The democracy of Cool Chardonnay

Canadian Chardonnay

Canadian Chardonnay

In 2016 and for the first time in its brief yet facund tenure, Ontario’s International Cool Climate Celebration will include some other cool-climate varietal representation; pinot noir, gamay and cabernet franc. Yes it is true. Plus has joined the i4c, an ideogram of addendum, a character of diversity for the fluently persuasive and forceful congress. This gathering will open its arms for colour and to allow its constituents to regale with what they do best. For an event-driven pure as single-varietal snow and formerly known exclusively as chardonnay, is this really a shocker? This is the reality of democracy.

In August of 2015 I asked the question, can chardonnay get any cooler? My immediate answer to myself was this. “Five is a big number. Any annual convention that survives and thrives into a fifth caucus must be divined by some unseen force, a guiding hand perhaps, by avatar or prosopopoeia. And something other. The International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration has priceless equity on its side. Three aces in the hole. Canadian climate and geology, adroit farmers and winemakers, simpatico of communities.” That answer was not exclusive to chardonnay. It held the door open for more.

Cool Chardonnay at Ridley College

Cool Chardonnay at Ridley College

Related – Can chardonnay get any cooler?

Niagara’s Cool Chardonnay Conference will take place between July 22nd and July 24th. It begins on Friday with the annual School of Cool, Viticultural and Winemaking Sessions in the Grand Room at White Oaks Conference Resort & Spa. Ian D’Agata (Decanter, Vinous.com), John Szabo (MS) and twenty of the brightest talents in the world of Cool Climate viticulture and winemaking will explore three provocative topics. Two seminars from Wines of Chablis and Riedel Canada will follow.

Related – 50 cool Chardonnay in 5,000 words or more

Friday’s main event, “Flights of Chardonnay” will be hosted at Niagara District Airport. Sixty winemakers from nine countries and 75 wines will be poured at this “boots and blue-jeans” event. The new culinary marché will offer dishes from Niagara’s top chefs and the mainstage will feature live bands as the sun sets over the airstrip. On Saturday night the Cool Chardonnay World Tour Tasting & Dinner will return to Ridley College in St. Catharines, Ontario.

The school of Cool, White Oaks Resort, Spa and Conference Centre

Related – The meaning of Chardonnay: You’ve gotta be cool to be kind

When I reflected back on i4c 2015 I wrote this. “Yes, we thought these things and then year number five blew our minds. We had been wrong. We found out that the bar had yet been breached. Further was still out there, not yet claimed, hovering in the realm of the possible and still, going forward, yet remains plausible.” And so in 2016 there will be reds. Oh, the blasphemy, the bastardization, the spurious board gone askew. Really? Can this multifarious variegation really cause such angst? Must we express ourselves with varietal racism just to be heard? Just take it easy man.

The internal red invasion comes at an appropriate time, by coincidence or not with “TanninAlert” a new Brock University Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) program that will track tannin levels in red wines which impact bitterness and astringency. The joint CCOVI and Ontario Grape and Wine Research Inc. (OGWRI) concept will provide Ontario grape growers and winemakers with information on the ripeness of these flavours to help consistently create rich and robust Ontario red wines. Red wines and cool chardonnay living together like cats and dogs. What a revelation.

Godello at i4c

At the end of this week I will prep my chardonnay palate in Chablis for six days. Last week I tasted, assessed and judged more than 40 Canadian chardonnays in Penticton at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada. Now I count down the days (22 of them) and in anticipation I’ve drawn up more cool tasting notes as the great #i4C16 event nears. Many will become available through VINTAGES next week for the July 9th release. After Canada Day. Notes that include chardonnay, gamay, pinot noir and gasp, riesling. Imagine the horror of tasting such an intruder at a cool chardonnay conference sometime soon.

Tawse Gamay Noir 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (322545, $19.20, WineAlign)

Tawse repeats itself in 2014 with a gamay noir that breathes deeply and breeds consistency. From a vintage that few varietals could find great shine, gamay seems the outlier and Tawse does what was required. The firm, dark and tasty taut fruit is really all that matters, a result of a driven desire to celebrate the simplicity of the grape In Niagara when uncertainly lurks. Eight months in oak committed neither diversion nor crime. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @Tawse_Winery  @DanielatTawse  @Paul_Pender

CdC

Château Des Charmes St. David’s Bench Vineyard Chardonnay 2012, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (430991, $19.95, WineAlign)

Tasting the CdC SDB chardonnay a year after it may have been held up with halting reduction is the best thing I could have done and props are fisted forward to the folks at the winery for timing this perfectly. It’s so very mineral-driven and may have stung like a bee in 2015, now fluttering and dancing like a butterfly instead. The barrel presented texture is all marzipan and honey butter with a crunchy bite of rye toast under-spread. Dramatic for the vineyard and exceptional as a price with quality quotient from a polarizing chardonnay vintage. Exceptional timing is exemplary and day assessing uplifting. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted June 2016  @MBosc

Oak Bay Pinot Noir 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (267146, $19.95, WineAlign)

The Oak Bay pinot noir by St. Hubertus has drifted into settled middle age at a time when whatever high tones may have once spoken loud have now faded away. This is light, truffled and whiffing of a vanilla cigar. Blackberries and currants too. Simply complex enough to offer up some value that exceeds decent and enters the realm of great. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted June 2016  @St_HubertusWine

Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2014, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (378489, $19.95, WineAlign)

Classic cool-climate please all camps Okanagan chardonnay. From here and there, with this and that; Black Sage and Golden Mile Bench fruit. New oak and stainless steel, wild and cultured yeasts. Herbs and spices, fruit and mineral, ying and yang. Lean, green verdancy and warm, textured liquor. Cool and boozy. All in for $20. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted June 2016  @TinhornCreek  @SandraOldfield

Flat Rock The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2013, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (1552, $24.95, WineAlign)

It’s as if this label had bided all this time to be the benefactor of 2013 fruit. This Rusty Shed, this 20 miler with the track record to age, a wine that sheds baby fat over a 10 year mineral through echelon stratum, in ways few other peninsula to bench chardonnay can do. This Jay Johnston handled surfer of a wine, buoyant and balanced, centred and able to withstand turbulence, oscillation and tidal sway. Here with sumptuous and spiralled fruit gaged in lode intervals and a tartness held in lope and line by a membrane of extract and tannin. Best ever. Showing well, repeatedly and to forecasted repute. Impressing critics and consumers alike. Bravo. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted June 2016  @Winemakersboots  @UnfilteredEd  @brightlighter1

Charles Baker Riesling Ivan Vineyard 2015, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (395921, $27.20, WineAlign)

In 2015 Ivan delivers the labour of ripe, concentrated fruit, by lower yield, alcohol and spine, concomitantly and conversely to elevated, amenable juicy potability. I can think of 100 reasons to drink this repeatedly over the next three years while the more structured ’13 and ’14 Ivans continue to mature. Three good reasons would be breakfast, lunch and dinner, from scones, through croques and into fresh, piquant and herbed shrimp rolls. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016  @cbriesling  @StratusWines

Bach

Bachelder Bourgogne Blanc Chardonnay 2013, Burgundy, France (416602, $28.95, WineAlign)

The winemaking gypsy Thomas Bachelder “flies from coast to coasts” and his 2013 French foray into basics and the essential tenets of white Burgundy is a trip replete with a sunbeam shining through your hair. A sweet Melissa of a chardonnay, an ode to what is pretty, simple and carefree about Bourgogne Blanc, but also the idea of chatting up and producing pure driven varietal wine from ideal terroir. Bachelder does this, albeit with romantic vision, here with phenolics, dry extract and mineral of organza sheathing. The vintage speaks clearly and the wine responds with thanks, in kind. “Crossroads, will you ever let him go?” Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted June 2016  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON

Henry Of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2013, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (616466, $29.95, WineAlign)

The barrel toast is a gift of the highest order, dispensing a twinge neither wholly lucid nor abstruse, but somewhere on the demurred line in between. Exposes flint in mineral over fruit in its younger development, with elements of sunshine, forest glade and some herbal tones. Not to say it is balmy in any perceptible way, its lees layered body pops fresh in happily reductive design, in a real Ontario way. So representative of the regional, modern, cognoscenti connection. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted blind at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada, June 2015  @HenryofPelham  @SpeckBros

PM

Pearl Morissette Cuvée Dix Neuvieme Chardonnay 2013, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (303602, $38.20, WineAlign)

The greatest surprise is a skeptic’s dream, that is, no surprise. The vintage was a gift for chardonnay as we all know and so Francois Morissette does what a wise winemaker does. He lets the fruit from such conditioning speak on its own behalf. The less is more approach allows his fruit to do more than most, to condense into pure elixir of terroir, to inflate with airy, philosophical heir and to exhale a perfume so very, very Cuvée Dix-Neuvieme. Like marzipan but more umami and like stone fruit but crossed with the orchard. The palate and the texture speak of resolution after the revolution and the level of calm post chaos is quietly dramatic. Hypnotizing clarity is what it is. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted June 2016  @PearlMorissette

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

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One the eve of the 2016 WineAlign Canadian Wine Awards

One of the true pleasures in wine & life to judge with two amazing women @treve_ring @curlyluddite #NWAC15 #thenationals #winealign

One of the true pleasures in wine & life to judge with two amazing women @treve_ring @curlyluddite #NWAC15 #thenationals #winealign

Wine. The ancient mocker, a drink unknowable and illustriously beyond judgement. That is until a national organization builds a mountain out of bottles, gathers together a court of 22 like-minded adjudicators and brings a nation’s wine culture together. The WineAlign Canadian Wine Awards is this country’s own version of unfathomability, as a thinking and tasting machine to test the romantic mysteriousness of an overall expression laid out by deferential wines produced from coast to coast.

The Nationals or #NWAC2016 will amass and coordinate more than 1,500 entries from Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. The romantic grandiosity of the project will merge with the mainframe abacus of wine awards algorithms. The WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC) are held annually in June. Each year the country’s leading wine writers and judges gather somewhere in Canadian wine country to evaluate wines grown in Canada. They award Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in some two dozen categories, with medal rankings further determining Winery of the Year and the country’s Top Twenty wineries.

WineAlign team at Trius

WineAlign team at Trius

Related – To Trius by air

When I roll out of bed Tuesday morning my Air Canada flight to Kelowna, British Columbia will be in its early stages of preparation. AC 1975 will transport me ceremoniously to the golden western frontier of the Okanagan Valley and it is there in Penticton that I will join 21 fellow judges (plus two apprentice judges) at the 2016 WineAlign Canadian Wine Awards.

Co-Chief Judge Anthony Gismondi has let us all know that “we have had a tremendous response from wineries across the country. Entries to date to are at 1,505 wines, a new record. With that number comes much responsibility so please be prepared to work hard for a full five days in the tasting room.” We welcome our visiting international judges, Elaine Chukan Brown of JancisRobinson.com, WakawakaWineReviews.com and Wine & Spirits, along with WWAC veteran Dr. Jamie Goode, The Sunday Express and wineanorak.com. Vancouver’s DJ Kearney oversaw the apprentice judges program and this year Brent Muller and Alistair Veen prevailed in a tryout that included 5 top BC sommeliers and retail buyers.

Related – Meeting of the wines at Treadwell Cuisine

WineAlign judges, a rainbow and the American Falls

WineAlign judges, a rainbow and the American Falls

This will be my fourth Nationals. It is one of the greatest privileges in wine journalism and a profound honour to be gifted the opportunity to contribute towards bestowing medals on the best wines produced in Canada. It is an equally awesome grant of companionship and shoulder rubbing to work alongside the WineAlign crew. The war room leaders Bryan McCaw, Sarah Goddard, Carol-Ann Jessiman, Earl Paxton and Anthony Gismondi. The judges I’ve worked with before; David Lawrason, John Szabo M.S., Sara d’Amato, Steve Thurlow and Dr. Janet Dorozynski from Ontario. Rémy Charest, Michelle Bouffard, Bill Zacharkiw and Nadia Fournier from Quebec. Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson from Manitoba. DJ Kearney, Treve Ring and Rhys Pender, MW from British Columbia. Brad Royale from Alberta. Craig Pinhey from New Brunswick. Heather Rankin from Nova Scotia. I look forward to meeting David Scholefield and Sharon McLean from B.C.

Day 2 #NWAC15 with @curlyluddite and the maestro @DavidLawrason .. I will taste f'in #merlot !! @winealign

Day 2 #NWAC15 with @curlyluddite and the maestro @DavidLawrason .. I will taste f’in #merlot !! @winealign

The judging is overseen by WineAlign principal critics and partners Anthony Gismondi and David Lawrason. All competition wines are blind-tasted and judged in categories according to varietal or style, not by region, using the same 100-point system as used on WineAlign. Each wine earning the requisite points will get a medal. Wines with the top scores in the entire awards will be awarded a Platinum medal (approximately 1% of the total entries). Gold medals = 90 – 100 points, Silver medals = 88 – 89 points and Bronze medals = 87 points

At last year’s Nationals held in Ontario we handed out a record number of awards; 14 Platinum, 101 Gold, 263 Silver and 375 Bronze. Given that a bronze must have been scored 87 points by a panel of a minimum of three judges, we have hundreds of wines in Canada that our experts felt were ‘very good’or better. That should instil some confidence among consumers. I tasted and reviewed many of the 14 platinum medal winners. Here are some of my notes.

Flight 3, code red #pinotnoir redux. Right proper #NWAC15 picks & pours @FortessaCanada stems @winealign staff rock!

Flight 3, code red #pinotnoir redux. Right proper #NWAC15 picks & pours @FortessaCanada stems @winealign staff rock!

13th Street Gamay Noir 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (177824, $19.95, WineAlign)

Four months has upped the funk for ’13, with tar and bitters still and thick as summer air. Rich and ripe, notable for its black cherry aroma and that J.P. Colas natural truncation. Unique, as always and very Gamay. Drink 2015-2019.

From my earlier note of December 2014:

Fruit was sourced from both the Sandstone and Whitty Vineyards for 13th Street’s Gamay Noir, a focused and gritty adjunct in ode to the Cru Beaujolais approach. This ’13 raises the aromatic and texture bar and just may be the most striking from a 13th Street estate mix. All the important berries are there, as are the mineral quandaries. In a Gamay moment this will lead you to gulp and giggle with #GoGamayGo delight.

Last tasted April and June 2015  @13thStreetWines  @Noble_Estates

Tres hombres in @TheGoodEarthTweets light @johnszabo @billzacharkiw @bradroyale #NWAC15 #beerdrinkersandhellraisers

Tres hombres in @TheGoodEarthTweets light @johnszabo @billzacharkiw @bradroyale #NWAC15 #beerdrinkersandhellraisers

C.C. Jentsch Syrah 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

Oh so beautifully nasty Syrah, spicy, saucy and wicked. Resin, somewhere between myrrh and mastic, redacts reductively and tension stretches the savoury aspects in all directions. Blood orange and anise blend into the aromatic grain, repeating again through flavour mettle. Fruit, acidity and tannin are interwoven, circulating and on edge, in pitch perfect darkness. Syrah in the big time with the stuffing to age. Drink 2016-2022. Tasted blind at WWAC15, August 2015  @CCJentschCellar

Merlot, Cabs, Red blends #NWAC15 messed with kilters but @DavidLawrason & @curlyluddite set me straight. #cdnwine #thenationals #winealignnationalwineawardsofcanada #sheratonfallsview

Merlot, Cabs, Red blends #NWAC15 messed with kilters but @DavidLawrason & @curlyluddite set me straight. #cdnwine #thenationals #winealignnationalwineawardsofcanada #sheratonfallsview

Château Des Charmes St. David’s Bench Vineyard Gamay Noir Droit 2012, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $16.95, WineAlign)

The increased Droit depth in black cherry positions this CdC Gamay like a cousin to the same vintage Pinot Noir with shared DNA and more funk meets reduction than I would have expected or even guessed at. Should this be chalked up to complex conscientious forethought or the denude of a brilliant mistake? The raspberries and strawberries are in the mulch and the mire, the acidity and tannin thinking cru, cru thoughts. A near behemoth for Ontario Gamay, as much to do with the St. David’s Bench and the vintage as anything. Droit redux, new, improved and polarizing. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted June 2015 and February 2016  @MBosc

Norman Hardie Niagara Unfiltered Chardonnay 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (184432, $39.00, WineAlign)

The ’12 Niagara has swapped spontaneity for coherence, licentiousness for logic. Has entered the stage of non-reductive peel, where skin is discarded, flesh is exposed and juices run free. If you like your Chardonnay settled and yet vitally fresh, now is the time to enjoy the Hardie 2012 Niagara Chardonnay. Drink 2015-2022.  @normhardie

From my earlier more of May 2014:

Norm’s Niagara is such a different animal to the County 2012. The warm summer and dry fall means more humidity and even more reduction. Currently cothurnal so less like Burgundy but only because there elevates the high-tones and percipience from Niagara. Texture is key but this Hardie needs time. It’s not angular but it is steroidal, injected, like a wild thing, as if the yeast were still in control, munching away even though there is no more sugar to be had. Undomesticated ’12, at heart, in spirit, out of mind. Hard to imagine there could be this much anxiety from the even-tempered vintage, but when you pick real early and keep the oak to a bare minimum, Hardie happens. Norm picked ripe fruit between September 7 and 10, six weeks ahead as compared to some years. He said the fruit had a “golden tan, ready to go.” The use of smallish 500L barrels works wonders for texture and though 40 per cent was new wood, you would never know it. Malolactic fermentation didn’t happen until late August, nearly a full year on so no sulphuring was required until that time. This is Hardie’s freshest Niagara fruit ever, from Duarte Oliveira’s farm between Victoria and Ontario Street, the same spot as Hillebrand’s Chardonnay Reserve. Terrific Beamsville Bench Chardonnay.

Last tasted April 2015

Sea of #schottzwiesel via @FortessaCanada #NWAC15

Sea of #schottzwiesel via @FortessaCanada #NWAC15

The Good Wine Cabernet Franc 2012, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (350751, $19.95, WineAlign)

While wood plays a prominent role it does not saturate to distraction. The barrel extract adds warmth and spice in contribution to balance. A high-toned syrup on the nose gives way to an evenly weighted palate. A scraped bean flavoured creamy toddy texture is topped with chocolate shavings, a dry of bell pepper and tobacco smoulder from out of the chamber. Nicely judged fruit, acidity and texture with admirable length. A necessary example of $20 Lincoln Lakeshore Cabernet Franc offering up every reason to drink it and demand that more me made.  Tasted March 2015  @goodearthtweets

We @WineAlign came to judge nearly 1,500 wines #NWAC15 and it was fair and just.

We @WineAlign came to judge nearly 1,500 wines #NWAC15 and it was fair and just.

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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84May28

The Cabernets of the Judgement of Paris 1976

The Cabernets of the Judgement of Paris 1976

Some quotes about vanity.

“Vanity is my favourite sin.” (Al Pacino)

“The knowledge of yourself will preserve you from vanity.” (Miguel de Cervantes)

“Vanity is the healthiest thing in life.” (Karl Lagerfeld)

“How long shall your vain thoughts lodge within you?” (Jeremiah 4:14)

“When you have a lot of success you don’t need vanity any more.” (Amelie Nothomb)

The headline reads as a current VINTAGES vanity plate. Nothing shouts VANITY like the bi-weekly VINTAGES releases, that is unless you can read between the lines, seek out anti-narcissistic wines made with honesty, from and for success. The LCBO is full of itself, as it should be, because billions of dollars of revenue for the monopoly and the province is a favourite sin. The consumer can protect themselves by knowing themselves, their personal tastes and which wines will see to personal success.

The Judgement of Paris happened 40 years ago. VINTAGES celebrates seven players that not only participated but were granted instant celebrity. Now 40 years later, VINTAGES puts the legends back in the spotlight. I tasted all seven wines. Were I afforded sackfuls of cash I would gladly indulge in their collective vanity.

For full reviews on all the Judgement of Paris wines, please visit me at WineAlign

It is indeed healthy to be a winemaker, distributor, agent or retailer of self-assurance, to believe in a body of work or portfolio, to know that it represents quality and to flaunt it for the world to relish in its revelry. It is equally healthy to know humility, to create with impunity in knowing the confidence of fashion has resulted in the singularity of accomplishment. All the better when verecundity is found in a wine made by a big house.

Eight current releases speak to success, beyond vanity. My notes.

VV

Casal De Ventozela Loureiro Vinho Verde 2014, Portugal (445098, $14.95, WineAlign)

Loureiro from Villa Verde, grippy and mineral as it should be, marked by citrus, herbs and the slightest spark of CO2. This must have been prime, perfect in fact, in the wheelhouse even…six months ago. Still refreshing and yet savoury, nearly, though one step away from complex for the grape and a sense of place, from point A to B. Drink 2016.  Tasted May 2016    @LeSommelierWine  @vinhosverdes  @VinhoVerdeCA  @wines_portugal  @winesportugalCA

Rafael

Tommasi Rafael Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2013, Veneto, Italy (23259, $18.95, WineAlign)

The Rafael is an honest, purposed product culled from what such endemic grapes together with wood will combine for perfectly typical effect. Here the package is respectfully lithe and speaks of what Valpolicella may once have righteously been, should still and can eminently be. Fresh, wound tart, amenable and easy to love. Yes, please. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted May 2016  @Tommasiwine  @UNIVINS  @C_Valpolicella

Benmarco

Benmarco Malbec 2013, Unfined And Unfiltered, Uco Valley, Argentina (657601, $17.95, WineAlign)

Clearly ripe and ripping like so many malbec brethren and sistren but at 3,000 feet of Vistaflores altitude the Benmarco delivers an extra level of ratcheted intensity, especially at $18. Extreme aromatics, of black, blue and boysenberry fruit are bigger than the oak, the soil and the malbec genre. This is the best Benmarco since the formidable 2002, a wine that still drinks well today. Drink 2016-2028.  Tasted May 2016  @sbalbowines  @ProfileWineGrp  @winesofarg  @ArgentinaWineCA

Tobia

Tobía Selección Crianza 2010, Rioja, Spain (364828, $21.95, WineAlign)

Most righteous Rioja, dusty and leathery but fresh, vibrant and alive. Terrifically rich palate, full of strawberry, liquorice and pastis. Acidity is all over the fruit, enveloping and then a short pause ensues, followed by the caressing tannins. There is more than a Crianza mouthful of wine in here. Wait one or two and then watch this turn over and over for the next 10 years. Drink 2017-2026.  Tasted May 2016   @_La_Rioja  @RiojaWine_ES

Viticcio Chianti Classico 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (283580, $22.95, WineAlign)

A Chianti Classico with a foot in two worlds, the traditional (Greve) and the modern. The tart red berries are sour to nose and to taste but it’s the kind of sour that reels you in and gets you too beg for more. The level of clean, fresh lees is very 2013, something that Chianti Classico needs more of. Dry extract and tannin are spot on for the overall intent. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2016     @chianticlassico  @MajesticWineInc

Megalomaniac Big Mouth Merlot 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (67645, $24.95, WineAlign)

Big mouth strikes again, with phenolic ripeness set against stinging nettle greens from out of the warmth in 2012 Niagara. “Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking.” Plums turning into prunes and back again, of fruit not sure if its coming in or heading out the door. Hanging in like Morrissey at a Smiths reunion concert. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted May 2016  @MegalomaniacJHC

Heitz Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley, California (205500, $49.95, WineAlign)

When the Napa Valley name Heitz is mentioned it is Cabernet Sauvignon that comes to most minds, 99 per cent of the time. Chardonnay is a Heitz thing, dating back to 1961. The 2014 rendition is the iron fist-velvet glove version of classic Napa Valley (usually reserved for Cabernet Sauvignon allusion). This is quite a rich and variegated Chardonnay full of typically warm Napa sunshine but it’s also a study in barrel restraint and judgement. The flavours are loaded with citrus, compressed and taut. Wound tighter than a wire around a boat winch, this just needs some time to settle in. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2016    @NapaVintners  @CalifWines_CA

Judgement of Paris Chardonnay

Judgement of Paris Chardonnay

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2013, Santa Cruz Mountains, California (405332, $191.95, WineAlign)

From a serious drought vintage, dry, warm and demanding, the 2013 Montebello’s Draper perfume is as heady as ever, to such effect that after one whiff this is where daydreaming takes over consciousness. Montebello gets inside the head, with allegory, radio frequency waves and platonic thought, as if inside a cave. An 80 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot (8), Cabernet Franc (7) and Merlot (5) classic, lithe and restrained blend of sheer, utter exceptionality. The balance in 2013 is impeccable but dont be fooled into thinking this is not a big wine. The acidity is dramatic, the tannins fine and demanding and the amount of pure extract whorled and revelling. All in dark red fruit and a coolness through the mid-palate that threads like silk through fine stainless steel fibre. “This goes beyond me, beyond you.” Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted May 2016  @RidgeVineyards  @rogcowines  @CalifWines_CA

Good to go!

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Too late for May Two-Four

Morel

It reminds me of Richard Yates at his early career, Revolutionary Road best, in tense humour, as noted by James Woods, “a celebrated indictment of suburban surrender.” Here we are, in 21st century Ontario, preparing to head to our suburban respite sanctuaries with tools, sundries and supplies in hand, only lacking one essential piece. Good wine. We turn to the LCBO, to VINTAGES, to the ceaseless recurrence of release and we find limbo. Last week? Next week? Why not now?

We are willing to submit and surrender but the shelves are stocked with 2nd tier choices, the wines of first degree excitement already having disappeared with the previous week’s first wave. So if you need wine suggestions for the Victoria Day weekend I’ll have to send you on a retroactive search through the May 14th VINTAGES release. “It’s a beautifully typical story of these times and this place.”

Related – In VINTAGES May 14th

Why am I looking forward and into the eyes of May 28th? Well, I’ll tell you why. The finest collection of Canadian wines in some time gathered together at one communal table will become available, sadly just days after the May 24 three-day escape. These wines would have sold well, in droves actually, had VINTAGES made use of their excellence in advance. So, as a messenger for the stars, it is my duty to tell you about their upcoming presence in diplomatic conformity of early 21st century Ontario realism, on the LCBO stage. These be the 10 of them.

Jackson Triggs Okanagan Reserve Series Viognier 2014, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (445700, $15.95, WineAlign)

This 2014 Okanagan take on Viognier is an all out rich, ripe and boozy affair. Sparks fired by a cold play take the lead, singing with spice, marked by galangal and ginger in control over the wishful act of balancing extract. “And I saw sparks, yeah I saw sparks,” enough so for such a Viognier to be on your way. Sharply struck, in smithereens and yet epic for the price. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted May 2016  @JacksonTriggsBC  @CBrandsCareers  @winebcdotcom

Flat Rock Unplugged Chardonnay 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (68015, $16.95, WineAlign)

Good unction for the un-oaked Jay Johnston procured Chardonnay, more green apple and early honey than before. This is the purity machine in motion, direct, spoken in a Bench vernacular and zagging like the rows of the vineyard. Still at $17 and not to be bypassed for anything that might think to stand in its way. Can you say petite Chablis? Drink 2016-2020. Tasted February 2016 and May 2016  @Winemakersboots  @brightlighter1  @UnfilteredEd

Megalomaniac Pink Slip Pinot Noir Rosé 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (85126, $19.95, WineAlign)

The bottle tells you about grapes handed the pink slip during post harvest deliberations, something not lost within its own ironic twist. When you have pink lemons you made pink lemonade, done here to great simulated effect. Tart is the operative, like a perfect square of gelid red citrus on a plate to foil briny sea morsel and verdant greens. With the right herbs and lettuces this pink grapefruit Rosé will handle itself with pairing irony and relative ease. Welcome aboard Sébastien Jacquey. Megalomaniac’s winemaking approach to Rosé never had it so good. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted May 2016  @MegalomaniacJHC

13th Street June’s Vineyard Riesling 2013, VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (147512, $19.95, WineAlign)

Continues to throw its weight about and has now engaged a phase of typical J-P Colas redolence and pungency. Strict adherence to Creek Shores citrus minerality injects the June for future time-lapse release, an internal ooze that will take years to push its way upwards to the surface.

From my earlier note of December 2014: 2013 was a perfect follow-up for Niagara Riesling, after a vintage where so many exceptional wines were made. The ’12 June’s by Jean-Pierre Colas was his best and with this repeat performance in ’13, the consistency of June’s vineyard is further cemented. Once again, the citrus injection is a Creek Shores thing, a vehemence not matched by other sub appellations. Where ’13 differs is its weight. There is a textural density improved upon and at the same time dragging on the freshness of the fruit. The trade-off will mean less immediate gratification in lieu of more flesh and bone for a longer period of aging. Given at least five years rest, the 2013 June’s Riesling will discover a Ribeauvillé like future.

Last tasted May 2016

Fielding Pinot Gris 2014, Estate Bottled, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (251108, $21.95, WineAlign)

Such a ripe and extroverted Pinot Gris, in a style created and honed by winemaker Richie Roberts, here in 2014 near its apex. Singular without feeling the pressure to induce rapture or revelation. Fleshy ripe, of peaches, plums and nectarines. Typically and expectedly fresh, juicy, industrious, vehement and good, spicy length. Always well-made, hitting essential, doctrinal Pinot Gris notes and so very food versatile. May I suggest a whole grilled fish, lemon and fresh herbs. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted May 2015 and May 2016  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine

Joie Farm A Noble Blend 2014, BC VQA Okanagan Valley (454793, $23.95, WineAlign)

The dial is turned up in the noble blend, an amalgamation of five grape varieties and nine vineyards. The inspiration and the intent is Alsace, the result lying somewhere in between. It is an inspired blend and it does resemble Alsace but in the end it’s all Joie Farm. Distinct from structure and connectivity, not to mention drinkability, with a shot of spice. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted May 2016  @JoieFarm

Thirty Bench Red 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (320986, $24.95, WineAlign)

At first the 2013 Red alights in high tones juxtaposed by a chew of sultana, an odd entry for the Thirty Bench, carrying on for the first few minutes in the glass. There are sulphide notes, of red onion and yet after a few minutes they begin to resolve, caramelizing to sweetness, mixed with tannin. The transformation continues, playing new notes, of red rooibos tea and seasoned seaweed. Grilled onions and charred poblanos come on the palate. Currants finish off the profile. The emotive cabernet franc really dominates this blend and though at first difficult to crack, the eventuality is an equation figured as a true positive. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May 2016  @ThirtyBench

Tawse Growers Blend Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (130989, $24.95, WineAlign)

This is more than an interesting look back into the Tawse time machine to compare where the Grower’s Blend now sits as compared to what it was like in its youth. Now into liqueur, of cherry and earth, no longer just a hint of what they wish to be. This shows the excellence of the 2011 vintage for Pinot Noir and the master blending acumen of winemaker Paul Pender. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted May 2016  @Tawse_Winery  @DanielatTawse  @Paul_Pender

Cave Spring Csv Riesling 2013, Estate Bottled, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (566026, $29.95, WineAlign)

That flesh, that Kabinett flesh, fills the CSV in every crevice. In 2013 the residual sugar number lies between 15 and 16 g/L, and though the crop was bigger, it was still picked later than in 2012. The result is formidable corporeal concentration, consistency of house style and perhaps the only ’13 Niagara Riesling to imitate, perpetuate and extrapolate on the vintage that came before. This Cave Spring concentrates fruit and Escarpment into a powerful Riesling, streaming like charged particles through changing expressions. A lingering ascension hovers as it rises, until it slowly fades into the welkin, like a balloon that languidly gets lost into the blinding blue of a midday sky. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted April 2015 and May 2016  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh

Bachelder Nuits St Georges La Petite Charmotte 2013, Burgundy, France (357228, $58.95, WineAlign)

From the Nuits St Georges parcel that Thomas reaps, built on the premise of soil, structure and depth. The lithe beauty of this La Petite Charmotte block is lifted and held in the highest esteem in 2013, perhaps with even greater sensibility of character than out of what was an exceptional 2011. The Nuits iron power surge may have descended down a half level but the redolent Beaune balance is spot on. So very perfumed. That Bachelder perfume, expressed in Neaune craving and breadth. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May 2016  @Bachelder_wines

Good to go!

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In VINTAGES May 14th

Villa di Geggiano, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Siena, Italy, http://www.villadigeggiano.com

Villa di Geggiano, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Siena, Italy, http://www.villadigeggiano.com

Current travels in Chianti Classico leave almost no time to scribble out more than paragraph let alone 10 but there is a VINTAGES release coming Saturday. The New Zealand Wine Fair rolls through Toronto today (which I will sadly miss) and I have some recommendations of excellence from that country. Canada (Ontario), France, Germany and Hungary round out my picks.

See you next week…Godello

Te Pā Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough, New Zealand (450668, $19.95, WineAlign)

After tasting the winery’s Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc back in 2014 I wrote “If Te Pa can find a way to get their wines into VINTAGES stores, I will buy them by the case and hand them out on Halloween as adult treats.” The day has come with the release of this rocks off Sauvignon Blanc. The open G tuning is perfect for balance with the cumulative notes it plays, deep cuts of bluesy rock ’n roll from Marlborough soils. We’ve seen so many SB’s come through these parts but so few at this price deliver such a deft hook with exile on main street flavours. Singular, unctuous stuff and well worth finding a way to bring a deferent side of Marlborough and Sauvignon Blanc back into your heart. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2016  @tePaWines  @FWMCan  @nzwine

Villa Maria and Te Pa

Villa Maria Southern Clays Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand (447474, $29.95, WineAlign)

The single-vineyard Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc is a highly concentrated, aroma-centric, splendored thing with inherent vegetal notes both smoky and subtle. The flavours are all white berry dusted with white pepper. The bite, the lees and the tart accents layer like a savoury dessert. This is formidable Sauvignon Blanc with high aspirations. I for one would like to see it settle and develop a secondary level of show. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted April 2016  @villamaria_wine  @Dandurandwines

Crawford

Kim Crawford Small Parcels Rise & Shine Pinot Noir 2013, Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand (35337, $29.95, WineAlign)

This is a characterful, high-toned and slightly rustic Pinot Noir from Kim Crawford’s Small Parcels program in Central Otago. It’s all strawberry on the nose and black raspberry (with a lash of liquorice) on the palate. There is great grit and true breadth of texture, not to mention sweetness, forgiven with so much else going on. Love the tart finish and bitters linger. Tells me its best is just around the bend. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted April 2016  @kimcrawfordwine  @CBrandsCareers

The Stopper White Blend 2014, VQA Ontario (452235, $14.95, WineAlign)

Fun blend of Riesling and Vidal, put to good use in a variation of theme on the Ontario white appellative blend. The Riesling dominates with that atomic push and arid, saline sensibility. The vidal adds a squeeze of citrus (white grapefruit) and skin contact au naturale feel. A bit of unoaked Chardonnay or even some Musqué might not be such a stretch to fill in with some cool-climate tempering and hole filling assistance. A follow-up bit of research finds five per cent, along with Gewürztraminer. Depending on the vintage, it would be nice to see the Chardonnay increased.  Easy and tangy on the palate. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016  @AdamoEstateWine  @JohnPaulAdamo  @ProfileWineGrp

Tuzko

Tuzko Cabernet Franc 2012, Tolna, Hungary (438291, $14.95, WineAlign)

True cool climate cabernet franc from Hungary, savoury, full of leather, cedar and spice. A veritable forest of wild berries in a glass. Really unique find and very Lincoln Lakeshore for you that understand and prefer to compare within the context of an Ontario vernacular. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted May 2016  @ImportWineMAFWM  @MarkAnthonyWine  @WinesofHungary  @WineofHungary

Fielding

Fielding Rosé 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (53421, $15.95, WineAlign)

The Rosé category can be fascinating and also slightly repellant. Whether it be the choice of varieties or the uncontrolled bleed hot off the press, it’s really hard to say, some Rosé just rubs the wrong way. At first sniff and sip you just know this Fielding ’15 is not one of those. It’s coolness is graced with restraint and it is nothing but a pleasure to drink. There certainly is candy floss and cut strawberry in the air. There is sweetness on the edge and cream floating around the rim. Separately pressed and vinified Gamay and Cabernet Franc are the key fixings though a minor sense of white percentages (like Riesling, Viognier and Vidal) would not be out of the supporting question. Sugar meets acid in equal and opposing fashion. Balance and humility are cut from the same cloth as pride. Nothing dominates and all components work seamlessly together. In its fresh and spritely youth this is one of the most pleasurable Rosés from Ontario. Drink it young. Drink 2016-2017. Tasted March and May 2016  @FieldingWinery  @RichieWine

Bressades

Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Tradition Blanc 2015, Ap Costières De Nîmes, France (701094, $17.95, WineAlign)

Really floral white blend from the Costières de Nîmes in which tropical blossoming Viognier really tends to gardening at night scents to lift the mistral rhythms of Grenache Blanc, Marssanne and Roussanne. Unctuous and the most ethereal character this wine has ever shown. Really special vintage from Mr. Marès. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted May 2016    @Vinexxperts  

Thorle

Thorle Riesling Trocken 2014, Rheinhesen, Germany (445817, $19.95, WineAlign)

From the Thörle brothers Johannes and Christoph, a dry, vivid Riesling with a vitality of spirit and a presence that comes from the heart. Lime juice and zest mark the territory, skin contact leaves its trace in hue and a natural ferment keeps it more than real. A minor residual (Co2) spritz still tickles on the palate while grape tannin strikes a dagger into the finish. Exemplary modern take on Trocken Riesling in a style that should appeal to a wide ranging audience. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted three times, May and November 2015, April 2016  @thoerle  @UNIVINS  @germanwineca  @gen_riesling

Bailly

Bailly Lapierre Réserve Brut Crémant De Bourgogne, Méthode Traditionnelle, Ac Burgundy, France (991562, $19.95, WineAlign)

This 100 per cent Pinot Noir may initiate with simple and eager fruit, of lemon and pink grapefruit but its subtle ability and mineral wager is a condition of its commitment. It will not shock, dream in multi-dimensional preoccupation or revamp the traditional methodology but it is nothing if not lovely. It takes you on a holiday. Lemon repeats in many ways, acidity survives without kindle or foment and the flavours linger like a haunting refrain. “Like the bubbles in a glass of Champagne, you go to my head.” Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted blind at WWAC15, August 2015 and April 2016  @bourgognespress  @BourgogneWines  @Vinexxperts

Nyarai Cellars Cadence 2011, VQ Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (451781, $21.95, WineAlign)

Steve Byfield’s crimson blend of Cabernet Franc (42 per cent), Merlot (33), Cabernet Sauvignon (20) and Syrah (5) is at once so very Niagara while acting out anomalously in the 2011 vintage. Ripe, extracted fruit appears warm-vintage drawn, with its coated layers of primer, brushstroke and plummy stone fruit. The warmth is tempered by savour, oranges, figs and psalms. Its ability to find cadence and cascade keeps it “cool in the shade.” The varietal combining is delineated in balance, “sliding mystify, on the wine of the tide.” This effort, with its new name, could become one of the king’s amongst Ontario blends.  Tasted January 2015  @NyaraiCellars

viewpointe

Viewpointe Focal Pointe Cabernet Franc 2010, VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario (450916, $24.95, WineAlign)

Wine Country Ontario’s Lake Erie North Shore appellation flashes onto the radar here with Viewpointe’s very youthful and soulful 2010 Cabernet Franc. It’s not spicy but there is a veritable pantry sprinkled into a simmering reduction sauce, breathing and exuding aromatics, of juniper, liquorice, Montreal smoked meat spices, cassia, star anise and chicory. It is utterly Cabernet Franc with righteously integrated barrel notes swirling in that demi-glace. The tannin and acidity persist strong and complimentary with nary a moment of raisin treason. So very well done. A huge accomplishment. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016  @viewpointewines  @WineCountryOnt

Pouilly

Ernest Meurgey Perron Pouilly Fuissé 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (448852, $31.95, WineAlign)

Rich and buttery Chardonnay that is the membrane holding and supporting the coolest contents, in limbo and needing two years to flesh, burst and break through. The tart, tight and angled shfits are the drive and the direction for the short term development. In 2018 this will be a humdinger to pour alongside butter-seared and caramelized scallops. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted April 2016  @BourgogneWines  @BourgogneWines

Good to go!

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On tasting blind and VINTAGES April 30th

"Every time I look at you I go blind." #timetotaste @WineAlign

“Every time I look at you I go blind.” #timetotaste @WineAlign

Saturday will bring forth yet another LCBO Ontario VINTAGES release. Every other Friday (and most Tuesdays) I taste through them, along with my colleagues at WineAlign (David Lawrason, John Szabo M.S. and Sara d’Amato), as well as a dozen or more multifarious and multi-motley wine writers. The wines and spirits are laid out with Warsaw Pact jibing intendment and we plod through, free as birds, privy with full disclosure for what we are assembled to inspect.

Related – Heading out for the west coast

At WineAlign David, John, Sara, Steve Thurlow and I spend quality time with LCBO and/or VINTAGES destined products but we do so with wine-apprisement obliquity. When we arrive at the office and sit down to taste we are met with bottles covered with aluminum foil. We taste blind. Not completely mind you. A spreadsheet tells us the varietal(s) and region/country of origin. I too wonder if this can be truly be considered tasting blind.

The debate chases down critics and systems of evaluation with dogged persistence. Should wine be judged without any prior knowledge or preconceived notion about what’s in the glass? Must a tasting be conducted blind for a critic to objectively dispense an unbiased, unswayed and uninfluenced assessment of a wine?

The short answer is yes. Wine competitions are conducted blind, with only the varietal and perhaps place of origin as the sole bits of information with which to go on. The understanding is that if there are medals to be doled out, picking winners must be done with prejudice and favouritism set deliberately aside. But the wringer runs deeper. By definition, should any information be available at all?

Blinds

To blind or not to blind, that is the question

As for grapes, a Gamay should be judged against other Gamays and so a critic may as well know that the flight is filled with nothing but Gamay. Mixing varietals within a flight distorts the playing field and skews the results. Place of origin is more complicated. While it is helpful to know where a wine hails from so that it may get a fair shake against competitors or peers composed of the same grape, that seemingly insignificant bit of information adds bias to the process. At the WineAlign Wine Awards of Canada the region is not pre-disclosed, except that the judges know that all the wines come from Canada. In competitions involving wines from around the world the regions are also excluded. Only the grape and price range is mentioned. Shouldn’t we do the same for all blind tastings? In fact, the bias of price might also be avoided.

I don’t know what it is

Something in me just won’t give it a chance

I think it’s just that I feel more confused by the deal

The tougher question is whether we as critics should be tasting all wines blind, all the time, or at least whenever possible. That is to say, whenever investigations are being processed for the purpose of publishing tasting notes and perhaps more importantly, assigning scores or ratings. Who does not believe that wine must be tasted without any assistance from marketing, pedigree and prior experience? The devil’s advocate approach would declare it unfair to so many honest wines to not be given credit for many years of hard work and success. Why should a wine with a longstanding reputation for excellence have to begin again in every vintage just to prove itself? The rub I feel, is there.

I think it’s that because I have seen all the fuss

And it’s no big deal

The following 11 recommendations from the VINTAGES April 30th release were not tasted blind. They succeed because they are honest, well-made and accurate representations of varietal and place. I am confident they would all fare just as well had they been assessed without knowing what they were. Good wine has a habit of finding its way into a taster’s heart, blind, or not.

Mcguigan Bin 9000 Semillon 2015, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia (444554, $14.95, WineAlign)

Distinguishes itself for the Hunter Valley oeuvre with impossibly pale yet rich and stark-dressed fruit. More fruity than most and so nearly, just on the cusp of getable at such a young age. A terrific example to gain entry into the valley’s great white varietal hope while waiting for the serious crew to open the doors to their longevity-accrued perceptions. Takes one for the team with bells ringing and whistles blowing. It will drink well for five years and just develop a bit of that aged Semillon character near the end of the fruit line. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2016  @mcguiganwines  @Wine_Australia  @ChartonHobbs

Featherstone Black Sheep Riesling 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (80234, $16.95, WineAlign)

Impressively expressive early to market 2015 Riesling, off-dry, partially pungent and markedly concentrated. The Black Sheep always smells and tastes like this; fifty-fifty fruit to mineral, concentrated and sweet from ripe extract and tannin. Whether you are an expert or a newbie to Niagara Peninsula Riesling, the Black Sheep is guaranteed. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2016  @featherstonewne

El Maestro Sierra Pedro Ximénez Sherry, Do Jerez, Spain (451468, $17.95, WineAlign)

Now. We. Are. Talking. Vino dulce natural of quite reasonably low alcohol and extreme elevated unction. Nutty and full of dried apricots, sweeter than some but really well balanced. Dessert all by itself with just enough acidity. Tart and tight, nuts again, spice and marzipan. Really tricks the tongue and pricks the senses. Sweet. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016  @MaestroSierra  @TFBrands

Montes Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc Zapallar Vineyard 2015, Aconcagua Valley, Chile (389643, $19.95, WineAlign)

This is an exciting hyperbole of Chile, a Sauvignon Blanc from the coast with wild flavours and singing aromatics. An inwardly deliciousness SB filled from within by a lactic streak and an exceptionally reserved tartness. Great length. So different, so new, so exciting. If it’s a bit warm and perhaps higher than alcohol than it notes, so be it. It has real vitality. Job well done with this newly directed Montes. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2016  @MontesWines  @WinesofChile  @DrinkChile  @ProfileWineGrp

Wildass

Stratus Vineyards Wildass Red 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (86363, $19.95, WineAlign)

It would be hard to figure any sub-$20 red Ontario blend showing a deeper sense of ripeness, wood intent, sinew, cure, triturate resin and dry barbecue rub – than this Stratus ’12. It’s a bit of a head scratching, game-changing meritage, altering the course for $20 red blends forever. At the risk of forming comparisons, it puts me in mind of other places, like Roussillon, Campania and Navarra. It has coal running through its arteries and tonic spewing out of its fountains. Wild my ass? Yes. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted September 2015  @StratusWines

13th Street Gamay Noir 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (177824, $19.95, WineAlign)

Four months has upped the funk for ’13, with tar and bitters still and thick as summer air. Rich and ripe, notable for its black cherry aroma and that J.P. Colas natural truncation. Unique, as always and very Gamay. Drink 2015-2019.

From my earlier note of December 2014:

Fruit was sourced from both the Sandstone and Whitty Vineyards for 13th Street’s Gamay Noir, a focused and gritty adjunct in ode to the Cru Beaujolais approach. This ’13 raises the aromatic and texture bar and just may be the most striking from a 13th Street estate mix. All the important berries are there, as are the mineral quandaries. In a Gamay moment this will lead you to gulp and giggle with #GoGamayGo delight.

Last tasted April and Sepetember 2015, April 2016  @13thStreetWines  @Noble_Estates

Chianti

Tenuta Di Capraia Chianti Classico 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (135277, $21.95, WineAlign)

Extreme freshness, ripe red fruit and ripping acidity in such a young Chianti Classico. Possessive of an underlying mineral and dry tannic structure with such correct use of older oak and kept clean under the threshold of over-modernising alcohol. This reeks of some whole cluster work and tastes of the soil though never in any funky way. It’s extreme purity and cleanliness is second to none. This will last for longer than imagined. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted April 2016    @chianticlassico  @ProfileWineGrp

Jeremy Dineen of Josef Chromy Wines, Tasmania

Jeremy Dineen of Josef Chromy Wines, Tasmania

Josef Chromy Chardonnay ‘Pepik’ 2014, Tasmania, Australia (378240, $22.95, WineAlign)

Combines beauty and bitters for a streak of natural selection through a field of texture. Heads for the cream risen to the top of rich, pulls over and steps aside to allow for a crunch of green apple. The bite is real, lit by match and cut with spice. Great length. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted July 2015  @JosefChromy  @bwwines

Grendel

De Grendel Shiraz 2013, Wo Coastal Region, Durbanville, Coastal Region, South Africa (174557, $24.95, WineAlign)

Strapping, youthful, dark as night Cape of Good Hope Shiraz, full of rich beginnings, soil reduction and barrel imaging. Vivid off the charts, rich red fruit, mineral undercurrent, wreaths of floral tethering and a rip tide riding rolling waves of cape intensity. Quite wow. Crazy good value. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted April 2016  @degrendelwines  @WOSA_ZA  @WOSACanada  @imbibersreport

Vincent Mothe Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (390468, $26.95, WineAlign)

Perfectly pretty little village Chablis, flinty, lemon piercing and pouring like crystal clear, tiny drops of rain. Chardonnay on needles and pins, a white scintillant with tart berries, tannin and extra layers of dry extract. Terrific for so many reasons and with every reason to pair and to believe. While others moan “I been meek and hard like an oak,” with a glass of the Mothe I am blessed with “buckets of moonbeams in my hand.” If this were $20 it would be right up there with best ever. Close enough. This is a perfect example of why everyone should drink Chablis. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016    @BIVBChablis  @bourgognespress  @BourgogneWines

Crawford

Kim Crawford Small Parcels Corner 50 Vineyard Merlot/Cabernet 2013, Hawkes Bay, North Island, Marlborough, New Zealand (447433, $29.95, WineAlign)

Made from fruit grown in the Corner 50 vineyard located in the Bridge Pa Triangle wine district on the western side of the Heretaunga Plains of Hawke’s Bay. Diverse soils of Ngatarawa Gravels, Takapau Silty-loam (free draining red metal of mixed alluvial and volcanic origin) work towards a Bordeaux kind of varietal character and charm. Red recreational fruit and ripe, ropey acidity interact together in this very spirited North Island red. A Hawke’s Bay beauty with vivid and spirited energy. The oak is still very much in play but in no way on top. The cake factor is very low, the lushness happening in texture though not on the level of plush. Really good effort. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016  @kimcrawfordwine @CBrandsCareers  @nzwine  @NZwineCanada

Norman Hardie Niagara Unfiltered Chardonnay 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (184432, $39.00, WineAlign)

It’s hard not to compare Norman Hardie’s Niagara Chardonnay side by side with his County-grown and produced estate counterpart but also with other top end Niagara bottles. The fruit he sources from Duarte Oliveira’s Beamsville Bench farm offers the first leg up. The reductive and minimalist handling style is the second piece of the impossibility puzzle. Though not as closed as some in the past, freshness has never been so bright. The slow Hardie Chard evolution and painstaking road to malolactic could result in perdition but miraculously never does. The cumulative culled from out of patience leads to a reward in near perfect textural deference and defiance. The 12.2 per cent declaration of alcohol is exemplary though it could hardly cross the 11.5 threshold if it wanted to or tried. Chardonnay left alone, to find its way, fend for itself, unstirred, unassailed and deft above or beyond reproach. Enjoy a Hardie Niagara Chardonnay in its early youth. They are not meant to be stashed away forever. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted April 2016  @normhardie

Trapiche Terroir Series Malbec Finca Ambrosia 2010, Single Vineyard, Mendoza, Argentina (402941, $39.95, WineAlign)

The pitchiest Malbec of dark black fruit, weight and substance. Really ambrosial, a thick swath of berry, wood and tannin. This Malbec can run with the players any day of the week. Structurally sound and massive, fully, completely accomplished and offering much reward. There is a resinous, cedar and briar note of amalgamation and complexity. It will take three or more years to bring all the exceptional components together. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted April 2016  @TrapicheWines  @winesofarg  @ArgentinaWineCA

Good to go!

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Heading out for the west coast

Pinot Noirs of Oregon

Pinot Noirs of Oregon

On a Friday in mid-April a group of veteran wine tasters come upon a table of Oregon Pinot Noir laid out beneath the white neon wash of light in the LCBO sensory lab. Most are more than duly impressed. One extreme professional refers to the line-up as the greatest grouping ever assembled for a VINTAGES release. Roger that straight from the shoulder VINTAGES assessment.

Related – Sonoma gaps and single vineyards

The quaternary Oregon Pinot Noir contingent stands out like a fantastic four in a justice league of second tier super heroes. The rest of the Pacific thematic from Oregon and Washington is filled with average to good examples, the best of which are the A to Z Wineworks Chardonnay and the Unbroken Bordeaux Blend from Horse Heaven Hills in Washington. The act of trying to assay these wines invites California thoughts, especially with Sonoma County Pinot Noir so latterly fixated upon by personal hermeneutic. Those who sell you on the idea that Oregon is becoming like California have never truly immersed themselves into the underground Willamette salinity and ancient riverbed imparting minerality. Nor do they intuit that no two wines from Sonoma County are the same. “The multeity of style and the illimitable viticultural approach illustrates how Sonoma’s 16 AVA’s (American Viticultural Areas) are a study in variegation and variance.”

California dreaming aside, let’s shift our thoughts back to Oregon. More than anywhere else in the diaspora where the Burgundy expatriate is re-produced, the Pinot Noir from out of the Willamette Valley transmogrifies the parataxis of French narration. It understands that to repeat a note can be an enrichment, not an exhaustion. Oregon doesn’t merely resemble Burgundy, it actually exceeds it.

In Ontario we consider specific Niagara sub-appellations as capable of narrating a Beaune fictive, including those from the Benches of Beamsville and St. David’s. Prince Edward County’s limestone viaduct of geology and Burgundian geography is always part of the wine country Ontario Pinot Noir discussion. Central Otago and other New Zealand regions can be given due genetic consideration, as can very isolated parcels in Alsace, the Western Cape, the Mornington Peninsula and the Ahr. In the case of Oregon vs. Burgundy, ask Norman Hardie, Thomas Bachelder, Will Predhomme or Nicholas Pearce. They will tell you that it is most certainly not Niagara and while neither are Burgundy, it is the former where the closest comparisons can be made.

I reviewed the four Pinot Noir coming through VINTAGES on April 30th. They are all worth the investigation and two are exceptional. To the purpose of expanding on the west coast leitmotif I have added a white from Oregon, a sumptuous red blend from Washington and two big reds from California and B.C. Next weekend, head out for the west coast.

Portlandia Pinot Noir 2013, Oregon (445486, $28.95, WineAlign)

West coast offence Pinot, essentially Willamette Valley though labeled as Oregon. Rich and just a bit soil funky, with a slight rubber reductive quality in its still beating youth. The glass is very full when Pinot such as this is poured, the dial turned up and the sun seemingly always high in the sky. Will use of most of its energy in the next few years. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2016  @RareEarth_Wines

Solena

Soléna Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir 2012, Yamhill Carlton, Willamette Valley, Oregon (446112, $35.95, WineAlign)

Gorgeously perfumed Pinot Noir from Domaine Danielle Laurent, crossing femininity with a lithe scorching and torching of earth. Ripeness is a virtue, the road is full of bloody tension, “beauty walks a razor’s edge” and the partnership between fruit and tannin is rife with love. Big within correct and structured means. There have been others but this YC-WV is currently on my mind, to put aside and then “someday I’ll make it mine.” Perfect companion with which to take shelter from the storm. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted April 2016  @solenaestate  @Oregon_Wine  @Nicholaspearce_

Willakenzie

Willakenzie Estate Gisèle Pinot Noir 2013, Certified Sustainable, Yamhill Carlton, Willamette Valley, Oregon (452656, $36.95, WineAlign)

So pretty and so very restrained, near tart and sweet but never going too close to either edge. Drinking this on a daily basis would be so easy to abide, with its ripe and slightly spicy berries, plums and mild citrus. Would expect it to turn tart or sour but it leans to mild tannin instead. Not necessarily a wine for 10 years but exceptional for five. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2016  @willakenziewine  @MalcolmCocks1

Lenvoye

Maison L’envoyé Two Messengers Pinot Noir 2013, Willamette Valley, Oregon (453357, $41.95, WineAlign)

The two messengers are winemakers Louis-Michel Liger-Belair and Max Marriott and somehow they have crafted a most amazing Pinot Noir from out of the potentially disastrous tale of three harvests: fruit picked before, during and then after the typhoon. The fruit comes from four AVA’s and eight vineyards: Eola Amity – Eagle Crest, Eola Springs, Popcorn; McMinnville – Hyland; Willamette Valley – Croft; Yamhill Carlton – Fairsing, Gran Moraine, Stardance. A Côte de Nuits ringer in Willamette clothing, multi-terroir dependent and singing the amalgamated praises of its serious sense of place. Whatever combination of hill, nook and petite colline this was culled from has fed the Burgundy machine. The sweetness is palpable but created by soil and tannin. Quite seamless, not to mention travelling along underfoot with the Willamette salinity rolling along in the ancient river below. Terrific Pinot Noir with stuffing and age ahead ability. Does it succeed in “pursuing transcendent Pinot Noir through gilded terroir?” I’d say yes. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted April 2016  @MaisonLEnvoye

A To Z Wineworks Chardonnay 2014, Oregon (269258, $24.95, WineAlign)

Plenty of grape extract feigning sweetness, more exuberant on the palate then in the aromatics. A composed and highly concentrated Chardonnay with accents, spice and extra flavour provided by the barrel plans. Crafty and well-executed in craft. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016  @AtoZWineworks  @Gr8TanninWines  @Nicholaspearce_

McKinley Springs Unbroken Blended Red 2012, Horse Heaven Hills, Washington (444729, $26.95, WineAlign)

Cabernet Sauvignon (43 per cent), Merlot (37), Malbec (19) and Cabernet Franc (11) fill in the baritone blend, unbroken, as in spirit, as opposed to thinking in terms of single-varietal. Though the warmth and wood are gainful and very much a part of the chain, the fruit and the grain are interwoven, fully integrated, spice regaled and determinate. Great red fruit, graphite and grip. So very impressed with the spirit of this Horse Heaven Hills red. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted April 2016  @mckinleysprings  @WINESofWA  @HHDImports_Wine

LFNG

Laughing Stock Portfolio 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, Ontario (71464, $54.95, WineAlign)

The five-varietal classic Bordeaux blend in 2013 is Merlot (41 per cent), Cabernet Sauvignon (30), Cabernet Franc (18), Malbec (8) and Petit Verdot (3). Together they seamlessly amalgamate in 36 per cent new barrel and (64) second fill for 19 months. All tolled the group is characterized as not shy. There is a squaring of deep, deep intent, dark, dark pitchy hue and full, full body. Phenolically ripe and properly volatile on the edge of the precipice with bringing it acidity. Tastes of berries and brine, rare venison and caramelized plantain. The more abstract flavour profile is described as a ferric welling with hematic humour. For now take one deep breath of the beauty and wait two years with the rest for full enjoyment. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted April 2016  @lfngwine  @winebcdotcom

Ferrari

Ferrari Carano Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Mountain Vineyards, Alexander Valley, California (450429, $74.95, WineAlign)

Hefty, rich and spicy Cabernet with yet raging, formidable tannins. Caky, savoury, currant, graphite and cassis laden fruit. Some liquorice, peace stone and dipped chocolate berries. All of everything, the above, earth and sky. The fountains and the cup runneth over. Hedonistic, oak behemoth of exceptional mountain vineyard fruit overlooking the Alexander Valley. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted April 2016  @FerrariCarano  @HalpernWine

Good to go!

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