Fifteen ahead of VINTAGES April 15th

Yes we did. Who shucks’em cleaner anywhere close to the headwaters? #nobody @TideandVine

The VINTAGES April 15th release is all about value. I tasted through close to 100 over these past few weeks and wines under $20 are what stood out from the pack. My recommendations include four under $15 and six more under $18. Everything needed to get you through five months of impending warm weather is right here, right now. Enjoy.

Animus 2014, Doc Douro, Portugal (385302, $12.95, WineAlign)

@VFvinhos  @ProfileWineGrp  @winesportugalCA

Boutari Naoussa Xinomavro 2014, Pdo Naoussa, Greece (23218, $13.95, WineAlign)

@boutari  @KolonakiGroup  @DrinkGreekWine

Casal De Ventozela Espadeiro Rosé 2016, Vinho Verde, Portugal (450841, $13.95, WineAlign)

  @vinhosverdes  @winesportugalCA  @LeSommelierWine

Chateau D’aigueville Côte Du Rhône Villages 2015, Ac Rhône, France (479683, $14.95, WineAlign)

  @Eurovintage  @VINSRHONE

Lorca Selección Monastrell 2008, Do Bullas, Spain (380238, $15.95, WineAlign)

@BodegasRosario  @TheCaseForWine  @DOP_Bullas

Heartland Spice Trader Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Langhorne Creek, South Australia, Australia (429241, $16.95, WineAlign)

From Langhorne Creek and reeking of exoticsim, the aptly-named Spice Trader is a glass of full-bodied shiraz-cabernet sauvignon savour. The seasonings are zesty, spirited, piquant and then finally, settled into a mulled warmth. Red peppercorn, cardamom and allspice bring a Malabar-Zanzibar, dhow-drift sail through the red fleshy fruit. No kernel is left uncracked and the spiked liquere leaves a lingering lift. More Langhorne than cabernet or shiraz but full of flavour. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted January 2017  @heartlandwines  @TheVine_RobGroh

La Griffe Bernard Chéreau Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 2015, Sur Lie, Ap Loire, France (948182, $16.95, WineAlign)

@HHDImports_Wine  @LoireValleyWine

Alkoomi White Label Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Frankland River, Western Australia, Australia (428383, $16.95, WineAlign)

@Alkoomi  @TFBrands

Château La Verrière 2014, Ac Bordeaux Supérieur, Bordeaux, France (349274, $17.95, WineAlign)

@MajesticWineInc  @BordeauxWines

Jaspi Negre 2013, Montsant, Spain (481085, $17.95, WineAlign)

@cocaifito  Grape Brands Fine Wine & Spirits

Tornatore Nerello Mascalese/Nerello Cappuccio 2014, Doc Etna Rosso, Sicily, Italy (487090, $21.95, WineAlign)

Domaine De Riaux Pouilly Fumé 2015, Ac Loire, France (200063, $25.95, WineAlign)

@LoireValleyWine  Old Cellar Collection

Closson Chase Closson Chase Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (145888, $29.95, WineAlign)

@ClossonChase

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (933317, $36.95, WineAlign)

    @rogcowines

Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva 2009, Doca Rioja, Spain (743310, $57.95, WineAlign)

@bodegasmuga  @Vinexxpert  @RiojaWine  @Wines_fromSpain

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

this-may-or-may-not-have-happened-raveneau-memory-monteedetonnerre

This may or may not have happened #raveneau #memory #monteedetonnerre

It has never been this difficult to narrow it down. This frenetic, fast and forward moving blur of a year has blistered the patterns of thought so much so that I seriously considered throwing the whole 16 in 16 down the drain and laying it all out there. “Here are the 42 mind-blowing wines of 2016…” and then this wave of clarity came over me like a cloudless afternoon in Chablis. I mean I tasted 50-plus Grand Cru Chablis this year. They could all be on this list.

I meant this just the way I wrote it. The simplicity of wine is a beautiful thing. A vine grows and produces grapes. That fruit is picked and ferments itself with help from yeast it just happens to carry in its luggage. Time passes and wine is made. No one had to invent it. The most basic example of shit happens.

Related – 15 Mind blowing wines of 2015

As if to presumptuously bookend 2016 before it even began, that first post was apropos. New year, 16 new VINTAGES releases were not mind-blowing by any stretch of the waxing rhapsodic imagination but white space was filled. Like growing grapes in warm climates where just about anything can complete a phenolic journey, the possibilities are endless. So that I may feel comfortable quoting Godello again and again, multeity is the name of the game.

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

South Africa continued to occupy Godello for the early part of 2016 and that will never cease and desist. Hosting Andrea Mullineux at Barque Butcher Bar was one of the true highlights of the year. The landscape of South African wine is demarcated by ancient geology and by the geographical diversity of its regions, sub-regions and micro-plots. Varietal placement is the key to success. As I mentioned in previous articles, South African winemakers can grow anything they want, to both their discretion and their whimsy. The choice of what grows best and where will determine the successes of the future.

A new riesling on my radar was released in February. Creekside Estate Riesling Marianne Hill Vineyard 2014, Beamsville Bench, Ontario (443572, $19.95, WineAlign) and it paired beautifully with more foreshadowing than I’d like to admit.

Such a showing of 12 from Langton's does @Wine_Australia proud. Formidable, exemplary #AussieWine #vintagewineconservatory

Such a showing of 12 from Langton’s does @Wine_Australia proud. Formidable, exemplary #AussieWine #vintagewineconservatory

The Langton’s Classification: Excellent, outstanding, exceptional could have, would have placed 16 wines on this best of list were the rest of the planet not so adept at making wine. Like Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Release 2010, Coonawarra, South Australia (466748, $99.95, WineAlign). Such a gathering of Australian wine delivers the preponderance of form, with the incantatory capacity of narrative to bring truth to light and fulness out of pleasure. The mantra repeated with Savouring the new Australia.

The #napavalley mustard is something else @CalifWines_CA #napa #califwine

The #napavalley mustard is something else @CalifWines_CA #napa #califwine

California stars showed up in droves and like any high quality engrossing preoccupation, the trip to Napa and Sonoma this year changed everything. Whatever I thought I knew or felt about the California wine industry now needs to be rewritten. First, Napa Valley: Where ripeness happens, then Napa Valley two: A question of ageNapa Valley: The next generationChardonnay in the Napa luxurySonoma gaps and single vineyardsSeven Grothic tales and Old vines for the Zin.

Vintage to vintage nuance and the common thread of %22grothiness,%22 or, @GrothWines in essence @TheVine_RobGroh #suzannegroth #napavalley #oakville #cabernetsauvignon

Vintage to vintage nuance and the common thread of grothiness, or, @GrothWines in essence @TheVine_RobGroh #suzannegroth #napavalley #oakville #cabernetsauvignon

The most pertinent question now in my mind is this. Can European wine keep up with the fictionality of North American reality? Even these wines could not make this list, however great and exceptional they are. Anakota Helena Montana Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, California (181131, $158.95, WineAlign), Forman Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California (143925, $160.00, WineAlign) and Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1997, Oakville, Napa Valley, California (Agent, $179.95, WineAlign). Sometimes the answer still persists. All in the Primum Familiae Vini. And by the way, The LCBO keeps Kosher.

lunch-champagnelallier-azureau

Much of what I taste is in a lab with no windows. That is because VINTAGES is a mimetic project, which is a few projects too many. We wine trackers and writers are akin to Cricetinae, perpetually running in a wheel or like Sisyphus, forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down. We read the bi-weekly catalogue, pre-taste the newest offerings, make our lists and check them twice. In every batch there are 10-15 wines that stand out, as much about bell curve positioning as absence of singularity. That is why attending varietal-centric events like The dawning of the age of Austrian wine and travelling the world is so important. Not too mention in my dining room In the Campania of Vini Alois.

ca-la-bionda

To name a few excursions, I visited California in February, Vinho Verde in March, Chianti Classico in May, Chablis in July and Valpolicella in September. November in Paris I re-connected with Earth and sky. The take aways were extraordinary and flush with the relish of new discoveries and brand new days. Who can forget Ca’ La Bionda Vigneti Di Ravazzol Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 1997? Italy in the fall reminded me that Franciacorta is the best kept sparkling secret on the planet. November is a sublime time to visit the province of Brescia and the cellars of Franciacorta. Meraviglioso! Meanwhile, Champagne has to be on the list, right? Lallier Cuvée Millésime Grand Cru Brut Champagne 2008, Champagne, France (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign) should be but again, space restrictions and there was this old bubble from the New World. Decisions, decisions.

Related – March of the Canadians

Which brings me back to Canadian and more parochioally, Ontario wine. The Canadian wine renaissance is attributed to high-end, artisan winemakers like Norman Hardie and Thomas Bachelder. That’s the cool factor. The truth of the matter is that Canadian winemakers have realized and capitalized on the significance and exceptionality of their terroirs in regions such as Niagara, Prince Edward County and the Okanagan Valley. Journalists and buyers from around the globe know it and have begun to spread the Canadian gospel.

And now #cuvee2016 @CCOVIBrockU #vqa @winecountryont #scotiabankconventioncentre

And now #cuvee2016 @CCOVIBrockU #vqa @winecountryont #scotiabankconventioncentre

And so I asked Where does the taste of Ontario go from here? At Cuvée, where was the Cabernet Franc? Where was the rest of Ontario’s Go Gamay Go arsenal? Varietal lampoonery I tell ya. Over the highway and across the hills, No County for old wines and then, “a celebrated indictment of suburban surrender,” Too late for May Two-Four.

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

This 16-strong list has much to do with the beg, Drink now or save it for later? I have spent the last 30 years considering wine in some respect. The last 15 much more so. The tries, trials, errors, tricks, and tribulations have taught me one thing. I prefer and receive much more instant gratification from drinking wines young but nothing compares to the insight and the exhilaration of partaking in older wines.

You never forget your first hunk of #kimmeridgian love @BIVBChablis @vinsdebourgogne #chablis #cotedelechet

You never forget your first hunk of #kimmeridgian love @BIVBChablis @vinsdebourgogne #chablis #cotedelechet

The year’s greatest distraction came at the hands of Chablis and fair warning, twenty thousand words are coming soon. In 2016 I published three times, Chablis from Dauvissat to VocoretLooking for Chablis in Ontario?Enlightened Chablis of Château De Béru and Paradox in Chablis. Chablis as a varietal concept, as opposed to and unlike anywhere else in the world, seemingly unrelated to chardonnay. How could these extraordinary Chablis not make the list? Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots Réserve De L’obédience 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign) and Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte Bouguerots 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign). Perhaps because I will soon publish Grand Cru hyperbole next month? That must be it.

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

For the first time, I think ever, I gave some love to Rosé in the Days of wine and Rosés. I also fell for new dessert wines and these two tried hard but came up just a wee bit short for the list. Domaine Cauhapé Jurançon Symphonie De Novembre 2012, Southwest, France (470344, $38.95, WineAlign), Losi Querciavalle Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico 2000, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign).

grahams_port-insanity-via-abnermallity-onceinalifetime-piratesonapicnic-piratesv4point0-sharingiscaring-1948-finestreserve

@grahams_port insanity via @abnermallity #onceinalifetime #piratesonapicnic #piratesv4point0 #sharingiscaring #1948 #finestreserve

Graham’s Vintage Port Finest Reserve 1948 (with thanks to Peter Boyd) granted the year’s moment of providable history. Love in droves. Holiday season for the VINTAGES releases were split and categorized, from December 10th in VINTAGES: Canada through December 10th in VINTAGES: Old World and into December 10th in VINTAGES: New World.

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

In 2016, two words. Chianti Classico. The wines have embarked upon an ascension into their contemporary golden age. Image, perception and finalmente, reality, these are the truths all who feel the soul of Chianti Classico are in search of today. Today and moving forward, explaining to the world that Chianti Classico is not what you thought or think it to be. Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign) was a side-revelation, as were so many others in Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico and Gran Selezione, The most important red wine from Italy. And in a year when CC is all that seems to matter, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 2012, Doc Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy (722470, $195.50, WineAlign) and Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2004, Tuscany, Italy (Agent$100.00WineAlign) are but mere mentions in addendum.

DavidPpelletier, 'Le Sommelier Fou' and friends in Vinho Verde

David Pelletier, ‘Le Sommelier Fou’ and friends in Vinho Verde

It may seem irrelevant now but Changes to VINTAGES release recommendations and notes on Godello will translate to a revolution at WineAlign in 2017. Wait for it. Most of all, 2016 will remind me that I will always raise my glass of Vinho Verde to Le Sommelier Fou. Here are Godello’s 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016.

200-yr-old-vines-1300m-above-sea-level-vignerietna-somesmartsomm-rosato-vinudilice-2008-tastethelava-volcanic

200 yr old vines. 1300m above sea level @vignerietna @somesmartsomm #rosato #vinudilice 2008 #tastethelava #volcanic

I Vigneri Di Salvo Foti Vinudilice 2008, Igt Sicilia Rosè, Sicily, Italy (WineAlign)

So much about this introduction to volcanic Rosato falls under the category and melts into the realm of the impossible. Begin with Vigna Bosco planted to 10,000, (up to) 200 year-old bush-trained (Etnean alberello) vines per hectare in Bronte, Northern Etna. Consider the party goers, endemic alicante, grecanico, minnella and other minor if wholly obscure native varietals. Locate the vineyard at 1,300m above sea level. Tell me it’s not the highest in all of Europe. Go on, tell me. Tended by hand with the help of Ciccio the mule. No refrigeration, yeasts or filtration. Decanting and bottling follow the phases of the moon. Blush has never acted like this, suspended as if put into bottle yesterday, beautifully minutia funky, every detail in laser calm focus. There really is no reference point, not in the south of France or anywhere in Italy to prepare for such an intellection. Vinudilice is nestled in a wood filled with holly oak (quercus ilex or in Sicily, ilice) but in respect for its singularity I would hesitate to categorize or compartmentalize. In fact I would not use the term Rosé, or Orange or natural to realize a need for reason. I would simply taste the lava. Thank you SomeSmartSomm. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016  @ivigneri  @somesmartsomm  @WinesOfSicily

not-members-of-blasted-mechanism-with-magnuspim-and-vasco-croft-aphroswines-vinhoverde

Not members Blasted Mechanism. With Chris Wilton and Vasco Croft, Aphros Wines, Vinho Verde

Aphros Phanus Pet-Nat 2015, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Loureiro of a fashion so rare for Portugal and this region, from a concrete pétillant-naturel style, vinified in stainless steel with wild yeasts and initially no additional sugar, then bottled with 20 grams of natural residual sugar, to alight the single fermentation conclusion. An 11 per cent contrariety of méthode ancestrale dialectic, like a lime-grapefruit cordial housing a dissolving lemon tablet. A bowie cut, boning and dressing of loureiro. This here the whole new way to take the grape, to send it sky-high and bring it down to the rustic roots of glam, sparkling funk. “Like to take a cement fix, be a standing cinema. Dress my friends up just for show, see them as they really are.” Vasco (Andy) Croft walking and his hunky dory pet-nat spinning an original tale of a time and a place, or perhaps a myth, like the rustic deity of the forest riding shotgun to Dionysus and his native war. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016    @LeSommelierWine

Oldest vines #barossavalley textures in #semillon and #grenache @cirillo1850wine @Wine_Australia #southaustralia #marcocirillo

Oldest vines #barossavalley textures in #semillon and #grenache @cirillo1850wine @Wine_Australia #southaustralia #marcocirillo

Cirillo 1850 Ancestor Sémillon 2011, Barossa Valley, South Australia (Agent, $36.00, WineAlign)

A sémillon revelation is found in this Barossa Valley ancient, a wine procured from vines dating back more than 150 years. To discount that prodigious bit of calculated fortuity would be wrong on so many levels. The Cirillo family are guardians of what may be the oldest continuously producing grenache and sémillon vineyards in Australia and by logical extension, the world. Here the combination of dry extract, mineral depth and straight-lined (unsalted) salinity is beyond special. While the Hunter Valley garners the most attention for aging immortal sémillon, this Barossan will likewise escape, somehow, to live another more complicated and mysterious life. I would wait three years for some extract meets tannic sweetness to begin its development and then take it slow for another six to 10. Incredible find here in Ontario from Marco Cirillo. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2016  @Cirillo1850wine  @bokkewines  @BarossaDirt

Brash Higgins Nero D’avola Amphorae Project 2015, McLaren Vale, South Australia (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

The renegade triumvirate of coagulation denotes the shock and awe of this outlier; McLaren Vale, Nero d’Avola and Amphora. Winemaker Brad Hickey and his nickname have taken the troika and created a beautiful monster. A non-oxidative, crunchy, spicy, toasty, chewy and tannic NdA in versicolour, mottled and florid in flavour. There is black and white pepper, cinnamon, zesty orange spritz and a clay influence (plus amphora) to waft one for the ages. The palate flaunts a tapenade of painfully brilliant chalky black olive. The swirl is chocolate and vanilla, mediterranean and meganesian. There should be zero attention paid to the unusual in its concept. This is both a pleasure to taste now and will evolve into something wholly other given enough time. At least 10 years to be sure. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted May 2016  @BrashHiggins  @mclaren_vale  @TheLivingVine

what-is-rockpile-time-in-and-time-out-the-fun-stuff-keith-moon-of-zinfandel-mauritsonwinery-sonomacounty-jameswood

Rockpile Zinfandel Cemetery Vineyard 2013, Rockpile AVA, Sonoma County, California (Winery, US $47, WineAlign)

Look towards the other arm of Lake Sonoma and let your mind’s eye rest 250 feet higher than Jack’s Cabin Vineyard. The Cemetery plantation is a jagged, craggy outcropping with “a face uneven as a river jag and asperous as the mullein’s flannel.”  The Mauritsons are Los Campesinos of Cemetery Vineyard in Rockpile. The rocks below resemble giant headstones along the Rogers Creek fault and you just have to believe all this immensity of geology impacts the vines. It does but don’t ask how or why, just settle into the cimmerian depth of zinfandel touched by black fruit, spice and the akimbo savour of glutamate and amino acid. Three further months in barrel (85 French plus 15 American) accentuates the spice, smoulder and espresso con crema texture. Ripeness of fruit, tannin and acidity are simply stellar out of this dramatic place. “You know us by the way we crawl and you know us by our cemetery gaits.” Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2016  @mauritsonwinery  @sonomavintners

weinbach

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

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

alessandro-your-grandfather-was-a-very-good-winemaker-luiluiano-chianticlassico-fattoriadiluiano-chianticlassicoriserva-1979-sangiovese-alessandropalombo-antoniopalombo-luiano

Luiano Chianti Classico 1979, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Alessandro Palombo is skeptical at first, one eyebrow raised but with the look of possibility on his face. Takes me very little time to acknowledge that this ’79 is very much alive, fruit not predominant (and surely some prune) but neither cooked nor bruised. The brown nose (earth and spice) purports a full concentration of anthocyanins, acidity still full in, dried fraises de bois, black liquorice, dirty leather and worth repeating, still very good acidity. Truffle, forest floor and then black olive tapenade on the palate. This is 70-80 per cent sangiovese with colorino and canaiolo and for 1979 it’s quite incredible. It should not have lasted this long.  Antonio says that up to 10 per cent could have been malvasia blanca and trebbiano because at the time it was a field blend, co-planted with the sangiovese, which could explain some of the variegation in the colour. This is a Chianti Classico to lend credence to the idea of using multiple fruit, vegetal and animale descriptors when assessing an old wine. It’s also the reason why you put them away and open them with friends who’s eyes are wide open. Thank you Alessandro for the opportunity and for the connection to your grandfather Alberto. He was a very good winemaker. Drink 2016.  Tasted May 2016  @LuiLuiano  @chianticlassico

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

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       

remelluri

Granja Remelluri Rioja Gran Reserva 2009, Rioja, Spain (Agent, $89.99, WineAlign)

“What is Rioja?” asks Telmo Rodríguez. He notes that Lopez-Heredia still manages small vineyards, Grand Cru and Premier Cru plots, but most Rioja houses are industrial. Their wines age in barrels in 100-150 year old wineries but have no sense of place, of origins, of an amazing vineyard. “I want to be radical. I believe it (Rioja) can be one of the most beautiful places in the world but I told my brothers it needed to go in a very particular direction. My brothers agreed.” So costs went up 35 per cent. They bought no grapes. “If you want to work properly in Spain, you have to be a hero.” You have to work the most difficult vineyards, where production costs are five times that of Grand Vin Bordeaux but the price sells for 10 times less. And so Telmo Rodríguez produces this Gran Reserva, a wine that adheres to a Rioja systematic but does so from a blind-eye turned, high density field-blend planting of tempranillo, garnacha, graciano, muscatel, viura and malvasia. A field blend, unlike Bordeaux but a local village farmed gathering of the best fruit. The 2009 is showing no age but the difference between 2010 Reserva and 2009 Gran Reserva is night and day. This makes the ’10 seem fresh, alive, open, almost simple. Here the variegation is distilled down to laser focus, as if the varieties all become one and most people would simply say tempranillo, but who has ever tasted and been dealt such a tempranillo? This is oozing of a liqueur like no other, rich, viscous, natural and dry-extract sweet. An expression of the best microclimates and their vineyard kin. Wait another five years to allow it to remember and tell its tale. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted September 2016    @TelmoRodriguez_  @Noble_Estates

dominus

Dominus 1998, Napa Valley, California (212381, $176.95, WineAlign)

When I tasted the 1990 in 2012, hanging on to every thread of oscillation from death to life and back again was exhausting. The 2008 tasted that same year could not have been more life affirming. This ’98 is such a zoetic Dominus beast with an embarrassment of resplendent riches. It is everything 1990 wished it could have been and yet the light-hearted George Hrab geological funk reminds me of that wine. The 1998 trips on a trebuchet and I weep at its aromatic reverie. It is hypnopompic, a state immediately preceding waking up, whiffing the most beautiful Brett there ever was or could ever imagined to be. Volatility in a bubble, circumstantial, lost in a dream. Get lost in the butcher shop, the natural cure here, there, everywhere, curative and comforting. Porcine and rapturous, fruit perfect and entitled, structure supprting every note. If 1998 was both a curious and concerning vintage this wine lays those worries to rest. The fretting may have swayed feelings and been difficult to glide fingers across but the harmonics extend with ease. Finishes with staccato calm, a palpable exhale of breath and silence. Five more years will be like this and five more without threat. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted October 2016     @rogcowines  

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

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

Fino, Don P.X. '86 and '62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Fino, Don P.X. ’86 and ’62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Bodegas Toro Albalá Don P.X. Selección 1967, Do Montilla Moriles, Spain (491647, $199.95, WineAlign)

You know it’s a good month when you are afforded the opportunity to taste two Montilla-Moriles Pedro Ximenez oldies, first the Alvear Solera 1927 in Paris and now this Selección 1967 bottled in November of 2016. The vintage-dated PX are produced from sun-dried grapes fermented for two months to eight or nine per cent alcohol, at which point a distillate made from the same PX pressings is added to bring the wine up to 17 per cent. First in concrete vats and then a transfer into 50-150 year old American oak barrels. Only 630 bottles were filled in a PX of awakening and hope that finished at an indiscernible 17 per cent alcohol. Some dessert wines can be cloying Popskull but Bodegas Toro Albalá delivers yet another impossible and crazy dessert wine of heavy fuel, impeccable balance in the face of Lugduname breaching sweetness and aromas sin fronteras. The gamut glides through roasted nuts and dried fruits, from almonds and Van Gogh Museum memories of their abundant flowers plus pomegranate, apricot, peach, nectarine, damson plum and pistachio. So much pistachio!! In between there is orange marmalade, quince jelly and prune preserve. Plenty of acidity extends and narrows into a sharp, pointed tang. No matter how many times you try to empty the glass there is always more wine. Always another sip. Is it viscosity, a truco del ojo or trampantojo? Is there some kind of wizardry at play? Then finally, well, actually never, a finish with no end, or a pause in a never-ending 49 year-old (and counting) story. So where is the beginning? 1967. Drink 2016-2040.  Tasted November 2016  @toroalbala  @sorgatoBTA  @MontillaMoriles  @LeSommelierWine

schram

Schramsberg Sparkling J. Schram 50th Anniversary Late disgorged 1999, Napa Valley, California (Winery $175 US, WineAlign)

In celebration of Schramsberg’s golden anniversary, 50 years after Jack and Jamie Davies revived the historic Schramsberg estate for the purpose of making the nation’s first chardonnay and pinot noir based, bottle-fermented sparkling wines. A North Coast (57 per cent Napa, 25 Mendocino, 15 Monterey and 13 Sonoma) blend of 74 per cent chardonnay and 26 pinot noir. Seventeen years have come to ginger, cumin, coriander and galangal in laminous, oxidative ingenuity, wholly arid in kicking up the aromatic dust. Flavours of pressed lemon, bitter brioche and then tannin, yes tannin. From a protracted year, picked as late as October 19th, disgorged in August of 2014 at a dosage of (very necessary) 11.5 g/L RS. Blessed with high natural acidity of 9.8 tA. How can I not concur with Hugh Davies. “What we’re really showing here is Napa Valley Chardonnay.” Drink 2016-2031.  Tasted February 2016  @Schramsberg  @TheVine_RobGroh

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Domaine François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2009, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

It would be misleading to address Raveneau’s Blanchot as chardonnay even as we know it as such because Raveneau produces wines as unique as door keys. They are so inimitable and each will only open the gate to its own unique perception. Blanchot is the southernmost of the seven Chablis Grand Cru climats and blankets the southeastern side of Les Clos. The Raveneau narration does not convey the notion of manifest feeling but instead splits the axiomatic atom of the climat. A sip and you are inside the Blanchot, gliding and passing through rock as if you are the ethereal and the wine is the solid foundation of thought, pathos and avowal. There are aromas that combine citrus and umami with a sweetness that can’t be denied or defined. The wine is just a child, complex, shy and yet unable to express both its meaning and power. But you try to get inside its head, stumbling over kimmeridgian rock replete with the smithereen-crushed shells of ancient fossils. This is a calm young Blanchot and you melt away while under its spell. Three more years should render its hidden meaning. Drink 2019-2034.  Tasted July 2016

A great pleasure and exercize in humility to taste with #vincentdauvissat in his cellar @BIVBChablis #humanity #chablis

A great pleasure and exercize in humility to taste with #vincentdauvissat in his cellar @BIVBChablis #humanity #chablis

Domaine René et Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2001, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Tasted from a bottle opened five days prior which is nothing really for a wine that can age easily for 30 years. It resides in a perfect state. Vincent concedes “over 20 there is nothing to be gained” and yet the still terrifically raging acidity would suggest this 15 year-old specimen is only halfway there. The texture is nothing if not persuasive. In 1931 Vincent’s father began this journey. Here 70 years later is a wine so perfectly intact, the lemon-waxy aspect almost on the edge of the hive. But not quite because of the taut bracing and tight embracing. There is a chew to this and Dauvissat shrugs. “What’s to say?” Nothing but a great piece of his history and his father’s legacy. If this wine is a sentimental tribute to a childhood village, it is never uncomplicated. Drink 2016-2031.  Tasted July 2016

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Catena Adrianna Vineyard Mundus Bacillus Terrae Malbec 2011, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $325.00, WineAlign)

In this extremely specific malbec from a diagnosed block of the Adrianna Vineyard we are graced with the micro-science of wine. And if you feel that using the name of an aerobic bacteria in the nomenclature is an odd choice, consider the mind of Dr. Laura Catena and her biological approach to viticulture. If we can understand and differentiate the microbes in the soil we can make better wine. It’s as simple as that. When wine is broken down to the biological level it becomes something entirely different and this is the road travelled by the Mundus Bacillus. Catena’s usage of 70 parcel pits per hectare has unearthed this single parcel within the vineyard, again completely different and the pinpointed microbial discussion initiates right here. The soil stakes a claim for this malbec only, certainly not in any way that tends to funk but surely as an impresario of soil. Talk about eugenics in the MBT because that science is compelling and can be related to in this wine. It can offer keys towards improving genetic quality of the vinous population. Here we are faced with rich and dusty, a mean streak of malbec intensity made elegant by earthly microbes. This section draws parallels to the (chardonnay) White Bones soil from which there transfers an excess of dry extract and tannin. Patience please for a malbec that will be long lived. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted November 2016

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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I will always raise my glass of Vinho Verde to Le Sommelier Fou

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No country for old #vinhao or as @sommelierfou would say, “Apocalypse Vinhão.”

I recently returned home following an arduous, wild and exciting five days in Verona and Valpolicella. That night I fell into a coma even before my head had sunk into my memory foam pillow. I slept without a care to the world. When I awoke early Saturday morning my phone looked at me as if to say, “I’m sorry, but I have some bad news.”

DavidPpelletier, 'Le Sommelier Fou' and friends in Vinho Verde

David Pelletier, ‘Le Sommelier Fou’ and friends in Vinho Verde

I first met David Pelletier six months ago at the airport in Oporto, Portugal on Tuesday, March 29th, 2016. Before that time he was to me simply Le Sommelier Fou, an online presence for the intelligent, thorough and exacting French Canadian musings of a wine writer with a sensitive voice. Two things struck me straight away about Mr. Pelletier. His sweet and caring eyes and his uncanny and impossible ability to travel back and forth between the French and English languages as if he had been born with two tongues.

David Pelletier and group aboard the Vinho Verde bus

David Pelletier and group aboard the Vinho Verde bus, photo (c) Christopher Wilton

Sadly, while travelling in California a few weeks ago, David Pelletier passed away. It was a terrible shock. His family and friends have lost the man who smiled with his eyes. They have lost a brother, son, confidant, mentor, teacher and companion. My friends and colleagues in Quebec share a collective hole in their hearts. I can’t begin to understand their pain. My time with David Pelletier can only be measured in commatic and cosmetic terms. It was not enough.

As the week in Portugal’s Vinho Verde region progressed, I got to know some things about David, about his life at the Trafalgar School, about his desire to devote his professional life entirely to wine. I sympathized with him having recently converted my personal commitment to the same dream. We stayed in contact after Portugal. On September 6th he sent me this message. “Hi Michael, could I get an email address from you? yours, ideally. It’s to illegally apply for a credit card. Kidding of course. But your email address would be cool. Thanks.” I never got that e-mail from him and will never know what it might have been about.

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The photobombing Le Sommelier Fou, photo (c) Christopher Wilton

With David’s passing I’ve decided that it is time to finally share some thoughts on that trip to Vinho Verde. With no disrespect intended towards the producers, winemakers, the administrative and marketing staff of the region, their wines and the places must share this stage with Mr. Pelletier. His memory will always be inextricably linked to my time spent there. I think my travel companions will agree. Evan Saviolidis, Michael Pinkus, Drew Innes, Christopher Wilton and Anton Potvin from Ontario. Marie-Michèle Grenier, Fred Fortin, Marie-Hélène Boisvert and Émilie Courtois of Quebec. To you all and to David I will always raise my glass of Vinho Verde in memory of Le Sommelier Fou.

Vinho Verde: Green And Light

History shows that Vinho Verde was mentioned by Seneca and Pliny between 96-51 BC. The name comes from the green colour that carpets the landscape and to the youth of the wine, historically held by believers as said to be best consumed within the first year. As you will soon find out, thing have changed.

The Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes was created in 1926 and the demarcated Vinho Verde Region originally defined on September 18, 1908. Vinho Verde extends across the northwest of Portugal, in the area traditionally known as Entre-Douro-e-Minho. The Minho River is its northern frontier, forming part of the border with Spain. Its southern border is formed by the Douro River and the Freita, Arada and Montemuro mountains, to the east it’s bordered by the mountains of Peneda, Gerês, Cabreira and Marão, and the western border is the Atlantic Ocean. In Portugal its 21,000 hectares, 119,000 parcels, 19,000 grape growers, 600 bottlers and 2000 brands make up one tenth of total vineyards. In terms of geographical area, it is the largest Portuguese demarcated region and one of the largest in Europe.

There are four steps to certification; registration, labelling, yields and guarantee of quality. White Vinho Verde (84 per cent) is most often composed from a combination of these varieties; alvarinho, arinto, avesso, azal, loureiro and trajadura. More and more we find it flying solo as a varietal wine and increasingly from single-vineyards as well. Rosé (6 per cent) comes by way of espadeiro and padeiro and vinhão is the lone source for Red (10 per cent) Vinho Verde. The past 11 years have seen to growth for exports between two and four per cent and here in Canada we are the number four purchaser behind the US, Germany and France.

Meteorological and geographical connections begin with high rainfall (1200mm per year, concentrated between October and April) and a severe maritime influence, along with the thread running through that are Vinho Verde’s rivers. Subregions are demarcated by the rivers and thus the micro climates are created. Monção and Melgaço, Lima, Cávado, Ave, Basto, Sousa, Baião, Paiva and Amarante. Soils are mainly granite, of low depth, sandy or Franco-sandy, leaning towards moderate to high acidity, poorly phosphorous and of low fertility. Vinho Verde’s salinity and minerality is derived from the granitic soil.

Most consumers think of Vinho Verde as a slightly effervescent, simple white wine. Fizz is no longer created by secondary fermentation in the bottle. Now just a bit of Co2 is left behind to appease consumer demand. “We want to maintain Vinho Verde as it is known, as a light, low alcohol, aromatic wine.” So limiting the alcohol and designating the acidity (at 4.5 TA) is employed. “O Verde E Leve.” Green And Light.

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Into the landscape Monverde Wine Experience Hotel @quintadalixa #vinhoverde #oporto #amarante #portugal

An introduction to Vinho Verde

I have been fortunate to taste examples of Vinho Verde on a regular basis in Toronto so my idea of style and diversity has expanded generously over the past five years. For most Ontario consumers Vinho Verde means, cheap, effervescent, gulpable white wine that you find in droves on LCBO shelves at the Dufferin and Dupont Galleria Mall. Many folks think of Vinho Verde as a grape variety and that all of the wines are exactly the same. To alter consciousness, the quest begins with a great effort. The demarcation point of initiative in requiem of supposition to lay bare and recalibrate the region’s unjustly exposed and indefensible position. The journey to Vinho Verde diversity begins at the Monverde Wine Experience Hotel.

At the Monverde Wine Experience Hotel Tomás Gonçalves of the Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes pours 18 examples, including 12 single-varietal whites, two Rosé, a sparkling, a Vinhão and only two Vinho Verde blends. Fifteeen producers and nine sub-regions are represented. The decision to introduce a five-day intensive program with a heavy focus on varietal Vinho Verde is a brilliant first strike. Then follows a portfolio tasting of Monverde host winery Quinta da Lixa’s wines. The family owned company (two brothers and a cousin) ripped out and re-planted their vines in 1999. The $10-12 (Canadian projected) wines fall into the category of stupid, crazy value. It is here that the introduction to Vinho Verde is clearly compassed in varietal trajadura, loureiro and especially alvarinho. Ten Canadian journalists and sommeliers are hooked, their collective attention secured and kept curious into the first warm days of April. Well played Vinho Verde. Some notes from the Monverde Experience.

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Architectural wonder of Monverde Wine Experience Hotel @vinhoverdeCA #visitvihnoverderegion

Casa de Vilacentinho Vinho Verde Grande Escolha 2014, Vinho Verde, Portugal

The lost art and singular reason for blending endemic is found here in three A’s and one L. Here with avesso, arinto, azal and loureiro all aboard the mineral train with variegated tannin and salinity in tow. Pear skin, a touch of botrytis in the guise of banana bring warmth and sumptuousness to the palate though in the end all is qualified by terrific acidity. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016

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

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

Richer by nature of its glycerin texture, weightier and lifted by alcohol expression, a slight spritz and visions of petrol two to three years away. Mineral tang unlike the compatriots in side by five VV tasting flight. Green olive emerges with five minutes of air like brine from the Manzanilla jar and then acidity sets in. Loueiro all the way.  Tasted March 2016  @LeSommelierWine

Modestu’s Vinho Verde 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

From the sub region Região de Basto this 100 per cent arinto carries an aromatic mustiness matched and foiled by a lively palate, in what is ostensibly a seconded VV with serious mineral tang. Such great presence is catchy and gaining on you with an underlying savoury pinning. Reminds me of tea leaf chenin blanc, with intruding notes of anise and Chá. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016

Quinta da Levada Azal 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

Azal steps up and claims worthy status from the word go with energy, open aromatics and a pressing matter of density. The tumult of mineral will speak but first brightness full of glade under dappled sun. Stone fruit flavours and their pith with mineral wrap around takes the palate to fully juiced and spirited territory. The most expression and balance is ascertained thus far, halfway through an 18 strong Vinho Verde tasting. The  length is exceptional. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016

With the Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes at the Monverde World Experience Hotel

With the Comissão de Viticultura da Região dos Vinhos Verdes at the Monverde World Experience Hotel

Quinta De Linhares Azal Vinho Verde 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (218222, $14.95, WineAlign)

Here boasts another terrific azal expression but with more litheness within the context of freshness. The level of spritz is charmingly old school and together with that lighter density not as full and therefore in any evolving hurry. Pricks early and dissipates to calm at the finish. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016

Quinta do Rugueiro Alvarinho Monção and Melgaço Reserva 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

Seductively saline and ever so venerable, nascent briny, fresh borne alighting Alvarinho, spritely, sharp and fresh. The hyperbole of inchoate viridity and sparkle should alarm in effervescence but the green and the vegetal make for real life twice what other similarly styled alvarinho are wont to express. A run on sentence of Vinho Verde if ever there was. A regional voice and a score for the alvarinho out of Monção and Melgaço conjunction. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016

Quinta da Lixa Escolha Trajadura Colheita 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

Though trajadura is not the most usual of single-varietal bottlers, this exceptionally fruity example comes from the best harvest in the last 50 years. “A winemaker’s harvest,” observes oenologist Carlos Teixeira, sunny at pick, but low in nitrogen, with a natural fermentation in need of a bit of a boost with some selected yeasts. S’got that chenin blanc faux sugar thing going on, much mineral and a leesy nose. Lees work is maximized in a very short period as the wines are bottled before the new year. Pear, green apple and white plum, fruity florals, very clean and then even more into the mineral. Mono-varietal purity in the cleanest fashion of low malic acidity but magic in acidity nevertheless, like it just doesn’t need any reason to rage. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016

Quinta da Lixa Alvarinho Pouco Comum 2015, Minho, Portugal

The “uncommon” alvarinho is the winery’s celebration of Portugal’s most noble white variety. Has the platinum and inside pipe tang. Very mineral. Made from four different single-varietal wines and blended together. Selected yeasts are chosen to bring out the different characters of alvarinho; fruity, floral and mineral. This really, really reminds me of pinot grigio made in a slightly advanced, reaching for complexity out of simplicity way. Complicit Vinho Verde with nary a moment of residual spritz. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016  @QuintadaLixa

At the Tempus Hotel and Spa we tasted through the ViniVerde, Estreia portfolio. Promoção e Comércio de Vinhos Verdes, SA is a holding company whose shareholders are several companies in the Vinho Verde Region and was incorporated with the objective to produce, promote and market the wines and derived more popular from its shareholders and also their own brands. We tasted through Espumante de Vinho Verde Branco, Rosé, Ponte de Barca vinhão and varietal loureiro and alvarinho. The straightforward Branco was first and stole the show.

Estreia Vinho Verde Branco 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

The name translates to “début,” from the outfit laying claim to launching first to market. There is certainly something to be said for extreme youthfulness, unbridled energy and quivering character. Such a millenial Vinho Verde with the shortest of attention spans and pure, unadulterated flavour. Simple, slight and with a mere hint of effervescence. Should work out to $9.95 in Ontario. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted March 2016

In Ponte de Lima we dined at lunch with winemaker Rita da Silva Araújo, resident oenologist at the Adega Cooperativa de Ponte de Lima. Founded in 1959 the cooperative produces the most traditional of Vinho Verde wines with a focus on loureiro because of its affinity with the Lima River Valley.

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Leite Creme at Petiscas Restaurante #pontelima through the lens of @MHeleneB #portugal

Adega Ponte de Lima Vinho Verde 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

Made from 100 per cent loureiro and the first winery to go this varietal route. A wine that “maintains the image of our town and region,” notes Rita da Silva Araújo, resident oenologist at the Adega. Very citrus oriented, in mineral speak and blessed with briny-saline aridity. A good dose of CO2 spritz and dogged persistence mark the finish. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted April 2016  @MuniLima

Adega Ponte de Lima Loueiro 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

This 100 per cent loueiro may sit on a poor man’s throne of typically lithe alcohol (11 per cent) and restrained residual sugar but it carries a secondary depth of grape tannin, Lima soil tang and warm viscosity. From a selected harvest over two days of only the best grapes and subjected to four or five hours of skin contact. Time on the lees with batonnage brings the mouthfeel and the sweet caress. Here we climb to another level and through tertiary layers of pierce, salinity, aridity and finely tuned stone fruit. Very nice. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016

Colours of Quinta da Raza and Monte da Sr.ª da Graça #vinhoverde

Colours of Quinta da Raza and Monte da Sr.ª da Graça #vinhoverde

Transitions

The transition from the straightforward towards ascending the steps into the arena of the complex begins with a visit to Quinta de Raza, located in Peneireiros, Celorico de Basto, adjacent to the Douro Region. It is here the Teixeira Coelho family has been committed to wine production since the XVII century. Today the estate is run by José Diogo Teixeira Coelho. Soils of granite origins are mixed with areas of schist and clay, atypical and unusual in the Vinho Verde Region. The microclimate is created by the mountains in the west and the valley of the Tamega river which, unlike the other rivers of the region does not run from East to West, but from Northeast to Southwest, which together prevent the influence of the Atlantic winds. Less rain and greater temperature range equates to increased sun exposure, more than many vineyards in the Vinho Verde Region. Couple this with an average altitude of 250 meters and things begin to get interesting.
Quinta da Raza hosts and their exceptional value @vinhoverdewines

Quinta da Raza hosts and their exceptional value @vinhoverdewines

Dom Diogo Azal-Arinto-Trajadura 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

The blend breaks down to 35/50/15 and like three layers of conditioned lemon, juicy, curdish and gelid, this is very vibrant from out of the auspices of a typical blend. The winery sells this at two euros ex-cellar price which is so ridiculous. This means the top end Canadian price would be $9.95. So fresh (azal) balanced in the clay of trajadura, not necessarily so long but really, who cares? Carries a granite toughness, this simply perfect warm weather blend, with a little bit of secured happiness provided by 7 g/L of residual sugar. Appellative excellence.  Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted March 2016

Dom Diogo Azal 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

The surprise varietal, venerated by a whopping price increase to three euros (which would translate to $12.95 CAN), firm and with more righteous bitters. Here the agar, the orange citrus and a wealthy (8 g/L RS) weight for white wine personality. More length and grip with character increasing via a stick of Vinho Verde dynamite. Just delicious.  Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016

Hello world. Meet the new #vinhoverde #quintadaraza #avesso #alvarinho

Hello world. Meet the new #vinhoverde #quintadaraza #avesso #alvarinho

Quinta da Raza Avesso-Alvarinho 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

The blend’s split is 60/40 and the ex-cellar price up to five euros but this is the finest and most refined VV of the lot. The two A’s are combined and purposed with the best intent for aging, or at least the most potential. Quinta de Raza is the only vintner to tempt fortune and compete with such a complex symbiosis from the region. The new ideal is here in this inaugural release because Diogo has a soft spot for avesso. The augmentation is by 10 per cent new French barrel to induce and encourage avesso and allow for higher alcohol (13.5) and acidity. The great stirred contact bleeds to warmth and this is ostensibly top end alcohol for the region. You can sense the malolactic and the tannin. The balance will require 12-18 months to integrate, bringing the nose and the palate together, though not too much longer for fear of losing fruit. That said it’s (1.5 g/L) bone dry. Plus the avesso is culled off of young vines so vintages down the road should see more potential. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2016

Also northeast out of Porto and close by is Quinta das Arcas, a family company founded in 1985 by António Esteves Monteiro. The production is mainly obtained from 120 hectares spread across three estates located in the Valongo and Penafiel area. The Quinta das Arcas estate covers 55 hectares  of 20 year old-plus vineyards planted to loureiro, trajadura and arinto. The winemaking team lead by engineer Fernando Machado. Vinification is classically performed, with quick destemming, pressing and low temperature fermentation in stainless steel with an experiment or two in barrel. The company’s Vinho Verde is bottled under the labels Arca Nova and Conde Villar.

Arca Nova Vinho Verde Branco 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

The blend is loureiro (50 per cent), arinto (40 per) and trajadura (10), in a classic, central to the estate’s oeuvre Vinho Verde. From a warm, dry year so more structure; this has the tannin, ripe fruit and tingle. The hue is somewhat developed, like grigio to gris and it is a real step up from the average and the norm. Both sugar and acidity (6 g/L) are paired with equal and opposing formality. The traditional yet modern full-on stone fruit flavours with a nick of citrus pit. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016  @quintadasarcas

Conde Villar Alvarinho and Trajadura 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

Close to an even split with alvarinho edging out the trajadura and the fruit is all estate (others include some purchased grapes).  This separate line is intended to offer a different expression from the Quinta and you can feel the density, assess the effect of ripeness and sugar. The nose is so very preserved lemon, the extract terrific and here there is a weight feigning effected by lees in surround of that ripe fruit. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016

Quinta da Arcas Vinhão 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

Only made in special years and so important to call out for how it abandons centuries of astringency. Spent six months in new French oak (and a small percentage of American) to establish a whole new concept for red Vinho Verde, round and in surround for vinhão. The astringency falls away and lets the fruit shine in spite of the wood. Reminds of petite sirah on the elegant side and with a sapidity stung back bite. Lots of cocoa, espresso, and dusty tannin. Solid, non-traditional vinhão. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2016

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The granite soils of Quinta de Curvos are located in a valley with influences from the Neiva River and the Atlantic Ocean within the demarcated region of Vinho Verde (Entre-Douro e-Minho).  The 27 hectares of vineyards are distributed among four properties located in Forjães, Ponte de Lima and Barcelos. The vineyards underwent a major process of restructuring and in 2014, the production of wine rose to a volume of 275,000 litres. Sustainability in the biodiversity of the vineyard’s ecosystem and the reduction of environmental impact are major priorities and so tractors and herbicides have been replaced by sheep.

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Quinta de Curvos Superior 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

Most expected blend composed of loueiro, trajadura and arinto in the words of Miguel Fonseca “most traditional wine, very dry and very gastronomic.” The entry-level honesty, basic instruction and 101 effectualization is spot on. What more in needed in under $10? Carries all the hallmark points and notes of Escolha Vinho Verde. Bay laurel, citrus and an edge of stone, by granite and into fruit. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016  @quintadecurvos

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Quinta de Curvos Alvarinho 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (471276, $17.95, WineAlign)

A regional varietal wine not permitted to be labled Vinho Verde so Vino Regional Minho it must be. This 100 per cent alvarinho is labled as such in Portugal and Afectus for the Ontario market, Latin for “emotions.” Quite consistently fashioned like the avesso and the loueiro varietal Vinho Verde, of low tones, fresh, sprite, fully lemon and all around good guy acidity. Not so much a matter of varietal distinction so much as an adherence to a stylistic thread. So by extension I suppose the Curvos wines are about terroir. Afectus for the rest of us. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016

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Quinta de Curvos Avesso 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal

Just seems to breathe a calm, natural, simple, easy, clean and proper ideal with broad appeal. Lemon is all over this avesso, again like the varietal loureiro and alvarinho, this pushes the company line. With sea bream and dorado the pairing receives an emphatic two thumbs up. Another vital and pure Vinho Verde from Quinta de Curvos. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016

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Not members of Blasted Mechanism. With @MagnusPim and Vasco Croft #AphrosWines #vinhoverde

The diurnal motion of Vinho Verde

A visit to Aphros with winemaker Vasco Croft levigates and recalibrates thoughts, perception and meaning. It is here that the cosmology of Vinho Verde does not so much begin to take shape but pops like a genie from the bottle. The name Aphros (Greek, “sea-foam”) is drawn from ichthyocentaurs (sea-god centaurs) of late poetical Greek mythology. The aquatic centaur has been endowed with the ability to swim with great speed, breathe and communicate underwater. Aphros was thought of as the first king of the sea-going Aphroi (Carthaginians).

“Quality of life is dependent on the quality of water,” insists Vasco Croft. To Croft it all begins with “water’s plasticity and its relationship with the cosmic influences on earthly forces.” Biodynamics. Water dynamization. Double infinity vortex design. Life forces. Amphora. “You must line the amphorae with beeswax and though it is not so economical it acts as a natural preservative and it has the memory of the hive.” A master amphora craftsman in Alentejo does the work. He is one of the last in Portugal to keep the tradition alive.

Vasco Croft’s are risky, primogenitor reviving, genus defining, impossible wines. His is the sole ardent and wavering organic and biodynamic approach in Vinho Verde with complete attention diverted towards spiritual demure and anodyne morphology. I speak for the group when I say that the extramundane was breached at the Aphros tasting. Upon further retrospective consideration it was not so much a matter of wine tasting as it was a disquitionary quest to apprehend the meaning of Vinho Verde’s platonic and sacrosanct future. Croft’s wines are self-professed radical artisanal and produced impractically with no electricity. He investigates the powers of loureiro and vinhão, skin contact, concrete eggs and Pet-Nat. My understanding is gleaned through Vasco’s work and by a momentary hypnotization from a dynamic machine.

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Today’s cosmogonal #vinhoverde line-up #AphrosWines with Vasco Croft @LeSommelierWine

Aphros Phanus Pet-Nat 2015, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Loureiro of a fashion so rare for Portugal and this region, from a concrete pétillant-naturel style, vinified in stainless steel with wild yeasts and initially no additional sugar, then bottled with 20 grams of natural residual sugar, to alight the single fermentation conclusion. An 11 per cent contrariety of méthode ancestrale dialectic, like a lime-grapefruit cordial housing a dissolving lemon tablet. A bowie cut, boning and dressing of loueiro. This here the whole new way to take the grape, to send it sky-high and bring it down to the rustic roots of glam, sparkling funk. “Like to take a cement fix, be a standing cinema. Dress my friends up just for show, see them as they really are.” Vasco (Andy) Croft walking and his hunky dory pet-nat spinning an original tale of a time and a place, or perhaps a myth, like the rustic deity of the forest riding shotgun to Dionysus and his native war. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016    @LeSommelierWine

Aphros Loureiro 2014, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $20.95, WineAlign)

Immediately emits or rather feigns a sense of barrel though it’s fully completely an Inox stainless steel wine. From what Vasco Croft describes as a “classic” early harvest, this delimited, restrained and flirty fresh loureiro sits at a lithe 10 per cent alcohol with some minor residual sugar to balance out the brisk acidity. Texture and sumptuousness is prescribed by four months lees with stirring. The freshness is lit by candle wax and a delicious little smoulder. The bees lees. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016

Aphros Loureiro Daphne 2011, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

With fruit from southern exposures off of granitic and sandy soils this is 100 per cent loureiro that saw 12 hours of skin maceration and 30 per cent fermentation in barriques (1/2 new) for six months. A wine now coming into a Frick-esque zone, waxy, whiffing bay laurel and frankly would be so hard to pick out in a blind tasting. The mind might veer to barrel-aged semillon or older riesling. Though a bit oleaginous the wine is balanced by a smoulder and a sharp, petrol-invoking, mineral tang. It is here that the wisdom of loureiro is coronated for having settled in the Lima Valley. Imagine the past and future blossoms, hives and honey. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016

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#amphora #loureiro Phaunus 2015. Nothing I have tasted before could have prepped me to expect this heteróclito #quixotic

Aphros Phaunus Loureiro 2015, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Nothing I have tasted before could have prepped me to expect this heteróclito, a quixotic and deferential loureiro that re-writes the varietal script. Spent two and a half months of skin maceration time in beeswax-lined amphora and in the end we are graced with something completely other. Lemon meets mineral funky pottery, clunch depression and then slow-roasted vegetal gastronomy. A tagine or maraq scented by cumin, coriander and a slow-roasted carrot without any caramelization. Leaves a salve in the mouth and doesn’t go away. Clarifed, loureiro broth. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016

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#amphora #2 Phaunus Palhete 2015, 80/20 #loureiro / #vinhao, again no reference point #chimerical #monkwine

Aphros Phaunus Palhete 2015, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

No, this beeswax-lined, amphora-raised 80 per cent white (loueiro) and 20 per cent red (vinhão) is not a theatrical performance by a Portuguese electro-rock band with alien-themed costumes. This blasted mechanism is a chimerical ode to the wines and their medieval proportions used by Port monks. It’s a battle of tribes with no reference point that will blast your mind. Its rosé, day-glo pink hue of earthy demure and it is hard to figure which funk reigns, tart fruit or adobe-argil-earth. Moreover it is the herbal, balmy, savoury, sapid variegation that garners the most attention. “Simple things, giant wonders, emotions, I blast your mind today.” Great length. I can’t say anything previous to right now has prepared me for tasting this but my mind and my palate are micronized wide open. “Break free from your own anxiety. Break free from your own desire.” Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted March 2016  @blastedmind

Aphros Sparkling Loureiro Reserve 2012, Sub Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

Also known as the Loureiro Reserva Bruto, a traditional method, 18 months on lees sparkler with its own set of antithetical parameters and rules. So different from the pet-nat, here surprisingly more artisanal, the most risk-taking of the Aphros sparklers, in deep concentration, at once delicate and then submerging into preserved citrus. Like salient, jagged stones projecting from a karst cave. The lees time is mid-range but the Lima loving loureiro and the Aphros gamble combine for extreme length. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted March 2016

Aphros Pan 2012, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

The simplest of the Aphros sparkling wines which is anything but simple in the pansophy of the “other red” ideal. From 100 per cent vinhão free run juice and a short period of second fermentation, this is traditional method (nine months) reach for the stars as only the cosmic-minded Vasco Croft can do. Another baby maker here though it’s deferential and antithetical to the ancestrale, pet-nat approach. Not so much strawberry as cherry, with herbiage, litheness (no maceration). “A young fawn of the forest.” Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted March 2016

Aphros Silenus 2010, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Vinhão in part stainless steel and part barriques, for aging and to calm it down. The relationship allows it to settle upon itself and at five and a half years on it has barely budged, still entangled in a web of acidity and tannin. Not that I, my travel companions or most mere mortals have any great history or experience with vinhão but the intensity is expertly corralled and such length is clearly a trademark of the house. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted March 2016

Aphros Vinhão 2014, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

Vinhão is simply and astringently a teinturière (dyer) variety which happens to be the most planted red grape in Vinho Verde and to a western palate, unpalatable. It is known as Sousão in the Douro, where it is employed in Port assemblage. The raising of this still table red is done in granite tanks and with foot treading. In the hands of Vasco Croft it emits pretty aromatics in contrast to the demands of such an inky wine, from violets but then handed over to that natural cure of porcine élevage. The one and only vinhão of immediate wisdom and confident conditioning, the kind that will linger for 10 years without changing. Still there is this firm acidity and tannin, but restrained. Sharp citrus and as with all of the Aphros line, great length. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted March 2016

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Enlightened red Sparkling from #AphrosWines 2006 #vinhao @LeSommelierWine @VinhoVerdeCA #yakkos #vinhoverde

Aphros Yakkos Grande Reserva 2006, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

A Sparkling vinhão, Vinho Espumante Tinto, aged 48 months on the lees and again, with no real reference point to launch from so it’s like starting over. Where fun and intentional meet, as do tart and bitter. A sparkler that dries out with beauty because of impressive tannins backing up blackberry fruit. How can this not be lauded for sheer and utter imagination, speciality and ultimately, success. It does not get much more interesting than this. With the aridity dial set to 3 g/L RS this would sidle up to and celebrate blueberry pancakes, duck confit and crème fraîche. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted March 2016

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With Anselmo Mendes

The multiplicity of Vinho Verde

At the most northern tip of Vinho Verde lies Monção and Melgaço in the Minho Valley and this is where Anselmo Mendes grows and produces his alvarinho. With variances created by way of barrel aging, skin and lees contacts, Mendes imagines, creates and realizes a muliplicity of Vinho Verde that both alters and raises the bar for the entire region’s white wines.

Mendes is the former winemaker at Quinta Melgaço and began producing his own alvarinho in 1998 but his perspicacity, the elaboration of his vineyards and the pansophy of these young wines would make you think their history went back much further. The affinity shared by his alvarinho with Spanish albariño is one of proximity only, separated by the Minho River but consummated of an entirely different truth. Under the umbrella of his 70 farmed acres Mendes also produces loureiro in the Lima Valley and avesso in the Douro Valley. His passion is directed to alvarinho. Anselmo is a winemaker with a favourite child. The blends and entry-level varietal wines are labeled under the brand Muros Antigos. The skin contact, extended lees and barrel aged alvarinho each carry a moniker of their own within the Anselmo Mendes line. Constantino Ramos is Assistant Winemaker while Vasco Magalhães is in charge of sales.

“Our philosophy is the natural expression of the land, with principal characteristic that is mineral, not to make up something new, but we want to experience technology, important to know but just to see what we cannot do. The rest is business. We need to re-educate people, not that they’re wrong, but to know that there is another style for Vinho Verde. The next project is more experience.”

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Formal originality of #anselmomendes @terroirimports @winesportugalCA #alvarinho #vinhoverde #melgaco

Muros Antigos Escolha 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (112275, $11.45, WineAlign)

The blend is loureiro (40 per cent), avesso (40) and alvarinho (20), the spokeswines for the ““raditional” range, all from vineyards near the Lima River, but 150 kg’s apart. “Literally a blend of the region,” notes Mendes, four months on lees with batonnage, of aromatic freshness and exuberance with feelings and sapidity from the Atlantic Ocean. Unique marine minerality, mixed with accents of continental climate. Avesso metal and alvarinho body. Terrific entry-level, top quality, cleaner and more direct than almost any and all others. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016  @AnselmoVinhos  @VascoMaga  @terroirtoronto

Muros Antigos Loureiro 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (166710, $9.90, WineAlign)

According to Anselmo Mendes the best loureiro terroir is along the Lima River and it is his varietal ’15 where the warmth and the alcohol are more apparent (as compared to the more northerly alvarinho). Spent the traditional Mendes entry-level four months on the lees with batonnage. The mineral emits less so, the floral and petrol more so. The stone works in close relationship with the palate, of a tang specific to near-northerly vineyards, the back side more into the chalky tannin. Not so much lengthy as much as intense, of an imploding persistence. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016

Muros Antigos Loureiro 2012, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (166710, $9.90, WineAlign)

From a vintage that saw very little sun throughout the growing season. Cool temperatures and unrequited elongation coupled with some unexpected age means an entrance into new territory for loureiro, in verbalization of a new tang vernacular, a way for Loureiro to speak in a way you could not know it could. The notes are citrus essential oil and extract, with a hint of saffron and a splash of Amaro. Very cool but no honey and a bit lactic. The 2012 wines are evolving and developing all over the map. Experience gathered from tasting and trying to figure them out will go a long way for the winemakers and the taster towards assessing the current ’15’s. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016

Muros Antigos Avesso 2012, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $21.50, WineAlign)

From the vintage in which phenolics had difficulty keeping up with developed alcohol. Adjustments were made to every wine but the range of expression and subsequent expectation is neither consistent nor predictable. The mineral is patina-laced, verdigris, gemstone emerald and there is a whiff of snappy green apple. This reminds me of chardonnay grown on Niagara’s Vinemount Ridge. It’s striking avesso, like popping, cool-climate chardonnay, green and nutty. So much potential. As always, it was treated to four months on the lees with batonnage. As only the second vintage it really is not to be believed. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016

Muros Antigos Alvarinho 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (SAQ 11612555, $21.70, WineAlign)

From granite soils on mountain vineyards quite similar to those on the Melgaço estate. The varietal alravinho was introduced to four months lees and batonnage. In here the most fruit emerges as compared with the entry-level (Douro) avesso and (Ponte Lima) loureiro, along with the most body. There bounds and rebounds an elasticity on the palate where the tannin and mineral emerge. Such preserve is built upon a foundation of citrus and density, exuberant and elevated by the heat of the vintage. Stands erect on guard and in protection of itself with direct, purposed length. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2022

Muros Antigos Alvarinho 2012, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (SAQ 11612555, $21.70, WineAlign)

The vintage was a difficult one for all Vinho Verde varietal wines and so blending was not just prominent but essential. Unless you were Alselmo Mendes. This one from mountain granite soils in kinship with the Melgaço estate. Four months of lees contact, batonnage and four years onwards into notes of a beneficial bitter pill dissolving in petrol waters, this has really entered nirvana for what surely was an anticipated secondary expression. Citrus is also bitter (orange and lemon) and their combined twangs of tang like crazy. Four years to pay dirt guaranteed in the Mendes varietal play though the vintage decreases the chance of longer term aging. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016

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Redraft the #alvarinho manifesto #anselmomendes @terroirimports #2001 #murosantigos #vinhoverde

Muros Antigos Alvarinho 2001, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (SAQ 11612555, $21.70, WineAlign)

Still sharply aromatic and spiked, with gelid marmalade and onion skin, its honeyed hue not nearly as advanced as expectation would demand. A fromage like chenin blanc note in there from a washed rind, with apricot and peach blossom. This alvarinho from a dry ferment, but there is nothing to really, truly compare it too. Acidity still trenchant. the bitters remain but on its exit in dissipation. Ultimately just wow, amazing, who knew. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted March 2016

Muros Antigos Contacto 2015, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (393058, $19.95, WineAlign)

As the name suggests here varietal alvarinho spends its most early formative moments in 12 hours skin contact submerge. Initially there is some reservation on the nose and that skin contact feigns the antithetic idea of mineral up front in aromatic gregariousness. It’s as if all that welled up grape tannin is over-anxious and straining to be noticed. The omni-executed four months lees plus batonnage both adds up front and then subtracts so that the palate will settle you in with creamy, just shy of caramelizing and nutty notes. This is done with remarkable restraint. Comes from the sandy soil banks of the Minho River. Requires an earlier or equal consumption zone to its lesser kissing cousin. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016

Muros Antigos Contacto 2012, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (393058, $19.95, WineAlign)

Exhibits a very similar profile to the ’15, that perception of high-octane alvarinho of prescient mineral through ripe phenolics, electric and eclectic grape tannin. The citrus is more pronounced at this stage, as is the weight. Finishes with more bitters than the ’15, clearly conditioned and thinking on it now it is understood as to why 12 hours is plenty of skin contact time for the thick-skinned, small berries. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted March 2016.

Muros de Melgaço Alvarinho 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Alvarinho as you’ve never encountered before, habituated for six months in used French barriques (225 and 400L 2-8 years old) on the lees with batonnage. The first vintage of this unorthodox and recherché alvarinho was 1998. The prophetic Anselmo Mendes is well into a third decade with this amazing alvarinho of Boxler-esque Alsace conceptualization, with density and malo laminate in mouthful with no paste, no chalk, no scotch guard but acidity brilliantly written in blanc stone. Agility and ageability is clearly on time’s side, from here for eight to 10 years for sure. This is the bomb. Yes the wood is a bit up front but will the fruit survive? Yes. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted March 2016

Muros de Melgaço Alvarinho 2012, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Four years has ushered in some unexpected advanced evolution and a Vouvray-like fromage. Though the eight to 10 years afforded the 2014 may be ambitious, the 2012 vintage was anything but helpful and confidence is what you glean from wines like these. Incredible depth of a granite soil’s mineral tang especially as the palate absorbs the nutrients, the old French wood and the subsequent piquancy. The wine seems to prickle at this stage. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted March 2016

Anselmo Mendes Expressões Alvarinho Branco 2014, Vinho Verde Doc, Portugal (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Treated with the same respect and élevage as the Muros de Melgaço, for six months in used French barriques (225 and 400L 2-8 years old) on the lees with batonnage. Here not announcing its varietal because the secret is in Melgaço, not in alvarinho, though it is the most experienced expression of the grape in the region. An amalgamated incline. The oak is of very light toast and here not as apparent as it is in the Melgaço. More clarity and purity, cooler, though the coppery hue might suggest otherwise. This is a dart, sharp and pointed…and then, calm. Such precise treatment from alvarinho expressing the terroir. A slight tinge of tonic in compressed into the citrus finish. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted March 2016

Anselmo Mendes Curtimenta Alvarinho 2014, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

L’élevage is heightened to nine months in used French barriques (225 and 400L 2-8 years old) on the lees with batonnage. The name translates to “bronzage,” or literally, “to extract” on the skins for 12 hours and “to party” with mineral jam. More fruit works with the extra oak plus one year in bottle before release.  Now we have left the building and entered into a futuristic alvarinho from which the length is outstanding. Causes a Fortin shiver, lingers and caresses. Like a Fitzgerald novel it seems richer, more complete and more justifiable when viewed against the biographical backdrop of Anselmo Mendes and Vinho Verde. “Between a life that we expected and the way it’s always been,” tender is the night. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted March 2016

Anselmo Mendes Curtimenta Alvarinho 2012, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

From the challenging vintage here the artist known as “the bronzage” is an example of a wine made by a winemaker unfased by such inconsequential roadblocks. Anselmo Mendes the earliest of Vinho Verde visionaries, treading archaically and swimming in futuristic waters. Making an alvarinho connection through the usage of French barriques (225 and 400L 2-8 years old) on the lees with batonnage. This 2012 tactile and layered. Does what no other alvarinho has or currently does and will age with slow movement more than the others. If only today though I wager it’s not, his 2012 settles with the most balance of the portfolio. IMO. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted March 2016

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Estate Vineyard at Anselmo Mendes

Anselmo Mendes Parcela Única Alvarinho 2013, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $64.95, WineAlign)

The treatment here is similar to the Curtimenta, nine months, though in new (400L) French barriques on lees with batonnage. Just above the tasting room is a premium Monção and Melgaço block on the Mendes estate, a single-parcel, in the monk’s area, “a vineyard that always gives an exceptional and elegant alvarinho.” As sheath to this singular, pellucid and top-drawer fruit the new oak is very obvious though necessary for what this wants to be. And so it puts in a patient request for time with the promise of penitence, charity and deliverance. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted March 2016

Anselmo Mendes Parcela Única Alvarinho 2012, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $64.95, WineAlign)

One year makes all the difference. The new wood (400L, nine months) has melted, tempered and now oozes in flavour. The texture is butyraceous, bled, like a creamy foam that begins to lose its air. This is the hedonism that rises above the rest. It is the most internationally-styled, Burgundy to Napa simulacrum. Flirty alvarinho from Monção and Melgaço. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2016

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Oporto Verde

Über beauty, From Porto to the River Minho

The Vinho Verde focus was certainly geared towards the wines but the powers that be who plan the journalist-sommelier junkets know full well that the allure of landscape, architecture, culture, history and gastronomy is such an integral part of the experience. The Monverde Experience Hotel set the stage and though it seemed like nothing that followed would have any chance to thrill and excite, the hits just kept on coming.

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Canadians in Melgaço

On the last day of March we drove north to Melgaço in the Viana do Castelo District. From the fortress contracted by the then first king of Portugal D. Alfonso Henriques we took in the view a stone’s throw across the River Minho looking out towards Galicia in Spain. Late in the afternoon we crossed the River Lima into Viana do Castelo and arrived at the Pousada Hotel. As if in a dream, or a movie, we marvelled at the views.

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Viana do Castello

Set on the hill of Sta. Luzia the Pousada was built in 1918 by a wealthy Brazilian as a gift to the city. Down the slope lies the shrine of Sta. Luzia, built in an unusual Neo-Byzantine style and then further down the slope is the city centre of Viano do Castelo and the estuary of the River Lima.

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“Are you M. Gustave of the #grandbudapesthotel in Nebelsbad?” @PestanaHotels @Pousadas #pousadavianadocastelo #portoenorte #uhhuh

The night belonged to the waterfront and the Tasquinha Linda.

tasquinha

Tasquinha da Linda

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Fish nirvana #tasquinhadalinda #vianadocastelo

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Octopus at Tasquinha da Linda #vianadocastelo

In the morning, a walk through the city centre of Viana do Castelo.

right-on-time-vianadocastelo

Right on time #vianadocastelo

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You think they ever called him Godello? #vianadocastelo

Further inland along the River Lima we stopped for lunch in Ponte Lima with Adega Cooperativa de Ponte de Lima.

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Ponte Lima fish stew #caldeiradadepeixe #petiscasrestaurante #portugal

And then, Oport0.

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Heart attack and wine #francesinha #oporto #capanegra

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when in #oporto and in need of a good book of spells #livrarialello

Até logo from Oporto.

Foux du fafa, foux du fafa, fafa…see ya David.

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

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The Cabernets of the Judgement of Paris 1976

The Cabernets of the Judgement of Paris 1976

Some quotes about vanity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VV

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

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

Rafael

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

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

Benmarco

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

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

Tobia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judgement of Paris Chardonnay

Judgement of Paris Chardonnay

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

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

Good to go!

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Seven south of $20 in VINTAGES April 2nd

Vinho Verde, Portugal

Vinho Verde, Portugal

Olá, a partir de Vinho Verde. At the moment I am whirling about in a scalene triangle of grapes up here in the cool, rainy, verdant north west region of Portugal. Alvarinho, Trajadura and Loureiro are on my mind, not to mention what red revelations lurk in Vinhao. I will return before you can shoot “look, there’s the Super New Moon.” No waxing prosaic preamble today folks while I scour the hills and cellars of Vinho Verde for the next great white epiphany. Next weekend’s April 2nd VINTAGES release is full of spills and chills, along with some fine values for spring sun and for 10 degree rainy days.

Related – Eight is enough

I will return next week with a report on what’s available for Passover taken from the March 19th release. For now here are seven sub-$20 values for April 2nd.

mers

Château Haut Philippon 2014, Ac Entre Deux Mers, Bordeaux, France (445171, $14.95, WineAlign)

More and more the wines of Entre-Deux-Mers creep into the positive vibrations of Sauvignon Blanc pleasure. This highly expressive beauty makes great work of the ideal with 20 per cent Semillon and 10 Muscadelle lending balancing left and right hands. The herbiage is a cool savour and on the ripe mineral edge of flinty. The value quotient runs high between the seas. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016  @FWMCan

Dr. Hermann From The Slate Riesling 2013, Qualitätswein, Mosel, Germany (446617, $17.95, WineAlign)

Lovely mineral weight compresses the sugars in this mildly flinty and even more so, slight and lithe by citrus Riesling. Doctor, my eyes now see the light into this Qualitätswein from the house that Hermann built. “Cause I have wandered through this world and as each moment has unfurled,” because of acidity, in which there mingles tropical and beneficial bitters. The action makes for a great little drop from soils fractured with slate. Exemplary Mosel, especially at the gifted price. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted March 2016  @germanwineca  @WinesofGermany

Fabre Montmayou Reserva Malbec 2012, Mendoza, Argentina (261867, $18.95, WineAlign)

Made up in the direct, in your face, ripe and firm Mendoza style, from full on sunshine-fleshy Malbec with a decidedly ferric undertone. This has attitude and gumption. It needs a few years to settle into its leathery hide. Always one of the better value propositions although spiked in price for 2013 to where it should rightfully be. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2016  @FabreMontmayou  @ArgentinaWineCA  @winesofarg

Paolo Conterno Bricco Barbera D’alba 2014, Doc Piedmont, Italy (744714, $19.95, WineAlign)

Exemplary Barbera, firm and with tart red fruit, spikes of spice and nicely drying tannin. The sour lactic flavours are full of bright red berries and an edge of astringency while the length is more than merely exceptional. Bricco to win. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016  @LiffordON

Marques De Gelida Exlusive Brut Gran Reserva Cava 2010, Do Penedès, Spain (441956, $19.95, WineAlign)

The aromas are painted at dusk, misty, musty and compressed. The palate shows much more vitality and even a shot of exuberance. By the time the two ends of the sparkling spectrum come to an accord the baking spices of ginger, cardamom and turmeric have taken charge. Painted bottles and an oxidative Cava. Packaged to sell. “Painted ladies and a bottle of wine mama…They took my money like I knew they would.” Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016

Deu La Deu Alvarinho 2014, Monção E Melgaço, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (40642, $19.95, WineAlign)

Rich and unctuous Vinho Verde, full in with lemon and custard, like a Pasteis de Nata swimming in a pool of Moscatel liqueur. High in tang and even more so with spirit. Nothing really lithe about it though it expresses Vinho Verde life with clear and concise language. A far cry from the commercial Vinho Verde found on most LCBO shelves. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted March 2016  @terroirimports

Lodi

Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel 2014, Lodi, California (942599, $19.95, WineAlign)

The old vines advantage is exercised with altruistic gifting in Joel Peterson’s 2014 through a stealth advent in savoury, smoky red fruit, a smouldering olive branch and off the Zinfandel chart, blooming roses. This has a fine streak running through, not mean, but assuredly firm, mildly tannic and very, very mineral. It reminds at times of schist Syrah and alluvial flats Grenache. There’s something about Zinfandel old vines that educes such a pipe dream. The metal backbone is neither copper nor rust but something umami ore other. Terrific complexity from OV Lodi. Let it rest a bit just to be sure you can handle its orthodoxy. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2016  @CBrandsCareers

Good to go!

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Catch 22 wines

Godello's garden meets Greek Horaitiki

Godello’s garden meets Greek Horaitiki

Twenty two wines I tasted from the August 22nd release. Some are really good. So what’s the catch? Some not so much. As always, take a grain of salt and judge for yourself. Godello is not traditionally a site to explore the good, the bad and the ugly. The good news is that the worst of these 22 are actually quite well-made. The bad news is that each will only satisfy a certain kind of palate and a specific sort of temperament.

Something for everyone. LCBO 101. I hope you find something you like.

From left to right: Koncho and Co. Tsinandali 2012, Man Vintners Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, Featherstone Four Feathers 2014, Grace Lane Riesling 2013, Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Perrin Réserve Rosé 2014, Vineland Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and The Crusher Viognier 2013

From left to right: Koncho and Co. Tsinandali 2012, Man Vintners Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, Featherstone Four Feathers 2014, Grace Lane Riesling 2013, Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Perrin Réserve Rosé 2014, Vineland Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and The Crusher Viognier 2013

Koncho & Co. Tsinandali 2012, Kakheti, Georgia (412981, $12.95, WineAlign)

Boxy, foxy, contained, constrained, aromatics waiting to burst, in big timbre and quite spicy. A bit reductive and very juicy. Boisterous, wild-eyed expression. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @GeorgianWineSoc

Man Vintners Free Run Steen Chenin Blanc 2014, Wo Coastal Region, South Africa (126847, $13.95, WineAlign)

Good texture and mouthfeel in this Chenin, dry but unctuous, direct and filling. Works coastal wonders in many ways. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @MANVintners  @vonterrabev  @WOSACanada

Featherstone Four Feathers 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (341586, $14.95, WineAlign)

Though Riesling dominant this is a shared experience, with cool climate Chardonnay and richly aromatic Gewurztraminer lifting spirits and exhaling breaths. The Sauvignon Blanc seems to add ripeness and juicy palate flow. A mouthful of ripe fruit to be certain and amenable beyond its pragmatic ways. One of the better value white blends and one to look at for Niagara Peninsula propensity within the context of designing an appellative blend. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted August 2015  @featherstonewne

Grace Lane Riesling 2013, Yakima Valley, Washington (420737, $14.95, WineAlign)

Simple, straightforward, slightly spritzy Riesling with a full-blown lemon lime palate and a finishing set of bitter piths. Good length gives it life. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Igp Vins De Pays Du Val De Loire, France (672345, $15.95, WineAlign)

A lithe and petite Sauvignon Blanc, balmy, touched by spice accents and a whisper of lemon/lime. Tart but not really striking or biting. Soft Sauvignon Blanc, quick and effortless. Drink 2015-2016. Tasted August 2015  @ChartonHobbs

Perrin Réserve Rosé 2014, Ac Côtes Du Rhone, France (719062, $15.95, WineAlign)

Pretty Rosé, arid enough though really juicy and presentable to a wide army of followers. Some tonic and even more brine. A late feeling of pickles and preserves. Better than many. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @Beaucastel  @ChartonHobbs  @RhoneWine  @VINSRHONE

Vineland Sauvignon Blanc 2013, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (551168, $16.95, WineAlign)

Spicy vintage for the Escarpment, concentrated in many ways, for juicy fruit, capsicum and savoury herbs. A touch effervescent which does not detract, but rather adds a buoyant lifeline because the tart acidity is really something else. Fun with Sauvignon Blanc from up on the shelf. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted August 2015  @VinelandEstates  @benchwineguy

The Crusher Viognier 2013, Wilson Vineyard, Clarksburg, California (361964, $16.95, WineAlign)

Reductive Viognier, nice and fresh for a change, cool Clarksburg fruit thankfully kept shy and in absence of high alcohol, overly heated sunshine gluck. A bit of a mouth breather, tropical in a longan way and of enough though not striking acidity. Finishes overly bitter, in lime pith and a kind of nettle. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @SebastianiWines  @Select_Wines

From left to right: Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Paco & Lola Albariño 2013, Herdade Do Rocim Red 2011,S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014 and Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2013

From left to right: Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Paco & Lola Albariño 2013, Herdade Do Rocim Red 2011,S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014 and Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2013

S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014, Doc Lombardy, Italy (200097, $17.95, WineAlign)

Tanky and metallic, coastal and postal for Trebbiano di Lugana. Quite herbal, reminiscent of Sancerre, with spice, nettle and linear length. Layered and structured white with a seriousness in its expression. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015

Herdade Do Rocim Red 2011, Alentejo, Portugal (423574, $17.95, WineAlign)

A regional blend of Antao Vaz, Arinto and Roupeiro. Very cimmerian, rich and dense Alentejano, wildly berry delicious and yet fierce. Lots of oak, lots of optimism and plenty of swagger. Very spicy and toasty finish. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted August 2015  @winesportugalCA

Paco & Lola Albariño 2013, Do Rías Baixas, Spain (350041, $18.95, WineAlign)

Concrete and tank Albarino, steely and mineral, cool and bristling. Turns to stone fruit on the palate, gets down to juicy and then ricochets off the walls, drawing salinity and pulverized limestone into the very linear finish. Such a calcareous, wound white wine, on a spindle, in a vacuous void of aggregate and steel. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015  @pacolola  @azureau

Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2014, Ap Languedoc, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (373985, $18.95, WineAlign)

Dry, floral, medicinal, quite tight and angled, not angular Rosé. The sea salinity and briny strawberry confluence is quite striking. Doesn’t really linger so in the end it’s a bit of a simple quaffing Rosé but what of it? That’s right. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted August 2015  @GBvins  @LanguedocWines  @FwmWine

Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Loire, France (971887, $19.95, WineAlign)

A neat feat to stretch Sauvignon Blanc like this, in phyllo layers and like bitter greens braised to sweet tenderness. Savoury though the herbs are not the most recognizably cultivated, used or considered. Like winter savoury, or Spruce tip, edible seaweed even. All tossed lightly, gingerly in a citrus vinaigrette. Playful SB, at times tight and bracing and then generous, giving, forthcoming. Previous vintages have had more shine. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted August 2015  @HalpernWine  @LoireValleyWine

Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (588731, $19.95, WineAlign)

Heavy handed, much wood and chalky, full on bloody Malbec. Has Oz strength and gumption. Good lengthy finish. Drink 2015-2019.

From my earlier note of August 2014:

This Golden Reserve Malbec by Trivento is a juicy, dusty, fruit tree addition to the #WWAC14 flight and arrives just in the nick of time. Despite the dark fruit, it has no Drake spoken word conceit. It sings in classic Drake lullaby, with beefy meet pine forest aromas and so “you find that darkness can give the brightest light.” Tender refrains soften chalky, stalky wood and corresponding bitter chocolate. Big tannins on this balladeer. Has impressive stuffing.  @TriventoArg  @Select_Wines  @winesofarg

Last tasted August 2015

Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (321612, $20.95, WineAlign)

Into another cool climate Pinot Blanc poster from Gray Monk, the standard bearer for the variety, in this price and stylistic niche, for anyone who cares or dares to join the bandwagon. Juicy stone fruit of a peach, yellow plum and nectarine fold, circular bites of acidity and mineral bleed and just a touch of tonic to tie it all together. Always great stuff. Length even better than in 2012. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted August 2015  @GrayMonkWinery

From left to right: Domaine De Rochebin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013, Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013, Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Featherstone Onyx 2010, King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir 2013, Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012 and Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010,

From left to right: Domaine De Rochebin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013, Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013, Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Featherstone Onyx 2010, King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir 2013, Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012 and Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010,

Domaine De Rochebin Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013, Ac Bourgogne, Burgundy, France (424275, $22.95, WineAlign)

Such a pretty red cherry, fine earth and cinnamon heart confluence on the aromatic front, with no palate or late tannin affront. The acidity seems particularly natural and fitting, the finish quick and efficient. Very good old world look at the world of Bourgogne. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @BourgogneWines

Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013, Carneros, Sonoma County, California (67405, $23.95, WineAlign)

Cream in your coffee, sui generis housed and reductive Chardonnay with a chip on its shoulder. Aromatic rhythms are modulated by the barrel’s influence while flavours are pleasant though not wholly distinctive or full of character. Very directed Chardonnay and an exemplary regional example for the price. Will show better a year on. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted August 2015  @BuenaVistaWines  @TandemSelection

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (256289, $24.95, WineAlign)

Down $1 in price from this time last year.

From a bumper crop, there came to market 11,000 cases of this Nova Scotian feel good, faux-sparkling story. Winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers’ Nova 7 dissimulation in bubbles is a true trick of the trade and though this white wine strikes as if it were a child of a warm vintage, there is a classic lightness of Rosé fizz being in its ever so slight effervescence. A singular wine in many hybrid incarnations, in Muscat ways, of pink Perle de Csaba, segmented and pressed for a sweet burst of grapefruit. It’s low (7 per cent) in alcohol, excellent in acidity, sweet and sour, citrus zesty, juicy and dry at the same time. Batch delineated and loyal to continence, though if the quantity creeps much higher that may come in to question. Grown up pink lemonade and so easy to consume.  Tasted June and July 2014, July 2015  @Benjamin_Bridge  @jbdeslauriers

Featherstone Onyx 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (372433, $29.95, WineAlign)

Strikes as Cabernet Franc dominant and quite savoury so, slightly cured and richly layered. Merlot appeals and appears with its own distinct clarity, gift-wrapped with tidy flavours in refrain of Franc that acts like fruity Cabernet Sauvignon. The vintage is very in and though it’s warmer and coated with more wood than would best service its needs, this has settled into a really nice glass of red berry and plum red wine. Kudos to the blender and the patience afforded the result. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @featherstonewne

King Estate Signature Collection Pinot Noir 2013, Oregon (984005, $34.95, WineAlign)

High quotient of ripeness, astringency below, earth above sprinkled and saturating. Quite an effusive design and rambunctious effort. All over the map. Big, bouncy and biting. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @KingEstate

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (241182, $35.00, WineAlign)

This ripe Picone in 2012, not a surprise and ripping at the same time. The orchard stands out, the texture overlaid and the length outstanding. Picone in ’12 has presence of more immediate notice, standing firm and tall to be counted early and then, for years to come, often. Like juice bled from escarpment cragges, a speciality that is singularly Picone. Drink 2016-2022.

From my earlier note of June 2014:

A vintage that begged to be protected in the vineyard, meaning no leaf plucking and no thinning. A most excellent goal of (0.691895068 kg / m2), or 2.8 tons an acre was realized, as opposed to one in 2010. Heavy vigor slowed down the ripening (leaving that kind of tonnage on the vine), to an elongated balance. Comes from terroir Baker nods to as “a barren tundra,” which you don’t get down the hill. In 2012 there was no waste, no rot, no problems. Its residual climbs to 15 g/L but you’d never know it. There is a confit of citrus, a mellifluous sensation of preserved lemon. Total count is 600 cases.

From my earlier note of March 2014:

“Baker’s iconic child yet breathes in unsettled, spumous emission from out of a warm vintage. So primary and such a hard act to follow. Vanguard Vinemount Ridge, arid as the desert and citrus, carbonic tight. Treated with cool, cooler and colder methods to seek result and strike balance in an opulent, lees-appertained, tangy finish. A Picone that says I don’t live today, so it is told and canvassed, “uh, get experienced, are you experienced?”  Last tasted June 2014  @cbriesling

Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010, Docg Piedmont, Italy (922880, $37.95, WineAlign)

Nebbiolo of intonation, modulation and stress, with a noticeable mid-life moment in volatility, in contrast to an enamoured aromatic loveliness in rose petal and candied flower. Dusty swirls and tight red fruit meets stark acidity. A Barbaresco such as this has historical advantage on its side but scares a bit in the present. A very fair price for a wine that has to be stashed away for at least three years for the angst to subside. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015  @LeSommelierWine  @piemonte_italia

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WineAlign guide to VINTAGES April 4th and Easter recipes

Lamb Ribs by Barque Smokehouse

Lamb Ribs by Barque Smokehouse

On January 18, 2013 I began adding wine reviews to WineAlign. Review ground zero was Mallory & Benjamin Talmard Mâcon Uchizy 2010, an inauspicious little Burgundy described in “the coat of white.” A Genesis of great #ffffff value.” Beginnings, Genesis, ground zero. The Godello thing.

Two plus years and 2,023 reviews later much has changed. The wisest of wine scribes David Lawrason and WineAlign head wineaux Bryan McCaw asked if I would like to become a part of the April 4th, VINTAGES release newsletter and buyer’s guide. With renaissance banzai and Master Sommelier John Szabo leading the charge, along with most generous guidance and help from cake baker and palate extraordinaire Sara d’Amato, I have joined the fray.

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES April 4th – Part One

This week’s guide leads WineAlign subscribers to Easter Lamb and red wine, plus pre-dinner whites and a glass for dessert. The three recipes cover everything  you could possibly want at your table on the resurrection weekend. The recipes are for Traditional Easter lamb by John, Moroccan lamb loin chops by Chef Michael Pataran and Barque‘s smoked lamb ribs.

Here is what John wrote in his introduction of me. “If at first you don’t understand Michael’s reviews, just drop a couple of hits of acid, smoke a joint or put on some classic 70s tunes and they’ll all make more sense. Maybe.” The irony is that amongst the seven wines I contributed to the newsletter I made only one musical reference. Oh, and one to the Grand Budapest. So, maybe you will understand them. Maybe.

From left to right: Cdv Brazão Colheita Seleccionada Arinto 2013, Stéphane Aviron Domaine de la Madrière Vieilles Vignes Fleurie 2011, Mayschoss 140 Jahre Jubiläumswein Trocken Pinot Noir 2013, Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Fielding Estate Viognier 2013, Château Haut Selve Réserve 2010 and Mendel Malbec 2011

From left to right: Cdv Brazão Colheita Seleccionada Arinto 2013, Stéphane Aviron Domaine de la Madrière Vieilles Vignes Fleurie 2011, Mayschoss 140 Jahre Jubiläumswein Trocken Pinot Noir 2013, Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Fielding Estate Viognier 2013, Château Haut Selve Réserve 2010 and Mendel Malbec 2011

Cdv Brazão Colheita Seleccionada Arinto 2013, DOC Vinho Verde, Portugal (405217, $16.95, WineAlign)

A highly unique Vinho Verde that works as a sipper and as a solid, pair me with just about anything table wine. Savoury and blessed with a Bica de Queijo cheese aroma, you’ll be glad you gave it a swirl and a whiff. There is nothing shinking or violaceous about this. It’s medicinal like Moscato, toasty like Pouilly-Fumé and gangly like Garganega. Citrus juice and flesh add body and beautify its inherent male pattern baldness. Perhaps a bit of a river fish of a Vinho Verde but very fresh and a great catch. This Arinto will tie appetizers together and buy time until the bird, hock or shank is on the table with the feast’s big reds. Drink from 2015-2017.  Tasted March 2015  @vinhosverdes  @exCellarsWines

Stéphane Aviron Domaine de la Madrière Vieilles Vignes Fleurie 2011, AC Beaujolais, Burgundy, France (405779, $21.95, WineAlign)

Old vines and Fleurie scream holiday dinner wine in my books. Here struts out where it’s at Gamay from a terrific Cru, of maturity, chutzpah and depth. Bang on 13 per cent alcohol, most mature and munificent, so very forward and yet of a depth, richness and layering in fruit meeting acids. Black cherry with an accent of mint, sour citrus drop and blueberry. A minor chalky grain, just enough to evoke oak tenderness, but not enough to be cut by splinters. Very Burgundian, where it’s at and even better length. Talk about a red wine that could equally double down for the Easter and Passover table. Gamay that swings both ways, AC/DC, “it’s got two turntables and a microphone.” Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted March 2015  @DiscoverBojo  @warren_walden

Mayschoss 140 Jahre Jubiläumswein Trocken Pinot Noir 2013, Ahr, Germany (409649, $21.95, WineAlign)

Ahr Pinot Noir (as opposed to those from Germany’s Baden region) are just that much more accessible and wider table friendly. That’s because of volcanic soil and older vines like you find in this Qualitätswein. The fruit is richer, the cure more refined, the flavours full and the wine structurally sound. Give this some air and the roast swine will make an entry, with intoxicating aromas, balanced by earthy notes, ripe plums and berries. Structurally sound, the ripeness continues into a fleshy cure of wurst with good bite. The citrus tang is round and barkless. No matter the colour of your braise or roast, this Pinot Noir will compliment the hue. Drink 2015-2021.  Tasted March 2015  @LeSommelierWine  @WinesofGermany

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (677450, $24.95, WineAlign)

So orderly and aligned, from ripe picked fruit with fervent acidity and all proportions in perfect working order. Four months in bottle has settled only worked to reinforce positive opinions. Grassless and flinty but no discernible elemental vagary, certainly no sulphur. This Sauvignon Blanc may just be the most consistent in every vintage, not only stylistically but also for the hedging of probability bets for guaranteed Marlborough quality. This is a superb vintage for the pied-à-terre phraseology. Like school in fall, winter and spring, the Dog Point is all class. Drink from 2015-2024.

From my earlier note of November 2014:

The prototypical Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc hitting all the classic numbers is right here in the Dog Point 2014. Low pH, high acidity, minuscule residual sugar and elevated aromatics. It’s ripe but ripped by citrus juice and zest. Like cubes of honeydew, bitter winter melon and dried lemongrass soaking in and flavouring a dish of briny scallop carpaccio with coarse sea salt and capers. The sapidity is palpable, the excesses vivid. I would avoid too much variegated gastronomy when sipping this wine. Opt for simpler fare because its talents would otherwise be mimicked and suppressed.

Last tasted March 2015  @DogPointWines  @TrialtoON  @nzwine

Barque Smokehouse Lamb Ribs - Spring 2014

Barque Smokehouse Lamb Ribs – Spring 2014

Fielding Estate Viognier 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (142323, $25.95, WineAlign)

Winemaker Richie Roberts has worked tirelessly with Viognier to find out where it fits into the lexicon and ambience of Niagara Peninsula white grape varieties. The 2013 vintage marks a turning point in his and by extension, all of our understanding. The tropical fruit is now reigned in and the tension on the back bite a perfect foil to that well-judged, rich fruit. Trumps the layered ’12 with a new, aerified floraility that gives it more prototypal Viognier style. Short of leaving fruit to hang into late harvest (not recommended for the variety) this is like being wrapped in banana leaf along side young bamboo. Sip it joyously on its own or bring on the Easter Rijsttafel and a strolling procession down the cuisine of Kho San Road.  Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted March 2015  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  @Heidi_Fielding

Château Haut Selve Réserve 2010, Ac Graves, Bordeaux, France (235424, $27.95, WineAlign)

Who wouldn’t want to find a well-priced and expertly made Bordeaux to accompany an Easter feast? The abstraction is not as easy as it may have once been but once in a Paschal full moon a wine comes along and affords the opportunity. Stately structured, mid-range Graves that is so very much a combination of Cabernets. It reeks of currants, cool mint, Cassis, caramel and chocolatey oak. Kept shy in alcohol (13 per cent) and heat, the tannins are mildly grainy and though just a touch oxidative, it is a a most serviceable, generous and honest Bordeaux. From a workingman’s vintage of the century. This Graves will seal the Easter deal with its cool savour and chocolate hops. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted March 2015  @BordeauxWines  @ProfileWineGrp

Mendel Malbec 2011, Mendoza, Argentina (108225, $27.95, WineAlign)

On the rare occasion when a Mendoza Malbec exhibits restraint, balance and all around congenial behaviour, it is imperative to sit up and take notice. This is finely fashioned juice, albeit rich, smokey red fruit swathed in good quality chocolate and a late kick of spice. Suppose there’s nothing really wrong with that. The Mendel will seduce, hypnotize and cause general swooning. Like a Grand Budapest Hotel box of treats, it will sooth even the savage beast. Ripe tannins will make this drinkable now to 2020. Tasted March 2015  @MendelWines  @TrialtoON  @winesofarg

Good to go!

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