Alternative and unexpected California

Pop goes @california.wines unexpected whites with phenomenal insight by @hawk_wakawaka ~ Thank you Elaine, Paula @CalifWines_CA

Elaine Chukan Brown came to town and if you’ve never heard her speak on the subject of California wines then you have yet lived. The California Wine Fair has been rolling through Canada for coming upon forty years running and this past April she and the show stopped in Toronto. It has continued to exist as the largest Canadian gathering of that state’s wines under one roof you are ever going to find. The American specialist at JancisRobinson.com, contributing writer with Wine & Spirits Magazine and eloquent meets erudite penner of Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews was the keynote speaker at the trade luncheon but it was her morning presentation of California’s unexpected white varietals that got me thinking. Thinking about California wine.

Elaine Chukan Brown

Unexpected might also mean alternative though when talking about grape varieties grown in a place where nothing is truly endemic and everything is expatriate, is there truly such an animal? I could digress into commentary about immigration policies but I’ll stay the course and stick to wine. Brown’s seminar was appropriately referenced with more than one headline because it wasn’t just about varietals. The lecture indeed touched upon malvasia bianca, vermentino and chenin blanc but it also spoke of sparkling, Rosé and iconic blends made by archetypal producers. Not a singular notion by any means of conferral and so ultimately necessary to be expressed in diversified terms. Alternative and unexpected but not without a hit of developed orthodoxy and a whack of doctrinal emigration.

The cross-Canada celebration of California’s wine community began as a single-city event in Ottawa in 1980 and is now the largest annual wine tour across Canada. The California Wine Fair is is the hands of Praxis PR’s Paula Oreskovich and I would be shocked if there is a more successful regional tour, especially at this scale. The 2018 edition was no exception and adding Elaine Chukan Brown to the bill was both a coup and a stroke of brilliant thinking.

There were 10 wines involved in the determinate and evaluative discourse. I could kudize the selections and the seamless flow from reception wine Rosé through epiphanic Brut and across a swath of right proper showing white wines. I could but I’d rather concentrate on Brown’s photographic mind and ability to convey California wine growing region geography, topography and climatic influences. To present these things to a Toronto wine body politic eager for information. This presentation was science incarnate, pure and motivating. It dispatched the essence of the California dialectic and if you understand varietals, growing conditions and economics, what you soak in may actually allow you to write down what will happen in the future, much like you might write down the history of the past. A California history that speaks of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and pinot noir. A California future that is alternative, unexpected and wide open.

Folded Hills Lilly Rosé 2017, Santa Inez Valley, California (Winery, WineAlign)

From the Bush family, Rhône varietals are the impetus with this second fruit from a Rosé vineyard set situated in proximation of Ballard Canyon, where things ripen quite formidably. It’s a top location for pinot noir but here an even better place for grenache and syrah. The wine spent 24 hours on skins, was fermented and aged in neutral oak. Crisp acidity speaks to the area’s growing conditions and in its way acts as grenache vin gris, of tart pink to red currants in a glass. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  folded hills  @foldedhills  Folded Hills

Caraccioli Brut Cuvée 2010, Santa Lucia Highlands, California (Winery, WineAlign)

Caraccioli Brut Cuvée 2010 is a pinot noir speciality transferred to sparkling for flinty, smoky, salty and briny sea fresh character from out of a cold Alaskan bred Pacific current. Top, absolute upper end of Brut with 12 g/L sugar and high natural acidity, which is essential. Four years on lees, but that burgeoning acidity works more magic than the yeasts do for texture. As tart as sparkling wine gets and it’s from California. A journey that began in 2010 for only 96 cases made. Price is $52 at the winery. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2018  caracciolicellars  @caraccioliwines  Caraccioli Cellars

Palmina Malvasia Bianca 2016, Santa Ynez Valley, California (Agent, WineAlign)

East of centre in the valley, just crossing into Ballard Canyon, from sand over chalk. These are soils that warm up fast, ripening a variety that wants to be bitterly phenolic but finds a way to make use of fog from coastal influences in a nook where the mountains run west to east. The limestone in turn acts as the conduit in delivery of great acidity. From green apple to south asian tropical fruit but I can’t say I’ve ever tasted anything like it before. Yes, the acidity is grand and yes, there is a bitter phenolic note though it’s like great gin. A wildly aromatic wine. There are 62 cases made. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  palminawines  barrelselect  @palminawines  @BarrelSelect  Palmina Winery  @barrelselect

Ryme Cellars Hers Vermentino 2016, Carneros, Sonoma County, California (Winery, WineAlign)

From just over on the Sonoma side of Carneros, the last vineyard before you hit marshlands in San Pablo Bay. Alto, musky and floral notes on the nose, a deep sax, A Love Supreme. What’s curious and high level is the texture, which speaks to place, soil and I suppose, winemaking. It’s part malolactic from neutral oak to further explain, with a mix of stainless steel to keep it Trane chord change airy, elevated, ante-flat earth society vermentino. Approximately $25-29 US. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  ryme_cellars  @RymeCellars  Ryme Cellars

Matthiasson White Blend 2015, Napa Valley, California (Winery, WineAlign)

Ostensibly an example of a ribolla gialla led, Friuli styled blend by Steve Matthiasson. It’s a grouping of sauvignon blanc, sémillon, ribolla gialia and tokai friuli (friulano) as the components, turning the Friuli a bit on its head but its more about fruit than pyrazine with a ribolla lick off the ground. There is a nutty note, namely almond from tokai and a flinty strike by sémillon. Unilaterally fermented in neutral barrels and then eventually transferred back in. Great balance, complex and long as the coastal range. Come back to it and it has a wonderful savoury, candied childhood memory feeling. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  matthiasson_wine  @matthiassonwine  Matthiasson Wines

J Vineyards And Winery Pinot Gris 2016, Russian River Valley, California (Agent, WineAlign)

Introduced by Elaine Brown as “a testament to the notion that pinot gris is a noble grape, that expresses its place and adaptation from place to place.” A wine as child of western Sonoma County daily fog incursion, absorbed by the clay, a gift of natural refrigeration, non-pushed sugar development, working for gris, not just noir. Semi-mouth watering freshness, unctuousness and notable sweetness.”Round and hovering,” full and tart, mid-range in the mouth. Minor barrel fermented plus 15 per cent new, as kisses for a nutty depth and orange marmalade flavour. Quite delicious, full of texture and flavour. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  #jvineyardsandwinery  gallocareers  @JWinery  @gallocareers  J Vineyards & Winery  Gallo Family Vineyards  E. & J. Gallo Winery

Birichino Chenin Blanc Jurassic Park Old Vines 2016, Santa Ynez Valley, California (Winery, WineAlign)

From a site protected from wind, a diurnal temperature shift with more of a breeze effect, above the fog line at a high (1100 ft.) elevation. All this to say that you’ll end up with increased aromatics, from own-rooted vines planted in the 70s on sandy soils. Chèvre funky, tangy on the acid notes, with layers of ripeness, but with no developed botrytis and then some fruit picked in December mixed right in. It’s green, white, pink and yellow. It’s all in, not overly punchy but very expressive. From apple to brine and back again. This may be the vintage that has it all. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted April 2018  birichino_official    Birichino

Chateau Montelena Riesling Potter Valley 2016, Mendocino, California (Agent, $36.95, WineAlign)

The first wine Montelena ever released was in fact riesling, a Bo Barrett obsession, slightly inland in the far north on Mendocino. It’s a high elevation at 900 ft., on highly oxygenated, well-draining, gravelly-loam soils with a touch of clay. Made in a combination of stainless steel and neutral oak. The lullaby phenolic and dreamy glycerin fruit content is high, with help from minor (4 g/L) of RS and what is essentially an arrested acidity. A very underdeveloped riesling, youthful and rich, just bloody delicious. Lime, snappy green apple and gravel stone bleed. Riesling as good as it gets in California, from Mendocino all the way down. Perfect for this desert life. “If dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts. You can never escape, you can only move south down the coast…Hey Mrs. Potter won’t you talk to me.” Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted April 2018  chmontelena  rogersandcompanywines  @ChMontelena  @rogcowines  Chateau Montelena Winery  Rogers & Company

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc To Kalon Reserve 2014, Oakville, Napa Valley, California (Agent, $44.95, WineAlign)

The Reserve is the top level for fumé blanc (aside from the I-Block) and a wine made since 1966. There must be more sémillon in 2014 because it’s as smoky and flinty as it ever has been. A portion of the 1945 I-Block vines generously add sauvignon blanc in this wine. This is the original, the history of California wine, the alternate varietal spoken ahead of all the others. Reduced vigour vines from volcanic, well-draining soils for purity and decades long honesty. Always absurdly fresh, integrated, with an ability to age low and slow. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted April 2018  robertmondavi  #constellationbrands  @RobertMondavi  @cbrands  Robert Mondavi Winery  Constellation Brands

Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit De Tablas Blanc 2015, Paso Robles, California (Agent, 735506, $44.95, WineAlign)

From the far western side’s folded, undulated hills on the western range that bring in cold air through its streams. A place of cold night and even some persistent cool air during the day. It’s roussanne based, but this ulterior vintage means an elongated ripening so the roussanne was low in acidity, therefore more picpoul was employed for acid. It’s fleshy, creamy toffee, candied floral and candied citrus plus orchard fruit and mango. Should turn waxy and seem more mineral as the alloys emerge and the fruit dissolves. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted April 2018  tablascreek  @TablasCreek  @ChartonHobbs  Tablas Creek Vineyard  CHARTON-HOBBS QUEBEC

Pop goes @california.wines unexpected whites with phenomenal insight by @hawk_wakawaka ~ Thank you Elaine, Paula @CalifWines_CA

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Feb. 21 wine and song salute

Godello's Tamales

Godello’s Tamales

Fear not good reader, this is only a list of seven, a set lucky wines and songs to play as you sip. On February 21st VINTAGES will roll a mid-winter classic release and though my recommendations will think globally next week, here the choices come out of Ontario, from parts Niagara and Lake Erie North Shore.

My picks are varied and the wines of a coagulated character best described as sui generis. Grapes come from old vines, are dried in kilns, fashioned in the Venetian Ripasso method and left on the vine to be stricken by the noble rot known as botrytis.

The brilliant leap of modern winemaking science allows the ancient to be realized in the present. Wines that pour themselves. Just as the earth has invisibly predisposed the vines, from cataclysms and through its evolution, so history is the unhurried intent. Winemakers are the messenger.

All this from Wine Country Ontario. Get to know it.

Speaking of WCO, if you happen to be heading to Ottawa for Winterlude this coming weekend, the VQA Wine Truck will be there, in Confederation Park.

Meanwhile back in Toronto, my seven wine and song salute begins here.

From left to right: Château Des Charmes Old Vines Riesling 2012, Ridgepoint Merlot 2010, Bricklayer's Reward Block 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Burning Kiln Stick Shaker Savagnin 2013, Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay 2012, Andrew Peller Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Inniskillin Discovery Series Botrytis Affected Viognier 2013

From left to right: Château Des Charmes Old Vines Riesling 2012, Ridgepoint Merlot 2010, Bricklayer’s Reward Block 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Burning Kiln Stick Shaker Savagnin 2013, Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay 2012, Andrew Peller Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Inniskillin Discovery Series Botrytis Affected Viognier 2013

Château Des Charmes Old Vines Riesling 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (277228, $16.95, WineAlign)

Showy and yet so balanced and pristine. The cleanest fruit representing classic Niagara Peninsula Riesling from the ’12 vintage yet with an open mind to be walking far from home. Though void of agitation, there is plenty of verve and life. It comes by way of a mineral meets saline intensity, of iron and life, in wine. Like “sour building high as heaven,” and the components all kiss each other clean. Full of fine pastry layering, glycerine textured but not oily fruit, full and yet somehow so lacy. A really special Riesling from down by the lake.  Tasted January 2015  @MBosc

Ridgepoint Merlot 2010, Ripasso Style, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (270488, $19.95, WineAlign)

Ridgepoint’s Ripasso style Merlot takes the varietal, stands it on its head and shakes the rust from out of its bones. It wears “a coat of feelings and they are loud,” with drying and painted flavours over top porcine, cocoa, wild and tight aromas. Merlot in a purple bottle, an animal collective, peppery, interesting, very Niagara, very Ripasso. Good length.  Tasted January 2015  @Ridgepointwines

Bricklayer’s Reward Block 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario (406124, $19.95, WineAlign)

In Colio’s Cabernet Sauvignon there is dark chocolate everywhere, at every turn, in every crevice. Black pepper, fleur de del, currants and tobacco accent that chocolate ubiquity, with warmth and oak spice. Cherries seeped in astringent tannin offer a silky sweet sadness and “under this skin, there lies a heart of stone.” Counting for value, the Bricklayer’s reward is mercy, by way of character, texture and that wholesome chocolate. It may not be everyone’s cup of cocoa but it will age as long as the crow flies, into the next decade.  Tasted January 2015  @ColioWinery

Burning Kiln Stick Shaker Savagnin 2013, VQA Ontario (367144, $24.95, WineAlign)

Burning Kiln’s latest rendition of Vin de Curé, the “Parish Priest’s,” and the Jura’s Vin de Paille (Straw Wine) is that much more exceptional than what came before. The peaceful, heavy yet easy feeling continues, in alcohol weight and aromatic lift, ’cause it’s “already standin’ on the ground.” Like an eagle soaring, the Savagnin is a wild creature and yet solid, of a gamey, textural density. Imagine dried grasses and fruits, baked bricks, steamed crabs and honey. A wine so unique, mouth filling, viscous and tangy, from a wine region (province) with a maximum 10 planted acres. A white elixir in search of roast pork, braised belly and cured bacon. Not to be missed.  Tasted January 2015  @BurningKilnWine

Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay 2012, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (203703, $30.00, WineAlign)

Thirty Bench’s vintage-affected Chardonnay is rounded, full of warm, ripe fruit and noticeable oak. No darts are tossed, neither by woodsmoke nor spice and it ventures quite outward bound. This adventurous, appealing wine takes some chances, looks beyond its borders, reaching for notes both gravelly and scented; like cumin, coriander and a beautifully bittersweet Tom Collins. The rocks are certainly in, as are the sticks and stones, though they do not break bones. The price is another matter, affordable to some, prohibitive to “the little boys who never comb their hair.” For a Chardonnay such as this, of layers and riches, “they’re lined up all around the block, on the nickel over there.” It time waits for this, value will increase and it will become a wine for tomorrow.  Tasted January 2015  @ThirtyBench

Andrew Peller Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (405043, $30.20, WineAlign)

Here Sauvignon Blanc is wild and free, bares then sells its soul and is runnin’ with the devil. The expression is a free dance of varietal character, flinty and extremely juicy in simultaneous movements. Though the SO2 level is high (it cleans the passages), the compote is peachy, at times canned and soaking in syrup, but the accents are laden with capsicum, lactic white plums and wet grasses. Slightly bruised and/or oxidative, the mineral tang is pushy and formative. This is serious Niagara-on-the-Lake SB, crazy and compressed stuff. It lives its “life like there’s no tomorrow, finding “the simple life ain’t so simple.” Like vintage Van Halen.  Tasted January 2015  @PellerVQA

Inniskillin Discovery Series Botrytis Affected Viognier 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula (375ml), Ontario (405027, $39.95, WineAlign)

Inscribed into the Inniskillin ‘Discovery Series” for good reason, the BA Viognier is a product of luck and circumstance, a small parcel of grapes blessed with the not oft success of climate leading to ripening and noble rot. Grapes left to hang into late harvest (as opposed to freezing on the vine for the production of Icewine) is not a common Viognier practice. While the frank and masculine aromatic presence may be compromised here (the nose is quite reserved), the overall ubiquity is omnipresent and enveloping. Such a clean and young botrytis offers soft chords and a lifting voice. You can smell the fruits east and west; green and yellow plantain, peaches and plums. Flavours of lemon curd and pineapple arrive at a point where the tannin finds a way to “fuse it in the sun.” It can be imagined this Vendanges Tardives simulation will go long so “dream up, dream up, let me fill your cup, with the promise of a man.”  Tasted January 2015  @InniskillinWine

Good to go!

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Part Two: A 30 march of value reds

PHOTO: MONKEY BUSINESS/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

Today’s date may read April 5th, 2013 but as far as I’m concerned, it’s still March. Winter chill hovers like a suffocating raft over a simmering cauldron of consommé. We are the suds, the weather our nimbus and we can’t wait to rent our effervescent clothes, break free from the mackerel sky and walk into spring.

Related – More March wine reviews

The coming weeks worth of frosty nights and their refusal to hightail on out of here must then be quelled by belly warming, hearty meals shared in kind with big, bold red wines. Here is a 15-strong list available now and in a store near you.

From left: Domaine Les Yeuses Les Épices Syrah 2010, Calmel + J Joseph Faugères 2009, Château Gadet Terrefort 2010, Herdade Penedo Gordo Vinho Tinto 2010, and Otazu Premium Cuvée 2007

The French

Domaine Les Yeuses Les Épices Syrah 2010 (177584, $13.95) is a remarkable price for a Vin Pays d’Oc acting as a ringer for a Mark Kent (Boekenhoutskloof) Franschhoek meets the Northern Rhône. A dish of roasted pork belly, boar musk, lacquer, black olive and sun-baked earth would work. Good follow-up to the 2009 Septaguanarian of pork perambulations. Impossible balance for a pittance.  87

Château Agnel Cuvée Phillipe Minervois 2009 (309195, $15.95) is no pretender, this disciplined study in equilibrium. Blessed with a freestyle swimmer’s ability to master strokes in one varietal medley. More Grenache than Syrah, more Yannick than Michael. Exercises a learned rusticity, acts “old enough to face the dawn.” An angel of the morning bursting forth in floral scents and reaching out with a graceful length. Languedoc red as microcosmic study in an Olympian, southern French pool.  88  @FrontierWine

Calmel + J Joseph Faugères 2009 (310193, $16.95) conjures up full-on hedonism in roasted mutton, garrigue, black raspberry jus and a shot ‘o java. Full-bodied, mochafied richesse, juicy, easy to consume if  never to be seen again. All for $17.  89  @LanguedocWines

Château Gadet Terrefort 2010 (307231, $20.95) waltzes out in empeltre olive, plum sangria and creamy chocolate. Turns roast meaty in gritty tannin, struts great intensity for Médoc, like a “black-haired flamenco dancer,” de color rojo oscuro, not unlike modern Montsant. “Pass me a bottle, Mr. Jones.”  90  @ProfileWineGrp 

Château Senejac 2009 (193037, $28.85, 11350145, SAQ, $26.85) walks a rustic, oxygenated Bordeaux tightrope threatening to fray but an earth, tar tincture and Mediterranean sense of longevity keeps this Haut-Médoc wound tightly together. Olive, licorice and Sambucan spice infuse in smokey tones.  91

The Portuguese

Herdade Penedo Gordo Vinho Tinto 2010 (218339, $13.95) from Alentejo, Portugal is very modern, full of lush, dusty berry fruit and void of hard lines. Licorice tang, suet roasted meat built on local grapes (Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Aragonez and Trincadeira). Refines the nature of its origins.  87  @winesportugalCA

Quinta Do Penedo 2009 (313676, $18.95) of Syrah-like sheen jonesing to purple sets out muted but after a swirl opens to black cherry bubble gum. Alfrocheiro and Touriga Nacional work effortlessly together to fashion a Dão whose “white clouds have turned it black.”  This one can come away with me anytime.  88  

The Spanish

Otazu Premium Cuvée 2007 (313809, $16.95, SAQ 11387298, $18.70) plays an intense, gritty Navarran riff full of earthy expletives. Addictive, salty, marinated olive, black cherry plethoric red that stops you in your tracks. Makes use of Tempranillo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Reminds me of the Hecula or the Manga del Brujo but is so much edgier, crazed, frantic. Wild stuff.  88  @bodegaotazu

Beronia Gran Reserva 2005 (940965, $32.95) has smoothed its cigar smoked extremities with vanilla cream. The sour cherry tang is a necessary advocate for balance and structure. This classic and classy Riojan is ready and willing to sit at the dinner table along side Chorizo, Jabali and stuffed Piquillos.  89  @WoodmanWines

The Argentines

La Puerta Reserva Bonarda 2009 (67801, $18.95) is a serious, brooding, dark and mysterious gem from  Famatina Valley in the north-west of the Province of La Rioja. Red stone fruit, vanilla bean and an Andean rock face of tannin. Once you go cool-climate, altitudinous Argentinian Bonarda, you may never go back to Malbec.  88  @LaPuertaWines

Versado Malbec 2010 (317008, $24.95) takes on Argentina by way of Southbrook (Ontario) and Sperling Family Vineyards (British Columbia) in the estimable hands of winemaker Ann Sperling. Husband and oeno-guru Peter Gamble joins forces to beeline straight for Luján de Cuyo typicity in deep cherry, pitching to black, solder spice and herbs smoldering in oak.  Cool and minting in its alveolate void. Interesting to say the least.  88  @VersadoWine

Versado Reserva Malbec 2009 (316984, $59.95) seems to travel a Hobbsian path laid out like Cobos cobblestone. At nearly two and a half times the cost of the Versado normale you might expect a revelation and you get one or two, if you allow your senses to drift out-of-body, into a lead crystal, Malbec state of consciousness. Tons of charcoal clouding the infundibular annals of the wine. Emerges as a scherzo in velvety tones, texture and structure.  90  @ArgentinaWineCA

The Californians

Langtry Guenoc Petite Sirah 2011 (19935, $17.95) is a more than commendable example out of the less than glamorous Lake County. At only 13% abv, the Langtry is modest and shy by PS standards, heavenly scented by blueberry, white chocolate and eucalyptus. California PS can be formidable stuff but here “I got a California rainbow to come give them thunder clouds a rest.”  87  @LangtryGuenoc

Highway 12 Highwayman 2010 (319186, $27.95) is a proprietary blend of Cabernet Franc (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) and Merlot (20%) from Sonoman Michael Sebastiani. Present but not overbearing 14.3% alcohol, decadent despite its roots but tempered by good chocolate, olives and herbs. The kind of brambly, inky blend you might swear had some Zinfandel or Syrah in the mix but straight Bordeaux it is. A whack of wine for $28 originally released down south at $42.  90  @highway12winery

The Australian

Dandelion Vineyards Lion’s Tooth of McLaren Vale Shiraz/Riesling 2010 (311233, $19.95) is not a typo or a joke. Riesling does round out this McLaren Vale Shiraz, not Viognier. Only an Aussie would take this risk and help me Rhonda if it doesn’t work. “I can give you lots a reasons why” this works and number one is balance. The dash of white kicks the red into gear – it may be a strange sensation for which there is no prior frame of reference, but boy if it don’t put me on a beach.  88  @mrkcstr

Good to go!

Going Rhône for the dog days of August

With just a shade over two weeks to go before Labour Day, here are seven wines to see you through the last dog days of summer. Who will argue that 2010 is not the Rhône’s vintage of the decade, no matter which way you flip the calendar. Seriously, no trick daddy. Ripeness, rhythm and a profundity of fruit will allow the 2010 Rhônes to age gracefully. “Mo’ punch than your bowl of juice.” Read on for recommendations on five first-rate Rhônes, a local Riesling and the prettiest little Spanish number to “take it to da house.”

as seen on canada.com

The grapes: Garnacha, Carinena and Syrah

The history: Spain’s Montsant region is the pioneer for red blends that coalesce French varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah with indigenous grapes

The lowdown: Purple, sugar, water and complexity. A post-profanity Chris Rock “drink” for grown-ups

The food match: Roast Beef Tenderloin, tempura soft-boiled egg, yukon gold bedaub

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

The grape: Riesling

The history: Calamus is one of only two Niagara wineries in this specific locale and their Rieslings are going to be big someday

The lowdown: Against all odds, more neo-noir Germanic than Niagara is how I would describe Riesling grown on the very young Vinemount Ridge appellation that lies just above and south of the brow of the Niagara Escarpment

The food match: Grilled Portuguese Raballo Fish, good olive oil

Calamus Riesling 2010 (158642, $16.95) is locally grown on shallow east- and south-facing slopes yet acts globally dispatched and advanced. Atypically Niagara, hinting at lemon, lime and citrus but veering more into stone peach territory. Notes of sweet sedge rising from hummocky clay, loam, silt and shale. Late grace of highly perfumed, feathery, non-fermented, tart, residual, grape sweetness, wie Süssreserve?  87

The grapes: Grenache and Syrah

The history: Classic Côtes du Rhône made by Philippe Cambie

The lowdown: This CdR is really focused on texture and mouth feel. Modern and delicious

The food match: Julia Child’s Fricassée de Poulet L’Ancienne

Les Halos de Jupiter Côtes du Rhône 2010 (276956, $17.95) of Cassis and fresh mint has changed only in that the (15%) mouth-meeting Syrah seems to be more vocal in making itself heard. A Monahan monk with good habits.  “Acts like summer and walks like rain.” The Jupiter is consistent with an earlier tasting… no orphan of the storm. It strides in angelic and sweet talking. Just plain smooth, cream filled and easy to drink. This CdR gives up copious Grenache from a velvet glove, ready to perform miracles88

The grapes: Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre

The history: The appellation of Vacqueyras plays understudy to principals Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The lowdown: When it’s good, Vacqueyras blows Côtes du Rhône away and when it’s only a few dollars more, it’s grand theft vino

The food match: Garlic and Lavender Studded Pork Butt

Domaine Grandy Vacqueyras 2010 (287532, $18.95) has dogs begging from the sidewalk for its boucherie scents of roti de porc et beouf. The Mourvèdre is not shy, brooding over the softer Grenache and inky Syrah all Rihanna, smokey campfire and monstrous-like. The Grandy “tried to be expressive without bein’ aggressive,” but it wasn’t the first time a Vacqueyras was hard to resist.  89

The grape: Sangiovese

The history: Chianti’s greatest gift has yet to sweep across the globe like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah. This too will change

The lowdown: McLaren Vale (pioneered by Coriole) was its first OZ stop and now Barossa, more specifically Mt. Crawford is making a Sangiovese splash

The food match: Ziti, Holy Trinity Ragù and Reggiano Parmesan

Domain Day One Serious Sangiovese 2007 (683243, $21.95) is, as its proprietor Robin Day notes, “savoury, rustic and elegant.” Brick-red like a Sienese piazza, the Day is a bareback rider astride a Palio race horse, a muscle-dense, graceful snow horse and a tough mudder of a cart horse. Five years old and drinking at peak.   90

The Splurges

The grapes: Grenache Blanc, Roussanne

The history:  Can’t recall a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape sold in these parts other than some of the biggest icons (Beaucastel, Vieux-Telegraphe, Beaurenard)

The lowdown: You get everything you pay for and more. Same price as the (2nd wine) Coudoulet de Beaucastel Blanc for the same dough

The food match: Chicken Tagine and Cous Cous

Brotte Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2010 (74203, $29.95) is a veritable museum of Southern Rhône aromas. Bending piperitious lavender and nettles, mighty haughty for Grenache Blanc and chock full of nuts. Rousanne lifts the herbs and spices with blossoms orange and white. CVR** choice to enjoy now and to age five plus years.  90

The grapes: Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Vaccarèse, Cinsault and Counoise

The history: Grenache (75+%) dominates this kitchen sink Châteauneuf-du-Pape red of the Southern Rhône

The lowdown: Very few iconic CdP producers offer this kind of quality for the price. La Nerthe, Vieux Lazaret and Beaurenard are in the same league

The food match: Braised Veal Shoulder Sandwich, sharp mustard, wild leek pickle

Bosquet Des Papes Cuvée Tradition Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 (726687, $42.95) lives on the elegant side of the street. The 2010 CdP’s are simply stunning and while most have the pedal pressed firmly on modern metal, the BdP is grounded and down to earth. Pretty, purple colour, agrarian attitude, pastoral, mistral moulding. Builds to a crescendo of intensity in flavour, indicating 10 years should be granted to unleash the limits of its power.  90

Good to go!

Lovin’ the whites of summer

Andreas Haertle, Fotolia.com

canada.com

A blessed country this Canada we live in. We weather storms and survive difficulties as well as any nation. We are not too big to fail. We’re lucky and fortunate too. The eastern United States remains mired in a catastrophe of heat and power outages while we enjoy an unprecedented stretch of warm temperatures, cooling breezes and blue skies. We will see a blip in the weather for the next day or two,  but by the end of the week the temperature and clear skies are slated to return and stay with us for an extended period of time. White wine sales are soaring, quality bottles evaporating and as we speak, a new wave of releases hits the shelves. Winemakers from Ontario and British Columbia continue to pump up the volume and their efforts demand attention. This (so far) phenomenal growing season of 2012 can only add to the growing legacies. There is no time like the present to opine on what to look for now in anticipation of another glorious weekend ahead.

The grape: Semillon

The history: Understudy or partner to Sauvignon Blanc in Bordeaux whites

The lowdown: Single varietal versions from Australia, especially the Hunter Valley have been impressive. This is a rare B.C. bottling of alchemic elegance

The food match: Grilled Wild B.C. Salmon under a Pommery mustard sauce

Mt. Boucherie Estate Collection Semillon 2008 (279364, $19.95, $14.99 B.C.) is exactly what the doctor ordered for those who can no longer tolerate red wine. Full-bodied Chardonnay need not be the only alternative. Porcine, butcher shop and fresh-churned butter aromas, beeswax and simmering vegetable stock too. Stand alone Semillon will rise up to fish, especially Sockeye, chicken and the other white meat. Deli-meats, especially Pingue Prosciutto would soak it up. Elongated and wraparound finish.  90

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: From Burgundy, one of the six great original wines of the world

The lowdown: Winemaker Dan Sullivan’s light touch ensures this Prince Edward County Chard is made in the vineyard

The food match: Grilled Shrimp with Citrus and Smoked Paprika

Rosehall Run Cuvée County Chardonnay 2009 (132928, $21.95) is “almost everything I need” from a P.E.C. white. Tart, mineral-driven with wood smoke and an expected but not over the top-level of brimstone. Sullivan’s street is paved with gold, and no one ever grows old.  89

The grape: Riesling

The history: Germany and Austria define mineral and petrol driven examples are built to last for a decade or more

The Lowdown: Hidden Bench is proving that the Beamsville Bench will lead the way for this versatile varietal

The food match: Pan-Roasted Whitefish and Pickerel with Lemon and Fresh Herbs

Hidden Bench Estate Riesling 2010 (183491, $24.20) strikes a phenomenal balance between obvious juicy fruit opposite hidden petrol and loess. The stone struck against rock under the sun’s glare is minor in key, as is the pulverulence. This Locust Lane Vineyard Riesling entrenches winemaker Beyers in maestro’s clothing as she takes the reigns from J. M. Bouchard.  89

The Splurge

The grape: Sauvignon Blanc

The history:  Most famous as Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé in the Loire and as the signature wine of New Zealand

The lowdown: If I were to fork out 50 bills for SB, this Russian River Valley beauty would be the one. Made with 33% Savagnin Musque, A Bordeaux-clone of Sauvignon Blanc.

The food match: Duck Tacos with Spicy Hoisin and Pickled Carrot

Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (283705, $47.95) spreads like gooseberry and guava butter on fresh summer corn. Unctuous, precise, fearlessly focused and endowed with a gamut of tropical flavours. Despite all that praise it plays a bit hard to get and is a bit of a tough nut to crack. Two years wait wouldn’t hurt.  91

Good to go!

Tasting through Portugal and the VINTAGES May 26th Release

Portuguese Corks

Three thematic release posts done, canada.com1, canada.com2, canada.com3, 16 more tasting notes to go. Shout out to Anne Yarymowich and Annick Le Goaix for some splendid Portuguese gastronomy last week at the AGO’s Wines of Portugal tasting. Read it at canada.com.

Anne Yarymovich. Credit: Dany Le Goaix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quinta do Infantado Red 2009 (95158, $21.95) was the best Portuguese wine I tasted. João Roseira uses no yeasts, no additives, just grapes fermenting and developing by themselves. This is wine truly made in the vineyard. Balance in every facet. Smokey, meaty and fat for a three Tinto Douro, the Infantado offers up the greatest of simple pleasures.  89

Wines of Portugal Tasting. Credit: Dany Le Goaix

Lingenfelder Freinsheimer Musikantelbuckel Riesling Kabinett 2010 (87593, $17.95) wins the award for longest label. Ciders with pretty, apple effervescence and Vidal-esque hairspray viscosity but ultimately buckles under its own weight. Sad to see it leaving sa-soon.  85

Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (229856, $99.95) would have been a beastly treat if it were not corked.  NR

Ridge Monte Bello 2009 (711085, $145.95) is a wow wine. Deep, deep purple. Thick, oily extract of red bark and sugary berries baked in a pie. Offers crazy love and goes the full monte. “I can hear her heartbeat for a thousand miles.” Strikes fear and loathing in Wineontarians in need of a price kvetch. Get over it. Good wine is expensive. Ciao Bello!  93

Rubicon Estate Cask Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (29553, $74,95) dry rubs its sweetheart of the rodeo nose with brown sugar, thyme, sage, molido, ancho and fleur de sel. There are more ingredients but if we revealed them we’d have to kill you. Country Rock Cabernet. You don’t miss your water when killing this. This Cask cries out for flesh.  90

Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (280107, $24.95) the creamy vanilla shaken, not stirred Cab. Good structure and backbone if not a whole lotta linear, skyscraping action.  87

Urraca Cabernet Sauvignion 2008 (271080, $19.95) of Agrelo identifies with Provence. Mired in the weeds of dill, borage and thistle. Further herbal notes of tarragon along with olives and tobacco. So much savoury.  85

Barossa Valley Estate Ebenezer Shiraz 2006 (971705, $39.95) is bold, beefy and blasted from blown speakers. The new pornography in Aussie Shiraz, impressive for its place and will show some balance 10 years on. Certainly no Scrooge and generous with matters of fruit and heart. “A lot of oyster but no pearls.” Will get you through a long December.  92

Tait The Ball Buster Red 2009 (269472, $24.95) is a bitch. Tart and flavoured by sun-kissed berries, jawbreaker and gobstopper. Dense and concentrated, “stone cold sober as a matter of fact.”  88

Astrolabe Voyage Pinot Noir 2009 (179200, $24.95) trips the tongue, grips the mouth and sends them spiralling into space. Expressive of vanilla and baking spices. Big tannins for Marlborough Pinot. Needs a little spirit of the west and to “go home for a rest.”  86

Sequillo Cellars Red 2009 (277996, $29.95) ankles along a rocky Swartland road. Hard lines make this ambitious South African seem Mourvedre dominated.  86

Momessin Les Griottes Morgon 2010 (276402, $17.95) casts a lovely opaque, red lollipop hue. Bitter tar, griottes and sherry join red apple in this darling Gamay. “Let there be sunlight, let there be rain,” drink this Beaujolais off and on again.  87

Chateau Pipeau 2008 (138131, $29.00) always offers great Bordeaux value but this bottle is flawed. Smells like merde NR

Di Majo Norante Ramitello 2009 (973214, $15.95) steps right up to the IVR* plate and antes up mezzogiorno shun with liturgical love. Sun melted licorice and grilling scents meet juicy acidity, finesse and restrained power. Molto bene89

Coto De Imaz Gran Reserva 2001 (976811, $29.95) is highly concentrated for Rioja, especially at 11 years old. Tempting leafy aromas as of tobacco and tumbling like a Billy Tallent riff.  Or is that just my Imaz-ination, “running away with me.”  88

Delas Frères Saint Esprit Côtes Du Rhône Rosé 2011 (224964, $12.95) offers up strawberry, rhubarb and cream with a savoury accent. Subtle pale, pink, see-through hue and warming humidity. Great value here. Rosie you’re all right. “Looks like it’s me and you again tonight.”  88

Good to go!

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-To-Value Ratio

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