides of every Burgundy argument, especially considering it comes from the gritty nook of Pommard. First impressions are floral and pretty, with spice and some sort of tropical flora whispering in cooing scents. The hill offers a buoyancy, a lifted spirit and a view of its own sweet regard. Travels through a mid-village weightless hover, then returns to terroir in prime time acidity and tannin to keep time. There is a sweet tart medicinal aspect ratio on the finish and overall this does things correctly. Does not finish with the same suave seduction that it teased at the start but it does continue to impress.  Tasted November 2014  @Select_Wines  @BourgogneWines

Versado Malbec Reserva 2010, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (316984, $60.95, WineAlign)

Aromatics are racing and rising from the glass. A red rain pouring in and out. Has yet to change course. From my earlier, September 2014 note: “The floral emergence is a lodestar as periscope just now peering up from the seamless cake layering in Versado’s most liberally applied oak-imbued Malbec. The 2010 adheres in sticky savour though it remains two to three years away from finding its true gliding form. From my earlier notes through tastings on Oct. 25 and Nov. 14, 2013. “This ultra-premium Mendozan from the Canadian winemaking team of Peter Gamble and Ann Sperling boasts fruit from “the finest barrels from the finest blocks.” While certainly riding a splintered and jammy horse (what fully extracted Mendozan does not), this reserve Malbec has so much else happening, I owe it my time and focus. Dances to a triple jump height in oozing berry, compacted, brick wall infrastructure and overlapping delineation. Really like the consistency here, with no hollow middle, no umlaut, no pregnant pause. Very well made.” Last tasted November 2014  @VersadoWine

Laurent Perrier Millésimé Vintage Brut Champagne 2004, Champagne, France (983874, $84.95, WineAlign)

The reappraised vintage that was once considered good, now revealing itself as better than good uses examples like the Laurent Perrier Millésimé to drive the point. This is a classically symmetrical blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir possessive of much chaste class, incredible balance and held lotus posture. Through its waves of idiosyncratic brioche and linear citrus lines drawn in tactile angles this Champagne is unbent and unbroken. Its seamless transitions glide from delicate aromas, through a textured palate and groove forward in elastic length. Additionally graceful with an ever so slightly advanced and mature style from a mature world in vintage-dated Champagne.  Tasted November 2014  @ChampagneLPUSA  @Noble_Estates

From left to right: Mollydooker Carnival Of Love Shiraz 2010, Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Château Malescot St. Exupéry 2010, Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Sassicaia 2011

From left to right: Mollydooker Carnival Of Love Shiraz 2010, Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Château Malescot St. Exupéry 2010, Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Sassicaia 2011

Mollydooker Carnival Of Love Shiraz 2010, Mclaren Vale, Australia (242732, $114.95, WineAlign)

While the price is just about as absurd as a “yoga class for cats” or Raine Maida’s voice, it seems logical to wonder aloud how one could question this Carnival as not being one of the biggest and baddest Shiraz you will ever encounter. It’s a veritable run on sentence of Shiraz adjectives, adverbs and hyperbole. If your hankering remains entrenched in elevated alcohol, enormity of fruit, condensed and compressed mineral, lest to be forgetting the viscous ooze of Mclaren Vale syrup, well, then this jester should fill your stocking along with those of the rest of your circle of fortifying friends. From the maw of the beast here – blood gore and fruit guts. Holy crap is this extracted, tannic, mired in impropriety, full conceit and in zero jealousy of other Shiraz. It doth joust. Certainly no lady of peace. Wow.  Tasted November 2014  @MollydookerWine  @bwwines

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Napa Valley, California (936039, $139.95, WineAlign)

Magnificent and munificent wine. Really special, magnanimous in every way, ultra-luxurious but not over the top. Alcohol, oak and extraction judged and held in check, equity and in balance. The fruit is pure and delicate, marked by plum, blackberry and hovering licorice, anise and spices. Long in chain and really sweet tannins. Like gazing into a pool of real nineties Napa and across the pond to an older school of reasoning. Tasted November 2014  @SilverOak  @HalpernWine

Château Malescot St. Exupéry 2010, Ac Margaux, 3e Cru, Bordeaux, France (261552, $167.95, WineAlign)

A heightened sense of Margaux reality in 2010 comes from the château with the hybrid name; first from Simon Malescot, King’s Counsel to Louis XIV at the Parliament of Bordeaux. Second, from the post French Revolution château purchaser, Count Jean Baptiste St Exupéry, grandfather of the aviator and writer Antoine de St Exupéry. This has to be the most hedonism ever bottled in a Malescot, within reason of course. The house does not know from over the top, save perhaps for the cost of this 2010. Cassis is certainly here, as is a medicinal tension, firm acidity and the most formidable tannins known to Margaux. The grain, chalk and tincture combine for full effect. This will need 10 years to chill, then go 10 plus 10 more to much applause and the request for a final curtain call. Tasted November 2014  @VinsdeBordeaux

Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Napa Valley, California (399592, $167.95, WineAlign)

Wow. Aromatics are off the charts. Pine forest, leather, chestnut and cedar, savoury in every wild and sauvage way, but also pure. Berries, tobacco leaf, classical logic, structures and axioms lead me to imagine mid-nineties Paulliac. Seamless texture, ripe but not overripe, rich but never overly grainy. This is super fine and dialed back (with exotic spices and wood spice filling in the holes) in the cooler 2011 vintage. A Cabernet Sauvignon of the most savour and the most class. A ten to twenty year Spottswoode.  Tasted November 2014   @Spottswoode  @Smallwinemakers

Sassicaia 2011, Doc Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy (480533, $199.95, WineAlign)

Certainly a Sassicaia borne of the earth and the vintage. Cooler, with increased sapidity and elevated aromatics. While not volatile there is certainly an intimation at acetic behaviour. Though supportive in only 15 per cent of the two Cabs blend, Cabernet Franc stands firm in its concentration of tobacco, peppercorns a-popping in the pan and a smoldering of currants over an open fire. This will age for decades and return to its beautiful natural state with time-weathered, rugged facial lines. A leathery Sassicaia this, with tight, drying tannins and in need of two decades to show off its birthright. The 2011 Sassicaia is a loyal, aristocratic example to the Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta’s dream of creating a ‘thoroughbred’ wine where the ideal was Bordeaux.  Tasted November 2014  @Smarent

Good to go!

https://twitter.com/mgodello

50 cool Chardonnay in 5,000 words or more

I arrived at Brock University for the Cool Chardonnay conference on Friday and we began tasting the first of 117 sometime around 11:00 am. On Friday night we convened under the stars st 13th Street Winery for the Barrels and Bonfires event. On Saturday I taxied up the Cave Spring Road runway for an afternoon in the Cave Spring vineyard with the Pennachettis and on Saturday bussed over to Vineland Research and Innovation Centre for the grand Cool Chardonnay dinner.

Related – The meaning of Chardonnay: You’ve gotta be cool to be kind

On Sunday we wrapped up at Ravine Vineyard. In between events, we tasted Chardonnay in the Media Room at White Oaks Resort and Spa. All of this not would not have been possible without the efforts of Wine Country Ontario.  I posted 20 or so tasting notes in Monday’s column, scribbles apropos to the events associated with the presented wines.

Here are 50 more tasting notes in 5,000 Godello words, add or subtract a few hundred. If you follow doctor’s orders and take one Chardonnay every hour for 50 hours, this is the result.

I've fallen and I can't get up. @mikedicaro channelling his inner MacGyver to save #i4c14

I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. @mikedicaro channelling his inner MacGyver to save #i4c14

Angels Gate Old Vines Chardonnay 2010, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (116350, $23.95, WineAlign)

The long hanging fruit left to develop sugar and richness, the new oak, the eight months rest on the lees. These are all winemaker favourite things, stylistic choices that contribute to a viscous mess of a Chardonnay. A full take has been liberally advantaged from the hot vintage. The alcohol is listed at 13.5 per cent but the wine sweats higher, in a sun-caramelized toast, leaning to oxidative, even bruised and battered orchard fruit territory. As a consequence and in retreat, the acidity dot does follow. The new wood has melded well and good so in terms of texture, the old vines feel right.  Tasted July 2014

Angels Gate Mountainview Chardonnay 2010, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (116384, $15.25, WineAlign)

The Mountainview, despite being a value offering as compared to the Old Vines just seems to be in better temper. There is more mineral on the palate, too. Angles here are less extreme, fruit not as languid or encumbered. The persistence in length seems greater, thanks in most part to freshness, even if the fruit is not quite as fleshy as the OV.  Tasted July 2014

Bachelder Wismer Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 and Hidden Bench Felseck Chardonnay 2011

Bachelder Wismer Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 and Hidden Bench Felseck Chardonnay 2011

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

Has Wismer found a cruising altitude? Has this Grand Cru vineyard from a most perplexing 2011 vintage entered the telephone booth in civilian clothes, only to soon emerge as a super hero? Will it sing, “I am, I am Superman and I can do anything?” Wismer has rounded out a bit, at present in a grounded form, but we know it will fly to greater heights and at faster speeds. From my earlier, February 2014 note: “Got game tonight, in auxiliary moxie, magisterial atmosphere and long strides up and down the ice.” Earlier notes: “Increased richesse and oomph and though I continue to hesitate to admit it, Saunders is the (Jackson Browne) elegant bottling in ’11. Wismer the (Warren Zevon) gregarious, mineral character werewolf of Niagara, what with it’s touch of anxiety, fuller texture and “bite down…draw blood!” From my earlier November 2013 note: “From the Wingfield Block within the 20 Mile Bench grand cru vineyard, ’11 Wismer is greener, in apple and sapid behaviour. The tension is palpable, quarryful, querulous, more calciferous. Fruit here is picked at an altitude as high as the lowest part of Flat Rock’s vineyard. Can a spot be pinpointed, anywhere on the peninsula that produces more piercing Chardonnay in 2011 as this Wismer micro-block?”  Last Tasted July 2014

Blue Mountain Chardonnay 2012, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (350108, $23.95, WineAlign)

Juicy and immediately perceived as existing in unwavering balance. The juxtaposition of the stainless steel and (three year-old oak for seven months) barrel aging intertwines fresh and reductive aromas to a common meld. More orchard fruit than I remember, more linear acidity, more expression. Raises the bar and the score. From my earlier, April 2014 note: “Half barrel-aged, this Chardonnay has a silky mouth feel and as much nip as can be assimilated in a single mouthful. Green apple, blanched nuts and a metallic tickle give the sensation of chewing on crumbling stones. There is considerable girth and texture here, spicy folds and tangible tension. The alloy trumps the fruit so consider drinking up now and for another year or two.”  Last tasted July 2014

Blue Mountain Chardonnay 2011, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (350108, $23.95, WineAlign)

A thick, rich and medicated goo this ’11 Blue Mountain Chardonnay. “Mother Nature just brewed it and there’s nothing really to it I know.” A traffic of oak waves in not so much woody but more so simply tannic. The palate is clenched, those tannins angular and ever so slightly bitter, intense and want to be bigger than the fruit would be willing to allow. This is Chardonnay with personality and ability, if just a bit big for its own head. Tasted July 2014

Cave Spring wines

Cave Spring wines

Cave Spring Blanc De Blancs Brut, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (213983, $29.95, WineAlign)

Today a fine misty Blancs, looking very much the coppery, crisp slice of apple it need be. Slate stone tone directive, grapefruit very much in play. A slice of tart key lime pie. From my earlier May 2014 note: “The freshest style of the #ONfizz B de B flight. Fruit, escarpment bench stone layering, richesse, biscuits and toast are all in. Acidity meets complexity.” From my earlier, December 2012 note: “Sees no malolactic fermentation and sits at the top end of dry (12-14 dosage). Most of the fruit is 2008, despite the NV designation. A soda fountain of argon and nitrogen bunsens forth through clean lines and carries an entire cider house orchard of Spartan apple. This one certainly hints at Champagne-like characteristics, of brioche and toast. The apples never relent.” Last tasted July 2014

Cave Spring Dolomite Chardonnay 2012, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (902610, $16.95)

The Dolomite is the eponymous CS Chardonnay via 86 per cent Beamsville Bench (Cave Spring Vineyard) and 14 per cent Lincoln Lakeshore . Driven to the licensee market, this is 25 years of winemaking in a nut (or limestone) shell. Made in a fresh, clean, juicy and oh so approachable style, the Dolomite finishes with a slight bitter pith, very obvious citrus zest slant. Remains clean and pure throughout, thanks in large part to the 26 percent more aromatic and very presentable portion of Chardonnay Musqué.  Tasted July 2014

Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué 2011, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (246579, $15.95, WineAlign)

Musqué is slowly creeping into the Niagara consciousness and into the hearts of winemakers across the peninsula. The aptitude with which it accedes to perfumed heights and respectable complexity without needing excessive coercion makes it both necessary and inviting, especially when a vigneron like Cave Spring is attempting to produce so many levels of quality juice. Chardonnay made easy and without compromise, exemplified here, though the CS take heads straight to the mandarin-clementine stage. Dry, direct, linear, fine and knowing Musqué, not unlike basic yet effective Gruner Veltliner.  Tasted July 2014

Cave Spring Estate Chardonnay 2012, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (256552, $18.95, WineAlign)

The vine age on the Estate runs between 18 and 35 years, a wisdom not to be ignored. Usage of older Hungarian oak lends spice to Chardonnay on-line and always climbing the right and proper varietal tower. From my earlier, May 2014 note: “Terrific balance to the warm and inviting fruit, certainly orchard driven and kissed by the Spring’s obvious mineral slate. Clean, open-knit, ready, willing and able.”  Last tasted July 2014

Cave Spring Csv Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (529941, $29.95, WineAlign)

Though currently subtle and reserved, if the Csv were once in a wonky phase, the doors to a new perception are now open. Soaked orchard fruit, the underlay of stone and a surround sound of chalky tenderness leads to length, for time is what this Chardonnay has got. From my earlier, May 2014 note: “Here is a vibrant and wild at heart expression of Bench Grand Cru terroir, the Cave Spring Vineyard. While the first impression may be a warm one it seems (for the vintage) that is because it’s big, boisterous and a bit clumsy in wood right now. The acidity seems buried at times and at others on top. It is also a touch reductive so this will need more years to settle and to play nice. The aromas indicate green apple meets metal pipe, the flavours orchard and salinity by way of limestone minerality. The length is more than admiral and admirable.” Last tasted July 2014

Clois du Bois Calcaire Chardonnay 2011, Russian River Valley, California, USA (421941, $28, WineAlign)

Inserting the calcaire nomenclature into your RRV label is to announce that your Chardonnay is influenced by calcium carbonate and the ancient, long ago decomposed bones of coral and foraminifera. A heady designation for sure and Clos Du Bois backs it up with its sedimentary and chalky textured ’11. There is a fine stone-ground spice and floral lilt, not to mention a demurred wave, like an under water coral and vegetative scene in slow motion. Clean, pure, lively fruit, picked just in time and left to develop low and slow. I can see this Calcaire gaining complexity for 10 plus years and always living up to its name.   Tasted July 2014

Creation Chardonnay 2012, WO Walker Bay, South Africa (379297, $29, WineAlign)

A macadam drafts from the Creation drawn from what might provocatively be a pair of gravel pits at the base of the Hemel En Aarde Valley. A soul 2012 brother to the Sumaridge though grounded and layered by the lower slopes. That said it does the heavy lifting, offers up more green apple driven fruit and less tannic mineral activity. A bigger wine but by no means a serf to its wood liege. Another stellar ’12.  Tasted July 2014

Creation Chardonnay 2013, WO Walker Bay, South Africa (378554, $32, WineAlign)

Creation brightens in 2013, lifts up to more intense rose flower and potpourri aromas. The intensity follows on the very viscous palate, bringing an increased ocean breeze salinity and scraped rock sensibility. There is a granitic feel that reminds of Rangen Riesling in its own tannic way. In the end the elegance factor takes over and the wine perseveres for a spell.  Tasted July 2014

Decelle Villa Savigny Les Beaune Blanc 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (378208, $40.95, WineAlign)

From low-yielding (20 hL/l) vines, like all of Burgundy (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), as opposed to the 40-45 quotient that might be expected from much of ‘lighter’ Savigny Les Beaune, especially for Chardonnay. Aged for 12 months in two year-old, 500l barrels, there is an alluring and rich feel here, though the wine is fresh, inviting and immediately integrated. A more than approachable White Burgundy to relish now and for a quick tour of the village.  Tasted July 2014

Decelle Saint Aubin 2012

Decelle Saint Aubin 2012

Decelle Villa Saint Aubin 1er Cru Sur Gamay 2012, Saint Aubin, Burgundy, France (377713, $69, WineAlign)

From the partnership of Olivier Decelle, Pierre-Jean Villa and the confidence of winemaker Jean Lupatelli. The town is Gamay, the variety Chardonnay. Only five barrels (125 cases) were produced by a trio of men with zero interest in speculating over land, fruit or success. Barrel fermentation is key, natural yeast a must and a kinship with Puligny uncanny. Not surprising considering the famed locale is but three kilometres away. This cooler fruit spent 15 months in two year-old barrels and though only bottled five weeks prior to tasting there is nary a shocky note. Such a well-adjusted Gamay. Entrancing and engaging Chardonnay.  Tasted July 2014

Domaine Dublère Savigny-Lès-Beaune Aux Vergelesses 1er Cru 2011, AC Burgundy, France (376095, $58.95, WineAlign)

Unusual nose that begins with white candy floss, transforms to gun powder and finishes into the toasty mystic. Unexpectedly warm, buttery and tingling on the tongue, though that is just a faint and fleeting notion. A taste brings out apple-butter terpenes, though once again, that’s just for an instant. While looking for richness their instead ticks intelligence but everything is in foreign tongue shorthand. Balance is key and that it has but ultimately there lacks a certain level of depth.  Tasted July 2014

Domaine Dublère Les Terres Blanches Nuits-St.-Georges 1er Cru 2011, AC Burgundy, France (376079, $105, WineAlign)

Big, boisterous and highly terpenic, so steroidal in apples. MdC  “Donut wines…a hole in the middle.” A tang as well that just doesn’t sit right, a dog that bites. Bitter, tight, bracing, non repentant for its sins.  Don’t really get it.   Tasted July 2014

Gérard Bertrand Domaine De L’Aigle Limoux Chardonnay 2012, AC Midi, France (377671, $33.00, WineAlign)

Rich, honeyed and seemingly sweet, not from sugar (3 g/L) but rather the pressing, squeezing and juicing of stones. That limestone tannin is a trick only grape must and its parent vines know, wondrous and inexplicable. Great body and mouthfeel come from this baby Aigle, a Chardonnay with locally incomparable structure, if not quite the elastic length and girth of the Bertrand Royal. Exceptional quality from the Midi.  Tasted July 2014

Gérard Bertrand Aigle Royal Chardonnay 2012, AP Limoux, Midi, France (377689, $75.00)

Anxiety in high caste mineral, in ingot and in southern French platinum rock. Full textured beauty of attitude and high-slope altitude, with formidable weight, smouldering, perfumed toast and exceptional texture. Full in every way, taking every liberty in the name of equality, and quality. A who knew such bounds could be leaped by the warmth of the place.  Tasted July 2014

Godello and Harald Thiel of Hidden Bench Winery

Godello and Harald Thiel of Hidden Bench Winery

Hidden Bench Chardonnay 2012, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (68817, $28.95, WineAlign)

Yet rigid in its youth, the wood is not yet settled. Bottled in September of 2012, the ’12 will need every day of its first year to be ready, willing and able to please upon release. From my earlier, May 2014 note: “Always aromatically embossed and texturally creamy, the Estate Chardonnay finds a way to elevate its game with each passing vintage. The uplifting elegance factor acquiesces the poise needed to battle the effects of ultra-ripe fruit out of a warm vintage. In ’12 the middle ground exchanges more pleasantries though the finale speaks in terse, toasted nut and piquant daikon terms. Not harshly or witchy, mind you, but effectively and within reason of the season. When you look in the window at Harald (proprietor Thiel) and Marlize’s (winemaker Beyers) Chardonnay, “you’ve got to pick up every stitch.”  Last tasted July 2014

Hidden Bench Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery, $38, WineAlign)

Bottled in March of 2014, the Felseck draws fruit from vines planted in 1988. Proprietor Harald Thiel notes a three-pronged picking regimen, early, mid and late, vinified separately and brought together to bring layering and tapestry out of this extraordinary vineyard and into the finished wine. The many folds and clay-silt soil provide a tannic structure dichotomously “champlant” in style, pastoral even, subdued and ethereal. The nerve in this Chardonnay comes by way of the active limestone, highest in Felseck as compared to any other HB block. This may be the most direct Chardonnay in all of Niagara, the house of permanent cards, the as of yet not witnessed balance achieved. This is the check that affirms a stand and a step towards a legacy.  Tasted twice, July 2014

Godello and Jeremy Dineen of Josef Chromy Wines

Godello and Jeremy Dineen of Josef Chromy Wines

Josef Chromy Chardonnay ‘Pepik’ 2012, Tasmania, Australia (378240, $22)

Chardonnay of stainless steel from Chromy’s estate vineyard at Relbia in northern Tasmania, cool, savoury green, spirited and grinding in tight, sharp angles. From what winemaker Jeremy Dineen describes as “a pungent must,” the Pepik is entry-level and anything but. There is a gentle, stable and clarified zesty personality in ‘er, fragrant, snappy and poignant. Versatile for a walkabout with many a pre-dinner flavour.  Tasted July 2014

Josef Chromy Chardonnay 2013, Tasmania, Australia (378232, $32, WineAlign)

In a world where 30+ degrees celsius is a veritable anomaly and the maritime winds spray salt to and fro, there can be little argument against the celebration of (winemaker) Jeremy Dineen’s Chardonnay at a cool climate conference. Sulphured early and housed in one-third new French oak, his lees were stirred often and always. Highly textured, he is succinctly clean, cutting and crunchy with an underlying chalky rationale and smokey, tonic toast. The Chromy ’13 is a demanding croon that must creep up to get a hold of you. Though you tell him “you treat me badly, I love you madly,” there is a miracle in his non-malolactic ways.   Tasted July 2014

Kistler Les Noisetiers 2012, Sonoma Coast, California (251223, $80, WineAlign)

Long distance runner built for endurance, a cool customer able to withstand the heat from a season’s relentless, though moderate, gentle sun, from start to finish. No shortage of ripe fruit and certainly not wanting for the micro-oxygenated slow release of a prized barrel. This might be the two-bit Kistler bottling but it offers up exemplary Sonoma fruit with the temperament and conceit of high caste Burgundy. The style is culled from two poles and pulls in two directions.  At once sharp and piquant, then golden and in mirth. All in all it’s exactly what should be wanted for the buyer who wants what it has to give.  Tasted three times, July 2014

Kistler Stone Flat Vineyard 2012, Carneros, California (agent, $80, WineAlign)

The Carneros vineyard of Tuscan clay is filled with giant river stones. It consequently offers up more of a stone groove, but also an everglade humidity, a lemony spray and a rub of savoury, evergreen. The palate brings a crisp, cool, mountain morning, a rushing stream of fresh water and the cool mountain air. There is a piercing bite on the mid-palate, a peppery spice that lingers than releases for a full wash, a cleanse in mineral. Amazing balance in tightrope tension and length to a horizon out of sight.  Great wine. Finds its elegance and its cool without any effort, like the power lift of a ballet dancer.  Tasted three times, July 2014

Kistler Vine Hill Vineyard 2011, Sonoma Coast, California (agent, $89.95, WineAlign)

This is from the vineyard in surround of Kistler’s home base and from soil anything but flattering to the host vines. Sandy, deficient in nutrients, “like beach sand,” says Geoff Labitzke, MW, that seemingly has no bottom. Irrigational tubing is employed and perhaps some nitrogen in mid-summer but as per the Kistler stratagem, the VH is dry-farmed. This has the most golden sunshine of the three Chardonnays tasted at #i4C14. It’s brighter, with linear acidity and a very toasty, nutty feel. Sitting with it a while is necessary to appreciate its charm and gathering power.  Tasted July 2014

Derek Barnett, Lailey Vineyard at 13th Street Winery

Derek Barnett, Lailey Vineyard at 13th Street Winery

Lailey Brickyard Chardonnay 2012, VQA Niagara River, Ontario (2908, $30.20, WineAlign)

From a vineyard planted in 2004 on the east end of the Lailey property, right next to the river. The red clay soil, the cooler nights and the longer growing season produced just 70 cases of this highly singular and stupidly inexpensive Niagara Chardonnay. This is a vineyard transformed over 10 years from a brickyard and cherry tree farm, now rich yet elegant in simultaneous motion, not to mention seamless in transition, within and without. Brother Derek Barnett is generously giving this rare, small lot Chardonnay away, all the while “talking, about the space between us all…and life flows on,” along the Niagara River.  Tasted July 2014

Lailey Vineyard Chardonnay Old Vines 2012, VQA Niagara River, Niagara Peninsula (Winery, $40.20, WineAlign)

The old Vines were planted between 1974 and 1978, ancient by Niagara standards. Only gnarly old, gristle veteran dudes like these could handle the beastly burden of 16 months in 50 per cent new French oak, not to mention all the while sitting on top of the lees heap. It may ask you “am I hard enough, am I rough enough, am I rich enough?” You may tell it “you’re tropical, you’re subtle, you’re sweet yet cool in mouthfeel, you’re elegant and you’re “not too blind to see,” but you carry that oak with ease.  Tasted July 2014

Malivoire Chardonnay 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (573147, $19.95, WineAlign)

Essentially bone-dry, kissed by a minor peck of new oak and consistently established, here from fruit out of Estate, Moira and (10 per cent) Vinemount Ridge vineyards. The latter adds flinty complexity by way of an intangible, aeriform note, magnified by the warmth of the vintage. The humidity is very minor, thanks to prudent early (September 1 to 12) picking of Beamsville Bench grapes in ever-present rooted stability. Here is hospitable Chardonnay gaining traction and interest with each passing vintage, showcasing the work of winemaker Shiraz Mottiar and as a portal to the investigations of Small Lot, Moira, Mottiar and Cat on the Bench. Tasted July 2014

Malivoire and Riedel, Image (c) Elena Galey-Pride

Malivoire and Riedel, Image (c) Elena Galey-Pride

Malivoire Chardonnay Mottiar 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

In admiral control this summer, rich in stone-churned butter and in residence of a right honourable place. From my earlier, April 2014 note: “Gamay may be winemaker Shiraz Mottiar’s decisive resource but Chardonnay is his thing. The Moira’s ranks as one of Niagara’s best, vintage in, vintage out and this Mottiar, from the winemaker’s home vineyard is the trump card. This Malivoire special agent is set in 2 – 5 year old 300 L French oak hogsheads and aged on the lees in barrel for 10 months. The result? Texture. With the use, or lack thereof in new oak, Mottiar’s Chardonnay becomes a study in compages, with strong abilities and the accents of green orchard fruit and a faint sensation of blanched nut. Nothing toasty mind you because it’s all about density and girth; a Shiraz thing. I find his Chardonnay is all about texture.”  Last tasted July 2014

Manciat-Poncet Crémant de Bourgogne Brut NV, Burgundy, France (378653, $28)

A tragically gingered peach, a candied rhinestone, a ready to bake hip cake for the easy oven. Safe bubbles here, “pale as a light bulb hanging on a wire, sucking up to someone just to stoke the fire,” from a distance, with simplicity and caution. Like getting caught in New Orleans with a sinking feeling.  Tasted July 2014

Marie-Pierre Manciat Les Morizottes Mâcon 2012, Burgundy, France (376137, $27, WineAlign)

There are some unhinged and unusual aromas in this Mâcon, of carbon copies, a stainless tank and Musa. Pears too, pinballing and ready for poaching. Faux or perhaps near-mineral texture, slightly saline, with flint and slate. The complexities are boundless and confounding. Highly expressive but the expressions are not all created equal.   Tasted July 2014

Marie-Pierre Manciat Les Petites Bruyères Pouilly-Fuissé 2012, Burgundy, France (376129, $39, WineAlign)

There is a deep rust, faded jeans vine wisdom in the Pouilly-Fuissé. It steps out with more richness and tension than the Mâcon. Balanced energy and stretched length.  Tasted July 2014

Marimar Estate La Masía Don Miguel Vineyard Chardonnay 2010, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, (331918, $49, WineAlign)

First notes are high in the hills of the tropics, in pineapple, mango and papaya. A veritable smoothie of very ripe, creamy fruit and though it carries a 14 per cent mark in alcohol there rests a jury of acceptable behaviour. Finesse has won the argument, leaving bits of white pepper, reduction and vineyard funk behind. There is a persistence that belies the price on this judiciously-oaked Chardonnay, complete with its avocation of high-powered notations in an expensive suit.  Tasted July 2014

THe Chardonnay of #i4c14

The Chardonnay of #i4c14

Maycas Del Limarì Sumaq Chardonnay 2013, Limari Valley, Chile (Agent, $15.00, WineAlign)

This unoaked Chilean is fresh yet herbal, though mildly so and lime-accented, but certainly not spiked in any Tequila or other southern hemisphere distilled spirit from a large seeping plant kind of way. Fine and subtle actually, so not overtly cool or lifted by altitude influenced climatic acidity. Peacefully, Pacifically tempered Chardonnay.  Tasted July 2014

Maycas Del Limarí Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2010, Limarí Valley, Chile (162040, $20.00, WineAlign)

This unoaked Chilean is fresh yet herbal, though mildly so and lime-accented, but certainly not spiked in any Tequila or other southern hemisphere distilled spirit from a large seeping plant kind of way. Fine and subtle actually, so not overtly cool or lifted by altitude influenced climatic acidity. Peacefully, Pacifically tempered Chardonnay.  Tasted July 2014

Maycas Del Limarì Quebrada Seca Chardonnay 2011, Limari Valley, Chile

Known as the “dry cliff” this is from a southern parcel (Pinot Noir comes from the north), a calcium carbonate plot that leads to this stone-driven Chardonnay. Nearly 200 metres above sea level, the altitude brings more cool to this bottling, more ventilated salinity, an almost wet-air, asthmatic sense of breathing. Really defined by oyster shell, this has more fruit than the value-based offerings, increased density, more citrus, both dried and condensed. A lot going on here, quite unique and worth a good look.  Tasted July 2014

Niagara College Teaching Winery Balance Barrel Fermented Chardonnay Donald Ziraldo Vineyard 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($19.15, WineAlign)

From the St. David’s Bench, this avant-garde label saw 11 months in French and American barriques, along with regular lees stirring. Certainly hovering and circulating in wide-ranging textural graces. A whole lotta love and learning is in this bottle; it’s round and golden with a high-spirited tang. At once typical and contrived, it’s also reeking and soaking like a sponge. Many an orchard makes an aromatic class audit. A high-toned citrus exam demands attention and focus. The wood is obvious but it too will learn. All in all this is cool Chardonnay, well-made and ready for the world.  Tasted July 2014

Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (173377, $24.00, WineAlign)

Winemaker Martin Werner’s 2012 may just be the hardest working Chardonnay in showbiz and in Niagara. Winnowed from Estate (St. David’s Bench) and (Niagara) river fruit, there lurks within, a 20-30 percent perfumed compression of Chardonnay Musqué. The additive is a tonic fanned from the wine’s olfactic communicative nerve centre, adding tree fruit notes no more serious than should be gathered. Werner picked real early, like five weeks ahead (first of September) and the resulting noisome perfume makes for some funk. “It’s these little things, they can pull you under,” but they blow away and settle into a rich, viscous Chardonnay for the palate to collect, contain and command. “Oh, oh, but sweetness follows.” This Ravine works automatically, of the people, for the people.  Tasted July 2014

Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (381905, $40.00, WineAlign)

From 100 per cent hillside Estate fruit, a limestone and slate parcel in St. David’s on the Niagara Escarpment. This is fruit from low yields that spent 24 months of unabashed pleasure in French oak. Though highly concentrated and bent in an oxygenated stratosphere, the reduction is in elevated citrus aromas and piercing mineral flavours. Bigger than many, than your head, than a yottabyte. The complex notations are elevated in so many ways. Strung tighter than a leer kite, the heterocyclic aromatic organic compounds are years away from settling so put this Ravine away. Come back next decade to see where it’s at.  Tasted July 2014

Rex Hill Dijon Clone Chardonnay 2011, Willamette Valley, Oregon (378455, $46.00, WineAlign)

Palate cleansing Chardonnay, an attribute that can’t be stressed or praised enough when tasting 117 renditions in a span of 50 hours. The Rex Hill is lithe, crisp and pure, a wine with a sense of wisdom. He is a subtle act of wine generosity. He smells like clove-scented, fine-casted ingot and is full of health increasing salinity and minerality. A wine of direct discovery, simple professionalism, restraint and impeccable balance. There is a green apple flavour, gently pressed and juiced. There is a texture from quarry rocks, the creamed kind, slightly piquant, merely dusted. The Rex is a very fine, calm representative with a sure sense of place.  Tasted July 2014

Southbrook Vineyards Whimsy! “Richness” Chardonnay 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

This special, specific and idiosyncratic batch by winemaker Ann Sperling is a whirlwind of terpene, wood and lees, all in a whorl. Though all three demanding notions make a play to bully the fruit, this is no ordinary fruit and touched by no passive hands. Complex and textured like angelic cake, there is a distinct aroma coming from the righteous barrel, a high octane, tropical nuance, in smouldering pineapple, creamy mango and mangosteen. This Chardonnay spits the vintage heat out through the gap in its front teeth, goes all tense and nervous, does not relax. There is chalk and stone, like slate, like Calcaire Riesling, all in at 14.3 per cent abv. An all out intense effort, a wow bit of Niagara, but what exactly is this monster? The amazing thing is that there is just a ton of fruit so you can let this settle down for 10 years or more. As BMS notes, “it’s raw and unleashed.”  Tasted July 2014

Southbrook Vineyards Poetica Chardonnay 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (366500, $50.00, WineAlign)

Has integrated nicely though certainly persists as a big, lush Chardonnay. If there were splinters or sinewy bits they have melted away.  From my earlier, May 2014 note: “The Poetica underwhelms at the present time, or perhaps hides in her youth. She’s a calm, buttery, mildly toasted, supportive softie and more accessible than her Sperling west coast sistren. Like a cool Chardonnay soffit hiding beneath a warm bench, the Poetica speaks not for the vintage but more for the current vineyard, a warm and hip spot in the Four Mile Creek appellation. The site remains (at least to me) understood but the unctuous aspect in texture and gathering sweetness with time in the glass will realize a richesse yet unseen. Poetica’s refrain is like “wind on the weathervane,” her tragically subdued fruit quiet, but able to travel long. Time will be the reveal, so be patient.”  Last tasted July 2014

Sumaridge Chardonnay 2012, Wo Upper Hemel En Aarde Valley, South Africa (378760, $35, WineAlign)

In direct antithesis to what was a more than commendable 2011, this follow-up takes the Sumaridge illustrious Cru torch and raises the Hemel En Arde bar to the most complex portion of the ridge. Proprietor Holly Bellingham notes the near perfect vintage, with rain falling gracefully and slowly throughout, unlike the heavy shelling just before the 2011 harvest. Here the seamless connections of ocean winds, granite give and beatific vines mean this ’12 is super bad. Sunshine intensity, cool godfather of soul moves and dancing nerve are all as one. This is like a mineral sponge, sopping up fresh fruit and the slightest notion of toasted nuts. “Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme. Heeeeey, (scream). Uh, come on!” How will Sumaridge top this?  Tasted July 2014

Sumaridge Chardonnay 2011, Wo Upper Hemel En Aarde Valley, South Africa (378760, $35, WineAlign)

Though it lacks the elegance of the astonishing 2012, there is a freshness and a vigor that still defines the Valley. The aromatics create an expectation despite the heavy rains at harvest, a deluge that had a thinning effect on the fruit. The kick or punch in the pith caused neither dilution nor disease and this ’11 rebounded to carry the fire. From my earlier, May 2014 note: “Though it would be naïve to think every Chardonnay produced out of the Hemel En Aarde Valley is the stuff of grand cru, recent examples have done nothing but impress. Sumaridge joins Hamilton Russell and Creation on the Walker Bay dream team. Ocean breeze-cooled slopes and deprived soils of decomposed granite loam with quartzite manage rich fruit with cool ease. In this 2011 a most excellent trifecta of dryness (1.7 g/L), acidity (6.9 g/L) and PH (3.45) brings together texture and tannin. Though seemingly sweet it is anything but a cloying example. Buttery but mild in toast, quite piercing yet tempered by an herbal quality, not warm or balmy, but inexorably herbal. Schematically waxy, splashed by lemon and piqued by zest.”  Last tasted July 2014

Talley Vineyards Chardonnay 2012, Arroyo Grande Valley, California, USA  (agent, $41.95, WineAlign)

Tasted with proprietor Brian Talley at Cave Spring Vineyard in a setting to do justice for a wine with an irrigated gully of heart. Barrel fermented, using wild yeasts and aged for 10 months in French oak, 20 per cent of it new. Pours thick, rich and viscous into the glass with a reality that is pure, light and elegant. This is so much cooler in direction than could be perceived or believed. “I want to make wine that tastes like our grapes and not someone else’s barrels,” insists Talley. That philosophy equates to a pansophy of orange citrus and the misty spray of its scored skin, so aromatic, so in blossom, so floral. Not sure there has been nosed such succulence in restraint from Arroyo, from California or from anywhere Chardonnay grows in warm climes.  Tasted July 2014

Talley Vineyards Rincon Vineyard Chardonnay 2012, Arroyo Grande Valley, California, USA  (winery, $61.95, WineAlign)

The Rincon Block was planted in 1984, the “home” vineyard next to the winery. Tight, bracing, savoury and bound by a tannic, mineral extraction. Only 17 barrels (just under 500 cases) were produced of this 100 per cent (14 months in 20 per cent new oak) barrel fermented Chardonnay marked by wow intensity. “Jump back, what’s that sound, here she comes, full blast and top down.” Wailin’ Halen Chardonnay trampled underfoot, what can you say, like chanting “Panama ah-oh-oh-oh-oh.” Talley’s Rincon ’12 never relents, stays on the throttle, puts the pedal to the metal and speeds the van towards a persistent, consistent finish. Bring on the Digby, Nova Scotia scallops, from coast to coast.  Tasted July 2014

Tantalus Chardonnay 2012, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (VINTAGES 378821, $42, BC VQA, 114884, $29.90, WineAlign)

The immediacy of this Chardonnay is felt, in perfumed poise, in palate roundness, in a velvet wrap of texture. A finely balanced and over-achieving elegance from out of a single vineyard, specifically “block 6,” which sits above a gravel bed, on an eastern aspect in South East Kelowna. A mild toast, a blanch of nuts and creamy citrus coagulate to create a transcendent B.C. Chardonnay experience, one that seems like it could be eaten with a spoon. “It peels off and ties that bind me,” and after tasting I saw the light. Chardonnay with an unconscious redirection of feelings, a transference unique and welcome.  Tasted July 2014

Thelema Mountain Blanc de Blancs 1994, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (376111, $28)

Méthode Cap Classique fine bubbles still motivated and in blender motion that if fading can be excused with a thousand pardons. With no more than 2 g/L of residual sugar it’s an Extra Brut style that has survived two decades. Far eastern spices and orange melon that remain cool, juicy and unfermented give it youthful aromas. One of those hard to believe 20 year-old success stories that will continue to give to 25. Wild yeast and grated wasabi square off the peg in this Stellenbosch ringer for vintage Champagne. Buy one now at VINTAGES Shop Online, bring it to a party, be the coolest Chardonnay cat around.  Tasted July 2014

A selection of international and Ontario sparkling wines on ice. Photo (c) Steven Elphick & Associates

A selection of international and Ontario sparkling wines on ice. Photo (c) Steven Elphick & Associates

Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2012, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (20431, $23, WineAlign)

Fruit divides time and space from the (sandy, Black Sage) Diamondback Vineyard and the (sandy gravel, Golden Mile) Tinhorn Creek Vineyard. So what? So let’s dance to Andrew Moon and Sandra Oldfield’s fresh recognisance mission, to offer up a slight oak and stirred lees textural sui generis, but mostly the intent to keep things crisp and real. The sugar and PH are low, the acids medium to high. Overall there generates a cool orchard fruit blooming breeze and a south-west feeling of ease. Bring it on.  Tasted July 2014

Good to go!

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Thirteen wines ‘ere Friday the 13th

Ribs meet Turkey PHOTO: Michael Godel

Ribs meet Turkey, rubs by Barque Smokehouse
PHOTO: Michael Godel

The last four times the calendar’s folklorique confluence brought a Friday and the 13th of a month together occurred in December and September of 2013, July and April of 2012. On that April Friday the arbitrariness shared a birthday with the sinking of the titanic. That kind of anti-kismet “does not bode well for the superstitious kind.” So once again, if you are one of the many inflicted with paraskevidekatriaphobia then tomorrow may not be your favourite day. If you also suffer from oenophobia, I feel for you.

Here are thirteen things that make me think of the number thirteen.

  1. Apollo 13. Moon mission gone bad.
  2. Thirteen years ago this week Radiohead went to No. 1 on the UK album chart with their album Amnesiac.
  3. The Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, Chapter XIII: “The weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest.”
  4. Thirteen Days, The Movie. John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  5. Friday the 13th in Port Dover, Ontario.
  6. The song “13” by Big Star.
  7. The 13 Principles of Jewish Faith.
  8. 13th Street Wines.
  9. The thirteenth man. How the Saskatchewan Roughriders lost the 2009 Grey Cup.
  10. June 13th, 1913. The New York Yankees win their 13th game of year after losing 36 games.
  11. The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution abolishing slavery and segue to the great Nelson Mandela, who died on December 5, 2013.
  12. Steve Nash. Dan Marino. Wilt Chamberlain. Mats Sundin. Godello.
  13. 13” the name of the new album by Black Sabbath.

Nice list. Of even greater importance is choosing some wine for the fitful 13th day of June and for Father’s Day on the weekend that follows. Thirteen wines ‘ere Friday the 13th, for and with dad.

From left to right: Château Des Charmes Gamay Noir 2012, Volcanes De Chile Pomerape Limited Edition Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Villa Ponciago Beaujolais Villages 2012, Château Des Charmes Chardonnay Musqué 2012, Chakana Maipe Reserve Bonarda 2011, Gruhier Extra Brut Crémant De Bourgogne 2010, Malivoire Pinot Gris 2012

From left to right: Château Des Charmes Gamay Noir 2012, Volcanes De Chile Pomerape Limited Edition Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Villa Ponciago Beaujolais Villages 2012, Château Des Charmes Chardonnay Musqué 2012, Chakana Maipe Reserve Bonarda 2011, Gruhier Extra Brut Crémant De Bourgogne 2010, Malivoire Pinot Gris 2012

Château Des Charmes Gamay Noir 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (57349, $12.95, WineAlign) LCBO General List

Give this vibrant crush of boyish red fruit a slight chill and with this pinnacle ideal vintage, at this ridiculously right price, go hither and convince a world of Gamay naysayers to get on board. Never mind the many years of “uninspired, drenched and tired” Gamay beach songs and tired voyages. Never mind the bad rap and out of tune harmonies thrust upon the world by dull vintages and bulk fruit. This CdC Gamay continues to breach the value quotient. Here is fresh, pure, unadulterated adult’s juice. It cruises from harbour with a clove-studded orange spritz and sets out past a rocky jetty to open seas. “Sail on, sail on sailor.”  Tasted June 2014  @MBosc

Volcanes De Chile Pomerape Limited Edition Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Leyda Valley, Chile  (371138, $14.95, WineAlign) VINTAGES June 7, 2014 release

So very peppery and Ají Cristal notes come from this warm weathered Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, indicating a Leyda Valley specificity that can’t be denied. So much unctuous character swallows whole the herbiage and schmaltz, as does the rapid fire acidity. Powerful SB, not subtle, not understated. There is no shortage of fruit, with nettles and a volcano in current eruption. It’s as if it would plead, “spider got eight legs and I got two. This guitar got six strings, what about you, well, what do you got?” So much going on, with more palate tingling white pepper, bending notes and angles. Jacks from ballad to wailing guitar, from rhapsodic to metallic. A Sauvignon Blanc with fly farm blues. I think it has an appeal to a red wine drinker who wants to drink a big white and I think it will age quite well, something like five to seven more years.   Tasted May 2014  @WoodmanWS

Villa Ponciago Beaujolais Villages 2012, Ac, Beaujolais, France (325134, $15.30, WineAlign) LCBO General List

When this Villages Millésime was mentioned for the purpose of offering a contrast to Ponciago’s La Réserve, it was honestly assessed as having “paint and tar notes.” When considered on its own merit it’s all about softness, perfume and poise. Pure red berry fruit just seems encased in a web of gossamer texture, it’s that pleasant to drink. Though it may lack the stuffing of La Réserve and Les Hauts Du Py, at $15 and change this is the real deal in Beaujolais. Even more impressive in consideration to the challenges of the vintage.  Tasted June 2014  @WoodmanWS

Château Des Charmes Chardonnay Musqué 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (640516, $16.95, WineAlign)

Clone 809 strikes again. The pioneering Bosc family tells the usual oak suspects to stay clear of their pure St. David’s Bench meets Seven and Seven Vineyard fruit so the intensity of flowers and blanketing minerality can speak with utmost clarity. Never mind all that, this ’12 is the most tropical Chardonnay Musqué yet made by CdC. Its heart is a drum, “free as a driving wheel, circling around your iron will.” OK, so that Seven and Seven soil makes for alloy heaven. Just ring this clone and she will be at your beck and call.  Tasted May 2014  @MBosc

Chakana Maipe Reserve Bonarda 2011, Mendoza, Argentina (361212, $18.95, WineAlign) VINTAGES May 24, 2014 release

Bonarda is on the rise and threatening to challenge Malbec in Mendoza, especially when it poses with such an obvious, rich and cakey Andean attitude. This example is clearly culled from a state of the art production facility because despite the slightly funky, gritty, tense and nervous layering and radio fuzz, it shows such a polished quality. Picked & mixed by real humans, this is varietal desert euphoria paradise, full of plum drive and chocolate coating.  Tasted May 2014  @Oenophilia1

Gruhier Extra Brut Crémant De Bourgogne 2010, Burgundy, France (375428, $18.95, WineAlign) VINTAGES June 21, 2014 release

The Grahier is an exhilarating, extremely arid, purposed blend of Pinot Noir (60 per cent) and Chardonnay (40). Though technically Extra Brut (less than 6 g/L residual sugar) this highly stylish Crémant teases with a perceived ripe orchard fruit sweetness. Versatility comes across in every spice and toast-driven bubble, for a cocktail pour, to blend into a cocktail or to match a wide range of dinner flavours. So useful and so smart. Offers up unparalleled value in Bourgogne sparkling.  Tasted June 2014  @Oenophilia1

Malivoire Pinot Gris 2012, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (591305, $19.95, WineAlign) VINTAGES June 7, 2014 release

Malivoire presents a Pinot Gris in good temper, better balance and even greater controlled anxiety to add grit on top of the sweet, spicy pepper and lightly pickled palate. Really approachable, workable and elastic in extended length.  Tasted May 2014  @MalivoireWine

From left to right: Creekside Estates Laura’s Red 2010, Nyarai Cellars Viognier 2012, William Fèvre Champs Royaux Chablis 2012, Thirty Bench Red 2011, Smith Madrone Chardonnay 2011, Brokenwood Maxwell Vineyard Semillon 2007

From left to right: Creekside Estates Laura’s Red 2010, Nyarai Cellars Viognier 2012, William Fèvre Champs Royaux Chablis 2012, Thirty Bench Red 2011, Smith Madrone Chardonnay 2011, Brokenwood Maxwell Vineyard Semillon 2007

Creekside Estates Laura’s Red 2010, Queenston Road Vineyard, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (117906, $19.95, WineAlign) VINTAGES June 7, 2014 release

Wonderfully balanced blend with a bit of wood spice, plenty of good character and tannin. Tense fruit, layered and tight. Tighter than I last tasted it. Must be the accumulation. From my earlier, February 2014 note: It’s funny, more than any other wine tasted, this Laura has that Niagara varnish other Creekside reds seem not to possess. “Stock up in the big years” suggests Matt Loney, and “consolidate in the tougher ones.” It could be argued that you can make more interesting wines in the lean years but this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec and Petit Verdot lays a claim to seriousness, if needing at least three years to settle down. There is much cassis, sweet oak, iodine and a milk/dark chocolate swirl. Complexity for sure if just a bit huge within its own skin.  Last tasted May 2014  @CreeksideWine

Nyarai Cellars Viognier 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $21.95, WineAlign) On the card at Barque Smokehouse  @barquebbq

Look, I get it. Wine is made from grapes so why command a host of other fruits to offer context for aromas and tastes? Just have a moment with Steve Byfield’s “virtual” Viognier 2012. Virtual tree meets stone fruit. Smells just like a ripe peach. The flavour bears an uncanny resemblance to apricots. Virtual my Equus africanus asinus. The winery is virtual, the Viognier anything but. Speaks a Condrieu varietal truth by way of Niagara’s Redfoot vineyard. Carries a soil-driven, mineral-flecked, microscopically-oxidized metal tang so essential to invigorating Viognier. Blessed stuff from a Shona’s humble hands.  Tasted twice, March and June 2014  @NyaraiCellars

William Fèvre Champs Royaux Chablis 2012, Burgundy, France (276436, $22.05, WineAlign) LCBO General List

The Champs Royaux from mainly purchased fruit may be the runt of the Fèvre litter but it’s no austere duck soup and this despite the challenging vintage. Chalk another win for organic viticulture, here again worked to great effect. The practice encourages acidity levels to consistent ends aligned with ripe fruit and year in, year out betterment of the wines. The ’12 Champs Royaux exudes the idea of classic unoaked and flinty Chablis, as well as seawater and the smell of a lit halogen bulb. Elemental without being metallic, it blinks from a citrus flash before finishing balmy and warm.  Tasted June 2014  @BourgogneWines

Thirty Bench Red 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (320986, $24.00, WineAlign)

The consistency and subtlety in red wine of the earth in this perennially approachable Bench wine can’t be overestimated. Really high quality red purity is ascertained from this blend, its spicy, tangy, moving parts coming together to unionize the fruit. Just enough tension to keep traffic moving, with Merlot really doing its yeoman’s work, Cabernet Franc as sweet and expressive as it can be without going over to the shaken, splintered and mocha chocolate dark side. This is always red and red-fruited. Ready, willing and will offer pleasure for five to seven years.  Tasted May 2014  @ThirtyBench

Smith Madrone Chardonnay 2011, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, California, USA (363556, $39.95, WineAlign) VINTAGES June 7, 2014 release

Holy reductive toast Napa man. Aromas of buttered toast, glade, duck fat and pencil graphite, which I must say is one stellar note. Flavours of ripe Mutsu (specifically) apple and a resinous chew of late autumn sweet forest needles. Yes the toast is high but so is the quality. Don’t blame the barrel, he’s just the messenger. A great Chardonnay for shellfish and molluscs of the briny kind. Linger on in your golden yellow eyes.  Tasted May 2014  @SmithMadrone

Brokenwood Maxwell Vineyard Semillon 2007, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia (371484, $47.95, WineAlign) VINTAGES June 7, 2014 release

A lifelong search for great Sémillon is fraught with peaks and valleys. Finding greatness is so rare it’s blue. The Hunter Valley in New South Wales beckons for a rush to strike gold. Many roads lead nowhere and others, like the dusty lane up to Brokenwood’s Maxwell Vineyard, lead to OZ. This young one has barely broken bread, or even a sweat. Sémillon of primary concern, like a tank sample. Varietal beauty as a cryogenically frozen specimen inundated by the table, the whole periodic table and nothing but the table. Guided by a laser beam of focus, great intent and expectations. Bob’s your uncle this David to the world’s white wine Goliaths. Son of racing studs and mares. Wow Sémillon. Not a faint moment about or in it.  Tasted May 2014  @Brokenwood

Good to go!

https://twitter.com/mgodello

Ten Sparkling wines “to life!”

Nothing in the world screams \'party!\' like an effervescent bottle of fermented grapes.

Nothing in the world screams “party!” like an effervescent bottle of fermented grapes.
Photo: ilcassa/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Sparkling wine, fizz, bubbles, bubbly. Champagne. Mousseux, Crémant, Asti Spumante, Espumante, Cap Classique, Cava, Prosecco, Franciacorta, Oltrepò Pavese Metodo, Brachetto, Sekt. Méthode champenoise, charmat, méthode ancestrale. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chenin Blanc, Arbois, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Auxerrois, Macabeu, Parellada, Xarel-Lo, Glera. It’s all just an amazing confluence of pressed juice, yeast, sugar and carbon dioxide. Nothing in the world screams “party!” like an effervescent bottle of fermented grapes.

Those who immerse themselves with any reasonable amount of time in the wine world need no introduction to the wonders of fizz. I taste at several Sparkling wines on a weekly basis and choose to open one in a regular rotation as much as I do whites and reds. Bubbles are made worldwide in so many styles and in so many price ranges. They are the most versatile (food) wines out there. So why do 99 per cent of the wine-indulging population ignore it, save for weddings, milestone anniversaries and in utilitarian fashion at a December fête? Such is life’s cruel mystery. Who isn’t looking for a Sparkling wine to pop open this month? Should we put up our hands so we know who we are?

Think of it this way. The grapes that are harvested for Sparkling wine are generally the first to be picked. By nature that means the winemaker had those very grapes in mind for Sparkling production. Bubbles are not an afterthought, they are not wines made from the discarded, the non-regarded or the neglected. You have to believe and want to make honest Sparkling wine. Otherwise you skip it altogether. Here are 10 choices, from $20 to $100, from Crémant to Champagne, to help celebrate what matters this holiday season.

Top (L to R): Domaine Deliance Ruban Vert Brut Crémant de Bourgogne, Brédif Brut Vouvray, Ferrari Brut, Château des Charmes Brut Rosé 2010, Roederer Estate Brut Sparkling. Bottom (L to R): No. 1 Family Estate Cuvée No. 1 Blanc de Blancs, José Dhondt Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne, Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve Champagne, Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut Champagne 2004, Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut Rosé Champagne 2002.

Top (L to R): Domaine Deliance Ruban Vert Brut Crémant de Bourgogne, Brédif Brut Vouvray, Ferrari Brut, Château des Charmes Brut Rosé 2010, Roederer Estate Brut Sparkling. Bottom (L to R): No. 1 Family Estate Cuvée No. 1 Blanc de Blancs, José Dhondt Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne, Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve Champagne, Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut Champagne 2004, Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut Rosé Champagne 2002.

DOMAINE DELIANCE RUBAN VERT BRUT CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE, Ac Burgundy, Franc (355917, $19.95, WineAlign)

Chardonnay and nothing but. Full arid, atomic behaviour, rehydrated pear and indicative of a grower’s Champagne style, like a petite Bérèche. Expands blowsy in the mouth, like pop rocks but it never wavers from being extra, extra dry. Nut, pith, no citrus and as a food wine it begs for something rich and fatty.  Nothing creamy about it. Salted zest to finish.  88  Tasted November 2013

BRÉDIF BRUT VOUVRAY, Ac Loire, France (352179, $20.95, WineAlign)

Arid, frothy and fitful, atomically speaking. White peach and preceding spring flowers. Charcoal rubbed, also clean and fine. Sparkling Chenin Blanc done right.  88  Tasted November 2013  @ProfileWineGrp

FERRARI BRUT, Metodo Classico, Doc Trento, Alto Adige, Italy (352153, $25.95, WineAlign)

Racy like the coupe, this is curve hugging Champagne-method spumante full of velocità and terribilita. Yes, like the master painter, this storied northern Italian sparkler is full of heroic, awe-inspiring power and grandeur. Classic method bubbles made well, driving fast and on course. Call it ulterior motive-driven but this spanks and tickles the tongue with a struck match and a finessed power wield of fine mist. Il duce of Trentino.  90  Tasted November 2013  @DiamondEstates                           

CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES BRUT ROSÉ 2010, Méthode Traditionnelle Rosé 2010, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (78055, $28.95, WineAlign)

From the earliest picked Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, on the hedge’s edge of phenolic gratification and a caterwaul of acidity. So acutely rosé, aromatically parched, sun-dried meridional as if Provençal procured via saignée. The tendency to deliver in dulcet tone is musical, to be pardoned and after all, don’t “we all want a love bizarre?” The usual suspects make themselves heard; strawberry, rhubarb, fresh basil and crème fraîche. Not to forget the warmth of 2010. Just add cool. Bring on the raw bar.  89  Tasted December 2013.  @MBosc

ROEDERER ESTATE BRUT SPARKLING, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California, (294181, $29.95, WineAlign)

Composed of approximately 60 per cent Chardonnay and 40 Pinot Noir. As close to greatness a house style from California can achieve. Discovers some secrets shared by cool-climate Sparkling wine, first with a delicate floral waft from out of a salmon copper tone. Complex, savoury bubbles, in rhubarb, tarragon and poached pear. Round, really fine, earthly, grounded stuff that spent a minimum two years on the lees. Marked by citrus too, namely pink grapefruit and creamy vanilla from the addition of some oak-aged wine.  91  Tasted November 2013

NO. 1 FAMILY ESTATE CUVÉE NO. 1 BLANC DE BLANCS, Marlborough, South Island, Méthode Traditionelle, New Zealand (56358, $34.95, WineAlign)

Aromatic rhetoric would argue this Marlborough bottle of bubbles is a ringer for classic Blanc de Blancs. Promises pleasure and class from the first whiff. Decidedly lemon citrus tight and stony until an herbal, splintered, stemmy tarragon balm takes over, rendering the wine more of its place than what it tries to emulate. Still, a really terrific effort.  89  Tasted November 2013  @oenophilia1

JOSÉ DHONDT BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT CHAMPAGNE, Ac Champagne, France (358408, $53.95, WineAlign)

A grower’s Champagne from which you will immediately pick up good vibrations. A mousse phenom, lees-effectuated fizz. Dominated by a yeast reductive aroma, joined by herbs and spices. “I, I love the colorful clothes she wears and the way the sunlight plays upon her hair.” Boys, she’s a long walk on the beach.  Creamy and mouth-filling but also pith marked, like grapefruit yogurt or guava crème brûlée. Tangy and beautifully bitter too.  91  Tasted November 2013  @Dhondt_Grellet

CHARLES HEIDSIECK BRUT RÉSERVE CHAMPAGNE, Ac Champagne, France (36962, $53.95, WineAlign)

Simply classic triumvirate balance of citrus, brioche and exotic perfume. Centrifugal spun scents of nearly candied, spiked lemon, white grapefruit pith, wet yeast and bottled jasmine. Top value in big name, pherule bead, made in a house style.  91  Tasted October 4, 2013  @CHChampagne

MOËT & CHANDON GRAND VINTAGE BRUT CHAMPAGNE 2004, Ac Champagne, France (69773, $83.95, WineAlign)

May not be the esteemed house and vintage of the century’s love-child but I can’t think of a single reason not to spend a pittance more on a vintage-dated Champagne like this Moët in lieu of a sea of NV alternatives. Granted it’s wound maddeningly tight, spewing still young venom, crazed by pear and citrus concentrate but…trust must be placed in its charms. This Moët is quite refined. Apples tempered in acidity, beloved for its building blocks, it’s really good Champagne.  94  Tasted November 2013  @MoetUSA

MOËT & CHANDON GRAND VINTAGE BRUT ROSÉ CHAMPAGNE 2002, Ac Champagne, France (69831, $89.95, WineAlign)

Bubbles large as tobiko roe. The vintage has now and finally just let go as viewed in the wine’s once fuscia and now copper patina. The advance to secondary life smells like grinding metal, pink grapefruit and orange dominated south Asian potpourri. Great though not sacred is this compliment to give this typical ’02 and its linear largesse, fine finesse and admirable balance. 92  Tasted October 2013

Good to go!

A wine tour de France

FI:AF

canada.com

The Tour de France is a 22-day, grueling test of endurance. Tasting through 22 French wines may not be the sporting equivalent, but someone’s got to do it. The Tour travels and circumnavigates a path through many of France’s storied wine regions; Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, Rhône and Languedoc. The wine tour goes deeper, making stops in lesser known regions like Savoie and Jura. Here are 11 notes with 11 days to go.

Related – more wine recommendations

French wines to look for now

Alsace

Pfaffenheim Cuvée Bacchus Gewurztraminer 2010 (VINTAGES 996017, $19.95. SAQ 197228, $19.70) looks to wine a stage with its progressive and ambulatory nature like the “Cannibal,” Eddy Merckx. At once steely but also possessed of a creamy, recriminatory lycheeness. A Gewurztraminer island in a sea of mediocrity, less bitter, less off-dry. A comeuppance of residual sweetness and forward thinking expression.  88

Champagne

Henriot Souverain Brut Champagne (959643, $56.95) operates as opulent, bombastic bubbles. Conspiratorial instigator, non-traditionalist and anti-establishment. Cassius to Caesar and to Frazier. Agitated rope-a-doper laden with tropical citrus and guava to belie yeast, smoked nuts, clay and toast. The mousse is persistent if relegated to the ring’s perimeter and the cheap seats of the Colosseum.  Tasted twice.  89

Burgundy

Louis Picamelot Brut Cremant De Bourgogne (161919, $17.95) is continental breakfast at the round table where dry toast cuts a linear radius through pious citrus, namely lemon and grapefruit. A strong-armed, knightly representative for the anthology of the Burgundian bubbles culture. A polarizing character, the lance of the lot 87

Pascal Marchand Meursault 2010 (285866, $57.95) would make for an intriguing tête-à-tête comparison to the Tawse Quarry Road from Moray’s other guy, peer Paul Pender. Marchand’s Chardonnay is multi-layered, zesty and intense. Pear and hazelnut stand out but so too does oatmeal, in an elemental, periodic way. Which leads ne’er the cheerleader MV to comment, “egg salad sandwich.”  White Burgundy with regard to the atom.  90

Domaine Gille Côtes De Nuits-Villages 2009 (210864, $28.95) is cheap talk and wine, for Burgundy that is. Clean, pure Pinot fruit, black raspberry scent. On the border of simple, elegant, well-priced Villages. Will give you the best of its love.  88

Rhône

E. Guigal Gigondas 2009 (331900, $29.95) fully elicits hedonism from southern France with rakish Guigal typicity. Blueberries baked in an Ortolan pie with essence of Molasses. Bold, brass Bassline of tannic tenderness.   89

Jura

Jean Bourdy Cotes De Jura White 2007 (286427, $24.95) is most unusual Chardonnay. “Nothing in the world smells like this son.” Tis kind to call it an “oxidative” style but truth be in the pudding. Yerba tea, malt and peat each have their moment. Scottish as if Kilgore retired to the Hebridic isle.  86

Savoie

Domaine Edmond Jacquin Altesse Rousette Savoie 2010 (277335, $17.95) is a Big Mig, a jazzy, rarely seen release that trills citrus and spice in a breezy, casual way. Altesse, also called Roussette, seems to me a superior, physiological varietal. Federer workmanlike approach, a rider like Indurain, wins fans for athletic greatness and for acting effortlessly like itself.  88

Jean Perrier & Fils Cuvée Prestige Mondeuse Vin De Savoie 2010 (272112, $14.95) visually reminds me of Portugal’s Bastardo grape and by a nose. There is sour cherry, cranberry and refreshing citrus vitality as if Viognier were supporting Syrah. Perhaps like Pliny’s “vine of least repute” but there is an acme of elegance.  87

Bordeaux

Château Haut-Vigneau 2009 (29678, $25.95) opens the door to the ’09 Bordeaux party with a Tao, raison d’être and talisman’s affordable summoning via the Left Bank’s Pessac-Léognan. Candied coffee, black cherry and tobacco, radish red. Solid PL and worth storing three away for now and to the decade’s end.  89

Midi

Château Du Donjon Grande Tradition Minervois 2009 (275578, $12.95) speaks directly of its mineral, Minervois roots. Brillat-Savarin might say this about the Donjon. “Tell me what you drink and I’ll tell you who you are.” The Châteauneuf-du-Pape aspiration of Kirsch with Daube is only deterred in the slightest by an aspersion of cherries steeped in quinine, but of a good kind. A “badger” of a red, fighting like Bernard Hinault and his two black eyes.  87

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-value ratio

CVR* – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-value ratio

Good to go!