20 August, four plates, seven wines

Wine and food are always on the brain. Twenty-four seven. Produce picked from an Ontario backyard will seek out, then effortlessly accrete with Niagara and Prince Edward County grapes. Meats off the barbecue or out of the smoker are rapt to deeply cut, sub-tropical reds, voices possessive of a pantheistic tenor. Here are seven wines and four food ideas to wend pleasure your way for the last two weeks of summer.

Related – Going Rhône for the dog days of August

The grape: Pinot Gris

The history: Fielding Estate’s top tier, Rock Pile Pinot Gris is a benchmark for Ontario

The lowdown: Winemaker Richie Roberts’ second vintage for his estate bottling of the varietal. Seems to be his Alsatian baby

The food match: Butter Greens, homegrown tomatoes, edible flowers and mustard vinaigrette

Fielding Pinot Gris 2011 (251108, $21.95) casts a copper penny penumbra where sweet lime and simple, prickly pear syrup buffets shake and bake. The catalyst tang of pit fruit would see this developing to honey, spice and Madeira, not unlike last night’s Trimbach 2008. My preference is for fresh PG so drink up, with eggs and sausage. Time waits for no one. “Drink in your summer, gather your corn.”  88

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: First planted vineyard in the Edna Valley of California’s Central Coast

The lowdown: A host of under $20 quality Chablis on the market is proof that unoaked Chardonnay is not only viable, but sustainable. California needs to follow suit

The food match: Pan-Roasted Herb, Lemon and Garlic Marinated Chicken, green beans, piri-piri sauce

Chamisal Unoaked Stainless Chardonnay 2011 (289223, $25.95) is an affidavit of California’s agrestal fruit quality and complexity so why more vineyards can’t lay off the manipulations and bottle this style is beyond me. Animated green apple, lime and orange zest are the spark for clean, resolute Chardonnay. Yum.  90

The grape: Riesling

The history: From Germany’s venerable Mosel Saar Ruwer region

The lowdown: Designated Prädikatswein, the highest level of German quality category

The food match: Blue Plate Special: Veal, pork and beef meatloaf with spicy bbq glaze

Dr. Loosen Blue Slate Riesling Kabinett 2011 (160846, $19.95) noses sweet, red apple, wet granite and Dr. My Eyes see a blue hue, like the shadowy, filtered light on mid-winter ice and snow. Meritorious fruit grown out of Devonian seabeds saturates juice before using. Tight grip of acidity and WASP terroir shows there is nothing loose about the good doctor’s Riesling.  89

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Dorothée, we’re not in Burgundy anymore

The lowdown: Calera has been lauded for some serious, single-vineyard Pinots. This one is sourced  from seven vineyards in San Luis Obispo, San Benito, Santa Clara and Monterey counties

The food match: Grilled Wild B.C. Salmon

Calera Pinot Noir 2009 (933044, $31.95) of wet Pacific clay colour is light and retains a wisp of Central Coast smoke and tar in its profile. No candy factory here, which is a good thing. I’m hopeful the restrained style will help to usher is a new Cal-era for Pinot. Earth shattering bottle? No. Greatest Pinot value? Not so much. Good juice? Absolutely.  89

The grape: Montepulciano

The history: From the Abruzzo region of east-central Italy, not to be confused with the southern Tuscany village of  Montepulciano

The lowdown: Two years ago these wines were not even on the radar. Now some of the best <$15> values on the planet

The food match: Barque’s Smoked Beef Brisket

Caldora Colle Dei Venti Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2009 (289629, $15.95) does not hide the rendering new oak influence to resemble an extra-large cup of Starbucks bold. MD’A of a dichotomous nature, Dominican and birch elegant, arboreal, fruity. Very vanilla.  88

The grape: Aglianico

The history: At its best in Campania but also flourishing in Basilicata and here, in Molise

The lowdown: Arguably the best producer in the newest region in Italy, located on the big toe of Italy’s foot

The food match: Grilled Flank Steak with warm tomato jam

Di Majo Norante Contado Riserva Aglianico Del Molise 2009 (967208, $15.95) is stark, raving modern. A wash of Rothko Black on Maroon colour of “oppressive, almost frightening, grandeur.” Heavily pedimented Aglianico, tasting of black licorice in fiery, Sambuca form.  88

The splurge

The grape: Sangiovese Grosso

The history: Sangiovese of irreverent ilk, from Montalcino in southern Tuscany

The lowdown: Not a sneeze of a price but still of the mortal world. An example for near-immediate enjoyment

The food match: Grilled Lamb Kebabs

Verbena Brunello Di Montalcino 2007 (165126, $37.95) seems at first bewitched by iron and animale but magically gives way to a twinkling, lulu Tabitha nose. A fleeting spell is cast to induce an impulse buy. If you want to experience Brunello, start here, find reverence for its narcissistic beauty and watch it be “turned to a flower.” Supper’s ready and waiting for the Verbena .  90

Good to go!

Five red wine values to buy now for the coming long weekend

http://blogs.canada.com/2012/06/25/five-red-wines-to-buy-now-for-the-coming-long-weekend/

In my world there are so many wines and so little time. Perhaps in yours the wall of choices seems daunting but a bit of deconstruction is really all you need. A good Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Shiraz or Malbec work just fine on most days. I look to champion varietals outside the box. Portugal and lesser known Italian appellations are a very good place to start.

Trending wine values

The grapes: A blend of Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Nacional and Jaen

The history: Made by Agricola Castro de Pena Alba from indigenous varietals

The lowdown: Not all $12 Portuguese wines are this good, but I’d take my chances

The food match: Breaded Veal Sandwich with roasted, pickled red peppers

Serrado Colheita 2008 (283192, $11.95) from the emerging Dão is a big wine for $12! Tar, Hyacinth and Cravo with a mini citrus accent. Simple machine with juicy acidity and bite. A cake cut by a knife that’s “got a serrated edge that she moves back and forth.” Terrific IVR*.  87

The grape: Montepulciano

The history: Native to Abruzzo in east-central Italy

The lowdown: Modern Abruzzi winemakers are producing exceptional wines at affordable prices

The food match: Pasta with Braised Beef Short Ribs and Tomato

Niro Montepulciano D’abruzzo 2009 (278150, $15.95) dictates a directive towards low and slow fricasseed meats in their demi-glace with fresh summer tomatoes. De Niro is positively and cognitively possessed of a Machiavellian intelligence. A modern emperor and actor speaking perfect English, a vernacular host with the most. Projects a prejudiced discourse of atramentous espresso and haw.  88

The grape: Malbec

The history: Native to Bordeaux and Cahors in the southwest of France

The lowdown: Found its varietal fame in Argentina. This is a bold pick at a premium level.

The food match: Grilled Flank Steak in chile, parsley and olive oil marinade

The Seeker Malbec 2009 (271213, $18.95) is one of five global wines made by a marketing juggernaut, each featuring a specific grape growing region. Inspired by the musings of fictitious metalsmith/flying machine inventor Esteban Colombo from Mendoza, Argentina. Colombo is part Frank Lloyd Wright, part Leonardo Da Vinci. Like the man, the Seeker is an international wine of mystery. I rarely drink $19 Malbec, but when I do, I drink The Seeker. “I’ve been searching low and high” but here is a Malbec of an acceptable oaky smell like it’s just been out walking in the countryside. An herbal remedy, Malbec from and for the world, not really Mendozan at all, and that’s OK. I just might really like this.  89

The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

The history: Native to Bordeaux in France

The lowdown: Benchmark IVR* achievement from the Barossa Valley of South Australia

The food match: BBQ Chicken with a honey-based glaze

Mountadam Vineyards Cabernet/Merlot 2008 (641860, $16.95) at 15% abv carries it with structure, elegance and balance. Currant jam, beetroot and garrigue are all there but the fruit, savoury, char, heat and acidity factors are all in check. What’s not to like?  90

Throwing caution to the wind

The grape: Nebbiolo

The history: Native to Piedmont in Northern Italy

The lowdown: Traditional interpretation already aged and into its drinking window

The food match: Double-cut, French Veal Chop with Thyme, garlic and olive oil

Gemma Giblin Riserva Barolo 2005 (185025, $36.95) has begun to brick at the edges. Mouth rosewatering acidity binged by sour cherry and shellac. Wisp of Monte Cristo and withered rose only Barolo can smell of.  This Gemma is beautiful like a turning season, like something you know won’t last. For now and no more than two to three more years.  92

More notes from the VINTAGES June 23, 2012 release:

The Wine Diaries: Around the world in 20 whites

The Wine Diaries: Chardonnay close to the edge

Euro wine Rihanna need remember by name

The Wine Diaries: MMVA’s sparkling wine showers

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio

CVR** – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-Value Ratio

Good to go!