Days of wine and Rosés

Roses

I’m here wandering
what the reasons were

Rosé. It’s meteoric rise to prominence has shaken the foundation of wine consuming thought. Everyone’s doing it. Imbibing is at an all time high and celebrating the merits is exercised with commitment and conviction. This summer’s sweltering season has seen it skyrocket in sales. My restaurant lists are seeing the explosion first hand, up close and personal. The stress of ridicule or having the stuffing kicked out of you for sipping on a glass isn’t even a figment of imagination in the conversation. The reluctance to admit drinking rosé is a thing of the Neanderthal past. What happened? How did the pink stuff gain such traction and find its way into the hearts and minds of everywino?

Quality and diversity. First and foremost we are witnessing an increase in winemakers committed to making rosé from grapes grown specifically for the purpose. Second is the equality in money allotted by the vintners to research, experiment and condition the styles they produce. If you spend the same amount on your rosés as you do your whites and reds, your quality will follow. Third and so very important is diversity, not just stylistically but also regionally. Rosé production is increasing beyond the familiar confines of southern France. So many countries are on board with vested interest; Italy, Spain, Germany, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Greece, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Languedoc shares a rosé story:

I have never seen so many rosés come through VINTAGES as I have in the last four months. The shelves are teeming with the pink stuff and it’s selling like sunscreen. In February I penned ‘Twas the week before Valentine’s but specifically avoided the cliché of recommending rosés for the kissing holiday. The year before I discussed in after the fact hushed tones regarding Post Valentine’s polar vortex wines. I also said this:

“February 14th is so hyper-candied that ingredients like salinity, minerality, positive bitterness, animale and tannin are essential in the name of balance. Just don’t pair your dry red wine with chocolate.”

It’s not that I don’t believe in drinking rosé on Valentine’s but rather that I recommend not limiting as such and also prefer to choose rosés at all times of the year. So I saved up my recos for late summer, just in case you thought the season was already behind us. Two of my favourite critic-colleagues anywhere on this wine writing planet are Treve Ring and Jamie Goode. Both have recently written about rosé because, well, they understand its importance and its pantheonic place.

Canada Thinks Pink, Drinks Pink, by Treve Ring, WineAlign

“While the world rosé wine consumption has increased 20% from 2002-2014, Canada was up 120% in consumption during that same period. When we keener Canucks like something, we really like it. The same study shows that Canadian pink drinkers were pretty evenly split between men and women.”

Provence Rosé: 24 leading examples tasted, by Dr. Jamie Goode

“Quality has improved, and although it’s rare to find an example that stops you in your tracks – it’s not a geek wine – there’s a real consistency to these wines. They are context wines, and in the right context you want the wine to do the job it is chosen for. And Provence rosé does this brilliantly.”

VINTAGES has rolled out more diversity than ever before. The increased number of different rosé wines available this year has climbed by around 30 per cent. The escalation has allowed the LCBO to release some of their most popular SKUs two to three times over the course of the spring and summer. According to Geneviève Tomney, LCBO Media Relations Coordinator, Corporate Communications, for the months of May through early August, VINTAGES sales of rosé wines have risen by 30 per cent year over year. Keep in mind that because the LCBO’s financial data is based on sales periods it fluctuates slightly where periods fall in the month. Sales for that time period in 2016 were $6.6M compared to the same period of time last year ($5.1M).

That’s nothing short of remarkable and sets the stage for some solid long-term category growth. Paul Farrell, VINTAGES Category Manager, European Wines, tells us that rosé wine sales through VINTAGES have exceeded our expectations this summer. We have definitely brought in more rosé this year to support the growth trend in this style of wine.  We also have plans to have more rosé wine available throughout the winter season and to bring in French rosés even earlier next spring to keep up with the incredible demand for these products.”

Here are 18 selections in VINTAGES stores and available direct through agents or Ontario wineries.

VINTAGES August 20, 2016 release

Perrin

Famille Perrin Réserve Rosé 2015, Ac Côtes De Rhône, Rhône, France (719062, $15.95, WineAlign)

A bit more density and compression for 2015 Rosé, in forward demand by grapefruit citrus with plenty of absolute faith inflator flavour. Really fine example for the Rhône, in touch with further south impressions but faithful to more parochial roots. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted August 2016  @Beaucastel  @VINSRHONE

Delas Frères Saint Esprit Côtes Du Rhône Rosé 2015, Ac Rhône, France (224964, $16.95, WineAlign)

Deeper and fuller of pressed flavour than noted in the previous few VINTAGES releases. Density, tart edges and typically savoury. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted August 2016  @UNIVINS

Bertrand Rose

Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2015, Ap Languedoc, France (373985, $18.95, WineAlign)

A grenache, cinsault and syrah amalgamation from Languedoc, perfectly arid, tart and with a tiny bit of effervescence. Strawberry and cranberry waft in faint waves and thoughts. Lingers nicely. Chilled well it’s what you need right now. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted August 2016  @GBvins  @FWMCan  @LanguedocWines

Agent/Private Import/Winery Direct

Nomad Venus Rosé 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $15.95, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Good, well and very nice 100 per cent cabernet franc, rusty and cherry juicy with salinity and brine. Nothing out of this world but so perfectly acceptable and fine. Simple words for simple blush. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted blind at NWAC16, June 2016  @Hinterbrook

Domaine Lafond Roc épine Tavel Rosé 2015, Ac (Jean Pierre Et Pascal Lafond), Rhône, France (950709, $18.95, WineAlign)

From Jean Pierre Et Pascal Lafond the blend in ostensibly classic Tavel; grenache (60 per cent), cinsault (20) and syrah (20). If you have not had the pleasure of sipping on Tavel Rosé from calcareous soils marked by galets and white quartzite than you need to. This is a ripping example, densely layered, highly saline and rich as the sun shines long in the Rhône Valley. Don’t come looking for lithe, pretty and ethereal. This is Tavel with guts but its aridity and piercing salinity makes for a wealthy drop. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted August 2016  @VINSRHONE  @  @hobbsandco

Ciao Bella Pinot Rosé 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $20.75, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Love the early note of minor volatility to check and balance for soft and downy, simple and into pleasure. Smells like unripe pickled strawberry. Though some decent salinity and brine offer up a rosé reality there lacks a bit of ingratiating 100 per cent pinot noir charm. Improves and brings out some pinosity by good bitters, gin and tonic, orange zest and some spice. In the end it’s actually more than quite good. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @ciaobellawinery

In the cellar at Ravine Vineyard

Ravine Vineyard Cabernet Rosé 2015, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (Winery, $22.00, WineAlign)

Ravine’s Rosé spent the most minimal time on skins, from a posterior fruit position left out in the elements long and aided by leaf removal to break down the pyrazine. These were the second last grapes to pick (because the acidity is high in slightly overcropped fruit), on Slingerland Farm between lines five and six halfway up from Ravine to Highway 55. Though seemingly dry, the 6.0 g/L of RS is used “to bring it into balance for the consumer,” notes Marty Werner. This has some strawberry funk, as if it were macerated in a clay-calcaire bath, like balm as if steeped, cooled and poured over ice. It may be imagined as a saline, faintly honeyed berry granita with just the right amount of gelid texture alongside cool and savoury charcuterie. Simply put, what cabernet franc must be in warm niagara country. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @RavineVineyard  @marty_werner  @BMinaker23

Haywire

Haywire Secrest Mountain Vineyard Gamay Noir Rosé 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $22.90, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Really earthy 100 per cent gamay Rosé. Good mineral in here. This was made with a purpose. “Now everybody’s gonna tell you it’s not worth it. Everybody’s gotta show you their own thing.” There is balance and ballad ease. This is just so drinkable. “Is this the past or the future that is calling.” Gamay, I love the times you’ve come. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted blind at #NWAC16, June 2016  @Haywirewine  @OKCrushPad

From a concrete (and full malolactic) fermentation and 12 hours left on the skins. A singular expression from the Secrest Mountain Vineyard in the Okanagan Valley. Great amber tang and wonderful extract, not to mention spirit. Tasted at Okanagan Crush Pad, June 2016.

Serendipity

Serendipity Winery Rosé 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $22.00, WineAlign)

NWAC_Silver2016_web

Hello serendipitous salinity in this lithe yet dense Rosé that is somehow denied any real weight. Spicy strawberry on the nose and such strength moving forward in linear motion, all with feminine resolve. A perfect blush expression from the Naramata Bench. Great tart finish with terrific grip. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @Winespiration

Synchromesh

Synchromesh Cabernet Franc Rosé Cachola Family Vineyards 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $23.00, WineAlign)

The cabernet franc came in at 19 brix and the residual sugar is a whopping 0.0 g/L. The impossibility of significance is fraught with amazement and the inspired, touch-less magic whispered in the most inaudible of tones. What drives this fruit to make such bone-dry, pitch balanced blush? It’s hard to say but there are more than just a few moments in whiffs and over sips during which the perception of sweetness is a reality. The subtle onion skin, saline and briny oyster shell confection is oceanic at the least and planetary to the highest level of imagination. Another unthinkable wine from Alan Dickinson. It might even age into its 10th year as if it were riesling. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted June 2016  @SynchromeshWine

Leoube

Château Léoube Rosé De Léoube 2015, Côtes De Provence, Provence, France (Agent, $28.95, WineAlign)

Organic, artisan Rosé by the sea from grenache, syrah, cinsault and mourvèdre, all harvested simultaneously by a big, local team. Co-pressed, all natural, whole cluster ferment and 90 per cent free run juice. Super aridity meets creamy layers in blush of determinate, crazy focus in average purport of 12.5 per cent alcohol. In spite of the process this sees full malolactic and despite the co-ferment there is blending done before bottling. Round acidity finds denouement in a dry finish but of one that is not drying. Freshness persists. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016  @chateauleoube  @TheLivingVine  

VINTAGES August 6, 2016 release

Akakies

Kir Yianni Akakies Rosé 2015, Ac Amyndeon, Macedonia, Greece (71050, $12.95,  WineAlign)

Savouy rusty and varietally distinguished xinomavro with equal parts aridity and salinity to welcome the sapidity. Slightly bled for posterity and predisposed to Greekdom but from Amyndeon and with xino this finds relish and relishes brightness then finishes from the same straight from which it came. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016        @FlorinaAmyndeon

Bandol

La Cadierenne Cuvée Grande Tradition Bandol Rosé 2015, Ac Provence, France (119453, $20.95, WineAlign)

Boozy (listed at 14 per cent) and beautifully balanced Bandol for the alternatively authentic and alliterative mouthful win. A citric acid, guava and himalayan rock salt spice rub for your mouth that with the level of saliva inducement turns to a slow developed variegation of flavour. Terrific mouthfeel and elongation. Tonic for and to your health. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016     

VINTAGES July 23, 2016 release

Domaines Ott Château De Selle Coeur De Grain Rosé 2015, Ac Côtes De Provence, Provence, France (74617, $46.95, WineAlign)

Few vignerons take their viticulture and viniculture for the production of Rosé so seriously. Château Léoube is the other that comes to mind and here Domaines Ott puts resources aside to drive quality as high as it can go. This is not just delicious Rosé but it is exemplary Rosé. The level of pure aridity, salinity and the requisite faintness of fruit is highly commendable. Everything here is understated and ethereal. It finishes long and persistent. But it’s too bloody expensive. It’s Rosé and it must get over itself. I would never turn it away and conversely I would not spend $46 to assuage its ego. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016       @AuthenticWineON

VINTAGES June 25, 2016 release

Wildass

Wildass Rosé 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (71712, $17.95, WineAlign)

Aromatically off the charts for Niagara Peninsula Rosé, like strawberry mingling with marl. The sweetness on the palate is by extract and finishes dry. Acidity and tang merge at the intersection of soil and press. Wildass strikes ruby in 2015. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @StratusWines

Southbrook

Southbrook Triomphe Organic Cabernet Franc Rosé 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (451773, $19.95, WineAlign)

There is an apical, salient substantiality inherent to Southbrook’s 100 per cent cabernet franc 2015. If it wasn’t for the cool skin soaking, gentle pressing and cool fermentation it might have fretfully ventured into a cloyingly cuspidated tripartite deluge of sweet, savoury and sour. It’s not aromatically gregarious but strawberry and cider do clear afield. This strikes as way more profound, intense and serious, akin to Tavel, in hue, breadth of character and sheer unctuous texture. I’m not sure winemaker Ann Sperling had this stylistic intent in mind and while 2014 hinted at such a Peninsula departure, 2015 cements the consummation. The junction may lead to further or it may sequester a scaling back. Very interested to see where 2016 will take the Triomphe Rosé. Either way, cabernet franc is deserving of the stage. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @SouthbrookWine  @thesirengroup

VINTAGES June 11, 2016 release

Rustenberg Petit Verdot Rosé 2015, Wo Simonsberg Stellenbosch, South Africa (451773, $13.95, WineAlign)

The deferential Rosé from Rustenberg tries petit verdot, as uncommon a varietal play as there is. Such brevity of skin and extraction exchange does little to bring out the firm and direct character of petit verdot so the interest here has little to do with varietal. It does however, present a beautiful and typical exchange between Simonsberg Mountain and Stellenbosch Valley, up and down, when push comes to shove. Chill it down, raise it up. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016  @RustenbergWines  @WOSACanada  @WOSA_ZA

Baden

Winzergenossenschaft Königschaffhausen Pinot Noir Rosé 2015, Qba Königschaffhauser Vulkanfelsen, Baden, Germany (168237, $13.95, WineAlign)

Qualitätswein carried to another sub $14 level, with dry extract, tannin and life as looked at two sides Rhine. There is nothing but pleasure derived from the magic bled faintly, lithely and with quick, cool-pressed restraint. Just enough sweetness to attract a crowd and more than enough savour to get with the geek. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted May 2016  @HHDImports_Wine  @germanwineca

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Let it wine

From left: Quails' Gate Merlot 2011

From left: Jean Maurice Raffault Chinon Rosé 2013, Anselmann Edesheimer Rosengarten Siegerrebe Spätlese 2012, Delas Frères Les Launes Crozes Hermitage 2011, Tabalí Reserva Especial 2009, Flat Rock The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2011, Quails’ Gate Merlot 2011

We’ve pleaded, we’ve begged. We’ve been down on hands and knees. We’ve asked for spring. It has finally (sort of) arrived. There is only one thing left to say. Let it wine.

Just in case you happen to live in Ontario and were not aware of the system’s system (or you’ve forgotten), here is a friendly primer and reminder. VINTAGES rolls out a new set of wines every two weeks. We (the wine media) taste them a month ahead and comment on their correctness. Sometimes we even admit which ones we really like.

More reviews than space here permits are available, along with other critics’ thoughts at WineAlign, the place to go for access to bi-weekly previews of critics’ release notes and their top recommendations for all VINTAGES new releases.

These wines are in stores now. They are just six of my recommendations from the May 10th, 2014 release.

Jean Maurice Raffault Chinon Rosé 2013, Ac, Loire, France (119693, $16.95, WineAlign)

There is a cautious though skilled reservation in this Rosé, the Cabernet Franc currant and peppery aromas a faint and subtle thought. Light and refreshing Chinon as dry as dry ice and built with tang and length. The late note is of slightly charred bell pepper. Excellent food versatile Rosé, even if it falls away quicker than should be.  Tasted April 2014  @LeSommelierWine

Anselmann Edesheimer Rosengarten Siegerrebe Spätlese 2012, Prädikatswein, Pfalz, Germany (910554, $16.95, WineAlign)

A really fun wine. Siegerrebe is not meant to be contemplated by a panel of ancient philosophers with modern doctorates. In its most basic incarnation it is a sipper, a warm weather, sundowner tipple to quaff on its own or as an aromatic lifter in conjunction with fortifiers in a light, fizz-induced cocktail. This Spätlese (late harvest) later-picked variation offers a step up the beanstalk of residual sugar-laced complexity. At the price it begs to be tried. The fruit is both sweet and drying at the same time, like Moscato in a waxy, soapy, juicy fruit, bitter way. Tasted April 2014

Tabalí Reserva Especial 2009, Limarí Valley, Chile (107540, $22.95, WineAlign)

A mating of masculine, slow, open-grill smoked meat and cooking bacon aromas and a dehydrated Syrah lees, coarse pepper crust is tempered by feminine, cool eucalyptus and juniper accents. A big wine that is rounded and grounded by some Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Anxious, tight, modern and a real finisher.  Tasted April 2014  @TabaliWines   @oenophilia1

Delas Frères Les Launes Crozes Hermitage 2011, Ac, Rhône, France  (701359, $22.95, WineAlign)

What a gorgeous flower and wet stones nose in this Syrah. So pretty and inviting. Tart, sweet berries, smooth and integrated fruit acid continuum, very sure and correct. A perennial righteous bottling, anything but excessive and a tremendous value is every way. Don’t be Delas to know.  Tasted April 2014  @HHDImports_Wine

Flat Rock The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2011, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario,  (1552, $24.95, WineAlign)

The Shed’s balance is best in ’11, the equation solved. A sweetness on the palate is buttery, the length languid, smooth and graceful. A very pretty Shed. A spirit in the night. “Stand right up and let it shoot right through you.” From my earlier February 2014 note: “Conspicuous by its texture from a mild to middling vintage “when you picked before or after the rain.” Though combined, the antechamber of acidity and good cheer trumps the mudroom of funk and doldrums. A Guns ‘n Roses vintage, a pull in two directions, with a potential for breakdown. “Ev’rything was roses when we held on to the guns.” A soft, buttery note tempers the tang and yet that tang lifts the fruit. The tension is what sets the ’11 up for a classic run.  Last tasted April 2014

Quails’ Gate Merlot 2011, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (169961, $25.95, WineAlign)

From estate vineyards on the Boucherie Mountain bench, this is cool Merlot, from a cooler vintage, with cool climate anxiety. The conditions and the style wave a finger to promote some vineyard funk to speak, along with Merlot’s characteristic dust and powder. “A big red beacon,” as in berries and plums, earth and spice. Red all around. Smoky, still so young, with lots of acidity and tannin that will need five years to come together. Kneel down to show some appreciation for this quality Merlot. A bit of late bitter stringency but of no real matter. Tasted April 2014  @Quails_Gate 

Good to go!

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See the humanity in real value wine

Glass of red wine PHOTO: FONS LAURE/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

There is no secret that Canadians and especially the wine consumer from Ontario, desperately want more choice. We want private wine shops that can specialize in niche products. We want all Canadian grapes to be granted passports to travel freely from province to province. We want access to real wines made by passionate human beings. We don’t want plonk.

Twice a month I taste through in excess of 100 hundred wines scheduled for release through VINTAGES, the fine wine and spirits division of the LCBO. On some days the wines, as a group, seem merely “better than dough.” On other days they cause one or more of my colleagues to say things like “this is the worst red wine day of my life.” The public knows that we have lagged for many years in wine retail. The public is ahead of the LCBO think tank on this.

Fortunately, or not, depending on how bright a side of life you look, more often than not I can look through and beyond the barbaric fringes and pick out a few primitive, unfettered warriors from the monopolistic offering. Once in a while the sea of humanity reveals itself and many wines shine, express their terroir, their somewhereness, their completeness. Here are nine estimable examples ready for immediate enjoyment, now in a store near you.

Clockwise from left: Delas Frères Saint-Esprit Cotes Du Rhône Rosé 2012, Le Gravillas Plan de Dieu Cotes Du Rhône Villages 2010, Marechal Brut Crémant De Loire, Domaine Des Aubuisières Cuvée De Silex Vouvray 2011, Domaine Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Pinot Gris 2010, Château Lyonnat 2006, Château La Grange De Bessan 2009, Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko 2011, and Bonaccorsi Viognier 2010

Delas Frères Saint-Esprit Cotes Du Rhône Rosé 2012 (224964, $13.95) is all sun and strawberry, almond and grapefruit tree scents after dark, so much spirit in the night. Salinity, markedly well-made and Muga-like. “Stand right up now and let it shoot through you.”  87  @HHDImports_Wine

Le Gravillas Plan de Dieu Cotes Du Rhône Villages 2010 (264648, $14.95) is simply a ton of wine for $15. That said, it takes extraction to the maximum and is yet blessed with a graceful level of gravitas. I wouldn’t want to drink too much of this, or any other similarly concentrated and heavily fruit- endowed Rhône but there is enough mineral and tar character to keep Le Gravillas honest.  88

Marechal Brut Crémant De Loire (141077, $15.95) foams frothy forth alive and expansive out of a yeasty starter, spins lightly on its A16 axis and revolves tightly wound around a citrus spindle. A working class Marechal, real and made for the people. Perhaps not La Grande Illusion but a wine that will “show the common humanity present across these divisions.” About as good as Méthode Traditionnelle sparkling Loire Chenin Blanc can be and priced to fly.  89

Domaine Des Aubuisières Cuvée De Silex Vouvray 2011 (57042, $17.95, SAQ, 858886, $17.60) speaks sedimentary cryptocrystalline vernacular to narrate its Loire Chenin Blanc story by way of a ripe apple and blooming rose style. Off-dry and dehydrated by the chert, that defining, dusty silex soil. There should be land-driven $18 wine available, always and everywhere.  89  @LoireValleyWine

Domaine Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Pinot Gris 2010 (21253, $19.95, SAQ, 913897, $22.85) returns the storied Alsatian to top form after a confounding ’09. Cool climate, perfervid pear considers dressing up in lime-spiked papaya but chooses to turn on its heel to put on a sequin-dotted silk dress. Spot on, shimmering scintillant.  90  @drinkAlsace

Château Lyonnat 2006 (243774, $19.95) built upon 85 percent Merlot, 11 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and four percent Cabernet Franc has ancient and learned Right Bank morphology written all over its sweet, scorched earth perfume. Has entered the zone, in toasted cedar and grilled beef on the bone integration but caramel and kindling are just around the corner. Get in while the coals are smoking. Reminds me of the good oak days.  89

Château La Grange De Bessan 2009 (321331, $19.95) is a poster child for affordable, humanistic Médoc, Left Bank, hyped vintage Bordeaux. Mutton on the reductive nose does not impose a run and hide. Purple flowers, parquet smoke and dark chocolate co-mingle with iron, calcium and limestone. Meat-friendly, complex, well-structured.  90  @BordeauxWines

Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko 2011 (74781, $21.95) must be a fairy tale, a Boucles d’or narrative of structure and complexity from the first swirl and sniff. Airy, saline, built of rich, gold guts. Perfectly ripened orchard fruit and fresh-squeezed grapefruit. Taste it and there’s a joyous dance, a kefi bursting inside, like great Champagne but minus the bubbles.  92  @KolonakiGroup

Bonaccorsi Viognier 2010 (318121, $23.95) from Santa Barbara’s Happy Canyon is bottled, golden Californian sunshine, rich, unctuous and tanned. Will be accused of being obnoxious, bellicose, even Sisyphean, but she and I don’t care. Spicy, candied yellow apple, sappy, honeysuckle scent meets an efflux of buttery cashew, like toasted Chardonnay crossed with aged Chenin. Grand Cali Viognier.  91  @jbonaccorsi

Good to go!

Your man wants these wines for Valentine’s

Valentine’s Day wines PHOTO: ANNA/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

Cupid’s got a dilemma. He knows his arrow will pierce the man in the relationship’s heart, hypnotize him to hunt and gather the finest chocolate and sweet-smelling roses that money can buy. But what about the other, more feminine half? They just might not feel the same V-Day pressure. Besides, beyond the cliché, what exactly or specifically is the appropriate gift for Valentine’s Day?

Related – Current release wine recommendations

Even divas fuss over the pink holiday. Nicki Minaj has told us that Cupid’s Got a Gun. Carrie Underwood’s version is a shotgun. Yikes. If you ask me, all I really want this Thursday, like any other day of the year, is a decent bottle of wine. Is that not what every man wants? Matches the profile of the ones I hang out with. Your man probably likes Italian wine. Maybe he imagines himself Romeo to your Juliet?

While it would certainly put a smile on my face, I’m not holding my breath for a ripe, rare and bleeding Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (24190, $74.95, 91), though I wouldn’t kick one out of bed for cacophonous quacking.  Nor would I run away from a classic, opaque and rustic cherry Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino 2007 (994095, $57.95, 91).  Here are six current and affordable releases sure to please the love of your life.

The grapes: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

The history: Classic varietals and small lots from winemaker Emma Garner on the Beamsville Bench

The lowdown: TB’s Rieslings have long been blowing my mind but this Bordeaux-styled blend trips new light

The food match: Dry-Rubbed Grilled Chicken Breast Tacos, aged whited cheddar, tomato

Thirty Bench Red 2010 (320986, $24.00) shows off the ripeness of the vintage at an indubitably balanced 13.6% ABV. Exhibits red licorice, funk of the earth and currants in a demi-glace kind of way. Beamsville sand and gravel meet savoury herbs, lashed together by dusty tannin. Quite serious, more IGT than Bordeaux or Loire.  88  @ThirtyBench

The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot

The history: Left Bank, Haut-Médoc Cabernet Sauvignon dominated Bordeaux blend

The lowdown: So unclassified you’ve likely never heard of it but so what?

The food match: Grilled Beef and Veal Baseballs, roasted garlic, parsley, artichoke aioli

Château Fort-Lignac 2009 (307264, $17.95) gives plum pudding heaped with baking spice and even a note of fine cigar. Judicious wood adds espresso, chew and chalk to this unassuming red. Lots of Bordeaux for $18.  89

The grape: Syrah

The history: Delas Frères is one of the smaller Rhone négociants but their recent run is nothing less than remarkable

The lowdown: Crozes-Hermitage at this price is so often thin and metallic but this ultra-modern ’10 is a hit

The food match: Lamb- and Rose-Stuffed Quails

Delas Frères Les Launes Crozes-Hermitage 2010 (701359, $20.95, B.C., 174664, $24.99, 2009) like hipster coffee dislikes authority and marches to the beat of a different drummer. Understated Syrah black pitch and no smoked meat or confit here. Instead there is purple, floral heliotrope gorgeousness and plum fruit. Big mineral component too. This one’s for the masculine gifter and the feminine giftee.  90  @HHDImports_Wine

The grape: Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile)

The history: From Montepulciano in Tuscany’s south

The lowdown: Bar none the best and most consistent value in Vino Nobile

The food match: Roast Beef Tenderloin, fried Tuscan potatoes

Poliziano Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2009 (988055, $25.95, SAQ, 11194832, $26.20) is blessed with such a lush texture and post-modern attraction that a couple of sips could lead to some serious heavy petting. Retains just enough Italianate, gamey, iron mineral qualities to keep it real but this is berry, chocolate, acqua vitae equipped to reach many, many folk. Best VNM for the buck, year in and year out.  90  @Noble_Estates

The grape: Nebbiolo

The history: From Diano d’Alba and Rodello in Piedmont’s Lower Langhe, characterized by vines and cereals

The lowdown: From third generation proprietor Mario Giribaldi, farmer at heart, lover of all things Langhe

The food match: Frico (cheese crisp) with Potato, Onion and Sausage Filling

Giribaldi Barbaresco 2006 (101147, $31.95) the dichotomous Nebbiolo of live rust looks old, as though it has lived hard when it’s actually quite young at heart. Classic Barbaresco bouquet of rose, tar, peeled orange and pepper berries. Banging acidity, coffee vapor and a powder finger of tannin. Don’t worry, there’s no real fear that this one “would fade away so young.”  91

The grapes: Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malvasia Nero

The history: Dates back to 1972, from Gaiole in Chianti, in the province of Siena

The lowdown: Self-described as “a place of cultic importance in the wine world.” Works for me

The food match: Bucatini with Pancetta, Tomato and Onion

Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Riserva 2008 (39768, $34.95, SAQ, 11315403, $33.75) is always top quality CCR. So sweet and savoury at the same time, licorice whipped, tightly wound, with a foot marching to the future, yet still traditional. A righteous, sinless song of Sangiovese fruit, with a backing band of varietals, written for everyone. Proof that while some in Chianti have forgotten their past, many have not. “Somebody said it’s different now, look, it’s just the same.”  91  @CastellodiAma

Good to go!

The best wine releases of 2012

PHOTO: STEFANO TIRABOSCHI/FOTOLIA.COM

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

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

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

Under $30 VINTAGES released wines

Under $30 VINTAGES Releases

1. The grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah

Where: Côtes du Rhône, France

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

2. The grapes: Garnacha, Carinena and Syrah

Where: Montsant, Spain

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

3. The grape: Petite Sirah

Where: Alexander Valley, California

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

4. The grape: Riesling

Where: Clare Valley, Australia

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

5. The Grape: Sangiovese

Where: Tuscany, Italy

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

6. The grape: Chenin Blanc

Where: Loire Valley, France

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

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

Where: Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

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

8. The Grape: Cabernet Franc

Where: Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

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

9. The Grape: Riesling

Where: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany

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

10. The Grape: Chardonnay

Where: Casablanca Valley, Chile

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

Over $30 VINTAGES released wines

Over $30 VINTAGES Releases

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

Where: Southern Rhône, France

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

2. The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

Where: Napa Valley, California

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

3. The Grape: Syrah

Where: Northern Rhône, France

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

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

Where: Napa Valley, California

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

5. The grapes: Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignan

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

6. The grape: Nebbiolo

Where: Piedmont, Italy

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

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

Where: Southern Rhône, France

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

8. The grapes: Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon

Where: Bordeaux, France

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

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

Where: Tuscany, Italy

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

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

Where: Veneto, Italy

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

Good to go!

Top 10 under-$15 wines for 2012

as seen on canada.com

The past 12 months have been good to wine consumers in Ontario. I would be hard pressed to remember a time in recent memory when so many good value wines were available on such a consistent basis.

The under $15 niche success can be attributed to many things. A sweeping renaissance in wine making has taken hold across the globe, from the vineyard to the stopped bottle. Manifested in the Old World, we are seeing an unprecedented ability to offer wines at this price. New World locales like Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand can match the quality, but as a general rule, the $15-20 range is their sweet spot.

What I am most pleased to note is the increased quality in Canadian wine, especially from Niagara, in the under $15 zone. Lead by the likes of Fielding EstateVineland Estates13th Street and Mike Weir Wines, finding quality releases that won’t break the bank gets easier with every passing vintage.

More than anything, the ability to taste 1000’s of wines by the generous efforts of Ontario agents, trade commissions and through local events has allowed us to uncover the gems. A year-end set of props has to go out to David Churchill and team for setting the table every week for to sample 1000’s more wines from the bi-weekly and on-line VINTAGES releases.

Here are my top 10, under-$15 VINTAGES released picks for 2012.

1. The grapes: Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Pinheiro and Jaen

Where: Portugal, Dão

Encostas De Penalva 2009 (293423, $14.95) is downright Joycean in unusual intelligence, sensitivity and character for a blend from a Portuguese cooperative. Soft perhaps, but nary a bitter deterrent mars this cup of crushed raspberries. A young artist’s deep portrait of Dão colour, forged of surreal fleshy extraction, verbose and flamboyant.  90

2. The grape: Nero D’avola

Where: Sicily, Italy

Morgante Nero D’avola 2010 (40816, $14.95) burnishes purple to black in sheen, perfume and vim. Like incandescent charcoal.  Welling hematoma of Aussie licorice, baking spices and lingonberry. Maxes out Nero D’avola’s ability to defend itself against all food comers. Even pancakes and pigs in a blanket.  It should be noted that a second sample was corked.  90

3. The grape: Albariño

Where: Rias Baixas, Spain

Pazo Pondal Leira Albariño 2011 (115816, $15.95) may sport the hue of Cava and indicate bubbles spinning around like a frotteur but its “gotta have no illusions” about itself. A hint of seltzer in a sparkling, platinum hue swirls to honey and paraffin. Acts and looks sharp yet remains in balance.  90

4. The grape: Sauvignon Blanc

Where: Loire, France

Domaine De La Colline Sauvignon Touraine 2010 (169656, $12.95) is the workday done sun-downer few Sauvignon Blancs can match for IVR* assurance. Eglantine and apple tisane. Bony and blanched shallot driven by the Loire’s rocky truffeau, with a smokey persimmon fini glacé. 88

5. The grapes: Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault

Where: Rhône, France

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

6. The grapes: Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot

Where: Tuscany, Italy

Perta Zingari Toscana IGT 2008 (224228, $13.95) from the VINTAGES August 6, 2011 release deals value in quarto from varietals Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot. An unusual blend from the Maremma coast for sure but throw me down in the snow if it isn’t unmistakably Tuscan. Iron, leather, pure snappy, fennel fruit and tannic tang are all there. Primary yes, but what more can you ask from $14? Held up 24 hours later for a second go round.  88

7. The grape: Sauvignon Blanc

Where: Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Mike Weir Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (686972, $14.95) swings from the left side like its brethren on that side of the Gironde. A game built on concentrated gooseberry juice, tangy green fruit and a streak of chippy acidity. Sneaky long and straight down the fairway.  88

8. The grape: Pinot Blanc

Where: Alsace, France

André Blanck et Ses Fils Rosenburg Pinot Blanc 2011 (626606, $13.95) is your weekend summer refresher, your sundowner, your all-purpose white. Oily, mineral-driven, long, acidity at its PB best, full finish. For appetizers, salads and mains. Versatility be thy name.  88

9. The grape: Garnacha

Where: Catalayud, Spain

Filón Garnacha 2010 (280602, $14.95) is actually a bit of a misprision because of its black fruit character. Re-enacts Tuscan IGT and the most modern of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Tar, asphalt, bitter chocolate and sanguine Kirsch and very, very ripe fruit. Grand oak and tons of wine at $15.  88

10. The grape: Melon De Bourgogne

Where: Loire, France

Michel Delhommeau Cuvée Harmonie Muscadet De Sèvre-Et-Maine 2010 (164624, $12.95) scatters nether and beyond the stereotypical need for oysters pairing. Light as the sky, “a free man in Paris…unfettered and alive.” Like I said before, it offers up more complexity, flesh and sea bone than its brethren. Courts shrimp, sparks smoked chicken and even ventures into baby back rib territory. On the card at Barque.  88

Honourable Mention

The grapes: Alvarinho, Arinto and Loureiro

Where: Vinho Verde, Portugal

Casa Do Valle Grande Escolha 2011 (276220, $14.95) while unmistakably Portuguese Vinho Verde, this could be a ringer for Greco di Tufo or Viognier. The long visit to the haberdashery at once wears baking spice, Mezzogiorno mangia cake at Christmas and then white rose, honeysuckle Hermitage. Lofty comparisons for sure but this exceptional IVR* treacle is a chef mastered sweetbread of a double “V.”  89

Good to go!

Rhône like the wind

Rhône Valley, France (photograph by PHB.cz, Fotolia.com)

Rhône Valley, France (photograph by PHB.cz, Fotolia.com)

as seen on canada.com

Related – VINTAGES October 27th Release

Golden October is upon us today like an Indian Summer, but I sense a mistral ready to blow through these parts. That can only mean one thing. This is a week to drink Rhône varietals. A tiger in autumn giving way to masterly winds calls for master grapes made by Rhône rangers around the globe. Here are four wines to look for on the October 27th VINTAGES release.

The Grapes: Syrah, Grenache and Carignan

The history: Minervois is a (primarily) red wine-producing appellation in the Languedoc-Roussillon/Midi region of France

The lowdown: From a négociant house in the South of France with a goal to discover the extraordinary quality and wealth of the region

The food match: Minervois Braised Beef Shanks, fresh tagliatelle, truffle oil

Hecht & Bannier Minervois 2010 (17764, $20.95) is yet another stellar selection from the appellation. Minervois produces piceous and proud Syrah-dominated juice marked by anesthetizing acidity. Van Gogh colour, black, blue and shimmering like a starry night. Mint and tarragon accent fruit surely helpful as an anti-oxidant and delectable to the artibeus obscurus88

The Grape: Shiraz

The history: What once was simply Rhône is now distinctly Australian

The lowdown: Old and bold Barossa vines make the brashest Syrah on the planet, especially these gnarly old ones

The food match: Beef Knuckle Croquettes, fig jam

Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart of the Barossa Shiraz 2009 (0167189, $20.95) is streaked with deep pastels of tropical fruit. At once Aussie licorice, then Sicilian blood orange and finally holy land pomegranate, date and fig. A troubadour, Coeur de Lion traveling the globe in search of adventure. Perhaps wicked for a Shiraz, this Dandelion is deeply rooted.  88

The Grape: Viognier

The history: Signature varietal from Condrieu in the Northern Rhône

The lowdown: Remarkable effort from 1960’s TV Western actor turned Santa Barbara winemaker

The food match: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, caramelized apple, raita foam

Fess Parker Viognier 2010 (297523, $24.95) of bountiful bouquet is both aphrodisiac and sedative. Built like they used to, of  antique wood, nuts and bolts, to last and linger when the “appliances have gone berserk.” Head of its California class so pour a glass, turn up the radio and smell the Last Flowers90

The Splurge

The Grape: Syrah

The history: Pitchy varietal from the Northern Rhône, the region that expresses it most sincerely

The lowdown: Delas has discovered the secret Syrah formula to combine exceptional quality with tremendous value

The food match: Seared Lamb Saddle, fingerling potatoes, mint chutney

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

Good to go!