Ten prodigal suspects

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino 2010

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino 2010

Expensive wine surrounds us all year-long but in the 30 plus days leading up to Christmas the concentration multiplies.  As the shopping days tick down, it seems as though we are inundated by an omnipresent $50-plus crowd. Do these wines have any effect on your life? Do you consider forking out half a yard or two, on yourself or for someone you (sort of) love? Are the jet-setting, usual suspects really worth considering?

In certain cases the answer is yes, but just because some wines are expensive, for a complex variety of reasons, does not make them either good or bad in a decidedly black or white sense. Many outrageously expensive wines are simply awesome bottles of fermented grapes while others are nothing special. High prices can be a reflection of designer labelling and marketing, while others are the summation of genius created by greatness and art. Sometimes it’s just a matter of economics.

I’m going to borrow a hypothesis from my WineAlign colleague John Szabo to illustrate the point. You go to a juice bar. The smoothie or vegan fruit and grass concoction cost not much more than a few dimes to produce. The expertise required came as a result of a half hour’s worth of learning and training. The machine costs a few hundred bucks. And you paid $8.95 for the beverage.

Wine grapes grow on vines that might be as old as 100 years, tended by a farmer far away who was paid a dollar or two for a kilo of his fruit. The vigneron spent perhaps the first 30 days slaving over the initial maceration and fermentation of that fruit and followed that up with at least a year (and in some cases five) to nurture the wine into becoming something special. The bottle and the cork cost another dollar or two and the shipping charges add at least another two again. Then there were the middle men involved; negociants, wholesalers, distributors, agents, retailers and monopolies. That wine might sell for anywhere from $9 to $20 in the Canadian market. And you don’t want to pay $20 for a decent bottle of wine?

Now imagine the fruit coming from some of the most expensive real estate on the planet and processed by the best equipment that money can buy for making wine. Then it is handled by experts in the transportation, selling and marketing fields. You can see how $20 quickly becomes $50 and so on. Don’t misunderstand me. Many wines are ridiculously overpriced. Many are the by-products of marketing juggernauts. It is important to understand, however, that many high-priced wines are deserving of their tags. The margins are not as inflated as you might want to believe.

Iconic wines are always a good buy for someone, but vintages determine when their purchase is the way to go for others. Varied and direct opinion of conceit is rarely witnessed with such certainty as there is found in the world of wine. “I speak therefore it is,” or “I think therefore I am” are two truisms that ring with pomp and circumstance in the world of winemakers, sommeliers and writers. Being sure about everything goes a long way towards determining careers and fortunes.

So, for the first time in this sketch of wine stuff I am offering up a list of high-priced wines that I may or may not be recommending. They are all household names in the world of iconic wine. Some are “best of” vintages while others are head scratches as to why anyone would spend such money on their wood or their contrivance. You are the one to judge. Here are 10 expensive releases from VINTAGES for November 28th, as usual, prodigal in their return in time for the holidays.

 

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino 2010

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino 2010, Brunello Di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy (431718, $56.95, WineAlign)

The fruit in 2010 is jam-packed, sealed in freshness and blessed with the unmistakeable Colombini soil funk. I first tasted this ’10 alongside 2007 and 2008. The dew, bloom and vigor hangs on a line threaded through each vintage. The 2010 stands alone for its poetic perfume. The flowers of Montalcino, along with the burst buds of herbs on the hills. This vintage pours a generous cup of Montalcino mountain tea. Smoky, opaque and of a proprietary liqueur thick and distilled, the level of animale is right there too. With so much aromatic potpourri the wine’s trotters scramble and ascend with a juggernaut of complexity. Beautiful Brunello with so much tradition running through its fast forward veins. It must of course be laid aside for a few years to really get it. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted April and November 2015  @news_donatella  @ConsBrunello  @LeSommelierWine

Château De Beaucastel Châteauneuf Du Pape 2013

Château De Beaucastel Châteauneuf Du Pape 2013, Ac Rhone, France (711317, $89.95, WineAlign)

Quite a mouthful of Beaucastel with more warm, figgy fruit than memory generally serves. The surfeited structure can’t be denied but the advanced, occupied territory reminds of 1988. This ’13 may be viewed as acting with similar haste when it will have reached the age of 25, in earth-crusted caramel and sweet fruit scooped from a forest floor. Up until five years before then it will always have ripe red berries, spice accents, anise and the veritable design of garrigue. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted November 2015  @Beaucastel  @VINSRHONE  @RhoneWine  @ChartonHobbs
Kistler Les Noisetiers Chardonnay 2013

Kistler Les Noisetiers Chardonnay 2013, Sonoma Coast, California (251223, $99.95, WineAlign)

A tremendous vintage for Les Noisetiers, cared for, tendered and placated by a clarity in hands-off winemaking. Deeply ingrained from juice maximized out of overloaded sensory sunshine and the choice to let sleeping fruit dogs lie. Possessive of an almond bitter bar not bitten into before and overlaid by lacy organza, a mild sheath overtop of purposed, wild fermented fruit, a lightly toasted barrel slumber and richness beyond the horizon. All in style of west coast Chardonnay, though simply prepared with the freshest local ingredients, with stony lactic lees texture and subtle spice. Drink 2015-2022.  Tasted November 2015  @TheVine_RobGroh  @sonomavintners

Antinori Guado Al Tasso 2012

Antinori Guado Al Tasso 2012, Doc Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy (986380, $104.95, WineAlign)

Deep, dark, rich and handsome, a thick red duke of aggressive, conceited, unctuous behaviour. Such tannin and aggression is not so much rarely seen as not always a factor provided by expatriate Cabernet Sauvignon. The dense and massive ferric monster exercises in many, thorough magnanimous machinations. Such a beast. It’s big and it’s good. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted November 2015  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWine

Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2007

Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2007, Doc Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy (986117, $104.95, WineAlign)

Here Quintarelli takes it to a new level, away from rusticity and into modernity, though it remembers every step along the historical way. Liquid caramel and red fruit meld into such sweet earth it feels as though the vineyard is right here and now. Some tobacco but just a puff, so much impression, cure without aridity and natural feel without an orange juicing. Intensity and acidity to take it 30 years. Amongst the best ever? No question it must be considered. Impossible to know. Drink 2015-2047.  Tasted November 2015  @LiffordON

Luce Della Vite Luce 2012

Luce Della Vite Luce 2012, Igt Toscana, Italy (685263, $114.95, WineAlign)

There can be no denying the density and wealth of flavour. Equally so the solid foundation and unwavering structure is the result of a winemaker’s ability to construct such a formidable pillar of strength. It can be imagined that this Luce will go ten years before budging into evolution even a single iota. It is a beast of fruit, barrel and tannin but more than anything else, oak. As shaken as a creamy, milky, anglaise cappuccino as there ever was or will be. Lots of spice from that oak. A designer label wine made with the finest materials. It really doesn’t matter when it is opened, now or in 15 years. It will take that long before it will begin to change. That is because the sum of its parts happen to be over the top. Drink 2015-2030.  Tasted November 2015  @FrescobaldiVini  @AuthenticWineON  @AuthenticWine

Sassicaia 2012

Sassicaia 2012, Doc Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy (480533, $199.95, WineAlign)

Every once in a while an iconic leader of Tuscan wine feudalism takes a step back from its military rule and offers to feed both the army and its people. In 2012 Sassicaia is restrained, giving, generous and empathetic. The fruit is certainly ripe, as are the tannins and structurally speaking this has the layers, the soft libido and the desire to please like never before. Sassicaia for the people, like it may have once been, a king of the classes and for the masses. Not in price mind you, but you can’t have everything. Drink 2018-2038.  Tasted November 2015  @Smarent

Ornellaia 2012

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 2012, Doc Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy (722470, $195.50, WineAlign)

Takes the purity of 2011, furthers the integration and mimics the precision, then pumps up the volume. Takes a breath and then, with soluble efficiency it refines the intricately woven lines a few steps furtrher, if that is even possible. I will say that the tannins are a bit tougher in ’12, with a tight string wound depressively around the fruit’s long and elegant tendrils. Fruit is the determinate factor, pure, blossoming and fragrant. It adds up to a consensus of one thought, that this vintage is yet another legend in the making, a fine and linear Ornellaia that should travel 30 plus years, perhaps longer. What liqueur, such botanicals and endless valleys passing through fertile hills. Drink 2019-2045.  Tasted November 2015  @Ornellaia  @AuthenticWineON  @AuthenticWine

Antinori Solaia 2011

Antinori Solaia 2011, Igt Toscana, Italy (987586, $249.95, WineAlign)

Shows off the typically cured and seemingly advanced notes that Solaia always seems to display, whether the vintage purposed days of heat or nights of cold. A wine that seems immune from vintage variation, with fresh and dried fruit shacking up together. In 2011 Solaia is extremely rich, aggressive with acidity and yet with moderate tannins for five years of development, but not much more. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted November 2015  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWine

Joseph Phelps Insignia 2012

Joseph Phelps Insignia 2012, Napa Valley, California (710400, $299.95, WineAlign)

The 2012 Insignia had me at first whiff. At first sip I could not be reached. Massive aromatics blast from this formidable Insignia, clearly noted with immediate clarity as a proprietary blend for the ages. The current torrent is so plugged in and highly climatic, like a visibly sparking conduit, storm and fire all wrapped into one electric happening. The peaks, valleys, waves and intonations are bred of perfectly ripe fruit sets traveling as one in perfect syncopation. The ripe, chain-link tannins will take this very, very far. This is as fine a California wine as I have ever tasted. Drink 2018-2045.  Tasted November 2015  @josephphelps  @LiffordON  @NapaVintners

Good to go!

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Holiday wine gems hit November shelves

I\'ve made this list, checked it twice and formulated plenteous if euphuistic tasting notes on 10 meaningful and expensive wines to look for this holiday season

I’ve made this list, checked it twice and formulated plenteous if euphuistic tasting notes on 10 meaningful and expensive wines to look for this holiday season
Photo: ElenaR/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

I will gladly be first in line to bust the myth that says wine must be expensive to be good.

Much time and energy is spent seeking out wines that over-deliver, especially those well-made, honest and outright delicious ferments that clock in at under $20. The caveat here is the time of year when the exception to that value rule is personified by the need for luxuriance, surfeit and speed. The December holidays are embroidered of an entirely different import. Folks just seem to want to join the appliqué party, to take advantage of the generosity of the season, to drink the good stuff. Champagne, certainly, but also big wines, the kind that stick to your teeth for a week.

Related – Wine Chat: Top 3 Wine Myths and more from the November 23rd, 2013 VINTAGES release

Gift giving is the other rampant and obvious part of December. No one wants to look cheap, ungrateful and thoughtless when gifting a bottle to an employee, a friend or a loved one. So I’ve made this list, checked it twice and formulated plenteous if euphuistic tasting notes on 10 meaningful and expensive wines to look for this coming weekend. Be proactive, track down one of these wine gems and prepare to channel your inner St. Nick, or if you like, your Ded Moroz, La Befana, Tomte, Jolasveinar or Pere Noel.

From left: TALBOTT LOGAN SLEEPY HOLLOW VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2011, URBINA GRAN RESERVA ESCECIAL 1994, SELLA & MOSCA MARCHESI DI VILLAMARINA ALGEHRO 2008, and PALLADINO BAROLO PARAFADA 2008

From left: TALBOTT LOGAN SLEEPY HOLLOW VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2011, URBINA GRAN RESERVA ESCECIAL 1994, SELLA & MOSCA MARCHESI DI VILLAMARINA ALGEHRO 2008, and PALLADINO BAROLO PARAFADA 2008

TALBOTT LOGAN SLEEPY HOLLOW VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2011, SANTA LUCIA HIGHLANDS, MONTEREY COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, USA (716290, $27.95)

Slow glazed, golden cream velvety nose, of a demurred beauty’s proportion, arced yet elongated. An island of Chardonnay enchantment, where the wood is soft, “there is no suffering” and sweet lemon sherbet flows. Frank yet curtailed extraction, good acidity and a relaxed Surfer Rosa tension. That soft buttery oak only comes through on the finish, which drifts and lasts.  91  Tasted Oct. 25, 2013

URBINA GRAN RESERVA ESPECIAL 1994, DOC RIOJA, SPAIN (355743, $46.95)

Will not be your wine of the year but you absolutely must give it a try. Holding strong 19 years on, surely something to hang a hat on. There is some must, but it’s as much attributed to a classic, 90′s Tempranillo temperamental style as it is to the barrel and the bottle. Some prune and lingering alcohol detracts from the now waning fruit. That Rioja character, once obvious, now harder to recognize, maintains its weight and import. Some grain and chalk lingers due to oak that has not fully worked its way in and out. Wonderful study if not pure or gorgeous and alone.  90  Tasted Oct. 25, 2013

SELLA & MOSCA MARCHESI DI VILLAMARINA ALGEHRO 2008, DOC ALGHERO, SARDINIA, ITALY (954081, $46.95)

A Cabernet Sauvignon with an undeniably high level of unconventionally modern and stylish set of aromas. A very specific Italian smell mostly absent today, pushing the question “has it gone for good, or is it coming back around?” Acetate, wet hay and dried brick funky monkey that could endanger and render it non-negotiable, but it manages to walk the safer side of a fine line. Like great old school Brunello, herbaceous, tarred and feathered, stuck with thorns of roses and a waft of vanilla cherry coke, cough drop alcohol. Shouts Sardinian somewhereness in a way that is just so appealing. The iron, the sanguine, the Italian, the fireside, it’s all there. Sure it’s nearly balsamic but it will likely stay exactly this way for years.  93  Tasted October 25, 2013

PALLADINO BAROLO PARAFADA 2008, PIEDMONT, ITALY (280412, $68.00)

This just has the look, the look of love. “A look that time can’t erase.” Nebbiolo you can see right through, this impossible light, this impossible life. Tea, tar and roses. A mineral spring, iron-earth field, where the game runs wild. You can relate to this Barolo, love it, relish it now but it will give pleasure for years. Not necessarily 25 but certainly 10-15. “Well, it takes my breath away.” Great vineyard.  94  Tasted October 25, 2013

M. CHAPOUTIER LES BÉCASSES CÔTE-RÔTIE 2010, AC, NORTHERN RHÔNE, FRANCE (280420, $82.95)

Strictly beautiful Syrah. The offspring of the Côte Rôtie’s two necessary points of view. First, the schist, silt and shingle of the Brune. Second, the silica and limestone of the Blonde. In combination they produce an iron-rust wine of a ferruginous nature, in colour and in aroma. Seeping, exotic Rooibos tea, Provençal tapenade and smouldering flowers send smoke signals clear as day. Smells so rich though it’s full of grace and bathed in ultra-elegance.  94  Tasted October 25, 2013

From left: CATENA ZAPATA NICASIA VINEYARD MALBEC 2009, CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2011, MASI MAZZANO AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2006, MASI CAMPOLONGO DI TORBE AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2006, and ORNELLAIA 2010

From left: CATENA ZAPATA NICASIA VINEYARD MALBEC 2009, CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2011, MASI MAZZANO AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2006, MASI CAMPOLONGO DI TORBE AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2006, and ORNELLAIA 2010

CATENA ZAPATA NICASIA VINEYARD MALBEC 2009, LA CONSULTA, UCO VALLEY, MENDOZA, ARGENTINA (132357, $87.95, SAQ 11443860, $80.25, BCLS 461707, $89.00, ANBL 098709088658, $100.98)

This Nicasia is the more monstrous of the two Catena single vineyard Malbecs coming to VINTAGES. So set in the future of its dreams and as a result hard to assess what it means to drink right now. A mountain of licorice, anise and Andean aromatics, in Jacaranda and Lupine, gorgeous in giant alpine bloom. Rich, unctuous, magnetic and in perpetual unfolding motion. If the chalk and circumstance come on too strong you might switch to the La Gualtallary Adriana Vineyard, for she is quieter, more accessible, wanting love earlier and unconditionally. Still the structure of the Nicasia cannot be denied, especially if it is allowed five plus years in time and space. Will be unbelievably memorable in 15. Mean it!  94  Tasted October 25, 2013

CHÂTEAU DE BEAUCASTEL CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2011, AC, SOUTHERN RHÔNE, FRANCE (711317, $89.95, SAQ 11352335, $90.25, BCLS 277988, $92.00)

This refreshing and right proper vintage of Beaucastel dramatizes the Rhône epitome of elegance. Sure, the Kirsch and the ripping ripe berries are there but they are stirred, not shaken. Confident, full of tart, hubristic and racy energy, this CdP is great, hopping fun. Has an underlay of classic rocky and subtle pernicious tones. Pure pleasure, good chain of command, tannic as it needs to be.  94  Tasted October 25, 2013

MASI MAZZANO AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2006, DOC, VENETO, ITALY (215764, $99.95)

If a wine clocking in at 16 per cent alcohol by volume can be considered elegant and restrained and if that’s even possible, the Mazzano is the one. Though there is nothing outright prune, dried raisin or fig paste about it, this single-vineyard Amarone is enormously tannic. Any attempt at cracking its hard shell inside of 15-20 years should be thought of as counter-productive. Smells like the aforementioned fruit just picked at maximum ripeness so there is nothing cooked, roasted or overdone here. You simply have to wait for tertiary complexity to see what it will become. I sense great. Near-perfect vintage.  96  Tasted October 25, 2013

MASI CAMPOLONGO DI TORBE AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2006, DOC, VENETO, ITALY (548677, $99.95)

Speaks in similarly heavy and futuristic tones but is not nearly as demanding and obtuse as brother Mazzano. Reduced red plums, riper, drier raisins and licorice here, sweeter and rounder, though that’s just a  tête-à-tête relative observation. Will require 10-15 years patience for the purpose of proper scrutiny and the definite probability for enjoyment.  94  Tasted October 25, 2013

ORNELLAIA 2010, DOC BOLGHERI SUPERIORE, TUSCANY, ITALY (722470, $189.95, SAQ 11973238, $185.00, ALTA. Devine Wines, $209.99, B.C. Marquis Wine Cellars, $190.00)

The label, celebrating the iconic IGT’s 25th anniversary, intimates the kitsch of say, Marilyn Merlot. Not exactly fitting for this perennial lady-killer from Bolgheri. Does it make you think about what it was like when you were young? Peering past appearances, cracked pepper highlights the turned up to 11, ever-present alcohol nose. The enormity of this Ornellaia is obvious and currently overwhelming. Pitchy, black as night, and bent of collector Napa-like extraction. Not exactly a red berry vintage for Mr. Brightside from Bolgheri, this has chalk, grain, funk, dark blackberry, kirsch, anise and mephitic fight. It’s a hugely serious, dank and brooding Cabernet-controlled Tuscan. The ’10 is “burning down the highway skyline, on the back of a hurricane.” Killer on the teeth, the mouth and the tongue. Twenty-five lashes for every vintage.  94  Tasted Oct. 25 and Nov. 3, 2013

Good to go!

The Wine Diaries: A generous year

PHOTO: STILLKOST/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are the best wines I tasted in 2012:

The Wine Diaries: 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

The best wine releases of 2012

PHOTO: STEFANO TIRABOSCHI/FOTOLIA.COM

Wine is best celebrated with family and friends and the holidays present so many opportunities to share a glass. Pulling corks (or twisting caps) substantiates purchasing choices made in previous years. Last year I noted on, “a quick reflect back on a year of plasmic vials once voluminous, now in condign as a commitment to memory. ”

The current season’s pours have the palaver or promise and the eviglio of accumulation to thank for the opportunity. The VINTAGES releases of 2012 perpetuate this promulgated philosophy. The year’s buys have migrated to the cellar, to wait there in abstemious behaviour of maturation. They too will one day climb the steps to a welcoming table, set with family and friends.

Here are my favourite under and over $30 wines of 2012.

Under $30 VINTAGES released wines

Under $30 VINTAGES Releases

1. The grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah

Where: Côtes du Rhône, France

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

2. The grapes: Garnacha, Carinena and Syrah

Where: Montsant, Spain

Celler Besllum Besllum 2008 (283515, $15.95) of Cubist Picassan, “cut up, Maria,” heavenly body struts its stuff as an enchantress with an alluring Spanish, violaceous visage. A black cherry, carboniferous quartzite Popsicle for Mr. Jones.  “We all want something beautiful.”  90

3. The grape: Petite Sirah

Where: Alexander Valley, California

Trentadue La Storia Petite Sirah 2010 (291047, $23.95) is massively concentrated out of the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, as if it were packed with five centuries of the Italian American experience. Manages 14.9% alcohol with George Bailey-esque, heady grace. Tasted blind I commented, “if this is under $30 it’s an outrageous deal.” “Well whaddya know about that!!!. “ 92

4. The grape: Riesling

Where: Clare Valley, Australia

Pewsey Vale Riesling 2011 (686600, $19.95) shimmers an iridescent emerald-green on gold patina. Cracks like a whip straight in your face with lemon, lime and slate than lowers a sledgehammer of petrified wood. Snake-like Sasak fruit tang and acidity “goes dancin’ in,”  “builds that power” and lingers long after its skin has been shed.  91

5. The Grape: Sangiovese

Where: Tuscany, Italy

Dei Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2008 (285510, $28.95) is a wow wine. Viscous, sweet nectar, full on concentrated berries and polished rocks au jus. An opus dei call to vinous holiness and sanctity. Rapturous feeling of punch drunk love falls over me after sipping this noble Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile).  92

6. The grape: Chenin Blanc

Where: Loire Valley, France

Marc Brédif Vouvray 2010 (685362, $19.95) perches high atop a parched, molecular hilltop. Bread starter nip promises stuffed pastry filled with friable, early harvest apples. Wonderful, classic and dehumidified Vouvray.  91

7. The grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot

Where: Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Lulu Island Meritage (277566, $23.95) just sounds like an Aussie moniker when in fact it hails from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Maybe the most lustrous B.C. red I have ever laid eyes on. Hard not to forbear a crush on its purple profile, hued like a $100, Single-Vineyard Argentinean Malbec. A bit reductive due to its infantile youth but this is appurtenant to the samphire, currants and peppery Merlot scents. Less weight buoys the palate. Bites back in the end. Follows varietal rules of proportion vis-a-vis the dry martini. Massive CVR** complexity from this massif assemblage.  91

8. The Grape: Cabernet Franc

Where: Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Hinterbrook Rosé 2011 (275818, $16.00) is simply brilliant. Top Ontario Rosé to date. Goes well beyond descriptors like “playful” and “quaffable.” A four-day Cabernet Franc cold soak was the ticket to serious pink success, the choice of grape an engineering master stroke. Hinterbrook’s dark side of the moon. Moody, ambient, rich in tone, lyric and extended play. Rosé needs some mystery and here it is.  ”There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.”  91

9. The Grape: Riesling

Where: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany

Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2009 (0197186, $21.95) races out of the nuss pit with peerless Bergweiler CVR** Spätlese speed. The late harvest drupe is so focused you would never know how sweet the middle ground really is. Never struggling against circumstance, it slides effortlessly into Spätlese orbit. Searching and finding the German Riesling dream. Sonnenuhr vineyard is here and “the time is right, for racing in the street.”  91

10. The Grape: Chardonnay

Where: Casablanca Valley, Chile

Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2010 (738393, $17.95) will be your best IVR* bet for Chardonnay day on May 26. Wild yeasts make cause for a weird resemblance, reminiscent of February’s Furmint. Delicate, expressive and unusual, the mint flint, brioche and smoked pineapple effect leads to thoughts of Blancs de Blancs. A little malo just might turn this into good bubbly!  89

Over $30 VINTAGES released wines

Over $30 VINTAGES Releases

1. The grapes: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault

Where: Southern Rhône, France

Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 (700922, $53.95, SAQ 10817461, $50.50) will dare you to claim any better value from the storied appellation. “Da price boss, da price!” Like I’ve landed on Fantasy Island where Châteauneuf is flowing and it’s always affordable! Kirsch galore, a Rhône cat, sensuous and gorgeous. Goldfinger garrigue, with herbs and acidity so alive and purring. Approachable now, the heavenly structure will see the Donjon through 2025.  94

2. The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

Where: Napa Valley, California

Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (193763, $99.95) is a flat out brilliant composition by the voice of one who once “traded love for glory.” This Cab reverts back to its singer-songwriter, Napa Valley pioneering form. The ’08 is a crooning balladeer intent to hold out its best in a graceful lucubration of layered, dark fruit, restrained restlessness and a vision of long life. Put the Dunn away and look to be rewarded 15+ years on with as good a California Cabernet as you will ever taste.  96

3. The Grape: Syrah

Where: Northern Rhône, France

Delas Frères Francois De Tournon Saint-Joseph 2009 (17525, $33.00) is both militaristic and the stuff of gushing Renaissance literature. Serious Syrah and foxy, Faerie Queene.  Cardinal colour, striking and dreamy. Augustinian diplomat meets allegorical fantasy. Crushed berries, truffles caked by earth, sol de la foret. Built of elegance and power, “such endlesse richesse, and so sumptuous shew.”  92

4. The Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot

Where: Napa Valley, California

Dominus 2008 (212381, $145.95) solicits riposte for parry, to buy or not to buy. The omnipotently voluptuous one resides in a tramontane locale, beyond reach and also the pale. A shocking parade of profound, hyper-purple personality. Even if it suffers “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune“, a lucky man this Dominus, “all dressed in satin,” “nor woman neither.” Colour field shockingly crimson and amarinthine, textured with rich and layered brush stroke, as if Red on Maroon. A Lama, “the flowing robes, the grace, bald…striking.” To me this ’08 leans more Ornellaia than Pétrus.  97

5. The grapes: Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignan

Ridge Lytton Springs 2009 (982413, $46.95) will live in infamy like the ’92 and ’99. Immediate waft of freshly shucked vanilla bean. Ambrosial, earthy, briary fruit. Precise distillation inclusive of 23% Petite Sirah results in an impossibly lambent cordial. Not to mention you gotta love that Draper perfume. Open the magazine in 10-15 years time for the best read.  93

6. The grape: Nebbiolo

Where: Piedmont, Italy

Gemma Giblin Riserva Barolo 2005 (185025, $36.95) has begun to brick at the edges. Mouth rosewatering acidity binged by sour cherry and shellac. Wisp of Monte Cristo and withered rose only Barolo can smell of.  This Gemma is beautiful like a turning season, like something you know won’t last. For now and no more than two to three more years.  92

7. The grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Counoise

Where: Southern Rhône, France

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 (711317, $89.95) enters no confected, over-extracted or OTT danger zones. The most floral Beaucastel, a doffing of Stoechas Avignon and the omnipresent Rhône garrigue. Persimmon and lavender share time imparting the wine with fumes from les galets roulés of the argilo-calcaireous vineyard beds. Basic hedonism here from such an extraordinary, complex and balanced blend.  95

8. The grapes: Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon

Where: Bordeaux, France

Château Carbonnieux Blanc 2008 (581033, $59.00) is possessive of febrile gooseberry imagination. Blows sweet peach and apricot in and out of the glass in alberge de tours waves. “Hungry like the wolf” and his lycopersicon esculentum. A white PL for the ages.  92

9. The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot

Where: Tuscany, Italy

Ornellaia 2009 (722470, $189.95) is more approachable than the unparalleled 1998. A silky smooth and velvety texture puts super-ripe fruit at the forefront. While that ’98 rocked my world, this vintage offers immediate gratification, less dominating hard lines and edges. The balance is impeccable but the acidity is tempered, like the finest chocolate. The window is open now, though it may soon close, to drink beautifully for the next five years.  94

10. The Grapes: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara e Altri Vitigni

Where: Veneto, Italy

Remo Farina Le Pezze Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2008 (171587, $33.95) underwhelms as a no kicker. Needs no Euro hype nor boozy heft to make itself understood. Modish mocha java speaks fluent huttish, communicating by lingua franca vernacular to the initiated. “Goopta mo bossa!“  92

Good to go!

It’s Black Friday but wine gifts come at a price

<em>Photograph by volff, Fotolia.com</em>

Photograph by volff, Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

It’s an American thing. Black Friday shopping deals will attract major crowds south of the border but in Canada, not so much. Studies show that only one in 10 Canadians will get off the couch and leave their basements for this day of discount shopping. The reverse will apply to Boxing Day.

Related – More from the VINTAGES November 24th, 2012 Release

Ontarians are just as likely to hit their local LCBO in search of wine gems for the coming holiday season. The current VINTAGES release is front loaded with lavish, iconic, red and “black” wines. The spotlight is on the big boys, especially Cabernet Sauvignon nearing and often breaching the centurial dollar mark. Behold eight more wine gems for your gift list.

The grapes: Corvina e Corvinone, Rondinella and Barbera

The history: From north-east of Verona, on the hill that separates Montorio from Valle d’Illasi

The lowdown: More substantial, almost unwieldy than most other Valpolicella in the price range

The food match: Coffee Brined Chicken

Musella Vigne Nuove Valpolicella Superiore 2009 (205757, $15.95) races forward pell-mell, spewing tar, ash and black tea exhaust. The fruit component is dark, black plum seeping in its own reductive juices. Chewy, persistent and gathering speed. Top quality normale Valpo.  89

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: Amounts to 88% Cab primarily sourced from vineyards located in the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Sonoma Valleys

The lowdown: Pseudo-supermarket brand gets it right in ’09. $20 Cab south of the 49th

The food match: Smoked Chorizo Sausage, brisket quinoa fritters

Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (990440, $22.95) is a solid deal, nothing overly serious, just the sum of all it should be from California and parts thereof. Currants, berries, mint, Cassis, roast beef and oak-driven milk chocolate fill this bottle. Packs enough stuffing for smoking.  88

The grape: Shiraz

The history: Oz outfit from the Great Dividing Range in the Grampians region of Victoria

The lowdown: Winemaker Dan Buckle fashions “cool climate” Shiraz from eastern granite slopes of Mount Langi Ghiran

The food match: Roast Duck, potato, orange, fennel, watercress salad

Mount Langi Cliff Edge Shiraz 2006 (287235, $28.95) rips off a ringing riff that teeters but never quite goes over the edge. Perhaps it still has not found what it’s looking for but it’s got Victoria’s ’06 funk. Spicy wood gets right into your nose then coffee, sodium, charcoal game and black currant all add notes. A very good price for a complex wine.  91

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: A legendary bottling returns to top form after a decade long falling out

The lowdown: Hyperbole like “epic,” “classic” and “best ever” surround this Napa Valley Cab

The food match: English Cut Braised Short Ribs, red wine reduction, red pearl onions

Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (193763, $99.95) is a flat out brilliant composition by the voice of one who once “traded love for glory.” This Cab reverts back to its singer-songwriter, Napa Valley pioneering form. The ’08 is a crooning balladeer intent to hold out its best in a graceful lucubration of layered, dark fruit, restrained restlessness and a vision of long life. Put the Dunn away and look to be rewarded 15+ years on with as good a California Cabernet as you will ever taste.  96

The grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Counoise

The history: The house that Jacques Perrin built is the most famous in Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The lowdown: Can’t say I’ve ever been this blown away by such a young Beaucastel

The food match: Braised Veal Brisket, smashed parisienne potato, brussels sprouts, truffle oil

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 (711317, $89.95) enters no confected, over-extracted or OTT danger zones. The most floral Beaucastel, a doffing of Stoechas Avignon and the omnipresent Rhône garrigue. Persimmon and lavender share time imparting the wine with fumes from les galets roulés of the argilo-calcaireous vineyard beds. Basic hedonism here from such an extraordinary, complex and balanced blend.  95

The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc

The history: Arguably the most iconic Cab-based Super Tuscan from “the place of many stones”

The lowdown: Down $7 in price from vintages going back to ’05, this ’09 has scored as high as 98 (James Suckling)

The food match: Grilled Bisteca Fiorentine (Tuscan-style Porterhouse Steak)

Sassicaia 2009 (480533, $179.95) the raven brunette is anything but sappy or syrupy yet is impossibly viscous. Hints at ripe berries growing in the crags of maritime gravel and the most expected hits of sanguine, animal musk. A huge wine in the making, the adolescent hunter Sassicaia off-roads up a steep incline to go tell it on the mountain of tannin. Disappears into parts unknown and will only reappear as a mature adult. Look to 2025 and it may say “the perspective to say the very least, changes only with the journey.”  96

The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot

The history: Tenuta dell’Ornellaia was founded in Bolgheri (1981) and only Massetto, “wink-wink, say no more,” is a more famous Super Tuscan

The food match: Grilled Bisteca Panzanese (Bolgheria-style Porterhouse Steak)

Ornellaia 2009 (722470, $189.95) is more approachable than the unparalleled 1998. A silky smooth and velvety texture puts super-ripe fruit at the forefront. While that ’98 rocked my world, this vintage offers immediate gratification, less dominating hard lines and edges. The balance is impeccable but the acidity is tempered, like the finest chocolate. The window is open now, though it may soon close, to drink beautifully for the next five years.  94

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: In a class of two (along with Shafer’s Hillside Select) of Napa Cabernet neither garagiste nor Barnett, Harlan Estate or Screaming Eagle

The lowdown: Certainly not an act in search of a circus, the ’08 Insignia demands a star’s salary

The food match: Bison Rib-Eye, king mushroom, juniper and thyme demi-glace

Joseph Phelps Insignia 2008 (710400, $224.95) teases with immediate gratification then turns inward upon itself to hide from a volcano bursting of hot lava. The stoic resistance keeps the Insignia safe from the fiendish, dark mark mountain of UFO tannin. “A real rock and roll molest.” Checking out the wine’s black hue in the raised glass is a sight to behold. The pitch conceals a deep well of pure raspberry distillation, roasted meat, yew and rosemary. The wine’s lines are like architectural strokes of genius, currently too hot to handle.  94

Good to go!

Triassic Tasting at Pangaea

Pangaea Upstairs Dining Room

Pangaea Upstairs Dining Room

 April 24, 2012

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

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

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

 

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

Nine Wine Night

Nine Wine Night

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Intermezzo, grapefruit and tarragon flavoured ice

 

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

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

 

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

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

Tasting Table

 

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio

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

 

 

Good to go!