Searching for great heart in South Africa

A view of the Simosnberg from Amazink Live in Kalmandi Township

Heritage and diversity in South Africa

as seen on WineAlign

Takeaways from Cape Wine 2018: Bot Rivier, new generation pinotage, regional spotlight on Robertson, Méthode Cap Classique, heritage vines, post revolution Swartland, wot varietal? and kuier

The last time I travelled across the Atlantic and down to the southern tip of Africa was in the warm days of September when I took in the three days of Cape Wine 2015. Beyond the Cape Town commotion of the triennial wine fair there was the added bonus of an expansive, wayfaring wine-lands itinerary. A deep understanding of the Western Cape’s wine landscape came to light, though at the time it seemed like being caught up in some kind of cultural and constitutional revolution. A return engagement with South Africa this past September changes but also cements the notions considered and the lessons learned. South Africa’s scene has now found itself comfortably cast in a post-revolution, full on republic state of wine. Allow me to expand.

I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart
Under African sky

A deeper understanding

After my return three years ago I suggested that “what separates South African vignerons from the rest of the world is a playground mentality and their confident executions in consummation of those ideals. The soils and the weather are nothing short of perfect…the place is a veritable garden of viticulture eden…a certain kind of comparison presents South Africa as the wine equivalent of the wild west. In the Western Cape, anything goes. The landscape of South African wine is demarcated by ancient geology and by the geographical diversity of its regions, sub-regions and micro-plots. Varietal placement is the key to success. As I mentioned, South African winemakers can grow anything they want, to both their discretion and their whimsy. The choice of what grows best and where will determine the successes of the future.”

It’s satisfying to note that three years later the adages, analytics and perspectives remain constant with that initial intuition and yet the changes in mentality meeting execution are far greater than such a short passage of time could normally afford. Winemakers in South Africa are learning everything there is to know about making wine and from every corner of the world. Some are travelling to the sources for the knowledge while others are simply experimenting at home every day to get there. There is no style of wine that isn’t being attempted. I’ll say it again. “Natural fermentation, skin contact and carbonic maceration have infiltrated the winemaker’s psyche. Fresh, natural, orange, amber, caliginous and tenebrous have established Cape footholds with enzymatic force.”

The year 2018 will be remembered for many things but at the top of that list are resilience and tradition. After months and months on end of near catastrophic drought the country and in turn the wine producers have found a way to survive and to thrive. Thanks must be afforded the pioneers and those with the most experience, in other words, the people who have been through and seen it all. As a result it is the icons and archetypes of South African wine that stole much of this year’s spotlight. Though they are the antithesis of the young and free-spirited, the lines have begun to blur, or at least overlap in terms of who is who in the winemaking mise en scene. Three years ago these pirates with pirate eyes and pirate smiles made some good wines but a good deal of them were dirty, funky and flawed. Wine geeks gushed because of the cool, natural and revolutionary factor. It was a time of protest and free spirit. Once upon a time in the wild Western Cape. As the boomers have grown older their winemaking has matured and become wiser. There is no abandoning the call for uprising, subversion and experimentation but there is a concerted effort to fashion wines that are a pleasure to drink. Isn’t that the point? In 2018 it seems that everyone has it figured out. South African wines are cleaner by ‘n landmyl, with more purity, transparency and honesty than ever before. Their epiphany is now ours as together we synchronically enter this new world of deeper understanding.

No one does a media package like @wosa_za for @wosacanada peeps. thank you for getting me very ready to tackle @capewine2018

So much to think about

It began at the Spier Hotel in Stellenbosch, home to Spier Wine Farm and Vineyards. It was unseasonably cold with the kind of crisp night air that just makes you think about acidity. The vines were infants at this time in the southern hemisphere vineyards but I could not help but imagine the 2019 harvest possibilities as having forged their beginnings with these early spring conditions. Next stop was Bot Rivier, first with a farm to table experience at Wildekrans Wine Estate. A quick stop to hang with the baboons at Sir Lowry’s Pass and a move to Kalmandi Township.

Performers at Amazink Live

This was a truly South African experience of ‘Ubunti’ at Amazink Live‘s township braai with the local entertainment troupe and a big bottle format of Smiley, Silvervis and Terracura with Ryan Mostert and Samantha Suddons. The fifth season of performance took place in what is called “a place of unity,” a safe space for all guests and groups. Amazink’s manager Zinthle explained that this club offers “a change in the perception of townships, the name alone means “it’s a nice home.” Kunandi Umalaba indeed. “It’s nice to be here.”

On to Roberston for three quick visits with Graham Beck Wines, Springfield Estate and De Wetshof Estate Wines. Then a night under the African sky, a 24-hour out-of-body experience at Sanbona Game Reserve and over to L’Avenir Farm for Pino Pistols – the next generation of pinotage young guns. The next morning at the Cape Town International Convention Centre for the start of three jam-packed days of Cape Wine 2018. An evening that can never be forgotten covered the classics – a regional four-decade vertical tasting with eight iconic producers. The trip culminated with lawn bowls in Malmesbury with the Swartland Swingers, artists formerly known as The Swartland Revolution.

Sundowners, Sanbona Game Reserve

Three years after that 2015 Cape Wine experience it’s duly noted how both flow and focus mean that the game is changing. The notion of planting whatever you feel like wherever you feel it just because it will ripen is evolving. Specialization, especially with respect to varietals like chenin blanc, cinsault, grenache and pinotage is the wave of the future and with this furthered isolation of micro-plots and terroir for these very specific grape varieties. Narrowing the focus, figuring out what works best and why. It’s the Burgundian way and indeed the way all great wine regions make their mark. The heritage seekers and protectors know what’s what. Old vines, especially dry, bush-farmed vineyards are the backbone of South Africa’s diversity and possibility.

Were South Africa not so far away from the rest of the wine-consuming world I truly believe it would blow every other wine region out of the proverbial water of supply and demand. South Africa’s wines represent the finest quality to price ratios in the world and there is plenty of product to go around. Lying a continent (and an ocean) away from both Europe and North America is an obstacle that will always be too distant to overcome but the global economy’s ability to coalesce and encourage trading of goods from the furthest of poles is only going to increase. If this upwards and positive trend is to continue the current wave of nationalist political tendencies must be curtailed, if only so that we as consumers can continue to enjoy the wealth of extraordinary wines that need to be exported out of South Africa.

Chef Gregory Henderson, Wildekrans Wilde Forage, Bot Rivier

New age of diversity: Bot Rivier

Bot Rivier is south-east from Cape Town, sandwiched from south to north between Hermanus and Stellenbosch. “From the top of the Houw Hoek Pass, one gets the first glimpse of the vast, rolling hills and big sky of the Bot River area, where real people make real wine.” This is the credo of the family of wineries that farm and produce in the area. There are 12 members of the wine-growing association, all within a 10km radius of one another. At Wildekrans we participated in a ground foraging experience alongside Chef Gregory Henderson. Beaumont Wines, Gabriëlskloof, Paardenkloof, Villion and Luddite Wines led us through a blending process to make a wine from samples supplied by all six. Four groups attempted the exercise to mixed reviews. Said Luddite’s Niels Verburg. “We gave you six beautiful wines and you gave us four bad ones back.” Their wines were significantly better.

Beaumont Family Wines Hope Marguerite 2017, WO Bot Rivier-Walker Bay, South Africa (Agent, $35.00, WineAlign)

The vintage clarity speaks to an unbelievable old vines imperative and in this case a stage presence imperative to scrape, zest and juice all the lemons, tangerines and peaches in the world. The fruit quality and integrity conjures a continuum where distant memory fast forwards to present day reality. ‘Tis an extraordinary time to taste chenin blanc in its modern vernacular, of so many styles with Sebastian Beaumont’s so high on the pyramid. The The 2017 accomplishment includes further complex compliments, dried pineapple, lemon peel and an herbal wonder powder. This is the sauce. “This is the day, your life will surely change. This is the day, when things fall into place.” Soul mining for chenin blanc. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2018

Villion Family Wines Syrah 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

A moment’s pause to consider the aromatics is unavoidable because the mid-palate complex notions swirl dramatically out of glass, through the mouth and straight into the mind. This with thanks in kind to more than half of the juice having matured for eight months in (36 per cent new) 300 and 400L French barrels. The fruit was not lost in fact it’s uncanny how mandarin orange it is, plus this old vine (30 years and older) mineral-flint strike to round out the third and most expected aspect of the total oeuvre. Rich, unctuous and structured is a great way for chenin blanc to go through life. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  villionwines  @VillionWines  @VillionWines

Wildekrans Wine Estate Chenin Blanc Barrel Select Reserve 2017, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

From winemaker Braam Gerricke his chenin blanc layers and variegates richness and spice. There is nothing simple about the designation or the result, very much in the vein of old vines and barrel licked chenin with great expectation. The ceiling climbs high for this type of execution and with some age for this, followed by some adjustments for the rest the future looks very bright. These are wines poised to climb into another Cape echelon. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  wildekrans  @WildekransWines  @Wildekrans

Gabriëlskloof Syrah The Landscape Series on Shale 2016, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

On Shale is forged of a single-vineyard, Bokkeveld site on the Gabriëlskloof property that makes for a stand apart syrah without comparison. A wild ferment encourages idiosyncratic, ferric and hematic tendencies of what can happen on this section of Western Cape geology. The theoretical possibilities from such shale do for syrah what Cape granite and Malmesbury shale won’t, making abstract connections liquid chalk bled through mudstone in the form of herbal amaro syrup. You notice it in the consistency too, so pure, so sappy oozing and in its very intuitive way, extroverted fine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  gabrielskloof_  @Gabrielskloof  @donniewine  @Gabrielskloof

Luddite Shiraz 2014, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

Just a few years offers up so many more clues as to what is going on in Niels Verburg’s shiraz world. First of all the 24 months in barrel and the 24 months in bottle are structure building and basically tell us to stay away for an equally further amount of time. Not that you wouldn’t want to taste one or two along the way but time is the necessity. This is shiraz held back to “gain a balanced potential.” Meanwhile, no other Cape shiraz smells like this. Niels talks about the mattress of curry the khoi bushmen used to lie upon to raise them up above the ground and away from the insects. The plants known as “kerrie” have a very particular herbal-savoury scent, certainly present in Luddite’s shiraz and even more pronounced with a few years of time gone by. It’s exotic, an herbal-spice line trod with floral undertone and in part certainly a cause to that vineyard presence of the curry bush. Texture is fine spun silk, integrated and then comes exquisite acidity to complete the picture. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  luddite_wines  @LudditeWines  @ludditewines

Paardenkloof Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

Planted in 2002, it was 2006 that proprietor Mohseen Moosa first produced this cabernet sauvignon on the mountain that separates Bot Rivier from the Hemel-en-Aarde, three to four kms from the sea, as the crow flies. The cooling breezes help to coax, coddle and accentuate the varietal tendencies, “to promote the primary fruit of the vineyard,” tells Moosa. Beneficial balance and restrained intensity define this wine, from pockets of spice through ultra-violet floral rays. Pleasing fruit meets designate structure for the most solid of South African cabernets. Fine chalky tannins and all in all, really accomplished. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018  paardenkloof  @PaardenKloof  @PaardenKloofEstate

Chardonnay vineyard in Robertson

Regional spotlight: Robertson

The Robertson Valley is a singular and vast South African landscape, a place of wide open spaces and skies. It’s the ideal location for many things, including growing chardonnay and pinot noir for Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wines. It’s also possessive of the finest limestone soils in the Capelands which means chardonnay thrives and the ceiling for pinot noir can only raise higher. Pockets of sand and clay are also ideal for Bordeaux varietals; cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc. The history, meticulousness and confidence of Robertson’s winemakers is more than evident. Springfield’s Abrie Bruwer was quick to remind us all “we’ve revolutionized (winemaking) three times over already and nobody’s noticed.” Robertson remains under the radar but know this. Old world defines the collective oeuvre.

Springfield Estate Sauvignon Blanc Life From Stone 2018, WO Robertson, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

What a jolt in how there’s a quick flash of Sancerre and then bam, straight back into a Robertson reality from the rockiest of parcels. The juice is kept at negative three degrees celsius to preserve the sheer freshness of the fruit. It’s not so radical but it’s also not done. What is does is prevent the flavours from disappearing into the enzymatic wind. They’ve been at this process for 11-12 years, seven of them with the entire crop. It’s about keeping the entirety of the lees suspended to buoy and ready the fruit for fermentation, at 13-16 degrees. The fruit is so variegated, at first mostly stone and the towards tropical tendencies, on the back of acidity wise and mature.  Drink 2018-2023. Tasted September 2018  springfieldestate  @springfieldwine  @springfieldestate

De Wetshof Estate Unwooded Chardonnay Bon Vallon 2018, WO Robertson, South Africa (403675, $22.95, WineAlign)

The unwooded chardonnay from de Wetshof is a fascinating wine because it’s one of the very few in the style that needs some time to settle down and in. From the good valley at the lowest point between slopes there is more searing orchard and citrus fruit meeting pure, unaffected by wood nuttiness than a list that includes all of Robertson and perhaps the entire Western Cape. What is pulled from this limestone terroir and without any barrel time is almost impossible but wholly remarkable. It’s also consistently constructed vintage after vintage by the commitment to craft by the family de Wet. Drink 20189-2022.  Tasted September 2018  dewetshofwines  @DeWetshofWines  @dewetshofwines

Graham Beck Prestige Collection Cuvée Clive 2012, Méthode Cap Classique, Robertson, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

Clive is Graham Beck’s most prestigious and important cuvée, what méthode cap classique cellarmaster Pieter Ferreira calls “a respect to Champagne. While previous incarnations were wines of “best selection” the 2012 chardonnay and pinot noir are drawn from a single-vineyard for the first time. Stand in the tasting room and there it spreads out below, on soil riddled with limestone to equip this crisp and arid sparkling wine with all the necessary attributes. Bronze-parched apple and dried quince are noted. Sentiment and data from a 10 year study project of varietal, lees and aging are collected and come to this; a toast demure, a love divine, a wild control. Brilliant sparkling wine and undoubtedly a South African gem. Drink 20189-2027.  Tasted September 2018  grahambeckbubbly  vinexxperts  @GrahamBeckSA  @Vinexxpert  @grahambeckmcc  @Vinexx

L’Avenir Wine Estate and Country Lodge

Pino Pistols – The next generation of Pinotage young guns

Heritage in South Africa is not just reserved for chenin blanc. “You know what old vines can give you,” says L’Avenir’s winemaker Dirk Coetzee. “We’re here to discuss a pinotage revolution. We’re here to discuss the next generation of pinotage.” Stellenbosch is host to the greatest concentration of Western Cape plantings and over the last ten years it has grown by 52 per cent. “Once we start making authentic product people will start thinking and the product will speak for itself.” In fact it has moved from being the sixth to the third most planted grape varieties. Beyerskloof winemaker Ani Truter adds, “what I tasted in the 80s was not pinotage, it was sabotage. It took 2,000 years for Burgundy to be successful. Don’t worry, it won’t take that long in South Africa.” Only a Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe winemaker could pay a compliment with such direct proposition.

David Sadie continued the analysis with his take on soil and cellar as being the reasons for making good and bad pinotage. “If you look at a bad pinotage today you can look at the cellar and not at the cultivar.” This in explanation for how pinotage has improved and is moving on from rubbery, toasted and burnt flavour profiles. “It’s about site selection, planting in the right areas.” It’s also about pH levels. “Your attention to hygiene is really important, it’s pH driven.” And finally, Jacques de Klerk of Radford Dale.” They used to be made at high alcohol levels and the margin for error was very precarious. It comes down to over extraction and over use of oak.” The times they are a-changin’.

Beaumont Family Wines Pinotage Sixty Barrels 2015, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

So interesting to taste this seminal pinotage by Sebastian Beaumont side by each with his 2009 “normale.” The same 1970s planted vineyard is employed, here from two blocks, one 44 years of age and the other being a spritely 21. The salty note on the aromatic top is faint, hidden beneath massive fruit ability, but it depends (of course it depends), on vintage. This one is full of wealthy possibilities and stealth opportunity, especially when the salt rises to the surface in thew clay. That clay effect is a fulsome one, really notable from 2015 to claim fruit, stash it away in reserve and wait for structure to build, crest and relent. Many years will pass as a result of this pinotage process. This is how you build varietal wealth and worth. One of South Africa’s finest. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  beaumontwines  @Beauwine  @Smallwinemakers  @beaumontfamilywine  @smallwinemakerscollection

L’Avenir Pinotage 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $14.95, WineAlign)

When it comes to pinotage there are few producers capable of delivering the triumvirate of quality, honesty and ignoring of sickly trends. There is no mocha in L’Avenir’s take on the mistaken identity grape. In this case it’s like you’d expect pinotage to be but also completely unexpected because it takes classic relief, alters the perspective and turns the architectural rendering on its head. Pinotage needs to keep you on your toes, confuse with trompe l’oeuil drawn trickery and offer up great surprise. That’s what makes it special. Here richness is met head on by tannin, dusty fruit by bold acidity and spice mix at the gate of intensity. Just imagine the possibilities in the estate’s single block. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2018  lavenir_wine_estate  selectwinemoments  @LAvenirWines  @SelectWinesTO  @LAvenirEstate  @SelectWinesCanada

Beyerskloof Pinotage Diesel 2015, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

The bush vines are in the 20 year range on gravelly Oakleaf and Klapmuts soil for this highly credible example of what is possible with pinotage, especially in Stellenbosch. This is nothing but a structured red, housed in 100 per cent new French oak barrels for 20 months. After maturation, only 20 barrels were selected out of a possible 300. The fruit is richer, the texture denser and the extraction at the top end of the ideal. There is more of everything here, including savour and it’s anything but reductive or ball bouncy. Big, roasting, boasting and blasting with an exceptional level of quality. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018  beyerskloof  churchillcellars  @Beyerskloof_  @imbibersreport  @Beyerskloof  @imbibersreport

B. Vintners Pinotage Liberté 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $41.99, WineAlign)

Two oceans facing granitic soils at 250m are the impetus to raise this Cape dialectical, Atlantic meets Indian pinotage. It’s also a whole bunch matter, something that in increasingly important in the varietal lexicon. The plantings are east-west in orientation to avoid overbearing sun exposure, which is really a thing in pinotage and often the culprit for its unwanted “thickening.” Baking spice is all over the notes and fruit purity is duly counted. A very characterful red, spicy, smoky and just plain pleasurable, if on the confident side of all things being equal. Nice work between cousins Gavin Bruwer and Bruwer Raats. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018  raatsfamilywines  liffordgram  @RaatsWines  @LiffordON  Raats Family Wines  @liffordwineandspirits

Radford Dale Pinotage Frankenstein 2015, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (AgentWineAlign)

It took a few decades for someone to give Shelleyan props to Dr. Abraham Penold of Stellenbosch University,1925 grafter of cinsault and pinot noir to create pinotage. It’s a literary sidestep of a stretch to compare the science to Mary Shelley’s creature created by mismatched donors, but more than that it’s a cheeky shout out for a varietal often mistaken for a monster. Winemaker Jacques de Klerk grabs fruit from the white marl at the foot of the Helderberg Mountain for a pinotage troika of intention, ability and expectation. Three properties born of terroir, house and winemaker. All are on the same page written by an unspoken agreement to not abuse or confuse this grape. Frankenstein is smoky, curative, red raspberry ripe, right proper and built to last. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2018  radford_dale  reveriechenin  noble_estates  @Radforddale  @deklerkjacques  @Noble_Estates  @RadfordDaleWine  @NobleEstates

Pinotage winemakers at L’Avenir

Kanonkop Pinotage 2015, WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $44.95, WineAlign)

Vines are between 30 and 60 years of age for this prototypical ode to how things were and going forward can almost certainly be in the world of pinotage. Wrinkled, gnarled, grizzled old veteran vines, the Gordie Howe of the genre, Mr. pinotage if you will. Trees of a vinous sort, able to shake of draughts and new wave mochafied drafts, with a hat trick of checks, balances and grit. These vines are the past but more importantly are the future, typified and exemplified in this kind of pinotage, a modern classic made from a place by a maker who knows what’s what. Smoky red fruit with this uncanny variegation of hue, cloudy transparency and complexity of character. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018  kanonkopwineestate  noble_estates  @KanonkopEstate  @Noble_Estates  @Kanonkop  @NobleEstates

David And Nadia Pinotage 2017, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

David and Nadia Sadie’s pinotage is quite possibly and purposefully the lightest there is, clocking in at an impossibly low 12 per cent. It is both the next and other tier for the varietal reconnaissance with vanguard clarity and an honesty to speak of wine made under serious drought conditions. Bright red fruit and that low alcohol make it at once crushable but then sneaky structured. A maturity of vine, maker and grape conspire for such a dichotomy of bemusement though to be fair you could blindly be convinced that you were tasting lithe and ethereal northern Rhône syrah. The mixed magical condition certainly makes you take a step back and a seat to think. It’s a good conundrum and an excellent way to be drinking pinotage. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  davidandnadia  @DavidandNadia  @DavidandNadia

Wildekrans Wine Estate

Wildekrans Wine Estate Pinotage 2017, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

A cooler, herbal and uniquely floral pinotage from Braam Gerricke. Bush vines grow on a shady site of small acreage and at altitude for the valley. Pinotage of chalky liquidity from you which you feel the oak and a real sour-sorrel tang. Was in barrel for 15 months and it will need a year or two to fully integrate, than drink well for four or five more years after that. Terrific persistence and length.  Drink 2019-2023. Tasted September 2018  wildekrans  @WildekransWines  @Wildekrans

Graham Beck Winery, Robertson

Méthode Cap Classique

Plain and simple, Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) is a South African term indicating a sparkling wine made in the traditional method (the same way Champagne is made), by which a secondary fermentation takes place inside the bottle. That said, there is nothing simple about MCC and who would argue that as a category it produces some of the finest, most complex and diverse sparkling wines in the world. It’s also very much a wine about terroir. As it stands, MCC has to age on the lees for a minimum nine months to be labelled as such. “We’re making wines that develop too quickly,” insists Paul Gerber of Le Lude. Gerber believes the minimum should be raised to 15. “Sparkling wine is not a terroir wine? Please. This is completely untrue.” As for sugar dosage he’s like a cook in the kitchen. “Dosage is like seasoning. If you do it properly you don’t taste it.” It is Graham Beck’s Pieter Ferreira that has put in the time and the research over 20-plus years to really understand the category but more importantly the potential. “You are always looking to express terroir,” he says. “For Brut we have to extend (the less aging time) to 60 months. So there is no lipstick or eye shadow.”

Le Lude Vintage Cuvée Méthode Cap Classique 2012, WO Franschhoek, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Le Lude’s winemaker Paul Gerber assembles two non-vintage Bruts, blended each vintage for a house style. The fruit is primarily Robertson with some addendum out of Franschhoek. The first vintage was indeed 2012 and this chardonnay (80 per cent) plus pinot noir comes sweet herbal straight out of the riddle with a sultry, piqued spiciness. Already showing a hint of secondary notation by way of a honeyed nougat melted into the soft and delicate mousse. Still plenty of intensity and drive with citrus in whole represent by lime, fresh and juicy. Less red fruit (much, much less) and more white flower with the idea of yellow and green fruit. Stylish, persevering and precise. At 2.6 g/L it’s perfectly albeit sparsely seasoned and mature with Champagne confidence. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  leludemcc  @LeLudeMCC  @LeLudeMCC

L’Avenir Brut Méthode Cap Classique 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

L’Avenir Estate’s Méthode Cap Classique is mainly pinotage with some chardonnay and arrives in the glass as a light and nearly delicate bubble. It’s a succulent, sweet rusty, lively enzymatic sparkling wine with an opinion and a plan of action. Pleasurable to sip from a definite MCC teachable moment. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018  lavenir_wine_estate  selectwinemoments  @LAvenirWines  @SelectWinesTO  @LAvenirEstate  @SelectWinesCanada 

Genevieve Brut Blanc De Blancs Méthode Cap Classique 2014, WO Bot Rivier, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

Genevieve is Cap Classique made by Melissa Nelsen and was first made in 2008, released in 2010. Now with 2014 the lees aging time is 48 months with total output in the 12,00-13,000 bottle range, up from the 5,000 of that first vintage. The goal is 20,000 in the very near future. It’s essentially blanc de blancs, 100 per cent chardonnay as a wise, calm, mature and elegant traditional method sparkling. Just lovely. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  #melissagenevievenelsen  @Genevieve_mcc  

Graham Beck Brut Zero 2012, Méthode Cap Classique,Robertson, South Africa (435453, $23.95, WineAlign)

Slanghoek pinot noir (77 per cent) meets limestone-Robertson chardonnay for a driest of the dry sparkling wine that spent 60 months on the lees. Beck’s attack for the Brut Zero “is based on the philosophy of grower’s Champagne,” notes Pieter Ferreira and as such it surely ranks as one of the more mineral-toasty bubbles in the entire Cap Classique category. No sugar added during dosage allows the land to speak. There is a deeper intuition beyond flint-struck, something categorically chalky while delicate and flavour wise it’s simply limon-delicieux. The fineness is noted and the vintage too, from which the team saw enough to make use of the highest quality juice for a tête de cuvée wine. High ceiling for aging here. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018

Wildehurst Méthode Cap Classique NV, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Sheree Nothangel’s sparkling Cap Classique is composed of chenin blanc and chardonnay (56/44), at 4 g/L dosage after 24 months on the lees. This is the third year of the program and the first stage speaks to a style that acts in delicasse incarnate. Just lovely and creamy in which lemon billows with elastic solids as curd and there is a real feel of fine lees. Though downy it too is lifted but not explosive by acidity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  wildehurst  @WildehurstW  @wildehurst

Avondale Wines Armilla Blanc De Blanc 2011, Méthode Cap Classique, WO Paarl, South Africa (451930, $34.95, WineAlign)

The first vintage was 2003 for the Armilla blanc de blanc, now out of 2011 and having spent six years lees post whole bunch pressing. It’s a naturally fermented chardonnay of which two per cent saw some older barrel. After two years of coarse lees aging there began this formidable bringing of citrus and sharp apple bite. The following four on fine lees delivered the integration of acidity ahead of the gainful accumulation of toasted brioche. Richness at its best for this Méthode Cap Classique, of preserved lemon, fine aridity (under 5 g/L RS) and high acidulation (over 9 TA). Terrific MCC. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2018   avondalewinesa  @Avondalewine  @RareEarth_Wines  @AvondaleWines  Rare Earth Wines & Spirits

Godello with André “The Giant” Morgenthal, Old Vines Project and Scott Zebarth in Stellenbosch

Heritage vines

It may be argued that South Africa’s most important work is being done through the Old Vines Project. “Old vines make wines with a unique character. Wines that reflect the vastness of our South African landscape – our harsh climate, our old and sometimes fragile soils, and our complex culture. They reflect the decades of growing in one place, in the unyielding sun, the cold winter rain, the storms and winds, on a mountain, on a plain somewhere and then producing these delicate but powerful wines.

The Old Vine Project wants to preserve vines older than 35 years by creating an awareness of the heritage of old vines. Winemakers can certify their wines as ‘Old Vine’ and the public will knowingly buy wines that are made from the many ancient and sometimes forgotten patches of vineyards. Through membership the wine drinker will be able to follow the history of these wines and see where they come from – the exact slope or site, the winemaker, the soils and the stories of each.”

It begins with Rosa Kruger, viticulturalist and long time champion of the Cape’s oldest plantings. Using funding from businessman and winery proprietor Johann Rupert, Kruger founded the project in 2016, cementing formal something that had been in the works since 2002. In 2018, the OVP launched its plaques, held tastings and developed certification seals. Kruger has tirelessly promoted the qualities of the Cape’s 2618 hA of old vines. Today the larger than life André Morgenthal instructs, educates and directs on behalf of the Old Vines Project.

Chris Alheit makes an archetypal wine from the poster child vineyard for this intense old block by block pre-occupation, called La Colline in Franschhoek. So what do heritage vines mean to the makers of wines that carry this luggage? “For a clear South African identity you must use old vineyards to call it Cape heritage wine,” insists Alheit. He and more than 40 producers are making wines from a dozen regions housing further dozens of heritage blocks. These are the history and lifeline of South African varietals. It’s not just about keeping old things alive. The Western (and Northern) Cape is one of the few places in the world where old vines continue to produce extraordinary fruit to make beautiful wines. It’s not just about where you come from, it’s also about where you are going. These are just a few of these examples.

Alheit Vineyards Sémillon La Colline Vineyard 2017, Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

“Qu’est-ce que c’est?” From a vineyard housing both light and dark-skinned sémillon and if there are others in this world I am not privy to the information. The resulting wine is 85-90 per cent blanc and 10-15 gris. La Colline was planted in 1936 on the southern slope of Dassenberg and is now farmed by grandson Anton Roux, a direct descendant of the Huguenot refugee Paul Roux who arrived in Franschhoek in 1688. The vines stretch up the hill from 310-350m and it is the fruit from the middle slope that is best to leave for picking long after the chenin blanc. This is the indispensable fruit used in Alheit’s Cartology. Thick skins elevate the natural talking tendencies, from a super healthy pH for drupe of apposite attack and confusing like great whites you would not or should not compare it to. Chris Alheit’s invades your head’s consciousness with this amazing depth for sémillon, with no definable context, pretence or precedent. The impossibility is totally unique in the world and yet utterly South African. It’s both tense and nervous but somehow I can still relax. Psycho Killer sémillon.  Drink 2020-2028. Tasted September 2018  chrisalheit  gsoleil123  @ChrisAlheit  @GroupeSoleilTO  Chris Alheit  Groupe Soleil Fine Wines

Chris and Suzaan Alheit

gentle humans, givers, terroiristes, magical wine purveyors ~ suzaan and @chrisalheit ~ thank you for the enlightenment ~ #capewine2018 #zoocrew

Alheit Vineyards Chenin Blanc Magnetic North 2017, WO Citrusdal Mountains, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

Also from the Citrusdal Mountains SAVA, a.k.a the viticultural area also known as the Skurfberg, a 10 minute drive away at 550m, again red sand and clay. The vines are ungrafted chenin blanc on its own roots but the soil here is an even deeper red, more so than Huilkrans and so now that white hematic thing is happening. Like red blood cells carrying elements, nutrients, ferrous unction and a pulse of power as opposed to the calm in the white of Huilkrans. This is the tenor to the baritone, rich in its crazy depth of fruit and always seared, marked and injected with trace elements. Does it all on its own. There is no winemaking going on here, only a moving target, of intensity and mystery. The vineyard lies a few degrees off true north from the Alheit cellar, poetically licensed as their “Magnetic North.” Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2018

 

Mullineux Old Vines White 2017, Unfiltered & Unfined, WO Swartland, South Africa (556597, $37.95, WineAlign)

Predominately chenin blanc with grenache blanc, sémillon gris, clairette and viognier, ushered by natural yeasts and encouraged through malolactic fermentation. The new age textured acidity is accessed without a stir and a highly textured affair it is. The composure rests in seamless mille-feuille layering while vested in slow-developed, all you could dream about in a cape effect white wine. Welcome to the cumulative in Andrea Mullineux’s Old Vines bottling. While Granite and Quartz make pinpointed investigations this is the one to educate us all on what Western Cape and more specifically Swartland chenin blanc blends are capable of discerning. The weight is powerful and weightless, the effort strong and effortless. Amazing really. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018 and January 2019  mullineuxwines  nicholaspearcewines  @MullineuxWines  @Nicholaspearce_  @MullineuxWines  Andrea Mullineux  Chris Mullineux  Nicholas Pearce

Huis Van Chevallerie Filia Brut Nature Kap Klaissque NV, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Filia is the daughter of the Paardeberg, a self-described and cheeky Swartland Kap Klassique chenin blanc made by Christa Von La Chevallerie, dogter to Juergen and the Nuwedam Farm just off the R45 outside Malmesbury. Not just any sparkling wine mind you. Although the early stages of this old vines project from the (mainly) 2015 vintage only gives 18 months on the lees it also provides 1974 planted chenin blanc, for shits, giggles and shut the front door attitude. For Christa it’s a matter of “how far I can go with (the combination of) chenin and lees.” Clearly just the entry point here, with an announced mix of richness and tension, not yet knowing what can and will happen. The coast is clear, the chenin blanc is ready, willing, able and the winemaker will stop at nothing to make this bubble in her own image and way. Look out sparkling world. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2018  christalachevallerie  @HuisChevallerie  @ChevallerieZA  Christa Von La Chevallerie

Natte Valleij Cinsault 2017, WO Darling, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Malmesbury formation is the ground beneath the feet of these 1978ish planted bush vines. Milner calls them “the most isolated block in our collective…on a lonely hill surrounded by wheat fields and too many gates to remember.” The élevage is back into concrete egg here because the Darling fruit asks or even demands it. Alex is wanting the florality of violets to be celebrated and “put into a time capsule,” from one amazing environment to another. The egg is asked to capture that. It also brings texture and salve in the form of orange pastille, warmed and lingering. Of the four single investigative cinsault this is the most accomplished, with tannin and structure. Die koppie. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2018  nattevalleij  @nattevalleij  @nattevalleij

Savage Wines Red 2015, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $54.99, WineAlign)

The kitchen sink is nearly full with syrah, grenache, cinsault and touriga nacional in a back to the farthing future beginning that was the first and now reminds of the regional ideal. While all of Duncan Savage’s other wines will already have evolved, in ’17 this will become a 100 per cent varietal syrah, in the name of fine tuning and a furthering of regional identity. The Red is the most perfumed, also elegant and delicate with a sneaky beauty in its phantom power. Really clocks in and knocks you upside like powerful. Like modern nebbiolo though you’d never really know it unless you were unafraid to ask. Who are you? Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018  #savagewines    #savagewines

The Heldeberg from Stellenbosch

Post revolution Swartland

They are no longer the Swartland Revolution but now the Swartland Swingers, a free and easy collective of South African winemakers who have this winemaking thing figured out. There is a swagger about these women and men who make wine from dry-farmed bush vines set into some of this planet’s craziest antediluvian soils. Their wines collectively have a very purposed focus but what they have more than anything else is flow.

Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $23.00, WineAlign)

While Adi Badenhorst also produces some über fascinating and ultra-expensive chenin blanc (Klip Klop, Golden Slopes and Piet Bok se) the Secateurs, also known as pruning shears or “snoeiskêr” is the glue and the rock in his entire portfolio. It’s one of the original upscale chenin blanc to crack the North American market and open the portal to the rest of South Africa’s bush vine world. Some great old vines help usher this into its echelon and while it strikes with leaner and more direct lines than (especially) the textured Golden Slopes, it still exhibits its own palate wealth. A little bit of this, a little bit of vat, skin-contact, stainless and concrete ushers along the variegation so that feeling balances the fresh spirit of this steen. Salty rock and sweet basil come through at the finish. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  aabadenhorst  hannekebotha  wynbefok  noble_estates  @AABadenhorst  @Noble_Estates  Adi Badenhorst  @aabadenhorst  @NobleEstates

David And Nadia Grenache 2017, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

For grenache the focus David and Nadia exert is on the red-brown schistous soils of the Kasteelberg, masculine terroir if you like (or will) as a brother to the Paardeberg where they make chenin blanc the order. About half the ferment is whole bunch, plenty enough for grenache and also six amazing weeks on skins. I can only imagine what the room began to smell like with this triumvirate of soil, varietal and execution happening. No other grenache anywhere in the world shows this type of terroir purity, or at least with such unequivocal and parochial relevance. The raspberry notes are uncanny and the transparency of transference is both light and in total control. Who knew so much character and structure could be coaxed from something desperately delicate. It’s like a spider’s web with bonds unbroken, capable of snaring the physical and the emotional while always remaining inherently meta. Aragon nor Rhône this is not, ethereal it is. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted September 2018  davidandnadia  @DavidandNadia  @DavidandNadia

Porseleinberg Syrah 2012, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

If you would like to explore the pinnacle of richest restraint where South African syrah goes out to concrete then look to this off of Porcelain Mountain made by the phantom himself Callie Louw. A Riebeek Kasteel phenomenon was born out of a Boekenhoutskloof drive and it is the magical glycerin texture that behooves us to think, feel and linger with this top quality example. It’s also reticent, of great humility, needing no attention or introduction. It may be syrah of a certain aloof quality and yet the intensity unparalleled deserves all the accolades it may and will receive. Remembered, remarkable, stoic, unchanged and unchained. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted September 2018  #porseleinberg #callielouw  #porseleinberg

Terracura Wines Red 2016, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Contributions are solicited, paid for and received from five different vineyards on three different terroirs in the Swartland; two on Riebeek schist, two on Paardeberg granite and one on Malmesbury ferrous clay. What does is all mean or add least add up to? It’s not Jamet dammit though it may be the most Cornas like because of the deep liqueur in this fruit. Also due in part to the Rhônish funk which gets into the mind of assessment in ahead of Western Cape terroir. It’s a combination of absolute perfection and downright absurdity. The olive brine and meaty cure are there, as is the tannin, like deep, dark sunken eyes. Ryan and Samantha don gothic costumes and zombie make-up, “with white lipstick and one thing on their minds.” Full moon syrah fever. Make a wine like this and you are no longer innocent winemakers. Nothing petty about that. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018  terracura  ryanthewinegeek  vinevenom  @RyanTheWineGeek  @Sammelier  Samantha Suddons  Ryan Mostert  @terracurawines

Mullineux Syrah Granite 2016, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $152.95, WineAlign)

Moving in a muy from the seven vineyard syrah and into a Swartland side site committed to granite this is one of three Mullineux syrah specificities, the other being Schist and Iron. Granite is drawn of a single parcel of 19 year-old dry land, bush vines grown in the decomposed granite of the Paardeberg. Andrea Mullineux makes use of a 100 per cent whole cluster ferment and moves into larger (500L) barrels, all aimed at freshness and aromatics. Granite provides a flavour profile that is juicier, fuller, spicier and more provocative than the others but oh to be smitten by tannins so exceptional. There is a taste of blackberry incarnate, a fluidity of seamless transitions and length for Paardeberg days. Brilliant vintage for one of South Africa’s most important red wines. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted September 2018  mullineuxwines  nicholaspearcewines  wosa_ca  @MullineuxWines  @Nicholaspearce_  @MullineuxWines  @WOSACanada  Andrea Mullineux  Chris Mullineux  Nicholas Pearce  @WOSACA

Donovan Rall

Rall Wines AVA 2017, Swartland, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

The red blend carrying his daughter’s name is Donovan Rall’s 2.5 hectares sourcing from the schistose section of 18 year-old planted vines. This is consistent with many of the vineyards he works with, from dry land conditions, cause he’s the Schist Man. It’s varietal syrah of 1000 bottles, a true cimmerian beast, from struggling vines, between 50-60 whole bunch (as opposed to 100 in the RED). Pure ferric initiative, real hematic following. The glycerin, candied flower and aged balsamico is almost IGT, of Cortona but really more so in a mind’s eye memory of Cornas. Freshness is preserved and structure is infinite. Great, great acidity. One of the Cape’s greatest achievements in syrah. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2018

Verticals

Anyone who chose not to attend Cape Wine’s eight wineries, four decades retrospective missed out on a tasting of a lifetime. Time was tight and so the ability to taste all eight and take proper notes in a walk-around format was challenging so here are five of the eight represented. Regrets to Vilafonté, Kanonkop and Warwick for the miss and here’s to hoping another opportunity will be afforded again someday.

How to have an epiphany. Taste 25-30 year-old #southafrican white wines. Case in point @kleinconstantia sauvignon blanc

Klein Constantia Blanc De Blanc 1987, Constantia, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Poured by Managing Director Hans Astrom in Cape Town alongside 1994 and 2009. Planted in 1979, the inaugural vintage and the first South African sauvignon blanc was 1986. The 1987 was not labelled as sauvignon blanc but rather as B de B because of the botrytis-affected vintage. Honeyed but not in the way you might expect, not pushed by a petrol-fuelled sweetness but instead as the action of an old world inspired mash-up. Like Loire Jolivet Sancerre meeting Huet Demi-Sec chenin blanc head on. The collision explodes into a smoky smoulder with textural consequences. It’s a bees-waxy ethereal treading of chaotic spaces between worlds. The astral travel must have twisted through three decades of nether to arrive at this place, with the low pH vineyard soils to thank. And the magic, despite or perhaps in ode to the ’87 botrytis. In the end aridity wins and the wine drinks so proper, perfect and fine. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2018  kleinconstantia  halpernwine  wosa_za  @KleinConstantia  @HalpernWine  @hansverbier  @WOSA_ZA  @KleinConstantia  @halpernwine

Hamilton Russell Vineyard Pinot Noir 1986, WO Walker Bay, South Africa (999516, AgentWineAlign)

Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell went above and beyond in their interpretation of what is means to pour at a varietal tasting by including not only this first HR vintage but also sharing one of only three remaining bottles left in this world. Were the 1997 and 2000 perhaps better structured wines? Likely and even probably yes, but there’s something magical about a first effort. The innocence, hopes and dreams are all in there, along with the honesty and the sincerity. Believe it or not the acidity is still in full flight even if the fruit has vacated the premises and turned to duff. If you’ve ever reached your hands into the Hermanus earth, inhaled in the sense of place and perhaps a lick of stone then you might imagine what this ’86 is like. A combination of plant oils, geosmin and petrichor preserved just long enough before it’s too late. Anthony and Olive timed the opening of the bottles produced to last just long enough. Drink 2018.  Tasted September 2018  olive_hamilton_russell  noble_estates  @OliveHR  @Noble_Estates  Olive Hamilton Russell  @NobleEstates

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2008, WO Elgin, South Africa (AgentWineAlign)

In a word meraviglioso, or as they say in Afrikaans, wonderlike. Paul Cluver’s 10 year-old Elgin whispering pinot noir is one to prove something very important. The get together of place, varietal and producer reaches a tri-point of agreement, all vintages being equal, at the 10 year mark. Here from this 2008 we intuit the apex, of tessellate beat and three points where two lines meet. We’ll allow for a give or take of one to two years, duly noted in this vertical that includes 2009, 2013 and 2015 but for 2008 the number 10 finds itself at a pinnacle of evolution. If you appreciate aged reds, developed pinot noir and wise South African wine than here you are. A glass of plum pudding elastic, textured and exemplary in entanglement; notable fruit, fine acidity and tannin of “streel.” An earthy intensity sprinkles over the finale. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2018  paulcluver  paulcluverwines  @paulcluver  @paulcluverwines  Paul Cluver

Meerlust Rubicon 1991, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, 64329, WineAlign)

Some vintage are surely more special than others and while Meerlust has blessed many of them with a speciality of Bordeaux inspired wine dissertation it is this 1991 that stands erect in a critical test of time. This was tasted during the second of two estate verticals afforded in one calendar year, the first having being drawn from 2010-2003, 1996 and 1984, with this second string consisting of 2015, 2009, 2001, 1991 and 1984. The fruit is both in original form and yet also dehydrated; rusty raspberry, bokser and orange peel. Still a tightness and a faint ramification of tannin but plenty of staying power. A top quality vintage no doubt. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  meerlustwine  liffordgram    @LiffordON  MEERLUST ESTATE  @liffordwineandspirits

Sadie Family Palladius 2011, WO Swartland, South Africa (SAQ 13098449, $88.00, WineAlign)

Though the upstart 2016 may well go on to become the best of the lot in a vertical that includes 2005, 2009 and 2014 there is no denying the way this 2011 draws you into its lair of fineness. “An incredible year,” says Eben Sadie and one during which the move was made to aging in foudres. Made for an instant alteration into the new texture and what Sadie notes as “starting to dial in.” This is by now one of the Western Cape’s most accomplished and paradigmatic appellative white blends and while certainly dogmatic it has earned the right to be so. A blend of 33 per cent chenin blanc, (16) roussanne, (11 each) grenache blanc and sémillon blanc plus sémillion gris and palomino, (6 each) viognier, clairette blanche and verdellho. What’s it all add up to? Layers and layers of stratified South African geology, history and potential. The ’05 and the ’09 show what was possible and this 2011 shows what is. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted September 2018  sadiefamilywines  @SadieFamilyWine  The Sadie Family Wines

The 1980s called. They want their culture back.

Wot varietal?

“We’re no longer trying to make chenin taste like sauvignon blanc or chardonnay, or Huet for that matter,” noted Chris Mullineux. “The grape variety has been in the country for more the 350 years, since the 1650s and it can withstand warm and dry conditions and perform really well.” No discourse on new versus old in South Africa can be addressed without first looking at the modish dialectal of chenin blanc. The combination of bush and old vines, coupled with indigenous ferments and skin contact addresses has elevated the stalwart, signature grape to its current reality. That said the wines now being made in South Africa do not solely rely on the current chenin fashion and instead offers up a diverse lot of varietal, region and style.

Alheit Vineyards Cartology Bush Vines 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Cartology exists in a vacuum without peers, in part because it charted and mapped a course ahead of the curve. The 2017 refuses to rest on laurels and pushes the destination even further away so that the journey still remains the thing. Chris and Suzaan Alheit employ 11 dryland bush (30-80) year-old parcels and the whole addition proposes an adage of place and not idea. This is Cartology, a snapshot of time and place. The smaller amount of eighty year-old sémillon is from La Colline in Franschhoek, while the 30+ year old chenin blanc is grown in Skurfberg, Perdeberg, Bottelary Hills and Kasteelberg. If Cartology was this rich before I cannot say and only Chris, Suzaan and the Cape can make this wine. Only them and in these places. Best to date. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018  chrisalheit  gsoleil123  @ChrisAlheit  @GroupeSoleilTO  Chris Alheit  Groupe Soleil Fine Wines

Rall Wines Cinsault Blanc 2017, Wellington, Western Cape, South Africa (WineryWineAlign)

The fruit comes from a 32 year-old, tiny 0.2 hectares of certified vines and the only remaining vineyard planted to the varietal. Like red cinsault this thing drops acid as fast as anything else. What you will taste is only the grape, on the skins three days for phenolic pulling and then straight into the clay. Seven months only, not too far and so freshness is preserved. Not just spirit but mouthfeel with the lightest frame and 10.5 per cent alcohol, with nice dry tannins. It’s like a shout out louds very loud matter of “nothing is hard cause something always comes out.” Lemon like you’ve never experienced before, leaning lime, like clairette and grenache blanc, but then again no. It’s just this. Donovan Rall managed 1005 bottles. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  #Rallwines    @RallWines

Smiley Chenin Blanc NV, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Poured from magnum as one does with a non-vintage, Swartland chenin blanc inspired by the white Rioja of Tondonia and the idiosyncratic whites of the Jura. Although these originals are most obvious as Ryan Mostert’s first loves of oxidative sensitivity and specificity his Smiley stylistic has surely changed him so that the point in space is in constant flux. And so his is now the precedent because the revolutionary pioneering (along with several of his peers) has established South Africa, which includes Smiley at the forefront as the new reference point. We qualify this by saying that its own way Smiley is a fixed point that stays still and does not move. Drawing on four or five vintages the chenin blanc is blended on the flor, of skin-contact and it’s really all about layers of texture, not to mention “no holds barred.” It’s not nearly as far out there as you’d expect in fact it used to be and is now so much closer to centre. Some might argue against such a compromise but it’s not one at all. It’s made clean, with focus and determination to vinify something bloody great to drink. It’s a Champagne supernova cuvée. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2018  ryanthewinegeek  vinevenom  @Silwervis  @RyanTheWineGeek  @Sammelier  Samantha Suddons  Ryan Mostert

Blackwater Wines Palomino Pleasure Garden 2017, WO Swartland, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Francois Haasbroek goes retro with his first try at varietal palomino, turning it out ambient and atmospheric, tasted here like listening to the Big Thing exactly thirty years on. The Duran Duran of chenin blanc for Swartland is also known as fransdruif or vaalblaar, meaning “White French.” Haasbroek sources his fruit by way of vines grown on shale with Table Mountain sandstone. Clocks in at a light radio’s just over 12 per cent alcohol and there was no fining. It’s a micro-terroir 0.85 hectare block and this 2016 as mentioned is the first kick at the can. Textured, natural, talc silky, with notes of orange zest, kelp, algae and sea spray. Gets creamy with lovely lemon preserve. Palomino is not chenin blanc but it can be coaxed into charm and “if there’s secrets, she has to be party, to every one of them.” We too are listening in. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  shot_of_time  @Blackwaterwine   @BlackwaterWine

Lowerland Colombard Vaalkameel 2017, WO Prieska Noord Kaap, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Lowerland is the small northern exposure from Alette de Beer and Bertie Coetzee. Forget just about everything you think you know about wines from South Africa and settle in for something completely other. Drive 1000 kms north to a place 1000m above sea level, where the summers are hot and winters see temperatures of -10 celsius. Vaalkameel, the “pale camel” is not a reference to the wine’s hue but a note to mimic the local flora. Comes through in the most unique herbal way and so the thickets of horny bushes must have their garrigue say. Some natural grasses (no cover crops) line the rows of this arid and wild viticultural frontier where late summer rainfall and the Orange River supply all that is required. Lime citrus and moments of pith are coaxed into the cool, almost gelid but certainly textured fruit by whole bunch master winemaker Lukas van Loggerenberg. Only 1,000 bottles were made of this trés cool white. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018  bioboertie  vanloggerenbergwines  alette.waterboer  lowerland_wines  @CoetzeeBertie  @AletteWaterboer  Bertie Coetzee  @LowerlandFarm  Alette De Beer

Avondale Wines Cyclus 2014, WO Paarl, South Africa (295220, $29.95, WineAlign)

The blend is one-third roussanne with smaller parts of chenin blanc, chardonnay, viognier and sémillon. Barrel fermented in bigger barrels plus 20 per cent in amphora with the whole bunch component. Toasty, first from the roussanne and then what the sémillon brings. Texture is quite silky and the acidity primps, prompts then lifts the richness of fruit. Such a smart mastering of the South African art of Cape assemblage. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018  avondalewinesa  @Avondalewine  @RareEarth_Wines  @AvondaleWines  Rare Earth Wines & Spirits

De Wetshof Estate Pinot Noir Nature in Concert 2017, WO Robertson, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

For a chardonnay focused estate the question posed to Johannes de Wet is why pinot noir? “Because my father loves pinot,” is the straight answer. The brothers grow it on the rockiest soils up the slope seven kms from the winery above and beyond the limestone blocks where the whites thrive. It’s truly uncharted territory, away from the clay and into the hard Robertson granite. “Quite ideal for a variety that is so hard to get right,” muses de Wet. This is beautiful purity of fruit taken from vines that really only see the morning sun. A direct wind and afternoon shadows supply the acidity from what may be the coolest spot and also the steepest. “It’s one of the best/worst decisions we’ve ever made,” continues de Wet. “We don’t make any money but we love doing it.” Clean, linear, striking and in the end, just because. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018  dewetshofwines  @DeWetshofWines  @dewetshofwines

Momento Wines Tinta Barocca 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

In 2017 there are three equal sources for Momento’s tinto barocca; one-third each Swartland, Stellenbosch and Bot Rivier, all old, dry-farmed bush vineyards. The vintage saw 26 barrels made with 20 per cent whole bunch in the mix. “A tribute to old vines in South Africa explains Marelise Niemann.” Surely not the only one, but certainly the unique gatherer of the grape variety off of three distinct soils. Like making an estate Brunello or highest quality Bourgogne AOC, drawing from three apposite yet complimentary micro-terroirs to provide fruit, acidity and structure. The tannin accumulation submits to the possibilities of that structure and in turn, age ability. Brilliant. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2018  momento_wines  @momentowines  Marelise Niemann

Savage Wines Cinsault Follow The Line 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $50.99, WineAlign)

Follow the Line investigates, celebrates and extrapolates the unbridled intensity of cinsualt defined, vital, incarnate. A small, seven points of Darling syrah is blended in for pure, spicy and red ropey fruit forward freedom. The full on fruit front is a pulsing current of currants and dried herbs but it’s also sneaky tannic. A creeping, seemingly idle ne’er-do-well this one but do not be fooled. Picked early and ready to explode. Wait for it, follow the line to the blood red shoes, “dancing with the lights on.” Wait for the fire like this cinsault of total excitement. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted September 2018  #savagewines    #savagewines

Craven Wines Syrah The Faure Vineyard 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Like the sister Firs this Faure Vineyard site is also 21 years of age, east facing towards the Heldeberg, with rocks in the soils. The name is more than familiar to Jeanine Craven, who was a Faure before she merged with Mick. What really separates this place is the marine air, three kilometres from the sea, as far as the African Black Oystercatcher flies. Again the planning involves whole cluster pressing and on skins seven days, to make pure syrah. Separated by 15 kms the Faure is antithetical to the Firs, salted by the sea and of a furthered intensity in a different form. It’s near searing, linear, grippy and with acidity lifting everything. Really juicy, pushed by a wow factor, clean, no funk and so much spice. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018   cravenwines  @cravenwines  Jeanine Craven  Mick Craven

Lismore Syrah Estate Reserve 2017, WO Greyton, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Samatha O’Keefe’s excellent work with sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, viognier and pinot noir using Elgin, Walker Bay and 2003 planted estate fruit is one thing but this first go it alone syrah from the home vineyard takes a breath, blows a mind and melts a heart away. The Cape’s south coast at Greyton is the new frontier and as O’Keefe admits, “I drove down a dusty road and the rest is history.” While the ’16 syrah made use of half Elgin fruit it is this next wonder of cool-climate South Africa where you need to simply open your eyes and do the math. Steep slopes, prevalent shale and diurnal temperature fluctuations egress to varietal necessity and bring the proverbial Hermitage house down. A wine where together winemaker and taster share a moment of epiphany, for her one of many, for me my first. “All I did was learned to let the terroir speak for itself and to stop making South African shiraz.” Purity, transparency, honesty and paradigm shift all wrapped into one enigmatic yet emblematic syrah. Pay great attention to Greyton. This is South African syrah. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2018  lismorewine  greytontourism  @lismorewine  @LoveGreyton  @LismoreWine  Samantha O’Keefe  @GreytonTourism

Van Loggerenberg Wines Graft 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

Lukas van Loggerenberg remembers his oupa with this tongue in cheek reference for a red blend of cinsault and syrah (55/45) sourced from granitic soils on in the Polkadraai Hills. Grafting, whether it be vines or winemakers is what keeps tradition, hard work ethic and biological diversity alive. Lukas is a larger than life pragmatist methinks and he’s all about putting things together, in place, with the best fit possible. Not so much a master of assemblage as much as one of oversized zen. The two varietal vineyards are 800m apart and separated by 200m of elevation. They are Lenny and George, two parcels joined at the whole bunch hip and for 11 months in French oak. They only add up to 660 bottles. The Mediterranean styling is evident, in black olive, garrigue (or fynbos), pepperoncino and cimmerian darkness. Richness is met by an earthbound ropiness though it’s ripeness is belied by pique, punch and peppery klip. A big and wow tannic finish, but it’s a sweet one. Drink 2019-2027. Tasted September 2018  vanloggerenbergwines  @LukasvLogg  Lukas van Loggerenberg  

Ken Forrester Grenache-Syrah 1999, WO Stellelenbosch, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)

There ain’t a whole helluva lot of precedence from which to go on in deciding what’s going on here save for sitting next to Ken himself and taking in that devilish smile. What an honour to have him pour a spot of this 19 year-old tea into your glass. I suppose it could be considered the older sibling to the Gypsy and elder to Renegade but really it’s just a Rhône blend from another era and mother. Smoke, pepper, spice and mild meanderings remind us of innocent but also difficult times for making wine in the Western Cape. This just feels like sundown in Stellenbosch, of a demurred and soft glowing light, a breeze that picks up and falls away, a stillness in the air. No man made light, at night very bright. A good feeling this wine doth give. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted September 2018  kenforrestervineyards  fmcwine noble_estates  @KFwines  @Noble_Estates  @KFwines  @NobleEstates

Kuier

Good to go!

godello

A view of the Simosnberg from Amazink in

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WineAlign

Eighteen Canadian wines that rocked in 2018

2017 Aldé Rosé, Interloper and As Is

The inaugural year-end summary of Canadian wine excitement posted to godello.ca was in 2013 and this sixth instalment naturally includes five more than the first. The necessity begs of the process to expand because five years later even the paltry number 18 is but a fraction of what could or should be noted, publicized and celebrated. This exercise is one of the most arduous writing assignments of the calendar year, difficult to pin down, even harder to leave wonder out in omission. As I’ve said before “it’s biased, exclusive and decisive but it is meant to celebrate a select few with a mandate to elevate and exult the rest. It’s also a proclamation read to many who remain ignorant to an ideal of great wine being made in Canada, to tell the insolent they are not welcome here anyway. The winemakers in this country are in full command of their acumen, craft and future. They own it.”

Related – 17 Canadian wines that rocked in 2017

Another year of tasting Canadian wine, another year of thousands of examples shared my way. Even more international travel made it difficult to keep up the pace but I’m sure I tasted more than 1000 wines once again. We are relentless in our attention paid to Canadian wines at the WineAlign office. The WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada convened in June at the convention centre in Penticton B.C. and judging Ontario wines happened with David Lawrason at The Great Canadian Kitchen Party, the artist formerly known as Gold Medal Plates.

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

Over the past 12 months my partner Scott Zebarth and I have upped our little négoce game with the fine folks at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery. With the help of Marty Werner, Ben Minaker and Eden Garry we managed to crush, ferment, blend and bottle three new wines. In April there were 594 magnums of Aldé Rosé 2017, a 100 per cent VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake cabernet franc. Then in September we released the second vintage of Interloper Cabernet Franc 2017, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake and our newest wine, As Is Field Blend 2017, VQA Niagara Lakeshore.

As Is Field Blend 2017, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario ($19.95)

The third wine in the little project with partner Scott Zebarth and Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery’s Marty Werner, Ben Minaker and Eden Garry A dream of fields, single-vineyard one-third each blend of pinot noir, merlot and cabernet franc, co-fermented with ambient yeasts. As Is.  scottzebarth  marty_werner  benminaker23  ravinevineyard  @Scottsomm  @marty_werner  @BMinaker23  @RavineVineyard  Scott Zebarth  Martin Werner  Ben Minaker  @RavineVineyardEstateWinery

In 2016 there were 16 wines noted. In 2015 I counted 15 on the filtered list. In 2014 the highlights numbered 14, just as in 2013 the number chosen to cant, recant and decant excellence in Canadian wine was 13. Last year you are correct, the list held 17 spots. Roll out the 2018 red carpet. Here are the 18 most exciting Canadian wines of 2018.

Back up the truck, glug glug Gamay Rosé Flipping the Bird by @hatchwines and where’s J-do?

The Hatch Wines Gobsmacked Flipping The Bird Pink 2017, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $21.99, WineAlign)

We pulled this Rosé from the ice and were utterly astonished and astounded at this particular bird. It was Jason Parkes, “he named you the bird. It’s how you were generally referred. We never really understood, never really thought about much.” So we tasted again and we raised a brow, got excited and then were utterly gobsmacked. Sometimes, there’s a wine. And I’m talkin’ about the Bird here. Sometimes, there’s a wine, well, he’s the Rosé for his time and place. Mostly go gamay go with some cabernet sauvignon, utterly fresh at the peak of perfect natural volatility, red berries and grapefruit. No salve texture nor trans fat feeling left in mouth behind neither. Crushable by any amount desired. A portion of the profits from the sale of this wine are donated to Parrot Island, a non-profit sanctuary for abandoned and abused exotic birds in Peachland BC. “With time, it only made more sense, As time went by, it just made more sense. You are the bird. You are the bird.” Thank you Jason, thank you Dude. Thank you Gord. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted June 2018  hatchwines  @HatchWines  @hatchwines

Two years in a row. Well-deserved and just because.

Malivoire Rosé Moira 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Malivoire’s most important and benchmark Ontario Rosé is one of the first to the table from the 2017 vintage and why not because its quick soak and lightness of being takes no time at all to get ready. This is the antithetical beauty of Rosé and how it must be approached for best results. Malivoire does not take a step forward from the most perfect ’15 and ’16 wines but there is more fruit in this ’17. You can actually nose and taste strawberry plus a hint of tart raspberry. This will appeal to more of the general Rosé loving populace without any compromise for the provincial, provençal geeks everywhere else. It’s ostensibly a better wine in 2017 because it will attract that growing audience without having made any concessions or dis to authenticity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Fitzpatrick Fitz Rosé 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $48.98, WineAlign)

Long lasting flavours of impression. Candied ginger, dried strawberry, every fruit shade of red, for redheads everywhere.  Last tasted December 2018  fitzwine  @FitzWine  @FitzWine

This pinot noir is lovely, quiet and mild, a lemon-strawberry aromatic blush of the faintest noir. Fine spun, wild yeasty, truly wound tight, so focused and persistent. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

Trail Estate Riesling Foxcroft Vineyard Unfiltered 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

In 2016 the next wrinkle is a wild ferment (as opposed to the inoculated ’15), unfined and unfiltered, because as time progressed “I liked it more and more,” says winemaker Mackenzie Brisbois. No coarse filtration means some minor sediment will settle in the bottle. Smashed layers of tote-filled grapes are brought to the crushpad, in lieu of the crusher, to extract from the skins and stems, making use of the punchdown tool, while waiting before pressing. Recently bottled in December 2017 the BFR is something completely other and if 2015 was considered not, this follow-up is markedly fruity now, because it always was, all the way through during just more than a year in really old barrels. It’s a blonde riesling as per M. Gustave, if you will. “Why blonde? Because they all were.” This is the wisest of Mack Brisbois’ rieslings, calm, confident, collected and shining brightly from the word go. You don’t have to wait on this one, it’s riper, it’s unfiltered, made with a lot less sulphur than the skin contacts and those “dirty” 15s. “I like to see how little (sulphur) I can get away with,” notes Brisbois. The most accomplished riesling that she has made to date, the 16’s balance is spot on now and you will not have to wait for it to come into its cinematic stage. Drink it now and keep it longer. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Hard not to put the 1991 Cave Spring on the list but is there any good reason to not place the CSV on the list every single year?

Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2016, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (566026, $29.95, WineAlign)

The CSV from a warm 2016 really expresses the vintage on the nose with a heavy dose of wet stone and every part of a ripe peach. You have to get past the early sulphur but once you do you take a good bite into the flesh of this riesling and the juices will run with accents and angles fit by tonic, pith, tangy, nervy acidity and a hidden sweetness. The sugars are surely more elevated than realized or will ever be felt because the combination of acidity and pith are covers that will never peel back. Size matters and this CSV is built with great Escarpment architecture, stepping out of the paradigmatic 2015 shadow and into another age. This 2016 begins an epoch of structural expressionism and should easily carry its construct through to the next decade. That consequently, is when this CSV will really be ready to rock and roll for a full decade more. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted March 2018  cavespringcellars  thevineagency  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh  Cave Spring Cellars  The Vine

Godello and Paul Pender of Tawse
PHOTO: Steven Elphick & Associates

Tawse South Bay Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $35.15, WineAlign)

The South Bay Prince Edward County fruit from Huff Estates lands is simply exceptional produce, from where winds blow-dry leaning vines perched aboard a passel of solid limestone sliding into Lake Ontario. Tawse has always coveted this fruit and when Paul Pender is allowed to play with it he does so with great mindfulness in search of greater apogee. Methinks Pender both picked a few days to a week earlier and also worked the most mineral meets Ceres toast his barrels can afford. There is a deep, sonorous and resounding regard about this chardonnay. It’s both sumptuous and serious, with a flinty-mineral meets toasted hazelnut interplay. It is perhaps an Ontario nod to Les Caillerets, or just a far away coincidence, but regardless you just have to know that it’s a very special wine. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted December 2018  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Domaine Queylus Chardonnay Réserve Du Domaine 2016, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Agent, $37.95, WineAlign)

Still in the vein of the Queylus chardonnay tradition where a winemaker is always on the watch, meaning you never take your eyes off the child or the prize. The Réserve is a matter gathered from the best barrel selections but says Kelly Mason “the treatment and the worry are the same.” Slides easily away from the tropical and sidles up the the rocky places from whence it came. Chardonnay is often round and liked that way but Queylus is direct, linear, angled and also far from angular. When the Escarpment rule is followed and traced along the lines of a malolactic ruler marked by clones (in this case 76 as opposed to 95) then structure is assured. The ambition is real, the intention serious and there is no roaming far to the west or the east. All that and richness is found through every bright sip. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2018  queylus  @Queylus  Domaine Queylus Winery

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Tête De Cuvée 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (278812, $45.20, WineAlign)

Still so youthful, now noted by smoked quince with a shot of peppermint schnapps where no sugar lives save for the sweetness of nature.  Last tasted December 2018  hiddenbench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Tête De Cuvée by Hidden Bench, like a Champagne best of the best abstraction, makes an appeal to self-esteem and esteem for others, to consumers who have come to recognize Niagara and even more specifically, the Beamsville Bench for head of the class, cool climate Chardonnay. That mouthful congregates and works in congruence with the quality in the Tête’s composition; full-on freshness, density, weeping cerate texture, toasted and popping kernel, fine-grained localization, utterly integrated barrel. There was scant quantity (32.5 hL/h) from some very old and wise vines, pronounced like others but louder than most, from the bullhorn of a stentorian vintage. What is felt and spoken about the quality inherent from out of the finest parcels in the Locust Lane and Rosomel Vineyards Chardonnay fruit is more than a patent observation. The ability to take on toast cuts to the nougat and the synoptic rises to the ethereal ozone. Not to mention gross minerality. On the shortlist for best Niagara Chardonnay to date. Drink now and beyond 2025. Tasted twice, September and October 2014

Roche Wines Pinot Noir 2016, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $24.90, WineAlign)

The 2016 is purchased pinot noir fruit by Dylan and Pénélope Roche from Kozier organic vineyard on the Naramata Bench. Hand harvested and fermented in stainless steel tanks with regular pumping over and pressed after three weeks on skins. The press wine was separated from the free run and aged for 10 months in stainless steel and neutral French oak. Knowing what I know after the first blind assessment it now turns this love of love into inspiration, away from the soulless, blind pinot noir love and to something real. If there is a more honest and crushable one I’d be shocked. So exciting and new.  Also tasted at Bench 1775, June 2018  rochewines  @RocheWines  @rochewines

Really ripe, I mean really ripe, a hematic liqueur that few others in the flight can match. From a warm site to be sure, full and thick as pinot nor  thieves. Not as structured but so very, bloody and reasonably drinkable. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $39.00, WineAlign)

Though statements of monadical hyperbole should very much be avoided, a taste of Dan Sullivan’s ’16 JCR makes one think it has all come to this. The glycerin fruit endowed with so much natural sweetness and magnificently low alcohol feels like an impossibility. In a way it is but it’s also a County reality. This may just be the least astringent PEC pinot noir ever produced and at the same time seems entirely void of tension. Yet there is structure and cohesion, two functors so very necessary to see it drink well for 10 years, with great charm and further curiosity for five more after that. Drink 2018-2028.  Last tasted July 2018  rosehall_run  sullywine  profilewinegroup  @Rosehall_Run  @sullywine  @ProfileWineGrp  @RosehallRun  Dan Sullivan  @ProfileWineGroup

Bright, red raspberry, light and effusive with a simple, liquid chalky feel. Really drinkable. The tart is part of a delight in composition. A good chew.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

Lightfoot & Wolfville Ancienne Pinot Noir 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

Driest year on record with nary a moment of disease pressure. Spent 18 months in older French oak, less one barrel. This is the richest Ancienne and Nova Scotian pinot noir to date, with firm grip, structure and outright intensity. Welcome to the pinnacle of the first L & W pinot wave, the culmination of the first epoch, after which nothing will be the same and so much learning will have been achieved. Begs the question of what happens next? The vines get better is what, in fact I walked the 2018 pinot noir vines today. Their maturity and contiguous consistency will be the answer to future questions and debate. They will speak for and on behalf of themselves. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted October 2018  lwwines  rachhlightfoot  jhortonns  korilightfoot  @rachel_hope  @lwwines  @lightfootandwolfvillewines  Rachel Lightfoot  

Two Sisters Cabernet Franc 2014, VQA Niagara River, Ontario (Winery, $54.80, WineAlign)

Released on Monday July 16th and now a Platinum Award winner at NWAC18. “This has everything that ’13 had but just a bit more weight, structure and complexity, plus volume, those last three meaning on the palate,” explains winemaker Adam Pearce. Down in volumes (30 per cent), beautifully aromatic, low-cropped, (1.25 tonnes per acre), 15 per cent new wood, 32 months in barrel, in bottle for an additional 10 months. The focus, presence and confidence of this wine stand apart, all worked specific to place and the uniqueness of the appellation. Benefits from a double-lake effect and different soils. Chalk and river stone liquidity running as a river of its own right through. Drives the point of patience, to allow a vineyard the chance to speak of its singular phraseology. The 2014 Niagara River cabernet franc may still be a ways from reaching its full potential but it has certainly hit its stride. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2018  twosisters_vineyards  apearcevino  @TwoSisters_wine  @apearcevino  Two Sisters Vineyards  Adam Pearce  

Benjamin Bridge Cabernet Franc Small Lot 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $57.95, WineAlign)

Still from the Kingsport farm fruit, a whole cluster ferment, no messing with stems, fully oxygenated, no carbonic maceration, 30-40 per cent whole bunch. Total output is “a barrel and a bit.” An infused aromatic ferment, green spice and a char of tobacco, utter intensity, compelling and a phenolic reality. “A myth buster incarnate,” says Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, ripened beyond the sensory borders, miles away from other territories, with generosity and juicy ripe legs. From a warm vintage, nine months in neutral oak plus nine in the bottle. Then a decant and oh how the florals open up, furthered, blooming and intoxicating. More than just a fun little experiment so please wake up and smell the Gaspereau Valley. So lively, a wee salty and all energy. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted October 2018  benjaminbridge  caveman__jones  scott.savoy  @Benjamin_Bridge  @benjaminbridgevineyards  Jean-Benoit Deslauriers  Scott Savoy  

Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc Reserve 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $50.00, WineAlign)

Winemaker Brian Schmidt’s investigations into cabernet franc border on obsession but truth be told it’s not rocket science that makes so many fine varietal tiers. There are the six growers combed from six Niagara sub-appellations that add up to one entry-level, over-delivering cabernet franc. Then there is Bo Teek, the large estate vineyard planted in 1996 to clone 327 in the south and in 2006, to clone 214 in the north. Not to be forgotten in the cabernet franc make-up is the limestone substratum, highly significant for the trace mineral, elemental push up into these vines ensuring that no over-the top make up is required for varietal elevation, explanation and consummation. Vineland’s Reserve spends 16 months in barrel, none of which are any newer than from 2009. Fermentation, barrel, bottle, repeat. That’s it. No racking. This Reserve is the marriage of north and south, 60 and 40 per cent respectively, a combinative attack both phenolic and aromatic. The northern fruit sings some blues with crooning volatility whilst in delivery of sweet blackberry fruit. The south is all about stretched, nimble and elastic tones, elegant, more fragrance, black to red berries and less brooding. As one it’s a deeper and more intense wine than Bo Teek or Elevation, bottled in November, with higher acidity. The corollary variegation expands above what Bo Teek seems capable of executing solo. The structure here tells us it will not switch gears as early and live longer. Look for some secondary notes in the vein of black truffle, sweet balsam and dried lavender to show up after the turn of the decade. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted April 2018  vinelanestates  benchwineguy  @VinelandEstates  @benchwineguy  @winery.vinelandestates  Brian Schmidt


Mission Hill Terroir Series Vista’s Edge Cabernet Franc 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $50,00, WineAlign)

You have to wonder why Mission Hill had not kicked at the can before because the Vista’s Edge is one of British Columbia’s brightest cabernet francs. It’s an important and exciting first effort from East Osoyoos fruit pulled from one of the Okanagan Valley’s farthest southern plantings. It’s a top three per cent single-vineyard, special terroir series edition that smells, tastes, feels and acts like cabernet franc. Nothing about this, not by barrel nor like varietal reminds of cabernet sauvignon. There are currant and peppery reductive meets pyrazine notes as red, bright and fresh as you’d hope they would be. The pitchy darkness of structure and hue falls because night must always follow the day and that’s what happens when cabernet franc is made this way. A long life ahead is conformed by the diphthong finish. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted June 2018  missionhillwinery  @MissionHillWine  @MissionHillWine

Leaning Post Syrah Keczan Vineyard 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

The eureka moment for syrah, Lincoln Lakeshore, Keczan and Leaning Post came years ago, for it, that, they, them and I. Not together mind you but passion knows no limits and opens doors to transcend time and space. This pinpointed farm on that flat expanse so perfectly proximate to the lake is where syrah can express itself without hindrance or opposition. Here the lake is like the Mediterranean and the river like the Rhône. Together they address the clay, create a moisture gathering effect, ship out the cold fronts and usher in the warm. They make syrah like this, rich in humus, hummus and hubris, olive tapenade and sweet brine. Fruit is fruit, also sweet, but savoury, acidulated and fine. Acidity is perfect in this vintage. Length is exceptional. A new benchmark, bred from passion with the intendment to inspire commitment. One of Ontario’s best red wines. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Kacaba Signature Series Reserve Syrah 2015, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

It’s about time we get something straight. Kacaba knows Syrah, in fact they should receive serious consideration for the title of Ontario’s top Syrah specialist. Two vineyards (with plantings that date back to 1997) provide fruit for several tiers, including the syrah from Terrace and Silver Bridge Vineyards and the highest quality chosen, hand-harvested fruit for this Signature Series Reserve. An escarpment’s dolomite limestone effect plays into these hands from fruit that arrives into glass through the body of arguably Ontario’s finest current syrah. The aromatic waft of a warm pastry crust is laden with red and blue berries that also fill the cool flavour centre of a pastille. The savoury candy gives way to a peppery kick before featuring a cure of salumi and a return full circle to that serious fruit. The apposite and complimentary smells and tastes are only intensified with a bottle’s decant so just imagine the possibilities that age will bestow. This is special work from Michael Kacaba with winemakers John Tummon and Vadim Chelekhov.  Last tasted February 2018  kacabavineyards  vadimwineguy  @KacabaVineyards    Kacaba Vineyards and Winery  Vadim Chelekhov

Oh what a beautiful peppery syrah, ripe and floral, all of its aspects, angles and components agreed upon, all in. When Canadian (and in this case, somewhere in Ontario) syrah gets down to business, gets straight to the meaty and smoky point it does so tart, tight and coiled around your tongue and finger. This, right here just nails it. It is the best of times. This is the man. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted blind at #NWAC17, June 2017

Stratus Vineyards Sémillon Botrytis Affected 2016, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $38.00, WineAlign)

One of the most unique dessert wines in Ontario this is neither late-harvest nor Icewine in origin. Only the third time it has been made, the 2016 sémillon launches with a smoky beginning, as expected and yet, is always appreciated. Some of the fruit is harvested early, but other bunches in the same vineyard are some of the last to be harvested. This low alcohol anti-sticky is from the warm vintage and from the same spot in the vineyard, vintage in vintage out. Most interesting is how these pristine botrytis affected grapes are picked ahead of the rest of the clean fruit used for the dry sémillon. It’s a very vinous sém with distinct apricot and longan notes. Great acids in 2016. Has still retained some waxiness and found some tropical fruit despite the early pick. All of the counterintuitive ideals tell us that the warm vintages can make for top quality dessert wine. This is the masquerade party wine made by the Way Outs band. “That’s where the fun is, way out, WAY OUT!” Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted October 2018   stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

Good to go!

godello

2017 Aldé Rosé, Interloper and As Is

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Going back to South Africa

In just a few more sleeps I’ll be back in South Africa. Since attending Cape Wine in 2015 I have had the great fortune to spend many mornings, evenings and excursions with several groups of South African producers here in Ontario. In the past year we entertained visits from the Premium Independent Winemakers (PIWOSA) and most recently this May Chris Mullineux led a masterclass on mostly Chenin Blanc at lbs. Restaurant. Chabrol Restaurant also held a tasting and lunch with representatives from seven outstanding South African wineries.

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

On my way to one of those events I was in the car and listening to the CBC. The DJ began talking about Handel as being the composer who could have become a hip hop artist. I’ll explain what he meant in a minute. When I think about South African wines it’s almost impossible to put your finger down to think of it as one thing, one style, or one type of music. You can apply this just about anywhere but in the Capelands there is so much diversity; there are rock n’ roll stars in the Swartland, R & B, soul & Motown in Stellenbosch, Jazz in Elgin, Classical music wherever you want to hear it. But what there is everywhere is flow. Reggae flow, soulful Stevie Wonder flow, hip-hop flow.  What the DJ was trying to say is that a composer who writes with this ease of ability, with an unconscious penning of notes coming from a place that was always there from the beginning, with a creativity that comes out of effortless ease, it just flows. South African wines, collectively, have flow.

Great soils, weather and a Mediterranean climate

When I returned from that 2015 Cape Wine congress I said that South African wine is not what we thought it was. This mantra can’t be repeated often enough. Introduce me to a winemaker who is not in tune with his or her terroir and I’ll show you a winemaker who is either faking it or blindly towing a company line. That breed is few and far between. In South Africa I met exactly none of that ilk.

Related – Once upon a time in the Western Cape

LK @wosa_ca introducing Chris @mullineuxwines for what will be a wild ride through the Western Cape ~ #winesofsouthafrica

I don’t feel the same way, not quite exactly the same way, three years later. Now I see the necessity of not planting whatever you feel like wherever you feel like, but specializing, picking out micro-plots of terroir for very specific grape varieties. Narrowing the focus, figuring out what works best and why. It’s the Burgundian way and indeed the way all great wine regions make their mark. I am also inclined to agree with the heritage seekers and protectors. Old vines, especially dry, bush-farmed vineyards are the backbone of South Africa’s diversity and possibility.

At the lbs gathering Chris Mullineux noted there was a time when chenin blanc tasted like sauvignon blanc, green and sharp, or creamy like chardonnay and sweet. There have been so many styles. Mullineux explained. “We’re no longer trying to make chenin taste like sauvignon blanc or chardonnay, or Huet for that matter.” The grape variety has been in the country for more the 350 years, since the 1650s and it can withstand warm and dry conditions and perform really well. No discourse on new versus old in South Africa can be addressed without first looking at the modish dialectal of Chenin Blanc. The combination of bush and old vines, coupled with indigenous ferments and skin contact addresses has elevated the stalwart, signature grape to its current reality. Sixteen wines were presented that morning, including eight by Andrea and Chris Mullineux.

Into the South African mystic ~ A formidable line-up led by @mullineuxwines with thanks to Chris, LK @WOSACanada JG @lbstoronto @wosa_za @NicholasPearce_

Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (981167, $13.95, WineAlign)

From Stellenbosch, the pride and joy, the rainmaker, hay-maker, large volume wine. Decomposed shale provides perfume to chenin, picked over three passes, early acidity, middle palate savour and later harvest tropical fruit, namely guava. There is texture, something firm in its structure and a clear-cut ripeness of acidity. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted twice, May 2018   simonsigwines  azureau  @SimonsigWines  @azureau  @SimonsigWines  @azureauwinesandspirits

MAN Family Wines Chenin Blanc Essay 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $14.95, WineAlign)

‘Essay’ is MAN’s chenin blanc with more more stone and citrus fruit, crisp, almost crunchy, getting into texture and would really elevate the fish game. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018   manfamilywines  vonterra  @MANVintners  @vonterrabev  @MANFamilyWines  @vonterra

Deetlefs Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Breedekloof, Western Cape, South Africa (465443, $16.95, WineAlign)

The youngest wine route in South Africa and just 90 km outside of Cape Town, the Breedekloof wine route lies in the Breede River Valley, which stretches from Gouda in the west, McGregor in the south, Montagu in the east and the Tankwa-Karoo National Park in the north. “We call it over the mountains,” explains Chris Mullineux, “around that bend from Cape Town.” It’s an area with a long history of chenin by the river bed. A place of fertile soils, where young vines have great vigour and then when they reach 35 years plus, deliver great concentration. Some green pepper and pyrazine here, a throwback to the sauvignon blanc ringer days and also more weight and laced up tightness. It’s a savoury but quite cool expression. Gets crunchy and chewy, one and then the other, like Napolitano pizza dough, in a way. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018   deetlefswineestate  nicholaspearcewines  @Deetlefs_Wine  @Nicholaspearce_   @DeetlefsWineEstate  Nicholas Pearce

May 23rd, 2018 #lobsterroll by @lbstoronto ~ #lostinamoment ~ pairs beautifully with South African #cheninblanc

Pearce Predhomme Chenin Blanc Old Vine/Wild Ferment 2017, Clear Mountain, Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $22.99, WineAlign)

The next chapter in the Nicholas Pearce-Will Predhomme chenin blanc joint is the richest to date, as a matter of unction without presumption. The great blended barrel and tank amalgamation dishes an orchard tone citrus smoothie with rigour, tension and then perhaps, yes, a posit tug of confident Stellenbosch belief. Presumption even, knowing that you will adore it. And you will. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018   pearcepredhomme  nicholaspearcewines  willpredhomme  @PearcePredhomme  @Nicholaspearce_   @WillPredhomme  Nicholas Pearce  willpredhomme

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

Texture from old plants can never be underestimated and this number two of four tiers in the Forrester stable digs so much deeper. It’s more passionately meets seriously defined out of a labour of love so you have to pause and stay with it.  Last tasted May 2018

Reserve is a funny term for wines like this because it speaks to the idea that it should be put aside for further use. I don’t think that is Ken Forrester’s plan and here he once again raises his old vines game with the 2016 chenin blanc. Fruit and mineral are entrenched in this great posit tug of war, each shredding the twain and meeting at the trenchant median. Stellenbosch continues to dole out some of the planet’s most striking and finest whites with chenin blanc at the centre of it’s value universe. With major thanks to Ken Forrester. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017   fmcwine  noble_estates  @KFwines  @Noble_Estates  Ken Forrester  Ken Forrester  @NobleEstates

I want to eat the dishes chef wants to cook ~ @jwillcook killed it last night @lbstoronto with the wines of South Africa

Survivor Chenin Blanc 2017, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

Survivor is richer, deeper, creamier, the chardonnay chenin, in a way, with round and mild acidity. Very tropical, from guava and papaya to mango and ultimately, simple like a banana, with coconut and cream. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018   survivorwines  kirkwooddiamondcanada  @SurvivorWines  @KDC_NATIONAL  @SurvivorWines  @KirkwoodDiamondCanada

Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc Old Vines 2017, Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $27.26, WineAlign)

Still in the middle of drought, the 100 per cent chenin is so youthful right at this stage. Part Paardeberg, ancient granite decomposed into sand, plus rocky, shallow slate, better in the blend out of cooler years. Still a flint strike but also something verdant, smouldering too, like white tobacco, if there is such a thing.  Last tasted May 2018

You would think this came straight from the vines and into the glass because fresh was never this new, exciting and getable. In fact when thinking about tasting 2015, 2016 and now this 2017 there is no doubt this is the most immediate and gratification guaranteeing Kloof Street yet. It’s already in delivery of ripe citrus, orchard and tropical fruit, all three, fleshy, unctuous and divine. So juicy, unconsciously so and as drinkable as any chenin blanc on the planet. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted January 2018   mullineuxwines  nicholaspearcewines  @MullineuxWines  @Nicholaspearce_  @MullineuxWines  @MullineuxWines  @MullineuxWines  @MullineuxWines

Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc Old Vines 2016, WO Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

From the very dry year this 100 per cent chenin is from 36 and 38 year old vines in two vineyards, so considered old vines because its certified (above 35, a labelling law that came into place this year). Natural ferment, freshness meets a terrific sense of place, with downy texture by one third barrel. Aging nicely.  Last tasted May 2018

Some older vines (in the 40 year range) combed off of variegated soil types from several Swartland vineyards combine for definitive Western Cape effect. Kloof Street is the poster child for the way in which Chris and Andrea Mullineux’s are taking South African by storm. Though they spend so much effort concentrating on specific soils with über specific wines, this chenin blanc is the multi-purpose white to teach a thing or two about the rest of their work. It’s exemplary of ripe and perfectly extracted, multi-sensory fruit and personality. Though this 2016 is a bit warmer and deeper than previous vintages (and the portion of barrel ferment is further felt), it continues the thread of honesty, decency and consumer educational necessity for the Cape wine oeuvre. It will also develop some peaches, herbs and honey with time. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017

Mullineux Old Vines White 2016, Unfiltered & Unfined, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

The old vines are between 36 and 65 years old and the 60-65 per cent chenin blanc is blended with grenache blanc, clairette blanc and viognier. There is also a smidgen of sémillon gris, unique to sémillon, then mutated after 45-50 years, becoming like gewürztraminer. Really flinty, lightning across the sky moving with strikes through the glass, but somehow rich and grippy, then elastic, slippery, moving like an glacial ooze. Extraordinary really. Cryptic white blend, in the end.  Tasted again, May 2018

From French water mill to Swartland bread basket the Old Vines White continues to woo and sooth savages with its exceptional quality. From winemaker Andrea Mullineux this is equation building by chenin blanc (62 per cent) plus grenache blanc (15), viognier (11), clairette blanc (8) and sémillon. It may as well be Meursault Premier Cru Genevrières or Châteauneuf-du-Pape blanc transposed into the body of chenin-plus in South Africa. The combination of flinty strike and sun-fleshy body is perfectly tugged with posit force, stretching, flexing and relaxing with each effortless sway. The tease of lemon curd, sweet herbal pesto and creamy warm climate fruit never submit to the realities of ambition or extension. All remains calm, purposed and transfixed. As am I. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018

Mullineux Old Vines White 2015, Unfiltered & Unfined, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

The Old Vine White 2015 is a revelation, built by 36-65 year-old vines, of 60ish per cent chenin blanc mixed with grenache blanch, clairette blanc, viognier and the mutated sémillon gris. A year adds almost nothing to the development save for a minor magnification of the flinty feeling but the linger, oh the linger. This is length unparalleled for South African white wine and how it is left to breathe in its broad expression is there forever. You can walk around the block and these old vines will be with you, by your side, in mind, body, spirit and never-ending flavour. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted May 2018

Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc The FMC 2016, Stellenbosch, South Africa (37291, $64.95, WineAlign)

The straight-lined FMC is chenin blanc on a path of the shortest distance between two points from straight-shooting Ken Forrester. It’s ambitious and righteously so, a statement wine, no longer (if ever) Loire but now indelibly Stellenbosch stamped,. Not an off-dry, botrytis copying style but now from larger barrel and so minor oak and lack of noble rot addendum. It’s simply older vines from the same old vineyard and so comfortable in its own skin. Yes it has a honeyed note but it’s from the bees replete with a sexy, waxy feeling. The aging possibilities are long to endless. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2018

Varietal and single-vineyard wines are great but #cartology is forever ~ so pleased to get a chance at this today ~ another laser from @chrisalheit

Alheit Vineyards Cartology Bushvine Chenin Blanc Sémillon 2016, Western Cape, South Africa (Agent, $46.95, WineAlign)

Chris and SuzaanGroupe Soleil Fine WinesAlheit’s Cartology ’16 exhibits a citrus layering that separates it from other Western Cape white blends and an implosive intensity that is simply stunning, but also frightening. As a reminder the blend is a smaller amount of eighty year-old La Colline sémillon from Franschhoek running ambagious with 30-40 year old chenin blanc grown in Skurfberg, Perdeberg, Bottelary Hills and Kasteelberg. Few white wines anywhere in the world are even remotely positioned in this field where energy and light spin with infinite speed in the centrifuge of life. That doesn’t even speak to texture for a wine that is the topographical depiction of these nooks of the Western Cape. Needs two years to flesh out, evolve just a hair and bring another level of interest to the glass. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018  chrisalheit  gsoleil123  @ChrisAlheit  @GroupeSoleilTO  Suzaan Alheit  Groupe Soleil Fine Wines

Mullineux Schist Chenin Blanc 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $89.95, WineAlign)

Mullineux’s Schist is a 100-120 case production (though only 72 in 2014), from schist, of course, not granite, which adds mid-palate weight and texture. Also from older (36 and 40 years) vines based from soils of the Kasteelberg. It’s a heartfelt message and cerebral pulling string from the 2014 density gifting vintage. Older barrels wrap like a blanket for fruit richer than you’d ever imagine, full-bodied, beautiful and robed in petticoat unction. It’s also dry as the farmland desert. Truly one of the finest chenin blancs from South Africa and beyond. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted May 2018

Mullinuex Olerasay Straw Wine NV, WO Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

Mullineux’s non-vintage Straw Wine is fashioned from grapes hung in trees for three weeks. The key is to concentrate the acidity which doubles from the pressing number, plus sweetness that is off the charts. No rain in the picking season means no fear of rot. The use is of chenin blanc from the same vineyard as Kloof Street and it’s amazing how the same grapes can deliver such a different expression from the same place but with the simplest adjustment of winemaking methodology. An amazing look from a healthy 14 barrels made, so distinct as a dessert wine, with pineapple, lemon preserve and apple purée. Bold and delicious. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted May 2018

A little bit of this, a little bit of that. A little bit of schist, a little bit of granite. Amazing vintage variation, from ethereal to powerful. Singular @mullineuxwines

Mullineux Syrah 2016, Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

The first drought vintage for the Swartland syrah and so the extract, concentration and density are all in compression mode. The change is felt with palpable impression, meatier, more char, even tar, and a little bit of dogma was necessary to bring in more granite-raised syrah to keep things swimmingly cool and savoury along. It’s a hematic one in 2016. To some this would be the bomb, the massive reason to believe and to others it might seem an impossible wall to scale. With a combination of love and patience the ’16 will please them all. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted May 2018

Mullineux Syrah 2015, Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

Mullineux’s Syrah is sourced from several different vineyards around the Swartland, from granite, schisty slate (structure and tannin), plus the mid-palate giver, from lighter, porous soil suited to arenicolous vines. Here is a complex weave of geology, barrel usage and ultimately textures. There is a meaty char but also a floral, violet potpourri. A wine with a lot of integrity and generosity. From a vintage widely considered fantastic everywhere, moderate in every respect; cool, rain, sun, wide picking window. Easy. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2018

Paul Cluver with Ken Forrester’s Chenin Blanc

A few wines from the PIWOSA visit, June 2017

Paul Cluver Riesling Close Encounter 2015, Elgin Valley, South Africa (Agent, $23.99, WineAlign)

Paul Cluver’s Close Encounter is a matter of remarkable contrast elevated by texture so that sugar and acidity are seamlessly meshed, gathering both apple orchard and mango grove into one sweet and sour package. Channels its inner Rheinhessen like no other southern hemisphere riesling but does so with pure Elgin elegance and individuality. Most excellent riesling.  Last Tasted June 2017

A more serious effort than the sibling ‘Dry Encounter’ because this riesling knows what it wants to be. On its left may be Alsace and on its right the Mosel but in truth this speaks to a Kabinett reasoning, with Elgin layering. At nine per cent alcohol, 36 g/L RS and 8.2 g/L TA it knows the difference and speaks the truth about off-dry riesling, with elevated and yet balancing acidity. It pretends to be nothing but what is of and for itself. Flint and an attainable stratosphere (between 300-500m above sea level) accept the airy drifts of oceans and the gathering returns to earth with the weight of wax and glade. If you think South African riesling is “a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land,” taste Elgin and think again. The skeptical Nowhere man is ignorant to the new frontier for riesling and to him I say “please listen, you don’t know what you’re missing.” Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  paulcluverwines  hobbsandcompany  @paulcluverwines  @amargarethobbs  @paulcluver  @HobbsandCo

De Grendel Op Die Berg Pinot Noir 2014, Elgin Valley, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

“The Latch” in Dutch it means, where once settlers used the hill as a beacon for navigation. A crunchy, chewy and soil driven pinot noir, so bloody terroir driven, as if the bleed of the earth wells in the bottle and glass. There is fineness to the tannin but more than this acidity that defines the structure, or drives it and leaves you sipping on repeat. Cool summer nights do the savoury, spicy accents. Clearly this piece of Elgin was meant to raise pinot noir. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted June 2017   degrendelwines  churchillcellars  @degrendelwines  @imbibersreport   @degrendelwines  @imbibersreport

Exceptional lads of South African wine take Toronto @chabrolto led by fearless leader Will ~ @WOSACanada @WOSA_Za

Seven producers, seven varietal wines

This tasting was led by master South African messenger Will Predhomme at Chabrol, Toronto’s smallest space and largest kept secret in the hands of Niall McCotter and Chef Doug Penfold.

First up was Sean Griffiths introducing Mulderbosch, based in Stellenbosch, “the centre of the universe,” He spoke of how South Africa has a long history of winemaking and Mulderbosch started in 1659. Looking forward to 2019 that is 360 years, a perfectly symmetrical number, of degrees, coming around full circle.

Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2017, WO Western Cape, South Africa (933424, $17.95, WineAlign)

The 2017 is the 25th vintage and “we’re always looking for cool-climate fruit.” notes Sean Griffiths. Fermented with its lees in the search for a fuller, richer style. It is surely round, rich and finish-able. A wine of great heritage, for itself and South Africa as a bigger entity but it’s not a replica of anything, least of all “old world.” Hints at a subtlety of weight, pungency, citrus, thiols, vegetation and flint. It’s 100 per cent sauvignon blanc, more passion than pamplemousse, more fruit than mousse. Touched but not bound by tradition. Maritime salinity finishes the spirit. Everything is under control. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018   mulderboschvineyards  abconwine  @MulderboschV  @AbconWine  @Mulderbosch  Abcon Wine

Next up, Johannes De Wet from pioneering chardonnay specialist De Wetshof in Roberston, an area of limestone presence and the context of that rock is important. All estate work; farming, winemaking and bottling. First regional planting of chardonnay was in the late 1970s and then in the early 1980s. Johannes’ dad was a chardonnay smuggler.

De Wetshof Limestone Hill Unwooded Chardonnay 2017, WO Robertson, South Africa (419622, $16.95, WineAlign)

From four vineyards on clay with high limestone content, and high pH soils. Citrus abounds, all around, first lemon peel, and then grapefruit. Lots of lees (110 days) but unoaked with the end result being a desired weight. The source is 80 kms from the sea, a place of wind and cold nights, not surprisingly a great area for bubbly. Limestone Hill is a ridge, a step up to the mountain. This chardonnay is striking, sharp, full of energy and then calm, so drinkable. Crunchy and pure, honest, transparent and in its way, just perfect. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018  dewetshofwines  glencairnwines    @glencairnwines  @dewetshofwines  @GCwines

Marthinus van der Vyver is Country Manager, North America, Ken Forrester Wines. Ken began with five restaurants in Stellenbosch and one day he saw an auction sign and three hours later, boom he walked away with a winery. If you have met or just heard of Ken Forrester, you know he is a force not just in wine, but a figure larger than life and hugely responsible for putting South African wines on the world’s stage. Partly because of his work to establish a premium level Chenin Blanc but also because of a tireless ethic, an entrepreneurial spirit and certainly his ambassadorial work. Forrester is a team player in the way a Football or Rugby captain rallies his teammates, his club and his country. I’ve had the pleasure of a four-hour tasting session with Ken in Stellenbosch and that interaction is indelibly stamped in my memory forever. Great guy whom Marthinus has the pleasure of calling Dad. He is Ken’s son-in-law and is responsible for taking care of the most important treasures in his life.

Ken Forrester Roussanne 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, WineAlign)

The 2016 is the third vintage of this wine, from 39 year-old vines. ‘Tis a risk-reward white held at bay, away from the safety of blending, of barref fermentation, and time spent in 80 per cent used 400L barrels. The vineyard is on the second last farm before you reach the Heldeberg, where hot days give way to late afternoon sea breezes. These are 15 of 60 roussanne hectares in Stellenbosch. Striking aromatics, a flinty, saline and pulsating white with presence and a stand up demand to be noticed. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018  fmcwine  noble_estates  @KFwines  @Noble_Estates  Ken Forrester  Ken Forrester  @NobleEstates

Stephen Joubert is viticulturalist at DGB. “My passion is to understand South African terroir and to figure out what grows best and where.” Ocean is the thing, heavy soils, cold winters, dry summers, sea breeze influence, to keep acidity and freshness. We happened to have been in Sicily at the same time back in May. I’m curious to see what grape varieties gave him ideas for what to do back home in The Cape.

Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (12724, $29.95, WineAlign)

This Bellingham Estate chenin blanc from old vines watched over by viticulturist Stephen Joubert carries an indelible stamp of richness, from that vine age and the leesy style. From granite and weathered shales, a minor note of reduction climbs over top of the rich, chic, stylish and full fruit and while it seems like the wood is very much in play it’s really more lees than anything that terms the texture and renders the weight. Old vines provide the density and structure to allow wood to take part in an ambitious attempt to create longevity. The locked in    spirit will go a long way to seeing some developed fruition but there may be a bit too much extraction so an oxidative quality might creep in before the wood has fully settled and integrated. Should work out well in the mid-term. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2018   bellingham_wines  dionysuswines  @Bellinghamwines  @DionysusWines   @bellinghamwines  @DionysusWinesTO

Danie de Kock presents Spier from Stellenbosch, going strong since 1692, always family owned, most recently purchased in 1993 and since 1996 Johannes Smith is the viticulturalist. Using the word “Signature” on their labels infers or might be what the chef wants to be known for. You should recognize varietal and get what you expect from that name on the bottle. In Spier’s case merlot should be a grape that gives you a great big hug.

Spier Signature Merlot 2016, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (454827, $15.95, WineAlign)

Spier’s Signature Merlot 2016 is raised on alluvial soils, some estate, some purchased. “We’re trying to show a good solid wine.” Receives seven to eight months of dance floor wood for the fruit to express its moves, of 3rd and 4th passage. The best selling South African merlot in the LCBO happens to be the only one. Acidity and tartness at good height and level while reduction is lower than low. Breadth is a matter that is chalky, in chocolate guise and far from reduced, cooked out, even with just a touch of honest pyrazine. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018   spierwinefarm  @SpierWineFarm  @SylvestreWSON  @spierwinefarm  Stephen Marentette

Francois Bezuidenhout from MAN family wines explains how the estate’s seven varietal wines are each equipped with an Afrikaans name. The vintner started out with three friends looking to make everyday varietal wines in 2001, as an anagram after their wives, Marie, Annette and Nicky. MAN. Chenin is the signature white.

Man Vintners Shiraz Skaapveld 2016, WO Coastal Region, South Africa (71332, $14.95, WineAlign)

Named Skaapveld, meaning “sheep’s field” this shiraz is a spicy, deep plum and raspberry red fruit red, a touch reductive and rusty-firm-grippy-transparent. Fruit is essentially from Paarl (with also some out of Stellenbosch), on decomposed granite and clay, dry-farmed and not the usual irrigation because of water retentive soils. Liquid chalky, talcy, oozing of chocolate and a shot of espresso but always returns to the red fruit. Mediterranean, black olive mixed with the chocolate. Peppery rotundo and lovely really. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted May 2018   manfamilywines  vonterra  @MANVintners  @vonterrabev  @MANFamilyWines  @vonterra

Murray Barlow manages the winemaking at the 880 hectare property, larger than Pomerol, from an estate who’s first wine was made in 1692. In the early 1800s it was split in two, one purchased by John X Merriman. Rustenberg was one of the first to re-plant vineyards after phylloxera. The pioneer owned it until 1926 and was also the last Prime Minister previous to modern day South Africa. In 1941 Peter and Pamela Barlow bought the estate. Their son Simon took over the running of the farm in 1987. Winemaker Barlow represents the third generation of his family to make wine at Rustenberg wines on the foot of the Simonsberg Mountain in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Murray is the vini, father Simon is the viti. The Barlows have been at Rustenberg for 77 years: the longest period any one family has owned the farm during its well over 300 years old term. It’s a new world estate and like many others is  much older than the Boredelaise.”

Rustenberg John X Merriman 2014, WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa (707323, $24.95, WineAlign)

This is from altitudes between 250-500m, of deep rich red granite, high iron soils at the foot of the Simonsberg Mountains. Always 100 per cent estate fruit, merlot on south facing slopes which are cooler spots and then cabernet from those leading west (for afternoon sun). Fruit that thrives on cooling influences but no frost or hail and including beneficial breezes. A wet season preceding three successive drought vintages. Wow in that it’s so very Bordeaux and that’s saying alot because so many varietal or regional ode South African blends are not like their old world ancestors. Here all five Bordelais varieties work together, see plenty of barrel (20 months) and bottle time (one year) for it all to come together. Tobacco, olive, chocolate, classic Bordeaux stylistically and in the hands of a true South African pioneer, right along with the Meerlust Rubicon. Best at 10-15 years but can go 30. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted May 2018   rustenbergwines  woodmanws  @RustenbergWines  @WoodmanWS  Rustenberg Wine Estate  @WoodmanWS

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Tasting Ontario Part Five: Varietal Whites and Appellative Blends

There were 33 medals handed out to White Blends at the 2018 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada; seven Golds, 17 Silvers and nine Bronze. Quietly, stealthily and without great fanfare the strength of the white blend category has taken NWAC18 by storm. The quality of the wines entered has never been higher, visibly and notably spread across the country. The time has come to establish party lines, to create truly parochial white appellative blends under appropriately chosen names. Nova Scotia has long been there with their apt-scripted Tidal Bay. Ontario and British Columbia should heed the economic and marketing success enjoyed by their maritime cousins and join the appellative party.

Related – Results of the 2018 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (The Nationals): Best of Blends: Red, White and Tidal Bay

The French regions of Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley are clearly the benchmarks and the inspiration for Canadian-made emulative examples, first from a sauvignon blanc-sémillon connection and then with blends that make use of marsanne, roussanne and viognier. A testament to expatriate excellence is noted in the seven overall Gold Medals in this year’s judging and no less than six others finishing at high Silver status on the cusp of Gold. I for one awarded five 90-plus scores to wines I clearly deemed worthy of such accolade and esteem.

It is interesting to note that White Blends centred by sauvignon blanc in the Okanagan Valley rely on much higher percentages of sémillon than their counterparts in Ontario. The simplest explanation tells us that the grape variety has trouble surviving harsh Ontario winters, especially when we look back at 2015 and 2016 when much of the province’s vines were killed by sub-25 degree temperatures. But it’s more than that. In B.C. sauvignon blanc can get pretty ripe, tropical and zaftig so it is sémillon that helps to mitigate, temper, inject a flinty-smoky-mineral streak and ultimately bring balance to the relationship.

There was a time not too long ago when after the best juice was chosen for varietal wines producers then needed to find a way to use up the dregs of their white ferments. White blends came about out of economic necessity, but like Rosé production in this country so many are now produced with a purpose. As a farmer, if you know specific blocks of sauvignon blanc are destined to join with other plots of sémillon you’re going to prune, pluck, green harvest and ultimately pick in very specific ways. Appellative blends have become a year round occupation. That much is clear.

Related – Tasting Ontario Part Four: Gamay

The top scorers at this year’s Nationals have been awarded to seriously and thoughtfully crafted wines. The winners are not entry-level, introductory products at the lower or lowest common denominational levels. They are not simple aromatic blends of vague fruit and sweet impression, in fact many are graced by beneficial and forward thinking structure. The future certainly looks white blend bright. Here are 36 recently tasted Ontario varietal whites and appellative white blends.

Summer spread

Sprucewood Shores Pinot Grigio 2017, VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario (426577, $14.95, WineAlign)

Just a hint of contact it would seem, leading to a not so obvious result in platinum gold hue but more so into the floral nature of its aromatics. Some sweet melon and pear fruit with good concentration and equal if necessary acidity. Can certainly drink a glass of this. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  sprucewoodshores  @SprucewoodWine  @SprucewoodShores

Château Des Charmes Aligoté 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (296848, $15.95, WineAlign)

The Château des Charmes self-proclaimed “pinot grigio” alternative was never more truthfully written than in reference to this 2017 aligoté. Screwy wet summer merging into crazy hot autumn weather made for one of the latest harvest dates in the estate on the York Road in St. Davids storied history. The rare Niagara Peninsula varietal vines are planted primarily at St. David’s Bench and Paul Bosc Estate vineyards but more are going in, surely out of testimony to the sales of this more than apropos local grape. Surely no one knows aligoté like the Bosc family and yet even they could not have seen this peachy, melony, fleshy and ripe one coming. It’s like a hyperbole of Val do Salnés in Rias Baixas albariño, crisp, aromatic and marched along by natural acidity. It seems sweet but trust me it’s not. It’s the long-hung, fully phenolic fruit and higher pH talking. This is not your average Bourgogne aligoté, searing, taut and intense. It’s a departure for the house but if it could always be made this way I think they would gladly go for the style. Waxy finish too, bringing an added note of complexity. Very cool. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted July 2018  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Nyarai Cellars Pinot Gris 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $20.95, WineAlign)

This is quite a striking, rich, creamy and yogurt-leesy, a.k.a. Loire chenin blanc, fixedly in the guise of pinot gris. More skin contact then some plus so much yeasty texture combine to make for the fullest of an Ontario gris expression. This is the sort of feeling that normally comes from multi-varietal, dry white appellative Niagara blends but in a solo pinot gris it’s nothing short of remarkable. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  #nyaraicellars  @NyaraiCellars  Nyarai Cellars

Tawse Winery Pinot Gris Redfoot Vineyard 2017, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

From out of the dense Lincoln Lakeshore clay comes this flush and luxurious pinot gris, literally rolling in it. It makes for a highly aromatic take on the grape, all in for gris and not to be confused with lighter, less meaningful grigio. The Redfoot Vineyard is clearly earmarked for such a purposed way of interpretation and though the clays of the double L sub-appellation are best with syrah and cabernet franc there can’t be any reason not to allot 10-15 per cent of acreage to white plantings. In the hands of Paul Pender it seems obvious that pinot gris is the one. This dry take is just about perfectly right, with citrus and wet stone hanging around the fruit. Leaner might be more suitable but ultimately it’s balance that is most important for this rich fruit raised by the pottery soil. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted June 2018  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

G.Marquis Sauvignon Blanc The Red Line 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $13.95, WineAlign)

Big love, big fruit, all about texture and juicy fruit on the palate but with some fine, wound acidity. Excellent. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   g.marquisvineyards  @GMarquisWines  @G.MarquisVineyards

North 42 Degrees Estate Winery Sauvignon Blanc North 43 2017, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (547836, $14.95, WineAlign)

Quite the character this North 43/North 42 degrees sauvignon blanc, fruit amassed on the nose, from canteloupe to underripe passion fruit with a wet, coppery alloy build that translates across latitudinal lines onto the palate. The metallic flavours are undercut by an herbal tonic with a spoonful of tinned fruit cup. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  north42wines  @StratusWines  North 42 Degrees Estate Winery & Bistro 42  @north42degrees

Château Des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (296848, $15.95, WineAlign)

Interesting take, quite a mineral salt wiring through the green apple fruit, here some feel of barrel but not the malo-creamy effect created. Goes quite juicy and crunchy without resorting to tart. A bit more acid intensity would have sealed the deal. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018    chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Lakeview Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (483958, $17.95, WineAlign)

An interesting sauvignon blanc for the Peninsula because the pungency is quite Marlborough but the relaxed state and relative weight is all Niagara. Very easy drinking as far as SB is concerned with notable extraction and a green streak, herbal mostly, running through. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  lakeviewwineco  @LakeviewWineCo  @LakeviewWineCo

Kacaba Susan’s Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $17.95, WineAlign)

Quietude in such a lovely way, mineral meets orange blossom, soft and amenable through the middle, quiet and mellow, fades off slowly, into the sauvignon blanc sunset. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  kacabavineyards  @KacabaVineyards  Kacaba Vineyards and Winery

Stratus Wildass Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (376814, $18.95, WineAlign)

t’s more Stratus than sauvignon blanc, even by regional varietal standards, whatever that is, due to the ripe flavours and long-developed phenolic ripeness. Ultimately it is the quotient of a cup of fruit cocktail and an energy level that serves to encourage a sitting back with a glass in meditative state more than a mind stimulated to invigorate. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

Organized Crime Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (396275, $18.95, WineAlign)

Sometimes sauvignon blanc goes tropical and green at the same time, or at least it is the two poles by picked grapes that combine for such a layering. Citrus and bitters mix into the two sides and all the components walk along, separate and alone together, without making any real contact. Maybe a year will tie the room but the acidity is low so waiting is a counterintuitive idea. Drink 2018.  Tasted April 2018  organizedcrimewinery  Organized Crime Winery

Henry Of Pelham Fumé Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Short Hills Bench, Ontario (444268, $19.95, WineAlign)

With a wink and a nod to Mondavi this lays the lumber in smoulder upon sauvignon blanc with just a wisp, like cold smoking salmon so that it breathes cool and mentholated, without char and a real smoky feeling. The fruit is light and even a bit precious, the weight quite lithe and the overall notation one of gentle demure. You have to appreciate the deft, slight of winemaking hand approach. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  henryofpelham  @HenryofPelham  Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery

Meldville Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $20.20, WineAlign)

Derek Barnett’s sauvignon blanc may be the fleshiest of the Ontario lot, ripe, tropical and impressively coaxed from off the vine. The phenolic aggregate is a 2016 triumph even while it dances a funky step into botrytis-like rhythms. Notes here and there of herbs and tonics add to the mystique and the rapport. So bloody interesting, singular and meditative for the grape. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  meldvillewines  @meldvillewines  Meldville Wines

Peller Estates Private Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $20.20, WineAlign)

Massively fruit aromatic sauvignon blanc, all gathered in a tin cup found in the exotics isle. Juicy melon meets passion fruit and so much more in between, then with a side of metalloid. Raps so commercially viable and succesful it hurts my ears and my eyes. “Any awards show or party I’ll get fly for it, I know that it’s coming I just hope I’m alive for it…I just wanna be, I just wanna be.” Remarkable success for sauvignon blanc, in Ontario. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   pellerwines  @PellerVQA  @PellerEstates

Redstone Sauvignon Blanc Limestone Vineyard 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $23.15, WineAlign)

There isn’t a ton of sauvignon blanc grown up on the Limestone Ridge but as a top level Twenty Mile Bench riesling terroir it changes the varietal course with considerable concern. As far as it goes this is quite an alloy challenged, mineralized expression, not quite flinty but certainly feeling like a mouthful of richly compressed, calcareous stones. The fruit is so anti-tropical it’s almost reductive and most certainly draws its tang from the soil. Such a curious sauvignon blanc with almost no frame of reference, save for a moment to consider Sancerre, but yet another successful effort from winemaker Rene Van Ede. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

Traynor Sauvignon Blanc 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

Reductive, not flinty or smoky, but reductive. This carries the gooseberry-passion fruit suitcase of fruit. I like the fruit-acid balance and the way it delivers semblances of tart and tangy. Really nicely judged wine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   traynorvineyard  @TraynorVineyard  @traynorfamilyvineyard

Hidden Bench Fumé Blanc Rosomel Vineyard 2016, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (68825, $29.95, WineAlign)

The vineyard gains another year, the farming and winemaking too and so fumé blanc out of Rosomel gets better, as things often do with age and wisdom. ’Twas a great year for growing grapes on this amphitheatre of a vineyard block up on the Bench and no love lost for sauvignon blanc neither. There is tension, wound intensity and fierce competitiveness in the ’16, perhaps the most Sancerre and least Pouilly-Fumé it has ever been and so the declaration leans to saying it is “a mineral year.” Nothing against the fruit because the personality cult of lean, crisp and crunchy is in full order, though each sip after sip speaks in those Sancerre or Chablis by way of Saint Bris terms. Stellar, as always, in continuance, moving towards the best it can be. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018  hidden bench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Trius Showcase Clean Slate Sauvignon Blanc Wild Ferment 2016, Niagara-on-the Lake, Ontario (Winery, $31.95, WineAlign)

Quite flinty, barrel-aged sauvignon blanc, buttery nearly, banana and cantaloupe. So much fruit along with the toasty-creamy barrel. Almost perfectly in balance but it’s wildness and sweet-yeasty lees cumulative turns to a bit of caramel and only accentuates the vanilla. A really cool take on the grape with exceptionally developed flavours. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018   triuswines  @TriusWines  @TriusWines

Not all screw cap closures are created equal

Two Sisters Sauvignon Blanc 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $34.00, WineAlign)

Excessive tightness of screw caps does not allow any kept reduction to blow off so winemaker Adam Pearce closed here with a screw cap threading just a bit less rigid. A fine detail but an important one and the only wine to receive this attention, so just a minute amount of oxygen transfer can occur. Just released 11 days ago. The big change is now a fruit vineyard blend that is 70 per cent Four Mile Creek and (30) Twenty Mile Bench. From a cool, wet and rainy season so really it’s all about the grower in a vintage where the varietal struggled with mould and mildew. Eight per cent barrel ferment was used to augment the leanness, for body and peace of mind. A bit reductive and tight with good acid structure to the peach-yellow-plum-kumquat fruit. Good linger. Delicious. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted July 2018    twosisters_vineyards  @TwoSisters_wine  Two Sisters Vineyards

Fielding Estate Gewürztraminer 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (146753, $19.95, WineAlign)

Fielding’s pays respect to how gewürztraminer has to be made in Ontario with a fleshy, off-dry style though making sure to counterbalance with a fine dose of acidity. From dosage to dose it dances the do-si-so with high quality peach-litchi fruit and grapefruit acidity. If you’re in need of a white to compliment some high-octane, multi-seasoned and possibly spicy food, Fielding’s is textbook and will do the work. It’s a gewürztraminer you can trust. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted January 2018  fielding winery  richiewine  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  Fielding Estate Winery

Redstone Gewürztraminer 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $21.95, WineAlign)

A sip sends a warm shiver through from a simple off-dry gewüztraminer attack more flat than round earth, trying hard to stay on the dry though the bitters and creamy fruit deliver more sweetness than what might have been intended. Some skin contact deals peach skin and those bitters while the acidity quietly abides. It’s nearly, almost and close to cloying by honey mixed in concentrate with a note of alkali. Everything lingers. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted October 2017  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

@mackbrisbois brought the past, the present and the future @trailestatewine to taste. Thanks Mack! Indeed, to my pleasure and my education.

Trail Estate Gewürztraminer 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Few winemakers in Ontario are as curious, aloof and serious about making gewürztraminer like this,”looking through that window, into the delicate place.” The changing of mind is so important during the process because it shows an understanding of both mistake and possibility. Mackenzie Brisbois takes a spoon of Niagara Lakeview fruit (Glen Elgin/Wismer farmed), puts it through a whole cluster press, a fermentation in old oak and then wait a minute. An about face transfer to stainless steel tank (just after a few days) because it is too reductive, but then sends it back to old wood where it remains for about nine months. Bottles back in September of 2017. The result is a gewürz that finishes dry (under 3 g/L) so delicate for a customer’s palate, with lots of lemon and lime but never searing, perfect for cold smoked or tataki prepared salmon. Bitter pith note but it dissipates, as does the acidity so keep in mind this is floral and fine. “The delicate place. The questions it raise. The delicate place yeah.” Enjoy it now and gimme fiction. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Trail Estate Skin Contact Gewürztraminer 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

The 2016 gewürztraminer fruit is from the Werscht’s (Between the Lines) Niagara farm, super ripe at 24 brix and aromatics on steroids. It clocks in at a healthy 13.5 alcohol, after 13 days on skins and beyond. Close your eyes and the warm pungency will simulate a sensory experience, like standing inside the butterfly conservatory, with all the dessicating fruit, secretions and balmy, humid aromas wafting around. Or maybe even more exotic, like walking past stalls in a south asian market, with fruits cut open so you can see what they are, mangoseteen, marquesa, jackfruit and durian. There is great fun to be had in acidity and spice. Lush, floral and nicely funky. By now an understanding and a level of maturity to think on is as a classic Brisbois white. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Malivoire Viognier Stouck Vineyard 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Agent, $24.25, WineAlign)

From vines planted in 2010 the magic of excitable youth with just a hint of maturity has brought this block of the terrific Lincoln Lakeshore vineyard to this vintage. Warmth and ultimately ripeness have released the aromatic blessedness of viognier, which along with an unpurposed number of residual sugar will allow this to gain some further complexity with age. May just be the most varietal viognier ever produced out of Niagara but it’s obviousness as a regional example can’t be denied. It exudes confidence without even trying, is naturally oily and grippy because its acidity matches the high notes. It’s a touch boozy at 13.5 alcohol, at times metallic and at others, tropical, because that’s what viognier wants to be. It’s just a terrific effort from winemakers Shiraz Mottiar and Dan Stouck. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Lakeview Cellars Viognier 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Pretty tart stuff from the get go, full of tangerine and beautifully dry. Gently pressed and kept in spirit high through the use of stainless steel tanks. Quite floral, not potpourri mind you but a fresh blossoming breath of a bouquet. Simple viognier, effectively executed and perfectly correct. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  lakeviewwineco  @LakeviewWineCo  @LakeviewWineCo

Redstone Viognier Redfoot Vineyard 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $28.95, WineAlign)

The barrel is a big time influence here, offering a combination of creamy vanilla and yet some reduction. There must be some lush viognier fruit back there somewhere but the wood is really in control. Subtle hints of varietal florals, far eastern fruit and spice linger behind the veil. Tasted blind it is the creamy texture and vanilla that makes cause for it to be considered so much like California chardonnay. Good acidity however rescues and thinks about the future. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted twice, June 2018 and then blind at NWAC18, June 2018  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

Calamus Estate Winery White Night 2014, VQA Ontario (484014, $13.95, WineAlign)

A very good use of vidal (85 per cent) gets an apple jolt from chardonnay in this very peach and grapefruit oriented white. It’s like fruit cocktail in a glass but drier than off-dry and quite savoury. Stage right spicy too, like clove and capsicum, in a way akin to Kiwi sauvignon blanc but in the end it’s white appellative blend in hybrid dominance, running all the way. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted January 2017  #calamuswinery  @calamuswinery  Calamus Estate Winery

Featherstone Four Feathers 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (341586, $14.95, WineAlign)

Varietal birds of four feathers (riesling, chardonnay, gewürztraminer and sauvignon blanc) flock together for a wild ride in aromatics, texture, tang and acidity. Here a notable waxiness from the gewürztraminer does oily, glück potpourri with outgoing nature and a sweet meets sour set of flavours. Runs from orchard fruit with bite into the tropical and then some bitters. Nothing simple and quite stirred. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted April 2018  #featherstonewinery  @featherstonewne  Featherstone Estate Winery

13th Street White Palette 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (207340, $15.95, WineAlign)

White Palette is at the top of its hyperbole game in 2016 with a light’s glare flooding a room of high aromatic and flavour intensity. Glade, polish, wax and major citrus all max factor the scents and smells. Lemon and caramel well through the palate and funky emissions deal in Peninsula clay with obvious earth. It’s a case of the curious and not fully expected in 2016. Worth a look nevertheless, with fresh seafood off the coals. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted May 2018  13thstreetwinery  @13thStreetWines  13th Street Winery

Rockway Vineyards Chardonnay/Riesling 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (545905, $16.95, WineAlign)

The varietal get together is both convenient and seamless, in delivery of a cool climate nose and a ripeness to imagine a warmer climate palate. It’s layering is one stacked by alternating textures and walks straight ahead, simple and for the sake of nothing, but for to enjoy.  Drink 2018-2020. Tasted April 2018  rockwayvineyards  @RockwayVineyard  Rockway Vineyards

The Hare Wine Company Crown Land White 2016, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

The blend of 60 per cent gewürztraminer and (40) riesling is a lovely mix of lemon, apricot and mild barrel notes. It’s a pithy affair, mildly battered and of a soft demeanour. Fresh with fruit skin scents, a passion fruit tang and acidity that’s pretty darn close to spot on. Chewy texture, finishing strong and long. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  theharewineco  @TheHareWineCo  The Hare Wine Co.

Kew Vineyard Estate Marsanne 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

The dominant marsanne (90 per cent) is joined seamlessly by viognier in a white blend rich with barrel notes, nutty and toasty. Perhaps a touch less interesting on the palate but it’s welling with presence and persistence. Metallic and effective, with great finishing bitters. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018  kewvineyards  @kewvineyards  @kewvineyard

Tasting at Pearl Morissette, July 2017

Pearl Morissette Cuvée Blu 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

Cuvée Blu is an appellative blend like no other, amphora fermented, 100 per cent whole cluster chardonnay, with pinot gris, riesling and sauvignon blanc. The group spent three and a half (no, not a typo) months on skins, pressed and aged in foudres. I taste this and self-reflected that I would need to taste this once a day for two weeks to wrap brain, heart and imagination around its mythology. I’d also need to understand how it pushed further then just about anything and to see what would happpen, over and over, again and again, each time anew. You can drink this immediately or anytime over the next six years. What’s the difference? How can you know what to do? Self-described by the PM team as “a chameleon charmer and a poem built from the taste of colours.” Memories of a 2017 summer recall the whimsy of hues. “Yellow, orange,” smiled Svetlana Atcheva, “it might as well be blue!” Drink 2018-2024. Tasted July 2017  pearlmorissette  @PearlMorissette  Pearl Morissette

Southbrook Vidal Skin Fermented White 2016, Small Lot Natural Wine, VQA Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

The first time I tasted this blind (at Terroir Symposium) I noted it to be “vidal-like,” a touch oxidative, of this elegant paste or salve, with notes of green plum and just a touch of grapefruit. The second pass confirms it to be a fine vidal orange wine, with more texture than should or would be expected. It delivers lemon and tannin, plus a calculated layering of ample and enough acidity to carry it along. A fine example. Really mouth coating and so tannic. Takes what was learned from 2014 and 2015 experiments and with VQA category approval in its back pocket, begins the true journey forward. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted blind at NWAC17, June 2017 and February 2018 southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @SouthbrookWine  @TheLivingVine  Southbrook Vineyards  The Living Vine inc.

Stratus Vineyards Stratus White 2014, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (660704, $38.20, WineAlign)

White assemblage under the Stratus label is not like spinning a single record, it’s like Rock ‘n Roll radio. Opening a bottle brings great excitement and anticipation, with a sense of wonder. What songs am I going to hear or more to the point, which grape varieties am I going to taste, in which percentages and in what order? In 2014 it’s a medley of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier, sémillon and gewürztraminer. The blend spent 21 months in (15 per cent) new oak. The fruits are varied and each one (or mélange of several) represented a hit in their own right. Tutti frutti, orange blossom special, little green apples, the lemon song, kiwi, peach, tangerine and forbidden fruit. In the end I heard it through the grapevine, by way of a conduit provided by great and necessary acidity. A top quality Stratus White, worthy of repeat plays. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted twice, May and June 2018    stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

Hidden Bench Nuit Blanche Rosomel Vineyard 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

It’s primarily sauvignon blanc (94 per cent) but don’t discount the effect created by sémillon. This is a really lovely barrel fermented stroll through a fresh morning glade, with ripe fruit everywhere and a perfectly pointed and lifted flinty nose. A bit reductive and fresh, as it should and absolutely must be, with hints of vanilla and caramel. Quite ambitious and serious with a focus and a precision that speaks to the acumen of a specific cru that in the end, instructs for sauvignon blanc meets sémillon education. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018    hiddenbench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Chianti Classico: Nine communes deep

Radda in Chianti

In February I travelled to Tuscany for the 2018 Anteprime. In Florence I spent two days tasting sangiovese at the Chianti Classico Collection held at Stazione Leopolda. My WineAlign colleague John Szabo M.S. and I then paid visits over the next two and a half days at Poggio di Guardia, Castello di Volpaia, Rocca di Montegrossi, Rocca di Castagnoli, Castello di Ama, Isole E Olena, Podere Poggio Scalette, San Giusto A Rentennano and Valiano. Once again I am proud to be a messenger on a subject that continues to write itself. Chianti Classico. Where the slow pace is grounded in grace and nature slowly renders an intoxication of faith. Where the exceptionality of place, experience and innovation can’t be underestimated.

Related – All in with Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico and the Gallo Nero, a symbol not only designed and enshrined to classify the wines, but to ingrain something deeper, meaningful and soulful. The Gallo Nero stamps each bottle of sangiovese with a seal of approval, for a conceit of quality.

Godello and #gallonero ~ #chianticlassico

Two years ago the Gallo Nero celebrated its 300 year anniversary. At that time the appellation’s newest and noblest expression at the top of the quality pyramid was introduced in Toronto, the Gran Selezione. In 2017 the focus was on sangiovese, the grape at the heart and centre of the Chianti Classico universe. This year the greater whole is broken down, to give due to the nine pieces of the territory’s puzzle and the villages at their core.

Chianti Classico goes nine communes deep: Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti, Poggibonsi, Radda in Chianti, San Casciano Val di Pesa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. Digging into these sub-zones of the territory is done with thanks to the generous work and spirit of Chianti Classico’s producers and with unwavering guidance from the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico: President Sergio Zingarelli, Vice-Presidents Sebastiano Capponi and Giovanni Manneti, Director Carlotta Gori, who I’d like to point out is the first woman to take the helm of the Consorzio Chianti Classico, PR & Communications Manager Silvia Fiorentini and Event Manager Christine Lechner.

Il Signore del Chianti Classico

Every wine region needs ambassadors to educate in the diaspora and as you can see in this picture, the first five were chosen this past February in Firenze. This was indeed one of the great honours of my life. I’m quite sure Jeffrey Porter, Michaela Morris, Massimo Castellani and Isao Miyajima felt the same.

Chianti Classico farmers and producers have spent three hundred organized years studying their soils to arrive at an understanding that this territory is better for growing sangiovese than all of the lands beyond its borders. This is very important. We break the territory down by commune. Chianti Classico will always come first but in all of Toscana only it is possessive of such distinct communes.

The first question to raise is why do we need to discuss Chianti Classico as composed of nine communes and why are many of them (along with smaller micro-territories or sub-sub zones) establishing associations to promote their wines? To communicate who they are and what kind of wine comes out of their section of the territory. These are things we need to recognize and talk about, not necessarily along lines of geology but rather in terms of community and especially styles and characteristics of the wines. Over the past two years I’ve made four visits to Chianti Classico and tasted more than six hundred wines. I truly believe that the sangiovese changes from commune to commune. While it may be far too difficult to say that each commune has a specific set of characteristics, the sangiovese made by each producer are in fact singular and surely related to the soil within the boundaries of their commune. We tried a very interesting exercise in Florence back in February, a blind tasting called La Prova dei Nove, or “The Proof of the Nine,” to see if 100-plus journalists and sommeliers could taste the commune through the sangiovese. I was 3 for 9 and quite pleased with myself. I sat with two prominent winemakers and one of them was 1 for 9.  The conclusion? It’s really hard to taste the commune. But I’ll tell you why it’s still very important to discuss Chianti Classico as a sum of these essential parts.

ine wines, nine communes, this will be easy…not so much #blindtasting @chianticlassico #laprovadeinove so thanks @drinkeatlove now I’ll have to think about and pen another 100,000 word

Let’s create a hypothetical situation. Imagine you are the average wine consumer in Ontario. You come into the LCBO looking for an Italian red wine, a Tuscan red. You see nine bottles of Chianti Classico. Five just say that on the bottle, two add the word Riserva and two Gran Selezione. These additional label notations and the prices tell you about the difference in probable quality but the bottles are still all the same, from the same place. How do you choose? Well, if each were labeled with the nine different communes you might be curious and pick one, let’s say from Gaiole. Then after tasting it you might think to yourself, I really like the Chianti Classico from Gaiole. Now you’ve entered a whole new world of discovery, of comparisons. Some of you might say “but the consumer doesn’t even know the difference between Chianti and Chianti Classico. This just makes it harder.” The devil’s advocate would say, on the contrary, adding the commune to the label does not add confusion, it adds intrigue and raises the profile of all the communes and the wines. Like Volnay, like Pommard, like Marsannay. But Bourgogne has 84 AOCs. Chianti Classico are only nine and surely their names all refer to quality. All of them. Chianti Classico means quality. It means sangiovese. Discussing the wines in new terms like communes does not say that one is better than another or that the wines from any one are of higher quality. It simply updates the profile and raises the bar for all. Hypothetically speaking.

A coupla @chianticlassico ambassadors enjoying the moment. With Jeffrey Porter, a.k.a. @drinkeatlove

Many wine regions are defined by their soils and the fine lines that separate greatness from mediocrity. The two soil epochs of Barolo are divided by a diagonal line that runs from the northeast down to the southwest. On one side Tortonian and the other, Serravallian, both formed millions of years ago and each capable for producing different styles of nebbiolo. In Bordeaux one bank celebrates cabernet sauvignon while the other merlot and cabernet franc. In Chablis the Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards are specifically drawn while in greater Bourgogne the composition of the soil gradates from north to south and so that we know where pinot noir and chardonnay must be planted and for best probable results. In Montalcino we understand the differences between northern and southern vineyards but also know where you are relative to the hill of Montalcino and from which micro-climate will have a great effect on the wines.

So what about Chianti Classico? Comparing or thinking about Chianti Classico as needing to be understood like Bourgogne, Piemonte or Montalcino is not the answer. It’s not the same and never will be. Considering the communes as adding up to the whole is a step in the right direction.

The cartologist Alessandro Masnaghetti has concentrated on the parameters of each commune and drawn precise topographical maps. They are great resources for understanding where but still they don’t tell us why. Why do wines typically turn out the way they do? Remember that the crus of Chianti Classico are not farmed by multiple producers. So consider that the approach might best begin with the producer so that we don’t say this Chianti Classico from Castellina made by Rocca delle Macie tastes like this but rather, this Rocca delle Macie tastes this way and it is from Castellina, in Chianti Classico. It’s a subtle rearrangement but it must always begin with the producer.

Before we move on to the wines, one commune at a time, it should be noted that the 2017 vintage presented one of the greater challenges in recent Chianti Classico times. After the intense heat of the driest of summers it was essential that growers waited out the early September rains, followed by the beautiful and phenolic ripeness ensuring warmth of the next three weeks. “I noticed that most producers had already, inconceivably, finished harvesting by the 15th of September!!! A haste that can’t be positive.” These are the wisest of words from Rocca di Montegrossi’s Marco Ricasoli. It remains to be seen but we’ll see if Marco’s prophecy will ring true and be confirmed at Anteprime’s Chianti Classico Collection in February 2019.

These 112 reviews cover the wines I tasted at the February Chianti Classico Collection 2018 in Firenze and three subsequent days of touring through Chianti Classico.

Castellina in Chianti

Related – Castellina in golden light

Bibbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (168286, $23.95, WineAlign)

Ripeness is the deeper virtu and virtue in Bibbiano’s ’16 and as always there is this push-pull of two terroirs. One is of fruit the other rock but both layer intersectional and complimentary. This is a breakthrough, if it may be said, an aha moment for a Bibbiano Annata, educational and exemplary. More reward will come from subsequent vintages. The block here is some firm Castellina tannin but even more so one specific to the Bibbiano plateau and angles. It’s important to wait at least a year for the pressed intensity to subside. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Montornello DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Yet another Gran Selezione that tells us how the producers intuit the difference between the category and Riserva even while the consumer is still not quite in the know. GS is deeper and represents a place or a gathering of the best fruit, not a step up in aging only, but all things gathered and put into place. This from the northern side of the estate, opposite Capannino. Montornello is the sweet and savoury, even salty of the Bibbiano GS but also the one of great strength. But it too takes the vintage and gives a little bit more, not quite a hug (sic) but certainly some earlier pleasure. All things are relative. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna del Capannino 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

It should be expected that out of 2015 the Bibbiano Gran Selezione would show more fruit, less brood and for sure not near the abstruse consternation that young, more demanding vintages have shown. At least from Capannino. This is the truth in 2015 though the nature of this slope demands at least a few raises of the eyebrow and tension rising of the shoulders. Thinking about Capannino can’t happen without remembering that the fruit comes from ’58 and ’62 sangiovese grosso vines put in by Giulio Gambelli, then grafts from that material for masale propogation in 1999 and the 2000s. Tommaso Marrocchesi Marzi will figure out the nuances of these tracts of specific Castellina terroir before too long and this flat out chewy mouthful of sangiovese is the next step there. Needs three years though. Didn’t you know that already? Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018  bibbianowines  lesommelierwine  @bibbianowines  @LeSommelierWine  Bibbiano Chianti Classico  Le Sommelier, Wine Agency

Buondonno Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Gabriele Buondonno and Valeria Sodano bought the Castellina in Chianti farm known as Casavecchia alla Piazza in 1988, a plot that clearly appeared on the maps of the Capitani di Parte Guelfa in 1549 and is marked as the “place of Lionardo Buonarroti,” nephew to Michelangelo. Their Chianti Classico is 90 per cent sangiovese, plus merlot and syrah from a place Michelangelo once wrote to his uncle “I would rather have two barrels of Trebbiano than eight shirts.” Clearly pulled of of a special terroir, Buondonno’s organic Annata is pretty and purposed, with fresh tart strawberry and an intensity of acidity. It’s very long, unrelenting, showing some focus above and beyond. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  #buondonno  #buondonno

Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (970095, $24.95, WineAlign)

The Castellina ideal is furthered by Castelllare’s ’16, the one concerning purity and honesty from sangiovese. There is a beauty to this one, mildly mineral, tangy and tart but silky smooth without any unnecessary welling of syrupy liqueur. Lovely Annnata. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  #castellaredicastellina  dionysuswines  @CastellareWines  @DionysusWines  @CastellarediCastellina   @DionysusWinesTO  

Gagliole Chianti Classico DOCG Rubiolo 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

As the name might suggest, it seems this Rubiolo is a redhead and means some serious sangiovese business, with pressed, rolled and laid out red fruit, mostly berry but with an accent of (merlot dished) plum and pomegranate. The limestone here strikes as Galestro though there too is this cakey weight that only Castellina in Chianti argilo would deal. The architecture for Rubiolo is one of houses built to last. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  anticopoderegagliole  @Gagliolewines  @Gagliole

Lornano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (211599, $17.95, WineAlign)

Lornano comes out of Castellina in Chianti with such prominent perfume, grit and surprising intensity. It’s a much bigger wine than many 15s but perhaps not surprising from a Chianti Classico crafted by the agronomist and oenologist hands of Silvio Campatelli, Franco and Matteo Bernabei. Also when Nicolò Pozzoli tells you “sangiovese needs the bottle” you listen and make a note to self saying “he is correct.” This is a very early point in time to taste such a youthful and walled in Lornano. Will begin to soften in the later months of this year. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  @LornanoWines  Frontier Wine Merchants  lornano  @lornanochianticlassico

Gallo Nero

Lornano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Bandite 2013, Tuscany, Italy (230672, $19.95, WineAlign)

Le Bandite just recently went to bottle at the same time as the Annata Classico 2015 and so the window is open just a crack. Once again it is this team of vitculturalist Silvio Campatelli with oenologists Franco and Matteo Bernabei that deliver true sangiovese value to our Ontario market. The field and cellar work offer generosity above and beyond, not to mention the patience to hold back a wine such as this for at least an extra year so that it is ready upon release. That said the structure of Lornano is sneaky firm, grippy and long, so another year (plus) in bottle will add to the gift. By now we know about the exceptionality of 2013, especially at the (extra time in wood) Riserva level, here from Castellina with spice, frutta di bosco and terra selvaggia. The wood is very much in, from a 50-50 split between barriques and botti grandi that brings layering, balance and again, so much spice. Don’t be in a rush to drink this. Savour it next decade. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  lornano  @LornanoWines  @lornanochianticlassico

Mazzei Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Ser Lapo 2015, Tuscany, Italy (288530, $22.95, WineAlign)

Ser Lapo is a generous, gregarious and wealthy fruit spilling Riserva full of ripe and ropey 2015 fruit. It’s quite the chewy mouthful of sangiovese and merlot that takes no overly traditional or rustic chances. Modern, plush and international. Methinks Signore Lapo would approve. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  marchesimazzei  profilewinegroup  @MarchesiMazzei  @ProfileWineGrp  Marchesi Mazzei – Castello di Fonterutoli  Profile Wine Group

Rocca Delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Famiglia Zingarelli 2015, Tuscany, Italy (930966, $23.95, WineAlign)

Takes the warmth of the vintage and turns its Famiglia Zingarelli beauty into power. Vineyards delivering higher quality fruit then ever before bring the gold out of Castellina and provide great presence and firm disposition. There is a savoury note under the liquor but all in all this is most pleasing sangiovese. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2018  @roccadellemacie  @roccadellemacie  @ProfileWineGrp  Profile Wine Group  roccadellemacie

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

It would not be a stretch to assume and acknowledge how the powers that be at Villa Trasqua are almost certainly and perfectly happy and proud of this effort from 2015. Fruit from Nerento and surrounding rolling Castellina in Chianti hills came out as ripe, crisp and clean as it ever has. The level of quality runs high and while the stylistic is certainly a come and get me one, the sneaky level of structure will get you in the end. A coup of an Annata here from the brothers Hulsbergen. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted February 2018     @tenutavillatrasqua  @HULSI_II  Frontier Wine Merchants  villatrasqua

Cena @chianticlassico #ccc2018 @stazione_leopolda

Castelnuovo Berardenga

Related – Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

Cantine Bonacchi Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Deeply pressed full fruit, dark black cherry sangiovese with high level acidity and plenty of minty savour. A many and all things going on Annata from Castelnuovo Berardenga with a heat streak running in early and lingering. Might settle in a year. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2018   #cantinebonacchi  @TheCaseForWine  Cantine Bonacchi

Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (23325, $16.95, WineAlign)

The early and often persistence of pressed ripe and ready fruit sits floating at the fore of this glass. Value is acquiesced with great immediacy so look to see this on the market as soon as any from Castelnuovo Berardenga and indeed in the entire territory. No time is wasted nor fruit held back with quick to chime acidity and a dusty, slightly chalky finish. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  borgoscopetorelais  @BorgoScopeto  @rubenelmer  Borgo Scopeto  Ruben Elmer

Castell’in Villa Chianti Classico DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ, 908228, $21.80, WineAlign)

Castell’In Villa’s is a beautifully rendered and now beginning to evolve Castelnuovo Berardenga sangiovese from the vintage that increasingly generates an opinion that 2013 is indeed a highly enjoyable vintage. Sweet developed fruit and spice, a bit of smoulder and a long, elastic, stretched like fior di latte finish. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2018  Castell In Villa  Les Importations Olea inc.  marino_castellinvillarestauran

Castello Di Bossi C. Berardenga Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (994608, $22.95, WineAlign)

Once again the concept of the single-monlithic sangiovese sensation is squashed and trashed by yet another twisting turn and dart into something completely other. Bossi’s carries an aroma new and exotic, of incense and peppermint, cola and coffee bean. Its texture is quite exquisite, the flavours into a purée, spiked by laurel and its bay. As smooth on its exit as it was on the way in. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  #castellodibossi  oeno2  #CastellodiBossi  @oenophilia1  @CastellodiBossi  Connexion Oenophilia

Dievole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (283101, $23.95, WineAlign)

The Dievole Annata stands out for 2016 with the sweetest noted fruit, bright, ripe and pulsating. Wow and oh my has this got a bounce in its step. While certainly tart and intense it’s possessive of more pure joy than many, easily avoiding the trappings of over-extraction and over-pressing. Some may find this too electric but what reason could there be not to get excited by such an abundance of sangiovese energy? Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  @dievole  profilewinegroup  @Dievole  @ProfileWineGrp  dievole  Profile Wine Group

Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (730788, $36.99, WineAlign)

From the great wide Berardenga open Fèlsina’s is just the Annata to tell us how these snowflakes are all just a bit different from one another, each with a new vintage, redefined temper, starting from singular points of soil interest. The greatest purity and unbridled joy in Chianti Classico sangiovese is found in the young Annata and it is Fèlsina’s that tells a full story. The curative wisdom and variegated stratum as told by thick as thieves though stretched and elastic fruit is just amazing. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  felsina_wines  liffordgram  @felsinawines  @LiffordON  Felsina  Lifford Wine and Spirits

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Though Querciavalle holds their Annata back longer than almost any this ’13 remains or should say persists so taut and coiled reductive, though it is so close to opening up. The earth runs through, now composted and integrated with juicy fruit. There is a special liquidity vis a vis this gathering of fruit, soil and acidity though now the tannins have melted and joined the mix. It may as well be Riserva, not technically, but certainly in spirit. Concentrate on the texture and you will feel the generational pull, thread and wisdom in the Losi sangiovese. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  valerialosi  @Valerialosi  @NaturalVines  @marzia_gallo   @famiglialosi  Valeria Losi  Marzia Gallo

Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Were you to Google traditional + Chianti Classico + Castelnuovo Berardenga you would likely land on a Losi Querciavalle page. Family values and the sharing forward of generational knowledge happens at this estate with the greatest of innate and intuitive possibility. In a world of climate change and extremes it becomes increasingly difficult to fashion consistency from sangiovese. The winter of 2012 was followed by the dry heat of summer oft times leading to dehydrated and concentrated fruit. And yet Losi’s strong and firm Riserva has found the beauty in this well of sangiovese liquor, first with “benevolenza” and then by “graziosità.” The fruit is sweet against the wall of acidity and tannin so with thanks to the family’s patience is now in synch together. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2018  valerialosi  @Valerialosi  @NaturalVines  @marzia_gallo   @famiglialosi  Valeria Losi  Marzia Gallo

Fattoria Di Petroio Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From Quercegrossa, carries some baggage, weighted down in reductive tendency so that structure can develop for longer than other sangiovese Annata. Dark raven-streaked fruit commits to the density and the corporeal purpose. A microbe or three of volatile acidity props and distributes tension so balance has its parts if just a hair or two in asymmetrical stride. Not the most definitive Chianti Classico for Castelnuovo Berardenga. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2018  fattoriapetroio  @diana_petroio  Fattoria di Petroio

San Felice Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (282996, $19.95, WineAlign)

Particularly standard and middle road taken sangiovese, expressive of ripe annata 2016 fruit, tart and pressed to weight. Filled in and ready for the earliest enjoyment is clearly the intent, from fruit taken full advantage and tannin kept to a minimum. Just a touch of verdant berry intertwine is noted. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  borgosanfelice  #BorgoSanFelice  Borgo San Felice

San Felice Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Grigio 2015, Tuscany, Italy (403477, $48.95, WineAlign)

Il Grigio di San Felice shows terrific red and black fruit marking the aromatic entry in a Gran Selezione of power and beauty. Very distinguished vintage with chalky tannins though not the acidity of some, it works the balance of this particular Castelnuovo Berardenga room. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2018  borgosanfelice  #BorgoSanFelice  Borgo San Felice

Tolaini Chianti Classico DOCG Vallenuova 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Vallenuova is crunchy sangiovese, closed and airtight. Dusty wild cherry nose but not much else save for a brush past a rosemary bush. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  tolainiwine  breakthrubevcanada  @TolainiWines  @BreakthruBevCAN  Tolaini Wine  Breakthru Beverage: Canada

My beloved Sommelier and me #CCC2018

Valiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (354019, $19.95, WineAlign)

From the Piccini family this Valiano Chianti Classico is give or take 90 per cent sangiovese and 10 per cent merlot, from rolling Castelnuovo Berardenga terroir, in the spot just west of the Gaiole peinsula and just below Radda. The soils are argilo, calcareous clay with 70 hectares in over 30 plots of (now organic) total production. An aromatic profile that is perfumed, not exactly floral but more an extract of eau de vivre and then a seriously polished texture and flavour. The wood is very much involved, in spicy notes up front and deep set in the back. A really solid and in its finest moments, sexy Annata. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  picciniwines  @PicciniWinesUK  PICCINI WINES

Valiano Chianti Classico DOCG Poggio Teo 2013, Tuscany, Italy (354019, $19.95, WineAlign)

Poggio Teo is a Castelnouvo Berardenga cru up on the hill and a selection of grapes are made for this separate Annata wine. A very similar profile, especially in perfume, with an essential oiliness adding to the eau di vive, pretty, pulchritudinous and concentrated. Another rich rendition, as modern and forthright as it gets, with tart and spicy acidity and easy going tannins. Chewy and longer finish, deep, dark and handsome for 2013. Much more Tuscan, territorial and parochial. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  picciniwines  @PicciniWinesUK  PICCINI WINES

Valiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 6.38 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Valiano’s is a single-vineyard Gran Selezione with 6.38 a reference to the coordinates of that vineyard, not the hour the workers wake up to prune, pluck and pick in the vineyards. An extension in hyperbole from and connected to the lineage of the Annata, but more like a 2013 than the Teo, with salumi and ropey, red citrus edging on the dark fruit. Smoky and it is the merlot always bringing the fat round curves but also spice and cake, especially when small barriques are involved. Would not refer to this as elegant in terms of Gran Selezione but the fruit carries more than a full amount of purpose. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  picciniwines  @PicciniWinesUK  PICCINI WINES

Villa Di Geggiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $35.95, WineAlign)

Geggiano’s particular corner of Castelnuovo Berardenga delivers the gift of calm and collected, deeply fruity and sneaky, streaky, stony sangiovese. It gets neither more subtle nor more appreciable than these wines and in 2015 there is warmth indeed but also a cool sliver of mineral truth. This Chianti Classico does not guess at its ways and intentions, it commits to them with implicit and intuitive, life affirming strength. Great length, really great length. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  villa_di_geggiano  andreaboscu  barrelselect  @VilladiGeggiano  @BarrelSelect  @VilladiGeggiano  @barrelselectinc

Monti in Chianti

Gaiole in Chianti

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Docg Brolio Bettino 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

This second CC Brolio label carries the name of Bettino Ricasoli, inventor of the Chianti formula in 1872. The 2015 edition of the Iron Baron’s Chianti Classico is indubitably vintage driven with far softer feelings and expressions than we last saw in the grippy 2013. After tasting through a pile of such fresh, firm and intense ‘16s this first nose of ’15 is almost an apposite shock. So bloody different in fact the first thought is hematic as opposed to the ferric nature of the ’16s. The 2015 sangiovese are the blood of the decade, the lifeline, life-affirming and life giving Chianti Classico. Brolio’s Bettino is a pure and exemplary one to talk of such things. It delivers fruit and the defined nature of acidity that is a multi-purposed Annata drawn from a gathering off of multiple and variegated types of aisle in Chianti soils. Perfectly ready and in the zone. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  francescoricasoli  churchillcellars  @barone_ricasoli  @imbibersreport   Ricasoli 1141  Churchill Cellars Ltd.

Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Riserva Docg Rocca Guicciarda 2015, Tuscany, Italy (943613, $24.95, WineAlign)

Not that recent vintages were not appealing for the Rocca Guicciarda Riserva but why would 2015 not be the bomb for this ready to go edition? The fruit is at its selected best, with no shortage of phenolic ripeness and flavour compounds. It’s a multitude of berries that make this drink with such early pleasure so make use of this Gaiole in Chianti sangiovese while the more curious and challenging ’13s and ‘14s take their time in getting where they need to go. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted May 2018  francescoricasoli  churchillcellars  @barone_ricasoli  @imbibersreport   Ricasoli 1141  Churchill Cellars Ltd.

Cantalici Chianti Classico DOCG Baruffo 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Here comes the sort of Chianti Classico of swagger and charming, parochial Gaiole in Chianti character. It’s tacky, meaning it zigs and zags with travels from aromas through flavours. It’s also extremely bright like being blinded by too much sun on a beach day. There is great fruit in this Barrufo 2015, perhaps a shade too deep into adornment but who can deny the utter deliciousness? Really chewy and gastronomic sangiovese at the end of the day. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  __cantalici_winery__  @wineCantalici  Cantalici  Carlo Cantalici  Angela Butini  

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

In this new era where modern parlance includes Gran Selezione this next stop on the road for Ama continues with the seventh vintage of the Château-expressionist bottling. Ama is, as it is known, like Prince or Bono, a really rich and full ’16, a brick house of sangiovese, liquid clay streaked by chalky liquidity. It’s might is mighty borne and bred, taking the season’s gifts and letting it all hang out. Quite substantial for 2016 and for Annata CC as a category. Impressive for its concentration and the balance managed considering the collected ambition. Acumen is to be lauded. Tells us that these Gaiole vineyards are some of the finest in the territory. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  castellodiama  halpernwine  @CastellodiAma  @HalpernWine  @castellodiama  @halpernwine

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG San Lorenzo 2015, Tuscany, Italy (418897, $48.95, WineAlign)

Though not technically a single-vineyard wine the fruit source depends highly on this portion of the Gaiole in Chianti estate. As a blend of all the best plots of the property from a vintage with both La Casuccia or Bellavista having been produced it is truly fortunate that nature gifted so much promising fruit so that the right stuff could find its way into San Lorenzo. It is Gran Selezione of great history and no vintage has been as generous as this ’15. It’s accessibility above and beyond the category is astounding, probably because it shares the finest and sweetest acidities plus tannins. The plural is employed because the complexities are varied and variegated. Wonderful red fruit and seamless integration. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  castellodiama  halpernwine  @CastellodiAma  @HalpernWine  @castellodiama  @halpernwine

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto Bellavista 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $242.59, WineAlign)

There was no Vigneto Bellavista produced in 2014 and while the über-specific Bellavista Vineyard Gran Selezione is polar-antithetical to San Lorenzo you can’t help but feel the tiro di famiglia and shared connection to the past. What is contrapositive is the Bellavista modern twist, I suppose, less about acidities and tannin, more about fruit and barrel. Spices, baking scents and bricks combine with black fruit for a hematic and ferric take on Gran Selezione. It’s a big wine with firm grip to be sure and it feels like we don’t yet belong in its space. At this stage we are like The Observer, with a telescopic lens into the vineyard as per the Ilya & Emilia Kabakov installation at Ama. We and Bellavista will need five years to get comfortable and to incorporate the integration of weight and charm. Drink 2022-2031. Tasted February 2018  castellodiama  halpernwine  @CastellodiAma  @HalpernWine  @castellodiama  @halpernwine

I Sodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 435123, WineAlign)

I Sodi is dusty, high-toned, bright acid covered and tart red fruit sangiovese, more house-styled than either Gaiole or vintage, or so it would seem. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2018  Agriturismo Le Trappoline – Azienda Agricola I Sodi

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico Riserva Docg Poggio A Frati 2013, Tuscany, Italy (23358, $32.95, WineAlign)

Poggio A Frati ’13 is 95 per cent sangiovese plus canaiolo, “just to keep the traditional blend, but without any true impact,” says Angelo Dalbello. The Riserva comes from schisty Alberese soil at Poggio Fratti, the hills of the friars. A 12-hectare plot that shines in 2013, a Riserva vintage through and through, in how you may think it rustic though it’s clearly more complex than the Annata in every way and ultimately spinning the Gaiole sapidity. Aged for one year in tonneaux plus an extra year in bottle. No barriques. I repeat, no barriques. The aroma dominance is wild strawberry and then it gives woods, wind and air. The spice is red citrus piqued and the tart edging like a fence around the fruit. A pure and honest, ode to all that led to this moment Riserva for Gaiole. Truly a sangiovese expression of terroir. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  roccadicastagnoli  profilewinegroup  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp  Rocca di Castagnoli  Profile Wine Group

Tomorrow I’ll be presenting @chianticlassico to trade and media in Toronto so naturally I went to Barrie and bought the last two @roccadicastagnoli Stielle left in the province ~ #gaiole

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Stielle 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (459529, $45.95, WineAlign)

From a vineyard that records indicate was planted as far back as 970, Stielle is built upon a foundation of more Galestro soil. Why? As a factor of that soil and probably because it could ripen. This ’13 was fermented by 100 per cent whole bunch, not common for sangiovese, but the high acidity, from high elevation and this soil, led to making such a decision. Not as rich and smooth (or perhaps firm and brooding) in youth as compared to let’s say Chianti Classico in Castellina or Castelnuovo Berardenga but the acidity and sapidity will deliver the velvet with the passage of time, in a way, more like Radda.  Last tasted February 2018

Le Stielle in 2013 and its just faint hint of high acidity mixed and boxed with volatility is just on the most correct side of ripe meets structured life. When Gran Selzione gains such a cherry and fine salty mineral meeting of the structured minds it’s a special thing indeed. This is a fine GS with precision and understated, refined and capable power. Really fine, even just firm enough to deliver 10-15 years of slow developed 100 per cent sangiovese expression. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2017  roccadicastagnoli  profilewinegroup  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp  Rocca di Castagnoli  Profile Wine Group

San Marcellino texture and acidity in the #roccadimontegrossi clay and Galestro of Monti in Chianti.

Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany Italy (Agent, $29.99, WineAlign)

The Chianti Classico 2016 was bottled just three months ago (in November) and is quite consistent to 2015 though at this stage not as gentle and in a way, deeper hued and fruit compressed. The structure follows the thread, always carrying the colour and depth of these Gaiole vineyards, from great thick clay and fantastic, friable Galestro. It’s a very specific grain of texture and tannin, chalky but chewy. This has just a great kick, swagger and confidence, mainly due to the exceptional fineness of acidity. It challenges, tempers and is quicker to integrate that grainy tannin so that more elegance is derived. Such a cool, sapid and structured mouthful. Fantastic Chianti Classico. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2018  #roccadimontegrossi  vinoallegrobc  devonmasciangelo  #roccadimontegrossi  @VinoAllegro @VinoAllegroBC  @RoccadiMontegrossi  Vino Allegro BC  Devon Masciangelo

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigneto San Marcellino 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $63.49, WineAlign)

The first vintage as a Gran Selezione was 2010, before having been labeled as Chianti Classico Vigneto San Marcellino. It was never referred to as a Riserva and so the switch to GS was a matter of celebrating vineyard and especially a pronouncement of aging (minimum 50 months barrel plus bottle). Even now six more months in bottle has altered the texture, integrated the grain and added to the cool sapidity. Great acidity from the vintage in my opinion that makes the greatest strides with the longer aging period.  Last tasted February 2018

Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi’s Gran Selezione boasts more than its share of Chianti Classico history and epochal location in its DNA. Legend dates back to 1039 for Azzi di Geremia Ricasoli and just as far back for the 1000 year-old Pieve San Marcellino. The vineyard gains more archetypal status with each turn of the calendar and the use of just a little bit of endemic pugnitello is awarded the singular varietal assist for Gaiole. With the 2013 vintage well tucked into the back pocket of this iconic Gran Selezione there is this sense of calm and refined, controlled intensity that just begs to get out, but the tannin and rigid structure have it well sealed in. This is what happens when the best fruit and a near perfect vintage come together. It’s fineness of tannin takes on great responsibility and it can do nothing but be a match to the task. Rocca di Montegrossi’s single entity Vigneto San Marcellino is sangiovese of density, intensity and power. It is assuredly one of the finest examples of the vintage. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2017  #roccadimontegrossi  vinoallegrobc  devonmasciangelo  #roccadimontegrossi  @VinoAllegro @VinoAllegroBC  @RoccadiMontegrossi  Vino Allegro BC  Devon Masciangelo

John Szabo and Luca Martini di Cigala

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico DOCG 2005, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Age is apparent on the nose of Luca Martini di Cigala’s Chianti Classico 2005, if hardly whatsoever in the comparative hues of a showing side by side with 2015. This Annata wisps with a smoulder while fruit remains fresh and alive, as if released only yesterday, not 13 years ago. Was a warm year 2005 so this is even more remarkable. A suggestion of truffle and balsamic may be there but you have to concentrate hard to notice so it’s more conceptual than a verified reality. Liquid chalk from what should have been a perfect vintage though rains at harvest diminished the hope and yet how great is this? Seems more Alberese affected than the 2015, that and the hanging tree fruit flavours of dried carob and bokser. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  #sangiustoarentennano    #sangiustoarentennano

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico Riserva Le Baròncole 2004, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Luca Martini di Cigala pours ’04 side by side with the next grossly undervalued vintage. First a re-taste of the very perfumed La Baròncole 2014, from the underestimated vintage that should not be so. With a texture that is San Giusto, if possibly also Gaiole meets a border with Castelnuovo. Then onto Chianti Classico Riserva 2004, from a late harvest, finishing the pick on the 15th or 16th of October, really late for the area. Great acidity is so persistent even if there seems to be some more complex progression as compared to the ’05 Annata, but that is the nature of Riserva, with more dried fruit and savoury-liquorice secondary notes. More spice too, both baking and tobacco and so it is a deeply hematic and plush hyperbole of the younger versions of itself. I imagine this to be in the waning years of its life and soon, perhaps two years from now will mellow and soften into the downy moments it will seek and find. In the meantime, just like its ten years forward sibling, tart never had it this good and linger it does for a decade in your mouth. Do you have to let it linger? The cranberry acidity won’t give you a choice and even if you feel used, it may just hang around there forever. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted May 2018  #sangiustoarentennano    #sangiustoarentennano

Greve in Chianti

Related – A river runs through Greve

Carpineto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (356048, $19.95, WineAlign)

Much further along the road to expression is the way I’d have to announce the immediacy from Carpineto’s quick to gratify Annata ’16. The fruit aches to be pounced upon and used as quickly as you can make this happen. And yet there is a moment of microbial grounding to keep it honest and traditional. In the end it’s a really full and gregarious expression for sangiovese with true red limestone liquidity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  carpinetowines  univinscanada  @CarpinetoWines  @UNIVINS  Carpineto Wines  @agence.UNIVINS  

Castello di Querceto Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (680496, $24.95, WineAlign)

Castello di Querceto’s Greve in Chianti 2016 is perfumed by just a lovely fresh fruit nose, a mixed bowl of berries, juices yet running, plump, swelling, dusty and sanguine. Certainly on the riper end of the spectrum and with a finishing moment of bitters. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  castellodiquerceto  profilewinegroup  @CastQuerceto  @ProfileWineGrp  Castello di Querceto  Profile Wine Group

Castello di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (650754, $28.95, WineAlign)

Still reluctant at this three-plus year mark it is the challenging vintage that really speaks and tells us that patience is needed for longevity and understanding. A depth of dark, liquorice-black cherry meets Cassis gathering suggests cabernet sauvignon adds strength in fruit to savoury 2014 sangiovese dominance. Time will tell just what will come from this formidable Riserva. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  castellodiquerceto  profilewinegroup  @CastQuerceto  @ProfileWineGrp  Castello di Querceto  Profile Wine Group

Tenuta di Nozzole Chianti Classico DOCG Nozzole 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From the Greve in Chianti project of Ambrogio Folonari and son Giovanni, Nozzole’s Chianti Classico is immediately wild strawberry noted, a pretty, pretty wine, ripe and balanced. Such a persistent sangiovese with nice focus, knows what it needs and wants to be. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  folonaritenute  @FolonariTenute  Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico DOCG San Jacopo 2016, Tuscany, Italy (710194, $19.95, WineAlign)

A syrup quells and wells on the nose in Vicchiomaggio’s Greve drawn San Jacopo, like an anaesthetic offering temporary numbing before the scents of fennel and baking spices shake you clear. Here the vintage is spoken early and with weight, density and deep impression. Everything fires on quick cylinders; fruit, wood spice, smoulder and verdant savour. It’s all in and immediate. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February 2018  castellovicchiomaggio  @vicchiomaggio  @SignatureWS1  Castello Vicchiomaggio

Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Agostino Petri 2015, Tuscany, Italy (993360, $29.95, WineAlign)

Agostino Peri is an expressly and explicitly written Riserva from Vicchiomaggio, dusty, high in acidity and ultimately, ostensibly wholly, traditional. Sits on a perch above Greve in Chianti lands to tell the world. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  castellovicchiomaggio  @vicchiomaggio  @SignatureWS1  Castello Vicchiomaggio

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico DOCG Terre di Prenzano 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The single block Terre di Prenzano out of Greve is a particularly expressive aromatic ocean, with a tidal flow of dusty, edgy florals and fruit replete with waves of sweet acidity and candied tannin. This is a departure, welcome and exciting. Few Chianti Classico pulse with such activity and locomotion this early, especially for the vintage. So much promise avows and abounds. Really like the direction Vignamaggio is heading. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  vignamaggio  #hhdimports  @vignamaggio  @HHDImports_Wine  Vignamaggio  vignamaggio

Vignamaggio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Gherardino 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Gherardino is Greve in Chianti old school, in a way, with dried fruit, potpourri and a wealth of fennel-liquorice savour. Spice notes are very prevalent, as is the idea that in three years or so this will turn over into balsamico, porcini and tartufo. Wise and traditional Riserva. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2018  vignamaggio  #hhdimports  @vignamaggio  @HHDImports_Wine  Vignamaggio  vignamaggio

Chianti Classico Collection 2018

Lamole

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG Filetta di Lamole 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

Lamole, though still wild west and yet underdeveloped is clearly the next important Chianti Classico sub-sub-zone terroir. With so much untapped potential it is Giovanni Manetti’s of Fontodi that speaks the earliest, clearest truth about such capabilities. Not that we want to see too quick an exploit of this unique micro-climate and geological wonder but the insatiable thirst of curiosity begs to know. What earth gets into, inside and beneath this sub-strata is dramatic and so bloody personal. It’s a thing of forest floor, rock interface, space and sky, all encompassing, with the filtered, dappled light of sangiovese all pervasive and ethereal. Great chalk and dust particles visible to the naked eye in those streaks of lightning acidity and fine tannin swirl to lightness of being. Though 2014 is a sangiovese of great brood, flavour and commercial appeal, now there is greater potential. This ’15 is perhaps the first Fontodi of Lamole that has crossed into the true reality of the territory. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  #Fontodi  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Az. Agr. Fontodi  #fontodi

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Terra di Lamole 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Lamole in Greve is the source for this high toned, stone-tined and savoury aromatic young Annata, traditional, mildly volatile in its wise rusticity and surprisingly tannic. This is the sort of pressed sangiovese you’d find over the decades, from information and technique passed down and upheld by the current generation. Continues the thread with more microbes and real live tart notes to taste. Builds and builds upon its old-school foundation. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  ifabbriclassico  @IFabbriLamole  I Fabbri

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG Terra di Lamole 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Into the Lamole lair we delve from I Fabbri with 90 per cent sangiovese (grosso) plus canaiolo nero of great potential and it should also be said, probability, if not right now then soon, very soon. This terroir is different and if we are not quite sure exactly how or why then perhaps the producers are not quite sure either. The fruit is 98 per cent ripe but I can’t help but wonder how greatness could have been were the number perfect. That may be asking too much but something is amiss, even while the dusty excesses and fine acidity support of wild red fruit is there to see, sense, feel and enjoy. That is the end game after all. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  ifabbriclassico  @IFabbriLamole  I Fabbri

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG Blue Label 2015, Tuscany, Italy, (476317, $23.95, WineAlign)

From the Lamole sub-section of Greve in Chianti this is 80 per cent sangiovese plus 10 each cabernet and merlot, the latter raised in barriques. A minimum of 22 months is total, this is found to be quite the jammy Annata, surely vintage driven from out of the higher altitude diurnal temperature swings in Lamole. A wine of typicality for the territory and certainly pressed and expressed for immediate gratification. Really plum-fruit fleshy with notable wood spice, especially on the international varieties. Moves into and finishes with dark and stormy tannins in a controlled weather pattern. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  lamoledilamole  philippedandurandwines  @LamoleDiLamole  @lamolewines  @Dandurandwines  Lamole di Lamole  Vins Philippe Dandurand Wines

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG Etichetta Bianco 2015, Tuscany, Italy, (Agent, $23.95, WineAlign)

The second of two Chianti Classico Annata is the Etichetta Bianca, which unlike the Blue Label bottle spends six months in steel, followed by six in big oak casks. Once again offers the Lamole perspective with a glimpse into the limestone, schist and altitude potential of the zone. The absence of barrique aging means the (80 per cent) sangiovese stands out and works with the earth, though here in more ochre, lower hanging, warmer tones. There would seem to be a high percentage of clay from lower hill sites on this fruit because the acidity is subdued and the fruit darker in flavour, though not because of wood. It is a delicious glass of sangiovese regardless and presents yet another moment to talk about sub-sub-zone potential. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  lamoledilamole  philippedandurandwines  @LamoleDiLamole  @lamolewines  @Dandurandwines  Lamole di Lamole  Vins Philippe Dandurand

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Etichetta Grigia 2014, Tuscany, Italy, (280651, $28.95, WineAlign)

Winemaker Andrea Daldin is very proud of his work in 2014, the challenge as great as ever, but he’s sure he’s done great work. A vendemmia ultra-selezionale. Andrea came back from holiday in late August and removed all the foliage to open up the bunches to whatever sun might come and in September it did. Three passages were performed to seek out stages of phenolic ripeness and the sorting table really came in handy on this work. It’s 85 per cent sangiovese and 15 per cent canaiolo, “to bring more typicity for the area.” Here is a deep and rich, generous and extremely carefully curated (grey label) Riserva, OCD style, with no albarese, galestro or macigno stone left unturned. It’s a very pretty nose, elevation and all angles curved, holes filled and everything made whole in Riserva style. Quite ferric and serious, there is some tart astringency at the finish, a sign of vintage and youth but this too shall pass. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  lamoledilamole  philippedandurandwines  @LamoleDiLamole  @lamolewines  @Dandurandwines  Lamole di Lamole  Vins Philippe Dandurand

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vignetto di Campolungo 2014, Tuscany, Italy, (231241, $37.95, WineAlign)

The Vigneto di Campolungo 2014 spent an extra few years in bottle after élevage for what directs this Gran Selezione to market, developing its flavours, integrated into a fine chain of tannin command. This reminds more of let’s say Bibianno’s Montornello than Lamole though it does have that Lamole acidity. Very composed, very directed, very serious. Full barrel advantage, phenolic ripeness, glycerin and tannin. In the big time. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  lamoledilamole  philippedandurandwines  @LamoleDiLamole  @lamolewines  @Dandurandwines  Lamole di Lamole  Vins Philippe Dandurand

Lamole Di Lamole Chianti Classico DOCG 1993, Tuscany, Italy, (WineryWineAlign)

In quite good standing, this ’93 has held up beautifully and was Andrea Daldin’s first vintage. The wild strawberry and balasmico are now combining in fine secondary character. The Lamole acidity is fading but hanging in while tannins are long gone. Changes to fade in dappled light tones after minutes in the glass while always remaining a brilliant claret. Still a solid salumi wine, in mimic and support. A pleasure to taste from a terrific, storied and meticulously sheltered, worked and kept Lamole terroir. Shades of stone are everywhere; from Macigno to Alberese, Albarese with Calcium Carbonate and Galestro. Returns for a little bite of toffee and sip of coffee, before riding off into the sunset Drink 2018.  Tasted February 2018  lamoledilamole  philippedandurandwines  @LamoleDiLamole  @lamolewines  @Dandurandwines  Lamole di Lamole  Vins Philippe Dandurand

Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico DOCG Lamole Nonloso 2015, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Nonloso is a new label for Jurji Fiore with his daughter from a one point eight hectare vineyard across the valley on the Lamole hill, from 25-year old terraced sangiovese (mostly) and this may just be the most elegant sangiovese you are ever likely to taste. If the comparison is even possible it might be said that this sangiovese is made in a Côtes de Nuits style, in one 500L old and one new 228L barrel. The fruit comes from altitude up at 500m, same sandy soil as Ruffoli but less Arenaria stone in Lamole. The biggest difference is the water, in Lamole you drive up through forest while in Ruffoli you climb through rock up to the moon. Perfumed like Volnay and with distinct bright acids but unmistakable as Lamole, perhaps just a hill, valley or river bend away from so many other Greve terroirs but so singular. Very special parochial piece of the territory right here for a Chianti Classico that along with Fontodi begins to tell a sub-zone within a commune story. I don’t know. Seems pretty clear to me. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2018  Podere Poggio Scalette  profilewinegroup     @ProfileWineGrp  Podere Poggio Scalette  Profile Wine Group

Montefioralle

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Perhaps this vintage is necessary to gain an understanding of Montefioralle or perhaps it was always there and a connection just needed to be found. The inhalant of elemental abstraction is remarkable and singular so let us open the discussion about the interest and in fact the necessity for Montefioralle. Just gorgeous from a fruit perspective, dusty and rising in tone with breaches considered and levels touched but never crossed. The risks are many with the rewards justified, palpable and great potential comes as a result. Check out Montefioralle. This tells you why. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  montefioralle  Castello Di Montefioralle    Montefioralle Winery

Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Montefioralle is a deeply felt sensation of sangiovese preservation bringing everything that is Montefioralle within Greve with power and grace. Such fruit wealth is remarkable for 2014, distinct from its geological birthing and powerful to the end. Oh how this celebrates a zone within a zone. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  montefioralle  Castello Di Montefioralle    Montefioralle Winery

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $30.25, WineAlign)

From the sub-zone of Montefioralle this very ready and welling fruit is willing to please, if not at this very moment then just around the corner, where spring lies in wait. Here is yet another quick and painless example of that ’15 acidity, ripe and burgeoning. This will develop its charm by late 2018 and deliver copacetic Greve in Chianti sangiovese for a good two to three year run. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  verrazzanopeople   @StaffVerrazzano  @Smallwinemakers  Castello di Verrazzano  The Small Winemakers Collection

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $43.95, WineAlign)

Calcinaia’s is firm and direct, drawn from the Greve rise above and west of the river to mark a Montefioralle concern off of its southeastern quadrant. If ever a Greve Riserva continues the stylistic and prevalent hematic ooze of its Annata predecessor this would be the one. Torbido and seminal stuff from Sebastiani Capponi. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Contessa Luisa and Monty Waldin

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Contessa Luisa 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Vigna Contessa Luisa was planted by Ferrante Capponi in 1959, dedicated to his mother Luisa Vonwiller and it is the oldest vineyard still in production at Villa Calcinaia. It’s also responsible for Sebastiano Capponi’s newest Calcinaia Gran Selezione and it is not surprisingly the most elegant of the three (along with La Fornace and Bastignano). The most poignant and concentrated liqueur but also because it comes to market a year after the other two, so it has had a chance to settle and shed its cracked outer earthy layer. Now spicy and taut still it’s got so much wonderful fruit, dark, stormy, spicy and long. It’s almost ghostly. Will live in infamy. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2018  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Viticcio Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (283580, $19.25, WineAlign)

A high-toned Monetfioralle affair in 2015 from Viticcio brings very bright red Greve in Chianti fruit and a zing of zesty acidity. This may not be as warm as some ‘15s, which in its singular way is a good thing but there is no compromise to classicism and intensity. You must appreciate the waves of rusticity and tradition but also the high acid style in the face of a vintage that wants to talk about other things. Stands out for this but also for its use of barrel, at least in this early woody stage. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  viticciowinery  majesticwinesinc  @viticciowinery  @MajesticWineInc  Viticcio Winery  Majestic Wine Cellars

JSz in the February #concadoro

Panzano

Related – The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

Fontodi Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (933317, $36.95, WineAlign)

If balance were the ultimate end to all sangiovese means then one nose into this Annata 2015 tells us most of what we need to know. When Giovanni Manetti talks of 2015’s great acidity we may not have been able to inuit or ultimately know what he meant, at least as far as the peer into the collective lens of other wines. Through Manetti’s Panzano focus we now understand. The integration, inclusion and open-armed grande abbraccio of Fontodi’s 2015 talks of fineness, precision, elegance and soft-spoken power. There is the finest of sangiovese dust and the circling of tannic wagons enveloping optimized fruit and bringing the entire family in this wine together. It’s a great vintage for Fontodi. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  #Fontodi  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Az. Agr. Fontodi  #fontodi

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico DOCG 2015 SoloSangiovese, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

It’s a statement to be sure, adding the moniker of “SoloSangiovese” to the label of a Chianti Classico. It’s not just a matter of making comment with regards to varietal purity but the way in which Il Molino di Grace skirts party lines with an explicit display of the grape variety, just a shade smaller then the territory on the bottle. We may be expected to know what comprises (or should be inside) a Chianti Classico but how many really do? So here we are, where we’ve never been before, but have always been. Same deep and intense cimmerian Molino hue, big barrel spice and pure sangiovese grace. There is a connected energy that pulses, to the rest of the portfolio, with or without merlot and found here in a cleanest of Annatas, through clarity and with focus. Solo and proud, wrapped in the varietal flag. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  ilmolinodigrace  @Ilmolinodigrace  Il Molino di Grace

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

You should know that the Chianti Classico of Il Molino di Grace are always deep, dark as night sangiovese but they begin as juice so beautifully opaque red that the transformations are always a thing of great wizardry. It’s more than the barrels, the Slavonian slumbers and the effect of wood. It’s the Galestro soil, parochial Panzano and it is, as mentioned, pure magic. This 2015 Riserva is huge, a wine to launch a thousand ships and faces. I am afraid of and mesmerized by the power. Fortunately this vintage gifts more fruit than many and so the ambition is tempered with juicy restraint and integration. This is ultimately where balance is found despite such high acidity and pitchy macchiò, buio offuscato or oscurità. We’ll see where this lands in a few years time. The plan is to wake up, nose the Galestro and go on with the day. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018  ilmolinodigrace  @Ilmolinodigrace  Il Molino di Grace

Il Palagio di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Very ripe, rich and deeply felt Annata, pressed for the here, now and yet not forever. Very rich and to be enjoyed in the present tense. Consumers can get a sense of vintage but more to the point, drink this with a steak today. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  @palagiodipanzano  palagiopanzano

Le Fonti di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (282848, $31.95, WineAlign)

Le Fonti is the life work of Vicky Schmitt-Vitali, organic, sustainable and Europe’s first Bio-Distretto di Viticultura, leading their Panzano-Greve community in the charge of “attractive territories for a sustainable world.” Her 2015 Chianti Classico was bottled in September of 2017 so it has had time to settle in. This is where sangiovese captures the warmth and relative ease of a vintage, like bottling sun, gravel, schist, limestone, sand and clay for better days ahead. Sangiovese may be young and restless but here in its unadulterated state it renders spice and extends a hand with a firm shake for mutual accord. At some point next year it will bloom with perfume and then prepare to smell the Galestro, along with the flowers, for several more after that. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  poderelefonti  thevineagency  @LeFontiPanzano  @TheVine_RobGroh  Fattoria Le Fonti – Panzano   @thevineto

Le Fonti di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (282921, $44.95, WineAlign)

From the village of Panzano set in an amphitheatre in a southern nook of Greve, this 2014 is lithe, whimsical and understated for Riserva. Cinnamon spice and roses just picked, fresh and fragrant emit an elegant perfume for sangiovese, challenged by a vintage that asked alot from these producers. It’s a bit closed down, more than the average vintage and according to Vicky Schmitt-Vitali this is to be expected. It’s also sangiovese which plays hard to get at the best of times so be prepared to aerate and act with the same light-hearted patience. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  poderelefonti  thevineagency  @LeFontiPanzano  @TheVine_RobGroh  Fattoria Le Fonti – Panzano   @thevineto

Le Fonti di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (282921, WineAlign)

Time has had an impact on the development of texture and this Panzano Riserva is now a rich, viscous and dense liqueur. It’s just amazing when you consider how it’s a child from the freeze-dried soil out of the vintage where winter saw so much wind and snow. Then came a dry heat like no other so as with all vintages there could really be no idea what might happen and like every other one, the challenge was new again. There is more than the usual spice in 2012 to augment the richness and the intensity of the fruit. Perhaps it’s atypical but at five and a half years of age this sangiovese is coming around very nice. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  poderelefonti  thevineagency  @LeFontiPanzano  @TheVine_RobGroh  Fattoria Le Fonti – Panzano   @thevineto

Panzanello Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Panzanello’s sangiovese is augmented with a small amount of merlot. Lots of pressing, bringing out oozing fruit, plenty of early acidity and dusty tannin all combining for a quick entry into the 2015 vintage. It’s all here, right here, right now, in an already fully committed Panzano CC, with drying fruit and an herbal, arid finish. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  panzanello_1427  @Panzanello  @Panzanello1427

Jurji Fiore of #PoggioScalette on the top of the #rufoli hill in #greveinchianti one of the great cru of #chianticlassico

Ruffoli

Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Alta Valle delle Greve is one of Chianti Classico’s highest vineyard sites in Greve on a perch at the top of the Ruffoli hill. Poggio Scalette’s is fermented in concrete, in part because all the sangiovese comes in together and the decision for what to use for Il Carbonaione is not made until later on. Then the Chianti Classico is separated and works further with the concrete, maintaining the highest level of fresh fruit character. Pure sangiovese from younger vineyards, this is so direct, of pure acidity that alights the fruit and delivers honest, unadulterated delight.  Last tasted February 2018

The seventh vintage for the cement-aged Annata is a firm one, especially for 2015, of quick aromatic demand, already thinking ahead, not necessarily for the here and now. Like the other sangiovese (di Lamole) from decent Greve in Chianti altitude (450m) also delivers some hillside (mountain-ish) herbs and fennel, with chicory too. To the palate comes a char on cinghiale roasting over the fire. Top quality acidity rounds out this traditional, fiery red sangiovese with grip and persistence. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2017  Podere Poggio Scalette  profilewinegroup     @ProfileWineGrp  Podere Poggio Scalette  Profile Wine Group

Chianti Classico Collection 2018

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (728816, $30.25, WineAlign)

Digging deeper, or in this case higher as fruit from this eastern section of Greve comes in part from vineyards up on the Ruffoli hill. For 2014 winemaker Manfred Ing pointed out how they used a lot less Radda fruit in the mix due to pest problems and so much of that fruit was dropped. This 2015 is a different story, of Ruffoli meets Radda for a regional Annata, a true territorial Chianti Classico. The hill’s spice and high tonality weaves into Radda’s depth and richness is the quotient, even for a ’15 but not unusual for a Querciabella. It’s a fourth in a row (100 per cent) varietal wine, a sangiovese gelée if you will and really pure. The most purity, with back bite spice but rendered and creatively displaced. Impeccable farming, meticulous sorting and precise winemaking add up to the cleanest of Chianti Classico. I’ll have my sangiovese neat, thank you very much. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2018  querciabella  grape_brands  @Querciabella  @querciabella

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

This young and impressionable Riserva has been a year in bottle and with more (to mostly) Ruffoli fruit than normal it can’t help but speak a very specific language. Ad with the Annata from the same vintage there were problems with the Radda fruit and so the near-solo journey means less rounded edges and higher tones. The best fruit came from Greve, followed by Radda and then Gaiole. What you notice from this ’14 is its depth of beautiful cherry liqueur with earth tones and musky leather. The acidity is the constant, so very Ruffoli and the tannins are surprisingly sweet. Should all come together in another year or so. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  querciabella  grape_brands  @Querciabella  @querciabella

Poggibonsi

Tenuta Cinciano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Cinciano is 100 sangiovese from chalky Poggibonsi vineyards at 250-350m of elevation. Youthfully speaking this ’16 sits en retard, reductive and only seems to want to breathe as a deep inhalant of argilo sangiovese. This CC is an even bigger than the average, broader and scope encompassing expression to taste with an impressive ferric intensity. The potential is great. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2018  fattoriacinciano  @InfoCinciano  @fattoriadicinciano

San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $23.95, WineAlign)

If you are looking for a flat-out juicy, chewy and full-flavoured example of Chianti Classico with unbridled 2015 warmth then look no further. SFC’s Poggibonsi annata delivers drinkable fantasy in sangiovese and that is all there is to that. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018 sanfabianocalcinaiasrl  gsoleil123  @SanFabiano  @GroupeSoleilTO  Società Agricola “San Fabiano Calcinaia”  Groupe Soleil Fine Wines

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (704346, $29.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico 2016 is composed of 80 per cent sangiovese, (15) canaiolo and (5) syrah, which since the 1980s has always held a spot, in fact it may have been as much as 10 two plus decades ago. Paolo de Marchi explains.”Syrah in my opinion, was really about thinking, about blending in an earlier ripening variety.” It also added colour, not for quality necessarily, but for pleasure. “If I were a consultant I don’t think I would recommend to plant it anymore.” But Paolo loves it, its bright acidity and lower pH, and loves the warmth. You can feel the liquid peppery hug from the combination of canaiolo and syrah in the constitution of this CC and now a new texture evolved from a traditional one, clearly passed on through generations. It is spoken in the clarity of this 2016, but it has taken decades to arrive here. Finessed, soft tannins and an effulgent acidity wrap fruit chewy and yet very crisp. Singular again and alone but quicker to please, at least for now. Perhaps it too will shut down in 2019. Perhaps not. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2018.

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (704346, $29.95, WineAlign)

Paolo de Marchi’s Annata is not exactly the most typical ’15 because of its unabashed sapidity, still a bit reductive out of origins in freshness incarnate, with acids burgeoning and expanding in the mouth. Liquorice and carob flavours climb on top of the lingering smell of balsam wood. Full and expansive, intense and bigger than many though a right-proper texture it most certainly delivers. “This is only one-third of the potential of the vintage,” says Demarchi about how it is showing a year and a half in, now imploding and beginning to shut down. This seems to be the trend in Paolo’s wines, fresh and vibrant just when and after being bottled, then protective of themselves before turning into something beautiful once again. This will develop into a decades long lived Chianti Classico. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted February 2018  #isoleeolena  @HalpernWine    halpernwine  Isole e Olena  @halpernwine

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

“Chianti is not a territory that gives minerality in wines. The low pH and high acidity are the factors that matter most. Here the back palate has bite, but it’s not salinity.” So says Paolo de Marchi as he introduces a series of Gran Selezione. In 2015 the difference between this GS and the Cepparello is not an enigmatic one, nor is it a mystery that de Marchi was not in favour of creating a new category. Still he foresaw and excepted the outcome, so  decided to make something special. “In time, after me, it will be a single-vineyard.” Barrel selected from the Cepparello selection, this is not a 100 per cent sangiovese but rather something still in transit, even moving. So tight and tannic, fine-grained, with a new fineness of acidity, but just missing something. Like cabernet franc it is quipped, but no, it wouldn’t have worked anyway. So what then? Time, that is all. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2018

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

When the Gran Selezione 2013 was in the conception stage there was “the search to integrate the experience of Super-Tuscan into the research of sangiovese.” The acidity is even higher in this ’13 than the same vintage Cepparello, because of 90 per cent sangiovese. Something textural is ganache oozing, connected to an espresso-noted and tobacco waft, followed by such spice. This is a moist intense expression of GS, likely needing 10 years to settle in. Long and exciting, plugged in and pulsating. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2018

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2010, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Isole E Olena Gran Selezione 2010 graces a factor in which “the blend lifts up the quality,” a noble venture or undertaking that balances the angles and trips into light. The reductive one is, as per the firm and grippy vintage, tannic and taut, wound still in the present, with the carob and the savour. The minty one, in a way, and with graphite and creosote. Very sapid, tight and intense. The most brooding of the four (’15, ’13 this and ’06). Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2018

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2006, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Gran Selezione 2006 is the very first. “It is a wine I decided to make for the family, on the 50th anniversarry of my father buying the estate,” tells Paolo de Marchi. “Before Gran Selezione it was already a wine that was in my head. A wine that is the experience of a Super Tuscan with the experience and character of Chianti Classico.” It’s 80 per cent sangiovese with syrah and cabernet franc, plus a touch of merlot. Worked, re-adjusted, working for complexity. This was the first year of GS and even though it had already been bottled, it qualified because Paolo has made a special selection of barrels for a specific wine.  It may just be the biggest of them all, a ground breaker, and it made great use of cabernet franc. Nothing if not big and bright, effulgent, massive and balanced. It’s still so fresh and alive. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted February 2018

Serious #sangiovese showing @chianticlassico Masterclass @agotoronto ~ #castellodigabbiano #castellodimonsanto #castellodialbola #carobbio #vallepicciola #querciabella #roccadicastagnoli

Radda in Chianti

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

Borgo La Stella Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

A variegation of soils prepositioned by slopes higher than many make the sangiovese from Radda in Chianti both unique and fascinating. Borgo La Stella invokes the dramatic use of Alberese and Macigno rock, sand and stone to rise up and tell a story of purposed cool climate Chianti Classico curiosity. The ’15 is amenable sangiovese with classic high scope, tonality, soil tang and acidity. The apex at which fruit and drama connect is both exciting and new. This house and its young vines are just getting started and 2015 is the meeting point to join the journey. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  borgolastella  devonmasciangelo  #BorgoLaStella  Borgo la Stella  Devon Masciangelo

Brancaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (519173, $24.95, WineAlign)

Brancaia’s tone is dialled high in these earliest of days, bright, effusive and expressive. Tart cherry fruit prescribed and duly described exactly as this is doted on by equal and uplifting acidity. You just feel like chewing on this glass of effulgent fruit, in rumination and for an easy route through the complacency of sangiovese digestion. That acidity is notable though it too is easy to assimilate and so upon return the fruit feels the same. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  brancaia_com  noble_estates  @CasaBrancaia  @Noble_Estates  @Brancaia  @NobleEstates

Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (260802, $36.95, WineAlign)

The vintage is the succulent one for Brancaia’s Riserva, an (80 per cent) sangiovese, (20) merlot Radda in Chianti beauty that saw 16 months in a combination of barriques and tonneaux. Here we feel the point where 2013 and 2014 intercede, propagate and deliver a child that is observed to grow up so fast. While so tart, it’s primary concern is to deliver pleasure with a substantive and toothsome payoff. The wood is still a bit heavy but necessary to carry the ecumenical fruit forward three to five years. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  brancaia_com  noble_estates  @CasaBrancaia  @Noble_Estates  @Brancaia  @NobleEstates

Time travel through the generoso @volpaia back pages with Giovannella Stianti and Federica Mascheroni #coltassala #chianticlassico #1987 #1988 #1993 #1999 #castellodivolpaia

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (705335, $41.95, WineAlign)

The Riserva is now sourced from a different vineyard than the Annata, with the single vineyard now in delivery of the fruit for the Gran Selezione from 2015 moving forward. The nose here is firmly demanding, savoury, mentholated, with metal magic, creosote and graphite. Now 100 per cent sangiovese, this silky Riserva is frankly silly-stupid young and yet you just know it is a wine that has adjusted to a climate that was once something other and in fact the evolutionary adjustment in time won’t begin to happen for this ’15 until another two or three years. That will be followed by two or three more to ready the open window and offer an aromatic sense of the decomposing sandstone and lime in earth underfoot. Then two or three more for some real change to happen. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2018  castellodivolpaia  rogersandcompanywines  @volpaia  @rogcowines  @volpaia  Rogers & Company

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1987, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Chianti Classico Riserva 1987 is habituated and living life to the fullest in a state of complete and utter sound body and mind. It is sangiovese made at a time when it could it not have been known how impressive it would show 30 years later. Volpaia ’87 is from way back in the cold, pre-climate change days, the acid-washed, roaring 80s, now umami-earthy, cherry-plum fruit with some celery and a real salty-sandstone vein. Still blessed by a healthy, rhythmic pulse of acidity and finally, pure pleasure. Chalk it to bottle luck or a vintage that just had an inkling of greatness that would surely come but this is truly a special and memorable moment to taste. It needs saying with a thank you in words to Giovanella Stianti for sharing, but that will never be enough. Grazie infinite. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  castellodivolpaia  rogersandcompanywines  @volpaia  @rogcowines  @volpaia  Rogers & Company

Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Coltasalla 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Welcome to the new age for Chianti Classico Gran Selezione aging, meaning this is one to go longer, deeper, well into the Radda in Chianti night. In answer to the question of category content, Coltassala was a Riserva (labeled as IGT) until the ’14 vintage (and there is no ’14 GS), always with five per cent mammolo, from the plot co-planted at the end of the 1960s. Then the vineyard was grafted in the late 70s (before Coltassala was created) in the early 80s. “Coltasalla is a question of what was in this vineyard” notes Giovannella Stianti Mascheroni. Most interesting is how this Chianti Classico carries 10 times the acidity of the Annata and the Riserva, in great tension and demand, dominating and to be honest, is quite distracting. It’s nearly an impossible proposition of structure but from a night when a 1987 Riserva showed zero signs of decline, anything is to be believed. Coltasalla is truly a body of work to represent this 500m vineyard and Volpaia with the highest nobility. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2018  castellodivolpaia  rogersandcompanywines  @volpaia  @rogcowines  @volpaia  Rogers & Company

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign)

Colle Bereto’s is a Radda in Chianti single-vineyard expression from La Vigna del Convento which lies at the foot of the former Il Convento di Radda, now Casa Chianti Classico. The Galestro soil is surely the catalyst for this 23 year-old block. There is no substitute for the acumen and the hard work that develops such a wise and mature Gran Selezione. Firm, no shortage of virility, fine acidity, finer tannin and exceptional length. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2018  colleberetowinery   @NokhrinWines  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto  Azienda Agricola Colle Bereto

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (383604, $19.95, WineAlign)

No other sangiovese yet and perhaps won’t again brings the smell of anise like Monterinaldi’s. Though this ’15 Annata is not the single-vineyard Boscone it truly is a Radda in Chianti terroir based wine. After the fennochio love-in the flavours turn to tart cherry and chalky soil. This is real savoury sangiovese, like chewing on soil, leaves and frutta di bosco. Traditional but not necessarily rustic, this is simply a matter of the earth. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted February 2018  #monterinaldi  @monterinaldi  C & E Worldfinds  @monterinaldi  

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Vigneto Boscone 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The single-block expression from Vigneto Boscone is really quite different from the fennel uncanny purposed Monterinaldi Annata, here with sweeter scented and less savoury, brushy and bushy fruit. This is a much broader brushstroke of sangiovese, or rather a swath of fruit, rich, layered and developed. The herbal, amaro component is there but clearly secondary to the fruit. This is very composed, clearly arranged and doted upon Chianti Classico with a lot of purpose. The palate is chewy and persistent. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  #monterinaldi  @monterinaldi  C & E Worldfinds  @monterinaldi 

 

Istine Chianti Classico Docg Vigna Cavarchione 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Angela Fronti produces three single-vineyard Chianti Classico, this being the one from Vertine in Gaiole. She began vinifying her three parcels separately in 2012 but also makes a general Annata and a Riserva that combines the three. The real passion comes through in these single expressions and Cavarchione might just be the the most impressive, at least in this vintage, even if it happens to be the outlier so far from the Istine estate. Precocious wisdom born of age-old dispensation is what drives this sangiovese, just as it does in the Vigna Istine (between Radda and Castellina) and the Vigna Casanova dell’Aia (near Radda). Cavarchione shows deep wisdom, perfect impression and with an eye looking forward for a terroir reveal. It’s an intensely calm sangiovese and while this is not as immediately drinkable as the Annata ‘normale’ it is not far from warming up and bringing the heat. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  istine_raddainchianti  angela_fronti    @angelafronti  Istine  Angela Fronti

Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 878777, $25.95, WineAlign)

This next Annata from Radda in Chianti is impressive for its delivered impression of simulated Riserva quality and with a bit of reserve on the nose. Poggerino’s stands apart in this respect. There are many layers in the variegated red fruit, at times really dusty and often liquified of a chalky strength. It is this presence that says all the best fruit is right here. It will be very interesting to taste the Riserva Bugialla to compare, contrast and quite likely re-think. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  fattoriapoggerino  vins.balthazard   @vinsbalthazard  @poggerino  @VinsBalthazard

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

Now the interest in the Poggerino house and the quest for Bugialla gains momentum in a Riserva that picks up right where the Annata left off and somehow manages to raise the essence of sweet perfume and beautiful liqueur. The elevation is in a hyperbole of fineness, from fruit, by acidity and in developing notable structure. Bugialla out of Radda in Chianti is just a velvety, sumptuous, viscous and elegant Riserva. Amazing nobility, gentle touch and restrained power. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018    fattoriapoggerino  vins.balthazard   @vinsbalthazard  @poggerino  @VinsBalthazard

Vignavecchia Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Sometimes there comes along a sangiovese of seriousness and classic nature to explain some things, particularly about the commune and the ground underfoot. Vignavecchia’s is such a Radda in Chianti animal, rooted in mineral traced earth, fruit seeping in its own bled liqueur and the chains of acidity and tannin strung together with inexplicable seamlessness. The fine exquisite character of this sangiovese is a testament to honesty, purity and clarity. This house just travels from strength to strength, with no break in the accord. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  vignavecchiafattoria    @VignaVecchia

Vignavecchia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Odoardo Beccari 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Vignavecchia’s Odoardo Beccari is the obstinate one showing the first major number of reduction or at least it acts this way relative to nine other examples. Perhaps an opinion is skewed by having been in awe of recent examples or maybe its just a hunch or a feeling but this is stylistically found to be closer to Riserva and further from Gran Selezione. That is said in the most positive way. Still the soil is everything and the fruit abides. Crazy tannin here overtop serious acidity. Remains six years away, at least, from opening to charm and enjoyment. The structure is founded in deep classicism. Just remarkable sangiovese. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2018  vignavecchiafattoria    @VignaVecchia

San Casciano in Val di Pesa

Related – If you’re going to San Casciano

Mercatale Val di Pesa

Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (512384, $42.95, WineAlign)

Antinori’s is a deep and satisfying Riserva with dark fruit taken from Mercatale Val di Pesa vineyards at the estate’s Tenuta Tignanello. It’s very juicy and forthright, readier than many though the acidity is quite strong. This is heavily influenced by wood spice and there is no turning away from its spikes and charms. Quite dark and intense, no doubt due to the vineyard location between the Greve and Pesa river valleys and between the two villages of Montefiridolfi and Santa Maria a Macerata. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  marchesiantinori  halpernwine  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWine  @MarchesiAntinori  @halpernwine

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (219808, $19.10, WineAlign)

Castello di Gabbiano’s Chianti Clsssico may repeat itself and act the obvious one, but once again in 2016 it is full and ripe, filled in at every turn, deep, dark and handsome. The ability to deal in pleasure is immense from gathered quality fruit and as always this Annata finds the quickest line for us to appreciate the unwavering sense of equilibrium. Simply put it is Gabbiano and winemaker Federico Cerelli who offer a quality guarantee at the most attractive price. Leaves no reason to doubt. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  castellodigabbiano  markanthonyon  @castgabbiano  @MarkAnthonyWine  @castellogabbiano  Ivano Reali (Castello Di Gabbiano)  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Carus Vini Chianti Classico DOCG Baldéro 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Baldéro the name might be a character reference from the 1858 Firenze published “Le Poesi Originali di Ippolito Pindemonte,” enemy to Arminio. As a wine this is sangiovese and a small addition of merlot from a plot of land straddling San Casciano and Mercatale in Val di Pesa. Technically belonging to the former, the appellative personality is ingrained, first as quite reductive sangiovese, especially for 2015. Baldéro is still locked tight, shut, door closed. Mountain tea and brushy herbs, rosemary and fennel are the most notable aromas so if not altitude it is the locality of smooth hills and moderate clay that must be the key players. The fruit behind the curtain seems dark and black cherry stormy but it’s not yet at the surface. Structure is the thing, time the factor. This may turn into one exceptional Chianti Classico. “Io tuo nemico?” Not this Baldéro. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  carusvini  @carus_vini  @Carusvini

Cigliano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 189803, $19.95, WineAlign)

Cigliano’s is high-toned and potentially so lovely, with fruit that speaks as if to say “we the berries were picked at exactly the correct time, each and every one of us.” These berries have co-conspired, commingle and have coagulated into a terrific mess of multiplicity within one young and impressionable Chianti Classico through the specific geological lens of San Casciano in Val di Pesa. Great work here via the hands of Niccolò Montecchi. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  Villa del Cigliano  dbwineandspirits    @VilladelCigliano  @dbwineandspirits

La Querce Seconda Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Just a stone’s throw from Florence is where La Querce Seconda produces this 100 per cent organic sangiovese from San Casciano in Val di Pesa. There is something about the affinity between the commune and the 2015 vintage, connecting cooler sites with a beautifully warm and engaging season so that fruit moves from firm to fruity. This is of course a relative and generalized ideal but in the case of the LQS Annata it speaks clearly to the point. Talk about the passion, this is implosive, intense and structured Chianti Classico of sweet fruit meeting at chalky intercession. It’s amorous, modern and spicy. So open and ready with plenty of life ahead. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  laquerceseconda  #laquerceseconda  La Querce Seconda

La Sala Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

La Sala’s Annata 2015 is a bambino, a San Casciano in Val di Pesa sangiovese with 10 per cent merlot to speak for sites at 300m, seemingly more instructed by Galestro from out of the Argilla Rossa in 2015. It was raised in grande (45 hL) botti and has now only been in bottle for five months. It’s tart and firm, strong with doppio shots of espresso and very structured for the vintage. Tells a tale about the sort of sangiovese that comes from San Casciano. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  cantinalasala  @LaSalaVini  @toohotrightnow  La Sala  Stefano Pirondi

La Sala Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Much like the Annata the use of grande (45 hL) botti is key to structure but the Riserva also sees some time in third and fourth passage barriques, if only for a few months. This just smooths, cultures and adds some grace to some of the firmer sangiovese in not just San Casciano, but in all of Chianti Classico. Galestro makes a greater case in the Riserva so that the sapid-savoury streak will begin to come into emanation earlier but also because of the 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon picked from 45 year-old vines on Galestro soil. There is incredible purity in this CCR but also richness and presence. The perfume suggests Cassis, black cherry and black currant leaf but that youthful modernity will submit to the limestone before you can say Val di Pesa. Very polished and impressive wine. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2018  cantinalasala  @LaSalaVini  @toohotrightnow  La Sala  Stefano Pirondi

Luiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.50, WineAlign)

While 2014 showed a winemaker’s ability to survive and ultimately thrive in spite of a great challenge and 2015 proved a different sort of sangiovese mettle, 2016 is more accented and accentuated. The tobacco mid-point on a crunchy mid-palate moves away from gelée and into gravelly pronouncements. Though only in bottle a few days you can’t help but feel the power, grit and structure from this youthful 2016. It’s so very primary and needs to be heard but I’ve asked for a rain-check, looking forward to a re-visit in late ’18 or early ’19. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  luianowine ale_luiano  tre.amici.imports  @LuiLuiano  @treamiciwines  Luiano®  Alessandro Palombo  Tre Amici Wines

Luiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $24.50, WineAlign)

As if a-ha moment notable as a San Casciano Val di Pesa reality, it’s hard to fathom such qualitative smooth consistency and parochial existence from sangiovese. That is what might be referred to as a 2015 epiphany in the soil, hands and mind of Alessandro Palombo. The place lifts his benevolent Chianti Classico into a form almost gelée in savoury consistency, insistent with resolve to please and evolve. It’s sangiovese candy without sweetness but is a matter of just desserts. It might be compared to a fresh picked tomato at optimum ripeness and flavour, leafy, herbal and rife with acidity. San Casciano acidity. Have you ever been faced with such a thing? It’s like the sun. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  luianowine ale_luiano  tre.amici.imports  @LuiLuiano  @treamiciwines  Luiano®  Alessandro Palombo  Tre Amici Wines

Poggiopiano Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Poggiopiano is the work of Stefano Bartoli out of San Casciano in Val di Pesa. Here a highly likeable, sweet scenting black raspberry hug of fruit with mild acidity and even milder tannin. Drink now, early and often sangiovese while the ones with the greater 2015 acidity take their time. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  poggiopiano.galardi  @PoggiopianoFI  @FattoriadiPoggiopiano

Poggiopiano Chianti Classico DOCG Terre di Cresci 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Terre di Cresci’s more specific San Casciano in Val di Pesa terroir brings a broad waft of the same upfront dark fruit but with a more muted delivery and notable increase in acidity. Really full, savoury and satisfying Chianti Classico. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2018  poggiopiano.galardi  @PoggiopianoFI  @FattoriadiPoggiopiano

Principe Corsini Chianti Classico DOCG Le Corti 2015, Tuscany, Italy (400861, $29.95, WineAlign)

Duccio Corsini’s sangiovese is the amenable one in the name of Villa Le Corti 2015, rich and fully developed, chalky and chewy as only San Casciano can be, There is extraction with a purpose towards a rendering of the most modern expression leading to great appeal. The fine-grain in the structure will help to lead this down an even and timely developing path. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2018  principecorsini  artisanal_wine_imports  @PrincipeCorsini  @ArtWineGuru  Principe Corsini  Artisanal Wine Imports

Tavarnelle Val di Pesa

Il Poggiolino Chianti Classico DOCG Il Classico 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Il Classico some with lovely floral, spiced and released to sell character. Sometimes sangiovese just gets bright-eyed for the present Annata, here acting out ’15 with clarity and purity. Just a bit of earthy funk tempers the beauty, or doubles down on it, depending on your perspective. Nice touch from Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  @IlPoggiolino 

Stay-tuned for the amphora and half-magnum story of @FattMontecchio with Francesca Semplici and Stefano di Blasi

Montecchio Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Montecchio’s new look is a curved Bordolese bottle that brings to mind a half magnum. Proprietor Riccardo Nuti’s ’15 is 90 per cent sangiovese with small additions of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and a touch of alicante. It’s soft and spicy, charming in texture and of a new sort of Annata tannin with thanks to amphora aging. The fruit is wrapped taut in a spinning wheel of acidity, round and blanketing. It does not so much rage against as circles around the machine and certainly gains our full attention. Good Chianti Classico will do that. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  fattoriamontecchio  @FattMontecchio  Fattoria Montecchio

Montecchio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The 2013 vintage just gets better and better and I am a fan of estates showing off their Riservas at this four and a half year stage. The Montecchio half magnum, stubby bottle 2013 is 90 per cent sangiovese with cabernet sauvignon and alicante that spent 26 months in Grandi Botti of 25 hL. It may be a product of Tavernelle Val di Pesa but it’s savour is pure San Donato in Poggio. It is no wonder that owner Riccardo Nuti is the first President of the just recently formed L’Associazione di Viticoltori San Donato in Poggio. There is more richness and spice than your average Annata and with a Gran Selezione on the horizon this Riserva really works the room. It’s time is soon, perhaps even now. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted February 2018  fattoriamontecchio  @FattMontecchio  Fattoria Montecchio

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

Only San Poggio in Donato delves into this kind of specific calcaire, the Colombino in lieu of most other’s Galestro. The coolest of notes are broken down and fragmented in mimic of the soil and run like a river of savoury stone through stratified fruit. There is a perception of sweetness, imagined as perfectly ripe, low-lying fruit in early summer. But the sweetness is just a dream because with such a level of mineral, not salty but sapid, it is impression that supersedes expression. The young vines are growing up before our noses and eyes, lending impeccable balance in the here and now, with appreciable development laid out ahead. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  #poderelacappella  #poderelacappella  Natascia Rossini

The view at 630m from Poggio di Guardia where Federico Cerelli and Stefano di Blasi tend their vines in #raddainchianti

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Tasting Ontario Part One: Riesling

Riesling at Vineland Estates, 161 days on skins

Riesling is again on the rise and the reasons why are as varied as the artistry it’s equipped to display. It has been 40 years since the Pennachetti family of Cave Spring Vineyard and German vintner Herman Weis planted riesling in St. Urban Vineyard on what is now Vineland Estates. My how things have changed. The trending line ascends as the general public comes around and warms to the versatile grape so popularity is not just in the hands of geeks, oenophiles and connoisseurs. Ask your favourite sommelier, product consultant or wine writer. Riesling’s neighbourhood is beginning to gentrify in a big way but it’s also expanding experimental and ancestral horizons. It will always be just riesling but today’s varietal vernacular goes beyond dry, off-dry, semi-sweet, Süssreserve, late harvest and Icewine to now include skin-contact, barrel fermented, unfiltered, wild ferment, Blackball and The Geek.

A few weeks back I attended my 7th Cuvée in Niagara Falls to celebrate the next chapter with and for our wine industry, fresh on the heels of the 2018 Tasted Untamed edition of Taste Ontario in Toronto. Just a month before I rambled through the Niagara Icewine Festival in Jordan and the Icewine Gala in Niagara Falls. It was at the Icewine Gala where we watched and listened in on a great tribute to Ontario’s iconic pioneer, Karl Kaiser. We owe so much to Mr. Kaiser with respect to everything Icewine but also to how far we have come in terms of riesling.

A lovely tribute to #karlkaiser tonight at #icewinefestival gala

Just two weeks ago in Toronto we tasted the current offering of Prince Edward County wines at Taste of the County. Today we will immerse ourselves into the culture of global food and local wine at the Terroir Symposium and on Tuesday the Wine Council of Ontario will hold its first annual Ontario Craft Wine Conference. It has been a very saturated and intensive start to 2018, something that must be attributed to the maturity, confidence, preparedness and excitement of and towards Ontario wine.

My personal opportunities to taste wines from the Niagara Peninsula, Prince Edward County, Lake Erie North Shore and Ontario’s South Coast have been many. Before too long there will be greater access to the wines of emerging regions like the Oak Ridges Moraine, Georgian Bay the Northumberland Hills. Prior to 2017 I used this wine processing platform of godello.ca as a vehicle to review and discuss Ontario wines with much greater frequency but circumstances have changed. My work with Italian and French wine regions, most notably Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Bourgogne have occupied a great deal of my time. So has tasting and reviewing many potential submissions for the WineAlign exchange and acting as a consistent contributor to the WineAlign Buyers’ Guides to the VINTAGES releases.  I 2017 I ceased publishing my bi-weekly tasting notes because it’s important that readers check them out on WineAlign. All this as added up to less constant coverage of Ontario wines on the site.

And a few of my favourite wine writers. Thx for coming to #cuvee2018 #vqawinesofontario

That is why I’ve decided to post a series of articles over the next few weeks solely dedicated to Ontario wine and I’m going to split them up by grape varieties, beginning today with Ontario’s great white hope, riesling. I’ve written about the grape many times before and my belief in its varietal power, finesse and omniscient existentialism for a signature and singular Ontario purpose is perpetual and unwavering. This work is possible because of the organizations and the people behind them who make it all possible. The Wine Marketing Association of Ontario, The Wine Council of Ontario and VQA Ontario are a triple-edged force that keep our wines flowing. Thank you to Richard Linley, President of WCO, Magdalena Kaiser, Head of Marketing and Public Relations for WMAO, Brian Schmidt and Laurie Macdonald, President and Executive Director respectively of VQA. The Icewine Festival Gala and Cuvée are not possible without the work of Fallsview Casino, Scotiabank Convention Centre and of course Brock University. Gala and Experts’ Tasting coordination is possible because of The Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute’s Barb Tatarnic, Manager, Wine and Sprit Education Trust and Kaitlyn Little, Marketing and Communications Officer.

Inaugural Winemaker of Excellence Award winner and riesling maker extraordinaire, Angelo Pavan of Cave Spring Cellars, with Donald Ziraldo

At Cuvée, the inaugural Winemaker of Excellence Award winner was Angelo Pavanchosen in a unanimous decision for his major contributions to the industry, his commitment to excellence and his mentorship to winemakers across Canada. Pavan, Vice-President, Winemaker and Founding Partner at Cave Spring Cellars, is known for his encyclopedic understanding of viticulture in Niagara. He was among the first in the province to work with numerous grape varieties and was a pioneer in the quest to improve wine quality and sustainability in vinifera varieties.

“It is humbling to be the first recipient of this great award,” said Pavan. “It validates the passion, time, effort and commitment of over 30 years dedicated to this great wine growing region and having participated in its evolution to international recognition.”

Pavan is also a founding member and Chair of the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) Standards Development Committee and has played a key role in determining the most suitable winemaking practices applicable in Ontario. As the founding Chair of the International Riesling Experience, held in conjunction with CCOVI, Pavan has also been instrumental in solidifying Niagara’s place as one of the world’s pre-eminent Riesling producing regions.

Related – Three Rieslings to believe

One of my first bold statements about Ontario riesling was this. “There are many reasons to believe in riesling, that versatile and brutally honest grape. Riesling holds no punches, speaks its mind, tells it like it is. Grown worldwide and vinified in so many varying styles, riesling is not so much a chameleon but rather a mutant. It takes root in every vineyard, marking its terroir, expressing itself singularly and without apology. Over the past two-four months I have exonerated and upheld with the highest riesling belief that (Ontario) does the variety justice above and beyond the pale, in the vineyard and in the glass. More reviews have been written, designed and pushed down your throats on (local) riesling than on any other grape. What’s up with that? Quality, that’s what.”

Related – 100 kilometre wine for spring

And this. “Riesling. Can there be a more versatile white grape? From natural, mineral spring, bone-dry to concentrated, candied sweet, this grape runs the diversity gamut like no other. ‘The Bench’ is home to a mineral wealth of local riesling, singular in composition not only by way of a global comparison, but also from plot to plot, soil to soil and vineyard to vineyard.”

Riesling Vine

Related – Are you wine experienced?

We held a symposium at Brock University a few years back and the technical, chemical side was addressed by Cornell University Sensory Researcher Terry Acree. For riesling, Acree focuses on chemicals that correspond to the strongest identified smells, the most important and prevalent of which is TDN (Trimethyldihydronaphthalene). TDN the chemical or diesel/petrol the sensation as an “odour strength (Damascenone) as related to by human subjects.” In order for the wine taster to “experience” these sensations, two things have to be there. “Memories of different kinds of features and features themselves.” That said, Acree believes you can only smell three things at once, a notion he borrows from M.F.K. Fisher.

Acree sees odour as “an evolutionary human response to history.” If you have never come into contact with a banana, you will never smell banana in Chardonnay. TDN is the dominant aroma and where riesling grows, more sunlight means more fruit and more TDN. TDN is a precursor but its prevalence does not necessarily increase as a wine ages. A very common theme when nosing an aged Riesling is to comment on the secondary aromatic emergence of a gas or petrol note. Acree believes that identifying increased petrol notes in aged Riesling is a bit of a misnomer. It had to already be there. “I’m just inventing a new, confusing way to discuss minerality,” he concludes.

At that time Toronto wine writer Mike Di Caro and I talked about Ontario riesling and we agreed that sugar levels are both arbitrary and unpredictable so Niagara’s best is and should be of the dry variety. I don’t think that way anymore. My friend and colleague Bill Zacharkiw of the Montreal Gazette wrote this last year.”Rieslings, especially from cool climates like the Mosel in Germany and Niagara tend to have residual sugar. Don’t be scared. You know what? I love them. The sugar makes the aromatics go “boom,” while the acidity keeps the wine tasting dry.” Bill is correct and it is also those sugars that allow the wine to stay alive, age and develop those aforementioned petrol notes.

Related – I shall be Riesling

Here is how VQA chooses to define typical Ontario riesling. “Classically exhibits refreshing citrus, peach or floral aromas with a light “petrol” element and racy acidity on the palate. Made in a range of dry, off-dry and sweet styles, including Icewine. Typically not oaked but good examples will age well with the petrol nose evolving.” Many would agree but there is so much more to think about. You don’t know anything about riesling and aging until you begin tasting them at five years only know then can you begin to understand. Some examples will stay the course of pure lemon, so taut and tight, perhaps shouldn’t even be released until they are ready. The acidity might be the most unwound, with pent-up aggression, a fighter in search of balance. Not typical perhaps but very much a part of the Ontario mix.

The curious thing about Ontario riesling is how it has pushed me to wax with unlimited hyperbole, as in “to purchase in increments any less than a case may be considered a crime against Riesling” and “one of the finest rieslings ever made from Ontario grapes.” For Treve Ring’s take on the great grape, head over to WineAlign for what she had to say after the 2017 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (The Nationals). Treve writes,  “as our palates progress, we often shy away from these simpler, fruity styles for more structured, savoury and minerally wines, which again, brings us full circle (close the ring) back to serious and ageworthy riesling.”

Related – Moved by Riesling

I have been moved by riesling many times. In Alsace it happens every day and it has happened in Ontario, most notably after having comes across (any one of four or five) Charles Baker Picones and Emma Garner Thirty Bench Small Lots. Or in particular, Jay Johnston’s Nadja’s from Flat Rock and most notably Brian Schmidt’s Vineland Estates St. Urban. With Cave Spring it happened after tastes of Cave Spring CSV. It has happened again and again. It will continue this way.

As I mentioned, this is merely the first part in a long series of articles to come, including exposées on sparkling wines, chardonnay, other white varieties and appellative blends, gamay, pinot noir, cabernet franc, plus other reds and red blends. To begin this Ontario varietal march through spring here are 26 recently tasted riesling, plus a handful visited in 2017 yet to make it to godello print, all to give a glimpse into the portal of how far Ontario has come and to where it may be heading.

Riesling at the Carriage House, Vineland Estates Winery – March 7, 2015

Redstone Riesling 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $14.95, WineAlign)

So much lime, in flesh and zest, all over the lime map. Really juicy riesling for the cost of a song. Cool climate stamp right here; glade, citrus, wax and air up above. The palate follows, albeit thin and tinny. Ideal for current consumption though not likely made with the stuffing to evolve. Regardless it’s good value. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted blind at NWAC July 2017 and October 2017  redstonewinery  @RedstoneWines  Redstone Winery

Featherstone Riesling Black Sheep 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (80234, $16.95, WineAlign)

The Black Sheep strikes again, same price, same typicity and balance. This is the riesling we’ve come to expect and relish, with elevated sugar and acidity levels walking hand in hand. Plenty of lime spirit is more Bench styled than ubiquitous Niagara Peninsula so you can guess what fruit lurks to lead such a suspicion. Always high quality and quick to market, sip, rinse and repeat. You’ll see this wine in release cycles four or five times over, available at all times. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  #featherstonewinery  @featherstonewne  Featherstone Estate Winery

Flat Rock Cellars Riesling 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (43281, $17.95, WineAlign)

There are two types of traditional riesling made up on the Escarpment’s benches, both equally accessible and correct but so very different. There is the other way; dry, stoic and intense. And there is the Flat Rock way, slightly further adrift off-dry, weightier and to be honest, less serious and happier. Not that one style is more important than the other but if I’m a consumer expecting sweet riesling but hoping to learn how the other half lives and breathes it would be this Flat Rock that would help educate and ultimately help me grow into the new riesling lover I’d want to be. The sugar (while nothing extraordinary here) is balanced by equal acidity and athletic chic. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

2027 Cellars Riesling Wismer Vineyard Foxcroft Block 2016, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (225490, $18.75, WineAlign)

The wind is so tight and the expressive fruit bound up in a ball of fire and acidity but aching to break free. The pent up energy here is palpably felt, like a needle in the side, leaving you seized up, protective and tense. There is so much juicy citrus and fineness of acidity it’s hard not to see this riesling taking five years to unwind and five more towards developing characterful secondary personality. This is perhaps Kevin Panagapka’s best. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted July 2017 and March 2018  2027cellars  @2027cellars  2027 Cellars

Konzelmann Estate Winery Riesling Reserve Old Vines 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

The by now classic house style of using late harvest fruit off of old vines on the estate’s lakefront property and barrel fermentation are the things that delve into the Konzelmann glück, density and complexity. Preserved lemon, grapefruit sorbet and mineral-mandarin cream define this riesling of zero trepidation, utmost confidence and old world charm. Who’s to say you aren’t sipping this in some Rhineland-Palatinate village instead of Niagara on the Lake. There will always be a place in hearts for riesling made this way. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2018  konzelmannwines  @Konzelmann  @konzelmannwines

Megalomaniac Riesling Narcissist 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (67587, $18.95, WineAlign)

Narcissist takes a turn to the flint with great citrus intent in 2017, simulating great German riesling that have been coming for generations and eons before. There is a youthful funky reductive yeastiness that tests the aromatics but in looking for balance we find tart fruit, fine acidity and a leanness that strikes like a laser through the microbial fog. Wow is this interesting and in a show of great potential. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted March 2018  megalomaniacjhc  sobmegalo  @MegalomaniacJHC  @seb_jacquey  Megalomaniac Wine

Fielding Estate Bottled Riesling 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (251439, $19.95, WineAlign)

Though neither single-vineyard nor block specific make no mistake. This estate riesling from Fielding is a carefully selected and curated one with not a single wasted note in the varietal tune it plays. The chords are pure citrus, the arpeggio rising from stone fruit skin meets flesh and the overall score ambient in its keyboard hold. It’s so bloody juicy, mouth watering and intense, riesling in which there’s a torrent that rises gently. There’s a wind, like a drug, in new material from a great year to make a new record. Worth listening to and drinking in, on repeat, with a deeper understanding. Should develop a layered feel, of honey and petrol, with time. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted October 2017 and March 2018  fielding winery  richiewine  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  Fielding Estate Winery  

Vineland Estates Riesling Elevation St. Urban Vineyard 2016, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (38117, $19.95, WineAlign)

By now the St. Urban Vineyards vines are as old as 37 years, a fact in longevity and experience never lost on this archetypal Niagara Escarpment riesling. There is a certain kind of interest here, first from track record and then because of the deferential vintage for the flagship variety. The nose is quite waxy, lemon-scented and vaguely sweet-fruity. There is even a bit of Niagara Gold cheese mixed with fresh florals, of white roses and then persimmon. So now the mind travels to the tropics, for flavours imagined of mango, marquesa and mangosteen. Warm days and nights will do that to riesling and while this may not live into its twenties it will go complex and curiously fascinating into the petrol and honey with more early unction, like 2012 but even more, akin to 2010. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted December 2017  vinelandestates  benchwineguy  @VinelandEstates  @benchwineguy  Vineland Estates Winery  Brian Schmidt

Hidden Bench Riesling Bistro 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $20.00, WineAlign)

If Ontario riesling can be referred to as classic it would be something as traditional and acumen-factored as this ’16 by Hidden Bench. This is due to the middle road meets the fine, direct and essential line taken, where along the way balance is struck with notable fruit, just shy of off-dry styling and a fashion of natural acidity. Correct is, as correct does. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2018  hiddenbench  @HiddenBench  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  

Creekside Estates Riesling Marianne Hill 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Winery, $21.95, WineAlign)

The next Marianne is a conundrum, low in alcohol and yet quite lean, avoiding both high strains of citrus and flesh. The nose is both inviting and very mineral but the palate is a bit staid, understated and seemingly dry. The skins of pears and peaches are touched but it’s just a bit too quiet right now. We’ll see what the future holds. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2018  creeksidewine  @CreeksideWine  Creekside Estate Winery

Southbrook Vineyards Riesling Triomphe 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $22.95, WineAlign)

With all of her other varietal talents I wouldn’t normally pontificate winemaker Ann Sperling as exemplifying the riesling whisperer (at least in Niagara) though a pass at this warm and inviting 2016 may change that and with haste. At the risk of sounding a bit too establishment this is classic and typical Niagara but it accedes into such a category with impeccable sugar, acid and texture balance. Treating the fruit with respect, avoiding any unhinged decisions and delivering the three-pronged effects of sweet, tart and bitter with seamless intertwine is the work of a total pro. Gotta have the lime and the essential possibility of honey. Triomphe 2016 does just that. It’s what you want and need. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted January and March 2018  southbrookvineyards  @SouthbrookWine  Southbrook Vineyards

Mulled riesling anyone? Hidden Bench at Icewine Fest

Hidden Bench Riesling Estate 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (183491, $23.95, WineAlign)

Just a lovely bit of spring sun and dew picks up the stimulus, pace and attitude right from go in the Hidden Bench ’16. This is not only definitive for riesling by house, for estate and to regional necessity but also to all varietal wines done up right in this pinpointed place. The orbiting acidity is twisted like ties around wires along a circle drawn to lock in freshness, by fruit more lemon and lime citrus than stone or up the stairs. It’s a near perfect vintage for the omniscient one and sets the table for Roman and Felseck Vineyard rieslings to come. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted April 2018  hidden bench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Hidden Bench Riesling Felseck Vineyard 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Agent, $23.95, WineAlign)

Felseck delivers a concentrated, compact and direct riesling, very focused along linear Locust Lane lines, truly Beamsville stony, precise and even a bit demanding. Few Ontario rieslings can distill lemon, lime, green apple and stone like this without jumping around. That Felseck can stand firm in one place with such stoic and unwavering calm is a testament to a winemaker’s attention to detail. It begins in the storied vineyard and finishes with the same fineness of finesse. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted October 2017  hidden bench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Perfect match to riesling? Some might say

Cave Spring Riesling Adam’s Steps 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (901211, $24.95, WineAlign)

Adam’s Steps is Cave Spring’s riesling with a bit more of everything, more depth, body, sweetness and texture. It really is the outlier in their varietal bunching, closer to the Estate than the CSV in style and yet firmly positioned in its own category. There is a true sense of spirit and energy, especially on the lively palate, with a waxy, almost peach coulis and lemon-lime pastille note that lingers like sucking on a riesling candy. Clearly dolomite in origin but fleshy and full. Holds the age ability card for a five-plus year run. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted October 2017 and March 2018  cavespringcellars  thevineagency  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh  Cave Spring Cellars  The Vine

Lundy Manor Riesling 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

The fruit source is Wismer Vineyard for winemaker and Niagara College graduate Adam Kern’s ’16 riesling. Kern also makes the wines with Chris Fornasier and Bench Trial Wines. His straightforward varietal wine for Lundy’s Manor speaks of peach and tart citrus with a surprisingly tannic thrush. The equanimity between fruit and acidity keeps it in the airy space above the pull by extracted weight and will serve it well for two or three years time. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted March 2018  lundymanorwinecellars  @LundyManorWine  @lundymanorwinecellars

Stanners Vineyard Riesling 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

The Stanners Riesling evolution is upon us, happening and ready to blow. In replay of 2014 this is Niagara meets PEC fruit, two days of skin contact, six months on the lees, dry is as dry does and yeasty funky. In my mind it’s pretty much a repeat of that just about leesy enough and pear textured 2014 without anything new added or realized. But, for Colin Stanners it must be the vintage that wakes him up to what he needs to do next so this ’15 is therefore the first next step towards and set up man for what’s to come in 2016. This is a must step to taste on that ladder of evolutionary understanding so make sure to take it. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  stannerswines  @StannersWines  Stanners Vineyard

Keint-He Riesling 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

It’s quite amazing how the texture, sugars and acidities all rise up as one, together for the common good, layered and in-synch. Labeled Niagara Peninsula but really noses and tastes like Twenty Mile Bench riesling. Lime sherbet and mandarin orange gelée. Nothing but pleasure from winemaker Lee Baker’s first start to finish wine at Keint-He. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  keinthewinery  @KeintheWinery  Keint-he Winery & Vineyards

@mackbrisbois brought the past, the present and the future @trailestatewine to taste. Thanks Mack! Indeed, to my pleasure and my education. Delete Comment

Trail Estate Wild Ferment Riesling 2016, VQA Ontario (Winery, $28.00, WineAlign)

In 2016 the WFR is a blend of Foxcroft and BTL fruit, respectfully and respectively farmed by Craig Wismer and Greg Wertsch. This is tannic and textural, the sweetest of all the Trail rieslings, through some skin (or stem) whole cluster contact. The notes are not mind-blowing or expanding ones, of apple, pear and peach skin, again very textural and from a ferment stopped on taste. It’s loaded with 28 g/L of RS but good winemaking makes it seem drier than it is. “Everything else is dry so I guess when I go sweet, I go big” admits Mack Brisbois. So yes this is light, lean, not as fleshy and seemingly drier than it obviously is. Carries forward with a nice candied flower, citrus finish. It’s pretty middle of the road, perfectly correct and enjoyable, especially for a winemaker with an off the beaten track sensibility, antithetical modus vivendi and go beyond the pale ability. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Stanners Vineyard Riesling 2016, VQA Ontario (Winery, $28.00, WineAlign)

I find it curious that this Stanners Riesling is 95 per cent Lincoln Lakeshore fruit but now labeled as VQA Ontario, whereas previous vintages called VQA LL had less Niagara and more PEC fruit. No matter really because again this is Niagara meeting PEC with two days of skin contact, but elevated by 12 months on the lees. That time spent can’t be discounted, nor can the dry as a bone, mad as a hatter summer, not tom mention another year of understanding for Colin Stanners. In the end the acidity out of a chart topping pH and fruit accumulation (not in quantity but in phenolic brilliance) leads this riesling to great heights. Malolactic fermentation was allowed to occur naturally, helping to bring the acidity (and everything else) into balance. Lime, toast, flint and energy, boundless and invigorating. What a riesling, what a story. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted April 2018  stannerswines  @StannersWines  Stanners Vineyard

Cave Spring Riesling CSV 2016, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (566026, $29.95, WineAlign)

The CSV from a warm 2016 really expresses the vintage on the nose with a heavy dose of wet stone and every part of a ripe peach. You have to get past the early sulphur but once you do you take a good bite into the flesh of this riesling and the juices will run with accents and angles fit by tonic, pith, tangy, nervy acidity and a hidden sweetness. The sugars are surely more elevated than realized or will ever be felt because the combination of acidity and pith are covers that will never peel back. Size matters and this CSV is built with great Escarpment architecture, stepping out of the paradigmatic 2015 shadow and into another age. This 2016 begins an epoch of structural expressionism and should easily carry its construct through to the next decade. That consequently, is when this CSV will really be ready to rock and roll for a full decade more. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted March 2018  cavespringcellars  thevineagency  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh  Cave Spring Cellars  The Vine

Trail Estate Skin Contact Riesling Hughes Vineyard 2016, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Times changes, as do winemakers, their hunches, hopes and dreams. Mackenzie Brisbois takes a sidestepping approach to this trailblazing riesling from the vineyard tended by Ed Hughes. It’s now all wild ferment elongated to 19 days on skins. Takes its time this little big one, moving no less than 25 per cent slower than ’15, in part because of the vintage but also because its wild pressed. More a dry matter of when over how or why, still in its aromatic infancy, suffocated by its nature. Also a case of a young wine caught in the 9 g/L total acidity crossfire of a sci-fi battle scene. Will most certainly take another 18 months to change. It does exhale this curious note of garrigue, like Peloponnese mountain tea and Alto Adige sweet fennel frond in broth, with apple and onion skin doused by shots of lime juice. There is even a chewy feel in the leafy texture, quite herbal with a mild pique in a green tea finish. Trust me, this will become something both fascinating and delicious at some point in 2020. There are approximately 76 cases made. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Leaning Post Riesling The Geek 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Agent, $35.00, WineAlign)

The second instalment of the Geek takes Ontario riesling experimentation not just to another level but to a specific methodology that no one else has really attempted thus far. The geeking out goes further and edgier into territory both new and misunderstood. If it seems unconvincing it’s a case of both searcher and searched not yet on the same page but that’s what research and development are all about. All the 2015 lees from Leaning Post’s classic riesling and chardonnay were added to the Geek. As if that wasn’t enough solid, texture-variegating matter, the 2014 riesling lees were also employed. Two years later the Solera ideal was put to bottle. The complex equation comes out to the most autolytic riesling ever made in Ontario, distinctive in that it’s like drinking traditional-method sparkling wine, 36 months on the lees but without any fizz. It’s unusual and fascinating, full of baking apples, biscuits and citrus. It does not meet the expected and the normal, not just because it’s dry as the desert but because it’s enzymatic behaviour is self-cannabalistic. It writes a riesling idiom, having a meaning not deducible from the individual parts. It’s a neo-impressionist idiosyncrasy, a reaction to the empirical realism of “typical,” VQA-cornered and pigeon-holed riesling, accomplished by relying on scientific theory to achieve predetermined textural effects. While The Geek undergoes an oxidative process it’s not exactly Solera-styled because young wine does not replace a percentage of removed older wine. It’s a positive accumulation of solids and therefore a strict and formalized composition. The argot R & D will go on and winemaker Ilya Senchuk asks, “how much lees is too much lees? Only The Geek knows.” Drink 2018-2021. Tasted March 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Trail Estate Skin Contact Riesling Hughes Vineyard 2015, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

At the time of making this wine and then putting a label on a bottle there was no Ontario defined category and in fact this pioneering effort is one of the unheralded forerunners. From fruit sourced out of Ed Hughes’ vineyard it’s a shaggy yet ambitious riesling made mellifluent by 14 days skin contact, inoculated to keep the lees strain constant with with other 15s, meaning the Lakeview and Foxcroft brethren. Now smells just like riesling, unlike in its early “orange” wine days. No longer demanding and tannic, the high acidity too has mellowed and a petrol note has emerged, plus a pepper flake meets peach skin aromatic sedge. Still with the liquid salve texture, coming into its destined balance, dry and persistent in pulse by acidity but calm enough and settled. A great flesh of lime and raining complexity, with a final note of orange skin too. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Trail Estate Barrel Ferment Riesling Foxcroft Vineyard 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

In 2016 the next wrinkle is a wild ferment (as opposed to the inoculated ’15), unfined and unfiltered, because as time progressed “I liked it more and more,” says winemaker Mackenzie Brisbois. No coarse filtration means some minor sediment will settle in the bottle. Smashed layers of tote-filled grapes are brought to the crushpad, in lieu of the crusher, to extract from the skins and stems, making use of the punchdown tool, while waiting before pressing. Recently bottled in December 2017 the BFR is something completely other and if 2015 was considered not, this follow-up is markedly fruity now, because it always was, all the way through during just more than a year in really old barrels. It’s a blonde riesling as per M. Gustave, if you will. “Why blonde? Because they all were.” This is the wisest of Mack Brisbois’ rieslings, calm, confident, collected and shining brightly from the word go. You don’t have to wait on this one, it’s riper, it’s unfiltered, made with a lot less sulphur than the skin contacts and those “dirty” 15s. “I like to see how little (sulphur) I can get away with,” notes Brisbois. The most accomplished riesling that she has made to date, the 16’s balance is spot on now and you will not have to wait for it to come into its cinematic stage. Drink it now and keep it longer. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard 2014, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (241182, $35.20, WineAlign)

Can it be helped if the first 30 seconds with Charles Baker’s 2014 riesling seem like the opening of a film noir classic. Hushed tones, chiaroscuro shadows, off-screen characters and dramatic foreshadowing all solicit the need or the necessity to make use of a wild imagination. There have been older Baker vintages that acted with similar, almost hard to crack quietude. Perhaps it’s with ’13 etched in persistent memory but as a vintage it was (moderately) cooler and in the end, quite average. This ’14 works the benefits and the notes here are quite omnisciently lemon; curd, preserve, citrus tablet and then smeared by a bees-waxy salve. It’s really quite atypical for Baker and for the windswept Vinemount Ridge but misunderstood youth is a bitch. I’d like to revisit in 2019 and beyond to unearth and relish in the hidden meanings. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted November 2017 and March 2018  cbriesling  stratuswines  cruwinemerchants  @cbriesling  @StratusWines  @CRUOntario  Stratus Vineyards  

Pearl Morissette Riesling Cuvée Black Ball 2015, Ontario (416073, $36.20, WineAlign)

The new age 2015 was tasted as part of a retrospective that included 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. Anyone who is interested in gaining a deeper understanding of what might be construed as idiosyncratic or antithetical riesling should be so fortunate to be involved in such a demonstration. The Pearl Morissette riesling endeavour was pretty much bone dry from day one. The Mosel style really never spoke to François Morissette. “We have 220 hang time days so we started fermenting riesling chardonnay style, then in 2012 and 2013 in foudres, which tightened them too much. So in ’14 we moved into concrete egg for aromatics but it was too intense.” So here in ’15 the joint between foudres and cement marks the new beginning. The juice is then transferred to become clear while the lees are kept and recycled for future vintages. This had just been bottled days before with almost no free sulphur “because they can take it.” Such low pH (2.97ish) and the up front skin contact brings tannin and then this silk road texture is followed by more tannin on the back palate. It’s a vintage Blackball and a vintage-driven riesling. A phenolically ripe one. The exercise proves that we really don’t know a thing about riesling, Cuvée Blackball and aging until we begin tasting at five years on. In order, 2011 is “a confirmation that we are on the right road,” ’12 may never be ready, ’13 messes with the riesling paradigm and ’14 is more like riesling of expectation. So what does that make 2015? Nothing yet, really. Have you not been paying attention? Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted July 2017  pearlmorissette  @PearlMorissette  Pearl Morissette

Riesling at Vineland Estates, 161 days on skins

Good to Go!

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Flights in and out of Niagara, ere Terroir

The Niagara crew getting a load of #BallsFalls in Jordan

In May of 2017 the 12th annual Terroir Symposium brought many magnificent folk to Ontario. They were dreamers, disruptors, international luminaries, thought leaders, visionaries, creative influencers, innovators, chefs, hoteliers, drink experts, writers and business leaders. With VQA Wines of Ontario and the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario as chaperone, a dozen of these invitees flew from Billy Bishop Airport to Niagara District Airport for an ante-Terroir Talk Sunday fun day in wine country immersion. I joined Robert Gilvesy, Fiona Beckett, Jeremy Bonia, Magdalena Kaiser, Jamie Drummond, Nikki Bayley, Dick Snyder, Ursula Heinzelmann, Christoph Thörle and Jim Poris for the excursion. In between return nine-seater shuttles we ran through flights at Flat Rock Cellars and Henry of Pelham Estate Winery. Who amongst us was not taken by these VQA wines and their unselfconscious excellence?

First a hot air balloon and now this!!!

After a quick first pit stop at Ball’s Falls to show off Niagara’s famous escarpment limestone to the international contingent, we settled in at Flat Rock to taste six wines with Cellarmaster Allison Findlay. Next it was a dozen at Henry of Pelham Estate Winery with proprietor Daniel Speck, Ryan Corrigan of Rosewood Estates and Suzanne Janke of Stratus Vineyards. A blow your mind lunch was prepared on site by Wellington Court Chefs Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler. Here are the notes on the 18 wines.

Revisits with @Winemakersboots and a seven-year Crowned epiphany

At Flat Rock Cellars

Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling 2010, Méthode Traditionnelle, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (383315, $29.95, WineAlign)

Time makes a difference so here the extended lees age (six months further, to 60) takes Riddled to another level. Considering the cost and attention to time, in the broad realm of traditional method sparkling wine there are some that are given away. Riddled. A whole lot of biscuit warmth, sody saleratus, gingersnap, tart Ida Red apple, breadth and a smile-inducing creamy palate. There is more wisdom and calm from 2010 so do not come around demanding tension and over-exciteability. Think Grower’s Champagne with Ontario heart and soul, dedication and purpose. The extended arm of Madronich-Johnston love is here, this year. It won’t get much better than this. Great length. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted October 2016, March and May 2017  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

Flat Rock Cellars Crowned Sparkling Brut 2009, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Winery, $45.20, WineAlign)

Crowned ’09 was disgorged this spring after seven years on the lees, sealed under crown cap and sent to market with a crowning achievement in mind. Feather gingery, faintly oxidative, this Blanc de Blancs wafts in copper-veined breezes and fennel frond ahead of its palate piercing chardonnay intensity. It delivers a cooler climate interaction than the Riddled, with preserved lemon and please concentrate if you will on it as a wine of heavy forethoughts. What with it resting on its lees, in limbo this long out of practice, necessity and as a result, now fortuitous and of great luck. The animal was created early on and now anything less might be difficult to justify and accept. Plus the bar is raised for the entire Sparkling community. Here the perfect example of low, slow and minute by minute evolution. Only 500 bottles (plus one) were made. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted May 2017

Flat Rock Cellarmaster Allison Findlay

Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2013, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (1560, $30.25, WineAlign)

Flat Rock’s ever involving vines (on 33 hectares planted in 2001 and 2002) enter a new phase with indicators blinking and refreshing in this 2013 Gravity Pinot Noir. Youthful adolescence and gregarious fruit expression initiated in 2010 and carried through the 2012 vintage. Those years saw to a world of astringency and tension relegated to mites in the rear-view mirror. The wine is now in a nexus cross-roaded with exigency holding pattern. To understand its confusion and survey fast forward to its future is not easy. Gravity is a bit large right now, seemingly advanced, but to me the fight is between that fruit abundant state and the return of, though eased by meditative Jedi tension. Gravity just needs a parachute to bring it back down to earth. That lifeline may not materialize in this 2013 but that does not take anything away from its discriminating and diagnostic tones. Brightness, astatic inflection and succulence. This vintage may suffer from some level of snafu but it will age, evolve and breath. That much fruit has to have some level of expectation. The follow up ’14 and ’15 will win the hearts of horses and men. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted October 2015 and May 2017

Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (1560, $29.95, WineAlign)

Seven months have softened and mothered Gravity’s adolescence in ways to now see it as the most feminine, certainly of the last four vintages. Pretty dabs, perfumes of natural conditioning, warm days and warm nights in the bottle. More accessible than previous takes and of a new modernity perceived. Sweet dreams and sweet fragrances, roses and cinnamon, nothing fancy here mind you, with no bite and no gathering moss. Cherries and vanilla, lavender and simple pleasures. Straight up Gravity, no pull down, no drag and no excess weight. At $30 and from the best barrels, this trumps $40-50 most locales not called Lowery, La Petite Vineyard, Central Otago, Hengst or Pfinstberg. From my earlier, March 2014 note: “In a vintage potentially muddled by warmth and a humidor of radio frequency, duplicating berry phenolics, Flat Rock’s Gravity remains a definitive, signature house Pinot Noir. In 2011, the head of the FR class from its most expressive barrels shared the limelight (and top juice) with the Pond, Bruce and Summit one-offs. In ’12, Gravity’s sandbox was its own. The style is surely dark, extracted, black cherry bent, as per the vintage. Yet only the Rock’s soil does earth in this variegate, borne and elevated by the barrel’s grain. There are no fake plastic trees in a Flat Rock Pinot. “Gravity always wins.”  Last tasted October 2014 and May 2017

Flat Rock The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2013, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (1552, $24.95, WineAlign)

It’s as if this label had bided all this time to be the benefactor of 2013 fruit. This Rusty Shed, this 20 miler with the track record to age, a wine that sheds baby fat over a 10 year mineral through echelon stratum, in ways few other peninsula to bench chardonnay can do. This Jay Johnston handled surfer of a wine, buoyant and balanced, centred and able to withstand turbulence, oscillation and tidal sway. Here with sumptuous and spiralled fruit gaged in lode intervals and a tartness held in lope and line by a membrane of extract and tannin. Best ever. Showing well, repeatedly and to forecasted repute. Impressing critics and consumers alike. Bravo. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted June 2016 and May 2017.

Flat Rock Cellars Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (578625, $24.95, WineAlign)

This is an outlier for the Nadja’s Vineyard riesling, with deeper concentration and compression than before. More Mosel and less Twenty Mile in 2015, of light alcohol and an increase in off-dry, extract meets acidity. There have been Nadja’s with more air and exhale but I can’t recall one with such density in vitality. A great Nadja to be sure but of a deferential sort of character. Two or three years should bring it back into its self-imposed and created line. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted May 2016 and May 2017

VQA wines at Henry of Pelham Estate Winery, May 2017

At Henry of Pelham Estate Winery

Rosewood Estates Gamay Rosé Emerald Shore Vineyard 2016, VQA Creek Shores, Ontario (Winery, $15.95, WineAlign)

The inaugural gamay Rosé is from fourth leaf vines in the spot where the famous sémillon once lived. It delivers essential gamay aromas; strawberry modified with a tisane into raspberry and cherry, salinity clarified and fined. It’s lactic tonal, nicely tart and with a Beamsville mineral, very specific and just this emerald side of intense. Finished dry, but was allowed to go through three quarters malo to bring the cream and the layers. Finished by the incumbent winemaker Ryan Corrigan who once “lived out of a backpack and chased grapes,” committing in fleeting methodology, to northern and southern hemisphere harvests. In 2017 Niagara is all his. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted May 2017  rosewood wine  @Rosewoodwine  @rosewoodwine

Welcome to @rosewoodwine Ryan Corrigan. Gamay and Cabernet Franc are in fine hands.

Henry Of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2015, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (616466, $29.95, WineAlign)

Spice and toast more than anything else come to define the early life of the SPR ’15 chardonnay. Not overtly or overly fruit forward at this (nearing) two-year mark, but green apple, pear and the unusual tangy bite of south asian palm (Salak) snake fruit are just around the corner. This speaks to the phenolic grab and go, the hang time and then that barrel exploit comes through. The palate delivers sappy moments and then the weight of the wine is felt. If texture were quantifiable in aromatics, it would be the SFR that would provide such intellectual fodder to describe what that might feel like. The perfume is layered, chewy, unctuous and viscous. Another year should inflate the fruit and integrate the wood. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted twice, May and September 2017  henryofpelham  @HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros  @henryofpelham

Wellington Court Chef Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler’s appetizer trio

Rosewood Estates Chardonnay Origin 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $28.95, WineAlign)

Rosewood’s Origin 2014 is highly representative of Beamsville chardonnay, pacing a bridge that connects the cool of the climate and the nook in the escarpment’s abutting warmth of the overall Bench. The skins matter, as per the departing winemaking Ross Wise expertise, if only and alt-heightened in elevating texture, but even more so the rusty, soil tart, intensely wound and taut orchard fruit speciality. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May 2017

Wellington Court Chef Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler’s salt grass point oyster, beet mignonette, cucumber gel, horseradish foam

Stratus Vineyards Stratus White 2013, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario (660704, $38.20, WineAlign)

There can be little doubt that anticipation would haver to run high for the aromatic, elongated and coolest of Niagara white wine vintages, especially for the chardonnay, but also for the iconic, four-varietal (with sauvignon blanc, sémillon and viognier) blend. The five sensory tenets are solicited and provided for; salty, sour, sweet, briny and umami. The last is exotic and punchy, so this White does it all, speaks for it all and completes it all. It is the most designed and seamless their’s can be.  Last tasted May 2017  stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

In 2013 viognier is back in the varietal mix, in reprise of its earlier role in support of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling. A different sort of vintage here for the White, seemingly led by a circular turning of chardonnay and viognier, like a cat chasing its tail. This really goes round and round with no obvious signs of where it will stop. Quite fleshy and lime juicy with stone fruit flavours in righteous abound. Really amalgamated and seamless even for itself. It is here that I think of it as The White. Niagara’s White. Lake Effect™. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted November 2016

Rosewood Estates Riesling Origin 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $22.95, WineAlign)

Smells like Bench riesling spirit. The energy comes from the über vineyard’s way of emission, gasseous and vital, linear, introspective and direct. This may just be the most aridity and brine ever teased from a Mima’s riesling, acidity coveting sugar notwithstanding, startling from beginning to end, with spirited shots of lime. Underrated and honest, the consistency of this riesling is possessive of great triggers and so beautifully defines the mineral Bench. Early suffocations blow off with ease and in the denoument there are crunchy stones, forever and always something to like. Mima’s never really needed an abundance of sugar for balance and kudos to that. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March and May 2017

Wellington Court Chef Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler’s simcoe asparagus, ramp aioli, sous vide hen’s egg, puffed wild rice

Stratus Gamay 2014, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $29.20, WineAlign)

When asked about his approach to gamay winemaker J-L Groux responds with “continuously with changes.” This is what takes place in 2014 with the barrel time cut back by a full year, now only nine months, if nothing else for to place ultimate emphasis on fruit. Sounds simple but it’s anything but in a Groux universe. His gamay now gifts fresh strawberry and raspberry, a slight 13 per cent alcohol spine and the uplifting effect of zero-noticeable steaminess, steminess, aggression or grass. In contrast to many overly and overtly ambitious Ontario gamay here Stratus enters the antithetical to harsh realm and instead occupies the amenable-ethereal void. Less pressing means smoother transitions and weightless chimera. This captures varietal and place with its coax of maximum fruit. The plantings are from 1992 and 2001 (with an imperfect memory that includes the possibility of 1985 too). Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted twice, May 2017

Thanks for hosting Daniel. Cab-Merlot ’12 SFR @HenryofPelham is one for the ages @WineCouncilOnt @winecountryont

Henry Of Pelham Pinot Noir Speck Family Reserve 2012, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

Always the elder, wise and delicate if elegant statesman for Ontario pinot noir. There is real demure and reserve, Speck family style and this dried red berry savour to both aromatics and flavour. Tart is an undercurrant and red currants run above. Right in its wheelhouse now, for a spell and then the slow fade will come. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May 2017

Henry Of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir 2015, VQA Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

From vines planted in 1984, a more than significant fact of experience, wisdom and acumen from this baco noir. Couple that with what is arguably the finest varietal vintage in many years makes this the collector bottle for the baco fanatic. The rubbery reductiveness is so nicely offset by the flowers, the red fruit and the delicious appeal. Easily the finest ever, by anyone and especially this most prominent house. Great ripe acidity and fine, fine tannin. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted May and June 2017

Wellington Court Chef Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler’s confit lake huron pickerel, fingerling potatoes, chorizo vinaigrette, celery, capers

Rosewood Origin Cabernet Franc 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

It’s a deep, dark fruit, rich currant, pyrazine and savoury vintage for the Origin. It’s cabernet franc that brings strawberry, raspberry and ripe rhubarb to the table. It’s tart and layered, rich and even a touch hematic. Quite pure, red fruit driven and of finely tuned acidity. Never tries too hard, refuses to hide the naturally green character, does nothing to sheath or blanket and leaves the fruit to shine red, bright and vital. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May 2017

Stratus Cabernet Franc “Decant” 2014, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $95.00, WineAlign)

“A designer’s hands are tied. They are only as good as their opportunities.” The words of the brilliant bottle designer Karim Rashid fully apply to the mirrored universe in which winemaker J-L Groux works, here with a deferential and ulterior cabernet franc, bottled with its lees. When I first tasted it in February (in advance of this auspicious release), its unfiltered state spoke of a hyperbole of perfume, marked by exoticism. The aromatics gave far east five-spice, star anise, cardamom, miso and incense, all natural by-products of its purposed ferment. More grain spoke out but also a roundness of tannin and a smoothness both coating and comforting. There was chocolate accentuated by the treatment, with thanks to those lees left in the bottle. The chopped up and constructed bottle catches the lees while the volume flows out and the function out of form mimics the thought of lees delivering structure and yet they are invisible, caught in a hidden net or nook, out of sight, out of mind. But it’s not about pouring. It’s about the hand, or the slight thereof. Then there is the copycat idealism of strata in the vineyard, of geology transferred to the bottle and kept there, like a ship perfectly preserved inside. This cabernet franc will age better, as is the plan, with thanks to the lees that you’ll never have to deal with. There were 110 cases made. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted twice, February and May 2017

Wellington Court Chef Erik Peacock and Cait Bermuhler’s earl grey friand, poached rhubarb, vanilla mascarpone mousse

Henry Of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2012, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (616433, $39.95, WineAlign)

The warm 2012 is an ideal vintage for this very specific cabernets and merlot blend, a wine as deliberate and iconic to the Niagara effort as any that have come before or currently exist. The vintage falls into a line that remembers 1998 and 2002 (with a half wink for 2007 and three-quarters nod to 2010). The brightness of red fruit and the dusty grounding of that fruit into earth integrates quietly and when acidity joins, the balance is pitch perfect. The fineness of that acidity will allow the mild astringency and dark chocolate by barrel to melt with slow dripping ooze into proper and educated tannin. Is this Cabernet-Merlot Speck Family Reserve one for the ages? In a word yes and likely to rival that 1998 for a 15 year run through excellence. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted May 2017

Run any machine on the harnessed marmalade energy of this @StratusWines Riesling Icewine #specialstuff #niagaraonthelake

Stratus Riesling Icewine 2015, VQA Niagara On The Lake (56671, $30.25, 200ml, WineAlign)

The Stratus Riesling Icewine 2015 simulates a true orange and apricot marmalade with a preserved lemon note and a bitter pitch edge. It actually goes into grapefruit a touch, develops unction as it fleshes in the mouth and never fattens or sweetens too much. A show off in triumvirate display of quality, beauty and rhythm. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted May 2017

Good to go!

Godello

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