The greatest wines are considered as the ones that talk to us, connect with that part of our being that elicits sensory and emotional responses, feelings of zeitgeist and great release. Throughout the course of a year I taste thousands in my glass, countless banal, innumerable competent, others correct and many exceptional. Then there are the rare and peerless capable of altering time and space, chosen ones that after listening we then speak directly to. The mind-blowing wines.
This is what I might say to such a splendid creature. “I look upon the flash of your sheen, you a wine of scientific strategies. Your aromatics sum up for me my educational studies in science and lifelong memories. Your flavours remind me of experiments in vinous physics, your textures of exercises in galactic mechanics. Your structure recalls infinite chemical reactions and architectural engineering. Your energy, though carefully controlled, threatens to ignite and destroy my laboratory and yet binds my existential life together. You blow my mind.
Last year’s 20 for 20 was a much different list than ever before. Only 25 days of travel and while I did finally make a return to global discovery that number was even less in 2021. Two trips to Italy and one to B.C. in October and November. Once again just 25 days in total. A yearly schedule usually adds up to 100-plus but fortune also shines on the critics of WineAlign. Through quarantine, isolation and safe-distancing we still managed to taste through thousands of wines. I recorded well and above 4,000 tasting notes in 2021 so it would appear that palate discovery is still alive and well. For the first time ever there are three dessert wines on the list because well, stickies just don’t get enough love. And never before have I included a Canadian wine because I pen a separate list for local but a Thomas Bachelder chardonnay is wholly deserving of going global. These are Godello’s 21 mind-blowing wines of 2021.
A blend of chardonnay and pinot nero matured on lees for 218 months and a further 31 months after disgorgement. Zero dosage, tirage in June 2002. Tasting from “the stolen bottle,” and one would swear there is some sweetness in this wine, offset by twenty year-old persistent and rising acidity. The state of grace and ability this 2001 finds itself sitting royally in is quite something to behold. Stands firm and can stride with most any 20 year-old sparkling wine. A simple fact tells us that Arturo Ziliani’s father Franco and Guido Berlucchi decided to create sparkling wines in Franciacorta. They are the pioneers. Drink 2021-2024. Tasted October 2021
The year 2002 dubbed as “ode to nature” marked the first Krug “vintage of the millennium” and was presented after Krug 2003, just as Krug 1988 left the cellars after Krug 1989. A clement year, relatively dry to make for a homogeneous harvest. The blend is 39 per cent pinot noir, (40) chardonnay and (21) pinot meunier. Disgorgement would have been in the autumn of 2015 after having spent at least 13 years in Krug’s cellars. All this tells us that the vintage is one treated to great respect with the acumen to age seemingly forever. This bottle shows some advancement but mostly in toasted and spiced notes while acting so expertly oxidative, in total control of its own and also our senses. Smells of orange skin, zesty and by citrus spray, then pickled ginger and wild fennel. Tasted blind it feels just exactly 20 years old but it’s not hard to be tricked into imagining even older. I admit to guessing 1995 with thanks to a presentation of at once wildly exotic and then exceptional bubbles. Just a matter of being hoked up with celebration. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted November 2021
Kabola’s is malvazija istarska raised in traditional clay amphorae in combination with oak barrels. Kabola is found in Buje, not far from the coast and south of Trieste. While the combination of clay and wood seem to confuse or blur the game there is something wholly credible and intriguing about this wonderful aromatic mess. You can not only smell and sense but more deeply intuit the phenolic qualities inherent in here. Skins, pips and even a bit of herbaceous stem. Peach and orange tisane, exotic spice and high, high quality lees. Great winemaking here in the context of leaving your grapes to do the work but both timing and execution are spot on. Raises the varietal bar and shows what’s possible. Drink 2021-2026. Tasted April 2021
A wine in which the switch has been flicked at least five times, at least three past the family’s preference but let’s be frank. This is a fascinating Friuli-Venezia-Giulia wine to taste. Oxidative in the most beautiful way, sapid and laden with 23 year-old tang. Very much a young adult of confidence and swagger borne out of phenolic fruit maturation. A long-hanging vintage, a note of botrytis, a late harvest sensation but truly salty, mineral and showing the biodiversity in clones and vineyards that one would expect a white blend of this ilk to display. Just a terrific example of friulano, sauvignon and pinot bianco in their arena of characterful array. Drink 2021. Tasted October 2021
New in the pantheon for Bachelder and Niagara wines as an entity is this from Grimsby Hillside, the new frontier, next level up and future for the industry. In fact the time is already upon these precocious vines and their fruit specially formulated for the most wound and cinched kind of chardonnay, so precipitously witnessed in Thomas Bachelder’s “North Slope, Starry Skies” 2019. The vineyard was planted to vitis labrusca and used for Kaddish wine through the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s and just less than 20 years ago re-purposed to vinifera. Just two decades later winemakers like Thomas and Ilya Senchuk have discovered the magic of possibility and greatness of probability. Tasted this first in July with Thomas though it had just gone to bottle. Now the textural level of this GH-N triple-S has hitherto arrived at the immaculate, sweetly viscous, gleefully gelid and just right there at the apex of sensory enjoyment. Tight and delicious is a good combination. Drink 2022-2028. Tasted December 2021
A single vineyard chenin blanc and the first vintage to the Ontario market for a unique project celebrating the family farm called Eden. From their Stellenbosch ward of Polkadraai and high density plantings on dolomitic, granitic soils. Of a richness, an intensity of parts and a presence only a handful of South African blanc ever reach. A wine that achieves a level of status by its work underground (through root competition) and a clone called Montpellier that produces small berries and even smaller yields, not to mention the plot is just 0.6 hectares in size. Eden is the mothership and matriarch of this clone and for that variety in South Africa. All parts contribute to a wine of outrageous acidity that is never sharp, vivid or dominant. Fruit, mineral, focus, elements and precision. Wet stone is pure Polkadraai, vaporous, omnipresent, all over the wine. “The most successful winemakers (and wine projects) are ones that specialize,” says Bruwer Raats. This Eden follows the credo to a “T” and with a capital “E.” Really cerebral and also age-worthy chenin, in the upper echelon of the finest in the pantheon. If ever a chenin signified “Bringing it all Back Home,” the Raats Eden is it. “Discuss what’s real and what is not. It doesn’t matter inside the Gates of Eden.” Drink 2022-2030. Tasted June 2021
Just another immediately memorable Piano dei Daini Etna Rosso Vico, Sofia Ponzini’s Cru-Vigna nerello mascalese (with 10 per cent nerello cappuccio) at 700m from the northern side of Mount Etna. Grown as alberello on a volcanic, sandy matrix with some stones from 100-plus-plus pre-phylloxera vines located in the town of Passopisciaro, Contrada Santo Spirito, parcels “Belvedere,” “Seimigliaia” and “Calata degli Angeli.” A tempest of steel and a feeling that runs with waves of acidity throughout, in many parallel and horizontal lines, at all levels. Spice cupboard, rich waves of red fruit, viscous wisdom, confidential and confident elegance, finishing at precision without recall. True value, scattered patterning, significant and relevant. A vintage of force, restraint and powerful lightness of being. Drink 2024-2036. Tasted October 2021
The limestone soil Climat of Chaignots lies in the northern part of Nuits-Saint-Georges, up the slope and edging in location but also feeling towards that of Vosne-Romanée. The affinity is much discussed, real and therefore puts the Premier Cru at the top of what is most desired out of Nuits-Saint-Georges. A tiny (0.14 hectare) plot and simply a coup for Nicolas Potel to be able to secure this fruit. Everything about the aromatic front speaks to the Bourgogne mind and Chaignots heart. Cola but from the root, a tuber underground rubbed, that and a cocoa nut crushed between fingers. An almost diesel waft but not gaseous, instead sapid, nut-based, a liqueur toasted and intoxicating. The fineness of structure is the sort of wiry winding by winch that could cut through limbs due to tension so taut. All that you know, love, don’t know and hope to experience is in this wine. Neither I nor Nicolas Potel will be around when it blows someone’s mind in 2074. Look forward to that day young Alphonse. Drink 2025-2045. Tasted May 2021
One must have to look at, walk this and stand in awe of of this vineyard, the steepness at 30-50 per cent grade with a terrace in the middle to break it up. Heavy in Alberese inclusive of massive yellow calcareous boulders and also Galestro. In fact the medium stones removed were transferred to create terraces for olive trees on the other side of the cantina (by Angela Fronti’s father no less). The vineyard faces north so the freshness is off the charts, while the ripeness is so matter of purposeful vintage fact. The label represents the position of the vines in coordinates, echoed in the machicolations of a Fronti sangiovese that drops all the Radda stones on unsuspecting palates through fruit openings between supporting acid corbels of a projecting tannic parapet. Vigna Istine is at the forefront of Chianti Classico’s battle to win over the world. Follow this example. Drink 2023-2029. Tasted October 2021
“Molto parfumato,” binds an aromatic agreement between myself and Paolo de Marchi upon sniffing this ’11 found on Locanda Pietracupa’s wine list. “Cepparello needs time,” says Paolo, understatement of the obvious for the evening, year, decade and history with respect to sangiovese grown in the Chianti Classico territory. Also truth succinctly spoken, roses and violets exhaling and a 100 per cent varietal (or so it seems) profile of succulence and one to fully draw you in. Mint to conifers, multiplicity by complexity value, not to mention vigorous acidity sent straight to a mouth with a full compliment of wisdoms able to think about the situation. A linear Cepparello seeing its wide open window at the 10 year mark. And now a Paolo de Marchi story. “One side of the vine’s grapes were burnt and so I called up (Consorzio Direttore Giuseppe) Liberatore and asked are we changing the name of the appellation? Liberatore said what? To Chianti Amarone replied de Marchi, or sangiovese Port? Joking aside, a stringent selection and a five per cent inclusion of trebbiano did for this ’11 Cepparello what viognier might do for syrah. Not a Chianti Classico so perfectly kosher. A secret until now but all above board. Totally cool. Drink 2021-2026. Tasted October 2021
The 1999 was the last (original) Riserva produced until it was again resurrected in 2011 and what’s so cool about this vintage is how it was held to some early esteem, though paling in comparison to that “vintage of the century” that was 1997. Underestimated over the last 20 years, drinking so beautifully now, with frutta di bosca, tertiary tartufo and fungi. Just doesn’t strike as a fully mature adult reminiscing about the way things used to be but more like a wine with an outlook for more promise, good times and adventures still ahead. If you are still holding onto ‘99s from this part of Toscana you will be very pleased. Drink 2021-2026. Tasted May 2021
Filo di Seta is Filippo Chia’s intuitive “transavanguardia” sangiovese of place, over the ancient beach where he and his father Sandro once painted the Montalcino sea. Mostly early picked fruit, all in tonneaux, at first thinking “croccante” but that’s too simple a way to describe what texture and sensation is combed in this reserve wine. Bottled on the 29th of June so just arriving at the ready, to look at if not to consume. Here there is a fineness of liquid chalkiness, a “fluido” or “scorrevole” to drive the way this sangiovese plays and also sings, a Riserva to move with the wind and musical sway. Somewhat unknown, finely tannic and clearly what could and should be described as “mountain” Brunello. Coming in late is the spice, almost cinnamon and such. Hate to refer to any wine as the best from an estate but too bad. That this is, beyond the avant-garde such as it is. Drink 2025-2038. Tasted November 2021
The longevity of this vintage is almost not to be believed. Has been in bottle for as many years as it would have matured in casks. The next year (2022) will se the re-release of this vintage (in 2021 that vintage was 1983) and the year 1985 is the one I entered university. A Biondi-Santi of resolved tannin but remarkably youthful. A wine that saw Grandi Botti more than before, seen in the gentlest of spice notes and the back to the future return of balsamic and pomegranate. Followed a winter of major snowfall, long and cold winter, a regular spring and uneventful summer. The acidity is just incredible, also youthful and so sweet, those lengthened tannins in liquid powdery-chalky form. The connection with 2016 may seem to be an uncanny one but so help me if the chain is not there. The bottle was opened one hour and forty five minutes earlier so grazie to Federico Radi and Biondi-Sandi for perfecting the timing. We can all learn so much from this wine, to be patient, calm, well-adjusted, confident and gracious. Style and temperament to live by. Should continue this way for at least 10 more years. Drink 2021-2033. Tasted November 2021
A cooler vintage, especially as compared to 1978 and truly a Piedmontese style because the cellar workers closed the tanks, went on strike and returned two months later. Resulted in some carbonic maceration and surely an increased amount of vim in freshness. That mixed with true porcini, fungi and fennochiona. The extended maceration makes this act 43 years forward like an older nebbiolo, rich and once demanding tannins now long since melted away, tar and roses still showing with earthly perfume. Fabulous mouthfeel, lingering and lively. Surely the mean steak astringency would have been in control during the first 10 to 15 years but the beast relents and gives way to charm. Patience breeds gentility and the story is now unfolding. Drink 2021-2026. Tasted October 2021
Stefano Cesari’s farm concerns itself with all things sustainable and while that may seem like a catch phrase, In Brigaldara’s case it most surely is not. The family supports its workers financially, culturally and in health. The young winemaking team is encouraged to study and stage abroad, to learn new oenological skills and languages. The other farm workers and their families are additionally supported by being given stake in the profits of the farm. How can this not reflect in the qualities of the wines, including this very special vintage 2016 Amarone. A magnificent wine and one you can easily drink beyond one glass. Not that it’s a light example but it speaks in soft tones, clearly and with a distinct, precise and honest weight, in vernacular and feeling. All things fruit lead to roads of sweet acidity and fine tannin. A rare Amarone of this ilk and one to savour. Drink 2023-2033. Tasted October 2021
Don Maximiano 2012 is a blend of 75 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (12) carmenère, (8) petit verdot and (5) malbec. No cabernet franc back in 2012 and aside from the obvious notions ushered in by age there is a distinct lack of herbal notes as a result. This is just in a great place nearly nine years forward from vintage, now settling, acids still in charge but tannins having done most of their melting and rendering. This wine is far from done, in fact the next level notions have just begun to have their say and from a vintage as great as this there should very well be nine years nigh before true earthiness, umami and truffle set in. Pour this blind at dinners with old world counterparts and watch with awe as to the results. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted November 2021
Never easy to live in the shadow of siblings clearly designated as mom and dad’s favourites but sometimes overlooked vintages left for dead show greatness later on in life. The 1993 Pétrus is definitely a late bloomer and from a year when only 200 cases were produced, where normally 4,000-plus is the standard. Softened to an almost Burgundian sense of calm but the richness and concentration multiplied by a Spring verdant freshness and sweetly herbal pesto can only indicate one thing and that is Right Bank Bordeaux. I tasted this blind and immediately thought of Pomerol and its close proximity at the eastern border with Saint-Émilion because of the “fromage à pâte molle” feeling gained, along with vestiges of once formidable black fruit supported by a push-pull posit tug of merlot-cabernet franc acidity. A good hunch indeed and a more than surprising set of excellent parameters come to this for a 1993 Bordeaux. All in all a really satisfying and come together wine to hush the naysayers and win in the end. Drink 2021-2025. Tasted November 2021
Jaboulet’s 1990 La Chapelle is a kind of an echo of the year in history, an Hermitage of impeccable harmony, much like balance restored in relative peace and prosperity. In 1990 the Soviet Union fell, ending the decades-long Cold War. Hard to find more shiny opaque purple in a 30 year-old syrah plus a splendid floral nose of stone roses, pencil shavings and graphite. The combinative effect of heft and freshness elicit pleasantries from a bad boy able to play soft ballads to mellow a crowd. La Chapelle is a communicative, entertaining and business-like syrah, a link between the northern Rhône and the taster, an internet Hermitage that changes the way we think and feel. Things will never be the same after tasting Jaboulet’s 1990 and for good reason. Has 10 years left without worry of decline. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted November 2021
Reynvaan is a family production of Rhône-style wines from two vineyard properties in the Walla Walla Valley. “In The Rocks” is their first vineyard located in Milton-Freewater, Oregon and the second vineyard is called “In the Hills.” short for “Foothills in the Sun.” It is found at the base of the Blue Mountains on the Washington/Oregon border and is planted to syrah, viognier and a gaggle of cabernet sauvignon rows. As one of the highest elevation vineyards in Washington (at 1200ft) and in this syrah co-fermented with up to 10 per cent syrah you might get a rendering of a northern Rhône-ish picture. Sure enough the perfume is floral but more than anything a smoulder of pancetta and smoked meat. Reductive as well, different as such than any syrah, anywhere else on the planet but liquid peppery and tire on asphalt nonetheless. The credibility and accountability here is profound and while the sheer concentration and beauty of In the Rocks in captivating, this In the Hills is alternatively vivid, dramatic and powerfully restrained syrah. Which one is you? Drink 2023-2033. Tasted January 2021
The hated hunter is named after Austrian immigrant and Los Angeles restaurateur turned winemaker Manfred Krankl’s grandfather, depicted on the label in gear, with rifle and hound. The blend is led by 82.4 per cent syrah with (7.8) petite sirah, (5.2) mourvèdre, (2) grenache, (1.2) petit manseng and (1.4) viognier. Clocks in at 15.9 alcohol but in this regard hardly garners even one per cent of the discussion. All anyone can talk about is the infinite expanse of pretty, pretty floral capture and personally speaking it simply reeks of syrah. A game of meat juices and marbling, part smoked meat and part pancetta. The only question tasting blind is whether to imagine it as Hermitage or Central Coast California. Once the abv is disclosed the answer can only be the latter but a syrah of such reclusive exclusivity is hard to pin down. Derives from a group of prized vineyards; 32 per cent Eleven Confessions (Santa Rita Hills), (41) The Third Twin (Los Alamos), (25) Cumulus (Santa Barbara) and (2) Molly Aida (Tepusquet Canyon). Adds up to the most luxe, deluxe and ultra-fantastic instrumental of a syrah, no lyrics needed. Man, Manfred, take a bow. A hunting bow. Drink 2023-2029. Tasted November 2021
An absolutely lovely vintage for Fèlsina’s Vin Santo and for Chianti Classico Vin Santo as a rule because extract, temperament and adaptability are all in collective balance. All that you want, need and expect from this traditional and loyal dessert wine are present and accounted for. Dried and glazed fruit, low and slow developed nuttiness and a freedom of territory spoken through airiness and layering. The upside cake of life turns over to reveal a generational wine of clear standards, perfect layering and endless conversation. Nonna and Nonno would be proud. Drink 2021-2035. Tasted June 2021
From the island of Ustica in the Tyrrhenian Sea, 70 kilometres (36 nautical miles) of the coast of Sicily’s capital Palermo and the work of Margherita Longo and Vito Barbera. The vineyards for this zibibbo (moscato d’Alessandria) are grown very close to the water on volcanic soil and Hibiscus is the only winery game in town. There are other farmers that contribute grapes to this tiny production; also grillo, cataratto, inzolia to go along with the zibibbo that makes this Passito. A place where tomato, grapes and peached co-exist, in the gardens and in the wine. This carries that uncanny sweet to savoury feeling in the most specific and ethereal dessert wine both mind can conjure and emotion shall receive. Of orange, grapefruit, peach and tomato. Balanced, harmonious, silky, woollen and with a super-tonal capacity to love. Drink 2021-2032. Tasted October 2021
A bottle of wine is rarely tied to a film, let alone a Douro Port but Taylor’s Very Old Tawny has been blended and bottled to coincide and be product placed in the second Kingsman film, in this case a prequel to the first, this time set in the 1920s. Head Winemaker David Guimaraens chose reserve Tawnys from 70-100 years of age, wines crafted and set aside by generational predecessors past, no stretch for the master blender because we are talking about a house with extensive stocks from which to reach back into. Guimaraens was looking for harmonic balance between concentration and elegance and just a whiff will tell you he and his team have achieved a crossing between a magical vortex and a vanishing point of complexity. Two manifest matters have developed; concentration of sweetness and in this case by association, a focus of acids as well. Together they inspissate and cling comfortably to the skeletal structure. It feels like you are nosing 100 unique aromas, with just seven of them being marzipan, red velvet hazelnut cake, candied ginger rose, rau răm, roasting banana leaf, calimyrna fig and grilled pineapple express. Step six feet away from the glass and the aromatics persist just as sharp as if the glass were in hand. As for a sip of this maraviglioso Tawny, warmth, comfort, delicadeza and forever length make just an ounce last forever. Timeless. Approximately 1000 bottles were produced and in Canada 100 will be made available next September. That is when theatre goers should likely make a return to the cinema to take in the Secret Service spy thriller and Tawny Port fantasy up on the silver screen. Drink 2021-2050. Tasted February 2021
There are times when you do it just for the continuity because time marches on, no matter the circumstances. There is no disputing how different 2020 was and frankly the flip to 2021 will not bring about significant change or any semblance of a return to what was, at least not in the first several months. Yet the compelling urge is there, to quantify and qualify this annual Godello list of wines that opened, expanded and blew a mind in 2020. The concept for a year-end summation was launched in 2012 though it was the publishing of 14 in 2014 that made it very official, if only in the mind of one Godello. Matters little whether this qualifies as the seventh or the ninth because in wine one should always eschew semantics for the liquid truth found inside the bottle, elixirs they are of most profound, ethereal and honest propriety.
This will be a much different list than ever before. While I did manage to squeeze in 25 days of travel in the first 56 of 2020 those were the last of this calendar year. That’s at least 75 short of my normal yearly schedule and so imagine that if an average of 30 wines are tasted each and every day on the road, well then that would tell us that at the very minimum 2,250 wines were missed this year. Not entirely true because at least half that many, if not 75 per cent more were made available to me and my WineAlign colleagues over these past nine month of quarantine, isolation and safe-distancing tastings. Still the make-up of what was tasted has been very different, the most notable being the lack of unrepresented or not found in market wines. Less discovery in 2020 to be sure.
According to my personal critic’s database on WineAlign I reviewed 4,450 wines in 2020, keeping in mind that many of those reviews were for wines tasted in 2019. Up until this year I was consistently behind or back-logged with hundreds if not more than a thousand tasting notes in the queue, unedited, unresolved, not yet reconciled, unfinished, not-posted. Since the global pandemic abruptly delivered me home in the dead of a late February night from Faenza to Firenze, through Frankfurt and to Pearson I have not been able to resume travel. These last 10 months have allowed for a massive catching up. There are now a thousand less wines to finesse and publish then there were this time last year, very few raw and rustic songs waiting for the editing process. All the choices on this 2020 list have been solidified and already been opined with confidence for the world to scrutinize. In 2020 there is nothing left on the table.
This year’s list is indeed different. The get togethers were few and far between. The travel non-existent. That is why you will recognize more producer names and also a more “archetypal” bent to the choices. The year dictates such a direction and as we all know, you have to listen to what the vintage tells you but also to remember and thank the true pioneers for getting all of us here. Perhaps the greatest influence on how this composition came to be was a conscious choice to omit the older vintages tasted in 2020. There were less to be sure but it just feels like keeping them kind of secretive is the way to go. Let’s hope a connection to that part of this exercise will make a return in 2021. As always, heartfelt thanks to everyone who poured a glass. The producers, winemakers, export managers, friends, colleagues and pirates, so please be encouraged and read on. Alas, Godello’s 20 mind-blowing wines of 2020.
Gets me every time. Not just one of the finest meets best value chenin blancs available out of South Africa but an example to hang all your hats on no matter where white wine comes from in this world. Still the knowing nod and incredulous head shake that $18 CDN can buy you fruit from six blocks that are mainly 38 years of age but could possibly include 1974 Helderberg planted vines in Stellenbosch. “Core of the business” and arrow through a chenin heart. Great ferment, like a (catherine) wheel. Layers of design, creamy with thanks to secondary lees aging but somehow still texturally chewy. Barrel notes make a point in a vanilla brûlée way and yet each sip is like taking a bite from a piece of firm, ripe fruit. “I need more texture. You need to give me more texture, texture, texture. You need to give me more texture.” Old Vine Reserve obliges every time. Drink 2020-2026. Tasted June 2020
The triad of producer, appellation and vineyard gets no more arch classic than this with a riesling in Spätlese form at the hands of Selbach-Oster. The pitch and sway in this Wehlener Sonnenuhr vinyeard is 2018 dance card perfect, tight and fluid. Succulent acids are burgeoning and urging the fruit forward, sideways and every which way but loose. This is a wine that gets what needs and gives what is wanted. Will only improve with a few years and then there will come a day when an air or vapour trail falls away. Drink 2022-2033. Tasted November 2020
Belford Vineyard (formerly Elliot Farm) is Hunter Valley leader Tyrrell’s single-vineyard leased sémillon with so much promise in its corner. A top varietal vintage for one thing and the well-draining sandy soils for another. Sémillon thrives in these conditions and so what comes from this awe-inspiring wine is exactly what you possibly wish for when selecting from Hunter Valley. This wine is swiftly, justly and perpetually lit, a smoky, paraffin waxy, über salty, elemental, aerified, verified mineral wine. So focused and precise. Mon dieu, Drink 2021-2026. Tasted June 2020
Hard to believe the age because while this almost certainly achieved an immediately retro toasted and evolved stage in its youth and though 12 years have passed the present day imaginings are dreamed to persist within that very immediate stage. As creamy as it is toasty, the textural body politic in La Grande Hermine is one of great cerebral and figurative impression. You feel, intuit and embrace such honesty and possibility. Drink this vintage dated Champagne all winter long. Its calming presence will preserve you in a state of grace lower than a snowman’s blood pressure. Drink 2020-2028. Tasted September 2020
From Argentina’s northern desert where some of the country’s oldest vines perpetuate existence while thriving fiercely in a hot climate. So yes it is true that some fruit from 70-plus year old vines, well trees really, make their way into this special Salta wine. Dense and concentrated, Cassis times 10, savoury and truly expressive. Oak is well-managed, not shy mind you but these old vines deserve some added and fortifying structure. Do not miss this. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted August 2020
Though essentially a cabernet sauvignon at minimum 90 per cent, it would normally need saying to never discount the blending attributes of cabernet franc, merlot and in recent years, petit verdot. The nooks and crannies filled by the other grape varieties are some of the senses of wonder that have illuminated and elucidated the magic of Don Melchor. And yet years of such thought is turned on its head in 2017 with a 98 per cent pure cabernet sauvignon Don Melchor and only two bits of cabernet franc. Speaks to winemaker Enrique Tirado’s vision of the varietal and vintage relationship. After all, this is his baby, a passion project that spans 20 vintages, from which he looks to “harvest the beauty of the balance of the Puente Alto terroir.” From Viñedo Don Melchor, D.O. Puente Alto and Valle del Alto Maipo, old vines planted 1979 to 1992, new from 2004-2013. The vintage was above average in terms of warmth, cooler temperatures at harvest preserved acidities and sealed the (near) mono-varietal deal. At 30 years into its tenure Don Melchor hits a new stride and it would be hard to argue against the levels of subtle, demure, balanced and ethereal in this 2017. Perfect fruit? Pretty darn close and a bouquet of fresh picked flower-herb-fruit that merge, meld and grace together. One for this age and to age gracefully, slowly and predictably for 20-25 years. Drink 2022-2037. Tasted October 2020
From proprietor Marc Taub who’s family has been prominently part of the Napa Valley wine fabric since prohibition and who in 2013 acquired Napa Valley producer Heritance, later evolving into Taub Family Vineyards. His winemaker is Tom Hinde, a Sonoma and Napa specialist who cut his teeth for seven years at Flowers, but also at Kendall-Jackson, Hartford, La Crema, Lakoya, Cardinale, Stonestreet and Verite. Add in a mere three acres within the historic 300-acre Beckstoffer Vineyard first purchased by Beaulieu founder Georges de Latour in 1928, called Beaulieu Vineyard Number 3 and made by winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff. The 2017 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon are a very special lot. That much we know. Add in the pedigree, torch passing and respect for these necessary tenets of wine-producing business and well, hello. Utmost attention to detail, optimum extraction and concentration, sultry, supple and ultimately divine. There is this fine, fine, almost indescribable salty vein that cuts through the fruit and the fat like perfect umami seasoning in the most decadent dish. With meat or seafood, California or Japan, take your pick. Drink this either way. Drink 2023-2039. Tasted October 2020
Even though the ’18 HR PN took my breath away nine months ago, the not yet understood nuance of this wine surely clouded first impressions. However small a sample size this may be is more than enough to prove time’s effect on wine, pinot noir and Hamilton Russell’s spiritual connection with the grape and how it personifies the Hemel En Aarde Valley. Fragrance, perfume, essential oils, Lilac, Lilly of the Valley and the sweetest tobacco smoulder. Captivating now and quite likely will be so into the mid 30s. Last tasted August 2020
There have been many Hamilton Russell pinot noir poured in my anxiously awaiting glasses over the last five years. It’s hard to believe we are here at 2018 but time is a joy when you are having a noirmance. The fruit is exceptional in this vintage because it just feels like the warm day/cool night fix is in. The diurnal flux has locked in freshness and sweet tension like no recent memory can recall. Makes for a most grippy yet excitable pinot noir of concentration, presence and promise. Benchmark in every respect. Drink 2021-2032. Tasted November 2019
That Marco Cirese Sangiovese stare. His Noelia Ricci and Pandolfo are crucial, fundamental and illustrative of what is possible in Emilia-Romagna. #sangiovesediromagna #viniadarte #viniadarte2020
Godenza was the name of the podere (house) on site at a one hectare vineyard at 340m, the highest section of Ricci’s land. The introduction of concrete tanks is surely responsible (in part) to the freshness and reduction but also poor, well-draining calcareous soils that complete a relationship with open-knit and fragrant red fruit. Adds up to complexities and beauty, not to mention the hands-off, unadulterated feel of this wine. At the top end of quality and elaborate expression for the appellation. Drink 2021-2026. Tasted twice at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020
Stop in here for a rest and exult in the near perfect grace, charm and collective soul in the heart of an Annata. To say that the Novarese family and Dario Faccin should feel the greatest sangiovese reward from this appellation would be a grand understatement. This version of Panzano and Chainti Classico DOCG is what it is, what it can and must be. Should be. Has to be. Richly glorious and confidently understated. The cleanest sangiovese and the one that speaks most succinctly of the land. These are the reasons why Carobbio is the most underrated, but for how long? This ’16 will see proof to that and so much more. Drink 2021-2031. Tasted February 2020
Now to introduce you to the Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli brothers, Alessandro and Andrea, two men who covet, own and articulate their western wing of Castelnuovo terroir. As custodians of these classic southern Chianti Classico Alberese and Galestro vineyards they have come to understand their nuance and their specialities. So, Riserva from 2015 now comes to its beginning having needed every bit of the extra two years in bottle it has received. Yes this Geggiano ’15 Riserva still needs time and if you abide by the premise it will come alive, surmise and in turn, surprise. In fact it will make a lasting impression and stay with you forever. Drink 2022-2030. Tasted February 2020
The acumen, wisdom and also the persistent reduction are formidable in this incredibly concentrated wine. So Monsanto, so in delivery of San Donato in Poggio, so Laura Bianchi. Seemingly equipped with the needed stuffing in the way that 1968 managed to accrue over 50 years of travels. Here in Gran Selezione form the tendencies and the abilities are multiplied tenfold. Magnificent and magnanimous, the concentration is foiled by focus and precision, from all that has come before, moving into the present and then going forward with everything that occupies, in hopes and dreams. Drink 2025-2037. Tasted February 2020
Organic, biodynamic and unfiltered, from the then first in Montalcino, at the hands of Francesco Leanza, in 1995. Now (and since 2015) in the custodial hands of Felix and Sabine Eichbauer, halfway between Montalcino and Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The last of the cru, single-vineyards planted at Salicutti and not surprisingly the one with most red fruity juiciness that keeps a lineage with the Rosso. If a portal into knowing what it makes to taste the bright side of 2015 could be described then why not make use of this ethereal Sorgente to learn of such things. Voltage, tension and vibration. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February 2020
Barrel Sample. Now this is something exceptional. This is what Casaccia is obviously capable of producing, The sweetest Canalicchio fruit of all, to date and with a rising low and slow angling of acidity (as opposed to straight verticality) that carries the fruit to great heights. This will be a triumph and in fact it is already tasting like a piece de Canalicchio resistance while it sings a long maestro song. A soloist that needs no accompaniment although food, company and peace would not hurt at all. Obviously this is more than just the northern side of Montalcino and more than Canalicchio. This is Casaccia. Drink 2025-2039. Tasted February 2020
The ’13 will be released on January 1st, 2023 and as the name Diecianni suggests it is a Riserva that 10 years minimum are needed before readiness begins to take shape. The selection is from the smallest grape clusters in estate vineyards and mainly the oldest vines, originally planted in 1987. The vintage of the great polyphonic-phenolic, elastic and stretched ripeness, by photosynthesis without heat, of muscles with energy and ones that will develop, remain and use their power to keep the fruit alive. That said it’s a wine of wood and the highest level of salinity, sapidity and a tang that is exhibited by no other Brunello di Montalcino. A concentration that is simply outstanding and in some minds, will even be eclipsed (or not) by 2016. The finesse and architecture of this wine are as good as it gets. Drink 2026-2042. Tasted February 2020
From Canale vines 50 years old and the most historical vineyard for Malabaila, as documents show. Riserva here means two years in two, three and four year-old barrels. Yet another silky Roero and example of nebbiolo that could not have been born anywhere else. The “little castle” is a charming nebbiolo, fine of all its constructive parts with an ease of sensuality that just shows how confident, casual and natural life as it is just happens to be. Castelletto knows what it is. Drink 2020-2028. Tasted January 2020
Basarin in the newest Cru for Sottimano, established in 2014 though the vines are already between 45-50 years old. Released just at the start of 2020 and already displaying a prominence in aromatics that speak to this exceptional nook just below Neive. From a vintage blessed for its place in history matched by a requiem for a dream. Crunchy for nebbiolo surely caused by the policy of classically long Piedmontese maceration, drawing fruit with gentle impunity and long-grained tannins in thrushes and intermingling chains. Pure dark fruit (almost raspberry) and a generous application of wood varnish. Architecture, length and character, all together. Drink 2022-2037. Tasted January 2020
The thing of Bricco delle Viole that is beauty emits with gala fruit force into the canals of the layers. Bricco dell Viole the singular Barolo cru, from which fruit, texture and extension are consistently planned out, mapped and organized. So wound, so found and following a path that runs along a line along a circle. Slow unwind and unfolding coming, culminating in developed notes, to be far away, somewhere between then and then. Too soon to tell. Drink 2023-2032. Tasted January 2020
Another old friend, St. Henri, once a wine for a special occasion, now one for all times. No, not a baby Grange but to me this is to Penfolds as Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus is to Maison Bouchard Père & Fils. Not that there is any resemblance to pinot noir save for the fact that in terms of shiraz, St. Henri is the elegant or if you will, the Burgundian one. Penfolds like to refer to Henri as “an intriguing counterpoint to Grange,” and that seems right in the sense that power and optimum concentration are never the point. It is a multi-regional blend, from Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Eden Valley and Port Lincoln. There is no new wood exercised; it spends 12 months in 50-plus year old vats. Distinct style, unique pedigree and alternative execution. Adds up to intrigue, enigma and mystery, which is just what an iconic and signature counterpoint should do. Acidity and structure are tops, bar none. Drink 2023-2039. Tasted October 2020
The third consecutively declared Vintage Port by Taylor is one of 18’s most powerfully restrained. Taylor describes their 2018 from a “year (that) seems to have given it an additional layer of density and weight.” Apropos it needs saying because texture this viscous is clearly vintage driven. After record aridity in 2017 it was a wet March that was welcomed with open arms and water tables but the rain kept up and so mildew became the challenge. Worse was damage from hailstorms in the Pinhão area, including Taylor Fladgate’s Quinta do Junco. But the heat came and on August 3rd at Quinta de Vargellas they recorded a temperature of just over 44°C. Ripening happened in a shorter and more concentrated window, a good thing in the world of VP, as witnessed by the no holes, all in, singular in vision and style Taylor 2018. Not the gangster power surge of some others mind you and the violets give little aromatic space to fruit nor perfume that tries to steal the spotlight. These are remarkable tannins and it could be periods of ages and epochs before this begins to move into complexities secondary and tertiary. If I were as young as I think you are I’d invest in this Taylor for the next 30-plus years of evolution. Drink 2027-2044. Tasted November 2020
Give a view an arch and he’ll ask you to stay for dinner #tokalon2017
Update: As much as 900,000 further acres have been lost to fire since September 14th and because of the recent Glass Fire there have been many evacuation orders for parts of Sonoma and Napa counties. As of today nearly 66,000 acres have burned. Three fires had merged, resulting in one big fire initially threatening Napa Valley and Santa Rosa. Thank goodness the containment has now reached 30 per cent but there is still a long way to go. The road to recovery will be even longer so please consider donating to help all the families, businesses and first responders.
A gofundme campaign, launched by five wine industry marketing professionals, focuses on direct relief for farmworkers (a vital part of the wine industry’s fabric) affected by the Glass Fire Incident in Napa and Sonoma Counties.
Funding goes to every domestic violence shelter in the state to help care for survivors who are unhoused or feel unsafe.
Thank you to Karen MacNeil for her update and for sharing these words from Linda Reiff, President of Napa Valley Vintners:
“We are deeply grateful for the tremendous care from around the world, and for the hard work and dedication of fire fighters, first responders and volunteers who are here from near and far to help us. At our core, we are a strong, agricultural community where grapes have been grown and wines made for more than 150 years. The Napa Valley is still here, our community spirit is fierce, we will get through and beyond this.”
We’re worried about all of you in northern California. Please stay safe.
Recalling simpler times
My last visit to To Kalon Vineyard was three and a half years ago, Oakville site of that consequential plottage, koan of sorts, most excellent agglomerate of soil, vine and canopy. To Kalon functions as an enigmatic invitation to rethink the meaning of wine, so speaking of The Robert Mondavi Winery and Arterra Wines Canada, enlightened educator Mark de Vere MW will soon be moderating a virtual tasting with Constellation Brands winemakers Thomas Rivers Brown and Carol Shrader. In a couple of weeks time, on Friday, October 9 at 1:00 pm (EST). I will be participating and tasting 2017 and 2018 Double Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon. The plan will be to explore the vast diversity and fine quality of the Oakville terroir and To Kalon Vineyard. Which brings me back to May of 2017 and a week spent in Napa Valley completing the Robert Mondavi Winery To Kalon Vineyard certification program.
There were cellar tastings, Chef Jeff Mosher prepared dinners, hot air balloon flights, vineyard cycling tours, UC Davis research investigations and most enriching seminars led by Director of Wine Education De Vere and winemaker Geneviève Janssens. Inside The CIA (Culinary Institute of America) at Copia, Napa classrooms the sessions taught included west coast, global and To Kalon examples of cabernet sauvignon. The Napa Valley panelist apprised cabernet sauvignon flights were filled with archetypes, icons and Mondavi retrospectives. Rarely does one get to go at so many learning tools and experiential gifts of history through such an array of high quality varietal wines. De Vere made a request by asking everyone to dig deep, do some soul searching and get to the bottom of the new versus old world paradigm. “Let’s get an unbiased impression of what the differences are and what might make them different. California has reliably dry summers but much more day/night diurnal temperature fluctuations. Bordeaux stays warm at night and thus differing ripening patters. Napa significantly more sunshine hours but not necessarily more total heat.”
Then the vineyard’s prodigy spoke. Graeme MacDonald’s experience and published work have by now made him THE historian of Napa Valley’s famed To Kalon Vineyard area near Oakville. MacDonald is a To Kalon farmer who has written a history of the famed grape growing area for the Historic American Landscapes Survey. His work is part of the Library of Congress. The vineyard was started in 1868 by Hamilton W. Crabb, an innovator in wine marketing and vineyard techniques while today the Robert Mondavi Winery, University of California Davis and Andy Beckstoffer control most of its land. For McDonald To Kalon is simply a place entwined with his family’s history.
Start raising a child 100 years before they are born because that’s when you begin to prepare the environment they will be born into. #tokalon #graememacdonald #tokalon2017 #tokalonvineyard
“It was really for me a great way to document the history for our children. I want to leave something that explains why I am so passionate about it,” MacDonald said. “Start raising a child 100 years before their birth because that’s when you begin to prepare the environment they will be born into.” The Wappo people called it “Tu-ia-halusi, or ”beautiful land” to describe the upper Napa Valley. The name To Kalon is Greek for “highest beauty,” or the “highest good,” as per H.W. Crabb in 1889. “I try to make it mean the boss vineyard,” says McDonald. Also a pivotal part in Aristotle and the most important (and first) wine poured in the time of Jesus. This from the most important winemaker in the history of Napa. It took 100 years after it was predicted by Crabb but that is when Graeme’s grandfather committed to Cabernet Sauvignon (circa 1978). The family wines were labeled under the name Detert Vineyards.
Château D’Issan 2013, AC Margaux, Bordeaux, France (511469, $114.00, WineAlign)
Tasted blind in Napa, the first impression is Chile due to the capsicum bite and wood that expresses as savour and piquancy. Herbal with currants and tobacco. Impressive smoky wood integration overtop gamey, Bretty, animale character which talks a Bordeaux vernacular. Fruit is subtle, restrained and waits for the finish. It’s Bordeaux, or course. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted May 2017
Concha Y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Terrunyo Las Terrazas Block, Andes Pirque Vineyard 2013, Maipo Valley, Chile (562918, $29.95, WineAlign, Escalade Wines)
Now a slight demure, dusty but cool, minty, creosote and graphite, like Coonawarra perhaps. Some granite soil funk so could also be South Africa and yet there is this very high acidity and eucalyptus. The aesthetic is more about fruit than tannic structure. Some carménère in here likely – the smoky edge would say so. It’s Chile because the herbs and black currants dominate so clearly from a warm part, i.e. Maipo. Last tasted blind in Napa Valley, May 2016
Big floral vintage for the single-vineyard Terrunyo cabernet, rich, lush and hedonism defined. The varietal stands out in the vintage with the heavy lean to fresh flowers, along with the waves of alternating blackberry and Cassis. The alcohol and the weight are certainly formidable but the aromatics and fruit heavy tonality keeps up with the heat. Big boned and barrel conscious, this CyT is a big wine for a modest price. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted August 2016
Ripe, high acidity, elevated tones and dark fruit. More like Argentina here and the palate also suggests Bordeaux but it’s too ripe. The high acid, metafictional mochafication and extreme ripeness puts my guess in McLaren Vale but also because of the richness and ripeness. Some dark red fruit is exceptional, part dried, with liquorice, both red and black. Really lovely wine, juicy, with a high level of fruit from some great vineyards. A genuine product of Sarah and Sparky Marquis from which 16 per cent alcohol is pulled off with remarkable ease, with thanks to tannic structure and extract. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted blind in Napa Valley, May 2017
This seems the most Californian but Alexander Valley in its current of currant and savour. Tastes like Clos du Bois, but we’re now in South Africa. Quite anti-reductive, little to do with granite, funky soil and rubber tree plants, but it hints at all this from Stellenbosch. like juicing liquorice, bokser and umeboshi plum mixed into Ribena for a juicy cocktail. This may be closer to Cali than the rest because of the supple triumvirate of fruit-acid-tannin for structure. Terrific representation from the Jonkershoek Valley. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted blind in Napa Valley, May 2017
Quite the Cassis richness and genteel nature, ripe but of a humble extraction with a distinct garrigue note. Very Napa-ilke though there is a high love of acidity. Tasted blind you might think it could very well be a Mondavi but it’s too jammy and there is a plethora of red fruit purée,. That it turns out to be from Paso Robles is a perfect example to show that further south can translate to a warmer climate… but not always. Cool nights are adding their own extreme example of diurnal temperature swings so that 16.0 per cent alcohol, coulis and acidity can coexist. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted May 2017
Chef Jeff Mosher’s Fresh Spring Pea Risotto at Mondavi
Quite savoury with Mediterranean accents, black olive and brine, cool and minty, seemingly accented with American oak. A cloudy moments suggests Alexander Valley, but clarity wins so better still Santa Cruz Mountains. So is this a Ridge? Elegant cabernet sauvignon, 75 per cent with merlot and bits of petit verdot and cabernet franc. Positioned to an ocean proximity overhanging Monterey Bay and above most of the fog so the growing climate is its own. Keeps sugar and alcohol down for a cool and elegant expression. Last tasted blind in Napa Valley, May 2017
From the next arid vintage with more immunity always gifted by the Santa Cruz Mountains terroir so that Ridge can do what they want and what is needed. Three-quarters cabernet sauvignon, 20 per cent merlot and quick Pollockian slashes of petit verdot and cabernet franc meet in the studio to create and complete the piece. There is more acidity and tension on the nose than noted in 2012, with red currants and black fruit swirling in coulis centrifuge to distract from what wants to grip and tear you away. The purity and cool texture of a Ridge cabernet is unlike any other; it stretches this way and that, never breaking, tearing or shearing but not because is has been patched, quilted or restored. It was always this way and will stay so for 15 to 20 years. Tannins are fine and support what happens, in any way they are asked to do. Drink 2020-2033. Tasted April 2017
A bit of demure, lots of black fruit and a note or orange rind. Again terrific acidity, and tart, crisp, chocolate edging. Sensing a combination of oaks in that chemistry effect when merging into the fruit of Alexander Valley. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted May 2017
The aridity of 2013 has now translated into some lovely development in bottle that trials and tribulates with its wealthy pool of rich, ripe and silky chocolate texture. Such a typically reasoned Napa Valley explanation with 47 years under its increscent belt. Serious tannins need five years to seek settlement and to carry structure for to build a home for the ripe fruit. At 14.8 per cent alcohol there is much to fuel and keep the abode bathed in warmth, along with American oak in pancetta ooze, augmented by smoke and spice. Chewy and huge. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted February and June 2016, May 2017
Bob Swanson of #napavalleyballoons is the man. Slice through butter flight over the Sacramento Valley to 1000 ft, #splashanddash in Putah Creek and a smooth, exacting landing on a dime on the back of a flatbed.
Drawn from Seven Hills’ founding blocks, planted by winemaker Casey McClellan and his father in the early 1980s. Very ripe, rich and unctuous aromatics, also floral, big tannic structure, candied complexion with mint chocolate candy cane and yet its aridity dominates the back side. Continental climate with maritime overtones in a Walla Walla cabernet under the influence of the rain shadow. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted May 2017
Inherit The Sheep, a multi-play on words, launching point “the meek shall inherit the earth,” followed by “the farmers shall inherit the sheep” and prophesied as Clay and Tersilla Gregory may never inherit anything else in their lives. As for cabernet sauvignon, Coombsville just seems to be a natural extension from the concept of Napa Rocks. As Mondavi’s Mark de Vere made sure to point out, “the reputation of Napa comes form the quality of the wine made here, not the quantity.” About 150 million years ago a domino of events began to occur…ocean plate under the continental plate….volcanic influence and marine rock. A mish-mash, super geological group of alloy musicians. Coomsville gets it too, exemplified by this rich, highly perfumed aromatic cabernet, soil a major factor in the duality of tart meets tang, some dried herbs and dusty, chalky tannins. As a memory, Clay Gregory used to be a GM at Mondavi. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted May 2017
The meek shall? Focused alternative #napavalley AVA expression #tokalon2017 #coombsville
Deeper, higher tonality and lifted though it’s from liqueur and not acidity necessarily. So much chocolate, perhaps dominant by American oak but also a comestible layering and pressing that comes by ripe and concentrated fruit out of Stags Leap District. East side of the valley, volcanic and alluvial, so perhaps the place and its victuals speak loudest, dark chocolate and red cherry, quite chewy and with middle palate tannin, focused and lined. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted May 2017
Very juicy, acidity driven, extraction and high level tonality. A fineness discerned with immediate notice, layer upon layer of distinction and elegance. Tasting blind it could be the Mondavi Reserve, acidity is very present balanced by plush fruit ripeness, blacker than red, slightly savoury and so Oakville. Turns out it is west To Kalon Vineyard though not labeled as such. For Graeme McDonald “it tastes like home.” Drink 2019-2027. Tasted May 2017
The jam is in, a bit to the right of ripeness and so a left leaning structure. Already noting some balsamic, soy and even a faint tick of truffle, not quite raisin but there is an indication it’s beginning is around the corner. Tthe palate brings more energy but this lacks balance because the fruit is overripe. Three flavours. Rutherford Bench fruit. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted May 2017
Classic next level Napa Valley depth, structure and intendment. Full on welling sunken weight, oak very much apart of every moment but not overly spiced. Through that big oak bent there is something akin or at least draws memories to Atlas Mountain. Incredibly ripe with aggressive, thick, needing 10 years to devolve tannins. Could be Atlas but is in fact Howell Mountain, one of the eastern AVAs from which mountain fruit delivers more intensity of tannin. Drink 2020-2030. Tasted May 2017
Tierra Roja Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Oakville, Napa Valley
From Linda Neal, long-time vineyard manager who purchased the Oakville property in 1987. A distinctly perfumed-floral cabernet sauvignon, of violets, but also a dusty, silty-salty mineral aroma. Terrific acidity, just terrific, the type of tart intensity that causes anticipatory salivation. Reminds of cabs off of Terra Rossa soil, a.k.a. Coonawarra but also the Panzano terroir of Carobbio. Geologically it’s volcanic in origin, off of a hillside vineyard. Intense and offering a fully focused commitment straight through the finish. Drink 2019-2027. Tasted May 2017
Richness but reserved, demure, unhurried in a calm state. More of an exotic perfume, jasmine and bougainvillea, still some salty grit and certainly mineral but fuller, with an ooze of dark chocolate and body politic by firmness and tannin. Beneficial bitters on the finish. It’s way, way too young to fully appreciate. Special fruit is saved for this next level cabernet sauvignon from its very own patch of free-draining alluvial soil. Drink 2020-2028. Tasted May 2017
An annual parade of quality comes from Franciscan with this Napa Valley cabernet, a wine that is quietly commercial and respectfully true to its roots. It’s quite chalky and the tannic grain is truly in focus while the fruit speaks with premium ability, certainly sheathed by Americanized vanilla oak. Savoury to a point but still quite naked truthful about fruit in its ripe clothing. Always well made and at its best in 2014. Drink 2017-2021. Last tasted October 2017
Even more reserve and also into reductive, with darkest fruit, Cassis, carob and graphite. So much chocolate, dark, bitter and high in cocoa. Coating tannin, present and demanding, a bit west. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted May 2017
Huh. A day after tasting these #tokalon wines #tokalon2017
Dark cherry and Cassis oscillate in waves, punishing the shores of first prefacing perfume and then recursing acidity. A distinct profile that speaks so similarly to a Mondavi To Kalon but in Oakville…it’s hard to know, distinguish and be certain but so tempting to hedge guessing bets on origins. Such fineness, dramatic acidity and persistence, so not surprising it’s just across the road (Hwy 29). A very special tract of terroir in its own right this John C. Sullenger Vineyard. Drink 2020-2028. Tasted May 2017
Oakville’s rich Cassis and mocha swirl welcomes wood and baking spice, then floral meets herbaceous Freesia. As a Mondavi cabernet, Oakville sits high up on the sapid meets tart scale and is expressly long. The palate really suggests older world Bordeaux but it’s almost too ripe, chalky, chocolate ganache rich, especially at the finish. A touch of Brett brings me back to structure and old world but there is an equal and opposing fruit-tannin seamlessness and smoothness. Its fineness of acidity means that it ends up balanced. Markedly correct, intense and proprietary for 2013. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted May 2017 and February 2018
Narrowing it down to the vineyard, De Vere is insistent on what matters. “Elements of style and quality, not just, but a stylistic, a feel, difference, less broad in expression like Oakville or classic like the direct Napa Valley tier.” Rutherford’s alluvial fan vs. To Kalon’s alluvial fan complex vs the same, but different, from Oakville. The east side of the Oakville AVA receives more of the warm afternoon sun as compared to the sedimentary-gravelly alluvial loam on the west, with more volcanic but heavier soils on the east. There they are low to moderate fertility and fairly deep. All this adds up to more than 100 soil variations in Napa Valley, one half of what exists on earth. To Kalon receives shade a full hour earlier than the east side of the valley. It’s reserve fruit is more likely to be found where the large pebble, gravelly, well draining soils are found, further west, abutted up against the mountain range.
As an aside, talk about Napa Valley wines often leads to the fruit-jam complex. “Fruit bombs (you will know),” says De Vere, “are not just a factor of sun, ripeness, and brix. They are a result of less tannin and acidity, from vines stressed after veraison to develop ripeness but without the balancing factors. To kalon’s soils develop acidity earlier and maintain it. Acid-tannin-pyrazine, that’s the order of development.
Presented by Eduardo Dingler, Napa Sommelier. High toned, deep, deep dark fruit, gets right up the olfactory. Young, chalky, tart and with the dark fruit sitting serious and looming, like a cross-legged Buddha on the ledge of a 10-foot To Kalon wall. Sees 62 per cent new French oak after six to eight weeks cold soak pre-fermentation. In an environment without alcohol you get this layered juiciness and tart aromatics without astringency. That’s the crux and the key. Balance, density, true to the To Kalon spirit. Drink 2018-2026. Tasted May 2017
Presented by Alpha Omega’s founding winemaker Jean Hoefliger. “Napa has a consistency of climate that is unmatched, anywhere.” On Andy Beckstoffer, “Andy was very receptive to my very expensive lap dances,” and about the vineyard, “in an era of globalization, To Kalon’s DNA is the most important in Napa Valley. The site in Napa easiest to find in a blind tasting because of acidity and tannin, backbone and skeleton.” Hoefliger’s ’13 cabernet sauvignon is a construct of granularly dense tannic structure and non-readjusted acidity. Darkness ascends or descends as the glass goes, brooding, seemingly from deeper clay soils within the alluvial variegation, a wine in which the tannins have been joined, linked, layered, polymerized. Having used a long maceration makes this dense, intense and ageable. To be exact, 45 days on skin, then in the end unfined and unfiltered. Wow does this remind me of modern Piedmontese nebbiolo but with so much more intense red fruit, notes of incense, wild fennel, cinnamon and candy hearts. Just tremendous structure. Drink 2020-2034. Tasted May 2017
Bright but at the same time with a hint of dried fruit so good balance between the two, meaning the acidity is in control. John Hazak: “What To Kalon has that separates itself from our iconic Hewitt Vineyard is age ability and a dense core that opens up with age. It sets it apart from our top Rutherford sites.” A chewy To Kalon by tempered ganache, a child reared on plenty of barrel fermentations to capture individual parcels of beautiful fruit. Carries a cool minty savour at the finish and lingers across the top of the gums above the teeth, leaving that anaesthetizing feeling. Brilliant in that respect, not quite ready though will come into its own not too far from now. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted May 2017
Certainly more dusty notes, garrigue, savour and a hint of black olive, but all red fruit. From Oakville Station (labeled as such, from the UC Davis grown plots of vines). “The best way to understand To Kalon on the surface is to take a bike ride,” says Charles Thomas. “to understand why a gradation across a kilometre is so crucial. There is ample tannin in To Kalon but also a fineness of tannin. It is forgiving of many aspects of viticulture and especially winemaking. You always see the vineyard.” A transitional wine, ripeness but not super so, perfumed and the subtleties of the vineyard. Cherry blossom big time. An island surrounded by Mondavi on all sides, more fertility here in this block, a soft, delicious chocolate finish. A transitional era styled wine. Aromatic and not with the same density (with 10 merlot and 5 cabernet franc)but beautiful all the same. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted May 2017
Mondavi’s 2013 Reserve from the iconic To Kalon Vineyard plays a different role when nosed side by five each with other similar terroir cabernets, in this case by Cliff Lede, Alpha Omega, Provenance and Cornerstone. The Mondavi would show as a muscular cabernet in a solo tasting irrespective of the flight but with relative reference points the Mediterranean savour stands apart, especially in this high-toned aromatic vintage. The wine is embossed and eschews syrup for chew and density, the chalky tannins already beginning to show some development and integration. After going through the basket press, the haute cultured barrels bring out this insieme-collective of sophisticated To Kalon sweet acidity and tannin, leaving extracted bitterness behind. This works in elevating the texture of silk and softness, insisting upon and stamping a guarantee of longevity. The excellence is rounded out with some fragrance from petit verdot and further finessed, grainy tannin by cabernet franc. Drink 2019-2028. Tasted May 2017
Tasted during a To Kalon Vineyard retrospective in Napa. Though sinfully young the 2014 seems bright and focused, accessible, closer to ready than the 2013. The secret, special, double secret bottle, only 150 cases made, not really available for trade, pure To Kalon. Refined, here and only here as 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon, spice but melted and oozing into that liqueur, there is a seamlessly woven fabric of vineyard that just seems soft, supple and elastic. Drink 2018-2028. Tasted May 2017
And a few more Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon tasted that May
The 2010 Reserve is a sensory wine in the most attention grabbing way, as experiential and inspirational as can be when such an inhalant gets hold of the senses. Deepest dark fruit of impossibly zero evolution and everything in line with the classic Mondavi-To Kalon relationship. Blackberry, Cassis, black olive and silkened in texture as the Reserve can ever be. Pure weave, ethereal liquidity, fresh, finessed, focused and exacting. Tough on a winemaker? That’s why this is so good. A grand cru Oakville classic, great wine from a challenging vintage. Drink 2017-2029. Tasted May 2017
Actually some development here, straight into secondary time framing from which balsam and spice are front and centre. The masala comes from cassia stick, bokser pod and liquifies in plum liqueur. Lots of chocolate ganache and in some ways the least indicative Mondavi Reserve vintage for a To Kalon cabernet sauvignon. Acidity is quiet and perhaps this is just a moment in time. Maybe in a year or two the acids will step out of the shadows and rear up once again but I wouldn’t wait nor hold my breath. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted May 2017
Tasted in an auspicious group that included a Gros Clos Vougeot ’13, Grange ’11, Haut-Brion ’11 and Sassicaia ’11, all led by Mark de Vere MW and culminating at this Mondavi Napa Valley Reserve ’05. Or as what De Vere quips, “just another night in Napa Valley.” A cool vintage now showing some secondary notes though still presenting balsam, tempered chocolate ganache, pencil lead and graphite. Floral vintage of ethereal whispers and the trilogy promise of the EPF. Elegance, power and finesse. Dark To Kalon fruit and mouth-watering acidity with a vanishing point of mystery still on the horizon, like walking with someone we don’t fully know but feel comfortable in their presence. Still elicits more questions than answers so for a vintage like 2005, 12 years seems to be peak performance. The tannic finish supports Cassis, dried herbs and a briny Mediterranean black olive bite. Tannin begets fine bitters. “Using oak is the virtuoso way to express To Kalon fruit,” says Geneviève Janssens, “after fermentation, to preserve the personality of To Kalon.” Drink 2017-2024. Tasted May 2017
This from a time when Mondavi labeled the reserve cabernet sauvignon as “To Kalon Vineyard,” a moniker of essential meaning that would return 14 years later on the 2013 bottle. If this were what Mark de Vere referred to as “a confusing moment in history” I could not say but “this strange bottling” provided an unequivocal and seminal turning point in this wine’s storied past, present and future. It was in fact a small, special cuvée, a little bit different than the ’99 Reserve. “The coolest vintage on record, until it wasn’t,” because of a warm period at the end of summer and early fall that ushered forth a certain, singular sort of ripeness. Regardless of memories, characterizations and twists of fate, this single-vineyard cabernet is as finessed, focused and precise as any Mondavi Reserve. It persists chalky, fine and gritty in tannin running amok, dragging the acidity forward and around. The workout is something to behold, a dispatch of late Napa fashion and never more successful than right here. The dépêche mode of To Kalon is by now famous but culminated with this ’99 for everything to follow, with consistency and a guarantee of modern quality. Listen to it croon “try walking in my shoes.” Many have and many continue to pay homage to this Napa Valley originator and pioneer. It’s a cabernet sauvignon of faith and devotion. Drink 2017-2029. Tasted May 2017
A vintage of reducing and concentrating liqueur, high-toned, distillate, California IGT. A bottling style of the time and the vintage must have procured such fruit meets tannic intensity that it has taken a long time to relent. Higher in acidity than savour, pulsating, energetic. Still a bit frenetic in its wildly animated state of perpetual suspension. A bit Bretty but 1988 carries such an old world sentimentality and the many ties that bind. Despite the great and gritty acidity it remains a balanced cabernet sauvignon, earthy and old school but I’d wager it will continue to drink this way for seven to 10 more years. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted May 2017
“What order to do pour a vertical tasting,” asks Mark de Vere MW. “When you have 1988, 1999 and 2000 in the mix? You have to think about how the wines were made, how the grapes were grown, without sophisticated equipment, with vineyard managers and winemakers who didn’t know then what they know now.” But, this house named Mondavi has seemingly always known, respected and responded collectively over these things. The terroir – To Kalon. Since tasting 1975 one year ago I can say this: 1976 is remarkably alive, sound and vital. From a very dry year. Ten days of “prolonged” skin-contact. Dill present along with preserved plum, of course mushroom, truffle and what separates this from ’75 is acidity, equal to over even performing above that of 1980. Spice! Tart and still intense. Amazing. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted May 2017
As always the high quality To Kalon fruit as a base source puts the odd in high favour but the idea here is to use parcels that produce lushness and lower tannin so that the wine gifts quite a bit more instant gratification. Mostly cabernet sauvignon with cabernet franc and originally only sold on premise. Extension through barrel is 24 months in mixed (55/45) Allier French for a liquid chalky result, preserved top notch acidity and a sharpness that demands protein attention. Can’t miss the graphite/pencil lead and in this specific case, tongue tripping vowels which talk the talk of this specific red blend. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted May 2017
When tasted side by side the genetic lineage and connection to 1999 at ten years apart is uncanny and so it is To Kalon that ties the two, threads the similarity and is the reason. Black olive as always, dusty garrigue and this medi-pedi (Mediterranean pedigree) that unites all cabernet sauvignon from Oakville sites. Same wisdom and freedom, same feeling felt. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted May 2017
Has aged with To Kalon grace and while texture is seemingly everything, still you are reminded to engage with the fully seasoned, exigent exhale from the spice box. Aromatically present in balsam and fig, the vineyard’s black olive and then acidity off the proverbial charts. We see how To Kalon mellows in Oakville form, integrates and acts out the marshmallow of time. Hinting now at the tertiary which comes quicker in this range and that is perfectly, allegedly understandably fine. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted May 2017
As with the sauvignon blanc the fruit source is Schweitzer Vineyard, here for the cabernet from three blocks all leading to a bigger, fleshier style. Treated similarly to the Oakville cabernet, long maceration in oak fermenters and 24 months barrel time, six more than the Oakville Reserve because these tannins need further taming. Deep red fruit in tones of strawberry, raspberry and plum with moments that are not unlike European reds in hot climate/seasons. Turns to spicy white toffee, vanilla and before too long the screeching breaks down the scree of tannin. Wait five years. Trust that idea. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted May 2017
A few basic bottles were on hand to greet us @RobertMondavi before the finest wines and cake were offered.
A cabernet sauvignon dominant Pessac Léognan off of gravel soils in contrast to some other First Growths Haut Brion is keenly about Château, of reputation, history and acumen. A Bordeaux to cause revelry and from 2011 fresh like you could never expect or imagine. Lithe and mineral, dusty stone and focused. Of continental temper and elegance, black olive and quality chocolate, toasty espresso and late arriving spice. Taste, gather, repeat. Will surely develop next level time-honoured notes of forest floor, mushroom and delicately rendered baking spice. In 20 years and further long-lived expectations. My kind of longevity though the fineness says it will ready itself quite soon. Drink 2019-2035. Tasted May 2017
From the top of the slope at Musigny in a distinct and compelling Clos de Vougeot of intensity and finesse. Deep rooted earth and black cherry fruit, so much fragrance and delicate. A just sharpened pencil, a brush with fennel and lavender, a gaze through a looking glass. At its most calm, a palate silky and accented by a complex mix of spice. A wine to ask “what makes a great wine.” So much more than the length and the finish, always circling back to the start and about the quality of the bitters in their refinement. Where in the process does this occur? When is the magic performed? All the way through and as a by-product of the paradigm of site. Drink 2019-2035. Tasted May 2017
Showing maximum warmth and spirit, high savour by liquorice, mint, fennel and so much spice. Marchese Niccolò Incisa della Rocchetta fixing Bolgheri just as his father did while Robert Mondavi was doing so in Oakville at To Kalon. Revolutions is different places and for Sassicaia, a clear varietal vernacular. Apposite Bordeaux like power and a supple wrist in using extra hands with cabernet franc. Still those chalky tannins. Drink 2020-2029. Last tasted May 2017
Certainly a Sassicaia borne of the earth and the vintage. Cooler, with increased sapidity and elevated aromatics. While not volatile there is certainly an intimation at acetic behaviour. Though supportive in only 15 per cent of the two Cabs blend, cabernet franc stands firm in its concentration of tobacco, peppercorns a-popping in the pan and a smouldering of currants over an open fire. This will age for decades and return to its beautiful natural state with time-weathered, rugged facial lines. A leathery Sassicaia this, with tight, drying tannins and in need of two decades to show off its birthright. The 2011 Sassicaia is a loyal, aristocratic example to the Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta’s dream of creating a ‘thoroughbred’ wine where the ideal was Bordeaux. Tasted November 2014
Good to go!
Give a view an arch and he’ll ask you to stay for dinner #tokalon2017
“Bourgogne vs. Burgundy: A critic’s take on the “plus” side of Bourgogne – the Best Places for Value”
Please join me on Tuesday, June 30th via Instagram for a Bourgogne video in which I talk about LesHautes, “the plus side of Bourgogne,” where vineyards and producers of quality can be found. Bourgogne du Haut, “The Upper Bourgogne.”
I will also make a case for “Bourgogne against Burgundy: A critic’s take on why language is so essential to messaging, for preserving identity and tradition. Finally I will pose the question, What is Climat?
Then, on Monday, July 13th, from 10:30 to 11:15 am I will be hosting a Bourgogne webinar on Regional Appellations. The 45 minute seminar will be directed at sommeliers and the trade industry.
Searching for Bourgogne-Plus
Bourgogne holds many secrets yet discovered and that is why in November of 2019 my colleague and friend John Szabo M.S. and I travelled to France’s most revered wine region. The Bourgogne Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) was authorized in 1937, for white wines extending to the three departments of Yonne, Côte-d’Or and Saône-et-Loire and for reds, to pinot noir from 299 communes throughout wine-growing Bourgogne. Designations have been immovable since the year dot for Bourgogne’s five wine-producing regions; Chablis and Grand Auxerrois, Côtes de Nuits, Côtes de Beaune, Côtes Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais. Opinion has come to expect a certain fixed and comprehensible understanding of the hierarchy of appellations; Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Village, Appellation Régionale Bourgogne. The latter to many simply translates as the ubiquitous Bourgogne AOC, though it is but one of six that fall within the category of La Région Bourgogne, the others being Coteaux Bourguignons, Bourgogne Aligoté, Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains, Bourgogne Mousseux and Crémant de Bourgogne. The deeper delve is all about the multiplicity of LesAppellations Régionales in the study of what collects beneath the larger umbrella referred to as lesdénominations géographiques.
It’s 8:46 am, we’re at #latâche and that’s not our dog #canadiansinbourgogne #vindebourgogne #vosneeromanee #domainedelaromaneeconti
They the outliers have not been truly considered, at least not until recent times. At the head are LesHautes, the parts of Bourgogne thought to exist in the nether realms and so previously passed over. “The heights,” out of sight fringe locations, places unseeable, host to wines untenable and from vines unsubstantiated. Or with some investigation, perhaps something else? There too are the siblings, Côte Chalonnaise, Côtes d’Auxerre, Côtes du Couchois, Chitry, Coulanges-la-Vineuse, Epineuil, Vézelay, Tonnerre, Le Châpitre, La Chapelle Notre-Dame, Montrecul and Côte Saint-Jacques. In the latterly days of November 2019 the opportunity was presented to visit these shadowy appellative entities, perchance to uncover their truths, they by vineyards and producers of Bourgogne-plus quality. Bourgogne du Haut, “The Upper Bourgogne.” High times in Bourgogne indeed.
I penned that 2017 article in the last days of November, two years ahead of the trip that would rework my internal vision of a Bourgogne world order. At the time a choice was made to focus on the central theme that ties the Bourgogne room together. Climat. I asked the 50,000 euro question. What is Climat? Please read that post for the 10,000 word answer but the irony of my conclusion went like this. “The only true intrinsic reality gained through a discussion about Climat is accessed by the tasting and assessment of examples that represent a full cross-section of Bourgogne. The appellations of Chablis et du Grand Auxerrois, Côtes de Nuits and Hautes Côtes de Nuits, Côtes de Beaune and Hautes Côtes de Beaune, Côtes Chalonnaise and Couchois, the Macônnais and the Châtillonnais are best understood by comparative studies of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. With more than 100 appellations (84 officially recognized) it would take a lifetime and then some to cover them all and several more to come to grips with the very specific meanings and interpretations of their personalized Climats. By that time the moving target would change so much that starting again would be the only option. Make the most of the time there is, which is the way of the Bourguignons.” Ironic because exactly two years later I returned to Bourgogne to begin my education anew in the light of a trip gone deep into the Hautes Côtes and satellite appellative explorations. The findings are remarkable, as I will elucidate in due course.
Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?
Bourgogne, now there’s the rub. In this case the party line and profound argument emphatically says no. Pause to consider the infallible cogency of the nuanced word. Then cringe at the platitude of an overused and confusingly perpetuated Brittanica translation that need not be named. Never could or should have but it must now be stressed that the imposter can no longer be considered a viable alternative for it changes meaning and even more importantly, emotion. If we must say it aloud then we may as well point the culprit out in matters point of fact. Burgundy takes its name from the Burgundians, an East Germanic people who moved westwards beyond the Rhine during the late Roman period and settled in Bourgogne. The seat of the Duc de Bourgogne was to be found west of the Saône along the narrow spit of land between Dijon to the north and the area just south of Mâcon. The reference “Duke of Burgundy” is but a translation. The first Google result that answers the query “Is Burgundy the same as Bourgogne” goes like this. “Burgundy is wine made in the Burgundy region in eastern France, in the valleys and slopes west of the Saône, a tributary of the Rhône.” The proper response to that would be to scream, to shout “answer the bloody $&**!!??&$@ question!” And to offer a strict reminder not to believe everything you read. The first recorded use of “burgundy” as a colour in English was in 1881. Making the argument that the word Burgundy dates back 300 years? Puh-lease. Who but the blind believer and the colonialist heeds this fallacy. These are the eyes of the old. They have seen things that you will never see. Leave it to memory. Dare the Bourguignons to breathe.
At Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s La Tâche Vineyard, In the heart of Bourgogne
Plus grand est l’obstacle, et plus grande est la gloire de le surmonter
Just a little bit more than a year ago the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB) made the plea, on behalf of and at the behest of le vraiment Bourguignon, for a firm and clear pronouncement to take back their name, as is their right to do. “To re-affirm its identity as one of the most iconic vineyards of France, the region and its producers are reverting back to the original French iteration of its name: Bourgogne. Historically Bourgogne is the only French appellation that adopted an alternate identity for export markets with the use of the ‘Burgundy’ designation for the English speaking markets, or Burgund for the German speaking and many other translations according to the country. Today, this traditional ‘Bourgogne’ designation has already been adopted by nearly all the wines produced here – either via appellation designation or wine region labeling. By maintaining this one true identity, Bourgogne returns to its historical roots as the consummate vineyard treasured by consumers the world over.”
The devil might advocate for inclusion, to allow for levity and to argue against a parochialist stance. The contrarian might say, “why exclude a greater population when it might be to the detriment of market share. Tell the people they have to speak the language and they may feel alienated or worse, choose not to participate because it’s harder work, or just too much to ask.” They will say that language is merely colloquial, a matter of repetitive utterance, developed slang and simply a matter of evolution. Why fight it? Would it not make most sense to worry about making good wine and concentrating on selling the product?
“Plus grand est l’obstacle, et plus grande est la gloire de le surmonter. “The greater the obstacle, the greater the glory of overcoming it.” Indeed were Molière here today he would abide in support of the usage. Besides, un savant imbécile est plus un imbécile qu’un imbécile ignorant, “a learned fool is more a fool than an ignorant fool.” Bourgogne, name of the territory and also the name gracing each and every bottle conjoining all its appellative wines. Practice your pronunciation and become comfortable with using it. Do so with unequivocal conviction, daily, written, typed and in the vernacular of spoken word. Glad we got that out of the way.
Things were going so well. Sales were up, wine importers and consumers the world over were beginning to embrace the affordable Bourgogne, these partisan orbiters in surround of their better established kin, these fine pinot noir, chardonnay, aligoté, sauvignon blanc and gamay blends of qualities and quality not seen before. No one ever really worries about the rising prices of the established and their place within the establishment. The new work concentrates on the new world and upwardly mobile millennial spending. Get the regional appellative wines of geographical designation to these new buyers, they of dollars aimlessly doling away to Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Australia, to the cheap and cheerful Italian and Spanish wines. Teleport these varietal outliers into their minds and the golden era will usher in. Then COVID-19 rears its ugly viral head.
Fear not for this will pass and while trade shows are an essential aspect of selling wine, they can be circumvented. Education is the key. There are educators around the world aching to tell a Bourgogne story and fill cups with the wines. The Bourgogne tome is a magnificent one, filled with centuries of great reality, overflowing with heartbreak, victory and desire. The viral hiccup is indeed dangerous, surely dramatic and as great a mortal nuisance as there is but it will leave as fiercely as it came. A trail of debris and sorrow will be left behind but the Bourguignons are a resilient people to get past and move on.
Dinner at Le Bistro des Cocottes in Beaune
Dovetailing and Denominations
In algorithm design, dovetailing is a technique that interweaves different computations, simultaneously performing essential tenets. Bourgogne moves in such rhythm, not only from Côtes de Nuits north to Maçonnais south but also in vortex web design that incorporates LesAppellations Régionales. In Bourgogne the greater territory is tied together by threading all its constituent appellative parts through a mortise, designed to receive corresponding appellations on another part so as to join or lock the parts together. The chardonnay and pinot noir of Les Hautes-Côtes are tenoned through Côtes de Beaune and Côtes de Nuits, just as the reds of Irancy and Bourgogne Epineuil are threaded through the whites of Chablis to define a northerly Yonne-Serein section of Bourgogne. The same applies to the Côtes de Couchois with the Côtes Chalonnaise.
The Grand Auxerrois covers a multitude of very old small plots which are today sorted into four terroirs:
• The Auxerrois covers around a dozen communes to the south and southeast of Auxerre
• Farther to the east, beyond Chablis, the vines of the Tonnerrois are found in the valley of the Armançon, the river that runs through the little town of Tonnerre.
• In the south of the Grand Auxerrois region is the Vézelien, which covers Vézelay, Asquins, Saint-Père and Tharoiseau
• The slopes of the Jovinien look down over the town of Joigny, to the north of Auxerre
On these limestone soils, the wines are mainly produced from the traditional Bourgogne varietals of chardonnay and aligoté for whites, and pinot noir and gamay for the reds. Smaller quantities of césar for reds, and sacy or melon for whites are used, while the very old Bourgogne varietal césar sometimes makes a minor appearance in certain Irancy wines. There is an exception in Saint-Bris, where the winemakers produce very aromatic whites from the sauvignon grape.
The Grand Auxerrois brings a wide palette of appellations to the Bourgogne winegrowing region, mainly specific appellations Régionales:
Appellations Régionales specific to Grand Auxerrois: Bourgogne Chitry, Bourgogne Côte Saint-Jacques, Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre, Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse, Bourgogne Epineuil, Bourgogne Tonnerre
The education begins in Bourgogne Coulanges-la-Vineuse, south of Auxerre in northwestern Bourgogne at the hamlet of the same name surrounded by five valleys; les vallées de Chanvan, de Douzotte, des Champs, de Chamoux, de Droit à Vente and de Magny. There are just over 135 total planted hectares, only 18 of which are chardonnay, with seven producers in the village and 15 overall in the appellation. Unlike virtually all other appellations in Bourgogne the wines produced here all come from the regional appellation, save for a small amount of Côteaux Bourguignons.
Exploring the @vinsdebourgogne of #coulangeslavineuse with great curiosity, emerging engaged, engrossed and charmed. Instructive tasting at Domaine du Clos du Roi.
Domaine du Clos du Roi
Red, White and Rosé are produced at Domaine du Clos du Roi from 16 hectares of chardonnay, pinot noit and césar. Founded in 1969 by Michel and Denise Bernard the domaine has been run by Magali Bernard and her husband Arnaud Hennoque since 2005. Magali is in charge of winemaking and sales while Arnaud the business and the vines. Chardonnay are gifted by generous bâtonnage and raised in demi-muid. The pinot noir purports to be the most typical from these lands, somewhat glycerin rich and clay-chalky with relatively soft and easy tannin. Raised in foudres de chènes (44 hL), the barrels introduced by Ludovin’s father and made in the traditional and historic way of the domain. César is the varietal wild card as noted by the 15 per cent whole cluster worked into pinot noir for the Clos du Roi “Coline” Nos Origines.
Click here to see all reviews for the wines of Domaine du Clos du Roi
From viticulturist Bernard Magali Nos Origines ia a wine of generous bâtonnage a much easier vintage required less stirring and more accounting from naturally fortifying lees. This exceptional child must have loved its comforting and nurturing stay in demi-muids so now the imagination runs wild with gently rolling spice and thoughts of well-deserved aperitíf moments, especially with a semi-soft, almost firm Epoisses. Has lost little energy at this point in fact it’s still fresh as can be. Tells us something about the future for the ’18 though ’16 and ’17 will outrun the latter. Drink 2019-2021.Tasted November 2019.
The only cuvée in the portfolio that contains some cézar, at 15 per cent mixed into the pinot noir. Coline, Magali’s daughter. Carries a foot-treading tradition, perhaps more Portuguese than Bourgignons but this is the playful wine, not necessarily the serious one. More floral and quite full of citrus, namely pomegranate and especially blood orange. Falls somewhere in the middle, not between red and white but within a red spectrum of its own. Can see this as the correct one to drink with charcuterie. That’s the sort of structure it considers, especially because of the whole bunch workings inside. Drink 2019-2022.Tasted November 2019
Saint-Bris and Côtes d’Auxerre
Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre, Saint-Bris and Irancy
The Auxerre vineyards (pronounced “Ausserre”), lying on either side of the river Yonne, boast ancient lineage, thanks to the abbey of Saint-Germain and a proximity to Paris. Today they are very much alive. In 1993, wines from the communes of Auxerre, Vaux, Champs-sur-Yonne, Augy, Quenne, Saint-Brisle- Vineux and Vincelottes were granted the right to add a local identifier to the appellation Régionale Bourgogne.
Lying alongside the river Yonne in the heart of the Auxerrois region, Saint-Bris-le-Vineux is an old stone-built village beneath which are extraordinary medieval cellars, running everywhere, the most astonishing examples of their kind in Bourgogne. They cover 3.5 ha, 60 metres underground. The quarries at nearby Bailly supplied the building stone for the Pantheon in Paris.
Irancy, in the Grand Auxerrois region, stands on the right bank of the Yonne river, some fifteen kilometres South of Auxerre and South-West of Chablis. It is typical of the wine-growing villages of the district. It boasts a majestic church, as well as the house where G. Soufflot, architect of the Paris Panthéon, was born. The handsome winemaker’s houses make a fitting setting for a red wine with such a long-established reputation. It was raised to the status of an appellation Village, which it shares with the neighboring villages of Cravant and Vincelottes, in 1999.
Goisot Guilhem et Jean-Hugues
The family tree of the Domaine Guilhem & Jean-Hughes Goisot traces roots back to the 14th century and today the estate raises vines biodynamically in the communes of Saint-Bris-Le-Vineux and Irancy. They are unique on a hill position that straddles both the Saint-Bris and Côtes d’Auxerre appellations enabling production of both sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. Irancy is the source for pinot noir. Their cellar lays beneath the 11th-12th century village. Guilhem’s parents Ghislaine and Jean-Hughes took over production in 1979 while he and his wife Marie assumed the lead in 2005. Guilhem’s collection of calcareous rocks and especially ancient seabed shells and fossils is perhaps the most incredible in Bourgogne. His translation of three terroirs is concise and exacting. These are some of Bourgogne’s most focused wines that elevate the power, precision and status of these three furthermore there appellations.
The precise, focused and compact pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc of @guilhemgoisot from out of the @vinsdebourgogne proximate terroirs of #cotesdauxerre and #saintbris ~ Plus some of the great rocks anywhere.
Click here to see all reviews for the wines of Goisot Guilhem et Jean-Hugues
A Villages wine from and for Irancy from 100 per cent pinot noir. Aromatically quiet, not unusual for the appellation and especially without any of the allowable 15 per cent cézar in the mix. Quite pure and similarly structured to the Côtes d’Auxerre in that it’s not full-bodied but is in fact tightly compact. More implosive intensity and idiosyncrasy with a chalky underlay from white to grey soil high in calcaire and layered with arglieux. Yet another very refined wine. This man knows how to use his sulphur properly. Clean, focused and very precise. Benchmark for Irancy. Drink 2020-2026.Tasted November 2019
The next Climat behooves the already pronounced adage that these wines increase upwards from one to the next in delicasse, precision and possibility. There is an earthy grounding in La Ronce that seems absent in Le Court Vit and here makes for a new structure, or rather a more complex one. Now taking another step into variegated terroir replete with all the fossils, shells and epochs of clay, limestone and multi-hued soils all filling up the elemental well. These vines draw from it all and it shows with precise sapidity, aridity, salinity and validity in the aromatic character and flavour profile. A conditioning that is sweet because the fruit is pure and savoury with thanks to the acid-tannin structure that makes this sing. Amazing purity, grace and possibility. Drink 2022-2031.Tasted November 2019
A soil of kimmeridgian and marl of white and blue, with great layering of fruit and that is in fact what you feel from Gondonne. There is something rich and overtly expressive here and while it’s anything but simple it could be imagined that so many consumers would understand this chardonnay, love it and want to drink it with abandon. That said the structure, gout de terroir and de vivre are just exceptional. The wood and the land just melt right in. Drink 2020-2029.Tasted November 2019
Usually this is a Climat reserved for holdings in Côtes d’Auxerre but in this case the northwest exposure is indeed within the appellation of Saint-Bris. In fact there’s more affinity with chardonnay here and also conversely more terpenes in the notes. Also pyrazines which is more than curious. Ripe too and ultimately a most curious expression of sauvignon blanc. It’s got everything in here, in hyperbole and more. Drink 2020-2028.Tasted November 2019
Bourgogne Epineuil, Chablis and Bourgogne Tonnere
The Tonnerrois region lies in the southern Yonne not far from Chablis. Épineuil the commune won the official right to identify its wines by name within the general appellation Bourgogne in 1993. The word Épineuil may only be appended to the word Bourgogne in the case of red or rosé wines produced within the defined area of the appellation. On the label, the word Épineuil must follow the word Bourgogne. The soils, full of white pebbles, resemble those of the nearby Chablis region (Kimmeridgian or associated limestones) and have definable qualities. Where the vineyard district is broken up into valleys, the vines are sheltered from the cold winds of the Langres plateau and reap the benefit of a favourable microclimate.
I’ve considered Chablis many times before. “There is little about Chablis that is not drawn up in contrasts. It begins with Left Bank versus Right Bank, the Serein River and the village of Chablis acting as the interface between. Petit Chablis giving way to the more important Chablis and then Premier Cru the varied and always impressive interloper separating the villages wines from the Grand Cru. Chablis as a varietal concept, as opposed to and unlike anywhere else in the world, seemingly unrelated to chardonnay.”
“The greatest paradox of all is written in stone along a few ridges and across the most important set of hills above the river. Deep-rooted, inveterate purlieu of geology in eight names; Les Preuses, Bougros, Vaudésir, Grenouille, Valmur, Les Clos, Blanchot and unofficially (depending on political affiliations), La Moutonne. Les Grand Crus of Chablis are singled out not only for their exceptional terroir and climat but also for the impossibility of what happens when fruit is pulled from their chardonnay vines. The Grand Cru are oracles in complex riddles, transcendent mysteries and the most enigmatic of all Chablis. I suppose it’s because the rich fruit versus exigent stone is the epitome of Chablis paradox.”
Domaine Jean-Claude Courtault, Lignorelles
Domaine Jean Claude Courtault and Stéphanie & Vincent Michelet
Stéphanie Courtault-Michelet is the daughter of Jean-Claude and Marie-Chantal Courtault. She and her husband Vincent Michelet farm 20 hectares in the appellations of Bourgogne Epineuil and the four that comprise Chablis. The business dates back to 1984 and today both Domaine Jean-Claude Courtault and Stéphanie & Vincent Michelet produce Chablis from vineyards in Beines and Lignorelles, at a windy and cool spot on the top of the hill above the Vau Ligneau. Their Bourgogne Epineuil Climat is the Côte de Grisey from a valley and off of vines that face west.
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From only one hectare of vineyards right on the line between Lignorelles and Villy and much of the vines are in and about 60 years of age. A very concentrated yet somehow delicate and quite precise Chablis that weighs in above it’s appellative status, if only because it’s not considered one of the more coveted terroirs. Here at the limits of Chablis there is a micro-climate that speaks a Premier Cru vernacular, categorized or not. Very much a calcareous child, fresh, darting, never tiring and innocent. That means it’s focused and pure. Drink 2020-2026.Tasted November 2019
From young vines and certainly quality fruit that comes across as simple, sweet and charming. From a valley and vines that face west with a darkening cherry profile, mainly clay induced with just a little stoniness from the limestone. Finishes with just a touch of tannin in a notably dried herbs and arid way. Find your food match, like a little pot au feu of tête de veau. Drink 2020-2022.Tasted November 2019
Domaine Gruhier (Domaine de L’Abbaye du Petit Quincy)
More often than not it should be a conscionable imperative to trust a man with a great hat. Dominique Gruhier in Epineuil walks around the Abbey of Quincy in a characteristic, dashing calibre lid. The Abbey was founded in 1212 by Cistercian monks, sold in 1792 as a natinal asset ands was preserved in pastoral and viticultural terms through 1914. Though it fell to Phylloxera and disrepute there was activity through 1970. Twenty years later The Gruhier family began the resurrection and today create Bourgogne Epineuil and Tonnerre wines that lead for the appellations. Dominique’s Sparkling Wine program is at the head of Bourgogne’s new world order for classic method Crémant de Bourgogne AOC preparations.
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Named for Dominique Gruhier’s eldest daughter Juliette. A lighter, more delicate and refined Tonnerrois with floral cherry and cherry blossom aromatics, moving away from the darker ultra-violet notes of the following vintage and also two forward based on what’s in barrel. The tannins are fine like those 2019s but the wine has more tension than 2018. Righteous structure in a wine to last well past the namesake’s 21 birthday.Drink 2020-2024.Tasted November 2019
The eminent one or rather the grand eminent. His eminence is a zero dosage, 100 per cent Crémant of zero put on. From an accumulated amount of solare the make up is 85 per cent 2015 and the other 15 a sparkling wine with everything up front, on its sleeve and one that just screams “won’t you come and join the party, dressed to kill.” A second, just opened bottle reveals the great strike, right from the opening keyboard whirl to the final shout. Drink 2019-2024.Tasted November 2019
Côtes de Beaune
The Côte de Beaune vineyards lie on the upper slopes of the Montagne de Beaune just above the Premier Cru plots at heights of 300 to 370 metres and on brown limestone and calcium-rich soils, Oolitic and Rauracian (Jurassic) in origin. The special value of these vineyards is attested by the fact that one of the Climats belonging to this appellation, located on Mont Battois, is a dedicated part of Bourgogne’s vine-science research program. When Beaune’s twins AOCs were instituted in 1936, it was the higher altitude vineyards which became the Côte de Beaune appellation. Unlike the appellation Côte de Beaune-Village, with which it must not be confused, it refers to one commune only – Beaune. Within this relatively restricted area, the appellation Côte de Beaune produces one third white wines (chardonnay) to two-thirds red (pinot noir).
A night in Beaune. Thank you Nico. Je me souviendrai toujours.
Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune
The Bourgogne Hautes Côtes De Beaune Régionale appellation covers still red, white, and rosé wines produced in an area covering 29 villages that was defined in 1961. The vines are located at the foot of the limestone cliff on the sunny slopes of a ribbon of valleys perpendicular to the Côte de Beaune, from Les Maranges to Ladoix-Serrigny heading west. Wine from the Hautes Côtes de Beaune was drunk at the coronation of Philippe Auguste in 1180. The vines underwent a period of expansion, linked to economic growth throughout the 19th century, until phylloxera struck. Between 1910 and 1936, almost half of the vineyard disappeared. Its renaissance stemmed from the reestablishment of the winegrowers union of the Hautes Côtes de Beaune in 1945, which was responsible for the creation of the appellation on 4 August 1961.
Domaine Alexandre Parigot
Marie et Régis Parigot have handed the reigns to Domaine Parigot to their son Alexandre who is clearly poised to become a star for pinot noir threaded from Hautes-Côtes de Beaune through Savigny, Volnay and Pommard. Today Domaine Alexandre Parigot cultivates 18 hectares in total, 15 of which are pinot noir. The Hautes-Côtes de Beaune vines are of south, southwest expositions on very fine argileux-calcaire, quite sandy and causing wines of elegance and finesse. Le Clos de la Perrière is a benchmark for the appellation. Two to three weeks of classic remontage from which the closing of the tanks and raising of temperature to 32 degrees post fermentation brings this and these pumped over Parigot pinot noir into their silky and seductive state.
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The Domaine cultivates 18 hectares in total. The Hautes-Côtes de Beaune vines are of south, southwest expositions on very fine argileux-calcaire, quite sandy and causing wines of elegance and finesse. A fresh and silky pinot noir with 2017’s great purity and transparency of fruit. Transparency but subtle glycerin texture which is truly an extension of the sweet aromatic profile. A perfectly enlivening nine o’clock in the morning Haut-Côtes. Drink 2020-2024.Tasted November 2019
From the plot just beneath the village at the height of Pommard. The particularity of 2017 grapes is their fineness of skins and perfectly phenolic gifts donated with great philanthropy by the perfectly ripened seeds. But in this case the laces are once again pulled tight, with great power in even greater finesse. There’s an elegance opposed by a controlled tension that puts this in a position of posit and positive tug, though always charged with something higher and opposing. Drink 2022-2032.Tasted November 2019
The 2010 is incredibly fresh, showing negligible evolution, with no advancement into mushroom or truffled territory. Certainly no blood orange and still welling with cherries. No desiccation, only fresh fruit and high acidity. Very impressive showing for a nine year-old Hautes-Côtes de Beaune. Drink 2019-2024.Tasted November 2019
And of course in Beaune we tasted 30 Bourgogne with Nico @johnszaboms @nicholaspearce_ @domaine_de_bellene
Beaune to be wild – Maison Roche de Bellene
There really is nothing Nicolas Potel can’t do, does not touch or lacks kinship with all things Beaune. Potel’s father Gérard was larger than life, local hero and legend, one of Bourgogne’s most cherished and beloved, the King of Volnay and who’s legacy can’t ever be forgotten. While at dinner in Beaune in November Nico suddenly disapparated to teleport 20 minutes home and back, to retrieve and then share his dad’s 1964 Domaine de la Pousse d’Or Pommard Premier Cru Les Jarollières. Why? It was suddenly the right time and it was sublime. In fact the city of Beaune was called Bellene back in the Middle Ages and this is the reason Potel chose the name for his brand/wine merchant/négoce domaine. Maison Roche de Bellene is a force to be reckoned with, a seer of all things and provider of a cross-section of many terroir to educate us all on the power of Bourgogne multitude and multiplicity. Nicolas does have a reputation for being the wild child of Beaune and yet he is also known for his generosity, mainly of spirit. One never forgets a night in Beaune with the infamous Nicolas Potel.
Tasting with Nicolas Potel at Maison Roche de Bellene
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Larger than life, at least by normal Brouilly standards, here from Stéphane Aviron’s hands transferred into Nicolas Potel’s arms. There’s a blowsy, boisterous and open-handed handle in this gamay, ready for anything. Was ready, remains ready and will always be ready. Rich, fatter and appealing. Drink 2019-2022.Tasted November 2019
Tastelune is a play on Tastevin in ode to how labels of Nuits-Saint-Georges Bourgogne were brought on an Apollo mission to the moon. Quite firm, grippy and near glycerin in texture, quite rich for 2017. Generally speaking the winemaker makes use of 30-40 per cent whole bunch, no punchdowns and just pump-overs. The result is a true sense of grip and grit. Drink 2020-2026.Tasted November 2019
A high quality fruit year means one major thing in Nicolas Potel’s hands and that’s 100 per cent whole bunch in the fermentation. These lignified brown stems add the sort of complexity that great Bourgogne just has to have. Plenty of fine tannin, grip for the future and real swagger. Drink 2022-2030.Tasted November 2019
The old vines chardonnay, just as Nicolas Potel has managed to effect with the pinot noir is a matter of bringing Bourgogne to the market. The old vines carries a purpose and an intendment to speak as a by the glass matter with a classic regional styling, clean, crunchy and white cherry fruit designed. Made reductively and for freshness to consume with great immediacy. That’s exactly what it does. Buy into the program. Drink 2019-2021.Tasted November 2019
Why Trés? Because they are. They meaning the vines which are more than 80 years old. Wisdom, acumen and inbred understanding translated and transported into this Bourgogne of chic stature and the sort of class only Nicolas Potel can gift. Balance is spot on. Drink 2021-2031.Tasted November 2019
Ludovine Ambroise, Maison Ambroise
Maison Bertrand Ambroise
Maison Ambroise dates its origins to the 18th century and 1960 is about the time the family begins making a life around the vineyard after two and a half centuries of unsettled times. The location is Premeaux-Prissey, across the road and proximate to Nuits-Saint-Georges on a dividing line that separates the two Côtes, de Beaune and de Nuits. In 1987 Bertrand Ambroise takes over management of the 17 hectare domaine which he now runs with his family; Martine, Ludovine and Françoise. These are chardonnay and pinot noir in the space between, dualistic, generous and austere, bold and forgiving, demanding and generous. Truly Bourgogne.
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A step up in height and tension for a reductive one that may not speak in the same fruit terms as the regional chardonnay of higher calling, but welcome to the new and exciting Hauts denomination. This is crackerjack Bourgogne, with real strength in tension. So much fun, joy, excitement and delight. Drink 2020-2024.Tasted November 2019
From near the village of Villers there’s a refinement about this pinot noir that speaks to the chic abilities of the Haut-Côtes de Nuits. Black cherry and high acidity all oozing, welling and pulsing out of concentration. If the whites are crunchy then the reds are chewy and this sits at the top of the spectrum. The top pinot noir for sure and equipped with the finest tannins. Drink 2020-2026.Tasted November 2019
A Villages Nuits-St.-Georges (sans Climat) with a peppery reduction that will blow off with time, just not in these few minutes of dating. In fact some hand-covered agitation does the trick and releases the florals you’d imagine would be present. The firm grip is just outstanding, as is the liquid velvet mouthfeel with true argiluex underlay. From fruit just north of the village and clearly a spot that delivers some of the appellation’s great finesse. Terrific pace and compact structure while also rich for 2017 but not so unexpected from the place. Drink 2021-2031.Tasted November 2019
The appellation Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise dates from 1990 and recognizes the distinct personality of wines from the 44 communes in the northern part of the department of Saône-et-Loire, an area some 40 km long and between 5 and 8 km in width. Lying between the valleys of the Dheune and Grosne and open towards the South, the Côte Chalonnaise offers a less rugged landscape than those of the Côte de Nuits to the North. These gentle hills are outcrops of the Massif Central thrown up by the creation of the rift valley known as the Bresse Trench. In the North, limestone forms the East-facing slopes and there are outcrops of lias and trias formations (Saint-Denis, Jambles, Moroges). South of the granitic block formation at Bissey, the hillsides slope either to the East or the West until they reach the hills of the Mâconnais. The soils below the Bajocian limestone corniche are marly, with sands and shaly or flinty clays at the foot of the slopes where there are also some gravel outcrops. Altitudes vary from 250 to 350 metres.
Pruning in the Côte de Couchois
Bourgogne Côtes du Couchois
The Bourgogne Côtes du Couchois Régionale appellation covers still red wines produced in an area covering six villages that was defined in 2000. An application for AOC-status for the white wines is currently ongoing. The vines of Bourgogne Côtes du Couchois are located to the south of the Côte de Beaune and the Hautes Côtes de Beaune, on the left bank of the River Dheune, which separates it from the Côte Chalonnaise to the east. They grow on the best slopes in this rolling landscape, offering some remarkable viewpoints. The vines are divided up across south- and southeast-facing slopes at between 280-420m above sea level, with a climate marked by continental influences that leads to relatively late ripening. The soil is characterized by granite from the Primary period, clay sandstone and clay from the Trias, and limestone from the Lower Jurassic. Most of the vines in the Bourgogne Côtes du Couchois appellation sit atop versicoloured clay from the Trias.
Château de Couches, a.k.a Marguerite de Bourgogne, Chagny
Cave de Mazenay
Jean-Christophe Pascaud is the Directeur of the Cave de Mazenay, Union des Producteurs at Négociants de l’AOC Côtes du Couchois, located in Saint-Sernin-du-Plain in Saône-et-Loire. Their most particular wine is the Blason de Vair from the Château de Couches vineyards. Although located since its creation in the very heart of the Couchois appellation, the cellar’s approach is not limited to the work of a single PDO. But also to the production of a complete range of Bourgogne wines, mainly from Côtes de Nuits to Côtes Chalonaises, and of course also including Côtes de Beaune. Their range is extensive and includes the sale of bulk wines. Production includes Bourgogne Pinot Noir et Hautes-Côtes, Maranges et Santenay, Savigny les Beaune, Pommard et Meursault, Gevrey Chambertin, Vin des Hospices de Beaune, Bourgogne Aligoté, Viré-Clessé, Rully, Givry et Mercurey, Crémant de Bourgogne.
The Cave is intrinsically tied to one of Bourgogne’s most famous castles and medieval fortification, the Château de Couches, known as Marguerite de Bourgogne, near Chagny and classified as a historic monument. The château is a former fortress of the Dukes of Bourgogne dating back to the 11th century, with a dungeon, underground, garden and of architecture designed between the end of the 11th and the 19th century. Acting as a form of protection for the route between Paris and Chalon-sur-Saône, over the centuries, the château underwent many changes, but its defensive character remains intact. This fortress dominates the road and the surrounding countryside from the top of its crenellated towers and its keep.
Marguerite of Bourgogne was the granddaughter of King Saint Louis and daughter of the Duke of Bourgogne. She spent part of her youth in this place. Her marriage to the future Louis X le Hutin made her a queen of France but, convicted of adultery, she was locked away in the fortress of Château Gaillard in Normandy. Legend claims that after the death of her royal husband, secret negotiations between the crown and the powerful Duchy of Bourgogne would have enabled her to end her days in Château de Couches.
A wood at the forefront chardonnay for now with a greater reductive freshness than the ’17. A similar ripe, sun-worshiped quality though more structure and integration it would seem. The winemaking is better in this second incarnation of the company’s top chazrdonnay. This would impress the Bourgogne seeker of higher end chardonnay. Drink 2020-2024.Tasted November 2019
Nathalie and Jean-Claude Theulot, Domaine Theulot-Juillot
Few producers in Bourgogne will offer a more profound, deep, philosophical and über historical delve into the triumvirate of terroir, lieu-dit and Climat as Jean-Claude and Nathalie Theulot. Their Mercurey estate is one of the regions great sleepers, founded more than 100 years ago by Émile Juillot. Granddaughter Nathalie and her husband Jean-Claude run the 12 hectare farm of Mercurey Villages and sense of place pinot noir that can age 20-25 years.
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From Nathalie and Jean-Claude Theulot, their négoce part of the estate’s production, here a transparent and simple expression of chardonnay. Drawn from Mercurey vineyards though outside of the limit to name this Mercurey AOC, this is fruit grown specifically for basic consumption. The richesse and finesse take it further than many with traditional and classic touching great modernity. Just a bloody delicious and balanced chardonnay. That’s the proper stuff. Drink 2019-2022.Tasted November 2019
A red terroir planted to white now 35 years ago, then and now, without fear. Clearly a more mineral, saline and fine brine inducing plot of Mercurey for chardonnay. Truly rich and developed with ideal, precise and extract sidling phenolics. Ripeness is truly a virtue and exclamation exercised with confidence and also restraint. The wood is necessary and invited, always present while finding a balance between thermal amplitude and cooling comfort. Very young, in structure and at heart. Drink 2022-2029.Tasted November 2019
From two words, “Mi” and “Pont,” meaning a milestone or military marker at the bridge on the ancient Roman road from Chalon to Autun. The house or fort would have been a dwelling on the plot where the stone was set and now the lieu-dit carries the name. This is still Villages appellation and yet there’s a climb above in quality, from texture for sure but also calcareous excitement. It’s a complicated spot to define but there is more limestone because the soil washes away in a section due to the exposition and the “plunge” of that part. There’s a tension but not an anxious one, no rather the lift is simply of joy in a rapid heartbeat, from love, not consternation. Drink 2022-2028.Tasted November 2019
A blind pour without knowledge of Climat, lieu-dit or vintage. Certainly older than 2010, now with mushroom and truffle involved but still high in acidity. There is also the ferric quality that was noted in the Cailloute. The tannins are so limestone driven with a red earthiness that converts sugars to savouriness and fruit to umami, Life affirming, longevity defying and quality of all its constituent parts. This is why Jean-Claude and Nathalie do what they do and share it with people like us. Drink 2019-2024.Tasted November 2019
The Côte Chalonnaise from Domaine de L’Évêché Quentin & Vincent Viticulteurs
Domaine de L’Évêché Quentin & Vincent Viticulteurs
In the 17th century the Clos de L’Évêché was part of a larger property owned by the Bishop of Autun. Vincent Joussier purchased Domaine de L’Évêché in 1985 and runs the estate today with his wife Sylvie and son Quentin. The Côte Chalonnaise vineyards cover 14 hectares across several appellations: Mercurey, Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise, Crémant de Bourgogne, Coteaux Bourguignons and Bourgogne Aligoté. Most of the production comes from pinot noir (80 per cent) and chardonnay (15) but also small amounts of aligoté and gamay.
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Just the terroir makes the difference,” explains Vincent Joussier, “and the age of the vines.” They are in fact 10 years older and handle their wood compliment with greater acceptance and ease. Still quite a creamy chardonnay but this time with lemon curd, dreamy demure and finer spice. A much more refined and defined wine with much greater sense of place. Certainly the Premier Cru of Vincent’s blancs. Drink 2021-2025.Tasted November 2019
Now into a pinot noir with some tension as purposed by a calcaire Mercurey terroir, as opposed to the simpler argile in the Côte Chalonnaise. Not just grip, tension and tannin but a fineness in those chains to extend the future’s possibilities. Fruit is relatively dark but there is a persimmon flavour and texture mixed with something citrus undefined. Maybe pomegranate but also wooly-earthy, like red Sancerre. Quite a complex wine with a sour complexion. Needs time to integrate to be sure. Returns to earth and fineness at the finish. The length is outstanding. Drink 2021-2025.Tasted November 2019
Cave des Vignerons de Buxy
Bourgogne’s most impressive cooperative producer is none other than Cave des Vignerons de Buxy, established in 1931 and easily the largest in the Côte Chalonnaise. Located in the North of the Mâconnais, the “cave” groups together fifty or so family producers associated with the Cave des Vignerons de Buxy since 1976. The range of wines from the Mâconnais and the Côte Chalonnaise is nothing less than extensive. At least 20 white, red and rosé appellations are bottled and represented. At the forefront of it all is the passionate Rémi Marlin, he of knowledge encompassing all things Mâconnais and especially Côte Chalonnaise.
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A very different vintage but more backbone in 2017. Even fresher and even now than the 2018 with more than 90 per cent of the growers’ fruit the same. Less than 10 per cent fermented in barrel because the vintage served up the possibility and the chance taken was a prudent and ambitious one. Fresh and snappy, really and truly perfectly Côte Chalonnaise. Drink 2019-2021.Tasted November 2019
On the plateau up to the village of Culles (des Roches) only seven kilometres from the Cave. Champ Cardin makes use of its higher elevation at 300-plus metres above sea level. There is more fruit and acid attack along with a longer chain of extractgiving sharp mineral notes that also come through caused by less topsoil and more exposed rock in the upper reaches of the vineyards. Well-balanced chardonnay from a solid lieu-dit. Drink 2020-2023.Tasted November 2019
Located at the entrance of “the circus,” in front of the amphitheatre, oriented south and southeast. At 350m and with the aspect it’s an early maturing Climat, of 12.3 hectares on steep hillsides with the vines are planted at the top of the slopes. Quite “clayeux,” as in chalky with that great Montagny richesse. You feel like you’re chewing this chardonnay long after it has left your mouth. Drink 2020-2026.Tasted November 2019
The vintage for pinot noir to deliver and express the best of both worlds it is the sense of piquing spice that separates this Côte Chalonnaise from the pack. There’s also an earthy volatility that grounds, elevates and keeps it real. Chalky finish as expected in a pinot of really solid architecture. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted November 2019
A high level of iron-oxide is contained withy the clay of Cur Clos Jus, just below the road from Givry to Mercurey. It’s a seven hectare plot re-planted in the late 70s early 80s and farmed by only five growers. Two years of age (more than the ’16) is finally showing some advancement and even a moment of relenting behaviour. A few portents for the future are hidden and then released in this bloody, meaty and piquillo-paprikas of a Givry. Drink 2020-2026.Tasted November 2019
Côte de Nuits
The Côte de Nuits and Hautes Côtes is predominately cultivated with pinot noir and holds most of the region’s Grands Crus. Much of the small production of white wine is chardonnay though aligoté is also grown. The reputation of the appellations of the Côte de Nuits is firmly established. Some have even gone so far as to name this exceptional terroir the Champs-Elysées of the Bourgogne winegrowing region. This sophisticated pseudonym also explains the reality of the terrain. Between Dijon and Corgoloin, the wines grow along a narrow strip of hillside that is around 20km long and in parts, just 200 meters wide.
Bourgogne Côte d’Or
The vines of the Bourgogne Côte d’Or appellation extend across an area 65km long and between 1-2km wide, from Dijon to the Maranges. Geographically speaking, the Côte d’Or (golden slope) covers the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits. The reputation of the wines grown here is such that the department was named after the area during the Revolution. Vines have been grown here since antiquity, and were subsequently expanded by religious orders, the Dukes of Bourgogne, the wine merchants.
In the 19th century, new means of transportation facilitated and modernized the sale. The establishment of the AOC system led winegrowers to build a hierarchy of terroir on the Côte, thus marking out specific areas and protecting their Crus. In 2017, producers of the Régionale appellation Bourgogne from Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune were granted the extended name of “Bourgogne Côte d’Or”, their wines thus becoming Bourgogne Identifiés within the Régionale Bourgogne AOC, limited to specific geographical areas within the Bourgogne appellation.
If you ever find yourself in Bourgogne, Côte-d’Or, Nuits-Saint-Georges and Curtil-Vergy do not miss the cuisine and the playlist of Olivier Lebail. Grand jour! ~ #aupetitbonheur #aubergebourguignonne
Domaine Bart (Pierre)
Fifty years after André Bart was farming only six hectares of vines, sixth generation Pierre Bart is now the custodian in Marsannay-la-Côte, working 22 hectares of vines. After André’s children Martin and Odile arrived in 1982 they founded a farming association for combined operations in 1987, to continue operating as the GAEC. Pierre Bart is a community leader in the process to recognize the more important vineyards of the Marsannay appellation as Premier Cru. Approximately one in four identified blocks in separated bottlings of the appellation are up for Premier Cru status consideration and while his intention is to highlight these Climats, he is also pragmatic about which ones should remain in the Village appellation. The most likely to suceed are Champs Perdrix, Champ Salomon, Clos du Roi, Longeroies and Montagne.
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Bourgogne Côte d’Or AOC began in 2018 after years of incremental appellative movement. There was Bourgogne AOC in 1965, followed by Marsannay AOC in 1987. The entire cuvée comes from fruit grown in Marsannay, mostly on sandy soils created by washes coming down from the hills. In this case Combe Grand Vaux and Combe Semetot. If 2018 seemed open than ’17 is fully un-shuttered and doing great business. Interesting how on the calcareous soils you always get a chalky feel but here just smooth, silky and immensely amenable. What a great pour by the glass right here in so many ways to justify this from Marsannay in Bourgogne Côte d’Or AOC clothing. Fine and delicate.. Drink 2019-2021.Tasted November 2019
Marsannay Rosé AOC began in 1987 after years of incremental appellative movement. There was Bourgogne AOC in 1965, followed by Marsannay AOC in 1987. It can be drawn from both the Villages and the Bourgogne appellations, a particularity specific to labelling it Marsannay Rosé. The fruit is drawn from sandy soils and made from the Marsannay pinot noir. Two thirds direct press and one third (48 hour ) maceration. Not a huge quantity made in the appellation and here with plenty of fruit undercut by a current or streak of sweet salinity. Tons of flavour and unlimited drinkability. Drink 2019-2020.Tasted November 2019
From a very small, seven barrel cuvée and a tiny parcel near the northern limit closest to the hill. There is some primary calcaire mixed into the white oolite dominated soil. Twenty per cent whole bunch fermentation and 20 per cent new oak with the accumulation result being a notable raise and rise in this Marsannay Villages Climat’s fine acidity-tannin relationship. There’s a study in here in consideration of Premier Cru though one that sits on the fence. A little too amenable and subtle of appellative grip to be in the running. Drink 2020-2026.Tasted November 2019
From near the mountain and the place (Champ) where people were killed. Here is the Marsannay that I personaly have come to know and expect, laced pulled so tight but there is a quality to Bart’s fruit that is consistently woven through the Climats. Clearly a matter of hands off/hands on winemaking playful of whole bunch, new wood, temperature adjustment and easy movement work. These are wines of great pleasure and while the structure here moves the needle to a 10-15 year aging potential there is no question the pleasure is early and almost instant. There’s something very special about that. Drink 2021-2030.Tasted November 2019
Signs and portents. First an afternoon Chevannes rainbow and then more examples of on-a-want-to-know-basis #hautscotesdenuits @vinsdebourgogne ~ Oh, some pretty stylish Climat and Grand Cru as well from Domaine #DavidDuband
Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits
At one time apparently doomed to disappear the vineyards of the Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits have since the 1950s undergone a patient, courageous, and ultimately successful restoration. They are situated overlooking the slopes of Gevrey-Chambertin and extending as far as the wood of Corton, the Hautes Côtes de Nuits. Little villages nested in the forest fringes lay waiting to be discovered. The vineyards located on a plateau behind the famous Côte de Nuits and village of Nuits-Saint-Georges at altitudes of 300 to 400 metres cover all these slopes which enjoy favourable exposures and proudly preserve their proof of nobility going back to Vergy and the abbey of Saint-Vivant.
High-level discussion at Domaine David Duband
Domaine David Duband
The domaine was created in 1991 in the footsteps of David’s father Pierre who first started in 1965. From 1995 on and after his father’s departure the estate made several purchases and extended to making wines off of 17 hectares of vineyards. No less then 23 prestigious appellations are employed, including important Côtes de Nuits Premier and Grand Cru. The wines cover the Grand Cru of Echezeaux, Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin and Clos de la Roche; the Premier Cru of Chambolle-Musigny Les Sentiers, Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Procès, Aux Thorey and Les Pruliers, Morey-Saint-Denis Clos Sorbè; Villages from Vosne-Romanée, Gevrey-Chambertin; Hautes Côtes de Nuits. The farming is organic since 2004.
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Tasting with Laurent Berger. Located in the village of Chevannes, next to the Côte de Nuits with some vineyards in Nuits-Saint-Georges and some in Savigny. A négoce of most of the important Côte d’Or and Côtes de Nuits appellations. Here from the Hauts-Côtes at the top the south facing hill off of 35 year-old vines growing on full calcaire slopes. Mixes a wealth of fruit and tart acidity sent straight to the cerebral cortex, crux and cross of the heart. Well made, clean and ideally balanced. Drink 2020-2024.Tasted November 2019
Clos Sorbè the Climat is located right in heart of Morey’s interior, right next to the cemetery. Now the rose’s petals are macerating with the cherries in a pinot noir of classic Bourgogne depth and understanding. The structure is quite elegant in a focused and rich way while weight seems developed by vine age in the 50-55 year range. An impressive Premier Cru of true blue cause, personality and effect. Drink 2022-2028.Tasted November 2019
Taking a side step from Chames-Chambertin is the more transparent and seemingly lighter and more delicate Chambertin. Looks and first impressions are deceiving for the power lies in the aromatic complexity, garden and wild field floral plus a gastronomy that incites memories but also machinations of the great demi-glacés imaginable, The fruit pectin and sweet cerebral enhancements are at the top of this portfolio so if others were seductive and enticing this Chambertin is off the charts. Seamless, endless and utterly fine. Structure just at the precipice of pinot noir. Drink 2023-2036.Tasted November 2019
Wholly antithetical to the 2018 with much more Bourgogne, Duband and Charmes fruit in the delicate vein of great and sheer transparency. This takes an organza line along a finely threaded and woven seam. There can be no mistaking the understatement of the vintage and while it may not strike an arrow into the hearts of the deducted and seduced there can be no mistake found here. This is the pinnacle of this appellation in fine dress and perfectly classic vernacular. Drink 2022-2034.Tasted November 2019
Julien Cruchandeau and his Pinot Noir
The estate was established in 2003 by Julien Cruchandeau and his first vines were purchased in Bouzeron. In 2007 expansion saw to the buying of a house in the village of Chaux, located in the Hautes Côtes de Nuits, with large cellars and an extensive vat room. In 2009 and 2010 investment helped to establish an agricultural land group (GFA) “Aux Saint Jacques,” thus extending the estate from Nuit-Saint-Georges to Savigny-les-Beaune. Julien grows chardonnay, pinot noir and some pinot blanc in the Hautes Côtes de Nuits, with four and a half hectares in the appellation that includes two parcels in the Villa Fontaine, a.k.a the mini Corton. Red parcels are Les Cabottes and Les Valançons, the latter being one you can see straight from the tasting room window at the estate of David Duband. Whites are made from Bourgogne Aligoté, Bouzeron and Puligny-Montrachet. In addition to the Hautes Côtes de Nuits other reds produced are from Savigny-Les-Beaune, Ladoix and Nuits-Saint-Georges.
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From four and a half hectares in the appellation, including two parcels in the Villa Fontaine, a.k.a the mini Corton. Villa Fontaine plus if you will. It’s a top essence soliciting exposition that makes for a great floral chardonnay and one of pretty impressive finesse. Takes care of the vintage with great care and no ambition to overdue or over-exaggerate. Wood is in the background and at the finish, spices are very far eastern. Reminds of Indonesian sasak fruit as only a few chardonnay can and do. Different and exotic stuff. Drink 2019-2022.Tasted November 2019
Very close to Meursault in every way and the smoulder is so very Puligny, as it should be with Julien’s exotic twist and turn of the storied fruit. A parcel like this does not come along every day so the coup is in Julien’s hands and the wine celebrates the possibilities. Takes your breath away for a fleeting moment but stays with you for minutes. Just 900 bottles were made and there are notes of toasted kernel or nut plus a recently extinguished candle. The suggestion says that the future may hold out for the possibility of a touch of honey. Drink 2021-2027.Tasted November 2019
You can see Les Valançons straight from the tasting room window at the estate of David Duband. Here you find one of Bourgogne’s great terroirs deemed a satellite and not considered worthy of others fetching 10 times the price. Thirty to 40 year-old vines equate to exquisite south facing slope fruit to this glass and the mineral streak running through violets is just what you want and what you can drink for 10 plus years. Pay attention to the threefold relationship between Haut-Côtes de Nuits, Cruchandeau and Valançons. Superb. Drink 2021-2030.Tasted November 2019
Th Climat is next to Vosne-Romanée at the northern limit of Nuits-Saint-Georges and clearly raised on great promises. Julien has taken the exceptional ripenesses of the vintage and turned those promises into possibilities with pinot noir that effects juicy behaviour without maximum effort. And so probable is quickly becoming a reality. Very primary however and almost like it’s still in barrel. Just has that feel, like it’s not finished yet, still working, just a child. Speaks to the structure and what the future more than very likely holds. Just need the wood to begin a settling for the next phase to begin. Welcome to modern Bourgogne with one foot always entrenched in the past. Drink 2021-2029.Tasted November 2019
The Barque Smokehouse Restaurant Relief Case is a mixed 12-pack of wines curated by Chef/Owner David Neinstein and Wine Director Michael Godel. The wines are representative of local and international producers that have been a part of the Barque family of wines during the restaurant’s nine years in existence. The choices for the mixed case are thanks to four outstanding Ontario wine agents who have consistently been some of the restaurant’s most loyal and supportive partners.
The collective challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many hard choices and put great demands on both the physical and mental health and well-being of so many in the hospitality industry. The Barque team is not immune to such adversity and that is why there is great need plus the will to pitch in and help. Part of the proceeds from the sales of these cases will go towards helping The Restaurant Relief Fund as well as much needed financial support for Smokehouse staff currently isolating at home.
Three wines each from Noble Estates Wines and Spirits, Nicholas Pearce Wines, Brand New Day Wines and Spirits and Le Sommelier Wine Agency make up the case. You will receive one sparkling wine, one Rosé, three whites and seven reds, along with a complimentary signature Barque rub.
The final case price will be $275/case plus delivery. Delivery fees are estimated at $17 in Ontario (shipping locations, fees & COVID-19 update). Delivery is expected in late May 2020. The $275 price includes all taxes and our $20 procurement, admin, storage & handling fee.
Tout vient à son heure pour qui sait attendre, wrote Clément Marot, Renaissance poet. Everything comes at its appointed time. From Cahors to Turin. War, peace, hate, love, fruit, acid and tannin. Wine is all about the pauses and the balances. At its core the value is in that feeling of things being natural and equal. That’s the way it should be. When you drink you enjoy what you have, without competition. One sensation after another. You feel like you have more, even if you have less. Like consomée with just a chop of vegetables.
Welcome to Godello’s annual list of the most conspicuous, head-turning and psychotropic moments, better known as his 19 mind-blowing wines of 2019. Godello first initiated the concept for a year-end culminating evaluation in 2012 though did not actually coin the phrase until publishing his 14 mind-blowing wines of 2014. Call it the sixth or the eighth but who really cares because the wines are the crux and the heart of the matter.
Hard to know how many wines he actually tasted in 2019 but the best guesstimate would be 2,500 because that is how many reviews have been posted to WineAlign in this calendar year. A couple hundred were for wines tasted in 2018 but the editing and posting of at least that many for wines tasted in 2019 have yet to become permanent. So the number is pretty close, one way or another.
There were at least a few dozen stellar and jaw-dropping wines that should of, could of, would of made this list. For every one chosen another was left behind for no reason other than necessity and its relationship to the mother of invention. These images exhibited are but a few that had every reason to be one of 19’s 19.
From winemaker/oenologist António Sousa’s personal label (with partner Bernardo) and a vineyard planted in 2003, in Amarante. These are avesso grapes just a few years away from what António considers the optimum age, when they reach 18 years, 10 years older than the age from which they begin to deliver excellence. This A is in position A, from a perfect vantage point out of a very good vintage. This is the role model and exemplar for avesso, from a project that began in 2016, with all the adjunct components in line; lemon, lime, orange, ripe acidity, juicy nature and just a minor creamy, fleshy and boozy happiness. Great balance. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted October 2019
So remarkable, from the old messaging in the riesling/tocai bottle, stricken from the consorzio record. This is now a wine bottled in Bordeaux style but this look back 20-plus years shows freshness, spirit and only the beginnings of secondary character. Gassy and lemon intense, a near-perfect example of what was and could be, of how aged whites of Collio can keep freshness and the saltiness of place. All thjis and without crazy acidity. That is the conundrum and the magic of Collio. The persistence is romanticism incarnate with fruit oozing out of pores in great remain. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted May 2019
A soil of kimmeridgian and marl, of white and blue, with great layering of fruit and that is in fact what you feel from Gondonne. There is something rich and overtly expressive here and while it’s anything but simple it could be imagined that so many consumers would understand this chardonnay, love it and want to drink it with abandon. That said the structure, goût de terroir and joie de vivre are just exceptional. The wood and the land just melt right in. Drink 2020-2029. Tasted November 2019
These Helderberg vines would have been 33 years of age at the time and to think the wine would have cost $10 or so. Now 12 years later we’re graced with this hyperbole of toast, smoulder, lit paraffin and the edge of saffron honey. It’s hard to believe and this the from the tier-two, non-selected grapes at the back of the line behind a Forrester wine like the FMC. Nothing less than incredible. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted October 2019
The Bianco was first introduced in 2013, following fast forward to the original 1980s and 1990s work with Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia. That project had been abandoned because says Axel Heinz “stylistically it just wasn’t right.” That wine was mainly sauvignon blanc on one of Ornellaia’s great vineyard sites. What was wanted was something more than a varietal wine and a new age of finding vineyard sites that were more than merely good for white wine. That means making use of northern slopes and those blocks favourable to whites, including the use of (indigenous) vermentino and viognier. The practice had already been proven with success by colleagues. Bianco is the alter ego to the Rosso, priced as such “and reflects the spirit of Ornellaia, but it had to build itself up to that premium level. We intend to make one of the great white wines of the world,” explains Heinz. That may sound like bragging swagger but the reality is that experience, acumen and especially confidence breed the truth. I Bianci are aged for 12-15 months in (30 per cent new) barriques before bottling. I do dare you to find a wine that smells anything like this Bianco. They are flowers unnamed or perhaps not yet discovered. The flinty reductiveness is also truly and wholly unique. Though the way sauvignon is raised and the place are surely not the same, the Bordeaux styling and sensibility of affinities are more than uncanny and even served by purpose. The vintage brings great maturity, fruitiness and salinity. Fruit presence under the spell of fleur de sel. Nothing but a brilliant combination. Says Heinz without equivocation, “it’s a benchmark for us, ’16 that is.” Drink 2020-2031. Tasted March 2019
The couverture is all encompassing acting as a full sheathing tapestry in surround of a fruit core of sheer concentration and yet as a whole so understated. It’s hard to imagine more coaxing and less pronouncement. Relatively speaking there’s no estate equal to what has happened here. Great mineral crash into life and love, into fruit and impossible acidity. A magnificent chardonnay with 25 years of life ahead. Drink 2021-2039. Tasted September 2019
From a steep, southwest facing site and picked really early, especially in the warm 2015 vintage. Again the confluence of vineyard conflagration of more than one soil type leads to an estate stylistic but let’s face it one that is bent into shape by focus and precision. There is great generosity and freshness, again in spite of or despite the hot vintage. More floral from this bluff and bigger, albeit finer quality signature tannin from this neighbourhood, with more thanks to basaltic blocks. Long ageing surely ahead with fruit turning to bramble, at times. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted April 2019
The litheness of this nerello mascalese from Mount Etna off of 100-plus years of age pre-phylloxera vines cannot be over-stated or overstressed. The light, ethereal beauty of this wine may very well transport you to a place, to a vacuum within a bubble that is a hidden world inside a biodome. Few words are available when a wine speaks to you such as this Vico does to me at this time. This impossibility of such fruit concentration is also implausibly understated, as are the tannins and the acidity, yet all align and intertwine along a perfectly rendered line. You recognize the automatic brilliance, for the people and from the place. You just know it when you taste it. If you can find this wine, if you ever get the chance to purchase a bottle or two, you owe it to yourself to act, for you and for anyone you might happen to share it with. Drink 2019-2035. Tasted May 2019
An arch classic from Sicilia sud Occidentale and more specifically Tenuta Contessa Entellina. Of the oldest wines this is one of the highest tonality, not unlike older and older schooled nebbiolo from Barbaresco, in a queen’s throne sort of way. There is siply no way to argue that this wine did not deserve to be aged this way and to be waited on for such a moment of appreciation. Age worthy and load management indeed, with every resolution hoped for and expected. Brilliance and a benchmark, with a half decade of life still ahead. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted May 2019
At 23 years you just have to launch yourself headfirst into the blood orange. That this piece of barbera wow factor happened before the year 2000 is the thing, especially because climate was very different. Rain fell often and slowly through the year, as opposed to the deluges of globally disaster-orchestrated today. Higher acidity simply speaking and this of the great lean, salty and direct-fitted pieces of barbera composure. Still fresh with dried fruits and low alcohol (at 13.0 per cent declared) but who knows which way the marketing directed labelling in those days? More than a lovely look back. Educational, instructional, cerebral and mind-bending from the lesser appreciated Piedmontese sector. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted December 2019
Do not adjust your set. The vintage brought everything to the table and while the foreground presents a picture crystalline and transparent the entirety of the frame is frozen clear. As for the aromatics this teases a meaty cure like few other and teases as if by the ambience of a cave, restricted of access, hiding what lurks, hangs and excites. Crunchy to say the least, layered to say more and complex to speak the ultimate truth. Magnifique and still twenty years away from the beginning of the end. Drink 2022-2037. Tasted September 2019
Calling this 55 year-old Bourgogne Premier Cru a piece of history is not enough to do justice because family, lineage and the passing of the generational torch beyond domaine lines are everything that matters. Nicolas Potel pulled this one out of thin air and not merely by a human ability to disappear and reappear. No, Nico chose the way of disapparating and then apparating (in the wizard sense of “apparition,” a magical form of teleportation). His father Gérard’s ’64 was in his hands and a great big, merde-eating grin was posted all across his face. Les Jarollières is a 1.44 ha plot of marl and calcaire and even today half of the plantings are those that were fitted in 1925 and 1962. It was Gérard Potel who resurrected Domaine de la Pousse d’Or to its glory and in 1964 he acquired the domaine through a marriage to the then owner’s niece. Along with Henri Boillot this cru has been famous being meaty, earthy and owning an ability for supernatural integration. This 1964 had taken all that, everything and more, left nothing in the vineyard and had now become the epitome of the ethereal. The fruit was fully intact, so bloody strawberry, still with lightning quick reflexes and able to pour fresh glasses of spirit and energy over the course of a full hour. The experience was a once in a lifetime type, a shared moment and the kind to create a banked memory that will always be generous when a good one is needed. Thank you Nico. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted December 2019
At the time it was labeled as an (Annata) Chianti Classico though it was really Riserva. Yes it has evolved but 18-plus years should have moved it much further along. Carries a spice like the exoticism in resemblance to 2006 but this is something other. Still some very fine, present and notable acidity. Amazing purity, honesty, luck, circumstance, place and gentile personality. The sapidity is there again and the age ability nothing short of remarkable. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted February 2019
Il Puro takes her purity to another level in 2015 with fruit so silky fine and chalky tannins integrated into liquid even finer than that fine. The accumulation is just impressive and the charm meeting grace even more so than that. The Mascheroni-Stianti family has really found a stride in this GS to explain why it exists and how it can make many people happy. The structure here will take this through two or three decades of unfolding. There is a house record to prove it, ironically regardless and in spite of the bottle’s name. This is sangiovese. Drink 2023-2037. Tasted February 2019
“A muscle vintage, of huge character,” tells Lorenzo Magnelli. The name of the wine is Diecianni to tell us that Lorenzo’s Riserva is not released until the 10th year. Brings about all the complexities that come from such an extended elévage. Tobacco, savour, forest floor, frutta di bosco and frutto secco but don’t be succumbing to depths and sottosuolo because the freshness persists. A wine so wise beyond its years, like its maker. Sure you can release a Riserva one year after Annata but when it has been protected and taken care of for you then it presents as it was intended to. We are thankful for the triage and the investment on our behalf. The fruit persists with great natural sweetness out of 2010. Drink 2019-2035. Tasted October 2019
Andrea Costanti is convinced this is a great vintage. “One of the best.” The weather was perfect following a beneficial cold winter. The harvest was early but not compromisingly so and it saw no hurdles, obstacles or intendments. The barrel use is bigger, older and wiser. This is the sort of concentrated Costanti that speaks to the 2019 philosophy, of acidity, ripeness and balance. Time on skins was about a month (including two weeks of fermentation and oxidation introducing délestage) and no protective sulphur. There is a control in this sangiovese, a powerful restraint but more than that, more so a calm, but not before storm. Finesse, grip and beauty, like a statue of a stag, in a courtyard, lit by moonlight. Tannins are all pervasive, fully stated, yet to feel a necessity for attack. They will and we will retreat, Then we will advance, with caution, further to find full pleasure for two decades. At the very minimum. Drink 2023-2039. Tasted February 2019
Planted in 1968 and from a warm vintage all the way to the end, into October. Riccardo Campinoti is smiling wryly, knowingly and confidently after he pours and begins to speak of it. “The longer you waited the riper it became” and the healthy grapes allowed for hanging to mid-October. Deeper and of more sponge-soaked earth in the old vines with a higher tone juxtaposed against the depth drawn by long vine roots. The aromatic complexities run, jump and ride off the proverbial charts and you may find yourself drunk and mystified just from the smells. Once you gain palate entry you are hooked and then you climb in, headfirst, unencumbered, no strings attached. A tour de force beloved of sangiovese, Montalcino and old vines. Vigna Vecchia is the epitome of a true structured wine, one which does not grow old, despite the passage of time. Drink 2023-2039. Tasted October 2019
A grande dame or marchesa in the parlance of these woods, a nebbiolo of persistence, resilience and strength of character. Initiates contact with the past and a contract with tradition by way of the things that matter most. Family for one, roots dug into the earth second and the vineyard’s tongue, if it were able to speak. The overall gist in the parlance is heard and even understood although the dialect is hard to decipher if you are not of this place. This 1990 is found to be of high though level tempered energy and then with an ear, a nose and a soul so close to the earth. Smells like the soils amalgamated, preserved and demonstrated through the tempered liquor of a wise old 29 year-old nebbiolo. So much more than a piece of the past, this is an auguri gathering of storytelling, kin, culture and DNA. You must pay thanks for a chance to taste a thing such as this. Drink 2019-2033. Tasted December 2019
Angelo Gaja sees 2016 as a perfect vintage in Barbaresco and the one from which climate change is viewed with great irony in the wink-wink guise of parenthetical thanks. That means the cosmic and astronomical alignment makes for wines that are both pleasant in their youth and also impossibly structured to age. Named for the sunny position of the slope and Mr. Gaja’s grandmother Clotilde. Now the clay and the calcaire have conspired, along with the purchased land of which Clotilde was custodian and in how she pushed her husband to make great wine. The vines are now on average 50 years-old and the composition meeting aspect bring a depth of complexity as poignant as it gets in this tiny part of nebbiolo production. All the flowers, rocks and elements are contained within the interior walls of this gently forceful Langhe red. It mimics the matriarch by the strongest power of suggestion and will not take no for an answer. Perhaps never will. Drink 2025-2045. Tasted December 2019
Only a grower’s Champagne could reveal so much distinction from cuvée to cuvée ~ Behold the diversity of @williamsaintot ~ with thanks to @riverdalewines
Looking for Champagne for the holiday season? Wanting Grower’s Champagne with a négoce angle to the story? In today’s changing climate and through the multifarious meaning of that expression we are sensing and seeing a decline of former and rise of the latter. The landscape and scales are changing, mainly for reasons pertaining to logistics plus economics and so the blurred lines of growing, grape-accumulating and bottling are the rising trend, fashion and reality of the Champagne business. For a full, comprehensive and brilliant report on the subject, right-click, open a new tab and migrate over to read Treve Ring’s take at Jamie Goode’s Wine Anorak on the burgeoning subject.
Last April I had the immense pleasure to sit down with Riverdale Wines and taste the portfolio of William Saintot Champagne. These are the notes and yes I highly recommend making these wines your go to fizz for the upcoming last two weeks of 2019 revelry.
The parcel for this cuvée is 50-plus years of age, 100 per cent chardonnay on Bisseuil limestone. We don’t often describe Champagne straight out as fruity but this goes all out to deliver. Fresh fruit, sliced, sluiced and dripping; peach, yellow plum and lemon, humid and in the air. Great freshness though more than just acidity is the seducer here. Gets tropical, into lemongrass and more. Appealing in the highest end commercial way. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted April 2019
Fruit from 2014 (94 per cent) and 2015, in stainless steel tanks from the three pinot growing areas. Fresh and toasty and a seamless gathering of three pinpointed pinot noir terroirs. Avenay, Val d’Or and Muligny et Bisseuil get together for a three-layer, triad-pronged effect of fruit, acidity and exceptional Champagne tannin. Brilliant Blanc de Noirs (of 6.5 rS) and exceptional length. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted April 2019
From the same pinot noir triad of terroirs (as the 750 mL B de N) but here in a split of the Brut and fruit going back to 2011 and 2010. That’s really the only difference, a monumental one truthfully speaking and disgorged in 2017. The toasty tastiness is accentuated and if you like brioche, baked apple, salve of texture, greater tannin and enough freshness to bely the oxidative tendency of ginger feathery Champagne then you will find the brilliance in this wine. Finishes with a smirk of orange créme brûlée. Great fun, pomp and circumstance in a serious way. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted April 2019
Two growing areas contribute to this saignée Rosé, Muligny and Busseuil, with vines that average old, older and oldest, from the 60s – 80s, with some 100 year old plants. The blend is 72 per cent pinot plus (28) chardonnay, disgorged in 2018. The sugar level is raised just a touch to 6.5 rS and the alcohol a consistent 12 per cent. Berries and currants gain spirit from cranberry and pomegranate in a really energetic, tension-driven fruit affair. Truly stylish. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted April 2019
The Prestige is an 80 per cent pinot noir and (20) chardonnay get together, disgorged in 2018. It’s a retrospective, trend-setting style, based on the Solera ideal with fruit inclusion going back to 2010. It’s not nearly as oxidative as you might expect, in fact its freshness is a sustainable guarantee. There are layers and layers involved that will take as long to peel away as they took have taken to accumulate since 2010. So much citrus in so many ways and once again that amazing grower’s acidity. It really works. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted April 2019
From chardonnay at Avenay Val d’or planted in 1970 plus chardonnay in Bisseuil planted in 1964. Here the most spirit, citrus accentuation and for the next time (not the first) a real distinction from one wine to the next. This shows the grower individuality and from one Champagne to the next. There is fennel, garrigue and beautiful savoury aspects here but still mainstream enough to challenge every household name for what to drink. Drink 2019-2027. Tasted April 2019
Disgorged 2017, nature and 2.6 rS, 100 per cent pinot from Avenay Val d’Or, only 1250 bottles made. The first to challenge our notions of earthy, elemental and even funky in Champagne. Lemon, seville orange and ginger, fresh and dried herbs but also a wet concrete meets clay earthiness. Fruit is managed and anything hut relegated while acidity keeps all the mille-feuille parts integrated, in-synch and complimentary. Very special Grower’s Champagne. Drink 2019-2028. Tasted April 2019
Good to go!
Only a grower’s Champagne could reveal so much distinction from cuvée to cuvée ~ Behold the diversity of @williamsaintot ~ with thanks to @riverdalewines
I am persuaded, I am charmed, I am seduced. It begins with a deal made in kind to a region’s most consistent producer, by allowing a cross section of their wines to act as a teaching moment for the vintage. Submit to the truth and the circumstances. There are moments when you think “there’s really no point in doing anything in life, because it’s all over in the blink of an eye,” and then you taste through some Bourgogne 2017. But one never knows until the the contract is signed and the ink dry. Still we can dream. Kingdoms for an allocation.
Champagne Henriot is the parent distribution company at the head of the Bourgogne houses Domaine William Fèvre and Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils. Each year their Ontario agent Woodman Wines and Spirits puts out the call to media, buyers and sommeliers to taste the current vintage. There simply is no other event on the Toronto calendar that affords a comparable taste, assess and climb into the heart, mind and body of a Bourgogne vintage. Two dozen reds and whites from the region’s great villages are a sample size large enough to know that the 2017s bring quality to a modern day high with that rare combination of fruit and structure. These are chardonnay and pinot noir that tease, hypnotize and excite.
The quality is noted through both the whites and the reds and while pricing is reflective of the vintage it’s really just about as fair as can be expected. There are in fact some exceptional deals to be had and at all appellative levels. Russell, Jason and Rachel Woodman laid out the Bourgogne red carpet at Montecito Restaurant hosted by Heather McDougall and staff on Thursday, September 12th. Please read on through my notes below to gain some insight, agreed upon or not with respect to these exceptional 17s.
Mysteries of climat, soil and orientation in Chablis and The Right Bank
Domaine William Fèvre Saint Bris 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($24.95, WineAlign)
Not that we wouldn’t expect flesh and unction from a Fèvre Saint-Bris but ’17 brings sauvignon blanc in Bourgogne next door to Auxerre into a whole new sun-shadowy light. It’s one of those dappled mornings, at once bright and cast effusive, then cool, greyscale, at calm respite. Terrific interplay of patience and energy, activity and rest. Does both and well done at that. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted September 2019
Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($76.00, WineAlign)
Fourchaume the most broad shouldered Premier Cru steps lightly into view from 2017 before offering up an aromatic bite into a just ripened basket full of yellow and green fruit. The fruit accumulation is impressive, variegated, crunchy and fulsome. There’s something suggestive, hidden, shadowy and yet unearthed about this one from the wide swath of a hill. Something two to three years away. Patience will reward that curiosity. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted September 2019
Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($96.00, WineAlign)
Bougros the Grand Cru holds little back in a gone for broke style it should be suggested few other Cru Chablis will frame from the vintage. There’s dramatic foreshadowing of fruit exceedingly healthy, wealthy and destined to greatness. Truth be told the cumulative offer of sheer sustenance suggests no sneaking here but simply an advance and a leap into a pool of chardonnay exceptionality. Drink this with pleasure and confidence almost immediately and then for 10 further years of incremental bliss. Drink 2019-2028. Tasted September 2019
Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Premier Cru Beaune Du Château 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($66.00, WineAlign)
A true estate expression and the first google result for a search of two words, Bouchard + Beaune. The Château de Beaune, the true estate vernacular and the spokesperson for its dialect. Higher toned, darkness of fruit, pure black cherry and then a silken, liquid limestone chalky palate. Here’s the introduction to pinot noir, Premier Cru and Beaune. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted September 2019
Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Savigny Lès Beaune Premier Cru Les Lavières 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($71.00, WineAlign)
Lavières is silky smooth and stunning, gently if generously spiced and who would not want to think that the flat stones used on roofs would be found in this Bouchard sector of soil. From the word “lave,” not a volcanic reference but indeed in reference to those limestone slabs atop the old houses. The palate brings in some fine-matchstick sliced fennel and then good clean fun in healthy dark cherry fruit. Very ripe Savigny. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted September 2019
Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Nuits Saint Georges Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($73.00, WineAlign)
Quite bright and effulgent Nuits-Saint-Georges and showing more lithe ease and attitude than the Beaune labels. Here is a crossroads, not middle of the road but twain team building pinot noir. This is a glue for the Bouchard group in the reds, residing somewhere along a line between the light and the dark, the silken and the gripped, the beauty and the beast. It’s all of that and more, big red fruit, crunchy and intense. It’s all so very posh and polished. Drink 2020-2028. Tasted September 2019
Bouchard Père & Fils Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($77.00, WineAlign)
Gevrey Chambertin is at once open, friendly, getable. It’s also sneaky structured, grippy, formidable even. The great Premier Cru chameleon giveth and taketh away. It teases and then pulls back. While it may at certain moments act like a pinot noir in love it is in fact looking for affection but not yet ready to accept. Wait a few turns of the calendar for this Romeo. Drink 2022-2030. Tasted September 2019
Bouchard Père & Fils Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($91.00, WineAlign)
Chambolle Musigny is constructed of a structure enabling its fruit and acids to tether along the frame for long, longer and longest aging. This may be the first of the ’17 Premier Crus to lash immediately back, to speak on its own behalf and say “back off” with emphatic hand gestures and voice. This as C-M is a cherry brick of limestone and marl, equipped with all the tools necessary for looking into the next decade, without equivocation and whether or not you are prepared to listen. Drink 2022-2032. Tasted September 2019
Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Clos De La Mousse Monopole 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($95.00, WineAlign)
The aromatic intensity of pure demure, depict and delight is the combed and combinative epitome of what Clos de la Mousse can be, whether probable or possible. This entry is confident, streamlined, crystal clear. The transitions are chord-constructed, seamless, effortless and executed with maximum efficiency. This fruit meets acid melting into and with fine tannin is a get on the same page affair. It grabs hold of nerve endings and hangs on for seemingly ever. Great Premier Cru. Drink 2021-2031. Tasted September 2019
Bouchard Père & Fils Pommard Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($112.00, WineAlign)
Pommard 2017 brings the violets and florals en masse as the conduit and foil apposite its firm and grippy nature. This is truly an aromatic wonder, a gatherer of sunshine and a hunter of fine to finest acids and tannins. There is a silky component that settles the palate but it’s just a trick. There is pure limestone melt throughout this mouthfeel and structure is a matter of great demand. Look ahead towards seventeen years from 2017 I would imagine. Drink 2023-2034. Tasted September 2019
Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Volnay Premier Cru Ancienne Cuvée Carnot Caillerets 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($129.00, WineAlign)
It seems to me that for the first time since 2005 the artist known as Les Caillerets is want to act this way. Free, fruitful, humid and excitable yet built on rock ’n roll swagger. This sashays across the olfactory and the palate like nobody’s business. A mashup of 1970s star power; Mick strutting, torn and frayed. Rod in Faces mode stay with me, both pictures telling a story. Remarkable concentration, consistency throughout its components, always acting tough, cocky and cool. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted September 2019
Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Grèves Premier Cru Vigne De L’enfant Jésus 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($170.00, WineAlign)
Hard to believe how deep into its tenure this absolute iconic pinot noir has come but it is indeed the one, the expert, the consummate professional and never wavering traveller. Moves without impediment through time and space, in and out of consciousness, which is exactly what happens to us as we taste this 2017. Spice of the highest delectability and a seamless weave of impression meeting expression. What more can you say? Drink 2023-2035. Tasted September 2019
Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Le Corton Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($199.00, WineAlign)
A magical entry can only lead towards and into a land of great hope and expectation, a place where pinot noir is a rare gift, expensive mind you, but a true gift for the select few. This is the magic elixir indeed, pure, crystalline and of a fabric ethereal, alluring, luxe and pristine. This graces all buttons and notes for pleasure and longevity. It’s hard not too be seduced and if you are not you are simply not paying attention. Drink 2023-2038. Tasted September 2019
Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Echézeaux Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($391.00, WineAlign)
There is a next level concentration, glycerin texture and layering in seamless accord that few other 17s are capable of showing. There is also a bit more grip and tension that stands apart from that silky luxuriousness that Corton just seems to integrate with less pronouncement. This is a splitting hairs matter because Echézaux is everything imagination can conjure and more. Magnificent pinot noir. Drink 2024-2035. Tasted September 2019
Bouchard Père & Fils Montagny Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($43.00, WineAlign)
Montagny makes a quick and informative introduction into the zippy nature of the 17s mixed with fleshy substance and emotion. There’s a little bit of everything to go around and the world is a chardonnay oyster through the lens of Montagny. Good for all and all for one. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted September 2019
Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Du Château Premier Cru Domaine 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($65.00, WineAlign)
Bliss in chardonnay amenability with all the purity, necessity and accumulated estate culpability gathered to act out the epitome of Beaune capability. More flesh than Montagny but also increased bite. A bit reductive and certainly exuberant with grip in the bag and the bank. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted September 2019
Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Domaine 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($76.00, WineAlign)
There’s pure savour, lush fruit ascension and absolute Meursault movability unshaken, unstirred and just merely whetting the appetite and thirst. So tight and wound to thrill there’s Meursault coursing through arteries and itching to spill forth. Just wait three years for the honey to emit with emotive aromatic intensity and then to tell a next stage story. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted September 2019
Bouchard Père & Fils Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($77.00, WineAlign)
Puligny brings some power to the table with help from the glorious barrels, aiding and abetting the lush constitution. The quality is exceptional and this despite being the one that is non-specific, made of fruit from varied blocks and carrying no moniker such as Combettes or Champs-Gain. If you consider the purity and clarity, not to mention the rise from fresh through texture and into structure then you’ll see how this P-M is the affordable steal of the vintage. Drink 2022-2031. Tasted September 2019
Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Premier Cru Genevrières 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($140.00, WineAlign)
Toasty and integrated with exceptional ability, reductive in the ways of Meursault and how it’s protective custody of this particular parcel is unlike any other. Great strength and composure, purity and crystalline limestone exclamations. Exceptional toast and smoky, singsong voice. So worthy of its reputation. Drink 2021-2029. Tasted September 2019
Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($283.00, WineAlign)
Boasts more outward behaviour then Chevalier-Montrachet and also a quicker knowing acceptance of flesh, texture and full attack. Great reduction, even greater smoky smoulder and a healthy pinch of rock salinity above and beyond. Wonderful work by the Cru, the vines and their uncompromising fruit. Drink 2021-2037. Tasted September 2019
Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne ($513.00, WineAlign)
The couverture is all encompassing acting as a full sheathing tapestry in surround of a fruit core of sheer concentration and yet as a whole so understated. It’s hard to imagine more coaxing and less pronouncement. Relatively speaking there’s no estate equal to what has happened here. Great mineral crash into life and love, into fruit and impossible acidity. A magnificent chardonnay with 25 years of life ahead. Drink 2021-2039. Tasted September 2019
Rosé all day, an absence of whites, reds in Portuguese, French and Italian dress plus choosing South Africa like falling off a log
It has been nearly a year since I last visited South Africa and every time VINTAGES rolls out an easily managed thematic collection of wines from that great country the heart swells and memories flood back into the brain. The powers that be within the LCBO’s New World buyers’ department do their finest no sweat work and narrowing down when it comes to Western Cape collections, surely witnessed and proven by the duck soup choices made for both the July 20th and August 6th releases. But we can’t lay too much emphasis on their easily accomplished selections as being the be all, end all reason for the successes. Producers are fortunate to work with exceptional terroir that includes dozens or more old vine blocks in many Cape nooks and transversely the Ontario purchasing choices are so numerous it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The winemakers adage of “just don’t mess it up” translates into kudos to the buyers for getting things right. The fact is South African wines are of such high quality across varietal, producer and regional lines they speak for themselves and do so with great heart.
What do you do with the Swartland Swingers? Lawn bowls in Malmesbury of course
Which brings me to what struck so strong in September 2018, straight to the heart and without equivocation. Heritage and diversity are the country’s two greatest strengths. Sure as a circle will turn you around there is this third tangible and credible something that seems so unmissable about South Africa and South Africans. Resilience. Neither politics, nor conflicts between and in the oppression of peoples nor drought can deter the farmers, workers and producers of this nation. The human condition mimics its heritage vineyards planted to century-old varieties, to perpetuate and to persevere. This is the South African way. And it is the wines that are exceptional in ways that require great levels of explanation.
Over the last several centuries grape varieties were brought, expatriated and forced into the blending of exile. No peoples should ever be de-humanized nor taken for granted and neither should wines be quietly dismissed. With each passing varietal situation time has been sublimed and wines produced in South Africa teach us that they simply are not examples of minor beverages. It has taken place in the heart of agriculturalist and winemaking ability, to change small things and see greatness in ascension to that which is simple, authentic and refined. It’s a matter of having felt sensations introduced into the absurdity of our lives.
We begin with some wines tasted and assessed back in September 2018. These are a cross-section of what the country’s makers do best, some unknown, others better known and collectively they act as examples in performance at the highest level.
Fourteen South African producers and wines you need to know
A. A. Badenhorst Chenin Blanc The Golden Slopes 2017, WO Swartland (WineAlign)
The Golden Slopes is chenin blanc planted on granite hillsides, vines in the 80-ish years of age and this surely has much to do with the paradigm of success predicated by a focus on texture. Remarkable heritage vines on the Badenhorst for which Adi is able to seek, measure and play. Like the Secateurs it is indeed all about texture but here, this is something other. Conatus. The Golden Slopes are marked by intense and impressive warmth, lees and the effects of managing lost acidity. Adi finds a way for them to be kept by the moments gained in flesh and layers. Old vines do what the young and inexperienced do not. They achieve an innate inclination, in this case for chenin blanc to continue to exist and enhance itself. Drink 2019-2027. Tasted September 2018
Craven Wines Syrah The Faure Vineyard 2017, WO Stellenbosch (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
David And Nadia Wines Chenin Blanc Hoë Steen 2017, WO Swartland (WineAlign)
One of two single vineyard explorations from the Sadie’s work is this 1968 steen planted in deep soils to the west, towards Darling. This fourth vintage is a demure of chenin blanc’s deepest, richest and most glycerin textured possibilities. Time and a warming in the glass causes this floral emergence in a spiced space time continuum usually reserved for white wines like Condrieu. But this is entrenched in heritage steen genetics, not viognier and the acidity is all local, parochial and fine. The complexities are circular by nature, in rotation and encompassing all that we hold sacred for Cape wines. Takes hold of your mind and controls your breathing with its life affirming energy, like an invisible blanket wrapping you up in the desert, at night, under stars. Total production is 45,000 bottles. Get some. Drink 2019-2028. Tasted September 2018
Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir 1997, WO Hemel En Aarde Valley (WineAlign)
It was 1997, a point 10 years deep into the Hermanus pinot noir investigations and what Anthony Hamilton Russell called “the year the Dijon clones kicked in, or at least the use of them.” This is seemingly more evolved than that ’86 if only because the über ripe fruit may have baked a bit in the sun. Tastes so old school Beaune now with a cane sugar-cocoa-vanilla trilogy of development. Powerful pinot noir now in the throes of its soporific times. Drink 2018. Tasted September 2018
Huis Van Chevallerie The Hummingbird Colibri Kap Klassique 2017 (WineAlign)
The Hummingbird is composed of 70 percent viura with chenin blanc from Christa von la Chevallerie’s Nuwedam Farm in the Paardeberg. The first viura as far as we can tell in South Africa, a Spanish grape variety not very high in acidity picked up and elevated by the chenin. This first vintage kick at the sparkling can in a Cava style is mostly 2017 fruit, in bottle 12 months so very much adhering to a Cap Classique model. Christa thinks both outside the box and the varietal groove with this textural beauty and so its moniker naturally importunes as Kap Klassique. As a bottle of bubbles it offers a forward rush of life, crystallized in a brilliant jewel of a moment. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2018
Ken Forrester Wines Chenin Blanc The FMC 2004, Stellenbosch (WineAlign)
FMC, as in Forrester (Ken), winemaker Martin Meinert and chenin blanc. Here looking back 14 years to a time when they and only a handful of others had the true understanding of foreshadowing as to what the signature grape variety could become for South Africa. That is why they set to making this highly specific and purposed example. From a single vineyard, then 34 years old (now pushing 50) and the eighth vintage, by 2004 fully commanded stylistically by its makers. Barrel fermented and bloody rich, still viscous, now so honeyed and lit like a candle in a cool cave. A true original, like the Ford Motor Company, a female main character kicking butt in an action film, FMC. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted September 2018
Lismore Chardonnay Estate 2017, WO Greyton (WineAlign)
From the Cape’s south coast and Samantha O’Keefe’s Greyton Farm down a dusty road. The Estate sees 500L barrels, 35 per cent new and is a best fruit selection cuvée. It’s also about the ferment “to keep a limey tension,” tells O’Keefe, so it’s really about the combination of the two. Like the “normale” the orchard fruit persists but here there are stone fruits joining the apples and now the grip takes hold. If the other needs a year in bottle this “Reserve” could entertain three. In quite an awe-inspiring way it travels to and fro on a Meursault-Marsannay line, of high construct and palpable intensity. I’d wait the three for the grace and beauty of its future. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted September 2018
Momento Wines Grenache Noir 2017, WO Western Cape (WineAlign)
There are some South African winemakers who just seem to intuit what grenache is capable of realizing comme il faut from a Cape raising. Marelise Niemann is one of a select few who have mastered the art and science of grenache pulmonary resuscitation. Hers is 90 per cent Paardeberg and (10) Voor Paardeberg, so not labeled as such. “The most important red grape in South Africa,” she says with varietal diffidence and I will not be one to argue. Not with Marelise. These are bush vines, all itching to succeed off of decomposed granite. These vines scratch and claw their way out of the aridity and the adversity to gift a purity of fruit and very special tannins. Pretty and with a level of tension seen in its face, after some time on skins and a natural ferment crawled out of whole bunch pressings. Spiced and spicy, demurred, matured in old oak 16 months, wise, mature and nurturing. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted September 2018
This was the year Andrea Mullineux began working with this rare and certified by the Old Vines Project sémillon gris from a 1960 planted (just 2 kms away from the chenin blanc), heritage dry-farmed plot grown on the granite soils of the Paardeberg in the Swartland. Only a few blocks exist anywhere and in 2014 some of this fruit began to augment the Mullineux Old Vines White. It is what Andrea calls “a project of the jumping gene.” It’s like a varietal ride on a pogo stick, in colour from pale like colombard to dark as cinsault. A citrus attack like no other and subjugated to the lush manifestations of skin contact. Still so flinty-smoky, lean and yet of a texture like an emollient of florals keeping the wine moist, fleshy and flexible. Though not the saltiest of vintages this gris is in complete control of its phenolic emotions. It’s also blessed of this unreal incandescence. Wholly unique in every respect. Drink 2018-2026. Tasted September 2018
Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2015, WO Elgin (WineAlign)
The most floral vintage of the Seven Flags and the first with clones 115 and 667 brought into the blend. This to create new concepts and levels of complexity with vines old, new and next level involved. The intermixing leaves us with a sensation involving many layerings; fruit, acid and structural. The fruitiness and fresh flower gatherings presents an aperture of severe harmony and adds up to a bunch of aesthetic yeses. Give it a year or two to integrate. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted September 2018
The Sadie Family Palladius 2016, WO Swartland (WineAlign)
Palladius is the quintessential spear brandishing South African appellative blend with more varietal diversity than an oenology department’s nursery. It holds chenin blanc, grenache blanc, marsanne, sémillon, sémillon gris, viognier, clairette blanche, roussanne, verdelho, colombard and palomino. No one does varietal interaction and trickery like Eben Sadie. No one. The ’16 is a wine of mixed tenses, the whole echelon and the black hole in the sun. Fruit comes from eleven different blocks all on granites, some from the Riebeek-Kasteel side. Ages in clay amphorae and concrete eggs, then racked into foudres, “to bring it all together.” Palladius holds a casual disregard for synchronizing fruit, acid and extract verb tenses in the way it uses a conditional interrogative without the proper structural order. It’s a wine of fine and unfair intensity, iconic, wise, learned and all for good reason. Imagine this to age well beyond its 15th birthday. Drink 2019-2032. Tasted September 2018
Savage Wines Syrah Girl Next Door 2017, WO Coastal Region (WineAlign)
Though the négoce roaming transverses the entirety of the Western Cape, sometimes you just go home again. This as small as it gets Girl Next Door resides and is raised out of a 0.38 hectare Noordhoek vineyard, “the weekend hobby vineyard,” as Duncan Savage would put it. A block of great clichés, “the home garden,” or at least close to home and certainly “a work in progress.” The developing plot is a mystery wrapped inside an enigma within a narrative that currently fashions a wine to speak of a long term vision. In these first chapters it is already doling dark and mysterious, rich and silky, highly meaningful fruit. How this can’t turn into one of the great epic novels of Western Cape lore is beyond you and me. Home is where the heart soothes then savage beast. Winemaker and syrah. Drink 2020-2026. Tasted September 2018
A single-vineyard is the source and a unique one at that for the Swartland because here is the spot where the decomposed granite of the Paardeberg begins to meet the northern slate. Paardeberg cinsault. If you are not yet familiar with this lovely beast it’s high time you got stoned on it. A varietal echelon rebirth eschews decades of French mistakes and enters into a revolution. As I noted from the ’14, it’s also a revival, a saving and a reformation. Having made itself a home in the Swartland now cinsault can create its own narrative, re-write the book and speak of the terroir. Transparency is truth and in a tightly wound, uniquely tannic way this curls tart and cured meaty filaments around a paradigmatic red fruit core. It’s bloody caesar delicious. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted September 2018
Van Loggerenberg Wines Kamaraderie 2017, WO Paarl (WineAlign)
Just the second vintage of Lukas van Loggerenberg’s Kamaraderie is a chenin blanc from a 1960s planted, two hectare single-vineyard in Paarl. Lukas picks the bottom of the slope first and the top many days later so there is this natural layering of fruit. Reeks with reminiscence, of fennel and pistachio, of fronds and gelid cream. Only 800 bottles make this one of South Africa’s rarest chenins raised for 10 months in old barrels, unstirred, shaken or allowed to visit with the malolactic king. There’s a dissolve of delicious citrus seamlessly streaked through fleshy fruit in what is just such an organized and structured chenin. Finishes with the brine, oh the brine. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted September 2018
While the August 6th VINTAGES is chock full of stalwart South African wines it bears repeating that July 20th also gifted some worthy picks. The list below takes a page out of each book.
Michael Godel – Next level chenin blanc from the Cederburg appellative specialist, so very herbal, lime driven and smart like dry riesling in a Rheinhessen way. Terrific acids lift and elevate the lime and tonic flavours. Most excellent arid example with a dried herb finish.
Michael Godel – A pinotage that bridges the twain between old school and necessary modernity, with plenty of wood induced chocolate and some mocha but also quality varietal acidity and tannin. Rich, unctuous and spirited to the thriving point of attack.
Michael Godel – Lesca’s fruit is drawn from three vineyards in Robertson notable for their predominant soils of limestone and chalk. Great work from the De Wetshof bros who just allow this grape variety to shine on, be explicit and act of its very own accord.
Michael Godel – From the extraordinary Annandale Estate in Stellenbosh Spier’s is very peppery cabernet sauvignon with a distinct local touch of glare and flare. Steely exterior, massive fruit and and such a bloody lekker South African. Long and juicy. Who says you can never go back to old school.
Michael Godel – Rustenberg continues to prove that it qualifies for top varietal value specialist out of Stellenbosch by pumping out pop hit after hit and this chenin blanc is no exception. Fruit riper than many, mild spice meeting wafts of vanilla and more than its share of lees-effected texture. All around right and proper.
Michael Godel – Deep, dark, handsome and peppery shiraz here from Stellenbosch with a syrupy confection and plenty of energy on the flip side. Really drinks like a bigger, more expensive and chic wine.
Michael Godel – Canada knows Rosé but Malivoire really knows Rosé. Vivant may be there between entry-level and cru but it’s done up so right, light but too much so, gently expressed but enough that fruit gets through and shines bright as if picked just there. Salinity strikes through without splitting up that fruit, like a main vein bringing oxygen and essential nutrients like blood to the mind. Last tasted July 2019.
Michael Godel – Argento is from the owners of Uruguay’s Bodega Garzón, Chianti Classico’s Dievole and Montalcino’s Podere Brizio. A year past the freshest time in its life but cool, savoury and without too much barrel overtake (thanks to second and third passage wood). Well-worked and solid to be franc, true to place, now chewy and offering proper value.
Michael Godel – Ostensibly the driest and purest form of chenin blanc from Saumur with the Loire’s post-modern take on the Western Cape, in a way though without pungency, pepperiness or glucose inflected texture. This is dry as the desert, tart, tangy and intense. Needs some richness in food to make all ends meet.
Michael Godel – Welcome into the Ornellaia range by way of the second wine that has never shown even a modicum of compromise. Hot vintage but acidity is strong and true while fruit stays cool, seasoned and reasoned, There’s a real meatiness to this ’17 and a lovely sense of salumi cure. Once again an educational tool for Bolgheri and Toscana.
Michael Godel – Sangiovese needing the bottle is proven here. Now a year and a half later this swirls into a grosso sangiovese like liqueur with plums, cherries and spice. Really Riserva in style and now just 18 more months away from its guaranteed due elegance.
Michael Godel – Oenologist Emanuele Nardi draws his classic Brunello from the fluvial Cerralti parcel, a mix of jasper which is a type of opaque, granular quartz, along with shale and clay. Classic liqueur and modern texture give way to grippy acidity and more than necessary structure. This is one of those Brunello that speak with fruit early but with a knowing nod to longevity.
What goes best with chenin and cinsault? Tuna Burger at Sea Breeze in Cape Town
Godello, Museo civico e diocesano d’arte sacra di Montalcino
Welcome to Godello’s annual list of the most memorable, game-changing and mind-altering moments, also known as his 18 mind-blowing wines of 2018. Godello started this year-end assessment first in 2012 though first blessed the list with the moniker for the 14 mind-blowing wines of 2014. Whether it’s the fifth or the seventh incarnation matters little to negligible because in the end it’s all about the who, what and where.
With thanks to the winemakers, friends, colleagues and pirates I welcome you to read on. Godello’s 18 mind-blowing wines of 2018.
Taittinger Comtes De Champagne Blanc De Blancs Vintage Brut Champagne 2006, Champagne, France (55277, $205.95,WineAlign)
Rarities are special for many reasons but in the case of the Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs it’s a matter of chardonnay incarnate. Some details must be kept in the pocket of assessment. Only exceptional vintages lead to its production, fruit is drawn from the finest Côte des Blancs parcels of chardonnay and only the first press juice is used. So what? So the gathering might lead one to think of words like purity, elegance, refinement, finesse and delicasse. In actuality there is the finest wisp of smoke and smoulder, a bite from a perfectly ripe apple and the zen golden taste of honeyed Japanese toast. Who could not be overjoyed to zen out with the Comtes B de B, anytime, anywhere. Drink 2018-2030. Tasted January 2018 champagnetaittingerfwmcanchampagne_officiel@TaittingerUK@FWMCan@Champagne_UKChampagne Taittinger@FWMCan
Dr. H. Thanisch Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2014, Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (298182, $40.95,WineAlign)
In a word, thank you, well two, to say how important, generous, fortuitous, philanthropic and poignant it is to taste Spätlese from this combination of producer, vineyard and alcohol. At 7.5 per cent proper and out of arrested necessity the frame on which the ultra-clean fruit and fineness of acidity hang is kevlar light and built to last. The poise and integrity in exhibition toasts lithely from stones warmed and earth cooled by night through excitable seasonal fluctuations. If this does not soothe the savage while wooing the unaware then few German rieslings will. This can’t be missed nor will it pass lips without eliciting a response set passionately in the ethereal and the sublime. Amazing. Drink 2021-2035. Tasted April 2018 #braunebergerjufferawsmwestgermanwine_ca#braunebergerjuffer@AuthenticWineON@germanwineca#braunebergerjuffer@awsmon@germanwinecanada
Into the South African mystic ~ A formidable line-up led by @mullineuxwines with thanks to Chris, LK @WOSACanada JG @lbstoronto @wosa_za @NicholasPearce_
Mullineux Schist Chenin Blanc 2014, Swartland, South Africa (Agent, $89.95, WineAlign)
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 kleinconstantiahalpernwinewosa_za@KleinConstantia@HalpernWine@hansverbier@WOSA_ZA@KleinConstantia@halpernwine
Alheit Vineyards Sémillon La Colline Vineyard 2017, Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa (Winery, WineAlign)
“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 chrisalheitgsoleil123@ChrisAlheit@GroupeSoleilTOChris AlheitGroupe Soleil Fine Wines
Chablis Grand Cru can be found in the commune of Chablis on the right bank of the Serein River and the appellation comprises seven climats; Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur, and Vaudésir. “The terroirs, formed in the Upper Jurassic era, 150 million years ago, are composed of limestone and marl with Exogyra virgula, tiny oyster fossils. Chablis Grand Cru is one of the rare French AOC wines to make reference to its geology, notably the Kimmeridgean age.”
Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru AOC Les Clos 2015, Bourgogne, France (Agent, $82.00, WineAlign)
The Bindi Dixon Pinot Noir is based upon declassified grapes from the Original Vineyard planted in 1988 and grapes from the new Block K, planted in 2001. Crazy horse nose in the way that other varieties of the world will do, or at least try and simulate when they want to be pinot noir. Especially Italian varieties, like nerello mascalese, dolcetto, perricone and montepulciano. This is a natural leader for grape wishes like those of the lesser known. Very wise from the start, from birth, from creation with more savour and salumi then so many wannabe realists. There is a beautiful raw pasta dough note and then an exotica by fruit that isn’t really nameable. If this is the de-class from Michael Dhillon I’d like to meet the classified. Drink 2020-2028. Tasted June 2018 bindiwineswineaustralia@Bindiwines@wine_australia@WineAustralia
50 years ago this #chianticlassico entered the world. Suffices to say 1968 was a pretty good year ~ @castellomonsanto
Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Il Poggio 1968, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)
“A good, not an outstanding vintage, with some vines affected by botrytis,” explains Laura Bianchi, though truth be told she’s relating the information from stories and legends. You can taste it, in a sweetness that reminds of quince and apricot. Plums are dusted with white pepper, sherry drizzles over sugar plums and in the end, acidity continues to shine. It’s still a dramatic drop of sangiovese, with longevity preservation going back to the era (1962-1969) when the wines were aged in chestnut barrels. This at 50 years of age is so alive, time encapsulated, dew sweetened, ethereal. Drink 2018. Tasted September 2018 castellomonsanto@firstname.lastname@example.orgLaura BianchiCarpe Vinum
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 Giovannella Stianti for sharing, but that will never be enough. Grazie infinite. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February 2018 castellodivolpaiarogersandcompanywineschianticlassico@volpaia@rogcowines @chianticlassico@volpaia@rogcowines@ChiantiClassicoUSA
At the pinnacle of Elisabetta and Emilio Foradori’s mysterio teroldego pyramid is this Granato, theoretically or perhaps spiritually interchangeable with the world’s most fascinating and complex fruit, the pomegranate. There are many theories on separating the edible seeds from the pith and skin but those who know do it the right way. Foradori knows teroldego and raises this singular expression the right way. The roots dig deep into the Campo Rotaliano and Mezzolombardo stony alluvial soils with pebbles and gravel for an alternative-indie northern Italian red wine. Raised in large 20 and 30hL casks it’s still reductive, seriously internal and yet to shed layers, open up and externalize. The red fruit is alone and incredible, sweet and tonic-amended at the same time. It’s both retro and timeless. “And the world fell down, when the moon was blue, and you wore a crown and the word was true.” Like a pomegranate. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted May 2018 eforadorithelivingvine@AzAgrForadori@TheLivingVine@elisabettaforadori@thelivingvineinc
Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian Di Conte 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $120.00, WineAlign)
Two of the 20 estate hectares in Castelnuovo dell’Abate are dedicated to the the vineyard Paretaio, planted to a sangiovese clone selected by Pierluigi Talenti. Pian di Conte is only made in years deemed worthy of carefully selected grapes from 20-plus year-old vines out of this highly specific, 400m of altitude micro-climate block. It’s a wow Riserva from 2012, perfumed with classic extra time in barrel that Annata Brunello only seems to reach. Notes like dark berries, pipe smoulder and rich ganache, the 2012 is already showing some maturity signs of integration. It’s a fineness of tart dark citrus styled-sangiovese wrapped so tightly around the structure’s finger, indelibly inked, modern and with all parts fine-tuned in synchronicity. Riservas will often sting until they pass at least a ten-year mark but Talenti’s croons romantically with stand-up base note ease. For Montalcino it’s a hit of the vintage and to it I can safely say “I can see the destiny you sold turned into a shining band of gold.” Drink 2020-2030. Tasted March 2018 talentiriccardobrixandmortarwinecobrunellodimontalcino@brixandmortar@ConsBrunelloRiccardo Talenti@brixandmortarwinecoBRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO
The answers are so simple and yet unanswered because magic is involved. You can understand the old vines and the way their fruit turns into wines that begin with ancient wisdom but move so little in the first seven years. What happens at 10 is the turning outward, to express the place and speak the dialect of the cru. The acidity is still high but is now in lift, with fruit at the height and en anergy that flows, really flows, moving across your palate with grace, grab and attention. A contiguous wine from start to finish, with intensity, impression and precision. The structure is come cavallo domato, like a trained horse. Dramatic nd’A but with no drama at all. Tamed and in respect of ancient vine, where it grows and what it wants to give. Ma zitto, a wine to keep you silent. Drink 2018-2029. Tasted May 2018 feudo_montoniwineofsiciliadocwinesofsicily@FABIOSIRECI @WinesOfSicilyFabio Sireci Feudo Montoni (Fabio Sireci)@feudomontoni@WinesOfSicily
Cottá Azienda Agricola Sottimano cru spoiled by Elena Sottimano and Le Sommelier, Wine Agency ~ going vertical with Barbaresco and John Szabo — at Taverna Mercatto.
While tasting through Pajoré, Fausoni, Currá and a mini-vertical of Cottá with Elena Sottimano it is here for the first time that some development appears in a wine. This glimpse into what might happen with their Barbaresco may only be a minor crack in the oasis but it begins to fall away from the curative, tannic intensity into something stretching its limbs towards the ethereal. I can ruminate with this nebbiolo swirling around in my mouth while I wonder how far along we are or have come. But it comes with knowing that no matter how much distance we walk there is still a marathon to run. There is this perfect wonderwall of wild cherry spinning like vinyl liqueur over the cheeks, tongue and gums, refreshing and working its magical fruit dance up to the edges of my nerves. “I said maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me. And after all,” you’re Sottimano. Drink 2019-2035. Tasted April 2018 az.agr.sottimanoElenaSottimano@AzAgrSottimano@LeSommelierWine@AziendaAgricolaSottimanoElena Sottimano@LeSommelierWine<
La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 2001, Rioja, Spain (Agent, $65.00, WineAlign)
I am convinced the Reserva 904 is just one of those wines that must be held for 15 years before any deep understanding can be resolved. It beats down the adage that says if the fruit is not gorgeous from the beginning it will never be. At 17 years of age this Rioja of 90 per cent tempranillo and graciano remembers with a hyper-sensitive vividness the 40 year-old vines and the four year-old American oak barrels. The memories are crystal clear and it remembers the comfort, protection, protraction and the possibilities. The power is edifying, stabilizing and eventually but without great haste, emollient. La Rioja Alta has produced the 21st century purpose for what it is to mean Rioja. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted June 2018 lariojaaltasariojawine_es@LaRiojaAltaSA@RiojaWineLa Rioja Alta
And @winealign we tasted the greatest of #madiran terroir with the Man himself, #alainbrumont of @montusbouscasse
Château Montus La Tyre 2009, Madiran, Southwest, France (Agent, $135.27, WineAlign)
La Tyre, literally “the tire” is the pinnacle of Alain Brumont’s tannat from Madiran. It’s a wine that needs a decade to even begin to relent and open up for viewing, nosing and tasting. Pitchy to the nth cimmerian degree it would be hard not to see this wine as THE Madiran, the epitome of a red wine from Gascogne. The nose is über-umami and in fact in character it reminds so much more of Brunello Riserva meets sagrantino from Montefalco combined with Taurasi aglianico than it does Bordeaux. Not that Toscana, Umbria or Campania are the reference points but old school meets micro-oxidative winemaking surely is. The formidable acidity and the way in which the expense of barriques inject major influence is similar to what happens when sangiovese is subjected to said same sort of winemaking. The underbrush, garrigue and intensely concentrated argileux all combine, along with toasted wood to make this one of the most intense and structured red wines on the planet. Should seek and realize its best at some point in its late teens or early twenties. Drink 2025-2039. Tasted October 2018 vinsdemadiranmontusbouscassemarkanthonyon@MontusBouscasse@MarkAnthonyWineMarine Madiran@MontusBouscasse@MarkAnthonyWine
Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard Malbec River Stones 2015, Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (132340, $95.59, WineAlign)
Roche De Bellene Clos De La Roche Grand Cru “Collection Bellenum” 2006, AC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $279.95, WineAlign)
The great Cru and the magnificent vintage conspiracy is a tour de force, even by the standards of Grand Bourgogne. I’m a bit surprised by the ascension to secondary life but it is Clos de la Roche that goes there early because of wisdom, curative indiscretion and life as it always was, right from the word character. Only this Cru delivers such soulful funk, perfectly classified and ethereal volatility and fully gathered expressions. It’s like a face that flashes a thousand looks in the span of a few seconds, there is that much going on. I am blown away by this. Still needs another year to settle, gather and explain itself. Drink 2019-2032. Tasted May 2018 domaine_de_bellenedomaine_de_bellenevinsdebourgogne@Nicholaspearce_@VinsdeBourgogne@BourgogneWines@BourgogneWines@VinsdeBourgogneofficiel
Château Margaux 1989, AC Margaux, Bordeaux, France (176057,$1,645.00, WineAlign)
You never want to say that a vintage was perfect but in this case, the vintage was perfect. It seems impossible but the tannins are both present and even a bit drying so at least for this bottle there will be so much residual fruit at the end of the tunnel. Only those tannins seem altered from four years ago because the fruit and the flowers are exactly the same. What rises above, around and in darts between is the fineness and intensity of implosive acidity. Structure in this 1989 is forged by bars of steel as reinforced spikes in the concrete. It may never truly break down. Drink 2018-2044. Last tasted March 2018 chateaumargauxnoble_estates#ChateauxMargaux@Noble_Estates@NobleEstates
The 1989 Château Margaux wears the response to a mondo Bordeaux axiom on its sleeve. Are First Growth wines made for people who want darts of instant pleasure?” Twenty years earlier and now like the 2009, here is a quintessential and exemplary vintage, from day one of bud break to the last day of harvest. Its appraisal as anything but incredible is to assassinate it as if it were the Franz Ferdinand of Bordeaux. The examination 25 years later sees a mellow funk meet a peerless and sublime perfume. A wine cast in utmost density, complexity and length. It noses strength, warmth verging on heat but only for a fleeting moment, to gain attention. The iconic wine has reached the first major peak, up a ways from base camp. In this second phase of young adulthood it looks with conceit to the top of the mountain, seeing 25 to 50 more years on the climb. Mr. Pontallier regrets he won’t be around to taste this wine at full maturity. Moi aussi. The fruit lingers in its full, original state, from the moment it passes lips and for minutes onward. Violets trump roses. Château Margaux 1989 is from a vintage that offers the blessing of ethereal balance. Hear her sing, “Ich heisse Superfantastisch!” Tasted April 2014
Good to go!
Godello, Museo civico e diocesano d’arte sacra di Montalcino