Three times three vertical with Laurel Glen Vineyard, Jordan Winery and Korbin Kameron

one-vineyards-cover-crop-is-another-mans-salad-laurelglenwine-organics-sonomamountain-cabernetsauvignon-sonoma-california-califwine

One vineyard’s cover crop is another man’s salad @LaurelGlenWine #organics #sonomamountain #cabernetsauvignon #sonoma #california #califwine

Sometimes the muse strikes when you least expect it. I was on the Frankfurt-Toronto leg on my return from Tuscany last night when it hit me. This time last year I was in Sonoma as part of a group invited by California Wines and tasted three vintage verticals (2012, 2008 and 2004) with three crucially constitutive California wineries; Laurel Glen, Jordan and Korbin Kameron. We were hosted (and benevolently fed) by Bettina Sichel, proprietor at Laurel Glen.

We also walked through Laurel Glen’s wondrous vineyard, a thousand feet up the slopes of Sonoma Mountain. In the pantheon of exceptional sites for cultivating cabernet sauvignon, Laurel Glen’s was pinpointed early and their first vintage was produced in 1981. The 16 acre vineyard was developed in the 1970’s by Sonoma wine pioneer Patrick Campbell. It is now farmed organically and is planted in particular to the Laurel Glen clone of cabernet sauvignon, certified as unique unto itself by the University of California at Davis.

The Laurel Glen vineyard was replanted to cabernet sauvignon in 1968 by Carmen Taylor at a time when such a proliferation was about to burst into an explosion. The grapes were sold for several years to Chateau St. Jean and at one time provided the backbone of Kenwood’s Artist Series. In 1977, Ms. Taylor sold the property to Campbell, who took cuttings from the existing three acres of cabernet vines to develop the modern vineyard.

I feel for you Canada. It's pretty cool in Sonoma too. Guess that's why the wines are so good.

I feel for you Canada. It’s pretty cool in Sonoma too. Guess that’s why the wines are so good.

Founders Tom and Sally Jordan established Jordan Winery in the Alexander Valley in 1972 so referring to them as Sonoma County pioneers is hardly a stretch. The first vintage was 1976, released in 1980. Second-generation vintner John Jordan and winemaker Rob Davis continue to craft the Healdsburg winery’s wines.

Jordan’s vineyards include estate blocks, which have more clay-rich soils similar to the Right Bank of Bordeaux, as well as well-drained, mid-slope grower parcels with mineral-rich soils more reminiscent of Bordeaux’s Left Bank. Rob Davis had this to say about the 2012 vintage. “The 2012 vintage validates our decision to elevate the black-fruit intensity in the wines without abandoning our house style. I didn’t think a wine like this was possible for Jordan twenty years ago.”

Korbin Kameron is the new kid on the block, or in their impressive 2,000-plus feet of altitude case, the mountain. Moon Mountain that is, a steep and picturesque, difficult to farm Mt. Veeder ridge that straddles the border between Sonoma and Napa counties. It is a family affair for Mitchell and Jenny Ming on their 186-acre estate, with their children Kristin and twins Korbin and Kameron.  The viticulturist is Phil Coturri and the winemaker is Timothy Milos.

The vineyard (referred to as both Korbin Kameron and Moonridge) sits on the ridge of the Mayacamas Mountain Range and straddles the Napa/Sonoma county line at 2,300 feet in elevation. It resides in both the Moon Mountain District and Mt. Veeder AVAs and is southwest facing, making it ideal for growing high quality Bordeaux varietals; cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot. Korbin Kameron also farms sémillon and sauvignon blanc.

Laurel Glen, Jordan and Korbin Kameron share few connective commonalities and each came to make their cabernet sauvignon from three unrelated paths. Sonoma Mountain, Alexander Valley and Moon Mountain are non germane to one another. So what is the learned significance of such a three times three tasting of seemingly disparate and at the surface, unconnected Sonoma County wines? Putting a finger on the associations between three vintners is like trying to get a musical grip on an “adventurous jazz drummer/composer whose own music walks the line between atmospheric contemporary jazz and aggressive post-bop.” As in Birdman and Three Times Three composer Antonio Sanchéz. What was the point?

The answer lies in a three-pronged composition; varietal, practice and vintage. The choice of Bordeaux as the launching point is not new to California, but in these three pockets of Sonoma the French left bank ideal is the thing. It has always been and will not be displaced any time soon. Mimicry and loyalty to common ground agricultural practices are abided, shared and repeated. The tenets are all so similar; low yielding vines, organics, planting of cover crops and tilling those organics back into the earth. And finally it is the three by three vintages that forge the final act of cahoots. This quick and obvious look at 2012, 2008 and 2004 is a glaring gaze straight into the mirror of Sonoma’s recent past. The thread speaks to clarity and obviousness, of richness, challenge and pleasant surprise. Three vintages.

sonoma-vintners

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California (Winery, Approx. $80, WineAlign)

The vintage saw late bud break and therefore an abbreviated growing season with a long veraison to an early harvest. The highest yields of the recent past meant quality not seen for Jordan in forever. This ’12 signals to turn on the light of red fruit epitome, picked at a lower than typical brix, high in acidity and simply rocking red cabernet. Red currants of a precise sort of ripeness with the crushed fresh bursting seeds of pomegranate and citrus but in its very, very own unique way. This can only come about in a way specific to place with sheer deliciousness from Jordan. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2016  @jordanwinery

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California (Winery, $59.95, WineAlign)

The retreat in time is as much the reason, though not entirely, for the gritty, darker, somewhat secondary though not nearly tertiary taste of 2008. A strike of flint and smoke clouds the air above the glass. The smoke gassed into acidity acts vinyl reductive, high-toned and yet submits to grit performing the play of gravelly soil. The last acts are a tragicomedy by wood and from chocolate. Gets the heart pumping with excitement at this eight year mark, looking back at the challenge of the vintage. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2016

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California (Winery, $59.95, WineAlign)

More than conceptually speaking this really fun and vitally alive look back 12 years solicits quick appreciation. The reference point is in reminiscence to left bank Bordeaux, capitulated into the geology of well-drained Sonoma County vineyards with mineral-rich, gravelly soils. Retroactive to and foreshadowing to what will come later in ’08 and ’12, the 12 year-old Jordan cabernet sauvignon holds firm and clear at 13.5 per cent alcohol, with a good cabernet franc component, for ripeness, for thoroughfare and for consistency. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2016

Korbin Kameron Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Moon Mountain District, California (Winery, Approx. $80, WineAlign)

Korbin Kameron hails from the Moon Mountain District, a unique California locale that straddles Napa Valley and Sonoma County. This is my first rapport with this cabernet sauvignon from the 2100 foot, west facing ridge of Mt. Veeder, with views of both the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. It hopefully will not be my last. Fruit grown here faces much maligning and in requiem of major effort repelling mildew pressure so Korbin Kameron faces it head on by farming organically. They also have to deal with erratic coastal influences. The plantings were done in 2000, 2002 and 2013, First Bordeaux reds and then Bordeaux whites. The locale determines long hang time and high acidity, 3.4 to 3.6 pH and alcohol levels between 14 and 14.5 per cent. The geology is mostly well-draining, gravelly and clay loam. Such florals nosed with eyes and mouth wide-open are character separating, notable from dry-farmed, arid brushy aromatics. A mountain sensation noted is due to minimally irrigated, tiny berry goodness, thicker skin tannins and a very delicate chocolate. Very long, conifer driven aromatics. Just a terrific discovery.  Drink 2019-2027  @KorbinKameron

Korbin Kameron Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Moon Mountain District, California (Winery, Approx. $80, WineAlign)

As far as California vintages go 2008 was not one for the ages and the cabernet sauvignon continues to make development haste. Only five kicks at the can in there is pleasant surprise in Korbin Kameron’s 2008 try. There is something about the altitude-affected, Sonoma-Mt. Vedder coupling that while not yet really understood, it is a story that will begin to take great shape in a few year’s time. Here at the eight year summit the yet young fruit still intensifies with a bit of rubbery reduction and slathers of chocolate ganache. What holes exist are eco-rich in oak. A bit of smoke-injected northern California unorthodoxy in cabernet sauvignon hangs in with life but the wane is certainly in. It’s much more than a matter of preponderance and curiosity. We should all be so fortunate to grab a taste like this. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2016

Korbin Kameron Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Moon Mountain District, California (Winery, Approx. $80, WineAlign)

Korbin Kameron will put cabernet sauvignon and other Bordeaux variety wines for Moon Mountain District on the map but for now, looking back to the first vintage, it’s all about a work in progress. The essential family tenets of know-how, determination, creativity, vision, compassion and exuberance are but a twinkle in the eye. This 2004 is quite advanced, with dried fruit aromas and flavours, fig, even a bit of prune. Tannins are persistent, acidity still apparent and fruit waning. Sharpness of the vintage is nicely integrated into facets of earth and brush, chocolate and game. There is much appreciation for the gastronomy of this wine. Drink 2016.  Tasted February 2016

Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Sonoma Mountain, California (392217, $62.95, WineAlign)

From 100 per cent, planted in particular to the UC Davis confirmed Laurel Glen clone of cabernet sauvignon, acidity is the defining factor here. As it essentially is with respect to all Sonoma Mountain Cabernet, from a place of diffuse morning light and immune to the hot afternoon sun. Laurel Glen’s carries in its genetic make-up a VA expertly nurtured and managed well within the acceptable and appreciated threshold. There is no shortage of 2012 ripeness, exfoliated and at cross-purposed beneficence with tart berries and sweet currants. Quite the creamy chocolate finish and a very balanced wine. The silky tannins prepare it for early and repetitive accessibility. A fine example of how a structured wine that drinks early will also age with grace. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted February 2016  @LaurelGlenWine  @Smallwinemakers

Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Sonoma Mountain, California (392217, $62.95, WineAlign)

Laurel Glen’s unique clone and exceptional vineyard-designate cabernet sauvignon is one of the winners from the challenging vintage in 2008. Sonoma Mountain has much to do with this eight years later retrospective perspective, now in secondary life, not just because of time. Yes, it may be a cliché but the reason is noted by fruit aromas that have dehydrated, into fig and yet the acidity is striking, piercing, and in your face. This is Laurel Glen’s calling card and what a dichotomous spin. The vintage made many sing “oh, what a tribulation.” Not so for Laurel Glen. This ’08 is rich and espresso dusty, of lava flowing, volcanic dust. From the Sonoma fire vintage but I think this wine is immune to that effect. Also remarkable balance from an imbalanced vintage where sugars spiked at harvest and in which flavours were dragged and lagging behind. “Forget your troubles and dance. Forget your sorrow and dance.” Cabernet Sauvignon to make Them Belly Full. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted February 2016

Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Sonoma Mountain, California (392217, $62.95, WineAlign)

From 100 per cent, planted in particular to the UC Davis confirmed Laurel Glen clone of cabernet sauvignon, acidity is the defining factor here. As it essentially is with respect to all Sonoma Mountain Cabernet, from a place of diffuse morning light and immune to the hot afternoon sun. Laurel Glen’s carries in its genetic make-up a VA expertly nurtured and managed well within the acceptable and appreciated threshold. There is no shortage of 2012 ripeness, exfoliated and at cross-purposed beneficence with tart berries and sweet currants. Quite the creamy chocolate finish and a very balanced wine. The silky tannins prepare it for early and repetitive accessibility. A fine example of how a structured wine that drinks early will also age with grace. Drink 2018-2028.   Tasted February 2016

hey-bret-really-lovely-little-drop-of-92-laurelglenwine-tnx-bettina-you-rock-califwines_ca

Hey Bret really lovely little drop of ’92 @LaurelGlenWine tnx Bettina you rock @CalifWines_CA

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

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Release the wines, catch an Ontario phrase

 

Pinot Noir from the Mountainview Road on the Beamsville Bench.  Photo: William Roman, http://www.rosewoodwine.com/

Pinot Noir from the Mountainview Road Vineyard on the Beamsville Bench.
Photo: William Roman, http://www.rosewoodwine.com/

In the past 10 days there have been opportunities to taste the Ontario wine industry’s state of the union. Tawse Winery rolled out the red carpet, the Key Keg and a must check ’em out set of new wines in a sister brand known as Redstone Wines. County in the City presented a major introspective of Prince Edward County at the Berkeley Church and Somewhereness, the definitive Ontario goût de terroir on display April 9th at St. James Cathedral has the local wine community abuzz with new catch phrases.

Full reports on those three events will be coming out over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, Ontario wines and winemakers are well represented in this week’s VINTAGES April 12th release. That and a mess of catch phrases, idioms, colloquialisms and overall word play.

A sundry type of tasting note composition can theoretically make cause to “burn one’s boats” though the phrase “crossing the Rubicon” holds more water and instills greater confidence. Before feeling the need to act on a Mr. Bursian attack and screaming “release the hounds,” it is highly recommended to read between the lines, click on the pop culture references but refrain from and “don’t look the gift-horse in the mouth.”

Ontario wines have come so far and in such a short period of time. Sure there are some outfits that might be considered a “flash in the pan” and specific examples weighted down by “feet of clay.” Who does not hope that as a group, wines from Niagara, Prince Edward County and Lake Erie North Shore avoid a “hoist with one’s own petard’ or go “sailing under false colours.” There should be no fear. Ontario wines are no longer merely improving. They are “throwing down the gauntlet.” There is no reason to reject the idea of spending $38 on an Ontario red or white. Quality is officially and incontestably in the bottle.

Here are six wines in stores now, five from Ontario, the other made by an Ontario winemaker, to have a go at this weekend.

From left to right:

From left to right: Pondview Riesling 2012, Fielding Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013, 13th Street June’s Vineyard Riesling 2011, 13th Street June’s Vineyard Riesling 2012, Bachelder Oregon Chardonnay 2011, Rosewood Estates Reserve Pinot Noir 2010

Pondview Riesling 2012, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (271148, $15.95, WineAlign)

While winemaker Fred di Profio’s ’12 remains true to the Pondview idea of mineral-driven Riesling, the vintage dictates the course and this one simply carries four miles of juicy fruit, accented by green herbs and a spread of lime jam. It’s dry, vinous and cidery with a slight sour aftertaste. A lamb Riesling, lambic, iambic and pedantic. Good value. Tasted March 2014  @Pondviewwinery

Fielding Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (131235, $18.95, WineAlign)

Ever orchard fruit bearing, omnipresent juicy Sauvignon Blanc. Pliable and informal, typical in itself and for the local marl. Kept on its toes by a wailing, sharp green peppercorn cut by caper line that runs through, then gracefully descends towards a grassy, song of freedom refrain. Tang is the final act of its redemption. Well-structured and proper. Does a Fielding wine ever not abide and chant “we forward in this generation, triumphantly?” Tasted March 2014  @FieldingWinery

13th Street June’s Vineyard Riesling 2011, VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (147512, $19.95, WineAlign)

June’s vineyard, now in its (correct me if I’m wrong) 12th year is both nascent and senescent, increasingly producing a blatant expression of Creek Shores Riesling. Today’s fleeting study faces a direct, anti-diminutive aridity and more dried herbs. In 2011, the austere vineyard speaks but the Riesling realizes atonement through a corpulence of flesh and bone down by the sheltered shores. A much tougher assignment than the gilded platinum hand dealt to vineyards upon the upper reaches of the Escarpment.  Tasted September 2013  @13thStreetWines

From my September 2013 note: “from Niagara’s Creek Shores and built of the classic Alsatian Clone 49 inordinately defines place and time in an agglomerated manner. Maximum floral intensity, zero petrol tolerance and an arid accumulation speak volumes about the appellation. To taste you will note it just barely believes it’s off-dry. Unique and unambiguous, plosive Riesling.”  Tasted March 2014

Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Cabernet/Merlot 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (130252, $20.95, WineAlign)

Call it whatever you like; house red, Bistro red, un verre de vin rouge maison. All phrases to describe a refreshing and wholly compatible glass of red wine. The Tawse is crafted for such purpose, combining Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot in a Médoc state of mind. Aromatically it spews tobacco, tea, currants and white pepper, all wrapped in a tight, food-friendly package and demanding to be paired this way. Solid red.  Tasted March 2014  @Tawse_Winery

Bachelder Oregon Chardonnay 2011, Willamette Valley, Oregon (273334, $29.95, WineAlign)

The citrus stands out today. If the base and necessary oak treatment is your kryptonite, by all means, walk away from the Oregon Bachelder Project. But that decision deprives that part of your brain that processes progress and reason. This is not the oak-driven Chardonnay of your 1985. This is the future. Embrace the angles, the quotients and the variables. Fruit as function, rock as relation and barrel as the algebraic cauldron that allows the wine to come to conclusion. Sure there’s oak but it drives the equation. Deal with it. Tasted April 2014  @Bachelder_wines

From my earlier February 2014 note: “Yet another three months later re-taste to show Bachelder’s Oregon terroir may be the most difficult to assess in its infancy. This short slumber has changed everything. Oregon distinction, smell it, commit it to memory and you’ll never forget it. “Picture yourself staring at a loved one in a restaurant,” says Thomas. “Would you be able to pick this out as Chardonnay?” Some ciderish activity, from sedimentary and volcanic soils that used to mingle with ocean waters, give this a sea salt and fossilized lava stillness. More buttery (dare I say, popcorn) goodness than the rest. And restrained tang. And length. Wow.

From my earlier November 2013 note: “While Burgundian in hopes and dreams, this is very much a $29 Oregon white. No mask, no hidden altruism, simply the right Chardonnay for the right price. Bone dry, orchard driven, high acid, void of harmful terpenes. There is a salinity and piquancy not influenced by PH, perhaps by the ocean, by sandstone, but regardless it’s unique to place, unlike Niagara, Prince Edward County, or for that matter Burgundy.”

Rosewood Estates Reserve Pinot Noir 2010, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (318345, $39.95, WineAlign)

Prettier in 2010 the Rosewood is, the aromas a precise glowing arcade of earthy, warm, peppery fire. April redolent of a burgeoning, sweet cranberry marsh. Present, accounted for though not tough tannins. Glazed by an unobtrusive candy shell. A fine, inviting, sweet and soft Rosewood Pinot, true to vintage and neighborhood. “Then I’ll dig a tunnel, from my window to yours.”  Tasted March 2014  @Rosewoodwine

Good to Go!

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Top ten wines $30 and under for 2013

Wine in the haystack


Finding the needles in the proverbial haystack is no simple assignment so tasting through thousands of wines each year is the necessity to the mother of invention.
Photo: Africa Studio/Fotolia.com

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Folks like best of lists and I for one am happy to offer them up. Historical farsightedness can be one of life’s great pleasures so cue the retrospective view.

The $20-30 category brims to overflowing with soft wines, so often heavy, overworked, reeking of new oak and unforgiving in contrivance. That niche can also be occupied by some of the greatest wine values on the planet. Wines that are neither entry-level nor flagship. Wines that define the attitude and intention of their producers.

Finding the needles in the proverbial haystack is no simple assignment so tasting through thousands of wines each year is the necessity to the mother of invention. Looking back, I am pleased to note that Ontario wines proved their worth in this reasonable if not cheap category. That four of the ten represented here were chosen locally is a testament to the quality and the marketability of $25 Niagara whites and reds.

Here are my top ten wines, on the number or below, released and tasted in 2013.

Ten wine releases $30 and under

From left: SOUTHBROOK TRIOMPHE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010, GREENLANE RIESLING OLD VINES 2011, DOMAINE DU PETIT MÉTRIS LES FOUGERAIES SAVENNIÈRES 2009, DOMAINES SCHLUMBERGER KESSLER PINOT GRIS 2008, and SAN FELICE IL GRIGIO CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2009

From left: SOUTHBROOK TRIOMPHE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010, GREENLANE RIESLING OLD VINES 2011, DOMAINE DU PETIT MÉTRIS LES FOUGERAIES SAVENNIÈRES 2009, DOMAINES SCHLUMBERGER KESSLER PINOT GRIS 2008, and SAN FELICE IL GRIGIO CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2009

SIGALAS SANTORINI ASSYRTIKO 2011, Santorini, Greece (74781, $21.95, WineAlign)

Must be a fairy tale, a Boucles d’or narrative of structure and complexity from the first swirl and sniff. Airy, saline, built of rich, gold guts. Perfectly ripened orchard fruit and fresh-squeezed grapefruit. Taste it and there’s a joyous dance, a kefi bursting inside, like great Champagne but minus the bubbles.  92  Tasted April 2013  @KolonakiGroup  From: See the humanity in real value wine

SOUTHBROOK TRIOMPHE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (ON, VINTAGES Essential, 193573, $22.95, WineAlign)

Drifts effortlessly along in an extreme brightness and lightness of being. A perfumed exotic beauty that displays definitive Cabernet Sauvignon character. Tea, tobacco, Cassis, vanilla, dark berries, proper acidity, good grip and length. Dictionary entry for the vintage, the Niagara-on-the-Lake appellation and the genre. No other sub-$25 Ontario Cab does the warm vintages (’02. ’05, ’07 and ’10) with this kind of grace and power. From and kudos to winemaker Ann Sperling.  91  Tasted September 2013  @SouthbrookWine  From: Good Look Ahead at Canadian Wines For Thanksgiving

GREENLANE RIESLING OLD VINES 2011 ,VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (351486, $22.95, WineAlign)

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.  91  Tasted July 2013  @GreenLaneWinery  From: Alternative wines for the August long weekend

DOMAINE DU PETIT MÉTRIS LES FOUGERAIES SAVENNIÈRES 2009, Ac Loire, France (319855, $23.95, WineAlign)

Screams “I am Chenin Blanc,” in honey on the pedal and maximum mineral metal. Aggressive, pursuing machine ”stealing honey from a swarm of bees.” Petrol stinky, tangy thick, sticky with honey oozing everywhere, in comb and sweet-smelling suckle. Seriously huge and flashy. Will be stunning when it settles down.  92  Tasted April 2013  @Savennieresaoc  From: Top ten wines for May Day

DOMAINES SCHLUMBERGER KESSLER PINOT GRIS 2008, Ac Alsace, France (249623, $25.95, WineAlign)

Wants to tell you she’s late harvest but you know better. “You might say you can only fool yourself.” Golden gorgeous, silken pear custard and southern hemisphere, capsicum spiked fruit. Walks on little feat but ultra-marathon runs a sweet to dry crescendoing gamut.  92  Tasted June 2013  @drinkAlsace  From: Working wines for the Canada Day long weekend

From left: SAN FELICE IL GRIGIO CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2009, LAN GRAN RESERVA 2005, ROEDERER ESTATE BRUT SPARKLING, MALIVOIRE WINE COMPANY GAMAY 'COURTNEY' 2011, and THIRTY BENCH VINEYARDS 'STEEL POST' VINEYARD RIESLING 2011

From left: SAN FELICE IL GRIGIO CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2009, LAN GRAN RESERVA 2005, ROEDERER ESTATE BRUT SPARKLING, MALIVOIRE WINE COMPANY GAMAY ‘COURTNEY’ 2011, and THIRTY BENCH VINEYARDS ‘STEEL POST’ VINEYARD RIESLING 2011

SAN FELICE IL GRIGIO CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2009, Tuscany, Italy (716266, $26.95, SAQ, 703363, $27, WineAlign)

Clocks in at 12.8 per cent abv. Are you following the theme here? This CCR is just so flippin’ foxy and gorgeous to nose. It’s also demanding in iron, dried sanguine char and tough like the label’s Titian-painted medieval knight. CCR stretched out on the rack, Italianate through and through and likely in need of 10 years lay down time. Funkless which, considering the lack of coat and obfuscation, is very, very interesting.  92   Tasted August 2013  From: Fall is the wine time to be with the Tuscan you love

LAN GRAN RESERVA 2005, Rioja, Spain (928622, $27.95, WineAlign)

Its makers may now just be a cog in the Sogrape empire but it continues to do its own thing. Has that evolution I look for in Rioja. The slightest oxidative note, heaps of herbs and the umami of salty clashes with smokey Jamon. Rioja expressive of one love and one heart. Caught bobbing, dancing and wailing right in its wheelhouse, giving everything it’s made of, no holds barred and no questions asked. “Is there a place for the hopeless sinner?” Yes, in a glass of a weathered, leathery and just flat out real as it gets red Rioja.  92  Tasted September 2013  @BodegasLan  From: Ancient state of the art Spanish wine

ROEDERER ESTATE BRUT SPARKLING, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California, (294181, $29.95, WineAlign)

Composed of approximately 60 per cent Chardonnay and 40 Pinot Noir. As close to greatness a house style from California can achieve. Discovers some secrets shared by cool-climate Sparkling wine, first with a delicate floral waft from out of a salmon copper tone. Complex, savoury bubbles, in rhubarb, tarragon and poached pear. Round, really fine, earthly, grounded stuff that spent a minimum two years on the lees. Marked by citrus too, namely pink grapefruit and creamy vanilla from the addition of some oak-aged wine.  91  Tasted November 2013  From: Ten sparkling wine to life

MALIVOIRE WINE COMPANY GAMAY ‘COURTNEY’ 2011, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($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  Tasted April 2013  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar  From: Come together over wine

THIRTY BENCH VINEYARDS ‘STEEL POST’ VINEYARD RIESLING 2011, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($30, winery only, WineAlign)

From the Andrew Peller stable leans late-harvest or Spätlese, with 18.5 grams per litre of residual sugar. Clean, crisp, precise and near perfect Beamsville Bench expression. Flinty minerality and fantastic whorl by way of winemaker Emma Garner. Equal to if not more of a bomb than the stellar ’09.  93  Tasted March 2013  @ThirtyBench  100 kilometre wine for Spring

Good to go!

Ancient, state of the art Spanish wine

Barrels of wine are pictured in a cellar PHOTO: A.B.G./FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

Argument suggests that the cradle of wine civilization, borne of Levant and of Mesopotamia should rightfully translate to talk of global influence and relevance as emanating from Greece and the Middle East. Not so much. The epicentre lies further west. A commonality shared by the modern romantic, European wine-producing nations is a mojo modus constructed of the most complex declensions. The language of the big three, France, Italy and Spain, inflects in case and number, the benchmark for fine and designed wine.

Spain’s vinous history stretches about as far back as that of its Western European neighbours and though it so often plays kissing cousin, Spanish winemakers do not pussyfoot in producing superannuated yet contemporary wine. My tastings over the previous two years of western (Latin) Europe’s 2009 and 2010 vintages have somewhat and hopefully only temporarily soured my palate for beloved southern Rhônes, especially from the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Up until a year ago I would have put CdP up against any global comparatives for quality and value in the $30-50 range. So many current examples, especially those 2010′s, are hot, over-extracted and completely out of balance. That feeling is also coming out of Piedmont (in particular from a virus of cheap, under $35, traipsing and awkwardly ambling Barolo), but also newly endemic in a hyperbolic convoy of flamboyant and trashy-sexy Tuscan IGT and Brunello. This, sniff, from my first wine love.

PHOTO: Michael Godel Bodegas Beronia, Patria Restaurant, July 18, 2013

Winemakers in Spain (and zooming in more specifically) from Ribera del DueroRioja and Montsant are more careful not to fall into modish vinification traps like sugar and spice wood splintering (France) or terroir-void, vinous compost (Italy). They are masters of their wine technique domains, in control of reductive aromas and in deft touch with acidification. Don’t misunderstand me. France and Italy are blessed with brilliant wines and winemakers. Conversely, there are plenty of examples out there these days in high-octane, alcohol elevated, barrel age-leveraging in ultra-modern Spanish wine. There are also wine making superstars. Red and white wine heroes. Matias Calleja, Juan Carlos Vizcarra, Maria Barúa, Luisa Freire and Alvaro Palacios all achieve Iberian nirvana by striking a balance between old and new world, antediluvian and 21st century, all the while making large quantities of commercially successful wine.

Bodegas Beronia talks of their “commitment to quality wine that expresses the personality of theterroir.” Their goal? “A philosophy based on respect for the environment and an ability to adapt to new market trends, maintaining the essence of Rioja.” Matías Calleja defines it: ”We combine art technology with traditional methods of production.”

According to their Ontario agent, Woodman Wines and Spirits, “if anyone embodies the promise and spirit of “The New Spain”, it is Alvaro Palacios.” It has not been much more than 20 years since he took control of the esteemed empire built by his father, Jose Palacios Remondo, but Alvaro Palacios has already become one of Spain’s most famous and well-respected winemakers.

Here are 10 perfect Spanish wines to pour, ponder and debate the popularity vs. quality discussion and to open the door to ancient, state of the art Spanish wine.

From left: Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2011, Lan Gran Reserva 2005, Bodegas Vizcarra JC Vizcarra 2010, Beronia Crianza 2009, and Beronia Gran Reserva 2006

Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2011 (216291, $22.95) is composed from 50 per cent Samsó (Carinena), 40 per cent Garnacha and a 10 per cent split between Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. A child of young vines, ready to roll Spanish charmer with a mingling floral nose, in barberry and bursting blueberry. Outlined by notes of pencil and charcoal. Timely acidity helps ease the heavy alcohol with some essential balancing grace. Stealth, arid ride through calcareous rock, deciduous oak and viburnum. There is something historical here, crafted yet serious.  91

Lan Gran Reserva 2005 (928622, $27.95) and its makers may now just be a cog in the Sogrape empire but it continues to do its own thing. Has that evolution I look for in Rioja. The slightest oxidative note, heaps of herbs and the umami of salty clashes with smokey Jamon. Rioja expressive of one love and one heart. Caught bobbing, dancing and wailing right in its wheelhouse, giving everything it’s made of, no holds barred and no questions asked. “Is there a place for the hopeless sinner?” Yes, in a glass of a weathered, leathery and just flat out real as it gets red Rioja.  92  @BodegasLan

Bodegas Vizcarra JC Vizcarra 2010 (214650, $28.95) while 100 per cent Tempranillo could understandably be confused for Bordeaux or Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Wood driven to be sure, shrouded in tobacco, vanilla, coconut and the prevailing, hedonistic attributes of the Left Bank or the Rhône. Bounding in berries and liqueur with a hit of phite. JC works because it comes together by adhering to Tempranillo’s early ripening, Cabernet-like, savoury chain of command. Compliments all around to an under $30 powerful yet beauteous Ribera, all out contempo, flaunting and billowing gorgeous. Wow times ten for flavour, if a bit too much of a good thing.  91 @DrinkRibera

Bodegas Beronia, Patria Restaurant, July 18, 2013

presented by Woodman Wines and Spirits, (416) 767-5114, @WoodmanWines @BodegasBeronia

Beronia Viura 2012 (Coming to VINTAGES January 18th, 2014 – 190801, $14.95) exsufflates super ripe, fresh picked pear and emollient herbiage in pure, angled control. One hundred per cent, quick macerated and cold stabilized Viura of aromatics locked in tight. A pour that leads to a starburst of flavour. Complexity reaches the sea in an underlying tide of salinity.  89

Beronia Tempranillo 2010 (LCBO, 243055, $11.65) is a warm, tempered, six months in Sherry cask-driven “one-half Crianza” but not classified as such. Specifically crafted for the North American market, the oak is the protagonist, while the Tempranillo lies in macerated cherry state. At $12 it’s a no-brainer, crafted by a conscientious and forward-thinking vintner.  86

Beronia Crianza 2009 (Consignment, $16.95, Barque Smokehouse) offers more terroir and less barrel interference, in pursuit of a fruit/tension equilibrium. Redolent as if berries, cherries and plums were on the crush pad, with a touch of modernity as a result of both new and used barrels. Classic style (1970′s) Rioja, a five to seven-year wine.  89

Beronia Gran Reserva 1973 is both the dawn of a first vintage pathfinder and fountain of youth. Fast forward from the pre-disco vintage to ubiquitous 90′s soul-searching structure and know it was clearly there with untested confidence back in the beginning. Earth, Spanish bramble and aged expertly in barrel, you can ”tie a yellow ribbon ’round the ole oak tree” with this genesis of Rioja. Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo and five per cent Viura. Twenty minutes in the glass and still so alive. Old school with the proviso to entertain.  93

Beronia Gran Reserva 1982 is highly evolved, gone milky, breaking down as by proteolytic enzyme. A study in caramel, fruit removed, out of tension, past. A second bottle not tasted was purportedly sound, though not corroborated.  NR

Beronia Gran Reserva 1994 spent 34 months in new and used barrels. The bridge from past to future, definitive for Rioja in every pertinent way. Fragrant in licorice, iron and bigarreau cherry. American oak to see a 2020 future in shag, snuff, tea and forest compost.  94

Beronia Gran Reserva 2006 (VINTAGES, Release date TBD – 940965, $34.95) is so youthful it actually gives me bubble gum and dark black cherry from just a swirl. American vanillin oak and terrible tannins in a frightfully tough to assess wine Calleja says “will maintain this intensity for four to six years.” Oh, and then “will continue to evolve for 20-25 more,” slowly modulating as a result of its natural acidity. Judgment currently reserved though the future looks extremely promising.  92

Good to go!

Super Bowl wine prediction: Red 49ers over black Ravens

San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick (7) celebrates with Leonard Davis and Daniel Kilgore (67) after the NFL football NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, in Atlanta.
PHOTO: AP PHOTO/DAVE MARTIN

as seen on canada.com

Three more sleeps before the much anticipated “Harbowl,” a brother versus brother, mano a mano American football war set to play out in New Orleans at Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVII. Forget about the risqué ads, the hype and the hoopla. Break it down to Raven black against 49er red. A wine analogy emerges.

Wine grapes are considered as either white or red. Though many dark-skinned varietals pitch purple, black and blue hues, by definition they are all reds. But we’re talking about football here and the foods that accompany America’s most amplified sports spectacle. Nachos, chicken wings, chili, pizza, hamburgers, and ribs. The purples and the blues don’t cut it. It’s got to be red and black.

My Super Bowl recommendations do not discriminate against any wines of colour but in this case the earth, spice and verve of the reds are a better match to traditional big game fare. They will ultimately triumph over their black opponents. Sorry John and your Baltimore Ravenation, younger brother Jim and his talented San Francisco Red and Gold have got your number. Here are five black and red wines to drink on Super Bowl Sunday.

The Raven

The grapes: Carmenère and Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: Organic and Biodynamic Chilean outfit in the Colchagua Valley

The lowdown: Central Valley grapes, aged for 6 months, 50% in french oak

The food match: Nachos, jack and cheddar cheese, jalapeno, guajillo salsa

Emiliana Novas Gran Reserva Carmenère/Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (66746, $14.95, NLC, 12168, $16.98) serves up Bordeaux-like tobacco, tar and smoke with roasted espresso-bean modernity. Carmenère as a taut, tight and tough duppy conquerer but softened by Cabernet Sauvignon’s rub-a-dub style. Hits you like a bombastic, Cossellian linebacker then offers a helping hand to get you back on your feet. “Yes, me friend.”  88  @VinosEmiliana

The Reds

The grapes: Sangiovese, Colorino and Canaiolo

The history: From Castellina in Chianti, between Colle Val d’Elsa and Monteriggioni

The lowdown: Exemplary CC, friendly and inviting in every way

The food match: Smoked BBQ Chicken Wings

Tenuta Di Capraia Chianti Classico 2010 (135277, $19.95) puts its best cocoa and red berry fruit foot forward, stepping tenaciously yet gracefully out of its dusty, tufaceous sands. Hints at game, like roasted goat or local, medieval buzzard and is also a touch funky without going off. It’s the red, clay earth soil talking. Classic example.  90  @ProfileWineGrp

The grapes: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinto Cão

The history: From Portugal’s Sobredos out of the Douro, based in Alijo. Francisco Montenegro of Quinta Nova is the winemaker

The lowdown: Terroir-driven red from the sub-sect Tua Valley, spends 12 months in new and used oak barrels

The food match: Individual Smoked Beef Sheppard’s Pies

Aneto Red 2009 (314930, $19.95) reminds me of the deepest, earthbound southern French reds, like Minervois or La Clape. Stygian and shadowy, the Aneto’s rusticity is borne of xistous terra, baking spice and dried fruit. Puts on her make up for prevailing balance in a show of hydrated, in vogue, darling pretty maturity. She can “heal my aching heart and soul.”  91  @liffordwine

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: From Marimar Torres, named after her father, Don Miguel

The lowdown: Rare alcohol/fruit/acidity balance for California Pinot Noir. European temperament, California style

The food match: Mini Hamburger Appetizers

Marimar Estate La Masía Pinot Noir 2007 (303974, $34.95, B.C. 711333, $37.99) is downright verdant what with its dry cherry and wilting rose nose and spicy, splintering palate. A smoldering whiff penetrates the maroon fruit, bricking with gold. This is 49’er country, led by a balanced attack and a leader capable of peeling off a Kaepernickian 50-yard run. Victorious Pinot.  90  @MarimarTorres

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Beamsville Bench winery and meadery specializes in Pinot, Chardonnay, Riesling and excellent Semillon. Mead wines are out of this world

The lowdown: Rosewood is old-school; the Niagara equivalent to the Italian Azienda Agricola or the German Erzeugerabfüllung.

The food match: Goat Cheese Arancini

Rosewood Estates Natural Fermentation Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 (318345, $39.95) is ageing gracefully with nary a bitter edge. Cranberry, pomegranate, cherry, plum and vanilla all combine to gather and linger in freshness.  My earlier review. “clocks in at 13.2% abv from 20 Mile Bench, Wismer-Ball’s Falls fruit that is whole cluster pressed under gentle, low pressure. So what? It means low phenolic (bitterness) extraction where seeds and skins are shunned and it’s all about “extracting the good stuff.” Fermented from the grape’s own yeasts, this Pinot has perfectly evolved to this point in time. Mushroom, earth and sweet red fruit will see the ’09 through another five years of joy.”  91  @Rosewoodwine

Good to go!