The great Gabbiano

@castgabbiano in light of expression and meaning

A return visit at Castello di Gabbiano

Federico Cerelli is Chianti Classico’s new renaissance ranger, a man on a mission to not only seek out great terroirs but also to reinvent what can be induced, coaxed, persuaded and realized from his denizens of field and plantation. Though Castello di Gabbiano’s portfolio is a massive project with scopic reach, Cerelli never rests on complacency, laurels or sales figures. There is no settling for average at Gabbiano or the blasé delivery of unexciting wines just because you’ve already earned the trust of your buyers. If a Gabbiano owned or managed vineyard in Mercatale Val di Pesa requires the cash to improve the health of the vines or to rip out and replant, than it is done. Can there be a finer example of commercial scope meeting artigianale than the quixotic and obsessive Castello di Gabbiano?

About his masterpiece novel F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “I want to write something new, something extraordinary and beautiful, simple and intricately patterned.” Like the vineyards of Gabbiano but also a project in Radda in Chianti that is Federico’s new baby, that being the remarkable IGT Toscana work at Poggio di Guardia with Stefano di Blasi. It is there on a storied plot and historical estate where they are producing sangiovese with cabernet, merlot and amphora raised rebo. Cerelli can thank the work he’s put in at Gabbiano and the team who support his endeavours for this springboard to something exciting and new.

Gabbiano’s hills in Mercatale Val di Pesa

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

A return visit to the 12th century Castello di Gabbiano touches an estate and a castle that remained in the possession of the Florentine banking family Bardi until the early part of the 15th century. After it passed to the Soderini family, one of the most politically influential families in Florence, it was converted of the turreted manor house of Gabbiano in Fattoria, already completed by the late 15th century.

Today the 147 hectare estate is divided up into DOCG Chianti Classico (109 hectares), IGT (35) and Vin Santo. I have had the pleasure to taste with winemaker Federico Cerelli, Managing Director Ivano Reali and Marketing Director Silvia Bottelli on several occasions and this most recent sit-down focused on vertical looks at Riserva and Gran Selezione. Ivano is responsible for directing the complete renewal of all estate vineyards including new plantings and managed improvements to the estate’s winemaking facilities and practices. At the start of our visit Federico drove us to the ridge opposite and to the east of the castle and winery to gain a clearer ante-understanding of Gabbiano’s soil types, slopes, aspects and exposures. Looking at the blocks you can intuit how the two men work side by side with meticulous attention, verging on obsessive, to focus on agriculture and how it connects to winemaking. Federico and Ivano are in constant analytic contact with the vineyards and corresponding production methods. There is no rest for these two. Later on our discussion on Gabbiano and Chianti Classico carried over to dinner at the estate’s restaurant, Il Cavaliere. These are my notes on the seven wines poured.

Triumvirate #chianticlassico Riserva and Gran Selezione verticals at @castgabbiano with Federico Cerelli 2011-2013

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

The consistency of the Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva continues in 2015 and it is becoming increasingly impossible to find matchable quality at this price level. The 2015 is a Riserva of extreme youth, really grippy, full, extracted and liquid chalky rich. Don’t misunderstand or be duped because this ’15 isn’t brighter than the more than surprising ’14. It is not a question of stepping back from success and time will be a factor for both longevity and the preservation of freshness. So it is a matter of vintage. This carries an early and spicy sangiovese wisdom and this will serve it well. It’s frankly a bit hot right now but that too will relax. With each passing year another rung is ascended up the CCR ladder forged by the Federico Cerelli and Ivano Reali Gabbiano union. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2017  castellodigabbiano  markanthonyon  @castgabbiano  @MarkAnthonyWine  @castellogabbiano  Ivano Reali (Castello Di Gabbiano)  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (216309, $22.95, WineAlign)

Now tasting with winemaker Federico Cerelli he says he wasn’t even sure he would make Riserva out of 2014 but with more skin contact and longer maceration he was able to add some structure. The depth is the thing. This will age much longer than most would choose to give it credit for.  Last tasted September 2017

The difficulties presented by the vintage were determinate in excluding the Gran Selezione Bellezza from production so it is that bottle’s loss that became the Riserva’s gain. The single vineyard’s 2014 yield may not have been stellar but its significance is not lost on the overall Riserva gathering, down 40 per cent in quantity. It is here that we see the expertise of a winemaker like Federico Cerelli, to work with new parameters literally thrown at him by chaos and uncertainty. Less than 18,000 bottles came out of 2014 and the wine saw its expected time in barriques and botti, none of which were new. This is CCR of sangiovese brightness meets firm ’14 grip. The varietal freshness is preserved in ways previous vintages were not. Once again this incumbent year is put on vivid display, befallen to knowing hands and forward thinking minds. The aging potential here is excellent. Drink 2018-2029. Tasted February 2017

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

The advanced character is minor but poignant, as expected and predicted. A touch of balsamic, softness and richness.  Last tasted September 2017

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

Burrata e pomodoro at IL Cavaliere del Castello di Gabbiano

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

Bright, structured, vibrant, just in a great state, with tons of fruit and yet it will continue to improve, over the next two or three years.  Last tasted September 2017

Tasted with winemaker Federico Cerelli alongside the new era ushering 2012, a wine with six months further resolve, which is really just a moment in life. Looking at this 2013 it clings to that ’12’s ideal, still firm and in need of down time, stirring still, wasting some time. Here a gear switch, alteration and adjustment. A reduction of new oak, an increase of the mineral cogitation specific to the Albarese soil, with tannins great like in 2012 but finer, more elegant. This is more classic in the sangiovese thought because what also is allowed is the level of dry extract, “over 30 for sure” notes Cerelli. This Bellezza is pure sangiovese, the best Bellezza in years, classic to remind of many years ago but a very modern wine. It is the Gabbiano predicament and the predilection to announce what Gran Selezione means so in a word, bravo. You could actually drink this now and then over 25 years. “What is Bellezza? This is the best block of the estate” is the answer as told by Federico. Great tannins, simply great tannins. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted May 2016 and February 2017

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Bellezza 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Quite antithetical to the bookends of 2011 and 2013 this feels a bit cooked and raisined at this stage though it’s certainly a different sort of vintage and forged from a deferential set of structure parameters. Enjoy earlier while the others work their slower evolutions.  Last tasted September 2017

Sangiovese all in, 100 per cent pure-blood and nothing but new barrels to round off every divergence, angle and edge. Expectations demand secondary characteristics from such a bella Chianti and this piccolo Gran Selezione delivers. In 2012 it over-delivers, already hinting at tertiary aromas and flavours, leathery, cedary and potent. Due to its advancing ways it’s a bit of a double-edged sword, albeit carried by a knight on a beautiful horse. It’s a joust we should all be willing to wage in the near to medium term, especially if a Florentine steak or double cut-veal chop are part of the battle. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2016

Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Bellezza 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (652438, $39.95, WineAlign)

Tasting Gabbiano’s Gran Selezione Bellezza 2011 in 2017 is a treat of timing and perhaps the advantage is unfair, also for having already tasted 2012 and 2013 on two occasions each. The slings, arrows and raptures of experience offer perspective for having waited out this Chianti Classico borne of a hottish and dry season. Now having gained another two years in bottle it has benefited from the integration and the settling. I really get true sangiovese character, savoury, tart, energetic but certainly sheathed in more new barrel than the more recent and scaled back vibrant 2013. Really chewy, this ’11 has come together in such an amenable and fortuitous way. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Ristorante Il Cavaliere at Castello di Gabbiano

Gabbiano Dark Knight 2016, IGT Toscana (Agent, $17.99, WineAlign)

Dark Knight is cabernet sauvignon and merlot from the Tuscan coast with some estate sangiovese, It’s lush, dark, silky with a little bit of residual sugar (7 g/L). Fruity, simple, faintly sweet and for so many commercial purposes, it’s a slam dunk. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

@castgabbiano in light of expression and meaning

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

If you’re going to San Casciano

Bistecca fiorentina, Villa Le Corti

Chianti Classico the region is both muse and magnet, its reservoir of territorial intrigue and sangiovese anthology infinite in possibility. By junket or by migration through its communes there is always a sense of awe and wonder, yet no matter how many times the roads, villages and vineyards are travelled there is always something new. This is the story of San Casciano in Val di Pesa.

Related – A river runs through Greve

San Casciano is one of nine sub-zones of Chianti Classico, also a hamlet, while the commune sits on the north-western border of the greater territory in Toscana. It shares only two sectional borders, with Tavarnelle Val di Pesa to the south and Greve in Chianti to the east and southeast. From the town’s centre to Piazza del Duomo in Firenze should take about half an hour, excluding summertime. The full name San Casciano in Val di Pesa tells us that it’s location is proximate to the valley of the Pesa river. My colleagues John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steve Robinson and I paid a visit with an armful of San Casciano producers in September, 2017. Our host was the affable meets honourable Duccio Corsini of Principe Corsini – Villa Le Corti. The take away from this visit was a sense of San Casciano’s inner voice and exclusive temperament but also how it fits into the puzzle that is Chianti Classico.

Related – The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

The word congeries comes from the Latin verb congerere, which means “to carry or bring together,” though it could also move through the Italian, palificazione, or piling. I’m not sure any sub-zone typifies this concept more than San Casciano, in part because the multiplicity of its sangiovese rivals or even exceeds many to most anywhere in the greater district. When you pile one on top of another in a tasting you feel the weight and the density but also the permutation and variegation. These are a collection of sangiovese hard to pin down even if this particular sample size is perhaps too small and so a sooner over later return for more will be crucial.

The Gallo Nero of Luiano

Related – Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

From San Casciano we expand outwards again to think on Chianti Classico the concept as based on the figuration that is the Gallo Nero, a symbol not only designed and enshrined to classify the wines raised from these multifarious soils but to ingrain something deeper, meaningful and soulful. The Gallo Nero stamps each bottle of sangiovese with a seal of amour-propre approval, for a conceit of quality, not out of outrecuidance but in recognition that the opinion of others does matter. San Casciano now sits in requiem of such avowal and validation.

Inside the Chianti Tower, San Casciano in Val di Pesa

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Just as you’ve settled into the comfort zone of knowing your way around the landmarks of a place, the people take hold of your hand, put on a blindfold (not literally) and reveal a site that blows your mind. The Chianti Tower of San Casciano is an unusual spike of architecture, quirky and seemingly displaced, that is until you make the climb (by elevator) up to its observation deck. From up above there are vistas that take in the Florentine hills and Vallombrosa, the mountains of Pistoia, and Pisa. The panorama turns to the Chianti and Chianti Classico landscape, Siena’s hamlets and perhaps, on a really clear day, the Ligurian sea.

Related – Castellina in golden light

The 33 meters high cylindrical surge tank tower is part of the Museo di San Casciano in Val di Pesa, owned by the Comune and is characterized in form as suggestivo or evocativo. It’s post World War Two reconstruction continues its function as a storage water reservoir, but it is the panoramic terrace that steals the visitation show. Our group was joined by a gaggle of San Casciano winemakers to take in the immediate and extrapolated lands.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

Over these last few weeks I have published six articles on sub-zones and this seventh and final essay on San Casciano concludes the heavily scrutinizing reconnaissance mission. For now. By the time this week has come to its end I’ll be back in Chianti Classico for more, this time with the knowledge that everything I have thus far learned will be turned on its head, refreshed and begun anew. The goal is always deeper understanding but who am I to speak in absolutes. The journey has just begun. If you’re going to San Casciano you’re gonna meet some gentle people there. Here are my tasting notes on six examples from six wamhearted producers.

Niccolò Montecchi, Cigliano

Cigliano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 189803, $19.95, WineAlign)

Deep, dark and sombre inhalant of grand vineyard fruit in the premium selezione vein, this is indeed a sobering San Casciano in Val di Pesa Chianti Classico with wild berries, herbs and drops of fine liqueur, almost like Vin Santo but without sugar. Cigliano takes a certain road for 2014 and gets away with murder. This could have turned out hot and bothered but the balance is struck by chords of great acidity and tension. This pulls no sangiovese or vintage punches and is clearly the work of a rogue winemaker. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February and September 2017  Villa del Cigliano    @VilladelCigliano

Stefano Pirondi, La Sala

La Sala Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Sala from Stefano Pirondi carries 10 per cent merlot in address of the sangiovese with some green tannin integrated into the black cherry. From sites up at 300m, a mix of Alberese and deep clay but almost all red clay in 2014. Not a very ripe CC, only five hectares (20,000 bottles) were vinified. Half and half stainless and large French wood, very spicy and quite red citrus, but on the dark side. I would give it a year to soften. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017  cantinalasala  @LaSalaVini  La Sala

La Querce Seconda Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

From vineyards quite close to Florence (8 kms) this 100 per cent sangiovese has been organic since 2001. It now seems ripe for 2014, into the depth of steeping cherries, a touch hollow up the middle, but deep, rich and actually quite easy to drink. Last tasted September 2017.

From the most northern Chianti Classico vineyard located in the area of San Casciano in Val di Pesa, La Querce Seconda by Niccoló Bernabei is high-spirited, of tart to volatile brightest of bright red fruit with toasted fennel to nose. Quite a tart palate as well with furthered spirit and quite sweet tannin. This is old school but alive and vital. Will live this kind of life for a spell. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2017    @LaQuerceSeconda  laquerceseconda

My triple-threat of @luiano terroir is right over there, in #sancasciano #alessandropalombo

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

Luiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, DOCG, Italy (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Luiano’s Chianti Classico Riserva 2014 by Alessandro Palombo, is 95 per cent sangiovese with a touch of body-adding merlot. “For us Riserva has always been a cellar selection and a representation of Luiano’s three distinct sub-soils,” tells Palombo. This is a 2014 postcard in a nutshell, cool and deep, with some bretty and volatile nature though just a wonderful whisper. Done in bigger oak casks and recently bottled (well March of 2017), some cakiness is baked into the structure though filled in with binding mortar. It’s silky, supple and certainly a wine that will age into umami secondary character. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017  luianowine  ale_luiano  tre.amici.imports  @LuiLuiano  Luiano®   Alessandro Palombo  @treamiciimports

Azienda Agricola Mori Concetta Chianti Classico Morino 2014, DOCG, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

It’s a wise old story but the San Casciano 2014 from Massimo Becattelli is a beacon to reel us in towards a new Chianti Classico understanding. Named after his mother Mori this vino is very much alive, anything but memento mori, more like a reflection on immortality. The very small production is the work of a one man band with modest hands, only one hectare, planted by Massimo’s father 40 years ago. It has now been replanted with the clones of the old vineyard in June of 2015. This Annata is 80 per cent sangiovese, 12 canaiolo and eight colorino. There is soul, volatility, depth, intensity and finesse in what is a rustic but cultured ’14 with fruit and more fruit, but graced by this underlying Galestro feel. Only 287 bottles were made of Massimo’s “lavoro di passione.” Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  @az.agr.moriconcetta

Linguine con coniglio, Villa Le Corti

Villa Le Corti Principe Corsini Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Don Tommaso 2013, DOCG, Italy (Agent, $62.50, WineAlign)

Don Tommaso 2013 is named after Duccio Corsini’s father, was first made in 1994 and here contains 80 per cent sangiovese with 20 per cent merlot. The latter is meant for smoothing the angles, something that is also accomplished by aging in tonneaux and second passage barriques. Villa Le Corti – Principe Corsini’s Gran Selezione is a very silky smooth, deep black raspberry fruit forward wine with high acidity and green savour running through. Not from a cru originally, just the right grapes but over time narrowed down to three vineyards. Chocolate oozes all over the finish. “I do what I do with what I have, adding people,” says Duccio. Sounds like the Chianti Classico equivalent of climat. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2017  villalecorti  artisanal_wine_imports  @PrincipeCorsini  Principe Corsini  @artisanalwineimports

Bistecca fiorentina, Villa Le Corti

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

A river runs through Greve

Ruffoli, Greve in Chianti

Chianti Classico is not one of the more famous left versus right bank terroirs in Europe but in the case of Greve in Chianti a river does run through it. My recent September 2017 sangiovese exploration brought me to Greve and a retrospective concern shows how visits to Querciabella, Villa Calcinaia and a subset of Montefioralle wines now explain a contrast in landscape meets topography, position and soil that at the time was not fixed on my menzioni geografiche radar. What happens left or west of the river is one thing and to the right something other. Were that it were so simple I wouldn’t have to expand, but it’s not and I do.

Related – The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

The Greve river (fiume Greve) is a 43 kilometre slide of twists, turns, switchbacks, rises, falls and settles into floodplains. It’s origins are upon Monte Querciabella in Radda, north of Volpaia, southwest of Badaccia a Monetmuro and southeast of Lamole. Heading swiftly northwest it then crests as a flat flood plain between Panzano and Greve, known as the Piano di Montagliari. Continuing north it slices the village of Greve in Chianti and along Strada 222 past Villa Calcinaia, Verrazzano and Vicchiomaggio. It eventually spills into the Arno River at Firenze.

Related – Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

Querciabella’s position in Ruffoli east of the Greve hamlet and the river is one of the more distinct and perhaps least understood of Greve’s areas. Ruffoli is another communal sub-zone that requires the introspective investigation for its singularities and peculiarities. It is the Chianti Classico poster child for seeing the vineyards through the trees. Along with neighbours Il Carbonaione and Il Tagliato there forms a special bond for the combination of altitude, great stands of forests and the multifarious soils that have been unearthed from beneath those heavy woods. In fact Ruffoli may be the most Burgundian meets Alsatian terroir in all of Tuscany. It’s a very cool place.

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Not all clones are created equal #sangiovese #ruffoli #chianticlassico #greveinchianti #querciabella

Related – Castellina in golden light

Comparatively speaking Villa Calcinaia and the hills west of Greve are more of a landscape of tumbling rocks and stones down hills into gravel and silt where the river lies below. Stand on the upper terrace of Calcinaia’s property, look up into the hills and then back across the Chiantigiana and the study in contrasts is a fascinating one. Calcinaia’s soils down by the river are clay-loam and as you climb the hill the sand and calcaire with Galestro predominating lends the name “chalk quarry” to the estate.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

South from Calcinaia and Viticcio we come upon the next great Greve sub-zone known as Montefioralle. Simply assessed Montefioralle is close to Castello di Montefioralle, southwest of Greve and south of Greti. The hamlet has 79 residents and sits at an elevation of 352 meters. The zonazione is home to the Associazione Viticoltori Montefioralle of 14 producers; Altiero, Belvedere, Brogioni Maurizio, Villa Calcinaia, Podere Campriano, Podere San Cresci, Roberto Grassi, Le Palei, Luciano Meli, Poggio Riccioli, Schietto, Terre di Baccio, Castello Di Verrazzano and Vitticio. The growers refer to their collective soil soul as “on the left side of the river, the peculiarity of the soil and the microclimate give to the Sangiovese grapes a unique and strong identity.” The terroir in Montefioralle is indeed mostly calcareous clay, with sand and in some cases, outcrops of “compresso indifferenziato argille scagliose,” part schisty calcaire with less instances of Galestro or Alberese and more Macigno. Once again yet another micro-territory in Chianti Classico to be considered for menzione geographiche aggiuntive.

This sixth of seven exposés on i cru di enogea, the greater and smaller territories within Chianti Classico covers the visit to Querciabella and the Montefioralle tasting with Sebastiano Capponi at Villa Calcinaia. I’ve reviewed 18 wines in total.

Querciabella

Querciabella is the continuing vision of the late patriarch Giuseppe Castiglioni, a man of Milanese origins who purchased and launched the estate in 1974 in the post sharecropping, mezzadrina era. Since 1988 with his precocious and ahead of the global game decision to convert the farm to organic practices, it is the emotional and soulful braintrust of Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni that leads Querciabella forward. The estate is also biodynamic (2000) although minus the hocus-pocus, voodoo chile, astrological, new age nonsense. There are no animal-based preparations employed, no stuffing cow horns with manure, only plants, all in the name of applications rooted in ethical principles. The forests are maintained and cover crops are composed of grasses, herbs, cruciferous vegetables and legumes. 

Our visit to Querciabella coincided with harvest so we were able to watch first hand the sangiovese grapes coming in and going through the presses. Grapes destined for Chianti Classico and IGT Toscana. In 2000 Querciabella’s Camartina was proclaimed as the greatest Italian wine of the year by virtue of combining scores rated by the Italian wine guides. At the time it was a sangiovese dominant blend and in this tasting we were able to taste a vertical that showed how it has transformed into the cabernet-led blend it is today. The cru of Ruffoli was investigated through pours of Chianti Classico and Palfreno, a merlot only made in selected vintages. We also got a glimpse into the history and evolution of Bátar, a white wine of not so subtle reference to Bâtard-Montrachet. Our tasting was one of patent application for full Querciabella disclosure, led by winemaker Manfred Ing and CEO Roberto Lasorte.

Revisiting the exceptional @querciabella @chianticlassico at the source

Querciabella Mongrana 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $28.95, SAQ 11192183, $25.25, WineAlign)

The first vintage of Mongrana was 2005 and the blend is now 50 per cent sangiovese plus 25 each cabernet franc and merlot. The fruit comes coastal from the Maremma, easy-going dusty and orchard red. Very red fruit, so crushable with ripe acidity and a grippy finish. Spicy and round, but pointed, in a right and delectable direction. Bloody delicious, this medieval blend of poetry, of knights and horses. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  querciabella  grape_brands  @Querciabella   @querciabella

Querciabella Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (728816, $30.25, WineAlign)

This vintage is the third as a 100 per cent sangiovese and Manfred Ing points out how there is a lot less Radda fruit in the mix due to pest problems and so much of that fruit was dropped. Whatever (lack of) balance may have been in question last February is no longer debatable. This is a most exceptional 2014.  Last tasted September 2017

I am at first quite surprised by the aromatic candy and volatility on this Greve in Chianti Querciabella when considered after the extraordinarily balanced 2013 recently tasted. But this ’14 is still silly young and the sweet opening is just a portal in which to crawl through. Once inside there is this specific liquor, a pool filled with more wealth of sangiovese fruit than the basin can currently hold. So it’s spilling over the edges in its youth and it’s simply too much for the glass to hold. I think the house took this a bit too far in reaction to ’14’s weather and a bit of balance has been compromised. I’m not sure this will ever find the elegance that ’13 showed but it does match the ripeness and the necessary triumvirate opposition forces of grip, acid and tannin. Huge wine. Maybe it just needs five years to settle into its skin because of course the fruit is red bright, not dark, hematic and brooding. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

This Riserva picks up right where the ’13 normale left you hanging and wishing for more. As is so often the case when it can be excellent CC but disappointing, or at least, not quite meeting high expectations from CCR. This Querciabella carries the same pure fruit but with another layer of concentration and purity. Where it really excels is in a combinative and almost but not quite too serious combative struggle between texture and structure. The acidity is red tapioca pearly fine and the tannins ridiculously fine. So appreciative of this Burgundian-style, Beaune winemaking for sangiovese. Certainly Premier Cru in quality though in the end, if only by a splitting hair, I will always choose the CC. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February and September 2017

Querciabella Turpino 2011, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $54.95, WineAlign)

Turpino Toscana IGT is a blend of cabernet franc (40 per cent), syrah (40) and merlot (20), with this being the second commercial vintage. For winemaker Manfred Ing it’s about “having the ability to do small, micro-vinifications,” to produce a Super Tuscan wine from the Maremma coast, but here also including some cabernet franc and merlot from Greve. It’s hematic with still a minor reductive note that persists and though its draws from grapes and sites around the region the Querciabella liqueur distinguishes and pervades. The name’s origin might come from one of a few sources. Turpino, an eighth century monk and archbishop of Reims, Turpinus or Tylpinus. Turpino from the poem written by Ludovico Ariosto, the “Orlando Furioso.” Or perhaps fictional from the medieval verse Cronaca di Turpino o Historia Karoli Magni et Rotholandi. The wine is grandioso in its own right, really wound tight, still of the Querciabella red fruit but quite forward and stand alone despite the oak and the age. The freshness is actually quite remarkable as it seems both agronomist and winemaker really understand their fruit. There is even a marine saltiness running through. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Camartina

Querciabella Camartina 2011, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $100.00, WineAlign)

Camartina is Querciabella’s red of greatest reason, lineage and purpose, from Giuseppe Castiglioni through Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni and Manfred Ing. The first vintage was 1981 of this 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 30 sangiovese from organic (1988) and biodynamic (2000), frightfully low-yield vineyards and it is not produced when the year is not right. The varietal obviousness from the cabernet is so transparent, especially for Toscana, dusty, Cassis-led, full of black raspberry fruit and ripe verbena. The sangiovese brings the acidity and a secondary layering of tannin but there is nothing fat or brooding about the cabernet. Freshness again and elasticity that starts wise and comes back in. Very focused and length that delivers more and more waves of that fruit. Tannins are pure and their fineness only stretches and further lengthens the accord. There can be no consideration of understanding until at least four years after vintage with seven being the correct launching point. Alas. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Camartina 2005, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Camartina in 2005 is 70 per cent cabernet and 30 sangiovese, two years forward after 2003, the point where the cabernet replaced the sangiovese as the varietal so here we are early in that ideal. An ideal that has persisted to 2011 and beyond. Warmth of vintage shows with 12-year mark secondary character but of a vintage that wasn’t (at the time) considered great (being between 2004 and 2006). Here it’s really claret-Bordeaux like, with Cassis, graphite and this open phase of life. Really quite expressive and yet the wood is more a part of the mix, albeit with a savoury edge. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Camartina 1999, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Camartina back in 1999 was a very different wine, of 85-90 per cent sangiovese and 10-15 per cent cabernet sauvignon, all from Greve, specifically the cru of Ruffoli. Would have qualified as a Chianti Classico Riserva back then (and potentially Gran Selezione now, though not for long), both because of varietal percentage and location. So the reference point is taken, this from the last Camartina that winemaker/enologist Giacomo Tachis followed through to the end. The structure has made this one built to last with the umami factor running plateau high and the acidity persistent and lifted, but sweet and layered. The spice, savour and this mint-rosemary-lavender-sage mix is really quite striking. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Palfreno 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Palafreno is organic and biodynamic Greve farmed 100 per cent merlot from Ruffoli made in small quantities and only in the finest vintages, with 2000 being the first. Picking merlot is the most precarious preoccupation in Toscana, as explained by Manfred Ing, “it’s nearly ready, it’s ready and it’s gone.” The three-day window of merlot. Palafreno is an ancient Italian word designating a noble riding horse used by medieval knights for travel, parades or tournaments. Palafreno the merlot is an open book, quite ripe, not from a cold vintage to be sure but one of a a slow ripening gait, with some rain and then long, extended trotting through heat. Very spicy, really chalky, tart, tight and highly tannic. In other words, merlot of structure, musculature and regal status. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2017

Batter

Querciabella Bátar 2014, IGT Toscana, Italy (SAQ 12294771, $97.00, WineAlign)

Batar from the Latin battere, variant of battuere, to beat, strike repeatedly hit. Bátar, a not so subtle reference to Montrachet and at Querciabella the name used to have a D on the end, but a letter from the French changed that, to Batàr with the accent but the Milanese translation remains essentially the same. Between 1988 and 1991 the wine was called Bâtard-Pinot, which was a blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Between 1992 and 1994 the name was Bâtard because Chardonnay had been added to the blend. In 1995 the name was changed to Batàr in order to avoid confusion with French AOCs of Burgundy whose name contains the word ‘Bâtard’ (Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet). Batàr is the Querciabella outlier, a long thought on project to combine pinot bianco and chardonnay and elevate its white appellative status though barrel aging and full malolactic. It may just be the most singular white wine in all of Chianti Classico, perhaps in all of Toscana. It’s like Beaune-Bourgogne and Norman Hardie rolled into one Tuscan white blend package, with a fine oxidative line running through a fresh, tannic and pure wine, with thanks to the generous use of French barrels. The length is exceptional but to be honest, not unexpected. Another galestro-elastic-saline wine, in its own special way. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2017

Querciabella Bátar 1998, IGT Toscana, Italy (WineAlign)

Batàr has been the name since 1995 after the Bourgignons forced Querciabella to drop the “D” at the end. This ’98 is certainly oxidative (and unavoidably so because of style and time) but the acidity really persists. A comparison with 2014 is quite futile as this is just from another era. Texture and flesh is strong, floral, honeyed, tannic again and even carrying some notes of pineapple, beeswax and almandine. Would make for a wonderful blind pour at a pirates on a picnic dinner. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Appassitoio (drying room) at Villa Calcinaia

Villa Calcinaia

For a full report on Villa Calcinaia please click on this link.

Related – Six hundred years of Villa Calcinaia in Chianti Classico

After a September evening visit to Calcinaia we convened at Ristorante Pane E Olio in Firenze for a final meal with the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico’s Silvia Fiorentini, Christine Lechner and Calcinaia’s Count, Sebastiano Capponi. It was here that he opened the only varietal bottle of its kind.

Villa Calcinaia Occhiorosso 2015, IGT Vino Dei Colli Della Toscana Centrale, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Occhiorosso is Endemic to Lamole, cultivated at Calcinaia and raised by Sebastiano Capponi. Only the lonely occhiorosso are the red eyes of Greve in Chianti, the war on drugs varietal feeling, in cohorts to cousin sangiovese. “Come and see, where or when there’s everything. On my ways, be better, get to my soul.” Drink 2017 -2019.  Tasted September 2017

I was under the impression this was called “Ocolos” which could very well be a shortened version of concupiscentia oculorum, “the lust of the eyes,” or in this case sarcopodium odoratum, with a sangiovese-copycat more volatile (but not screaming sour in any acetic way), just earthy, not microbilia, but soil funky. This is in fact Occhiorosso, drawn from a specific seven rows of vines, adding up to one barrique and it will go to bottle in July. Earthy, from Galestro soil located on the upper seventh and eight terrace of sangiovese, so different from the single-vineyard cousin, Gran Selezione Bastignano. The perfume is redolent of sweet scented bedstraw and exotics, like orchids just beginning to decay in water, still in control of its enticements. This is the natural sangiovese, very specific to place. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted from barrel, February 2017

Greve in Chianti – Montefioralle

The Montefioralle Divino wine festival organized and promoted by the Grape Growers Association of Montefioralle took place on September 23 and 24, just four days before we met at Villa Calcinaia to taste through the wine growers’ wines. The harvest festival is a two day event with tasting stalls and direct sale. The members are producers with estates and/or vineyards holdings around the Montefioralle hill west of Greve.  @ViMontefioralle  @viticoltorimontefioralle

A #greveinchianti #montefioralle @chianticlassico run through @villacalcinaia in Sebastiano’s caves

Altiero Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Altiero Chianti Classico 2014 by Paolo Baldini is 100 per cent Montefioralle sangiovese with a distinct reduced balsamico, soy and tar complexity. Oak stands out in a deep, dark and handsome way. It’s kind of sweet in a chcolate ooze of dessert topping sort of way. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017  aziendaagricolaaltiero    Azienda Agricola Altiero

Brogioni Maurizio Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Brogioni Maurizio is plain good funky Greve in Chianti Chianti Classico of its own sweet funk with a bounce in its step, a funk that does not so much blow away as carry on with the musicality of the fruit. The palate piles on with great harmonic volatility. The beat is part disco and part Funkadelic R & B all wrapped and warped into one crazy fun wine. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February and September 2017  #brogionimaurizio  Maurizio Brogioni

Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $25.95, WineAlign)

From a challenging and low-yielding vintage that took away more than it gave. The varied renditions of Chianti Classico are all over the map so it’s a revelation to come across Sebastiano Capponi’s calm and beautiful ’14 life. His is a sangiovese that was allowed to just be itself, aromatic to savoury, immune from the pressures placed upon by vintage and expectation. Calcinaia’s is a Greve in Chianti of roses, violets, more amenability than most ‘14s and without any real bother from the barrel. Quite pure with very mature sangiovese flavours, circulating and by extension from natural acidity. The length is exceptional for annata. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February and September 2017  @villacalcinaia  @Nicholaspearce_  villacalcinaia  nicholaspearcewines  @calcinaia  Nicholas Pearce

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Win eAlign)

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico 2014 is Elena Lapini’s organic 100 per cent sangiovese. The label notes Greve in Chianti straight under the winery name and the sense of appellative pride is duly noted. Lapini’s ’14 is so proficiently correct, righteously tart, deeply rendered and soulful. The low-yielding, young adult (15 year-old high density vines) fruit was picked on fine acidity and carries this plummy note to counteract the launching tang and direct energy. Really stays focused and keeps it clarity through a long finish. Great example from Montefioralle. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  poderecampriano  @ElenaCampriano  Elena Podere Campriano Lapini

Podere San Cresci Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Santa Cresci Chianti Classico 2013 from David Ballini carries both five per cent of cabernet franc and merlot alongside the sangiovese in the only sample of ten from Montefioralle that comes from the little peninsula outcrop with a slightly different soil composition, “compresso indifferenziato argille scagliose,” part schisty calcaire with less Alberese and more into the Macigno than the others. The unfair playing field puts this in ’13 territory, with its silky and filled in mid-palate and plenty of vintage energy. The cab franc and merlot do indeed impart a right bank Bordeaux moment, however fleeting, and the roasted meat meets dark ropey fruit is quite the excitement creator if ever there was in sangiovese. This the outlier is quite vital even if some raisin notes pop in and out of the fruit. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017  ballanza12_  David Arnold Ballini

Terre di Baccio Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Terre di Baccio Chianti Classico 2014 from Montefioralle boldly expresses the rich brooding of sangiovese and an acquiesced savoury streak with 10 per cent cabernet franc in the mix. This final sample of 10 confirms the consistency of terroir, style and execution, readily apparent across the Montefioralle grouping. They are deep, hematic, dark and intense sangiovese. This is no exception. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  #terredibaccio  @TerrediBaccio  Agriturismo Terre di Baccio

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $30.25, WineAlign)

Castello di Verrazzano Chianti Classico from Luigi Cappellini is 95 per cent sangiovese with five per cent “other varieties.” A really ripe and filled to the brim CC for ’14, fully pressed and expressed. Oak laden in as much as Greve in Chianti can be, like a milkshake with bitter almond elements. From the north part of Montefioralle on Alberese and some Galestro with sandy soils. A solid early drinking and lush Chianti Classico. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  verrazzanopeople   @StaffVerrazzano  @Smallwinemakers  Castello di Verrazzano  The Small Winemakers Collection

Viticcio Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (283580, $19.25, WineAlign)

Viticcio’s also hails from the north part of Montefioralle (on the western side of Greve in Chianti) and its typical Alberese, Galestro and sandy soils. A good punch of dark red and black raspberry fruit is mostly sangiovese (with two per cent merlot), spicy and bitterish with wood notes and plenty of savour. This ’14 from the vintage of great demand and attention to detail is tart and chalky, needing some time. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017   viticciowinery  majesticwinesinc  @viticciowinery  @MajesticWineInc  Viticcio Winery  Majestic Wine Cellars

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

Looking for two horsemen in #chianticlassico

Characterizing Chianti Classico as a most heterogeneous wine region is substantiated by the multiplicity of its sangiovese and the endless permutations of soil. The territory is commonly divided by commune but its tiers of structure do not end there. There lies within more specific sub-zones, zonazione, places of interest where microclimates and shared geologies bring land and producers together. Five of the nine Chianti Classico communes have their own Associazione Viticoltori or Vignaioli; Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Gaiole in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and San Casciano Val di Pesa. Greve is the notable exception because the precincts of Lamole, Montefioralle and Panzano in Chianti have each formed their own associations. Panzano in Chianti exists inside the greater neighbourhood that is Greve in Chianti and while it is not the only sub-zone of its kind, at this triennial level of the pyramid it is arguably the most unified and defined frazioni of all. For good reason.

Related – Into the Castelnuovo Berardenga great wide open

Panzano is the first consolidated district for organic wine production in Italy and in which 90 per cent of its vineyards are grown according to the criteria of organic viticulture. There are other tertiary Chianti Classico zones associated with the hamlet they surround, like the aforementioned Lamole and Montefioralle in Greve, Vagliagli in Castelnouvo Berardenga and Monti in Gaiole. These towns, the vineyards and associated producers are tied by a parochial set of idiosyncrasies but they’ve yet to coagulate into an equally unified level of coercion that is found in Panzano. That being said, in Panzano there are both practical and political decisions that charge some producers to remain on the fence or even outside the tight circle of the area’s union. These kinds of decisions work two ways, whether you are in or out, dentro o fuori dal territorioThe question is whether or not diplomacy would lead to greater success for all involved. Does the group need the high-profile individual or the individual the high-profile group?

Related – Because the night in Gaiole

Either way you look at it, there is no denying that a band of brothers and sisters sharing information and mapping out their territory together is beneficial, especially towards defining the finest vineyards. The dividing lines in Chianti Classico are very difficult to establish because one always has to be wary of possible arguments over where a certain cru vineyard ends and another, lesser plot begins. If you ask the 19 members, Panzano is less prone to such argumentation. Besides, producers will speak their minds, but they may not always be able or willing to tell us exactly what we need to know. It’s ultimately a question of menzioni geografiche, or geographical notations, especially on wine labels, to tie the wines to place of origin. For Panzano the idea seems quite obvious with a playing field more equal than most but it’s not necessarily so simple for other frazioni in the region. Chianti Classico is fragmented and diverse with municipalities that may not always be homogeneously or consistently representative in terms of terroir or production style.

Because he’s Dario F-in Faccin, that’s why g-dammit! #carobbio #sangiovese #chianticlassico #panzano #galestro

Related – Castellina in golden light

The original Panzano Winemakers Association was founded in 1995 to celebrate common ground and for like-minded producers to articulate the necessity and pursuit of shared interests. With the famous Conca d’Oro at its epicentre, Panzano encompasses a set of hills aboard and encircling a plateau rich in Galestro and a rather significant altitude where vineyards are planted to between 350 and 500 meters above sea level. Today there are 19 member producers of the Unione Viticoltori Panzano; Candialle, Casaloste, Castello dei Rampolla, Cennatoio, Fattoria La Quercia, Fatttoria Rignana, Fontodi, Il Molino di Grace, Il Palagio, L’Orcio a Ca’ di Pesa, La Massa, Le Cinciole, Le Fonti, Monte Bernardi, Panzanello, Renzo Marinai, Tenuta degli Dei, Vecchie terre di Montefili, Vignole and Villa Cafaggio. There are 91 producers in Greve, 31 of those are in Panzano. The 12 non-members are Carobbio, Vallone di Cecione, San Cresci, Sassolini, Reggine, La Marcellina, Le Bocce, Il Vescovino, Festeggiata, Fattoria Casenuove, Fattoria Montagliari and Campocorto.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

“To ensure for themselves a healthy environment the wine makers decided to take the path of sustainable and organic viticulture, which allowed to enhance aromas, flavors, character and personality of the wines, produced exclusively from grapes of their vineyards” are the words of Ruggero Mazzilli, an agronomist with experience in viticulture biodiversity, who since 2000 has been working with the Panzano Association.  In a Chianti Classico world where drawing lines along commune or sub-zone borders fails to recognize the multi-faceted and variegated intendments of geology, it is Panzano that suggests  borders can be drawn by “fellow producers to organise their individual communes and sub-commune designations under their own respective unions, as Panzano in Chianti has already done.” The argument can be made not just one way or the other, but in so many ways. I am no genius nor close to the first to perpetuate the idea that drawing borders along any definable lines in Chianti Classico is a very complicated subject. This is why we continue to seek the truth in the villages.

Complimenti @johnszabo for riding 87 kms #granfondo @chianticlassico #gallonero looking fresh and refreshed post lunch at #osterialapanzanelle

John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale and I had arrived from Budapest after three volcanic days (in many and every respects) in Hungary. We arrived in Castellina to the sounds and sights of race cars before settling in at Pierafitta. The following morning John competed in the Gran Fondo del Gallo Nero and with great Canadian representation completed the 87 kilometre Media Fondo in world-class time. Congratulazioni Gian Burrasca. Non siamo degni. Meanwhile Brad, Steve Robinson and Godello joined Il Molino di Grace’s Iacopo Morganti for a preview of the 2017 infant sangiovese straight from the tank, followed by a walk through Vigne Raphaella, Magdalena and Jae, culminating with a new look meets retrospective tasting in IMG’s brand new tasting room.

Gian Burrasca

A few days later we returned to Panzano for a morning spent with Giovanni Manetti at Fontodi. A full report on that visit is chronicled in a link below. Later that afternoon we concluded our week-long Chianti Classico visit with Dario Faccin at Carrobio. This is the fifth instalment (of seven) reports concerning communes and sub-zones in Chianti Classico. In total I’ve written 24 notes on wines poured by these three Panzano producers. Enjoy.

Newly planted Carrobio Sangiovese vineyard on a dramatic Galestro slope

Carobbio

Related – Caro Carobbio

If my first visit with Dario Faccin was a profound and moving experience than my second Panzano summons later last calendar year could only be thought of as an epiphanic. In round one and nearing the conclusion of an epic lunch prepared by Chef Claudia, it was then that Faccin poured three acroamatic sangiovese blasts from the past in the forms of Chianti Classico 1997, 1991 and Leone 1995. In my Carobbio report I wrote “a great honour to taste this 1995 and in memory of Carlo Novarese, Thank you Dario and Silvia. Would like the chance to do it again in 22 years.” Though I was making reference to the age of Leone (and also a nod back in time to my 1995 Chianti Classico honeymoon) I was also making comment on the ideas of fortuity and generosity. I could not have known that I would return to Toscana seven months later and this time to be present when Dario chose to open both a 1990 and a 1982 Chianti Classico. Collectively these five 1980-90s sangiovese have shed so much light on evolution and on what Dario is setting out to accomplish at Carrobio. As you may have noticed, Carobbio is not part of the UVP.

A walk in the newly planted sangiovese vineyard tells me everything I need to know. The dramatic Galestro slope captures humidity in spite of drought conditions to keep infant vines alive with vital growth in their earliest formative years. This fruit will be a Chianti Classico game changer. It all begins with the rocks and soil of these über-specific Panzano vineyards. It moves into the winery where Carobbio’s position as protector and purveyor of sangiovese purity and honesty reigns over all else. It concludes in the wisdom and generosity of the annate wines, with consistency and focus.

Tenuta Carobbio Rosato Terrarossa 2016, IGT Toscana, Italy (Winery, $32.95, WineAlign)

Rosato Terra Rossa is the same 100 per cent sangiovese in 2016, from the red soil vineyard, a child of 15 days fermentation to a maximum 15 degrees of temperature and ultimately dry as the desert. The specs and methodology turn forth a classic blush of aridity, acidity and minerality; 6.0 tA, 3.35 pH, no malo, cooled down to six degrees after fermentation and one month on the lees. Dario Faccin lays it out clear and simple. “For me this is a wine, not an aperitif.” It is in fact built on character that lies between Rosé and the light Rosso; sapid, saline, rich and textured. Full of dry extract, perfect for lunch. La prossima annata may be even better. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  @ 

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Winery, $58.95, WineAlign

A 100 per cent sangiovese from three vineyards in which Galestro, clay and Alberese each contribute by percentage of 30,30 and 10 towards an inextricably calculated Carobbio sangiovese in reward. Variegated for multiplicity purposes while complicit in even ripeness meets high and polished acidity. Once again the salty sapidity and the highest of polyphenolic qualities adds up to density, extract and layering. This wine will not turn secondary for at least five years and certainly not tertiary for 15. The composition and composure are one in the same and continue to repeat over and upon one another.  Last tasted September 2017.

For Chianti Classico Riserva the solo performance is 100 per cent sangiovese and just as 2013 must be this grabs you by the olfactory senses with elegant inhalant immediacy. You are immersed straight away into a wine without reserve in the way that the only the purest of Riserva can be. Philanthropic, generous and kind. Even more so and because it is Carobbio, there is no fence to jump over, hoop to hurl through or great wall to climb. Not in aroma and then what follows is palate texture and finally fine-grained tannin. Not even acidity will lash out but rather support, with more kindness. Everything is presented from the start with a wisdom that doesn’t rely on oxidative or cured character. Just elegance. Rich and affirming, for sangiovese and life. Humour this CCR ’13 and wait just one more year, per il rispetto. Drink 2018-2027. Tasted February 2017

Tenuta Carobbio Leone 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Winery, $119.95, WineAlign

Sangiovese as Leone sees 20 months in new French barriques and a minimum eight months in bottle. “I have only one child. This is my second son,” smiles Dario Faccin. The prodigal sangiovese is seductive, spicy and intense from south exposed vines, at the time 35 years of age. The Carrobbio extract meets ripe acidity is unquestioned and on repeat albeit with an extra note of conceit, attitude, promise and as a cumulative, ultimate respect. The first vintage was 1989. Last tasted September 2017.

Leone is Chianti Classico incarnate, a single-vineyard sangiovese and perhaps the artist of the future known as Gran Selezione. The aromatics are a force from fruit raised in front of the river (Pesa) on the border between Florence and Siena, a high-density (5,000-5,500 plants per hectare) vineyard. In the first week of June Dario says “I take all the leaves off of the stems,” executed with risk-reward abandon but on second thought, as a factual matter of personal volition and intuition. Then two weeks later the smaller leaves begin to grow. This allows the early phenolic process to work on the young skins and increase the early offerings of photosynthesis. The skins carry a natural protection against the sun (in June) but not in August. Voila, wine begins in the vineyard. Leone is incredibly young and perfumed with so much restraint. It gets neither more precise, elegant or wise, or even more important, as a vineyard representative or as such a mindful and consistently right expression as this. The tannins are the finest of any you are likely to taste in sangiovese. The fruit is so perfect, red and purple, living and loving together, and you don’t need to name them. Dario insists on the simple and the obvious. That you taste the grapes every day at harvest and when the bottom of the skins do not attack you with aggressive tannin and the brown seeds crunch, you are ready to pick. “If you want to produce a great wine, you have to walk in the vineyard every day.” Leone’s got soul and only 4,000 bottles are produced. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted February 2017

Tenuta Carobbio Pietraforte 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Winery, $119.95, WineAlign

Pietraforte as cabernet sauvignon and its splash of cabernet franc is Carobbio’s ode to the Tuscan name for Galestro rock. Less than 1000 bottles were made and though it is a son or a daughter from French mothers, it is impossible to take the Panzano vineyard out of the wine. The varietal notes of Cassis and graphite are here, as is a pyrazine-savour but the sapidity and extraction of a Dario Faccin wine talks with clarity, even while thjs very dense young wine is so many years away from speaking loud and clear. The new wood is in charge, the perfume a bit closed and the tannins demanding more than the rest. Three years are needed, at the base minimum.  Last tasted September 2017

Pietraforte is the Carobbio diversion into 95 per cent cabernet sauvignon (plus five cabernet franc) out of a 30 year-old vineyard that generally yields 3,500 kg per hectare or what Dario Faccin deems “niente.” Only 2,000 bottles are produced and 2013 is still a bambino, with wood more apparent on the nose than the sangiovese, quite spiced and then even spicier on the palate. Nothing vegetal takes any place at this international varietal table but the franc lends its must give current, of currants and even a little espresso. This has cool red soil savour that the cabs will inherit from the wind and the earth. But I have to say and say it with conviction, this is more varietally correct and obvious than most. More cabernet than Toscana. Needs five years, minimum. 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2017

Carobbio Chianti Classico 1990 and 1982

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico 1990, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign

I love the irony of Dario Faccin choosing to open a 1990 and a 1982, two vintages from when Italy hosted (1990) and won (1982) the FIFA World Cup. Ironic because the next tournament will be the first without the great footballing nation for the first time since 1958. The 1990 Chianti Classico is from an exceptional vintage, in fact there are many who feel the finest 1990s are some of the best CCs ever made. The youth on this bottle is dumbfounding, still in full possession of the freshness originally locked in by the sweet and optimally extracted sangiovese fruit. This is the school of Vittorio Fiore and the vintage is a great contrast to the 1991 Riserva that we tasted seven months prior. In 1990 it’s so much more about fruit quality and though the acidity continues to lift and execute, the tones here are less floral, not as bright and fruit is a matter of pure thought. The innocence, clarity and luck of time and place is on display in this capsule. What more can you say? Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Carobbio Chianti Classico 1982

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico Riserva 1982, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign

Everyone knows that 1982 was one of Italy’s greatest years in the 20th century. Their beloved Azzuri won the FIFA World Cup 3-1 over West Germany and the wines were pretty darn good all over the boot. It was the final match of Group C stage play that may have been one of the most dramatic, exciting and famous because Italy won 3–2 with Italian striker Paolo Rossi scoring a hat-trick. The result eliminated Brazil. Meanwhile the only thing that matters right now about 1982 with respect to this Chianti Classico is how it shows and I’m overwhelmed with emotion to say it’s perfect. By now we’ve come to know that Dario Faccin demands a mentality of excellence, emotion and soul. He would not open a 1982 and a 1990 were they unable to meet expectations and deliver an intelligent quotient of age. These were and remain great and structured sangiovese to this day. This 1982 is full of fruit, like cherries preserved in cryogenic syrup and violets captured at the height of their scent, only to be released when the wine is poured into the glass. If this vintage was at all austere it could only have been for the benefit of guarding the fruit so that its purity and original virility and viridity could be revealed again and again, as it has here in 2017. Remarkable showing for a piece of Gallo Nero history. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017

48 hours @chianticlassico picked Sept 22, #sangiovese so primary, for breakfast @ilmolinodigrace

Il Molino Di Grace

For a full report on the history and current production at Il Molino di Grace please click on the following link.

Related – Grace in Chianti Classico

Back in @chianticlassico with the progressivo, non dogmatico #sangiovese @ilmolinodigrace #volano #panzano #chianticlassico #chianticlassicoriserva #granselezione #ilmargone #gratius

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Have yet to encounter an Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico that was not deeply hued, refreshing and spirited. Nor has there be one not designed to drink early but 2015 refuses to be left on the racks. It’s a progeny of upbringing in large Slovenian casks with zero panoply by wood addendum, of freshness kept and preserved. The spice is indubitable sangiovese and the tannins are wistful ones. There is some chewy constitution, more than most 15s and those dreamy tannins have texture too, chalky and fine yet grainy, with a fine grated finish of good dark chocolate shavings. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted September 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Now in a great place, fresh, direct, focused, clear, nothing to hide. This tells us right now why we should be more than satisfied with normale in ’14, with or without needing Riserva, because with no Gran Selzione and much of the Gratius grapes ending up in here you have a most impressive wine, with great structure.  Last tasted September 2017

Incidentally the first vintage on which the label reads organic, 2014 captures the freshness and the true Chianti Classico, its nature and its truth. No mask, nothing to hide behind, nowhere to run. “In some ways 2014 is more typical a vintage,” suggests Iacopo Morganti, because like other passed over and quickly assessed ones of the recent past (such as 1996, 1998 and 2008) the intrepid purity of sangiovese is decisive and built to last. This is deeply hued Chianti Classico, refreshing, spirited and crafted with a very specific type of actionable drinkability. With pasta, with filetto, with friends. Will not change course for four years and drink comfortably for four more. Sangiovese accented with canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nero. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Il Volano 2015, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Il Volano is a new label for the house, the wheel of the windmill, “il volano di molino” and also really, the name of the place as a whole. It brings together sangiovese (75 per cent) and merlot, raised only stainless steel, for a chill and a quick spill. Here from a vintage that gets better with some young age added, perhaps now at its best so this is a wine to drink, with little to no thinking required. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)

It bears remembering that Il Molino’s Gran Selezione is the kind of Chianti Classico that remains in perpetual motion, of a consistency and of guarantees, like gravity and tides, from vintage to vintage. It is the embodiment of water passing over stone, like the windmill it carries in its name and it is a wine that was always the Gran Selezione, before, like the water and after, on the vine and in the barrel. Saw the same 18 months in barriques, the selection having long before begun in the vineyard. Violets are all over this very young GS, the elegant one, but typically tannic and while ’13 is very good, it seems to be showing its cards early. This is a surprise and a welcome thought because there needs to be one Il Margone to enjoy while other more fierce vintages take their sweet time to unfold. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted September 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2012 comes structured from a vintage with frost in May that compromised 50 per cent of the crop and as a result, bestowed lowest of low yields and concentrated berries. After that happenstance of natural selection the vintage turned to hot and dry, with great weather at harvest. This is and could only have developed into a fleshy and magnanimous Gran Selezione with acidity equivocal and anti-acrimonious to bones draped with the ripest of fruit. And it’s a good thing the acidity is set to high because that fruit and richness will need it going forward. Such a GS had to be crafted this way, with compound aggression and aggressive behaviour. Ultimately defines what it means to be affirmative action Gran Selezione. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February and September 2017

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

The 2011 is persistent, that much is obvious, in a hulking, Gran Selezione monstrous state, big in alcohol and bones. A curious and precocious chocolate-balsamic secondary note is just faintly starting to peek through, teasing the idea of drying the fruit by nature and leading towards the beginning of a savoury ascent. This may really take hold ahead of schedule, perhaps at some point in the latter stages of 2019.  Lasted tasted September 2017

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

Sangiovese and Galestro at Il Molino di Grace in Panzano

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Gratius 2012 is not the bomb that was (and still is) 2011, from the single, 70 year-old vineyard located seven kilometres away from the estate. Many of those vines are still thriving, with the hope to keep grafting for the purpose of perpetuating the biotypes through future plantings on the estate. Gratius is 95 per cent sangiovese with bits of canaiolo and colorino that spent 12 months in barriques. It’s always a chunky and tannic affair, of savoury red fruit but the nose here is more beautiful now, finally, as Gratius has scaled back just enough to be beautiful. When it’s now dry in the right way and not bent to steal anything from you or your palate it then reveals the chivalry and the charm. Lovely work here from the Bernabei-Morganti-Grace group. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi vineyards in the Conco d’Oro, Panzano

Fontodi

To read my full report on this September 2017 visit with Giovanni Manetti at Fontodi please click the following link.

Related – Fontodi’s one hundred per cent sangiovese

Sangiovese of Fontodi

Fontodi Meriggio 2016, IGT Colli Toscana Centrale, Italy (WineAlign)

Meriggio is 100 per cent La Rota vineyard sauvignon blanc, whole cluster pressed with native yeasts, 75 per cent stainless steel ferment, no malo, 15 per cent in amphora and 10 per cent in French barriques. That said, without temperature control some malo, like it, happens. To go to Meriggio means to go and have a rest in the shade, from the verb meriggiare in reference to the (not Tuscan) poet Eugenio Montale, “merrigiare pallidio e assorto.” Empty is the literal translation but it’s more a case of the unoccupied mind at rest. Sauvignon should always be so calm and yet spirited, here with little to no oxidative character but rather metallurgy, saltiness and pure tang. The leesy reductive environment and Panzano acidity conspire with calcaire for a demonstrative locution. Bloody delicious sauvignon blanc for the man in me. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy (933317, $36.95, WineAlign)

No surprise here from stalwart Fontodi, to take a difficult vintage, push vanity aside and select the best fruit for a pure expression of sangiovese, natural and organically made, with precision and clarity. The red Panzano fruit spikes with cran-pom-rasp-currant bursting freshness. It’s just the right amount of tart and sapid, carefully rippling in acidity. So well made. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February and September 2017  #Fontodi  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Az. Agr. Fontodi  #fontodi

Fontodi Chianti Classico Filetta Di Lamole 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $35.95, WineAlign)

The old Lamole winery is owned by Giovanni Manetti’s cousins, where the grandfather made important wines until he passed away in the 80s and the grapes were then sold to bulk. Then Giovanni began working with the family in the 2000s and this first vintage was ready because the finesse of 2014 spoke to him, to begin the new journey. This has seriously improved, settled, come together, developed its excellence with seven months added in time to bottle. Its characters of amaro, earth and texture are now as one, inseparable and fully vested in the calm. Drink 2017-2023.  Last tasted September 2017

From the “forgotten corner of Chianti Classico,” Lamole of Greve in Chianti is perched in a natural amphitheatre between Volpaia to the south and Panzano to the west. Some of the vineyard’s older vines are still pruned in the alberello (bush) style. This is Giovanni Manetti’s inaugural vintage of the Filetta in cohorts with his cousin. So, decidedly a diffident partner and opposing force to the Fontodi Annata because the earthy-subterranean dwelling aromatics brood beneath the red, verging to riper and darker fruit. There is a liquor, aperitif amaro-ness to the Lamole. The clay must be darker and more compressed. The balance is struck though on deeper, more brooding and warmer alcohol-felt lines and in 2014, as if it were a Riserva. It’s an oak “vessel’ aged 100 per cent sangiovese, as opposed to other the estate’s usual use of barriques. It is perhaps counterintuitive but this acts more evolved than the “normale.” Neither better or worse but enjoyment time is now.  Tasted February 2017

Father and son- Giovanni and Bernardo Manetti @fontodi #panzano #chianticlassico

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Sorbo 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $83.95, WineAlign)

The older vines are between 52 and 54 years old, the first vintage being 1985 and until 2011, contained some cabernet sauvignon, vines that have since been pulled out. The now site-specific, 100 per cent sangiovese Vigna del Sorbo may have been muscular in 2012 but no such hyperbole exists in 2014. The vintage determined this and despite the deep black cherry chalkiness the true spirit and stripped down honesty of sangiovese is in display. Purity has returned, floral like an artistically-rendered natural, realist and perpetual field of flowers in bloom, in installation, of violet light and rose-scented glass. I can imagine drinking this for decades, with its albarese-galestro saltiness and effortless concentration. Sometimes sangiovese never relents and at the same time never tires. Meraviglioso. Drink 2020-2038.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna Del Sorbo 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $81.00, WineAlign)

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Sorbo 2013. (Takes deep breath). Just imagine a box filled with all things sangiovese, in all its incarnations and permutations, each aspect teaching something about what you need to know. History, legacy and tradition. Risk taking, forward thinking and progress. What is learned (in retrospect) from two poles; heat and power (2012) and cool savour and elegance (2014). The ’13 is not a matter of being in between but rather an exceptionality, a sangiovese of energy, precision, clarity, purity and a pure reflection in the window of honesty. Everything this vineyard can offer is in the 2013; florals, herbs, fruit, acidity and fine, fine tannin. All in, together, as one. Perhaps its best years will end sooner than 2014 but the time spent will be unparalleled. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Chianti Classico Vigna Del Sorbo 1986, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Fontodi’s Vigna del Sorbo was obviously not a Gran Selezione designated Chianti Classico in 1986 but it was at the top of the pyramid. A sangiovese in which the acids and fine pear bitters stir in the tray, with a fruit from the (Sorbo) tree that was used to mix with grapes for Vin Santo. Not any more. In 2017 the freshness is impossible, implausible, perpetuated in the most floral and fine acidity combination of any older sangiovese ever experienced. This is like sucking on the most perfect lozenge of fruit, salt, mineral and Panzano mystery. This is Panzano sapidity perfectly realized, preserved and expressed. There is a touch of Cassis, less pyrazine but you can detect the cabernet sauvignon character, even in 10 per cent but combined with sangiovese it’s this frutta di bosco feeling. Just fantastic. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted September 2017

In @chianticlassico mano nella mano 1986, @fontodi #vignadelsorbo & #flaccianello thank you Giovanni Manetti for sharing these two opposing forces of the Tuscan paradox #chianticlassico

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent $125.00, SAQ 12123921, $97.25, WineAlign)

Flaccianello comes off of a different slope, aspect and exposition than Vigna del Sorbo, here facing straight south, collecting all the sun it can in the golden glow of the Conca d’Oro. The richness celebrates the legacy of this 100 per cent sangiovese, once so atypical and untraditional back in 1981, now the most legacy defining there may just be for varietal Panzano and for the territory in the sense of the greater good. Pure, nonpartisan just, unadulterated and perfectly powerful sangiovese with length from Firenze to Siena and back. Drink 2021-2036.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent $125.00, SAQ 12123921, $97.25, BCLDB 55392, $109.99, WineAlign)

The Flaccianello is the Fontodi expression of uva nostrala, “our grape,” explains Giovanni Manneti, the most important local variety owned by Chianti Classico, protected and exalted by Fontodi. Sangiovese the solo act that must define Gran Selezione, to explain what is Chianti Classico in its purest form and to separate how it grows and what wine it produces, particularly when you are to compare it from commune to commune. This Flaccianello separates itself from the Vigna del Sorbo vineyard and Gran Selezione category, even from itself, with another bonafide elegant layer of Conca d’Oro stratified limestone richness and this ultra-savoury umami level of minty-herbal intensity. What else is there to say? Drink 2020-2034.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2006, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Tell it to the vintage perhaps but 2006 is so very floral, more than any Flaccianello in the memory bank and expressly sangiovese in temper. It’s a year with massive tannins and extreme acidity. For these reasons there is a tightness of being and even at 10-plus years it’s silly young to work with but the concentration impresses. Fruit at a premium indicates some citrus, in orange and lemon with compound interest calculated in further variegated acidity. The most sapid Flaccianello of them all has 15 years more initial development ahead before true secondary character will take over. It’s amazing when you stop to think about sangiovese of such structure. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted April 2017

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2005, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

“This is the vintage I open when I host a party or an important dinner, because no one asks me to open it.” The words are Giovanni Manetti’s and for him none truer are spoken, with a smile. The younger vines and super-selection from the “Bricco” part of the top of the hill in the exceptional vineyard make for a sangiovese of fine-grained tannin plus what the smallest berries of the smallest bunches gift. Their integration with wood has become a matter of balance, in terms of delicasse, even while supported by such structure. Secondary character is happening, in herbal, balmy and savoury, slightly pulsed and edging into balsamico. But it’s such a gentle and slow-sliding slope, years yet away from tertiary. Drink 2017-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 1986, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Flaccianello in 1986 is actually though not surprisingly so different from Vigna del Sorbo, more than any other reason because of the cabernet sauvignon, but in a more philosophical way, because they have built a paradox, from the Super Tuscan ideal in revolution. Now the sangiovese going forward will be the most important and also the best wine, like looking back at this 1986, OK, not better than Sorbo but purer, honest, a clearer picture from which to learn from and ultimately a model for the future. Beautiful power, restraint, structure and yes, the kind of wine that deserves to be praised with the term elegance, overused, or not. Perfectly rustic, earthy and full of fruit with its accompanying complimentary, enervating and necessary acidity. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted September 2017

Looking for two horsemen in #chianticlassico

Good to Go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Because the night in Gaiole

Badia a Coltibuono

Badia a Coltibuono is not your average, been there, seen that Tuscan edifice. The castello is an awesome display of architecture meets hortus conclusus and a walk through its hallowed halls will lead a mind to wander. You can hear its creaks, sense the weight of its history and feel its ghosts. It was night by the time we arrived, already peering down the descent of a palate’s waning slope, nearing the end of a capacity cultivated day. It was a surreal and perfect time to experience the awe of Badia a Coltibuono.

Related – Castellina in golden light

The monastery was founded in 1051 by the Vallumbrosan order of Benedictine monks and many important manuscripts and deeds were housed here for hundreds of years. It was here where some of the earliest mention of towns, castles and villas of the Chianti area could be found. In the 15th century the Buon Raccolto (good harvest) Abbey, (Abbazia or Badia in Italian) was extensively developed under the patronage of Lorenzo dei Medici. The current owners are the Stucchi-Prinetti family and as I would ironically find out quite soon enough, they are the successful purveyors of the publications of Lorenza de Medici, wife of Piero Stucchi-Prinetti, on Tuscan cookery.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

John Szabo M.S., Brad Royale, Steven Robinson and Godello came to taste through 35 wines provided by 20 producers from the Chianti Classico commune of Gaiole in Chianti. We arrived tired but our strength was quickly and magically restored by the curative powers of Gaiole sangiovese. Located in Siena province Gaiole is one of two sub-zones with exactly two neighbours, in this case Castelnuovo Berardenga to the south and Radda to the west/northwest. It is one of the more complicated, diverse and checkered Chianti Classico zones, with many switchbacks, elevation changes and soil types. That said a thread certainly runs through, of wines that carry their own confident and specific structure. This tasting confirmed that the sangiovese of Gaiole have great aging potential, albeit often wrapped up in robes of rusticity, shacked up with the finest of Chianti Classico.

Click here to watch a quick video of the Gaiole in Chianti wines

To gain a deeper understanding of Gaiole it would be prudent to pry open the packaging and peel away further layers of sub-zone identity with a look at the sangiovese produced specifically on Monti in Chianti lands. Such a visit and tasting would unearth at least one of the more essential facets of Gaiole’s variegation and then the climb back up and into the greater commune could be acquiesced with a new level of experience.

John Szabo attempting to communicate by necromantic means with the revenants of the numinous Badia a Coltibuono world

Meanwhile, back to Badia a Coltibuono and because the night in Gaiole. After we finished tasting it was past the 10pm hour and so our auspicious and unpavid hosts Roberto Stucchi Prinetti and Emanuela Stucchi Prunetti wondered if we should eschew trying to convince a restaurant to serve us and instead make dinner in the abbey’s kitchen. I volunteered. I spent the better part of 1987-2013 cooking in restaurants and running my catering company and here I was making the decision to offer my culinary services to Tuscans of lineage dating back to who knows when. To custodians of Lorenza de Medici’s manifestos of Tuscan cookery while the family ghosts roam the castle halls. A moment of panic and a “what have I done” internal dialogue ensued. Then I set to work.

We kept it simple, local, traditional and went about using up product that recent cooking classes had left for the next arbitrary and unhinged cook who happened to find his way into this culinary vestibule sbalorditivo that has seen so much and lived to tell many a tale. The scene and hasty whip up of two platters of different but complimentary pastas could not have happened so quick without John’s fiduciary charges, the ambient distraction of Brad’s intense discourse with Roberto, Steve’s stoic, harmonic and sommelier savvy stature and Emanuela’s sous-support. An hour later we were seated at Badia’s dining room table. I’m quite certain I heard someone say “please bring me my wine” and then the voice of the captain saying “we haven’t had that spirit here since thirteen sixty-nine.” At some point I went for air and a stroll through the castello halls, feeling not exactly alone and yet quite positively at peace.

It had been 22 years since I last made pasta in Italy. This time for @coltibuono and alas, it was eaten #sigh

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

Though we had a very hurried tasting session in the early night hours of September 25th, 2017, I did taste every wine presented to us by the association of Gaiole winemakers and distilled them down into the production of these 20 notes. I expect some of you will be familiar with this group of producers and I pledge to investigate the depths of their collective soul when I attend CCC ’18 in Firenze next month.

Brad Royale surveys the sangiovese of Gaiole in Chianti

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $27.99, WineAlign)

Badia a Coltibuono’s Chianti Classico is truly representative of 2015, or as proprietor Roberto Stucchi Prinetti notes “a microcosm of CC, a very diverse area.” This Gaiole in Chianti sings in the three-part harmony of the Gallo Nero territory, of Gaiole, through the voice of sangiovese and as close in honour to the territory as it will ever get. This take is rusty, rustic, red citrus sweet-scented, of cinnamon and strawberry meets ripe sour cherry red fruit. The medium to high acids and fine, unobtrusive chain of tannins take it where it just needs to go. Easy and proper. As I said before, classic. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, September and October 2017  coltibuono  noble_estates  @coltibuono  @Noble_Estates  Badia a Coltibuono  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 2012, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (683474, $38.95, WineAlign)

It was a big year and the fruit was certainly ripe so the house style of putting fruit first and oak second means that Badia a Coltibuono’s CC Riserva ’12 is now heading into secondary character. Not raisined mind you but drying a touch and developing some spice cupboard baking scents. Tart and firm, developed, evolved and quite liquid chalky in its tannic grain and established structure. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (3962, $23.95, WineAlign)

Really classic and traditionally annotated Chianti Classico tastes just like this and is especially worthy when the clean and transparent adjunct of technology brings tradition well into the 21st century. A fine and amenable vintage and 1000 years of Ricasoli expertise combine to fashion a Chianti Classico of high commercial esteem. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September and November 2017  francescoricasoli  churchillcellars  @barone_ricasoli  @imbibersreport  Barone Ricasoli  Churchill Cellars Ltd.

Casa al Vento Chianti Classico Aria 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Aria 2015 carries a profile like many young and ripe Chianti Classico, a sweet-scented spoon of red cherry fruit and fine, liquid gelid acidity. Chalky to a degree which will settle after a year more in bottle. Aria is simply a fine expressive, unaccompanied, unadorned and unadulterated melody sung by sangiovese for Gaiole in Chianti. “At ease with the thought that this nova won’t burn out.” Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017  @casaalvento  borgocasaalvento  @AgriturismoChiantiCasaAlVento

La Casa Di Bricciano Chianti Classico 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Casa di Bricciano is is nothing if not delicious Chianti Classico and also not wholly representative of the sangiovese ideal. Listed at 80 per cent varietal with the other 20 per cent likely merlot and cabernet sauvignon it’s an IGT drama played out with style. It’s beautifully clean and effective stuff. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017  lacasadibricciano  La Casa di Bricciano

La Casa Di Bricciano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

La Casa di Bricciano’s Riserva ’13 carries a stylistic that is eerily similar to the Annata ’14 but takes to welling, oozing and leading to a syrupy liqueur. Swirling in this pool of viscous plummy fruit there is this sense of confidence, finesse and stylish polish. A bit sweet perhaps but seriously good. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Podere Ciona Chianti Classico Proprieta Gatteschi 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The lower altitude vineyards of Podere Ciona were replanted in 1999, 2003, the rest in the winter of 2011-2012. Their annata 2014 is primarily sangiovese with nine per cent merlot and a pinch of alicante bouschet. Lorenzo & Franco Gatteschi’s Chianti Classico is a true exception to the term normale, especially in consideration of the challenges presented by 2014. Though it is quite reductive it’s also also intensely floral and bursting with aromatic spice. There is bite at twice the effectiveness of the typical, middle of the road CC and plenty of life in this bottle. It will release its charms slowly, for seven years, easy. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2017  podereciona  @PodereCiona  Podere Ciona Estate and Vineyards

Podere Ciona Chianti Classico Riserva Proprieta Gatteschi 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The Gatteschi family’s 2013 is a special sort of Riserva with that understood sangiovese character of wisdom gained so early in life, long before it should know what classica it can and will become. The late-picked sangiovese comes off estate vines as late as the first two weeks of October and is supported by merlot, picked two weeks earlier and alicante bouschet sometime in between the two. Élevage happens in large format French oak. It’s an extremely complex weave of fine acidity overtop red ropey fruit with accents in spice and citrus. Quite remarkable really. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

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

Ripe and sultry fruit, perhaps just a bit into the ultra ripe which may lead to some dried fruit sooner rather than later. The high acidity indicates early picking so the conundrum does spell a quandary. The package is a deep well that includes oak driven chocolate. It’s big for ’15 Chianti Classico and not exceptionally fresh. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted September 2017  Azienda Agricola di Fietri

I Sodo Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

I Sodi’s Gaiole in Chianti Riserva is on the volatile and over the top youthful side but you can really get a grip upon the terrific red berry and herbal-savoury accents. Certainly led by raspberry but red currants are quite prevalent. Must admit the palate leaves a fuller and more demanding impression which is always important as opposed to the other way around. The change of gears from accelerated vitesse to grip on the road around turns and into pits is a sign of great Italian design. The finish carries dried fruit and compressed acidity with not overly aggressive tannin. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February and September 2017  Agriturismo Le Trappoline – Azienda Agricola I Sodi

Dinner at Badia a Coltibuono

Podere Il Palazzino Chianti Classico Riserva Grosso Sanese 2011, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Il Palazzino is owned by Alessandro and Andrea Sderci and is located in Monti in Chianti, in Gaiole in Chianti, 20 km northeast of Siena. Their flagship wine is this Grosso Sanese, a sangiovese of gorgeous aromatic waft with complexities provided by fresh cut roses, deeply mined minerality and fresh sliced morning summer fruit. Great tension, so much more variegation from the earth and a natural, let it be who it is and from laissez-faire from Monti village emotion. This is CCR with true soul and it truly is a really clean and natural wine. Really fine tannin, sweetness from round acidity and architectural design set in the past with innovation for the future. Amazing CCR. Drink 2019-2029. Tasted February 2017    Agriturismo Il Palazzino  #ilpalazzino

Matteoli Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Matteoli is a young, primary, seemingly natural meets organic and playfully funky sour cherry sangiovese, distinctly Gaiole but striding away from the norm and the middle of the road. Some tart, tight and bracing acidity plays to a sweetish finish. Should develop some curiously cool secondary character. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted September 2017  @agricolamatteoli

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (332114, $18.95, WineAlign)

Castello di Meleto’s is really refined sangiovese, taking a deeper step into the calcaire, welling with some hematic and even ferric notes, developing towards secondary functionality. Here alights the cerebral induction sangiovese with even a slight scant drop of syrupy liqueur. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  castellodimeleto  @castellomeleto  Castello Di Meleto

Castello Di Meleto Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna Casi 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Vigna Casi 2013 falls very much in line with the vintage for Chianti Classico but with an added and deeper delve into a Gaiole soil variegate. With each passing taste of ’13 Riserva the most excellent vintage continues to show off its gifting capabilities. The liqueur is not only borne of what this Annata sangiovese brings but the continuum is persistent, insistent and will carry the fruit well into adolescence. It’s bright, juicy and just plain exceptional. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (222810 $19.95, WineAlign)

Rocca di Castagnoli’s is perhaps one of the prettiest Chianti Classico 2015s, certainly out of Gaiole and even anywhere in the greater territory for this vintage. The virtues of ripeness, properly timed picking, acidity and just enough structure comes through in union, focus and finesse. All this while always in control of its classic style, with colorino and canaiolo tucked in behind and in support of sangiovese. Such a properly executed CC ’15. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2017  roccadicastagnoli  profilewinegroup  @Roccacastagnoli  @ProfileWineGrp  Rocca di Castagnoli  Profile Wine Group

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

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

Rocca Di Montegrossi Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent $29.99, WineAlign)

It shouldn’t come as such a big surprise that Rocca di Montegrossi’s 2015 Chianti Classico is riper, richer and more immediately accessible than its previous annata, a wine I noted as “the most subtle and slightest dusty ride through a decidedly old-school Chianti Classico.” With a minor distraction and sacrifice to structure this step up to the modernity plate and organically configured (Gaiole) Monti in Chianti sangiovese boasts darker, intensely tart plum fruit and pinpoint accurate Rocca acidity. That said it’s just so fresh-squeezed, red citrus, thematically hematic delicious early. Hard to resist means less thought afforded patience and longevity but such is sangiovese life. It’s neither a better wine not is it a more or less important Chianti Classico to what has come before. It’s simply 2015, from a place where vintage really matters. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted twice, September 2017   #roccadimontegrossi  @RoccadiMontegrossi  #roccadimontegrossi

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

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

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico 2015, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

San Giusto a Rentennano is a name of Etruscan origin, an estate that overlooks the upper course of the Arbia river in the farthest southern reaches of the Chianti Classico zone. The estate began life as a medieval monastery of Cistercian nuns and was called San Giusto alle Monache, “of the Nuns.” San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico 2015 is a stunner. Virtuous, scrupulous and composed, it was surely picked on the perfected vortex point of acidity and ripeness. That it sports refined tannin to lead into structure speaks volumes on how it is more than a serious CC. It is in fact destined for greatness. The chain is long and woven for sustained pressure and sytemic viability. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017  #sangiustoarentennano    #sangiustoarentennano

San Giusto A Rentennano Chianti Classico Riserva Le Baròncole 2014, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

In 1957 San Giusto A Rentennano was inherited by Enrico Martini di Cigala and in 1992, by his nine children. Today Anna, Lucia, Elisabetta, Francesco, Alessandro and Luca are partners in the estate company. Riserva le Baròncole 2014 is composed from 97 per cent sangiovese plus canaiolo, the 14th Baròncole of a Riserva that was first bottled in 1975. The rains of summer did not deter this determined Chianti Classico, thanks to great farming practices, favourable weather conditions at harvest and under the circumstances, the strictest grapes selection possible. A beautiful liqueur wells in this rich and aromatic, spiced and spicy CC, quite exceptional for 2014. The top of the quality pyramid is reached with its rich constitution and age conscious ability. Chalky in fine grain and sweet tannins, no green notes, good acidity and properly rendered (20 per cent new) barriques and big (5 hl) barrels. Get with the baron. It’s a prime “esempio” for Gaiole in Chianti. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Badia a Coltibuono

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign 

17 Canadian wines that rocked in 2017

As we taste through the #NWAC17 finals we thank @ZWILLING_CA for the rocking great glassware. Canadian wines are better for these vessels.

I first published this year-end summary of Canadian wine excellence in 2013 and four years on that original list of 13 has expanded with four more. It’s a good thing too because four years later 17 wines is but a fraction of what could or should be included. This exercise is more than difficult. It’s biased, exclusive and decisive but it is meant to celebrate a select few with a mandate to elevate and exult the rest. It’s also a proclamation read to many who remain ignorant to an ideal of great wine being made in Canada, to tell the insolent they are not welcome here anyway. The winemakers in this country are in full command of their acumen, craft and future. They own it. Roll out the red carpet. Here they come.

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

My writing about wine is a display that spills everything but subtraction, reduction and minimalism. It is an occupation whose reality is examined to points of madness, of long, run-on sentences, often at odds with grammatical winemaking realism. My tireless, tiring sentences and phrasing can at times offer a feeling that is potentially endless. So thanks for reading and putting up with me.

As I have noted before, I try to visit wines more than once before reviewing them, preferably from more than one bottle but even more importantly, with a good chunk of time having passed between assessments. The most complete picture is drawn from such a course of critical action but it’s not always possible. Not a single one of these 17 wines were decided upon at a single VINTAGES release, sterile and windowless LCBO laboratory tasting. The nearly 2000 wines (of which approximately were 20 percent Canadian) that I tasted in the LCBO lab in 2017 are kept, compartmentalized, reviewed and stored over at WineAlign. They are forged from and formed by a very specific, of the fleeting moment style. They are the results of root days and fruit days, often plagued by other writers present levels of distraction and time constraints. These 17 wines are children of repeated concentration and stand out because the makers went out of their way to bring them to me.

Please allow me to quote Wes Anderson. “It is an extremely common mistake, people think the writer’s imagination is always at work, that he’s constantly inventing an endless supply of incidents and episodes, that he simply dreams up his stories out of thin air. In point of fact, the opposite is true. Once the public knows you’re a writer, they bring the characters and events to you and as long as you maintain your ability to look and to carefully listen, these stories will continue to…,” continue to provide what you need to entertain your readers. Thank you to the winemakers for sharing their stories time and time again.

Related – 15 Canadian wines that rocked in 2015

Heartbreaker

If 2016 was a most difficult year, what does that say about 2017? It was a most dippy, derisory, barmy and yet chimerical one. Once again too many special people were taken from us and in Ontario, no one more important to everyone who works in wine than Karl Kaiser. It can and should be argued that the industry we all call home is at its 2017 state because of Mr. Kaiser and what he pioneered more than 40 years ago. Karl Kaiser was eulogized by Brock University’s Dan Dakin. Please take the time to read it.

Related – Karl Kaiser left indelible mark on Brock University

Once again we all lost someone close to us in 2017. Celebrity deaths, especially the ones of loved musicians seem to hit us the hardest because we relive moments of our lives when their songs are played. I’ll ask the social media trolls to walk on past and to once again, please respect our reminiscences.

Gregg Allman. Richard Anderson. Harvey Atkin. Walter Becker. Chester Bennington. Johnny Bower. Chuck Berry. Glen Campbell. David Cassidy. Chris Cornell. Jonathan Demme. Fats Domino. Dick Enberg. Stephen Furst. J. Geils. Robert Guillaume. Roy ‘Doc’ Halladay. Connie Hawkins. John Hurt. Al Jarreau. Martin Landau. Jerry Lewis. Erin Moran. Sir Roger Moore. Bryan Murray. Charlie Murphy. Bill Paxton. Tom Petty. Della Reese. Don Rickles. Sam Shepard. Joni Sledge. Keely Smith. Harry Dean Stanton. Y. A. Tittle. Mary Tyler Moore. Adam West. Malcom Young. Joanne Godel.

Don’t forget the pouring rain

There was more than enough good news out of 2017, especially from Ontario. After one of the wettest summers on record and this looming harvest of disaster everything changed. The temperatures hit 30 degrees and remained there for much of September. October obliged with warm and slowly declining temperatures with very little precipitation. Not only was the 2017 vintage saved but it became one of the great phenolic ripeness stories in wine country history. Quality high. Check. Quantity high. Check. Win win for wine.

The year continued to throw thousands of wines my way. I did travel more and so the international count ran higher at the expense of the local. I plan to fix that in 2018. Things have a way of balancing out anyway. Still I’m sure I tasted close to 1000 Canadian wines once again. We continued to pay great attention to Canadian wines at the WineAlign office. I once again joined the judging with Tony Aspler at the Ontario Wine Awards, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada and with David Lawrason at Gold Medal Plates.

Related – 14 Canadian wines that rocked in 2014

My wine on tap program at Barque Smokehouse and Barque Butcher Bar welcomed a third child to the family when we opened Barque Smokehouse Burlington in August. With that opening we were proud to partner with Rosewood Estates to join the family that over the years has included Tawse, Lailey, Norm Hardie, Creekside, Between the Lines, Kew Vineyards, Redstone, Stratus, Leaning Post, Between the Lines, Coyote’s Run, Vineland Estates and Creekside Estates.

It began, as it always does with Niagara’s Icewine Festival in January and in February there were Thirteen ways to taste Cuvée. In March I found Fifty ways to Taste Ontario and then travelled to Germany for Godello’s March through Prowein, The Ahr Valley and The Rheinhessen. As a Canadian and a representative of Wine Country Ontario I hung around the Canadian pavilion, talked with our coast to coast winemakers, vintners and marketing representatives, took in the seminars on cool climate wines led by David and Dr. Janet Dorozynski and of course, tasted some wines.

Related – 13 Canadian wines that rocked in 2013

In the company of #family so thank you judges, friends and badasses #NWAC17 #killedit

Any major dude will tell you

At the Terroir Hospitality Symposium in May we debated the highly controversial new category of Skin-Contact wines in Ontario. Orange is the new smack should have been my title but instead I chose to talk through hushed tones in Pop goes VQA, a story in three parts, each one more misunderstood than the others. It would take months to come to better and more improved conclusions to that haughty complex story.

In June we convened the WineAlign Canadian Wine Awards in the Annapolis Valley. It was the first time that Nova Scotia hosted our motley crew and what a smashing success it was. Great thanks must go out to all our tremendous hosts including Wines of Nova Scotia, Domiane de Grand Pré, Benjamin Bridge Vineyards, Blomidon Estate, Annapolis Cider Company and Obladee Wine Bar in Halifax.

In July I once again made the pilgrimage to i4c, the International Chardonnay Cool Climate Conference, “the local mecca attracting thousands, arriving to praise chardonnay in all its glory. It’s chanted with incantatory connotation by patrons cantilevered like alluvial fans across the Niagara Peninsula. It teaches us about more than chardonnay because the rapidity of climate change is real and the desire for fresh is yet unquenched. This transcends chardonnay. It’s about growing grapes and making wines in places we all previously discounted. Recently scoffed at. It concerns farming higher, further and edgier. This conference and this grape together let us know that we must change.”

At i4c we welcomed California’s Karen MacNeil, Dr, Jamie Goode, Bill Zacharkiw, Treve Ring, Kurtis Kolt and Rhys Pender MW and then I penned 69 chardonnay reviews. What did Godello learn from Cool Chardonnay in 2017? After a visit to Pearl Morissette I learned from François Morissette, vigneron about oxidation.“Whatever we press, we oxidize. We do not oxidize wine, we oxidize must.” There’s a big difference. The stabilization of these wines are attributed to this idea of getting rid of all oxidizable compounds before they enter into the next stages of the winemaking process. Pleasing aromas, flavours, textures and ultimately the sum of the above elevates the cool chardonnay game and speaks to the future. But I did not learn enough. I needed to move beyond the ubiquity of cool climate. I wanted to understand more about cold soaking and whole berry fermentation. Just last week Pearl Morissette’s savant winemaker Brent Rowland sent me these words of enlightenment.

“This is the main reason I am such an advocate to whole bunch fermentation. The best tannin and worst tannin are seed tannin, depending on how you extract them…heat and alcohol rip out aggressive angular tannins. By keeping the berry attached to the rachis for as long as possible you are creating a little microenvironment for fermentation that is low heat and low alcohol, enabling you to slowly extract long polymerized tannins. This and perfume is the reason I do everything whole bunch. To me whole bunch has nothing to do with the stems, tannins from stems or flavour of stems.” He continues. “I absolutely think that skin contact wines can have elevated structure and texture. I also do not subscribe to the idea that some arbitrary number like “10 days” defines the genre. I did say that Orange wine is not an in-between wine but its own genre and I believe that. For the record I feel the less rigid the criteria for the category the better. As you state the broader the category the more opportunity for discovery of a valued category.” Thank you mate.

Be part of the Greatest Wine Revolution since Prohibition.

Where are we one year later?

I’ve two words for you. WineAlign Exchange. The WineAlign Exchange taps into the world of wines beyond the LCBO and delivers a curated, mixed case of top quality wines directly to your door. All the wines have been carefully chosen by our panel of critics for their quality and value. David Lawrason, John Szabo M.S., Sara d’Amato, Steve Thurlow and Godello. The first case delivered to hundreds of members was an all Platinum Award winners pack from the National Wine Awards of Canada. In terms of free trade we await a decision but don’t expect a miracle in 2018, Christmas or otherwise. As for the VQA panel in Ontario? Well, read my article referenced above and you’ll get my drift.

One of my favorite wines I tasted in 2017. All killer no filler. Beautifully ripe #cabernetfranc nice layers of cocoa, red, and black fruit. Tannin is liquid silk. Can_t wait for next

Let’s be Franc

Cabernet Franc is getting better all the time. In British Columbia the coolest sites are increasingly raising fresh, spirited and ultimately crushable wines with unmistakable west coast accents; savour, garrigue and mountain tea. With thanks to venn diagram circles drawn in and out of Niagara’s Lincoln Lakeshore, but also magically deep into the Prince Edward County limestone, the great Ontario hope is developing into what we thought it might be. Getable and structured red wine.

New World cabernet franc growing sites produce less delineation as compared to the various lieux-dites in the varietal homeland, France’s Loire Valley. Niagara is beginning to enter into an Old World state of mind, so now winemakers and by extension wine geeks, are posturing over micro-terroirs; Niagara-on-the-Lake, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, St. David’s Bench, Lincoln Lakeshore, Four Mile Creek. The same is happening in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley although the cumulative stylistic is worlds (four provinces to be exact) apart. In Nova Scotia Benjamin Bridge Vineyards’ viticultural and vinifying braintrust of Jean-Benoit Deslauriers and Scott Savoy are allocating serious resources to cabernet franc in the Gaspereau Valley. But how is it that decisions are made as to where to plant this crisp, juicy and crunchy grape? While many will disagree, if you consider growing sites as circles within the aforementioned venn diagram, in Canadian soils the shared subtleties can easily get buried or muddled within the common areas. The lines may be drawn but the web is tangled. That said, the story of franc terroir is getting clearer and clearer. Interloper carries the torch.

Tonight brought to you by #interloper and the inner beauty of #cabernetfranc @RavineVineyard #vqaniagaraonthelake

At this most recent NWAC17 judging experience the results from cabernet franc paints a more palatable picture than those brushed by both merlot and cabernet sauvignon. We are collectively impressed with and solidly behind the direction growers and winemakers are taking with this noble varietal. The 546 acres planted in B.C. are rising steadily and if I were merlot I’d be looking in the rear-view mirror. In Ontario more than 4,000 tonnes were harvested in 2015, third to only chardonnay and riesling. Four of five Gold Medals were Ontario in origin, 10 of 16 were awarded Silver and 10 of 17, Bronze. While only four in Ontario are labled “LL,” no less than 10 of the 24 winners were made with at least some significant amount of fruit grown in the Lincoln Lakeshore/Beamsville Bench circle of commonality. The sites we want to call “cru” are no longer a mystery.

Taskmasters not pictured #punchdowns #interloper

I can’t say this list is full of surprises, save for the first of 17. You see this particular wine is close to my heart because I had a hand in its concept and design. My partner Scott Zebarth and I teamed up with winemakers Marty Werner and Ben Minaker at Ravine Vineyards to produce what we all feel is the most exciting fresh breath of cabernet franc air to arrive in Ontario in quite some time. It’s obviously self-serving to put it on a best of the year list but we are very proud of this project and its inaugural effort. If you’ve tried it you know. If you haven’t, give me a ring. We’ll break Interloper bread together. To the other 16, welcome to the list.

Scott, Marty, Ben and I are proud to present the now SOLD OUT #interloper Cabernet Franc 2016. We’ll be back next year #vqa #niagaraonthelake #ravinevineyard

Interloper 2016, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario ($19.95)

Produced at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery with the winemaking team of Martin Werner and Ben Minaker

Variety: 100 per cent cabernet franc

Fruit source: 55 per cent Estate (St. David’s Bench), 40 Creek Road, five Tanbark (Four Mile Creek)

Harvest Dates: October 26th and November 5th, 2017

Time on skins: Estate 26 days, Creek 21 days

Length and type of fermentation: Three weeks, ambient/wild for both

Élévage: Eight months in old 225 L French barrels

Case Production: 22

mgodello  scottzebarth  marty_werner  benminaker23  ravinevineyard

Charles Baker Riesling B-Side 2016, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $22.00, WineAlign)

Vinyl records sound different because they are designed with grooves carved in that mirrors the original sound’s wave form. Their analog recording delivers a sensory feeling of warmth, an aural of texture, nuance and soul. There was a time when the hits spun over and over were also pressed onto the A-Side of 45 rpm singles. The discovery of a never before heard B-Side was a revelation because is was extra material from a favourite band and it was a great song. It meant the record was already too strong for that song to make the final cut and to choose it for a B-Side meant it would elevate the quality of the album. A well-chosen B was not an afterthought. This is the accomplishment of the first Charles Baker’s B-Side, for itself and for the vineyards of Iaen and Picone. Baker digs about in the Niagara Peninsula’s escarpment dirt for young vine, not ready for prime time riesling fruit. If perchance it seems like cheating on his per se Vinemount Ridge Picone and Ivan bottles so be it but one look at him and he’ll say “Hey, hey, what can I do?” His 2016 B-Side delivers a spray bottle Zeppelin expressing heady aromas, high in the stratosphere and raining down upon the earth. The notes are an all in, breath of classic Baker riesling air, blanketing from up above and with a landscape that reeks of lime and quivers with classic agitation. The fruit is wild and full, the salty grit infiltrating and gripping the bloody omniscience of this package. What is this B-Side and where will it be lead? To the top of the ridge, from earlier harvests, younger fruit and higher yields. Scratch the single vineyard elitism, just listen to the song and raise one up, to getting ‘er done before the conceptual singular side one and side two, Ivan and Picone. The Beatles? Forget it. Led’s flip side to the ‘Immigrant Song’ A is the one. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted November 2017  Charles Baker Wines  stratuswines  @cbriesling  @StratusWines  Stratus Vineyards

Tawse Riesling Quarry Road Vineyard 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (198853, $24.50, WineAlign)

There is no substitute for seasonal Vinemount Ridge warmth when you are (or even if you’re not) trying to emulate a Mosel like, fleshy Kabinett tension. The Tawse Quarry Road riesling has shown signs of such mimicry in the past but here in 2016 the coincidence is uncanny. Riesling amounts to just 10 per cent of the 2007 planted vineyard, a Fly Road in Lincoln block where chardonnay (planted in 1998) and pinot noir (2007) are queen and king of the hill. But it is riesling that mines for limestone and uses it to distill, filter and enervate the outright fruity purposes of orange zest, lime juice and sweet grapefruit flesh. This ’16 has it all; adipose drupe, salty elements and stasis preserve. It will add some petrol and honey after a few years time and drink well for a few to a bevy more. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted November 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Malivoire Rosé Moira 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (AgentWinery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Hard to believe what I see, a hue not blush nor pink, but gris. That “if my eyes don’t deceive me there’s something going wrong around here.” Forget about Provençe, don’t think too hard about Vin Gris but concentrate only on what Shiraz Mottiar has acceded with Rosé for Moira in ’16. Light and lithe do not begin to explain the rub. Rocks and stones are what come through the good earth on the nose. Is this the blush equivalent of mineralité, away from chardonnay and into pinot noir? “Is she really going out with him?” But the pinot noir component is almost non-existent so what is the phenolic advantage here? Has this gone too far or not far enough? Don’t mistake the things I say. This is delicious, understated and fully underestimated Rosé. It will have great appeal to a specific cognoscenti population and who could not think to drink it any day of the week? Commercially considered however, it may not speak a universal language. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017  malivoire  shirazmottiar  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar  @MalivoireWine

Flat Rock Riesling Nadja’s Vineyard 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (578625, $24.95, WineAlign)

Nadja, like the Bréton novel begins with the question, “Who am I?” A surrealistic trigger is incited by the first taste, with excitement running in many directions but like the book, Nadja’s non-linear structure is grounded in Twenty Mile Bench riesling reality. She is an elite varietal wine in 2016, excitable girl, gregarious, punchy and so bloody juicy. I don’t recall the last Nadja with so much up front zest fervency and writhing aromatic gait, “exploding international, the scenes, the sounds, and famously the feeling that you can’t squeeze ground.” The lime flesh and cordial infusion brings the flavours into a once tropical, twice bitten realm. The vintage delivers the electric version, the new pornographer for the vineyard and the song sung loud swan song for departing winemaker Jay Johnstone. Was it all for swinging you around? Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted October 2017  flatrockcellars  @Winemakersboots  @FlatRockCellars

First Fruit: Field Day Pet Nat, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

An escarpment Pet-Nat is born, thanks to the healthy and precocious idealism of winemaker Ryan de Witte and his Winona-based host Ilya Senchuk at Leaning Post Wines. The name “First Fruit: Field Day” carries three connotations; a reference to De Witte’s first commercial wine, the first crop off this particular block and the fact that it’s a field blend of two grapes. The erudite hat is thrown into the micro-cuvée, sparkling wine ring with interchangeable tracks of arts and science from near-equal parts muscat (60 per cent) and gewürztraminer. The style is pétillant-naturel, or as they say in Italy, Vino Rifermentato In Bottiglia, under crown cap with what Ryan notes “as much of the lees as I could get in.” The tightrope induces a two-fold increase, of reduction and for texture, from the nutrients fed the fermentation. De Witte’s math was sound because the effervescence is strong enough to blow the reduction off after a few seconds in the glass. One point for science. After tasting two samples I can safely say that the yeast deposit can’t be missed but it is those crafty and leaningpostwineconsolidated cells that drive the salvus meets salus machine. This lithe, re-fermented and crackling sparkler is both safe and healthy. You can feel its enzymes usher liquid happiness through your body and it makes you pause, leave the warrior behind and become at one with the experimental fizz. It’s raw and you want it to be so. The aromatic varieties collogue preserved lemon, ginger and aseptic vegetal scents in an almost funk-less Pet-Nat. It’s an impossible one actually, that is until you get a load of that slag at the bottom of the bottle. But the lack of danceable, rhythmic funk may deny you a Cissy Strut so think on it like Foam meets Talking Heads as in minimal, industrial, synth-pop. Or, in sparkling wine terms, one Pet-Nat’s riflessioni naturalische is another one’s clarity. One point for art. The intrigue here sets the bar high and looking ahead, when acidity can further provide boundless rhythm section support we’ll really have something to talk about. Inaugurals are never easy, nor is progress but the sophomore release will most certainly play on repeat. Let’s hope someone finds a category to place it for three-letter approval. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted Twice, February 2017  leaningpostwine  @LeaningPostWine  @Witte_Wine  Leaning Post Wines  Ryan de Witte

Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2015, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (566026, $29.95, WineAlign)

In a word, balance. Well two, balance and brilliance. CSV in 2015 takes the reigns from itself and stands firm. The fruit is in charge, the mineral a support system unparalleled and the minor celebratory sweetness a mere afterthought when it comes to rounding out the complexity. CSV is pretty darn back in ancient dolomite time travel and escarpments high great in 2015, uplifting, serious but yet not so. The numbers trip the light fantastic, fooling like gold and bones dry are seemingly preserved in karst but impossibly not. The sensoria apprised reel from the finest acidity it can possibly carry in its veritable truth. Deep lemon intent and a new wax vernacular speak the clarity of a wine that listens to its own expert advice. Might as well have made itself. CSV 2015 is one of the finest rieslings ever made from Ontario grapes. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted March 2017  cavespringcellars  thevineagency  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh  Cave Spring Cellars  The Vine – Robert Groh Agency

Sneak peak in the @TriusWines Meunier with Craig McDonald and a true Niagara Grand Cru @coolchardonnay site #lincolnlakeshore #oliveiravineyards #vqa #wildferment

Trius Showcase Chardonnay Wild Ferment Oliveira Vineyard 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $36.75, WineAlign)

When you consider the level of quality provided by the Wild Ferment 2014 it would be hard to imagine raising the bar any further but this is what winemaker Craig McDonald has managed with his exceptional 2015. The accomplishment is purely based on one year older, wiser and complexities developed Oliveira Farm vineyard fruit, the holy chardonnay grail, Lincoln Lakeshore playground. The site sits along the QEW below the escarpment’s Twenty Mile and Beamsville benches, a recipient of glacial till and rocks left behind by an ancient river running from a lake. It’s a chardonnay wonderland. Intensity of fruit purity, fleshy and real, remarkably juicy and notably crunchy has increased, upping the pleasure game and turning the impression knob up to 11. The windmill generates more power while always maintaining a classic Trius level of finesse. Then you think on the wood integration, equally impressionable because acidity is sweet and refined. Dry extract is also impressive, not to mention a fineness of grape tannin. The site’s unofficial designation as a Niagara Grand Cru should be upgraded with status. There is no better time than the present and the Wild Ferment’s 2015 ability is proof enough. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2017   triuswines  @TriusWines  @triuswines

Pearl Morissette Cuvée Madeline Cabernet Franc 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $38.00, WineAlign)

From the 19th Street Vineyard and wow, there is simply no cabernet franc like this cabernet franc. It pops and flies from the glass, in and out of your mouth, playful, buoyant, joyful, unbridled. A silky and spicy ripeness that’s also shed by its tannin, like shavings of a chocolate only a master knows to render, then currants electric and alive. Excels by its chewy mouthfeel and texture and you must ruminate on this cabernet franc. This is the it vintage, with all the enzymes in control, wrapped up in the enigma membrane and this low, classical Beethoven orchestral strings rumble, on a Verona stage, surrounded by the ancient rocks, acoustics perfect. You can get lost in franc like this. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017  pearlmorissette  @PearlMorissette  Pearl Morissette

Quails’ Gate Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (639641, $43.95, WineAlign)

Some of the Okanagan Valley’s great chardonnay fruit is found on its eastern shore and makes its way into this Quail’s Gate Reserve. The story and place go back 60 plus years and wait if you can’t nose it in this top North American chardonnay. Forget comparisons, competitions and blind judgements but pull anything you want from Sonoma and watch this raise eyebrows and turn heads. The variegations are numerous and in replay. Richness, bite, energy, spirit and firm conceit. The barrel is everywhere and nowhere. What is a great chardonnay? It’s completely invisible, yet always in sight. It remembers what people hate. It anticipates the consumer’s needs before the needs are needed. A great chardonnay is, above all, discreet to a fault. Such is the Stewart Family Reserve. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted October 2017   quails gate  hobbsandcompany  @Quails_Gate  @AMH_hobbsandco  Quails’ Gate  Hobbs & Co.

Sparkling wine you need to know @lwwines Blanc de Blanc Extra Brut 2013, from the shores of the #minasbasin #annapolisvalley #novascotia

Lightfoot & Wolfville Blanc De Blanc Extra Brut 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

Josh Horton and Rachel Lightfoot presented an early, less leesy glimpse of their 100 per cent estate chardonnay at i4c in July of 2016. It was a different animal than this recently disgorged (late February/early March) sparkling wine. The Extra Brut lives up to its designation, from fruit grown on the shores of the Minas Basin under the auspices of a markedly warm year with exceptional phenolic ripeness and 25 per cent malolactic gain. The time relative to texture lees accumulation is approximately 40 months and it’s an accurate representation of Nova Scotia low and slow. The flavours are wisely developed ripe and spicy, leaning into a moment or two of oxygenation, but seemingly richer than the amount of lees time that was given. Now emerging from the shell of not just a warm but a great chardonnay year (as previously proven by the Ancienne released two years ago). The notion here is of a sparkling wine that has been brought home, a B de B that you need to get to know. There are layers and layers of character that fold and unfold. The precision, focus and rendering is citrus tamed, mouthfeel in perpetual expansion and contraction, length linear and elastic. And it’s just the beginning. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted June 2017  lwwines  @lwwines  Lightfoot & Wolfville

Blomidon Late Pick Sparkling Chardonnay 2011, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

The 2011 late-picked chardonnay, the “Hurricane” is a hyperbole of itself. Normally picked in later October, the frost-free weather allowed further time and development. Picked from seaside vineyards just ahead of another hurricane (in a season that included Irene), this is sparkling wine you just have to try. Though lean, taut and as intense as you are likely to taste, the developed character and complexity is visionary for Nova Scotia and Canadian sparkling wine. Three years on the lees brings the texture and fills the gaps, holes and voids created by such a tightly wound cool climate chardonnay. The dry factor is exaggerated in 2011 (a one-off says winemaker Simon Rafuse) but the wine takes full advantage of the Extra-Brut intent. Did it require the anxiety of a recent and an impending cyclone? Can it be duplicated? “That’s the story of the Hurricane.” Visionary for Nova Scotia and Canadian sparkling wine. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2017  blomidonestate  @BlomidonEstate  Blomidon Estate Winery

Southbrook Poetica Red 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (355859, $69.95, WineAlign)

It seems at first that Poetica 2013 was chosen by winemaker Ann Sperling to be the deferential one. The blend is dominated by 74 per cent cabernet sauvignon, the highest number ever for the wine. Conversely the cabernet franc component is set to 23 per cent and far less petit verdot (3 per cent) rounds out the blend. That number had been 29 per cent in 2012 because the varietal elegance shown at that time necessitated the relationship. In 2013 it is the cabernet sauvignon that displayed with elegance and an uncanny ability to sow of its own accord and yes, it is an exceptional vintage so look for 2013 to age on a 15 year curve. The Witness Block CS-CF follows suit and the SV-PV is better off for the allocations. Every wine wins as a result. There is this deep-impressed sous-terre tang in here, a wisdom certainly, and when it is released later in the year the heads will turn. Poetica is often but here not overly tannic, but it is endowed with bones, spine and structure. The flavours, spice and magnetism give cause to salivate. Only Ann Sperling makes Niagara reds like this, wines that can develop such architecture without an excess of tannin, astringency and chalky chocolate from over-wrought wood exchange. Poetica 2013 will drink well young and comfortably into the end of the next decade. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted January 2017  southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @TheLivingVine  @SouthbrookWine   @SouthbrookWine  The Living Vine inc.

A finer man, winemaker and host you will not find. Thank you @normanhardie @keeponshucking @clarsenault @cuveeletittia @Mknow21 @mclauriault and all.

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Cuvée Des Amis 2014, Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $150.00, 1500ml, WineAlign)

As exceptional as chardonnay may have seemed from out of the 2013 Ontario vintage you haven’t lived or loved until you get a taste of (only in magnum format) Norm Hardie’s 2014 Cuvées des Amis. This chardonnay attacks and ascends, recalibrating the inner workings of the brain and how it develops conceptualization. It is a state of the art and all-knowing elixir to remind that ’13 was a vintage with profitable yields and a generously stretched canvas on which to practice on, for when things begin to get real. The CdeA spent 18 months in barrel, the first 12 (in 35 per cent new), the next six in neutral and the last six in stainless steel on the fine lees. The spin class in the mouth manages agility, dextrous, furtive movement and completes many pirouettes. The dance is pure joy but the intensity is equally to disturbingly intrusive, suggesting more settling time is necessary. The flavour pearls are delicate and come straight from the oyster so they carry salinity, power and brine. Pure lemon essence is received by intravenous injection. Sumptuous is translated from Hardie-speak as a four-letter, Prince Edward County word. It doesn’t get more real than right here, with the best fruit, the tripping of the light fantastic, previously unheard and unseen unconscionable concentration. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted twice, June and July 2017  normanhardiewinery  @normhardie  Norman Hardie

Le Vieux Pin Équinoxe Syrah 2014, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $80.00, WineAlign)

Èquinoxe is announced without equivocation as the Bricco of B.C. syrah and an absolutely lovely Bench expression from winemaker Severine Pinte. What came from these three-quarters Osoyoos Lake District and one-quarter Black Sage vineyards in 2013 was floral and peppery, with a fineness that belies a dessert climate but in 2014, well this is something more and other. You just have to think about texture here and a quality of acidity that is peerless in B.C. syrah. So juicy, beautifully tannic and rendered with culture and class. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2017  levieuxpin  @LeVieuxPin  Le Vieux Pin Winery

My eyes do not deceive me. It’s Decant @StratusWines #cabernetfranc bottled with lees #vqa #niagaraonthelake #karimrashid

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

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

Supper at Benjamin Bridge

Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Estate Blanc De Blancs 2013, Nova Scotia (Winery, $119.50, WineAlign)

Tasted from a bottle disgorged in May 2017, there alights a plugged-in, three-pronged, dazed, charged and enchanted energy about the Bridge’s ’13 Blanc de Blancs. The history of go it alone pure chardonnay is a relatively short one for the estate so this quickly makes up for lost time or rather with haste sets the timer and heads out at first light. “Like sittin’ on pins and needles, things fall apart, it’s scientific.” Wild, of talking heads temper and yeasts, done up in demi-muids, with a wilder secondary fermentative push riding on the coattails of the primary fermentation. Everything in this wine is a productive child of the vineyard, of no third party sugars or consultations. “How do you do that without making a Pétillant Naturel,” I wonder aloud. It’s a second ferment, non-contiguous is the reason, even if the former is both influencer and mentor to the latter. It certainly falls under the category of “micro-cuvée. Like its cousin and predecessor (Blanc de Noirs 2011), this ’13 BdeB is mired intensely inward within its own specificity and is not so much a sparkling wine with competitive soul. It is a pure representative of chardonnay grown in Nova Scotia for one purpose. So let’s talk about true stories and wild, wild life. “You get on board anytime you like.” Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2017  benjaminbridge  caveman__jones   winesofn  @Benjamin_Bridge  @benjaminbridgevineyards  @WinesofNS @benjaminbridgevineyards  @winesofns

As we taste through the #NWAC17 finals we thank @ZWILLING_CA for the rocking great glassware. Canadian wines are better for these vessels.

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Three estates, 23 wines, one agent

Back in April of 2017 I walked into Canoe Restaurant on the 54th Floor of the Toronto Dominion Centre to taste the Henriot Family wines of Villa Ponciago, Domaine William Fèvre and Bouchard Père & Fils. This tasting hosted by Woodman Wines and Spirits is more than just an annual highlight, it is an event borne of necessity for a multiple of triumvirate reasons. Gamay, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; Beaujolais, Chablis-Bourgogne and Bourgogne; Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru; Fleurie, Chablis and Les Côtes, d’Or and Chalonnaise; Climat, Climat and Climat. If you want to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between producer, Village and Climat then you cannot miss such an opportunity.

Related – Bourgogne in a word: Climat

The vintage may have been one borne out of sunshine and the wines are unquestionably rich. From a vantage point of precision and structure they may not be as stubborn, focused and direct as 2014 but they hold a famous adage accountable to its meaning. No wine can truly be great if it does not taste that way from the very beginning. Fruit must be there from the start. It will not later be found. These are the 2015 Beaujolais and Bourgogne as exemplified by these three categorical producers.  I would have liked to taste all 33 wines on offer that day but time constraints for one got in the way, not to mention this tasting is so popular amongst the media and trade in Toronto so several of the wines were drained before I could get to them. Nevertheless I did manage to squeeze 23 concentrated sessions into a 90 minute time slot and these are my notes. Thank you as always to Russell, Jason and Rachel Woodman.

Villa Ponciago La Réserve Fleurie 2015, AOC Beaujolais, France (Agent, $25.00, WineAlign)

Been waiting for 2015 to come along for Ponciago’s no pain Fleurie la Réserve, a gamay always firm but now of fruit like compound berry butter from the giving vintage. Now with more black cherry than almost ever, or at least in recent memory, the tart compressed, compounded too but variegated mille feuille-like so not really tart at all. No war of juicy versus grippy so “I resist what I cannot change.” Persistent as needed but not forever, so this drinkable drug is just what the Beaujolais doctor ordered. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2017  chateaudeponcie  

Villa Ponciago Cuvée Les Hauts Du Py 2015, Fleurie, AOC Beaujolais, France (Agent, $31.00, WineAlign)

Even the generous vintage can’t distract from the quartz-lined granite bedrock of the Hauts du Puy but it does make for an intensely layered cuvée of moving parts. This 2015 is possessive of a repeatable Réserve condition but with bigger, broader and more complex dark red berries, though also here in the throes of the mineral streak of diffidence. There are few examples of Fleurie that concentrate, purify and integrate inchoate soil and munificent fruit like Les Hauts and with the vintage so forward and early expressive this is as gamey getable as there is on the market today. Pour this critical mass with reckless abandon. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted April 2017

Unsparing and benevolent @vinsdechablis 2015s aplenty from @williamfevre_ via @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Beauroy 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $58.00, WineAlign)

There can be no surprise that Beauroy is broader, creamier and it can be said, fruitier than Vaillons though again, the salty earth and the ancient ocean are swirling with their liquid mineral solutions and rushing through with their waves. As Févre is so want to insist, to call to order, even in the thick brushstroke of Beauroy. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2017  williamfevre_chablis  woodmanws  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS  @domainewilliamfevre  Woodman Wines & Spirits

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $58.00, WineAlign)

Vaillons walks along a kimmeridgian trail with so much fruit from the elongated slope and valley in ’15. Though truth be told (winemaker) Didier Séguier has kept the fossils, salinity and direct mineral injections consistent with not only ’14 but in omniscience and with complete trust to what came before. This is not no much a piercing as it is indeed an injection. There is much to learn from how Fèvre approaches Vaillons becuase the consistency is second to none. Vintage matters less and that is the calling card of the house, at least with respect to this Premier Cru. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2015, AOC Bourgogne (488718, $39.95, WineAlign)

Montmains is different, that much we know but this is 2015 and no modern era vintage speaks with more fruit clarity. Still the herbology mixed into the salinity and brine consistently forms the basis for the Montmains oeuvre. What conspires from ’15 is more depth and soild tang than what comes off of the nearby hills. It’s like lime over lemon but it’s not exactly citrus that sits at the forefront, more like savoury syrup swirled in but in thick rotation at the conical bottom’s narrowing point. This is quite intense for 2015, but it is Montmains that effects this indelicacy with great presence and the most insistent Premier Cru persistence thus far. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $69.00, WineAlign)

This Premier Cru of greatest surface is committed to by Fèvre with a singular duality, of a domaine within a domaine and as cru versus cru. The greater Fourchaume is a Grand Cru hill place of five distinct climats in which Fèvre holds blocks in Vaulorent so they bottle both it and this ubiquitous Fourchaume. Upwards of four hectares deliver a best of all Premier Cru worlds Chablis as Forchaume is gathered for a collective sumptuousness, really layered and propping up the most kimmeridgian of the line-up to date for ’15. Carries its ilk in its DNA and its expresion; compression, lemon and lime citrus, soil conditioning and the broadest yet most direct feel of appeal. If you want Fevre, 2015, Premier Cru and ancient wisdom all wrapped up in one clear package this is the bank expression for you. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $99.00, WineAlign)

Bougros, the approachable one. Bougros, with great unction and deep intensity but not hard to get. How this has gathered its sensibilities so quickly is a matter of vintage and place but there are layers, many of them, left to peel away. You get a conditioned and developed salinity meets acidity unlike any Premier Cru and yet you can’t help needing to think it should be drinkable straight away. The potential of mille-feuille layering is leaps ahead of (most but not all) of the Premier Pru. Quite domesticated Grand Cru Chablis that is easier to understand than most. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $125.00, WineAlign)

If Les Preuses isn’t the Fèvre piece, of resistance and resilience. Of memory and understanding, of formidable variegation and in ’15, teasing and tempting open doors. Don’t be fooled or duped because there are many doors and so many fences to tear down before you can find what’s behind the barriers. Intensifies in its delivery of more citrus and compressed stone clarity than Bougros (or at least with more crunch and bite) but it will take years of ruminative meal matching possibilities and execution before you might know where it stands and with it, relative to you. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (641381, $130.00, WineAlign)

Fèvre’s Les Clos takes a bit of an unexpected turn so from 2015 it currently goes stone cold and remains intensely locked. From what we know the vintage should be generous from the start but in this instance Les Clos makes use of every ounce and fibre of kimmerridgian being to lay only salt, fossil and stone before you. The fruit kept hidden away makes you pine for fleshy orchard apples. Nothing can really prepare you for the Les Clos iron gate, especially when you were expecting a welcome mat laid out at your feet. Take the time to charm and be charmed, at least 15 minutes with a glass or 15 years if you can offer up the time. The Grand Cru will slowly open up and speak in a vernacular of controlled energy, fineness of acidity and exceptional balance. This will be one for the ages.  Drink 2021-2035. Tasted April 2017

Bouchard Père & Fils Montagny Premier Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (653683, $38.00, WineAlign)

Montagny is rich and expressive with a shot of tonic and quite the textural viscosity. A bit reductive though another six to 12 months will put it in a honeyed, waxy and preserved citrus place. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2017  bouchardpereetfils    @BouchardPere  Bouchard Père & Fils

Bouchard Père & Fils Saint Aubin Premier Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $57.00, WineAlign)

Saint-Aubin’s proximity to Montrachet and high percentage of Premier Cru vineyards should be an automatic to elevate its esteem but it still flies under the radar. Bouchard feels otherwise and proudly boasts and toasts its ability to effect fine chardonnay. Great 2015 fruit be scorned this is a terrifically taut example but yes it is certainly fruit expressive (apples and such). In relative terms to Saint-Aubin it delivers more perceived sweetness and spice provided by the barrel in what is ostensibly and sensibly really well-intended and generous from the start. A bit of a wild child this one with plenty of upside. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2017

Bouchard Père & Fils Puligny Montrachet 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $80.00, WineAlign)

It has often been said that Village level Puligny-Montrachet from top growers can be very good indeed, but is all too often unexciting and disappointing. Combine that statement with a humid 2015 vintage and you may be left to wonder what will happen from a non vineyard-specific Puligny. Bouchard’s stands firm, acts forthright and tackles the suspicion head on. This is a direct, linear, layered and unctuous P-M with layers of lemon and fresh glade air at their get me vintage finest. It’s also a wine of grace and elegance away from barrel and into something ethereal. Acidity suits the flesh, not as an injunction but as an extension and takes the fruit into a place of inflection. Such a beautiful wine. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Les Clous 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (661322, $59.95, WineAlign)

Bouchard’s Meursault Les Clous seems akin to acknowledging the ideal of Bourgogne that sit somewhere along the line between Village and Premier Cru and in this instance well right of centre on that line. Les Clous is a bit more reserved than the Puligny, not so much reductive as much as it is wrapped a bit tight. It may be construed as perhaps a bit couterintuitive to Meursault but certainly not impossible to accept. Really brings the idea of lemon curd and a melting barrel into the ideal. Needs two years to integrate and if you are patient it will reward with a comforting hug at that time. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Premier Cru Genevrières 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $129.00, WineAlign)

Meursault Genevières is so much more fleshy, fruit forward, expressive and feminine than Les Clous though never straying too far from carrying a necessary liquid limestone, chalky streak through and through. The soil speaks more from the middle to the back, creating a fascinating transition for this wine. A warmth challenged vintage be anathematized this Genevières has not gone to blazes, constantly re-energizes and is built from a constitution to see it hang in for the long haul. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru Morgeot 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $141.00, WineAlign)

Bouchard’s Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot is an intense expression of Bourgogne Premier Cru distilled into the finest, most elegant and ancient geology captured expression. The integration and balance is remarkable when you consider how Climat must contract intuition and acumen for the purpose of harnessed power and controlled energy. This is one of the major stars of the vintage. From soil to microclimate and through temperament it just has it all. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $260.00, WineAlign)

Corton Charlemagne is a thing of great opulence, not the intense and controlled energy of Chevalier-Montrachet but here strutting and the wood more apparent. The fruit component shows off more desire (like Vaudesirs in Chablis but with the volume turned way up). This affinity with Grand Cru Chablis is curious, in a way interchangeable but respectfully mutual, apparent and beneficent. The munificence of this Corton breathes to fleshy texture and from mellifluous honey and bees waxy genteel notes. Power is evident but gorgeous and together is even more so. Toasty in the end, as in the beginning, with lime in gelid curd. Drink 2019-2029. Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne, France (Agent, $480.00, WineAlign)

Chevalier-Montrachet is a matter of aromatics, of the finest of the finest, preserved, reserved, impressionable and of quietly powerful impression. The deistic and the parrhesiastic are reached in this Grand Cru, “one who speaks the truth to power.” Elysium in chardonnay is captured for the perfectly ripe orchard and crushed stones. The young palate is almost severe but takes its first steps down the most ethereal path, with the finest drawn lines and rendered streaks of energy lit, sparked and smouldering. This is Bourgogne of intrinsic value, slowly rising to a crescendo where a flame flickers but within the sheltered lamp of a hurricane. How is such harnessed power even possible? Only like this, in Chevalier-Montrachet . Drink 2021-2037.  Tasted April 2017

Bouchard Père & Fils Monthélie Les Duresses 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $57.00, WineAlign)

Monthélie is intensely floral where roses merge into violets and then strawberry melds into raspberry. Some firm grip as the Climat would suggest but it’s really quite a salvo, like shots fired into the air as an announcement of the wine’s drink early ability. Dureté could just as easily be fermeté because there is strength in trust, belief and assurance. Les Duresses brings attention to itself quite easily and with shameless selfie confidence. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted April 2017

Bouchard Père & Fils Gevrey Chambertin 2015, AOC Bourgogne (661330, $59.95, WineAlign)

Bouchard’s 2015 is incredibly forward Gevrey Chambertin, full of fruit, flowers and a beautifully integrated red liquid chalky syrup. It’s just plain getable and is the godfather to all of its peers. If you want to show the world and everyone in it who knows or knows nothing about high-level Bourgogne then perhaps consider this to be the journey’s departure point. Gevrey and especially in the hands of Bouchard is such a gate for what it means to build pinot noir from the earth upwards. It explains what needs in a language you can understand and makes an offer you can’t refuse. Pour this every day simply because it is quintessentially ripe and structured stuff. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted April and November 2017

Bouchard Père & Fils Chambolle Musigny 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $78.00, WineAlign)

Initial mannerisms direct the imagination to view this Chambolle Musigny as taking a turn towards a gentler version of itself. It’s quite floral and mineral with fruit the protein in between the covers. The condiments of spice, espagnole and coulis derived by that wood-soaked red fruit provide the structure. There are moments when this pinot noir seems more mineral than fruit and this equivocation will surely repeat depending on the time each one is opened but in time the genial will emerge and remain. For now the fleeting impression is of a grippy, firm, intense, citrus circus of acrobatic ability. At the finish it turns to the botanical and the tonic. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Ancienne Cuvée Carnot Volnay Caillerets Premier Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $116.00, WineAlign)

Caillerets Ancient Cuvée Carnot is no young, impressionable and misunderstood bit of Bourgogne winemaking. There is DNA in this fruit that connects back 240 years to the house’s first vineyard dating to 1775. Here Volnay exhibits a substantial amount of chalky limestone swimming with variegated aggregate and firm, not quite ready to dissolve crunchy stone behaviour. Dark fruit and so much fraises de bois meets this perception brought on by mineral aromas and flavour. A bit savoury and all in for Volnay. So bloody in charge of its structure with grippy persistence. A classic Climat meets vintage of strength, courage and purpose. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Grèves Premier Cru Vigne De L’enfant Jésus 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $156.00, WineAlign)

When I asked Luc Bouchard which Climat most defines the notion for the estate he replied “from Bouchard estate we are very proud of the Climat of Beaune Grève Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus, monopole of Bouchard since 1791, a unique terroir with gravely soil (unique in Beaune). The roots go very deep into the soil (9m), so if we have a very dry summer there is always enough water far below and if there is heavy rain storm, the drainage is so good that the water is not directly swallowed by the grapes. That explains the consistency of the wine, it’s unique texture and ageing potential.” Beaune Grève Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus in 2015 is the wondrous inhalant, like (dare it be said) Hermitage if it were married to Côte d’Or, of an impossible liqueur and the first to bring this truly rich 2015 element to a Bouchard pinot noir. The finest silk coats the palate and through black composure the mineral (limestone) in here will never relent and let the dark fruit take charge. This is a wine of impeccable balance and gentle, ethereal preciseness. It impresses as much as any Bourgogne will. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted April 2017

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Le Corton Grand Cru 2015, AOC Bourgogne (Agent, $180.00, WineAlign)

Le Corton the Grand Cru is a senior, most adult red of the Côte d’Or crowd, an inwardly impressing Bourgogne with more mineral limestone impression than you can bother trying to imagine settling into one bottle. This is a factor of the very top of the vineyard and can’t be denied. Eighty years ago this Grand Cru received its AOC status but you can feel the roots go so much deeper. East-facing below the Charlemagne holding, Le Corton is often one of the last wines to be picked and it is this necessity that speaks to the severity and royal power wielded by this king of the appellation. In a word, wow and provided by so much wisdom. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted April 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign