Top ten Labour Day long weekend wines

Dry-Rub Ribs. Photo Courtesy of Jill Chen at freestylefarm.ca and Barque Smokehouse

as seen on canada.com

Long weekends have a built-in preference for the obvious. Get into the water, fire up the BBQ, indulge the palate, imbibe of good drink. Relax, chill, take advantage of the last free stretch before the race begins again. When shopping these next few days, here is your list of weekend wines.

The grape: Pinot Blanc

The history: Consummate Alsatian vin de table varietal

The lowdown: Peaceful, easy, loving and charitable white wine, just like the Knights of Malta order, represented on the label

The food match: Grilled Turkey Breast rubbed with sage, thyme and olive oil

André Blanck et Ses Fils Rosenburg Pinot Blanc 2011 (626606, $13.95) is your weekend summer refresher, your sundowner, your all-purpose white. Oily, mineral-driven, long, acidity at its PB best, full finish. For appetizers, salads and mains. Versatility be thy name.  88

The grape: Malbec

The history: Always and forever Argentina’s red darling

The lowdown: A three vineyard mix brings complexity to an entry level wine

The food match: Sirloin Shish Kebabs in red wine marinade

Monte Quieto Quieto 3 Malbec 2009 (275701, $14.95) is black and blue, slightly reductive and yet pretty for Mendoza. From three vineyard sources, Vista Flores, Ugarteche and Agrelo. Spice rub, orange zest and lit, wooden-scented stick. 87

The grape: Chenin Blanc

The history: Loire white horse, here sparkling and quite dry

The lowdown: Made in the traditional Champagne method at a fraction of the cost

The food match:  Steamed Mussels with fennel, sparkling Chenin Blanc and tomato concassée

Domaine De Vaugondy Brut Vouvray (154567, $16.95) is brimming with orchard scents, of fruit, leaves and earth. A baking pear tarte tatine, with a crumble of chèvre over top. The pears replay to taste, verging into crème caramel. Top example at the price.  88

The grapes: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara

The history: Made with partially dried grape skins that have been left over from fermentation of Amarone or recioto

The lowdown: The best version I’ve tasted in 2012

The food match: Pasta Bolognese

Silvano Piacentini Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2009 (289637, $16.95) combines semi-sweet chocolate with, of all things, ripe peaches. Very pretty, floral, sweet, candied Valpo with biting acidity and even some austerity. Best in a while. Needs a two year wait or a two hour decant.  89

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: H of P has been working this Burgundian grape in so many styles, from so many vineyards

The lowdown: From another up and coming Niagara appellation, the Short Hills Bench

The food match: Grilled Halibut with olive oil, garlic, fresh thyme and lemon emulsion drizzle

Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay 2010 (268342, $19.95) is the best one yet. Some A16 but in a breezy, over the falls, misty wash. Like Riesling in a way, especially considering the Bench minerality. Sweet, creamy palate. Good stuff.  88

The grape: Pinot Gris

The lowdown: Alsace comes to New Zealand in an off-dry suit

The lowdown: Continues a welcoming trend for PG in Marlborough on the South Island

The food match: Grilled Rainbow Trout with mild chile-lime dusting

Momo Pinot Gris 2011 (163535, $19.95) is a freshly opened can of spiced nuts. Like the unavoidable Loire itself, a river of Kiwi off-dry sensibility meets an Aussie Semillon, lemon and paraffin quality. A unique white for food.  88

The grape: Malbec

The history: Argentina’s red horse in fine form

The lowdown: Mendoza at its finest under $20

The food match: Rotisserie Grill Standing Beef Rib Roast

Vistalba Fabre Montmayou Gran Reserva Malbec 2009 (279802, $19.95) shows no shortage of oak, extraction and modern ego. The most purple of Malbec and at 15% abv is remarkably not heavy or liqourfied. Very black cherry in flavour, with whiffs of spice and smoke. Gorgeous Napa-like texture and voluminous velocity.  90

The Semi-Splurge

The grape: Zinfandel

The history: Where once it played last fiddle to virtually all other California varietals, it’s planting and notoriety are speedily increasing

The lowdown: A Shelton Zin from a newer AVA so priced to sell

The food match: Dry-Rub (with extra herbs) Baby Back Ribs glazed with Ancho Chile BBQ Sauce

Carol Shelton Monga Zin Old Vine Zinfandel 2008 (282525, $26.95) of a single (Lopez)  vineyard, “an only pawn in the game of life.” is intensely herbal of the wise-leaved kind. The Cucamonga Valley brings more blazing brush floor, saddle leather and less bramble to Zinfandel. The extraction is of big body and soft heart. Have a cigar. “They’re gonna love you.” 90

Other wines of note:

Château Cesseras Rouge 2008 (590570, $19.95) is a Minervois from the Midi that I return to in every vintage.  A poster child for southern French pastis and sun-kissed abaisser attitude. Chocolate, fruit and tar are all in balanced clarity. Sweet, sweet, Syrah.  89

Riserva Il Falcone 2007 (177295, $21.95) by one of Umbria’s preeminent producers, Castel del Monte is certainly a crowd pleaser. Lush and rich styling, from the region’s own Uva de Troia varietal. Ripe, black olives in every sip. Taut and plummy, unctuous and finishing with a pepper kick.  89

Good to go!

The Wine Diaries: Your weekend wines

ilumus photography, Fotolia.com

Read this at canada.com

Another stellar weekend is heading this way. My goal each week is to provide the wine equivalent of an operatic recasting, a retooling, a restocking, whether it be for deck, yard or on the water. A few good reds are here for BBQ compliment but let’s face it. This is the summer of whites baby!

Related: Recent release notes

The grape: Vermentino

The history: From grapes grown in Gallura on the northern coast, the producer Sella & Mosca is to Sardinia as Antinori is to Tuscany

The lowdown: Versatile and food-friendly,Vermentino combines dry, salty sea air with rocks, minerals and acidity. Gotta love southern Italian whites

The food match: Seared Sea Scallops with lime zest, lemon juice and orange segments

Sella & Mosca Monteoro Vermentino Di Gallura Superiore 2011 (203422, $15.95) is fresh as a crustacean pulled from salty, Mediterranean waters. Vermentino of Sardinia is to white as Tavel of Provence is to Rose. Scented by sweet citrus, marzipan, Gin and Tonic.  88

The grape: Riesling

The history: Originates in Germany’s Rhine and thanks to the Duke of Lorraine, came to Alsace in 1477

The lowdown: Recent thought has pegged Alsatian Rieslings as “sweetened up” but as a rule I find the entry-level ones to be some of the the driest. They certainly lack the petrolic character akin to their German brethren

The food match: Pan-fried Whitefish with citrus beurre blanc and toasted almonds

Domaine Ehrhart-Pfohl Riesling 2010 (282186, $13.95) summons chalky virility from the Saxon stone mason’s hands and yet stages tropical sweatshop scents of guava, apricot and quince. The confusion is quieted by a near, neo-cabbalistic call to baking Mittelwihr, mandelbroit order. Wants to be Viognier but knows its place. Underappreciated if a bit rakish Alsatian.  87

The grape: Friulano

The history: From Friuli-Venezia Giulia in northeast Italy. The project of restauranteur Joe Bastianich and Mother Lidia, the Food Network cooking star

The lowdown: A varietal of unctuous, orchard fruit behaviour, saline like southern whites but of fuller mind and body

The Food Match: Frico Morbido, grated cheese and swiss chard fritters

Bastianich Adriatico Friulano 2010 (277467, $18.95) brings Friuli by the Adriatic to the world. Like Lidia and son Joe, a pastiche and piece of work. Peach, pear and apricot marmellata. Tiger Lilly length, stalky and saftig 88

The grape: Tempranillo

The history: The great and totemic wine of Spain, most famous for Rioja and Ribera del Duero

The lowdown: A small case production (1,200 bottles) by a tidy northern Spanish producer. First tasting was from an oxidized bottle. This second specimen shone

The food match: Jamon, Chorizo and Manchego

Fernández De Piérola Reserva 2004 (270579, $25.95) lenses purity of Tempranillo colour, looking through a glass lightly. Svelte to knock back with cold-pressed and dressed virgin tapas. Early evening blossom fragrance meets beet, mushroom and cinnamon. Woodsmoke mingling with sugar near-caramelized in the black kettle.  88

Niagara

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling (241182, $35.20) from the unique terroir of the Vinemount Ridge of Niagara is an outrageous and gregarious flirt.  Strewn notes of citrus, nuts, apples and magnesium. All out there right now. Like lemon in a wound. Go big or go home. Drink up.  89

Closson Chase S. Kocsis Vineyard Chardonnay 2009 (184291, $34.95) seems anti-Beamsville because of a gooseberry-marmalade character.  Rather unlike any of the other CC SV’s. Sun-swelled apricot and pineapple, candied, baked.  87

Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 (173377, $24.00) while sourced from down on the peninsula’s floor maintains the throaty Louis fruit this Niagara producer has developed a reputation for. Gravelly, deep and soft, like a pelt carpet. The strong-armed apple of your eye. “So I said to myself,” what a wonderful Chardonnay.  88

Australia

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Riesling 2010 (528216, $17.95) is a first love, a same time next year type of wine. “Thelonious my old friend” built from tree fruit and their blossoms. Cruising, cool, misty acidity to welcome a midnight, seafood supper.  88

New Zealand

Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2008 (640383, $34.95) extends the North Island vineyard’s reputation as top niche producer. Smell and taste replay of match lit, smouldering herb. Tuff gong with terrific persistence. High toned, polished and on the Zion Train.  89

Italy

Tramin Pinot Grigio 2011 (627059, $15.95) venerable and virtuous gives Alto Adige PG its due. Walks tenuously and carries a stainless steel stick. Bang on entry into the niche, inoffensive and whitefish driven of a simple preparation.   86

Attems Pinot Grigio 2011 (707950, $19.95) does the Friuli with less floral Viognier/Muscatel, more vibrant citrus and Amaretto than the Tramin. Costs more too.  87

California

Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2010 (215210, $59.95) I’m hoping will not find me “in my ragged company” because I’d love to “kill off the hours” with this impeccably groomed and pretty white.  With steamed lobsters at a table among the wildflowers. Just don’t bring me dead ones.  90

Mazzocco Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2009 (287193, $24.95) shows no shortage or ripe, red licorice and fortified, port fruit. Smells like a fruit basket in the sun. Brief acquiescence and then a recrudence of brambles and berries. Sassy and jazzy. CVR**, DCV Zin.  89

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-value ratio

CVR**– Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-value ratio

Good to go!


A wine tour de France

FI:AF

canada.com

The Tour de France is a 22-day, grueling test of endurance. Tasting through 22 French wines may not be the sporting equivalent, but someone’s got to do it. The Tour travels and circumnavigates a path through many of France’s storied wine regions; Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, Rhône and Languedoc. The wine tour goes deeper, making stops in lesser known regions like Savoie and Jura. Here are 11 notes with 11 days to go.

Related – more wine recommendations

French wines to look for now

Alsace

Pfaffenheim Cuvée Bacchus Gewurztraminer 2010 (VINTAGES 996017, $19.95. SAQ 197228, $19.70) looks to wine a stage with its progressive and ambulatory nature like the “Cannibal,” Eddy Merckx. At once steely but also possessed of a creamy, recriminatory lycheeness. A Gewurztraminer island in a sea of mediocrity, less bitter, less off-dry. A comeuppance of residual sweetness and forward thinking expression.  88

Champagne

Henriot Souverain Brut Champagne (959643, $56.95) operates as opulent, bombastic bubbles. Conspiratorial instigator, non-traditionalist and anti-establishment. Cassius to Caesar and to Frazier. Agitated rope-a-doper laden with tropical citrus and guava to belie yeast, smoked nuts, clay and toast. The mousse is persistent if relegated to the ring’s perimeter and the cheap seats of the Colosseum.  Tasted twice.  89

Burgundy

Louis Picamelot Brut Cremant De Bourgogne (161919, $17.95) is continental breakfast at the round table where dry toast cuts a linear radius through pious citrus, namely lemon and grapefruit. A strong-armed, knightly representative for the anthology of the Burgundian bubbles culture. A polarizing character, the lance of the lot 87

Pascal Marchand Meursault 2010 (285866, $57.95) would make for an intriguing tête-à-tête comparison to the Tawse Quarry Road from Moray’s other guy, peer Paul Pender. Marchand’s Chardonnay is multi-layered, zesty and intense. Pear and hazelnut stand out but so too does oatmeal, in an elemental, periodic way. Which leads ne’er the cheerleader MV to comment, “egg salad sandwich.”  White Burgundy with regard to the atom.  90

Domaine Gille Côtes De Nuits-Villages 2009 (210864, $28.95) is cheap talk and wine, for Burgundy that is. Clean, pure Pinot fruit, black raspberry scent. On the border of simple, elegant, well-priced Villages. Will give you the best of its love.  88

Rhône

E. Guigal Gigondas 2009 (331900, $29.95) fully elicits hedonism from southern France with rakish Guigal typicity. Blueberries baked in an Ortolan pie with essence of Molasses. Bold, brass Bassline of tannic tenderness.   89

Jura

Jean Bourdy Cotes De Jura White 2007 (286427, $24.95) is most unusual Chardonnay. “Nothing in the world smells like this son.” Tis kind to call it an “oxidative” style but truth be in the pudding. Yerba tea, malt and peat each have their moment. Scottish as if Kilgore retired to the Hebridic isle.  86

Savoie

Domaine Edmond Jacquin Altesse Rousette Savoie 2010 (277335, $17.95) is a Big Mig, a jazzy, rarely seen release that trills citrus and spice in a breezy, casual way. Altesse, also called Roussette, seems to me a superior, physiological varietal. Federer workmanlike approach, a rider like Indurain, wins fans for athletic greatness and for acting effortlessly like itself.  88

Jean Perrier & Fils Cuvée Prestige Mondeuse Vin De Savoie 2010 (272112, $14.95) visually reminds me of Portugal’s Bastardo grape and by a nose. There is sour cherry, cranberry and refreshing citrus vitality as if Viognier were supporting Syrah. Perhaps like Pliny’s “vine of least repute” but there is an acme of elegance.  87

Bordeaux

Château Haut-Vigneau 2009 (29678, $25.95) opens the door to the ’09 Bordeaux party with a Tao, raison d’être and talisman’s affordable summoning via the Left Bank’s Pessac-Léognan. Candied coffee, black cherry and tobacco, radish red. Solid PL and worth storing three away for now and to the decade’s end.  89

Midi

Château Du Donjon Grande Tradition Minervois 2009 (275578, $12.95) speaks directly of its mineral, Minervois roots. Brillat-Savarin might say this about the Donjon. “Tell me what you drink and I’ll tell you who you are.” The Châteauneuf-du-Pape aspiration of Kirsch with Daube is only deterred in the slightest by an aspersion of cherries steeped in quinine, but of a good kind. A “badger” of a red, fighting like Bernard Hinault and his two black eyes.  87

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-value ratio

CVR* – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-value ratio

Good to go!