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.
It’s only love when #french and #danish friends do dinner @michaelwuertz #herring #foiegras
I do like symmetrical things and prefer the irregular approach to writing and life. Method to madness is all in the perception and only really figured out when you learn to let your emotions run wild. You have to want to believe Godello as a writer knows what he’s talking about but you also need to trust the facts when you find them flooded into the seemingly unconnected mess of musical and multicultural references, veins and streams of consciousness.
Do you remember this commercial?
“You worked too hard and ate too much,
The cheesesteak made you green.
Let your aching head and stomach hear this message from old Speedy.”
Speedy here is voiced by the same guy (Dick Beals) that voiced Davey of “Davey and Goliath” and Ralph Phillips of “Looney Tunes.” Here we move forward, away from the mess and sting and sighs and slings of 2016, past the littering deaths of loved ones and icons, into the future that begins (in wine anyway), with the VINTAGES January 7th release. Forget the Alka Seltzer and listen up.
Drinking sparkling wine in January is a contagious and contiguous must for any self-respecting wine geek but who can afford Champagne after the bank-rolling of the holiday season? Fear not for alternative fizz is coming your way. So are tidy values for chenin blanc, viognier, grüner veltliner, malbec, negroamaro, tannat, graciano, sangiovese, garnacha, cabernet franc and syrah. You can also choose from five splendid blends from Dealu Mare, Valpolicella, Langhorne Creek, and Côtes Du Roussillon Villages. Please visit WineAlign for full reviews of these 17 in VINTAGES January 7th.
Budureasca Feteasca Regala 2015, Doc Dealu Mare, Romania (416800, $11.95, WineAlign)
Over at WineAlign we recently introduced a new feature in our already comprehensive coverage of the bi-weekly VINTAGES releases. If I Could Buy Only One offers subscribers a first in line, get inside the minds of four Ontario critics. As part of the overall recap on each release David Lawrason, John Szabo M.S., Sara d’Amato and I are asked the question: “If you could buy only one wine from this release – which one would it be and why?”
When it comes to tasting, assessing and scoring VINTAGES wines there is simply no equal to what WineAlign covers in Ontario. As a group we four are sure to collectively provide at least one tasting note and score for 100 or more wines per release. In most cases there are two and sometimes three or even all four. Where else in print or online can you access such a synoptic scope of sweeping current information?
We are not alone but we are at the head of the game. Our colleague Michael Vaughan is the only critic who tastes every wine on every VINTAGES release. His nearly three decades of utter dedication and encyclopedic memory is nothing short of incredible. Tony Aspler covers the releases and contributes to Vaughan’s newsletter. Tony’s decades of experience are invaluable to both his and Michael’s readership. Beppi Crosariol offers a handful of concise and epigrammatic weekly recommendations in the Globe and Mail, Carolyn Hammond in a Toronto Star nutshell and Rod Phillips meaty and marrowy in the Ottawa Sun.
The LCBO media tasting lab is frequented by many Ontario writers. Most notable is Tim Appelt. Tim sounds off extensively on the releases. Eric Vellend publishes recos in his column “Bottle Shop” for Billy, the Toronto Island Airport’s magazine. André Proulx brings his own ignited take to his website, Andre Wine Review and Michael Pinkus publishes his broad brushstroke on his Wine Review. Erin Henderson does so on The Wine Sister’s website and Dean Tudor at Gothic Epicures World Wine Watch. If you follow what comes through VINTAGES and sequester help and ideas, who do you turn to? The answer is simply WineAlign.
When asked to single out just one I chose another Chablis from the current September 17th release. Look for the stellar Simonnet Febvre & Fils Côte De Lechet Chablis 1er Cru 2013 review in my upcoming report on Chablis in Ontario. Today I’ve got 13 other solid recommendations from a wide range of places.
Man Family Warrelwind Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Classico 2014, Dominio Dos Tares Estay Prieto Picudo 2012, Les Darons 2014, Pazo Das Bruxas Albariño 2014, Talley Vineyards Bishop’s Peak Chardonnay 2014
Man Family Warrelwind Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Wo Western Cape, South Africa (461004, $13.95, WineAlign)
Man’s upper reaches sauvignon blanc whirls and winds around open-affable, semi-pungent fruit and churns like citrus juice through a windmill. This multi-purpose white speaks with great acidity and deep tart flavours. Just a touch of sweet peach with lime zest and a spritz keeps it spinning. Lots of bang for just a few bucks. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted September 2016 @MANVintners@vonterrabev@WOSACanada@WOSA_ZA
Tasted from a half bottle, The Zingarelli Chianti Classico 2014 is as expected, classic. Hits all the appropriate and life-affirming sangiovese notes; cherries, fresh leather, dried figs, old wood walls, bright acidity and fine-grained tannin. When commercial, protective and attention to detail get together in Chianti Classico, this is what comes out. Expectations met and dinner accompanied. Ready to drink now and should be so because of the freshness afforded. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted September 2016 @roccadellemacie@chianticlassico@ProfileWineGrp
Dominio Dos Tares Estay Prieto Picudo 2012, Vino De La Tierra De Castilla Y León, Spain (393140, $15.95, WineAlign)
Flat out juicy prieto picudo if you must know is 100 per cent employed out of Castilla Y Leon. Drinkable and gulpable don’t get much better than this, like spicy gamay but with more weight. You can put the truck in reverse and open the back doors wide for this and its sultry sway from French and American oak. The oak does not intrude mind you but it certainly adds texture and punch. Utterly delectable. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted September 2016 @DominiodeTares@oenophilia1
Les Darons 2014, Ap Languedoc, France, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (448464, $17.95, WineAlign)
Fresh and dramatic Languedoc with amazing floraility, namely violets but also rose bushes in a mid-summer swelter. Vitality is ensured by the top notch acidity and the tempering here has nothing to do with chocolate. Tart just right and back bite. While some from the warm region seem “toujours le cup entre demux chaises,” this Jeff Carrel red is right where it needs to be, comfortable in its own skin. No Ogres des Barback. Simply Les Darons. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted September 2016 @LanguedocWines
Pazo Das Bruxas Albariño 2014, Do Rias Baixas, Spain (417667, $19.95, WineAlign)
This is a fine example of Albarino bringing miles of rich, ripe fruit into a brew of ripping acidity. Very mineral motive as as well, so with so much stewing in the pot you can expect a whole lot of vigor, revelry and magic. The citrus on the back side is nothing short of scintillant-spurred from lemon and lime. Miles from balmy, this is quite electric Galicia. Witches’ Brew, Bitches Brew in a Spanish Key. May not be a revolutionary bottle but it’s as close to jazz-rock fusion Albarino as you are likely to find. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted September 2016 @TorresWines@RiasBaixasWines
Talley Vineyards Bishop’s Peak Chardonnay 2014, Edna Valley, Central Coast, California (318360, $27.95, WineAlign)
Another well-managed, keep it in the cool-climate family entry-level chardonnay from Brian Talley, keeping the faith and the successful streak alive for the idea behind Edna Valley as an important haven for chardonnay. It’s nearly unoaked, with just some neutral barrels to keep it leesy and creamy but acidity and umami are clear to lead the way. Excellent effort if on the lean and mean side. Good length. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted September 2016 @TalleyVineyards@TheVine_RobGroh
From left to right: Roger & Didier Raimbault Sancerre Rouge 2013, Schiopetto Sauvignon 2013, Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling, Emile Beyer L’hostellerie Gewürztraminer 2012, La Crema Chardonnay 2014, Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf Du Pape Blanc 2014 and Pascal Marchand Gevrey Chambertin 2013
Roger & Didier Raimbault Sancerre Rouge 2013, Ac Loire, France (446401, $28.95, WineAlign)
Cured, natural, direct and experiential red Sancerre. A case of hands-off winemaking if there ever was, leaving exceptional fruit to walk the road and find its own way. Red berries, currants and just a hint of natural smoke. Savoury not even on its radar. Very fresh and alive. Freedom in red Sancerre. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted September 2016 @LoireValleyWine
Ripe, pungent and forthright Collio sauvignon blanc from the regional leader Schiopetto, culled from top level terroir and exercised with great intent. No Aqualung here, no “start away uneasy.” Dives into stony, flinty and mineral tangy waters then emerges to tell a tale of richness and mille-feuille layering. Top level sauvignon blanc for anywhere but from a very specific, agriculturist place. Finishes with a creamy lemon curd and a shot of adrenaline. If any sauvignon blanc could help solve the answer to the distinction between religion and God, Schiopetto’s could very well be the one. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted September 2016 @schiopetto@LeSommelierWine
I will stand to be corrected but this first such sparkler from Thirty Bench (it’s my first) and its dry riesling stoicism is a first in its singular way for Ontario. Using a small dosage from Steel Post Vineyard riesling fruit, the quality level in this non-vintage bubble (but I would think that the primary vintage fruit is 2014) is elevated with that world-class juice and yet aridity is not compromised. The subtle, rich, elongated and amalgamated orchard fruit aromatics are pure Beamsville, Thirty Bench and Emma Garner with well-rounded Niagara Peninsula Sparkling couverture. One, Garner wouldn’t waste a thimble-full of her riesling to make less than stellar sparkling wine and two, it’s really good. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted September 2016 @ThirtyBench@PellerVQA
Emile Beyer L’hostellerie Gewürztraminer 2012, Ac Alsace, France (462556, $39.95, WineAlign)
The tense and focused aromatics lead the way in this very generous gewürztraminer, classically styled to be off-dry but the sweetness is the furthest thing from your mind. Seeping rose petals and pure lychee syrup are graced with lemon zest, fennel frond and a curious note of rooibos tea. An exemplary vintage for an elixir that never cloys but just touches on something spicy and thinks about the bitterness of nuts though never really goes there. Subtle, refined and Eguisheim cultured from Emile Beyer. So impressive and a steal to drink in its first 10 years. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted September 2016 @EmileBeyer@AlsaceWines@drinkAlsace@VinsAlsace
La Crema Chardonnay 2014, Los Carneros, Sonoma County, California (184929, $39.95, WineAlign)
Experience, vintage and location will conspire to deliver profundity when the winemaker is attuned to available excellence and in tune with the vines. La Crema’s Elizabeth Grant-Douglas has a large, who’s who and what’s what portfolio to plate. She does so with broad, brushstroke ability and triads. In 2014 she has simply dialled into Los Carneros. The cool, temperature mitigated rolling hills, wind and aspect/exposure of this largest appellation straddling Napa and Sonoma does wonders for Chardonnay. Here in ’14 the third of the drought vintages is cradled with zest, vitality and pure energy. If you like nougat then have a chew of this one. If rich and unctuous Champagne with a bit of age is your thing you may just sit back and sigh. This wine was fatter previously, vegetal and just too easy. Here it sings “cause it fits in well with the chords” its playing. Right in tune. “Getting in tune with the straight and narrow.” The line that runs through Carneros with chardonnay the voice and La Crema the orchestra. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted September 2016 @LaCremaWines@bwwines@sonomavintners@thesirengroup
Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf Du Pape Blanc 2014, Ac Rhone, France (704429, $56.95, WineAlign)
This is quite closed for white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, remarkable that way and dramatically caught between the rocks and stones of its upbringing. There is nothing yet fleshy or flashy about it but considering how tightly wound it is you just have to know that revelry is up around the bend. So many stone fruits will reveal during the unravel. At this rigid dry extract and carpeted stage something microbial stands out but this too shall pass. The grip is firm and the focus leering. A structurally imposing La Nerthe with the will to live 15-20 years. Drink 2018-2029. Tasted September 2016 #ChateauLaNerthe@WoodmanWS@VINSRHONE
Pascal Marchand Gevrey Chambertin 2013, Burgundy, France (286450, $59.95, WineAlign)
Sweet, expertly extracted and gently pressed fruit provides the bassinet for a subtle, charming and effluent pinot noir from Pascal Marchand. This falls on the lithe and graceful side of pinot noir with well-managed oak and an inherent structure that speaks as softly as the fruit but that does not mean its not capable of stretching this into a second decade. This is really pretty stuff. Would love to see its secondary stage and later fruition next decade. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted September 2016 @pasmarchand@Burgundy_Direct@BourgogneWines@vinsdebourgogne
Rosé. It’s meteoric rise to prominence has shaken the foundation of wine consuming thought. Everyone’s doing it. Imbibing is at an all time high and celebrating the merits is exercised with commitment and conviction. This summer’s sweltering season has seen it skyrocket in sales. My restaurant lists are seeing the explosion first hand, up close and personal. The stress of ridicule or having the stuffing kicked out of you for sipping on a glass isn’t even a figment of imagination in the conversation. The reluctance to admit drinking rosé is a thing of the Neanderthal past. What happened? How did the pink stuff gain such traction and find its way into the hearts and minds of everywino?
Quality and diversity. First and foremost we are witnessing an increase in winemakers committed to making rosé from grapes grown specifically for the purpose. Second is the equality in money allotted by the vintners to research, experiment and condition the styles they produce. If you spend the same amount on your rosés as you do your whites and reds, your quality will follow. Third and so very important is diversity, not just stylistically but also regionally. Rosé production is increasing beyond the familiar confines of southern France. So many countries are on board with vested interest; Italy, Spain, Germany, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Greece, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Languedoc shares a rosé story:
I have never seen so many rosés come through VINTAGES as I have in the last four months. The shelves are teeming with the pink stuff and it’s selling like sunscreen. In February I penned ‘Twas the week before Valentine’s but specifically avoided the cliché of recommending rosés for the kissing holiday. The year before I discussed in after the fact hushed tones regarding Post Valentine’s polar vortex wines. I also said this:
“February 14th is so hyper-candied that ingredients like salinity, minerality, positive bitterness, animale and tannin are essential in the name of balance. Just don’t pair your dry red wine with chocolate.”
It’s not that I don’t believe in drinking rosé on Valentine’s but rather that I recommend not limiting as such and also prefer to choose rosés at all times of the year. So I saved up my recos for late summer, just in case you thought the season was already behind us. Two of my favourite critic-colleagues anywhere on this wine writing planet are Treve Ring and Jamie Goode. Both have recently written about rosé because, well, they understand its importance and its pantheonic place.
“While the world rosé wine consumption has increased 20% from 2002-2014, Canada was up 120% in consumption during that same period. When we keener Canucks like something, we really like it. The same study shows that Canadian pink drinkers were pretty evenly split between men and women.”
“Quality has improved, and although it’s rare to find an example that stops you in your tracks – it’s not a geek wine – there’s a real consistency to these wines. They are context wines, and in the right context you want the wine to do the job it is chosen for. And Provence rosé does this brilliantly.”
VINTAGES has rolled out more diversity than ever before. The increased number of different rosé wines available this year has climbed by around 30 per cent. The escalation has allowed the LCBO to release some of their most popular SKUs two to three times over the course of the spring and summer. According to Geneviève Tomney, LCBO Media Relations Coordinator, Corporate Communications, for the months of May through early August, VINTAGES sales of rosé wines have risen by 30 per cent year over year. Keep in mind that because the LCBO’s financial data is based on sales periods it fluctuates slightly where periods fall in the month. Sales for that time period in 2016 were $6.6M compared to the same period of time last year ($5.1M).
That’s nothing short of remarkable and sets the stage for some solid long-term category growth. Paul Farrell, VINTAGES Category Manager, European Wines, tells us that “rosé wine sales through VINTAGES have exceeded our expectations this summer. We have definitely brought in more rosé this year to support the growth trend in this style of wine. We also have plans to have more rosé wine available throughout the winter season and to bring in French rosés even earlier next spring to keep up with the incredible demand for these products.”
Here are 18 selections in VINTAGES stores and available direct through agents or Ontario wineries.
VINTAGES August 20, 2016 release
Famille Perrin Réserve Rosé 2015, Ac Côtes De Rhône, Rhône, France (719062, $15.95, WineAlign)
A bit more density and compression for 2015 Rosé, in forward demand by grapefruit citrus with plenty of absolute faith inflator flavour. Really fine example for the Rhône, in touch with further south impressions but faithful to more parochial roots. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted August 2016 @Beaucastel@VINSRHONE
Delas Frères Saint Esprit Côtes Du Rhône Rosé 2015, Ac Rhône, France (224964, $16.95, WineAlign)
Deeper and fuller of pressed flavour than noted in the previous few VINTAGES releases. Density, tart edges and typically savoury. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted August 2016 @UNIVINS
Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2015, Ap Languedoc, France (373985, $18.95, WineAlign)
A grenache, cinsault and syrah amalgamation from Languedoc, perfectly arid, tart and with a tiny bit of effervescence. Strawberry and cranberry waft in faint waves and thoughts. Lingers nicely. Chilled well it’s what you need right now. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted August 2016 @GBvins@FWMCan@LanguedocWines
Good, well and very nice 100 per cent cabernet franc, rusty and cherry juicy with salinity and brine. Nothing out of this world but so perfectly acceptable and fine. Simple words for simple blush. Drink 2016-2017. Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016 @Hinterbrook
Domaine Lafond Roc épine Tavel Rosé 2015, Ac (Jean Pierre Et Pascal Lafond), Rhône, France (950709, $18.95, WineAlign)
From Jean Pierre Et Pascal Lafond the blend in ostensibly classic Tavel; grenache (60 per cent), cinsault (20) and syrah (20). If you have not had the pleasure of sipping on Tavel Rosé from calcareous soils marked by galets and white quartzite than you need to. This is a ripping example, densely layered, highly saline and rich as the sun shines long in the Rhône Valley. Don’t come looking for lithe, pretty and ethereal. This is Tavel with guts but its aridity and piercing salinity makes for a wealthy drop. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted August 2016 @VINSRHONE@@hobbsandco
Ciao Bella Pinot Rosé 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $20.75, WineAlign)
Love the early note of minor volatility to check and balance for soft and downy, simple and into pleasure. Smells like unripe pickled strawberry. Though some decent salinity and brine offer up a rosé reality there lacks a bit of ingratiating 100 per cent pinot noir charm. Improves and brings out some pinosity by good bitters, gin and tonic, orange zest and some spice. In the end it’s actually more than quite good. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016 @ciaobellawinery
Ravine’s Rosé spent the most minimal time on skins, from a posterior fruit position left out in the elements long and aided by leaf removal to break down the pyrazine. These were the second last grapes to pick (because the acidity is high in slightly overcropped fruit), on Slingerland Farm between lines five and six halfway up from Ravine to Highway 55. Though seemingly dry, the 6.0 g/L of RS is used “to bring it into balance for the consumer,” notes Marty Werner. This has some strawberry funk, as if it were macerated in a clay-calcaire bath, like balm as if steeped, cooled and poured over ice. It may be imagined as a saline, faintly honeyed berry granita with just the right amount of gelid texture alongside cool and savoury charcuterie. Simply put, what cabernet franc must be in warm niagara country. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted July 2016 @RavineVineyard@marty_werner@BMinaker23
Haywire Secrest Mountain Vineyard Gamay Noir Rosé 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $22.90, WineAlign)
Really earthy 100 per cent gamay Rosé. Good mineral in here. This was made with a purpose. “Now everybody’s gonna tell you it’s not worth it. Everybody’s gotta show you their own thing.” There is balance and ballad ease. This is just so drinkable. “Is this the past or the future that is calling.” Gamay, I love the times you’ve come. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016 @Haywirewine@OKCrushPad
From a concrete (and full malolactic) fermentation and 12 hours left on the skins. A singular expression from the Secrest Mountain Vineyard in the Okanagan Valley. Great amber tang and wonderful extract, not to mention spirit. Tasted at Okanagan Crush Pad, June 2016.
Serendipity Winery Rosé 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $22.00, WineAlign)
Hello serendipitous salinity in this lithe yet dense Rosé that is somehow denied any real weight. Spicy strawberry on the nose and such strength moving forward in linear motion, all with feminine resolve. A perfect blush expression from the Naramata Bench. Great tart finish with terrific grip. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted June 2016 @Winespiration
Synchromesh Cabernet Franc Rosé Cachola Family Vineyards 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $23.00, WineAlign)
The cabernet franc came in at 19 brix and the residual sugar is a whopping 0.0 g/L. The impossibility of significance is fraught with amazement and the inspired, touch-less magic whispered in the most inaudible of tones. What drives this fruit to make such bone-dry, pitch balanced blush? It’s hard to say but there are more than just a few moments in whiffs and over sips during which the perception of sweetness is a reality. The subtle onion skin, saline and briny oyster shell confection is oceanic at the least and planetary to the highest level of imagination. Another unthinkable wine from Alan Dickinson. It might even age into its 10th year as if it were riesling. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted June 2016 @SynchromeshWine
Château Léoube Rosé De Léoube 2015, Côtes De Provence, Provence, France (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)
Organic, artisan Rosé by the sea from grenache, syrah, cinsault and mourvèdre, all harvested simultaneously by a big, local team. Co-pressed, all natural, whole cluster ferment and 90 per cent free run juice. Super aridity meets creamy layers in blush of determinate, crazy focus in average purport of 12.5 per cent alcohol. In spite of the process this sees full malolactic and despite the co-ferment there is blending done before bottling. Round acidity finds denouement in a dry finish but of one that is not drying. Freshness persists. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted April 2016 @chateauleoube@TheLivingVine@winesofprovence
VINTAGES August 6, 2016 release
Kir Yianni Akakies Rosé 2015, Ac Amyndeon, Macedonia, Greece (71050, $12.95, WineAlign)
Savouy rusty and varietally distinguished xinomavro with equal parts aridity and salinity to welcome the sapidity. Slightly bled for posterity and predisposed to Greekdom but from Amyndeon and with xino this finds relish and relishes brightness then finishes from the same straight from which it came. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted July 2016 #kiryianniWines@ShopGreekWine@KolonakiGroup@FlorinaAmyndeon
La Cadierenne Cuvée Grande Tradition Bandol Rosé 2015, Ac Provence, France (119453, $20.95, WineAlign)
Boozy (listed at 14 per cent) and beautifully balanced Bandol for the alternatively authentic and alliterative mouthful win. A citric acid, guava and himalayan rock salt spice rub for your mouth that with the level of saliva inducement turns to a slow developed variegation of flavour. Terrific mouthfeel and elongation. Tonic for and to your health. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted July 2016 #lacadierenne@winesofprovence@oenophilia1
VINTAGES July 23, 2016 release
Domaines Ott Château De Selle Coeur De Grain Rosé 2015, Ac Côtes De Provence, Provence, France (74617, $46.95, WineAlign)
Few vignerons take their viticulture and viniculture for the production of Rosé so seriously. Château Léoube is the other that comes to mind and here Domaines Ott puts resources aside to drive quality as high as it can go. This is not just delicious Rosé but it is exemplary Rosé. The level of pure aridity, salinity and the requisite faintness of fruit is highly commendable. Everything here is understated and ethereal. It finishes long and persistent. But it’s too bloody expensive. It’s Rosé and it must get over itself. I would never turn it away and conversely I would not spend $46 to assuage its ego. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted July 2016 #DomainesOtt@winesofprovence@AuthenticWineON
Aromatically off the charts for Niagara Peninsula Rosé, like strawberry mingling with marl. The sweetness on the palate is by extract and finishes dry. Acidity and tang merge at the intersection of soil and press. Wildass strikes ruby in 2015. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted June 2016 @StratusWines
There is an apical, salient substantiality inherent to Southbrook’s 100 per cent cabernet franc 2015. If it wasn’t for the cool skin soaking, gentle pressing and cool fermentation it might have fretfully ventured into a cloyingly cuspidated tripartite deluge of sweet, savoury and sour. It’s not aromatically gregarious but strawberry and cider do clear afield. This strikes as way more profound, intense and serious, akin to Tavel, in hue, breadth of character and sheer unctuous texture. I’m not sure winemaker Ann Sperling had this stylistic intent in mind and while 2014 hinted at such a Peninsula departure, 2015 cements the consummation. The junction may lead to further or it may sequester a scaling back. Very interested to see where 2016 will take the Triomphe Rosé. Either way, cabernet franc is deserving of the stage. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted June 2016 @SouthbrookWine@thesirengroup
VINTAGES June 11, 2016 release
Rustenberg Petit Verdot Rosé 2015, Wo Simonsberg Stellenbosch, South Africa (451773, $13.95, WineAlign)
The deferential Rosé from Rustenberg tries petit verdot, as uncommon a varietal play as there is. Such brevity of skin and extraction exchange does little to bring out the firm and direct character of petit verdot so the interest here has little to do with varietal. It does however, present a beautiful and typical exchange between Simonsberg Mountain and Stellenbosch Valley, up and down, when push comes to shove. Chill it down, raise it up. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted June 2016 @RustenbergWines@WOSACanada@WOSA_ZA
Qualitätswein carried to another sub $14 level, with dry extract, tannin and life as looked at two sides Rhine. There is nothing but pleasure derived from the magic bled faintly, lithely and with quick, cool-pressed restraint. Just enough sweetness to attract a crowd and more than enough savour to get with the geek. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted May 2016 @HHDImports_Wine@germanwineca
The Okanagan has my full, immediate attention, that and 1,525 wines from across Canada at the great show. We call them the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada, a.k.a. The Nationals and I will be judging all week from this glorious set of benches and hills in the golden west. Until next week, here are 10 picks from the June 25th VINTAGES release…Godello.
Jardin Inspector Péringuey Chenin Blanc 2014, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (443473, $15.95, WineAlign)
A reductive chenin blanc with a distinctive struck stone aroma. With two minutes air the chenin begins to assert itself and from its Stellenbosch origins. Grest preserved and compressed citrus, lively acidity, soul from soil tang and terrific intensity. Length extrapolated from price of a better than good equation. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted June 2016 @Jordan_Wines@AbconWine@WOSACanada@WOSA_ZA
Domaine Les Yeuses Les Épices Syrah 2013, Igp Pays D’oc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (177584, $15.95, WineAlign)
Consistently one of the greatest Syrah values on the planet, Les Yeuses smells like the Northern Rhône with familial ties in the Swartland. Smoky and meaty, spiced with all hues of peppercorn, deep and variegated. A remarkably complex syrah for a pittance. Like cassoulet, “it’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that.” Even better with a whole roast; duck, chicken or hip of beef. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted June 2016 @les_yeuses@cartowines@LanguedocWines
El Gordo Del Circo Verdejo 2014, Do Rueda, Spain (441220, $17.95, WineAlign)
The ballad of El Gordo is a soft and fuzzy peach big star. Yes this tastes just alot like the candy but with sweetness replaced by savour. This carries a country riff and electric tang of commercial, albeit alternative broadcast feel. El Gordo is El Goodo, verdejo to sip when “it gets so hard in times like now to hold on.” Rueda for the people, like a #1 record that stands the test of time even if it never really sold all that well. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted June 2016 @RutaVinodeRueda@WineLoversAgncy
A terrific off-dry riesling with intense tart flavours and omnipresent circulating acidity. A range or stone fruit invades the aromatics; peach, apricot and nectarine. Tropical yes but grounded, struck flinty and so full of energy. One sip and feel the energy buzz, the lightning strike, the rush of adrenaline. Amazing. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted June 2016 #domdechantwerner@HHDImports_Wine@germanwineca
Château Eugénie Cuvée Réservée De L’aïeul Cahors 2013, Ac Southwest, France (295949, $22.95, WineAlign)
This is a striking malbec with bursting aromas, mostly floral but also of an inhalant that elicits modern sangiovese, from grosso to Gran Selezione. It is rare for malbec and also Cahors to be imagined as born in an ancient cellar yet having come to fruition in a modern vineyard. This cuvée is a major step up from the house’s basic malbec, with deep, profound fruit and restraint found. Barrels and soil funk are certainly part of the mix, but so is traditional acumen. Beautifully crafted and structured red that will benefit from two years settling. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted June 2016 #ChâteauEugenie#cahors
The thing about a Hidden Bench riesling is its ability to mark a bench twain. Neither dry and stark nor sweet and unctuous, the balance struck is a factor of the house. This 2014 carries the strong torch of energy and vitality but it seems a bit more arid and direct than before. The lemon condense is at an all time high, the major zest and minor pith as important as the juice. Would like to see this find some age. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted June 2016 @HiddenBench@BenchVigneron
Tawse Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2012, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (130997, $31.95, WineAlign)
The richest and deeply phenolic Laundry Vineyard cabernet franc, likely to date, from fruits of labour expressed with plum, red currant, Ontario strawberry and raspberry compote, so much so that it warms the heart. Wood is but a blanket to keep the draught out, nothing more and it will slowly peel away as the years roll on. The spice in here is so beautifully baking with home kitchen delight. The sweetness is pure extraction, dry and rehydrated. Paul Pender’s management in Laundry ’12 is one of his finest works to date. You could absolutely drink this now and also watch it slowly turn over 10 years time. Might it have been the last? Drink 2016-2022. Tasted June 2016 @Tawse_Winery@DanielatTawse@Paul_Pender
Cuvée Du Vatican Châteauneuf Du Pape 2012, Ac Rhône, France (719120, $38.95, WineAlign)
Though you know it’s going to be a big Rhône red it hits you anyway, with waves over the head by ripeness and mineral intensity. While balance is a four letter word in wines like this, you have to grow up and mature a bit to appreciate the nuance hidden in the brawn. There is nothing shy about Châteauneuf-du-Pape these days and especially in bottles like this, of unabashed hedonism and enthusiasm. This Sixtine will drink as it precociously does like this for a decade because the structure and the burly bones will take long to break. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted June 2016 @VINSRHONE@RhoneWine
Domaine Michel Juillot Mercurey Les Champs Martin 1er Cru 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (455089, $45.95, WineAlign)
This is a most beautifully volatile pinot noir that represents more than virility and exceptional quality for the village. Mercurey can be tough as nails and while the undercurrent here is firm, rigid and unbreakable, the roses are nothing short of flattering, hypnotizing and intoxicating. What this Mercurey lacks in preciousness it more than makes up for in talent, strength of character and trailing length. Drink 2018-20225. Tasted June 2016 @TheCaseForWine@BourgogneWines@bourgognespress#DomaineMichelJuillot
Domaine Bott Geyl Schoenenbourg Grand Cru Riesling 2012, Ac Alsace, France (456970, $50.95, WineAlign)
Incredible richness seeps from Christophe Bott-Geyl’s Schoenenbourg riesling, with alternating layers of aridity and tannic sweetness. So different from Bott-Geyl’s Mandelberg, in which early morning sun and hastily picked fruit resolves a more unctuous, nearly tropical expression. Here out of marl-gypsum you note the scratched and scraped stone, the liquid left behind as whitewash residue, the sugar playing upon that rock, devouring the mineral, defining the wine. It’s all quite remarkable. The Schoenenbourg lingers forever. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted June 2016 @bott_geyl@VinsAlsace@AlsaceWines@drinkAlsace@VinsAlsaceQc
Why wouldn’t you grill #asparagus and why wouldn’t you use @barquebbq rubs?
If reporting on the VINTAGES wine release wheel were considered as a species of religious writing, say like Marilynne Robinson in her Emersonian Gilead, then the bi-weekly offer would be like the morning, a splendid dawn passing over each of our houses every two weeks on its path to Ontario wine stores. We the consumer roll out of sleep and into the constant, grandly announced VINTAGES light and we just turn over in it.
So every VINTAGES release is in fact the selfsame release, materializing every two weeks and within which everything turns to light. Or like Keats, “therefore, on every (wine), are we wreathing.” The $15 Chenin Blanc, the $24 Méthode Cap Classique and the $58 Pinot Noir, all from South Africa. The $18 and $27 Syrahs, from Chile and France. The $29 Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc and the $32 Sonoma Pinot Noir. The $40 Spanish Tempranillo, the $47 Châteauneuf Du Pape and the $57 Haut Médoc. There are many others that might be invited up to the sanctuary in one of the most unconventional conventionally popular wine programs of the 21st Century. Limits must be imposed for reasons 0f space and clarity and so these are the 10 wines on the March 19th altar.
Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc 2013, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (739995, $15.95, WineAlign)
Flinty, reductive, lemon scented and weighty Chenin Blanc with just the right amount of strength. A Winery of Good Hope product of master blending by winemaker Jacques de Klerk. Always great value. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted March 2016 @WineryGoodHope@Noble_Estates @WOSACanada@WOSA_ZA
Fathoms of red fruit, tones to match and the unwavering smoky beat of slow meat roasts and smoulders beneath herbal branches. Black olives, their brine and aromatic bark are thrown into the pit. Pitchy tannin and then finally, after the smoke clears, that fruit, unquestioned in its ripeness. A well-crafted and priced Colchagua Syrah that finishes with heaps of tar and tannin. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted March 2016 @WinesofChile@DrinkChile@KirkwoodDiamond
Graham Beck Premier Cuvée Brut Blanc De Blancs 2010, Robertson, South Africa (907568, $23.95, WineAlign)
Robertson Chardonnay with a purpose, a Champenoise intent and success by way of controlled and slow-evolving micro-oxidation. The autolytic effect is one of slow release, the oxidative lean just a tease at present. There is near-ethereal weight (or lack thereof) on the palate and the citrus injects drive and meaning into airy mousse. Some bitters, pith and stone fruit pit add complexity. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted March 2016 @GrahamBeckWines@Vinexxperts@WOSACanada@WOSA_ZA
Château De L’ou Infiniment Syrah 2012, Igp Côtes Catalanes, Roussillon, Midi, France (440610, $26.95, WineAlign)
Massive, brooding, full on chocolate Syrah with enough structure to house an addition with no further need for supports. The cantilever of fruit, wood and grain is synched to impossibly obscene. Can a wine be so bloody versed in the ways of modern Syrah architecture and still achieve balance? With tannin and length to match the effective conclusion here would seem to say yes. That’s the objectivity of assessment. Will it please? You get to answer that. Maybe wait a year to find out. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted March 2016 @ChateaudeLou@Vins_Roussillon
Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand (675629, $28.95, WineAlign)
Full on flavour wildly maxed out, all in Sauvignon Blanc, with bright acidity, ripe fruit and a mineral quality. Beautiful from start to finish. carrying itself with class and focused, positive direction. Grapefruit is juicy, lemons are preserved and lime is sweet. Very nice. Should age into honeyed territory. For now serve this darjeeling limited SB as a refresher to passengers settling in their cars. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted March 2016 @ClosHenri@ChartonHobbs@nzwine
La Crema Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast, California (732040, $31.95, WineAlign)
The brightest red cherries infiltrate the notes in every aspect of this Sonoman crafted from vines in Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Los Carneros and Green Valley. Then exhilaration of a great Pinot Noir vintage comes across with mid-palate spice and late structure bite. You can’t deny the quality of 2013 fruit nor can you argue what the winemaker has left for it to pursue. Really good length lines the immediate to near future time frame. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted (from both 375 mL and 750 mL) March 2016 @LaCremaWines@sonomavintners@bwwines@thesirengroup
Muga Selección Especial Reserva 2010, Rioja, Spain (712067, $39.95, WineAlign)
A rich, concentrated and effectively tangy Tempranillo, full of cedar, leather and baking spice. The Muga Seleccion Especial straddles the north/south, old school/new class line better than any with one foot mired and the other wired to new social convention. The flavours are flirtatious and yet markedly sunken into the sands of Riojan time. Many grains gather, sift and re-collect to speak of history and filter progress. This drink now Tempranillo will give five years more of elementary pleasure. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted March 2016 @bodegasmuga@RiojaWine_ES@Vinexxperts
Château Mont Redon Châteauneuf Du Pape 2011, Ac Rhône, France (959627, $46.95, WineAlign)
Ripe and warm though structure from the outset is a thing in 2011. Mount Redon celebrates firm fruit, tannin and acidity no matter the level of phenolics so in 2011 the all in mentality will carry the torch and send this deep into the next decade. The level of concentration and intention is less than massive but there is decadence to be sure. This is a balanced Chateauneuf with temperament and understanding resting comfortably on its side. Drink 2019-2029. Tasted March 2016 @MontRedonWines@VINSRHONE@RhoneWine@FWMCan
Château Coufran 2005, Ac Haut Médoc, Bordeaux, France (446666, $56.95, WineAlign)
Bang on righteous, well made and properly preserved Haut-Medoc that while not inexpensive is a must buy for those who can afford and want to drink older Bordeaux. There is some earthy complexity and cheveux de cheval but there is plenty of brightness and unshaken personality. Does not swagger but rather dances. A show piece for the dinner table without having to raid someone else’s cellar. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted March 2016 @imbibersreport@BordeauxWines
Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2013, Wo Hemel En Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, South Africa (999516, $57.95, WineAlign)
It’s a funny direction to go, having tasted the 2014 HR back in September, six months ahead of this 2013, but one whiff and I get the feeling the order was pre-ordained for a reason and a purpose. This 2013 needed the extra time. It must have been a demanding drop in its early youth, as it still is, but the fine-grained fruit and even finer tannin can now speak its Hemel-en-Aarde vernacular mind. Only that valley brings this type of sweetness, not sweet, but sweetness. The red fruit, painted ochre and then mineral, juxtaposed, intertwined and bled from the earth. Though the days of $40 and $45 are gone, the price is justified for such Grand Cru South Africa. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted March 2016 @OliveHR@TrialtoON @WOSACanada@WOSA_ZA@hermanuswine
First I thatched the nest and then I fed the birds
Why did I choose this image to introduce a Valentine’s Day post on wine? What pairs perfectly with Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, long weekends and Valentine’s day? When restaurants are either swelling with humanity or closed on major holidays and I want to eat out, where do I turn? Chinese. Happy Chinese New Year this coming Monday, February 8th. Welcome to the Year of the Monkey.
This coming Saturday the VINTAGES February 6th release does not coincide with the pink as floyd February 14th holiday so while you wait for next Sunday to arrive, enjoy a mild bite of Chile Peppers. “See what’s in store. Stay all day.” This song merges beautifully into the Love of Your Life. How does YouTube know?
Quite a mixed bag defines the February grouping. The south of France makes hay but I’ve also got Greece, Spain, Barossa, Piedmont and Burgundy in the regional to country mix. Enjoy.
First the pink stuff.
The Rosés of February
Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Ap Languedoc, France (373985, $16.95, WineAlign)
The occasions may be rare, but sometimes Rosé needs a half a year to simmer and to show its true colour. What once seemed to be red meets Rosé is now classic, typical, essential blush from Provence. Terrific amalgamation of the holy varietal trinity, with Cinsault the anchor, rock and catalyst to prop up Grenache and Syrah just as they need to be. From soft fruit to a grind of pepper, with aridity and salinity always on stage. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted January 2016 @GBvins@FwmWine@AOCLanguedoc@LanguedocWines
From my earlier note:
Dry, floral, medicinal, quite tight and angled, not angular Rosé. The sea salinity and briny strawberry confluence is quite striking. Doesn’t really linger so in the end it’s a bit of a simple quaffing Rosé but what of it? That’s right. Drink 2015-2016. Tasted August 2015
Pierre Sparr Brut Rosé Crémant D’alsace, Méthode Traditionnelle, Ac Alsace, France (39016, $18.95, WineAlign)
Graceful and pink lithe, like cold smoked salmon, delightful Pinot Noir Rosé fizz. Nothing earth shattering, breath taking or barrier breaking, just well made blush bubbles. The structure and balance are really spot on. Finishes strong and with confidence. Helps to define this genre of Crémant’s creamy texture, matched in contrast by its stony, flinty and mineral style. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted November 2014 and January 2016 @AlsaceWines@VinsAlsace@drinkAlsace@ProfileWineGrp
Lallier Grand Cru Rosé Champagne, Ac Champagne, France (385179, $56.95, WineAlign)
Stoic, startling and nearly, dare I say, revelatory Rosé. Righteously rustic and demandingly devilish. A craftily concocted cool-custard cupid. The talc and the drift are exceptional, wafting aromatics and waving me in, to curl up and be embraced by its charms. This has Valentine’s Champagne scripted with pitch perfect elegance. A Grand Cru effort to be sure. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted January 2016 @LallierAy@azureau
A most consistent Xinomavro untouchable at the price, with the hallmark Syrah-like pepper notes pricking and popping from base and necessary red fruit. This sample is a bit muted aromatically but the palate is alive, kicking and very sound. Think of pomegranates, fresh figs and kalamata olives, a mountain view and the warming afternoon sun. All for $14. Though many Xinos can age for seven to 10 years, this Naoussa is meant for the here, now and tomorrow afternoon. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted January 2016 @boutari@KolonakiGroup@DrinkGreekWine
Clean, direct, massaging Spanish expression of the here and now. A winemaker’s message from an outpost with an endemic grape variety known as Bobal, 100 per cent employed to speak of that place. It does so ripely with cagey dramatics and an acidity seemingly so specific to varietal. This will pave roads for a geek’s obsession and should lay tracks for a consumer’s diversion. It’s worth the detour. Like Aragonese or Catalan Garnacha. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted January 2016 @BSierraNorte@DOUtielRequena@ProfileWineGrp
Sister’s Run Calvary Hill Shiraz 2013, Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia (222018, $16.95, WineAlign)
On this hill ripe, pure, Barossa fruit fills the glass, “handing out bread and jam just like any picnic.” Don’t be looking for a battle of acidity and tannin on the edge of a savoury, mythical Epping forest. Seek fruit, find fruit. A genesis of material for straightforward Shiraz. If you’ve $16 in your pocket and a deep, rich, red fruit Shiraz is what you’re looking to find, this is the place to stop. “Here come the Cavalry.” Drink 2016-2020. Tasted January 2016 @Gr8TanninWines
Cave De Roquebrun La Grange Des Combes Saint Chinian Roquebrun 2013, Ac Languedoc-Roussillon, France (155804, $18.95, WineAlign)
From Schistous hillsides of Roquebrun, this firm and friendly SGM is the bomb of Beziers. Meaty and wise, its heart beats out of sheer size and from beauty. The opposite of a ferric beast, the valley of the barns wields a weapon but one of glistening, polished stone. The accomplished battle ready fruit knows no limits. Tannins though fierce do nothing to hurt the cause. Syrah (50 per cent), Grenache (30) and Mourvedre (20) adds up to really good Schist. Do you trust a gorgeous wine? Drink 2016-2022. Tasted January 2016 @AOCLanguedoc@LanguedocWines@Eurovintage
Finca Del Marquesado Gran Reserva 2008, Doca Rioja, Spain (384248, $21.95, WineAlign)
A 2008 Rioja that looks, smells and acts like 2008, a plus and a positive rolled into one determinate, fruit roll-up, old-school package. Dried red berries once fervently ripe, now concentrated and dehydrated performing as classic regional flavours would. The acidity persists and the tannins have a leg or two to stand on. This will not improve or go any long distance but for now and two or three years more it’s about as delicious a Rioja red as you are want to taste. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted January 2016 @RiojaWine_ES
Pierre Sparr Schoenenbourg Riesling 2011, Ac Alsace Grand Cru, France (664995, $22.95, WineAlign)
Sparr’s little piece of the Schoenenbourg is a fine one, exemplified in this tidy, gritty and shiny happy Riesling. The tones are not tiny, perhaps tinny and certainly tropical. Mango and pineapple make heady way but the acidity and the tannin are up to the task. This is quite Germanic in my opinion, not new world Alsace. And it’s tasty as need be, with longevity on its side. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted January 2016 @AlsaceWines@VinsAlsace@drinkAlsace@ProfileWineGrp
Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, California (444059, $35.95, WineAlign)
Molten comes to mind from this California Cabernet, as in lava and chocolate. A load of pepper marks its territory and fruit wades through the spicy mocha. Under the sheath there can be no mistaking the grape (with help from Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot) or the place and yet something ionic speaks, leaving me to wonder where this will go. The chemistry is procured by a hint of carbonic, whole bunch pressing and lees stirring for texture. At present they are not in synchronized rhythm. I would say that instant gratification and crowd pleasing was the intent but the opposite happened and that may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. A year from now this could be a true pleasure in value to drink. I think I wanted to hate it but I can’t. It is possessive of terrific, classic character. I will love it instead. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted January 2016
Domaine De Bellene Les Charmes Dessus Santenay 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (435032, $35.95, WineAlign)
From the flats between hills of the lieu-dit Charmes Dessus, a calcaire pebble’s throw away from the 1er Cru Clos Rousseaux. Adolescent acting fruit comes off of young, 10 year-old vines in Santenay, the most southerly wine-producing commune of the Cote de Beaune. Tight, flinty, developing beneficial bitters of a Burgundy that needs a bit of time to accrue a touch of honey to help the medicine go down. Quite rich and reductive. Very good value. Really good value. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted January 2016 @RochedeBellene@Nicholaspearce_
Domaine Laroche Vieilles Vignes Les Vaillons Chablis 1er Cru 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (991893, $36.95, WineAlign)
Gorgeous and wealthy Chablis of all that makes this unparalleled style of Chardonnay tick. Flinty, struck stone entry, vineyard hyperbole of mineral and the geology of ancients. Lithe, lifted, lightness of being but always brought back down by the minerality. Some flavour density by way of old vines wisdom and persistence that just won’t stop going. Superb quality. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted January 2016 @DomaineLaroche@Select_Wines@BIVBChablis
Secret De Schistes 2011, Igp Côtes Catalanes, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (440669, $41.95, WineAlign)
IGP in which schist happens. Such a bruiser this Château de l’Ou Côtes Catalans, an example the likes this market rarely sees. These Schistes bleed hematic into fruit warmed excessively by the sun. Languedoc-Roussillon that runs with the Rhône terribilta to purpose largesse and rocking good times. This is a very demanding wine, loaded with peppery spice and rabid energy. It needs years to settle. Hopefully its secrets will then be revealed. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted January 2016 @ChateaudeLou@AOCLanguedoc@LanguedocWines
Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia Barolo 2010, Docg Piedmont, Italy (596890, $51.95, WineAlign)
The Dardi Le Rose ranks as one of the most consistent performers, mired in tradition and crafted without compromise. The 2010 is a spot on example of balance in Nebbiolo, gritty, floral, tannic and ethereal. The weight is an ambient one, the aromatics resourceful and respectful to varietal and to nature. Dried roses and fresh tar, drier cherries and strolls through verdant gardens. Not the beast of Bussia but certainly bussing its weight in age. This will go quite long. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted January 2016 @glencairnwines@regionepiemonte
Plus one, just because it’s Valentine’s Day.
Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Les Clous 2013, Burgundy, France (Agent, $64.00, WineAlign)
Essentially 1er Cru pearl of a vineyard in origin, on marly ground, “walking tightrope high over moral ground.” Such a pretty Chardonnay of faith and of love, subtle, slightly smoky, linear and purposed towards the divine. A lemon drop jam without sweetness and a tart edge that is miles from sour. There are no holes, stops or delays, with acidity that drives forward and length stretching to further length. Grace in gossamer layers. A marker in the Meursault sand. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted January 2016 @WoodmanWS@BourgogneWines@bourgognespress
It’s December, baby. In Ontario that means one thing. Cash money for the LCBO. Lineups longer than a 1988 Moscow bread line. If you’re from somewhere other than this magical, monopolized place we call wine central you just wouldn’t understand. You would not be privy to and giddy with isles stacked in pyramids of critter red and whites, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Absolut Durian. Wait, that would be cool.
No, not la vida loca. We are not talking about living the crazy life to make you cool. No party trick, no Spanglish, no politically incorrect, Urban Dictionary Ricky Martin slur. Not this either. “The awkward silence and/or major anticlimax that follows the confession of a big secret that everybody else already knew.”
You want it all in December, the most wine for the money, for gifts, to bring to the holiday party, to stack some away in the cellar. You want the Garden of Eden in a bottle.
In a gadda da vida, honey.
Let me tell ya.
With the ghosts of Christmas gem releases now just a strange, uncomfortable and debilitating nightmare trailing away in the rear-view mirror of Visa cards maxed out past, now is the time to focus on what’s real. To concentrate on purchasing wines in your price bracket, wines that speak of people, places and who will be drinking them.
I have combed, tasted and considered the releases now on shelves for this weekend’s December 12th offering. The parameters are $15 to $35, something for everyone, to purchase with confidence and to equip you with a most necessary advantage, to present them with pride no matter the circumstance. Ten wines to work the holiday room.
Such a juicy red, of honest imporosity and primed with acidity to prop and speculate. Bang on for the price, in its weight class and with the charm of sweet adolescence. Solid Dao with a whole lot of propensity to mix and match with the multitude of foods at your table. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted November 2015 @wines_portugal@winesportugalCA@Noble_Estates
Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Pic Saint Loup 2011, Ap Coteaux Du Languedoc, France (376491, $18.95, WineAlign)
Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache blend from the Pic Saint-Loup mountain peak and limestone cliff flanks of the the Coteaux du Languedoc. Sharp with concentrated red fruit, tight acidity and just enough tannin to render this marketable to a five-year plan of evolution. Real and as naturally forged as they come from Gérard Bertrand’s Cross Series reds of southern France. Prime example from and one to celebrate a terroir like Pic St Loup which continues to play the unheralded outlier. Really fine and just the right and correct amount of attitude. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted November 2015 @GBvins@FwmWine@LanguedocWines
Only a year and in conjunction with an improved Sparkling wine vintage for Riesling, short work has elevated the young Spark’s game. A repeat lees performance initiates the conversation, of cheese melted overtop composite laminate, with yeast burgeoning about. In 2013 the concrete crispness is cemented deeper, etched into stone and thus completing the sub-$20 legacy. That winemaker Paul Pender can coax Riesling character, striking Sparkling wine resolve and yet hover in the air of litheness, well, this is the kneading. Silty, salty earth and soft transitions to citrus acidity are a requiem for success as per the Twenty Mile Bench/Limestone ridges vouchsafe common. Can even imagine a bit of time turning this into sparks and honey. Drink 2015-2019. Last tasted November 2015 @Tawse_Winery@Paul_Pender
Ernie Els Big Easy 2013, Wo Western Cape, South Africa (220038, $19.95, WineAlign)
Big Easy, Stellenbosch
A massive amount of fruit, caked earth and big, bouncy reduction is packed into this free swinging Western Cape red blend. The reduction mixes with Rhone bacon and its own regional gamey notes. This is both typical and radical. It is made in a style that many love and will continue to love and yet others will balk at its generational specificity. The clean, pure focus in Rhone varietal terminology teams up to subdue the Cabernet though that variety does add lushness to smooth out some of the hard edges. Tons of flavour. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted November 2015 @ErnieElsWinery@WOSACanada@WOSA_ZA
Another terrific vintage for the varietal Ley, wrapping a wreath of pure Graciano fruit around your neck and letting you lay back with a sip of something beautiful. Pure floral liqueur, the violets and the sweat, the sweet fruit and the citrus accent. Soft lactic acid and chewy with an accent of dark chocolate and spice. A bit more burly than the ’09 and certainly increasingly oak apparent but a good mouthful nevertheless. Let it rest for two years to let the wood sink in. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted November 2015 @BaronDeLeyRioja@RiojaWine@AMH_hobbsandco
Stratus Evergreen Red 2008, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (437434, $24.95, WineAlign)
Where has this been? This harmonious composition, like a Starland Vocal Band, Cabernet Sauvignon (30 per cent) plus Cabernet Franc (30) friendship with a healthy dose of Merlot (27) and a bit of Petit Verdot (4) in minor support. The acidity and the tannin have nearly fully waned but it’s a real pleasure to drink at this seven-year mark. Pretty fruit, creamy texture, just enough energy left to keep the party grooving, weightless and soaring in the air. Some chocolate and dessert like tendency but with the right kind of salty main course or just a few sips leading to that point, this will be an afternoon delight. “My motto’s always been ‘when it’s right, it’s right.’ Why wait until the middle of a cold dark night?” Herbal finish is cool and Northern Ontario like in its slow, easy exhalation. Extra points for the foresight, the opportunistic release point and the effort in a hit or miss vintage. The Evergreen Brickworks market’s loss is the LCBO’s gain. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted November 2015 @StratusWines
Versado Malbec 2013, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (317008, $25.95, WineAlign)
The rocks beneath the earth precede the rich, dark fruit. After the berries and the candy beets and the spices subside the flowers grow and take over the room. The vintage brings more layers than before. Malbec of character and belief, even a touch of good VA, a coat that only the Southern Hemisphere can provide. It is not usually present in Mendozan Malbec so it’s really a breath of fresh paint here in the Versado. Great purity. Protracted length. Most expansive and intriguing vintage to date. The Reserva will be killer. Last tasted November 2015
A rich, nearly creamy mouthful of Xinomavro, full on red fruit and as much scorched earth as prescribed to be necessary. There is plenty of front end acidity and back-end tannin though the pathway between is rocky, jagged and bumpy. I’d like to see this again in two or three years to see if it has smoothed out. For now it’s certainly edgy and divided though I will admit it has gained my full, undivided attention. Time will tell. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted November 2015 @KolonakiGroup@winesofnaoussa@DrinkGreekWine
Domaine Hamelin Chablis Beauroy Premier Cru 2012, Burgundy, France (391805, $33.95, WineAlign)
May just be the most well-rounded Premier Cru Chablis in the Ontario market today and orbits would not be its prescribed or described path. Linear more like it, star-shooting with trailing sparks from its steely beginnings out of stainless silo. Well-rounded because it draws fruit from every level of Kimmeridgien subsoil up and down the hills, from the bottom of the valley to the top of the slopes. Also because of its pinpoint unoaked Chablis accuracy, from mineral on the tongue to citrus receding and recoiling. So very clean old bones fruit (up to 35 years old) and direct at a price point most Premier Cru fail to touch. Drink 2015-2021. Tasted December 2015 @BIVBChablis@oenophilia1
Classic and I mean classic Chianti Classico, cured, ancient, fruit forward. Modern, gritty, tannic, spicy, desperately in love and bound by leather. Tea and liqueur, all in Chianti Classico. Some iron and animale, bitters, tonics, cherries, medicines, all of the above. Acidity raging, thunder clapping, lightning striking. Needs seven years to shed emotional tears, fully settle and be a memory of its intense self. A wine that will remember. Drink 2018-2026. Tasted November 2015 @chianticlassico@rogcowines
Most consumers regard the LCBO as the only source for purchasing wine in Ontario. That is understandable when you consider the blanketing influence a monopoly has over the public. The commodification of wine in this province can be like gasoline and health care. You know exactly where to go when you need a fill-up, a prescription or a bottle of wine. Or, do you?
There are options. The most obvious is a one or two-hour drive west on the QEW or east on the 401 from Toronto, to the Niagara and Prince Edward County wine regions. A bit further west you can find cellar door availability in the Lake Erie North Shore and Ontario South Coast areas. There is something else out there. You can also buy by the case.
The greatest little secret in Ontario lies in the briefcases full of fine wine in the hands of Ontario’s importers and agents. The importers tote portfolios of consignment wines rarely seen on LCBO shelves, often found on restaurant lists, ready and willing to fill cellars, wine fridges and passive wine racks in homes scattered across this province. You just need to know where to look, who to ask and get some sound advice on what’s worth purchasing, by the case.
The thing is, you have to buy by the case when using an Ontario importer as your source and there are many reasons to do so. At WineAlign we break it down for you. Restaurant pours buy the glass, cellar-worthy wines, cases to split with friends, house wines, etc., etc.
There are some who might question the motive and the execution. It’s quite simple really and transparent. The agenda is straightforward and obvious. WineAlign is a dual-sided platform for wine commerce and education. One hand allows agents and local wineries to promote their wares and to introduce their hard work to a public that might not otherwise know they are there. The other hand allows critics from across the country to write independent reviews on their wines, the best of which are included in reports on those agents and vignerons. Some of the wines do not receive favourable reviews. As a consumer, do you want to see those reviews linked to in the article? Would you not rather be informed about what floated the critical boats and to know what to buy? The sponsored content is advertorial. The reviews are not.
“Importers pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, if any, is entirely up to each critic, as it is with our reviews of in-store wines.”
A Report on Consignment Wines in Ontario
Written by WineAlign
For an explanation of the program, the process and our 10 Good Reasons to Buy the Case, please click here.
Over the past six months we have tasted wines from several portfolios. I wrote about the first Buy the Case with Trialto Wine Group, listed in the link above. Here are some of my reviews from the more recent tastings, from Noble Estates, Treasury Wine Estates, Cavinona and Da Capo Wines.
Domaine Pfister Pinot Blanc 2013, Alsace, France ($22.99, WineAlign)
Hillside Marl sites provide the fruit and fodder for this precise Pinot Blanc. Auxerrois can be used to infuse brio bolstering punch for such a pristine white made by the deft hands of winemaker Mélanie Pfister. I have tasted this 2013 more than 15 times and it always come up the same; clean, polished, lithe and on a sure bee-line away from the honey comb. The need for development is not the crux of this pleasure. Sips alone and swallows alongside much varied gastronomy is the matter at hand and should be on many an occasion. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted many times, November 2014 to September 2015
Planeta Etna Bianco 2014, Sicily, Italy ($29.99, WineAlign)
From Castiglione di Sicilia (Catania) and the most ancient of Sicilian grape varieties, what more could be ingratiated in depth of Carricante and its carbon dating fascination. The rich mineral layering is intense and munificent at the same time. Herbs and salinity in candied flowers grace both nose and palate. This is a near perfect vintage for such a wine. Clearly built slowly by sunshine and long shadows. Finishes as philanthropic as it began. Drink 2015-2021. Tasted September 2015 @PlanetaWinery@WinesOfSicily
Hedges Cuvee Marcel Dupont Syrah Red Mountain Les Gosses Vineyard 2012, Washington ($49.99, WineAlign)
Less than 3,000 cases were produced of this single-vineyard (Les Gosses), 100 per cent Syrah. This has the je ne sais quoi of Syrah meets Red Mountain AVA, in fact it has the JNSQ of anywhere in the Syrah diaspora. The regular attributes of meaty, gritty, peppery, pitchy and prime are all in. What sets it apart is balance and chivalry. “Everybody has their own opinion” and mine of this wine could lead to addiction. Addicted to the mountain song it sings in refrain, again and again. This is no Jane doe of a Syrah. It steals the limelight and puts on a terrific show. Drink 2015-2022. Tasted September 2015 @hedgeswine@WINESofWA
Nickel & Nickel John C. Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California (142546, $174.99, WineAlign)
Gorgeous aromatics from the depths of deep clay, raised on sunshine and held back from crossing any extracted or sullen wood lines. A keen sense of graphite shredded into wheat and concrete streaks through the purity that is pristine 2012 Oakville fruit. This is Cabernet for the cellar, to collect by the half dozen (or more if you can afford it) and open one every two years for the next 12 to 24. This has the legs and the agility to slowly braise and develop for at least that long. The balance and the length are as good as it gets. Drink 2017-2036. Tasted October 2015 @NickelandNickel
Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle Grand Cuvée, Champagne, France (379982, $199.99, WineAlign)
Grand Siècle is a wine paid full attention in detail. The master’s blown glass should make that crystal clear. Chardonnay (55 per cent) and Pinot Noir (45), give or take a few approximating points is culled from a blend of 11 grands crus; Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Ambonnay, Bouzy, Louvois, Mailly, Tours-sur-Marne and Verzenay. If freshness, elegance and structure are the intent, here is a wine in kind of a perfect three for three, though elegance is the clear winner. When all aspects are aligned, where finesse talks in soft spoken tones and why Champagne can be so delicate is the mystery revealed in the Grand Siècle. A walk through this cuvée is getting lost in a ten foot flower garden, canopy overhead. A taste means delicate gastronomy. A glide to the finish is effortless. All this adds up to wonderful symmetry. Champagne can be great when it tows a direct, purposed line. This will last decades and it can certainly, twist my arm, be enjoyed now. Great combo. Drink 2015-2035. Tasted September 2015 @ChampagneLPUSA
Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, California ($19.95, WineAlign)
This California-designated Cabernet is composed from fruit drawn out of the North Coast and Central Coast. The North Coast vineyards stretch from Sonoma to Lake County and the Central Coast fruit in Paso Robles and Santa Barbara. A warm (13.8 per cent alcohol) Cab to be sure but several shades this side of hot. The tones are elevated and a bit jumpy, with fruit noting plum, pomegranate and ultra ripe to sweetened cranberry. Wood spice (from eight months in French and American oak) gives cinnamon and Goji berry. The perfume keeps wafting in waves, intoxicatingly so, prepping the palate for really solid fruit flavours. Though not the deepest nor the longest spoke on the Cabernet wheel, this CSJ works in the simplest, apropos ways. Highly aromatic, well-structured, righteously crafted and respectfully restrained. The sweet finish is dipped in chocolate. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted May 2015 @CSJWines
Always at or near the apex of CCR value, the 2011 is of a rich, modern, pitched deeply and highly purposed vintage. It elevates its game in all facets; fruit, acidity, tannin and warmth. A muzzle of bees seems to add muted, buzzing complexity in a Sangiovese with a faint if unusual smell of honey. In this Riserva, the “sun gets passed, sea to sea…with the breeze blown through.” The natural ripening leads to aromas indicating slow-cured plum, anise, and candied rose petals. The deeper tones are like hot autostrada surface, the gait slow roasted, with charred protein and dehydrating red fruits. In three years the fruit will seem fully dried, slightly oxidized and potentially caramelized. Express compliance of these instructions need heed by agreeing to drink this in the short term with an hour or two of radio air time. This to allow the astringent tannin to be tamed. Roger, Wilco that. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted May 2015 @castgabbiano@chianticlassico
Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2012, Yarra Valley, Australia ($29.95, WineAlign)
Culled from the upper and lower Yarra Valleys, the ’12 is a high-toned tome of rusty, dusty, ricochet in fruit. Seemingly warmer than its 13.5 alcohol suggests, but like the Arizona desert, it’s a dry heat. The metal urgency of sloping hillside impart is a bit tense. The is the OZ equivalent of terse Burgundy when mired in youth. The copious quantity of red fruit, both tart and ripe, is admirably in and with more time, beyond the current anxious phase, will come around again. The depth of flavour and grain ingrained in texture pushes the point. The finish is distinctly parallel and long. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted May 2015
Etude Pinot Gris 2013, Carneros, California ($39.95, WineAlign)
Made in Pinot Gris exactitude, of inklings warm, in certitude dry, to intimations Alsatian, with nobly bitter flavours and a wealth of grape tannin. The preceding aromas recalled late August orchard’s stone fruit. With lieu-dit (think Altenbourg) premier cru (equivalent) ability, this is a very stylish Pinot Gris with layers of fruit and acidity. It’s certainly one for the cellar, to forget and allow for a secondary set of developments, in wax, honey and atmospheric, elemental aerified notions. Quite fearless PG. Were it $30, it would surely be a multi-case buy. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted May 2015 @etudewines@CarnerosWine
Mas Las Cabes Côtes Du Roussillon 2012, Ac Côtes Du Roussillon, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($19.75, WineAlign)
Beautifully funky southern French Syrah-Grenache meld, at once warm and then modern, entrenched in earth and laden with a smother and a smoulder. Syrupy but characterful far beyond simple, with spice, savour and garagiste intent. The garrigue accent runs across the grain in high altitude, windswept ways. Solid protein red for any day of the week and a candidate for restaurant list partner. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted August 2015 @LanguedocWines
Frank Family Zinfandel 2012, Napa Valley, California ($42.75, WineAlign)
A really lovely Zinfandel, of pure red fruits and just a fine, delineating, if zig-zagging swath of bramble. Though the alcohol (listed at 14.8 per cent) is anything but peckish, the heat does not overtake the fruit. This has so many barbecue forms and fetishes written into its DNA. It will comply with nary a complaint. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted August 2015 @FrankFamilyWine@TheZinfandelOrg
Point blank Barberesco, autarchic and traditional, built on memories and bent on making new ones. From a clay-limestone, south facing, single vineyard in a cru called Montersino (in the Treiso commune). Where it differs from the Ronchi is the natural cure coursing in slow food motion through its blood stream, carrying micro-oxygenated blood. There are notes of crushed aniseed and sweaty clay. The mouthfeel is silkier, more refined and the tannins sweeter. Can actually imagine this pleasing sooner and also for longer. Drink 2017-2032. Tasted August 2015 @regionepiemonte
Kudyah is the arabic name for the Sicilian town of Licodea Eubea nearest to Terre di Giurfo’s vineyards. Quite classic, rich, ruby red raspberry and earth Nero d’Avola. Tons of fruit, chews of liquorice and a mineral finish add up to a very direct, simple pleasure. A scrape of orange zest adds a florality to lift spirits and relieve stress. Just a bit salutary and saline on the finish. Very honest Nero. Tasted 2015-2018. Tasted July 2015 @WinesOfSicily
Statuesque, rustic, ancient ruin of Franciacorta, on a clear day, of tall grasses, oxidative apples and slices of hard Lombardian cheese. A total, classical, storied package of gastronomy in a bottle. Not so much Rosé as much as bubbles with a fostered history of age. Arid as the desert and piercing from acidity. This will be misunderstood by some, reveled in by others. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted July 2015 @contadicastaldi@Franciacorta
Fattoria Di Milziade Antano Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2011, Doc Umbria, Italy ($50.50, WineAlign)
From arguably a better vintage than 2012, this Montefalco exhibits a deeper treasury of fruit, thankful and necessary to handle the wood it has been dealt. The fusion into such a sanguine and ferric stream has been achieved with more direct consciousness than the free-feeling and liberismo 2012 normale. The red fruit here is dense, steroidal even, yet still pure and direct. Largesse in rusticity is the plainly assessed goings on, chewy and dusty, a figure head for Sagrantino in Umbria. This is Italian wine to define the meaning of provinciale, deeply ingrained for place, history and tradition. Like its baby brother it will need time to settle but not so much that the fruit submits to the tannin. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted July 2015
Five is a big number. Any annual convention that survives and thrives into a fifth caucus must be divined by some unseen force, a guiding hand perhaps, by avatar or prosopopoeia. And something other. The International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration has priceless equity on its side. Three aces in the hole. Canadian climate and geology, adroit farmers and winemakers, simpatico of communities.
West coast writer Alder Yarrow spent three days in Ontario and referred to The Brilliance of Canadian Chardonnay. Wine Spectator contributing editor Matt Kramer said that Ontario is possessive of a “luminosity of flavour” and that its Chardonnay offers up “the element of surprise.” In Modern Wine Myths he tells the world about the measure of Canadian wine.
What is it that draws foreign winemakers and journalists to Canada? If people will come, their work meets vacation migration must want for a cause and effect to be a part of something special. South Africa’s Anthony Hamilton Russell said that “a layered, complex wine has to have completed its phenolic journey.” Despite what the world might think and think they know, peregrination by wine grapes, from bud break, through fruit set, véraison and into ripening, is a beautiful reality in Canada.
We walked away from the fourth Cool Chardonnay Conference last year wondering, asking that ubiquitous question, the same one we ask at the Expert’s Tasting every year.
Who among us had not believed that the pinnacle of hype had been compassed? Had four years of gatherings not fully realized a conspiracy to inject more than enough cool Chardonnay into thousands of minds and veins? Had anyone not wholly submitted to a seemingly seized reality in apogee of conversions, of maximum, critical mass?
Godello in the media room, White Oaks Conference Resort and Spa
Yes, we thought these things and then year number five blew our minds. We had been wrong. We found out that the bar had yet been breached. Further was still out there, not yet claimed, hovering in the realm of the possible and still, going forward, yet remains plausible. Looking back on the weekend of July 17-19, 2015, at locations blanketed across the Niagara Peninsula, Chardonnay got even cooler.
The School of Cool 2015 sessions were controversial, heated and extremely effective. On them I will need to expand upon at another time, in another post. For now, the crux of the conversation concerned two intense Chardonnay algorithms. First, consequence versus cosmetics. Said Kramer, “Niagara has the ability and the opportunity to create Chardonnays of consequence.” Marlize Beyers of Hidden Bench allowed this. “I do believe Chardonnay needs a little bit of cosmetics. Mouthfeel is important.” Discuss.
The second and most managed thread of discussion concerned the idea of minerality. Is it real? Dr. Gary Pickering: “Who cares?” Dr Alex Maltman: “It’s a lovely idea, journalists love it, has marketing capability, but it doesn’t hold up.” Paul Pender: “It’s a great story. I’m not 100 per cent sure its true. It’s more complex than that.” Albrecht Seeger: “Minerality is part of the terroir.” Matt Kramer: “The scientists don’t know a goddamn thing about wine.” Discuss.
Barrels and Bonfires, 13th Street Winery
On Friday night at 13th Street the theme was “boots & blue jeans,” to compliment Chardonnay, with a smoke-inspired feast, live music and cozy bonfires set amongst the vines.
Jay Johnston of Flat Rock Vineyards and Godello at Barrels and Bonfires, 13th Street Winery
On Saturday Chardonistas blanketed the Niagara region.
I spent the afternoon with winemaker Arthur Harder, Grant, Carolyn and Victoria Westcott at their Vinemount Ridge Westcott Vineyards property.
Fresh Salmon hors d’oeuvre by Lorenzo Loseto of George Restaurant, at Westcott Vineyards
George Restaurant Chef Lorenzo Loseto and Sommelier Christopher Sealy came to cook and pour. They went to town. Appetites were whetted, palates amused, bellies satiated, hearts skewered, minds hooked and time was lost to well spent.
Lunch at Westcott Vineyards
The main event’s setting was St. Catharines’ Ridley College, at which Chef Paul Harber (Ravine Vineyard Restaurant) and Chef Craig Youdale (Canadian Food & Wine Institute) assembled a dream team of the region’s top Vineyard Chefs to present an Ontario-centric family-style feast. Beer and red wine, “oh my,” “gasp,” “what sacrilege,” followed dinner.
#ILiveChardonnay at the Cool Chardonnay World Tour Tasting and Dinner at Ridley College
On Sunday morning the final convene took place, as it always does, at Ravine Vineyard. More stellar bites, oysters from Tide and Vine, Niagara cured gold Pingue prosciutto from Niagara Food Specialties and ping-pong in the vineyard. In the end, the love was felt, for the community that celebrates Ontario wine, for all the cool climate folks who came thousands of miles to participate and for Chardonnay.
The events provided opportunities to taste the Chardonnays on hand and with thanks to Wine Country Ontario, a media room was set up at White Oaks with full representation. Many of my tasting notes were formulated in that space. Here are twenty-five new Chardonnay reviews from the weekend at i4C15.
Cool Chardonnay in the media room at White Oaks Conference Resort and Spa
Calmel & Joseph Villa Blanche Chardonnay 2014, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (375071, $13.95, WineAlign)
Quite simple and surprisingly lush with more than ample acidity to keep vitality in the air. A balanced effort in a pretty plush Chardonnay. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted July 2015
If you reside in Ontario or happen to be passing through before September 13, 2015, the perfect value storm of Chardonnay swirls in your corner. It may be the most excellent 2012 you will find on shelves but looking forward to this (2013) vintage you will encounter a varietal tempest, a house crafted dictionary entry and in retrospect, memories regarding that two dollar limited time offer price reduction that doled out 10 per cent more satisfaction. The essentia of fresh glade aroma, cream in your corn texture and a gaol of circulating acidity add up to one seriously fleshy ($20 and/or $18), cool-climate, hovering in and around the Beamsville Bench Chardonnay. The Malivoire base wine is one of no beginning and no end so in that sense it will always get inside you. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted July 2015 @MalivoireWine@ShirazMottiar
Toro De Piedra Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2014, Maule Valley, Chile (417493, $17.95, WineAlign)
Rich, toasty and nutty Maule Chardonnay, full on, out and in favour of ambitious, lofty heights. Has massive creamy meets chalky mouthfeel and tropical fruit with spice by wood in spikes, not to mention high toned acidity and alcohol. It’s an aggressive if clumsy expression. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted twice, June and July 2015 @VinaRequingua@DrinkChile
Sur-lie barrel fermented Chardonnay all in for texture and fabric with a taste of soft French cream. Very ripe, especially in consideration of the vintage. The late flavours recall lemon curd and a touch of rind. In the end an elemental tonic push carries this skyward, as opposed to downward in earthy dredge, so imagine forward to a petrolish driven future, the engine leaving a trail of disposed energy. Quite complex and certainly fixed with boards to add nuts to the melting, oozing bolts. I would recommend leaving this for two years for the tension to subside. Then the creamy centre will spill out from beneath the pastry crust. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted July 2015 @TriusWines
13th Street June’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2013, VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $21.95, WineAlign)
The vineyard speaks louder and clearer with every passing vintage. In 2013 the level of atomic and aerified atmospheric pressure is unparalleled, from June and for any Chardonnay produced in the Creek Shores sub-appellation. At this early stage the ’13’s awkward, backward and racy character is uncomfortable but impossible to taste away from. This is Chardonnay on gym candy to be sure, rocking like a hurricane, dancing up a storm. The terpenes are titillating, the enzymes discharging. There is a bronze/patina/inside of a pipe metallic feel that adds to the texture improvisation. Nothing about this says drink now nor does it let you settle into a comfort zone. It’s just that all over the place. Will revisit in three years. Tasted December 2014 and July 2015 @13thStreetWines@Noble_Estates
Kirsten Searle, Matawhero Wines
Matawhero Chardonnay 2014, Gisborne, North Island, New Zealand (Agent, $21.95)
Unoaked but full malo crisp up this true blue, north island Chardonnay. A bob of fruit from the oldest (40 years) winery in the region and under current ownership for the past eight. You can tell after tasting with Kirsten Searle that the project has been a labour of love. Her words seem to say “heading out for the East Coast Lord knows I’ve paid some dues gettin’ through. Tangled up in blue.” Round and properly bitter, the world should not be demanded. East coast will do. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted July 2015
Quails’ Gate Chardonnay 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (377770, $21.95, WineAlign)
A strength in aromatic temper initializes the confrontation and the relationship. Once hooked, lemon and a waxy texture usher the palate through the middle reaches, then a swirl, tongue on a swivel, off to glide with sweetness into a gin and tonic backside ride. Goes fat and caressing for a spell, through a toasty phase and yet the wood is hidden or at least negligible. Could very well pass for unoaked in a way, especially considering the tang and the persistence. A very solid wine at a very workable price. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted twice, June and July 2015 @Quails_Gate@hobbsandco
Josef Chromy Chardonnay ‘Pepik’ 2014, Tasmania, Australia (Agent, $22.95)
Combines beauty and bitters for a streak of natural selection through a field of texture. Heads for the cream risen to the top of rich, pulls over and steps aside to allow for a crunch of green apple. The bite is real, lit by match and cut with spice. Great length. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted July 2015 @JosefChromy@bwwines
Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin 2013, Burgundy, France (289124, $24.95, WineAlign)
Climbs more than a rung or two up the reverent Chablis ladder to mingle with the Cru boys. Something about 2013 strikes as more serious, punctilious and free. This is benchmark Saint Martin, chalky and textured from soup to nuts, of spirits high and sky-scraping tang. The acidity is frank, the structure unwavering and the fruit to mineral dichotomy of a pure, mature and essential hookup. From verve to intensity and back again. Up and down, primary and natural. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted July 2015 @DomaineLaroche@Select_Wines@BIVBChablis
Chamisal Stainless Chardonnay 2014, Central Coast, California (416065, $24.95, WineAlign)
Quite classically cooled and unplugged yet intensely sunshine tangy. Fun yet on a seesaw of play and a boat on a rough sea up and down in balance. That is not to say that acidity does not exist but the tang is like heavy salad dressing, emulsified and sultry. No malolactic equates to green apples and blanched nuts, or those hulled direct from the tree. Texture is the thing, a child of crisp, cool fermentation. Freshness could use just a bit more ventilation. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted twice, June and July 2015 @ChamisalVyd@LiffordON
Chamisal Estate Chardonnay 2013, Edna Valley, California (Agent, $24.95)
French oak (45 per cent) and (25 per cent) of it new mixed with (50 per cent) malo has created an herbal cream piqued by spice. It’s kind of a chewy Chardonnay, well-judged, blended and crafted with both stainless steel and wood ramifications in meld together mind. A true dichotomy of pleasures, green and red, old and new, yes and no. Drink 2015-2021. Tasted July 2015 @ChamisalVyd@LiffordON
From vines planted by soil guru Alain Sutre, two km’s from the lake, close to Green Lane. If you make a comparison to Bench sites, this is an understated, hyper elegant version of a Chardonnay. It’s an underdog, plain and simple. Sixteen months of élevage has raised a beautiful, bitter green dignity, pith nicety and polite terpenes. A child in many ways who’s offspring will only serve to honour the family name. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted June and July 2015 @QueylusVin@LiffordON
Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay 2013, Margaret River, Western Australia (Agent, $25)
At a third of the cost of the Heytsbury, expectations for the Filius need not exceed prediction. Screw cap has sealed in reduction, sulphur and acidity so that upon liberation the wave of anxiety is nearly overwhelming. The Filius transmits waves of complexity, layers of predilection and outright Margaret River coolness but decanting that character is not unthinkable. Smoulder, struck match and green apple fruit are massively intertwined. Bold Chardonnay. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted July 2015 @vassefelix@bwwines
Jean Bourdy Côtes De Jura White 2008, Ac Jura, France (Agent, $28.00, WineAlign)
Tasting his Jura whites with Jean Bourdy can’t help but funnel the exercise into a tunnel, a vacuum and a bilateral directive inward and centripetal. Tradition is everything and this ’09 is neither the exception nor the anti-establishment rebel to the rule. Herbal balm and oxidized character persist but nowhere in the world can so much implosive energy exist in wine such as a Bourdy Jura. This vintage does not reinvent the oueille but the four fermenting years in oak, as per the centuries-old Côtes du Jura method seems to improve with the cleanliness of the process. Another white to follow well into the third decade of this century. Drink 2015-2035. Tasted July 2015 @CAVESJEANBOURDY@LiffordON
The 2012 early picked Reserve Chardonnay was the raw player, the talented yet unproven one, all about foreplay. Here in ’13, from fruit picked on October 7th is a different rock ‘n roll animal, wiser to vintage, mature in acumen, confident, a Ziggy Stardust. This charismatic leader of the Vinemount Ridge Chardonnay band, “could lick ’em by smiling, he could leave ’em to hang, came on so loaded man, well hung and snow white tan.” Works opulence with prejudice and here acts, sings, dances and displays equipped with nothing short of immediate distinction. There is nothing held back, no remedial work in progress and wisdom oozes beyond its years, in and of learning. The right time and the right place for the winemaker, the accomplice, the peer and the confidence of the partners. Drink 2015-2021. Tasted July 2015 @WestcottWines@VWestcott
What should small Vinemount Ridge yields, collected solar units and wise, thinking ahead of the curve decision making combine to procure? Grace under pressure. This is what winemaker Arthur Harder, proprietors Grant and Carolyn Westcott and Chardonnay have conspired to achieve out of the warm and challenging 2012 vintage. They picked in very early September. They laid the fruit down for 12 months in (four) 1st, 2nd and 3rd fill barrels. They sat back and waited for amalgamation. If 2012 shows this level of restraint, respect and reserve, well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is deserving of meritorious accolades at a very reasonable price. Drink 2015-2019.
From my earlier note of February 2014:
From vineyards planted in 2005, this new kid on the Jordan block spent 12 months in oak, half of it new. To a taster, you would never know it. In clone cousin to Le Clos Jordanne’s Chardonnay, this special project is the nephew of a set aside, four-barrel selection. Winemaker Arthur Harder (Calamus) has fashioned a head-turning clean, pure and most mineral-driven Chardonnay from impossibly young Vinemount Ridge vines. A quartz chord runs through it and with just two or three more years of vine age the fruit and adjoining texture will catch up to the rock. That integrated, subtle oak impart is of a Granny Smith apple kind, crisp and taut. Such a memorable inauguration with so much promise that lays ahead.
The omnipresent Escarpment stone etched, nicked and saturated into ferment from out of the Cave Spring Vineyard may never have extolled virtue any more so than out of the 2012 vintage. A tropical CSV and its accompanying mild, understated toast combs the faces for balance and bobs its keel in well-structured, puff pastry layering. A bitter sachet of schist on the back end steps into a really fine linger. CSV of real presence even in the midst of a summer swelter. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted twice, June and July 2015 @CaveSpring@TheVine_RobGro
There are many variations on the Lailey Chardonnay theme but none speaks as clear a Brother Derek Barnett vernacular as the Brickyard, a wine composed in clarity of Niagara River fruit. The former cherry tree and yes, brickyard site is blessed with a red clay soil and Niagara micro-climate that just circulates with enunciated vowels, consonants and graceful intonations. That this seminal vintage will be Barnett’s Lailey swan song is not lost on gist or preponderancy. The full intention, weight and breadth of fruit circles the wagons, prepares the last supper and the silence that follows knows this. This winemaker and this Chardonnay work harder than a great bulk of the competition and in the end, they together are a seamless, relentless and unflappable study in cool climate success. This wine must hold a rightful place in every wine country Ontario inamorato cellar. Drink 2016-2023. Tasted July 2015 @LaileyWinery
Jeremy Dineen of Josef Chromy Wines, Tasmania
Josef Chromy Chardonnay 2014, Tasmania, Australia (416339, $30.95, WineAlign)
Jeremy Dineen’s 2014 takes over the conversation at the precise moment the previous vintage left off, grabs attention and travels further along. With baton firmly in grasp, the ’14’s acidity dances in a filly’s realm, jittery, agitated, ready to jump out ahead of the pack. The citrus flavours are implosive, concentrated, in demand, distinctly Tasmanian. Though our time was short, to this Texas Tazzy I say, “we were together, I was blown away, just like paper from a fan.” If the ’13 was a creeping crooner, this ’14 is more a smoky-voiced songstress, trotting a longer track. It would be hard not to imagine seeing this Chardonnay as nearly unchanging in its first decade of life. Drink 2016-2025. Tasted July 2015 @JosefChromy @bwwines
Gérard Bertrand Domaine De L’aigle Chardonnay 2013, Limoux, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (Agent, $33.00, WineAlign)
A purposed effort from 2013 with even more direct precision, spice, freshness and linear strike flurry. A vital Limoux, of higher yield, lowered oak and acidity defined simply as the real deal. A tremendously exceptional and experiential vintage and one to help define the true identity of cool Chardonnay. Drink 2015-2022. Tasted July 2015 @GBvins@FwmWine@LanguedocWines
Megan Clubb of L’ecole 41 Wines
L’ecole 41 Chardonnay 2013, Columbia Valley, Washington (416370, $34.95, WineAlign)
A co-composed 60 per cent Yakima Valley (planted in the 1970’s) and 40 per cent Evergreen (mineral slope) Chardonnay extensive and extended of orchard fruit with a penchant for texture. The house style reached for uniformity, employing mostly older barrels and laying out bed linens for a brief five-months slumber. Hear this though, the 41 is the sum of its parts and may sport a fat lip but it’s no “victim of your conformity.” Texture is the thing, a result of a warm vintage, cool Evergreen nights in the fall and rampant malolactic fermentation (despite attempts to block it). A Chardonnay “strollin’ to the party like (his) name is El ninio.” Arabesque weave and flavours that go punk and pop. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted July 2015 @lecole41@TrialtoON@WineCommission
If the 2011 Wild Ferment spoke in treble clef, this ’12 pounds out a deeply resonating bass note, from instruments wooden and speaking on behalf of the vintage. Deeply smoky, layered and rich beyond yeasty belief, this is a massively structured wine for Niagara, specific to the Lincoln Lakeshore and its ability to ripen fruit of such density. The tang factor is set to 12, above and beyond what winemaker Craig McDonald has reached for before. This vintage, surmised with such yeast, takes ’10, layers it with ’11 and pops out the most plush to date. Missing is the exceptional acidity of 2011 though the overall anatomy and architecture can’t be denied. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted July 2015
The 2012 Felseck is a wine dramatically and diametrically opposed to many other vintages from out of this fundamental Hidden Bench vineyard. Here oozes Chardonnay so very lees layered, emulsified, misty-eyed and far from reductive, having left the 44 per cent new, 14 months in barrel behind. From fruit culled off of east-west Felseck rows in a hot year that saw fundamental leaf plucking/canopy management. The wondrous emotion is condensed in taste and texture, with the bitters turned up a notch, though in their finale they use spice to conjure up ardor, for to melt into length. Unwavering Chardonnay. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted July 2015 @HiddenBench@BenchVigneron
Winemaker Thomas Bachelder combed the blocks of the lowland “villages” sites and in slow-forward cohorts with the most subtle barrels, came up with the cuvée for the Reserve ’13. The same percentage of new oak fed the fruit with love, time, juncture and encouragement. A creamy lustre careens into honey, giving retrospective cue to suckle and accumulating richness. What fortune to work with 2013 for the purpose of announcing a Queylus take on tiers of Chardonnay to the world. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted June and July 2015
If 2013 is turning out to be the first truly great Chardonnay vintage of the century out of Sonoma, the Flowers SC is categorically up front and centre in that discussion. The epic’s lead paragraph initializes here in a wine that is severely accurate, a blinding and gorgeous expression that brings the flowers in its game. A wield of pulchritude and balance by acidity spot on. Pure flavour extract expands and the components zing on the finish. Could there lurk a Meursault notion in its lace? You know what, forget that. Strike comparisons from the record. The Flowers is extraordinary of Chardonnay, by Chardonnay and for Chardonnay. Drink 2016-2025. Tasted July 2015 @FlowersWinery@rogcowines@sonomavintners
Taittinger Comtes De Champagne Blanc De Blancs Vintage Brut Champagne 2005, Champagne, France (Agent, $225.00, WineAlign)
From a warm vintage out of the top Grand Cru terroir of the Comptes. Essential white flower essence, pure driven snow and liquid chalk. Even though at this 10 year mark this is essentially a gift to assess, the Comtes is entirely approachable in requiem for no further delay. Plenty of energy drives the flavours straight to the back of the buds and were they to linger longer than they prolong to do, the wine would be an utter stroke of genius. As it is, that bench is nearly marked. Drink 2015-2025. Tasted July 2015 @Taittinger_FR@TaittingerUSA@FwmWine
Twenty-five previously reviewed Chardonnays poured at the 2015 Cool Chardonnay weekend: