I’m a little bit County

Keint-He Vineyards

Keint-He Vineyards

Aren’t we all? In the wake of recent frosts, a compounding ass-kicking at the hands of Mother Nature in the wake of two harsh winters, the farmers of Prince Edward County now have to work that much harder to make viable an already arduous road to growing Vinifera. I’m not so much the type to report on bad news so I leave it to my revered colleague Rick VanSickle to hand you the news. Rick does it with empathy, grace, subtlety and truth. Here is what he is telling us about vine damage in PEC.

UPDATED: Prince Edward County vineyards hit hard by brutal frost, Niagara assessing damage, Lake Erie North Shore spared wide-spread damage

If I was not before, with thoughts constantly streaming east to the north shores of Lake Ontario, where precarious soils sit like Buddha astride one very massive and far-stretching bed of limestone rock, at present I am a little bit County. Therefore today is the day to put some notes out on the Prince Edward County wines I tasted last month at Airship 37 in the Distillery district. The County came to town for their annual fair.

County in the City at Airship 37

County in the City at Airship 37

WineAlign primo scrittore David Lawrason presented his PEC state of the union address via the company website last week. David touched on some integral points for growers and winemakers in the County, including the rise of Riesling and a case for increasing plantings of varieties like Chenin Blanc. The story mentions new wineries and untrodden varietal production yet when all is said and done, the best wines on his recommended list are almost exclusively produced from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Those Burgundian soils don’t really lie, do they?

Related – Take them home, County wines

What strikes me most in this retrospective look at the 40 or so wines that I tasted last month is how varieties perform once the vines have matured and their profiles becoming increasingly County in character. Maturity, wisdom and acumen are developing a condensing of Prince Edward County hyperbole. The wines are serially developing a house style and regional disposition. With each successive vintage the wines of Norman Hardie, Dan Sullivan, Jonas Newman, Frédéric Picard, Glen Symons, Bryan Rogers, Paul Battilana, Gerry Spinosa, Colin Stanners, Caroline Granger, Bruno Francois, Bill Turnbull, Dan Tweyman, Deborah Paskus (to Keith Tyers) and the late Richard Karlo (with torch passed to Milan Vujnic) leave the Burgundy comparison behind to speak a strictly PEC vernacular.

Maggie Granger with The Grange of Prince Edward County Gamay Select 2009

Maggie Granger with The Grange of Prince Edward County Gamay Select 2009

The voice and the news is a very good thing. The clarity of the County is glaring and vivid, leading to what David Lawrason calls “great highs to significant lows,” but yes, Lawrason is correct in saying “overall the playing field is evening out.” Prince Edward County is coming into its own, growing comfortably into its cool skin and if mother nature has any balancing to offer, the future will be bright.

Related – You can lead a county to the city

Keint He Chardonnay Voyageur 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (389544, $16.00, WineAlign)

A quiet, somewhat demurred aromatic hone succeeds in drawing rather than distancing curiosity. Deeper inhalation gets to the toasty, nutty crux of the cool fruit and the conclusion is valour, chivalry and generosity. Picks right up where ’12 left off if just a bit more gelid by nature. Niagara fruit (Foxcroft, Queenston and Malivoire) provide ample combined cream and lactic limestone tack with palate driving citrus bent. Takes up several lanes of breadth on the texture trek to become a distinct PEC composed Chardonnay. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted April 2015

Keint He Chardonnay Portage 2013, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

The PEC derived Portage Chardonnay goes deeper than the Niagara Voyageur, no doubt in part to roots from maturing vines that work and dig for limestone. That raison d’être is the constant yet in ’13 the expression is rounder, fleshier, enigmatic, akin or at least prompts the idea of June’s Vineyard in Niagara. Shows its oak with increased weight, fuller favour and more beneficial bitters. The minor decrease in acidity stalls the Prince Edward County mechanism and solicits earlier term consumption. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted April 2015

Keint He Chardonnay Foxcroft 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

A year on the wilder times have settled for the early aromatics. The progression pauses at the juste milieu and gracefully glides across the palate to a similar nimble finish. Has reached the optimum condition of cool climate Chardonnay to remain in that state of pliancy for another year or two. Drink 2015-2017.

From my earlier note of February 2014:

Fruit sourced from a single Niagara block. Despite having made the yeomans voyageur trek out to the County for vinification, integrity of the Foxcroft vibe has been maintained. Freshly cored Kenyan pineapple juice poured atop oat grain in a limestone molcajete. Bottled on Sept. 15th, like all the ‘12’s. Fullish, bullish extraction and at 13.5 percent abv, this Foxcroft has been handled with Wise acumen, with more rich texture than the others. A chew of nutty, non-acidic hard pineapple comes later and this finishes with a mild-mannered, even keel feel to it, like the winemaker and the estate’s keeper.

Last tasted April 2015

Keint He Gamay Noir Voyageur 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)
From fruit sourced at Malivoire on the Beamsville Bench and from a vineyard that was lost to the ice storm of 2014. Really too bad considering the outright fresh and bright Gamay that has come forth out of this ’13. Black raspberry, at just the optimum brix fills in this shining though simple example. It has just the correct balance of tart and twinge of carbonic meets late spice. Its simplicity lies in the structure where one component concedes to the next, as opposed to layering upon one another. Very linear and immediate Gamay. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted April 2015

Keint He Pinot Noir Voyageur 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.00, WineAlign)

Quite a pretty vintage for the PEC Pinot traveller by way of Malivoire and Queenston Road in Niagara. With a spray of cola and an inside edge of liquorice root in its gait, the Peninsula Pinot has already ignited its development. The 18 months in bottle have finished designing the invitation to solicit partake in reward for prompt gratification. The world is a charming one, replete with interchangeable aromatics and flavours, replayed, rewound and woven within the fabrics. Very efficient and studious Pinot Noir. Very Pinot Noir. Drink 2015-20178.  Tasted April 2015

Keint He Pinot Noir Portage 2013, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $20.00, WineAlign)

Depth of character despite the light hue and frame, a dichotomy expressed in Pinot Noir, in this vintage most akin to entry-level Bourgogne and less like its County self. Goes directly subterranean, away from fruit, if only for a spell, to a bound and binding rock cavern. Returns later, is showered by peppers and bitters, ground by tannin and grinds back down to earth. Missing are the cherries and the chocolate, replaced by wacke and substrata. Perhaps give it a year or two to settle, refine and make another call for that hermetical fruit. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2015

Keint He Pinot Noir Queenston Road 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Keint He’s take on a single-structured Pinot Noir from the Queenston Road is highly aromatic, warmer than (by comparison, Creekside Estate’s) and yet not obscured or veiled by any discernible layer of veneer. The cool, savoury centre is the oasis offering respite from the full environmental gamut on display at the hands of sweet, sour, salty and lardy. Quite characterful, bold and cool-climate kitschy with a kinesthetic, corporeal feel. When Bryan Rogers and Ross Wise gain another level of Queenston understanding, it will not be hard to imagine a churning of something special in 2013. I’d put my money on it. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2015

The Grange of Prince Edward County Gamay Select 2009, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $15.95, WineAlign)

Daughter (Maggie) convinced mother (Caroline) to let her hold back 15 cases of this County Gamay, a variety that has some difficulty sharing the sandbox with limestone. The additional five years in bottle has brought the downy fruit back from acidity’s precarious cliff edge, from the brink of piercing danger and disaster. The current state is one of conciliation and quiescence. There remains a major key of funk mind you, parliamentary even, but sniff past and the plot thickens, as does the texture. Chalky, gritty and persistently grainy, this ’09 Gamay is very much alive, like a scaling bass line supported by a rising horn section. A real fun look at the past with an eye to drive the future. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted April 2015

The wines of Norman Hardie

The wines of Norman Hardie

Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2013, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (125310, $39.00, WineAlign)

Procuring depth in County Pinot Noir is a tough task within the constraints of resisting a temptation to reach for sugars, alcohol and dark berry fruit. Norm Hardie’s 2013 unfiltered (at 10.9 per cent) and lambent exegesis succeeds because it offers the best of all available worlds. Roots for vines that burrow to limestone develop a structure that while may have at one time been inconsistent, have crossed the threshold in ’13 to establish a guarantee. A Hardie PEC Pinot Noir can be bright and accessible. It can also be tough, tart and tannic, as it is here, again, but not without its foil. The work is now innate, the transitions seamless, the crossroads left in the dust. This wine will please two camps; those who can afford and demand immediate gratification and those who are willing to wait for secondary (two to three years) and tertiary (four to seven) character development. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted April 2015

Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (125310, $39.00, WineAlign)

The anxiety of the vintage has not left the bottle while the raging fruit and acidity battle for supremacy. The space-time-chaos continuum will perdure in this Pinot Noir of unpaired anatomical structure. Wait a further three years minimum for the azygous to drain. The heft will subside. Drink 2018-2022.

From my earlier note of March 2013:

Norman Hardie needs little introduction. He is the reason Prince Edward County Pinot will secure a place on that grape’s world stage. The 2011 vintage will go down as a classic for PEC. The tens have mass appeal, the nines turned out to be stellar but it is the elevens that gather the best of both worlds; ripeness and acidity. Stock up. Paints the County red in layered and structured brushstrokes. Ripe, bright cherry tonality in super-heightened, mesmeric sensuality. Accented by weeping rock, black earth and that cherry. Would not figure this to be Norm’s most rugged or gregarious and yet it holds more heft than it looks. Currently in a great place and will live longer than any other.

Last tasted April 2015

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

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

From my earlier more of May 2014:

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

Last tasted April 2015

Casa Dea Gamay 2013, Huff Estates Chardonnay South Bay Vineyards 2012 and Karlo Estates Pinot Grigio 2013

Casa Dea Gamay 2013, Huff Estates Chardonnay South Bay Vineyards 2012 and Karlo Estates Pinot Grigio 2013

Karlo Estates Pinot Grigio 2013, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $21.00, WineAlign)

The adage is so very true; a good Pinot Grigio is hard to find, just like a man. The take here is decidedly and strikingly Pinot Grigio, a flash of Friuli and a Bessie to be reckoned with. This just has that positive, smithy oxidative side, the kind that rocks and stones mixed with winemaking cause an exchange of electrons between reactants. The fruit is big, lucidly piqued by pear, but also leaning mango and jack. Quite fleshy, with schematic, scenic, natural acidity and panoramic minerality. This is about as mnemonic as it gets for Gris, or in this case Grigio, in Prince Edward County, especially considering who the buyers will be. One can only hope they intuit the condition and here’s to planning for that consumer base to expand. “Lord, a good (Pinot Grigio) is hard to find, you always get another kind.” Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted April 2015

Lighthall Sparkling Rosé ‘The Fence’ 2014, VQA Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

This is Glen Symon’s first Sparkling Rosé, a 100 per cent Pinot Noir from estate vineyards, refermented using the Charmat method. Intensely fizzy, in toto fruity and actually gives off a Pinot Noir vibe. Something racy, spicy and wild runs rampant, rendering this blush bubble in an Ontario class of its own. It’s like 1980’s alt-dance fizz, with a New Order or B-52 thing going on. It just seems to do the “she-ga-loo, shy tuna, camel walk, hip-o-crit, coo-ca-choo, aqua velva, dirty dog and escalator.” Has the direct beat, retro and futuristic at the same time. Dance this mess around, in sweet and savoury tones, warm, day-glo, slow and gyrating. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted April 2015

Lighthall Pinot Noir 2013, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

This may not be the first Pinot Noir made by Glen Symons but it marks a categorical paradigm shift for the Lighthall oeuvre. Elicits a “well, well, what have we here” response. Unfiltered, reflexive and flexing, not so much in weight as in protein. This is an entirely different sort of Prince Edward County Pinot Noir, neither dark as black cherry nor bright as sour cherry. It’s aromas and flavours recall both. I can’t say for sure that any Ontario Pinot has crossed into such territory. Offers a shade of calignosity for those who believe that genuine Pinot Noir only thrives in the dark. Yet the clarity is conversely illuminating. It’s pure, crisp and forking over real gastronomic delicacy. Intimates aspects of Sonoma and Otago with PEC intimacy. Really well-defined and culminating with a positive bitter finish. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted April 2015

Huff Estates Chardonnay South Bay Vineyards 2012, Lighthall Pinot Noir 2013 and Sparkling Rosé 'The Fence' 2014

Huff Estates Chardonnay South Bay Vineyards 2012, Lighthall Pinot Noir 2013 and Sparkling Rosé ‘The Fence’ 2014

Huff Estates Chardonnay South Bay Vineyards 2012, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

Reductive but not to excess. If you can appreciate a Norm Hardie Chardonnay then Huff’s style is a walk in the park. A few swirls brings the rest of the players to the fore stage and the party. This is big band Chardonnay, with a feminine and demonstrative lead vocalist. Richly textured, from PEC plots at South Bay that are the Niagara equivalent of Wismer Vineyards, lending warmth, soil fixation and unconscious aid. There is a level of supposition that leads to breeding a sensation of succulence that is not found anywhere else in the County. Barrel is important, mostly unobtrusive and so this gathers up layers, separates, divides and then meshes. The wood is employed towards a west coast groove but it works with the best, best fruit. The corpulence is not built on butter but rather demi-glace, or perhaps perfect beurre-blanc. A very long and driven Chardonnay. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted April 2015

Rosehall Run Riesling The Righteous Dude 2014

Rosehall Run Riesling The Righteous Dude 2014

Rosehall Run Riesling The Righteous Dude 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

Thank you Dan Sullivan for the fodder, to go on more tangents than should be allowed in a tasting note. And thank you for fixing a righteous Riesling, exemplary to Twenty Mile Bench and in a vein that represents the Double R. Has Mosel meets 20 Mile in verse. Feigned sweetness is managed by thriving acidity, much as others have similarly done in the area; Jay Johnston with Nadja and Paul Pender with Limestone Vineyard. Here lies Niagara Riesling you can really sink your teeth into, made by PEC-minded folk, really tying the Ontario room together. A hooked rug of Niagara and PEC in the hands of Sullivan, with really fine lines and good length. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted April 2015

Casa Dea Gamay 2013, Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $15.95, WineAlign)

Fine work in 2013, for Gamay, by winemaker Paul Batillana. Gamay is so very welcome when the fruity matter matters most, as witnessed by this Casa Dea. Some depth from soil and an ever so slight scorch of earth add complexity to hang a #GoGamayGo hat upon. Has the bends in a way, going just a bit too deep but rescues itself with a fresh radio frequency and a changeling face to red orchard fruit. This has real cru class, good funky bass and a driving sound to regeneration. Will evolve nicely for five years. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted April 2015

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Seven compelling picks from VINTAGES for January 24

Potato Pancakes

Potato Pancakes

Today I will go out and taste another set of wines, graciously if institutionally laid out by our hosts at the LCBO. The challenge in assessment will be, as always, in the unearthing of the gems from within the larger group. There are always great wines to discover. That is the joy.

Two weeks ago I did the same. From that mass of juice I first published last week on the Spanish beauties that stood out to be counted. As far as a feature thematic goes, the Spanish armada was very impressive. Does that not say something about the state of quality in Spanish wine today? Like the wines presented below, those Spaniards are another group of wines whose future is being remembered with each passing sip.

Related – Varietal Spanish wine

In wine there exists minute atomic particles spinning and interacting in space, in the bottle and in the glass. Sure that’s really all there is. But we think, perhaps too much, yet still we think. The ritual relationship between vines and wines is based not only on rooted human connections to these vines and wines but also on a far more subtle intuition. It’s based on the idea that the vines and wines are breathed into actuality by civilized consciousness. Wine is compelling and begs to be entwined and transformed by the human imagination.

So, after that piece of grand advice, shopping list in hand, find a store nearby with any or all of these seven recommended bottles and have a great, wine-soaked January weekend.

From left to right: Aubert Visan Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2013, Rosehall Run Cuvée Hungry Point Unoaked Chardonnay 2013, Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2011, Vignobles De Balma Vénitia Cuvée Saint Roch Vacqueyras 2011, Domaines Schlumberger Saering Riesling 2011, William Fèvre Chablis Montmains Premier Cru 2012, Podere La Vigna Brunello Di Montalcino 2008

From left to right: Aubert Visan Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2013, Rosehall Run Cuvée Hungry Point Unoaked Chardonnay 2013, Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2011, Vignobles De Balma Vénitia Cuvée Saint Roch Vacqueyras 2011, Domaines Schlumberger Saering Riesling 2011, William Fèvre Chablis Montmains Premier Cru 2012, Podere La Vigna Brunello Di Montalcino 2008

Aubert Visan Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2013, Ac Rhône, France (224915, $15.95, WineAlign)

Highly modern, evolved and warm weather friend. Red fruits dominate the aromas and on the palate a good angst lurks of something darker and ferric, though not over the top. Has a level of complexity that will see it to future days of coming together. Tannins and acidity are tough so give it three to five years. Well made and more than laudable value in Côtes Du Rhône.  Tasted January 2015  @warren_walden  @VINSRHONE

Rosehall Run Cuvée Hungry Point Unoaked Chardonnay 2013, VQA Prince Edward County (401208, $19.95, WineAlign)

With five months to solidify the intent, now the County fruit is revealed as a very upfront and happy place fitted, unbaked Chardonnay. “Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowing,” the wine is hungry in heart, riverine pointed and a touch effervescent. This is to be liked, in an Irish belt and Germanic sangfroid meets Moscato d’Asti melding way. Not as dry as some other Ontario unplugged but inflected of a similar floral and leesy profile. Very unique take. From my earlier, August 2014 note: “What is so striking about Dan Sullivan’s unoaked Chardonnay is the classic and unmistakeable County perfume that can only be his. No matter the grape, a Sullivan white is a cold play of pear and citrus, made most obvious when oak is not around to confuse. A Rosehall white is always the most glycerin-textured in the County and Sullivan’s light touch ensures this PEC Chard is made in the vineyard. There is a lightness in its being but it is one of the better unoaked wines made in the region.” Last tasted January 2015  @Rosehall_Run  @sullywine

Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2011, Tuscany, Italy (168286, $21.95, WineAlign)

You have to swirl the stuffing out of this Chianti Classico, to aerify the concentrated must, soften the smithy metal and shake the dust out of the skeletal toys in the attic. In Chianti sometimes “nothing’s seen, real’s a dream.” After that it’s so very volatile, angry, biting, scathing and downright agitated. But it’s big and bruising, full of prune, fig and a real CC swagger. Very large for CC, in full conceit and with all those opposing forces in battle, I can see this aging for 10 plus years. Would like to see where it goes when it settles. In the later stages there is a funk, of the extra-terrestial Tuscan kind. Fun Sangiovese.  Tasted January 2015  @chianticlassico

Vignobles De Balma Vénitia Cuvée Saint Roch Vacqueyras 2011, Ac Rhône, France (4003822, $24.95, WineAlign)

Delicious smelling Vacqueyras, of pure red fruit distillation, bursting berries and a smouldering of warm earth. Breath deeply and it doth not burn at all, a sign of great restraint and seamless forward thinking. Nice soft structure and carries itself with such poise. What’s not to love here?  Tasted January 2015  @TheCaseForWine

Domaines Schlumberger Saering Riesling 2011, Ac Alsace Grand Cru, France (627950, $33.95, WineAlign)

To the north of Guebwiller, the vineyard is “the peninsula on the plain.” More often than not drier than the others, less weighty than Kitterlé and on par with Kessler, 2011 is the year of its kinship. Here alights the lemon drop, petrol, vintage given and vintage using searing Schlumberger. I have tasted the last five (in Saering, Kessler and Kitterlé) and here is the most intense of the group. Really wound tight, rolled into a fine Riesling cigar, with the stuffing to see that its “gonna go far, fly high…never gonna die.” Saering, those who wait patiently for you to become a star, “they’re gonna love you.” Tart and chalky, very calcareous, very serious. This needs 10 years to see heights elevated into another stratosphere.  Tasted January 2015  @drinkAlsace

William Fèvre Chablis Montmains Premier Cru 2012, Burgundy, France (977587, $49.95, WineAlign)

A revisit (nine months after first tasting) confirms the ascertained earth, the gathered calcaire and the efficiency of mastering this plot. While neither as elegant as Les Lys or as intense as Mont Milieu, the Montmains is struck by stark, lees melding structure and mouthfeel. The sensation is like sucking on a slow-release tablet of concentrated Montmains. It’s pointed, rigid and saline, like a bone from the skin of the sea. Amazing tannin. The weight is gathered from dynamism that turns seas to rock, rock to liquid. Needs five more years.  Last tasted January 2015  @WilliamFevre  @WoodmanWS  @BIVBChablis

Podere La Vigna Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Tuscany, Italy (390807, $49.95, WineAlign)

If ever there was a glaring example of how a wine can polarize a room full of tasters, the Podere La Vigna Brunello is the dictionary entry. There is no doubt that it reeks of classic Sangiovese Grosso, of leather hides, centuries old liqueurs and hanging carcasses. Straight up, this is an animal, of Montalcino animale and animated beyond suspended belief. A combination of heavy syrup and evolution are well ahead of the curve. That in itself is not the issue, but rather the earthy, pruned fruit, overripe and heavily extracted. It’s a hematoma of a Brunello, with the swelling rising in the wine like bruises but, that said, it’s so very Brunello. Acidity is present but falls a bit short, while the length is just decent. I am not blown away by its ancient and pageant charms because it will not last. Were it a ’95 it would have huge appeal. but if consumed in 2033 it will most certainly provide for some muddy water.  Tasted January 2015  @buonvini  @ConsBrunello

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A common weal of September VINTAGES best buys

Innisfiil Sunflowers

Innisfiil Sunflowers

September has its share of excellence being revealed, particularly this coming weekend with the VINTAGES September 13, 2014 release. This is a perfect time to investigate the wares from this province. The weekend also marks the launch of the  initiative, in conjunction with Wine Country Ontario. Then on October 2nd, Wine Country is coming to the Royal Ontario Museum. There will be 255 wines poured by 55 producers at Taste Ontario.

Related – The LCBO and WineAlign go local

For years now the fine wine and premium spirits division of the LCBO, known benevolently to Wineontarians as VINTAGES, has been rolling out releases every two weeks. There are always somewhere between five and ten wines on each listing that, were I independently wealthy and helplessly wine obsessed in reckless abandon, would always buy. There are also upwards of 100 or more that I would not. Were I presented a glass half full, to most of them I would offer my thanks and sip away. There are also five to ten not worth the price of admission. As a member of the wine writer’s commonwealth of Ontario it is my trusted duty to help make sense of the bi-weekly barrage and to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Wine critics can be fussy people, tough mudders with palates sheathed by caparison. They can go from saying things like “not as good as the last shipment” to “I’m tired of tasting shit.” Even the most curmudgeonly of critics must play his part to promote the happiness, health, and wine safety of all of the people of a community. It is an honour to be trusted with a duty to taste, consider and then discard what is simply not right. The expectation and the responsibility is to find the most natural and honest wines made available, however fleeting and rare the opportunities may be.

Here are four from across the pond and 10 Ontario wines being unpacked onto LCBO shelves as we speak. Get out there and #LCBOGoLocal.

From left to right: Flat Rock Riesling 2013, Château Saint Estève Corbières 2011, Palazzo Maffei Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2011, Rosehall Run Cuvée County Chardonnay 2011, Peller Estates Private Reserve Cabernet Franc 2011, Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2012, Thirty Bench Red 2012                                      Photos: Jason Dziver

From left to right: Flat Rock Riesling 2013, Château Saint Estève Corbières 2011, Palazzo Maffei Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2011, Rosehall Run Cuvée County Chardonnay 2011, Peller Estates Private Reserve Cabernet Franc 2011, Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2012, Thirty Bench Red 2012 Photos: Jason Dziver, Photographer (http://www.jasondziver.com/)

Flat Rock Riesling 2013, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (43281, $16.95, WineAlign)

The FR Riesling cover girl gets a swift kick in the backside by gas blanketed, dehydrated pear and a sprinkle of rock sugar. Citrus peel, candied again, with medicinal silt. Rocky Riesling spread liberally across a horizontal canvas. From my earlier April 2014 note: “Just bottled a few weeks ago so the note to self is to expect a subtraction of preoccupation. Anything but. Though not as frantic as the Nadja’s sampled from tank back in February, the preview to the ’13 Estate is in show of so much zest, premature acidity and an overly enthusiastic outpouring of juicy emotion. The scraped zest is present in every respect, along with green mango, Himalayan salt and a squeeze of lime. There is attitude and altitude from this precocious Riesling and there’s no doubt it and the ’13 Nadja will be better than anticipated out of tank. Forget the infancy, wow is it showing well.”  Last tasted August 2014  @Winemakersboots  @brightlighter1  @UnfilteredEd

Château Saint Estève Corbières 2011, Ap, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (377218, $17.95, WineAlign)

Corbieres excellence. Nothing funky going on here. A minor amount sees the inside of the fûts but how great it is to find such a clean, fruit forward, straight from the tank example. Made from (40 per cent) Grenache, (30) Syrah, (20) Carignan and (10) Mourvèdre. Certainly showing modern fruit but the low yield (35hl/ha) altruism and cleanliness is next to Midi-ness. A touch of chalk and milky chocolate with some vanilla and lavender too. Simple, effective (if a touch soapy) French red.  Tasted August 2014

Palazzo Maffei Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2011, Doc (338913, $17.95, WineAlign)

This is a massive Valpolicella, fully enriched by chocolate in countless ways, on many levels and in dry ice dreams. It’s a baby Amarone incarnate and if you are going that route, try this on instead for a mere pittance at $18. Huge wine, with exaggerated mannerisms in oak and high alcohol, though not volatile, even if the structure is value-driven pedestrian. Will work for a welcoming, big-hair crowd.  Tasted August 2014  @HHDImports_Wine

Rosehall Run Cuvée County Chardonnay 2011, VQA Prince Edward County (132928, $21.95, WineAlign)

Today Dan Sullivan’s Chardonnay concentrates on its excellence while compressing in reduction. Beyond the encapsulating abstraction there are the rocks beneath the earth and by extension, the vines of hard-working fruit. Fruit surrounded by the spice of barrel. Tasted extensively over a 24 hour period I found this walks the line, takes on all comers, hovers over and has the guts to merely sigh at the distractions. Give this Chardonnay years, more than most, perhaps even 10 plus. In 2011, Chablis trumps barrel.  Tasted August 2014  @Rosehall_Run  @sullywine

Peller Estates Private Reserve Cabernet Franc 2011, VQA Four Mile Creek, Ontario (598078, $21.95, WineAlign)

A touch of reduction but the thought goes straight to serious wine and attentive winemaking. The barrel is not king, the fruit big and boisterous. It’s a bit hyper-fruity, steroidal even but it is anything but thin and certainly not encumbered by process or wood. A hint of soap is a detractor admittedly, but the acumen and level of higher learning is evident and commendable. This will be a wine to look at for years to come.  Tasted August 2014  @PellerVQA

Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (275958, $21.95, WineAlign)

The 2012 Triomphe Cabernet Franc receives a meld of mellow, blending support from 12.4 per cent Merlot and the marriage is quietly non-contentious. That blending decision by winemaker Ann Sperling, along with the praiseworthy choice to forego obtrusive oak is as good as a golpe on the Niagara Cab Franc oeuvre. The use of large format (80 hectolitre), no splinters allowed oak vats over wood spice and milkshake imparting barrels is an easy swallow for sore palates. The ’12 Triomphe is an elongated and elastic Cab Franc, with nary a foray into the tobacco, bell pepper and cloying currant currency of so many predecessors. The co-fermenting of disparate, north and south, estate blocks in those vats has done wonders on the preservation of a warm vintage’s, judiciously picked (21.8 per cent brix at harvest) fresh fruit. Terrific decisions all in for a highly accessible, brand and varietal ambassador for Niagara.  Tasted August 2014  @SouthbrookWine

Thirty Bench Red 2012, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (320986, $24.00, WineAlign)

Big red machine, really ahead of the class, especially in this price range, with this much stuffing. A full complement of fruit, bushy and falling just as it’s picked from the trees, not to mention quality, quality, sweet earth. This is jazzy, boozy and sparked, from ‘round midnight, smoky, exotic and global. Has the discipline of a monk to groove low and low, the stuffing and Thelonious tannin to boot. Wait for it, let the band play then give way. The solo will be fantastic.  Tasted August 2014  @ThirtyBench

Norman Hardie Unfiltered Niagara Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula

From left to right: Tawse Pinot Noir Growers Blend 2010, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Le Volte Dell’ornellaia 2012, Dominio De Tares Cepas Viejas Mencia 2009, Château Des Charmes Merlot St. David’s Bench Vineyard 2012, Domaine Queylus Tradition Pinot Noir 2011, Charles Baker Wines Riesling ‘Picone Vineyard’ 2011, Norman Hardie Unfiltered Niagara Pinot Noir 2011 Photos: Jason Dziver, Photographer (http://www.jasondziver.com/)

Tawse Pinot Noir Growers Blend 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (284570, $26.95, WineAlign)

Where at one time the GB Pinot Noir fought among its moving parts it now sits in permanent cease-fire mode. A position that realizes warm fruit, settled wood spice and linear acidity. Needs no more scaling or ropy ascension. It has reached the planing platform and going forward will glide effortlessly back down to ground. Where it began. From my earlier October 2013, April and May 2014 notes. “Though it’s a blend of several sites, this Tawse Pinot stands alone and of itself as a grower; it grows on you after multiple tastings. The first go ’round seems simple, vintage warm and tight. Taste again and the sappy wood seeps mineral, the phenolic red cherry ripeness turns black and the tempering is led by a sweet earth kind. Earth that smoulders in a rising Zeppelin kept afloat by tobacco and the swirling spores of pungent mushroom. Pinot Noir truth and value from a Niagara house of the holy kind. “You know-whoa, that’s right.” 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.”  Last Tasted August 2014  @Tawse_Winery  @Paul_Pender

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Le Volte Dell’ornellaia 2012, Igt Toscana (964221, $26.95,WineAlign)

What can you say about Le Volte? Is she the most immediately rewarding, fruit forward and accessible Super Tuscan ever put on offer? Does this cuvée  of Merlot (50 per cent), Sangiovese (30) and Cabernet Sauvignon (20) offer a portal through which to peer into the future of the Ornellaia grande? From a warm but not excessively hot season, the fruit teases, like a kiss that leaves a lipstick stain on the cheek, a taste that makes you crazy and dreaming of more. Time spent in barrels once used by the matron first wine equates to a morning of chocolate, Nutella and cappuccino in the piazza. Full on, with much more texture than ever before. She is beautiful, but is her beauty fleeting? Drink over the next two to four years.  Tasted August 2014  @Ornellaia  @AuthenticWineON

Dominio De Tares Cepas Viejas Mencia 2009, Bierzo, Spain (379891, $26.95, WineAlign)

Fruit for this Bierzo is from old vines and is aged in a combination of French and American oak. An industrious rolling stone and two steps up example above and beyond for what usually passes as basic and simple Mencia. The Dominio de Tares is exactly the reason to ante up. Bierzo as a region produces exceptional quality wines at this price point but suffers a stenosis in the lower ranges. Here the intoxicating and delicious fumes are resonant of just caramelizing brown sugared fruits, formidable though sweet tannins and an enveloping that’s “all right now, in fact, it’s a gas” Displays and prances about with an incredible amount of energy and jumping jack flash. “It’s a gas, gas, gas.”  Tasted August 2014  @oenophilia1

Château Des Charmes Merlot St. David’s Bench Vineyard 2012, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (453431, $29.95, WineAlign)

The vintage does Merlot a wondrous gifting and coupled with what strikes as an unusual salinity, this is a most unique take on the Merlot perspective. In the middle vacuum what is expected takes a turn; shaken, crushed berries with chocolate shavings and brushstrokes made by a weighty utensil but in the end it returns to the vintage specific layering. Well made with caveat to and from Merlot.  Tasted August 2014  @MBosc

Domaine Queylus Tradition Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (392738, $29.95, WineAlign)

The passion from the Thomas Bachelder Niagara project has shifted into Domaine Queylus. With no disrespect to Thomas’ eponymous bottling from vineyards so nearby, the quality time has now been granted the Tradition. Here lies Mountainview and Le Petite Colline earth, here crushes Niagara cherries in hand, juice running down a clay caked forearm. Fresh and bright yet streaked by chalk and enveloping brush stroke. Sour? For a flash but in neither malic nor astringent form. This is a must buy. From my earlier June 2014 note: “Reverberates with the unmistakable calling card character of the storied Neudorf family La Petite vineyard with equal and opposite amounts of attraction and new life breathed in by the Lincoln Lakeshore fruit. Ethereally sifted earth of old meets cherries of new. Enriching Pinot Noir, a bit gangling like a primitive young giraffe but near to finding its legs. Hard working red, insistent, confident and having already paid some dirty fingernail dues. Excellent length.”  Last tasted August 2014  @QueylusVin

Charles Baker Wines Riesling ‘Picone Vineyard’ 2011, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (241182, $35.20, WineAlign)

You can take Riesling from out of the Vinemount Ridge but you can’t take Vinemount Ridge out from a Charles Baker Picone. The layers of tectonic shale and the slowly espressed fruit that swim within the waves of those layers make for the total oscillating package. Has moved nowhere, not sideways even, since last tasted, though today, from this bottle, there’s an awkward, shy adolescence. From my earlier May 2014 note: “Some sweetness now, but not in a flirting way. This will be a September VINTAGES release (with pink on the label as part of an LCBO/Princess Margaret fundraiser). Has not so much evolved but rather “come groovin’ up slowly,” since last tasted. Still got “joo joo eyeballs,” still tough in tension. Years left before it will come together, yeah.” From my earlier, October 2013 note: “does not so much pick up where cracking ’09 left off (with no offence meant to the soothing and tuneful ’10) but rather re-writes the Baker book. From the almost famous windswept vineyard atop the Vinemount Ridge, this Picone, from older Riesling plantings is crazy lively. That ’10 is now imbued with rich, oily glück. The ’11 will realize such a future, but much further along and in combination with its inborn tension. Right up there with Baker’s “perfect vintage” 2006.  Last tasted August 2014  @cbriesling  @StratusWines

Norman Hardie Unfiltered Niagara Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (125310, $39.00, WineAlign)

This County ’12 by Norman Hardie needs fresh air, County air and time. Leave the wine alone in bottle counted out in five years time. There is pure intensity in aerified flight. Shows length, persistence, purity, phenolic ripeness and in time will show its ability to wade across raging rivers. From my earlier April 2014 note: “Hardie’s 2012 County Pinot Noir is a beacon, a flashing light on the shore, an invitation to copycats because this is what making red wine from limestone foundations is all about. To taste this ’12 is to experience Hardie’s purest berry maceration and distillation to date. It’s as if there was no alcohol present and in fact, at 11.5 per cent it is a modest and transparent pronouncement. Longevity may not bless the ’12 as in other vintages but this is certainly the most groomed and coiffed County Pinot Noir.” From my earlier October 2013 note: “Cuts a rug with immense, stepping out juicy behaviour. It’s both turntable old-school, astatic in smooth groove rotation, but also digitally forward thinking towards a perdurable future. The nose is Norm’s most intense floral burst to date, with incredible brightness and sparkling acidity in the key of fresh plum. This brings to mind indelible Burgundy, enveloped in PEC’s warm ’12 blanket. Hardie’s measure of consistency abides in a Pinot of parity and undemanding polish.”  Last tasted August 2014  @normhardie

Good to go!

https://twitter.com/mgodello

A day in WineAlign life: 15 new releases from Ontario and B.C.

East Coast Lobsters Photo: Michael Godel

East Coast Lobsters
Photo: Michael Godel

Yesterday I settled in at the WineAlign offices with the critics crew (David Lawrason, John Szabo, Steve Thurlow and Sara D’Amato) to taste some new releases. I chose to focus on British Columbia because of all the wines that cross my path, those from out west seem to be the few and the far between. Some Ontario wines not yet investigated were open and available so I worked through a handful of them as well.

Here are my notes, posted to WineAlign, gathered together here, in one place.

Southbrook Connect White 2013, Rosehall Run Hungry Point Unoaked Chardonnay 2013, Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2013, Blue Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Westcott Lillias Unoaked Chardonnay 2012

Southbrook Connect White 2013, Rosehall Run Hungry Point Unoaked Chardonnay 2013, Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2013, Blue Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Westcott Lillias Unoaked Chardonnay 2012

Southbrook Connect White 2013, Ontario (249078, $14.95, WineAlign)

Gone from the blend in 2013 is the Reimer Vineyard Gewürztraminer, essentially replaced with an increase of Vidal. A solid dose of Riesling and a smidgen of Sauvignon Blanc round out the blend. The sum of the parts means a stoic and supine white wine, submissive and malleable, ready for anything it needs to be. That it’s organic is a matter of good choice though not necessarily a contributing factor to this simple drinker’s personality. This is not a wine from stressed vines nor will it ever be in any sort or state of distress. Quality yet round acidity keeps it buoyant and free from any excess oxidation, allowing the flavour of basic orchard fruit with a lemon squeeze to shine. Perfectly good juice.  Tasted August 2014

Rosehall Run Hungry Point Unoaked Chardonnay 2013, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

What is so striking about Dan Sullivan’s unaoked Chardonnay is the classic and unmistakeable County perfume that can only be his. No matter the grape, a Sullivan white is a cold play of pear and citrus, made most obvious when oak is not around to confuse. A Rosehall white is always the most glycerin-textured in the County and Sullivan’s light touch ensures this PEC Chard is made in the vineyard. There is a lightness in its being but it is one of the better unoaked wines made in the region.  Tasted August 2014

Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (winery, $17.90, WineAlign)

Incredibly youthful Pinot Blanc, still in possession of its infant’s smell. A combination of baby powder and unadulterated sweat, in other words, a recent sulphuring and bottle unsettling. Peering beyond it is nearly quintessential B.C. PB. Hints of green apple, tangy white candy, lemon basil and lime sherbet make for a savoury-sweet appetizer in a glass. Got verve this Blue Mountain and when it relaxes by early fall it will be as versatile a shot of pure white wine adrenaline as you could ever hope to find. Will bring simple cohabitation pleasure to a wide range of food, from raw to smoked, from marinated to reduced.  Tasted August 2014

Blue Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $18.90, WineAlign)

Upfront, come and get me, juicy expression of Sauvignon Blanc, free of encumbrances. Avoids grass and spice, reaching instead for tree fruits, both stone and orchard. A bit ambiguous for that reason, acting less varietal and more Okanagan, but that is a very good thing. Has terrific sapidity and more than admirable length. A touch of distracting, caustic herbal intensity on the finish.  Tasted August 2014

Westcott Lillias Unoaked Chardonnay 2012, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $20.00, WineAlign)

You may ask who is Westcott and what is Lillias? They are Grant and Carolyn Westcott, a new player in the Chardonnay market and Lillias is a most unique expression from the Vinemount Ridge appellation. There is a grape spirit sensation, a limestone-influenced lemon-lime chord and a moscato-like medicinal glade component. Though it’s a bit scattered, unsure whether its softer or harder and running anyway, anyhow, anywhere, the personality is certainly on display. Though it “don’t follow the lines that been laid before,” there is always room for a new kind of Chardonnay, one that pushes boundaries and lays new tracks. Winemaker Arthur Harder has it all happening here; viscous fruit, citrus zest, limestone impart, milky texture, minute oxidation and rapturous acidity in a Chablis vein. The most serious unoaked Chardonnay, if not yet everyone’s cup of tannin. Auspicious beginning.  Tasted August 2014

Laughing Stock Pinot Gris 2013, Laughing Stock Blind Trust White 2013, Upper Bench Zweigelt 2012, Laughing Stock Viognier 2013, Upper Bench Pinot Noir 2012

Laughing Stock Pinot Gris 2013, Laughing Stock Blind Trust White 2013, Upper Bench Zweigelt 2012, Laughing Stock Viognier 2013, Upper Bench Pinot Noir 2012

Laughing Stock Pinot Gris 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (123604, $22.00, WineAlign)

This Pinot Gris will get you high and the question is will it leave you dry. Laughing Stock’s whites are not shy, elevated in alcohol (here 13.8 per cent) and full-out striking in texture and tannin. The wondering here is if there may be enough dry extract so to keep the wine fresh, lively and willing to bend. Or, will it dry out and leave you hanging, with a head full of radio fuzz and wanting more fruit. This is a surly and brazen attempt at slightly botrytized Pinot Gris, with enough grit and grind to set it apart from a cloud of every day juice. It’s just a bit tough and overdone in my opinion.  Tasted August 2014

Laughing Stock Blind Trust White 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (123604, $25.00, WineAlign)

Two Pinots (Blanc and Gris) and nearly a fifth of Viognier conjoin to conspire in cohorts for this well-defined B.C. white. Put your trust in winemaker David Enns as he leads you on this trip around the Okanagan through the eyes of co-existing white grapes. The first steps are those of spice and tree fruit pith, the second steps are those of good medicine. Dogged persistence brings near closure and a desire for another sip. Tasted August 2014

Upper Bench Zweigelt 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

Of all the international varieties to plant and attempt to establish a cottage industry in B.C., Zweigelt should certainly be near the top of the list. The grape lends well to the cool climate and the altitude. It grows well in sandy and loam soils, especially with some gravel content. Penticton should become a haven for Zweigelt. Upper Bench’s take is overtly flavourful, sweet-smelling and easily approachable. It’s respectably dry (2.3 g/L residual) and appropriately balanced with good acidity. The flavours of black cherries come directly to mind. There’s the rub. Like many New World (and even some Austrian) Pinot Noir, the dark fruit flavours of ripe fruit, while they may taste delicious, lead the wine down a road of immediate gratification and a short stay. Personally I would like to see subsequent vintages picked earlier and at lower brix (here at 24.2) for a fresher and more vigorous take on Zweigelt. There is much promise in this program.  Tasted August 2014

Laughing Stock Viognier 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (B.C., $26.00, WineAlign)

Of all the big whites in the Laughing Stock range, this Viognier fits the style and ragged glory pursuant the course. This hits the mark with flying colours, a rich and juicy wine full of peach flavours punching along with orchard fruit and white flower aromas. This is really crunchy and vigorous Viognier, with a kick of pepper along with some highly tropical moments along the way. Long finish to what will be 10 years of evolution. Tasted August 2014

Upper Bench Pinot Noir 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $28.00, WineAlign)

This is a lovely, fragrant and boisterous Pinot Noir with a warm heart and a balanced personality. Notes of orange and cherry blossom circle around the black cherry centre with just a hint of dusty chocolate. That is the 14 months in 30 per cent new French oak talking, adding a bit of sinew, but mostly dusty cocoa flavours and fine-grained tannin. A well made Pinot Noir with that wood adding a finishing touch of spice strung along the linear acidity.  Tasted August 2014

2027 Cellars Cherry Avenue Vineyard 2012, Laughing Stock Vineyards Amphora Vrm 2013, Laughing Stock Blind Trust Red 2012, 2027 Cellars Pinot Noir Queenston Road Vineyard 2011, 2027 Cellars Pinot Noir Queenston Road Vineyard 2012

2027 Cellars Cherry Avenue Vineyard 2012, Laughing Stock Vineyards Amphora Vrm 2013, Laughing Stock Blind Trust Red 2012, 2027 Cellars Pinot Noir Queenston Road Vineyard 2011, 2027 Cellars Pinot Noir Queenston Road Vineyard 2012

2027 Cellars Cherry Avenue Vineyard 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

There are a scant 105 cases made of this Cherry, a site close to a similar national Pinot Noir made by Paul Pender at Tawse. The vineyard encourages a scrap of the vinous kind between earth and its manifest cherry-scented fruit. Cherry seems to hold back its charms and ask that patience be the virtue. “Loose lips sink ships,” so “can we show a little discipline” and leave it alone? The ripeness is certainly here but what is most promising is the lack of heat, the absence of volatility and the wall of pure fruit. Though a bit subdued this is a much more approachable, not quite as serious and all around friendly expression of Twenty Mile Bench Pinot Noir. The price is more than reasonable for the quality in the glass. Wait three years and watch it age easily to 2020.  Tasted August 2014

Laughing Stock Vineyards Amphora Vrm 2013, Okanagan , BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (agent, $30.00, WineAlign)

Here blends one-third each Viognier, Rousanne and Marsanne, a veritable Rhône orgy in wild fermentation, aged on the skins in terra-cotta and amphorae. While I would not go so far as to call it an “orange wine,” I will use the “N” word to describe its agrarian ways. As natural as anything you are likely to taste out of B.C., this is a most untamed experiment and should not be missed. It verges on oxidation but refuses to climb over the edge. It’s floral, spicy and crowded. The texture is chalky and so full of rusty, clay rubbed streaks. Everything about this is unkempt and exotic, including the never cease and desist fermenting lychee and longan feel. Hard not to be wowed by this blend’s presence.  Tasted August 2014

Laughing Stock Blind Trust Red 2012, BC VQA Okanagan Valley (B.C., $30.00, WineAlign)

“Past performance is not an indicator of future returns.” A statement on the bottle insists that full trust be afforded the winemaker, his whimsy and the blending choices made from vintage to vintage. Not unlike a similar program that Ann Sperling employs at Southbrook, albeit not nearly as brash or brazen in attitude. The ’12 BT has the swagger and the oomph. A powerhouse of a Cabernet-based blend, full of B.C.’s finest black fruits and teeth gnashing tannins. Is this wine too serious for its own good? I don’t think so but it is no shrinking violet (though it smells like some, in a very modern Maremma or even Nebbiolo way). Thick juice, ramped up and yet delicious if too much young syrup to work past one full glass. Time will sooth the savage beast but it will never be a pussycat.  Tasted August 2014

2027 Cellars Pinot Noir Queenston Road Vineyard 2011, St. Davids Bench, Niagara Peninsula (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

There is definite gregarious character to this Pinot Noir and it finds a positive, altruistic methodology in its gathering of some obvious Niagara traits. Increased ripening from its Queenston Road Vineyard on the warm St. David’s Bench is its most obvious pronouncement. A shyness from out of what is an enigmatic Pinot vintage walks with the later harvest, dusty and earthy fruit. Most of all it can’t help but be Niagara Peninsula Pinot Noir, albeit in high caste and hyper-sensitive attention to detail. There is cola, rust, cherry, paint and extreme acidity. It’s hot, actually. Would like to see where this goes with anti-volatile time. Methinks a settling will happen. Tasted August 2014

2027 Cellars Pinot Noir Queenston Road Vineyard 2012, St. Davids Bench, Niagara Peninsula (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

A highly perfumed Pinot Noir from winemaker Kevin Panagapka in 2012, complete with an exotic spice box of aromatics; potpourri, roses, cassia, clove and aamchur. The profile hydrates to a mulled simmer as the wine is once again warmed by the vineyard’s ability to ripen, exaggerated in ’12 but with more grace, bringing its personality in line with its modest (13 per cent) alcohol. The cherry flavour veers black with a paste of tar and charcoal, but again, the psyche is smooth and elongated. Long finish to this Queenston which should see it sing to 2018 and beyond. Tasted August 2014

Good to go!

https://twitter.com/mgodello

 

 

A lesson learned from the averted LCBO strike

PHOTO: PETER J. THOMPSON/NATIONAL POST

as seen on canada.com

Two words. Buy local.

It was like Armaggedon in LCBO stores across the province on Thursday and that’s exactly what the spin masters wanted to see. Everyone waited with bated breath while being told “talks are continuing in hopes of averting the strike, but if no deal is reached then the strike is on as of 12:01 a.m. Friday.” Yikes. What were the poor citizens of Ontario to do?

canada.com’s  said that “Ontario drinkers are having a bit of a freak out.” Really, Ontarians were losing their minds? Did they not already know that alternative, high quality and affordable options are right in our backyard?

The question is, why give the monopoly a “bump in sales” for “precious, soon to be (maybe) unavailable liquor.” Why fall for this (conspiracy theory alert) marketing juggernaut? Ontario is literally armed by a firmament of booze soldiers stationed at every visible post and outpost. You just have to know where to look.

Related – LCBO strike looms as drinkers stock up

Guess what. The strike was averted. Quelle surprise!

According to VQA Ontario, there are over 140 licensed wineries including grape and fruit wineries. Most people who live in this province are within an hour or two’s drive to Niagara, Prince Edward County or Lake Erie North Shore appellations.  With the exception of the May two-four weekend statutory holiday on Monday, May 20th, every winery will be open for business. Visit one. While you’re at it, check out a micro-brewery or micro-distiller. The Ontario Craft Brewers list 29 breweries on their site. At least one is likely very close to where you live. Still Waters Distillery and Dillon’s in Concord and Beamsville respectively are close enough to several million Ontarians. Check them out. #MeetTheMakers

Here are some tweets to get you thinking:

Here are three local wines, available for purchase at the winery or delivery (by the case) to see you through a fake LCBO strike.

From left: Château des Charmes Cabernet/Merlot 2010, Rosehall Run Pinot Gris Cuvée County 2011, and Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot Estate 2010

Château des Charmes Cabernet/Merlot 2010 ($19.95, winery) composed of two Cabs (Sauvignon and Franc) and one Merlot is both curvy and linear, Gehry-ish in structure, like the Art Gallery of Ontario. So juicy, so stupidly affordable and clearly designed for dinner; small plates, stove-top one stop, oven-roasted, big barbecue. It don’t matter to this Bordeaux-blend. Saturday? Next Wednesday instead? Any night of the week.  89  @MBosc

Rosehall Run Pinot Gris Cuvée County 2011 ($19.95, winery) combines fruit from their Estate Vineyard and the neighbouring Fieldstone Vineyard. Dan Sullivan’s PG is as glycerin-textured as any in the County. It’s mildly piquant, hugely pear, wearing big fruit flavours on its sleeve and even a touch of cheese. Calling it characterful.  90  @Rosehall_Run

Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot Estate 2010 ($24.95, winery) from the most easterly of the Niagara Escarpment appellations called the Short Hills Bench, is a bit of a west side story. The two Cabs here are the Romeo (Tony) while the Merlot is somewhat of a Juliet (Maria). Their love story goes from “womb to tomb, birth to earth,” from plum to prune, vintage warmth to cool earthy flavour. This one tingles in the nose and also a dances on the buds in a twirling, dream-like state. Bright berries give way to classic Bordeaux-like aromas of tobacco, tea and licorice.  91  @HenryofPelham

Good to go!

You can lead a county to the city

South Bay Winery vineyard in Prince Edward County PHOTO: POSTMEDIA NEWS

as seen on canada.com

It’s time to discover the wines of bucolic Prince Edward County in south-central Ontario, a place possessed and structured of a learned and cultured essence. If you were born in PEC you likely never left and if you did, probably returned. Then there are those who migrated in search of an anti-metropolitan lifestyle. The landscape is encompassed by water, dotted with folkloric towns, farms and cottages. Wine destination comparisons might be made; to Niagara, to Muskoka, the Finger Lakes, the North Fork of Long Island, to parts of California. No definitive connection is obvious. After tasting through the formidable pours at County in the City last Thursday at the Berkeley Church in Toronto, it became abundantly clear that the wines are unique in and amongst themselves and also bound together as one. The refrain holds true. It must be the rocks.

The grape growers, winemakers and 30 some odd wineries in PEC are no longer a gaggle of obscure, off the beaten path, parochial folk. Their serious VQA wines are establishing footholds in our metropolitan markets. The County’s adage may well be, “you can lead a farmer to grapevines,” a sure statement of the obvious. This event proved you can also lead them to the city.

Photo: Wine Align

Photo: Wine Align

“The County” as it is affectionately known is Ontario’s newest and suddenly dynamic wine appellation. It’s climate and geological make-up has been compared to Burgundy, the world’s benchmark region for growing and producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Chardonnay is clearly the County’s signature variety, its staff of life, but the excitement extends well beyond that comfort zone. Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris, Vidal and especially sparkling wines are making inroads along with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. But what about Gamay? Casa Dea’s Paul Battilana crafts a Sparkling Rosé from estate grapes. Chadsey’s Cairns and Troumpour’s Mill both make solid Gamay Noir. Battilana makes a still Gamay, as does Hillier Creek Estates. Time for others to join the #GoGamayGo party.

Prince Edward County wineries are increasing their collective engagement in many ways. The PEC chapter of the Ontario Wine Society held their inaugural event April 27th, 2013, County Character at Hillier Town Hall. PEC winemakers have joined the progressive wine on tap program too, like Rosehall Run, Norman Hardie and sparkling wine specialist Hinterland Wine Company, who is kegging Charmat, Prosecco-style bubbles for Barque Smokehouse.  The coming months offer many opportunities to taste the County. The Terroir festival in late May is an annual showcase of the area’s rocks, soil and new release wines, put on by the Prince Edward County Winegrowers Association. Wassail takes place in late fall/early winter, celebrates the harvest and the laying of the vines to rest. The summer of 2013 will be a great time to visit PEC and follow its wine trail.

Here are nine wines of note tasted at Wine Align‘s County in the City at The Berkeley Church.

From left: Sandbanks Rosé 2012, Casa Dea Estates Winery Cabernet Franc 2009, Lighthall Gewürztraminer 2011, Huff Estates Cuvée Janine Sparkling Rosé 2010, Exultet Chardonnay ‘The Blessed’ 2011, and Closson Chase CCV Pinot Noir 2010

Sandbanks Rosé 2012 (244616, $12.95) whispers summer by the lake in the face of a fading pastel, pink sunset. A magical and inexpensive combination of subtle strawberry, cream and bright acidity. Who would ask for more?  87  @SandbanksWinery

Keint-He Vineyards Voyageur Vidal 2012 ($17, winery only) is a warm and aromatic expression having taken full advantage of the vintage. Yellow and orange flesh melon abounds in sweetness tempered by just enough limestone influenced acidity. Incredibly easy to drink. Breathes new life into white wine.  88  @KeintheWinery

Casa Dea Estates Winery Cabernet Franc 2009 (241612, $18.95, winery) coaxed maximum density from the vintage in fleshy, black cherry and yet is anhydrous from chocolate dust. Chalk up another redacted red from Casa Dea, in the same vein as the plush, ruby ’09 Pinot Noir. All of Paul Battilana’s wines are priced and offered like an open door. Mi Casa Dea et su Casa Dea.  88  @PECWinemaker

Norman Hardie Pinot Gris 2012 ($25, winery only) bottled one week ago, is not as you might think, in shock. A cleanse of pure pear purée with an open invitation for immediate gratification. Mellifluous and with no discernible A16 whatsoever. This one’s good to go. Who comes by chance will be the more easily let go. “Lay down my darling,” this PG ain’t for keeping.  91  @normhardie

Lighthall Gewürztraminer 2011 ($25, winery only) succeeds because less is more. Less lychee, more lightness of being. This is Glenn Symons’ 2nd vintage from the famed Wismer Vineyards in Niagara (Jordan). Refuses to club you over the head with “correctness.” Despite the lack of oily, nutty and tropical girth it’s suffused with crisp pleasure.  90  @lighthallvyard

Huff Estates Cuvée Janine Sparkling Rosé 2010 ($29.95, winery only) from 100% Pinot Noir grapes is a phenomenal, inaugural genesis effort. More sanguine in colour than one would imagine, this sparkler is wonderfully sweet but also “turns sweat, turns sour.” Pinot Noir is always potentially so dramatic but who knew it could be like this, like blood swirling in the glass. “Bottled in a strong compression,” with black raspberry, noticeable yeast and impressive finesse.  Out of the cage.  91  @HuffEstatesWine

Rosehall Run Wines Photo: Michael Godel

Rosehall Run Wines
Photo: Michael Godel

Rosehall Run ‘The Swinger’ Syrah 2011 ($34.95, winery only) gets my attention not just because it’s the only commercially planted and bottled Syrah in PEC but because it stands in front of the orchestra. I gotta believe winemaker Dan Sullivan cares deeply about this wine from fruit sourced on Dick Singer’s Fieldstone Vineyard. Nothing fatuous about its smoky, tart cranberry, Sangioveseness kissed by the salty waves of an unseen ocean. The Swinger “ain’t no cherry bomb,” waits for no one, with its tobacco voice, gravel, rocks and sand. Like a sweet little bullet from a pretty blue gun.  90  @Rosehall_Run

Exultet Chardonnay ‘The Blessed’ 2011 ($35, winery only) is exemplary even if it may not be proprietor Gerard Spinosa’s favourite vintage. Commands an ineffable presence in gold sheen and parses meaning through balance and poise. The new oak is very noticeable but the ’11 acidity is grand. Their integration is seamless, the wine shines and a few years time will only increase its lustre.  92  @ExultetEstates

Closson Chase CCV Pinot Noir 2010 (310474, $39.95, winery) has improved dramatically over the course of a year, now red verging to black fruit, if only for a fleeting moment of temporary insanity, in a Sonoma state of mind. Silky smooth, “the textures coat my skin.” Though I have seen “the best (Pinot Noir) minds of my generation destroyed by madness,” this CCV uses a cured bresaola flavour and a vivid flower scent to invigorate, ground the humidity and the “earthy beet.” Musical, earthy beat, as in All Cats are Grey meets Howl.  92  @ClossonChase

Good to go!

The Wine Diaries: A generous year

PHOTO: STILLKOST/FOTOLIA.COM

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are the best wines I tasted in 2012:

The Wine Diaries: 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

The best wines at Taste Ontario 2012

Photograph Courtesy of the Wine Council Of Ontario

as seen on canada.com

On Friday, September 28th 46 Ontario wineries poured more than 100 wines at the Ritz Carlton Hotel Toronto to showcase Ontario’s singular and diverse terroir. Producers from Niagara, Prince Edward County and Lake Erie North Shore shared the spotlight with a Burning Kiln from Turkey Point and a Frisky Beaver from Port Dover. “I can’t deny” there was even some Bad Company.

Character and quality has never been better. Riesling continues to impress and let us not ignore the high level of ever-evolving Chardonnay vines. Reds have made great strides, especially Pinot Noir, Gamay and Cabernet Franc.

The best premium wines (over $30) present were Bachelder Saunders Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 ($44.95, 90), Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard 2009 ($35, 92), Closson Chase South Clos Chardonnay 2010 ($39.75, 91), Rosehall Run JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2010 ($38.80, 90) and Norman Hardie Pinot Noir Unfiltered 2010 ($39, 91).

The future looks very bright for Ontario. A special shout out goes to Magdalena Kaiser-Smit from the Wine Council of Ontario for a flawless execution. Here are my top picks under $30 from Taste Ontario (Toronto) 2012.

The grape: Riesling

The history: Paul Bosc of Chateau Des Charmes is the Ontario Riesling pioneer and along with the St. Urban Vineyard of Vineland Estates, they set the stage for its ascendance to signature grape status

The lowdown: Clearly entrenched as the most important Ontario white varietal, this is winemaker Kevin Panagapka’s value entry into LCBO channels

The food match: Tofu and Bassa Fish Hot Pot with Sichuan spices

2027 Cellars Fall’s Vineyard Riesling 2011 (294041, $18.95) is consistent with my earlier note. Saleratus, flint and tropical scents with a kiss of racy, citrus acidity and goes to great length on the palate. There were only 200 cases of this screaming value. “There ain’t a reason on earth to waste it,” so I feel compelled to lick it up89

The grape: Sémillon

The history: Partner to Sauvignon Blanc in dry white Bordeaux and single varietal star in the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac

The lowdown: Not planted on a wide global scale. Has found great success in Australia’s Hunter Valley and to a degree in South Africa. Niagara Escarpment should be next

The food match: Autumn Squash, Sweet Potato and Candy Beet Ratatouille

Rosewood Estates Winery Sémillon 2010 ($18 at the winery) shows little procrastination with a superfluity of lemon, lime and paraffin but like all great Sémillon, the wine needs time. A block of wax keeps the honey down but look for a mellifluous ooze three years on. Glittering sheen, diamond-like focus and crusted by an accent of lemon zest. Krystina Roman will lead this grape to stardom. “Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!” Top white. Shine on you crazy Sémillon.  90

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Growing on the “hillside” section of Ravine’s farm on the warm St. David’s Bench

The lowdown: Few Ontario winemakers achieve a Burgundian mythic. Here the soil is thin, sparse and heavy in minerals. Not quite Burgundy, but the comparison is worth the discourse

Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 (173377, $24.00) of partisan, buttered toast may lean more Kistler than Jadot but she’s still wearing blue jeans. Blessed with a St. David’s mineral smile and a Scotch barrel smell, like a long knife with a blade double-edged at the point. Hued golden and tan, “she got a camouflaged face.” Thrifty Chardonnay, worth every penny.  89

The grape: Gamay

The history: Best known for its work in Beaujolais and has shed its “Nouveau” moniker

The lowdown: Others have surely helped but Malivoire has championed and transformed the varietal’s status to prince among kings and queens

The food match: Thanksgiving Turkey!!

Malivoire Wine Company M2 Small Lot Gamy 2011 ($19.95) made use of a slumber for six months in French and American oak barrels to raise the purple bar. This is Francofied Gamay, as much Tours as Morgon. Peppered with smatterings of tar, smoke and caper. A note of Bouille, braising meat is noted. Complex for the grape and versatile.  88

The grape: Cabernet Franc

The history: The Loire comes to the Niagara Escarpment

The lowdown: Winemaker Richie Roberts has this grape in his hip pocket. He can see the future and he knows when it comes to reds, cool-climate varietals are key

The food match: Boneless Beef Rib-Eye Steak Sandwich, crispy onions, horseradish mayo

Fielding Estates Cabernet Franc 2010 (36194, $21.95) is deeply cast, loaded with raspberry and pepper aromas, both white and red. A whiff of beet garish smoke and savoury herbs adds sinuosity.  89

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!

Trending Ontario and B.C wines for Canada Day

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

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

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

The grape: Pinot Gris

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

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

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

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

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: Bordeaux superstar

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

The food match: Burgers with bacon, cheddar and aioli

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

The grape: Gamay

The history: Hails from Beaujolais

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

The food match: Beef Ribs and BBQ Sauce

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

Ontario

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

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

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

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

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

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

British Columbia

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

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

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

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio

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

Good to go!