Godello’s Ontario wines playlist

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Writing about Canadian wines has been intrinsically inspired by music because quite frankly, one is always connected to the other. The wines of Ontario have always been at the head of this coupling and the relationship is borne more or less of its own accord. Music came first of course because before wine there was this gangly Toronto teenager every Saturday morning at 8:59 am sitting on the curb in front of Vortex Records at Dundas and Mutual Streets waiting for Bert Myers to open his shop so that kid could be the first in. The 1,600 vinyl record collection still gets plenty of spin time, as does Spotify and Google Music. The CDs? Not so much. Invariably a glass of wine is in hand, more often than not with an Ontario VQA designation in tow.

Canadian music has been great for as long as I have been listening. When did Ontario wine get here too, or the question begs, how? Not by virtue of any particular ethos through customs and traditions going back over many generations of wines. No, success and cumulative proficiency exists by dint of these wines without any forced supervision. They are governed by themselves and indeed across the entire industry. Done are the blanketing days of spare and powerful Ontario wines that were often too spare, so that the ribs of tannin showed through in painful obviousness. Today the contigious embracing of cool climate idiosyncrasy, fringe exceptionality and a unique Somewhereness makes Ontario the envy of the developing wine world.

My writing about wine 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. Often I like my music to be the same in a Genesis-Frank Zappa-Pat Metheny like continuum but that too is changing. The young pop meeting hip-hop stars that my children listen to are growing on me. As are the unknown, the indie and the tireless players. And they need our help. The wineries too. Just ask Neko Case. “For every piece of music you stream/use for free today, please pay for one if you can. Music and art seem as effortless and breathable as air because an army of humans lovingly make it and propel it for the good of all.” Support local and order your next case of wine from an Ontario winery.

Compiling any wine list is never easy. Not when the subject matter is the most fleeting of consumables, a drink ever-changing, almost never tasting the same twice and destined for eventual failure. We know by instinct that wines cast the shadow of their own destruction before them and are designed from the first with an eye to their later existence as ruins. Wine critics can only regard what is in the glass by what sensory enjoyment or displeasure is activated at that exact time. In most cases there are no second chances. Music is different, timeless, often repetitive and can always be given a second chance.

Music and wine can work magic when paired together. Sometimes it’s just a matter of breaking wine down to the base, choosing grapes from places where they are made in straightforward and simply powerful ways. Likewise, clicking an uncomplicated, three-chord arrangement on YouTube or Spotify can really change the outlook of a day. With a glass of wine in hand there’s a familiar internal silence when sublime music plays, is performed, gifted. The following wines combine lyricism with melody. They write the songs.

Sparkling Wine

Ontario’s sparkling wine oeuvre has transformed into something unstoppable, immoveable and utterly impressive. Truly. Examples tend to be sharp, of lean and intense fruit, with more toast and edges than other Canadian counterparts. The climate is ideal for making bubbles of all ilk; traditional method, cuvée close, ancestral, charmat and pétillant naturel, a.k.a. pét-nat. For every occasion and at all times, especially with music blaring, or soothing softly, as you wish. There are no wrong pairings for Ontario sparkling wine.

Hinterland Lacus Pétillant Naturel 2017, VQA Ontario ($24.00)

Hinterland’s Lacus is gamay noir made in a fully accumulated yeasty style, re-fermented in bottle and yet wholly antithetical to the Jonas Newman’s sweeter Ancestral. Lacus could mean “lake” or “cistern,” perhaps in nod to all the meandering, surrounding and irregularly patterned water in the County, or perhaps it might mean “award,” as should be what we all get in tasting this delightful sparkling wine. Different and comforting, textural and exceptional in varietal, land and stylistic usage. Utterly versatile and electric as need be. Elevates pétillant naturel wine into the real world for many to enjoy. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted June 2019

Pairs with The Tragically Hip’s My Music at Work

Why? The opening lines say it all, for what’s happening today.

Everything is bleak
It’s the middle of the night
You’re all alone and
The dummies might be right
You feel like a jerk
My music at work
My music at work

Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Estate Blanc De Blanc 2014, Traditional Method, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Escarpment (315200, $44.95)

The vintage tension is felt right from the aromatic get go and there can be no doubt that you are nosing Niagara’s most accomplished sparkling wine. Lime and wet concrete, fennel pollen and Baked Alaska. All tolled a terrific entry and no downturn into ginger and savoury crème brûlée followed by a moment of silence and contemplation. Use this for all, whenever and wherever. It will work for everyone, including those who will appreciate the faint sweetness to balance the year’s anxieties. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted November 2019

Pairs with Alessia Cara’s Scars to Your Beautiful

Why? H of P’s Cuvée Catharine is also a wine of hope, youth and beauty. A wine from our very own backyard, just like the the singer from Brampton. The first line helps.

But there’s a hope that’s waiting for you in the dark

Riesling

It seems that in Ontario riesling is perpetually on the rise and the reasons why are as varied as the artistry it’s equipped to display. It has been 40 years since the Pennachetti family of Cave Spring Vineyard and German vintner Herman Weis planted riesling in St. Urban Vineyard on what is now Vineland Estates. My how things have changed. The trending line ascends as the general public comes around and warms to the versatile grape so popularity is not just in the hands of geeks, oenophiles and connoisseurs. Ask your favourite sommelier, product consultant or wine writer. Riesling’s neighbourhood is beginning to gentrify in a big way but it’s also expanding experimental and ancestral horizons. Varietal power, finesse and omniscient existentialism for a signature and singular Ontario purpose is perpetual and unwavering. Versatility goes with eccentric, electric and eclectic tunes so get your funk, funky and funkadelic groove on.

Adamo Estate Riesling Wismer Foxcroft Vineyard 2017, VQA Twenty Mile Bench (11236, $19.95)

Grower’s Series as in purchased fruit raised by serious Ontario grape farmers, in this case the Wismers and their expansive and generous Twenty Mile Bench-Foxcroft Vineyard. In Shauna White’s hands this Wismer fruit is ripe, developed and open-knit for skies the limit flavour potential. Cut your teeth on this juicy somnambulist riesling of citrus, peach, yellow plum and wide-eyed excitement. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted March 2020

Pairs with The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights

Why? The song is new but timeless, retro, thrown back to the mid 1980s with synth rhythms like Take on Me by A-Ha. Adamo’s riesling sleep walks, blinds us by its light and connects rieslings going back through time to today.

Oh, when I’m like this, you’re the one I trust
Hey, hey, hey

Cave Spring Riesling Adam Steps 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench ($24.95)

Adam Steps is the riesling positioned up the middle lane, with more sugar than the Estate and near equal to CSV, with acidity higher than the former and similar to the latter. It’s the fatter, juicier, more generous one and in many ways much like the Feinherb’s of Germany. This is a very forward vintage with elevated levels of all its typical character, including tropical notes of guava and pineapple. May not be the longest age worthy AS but it is a most pleasing one. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019

Pairs with Drake’s Passion Fruit

Why? You might think this would pair better with sauvignon blanc but Adam’s Steps smells just as tropical and well, the first line.

Ayy, y’all get some more drinks goin’ on, I’ll sound a whole lot better

Ravine Vineyard Riesling Patricia’s Block 2018, VQA St David’s Bench ($35.00)

From the botrytis block and you can feel, sense, and taste it very much so in this vintage. This in spite of a 30 per cent number out of a year when humidity and brix did not quite jive in terms of penultimate timing. Tart, leesy and so bloody sensorial. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Pairs with DJ Shub’s Indomitable

Why? The indigenous electronic music of PowWowStep is so riesling, so Ravine and so Patricia. “I want Canadians to see that pow wow culture is beautiful in both imagery and spirit,” explains DJ Shub. “I also want young Native kids to know that they can find support and happiness in their lives, even if they can’t see it right in front of them.”

Chardonnay

In Ontario, raising chardonnay is about growing grapes and making wines in places previously discounted. There is no secret that Ontario winemakers have worked tirelessly to develop the ability and the acumen to make world-class chardonnay. Always reinventing itself and potential fulfilled, chardonnay, the slow train coming. Few ideals or notions are hotter these days than those relating to cool climate viticulture and the selvage regions from where such wines are produced. As for music and chardonnay? The great singer-songwriters and bands of course; the classics, icons and archetypes.

Westcott Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2017, VQA Vinemount Ridge (424507, $27.95)

This 2017 from Westcott is really just what you might imagine were you to close your eyes and draw a triangle in your mind from the Vinemount Ridge, to judiciously oaked chardonnay and through to Westcotts’s manifesto. Niagara chardonnay should be about farming and this most certainly is, but also a microcosm of place, again of truth, but like all good, great and ethereal chardonnay must be. The florals are high for the place and the texture like organza, filament and lace. The obtuse vintage be damned it is this team that has found the right path and the way to varietal understanding. This teaches us about the ridges and benches but also about cool climate chardonnay. Thanks for this. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Pairs with Bruce Cockburn’s Wondering Where the Lions Are

Why? Like the song everyone always wants to hear him play, timeless, so Canadian and one that teaches so much about being us. The dictionary and playlist wrapped into one with a chardonnay that speaks to all of us in a cool climate vernacular.

Sun’s up, mm-hmm, looks okay
The world survives into another day
And I’m thinking ’bout eternity
Some kinda ecstasy got a hold on me

Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment (68817, $29.95)

You may consider this 2017 (estate) chardonnay from Hidden Bench the transition, meaning it demarcates the passing of the varietal torch, from Marelize Beyers to Jay Johnston. And indeed there is a little bit of each winemaker’s finesse, grace and cumulative style. Perhaps a step away from richesse with a step forward in structure. That means the linearity and subtlety speaks ahead of the developed flavours and so a longer primary period will allow this to drink consistently for nearly five years. After that it will develop more flint and smoulder, if less golden sunshine richness. These are of course details in minutia and shadows to discover. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Pairs with Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows

Why? Everything about Cohen’s music lives in shadows and everybody knows that a Hidden Bench chardonnay does the same. Even if the plague is coming fast, from one great to another, everybody knows.

Everybody knows,
Everybody knows,
That’s how it goes,
Everybody knows

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2017, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($44.95)

Welcome back, to that grand vineyard place that we’ve talked about. Down on the farm near the water where chardonnay was purposed grown and put in the hands of a young Thomas Bachelder. The results were dramatic and now that unparalleled fruit is back in the monk’s world, he wiser and more experienced than ever. The transition is spooky seamless and the awe in hand providing breathtaking posits in moments more than fleeting. Behold the presence of orchards and their just ripened glow of fruit with sheen so fine. Let your glass allow the ease of the aromas and flavours to fall in and emit with conscious movement, without conscience or effort. That’s the 2017 Grand Clos. Chardonnay that is. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted November 2019

Pairs with Rush’s Limelight

Why? Le Clos Jordanne is back in the limelight and on a literal level, the return of this iconic Ontario chardonnay by Thomas Bachelder is about living as a performer, on a stage, with all eyes upon them. A wine with a higher purpose.

Get on with the fascination
The real relation
The underlying theme

Rosé

Who needs only light, southern French styled Rosé when you can also have full fruit, plenty of colour and a healthy dose of personality? In many cases the nearly pale and vin gris examples still persist and excite but there are those bled and rendered, heavily hued and teeming with fruit. Ontario made Rosé is more diverse, complex and multifarious than ever before. In terms of working for the consumer that means more choice and that’s a beautiful thing. Whether you are making yours to be a crowd pleaser with a heathy dose of residual sugar or dry as the desert, the unequivocal voice of necessary conscience will always whisper “balance in Rosé is key.” Like Canadian music which also pairs well with bottles of blush.

Leaning Post Rosé 2018, VQA Niagara Peninsula ($20.95)

Hmmm…salty. Lovely lithe and spirited Rosé here from the LP boys, redolent of fresh-picked strawberry, Maldon sprinkled and just herbaceous enough to care for signature red grape varieties ideal for the quick, calm and easy blush bleed. The sour edge just adds to the mystique and the by the boatload charm. Just right. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Pairs with Shawn Mendes’ Stitches

Why? Don’t want to get too serious with Rosé so a little pop music with a slightly salty and bitter sound seems like just the plan.

And now that I’m without your kisses
I’ll be needing stitches

Malivoire Rosé Moira 2019, VQA Beamsville Bench ($24.95)

Production is “as much as I can get from that site,” tells Shiraz Mottiar, so maximum 800 cases. As always the aridity and the salinity continue to rise, the acids, minerality, near brininess and ultimate stoic balance so secure at the top of the game. Such a high acid vintage for everything but certainly that includes Rosé, yet still the least amount of skin-contact of the three Malivoire blush. Acids just don’t correlate to hue and flesh. Thank pH for the needle’s movement in how this translates from vintage to vintage. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Pairs with Justin Bieber’s Intentions

Why? Moira just gets to me and a glass always leads to creativity. The Ontario Rosé muse unparalleled.

Shout out to your mom and dad for making you
Standing ovation, they did a great job raising you
When I create, you’re my muse
The kind of smile that makes the news

Gamay

Not that there is ever a bad time to partake in the wonders of gamay, but with the mercury rising, spring is the right time to be with the gamay you love. If you’ve never experienced the nuanced pleasure of great gamay, whether it be from Beaujolais in Bourgogne’s southern reaches or from Ontario’s cool-climate hinterlands, its prime time you did. The gamay produced in Ontario can run the gamut from light, fruity and joyful to dark, serious and structured. Winemakers are on their gamay game and the quality has never been better. The kind of songs to match gamay need to exhibit intrinsic purity and also variance so be picky and intentional here.

Château Des Charmes St. David’s Bench Vineyard Gamay Noir Droit 2017, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara On The Lake (346742, $19.95)

Quite a reductive and structured gamay with healthy extraction and great vintage fruit. Resides in the black raspberry realm with a balancing sheet of strawberry roll-up. Nothing shy about this, in a ripest of St. David’s Bench vein and so much could be taught about Ontario gamay through the work of this maker. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted October 2018 and March 2020

Pairs with Neil Young’s Homegrown

Why? Both Château Des Charmes and gamay strike me as the epitome of homegrown and the St. David’s Bench estate is simply the Neil Young of Ontario.

Homegrown’s
All right with me
Homegrown
Is the way it should be
Homegrown
Is a good thing
Plant that bell
And let it ring

Stratus Gamay 2017, VQA Niagara On The Lake ($29.20)

The 2016 Stratus cabernet franc offers up a wilder ride so fasten your seatbelt. Ropey and fully berry-Gamay gets neither more ripe nor extracted in Ontario and yet there’s a step back dance grace about this singular ’17. If ever the word Cru might come to mind when nosing and tasting local gamay this would be one, specific to a time and a place. Wild cherry, black cherry and concentrated cherry syrup are the big, bigger and biggest attributes, all cut through by a knife’s edge acidity. Wild gamay of grip, with very good length. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Pairs with Robbie Robertson’s I Hear You Paint Houses

Why? To be honest lyrically this song has nothing to do with Stratus or gamay but it features Van Morrison and that’s pretty much the reason. Robbie and Van together is like Stratus and gamay.

I hear you paint houses
Right down to the wire

Pinot Noir

Thoughts about pinot noir always articulate an opinion. Smells like cherries, shows earth and mineral notes of/from clay and limestone. Texture is specific to the village where it is grown. In Ontario there are pinot noir crus few would ague against the probability that in most vintages quality will be a guarantee. Crus like Lowrey Vineyard on the St. David’s Bench, top blocks in Prince Edward County, several vineyards up on the Beamsville Bench, Wismer-Foxcroft, much of the Twenty Mile Bench and Four Mile Creek. The naysayers who continue to doubt whether pinot noir is a viable signature grape in this province are not paying close enough attention to the signs, portents and in conclusion, the results. As for the songs it plays and sings? Gotta be both old and new, retro and still avant-garde, crooning while ambient, poppy yet just a bit unusual and always stuck in your head.

Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula ($30.95)

From a vintage both turned on and stood on its head with cool and wet summer conditions followed by unprecedented heat in September. The resulting look at pinot noir means strawberry like you’ve never noted before and Montague’s certainly jamming with concentration. Sweet fruit carries just enough varietal tension and depth to keep it grounded in the clay-earthy realities of Niagara. Not like Montague’s past perhaps but great fun nonetheless. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted November 2019

Pairs with City and Colour’s Hope for Now

Why? Dallas Green’s voice, of sweet tension, like Ontario pinot noir and Montague’s clay-earthy reality.

What will it take to live as if I would not another day?
To live without despair, and to be without disdain
How can I instill such hope, but be left with none of my own?
What if I could sing just one song and it might save somebody’s life?

Rosehall Run JCR Pinot Noir 2017, VQA Prince Edward County ($39.00)

A bit high-toned, magically spirited and rebelliously volatile. Earthy and lithe in fruit though quite raspberry-pomegranate and exciting for those who like it not only lightning searing, but intensely meaningful. Hard not quiver with impatience at the thought of this treat before me and what such a singular pinot noir will become when it matures. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind at NWAC19, June 2019

Pairs with Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You

Why? PEC pinot noir, this vineyard and that winemaker. Musically structured like a song from Blue, chord and tempo changes, magically spirited and intensely meaningful. Thank you Dan Sullivan.

You taste so bitter
And so sweet, oh
I could drink a case of you darling, and I would
Still be on my feet

Stanners Vineyard Pinot Noir The Narrow Rows 2017, VQA Prince Edward County

A super-saturated, honed and zeroed in upon place in a vineyard ripeness with a touch foxiness. Reality from limestone bled into fruit wavering on a spectrum where berry fruit

sits on one end and earthy beetroot all the way over on the other. Touches both and then properly meets in the middle. Cherries are red, herbs are green and tension stretches a wire between two poles. Tomato water and tomato leaf with fresh basil. That’s just matter of fact and a good struck balance in combination. You almost feel it’s at once too ripe and then a bit green but those moments are fleeting and so the summation in accumulation is the thing; must, seeds, stems and the work of kind, nurturing and gentle hands add up to great delicacy. It’s local and it’s so bloody good. Delicious even. Unlike any pinot noir ever made previously in Ontario. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted blind at the Judgement of Kingston, November 2019

Pairs with Ron Sexsmith’s Gold in Them Hills

Why? Pinot is a song of hope, crooned by a Canadian treasure. Colin Stanners may as well be the Ron Sexsmith of Prince Edward County, shy and brilliant, reserved and funny.

But maybe it’s the perfect day
Even though the bills are piling

There’s gold in them hills
There’s gold in them hills
So don’t lose heart
Give the day a chance to start

Cabernet Franc

At the brazen and confident right of Ontario’s most important varietal reds is cabernet franc, a Bordelais grape that paints a more palatable picture than those brushed by both merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Transparently honest and forthright by nature, brassy and highly energetic, righteously indignant like a young band with a big sound and no shortage of swagger. Frank Ontario red, frankly speaking.

Tawse Natural Wine Cabernet Franc Redfoot Vineyard 2018, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula ($28.95)

There’s a symmetry in this cabernet franc and as it is the natural one in the Tawse stable, it’s actually the connection between vineyard and varietal that brings about the a ha moment. Redfoot has to date been the gamay block for natural executions and cabernet franc has been a Laundry Vineyard affair. The dots are connected through the Lincoln Lakeshore lexicon from one to the next, first in grape and then in winemaking, or lack thereof. This Vin Nature is both the least “natural” of all the Tawse tries while at the same time most like the Laundrys of past vintages, though it’s really somewhere in the circulative middle of a stylistic that includes the Grower’s Blend. In fact there’s no great departure from those cabernet francs so why not make them all this way? If the results are same dark fruit, same blushing acidity, same piquancy, same herbal undertones and nearly the same clarity of structure, why not risk it across the board? Could drink this with abandon. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Pairs with The Arkells Knocking at the Door

Why? “There’s a fearlessness to it that I think a lot of sports fans and teams want to feel,” said frontman Max Kerman. The song has been anthemic at hockey games and women’s marches. Paul Pender’s natural wines do something eerily similar and reach a very large audience.

That’s me, I’m knockin’ at the door
I’m thirsty
For more, for more, for more
That’s me, I’m knockin’ at the door
I’m knockin’ at the door
I’m knockin’ at the door
That’s me

Southbrook Saunders Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2018, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($28.95)

Nothing if not classic Bench-raised cabernet franc with crunchy fruit, dark red and savoury plus that unmistakeable current of dark currant and capsicum. There’s no mistaking the origin or the execution, nor the varietal expressiveness. Transparent, honest, real and blessed of so much purposeful character. May not charm everyone from the word go but a couple of years will sort them out. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted December 2019

Pairs with Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs

Why? The bounce in this song reminds of cabernet franc’s varietal dance, crunchy, savoury and honest. That’s just how Ann Sperling interprets fruit from Saunders Vineyard, tripping over piano keys and a background of strings making ambient sounds, rising to a crescendo.

Sometimes I can’t believe it
I’m moving past the feeling
Sometimes I can’t believe it
I’m moving past the feeling again

Good to go!

godello

Wine is a beautiful thing

Every wine tasting is a miracle. By oneself, aided or not and in a community the interaction proffers the great distraction. Groups of people gather, their emotional aches, anger, worries, longing and desires. All their troubles are with them, the vulgarities and banalities of lives, the peaks up high and the valley down low. Writers, sommeliers, servers, cooks, social media marketers, influencers and tasters. All struggling through life, loss and love, family dynamics, friends come and gone, sickness, death, epiphany and revelation. Fights and reconciliations, milestones, divorce and rites of passage. Deprivation, oppression, depression, luck, fortune, bullying, racism, prosperity and indifference. Suddenly they begin to taste and everything just disappears. Just like that. There’s a familiar silence, even while conversation ensues, but it’s as if sublime music plays, is performed, gifted.

All there is and was vanishes into wine. A communal connectivity is bred and all that is ugly dissipates and dissolves into the spirit of fruit, phenols, acidity and tannin. Everyone feels the charge and focuses on the present. The producers and the labels are in their moments afforded their due but most just see the whole and greater picture. Humans, wine lovers, kindred spirits, surrendered to the wine.

Some feel like crying or resting their tired heads on the next person’s shoulder. It chokes them up, makes them realize that things can be this simple. When a great wine is tasted some nod in approval while the more emotional just face the ground because it’s almost too much to take in, or even handle. It’s just so beautiful, all these people tasting and experiencing these wines together. This marvellous communal share and if they are themselves they can’t say because they are out of body and also mind. They wonder why it can’t always be this, why life has to be so hard, so stressful, fast and supercharged. Why does the exceptional not intervene like it does when tasting wine? Why is this not the rule of life?

When it’s over who does not wonder if the true energy of the world might not be a glass raised of wine? Wine is a beautiful thing.

This post was inspired by the writing of the French novelist and philosophy teacher Muriel Barbery. Restful holidays to all. Auguri, for health, happiness and beautiful wine in 2020.

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Crush on Benjamin Bridge

Benjamin Bridge Vineyards

It’s late October and I’m walking the vineyard with viticulturalist Scott Savoy who gestures below our feet into the genius loci where multiple layers of loam and sandy loam are mixed with river stones. In the vested interest of micro-climate orientation he points out the modest mountain ridges to the north and south, the stretch of valley to the east and west, to the big Bay of Fundy beyond and back down to the earth. He notes the fault line running diagonally away from the crush pad and tasting room, through the vineyard and down the slope to the river below. Today the namesake belongs to the winery but Benjamin Bridge is first and foremost a place. We all want to know about its history because there is something very special here. In this valley the apples are different and the vines grow berries smaller and unique. It’s a place that pulls on the heartstrings of innate curiosity.

Related – Consider the Gaspereau Valley

It comes from the name of the bridge that crosses the Gaspereau Valley and pays tribute to the Benjamin family who dammed up the river to become the first industrialists here. The name is a historical one, not one of fashion, trends, aggrandizement or narcissism. The ownership and the management of Benjamin Bridge Vineyards are fully cognizant of their place within a King’s County pantheon, of the past and for the future. Who among them wouldn’t pay a king’s ransom to protect it? They fully recognize how the tenets of farming, progression, life, struggle and ethos came before them and will continue long after they are gone. Just in case their work in making sparkling wines headed up by chief winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers is not legacy defining enough they recently supplied a bottle of Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Brut Reserve 2012 to christen the first Irving Shipyard built Arctic patrol vessel. Sophie Trudeau used the bottle to christen the Harry DeWolf during an October ceremony on the Halifax waterfront. An interesting and poignant aside, this gesture.

Frost damage at Benjamin Bridge

The 2018 Nova Scotia harvest will live in infamy and perhaps not for the reasons everyone involved will want to remember. Frosts, rain, grape growing pressures and more frosts reduced quantities so drastically that emergency fruit was transported across two provincial borders from Ontario, a fact not lost as a notion that is pathetically-monopoly ironic. Annapolis Valley Vineyards were looking at losses of at least 50 per cent following a late Sunday frost overnight and into the morning of June 4th. Temperatures plummeted from the high 20s just two days earlier to minus three degrees celsius. There were some miraculous exceptions to the rule, like Avonport’s Oak Knoll Isle but damage ran from 20 to 100 per cent. Frost that settled in the lowest sections of valley vineyards were hardest hit.

All that happened to Nova Scotia’s wine industry plus more in, outs and twists than a Coen brothers comedy-drama and yet the greatest things happened anyway. The community of growers and producers banded together, traded grapes, shared experience and pulled each other through. This is a place where everyone understands that making wine is not about one vintage, individual accomplishments or accolades. Turning grape water into wine is a life-long partnership with the land, with the weather, the Bay of Fundy and each other. Success is wrought with challenges, adversity and responses to the contretemps of the day. Such tremendous odds give credence to Nietzsche saying “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” leading to an alignment with a maritime band of brothers and sisters. The year 2018 is the vintage during which the Nova Scotia wine producers in and around the Annapolis Valley were forced into a situation of needing one another and to become les retrouvailles, the reunited.

#lookoff in Canning, Nova Scotia

At the fore of this happenstance is Benjamin Bridge Vineyards, both in terms of being the helped and the helper. The Gaspereau Valley sparkling wine specialist is the unquestioned leader of their cottage wine industry and for so many reasons. Decisions made more than a decade ago to invest everything into this stretch of land south of the Bay carved through two micro-climate catalyst ridges for the purpose of creating the newest and most important innovative sparkling wine on the planet is nothing short of historical. The speed bumps may be serious but mark my words (and by many who have stated this before me), Nova Scotia is second only to Champagne for making the kind of sparkling wine we should and will want to drink. No disrespect intended to Franciacorta, Alta Lange, Prosecco, Crèmant de Loire, Bourgogne, Jura or d’Alsace. No ill will meant towards Sonoma County, Ontario, British Columbia, Tasmania, England or Roberston’s Méthod Cap Classique. I love you all but Nova Scotia can raise grapes for traditional method sparkling wine in ways and with results that blow everything else out of the proverbial water.

Not sure you need the banger. Jacket should scare them off!

Case in point, time and again, with variations on the theme, measurable and of a ceiling reckonable through infinite possibility. In this part of Canada vinifera varietals like chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier can linger well in the autumn months, reach brix levels ideal for sparkling wine and still maintain acidities at levels all other regions can only dream of. The effect of the Bay of Fundy creates a unique environment, plain, simple and complex. Imagine adding up the flow of all the rivers in the world and asking that accumulation to submit to the power of one body of water’s tides that lower and rise as much as 17 metres every day. The Bay is like an air pump that moderates climate. Frosts be damned the picking in the Gaspereau of grapes just ripe enough for making wine is the latest anywhere. In Franciacorta for example picking of chardonnay happens in early August, just to keep natural acidity. In California it’s July and in the dead of night. We have begun to taste Nova Scotia bubbles at eight, nine and ten years on their lees. The results are astonishing with a combination of texture and acidity never seen before. As I said, the ceiling is boundless.

Crush at Benjamin Bridge: Chris Campbelll, Godello and Jean-Benoit Deslauriers

The charge at Benjamin Bridge is led by founder Gerry McConnell who purchased the property with his late wife Dara Gordon in the Gaspereau Valley in 1999. McConnell worked with Canadian oenological consultant Peter Gamble and Sparkling Wine Consultant/Champagne specialist Raphaël Brisbois to establish vineyards, a protocol and a long-term strategy for making world-class bubbles. Within three years of launching the project they knew it would work.

Sunday morning, #Kingsport Nova Scotia

The unfortunate passing of Raphaël Brisbois left a huge hole in the hearts and the ethos of the BB project but great timing, fortune and intellect came to the company in the extraordinary ethic and cerebral meanderings of head winemaker Deslauriers. Originally from Québec, J-B joined in 2008 and for 10 years has explored, extrapolated and elevated the game. No combination of diversity and focus is more apparent than it is now at Benjamin Bridge.

Winemakers at work, Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, Alex Morozov and Chris Campbell

The team on the ground and in the cellars is led by Head Viticulturist Scott Savoy and Chris Campbell who aides, abets and manages the trilogy of harvest, cellar and production operations. Alex Morozov is Assistant Winemaker to Deslauriers. Gerry’s twin daughters Devon and Ashley McConnell-Gordon have run the daily operations of the winery since early 2010, Keltie MacNeill manages the BB Club and Gillian Mainguy is the face of the place. Some of you may remember Gillian at Wines of Nova Scotia but now she is marketing, public relations and tireless world traveller on behalf the BB brand.

Racking chardonnay with head winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers

In the third week of October I spent 48 hours with the gang at Benjamin Bridge. Crushing, talking, pressing, tasting, pumping, discussing, racking, ruminating, walking and speculating. There is a foundation of land, people and spirit you can’t know until you come here to really know.

The base is the matter and what matters comes from the great base

The discussion with Gerry and Jean-Benoit is now woven into the fabric of relationship with Pascal Agrapart who has been making wines at Champagne Agrapart & Fils since 1983. BB is keen on keeping a lineage with Champgane, a connection, to pursue more richness, texture and wines structurally rounder and fuller. Says Deslauriers, “we’re looking for the growers taking a Burgundian approach to winemaking, in the vineyard first. Pascal’s wines have always had that compelling textural quality.” Has anyone in Canada ever taken a grower’s approach to sparkling wine is the question. Here in Nova Scotia these are the wines with a stamp, of an equation in confluence from estate plus local vineyards and growing environments. The wines are not in jeopardy by adding this richness. “We still recognize the parcels we have selected through the wines we have made. There is still an inherent Benjamin-ness to the wines, ” adds Chris Campbell. I tasted the following wines off the record, some unfinished and others still who are the children of experimentation but even more so as matters of conceptual links to the reasons why Benjamin Bridge even exists at all.

Minas Friday morning

Brut 2016

Part estate and part Kingsport chardonnay fruit, with effervescence not the thing but it should tell a story. Already showing off its richness, density and concentration, even herein the “entry level,” the first full vintage for and from Pascal’s influence and tutelage. Cool stuff in here, decoupement particulare, this taking of different parcels for micro-vinifications.

Brut Reserve 2016

Of chardonnay and pinot noir, from the oldest estate blocks. There is so much more complexity, legit and from the word go. The terpenes are exceptional ones, and that is something they can be, built on acidity. Even without bubbles you can fully relate to it as the wine it knows it is. Grapefruit and tangerine, dry and sumptuous. The base is the matter and what matters comes from the great base. Perspective comes at you in solicitation of your emotions and opinions in many ways. You don’t always need CO2 to make contact with sparkling wines.

The future

Blanc de Noirs 2016

Now into pinot noir this new perspective makes you want to admit that it may be that chardonnay and pinot noir come together with a higher ceiling as a sum of their parts. Here it’s the antithetical aromatics of lemon rosewater and an amaro-herbal-red currant thing. Also oranges with spirit and a linger that reminds of the best athlete, with the greatest potential, but not the flashy star who scores early and often. 

Brut 2017

The secondary fermentation is only a few weeks old and it’s a very primary notation, with the bubble still on the way up. The rise is lime as a slow crawl along a coaster’s upward track, welling with tension and a coursing flow of anticipation. By way of comparison there is a tonic phenolic uprising either not noted or now having dissipated from the 2016.

Peculiar samples

Brut Reserve 2017

Once again the youth and the young phenols of very early fermentation but also a course led by the most unusual of vintages, cold and wet all summer long followed by 30-plus degrees in September and October. That’s 30-plus higher than right now in 2018. The contact here is unlike ’16, almost agitating and certainly unsettled. It would prefer not to be bothered at this time.

Brut NV

A non-vintage ’16, tirage in ’17. Could be vintage-dated but isn’t and won’t be. Higher acidity and more of the tonic phenolic-ness that the young ‘17s are showing. So I conclude that the NV is less structured and as an acumen-accumulated base wine it’s like a Blanc de Noirs or a reserve when younger. The translation states they are not only on to something and a real pattern is forming but they really know what they are doing, in separating micro cuvées and the outstanding wheat from the excellent chaff.

Kingsport cabernet franc

While I tasted these unfinished wines and other tank samples I also assessed 10 new wines from the portfolio. Here are my notes. The prices are all Nova Scotia retail from the winery.

Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Brut 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada (Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

Disgorged June of 2018, now four plus months in bottle. Right from the beginning it is energy, spirit and tension. It’s mostly chardonnay but suggests richness marked by toast and flint. Quite a smokiness, not from oak, but an autolytic one. A true wine of secondary fermentation, naked and smouldering. Richness comes naturally, in second term existential notability, followed by density and length. The linger turns to mineral and salinity and you really want more right away, to layer upon what’s still left lingering behind. This is the Benjamin Bridge project incarnate, defined, teachable house style. The words of Jean-Benoit Deslauriers echo in your head, “with the possibility of absolute transcendency.” Eventually. Drink 2018-2028.   Tasted October 2018  benjaminbridge  liffordgram  @Benjamin_Bridge  @LiffordON  @benjaminbridgevineyards  @liffordwineandspirits

Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Brut Reserve 2012, Nova Scotia, Canada (275396, $74.95, WineAlign)

Now into a real vinous notion, with extra concentration that reminds you how Reserve wines have to be perfectly exceptional as still wine. The bubbles bring an added dimension but they are not the be all, end all. The richness here is taken to another level, still of course with a toasty edge but it’s the 2002 blocks of estate chardonnay and pinot noir (then 10 years old) that deal in this endearing fruit and enduring length. The sip expands and increases, with knowledge that it is that fruit, very apple orchard but a variety not fully known that drives this wealth. It’s also knife-edged and able to keep this youthful tension cut and fissured through the mouth. Not a sprinter but a climber able to amble and scramble up to heights for a decade plus. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted October 2018

The following two wines were tasted in 2017 and a few months earlier at #i4c 2018, Ontario’s Cool Climate Chardonnay Conference in Niagara.

Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Estate Blanc De Blancs 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada (Agent, $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

Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Estate Blanc De Blancs 2012, Nova Scotia, Canada (Agent, $119.50, WineAlign)

The vintage 2012 marks the beginning of the Benjamin Bridge oak program, here with some purchased fruit from friends and neighbours Lightfoot & Wolfville. This January 2018 disgorged bottle spent 66 months on its very, very fine lees and represents the inaugural departure away from reductive chardonnay in traditional method housing. Its acidity is striking, ripping and amazingly shot straight up to light and ignite the olfactory nerve. That is seems another six months to a year will only lead to textural and mouthfeel home improvements tells us there is seemingly no ceiling for how long on lees these south Fundy shore valley sparkling wines can go. The research is still one in progress but this much we know. The house of Nova Scotia is built on acidity. It’s a commodity much of the rest of the wine-growing planet will want to pay anything to use. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2018

Now back to October 2018.

Benjamin Bridge Riesling 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

With time rieslings change drastically, much more so than traditional method sparkling, completely disconnected from their youth. So where is this going? Energy, tension, Nova Scotia. This is a Bay of Fundy riesling, ocean-wise, saline, poignant, direct. There are herbs and fennel but already this onset of glück and proverbial riesling stamp. Lemon-lime, tart angling, green to ripe apricot. Mostly fruit from grower John Warner, it’s not too edgy, a dry, albeit 15 g/L RS style. The Mosel frame is obvious and the ceiling for potential great but this strikes me as being three to four years away from really moving into another gear. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted October 2018

Benjamin Bridge Riesling 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

There is something I can’t simply put a nose or a finger on. It’s floral but also aerified, stratified, stratospheric, atmospheric. It’s sugary honeyed and very beeswaxy but not in a sticky way. The balance is a roundabout one where you have to travel the entire circumference in order to tie the whole room together. Something umami meets intangible allows you to imagine where 2016 will travel but it’s just an inkling coupled with a hunch. The wax is lit or rather unlit, snuffed, smouldering and beautiful. So worth this five years forward visit. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2018

Benjamin Bridge Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Nova Scotia, Canada (Agent, Approx. $47.95, WineAlign)

The 2013 was the inaugural release and so here the fifth marks the man, the myth, the legend. Should sauvignon blanc be a Nova Scotia something, grown here is this tiny stretch of narrow valley? The answer is no but taste the impossible results and then try to say it with a straight face. A man who loves Sancerre and has the vision to stick with this project through unsurmountable odds and adversity deserves to drink his very own, very excellent sauvignon blanc. This 2017 strings forward a great moment of continuity although in less tropical, more saline and increased tension ways. There is an infiltration by tonic, lemon and lime and yet still explosively aromatic with citrus peel that connects the two vintages by way of this unequivocal substance and emotion. Let’s wait on this buffering streamer. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted October 2018

Benjamin Bridge Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada (Agent, $47.95, WineAlign)

The difference between this and the previous vintage is turbidity, having it and not. It’s a negotiable varietal that doesn’t really prepare for winter and it’s not a match made in heaven with the climate. That said the adversity makes for wines of great interest. Not driven by rational motivation but by passion and love, from 0.75 tonnes of yield per acre. Explosive from the concentration delivered to each privileged berry. Dry extract is through the roof. The passion fruit on this ’16 is uncanny, almost tropical in fact it really is and yet in the end there is a revival of salt, tonic and lime. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2018

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 Sparkling 2017, Charmat Method, Nova Scotia, Canada (256289, $24.95, WineAlign)

You’ll be pleased to know that Nova 7 is a child of wild ferment and made in 15,000 cases. It’s not tied to any real natural winemaking processes, but considering all that is in the balance it was decided not to add any sulphur in the winemaking process, only before bottling. Hard line indeed. No messing with the aromatic spectrum, not the terpenes nor the esters or anything else, so that the wine has developed its full aromatic possibility. Just the greatest lithe hint of effervescence, the crushable one, better than mega purple sweet confections for people who want to drink flavour. Peach, strawberry and juicy fruit for the people, for everyman, woman and non gender specific imbiber, for people in the sticks who don’t, won’t and can’t drink grower’s Champagne. Aromatic backbone is New York Muscat, plus ortega, seyval blanc, l’acadie, vidal, riesling, chardonnay (and no perle). “It’s all a lot of oyster and no pearlA, perfect for this long December. And no need to swirl, so you get a kick from the natural CO2. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted October 2018

Benjamin Bridge Cabernet Franc Rosé Small Lot 2017, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $26.95, WineAlign)

“We knew in this season we wouldn’t have enough for a full-on commercial Rosé,” tells Jean-Benoit Deslauriers. This was harvested same day, red or pink, November 10th, whole cluster pressed for a few hours and then after débourbage transferred into concrete egg. There is remained for nearly six months and in March it was highly turbid at ferments’ end. No fining, no filtration, never a sulphur addition with thanks to natural acidities that protect. It’s a perfectly lovely oxidative note with creaminess brought by the egg, never to be stripped away. It emulates the Kingsport vineyard and the varietal. Orange skin, salinity and integrated variability, with good tonic bitters. Even a bit of firmness of tannin that says its come into its own now and will be a cerebral bit of fun for two or three more years. This is Rosé very much meant to be. There were in and around 200 cases made, this essentially estate exclusive, with a few exceptions. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted October 2018

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

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

And one final tank sample.

Cabernet Franc 2017

A good portion of, as in 100 per cent whole berry, whole cluster fruit ferment. Heavily oxygenated, non-carbonic, from four barrels, to be bottled in December and then released next fall, so nine plus nine. There’s the floral rising from the glass, so pronounced. Strawberry, mint, cherry and liquorice, amaro, spice and tobacco. Green and pyrazine are looked for and not found. It’s the sand layer under the strat of mixed recent glacial run off rocks that mitigate the bubbling water beneath the soil and give this a tannic structure unheard of in Nova Scotia reds, Also remembering the urgency at the hands of the whole cluster ferment.  There are 900L available. Grab ’em by the growlers.

crush #interloper standing with harvest giants

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

50 years of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Missed it by that much. #oldwine #vinonobile #sangiovese #vinonobiledimontepulciano #cantineriunite

During the eight-day locomotive migration through Anteprime Toscane in February 2017 there were nearly 1000 wines to try, mostly sangiovese in all its various genetic, clonal and stylistic fluctuations.  The aberration was in San Gimignano, a stop on the tour that I regrettably missed due to a deeper delve into Chianti Classico’s (even in) February verdant hills. One checkpoint and more specifically one tasting stood out from the rest. Fifty years of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

That the powers that be at the Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano thought to amass ten wines spanning four decades and launching with that fateful year of 1967 was more than a stroke of regional genius. It was both a major risk to take and a gift of great generosity. There was no way of knowing how those early virgin wines of DOC origin would show or if in fact that life would still be left in them. Perhaps another shortlisted vintage or two was waiting in the wings just in case a 1967 or a 1975 failed to survive but regardless, some serious props, high-fives and sincerest thanks go out to the producers and decision makers of this most storied consorzio.

While some examples expressed themselves with more spirit and vitality than others, any doubt cast on the structure of the Montepulciano sangiovese has been vehemently cast aside. The prugnolo gentile and other (increasingly employed) varietal variants cultivated in the Valdichiana and Val d’ Orcia are more than a 50-year-old project. “The oldest documented reference to the wine of Montepulciano is from 789 in which the cleric Arnipert offered the church of San Silvestro or San Salvatore at Lanciniano on Mt Amiata, a plot of land cultivated with vineyards in the estate of the castle of Policiano. Later, Repetti mentions a document in 1350 (in his “Historical and Geographical dictionary of Tuscany”) which drew up the terms for trade and exportation of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.”

“The Sixties brought a reawakening in winegrowing geared principally towards the production of Vino Nobile rather than Chianti. State and EU funds used by the wineries to convert their vineyards into conformity with the requirements of the DOC (1966), enabled new wineries to enter the market. Recognition of DOCG status came in 1980 and Vino Nobile began a new life.”

In advance of the 50-year seminar the Annata 2014 and Riserva 2013 vintages were presented. The challenge of the growing season showed the fortitude and the persistence of Montepulciano’s producers. You can throw a difficult set of weather patterns at the Vino Nobile but you can’t break their spirit. The ’14s are different, that much is clear, but more than enough quality, firm grip and structure is available to send these wines well into the next decade. They are a grounded bunch. The 2013 Riserva are more of an elegant crew, for the most part and as representatives of the multiplicity of sangiovese they are as falling snow, like the endless repetition of winter’s everyday miracle. They are also wines that do not swing their arms, an indication of a secretiveness of character. Which smarts into contradiction a connection to the ten 50 years of Vino Nobile wines. It explains how exciting it is to spend time with them in 2017.

Post Anteprima Vino Nobile we paid a visit to Avignonesi. Two extraordinary vertical tastings were held with proprietor Virginie Saverys, Max Zarobe and winemaker Ashleigh Seymour; Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2014-2010 and Desiderio Merlot 2013-2010-2001-1998. “When I purchased Avignonesi in 2009 it was Mars, or Venus,” began Virginie, “it was not planet earth.” Today it is a model of Montepulciano consistency. Here are my notes on those Avignonesi vintages along with some Anteprima prugnolo and those 50 years of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

50 years of #vinonobile @consorzionobile #50anni #sangiovese #vinonobiledimontepulciano

Contucci Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1967, Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy (486068, Agent, WineAlign)

Contucci’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ’67 was produced during a significant year in world history. The first heart transplant, the Six-Day War, the Monterey Pop Festival, The World Exposition in Montreal, The first Super Bowl and the release of the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band. It was also the year Celtic beat Internazionale in the European Cup Final. Contucci’s Vino Nobile is from a time when there were maximum seven producers in Montepulciano and only the second vintage as a denominazione wine. A primitive wine from a primitive stage in the history of the area. If it’s not totally oxidized, it’s certainly most of the way there. Smells like a nearly petrified orange, fermenting lemons and toasted meringue. Certainly many white grape varieties in here. Old and chestnut barrels were used for a seven to eight month period of aging. Much more life shows on the palate, with lemon, orange, caramel and lanolin or paraffin. Lingers for a bit. More than interesting. Drink 2017.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  andreacontucci  #contucciwinery  kylixwines  #cantinacontucci  @KylixWines  Contucci  Andrea Contucci  @KylixWines

Tramps like us. @consorzionobile #borntorun #1975 #vinonobile #fanneti #sangiovese #vinonobiledimontepulciano #toscana

Fanetti Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1975, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Fanetti’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano almost defies 40 plus years having passed since 1975. The higher acidity may not exactly scream at this time but you can imagine it having done so for a long time in its harkening back to having been raised at a higher elevation. Fruit is completely gone (of course) but we’re still in forest floor, faint mushroom and compost. The acidity still kind of rages, incredibly and this smells like lemon wood polish but also musty leather. Twenty years ago would have been really nice. I like the mouthfeel, like old Rioja, really old, with a creamy and silken texture. Quite alive, despite the off-putting nose. This was worth the visit. Drink 2017.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #fanetti

Boscarelli Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva 1982, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The Boscarelli acts like a much younger Nobile, from an exceptional vintage and a producer way ahead of its time. The key is to decide which side of the evolutionary fence we’re on, closer to that 1967 from Contucci or to what is happening today. This may actually be the turning point for Vino Nobile because it really has one foot entrenched in each world. Very much in the mushroom and truffle aromatic atmosphere, where sangiovese should feel free and comfortable to travel in the twilight of its golden years. This is beautiful, with some dark fruit persisting and acidity still in charge. You can imagine the old tannins but they no longer make any demands. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #PoderiBoscarelli  lucadeferrarildf  artisanal_wine_imports  #poderiboscarelli  Nicolò De Ferrari   Luca De Ferrari  @artisanalwineimports

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 1988, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, WineAlign)

Avignonesi’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 1988 picks up where its most excellent peers left off but also leads back into a quality level of parity tasted after Boscarelli’s 1982. This nearly 30 year-old sangiovese is not alone in its walk through the woods, leading to the autumnal mushrooms, unearthing the truffles and yet its trudge though the forest floor is even more prevalent. And then the intense pungency of porcini comes flying out of the glass. Good acidity still travels up and down the tongue and then it retreats so very drying on the finish. Wonderful look back. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  avignonesi  rogersandcompanywines  mdzbtz  @avignonesi  @rogcowines  @mdzbtz  @avignonesi  @rogcowines 

Poliziano Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano “Vigneto La Caggiole” 1988, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Back in 1988 Poliziano’s Riserva style Vino Nobile di Montepulciano came from this single vineyard, the “Vigneto La Caggiole.” Named after an ancient farm and/or St. Mustiola’s “Caggiole” Parish, it comes from Cagio, a word in the middle ages meaning “a forest or a bounded area by forests.” When tasted side by side by each with the ’82 Boscarelli and the ’88 Avignonesi this Poliziano is much more reserved and muted aromatically so I’ll hedge a bet that the tannins are still in charge. Indeed this is the case but they are sweet and copacetic to fruit that persists, though only reveals its fleshy charms on the palate. A Vino Nobile yet very drinkable to date. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  polizianowinery  noble_estates  @PolizianoAzAgr  @Noble_Estates  @PolizianoAz.Agr  @NobleEstates

Carpineto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1988, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Carpineto’s Nobile dating back 29 years is now wholly and totally volatile, of the vinyl curtain as carpeting on the forest’s floor. Some mushroom and lots of wood on the palate. Smoky and smouldering to a tart and still persistent, tannic finish. Still waiting for the settling though after three decades if it hasn’t happened yet it’s not ever going to. Would have offered serious and substantial pleasure when the fruit was still active but that finest moment was in the last decade. Drink 2017.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  @CarpinetoWines  @UNIVINS  Carpineto Wines  @agence.UNIVINS  carpinetowines  univinscanada

Tenuta Di Gracciano Della Seta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1995, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 487074, WineAlign)

The Della Seta ’95 hosts and boasts an aromatic combination of forest earthy and floral pretty and so is this most interesting 22 year-old Vino Nobile, with dried wild strawberry (fragaria vesca = fragola di bosco), fruit, leaves, mulch and all. Quite tart and with some real texture, more structure and remarkable considering this was produced at the beginning of the house’s history. Well preserved and if it holds no candle to Chianti Classico or Sienese/Florentine Hills IGT sangiovese from the same excellent vintage, it surely lives to tell a similar tale. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  tenutadigraccianodellaseta  @GradellaSeta  @GraccianodellaSeta

Salcheto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1995, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 685180, WineAlign)

The volatility and Bretty quality is there but I don’t imagine it so much more aggressive than it may have been at the start. Dried fruit is full on and in with very little in the way of mushroom and truffle. The small French oak barriques have certainly given this some preserve so that the fruit can turn to preserves on the palate. Good acidity persists as does so much residual spice from the wood. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017   #salchetowinery  hobbsandcompany  @SalchetoWinery  @AMH_hobbsandco  @Salcheto  @HobbsandCo

Bindella Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1999, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The wood used at the time is clearly in full view though in a settled, creamy and gently spicy aromatic way. This has evolved quite quickly and efficiently, now into a sangiovese turned to balsamic, five spice and soy wax. Was and still is a rich wine though I would bet that 1998 has fared better. The acidity is still quite prevalent, the tannins not so much. Two shots of doppio espresso mark the tail and it lingers long enough to suggest a couple of more years at this stage. Melts away like chocolate on the tongue. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #bindella  #tenutavallocaia    @bindellavallocaia

Tenuta Valdipiatta “Vigna d’Alfiero” Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1999, Docg Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Valdipiatta’s Vigna d’Alfiero is not quite as evolved a 1999 as the Bindella with some more presentable and viable fruit life available, though the wood is very sheathing and in full couverture. Balance is better though because the acidity is finer and still persistent. Tannic and drying, this is exactly what I would expect for 18 year-old Vino Nobile. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #tenutavaldipiatta   rogersandcompanywines  @TenValdipiatta  @rogcowines  @TenutaValdipiatta  @rogcowines

Poderi Boscarelli

Boscarelli Prugnolo Rosso De Montepulciano DOC 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

Boscarelli’s use of varietal alias for the local sangiovese is both obvious and modern in approach. Their’s is a fresh and vibrant Rosso, lithe and unencumbered. Fragrant, sweet smelling roses lift the spirit and second the motion for needing no ornamentation. This completely self-adorned prugnolo is gentile but just firm enough a foil for the antipasti. Drink 2017-20219.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $51.00, WineAlign)

A firm ’14, not so unusual in itself and yet just ripe enough, with fragrant roses as indicated in the prugnolo ’15. Yet here the flowers also deliver a dried and saline line while everything seems to soften and emancipate on the palate. Notes of a future with tar and tabby developed red fruit comes dreamy yet clear with spice notes by barrel and varietal keeping the youthful spirit alive.  Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $63.95, WineAlign)

In accord of time under its belt and meltable structure afforded by the barrel it is the Riserva that strikes a now balance between ripe fruit and the firm grip of Vino Nobile tannin. I Boscarelli reference the least amount of volatility but the particular acidity is quite fastening as it works in cohorts with the tannin. These are musical wines of ligature and kedging anchors. While the Annata 2014 may have more bob in its sailing drift the Riserva is the stable schooner. It’s just a question of approach. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano Riserva Sotto Casa DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $86.95, WineAlign)

Sotto Casa is a single-vineyard prugnolo from “beneath or below the home,” as the nomenclature suggests and is the house Vino Nobile paved with 15 per cent cabernet sauvignon and five merlot. I don’t take huge stock in the need to discuss Bordeaux varietal addendum versus the endemic though in this case the floral lift and forgiving nature is worth a word or two. The 20 per cent expatriate accents make for a prugnolo of inclusion, in this case bringing the best out of that local sangiovese. Richness goes above and beyond, with nary a shrinking or chocolate shaken moment. The freshness here in such Riserva clothing is to be lauded. Really fine. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano Riserva Il Nocio DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $148.95, WineAlign)

With some variegation in the alluvial soil to include sand and clay this 100 per cent sangiovese is drawn from the east side of the estate. The four hectare, 280 to 350 metres of altitude Vigna del Nocio has been owned by Poderi Boscarelli since 1988. It is here where terroir, aspect and existential vine placement changes everything. More than four and less than 5,000 bottles of the vineyard’s finest produce are gifted in this wine, “the nuts,” but also the bolts of Boscarelli’s noble fruit. Yes there is this bifurcate character about it, at once roasted nuts meets frutta seca and then this depth, seriousness and structure. The forked Vino Nobile is both blessed by that Boscarelli grip and lifted into noble elegance. Three years will pass and little will change. I’d expect it to linger for 15 more. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta

Tenuta Valdipiatta Pinot Nero Rosso Di Montepulciano IGT 2008, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

This small lot production is one of the most unique wines made in the Montepulciano hills, from just half a hectare on sand and clay. The vineyard was planted in 2000 to what must have been some whispers, giggles and closet envy, at the base of the hill beneath the winery. Dark berries, red ropey, ruby yet firm pinot nero fruit leads a wine of amazing toughness and grit. This must have really been something to behold in its first two or three years. All terroir and the hardest of nuts to crack. It has now softened somewhat but I wonder if in 2000 they could have known what might happen. The vines should hit their elegant stride beginning with perhaps the 2015 vintage, would be my best guess. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta Rosso Di Montepulciano DOC 2015, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Valdipiatta’s Rosso was just recently bottled, with 10 per cent mamaiolo and canaiolo in support of the prugnolo. It spent only three months in (20 per cent) used barriques and like the pinot nero is truly a terroir driven wine. While certainly dusty, firm, deeply clay fruit deepened its musicality plays anything but an astringent tune. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

A multi-barrel slumber of six months in small barriques and 12 months in 500L Slavonian casks has ushered this firm sangiovese (with five per cent canaiolo) through the world of the traditional and the historically noble. In spite of its old school charm in upbringing it’s quite the amenable one with a wide reaching, outstretched arm of generosity marked by a salty-sweetness of candied-savoury accents. It’s quite the minty cool and fruit prosperous Vino Nobile that while tending to grippy is almost always open for business. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The 2013 Vino Nobile is a softer, understated in grip version of the ’14, still terroir-driven but from a less demanding albeit singular vintage. What’s different, aside from an extra year beneath its legs is the presence of sweeter and finer-grained tannins but also a wider, open door of invitation and possibility. The Valdipiatta acidity is quite consistent, as is the traditional way of styling. A pattern is forming, of the ideal out of which an intrinsic understanding is able to cogitate the links in these wines of place. Strong genes run through the lineage of the Valdipiatta family. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Unlike the allure into a smiling reception offered up by the Annata 2013 the Riserva is conversely closed and not yet in a forgiving mood. The firmness of fruit, tart shrill of acidity and fineness of tannin all combine in procurement of one seriously intense Vino Nobile. The orotund voice and dramatic attitude follow the company line and in the Riserva do so with great hyperbole. It’s quiet remarkable actually. Unmistakable Valdipiatta. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Avignonesi’s Virginie Saverys with Wine & Spirits Magazine’s Stephanie Johnson, on her right and The Reverse Wine Snob Jon Thorsen, on her left

Avignonesi

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, $41.95, WineAlign)

Quite relaxed for sangiovese from the demanding coincidences of implausibility that arose out of the 2014 vintage, clearly directed as such to drink well while others have to wait. Tannins are certainly ripe and whatever agitative spearing or sparking that seems to be going on is given a healthy and humid oak bathing. Not so much found in the elegant oasis occupied by either or both ’12 or ’13 but a very grounded and centred Vino Nobile nonetheless. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, $41.95, WineAlign)

Like so many 2013s the fruit is quite plussed, pure and distinctly raw, dusty, cured and naturally craft sangiovese. The wood also seems to be in a diminutive position and so distinguishes the fruit though when all is said and done this equivocation can only be from Avignonesi. Terrific spice elements rub in and out of every crevice. Long like 2012, elegant in of itself and it’s quite possible the better or best is yet to come. The elusiveness of development means that we can’t yet really know. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, WineAlign)

The vintage is the one with the reductive “lamentala,” but merely just a fraction of that idea and is quick to blow off into the Val di Chiana. “We have to be careful with sangiovese,” cautions owner Virginie Saverys, “it has a very thick skin.” Extraction must be a delicate process and so a gentle délestage is performed, plus from the bottom up, “not a very physical pump over from the top.” This leads to big fruit, well endowed by barriques and tonneaux towards and always elegant result. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2011, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, WineAlign)

The 2011 was augmented by late August into September warmth so late phenolic ripeness made for an adjustment to picking and a new wine was born. Though less floral and perhaps not quite as elegant as 2010 the slower developed will and power were a perfect fit for an Aussie winemaker’s roots. You can’t help but note the shiraz-like attitude in this ’11 but balance is afforded by a more extreme acidity. With thanks to prudent picking passes the greens were avoided and all was gifted by the reds and the blacks in one massive but now mellowing coexistence. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2010, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, WineAlign)

This first year production under the transfer of full ownership to Virginie Saverys was marked by a long, cool growing season and as a result, a lovely, long-developed ripeness. The 2010 Vino Nobile is one of alcoholic meets polyphenolic balance. Though quite young yet there is a triumvirate fineness of fruit, acidity and tannin in a sangiovese where richness and elegance meet at the intersection of texture. This is a wine of shoulders lowered, at ease and at peace. Ripeness is the virtue on a road that flows like a river. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, SAQ 10993456, $72.00, WineAlign)

Desiderio is Avignonesi’s wine of “desire,” an IGT usually made with 15 per cent cabernet sauvignon though it’s as much a varietal wine as any sangiovese, or perhaps better as a comparison to Napa Valley merlot. From the Val di Chiana, a wine looking for Chianina beef. Proprietor Virginie Saverys explains the terroir is “the southern most limit of making a decent merlot in Tuscany.” Any further south and “you can lose your whole crop to the heat over the course of three days.” Concentration due to clay rich soils and a consumption of oak by healthy fruit like there is no tomorrow. It’s quite remarkable how little heat spiked spice is found on the nose. Smells as merlot should with just a touch less than obvious jamminess, a dusty and complex emulsion of fruit and herbs. The bite, spice and concentration well up on the palate. Desiderio is intense and implosive merlot. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT 2010, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

From a selection off of 32 hectares of merlot with 15 per cent cabernet sauvignon, the 2010 Desiderio is not unlike ’13 but with more elegance, softness and demure. The spice is again hidden and here in ’10 it’s really a full case of fruit and what seems at first like nothing else. Time and the effects of that vintage have already conspired to soften a bring about this creamy mouthfeel and texture. Vanilla, chocolate ganache and a restrained sense of power. It’s quite pretty, ready to drink and yet there is this feeling that it’s not quintessential Desiderio. It’s beautiful nonetheless. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT 2001, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

From a classic, important and proven Tuscan vintage and for merlot, very good, if not wholly and unequivocally exceptional. The wood on 2001 carries more weight and massive couverture and at 16 years of age the rendered effect is dripping in chocolate and fine espresso. There is this sense of exotic spice in airy accents, like five-spice and liquorice, but then a swirling descent into demi-glacé. Tannin and acidity are both a bit lower here, a reminder of time and evolution, not the most lashing in any shape or form. Paolo Trappolini was the winemaker for this 2001, a powerful merlot with plenty of glory. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT 1989, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Proof is in the varietal pudding that merlot is much more forgiving than sangiovese and also more adaptive in its longevity. This ’89 is from a time when the winemaker could not have truly known what would happen or have the varietal expertise to provide the tools for making exceptional merlot. That was Ettore, one of the two brothers (along with Alberto Falvo) who procured a merlot of structure and this passive commitment to time. It’s more welled up with chocolate but there is this tension that obviously never wavered nor has oxidation really crept in. Incredible really. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

The Valdichiana from the terrace of the Enoliteca del Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Trail blazing in Prince Edward County

It was December of 2016 when I last sat down to taste with Mackenzie Brisbois of Trail Estate Winery. With the first year anniversary of her inaugaral wine release having recently passed and the 2017 (Prince Edward) County in the City tasting coming up this Thursday, it seems as good a time as ever to revisit and publish my tasting notes on her multifarious ’15s. I had previously tasted a 2015 group of skin-contact riesling and sauvignon blanc in April 2016.

Related – No County for old wines

Brisbois’ concentration bordering on infatuation incites a summons to contest with the fruit reaped out of two Niagara vineyards, one farmed by Ed Hughes on the Lincoln Lakeshore and the other by Craig Wismer from his Wismer Vineyards Foxtrot Block on the Twenty Mile Bench. While time develops Trail Estate’s plantings in Prince Edward County and the fruit that will eventually come, these iconic Niagara Peninsula plots more than suffice and for what Trail Estate needs to say today. In fact I don’t envision Mack Brisbois moving on from these two sites any time soon, what with her triumvirate expressions focused on skin contact, wild ferments and barrel aging. It seems that riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, these vineyards and the Brisbois experimental style were all made for one another.

Which elicits my response to the question you are chomping at the bit to ask. Come on I know it’s what you are thinking. Why are these wines so expensive? Why pay $25-$35 for Niagara fruit bottled in Prince Edward County? Why pay a premium for speculative and probationary wines from a small up and coming estate not yet on the commercial radar? For any Ontario wine for that matter? These are all good, valid and ignorant questions.

First of all, these wines are made in minuscule quantities by a small group of passionate, risk-taking, acumen-exceptional people. The fruit is expensive, whether it travels three hours east from Niagara or not. Great winemakers to be have to hone their craft on something while they wait for their own gardens to grow. A rock star in waiting will earn stripes by purchasing fruit and turning water in wine. Most important to remember is the honesty of what’s inside their bottles, how in spite of their experimental nature they are so f-in clean, pure and drinkable. It’s also amazing to note that Brisbois is fully cognizant (and readily forthright) about the mistakes she made (and allowed others to make) in growing, fermenting and finishing these wines and how she would correct them going forward. These wines represent just the tip of her proverbial winemaking iceberg, of what’s to come when she gets really, really good at this. Not that she isn’t already but risks, mistakes and epiphanies will all combine and conspire to lead her and her labels to greatness. Are you reading me?

Here are the six wines tasted with Brisbois on that early winter’s day.

Trail Estate Chardonnay Musqué Foxcroft Vineyard 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $32.00, WineAlign)

The sourcing is 100 per cent Niagara fruit that was previously allotted to the estate’s Vintner’s Weiss, here with six months extra wait time (in very old 500L barrels). Typically potpourri floral with lemon zest spritz in the air but also masculine musky. Not so strong like the passing herd of Ovibos moschatus but it’s there. The palate is all tight turns down tart alleys, fleshy and rippling. The textural breadth is key to keeping this Musqué from turning medicinal because a return to the aromatics finds expression in language often spoken by gewürztraminer or viognier. The talk of Muscat, or Musqué. There were 64 cases produced. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted December 2016

Trail Estate Riesling Barrel Ferment Foxcroft Vineyard 2015, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $28.00, WineAlign)

Mackenzie Brisbois spins some old world order on her riesling from Niagara’s Foxcroft Vineyard. It begins like every other in stainless steel but is then transferred to old 500L and 225L barrels, travels over the full malolactic threshold and is finally bottled unfiltered. This is not exactly a rogue approach but it is certainly throwback experimental. Is it an atypical, mad scientist outtake? Perhaps. But it is less unusual than her previous skin-contact series, invisibly stitched and tart-pan curl rieslings. In 2015 there is an amalgamated, pretty little funk, and lemon like you’ve not nosed before. At once expectedly oaky (in an old way) but now settling down, beautifully arid, preparing the nest for a life of comfort. The stoic nature of riesling is acclimatized with a meagre 1.5 g/L of RS and indiscernible sulphur. Was bottled in November. Timbered Trocken at its finest. A total of 125 cases produced. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted December 2016

Trail Estate Chardonnay Unfiltered 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $32.00, WineAlign)

A blend of vineyards, from Ed Hughes and (Wismer) Foxcroft, perhaps with some influence under the lingering auspices of the Norman Hardie school, here in the playful and progressive hands of Mack Brisbois. Mackenzie employs no sulphur at processing, allowing for chardonnay efficacious and liberally oxidized, settled, cold stabilized, non bentonite-affected, chilled and racked. Not lost is the ever-commented process of going at it with wild ferment, but also caution thrown to the wind via no temperature control (but yes on the Hughes fruit), with the final end game in search of and wanting a fruity Chablis side. Done up in half stainless plus 50 old 500L and two 225L barrels. The sulphur was added in October, the full malo achieved and then bottled in November. All of this technical mumbo-jumbo to say there is still quite a creamy, leesy, oaky feeling but like some others in Niagara (Robyn’s Block, Oliveira and Aberdeen) it totes great palate texture and a “fruitiness,” but it’s not fruity. It may not recreate the Chablis fruit to mineral purity but it is a righteous, proper and Niagara purity fashioned in PEC. There are 266 Cases. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted December 2016

Trail Estate Riesling Wild Ferment Ed Hughes Vineyard 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $28.00, WineAlign)

This off-dry riesling was de-stemmed and steeped under 24 hours of skin contact, pressed and wikked by wild ferment. “Stopped on taste” notes winemaker Mackenzie Brisbois which turned out to be off-dry, at 19 g/L of RS. The skin contact confuses the perceived sugar levels “so if the mark was breached, so be it. I just realy liked where it was at.” Besides, the wine did it’s own thing, essentially, by and by and in presentation of itself. A very Mosel nose with no aromatic sweetness really and acidity to temper the sugar crawling across the palate. Carries a concrete feeling despite the stainless regimen and nary a tropical fruit or custardy cream moment intrudes. The orchard meets late August Niagara stone fruit is all that concerns. Darn delicious riesling. There were 120 cases made. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted December 2016

Trail Estate Baco Nouveau 2016, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

More than OK I must say about this baco noir of resolute and absolute crush ability. Whether against or not against her will I cannot say but Mackenzie Brisbois must be the first to commercialize the musky and foxy hybrid in such a way, with carbonic maceration plus yeasts for eight days and the sugar arrested at at 5 g/L. TE released this antithetical BN on on Nouveau day but there were only 30 cases made. It is without a doubt the prettiest of nouveau and of all the bacos ever. There is no fizz, no re-ferment and it is very drinkable. A stable, dark fruit vetted, better than many gamay, thirst-quenching drink. A South African Jurgen Gouws Intellego meets Jacques de Klerk Thirst by way of baco noir in Prince Edward County. Fun, juicy, easy. Well done. Drink 2016.  Tasted December 2016

Trail Estate Cabernet Franc Foxcroft Vineyard 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Barrel Sample)

Not bottled yet, this mason jar barrel sample is from a Wismer single-vineyard (Foxcroft). It will be pulled from (one new of six and the rest 13s and 14s) barrels this coming week but as of yet unsulphured it already has that slightly sulphured and coarse filtered feeling. Beautiful dark fruit has aromatically blossomed from being open a few days and this really speaks of of that rarely achieved Niagara cabernet franc imposiibility.  Soil-clay funky, so pure and precise. Carries that feign of sweetness, low alcohol, depth but so not heavy and plenty of spice. There will be 100-120 cases. $30ish.

This extrospective @TrailEstateWine #cabernetfranc ’15 by @MackBrisbois…wait for it.

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Seventeen in VINTAGES February 4th, 2017

breakfast

as seen on WineAlign

Familiar and not so familiar Europe, always cool chardonnay, seeing South African red (and a white)

These past two weeks have been difficult, bizarre and disturbing to say the least. No one is immune to thinking about the twists, turns and horrors of recent world events. With no disrespect to activism, especially on a personal level, at WineAlign our job as critics is to find ways to keep the machine running, in other words, to focus on wine. In 1975 Saturday Night Live did a skit in which Paul Simon played one-on-one basketball against one-time Harlem Globetrotter and NBA legend Connie Hawkins. Just before the game sports reporter Marv Albert asks Simon about his strategy in going up against The Hawk. “Uh, but I’ll just have to play my game, as I usually play it,” says Simon. “I mean, I’m not gonna change anything, I’ve gotta stay with my strengths… basically, singing and songwriting.” At WineAlign we’ll simply do the same.

Wines across the Mediterranean are a primary focus of the VINTAGES February 4th release. A great number of them will coax a feeling of familiarity and there are others that may not ring a bell. In any particular wine purchasing scheme it is always best to strike a balance between the poles of available options so best approached by looking to one and then the other. While France, Spain and Italy will always deliver the tried and true, a gem of a geeky or otherwise deferential varietal can be unearthed if your mind and your heart are open. Get into the corners and alleys of habituated Europe but also a place like Greece. You will marvel at how it can change your outlook to usher in the most interesting of times, in life and in wine.

Related – Only one in VINTAGES January 21st, a writer’s defence and nine more

A view through Vouraikos Canyon from Mega Spileo Vineyard

A view through Vouraikos Canyon from Mega Spileo Vineyard

Don’t worry. I’m not going to run off and wax rhapsodic about wines found “off the beaten path,” argue on the semantics of what exactly that means or how it should be defined. But I will tell you a little story. In July of 2016 I visited one of Europe’s most extraordinary vineyards, found in Achaia, located in the northern Peloponnese. At the top of this incredible canyon you stand at the foot of another even more imposing and massive rock face that is home to the 11th century Mega Spileo monastery. Gazing north through the cracks in the mountain cragges you can see the azure blue waters of the Gulf of Corinth. Looking straight down you see the greenery of the healthy Mega Spileo vineyard. The entire footage leaves an indelible mark. What’s the point? The point is to get out there and make discoveries. This also applies to what can be found in the VINTAGES catalogue.

Related – Seventeen for January 7, 2017

#cool

Chardonnay is always in the spotlight so why should February 4th be any different? This past summer at Niagara’s Cool Chardonnay conference I found out that we have to look at organoleptics and ask a very important question. Is your expectation of a Chablis going to be the same as chardonnay made from anywhere else? More important, who are we putting this wine in front of? Ian D’agata’s take struck a Canadian chord. He talked of “a welcome astringency characterized by piercing flavours. These are cool-climate wines. Cool climate chardonnay is not about a long litany of fruit descriptors. If you have a cool-climate viticultural area it behooves you to give the people what they are looking for.” More cool chardonnay examples available on this release are worthy of your time and your dollars.

Bush vines, Groot Drakenstein Mountains @AnthonijRupert Wyne @WOSACanada #lormarins #franschhoek #southafrica #winesofsouthafrica #mesmerizing

Bush vines, Groot Drakenstein Mountains @AnthonijRupert Wyne @WOSACanada #lormarins #franschhoek #southafrica #winesofsouthafrica #mesmerizing

South Africa is a geographical and geological land of wonder, of ancient soils and picturesque intrusions. Extreme examples include the shale and schist of Swartland that turns into dust and the granite domes of Paarl, which are 30 million years old. We are talking about beginning of time stuff, but how does it impart into wine? Taste more than just a few South African reds and you will get a sense.

I’ve said it before and will repeat myself. South African wine is not what we thought it was. This mantra can’t be repeated often enough. Ventures into the Cape wine lands, tastings and zealous immersion into Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek, Swartland and Hemel-En-Aarde see to that. If you’ve not visited you can’t possibly know what revelations lurk but you can get a glimpse by drinking South African wines here in Ontario.

Familiar Europe

sierra

Sierra Cantabria Selección 2014, Doca Rioja, Spain (Agent190520$14.95, WineAlign)
@RiojaWine  @azureau

nimes

Château d’Or et de Gueules Les Cimels 2013, AC Costières de Nîmes, France (Agent480301, $15.95, WineAlign)
  @RhoneWine  @VINSRHONE  @NaturalVines

Grand Cru Riesling, Alsace

Grand Cru Riesling, Alsace

Jean Biecher & Fils Schoenenbourg Riesling 2014, AC Alsace Grand Cru, France (Agent, 469767, $23.95, WineAlign)
  @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @VinsAlsace

not-all-terroir-is-created-equal-cinque-cru-barone_ricasoli-granselezione-castellodibrolio-chianticlassico-massimilianobiagi-francescoricasoli-stefanocapurso

Five terroirs of Ricasoli

Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2013, DOCG Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 942607, $59.95, WineAlign)
@barone_ricasoli  @chianticlassico  @imbibersreport

Not-so familiar Europe

There's a new obsession in town- #campania @vinalois #falanghina #greco #fiano #aglianico #pallagrello #pallagrellonero #palagrellobianco #cassavecchia #pontepellegrino #therealcampania #massimoalois #vinialois #brandnewdaywines #bndwines

There’s a new obsession in town- #campania @vinalois #falanghina #greco #fiano #aglianico #pallagrello #pallagrellonero #palagrellobianco #cassavecchia #pontepellegrino #therealcampania #massimoalois #vinialois #brandnewdaywines #bndwines

Ponte Pellegrino Greco di Tufo 2015, IGT Campania, Italy (Agent477760, $13.95, WineAlign)
@vinialois

prunotto

Prunotto Mompertone 2015, DOC Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy (Agent, 388587, $18.95, WineAlign)
  @HalpernWine  

alicante

Tommasi Poggio Al Tufo Alicante 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, 70797, $22.95, WineAlign)
@UNIVINS  @Tommasiwine

Mega Spileo Monastery

Mega Spileo Monastery

Domain Mega Spileo Red 2010, Peloponnese, Greece (Agent, 466110, $29.95, WineAlign)
@DrinkGreekWine  

chenin

Domaine F L Savennières Chenin 2012, AC Loire, France (Agent470971, $33.95, WineAlign)
@DomaineFL  @vinsdeloire

spatlese

Maximin Grünhäuser Abtsberg Riesling Spätlese 2014, Pradikätswein, Germany (Agent, 481374, $39.95, WineAlign)
  @germanwineca  @WinesofGermany

More cool chardonnay

citry

Simonnet Febvre Bourgogne Chitry 2014, AC Bourgogne, France (Agent, 479667, $19.95, WineAlign)
@SimonnetFebvre  @LouisLatour1797  @ImportWineMAFWM  @BourgogneWines  @vinsdebourgogne

Blue Mountain Vineyards Phoo: (c) www.bluemountainwinery.com

Blue Mountain Vineyards
Phoo: (c) http://www.bluemountainwinery.com

Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut Sparkling, Traditional Method, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Agent, 206326, $28.95, WineAlign)
@BlueMtnWinery @rogcowines  @winebcdotcom

Time to taste at Domaine Queylus

Time to taste at Domaine Queylus

Domaine Queylus Tradition Chardonnay 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, 489591, $24.95, WineAlign)
@QueylusVin  @Dandurandwines

luminous

Beringer Luminus Chardonnay 2014, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley (Agent, 395699, $39.95, WineAlign)
@beringervyds    @NapaVintners

South African reds (and a white)

Rustenberg R.M. Nicholson 2013

Rustenberg RM Nicholson 2014, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (Agent, 278390, $19.95, WineAlign)
@RustenbergWines  @WoodmanWS  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

mentors

The Mentors Shiraz 2012, Wo Paarl, South Africa (Agent, 403618, $29.95, WineAlign)
@KWVwines  @Dandurandwines  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

Avondale_Wines_Jonty_s_Ducks_Pekin_White_web

Avondale Jonty’s Ducks Pekin White 2015, Wo Paarl, South Africa (Agent, 439554, $15.95, WineAlign)
@Avondalewine  @RareEarth_Wines  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

 

I would like to wish you all great February release wine hunting and gathering. The WineAlign team is in travel mode these days but rest assured the reviews from upcoming VINTAGES releases will be dutifully covered. I’m off to Antiprime Toscane next week and will be back in time for everything March. The February 18th release will find a focus on Australia and March 4th, well, it’s anyone’s guess!

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Enlightened Chablis of Château De Béru

monopole

Clos Béru Monopole

We disembarked in the warm, golden, glowing light of a July afternoon. No one around. The tiny village sat motionless, in less than a whisper. Béru. Knock on the door. Athénaïs de Béru welcomes us in. At no other entry point into a domaine in Chablis did it feel like this, like crawling through a portal, back in time, crossing a threshold into a different, magical world.

Béru. Small village southeast of Chablis, to the west of Viviers, tucked into an amphitheatre nook below the Z-curve of the Route d’Auxerre and three valleys, Vau du Puits, Vallée de la Fontaine and Vallée de Foulignot. Béru. Mother in custody of Luke Skywalker. Béru. One of 16 South Pacific islands in the Southern Gilberts, according to legend created by Nareau the Wise and migrating, tree-dwelling Samoan spirits carrying branches from Te Kaintikuaba. Béru. The Left Bank domaine farmed by Athénaïs de Béru, organically, biodynamically and spiritually. Chablis from the tree of life.

chateau-de-beru

Château De Béru

The family history of the five hectare Château De Béru is one recorded back 400 years, a quintessential 300m high Chablis plot on Kimmeridgien, calcareous-clay soils inlaid with fossilized shells dating back 150 million years.  Written history tells of the vineyard first tended by first century Romans, ninth century Pontigny Abbey monks and the historical walls of the Clos Béru as having been erected in the 11th or 12th century. All to celebrate and demarcate the quality of the Béru terroir.

Then, in 1887 the phylloxera crisis ended nearly three hundred years of vinous prosperity. Late in the 20th century Count Eric de Béru replanted the vineyards and with loyal concentration on his family’s famous Clos Béru. He passed away suddenly when Athénaïs de Béru was just a child. Years later she returned from Paris to resurrect the vineyard work and produced her first vintage in 2005. A taste of 2015 ten years on marks a new era for Château De Béru. A walk through the underbelly of the winery confirms the direction and the enlightened future, through barrel trials, vin nature experimentation and concrete egg fermentation.

athenais

Athénaïs de Béru

The rows outside the 11th-12th century monk’s wall demarcate Le Clos de Béru Vineyard. All of Athénaïs de Béru’s wines are single-vineyard Chablis save for the Terroir de Beru, a wine that gathers all the vineyards to express the all-encompassing Béru terroir. Organic was completed in 2006, biodynamic in 2009. Everything was lost in 2016 to the frost of late April. Béru hardest hit in Chablis. Athénaïs sprayed Chamomile tea on her vines, with love, repeatedly and with utter confidence. They survived. The future remains bright.

We tasted four Chablis with Athénaïs that day, along with an Aligoté and an Irancy. Here are the notes.

thoroughly-enamoured-with-the-purechablis-made-by-athenais-at-chateau-de-beru-chablis-monopoleleclosberu

Thoroughly enamoured with the @purechablis made by Athénaïs at Château de Béru #chablis #monopoleleclosberu

Château De Béru Chablis Clos Béru Terroirs De Béru 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

A mere 400 years of family history lays astern of Béru Chablis and what white light now shines is due to the innate and spontaneous hands of Athénaïs de Béru. In the pantheon of the Chablis range from Terroirs through Montserre and to Clos Béru Monopole, this is the conversant spokesperson for the house. Terroirs the child is wild, natural, intrepid and convinced, from a ferment that sees only stainless and bottled as early as December. Trusting and self-sufficient from kimmeridgian limestone, only it as Chablis whiffs such a mix of iodine and smoke and bears witness to its small, windy and concentrated vineyard. A place that bestows low pH meets high acidity. Though warm and gracious 2015 is the catalyst, this is at first lean, then struck from rock and finally the weight of that rock impresses into the wine. Getting white flowers is real and works to foil the recurrence of smoky beats and bites upon the palate. This is new, something akin to imagining the acidity offspring of grüner and assyrtiko but with weight and a metallic minerality. A Béru salinity. An iodine laced salt. Wow. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted July 2016     @TheLivingVine  @vinsdechablis  @purechablis  @vinsdebourgogne  @BourgogneWines

Château De Béru Chablis Clos Béru Montserre 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $55.95, WineAlign)

Montserre is a child of special Chablis geology up on the flat of Béru, primarily limestone with sharp, jagged fragments of rock. Athénaïs de Béru points to the benign nature of this plateau’s climat but the glint in her eye predicts with wine wicca’s wisdom that in 2015 this Chablis will simply be unreal, comme d’habitude. But it’s more than that, the “greenhouse mountain,” smoky single-vineyard Chablis, of white flint hyperbole and dense limestone smoulder. It is striking, intense, trenchant and lingers with arboretum puissance. Gourmand chardonnay, salivating, a success from 100 per cent malolactic conditioning and despite the intensity, blessed of impeccable balance. The bon ton Béru Chablis history now in the oenological hands of Athénaïs de Béru marches to an organic and biodynamic drum. But again, it’s more than that. In the sanctuary of Chablis, Montserre is a connection forged between woman and terroir. It makes perfect sense. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted July 2016

terroirs-de-beru-chablis-has-arrived-via-thelivingvine-49-956-packs-chateaudeberu-chablis-athenaisdeberu

Terroirs de Béru Chablis has arrived via @TheLivingVine #chateaudeberu #chablis #athenaisdeberu

Château De Béru Chablis Clos Béru Monopole 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $87.95, WineAlign)

The organic and biodynamic vineyard sits like an earthwork garnison outside the walls of the Béru castle, south facing and slightly southwest at the bottom of the hill. Few are as capable to define the wine monopole as lieu-dit, exclusive, specific and genetic to the 400 year family roots of Athénaïs de Béru. It is in here that the atomic, atmospheric elevation works like an elevator, carrying oozes of liquid limestone up to the surface, passed through the vines into fruit and eventuating in bottle. So very natural and intense, the barrel here is fully felt, in fact still (after three years) dominating the stainless steel. The stones at the surface pulse and quiver from intermingling with marine fossils and sea shells in direct contact with the upper roots. There is a mandarin zest and reduced juice in this, mixed with the saline, Béru-specific note of iodine. The best is yet to come for the Clos Béru Monopole, partly because two improved vintages are up next but also because Athénaïs will have furthered her connection with the exclusive Béru terroir. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted July 2016

Château De Béru Chablis Clos Béru Monopole 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $87.95, WineAlign)

In 2012, less density and iodine matchstick is on display in performance for the historic, south facing vineyard beyond the Château’s walls. From this her eighth vintage in the resurrection of the family’s estate wines, Athénaïs de Béru has assembled fruit from Kimmeridgian limestone in rapport with a vintage of portent and intent towards elegance. The acidity is much more linear (than 2013) and the limestone sensations less metallic. Here the feeling is more of a liquid chalk and the balance is much improved. Also less evolved, bright and a much more amenable of a bitter pith, more citrus (lemon and lime) and not as earthy. Longer finish too. What 2013 lacks this ’12 gains and vice versa. The comparative literature and parenthetical study is duly noted as apples to oranges so the wines are exempt of one another. Neither answer all the questions asked and both express their terroir from their time spent on it. This ’12 story will become clearer in another year or two. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2016

attention-thelivingvine-this-amphora-chablis-from-athenais-de-beru-chateau-de-beru

Attention @thelivingvine this amphora Chablis from Athénaïs de Béru @ Château de Béru

Château De Béru Aligoté 2015

One month skin contact, pressed and then set in (200L) amphora for approximately eight months. Transferred to tank for settling before bottling. Gives away apple and pear with exotic spice and the most minor bitter pith. Shares the aligoté acidity with impunity which turns on the varietal light of choice. Tannin and white flowers. Meant for sipping while cooking and into the first part of the meal. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016

Château De Béru Irancy 2015

Irancy is a partnership with friends who work organically, from their high-end cooperative, highly thoughtful picking and operation. Aged in tonnerre, obviously Burgundian (with 15 per cent pinot gris co-planted with the pinot noir). Traditional and typical but simply, unequivocally Béru. A wine loyal to the old co-plantation tradition in a world of Irancy where only pinot noir is re-planted. A balance between pretty red flowers and spicy, near bitter pithy white fruit. Whole bunch (100 per cent) fermentation but no pressing whatsoever. A slight passage under foot but the gentlest approach, suppressing tannin but looking for structure. This is so very crushable and what would likely translate to $75 CAN is something to think about.

Vin Nature of Château De Béru

Vin Nature of Château De Béru

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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