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!

Canada, let me pour your Thanksgiving wines

Michael Godel (photographs courtesy of Marc Rochette, marcrochette.com)

as seen on canada.com

Who do we owe a debt of gratitude for this long weekend respite? Frobisher, Lincoln, Parliament, Congress? Who can really lay claim to be called founder of Thanksgiving?

In 1879, Canada’s Parliament declared November 6th a day of Thanksgiving and a national holiday but had to do so each year by proclamation. On January 31st, 1957, a proclamation was issued fixing permanently Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October, thus eliminating the necessity of an annual proclamation. “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed… to be observed on the second Monday in October.”

Back in the 1750’s, this joyous celebration was brought to Nova Scotia by American settlers from the south.”Thanksgiving in Canada is the second Monday in October, because by the time the last Thursday of November comes around Canada is frozen solid and a turkey won’t thaw,” writes Tom Johnson of the Louisville Juice. Guess Tom never made it up to Canada for the winter of 2011/2012.

It’s worth planning a Thanksgiving meal without any reason but to be hungry. Conversely, pouring a glass of wine alongside the harvest feast is simple necessity in my world, borne of my constant economy and curiosity.

Now, I’m not suggesting we all go out and fill a curved goat’s horn with fruit, grain and Pinot Noir. There are better ways to get your cornucopia or horn of plenty on. No, not those ways. Invite the family over, cook like a wild person and pour any one of the following wines.

The grape: Monastrell

The history: A thick-skinned varietal from Jumilla, in the northeast region of Murcia of southeastern Spain

The lowdown:  Customarily a hard nut to crack. This soft number is a red wine drinker’s sundowner

The food match: Goat Cheese on Crostini rubbed with olive oil and garlic

Casa Castillo Monastrell 2010 (165621, $13.95) to sniff is a bit oxy and to look is more than a bit purple. Enters territory of unfamiliar conjugations and be warned to watch out for the splinters but hey, it’s $14!  Built for a Raynolds/Miller North American palate, assays more like reposing Garnacha than trundling Monastrell, but there is beauty in the house.  87

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Macon-Fuissé is found in southern Burgundy and the Roman Emperor Fussiacus is thought to be the founder of the village of Fuissé

The lowdown: Ostensibly organic farming, this Chard is achieved through manual harvesting and fermentation in stainless steel. Chablis like and better value

The food match: Crispy-Skin Roast Turkey, cranberry, sage stuffing and turkey gravy

Domaine De Fussiacus Macon-Fuissé 2009 (279000, $16.95) takes more than a lutte raisonée approach and blows my Fuisséing mind. Sits in a museum of scents, like Pomace Brandy by way of French Marc. Like toasted pine nuts in basil pesto. Verve, gusto, spine.  88

The grapes: Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: All French grapes but only in Argentina do they meet up like this

The lowdown: No longer atypical colección from Mendoza

The food match: Slow-Roasted Rump Roast, duck fat potatoes

Finca Flichman Paisaje De Barrancas 2009 (17129, $17.95) joins together as perfect a circle as could be dreamed from an Argentinian SML assemblage. A berry collective, refined and showing chocolate restraint. Seductive scents, velvet mouth feel, good length and balance. Simple and structured.   89

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Pinot grown in a bowl surrounded by mountains at the world’s southernmost wine region

The lowdown: Central Otago on the South Island of New Zealand is the most exciting emerging Pinot locale on the planet

The food match: Pork Shoulder, Bacon and Lingots Cassoulet

Thatched Hut Pinot Noir 2011 (242933, $19.95) is so bright I’ve gotta wear shades. When a $20 wine is able to pull off the status quo from a region where that quo is $40 and up, you know the future alights for Central Otago. Vanilla, capsicum and tangy cranberry sauce meet a zinging swish of fresh texture and pop in the mouth. “Heavenly blessed and worldly wise,” the Hut will sing at the harvest table.  88

The grape: Zinfandel

The history: Yet refuted cousin to Italian Primitivo

The lowdown: Bumble berry bramble typifies Mendocino Zin. Savoury note gives this guy balance

The food match: Smoked Turkey, fresh and tart cranberry sauce

Artezin Zinfandel 2010 (302943, $21.95) initially heads out on the Zin train with dangerous extraction but stops for the night over a campfire of herbs, anise and pine brush. Plums and sourish cherries simmer in the pot. The style is a full on uprising and welcoming to those who “get on board.”  89

The grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah

The history: Consummate blend for Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages

The lowdown: This really is as good as it gets for CDRV. A few more dollars but this one rivals many Vacqueyras, Gigondas and even Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The food match: Willowgrove Farms Hormone-Free Smoked and Pulled Pork

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

The grape: Shiraz

The history: The jam from down under

The lowdown: Once a quarter there pours an OZ Shiraz that stands above the crowd

The food match: Braised Short Rib, creamy polenta, green peppercorn jus

Blackjack Major’s Line Shiraz 2008 (280941, $24.95) deserves a 21-card salute for its Victorian, cool, calm and collected demeanor. Blueberry, tar, spice box and wood smoke baked in a pie. Chocolate and vanilla hardly play a part. You may “swear and kick and beg us that you’re not a gamblin’ man,” but I dare you to try this Bendigo. You’ll want to do it again90

The Splurge

The grape: Riesling

The history: Niagara’s signature grape goes ethereal in the hands of winemaker Dianne Smith

The lowdown: Along with Charles Baker’s Picone Vineyard bottling, this Old Vines effort is as good as I’ve tasted in 2012

The food match: BBQ Chicken, goat cheese croquettes

Green Lane Old Vines Riesling 2010 (283432, $29.95) from the oldest block down on the Lincoln Lakeshore is a flat-out mouth-watering, comestible ferment of grapes. Pale lemon/lime soda but a radiant rider. Mosel in trocken mode, bursting with azoic water, pear and persimmon aromas. Rousing acidity jumps to and fro. Wow!!  91

Good to go!