High altitude heliophiles in Argentina

Bodega DiamAndes, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina

As seen on WineAlign – A masterclass across Argentina

For the malbec, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, cabernet franc, criolla, torrontés and chardonnay of Argentina the present day vernacular promoted by the party line tells us “altitude defines a singular type of wine.” Most of the country’s wine lands are located on soils perched at impressive heights, at least with respect to sea level. To the naked eye the vineyards of Mendoza are of a perfect design to act as a collective poster child for a flat earth society manifesto, but looks are deceiving. The gentle climb from that province’s eponymous city centre at 750 meters above sea level to the rain shadow wall of the Andes Mountains is a subtle gradation that transfers vineyard elevations up to and exceeding well over 1,000 further metres. Say what you will about Mendoza’s absence of switchback ridges tracking rolling or angled foothills. Solar radiation is very real here and the effect of elevation on grape growing is a highly critical component of viticultural matters.

Joaquin Superman @hidalgojoaquin offers #CndsInArg a dissertation on high altitude terroir @winesofarg ~ @aldosvinoteca

It was only weeks ago that I had the favourable and fortuitous opportunity to travel around with the team at Wines of Argentina. Ontario’s WOFA representative Liz Luzza introduced me to her Quebec counterpart Marilyne Demandre. Together we were joined by Mark Bradbury, Bar Manager at The Bicycle Thief, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Yann Janvier, Le Sommelier Moderne in Montreal, Michael Mizzi, Co-Owner and Alexander Raphael, Bar Manager AMA Always, Toronto and Paul Madden, Director of Purchasing, Crowfoot Wines & Spirits, Calgary, Alberta for a group traverse across the South American country. We were led with the guidance of WOFA’s exceptional on the ground team; Soledad Juncosa, Sofia Brazzolotto, Paula Valle, Analia Lucero and Romina Ruiz. We did not make Lionel Messi’s acquaintance but we did experience first hand in Caminito and at the Buenos Aires Aeroparque Jorge Newbery the first leg of the Copa Libertadores final. I can only begin to explain the cacophony of roars when goals were scored during the intense rivalry between Boca Juniors and River Plate. The November trip took in Buenos Aires (including Recoleta Cemetery), Mendoza City, Luján de Cuyo (Agrelo), the Uco Valley (Gualtallary and Tupungato) and Salta Province (Cafayate and Calchaqui Valley). The journey will always be considered as a masterclass across Argentina because that is precisely what it was.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

It began at a Buenos Aires institution, Aldos Restorán & Vinoteca for a dissertation on high altitude terroir through the savant Argentine eyes of Joaquin “Superman” Hidalgo. Joaquin did more than merely explain the effect of altitude and solar radiation, he also poured an extraordinary cross-section of the country’s malbec from Jujuy to Patagonia, Tucuman-Catamarca to Gualtallary-Tupungato, Uco Valley.  In the Palermo neighbourhood of Buenos Aires we convened at that city’s most coveted mecca for beef consumption, the exulted Don Julio Parilla, where we were schooled on the wines of Familia Schroeder and Patagonia. Later that night it was a wholly unexpected, antithetical and epiphanic tasting of white, pink and orange in Mendoza at Azafrán Resto with principals from Chakana Wines, Alpamanta and Ernesto Catena’s Domaine Alma Negra.

#tastingroom writing #tastingnotes @bodegadiamandes ~ #valledeuco #cdnsinarg @winesofarg

A visit to Finca Decero opened the window to the Agrelo advantage along with the wines tasted belonging to Alta Vista, Altos Los HormigasArgento, Susana Balbo and Trapiche. This was followed by a stop at Vicentin/Sottano. At Bodega Luigi Bosca it was head winemaker Pablo Cúneo who unlocked some secrets hidden inside the soils of Luján de Cuyo, with help from pours by Bodega CasarenaBodegas Navarro CorreasFinca Las MorasMascota Vineyards, Pascual Toso and Vina Cobos. Then we entered the Tupungato, Uco Valley portal at Domaine Bousquet along with the wines of Bodega Andeluna, Bodega Atamisque, Bodegas Bianchi, Familia Zuccardi and Finca Sophenia. The incomprehensible wall of beauty provided by the snow-covered Andes acted as the backdrop to the al fresco tasting room at Bodega Diam Andes. It was here that we gained a deeper understanding of the mountain connection to Clos de los Siete and Vista Flores-Valle de Uco wines. The wines of Bodega Piedra NegraCasa de Uco, Masi Tupungato and Bodega Salentein helped usher these sub-appellative Mendoza wines into the light.

Salads in Argentina are exceptional

Before heading north we were met at our Mendoza hotel by Viña Cobos winemkaer Andres Vignoni for a seminar and tasting of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon. As a general rule cabernet franc is planted in dry Argentine climates, in Winkler Zones 11 and 111. It has nicely adapted to high altitudes (900m+) and its prominence began spreading after 1990, especially in Luján de Cuyo where 34 per cent of the country’s vines are grown. The varietal boom has really swelled in the last 18 years. Studies show that its best maturity is at 1000-1200m, with hot spots being at Los Arboles, San Pablo, Gualtallary, Agrelo, La Consulta and Paraje Altamira. The country’s third most planted red grape variety is cabernet sauvignon, historically raised in a “Bordeaux meets Rioja school,” with long barrel aging and traditionally grown in Maipu and Luján de Cuyo. The varietal has migrated to cooler spots, where greater freshness is being chosen ahead of over maturation, not to mention less/smaller use of new barrels. Sub-zone favourites are Las Compuertas, Perdriel, Agrelo, Cruz de Piedra, Gualtallary, La Consulta, Paraje Altamira, Cafayate and Santa Maria.

Godello post masterclass on cabernet sauvignon and franc with Viña Cobos winemkaer Andres Vignoni

From Ciudad de Mendoza Airpark we shuffled off to Salta, destination Cafayate. The drive took us though the desert monuments of Quebrada de las Conchas. The next day there was a fast, furious and fascinating look at Cafayate and Valle Calchaqui high altitude terroirs through the Donald Hess Bodega Colome and Bodega Amalaya lens. At Bodega El Esteco was walked beneath the 70 year-old criolla and torrontés vines. In the afternoon heat of Cafayate’s 30-plus degree early Spring sun we walked the limestone rocky desert moonscape of Piattelli Vineyards with proprietor John Malinski. A visit to Cafayate and the Valles Calchaquies would have been incomplete without a Bad Brothers Wine Experience. My understanding of Argentina’s fringe, edgy and extreme high altitude wines was confused until I met Agustín Linús and his Sunal malbec. Terruños de extrema indeed.

Snowy Andes backdrop makes Godello happy ~ snap (c) @marylinedemandre

One of the highest vineyards in Argentina is in Salta Province, 1,200 kms north of Mendoza. It is called Altura Máxima and it sits perched at 3,100 meters above sea level. Whaaat? It is one of the most extreme vineyards in the country, but not the only one. There are 20 or more, carved out of desert sand and rock where terroir is made up of climate, soil and in these extreme locations, the machinations of man. Climate is highly variable so rainfall and heliophany (the energy of the sun reaching the soil) and temperature are the most important factors. So when we speak of climate in Argentina we have to attach the altitude to the problem. The equation is always modified by the effects of altitude. Not to mention atmospheric pressure. Altitude in relation to temperature. For every 155m of linear rise, in temperate zones the average temperature of a point on the map drops by one degree. This effect is called vertical thermal gradient and the cause is due to atmospheric pressure. And then, with every 1,000m of linear rise, solar radiation increases by 15 per cent. In order to be more resistant to light, the plants produce more polyphenols. There is a proven relationship between UVB and a higher concentration of polyphenols and abdisic acid. In the end it’s a matter of cool climates with a great intensity of sun. Stress conditions at 1,500m or higher results in lower yields, high polyphenols, higher acidity and ultimately a marked variance of character. Explains Joaquin Hidalgo, “mastering the terroir is a challenge that involves another way of managing the vineyard.”

New Piattelli Vineyards planting in the high altitude desert of the Calchaqui Valley

The production and consumption of wine in Argentina dates back to over four hundred years ago when the first specimens of Vitis Vinifera were brought to the Americas by the Spanish colonizers in the early 16th century. Early in the 1900’s, the vineyard area had reached 519,800 acres but between 1982 and 1992 extensive uprooting of vineyards was undertaken and 36 per cent of the existing vineyards were removed. In the early 1990s a new era began for the Argentine wine industry. The arrival of Neoliberalism in the national economy led to the implementation of a model of adjustment and the incorporation of Argentina into the global market. With a population of 42 million inhabitants and a territory that is four times larger than France, Argentina is one of the world’s nature reserves. Privileged with outstanding natural richness and extraordinarily diverse landscapes, Argentina boasts high mountains and plains, lush vegetation and extreme deserts, forests and steppes, glaciers and waterfalls.

Stunning #cafayate morning in the 60-70 year-old #criolla and #torrontes vines @bodegaelesteco in Salta

This wealth of natural ecosystems includes vast, highly productive grape growing regions stretching at the foot of the Andean strip, to the West of the country, from latitude 22° south to latitude 42° south. The cultivated area covers more than 538,071 acres. The vineyard area of Argentina covers 545.737,99 acres (2017). From the total area just 502.895,78 acres are able to vinify. The breakdown is 56 per cent red, 19 white and 25 Rosé. The leading red varieties are malbec (36), bonarda (16), cabernet sauvignon (13) and syrah (10). For whites it is torrontés (25), chardonnay (16), sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc each (5).

Canadians in Argentina at the Devil’s Throat in Salta Province ~ #quebradadelasconchas

Today, despite a skyrocketing national inflation rate, the wine industry continues to thrive. While certainly not immune to the economic crisis, exports are growing and the wines from Argentina are evolving to meet global demands. I tasted upwards of 150 wines in my week spent in Argentina. This report covers 37 wines from 37 producers. These are 37 that struck me as being exceptional, ahead of the curve or simply the perfect sort of examples to speak about climate, soil and of course, altitude.

Mendoza shuffle with some fine examples and cross section of terroirs to represent #winesofargentina ~

Malbec

Bodega Amanecer Andino Malbec Reserva Quebrada De Humahuaca 2017, Tumbaya, Jujuy, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

From a new location for growing grapes, at 2,200 metres of altitude, very close to Bolivia. Even if malbec is not necessarily the most interesting varietal to grow at this altitude, it is the most elastic variety and will always work. The pH (3.77), the acidity (6.6 g/L) and the alcohol are all set to high but it does not come across like any other malbec any of us have ever tasted. Full bodied and very fresh, really salty, a malbec so affected by altitude. So bloody interesting. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted November 2018  amanecer.andino  @BodegaAmanecer 

Agustín Lanús Wines Malbec Sunal Ilógico 2017, Tucuman Catamarca, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

The wine is drawn from vineyards in Pucará Salta, Lucaratao Salta, Amaicha del Valle Tucumán and Hualfin Catamarca. Real body and richness, savour and verdancy. The touch is delicately salty, with medium acidity and a constrained power. Really fine balance. The length is forever, a fact proven by an opened bottle showing exemplary freshness a full eight days later. Everything in Argentina might claim to be drawn away from high altitude but this from Agustín Lanús at 2,800m plus is the real deal. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted twice, November and December 2018  agustinlanuswines  @agustin_lanus  Agustín Lanús  

Tinto Negro Vineyard 1955 Malbec 2013, La Consulta, San Carlos, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, B.C. $81.99, WineAlign)

The most important factor in Altamira is not the altitude but the soil. It’s at 1000m but from the cooler, southern part of the Uco Valley. Very high pH (3.8) and well-managing acidity. This wine has it all; great fruit, savour, sweet viscosity, freshness, acidity and structure. Not to mention fine tannins and polyphenolic textural beauty. A high altitude and a place that keeps its cold air. Forget about how much oak and what the alcohol may be. The clay and the cool factor keep it all real. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted November 2018  bodegatintonegro  thewinesyndicate    @winesyndicate  @thewinesyndicate

Catena Zapata Malbec Adrianna Vineyard River Stones 2015, Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (132340, $95.59, WineAlign)

In a line up that includes malbec from all walks of Mendoza life as well as some extreme altitude northern examples this is the first wine with a somewhat reductive quality, locked in freshness and very high acidity. It’s a wine of exceptional qualities. There is a highly intellectual and sensory balance executed through perfectly ripe fruit, that fine acidity and even more fineness in tannins. A beautifully linear wine that can come full circle if need be. This is a malbec that creates moisture in your mouth, never drying or taking anything away. A wine that is changing the way we are dealing with the idea of different terroirs in Argentina. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted November 2018  catenawines  lauracatenamd  noble_estates  @CatenaMalbec  @LauraCatena  @Noble_Estates  @bodegacatenazapata  @NobleEstates

Luigi Bosca Terroir Los Miradores Malbec 2016, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (132340, $32.95, WineAlign)

From 70 year-old vines in Valle de Uco with lowest of low yields so that one vine does not even function to produce a whole bottle. From the same genetic cutting materials, massal selection of the DOC malbec, but with obvious concentration and specificity. So much more floral, of a baking spice and a fruit intensity that truly is the bomb. An implosive wine with modesty, purity and a 40 per cent oak housing. Big and balanced with great structure and tannins that invoke seven senses. Put some aside and we’ll have some further discussions in 10 years. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted November 2018  bodegaluigibosca  fwmcan  @LuigiBoscaBodeg  @FWMCan  @BodegaLuigiBosca  @FWMCan

Domaine Bousquet Malbec 2018, Tupungato Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (160952, $13.95, WineAlign)

Draws fruit from Paraje Altamira and Gualtallary, no oak, simply in stainless. Fresh and equally savoury, relative concentration and simple in effusive red fruit. Really negligible tannins and a sweet as opposed to astringent finish. Perhaps the best vintage ever for this entry-level malbec. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018   domainebousquet  @domaineBousquet  @DomaineBousquetUSA

Trapiche Malbec Terroir Series Finca Orellana de Escobar Single Vineyard 2012, La Consulta, San Carlos, Mendoza, Argentina (178145, $39.95, WineAlign)

One of several malbecs in the Trapiche portfolio here the collaboration with the grower is exulted in this the 10th years of the Terroir Series. Every year the best three combinations of fruit and grower are chosen to represent the range. Sixty-one year old vineyards deliver minty herbal savour and a chalky liquidity in surround of spicy cherry fruit. Plummy too with ferric purity and big, big structure. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted November 2018  trapichearg  trapichewines  philippedandurandwines  @TrapicheWines  @Dandurandwines   @TrapicheArgentinaInt  @VinsPhilippeDandurand

Rocio Campoy Morist with Alta Vista’s Alazarine

Alta Vista Malbec Single Vineyard Alizarine 2013, La Compuertas, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

Of three Alta Vista single-vineyard wines this is 100 per cent malbec and one of the richest, deeply textured and chocolate driven examples. From a warm vintage it’s not quite mature, even drying a bit though the fruit seems to just get more dense, intense and leathery. Justified elevation extrapolation makes for a classic malbec with some idiosyncratic Compuertas moments. Smooth, fully rendered and giving everything at this very stage. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018  bodegaaltavista  hhdwines  @bodegaaltavista  @HHDImports_Wine  @BodegaAltaVista  @HHDImportsInc

Argento Malbec Single Vineyard 2016, Paraje Altamira, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $24.00, WineAlign)

Argento terroir exploration is from Finca Las Cerezas, “the cherries” and lo and behold, it’s really that fruit incarnate. A reductive malbec to be sure and so very fresh, from a soil rich in limestone which tells us something about the speciality of this nook in Paraje Altamira. The red fruit receives a lightning strike from the cool stone touch and there is a salty vein that lifts the cherry up and into a whole other realm. Really quite beautiful this charming little number. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted November 2018  bodegaargento  profilewinegroup  @BodegaArgento  @ProfileWineGrp  @bodegaargento  @ProfileWineGroup

Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Terroir 2016, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (366005, $22.95, WineAlign)

Three quarters of the terroir malbec is aged in concrete with the fourth in 3000L French foudres. The total aging time is 24 months, the last six of which were in bottle before release. Here is the smooth malbec with balancing and defining sour acids on edge and uplifting. The fruit is nicely integrated into this structure with a fine set of tannins to grant some pretty good potential. Wait a year and let the magic happen. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2018  altoslashormigas  @ALHmalbec  @ALTOSLASHORMIGASWINERY

Casa De Uco Malbec Vineyard Selection 2015, Los Chacayes, Tunuyán, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

Considered their top expression from calcareous rocky soils this is the third incarnation of a malbec with some differences, turns and twists. Winemaking choices of 20-30 per cent whole bunch and partial carbonic macerations are extended to most of the chosen lots. You can feel the firm grip of the layered tannins on fresh, reductive and candy shell fruit. Concrete initiates the balance, there is no new oak to distract and enough acidity to keep it vibrant. There is a combination of energy and finesse on this malbec standing up to be noticed and counted. It’s both solid and expressive, real, emotive and truly curious. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018  casadeuco  @CasadeUco  @CasadeUco

Extreme altitude malbec of Bodega Colomé

Bodega Colomé Malbec Lote Especial Colomé 2016, Calchaquí Valley, Salta, Argentina (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Takes what is established by brother La Brava (and then El Arenal) and amplifies ideal. Now up to an altitude of 2,300m the dichotomous relationship between thermal amplitude and diurnal variegation is magnified, which can only mean more hyperbole. More concentration of fruit in equal extraction but with the extra 600 meters of altitude the tones are higher, the fruit more variegated and with a dried component out of the idea of some desiccation at harvest. It also seems saltier and the structure different, tighter and strung like a racket with ready to fray tension. One of the wildest malbec rides on the planet. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted November 2018  bodegacolome  liffordgram  @BodegaColome  @LiffordON  @bodegacolome  @liffordwineandspirits

A flock of producers gather to educate on the multiplicity of munificent Mendoza ~

Syrah and Red Blends

Bodega Finca las Moras Gran Syrah 2015, San Juan, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

From the three main valleys of San Juan; Tulum, Zonda and Pedernal at altitudes of 650, 800 and 1300 meters above sea level. Ripeness from the lower valleys meets peppery spice and herbology of the highest, with freshness lying somewhere in between. The effects of diurnal temperature swings and thermal radiation pile one on top of another for a highly variegated yet mostly seamless syrah. The queen mother of San Juan syrahs with plenty of swagger. It shouts floral rose then switches into bohemian rhapsodies of musky, ferrous and hematic waves. Really meaty and intense with major chord, mood and tempo swings. “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018  fincalasmoras  @FincaLasMoras  @fincalasmoraswineryCA

Finca Decero The Owl & The Dust Devil Remolinos Vineyard 2015, Agrelo, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

The multi-level, purposed and floral flight of fancy red blend. A mix of real facts and a story; near equal parts malbec and cabernet sauvignon, with petit verdot and tannat. Must contain at least 30 per cent of the last two outlier varietals and in the end this completes the estate style, of big, smooth, polished reds that are completed through micro-vinifications of many single-vineyard blocks. More tannin and grip here. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2018

DiamAndes Gran Reserve Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (295063, $32.95, WineAlign)

The signature red of the estate this is three quarters malbec to one quarter cabernet sauvignon set for 18 months in 100 per cent French oak, 50 per cent new. To say this is lush and ambitious would be an understatement but there is no questioning the quality of the agriculture, the fruit and the use of deep pockets technology. There is also humility within this classic modernism though not yet a true indication of soul. The fineness and the precision are so apparent which leads to believe that the human element noted will mean the epiphanies are coming soon. So much potential to become one of Argentina’s great red blends. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018  bodegadiamandes  maitredechai_ca    @maitredechai  @diamandes  Francis Dubé  

Salentein Numina Spirit Vineyard Gran Corte 2015, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (543405, $35.00, WineAlign)

The goal for Salentein’s Gran Corte “is to produce a wine with the grapes from the first vineyards planted in 1996” and so only these find there way into the Numina line. The blend in 2015 is malbec (68 per cent), cabernet sauvignon (12), cabernet franc (8), merlot (7) and petit verdot (5). It’s a true Bordelais five varietal ideal albeit with malbec at the fore. It see 16 months in total though 10 are go it alone and then six all housed all together. This quintuples down on the rich liqueur, all in spice and hyperbole of violet florals. Though currently liquid chalky and slightly gritty you can imagine the integration especially because the oak use is not new. A really nice wine on the road to becoming something fine. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted November 2018  salenteinbodega  azureau  @BodegaSalentein  @azureau  @BodegasSalentein  @BodegasSalentein

Bodega Atamisque Assemblage 2015, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (483032, $45.95, WineAlign)

The blend of malbec, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot is fruit drawn from sites between 1,100 ands 1,300m and sees 14 months in 100 per cent new French oak. This being a wine made by forcing square pegs into one round hole in what amounts to an all for nothing, all in one treatment. It’s really something to note that despite all this the fact remains that red fruit abounds, fresh and pure with an accent of spice but no real overdo of make-up. There is elongated grace and generosity, like a Rhône blend with charming warmth and a fine smoulder. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted November 2018  bodegaatamisque  #MCOwines    Bodega Atamisque

Masi Tupungato Corbec 2015, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (AgentWineAlign)

A blend of 70 per cent corvina with malbec treated to upwards of 25 per cent appassimento for 20 days. Spends 18 months in French oak. All about the baking spices, the unbounded limits of glycerin texture and specifically cinnamon all over the back pages. So rich and a ringer like no other for the Veneto motherland. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted November 2018  masitupungato  masicanada  @MrAmaroneMasi  @MasiWineExperience  

Clos De Los Siete 2015, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (622571, $23.95, WineAlign)

This was tasted side by side by each with the 2013 and the 2006 so quite fortuitous in terms of relativity and imagination. The blend in ’15 is high in malbec predominance (68 per cent), with merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and petit verdot. Four wineries made contributions to this vintage (of a possible seven) and as per the dictum it’s a blend of blends created by Michel Rolland. It’s Rolland’s inceptive imagination that brought this special project into the Uco Valley landscape and though the assemblage can be up to seven-fold the possibility to age for a value-priced wine is quite impressive. This ’15 is richly endowed and structured, chalky and just plain excellent. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted November 2018  closdelossiete  philippedandurandwines  @closdelossiete  @Dandurandwines   @closdelossiete  @VinsPhilippeDandurand

Tasting through the Uco Valley

Cabernet Franc

Zuccardi Cabernet Franc Polígonos 2017, San Pablo, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

The Polígonos exploration is a many vineyard sided affair and the altitude is significant at 1,300m from San Pablo in Valle de Uco, Mendoza. A relatively early pick preserves nigh high acidity and the alcohol is beautifully restrained. Just a hint of dusty, pyrazine edgy fruitiness drives the machine and keeps this pulsing with terrific energy. Both food amenability and aging potential here are excellent. If it’s verdant that’s a compliment to local character. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted November 2018  zuccardivalledeuco  szuccardi  dionysuswines  @ZuccardiWines  @FamiliaZuccardi  @SebaZuccardi  @ZuccardiValleDeUco  @DionysusWinesTO

Trivento Cabernet Franc Golden Reserve Black Edition 2017, Altamira, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (AgentWineAlign)

Made by winemaker Germán Di Césare there is a respect for land (alluvial, sand and some lime) but also for varietal. It’s well-endowed, juicy, plummy and full flavoured though it’s oaky tendencies are quietly respectful as well. The tone of the wine hums and resonates with ambience in complete control. It’s really quite fine and just about to enter its perfectly integrated, resolved and balanced window. High acidity example and wouldn’t hurt to settle for just a few more months. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018  triventoarg  triventoarg  #escaladewines  @Trivento   @TriventoArg  @TriventoCanada

Bodega Andeluna Cabernet Franc Pasionado 2015, Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $54.99, WineAlign)

Classic Uco terroir at high altitude (1,300m) that mixes alluvial soils with sand, limestone and here loam make for a pretty subtle rendition in terms of cabernet franc. That’s especially true when you consider the small vessels used (225L barrels) and much of it new. You feel the wood in vanilla and berry coulis, a bit of spice and liquified graphite. Quite a molten flow this cabernet franc and with demanding quality in its tannins. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018  bodegaandeluna  stemwinegroup  @BodegaAndeluna  @StemWineGroup  @BodegaAndeluna  @stemwine

Zuccardi, Andeluna, Sophenia and Bianchi

Cabernet Sauvignon

Familia Schroeder Cabernet Sauvignon Saurus 2017, Patagonia, Argentina (Agent, $21.95, WineAlign)

Schroeder is a Paul Hobbs Patagonia outpost and across the board they are truly smooth, cool and polished wines. Tasted after the pinot noir and malbec we see by now the consistency of style and with great evidence. Big time ripe and dark varietal fruit, salumi accents, all in, no holds barred and a cool factor with texture times purity. It finds its way through the ooze to act linear and come out quite elegant. In the end it warms and brings much comfort, finishing with a rendering and lingering spice. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2018  schroederwines  @SchroederWines  @stemaren  @BodegaFamiliaSchroeder 

Tasting at Sottano

Sottano Reserva De Familia Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Mendoza, Argentina (324707, $24.95, WineAlign)

Sottano’s cabernet sauvignon exhibits less of an oak influence or exaggeration, especially not a hinderance or a matter of make up. Smells like cabernet sauvignon with loads of ribena and black currant on top of each other and then the oak really takes over. Half of the grapes are estate and the other half Altamira in Uco Valley. Not so much a terroir investigation as it is a thing of Mendozan assemblage. It’s far from elegant but it is creamy smooth and velvety, if not the best wine thus far in the portfolio. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted November 2018  bodegasottano  @bodegasottano  @bodega.sottano

Susana Balbo Cabernet Sauvignon Signature 2016, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (260919, $19.95, WineAlign)

From a wet year but locales with good exposure and drainage fared quite well. Regardless here is a rich, grippy and powerful cabernet sauvignon (with five per cent franc), of high natural acidity and cumulative depth. The parcels are Uco Valley and Los Arboles just below Gaultallary. Chocolate is cut by a rocky streak from fruit grown over a dry river bed with stones, quite the opposite from Agrelo. It’s a veritable expression of a unique set of alluvial and stony soils. Excellent work to bring out a sense of place. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018  susanabalbowines  profilewinegroup  @sbalbowines  @ProfileWineGrp  @SusanaBalboWines  Susana Balbo  @ProfileWineGroup

Sophenia Cabernet Sauvignon Synthesis 2014, Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (AgentWineAlign)

A wine made by Julia Hulupczok and Matiás Michelini. From a wild vineyard upwards of 1,300m where ripening is a challenge and tannins can be formidable. There’s a greenness to be sure and yet also a subtle grace about it. A different structure, impossibly dichotic and surely one you would not have found in Argentina just 10 years ago. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted November 2018  fincasophenia  @FincaSophenia  @Juliahilux  @FincaSopheniaWines  Julia Halupczok

Masterclasses on cabernet sauvignon and franc with Viña Cobos winemaker Andreas Vignoni

Viña Cobos Bramare Cabernet Sauvignon Marchiori Estate 2015Perdriel, Luján de Cuyo, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $119.00, WineAlign)

At 1,000m few other cabernet wines out of Valle de Uco will deliver such concentration and polish. It’s also huge in acidity, grippy tannin and overall structure. Almost two-thirds new oak is used and the fortunate thing is really the highest quality fruit able to withstand this woody onslaught. Deep soils work hard for vines less than 25 years old, the upper strata built of clay-loam to sandy-loam and the substrata of river-washed cobbles and round stones. It was an early ripening vintage with harvest temperatures above the historical record. Not surprising to receive such a massive, not so much brooding but more like a swagger of attitude in a cabernet that can go the distance. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted November 2018  vina.cobos  awsmwest  @VinaCobos  @AuthenticWineON  @vinacobos  @awsmon

Bodega Casarena Cabernet Sauvignon Owen’s Vineyard 2015, Luján De Cuyo, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina (578062, $44.95, WineAlign)

Casarena’s Owen’s Vineyard is their special place, the key piece to this sector of the Luján De Cuyo puzzle. It’s importance is quite particular for the Napa Valley like repositioning of (Bourgogne) chardonnay and (Bordeaux) cabernet sauvignon. It’s a dry micro-climate with intense solar exposure and though not “mountain” fruit per se the wines draw upon matters of heliophany dictated by elevation. The Italian pergola-styled planted vines are old, some laid down as far back as 85 years in time. This approximately $30 US wine is a stunner, bloody beautiful in the darkest of Morello cherry red fruit that seems to macerate in its own liqueur. It is indeed reductive which only accentuates its freshness and there is a bountiful amount of acidity in support. Honest, apasionado, vehemente and intenso. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2018  bodegacasarena  noble_estates  @BodegaCasarena  @Noble_Estates  @BodegaCasarena  @NobleEstates

Filete at Luigi Bosca

Pascual Toso Cabernet Sauvignon Alta Barrancas Vineyards 2016, Mendoza, Argentina (441907, $32.95, WineAlign)

Alta is a huge cabernet sauvignon needing air, still very reductive in a hard protective shell sort of intense way. There can be no argument about these aggressive or rustic tannins needing time to integrate and settle. All the structural components are part of the note taking and note to self to add to the Mendoza cabernet sauvignon discussion. This example may not be the first but it does sit at the lead in terms of showing a real cool, minty herbal streak and a distinct amaro finish. Big, big wine with plenty of upside. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted November 2018  pascualtoso  eurovintage  @PascualToso  @Eurovintage  @pascualtosowinesargentina  @Eurovintage

The next @winesofarg is naturally skin-contact orange, rosé and white. Pure, nervy, crystal examples of great interest from @chakanawines @alpamanta and @domainealmanegra

White, Orange and Rosé

Domaine Alma Negra Blanco Producción Limitada 2017, Vino Argentino, Bebida Nacional, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

From Ernesto Catena this is the second secret blend, a naranja vintage of the hide and seek, now you see a vino blanco, now an orange wine behind the mask. Maximum 500 cases are produced of this truly flexible white-ish orange, as it should be, as anyone’s guess and at the winemaker’s whimsy. “This comes from a place where you move away from knowing everything before you ever made a wine” explains Josefina Alessio on Ernesto’s behalf.  It’s meant to shake foundations and commit to things with blind and innocent intent. It’s a precocious orange, clean, pure, crisp and matter of fact. Smells like honey the drizzled over a tart slice of peach. The telling of varietal is kept hush but my money is on the likes of chardonnay, perhaps pinot gris and/or some torrontés. Nine months on skins, six in old barrels. Clarity and dumb luck precision with a pineapple dole of citrus, always in balance. Can’t believe it’s neither reductive nor oxidative and virtually tannin free. A 15 euro ex-cellar beauty. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2018  domainealmanegra  noble_estates    @Noble_Estates   @ernestocatenavineyards  @NobleEstates

Chakana Estate Selection Torrontés Naranja Edicion Limitada 2018, Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, WineAlign)

This literal orange torrontés from only free run juice spent seven months on skins in 500L barrels. No additions, including sulphur but “we’re not interested in saying this is a natural wine,” insists winemaker Gabriel Bloise. “Because we’re not interested in the natural movement, but it is our pleasure.” Floral spice is a factor of “maceratión prolongada” as is the green melon, pomello and caviar. Takes torrontés to an entirely new level, in so many positive ways, with a salve, plenty of tannin and notice me character. Kudos for the exploration, for a team that’s clearly on to something and a winemaker acting on techniques that clearly float his boat. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018  chakanawines  oeno2  @chakanawines  @oenophilia1  @bodegachakana  

Alpamanta Rosé Syrah Breva 2018, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $42.95, WineAlign)

To call this a Rosé is to miss the point methinks. “In 2017 we decided to approach a new philosophy of wines,” explains Ukranian/Austrian/Dane/Argentine Managing Partner & CEO Andrej Razumovsky. It’s a perfectly lithe red wine made through the use of syrah picked real early direct to ferment in cement eggs for 11 months. The complete absence of second pressed grapes speaks not only to the method but also the teacher. “It goes well with intestines and seafood,” says Andrej. Now at a whopping 1,600 bottles made, which is in fact a great increase from the first vintage. Number two was a rainy one so six or seven months was not a sufficient amount of time to get this to its happy place. Pear, lemon and grapefruit are anti-red fruit notes but give it a good agitation to stave off reduction and then the wine just bursts with strawberry, fine bitters and endless aromatics imagined. It’s destined for danger and deliciousness because you really feel that you are drinking something that is alive. Not just from acidity, but like power breakfast juice that you would die for every morning. Killer stuff. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted November 2018  alpamanta  rogersandcompanywines  @Alpamanta  @rogcowines   @alpamanta  @rogcowines

Navarro Correas Chardonnay Gran Reserva Alegoria 2015, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina (WineryWineAlign)

From Agrelo the Alegoria is chardonnay with true blue reduction and real apple bite. Spent six months in first and second use oak, now nicely aged with lemon-lime and orange zestiness. Toasty and quite wild from an ambient yeast ferment and shockingly crazy good. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2018  bodeganavarrocorreas  @BodegaNavarroCorreas

Bodega Piedra Negra Pinot Gris Reserve Vino Organico 2017, Los Chacayes, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

New to the François Lurton portfolio and for the market is this pinot gris in classic older world mode. It’s really fine, spirited and with a creaminess that is suggestive of experimentation. There is some oak treatment but also some time spent in concrete egg. With no compromise to acidity there is a lieu-dit specificity and completeness so that it expresses fruit in a wholly different way than grigio and all other white wines in Argentina. Kudos to Lurton for going the distance and spending some cash on a product to separate itself from the pack. It’s a pinot gris we want to drink but also one to watch for not too distant sidesteps into something changed. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted November 2018  bodegapiedranegra  @BgaPiedraNegra  @BPNvdu

Bodega El Esteco Torrontés Old Vines 1945 2018, Valle De Calchaquí, Salta, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

From the original plantings of torrontés, as far back as 1945 but mostly vines in the 60-70 year old range. As saline and diamond sandy as it is floral but just as expressive as any. Very direct, linear, again that salty component which you could call mineral but also full-fleshy like Rhône varietal wines in new world climes. Could pass for high acidity driven whites from California or Washington state. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2018  bodegaelesteco  #mondiaalliance  @ElEstecoWines  @Mondia_Alliance  @elestecowines  @mondiaalliance

Piattelli Vineyards Reserve Torrontés 2018, Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina (Agent, $14.95, WineAlign)

Trained at Piattelli in Pergola, the ancient Mediterranean varietal is protected from direct sunlight and thrives in this desert where herbs of every imaginable kind grow wild and the aridity meets elevation and solar radiation. Piattelli’s is quite high in dry extract and concentration, ripeness and a maintained necessary acidity. This is the icon wine of the estate and few equal its magic in this vintage. It’s fresh, crunchy, crisp and explodes with tropical fruit. Bodes well for the ’18 reds. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted November 2018  piattellivineyardsarg  piattellivineyardsusa  @piattelliusa  @PiattelliVineyardsARG  @PiattelliVineyardsUSA

La Mascota Chardonnay Unánime 2017, Maipu, Mendoza, Argentina (Winery, WineAlign)

Grown at 1,300m “the pet” chardonnay is given a name meaning “unanimous” meaning it’s a wine from and for people who all feel the same way. The wine was raised 50/50 in concrete egg and large (500-1000m) oak foudres. It’s a very tannic chardonnay, with a salve texture, spice and lemon-vanilla molten creaminess. Plenty of texture and bite, not over the top but certainly ambitious to quite successful. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted November 2018  mascotavineyards  univinscanada  @UNIVINS  @MascotaVineyards  @UnivinsCanada

Good to go!

godello

Bodega DiamAndes, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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December 10th in VINTAGES: New World

squash

We’re going to do this three days in a row because it’s December and next week will just be too late. Canada, new world, old world. Mayhem in stores will begin this afternoon and carry through to the end of the weekend. It will slow for a day or two and then get crazy mid-week. By next Saturday these wines will be hard to find. The VINTAGES December 10th release is not a stellar one by any means, the best of the holiday season offerings having appeared in the previous two November releases. What is worth thrill seeking for drinking, cellars and gifts is encompassed in this triumvirate set of posts.

Related – December 10th in VINTAGES: Canada

As a reminder my full tasting notes can be found on WineAlign for a small fee, a pittance actually, for mine and those penned by David, Sara and John. Eight more recommendations are here from new world locales, some of them big, brooding and Christmas boozy. Happy hunting.

zuccardi

Zuccardi Serie A Malbec 2014, Mendoza, Argentina (167619, $16.95, WineAlign)

@FamiliaZuccardi  @SebaZuccardi  @DionysusWines  @ArgentinaWineCA  @winesofarg

wynn

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Chardonnay 2015, Coonawarra, South Australia, Australia (468728, $17.95, WineAlign)

@WynnsEstate  @sueatwynns  @Wine_Australia  

crema

La Crema Chardonnay 2014, Sonoma Coast, California (962886, $29.95, WineAlign)

@LaCremaWines  @sonomavintners  @bwwines  @thesirengroup

lane

The Lane Vineyard Block 14 Basket Press Shiraz 2013, Adelaide Hills, South Australia, Australia (470591, $29.95, WineAlign)

@thelanevineyard  @Wine_Australia  @EpicW_S

chocolate

The Chocolate Block 2014, Wo Western Cape, South Africa (129353, $39.95, WineAlign)

  @UNIVINS  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

bella

Two Hands Bella’s Garden Shiraz 2014, Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia (636407, $64.95, WineAlign)

@twohandswine  @Wine_Australia  @bwwines

stag

Stags’ Leap Winery Ne Cede Malis Petite Sirah 2012, Napa Valley, California (589572, $89.95, WineAlign)

@stagsleapwines  @SLDistrict  @NapaVintners  

cliff

Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, California (14217, $114.95, WineAlign)

@CliffLedeWine  @NapaVintners  @HalpernWine  @SLDistrict

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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The holiday season’s first big guns

weinbach

Fear not dear Ontario wine consumer. Neither advertisement nor earworm jingle will be implanted inside your head, nor a benediction to invoke the virtues of Solaia or Sassicaia neither. There will be no mention of the X-word but like it or not, it has begun. The VINTAGES machine got going this past Saturday with its first big buying time of year roll-out on October 29th. For 11 months a year the $30-$3,000 category appeals to one per cent of the wine buying population but increases to perhaps five when the bells begin to ring. By my count there are 15 (or so) October 29th release big guns now on shelves, half of which are reviewed right here.

quintarelli

Domaine De Pignan Châteauneuf Du Pape 2013, Ac Rhône, France (473678, $36.95, WineAlign)

In 1989 Frédéric Charvin began to work his family’s vineyard, like Louis and René Pécoul, Pécoul François and Pécoul Antoine before him. His Domain goes back 160 years and the average age of Pignan’s vines are 60 years, three of them are a hundred years old. Subtle for Châteauneuf Du Pape (if that can even be such a thing) with mineral mourvedre and soild syrah funk streaking through the grenache. The other varieties add up to 11 per cent and we should not discount their blending capabilities, for structure and for balance. Equanimity is the name of the game in this esteemed section of the southern Rhône Valley and kudos to Pignan for bringing reason and reserve to the table. The potential here is 10 plus years and yet plenty of value and pleasure will be afforded along the way. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted October 2016   @terroirtoronto  @VINSRHONE

Zuccardi Zeta 2012, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (163725, $39.95WineAlign)

Zeta is a vital and conspicuous malbec-dominated bottling from careful fruit selection for Jose and Sebastian Zuccardi. The fruit is chosen from specific lots out of La Consulta and triggered by catalyst cabernet sauvignon grown in the Gualtallary Vineyards. These two locales rank with Mendoza’s best and the effects of such ripe extracted fruit in combinative if combative cohorts is one of depth, layering and extreme warmth. The alcohol and acidity on top of massive fruit extraction is beholden to nothing. This one stands firm, confident, tall and with great conceit. It is a force to be reckoned with. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted October 2016  @SebaZuccardi  @ZuccardiWines  @FamiliaZuccardi  @winesofarg  @ArgentinaWineCA

Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley, California (26682, $47.95, WineAlign)

Though richly aromatic and textured this is the first Private Reserve in many years to act with this kind of beautiful reserve. The barrel aging is less engaging than the previous, lets say, 17 years and so fruit is smartly in play. A bite of crisp apple while whiffing the early baking scents of pie is the conjuring in revelrous demure. Here a minor hypnosis from a delicious Beringer that will only improve with a year or two in bottle. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2016  @beringervyds  @NapaVintners  @CalifWines_CA

Gallo Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley, California (394197, $50.95, WineAlign)

The three-R guarantee of ripe, rich and robust from winemaker Gina Gallo accompanies the Signature Series cabernet sauvignon. Hue and structure addendum are provided by a combined five per cent petit verdot and petite sirah. William Hill is the primary source of fruit from Vaca foothills, rocky, thin and nutrient-deprived Silverado benchland soils. Monte Rosso and a few bucket loads of petite sirah from the Louis Martini Thomann Station Vineyard round out the accumulation. The parched vintage is responsible for this parged cabernet, juicy by Cassis and stereotypical blackberry but managed to further warmth with dried black fig and a barque char on brisket straight from the smoker. The naturally-flavoured bovine-bresaola charcuterie crust is so very Napa Valley hillside issue so ageability is yet another Gallo guarantee. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted October 2016  @GalloFamily  @Winegirl23  @NapaVintners  @CalifWines_CA

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2010, Tuscany, Italy (928028, $53.95, WineAlign)

Quite approachable for the normally firm and hands off in its youth Barbi. Always with a foot firmly rooted in the past and yet the house seems to be slowly waltzing into the modernity of the future. This has hallmark roses and cherries under leathery hides but also a beautifully bright and dynamic luminescence. It also carries a silky texture that should have it pause less than the habitual five years to fully shine. So, a newer and earlier gifting Sangiovese and that’s quite alright. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted January 2016 @FattoriaBarbi  @ConsBrunello  @Noble_Estates

Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer Cuvée Laurence 2013, Alsace, France (581975, $64.00, WineAlign)

Though it may long ago have been considered the quintessential one, there may be no other Alsatian gewürztraminer more important than Weinbach’s Cuvée Laurence. The reasons are manyfold but begin and end with memory and legacy. This was daughter and sister Laurence Faller’s prized wine, the wine she put her name to, that defined her gracious winemaking in echo of the estate she worked. Her family has carried the torch and yet her touch is all over this wine. Calm, composed, balanced and ethereal. Laurence is a clear expression of the marly limestone soil beneath the lieu-dit of Altenbourg, located at the base of the great Grand Cru Furstentum vineyard. Where else do you find gewürztraminer of such delicasse, from which classic aromas (rose petal, creamy to boozy-syrupy tropical fruit) and impossible unction combine without ukase? Nowhere. The acidity does not act with impulse. No, it rings, supports and lingers. The extract is intense but out of mind. Exceptional vintage. Drink 2018-2033.  Tasted October 2016    @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @ACT_Alsace  @VinsAlsace

stony-hill

Stony Hill Chardonnay 2010, Napa Valley, California (444471, $71.00, WineAlign)

Time has been kind to this Napa Valley chardonnay, with the score drawn up in fruit and wood fully settled and into calm denoument. The hard bite into green apple crossed with butterscotch candy is no sugary afterthought and the elastic viscocity perfectly in tune with the waning acidity. If middle age is a thing for Napa Valley chardonnay then here you have it. The length has yet to find the door. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted October 2016  @StonyHillWine  @NapaVintners  @CalifWines_CA

Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2008, Doc Veneto, Italy (986117, $104.95, WineAlign)

The firmness of the vintage uncouples and engages the eyes open wide with a Quintarelli presented so taut and so tense. Just the thought of how long it will take for this Valpolicella to not only open up but develop into secondary life is frightening. There are aromas here I can’t or don’t presently recall. Currants, fennel, tobacco, cedar, tar, roses. Or maybe I do. The figs and dried plums are there but either so faint or conjured up from memory of how things ought to be. This Quinterelli is designed as it needs to be. Young, unapproachable, deferential and miles away from nowhere. It may become one of the longer lived. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted September 2016     @LiffordON

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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84May28

The Cabernets of the Judgement of Paris 1976

The Cabernets of the Judgement of Paris 1976

Some quotes about vanity.

“Vanity is my favourite sin.” (Al Pacino)

“The knowledge of yourself will preserve you from vanity.” (Miguel de Cervantes)

“Vanity is the healthiest thing in life.” (Karl Lagerfeld)

“How long shall your vain thoughts lodge within you?” (Jeremiah 4:14)

“When you have a lot of success you don’t need vanity any more.” (Amelie Nothomb)

The headline reads as a current VINTAGES vanity plate. Nothing shouts VANITY like the bi-weekly VINTAGES releases, that is unless you can read between the lines, seek out anti-narcissistic wines made with honesty, from and for success. The LCBO is full of itself, as it should be, because billions of dollars of revenue for the monopoly and the province is a favourite sin. The consumer can protect themselves by knowing themselves, their personal tastes and which wines will see to personal success.

The Judgement of Paris happened 40 years ago. VINTAGES celebrates seven players that not only participated but were granted instant celebrity. Now 40 years later, VINTAGES puts the legends back in the spotlight. I tasted all seven wines. Were I afforded sackfuls of cash I would gladly indulge in their collective vanity.

For full reviews on all the Judgement of Paris wines, please visit me at WineAlign

It is indeed healthy to be a winemaker, distributor, agent or retailer of self-assurance, to believe in a body of work or portfolio, to know that it represents quality and to flaunt it for the world to relish in its revelry. It is equally healthy to know humility, to create with impunity in knowing the confidence of fashion has resulted in the singularity of accomplishment. All the better when verecundity is found in a wine made by a big house.

Eight current releases speak to success, beyond vanity. My notes.

VV

Casal De Ventozela Loureiro Vinho Verde 2014, Portugal (445098, $14.95, WineAlign)

Loureiro from Villa Verde, grippy and mineral as it should be, marked by citrus, herbs and the slightest spark of CO2. This must have been prime, perfect in fact, in the wheelhouse even…six months ago. Still refreshing and yet savoury, nearly, though one step away from complex for the grape and a sense of place, from point A to B. Drink 2016.  Tasted May 2016    @LeSommelierWine  @vinhosverdes  @VinhoVerdeCA  @wines_portugal  @winesportugalCA

Rafael

Tommasi Rafael Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2013, Veneto, Italy (23259, $18.95, WineAlign)

The Rafael is an honest, purposed product culled from what such endemic grapes together with wood will combine for perfectly typical effect. Here the package is respectfully lithe and speaks of what Valpolicella may once have righteously been, should still and can eminently be. Fresh, wound tart, amenable and easy to love. Yes, please. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted May 2016  @Tommasiwine  @UNIVINS  @C_Valpolicella

Benmarco

Benmarco Malbec 2013, Unfined And Unfiltered, Uco Valley, Argentina (657601, $17.95, WineAlign)

Clearly ripe and ripping like so many malbec brethren and sistren but at 3,000 feet of Vistaflores altitude the Benmarco delivers an extra level of ratcheted intensity, especially at $18. Extreme aromatics, of black, blue and boysenberry fruit are bigger than the oak, the soil and the malbec genre. This is the best Benmarco since the formidable 2002, a wine that still drinks well today. Drink 2016-2028.  Tasted May 2016  @sbalbowines  @ProfileWineGrp  @winesofarg  @ArgentinaWineCA

Tobia

Tobía Selección Crianza 2010, Rioja, Spain (364828, $21.95, WineAlign)

Most righteous Rioja, dusty and leathery but fresh, vibrant and alive. Terrifically rich palate, full of strawberry, liquorice and pastis. Acidity is all over the fruit, enveloping and then a short pause ensues, followed by the caressing tannins. There is more than a Crianza mouthful of wine in here. Wait one or two and then watch this turn over and over for the next 10 years. Drink 2017-2026.  Tasted May 2016   @_La_Rioja  @RiojaWine_ES

Viticcio Chianti Classico 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (283580, $22.95, WineAlign)

A Chianti Classico with a foot in two worlds, the traditional (Greve) and the modern. The tart red berries are sour to nose and to taste but it’s the kind of sour that reels you in and gets you too beg for more. The level of clean, fresh lees is very 2013, something that Chianti Classico needs more of. Dry extract and tannin are spot on for the overall intent. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2016     @chianticlassico  @MajesticWineInc

Megalomaniac Big Mouth Merlot 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (67645, $24.95, WineAlign)

Big mouth strikes again, with phenolic ripeness set against stinging nettle greens from out of the warmth in 2012 Niagara. “Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking.” Plums turning into prunes and back again, of fruit not sure if its coming in or heading out the door. Hanging in like Morrissey at a Smiths reunion concert. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted May 2016  @MegalomaniacJHC

Heitz Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley, California (205500, $49.95, WineAlign)

When the Napa Valley name Heitz is mentioned it is Cabernet Sauvignon that comes to most minds, 99 per cent of the time. Chardonnay is a Heitz thing, dating back to 1961. The 2014 rendition is the iron fist-velvet glove version of classic Napa Valley (usually reserved for Cabernet Sauvignon allusion). This is quite a rich and variegated Chardonnay full of typically warm Napa sunshine but it’s also a study in barrel restraint and judgement. The flavours are loaded with citrus, compressed and taut. Wound tighter than a wire around a boat winch, this just needs some time to settle in. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2016    @NapaVintners  @CalifWines_CA

Judgement of Paris Chardonnay

Judgement of Paris Chardonnay

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2013, Santa Cruz Mountains, California (405332, $191.95, WineAlign)

From a serious drought vintage, dry, warm and demanding, the 2013 Montebello’s Draper perfume is as heady as ever, to such effect that after one whiff this is where daydreaming takes over consciousness. Montebello gets inside the head, with allegory, radio frequency waves and platonic thought, as if inside a cave. An 80 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot (8), Cabernet Franc (7) and Merlot (5) classic, lithe and restrained blend of sheer, utter exceptionality. The balance in 2013 is impeccable but dont be fooled into thinking this is not a big wine. The acidity is dramatic, the tannins fine and demanding and the amount of pure extract whorled and revelling. All in dark red fruit and a coolness through the mid-palate that threads like silk through fine stainless steel fibre. “This goes beyond me, beyond you.” Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted May 2016  @RidgeVineyards  @rogcowines  @CalifWines_CA

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October surprise

Beef shank, romano bean and lentil soup, tomato, basil, nasturtium

Beef shank, romano bean and lentil soup, tomato, basil, nasturtium

Just over two weeks separates us from another federal election, a national concern in address of criminal activity. Criminal because the choice, at least in the hazy, politically discharged context of my age of voting lifetime, has never been more difficult to make. This I can say. If any of the three leaders pulls out an October surprise from their proverbial political hat, I’m calling their bluff.

Political theory and editorial aside, the one organization that clearly invokes the OS trump card repeatedly and with outright conceit is the LCBO. The operating system is predicated on spin tactics to influence booze czars and to turn business reports inside out. Every month of the year can be aligned with surprise, to make certain the Province of Ontario and whichever elected (or keys to the castle given) Premier stays on the lee side.

Ontario beer, wine and spirit commentary aside, the VINTAGES release calendar continues to cycle on through with expert efficiency and en ever-increasing delightful, thoughtfully purchased and seemingly never-ending supply of quality wine. In 2015, the October surprise is one I can get behind, support and outright cheer for. Finding 10 wines I’d feel honoured to sip, pour and relegate to the mid-life crisis racks of the cellar is nothing short of shooting fish in a barrel. For October 3rd, here they are.

From left to right: Cave Spring Cabernet Franc 2013, Stephane Aviron Vieilles Vignes Morgon Côte Du Py 2012, Altos Las Hormigas Terroir Malbec 2012, Rosewood Origin Cabernet Franc 2013 and 2027 Cellars Wismer Vineyard Fox Croft Block Chardonnay 2012

From left to right: Cave Spring Cabernet Franc 2013, Stephane Aviron Vieilles Vignes Morgon Côte Du Py 2012, Altos Las Hormigas Terroir Malbec 2012, Rosewood Origin Cabernet Franc 2013 and 2027 Cellars Wismer Vineyard Fox Croft Block Chardonnay 2012

Cave Spring Cabernet Franc 2013, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (391995, $19.95, WineAlign)

Another notch on the Escarpment knows Cabernet Franc totem, with similar if deeper, earthy red fruit character in 2013 for the Cave Spring. The tonalities are further elevated in a vintage that should offer more balance. That it does in terms of handling ripeness in opposition to acidity but at a young age it is further from its intended truth than was the ’12. This may be a better, bigger and deeper CF of potentiality but it’s awkward right now. Give it a year plus to answer the bell. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted September 2015  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh

Stephane Aviron Vieilles Vignes Morgon Côte Du Py 2012, Ac Beaujolais, France (424804, $19.95, WineAlign)

Like dark cherry for freshness, maceration for thickness. Entirely, satisfyingly and flat-out rung up in juicy Côte de Puy. Meaty and leaning to roasted, this consistent Morgon makes an honest bedfellow with the Cru. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015  @Nicholaspearce_

Altos Las Hormigas Terroir Malbec 2012, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (366005, $22.95, WineAlign)

Tremendously different Malbec, within the context of largesse. Deep, natural funk, like Syrah of meaty, smoky, porcine intent, from the northern Rhone or Franschhoek. But as Malbec, to Cahors, or not, it is simply cimmerian, intense, of iodine and blood, of minerals not often sensed. Well scripted by a big box outfit with much on its plate. High commendation to be sure. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2015 @ALHmalbec  @winesofarg

Rosewood Origin Cabernet Franc 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (427534, $25.95, WineAlign)

Cabernet Franc moving with all the correct intentions. Plods a disciplined direction of self-harnessing variegated power out of the ripening challenges abetted by The Bench’s rolling hillside vineyards. Esteemed of low alcohol, on a knife’s edge verge of ripe, ripe fruit and with tannin to add necessary stuffing. Depth of Cab Franc terroir clay, simulating the beautiful rascal flats of the lakeshore, here up higher, crusted by the Escarpment, combining for depth and matter. This matter. This bottle matters, this varietal necessity, this excerpt. It has meaty, smoky, binging bent. It will age for a minimum five and likely, efficiently, for an excavating seven or eight. Drink 2015-2023.  Tasted September 2015  @Rosewoodwine

2027 Cellars Wismer Vineyard Fox Croft Block Chardonnay 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (421362, $30.00, WineAlign)

In the hands of winemaker Kevin Panagapka, Craig Wismer’s fruit retains un underlay of power not recognized in other Foxcroft Chardonnays. Neither Thomas Bachelder nor Ross Wise (Keint-He) make anything near spirited as this 2027 take. Chardonnay loves the sun in the Foxcroft Block and Panagapka loves to see that sun hook up with the inside of a barrel. This ’12 makes a nice date for a wood wedding. A product of the Dijon 96 clone, the reduction in this Chardonnay drives its fresh, spritely if mettlesome nature, with a bark and a barrel bellow, but longevity will not suffer as a result. This could take 30 years to oxidize, it’s that audacious and also courageous. Let it and its buttered popcorn rest a while. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted May 2015  @2027cellars

From left to right: Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz 2013, Vina Real Gran Reserva 2008, Kenwood Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2013 and Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf Du Pape 2013

From left to right: Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz 2013, Vina Real Gran Reserva 2008, Kenwood Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2013 and Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf Du Pape 2013

Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz 2013, Coonawarra, South Australia (509919, $34.95, WineAlign)

One thing is certain, never judge a Penfolds by its cover, in its youth. Here Shiraz is meaty and pepper laces the brawny fruit. A purely bovine expression with enough ganache to ice a birthday cake for 50. But the level of structure, brick laying foundation and utter momentous occasion means this must be assessed with a waiting for the compression to emerge, from out beneath the cumbrous suppression. In time, that it will. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2015  @penfolds  @alyons_wine

Vina Real Gran Reserva 2008, Rioja, Spain (280545, $36.95, WineAlign)

Highly volatile at this stage and perhaps will be at further stages, but the fruit slinging to acidity bringing it to and from tannin is immense and beautiful. Big structure, stuffing and stage one temper. Has every right to fly its name up high because this represents firm 2008 Rioja with distinction and is as real as it gets. Needs three years to settle down and play a proper, righteous Rioja tune. Wow. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2015  @Cvne  @vonterrabev

Kenwood Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County, California (944843, $39.95, WineAlign)

Always fruitful, full and necessary. No holes, plentiful in high quality chocolate and bountiful by way of stuffing. Deep and intense. Big tannins. Tells it from Sonoma Mountain in the way the author would have prescribed. In the proper function of Cabernet, “to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” Persists as a top under $40 California Cabernet, as it always has. A London for the 10-15 year haul. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2015  @KenwoodVineyard  @sonomavintners

Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley (349019, $44.95, WineAlign)

No combination of ripeness and desert derived concentration can be found in any Cabernet Franc, not just in this country but really anywhere. That the Owl can achieve such massive structure and red fruit containment is remarkable, unparalleled and in singular ownership of style. Extraction clearly matters, layering is key and quality must ride with ripeness. “You know what I’m saying baby,” this is a sky rocket of a Cabernet Franc. Full on, flat-out expression, without compromise.  Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @BurrowingOwlBC  @LeSommelierWine
Owl - Sky Rocket

Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf Du Pape 2013, Rhône, France (700922, $58.95, WineAlign)

A thankful. restful and wistful return to form, away from heat and into perfume. Cherry melting into garrigue, beautiful musty wood, the way things were, not so long ago, when the evening meal and the garden mattered. As things do and will again. This Donjon will be a part of future’s past. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2015  @VINSRHONE  @RhoneWine

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