The heart and the hearth of Podere La Cappella

La Cappella S. Maria a Cerbaia circa 11th century

Two weeks ago I stepped back into Chianti Classico time for an all in, taste as many sangiovese as is humanly possible two-day inculcation at Anteprima 2017. The uninitiated will wonder and ask how this is accomplished. How do taste so many wines of the same ilk and differentiate from one to the next? The answer is really quite simple and straightforward. The sangiovese of Chianti Classico are like children. They are all different. They are snowflakes.

You will have noted my penchant for lengthy tasting notes and excessive use of adjectives. You’re likely privy to a certain infatuation with obscure and insignificant pop culture references and music lyrics. Have you paid attention to my running obsession with geology, climat and terroir? In Chianti Classico there is this ridge, an escarpment really that works its way from Tavernelle and across to San Donato in Poggio. The intendment of this geology and geography and its unique aspects play a vital role in determining some of the most complex sangiovese. The significance is not lost on my mission.

To a world who considers all sangiovese to be cut from the same cloth, from a fichu always woven of volatile acidity, fresh cherry and old leather, there are some things worth knowing. Like for instance did you know that both the Ricasoli and Carobbio estates are variegated with five unique and distinct soil types? Did you know that in Chianti Classico marl and limestone come in many variations, three of which are called Galèstro, Albarese and Colombino? Soil matters for what differentiates hundreds of contrastive sangiovese.

Which brings me to this very special visit I made to see Bruno and Natascia Rossini at Podere La Cappella. You do your best to breathe in and with eyes wide open examine to commit to memory the simple and extraordinary truths that you see around a property such as this. You see it as beatific, elysian, baronial and devout, as a small piece of paradise in a sea of paradisical estates in Chianti Classico, but here unequivocal to San Donato in Poggio.

Bruno and Natascia Rossini with Godello

The estate has been in the possession of the Rossini family since 1979, when Mr. Rossini, a native of Veneto, integrated the growing of vines and olives with the cultivation of apple and pear trees. In the early days Rossini sold off his grapes but in the subsequent years he was drawn to the temptation of self-guided expression and became a producer of Chianti Classico. A re-planting (and re-grafting) scheme took place between 1981 and 1985 and again in the 1990’s. Some varieties were removed and others moved in to take their place. Sangiovese was elevated to top-tier status and merlot was planted, grafted to chardonnay and vermentino rootstock.

Beginning with the 1995 vintage Podere la Cappella started producing its own wines, of Chianti Classico and Corbezzolo, a sangiovese IGT Toscana. Then in 1996 the company released their first merlot called Cantico and it was at this time that Bruno’s daughter Natascia joined in the family’s organically farmed and produced vinous endeavours.

Just across from the house and adjacent the winery in the park of the estate you can visit the small church of S. Maria a Cerbaia, mentioned for the first time in 1043. The church hosts some very precious artistic works, like a painting of a Madonna with the infant Jesus on her lap, which experts date back to the end of the 13th century. Also inside the tiny chapel you will note high relief works representing the stations of the cross.

Bruno and Natascia Rossini are what you might refer to as the most gracious of hosts. From the extraordinary hearth in the kitchen to their sublime and highly personal wines, my visit with them and the Consorzio del Chianti Classico’s Christine Lechner was not so much memorable as it was like going home. At Podere La Cappella, home is where the hearth and the heart can be found. The Rossini’s poured 12 wines for me to taste, before and with a Tuscan lunch for the ages. Here are the notes.

Podere La Cappella Oriana 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, Winery, WineAlign)

There were very early plantings of vermentino on the property but a decision was made to graft those vines and re-plant them between 2010 and 2012. Oriana is the modern day estate’s 100 per cent varietal white, named after Bruno Rossini’s wife. The grapes are harvested when their colour turns to a mature gold, then left to sit in the cold cellar for 20 days so the perfume concentrates straight to the core. A very mineral vermentino, telescoped, structured, with spice but there is no oak. Non-filtered, precise, unctuous and incomparable. Needs time, but there is no frame of reference here, not for Tuscany, not for the verdant hills of Chianti Classico. Doesn’t make it unusual but makes it extraordinary. The specific galestro marl and columbino here is influenced by the sea, more than in Panzano and that mineral runs through, with the fantasy of fossilized shells, like Chablis. There was a sea here at one time after all. What else should it be compared to? Drink 2019-2027. Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Vermentino Tancredi di Rossini 1998, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineryWineAlign)

Bruno Rossini’s vermentino 1998 is still very much alive, with some must on the nose, running along a parallel line to TCA but it’s really just a matter of age and the cellar. Acidity is very much intact, the aromas are notable in lemon purée and gelée, some orange peel and to the palate with great viscosity. Really quite amazing when you think about it, 19 year-old Tuscan vermentino, of salinity and shells. Bring on the oysters. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

Every Chianti Classico tasting should begin with a 2015 and Podere La Cappella’s is the ideal portal. Breaks it consistently down with 90 sangiovese and 10 merlot because, as we are informed by Natascia Rossini, “if you want to make Chianti Classico and drink it (relatively) young, you need to blend in a little bit of merlot or cabernet.” This is the wise sangiovese, from vines seven to 10 years old and still the mineral gives, even from young vines. Important in that it is raised with no new oak and in which richness is balanced by the sort of acidity that tries to remain out of focus, out of the spotlight. The fruit is dark and broods in youth, so a comparison to ’14 will be smart. The contrast reminds us of a more getable, dare it be said commercial vintage in this two sides of the moon sangiovese. Robust, consolidated, sober and gorgeous. Still, a year will make a difference. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

As with the coming unrestricted vintage, the 2014 get together is 90 per cent sangiovese and (10) merlot but such a different animal. The acidity needed to be stronger for deferential (but classic) fruit squeezed from minuscule yields after so much rain. It all called for the requiem of very strict selection and there is this rusticity in ’14 along with so much more herbology and perfume. Roses and fennel, less fruit, more perfume. There is structure in 2014 and it is a wine that will develop secondary character because of the umami that is necessary without as much fruit due to sun deprivation. Frutti di bosco sharing equal aromatic time with frutti di conifere. Walks a more traditional, taut, direct and unconsolidated sedimentary line for Chianti Classico, with time travel ability to a future blooming with Angiosperms. It’s simple really. The sangiovese usually reserved for Corbezzolo went to Riserva and for Riserva relegated to Chianti Classico. Structure is not compromised. Drink 2018-2026. Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico Riserva Querciolo 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $46.95, WineAlign)

The most recent release of Podere La Cappella’s “small oak tree” is a vintage success, as always a sangiovese (90 per cent) and merlot configuration and no other Riserva will ever give such defined perfume and richesse. In this smaller than small crop of a vintage the under-rock current is the galestro and the savoury, here with some spice from increased barrel, though of course no new oak. There is some fine chocolate and there is this sweet defined acidity and tannin. When you taste this side by side by each with the 2012 and the 2013 you begin to note these recurrent themes. The smell of orange skin (and in 2013 it was persimmon) is specific to Querciolo. In the pantheon of CCR this is very refined. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico Riserva Querciolo 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $46.95, WineAlign)

The 100 per cent, “small oak tree” sangiovese is showing some reductive funk in ’13 though purely and surely reasoned of a sangiovese seasoning, melted into liquid, like fennel simple syrup. From what is generally considered a high quality vintage, confirmed by Bruno and Natascia, warm, balanced, not too hot, with some rain in the middle of harvest. Picking and selection required greater focus than 2012 though not as serious as 2014 so there is so much more terroir (than ’12) in here and tannic structure similar, though a step down from 2014. Not quite ready, actually, not even close, but gains potential complexity because it is youthful and spirited. Then a different note makes an appearance, one that is hard to define, a red or orange citrus. Wait for it…persimmon! What a finish this stretches towards, forever and intense to Riserva. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Chianti Classico Riserva Querciolo 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $46.95, WineAlign)

Querciolo is 100 sangiovese (as always for the Riserva),”the small oak tree.” Time is of course the catalyst but who would deny for whatever reasons chosen that it is the most beautiful of the (2012-2014) vertical’s three, the only one with the first stages of its developmental life already complete. Come away with its pure fruit aromas and still the structure dominates the mathematical mind, demanding attention. What makes the difference I ask Natascha Rossini? “The extra year,” she shrugs and adds, philosophically, “for my father each wine is a son, or a daughter.” There is a liqueur in here that reminds of what happens with structured sangiovese, regardless of clone and irregardless to place, be it Brunello, Gran Selezione or Riserva. What defines this ’12 is inherent to the specifics of galestro marl from the hallowed grounds of San Donato in Poggio. Drink 2017-2029. Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Corbezzolo 2013, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $84.95, WineAlign)

The Corbezzolo from vine and into bottle is 100 per cent sangiovese and in name “the fruit tree that produces a very tart berry for making jam.” This comes straight from the heart of the Rossini matter, out of the oldest vineyard planted in 1990-1991. It would be hard not too think on Podere La Cappella’s sangiovese as untethered to family, to meals and the kitchen’s hearth. The demi-glacé in Corbezzolo is deeper, richer, slower developing, of graceful, elegant and ethereal aromatics, even a bit exotic verging on quixotic. There is this far eastern temperament because the fruit seems to simmer with cool, jasmine-floral savour in a galestro clay pot. The acumen is variegated in the singular Corbezzolo concentration but this is not a factor of extract or density. Depth is sangiovese light, dancing from 2013, a gorgeous vintage that everyone will want a piece of. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Corbezzolo 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $84.95, WineAlign)

Corbezzolo in 2012 comes by way of 22 year-old vines and it carries a similar quality in deep, exotic and mysterious fruit. The rich get richer in such a very tannic vintage, taking this top-tier, 100 per cent sangiovese to a place up on a pedestal where it can be really heard. There is a chew to this 2012 and a meaty grip but always ushered along by the spirit guide of sangiovese. There seems to be this relationship between Querciolo and Corbezzolo whereby the current vintage of the former shares a kinship with the subsequent vintage of the former. Though Natascia Rossini will remind me that one extra year in bottle for her sangiovese will both trick and explain, I’m still convinced there is something to the counterintuitive duality. Only retrospective tastings like can reveal the truth. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Corbezzolo 2011, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $84.95, WineAlign)

The Corbezzolo in 2011 is another matter altogether as compared to what comes after, beginning with the 2012 vintage. The fruit is from 1981-1984 planted vineyards and if 2012 in (Querciolo) Riserva showed the most terroir it is the 2011 that does so for Corbezzolo. The older vines do just the opposite of what the 90’s planted vines do for Corbezzolo going forward. Here there is less exoticism and more mineral meets local terroir and with some time there emits this great ulterior perfume. But it’s a sangiovese perfume you can recognize, a fennel-liquorice aroma noted in other parts of Chianti Classico. What separates this ’11 from the rest is that Cappella acidity that is second to none. It’s also chewy, then crunchy with just a side note of chocolate, something that clearly dissipates with time. The structure in 2011 is also remarkable, but singular and with such fine pearls and grains of acidity, leading to the conclusion this will be so long lived. Drink 2018-2034.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Cantico 2009, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $123.95, WineAlign)

Cantico is hard to define, laying decanted tracks somewhere between a poem and a song, as in the form created by Dante. This is 100 per cent merlot from the oldest vineyard planted between 1981-1985 and grafted on the old vermentino and chardonnay rootstock. Rich in pure fruit and exoticism, steeped, of black cherry, graphite and more cherries, vivid and wild. This is very grown-up, mature IGT but still that Cappella acidity keeps it round and alive. The intensity and wisdom in this merlot is of its own accord but if you want to make comparisons to the likes of Galatrona, Masseto or Ricasoli’s Casalferro, be my guest. You won’t have much to say after you’re done. There is some still nearly hidden, secondary activity here that hints to truffle, porcini and balsamic but these are mere aromatic accents in a centrifuge of veal demi-glacé that has been simmering for days. Remarkable merlot. Wait two more years. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Cantico 1998, IGT Toscana, Italy (Agent, $123.95, WineAlign)

“The canto is a principal form of division in a long poem,” and yet this 1998 has yet to sub-divide. The nearly 20 year-old Cantico is not as hard to figure as a precocious 2009 but a dante refrain is still the reference, at least with respect to nomenclature. The vines for Podere La Cappella’s 100 per cent merlot were but a mere but established 18-22 years old at the time and I truly believe the old vermentino and chardonnay rootstock had more effect on this particular wine. You can feel it in the Cappella acidity and this is what has kept it sailing along virtually unchanged and certainly unfazed. Few Toscana IGT tasted in 2017 could possibly show such youthful aromatics, barley perceivable yet replete with must be said are loyal and allegiant secondary mineral notes. Seek the mushroom and the truffle and they are not yet there. Wonder aloud that you feel a deep sense of the marl and you will still just be convincing yourself because you happen to know what lays under foot and under vine. The gioventù of the 1998 Canto is extraordinary and tells us so much about what to expect from not only 2009 but the Cantos to come. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017

Soulful family wines of territory from #poderelacappella @chianticlassico #sandonatoinpoggio #chianticlassico #querciolo #chianticlassicoriserva #corbezzolo #cantico #brunorossini #natas

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Fifty ways to Taste Ontario

The Ontario wine industry is the best kept secret in the world. That much I’ve said before and this. “Ontario winemakers have figured it out. The “world-class” comparative humanities of aging and longevity aside, the comprehensive and widespread phenomenon of excellence, regardless of vintage, is now an Ontario reality.”

Related – Where does the taste of Ontario go from here?

Though it’s not always obvious at what time of year the event will happen, the annual get to know Ontario wines gathering’s 2017 parlay affectionately known as Taste Ontario Toronto was held a week ago today, on Monday, March. 6, 2017 at the Royal Ontario Museum. The number of Ontario vintners who have participated in Taste Ontario over the past five years seems as random as it is consistent. We’ve seen as few as 30, as many as 55 and 42 participants in 2017. I’ve been tracking varietal representation and this year considered a cease and desist order for placing a trending finger on the pulse of any given grape.

Related – Why taste Ontario?

Chardonnay rules, plain and simple and call it risk aversion if you must but why should Ontario shy away from developing the coolest climate designation on the planet? Chardonnay works and if you’ve spent any quality immersion time in Chablis you’ll drop the fight and join the team. Gamay remains an important and viable alternative to big bad reds but please, enough with trying to dress this sheep in wolf’s clothing. Cabernet Franc is getting better all the time. With thanks to venn diagram circles drawn in and out of the Lincoln Lakeshore but also magically deep into the Prince Edward County limestone, the great Ontario hope is developing into what we thought it might be. Getable and structured red wine.

Related – Taste Ontario’s polarity of personality

I don’t always taste Ontario but when I do I like to do it with Mike Di Caro. Mike grounds me and tasting by his side helps to keep my pulse at a healthy, wine tasting athletic rate of 40 – 60 beats per minute. Mike knows Ontario wine and never gets too high or too low. Tasting with him as Michael to his Mike I get to hang out inside the kind of discourse that delves into the ground, the makers and the market. Mike knows.

Related – Top wines shine at Taste Ontario 2013

With so many other opportunities to taste Ontario wines throughout the year, last week’s staging afforded the chance to re-taste a great number. These new assessments are so important to understanding and gaining new perspective on not just how our wines age but also how they are affected by early reductive environment shock and their ability to change (for the better) after a mere six to 12 months in bottle. The first snapshots are not always the clearest. Taste Ontario also brings new wineries to the table. It’s now my job to pay them visits. Here are 50 ways to Taste Ontario.

Sparkling

Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Traditional Method Sparkling 2010, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (383315, $29.95, WineAlign)

Time makes a difference so here the extended lees age (six months further, to 60) takes Riddled to another level. Considering the cost and attention to time, in the broad realm of traditional method sparkling wine there are some that are given away. Riddled. A whole lot of biscuit warmth, sody saleratus, gingersnap, tart Ida Red apple, breadth and a smile-inducing creamy palate. There is more wisdom and calm from 2010 so do not come around demanding tension and over-exciteability. Think Grower’s Champagne with Ontario heart and soul, dedication and purpose. The extended arm of Madronich-Johnston love is here, this year. It won’t get much better than this. Great length. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted October 2016 and March 2017  @Winemakersboots  @UnfilteredEd  @brightlighter1  @wine_gems

The Grange Of Prince Edward Vineyards & Estate Winery Traditional Method Brut Rosé 2012, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

Caroline and Maggie Granger have reset the compass and brought to market this original sparkling wine with a whimsical outré bounce in its step. It was a fortifying and henna-russet collecting 40 months time spent on the lees that to me has magnified and clarified the varietal expression. This is so pinot noir it gazes at itself in a mirror and vaporizes a telluric perfume replete with strawberry, dried cherry, peach and almond. Estate fruit shed of such lithe and delicate, near zero dosage animation tempts fate, digs into danger and elicits a nervy period of risk-reward. Reflection time is now and the oxidative Grange Brut Rosé walks a fine volatile edge and succeeds. Few sparkling wines can go gossamer this way and survive but like the finest spun web by a leggy creature cunning and wise, strength comes out of the most delicate weave. Science can be pretty cool.  There were 150 cases made. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @grangewinery

Riesling

Château Des Charmes Riesling Old Vines, Estate Bottled 2014, Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (277228, $17.95, WineAlign)

The language in ’14 is cordial and effete, with ripe sweetness trumping the pulse of energy. The old vines deliver distinct impression, compression and phenolic bitterness. There is no mistaking this distinct wine and in the vintage its clarity is only eclipsed by its easy drinking compatibility. Enjoy early. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @MBosc

2027 Cellars Riesling Falls Vineyard 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $18.95, WineAlign)

Virtual winery producer Kevin Panagapka continues his obsession with single-vineyard wines with this riesling grown just above and south of the brow of the Niagara Escarpment. Clay loam till soils with silt and shale face south along the long, one km wide, hummocky ridge and as per the vintage, a bit of simplicity is narrowed from good biodiversity. It all works towards simple pleasure, with sun-warmed fruit; pears, apples and such. Falls Vineyard grants top notch acidity and a bit of lime bitters for what is always a solid Vinemount Ridge expression. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @2027cellars

Rosewood Origin Riesling Mima’s Block 2014, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $22.95, WineAlign)

Smells like Bench riesling spirit. The energy comes from the über vineyard’s way of emission, gasseous and vital, linear, introspective and direct. This may just be the most aridity and brine ever teased from a Mima’s riesling, acidity coveting sugar notwithstanding, startling from beginning to end, with spirited shots of lime. Underrated and honest, the consistency of this riesling is possessive of great triggers and so beautifully defines the mineral Bench. Early suffocations blow off with ease and in the denoument there are crunchy stones, forever and always something to like. Mima’s never really needed an abundance of sugar for balance and kudos to that. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @Rosewoodwine

Cave Spring Cellars Riesling CSV 2015, Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

In a word, balance. Well two, balance and brilliance. CSV in 2015 takes the reigns from itself and stands firm. The fruit is in charge, the mineral a support system unparalleled and the minor celebratory sweetness a mere afterthought when it comes to rounding out the complexity. CSV is pretty darn back in ancient dolomite time travel and escarpments high great in 2015, uplifting, serious but yet not so. The numbers trip the light fantastic, fooling like gold and bones dry are seemingly preserved in karst but impossibly not. The sensoria apprised reel from the finest acidity it can possibly carry in its veritable truth. Deep lemon intent and a new wax vernacular speak the clarity of a wine that listens to its own expert advice. Might as well have made itself. CSV 2015 is one of the finest rieslings ever made from Ontario grapes. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted March 2017  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh

Chardonnay

Redstone Vineyard Chardonnay 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

It would be hard not to make a most drinkable and full-fleshy chardonnay from the stellar vintage, especially with the omnipresent cool tempering from Beamsville bench fruit. Redstone does not disappoint though at first it may seem both reluctant and extremely taut. The flavours stretch out more than the aromatics which are flinty, woody and tart. They will relent and meld into the palate with some further bottle time. This is classic for the house braintrust and reminiscent of sketches drawn in some earlier vintages, like 2009. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2016 and March 2017  @RedstoneWines

Henry Of Pelham Family Estate Winery Chardonnay Estate 2015, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (268342, $19.95, WineAlign)

Perhaps by virtue of the language spoken by the 2015 vintage this chardonnay is hard to crack and touched with a minor, vitality-preserving note of reduction. It will yield to swirl and air, opening up many floral blossoms, notably apple and peach. Intensity is consistent for the Short Hills Blench vineyards stalwart, both for its locked in freshness and aromatic heavy breathing with thanks to dense clay soils and their “tossed up limestone.” Think cool-climate chardonnay with added layers of compression, fervent soil tang and as of yet unresolved (one-third) new French and North Ameriacn oak. Two to three years in process from two to three bottles per vine naturally translates and extrapolates to needing two or three more years in bottle to make it all come swimmingly integrated together. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February and March 2017  @HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros

Meldville Chardonnay First Edition 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $20.20, WineAlign)

Foremost a Derek Barnett perfume, rational from a generous barrel and irrational from the ripest fruit at a twain where each meet, both matter and neither dominate. Classic Barnett chardonnay viscosity, deep tang and the sweetest of dry extract. If this isn’t the most ambitious effort early in a re-invented career it would be hard to say what is but wisdom and experience count for more than a bottom dollar. Real length in real time will develop the vanilla, honey and liqueur well into this chardonnay’s tithe year. If singular isn’t the current descriptor now, it surely will be then. A new stylistic benchmark for Lincoln Lakeshore is born. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted March 2017  @meldvillewines

Fielding Estate Winery Chardonnay Estate 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (355842, $21.95, WineAlign)

The vintage offered up a whole set of challenges, especially for chardonnay on the Lincoln Lakeshore. Right off the aromatic bat I sense a little extra wood on the nose but low-yielding, ripe and healthy fruit can handle that sort of vintage-related truth. The coolness of a preceeding winter’s anti-glaze is contravened by the barrel up front and personal on the nose. The palate is all about cool-climate relegation, resignation and the overall picture is painted in balance; advance, recede, attack and retreat. Finishes with love interest, commercial appeal. Pretty complex chardonnay. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2016 and March 2017  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  @Heidi_Fielding

Bachelder Chardonnay Mineralité 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, $22.20, WineAlign)

Mineralité is clearly nose-marked and cleverly marketed to celebrate rocks and soil, not barrel. The fruit seems plucked straight from the apple tree, crisp, tart and crunchy. Everything about this exacting Thomas Bachelder chardonnay screams foil to most else, from his wide reaching chardonnay domain and from the rest of the province. Other mettalurgical label referenced chardonnays still reek of oak and are too shy to distance themselves from the heart of the rocky matter. Thomas is serious about the moniker and goes at it with great intent. The vintage nearly, fully completely complies. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON

Southbrook Vineyards Chardonnay Triomphe 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (172338, $22.95, WineAlign)

The fruit for Ann Sperling’s chardonnay Triomphe ’15 is sourced primarily from Saunders (Beamsville Bench) with auxiliary support out of Heather Laundry’s old vine Lincoln Lakeshore vineyard. There are older, non-clonal blocks with perhaps some Musqué mixed in so the aromatics fly, with no restraint applied by the wild ferment and (mostly 300L) neutral oak. This Triomphe is anything but reductive, a no stress chardonnay from such a far from sluggish, clean ferment. The simplicity and complicity explain how beauty is curated, from a vintage where reduction did not happen or beg to happen so why try to force it. The copacetic re-quiescence bears witness to classic Ann Sperling in such a vintage. Chardonnay of mellow smoulder, of old barrel spice and one to define a certain kind on a line of disparate and unique, cool climate, i4c selections. There are 800 cases made. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted January and March 2017  @SouthbrookWine  @AnnSperling  @PaulDeCampo  @thesirengroup

@wismervineyards royalty, Craig, Thomas @Bachelder_wines & @normhardie (and delegate Peter @BouchardFinlayson ) talking north and south #vinelandbench

2027 Cellars Chardonnay Wismer Vineyard Foxcroft Block 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (421362, $22.95, WineAlign)

The ability of Craig Wismer’s Foxcroft Block to gift fruit, regardless it seems of vintage, is one of Niagara’s great stories. Even more special is how it allows each producer to own it and create value from differentiation. Kevin Panagapka works a decidedly reductive room with bees-waxy fruit from 2014 and of a wood creativity that deals more in spice than anything else. I really think this takes more risk than other Foxcroft efforts and they are numerous. The reward here is in the pudding, literally, in proofed fruit set up for unbreakable structure. The Sonoma glade and fog rings true in Bench-driven chardonnay speak while wood only creates a leesy stir. A very good vintage, as good as the previous two I would say and creates even more buzz for what will come next. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted March 2017  @2027cellars

Creekside Estates Chardonnay Queenston Road Vineyard 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

If classic Queenston Road Vineyard might be explained in one drop, try using the Creekside ’14 to do so. Riper than most Niagara fruit and easy as Sunday morning barrel influence come together for everything to gain. Here the chardonnay equivalent of reading a good book falls into lunch, followed by a mid-afternoon slumber. Mild notes of caramel and sandlawood come through on the lightly buttered rye toast palate. The only thing missing is a good slice of bacon. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @CreeksideWine

Domaine Queylus Tradition Chardonnay 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent489591, $24.95, WineAlign)

The vintage brings an excess of riches and richesse to the Queylus chardonnay entry point, a place you would be wise to begin your foray into high-level, carefully crafted, cool-climate wine. This 2014 offers up its tour-guide expertise as a representational bridge into what Thomas Bachelder, Kelly Mason, the Queylus team and lake-proximate, lower Bench chardonnay is all about. The vintage takes an ambitious departure for the house and yet it carries enough (short history of) tradition in its DNA to resemble past issues of itself. Such a balanced wine for you here, of ripe and tart fruit, elasticity, stretch, rebound and finally, great length. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted January and March 2017  @QueylusVin  @Dandurandwines

13th Street Chardonnay Sandstone Vineyard Reserve 2013, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

No surprise the vintage is a major plus for the Sandstone and the natural funk it owns. And I mean owns. Only Sandstone has such geological drive, not unlike chardonnay from South Africa’s Hemel-En-Aarde Valley. In 2013 there is a sweetness to the fruit mixed with a misty humidity and finally that falling over backwards with feet stuck in the clay and the calcaire. Wildness from J. P. Colas here and with attentiveness to place and time. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted at #i4c16, July 2016  @13thStreetWines

Adamo Estate Chardonnay Oaked Willms Vineyard 2014, Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $31.00, WineAlign)

Adamo sources from the same vineyard that provides fruit for 13th Street’s Sandstone Reserve in the Four Mile Creek sub-appellation of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Planted in 1983, it is owned and farmed by Erv, Esther and Eric Willms. In its early stages the fruit acted and reacted as a lean, taut and tension fuelled chardonnay with party a sign of letting up. Eight months later the juicy flesh of orchard fruit pushes past the vintage’s grip and lets tis wine breath a sigh of relief. Chalk one up to yet another cool-climate, calcareous clay stuck moment in time. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, at #i4c16, July 2016 and Taste Ontario, March 2017  @AdamoEstateWine

Westcott Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay 2015, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $31.20, WineAlign)

I don’t mean to skip forward and get ahead of Westcott’s aromatic propriety but knowing how a winemaker likes to celebrate texture and flavour sends me direct to a sip. That first taste reveals the sumptuousness of 2015 Vinemount Ridge fruit, ripe, savoury and fleshy peach-organized. Accomplishment number one for Arthur Harder and crew. An aromatic retrospective notices tradition and cool-climate reserve, as the name would suggest and then a full-on conversion moving forward, back to the present and into the variegated luxe of flavour gifted to mouthfeel. I love how this wine lingers with an almost analgesic sensation on the gums and up the sides of the mouth. If at moments it may seem too warm or right of balancing centre it is only because it has the gumption to test and heighten the senses. If any Peninsula chardonnay were a drug that could lead to addiction, Westcott’s ’15 is the one. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted March 2017  @WestcottWines

Icellars Chardonnay 2014, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

The aromatic hard to get personality is intriguing, not because of absence but due to a gentle wisdom and beautiful demure lurking behind the veil. I get the extract and the mineral quality inherent but need more. The palate gives more and more, especially a calcareous sensation and the lean qualities throughout are neither deficient nor bothersome. This is ambitiously market-introduced chardonnay created without getting ahead of itself and though the best the fruit has to offer is not quite coaxed, nothing has been added to distract or suppress what orchard fruit is there. Great appreciation is afforded the winemaker for keeping it simple, unadulterated and real. Drink 2017-2010.  Tasted March 2017  @FoolAnd60Acres

Closson Chase South Clos Chardonnay 2014, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $39.95, WineAlign)

Sometimes time matters. A year later the South Clos in 2014 has separated itself as the true Closson star, away from the CCV in ways it did not do in 2013, or before. The range of motion, aromas and flavours are dramatic and in beautiful flux, beginning with top notch orchard and stone fruit. The southern hill’s intense stony quality infiltrates before this opens up to reveal flavours as broad as the varietal spectrum will alow. If fruit slightly dehydrated, leather chewy and mille-feuille layered with fine, limestone wire interlocking are something of great appeal then chew on this South Clos for the next seven years. The texture and the length are wholly encouraging of the exercise. The score must change and the window be expanded. Drink 2018-2025.  Last tasted March 2017  @ClossonChase

The 2014 CCV South Clos Chardonnay is imbued with less tension, more elegance and fully-aclimatized cool-climate bent. It’s a linear, calm and directed soul raised from Prince Edward County soil royalty. The vintage offers up low-crop, scrupulously cropped stable if unexceptional fruit. This from a portion of the vineyard with the ability to plateau what can otherwise get season’s growth-mired in the proverbial middle of the road. Though not so tart, nor tense neither, there is a sense of tannic zest. Cool and precise, this represents concrete work from incumbent winemaker Keith Tyers. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted February 2016

The man, the chardonnay @normhardie #princeedwardcounty ’14 #vqa #winecountryontario As sure as fire will burn There’s one thing you will learn Is things you have cherished Are things

Norman Hardie County Chardonnay Unfiltered 2014, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $45.20, WineAlign)

So much locked in tight obscures the coaxing of a distinct and clear impression of Norman Hardie’s ’14 County chardonnay so I search for a reference point. There is danger in drawing comparisons between two single-vineyards and even more so Niagara to Prince Edward County, but I have to go there. Norman Hardie’s 2014 Niagara chardonnay is the rich and reductive, bullet-proof one. His extreme, hard as nails ’14 PEC counterpart may be the most mineral-focused ever produced off of County soils. The ferment spent 10 months in barrel plus 10 more in stainless steel and never fully completed malolactic. Chablis never had it so good. I can’t ever before recall this flirtatious and furtive combination conjoined by preserved lemon and ginger but also the smell of the apple orchard grinding through metal gears in the cider press. The magnitude of this ’14 chardonnay is felt even before the flavours begin their reveal because the layers of texture and tang are nothing short of remarkable. Hardie has gone for structure broke from this vintage reeling with impression, soliciting oyster, lobster and grand gustatory associations. There is so much going on, eliciting a response that imagines a change in direction and at least an unconscious metaphrasing of terroir. With this formidable chardonnay the idea of better or worse for Niagara versus PEC is finally laid to rest. Vintage rules. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted March 2017  @normhardie

Southbrook Vineyards Chardonnay Poetica 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $49.95, WineAlign)

Always Ontario’s outlier, eccentric and non-conformist chardonnay and I say this with complimentary, best of intention flattery. The 2013 vintage is simply chivalrous to chardonnay and in Poetica’s corner, a perfect calm case of preux meets elegante. Here is a chardonnay of inherent oxidative wisdom, from cloud cover, cool, long breaths of Niagara air well into the elongated autumn and the address for what I refer to as “the age apparent one.” The iconoclast Poetica ideal conforms because it is matched with equal breadth by richness of fruit and confirms the way Ann Sperling makes her signature wine. Tasted blind my first guess would put this at five years old because of the exuding warmth so 2010 might just be the order. A 2012 Bench chardonnay might have also been the answer. But with Poetica the promise is like Meursault with uptown fruit, honey, vanilla, caramel, a Niagara vapour and ethanol. Such a telling display that only Poetica can play. Drink 2016-2024. Tasted October 2016, January and March 2017  @SouthbrookWine  @AnnSperling  @PaulDeCampo  @thesirengroup

CHABROL. That is all. #snacks @chabrolto

Other Whites and Blends

Malivoire Pinot Gris 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

With a string of no less than five well-executed and received pinot gris vintages tucked comfortably like brass in pocket, Malivoire’s pinot gris 2015 goes one step deeper. No pretender or pretension but yes with compression in ’15, noting melon and lime, white stone fruit, not dense but layered. More Alsace than before and poured blind would always and only be pinot gris. In the hands of Shiaz Mottiar the ’15 knows and says it. “Intention, I feel inventive. Gonna make you, make you, make you notice.” Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted January and March 2017  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar  @GroupeSoleilTO

Meldville Sauvignon Blanc First Edition 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $20.20, WineAlign)

Not so much an aromatic sucess for sauvignon blanc though some faux botrytis in the guise of white peach and even mango is nosed. It is the palate that defines Derek Barnett’s First Edition and offers up description. Quite creamy in texture, tangy again from mango and then sharp and linear with the type of acidity that folds over itself to increase the notion and the effect that leesy textures creates. This lingers on the palate like a tropical pastille and sapidity is very real. It’s classic antithetical Niagara Peninsula sauvignon blanc and could not be confused with Marlborough, Elgin, Sancerre or any other varietal play in the great diaspora. Derek Barnett takes less risk here (as compared to his chardonnay) but at the same time perpetuates the marked differences in expression of NP sauvignon blanc. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @meldvillewines

Nyarai Cellars Viognier 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $20.20, WineAlign)

Does not get much fresher in Viognier, anywhere. The tank has yet to leave the bottle which does not so much stand transfixed in shock as much as it buzzes like a fridge. Heady, radioactive, reductive and policed tight which I very much like. The expected flavours of peach and the pits are in while the texture thrushes inward and the linear, distillate character lashes out. Solid as a rock in a Niagara quarry. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted February 2016 and March 2017  @NyaraiCellars  @TerroirLover

The Grange Of Prince Edward Vineyards & Estate Winery Pinot Gris Select 2015, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

If you are going to go for something you may as well go all in. Maggie Granger tells me the ’15 pinot gris saw 36 hours of skin contact. My math tells me that’s a 240 per cent increase over 2013 and 2014. As I said, all in. Now we have something that raises the stakes and despite some energy flatlining the sweet extract quality has never been finer. The Grange’s ’15 and its oxidative meets lactic and red berry-currant leafy personality is remarkably pure, clean, saline and yes, unusual. Add it should be because halfway there is nowhere. This succeeds because it crosses an imaginary line and fear is ignored. I can really imagine sipping this with pork liver mousse or cured Ontario fish, like rainbow or salmon trout. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @grangewinery

The Good Earth Viognier 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Some of Ontario’s best viognier fruit comes from these picturesque vineyards, fruit that shines with tangy delight and also takes on the weight of compression from the great clay below. I do feel the 2013 vintage was better suited to both the varietal but also the way winemaker Ross Wise procured viognier in the purest form with glassy clarity. It will be most interesting to see what incumbent consulting winemaker Ilya Senchuk does with 2016 fruit going forward. Here, from what could only have been the lowest of low yields, this aromatic and treacly textured viognier is seamless and full of peach flavour. It lingers with its phenolic ripenss well into the next minute. Highly recommended especially for its lack of waxy or bitter edges. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @goodearthtweets  @goodearthNico

Stratus White 2013, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (660704, $38.20, WineAlign)

In 2013 viognier is back in the varietal mix, in reprise of its earlier role in support of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling. A different sort of vintage here for the White, seemingly led by a circular turning of chardonnay and viognier, like a cat chasing its tail. This really goes round and round with no obvious signs of where it will stop. Quite fleshy and lime juicy with stone fruit flavours in righteous abound. Really amalgamated and seamless even for itself. It is here that I think of it as The White. Niagara’s White. Lake Effect™. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted November 2016 and March 2017  @StratusWines

Gamay

Malivoire Gamay Small Lot 2015, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

A change of pace is noted for gamay in 2015 and perhaps it takes itself to a place beyond. Seriously dark fruit (with more tannin showing up after some time in bottle than might have originally thought possible) is noted from just a nose on Malivoire’s 2015. The pressed extraction may turn out to be a process leading to greatly improved structure. This is not the gamay rising from riding on the go-go train but one more akin to Cru doctrine and demagogy. Flavours of black cherry and tart citrus lead to plenty of leafy and earthy savour. Look out Juliénas, here comes Small Lot. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar  @GroupeSoleilTO

Tawse Winery Gamay Noir Unfiltered Redfoot Vineyard 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $28.95, WineAlign)

The fruit for this deeply coloured gamay is drawn from Tom Koscis’ vineyard, big batch fermented but with a minimalist sulphured approach. Gamay that went through full malolactic in barrel out of sheer necessity. Winemaker Paul Pender is a big fan of this great site, a place that gifts perfect colour and a soil’s funk that is spot on. This is gamay of a noticeable velvety texture. Something strikes as deja nosed and sure enough, this was Pearl Morissette’s fruit in 2013 and 2014. Wisely natural and so bright, gulpable, back up the truck gamay. So beautifully and perfectly dry and even a wee bite of tannin. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016 and March 2017  @Tawse_Winery  @DanielatTawse  @Paul_Pender

The Grange Of Prince Edward Vineyards & Estate Winery Gamay-Pinot Noir Select 2014, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

The ’14 is the first Grange gamay-pinot where the grapes were simultaneously picked and co-fermented. It’s a really ripe co-mingling and so much brighter than you’d think. “This is the vintage I was waiting for with this wine,” tells Maggie Granger. Clean, pure essence of raspberry dances on the nose and texture liquid chalky, lactic and taut. This wine also proves that this more than obvious bedfellow varietal combination makes more sense in the County than Bordeaux meetings of the kind. It remains to be seen if the Grange’s irreligious pagan pairing idea will catch on but if any vintage can spur the revolution, 2014 is the one. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @grangewinery

Pinot Noir

Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir 2014, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (1545, $20.20, WineAlign)

The Flat Rock has been a VINTAGES essential for several seasons and like any maturing pinot noir vineyard, four or five years are needed before quality is ensured. This wine has always provided quality but it is in 2014 where the stakes are raised. For the Twenty Mile Bench (and others Benches too) this vintage provides sweet extract, steadfast fruit, polished tannins and exceptional structure. Jay Jonhston did not mess with the cards, blended with acumen and has subsequently ran the table for his basic, normale, bring it to the (relative) masses pinot noir. It’s all you need to understand Flat Rock, The Twenty Mile Bench and the Niagara Peninsula. It’s essential. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted October 2016 and March 2017  @Winemakersboots  @UnfilteredEd  @brightlighter1  @wine_gems

Bachelder Pinot Noir Parfum 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Agent, $22.20, WineAlign)

Parfum doles out the Bachelder perfume with great Beaune intent and whole bunch hints from this most celebrated 2014 Niagara pinot noir vintage. With potpourri so bright and wildly tonal there needs to be some firmness for balance and this is present with tonic injection and finishing grip. The overall impression is a broad brushstoke and wells with its tea-seeping pot of mild but effective tannin. With thanks to “de-classified” Lowrey and Wismer-Parke vineyard fruit an ideal launching point progresses for the Bachelder way and encourages Le Parfum to set the stage for further investigative play. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON

Malivoire Rosé Moira 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Hard to believe what I see, a hue not blush nor pink, but gris. That “if my eyes don’t deceive me there’s something going wrong around here.” Forget about Provençe, don’t think too hard about Vin Gris but concentrate only on what Shiraz Mottiar has acceded with Rosé for Moira in ’16. Light and lithe do not begin to explain the rub. Rocks and stones are what come through the good earth on the nose. Is this the blush equivalent of mineralité, away from chardonnay and into pinot noir? “Is she really going out with him?” But the pinot noir component is almost non-existent so what is the phenolic advantage here? Has this gone too far or not far enough? Don’t mistake the things I say. This is delicious, understated and fully underestimated Rosé. It will have great appeal to a specific cognoscenti population and who could not think to drink it any day of the week? Commercially considered however, it may not speak a universal language. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar  @GroupeSoleilTO

The Good Earth Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Moving away from the Lincoln Lakeshore and up on to the ledges of the Niagara Escarpment we find pinot noir taking on a decidly firm and stony aromatic profile. Fruit in 2015 is graced with phenolic ripeness though certainly submissive to the elevated mineral tones. The strawberry-cranberry spectrum is acquiesced and the winemaking has rendered this clean as a pinot noir popsicle whistle. Great simplicity and consumer complicity is gained. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @goodearthtweets  @goodearthNico

You’re gonna want to make room for a whole cluster of these @SouthbrookWine #pinotnoir #triomphe #annsperling #laundryvineyard #organic #niagarapeninsula #vqa #beamsvillebench

Southbrook Vineyards Pinot Noir Triomphe 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

Ann Sperling’s inaugural pinot noir for Southbrook makes swift, acumen accomplished first time work with Heather Laundry’s vineyard fruit. While her peers of the current generation begin to play and progressively experiment, Sperling helps to usher in the whole cluster brigade with her own 40 per cent packed, tiny berry ferment. This sterling effort takes Lincoln Lakeshore pinot noir to another dimension and Ann is confident the 115 clone is so perfectly suited to the ideal. This whole cluster thing with pinot expresses the floral lift and in turn a gift into elegance and purity. Ripeness and richness take turns without drifting into black cherry darkness. There is some chalky, earthy reduction that needs to mellow and it’s still a bit gritty, palpable of textural and even a bit mean. It won’t take long for this just recently released Triomphe to pirouette, assimilate and dutifully represent an unmitigated success for Sperling, in this her 11th vintage at Southbrook. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted January and March 2017  @SouthbrookWine  @AnnSperling  @PaulDeCampo  @thesirengroup

2027 Cellars Pinot Noir Queenston Road Vineyard 2013, St. David’s Bench, Ontario (421370, $35.00, WineAlign)

Bright, high-toned Pinot Noir with rambling warm, St. David’s Bench red fruit aromas, out of the raspberry patch (thorns and thistles in) and off of the ripening pomegranate tree. Some rusticity and quarried character refracts within a mild tannic frame. Very floral and high on acidity. Blissfully and blessedly not over pressed and in fact rather well made. Yet another success employed by winemaker Kevin Panagapka with stylistic firm talon grip from out of the Queenston Road Vineyard. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted February 2016 and March 2017  @2027cellars

Bachelder Pinot Noir Wismer Parke Vineyard 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Agent, $39.95, WineAlign)

Thomas Bachelder has never had a problem with timing. His first pinot noir from the specific Wismer Parke Vineyard (labeled as such) comes from a veritable cracking jackpot of a great varietal vintage. If you need some geographical placement here, The Parke is contiguous to the Foxcroft and Wingfield sections of Wismer in the eight farm-strong holdings on and around the Twenty Mile Bench. It is here that Bachelder concentrates the microscope on a sectional-cordoned off Wismer micro-terroir and its precision-apportioned mineralogy mined for sidetracked and step out of the box focus. What The Parke delivers in 2014 is a sweeter extract than Wismer proper and one that is stationary, static and accessible. The overall grasp is a mouthful easy on the spice or rather subtle in attack after it has climbed in and out of its barrels. Most polls would place Lowrey at the pinnacle of Ontario’s pinot noir vineyards but Thomas Bachelder’s 2014 work with Wismer Parke establishes a new player on the shortlist. This is an exciting entry point and the future will be bright. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted October 2016 and March 2017  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON

Icellars Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

The pinot noir condition is really challenged with Icellars ’15, a wine that acts as ambitious as its sister chardonnay but the results filtered through just the opposite. The aromas are dusty, rusty, coppery and full of dried fruit, but also weathered leather and savour. The palate goes deep south, humid and balmy with red citrus, plenty of tonic and a finish left by bitter citrus pith. Incredibly firm and old-world schooled, way back to Burgundy from another era. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @FoolAnd60Acres

Norman Hardie Winery & Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (208702, $45.20, WineAlign)

Great purity of Twenty Mile Bench fruit lightens the load, re-focuses, revives, prolongs and re-lives the magic. Sweet, salty and bitter combinative phenols in cohorts distinguish the layering effect of a Norm Hardie pinot noir, no matter the source but here distinct as the s-shaped micro-cilmate curves of 20 Mile blocks. Quite the cake creamy texture and silky mouthfeel for a Hardie pinot noir would indicate that alcohol has crept above the norm but the magic is never abandoned and always prolonged. Heat and alcohol “never there. You’re never there. You’re never ever ever ever there.” Under 12 per cent, every time. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017   @normhardie

Cabernet and Red Blends

Redstone Cabernet 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (415885, $19.95, WineAlign)

A cabernet blend more franc than sauvignon because of the savour and the plugged in currant fruit. Though the aromatic tones are elevated and venturing into menthol territory, the structure provided by palate and finish ground this two cab blend into solid clay. Will drink well for up to five BBQ seasons. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016 and March 2017  @RedstoneWines

The Good Earth Cabernet Franc 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $21.95, WineAlign)

Just as cabernet franc is inherently wont to be this Good Earth celebrates a grape’s verdant habitual greenness of warming spring and fresh vegetal in waves that bring more advantage than not. Nicely tart and expressive of varietal ways, this is neither overly ambitious nor does it use wood to excessive advantage. With understated the great operative we are faces with cabernet franc allowed to go about its business, for under appreciated grace and the sort of electric and elastic length that goes on for days. Some will say too much of a good thing but if you know cabernet franc, it’s just right. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @goodearthtweets  @goodearthNico

Can I be #cabernetfranc for a minute? @meldvillewines @grangewinery

The Grange Of Prince Edward Vineyards & Estate Winery Cabernet Franc 2013 Select, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

An extra year has paid great compliment to Caroline Granger’s ’13 cabernet franc, a wine of deeply aromatic and summer savoury dark fruit. Comparisons politically correct or not, this kind of County cabernet franc is so much more closely connected to Chinon than most from Niagara and it really combines cool-climate with limestone geology. What wood there was has melted and blended in with copacetic liquid chalky ooze, leaving this in a pure and pleasurable state of cabernet franc grace. A near perfect place. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @grangewinery

Henry Of Pelham Family Estate Winery Cabernet/Merlot Estate 2012, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (395855, $24.95, WineAlign)

Exceeds elegant expectations with poise and presence, a Bordeaux blend so refined it pleases. Effectively restrained and remedies with tonic. Circulating acidity ranges while chocolate whips, but wholly within reason. Spice accents assist in the celebration (why not?) to effectuate this red’s firm grip and grasp of Claret reality. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted blind at WWAC15, August 2015, January and March 2017  @HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros

Fielding Estate Winery Cabernet Syrah 2014, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (258657, $25.15, WineAlign)

The rare and elusive Ontario cabernet-syrah returns with Fielding’s 2014, from mostly Lowrey Vineyard fruit set in 20-25 per cent new barrel for 16 months. Neither a 2009 or a 2013 was produced because “it’s a priority, not an afterthought,” insists winemaker Richie Roberts. The ’14 is a (50 per cent) cabernet sauvignon, (30) syrah and (20) cabernet franc compendium, treated like a top tier Bordeaux-esque blend with a French-Niagara twist. This is sultry-smoky, curative and red fruit, earthy-dried salumi-salmagundi, holy gastronomy in a glass blend. The Fielding-Roberts wisdom and acumen are all over in a wine that will prepare you for every eventuality. Would undoubtedly pair famously with the rare and elusive king of game birds, le bécasse, with bacon and fleur de sel. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted January and March 2017  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine  @Heidi_Fielding

Norman Hardie County Cabernet Franc 2015, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

Only 100 cases were made of Hardie’s 2015 County cabernet franc with thanks to a late spring frost. The impossible one is a destemmed, small basket press wonder that spent 11 months (one more than usual) in 30 per cent new (plus 70 neutral) 228L French barrels. The tartful dodger is slick, smart and spirited. Impossible because of its wood-smothered and smouldered upbringing and how it stays so lean, clean, stealth and low in alcohol. Some things are best left unexplained. Just take in the raspberry, cranberry and cool limestone, followed by the star anise and cassia red braised pork belly imagined, even if that’s just what dish would be so right alongside. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted March 2017   @normhardie

Meldville Cabernet Franc 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Winery, $27.00, WineAlign)

A beautifully sweet, savoury aromatic cabernet franc of verdant bright tones and such commissioned, defined red fruit. Character is at the forefront, both for attitude and complexity, gently pressed and in varietal synch. This is precisely why Lincoln Lakeshore is the right place to be with the cabernet franc you love. This has great tension without being too firm, gritty or tannic. Though this celebrates the bright and the fruity it is not without enough structure to carry it forward five plus years. Pyrazine or green notes are curiously absent and there nothing suffers as a result of their omission. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2017  @meldvillewines

Southbrook Vineyards Cabernet Franc Small Lot “101” 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

Gone is the Whimsy! idiom and preserved is the varietal freshman year class denotation. The “101” actually refers to the vineyard, a block in purport of aromatic restraint in a confident Cabernet Franc with more richness and tannin, not to mention raging acidity and acceptable volatility. There is lightness and brightness within the rigid tannic frame. The “101” vineyard shines while it broods. Dichotomous Cabernet Franc with an as yet undecided future. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted at Gold Medal Plates, November 2016, February and March 2017  @SouthbrookWine  @AnnSperling  @PaulDeCampo  @thesirengroup

Icellars Arinna 2014, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $39.00, WineAlign)

Without knowing much about the blend, the nose tells me cabernet sauvignon leads the way. Merlot and cabernet franc trail behind the tart, purple citrus and tobacco-verdant personality. The accumulation is quite chalky, wood-inflected and with the middle palate transparency this emits as another example of a big effort (like the pinot noir) with a shortfall because it gets ahead of itself. Would likely better be served with less pressing, structural dreaming and more easy going impression. I suppose the style has to justify the price but for value and enjoyment a prudent decision would choose instead to follow the lead set out with the estate’s chardonnay. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @FoolAnd60Acres

Creekside Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Queenston Road Vineyard 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $39.95, WineAlign)

The time in bottle has eased up the tannic throttle, leaving Creekside’s ’12 in a pleasurable if not quite fuly accessible state. The great fruit vintage was deftly pressed, that much is clear, because as the wood subsides it is not astringncy and bitters sliding into its place. Cassis, cassia and black cherry are the aromas of ilk, in delivery at this time and followed up with cabernet sauvignon silk. This is rightfully and righteously chewy cabernet sauvignon and without a doubt just about as good as it gets for Ontario. Though the limbo bar starts low, Rob Power’s 2012 climbs under with great agility and raises the stakes for everyone else. Still, I’d hedge bets and wait two more years for further integration and a little bit of truffling to begin. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted March 2017  @CreeksideWine

Icellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $50.00, WineAlign)

Good quality fruit and equanimity from generous barrels define this ambitious effort. There is this underlying green streak that can’t be missed nor denied though it’s neither unexpected nor unusual. The texture runs quite complex, chewy and at times even crunchy, with enough structure to work towards a promising future. Wood and stemmy savour are certainly part of the mix but with time should integrate without much trouble. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted March 2017  @FoolAnd60Acres

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Mannella from heaven

la-mannella-riserva-2010

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010

Having just recently (two weeks ago) participated in Benveunto Brunello 2017 held at the Chiostro del Museo di Montalcino from the 17th to the 20th of February, I’m feeling the sangiovese groove, in multiple clones and tones. Less than a week after my return to Canada one of the prodigal sons of Montalcino arrived in Toronto for a presentation of his wines with local omnipresent agent/négoce Nicholas Pearce. Jonathan MacCalder hosted the get together at the cozy Yorkville haunt he calls work, affectionately known as Kasa Moto.

tommaso-crtonesi-holds-brunello-court-at-kasa-moto

Tommaso Crtonesi holds Brunello court at Kasa Moto

A team of over-achieving and wild bunch sommeliers gave up the better part of a morning and early afternoon to talk sangiovese, Rosso di Toscana and the Rosso-Brunello idiom with the precocious and serenely wise Tommaso, a winemaker from Montalcino with an old soul, uncanny slash conscious ability and powers of concentration to bely his youth. With Nicholas Pearce, Michelle Ratzlaff, Krystina Roman, Christopher Sealy, Ian Thresher, Madeleine Hayles, Courtney Stebbings, Lauren Hall and the aforementioned Lenny Bruce of wine, we delved deep into the heart of the Montalcino matter. Sometime soon I will publish 100-plus tasting notes from the Benvenuto tasting but for now it’s all Mannella from heaven.

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The future of Montalcino is in good hands @LaMannella #cortonesi @nicholaspearce_ #tommasocortonesi #ilpoggiarelli #sangiovese #brunellodimontalcino

Cortonesi La Mannella Lèonus Igt Toscana Rosso 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

Lèonus is sangiovese of natural and effortless appeal. With pocketed thoughts of Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino in mind you can extrapolate with elastic, proverbial stretch and easily wind up here. It’s simple really, straightforward and noted as a gulpable mouthful of rocks tumbling in wet concrete. The great round acidity equalizer acts for mostly northern Montalcino fruit plus 20 percent from the south. Tommaso Cortonesi comes at it with a threefold selection; at harvest, in fermentation and from élevage. It’s entry level so just drink it. The fruit is darker and deprived of firm astringency, spent four months in 3000L Slavonian oak and three months in bottle. For every day, especially with antipasti. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

The advance is a young winemaker’s approach, using fruit from the youngest vines but from the same vineyards used for Brunello production. Clonal selection permits early success from the fourth to fifth leaf for precocious wines off vines so young. Others may use vineyards dedicated to Rosso, so farmed with ulterior motive and expectation, neither better nor worse, but different. The old way was simply a matter in selection of grapes, something young winemakers are abandoning for now one or the other ways of making Rosso. Tommaso Cortonesi’s is luminous and bright within a frame of ascension in reference to the darker cherry sangiovese point spectrum, with three levels of variegated hue and aromatic profile. Char, fennel and fruit. Great structure, agreeable and yes, drinkable now Rosso. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.95, WineAlign)

La Mannella, meaning the manna from heaven is a five hectare, five block vineyard in surround of the winery at the centre of the Cortonesi universe. A vineyard that is used exclusively for the production of the estate’s Rosso and La Mannella Brunelli. La Mannella (as opposed to I Poggiarelli) is a single block Brunello but not a “single-vineyard,” planted in 1985 and 1998 in a relative Montalcino colder northern clime. This emits and represents the epitome for floral sangiovese, a bouquet that speaks to violets and elegant, light purple fruit. The penetrability and explicability of purlieu is an act of focus and the cynosure of assessment. Brunello should be exacting, something you get and it must define itself in clear sangiovese-speak. Large slavonian oak for 36 months maintains and celebrates the perfume. The wood shows up late, in white peppery spice and that just have to lay on your tongue and swallow with sublime delight, liquid chalky finish. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

This is Cortonesi’s single-vineyard sangiovese from the warmer, southern part of Montalcino at 420m of elevation. Expectation allows for deeper, and darker yet the display comes without the La Mannella block crimson and cimmerian variegation, perhaps instead more like the single-brushstroke, dark side of dusk angle created by a fuzzy, warm blend of fiery colours. More Galestro soil influence here as opposed to clay at La Mannella and two years in part new French tonneaux followed by stainless steel vats. A deferential élevage to the one exercised with La Mannella and one to encourage depth and structure without too much power. Classic, modern, elegant and an apple to La Mannella’s orange. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

Looking rearward into the recent past what comes into near focus is the combination of liqueur and firmness, a handful for sure and yet it seems that time (even just an extra year or two in bottle) brings out that specific Cortonesi perfume. The tang and richness of concentrated acidity really elevates at this stage so that tannin begin its resultion so young and impressively so. This is not the big, bad Brunello but the one to make enjoyment haste. The length is exceptional with pretty tonic and bitter moments that pop in and out. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2008, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

If the argument was ever made to sway in the “yes it was and is” direction, this Cortonesi example from the exceptional vintage leads the parade with aromatics that go exotic and then return domestic. A spirit of the east, of bougainvillea and hibiscus plus a Montalcino gustatory aromatic spice. Then that return to fennel, a walk through flora Montalcino brush and sweet French tonneau spice. The liquorice is one bred out of aromatic acidity, like a fine chalky dusting of red crimson and ochre to purple powder on a plate next to a perfect charred slice of beef. Elegant sangiovese cuisine in a glass, deconstructed and all obvious in their parts but when you taste you pause and it all comes together. The flavours mingle and weave, of cherries and fruit leather, more mellowed spice, still lingering fresh, persistent and remarkably bright. Southern vineyard be damned, this is a cool, elegant and lithe drop. Harkens back to a mind’s eye and nose in memory of Brunello 1998, maybe a bit of 1999, but more like 1998. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $202.95, WineAlign)

There are few Brunello vintages afforded more attention in the last 10-plus, certainly ’04 and ’06, increasingly better even from ’08 and looking forward towards what greatness will come in 2015. Yes but not solely magnified through the lens of patience and bottle time, from 2010 La Mannella has coupled upon and layered over itself like compressed fruit and puff pastry. Though it begs for drink now attention, another seven years will be needed before it can safely be labeled as uncoiled and to reveal all that is wrapped so tight. Rich is not the operative but unmistakeable as Cortonesi it is; that natural clay soil funk of resolution and fully hydrated chalk. This is to sangiovese as Les Preuses Grand Cru Chablis or Rangen Grand Cru Alsace are to Riesling. It carries in its pocket the absolute meaning and genetic responsibility of where it comes from, with a curative and restorative ability to get you lost. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Massimago in astral Valpolicella light

camilla-rossi-chauvenet

Camilla Rossi Chauvenet

I have been thinking quite a bit lately about certain producers I have met through the course of my recent travels. Every wine region has its stars and while it’s quite rare to have a bad visit or negative experience, some visits simply turn on the lights.  Sometimes there comes along a winemaker and a place with a special kind of light. Last September I found such an experience on a windswept limestone ridge in Valpolicella. Massimago.

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Windswept white limestone vineyard at Massimago

Words of advice. “Lasciate la vostre ansia e le scarpe al cancello.” Massimago is the dream of Camilla Rossi Chauvenet, in Mezzane di Sotto found in Valpolicella’s Mezzane Valley. “A little heaven in the north part of Italy.” Massimago, from the Latin “Maximum Agium,” the maximum benefit. Camilla considers Mezzane as the most secret and wild of Valpolicella and her family’s land has belonged to the Cracco Family (on the maternal side) since 1883. In 2003 she began to transform the company into its modern-day renaissance.

Now (and I believe since 2014, officially) organic though that has always been the philosophy, the new generation believes in the Eminem credo, one shot equals one opportunity. Young guardian and creator of Massimago Camilla Rossi Chauvenet’s  roots are never forgotten, emotion and creativity define identity and complexity will lead to longevity. On her website Camilla writes, “Massimago and I are tightly holding our hands, step by step, sooner or later we shall arrive, but please do not hurry us, time in nature is slow and unstoppable.” Truth.

Lasciate la vostre ansia e le scarpe al cancello

There are 28 hectares of vineyards, olive trees and woods. The soils are a nominative palette of limestone, marl and clay. Traditional varieties (corvina, corvine and rondinella) cultivated in Pergola are transformed into wines assembled from only estate grapes. A wine relais experience on site confirms Massimago as a Veronese wine experience hotel. As noted in Italian above there is but one rule. “Leave your anxiety and your shoes at the gate.”

On that September day I paid a visit and sat down to taste seven Massimago wines with John Szabo M.S., Joshua Corea, Annette Bruley, Jules Garton, José Luis Fernández, Lauren Hall and Nick Chajoglou. I could hardly contain my enthusiasm and these wines changed everything I thought I knew about Valpolicella. Così grande, così perfetto. I saw the light.

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Magò Brut Rosé

Massimago Spumante Brut Rosé Millésime Magò 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Magò is Camilla Rossi Chauvenet’s Charmat Method, 100 per cent corvina blush sparkler and another Massimago wine born of dreams and initiative. We climb to the top of the exposed white limestone ridge to sample this unmitigated refreshing fizz, light, aromatic and ethereal. To say it does wonders for grape, method and place would be the correct way to explain the situation. Magò sees 10 hours of maceration and eight months of lees aging. Though intentionally sweet (10.4 g/L RS) it is expertly balanced by acidity and even more so by exceptionally dry, limestone-conditioned extract. This is the key and the kicker, that and elevation, on a windswept, exposed geological place of wonder. The setting and presentation notwithstanding this is an impressive effort from the simplest of technologies at the hands of the soft-spoken and the kind. So yes, do enjoy this with “an elegant dress, the magic of waiting and the taste of freedom.” Or whatever romantic notion you prefer to call your own. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Massimago Valpolicella 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Few reference points can prepare you for Massimago’s style of Valpolicella so simply use this as the ingress. Plucked from vines in the Mezzane Valley in the east part of Verona province, rising from the village of Vago towards Mezzane di Sotto. Camilla Rossi Chauvenet’s precocious blend is the crisp, crunchy, pure as driven white limestone portal into the soils laid out in amphitheatre vineyard grid. Camilla uses only stainless steel tanks here to accentuate a basal clarity brush stroke on her Valpolicella canvas. This from a selection of the grapes that will not enter the Amarone process, the second and third pass harvested bunches. Cherry and silty saline mingle at the interces of limestone. How can you miss the white stone in the naked Valpolicella? You can’t. It’s without make-up, transparent, naked to the world. The wine speaks a natural vernacular and the land is spoken for. If villages-level Bourgogne were made like this all would be well in the world. Lithe, delicate and perfumed. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2017

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Godello can hardly contain his enthusiasm for Camilla’s Valpolicella

Massimago Valpolicella Superiore Profasio 2012, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $54.95, WineAlign)

Profasio establishes new territory for Valpolicella Superiore from Mezzane Valley fruit in a wine over dinner “that lets you talk.” A careful and specific selection of Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella (65/30/5) is subjected to “un leggero appassimento,” or a “slight withering” from one month of drying and the rest kept thankfully and respectfully fresh. The child is raised in stainless steel for five months plus one year in 2nd and 3rd passage barrels. This is Valpolicella meant to partner up with dinner for two, replete with secret recipes and crossing glances. “We feel the appassimento method is about levels of aromatics,” tells Camilla Rossi Chauvenet. In such a contrary to Superiore belief we find freshness and anti-jam the goal and as a result, the wine is allowed to tell a story. A script written cursively, crisp and pure, crunchy like the normale with an addendum of aromatic profiling; cherry, leather and red citrus. Profasio is a wine of good temper and vision (and could mean profezia, or prophecy, or perhaps a surname in reference to Dante and the Veronese ebraico’s Almanacco Perpetuo), a Valpolicella into a second level of contemplation, but not too much. The wine causes no worries, no anxiety and shoes are left at the bottom of the mountain. Profasio with its hint of dried momentum is a wine of communication and a new way of communicating. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Camilla Rossi-Chauvenet talks Ripasso

Camilla Rossi-Chauvenet talks Ripasso

Massimago Valpolicella Ripasso Marchesi Mariabella 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $40.95, WineAlign)

Yet another new launching point, this time for the much maligned Ripasso category, acquiesced through the fresh urgency of the whimsical Marchesi MariaBella. The fruit is borne of a a much earlier ripening vineyard outside of Massimago, perched only at an insignificant 100m on Argileux soil. This a Ripasso I will wager large you have never tasted before. La Bella Poesia, “is different because its literary destiny has followed a strange path.” To say that a feminine disposition, temperament and engagement fills not just the aromatics but also the texture would be a Valpolicella understatent of this early century. There is virtually no dried fruit on the nose; there is more tension than the two classic Valpolicellas which is both counter-intuitive to terroir and to methodology. Ripasso needs to carry both weight and tension. It needs to have some elegance. It requires acidity and freshness. This walks that very line and it will age gracefully and with beauty. Incidentally to answer the query of whimsy each character on the label represents the democracy of the proletariat. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2016

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This is Camilla and Matteo. They will change everything you thought you knew about #valpolicella

Massimago Amarone Della Valpolicella Conte Gastone 2011, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $77.95, WineAlign)

If at first the Conte Gastone Amarone seems to be the freshest Amarone ever tasted it will in fact creep up and get upside so don’t be fooled. It is in fact a brooding, sulking, contemplative mess of intense fruit. The assessment is magnified when compared to a barrel sample of 2015 tasted minutes before. With no disrespect to carefully raised and quite specific red fruit the 2011 Amarone punch drunk (16.5 per cent alcohol) love can’t help but overwhelm as is its want and ilk. Here the Massimago conditioning of (65/30/5) corvina, corvinone and rondinella is treated with 100 days of appassimento, 30 months in large botti and smaller French barriques and then 12 further months in bottle. Camilla’s suggestion would be to enjoy her Amarone “brainstorming with friends, feasting on dreams and quiet omnipotence.” While hers is indeed more cerebral and contemplative inducing than most, 2011 is just a beginning and fashioned as a means preparing Valpolicella towards an end that will begin with that fresh maker of a ’15. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2016

"I gotta have some of your attention, give it to me." @massimago #special #brassinpocket

“I gotta have some of your attention, give it to me.” @massimago #special #brassinpocket

Massimago Amarone Della Valpolicella 2011, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $109.95, WineAlign)

The packed and punchy Massimago labeled simply Amarone is the stronger one and with deferential ability manages to bring the Conte Gastone into bright, fresh, highlighted, beautiful infrared light. Not that the fruit is any less presumptuous or magnificent but considered side by side here it is really just acidity and tannin that drives the intense machine. The suggestions of “brainstorming, feasting and omnipotence” are more than apropos for a wine of preponderance, indulgence and power. The young wine is rigid and so full of fruit, an impossible combination in Amarone and like the Gastone is just a precurser to what will be coming in Camilla Rossi-Chauvenet’s dreamy Valpolicella future. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted September 2016

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Sneak label preview of Camilla’s @massimago pét-nat sparkling. Così grande, così perfetto

Massimago Zurlie, IGT Verona, Italy (Agent, $21.95, WineAlign)

Zurlie is Massimago’s newest product, a 100 per cent confondere corvina made in the sur lie Vino Rifermentato In Bottiglia style. The fruit is 100 per cent 2015 and until now, no one in Valpolicella has tried to make sparkling wine in this confounding style. Passes through secondary fermentation with sugar added into the bottle and then a seal under crown cap. Extreme acidity abounds because it’s accomplished sur lie, a wine to clean your mouth at the end of a wine tasting. Delicately raises a perfume almost after the fact from an easy drinking picnic wine stolen straight from the fridge. So much fun and just extreme freshness, in a way cider does but also cannot do. This speaks at the highest level of simple brillance. A four year dream in the making. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

when-you-visit-massimago-%22lasciate-la-vostre-ansia-e-le-scarpe-al-cancello%22-c_valpolicella-organic-camilla

When you visit @massimago “lasciate la vostre ansia e le scarpe al cancello” @C_Valpolicella #organic #camilla

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Seven climats in 54 Chablis Grand Cru

kimmeridgian

Le kimmeridgien en fossiles d’Exogyra virgula

Related – Chablis Premier Cru by Cru

I have spent the better part of these past eight months tasting, assessing, contemplating, excogitating, dreaming about and purchasing Chablis. I may have once believed that the rooted obsession incited by my visit to the kimmeridgian zone last July would cease and desist by the time the clock struck 2017. I was dead wrong. If ever there was a Chablis lifer transformed, you are looking at him.

Related – Chablis from Dauvissat to Vocoret

chablis-grand-cru

Related – Chablis got soil

Chablis Grand Cru can be found in the commune of Chablis on the right bank of the Serein River and the appellation comprises seven climats; Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur, and Vaudésir. “The terroirs, formed in the Upper Jurassic era, 150 million years ago, are composed of limestone and marl with Exogyra virgula, tiny oyster fossils. Chablis Grand Cru is one of the rare French AOC wines to make reference to its geology, notably the Kimmeridgean age.”

Related – Looking for Chablis in Ontario?

chablis-grand-cru-2

Related – Raveneau’s Grand Cru Blanchot 2009

If at first you have not written enough about a particular subject, keep on writing. My first grand assessment took my olfactory and gustatory senses, emotions and tangent extrapolating explorations into 76 examples of Chablis and Petit Chablis. I followed that exercise with 92 reviews to cover all the Premier Cru tasted in Chablis and Auxerre back in July of 2016 and also those I have assessed in the months since. Finally I have come to the Grand Cru, a group of top echelon Chablis that caused more personal reflection and inner exorcism than I’d like to admit. The count is 54 wines reviewed. At last, again and again I must pay retrospective and forward thanks to @purechablis  @vinsdechablis  @BourgogneWines and @vinsdebourgogne.

Related – Paradox in Chablis

au-fil

Au fil du Zinc Chablis, thon, concombre, crème d’anchois

Related – A Canadian in Chablis

Valmur

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The south-facing, Right Bank Grand Cru “Valley of Ripeness” parcel known as Valmur is from “val” which refers to “valley” and the French “mur,” which means “ripe.” Valmur and its great, late afternoon sun ensures phenolic ripeness unlike anywhere else, to accentuate the richness and the éclat. Yes there is this strong personality and guarantee of Grand Cru acidity but the creamy richesse is unparalleled for Chablis. Piuze recognizes both the place and the vintage and just lets this Valmur run free. What else should it be? Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Before launching into the Valmur 2012 first an exhortatory preface, or at least a contextual, cautionary tale from Patrick Piuze. “It will look a bit older, on the nose, because we tasted so many 2015s.” True, we have just sailed through 18 (plus one 2014) so this Valmur does seem “dressed-up” and boozy with alcohol but it’s OK because the acidity is divine. Evolution has done some rendering and I get the feeling Patrick was picking later then than he is now. The liqueur leads a remarkable cocktail of pure Valmur geology distilled, subservience to ends, almost now, but now quite. If this Piuze Valmur is a Chablis meme to an aramaic Belshazzar’s feast, the Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin is clearly understood writing on the wall. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

collet-grand-cru

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Valmur under the spell and with classic Collet acumen is a tale of two parts told with seamless transitions. Two to three year-old Allier “Moyenne chauffe” barrels hold the central Grand Cru hill’s proud climat fruit for 12 months followed by five extra fortifying and corralling months. The Valmur clocks in at a minor but important and impressing half per cent extra of alcohol and you can nose the slow-release, micro-oxygenated wood. In part two there is this rich and expansive vacuum with definite taxing spice and of course that Collet-specific lemon acidity. The back end is dripping with citrus, taking the reins and leaving the wood behind. In another year or two the transition will complete for perfect symmetry. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

The Valmur is a négoce Grand Cru from Sébastien Dampt, so very rich with razor-thin mineral pastry, fruit and cream layered upon that mineral many times over. It is raised in some wood and some inox, resulting in a tiered tart wrought with some weight. This is really like sucking on a mouthful of rocks, at first, all saline and tangy. Then the custard and the (on the edge of) brûléed orchard fruit creams in. The tension hangs in that caramelized balance in a Grand Cru set from a very clean and vintage driven take on Valmur. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Valmur leaves an indelible mark because in 2014 this one is just so confident and impresses with purpose. The Grand Cru vineyard is located on the top of the hill, both east and southwest facing, with some clay and marl (as a vein into the kimmeridgian sub-soil). There is more richness in Valmur and here surely a by-product of stupidly low (25 hL/L) yields. This carries in its DNA the complex and multi-faceted variegation of Chablis soils intertwined, reticulated and defined. Will make itself readily available ahead of the other Fèvre Grand Cru because of its richness as an extension of soil and exposition. Drink 2017-2023. Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2013, Burgundy, France (Agent, ON $74.00, BCLDB 116517, $60.99, WineAlign)

From winemaker Fabien Moreau and his tiny parcel of 50 year-old vines sandwiched between Vaudésir to the north and Les Clos to the south. A pittance (for Grand Cru) percentage of new oak is used for half of the fruit, eventuating in beautifully delineated bitter density and fresh dressed pith. Quite open for business at this early stage but so very complex and variegated. Upon a second go ’round you might think reductive when what you are really getting is cool fresh mineral, away from bitter and into the yet unresolved. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @ChristianMoreau  @rogcowines

Domaine Jean Paul Et Benoît Droin Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2013, Burgundy, France (SAQ 12280775, $71.50, WineAlign)

Benoît Droin has crafted an esteemed, highly amenable and juicy Valmur in effete for break of dawn business openness. The acidity is really quite round, more so than the Moreau and quite in contrast to the Premier Cru (Montmains and Vaillons) Droins. There is more pitch and assertiveness in Valmur to be sure, qualities to qualify its Grand Cru positioning though still surprising to note how well it drinks while young. It’s a funny vintage to be sure, with more weight, aromatic liquor and pooling viscosity than most. Droin’s Valmur will develop a bilateral petrol-honey secondary note before the decade strikes end. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  

lasperule-barbue-brulee-legumes-verts-croquants-jus-daretes-a-lugli

L’asperule Barbue, brûlée, légumes verts croquants, jus d’arêtes à l’ugli

Related – Enlightened Chablis of Château De Béru

Bougros

(Côte De Bouqueyreaux)

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The Bougros vines grown on the plateau and while the aromatics are a bit reserved (like those on the Piuze Terroir Découverte) this inward and recondite Grand Cru is an intense, raging from within Chablis. It is this collected and surrounded power that keeps Patrick’s Bougros so in control and while it is labeled at 12.5 per cent alcohol, Piuze admits that is maxes out at 12.2. This is significant when you consider what sort of sapidity plays out in the context of enigmatic behaviour. “You can’t have a duality between acidity and alcohol,” says Piuze. “I don’t want high alcohol.” What he wants is chaste tension and while 2015 is not the perfect vestal vintage to realize his plans, it stays the course nonetheless. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Brocard’s Grand Cru Bougros ’14 is the most reductive Chablis tasted so far this week, striking, chiseled and young beyond youth. Saline and briny to the hyperbole of its younger siblings, the implosion of full extract is at once arid and then rich. This is a full-on pure and simply beautiful Bougros, precisely tart and very long. Will age gracefully into the middle next decade, with ease. In the hands of Brocard Bougros to the west is neither entry or exit point but more like the epicentre of the action. This 2014 is certainly a top example for the vintage and the Grand Cru. Wait three years for it to unwind. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted with Julien Brocard at the domaine, July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte Bouguerots 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Côte Bouguerots is the two point two hectare Domaine plot close to the river at the base of the Bougros Grand Cru hill. The extreme anti-steppe where only calcaire and kimmeridgian soils exist is the moonscape of Burgundy, bald, austere and machinery retarding. The ’14’s stark karst reality bleeds sea salinity, intense citrus and as much inferential mineral as this place can and ever will. Such a masculine assertion of Chablis predicated on this sort of fluidic geology and assortative power comes across in only so few. While the complexity is increased in Côte Bouguerots it is also like a vacuum within the greater clime, concentrating richness without fatness. This is, simply stated, a great white bottle of wine. The length goes on forever. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $97.00, WineAlign)

If Bougros in 2013 is the outlier and the exit west away from the Grand Cru, the follow up 2014 turns that right around. In this terrific mineral meets acidity vintage Bougros strikes as the entry point into Grand Cru Chablis. The southwest facing climat launches the introductory impression of the Fèvre Domaine GCs, with idiosyncratic layers of citrus, namely lemon and lime. Fifty per cent of the Bougros (six of 12 hectares) lies calm and poised on the flat portion of the already mild slope, offering easier access and amenability. A launch point from where control is transferred from the operating system to the process and ultimately, the programmer. That would be winemaker Didier Séguier, he who takes a calm ferment and squeezes out its vital juices to render Chablis with all the attributes it has come to define. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @BouchardPere  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $97.00, WineAlign)

The southwest facing Bougros is the furthest strip west of the Grand Cru climats at modest altitudes ranging from 130 to 170m. Bougros strikes me as the hardest to read and the outlier of the Grand Cru because it is less expressive of that necessary and contemplative Chablis mineral idiom but don’t be fooled into thinking it bourgeois or insignificant. That type off thinking will only look for trouble and lead to dire straits. “Sitting on a fence that’s a dangerous course.” Bougros of marl and clay is a clam before a storm Grand Cru. It is sneaky dangerous and long. The limestone permeate is integrated with deep intent. It fills all nooks but with nary an act of argumentation or attrition. The vintage is an expanding one, not so much one that leaves a direct impression as much as one of wide expression. The palate circulates with citrus and zest, more lime and grapefruit than others and in warmer tenses, native and prominent. One upon a time in the west. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Côte De Bouqueyreaux

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte De Bouqueyreaux 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The Côte de Bouqueyraux terroir is a (45°) steep-sloping solid bedrock section of Bougros. It’s also a name referring to “how the monks are calling it” back in the pressoir day. “Bougueriot,” from the Latin “bucca” which gave the Old French “bouque” (shrunken). Or, Boquereau, which took its name from “bouque-eau,” (narrow passage by the water). Piuze made only 600 bottles in 2015 from this highly specified, laser-focused, riverine-simulated and disciplined Grand Cru vineyard. This is tasted 14th in the great caves breakfast Piuze rendezvous with Patrick and is unequivocally the most intense. And yet there is this creamy, nutty and tart stone tree-fruit character that adds a level of toothsome delight. Will chalk that up to 2015, from “a really sharp place,” coupled with the warm vintage. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

piuze-bouqeyrou

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte De Bouqueyreaux 2011, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

At 45° in angle the steep (perhaps the steepest) Côte de Bouqueyraux dangles Bougros like bait on a line and is the farthest thing from a shrunken (from the French “bouque”) or shrinking violet. This 2011 is what Patrick Piuze refers to as “in between ’09 and ’15 in style; my style.” He puckers, shrugs and adds, “pretty good for a vintage that isn’t supposed to age.” Once again it is Piuze that looks at Chablis, at Grand Cru Chablis from the very recent past as a wine of THE past. Most vignerons would see a 2011 Grand Cru as an infant, barely evolved and far too young to even think about passing any real judgement. Pious is the most pragmatic, honest and transparent of them all. It is both refreshing and confounding. Either for Bougros or in sub-climat terms this Côte De Bouqueyreaux is in the sweet spot. Citrus fruit, saline-mineral innervation and a vintage-affected softening combine for this lime-sherbet palate. Will drink with perfect reason for three to four more years. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

bordet-vaudesir

Vos désirs, in a word, #vaudesir @purechablis #jeanfrancoisbordet @bivbchablis #domaineseguinotbordet

Vaudésir

Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis Gran Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Jean-François Bordet’s Vaudésir tells a climat tale with the sort of precision and clarity that really explains the Cru comparative to Les Preuses and Les Clos. Bordet took over in 1988 so 25-plus years of experience later and with the exceptional vintage in pocket he has really locked into Vaudésir. The finesse that calmly breathes from SB’s fruit farmed on this double semi-circled, steep-sloping hill is certainly mellow, golden and mature. It’s also alive. Bordet makes use of 10 hL wood tanks for aging (12 months) plus six more in stainless steel. This has been in bottle six months, just long enough to reveal the intoxicating perfume, the power, rich texture and the elegance. In the present (or futur proche) Bordet’s ’14 Vaudésir will incite your desires, as it will say “je vais congelé vos désirs.” J-F shrugs and holds out his hands as he tells you this so after a glass (and an exceptional meal prepared by Eric Gallet at Le Bourgogne in Auxerre) some of your fantasies may come true. The effect may come with less jouissance than Les Preuses and not quite as much puissance of Les Clos but true power nonetheless. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @BordetJean  @TheCaseForWine

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11482703, $77.00, WineAlign)

For some producers Vaudésir is the pinnacle of their Chablis expression and yet here it seems the entry point as it leads in a tasting of four Grand Crus. From three parcels in the amphitheatre, one right at the top by the wood and two at the mid-way point on the hill. A direct, in your sight lines Vaudésir, so very lemon-lime push-pulled and densely tart. It’s taut but not sour, tight but not cringing from the tightening of the winch. The most masculine of Vaudésir perhaps with few equals though unwavering and unquestionable in its achievement of balance. The Inox secret is discarded (or complicated, depending on your vantage point) in favour of 100 per cent (15-16 years) old oak. This is Grand Cru after all. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Here from Vincent Tremblay a nicely stinky (dare it be said) and reductive Vaudésir of major mineral compression and the combative exaggerated energies of weight, body and density. This is a powerful expression of the climat that sits atop the Grand Cru hill, unique in round shape and steep slope as if created as a natural and ancient amphitheatre. Tremblay cuts a white stony line right through his chemin des vaudésirs, as any self-respecting Grand Cru Chablis should. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted July 2016  

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (226373, $110.00, WineAlign)

Vaudésir from Fèvre’s Didier Séguier is the consummate erudite expression from the amphitheatre-chiseled and curled Grand Cru. It is here where there simply is no clay, only the calcaire for the kimmeridgian, so its all about high mineral commission. All Vaudésir is meant for aging but this, this is something other. Séguier the winemaker is a generous fellow, a giver of Chablis, gift-wrapped in 50 per cent oak and tank equality (as he does for all GC). The vernacular spoken is very direct primarily because of the veritable bath of mineral which translates to salinity off the charts. It can be imagined without any real difficulty that the alleged ancient sea bed is in this one. It will be some years before any change is noted and many more until mindfulness reigns in a secondary geological observation. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Burgundy, France (124354, $79.00, WineAlign)

Vaudésir in Moreau’s Chablis cellar spent a mere handful of months in one, two and three year-old oak barrels, destined to an end game of gentle spice, then followed up with 24 months in stainless steel. Concentration, resolute vitality and depth render the barrel nearly obsolete, allowing the desires of the Cru’s mineral to really shine through. All that said it is a decidedly feminine expression, delicate and with richesse, but ultimately calm. Will age with charm and grace. Drink 2018-2025  @MoreauLouis1

lasperule-labbaye-de-citeaux-pommes-sautees-raisins-opaline

L’asperule L’abbaye de Citeaux, pommes sautées, raisins, opaline

Blanchot

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The Serein River’s Right Bank Grand Cru faces south with vines that average 40 years-old. Neutral barrels are employed for the Piuze Blanchot so that density is derived slowly, effortlessly and with GC corradiation. In the cathedral of Blanchot there is always a compression intro. of mille-feuille flint and citrus but few act with as much immediate amenability as this ’15. Seemingly warm and downy, things begin to increase with intricate complexity and the point of convergence is met where persistence begins, two years down the tractor road, to carry on into the middle of the next decade. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (401984, $115.00, WineAlign)

From the top right (eastern) aspect of the white stones Grand Cru, just across the valley from Montée de Tonnerre. This is a fuller, slightly richer Blanchot but still so direct, piercing and impressed stone-dominant. Great lemon zest shaved into juice and an amplitude rendering dollop of curd. The lemon-curated and curative house continues to flex its citrus style. Once again, the enigma of Inox barrel and old barrels used. Why pour this last of the four Grand Crus? I suppose it’s because the rich fruit versus exigent stone is the epitome of Chablis paradox, in retrospect and with further addendum to what seemed obvious at the time. Blanchot is the gate-keeper of Grand Cru middle ground. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Four of Domaine Laroche’s total of six-plus Grand Cru hectares are in Blanchot and comprise one third of all holdings in this ancient kimmeridgian climat and its southeast exposure. “We are the ambassador of this Grand Cru,” informs Elodie Saudemont, noting the low and slow ripening processes on the eastern portion of the Cru. The white clay defines Les Blanchots, infusing a fine minerality that delivers a purported sense of fitness and fineness to this wine. In 2014 there is a delicate arabesque lacework and a certain salinity, explicit and inherent to Blanchot. Floral like no other Grand Cru, of stereotypical but percipient aromas that call to the air what can only be white flowers. Not that it’s any shock but the length is exceptional too. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

une-degustation-chez-domainelaroche-originale-exceptionnelle-et-tellement-informative-merci-beaucoup-elodie-vaudevey-lesmontmains-lesvaillons-montedetonnerre-chablispremiercru-chablisgrandcru

Une dégustation chez @DomaineLaroche originale, exceptionnelle et tellement informative. Merci beaucoup Elodie #vaudevey #lesmontmains #lesvaillons #montedetonnerre #chablispremiercru #chablisgrandcru #leclos #lesblanchots #reservedelobedience

Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots Réserve De L’obédience 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Réserve De L’obédience is a cuvée coalesced from the best of Les Blanchots barrels, those that show the greatest balance between fruit and acidity. The entire technical team takes part in the process, to the end for a wine with the most finesse. There is no true reference point for such a wine, that is unless you can close your eyes, travel back in time and conjure up some 9th century L’Obédiencerie or 13th century Saint-Martin monks working a pressoir. Grand Cru Chablis separates itself from the rest for good reason but because L’obédience is a cuvée consolidated from the best of Les Blanchots’ barrels this is something other, or rather it is a cuvée spotted in a light separate from the rest of the Chablis Grand Cru. An unusual amalgamation, beyond the idea of selecting the best plots, into the concept of selecting the best wines. Here the practice of lutte raisonnée ensures balance is profligate and etched in stone. The acidity is pitch-perfect, the fruit a metronomic peregrination from streaming to richness and back again. Multiple exposures and various levels of ripeness be damned, this Grand Cru skips over the tribulations of plots and vintage variation. The best is stolen and used for great purpose. And 2014 was a friend. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

The Long-Depaquit treatment for Blanchots is with 25 per cent barrel. A real preserved lemon and just a hint of paraffin is replete with such elegance and finesse on the nose. Les Blanchots is at once soft but also of a sexy smoulder, like flint that has been sparked, extinguished and left with a lingering wisp. So beautifully wound and full of demurred grace. But don’t be fooled, there is a punch of acidity and underlying spirit. The house accounts for a meaningful if ponderous part of the Blanchot riddle, its centrism wrapped in a mystery, in a fruit versus stone enigma. Recondite, interwoven Chablis. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  @Bichotwine  

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

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

La Folie d'Auxerre

Restaurant La Folie, Auxerre

Les Preuses

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12034902, $106.00, WineAlign)

Les Preuses faces west, the Grand Cru Patrick Piuze notes “is always last. You cannot beat Les Preuses in Chablis.” The crux of what Piuze is aiming to accomplish with Grand Cru fruit is motivated by this climat and explained like this. “We are early pickers, early bottlers and (patient observers of) late transformations.” Semi-getting on towards vieilles vignes of 35 years are grown in Kimmeridgian limestone and clay soil. La Voie Pierreuse (The Stony Path) is the Piuze GC muse and his tightly wound elucidation will take longer to unravel, flesh up and drink heartily than most. Even in 2015 there will be no immediate Les Preuses gratification but there will be valiance and stony reward. Eventually. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (360834, $99.00, WineAlign)

What separates Chablis from chardonnay begins with these 65 year-old vines, with healthy yields (50 hL/H) that are perfect for the vintage from this stoic and iconic Cru. Here is the essentiality of Les Preuses, “the juice of the stone,” saline, crustaceous, briny and simply, utterly trenchant. This is the vraiment Preuses impression, a fossil entrenched in the chardonnay and subsequently on the brain and the senses. A straight jacket Chablis with length up Les Preuses, back to the river and then straight back up and away into the woods. Inox barrel (sic) and old barrels used. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $123.00, WineAlign)

Les Preuses is comprised of two point five hectares in two plots held in the Fèvre Domaine, one east facing and steep, the second southwest, flat and deep. The memory of an old Roman stone road “Perreuse” lays beneath, as marker and sentinel to the ancient rocks and stones below. Les Preuses is a blend of the two plots, both equal in delivery of rich and mineral elegant fruit. No other Grand Cru offers such near-identical balance from blocks meant to compliment one another. It is this symmetry, mille-feuille layering and gainful repetition that dishes LP such a a different sort of singular variegation, not so much a vein but a 12-string strum over top one another. There is more length to speak clearly of and ultimate elongation in Les Preuses. It is simply citrus beautiful. A near-perfect record, from side A to side B. Play either one first because it always comes around full circle. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $123.00, WineAlign)

There is a certain sense of romanticism that surrounds Les Preuses, a cinematic beauty in thinking about a two thousand year-old Roman road which ran below the current vineyard. “Perreuse,” meaning stone and tasted directly after Bougros offers a stark inherent and stylistic contrast and unfairly puts the western frontier Grand Cru to shame. In Les Preuses the fruit speaks with beautiful infancy and fanciful clarity. It’s fleshy, creamy soft and delivers Fèvre’s most markedly chèvre-like aroma. The palate replay indicates this climat is expressly possessive of true goût de terroir. The lines led by stone and friable marl deliver crisp and cool streaks, climbing to higher climes, over hills and collines. Even in the climate-confused 2013 vintage Les Preuses is top quality Chablis, above and beyond. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2013, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

This particular concentrated salinity of Les Preuses is briny but not oyster briny, verdant but not savoury, tart but not piercing. The personality forged here is a calm before storm that will soon rage for three to five years and then settle into its predetermined gentile nature. A little bit of hay and popcorn feel is noted from more oak obviousness that couples with the vintage towards developing a richer style. In Ontario the equivalent ideal is like that of Tawse’s Paul Pender and when his wines age they remind me of Les Preuses. Here a great example of a Grand Cru in different hands and what impact the producer has on the specific expression for the terroir. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

domaine-testut

Grenouilles

Domaine Testut Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineryWineAlign)

In 2014 Grenouille in Cyril Testut’s domain returns to the typical and the expected. Though he employs 17 per cent new oak this persists stylistically so very much in the same range as his Premier Crus. You get oak in the guise of a minor crème anglaise and even more spice, but a delicate one. Round acidity is pronounced and in surround of the fruit richness as per the Grenouilles climat and this is observed as a very dedicated wine to the oeuvre. Lower yields (than the PCs) at 45 hL/H and 50 year-old vines combine for full-on variegated effect. This shows off great length, in oscillation and circular return. Grenouilles is different and the appreciation here is for loyalty and adherence to what is necessary. It’s so simple. Application of “cuivres et boites et assemblage” was completed before bottling. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Testut Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Winery, WineAlign)

Some wines can be understood and disseminated just fine, but others are better vetted with the winemaker. Like this Grenouilles ’13, tasted at the domaine with Cyril Testut. The triad of vintage, climat and handling is made clear under Cyril’s supervision and explained with tacit and axiomatic clarity. “I like this vintage very much, difficult but very interesting.” Indeed it is vintage with good botrytis, not typical but so very interesting. In comparative literary and mythological ways it and Alsace Pinot Gris Grand Cru (and Hengst in particular) are construed to be running in parallel lines, with ripeness, metallurgy, orange blossom and tropical notes. But again there is a reigning in and a balance struck to stay away from the lychee, nectarine and mango spectrum. Minerality is still the king so you may allow yourself to be stationed in Beaune as well. I find great preoccupation in Testut’s Grenouilles ’13. It reads like few other Grand Cru. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted July 2016  

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grandcru for breakfast, jambon persillé for lunch. C’est Chablis. Oh

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Château Grenouilles 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

The smallest of the greats Château Grenouilles is Chablisienne’s Grand Cru (seven of 9.5 farmed hectares), situated below Vaudésir and sandwiched between (right) Les Clos, Valmur and (left), Bougros and Preuses. Grenouilles is the only estate in Chablis where grapes are picked, crushed, vinified and aged directly within the vineyard itself. Only in this Grand Cru and heightened by this increasingly understood ’12 vintage is a wonderful note of green fraises du bois and floor of the bois above Les Grenouilles. Then comes a palate pricked with darts of green apple and such tart density. Really inward, taut and determined Chablis. Poured at the domaine by Oenologist Vincent Bartement. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016     @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

grenouilles

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Château Grenouilles 2011, Ac Burgundy, France (82974, $99.00, WineAlign)

Tasted with Oenologist Vincent Bartement at the domaine. The Grand Cru Grenouilles sits just above the D965 and the Serein River, with Les Clos and Valmur to its left, Bougros and Preuses to its right and Vaudésir above. It may be the least understood, least discussed and oft forgotten Grand Cru, in part because La Chablisienne farms and bottles a near exclusive (seven of the 9.5 hectares) quantity on the smallest of the Chablis Grand Cru. In a small vertical (that included ’12, ’10 and ’05) when you travel back a year ahead of that cracking 2012 there emerges a clear olfactive difference. The self-effaced “neologism with cloudy contours” whiffs into more herbology and perhaps some crustaceous notes. Certainly a raised funky beat. The gustative sensation salvos to more glycerin and although not as much texture, the age is offering a minor oxidative, liquid maize drip into perceived honey. As a consequence length is not as pronounced and if this ’11 is (at this stage) the most awkward of the three (consecutive vintages), it is also the most tactile and the most astute. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted July 2016     @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Château Grenouilles 2010, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12449930, $98.75, WineAlign)

In a retrospective examined through a line-up with ’12, ’11 and ’05 in the vertical mix the development of Château Grenouilles emerges with some new-found clarity. This ’10 offer insights in ways the follow up vintages are not yet able to, now a year into secondary notes. The 2010 funk du fromage is musky strong, at first, and then beautifully developed from and into metal-mineral. Wonderful texture from 2010 and very little of the corn liquor. None even. A terrific vintage and what seems to me a near-perfect expression of Les Grenouilles. The most distinction is unearthed and appreciated, a calming pause, poise and such perfect temperament. A wonderful wine. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

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La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Château Grenouilles 2005, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Château Grenouilles Chablis Grand Cru 2005 at 11 years-old is beautifully and slow-micro oxidatively evolved though in many ways suspended in animation and almost not at all. Closer to 2010 than the others (tasted along with ’11 and ’12) for sure, with compressed minerality and excellent glycerin woven into wonderful texture. There will be two to three more years of optimal drinking before a next level oxidation begins to break down the fruit and turn the mineral into mandarin orange mixed with coppery metal. Take advantage of this current open window. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles 2009, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Grenouilles is a Grand Cru that Piuze used to work with but does not anymore. This 2009 is close to achieving its full resolve, now waxy, oleaginous, briny and filled with the kind of glück usually reserved for older riesling, especially out of Alsace. Piuze discusses Grenouilles as “the most uni-dimensional” of all the Grands Cru, but he likes the way it has come to this point. If it has to be a one-trick perfect pony than so be it. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Les Clos

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12034929, $106.00, WineAlign)

Piuze gathers equal and opposing Les Clos fruit from two parcels, first (and in dominance) in communality with Blanchots and then by Valmur. While not a perfect vintage for the grand Grand Cru by any stretch of the Chablis imagination, precision and clarity is a guarantee under the tutelage of Patrick Piuze. Hail was certainly a factor so quantity is sacrificed to quality, with herbs, bitters and spicy salinity the collective foil to early picked fruit. It’s a toss-up whether or not Les Clos is more successful than Blanchots and it remains to be seen if phenolics will drive the ageability machine, but Patrick’s caution and judgement should see this through to live another day. It is Grand Cru after all and deserves at least two years respect. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent)

Here Les Clos is a magnified adaptive narrative of the Grand Cru, rich and full of ripe excess. Riper than most of the others, which is saying something. Magnetic, platinum mineral with very expressive fruit from Billaud-Simon’s take out of the grandaddy of all Chablis climats. The biggest bad boy of the flight and in the eyes of the world, textbook Grand Cru. Salinity, floral blossom airy and briny, though not quite expressive of the fossilized, ancient river trenchancy of Les Preuses. But again, Chablis at it old school, from very little shrouded or spice-driven wood, classic, cool-climate, mineral-driven Chablis. The summation confirms why it is poured after Vaudésir and Les Preuses but ahead of Blanchots. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

At first seemingly a different expression of Les Clos, both in aromatics and personality. There is this exoticism about Collet’s ’14, a perfume that imagines far east markets, of incense and peppermint. Then the terroir takes charge, of precious metals, platinum, gemstones and the Exogyra Virgula of the ancient soil’s shells. This combination of sweet fragrance and mineral contusion is intoxicating for a Les Clos. The Collet take is also neutral with respect to wood and unlike Valmur, lemon preserve appears nowhere on the forecasted radar. And yet there is more spirit here than many, if not quite as laser-focused as others. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Laroche’s (45 year-old) vines sit at the bottom of the slope where the ground ripples with an excess of limestone. Laroche build its Les Clos architecture through this super-structured mineral foundation, the use of enclosing shrubs for micro-biological bio-diversity and wood posts as opposed to iron. This Les Clos does not mess around. It’s a straightforward expression in mimic of a craftsman’s personality, i.e. technical director Gregory Viennois. As a portrait it makes a direct connection and an impression with extract, but also tannin and fruit of true Les Clos intensity. This is a truly engaging and laser Les Clos, of mouth watering acidity and repeatedly encouraging return sip-ability. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

 

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Moreau’s take on the grand-père Grand Cru is more obvious, showy and in exhibition of wood apparent musculature on the masculine side of the Grand Cru spectrum, not so much as spice but with volume and a broadening in mouthfeel. The mineral is tangy strong and will surely need a few years to settle into the rich fruit and savvy wood. This is really a baby as far as Les Clos is concerned and should not even be considered to be opened any time soon. The long road ahead will twist, turn and loop back into itself before Les Clos settles into the karst of its limestone landscape. Take the time to navigate the sinkholes and cavernous spaces and rewards in the name of miasma, massepain and miel will one day fill your glass. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted at the domaine with Frédérique Chamoy, July 2016  @MoreauLouis1

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Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (641381, $130.00, WineAlign)

The Fèvre holdings are not so much a cornering of the market but more so, let’s say, are representative as existing out of the creator and chair of the exchange. The four hectares owned, farmed and produced of the largest of the (25 hectare) Grand Crus confirms Fèvre as the largest producer of Les Clos. Fifty per cent of the noble and lofty locale was planted by William’s father in the 1940’s, at the top of the hill. This 2014 is prodigious, ponderous and cracking, because it is a Fèvre, due to the house approach for this stand alone vintage and simply by virtue of that vintage. Here you have the richest Les Clos of them all, perhaps, but the puissance is dramatic. There is more pith and density here than any other. It is simply a wow Grand Cru expression, searing, intense, layered, compact, compressed and very, very long. This is the most gregarious, strutting peacock of Chablis. Tasted at the domaine with Director Didier Séguier. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (641381, $130.00, WineAlign)

Whereas Les Preuses persists as a player as part of its own height scaling process, Les Clos is already perched, permanently entrenched at the precipice. The permeate is integrated with a commotion of purity and clarity like no other. The stone is juiced like real lime in metronome time, with nothing but time on side to see this through 20 years of evolution. The richest fruit, laciest of organza overlay and highest degree of variegation has been gently coaxed from this storied Grand Cru by Director Didier Séguier. Top Les Clos from the challenging vintage. Drink 2017-2033.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

I find in this a different sort of Les Clos from Sébastien Dampt, a négoce Grand Cru that is more linear, taut and even a bit austere. I’d go so far as to say this is the most piercing Dampt and the most piercing Les Clos I’ve comes across. For Dampt the first Les Clos was 2010 and here is his fifth vintage the Sébastien stride has been compassed and effectuated. This Les Clos will live very long as the length is exceptional. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

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Sébastien Dampt Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2013, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Together with Sébastien Dampt I tasted two bottles of the 2013 Les Clos because he was not satisfied with the first. It was the side by side comparison of the two négoce Grand Cru that taught me things about the Cru, the vintage and Dampt. Initially speaking this can retrospectively be looked at as quite anti-2013 and as such more in line with the follow-up ’14. It alighted linear, taut and nearly as piercing. But unlike 2014 it was broad, soft and filled with French crème. Perhaps this first bottle was a bit frenzied and inculpably enzymatic. The second bottle tasted, reminded and reacted more like a ’13, ripe and near boozy, rich and expressive, with the spice so very pronounced. What is learned is Dampt’s unique ability to perpetuate a house style, despite the vintage and the Cru. Some things can’t be fought or changed so his is quite a big Les Clos but in 2013 not without his signature line. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2013, Burgundy, France (Agent, $73.00, WineAlign)

The Chablisienne piece of Les Clos takes a fine and even a middle path with copacetic, inert cooperation interfaced between bled citrus and mined mineral. This is a very linear, direct, purely and precisely informative Les Clos. It speaks to the idea of consistency and to the expected despite coming out of a strange vintage. With a line clearly drawn into the dry, stone-flint, “mineral touch” Chablis directive it will take some time to develop its comfort level of flesh though fruit will always be the understudy. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Lamblin et Fils Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2013, Burgundy, France

Smoky, wannabe flinty Grand Cru with a creamy, malo feel. Like a scoop of Grand Cru gelato, with a real almond paste smoothed into marzipan finish. Clearly speaks with more wood finishing than most and rounds out the stones of Les Clos with polish and crown moulding. As a result I would expect this needs a year to integrate but not as long as the more mineral examples. The fleshing has already begun and oxidative notes will rear before too long. Will drink beautifully beginning in the summer of 2017 and for two plus years beyond. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Clos des Hospices dans Les Clos 2013, Burgundy, France (Agent, $94.95, WineAlign)

The very specific flint from top to bottom slope off of three hectares of terroir brings a climat’s certain acidity from the soil and in the guise of a multi/micro-parcel tang. From macro-mineral to stone fruity not this specific anywhere so fine. Does not show and will not show fatigue any time sooner or later, after all, it never has to climb to the top of Les Clos. The length here is legendary. It will be tough to find a better example for the vintage, from Les Clos and into an examination more specific and so precise. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Just because the richest of Grand Cru fruit can handle the added value, Les Clos receives a generous 35 per cent barrel fermentation. As per Les Clos the corpulence and amenability adds up to one grand and inviting Grand Cru Chablis. Always critically evident and full of joie de vivre, there is roundness on les Clos like no other Grand Cru and Long-Depaquit is front and centre to the end of that ideal. What separates this house’s style is the long and slowly evolving finish because and with thanks to the wood adding texture and cream to all aspects of its relationship with the largest Grand Cru. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  @Bichotwine  

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Les Clos in 2014 to be honest is surprisingly a much more approachable Grand Cru, especially tasted side by side with Bougros, with nary a reductive moment. Here is the broad approach, a rich style, consumer-friendly chardonnay with a willingness to please to no end. Everything about this wine is liquid gold, like a still Champagne, haute of couture and stylish beyond words. That sense of affluence in style, and poise drift away dreamily into a slow, languid drizzle of warm caramel. Les Clos is anything but austere in the hands of many but particularly here, with this Brocard. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2007, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Julien Brocard pours the Grand Cru Les Clos 2007 blind from magnum and the first impression is this seems to have at least 10 years on it, but it’s probably older than I think. My initial guess is 2002. From what most mainstream critics considered to be a classic stone-mineral vintage with average acidity, I am surprised by the density of mineral so culpable to its oxidative tendency but the acidity keeps it very much alive. The cork was not in the best shape so this clearly had an bomb effect on speeding up aging by five years. A 2007 that acts like a 2002 is not such a terrible thing. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

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Grand Cru Moutonne Monopole

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Moutonne Monopole 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (46706, $89.95, WineAlign)

The greatest of paradoxical moments is shared in confessional confidence with Moutonne because not just anyone can make a wine with the name and of such a singular distillation from within a venn diagram of places. While some lieu-dit in Chablis share affinities, territorial geography and climats with larger Premier Cru, it is only Moutonne that stands alone in the schematic drawn up for the Grand Crus. Though the Moutonne can’t help but take on the atypical characteristics of the 2013 vintage it also can’t escape from itself. Les deux visages are always relegated into the dichotomous and interconnected realm, of Les Preuses (five per cent) controlled with manifest destiny by Les Blanchots. Les Preuses’ fruit is feisty and must be heard and this is so necessary in the tropical and spicy vintage. There is no lychee here but there breathes some very ripe stone fruit and the great white geology of the Grand Cru. In spite of the vintage this is a beautifully managed Moutonne (fermented in 25 per cent barrel) with trenchant piquancy on the finish. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  @Bichotwine  

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Grace in Chianti Classico

Panzano, Toscana

Panzano, Toscana

I first visited Il Molino di Grace in May 2016 and was graciously welcomed into the family’s estate by Director Iacopo Morganti. In the months leading up to that first visit I had opportunities to assess Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva and Chianti Classico Gran Selezione at LCBO media lab tastings in Toronto. I became an instant convert and a buyer even before I stepped foot onto Il Molino di Grace’s sloping Galèstro soil-driven vineyards in Panzano. After that May visit I was transformed into a life-long friend.

Later that May I was handed the keys to Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione Masterclass presentation at The Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto. My role was to open the door to sangiovese perception before a crowd of Toronto sommeliers, agents, buyers and media. It was the Gallo Nero’s 300 year anniversary and its Ontario reputation was entrusted to me by the consorzio braintrust of President Sergio Zingarelli, Director Giuseppe Liberatore, Silvia Fiorentini and Christine Lechner. At that Toronto event I had the pleasure to meet and sit on the panel with Tim Grace. Last week I followed that up and made my way back to Tuscany to have a go at 400-plus Chianti Classico at Anteprima 2017.  When the two-day sangiovese adventure was done I returned with Iacopo back to Il Molino di Grace.

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The vineyard at Il Molino di Grace

Frank and Judy Grace purchased the vineyards in the mid 1990’s and restored an abandoned 19th century ruin into what is now the cantina of Il Molino di Grace, named for the centuries-old historic water-mill. The first vintage out of the new winery was in 1999. MdG became a certified organic winery in 2013, something they and indeed the entire 20 viticultural Panzano-in-Chianti producers are extremely proud of, all together as one. It took 20 years to get this way, with no spraying and even the workers who work the roads will cut, but never spray.

Related – Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico

Tim Grace runs Il Molino di Grace along with Iacopo Morganti. Their consulting oenologist is none other than Franco Bernabei. To say that Il Molino di Grace is an authentic producer of terroir-driven Chianti Classico would be an understatement. Their vineyards are set upon some of the finest Galèstro soil in all of Chianti Classico. The permeations and permutations from that soil have separated this estate from so many others with a portfolio of wines constructed with power, finesse and yes, grace.

Related – The most important red wine from Italy

Iacopo poured a very strategic retrospective of the estate’s wines in an artfully designed schematic so that I was able to literally pick up where I left off last May. We travelled retrospectively astern through CC’14, CCR ’13, GS ’12 and IGT ’11 with prudent stops at intervals to re-visit previously tasted wines. The exercise never wavered from the safekeeping of sangiovese as the heart of the matter and the vintage interval play showed both the progression and the consistency of the estate. Here are the notes.

my-valentines-chianticlassico-of-ilmolinodigrace-and-of-course-iacopo

My valentines, @chianticlassico of @ilmolinodigrace and of course, Iacopo

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Incidentally the first vintage on which the label reads organic, 2014 captures the freshness and the true Chianti Classico, its nature and its truth. No mask, nothing to hide behind, nowhere to run. “In some ways 2014 is more typical a vintage,” suggests Iacopo Morganti, because like other passed over and quickly assessed ones of the recent past (such as 1996, 1998 and 2008) the intrepid purity of sangiovese is decisive and built to last. This is deeply hued Chianti Classico, refreshing, spirited and crafted with a very specific type of actionable drinkability. With pasta, with filetto, with friends. Will not change course for four years and drink comfortably for four more. Sangiovese accented with canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nero. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @Ilmolinodigrace

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (85209, $19.95, WineAlign)

Nine months later so provocative and round, still imbued of the deep pulpier purple Il Molino di Grace hue with ruby tinges. Floral but not bursting, warm, in control and easy. Manages fruit purity and then by extension, the grip from 100 per cent sangiovese. Now gelling into a liqueur typical of ’13, smooth and rapidly developing into a multi-faceted sip. A drink earlier in full enjoyment vintage.  Last tasted February 2017

The 2013 point blank sangiovese Chianti Classico is a softer, rounder version of its normale self, with less spice and dust and as a matter of course, from double the output. A dreamy downy growing season saw to 100,000 bottles and each are so eminently drinkable. There is a soil in there that seeps through because of the vintage, that combination of marl and limestone known locally as galestro and so while the concentration is wontedly in measure to 2012, it is ultimately just a matter of differing result. One wine’s pale is another one’s edge. This ’13 will present for immediate pleasure while ’12 spends one more year coming into view. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted May 2016

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva 2014, Docg Tuscany, Italy (382945, $23.95, WineAlign)

Riserva 2014 is certainly positioned further down that democratic line from the Chianti Classico, its hue more variegated with three to four variations of shade and fruit still popping fresh. These two pronto pieces of personality are the hallmarks of the Il Molino di Grace style and singularity. To employ such darker fruit without any compromise to freshness, this is the magic of this place. Iacopo Morganti says there is no magic. “I like to see the colour of the vintage.” It is true, 2014 is one of purple violet fruit so it speaks of a time. As a Riserva it demonstrates guts and creates a shell of protection for itself, sufferable to whoever thinks it may fail to validate the idea of a classic vintage, which it most certainly will turn out to be. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017

2013-and-2014

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (382945, $23.95, WineAlign)

A better vintage for Riserva (as it is in Chianti Classico for merlot) because of the warmth and highest available poly-phenolic qualities. A return here to deep purple, Il Molino di Grace’s ’13 Riserva is akin to 2009 (though seemingly more in control of its fruit) and also with thanks somewhat like ’14 Chianti Classico, popping, fresh and with its stark moments. It is necessary to stick around, keep checking the glass and it too will lead you down a sexy, sultry, sumptuous road. Shows signs of 2010 in these flaunting ways, with a forward and upwards trajectory through the notions drawn from its very specific Panzano territory. There is chocolatey richness mixed with driving acidity, because “this is the vintage.” Will live long enough, perhaps developing some exoticism and balsamic and/or mushroom notes after seven or eight years time. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (435115, $39.95, WineAlign)

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Margone 2012 comes structured from a vintage with frost in May that compromised 50 per cent of the crop and as a result, bestowed lowest of low yields and concentrated berries. After that happenstance of natural selection the vintage turned to hot and dry, with great weather at harvest. This is and could only have developed into a fleshy and magnanimous Gran Selezione with acidity equivocal and anti-acrimonious to bones draped with the ripest of fruit. And it’s a good thing the acidity is set to high because that fruit and richness will need it going forward. Such a GS had to be crafted this way, with compound aggression and aggressive behaviour. Ultimately defines what it means to be affirmative action Gran Selezione. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

“The ’11 Gratius is like a bomb,” says Iacopo Morganti with a shrug and a gesture of hands. The vintage parlays sangiovese that clocks in cresting and swimmingly close to breaching 15 degrees in alcohol, because it just had to be, like 2000, heavy and brooding. The aromatics are distended, bloated, full of over-exceptional life. Sangiovese in warm, mediterranean tones, black olive, sun-dried tomato and surfeited with bloody good chocolate. Sangiovese so big and youthfully musty-dusty must be accompanyed by and is in fact supported by the Il Molino di Grace acidity to carry this Gratius forward five years but not necessarily much more. In 2011 the composition is 95 per cent sangiovese with stabilizing colorino and canaiolo. Tasting this in 2017 is a gift that never stops giving. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Again, as before and going forward, Gratius is 95 per cent sangiovese with the supporting bits of canaiolo and colorino, In contrast to ’11 all the weight falls away with wistful pleasure. “Here you have fantasy,” smiles Iacopo Morganti. Your mind is taken places by the exotica and the clouds of perfume. Elegance derived from sangiovese so deep is possible when balance is struck and at 13.5 per cent alcohol, just what you want from such a wine. Contemplate the blades of acidity sharpening their teeth on the back sides of your tongue and know that the subsidies won’t begin their wane until 2022 or beyond. Yes Gratius, you are indeed elegant and long. Last tasted February 2017.

Gratius, meaning more pleasing, the author of a poem on hunting, opponent of the poet Archias and a contemporary of Ovid. The other sangiovese from Il Molino di Grace whose first vintage was 1999, of “a nose incredible,” says a wistful Iacopo Morganti and he is not wrong. From the Panzano-Greve in Chianti slopes of Montefili, at 500 meters, a 2.2 hectare single vineyard of old vines (70 years) co-planted with some colorino and canaiolo. So in that sense it’s a field blend but essentially sangiovese. Tuscan climat of rock and poor soil, where the wind blows and grapes whose fate is two weeks later maturation. Aromatics and elegance are in a calm struggle and like two brothers, rolling but not fighting. Such a wine of clean, pristine purity does not exist just anywhere. The inviting perfume solicits readiness and a willingness to be generous. No need to wait. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted May 2016

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2005, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

A next look nine months later confirms what Iacopo insists. “The acidity’s finished for me. It’s ready to drink now.” At this juncture Gratius 2005 has abandoned its fantasy in concession to a drink now reality. Last tasted February 2017

The Gratius 2005 shares DNA with 2009 aromatically speaking but in texture and expression the litheness is pinot noir like, with a bit of bretty volatility as an impression that is vineyard funk derived. Just now beginning a drinking window in performance for the art of perfect timing but why not imagine the installation persisting for 10-12 more years? Here the Montefili Galestro vineyard is clearly iterated in a funk-soil-chalk-liquid rubies way. A brilliant peek back because the tart is just so right. Ask the question, “what was the old wine like?” The answer is “it was like old wine, that is to say, like all old wines.” Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted May 2016

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES, February 18th, 2017

#newyear #newedges

#newyear #newedges

as seen on WineAlign

Local best buys ahead of Taste Ontario and Cuvée, Kosher for Passover and searching for common ground

In advance of the fourth VINTAGES release of 2017 and just a shade post Valentine’s Day we find ourselves in anticipatory times. Here at the crossroads of February and depending on which overfed rodent’s shadow you align with, we may yet be faced with four more potential weeks of winter. Concerning ourselves with more important things, we turn to the Ontario wine industry’s lead in anticipation of Wine Country Ontario’s big month of March. Two seminal events lie in wait just around the corner, ahead of and into spring.

Taste Ontario! Toronto Trade and Media Tasting 2017 comes to the Royal Ontario Museum on March 6th and the 29th edition of Cuvée will happen in Niagara Falls. Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) will host more than 800 guests at the Scotiabank Convention Centre for the Cuvée Grand Tasting on Friday March 24th.

After tasting at Cuvée in 2016 I noted how riesling and chardonnay have not relinquished any stronghold on their domination, nor should they anytime soon. I can’t help but feel and notice that winemakers continue to reach for the big red machine and wish upon an intangible Bordeaux star when they should be concentrating on fresh, gulpable cabernet franc and gamay. They should also take some risk-reward chances with these necessary, best Ontario option red varieties. Press less, reveal freshness and let natural ferments find low-alcohol impressions of impossible, ethereal beauty.

It’s not just a matter of what, but where. By sifting through leads in geography, in the orientation of escarpments, benches and lakeshore flats, in the gestalt of the archaeology of tomorrow, in the vineyard landscape of today we can perchance unlock the riddle of the what and the why for varietal planting. The end game is to unlock the mystery within the puzzle of terroir, to figure out what grapes will thrive and where they can be given the best shot at success. It is not just about what happens beneath the soil, but also what happens above, around, beyond and in the minds of growers and winemakers.

Passover is sill nearly two months away but ever the proactive agency, VINTAGES lays out the usual Kosher for Passover suspects in the February 18th release, some Meshuval (cooked or, flash pasteurized), some not. Let us first examine the concept and then, the cuisine. An understanding of the rules and laws that govern wine on Passover is on a need to know basis. There are really just three key variants of information essential to purchasing and consuming on PesachThis applies to Jews and non-Jews alike.

Number one. Passover wine is specific to a Jew’s level of Kosher. From Reform, to Conservative, to Orthodox, all Jews have different variances of belief. A Reform Jew will likely drink any wine on Passover and then again, may not. But, he or she will almost certainly not require the bottle to be Meshuval. A Conservative may only drink Meshuval but in more cases than not, Kosher is good enough. An Orthodox Jew goes it only one way or the highway. Strictly Meshuval KFP, do not pass go, do not collect the Afikoman (the broken Matzah) money. Most Jews who appreciate a glass of good wine with dinner, and especially those who double as wine geeks avoid Meshuval wine at all costs, thought being, consuming heat-damaged wine is no way to go through life. That said, a good deal of the Kosher for Passover wines in our market are Meshuval (KPM) and some are really quite agreeable.

It’s quite simple, really. All wines labelled “Kosher for Passover” are kosher, but not all kosher wines are kosher for Passover. Further to that, wine does not become kosher by being blessed. It can be considered kosher (from the Hebrew; pure, proper) once it has complied with strict rabbinic criteria that render it acceptable for Orthodox Jews.

Few holidays put food under as much duress as Passover. The cooking is a science and an art unto itself, having to make use of Matzo, eggs and oil for eight days. It is a form of penitence, a tortuous walk through a culinary desert, at times horrific like a Fear Factor episode. Charred eggs, Haroseth, Chopped Liver, Kugel, Farfel Stuffing and desserts made with cake meal and Matzo Meal. Believe me, this chef has had nightmares.

Up until a year or two ago I noticed that Kosher wines seemed to have migrated bigger and bigger with each passing Lunisolar calendar year. Israel continued to race towards big, lush, often high alcohol reds. This trend could be seen as a masking or a compensating/mitigating strategy to oppose the rigours and past failings of making Kosher wine. It can also be viewed as a stylistic choice, to mirror what has taken place in Bordeaux, in California and in Australia for the past 20 years. For the first time, the reds on this VINTAGES release seem to collectively take an extraction and alcohol step back.

The Kosher contingent on the VINTAGES February 18th release continues to be Israel-focused, which is not a bad thing, but if you really want a better selection, head to one of three LCBO kosher boutique locations; 675 Wilson Ave., 180 Promenade Circle, Promenade Mall and 502 Lawrence Ave. W. It is here that the LCBO has stepped up their Kosher game.

As for scouring the best of the rest, WineAlign’s John Szabo laid down the low-down on Australia’s impressive showing in this release and found great value in a hodge-podge of VINTAGES value releases. I am searching for common ground and was quite impressed with two iconic southern French producers and their stellar-valued, pull no punches red and white. One hails from arid Côtes du Roussillon, the other off of old vines in Costières de Nîmes. Magic and lithe Oregon, endemic Greece and a most pleasurable drop of Sagrantino round out my shortlist. David and Sara shore up the global list with much needed and appreciated support with pertinent finds of their own.

February 18th Buyers’ Guide:

Keep on tasting Ontario

Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling 201513th Street Cabernet Merlot 2013Kew Marsanne 2014

Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (89029, $18.95, WineAlign)

@Tawse_Winery  @DanielatTawse  @Paul_Pender

13th Street Cabernet/Merlot 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (56598, $19.95, WineAlign)

@13thStreetWines  @Noble_Estates

Kew Marsanne 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (485334, $19.95, WineAlign)

@kewvineyards

Henry Of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2012Huff Reserve Pinot Noir 2014

Henry Of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Escarpment (268391, $24.95, WineAlign)

@HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros

Huff Estates Reserve Pinot Noir 2014, VQA Prince Edward County (489708, $35.00, WineAlign)

@HuffEstatesWine  @PECWines

Kosher for Passover

Recanati Chardonnay Kp 2014Jerusalem Wineries 3400 Premium Shiraz Kp 2013Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Recanati Chardonnay 2014, Kosher For Passover, Non-Mevushal, Upper Galilee, Israel (128322, $24.95, WineAlign)

@recanati_winery

Jerusalem Wineries 3400 Premium Shiraz 2013, Kosher For Passover, Non Mevushal, Judean Hills, Israel (473900, $24.95, WineAlign)

Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Israel (128058, $24.95, WineAlign)

@azureau  

Searching for common ground

Tsantali Reserve Rapsani 2012Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Les Aspres 2013Château De Nages Vieilles Vignes Blanc 2014

Tsantali Reserve Rapsani 2012, PDO Rapsani, Thessalia, Greece (734855, $18.95, WineAlign)

@TSANTALI_wines  @DrinkGreekWine  @KolonakiGroup

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Les Aspres Syrah/Mourvèdre/Grenache 2013,  AP Côtes Du Roussillon Les Aspres, France (413245, $18.95, WineAlign)

@GBvins  @FWMCan    @Vins_Roussillon

Château De Nages Vieilles Vignes Blanc (Bio) 2014, Costières de Nîmes, France (479659, $19.95, WineAlign)

@chateaudenages  @MichelGassier    @ProfileWineGrp

Omero Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2013Lungarotti Sagrantino Di Montefalco 2010

Omero Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2013, Oregon (470146, $29.95, WineAlign)

@OmeroCellars  Brand New Day Wines & Spirits  @Oregon_Wine

Lungarotti Sagrantino Di Montefalco 2010, DOCG Umbria, Italy (315499, $42.95, WineAlign)

@lungarottiwine  @ProfileWineGrp  

 

While I sip and taste through Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino at Antiprime Toscane I hope you all find your gems from the February 18th release. See you in March for a taste of Ontario.

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Use these quick links for immediate access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release.

Michael’s Mix
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Szabo’s Smart Buys

John’s The Good Oz and Miscellaneous Best Buys