B.C. wine: From Vancouver to your table

Vancouver’s Blood Alley PHOTO: SINIDEX/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

On a recent West Coast swing I sampled wines from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley without ever leaving the city of Vancouver. A bicycle was all I needed to find Salt Tasting Room in Blood Alley. A couple of telephone calls to L’Abattoir and Fable Kitchen quickly and effortlessly landed me in the wine program hands of Robert Herman and Kathy Schleyer/Ron MacGillivray, all ready and willing to introduce me to a thing or two about B.C. wine. The Okanagan Valley’s indelible stamp is now etched upon my wild yeast, fermented brain.

PHOTO: Michael Godel English Bay Inukshuk

A well-known California wine writer recently lashed out against the city’s wine scene with this soul-searching, pharisaic headline. British Columbia: Okay Wines, Retarded Wine Culture. I feel for the author, who in his own right is possessive of a tremendous palate, for he could not locate a knowledgeable sommelier or a decent glass of B.C. wine anywhere in the city. But I suppose I shouldn’t blame him for never having solicited any advice from Anthony GismondiDJ Kearney, Jessica Bryans, Rhys Pender, Treve Ring, Frank Haddad, Kurtis Kolt, Andrea Vescovi, Lindsay Ferguson, Jay Whiteley, Barbara and Iain Phillip, Mark Taylor and Lynn Coulthard. Just a few names for next time. Nor can I hold him accountable for never having made it out to Penticton, or Kelowna. Two weeks later the Wine Blogger’s Conference in Penticton remained surreptitiously out of reach. I too am guilty of not being able to plan a side trip to the Okanagan during my quick western jaunt and yet I had no trouble unearthing several watering holes with more than a willingness to keep me in the B.C. wine loop. “It ain’t no big thing but it’s growin’.”

PHOTO: Michael Godel Second Beach, English Bay

Unlike Ontario, British Columbia has finally begun to emerge from the dark ages of wine legislation and pre-prohibition rules. Thanks to MP Dan Albas and the #freemygrapes movement, Ontario wineries (and others in Canada) can now ship their bottles to B.C., free from persecution. Private wine shops like Kitsilano Wine Cellar have begun to allot space to Ontario but the choices are few and far between. Blue Note agency’s Patrick Ellis is working towards more free movement of wine from Ontario to B.C.  Despite the prevailing tailwinds, shipping wines west to east remains taboo. Christy Clark will be handing out B.C. wines to fellow premiers at this week’s annual meeting. The ball is in your court Kathleen Wynne. People are talking.

The LCBO is so un-flush with B.C. wines the back-up is downright constipating. The monopoly threatens, the wall’s eastern bloc shows few faults and still B.C. wines (privately) flow east. Why? It’s the right thing to do. My table is set and ready for B.C. wine to be written all over it.

PHOTO: Michael Godel Summer table

Here are notes on eight Okanagan Valley wines tasted at Salt and on a hotel balcony overlooking phantasmagorical English Bay.

Salt Tasting Room, 45 Blood Alley, Gastown, Vancouver, BC V6B 0C4 (604) 633-1912

It’s 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, I’m in unfamiliar territory and Colin greets me with a turntable and Another Side of Bob Dylan. I know I’ve come to the right place. A half hour in I am turned over to Sommelier and General Manager Kyle Gartlan-Close, clearly a pragmatist when it comes to the wines of British Columbia. I sense he’s still waiting for the renaissance to happen and the local wines on his list must adhere to what are clearly his high standards of quality. I tasted 15 wines over a 90-minute stretch at the tasting bar. Not all were hits but Salt was clearly the portal to crawl through and cross over into Vancouver’s wine scene. All prices are B.C. at the winery, unless otherwise noted.

From left: Tantalus Old Vines Riesling Natural Brut 2010, Thornhaven Tortured Grape 2012, Pentâge Winery Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2011, Poplar Grove Chardonnay 2011, 8th Generation Vineyard Riesling 2012, Synchromesh Pinot Noir Rosé ‘Palo Solara’ 2011, and Joie Farm Pinot Blanc 2012

Tantalus Old Vines Riesling Natural Brut 2010 ($35) at 11:00 am on the nose spins effortlessly out of the vinyl gate along with Dylan’s The Girl From North Country. No shrinking violet, this inaugural Brut, méthode Champenoise sparkler. Straining yeast, naphtha and prickling pear go crazy in acerbic pith. No Peggy Day neither, though “she stole my poor heart away.” Score one for Godello’s cellar.  90  @tantaluswine

Thornhaven Tortured Grape 2012 ($17.90) melds a kitchen sink of Okanagan Chardonnay, Riesling and Muscat. Slides down the pipe with edacious oomph, in a good way. The label’s eerie graphic might shock but this is no hollow or shallow white, but rather a hallow ode to blending with great floral intensity.  But, may I ask, who crop-thins with a scythe?  87  @ThornhavenWines

Pentâge Winery Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2011 ($20) is classically styled white Bordeaux divided between 65 per cent SB and 35 Sem, though it’s true to its roots and rocks, speaking uniquely of its place. Glides coolly and reggae rhythmically in cohorts with Bob’s Kaya, is perfumed by humid sea salt and oyster shell. SB imparts near tropical fruit and Sem brings terrific texture. Goes to show you “can’t run away from yourself.”  88  @PentageWinery

Poplar Grove Chardonnay 2011 (338434, $27.95, B.C. 732958, $21.90) from Hot weekend wines and cool Chardonnay sees minimal (15 percent new French) oak influence and while there is a ripe coconut tang, a sense of creamy butter and a spike of citrus, there really isn’t too much of anything at all. Tasted this fresh Okanagan a second time in Vancouver, alongside Another Side of Bob Dylan at Salt Tasting Room, I decided I could drink a barge full of the stuff. “All I really want to do, is, baby, be friends with you.”  90  @poplargrovewine

8th Generation Vineyard Riesling 2012 ($20.90) from Okanagan Falls bolts rapido from the gate with the ripest fruit (pear, plum) and though there is citrus, it’s really quite semi-dry. At 12.9 per cent alcohol and 24gr/L of residual sugar this may as well be Mosel Trocken Spätlese. Fantastic presence and awesome winemaking from Bernd and Stefanie Schales. Got me by the vines and will be on my table. 92  @8th_Generation

Synchromesh Pinot Noir Rosé ’Palo Solara’ 2011 ($18.90) from an east-Kelowna vineyard is made using the traditional saignée method. The result is a cottony texture and clinquant cantaloupe hue. An alkali, dry Provence notion is raised dutifully by bright but savoury fruit notes, like rhubarb and watermelon. Only 150 cases produced and true to serious Rosé everywhere.  90 @SynchromeshWine

Okanagan Crush Pad Gamay (on Tap) rolls melodically around the mouth in fresh fruit flavours so it must be Piano Man time. Solid black cherry core, good extraction, simple structure and no hard lines combine for basic but beneficial keg effect. “La la la, di da da. La la, di da da da dum.”  87  @OKCrushPad

Joie Farm Pinot Blanc 2012 ($23) found at Kitsilano Wine Cellar elevates a yeoman’s grape to mountain heights. Okanagan acidity injects life to do away with “useful” and score a notch for necessary. Like Gamay, Pinot Blanc should receive more planting consideration in B.C.  Zesty, invigorating and refreshing. A tumbler of delectation when matched with a view of English Bay.  89  @JoieFarm

Good to go!

The Wine Diaries: A generous year

PHOTO: STILLKOST/FOTOLIA.COM

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When it comes to wine, the year 2012 was extremely kind and in so many ways. There are some who cringe at the term “generous” when employed in a tasting note to describe a particular wine. To me, there may not be a better word to wax dreamily and demurely about the year that was. The grapes were in fact generous in 2012, bursting better than ever with ripe, rich fruit, their ferment having flowed and poured freely at the hands of so many great people. Wine helped to fill the voids and soothed in times of stress, as if there were not a care in the world.

Wine events continued to proliferate. VINTAGES ramped up tasting opportunities, the importers shared lavishly and with munificent grace. There were mass assemblies of producers who came to share their wares from California, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Argentina, Italy, Austria, the list goes on. A Halpern portfolio tasting was stellar and Stem Wine Group’s gala brought me to my knees. A relentless trafficking of the grape persists, especially by the likes of Profile Wine Group’s Mark Coster who’s omnipotence seemed to find him pouring everywhere. Dinners with fellow geeks threw complementarity caution to the wind while the affair with my wine card at Barque Smokehouse continued its wanderlust.

Tasting through local portfolios and young juice in barrel with winemakers and vineyard representatives really highlighted the year. Norm Hardie and Dan Sullivan showed me what Prince Edward County is and will surely be. Paul Pender twice ran me through his promising casks at Tawse. Vintners in Long Island opened my eyes to the future of its two forks. I am looking forward to tasting around the world in 2013.

Never before have I been privy to a sound as buzzing as our local wine scene. Social media exploded in 2012, especially on the topic of Ontario wine. The elevated level of discourse and discussion became palpable and necessary. The Wine Council of Ontario opened MyWineShop, an initiative aimed at transforming the landscape of wine sold in Ontario. The current harvest looks to be of the ‘best ever” variety. VQA Ontario wrote “conditions were close to perfect going into harvest,” then followed up with “harvest reports on grape quality were excellent for all regions.”

I liken 2012 to 1998. This vintage will see Ontario to wines of stunning fruit quality, acidity, balance and finesse to match what we continue to experience from the exceptional ’98’s, including reds. The 1998 Henry of Pelham Cabernet/Merlot I tasted last winter can testify to this. “You’ve come a long way baby,” I will say to our local, vinous heroes. Ignore the naysayers and keep on the path of the Rockafellar Skank. Just as in 1998, the “funk soul brother” is on your side.

Of the most profound pleasure and fortuitous circumstance is the opportunity I am given to imbibe and to share of other’s treasures.

These are the best wines I tasted in 2012:

The Wine Diaries: 2012

Château Pichon Baron Longueville, Paulliac 1988 (March)This PBL is throwing rocks tonight. I am dazzled by its youth. Purity, clarity, vitality. Embodies Cclaret’s dictionary entry. Opened in the heart of its window. While ’89 and ’90 continue to hog that era’s spotlight, here lies reason number one to endorse ’88.  The turkey of the triple flight.  95  

Corimbo 1 2009 (April) is sweet thistle pie. A cracker jack Tempranillo and nothing but Tempranillo. Candy coated with red licorice and an inexplicable apple flower sensation as if molecular gastronomy of the Ferran Adrià or Heston Blumenthal kind. Exotic and spicy, seeing through me, it “knows my name but calls me ginger.”   95

Tawse Chardonnay David’s 2011 (March) coruscates like the glare of a Koon sculpture, lambient and luminous. Searing tang of citrus and green apple. A crime to show so well, Zen in its persistence and long finish. This vintage and this vineyard may unseat Robyn.  93-95 (barrel sample)

Valdicava Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva Madonna Del Piano 2006 (October) is sacred Sangiovese, an inviolable reliquary of immaculacy deep beneath Montalcino’s altar. A vamp of essential Tuscan fruit. If you were to stand on a hill in Montalcino in winter time and listen carefully, you would hear a low sipping sound. That is the sound of the entire town drinking of the Madonna Del Piano.  97

Château Fonroque St. Emilion Grand Cru 2000 (September) unseats Talbot as the non pareil Bordeaux coalescence of value and longevity from that vintage. Resolute to immaculate balance, black fruit steadfast against crumbling tannins and yet I can see this pushing on for 10 or more. “You like drinking ghosts,” says JM. Yes I do, yes I do.  93

Mas Doix Salanques 2006 (April) is a revelation. A Pegau-esque perfume aux gasseuse leans Rhône but an amazing (65%) Garnacha sweetness veers Priorat. Iodine (Syrah and Carignan) of black slate soil, tar, smoked meat and bacon. A Parker and Galloni thesaurus of descriptors must be bequeathed on this candied (Merlot) wine loaded with acidity in magnums.  CVR** WOTN.  93

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape 1998 (April) would be my wine of choice walking a boulder strewn vineyard on a misty morning in the Southern Rhône. Expressions are hurled around the table, “candified Pinot nose” and “tutti frutti.” For Beaucastel? I can’t believe the tripartite fruit freshness, ambient funk immersion and pencil lead sharpness. This ’98 is ”light as a feather, heavy as lead.” The Beaucastel will brighten up your tomorrow. WOTN  96

Château Léoville-Las Cases Saint Julien 1996 (March)Utopian, foxy, rubicund health. Voluptuous tomato, classy and luxurious on every level. Unabashed, showing off unblemished, curvy fruit. Pellucid, transparent, honest. A player, even if the highest caste keeps the dark LLC down. The sixth major.  94

Domaine Henri Perrot-Minot Morey-St.-Denis En La Rue De Vergy 1996 (March) The dark knight of the three red Burgundies. Smells like merde at first, a pumpkin left to compost long after the hallow night is done. A few swirls and the funk blows away, leaving behind a smashing MSD. Oracular utterances are in the air now. ”Lazer beam of acidity” says AM, “Pinot on a frozen rope” says I.  93

Castellare Di Castellina I Sodi di San Niccolo 1997  (May) of Colli Della Toscana Centrale IGT origins and the fountain of youth. How can it be so fresh? 85% Sangioveto and 15% Malvasia. The Sangiovese clone, also known as Sangiovese Piccolo is here a sweet and beautiful elixir. Polished deep purple Amethyst dipped in smokey, black raspberry water. No hard lines, void of animale and free from Tuscan iron. “No matter what we get out of this, i know, i know we’ll never forget.” Better with the cheese course to come.  93

Good to go!

Canada, let me pour your Thanksgiving wines

Michael Godel (photographs courtesy of Marc Rochette, marcrochette.com)

as seen on canada.com

Who do we owe a debt of gratitude for this long weekend respite? Frobisher, Lincoln, Parliament, Congress? Who can really lay claim to be called founder of Thanksgiving?

In 1879, Canada’s Parliament declared November 6th a day of Thanksgiving and a national holiday but had to do so each year by proclamation. On January 31st, 1957, a proclamation was issued fixing permanently Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October, thus eliminating the necessity of an annual proclamation. “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed… to be observed on the second Monday in October.”

Back in the 1750’s, this joyous celebration was brought to Nova Scotia by American settlers from the south.”Thanksgiving in Canada is the second Monday in October, because by the time the last Thursday of November comes around Canada is frozen solid and a turkey won’t thaw,” writes Tom Johnson of the Louisville Juice. Guess Tom never made it up to Canada for the winter of 2011/2012.

It’s worth planning a Thanksgiving meal without any reason but to be hungry. Conversely, pouring a glass of wine alongside the harvest feast is simple necessity in my world, borne of my constant economy and curiosity.

Now, I’m not suggesting we all go out and fill a curved goat’s horn with fruit, grain and Pinot Noir. There are better ways to get your cornucopia or horn of plenty on. No, not those ways. Invite the family over, cook like a wild person and pour any one of the following wines.

The grape: Monastrell

The history: A thick-skinned varietal from Jumilla, in the northeast region of Murcia of southeastern Spain

The lowdown:  Customarily a hard nut to crack. This soft number is a red wine drinker’s sundowner

The food match: Goat Cheese on Crostini rubbed with olive oil and garlic

Casa Castillo Monastrell 2010 (165621, $13.95) to sniff is a bit oxy and to look is more than a bit purple. Enters territory of unfamiliar conjugations and be warned to watch out for the splinters but hey, it’s $14!  Built for a Raynolds/Miller North American palate, assays more like reposing Garnacha than trundling Monastrell, but there is beauty in the house.  87

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Macon-Fuissé is found in southern Burgundy and the Roman Emperor Fussiacus is thought to be the founder of the village of Fuissé

The lowdown: Ostensibly organic farming, this Chard is achieved through manual harvesting and fermentation in stainless steel. Chablis like and better value

The food match: Crispy-Skin Roast Turkey, cranberry, sage stuffing and turkey gravy

Domaine De Fussiacus Macon-Fuissé 2009 (279000, $16.95) takes more than a lutte raisonée approach and blows my Fuisséing mind. Sits in a museum of scents, like Pomace Brandy by way of French Marc. Like toasted pine nuts in basil pesto. Verve, gusto, spine.  88

The grapes: Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: All French grapes but only in Argentina do they meet up like this

The lowdown: No longer atypical colección from Mendoza

The food match: Slow-Roasted Rump Roast, duck fat potatoes

Finca Flichman Paisaje De Barrancas 2009 (17129, $17.95) joins together as perfect a circle as could be dreamed from an Argentinian SML assemblage. A berry collective, refined and showing chocolate restraint. Seductive scents, velvet mouth feel, good length and balance. Simple and structured.   89

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Pinot grown in a bowl surrounded by mountains at the world’s southernmost wine region

The lowdown: Central Otago on the South Island of New Zealand is the most exciting emerging Pinot locale on the planet

The food match: Pork Shoulder, Bacon and Lingots Cassoulet

Thatched Hut Pinot Noir 2011 (242933, $19.95) is so bright I’ve gotta wear shades. When a $20 wine is able to pull off the status quo from a region where that quo is $40 and up, you know the future alights for Central Otago. Vanilla, capsicum and tangy cranberry sauce meet a zinging swish of fresh texture and pop in the mouth. “Heavenly blessed and worldly wise,” the Hut will sing at the harvest table.  88

The grape: Zinfandel

The history: Yet refuted cousin to Italian Primitivo

The lowdown: Bumble berry bramble typifies Mendocino Zin. Savoury note gives this guy balance

The food match: Smoked Turkey, fresh and tart cranberry sauce

Artezin Zinfandel 2010 (302943, $21.95) initially heads out on the Zin train with dangerous extraction but stops for the night over a campfire of herbs, anise and pine brush. Plums and sourish cherries simmer in the pot. The style is a full on uprising and welcoming to those who “get on board.”  89

The grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah

The history: Consummate blend for Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages

The lowdown: This really is as good as it gets for CDRV. A few more dollars but this one rivals many Vacqueyras, Gigondas and even Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The food match: Willowgrove Farms Hormone-Free Smoked and Pulled Pork

Domaine Les Grands Bois Cuveé Maximilien Cairanne 2010 (286336, $21.95) is extraordinary for the appellation. Pitch purple, world-class milk and dark chocolate swirl, creamy silk. The stuff of recent phenomenon, where rocks, dreams and raspberries are crushed and scattered like cake bits over the loam.   91

The grape: Shiraz

The history: The jam from down under

The lowdown: Once a quarter there pours an OZ Shiraz that stands above the crowd

The food match: Braised Short Rib, creamy polenta, green peppercorn jus

Blackjack Major’s Line Shiraz 2008 (280941, $24.95) deserves a 21-card salute for its Victorian, cool, calm and collected demeanor. Blueberry, tar, spice box and wood smoke baked in a pie. Chocolate and vanilla hardly play a part. You may “swear and kick and beg us that you’re not a gamblin’ man,” but I dare you to try this Bendigo. You’ll want to do it again90

The Splurge

The grape: Riesling

The history: Niagara’s signature grape goes ethereal in the hands of winemaker Dianne Smith

The lowdown: Along with Charles Baker’s Picone Vineyard bottling, this Old Vines effort is as good as I’ve tasted in 2012

The food match: BBQ Chicken, goat cheese croquettes

Green Lane Old Vines Riesling 2010 (283432, $29.95) from the oldest block down on the Lincoln Lakeshore is a flat-out mouth-watering, comestible ferment of grapes. Pale lemon/lime soda but a radiant rider. Mosel in trocken mode, bursting with azoic water, pear and persimmon aromas. Rousing acidity jumps to and fro. Wow!!  91

Good to go!

Five wines are the apple of my I

Roasted Lobster with Tarragon Butter Sauce/Eric Vellend

as seen on canada.com

Over the past week I’ve offered up suggestions for great Ontario wines and screaming values from new sites in the Old World. My phone is now dialed in and my eye set on some bottles straight from the church of Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration. They may not be cheap but their 5g speed and spiritually restorative powers will see you through the decompressing weekends of your life.

The Sparkling

The grapes: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

The history: Roederer Estate Brut was the first California sparkling wine to be produced by Champagne house Louis Roederer

The lowdown: Is there a better California sparkling wine than this Anderson Valley star?

The food match: West Coast oysters on the half-shell

Roederer Estate L’ermitage Brut Sparkling Wine 2003 (183392, $54.95) nine years on whiffs more aromas than a perfume factory. There is yeast, of course, along with citrus, pear, lime, ginger, strawberry leaf, toffee and even tobacco. Utterly iridescent, at once feminine and erudite of Champagne and then shuffles to a leesy and tangy filled udder of rudesse. “Sparks fly on E Street” when the Ermitage “walk it handsome and hot.”  92

The White

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Heavy-handed style from Laura Catena out of Mendoza

The lowdown: Full-on California treatment, complete with toasted oak and tropical fruit

The food match: Pan-roasted lobster, tarragon butter

Luca G Lot Chardonnay 2010 (167338, $27.95) casts a simple twist of fate as it’s tropically restrained and not overblown as found in previous vintages. Toast in balance, big on pineapple, passion and bananas, porcine but at the same time crustaceous. Tons of vanilla custard, crème catalana and spicy to finish.   89

The Reds

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: Crafted from a blend of fruit from across different vineyard plots in the Mayacamas Mountains, 2,800 feet above the Sonoma valley

The lowdown: The moderating effects of mountain altitude combined with forested hilltops helps to produce profound Cabernet fruit

The food match: Roasted beef tenderloin, foraged mushrooms

Stonestreet Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (4002, $29.95) concentrates herbs, olives, cocoa and campfire smoke. Rides the oak train in first class. Alexander Valley does Cabernet in a Rhôneish way, more Streetheart than Rolling Stones. A coup de coeur under my thumb. Hard core CVR** for the price.   90

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: From a stalwart Pinot producing village in the Côte Chalonnaise south of Beaune in Burgundy

The lowdown: Nothing entry-level about this Mercurey. This is serious juice from a less than household name producer

The food match: Seared and rendered duck breast, pinot noir and peach reduction

Château Philippe-le-Hardi Mercurey Les Puillets 1er Cru 2009 (295071, $29.95) is a resplendent sniffer, rich, robust and steeped in cherry wood. The tannins and back bite may cause a screwface but this open door to the heady 2009 Burgundy vintage shows off Mercurey’s potential.  “Oh, now! I tell you what red is!”   89

The grape: Sangiovese

The history: Named for one of the feudal properties of the Ricasoli family

The lowdown: Guicciarda is the type of wine that bridges the gap between ancient Chianti and the modern world

The food match: Tuscan braised beef short ribs, caramelized cipollini onions, kale

Barone Ricasoli Rocca Guicciarda Chianti Classico Riserva 2008 (943613, $24.95) is a velvet gloved, shag carpeted, darkly hued modern Tuscan. The sun-dried berries, spicy currants and granular acidity recall the momento mori, carrying its ancestors in it’s every gesture. The price has remained fixed for as long as I can remember so the Guicciarda retains it’s spot as best CCR under $25.  90

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

Good to go!

Trending Ontario and B.C wines for Canada Day

Here is a simple proposition. Choose Canadian when wine shopping or cellar digging for this, our 145th Birthday weekend. With no disrespect intended to the developing and burgeoning wine community of Nova Scotia and the most excellent Cideries of Quebec, today and over the following three days is the time to think Ontario and British Columbia.

http://o.canada.com/tag/june-23-2012-release/

What’s in a name? So many expressions define our national day of unity. Today we simply say Canada Day but let us not forget Le jour de la confédération, Dominion Day and La fête du Canada.  The country united may see its wine regions separated by thousands of Kilometres but thanks to Bill C-311, they are now inching closer than ever. Let’s see wines from both provinces sharing the same table this weekend. “A bottle of red, a bottle of white, ” perhaps a bottle of rosé for Canada Day.

The grape: Pinot Gris

The history: Originally from Burgundy, a mutation of Pinot Noir, most at home in France and as Pinot Grigio in Italy

The lowdown: Winemaker Dan Sullivan is hitting it out of the park with all things Pinot in Prince Edward County

The food match: Pulled Pork Sandwiches with pickled ginger, pear and cilantro mayo

Rosehall Run Pinot Gris Cuvée County 2010 ($22) is off the off-dry chart where gun-metal pear and pomello peel away layers of mineral velocity. Sanctified, paint stripping stuff, rated PG. On my card at Barque. 89

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: Bordeaux superstar

The lowdown: You’d be surprised how it can work for dessert wine and for blush rosé

The food match: Burgers with bacon, cheddar and aioli

Peninsula Ridge Beal Vineyards Cabernet Rosé 2011 (177840, $11.95) reeks of an underrated animal manure yet its savoury, red pepper jelly and wild leek pickle express its baa-benefits. The backbone is good, the cheese of a craftsman’s coagulation. Nice IVR*.  87

The grape: Gamay

The history: Hails from Beaujolais

The lowdown: Not just for Nouveau anymore. Serious renditions come from Morgon, Côte Du Puy and now Niagara

The food match: Beef Ribs and BBQ Sauce

Fielding Estate Gamay 2011 ($18.15) comes from concentrate and yet avoids Niagara iodine-ness.  Impossibly see through Ori-Gamay, leaden but not weighty. Plum, cherry, spiceless and subtle regatta. Malleable and walking on the moon. “I may as well play. Keep it up.”  A Barque Red.  87

Ontario

Angel’s Gate Pinot Gris 2010 (285783, $18.95) is perfectly typical of Beamsville Bench PG, if just shy of wielding Fielding Estate’s prowess. A mulch and multitude of pear and spice reports end of term good marks with room for improvement. Certainly a student of the niche.  86

Featherstone Gewürztraminer 2011 (64592, $19.95) from up on the Twenty Mile Bench exhibits positive Escarpment energy and vibration. Not quite the Iration of winemaker David Johnson’s Rieslings but the white rose, lychee and longan scents are intoxicants in their own right. A lack of back limits one visit per.  87

Flat Rock Unplugged Chardonnay 2011 (68015, $16.95) mocks me for imagining an apple orchard of acoustic salinity and neo-nutrient nirvana. Smells like Twenty Bench spirit. “And I forget just why I taste. oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile.”  88

Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2010 (117572, $21.95) is Niagara-on-the-Lake organic and biodynamic issue. Wow. Blanched, voluminous and deliberate. Big smoke filbert in a Muscatel or white raisin, resinous Port bowl.  86

Ravine Vineyard Meritage 2010 (285627, $24.95) on the St. David’s Bench shows impressive concentration for the locale. The colour of a face gone savagely red. A near-volatile Niagara acidity blows up on the long bench then rides the wind through the creeks and out along the river. Big oak treatment in balance with the cherries, gravel and further stone fruit in crenellated cohorts on the valley floor.  Look for 2010 reds, again and again.  88

Wildass Red 2008 (86363, $19.95) intimates that Stratus struggles in the marketing department but notch one more for the red guys in Ontario, “in a functional way.” Trouble come running with meaty, cured artisan charcuterie. Well done. Could eat it with a spoon.  87

British Columbia

Quail’s Gate Rosé 2011 (275842, $17.95) may be an Okanagan Texas-Leaguer but it’s just a routine pop fly IMHO. Yes Tony, the rhubarb note is prominent but there’s no complimentary strawberry. Elk droppings maybe. Blooper, bleeder, dying quail.  84

Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay (V) 2010 (545004, $19.95) the Essential rises to the plateau of bigger, bulkier Okanagan whites. Hasidic diamond merchant of Jake and Elwood acidity. Good overall impression, if the style confronts you.  88

Mission Hill Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (V) 2009 (553321, $22.95) combines citrus and cassis bore of an Okanagan Red Ash.  Aussie Coonawarra mint and eucalyptus subdue some overoaking but the structure is solid and the crowd-pleasing quotient high.  87

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio

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

Good to go!

The Wine Diaries: new world reds

Photo: REX

http://blogs.canada.com/2012/06/27/the-wine-diaries-new-world-reds/

The term “new world wine” refers to wine produced in countries that have transplanted European vinifera to establish an industry where one did not originally exist. The United States, led by California comes to mind as the leader in this category. Australia sits alone within a second tier while New Zealand, South Africa, Washington and Oregon are the major players close behind. Ever-improving Canada is on the move.

Many wines that are currently unavailable in Canada will one day knock at the door. Voices of discontent are out there and I hear them. Change is inevitable, and optimistically speaking, will come sooner rather than later. In the meantime, like the dutiful children and newcomers we are, we submit to and embrace what is on offer. An imperturbable level of varietal diversity and quality will unearth something out there for everyone.

U.S.A. – California

J. Lohr South Ridge Syrah 2010 (948240, $19.95) from Paso Robles along California’s Central Coast is shiny, happy Syrah. Attenuated body accented by citrus and trace pepper.  “Gold and silver shine.”  87

Laird Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (50096, $57.95) out of Napa Valley pours like syrup of supersized black and boysenberry concentrate. Massive fruit here, making for a big wine in search of red flesh on closing night.  89

Mahle Wind Gap Syrah 2007 (242776, $59.00) defines the grape for Russian River Valley. The tar, roses and smoked meat from this coulée in Sonoma County tutor California in Northern Rhône speak. Darker than a power outage with a gamey and sanguine finish.  90

Outpost Howell Mountain Zinfandel 2009 (253377, $69.00) is top-tier Napa Valley Zinfandel. The dark flesh of fowl comes to mind, especially Duck with a chocolate mint Nahuatl mōlli. A foxy, violet voice is to be expected out of  the likes of Barolo or Barbaresco, but here Zinfandel tramples me flat.  92

Redemption Zin Zinfandel 2007 (224147, $22.95) might seem magnetic but a plum, raisin, sweet and sour profile is not what Dry Creek Valley normally produces. Fruit too long on the vines?  85

Rutherford Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (73817, $19.95) offers grateful Napa Valley pleasures so power to its large scale fruit gathering and consumer friendly production. “Walking in the tall trees, going where the wind goes, blooming like a red rose.” Grandiflora not dead. A sunshine daydream.  87

Simi Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (25221, $24.95) does Alexander Valley like it should. A spiced, caramel coffee cake with a soft, oozing core. Nothing offensive here, just solid Sonoma juice.  87

Sonoma-Cutrer Grower-Vintner Pinot Noir 2008 (140723, $29.95) crawls Russian River Valley Pinot to a varietal P but smoke masks the fruit “like a forest fighting for sunlight.” Can’t blame it on the carpet fires of 2007.  86

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (708982, $46.95) has Napa Valley pedigree but high steps the oak steeplechase brimming with nearly burnt coffee and 76% orange, dark chocolate. Over the top and unrelenting but history will offer some assistance for future enjoyment.  88

U.S.A. – Oregon

Maysara Estate Cuvée Pinot Noir 2008 (65680, $39.95) from McMinnville (who, what, where?) claims biodynamic status and “s’got such a supple wrist.” A quiet wizard, void of scents and smell, save for a pinball of earth bouncing off leather.  May speak up in time.  87

Argentina

Alta Vista Premium Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (129957, $14.95) ordinarily regards Mendoza by a male-dominated genome. Sausage fest as South American Cabernet, hidebound and specific to grilled meat.  85

Santa Julia Magna 2009 (93799, $14.95) is more ambitious Mendoza in its blend of half Cab and Malbec with a smattering of Syrah. A bit wild and uncorked, like a dog driving a car.  86

Chile

Concha Y Toro Marques De Casa Concha Carmenère 2010 (169862, $17.00) drinks chalky like green tea ice cream, not so unusual for Carmenère out of the Rapel Valley. A bit confused, murky as Lake Rapel, “light like a feather, heavy as lead.” Fruit of the marl.  87

Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (322586, $19.95) does Bordeaux and the world’s most popular red grape proud on a consistent basis. This one is the funky by-product of a chocolate chunk cookie baked by the sun. The argilaceous Colchagua Valley earth scorches the grapes and the wine is forever warm.  87

Santa Ema Reserve Merlot 2009 (642538, $16.95) is a bold effort out of Maipo. A Plug tobacco block effected by the humidity of a smoke shack, spicy clove heat and abrasive atmospheric pressure.  Massive Merlot but out of whack.  85

Australia

Chapel Hill Shiraz 2009 (743989, $25.95) takes South Australia’s McLaren Vale to an extreme wedding. Irrigous, cave aromas where melting minerals co-mingle with very ripe berries in your Dixie Cup. A tannic beast too. Walking through that cave while the eerie sound of “going to the chapel and we’re gonna get married” plays somewhere in the distance.   86

Hope The Ripper Shiraz 2008 (686865, $21.95) springs eternal with dreamboat berry and flower scents despite the ambiguous ‘Western Australia’ designation. Perhaps not the “best thing that I’ve ever found” but hope floats so I foresee the sweet smell of success for the Ripper.  87

Kaesler Stonehorse Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvèdre 2008 (6551, $20.95) out of Barossa comes down in price by $2 from the ’07. This SGM is always a Rhône on ‘roids but the minty kick and analgesic mouth clout win points.  88

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet/Shiraz 2008 (309625, $39.95) bears the omnipresent Penfolds perfume. Soupy syrup from South Australia, Refined but so concentrated. You will have to wait 10+ years for this to settle and be nice.  89

Tattiarra Culled Barrel Shiraz 2009 (271379, $39.95) shows off Heathcote within Victoria’s scant cooler take on the unchained, grievous grape down under. An otherwise repeat performance. “Change, ain’t nothin’ stays the same.”  87

Zonte’s Footsteps Baron Von Nemesis 2008 (212936, $17.95) is the Barossa vineyard’s inaugural vintage. Its nemesis is an instant bitter note from these vines, olive heavy footed, steps heard coming from a mile away. Will walk along with fatty meats.   86

New Zealand

Greystone Pinot Noir 2009 (271312, $37.95) owns the title of the South Island’s strongest smelling Pinot. Huge Waipara nose followed by a residual, Sherry sweetness, acidity and tannin to boot. “Oi, oi, oi!”  90

Trinity Hill The Gimblett 2009 (280263, $35.95) exudes the North Island’s youthful exuberance. Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Snug and chunky with a juniper stringency melded into lime, sugar syrup. A red wine Gimlet out of Hawkes Bay.  87

South Africa

Ernie Els Big Easy 2010 (220038, $19.95) from the generic tagged Western Cape is round, charming and swings with an effortless grace. The kitchen sink of grapes seem to cancel each other out and the wine finishes flat, hooking one into the drink. I love Ernie but really?  85

More notes from the VINTAGES June 23, 2012 release:

Five red wines to buy now for the coming long weekend

The Wine Diaries: Around the world in 20 whites

The Wine Diaries: Chardonnay close to the edge

Euro wine Rihanna need remember by name

The Wine Diaries: MMVA’s sparkling wine showers

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio

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

Good to go!

Triassic Tasting at Pangaea

Pangaea Upstairs Dining Room

Pangaea Upstairs Dining Room

 April 24, 2012

http://blogs.canada.com/2012/04/27/triassic-tasting-at-pangaea/

Pangaea Restaurant, 1221 Bay Street, (416) 920-2323

Chef du Cuisine: Derek Bendig, Sommelier and Manager: Benjamin Hardy

 

The group of seven. Sorry. Not THE Group of Seven. This group of seven. Our new format is really taking shape. We no longer each bring wine from cellar to share. Now one leader, one cellar, nine wines. Plenty to share with Mr.’s Hardy, Bendig and crew. Seamless sally forth through five courses. Godspeed to Pangaea for an all out effort in syncopated rhythm. This tasting the high water mark (of the new era) to date, with no disrespect to what came before, but the senescence has reached the early stages of maturity. Laud and applaud to AZ for coordinating food and wine synergy. A coup de foudre from the get go.  

Nine Wine Night

Nine Wine Night

 

Amuse Bouche, radish ‘ravioli’ stuffed with chèvre, tomato, basil

Chef’s Creek (Fanny’s Bay, Vancouver Island) Oysters, on the half shell, horseradish, lemon, shallot mignonette

  1. Peninsula Ridge Fumé Blanc 2008 wants to be 1er Cru Chablis in my universe but sweats heat and spice, “green cardamom pod and roasted salsify,” adds AM. Nutty lemon custard and did someone say Boxwood? Not quite Sauvignon Blanc but PR brings out enough mineral to do this style proud up on the Bench.  88
  2. Domaine De Congy Cuvée Les Galfins Pouilly Fumé 2009 tasted blind is undoubtedly old world but the lack of grass and oak leads me to Muscadet. Wrong! Oh the marl and fossilized oysters of it all! More Sauvignon Blanc to confront my tasting demons. Solid, if not as cursive as the PR.  87

 

Ahi Tuna Tataki, seared tuna, blood orange and fennel salad, avocado pureé

  1. See Ya Later Ranch Brut NV strikes a match from the outset and never wavers. The other MG senses After Eights but for me that possibility is smothered by a leesy, cheesy lard maigre et fromage. Gismondi calls this BC bubbly “a Champagne ringer.” Not so much. Flat finish so s’ya later, “s’alright ma’, i’m only sighing.” Just tasting.  85

 

Intermezzo, grapefruit and tarragon flavoured ice

 

Quebec Duck Breast, pan-roasted, seasonal vegetables, potato rösti, game jus

  1. Fontanabianca Barbaresco Sori Burdin 2004 the blessed and confounded queen Nebbiolo is the totipotent master of the moment. Italianate yet without animale, rosy cheeked and impossibly elegant, it still manages to anesthetize the mouth. So pretty it hurts. Along with the Sori Paitin, easily the best value in Barbaresco. On this night my allegiance is to the queen.  92
  2. Renatto Ratti Barolo Marcenasco 2004 of the famiglie Pola e Ferro is polar as compared to the non of the Burdin. AM and D nose “car exhaust.” I am tricked by its charm and think New World Syrah, but am reminded that the colour lacks gloom. Hugely muscular, girded by plastron and decades ahead of itself. “Leave it open all night and it’ll be amazing” says Dr. C.  91
  3. D’arenberg Ironstone Pressings 2001 holds the title of GSM pop star of the Mclaren Vale. Eponymous iron filings and pressed fruit roll up. A mixed bag of Grenache, Syrah and Mataro, the IP’s warm, berry and balsamwood address is veiled by a touch of oxidation. “Stinky feet” corrects AM. Good integration of fruit, acidity and tannin present proper balance.  90
  4. Mas Doix Salanques 2006 is a revelation. A Pegau-esque perfume aux gasseuse leans Rhône but an amazing (65%) Garnacha sweetness veers Priorat. Iodine (Syrah and Carignan) of black slate soil, tar, smoked meat and bacon. A Parker and Galloni thesaurus of descriptors must be bequeathed on this candied (Merlot) wine loaded with acidity in magnums.  CVR** WOTN.  93

 

House Made Cheeses, goat camembert, blue haze, cloth bound cheddar, truffle tomme

  1. Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape 1998 would be my wine of choice walking a boulder strewn vineyard on a misty morning in the Southern Rhône. Expressions are hurled around the table, “candified Pinot nose” and “tutti frutti.” For Beaucastel? I can’t believe the tripartite fruit freshness, ambient funk immersion and pencil lead sharpness. This ’98 is “light as a feather, heavy as lead.” The Beaucastel will brighten up your tomorrow. WOTN  96
  2. Tablas Creek Espit de Beaucastel 2008 the worthy adversary is just a dude from California. A honey pot of stewed prunes and “Seville oranges” notes the quote machine. A sinkhole of 38% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 26% Syrah and 6% Cunoise, the Esprit does admirable expatriate yeoman’s work and I wouldn’t even think of marking it zero.  88
Tasting Table

Tasting Table

 

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio

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

 

 

Good to go!