Release the summer wine

A white wine for all seasons, Pinot Gris, by Maison Trimbach<br />

A white wine for all seasons, Pinot Gris, by Maison Trimbach
PHOTO: http://www.trimbach.fr/

These are the wines of summer.  Dry, saline Rosé made from classic varieties; Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Crisp, flinty Riesling, turned to stone. All things Pinot. B.C. Cured Pinot Blanc struck by both juicy fruit and mouth-watering acidity. Pinot Gris from Alsace, impossibly dry. The same grape but from across the Rhine and under another name: Grauburgunder. Pinot Noir from Prince Edward County. Nothing else in the world smells like it. Smells like, teen spirit.

White wine that feigns bubbles and brings the wonder of Nova Scotia to the world. Chardonnay by a young winemaker in Ontario just coming into his own, ready to become a star. Classic varieties for summer grilling; Cabernet Sauvignon for a green day, Sangiovese to make your day, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and that melting pot of red wines, Châteauneuf Du Pape. All VINTAGES Ontario releases for July 19th. These are some of my summer wines. All 13 of them.

From left to right: Gassier Sables D'azur Rosé 2013, Rockway Small Lot Block 12 150 Riesling 2012, San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2012, Hedesheimer Hof Weingut Beck Grauer Burgunder Kabinett Trocken 2012, Trimbach Réserve Pinot Gris 2011, Keint He Portage Pinot Noir 2012

From left to right: Gassier Sables D’azur Rosé 2013, Rockway Small Lot Block 12 150 Riesling 2012, San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2012, Hedesheimer Hof Weingut Beck Grauer Burgunder Kabinett Trocken 2012, Trimbach Réserve Pinot Gris 2011, Keint He Portage Pinot Noir 2012

Gassier Sables D’azur Rosé 2013, Ac Côtes De Provence, France (33621, $14.95, WineAlign)

Always dry, dusty and salt lick oriented. A mineral bath of verdigris and rusty rainwater.  Light but all about minerals, salinity, beach and sun. What more should be requested and ascertained from value given Côtes De Provence Rosé?   Tasted June 2014  @MichelGassier

Rockway Small Lot Block 12 150 Riesling 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (372441, $18.95, WineAlign)

Noticeably dry but also earthy/funky. Struck match and plowed earth. As it settles into its skin and your consciousness it develops body, depth and acidity. Grows and expands, reaches heights you thought it would not. The vintage works wonders for the Twenty Mile Bench and this block has expansive stuffing to take it long, not to mention the earthy complexity to see it change and evolve. It may go through a disturbing, unusual phase but be patient and set one aside for 15 years from now. You will be amazed what honey and deep geology it discovers and uncovers.  Tasted June 2014  @RockwayVineyard

San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Maipo Valley, Chile (37911, $19.95, WineAlign)

When it comes to Cabernet Sauvignon, “well, I heard it all before.” This Maipo beauty begs to be different. Here is a $20 Cab with a $50 reductive funk. A heady, heavy red that needs more than just a swirl. The average Joe may smell a green day and not get it straight away. My advice would be to hang in there because with 10 minutes aeration the fresh currant, mint and rain-soaked flower aromatics will come around. And come around they do. Mocha and semi-chocolate driven, tannic like crazy and banging out a beat of crazy acidity. A ton of wine for $20.  Tasted June 2014  @Dandurandwines

Gray Monk Pinot Blanc 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia  (321612, $19.95, WineAlign)

Ah, terrific cool climate Pinot Blanc, with juicy acidity from a bite into a nectarine just falling from the tree. On a night like this “it goes deep, it goes deeper still,” in neo-tropical fruit (from seemingly slightly elevated alcohol). A most cured white wine, with a tannic quality that gives it texture and structure. Strike another Lloyd Braun mark on the British Columbia-Pinot Blanc free competition continuum to develop this variety with prejudice.  Seamless, with excellent length.   Tasted June 2014  @GrayMonkWinery

Hedesheimer Hof Weingut Beck Grauer Burgunder Kabinett Trocken 2012, Prädikatswein, Germany (378349, $20.95, WineAlign)

This rare Pinot Gris VINTAGES sighting is a jet-gassy funky, disparate complex mess of penciled, earthy, grassy and off-dry stone fruit aromas. It’s also viscous, distracting, and propelled by thriving acidity. While the Grauburgunder hails from the other side of the Rhine, it shares a tannic, saline and mineral affinity with the Vosges PG’s of Alsace. Lives up to its Trocken designation through a rocky impart yet seems just slightly sweet in a very Kabinett way. Herbal and long. Contemporary Prädikatswein worth a look and a more than temporary place in the cellar.  Tasted June 2014  @TandemSelection

Trimbach Réserve Pinot Gris 2011, Ac Alsace, France (971762, $23.95, WineAlign)

For Trimbach this is a top quality vintage to make an example for one of the domain’s signature value wines. This firm and straight shooting Pinot Gris comes from limestone-dominant parcels not so different from the PG taken out of the winery’s Osterberg Grand Cru, just above Ribeauvillé. That a Pinot Gris can bring a nearly (8 g/L) elevated level of residual sugar to the table and come across bone dry, like a walkabout in the outback, remains one of life’s great mysteries. Picked prudently early, or as Alsatians like to say, “right on time,” this Trimbach is eloquent, reeks of wet, cold stone and lies over an ocean tasting of salty minerals. Pour it with the freshest, uncooked fish and a light vegetable pickle. Tasted June 2014  @trimbach

Keint He Portage Pinot Noir 2012, Prince Edward County, Ontario (373415, $25.00, WineAlign)

The most juicy, fruit forward and gregarious of the estate’s Pinots. Only Keint He Pinot smells like this, in Ontario, or elsewhere for that matter. Smells like teen spirit. It really is that unique but at the same time, undeniably Pinot. Just picked and torn cherry blossom petals and bitter chocolate dust strewn overtop fresh macerated cherries. Further coated with iron fillings. “And I forget just why I taste, oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile.” Prince Edward County Pinot Noir on the road to nirvana.  Tasted June 2014  @KeintheWinery

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia (256289, $25.95, WineAlign)

From a bumper crop, there came to market 11,000 cases of this Nova Scotian feel good, faux-sparkling story. Winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers’ Nova 7 dissimulation in bubbles is a true trick of the trade and though this white wine strikes as if it were a child of a warm vintage, there is a classic lightness of Rosé fizz being in its ever so slight effervescence. A singular wine in many hybrid incarnations, in Muscat ways, of pink Perle de Csaba, segmented and pressed for a sweet burst of grapefruit. It’s low (7 per cent) in alcohol, excellent in acidity, sweet and sour, citrus zesty, juicy and dry at the same time. Batch delineated and loyal to continence, though if the quantity creeps much higher that may come in to question. Grown up pink lemonade and so easy to consume.  Tasted June and July 2014  @Benjamin_Bridge  @jbdeslauriers

From left to right: Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Dei Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2010, Cave Spring Riesling Csv 2011, Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay 2011, Château Les Gravières 2010, Paul Autard Châteauneuf Du Pape 2010

From left to right: Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2013, Dei Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2010, Cave Spring Riesling Csv 2011, Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay 2011, Château Les Gravières 2010, Paul Autard Châteauneuf Du Pape 2010

Dei Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2010, Docg, Tuscany, Italy (285510, $27.95, WineAlign)

The entry of Dei’s balanced Vino Nobile was very juicy but at the same time serious and brooding. At first rhythmic, tight and anxious, you couldn’t but help but feel the strong mocker of this Sangiovese. Iron, hard rocks, knocks and a day in medieval life. If it should be opened any time in the next five years it will require a rare fleshy partner and plenty of air time. Though there was nothing faint about it, with time it found a path to a crescendo and then changed chords. It sang like a bird for a verse or two, softened enough to open a window to its future and when it spoke “I went into a dream.” Finished with a piano bass note that droned on for nearly a minute.  Tasted June 2014  @LeSommelierWine

Cave Spring Riesling Csv 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario  (566026, $29.95, WineAlign)

The 2011 issue is the driest, slate-driven, flinty Cave Spring Csv as it can ever be. Don’t be looking at its heart for richness and body but there is a wall of texture forged in stone. The Csv speaks “of everything that is alive in my blue world.” One taste and all goes electric, lights up and the orchestra begins to play. Turn the stone of this statuesque Riesling to drink in the long and true loyalty to ever fibre and fissure of its rocky being. Excellent. What more could you expect, or want?  Tasted June 2014  @CaveSpring

Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario  (33936, $30.00, WineAlign)

Winemaker Sébastien Jacquey’s “entry-level” Chardonnay currently resides in a bitten and certainly not shy mode. The 2011 is a Villages Reserve that is in a bit of a purgatorial place at the moment, closed down since its grand opening last summer. The rocks are speaking, as is the hubris of wood, but the fruit is up there, wafting in the proverbial wind. Let it blow and gather atmosphere, to return two or three years on, to reintegrate with the earthly elements and reform a convivial bond.  Tasted June 2014  @LeClosJordanne

Château Les Gravières 2010, Ac Saint-Émilion, Right Bank, Bordeau, France (257733, $36.85, WineAlign)

Highly concentrated, big berry crushed Saint-Émilion. Floral too and the fruits are exquisitely ripe and red. There is great tension and acidity. Crazy tannins. Exceptional wine but will need 15 years time to settle, integrate and play nice. Qualifies as the finest 14 per cent Bordeaux I’ve tasted in quite some time. A wild sense of mineral and animale climb on top. Highly ferric. Really fine.  Tasted June 2014

Paul Autard Châteauneuf Du Pape 2010, Ac, Rhône, France (380667, $49.95, WineAlign)

A refreshingly lithe and graceful 14.5 percent Châteauneuf Du Pape with every bit of richness necessary to fulfill its contract to typicity. Just a hint of both earth and animal musk, demanding tannin and more than its share of rocks and mineral give. A real winner for the vintage and in fresh air contrast to the gaining ridiculousness of extract and over-bearing alcohol-driven Rhônes. This might just be the bottle to reaffirm my waning faith in the region.  Tasted June 2014

Good to go!

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In a Pinot Noir province of mind

Niagara

Save for the Oregonian version, Ontario has become the place to produce Pinot Noir out of soils not called Côte de Nuits or Côte de Beaune
Photo: Rilasata/Fotolia.com

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No other grape causes more of a stir, is responsible for more hair to fall and breaks more hearts. It doesn’t play well with others. It refuses to share, to be blended, to give anything less than 100 per cent. For many, there is no other variety. How often does a conversation begin with “what is your favourite wine” and end invidiously with “Burgundy?” End of argument. Nothing more to discuss. While Burgundy certainly persists as the historic locale possessive of the title “when it’s great, it’s the best,” Pinot Noir has flown the coop. The expatriate extraordinaire has migrated about the globe and is no longer always a wannabe facsimile where it’s now grown and bottled.

A bold statement to be sure is coming, now. Save for the Oregonian version, Ontario has become the place to produce Pinot Noir out of soils not called Côte de Nuits or Côte de Beaune. The argument finds root in the climate (cool) and the terroir (ideally suited). The anomaly that is this season’s Polar Vortex notwithstanding, Ontario’s weather is Pinot weather. The thin-skinned variety thrives in Ontario’s typical autumn conditions, maturing evenly and with a phenolic ripeness necessary to fulfill complex tendencies. Soil could not compose itself any better. The huge rock beneath the surface in Prince Edward County screams Pinot Noir, if by way of Burgundy. The Niagara Escarpment and its foothills beg to support Pinot vines. No, really. Go stand in the Lowrey Vineyard on the peninsula. The land beneath your feet will whisper sweet Pinot nothings into your ear.

Arguing the meritorious benefits of grapes and specific sites is an exhausting though compulsory one. I have been a staunch supporter of the need for planting Riesling and Gamay everywhere. Ontario can and will do no wrong with these varieties, whether it be PEC, LENS or any Niagara Peninsula terroir. Chardonnay too, though it produces the greatest wines in the appellations of the Beamsville Bench, Twenty Mile Bench and Vinemount Ridge. The benches likewise work wonders for Cabernet Franc, though many producers make terrific renditions down by the lake.

Pinot Noir requires more site-specific consternation. The learning curve inhabited by our top Pinot producing stars has pinpointed certain neighborhoods that support their clairvoyance and expensive habits. Norman Hardie knows the Pinot innuendo of both Prince Edward County and the Niagara Peninsula. Hardie’s Unfiltered 2012 ”brings to mind indelible Burgundy, enveloped in PEC’s warm ’12 blanket.” Thomas Bachelder makes Pinot in Burgundy, Oregon and Niagara, but it is his Lowrey Vineyard 2011 that blows my mind. “The somewhereness of this St. David’s vineyard can’t be denied, and in the hands of Thomas Bachelder the extraordinary happens.” The micro-terroir studies of Ed Madronich and Jay Johnston is the stuff of quantum eonology. The Summit Block 2011 does “impossible Burgundy,” between a Flat Rock and an escarpment.

So where is the best site for making Pinot Noir in Ontario? Prince Edward County? Twenty Mile Bench? Beamsville Bench? Vinemount Ridge? St. David’s? Has the industry matured to such a level that a Cru system should now be defined? The answer may not be forthcoming today but it’s just around the corner. Pinot needs to be cultivated and fostered so that plots can continue to be identified and qualified. The future of the industry depends on it.

I have recently tasted more than 30 Ontario Pinot Noir. Many are worthy of a second look and more than a dozen a place in my cellar. Here are notes on five more, all deserving of their place in the Pinot sun.

From left: CAVE SPRING PINOT NOIR DOLOMITE 2011, INNISKILLIN MONTAGUE VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2011, TAWSE GROWER'S BLEND PINOT NOIR 2010, HIDDEN BENCH ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2010, and 13TH STREET ESSENCE PINOT NOIR 2010

From left: CAVE SPRING PINOT NOIR DOLOMITE 2011, INNISKILLIN MONTAGUE VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2011, TAWSE GROWER’S BLEND PINOT NOIR 2010, HIDDEN BENCH ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2010, and 13TH STREET ESSENCE PINOT NOIR 2010

CAVE SPRING PINOT NOIR DOLOMITE 2011, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (26351, $21.95, WineAlign)

Part Beamsville Bench (70 per cent) and part Twenty Mile Bench (30), this best of both worlds Pinot is full of calcium magnesium carbonate, Jurassic bark. Playful as opposed to angry, this is not so much Snoop Dogg’s Dolomite but more like an animated Futurama. Seduces with a sweet red berry entry and bound by a really fine acid/tannin/fruit balance. Admittedly not overly complex but for the price it shows good structure. As far as Pinot goes, this one is a made for beef or rack of veal.  89  Tasted October 2013  @CaveSpring

INNISKILLIN MONTAGUE VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2011, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (997353, $24.95, WineAlign)

Montague is a single-vineyard child of rain and heat. The flux of the growing season translates to a troubled and disjointed youth; musty, earthy and unforgiving. Still this Inniskillin is thick, unctuous, sharp, chewy and while currently situated on the darker side of Pinot, all this will change. Not yet showing what he is, the ’11 will “keep on keepin’ on, like a bird that flew,” and eventually be tangled up in blue.  89  Tasted October 2013  @InniskillinWine

TAWSE GROWER’S BLEND PINOT NOIR 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (130989, $26.95, WineAlign)

The univocal Pender perfume permeates the Tawse stable of Pinot Noir and seems only magnified in the multiple site Grower‘s Blend. Vintage related warmth and inferable incrassation of fruit. Delves into a deep connection to disparate lands possessive of a common goal.  As if making wine is “your taste combined with all the years of wasting time.” Graceful Pinot Noir with moments touched by hot rocks, toasted red rice, a gentle smoulder and delicate grains of sand.  90  Tasted October 2013  @Tawse_Winery

HIDDEN BENCH ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2010, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery, $40, WineAlign)

Clean, pure and crisp. As if raspberries covered in Beamsville dirt with an underlying lurk of grain and tannin. Crackling Pinot studded by caper berry and a sheer Mediterranean point of view. From an earlier note: “Takes my previous impressions to a higher plane. Standing correct by calling it a “a vintage relative release” but it’s so much more than “a quaffable, generous fruit sui generis.” Beets turn into plums. Opaque hue reminds of graceful Nebbiolo with a dancer’s legs in aperture. Wins in judicious use of French wood. Tannins persist in the rear-view mirror. Big ’10 that speaks of another level in Beamsville Pinot Noir. “Think about it, there must be higher love.” 91  @HiddenBench  @BenchVigneron 

13TH STREET ESSENCE PINOT NOIR 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (237222, $44.95, WineAlign)

Only the second coming of The Essence. Lucid, willing and able Pinot Noir from an assemblage of fruit sourced across the region. Atypical in that sense, speaking to a broader range of terroir and to a wider audience. Breadth and depth much like a Côte de Beaune, earthy of serious dirt layered over top a cherry core. Attention now and for five plus years is needed because though to taste it’s currently confounding, time will see more complexity, development and emerging emotion. It will then solicit a cry of  ”baby, sweet baby, you’re my drug. Come on and let me taste your stuff.”  91  Tasted October 2013  @13thStreetWines

Good to go!

Around the world in eight Chardonnays

PHOTO: SUTSAIY/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

Chardonnay covers more than 400,000 acres seemingly everywhere and is the most widely planted wine grape on earth. Today marks its fourth annual global celebration. Who knew there was this marketing concept using social media as the thread that connects the global conversation together. If you live in Niagara and have some free time, then you my friend are in the right place. Many wineries (17 at last count) are offering special events and free tastings today, including Flat Rock CellarsTawseLaileyHidden BenchThirty BenchSouthbrookCoyote’s RunNiagara College Teaching WineryPondviewChateau des CharmesStratus13th StreetHenry of PelhamCave SpringMalivoire and Norman Hardie. Click here for a full list of events.

Chardonnay is cool, especially in Canada, blessed with a quintessential climate for growing the most international and recognizable of the world’s white grapes. Chardonnay comes in all shapes and styles, from unoaked to heavily toasted, aged in stainless steel or concrete vats to barrel fermented. Some styles use wood chips, some Chardonnay is fermented on its lees. Chardonnay is responsible for some of the world’s great Sparkling wines, especially Champagne. Is there a comparable white grape that speaks of its origins in more varied tones? Conversely, can another variety be singled out as having suffered through more international vinification manipulation? So, Chardonnay conjunction junction, what’s your function?  Want to know what Canadians are saying about Chardonnay? Ontario Wine Chat has the answers.

If you are looking to experience the wonders of Chardonnay, from a global perspective, surrounded by experts in a setting designed for relaxation and genuflection, look here:

In anticipation of the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration #i4c2013 and to pay tribute to this marketing sensation that is International Chardonnay Day, here are eight great examples from near and far, all available to taste, try and sample somewhere close by.

Clockwise from left: Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué 2010, Domaine du Chardonnay Chablis 2011, Southbrook Vineyards Triomphe Chardonnay 2011, Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2010, Norman Hardie County Chardonnay 2011, Hidden Bench Tête de Cuvée Chardonnay 2009, Drappier Signature Blanc De Blancs Brut Champagne, and Stratus Chardonnay 2010

Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué 2010 (246579, $15.95) from Wines for the Ides of March is fresh in chert, posy aromatic and stuffed with an airy, sense of whipped lemon cream. Salinity and white pepper add kick and spice to this Chardonnay cousin only Cave Spring seems to have mastered.  89  @CaveSpring

Domaine du Chardonnay Chablis 2011 (183574, $19.95) deserves 105 points for the domain name alone but really this is just solid, good fun. Chablis as I expect it to be. Apples and cinnamon, ginger, a hint of macadamia and citrus zest. Minor bitter note trumped by ripe fruit and a clean finish. Really quite good.  88

Southbrook Vineyards Triomphe Chardonnay 2011 ($21.95, 172338) from A wine pentathlon binds FSO2 with jack or durian, febrile fruit. For now hard to figure, like a grey rose or a Pink Floyd. Offers up a creamy warmth in resonant echoes but amplified as if still trapped inside the barrel. The best days remain ahead for this certified and biodynamic Chardonnay, which in two to three years time will “come streaming in on sunlight wings.” 89  @SouthbrookWine

Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2010 (606186, $29.95) is about as internationally-styled as it gets from the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. Smells like it’s still inside the barrel, as if the tropical fruit was wrapped up in a smoking, sweat lodge towel. Big on hot rocks, steaming and emitting earthy scents, nutty in every respect, big, big Chardonnay. Nerve, verve and understanding.  90  @WolfBlassWines

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

Hidden Bench Tête de Cuvée Chardonnay 2009 ($45, winery only) from Big wines from California and the Bench from HB’s oldest, most highly regarded and meticulously maintained vines shows ravishing and refined restraint in elegance. Warm pineapple and mango coagulation jarred by the vintage’s piercing acidity and immense length. Head of the class, rings the bell, nails the lecture.  93  @HiddenBench

Drappier Signature Blanc De Blancs Brut Champagne (599860, $46.95) continues a VINTAGES string of excellent value in Champagne releases. Made from 100% Chardonnay, this BdB is pronounced in , yeasty dough definition, hinting at agave and unwashed cheese rind. Where there’s bubbles there’s a way and I like where this one is going. The agave replays in sweet waves, as does the the sour in faint yet discernible sloshes. Much to contemplate in this NV sparkler.  90   @Halpernwine

Stratus Chardonnay 2010 ($55) from Stratus and Momofuku: Modernity incarnate from natural yeast, full batch (bunch) pressing and heeded by Paul’s call to full malolactic fermentation, this fruit was picked on November 15th, a day “you had to go run and pick fast.” Groux is not trying to make California or Burgundy but make the best in Niagara. Clarity and sun drenched hue, tropical fruit dominance, sweetness, malo-butterscotch obviousness. Some tart orchard fruit late but certainly warm vintage wine. Not the most arid Chardonnay but blessed with great length.  91  @Stratuswines

Good to go!

Wines for the Ides of March

PHOTO: PAUL FLEET/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

Good friends, go in and taste some wine with me.

And we, like friends, will straightway go together.
March 15th is not just any old day, that is if you are a Roman. The monthly Ides were sacred to the worshipers of Jupiter, king deity of the Romans. Shakespeare‘s play is more than just a forgotten high school memory. The Ides of March, 44 BCE assassination of Julius Caesar in the Roman Senate was a big deal.

Caesar was, however cautious and abstemious some say, known as a wine guy. Can you argue the actuality in utterance of the Bard’s famous line, “Et tu, Brute?” as he offered his (77-years ahead, future reference) Judas a goblet of wine? JC was purportedly known to love indigenous Italian grapes like Mamertino and Brachetto.

Caesar took control of the mint and had money coined to put into the hands of the people. He then built great structures, public works and was followed (jump forward, twenty-one centuries, Twitter equivalent) by many. Was he killed for being a people’s patron of the arts, architecture and culture and did his offing lead to the demise of plentiful money in Rome? Can Caesar really be blamed for the tax increases, corruption and the loss of homes and land? Admittedly, the dictator has been historically accused of killing one million enemy French (Gallic) men and enslaving another million. But he was a wine guy! Would Caesar have jammed in a cork to stop private wine clubs?

Canadians purportedly drink Bloody Caesars to celebrate the anniversary of the soothsayer’s day. Me, not so much. But I can tie the Italian-Canadian thing together. Here I string five Canadians and three Italians, bound by one apropos French connection, a sublime red wine from Bordeaux. Raise a glass and whisper “All hail Caesar.”

From left: Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Reserve Red Assemblage 2010, Stoney Ridge Excellence Chardonnay 2010, Vicchiomaggio Agostino Petri Chianti Classico Riserva 2008, Tenuta Di Ghizzano Veneroso 2009, Paolo Conterno Riva Del Bric Barolo 2008, Château Haut-Bages Liberal 2009.

The Canadians

Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué 2010 (246579, $15.95) is fresh in chert, posy aromatic and stuffed with an airy, sense of whipped lemon cream. Salinity and white pepper add kick and spice to this Chardonnay cousin only Cave Spring seems to have mastered.  89  @CaveSpring

Malivoire Riesling 2011 (277483, $15.95) of savvy, textured pomade hails Prussian in ideal, with equatorial accents, in coconut, ginger and creamy, fallen tree fruit. A lime’s zest, rind and late harvest condensed orange marmalade buttress this beryl flecked, golden Escarpment Riesling. Tons of nuance.  90  @MalivoireWine

Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Reserve Red Assemblage 2010 (321893, $16.95) coalesces to what so few Niagara Peninsula peers achieve by summation in the heat of 2010. Meritage balance for under $20. Many made great wines in the premium category but many more made bottles of jam at this price. Rockway’s Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend is a tale of two poles. At once pretty, in violets, soft black currants and mild coffee and then bound by an underlying coal tension and furious punk beat. “The sun is out and I want some.”  88   @Rockway Vineyard

Creekside Laura’s White 2010 (121764, $18.95) is peach quintessence in a glass. Niagara Peninsula peaches burst forth, replay to taste and never dissipate. The tree’s blossoms are there two, along with the fruit’s stony pit, with a full-on mouth attack, finishing with a spoonful of peach-infused simple syrup. A white “to let go of it all just for this evening.” Dessert and then goodnight.  88  @CreeksideWine

Stoney Ridge Excellence Chardonnay 2010 (254243, $24.95) hails from the Lincoln Lakeshore and warms in toasted, buttered pecans, Caesar spice and sunny climate fruit. The shore’s metallic, rocky bed adds minerality, “rockin’ up the richter scale” with tang and stabbing notes on the long finish. Goes both ways, ACDC.  89  @stoneyridgewine

The Italians

Vicchiomaggio Agostino Petri Chianti Classico Riserva 2008 (993360, $19.95) in a tighter vintage is not as round, ripe and forgiving so priced to sell but it’s that grit that gives this CCR it’s charm. More Run Through the Jungle than Lodi, this Petri “fills the land with smoke,” in animale and a marbled, granular texture. Thought modern in styling, this Sangiovese is like charred Kobe beef covered in butter polished demi-glace.  90

Tenuta Di Ghizzano Veneroso 2009 (103218, $29.95) bears little resemblence to the IGT you may be used to, especially in a 70/30 Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon blend. This one’s mutton-funky, not quite like the Montetti or Madonna del Piano but still an earthy beast. There is vibrant purple Pisa fruit and a dusty, chalky tannic splash. We’ll see but my thoughts look to a wow future. Gorgeous wine from Ginevra Venerosi Pesciolini.  91  @FrontierWine

Paolo Conterno Riva Del Bric Barolo 2008 (172783, $36.95, SAQ, 10860223, $34) from young vines on this venerable estate’s Ginestra plot is really impressive for under $40. Savoury and perfumed, of Rhododendron and dried roses. Pipe smoke at the mid-point and sweet tannin. Not exactly a big Barolo but more of a Nebbiolista’s bric-a-brac of all the best bits Barolo has to offer 91  @liffordwine

Château Haut-Bages Liberal 2009 (197640, $64.85) of sumptuous, acculturated Paulliac texture is just so pretty. Not unlike the ’07 Brunelli, or the current release ’08 Guado Al Tasso for that matter, there is nary a harsh or biting note. The kicker is the Left Bank mineral, crushed rock thing going on and the wine never wavers from the its velvety feel. Pure, unadulterated red fruit, juicy and forevermore. This liberal lady can “lay across my big brass bed,” anytime.  92

Good to go!

A Niagara White Christmas

PHOTO: MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

PHOTO: MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

as seen on canada.com

Last week I wrote about bubbles and dessert wines and how they make their way into holiday fêtes like bookends on a shelf.

Related – Sparklers and “stickies” from the upcoming VINTAGES, December 8th Release

When the fizz has left the flute and the appetizers turn eclectic, the imperative focus shifts from pétillement to whist white. It just so happens that a remarkably rich and complex local folio of four will stand in the festive spotlight this coming weekend. Two are more than affordable while the others will demand a few pennies. First of all, it’s the holidays, so go out and indulge yourself. Secondly, the splurge picks are two of the best Ontario white wines I have tasted in 2012.

http://postmediacanadadotcom.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/niagarawines.jpg?w=600&h=300

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Derek Barnett embraces the no-oak Ontario groove and masters it

The lowdown: Could very well be the most versatile white wine style for the Ontario dinner table

The food match: Tortilla Española

Lailey Unoaked Chardonnay 2011 (299776, $15.95) is like a bottle of apples reduced to smooth, silky goodness. Creamy, August peach and corn, herbal, lemon balm curd, balance throughout. Everyone should be making unoaked Chardonnay in Niagara. It just fits.  88

The grape: Chenin Blanc

The history: A nod to the Loire Valley’s Demi-Sec style, here on the Beamsville Bench

The lowdown: Not sure any other Ontario vineyard combines pedigree, innovation, marketability and saturation with a boutique-style better than Cave Spring

The food match: Omelette Chèvre et Miel

Cave Spring Chenin Blanc 2009 (627315, $17.95) come across off-dry at the outset as an aromatic, interwoven tapestry-bound cheesecloth of chèvre, honeycomb, lemon/lime and naphte. There is mango and creamy vanilla custard on the sweet and tangy palate.  When you go Beamsville, remember to go C-Blanc.  88

The Splurges

The grape: Riesling

The history: “Reserve” may not necessarily be indicated on the bottle, but this is very much a reserve Riesling from the Twenty Mile Bench

The lowdown: Ed Madronich ventures into the realm inhabited by emerging Niagara icons with this tour de force  ’09

The food match: Flaky Blood Orange Tart

Flat Rock Reserve Riesling 2009 (231266, $30.00) sports a cracking new label and cruises lemon hither and lime forth. Toasty, yeasty and wild, the FR cubed is Champagne-like in its baking bread aromas. Flint strike and tang, tang, tang, dayum! This ferment might make for great bubbles, in the vein of Hinterland’s Charmat.  90

The grape: Pinot Gris

The history: Not exactly imbued with Alsatian minerality and acidity but here PG lays down its legacy on the Niagara Peninsula

The lowdown: Winemaker Bruce Nicholson reproducing Zind-Humbrecht? Not exactly, neither in style nor result but call me out if this isn’t the most compelling Ontario Pinot Gris to date

The food match: Lebanese Apricots with Pomegranate Syrup

Inniskillin Legacy Pinot Gris 2009 (229591, $35.00) is a primordial lake of oozing honey and petrol. Verges on Vendanges Tardive, then meanders nut-toasty, spewing scents of mango, papaya and pineapple. Honey again and again, but also that indescribable and golden concentration of evolved, off-dry Pinot Gris, dotted with specs of pepper.  91

Good to go!

Ontario wine. Can you feel the love?

File Photograph, National Post

as seen on canada.com

There’s a whole lot of tweeting going on. The polarizing effect of social media certainly builds hyperbole on the buzz and though you were doubtful and dare I say it, in denial, you need to know this. Ontario wine is feeling the love.

Everyone is talking about Ontario wine these days, in restaurants, around the office coolers, in the hot tubs. And yes, especially on Twitter. Here are a few to follow:

@DavidLawrason

@rickwine

@spotlightcity

@RichieWine

Then there are the festivals and tastings. Savour Stratford just wrapped up and the Niagara Wine Festival is in full swing. On Friday, September 28th the huge tasting event, Taste Ontario will present more than 100 wines from 33 producers.

When it comes to Ontario wine, the  state of the union looks as promising as it ever has. In 2011/12 (fiscal year ending March 31, 2012) the sales volume in litres of all Ontario wine grew by 2.6 per cent. In absolute terms, the 2.6 per cent increase of sales volume represented an increase of 1.5 million litres sold of Ontario wine last year.  This compares to an increase of 1.9 million litres of imported wine sold last year in Ontario (2.3 per cent growth) through these reported channels.

The 2012 wine harvest will unleash the lion. The overall quality of the wines will surpass all that has come before. This may not translate to an immediate takeover of market share, but the trickle down effect will see a pendulum switch of those consumption numbers in two to three years time. Ontario wine will be king. Mark it on your 2014 calendar.

In the meantime, here are three more Ontario wines to look for.

The grape: A unique clone of Chardonnay, native to southern Burgundy, known for its spicy, Muscat-like flavours

The history: A single block of 13-year-old vines on the Beamsville Bench

The lowdown: The most mineral Chardonnay Musqué to date, owing to the limestone, shale and sandstone in the soil

The food match: Fried Zucchini Blossoms with sea salt and a squirt of lemon

Cave Spring Estate Bottled Cave Spring Vineyard Chardonnay Musqué 2009 (246579, $15.95) flaunts its unique, ersatz Chardonnay visage but also erupts volcanic and metallic. Flinty to nose, sweet to taste, with juicy acidity of peach/apple/almond flesh and pit. Relents to an ursine finish.  87

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: The vineyards are farmed organically and moving towards biodynamics

The lowdown: Winemaker Deborah Paskus writes the book on Prince Edward County Chardonnay

The food match: BBQ Chicken on the Grill with a sweet glaze

Closson Chase Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay 2009 (148866, $29.95) acts as though centuries of aggregated skill have had a hand in its success. Twelve years actually and this CCC is of a colour the golden-yellow of a yolk laid by a chicken with time and space. Smack of lemon and apple, oak in balance, cut of a skilled lapidary. Where goodness resides.  90

The grape: Cabernet Franc

The history: From the Lake Erie North Shore Appellation, in Essex/Pelee Island Coast Wine Country

The lowdown: Where has this beauty been hiding for the past five years?

The food match: Smoked and Grilled Barque Baby Back Ribs

Colio Estate CEV Reserve Cabernet Franc 2007 (432096, $20.95) receives a rare Erie North Shore endorsement. Sound body and soul, garden smells and strong tobacco note keep the CEV from breaking out of its rusty cage. “Hits like a Phillips head” right now but don’t hesitate because the cage will soon open. Admirable effort from a strong vintage.  88

Good to go!

Essential wine for Father’s Day

Father’s Day Wine. Photo Credit: ehow.com

What to get dad this year for Father’s Day. Perhaps not the gifting conundrum that is Mother’s Day but no walk in the park either. The obvious gadgets present themselves; Iphone, Ipad, Kindle, Nook or Golf Course GPS, because no real man wants one for the car.

Forget the camera, video recorder and BBQ. Those things just tell dad he has to work harder. Give him something he can use. Better yet, choose something you can share with him.

VINTAGES Essentials are the Fine Wine and Spirits Division’s collection of always available products. Imagine it’s Sunday afternoon. You are a mere hours away from Father’s Day dinner. You have been tasked with bringing the wine. You need to pick promising bottles to match hors d’oeuvres, appetizer, main course, dessert and one special bottle for Dad to take home to his cellar. In between Soccer finals and gymnastics pick-up there is only time to stop in at the nearest LCBO. The VINTAGES kiosk at the store’s rear only carries certain release products and is sold out of everything you came looking for. That is where Essentials answers the bell. These products can be counted on to be found in most (decent-sized) Ontario stores.

I tasted through 90 VINTAGES Essentials two weeks ago. Here are six to bring to dad; five to share with him and one as a special parting gift for his singular day.

Thirty Bench Riseling 2010 (24133, $18.95) with it’s Huet of the Loire, Chenin Blanc-like citrus, pear and honey blast begs for some BBQ starters. Like good wurst and spicy mustard. Like Chinese BBQ glazed ribs. Incredibly youthful, living in a wild west end of the Beamsville Bench. “Greasy hair easy smile..this is the seventh heaven street to me.” A benchmark Riesling to put Niagara on the popular map.  90

Louis Jadot Chardonnay Bourgogne 2010 (933077, $18.95, LTO until June 24, 2012 at $16.95) keeps on caramelizing but less so in ’10. The oak barrel toast level quotient is down close to 200 for those of you counting at home. This allows a searing acidity to zap the mellow white cherry, rose and raspberry fruit into life.  Best Jadot White Burgundy normale in quite a spell. Would serve well alongside soft taco or slider appetizers. Of fish, pork or chicken. Some cracklings would be nice.  88

Esporao Reserva Red 2009 (606590, $25.95) made from parochial Aragonés, the Tempranillo of Portugal. This particular vintage brings Spanish Montsant to mind, especially the wines of Celler Capçanes. A thread of ripe cherries, cocoa dust, milk chocolate and spice link it to a style also not unlike Napa. Stillwater runs deep for this deeply-hued, Portuguese raven and methinks it almost famous.  Rubbed ribs and chicken await.  88

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (255513, $34.95, LTO until June 24, 2012 at $29.95) signals reform and a serious return to form. Dictionary Napa entry, a reigned and refined milkshake of California berries and dark chocolate. Solid mineral bones full of might, fight and planar, ferric-iron leucos-phosphite. This is the tetrameric rub that notches new found response and respect for the can be found everywhere, once Philistine Mondavi.  Top cut, seared on high heat and rare of course. 89

Cave Spring Indian Summer Select Late Harvest Riesling 2010 (415901, $24.95) wins the race to accompany dessert for its Spätlese sensibility melded to a Niagara Crèvecoeur smoke and mildness mentality. The Peninsula’s typical lime, slate and chalk it shares with Germany’s Mosel are front and centre, cojoined by Icewine’s candied, orange marmalade. At half the tag, the Late Harvest is the leading Essentials sticky deal.  88

Tignanello 2008 (986786, $99.95) gets the nod for dad’s big gift because the singing Tig is flat out esculent. A smoked, Blueberry Margarita, Porcini Risotto with Tartufo di San Giovanni d’Asso and long espresso all rolled into one Super Tuscan. The Cabernet components don’t just get lucky, but are hugely supportive of the vernacular Sangiovese. The Tig might march you up a Florentine hill and get you singing “if you got a truffle dog, you can go truffling.”  90

Good to go!