Master classes of Terroir

A Gamay Masterclass, Terroir Hospitality Symposium, May 11, 2015, Arcadian Court

A Gamay Masterclass, Terroir Hospitality Symposium, May 11, 2015, Arcadian Court

The Terroir Hospitality Symposium took place on May 11, 2015 at Arcadian Court in downtown Toronto. The one day food and wine colloquium was a massive simmering feast set in sprawling fashion within an undersized, intricate urban labyrinth. Despite the frenzied and condensed action in the downtown venue, that congress merely offered a look at the tip of the proverbial Terroir iceberg. With upwards of 3o team members leading the charge, the movement left the big fat city address and trekked to set up shop at a local farm and out to the rock at the eastern outermost edge of the country. Terroir moves outwards, onwards and upwards, taking it to the fields and the oceans.

The Terroir Best Practice Culinary Mission went to St. John’s, Newfoundland from May 14th to 17th. The One Fish expedition travelled “to meet fishing industry experts, to explore and examine both the history and the current realities of an Atlantic community built on an economy of the fishing industry.” There was also “the feast that keeps on giving,” at which the Feast Ontario team was hosted at Grandview Farms in Thornbury, Ontario

Led by Founder & Chair Arlene Stein, Vice Chair & Awards Rebecca Leheup, Terroir Talk the dextrosinistral/sinistrodextral enterprise is an undertaking of the extreme variety.

A look at #Terroir2015 in images

Terroir is an event, a series of gatherings, a notion, a philosophy and a way of life. Its mandate is this: “Terroir Hospitality brings together innovative and creative influencers from the field of hospitality, including chefs, food and beverage experts, writers and business leaders.” It’s also not without detractors. There are some who feel it is a negative representation of the culinary and cultural scene in Toronto. That it’s “white, urban, Euro-centric. It ain’t Canada, or 2015. Not funny.”

If the list of participating speakers, chefs and winemakers had been correlated with shortsighted discrimination, ill-curated and preordained with exclusive, malice prepense, you would have been hard-pressed to get an interview with any guest who would have chosen to speak about the called-out lack of representation or narrow-minded decision-making. If the culture and the colour of the event needs to change it will do so with holistic bias and sympathy, with the right sort of urging from the global culinary and vinicultural community. If the pundits are correct, future sessions will reflect the will of the people. In 2015, the atmosphere was wholly copacetic.

The 2015 Terroir wine sessions were marshalled with “an effort to raise the academic standards of the wine side of our symposium,” in three assemblies, to educate and entertain. These Masterclass jams, Gamay, Terroir, and Clone Wars were coordinated by Good Food Revolution’s Jamie Drummond and Magdalena Kaiser with great support from Wine Country Ontario.

The connection between food and wine is an intrinsic one. They are like chicken and egg, contrary to reason in electing which comes first. Chefs and winemakers, purveyors of the land from which their produce grows, transmuted into cuisine and fermented into wine. Facilitators of terroir, harvesting at optimum ripeness and then initiating the transmogrification with immediate haste, in urgency, to capture, lock in and bottle aroma, flavour and texture, before any chance of deterioration or spoilage.

But what the fuck is terroir? The most used word in the language of wine is in fact, terroir. Nothing else compares, comes even remotely close, or causes as much debate. Except for minerality, but those who concern themselves in the matters of ridicule, dismissal and denial ignore the fact that the opposite of fruit is simply, unequivocally and finally, incontestably, mineral.

Were the notion of terroir to be a belief as simple as “what happens in the vineyard, through environment, by geology, geography and topology, from naturally occurring elements and microbes in the soil, by air and of climate. Were it just a matter concerning “the impossible creator of perfect storms, from out of riddle and enigma,” well, then, we could all just go home. It’s much more complicated than that and real.

Most winemakers will agree, in principle, to this. “The final goal is to make the finest wines that express terroir.” Organic and biodynamic are important. Terroir is more important. But winemakers are no fools. They know that “during the grape’s life cycle, genealogy and climate shape its development. But even after it is plucked from the vine it still carries no true identity, in so far as what it will become as a wine. This is the point where nature gives way to nurture. Environment now acts as the catalyst to shape the wine’s life. Wine does not evolve because of natural selection. It evolves at the hands of the winemaker.” Anti-terroir?

At this year’s Terroir Talk Symposium, Gamay was chosen as the first wine session’s go to grape variety, to investigate both the serious and not-so serious sides of its existential weightlessness. To revel in its lithe, brightness of being and to unearth its deep roots. That we have come to a time in history where both aspects can be studied in Burgundy and in Ontario is fortuitous indeed. As a Gamay groupie, I feel blessed to be born under a good sign, at the right time.

As a reminder, it’s always the right time to be with the Gamay you love. I have been urging Ontario farmers to plant, cultivate and nurture Gamay; for winemakers to make it more and more. I made “a proclamation in favour of a great grape and one that forges signature wines out of Canadian soils. I am an ardent supporter of and a willing rider on the Gamay bandwagon, in the name of connaitre and savoirkennen and wissen, recognition and understanding.”

Related – Go Gamay Go

It’s working. Rosewood Estates just planted it for the first time. Gamay is poured at the cellar door, at tasting events and in private gatherings all the time now. Bottom line is Gamay costs half of the price compared to Pinot Noir and Syrah and it thrives in Ontario. It can make serious Cru quality reds and even at the highest end, sell for less than $30. It has been, continues to be and will always be #GoGamayGo time in Ontario.

Related – It’s go Gamay go time

Moderator Chris Waters and the Gamay Masterclass panel: Jamie Drummond, Magdalena Kaiser, Martin Malivoire, Shiraz Mottiar, Bill Zacharkiw and Guillaume de Castelnau

Moderator Chris Waters and the Gamay Masterclass panel: Jamie Drummond, Magdalena Kaiser, Martin Malivoire, Shiraz Mottiar, Bill Zacharkiw and Guillaume de Castelnau

The first Masterclass: Gamay The Next Little Thing

“The intent of the first of the three wine sessions, was meant to investigate how it performs in Ontario and elsewhere in the world.”

The Panelists:

  • Winemaker Guillaume de Castelnau, Chief Winemaker/Director, Château des Jacques, Louis Jadot Beaujolais (Beaujolais, France)
  • Vigneron Martin Malivoire (Malivore, Beamsville Bench, Ontario, Canada)
  • Winemaker Shiraz Mottiar (Malivoire)
  • Wine writer/Sommelier Bill Zacharkiw (Montreal Gazette/Wine Align, Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

The Moderator: Wine writer Chris Waters (Vines Magazine/Intervin, Ontario, Canada)

To many, Gamay is a wonderful drug and though much maligned, its suitors and supporters can never tire of its freshness and its lightness of being. Moderator Chris Waters refers to Gamay as “a gateway grape, to transition drinkers from white to red wine.” In a world according to Guillaume de Castelnau, “Gamay is lazy, generous and fragile.” Bill Zacharkiw minces nothing, not words, nor feelings. “I love Beaujolais.” In the Terroir Master Class, there were 13 variations on Gamay, from semi-carbonic to old and baked, with many shades, hues, intensities and variations in between. Here are my notes.

Ontario Masterclass Gamay

Ontario Masterclass Gamay

Malivoire “Le Coeur” Gamay 2014, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery)

Shiraz Mottiar refers to the young, Beaujolais impressionist as “Sammy Carbono,” a semi-carbonically macerated Gamay, with one foot in Nouveau and the other in a dusty, freshly spirited aromatic whirl. The tanky feel makes it accesibly gulpable. Like a leaping horse it is also twitchy, hopping in dressage, popping in the mouth. Fun if beside the point. Drink 2015.  Tasted May 2015

Malivoire M2 Small Lot Gamay 2013, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

A month later the pepper runs from white to black, by way of red. Terrific sour edged fruit. Strawberry and cranberry tied together by citrus. Will need two years minimum to fully integrate.
From my earlier note of April 2015:
The profundity of tart, keen, briny berries dilates in its own very useful layers of citrus, tannin and concentration, beyond even what was observed in 2012. The zesty, spritely argot resonates from the unfurling of floral essentia out of a Gamay in desperate need of time. The flavours and overlay are somewhat impenetrable and yet leave quite an impression. While patience might be the virtue and the reward, if #gogamaygo is the modus operandi, a swig from the bottle like gentlemen of the road is certainly not out of the question. Drink 2016-2021.

Last tasted May 2015

Leaning Post Gamay 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $25.00)

A year has clarified the must into a venerable, beneficial decay, like effulgent, liquid rust. The shine of antiquity and then a blast of cinnamon dominates for the first major swirl. So lithe and profound like wise Pinot Noir, minus the Niagara coat of arms and lacquered veneer. Whatever anxiety may have held down the brightness has eased to deliver this current, optimum drinking window. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted May 2015
 
From my earlier (tank sample) note of May 2014:

Guiltless and virtuous straight out of stainless, the meaty side of Gamay game boldly goes where few from the Bench have gone before. Like a rare venison steak sitting in a silky pool of lavender-scented demi-glace. Floral like Fleurie and despite zero new oak, vanilla joins the gravy. A Senchuk steal of quality Wismer (McLeary…sort of) fruit sets this Gamay up for easy sell success.

Fielding Gamay 2013, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

Time has been a friend to the ’13 Fielding Gamay, a wine who’s elevated tones of floral fruit and acidity have settled in the name of structure. Dusty ground nubbins and mint swirl with layered if yet rigid fruit. Low-cropped vines are on display, in single-vineyard like attention to specific detail, akin to Malivoire’s Courtney. This is in fact sourced from a single-vineyard up on the cool Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation. The site is a couple of kilometres south of Peninsula Ridge’s McNally Vineyard, the source of Ilya Senchuk’s terrific Leaning Post 2012 Pinot Noir. The Procyshyn family has been farming this plot (without fanfare) for decades in Beamsville. The pristine fruit that Theo and Shelley Procyshyn grow, along with their three sons, Nolan, Dalton and Brayden, yield as low as 1.5 tonnes and up to 3.5 tonnes per acre, depending on the year. The ’13 was around 3 t/a. Fielding has never labelled this Gamay ‘single vineyard’ because they have always hoped to bring in new Gamay blocks on as part of that wine, but that’s not yet worked out. The ’13 is very, very red raspberry, with a craggy, spiked point of liqueur, like a weeping peak upon that Vinemount Ridge in the afternoon sun. Has Beamsville’s upper reaches written all over its corporeal self. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted May 2015

13th Street “Sandstone” Gamay 2013, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

May just be the first Gamay with a simulacrum towards a style best described as appassimento, what with the overripe fruit, aromatic cure, baked and sun-dried flavours. Sniff the confluence of black raspberry, scorched earth and roasting game bones, its sinew crackling over humid old growth wood. Gets rich into the vanilla, reeking of late harvest lavender and then a mutton funk. Could easily pass for a wealthy, unforgiving style of Cru Beaujolais, like Chénas from Christophe Pacalet. Or it could just be acting older than its age, by seven or eight years. Most prepossessing and confounding Gamay. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted May 2015

Stratus Gamay 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $29.00, WineAlign)

Esteem elevated by structure, matched in poise and presence mottled in smears of darker, richer black cherry. If a slight absence of brightness is sensed due to the syrupy compression, like New World, west coast Pinot Noir, the gleaning from acidity and tannin times perfectly the effluent escape.

From my earlier note of April 2015:

It may not be the most idiosyncratic Gamay in Niagara but the Stratus 2012 is without a doubt the most advanced and complex. Gamay fusion is on display, at once a bottle of Niagara’s finest pulchritudinous veneer and then a charcuterie board laid ample with cured bovine parts and sun-dried grapes. Maximum ripeness and then even later picking, to no one’s surprise, have led to this. Two years of ageing in neutral oak barrels has brought about a humid roundness and yet the centre is controlled by Oz-like mint and eucalyptus notes. The jam is gelid, as opposed to temperate. Rarely does Gamay go to such depths, of blackberry, chalk and grain, with an overlord of tannin. Quite serious stuff. Drink 2017-2020.

Last tasted May 2015

Château-De-Jacques and Malivoire Courtney in the Gamay Masterclass

Château-De-Jacques and Malivoire Courtney in the Gamay Masterclass

Château-De-Jacques Morgon 2013, Ac Beaujolais, France (653584, $24.95, WineAlign)

The flushed scarlet animation is active and astir, like a soft serve swirl of dusty, cherry molasses, bathing in its own natural acidity. Has the presence of wine to integrate chalk, grain and Morgon tannin, in equal, opposite and variegated layers. Nothing shy about this gateway Cru Beaujolais. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted May 2015

Château-De-Jacques Morgon Côte du Py 2013, Ac Beaujolais, France (Agent, $53.95)

In this rigid and stoic Morgon, the south-facing, blue volcanic slopes of the Côte du Py have provided a measure of firm fruit that will require a minimum two to three years to crack. The gears of the Gamay machinery may be grinding but the windows are yet open, the doors locked tight. This is the least forward, most inwardly introspective and least gregarious of the CdJ Beaujolais. Sharp sapidity, biting tang and piercing penetrating tannin deny immediate or even short-term access. Even the middle palate seems lifeless, devoid of cherry fruit and seamless layering, medicinal even. Judgement should be reserved, with knowledge of pedigree and how a bottle such as this will suddenly, effortlessly spring to life with time. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2015

Château-De-Jacques Moulin a Vent 2010, Ac Beaujolais, France (Agent, $36.95)

The undergraduate’s blend comes from the appellation’s Château des Jacques parcels; Carquelin, Rochegrès, Champ de Cour, Thorins and La Roche. Granite soils from each spice with symptomatic diversification and combine for a flippant funk that hitches straightforward out of the gate. Here Gamay leaves dusty behind with an urging away from humble and towards nobility. Richly aromatic, amplifying into palate. Such acidity and such grain. For this MaV the time is now, the arrival already announced. A late sense of veneer on the lengthy bitter finish indicates more good times ahead. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted May 2015<

Château-De-Jacques Moulin a Vent Clos de Rochegres 2010, Ac Beaujolais, France (Agent, $44.95, WineAlign)

From the appellation’s highest parcel, the red sandstone soils of the Clos de Rochegrès are gently sloping and fed by underground streams. I always sense salinity and an effusive, stony energy in wines blessed with subterranean irrigation. The drinking window for this 2010 is wide open and the funk meets age introduction has been made. Already in display of a dried fruit shrivel, the ’10 acts like Sangiovese of a similar senescence, like CCR or Vino Nobile with three to five years of age. The liqueur of roses, the earth and the cherries are culpable and yet the varnish and the baking spice crusting ensure that no one conclusion can yet be made. This is highly seasoned and not quite unfurled Gamay. Two more years should complete its conditioning. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May 2015

Château-De-Jacques Moulin a Vent Clos de Rochegres 2007, Ac Beaujolais, France (Agent, $43.95, WineAlign)

Poured from a magnum, the 2007 Clos de Rochgeres is the portal in which to peer, to see what can happen with Gamay. Baked, caked, figgy, funky and oxidative, more than ample fruit was present and persists, with the savoury edges now integrated throughout. Strawberry rhubarb pie comes to mind, with eyes closed and sniffing senses heightened. A bit indelicate, the humidity in tomato leaf and garrigue add to the idea of age though the citric punch and lactic texture are reminders of Gamay’s fun side. There is no shortage of complexity and evolution here. That said, consumption time is now. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted May 2015

Malivoire Gamay Courtney 2007, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

The wow aromatics can’t be denied, fully explained nor perfunctorily taken for granted. Age has educated the fruit, stratified and fully saturated this Gamay. Strawberries have shot from an adrenaline cannon and structure has been fully realized with (non-Gamay) Old World confidence. A note of orange blossom, like an early evening Sevilla garden, is rousing. The natural evolve of such a Gamay, with wood, yeast and fruit in expert harmony, recalls the impossible acts of red wines like those made by Emidio Pepe. If the stretch is considered a conceit of poetic licence, so be it. The yet beating heart of raging acidity circling plenteous fruit and so much savour is nothing short of a Gamay miracle. Power and masculinity, by way of a conduit in oak, have been used to great advantage. This has life yet to live. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted May 2015

Château-De-Jacques Morgon Côte du Py 2006, Ac Beaujolais, France (Agent, $53.95)

Seamless and eminently structured, developed low and slow. The blue volcanic soil has procured an evolutionary subsumption, a roasted, developed personality. The seeping liquor oozes, of earthy cherries, again like Sangiovese, but inelastic and close-grained, as per the Côte du Py idiom. This ’06 offers clarity and gives reason to forgive the brutal ’13, to abstain for commenting further. This wine is quite ferric and still tannic. The oak remains a factor. Through the walls the Gamay fruit does transude and so the master plan is coming into effect, perhaps not immediately but will be very soon. Just around the corner. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2015
Moderator Sara d'Amato and the Terroir Masterclass panel: Magdalena Kaiser, Dr. Jim Willwerth, Emma Garner, Stuart Piggott and Dr. Kevin Pogue

Moderator Sara d’Amato and the Terroir Masterclass panel: Magdalena Kaiser, Dr. Jim Willwerth, Emma Garner, Stuart Piggott and Dr. Kevin Pogue

The second Masterclass: A Different Look At Terroir: How Much Do Soils Actually Matter?

“In this seminar/tasting we ask what the term really means, and how much do its many different elements actually influence the character of the finished wine?”

The Panelists:

  • Dr. Kevin Pogue Phd. Geology, Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington State, USA
  • Dr. Jim Willwerth Phd. Biological Sciences: Plant Sciences; Oenology and Viticulture (CCOVI, Brock University, Niagara, Canada)
  • Winemaker Emma Garner (Thirty Bench, Beamsville Bench, Ontario, Canada)
  • Winewriter Stuart Pigott (Author of Riesling: Best White Wine On Earth, Berlin, Germany)

The Moderator: Wine writer/Sommelier Sara d’Amato (Wine Align, Toronto, Canada)

Dr. Willwerth offered up his opinion on how minerality is achieved in Riesling. “If you don’t get maturity in the variety at the end of the growing season, you won’t get the full expression of minerality. Overripe will eliminate minerality.” In Ontario, “The Bench is home to a mineral wealth of local Riesling, singular in composition not only by way of a global comparison, but also from plot to plot, soil to soil and vineyard to vineyard.” That persuasion has spread, down to the shores of Lake Ontario, by Niagara-on-the-Lake and in Prince Edward County. “Riesling brokers the nescient consumer with the gift of grape enlightenment.”

Seven Ontario Rieslings were tasted in the Masterclass. The notes.

Riesling Masterclass

Riesling Masterclass

Cave Spring Riesling Dolomite 2013, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Winery, $16.95, WineAlign)

This is Cave Spring’s bridge, offering safe passage from Estate to CSV Riesling. Vinified with consistency in a quasi-Kabinett style, its elevated though classic numbers steadfast in sugar (17.55 g/L) and acidity (7.2 g/L TA). The dolomite limestone of the Escarpment means business in this calm, fit, chiseled and consumer-lissome Riesling. Palate is really the thing, seamless to attraction, from fruit to stone. Orchards and citrus groves alight to rock. Phenolically ripe yet shy of the tropical planet. Is there transference here? Absolutely. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted May 2015

Château Des Charmes Old Vines Riesling 2013, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (277228, $16.95, WineAlign)

The happy place effect by age in the Château Des Charmes’ vines coupled with location is usually enough to carry this Riesling through an obvious and readily identifiable tunnel but 2013 confounds. The elemental ratio, derived from multiplying reduction by altitude leans thoughts to the Vinemount Ridge or the Cave Spring Escarpment Vineyard. The compound aromatic waft, or more succinctly, the deconstructed stone, the breaking down of periodic Hollywood squares is a force to reckon. That this arrives from such close proximity to the lake is nothing short of amazing. It’s as if this Riesling is the product of stressed vines and the pierce is just so pinpointed. Less accessible than ’12 for sure, so drink up previous vintages going back at least three before even thinking about getting to know 2013. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2015

Norman Hardie Riesling 2014, Prince Edward County, Ontario (Tank Sample)

At this prepossessed stage the terpenic fruit might fail in competition but succeed in the marketplace. Easy access, smelling of perfumed must, juicy, with citrus and burgeoning acidity. Low alcohol and good length stretch out an endless lemon summer. The wine will reverse itself within a year and beat impossible odds. A Hardie always does.  Tasted May 2015

Thirty Bench Riesling Small Lot Triangle Vineyard 2009, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)
The brilliant hue slides through patina and heads for gold. Some fumes have emerged with age, part petrol, part pure mineral, but of what kind and more importantly how, or why? Viscous, near oily, waxy and the most Glück of the three Thirty Bench single-vineyard Rieslings. Tossed with spice, pepper, lemon and honey that is more molasses than clover. The mineral is a result of the lowest water retentive soil as compared to Steel Post and Wood Post. The transmission for (orchard or tropical) fruit is minimized, the vigour low. The result is mineral. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted May 2015

Thirty Bench Riesling Small Lot Steel Post Vineyard 2009, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Balance is and therefore always was struck. The match percusses flint for a mere nano-second, with just a brush on cymbal, the rock bleeds but is quickly clotted because the fruit shines still, like around the clock light. The steely aspect is a posterior one, antithetical and yet purposed, from this vineyard. Youth tells common sense to think 2011. The Riesling behaviour seems to play that part, of a chalky, piercing acidity, so typical of that vintage and so distinctly Thirty Bench. That the wine is older is not a big surprise because 2009 is the bomb. It may just be the best Riesling vintage, from on that Bench, in the last 10. Drink 2015-2025.  Tasted May 2015

Thirty Bench Riesling Small Lot Wood Post Vineyard 2009, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Age is a factor but less so than its Bench sisters due to a fine sense of calm. Showing less evolution, less viscosity, less wax and honey. More than that, the periodic table has yet to fill in. The Wood Post exhibits more warmth, savour and balm. A taste offers a sapidity that combines toasted fennel and candied lemon. Poised and yet incomplete, the vineyard fetters this Riesling to breath slowly and take its (will get to) sweet time. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted May 2015

Flat Rock Cellars Riesling Nadja’s Vineyard 2009, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (578625, $19.95, WineAlign)

Going back a few years, this Flat Rock Weis 21 clone Riesling from atop the Niagara Escarpment was made by former winemaker Ross Wise. Six years has concentrated both aromas and flavours while concurrently reducing the cutting drill. The hyperbole is read by tablet, of etchings in stone, immortalizing the terroir (not so) long before it was truly known how this could happen. What sticks out the most is the bleeding limestone texture and the striking aridity. Later vintages of Nadja improve on the flesh. Drink 2015-2017. Tasted May 2015
Clone Wars Masterclass

Clone Wars Masterclass

The third Masterclass: “The Clone Wars”: What Do Different Clones Bring To The Glass & Why?

“Looks at Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. The varying clones utilized are a point of pride for some winemakers, and yet not even mentioned by others. Over the course of this detailed seminar/tasting we hope to answer why this is the case.”

The Panelists:

  • Dr. Kevin Pogue Phd. Geology Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington State, USA
  • Dr. Jim Willwerth Phd. Biological Sciences: Plant Sciences; Oenology and Viticulture (CCOVI, Brock University, Niagara, Canada)
  • Winemaker Angelo Pavan (Cave Spring, Jordan, Ontario, Canada)
  • Winemaker Jay Johnston (Flat Rock, Beamsville Bench, Ontario, Canada)

The Moderator: Sommelier Katy Moore (Langdon Hall, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada)

Dr. Jim Willwerth asserts that “clones are essential for viticulture, propagated asexually, through cuttings.” Angelo Pavan notes “clonal research to cold heartiness is very important for Niagara and also for yields.” Clones no doubt drive the industry, at least behind the scenes, but when it comes to making great wine, is it the be all, end all? “I still believe plot trumps clone,” says Jay Johnston. The defence rests. Here are the wines tasted in the final Masterclass.

Clone Wars Masterclass line-up

Clone Wars Masterclass line-up

Greenlane Riesling Old Vines 2011, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (351486, $21.95, WineAlign)

While aridity suggests Alsace Clone 49, this is actually Weiss 21, made saline and arid out of Lincoln Lakeshore soil. The herbal aspect has propagated to combine with Twenty Bench like distinction and with less citrus than Vinemount Ridge or Beamsville Bench. The Mosel density has developed with time in bottle. Drink 2015-2019.

From my earlier note of October 2013:

Cracks the mineral whip, froths lime into foam and atomizes stone fruit into sweet and sour heaven. Wants to be semi-dry but never quite goes there. Walks a fine line, a tightrope actually. Up there with Charles Baker and Thirty Bench for sheer madness.

Last tasted May 2015

Trius Winery At Hillebrand Showcase Riesling Ghost Creek Vineyard 2013, VQA Four Mile Creek, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

The Ghost Creek Riesling comes from the shadow of a river bed vineyard planted to the Alsace clone 49. The fruit is much richer than most, coupled with the aridity and salinity that former stony wadi plots and this particular clone will conspire to effect. The citrus intensity is however tempered by a humidity that comes from seemingly sunburnt fruit, tanned and wet down by the revenant reservoir. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted May 2015

Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (246579, $15.95, WineAlign)

Produced from the 77 clone, the vintage has heightened the high herbal and feigned sweetness aromatic pastis. The palate is extraordinarily viscous, with Yellow Muscat and Gewürztraminer attributes, not so out of the ordinary considering Cave Spring’s older world execution. Drives from lemon to mandarin, through almond pit and into peach. Always solid Musqué. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted May 2015

2027 Cellars Chardonnay Wismer Vineyard Fox Croft Block 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

In the hands of winemaker Kevin Panagapka, Craig Wismer’s fruit retains un underlay of power not recognized in other Foxcroft Chardonnays. Neither Thomas Bachelder nor Ross Wise (Keint-He) make anything near spirited as this 2027 take. Chardonnay loves the sun in the Foxcroft Block and Panagapka loves to see that sun hook up with the inside of a barrel. This ’12 makes a nice date for a wood wedding. A product of the Dijon 96 clone, the reduction in this Chardonnay drives its fresh, spritely if mettlesome nature, with a bark and a barrel bellow, but longevity will not suffer as a result. This could take 30 years to oxidize, it’s that audacious and also courageous. Let it and its buttered popcorn rest a while. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted May 2015

Malivoire Chardonnay Moira 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Beamsville Bench, Ontario (243113, $39.95, WineAlign)

When it comes to clones, winemaker Shiraz Mottiar distills the Moira Vineyard into the realm of “field selection.” Not to be confused with field blend though I suppose that’s what it is, of sorts. The ’13 is the dictionary entry for Moira, typically balanced, from pedigree, in warmth, amiability, gathered and distributed, from acumen and confidence, to customary placement. Fruit and acidity relax on a sofa of equilibrium, taking little in the way of risks, making no mistakes. Reduction isn’t even a twinkle in its fresh versus oxidative eye. The vintage and the handling purports to throw infantile, developed and matured into one big machine for a readout that grants immediate gratification. Exemplary take on cool-climate, Niagara Peninsula, slightly warmer Beamsville Bench Chardonnay proper. Not for the long-term. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted May 2015

Flat Rock Pinot Noir Pond Block 2011, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

Assessed blind it smells just like the Flat Rock’s Gravity Pinot Noir yet singled out in fractions. Here the mellifluent block, of sweet crooning fruit, careening and submissive to Siamese brother triplet Summit’s tension.

From my earlier note of October 2013:

Crosses the twain between Bruce and Summit. A cottony touch, most pronounced perfume and of the three, the lowest acidity. Mellow, easy, J.J. Cale peaceful, void of chalk, grain or angst. Speaks in a cherry voice, smells like cherry and returns that cherry to taste. Ripe and soft. “Sweet as a morning sunrise, fresh as a mountain dew.”

Last tasted May 2015

Flat Rock Pinot Noir Summit Block 2011, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

The most perfumed and yes, Burgundian of the three blocks, the Pommard in the group. Still limestone chalky and gaining weight. This is a single-block wine to me made again.From my earlier note of October 2013:This block’s base is slightly deeper, spreading over dolomite limestone. Diminished average temperatures mean berries develop lower and slower, hang longer (up to three weeks) resulting in higher phenolic ripeness. Summit may be the caveman of the three, seemingly in dire straits, covered in leaves, snapped twigs, truffles and porcini mushroom but damn if impossible Burgundy does not come to mind. This is one to ask where do you think you’re going? It will surely reply, “if you ain’t with me girl, you’re gonna be without me.”Last tasted May 2015

Flat Rock Pinot Noir Bruce Block 2011, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

The light and delicate place translates to hue, texture and ultimately elegance. Yet there persists an underlying anxiety, essential for gravity.

From my earlier note of October 2013:

From the northern most block, up at the Escarpment/Bruce trail. Thin, one foot deep soil meshes flaky limestone at this elevation. Smallish berries predominate and an earthly mote accents the flowers, cherries, strawberry and classic purity of this bonny Bruce. A Oregonian lightness of being, if you will. From one of the few south-facing slopes in Niagara (because of 20 Mile Creek), where the limestone chalk imparts fine-grained tannin so apparent to taste.

Last tasted May 2015

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Rocking out with the 2014 WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada

WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada 2014

WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada 2014

The results are in. Closure has come. Category champions and Judge’s picks are now live.

The highly regarded WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada is categorized and justified as a “must enter” for winemakers and vintners who want to be a part of a genuine, above-board wine competition. For consumers in Canada it is a place to discover the best value wines available on the market today. Say what you will about the concours concept. The straightforward WineAlign offer implements an expertly designed bracket to ultimately crown a covey of thoroughly deserving champions. Wines are carefully scrutinized, judged with fair play and at times, brutal honesty. Each wine must impress the judges more than once. “Up to the task” is never in question. At “The Worlds,” the best minds are on the job.

Related – He spits, he scores: 2013 World Wine Awards of Canada results

Panorama of judging and wines at WWAC14 Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

Panorama of judging and wines at WWAC14
Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

It was the week of August 18 to 22. Eighteen critics, two czars, a tech guy, a database custodian, a logistics steward, “her bitch” (sic) and a dedicated team of volunteers gathered to administer vinous justice for 1000 (give or take) hopeful wines. The tasting road was long yet filled with much success. Never have so many wines with the intention of offering value and simple pleasure shown so well and with so much grace.

Head judge Anthony Gismondi talks with Rhys Pender MW, Steve Thurlow, DJ Kearney and Godello Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

Head judge Anthony Gismondi talks with Rhys Pender MW, Steve Thurlow, DJ Kearney and Godello
Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

In today’s WineAlign WWAC14 results dissertation, Anthony Gismondi tells us that “nothing has value unless you give it some.” The awards are about assessing daily drinkers, wines that the repeat consumer look for often, especially the bargains. They are for consumers first, of and for the common people. For the wineries, agents and writers, the competition is effectuated without bias. “The tastings are computerized from start to finish allowing wineries, agents or retailers to enter, pay, and eventually track their results online.” 

In 2014 my position is this. Oak and cheap tricks are on the way out, at least when it comes to wines submitted to the WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada. Sugar, wood chips, agar agar, artificial colour, manipulated flavour, reverse osmosis and added acidity are trade practices reserved for wines out there in the fast food stratosphere. The judges at the WWAC14 were fortunate to be granted immunity from having to taste and assess such a most unnatural lot. These awards represent and foster an altruistic commonality between vigneron and critic. Make an honest wine and it will be judged with honourable intent.

WWAC14 Judging Panel

WWAC14 Judging Panel

The writers and judges that make up the panels evaluate wines under $50 that are sold somewhere in Canada in the year of the competition. Entries are judged in flights along with similar varietal wines in three price categories; under $15, $15 to $25 and over $25. Starting with the 2014 awards all wines entered will not only be posted on WineAlign with bottle images, but reviews will be included as well (many in both French and English). Again in 2014, orchestration was overseen by one of North America’s most respected wine critics, Vancouver Sun columnist and WineAlign Partner Anthony Gismondi, aka The Spitter.

Panel of judges DJ Kearney, Godello and Rhys Pender MW Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

Panel of judges DJ Kearney, Godello and Rhys Pender MW
Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

Some startling results came out of this year’s tastings. Who would have ever put money on Carménère under $15 not only showing well, but blowing the collective minds of no less than five critics? Should Malbec in the $15-25 range, half of which are made by large and recognizable houses, have impressed with so much structure and restraint? A group of eight red blends under $15 were all good, five of them garnering very good scores. That same concept group of $15-25 were nearly all exceptional. Southern Italy fared with top value results in the under $15 category. Syrah/Shiraz $15-25 really surprised, as did Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the same range. Not to mention a flight of five fruit wines, four of which scored between 85 and 88. Not bad. All this can be attributed to one basic premise. WineAlign does not attract more producers than other concours. It attracts better ones.

WWAC14 judges Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

WWAC14 judges
Photo: Jason Dziver (www.jasondziver.com)

As in 2013, this year I was invited to join the other 17 judges in Mississauga, Ontario. Fortune is measured by the company one keeps. The 2014 judges were David LawrasonSteve Thurlow, Sara d’Amato, Bill Zacharkiw, Dr. Janet Dorozynski, Rémy Charest, Craig Pinhey, Rhys Pender, MWDJ Kearney, Treve Ring, Brad RoyaleJulian Hitner, Evan SaviolidisBruce Wallner, MSMichelle Bouffard, Emily Maclean, Adam Hijazi and Jake Lewis.

Released today, here are the results from #WWAC14, presented by WineAlign. Wines were awarded for the categories of Top Value WinesBest of CountryCategory Champions and Judges’ Choice. In addition to the work of the judges, the Worlds were really made possible by Head Wineaux Bryan McCaw, along with Earl Paxton, Jason Dziver (Photography), Carol Ann Jessiman, Sarah GoddardMiho Yamomoto and the volunteers.

2014 World Wine Awards of Canada Results

WWAC14

WWAC14

Each judge was asked to write reviews on a specific cross-section of wines they were a part of assessing during the competition. Here are my notes on 30 wines tasted blind, across a wide range of categories, in August of 2014 at #WWAC14 and the songs they inspired.

Category champion wines from left to right: Villa Wolf Riesling 2013, Castillo De Molina Reserva Carmenère 2012, Church &amp; State Coyote Bowl Series Chardonnay 2012, Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block No. 21 Viento Mar Pinot Noir 2012, Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2012, Buena Vista Pinot Noir 2011

Category champion wines from left to right: Villa Wolf Riesling 2013, Castillo De Molina Reserva Carmenère 2012, Church & State Coyote Bowl Series Chardonnay 2012, Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block No. 21 Viento Mar Pinot Noir 2012, Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2012, Buena Vista Pinot Noir 2011

Cabernet Sauvignon $15-25

Wolf Blass Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra, South Australia, Australia (606939, $24.95, WineAlign)

Funny thing about Cabernet Sauvignon, “sometimes they rock and roll, sometimes they stay at home and it’s just fine,” Wolf Blass makes all kinds. This Coonawarra GL seems to do both. It’s ripe and presumptuous, rocks in the glass but also has good, homebody, varietal tendency. It has a heart that’s on fire, a wolf parade of iron, sanguine tension and tannin, but also hung walls of home woven tapestry texture. The core of fruit, earth and tar cries out for prey. The finish is long and returns, back to base Blass.

Icewine – Riesling-Gewurz-Apple

La Face Cachée de la Pomme 2011 Neige Première Ice Pink Cider, Quebec (39305, 375ml, $22.95, WineAlign)

“Breathe, breathe in the air” of intensity, in apples. One hundred squared apples on top of one another. Never mind the few bruised and oxidative ones because the fresh and concentrated mass smothers those minor notes. Pink and ambient, the major sweetness and top-notch acidity speak to me in waves of demonstrative, Floydian verse. Here you will find a Québécois response to “there is no dark side in the moon, really. As a matter of fact it’s all dark.” There is Icewine on the bright side and then there is Iced Cider on la face cachée, “balanced on the biggest wave.”

Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Riesling Icewine 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (winery, 375ml, $59.95, WineAlign)

A vanimated astral week’s of emotion is met by an animal musk, both hard to define. There is a high quotient of lemon, in curd, zest and pith. The sweetness is tempered by nudging acidity though it lingers long. All Riesling Icewine has to do “is ring a bell and step right up” so despite the electric Kool-Aid sugar syrup moments, this one spins and twirls, as Riesling does, just like a ballerina.

Inniskillin Niagara Estate Riesling Icewine 2012, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (601021, 375ml, $69.95, WineAlign)

Here sweetness, acerbity and a slightly advanced character are brought into balance by high grape sugar intensity and real linear acidity. Long and elastic, medicinally pretty and sacrosanct with seasoned complexity. Tasted this one and “felt a spark.” Tasted it twice and it tingled to the bone. What begun as a bob between evaluations ended with a simple twist of fate.  WWAC 2014 Category Champion

Pinot Noir $15-25

Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2011, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (146548, $21.95, WineAlign)

Deep earth and black cherry combine for the most extraction in the $15-25 Pinot Noir flight. There’s dust in them hills as the wine acts as if it were borne of the mountains. Has attitude in altitude. All things considered, the fruit is clean and crisp, perhaps a hair over the overripe line. The cool temperament and temperature in the cold room aid in giving it some love. From my earlier, January 2014 note: “That Villa Maria can make 80,000 cases of Pinot Noir this proper is nothing short of remarkable. Aged in French oak for 8-10 months. As Pinot like as could be hoped for considering the case amount. Every drop must go through Malolactic fermentation. Winemaker Josh Hammond and crew insist upon it, though it’s nothing but painstaking cellar/lab work. The Pinot character initially shines, with loads of plum and black cherry, but there is a momentary lapse. But, “if you’re standing in the middle, ain’t no way you’re gonna stop.” So, the definitive Marlborough ectodermal line painted through the in door speaks quickly and leaves by the out door. From a smoking gun, rising like a Zeppelin. Large volume, big production, drinkable in the evening Pinot Noir.”  Last tasted August 2014  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Unsworth Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012, Vancouver Island, British Columbia (winery, $$23.90, WineAlign)

Now here we’re talking about a Pinot Noir from a another mother. It heads generously into fragrances not yet nosed in this flight of $15-25 Pinot Noir. Exotic byrne of a perfume on high alert; jasmine, violets, roses and Summer ‘David’ Phlox. Exquisite, fresh and bright. There is tang and tannin. Vibrancy to raise eyebrows. Also wild sage, wild fruit, an animal on a walk in a virgin forest. So much Pinot Noir is hairy, this one is “living on nuts and berries.”  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Malbec $15-25

Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, Mendoza, Argentina (agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

This Golden Reserve Malbec by Trivento is a juicy, dusty, fruit tree addition to the #WWAC14 flight and arrives just in the nick of time. Despite the dark fruit, it has no Drake spoken word conceit. It sings in classic Drake lullaby, with beefy meet pine forest aromas and so “you find that darkness can give the brightest light.” Tender refrains soften chalky, stalky wood and corresponding bitter chocolate. Big tannins on this balladeer. Has impressive stuffing.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Red Blends over $25

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2 Bench Red 2011, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

Wonderful, tangy red fruits define this well-structured Bordeaux blend. Cool and concise, it plays a tight riff and bangs a drum slowly. Comfortable on a big stage, it charges into a funky break and whips a crowd into a frenzy. So much energy from a band of five varietal friends, complimenting each other’s playing with mutual respect. Does the two Bench two-step and steals the show. “Celebrate we will because life is short but sweet for certain. We’re climbing two by two, to be sure these days continue.”

Vin Parfait Red 2012, Adelaide Hills, South Australia, Australia (350512, $29.95, WineAlign)

Circuitous mounds of round, stone ground aromas in coffee, Goji berry, red licorice and red ochre. A Jackson Pollock Expressionist splatter of notion and motion, flirtations and tension. Tempranillo, Shiraz and Grenache in does it, or will it come together beyond the abstract? Number 8 did. This one s’got to too.

Number 8, 1949 by Jackson Pollock www.jackson-pollock.org

Number 8, 1949 by Jackson Pollock
http://www.jackson-pollock.org

Grenache $10-20

Castillo de Monseran Garnacha 2013, Cariñena, Aragon, Spain (73395, $9.95, WineAlign)

A slightly cooked character is evident but within reason. Despite the heat it’s a bit of an arctic monkey, with tomato and cherry sprinkled over by Queso Fresco and followed up with a slice of blueberry pie. Simple yet effective, pleasant palate. There is some heat and tension from the tannins and “I’d like to poke them in their prying eyes,” but they do relent. The length is more than appropriate, given the tag. Only question is, “will the teasing of the fire be followed by the thud?” At $10, who really cares. Represents excellent value.

Artadi Artazuri Garnacha 2013, Navarra and Basque Country, Spain ($19.50, WineAlign)

Garnacha from the old world west with incredible citrus bursts, like orange blossoms and the spirit of the zest. A spritz from a lemon too. A smoulder of burning charcoal with a spit-roasting goat adds to the roadside attraction. Palm branches help to create the smoke. This is exotic and creative stuff. Finishes with a dessert note of bitter plum. Velada, “you got yourself a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 star reaction.” Really unique red.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/Roadside+Attraction/33YBUM?src=5

Sauvignon Blanc Under $15

Caliterra Tributo Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Leyda Valley, Region de Aconcagua, Chile (283648, $14.95, WineAlign)

A step up from multi-site, southern hemisphere Sauvignon Blanc with direct intentions, all the right moves and in all the right places. So much going on in both its aromatic and textural world. Wax, lanolin and Bordeaux-like temperance and consistent with the growing SB trend, “the grass is getting greener each day.” Decent one republic attack on the palate though nothing fantastic. Has heart and Sauvignon Blanc soul.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Southern Italy Under $15

Grandi Muri Primitivo Promovi Salento 2013, Puglia, Italy (agent, $13.50, WineAlign)

A red-veined Primitivo, with the savoury blood of Swiss Chard and hoisin and red bean paste coarsing through it. Smells like spicy and sweet Hunan dishes, sweet sweat and sour, but it is not a matter of oxidation. It’s a caramelized soy sensation but written in reverse. Spoon this over cereal, ice cream, charred beef, anything. It’s got Chinese five-spice powder and coriander. Like a bowl of most excellent Pho. Fantastic exotics. “We’re gettin’ you raw and it feels real good.” Rocking Primitivo.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Shiraz/Syrah $15-25

Layer Cake Shiraz 2012, South Australia, Australia ($24.99, WineAlign)

Unquestionably warm but with restraint. That may be perceived as a bad, obvious and reprehensible dichotomous comment but in transparency it speaks truths. Shows good savour and sapidity. It’s an aurulent burnt orange and smoked pineapple offering, blanketed in dusty chocolate and syrupy to a certain extreme. It’s long, creamy, silken and covered further in darker chocolate. “True colors fly in blue and black, bruised silken sky and burning flag.” Warm but you too will indubitably see the pleasures in its layer cake.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

White Blends Under $15

Pelee Gewurztraminer Riesling 2012, Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario (109991, $10.95, WineAlign)

A ray of golden sunshine. The glade and the classic Gewurz attributes are here and highly floral. Rose petals soaking in good medicine. This could be my beloved monster. Such a dry example. She wears “a raincoat that has four sleeves, gets us through all kinds of weather.” Match with BBQ’s eels. Not for everyone but it works.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Shiraz/Syrah Over $25

Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2012, McLaren Vale, South Australia, Australia (390872, $29.95, WineAlign)

This is the most accomplished and wise drop of Shiraz tasted at the WineAlign #WWAC14. A hit of snowy sulphur shows just how much growing up it needs. Such a precocious and heady example. A thick, gluey mess of fruit, unsettled and in rapture within its tannic walls. The voilets and the rest of the garden rules really tie the room together. Shiraz entrenched, grown and raised, “where the nettle met the rose.” For five years later and on patrol for ten more after that. Wow.  WWAC 2014 Category Champion  WWAC 2014 Best of Country

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Delaine Syrah 2011, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (86553, $32.95, WineAlign)

Here blows a fine, exuberant and expresive muzzle with ambrosial flavours. A garrigue and olive dirty martini with sweet drops pf berry syrup. Juniper and conifer verdure meet inklings of berries. There is a sense of mushroom and truffle which can go either way, but here it brings paradigmatic character. Like words added to an intense Billy Preston instrumental. This may “take your brain to another dimension. Pay close attention.” Dark, brooding and out of space. A prodigy and a real deal in cool climate Syrah.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice  WWAC 2014 Best of Country

Cabernet Sauvignon $15-25

Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina (135202, $19.95, WineAlign)

A genesis in clean fruit of high extract order is linear, direct, forceful and in Cab conceit. A narcissistic brooder with ripples of underbrush and underworld scents. Thinks highly of itself, demands attention, seeks followers, stares into a pool. “The face in the water looks up and she shakes her head as if to say, that it’s the last time you’ll look like today.” With a few more reflecting and reflective refrains this Cabernet will realize a softness, turn away from the mirror and settle into its skin.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Lake Sonoma Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa – Sonoma – Mendocino, California, United States (Agent, $26.99, WineAlign)

From the outset this engages the imbiber simple because it acts as though its one time tension has been massaged and released. The flat feeling is there, though not detracting, because of an inherent notion that there was and still can be beautiful fruit. It just needs “that spark to get psyched back up.” A rapping modern facade is the cover page for earth savoury meets candied M & M flavour, docile, downy glycerin Cabernet texture, with acidity and tannin waning. Was serious, now friendly and will be late leaving the party.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Chardonnay $15-25

Kendall Jackson Avant Chardonnay 2013, Mendocino County, California, United States ($19.00, WineAlign)

This may be a winner. I love the immediacy of its fruit, the antebellum tension and just a kiss from the barrel. You know its there but in subtlety, class and as background noise. The aromas of citrus, beeswax and honey and all accents to clean orchard fruit. This has the most balance in a flight of eleven verry tidy Chardonnay in a consumer-driven $15-25 price bracket. Lady spirited and at times a bit anxious, or perhaps not yet entirely comfortable in its skin, this is nonetheless best in show.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Carmenère Under $15

Castillo De Molina Reserva Carmenère 2012, Valle del Maule, Region del Valle Central, Chile (Agent, $14.95, WineAlign)

The first thought on this Carmenère is the scaling back of new oak, lifting it above the crowd in an under $15 flight. The freshness factor makes for a whole new animal, or botanical rather. This has candied jasmine, pansy, bergamot and nasturtium. It’s a veritable salad of candied edibles. The middle palate is marked by Mentholatum and the finale is persistent in acidulated action. What a warm, mazzy gift of a Carmenère, a star of a Chilean red that would be welcome, just like flowers in December. “Send me a flower of your December. Save me a drink of your candy wine.”  WWAC 2014 Category Champion

Chardonnay Over $25

Church & State Coyote Bowl Series Chardonnay 2012, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (winery, $26.90, WineAlign)

Quiet, muted, beautiful and reserved. This is the “iconoclastic and restlessly innovative” style of a wine that bravely explores other territories of pop Chardonnay. Anything but fashioned in an in your face style, this one is in it for the Hejira, the journey and the time. Ripe yellow apples and pears and then come the lees. Could pass for unoaked Chablis. The appreciation and gathering are a style that should be used more.  “No regrets coyote,” you just come “from such different sets of circumstance.”  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice  WWAC 2014 Top Value Wines

Stags’ Leap Winery Chardonnay 2012, Napa Valley, California, United States (655381, $34.95, WineAlign)

Has hallmarks of essential fruit from a top notch vintage, the most complexity and schooling. The reduction is pure essence of grape must, with no fault to either the vine or the maker. Every wine’s “screwed up in their own special way.” A rmineral tannin gets on top early like a Ramones riff, stays for dinner and repeats in refrain. The crisp and mister punchy orchard fruit is kissed by wood. Sucks face. The texture is seamless and verve excellent, by acidity and forward to pronounced length.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Sparkling

Delouvin Bagnost N/V Brut, Champagne, France (agent, $42.75, WineAlign)

Tends to a trend in sweet aromatic beginnings which is nothing but endearing. A leesy pear and ris de veau nose split by a bowie and filled with pearls of sugary syrup. To taste there is the metallic gaminess of uncooked other white meat. Sweet meat, sweet thing. The gathering sensation is an elemental display of ethereal, aerified climatic conditions. Though made in an oxidized style, the complexity of character is not to be denied.  “Runs to the center of things where the knowing one says, boys, boys, its a sweet thing.” In the end the burst of energy is invigorating and heart piercing.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Pinot Noir Over $25

Cono Sur Single Vineyard Block No. 21 Viento Mar Pinot Noir 2012, Valle de San Antonio, Region de Aconcagua, Chile (agent, $19.99, WineAlign)

You can always pick out the wines made from unique, little feat sites, wherever in the world they may have been raised. Even when they stink up the joint, smell like a 16 year-old hockey change room or like candied paint poured over fresh cedar planks, they stand out like beacons of Pinot amon din. Lord of the Pinot rings here that’s “been kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet…baked by the sun,” fire lit, rosemary branches and oxtail smoldering and simmering over fresh cut ash from a deciduous forest. Cool mint and pine. The most savoury things of fantasy imagined. Wild ride in and most willin’ Pinot Noir.  WWAC 2014 Category Champion

Buena Vista Pinot Noir, Carneros 2011, Napa Valley, California, United States (304105, $24.95, WineAlign)

This is really quite impressive Pinot Noir. Fastidiously judged if bullish fruit having way too much fun, causing varietal envy amongst other price category peers. Clearly fashioned from stocks of quality fruit, providing an environment for the coming together of many red berries and the earth of contigious vines. All roads lead to a grand palate marked by exotic, spicy and righteous fleet of wood tones. I wonder if I’m in over my head and tell it “your mood is like a circus wheel, you’re changing all the time.” Quite something this MacPinot specimen and though I wonder if it’s a bit too much, it always seems to have an answer and it sure feels fine.  WWAC 2013 Category Champion  WWAC 2013 Best of Variety $15 – $25  WWAC 2014 Category Champion  WWAC 2014 Top Value Wines

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Pinot Noir 2010, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (winery, $29.99, WineAlign)

The grace of time has ladled felicity upon this left coast Pinot Noir. What once were harsh and mephitic stuck in a cola can kind of smells have been released and are just a faint memory of their once formidable, terrible teeth gnashing remains. Twas root beer that fouled the air but now the saline sea and verdure of hills speaks in clear vernacular. The sailor has “sailed across weeks and through a year,” met with wild things, to now return home and offer up her Pinot Noir, to be enjoyed with supper that is still warm.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Riesling Under $15

Villa Wolf Riesling 2013, Pfalz, Germany (agent, $14.95, WineAlign)

This has a lovely, head of its class, nearly value-driven exquisite nature and aromatic richness. In consideration of the price bracket, the sulphur is trumped by that radio dialed in richesse. Exotic Riesling specific fruit. A crisp apple meets a ripe pineapple. A wolf at the door, “out pops the cracker, smacks you in the head.” Decent acidity, better length, good bitters.  WWAC 2014 Category Champion

Red Blends Under $15

Miguel Torres Sangre de Toro 2012, Cataluña, Spain (6585, $12.95, WineAlign)

This Garnacha and Carignan blend works a stoned immaculate contrivance as well as any red blend under $15 you are ever likely to upend. “Soft driven slow and mad, like some new language.” The action is effective, properly conceived and opens the doors to value-based perception. Perhaps a bit thin but the lack of wood and sweetener is a breath of fresh air. What it lacks in girth it makes up for with complexity, in notes of graphite, fennel and sea air. Lovely little Mediterranean red.  WWAC 2014 Judges’ Choice

Good to go!

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The pearls of Morissette’s wisdom

Pearl Morissette Riesling samples

Pearl Morissette Riesling samples

So you make wine from Ontario-grown grapes and it fails VQA inspection. The economic impact is potentially crippling. Here’s the short story. The sale of an Ontario VQA-certified bottle of wine sends approximately 15-20 per cent of the profit to the province. Without the stamp the tax cost is upwards of 50. There is no money to be made if your wine has not been blessed by VQA. Here is the long version:

The total Landed Cost (what the winery keeps) is calculated based on this:
Basic Price (retail price)  
minus Environmental Tax fee (same for VQA and non-VQA)
minus Bottle Tax/Levy (same for VQA and non-VQA)  
minus LCBO Wine Levy (applied to non-VQA only, yet minimal – $1.15 for $26btl)
minus LCBO mark-up (which is completely different between VQA and non-VQA – $0 for VQA, $8.5039 for a non-VQA wine based on a $26)
For a $25.20 ($25 + bottle deposit) bottle of wine, this is what the winery (Total Landed Cost in VQA language) keeps:
VQA retail: $20.56
VQA licensee: $20.56
non-VQA licensee: $12.44
These numbers come from a calculator, designed by VQA and the LCBO themselves that gives you the breakdown, once you enter the retail price.

François Morissette has that crazed look in his eye. The Quebec native faces the professional fight of his young winemaking life and has no intention of backing down. There will be no compromise of the viniculture oeuvre. Morissette’s day in, day out plight has been instigated by the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA), the regulatory board that determines whether or not a wine made in Ontario gets its stamp of approval. It has already happened four times. VQA has rejected his Rieslings.

The pearl Morissette Cuvée Blackball Riesling 2011 is a $26 (retail price including bottle deposit) non-VQA bottle of wine and so the winery’s profit (before operating and production costs) is $12.98. Do the math. Sounds like a loss leader to me.

Pearl Morissette pigs

Pearl Morissette pigs

Morissette makes the wines at Pearl Morissette out of the Twenty Mile Bench in Jordan, Ontario. He’s opinionated and sometimes just plain pissed off. There are those who surely consider him a rogue, a dissident and an SD but at the end of the day, just how is he so different from his Niagara brethren and sistren? He is a farmer and a purveyor of fermented grapes. Granted his methods are progressive and experimental but the goal is the same as any honest and passionate winemaker. François Morissette wants to make memorable wine. Last July François Morissette told me “it’s not that we don’t want to make natural wines. We want to make wines with the least amount of impact.”

In July of 2013 at the i4C Cool Chardonnay Conference in Niagara, Francois expounded on some of the more important facets of making wine in Ontario. “Climate is the number one terroir driven aspect. The clone is nothing without the rootstock. They are inextricably linked.” He is a man who believes wholeheartedly in natural acidity. “You will have riper fruit on dry matter.” These are the ideas of a “rebel,” of a winemaker willing and ready to push the envelope. “I cannot ever apply what I learned in Burgundy as a farmer to Niagara. It’s a totally different animal.” These are the words of “pot-stirrer” Francois Morissette.

Foudre at Pearl Morissette

Foudre at Pearl Morissette

Today, Monday, May 26th, François and his girl Friday Svetlana Atcheva will once again go before the powers that be at VQA.  In their meeting with Executive Director Laurie Macdonald they will argue that their four-time rejected Riesling is bio-chemically sound, that it is a wine with no technical faults. The question of penalizing innovation will be raised, albeit in the spirit of cooperation. They will assert that the level of residual sugar (which the VQA panel seems to feel is “atypically” too low) and perceived sense of dryness must not be the focus. Morissette and Atcheva will explain to the panel that their Riesling is not oxidized but that the use of wood foudres (in addition to typically employed stainless steel tanks) allows for a gentle yet natural, controlled oxygen transfer. Ms. Macdonald will be asked the question on everyone’s mind. “How can an organization that reigns over such a young wine region be so sure what is correct and what is not?” What they should really say is “who are you to play God with wine?”

The sensory evaluation panel and decision makers maintain the necessity that “VQA wine grapes meet standards such as minimum ripeness levels (degrees brix) attained through careful viticultural practices.” This statement suggests that the Pearl Morissette Riesling fails to meet the criteria laid out by the decided governance. Does the system not sound like it is seeking conformity in the name of typicity? I spoke with Atcheva last Monday at the Generation Riesling tasting and she adamantly refutes the VQA position on Pearl Morissette’s wines. Skin ripeness, not sugar levels, indigenous yeasts, minimal interventionist winemaking and most of all quality should be the determining factors to passing their Ontario wine to VQA status. François just wants to be free to sell his wines to whoever he pleases without being shackled to taxes and bureaucracy. “My preference would be for 1,000 people to buy one bottle. But that takes time.”

Atcheva spoke at length this past weekend with a senior LCBO product consultant who elaborated on the selection process for the VQA panel. Up until a few years ago panel members were chosen based on their tasting experience. Today seniority lands spots on the tribunal. Work an LCBO cash for fifteen years and you too can decide the financial future of an Ontario winery.

Conrete Egg Fermenter

Conrete Egg Fermenter

For a full account on VQA evaluation processes and the rejection of Morissette’s wines, read Rick VanSickle’s article, The ‘black-balled’ Riesling from Pearl Morissette in Niagara and the storm that’s brewing over VQA rejection: Let’s talk about it. Another response by Tim Reed Manessy brings the VQA system’s shortcomings into proper focus. Behind the ‘Black Ball’ is Manessy’s take on his blog, Somm on the Run.

Hinterland's Jonas Newman, François Morissette, Montreal Gazette and Chacun Son Vin's Bill Zacharkiw, WineAlign's John Szabo M.S. , Wine Country Ontario's Magdalena Kaiser Smit and Assistant Winemaker Ryan Corrigan tasting Cabernet Franc

Hinterland’s Jonas Newman, François Morissette, Montreal Gazette and Chacun Son Vin’s Bill Zacharkiw, WineAlign’s John Szabo M.S. , Wine Country Ontario’s Magdalena Kaiser Smit and Assistant Winemaker Ryan Corrigan tasting Cabernet Franc

Through the generosity of François Morissette, Naomi Laurie, Ryan Corrigan, Cameron MacDonald and Svetlana Atcheva I have had the opportunity to taste, consider and assess the wines of Pearl Morissette out of tank, barrel, concrete egg fermenter and bottle on several occasions in the past year. Here are my notes on many of those moments.

Riesling Cuvée Blackball 2010, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($26)

This introduction to the experimental oeuvre of François Morissette holds attention and water. The delve into texture shaping by way of progressive malolactic fermentation during primary fermentation is a stirring exercise in character building. The ’10 is a conjoined cuvée of two, one of which contained 20% botrytis affected grapes. It spent eight months on fine lees in stainless steel and finished so very dry, at 1.27 g/L residual sugar. Biochemically correct, reeking and bleeding of the Peninsula’s veins, Blackball was submitted for VQA approval four times and rejected because it “lacked varietal typicity.” Perhaps it was the lack of human intervention, the anti-Bonzai approach, that doomed this diffident Riesling. Perhaps the texture should take it on the cheek for its brilliant disguise, for changing the subject and forcing the taster to open their mind and act innocent for a moment in time. The Blackball has that effect. Sadly, it too will be typical one day.  Tasted July 2013

Riesling Cuvée Blackball 2011, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($26)

The 2011 Cuvée Blackball picks up where the ’10 left off. When tasted from a stainless steel, not yet labeled sample in bottle back in July of 2013 it showed high acidity and citrus but also a bottle-shock musky note. Nearly one year later the wine has fleshed into that sought after experimental texture, as if it were aged in foudres. It’s flexibility was encouraged by three months of aging on its fine lees. The ’11 is the jumping off point and the bridge towards understanding where the Riesling program is heading. Others will follow. “There’s no real reference for these wines,” admits Morissette and that’s the clue to understanding why haste judgments are passed. Fear of the unknown empowers tradition to stagnate and end up getting left behind.  Tasted July 2013 and May 2014

Riesling Cuvée Blackball Barrique 2011, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($29)

The craving for texture led François Morissette to employ small barrels to ferment a small (68 case) amount of 2011 Riesling, in this instance eight year-old neutral barriques. Close-minded, new world wine geeks might fear anarchy but ask any winemaker from Pfalz and they would say, “tell me something new.” The succor is so benign and simultaneously, subtly huge. The increased lees contact on small volumes of wine promotes corpulence and viscidity. The methodology results in more fruit presence; in pear and yellow plum, not to mention that unmistakable Niagara citrus. This ’11 has the most levels of expression. There is nothing revelatory or regulatory about it, beyond the fact that it works and that it would stand out as an excellent example in a flight of Trocken Riesling. The ’11 exemplifies the flesh versus acid continuum. The freshness of this Riesling has emerged, thanks to meticulous sorting, ne0-liberal winemaking and the use of a -1°C fridge. François Morissette does not like to race against time. His Riesling speaks volumes about that.  Tasted July 2013 and May 2014

Riesling Cuvée Blackball Barrique 2012, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($29, WineAlign)

When tasted in July of 2013 the ’12 Barrique had only been in bottle for three days so the musk was quite front and centre. Aged in foudres (neutral, old wood casks) it held much latitude at such a young age with notes of herbiage (mint, tarragon), nary a drop of residual sugar and a wholly unique type of dry acidity. “It will not always show this way,” commented Morissette. Tasted 10 months later I can say this. The ’12 Riesling Barrique avoids excessive malic and tartaric acid, not to mention any amount of volatile acidity. It is viable, vital and technically sound. “This is a wine that will take time,” pleads François . “I care about texture, not about varietal character.” Though perplexing and untamed, the wine has undeniable body and that noble bitterness in its unsung tang. It is the anti-Riesling hero, full of experiential conceit and needs to be revisited often, to see where it will go.  Tasted July 2013 and May 2014

Riesling and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

Riesling and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

Rosé Cuvée LPR 2012, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Sold out, $25)

Stylistically speaking, the bottles (and kegs) that emerged from the 225L hemorrhaging of Cabernet Franc from both oak and concrete vessels have no reference point. In fact, the advertence is one created by Francois Morissette. The flexible disposition is difficult to pinpoint and without trying to sound blowsy in assessment, this goes places yet visited by bone-dry Rosé. If it were the only wine made on premises the barn doors would always be banged upon. A most current wine, exigently red and almost indiscernible as Cabernet Franc. It suffers no stenosis and does not live a single green day. Another VQA rejected wine, the LPR walks down a boulevard of broken dreams and it sings, “I walk a lonely road, the only one that I have ever known.”  Last tasted November 2013

Pinot Noir 2011, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Sold out, $36)

With utmost integrity Pearl Morissette chose not to vinify Pinot Noir from the fruit of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 vintages due to unacceptable levels of sour rot. With the 2011 harvest came inspiration. It was noted that local tree fruit farmers make use of the practice of storing their harvested fruit at 1° Celsius in a large refrigerator. This pseudo-cryogenic cooling practicum worked to halt the progression of the dreaded rot. Buying time allowed the crew to clean sort without having to worry about a single berry contaminating the lot. So what? So a pure, clean Pinot Noir was the result. Tasted four months after bottling, the modest (12.7 per cent alcohol) and vinified so dry (2 g/L residual sugar) ’11 held barking fruit on a tight leash and a moonscape of dusty, grainy tannin. Nine months later (to the day) the sensory evolution became as if cherries, strawberries and the tension in seeking ripe perfection were wine.  Tasted July 2013 and April 2014

Pearl Morissette Pinot Noir 2011

Pearl Morissette Pinot Noir 2011

Cuvée Madeline Cabernet Franc 2010, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario  (winery, $38, WineAlign)

François Morissette’s 2010 is a pioneering example towards defining Bench appellation Cabernet Franc isomeric reactions. Relationships between grapes of a growing area and their ultimate destination in bottle. An affair of veraison, leaf drop, frost, hand harvesting, whole cluster sorting and berry oak fermenting. Indigenous yeast, punch downs and overs for phenolic skin extraction and polymerization. Neutral oak and sulfur dioxide to provide antimicrobial and antioxidant protection. An eighteen month somniac’s rest, fine lees and no filtration. The structural arrangement in cohabitation of radicals and ions leads to such a Cabernet Franc. Fully expressive of an endemic, very ripe, vegetal varietal vicissitude that is both inbred and necessary. Currants and peppered berries of power and grit. Dry (2 g/L residual sugar), plump (13.7 per cent alcohol) and scarce (618 cases made). Reflective of the warm 2010 vintage and will always act in stark contrast to the elegant 2011. Tasted July 2013 and March 2014

19th Street Cabernet Franc 2011, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario  (winery, $38, WineAlign)

First tasted from a barrel sample in July 2013. “From what is turning out to be a very elegant vintage, the 2011 Cabernet Franc is early proof that on the Twenty Mile Bench “we can turn a vineyard very quickly, in three years we can turn a vine.” This is significant in consideration that in Europe, vine age is always key.” Now in bottle the aromatics are hyper-pronounced and though the tannins are less rigid, less exerting and less demanding, they are not nearly ready to throw in the towel. Longevity will define ’11 and it will be the genesis of Pearl Morissette’s CF program used to compare future vintages. “The day of judgement’s come,” and you can bet that the wine’s been “resting, for this testing, digesting every word the experts say.” With the ambient transition of a hairless heart, the 2011 Cabernet Franc segues from anxiety to counting out time.  Tasted May 2014

Chardonnay ‘Dix-Neuvième’ 2009, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (limited library, $40, WineAlign)

Was the ’09 DN this lush and so pretty last summer? Was it bronzing as if sun-kissed and so delicate? Tasted alongside Chef Cameron MacDonald’s White Bean Cassoulet, duck and pork neck wrapped pate it sings in a Lindley-esque falsetto. From my earlier, July 2013 note: “Tragically singular in expression, regardless and in spite of the terroir, mixes metaphors and pulls it off. “Takes arms against a sea of troubles,” by convincing ADHD fruit of an uncertain vintage to settle, play nice and “by opposing, end them.” Now entering the load out zone, this Hamlet cuvée is “the first to come and the last to leave, working for that minimum wage.” A sentimental ballad here to stay, be remembered and to set the stage for all dix-neuvième to come.”  Last tasted May 2014

Chardonnay ‘Dix-Neuvième’ 2010, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (sold out, $35, WineAlign)

Having had the opportunity to taste the 2010 Cuvée Dix Neuvieme on several occasions over the past 10 months, every layer and fibre of its being has ingratiated itself to me. The tropical, solar 2010 vintage required that steps were taken to preserve freshness for when the final blend was to be assembled. A small portion of the juice was fermented separately in stainless steel tank and then injected into the 18-month, neutral barrel mass. The ’10 is full of verve, rigor and grinning elegance. It speaks of a salinity so typical for PM Chardonnay which comes from the usage of lees. This is what could be referred to as a “tannic” white. While it lacks the intensity of the bookending vintages on either side, as a middle sibling it is the glue and the rock that speaks diplomatically and most eloquently for the family.  Last tasted May 2014

Chardonnay ‘Dix-Neuvième’ 2011, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (303602, $35, WineAlign)

A child of a hot and dry summer, a stress-free winter slumber and a non-invasive spring awakening.  Sets out lean, tight and mean, but the dry extract invites spicy, stone fruit and an emergence of tropical lushness. Can there be another specimen that so rightfully defines Pearl Morissette, the top of the Bench or Niagara as a whole in 2011?   Tasted July 2013

Barrel and Tank Samples tasted July 2013 and May 2014

19th Street Cabernet Franc 2012

Tasted in July 2013 from one of two barrels, it’s not so (amazingly reductive) and redolent of the most earthly currants. From a very immense year, in primary quality, barely evolved. Blessed with such ripe tannins this will have even bigger structure. Francois declares “I’m now a believer that Cabernet Franc is the most important grape to grow in Ontario (on this side of St. Catherines). Nine months later, with the wine still sitting on its primary lees and not yet racked “it’s so torqued,” notes John Szabo. “We made a monster CF without cream,” adds François . Pure, énorme, immovable yet so stable. There was a nearly volatile spike during fermentation and malo but it’s done. A death metal beast.  Tasted July 2013 and May 2014

19th Street Cabernet Franc 2013

From juice housed in concrete, wood and open top fermenters this occupies impossible Cabernet Franc colour territory. Sweaty, chalky and bloody, it’s a bit reductive in extract and intensity. Lifted florally and very savoury, this is quintessentially Cabernet Franc in character. Crunchy tannins come late in magnanimous fashion.  Tasted May 2014

Chardonnay 2013

Tighter than it looks, sitting on its lees, pushing the envelope. In a German 2,500L barrel it’s rounder and softer. In second fill Alsatian Foudre it gains tang, spirit and backbone. From the Koscis Vineyard’s heavy red clay there is less texture and mid-palate. Out of a smaller (228L) barrel the wood is felt in fluidity, structure and creamier, clearer fruit. The largest barrel adds (10 per cent) new oak and finishes the ferment the earliest. It brings textural tack and a chewy finish. “New oak doesn’t make it better. It energizes the wine,” says Morissette. Overall this will be a rich, ripe-fruit based opulent Chardonnay, high in potential (13+ per cent) alcohol with a remarkable sweetness despite little or no residual sugar.  Tasted May 2014

Chardonnay from barrel with Ryan Corrigan, Jonas Newman, Francois Morissette and John Szabo

Chardonnay from barrel with Ryan Corrigan, Jonas Newman, Francois Morissette and John Szabo

Rosé 2013

If this Cabernet Franc is flirting with an acetic danger it is not enough to scare me away. Certainly edgy and there is a chance it may be pushed to the fringe, hippest markets but that also may just be a necessity if it is once again rejected as VQA. And it should not be.  Tasted May 2014

Bill Zacharkiw making notes at Pearl Morissette

Bill Zacharkiw making notes at Pearl Morissette

Gamay 2013

In July 2013 Francois Morissette made this statement. “If we can’t make Gamay in a Cru Beaujolais Style, I’m not interested.” In May 2014 his ’13 Gamay causes Bill Zacharkiw to comment with blatant honesty, “just line up at the tank. Forget the bottle.” From 100 per cent whole clusters sent to cement fermenters. Once again the hue is just impossible. Sulphur-free, this walks a fine and perfect line of Cru banana Gamay. Pushes the Gamay envelope in that it’s gulpable but with a duress to remind you not to overdo it. A Gamay with a chamber of 32 doors. In it “I’d rather trust a man who doesn’t shout what he’s found.” François Morissette.   Tasted May 2014

 

Good to go!

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The death of wine scores?

 

Is the rating simply a tool understood within the context of marketing? Photo: Maria Vazquez/Fotolia.com

Is the rating simply a tool understood within the context of marketing?
Photo: Maria Vazquez/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Not so fast.

As time goes by, I am hearing less comments like, “well that one got a 95,” and “that one is better value because it got a 90.” Wine ratings may increasingly becoming maligned and less frequently employed but that does not mean they don’t have their place. Scores continue to be necessary as a way to evaluate wines that lack a certain level of honesty. Wines on the edge of being dodgily made, encumbered by heavy-handed, industry-fed, mass marketing machines. Scores separate and differentiate the wheat from the chaff when dealing with over the top residual sugar, hyper-acidification, bloated alcohol and (lack of fruit) masking. Embrocating one Malbec an 85 over another’s 84 makes a comment on the relative validities of those two sweetened confections.

Attaching a rating to a tasting note is not a question of right versus wrong. Ratings measure a bottle of wine against its peers. That is the simple answer. The problem is that the tasting experience is a subjective one and each reviewer has personal preferences, so in order to align with one (or more), the consumer must self-calibrate alongside a critic whose palate they’ve figured out. Very difficult to do, so relying on scores has always been the easiest road to travel.

Part of the problem is that tasting notes, on their own, are often fleeting and impossible to grasp. Guilty as charged. Fred Swan put this is the most eloquent terms. “Tasting notes are like photographs, portraying a subject at one brief moment in time and without a back story.” If tasting notes are just snapshots, is that not compelling testimony as to the need for an accompanying score? Or is the rating simply a tool understood within the context of marketing?

Jamie Goode’s take. “I find myself in a tricky position: I use points even though I don’t like to because readers find them useful. And I have to calibrate my scale with the major critics. This pushes me into a corner.”

Still the debate is growing and for good reason. The wine community is tiring of seeing scores, especially those tabulated using the Robert Parker Jr. anointed 100-point scale, attached to a critic’s wine tasting note. The question has always been this. Why would you need scores to sell wine?

Mr. Parker feels so strongly about the entrenched longevity of his system that he’s announced the launch of a new lifestyle magazine called “100 Points by Robert Parker.” Does this sound like a last gasp fling from a captain going down with his ship? Bill Zacharkiw seems to intimate the idea, but the Montreal Gazette wine critic is smarter than to lash out and drag anyone through the mud. Taking a high road, Zacharkiw writes, “from grapes to wine styles, there is truly a wine for everyone. I have my taste, you have yours, and Parker has his.” No, nor scores neither. Nor scores neither.

The fervor and sometimes rage in the argument reminds me of the (second) most famous of Hamlet soliloquys. “Why it appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man!” Most of the voices chiming in on this hot topic only see the ratings world in black and white. There are more shades of grey than many would freely admit. Scores have their place.

Meanwhile, Decanter is reporting that Château Pontet-Canet made a bold decision to test (more than 20 years) of uncharted waters by setting their en Primeur pricing in advance of the taste and ratings levies by the major critics. Since the nineties the likes of Parker, Decanter and Wine Spectator have all but determined Bordeaux Futures pricing. Pontet-Canet’s move is being seen as another nail in the 100-point coffin. One Bordeaux négociant commented, “If other chateaux follow this same pricing model, we might as well go home now.”

The real issue is the bottle itself. In the new world of wine, who has not thrown new stock and a vested interest into wines made naturally, in sustainable, biodynamic or organic ways? Who has not made a resolution to drink more honest wine? Producing good wine still trumps the natural theatre of viticulture and viniculture but honesty is the new order. Honest wines should go forth and be free of wine ratings.

Wine scores can be ignored if we concentrate on what matters. Like apiculate yeast, fermentative vigor, microflora, clonal selection and soil. We also need to talk more about and mention flaws, like chlorinated compounds, hydrogen sulphide and volatile acidity. These are things that are too often brushed under the rug.

I will continue to post ratings of the wines I review on WineAlign because as a community of critics we offer a round table of opinions that allow the wine buyer to make gathered, educated and informed decisions. In consideration that this forum is a singular expression of opinions, this column will no longer attach scores to tasting notes. It’s quite obvious, plain and simple. I only write about honest wines for canada.com. The prose speaks for itself.

With spring beginning this Friday, no joke, here are the last of the great big winter reds. Five wines recently tasted that thrilled by way of their fairness, their honor and their virtue. Wines that need no score.

From left: Mi Terruño Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Pearl Morissette Cabernet Franc Cuvée Madeline 2010, Ruffino Ducale Oro Riserva Chianti Classico 2008, The Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 1990, and Château Calon Ségur 2010, Ac Saint Estèphe

From left: Mi Terruño Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Pearl Morissette Cabernet Franc Cuvée Madeline 2010, Ruffino Ducale Oro Riserva Chianti Classico 2008, The Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 1990, and Château Calon Ségur 2010, Ac Saint Estèphe

Mi Terruño Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Mendoza, Argentina (364133, $15.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 29, 2014 Release

Stands out for its honest fruit, this Mendozan from San Roque district in Maipú county. Qualified by an admirable level of restraint, low in residual sugar and alcohol, straightforward, unencumbered. Winemakers María Eugenia Baigorria and Sergio Giménez have let the fruit speak in clean, level tones, in red berries, licorice red and black, a dusting of spice, red cherry and even strawberry. This is textbook hands off winemaking with nearly exceptional length and simply solid from start to finish. Mi sueno, mi terruño.  Tasted March 2014

Pearl Morissette Cabernet Franc Cuvée Madeline 2010, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula (winery, $38, WineAlign)

Francois Morissette’s 2010 is a pioneering example towards defining Bench appellation Cabernet Franc isomeric reactions. Relationships between grapes of a growing area and their ultimate destination in bottle. An affair of veraison, leaf drop, frost, hand harvesting, whole cluster sorting and berry oak fermenting.  Indigenous yeast, punch downs and overs for phenolic skin extraction and polymerization. Neutral oak and sulfur dioxide to provide antimicrobial and antioxidant protection. An eighteen month somniac’s rest, fine lees and no filtration. The structural arrangement in cohabitation of radicals and ions leads to such a Cabernet Franc. Fully expressive of an endemic, very ripe, vegetal varietal vicissitude that is both inbred and necessary. Currants and peppered berries of power and grit. Dry (2 g/L residual sugar), plump (13.7 per cent alcohol) and scarce (618 cases made). Reflective of the warm 2010 vintage and will always act in stark contrast to the elegant 2011.  Tasted July 2013 and March 2014  @PearlMorissette  On the card at Barque Smokehouse

Ruffino Ducale Oro Riserva Chianti Classico 2008, Tuscany, Italy (353201, $43.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES March 29, 2014 Release

A re-release showing an exuberance of advanced character. Now acting out the strikingly rich and golden vintage, in Lamé and gilded iron. Speaking a most Tuscan, elite vernacular, already recognizable and evolving into its own skin, with a notion towards herbaceous, dried fruit. A classic pasta and roasted meats red wine. Nonna’s Trattoria kitchen in a glass. Drying just a touch, so drink up. Earlier note: “Slight earthy funk, imparted by the vineyard floor and in part from the wood. Sappy, resinous, distinctively warm-blooded, plummy fruit. Tuscan tang though light on pucker.”  Tasted October 2013 and March 2014

The Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 1990, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, California, USA (662015, $59.00, WineAlign)

A seminal bottling from a game-changing year, for two all important reasons. One, it was a great vintage for Napa reds and two, the Mount Veeder sub-appellation was established. While only 24 years ago, a mere five wineries existed there at the time, including Mayacamas, Mt. Veeder and Hess. No hyperbole to say this is tasting a piece of history. Despite my “shouting all about love,” this splendidly aged Cabernet is not so much about resilience as it is persistence and infinite wisdom. All those years ago there were Napa reds made at a mere 12.5 per cent alcohol, with finesse and a sense of George-like calm. With little aeration there is fig, prune and toffee gently weeping but with air the aged fruit is swept away by a wave of gob stopping Cassis before its time. Preconceived notions of banausic, early days Cabernet are smothered by the magic dust of this Hess religion, a Dharma of licorice, ash and enlightenment. A wine to make you forget where you are. Depth, length and up to a half decade yet of reserved life lay ahead.  Tasted March 2014  @HessCollection 

Château Calon Ségur 2010, Ac Saint Estèphe, Bordeaux, France (259010, $149.85, WineAlign) An In-Store Discovery from the VINTAGES March 29, 2014 Release

A blend that in 2010 is extremely high in Cabernet Sauvignon (86 per cent), with support from Merlot (12) and Petit Verdot (2). Immaculate hue in blue jasmine meets red ochre, echoed by blue and red fruit aromas. A purity of freshness and an exotic perfume distracts from the absurdity of the price, if just long enough to become intoxicated by its qualifications. It really does have it all. Red velvet layer cake made of the finest chocolate, the world’s least refined and highest quality sugar, spices only found in places reached and hand-picked by agile, primate-like humans. So approachable and marked by sweet tannins that will carry this Saint Estèphe for three decades.  Tasted March 2014

Good to go!

He spits, he scores: World Wine Awards of Canada results

Fresh off the presses, here are the results from World Wine Awards of Canada 2013, presented by WineAlign
Photo: kotoyamagami/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

Drinking, by definition, includes consuming and that would obviously be counterproductive to the wine evaluation process. So, wine writers and critics spit for their living. Why would anyone buy a wine on the recommendation from someone who spit it into a bucket? Good question.

Consider another question. How many wine critics does it take to change a light bulb? If the answer were 10, that would be because it would take one to hold the bulb and nine to spin the room. Or the answer might be three. One to decant, taste and spit, and two to take him to the hospital before he bleeds to death. Is the joke and are these responses indicative of how the general public feels about wine criticism? If yes, then the wine consumer’s attitude towards the relevance of wine competitions and the doling out of awards may not exactly be positive and indiscriminate.

A bit of insight for you into the modus vivendi of those who judge wine. Chew over this. A wine is submitted to a concours, tasted several times by a minimum of three critics, all of whom are kept blind as to the clues regarding producer, appellation, region and country. These wine professionals are chosen by and with their peers to judge, sniff, sip, spit and repeat. They consider, contemplate and formulate on the spot tasting notes and then discuss the attributes with a panel before passing final judgement. Seems like a perfectly and indisputably sound and reasonable approach, don’t you think? But what about the spitting part?

Whatever you might think about the use of such an exercise to determine the merit of a bottle of wine, competitions, when run and operated with unbiased integrity, do in fact empower justice to the entrants. Poke fun at the wine critic if you must, felicity knows they can take it, but know their modus operandi is just the same as yours. To seek out the most worthy and best value wines available in their market. The wine critic is self-taught, to internalize the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of a wine without swallowing it. It takes focus and years of practice to figure it out.

WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada 2013

PHOTO: WineAlign.com
WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada 2013

The WineAlign World Wine Awards of Canada (WWAC) held in September featured a week-long evaluation process for nearly 1,000 wines (996 to be exact) from around the world. Assembled and organized by an army of volunteers, the Herculean task was orchestrated by one of North America’s most respected wine critics and WineAlign Partner Anthony Gismondi, aka The Spitter. The Vancouver Sun columnist was also responsible for the immeasurable and exacting task of overseeing the pouring and the critical timing of delivery to the judges. Not to mention piles upon piles of tasting notes and scores.

WineAlign WWAC13 Wine Room

WineAlign WWAC13 Wine Room

The WWAC is open to both imported and domestic wines for sale in Canada, provided the wine sells for less than $50 somewhere in the country.  This affords an unparalleled opportunity for all wines sold in Canada to show that they can compete in quality and value with wines from anywhere in the world.  Wines are tasted in three price categories based on the lowest selling price in Canada. Less than $15, from $15 to $25 and from $25 to $50. As a consequence WWAC is really three competitions in one with wines being tasted alongside their peers by price and with awards given by price category.

I was invited to join the other 17 judges for the preliminary rounds. If I were to measure my prosperity by the company I keep, I would indeed be a pecunious wine scribe. I was joined in Mississauga, Ontario by David Lawrason, John Szabo, MS, Steve Thurlow, Sara d’Amato, Bill Zacharkiw, Janet Dorozynski, Rémy Charest, Marc Chapleau, Rhys Pender, MW, Ben Macphee-Sigurdson, DJ Kearney, Treve Ring, Brad RoyaleJulian Hitner, Evan Saviolidis, Anne Martin and Zinta Steprans.

WineAlign WWAC13 judges John Szabo, Julian Hitner and Sara d'Amato

WineAlign WWAC13 judges John Szabo, Julian Hitner and Sara d’Amato

Judges sit three or four together at a table, taste solo through flights of like varieties, procure notes and assign individual scores. Each flight of (three to 12) wines is then discussed, argued, debated and an ultimate meeting of the vinous minds either pushes a wine through to the next round or relegates it to the discard heap. This method of awarding by committee ensures that good wines receive their due blessings and flawed specimens are put in their rightful place.Here’s the kicker. Aside from knowing the price range and specific variety or varieties in a blend, the judges taste all the wines blind. Continent, country, region, appellation and vineyard are not part of the equation. This ensures the most equitable results.

So, fresh off today’s presses, here are the results from WWAC13, presented by WineAlign. Special thanks go out to Head Wineaux, Bryan McCaw, along with Steve Thurlow, Carol Ann Jessiman and Sarah Goddard.

2013 World Wine Awards of Canada Results

Each judge was asked to write reviews on a specific cross-section of wines they were a part of assessing during the competition. Here are my notes on my 28 of them, across a wide range of categories.

From left: Gustave Lorentz Cuvee Amethyste Riesling 2011, Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013, Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2012, and De Vine Vineyards Vrm 2011

Riesling $0-15

Gustave Lorentz Cuvee Amethyste Riesling 2011, Alsace, France $14.95

WWAC 2013 Judges’ Choice WWAC 2013 Best of Variety Under $15

Peppery, perspiring, basal, nasal fruit. Propellant driven with a bite of crisp golden delicious apple and green goddess acidity. At under $15 this achieves Trocken success. Unshakable, abecedarian if not the most formidable Riesling.  88  @AmethystWineInc  @drinkAlsace

Loosen Bros. Dr. L Riesling 2012, Qualitätswein Mosel, Germany $13.95

Pressed and packed with tropical fruit, as if a roll-up, in liquid form. Thoughts head east and south but the textural, angular and vertical intensity peels back that inclination. The extended play and fruit replay is a study in delineated Riesling depth. There must be some history behind the bottle.  87  @drloosenwines  @Select_Wines

Jackson Triggs Reserve Riesling 2012, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, $13.99

Drawn to the off-dry resonance which is both tropical and florid in citrus maxima. That pomello repeats to taste but it falls under a balmy and herbal spell, in a relaxed way. A valley’s elongated attitude, at the foot of a mountain and architecturally sound. Re-mastered, utilitarian Riesling.  85  @Jackson_Triggs

Chardonnay Oaked $15-25

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay 2012, California, USA $16.95

Deft, lissome touch of oak. Subtle, determined orchard fruit, namely pear, barely kissed by a rose and the barrel. Exiguous yet meaningful and pragmatic aromatics. Bright Chardonnay so “a light hits the gloom on the grey.” Seals the deal astir with tang on the snappy finish.  88

PHOTO: Michael Godel White wine flight at the WineAlign WWAC13

Sauvignon Blanc $15-25

Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013, Casablanca Valley, Chile $9.95

WWAC 2013 Judges’ Choice

Great show savvy, really great show. Outright fast flint, white pepper, citrus and fresh herbs. Luscious texture, convincing up the middle and goes deeper than many. Grapey and succulent. Clean, concise winemaking.  90  @Caliterra  @imbibersreport

Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand $15.95

WWAC 2013 Judges’ Choice

Equatorial and profuse but not over the top. Quick, painless slice of jalapeno, a sweet heat capsicum moment. Sauvignon Blanc with a drop of Sriracha, spritz of lime and pinch of salt on ripe tree fruit, like papaya and mango. Add in golden pineapple and kumquat for good salad measure. Nearly great value, if only it were graced with a bit more finesse.  88  @yealands  @TrialtoON

The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand $15.99

Stoic initially, with acute notes of gooseberry, grass and blanched legume. Turns tropical and balmy with a sense of orange marmalade. Confounding in that it could be South Island or Sancerre, but being subjected to such toe tipping is this Sauvignon Blanc’s calling card.  88  @MariscoWine

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand $18.95

Commodious Sauvignon Blanc, candid, candied and calcified. Tropical from what must be an intense vintage, whiffing dewy teak gold plum and prickly pear. Full-bodied and blessed with a long aftertaste. A slice of southern hemisphere confiture on toast.  88  @kimcrawfordwine

White Blends $15-25

De Vine Vineyards Vrm 2011, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $23.00

WWAC 2013 Judges’ Choice WWAC 2013 Best of Variety $15 – $25

A Rhône-ish boy with a tithe of Marsanne in support of equal 45′s of Roussane and Viognier. Mutters in rhyme, beating the drum slowly, in a subtle white flower, pretty print dress. Nothing muddy about the waters this graceful swimmer treads. Sidled by just enough rigor to replay in refrain, “I’m a natural born lovers” wine. Egalitarian revolutions per minute.  90  @deVineVineyards

Road 13 Honest John’s White 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada $25.95

A group of seven grapes, riding on a carousel. A who’s who of white varieties going “round and round and round and round with you. Up, down, up, down, up, down, too.” Elegant and in control, like the stationary horses, this endearing and human blend. Nectarine and longan make appearances in the by committee, ensemble performance.  88  @Road13Vineyards

Pfaffenheim Tete A Tete Pinot Gris Riesling 2012, Alsace, France $15.49

A 50/50 split of Riesling and Pinot Gris, please do not adjust your set, go head to head, mano a mano to duke it out, agree to disagree and ultimately settle to blend and accept the results. Together they procure Époisses and worn socks. On the bright side there is orange zest and fresh squeezed grapefruit. “So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.” Tangy and pithy finish. Abbreviated and horizontal.  85  @AlsaceWines

From left: Jackson Triggs Merlot Gold Series 2008, Road 13 Syrah Malbec 2011, Creation Syrah Grenache 2011, and Cassiano Amarone Della Valpolicella 2008

Syrah $0-15

Fifth Leg Old Dog New Tricks Shiraz 2011, Western Australia, Australia, $15.95

Less calamitous fruit compression in relation to the rest of the flight. Blueberry pie and a concord of baking spices predominate, along with unsettling though bracketing elevated levels of tannin and acidity. Wild and whacking lack of overall integration but possessive of many positive moving parts.  87

Mission Hill Reserve Shiraz 2011, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $19.60

A convection of raspberry jam and forest floor verdant wildness. Notable in not being nearly as wood-driven in relation to peers in adjacent stemware. An inelasticity and diaphanous texture suggests Syrah. Simpatico Shiraz.  87  @MissionHillWine

Red Blends $0-15

Hardys Stamp Series Shiraz/Cabernet 2012, South Eastern Australia, Australia $10.05

Initial thoughts lean towards flattery, in finesse and generosity. Rhône-like rocks and stones trot out the red fruit, spiked by citrus (ripe orange, juiced and reduced). Structured in oxymoronic astringent elegance. Decent to medium length.  87

Sumac Ridge Cabernet Merlot Private Reserve 2011, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $14.99

Stands apart from the under $15 Red Blend flight as an axiomatic, soft conifer in a forest of hardwoods. I was admittedly fooled into thinking Niagara when it really calls the Okanagan Valley home. Semi-hemi-ripe, red stone fruit soused in halogen, spiced by Ween’s seventh album and Korean red pepper. “Even If you don’t” like the alternative character you will be charmed by its friendly production and likable wine/musicianship.  87  @SumacRidgeWine

Louis Bernard Côtes Du Rhône Rouge 2012, Rhone, France $13.00

A copacetic Grenache and Syrah Côtes du Rhône blend that just seems to exist in an Iberian state of mind. It’s the modernity speaking, in deep mauve, lilaceous essence and a palate clotted with poached tomato. Stops adroitly short of cooked or stewed fruit character. Juicy fruit from presumably young vines. Quick yet resplendent.  87  @LouisBernard84  @AuthenticWine

Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2011, Mendoza, Argentina $13.95

Malbec and Venetian Corvina in Ripasso’s Argentinian hands. Raising, hair-triggering, eye-opening aromas in acerbic Daikon intensity. Black bean paste and cedar, earth and char. The flavours echo and further Ripasso’s absorptive ability. Tack on a  snippet of sour mix and an elevated, grizzly bear, altitudinous attitude. This one leaves me “frozen in my tracks.” Certainly not gun-shy85 

Merlot $15-25

Jackson Triggs Merlot Gold Series 2008, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $23.99 WWAC 2013 Judges’ Choice

Like a wine lover’s dessert, this JT Merlot spoons gobs of sun-dried fruit, anise and dried raisin over a compressed and chalky cake of balmy green tea. Youth purloined by developed character, marked by the sauce, not unlike some manic red advance cassettes from Italy’s Mezzogiorno. Now long in the tooth, “how you wound me so tight,” with your unique style, so “don’t say that I’ve lost you.” Its heft will carry it through.  88  @JacksonTriggsBC

Michael Godel, Zinta Steprans and David Lawrason at the WineAlign WWAC13

Red Blends $15-25

Musella Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2009, Verona, Veneto, Italy, $15.95

Soaked and sappy, with braised tree fruit flavours, concentrated and passed over upon itself. Certainly trying very hard to entice and invite hedonistic pleasure. Like an upside down plum and fig cake, dripping in macerated syrup but with enough mineral tension to prorogue another day. Good rehydrated example.  88  @3050Imports

La Fiole Cotes Du Rhone 2010, Rhone, France $15.05

Simultaneously juicy and brooding. Tension from the get go. A depth of dried, fruit leathery plum, soaking in spiked Kefir grain. Bound tight but aching to race free. In Rhône ranger territory, or a Rhône acting on a Hollywood set. Tannic, oaky, manly yes, but I like it too. Admirable length.  88

California Square Paso Robles Red Bland 2012, California, USA $18.95

Downy soft, delicate, cheerful red blend. Pastel watercolour, flower-patterned print as perfume. Warm climate red licorice, plum permeate and cherry saturate, well-integrated acidity and some iron astriction. Would gain weight alongside rich foods.  86  @TrialtoBC

Vignoble Rancourt Meritage 2007, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada $19.80

Chalk dust followed by quality, perceptive, frank and just red fruit. Understated, not overly expressive and walking softly down the road.  85

The Cloof Cellar Blend 2009, Wo Darling, South Africa $20.00

Leaps from the glass with earth expanding aromas. Strapping Pinotage java component shows accommodating restraint in advance of a Turkish viscidity. Red fruit is bright, adhesive and enervetic. Overall a bouncy, tannic and splintered affair.  85  @Cloofwines_ZA

Red Blends $25-50

Road 13 Syrah Malbec 2011, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $25.00

A count five psychedelic strawberry and savoury rhubarb aromatic behemoth. Crazy cherries too. Then, a mind-altering, animal hide moment, not exactly gamey, but something other, enough to cause a psychotic reaction. “(Shouted) And it feels like this!”  90  @Road13Vineyards

Creation Syrah Grenache 2011, Walker Bay, South Africa $32.50

A requiem for an exaggerated swirl, or at least the respect of a decant. Quite a head-smacking whack of mineral-iron-metal, with the tempering lift of a citrus-scented candle. Kirsch, vanillin oak “and my time is a piece of wax fallin’ on a termite, who’s chokin’ on the splinters.” I am the loser, the wine is the winner. Very berry, big and beautiful.  90  @gradwellwines

Cassiano Amarone Della Valpolicella 2008, DocVeneto, Italy $35.25

Quite the animal, this plum juicy and high-octane alcohol, cloying acetone and chocolate-dipped red licorice Venetian red blend. Sounds ridiculously Ripasso and near-Amarone delicious and were it endowed with the balance and structure to walk with the giants I’d sing its praises. Even so, I really believe it’s a “soul who’s intentions are good” so please don’t let it be misunderstood.  87

Masi Costasera Amarone 2008, Veneto, Italy $39.95

A stew of red fruit, prune and fig. Cauterized, steroidal, excessive, welling sensory overload. Leaking car fluids. Certainly a problematic, off-bottle from a reliable, age worthy brand.  80

Pinot Noir $25-50

Leyda Lot 21 Pinot Noir 2012, Leyda Valley, Chile $45.00

Beaucoup de terre, or more likely, mucho suelo. An extreme example of Pinot Noir, a flamboyant king, ostentatious, peacockish and wired by a constriction of spices. There is perhaps too much earthly, saftig body. Though my first impression was admittedly old world, there is no way that theory will hold. A glass in and the thrill is gone, “And now that it’s over, all I can do is wish you well.”  87  @BadDogWine  @WinesofChile

Good to go!

Come together, over wine

Stratus Vineyard
Photo: Stratus Wines

as seen on canada.com

Intensity is in the air. The artists are at work, blessed with a geographical, geological and climatic canvas unique to the planet. They share arts and letters, compare and contrast methods, style and results. The sense of community is palpable, obvious and quite frankly awesome. They are Ontario winemakers and they are coming together. Right now.

Somewhereness

Somewhereness is not just a buzz word, it’s the operative word. The notion is attributed to Wine Spectator Magazine editor Matt Kramer and the application has been conceived, depending on your take, by osmosis, by derivative extension or through extrapolation, by the original six founding member wineries of Stratus, Charles Baker, Tawse Winery, Norman Hardie Winery, Flat Rock Cellars and the Malivorie Wine Company. The group has now grown to 12 Ontario winemakers, embracing Cave Spring Cellars, Hidden Bench Winery, Southbrook Vineyards, 13th Street Winery, Thomas Bachelder and Hinterland Wine Company. That this forward and fast thinking gang, collectively conspicuous like another famous gathering of Canadian artists, has embraced Somewhereness, mandated, habituated and held it dear in unequivocal belief, speaks of their collective consciousness. Terroir feeds their raison d’être,” imprinted with a vineyard’s sense of place, its soil, climate, seasons, vintage variations — and its maker’s methods.”

Mr. Kramer said “Somewhereness is more than just an event. It allows us to recognize the particular beauty of a place. Since Ontario’s wines have just such a particular beauty, the Somewhereness celebration makes sense in a single sip.” It was also Mr. Kramer who said that Somewhereness is something you can’t take, nor is it something that you can really define, or figure out its source. Somewhereness is not something undefined, like umami, nor is it akin to karma, or zeitgeist. It’s very real. In the soil, the vines, the fruit and in the wine. The sparkling, white and red wines of Ontario are obvious and recognizable. They should never be mistaken as having been made anywhere else.

Recognition

A concept like Cool Chardonnay takes it to the road to spread the prophecy and also plays host to events that attract dignitaries from around the world. More organizations like i4C are needed to spread the Ontario gospel. The next summit of #i4C2013 (third annual) will take place this coming July 19-21. Still, something is missing. Industry folk share an understanding, celebrate internally and not unlike any well-organized clique, pat one another on the back. But what about the local consumer? Do they realize they’re missing out on the illustrious muckle right under their noses? There’s the rub. It’s not just Americans and Europeans who are ignorant to the exceptional quality of Ontario wine. Abeyance be gone, these next few years have the potential to cement an industry’s power. Only a minority has even the slightest clue that liquid gold is mined out of the peninsula’s glacial clay and limestone. The time is ripe to tell the world the story of Somewhereness. The embryo is about to grow in a major way. Financial reward is within reach. So how to alert the world?

Education

When Canadian agencies send wine abroad, its best foot must be put forward. West coast wine writer Anthony Gismondi made this point to Canada’s quintessential wine ambassador, Janet Dorozynski:

More than anything, retail stores that specialize in cool climate wines are necessary to force feed confidence to the buying public. Shops devoid of cloying Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec or Shiraz that cloud the wine IQ of young minds. I’m guessing you don’t see Gamay as a great hope for the future of sales out of this province. You are not the only one. If Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are considered essential varieties for success, how can Gamay be excluded from hanging out at the top of the list? Only three were poured at Somewhereness, two of which were from Malivoire. Tawse, Stratus and Cave Spring should all have been pouring theirs. Consider this statement. “Wines produced between 41˚ and 44˚ north are more aromatic, lighter in body and higher in acidity than their warm-climate cousins.” If that does not shout Gamay, please tell me what does. The #GoGamayGo troupe is in full tweeting mode:

Simply put, more Gamay (Noir) needs to be planted in Ontario’s vineyards. OK, so the name isn’t the sexiest. Could you call it Niagara Noir? I don’t think so. Gamay and its small berries (especially from new clonal plantings) are ideally suited to the climate and the wines are drop dead delicious. The bandwagon is growing, with zealots like @thespitter, @winetrackmind, @BillZacharkiw@mkaisersmit@TheGrapeGuy@zoltanszabo and @johnszabo leading the charge.

Caretakers of the Earth

Indeed, Ontario is a special place to grow grapes. Our 12 winemakers feel this way about their wines, noting they offer “deeper refreshment, exquisite harmony with food, and great ageing potential. Welcome to the coolest fine wine region on earth. Our wineries sit on a fortuitous composition of earthly constituents: some 12 meters of glacial clay and silt capped by a few feet of clay and limestone-laced topsoil. Clay limits a vine’s ability to produce large crops. Instead we get tiny berries in small yields, giving us high concentrations of sugars, acids, minerals and wantonly exotic flavour compounds.”

On Tuesday, April 16th the group of 12 poured their best at the MaRSDiscovery District. A warm thank you goes to Cool Chardonnay, i4C VIP Concierge Trisha Molokach for helping to set the Somewhereness table. Here are eight shining examples of the coolest wine made on earth.

From left: 13th Street Cuvée Rosé NV, Cave Spring Cellars Riesling ‘CSV’ Estate Bottled 2009, Malivoire Wine Company Gamay ‘Courtney’ 2011, Hidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage 2009, Charles Baker Riesling ‘Picone’ 2011, Norman Hardie County Chardonnay 2011, Hinterland Wine Company Rosé 2010 Method Traditional, and Tawse Pinot Noir ‘Lauritzen Vineyard’ 2010

13th Street Cuvée Rosé NV ($24.95, winery only) is autolytic, Brut-finished, traditional method sparkling that has that something in her style. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay emitting so much strawberry energy you might find yourself lost in the fields forever. But there is more than that, “something in the way she woos me,” maybe the rhubarb replay, or the tarragon, or the faint tang of cheese. You gotta like the Jean Pierre Colas style and to like her, you need to like her style.  89  @13thStreetWines

Cave Spring Cellars Riesling ‘CSV’ Estate Bottled 2009 ($29.95, winery only) comes from the oldest, lowest-yielding vines at the estate grown on the limestone, Beamsville Bench terrace. A three month rest on its lees imparts honey on the nose though the palate is dryer than off-dry. Mineral, pop-driven even. A hoovering, wizened Riesling, puckering, turning inward, yet to hydrate. Unique for Escarpment ’09 and will realize a quenching later than most. I for one will put this aside and revisit at the end of the decade, when “golden slumbers fill your eyes.” 89  @CaveSpring

Malivoire Wine Company Gamay ‘Courtney’ 2011 ($29.95, winery only) spent 14 edifying months in French oak and will live adroitly for another five years as a result. So much plum inherent in all its faculties, berries and currants too. The winemaker star of  Shiraz Mottiar is rising higher into the cool climate stratosphere with each passing vintage. His wines walk a haute couture runway of class and style.  91  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar

Hidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage 2009 ($32.95, winery only) occupies hallowed Beamsville Bench middle ground between the beastly corpulence of 2008 and the rich, voluptuous 2010. Puzzling blend. Approachable and formidable. I sip and sip and sip her majesty in spite of her necessary acidity and tenacious tannin. “I want to tell her that I love her a lot but I gotta get a bellyful of wine.”  92  @HiddenBench

Charles Baker Riesling ‘Picone’ 2011 ($35, winery only) trembles with nervous energy and will need some bottle time to shed its shocking, A16 soda popping feeling. Right now “he got joo joo eyeballs.” Give it a year, or even two for the Vinemount Ridge clint (citrus and flint) to come together in a fit of focused, piercing acidity. This is Baker’s sharpest, knife-edge Riesling in the block and while I never thought it possible, this one is sure to outshine 2009. For Charles Baker “one and one and one is three.”  93  @cbriesling

Norman Hardie County Chardonnay 2011 ($35, winery only) is not merely a window into the vintage but the portal. Bright, golden fruit, freakish level of mineral and longer than the old Greer Road. Norman will always have ’08 but the newbies will be lucky to discover 2011. Who wouldn’t fall for its charms. When it comes to this Prince Edward County Chardonnay, “one and one don’t make two, one and one make one.” I call that a bargain.  92  @normhardie

Hinterland Wine Company Rosé 2010 Method Traditional ($37, winery only) is imbued faintly and sweetly in pink hue and lithe bubble. The grace and ease of Prince Edward County is forgotten when the wine hits the tongue and attacks with force. A peppery anesthetization ensues, followed by a soma-like, numbing sensation. She’s no cheap date, gives you no money, “but oh, that magic feeling.” Like a two-side playing of Abbey Road, she reels you in slowly, works to a feverish pitch and drifts off slowly into dream. A bit exhausting but worth the trip.  90  @hinterlandwine

Tawse Pinot Noir ‘Lauritzen Vineyard’ 2010 ($44.95, winery only) from the Vinemount Ridge is dry and cut with spice, a favourite for winemaker Paul Pender. The sour acidity from fruit such as cranberry and pomegranate are here in deep, concentrated and naturally sweet tones. Niagara limestone casts a Burgundy mineral shadow and the wine is iron tough yet silky due to the warmth of the vintage.  91  @Tawse_Winery

Good to go!